February 28, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:51 PM


Lax laws 'could turn Nazi crank into global epidemic' (Richard Ford, 3/01/06, Times of London)

A NEW highly addictive drug used in Britain by clubbers and gay men is becoming a global problem, according to a United Nations report published today.

The huge increase in use of methamphetamine — crystal meth — is being helped by lax restrictions on the chemicals used to manufacture it. People who take it can experience a ten-hour high and increased sexual arousal. [...]

The drug is known by various names, including “ice”, “meth”, “tina” and “Nazi crank”. It was first developed in 1919 and used by troops to keep awake. It was rumoured that Hitler injected it twice a day, hence the name “Nazi crank”.

MORE (via M. Ali Choudhury):
A poly life: Monogamy with more partners: Internet makes it easier to find fellow believers (Trevor Stokes, 2/22/06, Columbia News Service)

John and Sue have an offbeat marital arrangement. For the last five years of their marriage, Sue has spent three nights a week with her boyfriend, Fred.

And that's not even the strange part.

As it turns out, John openly shares Sue -- and their king-size marital bed -- with Fred. Confused? Consider this: During the rest of the week, Fred sleeps at home with his wife, Peggy, and their male lover, Bill.

John, a 71-year-old San Francisco-based researcher, also has relationships outside his marriage to Sue. He has three current girlfriends, Fred has two and John's wife has four boyfriends. He even refers to Sylvia, the sister of one of his wife's lovers, as "my sister in love." Following along?

While John has nothing against monogamy, he said, "You have to spend a lot of energy to be monogamous."

It's hard to imagine a more energetic bunch than John, Sue and their various lovers, who belong to a growing movement of Americans who practice polyamory -- intimate long-term relationships with more than two people. (The polyamorous lovers in this story requested anonymity because of fears of discrimination from employers and even friends.)

Posted by Peter Burnet at 6:53 PM


Being kind to the cruel (Caroline Glick, Jerusalem Post, February 28th, 2006)

So the archbishop of Canterbury is morally depraved. Yet, rather than shun or castigate him, Israel's religious leaders are wooing him. Israel's Chief Rabbis Yona Metzger and Shlomo Amar are planning to travel to England to meet with Williams in May. This will be their third visit with him.

In remarks to The Jerusalem Post, Jon Benjamin, CEO of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, who is helping to organize the meeting, explained that the proper response to the Anglican Church's divestment decision is "not to break off dialogue, but to intensify it."

The obvious question that arises here is: Why does he think that?

What does Israel have to gain from having its chief rabbis meet with a man like Williams? Why do Benjamin, Amar and Metzger believe that meeting with Williams will influence his actions, when he voted for divestment after meeting with them twice?

If they meet Williams in May, the message they will send is that one needn't treat Israel or the Jews with respect because we will exact no price for our mistreatment.

The chief rabbis' plan to meet with Williams neatly complements American Jewry's campaign to demonize and marginalize evangelical Christians who are Israel's staunchest supporters.

In just the latest example, on Sunday Haaretz published an interview with Reform Rabbi James Rudin, who served for 35 years as head of the American Jewish Committee's committee on inter-religious relations. Rudin recently published a book entitled The Baptizing of America: the Religious Right's Plans for the Rest of Us.

In his interview Rudin likened the struggle between conservative Christians and the rest of the country to the American Civil War. He explained: "While America is currently fighting a global war against international terrorism, there is an equally important war going on within the United States. The outcome of today's conflict will decisively determine the future of the American republic.

"Christocrats are waging an all-out campaign to baptize America. It is a struggle that will decide whether the United States remains a spiritually vigorous country but without an officially established religion, or whether America will become Christianized."

Christocrats? OK, whatever. But Heaven help us if America ever becomes Christianized.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:21 PM


AUDIO: Journalists are in New Orleans to witness the Mardi Gras (3:30) (The World, 2/28/06, NPR)

Journalists from all over the world are in New Orleans to witness the Mardi Gras celebrations. The city is going ahead with the famous party just six months after Hurricane Katrina. Host Lisa Mullins speaks with Norwegian TV reporter Gerhard Helskog about the recovery process and the festivities.

One of the Brothers is at corporate training with coworkers from Europe, Asia, Australia, etc., for a few weeks and had an amusing experience the other day: an Italian women said: "It's the strangest thing, all of us who are here from Europe are single and childless but all you Americans, the Aussies, and the Indians are married with three or four kids."

Similarly, at the end of this clip, Mr. Helskog almost off-handedly captures an enormous difference between America and Europe.

Secularists here have an obvious vested interest in obscuring such differences, but Europeans can see them clearly.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:17 PM


Signs of an economic surge: Despite some weaknesses, the economy could grow at a 4 to 5 percent rate this quarter. (Ron Scherer, 3/01/06, The Christian Science Monitor)

[T]he economic rebound from the slowdown at the end of last year is likely to be dramatic. Some economists think the economy is now moving ahead at a 4 to 5 percent annual rate - just about as good as it gets during a long period of rising interest rates. This sparkling economic performance - the fastest growth in three years - comes even at a time when the housing market, long the bulwark for the economy, is showing clear signs of slowing down.

"The economy is regaining momentum and will have a very solid first half of the year," says Stuart Hoffman, chief economist at PNC Financial Services Group in Pittsburgh. "We all feel more confident than we did three months ago, when we were still wondering about the impact of the hurricanes."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:11 PM


Arab boycott largely reduced to 'lip service' (ORLY HALPERN, 2/28/06, Jerusalem Post)

The Arab boycott, established by the Arab League in 1951 as an economic tool to hurt Israel, is a dying animal. Ask Aramex.

The company, which provides delivery services around the world, is commonly used by Arab and Israeli companies who want to exchange goods without upsetting any Arab port officials. The company provides customers with US mailing addresses where Israeli products can be sent. It then exchanges the Israeli postalstamped packaging for a US-stamped package and sends it on to its Arab destination.

So while some Arab ports will not accept goods marked "Made in Israel," if you take off the sticker and send it through another country, the deal is done.

"Besides Syria, the Arab boycott is now just lip service," said Doron Peskin, head of research at InfoProd, a consulting firm for foreign and Israeli companies specializing in trade to Arab states.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:08 PM


Europe's chill linked to disease (Kate Ravilious, 2/28/06, BBC)

Europe's "Little Ice Age" may have been triggered by the 14th Century Black Death plague, according to a new study.

Pollen and leaf data support the idea that millions of trees sprang up on abandoned farmland, soaking up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

This would have had the effect of cooling the climate, a team from Utrecht University, Netherlands, says.

Be the first on your block to buy our new bumper sticker: "Arbor Day is murder"

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:03 PM

HOWDY, PARDNER (via Pepys):

Bush needs caution in wooing India (JOHN O'SULLIVAN, 2/28/06, Chicago Sun-Times)

India is not a neurotic superpower but it is still an ambivalent one. Almost all the economic and political developments cited above point the country toward adopting an economy strategy of free market globalization and a political one of alliance with the United States. The two countries share a common language, common liberal democratic values, similar legal and political institutions (inherited in both cases from the British), a common strategic rival in China, and a common enemy in al-Qaida. These similarities help to explain the growing Indian diaspora in America, the boom in U.S. companies outsourcing to India's own Silicon Valleys, the ease of military cooperation between Indian and U.S. military forces, and the fact that America is more popular in India than in any other country.

Altogether, India's progress is bottom-up rather than top-down. It is also bipartisan. Both government and opposition have advanced the economic reform agenda in the last 14 years. So a change of government would probably not mean a drastic change of policy. It is likely to last.

Yet there are powerful groups that for various reasons dislike the switch of policy from socialism and neutralism to globalization and a pro-American diplomatic stance. India's "Regulation Ra" is naturally opposed to losing its control over economic life. Traditional industries would like to keep their protective subsidies. Influential left-wing intellectuals dislike the new official embrace of free market capitalism and globalization. Factions in the Congress government hanker for India's former role as the morally upright leader of the Third World sympathetic to global socialism. And some Indians are simply nervous about getting into bed with a partner as large and overwhelming as the United States.

Bush should therefore go carefully in wooing New Delhi. Rather than stress the exclusive nature of the Indo-U.S. partnership -- which frightens as well as flatters -- he might want to point out that other friends of India are also linking themselves more closely to the United States in the post-Cold War world. Howard's Australia is one. Tony Blair's Britain another. After the recent election in Canada, Stephen Harper's new government is likely to move closer to the United States. In fact the English-speaking world, plus Japan, is gradually emerging as an informal U.S. alliance. And in that alliance India would be a junior partner to nobody except the United States.

There's safety in numbers -- not only in the war on terror but also as a way of avoiding unintended domination in alliances led by a generous but sometimes careless United States.

India is the ideal location for the President to present himself as the humble American he spoke of in his debate with Al Gore.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:49 PM


War Rhetoric Blows Back in Port Furor (Ronald Brownstein, February 26, 2006, LA Times)

President Bush may not like the arguments that critics are raising against the Dubai company attempting to take over cargo and cruise operations at ports in six U.S. cities. But he should recognize them. The arguments marshaled against Bush closely echoed the ones he deployed to defend the Iraq war.

The president, in other words, is stewing in a pot he brought to boil.

At the core of Bush's case for invading Iraq was the contention that the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks changed the burden of proof in evaluating potential threats.

Let's check and see just how similar the case against Iraq was to the case Mr. Brownstein proposes against Dubai, President's Remarks at the United Nations General Assembly (George W. Bush, 9/12/02, United Nations)
Twelve years ago, Iraq invaded Kuwait without provocation. And the regime's forces were poised to continue their march to seize other countries and their resources. Had Saddam Hussein been appeased instead of stopped, he would have endangered the peace and stability of the world. Yet this aggression was stopped -- by the might of coalition forces and the will of the United Nations.

To suspend hostilities, to spare himself, Iraq's dictator accepted a series of commitments. The terms were clear, to him and to all. And he agreed to prove he is complying with every one of those obligations.

He has proven instead only his contempt for the United Nations, and for all his pledges. By breaking every pledge -- by his deceptions, and by his cruelties -- Saddam Hussein has made the case against himself.

In 1991, Security Council Resolution 688 demanded that the Iraqi regime cease at once the repression of its own people, including the systematic repression of minorities -- which the Council said, threatened international peace and security in the region. This demand goes ignored.

Last year, the U.N. Commission on Human Rights found that Iraq continues to commit extremely grave violations of human rights, and that the regime's repression is all pervasive. Tens of thousands of political opponents and ordinary citizens have been subjected to arbitrary arrest and imprisonment, summary execution, and torture by beating and burning, electric shock, starvation, mutilation, and rape. Wives are tortured in front of their husbands, children in the presence of their parents -- and all of these horrors concealed from the world by the apparatus of a totalitarian state.

In 1991, the U.N. Security Council, through Resolutions 686 and 687, demanded that Iraq return all prisoners from Kuwait and other lands. Iraq's regime agreed. It broke its promise. Last year the Secretary General's high-level coordinator for this issue reported that Kuwait, Saudi, Indian, Syrian, Lebanese, Iranian, Egyptian, Bahraini, and Omani nationals remain unaccounted for -- more than 600 people. One American pilot is among them.

In 1991, the U.N. Security Council, through Resolution 687, demanded that Iraq renounce all involvement with terrorism, and permit no terrorist organizations to operate in Iraq. Iraq's regime agreed. It broke this promise. In violation of Security Council Resolution 1373, Iraq continues to shelter and support terrorist organizations that direct violence against Iran, Israel, and Western governments. Iraqi dissidents abroad are targeted for murder. In 1993, Iraq attempted to assassinate the Emir of Kuwait and a former American President. Iraq's government openly praised the attacks of September the 11th. And al Qaeda terrorists escaped from Afghanistan and are known to be in Iraq.

In 1991, the Iraqi regime agreed to destroy and stop developing all weapons of mass destruction and long-range missiles, and to prove to the world it has done so by complying with rigorous inspections. Iraq has broken every aspect of this fundamental pledge.

From 1991 to 1995, the Iraqi regime said it had no biological weapons. After a senior official in its weapons program defected and exposed this lie, the regime admitted to producing tens of thousands of liters of anthrax and other deadly biological agents for use with Scud warheads, aerial bombs, and aircraft spray tanks. U.N. inspectors believe Iraq has produced two to four times the amount of biological agents it declared, and has failed to account for more than three metric tons of material that could be used to produce biological weapons. Right now, Iraq is expanding and improving facilities that were used for the production of biological weapons.

United Nations' inspections also revealed that Iraq likely maintains stockpiles of VX, mustard and other chemical agents, and that the regime is rebuilding and expanding facilities capable of producing chemical weapons.

And in 1995, after four years of deception, Iraq finally admitted it had a crash nuclear weapons program prior to the Gulf War. We know now, were it not for that war, the regime in Iraq would likely have possessed a nuclear weapon no later than 1993.

Today, Iraq continues to withhold important information about its nuclear program -- weapons design, procurement logs, experiment data, an accounting of nuclear materials and documentation of foreign assistance. Iraq employs capable nuclear scientists and technicians. It retains physical infrastructure needed to build a nuclear weapon. Iraq has made several attempts to buy high-strength aluminum tubes used to enrich uranium for a nuclear weapon. Should Iraq acquire fissile material, it would be able to build a nuclear weapon within a year. And Iraq's state-controlled media has reported numerous meetings between Saddam Hussein and his nuclear scientists, leaving little doubt about his continued appetite for these weapons.

Iraq also possesses a force of Scud-type missiles with ranges beyond the 150 kilometers permitted by the U.N. Work at testing and production facilities shows that Iraq is building more long-range missiles that it can inflict mass death throughout the region.

In 1990, after Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, the world imposed economic sanctions on Iraq. Those sanctions were maintained after the war to compel the regime's compliance with Security Council resolutions. In time, Iraq was allowed to use oil revenues to buy food. Saddam Hussein has subverted this program, working around the sanctions to buy missile technology and military materials. He blames the suffering of Iraq's people on the United Nations, even as he uses his oil wealth to build lavish palaces for himself, and to buy arms for his country. By refusing to comply with his own agreements, he bears full guilt for the hunger and misery of innocent Iraqi citizens.

In 1991, Iraq promised U.N. inspectors immediate and unrestricted access to verify Iraq's commitment to rid itself of weapons of mass destruction and long-range missiles. Iraq broke this promise, spending seven years deceiving, evading, and harassing U.N. inspectors before ceasing cooperation entirely. Just months after the 1991 cease-fire, the Security Council twice renewed its demand that the Iraqi regime cooperate fully with inspectors, condemning Iraq's serious violations of its obligations. The Security Council again renewed that demand in 1994, and twice more in 1996, deploring Iraq's clear violations of its obligations. The Security Council renewed its demand three more times in 1997, citing flagrant violations; and three more times in 1998, calling Iraq's behavior totally unacceptable. And in 1999, the demand was renewed yet again.

As we meet today, it's been almost four years since the last U.N. inspectors set foot in Iraq, four years for the Iraqi regime to plan, and to build, and to test behind the cloak of secrecy.

We know that Saddam Hussein pursued weapons of mass murder even when inspectors were in his country. Are we to assume that he stopped when they left? The history, the logic, and the facts lead to one conclusion: Saddam Hussein's regime is a grave and gathering danger. To suggest otherwise is to hope against the evidence. To assume this regime's good faith is to bet the lives of millions and the peace of the world in a reckless gamble. And this is a risk we must not take.

Delegates to the General Assembly, we have been more than patient. We've tried sanctions. We've tried the carrot of oil for food, and the stick of coalition military strikes. But Saddam Hussein has defied all these efforts and continues to develop weapons of mass destruction. The first time we may be completely certain he has a -- nuclear weapons is when, God forbids, he uses one. We owe it to all our citizens to do everything in our power to prevent that day from coming.

The conduct of the Iraqi regime is a threat to the authority of the United Nations, and a threat to peace. Iraq has answered a decade of U.N. demands with a decade of defiance. All the world now faces a test, and the United Nations a difficult and defining moment. Are Security Council resolutions to be honored and enforced, or cast aside without consequence? Will the United Nations serve the purpose of its founding, or will it be irrelevant?

The United States helped found the United Nations. We want the United Nations to be effective, and respectful, and successful. We want the resolutions of the world's most important multilateral body to be enforced. And right now those resolutions are being unilaterally subverted by the Iraqi regime. Our partnership of nations can meet the test before us, by making clear what we now expect of the Iraqi regime.

If the Iraqi regime wishes peace, it will immediately and unconditionally forswear, disclose, and remove or destroy all weapons of mass destruction, long-range missiles, and all related material.

If the Iraqi regime wishes peace, it will immediately end all support for terrorism and act to suppress it, as all states are required to do by U.N. Security Council resolutions.

If the Iraqi regime wishes peace, it will cease persecution of its civilian population, including Shi'a, Sunnis, Kurds, Turkomans, and others, again as required by Security Council resolutions.

If the Iraqi regime wishes peace, it will release or account for all Gulf War personnel whose fate is still unknown. It will return the remains of any who are deceased, return stolen property, accept liability for losses resulting from the invasion of Kuwait, and fully cooperate with international efforts to resolve these issues, as required by Security Council resolutions.

If the Iraqi regime wishes peace, it will immediately end all illicit trade outside the oil-for-food program. It will accept U.N. administration of funds from that program, to ensure that the money is used fairly and promptly for the benefit of the Iraqi people.

If all these steps are taken, it will signal a new openness and accountability in Iraq. And it could open the prospect of the United Nations helping to build a government that represents all Iraqis -- a government based on respect for human rights, economic liberty, and internationally supervised elections.

The United States has no quarrel with the Iraqi people; they've suffered too long in silent captivity. Liberty for the Iraqi people is a great moral cause, and a great strategic goal. The people of Iraq deserve it; the security of all nations requires it. Free societies do not intimidate through cruelty and conquest, and open societies do not threaten the world with mass murder. The United States supports political and economic liberty in a unified Iraq.

We can harbor no illusions -- and that's important today to remember. Saddam Hussein attacked Iran in 1980 and Kuwait in 1990. He's fired ballistic missiles at Iran and Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Israel. His regime once ordered the killing of every person between the ages of 15 and 70 in certain Kurdish villages in northern Iraq. He has gassed many Iranians, and 40 Iraqi villages.

My nation will work with the U.N. Security Council to meet our common challenge. If Iraq's regime defies us again, the world must move deliberately, decisively to hold Iraq to account. We will work with the U.N. Security Council for the necessary resolutions. But the purposes of the United States should not be doubted. The Security Council resolutions will be enforced -- the just demands of peace and security will be met -- or action will be unavoidable. And a regime that has lost its legitimacy will also lose its power.

Hmmm, how many of those conditions does Dubai meet?

It would be inappropriate to pretend that Mr. Brownstein's own argument -- that Dubai is a risk just like Iraq was because in theory a terrorist plot could be launched from Dubai -- contains either logic or reasoning, but if we follow it to its conclusion, we ought to attack Logan Airport, even though with the exception of Fenway Park, a few colonial historic sites, and any potential remaining Pewter Pot restaurants, it seems the place least in need of daisy-cutting in Boston.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:44 PM


'Jurassic beaver' found in China (BBC, 2/28/06)

The discovery of a beaver-like fossil that lived when the dinosaurs ruled the Earth could challenge some currently accepted ideas on mammal evolution.

Castorocauda lutrasimilis, which was unearthed in China, is a species previously unknown to science. [...]

The fossil was found in the Middle Jurassic Jiulongshan Formation, a deposit rich in the remains of dinosaurs, early insects and other organisms.

The creature had fur, a broad scaly tail, and webbed feet for swimming. It was about the size of a small female platypus and had seal-like teeth for eating fish.

Castorocauda lutrasimilis resembled a modern-day beaver, but belonged to a group that became extinct long before rodents appeared.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:49 PM


Leader of al-Qaida in Saudi Arabia Killed (ABDULLAH AL-SHIHRI, 2/28/06, Associated Press)

The leader of al-Qaida in Saudi Arabia and two men who helped attack the world's largest oil-processing complex were among five militants killed during police raids in the capital, authorities said Tuesday.

Al Qaeda's had a rough four and a half years.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:25 PM


Prom date for Epstein: GM makes Maine girl’s day (Tony Massarotti, 2/27/06, Boston Herald)

Grace Needleman and Alice Evans, friends and classmates at Cape Elizabeth High School, stood behind one of the backstops at the Red Sox minor league complex hoping to grab the attention of one well-known member of the organization. The object of their affection: general manager Theo Epstein, who was also the subject of the winter’s most-watched soap opera. [...]

To capture Epstein’s attention, the friends carried a pair of homemade posters that they held up against the chain-link backstop.

The first read: “Theo, we’re excited you didn’t go.”

The second: “Will you go to the prom with me?”

Epstein, who was watching promising left-hander Jon Lester throw live batting practice when he spotted the girls, walked over to the backstop to acknowledge them.

“When’s your prom?” he asked before fulfilling the girls’ requests for autographs.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:19 PM


Americans Are Cautiously Open to Gas Tax Rise, Poll Shows (LOUIS UCHITELLE and MEGAN THEE, 2/28/06, NY Times)

The nationwide telephone poll, conducted Wednesday through Sunday, suggested that a gasoline tax increase that brought measurable results would be acceptable to a majority of Americans.

Neither the Bush administration nor Democratic Party leaders make that distinction. Both are opposed to increasing the gasoline tax as a means of discouraging consumption, although President Bush, in recent speeches, has called for the development of alternative energy to reduce dependence on foreign oil.

Eighty-five percent of the 1,018 adults polled opposed an increase in the federal gasoline tax, suggesting that politicians have good reason to steer away from so unpopular a measure. But 55 percent said they would support an increase in the tax, which has been 18.4 cents a gallon since 1993, if it did in fact reduce dependence on foreign oil. Fifty-nine percent were in favor if the result was less gasoline consumption and less global warming. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus three percentage points.

The key is not to just raise the taxes on gasoline but at the same time to reduce income taxes, thereby serving one of the President's primary goals of switching to a system that taxes consumption and encourages savings. Sell it as a security measure, let the Left emphasize the environment and the Right its anti-Arab component ,and you've got a doable tax reform.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:16 PM


No father-son picnic (JON HEYMAN, February 28, 2006, Newsday)

We'll assume that Roger Clemens would never have brushed back his beloved mother, Bess. But when stepping into the batter's box against him, other family members shouldn't feel too relaxed.

After a surprise home run by Koby Clemens off his Hall of Fame-bound father yesterday, Clemens let loose with a fastball that moved Koby far off the plate.

Obviously armed with inside information about his father's pitching habits, Koby, 19, quickly turned away from the inside fastball just before it popped the catcher's mitt.

"I've been throwing at him since father-son games," said Clemens, who might have been kidding about that. [...]

Said Koby: "He was like, 'Sorry about that pitch inside. I was trying to change the view of the ball a little bit.'

INTERVIEW: Roger Angell, Still Throwing Strikes (Dave Weich, Powells.com)
Dave: Even the minor details in your profile of Bob Gibson are fascinating. I had no idea that he played for the Harlem Globetrotters. We hear a lot about Gibson these days; for example, when people talk about pitchers throwing on the inside half of the plate. He's also associated with major league baseball deciding to lower the mound.

Angell: In 1969, they lowered the mound because of him.

I see him once in a while. He's still the same, an exceptional guy. He's very quiet and reserved. I spent a lot of time with him doing that long piece.

He's something. He really didn't like fraternizing. He thought all batters were a pitcher's enemy. I think he half-thought that maybe, somehow, by some weird chance, this weird, forty-year-old, balding writer with eyeglasses would come up to bat against him some day. I told him that, and he said, "Yeah, that could happen." Old time players say that of all the guys, he was the most ferocious. He had a burning concentration and the most powerful sense of competition.

I'd first noticed him after he struck out seventeen batters in the opening game of the 1968 World Series against the Tigers, which is still a record. Well, we went to the clubhouse in St. Louis, and black athletes, we didn't know them as well as we do now. He was silent and scary. He wasn't smiling. Someone said to him, "Were you surprised by what you did today, Bob?" He said, "I'm never surprised by anything I do." You could see the reaction going back in the rows of writers, saying, "What did he say?"

I hung around, as I often do, and most of the writers went away. I asked him, "Have you always been this competitive?" He looked at me, and he said, "I think so. I've got a four-year-old daughter and we've played about three hundred games of tic-tac-toe, and she hasn't beat me yet." And he meant it! He meant it!

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:39 AM


China warns Taiwan of 'disaster' (BBC, 2/28/06)

China has warned that Taiwan's decision to scrap a council on reunification with the mainland could bring disaster.

The move will "create antagonism and conflict within Taiwan and across the strait," China's ruling Communist Party and government said in a statement.

Mr Chen announced on Monday that the National Unification Council and its guidelines would "cease to function" due to China's "military threat".

China said Mr Chen was pushing Taiwan towards formal independence.

No one is well-served by continuing the illusion that Taiwan and Palestine are not already sovereign states.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:28 AM

THE ONLY THEME (via Pepys):

A Prophetic and Violent Masterpiece (Theodore Dalrymple, Winter 2006, City Journal)

Burgess was not merely a social and cultural prophet. A Clockwork Orange grapples as well with the question of the origin and nature of good and evil. The Ludovico Method that Alex undergoes in prison as a means of turning him into a model citizen in exchange for his release is in essence a form of conditioning. Injected with a drug that induces nausea, Alex must then watch films of the kind of violence that he himself committed, his head and eyelids held so that he cannot escape the images by looking away from them—all this to the piped-in accompaniment of the classical music that he loves. Before long, such violence, either in imagery or in reality, as well as the sound of classical music, causes him nausea and vomiting even without the injection, as a conditioned response. Alex learns to turn the other cheek, as a Christian should: when he is insulted, threatened, or even struck, he does not retaliate. After the treatment—at least, until he suffers his head injury—he can do no other.

Two scientists, Drs. Branom and Brodsky, are in charge of the “treatment.” The minister of the interior, responsible for cutting crime in a society now besieged by the youth culture, says: “The Government cannot be concerned any longer with outmoded penological theories . . . . Common criminals . . . can best be dealt with on a purely curative basis. Kill the criminal reflex, that’s all.” In other words, a criminal or violent act is, in essence, no different from the act of a rat in a cage, who presses a lever in order to obtain a pellet of food. If you shock the rat with electricity when it presses the lever instead of rewarding it with food, it will soon cease to press the lever. Criminality can be dealt with, or “cured,” in the same way.

At the time that Burgess wrote A Clockwork Orange, doctors were trying to “cure” homosexuals by injecting them with apomorphine, a nausea-inducing drug, while showing them pictures of male nudes. And overwhelmingly, the dominant school of psychology worldwide at the time was the behaviorism of Harvard prof B. F. Skinner. His was what one might call a “black box” psychology: scientists measured the stimulus and the response but exhibited no interest whatsoever in what happened between the two, as being intrinsically immeasurable and therefore unknowable. While Skinner might have quibbled about the details of the Ludovico Method (for example, that Alex got the injection at the wrong time in relation to the violent films that he had to watch), he would not have rejected its scientific—or rather scientistic—philosophy.

In 1971, the very year in which the Kubrick film of A Clockwork Orange was released, Skinner published a book entitled Beyond Freedom and Dignity. He sneered at the possibility that reflection upon our own personal experience and on history might be a valuable source of guidance to us in our attempts to govern our lives. “What we need,” he wrote, “is a technology of behavior.” Fortunately, one was at hand. “A technology of operant behavior is . . . already well advanced, and it may prove commensurate with our problems.” As he put it, “[a] scientific analysis shifts the credit as well as the blame [for a man’s behavior] to the environment.” What goes on in a man’s mind is quite irrelevant; indeed, “mind,” says Skinner, is “an explanatory fiction.”

For Skinner, being good is behaving well; and whether a man behaves well or badly depends solely upon the schedule of reinforcement that he has experienced in the past, not upon anything that goes on in his mind. It follows that there is no new situation in a man’s life that requires conscious reflection if he is to resolve the dilemma or make the choices that the new situation poses: for everything is merely a replay of the past, generalized to meet the new situation.

The Ludovico Method, then, was not a far-fetched invention of Burgess’s but a simplified version—perhaps a reductio ad absurdum, or ad nauseam—of the technique for solving all human problems that the dominant school of psychology at the time suggested. Burgess was a lapsed Catholic, but he remained deeply influenced by Catholic thought throughout his life. The Skinnerian view of man appalled him. He thought that a human being whose behavior was simply the expression of conditioned responses was not fully human but an automaton. If he did the right thing merely in the way that Pavlov’s dog salivated at the sound of a bell, he could not be a good man: indeed, if all his behavior was determined in the same way, he was hardly a man at all. A good man, in Burgess’s view, had to have the ability to do evil as well as good, an ability that he would voluntarily restrain, at whatever disadvantage to himself.

Being a novelist rather than an essayist, however, and a man of many equivocations, Burgess put these thoughts in A Clockwork Orange into the mouth of a ridiculous figure, the prison chaplain, who objects to the Ludovico Method—but not enough to resign his position, for he is eager to advance in what Alex calls “Prison religion.” Burgess puts the defense of the traditional view of morality as requiring the exercise of free will—the view that there is no good act without the possibility of a bad one—into the mouth of a careerist.

The two endings of A Clockwork Orange—the one that Burgess himself wrote and the truncated one that his American publisher wanted and that Kubrick used for his film—have very different meanings.

According to the American-Kubrick version, Alex resumes his life as violent gang leader after his head injury undoes the influence of the Ludovico Method. He returns to what he was before, once more able to listen to classical music (Beethoven’s Ninth) and fantasize violence without any conditioned nausea:

Oh, it was gorgeosity and yumyumyum. When it came to the Scherzo I could viddy myself very clear running and running on like very light and mysterious nogas [feet], carving the whole litso [face] of the creeching [screaming] world with my cut-throat britva [razor]. And there was the slow movement and the lovely last singing movement still to come. I was cured all right.

Kubrick even suggests that this is a happy outcome: better an authentic psychopath than a conditioned, and therefore inauthentic, goody-goody. Authenticity and self-direction are thus made to be the highest goods, regardless of how they are expressed. And this, at least in Britain, has become a prevailing orthodoxy among the young. If, as I have done, you ask the aggressive young drunks who congregate by the thousand in every British town or city on a Saturday night why they do so, or British soccer fans why they conduct themselves so menacingly, they will reply that they are expressing themselves, as if there were nothing further to be said on the matter.

The full, British version of A Clockwork Orange ends very differently. Alex begins to lose his taste for violence spontaneously, when he sees a happy, normal couple in a café, one of whom is a former associate of his. Thereafter, Alex begins to imagine a different life for himself and to fantasize a life that includes tenderness:

There was Your Humble Narrator Alex coming home from work to a good hot plate of dinner, and there was this ptitsa [girl] all welcoming and greeting like loving. . . . I had this sudden very strong idea that if I walked into the room next to this room where the fire was burning away and my hot dinner laid on the table, there I should find what I really wanted. . . . For in that other room in a cot was laying gurgling goo goo goo my son. . . . I knew what was happening, O my brothers. I was like growing up.

Burgess obviously prefers a reformation that comes spontaneously from within, as it does in the last chapter, to one that comes from without, by application of the Ludovico Method. Here he would agree with Kubrick—an internal reformation is more authentic, and thus better in itself because a true expression of the individual. Perhaps Burgess also believes that such an internal reformation is likely to go deeper and be less susceptible to sudden reversal than reformation brought from outside.

It's archetypal Anglo-American/Judeo-Christian literature in that it grapples with the only issue that really matters in human affairs, the choice between freedom and security, and comes down on the side of free will.

N.B.: Note that the scientists hate freedom because it leads to insecurity and evil in the world, which is the objection to God's Creation that gave rise to Darwinism. The Ludovicists know they could have created Man better.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:21 AM


Arias Wins Recount Of Costa Rican Vote,
Boosting Cafta Hope
(John Lyons, Wall Street Journal)

Oscar Arias, the Nobel Peace Prize winner seeking Costa Rica's presidency for the second time, has won a hand recount of ballots in this month's photo-finish election, increasing the likelihood the nation will join a regional free-trade pact with the U.S.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:15 AM


Could Mexico be heading for a coalition government without the PRI? (The Economist

Most polls for the presidential elections, due to be held on July 2nd, give Roberto Madrazo, the PRI's candidate and a former party leader, around a quarter of the vote, trailing both Felipe Calderón, PAN's candidate, and Andrés Manuel López Obrador, a former mayor of Mexico City and candidate of the centre-left Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD). Some polls put the two frontrunners neck and neck, while others have Mr López Obrador, for long the favourite, maintaining a slight lead.

A few trends are clear, however. The first is that Mr Calderón—who was not Mr Fox's choice as PAN's candidate, but came from behind to win the party's primaries—is on the upswing. The second is that Mr Madrazo's campaign has gone into a downward spiral. The series of scandals that have rocked the PRI, coupled with Mr Madrazo's lack of appeal to voters, have led most members of even his own party to doubt he can win. [...]

What is perhaps surprising is that there is little of substance at stake in the elections. Even with rivalry developing between centre-left and centre-right parties, ideology has little importance. “It will not be an election decided on policy proposals,” Manuel Camacho, a close adviser to Mr López Obrador, says firmly. That is because all three candidates not only agree on what the main issues are—the economy and crime—but also largely agree on what needs to be done: stimulate growth and get tough on criminals. So the election has become primarily a contest of credibility: who can be trusted to follow through best on proposals that are basically quite similar?

But the very consensus on the issues means that this election could bring about the sea-change in Mexican politics which many voters had hoped for when they elected Mr Fox. Under his minority administration, change did not come largely because he was unable to persuade a divided Congress to pass much of his legislation. Now both Mr Calderón and Mr López Obrador have begun talking openly of persuading some PRI deputies to form a governing coalition. Mexico is in sore need of structural reforms on many fronts: the tax system, the energy sector (Pemex, the state oil monopoly, currently accounts for over one third of government revenue), the justice system, education and pensions, to name only those areas most in need of overhaul. If a coalition were formed, it might just be possible that the next president, be he Mr Calderón or Mr López Obrador, could push such changes through Congress. If so, whatever the outcome of the campaign, Mexico could end up as the real winner.

And reform and optimism for the future would release some of the external pressure driving our immigration, though the internal forces -- the demand for cheap labor -- would remain.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:41 AM


Bush, Speaking Up Against Bigotry (Richard Cohen, February 28, 2006, Washington Post)

There are times when George Bush sorely disappoints. Just when you might expect him to issue a malapropian explanation, pander to his base or simply not have a clue about what he is talking about, he does something so right, so honest and, yes, so commendable, that -- as Arthur Miller put it in "Death of a Salesman" -- "attention must be paid." Pay attention to how he has refused to indulge anti-Arab sentiment over the Dubai ports deal.

Would that anyone could say the same about many of the deal's critics. Whatever their concerns may be, whatever their fears, they would not have had them, expressed them or seen them in print had the middle name of the United Arab Emirates been something else. After all, no one goes nuts over Germany, the country where some of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorists lived and attended school.

To overlook the xenophobic element in this controversy is to overlook the obvious. It is what propelled the squabble and what sustains it. Bush put his finger on it right away. "What I find interesting is that it's okay for a British company to manage some ports, but not okay for a company from a country that is a valuable ally in the war on terror," he said last week. "The UAE has been a valuable partner in fighting the war on terror." It is a long way from a terrorist haven.

Somewhere in the White House, a political operative -- maybe the storied Karl Rove -- must have slapped his head in consternation as Bush made that remark. The politic thing for a president with a dismal approval rating (about 40 percent) would have been to join with the critics, get ahead of the anti-Arab wave and announce that he, too, was concerned about the deal, which was the fault, now that he thought about it, of pointy-headed bureaucrats, Democrats and the occasional atheist. Instead, the White House stuck to its guns, ordering a symbolic retreat -- more study -- but continuing to back the deal.

That Bush has done this should come as no surprise. As a bigot he leaves a lot to be desired.

It';s always amusing when Mr. Cohen intermittently recgnizes that other than the ", (R, TX)" at the end of his name, George W. Bush is pretty much his beau ideal of a president.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:37 AM


Public Officials Under God (E. J. Dionne Jr., February 28, 2006, Washington Post)

When John F. Kennedy ran for president in 1960, he said some things about Catholic bishops that might, in today's climate, be condemned as insolence toward church authority.

"I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute -- where no Catholic prelate would tell the president (should he be Catholic) how to act," Kennedy told the Greater Houston Ministerial Association in September 1960. "I do not speak for my church on public matters -- and the church does not speak for me."

The Church can not, of course, force a politician to act in one way or another, but it must tell him when his actions are immoral and incompatible with his religion. He's then free to choose to be either a good Catholic or a good Democrat.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:27 AM


Palestinians fear poverty if foreign aid lifeline severed (Matthew Gutman, 2/28/06, USA TODAY)

Middle East envoy James Wolfensohn said the Palestinian Authority faces financial collapse within two weeks because of Israel's decision to cut off tax transfers, Reuters reported Monday. He predicted that "violence and chaos" could break out unless a long-term funding plan is developed.

Friendly governments in the region may pick up some of the slack. The largest single pledge so far is a one-time $100 million grant from Iran, according to Hamas spokesman Farhat Asad. Saudi Arabia gives the Palestinians about $15 million a month, according to Palestinian Authority Economy Minister Mazen Sinokrot.

The Palestinians are dependent on the money to build roads and other infrastructure projects in addition to meeting the authority's payroll. The Palestinian government is by far the biggest employer in the Palestinian territories with 150,000 employees — breadwinners for a million Palestinians, or a third of all Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza.

"In March, I don't believe we'll be able to pay salaries," Sinokrot said. About 90% of the Palestinian budget is spent on salaries.

"That means the whole system could collapse, bringing unemployment and mass violence with it," Sinokrot said. He said the authority already has an $800 million deficit. [...]

Yousef Ju'edi, 46, is a father of five and owns a restaurant churning out kebab sandwiches behind the town hall here. He's worried about the government payroll even though he's not a civil servant. "I need them to get paid. When the civil servants don't get their paychecks, none of us will," he said through a haze of barbecue smoke.

Masri said he's been able to stretch Qalqilya's $6 million annual budget farther than his predecessors.

Masri is responsible for making sure the city streets are swept, the boulevards' shrubbery pruned and the cobblestones painted. Now, his flagship project in the municipality, revamping the decrepit electricity grid, is in jeopardy.

Issa Faris, the city's engineer, prides himself on the town's few brownouts.

Over the past year, the Hamas-run municipality operated without new parts, and even managed to pay back some of its electricity debts to its provider — the Israel Electric Company.

But without outside funding and the donation of equipment, "eventually the parts we have for transformers, cables, towers, etc. ... will break or corrode and we won't be able to replace them," he said. "We need that foreign aid."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:20 AM


Cameron urges Tories to back him against right (Julian Glover, February 28, 2006, Guardian)

David Cameron will ask Conservative members today to back a radical redefinition of his party's goals in an effort to crush unease on the party's right wing over the scrapping of cherished policies.

In a speech to party activists in London tonight the Conservative leader will appeal, over the heads of what he believes is a minority of disgruntled MPs, to the party membership which elected him with a commanding majority in last year's leadership election.

He will launch a document drawing together for the first time the party's central goals and call on party members to debate it and back it in a ballot. [...]

It sets out eight defining ambitions for the party, emphasising a compassionate agenda that focuses on helping the disadvantaged. The plan starts by pledging to put "economic stability and fiscal responsibility first" which it says "must come before tax cuts", and pledges that resources would be shared over time between better public services and reducing taxes.

The test of Tory policies must be "how they help the most disadvantaged in society, not the rich", it says, reversing Margaret Thatcher's famous phrase to declare "there is such a thing as society". It promises to improve schools and hospitals "for everyone, not help a few to opt out", but insists that public services "don't have to be run by the state".

Government can be "a force for good", it declares, supporting aspirations such as home ownership, saving for a pension and starting a business, as well as supporting families and marriage, carers as well as sport, the arts and culture. "The right test for our policies is how they help the most disadvantaged in society, not the rich," the document argues.

The document echoes Mr Cameron's emphasis on the environment, calling for a "long-term, cross-party consensus on sustainable development and climate change". It also picks up on last year's mass campaign to end developing world debt, arguing that "it is our moral obligation to make poverty history".

Last night some Conservatives - although not Mr Cameron - argued that the document and party ballot was an attempt to define the modern Conservative party in the way Tony Blair's scrapping of clause four defined New Labour in the mid-1990s.

"I think the right thing to do is to put out what the party stands for and is fighting for," Mr Cameron told the BBC last night. "We don't have a clause four so I'm not asking the party to junk something."

Back to Thatcherism.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 7:01 AM


Debating terror in Hamas's backyard (David Frum, National Post, February 28th, 2006)

Iraq is shaken almost to destruction by the hatreds and contradictions tearing apart the Middle East and the Islamic world. Qatar cheerfully walks on both sides of the street at the same time, welcoming the American fleet and an Israeli diplomatic mission -- and simultaneously funding the Egyptian-born cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who justifies suicide bombings against U.S. forces and Israeli civilians, and the al-Jazeera satellite channel.

I came to Doha to participate in the Doha debates, an amazing exercise in free speech sponsored by the outspoken wife of the ruling sheikh, Sheikha Mozah. Eight times a year, the Sheikha's foundation invites four panelists from around the world to discuss all sides of issues on which most Arab societies only allow one official view. The debates are hosted by the famously fearless British interviewer Tim Sebastian and broadcast worldwide on the BBC. (The debate in which I took part can be seen this coming weekend.) They take place in the atrium of the Qatar Foundation in Doha's Education City before a live audience of university students.

The topic set before this month's panel was: "Resolved, this House believes the international community must accept Hamas as a partner." Joining me on the negative was my friend Salim Mansur of the University of Western Ontario, a regular columnist for the Toronto Sun. On the proponent side: Stanley Cohen, a radical lawyer who has defended Hamas clients accused in U.S. courts, and Mohammed Mahmoud Mohammedou, associate director of a Harvard research program.[...]

As for me, I had decided what I wanted to say a week before, in Baghdad. My group had been touring the American military hospital in the Green Zone when casualties began to arrive from a suicide bombing -- all Iraqis, mostly civilians. The doctors hustled us out the door: They had work to do. But you did not need to see much to take away a lifetime's image of the savage wounds that extremist Islam was carving into the flesh and lives of the people of the Middle East.

With that memory in mind, I pleaded to the Qatari students: The terrorism of Hamas is aimed at Israel. But it will rebound upon you. The ideology of Hamas is the ideology that blew up the mosque in Samarra. It is the ideology that tyrannizes Iran. It is the ideology that triggered the 1994 civil war that killed between 40,000 and 100,000 Algerians.

Hamas lacks the power to destroy Israel. But the people who believe as Hamas believes hold the power to destroy places like Qatar -- as they are now daily destroying Iraq.[...]

In Doha, the motion in favour of Hamas carried 89% to 11%. In Iraq, the motion in favour of Hamas-like terrorism is carrying a whole nation toward the apocalypse.

Is there any need to fear a clash of civilizations when one side seems so determined to self-immolate?

Posted by Peter Burnet at 6:46 AM


Climate of Uncertainty (Stephen Hayward, Weekly Standard, February 27th, 2006)

Ultimately, policymakers will have to exercise their best judgment rather than wait for oracular scientific conclusiveness, which will never come. Notwithstanding the relentless drumbeat of studies offered as proof of onrushing catastrophe, policymakers are rightly wary of handing over the keys of the economy to the very same people who brought us the population bomb that turned out to be a wet firecracker, predicted imminent resource scarcity, which also fizzled, and even, in the 1970s, hyperventilated that our greatest climate risk was a new ice age. (The ice age scare was not the tiny sideshow climate action advocates today try to claim that it was; the EPA in the early 1970s thought one reason to reduce sulfur dioxide emissions was that "aerosols" like SO2 were reflecting too much sunlight and increasing the risk of cooling the planet.) The suspicion of hidden agendas is buttressed by the default position of the most vocal environmentalists and the front-page-seeking reporters who cover the climate beat: They greet with complete credulity the most extreme forecasts and portents, whether it is melting ice, boiling oceans, or expiring frogs.

This is more than just a problem of having cried wolf too often; there seems to have been little introspection or second thoughts among environmentalists about why their Malthusian alarms rang false in the past. Given their track record, why should anyone believe that this time the alarmists have it right? There has been only grudging acceptance among environmentalists of the positive role of economic growth, the resiliency of human beings, and the dynamic world human ingenuity creates. It might be possible to grant more credibility to the alarmists if there were signs that their current analysis incorporates fundamental corrections of their previous neo-Malthusian frameworks. The recently released U.N. Millennium Ecosystem Assessment appears to go some of the way toward this kind of reappraisal, but the 12-volume (so far), 3,000-page report, by its very length, defends itself against the risk of being read or comprehended.

This brings us to the official effort to assess climate change for the purposes of making policy: the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). In the abstract the IPCC deserves it due. The effort to get to the bottom of climate change may be the largest scientific inquiry in human history. It requires the coordination of thousands of specialists, the development of whole new scientific techniques, and the refinement of elaborate computer models that need weeks to run on the world's most powerful supercomputers. Even discounting for the inherent weaknesses of computer models, this kind of sustained effort is likely to generate valuable knowledge in the fullness of time. Producing a coherent report every few years that combines all of this work is an extraordinary feat. The IPCC is currently well into the process of producing its Fourth Assessment Report, due out next year.

The problem with the IPCC process, however, is that the scientists and experts participating in each iteration have become increasingly self-selected toward those with a taste for climate alarmism. Past reports, especially the Second Assessment Report in 1995, were badly politicized by U.N. bureaucrats, misrepresenting the "consensus" the report actually contained. Rumors abound of internal political pressures to "sex up" the reports to make the case for the economically ruinous Kyoto agreement more compelling. Honest skeptics qualified to participate have found the consensus-oriented IPCC process too frustrating and have dropped out. For example, Richard Lindzen, a participant and chapter author in the Third Assessment Report in 2001, is not participating in the next round. More and more, the IPCC is becoming an echo chamber for one point of view, and is closed to honest criticism from the outside. They have not merely rejected criticism; in the fashion of environmental activists, they have demonized their reasonable critics.

The case of David Henderson and Ian Castles is a good example. Henderson, the former chief economist of the OECD, and Castles, a highly regarded Australian economist, noticed three years ago a serious methodological anomaly in the IPCC's 100-year greenhouse gas emission forecasts, which are the primary input for the computer climate models. Henderson and Castles made a compelling argument that the forecasts were unrealistically high. Everyone recalls the first day of computer science class: garbage in, garbage out. If future greenhouse gas emissions are badly overestimated, then even a perfect computer climate model will spit out a false temperature prediction. If Henderson and Castles are right, it means we may have more time to address even the most alarmist global warming forecasts. Since Henderson and Castles opened the debate, the IPCC's emissions forecasts have been subject to withering criticism from dozens of other reputable economists, including from a number of climate alarmists who, to their credit, argue that this crucial question should be got right.

The IPCC's reaction to Henderson and Castles was startling. The panel issued a vituperative press release blasting the two men for peddling "disinformation." A few scientists and economists connected with the IPCC had the decency to say publicly that the press release was a regrettable error. But it is typical of the increasingly arrogant IPCC leadership. The IPCC's chairman, Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, compared Danish eco-skeptic Bjorn Lomborg to Hitler because of Lomborg's wholly sensible and well-founded calculation that near-term emissions reductions make no economic sense. "What is the difference between Lomborg's view of humanity and Hitler's?" Pachauri told a Danish newspaper in 2004. "If you were to accept Lomborg's way of thinking, then maybe what Hitler did was the right thing." It is hard to have much confidence in an organization whose chairman can say this and keep his job.

The traditional heros of scientific inquiry challenged tradition and the Church. Today’s must wage an equally courageous battle against a thoroughly politicized scientific establishment.

February 27, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:09 PM

GLORY DAZE (via Pepys):

What is the Third Way ? (The Bevin Society)

Andy McSmith explains: “A simpleton might have answered that Tony Blair ought to know what the Third Way means because it is his slogan, but that would be to misunderstand the nature of the Blair project.

The Prime Minister is consciously following in the footsteps of Margaret Thatcher who fought her way to power armed with a determination to win and only a vague idea of what she stood for. Once in office she enlisted intellectual help and hit upon privatisation as the policy which symbolised all she stood for, and invented Thatcherism”. This account of Thatcherism bears little resemblance to its historical existence only twenty years ago.

Thatcher ousted Ted Heath on the basis of a very definite political project, and her supporters spent four years explaining that she intended to call a halt to egalitarian development, to restore inequality as a stimulus to competitiiveness, to break the power of the trade unions, and as far as possible to restore the struggle for survival of each against all which was the motor power of capitalism and which had made England great in the nineteenth century. She preached the virtues of raw capitalism for years before the 1979 election.

All her think-tanks did after the election was devise capitalist things to do. Martin Jacques and Marxism Today took little account of Thatcher’s capitalist crusade in 1975-79, beyond responding to it with traditional slogans. It was assumed that all that differentiated her from Heath was personality. Marxism Today, Tribune, the Labour Left, the Trotskyist groups and the Communist Party, had all opposed the Bullock reform which would have made social democracy functional by weaving it into the structure of the economy. For all their ‘political science’ they showed no analytical capacity about real events. A profound socio-economic crisis gave rise to a Royal Commission proposal for a social-democratic structural reform.

They opposed that reform because it was not “socialism”, and threw themselves into a purposeless militancy in the late seventies. Those were the conditions which enabled Thatcher to win power and set about implementing her policies. After she had been in power for a couple of years it suddenly dawned on Martin Jacques and others that something had changed in Britain, that Thatcher was not Heath or Macmillan, and that the Labour movement was actually being destroyed. And how did they respond to this discovery? They became Thatcherites.

Waking the DemocratsAl From, 2/27/06, Real Clear Politics)
To understand the impetus behind the DLC and the New Democrats, it is important to understand the plight of the Democratic Party in the 1980s.

Democrats had run out of ideas -- and liberalism was in great need of resuscitation. Liberals confused expanding government with expanding opportunity. They forgot what John Kennedy had taught -- that opportunity and responsibility must go hand in hand. They worried more about police power than public safety at home and more about American power than America's enemies in the world.

In the minds of too many Americans, government, once an engine of opportunity, had become an obstacle to opportunity. And, still reeling from the aftermath of the party's split over Vietnam, Democrats in the 1980s stood for weakness abroad and for equal outcomes, entitlements for favored constituencies, and big government at home.

The American people said, "No, thanks." Democrats lost at least 40 states in each of the three presidential elections during the decade. In 1984, the party hit bedrock -- losing 49 states for the second time in four national elections. Many experts said the Republicans had a lock on the presidency. Politically and intellectually, the Democratic Party was in a state of near-collapse.

Writing in The New Republic after the 1984 vote, analyst Bill Schneider described the Democrats' plight: "Beginning in the mid-1960s, two streams of voters began leaving the Democratic Party -- white Southerners and Catholic 'ethnic' voters in the North. The first stage of this realignment occurred in 1968 and 1972, when race and foreign policy were the major issues of contention. ... The second stage, 1980-84, has been much more devastating because the party has lost its credibility on economic issues."

The harsh consequences of both stages of realignment were evident again in 1988, when Democrats lost a presidential election that they thought they would win.

"Democrats must come face to face with reality," wrote William A. Galston and Elaine C. Kamarck in their landmark 1989 study The Politics of Evasion: Democrats and the Presidency. "Too many Americans have come to see the party as inattentive to their economic interests, indifferent if not hostile to their moral sentiments and ineffective in defense of their national security."

The Democrats' dilemma after 1988, according to Schneider, was that there was no alternative between "those who want to reaffirm the party's old-time religion and those who want to turn to the right." But by moving to the left, Democrats would make things worse for themselves, he said, and, because they were a liberal party, it was unlikely they would nominate a candidate unacceptable to liberals.

What the Democrats needed, Schneider wrote, was a "tough liberal" in the mold of Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Kennedy, and Johnson -- tough guys who "couldn't be pushed around by the Russians or the special interests in Washington."

Into that breach stepped Clinton and the New Democrats.

By the end of the 1980s, it was evident that conservatism, like liberalism, was bankrupt of ideas, creating what Clinton and the New Democrats saw as a false choice between two tired, old approaches that no longer worked.

Forging a Third Way was the challenge facing Democrats when Clinton assumed the DLC chairmanship in New Orleans in March 1990. His first act as DLC chairman was to issue The New Orleans Declaration, a seminal document that laid out the core New Democrat beliefs and served as the philosophical foundation for the Third Way approach and the Clinton presidency.

Here are those core beliefs:

We believe the promise of America is equal opportunity, not equal outcomes; that the Democratic Party's fundamental mission is to expand opportunity, not government; and in the politics of inclusion.

We believe that America must remain energetically engaged in the worldwide struggle for individual liberty, human rights, and prosperity, not retreat from the world, and that the United States must maintain a strong and capable defense that reflects dramatic changes in the world, but recognizes that the collapse of communism does not mean the end of danger.

We believe that economic growth is the prerequisite to expanding opportunity for everyone; that the right way to rebuild America's economic security is to invest in the skills and ingenuity of our people and to expand trade, not restrict it; that all claims on government are not equal; that our leaders must reject demands that are less worthy, and hold to clear governing priorities; and, that a progressive tax system is the only fair way to pay for government.

We believe in preventing crime and punishing criminals, not in explaining away their behavior; that the purpose of social welfare is to bring the poor into the nation's economic mainstream, not to maintain them in dependence; in the protection of civil rights and the broad movement of minorities into America's economic and cultural mainstream, not racial, gender or ethnic separatism; and that government should respect individual liberty and stay out of our private lives and personal decisions.

We believe in the moral and cultural values that most Americans share: liberty of conscience, individual responsibility, tolerance of difference, the imperative of work, the need for faith, and the importance of family.

Finally, we believe that American citizenship entails responsibility as well as rights, and we mean to ask our citizens to give something back to their communities and their country.

During the next 14 months -- with time out to get re-elected as governor of Arkansas in 1990 and for a legislative session in early 1991 -- Clinton traveled across the country meeting with elected, party, business, labor, and civic leaders, as well as ordinary citizens, to discuss those beliefs and innovative ideas for furthering them. During that period, Clinton shaped much of the agenda on which he was to run in 1992 -- the first New Democrat agenda.

He called that agenda "The New Choice" and presented it for ratification to the DLC's Convention in Cleveland in May 1991. That Cleveland meeting turned out to be a pivotal event for the New Democrat movement. The New Choice resolutions broke new ground, advocating ideas like national service, an expanded Earned Income Tax Credit, welfare reform, charter schools, community policing, expanding trade, and reinventing government.

Typical of the Brits to be more forthright, even with themselves, in acknowledginmg that the Third Way is a shift to the Right (as it is a shift Left for conservatives, at least in terms of accepting the inevitability of a government mandated safety net), but what's really funny here is to look at who supports the New Choice and who opposes it. Democrats have spent the last six years fighting against free trade, school choice, entitlement reform, and privatization/out-sourcing in government.

The oddest bit comes later:

Because his ideas worked, Clinton not only redefined progressivism in this country, but served as the model for the resurgence of center-left political parties, from Europe and Latin America to Asia and Africa. That is his true legacy.

The resurgence that matters is of center-Right parties -- in Britain, America, Australia, Japan, Germany, Poland, Canada, etc. -- the parties of the Left in places like Latin America are returning to the same tired socialism/statism that our own Democrats are stuck defending. When Al From, the putative leader of the New Democrats these days, has so little clue, it seems safe to say that the party's time in the Wilderness is in no danger of ending anytime soon.

The Strange Death That No One Cares About (Orrin C. Judd, 1/27/05, Tech Central Station)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:48 PM


Bush's Grand Strategy (Michael Barone, 2/27/06, Real Clear Politics)

[P]re-emption was not the only doctrine in the document. The words just quoted were preceded by a clause reading, "While the United States will constantly strive to enlist the support of the international community ..." Even while claiming the right to act pre-emptively, Bush agreed to Tony Blair's plea for a second United Nations resolution to justify military action in Iraq, even though it was justified by previous resolutions and Saddam Hussein's defiance of them.

And there was more to the strategy of securing America than just dealing with immediate threats. The NSS called for "global efforts to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations." Bush critics say that he has undercut that by continuing to reject the Kyoto Protocol. But the agreement Bush concluded with India, China, Japan and Australia to limit growth of greenhouse gases seems likely to produce significant results, while the European countries, for all their hauteur, are failing to meet their Kyoto targets.

Bush has also gone beyond the NSS by agreeing to joint military operations with India and encouraging a Japanese military presence abroad -- both counterweights to Chinese military power. Also going beyond his proposals is his massive commitment to combat AIDS in Africa, which is only hinted at in the document.

In other respects, Bush has not delivered on the promises of the NSS. The Free Trade Area of the Americas, envisioned for 2005, is nowhere in sight. And "an independent and democratic Palestine, living beside Israel in peace and security," won't appear soon.

Well, he can act unilaterally to destroy Iran's nuclear program, and will if necessary, but you can't unilaterally impose free trade. Meanwhile, Palestine is a democracy and Israel has been moved to the point where it's about ready to recognize its independence -- on Israeli terms -- peace and security will follow.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:35 PM


Europe vs. Radical Islam: Alarmist Americans have mostly bad advice for Europeans. (Francis Fukuyama, Feb. 27, 2006, Slate)

The problem that most Europeans face today is that they don't have a vision of the kinds of positive cultural values their societies stand for and should promote, other than endless tolerance and moral relativism. What each European society needs is to invent an open form of national identity similar to the American creed, an identity that is accessible to newcomers regardless of ethnicity or religion. This was the idea behind Bassam Tibi's concept of Leitkultur (guiding or reference culture), the notion that the European Enlightenment gave rise to a distinct and positive universalist culture based on the dignity of the individual. Muslims coming to Europe would be minimally expected to accept this perspective as their own. The German Christian Democrats timidly endorsed a version of this five years ago, only to retreat in the face of charges of racism and anti-immigrant prejudice from the left. Interest in a "demokratische Leitkultur" has been revived in the wake of recent events, however, and a vigorous debate has opened up over how to define it. There will be many missteps along the way: The state of Baden-Württemberg, for example, recently introduced a test that would require the respondent to support gay marriage as a condition for citizenship, something deliberately designed to exclude Muslims.

Time is getting short to address these questions. Europeans should have started a discussion about how to integrate their Muslim minorities a generation ago, before the winds of radical Islamism had started to blow. The cartoon controversy, while beginning with a commendable European desire to assert basic liberal values, may constitute a Rubicon that will be very hard to re-cross. We should be alarmed at the scope of the problem, but prudent in responding to it, since escalating cultural conflict throughout the Continent will bring us closer to a showdown between Islamists and secularists that will increasingly look like a clash of civilizations.

Hard to know which is more hilarious, the idea that the dignity of the individual is a product of the Enlightenment or that secularism is a civilization. Because the neocons have never grasped the centrality of Judeo-Christianity to Western Civilization their political prescriptions are always banal.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:19 PM


Summers's End: Too bad Harvard's president wouldn't take his own side in a quarrel. (Peter Berkowitz, 03/06/2006, Weekly Standard)

The significance of Lawrence Summers's resignation under fire as president of Harvard University has been widely misunderstood. Oozing sympathy for a beleaguered and aggrieved Harvard faculty, the Boston Globe editorial page argued that because he was "arrogant" and "brusque," in short a "bully," Summers was "losing the ability to be effective" and so it was "sensible," and in the interests of all, for him to step down. A sympathetic editorial in the Washington Post portrayed Summers as a martyr, a foe of "complacencies and prejudices" who was forced to fall on his sword by a "loud and unreasonable" minority. An angry Wall Street Journal editorial, which colorfully decried "a largely left-wing faculty that has about as much intellectual diversity as the Pyongyang parliament," portrayed Summers as a victim whose apology, "in the wake of his 'gender' comments," failed "to placate his liberal critics."

Summers's ouster certainly demonstrates--as Harvard professor Ruth Wisse observed in a Wall Street Journal op-ed and as another Harvard dissenter, Alan Dershowitz, argued in the Boston Globe--the power at Harvard of a faction within the faculty of arts and sciences for whom scholarship is politics by other means and who aggressively practice the politics of resentment that they loudly preach. Yet they could not on their own have brought down Summers, whose intellectual credentials as a brilliant economist and whose political credentials as former secretary of the treasury in the Clinton administration are impeccable.

Summers's vociferous faculty critics--those who voted no confidence in him last year represent only about 25 percent of the arts and sciences faculty--needed, in the face of their scurrilous attacks, the silence of the vast majority of the rest of the Harvard arts and science faculty as well as the silence of the eight other faculties at Harvard. [...]

Alas, the Harvard establishment already seems to be drawing the wrong lesson from Summers's resignation. Summers critic Peter T. Ellison, a professor of anthropology and former dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, told the New York Times: "I think the repair will be virtually instantaneous. I think the problem has been essentially President Summers himself."

In fact, the problem was that Summers was untrue to his sound instincts about the university's mission and unable or unwilling to articulate the principles that should organize and refine those instincts. Despite his considerable gifts, the bright promise when he was appointed in 2001, his evident joy in Harvard's remarkable students and his varied achievements during his five years at the helm, Summers's failure to stand up for himself and for the principle of free inquiry when both were under assault--indeed, his collaboration by means of public acts of abasement and contrition before those who would cut off speech and research in order to protect their own tender sensibilities and political agendas--leaves Harvard more enfeebled and more confused about its mission than when he arrived.

On the bright side, it's even more of a laughingstock than it was outside of Harvard Yard.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:12 PM


U.S. Supreme Court to hear arguments Tuesday on campaign finance (Christopher Graff, February 25, 2006, Associated Press)

A typically blunt statement by Howard Dean nine years ago about campaign contributions -- "money does buy access and we're kidding ourselves and Vermonters if we deny it" -- is at the heart of a case that comes before the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday.

Advocates of campaign spending limits say this case is their best hope in 30 years; opponents believe the justices will use the opportunity to firmly close the door once and for all on any such limits. All agree that the case provides the Roberts Court with a chance to put its imprint on how elections are financed and regulated around the country.

"Justice O'Connor, the swing voter in the recent campaign finance cases, has left the court," said Richard Hasen of Loyola Law School. "The Vermont case could present the new Roberts Court with an opportunity to begin imposing significant restrictions on the ability of the government to limit the role of money in politics."

With the exception of the imagined right of privacy, the fact that the Court pretty much only allows restrictions on speech when it is political -- which is the only type of speech the Constitution protects -- is where it's gone most seriously off track.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:02 PM


US tsunami aid still reaps goodwill: A recent poll found Indonesians' support for the US is almost as high as it was in the immediate aftermath of the disaster. (Tom McCawley, 2/28/06, The Christian Science Monitor)

The poll of 1,177 Indonesians in late January found that those "with a favorable opinion of the US" jumped from a low of 15 percent in May 2003 following the US-led invasion of Iraq, to more than 44 percent in January of this year. A similar poll released by the Pew Research Center in June last year also said tsunami aid had changed Indonesian opinions of the US.

"The military aid [after the tsunami], humanitarian help, and private philanthropy ... boosted the image of the US," says Djoko Susilo, a legislator on parliament's security commission, noting that "even rich Indonesians" don't generally give money to such causes.

And they're an emerging democracy to boot.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:58 PM


One town doubts Hamas (Joshua Mitnick, 2/28/06, The Christian Science Monitor)


When the militant group Hamas beat the ruling Fatah party for control of this Palestinian town of 42,000 in last May's municipal elections, the new councilors promised to pave uneven streets like the one outside Mustafa Juadei's glass business. And while Mr. Juadei awaits the road improvement, he says that potential clients go elsewhere.

Hamas's win in cities like Qalqilya was a harbinger of their surprise Jan. 25 victory in the parliamentary election. But, after experiencing six months of local Hamas rule, Qalqilya was the only district in which Hamas lost to Fatah last month. Now, as Hamas cobbles together the first Palestinian cabinet led by an Islamist party and struggles to secure much-needed aid money, some locals say a Hamas backlash could spread in the Palestinian territories.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 6:37 PM


Polity's place in a polite society (Frank Field, The Australian, February 28th, 2006)

There are some common causes for the collapse of civility in Britain and Australia. Far and away the most important is that, not so long ago, the formation of our characters was not left to chance but today, increasingly, it is. In the past, family played a key role in shaping character, and its influence was reinforced by a rich array of civil institutions including churches, Sunday schools, trade unions, friendly societies and mutual aid clubs.

Both families and this wider world held clear views on the type of character each of us should develop. The central message was that our own self-respect was inextricably bound with our guarding the self-respect of others. This character formation was carried out so well that governments simply did not have to think about the issue. Now they do.

The key to the collapse in civility is the decline in Christianity. The British character was shaped by the early 19th-century evangelical revival, which centred on the role of the family and duty to neighbours. This religious revival developed into a creed of respectability that became as natural a guide to behaviour as the air that was breathed. Respectability was not imposed by a pushy middle class. It was engendered by the working class, which learned from experience that chaos was the alternative to a life emphasising respect for others as well as for oneself.

As adamant libertarians, yobs, punks and bullies will tell you there is no need to impose artificial standards of behaviour on them because natural selection has left them hard-wired for co-operative morality and instinctively drawn to just the right balance between freedom and civility.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:00 PM


Democracy Angst: What's the alternative to promoting freedom in the Middle East? (Opinion Journal, February 27, 2006)

[T]he underlying argument deserves thoughtful consideration, and it goes something like this: Contrary to the rhetoric of the Bush Administration, the taste for freedom--and the ability to exercise it responsibly--is far from universal. Culture is decisive. Liberal democracies are the product of long-term trends such as the collapse of communal loyalties, urbanization, the separation of church and state and the political empowerment of the bourgeoisie. Absent these things, say the critics, democratic and liberal institutions are built on foundations of sand and are destined to collapse.

This account more or less describes the rise of liberal democracies in the West. Yet simply because it took centuries to establish a liberal-democratic order in Europe, it does not follow that it must take centuries more to establish one in the Middle East. Japan took about 100 years to transform itself (and be transformed) from a feudal society into a modern industrial democracy. South Korea made a similar leap in about 40 years; Thailand went from quasi-military dictatorships to a genuine constitutional monarchy in about 20. As the practice of liberal democracy has spread, the time it takes nondemocratic societies to acquire that practice has diminished.

But, say the critics, Islamic and particularly Arab countries are uniquely resistant to change. Between 1981 and 2001 the number of non-Islamic countries rated "free"--that is to say, both democratic and liberal--increased by 34, according to Freedom House. By contrast the number of free Islamic countries remained constant at one, in the form of landlocked Mali. During the same period, the number of Islamic countries ranked "not free" increased by 10.

No doubt deep-seated cultural factors go some way toward explaining these statistics. But why seek abstruse explanations? In the same period when the U.S. was encouraging democratic openings in Eastern Europe, East Asia and Latin America--areas previously thought impervious to liberty, often for "cultural" reasons--it was supporting or tolerating undemocratic and illiberal regimes in the Middle East.

That period also coincided with the rise of al Qaeda, Hamas and Hezbollah, the first World Trade Center bombing, the bombings of U.S. embassies in East Africa and the USS Cole, the outbreak of the terrorist intifada in Israel, and September 11. Mr. Fukuyama may or may not be right that promoting democracy does not resolve the problem of terrorism in the short-term. What we know for sure is that tolerating dictatorship not only doesn't resolve the terrorist problem but actively nurtures it.

Obviously if after they've had liberal democracy for two hundred years the Middle Eastern states are still impoverished and spitting forth suicidal terrorists we'll have to re-examine the assumption that Arabs are just as capable of democracy as blacks, Germans, Catholics, Slavs, Asians, etc. turned out to be, but for now it seems a tad premature to claim they aren't. For the nonce they're an argument against our historic support for colonialism and dictatorship in the region.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:28 PM


Students Call for Banning of Peace Studies Class: Bethesda-Chevy Chase High Protesters Say That Teachings Are Skewed (Lori Aratani, February 26, 2006, Washington Post)

For months, 17-year-old Andrew Saraf had been troubled by stories he was hearing about a Peace Studies course offered at his Bethesda high school. He wasn't enrolled in the class but had several friends and classmates who were.

Last Saturday, he decided to act. He sat down at his computer and typed out his thoughts on why the course -- offered for almost two decades as an elective to seniors at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School -- should be banned from the school.

"I know I'm not the first to bring this up but why has there been no concerted effort to remove Peace Studies from among the B-CC courses?" he wrote in his post to the school's group e-mail list. "The 'class' is headed by an individual with a political agenda, who wants to teach students the 'right' way of thinking by giving them facts that are skewed in one direction."

He hit send.

Within a few hours, the normally staid e-mail list BCCnet -- a site for announcements, job postings and other housekeeping details in the life of a school -- was ablaze with chatter. By the time Principal Sean Bulson checked his BlackBerry on Sunday evening, there were more than 150 postings from parents and students -- some ardently in support, some ardently against the course.

Why not create a War Studies course, taught by a hawk, and let the kids pick?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:16 PM


Cheney seen retiring after midterm elections (Insight, 2/27/06)

Vice President Dick Cheney is expected to retire within a year.

Senior GOP sources envision the retirement of Mr. Cheney in 2007, months after the congressional elections.

No president has ever come to office with a clearer idea of what he wanted to achieve than George W. Bush and one key part of his program is a permanent Republican majority. In 2000 he chose a vp who was actually capable of running the government should that become necessary, but who wasn't capable of succeeeding him and locking down the legacy. That meant that Mr. Cheney would leave at some point before the 2008 presidential election cycle began to be replaced by an annointed successor.

Mr. Bush would have liked to do something revolutionary, like appoint Condi Rice, but she's not interested in running for the presidency, so he patched things up with John McCain who can so easily win the presidency in his own right that it will greatly expand Republican majorities in the House and Senate. Oddly enough, the one thing that could keep Mr. Cheney in office until Innauguration Day '09, contra this silly story, is that the President wouldn't want to embarrass someone who's served him so loyally and well.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:13 PM


VIDEO: Autistic basketball player creates mayhem at game (You Tube)

CBS ran an incredibly powerful story tonight that brings you to your feet and just keeps on giving each and every minute into it. Jason McElwain, an autistic high school basketball team member in Rochester NY, served as the coach's assistant and spirit leader for several years. On the final game of the season the coach let him finally put on a jersey with the rest of the team. Watch what happens then...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:00 PM


A CIA Leak Trial Without the CIA Leak (Byron York, 2/27/06, National Review)

CIA leak prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald argued at a hearing Friday that, as far as the perjury charges against former Cheney chief of staff Lewis Libby are concerned, it does not matter whether or not Valerie Wilson was a covert CIA agent when she was mentioned in the famous Robert Novak column of July 14, 2003. "We're trying a perjury case," Fitzgerald told Judge Reggie Walton. Even if Plame had never worked for the CIA at all, Fitzgerald continued — even if she had been simply mistaken for a CIA agent — the charges against Libby would still stand. In addition, Fitzgerald said, he does not intend to offer "any proof of actual damage" caused by the disclosure of Wilson's identity.

All they ever had to do was tell the truth, but Mr. Libby apparently didn't.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:24 PM


Iraq Official: Top Zarqawi Aide Captured (SINAN SALAHEDDIN, Associated Press)

Interior Ministry forces captured a top aide to al-Qaida in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi during a raid in western Iraq, a security official said Monday.

Whether it's offended religious sensibilities or fear of civil war, the mosque bombing seems to have triggered intelligence disclosures within the Sunni community.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:21 AM


Iraqi Sunni Bloc to Rejoin Talks on Government (EDWARD WONG, 2/27/06, NY Times)

Leaders of the main Sunni Arab political bloc have decided to return to suspended talks over the formation of a new government, the top Sunni negotiator said Sunday. The step could help defuse the sectarian tensions that threatened to spiral into open civil war last week after the bombing of a Shiite shrine and the killings of Sunnis in reprisal.

That bloodletting has amounted to the worst sectarian violence since the American invasion nearly three years ago, and the possibility of Iraqis killing one another on an even greater scale appears to have helped drive Sunni Arab politicians back to moderation, after they angrily withdrew from negotiations last Thursday.

Since the day Baghdad fell the Shi'ites and Kurds have been eager for democracy and the Sunni opposed. Yet folks in the West think the threat -- or even the actuality -- of Civil War doesn't serve the long term interests of Iraq?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:12 AM


What's Needed From Hamas: Steps in the Peace Process Must Match Conditions on the Ground (Henry A. Kissinger, February 27, 2006, Washington Post)

The advent of Hamas brings us to a point where the peace process must be brought into some conformity with conditions on the ground. The old game plan that Palestinian elections would produce a moderate secular partner cannot be implemented with Hamas in the near future. What would be needed from Hamas is an evolution comparable to Sharon's. The magnitude of that change is rarely adequately recognized. For most of his career, Sharon's strategic goal was the incorporation of the West Bank into Israel by a settlement policy designed to prevent Palestinian self-government over significant contiguous territory. In his indefatigable pursuit of this objective, Sharon became a familiar figure on his frequent visits to America, with maps of his strategic concept rolled up under his arms to brief his interlocutors.

Late in life, Sharon, together with a growing number of his compatriots, concluded that ruling the West Bank would deform Israel's historic objective. Instead of creating a Jewish homeland, the Jewish population would, in time, become a minority. The coexistence of two states in Palestinian territory had become imperative. Under Sharon, Israel seemed prepared to withdraw from close to 95 percent of West Bank territory, to abandon a significant percentage of the settlements -- many of them placed there by Sharon -- involving the movement of tens of thousands of settlers into pre-1967 Israel, and to compensate Palestinians for the retained territory by some equivalent portions of Israeli territory. Significant percentages of Israelis are prepared to add the Arab part of Jerusalem to such a settlement as the possible capital of a Palestinian state.

Progress has been prevented in large measure by the rigid insistence on the 1967 frontiers and the refugee issue -- both unfulfillable preconditions. The 1967 lines were established as demarcation lines of the 1948 cease-fire. Not a single Arab state accepted Israel as legitimate within these lines or was prepared to treat the dividing lines as an international border at that time. A return to the 1967 lines and the abandonment of the settlements near Jerusalem would be such a psychological trauma for Israel as to endanger its survival.

The most logical outcome would be to trade Israeli settlement blocs around Jerusalem -- a demand President Bush has all but endorsed -- for some equivalent territories in present-day Israel with significant Arab populations. The rejection of such an approach, or alternative available concepts, which would contribute greatly to stability and to demographic balance, reflects a determination to keep incendiary issues permanently open.

Folks who insist that Hamas won't evolve ought to think back just four years ago to when they were insisting that Sharon wouldn't.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:01 AM


Workers offered Roth 401(k)s — slowly (Kathy Chu, 2/26/06, USA TODAY)

General Motors, Delphi, Vanguard and A.G. Edwards are among the first major employers this year to begin rolling out Roth 401(k) plans, which let workers withdraw money tax-free in retirement.

Congress allowed employers to offer Roth 401(k) programs starting in January.

Companies so far are slow to adopt such plans, mostly out of fear of confusing employees with another retirement-savings option, says Michael Weddell of Watson Wyatt, a consulting firm.

But given GM's stature, its move could have a ripple effect. "Clearly, if any large, well-recognized firm offers a Roth 401(k), companies would take notice," says Robert Liberto of Segal Advisors.

Getting business to help transform retirement and health care and then means-testing government benefits will basically end them.


Health-care fix will require cooperation, Wal-Mart chief says
(Alison Granito, 2/27/06, Medill News Service)

Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott told a gathering of the nation's governors Sunday that although the company plans to expand its health-benefits program to cover more workers and their families, the country's health-care crisis cannot be solved by Wal-Mart alone.

"The soaring cost of health care in America cannot be sustained over the long term by any business that offers health benefits to its employees. And every day that we do not work together to solve this challenge is a day our country becomes less competitive in the global economy," Scott said. [...]

Scott said the retail giant intends to reduce the waiting period for health insurance for part-time employees and extend its "value plan," which allows employees to buy basic coverage for $11 a month, beyond the handful of markets in which it is available now. The company also will give part-time employees the option of insuring their children as well as themselves.

Scott said his company's health plans aren't perfect but called employer-mandate bills politically motivated and unrealistic. The bills have been driven by support from organized labor, long critical of Wal-Mart, which has successfully fought efforts to unionize its stores.

Scott asked for the cooperation of the nation's governors and a commitment to work with his company to find "real solutions" to the health-care crunch.

Government policy should push employers towards offering HSAs.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:55 AM


The Emperor's Visit: Whither India? (Rajesh Ramakrishnan, 27 February, 2006, Countercurrents.org

The official invitation to President George Bush to visit India is a slap in the face of India's history of struggle against imperialism and has therefore evoked strong opposition from a sizeable section of Indians. The United States Government has a long history of imperialist aggression and war crimes against developing countries. The ravaging of Latin America and South East Asia, and the attack on Yugoslavia, are fresh in public memory. The barbaric attack on Afghanistan and the occupation of Iraq are the bloodiest conflicts of our times. The cruel torture of Iraqi civilians by the US military in the prisons of Abu Ghraib has been beamed worldwide by the media. The recent call of the UN Human Rights Commission to close down the Guantanamo Bay prison camp confirms that torture and abuse are part of the US war machine, evoking memories of Nazi concentration camps. Resistance to this war and occupation is growing within the US and UK. The people of Iraq are still waging a heroic struggle for independence from occupation. The Bush Administration continues to use the September 11 incident to justify a global military onslaught to capture key resources, markets and strategic regions. The threat of military attack looms large over Cuba, North Korea, Syria, Venezuela and now Iran. Falsely painting the Iranian civilian nuclear energy programme as a weapons programme, President Bush, who presides over the largest nuclear weapon stockpile in the world, is preparing for a military attack on Iran.

...India is now a key partner in that imperialist crusade to universalize liberal democracy. It's bad old days of supporting Third World dictatorships just because they were anti-Western are over.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:53 AM


Indianans suspicious of toll road deal (Theodore Kim, 2/27/06, USA TODAY)

The deal seems simple: An overseas consortium has offered Indiana $3.85 billion to take up all maintenance, operations and revenue on the money-losing Indiana East-West Toll Road for 75 years.

The political realities of privatizing one of the Midwest's most important roads have proved to be anything but simple for the deal's architect, Gov. Mitch Daniels.

And so does Republican xenophobia serve to undermine the privatization of government functions, one of the Right's most cherished dreams.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:42 AM


Diplomacy About Iran's Nuclear Program Shifts from Moscow to Tokyo (Steve Herman, 27 February 2006, VOA News)

Iran's foreign minister has arrived in Japan for talks expected to focus on easing concerns over the Islamic republic's nuclear ambitions. Manouchehr Mottaki's three-day visit begins a day after Iran and Russia announced an agreement to establish a joint uranium enrichment venture, in the hopes of averting United Nations sanctions.

Japanese officials say Foreign Minister Taro Aso will tell his Iranian counterpart that Tehran should suspend its production of enriched uranium, which can be used for producing nuclear weapons.

Japan supports the proposal for Iran to enrich uranium in Russia, but officials here say it is not clear whether, as a result of the deal between Moscow and Tehran, Iran has agreed to entirely give up enrichment at home.

Aso has said he will press the Iranian foreign minister, for details of the Iranian-Russian agreement.

Aso, speaking Monday to lawmakers, said that if international sanctions are imposed on Tehran, it will be difficult for Japan to press ahead with a huge oil project in southern Iran.

A textbook illustration of how the Axis of Good encircles Chinese Communists and radical Islamicists.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:28 AM


Cost of doing business soars as traffic worsens (PATRICK DANNER, 2/27/06, MiamiHerald.com)

Since becoming group president of Regions Bank in Broward and Palm Beach counties three years ago, Evan T. Rees calculated he has logged some 100,000 miles on South Florida's increasingly crowded roadways.

Like a lot of fellow commuters, Rees leaves his house earlier in the morning and his office later in the evening simply to avoid the rush-hour crush. ''It's getting worse and worse,'' Rees complained.

What's more, the quarterly visits Rees makes to each of Regions' 30 branches in the two counties used to take him about three-and-a-half days. With increased traffic, it now takes him an entire week. That means ''less time to visit with customers and be involved in community activities,'' he said.

What used to be considered largely a Miami-Dade County problem has crept into Broward. With traffic jams routine on Interstates 95 and 595 and the Sawgrass Expressway, the cost of doing business climbs as roadways become more clogged.

Growing congestion plagues communities throughout the country, but this area's clogged roads are among the worst. In South Florida, annual road delays per resident shot up 58 percent between 1993 and 2003, and drivers here wasted the equivalent of more than six work days stuck in traffic in 2003, according to the Texas Transportation Institute.

Transportation/traffic ranks with affordable housing and education as top issues for businesses when deciding whether to relocate or stay in the area. If congestion isn't eased, planners predict, it will hurt South Florida's ability to attract companies and jeopardize future economic development.

Note that the problem with cars isn't just economic, environmental and security costs, but social degradation.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:26 AM


Saddam Hussein ends hunger strike: lawyer (Suleiman al-Khalidi Mon Feb 27, 2006, Reuters)

Toppled Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein has ended on health grounds a hunger strike he began earlier this month to protest against the conduct of his trial, his chief lawyer said on Monday.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:20 AM


Labour decides Scotland must have nuclear future (PETER MACMAHON, 2/27/06, The Scotsman)

THE Scottish Labour Party yesterday agreed to support the building of nuclear power stations north of the Border.

In a surprise move on the final day of the party conference in Aviemore, delegates overwhelmingly approved a call for ageing nuclear plants to be replaced or renewed. Allan Wilson, the deputy enterprise minister and a member of the party's Scottish policy forum, confirmed that the views of the conference would be taken into account when Labour draws up its manifesto for the 2007 elections.

The decision is set to increase tensions between Labour and the Liberal Democrats, who are opposed to new nuclear power stations. However, the vote does strengthen the hand of Jack McConnell, the First Minister, who appears to have been preparing the way for the Executive to back a new generation of nuclear power stations in Scotland.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:12 AM


Dartmouth at Top of the Heap (Greg Fennell, 2/27/06, Valley News)

Three months ago, even the most optimistic of Dartmouth men's hockey fans couldn't have envisioned this.

As the final buzzer signaled the Big Green's 3-0 win over St. Lawrence at Thompson Arena last night, player after Dartmouth player slapped shoulder and back of teammate in recognition of a rare accomplishment. Then player after Dartmouth player leapt from the bench and onto winning goaltender Mike Devine.

If further evidence was required, it came when captain Mike Ouellette handed coach Bob Gaudet the William J. Cleary Cup, emblematic of regular-season ECAC Hockey League supremacy, the first such trophy in Dartmouth history.

A team that couldn't have started its season worse couldn't have finished it better.

“This is awesome, just awesome,” said Gaudet amid family and friends on the Thompson ice after the game. “It's so hard to get a banner. To be able to put something up there where these guys can come back and appreciate years and years from now, I just think it's great.”

Aside from the hardware and the knowledge that Dartmouth (16-11-2 overall, 14-6-2 league) will finally install a championship banner on Thompson's east wall for the first time since reaching the NCAA Frozen Four in 1980, the Big Green knows a few other things, too.

After an 0-4 start for which Dartmouth is still paying on the national level, the Big Green lifted itself by going 14-2-2 over the rest of its league slate. It has beaten good league foes, and bad ones. It has outscored them, and it has silenced them. Based on tiebreakers, Dartmouth will enter the ECACHL tournament in two weeks as the top seed, a valuable advantage for a team with NCAA tourney aspirations that will probably need to win the league tournament to see those dreams through. [...]

Colgate earned its share of the title with a 2-1 win over RPI last night. And, yes, the Raiders also got a William J. Cleary Cup -- the women's cup, minus any identifying plate. That cup was supposed to reach the St. Lawrence women last night, but the weather made the trip impossible, so league officials decided to hand it over (temporarily) to Colgate.

The women's cup?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:50 AM


As Canada's Slow-Motion Public Health System Falters, Private Medical Care Is Surging (CLIFFORD KRAUSS, 2/26/06, NY Times)

The country's publicly financed health insurance system — frequently described as the third rail of its political system and a core value of its national identity — is gradually breaking down. Private clinics are opening around the country by an estimated one a week, and private insurance companies are about to find a gold mine.

Dr. Day, for instance, is planning to open more private hospitals, first in Toronto and Ottawa, then in Montreal, Calgary and Edmonton. Ontario provincial officials are already threatening stiff fines. Dr. Day says he is eager to see them in court.

"We've taken the position that the law is illegal," Dr. Day, 59, says. "This is a country in which dogs can get a hip replacement in under a week and in which humans can wait two to three years."

Dr. Day may be a rebel (he keeps a photograph of himself with Fidel Castro behind his desk), but he appears to be on top of a new wave in Canada's health care future. He is poised to become the president of the Canadian Medical Association next year, and his profitable Vancouver hospital is serving as a model for medical entrepreneurs in several provinces.

Canada remains the only industrialized country that outlaws privately financed purchases of core medical services. Prime Minister Stephen Harper and other politicians remain reluctant to openly propose sweeping changes even though costs for the national and provincial governments are exploding and some cancer patients are waiting months for diagnostic tests and treatment.

But a Supreme Court ruling last June — it found that a Quebec provincial ban on private health insurance was unconstitutional when patients were suffering and even dying on waiting lists — appears to have become a turning point for the entire country.

"The prohibition on obtaining private health insurance is not constitutional where the public system fails to deliver reasonable services," the court ruled.

In response, the Quebec premier, Jean Charest, proposed this month to allow private hospitals to subcontract hip, knee and cataract surgery to private clinics when patients are unable to be treated quickly enough under the public system. The premiers of British Columbia and Alberta have suggested they will go much further to encourage private health services and insurance in legislation they plan to propose in the next few months.

Private doctors across the country are not waiting for changes in the law, figuring provincial governments will not try to stop them only to face more test cases in the Supreme Court.

So all this time when the Left has insisted that we adopt Canadian-style health care it was really just a secret plan for more privatization?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:19 AM


What's wrong with 'teaching to the test'?: Standarized tests simply mean we are setting high standards for our students. (Jay Mathews, 2/27/06, CS Monitor)

Teaching to the test, you may have heard, is bad, very bad. I got 59.2 million hits when I did a Google search for the phrase, and most of what I read was unfriendly. Teaching to the test made children sick, one article said. Others said it rendered test scores meaningless or had a dumbing effect on instruction. All of that confused me, since in 23 years of visiting classrooms I have yet to see any teacher preparing kids for exams in ways that were not careful, sensible, and likely to produce more learning. [...]

Yet if you asked the thousands of educators who have written the questions for the state tests that allegedly produce all these terrible classroom practices, they would tell you their objective is the same as the classroom teacher's: to help kids learn. And if you watched the best teachers at work, as I have many times, you would see them treating the state test as nothing more than another useful guide and motivator, with no significant change in the way they present their lessons.

You can understand education professionals being upset, because it takes the curriculum away from them and gives it back to the taxpayers.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:06 AM


Reaction disappoints U.S. backers in UAE (Nicholas Kralev, 2/27/06, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

"What's happening in the United States is disappointing for people like me," said Mr. al Tamimi, founder and managing partner of the United Arab Emirates' largest law firm, Al Tamimi & Co.

Businessmen, government officials and other residents of Dubai have experienced bewilderment and disbelief as they watched the U.S. reaction to the ports takeover by the state-owned company DP World, the Dubai-based ports operator.

Their reaction reflectsthe city's decades-long search for an identity, inevitably influenced by its Middle East location and Muslim traditions, but also by ambitions to become a free-market economy that attracts the West's wealthiest investors.

"I have a U.S. mentality. I was educated in the United States," said Mr. al Tamimi, who spent 18 months at Harvard Law School, ending in 1984. "I have a home in Idaho and spend most of my vacations in America."

But he said he had never expected the passions exhibited last week in Washington and the six cities whose ports may soon be managed by DPW -- New York, Baltimore, Philadelphia, New Orleans, Miami and Newark, N.J.

"It has changed my mentality," he said in his office on the 29th floor of Dubai's World Trade Center tower.

"We can build bridges between East and West by having bilateral businesses and common interests," he said. "By isolating this part of the world and pushing us in the corner, how do the Americans think things can change? By magic? I never talked like this before."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


At ports, security vs. trade:
Rules on ports have existed since 1789, but the debate sharpens as globalization rubs up against the threat of terror. (Alexandra Marks, 2/27/06 The Christian Science Monitor)

oday, as technology has fueled changes at an ever greater pace, many economists contend that such "cabotage" laws are outmoded and anachronistic. And they point out that many restrictions passed in the 1920s have been relaxed - even though they still exist.

"When the dust settles, people are going to say some of these are pretty silly proposals when some of the biggest port facilities are already owned by foreigners, including the Chinese," says Edward M. Graham, a senior fellow at the Institute for International Economics in Washington and author of "US National Security and Foreign Direct Investment." "[Foreign ownership of port operations] has never proven to be a problem - the time to have banned it was 30 years ago before this became a highly globalized industry."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


'Oil attackers' killed in Saudi (BBC, 2/27/06)

Security forces in the Saudi Arabian capital Riyadh have killed five suspected militants believed to be linked to an attack on an oil plant.

Security sources say a siege took place at a villa in a Riyadh suburb in which shots were fired and grenades thrown.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Hamas leader roils Israel debate: Ismail Haniyeh appeared to suggest that peace could be made with Israel under certain conditions. (Ilene R. Prusher, 2/27/06, The Christian Science Monitor)

After a weekend during which it was portrayed as a party that might be ready to make peace with Israel under certain circumstances, Hamas has found itself walking a fine line between dogma and diplomacy. [...]

"There were three clear benchmarks which were articulated by the secretary-general," says Mark Regev. "He said that if Hamas wants to reach the level of internationally accepted interlocutor, they have to totally recognize Israel, they need to renounce terrorism, and come on board with international agreements.

"Ismail Haniyeh did not reach any of those benchmarks and that's clear," he adds. "We shouldn't let Hamas get away with word games. He's trying to market his product, but I still don't think it makes the mark."


Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Bush strides out to change the world with his new best friend (Gerard Baker, 2/27/06, Times of London)

American expectations are high for both legs of this trip, but especially for Mr Bush’s meetings with Manmohan Singh, the Indian Prime Minister.

“The President’s visit, at least to some extent, marks the transition from a 40-or-so-year painful bilateral history to the transformed relationship the two countries have today,” Robert Blackwill, a former US Ambassador to India, said last week.

The change in the relationship is reflected in that India is, according to recent surveys, the one place where the popularity of the US, if not its President, has risen in the past four years.

American officials cite many areas of common interest. As Mr Bush presses a pro-democracy agenda for the world, India is the world’s largest free nation. Economic growth in the sub-continent has been rapid, bringing trade and investment opportunities for both countries’ companies.

The two countries have shared interests in energy security and, of course, in confronting Islamist extremism. And, in the US at least, some long-term strategic thinkers see India — democratic, capitalist and, in large part, English-speaking — as a powerful ally and makeweight to China’s growing hegemony in Asia, although Indian officials, eager to stay on good terms with their large neighbour to the north, are keen to play down that aspect of the relationship.

Mr Bush and Mr Singh will discuss those issues, and India’s relations with Pakistan, where a fledgling peace process is under way over the disputed territory of Kashmir.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


The Fascist Soccer Star and the Auschwitz Survivor: Roman soccer star Paolo Di Canio is infamous for flashing the Hitler salute to his team's far-right fans. The mayor of Rome wants it to stop. He brought Di Canio and his Lazio teammates together with three Holocaust survivors. (Alexander Smoltczyk, 2/27/06, Der Spiegel)

Paolo Di Canio, captain of Lazio, has been suspended twice for saluting fans with an outstretched right arm -- the so-called "Hitler greeting." Among Lazio's right-wing fans -- the "Ultras" -- Di Canio has been their celebrated idol since. "Ave Paolo" has become a favorite chant in the Olympia Stadium where they play. On this day, though, Di Canio sits silently in the second row, listening attentively as the mayor explains why they are there.

There are a number of incidents to point to. Recently, during a match against Livorno, a swastika flag and a portrait of Benito Mussolini -- Italy's fascist leader during World War II -- were seen on display in the hardcore fan corner. Even worse, some young fans unfurled a 30 meter long banner with a verse rhyming the place name Livorno with the Italian word "forno." The word means "oven." Livorno, prior to World War II, was home to a large Jewish community.

Were Di Canio not wearing his suit on his visit to the mayor, one would be able to see the so-called "fasces" he has tattooed onto his back. An ancient symbol depicting a bundle of sticks with an axe protruding from the top, the fasces is a symbol for Italian fascism, and was used on Mussolini's personal flag. On Di Canio's right bicep, he has a second tattoo: "DUX" it says -- Latin for "leader."

Shlomo Venezia wears his tattoo on his left forearm. His tattoo reads: 182727.

February 26, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:59 PM


German Intelligence Gave U.S. Iraqi Defense Plan, Report Says (MICHAEL R. GORDON, 2/27/06, NY Times)

Two German intelligence agents in Baghdad obtained a copy of Saddam Hussein's plan to defend the Iraqi capital, which a German official passed on to American commanders a month before the invasion, according to a classified study by the United States military.

In providing the Iraqi document, German intelligence officials offered more significant assistance to the United States than their government has publicly acknowledged. The plan gave the American military an extraordinary window into Iraq's top-level deliberations, including where and how Mr. Hussein planned to deploy his most loyal troops.

The German role is not the only instance in which nations that publicly cautioned against the war privately facilitated it. Egypt and Saudi Arabia, for example, provided more help than they have disclosed. Egypt gave access for refueling planes, while Saudi Arabia allowed American special operations forces to initiate attacks from its territory, United States military officials say.

George W. Bush's entire political career is premised on accepting blame and not insisting on credit so long as his own ends keep advancing.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:59 PM


Brown backs votes at 16 in radical shakeup of politics (Patrick Wintour, February 27, 2006, The Guardian)

Gordon Brown today signals his support for lowering the age of voting to 16 as part of a radical programme to counter widespread alienation from modern politics. In an exclusive article in the Guardian, he says Labour must be prepared to reopen the debate on electoral reform for the House of Commons, a proposal he has previously opposed.

He says the executive must give up power, and again backs changes to the unelected House of Lords. Labour dropped the idea of voting at 16 after the proposal was rejected by the Electoral Commission, but Mr Brown's aides say the chancellor is in favour, so long as it is part of a package of "citizenship education" in schools.

Europe's problem is too much democracy, not too little. The lords should be strengthened and voting age raised to 21 for the married, 25 for singles.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:48 PM


Confident Rollins eyes DiMaggio's 56 (ROB MAADDI, 2/21/06, Associated Press)

The Phillies finished one game behind NL wild-card winner Houston despite Rollins' outstanding effort in the final month. He hit .385 (62-for-161) during his season-ending 36-game hitting streak, and now has his sights on breaking Joe DiMaggio's major-league record of 56.

There is a catch, though, because DiMaggio did it in the same season. The major-league marks for longest hitting streak in one season and longest hitting streak spanning two seasons are separate records.

DiMaggio holds both marks with his 56-game streak in 1941, but there is a difference in the NL records: Pete Rose (1978) and Willie Keeler (1897) share the NL mark at 44 games. However, Keeler got a hit in his final game of 1896, so his run of 45 games overall is the first record Rollins can chase.

"I pretty much started getting ready for it mentally about three weeks ago," Rollins said.

Can he do it?

"Why not? That's what I'm here for, maybe do something special," he said. "Everybody wants to be that man at least once a year.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:51 PM


Did the KGB help plan America’s Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act? (Gerard Jackson, 20 February 2006, BrookesNews.Com)

Jimmy’s Carter’s Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act was the culmination of a very successful campaign by the Washington-based Marxist-Leninist Institute of Policies Studies and the KGB to permanently cripple America’s intelligence services. To understand how this came about it is necessary to take a brief look at the institute’s America-hating founders.

The IPS was set up in 1963 by Richard Barnet and Marcus Raskin and funded by the pro-Soviet Rubin Foundation. [...]

Unfortunately for the US this pair have been allowed to do incalculable damage to country’s national security agencies. They were responsible for the 1974 Hughes-Ryan Act, piece of legislation that helped cripple intelligence operations by guaranteeing they would be leaked to America’s enemies. (Things haven’t changed much, have they?) But this is exactly what really lay behind the Act.

There are two shared characteristics here: a) those who took measures to cripple intelligence gathering were all Democrats; b) they were all connected by one means or another to the pro-Soviet IPS.

The Project on National Security was an IPS front to attack the CIA. In 1974 the Project was transformed into the CNSS (Center for National Securities Studies). Morton Halperin and Anthony Lake are two influential Democrats who helped launch the CNSS. Moreover, Lake was Senator Frank Church’s legislative aid. Church was also a good friend of the America-hating Richard Barnet and and seemed to share to some degree his anti-American view that the US was the real problem in the world.

In 1975 the CNSS published Abuses of the Intelligence Agencies. This was a brazen piece of Soviet disinformation that was used to influenced the Church and Pike committees and which helped bring FISA into existence. On Barnet’s advice Church employed a number of people from the CIP (Center for International Policy) as key committee staffers.

The CIP was an IPS front that Orlando Letelier was instrumental in forming. Letelier was a KGB agent who, with the full knowledge of Raskin and Barnet, used the IPS’s offices in Washington as his base of operations.

The document was mainly the work of Wilfred Burchett (an Australian journalist and KGB agent) and the traitor Philip Agee. So how could an obvious KGB operation have any influence on a congressional committee? Simple: the Church and Pike Committees used sympathisers and even members of the Institute for Policy Studies as advisers and researchers.

Like Senator Church Pike was deeply influenced by the CNSS’s Abuses of the Intelligence Agencies document. (The influence of this document was greatly assisted by IPS agents working on these committees). The support this classic piece of KGB disinformation received from leftwing politicians and the Nixon-hating media (now the Bush-hating media) resulted in the successful crippling of US intelligence agencies.

The pro-Soviet activities of the IPS were so brazen that Brian Crozier*, co-founder of London’s prestigious Institute for the Study of Conflict, could publicly state that

The IPS is the perfect intellectual front for Soviet activities which would be resisted if they were to originate openly from the KGB.

Yet IPS penetration was so deep in the Democratic Party that when Carter became president he appointed IPS fellow travellers to the White House staff and then more or less gave them carte blanche to further undermine his country’s intelligence structure, which is precisely what they did. Gregory Treverton and David Aaron, both IPS agents and Letelier contacts, crippled covert operations by having over 800 operatives fired. (Guess which foreign intelligence agency that pleased?)

The CNSS and the ACLU, meaning the IPS, basically drafted FISA!

In fairness, the Soviets likewise funded nearly all of the Left's causes during the Cold War, like the nuclear freeze, and no one's ever called Democratic leaders like John Kerry on it, so ciphers will certainly get a pass.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:19 PM


Montana's Coal Cowboy (CBS, 2/24/06)

The governor of Montana [Brian Schweitzer] says he can turn the billions of tons of coal under his state into enough diesel fuel to greatly reduce America's dependence on foreign oil. [...]

"Why wouldn’t we create an economic engine that will take us into the next century, and let those sheiks and dictators and rats and crooks from all over the world boil in their own oil!" the democratic governor tells Stahl. Who does he mean? "Hugo Chavez. The Saudi royal family … the leaders in Iran. How about the countries that end with 'stan'? Nigeria? You tell me. Sheiks, rats, crooks, dictators, sure." [...]

"The Fischer-Tropsch (method of creating) diesel is a superb fuel. Not only is cleaner than conventional diesel, but it also leads to improved engine performance," said Dr. Robert Williams, senior energy scientist at Princeton University.

There is one drawback, however, says Williams. "The process would entail carbon dioxide emissions that would be twice the green house emissions of other fuels." But Schweitzer has a plan for that, too. "This spent carbon dioxide, we have a home for it — right back into the earth, 5,000 feet deep." Schweitzer says he can sell this to the oil industry, which uses it to increase the amount of oil it can extract.

Some complain that the huge pits dug to mine the coal will become scars on the landscape, because the mining industry has not been kind, historically, to the state. But Schweitzer says a law will force companies to bury and replant the pits.

As the port hysteria shows, there's plenty of free-floating xenophobia that can be exploited to radically alter America's gasoline dependence.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:14 PM


Specter Proposes NSA Surveillance Rules (Charles Babington, 2/26/06, Washington Post)

The federal government would have to obtain permission from a secret court to continue a controversial form of surveillance, which the National Security Agency now conducts without warrants, under a bill being proposed by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter (R-Pa.).

Specter's proposal would bring the four-year-old NSA program under the authority of the court created by the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

While it's helpful that he recognizes the program isn't covered by FISA, it's delusional of him to imagine that an act of Congress can cause it to be so covered.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:05 PM


Iran Says It Will Agree to Russian Enrichment Project (Peter Finn, 2/26/06, Washington Post)

The head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization said Sunday that his country had agreed in principle to set up a joint uranium enrichment project with Russia, a potential breakthrough in efforts to prevent an international confrontation over Iran's nuclear ambitions.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:36 PM


(JOHN SLEEZER/The Kansas City Star)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:54 AM


Power to the people: now everyone can make a difference: Democracy, the internet and NGOs are fuelling a global empowerment of ordinary citizens (Bill Clinton, 2/24/06, Sydney Morning Herald)

THREE things have happened since the end of the Cold War to give private citizens an unprecedented capacity to do public good.

One is the right of democracy.

More than half the people in the world live with governments they voted in. I think that's a good thing.

I think it's good to see the election of a president in Iran and in Bolivia and the election of a Hamas government in Palestine, because the democratic process gives us a chance for resolving problems in all these places - because these elections mean the people have more power.

And the people want the benefits of democratic society.

You can't read this essay and come away with the opinion that Bill Clinton is particularly intelligent, even though he's generally right in what he says. The quality of the writing is just stunningly awful.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:50 AM


A Face-saving Dubai Deal in the Works?: GOP officials are apparently mulling over a deal that would allow for a new review of the Dubai Ports World contentious acquisition (TIMOTHY J. BURGER, MIKE ALLEN AND MATTHEW COOPER, 2/26/06, TIME)

If approved by all parties, the new deal would allow Bush to avert a GOP-driven bill to overturn the Dubai deal with enough votes to override Bush's threat of his first veto. Republican sources tell TIME that Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee proposed the basic terms of a deal designed to give the White House a graceful way out, while also allaying the concerns of the many lawmakers in both parties who have said the deal could be a threat to our security. Under the Frist plan, the deal could stand a good chance of ultimately going through after the extended review. Frist aides apparently proposed the terms to representatives of the company and the White House late Friday. Neither has formally responded but both seemed interested in the idea, according to a Senate Republican aide. "This avoids a direct clash," the aide said. "It solves everyone's problem. The President doesn't have to cancel the deal or veto anything."

The deal goes through unchanged after a couple weeks and the yammerers get to pretend they achieved something. It's the kind of "compromise" the President specializes in.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:06 AM


The civilisations of the modern world are more likely to collapse than collide (Niall Ferguson, 26/02/2006, Sunday Telegraph)

or all its seductive simplicity, I have never entirely bought the theory that the future will be dominated by the clash of civilisations. For one thing, the term "civilisation" has always struck me as much too woolly. I know what a religion is. I know what an empire is. But, as Henry Kissinger might have said, who do I call when I want to speak to Western Civilisation? Anyone who crosses the Atlantic as often as I do quickly learns how vacuous that phrase has become.

As Robert Kagan said, in another Great American Essay, "Americans are from Mars, Europeans are from Venus" - at least when it comes to the legitimacy of using military force. In a whole range of ways - from the way they worship to the way they work - Americans and Europeans are more than just an ocean apart. As for "Judaeo-Christian" civilisation (a phrase popularised by Bernard Lewis, another prophet of the great clash), I don't remember that being a terribly harmonious entity in the 1940s.

The really big problem with the theory, however, is right in front of our very noses. Question: Who has killed the most Muslims in the past 12 months? The answer is, of course, other Muslims. [...]

Now Huntington is too clever a man not to hedge his bets. "This article does not argue," he wrote back in 1993, "that groups within a civilisation will not conflict with and even fight one another." But he went on to reassert that "conflicts between groups in different civilisations will be more frequent, more sustained and more violent than conflicts between groups in the same civilisation."

Sorry, wrong. It is well known that the overwhelming majority of conflicts since the end of the Cold War have been civil wars. The interesting thing is that only a minority of them have conformed to Huntington's model of inter-civilisation wars. More often than not, the wars of the New World Disorder have been fought between ethnic groups within one of Huntington's civilisations.

To be precise: Of 30 major armed conflicts that are either still going on or have recently ended, only 10 or 11 can be regarded as being in any sense between civilisations, in the sense that one side was predominantly Muslim and the other non-Muslim. But 14 were essentially ethnic conflicts, the worst being the wars that continue to bedevil Central Africa. Moreover, many of those conflicts that have a religious dimension are also ethnic conflicts; religious affiliation has more to do with the localised success of missionaries in the past than with long-standing membership of a Christian or Muslim civilisation. [...]

The future therefore looks more likely to bring multiple local wars - most of them ethnic conflicts in Africa, South Asia and the Middle East - than a global collision of value-systems. Indeed, my prediction would be that precisely these centrifugal tendencies, most clearly apparent in Iraq today, will increasingly tear apart the very civilisations identified by Samuel Huntington.

In short, for "the clash of civilisations", read "the crash of civilisations".

The fundamental problem with the clash of civilizations theory is that it's an outgrowth of multiculturalism, whereas the End of History, though Mr. Fukuyama never grasped the fact, is essentially Evangelical. China and the Middle East are going to evolve into liberal democracies because they have no other choice. You just can't build a decent society and a functional state/economy on Confucianism or Islamicism.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:55 AM


How the Liberal Arts Got That Way (MATTHEW PEARL, 2/26/06, NY Times)

Until the 1860's, Harvard presidents were anointed by and answered to the university's Board of Overseers, a powerful group of political and religious establishment figures that included the governor of Massachusetts, along with other dignitaries appointed by the Legislature. But in 1865 the Legislature passed a law democratizing things, allowing Harvard alumni to elect the overseers, in an effort said to "emancipate" Harvard (a loaded term in 1865) from politics, and render it an independent rather than state institution.

In the years leading up to this transition, the Harvard presidents fought against the tide of liberalism, limiting the number of disciplines that could be taught and, within those disciplines, maneuvering student choices toward rigidly designed classical studies. When Ralph Waldo Emerson remarked to Henry David Thoreau that all branches of learning were taught at Harvard, Thoreau recalled of his own time there that, yes, "all the branches, but none of the roots." Students were insulated, reprimanded for congregating in groups, raising their voices and even "throwing reflections of sunshine around the College Yard."

All five of the transitory line of pre-1865 presidents — Edward Everett, Jared Sparks, James Walker, Cornelius Felton and Thomas Hill — had been Harvard students themselves, and all but one were clergymen. They fought in the humanities against the expansion of teaching foreign languages, and in the sciences against the spread of Darwinism, which was seen as antireligious. [...]

The 1865 law shaking up the Board of Overseers allowed the university to adjust more nimbly to events outside its gates. But the biggest result, four years later, was the selection of the next president, the chemist Charles William Eliot, who ushered in large-scale reforms that marked the renaissance in liberal arts education, not just at Harvard but also across the country.

Eliot, only 35 at the time of his inauguration, published a two-part series on "The New Education" in The Atlantic Monthly, setting forth a national agenda for educational reform. The presidents of colleges like Cornell and Johns Hopkins were compelled to coordinate their efforts with Harvard's. Appropriately, Eliot remained president for 40 years, the longest term in the university's history, and brought Harvard into the first years of the 20th century.

In a long-gestating paradox, however, the very changes that freed Eliot to renovate Harvard with a more independent and egalitarian framework also did in Larry Summers by leaving Harvard presidents without an identifiable constituency or a body to which, in the end, he may be said to answer.

You pretty much have to have gone to Harvard to think it paradoxical that a reform based on indulging the trends of intellectuals and the immature ends in the indulgence of intellectual trendiness.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:43 AM


Time we chipped in on continental security (Rondi Adamson, Feb. 26, 2006, Toronto Star)

Washington will forge ahead with its missile defence program — essentially, an early warning radar system — whether Canada chooses to be involved or not. The U.S. will defend Canada from a missile attack (and any other kind of attack) as best it can, whether we are involved with the program or not.

In short, we can afford to abstain, knowing the neighbour we frequently hold in such contempt, will continue to sacrifice money, time and lives, researching and carrying out new ways to secure us.

But should we continue in our role as another of the world's many armchair generals? Or should we recognize that while we are not powerful, we have much to offer in the defence of freedom.

Just because your little sister is annoying doesn't mean you let folks beat her up.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:40 AM


US leader crashed by trying to 'pedal, wave and speak at same time' (MURDO MACLEOD, 2/26/06, Scotland on Sunday)

The official police incident report states: "[The unit] was requested to cover the road junction on the Auchterarder to Braco Road as the President of the USA, George Bush, was cycling through." The report goes on: "[At] about 1800 hours the President approached the junction at speed on the bicycle. The road was damp at the time. As the President passed the junction at speed he raised his left arm from the handlebars to wave to the police officers present while shouting 'thanks, you guys, for coming'.

"As he did this he lost control of the cycle, falling to the ground, causing both himself and his bicycle to strike [the officer] on the lower legs. [The officer] fell to the ground, striking his head. The President continued along the ground for approximately five metres, causing himself a number of abrasions. The officers... then assisted both injured parties."

The injured officer, who was not named, was whisked to Perth Royal Infirmary. The report adds: "While en-route President Bush phoned [the officer], enquiring after his wellbeing and apologising for the accident."

At hospital, a doctor examined the constable and diagnosed damage to his ankle ligaments and issued him with crutches. The cause was officially recorded as: "Hit by moving/falling object."

No details of damage to the President are recorded from his close encounter with the policeman and the road, although later reports said he had been "bandaged" by a White House physician after suffering scrapes on his hands and arms.

At the time Bush laughed off the incident, saying he should start "acting his age".

Details of precisely how the crash unfolded have until now been kept under wraps for fear of embarrassing both Bush and the injured constable. But the new disclosures are certain to raise eyebrows on Washington's Capitol Hill.

Capitol Hill Blue and Kos insist alcohol was involved.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:10 AM


Cantwell must convince E. Washington voters she represents their voices (Rick Eskil, 2/26/06, Seattle Times)

Eastern Washington's soil is known for the wheat, wine grapes and sweet onions it produces.

But U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell is looking at Eastern Washington as fertile ground for something else — votes. The senator and her campaign staff see the region as having the greatest potential to improve on her 2000 showing in which she beat incumbent Slade Gorton in a squeaker.

Frankly, Cantwell has nowhere to go but up. She was crushed throughout Eastern Washington. Gorton, a Republican, outpolled Democrat Cantwell by at least a 2-to-1 margin in most counties.

Matt Butler, Cantwell's campaign manager, said his candidate plans to spend considerable time and devote resources to Eastern Washington in this fall's campaign against her Republican challenger, Mike McGavick.

McGavick must convince W. Washington voters he's mainstream (Joni Balter, 2/26/06, Seattle Times)
Former Safeco CEO Mike McGavick is the Republicans' best hope in six years to grab a U.S. Senate seat in Democratic-leaning Washington state. McGavick is young, smart and speaks moderate GOP-ese. He has the distinction of being fresh and new and therefore a candidate with minimal baggage.

Eight months before the U.S. Senate election in Washington, President George Bush is wildly unpopular in our state. McGavick mentions his Republican status and, subliminally, his connection to Bush only in the last seconds of an introductory TV ad. But Democrats will remind voters at every turn McGavick is another vote for Bush and the equally unpopular Republican Congress.

Therefore, if McGavick wants to beat Democratic incumbent Maria Cantwell in suburban King, Pierce and Snohomish counties, where the 2006 election will be decided, he has to play against type. He has to offer a mainstream GOP message clear and distinct from the Bush White House.

McGavick largely agrees with the president on the Iraq war, a position problematic in Western Washington, where voters are ready to hear the words "end game." McGavick believes it is foolish to announce a timetable for leaving because it reveals too much.

He also agrees with Bush on drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, on renewal of the Patriot Act, on confirmation of Samuel Alito to the U.S. Supreme Court.

McGavick distinguishes himself from Bush, however, by being moderately pro-choice. He is for a woman's right to choose, but against federal funding for abortion, which unnerves those who bristle at limiting rights for a class of women. He won't say if Roe v. Wade should be overturned. His limited pro-choice stance must be reconciled with his support for Alito, who is almost certainly another vote to overturn Roe.

Republicans can say whatever they want about "choice" as long as they keep voting against it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:04 AM


Greener fuel or corny ploy? (MARY WISNIEWSKI , 2/26/06, Chicago Sun Times)

Ford is promoting E85 stations through a partnership with ethanol producer VeraSun. Ford will help offset the cost of converting gas pumps to E85, while VeraSun provides branding and marketing.

GM is promoting E85 this year with its folksy "Live Green. Go Yellow" ad campaign. On its Web site, shaggy-headed young people stand in fields of corn, talking about ethanol while a jangly guitar plays in the background.

Biofuels are also getting a push from the White House, with President Bush asking for $150 million to promote biofuels in his fiscal year 2007 budget. One of the goals of the initiative is to accelerate research to make cellulosic ethanol -- ethanol made from non-food based matter such as cornstalks and switchgrass -- cost-competitive by 2012, potentially displacing up to 30 percent of the country's current fuel use by 2030.

Terminals that receive ethanol and distribute it to retail gas stations receive a federal income tax credit of 51 cents per gallon, according to the National Ethanol Vehicle Coalition. Most gas sold in the Chicago area contains 10 percent ethanol.

On average, retail E85 is priced 25 cents to 30 cents cheaper than regular unleaded gasoline, according to Jim Tarmann, field services director for the Illinois Corn Growers Association.

The cost to use E85 is actually higher when E85's lower mileage is taken into account.

The E85 price at Gas City was discounted at $1.99 -- 50 cents lower than regular unleaded gasoline at the station. But using the Energy Department's mileage estimate, gas would have to be 80 cents higher for E85 be an equal value.

The NEVC's mileage is more optimistic -- figuring E85 mileage at 5 perecent to 12 percent less, depending on the vehicle and driving conditions.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:59 AM


Lessons from another state's high-stakes test (Linda Shaw, 2/26/06, Seattle Times)

Five years ago, Massachusetts stood where Washington does now.

It had a 10th-grade state test, soon to be a graduation requirement, that, just like the Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL), fewer than half of the sophomores passed each year.

School leaders hoped that scores would shoot up once the test counted. Critics predicted disaster. Parents protested, some students boycotted — and others sued.

Massachusetts Commissioner of Education David Driscoll said everyone he talked to seemed to have a child, friend or neighbor they feared wouldn't pass.

Then the results came in. And they were so good that states like Washington, which requires its own high-stakes test for graduation beginning in 2008, now look to Massachusetts for reassurance.

In 2001, the first year that Massachusetts sophomores took the test for keeps, the passage rate shot from 49 percent to 68 percent. By the time that class graduated, only 5 percent of seniors didn't get a diploma because they didn't pass the MCAS (Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System).

"People underestimated the effort of teachers and students once they focused on a clear set of goals," said Paul Reville, former member of the Massachusetts Board of Education.

A big increase in school funding helped, too. And as the passage rate rose, protest wilted and schools and students worked to ensure that students passed the MCAS.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:03 AM


Scandinavian ships flying the flag of Panama, where the vessel is registered, employing Filipino workers, regularly sail into the Port of Baltimore. A German ship flying the Greek flag arrives weekly at the Virginia Port Authority's terminals in Norfolk with cargo from China.

"This is a global business, not an American business. Maybe we as an industry have not done a good job explaining that, but we've never been asked," says Peter S. Shaerf, managing director of merchant banking firm AMA Capital Partners LLC, in New York.
Nevermind the general population, look at the surpassing ignorance of our betters inside the Beltway.

Everything you need to know about seaport controversy (DARLENE SUPERVILLE, 2/26/06, Chicago Sun Times)

World trade and U.S. security have come into conflict in the nation's harbors, which thrive on foreign commerce but may be vulnerable to terrorist infiltration.

A deal to put a United Arab Emirates-owned company in charge of major operations at a half dozen U.S. ports has caused a backlash among both Republicans and Democrats. Dubai Ports World has agreed to postpone its move, giving President Bush more time to convince skeptical lawmakers the deal will not invite terrorism.

Here are some questions and answers about the deal, U.S. port security and the desert nation at the heart of the dispute...

At Port of Baltimore, Debate Hits The Docks (Dana Hedgpeth and Neil Irwin, 2/26/06, Washington Post)
Charles "Chaz" DiGristine, who's been working the docks for eight years as a longshoreman, said his 64-year-old mother called him the other night, worried that they were "selling the Port of Baltimore to a Middle Eastern company."

"She was freaking out," DiGristine said. "I told her: 'Mama, nobody's selling the port. It's owned by the state. One company is buying another company. It's not that big a deal.' "

Ports such as Baltimore's serve as America's gateways to the rest of the world. Eight million tons of cargo cross Baltimore's piers a year, and the volume and numbers of people needed to move it make security a constant challenge. A day at the Port of Baltimore shows how these complexities play out on the ground.

The port, owned by the state of Maryland, has five major terminals that are leased to British, Danish, Japanese and American companies. Britain-based P&O operates the largest of them, the Seagirt Marine Terminal, where most cargo shipped in large containers is handled, along with part of the nearby Dundalk Marine Terminal, which handles mainly cars and construction machinery.

Early Thursday morning, as the sun was making an unsuccessful attempt to pierce the fog, 20 ships lay in wait at the P&O terminals. Some had arrived the day before. Others had sailed up the channel from the Chesapeake Bay during the night, with a local pilot guiding them to a berth. The American-owned Independence had come from Charleston, S.C., bound for the Middle East. The MSC Tasmania, Swiss-owned and sailing under the Malaysian flag, had come from South America, loaded with lumber, furniture and machinery, and would leave Baltimore for Charleston.

P&O is a stevedore, a company hired by shipping lines to oversee the loading and unloading of ships. And it is a terminal operating company, moving cargo on and off trucks and rail cars.

Its managers tell the longshoremen who perform the work under contract when and where to move what. Every day here in Baltimore, P&O takes care of an average of three ships and hires up to 900 longshoremen, sending out computer messages or calling the union hiring hall with job orders.

Thursday morning, 40 or so men were in the union hall, a drab building on South Oldham Street around the bend from the port, awaiting a call. At 6 a.m., a computer message arrived from P&O. It was up to Fontaine, the senior dispatcher for the International Longshoremen's Association Local 333, to fill the work orders.

"I need two lashers, one groundman and a Paceco," Fontaine boomed over his microphone to the men waiting in the gymnasium-like hall. P&O wanted two men to secure equipment with heavy chains, one to give directions as equipment is driven around and unloaded, and another to operate a Paceco crane.

Men who qualified filed past Fontaine, scanning their ID badges into his computer, which sorted them by seniority. Men's pictures popped up on the screen, and the computer spat out the names of the four guys who would get those jobs, with tickets for the docks.

They headed to the Dundalk terminal with a 44-year-old Harford County resident named Surrendor McKnight, a union member known as a gang carrier who oversees the crew on the ground.

"Gotta go, gotta hustle," said McKnight.

They drove off into the cold, dark morning, parking close to the ship.

"Men," Fontaine called out to them, "welcome to another day in paradise."

Doesn't anyone in the chattering class watch The Wire?U.S. ceded control of ports (William Glanz, February 26, 2006, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)
The furor over a United Arab Emirates company taking over some operations at six U.S. ports underscores the global nature of the shipping industry and the minor role played by American interests.

Foreign-owned companies dominate the maritime industry amid the war on terrorism, and many U.S. ports would be drowsy backwaters without them. [...]

"I'm willing to guess there's a very large segment of the U.S. population that doesn't know where many things are made, or more importantly, how they got from where they are made to the target in Peoria," says Michael Berzon, president of Mar-Log Inc., a Maryland supply-chain and supply-chain security consultant.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 6:38 AM


Cavegirls were first blondes to have fun (Roger Dobson and Abul Taher, The Times, February 26th, 2006)

The modern gentleman may prefer blondes. But new research has found that it was cavemen who were the first to be lured by flaxen locks.

According to the study, north European women evolved blonde hair and blue eyes at the end of the Ice Age to make them stand out from their rivals at a time of fierce competition for scarce males.

The study argues that blond hair originated in the region because of food shortages 10,000-11,000 years ago. Until then, humans had the dark brown hair and dark eyes that still dominate in the rest of the world. Almost the only sustenance in northern Europe came from roaming herds of mammoths, reindeer, bison and horses. Finding them required long, arduous hunting trips in which numerous males died, leading to a high ratio of surviving women to men. [...]

Just how such variety emerged over such a short period of time in one part of the world has long been a mystery. According to the new research, if the changes had occurred by the usual processes of evolution, they would have taken about 850,000 years. But modern humans, emigrating from Africa, reached Europe only 35,000-40,000 years ago.

We certainly agree that being swarmed by sultry, determined blondes is the perfect way to finish off a tough mammoth-hunting trip, but man, those redheads scare us.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Team turns shortstop prospects on to other positions (Bob Finnigan, 2/26/06, Seattle Times)

[F]our of Seattle's top prospects — Mike Morse, Adam Jones, Asdrubal Cabrera and Oswaldo Navarro — have shifted off shortstop.

Morse is now regarded as a utility player at the big-league level, although long term he projects as an everyday corner outfielder or infielder if he ever taps his power potential.

Jones, a year or more from playing in Seattle, has been moved to center field, where he has drawn comparisons to Ken Griffey Jr.

Cabrera, who climbed to Tacoma last year, and Navarro, whose play in the field is probably better than anyone except Betancourt, are now primarily second basemen.

But Matt Tuiasosopo is still at shortstop and will stay there for the foreseeable future.

"You have to be careful and walk a fine line," said Benny Looper, Seattle's vice president for player development. "There is no denying Betancourt's ability to field the position with the premier shortstops. But he has to hit a bit and he has to stay healthy, so you have to be careful when you go converting the guys behind him."

Actually, all of the above are capable of playing shortstop because the organization makes sure they had enough time there to develop.

"We've made it a practice to make sure the guys are comfortable playing short or whatever their position is in the infield," Looper said. "Then we move them around so they get familiar with other spots."

February 25, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:20 PM


Sudan man forced to 'marry' goat (BBC, 2/24/06)

A Sudanese man has been forced to take a goat as his "wife", after he was caught having sex with the animal.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:33 PM


Ex-member of Colombian army joins race to unseat Rep. Tancredo (Karen E. Crummy, 2/25/06, DenverPost.com)

Republican Juan Botero, a consultant who once served in the Colombian army, announced Friday that he is running against U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo for the 6th Congressional District seat.

And while he says he will conduct a positive campaign, that isn't stopping him from coming out swinging at his opposition.

"Tom Tancredo is a one-trick pony that is obsessed with the issue of immigration," Botero said. "He has neglected many of the other issues in his district and that's what makes him one of the worst legislators of our time."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:59 PM


Hybrid Cars to Get High-Occupancy Waiver (DANNY HAKIM, 2/25/06, NY Times)

Hybrid-power cars will be allowed to use high-occupancy-vehicle lanes on the Long Island Expressway starting on March 1, regardless of how few people are in the car, the Pataki administration said on Friday.

The policy, which applies only to the highest-mileage hybrids like the Toyota Prius and the hybrid version of the Honda Civic, brings to New York an incentive used by several other states to promote fuel-efficient vehicles. Virginia, for example, is one of the top markets for hybrid vehicles because it has allowed them for several years in its H.O.V. lanes. California, Arizona, Colorado, Florida and Georgia are among the states with similar laws.

In New York, the expressway is the only highway that has H.O.V. lanes, which are meant to encourage carpooling. For hybrid-car owners, it will certainly be a welcome policy, in view of the expressway's reputation as "the world's biggest parking lot."

In a statement, Gov. George E. Pataki said the new rule "will help create a stronger, cleaner New York."

Make it an Ethanol-only lane and he wins the Iowa Caucus.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:20 AM


GOP Leaders Draw Back From Bid to Block Port Deal (Jonathan Weisman, 2/25/06, Washington Post)

A Dubai company's offer to delay taking control of terminal operations at six U.S. ports, combined with aggressive White House lobbying, has tempered a rush by congressional GOP leaders for quick action next week to block the $6.8 billion transaction, which has triggered a political furor.

U.S. Intelligence Agencies Backed Dubai Port Deal (Walter Pincus, 2/25/06, Washington Post)
A former senior CIA official recalled that, although money transfers from Dubai were used by the Sept. 11 hijackers, Dubai's security services "were one of the best in the UAE to work with" after the attacks. He said that once the agency moved against Pakistani nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan and his black-market sales of nuclear technology, "they helped facilitate the CIA's penetration of Khan's network."

Dubai also assisted in the capture of al-Qaeda terrorists. An al-Qaeda statement released in Arabic in spring 2002 refers to UAE officials as wanting to "appease the Americans' wishes" including detaining "a number of Mujahideen," according to captured documents made available last week by the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point. The al-Qaeda statement threatened the UAE, saying that "you are an easier target than them; your homeland is exposed to us."

One intelligence official pointed out that when the U.S. Navy no longer made regular use of Yemen after the USS Cole was attacked in 2000, it moved its port calls for supplies and repairs to Dubai.

Marine Corps Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, on Tuesday praised the "superb" military-to-military relationship with the UAE, saying, "In everything that we have asked and work with them on, they have proven to be very, very solid partners."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:14 AM


El Salvador in US free trade deal (BBC, 2/25/06)

The US has formally agreed a free trade pact with El Salvador but has told five more Central American nations that they must do more to finalise similar deals. [...]

The announcement, by the US Trade Representative's office, came ahead of a meeting between US President George W Bush and his Salvadorean counterpart Antonio Saca.

Meanwhile, most of the folks who were hysterical about steel tariffs are now trying to stop the port deal, making it pretty clear who's free trade and who isn't.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 7:06 AM


World population to hit 6.5 billion today (Nicholas van Rijn, Toronto Star, February 25th, 2006)

Thomas Malthus wouldn’t have known what to make of it.

At precisely 7:16 p.m. Eastern time today a woman somewhere in the world will give birth and bring the planet’s “official” population to 6.5 billion people, says the U.S. Census Bureau.

Malthus, the British economist who famously predicted in 1798 that the world’s population - then just under a billion - was growing so fast that people would soon be without enough to eat, wouldn’t have to look far to see tens of millions starving today in vast parts of Africa and other parts of the Third World.

But he’d have a hard time explaining the bounty and groaning tables common to the industrialized west and many other parts of the globe.

“The power of population is indefinitely greater than the power in the earth to produce subsistence for man,” Malthus wrote.

Although he gave Charles Darwin the germ of the idea that led to the theory of evolution, Malthus might have wanted to spend a bit more time on this one.

“Malthus would be astonished not only at the numbers of people, but at the real prosperity of about a fifth of them, and the average prosperity of most of them,” demographer Joel Cohen told Wired News.

Has there ever in history been a more destructive idea than that people are liabilities, not assets?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:38 AM


What should I do, Imam?: Novelist Robert Ferrigno imagines the Islamic Republic of America in the year 2040 (MARK STEYN, 2/23/06, Maclean's)

Every successful novelist has to convey the sense that his characters' lives continue when they're not on the page: an author has to know what grade school his middle-aged businessman went to even if it's never mentioned in the book. In an invented world, that goes double. And in a "what if?" scenario, where you're overlaying an unfamiliar pattern on the known map, it goes at least triple. Saying "Imagine the U.S. under a Muslim regime" is the easy bit, creating the "State Security" apparatus and Mullah Oxley's "Black Robes" -- a Saudi-style religious police -- is only marginally more difficult. It's being able to conceive the look of a cul-de-sac in a suburban subdivision -- what's the same, what's different -- that determines whether the proposition works or not. Ferrigno has some obvious touches -- the USS Ronald Reagan is now the Osama bin Laden -- and some inspired ones -- the Super Bowl cheerleaders are all male -- but it's the rich layers of detail that bring the world to life. In one scene, a character's in the back of a cab and the driver's listening to the radio: instead of Dr. Laura and Dr. Phil, it's a popular advice show called "What Should I Do, Imam?" It doesn't have any direct bearing on the plot but it reinforces the sense of a fully conceived landscape. There's no scene set in 2028, but if you asked Ferrigno what Character A was doing that year he'd be able to tell you. If you said "What's Dublin or Brussels like in this world?" he'd have a rough idea.

The Islamic Republic came into being 25 years earlier in the wake of simultaneous nuclear explosions in New York, Washington and Mecca: "5-19-2015 NEVER FORGET." A simple Arabic edition of the Koran found undamaged in the dust of D.C. now has pride of place at the House of Martyrs War Museum. On the other hand, the peckerwoods retrieved from the wreckage the statue of Jefferson, whose scorched marble now graces the Bible Belt capital of Atlanta. But what really happened on that May 19? Was it really a planet-wide "Zionist Betrayal"? Ferrigno's story hinges on the dark secret at the heart of the state, which various parties have kept from the people all these years. Car chase-wise, it's not dissimilar to Fatherland, Robert Harris's what-if-Hitler-won-the-war novel, in which a 1960s Third Reich is determined to keep its own conspiracy hidden. And in the sense that both plots involve the Jews, plus ça change -- in life as in art.

The local colour is more compelling than either the plot or the characters: there's a guy -- maverick ex-fedayeen -- and a girl -- plucky, and dangerous with a chopstick -- and a sinister old villain with the usual psycho subordinates. Standard fare, but in a curious way the routine American thriller elements lend the freaky landscape a verisimilitude it might not otherwise have had.

The texture certainly is what sets the novel apart, that sense -- all too rare in sci-fi/fantasy -- that the author has simply plucked a story from a fully imagined world, rather than just created enough of a facade to front the novel.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Movies with Morals: Versatile director Danny Boyle, the man behind Millions, has made some inventive films that are quite steeped in stories of morality. But he's a little reluctant to admit it …. (Jeffrey Overstreet, 3/15/05, Christianity Today)

Damian and his brother see the world so differently. Damian's generosity and compassion has its roots in his faith. Anthony's materialism, anxiety, and lack of trust are rooted in … what exactly?

Boyle: The whole structure of this story is built around the fact that Damian is 8. This was borne out by the research we did, by the auditions for Damian's role in this film—all of the 10-year-olds, like Damian's brother Anthony in the film, have a foot through the door of adulthood, and they're greedy for more of it. You can't turn back at that door once it's open. But the 8-year-olds—all of them—they didn't have that yet. So it's somewhere between 8 and 10 that it happens.

I've thought about it a lot, because I've got kids. I didn't notice that change in them myself, because when you're bringing up kids, you're bringing them up every day. You're not looking at sample groups like that.

So the whole film is built around the difference between Damian and Anthony and the battle between them. There's the older brother who's always talking about what's real and what's not, what the tax rate is and what it isn't, and what the mortgage is. The younger kid, he's talking about the "unreal." He's not self-conscious about things being unreal, because he doesn't even think about them being unreal. He sees these figures and he communicates with them, and that's his world. And it's tangible and real—it's not imagined.

So when he wins the debate, he gets to spend the money the way he thinks it ought to be spent, because they've all tried to do something that they wanted to do with it, and they've all failed. It's like that phrase, You keep what you've got by giving it all away.

That sounds like the refrain of almost every U2 song.

Boyle: It does! I was actually thinking of that song by Ian Brown, the guy from the Stone Roses: "Keep What Ya Got."

So, it sounds like we're to understand that Damian really does have these encounters with saints, right? Or is it instead that he's a kid with a really active, healthy imagination?

Boyle: Wordsworth, in one of his poems he talks about childbirth. You're born from the sea, and as you walk up the shore, you know where you've come from, and you can see your Creator. But once language (your ability to describe things) arrives, you've just come over the brow of the hill. And you look back and you can't see it anymore.

Before the point of language arriving, you're still in touch with your source. When you look at babies, there's something in their eyes sometimes. They look over your shoulder sometimes, and they're looking at something. And you look back, but you've lost it. And you think, "What are they looking at?" So I think there is something in that.

It's a brave thing to bring up religion in a movie these days. It was so controversial for Mel Gibson to put The Passion of the Christ on the screen, but that came from a deep sense of religious conviction. Is there any personal resonance for you with the iconography of Catholicism and the Christian tradition that inspires Alex's imagination?

Boyle: Oh, yeah, I was brought up a very strict Catholic. My mom was a devout Irish Catholic and she wanted me to be a priest, until I was about 13. One of her favorite saints was Our Lady of Fatima. So I was surrounded by it as a kid. My mom has been dead since 1985, but the film's dedicated to my mom and my dad.

I think the important thing about Damian's relationship with the saints is that it's his imagination. That's what allows him access to them or not. It's about whether you believe. Some people believe they're real—even some people making this film think they're real. Others think they're just flights of the imagination. But Damian is an artist, and he has access to that. It will take him different places as he gets older. So it's not like he's a religious figure. It's faith that's linked to the imagination—the power of taking a leap—rather than it being faith in a strictly conventional religious sense.

You made Millions soon after the zombie movie 28 Days Later. You've done wild romantic comedies and now you've got a sci-fi project in the works. Is there a central theme or a moral question that runs through your projects?

Boyle: As soon as you say they're about morality, you're heading in that territory where things become preachy. But there is a moral factor to them, yes. I think all you try and do is test your own principles against ideas.

I personally accept that we've left behind ideologies. As Westerners, we've become what we are: consumers. But within that, there remain principles that you do have or you don't have. And you can test them in certain circumstances through stories.

I think they're all very moral films, but I wouldn't particularly want them to be known as that, because they're not meant to be. That's like the DNA of them.

For an interesting look at some of his earlier work, check out Hamish MacBeth

February 24, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:43 PM


The Great American Spy Novel: Charles McCarry and The Tears of Autumn 30 years later (BRENDAN BERNHARD, LA Weekly)

It’s tempting to say that Charles McCarry’s The Tears of Autumn is the greatest espionage novel ever written by an American, if only because it’s hard to conceive of one that could possibly be better. But since no one can claim to have read every American espionage novel ever written, let’s just say that The Tears of Autumn is a perfect spy novel, and that its hero, Paul Christopher, should by all rights be known the world over as the thinking man’s James Bond — and woman’s too.

Originally published in 1974, The Tears of Autumn has been out of print for more than a decade. Thanks to the Overlook Press, which is going to be slowly reissuing several other McCarry novels, it is available once more. (Penguin has purchased the paperback rights.) Economical in length, tersely poetic in style, it purports to solve the biggest political mystery of the 20th century: the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963. In a just world, or at any rate a braver one, the liveliest film directors of the last few decades would have fought to bring it to the screen. That this hasn’t happened can perhaps be explained by the fact that its interpretation of the Kennedy assassination quietly stings American pride in a way even Oliver Stone wouldn’t countenance.

McCarry, who is 75, lives in Massachusetts but spends his winters in Pompano Beach, Florida, where I met him in February. [...]

Starting in 1972 with The Miernik Dossier, an innovative concoction of fictional official reports and documents written by various agents trying to decide whether a Polish dissident is a double agent or merely an eccentric, and ending with 2004’s Old Boys, in which a group of retired septuagenarian agents get together for one last covert operation, McCarry has now written seven novels in which Paul Christopher, Autumn’s hero, plays a major role.

From the start, McCarry has been recognized as a genre writer of exceptional ability. Eric Ambler, whose A Coffin for Dimitrios (1939) is often referred to as the greatest thriller ever written, wrote that McCarry’s first novel was “the most enthralling and intelligent piece of work” he had read in years. Autumn was a best-seller (the only McCarry novel to achieve that status) 30 years ago, and remains his best-known work. Subsequent novels in the Christopher cycle such as The Secret Lovers (1977), The Last Supper (1983) and Second Sight (1992) have been praised by everyone from Elmore Leonard to Norman Mailer, whose own massive CIA novel, Harlot’s Ghost, owes McCarry an obvious debt. And when he has strayed from the espionage field, McCarry has done just as well. The Washington Post’s book critic, Jonathan Yardley, called McCarry’s 1995 novel, Shelley’s Heart, which is about a presidential election stolen through the manipulation of computerized voting machines, the greatest novel ever written “about life in high-stakes Washington.” The real mystery about McCarry’s work is why it hasn’t been more popular.

Timing may have something to do with it. The post-Watergate era was not the ideal moment to bring a virtuous CIA agent before the serious reading public. Paul Christopher is the kind of American one doesn’t read about much anymore — intelligent, sensitive, multilingual, nonviolent, at home anywhere in the world, and a talented poet to boot. And though Autumn and the other books in the Christopher series are frequently skeptical about the value of intelligence work, sometimes devastatingly so, they don’t express any doubt about the value of the Cold War struggle itself, and the CIA is depicted in sympathetic terms. Unlike Le Carré, McCarry never fell for the idea that there might not be much difference, on a moral level, between the CIA and the KGB, let alone the societies they represented. [...]

The Tears of Autumn sold half a million copies in paperback, and was translated into several languages. It remains his most famous novel, but for his fans it is only one side of a multifaceted work. Taken together, his Christopher novels form a vast intergenerational saga about love, espionage and betrayal that puts spying at the heart of human nature. (“Let me tell you something,” says an agent to an overly inquisitive 10-year-old girl in a later book. “You’re asking questions that nobody should ever ask and nobody would ever answer. People lie. You can’t just ask for the truth and expect other people to tell it to you. It’s too valuable. You have to watch, listen, read, remember, put things together.”) Spying, in other words, is just a glorified form of close observation. “Anyone who has ever conducted a secret love affair has practiced tradecraft,” notes McCarry.

The books span the globe — from Communist China (where Christopher is imprisoned for 10 years) to Washington, D.C.; from the Atlas Mountains (where his daughter, Zarah, is brought up alone by his first wife) and the jungles of the Congo to Berlin, Geneva, Rome, Paris. Though he professes not to have a style and not to want one, McCarry writes prose of unusual lucidity and grace. There are no rough spots or awkward words, and he never seems to strain. We see what he wants us to see as clearly as if it were projected onto a screen, and we feel and smell and taste and hear everything he describes.

Stories from one novel spill over into other novels, sometimes with Faulkneresque contradictions. To find out what happens to Molly, Christopher’s girlfriend in Autumn, you have to read the prologue to The Last Supper. The story of Christopher’s first marriage is in The Secret Lovers, while Second Sight describes the peculiar upbringing of Zarah. There is even a novel (The Bride of the Wilderness) that recounts the entire history of the Christopher family, going back centuries, before it reaches America. Many of the novels are love stories as much as spy stories, and often very sexual stories (McCarry writes well about sex). They also form a record of Christopher’s lifelong friendship, all the more touching because it is so formal, with David Patchen, his Washington boss, who was painfully disfigured during fighting in World War II. Both men signed up with the CIA at the same time, seeing in it an opportunity for “a lifetime of inviolable privacy.”

Though McCarry himself is classified as right-leaning in his political sympathies (read his Lucky Bastard for the ultimate satire of the Clintons, a Manchurian Candidate for the 1990s), Autumn is a powerful cautionary tale about the hazards of Americans getting caught up in alien cultures they cannot possibly understand, and it is not a book that a pro-war advocate would use to try to bolster his case now.

Were he not a conservative genre writer this might be considered the great American cycle of novels.

-REVIEW ESSAY: Le Morte de Christopher: Charles McCarry's novels (Douglas A. Jeffrey, Summer 2005, Claremont Review of Books)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:39 PM


"I want to bring people weeping to their knees": Once known as Britain’s most reclusive band, Belle and Sebastian have reinvented themselves as a sophisticated pop machine desperate to convert the masses. Their leader Stuart Murdoch tells Peter Ross about his ambition, and explains how his songwriting talent and religious faith were born out of a long illness (Peter Ross, Sunday Herald)

When does he feel he came of age? “I only started having fun when I was 31 or 32,” he replies. “To be completely honest, my adolescence probably lasted from the age of 12 until 32. It lasted 20 years. I had a great time when I was 12. I was on top of my game. I had a lot of interest in girls, I was really into music, and then everything stopped. I don’t think I felt completely comfortable with myself again until I was 32, and then I felt exactly the same as when I was 12.”

This prolonged period of not feeling at ease in his own skin was exacerbated by the fact that while studying physics at Glasgow University, Murdoch developed Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, the beginning of “a nothing period that lasted for seven or eight years when I just dropped out of everything and had a shitty time”. He quit university and moved back in with his parents.

I mention that I have spoken to people who were ill as children, which turned them into outsiders and natural observers; although he sickened in early adulthood, was his experience similar? “Absolutely. It was the biggest thing that happened to me and will probably ever happen in terms of a crisis and change in personality. Everything changed within the course of a year. From being someone who was active in every way, suddenly I was not just observing, but fantasising about everyday life. Beforehand, I had been at university, I was running my own business – DJing and putting on clubs. Three years later, I’m sitting in a box bedroom in Ayr, unable to go out, and fantasising about going down to the shops or being able to make a cup of coffee for somebody. But these things were so far away from me, so all the fantasies became songs.”

What caused the condition? “I see it as a breaking down of your physical health due to long-term duress and stress, a physical manifestation of long-term mental stress and abuse of your body. That’s what happened to me. I drove myself into the ground.”

He was burning the candle at both ends? “Oh yeah, completely. All that stuff.”

Stuck in his bedroom, Murdoch brooded upon his favourite albums, films and books. “I would romanticise them, build them up and try to live inside them because it was a better world. I took the music of The Smiths or Felt or the Cocteau Twins and tried to live inside it, or the films of Hal Hartley, and just tried to exist. Then, happily, I started to write my own songs and that was a place to exist for a while.”

He could already play the piano, taught himself to play guitar, and discovered a talent for songwriting. As he wrote, he found he was becoming healthier. “Songwriting accompanied my coming back to real life. Spirituality and songwriting were my crutches.”

Murdoch began attending church for the first time since his childhood. His Christian faith and his music were all the more important to him because they both developed during the period when he was stepping back into the world. “If the songs have any worth at all it is because they meant everything to me at the time. It was almost like the fella in Lord of the Rings making his ring – he’s putting everything into it. The songs are my ring.”

With music pouring out of him, Murdoch was keen to go public; it was important that people hear his songs because he had a very clear sense of what they were for. “All this bad stuff had happened to me,” he says, referring to his illness, “and it seemed that it maybe could have been avoided if a certain figure had stepped in at a certain time – a mentor figure, a wise figure. You look around your friends when you are 18 or 19, and they are not really much use when suddenly you are in trouble and drowning. I felt that if I had had a mentor figure, some of the trouble could have been avoided or at least alleviated.

“So, to be quite honest, I felt that if I was going to do anything with songwriting, I wanted to be a mentor figure to whoever might be going through that same business and needing some help. That period in somebody’s life that we were talking about before, the cusp of adolescence into adulthood, there’s so much can go wrong and leave scars. It happened to me. So I wanted to write songs about that situation and put into somebody’s hand a record which is a guide on how to avoid the pitfalls. To some extent, I still do it.”

That desire to help, to guide, is of course a Christian impulse, and from the start, Murdoch’s songs for Belle and Sebastian contained references to religion, some very funny (in The State I Am In, Murdoch imagines himself upending tables in Marks & Spencer’s, a wry take on Jesus at the Temple in Jerusalem) and others more sincere (“Reading the Gospel to yourself is fine,” he sings on We Rule The School).

“Do you consider your songwriting a gift from God?” I ask.

“Yes, absolutely,” he replies. “I think if you have a gift for anything, it’s a gift from Heaven, a gift from God. If you do anything good, that’s where it comes from.”

Over the years, as Murdoch has sung with his church choir, his voice has strengthened, which has helped the band. Conversely, as he has become more at ease as a songwriter, he has felt better able to state his faith in music, for instance in the rather evangelical song If You Find Yourself Caught In Love. “I think there has been a coming together,” he says. “In the church you get up and proclaim spiritual beliefs and sing songs to the Lord. I would never have done that so overtly when the group started, but as I have grown older, I’ve thought, ‘What the hell, I feel that way, so let’s do it’.”

Having once worked as a live-in janitor at his church hall, he now functions as an unofficial recruitment officer; it is quite common for Belle and Sebastian fans from overseas to turn up during a service, hoping for a glimpse of their idol. “We get couples from Japan and America putting their nose round the door. It’s nice, and the people in the church like a bit of fresh blood around the place. Visitors come from all over and some of them have chosen to stay. There is a girl called Andrea who came to see us in Toronto, and got up on stage with us and played one of her own songs. Then she ended up moving to Glasgow. She was sitting beside me in church this morning, singing tenor.”

From the start, Belle and Sebastian attracted devoted fans, drawn to the self-contained world of the lyrics, and the delicate music which, though always catchy, stood in stark relief to the brashness of Britpop. Also, Belle and Sebastian communicated directly with their followers via the internet, more or less bypassing the media, rarely giving interviews and releasing official photographs which, on those occasions when they did actually feature the band, portrayed them in disguise or in carefully staged tableaux. They were the first band since The Smiths that people actually venerated rather than simply enjoyed.

“It was a terrific time. I was high on it,” says Murdoch. “But I had prepared for it in my head for so long that it seemed like a natural thing. I had spent so much time making the records in my head, and the record sleeves, and knowing what sort of group I’d like to have that when it happened it just felt entirely natural. I knew we would touch a certain type of person because it had happened to me ten years before with the groups I loved. It was totally natural with the people that came to see us. It was akin to meeting your twin that you had been separated from at birth.”

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:22 PM


An anti-communist reading list (Mike S. Adams, April 11, 2005, Townhall)

Today, I present a reading list, which should help any high school student understand the reality of socialism long before setting foot on a college campus. It will help abort any professor's attempt to advance his agenda by rewriting socialism's disgraceful history. [...]

The Road to Serfdom (1944) - After I published last year's summer reading list, I was criticized for two omissions. One was "Orthodoxy" by G.K. Chesterton. The other was "The Road to Serfdom" by F.A. Hayek. Complaints regarding the latter exceeded complaints regarding the former by about two to one. Nothing more need be said.

Animal Farm (1946) - Maybe your high school student is having trouble in his English classes. Maybe that is, in part, due to his inability to pick up on symbolism. I flunked English four years in a row in high school, partly because of my inability to pick up on obvious literary symbols. Nonetheless, I picked up on everything in this great little novel. While this list is presented in chronological order, "Animal Farm" might be the best starting place among these ten books.

1984 (1948) - Over the next few years, how many students will get a daily dosage of "the two minutes hate" by professors who are still seething with anger after the defeat of John Kerry? And how many times will the Office of Diversity remind us of the opening pages of 1984 as it seeks to do exactly the opposite of what its name implies?

Witness (1952) - This is one of the most important books of the twentieth century. Before and after reading this book, parents should encourage their children to visit www.biography.com and search for the name "Alger Hiss." What they read will demonstrate just how far in denial this nation still is regarding the Soviet infiltration of our government during the Cold War.
After 9/11, we can no longer afford such naiveté.

The Gulag Archipelago (1956) - If you did not think that "We the Living" painted a realistic portrait of Soviet Russia during the Stalinist purges, this great work of non-fiction by Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn will set matters straight. Some call it the greatest non-fiction book of the twentieth century. I can't argue.

Way too much Rand, but then she's the beau ideal of white male teens.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:09 PM


Can a People Have Too Much Respect for the Law? (Lee Harris, 06/27/2005, Tech Central Station)

Can a people have too much respect for the law?

This might appear to be a strange question to ask. Americans, after all, seem to believe that it is impossible to have too much respect for the law. Yet a visitor to our shores in 1867 -- and an English barrister at that -- disagreed with this proposition.

The visitor was William Hepworth Dixon, whose book, New America, is a delight to read. By and large, he found us as a people quite likable, unlike some of the earlier travelers from England, such as Charles Dickens and Francis Trollope, both of whom agreed that we were simply deplorable barbarians. Not so Dixon. Yet there was one aspect of our national character that disagreed with him. Our "deference to the Law, and to every one who wears the semblance of lawful authority, is so complete…as to occasion a traveler some annoyance and more surprise," Dixon wrote. "Every dog in office is obeyed with such unquestioning meekness, that every dog in office is tempted to become a cur."

Dixon singled out the Justices of the Supreme Court, noting with apparent dismay that they are "treated with a degree of respect akin to that which is paid to an archbishop in Madrid and to a cardinal in Rome."

Similarly, every president undergoes a revival of reputation once he leaves office and even our most disgraceful actions as a nation end up being seen as justified. It seems a function of democracy. After all, we're not going to blame ourselves for stuff, are we?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:04 PM


The Real History of the Crusades: A series of holy wars against Islam led by power-mad popes and fought by religious fanatics? Think again. (Thomas F. Madden, 05/06/2005, Christianity Today)

They were not the brainchild of an ambitious pope or rapacious knights but a response to more than four centuries of conquests in which Muslims had already captured two-thirds of the old Christian world. At some point, Christianity as a faith and a culture had to defend itself or be subsumed by Islam. The Crusades were that defense. [...]

Urban II gave the Crusaders two goals, both of which would remain central to the eastern Crusades for centuries. The first was to rescue the Christians of the East. As his successor, Pope Innocent III, later wrote:

How does a man love according to divine precept his neighbor as himself when, knowing that his Christian brothers in faith and in name are held by the perfidious Muslims in strict confinement and weighed down by the yoke of heaviest servitude, he does not devote himself to the task of freeing them? … Is it by chance that you do not know that many thousands of Christians are bound in slavery and imprisoned by the Muslims, tortured with innumerable torments?

"Crusading," Professor Jonathan Riley-Smith has rightly argued, was understood as an "an act of love"—in this case, the love of one's neighbor. The Crusade was seen as an errand of mercy to right a terrible wrong. As Pope Innocent III wrote to the Knights Templar, "You carry out in deeds the words of the Gospel, 'Greater love than this hath no man, that he lay down his life for his friends.'"

The second goal was the liberation of Jerusalem and the other places made holy by the life of Christ. The word crusade is modern. Medieval Crusaders saw themselves as pilgrims, performing acts of righteousness on their way to the Holy Sepulcher. The Crusade indulgence they received was canonically related to the pilgrimage indulgence. This goal was frequently described in feudal terms. When calling the Fifth Crusade in 1215, Innocent III wrote:

Consider most dear sons, consider carefully that if any temporal king was thrown out of his domain and perhaps captured, would he not, when he was restored to his pristine liberty and the time had come for dispensing justice look on his vassals as unfaithful and traitors … unless they had committed not only their property but also their persons to the task of freeing him? … And similarly will not Jesus Christ, the king of kings and lord of lords, whose servant you cannot deny being, who joined your soul to your body, who redeemed you with the Precious Blood … condemn you for the vice of ingratitude and the crime of infidelity if you neglect to help Him?

The re-conquest of Jerusalem, therefore, was not colonialism but an act of restoration and an open declaration of one's love of God.

Defenders of the Crusades oughtn't be bashful about their being offensive.

Kingdom of Heaven: What Parts Are Real? (Timothy R. Furnish, History News Network)

My expectations upon entering the theater for Kingdom of Heaven were legion. As a movie buff, I had high hopes for another Ridley Scott film. As a historian of the Islamic world, I couldn’t wait to see the portrayal of the great Salah al-Din. As a history professor who likes to send his students to write papers on such historical movies, the chariot wreck that Oliver Stone had managed to make out of Alexander was still fresh in my mind. And as a Christian (albeit of the non-Catholic variety), I fully expected yet another two-dimensional bashing of my medieval co-religionists (may my Lutheran credentials not be revoked for saying that).

Well, Scott made a better movie than Stone, but in doing so sacrificed a great deal of historical accuracy and believability on the altar of wishful thinking. [...]

[T]o paraphrase Diry Harry from Sudden Impact: “no, it’s not the wrong geography or the fictional characters or the plot foibles that get to me….what really, really makes me sick is that nobody, and I mean NOBODY, in the 12th century was giving speechs about religious tolerance.” Which is what Balian does when Salah al-Din shows up “with 200,000 men” (actually it was maybe 40,000, but who’s counting?). Of course, he was one of the few knights left after the crushing of the Kingdom’s army by Salah al-Din at Hattin in 1187, which in turn had been prompted by the brutality of Reynauld de Chatillion—a bit that Scott got right—and the military hubris of the Templars and their leader Guy de Lusignan (ostensibly King, by virtue of being married to Sibylla). Salah al-Din, the great Kurdish Sunni leader, had taken over both Egypt and Syria and so his realm surrounded that of the Crusaders. For many years he tolerated their existence, however (perhaps not least because he had his own inter-Muslim problems, such as the attempts by the “Assassins”—who were radical Shi`ites—to kill him). But when Reynauld attacked a caravan and killed his sister, Salah al-Din moved. After wiping out the Kingdom of Jerusalem’s forces at Hattin, Salah al-Din besieged the city. Balian, both in reality and the movie, led the heroic defense until finally surrendering the city to the Muslim forces. But does anyone really believe that Balian rallied the Christians by giving a 21st-century-style exhortation about the equal religious value of the Dome of the Rock, Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Temple of Solomon? He also sermonized that it was the people, not the holy sites, that really mattered. If that were the case, tens of thousands of western European Catholics would never have traveled thousands of miles to take Jerusalem in the first place. As much as Ridley Scott—or we—would like Muslims and Christians (and Jews) in the Holy Land to “just get along” today, what purpose does it serve to retroject this kinder and gentler monotheism 800 years into the past and pretend it motivated folks then?

That said, there are some very good aspects to this movie: the depictions of how “orientalized” the Crusaders had become; the battles (which I think compare favorably to The Lord of the Rings, especially in that they look more real); the return of Alexander Siddig (Dr. Bashir of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine) as Nasir, one of the Muslim commanders; and perhaps most impressive, Salah al-Din’s portrayal by Ghassan Massoud. Would that a Muslim leader of his stature were around today, instead of epigones like Bin Ladin and al-Zarqawi. Kingdom of Heaven seems to be saying that the clash of civlizations between the West and Islam will only begin to end when a new Balian and a new Salah al-Din emerge. But it is the Islamic world, not Western Christendom, that riots at perceived (now indeed known to be false) slights to its holy book today. One might observe that the Muslim world is much more in need of a Salah al-Din than the West is of a Balian.

The Crusades: Understanding and Transcending "Civilization Conflict" (Justin Cave, February 4, 2005, Global Engage)
The Crusades of the medieval period serve as a difficult topic for the typical American Christian, who grows either disinterested or suspicious rather quickly if asked to dwell on the complexities of church history, not to mention the broader context of religious and political history. To many, church history seems a dusty and pointless preoccupation of up-tight, "institutional" faith. This attitude is perhaps especially prevalent among American evangelical Christians, whose emphasis on redemption, transformation, and reform tends to make them doggedly future-oriented.

Thus, when the Crusades arise in conversation or argument, the usual reaction is an earnest if vague sense of guilt, accompanied by blanket apologies that make little reference to what was happening in those battles nine centuries ago. The Crusades are often simplistically confessed as a black mark on the Church's otherwise "spotless" record. Meanwhile, irresponsible propagandists and agitators in the Islamic radical movement use twisted histories of the Crusades to maintain their simplistic worldview of Muslims as righteous victims and Westerners as infidel aggressors.

Scholars of Western civilization and its conflicts with Islamic civilization know that the historical and contemporary reality is more complicated. This is why un-nuanced Christian expressions of contrition for the sins of the Crusades, while well-intentioned, can be counterproductive to genuine reconciliation with the Islamic world if they are not informed by historical facts and guided by a commitment to real truth-telling. As John Riley Smith has argued in the journal First Things,2 accepting blame humbly when one is at fault is always proper. However, to apologize for the nearly millennium-old actions of Martel, Richard, and Constantine XI, without insisting first on a proper historical understanding on all sides, merely perpetuates the abuse of history for rhetorical purposes.

Any thorough understanding of the Crusades must put them in "civilizational" context, and at this level of analysis it is apparent that some aspects of the Crusades were clearly geopolitically defensive in nature. This was not a world of clearly defined states observing tidy rules of sovereignty. There were empires and civilizations clashing, with enormous cultural/economic/religious/political stakes. And Islamic powers were often aggressors too; Christian powers hardly monopolized that role. The Crusades functioned historically to help defend the foundations of Western society, which were at various times under threat.

What the Crusades Were Really Like: Thomas Madden Dispels Myths (Zenit.org, , OCT. 10, 2004)
A Vatican Apology for the Crusades? (Robert Spencer, March 22, 2005, FrontPageMagazine.com)
The circumstances of the first Crusade were these: Christian pilgrims to the Holy Land were being molested by Muslims and prevented from reaching the holy places. Some were killed. This was finally the impetus that moved Western Christianity to try to take back just one small portion of the Christian lands that had fallen to the Muslim sword over the last centuries. “The Crusade,” noted historian Bernard Lewis, “was a delayed response to the jihad, the holy war for Islam, and its purpose was to recover by war what had been lost by war — to free the holy places of Christendom and open them once again, without impediment, to Christian pilgrimage.”

Whatever undeniable sins Christians committed during their course, the Crusades were essentially a defensive action: a belated and insufficient attempt by Western Christians to turn back the tide of Islam that had engulfed the Eastern Church. “When accusing the West of imperialism,” says the historian of jihad Paul Fregosi, “Muslims are obsessed with the Christian Crusades but have forgotten their own, much grander Jihad.” The lands in dispute during each Crusade were the ancient lands of Christendom, where Christians had flourished for centuries before Muhammad’s armies called them idolaters and enslaved and killed them. If Westerners had no right to invade these putative Muslim lands, then Muslims had no right to take them in the first place.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:36 PM


Does God Have Back Problems Too?: The illogic behind 'intelligent design.' (David P. Barash, June 27, 2005, LA Times)

[T]he living world is shot through with imperfection. Unless one wants to attribute either incompetence or sheer malevolence to such a designer, this imperfection — the manifold design flaws of life — points incontrovertibly to a natural, rather than a divine, process, one in which living things were not created de novo, but evolved. Consider the human body. Ask yourself, if you were designing the optimum exit for a fetus, would you engineer a route that passes through the narrow confines of the pelvic bones? Add to this the tragic reality that childbirth is not only painful in our species but downright dangerous and sometimes lethal, owing to a baby's head being too large for the mother's birth canal.

This design flaw is all the more dramatic because anyone glancing at a skeleton can see immediately that there is plenty of room for even the most stubbornly large-brained, misoriented fetus to be easily delivered anywhere in that vast, non-bony region below the ribs. (In fact, this is precisely the route obstetricians follow when performing a caesarean section.)

Why would evolution neglect the simple, straightforward solution? Because human beings are four-legged mammals by history. Our ancestors carried their spines parallel to the ground; it was only with our evolved upright posture that the pelvic girdle had to be rotated (and thereby narrowed), making a tight fit out of what for other mammals is nearly always an easy passage.

An engineer who designed such a system from scratch would be summarily fired, but evolution didn't have the luxury of intelligent design.

Admittedly, it could be argued that the dangers and discomforts of childbirth were intelligently, albeit vengefully, planned, given Genesis' account of God's judgment upon Eve: As punishment for Eve's disobedience in Eden, "in pain you shall bring forth children." (Might this imply that if she'd only behaved, women's vaginas would have been where their bellybuttons currently reside?)

On to men. It is simply deplorable that the prostate gland is so close to the urinary system that (the common) enlargement of the former impinges awkwardly on the latter.

In addition, as human testicles descended — both in evolution and in embryology — the vas deferens (which carries sperm) became looped around the ureter (which carries urine from kidneys to bladder), resulting in an altogether illogical arrangement that would never have occurred if, like a minimally competent designer, natural selection could have anticipated the situation.

It's like claiming the Corvair wasn't created by intelligent beings because the engine tended to fall out.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:54 PM


HSA's Are the Right Medicine at the Right Time (Sally C. Pipes, 2/24/06, Real Clear Politics)

President Bush has put reforming health care at the center of his domestic agenda. Unlike previous presidents, he’s prescribing policies, such as Health Savings Accounts, that rely on freeing up individuals and markets, expanding tax savings, and providing more health care options, rather than expanding government.

Health Saving Accounts, first allowed in 2004, combine high deductible medical insurance with a side fund that provides a tax deduction for contributions, tax-deferred investment growth, and tax free ultimate dispersal, provided funds are spent on qualified medical expenses. In 2006, an individual is responsible for the first $1,050 to $2,700 of expenditures ($2,100 to $5,450 for families). Routine care is paid for out of pocket, albeit in a tax advantaged way.

Just as car and homeowners insurance doesn’t pay for maintenance and minor repairs, health insurance kicks in only when true catastrophe strikes. Once a deductible is met, however, a generous insurance package, often 100 percent of covered expenses, takes over the burden. Money that isn’t spent in one year rolls over into the next, earning compound interest.

In short, Health Savings Accounts put the insurance back into health insurance, provide Americans with a triple tax free means to save for future expenses, and deliver a strong incentive to economize on the use of health care.

Like any change to the status quo, HSAs have powerful and vocal enemies.

Ms Pipes runs that "first allowed in 2004" past the reader too quickly. The GOP has been trying to get them through for years but W achieved it in the Medicare reform bill.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:44 PM


A Dubai Finesse (Charles Krauthammer, February 24, 2006, Washington Post)

If only Churchill were alive today, none of this would be happening. The proud imperialist would have taken care that the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Co., chartered in 1840 by Victoria ("by the grace of God . . . Queen defender of the faith" on "this thirty first day of December in the fourth year of our reign"), would still be serving afternoon tea and crumpets on some immaculate Jewel-in-the-Crown cricket pitch in Ceylon.

The United Arab Emirates would still be a disunited bunch of subsistence Arab tribes grateful for the protection of the British navy in the Persian Gulf.

And we hapless Americans -- already desperately trying to mediate, pacify and baby-sit the ruins of Churchill's Empire: Iraq, Palestine, India/Pakistan, Yemen, even (Anglo-Egyptian) Sudan -- would not be in the midst of a mini-firestorm over the sale of the venerable P&O, which manages six American ports, to the UAE.

Presumably the editor struck out the phrase "bloody wogs" and substituted "UAE"?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:33 PM


Polygamist judge ordered removed from bench (Associated Press, Feb. 24, 2006)

A small-town judge with three wives was ordered removed from the bench by the Utah Supreme Court on Friday.

The court unanimously agreed with the findings of the state's Judicial Conduct Commission, which recommended the removal of Judge Walter Steed for violating the state's bigamy law.

Steed has served for 25 years on the Justice Court in the polygamist community of Hildale in southern Utah, where he ruled on such matters as drunken driving and domestic violence cases.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:28 PM

PC SCIENCE:(via Raoul Ortega):

Kennewick Man yields more secrets (Sandi Doughton, 2/24/06, Seattle Times)

Kennewick Man is whispering across 9,000 years.

The story his bones tell has no clear beginning yet. But the end is coming into sharp focus, say scientists who have been studying the controversial skeleton for the past six months. [...]

Seattle archaeologist Jim Chatters, who was the first scientist to examine the bones in 1996, said being able to re-examine them in greater detail with more modern methods has changed some of his earlier impressions.

For example, spots on the temple and elbow that he originally concluded were evidence of an infection have been shown to be simple weathering, he said.

Several other questions about Kennewick Man are still awaiting lab results, including a new round of carbon-dating and isotopic studies to show what his diet was like.

But the most contentious issue of all probably won't be settled for some time.

The first measurements of the skull showed it didn't match existing Native American populations. And that led to suggestions that Kennewick Man's ancestors might not have originated in Northern Asia like those of most Native Americans, who are believed to have crossed from Asia to Alaska about 11,000 years ago.

Owsley and his colleagues have made an extensive set of new skull measurements. They now are comparing them to a database of more than 7,000 modern and prehistoric people from around the world.

"We have a lot more work to do," he said.

Anyone who wasn't born in the last 24 hours think these guys haven't determined that he's not a population match but are trying to avoid being politically incorrect?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:13 PM


Picking Perfect Steaks: How to Make the Most Of the Beef You Cook at Home (Candy Sagon, February 15, 2006, Washington Post)

Diet trends come and go -- this month it's low-fat that's taking a beating -- but one thing remains certain: Americans still love their red meat. We eat an average of 67 pounds of beef a year and that hasn't changed for a decade, according to the newest government figures.

What has changed are some of the choices we have at the supermarket when we want to cut into a juicy steak for dinner.

Randy Irion, director of retail marketing for the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, says the industry is putting more effort in marketing beef to consumers. That means more beef with fancy "branded" names such as Rancher's Reserve and Certified Angus and Natural Beef, plus more of those full-service glass cases, where customers can pick out a specific steak.

Unfortunately, say some meat industry experts, the guy behind that glass case might not know much about the meat he's selling. Most of the meat-cutting has already been done at a centralized location and then shipped "case-ready" to supermarket and super-center chains across the country, says Joseph Cordray, a professor of animal science at Iowa State University who works closely with retail meat departments.

"A market may have one guy who knows how to cut meat, but most of the others [in the meat department] are not highly trained," Cordray says. "Real butchers are a dying breed."

The exceptions are some upscale or specialty chains, such as Whole Foods, Balducci's or Wegmans, or at the scattering of traditional butcher shops (see "Meat Markets" on this page). There, it's easier to find someone to give you expert advice about the different types of steak, how to cook them, even recipes.

We asked some of those butchers, as well as other meat experts, what you need to know when choosing the perfect steak. Here are their 11 top tips: [...]

· Try this two-step trick for cooking steaks. This is an old restaurant method and a practically foolproof way to make sure your steak is not overcooked. It works particularly well with a two-inch thick, boneless steak such as filet mignon. Sear the steak on one side in a hot, oiled pan on the stovetop over fairly high heat. This creates a nice brown crust. Flip the steak over, then place the pan in a 425-degree oven to finish the cooking. Roast to desired doneness (about 5 minutes for rare, 7 minutes for medium rare, 9 minutes for medium), depending on the thickness of the meat. Let the meat rest for 5 minutes to redistribute juices before serving.

· And the award for Best Steak goes to . . . the rib-eye. Ask a butcher what his favorite cut of steak is, and the boneless rib-eye gets the nod. In terms of juicy flavor and tenderness, the rib-eye has it all, says Bill Fuchs of Wagshal's. "It's not quite as tender as the loin, but it has a richer flavor. It's my favorite," Fuchs says. Adds Irion: "When they grade the beef carcass, it's the rib-eye they look at to determine the quality of the meat. You won't go wrong choosing a rib-eye."

Posted by Matt Murphy at 3:49 PM


Barry Switzer joins Tom Osborne's team in Nebraska governor's race (Eric Olsen, AP)

Barry Switzer and Tom Osborne were fierce college football coaching rivals in the 1970s and '80s. Now they're playing on the same team, trying to get Osborne elected governor of Nebraska.

Switzer was the swashbuckler from Oklahoma, the son of a bootlegger who broke Cornhuskers fans' hearts so many times by beating their beloved Big Red.

Osborne was the stoic, cerebral coach whose inability to beat Switzer's Sooners led him to emulate his nemesis' offense. [...]

More opposite personalities you will not find. Switzer liked to live hard and talk fast. Osborne wouldn't so much as cuss in public.

What strange bedfellows politics can make?

"I never voted party. Never cared about that," Switzer said. "I always voted for the guy, the person, the man or lady I thought was the best representative for me."

Switzer was the main attraction at a fundraising event for Osborne's gubernatorial campaign. Osborne will face incumbent Dave Heineman and Omaha businessman Dave Nabity in May's Republican primary.

I want the guy to be governor and all, but if Osborne wants to win he'll tell Switzer to shut his trap.

Posted by Matt Murphy at 3:36 PM


Port security frenzy: Real concern or real grandstanding? (Stuart Rothenberg, 2/23/06, Townhall.com)

While Democrats and Republicans vent their anger over the Bush Administration’s decision to allow a United Arab Emirates-based company from taking “control” of America’s east coast ports (from a British company), I have a question: Exactly what responsibility and authority does this UAE company have? Specifically, how is U.S. security weakened?

I don’t know, and I bet 99.5% of the people discussing the “threat” don’t know. As a matter of fact, I’ll bet most of us have no idea what managing a port entails.

Since when is total ignorance of a subject any obstacle to expressing an opinion about it?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:10 PM


Lawmaker's proposal: Bar Republicans from adopting (Carl Chancellor, Feb. 23, 2006, Knight Ridder Newspapers)

State Sen. Robert Hagan sent out e-mails to fellow lawmakers late Wednesday night, stating that he intends to "introduce legislation in the near future that would ban households with one or more Republican voters from adopting children or acting as foster parents." The e-mail ended with a request for co-sponsorship.

On Thursday, the Youngstown Democrat said he had not yet found a co-sponsor.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:57 PM


Students Hail Harvard President: Their strong support for Lawrence H. Summers is seen by some as a sign of a shift in campus politics. (Ellen Barry, February 24, 2006, LA Times)

If Harvard University President Lawrence H. Summers was worried about how the undergraduates would greet him Wednesday night at his first scheduled event since announcing his resignation, those fears quickly were put to rest.

He got a standing ovation after he walked in. He got a standing ovation before he left. A row of students with red letters painted on their chests spelled out "Larry."

Sarah Bahan, 22, was wistful as she left the meeting. She had kind words to say about Summers' emphasis on hard sciences.

Mark Hoadley, 21, said Summers' monotone speaking style was balanced by a "dynamic mind."

Troy Kollmer, 21, said "a lot of students feel bad for him and think he got a raw deal."

The show of student loyalty has come as a surprise to many faculty members and administrators at Harvard, who grew to loathe Summers during a five-year tenure that brought a raw blast of politics to the 370-year-old institution.

The professoriate lost their intended audience twenty years ago.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:50 PM


Curling: U.S. tops Great Britain for bronze medal (Minneapolis Star Tribune, 2/24/06)

[T]he United States defeated Great Britain to win the bronze medal.

It meant that Pizza Pete Fenson of Minnesota will bring home a slice of the Olympics — the first U.S. curling medal ever.

The American men based in Bemidji, Minn., won the bronze by beating Britain 8-6 on Friday in the consolation game, jumping to an early lead and then clinching the victory with a simple draw to the middle of the target in the final end. That put the United States on the medal stand along with more traditional curling powers Finland and Canada.

Fenson, a Minnesota pizzeria owner, broke into a smile and gave a salute with his broom as his last shot settled into the scoring area. But the victory was especially emotional for teammate Shawn Rojeski; it was the second anniversary of his mother's death.

"I knew it was going to be an extremely difficult day for me today," Rojeski said. "This team is extremely satisfied with the way they played today — and for myself, it's that much of a better moment, for sure."

In addition to being shut out at the three previous Olympics where curling was a medal sport, the American men hadn't medaled at the world championships since 1978.

"Everybody was not expecting us to do well here," Rojeski said. "But we were pretty confident coming in that we could be contenders. We were definitely OK with coming in here and not being the No. 1 favorites."

Britain was shut out of a medal one Olympics after Scottish housewife Rhona Martin threw the "Stone of Destiny" to win the gold medal in Salt Lake City. David Murdoch's team is also from Scotland, which is considered the birthplace of curling.

"It's massively disappointing," Murdoch said.

With the Americans holding the big last-rock advantage known as the hammer for the final end, or inning, they played defensively and kept the British from building any protection. Murdoch had one rock in the target area, and he put his last rock out front as a guard.

But Fenson had an open draw around the right to get inside of Murdoch's rock and give the U.S. the bronze.

That Swedish chick last night came up big too, huh?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:25 PM


Wal-Mart looks forward and back at health care (Timothy Goddard)

Wal-Mart is opening more 50 health clinics in their stores, adding to the nine started in a pilot program mainly in the Southeast. This could be the start of something remarkable–if Wal-Mart can begin applying the same downward price pressures to medical prices that it has applied to goods in general, then it could be the beginning of a trend that finally halts the long upward march of medical prices.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:04 PM


Illinois Governor Confused by 'Daily Show' (Fox News, February 24, 2006)

Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich wasn't in on the joke. Blagojevich says he didn't realize"The Daily Show" was a comedy spoof of the news when he sat down for an interview that ended up poking fun at the sometimes-puzzled Democratic governor.

"It was going to be an interview on contraceptives ... that's all I knew about it," Blagojevich laughingly told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in a story for Thursday's editions. "I had no idea I was going to be asked if I was 'the gay governor.'" [...]

The segment, which aired two weeks ago, also featured Illinois Republican Rep. Ron Stephens, a pharmacist who opposes the governor's rule. Stephens has said he knew the show was a comedy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:53 PM

UNREALISM (via Pepys):

A passage to India: The pitfalls awaiting George Bush in the subcontinent (The Economist Feb 23rd 2006)

Mr Bush needs to avoid two kinds of mistake. The first, and most serious, would be to shower America's new friend with gifts that the United States can ill afford. Unfortunately, this has already happened. In July, when India's prime minister, Manmohan Singh, visited Washington, he came home with a remarkable present: a promise from Mr Bush that he would aim to share American civilian nuclear technology with India.

That was too generous. Under American and international law, such technology can be given only to countries that have renounced nuclear weapons and joined the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. India has never joined the treaty, and it tested nuclear weapons in 1998. Mr Bush, in effect, was driving a coach and horses through the treaty in order to suit his own strategic ends, a move that invites the accusation of hypocrisy from other nuclear states and wannabes not so favoured. The idea was that India, in return, should take steps to satisfy the Americans on a long list of nuclear-security concerns, such as not exporting weapons technology and continuing to observe a moratorium on testing. Most important, India was asked to separate its civilian and military nuclear programmes, with the former subject to a rigorous inspection regime.

So far, however, the proposals offered by the Indians actually to do all this are far from adequate. As Mr Bush packs his bags, desperate attempts are being made to bridge the gap. The obvious danger is that in order to portray his summit as a success Mr Bush will be tempted to accept even fewer safeguards from India. That would be a dangerous mistake: nuclear proliferation matters too much to allow excessive wiggle-room or create bad precedents. Fortunately, whatever deal is agreed between Mr Bush and Mr Singh will also require the approval of America's Congress, which has already taken a dim view of Mr Bush's nuclear generosity to India.

Sending the wrong signal on nuclear weapons is not the only potential pitfall in America's romance with India. Mr Bush should also be wary of sending the wrong signal about America's intentions towards China. Too often when Indian-American relations are discussed in Washington, the notion is invoked that India might somehow turn out to be a “counterweight” to China. Yet it is hard to see, in practical terms, what sort of counterweight India could actually be. On the contrary, that sort of talk is liable only to reinforce China's fear that America's grand strategic design is to encircle it and block its rise as a great power. That fear has already been strengthened by America's recent transfer of some of its military might from the Atlantic to the Pacific.

The United States should not base its Asian strategy on that sort of balance-of-power diplomacy. Apart from anything else, India is far too canny, and cares too much about its own China relationship, to be drawn into such a game. Instead of encircling China, Mr Bush should concentrate on putting the American relationship with it on the right footing: deeper engagement, coupled with a determination to make China play by the rules. Yet Mr Bush's approach to this rising superpower has sometimes seemed almost casual: Hu Jintao, China's president, had been made to wait far too long for his state visit to Washington even before Hurricane Katrina forced him to cancel a visit last August. And Mr Bush has not worked hard enough at home to make the free-trade case against the protectionist hawks gunning for China (though, to be fair to him, he has not given them much comfort either).

Mr Bush must also take care to ensure that friendship with India does not damage his close ties to Pakistan, another American ally the president intends to visit on this trip.

India is a democratic ally. China is a nucleart-armed Communist nation and Pakistan a nuclear-armed, potentially Islamicist one. If you don't get that the India/America relationship is in good part about containing evil then you ought to have your Realist club membership privileges revoked.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:48 PM

IF WE DID THAT HERE... (via Brian McKim):

Mayor suspended over 'Nazi' jibe (This is London, 2/24/06)

London Mayor Ken Livingstone has been found guilty of bringing his office into disrepute by comparing a Jewish reporter to a Nazi concentration camp guard.

Mr Livingstone was suspended from duty for four weeks from March 1 after being found guilty of bringing his office into disrepute.

The three-man Adjudication Panel for England unanimously ruled that Mr Livingstone had been "unnecessarily insensitive and offensive" to Evening Standard reporter Oliver Finegold in February last year.

...the Democratic caucus in Congress wouldn't be able to muster a quorum.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:27 PM


Moral climate change in Britain (Terry Mattingly's religion column for 02/15/2006, On Religion)

[A] "moral climate change" has destroyed England's certainty that some things are right and some things are wrong, said Bishop N.T. Wright of Durham, in a speech last week in the House of Lords. Thus, civic leaders cannot agree on the meaning of words such as "freedom" and "tolerance" and religious faith is seen as a threat instead of a virtue.

"The 1960s and 1970s swept away the old moral certainties, and anyone who tries to reassert them risks being mocked as an ignoramus or scorned as a hypocrite. But since then we've learned that you can't run the world as a hippy commune," said Wright, a former Oxford don who also has served as Westminster Abbey's canon theologian.

"Getting rid of the old moralities hasn't made us happier or safer. ... This uncertainty, my Lords, has produced our current nightmare, the invention of new quasi-moralities out of bits and pieces of moral rhetoric, the increasingly shrill and polymorphous language of 'rights', the glorification of victimhood which enables anyone with hurt feelings to claim moral high ground and the invention of various 'identities' which demand not only protection but immunity from critique."

Instead of focusing on the cartoon crisis, Wright described other signs of legal and moral confusion in British life. Prime Minister Tony Blair, for example, sent painfully mixed signals after last summer's suicide bombings. His government leaned one way when it tried to ban efforts to "glorify" terrorism. Then it leaned the other way with legislation that would ban the promotion of "religious hatred."

Wright stressed that it will be dangerous to pass laws that attempt to replace, amend or edit religious doctrines that have shaped the lives of believers for centuries. But politicians seem determined to try.

Thus, Birmingham University forced the Evangelical Christian Union off campus and seized the group's funds because it refused to amend its bylaws to allow non-Christians or atheists to become voting members.

Thus, Wright noted that police have shut down protests in Parliament Square against British policies in Iraq. Comedians -- facing vague laws against hate speech -- are suddenly afraid to joke about religion. And was there any justification for government investigations of the Anglican bishop of Chester and the chairman of the Muslim Council of Great Britain because they made statements critical of homosexuality?

Public officials, said the bishop, are trying to control the beliefs that are in people's hearts and the thoughts that are in their heads. The tolerance police are becoming intolerant, which is a strange way to promote tolerance.

Long past time to end The Long Truce.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:23 PM


India's Hottest Jobs (Forbes.com, 02.23.06)

Much of the industrialized world frets about a looming talent shortage, but Indian bosses aren’t finding it difficult to fill job vacancies at all.

Worldwide, two out of five employers are having difficulty filing positions, according to a 23-country survey released by employment services firm Manpower this week. In India, only one in seven bosses reports such problems.

In China, however, one in four employers reports difficulty in finding staff, with production operators in shortest supply--in contrast to India, where sales reps are the labor market’s hot commodity.

Regardless of the ease of finding staff in India, employment prospects remain strong in the economy, Manpower found in a separate survey, its quarterly employment outlook. Its most recent showed Indian employers continuing to report the most optimistic hiring expectations in the Asia-Pacific region, including China.

That reflects their overall optimism about the economy. A survey by management consultants McKinsey & Co. found Indian executives far more cheerful about the future than their Chinese counterparts, by 18 percentage points.

Chinese executives are, if anything, getting glummer. Their view of conditions in their own industries fell by 9 percentage points from when the same survey was taken six months earlier, and overall they had switched from being “fairly hopeful” to “neutral,” by McKinsey’s characterization.

McKinsey has also found a difference in the hiring plans of Indian and Chinese companies. India’s see a steady expansion of new jobs, whereas Chinese executives who plan to increase their workforce expect to add jobs in greater abundance than executives in other countries.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:20 PM


Dubai's Two Faces (David A. Andelman, 02.24.06, Forbes)

This is the new Dubai, presided over as a centerpiece by Dubai Ports World, among the largest and most prosperous of the emirate's new, homegrown corporations. DP World, at the centerpiece of the latest Washington imbroglio over terrorism and global security, rose to its global power and wealth on the growth of Dubai as the principal transit point for goods and services the length of the Persian Gulf and across the Middle East.

Now embarked on a worldwide expansion effort, DP World is a symbol of the global reach and power to which this one-time mud-walled village near the strategic Straits of Hormuz now aspires.

But the old Dubai is also not far off. Here, along Dubai Creek, not far from the Gold Soukh shopping area and the narrow teeming streets where Indians and Pakistanis from the subcontinent peddle textiles and piece goods, huge, old wooden dhows that also ply both sides of the Persian Gulf tie up. They discharge their cargo directly onto the quays--thousands of bulging cardboard boxes that have never seen the inside of an RFID-monitored shipping container.

These are the remnants of the old Middle East. And Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, who became ruler of Dubai just last month after the sudden death of his elder brother, is determined that the old Dubai will not in any fashion impinge on the development of the new Dubai--where businessmen from the Netherlands and New York arrive to plunk down hard cash for 14,000-square-foot apartments or sprawling villas that overlook the sea.

"This sheikh understands the value of progress and of a can-do attitude," says the manager of one of Dubai's leading hotels, smiling. He has lived here for years and watched this miracle sprout from the desert sands of the United Arab Emirates.

And clearly the sheikh is also not afraid. The miles of palaces belonging to the ruling family that mark long stretches of Dubai's glistening sand beaches are all but unpatrolled, the gates standing nonchalantly open on a leisurely Friday afternoon, the final day of the two-day Arabian weekend.

"There is no need for security," says one longtime resident who came to Dubai 20 years ago and, like 90% of the principality's residents, is a foreigner--in this case from southern India. "He has no need for security because he has no enemies."

Indeed, with the prosperity over which the royal family has presided, it's hard to see how the sheikh could have many enemies. In part this is due to the adept fashion in which the ruling family of Dubai has managed to walk the very fine line between friend, ally and financial partner with regard to the West, especially the United States, while recognizing that at the same time it is still very much an Arab nation in a volatile Middle East region.

He wasn't counting on the American fundamentalists.

American Ports in a Storm: Columnist Thomas L. Friedman calls American objection to the Dubai port deal “shameful” (YaleGlobal, 23 February 2006)

The company manages container terminals and logistics operations in more than 100 ports spread over nearly 20 countries including China, India and Europe. The US politicians have criticized the deal because of Dubai’s past link to the terrorists and have argued that unlike P&O, which too was a foreign-owned company, the DP World is state-owned.

However, Friedman says “We’re not turning over our ports, security over to Dubai Port Authority. We’re turning over the port authority and six ports to people who will say, “Park here, park there. Collect the fees and what-not and manage the traffic of the port.” Inspection will be done by the American workers and not by “cousins” brought from Dubai. “I think it’s a shameful and has slightly racist overtones to it," he says. “This is about keeping ‘a bunch of Arabs’ out of our country, that’s what this is really about. And it’s a bad thing, not only because it doesn’t reflect our real values.” Friedman points out that American companies like IBM, FedEx or UPS run around, doing business in the Arab world. “What if they then turn around and say, ‘You’re not going to take ours, well, we’re not going to take yours.’ We’re in a very dangerous tit for tat that could get going here.”

Friedman agreed that the unspoken subtext of the American criticism is the fact the DP World is run by Muslims. He sees a dangerous lurch toward such nativism provoking backlash. “It’s part of the dangerous backlash going on. Both sides are guilty of it. When people ransack a Danish embassy in Damascus and the government allows it. You know, governments are there to restrain people’s worst impulses. We have nativists in our country. They have nativists in their country that are going to always want to push these issues. Government’s job is to restrain that, and I think this is a real issue, a really shameful episode. I think the president’s right on this one.”

Globalization spawns port situation: U.S. needs friends in the Arab world such as UAE, say ex-diplomat and scholar (Douglas Birch, February 23, 2006, Baltimore Sun)
The furor over Dubai Ports World is calling into question whether Americans understand or trust even an Arab government that has close ties to the United States and shares its concerns about terrorism.

The United Arab Emirates are seven sheikdoms spread along the southern shore of the Persian Gulf and loosely united in a federation. Until the debate erupted in Washington about the Dubai Ports World plan to partly manage ports in Baltimore and five other American cities, the Emirates were known largely for making money, not involvement in radical Islamic politics.

"I think this thing is a firestorm that's, frankly, politically motivated, and a dangerous one because it tends to polarize our relations with that part of the world," said Michael Sterner, a retired diplomat who was U.S. ambassador to the UAE in the 1970s. "I don't see any concerns whatsoever with having this state-owned company run the ports." [...]

"It's the Singapore of the Middle East," said Michael C. Hudson, director of the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies at Georgetown University in Washington. "There's an enormous boom going on there, and they don't want to spoil it." [...]

Maintaining close ties to moderate Islamic states such as the Emirates is "essential" for the U.S., said Joseph A. Kechichian, an independent scholar and author of A Century in Thirty Years, a book about the UAE.

"We are now told to be afraid of Arabs because Arabs are terrorists," he said. "This is childish. And it's politically unwise. We need allies in the Muslim world, and the United Arab Emirates is one of the most important allies in the war on terrorism. We must not ostracize them."

The view that Arab-owned companies should be mistrusted or barred is naive at best, he said: "We have to accept that in a globalized economy, there will be new investors who will have leeway in global financial matters."

Terrorist groups have used the Emirates as a transit point for personnel and finances, experts say, because the Emirates are less authoritarian than many neighboring states.

One thing the whole kerfuffle illustrates is how tightly interwoven nativism, isolationism and protectionism are. Hillary Clinton can make some hay there.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:06 PM


Attack Fails at Huge Saudi Oil Site (SALAH NASRAWI, 2/24/06, Associated Press)

Suicide bombers in explosives-laden cars attacked the world's largest oil processing facility Friday, but were prevented from breaking through the gates when guards opened fire on them, causing the vehicles to explode, officials said.

Posted by David Cohen at 10:22 AM


Inquiring Gringos Want to Know: In 'Ask a Mexican,' a politically incorrect OC Weekly columnist fields readers' frank questions. He's a wiseguy with a cultural objective (Daniel Hernandez, LA Times, 2/23/06)

Arellano satirizes what he insists is Mexicans' disdain for immigrants from that small nation to their south: "Guatemalans are the Mexicans of Mexico. And who doesn't hate Mexicans?"

Dear Mexican,

I am a Mexicana who is dating a gabacho. My gabacho always asks me why you see Mexicans lying in the grass under a tree…. ¿Por qué?

Dear Pocha,

… Mexicans, unlike gabachos, are good public citizens who know that parkland is best used for whittling the afternoon away underneath an oak, a salsa-stained paper plate and an empty six-pack of Tecate tossed to the side.

It's funny how, sometimes, the inability to assimilate looks exactly like the path other people took to assimilation.

MORE: Ask a Mexican (2/9/06)

Dear Mexican,

Why is it that from my personal, thoroughly unscientific observations it seems blue-collar, illiterate Mexicans are more prone to cheating on their wives than other races? Almost every other Mexican I have known seems to brag about how they got it on with their mamacitas while their wife and daughters of 7 and 8 were busy at the Sunday church.

Cheatie Cheatie Bang Bang

Dear Gabacho,

You’re right—sort of. In the landmark 1994 Sex in America: A Definitive Survey, researchers from the University of Chicago interviewed a random sample of 3,500 Americans and found that 25 percent of married men had strayed from their vows. Latino rates of infidelity were about the same, and lead researcher Edward Laumann told Hispanic Magazine that “he believed the stereotype of Latinos being more unfaithful than other people was overstated.” But there weren’t enough funds to create a Spanish-language questionnaire, meaning most of the 300 or so Latinos surveyed were pochos and not immigrant Mexican men. In the mother country, though, male infidelity is as Mexican as the tricolor—condoned by the church, tolerated by women, lionized in song. My favorite paean to cheating remains “Las Ferias de las Flores” (“The Flower Fairs”), a Chucho Monge composition immortalized by Trio Calavera that uses flowers as metaphors for mujeres and includes the immortal verse “And although another wants to cut her/I saw her first/And I vow to steal her/Even if she has a gardener.” So the question isn’t why Mexican men cheat, Cheatie, but rather why we tone down our tools upon immigrating to this country. Notch another victory for Manifest Destiny, which since the days of Cotton Mather has labored long and hard to turn this nation’s virile ethnic men into pussy Protestants.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:00 AM


Fewer seniors going to nursing homes; stays shorter (Susan Jaffe, February 24, 2006, Cleveland Plain Dealer)

Despite the growing number of older people in Ohio, fewer are ending up in nursing homes, and when they do, they recover quicker - and go back home.

Researchers at the Scripps Gerontology Center of Miami University found that nursing homes are becoming a respite - a place to recuperate from a stroke or bad fall, rather than a permanent destination.

For example, only 9 percent of those admitted to a nursing home were still there two years later, said Shahla Mehdizadeh, the lead author of the Scripps study, which compared Medicare and Medicaid payment information for 2001 through 2004 to an earlier period.

That rate was nearly three times lower than in 1994 to 1996, when 24 percent of those admitted were still there two years later.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:56 AM


Parents paying 'postcode premium' (BBC, 2/24/06)

Some parents would spend up to £25,000 on a new home to get their child into a better school, research suggests.

The amount parents in Britain are likely to spend amounts to £18bn, the report by ING Direct Bank says.

A survey of 2,291 people found 39% of parents questioned said they were planning to move so that the family home was in a desirable catchment area.

With numbers and trends like that the only thing that would stop eventual voucherization is too few voters with kids.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:51 AM


China's censored media answers back (Tim Luard, 2/23/06, BBC)

A media clampdown - the latest of many over the years - has seen a string of journalists disciplined, dismissed or even jailed for violating official guidelines.

Some of the campaign's targets, however, are refusing to be silenced.

And they have found plenty of supporters - some in unlikely quarters - willing to speak up on their behalf.

"There is now an unstoppable wave of demands for more freedom of expression and resistance to the old propaganda policies," said Jiao Guobiao, who was forced to resign his post as a journalism professor last year after accusing the government of handling the press in a manner worthy of Nazi Germany.

The row over the extent of people's right to know shows that the Communist Party's authority is ebbing away, he said.

But without censorship, the party could not maintain its rule for a day, he added. [...]

Propaganda officials have also faced other public challenges to their authority, including a rare strike by reporters in support of three editors dismissed from a leading daily, the Beijing News, late last year.

But what really worries them is that those now pushing for a lifting of censorship include not just journalists and activists, but also people in business, government and law who believe media reform is a necessary part of China's modernisation.

"It is not good for the Communist Party to keep to its old ways", said Jiang He, who runs a hi-tech company in the western city of Chongqing.

China's rapid economic growth is proving a strong force for change, he said, pointing out that the media was already far more open in many ways than in the past.

"It's such an information age. There's no way anyone can block everything," he said.

Dictatorships that lose the will to murder those who oppose them don't have a terrific record of longevity.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:21 AM


Al-Qaeda in Iraq chief said killed in raid (AP, 2/24/06)

Al-Qaeda in Iraq's leader in northern Baghdad was killed in a raid Friday, the U.S. military said.

The military identified Abu Asma, also known as Abu Anas and Akram Mahmud al-Mushhadani, as an explosives expert with close ties to important car bomb manufacturers in Baghdad.

He died in a northern Baghdad raid conducted by coalition forces with the help of Iraqi police, a military statement said.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 7:16 AM


O'Connor willing to re-open missile defence debate (John Ward, National Post, February 24th, 2006)

Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor says he's willing to re-open the controversial debate on ballistic missile defence.

However, the minority Conservative government would eventually put the question before the Commons and since all three opposition parties have opposed the idea in the past, the concept is likely dead before it starts.

''It would really, ultimately, be up to a vote in Parliament,'' the minister told reporters Thursday.

The previous Liberal government seemed to favour participation in missile defence, which was a key policy for the Bush administration. The Liberals eventually made a U-turn and said no. [...]

Opponents of the missile plan say it won't work and risks kicking off a new international arms race.

Supporters say it could offer some protection against a terror strike, it would improve Canada-U.S. relations and since the Americans have asked for neither territory nor money, it would be cheap.

We’re holding out for a free toy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:01 AM


Indian Americans - a growing force in the US (New Kerala, 2/24/06)

The Indian diaspora is today the third largest Asian community in the US, is upwardly mobile and is on its way to becoming a political force in that country.

Cherian Samuel, a scholar at the Institute of Defence Studies and Anlyses (IDSA), made the observation here during a seminar Thursday on Indo-US relations, organised ahead of George W. Bush's visit.

Samuel said Indian Americans totalled about 1.7 million in the US according to the 2000 census, their numbers having gone up by an incredible 106 percent since 1990. It grew at a rate of 7.6 percent annually in the last 10 years.

"In the process, Indian Americans replaced Japanese Americans as the third largest Asian community in the US after the Chinese (2.7 million) and Filipinos (1.9)." [...]

Sixty-four percent of them were college educated as against the national average of 27 percent.

The average median family income for the Indian American community was estimated at $70,000, against the average family income of $50,000.

The Indian community was also upwardly mobile and included a large number of professionals.

To take a point, Samuel said, 38 percent of all physicians in the US were of Indian origin, as were 10 percent of all medical practitioners.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Getting jazzed about kids is child’s play (Tony Massarotti, February 24, 2006, Boston Herald)

Remember these names, Sox followers: Josh Beckett and Jonathan Papelbon, Jon Lester, Craig Hansen and Manny Delcarmen. All are 25 or younger, all are pitchers, all are in major league camp. In recent Red Sox history, it is difficult to remember a time when the Sox had so many talented young arms so close to contributing at the big league level. [...]

In recent Red Sox history, young pitching prospects have been like four-leaf clovers. There has been Pavano and Rose, maybe someone like Casey Fossum. There were Kevin Morton and Aaron Sele. But to find a collection of arms like this, you may have to go back all the way to the 1980s, then the Sox minor league system produced a stable that included Roger Clemens, Bruce Hurst, John Tudor, Bobby Ojeda and even Oil Can Boyd.

Among those arms, Clemens was the true barrier breaker. Red Sox history has been littered with home-grown positional players from Ted Williams to Carl Yastrzemski to Jim Rice, Fred Lynn, Ellis Burks and Mo Vaughn. But until Clemens came along - and these are Roger’s words here - pitching was always regarded as a “second-class citizen.”

During the offseason, the Red Sox once again made a concerted effort to change that. With or without Theo Epstein, the Sox acquired Beckett. They kept Papelbon, Lester, Hansen and Delcarmen, despite repeated overtures from other clubs. When the Sox were at the winter meetings in December, one respected, longtime baseball evaluator said the only pitcher to interest him on the Red Sox’ 2005 playoff roster was Papelbon.

Yesterday, along with the other rookies in camp, Papelbon ran laps in his underwear.

Meanwhile, the Red Sox eagerly await the day when they can all take their diapers off.

If they'd started the Can in Game 7 they'd have won the '86 World Series.

February 23, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:58 PM


Democrats' fund raising lagging, analysis shows (John Kennedy, 2/23/06, South Florida Sun-Sentinel )Despite a record-setting six months of raising cash, the finances of the Florida Democratic Party remain a wobbly house of cards that could collapse just when dollars are needed most this pivotal election year.

An Orlando Sentinel analysis shows that almost a quarter of the $3 million collected by state Democrats during the past six months came from other party organizations such as county executive committees, state legislative accounts, candidates and national Democratic groups.

The Democrats' trend of, in effect, moving cash from one party pocket to another not only casts a shadow over the party's fund raising, it raises questions about its ability to support a slate of candidates this fall, activists from both parties say. That's because much of the transferred money is reserved for legislative races and can't be used for statewide candidates.

By contrast, less than 1 percent of the $7.7 million the Florida Republican Party raised during the past half-year came from within GOP ranks. Instead, the Gov. Jeb Bush-led GOP, which controls the state House, Senate and congressional delegation, pulled in cash almost exclusively from corporate and individual contributions.

"The Democrats are going to have some tough resource issues this year," said Mac Stipanovich, a Tallahassee lobbyist and Republican strategist.
Democrat voters low on enthusiasm (Ralph Z. Hallow, 2/23/06, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

By objecting to virtually every initiative and proposal of the Bush administration and congressional Republican majority, Democrats are undermining their party's chances of regaining the majority this fall, the John Zogby poll of 1,039 likely voters suggests.

While House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and other visible Democrats in Washington pick fights with Republicans, the poll shows that 58 percent of rank-and-file Democratic voters say their leaders should "accept their lower position in Congress and work together with Republicans to craft the best legislation possible."

Only 6 percent of Democratic respondents say the No. 1 goal for their party's lawmakers in Congress should be to bury Republican bills.

The poll suggests that many Democratic voters accept their party's minority status. Nearly a quarter of Democrats -- 23 percent -- say Republicans do a better job running Congress.

"Democrats nationwide now seem to be adopting this minority-status mind-set," says Fritz Wenzel, Zogby International spokesman. "Democrats are tired of the warring and bitter partisanship that goes on inside the Washington Beltway."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:49 PM


UAE Company Agrees to Delay Ports Takeover (LIZ SIDOTI, 2/23/06, Associated Press)

A United Arab Emirates company offered Thursday to delay part of its $6.8 billion takeover of most operations at six U.S. ports to give the Bush administration more time to convince skeptical lawmakers the deal poses no security risks.

The surprise announcement relieves some pressure from a standoff between
President Bush and the Republican-controlled Congress, which has threatened to block the deal because of the UAE's purported ties to terrorism.

Under the offer coordinated with the White House, Dubai Ports World said it will agree not to exercise control or influence the management over U.S. ports pending further talks with the Bush administration and Congress. It did not indicate how long it will wait for these discussions to take place.

Uproar Surprised Dubai Firm (Ben White, February 24, 2006, Washington Post)
The rapid growth of DP World mirrors the swift expansion of Dubai into a commercial power that is less and less dependent on oil wealth, which is modest by Persian Gulf standards. The glittering city-state has the Middle East's leading airline, Emirates, and has been snapping up other foreign assets, including the Essex House hotel in New York.

Dubai's leader, Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktum, known as Sheik Mo, is the driving force behind the city's foreign investments and domestic building projects that include man-made islands shaped like palm trees, the world's tallest tower, an underwater hotel and a theme park to dwarf Disneyland.

Strategically located on the Persian Gulf, Dubai emerged in the late 1990s as a major port. So when the city began its ambitious economic growth campaign, becoming a global port operator made strategic sense. Now the company wants to expand into a new market, the United States, a massive importer of foreign-made goods.

Though the U.S. ports are causing the current ruckus, they are in fact only a small piece of P&O's business. But they are an important part of the deal, because they would give DP World a presence in a critical market where the company currently has no assets. "It's a strategic value. That's what's important," Chief Operating Officer Edward H. Bilkey said on CNN Wednesday night.

The explosive fight over port security, direct investment in the United States by Arab countries and the secretive process by which the federal government reviews foreign purchases of potentially strategic domestic assets caught the company and others in the industry off guard. DP World and P&O executives and maritime industry analysts had expected that the deal, first reported and discussed in October, would continue its smooth and anonymous path to completion on March 2.

"We did not expect this to happen. No one foresaw this in any way," said Michael Seymour, president of P&O's North American operations. "P&O and DP World thought we had gone through the regulatory process in considerable depth, both from an antitrust and a security perspective, and frankly, we thought we were there."

Ehrlich Leans Toward Accepting Port Deal (Matthew Mosk, February 24, 2006, Washington Post)
Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. said yesterday it is looking increasingly unlikely that he will try to block a United Arab Emirates company from taking over port operations in Baltimore.

Ehrlich (R) said he is continuing a crash review of the security concerns raised by the proposed purchase by Dubai Ports World of the British company that currently oversees the movement of cargo containers at the busy mid-Atlantic port.

But when asked yesterday if he now agrees with President Bush and supports the sale, Ehrlich said, "Clearly, the facts are moving in that direction."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:41 PM


LISTENING TO CD'S WITH: Andrew Hill: One Man's Lifelong Search for the Melody in Rhythm: The jazz composer and pianist selects his favorite tunes from albums by Charlie Parker, Dave Brubeck, Max Roach and Earl Hines. (BEN RATLIFF, 2/24/06, NY Times)

His first choice of music to listen to during my visit was Charlie Parker's most famous blues, "Now's the Time," from 1945. He calls it "the perfect record."

Mr. Hill understood Parker's comment about melody as rhythm as a refutation of the "Eurocentric" music education he had grown up with — where melody is paramount, harmony accompanies it and rhythm is the last part to worry about. "It opened my mind up to many possibilities," he said. "If everything is rhythm, then you just have these rhythms on top of each other. But they're not polyrhythms or pyramids of rhythm: they're crossing rhythms."

"Now's the Time" is driven by a short, syncopated melody with a strong rhythm, putting down a bounce in almost every beat. "In that period, one could pretend that one could hear," Mr. Hill said. "You didn't have to read it to understand it. It was all around you. And I guess because it had a blues sensibility, it was inclusive of more people."

I said that given his interest in this idea of melody as rhythm, I thought he would have suggested a bebop tune with a more complicatedly rhythmic line, like Miles Davis's "Donna Lee."

"There was something lovely about hearing those fast tempos," he replied, "like 'Donna Lee' or '52nd Street Theme.' But with the blues, one doesn't have to be a space scientist to get the harmony. 'Donna Lee' has more changes — bringing you in more than letting you out."

"And then there are the parts between the drums and the saxophones," he said as an afterthought. "Through the years, I've always said to myself that when the drums and the saxophone play together, that's a dance, which is an aspect of melody as rhythm. Mm?"

Next on his list was "Blue Rondo à la Turk," from Dave Brubeck's fluke-hit 1959 album, "Time Out." The song is famous for its meter shifts: it flicks between a fast 9/8 and an easy, midtempo 4/4 swing, though it doesn't try to make them flow into each other.

"I keep hearing the different rhythm-melodies," Mr. Hill said as the song played. "The rhythm-melody that the drummer plays, for example. But this also represents when people weren't as comfortable playing rhythms like that" — he meant the 9/8 — "all the way through numbers, as they are now."

With pieces like this, Brubeck made jazz seem sensible for many who came to it cold; it's a playful piece of music, and very schematic. He phrased almost right on the beat, and kept swing roped off in the song's four-four section. When Mr. Hill plays, on the other hand, he moves around the beat, never playing on it, and not consistently behind it or ahead of it, either.

"Yes, peaceful coexistence," Mr. Hill said when I brought up his relation to the beat. "It's always been like that."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:11 PM


The Boy Who Cried Wolf (WILLIAM GREIDER, February 23, 2006, The Nation)

David Brooks, the high-minded conservative pundit, dismissed the Dubai Ports controversy as an instance of political hysteria that will soon pass. He was commenting on PBS, and I thought I heard a little quaver in his voice when he said this was no big deal. Brooks consulted "the experts," and they assured him there's no national security risk in a foreign company owned by Middle East Muslims--actually, by an Arab government--managing six major American ports. Cool down, people. This is how the world works in the age of globalization.

Of course, he is correct. But what a killjoy. This is a fun flap, the kind that brings us together. Republicans and Democrats are frothing in unison, instead of polarizing incivilities. Together, they are all thumping righteously on the poor President. I expect he will fold or at least retreat tactically by ordering further investigation. The issue is indeed trivial. [...]

So why is the fearmonger-in-chief being so casual about this Dubai business?

Because at some level of consciousness even George Bush knows the inflated fears are bogus.

Strange essay in that Mr. Greider wants to accuse the President of both fear-mongering and of acting responsibly when, as the author himself acknowledges, national security obviously isn't implicated.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:34 PM


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The Other Brother signed me up for Christmas and I started out with Roger Angell's The Summer Game and the first volume of Shelby Foote's Civil War trilogy. They've got some terrific stuff and I could use the credits if you want to try them out.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:16 PM


Why Dubai is good for US business: Dubai Ports World is exactly the kind of bridge the US needs to the Muslim world (Mansoor Ijaz, 2/24/06, CS Monitor)

In the battle of hearts and minds that defines America's struggle to combat terrorism, the emotional eruption from US politicians in the past week over the proposed takeover of six key American ports by a Dubai company is a big step backward for US national security. It is a uniquely un-American reaction that assumes the worst of an important Arab ally, pronounces its guilt, and seeks to paint its companies as enemies without one shred of evidence.

A rational look at the facts tells a different story.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:21 PM


Israeli Army Kills Top Militant (EMILIO MORENATTI, 2/23/06, Associated Press)

Israeli troops on Thursday killed five Palestinians, including a top militant who said just a day earlier that he would never be caught...

Technically correct.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:10 PM

RUN, IF YOU'RE ALIVE... (via Selina Kyle):

Quantum computer works best switched off (New Scientist, 22 February 2006)

Even for the crazy world of quantum mechanics, this one is twisted. A quantum computer program has produced an answer without actually running.

The idea behind the feat, first proposed in 1998, is to put a quantum computer into a “superposition”, a state in which it is both running and not running. It is as if you asked Schrödinger's cat to hit "Run".

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:07 PM


Germany ‘cannot save its way out of deficit’ (Hugh Williamson, February 23 2006, Financial Times)

Germany must revive its economy and labour market if it is to resolve its crushing fiscal problems, the country’s finance minister said on Thursday, rejecting proposals to rely solely on budget cuts to reduce near-record borrowing.

In remarks seen as a harsh rebuttal of economists in the Bundesbank – Germany’s central bank – and elsewhere, Peer Steinbrück said: “We can’t save our way out of our budget problems. That’s a hopeless prospect. There will only be progress if there is also movement on the economy, in the labour market and regarding our social security system.”

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:01 PM


Princeton Tilts Right (MAX BLUMENTHAL, March 13, 2006, The Nation)

[T]here is another side to [Robert P.] George, less tolerant, ferociously partisan and intimately connected to wealthy organizations that wish explicitly to inject their politics into the universities--a side better known by Beltway Republicans and right-wing Christian activists than on the long green lawns of Princeton. He's been a presence at the White House over the past five years, stopping by no fewer than five times to counsel George W. Bush on such issues as the faith-based initiative, what he calls "Catholic social ethics" and Supreme Court nominations. He also serves on the President's Council on Bioethics, where he has worked to obstruct federal funding of stem cell research, and he helped write an amendment on behalf of the White House calling for a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage in 2004.

With access and top-rank academic credentials, George has become a sought-after right-wing pundit, penning columns for National Review and the Wall Street Journal editorial page, and recently guest-blogging on Judge Samuel Alito's nomination battle for the Family Research Council, the Christian right lobbying outfit that planned a series of televised rallies for Bush's judicial picks called "Justice Sunday."

George has brought his conservatism to bear at Princeton through the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions, an academic center he founded in 2000 "to sustain America's experiment in ordered liberty." On the surface, the program appears modeled after institutions like Princeton's Center for Human Values and New York University's Remarque Institute. However, it functions in many ways as a vehicle for conservative interests, using funding from a shadowy, cultlike Catholic group and right-wing foundations to support gatherings of movement activists, fellowships for ideologically correct visiting professors and a cadre of conservative students.

George's program has become the blueprint for the right's strategy to extend and consolidate power within the university system. Stanley Kurtz described the plan for National Review this past April: "Princeton's Madison Program is a model for solving the political-correctness problem in the academy as a whole. We may not be able to do much about tenured humanities and social science faculties at elite colleges that are liberal by margins of more than 90 percent. But setting up small enclaves of professors with more conservative views is a real possibility."

The creation of the Madison Program would not have been possible without the acquiescence of Princeton's administration, which, after permitting its establishment, has embraced it. In doing so, Princeton has become a testing ground for the latest phase in the right's effort to politicize the academy. And while George maintains that his agenda at Princeton is above politics, even his friends describe him as a savvy right-wing operative boring from within the liberal infrastructure. As an article in Crisis, a conservative Catholic magazine then published by George's ally Deal Hudson, pithily put it in 2003, "If there really is a vast, right-wing conspiracy, its leaders probably meet in George's basement."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:07 PM


AJP Taylor: The historian AJP Taylor was one of the first "telly dons." But over the years, those of us who admired him, as a scholar, stylist and gadfly, have gradually been disabused (Geoffrey Wheatcroft, March 2006, The Prospect)

He was an intensely readable writer, from the attention-grabbing first sentences to the jokes and the epigrams ("If the Germans had succeeded in exterminating their Slav neighbours as the Anglo-Saxons in North America succeeded in exterminating the Indians, the effect would have been what it has been on the Americans: the Germans would have become advocates of brotherly love and international reconciliation"). [...]

The Origins of the Second World War (1961) enraged critics who thought that Taylor had exculpated Hitler by portraying him as an adventurer and improviser with no consistent strategy, as well as "the sounding-board for the German nation." That continued the theme, set out in sometimes glib and vulgar fashion in The Course of German History, that the Germans were a nation of permanent conquerors. What he did get right in The Origins was his own country. From the time Taylor's friend Michael Foot and two confederates published their absurd squib Guilty Men in 1940, a myth had grown up that the evil appeasers had grovelled to Hitler against the wishes of the British people, determined under the brave leadership of the left to resist him. As Taylor showed, the British people were desperate to avoid war, as were almost all the London newspapers and the Labour party.

If you want to conjure up this epigrammatic and wisecracking writer it has to be a sentence or two at a time. The footnotes and asides are almost the best thing about The Struggle for Mastery. Taylor deftly reminds us of one reason why, in the decades before 1914, Britain was as unquestionably pacific as Germany was bellicose: "In England the taxpayers were also the ruling class; economy was of immediate benefit to them. In Germany the ruling class did not pay the taxes; economy brought them no advantage." Or again in English History, the Labour party's shibboleth of "the hungry thirties" is demolished in a few words: it was a time when, in truth, "most English people were enjoying a richer life than any previously known in the history of the world: longer holidays, shorter hours, higher real wages."

And yet there is another side to this. Looking back and re-reading the sparkling prose which delighted me when young, I can’t help feeling that it was indeed designed to appeal to adolescents. As the years went by, I learned more about Taylor and eventually met him. It is not a rare experience to find someone captivating as a public performer but then less so as a private person. This was true of Taylor to an unusual degree, and he was his own prosecuting counsel. A Personal History is one of the most horribly revealing autobiographies ever published. It’s not so much Taylor’s richly comical private life with—or at the hands of—three terrifying wives. What is so lowering is the self-pity and self-deception, the endless catalogue of spite and resentment. Old scores are settled, old enmities picked over, the squabbles of Magdalen common room regurgitated 40 years on. Here the pithy asides aren’t quite so pleasing: “like most Jews he was an elitist”; “like most homosexuals, he was neurotic”; “unscrupulousness—the usual characteristic of a homosexual.” And the nastiest moment in the book may be when he complains that although he did not win a Balliol scholarship 50 years before, he could now console himself with the thought that, “none of the boys who got scholarships at Balliol when I got none has been heard of since.” In his excellent biography of Taylor, Adam Sisman points out an explanation for this: two of those Balliol boys were killed in the 1939-45 war, in which Taylor prudently chose to keep the home fires burning.

Although he never stood for parliament, Taylor was active in politics, from the 1920s, when he ran messages for the TUC in the general strike and briefly joined the Communist party, to the 1950s when he was one of the most prominent figures in CND. He once said that Mill’s phrase about the Conservatives being the stupid party was not unfair since “to be stupid and sensible are not far apart. The Progressive party, radical and socialist, is clever, but silly.” That was a rare glimpse of self-knowledge since Taylor’s own politics were indeed silly.

He certainly has his own small part in the story of the great Soviet illusion. Taylor was more unattractive than most fellow travellers since he was not truly illusioned. He didn’t deny the barbarous nature of Stalin’s regime: he accepted and almost relished it. Many years later, he mentioned his friend Malcolm Muggeridge’s 1934 Winter in Moscow as one of the best of all books about Soviet Russia, but that was not what he had thought at the time. When Muggeridge had begun filing some of the rare truthful accounts of what was happening in the Soviet Union, Taylor rebuked him: “You can’t see clearly enough the ruthlessness and the necessity of the class war.” Private property had been abolished, “and that alone is to my mind worth unending sacrifices,” which were not, of course, made by history lecturers at Manchester, where Taylor was at the time, or any other Englishmen. “The Russian worker has a control over his work, through the factory committees, which no worker ever had before: he can criticise, he can control the management: what he says goes.”

It is easy, more than 70 years later, to condemn this as ignorant drivel, but it went further in Taylor’s case. “There was a danger that the urban socialism would be swamped by a new capitalism coming from the kulaks and that had to be fought, even at the cost of famine,” a bleak verdict on 2m dead. Even in his published writings Taylor exemplifies that “snobbish feeling” or racism of the left, which his contemporary WH Auden looked back on with shame, when appalling crimes in backward Russia were overlooked by intellectuals who would have been horrified by such things in a western country.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:52 PM


Conservative rabbis embrace non-Jews: `Intermarrieds' are courted to stem declining membership. (Tal Abbady, February 21, 2006, South Florida Sun-Sentinel)

Faced with a declining membership, Conservative Jews are trying a historically non-Jewish tactic: spreading the good news to interfaith couples.

The Conservative movement, the second-largest Jewish denomination in the United States, announced in December an initiative to reach out to intermarried couples with a view to converting the non-Jewish spouse. Leaders say the objective is for children to be raised in households that are unambiguously Jewish, making them more likely to grow up to marry other Jews.

The idea of seeking converts may have evangelical undertones alien to Judaism, but leaders say this push is not outright proselytizing.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:14 PM


No more heroes: Leo Strauss, father of neoconservatism, is not the fascist thinker of left-wing caricature. But neither is he a figure with whom democrats can feel comfortable. He believed in virtue rather than liberalism (Edward Skidelsky, March 2006, The Prospect)

Strauss's central theme is excellence, both moral and intellectual. Excellence is the supreme end of political life. The classical philosophers judged regimes according to their ability to foster excellence. The best regime is the one in which the best men rule. It is government by the wise. But because they constitute a small and unpopular minority, the wise must, for practical purposes, work in collaboration with the "gentlemen," or enlightened aristocracy. Gentlemen are the "political reflection" of the wise; they share their elevation of spirit and add to it wealth, savoir-faire and a "noble contempt for precision." Only a government of gentlemen can win the consent of the vulgar while at the same time remaining open to the influence of the wise.

The ancient philosophers described the best regime as one embodying "natural right." By this they meant that it is grounded not merely in custom or convention, but in the natural order of things. The idea of natural right reappears in the work of the founders of modern liberalism. But it is not quite the same idea. Whereas the ancients viewed human nature in the light of its end or perfection, the moderns, inspired by the new science of mechanics, sought out its lowest common impulse. This they discovered in the will to live, or the fear of violent death. The regime most truly in accordance with nature is, then, that which best satisfies its citizens' desire for security. It is a regime consisting of a strong secular state with a monopoly on the use of force, whose citizens enjoy rights guaranteed by law and, in some versions, a share in government. It is the regime with which we are all familiar today.

But what about the ancient concern with excellence? How does that fare in the modern liberal state? Strauss's answer is gloomy. Liberalism shifts the accent from the question "is it good?" to the question "is it within my right?" This latter question tends over time to occlude or absorb the former, so that in the end all moral problems are reduced to problems of law. Liberal theory is concerned not with virtue, but with the construction of institutions that will secure citizens their rights even in the absence of virtue. Nor is it concerned with truth. In its eyes, all opinions are of equal value, provided they do not disturb the peace. Ultimately, liberalism degenerates into relativism, a standpoint from which different moral and religious convictions appear as mere items on a menu. There is an inevitable if ironic progression from the original meaning of liberalism to the derogatory sense it has acquired in America today.

Liberalism expresses the mundanity of the modern age, its mistrust of heroes and ideals. In Strauss's words, it deliberately "lowers the goal" of political life to increase the chances of its attainment. But liberalism's neglect of excellence is in the long run self-destructive. No regime, not even a liberal one, is mechanically self-perpetuating. Each rests ultimately upon the wisdom and courage of its leaders. In neglecting this, liberalism jeopardises its own survival. Liberalism suffers a further, specific disadvantage in comparison with its totalitarian rivals: it extends to them a tolerance which they do not reciprocate. The collapse of the Weimar republic was confirmation for Strauss of this shortcoming. Churchill demonstrated that only the residually heroic element in liberal democracy could save it from destruction.

How can the levelling tendency of the modern age be counteracted? How can greatness be restored? Unlike many European conservatives, Strauss did not look to the hereditary nobility, a class non-existent in America. His was an aristocracy of spirit, not of rank. Hence the vital importance he attached to education. "Liberal education," he wrote, "is the counterpoison to mass culture, to the corroding effects of mass culture, to its inherent tendency to produce nothing but 'specialists without spirit or vision and voluptuaries without heart.'… Liberal education is the necessary endeavour to found an aristocracy within democratic mass society. Liberal education reminds those members of a mass democracy who have ears to hear, of human greatness."

This brief summary makes it clear, I hope, that Strauss was not the "profoundly tribal and fascistic thinker" described by Drury. But neither is he a figure with whom liberal democrats can feel entirely comfortable. His support for them is at best pragmatic and provisional; it amounts to little more than the recognition that "at present democracy is the only practicable alternative to various forms of tyranny." Nowhere does Strauss acknowledge freedom or equality as intrinsic goods. Their value, for him, is instrumental; they create a space in which excellence can flourish. "We cannot forget… that by giving freedom to all, democracy also gives freedom to those who care for human excellence. No one prevents us from cultivating our garden or from setting up outposts which may come to be regarded by many citizens as salutary to the republic and as deserving of giving to it its tone." Strauss, in short, is an unashamed elitist, in the best tradition of the German professoriat. This in itself is enough to mark him as a fascist in the eyes of some commentators.

The fatal flaw of Straussianism and the thing that prevents it from mattering overmuch in America, was, interestingly, on display in a recent "victory" of the neocons: the Miers dust-up. The neocon objection to Ms Miers was that she was insufficiently educated and intellectual. The defense was that she'd do the right thing because of her Evangelical Christianity. The President--who neocons despise for his own lack of intellectualism--was able, in that instance, to compromise by naming a conservative Catholic with academic cred to replace her.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:56 AM


Big Problem, Dubai Deal or Not (DAVID E. SANGER, 2/23/06, NY Times)

Only 4 percent or 5 percent of those containers are inspected. There is virtually no standard for how containers are sealed, or for certifying the identities of thousands of drivers who enter and leave the ports to pick them up. If a nuclear weapon is put inside a container — the real fear here — "it will probably happen when some truck driver is paid off to take a long lunch, before he even gets near a terminal," said Mr. Flynn, the ports security expert. [...]

"I'm not worried about who is running the New York port," a senior inspector for the International Atomic Energy Agency said, insisting he could not be named because the agency's work is considered confidential. "I'm worried about what arrives at the New York port."

That port, along with the five others Dubai Ports hopes to manage, are the last line of defense to stop a weapon from entering this country. But Mr. Seymour, head of the subsidiary now running the operations, says only one of the six ports whose fate is being debated so fiercely is equipped with a working radiation-detection system that every cargo container must pass through.

Closing that gaping hole is the federal government's responsibility, he noted, and is not affected by whether the United Arab Emirates or anyone else takes over the terminals.

We've got a book for the first person to accurately predict which Republican critic of the port deal will be the first to offer legislation that funds inspection of 100% of the cargo coming into our ports, including the enormous expansion of the federal workforce required, and includes the tax hikes to pay for it, this being such a vital issue to them and all....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:44 AM


Hope for Health Care?: HHS's Leavitt Sees an Opportunity in New Orleans (David S. Broder, February 23, 2006, Washington Post)

On Tuesday afternoon Mike Leavitt, the secretary of health and human services, made another of his frequent trips to New Orleans on a mission that speaks volumes about his approach to what is arguably the most important domestic policy job in the federal government.

In an interview hours before his departure, the former Utah governor told me that his purpose was to exchange ideas with local officials about how to make the hurricane-stricken city "a model of a new design for delivering health care in this country." [...]

Steps such as the health savings accounts that President Bush has recommended, and others being discussed in Congress, can nibble at the problem, Leavitt says, but far more fundamental changes must be made if costs are to be brought under control without sacrificing quality care.

Leavitt is attacking the problem at two levels. At the top, he has assigned his department the task of developing, by the end of this year, national standards for four "breakthrough projects" applying 21st-century information technology to medical offices and hospitals. One would standardize systems for registering patients and listing their prescriptions and other basic medical data so they would not have to be entered on separate clipboards with each visit. A second would set standards for equipment allowing remote monitoring of chronic illnesses, such as the blood sugar tests required by diabetes patients.

A third would focus on systems for exchanging medical test results from office to office. And the fourth is a "biosurveillance system," designed to alert public health officials to any change in the pattern of reported illnesses that could be an early warning of a pandemic.

Once the standards are set, he said, they will be applied in the purchase of systems by Medicare, Medicaid and the departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs, creating a market that the private sector is likely to follow.

Such information systems, along with better measures of health care quality, could empower people to become much smarter consumers of health care, Leavitt says, an essential step to ensuring care at more reasonable costs without burdensome government regulation.

Here's an exquyisite illustration of how little a supposedly bright analyst understands that stupid George Bush. Note that Mr. Broder thinks that giving consumers better information is more important than the HSA revolution by which the Administration is making us into health care consumers again?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:37 AM

NO REALITY, PLEASE, WE'RE EMOTING.... (via Kevin Whited):

Panel Saw No Security Issue in Port Contract, Officials Say (ELISABETH BUMILLER and CARL HULSE, 2/23/06, NY Times)

The Bush administration decided last month that a deal to hand over operations at major American ports to a government-owned company in Dubai did not involve national security and so did not require a more lengthy review, administration officials said Wednesday.

The decision was made by an interagency committee led by Deputy Treasury Secretary Robert M. Kimmitt. The group included officials from 12 departments and agencies, including the Departments of Defense, Justice, State and Homeland Security, as well as the National Security Council and the National Economic Council.

In a telephone interview on Wednesday, Mr. Kimmitt said that the company, Dubai Ports World, had been thoroughly investigated by the administration, including by intelligence agencies, and that on Jan. 17 the panel members unanimously approved the transfer.

"None of them objected to the deal proceeding on national security grounds," he said.

Port deal poses no concern for security, Ridge says (Jay Marks, 2/23/06, The Oklahoman)
There is no reason to be concerned about a deal that would put an Arab company in charge of shipping operations at six U.S. ports, the nation’s first homeland security czar said Wednesday.

Former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge said it is important to separate perception from reality....

Chris Matthews had a couple shipping experts on Hardball last night and was totally flummoxed that both said the deal would have absolutely no effect on security. This is one of those perfect illustrations of how thoughtless the chattering class is when it gets itself wound up.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:23 AM


There is no silver medal for second in race for Iraq (CRAGG HINES, 2/21/06, Houston Chronicle )

Some analysts believe that neighboring, technically noncombatant Iran has already won and, being just next door, is prepared to wait out U.S. troops to fully claim the prize. With a view to hurrying things along, weaponry from Iran, especially the deadly improvised explosive devices, is said to be finding its way to both Shia militias and Sunni insurgents.

A leg up for Iran would be yet one more wildly unintended (although not necessarily unforeseeable) consequence of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq to depose Saddam Hussein and establish a democratic foothold in the Islamic Middle East.

If any international development is scarier than voraciously revolutionary Iran consolidating its dream of regional supremacy as Islamic (Shia branch) hegemon, it's difficult to imagine.

"This would be an unmitigated disaster," British analyst Allister Heath writes in the Spectator, under a menacingly accurate headline: "A monster of our own making."

As always, the Realist view is completely unrealistic. Let us accept for the moment that Muslims are uniquely biologically incapable of evolving towards democracy. If that's the case then the best we can hope for is an internecine bloodbath, in which case pitting Shi'a vs. Sunni and Arab against Persian is the most desirable outcome in the Middle East. The bloodier the fight within, the less time and energy for bothering those of us without, Shrine attack deals blow to anti-US unity (Syed Saleem Shahzad, 2/24/06, Asia Times):
The aim of these people in Iran is to establish a chain of anti-US resistance groups that will take the offensive before the West makes its expected move against Tehran.

Iran has been referred to the UN Security Council over its nuclear program, which the US and others say is geared towards developing nuclear weapons. The International Atomic Energy Agency is due to present a final report to the Security Council next month, after which the council will consider imposing sanctions against Tehran. Many believe that the US is planning preemptive military action against Iran.

With Wednesday's attack on the Golden Mosque in Samarra in Iraq, home to a revered Shi'ite shrine, the dynamics have changed overnight.

Armed men detonated explosives inside the mosque, blowing off the domed roof of the building. Iraqi leaders are trying to contain the angry reaction of Shi'ites, amid rising fears that the country is on the brink of civil war. At least 20 Sunnis have been killed already in retaliatory attacks, and nearly 30 Sunni mosques have been attacked across the country.

The potentially bloody polarization in the Shi'ite-Sunni world now threatens to unravel the links that have been established between Shi'ite-dominated Iran and radical Sunni groups from Afghanistan and elsewhere. [...]

Both the Ansar al-Sunnah Army and the Mujahideen Shura Council - an alliance that includes Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's al-Qaeda-affiliated group - are suspected of perpetrating the attack. Both groups have insurgents operating in Samarra, and have claimed responsibility for attacks against US and Iraqi forces there in recent weeks. No group has claimed responsibility for the Samarra attack.

Given that the sensibilities of both Shi'ites and Sunnis have been violated by the attack, the foreign factor in the Iraqi resistance could be curtailed.

At the same time, escalating sectarian strife will hamper the national resistance movement in cities such as Basra in the south and Baghdad, which have strong Shi'ite populations. People in these areas could quickly turn against what is perceived as a largely Sunni-led resistance, with a strong al-Qaeda link.

Blast at Shiite Shrine Sets Off Sectarian Fury in Iraq (ROBERT F. WORTH, 2/23/06, NY Times)
A powerful bomb shattered the golden dome at one of Iraq's most revered Shiite shrines on Wednesday morning, setting off a day of sectarian fury in which mobs formed across Iraq to chant for revenge and attacked dozens of Sunni mosques.

The bombing, at the Askariya Shrine in Samarra, 60 miles north of Baghdad, wounded no one but left the famous golden dome at the site in ruins. The shrine is central to one of the most dearly held beliefs of Shiite Islam, and the bombing, coming after two days of bloody attacks that have left dozens of Shiite civilians dead, ignited a nationwide outpouring of rage and panic that seemed to bring Iraq closer than ever to outright civil war.

Shiite militia members flooded the streets of Baghdad, firing rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns at Sunni mosques while Iraqi Army soldiers who had been called out to stop the violence stood helpless nearby. By the day's end, mobs had struck or destroyed 27 Sunni mosques in the capital, killing three imams and kidnapping a fourth, Interior Ministry officials said. In all, at least 15 people were killed in related violence across the country.

Thousands of grief-stricken people in Samarra crowded into the shrine's courtyard after the bombing, some weeping and kissing the fallen stones, others angrily chanting, "Our blood and souls we sacrifice for you, imams!"

Iraq's major political and religious leaders issued urgent appeals for restraint, and Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari called for a three-day mourning period in a televised address. Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq's most senior Shiite cleric, released an unusually strong statement in which he said, "If the government's security forces cannot provide the necessary protection, the believers will do it."

Iran's Gift: New Unity In the West (Jim Hoagland, February 23, 2006, Washington Post)
The fog of negotiation is not for Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He prefers to confront the United States and Europe directly over Iran's nuclear and political ambitions. The ex-mayor of Tehran thus sets history's tectonic plates moving faster toward a new era of global conflict.

Two visible changes suggest how far-reaching this conflict is becoming: First, Europeans, not Americans, are the primary immediate targets of Iran's recent gauntlet-hurling. Second, the Europeans are tossing the gauntlets back at Ahmadinejad.

The Iranian firebrand seems to believe that intimidating Britain, France and Germany provides a surer path to nuclear weapons, hegemony over Iraq and the destruction of Israel than did the softer-shoe approach of his ayatollah predecessors. Ahmadinejad is the gift to President Bush's diplomats that keeps on giving.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:19 AM


"Republicans for Black Empowerment Announces it's Creation"

During this month of February, commemorating black history, thousands of political activists take great pleasure in celebrating the return of an increasing number of African-Americans to their political home, the Republican Party.

In the same spirit, Republicans for Black Empowerment, after several months of communicating and rapidly growing into a viable network recently became an official organization, creating its Executive Committee on January 17, 2006.

Before the 2004 presidential elections, through the wonders of the Internet, activists from across the country began sharing ideas on how to encourage blacks to join the GOP and relating their own experiences within the Republican Party.

Republicans for Black Empowerment will strive to offer an association for independent minds whose primary mission is to liberate African-Americans from an ideology that over four decades has restricted their economic and political progress.

Among the major goals of Republicans for Black Empowerment are to provide cohesion for conservative thinking people and educate the black community to the political virtues of free enterprise, limited government and personal responsibility.

Its expanding coalition of grassroots activists will advocate for federal policies to reduce black dependency on government and protect traditional family values. Republicans for Black Empowerment plans to seek and support the candidacy of individuals who adopt these ideals.

Since education will be paramount to achieving these goals, Republicans for Black Empowerment will periodically convene public forums across the country to inform the black community of proposed legislation affecting their lives. The organization will also aggressively mentor young people by starting College Republican chapters at Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

Visit the website of Republicans for Black Empowerment for more information:


Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:07 AM


Smile if (and Only if) You're Conservative (George F. Will, February 23, 2006, Washington Post)

[O]ne cannot -- yet -- be prosecuted for committing theory without a license, so consider a few explanations of the happiness gap.

Begin with a paradox: Conservatives are happier than liberals because they are more pessimistic. Conservatives think the Book of Job got it right ("Man is born unto trouble as the sparks fly upward"), as did Adam Smith ("There is a great deal of ruin in a nation"). Conservatives understand that society in its complexity resembles a giant Calder mobile -- touch it here and things jiggle there, and there, and way over there. Hence conservatives acknowledge the Law of Unintended Consequences, which is: The unintended consequences of bold government undertakings are apt to be larger than, and contrary to, the intended ones.

Conservatives' pessimism is conducive to their happiness in three ways. First, they are rarely surprised -- they are right more often than not about the course of events. Second, when they are wrong, they are happy to be so. Third, because pessimistic conservatives put not their faith in princes -- government -- they accept that happiness is a function of fending for oneself. They believe that happiness is an activity -- it is inseparable from the pursuit of happiness.

The right to pursue happiness is the essential right that government exists to protect. Liberals, taking their bearings, whether they know it or not, from President Franklin Roosevelt's 1936 State of the Union address, think the attainment of happiness itself, understood in terms of security and material well-being, is an entitlement that government has created and can deliver.

Geez, no one even argues the point anymore.

The devil's sourdough and the decline of nations (Spengler, 2/22/06, Asia Times)

"The personal is political," said the feminists of the 1960s. They were on to something. Countries go to war because those who inhabit them cannot bear their individual lives. Entire cultures die out because the individuals who comprise them no longer wish to live, not because (as author Jared Diamond claims) they cut down too many trees. Bulgaria and Belarus have plenty of trees, yet we observe in such countries a demographic catastrophe unseen in Europe since the Thirty Years' War.

What is it that makes life livable? And why should life be bearable in some nations but not in others? Unlike Sigmund Freud, I do not think mankind suffers from a universal death wish, any more than it benefits from a universal instinct for self-preservation. Some people have a death wish, and others don't. Considering how disappointing life can be, and how hard it is to credit divine justice in the face of so much suffering, it is not surprising that so many peoples fail of their will to live. It is hard to digest the ancient sourdough, as Mephisto told Faust. More remarkable is that some nations remain cheerful about life notwithstanding.

Birth rates rise and fall with religious faith (see Why Europe chooses extinction, April 8, 2003, and Death by secularism: Some statistical evidence , August 2, 2005). People do not have babies because religious doctrine instructs them to procreate, though, but because religion makes them happy. With the end of traditional society, religion becomes a personal, not a communal, matter, and the fate of nations is fought out at the level of individual souls. Communism suppressed religion in Eastern Europe, and the demographic data in consequence seem to bear out the cliche of the melancholy Slav. By mid-century most of the Eastern European countries will lose 20-40% of their people and be left with a geriatric remnant.

US Christians, by contrast, have one of the highest birth rates in the West. Conservative, mostly evangelical Christians have a plurality, soon to be a majority, in US politics (see Power and the evangelical womb, November 9, 2004, and It's the culture, stupid , November 5, 2004). Their burgeoning power stems from a personal message that has made converts of tens of millions of liberal Protestants. Evangelicals are political only when circumstances force them into politics, for example proposals in several US states to legalize same-sex marriage. Their identification with Israel has drawn them into foreign policy.

Who will begrudge the unhappy secular Left its decision to die off?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:30 AM


Ames Gives Woods Wrong Kind of Pep Talk (Leonard Shapiro, 2/23/06, Washington Post)

It's never a good idea to provoke Tiger Woods, even with a seemingly innocent remark.

Stephen Ames learned that lesson the hardest way possible on Wednesday, absorbing a 9-and-8 first-round drubbing, the worst loss in the eight-year history of the World Match Play Championship at La Costa.

On Tuesday, Ames, the lowest-seeded player in the elite 64-man event, told reporters that, "anything can happen, especially where he's hitting the ball," referring to Woods's recently somewhat erratic driving. [...]

Afterward, Woods smiled ever so slightly and said he had been aware of Ames' comment. When someone wondered about his reaction to it, the smile was gone when he answered, "9 and 8."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:27 AM


Nebraska Meatpacking Workers Claim Jackpot (Associated Press, February 23, 2006)

Eight workers at a Nebraska meatpacking plant are really bringing home the bacon now: They stepped forward Wednesday to claim the biggest lottery jackpot in U.S. history -- $365 million.

The seven men and one woman bought the winning Powerball ticket at a convenience store near the ConAgra ham-processing plant where they worked. At least three of the winners are immigrants -- two from Vietnam and one from the Congo Republic.

"This is great country!" said Quang Dao, 56, who came to the United States in 1988.

He demonstrates that, not his winnings.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:07 AM


Good for America (James K. Glassman, 23 Feb 2006, Tech Central Station)

Just last week, the shareholders of P&O, that venerable relic of the British Empire, agreed to sell their company to a group called Dubai Ports World, for $6.8 billion. DP World won a bidding war with another company from a developing country, Temasek Holdings of Singapore.

Pacific & Oriental Steam Navigation was created in the 1830s and, by 1868, had the largest steamship fleet in the world. But the days of Kipling and Maugham (who, by the way, wrote a wonderful short story called "P&O") are over. Today, four-fifths of P&O's revenues come not from ships but from ports.

The irony is that, while the British understand that empire has given way to globalization, many Americans -- especially protectionist politicians like Sens. Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and xenophobic TV hosts like Lou Dobbs -- do not.

As a wholly-owned subsidiary of corporate America, the congressional leadership will yield when business starts complaining about their proposed intervention in a private business deal overseas.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:00 AM


Concession averts CUPE strike (KERRY GILLESPIE, 2/23/06, Toronto Star)

In the end, it took a very small concession to clinch a deal and avert a province-wide strike of more than 100,000 civil servants.

All the government had to do was agree to review its pension reform legislation by 2012 for Sid Ryan to call off today's Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) strike.

"It's a vindication for my members putting on the fight that they did," Ryan, CUPE Ontario president, said last night.

But in reaching a deal, the government did not waver from its refusal to change pension reform legislation in the face of an illegal strike threat.

Should have fired them before they could fold.

February 22, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:03 PM


The Bush Legacy: President Bush will likely be remembered as an innovator whose ideas just didn't pan out in the end. (Matthew Yglesias, 02.22.06 , American Prospect)

The interesting question is not whether Bush has a higher commitment to his career than to conservatism -- all presidents do -- but why Bush's opportunistic instincts have rendered him, if not more liberal, than at least less conservative, than Ronald Reagan. Answering the question in detail would be difficult, but the broad answer is easy to see: Public opinion changed and became more friendly to the concept of activist government. Bush's immediate predecessors as conservative leaders, Bob Dole and Newt Gingrich, hewed much closer to the Reagan legacy and wracked themselves on the shoals of an electorate that no longer had an appetite for stern budget cutting or libertarian rhetoric. Fundamentally, most Americans agree that the federal government has a responsibility to ensure that people receive a decent education, adequate health care, and a secure retirement, and that government simply can't achieve those things with large cuts in federal spending. [...]

What Bush is trying to do -- whether it be called "compassionate conservatism," "big government conservatism," "pretend conservatism" or whatever else -- is fundamentally the right direction for the Republican Party. Indeed, it's fairly common in Europe, where they call it "Christian democracy," a label that probably wouldn't fly in a United States that is simultaneously more religious and less sectarian than the Old World. He's made a hash of it, but one of these days someone will get it right.

In point of fact, on every one of these questions, George W. Bush is more conservative than Ronald Reagan or Bob Dole and not much different ideologically than Newt Gingrich, just more successful. And his successors will merely pass whatever remains to be enacted of his legacy. Where Ronald Reagan proposed no fundamental changes to education, Medicare or Social Security, George Bush has begun the voucherization of education, passed HSA's and laid the intellectual groundwork for the inevitable personalization of SS.

Not that the President deserves overmuch credit for the revolution he's leading--after all, Gingrich and Bill Clinton had already effected Welfare Reform more conservative than anything Reagan ever did and the whole panoply of Third Way reforms has been enacted in whole or in part places like Chile, New Zealand, Britain, and Australia. The thing about George W. Bush that his critics--and even his allies--generally can't grasp is that he ran on and has governed on a systematic set of ideas for transforming the relationship of the citizen to his government, one that is going to be the norm throughout at least the Anglosphere. He didn't necessarily dream it all up, but he understood it -- its functionality, its political appeal, and its inevitable nature -- more quickly and more thoroughly than did any of his political peers or predecessors and, therefore, he is going to get credit for being the conservative revolutionary in the long run.

The dirty little secret is that he's the smartest politician of his generation and maybe the smartest president we've had. That's why intellectuals, of Left and Right, hate him so.

MORE (via Mike Daley):
Haters help Howard (Andrew Bolt, 22feb06, Herald Sun)

EVERY politician has enemies. John Howard's fantastic luck in his decade as Prime Minister is that these are his.

Look at them -- shrill artists, damn-Australia mandarins, group-think academics, stuff-you activists, sour journalists, gimme-rights ethnic bosses and the other discords of this cacophony of hate.

When Howard on March 2 celebrates his 10th anniversary in power, he owes these yammerers, now almost toxic with impotence, a silent prayer of thanks.

For they have helped him to win four elections by demonstrating a truth few non-politicians know and even fewer politicians dare to exploit: that your enemies advertise your strengths better than can your friends.

They're not likely capable of it, but those partisans who hate[d] Margaret Thatcher, Bill Clinton, Newt Gingrich, John Howard, Tony Blair, and George W. Bush ought to consider how alike the politics of the group is and how disimilar those who hate each. When the most successful leaders of the past thirty years are all singing from the same songbook, you might try listening.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:59 PM


Politicians never learn anything, laments Charles (Caroline Davies, 23/02/2006, Daily Telegraph)

"But they are all in such a hurry, so never really learn about anything. Then they take decisions based on market research and focus groups, on the papers produced by advisers and civil servants, none of whom will have experienced what it is they are taking decisions about."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:55 PM


Gold sales hit record as India piles up the jewellery (Tom Bawden, 2/23/06, Times of London)

GOLD sales soared to a record $53.6 billion (£30.7 billion) last year as a weak dollar, concern about terrorism and rapid expansion in India diverted investment away from shares and bonds.

The rise was revealed two weeks after Alan Greenspan blamed terrorism for pushing the price of gold beyond its underlying strength as a commodity, in his first private sector speech since stepping down as chairman of the US Federal Reserve.

Jewellery accounts for about three quarters of gold sales and last year’s rise in total gold revenues was driven by a 25 per cent increase in sales relating to Indian jewellery.

India now accounts for 23 per cent of global “consumer” gold sales — jewellery, medals, bars and investment funds — by volume, followed by America at 12 per cent.

Gold is used extensively in India, where it is seen as an important adornment for women as well as being a status symbol. Growth in India’s economy in the past 13 years has created a vast, relatively wealthy middle class increasingly keen to spend its extra income on gold as its rising price boosts its appeal as an investment.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:49 PM


Why the switch to metric could be olympic task (Ben Webster, 2/23/06, Times of London)

BRITAIN must convert all road signs to metric in time for the 2012 Olympics or risk being seen as a backward nation clinging to an awkward and outmoded measurement system, according to a report published today.

As backwards as the world's most advanced country anyway.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:35 PM


President Addresses Asia Society, Discusses India and Pakistan (George W. Bush, Mandarin Oriental Hotel, Washington, D.C., 2/22/06)

Thank you all. Madam President -- it's got a nice ring to it. (Laughter.) Thank you for your kind introduction; thank you for inviting me here. I'm honored to be here with the members of the Asia Society as you celebrate your 50th anniversary.

I came here today to talk about America's relationship with two key nations in Asia: India and Pakistan. These nations are undergoing great changes, and those changes are being felt all across the world. More than five centuries ago, Christopher Columbus set out for India and proved the world was round. Now some look at India's growing economy and say that that proves that the world is flat. (Laughter.) No matter how you look at the world, our relationship with these countries are important. They're important for our economic security, and they're important for our national security.

I look forward to meeting with Prime Minister Singh in India, and President Musharraf in Pakistan. We will discuss ways that our nations can work together to make our world safer and more prosperous by fighting terrorism, advancing democracy, expanding free and fair trade, and meeting our common energy needs in a responsible way.

I appreciate Ambassador Holbrooke. I appreciate your service to our country. Thanks for being the Chairman of the Asia Society. Leo Daly is the Chairman of the Asia Society of Washington. Leo, thank you. It's good to see you. I appreciate the members of the Diplomatic Corps that have joined us today, in particular, Ambassador Sen from India, and Ambassador Karamat from Pakistan. Thanks for taking time out of your busy schedules to come and here the President give a talk.

Fifty years ago, many Asian nations were still colonies; today, Asians are in charge of their own destinies. Fifty years ago, there were only a handful of democracies in Asia; today there are nearly a dozen. Fifty years ago, most of Asia was mired in hopeless poverty; today its economies are engines of prosperity. These changes have been dramatic, and as the Asian continent grows in freedom and opportunity, it will be a source of peace and stability and prosperity for all the world.

The transformation of Asia is beginning to improve the lives of citizens in India and Pakistan, and the United States welcomes this development. The United States has not always enjoyed close relations with Pakistan and India. In the past, the Cold War and regional tensions kept us apart, but today, our interests and values are bringing us closer together. We share a common interest in promoting open economies that creates jobs and opportunities for our people. We have acted on common values to deliver compassionate assistance to people who have been devastated by natural disasters. And we face a common threat in Islamic extremism. Today I'm going to discuss America's long-term interests and goals in this important part of the world, and how the United States can work together with India and Pakistan to achieve them.

The first stop on my trip will be India. India is the world's largest democracy. It is home to more than a billion people -- that's more than three times the population of the United States. Like our own country, India has many different ethnic groups and religious traditions. India has a Hindu majority, and about 150 million Muslims in that country. That's more than in any other country except Indonesia and Pakistan. India's government reflects its diversity. India has a Muslim president and a Sikh prime minister. I look forward to meeting with both of them. India is a good example of how freedom can help different people live together in peace. And this commitment to secular government and religious pluralism makes India a natural partner for the United States.

In my meetings with Prime Minister Singh, we'll discuss ways to advance the strategic partnership that we announced last July. Through this partnership, the United States and India are cooperating in five broad areas.

First, the United States and India are working together to defeat the threat of terrorism. Like the American people, the people of India have suffered directly from terrorist attacks on their home soil. To defeat the terrorists, our intelligence and law enforcement agencies are cooperating on a regular basis to make air travel more secure, increase the security of cyberspace, and prevent bioterrorist attacks. Our two governments are sharing vital information on suspected terrorists and potential threats. And these cooperative efforts will make the Indian government more effective as a partner in the global war on terror, and will make the people in both our countries more secure.

Secondly, the United States and India are working together to support democracy around the world. Like America, India overcame colonialism to establish a free and independent nation. President Franklin Roosevelt supported India in its quest for democracy, and now our two nations are helping other nations realize the same dream.

Last year we launched the Global Democracy Initiative, which is a joint venture between India and the United States to promote democracy and development across the world. Under this initiative, India and the United States have taken leadership roles in advancing the United Nations Democracy Fund. The fund will provide grants to governments and civil institutions and international organizations to help them administer elections, fight corruption, and build the rule of law in emergency democracy -- in emerging democracies. We're also encouraging India to work directly with other nations that will benefit from India's experience of building a multiethnic democracy that respects the rights of religious minorities.

India's work in Afghanistan is a good example of India's commitment to emerging democracies. India has pledged $565 million to help the Afghan people repair the infrastructure and get back on their feet. And recently, India announced it would provide an additional $50 million to help the Afghans complete their National Assembly building. India has trained National Assembly staff, and it's developing a similar program for the Assembly's elected leaders. The people of America and India understand that a key part of defeating the terrorists is to replace their ideology of hatred with an ideology of hope. And so we will continue to work together to advance the cause of liberty.

Third, the United States and India are working together to promote global prosperity through free and fair trade. America's economic relationship with India is strong and it's getting better. Last year, our exports to India grew by more than 30 percent. We had a trade surplus of $1.8 billion in services. India is now one of the fastest-growing markets for American exports, and the growing economic ties between our two nations are making American companies more competitive in the global marketplace. And that's helping companies create good jobs here in America.

The growing affluence of India is a positive development for our country. America accounts for 5 percent of the world's population. That means 95 percent of our potential customers live outside our borders. More than a billion of them live in India. We welcome the growing prosperity of the Indian people, and the potential market it offers for America's goods and services.

When trade is free and fair, it benefits all sides. At the end of World War II, the United States chose to help Germany and Japan recover. America understood then that as other nations prosper, their growing wealth brings greater stability to their regions and more opportunities for products Americans manufacture and grow. The same is true today with developing nations such as India. As India's economy expands, it means a better life for the Indian people and greater stability for the region. It means a bigger market for America's businesses and workers and farmers.

The area of America's relationship with India that seems to receive the most attention is outsourcing. It's true that a number of Americans have lost jobs because companies have shifted operations to India. And losing a job is traumatic. It's difficult. It puts a strain on our families. But rather than respond with protectionist policies, I believe it makes sense to respond with educational polices to make sure that our workers are skilled for the jobs of the 21st century.

We must also recognize that India's growth is creating new opportunities for our businesses and farmers and workers. India's middle class is now estimated at 300 million people. Think about that. That's greater than the entire population of the United States. India's middle class is buying air-conditioners, kitchen appliances, and washing machines, and a lot of them from American companies like GE, and Whirlpool, and Westinghouse. And that means their job base is growing here in the United States of America. Younger Indians are acquiring a taste for pizzas from Domino's -- (laughter) -- Pizza Hut. And Air India ordered 68 planes valued at more than $11 billion from Boeing, the single largest commercial airplane order in India's civilian aviation history. Today India's consumers associate American brands with quality and value, and this trade is creating opportunity here at home.

Americans also benefit when U.S. companies establish research centers to tap into India's educated workforce. This investment makes American companies more competitive globally. It lowers the cost for American consumers. Texas Instruments is a good example. Today Texas Instruments employs 16,000 workers in America. It gets more than 80 percent of its revenues from sales overseas. More than 20 years ago, Texas Instruments opened a center in Bangalore, which is India's Silicon Valley. They did so to assist in analog chip design, and digital chip design, and related software development. The company says that their research centers in countries like India allow them to run their design efforts around the clock. They bring additional brainpower to help solve problems, and provide executives in the United States with critical information about the needs of their consumers and customers overseas.

These research centers help Texas Instruments to get their products to market faster. It helps Texas Instruments become more competitive in a competitive world. It makes sense. The research centers are good for India, and they're good for workers here in the United States.

In the past decade, India has made dramatic progress in opening its markets to foreign trade and investment, but there's more work to be done. India needs to continue to lift its caps on foreign investment, to make its rules and regulations more transparent, and to continue to lower its tariffs and open its markets to American agricultural products, industrial goods, and services. We'll continue to work for agreements on these economic and regulatory reforms, to ensure that America's goods and services are treated fairly. My attitude is this: If the rules are fair, I believe our companies and our farmers and our entrepreneurs can compete with anybody, anytime, anywhere.

India is an important -- as a market for American products, India is also important as a partner in opening up world markets. As a new nation, India emphasized self-sufficiency and adopted strong protectionist policies. During this period, its economy stagnated and poverty grew. India now recognizes that a brighter future for its people depends on a free and fair global trading order. Today the Doha Round of trade talks at the World Trade Organization provides the greatest opportunity to lift hundreds of millions of people out of poverty, and to boost economic growth across the world. The WTO members' aim is to complete the Doha Round by the end of this year. India has played an important leadership role in the Doha talks, and we look to India to continue to lead as we work together for an ambitious agreement on services and manufacturing and agriculture.

Fourth, the United States and India are working together to improve human health and the environment, and address the issue of climate change. So we've joined together to create the Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate. Together with Australia and China and Japan and South Korea, we will focus on practical ways to make the best practices and latest energy technologies available to all -- things like -- technologies like zero-emission coal-fired plants. As nations across the region adopt these practices and technologies, they will make their factories and power plants cleaner and more efficient. We look forward to being an active partner in this partnership.

Fifth, the United States and India will work together to help India meet its energy needs in a practical and responsible way. That means addressing three key issues: oil, electricity, and the need to bring India's nuclear power program under international norms and safeguards.

India now imports more than two-thirds of its oil. As the economy -- as its economy grows, which we're confident it will, it will need even more oil. The increased demand from developing nations like India is one of the reasons the global demand for oil has been rising faster than global supply. Rising demand relative to global supply leads to price increases -- for all of us.

To meet the challenge here in America, I have proposed what's called an Advanced Energy Initiative to make this company [sic] less reliant upon oil. As I said in the State of the Union, we got a problem: We're hooked on oil. And we need to do something about it.

And so we're spending money on research and development to develop cleaner and more reliable alternatives to oil, alternatives that will work, alternatives such as hybrid vehicles that will require much less gasoline, alternatives such as new fuels to substitute for gasoline, and alternatives such as using hydrogen to power automobiles. We will share these promising energy technologies with countries like India. And as we do so, it will help reduce stress on global oil markets and move our world toward cleaner and more efficient uses of energy.

India's rising economy is also creating greater demand for electricity. Nuclear power is a clean and reliable way to help meet this need. Nuclear power now accounts for nearly 3 percent of India's electricity needs, and India plans to increase the figure by -- to 25 percent by 2050. And America wants to help.

My administration has announced a new proposal called the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership. Under this partnership, America will work with nations that have advanced civilian nuclear energy programs -- such as Great Britain, France, Japan, and Russia -- to share nuclear fuel with nations like India that are developing civilian nuclear energy programs. The supplier nations will collect the spent nuclear fuel. And the supplier nations will invest in new methods to reprocess the spent nuclear fuel so that it can be used for advanced new reactors. The strategy will allow countries like India to produce more electricity from nuclear power, it will enable countries like India to rely less on fossil fuels, it will decrease the amount of nuclear waste that needs to be stored and reduce the risk of nuclear proliferation.

To benefit from this initiative, India first needs to bring its civilian energy programs under the same international safeguards that govern nuclear power programs in other countries. And India and the United States took a bold step forward last summer when we agreed to a civil nuclear initiative that will provide India access to civilian nuclear technology, and bring its civilian programs under the safeguards of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

This is not an easy decision for India, nor is it an easy decision for the United States, and implementing this agreement will take time and it will take patience from both our countries. I'll continue to encourage India to produce a credible, transparent, and defensible plan to separate its civilian and military nuclear programs. By following through on our commitments, we'll bring India's civilian -- civil nuclear program into international mainstream, and strengthen the bonds of trust between our two great nations.

We have an ambitious agenda with India. Our agenda is also practical. It builds on a relationship that has never been better. India is a global leader, as well as a good friend, and I look forward to working with Prime Minister Singh to address other difficult problems such as HIV/AIDS, pandemic flu, and the challenge posed by Iran's nuclear ambitions. My trip will remind everybody about the strengthening of a important strategic partnership. We'll work together in practical ways to promote a hopeful future for citizens in both our nations.

The second stop on my trip will be to Pakistan. Pakistan is a key ally in the war on terror. Pakistan is a nation of 162 million people. It has come a long way in a short time. Five years ago, Pakistan was one of only three nations that recognized the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. That all changed after September the 11th. President Musharraf understood that he had to make a fundamental choice for his people. He could turn a blind eye and leave his people hostage to terrorists, or he could join the free world in fighting the terrorists. President Musharraf made the right choice, and the United States of America is grateful for his leadership.

Within two days of the attack, the Pakistani government committed itself to stop al Qaeda operatives at its border, share intelligence on terrorist activities and movements, and break off all ties with the Taliban government in Kabul if it refused to hand over Bin Laden and the al Qaeda leadership. President Musharraf's decision to fight the terrorists was made at great personal risk. He leads a country that the terrorists seek to use as a base of operations, and they take advantage of every opportunity to create chaos and destabilize the country. The terrorists have tried to assassinate President Musharraf on a number of occasions, because they know he stands in the way of their hateful vision for his country. He is a man of courage, and I appreciate his friendship and his leadership.

Pakistan now has the opportunity to write a new chapter in its history, and the United States wants to build a broad and lasting strategic partnership with the people of Pakistan. And in my meetings with President Musharraf, we'll be discussing areas that are critical to the American-Pakistan relationship.

First, the United States and Pakistan will continue our close cooperation in confronting and defeating the terrorists in the war on terror. Second, the United States and Pakistan understand that in the long run, the only way to defeat the terrorists is through democracy.

Pakistan still has a distance to travel on the road to democracy, yet it has some fundamental institutions that a democracy requires. Pakistan has a lively and generally free press. I'm confident I will hear from them on my trip to Pakistan. (Laughter.) Occasionally, there's interference by security forces, but it's a strong press. Pakistanis are free to criticize their government, and they exercise that right vigorously. There are a number of political parties and movements that regularly challenge the government. President Musharraf remains committed to a moderate state that respects the role of Islam in Pakistani society while providing an alternative to Islamic radicalism. The United States will continue to work with Pakistan to strengthen the institutions that help guarantee civil liberties and help lay the foundations for a democratic future for the Pakistani people.

The United States and Pakistan both want the elections scheduled for next year to be successful. This will be an important test of Pakistan's commitment to democratic reform, and the government in Islamabad must ensure that these elections are open and free and fair. The Pakistanis are taking this step toward democracy at a difficult time in their history. There are determined enemies of freedom attacking from within. We understand this struggle; we understand the pressure. And the United States will walk with them on their path to freedom and democracy.

The United States and Pakistan both want to expand opportunity for the Pakistani people. Opportunity starts with economic growth, and that is why President Musharraf has made economic reform a priority for his administration. These reforms have helped Pakistan's economy grow rapidly last year. There is strong economic vitality in that country, and we will help Pakistan build on that momentum.

We're taking several steps to open up markets and expand trade. And these include efforts to conclude a bilateral investment treaty that would establish clear and transparent rules to provide greater certainty and encourage foreign direct investment. By fostering economic development and opportunity, we will reduce the appeal of radical Islam, and demonstrate that America is a steadfast friend and partner of the Pakistani people.

The United States and Pakistan are working together to improve educational opportunities for the Pakistani people. Young men in Pakistan need a real education that provides the skills required in the 21st-century workplace. Pakistan needs to improve literacy for its women and help more Pakistani girls have the opportunity to go to school.

Last year, the United States provided $66 million to help improve Pakistani education, especially in the least developed regions of the country. This is money well spent. We're glad to partner with the Pakistan government to help train primary school teachers and administrators, and build new schools, and adapt existing ones so that young girls can attend school. These funds also support the largest Fulbright program in the world -- an educational exchange that brings Pakistani scholars to America and American scholars to Pakistan. By helping Pakistan increase the educational opportunities for its people, we'll help them raise their standard of living, and help them marginalize the terrorists and the extremists.

The Pakistani people saw America's commitment to their future when we responded in their hour of need. When a devastating earthquake hit a remote area in the mountains of north Pakistan, it claimed more than 73,000 lives, and displaced more than 2.8 million people from their homes. American relief workers were on the ground within 48 hours. Since then, we've pledged more than a-half-a-billion dollars for relief and reconstruction, including $100 million in private donations from our citizens. These funds have helped to build 228 tent schools, improve shelter for over half a million people, and feed over a million folks. Our compassion is making a difference in the lives of the Pakistanis, and it's making a difference in how they view America.

The terrorists have said that America is the Great Satan. Today, in the mountains of Pakistan, they call our Chinook helicopters "angels of mercy." Across their country, the Pakistani people see the generous heart of America. Our response has shown them that our commitments to Pakistan are real and lasting. We care about the people in that important country. When they suffer, we want to help.

The great changes that are taking place inside India and Pakistan are also helping to transform the relationship between these two countries. One encouraging sign came after the earthquake, when India offered assistance to Pakistan, and President Musharraf accepted. India sent tents and blankets and food and medicine, and the plane that delivered the first load of supplies was the first Indian cargo aircraft to land in Islamabad since the 1971 war. India and Pakistan must take advantage of this opening to move beyond conflict and come together on other issues where they share common interests.

Good relations with America can help both nations in their quest for peace. Not long ago, there was so much distrust between India and Pakistan that when America had good relations with one, it made the other one nervous. Changing that perception has been one of our administration's top priorities, and we're making good progress. Pakistan now understands that it benefits when America has good relations with India. India understands that it benefits when America has good relations with Pakistan. And we're pleased that India and Pakistan are beginning to work together to resolve their differences directly.

India and Pakistan are increasing the direct links between their countries, including a rail line that has been closed for four decades. Trade between India and Pakistan grew to more than $800 million from July of 2004 to July of 2005 -- nearly double the previous year. The governments of India and Pakistan are now engaged in dialogue about the difficult question of Kashmir. For too long, Kashmir has been a source of violence and distrust between these two countries. But I believe that India and Pakistan now have an historic opportunity to work toward lasting peace. Prime Minister Singh and President Musharraf have shown themselves to be leaders of courage and vision. On my visit, I will encourage them to address this important issue. America supports a resolution in Kashmir that is acceptable to both sides.

This is a sensitive time in South Asia. In Pakistan and other countries, images broadcast around the world have inflamed passions, and these passions have been cynically manipulated to incite violence. America believes that people have the right to express themselves in a free press. America also believes that others have the right to disagree with what's printed in the free press, and to respond by organizing protests, so long as they protest peacefully. And when protests turn violent, governments have an obligation to restore the rule of law, protect lives and property, and ensure that diplomats who are serving their nations overseas are not harmed. We understand that striking the right balance is difficult, but we must not allow mobs to dictate the future of South Asia.

In this vital region, the stakes are high and the opportunities are unprecedented. With the end of the Cold War and the fall of the Taliban, more and more people are looking forward to a future of freedom. As freedom spreads, it's bringing hope to hundreds of millions who know nothing but despair. And as freedom spreads, it's sweeping away old grievances, and allowing people in Central Asia, and South Asia, and beyond to take their rightful place in the community of nations.

This vision will take years to achieve, but we can proceed with confidence, because we know the power of freedom to transform lives and cultures and overcome tyranny and terror. We can proceed with confidence because we have two partners -- two strong partners -- in India and Pakistan.

Some people have said the 21st century will be the Asian century. I believe the 21st century will be freedom's century. And together, free Asians and free Americans will seize the opportunities this new century offers and lay the foundation of peace and prosperity for generations to come.

May God bless India and Pakistan. May God continue to bless the United States. (Applause.)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:44 PM


Affidavits back Cheney's account of shooting (MARK BABINECK and TERRI LANGFORD, 2/22/06, Houston Chronicle

Eyewitness statements about Vice President Dick Cheney's accidental shooting of his quail hunting partner largely confirm previous accounts with some minor discrepancies, according to affidavits obtained today by the Houston Chronicle.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:37 PM


US still urging reform in Egypt: Touring the Middle East, Rice pushes democratic reform in Egypt while talking tough on Hamas. (Joseph Krauss, 2/23/06, The Christian Science Monitor)

While many of the liberal opposition groups question whether Washington will continue pressuring Egypt to undertake greater reform after Islamists - the Muslim Brotherhood - made electoral gains here and Hamas's win in the Palestinian territories, Ms. Rice assured a group of dissidents Wednesday that the US will continue applying pressure.

"One good thing about having the [Egyptian] president stand for election and ask for the consent of the governed is that there is a program," Rice told a group of dissidents, editors and professors, the Associated Press reported Wednesday.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:58 PM


Minority students continue Minneapolis schools exodus (Steve Brandt, 2/22/06, Minneapolis Star Tribune)

Minority students continue to leave the Minneapolis School District faster than white students, pushing up the white share of the student body for the third straight year. [...]

What's happening for Hispanic populations in Minneapolis may reflect the same changes that caused Asian enrollment to peak in 2000 and then plunge. That was a combination of Hmong families moving to the suburbs or enrolling in charter schools.

Asian enrollment has dropped the sharpest of any district minority group in recent years -- 43 percent over five years. [...]

The white share is up because more than 6,400 minority students have left the district in the same three-year period. Blacks, who make up the largest bloc of students at nearly 42 percent, are leaving at more than twice the rate for whites.

And that's before recent calls by some activists for a "blackout." They've urged black and other minority families to leave the district, in part to protest the recent ouster of Thandiwe Peebles as superintendent.

Minority groups have plenty of options. Low-income students can use a state-funded program to be bused to suburban schools, while 29 operating or approved charter schools in Minneapolis compete with the district for enrollment.

Exodus is a surprisingly appropriate term for the liberation of students from a public education system that's failing.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:31 PM


Dutch Lawmaker Proposes Forced Abortions to Stop "Unwanted Children" (Steven Ertelt, February 21, 2006, LifeNews.com)

A pro-abortion city councilwoman in Rotterdam says that forced abortions should be used to curb the "problem" of unwanted children in Holland and its territories.

Alderman Marianne van den Anker of the Leefbaar Rotterdam (LR) party says the forced abortion and contraception would reduce the incidence of child abuse.

Van den Anker has two children and is the official in charge of the city's health issues. [...]

Van den Anker said Antillean teenage mothers, drug addicts and those who are mentally disabled should be forced to have abortions and use contraception if they are having sex.

Bad enough the Dutch helped Hitler during an occupation, do they need to imitate the Nazis now.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:23 PM


Republicans Opposing Dubai Deal Have Long Opposed Efforts To Secure America's Ports (Phil Singer, Feb 22, 2006, DSCC)

This week, Republican Senators have come out in force against a controversial deal through which a company based in the United Arab Emirates would take over six major American ports. But these are the same Senate Republicans who have repeatedly voted against Democratic efforts to invest in improving the security of America’s ports after 9/11. In fact, most of the Senate Republicans speaking out against the deal have voted against port security at least SIX times since the 9/11 attacks.

“Anyone looking for a definition of the pre-9/11 worldview need look no further than at how leading Republican Senators have blocked Democratic efforts improve port security since the 2001 attacks,” DSCC spokesman Phil Singer said. “If these Republican Senators are genuine about doing something to improve port security, they should stop voting against Democratic efforts to keep America safe and embrace them instead.”

SANTORUM SAID: “RED FLAGS WENT OFF” ON PORT DEAL BUT VOTED AGAINST PORT SECURITY SIX TIMES. “I've got to tell you that on the face of it, the red flags went off in my mind. We have a company that is state-owned, by the UAE, which was implicated in the events of 9/11, now doing port security and managing our ports,” Santorum said. Santorum has voted at least six times against efforts to improve port security since 9/11. [AP, 2/21/06; Vote 64, 3/17/05; Vote 166, 9/8/04; Vote 300, 7/24/03; Vote 291, 7/22/03; Vote 120, 4/3/03; Vote 115, 4/2/03]

FRIST CALLED FOR DELAY OF DUBAI DEAL BUT VOTED AGAINST PORT SECURITY SIX TIMES. Bill Frist said, “The decision to finalize this deal should be put on hold until the Administration conducts a more extensive review of this matter. It is important for Congress be involved in this process. I have requested a detailed briefing on this deal. If the Administration cannot delay the process, I plan on introducing legislation to ensure that the deal is placed on hold until this decision gets a more thorough review.” But Frist has voted at least six times against efforts to improve port security since 9/11. [Frist Release, 2/21/06; Vote 64, 3/17/05; Vote 166, 9/8/04; Vote 300, 7/24/03; Vote 291, 7/22/03; Vote 120, 4/3/03; Vote 115, 4/2/03]

CHAFEE SAID DEAL “SHOULD BE VETTED PROPERLY” BUT VOTED AGAINST PORT SECURITY FIVE TIMES. Chafee said, “deals that have the potential to compromise our national security should be vetted properly, and it is critical that Congress has a role in this process. I am in full support of increased transparency regarding such issues of national security. I believe that a more extensive review of this matter is necessary, and I support delaying any deal until such review is completed. As a member of two Senate committees that may have oversight of this issue, I stand with many of my colleagues in requesting that this transaction be delayed until we can receive full assurance that the ports across the nation remain safe.” Chafee has voted at least five times against efforts to improve port security since 9/11. [Chafee Release, 2/21/06; Vote 166, 9/8/04; Vote 300, 7/24/03; Vote 291, 7/22/03; Vote 120, 4/3/03; Vote 115, 4/2/03]

KYL SAID DEAL “RAISES SERIOUS QUESTIONS ABOUT NATIONAL SECURITY” BUT VOTED AGAINST PORT SECURITY SIX TIMES. Kyl said, “I share in the concerns that many of my constituents have voiced about the transfer of our major U.S. seaports operations to a company that is controlled by the United Arab Emirates. I believe that it raises serious questions about national security. I support efforts by Congress to look into the proposed deal and will continue to work with my Senate colleagues to stop it.” Kyl has voted at least six times against efforts to improve port security since 9/11. [Kyl Release, 2/21/06; Vote 64, 3/17/05; Vote 166, 9/8/04; Vote 300, 7/24/03; Vote 291, 7/22/03; Vote 120, 4/3/03; Vote 115, 4/2/03]


It's just anti-Arab hysteria.

Port Whine: Why Republicans should stop their bickering about the Dubai debacle. (John Dickerson, Feb. 22, 2006, Slate)

Maybe Republicans have valid reasons for not trusting Bush, but it's foolish for them to think they can separate their fortunes from his on this issue. When Republican-leaning voters go to bed at night, they don't find comfort in the fact that Bill Frist is protecting them. They pin their hopes on George Bush. If Bush is weakened, they're not likely to be comforted by the fact that Bill Frist is still at the helm of the Senate defending the homeland.

The squabble will also irritate the president. He's tired of congressional second-guessing—especially in a case like this where GOP leaders willfully refuse to acknowledge the complexity of global diplomacy and the value of global capitalism. You don't hear the deal's critics explaining who exactly will control port security if not Dubai Ports World. (And why are there not more pro-market conservative commentators pointing out that in the global war on terror we must embrace countries like the United Arab Emirates in the interest of winning hearts and minds in the Middle East?) The president did go too far when he hinted that critics were motivated by prejudice. This is similar to the administration's mistaken effort to turn Harriet Miers' conservative opponents into sexists. It will leave a lasting blemish on his party. If Bush was so quick to make such a serious claim about anti-Arab sentiment, he must have had broader grounds to do so. But that's what Republicans always accuse Democrats of doing—playing identity politics when they don't agree with your policies. Bush didn't like it very much when, after the administration's bungled response to Hurricane Katrina, Democrats charged that he didn't like blacks. Why does he hint at the same kind of thing now?

Sen. John McCain may be the only politician who might come out a winner from the port storm. He played the politics well, critiquing the deal but urging caution and prudence. That might help moderate his occasional reputation as a hothead. Of course, McCain doesn't have to look tough. He has standing on security issues that his colleagues and other 2008 hopefuls like Bill Frist don't.

Forget how they back down, how do they stop the deal?

Posted by David Cohen at 2:36 PM


Vote Due on South Dakota Bill Banning Nearly All Abortions (Monica Davey, NY Times, 2/22/06)

Lawmakers here are preparing to vote on a bill that would outlaw nearly all abortions in South Dakota, a measure that could become the most sweeping ban approved by any state in more than a decade, those on both sides of the abortion debate say....

Optimistic about the recent changes on the United States Supreme Court, some abortion opponents say they have new hope that a court fight over a ban here could lead to the overturning of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that made abortion legal around the country....

For the moment, Mr. McConchie said he believed that those who oppose abortion should focus on measures to restrict and reduce abortions. Last year, state legislatures adopted more than 50 such restrictions — parental notification rules, waiting periods before abortions, requirements for clinics — and scores are pending again this year, abortion rights advocates said....

The proposed legislation, which states that "life begins at the time of conception," would prohibit abortion except in cases where the pregnant woman's life was at risk. Felony charges could be placed against doctors, but not against those seeking abortions, the measure says.

The proponents of the ban are betting that Justice Stevens is going to retire soon, giving the President a third opening on the Supreme Court. Without Justice Stevens retirement, there seem to be five solid votes to uphold Roe, which is why other abortion opponents want to concentrate on whittling down abortion rights. The problem with whittling the right down is the courts' insistence that there must be allowance made for any abortion to protect the health of the mother, that "health" includes mental health and that, as far as doctors are concerned, threats to mental health include things that might make the mother unhappy or induce stress. As to that loophole, see this remarkable blog post involving an abortion in Austrialia:
“It’s positive. You are pregnant.”
“Do you know what you want to do?”
“I think I’m going to want to get an abortion.”
“I’ll go ahead and write you the referral now, so you have it if you decide that’s what you want to do.”
He picked up his referral pad and starting writing his referral to an abortion clinic for me. He spoke as he wrote the words down, “patient unable to cope with the emotional stress of pregnancy and childbirth.”

Posted by David Cohen at 2:21 PM


Surprise: Chickens Can Grow Teeth (Bjorn Carey, Livescience.com, 2/22/06)

Chicken will grow teeth when pigs can fly.

Well, better start searching the skies for flying pork—scientists have discovered a mutant chicken with a full set of crocodile-like chompers.

The mutant chick, called Talpid, also had severe limb defects and died before hatching. It was discovered 50 years ago, but no one had ever examined its mouth until now.

The researchers recently created more Talpids by tweaking the genes of normal chickens to grow teeth.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:49 PM


Port hysteria (LA Times, February 22, 2006)

WHEN MEMBERS OF CONGRESS TAKE homeland security seriously, it's a welcome development. Unfortunately, Tuesday's bipartisan hissy fit over the Bush administration's approval of a Dubai company's $6.8-billion deal to manage six important U.S. ports is neither serious nor welcome.

At first glance, Dubai Ports World's acquisition of the British-owned Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Co. looks troubling: Do we really want a company from the United Arab Emirates, one of the only countries that recognized the Taliban as the legitimate government of Afghanistan, acting as the maritime gatekeeper for New York, Miami, Philadelphia, New Orleans, Baltimore and Newark, N.J.?

After all, ports could be appealing and vulnerable targets for terrorists, handling about 2 billion tons of freight each year, only 5% of which receives close inspection. The remaining containers are vetted through an informal process that emphasizes faith in "trusted shippers."

The problem is that blocking the Dubai deal wouldn't do a thing to change any of that. It only provides members of Congress an opportunity to talk tough and pander to the terrorism-rattled xenophobe in us all.

Dubai Ports World, like the foreign companies that already run the majority of key U.S. ports — including 80% of the terminals in Los Angeles — does not own the points of entry.

Port Security Humbug (Washington Post, February 22, 2006)
[B]ritain, as events of the last year have illustrated, is no less likely to harbor radical Islamic terrorists than Dubai.

None of the U.S. politicians huffing and puffing seem to be aware that this deal was long in the making, that it had been reported on extensively in the financial press, and that it went through normal security clearance procedures, including approval from a foreign investment committee that contains officials from the departments of Treasury, Commerce, State and Homeland Security, among other agencies. Even more disturbing is the apparent difficulty of members of Congress in distinguishing among Arab countries. We'd like to remind them, as they've apparently forgotten, that the United Arab Emirates is a U.S. ally that has cooperated extensively with U.S. security operations in the war on terrorism, that supplied troops to the U.S.-led coalition during the 1991 Persian Gulf War, and that sends humanitarian aid to Iraq. U.S. troops move freely in and out of Dubai on their way to Iraq now.

Finally, we're wondering if perhaps American politicians are having trouble understanding some of the most basic goals of contemporary U.S. foreign policy. A goal of "democracy promotion" in the Middle East, after all, is to encourage Arab countries to become economically and politically integrated with the rest of the world. What better way to do so than by encouraging Arab companies to invest in the United States? Clearly, Congress doesn't understand that basic principle, since its members prefer instead to spread prejudice and misinformation.

Joe Lieberman: Don't Trash Dubai Deal (NewsMax, 2/22/06)
"Dubai and the United Arab Emirates are allies of ours in the war on terrorism," the Connecticut Democrat said, in little noticed comments three days ago on ABC's "This Week."

"So I don't think we want to just because it's a Dubai company, even owned by the government, we want to exclude them from doing business here," he added.

Lieberman reminded: "The more you look at it, the fact is that a lot of terminals in America are already owned not ports, terminals owned by foreign companies." [...]

[L]ieberman insisted that the Dubai deal did nothing to increase the vulnerabilities of an already under-protected U.S. ports system.

"The truth is I worry more about the failure to invest enough in port security in America through the Homeland Security Department to detect dangerous items, WMD, coming in here than I worry right now about this, this sale," he told "This Week."

In Defense Of Dubai (Dick Meyer, Feb. 22, 2006, CBS)
A nefarious multinational corporation secretly controlled by a hostile Arab government has engineered a covert takeover of six major U.S. ports. America is at risk of losing control of its borders and compromising national security in an entirely preventable way.


Never have I seen a bogus story explode so fast and so far. I thought I was a connoisseur of demagoguery and cheap shots, but the Dubai Ports World saga proves me a piker. With a stunning kinship of cravenness, politicians of all flavors risk trampling each other as they rush to the cameras and microphones to condemn the handover of massive U.S. strategic assets to an Islamic, Arab terrorist-loving enemy.

The only problem -- and I admit it's only a teeny-weeny problem -- is that 90 percent of that story is false.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:35 PM


Coup against Summers a dubious victory for the politically correct (Alan M. Dershowitz, February 22, 2006, Boston Globe)

[L]et there be no mistake about the origin of Summers's problem with that particular faculty: It started as a hard left-center conflict. Summers committed the cardinal sin against the academic hard left: He expressed politically incorrect views regarding gender, race, religion, sexual preference, and the military.

The original no-confidence motion contained an explanatory note that explicitly referenced ''Mr. Summers' apparently ongoing convictions about the capacities and rights not only of women but also of African-Americans, third-world nations, gay people, and colonized peoples." The note also condemned Summers for his 2002 speech in which he said calls from professors and students for divestment from Israel were ''anti-Semitic in their effect if not their intent."

Although the explanatory note was eventually removed from the motion, it was the 400-pound gorilla in the room. Summers was being condemned for expressing views deemed offensive by some of the faculty. I personally disagreed with some of Summers's statements, but that is beside the point in an institution committed to academic freedom and diversity of viewpoints.

You pretty much have to be a Harvard prof to even pretend the faculty cares about academic freedom.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:06 PM


The Islamic States of America (Henry Schuster, February 22, 2006, CNN)

"When I first started writing, I thought it would be doctrinaire," Ferrigno says of his book. But he believes that in the end, it is respectful and even envious of Islam, if not the leaders of his imaginary Islamic States.

But you don't write a book like this and now watch the news about the cartoon riots without some degree of concern for your own personal safety. Author Salman Rushdie was on the receiving end of death threats and fatwas after he wrote a novel, "Satanic Verses," that many of his fellow Muslims believed was blasphemous.

"Do I worry about some nut thinking the book is a slander? Most of the characters are Muslim. I don't feel like this insults any religion. I've gotten some nasty comments because the Christian stronghold is called the Bible Belt.

"Religion is a hot-button issue for people, and in a way I think that is good. Religion matters," Ferrigno says.

On some blogs, he's been criticized not for being anti-Islam but for the opposite. One said he was an "apologist for terrorists."

Ferrigno says he's not worried about any backlash from the book, but he admits his wife didn't want him to write it -- and now that the book is out, they've talked to their children about being more careful.

There was a certain unintentional irony in one early review of "Prayers for the Assassin," which praised the book but then said it contained "a cartoon version of Islam."

Ferrigno has been watching the cartoon riots spread across the Muslim world. While he is respectful of Islam, he believes the riots are being caused by clerics exploiting a controversy where none exists.

"The only hope for the war on terror to be won is for there to be some sort of spiritual continuity. We [in the West] have to have freedom of expression. There's no way we can abide by your strictures, even if the cartoons are insulting. This is part of a liberal democracy," he says.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:40 AM


Analysts: Health Care Costs to Keep Rising (KEVIN FREKING, 2/22/06, The Associated Press)

Meanwhile, drug costs are expected to be lower because of a greater reliance on generics, and because insurers administering the new Medicare drug benefit were able to negotiate steeper discounts than previously anticipated.

The Medicare reform continues to work out even better than optimists predicted.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:44 AM

ROTTEN AT THE CORE (via Daniel Merriman)

UN Reform Book on Amb. John Bolton's Reading List (PRWEB, February 21, 2006)

A new book calling for United Nations reform has attracted a surprise following among delegates to and employees of the UN, and it has now made its way onto the reading list for America's ambassador to the global institution.

The office of John Bolton, who last year was appointed by President Bush to serve as U.S. ambassador to the UN, has accepted a copy of Joe Klein's new book “Global Deception: The UN's Stealth Assault on America's Freedom”. The book made news in December when publisher World Ahead revealed that dozens of people affiliated with the UN had contacted them to request a copy.

“I'm honored that Ambassador John Bolton would agree to read a copy of my book,” says author Klein, a FrontPage Magazine columnist and New York attorney who studied at Harvard Law under Archibald Cox. “Ambassador Bolton understands that the United Nations is an institution desperately in need of reform, and I hope that he and the UN employees who have read my book will be able to continue bringing about change within the organization.”

In “Global Deception,” Klein writes that the UN's once noble ideals have been corrupted by a powerful clique of “globalists” who seek to transform the organization that Harry Truman and Winston Churchill created to serve the world's nations into a mechanism by which to govern them. This agenda, Klein asserts, has turned the UN into a coven of special interest groups and in the process pitted it against the world’s only remaining superpower, the United States.

An organization that admitted the USSR at its outset can't be said to have had noble ideals at any point.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:04 AM


Mathematical proofs getting harder to verify (Roxanne Khamsi, 2/19/06, NewScientist.com)

A mathematical proof is irrefutably true, a manifestation of pure logic. But an increasing number of mathematical proofs are now impossible to verify with absolute certainty, according to experts in the field.

"I think that we're now inescapably in an age where the large statements of mathematics are so complex that we may never know for sure whether they're true or false," says Keith Devlin of Stanford University in California, US. “That puts us in the same boat as all the other scientists.”

Godel long ago showed them they were just operating on faith, or intuition.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:47 AM


Is there a leader in the house?: On Monday, after a contest dogged by scandal, the Lib Dems will pick a successor to Charles Kennedy. John Harris joins the candidates on the road and finds a party in search of a direction as much as a new leader (John Harris, February 22, 2006, The Guardian)

In 1910, HG Wells portrayed British liberalism as "a system of hostilities and objections that somehow achieves at times an elusive common soul", and it is here that you find its modern manifestation - in an ongoing, anti-political howl against the supposed awfulness of centralised government and all the skulduggery and cant that goes with it. At its crudest, Lib Dems talking to themselves can sound like the idle chat you hear in any pub - all politicians are liars, the Westminster ritual is always self-serving, there's nothing to tell between Tories and Labour - reworded by people with that little bit more political nous. From time to time, however, it just about coheres into a political credo that might address some of Britain's most dysfunctional aspects: the concentration of power in Whitehall, the demise of local government, our creaking electoral system.

There are problems with this, of course. First, though the Lib Dems' rhetoric pulses with righteousness, you wonder whether such worries resonate as well on the doorstep (indeed, this goes some way to explaining their obsessions with lowlier issues such as zebra crossings and rubbish collection). Second, it occasionally teeters over into an unbecoming piety, a sense that the Lib Dems are a principled, well-adjusted breed apart; political saints fighting against countless sins disguised as Westminster realpolitik.

British Liberalism can never solve its fundamental contradiction: it's the party of people who want to preserve what they have but feel too guilty that others don't have it. It's politics is ultimately against its members own interests.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:37 AM


Charles the political dissident, as revealed by his former aide: Witness statement tells of prince's furious letters to ministers (Stephen Bates, February 22, 2006, The Guardian)

Mr Bolland's 10-page statement said: "The prince used all the means of communication at his disposal, including meetings with ministers and others, speeches and correspondence with leaders in all walks of life and politicians. He was never party-political, but to argue that he was not political was difficult ... These letters were not merely routine and non-controversial ... but written at times in extreme terms ... containing his views on political matters and individual politicians at home and abroad and on international issues.

"He often referred to himself as a 'dissident' working against the prevailing political consensus."

It added: "I remember on many occasions seeing in these day files letters which, for example, denounced the elected leaders of other countries in extreme terms, and other such highly politically sensitive correspondence."

Among matters on which Mr Bolland said the prince made his views known were GM foods.

He also alleged that he refused to attend a banquet held at the Chinese embassy in London in 1999 during a state visit by the then president, Jiang Zemin, and made sure that his boycott was leaked to British newspapers.

Mr Bolland said: "He did this as a deliberate snub to the Chinese because he did not approve of the Chinese regime and is a great supporter of the Dalai Lama whom he views as being oppressed by the Chinese ... The Prince of Wales was delighted at the coverage."

Being above pary politics, the monarch advocates for what is morally right, not the merely expedient.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:33 AM


Hispanics rush in to rebuild New Orleans (Guy Taylor, February 22, 2006, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

Pinto Robson has seen a big change in the number of migrant laborers gathering each morning by the Gen. Robert E. Lee statue since he started parking his silver breakfast truck nearby three months ago.

"In December, there were about 100 people; now, there are about 600 every morning," he said, gesturing toward the bronze figure of the Confederate icon, which looms over a scene that seems as good an indicator as any of the changes this city faces in its recovery from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

"They come from countries across Latin America," said Mr. Robson, 62, an immigrant from Brazil, who is friendly with many of the laborers as he sells them a breakfast of chicken, rice and hard-boiled eggs.

Although hard statistics may be impossible to come by, it appears the number of Hispanic laborers arriving along the Gulf Coast from New Orleans to Mobile, Ala., to gut houses, fix roofs and take on other day labor jobs continues to increase.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:17 AM


Big retailers see solid quarterly earnings (Lorrie Grant, 2/21/06, USA TODAY)

Three major retailers, including No. 1 Wal-Mart Stores (WMT), posted strong quarterly earnings Tuesday, thanks to aggressive promotions during the key holiday shopping season and store improvements.

Consumers shrugged off higher gas prices and rising interest rates to make discretionary purchases.

"Retailers had a sales plan for Christmas, stayed with it and then benefited from a very strong January without giving up margins," says Britt Beemer, CEO of retail consultant America's Research Group.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:02 AM


Sri Lanka's only hope for peace: The Sri Lankan government and Tamil Tiger rebels start their first direct talks for three years on Wednesday. The BBC assesses why they are so important. (Paul Danahar, 2/22/06, BBC)

Whether the Sri Lankan government likes it or not - and they do not - the Tamil Tigers have established a de facto state in the north-east of the country. [...]

The Tamil diaspora, which has been hugely successful around the world, has also made the Tigers one of the richest militant groups, one that has its own navy and can afford long protracted battles.

But if they are brilliant guerrillas, the diplomat said, they are also supremely bad politicians.

He believes that the Tamil boycott of last year's presidential elections was not part of a cunning plan but an act of political immaturity.

It snatched the presidency from Ranil Wickramasinghe, the former prime minister who negotiated the 2002 ceasefire, and handed it to Mahinda Rajapakse, who campaigned on a hardline ticket.

Things have been sliding downhill ever since.

But, analysts say, if the Tigers don't have the political maturity now to move away from violence, they won't ever get it if they are kept isolated from the outside world.

It's a tough thing to ask the politicians to do because the Sri Lankan press are notorious for savaging anyone who suggests compromise.

But diplomats believe that until the Colombo polity shows it wants to help the Tigers make the transformation from the bullet to the ballot box, the deadlock cannot be broken.

The wrong side is being required to grow up here. As with the Kurds, Palestinians, Basque, ec., when a people consider themselves sovereign and have de facto sovereignty, they're going to get their own state. That's just a function of the democratic age.

MORE (via Mike Daley):
“Our Jerusalem” (Michael J. Totten, 2/20/06)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:57 AM


'Guilt-free' fish farming arrives (HSIAO-CHING CHOU, 2/22/06, Seattle Post-Intelligencer)

The locals call it kahala. It is a lowly native fish that in the wild is prone to a reef toxin called ciguatera. Commercial fishermen, who throw kahala back in the ocean if they catch it, scoff at the suggestion of cultivating the species for profit. Why would anyone want to waste time on a fish that could poison the person who eats it?

But a groundbreaking enterprise here on the Big Island has transformed kahala from trash to the "it" fish on menus at celebrated restaurants and, in the process, challenged the belief that marine aquaculture is detrimental to the environment. Thanks to Kona Blue Water Farms and Bainbridge Island-based Net Systems, the future of virtually "guilt-free" fish farming has arrived -- and in sashimi-grade style.

The premium product is called Kona Kampachi, the trademarked name of the cultivated version of kahala (also known as Hawaiian yellowtail and almaco jack), or Seriola rivoliana. The clean, unfishy taste of Kona Kampachi and its crisp-yet-unctuous texture have delighted chefs from top restaurants as diverse as Roy's in Hawaii, the venerable Chez Panisse, The French Laundry, even Seattle's own Canlis and The Oceanaire. (It retails at Uwajimaya for about $20 per pound.)

Other attributes of the fish include high levels of Omega-3s, up to a two-week shelf life, more than 30 percent fat content (wild Seriola rivoliana contain about 3 percent fat), which for chefs equates to flavor and moisture, and, according to Kona Blue, no detectable levels of mercury or PCBs.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:55 AM


Clinton raps vouchers (GLENN THRUSH, February 22, 2006, Newsday)

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton slammed private-school voucher proposals yesterday, predicting that vouchers would eventually lead to the creation of taxpayer-financed white supremacist academies - or even a government-funded "School of the Jihad."

Clinton, a longtime voucher foe who earned the backing of the city teachers union in 2000, says government financing of sectarian groups would incite ethnic and religious conflict - and encourage fringe groups to demand government cash to run their schools.

President George W. Bush has long favored laws that require states to provide vouchers, a position that earned him the allegiance of conservative Christian groups that have clamored for public education dollars.

"First family that comes and says 'I want to send my daughter to St. Peter's Roman Catholic School' and you say 'Great, wonderful school, here's your voucher,'" Clinton said.

Bad enough to be so openly anti-Catholic, but the families asking for the vouchers are black.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:53 AM


Corporate Control of Ports Is the Problem (John Nichols, 2/21/06,The Nation)

The problem with the Bush administration's support for a move by a United Arab Emirates-based firm to take over operation of six major American ports -- as well as the shipment of military equipment through two additional ports -- is not that the corporation in question is Arab owned.

The problem is that Dubai Ports World is a corporation. It happens to be a corporation that is owned by the government of the the United Arab Emirates, or UAE, a nation that served as an operational and financial base for the hijackers who carried out the attacks of 9-11 attacks, and that has stirred broad concern. But, even if the sale of operational control of the ports to this firm did not raise security alarm bells, it would be a bad idea.

Ports are essential pieces of the infrastructure of the United States, and they are best run by public authorities that are accountable to elected officials and the people those officials represent.

Fun to watch the Right join with the Left in demanding nationalization of the ports nand establish the principle that Congress can intervene to force same.

Questions, answers on deal to let Arab company run terminals (Mimi Hall and John Yaukey, 2/21/06, USA TODAY)

Q: How is the company getting the rights?

A: Dubai Ports World is in the process of acquiring the London-based company Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Co., commonly known as P&O, which operates the six ports. Companies from several foreign countries, including Singapore and Denmark, run operations at U.S. ports. Officials from the Treasury and Homeland Security departments said Tuesday that they did not know whether the Dubai deal was the first with a Middle Eastern country.

Q: What is the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, and why did it back the deal?

A: The committee is composed of 12 government agencies, including the Treasury, Defense, Homeland Security, Justice and State departments. Its work is mostly classified, but it reviewed the terms of the deal, and members voted to support it. Clay Lowery of the Treasury Department said members consulted with intelligence officials and gave the matter "extra care" in the approval process. "These guys have built up a track record ... that has been fairly solid," he said of Dubai Ports World.

Q: Who will control security?

A: The Coast Guard and U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials, all part of the Homeland Security Department, would continue to control security at the six ports as they do now at all U.S. ports. Department policy chief Stewart Baker said the company would be required to participate in all government security programs, and the Coast Guard is now conducting baseline security inspections of all the operations Dubai Ports World would control.

Q: How many terminals will Dubai Ports World run?

A: The company bought the rights to operate up to 30% of the terminals at each of the six ports. In Baltimore, for example, the company would operate only two of 14 terminals.

As anyone who watched Season Two of The Wire knows, it's much scarier that corrupt unions run the docks.

Dubai firm would be 3rd-largest ports operator (Tom Ramstack and Audrey Hudson, 2/22/06, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

At least 90 terminals at major U.S. ports are operated by foreign governments and businesses, which also have participated in efforts to establish new cargo security standards, according to a shipping-industry source.

The governments of China and Singapore own companies that hold terminal leases along the West Coast. Japanese businesses control dozens of terminals nationwide, and a Danish company runs nearly a dozen major ports on the East Coast. [...]

U.S. companies continue to operate the majority of terminals, but no U.S. company made a bid on the purchase of Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Co. [...]

P&O hires the terminal work force and ensures that cargo is delivered or shipped at ports.

Port operators "just make sure every ship and every truck is unloaded," said Mike Bowden, president of International Longshoremen's Association Local 1459 in Mobile, Ala.

Some of the work involves scheduling trains or trucks to pick up and deliver shipments. The operator also allocates storage space for cargo at the ports.

Operators typically tell shippers, " 'This is your warehouse; you put your cargo here,' " Mr. Bowden said.

Work at the ports would continue to be done by unionized longshoremen, and the U.S. Coast Guard, and Customs and Border Protection still would provide security at ports.

China is an enemy that actually has its own nuclear weapons, aren't they the greater security concern?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:48 AM


A Phony Science Gap? (Robert J. Samuelson, February 22, 2006, Washington Post)

[I]t's emphatically not true, as much of the alarmist commentary on America's "competitiveness" implies, that the United States now faces crippling shortages in its technological elites.

Here are some facts:

· In 2004 American colleges and universities awarded a record 233,492 undergraduate S&E degrees, reports the National Science Foundation (NSF). That was up 38 percent from 169,726 in 1990. Within that total, some fields have expanded rapidly. Computer science degrees have doubled since 1990, to 57,405. Other fields have stagnated. Engineering degrees, 64,675 in 2004, have been roughly the same since 1990. (Note: These figures exclude psychology and social sciences, such as economics, that are often counted in S&E totals.)

· Graduate science and engineering enrollments hit 327,352 in 2003, another record. They've jumped 22 percent since their recent low in 1998. Computer science graduate students have increased 60 percent, to 56,678, since their low point in 1995, and engineering graduate students are up 27 percent, to 127,375, since their low in 1998. It's true that for these higher degrees, especially doctorates, foreign-born students have represented a growing share of the total. But that's also changing because -- after years of declines -- enrollment of native-born Americans and permanent residents for graduate work has increased 13 percent since 2000.

· Judged realistically, China and India aren't yet out-producing the United States in engineers. Widely publicized figures have them graduating 600,000 and 350,000 engineers a year respectively, from six to 10 times the U.S. level. But researchers at Duke University found the Chinese and Indian figures misleading. They include graduates with two- or three-year degrees -- similar to "associate degrees" from U.S. community colleges. And the American figures excluded computer science graduates. Adjusted for these differences, the U.S. degrees jump to 222,335. Per million people, the United States graduates slightly more engineers with four-year degrees than China and three times as many as India. The U.S. leads are greater for lesser degrees.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:43 AM


Federal Wildlife Monitors Oversee a Boom in Drilling (Blaine Harden, 2/22/06, Washington Post )

The Bureau of Land Management, caretaker of more land and wildlife than any federal agency, routinely restricts the ability of its own biologists to monitor wildlife damage caused by surging energy drilling on federal land, according to BLM officials and bureau documents.

The officials and documents say that by keeping many wildlife biologists out of the field doing paperwork on new drilling permits and that by diverting agency money intended for wildlife conservation to energy programs, the BLM has compromised its ability to deal with the environmental consequences of the drilling boom it is encouraging on public lands.

Here on the high sage plains of western Wyoming, often called the Serengeti of the West because of large migratory herds of deer and antelope, the Pinedale region has become one of the most productive and profitable natural gas fields on federal land in the Rockies. With the aggressive backing of the Bush administration, many members of Congress and the energy industry, at least a sixfold expansion in drilling is likely here in the coming decade.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:36 AM


CUPE may strike at midnight: Schools, daycares, garbage collection targeted but scope of wildcat unclear (KERRY GILLESPIE AND ROBERT BENZIE, 2/22/06, Toronto Star)

Some Toronto schools could be closed tomorrow and garbage collection could be delayed if Ontario civil servants go on strike just after midnight tonight.

The leadership of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) is angry over changes being made to the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System (OMERS) by the provincial government that would provide police, firefighters and some paramedics easier access to pension benefits than other civil servants.

CUPE Ontario president Sid Ryan has been threatening what amounts to an illegal walkout once the legislation implementing the changes got to third and final reading stage at Queen's Park.

Fire them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:22 AM


Gorkha Rifles earmarks for United Nations Mission in Sudan (New Kerala, 2/21/06)

1/5 Gorkha Rifles (Frontier Force), an elite infantry battalion of the Indian Army, earmarked for the United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) on Tuesday.

India is contributing two Infantry Battalions to this mission in addition to certain support elements. The Force Commander in the Mission is also an Indian General, Lieutenant General J.S. Lidder.

It is for the first time in any UN Mission that an entire battalion has been earmarked as the Force Reserve Air Mobile Battalion.

Incidentally, this is the third foray of the battalion info the African continent, the first two having been during World War I and World War II. This highly decorated battalion has been awarded 23 Battle Honours and four Victoria Crosses in the pre- dependence period and the Battle Honours of Zojila, Kargil and Sehjra and Theatre Honours of Jammu and Kashmir and Punjab in the post independence period amongst many other awards and decorations.

Welcome to the Axis of Good.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Furor Over Cartoons Pits Muslim Against Muslim (MICHAEL SLACKMAN and HASSAN M. FATTAH, 2/22/06, NY Times)

In a direct challenge to the international uproar over cartoons lampooning the Prophet Muhammad, the Jordanian journalist Jihad Momani wrote: "What brings more prejudice against Islam, these caricatures or pictures of a hostage-taker slashing the throat of his victim in front of the cameras, or a suicide bomber who blows himself up during a wedding ceremony?"

In Yemen, an editorial by Muhammad al-Assadi condemned the cartoons but also lamented the way many Muslims reacted. "Muslims had an opportunity to educate the world about the merits of the Prophet Muhammad and the peacefulness of the religion he had come with," Mr. Assadi wrote. He added, "Muslims know how to lose, better than how to use, opportunities."

To illustrate their points, both editors published selections of the drawings — and for that they were arrested and threatened with prison.

Mr. Momani and Mr. Assadi are among 11 journalists in five countries facing prosecution for printing some of the cartoons. Their cases illustrate another side of this conflict, the intra-Muslim side, in what has typically been defined as a struggle between Islam and the West.

Islam will win its fight with secular Europe; but the intramural fight will determine whether it's a healthy and sustainable Islam that emerges.

February 21, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:22 PM


In Vietnam, Christianity gains quietly: Roman Catholicism takes hold, especially among the young and urban. (Simon Montlake, 2/22/06, The Christian Science Monitor)

Today, [the Rev. Peter Phuc's] 19th-century cathedral is packed with worshippers on Sundays, and Catholic seminaries are expanding. New churches are mushrooming in this corner of northern Vietnam where Catholicism has sunk deep roots. Fr. Phuc is amazed at the rapid growth. "In the past 10 years, almost every year a new church is built. I can't keep track," he says. [...]

Of the six official religions recognized by Vietnam, Catholicism ranks second behind Buddhism. It has between 5 million and 7 million followers, concentrated mostly in the south, and is reportedly becoming more popular among young urban Vietnamese who are enjoying the fruits of the country's rapid economic growth.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:27 PM


Why The Economy Is A Lot Stronger Than You Think: In a knowledge-based world, the traditional measures don't tell the story. Intangibles like R&D are tracked poorly, if at all. Factor them in and everything changes (Michael Mandel, with Steve Hamm in New York and Christopher J. Farrell in St. Paul, Minn., 2/13/06, Business Week)

You read this magazine religiously, watch CNBC while dressing for work, scan the Web for economic reports. You've heard, over and over, about the underlying problems with the U.S. economy -- the paltry investment rate, the yawning current account deficit, the pathetic amount Americans salt away. And you know what the experts are saying: that the U.S. faces a perilous economic future unless we cut back on spending and change our profligate ways.

But what if we told you that the doomsayers, while not definitively wrong, aren't seeing the whole picture? What if we told you that businesses are investing about $1 trillion a year more than the official numbers show? Or that the savings rate, far from being negative, is actually positive? Or, for that matter, that our deficit with the rest of the world is much smaller than advertised, and that gross domestic product may be growing faster than the latest gloomy numbers show? You'd be pretty surprised, wouldn't you?

Well, don't be. [...]

Everyone knows the U.S. is well down the road to becoming a knowledge economy, one driven by ideas and innovation. What you may not realize is that the government's decades-old system of number collection and crunching captures investments in equipment, buildings, and software, but for the most part misses the growing portion of GDP that is generating the cool, game-changing ideas. "As we've become a more knowledge-based economy," says University of Maryland economist Charles R. Hulten, "our statistics have not shifted to capture the effects." [...]

According to BusinessWeek's calculations, the top 10 biggest U.S. corporations that report their R&D outlays -- a list that includes ExxonMobil (XOM ), Procter & Gamble (PG ), General Electric (GE ), Microsoft (MSFT ), and Intel (INTC ) -- have boosted R&D spending by 42%, or almost $11 billion, since 2000. Yet over the same period, they have only increased capital spending by a meager 2%, or less than $1 billion. So all together, these giants have actually increased their future-oriented investment by roughly $12 billion -- most of which doesn't show up in the BEA numbers.

This shift to intangibles looks all the more remarkable when we look a bit further back. P&G, for example, has boosted its spending on R&D, which doesn't count as investment in the GDP statistics, by 39% since 1996. By contrast, the company's capital budget, which does factor into GDP, is no bigger today than it was back then. The same is true at spicemaker McCormick & Co. (MKC ), where capital spending is basically flat compared to 1996 but R&D outlays to create new products have tripled over the same period.

Want to see how this works? Grab your iPod, flip it over, and read the script at the bottom. It says: "Designed by Apple in California. Assembled in China." Where the gizmo is made is immaterial to its popularity. It is great design, technical innovation, and savvy marketing that have helped Apple Computer sell more than 40 million iPods. Yet the folks at the BEA don't count what Apple spends on R&D and brand development, which totaled at least $800 million in 2005. Rather, they count each iPod twice: when it arrives from China, and when it sells. That, in effect, reduces Apple -- one of the world's greatest innovators -- to a reseller of imported goods. [...]

The same intangible investments not counted in GDP, such as business knowhow and brand equity, are for the most part left out of foreign trade stats, too. Also largely ignored is the mass influx of trained workers into the U.S. They represent an immense contribution of human capital to the economy that the U.S. gets free of charge, which can substantially balance out the trade deficit of goods and services. "I don't know that the trade deficit really tells you where you are in the global economy," says Gary L. Ellis, chief financial officer of Medtronic Inc., a world leader in medical devices such as implantable defibrillators. "We're exporting a lot of knowledge." [....]

There's no doubt that the statistical problems are formidable, but it's also certain that the conventional trade statistics are missing a big portion of the knowledge flows that create value these days. Suppose we assume that U.S. multinationals can earn an extra percentage point of return on their foreign investments by being able to use business intangibles exported from the U.S. Then a rough estimate of the value of the unmeasured exports of knowledge is anywhere from $25 billion to $100 billion per year, depending on what assumptions are used.

And let's not forget about immigrants. The workers who move to the U.S. each year bring with them a mother lode of education and skills -- human capital -- for free. One celebrated example is Jonathan Ive, the man who designed the iPod and iMac. Ive was born in England and educated at Newcastle Polytechnic University of Northumbria before joining Apple Computer Inc. in California in 1992.

A few sure signs someone has their head up their economic rumpus, they're worried about: (1) inflation; (2) our savings rate; (3) the trade deficit; (4) our falling behind in R&D; (5) the economic effects of immigration.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:07 PM


Fewer seniors turning to Canada to fill prescriptions (Associated Press, Feb. 21, 2006)

Retired furniture store owner Don Brock quit buying prescription drugs from Canada this year, now that he's signed up for the new federal Medicare drug benefit.

The next time he needs a refill on Lipitor, his daily anti-cholesterol drug, Brock will go to a pharmacy near his home in Litchfield. The 74-year-old says he was saving about $300 annually buying Canadian; now, he figures he'll save about $500 buying through Medicare.

Canada is losing traction as a source of cheaper prescription drugs for many Americans. Cross-border sales have fallen as much as 30 percent, according to the Canadian International Pharmacy Association, since about 42 million seniors and disabled people became eligible for Medicare drug coverage Jan. 1, and the group says U.S. authorities have stepped up enforcement of laws against importing foreign medicines. Several state Web sites connecting residents with Canadian pharmacies have also seen business fall off.

Despite dire predictions about Medicare backlash, seniors who actually pay attention appear to have, predictably, switched to the new program.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:49 PM


Supreme Court Reopens Abortion Issue on Alito's First Day (JOHN O'NEIL, 2/21/06, NY Times)

The Supreme Court announced today that it will hear a challenge to a federal law outlawing an abortion procedure, reopening the contentious issue on Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr.'s first day on the bench.

The law, the Partial Birth Abortion Act, was passed in 2003 but was immediately challenged in court and has never taken effect. It was ruled unconstitutional by three federal appeals courts in the last year, in rulings based on a Supreme Court decision in 2000 striking down a similar law passed in Nebraska.

In that case, Stenberg v. Carhart, a 5-to-4 majority that included the now-retired Justice Sandra Day O'Connor found that any abortion ban must include an exception for the health of the woman. Justice Alito was sworn in three weeks ago as Justice O'Connor's successor after a rancorous confirmation process that focused heavily on the question of abortion.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:37 PM


Embattled President of Harvard to Step Down at End of Semester (ALAN FINDER and KATE ZERNIKE, 2/21/06, NY Times)

Lawrence H. Summers, the president of Harvard University, said today that he would step down at the end of the academic year. [...]

The president's decision came after several weeks of agitation by many members of the faculty of Harvard's largest school, who were upset over the resignation of their dean, William C. Kirby, late last month. Many of the professors, who are part of Harvard's Faculty of Arts and Sciences, accused Dr. Summers of having forced out Dr. Kirby. They scheduled a vote of no confidence in Dr. Summers for their next faculty meeting, on Feb. 28.

The decision to step down came from Dr. Summers after he decided that his situation had become untenable, a university official said.

After some members of the university's governing board talked in private with professors and administrators, trying to gauge the depth of the faculty's anger, the board also came to the conclusion that the relationship between the president and the faculty could not be repaired. Many of the professors who spoke with board members urged them to end the conflict by asking Dr. Summers to step down, said a professor who had talked with a board member.

Obviously the board doesn't govern.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:16 PM


Evangelical Christianity shifting outside West (Paul Nussbaum, 2/20/06, Philadelphia Inquirer)

Evangelical Christianity, born in England and nurtured in the United States, is leaving home.

Most evangelicals now live in China, South Korea, India, Africa and Latin America, where they are transforming their religion. In various ways, they are making evangelical Christianity at once more conservative and more liberal. They are infusing it with local traditions and practices. And they are even sending "reverse missionaries" to Europe and the United States.

In 1960, there were an estimated 50 million evangelical Christians in the West, and 25 million in the rest of the world; today, there are an estimated 75 million in the West, and 325 million in the rest of the world (representing about 20 percent of the two billion Christians worldwide), according to Robert Kilgore, chairman of the board of the missionary organization Christar.

Other experts differ on the number of evangelicals (estimates range from 250 million to nearly one billion) but agree that the number is growing rapidly.

"As the vibrancy of evangelicalism seems to have waned somewhat in the West, many in the non-West are ready to pick up the banner and move forward," said Kilgore, a former missionary who is now associate provost at Philadelphia Biblical University. "Most Americans have no idea how big the shift has been." [...]

Evangelicals are among the fastest-growing segments of Christianity. Their global numbers are increasing at about 4.7 percent a year, according to Operation World, a Christian statistical compendium.

By comparison, the rate of growth for all Protestants is put at 2.2 percent a year, and for Roman Catholics at 0.5 percent a year. The world's population is growing at about 1.4 percent a year.

Broadly defined, evangelicals are Christians who have had a personal or "born-again" religious conversion, believe that the Bible is the word of God, and believe in spreading their faith. (The term comes from Greek; to "evangelize" means to preach the gospel.) The term is typically applied to Protestants.

American evangelicals have gotten most of the public attention because they're in the center of the media universe and because they played a pivotal political role in the 2004 U.S. election. But American evangelicals are a distinct minority, and their beliefs and practices are often significantly different from those of evangelicals elsewhere.

In Africa, some evangelicals practice polygamy. In China, some revere their ancestors. In South Korea, many believe in faith healing and the exorcism of evil spirits.

The melding of local traditions with Christianity has produced a religion that looks unfamiliar to many Westerners but is "vast, varied, dynamic and lively," said Joel Carpenter, provost and professor of history at Calvin College, an evangelical college in Grand Rapids, Mich. Carpenter, an editor of The Changing Face of Christianity, is soon to be director of the new Nagel Institute for the Study of World Christianity at Calvin.

Evangelicals in the global South and East are, in many ways, at least as conservative as their U.S. counterparts. But they often diverge on such issues as poverty and war.

"On abortion or gay marriage, they sound like American conservatives. But on war and peace or economic justice, they sound like the Democratic Party," Carpenter said. "And I have not met one foreign evangelical leader that approves of American foreign policy."

If we can transform them from within there's no need for a foreign policy geared at transforming them from without.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:11 PM


Paranoia about Dubai ports deal is needless (Financial Times, February 21 2006 )

The current furore in Washington about the takeover of P&O, the UK-based ports operator, by Dubai Ports World says more about the United States Congress than the United Arab Emirates. The bluster about national security conceals one of the uglier faces of US protectionism - the one with the slightly racist tinge.

DP World, the mainly Dubai government-owned ports operator, paid top dollar, $6.8bn (£3.9bn), for P&O, part of its bid to build a worldwide network of maritime terminals with Dubai at its centre. The bold move was very much in character with the vaulting ambition of Dubai - one of the seven emirates in the UAE federation led by Abu Dhabi - and Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, its restless ruler.

Dubai is the most dynamic of the glittering city-states that run down the east of the Arabian peninsula. It long ago decided to invest its (relatively modest) endowment of oil in other ways of making a living. So far, it has done very well. By creating excellent airport infrastructure and Emirates, one of the world's best and most profitable airlines, it seeded not just a regional but international air transport, transhipment and tourism hub. It has also become a regional financial and services centre. Oil revenue now amounts to only 7 per cent of Dubai's income, although it benefits from its federal ties with oil-flush Abu Dhabi.

Nationalist hysteria always renders bad policy decisions.

Bush: Arab Co. Port Deal Should Proceed (BEN FELLER, 2/21/06, Associated Press)

President Bush said Tuesday that the deal allowing an Arab company to take over six major U.S. seaports should go forward and that he would veto any congressional effort to stop it.

"After careful review by our government, I believe the transaction ought to go forward," Bush told reporters who had traveled with him on Air Force One to Washington. "I want those who are questioning it to step up and explain why all of a sudden a Middle Eastern company is held to a different standard than a Great British company. I am trying to conduct foreign policy now by saying to the people of the world, `We'll treat you fairly.'"

Bush called reporters to his conference room on the plane after returning from a speech in Colorado, addressing a controversy that is becoming a major headache for the White House. He said the seaports arrangement was "a legitimate deal that will not jeopardize the security of the country."

It'll be amusing to see the law they try to write anyway. Are they going to take over the running of the ports themselves?

Strife deepens over port security: From lawmakers to mayors, concerns are rising over a deal with an Arab port-management firm (Alexandra Marks, 2/22/06, The Christian Science Monitor)

"What we're seeing is a very unfortunate knee-jerk reaction in terms of the Muslim world," says Lester Lave, an economist at Carnegie Mellon University's Tepper School of Business in Pittsburgh, noting the United Arab Emirates is a key US ally in the Muslim world. "If you treat your strong allies this way - this is like a poke in the eye - then what in the world should people who are not our strong allies expect from us?"

In past two years, the US has been negotiating a free-trade agreement with the UAE. Professor Lave agrees that security is important, but he believes it can be negotiated in the contract. Some homeland- security experts say the interagency review, which was led by the Bush administration's Treasury Department, may have provided even greater security guarantees than most international business deals do.

"In a weird way, the interagency review allows the US to hold international companies to a higher level of standards and accountability," says Frank Cilluffo, director of the Homeland Security Policy Institute at George Washington University. "There are some legitimate security concerns, but it's going to come down to enforcement, and arguably at a higher standard than we have had in the past."

Companies like P&O don't provide security at the ports. The US Coast Guard and Homeland Security's Immigration and Customs Enforcement do. For instance, in New Orleans, P&O is one of eight terminal operators responsible for marketing the port, signing agreements with shipping lines, hiring labor, loading ships, and moving cargo.

But P&O has no responsibility for security. "We have our own police force, harbor patrol, customs officers, and Coast Guard," says Chris Bonura, spokesman for the Port of New Orleans. "That won't change no matter who is operating the terminal."

Frist to Offer Bill Halting U.S. Port Deal (WILL LESTER, 2/21/06, Associated Press)
At the Pentagon, the UAE was praised as an important strategic military partner by both Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Rumsfeld told that a process was in place and "the process worked."

"Nothing changes with respect to security under the contract. The Coast Guard is in charge of security, not the corporation," Rumsfeld said.

"We all deal with the U.A.E. on a regular basis," he added. "It's a country that's been involved in the global war on terror...a country (with which) we have very close military relations."

Pace said that "military cooperation is superb" with the U.A.E.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:10 AM


Index of leading economic indicators rises (ALEKSANDRS ROZENS, 2/21/06, AP)

A closely watched gauge of future economic activity rose sharply in January, suggesting the nation's economy could see robust growth in the spring, a private research group said Tuesday.

The Conference Board said its Index of Leading Economic Indicators, a measure of the economy's well-being in the near term, rose 1.1 percent last month. January's increase follows a 0.3 percent gain in December.

The leading index's January increase reflects improvement in six of 10 components, including stock prices and building permits. The index has increased 2.3 percent from July 2005 to January 2006.

Remind us again what Democrats think they can run on this Fall?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:57 AM


U.S. Counterinsurgency Academy Giving Officers a New Mind-Set: Course in Iraq Stresses the Cultural, Challenges the Conventional (Thomas E. Ricks, February 21, 2006, Washington Post)

If the U.S. effort in Iraq ultimately is successful, one reason may be the small school started recently on a military base here by Army Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the U.S. commander in Iraq.

Called the COIN Academy -- using military shorthand for "counterinsurgency" -- the newest educational institution in the U.S. military establishment seeks, as a course summary puts it, to "stress the need for U.S. forces to shift from a conventional warfare mindset" to one that understands how to win in a guerrilla-style conflict. Or, as a sign on the wall of one administrator's office here put it less politely: "Insanity is doing the same thing the same way and expecting a different outcome." [...]

Again and again, the intense immersion course, which 30 to 50 officers attend at a time, emphasizes that the right answer is probably the counterintuitive one, rather than something that the Army has taught officers in their 10 or 20 years of service. The school's textbook, a huge binder, offers the example of a mission that busts into a house and captures someone who mortared a U.S. base.

"On the surface, a raid that captures a known insurgent or terrorist may seem like a sure victory for the coalition," it observes in red block letters. It continues, "The potential second- and third-order effects, however, can turn it into a long-term defeat if our actions humiliate the family, needlessly destroy property, or alienate the local population from our goals."

At points, the school's leaders seem to go out of their way to challenge current U.S. military practices here. Short said in an interview Friday inside his sandbagged headquarters that he has issues with "this big-base mentality" that keeps tens of thousands of troops inside facilities called forwarding operating bases, or FOBs, which they leave for patrols and raids. Classic counterinsurgency theory holds that troops should live out among the people as much as possible, to develop a sense of how the society works and to gather intelligence.

As Apache attack helicopters clattered overhead, Short also offered an unconventional view of Iraq's December elections, which many U.S. officials have portrayed as a great victory. "You can ask just about every Iraqi, 'What about the elections?' " he said. "They'll say" -- Short shrugged his shoulders -- " 'Well, we voted five times, and nothing's happening out here.' "

Recent attendees at the school came away impressed. "I think it's an incredibly insightful course," said Army Maj. Sheldon Horsfall, an adviser to the Iraqi military in Baghdad. "One of the things that was brought home to us, again and again, was the importance of cultural awareness."

"The course opened my eyes to some of the bigger picture," said Lt. Col. Nathan Nastase, the operations officer for the 5th Marine Regiment, based near Fallujah. He said he especially liked hearing about the role of Special Operations Forces in Iraq, as well as learning about the tactics being used by successful commanders.

The school's greatest effect seems to be on younger officers. "My initial impression of it was it was a waste of time," said Capt. Klaudius Robinson, commander of a cavalry troop in the 4th Infantry Division. "But after going through it, it really changed my thinking about how to fight this insurgency. I came to realize that the center of gravity is the people, and you have to drive a wedge between the insurgents and the people."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:40 AM


Contain Iran: Admit Israel to NATO (Ronald D. Asmus, February 21, 2006, Washington Post)

The United States already has a de facto security commitment to Israel. Any future U.S. president would go to the defense of that country if its existence were threatened by a nuclear-armed Iran. And in spite of the anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic voices that one can hear in Europe, there is little doubt that European leaders such as Tony Blair, Angela Merkel and even Jacques Chirac would also stand tall and defend Israel against an Iranian threat. Given this situation, basic deterrence theory tells us that it is more credible and effective if those commitments are clear and unambiguous.

The best way to provide Israel with that additional security is to upgrade its relationship with the collective defense arm of the West: NATO. Whether that upgraded relationship culminates in membership for Israel or simply a much closer strategic and operational defense relationship can be debated. After all, a classic security guarantee requires clear and recognized borders to be defended, something Israel does not have today. Configuring an upgraded Israel-NATO relationship will require careful diplomacy and planning. But what must be clear is that the West is prepared to match the growing bellicosity against Israel by stepping up its commitment to the existence of the Jewish state.

There are growing signs that Israel is interested in such a relationship with NATO.

Why lash Israel to the mast of a sinking ship? How about formalizing a new Alliance aimed at radical Islam and Communist China that would comprise Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Poland, the Czech Republic, Russia, Japan, Mongolia, Taiwan, the Phillipines, Indonesia, India, Israel & Turkey to begin with.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:33 AM


Blackwell attacks Taft, Petro with scathing ads: Ohio GOP chief denounces commercials (Ted Wendling, February 21, 2006, Cleveland Plain Dealer)

Secretary of State Ken Blackwell unsheathed the long knives Monday, previewing TV and radio spots that skewer both Attorney General Jim Petro and Gov. Bob Taft by calling Petro's ethics "worse than Taft's."

The ads, which Blackwell campaign adviser Gene Pierce said would begin running statewide as soon as today, make it clear that the intra-party mudslinging that Ohio Republican Party Chairman Bob Bennett feared most in this year's governor's race would now begin in earnest.

That which the establishment hates Blackwell for most, his independence from them, is his chief source of strength.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:25 AM


How about a 50-year home mortgage? (ALEKSANDRS ROZENS, February 21, 2006, Chicago Sun Times)

The Treasury Department's resumption of 30-year bond sales last week could have an interesting impact on the home mortgage market, with lenders offering more 40-year loans and maybe even 50-year mortgages for the first time to help some consumers qualify for loans.

While the connection between the two -- the U.S. government borrowing money through the sale of debt and a home buyer looking for a loan to buy a home -- may not be apparent, the two are inseparable. That's because the interest rate the government pays for its debt usually determines the lowest rate consumers and corporations will pay for the loans they take out.

The reintroduction of the 30-year bond means lenders -- who had relied on the government's 10-year note for mortgage rate guidance -- have a better idea of what to charge home buyers for a 40-year mortgage. There is also some talk among lenders, who are always looking for new mortgage products, about creating a 50-year home loan.

The longer-term mortgages would lower monthly payments.

Shoppers find satisfaction, prices online (SANDRA GUY, February 21, 2006, Chicago Sun-Times)
Poor customer service at retail stores is driving shoppers onto the Web, where a new study shows they get greater satisfaction by clicking than by walking.

"Online retailers are far out-performing traditional retailers" in customer satisfaction ratings, said Larry Freed, CEO and president of online measuring firm ForeSee Results, based in Ann Arbor, Mich. [...]

Freed compared Amazon.com's rating of 87 out of a possible 100 to Sears' 73 rating.

Sears operates brick-and-mortar stores and the Sears.com Web site -- the two-pronged approach is known as "multi-channel" in industry parlance -- so Sears should have a big advantage over Amazon's online-only business, Freed said.

But the survey revealed that the benefits of a traditional experience in a store, where a salesperson can offer advice and the shopper can touch and feel the merchandise, has lost some of its cachet.

A big reason is that online retailers offer viable alternatives, such as create-your-own models, virtual dressing rooms, product specifications, zoom-in viewing capabilities, and side-by-side product comparisons, Freed said.

And, most of all, the ability to instantly compare prices.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:04 AM


Curt Gowdy, 86; Versatile Broadcaster Helped Televised Sports Come of Age (Robyn Norwood, February 21, 2006, LA Times)

Curt Gowdy, the neighborly broadcaster whose voice was the soundtrack of World Series games, Super Bowls, NCAA Final Fours and Rose Bowls as televised sports came of age, has died. He was 86.

Gowdy died Monday at his winter home in Palm Beach, Fla., after a long battle with leukemia, said a spokesman for the Boston Red Sox, his employer before his career with NBC.

Dodger broadcaster Vin Scully called Gowdy "one of the great broadcasters in the history of sports," and other colleagues praised his versatility in announcing almost every major sporting event.

"His powerful Wyoming voice was one of the greatest, and no one will ever again do all the events he did," said CBS broadcaster Dick Enberg, who considered Gowdy a mentor. "He was a beautiful man and great influence. The last of the dinosaurs."

Gowdy was the play-by-play man for NBC's World Series broadcasts for 10 consecutive years in the 1960s and '70s, and did seven Super Bowls for the network, including Super Bowl I in 1967.

Legendary sportscaster Curt Gowdy dies (HOWARD ULMAN, 2/21/06, Chicago Sun-Times)
It all started as he sat on a box, his microphone on another box, for his first play-by-play -- a six-man football game in Cheyenne, Wyo., in subzero temperatures in 1944.

He brought a warm feel to the broadcast booth, his commentary full of good humor and enthusiasm.

He once said, "I tried to pretend that I was sitting in the stands with a buddy watching the game, poking him in the ribs when something exciting happened. I never took myself too seriously. An announcer is only as good as yesterday's performance."

Mr. Gowdy spent 15 years as the Boston Red Sox play-by-play announcer from 1951-1965. He left the Red Sox for a 10-year stint on NBC's "Game of the Week" baseball broadcasts through 1975.

He covered many Super Bowls and NCAA basketball Final Fours.

An avid outdoorsman, the native of Green River, Wyo., also was host of the "American Sportsman" on ABC from the 1960s into the 1980s.

Sportscaster Curt Gowdy dies at 86: A big-game voice that defined an era (Mark Feeney, February 21, 2006, Boston Globe)
Curt Gowdy, who went from being the voice of the Red Sox for 15 seasons to becoming America's premier sportscaster in the late '60s and early '70s, died of leukemia yesterday at his Palm Beach, Fla., home. He was 86.

Mr. Gowdy was ''one of the greatest sports broadcasters in history," NBC Universal sports chairman Dick Ebersol said yesterday. Mr. Gowdy, who spent most of his career at NBC, also broadcast for ABC and CBS Radio.

''He was in a class with Mel Allen and all those great announcers," Johnny Pesky of the Red Sox said of Mr. Gowdy yesterday. ''You always go by the voice, and when they got that good voice, you could listen to them all day."

Mr. Gowdy's voice was a warm, mellow twang. With it, he called Carl Yastrzemski's first at-bat -- and Ted Williams's last. ''It was one of the big thrills of my life," Mr. Gowdy said in a Globe interview last August about announcing Williams's last home run.

''He hit that ball, and I saw it start to soar and get some distance. I got all excited and I said, 'It's going, going, gone!' and then I stopped and said, 'Ted Williams has hit a home run in his last time at bat in the major leagues.' "

Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu (John Updike, 1960-10-22, The New Yorker)
A tight little flock of human sparrows who, from the lambent and pampered pink of their faces, could only have been Boston politicians moved toward the plate. The loudspeakers mammothly coughed as someone huffed on the microphone. The ceremonies began. Curt Gowdy, the Red Sox radio and television announcer, who sounds like everybody's brother-in-law, delivered a brief sermon, taking the two words "pride" and "champion" as his text. It began, "Twenty-one years ago, a skinny kid from San Diego, California . . ." and ended, "I don't think we'll ever see another like him."

The voice of an artist: Gowdy owns big place in Red Sox history (Steve Buckley, February 21, 2006 , Boston Herald)
A couple of years ago, Curt Gowdy was honored at The Tradition, the Sports Museum of New England’s annual awards presentation. As the applause softened and the old sportscaster looked out at the gathering on the floor of the then FleetCenter, he adjusted the microphone, paused for a beat and said, “Hi, neighbor, have a ’Gansett!”

Here's a special bit for your iPod.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:39 AM


Administration Critics Chafe at State Dept. Shuffle: Merger Has Brought Appointees Into Conflict With Longtime Workers, Who Say They Are Sidelined (Glenn Kessler, February 21, 2006, Washington Post )

A State Department reorganization of analysts involved in preventing the spread of deadly weapons has spawned internal turmoil, with more than half a dozen career employees alleging in interviews that political appointees sought to punish long-term employees whose views they considered suspect.

Senior State Department officials deny that and say an investigation has found that the proper personnel practices were followed. But three officials involved in the reorganization, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to comment publicly, acknowledge that a merger of two bureaus reduced the influence of employees who were viewed by some political appointees as disloyal to the administration's policies.

"There are a number of disgruntled employees who feel they have been shoved aside for political purposes. That's true," said one of these officials.

Executive departments work for the elected executive, not for the departments' own interests. They forget that rather often, which is why undoing civil service reforms is such an important part of George Bush's legacy. But more needs to be done.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:36 AM


A Card We Should All Carry (DOUGLAS McGRAY, 2/21/06, NY Times)

AS states get ready to comply with a law passed last May and roll out Real ID's (think 50 flavors of enhanced drivers' licenses that will also, for lack of anything more suitable, regulate access to airplanes, bars and banks), it might be time to consider a national identification card. Unfortunately, two camps own the conversation.

Security heavies and cultural conservatives say a national ID is necessary to protect us from Islamic terrorists and illegal immigrants. Libertarians and government-wary leftists fret about privacy. Progressives and moderates have never shown much enthusiasm for the debate. But there are lots of reasons they should find the idea of a national ID appealing. Among them...

Just make Social Security cards into general ID cards.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 8:31 AM


The 'iron lady of the Baltics' (Greer Fay Cashman, Jerusalem Post, February 21st, 2006)

Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga arrived Sunday on her first state visit to Israel, the only country in the Middle East in which Latvia has a diplomatic mission. Diplomatic relations between Israel and Latvia were established on January, 6, 1992. Latvia was the first of the Baltic countries in which Israel opened an embassy, with Tova Herzl, Israel's first ambassador to Latvia, presenting her credentials in Riga in October, 1992. The Latvian Embassy in Tel Aviv was opened in February, 1995. The current Latvian ambassador, Karlis Eihenbaums, has worked hard to strengthen ties between the two countries on many levels. [...]

The threat of global terror is one of the subjects that Vike-Freiberga will be discussing with Israeli leaders.
"We feel nobody is protected from terror by definition," she said. "It might strike anywhere at any time. Everyone should feel equally affected."

Characterizing terror as the denial of the laws and principles of civilization, Vike-Freiberga declared: "None of us should have an indulgence or tolerance for terror, because it destroys the fabric of society."

Vike-Freiberga has frequently been compared to Margaret Thatcher, to whom she bears some resemblance. It is thus that she is often referred to as the "Iron Lady of the Baltics," though Israelis reading her biography would probably liken her more to Golda Meir than to Britain's former prime minister.

Knees are a-wobblin’ again in Hanover.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:15 AM


States Curbing Right to Seize Private Homes (JOHN M. BRODER, 2/21/06, NY Times)

In a rare display of unanimity that cuts across partisan and geographic lines, lawmakers in virtually every statehouse across the country are advancing bills and constitutional amendments to limit use of the government's power of eminent domain to seize private property for economic development purposes.

The measures are in direct response to the United States Supreme Court's 5-to-4 decision last June in a landmark property rights case from Connecticut, upholding the authority of the City of New London to condemn homes in an aging neighborhood to make way for a private development of offices, condominiums and a hotel.

As all but the hysterical recognized, it's a legislative matter.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:12 AM


Scotty, Gordo to blast off once more (MIKE SCHNEIDER, 2/21/06, Associated Press)

Scotty will be blasted into space — not beamed up — and Gordo is returning for his third flight.

The planned launch some time in March of a rocket carrying the ashes of Vancouver-born actor James Doohan, who played chief engineer Montgomery Scott on Star Trek, and Mercury program astronaut Gordon Cooper, who flew missions in 1963 and 1965, will give a fitting send-off to two men who helped popularize human space exploration.

The craft also will hold the ashes of 185 others, including a telephone technician, a nurse and a college student.

Their families paid $995 (U.S.) to $5,300 for the flight, being conducted by one of a handful of growing businesses hoping to give a space experience to the common folk.

"once more"?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:06 AM


Haiti's Future: Democracy or Mobocracy? (Mary Anastasia O'Grady, Wall Street Journal)

It won't take long for us to find out whether Mr. Preval -- who served a failed presidential term 1995-2000 -- has learned anything from watching Aristide and his Lavalas Party destroy the nation's fumbling efforts to become a true democracy.

Although many parliamentary seats will be decided in a second round, it looks likely that President Preval may have to deal with a significant opposition. This is a new concept in Haiti, tried only once under the Aristide presidency, which responded to it by nourishing a political culture of intolerance and a subculture of brutality and ruthlessness among young, disenfranchised elements of the population.

Describing this reality in 1991, New York Times writer Howard French quoted Jean-Claude Bajeux, "a human-rights advocate whose organization had [my emphasis] been a supporter" of Aristide: "For Lavalas, the parliament became a negation of the power the people gave Aristide," Mr. Bajeux said. "They reasoned that Aristide should have had all the power because he was the people."

In the same piece, Mr. French described how Lavalas responded when the legislature disagreed with Aristide: "A crowd of at least 2,000 Aristide supporters surrounded the National Assembly on Aug. 13, roughing up two deputies and threatening to burn others alive . . ."

In its latest test of tolerating dissent, the country has done no better, no thanks to the rudderless Organization of American States, one of the election organizers. Consider the facts. With only a small portion of ballots counted, Mr. Preval was reported to have won some 60% of the vote. But the early tally was concentrated in the Western department, which includes the heavily pro-Aristide capital's two million inhabitants. Once votes were counted in the rest of Haiti -- particularly outside big cities where the Aristide tyranny is not so fondly remembered -- the Preval lead diminished.

The numbers also reflect the fact that some 60% to 65% of eligible Haitians voted this time around. In the last presidential election, in 2000, when Aristide claimed a landslide victory, the climate of fear his gangs had created was so intense that turnout was just 15%. It is also worth noting that, according to an OAS official, neither the Lavalas Party nor Mr. Preval's Lespwa (Hope) Party seem to have done particularly well in the parliamentary elections. If this is true, it means that voters are expressing an interest in exploring alternatives to the politics of Mr. Preval and the Aristide legacy.

If Mr. Preval is prepared to compromise it will be all to the good to have him as a figurehead for the mob working with a reformist legislature. But, it's Haiti....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:56 AM


The Alliance Between Reformists and Democrats: The Key to a Peaceful Transition in Cuba after Fidel Castro's Death (Carlos Alberto Montaner, 2/21/06, Firmas Press)

As 2006 begins, it is evident that the Cuban government has managed to overcome the most dramatic aspects of the huge economic and political crisis entailed by the cancellation of the Soviet subsidies and the discredit of Marxism as an ideological reference after the end of the U.S.S.R.

Nevertheless, the manner in which that process of questionable recovery was conducted has exacted a high cost from Fidel Castro in the eyes of the Cuban people and even of the ruling class itself, compromising -- in the short range -- the future of the system after Castro's predictable death.

While the regime today is not in any danger of disappearing, that is due to the unlimited authority that Castro exercises and the fear he instills among supporters and adversaries. However, all symptoms point to the existence of a sharp demoralization in the structure of power and a mixture of rejection and indifference among the population, especially among the young, to which must be added the sometimes heroic pressure exerted by the sectors of democratic opposition in the country and abroad, as well as the constant denunciations from prestigious international organizations, such as the European Parliament and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

The principal psychological and political elements are therefore in place for some very significant changes to occur after the disappearance of El Comandante, so long as that transformation of the system is seen as an opportunity with minimal risk and clear personal advancement for the great majority of the population, including those people who today hold the power. [...]


It is very important that the civilian and military reformists within the structure of power in Cuba know that the internal and external opposition -- while continuing to pressure on all fronts where it can possibly act -- is willing to negotiate ways of cooperation that lead to a peaceful transition toward political and economic freedom, with neither winners nor losers, and with room for all political positions that can be defended reasonably and legally.

# Within those formulas, there should be a referendum that legitimizes a general amnesty for all acts committed with political intention.

# Funds should be made available for the honorable and decorous retirement, inside Cuba or outside, guaranteed by international organizations, of those functionaries who request it, as has been done in other countries.

# Assurances must be made that there will be no reprisals and no one will be condemned to a life of indignity.

# An agreement should be reached that the Armed Forces and the forces needed to maintain order will be transformed and placed at the service of democracy, same as was done in Spain and in most of the Eastern bloc countries. Those forces will not be abolished, however.

# A formal commitment should be made that no one will lose his or her home when private property is restored.

In short, guarantees should be made that the change will be to the benefit of the whole of society, not for the enjoyment of a few.

The accompanying photo says it all.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:52 AM


Veil power: In the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, sexual apartheid rules. But things are changing - the world of work is opening up to women and economic freedom is beginning to empower them in other ways, too. (Brian Whitaker, February 21, 2006, The Guardian)

Gradually, Saudis are beginning to realise that the exclusion of women from meaningful activity outside the home just to preserve old desert traditions is a waste of talent and resources. More than half the kingdom's university graduates are female and yet women account for only about 5% of the workforce.

Although women still cannot vote or drive, the last few years have brought important changes, even if they stop well short of equality. Women can now officially exist in their own right with their own identity cards, rather than being included on the card of their husband or father. Travel restrictions have been eased, allowing them to get blanket permission from a male relative for travel abroad, rather than needing separate permission for each trip. They can also own businesses instead of having to register them in the name of a wakil, an authorised male representative or proxy

Lilac al-Safadi exemplifies the new breed of Saudi businesswomen. From her office on the 25th floor of the spectacular Kingdom Tower in Riyadh, she runs a business consultancy which she started a year ago. It's called Lavender Scent and the company brochure, printed in various shades of mauve and decorated with images of flowers and silhouettes of women with awesome shoulder-pads, leaves no doubt about her target market: female investors and entrepreneurs.

"Women getting into business is not something new, but now there is a boom," says Safadi, who did postgraduate studies in IT and business in Australia. "The government is encouraging people big-time. They are trying to be much easier on the logistics and encouraging the private sector to open women's sections."

Besides owning 60% of company shares in the kingdom, Saudi women collectively have $25bn in bank accounts - money that could be invested in new businesses.

In the meantime, though, they face some serious obstacles, not least the lack of a suitable workforce. Among the small numbers of women who do work, 70% are in education and medicine - the two main "suitable" fields for women. Less than 1% go into business.

Principally, says Safadi, they don't like working with men. "For example,when it comes to sales and marketing, that is when you have to be in contact with a lot of men. This is exactly what the women are trying to avoid. They want a job that is not really in a mixed environment, but with most of the businesses in the private sector it's mixed environments."

Journalism is one area in which Saudi women are now well established. Among the best known is Rania al-Baz, a popular television presenter who disappeared from the screens suddenly in 2004 because her husband had beaten her so badly that she needed 12 operations. And Sabria Jawhar introduces herself with a business card saying she is "head of the ladies' department" at the Saudi Gazette in Jeddah. Jawhar has an MA in applied linguistics and, like most professional Saudi women, speaks perfect English. With only her eyes visible, it's hard to tell her age but she seems young and a pair of faded blue jeans show beneath her abaya when she sits.

How difficult is it for a Saudi woman to get into journalism? That is not really the problem, she says. "Women here are scared. They are just reluctant to get into that field due to some social conceptions about the job." Some women have worked in journalism for years, "but all they write about is women's issues, children and family affairs. They don't want to get into covering areas like politics or terrorism. I am the only Saudi female who is covering terrorism. I go to the field and I cover these things. So there is a change. The government never stopped us. It's us. The barrier is inside the women."

The emancipation of women is just one example of how Western cultural influence is a more important transformative power than our military.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:50 AM


No soup for you: Parents control school meals (Juan A. Lozano, February 21, 2006, ASSOCIATED PRESS)

A student slides a tray toward the cafeteria cash register with a healthy selection: a pint of milk, green beans, whipped sweet potatoes and chicken nuggets -- baked, not fried. But then he adds a fudge brownie.

When he punches in his code for the prepaid account that his parents set up, a warning sounds: "This student has a food restriction."

Back goes the brownie as the cashier reminds him that his parents have declared all desserts off-limits.

This could become a common occurrence at Houston schools when the district becomes one of the largest in the nation with a cafeteria automation system that lets parents dictate -- and track -- which foods their children buy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:37 AM


Europe aims for energy policy that's self-reliant (Jeffrey Stinson, 2/20/06, USA TODAY)

Europe, the world's second-biggest energy consumer behind the USA, is scrambling to become less dependent on foreign sources of energy.

In the last month:

• Nuclear power, which with the exception of France, was disappearing in Western Europe, has re-emerged as a clean and reliable source of energy. Germany is reconsidering its plan to phase out nuclear power generation by 2020. So, too, is Britain. "No option, including the nuclear option, should be ruled out," Barroso told reporters at a Jan. 19 economic conference in Lisbon.

With the exception of France, which gets more than 70% of its power from nuclear sources, Europe has spurned nuclear generation as too costly or unsafe since the Chernobyl accident in Ukraine nearly 20 years ago.

• Sweden announced Feb. 7 that it wants to be the first nation in the world to eliminate oil as an energy source in the next 15 years. It would use ethanol for its cars, and geothermal heat and burning everything from agricultural byproducts to trash would replace heating oil. "Our dependency on oil should be broken by 2020," said Mona Sahlin, Sweden's minister of Sustainable Development.

• The European Commission on Feb. 8 adopted an ambitious biofuels program to stimulate the production of ethanol and gas from crops and organic waste. The goal: to more than double production — from a 1.4% share of the European fuel supply in 2005 to 5.75% in 2010.

• Neelie Kroes, the European Union's competition commissioner, warned major gas and electricity firms last week that they face antitrust action unless they open themselves to more competition. Many big energy companies dominate their countries' markets, stifling competition and keeping prices high.

The reality of moden Europe is that they'll switch from dependence on Arab oil to reliance on technology that America will innovate.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 6:52 AM


Combat jets in Asia: India biggest buyer (Hindustan Times, February 17th, 2006)

When US aerospace giant Boeing Co won a bid last year to supply at least a dozen fighter jets to Singapore, its defeated French rival said America's superpower status had influenced the outcome.

They really shouldn’t feel too badly about this. They are well ahead in the race to bring opera to Hanoi.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 6:09 AM


New judge will face public hearing before taking seat on top court: Harper (Jim Brown, National Post, February 20th, 2006)

Stephen Harper says he's looking for judges who will stick to the letter of the law, won't be too adventurous in their rulings and don't mind being grilled by politicians before taking a seat on the Supreme Court of Canada.

The prime minister conceded Monday he can't guarantee he'll get what he wants on the first two points. But he's determined to have his way on the third. The next man or woman nominated for the Supreme Court will face public questioning before an all-party committee of MPs.

In fact, Harper has already set the date for the three-hour, televised hearing: next Monday, Feb. 27.

Mundane by American standards, but quite daring up here and already opposed by the legal establishment. Meanwhile, he begins the long, hazardous march to a new mind set.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 5:00 AM


Academics fight rise of creationism at universities (Duncan Campbell, The Guardian, February 21st, 2006)

A growing number of science students on British campuses and in sixth form colleges are challenging the theory of evolution and arguing that Darwin was wrong. Some are being failed in university exams because they quote sayings from the Bible or Qur'an as scientific fact and at one sixth form college in London most biology students are now thought to be creationists.

Earlier this month Muslim medical students in London distributed leaflets that dismissed Darwin's theories as false. Evangelical Christian students are also increasingly vocal in challenging the notion of evolution.

In the United States there is growing pressure to teach creationism or "intelligent design" in science classes, despite legal rulings against it. Now similar trends in this country have prompted the Royal Society, Britain's leading scientific academy, to confront the issue head on with a talk entitled Why Creationism is Wrong. The award-winning geneticist and author Steve Jones will deliver the lecture and challenge creationists, Christian and Islamic, to argue their case rationally at the society's event in April.

"There is an insidious and growing problem," said Professor Jones, of University College London. "It's a step back from rationality. They (the creationists) don't have a problem with science, they have a problem with argument. And irrationality is a very infectious disease as we see from the United States."[...]

Most of the next generation of medical and science students could well be creationists, according to a biology teacher at a leading London sixth-form college. "The vast majority of my students now believe in creationism," she said, "and these are thinking young people who are able and articulate and not at the dim end at all. They have extensive booklets on creationism which they put in my pigeon-hole ... it's a bit like the southern states of America." Many of them came from Muslim, Pentecostal or Baptist family backgrounds, she said, and were intending to become pharmacists, doctors, geneticists and neuro-scientists.

Remember the good old days when the creationists all drove used pick-ups and chewed baccy?

February 20, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:15 PM


Camp Delta detainees 'knew London bombers' (Con Coughlin, 21/02/2006, Daily Telegraph)

Inmates at Guantanamo Bay who are campaigning for their release at the High Court in London had contact with the terrorist cell responsible for carrying out last July's London bombings, interrogation officials at the detention camp have disclosed.

American officials responsible for running the camp say that "dozens" of the 500 detainees currently being held at Camp Delta had previously lived or worked in Britain prior to their capture in Afghanistan in 2001, but are not British citizens.

Three of the detainees - who describe themselves as residents, but not citizens, in papers served at the High Court - were last week given permission to seek an order for Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, to campaign for their release.

But US officials responsible for interrogating the suspects say that the detainees had knowledge of the cell responsible for carrying out the bomb attacks on three Tube trains and a London bus that killed 52 people and wounded more than 700 others.

"After the London bombings we got a request from British intelligence to check whether these people had any knowledge of those responsible for carrying out the attacks," said a senior US official.

"We interviewed them and they were able to provide a great deal of information about the bombings which we passed back to London."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:00 PM


Bush: U.S. on Verge of Energy Breakthrough (DEB RIECHMANN, 2/20/06, Associated Press)

Saying the nation is on the verge of technological breakthroughs that would "startle" most Americans, President Bush on Monday outlined his energy proposals to help wean the country off foreign oil.

Less than half the crude oil used by refineries is produced in the United States, while 60 percent comes from foreign nations, Bush said during the first stop on a two-day trip to talk about energy.

Some of these foreign suppliers have "unstable" governments that have fundamental differences with America, he said.

"It creates a national security issue and we're held hostage for energy by foreign nations that may not like us," Bush said.

President Discusses Advanced Energy Initiative In Milwaukee (George W. Bush, Johnson Controls Building Efficiency Business, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, 2/20/06)

The fundamental question is, how do we keep doing fine? The challenge that faces us is -- is how we make sure that the economic growth today carries over for tomorrow. And that's what I want to talk about. In order to understand what to do you've got to understand what got us to where we are today. Part of it is keeping taxes low, by the way, and that's exactly what I intend to do so long as I'm the President, is keep taxes low. Part of it is being wise about how we spend our money. Part of it is understanding how technology plays in the future of the country.

Think back 25 years ago, in the start of the 1980s. It's not all that long ago, really. Some of us remember the '80s pretty clearly. (Laughter.) A lot of kind of grey-haired folks here that lived through the '80s. (Laughter.) Then most Americans used typewriters, instead of the computers. They used payphones -- you remember what those were -- instead of cell phones. They used carbon paper instead of laser printers, bank tellers instead of ATMs, and they played the license plate game on trips, as opposed to DVDs. (Laughter.) Times have changed a lot in 25 years, because of technology.

We're seeing new develops all the time -- new developments -- advanced battery technology allows cell phones to last about 50 percent longer than they did just five years ago. In your laboratory we're seeing -- firsthand seeing the progress being made because of your scientists and engineers in lighter, more potent battery technology. Lightweight parts and better engines allow cars to travel 60 percent farther on a gallon of gas than they did three decades ago.

Technologies are helping this economy become more efficient. Listen to this: Over the last 30 years our economy has grown three times faster than our energy consumption. The economy has grown three times faster than energy consumption. During that period of time, we created 56 million jobs, while cutting air pollution by 50 percent. Technology is really important for the future of this country. And so in the State of the Union, I said that by using technology, we can help make sure this country remains a world leader. And that starts with making sure we change our energy habits.

I know it came as a shock to some to hear a Texan stand up there in front of the country and say, we've got a real problem, America is addicted to oil. But I meant it, because it's a true fact, and we've got to do something about it now. Oil is the primary source of gasoline; it is the primary source of diesel; it is the primary source of jet fuel. And that means that oil accounts for virtually all energy consumption in the vital transportation sector of our economy.

The oil we consume in this important sector comes from foreign countries, most of it does. In 1985, three-quarters of the crude oil used in U.S. refineries came from America; today that equation has changed dramatically. Less than half the crude oil used in our refineries is produced here at home, 60 percent comes from foreign countries. Things have changed since 1985.

Some of the nations we rely on for oil have unstable governments, or fundamental differences with the United States. These countries know we need their oil and that reduces influence. It creates a national security issue when we're held hostage for energy by foreign nations that may not like us.

Energy is also part of our economic security, as well. That's obvious. I mean, the global demand for oil has been rising faster than supply because there's new economies that are beginning to gin up, new economies growing, like China and India. Oil prices rise sharply when demand is greater than supply. And when they do, it strains your budgets. It hurts our families, it hurts our small entrepreneurs. It's like a hidden tax. And so we're vulnerable to high prices of oil, and we're vulnerable to sudden disruptions of oil. What I'm telling you is oil -- the dependence upon oil is a national security problem, and an economic security problem. And here's what we intend to do about it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:34 PM


Majority of births will soon be out of wedlock (Jonathan Petre, 21/02/2006, Daily Telegraph)

Half of all babies will be born to unmarried mothers by 2012 if present trends continue, says new research that suggests the rapid erosion of moral and religious taboos.

Moreover, fewer than half of families will consist of married couples and up to a third could be lone parents, said Dr Peter Brierley, a former Government statistician now specialising in religious trends.

Dr Brierley's projections followed the publication of official figures yesterday showing that the number of births outside marriage has almost quadrupled in recent decades.

The Office for National Statistics' Social Trends report, an annual snapshot of Britain, said that the figure rose to 42.3 per cent last year.

In 1994, the figure was 32 per cent and in the early 1970s it was less than 10 per cent.

The number of births outside wedlock exceeds 50 per cent in some parts, including Wales. In the North East, it was 54.1 per cent last year.

In London, where a higher proportion of young mothers are Muslims who adhere to more conservative family values, a third of children were born outside marriage.

Edward Gibbon would be haunted by the similarity.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:49 PM


Eyewitnesses peel back lies on war debate (Jay Bookman, 02/20/06, Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

[T]ake the claim that the administration decided to invade Iraq because "Sept. 11 changed everything."

Paul O'Neill, President Bush's first treasury secretary, long ago revealed that administration officials were intent on invading Iraq from the moment the president took office.

"It was all about finding a way to do it," O'Neill says of Cabinet meetings he attended before Sept. 11. "That was the tone of it. The president saying, 'Go find me a way to do this.' "

In his new book "State of War," James Risen confirms that account by reporting that in April 2002 — long before most Americans had even heard war was a possibility — CIA officers in Europe were summoned by agency leaders and told an invasion was coming.

"They said this was on Bush's agenda when he got elected, and that 9/11 only delayed it," one CIA officer recalled to Risen. "They implied that 9/11 was a distraction from Iraq."

George H. W. Bush made five big mistakes:

(1) Dan Quayle

(2) raising taxes

(3) leaving Saddam in power

(4) David Souter


(5) losing his re-election bid

George W. Bush picked the most qualified VP in American history, even though he added nothing politically, potentially costing him the election. He's cut taxes four times and never made the Reagan/Bush mistake of raising them, even in the face of record deficits. He was so set on appointing an anti-Souter he was willing to buck his own party's chatterers to name a friend he knew he could trust not to go Washington. He put enormous effort into winning a historic re-election. Anyone who thought he was going to leave Saddam in power, irrespective of 9-11, wasn't paying enough attention to deserve the franchise, nevermind a column. When Saddam failed to honor the UN ceasefire accords he wrote his regime's death warrant. When he tried to assassinate 41 he signed it. 9-11 just made it easier for W to deliver it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:39 PM


The Fair Tax: Stop the Tax Cheats (Jan Larson, February 19, 2006, Chron Watch)

Another factor that significantly affects tax compliance is the complexity of the tax code. According to a report from the Americans For Fair Taxation [3], the federal tax code, rules and IRS rulings comprise more than 60,000 pages. While complexity undoubtedly leads to some paying more than they rightfully owe, that complexity also results in billions in unpaid taxes.

The report also indicates that individuals and businesses spent over six billion hours at an estimated cost of $265 billion dollars attempting to comply with the maze of tax rules and regulations. This is equivalent to a workforce of over 2.8 million people spending the entire year doing nothing but tax compliance.

To cover the uncollected taxes, the 130 million U. S. taxpayers are effectively subsidizing the tax cheats to the tune of over $2600 each. In other words, if the cheaters were prevented from cheating, the average taxpayer would see reduction in his or her tax bite by over 30%. [...]

There is a solution however. It is a solution that would eliminate individual compliance requirements and make April 15 just another day. This solution would greatly reduce business compliance costs and similarly reduce the size and scope of the IRS. This solution would lead to job growth and economic expansion. This solution would eliminate most of the opportunities for tax cheats and political manipulation. The solution? The Fair Tax.

The Fair Tax would eliminate all income and payroll taxes and would replace them with a national sales tax paid on the retail purchases of new goods and services. The Fair Tax protects low-income individuals and families by rebating taxes paid up to the poverty level.

Taxing consumption to encourage savings is a lynchpin of the President's Neoconomics

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:33 PM


Treat Pakistan, India equally: FO (Daily Times, 2/21/06)

The Foreign Office has called for the equal treatment of Pakistan and India as nuclear weapons states that are not signatories to the Non Proliferation Treaty, after France joined the United States in signing nuclear cooperation deals with New Delhi, APP reports.

India is a stable, pro-Western, protestant, increasingly capitalistic, liberal democracy. It's entitled to be treated much better than a country where we depend on dictatorship to prevent a radical takeover.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:08 PM


US dilemma: dealing with Hamas: Rice is traveling to the Middle East to keep pressure on the militant group (Howard LaFranchi, 2/21/06, The Christian Science Monitor)

The US is "reviewing" other aid to the Palestinians, which totals more than $200 million between direct assistance and aid disbursed through the UN, State Department officials say. The announced review is designed to pressure Hamas into publicly changing its goals - a move it so far does not seem willing to make. [...]

How the US responds will also have a deep impact on democratization efforts in the region. Rice will thank the regime of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak for its quick insistence that Hamas recognize Israel. But will the US appreciation also lead the US to overlook Egypt's foot-dragging on steps toward a more open political system, some experts wonder?

On her trip, Rice will emphasize "continuing and unwavering [US] support for the spread of democracy in the Middle East," according to her spokesman.

The ideal solution is to be openly hypocritical, refusing to deal with them ourselves. or force the Israelis to, while making sure that others help them enough so that they can begin grappling with Palestinine's internal problems even as we shift more responsibility to them, including full national sovereignty.

Hamas' choice for PM seen as pragmatist (STEVE WEIZMAN, 2/20/06, ASSOCIATED PRESS)

The 43-year-old Hamas activist [,Ismail Haniyeh.] tapped by the Islamic militant group to form a new Palestinian government has a reputation as a pragmatist who prefers compromise to conflict with Palestinian rivals. [...]

He is married with 11 children and lives on a narrow street overflowing with sewage in the same beachfront refugee camp on the edge of Gaza City where he was born in January 1963.

Haniyeh's parents fled the village of Jourra in what is now southern Israel during the 1948 war that accompanied the founding of the Jewish state.

He studied in U.N. refugee schools in the coastal strip and graduated from the Islamic University there in 1987, with a degree in Arabic language. He was active in student politics, became a close associate of Yassin and was expelled by Israel to south Lebanon in 1992 along with more than 400 other Hamas activists.

He returned to Gaza a year later, becoming dean of the Islamic University, and in 1998, he took charge of Yassin's office.

A tall man with an imposing presence, Haniyeh is known as an able negotiator. He served as a liaison between Hamas and Palestinian Authority, established in 1994 and dominated by Abbas' Fatah movement until its electoral defeat last month. He is said to enjoy good relations with Abbas. [...]

"He is not a believer in violence all the way," [Palestinian political analyst Talal Okal] told The Associated Press. "He understands that there are other means of struggle that can be followed."

Hamas has observed a yearlong truce with Israel and says it would consider a long-term armistice if Israel follows last year's Gaza pullout with a withdrawal from the West Bank.

Nevertheless, after the party won 74 of 132 seats in the parliament - the Palestinian Legislative Council - Haniyeh dismissed Western calls for Hamas to disarm and renounce violence.

"The Europeans and Americans want to tell Hamas that you can keep one of two: weapons or the legislative council," he said. "We say weapons and the legislative council, and there is no contradiction."

If he were a Soviet we'd hear that he liked whiskey and jazz....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:01 PM


Venezuela's unrealized revolution: Many of President Hugo Chávez's supporters wonder when his changes will improve their lives. (Vinod Sreeharsha, 2/21/06, The Christian Science Monitor)

Seven years after Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez first took office, an event commemorated earlier this month, Juan Francisco Rivas is still waiting for the "revolution."

His 24-square-meter makeshift house, currently inhabited by nine people, sits at a 45-degree angle atop one of the city's worst hillside slums, Petare. His roof is a single metal sheet. There is no hot water.

Mr. Rivas voted for Mr. Chávez in 1998 but today, while showing his often-flooded living room, says, "Look at this place and tell me honestly that Chávez is for the poor."

But the Left assures us that Hugo is the wave of Latin America's future....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:59 PM


Politicizing intelligence?: An ex-CIA analyst claims the Bush team politicized intelligence, but his explanation suggests the CIA did so, too (Patrick Chisholm, 2/21/06, csmonitor.com)

In a much-touted article in Foreign Affairs, Paul R. Pillar, former CIA national intelligence officer for the Near East and South Asia, argues that the Bush administration politicized intelligence. But in the effort to prove his point, he wittingly or unwittingly makes a stronger case of politicization by the intelligence community itself.

Breathes there a soul so naive as to think the Intelligence community isn't an entirely political creature?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:08 PM


Hackett's research targeted Brown: Votes to cut funding for intelligence cited (JIM TANKERSLEY, 2/20/05, Toledo BLADE)

Congressman and U.S. Senate candidate Sherrod Brown voted to cut intelligence funding more than a dozen times before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, a record that Paul Hackett's campaign advisers called proof that Mr. Brown could not win in November.

A consultant hired by Mr. Hackett, Mr. Brown's onetime Democratic opponent for Senate, estimated the funding cuts would have totaled billions of dollars if enacted. None were. The consultant called Mr. Brown's votes on those proposals and a dozen more recent national security issues "toxic in today's political environment," according to campaign research documents obtained by The Blade.

Mr. Hackett quit the race last week, leaving Mr. Brown as the near-certain Democratic nominee against incumbent Republican Sen. Mike DeWine. But not before his campaign paid more than $5,000 to comb Mr. Brown's background for political weakness.

The research concluded it was unwise to attack Mr. Brown's career voting record in a Democratic primary, because he toed the party line faithfully. It also predicts Republican attacks on Mr. Brown this fall.

Gosh, that Hackett guy seemed like the type to just go quietly....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:39 PM


1978 surveillance act hinders 2006 security (Jonathan Gurwitz, 02/19/2006, San Antonio Express-News)

Where is the safest place in the world for Osama bin Laden to hide while continuing to direct the terrorist plots of al-Qaida? The United States.

If you think that's an exaggeration, consider what Gen. Michael Hayden, the former director of the National Security Agency, told the House Intelligence Committee in April 2000.

To illustrate the limitations imposed by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act — passed by Congress in 1978 — Hayden cited a Saudi terror leader whose name was then not widely known: "If ... Osama bin Laden is walking across the peace bridge from Niagara Falls, Ontario, to Niagara Falls, New York, as he gets to the New York side, he is an American person and my agency must respect his rights against unreasonable search and seizure."

Hayden's testimony about FISA six years ago proved to be lethally prescient. When FBI agents in Minneapolis arrested a French-born man of Moroccan descent named Zacarias Moussaoui during the summer of 2001, the Justice Department declined to issue a FISA warrant to search his computer files.

Moussaoui had come to the attention of U.S. law enforcement due to a tip from French intelligence about his connection to Islamic terrorists, and for the curious fact that he expressed an interest to a Minnesota flight school in learning only how to fly a commercial airliner, not how to take off or land.

In 1999, the NSA began monitoring a cell phone number in Yemen that served as a switchboard for al-Qaida. Among the callers who connected to this switchboard was a "Khalid" in the United States. The NSA dropped surveillance of the caller for fear of violating FISA provisions on domestic spying. Khalid turned out to be Khalid al-Mihdhar, one of the 9-11 hijackers who took over American Airlines Flight 77 and flew it into the Pentagon.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:13 PM


Christians, Islam and the Future of Europe: How, and why, Islam can be part of “Catholic” Europe. On two conditions: a strong Christianity, and Muslim self-reform. A conference held in Denver, Colorado, at the invitation of the archdiocese (Sandro Magister, 2/20/06, Chiesa)

For a part of European culture today, the public square should be impenetrable against Christianity. And Christianity should be entirely cut off from the European civilization in which it has its roots and to which it gives nourishment.

But exactly the opposite is happening today in the world, and also in Europe: everywhere there is an impetuous return of religion to the public square.

Here “religion” means: the Catholic Church, reinvigorated by the political charisma of pope Karol Wojtyla and by the theological guidance of Benedict XVI; the Protestant Churches of the American evangelical strain; the Orthodox Churches, with their Byzantine model of conjunction of throne and altar. Then there is Judaism, interwoven with the extremely concrete destiny of Israel, a people, a land, and a state. Then there is Islam, in which faith, politics, and sacred law tend to blend into one, and in which, wherever voting is conducted today, the consensus goes to parties that are strongly inspired by Koranic law: the most recent and overwhelming case being that of Palestine.

Everyone can see the failure of the prophecy of the privatization of religion. But many lack the clarity of thought and the courage to recognize it and act accordingly.

The Muslims are asked to accept the ground rules of democracy. But the process must also work in reverse: Islam, like all the other religions, must be permitted to put its principles of faith into effect in the civil order – as long as these are compatible with the charter of principles that neither Islam nor the West may reject, the charter valid for all, principles “conveyed to us unmistakably by the quiet but clear voice of conscience" (words of Benedict XVI to the Muslims, in Cologne).

The case of Iraq is an exemplary one. What fell with Saddam Hussein was not an imaginary “secular” state purified of fundamentalist beliefs, but an atheistic system crudely copied from European models of a Nazi stamp, which asserted itself through the bloody repression of Shiite Islam and the Kurds. And in contrast, the new Iraqi state, whose constitution has been approved, will be genuinely secular only if its political configuration permits and reflects the full expression of the Islamic religion on the public scene, in respect for the plurality of faiths and for the different traditions.

The existence of political configurations with religious characteristics does not belong to the past alone, but is the present and future of societies worldwide.

The American model of the democratic public sphere and of a widespread religious presence is not the only one from which inspiration may be drawn.

In Europe, there is the Italian model of equilibrium between the secular state and the Catholic Church, with a mutually recognized agreement (called “concordato”) between the two sovereign powers, which is completed by agreements with each of the other religions.

It is natural that countries under Muslim rule should develop their own appropriate models of the interweaving of politics and religion.

The connection between the two forms of citizenship – profane and sacred, earthly and heavenly – is an essential characteristic not only of the Church and of Christians, and not even of the West alone, where this characteristic was born beginning with Plato and Aristotle.

These two Greek philosophers were the first to open the order of society to a higher, transcendent order, thereby un-divinizing the “powers of this world” and freeing man from his slavery in their regard.

In Christianity, the great theoretician of the twofold earthly and heavenly citizenship was Saint Augustine, in his masterpiece “The City of God,” written shortly after the invasion of Rome by the “barbarians” in 410, a shock that might be compared to the one we received on September 11, 2001.

Augustine’s theory – which is profoundly biblical – left a huge imprint on Christian culture and history. But it was not only studied in books. It also speaks through architecture, works of art, and churches. [...]

[T]here are two obligatory steps along the way to integrating the Muslims within the Europe of today and tomorrow.

These are the self-reform of Islam, and the education of minds.

The first step is very difficult, but possible. It is difficult because the Koran is not the equivalent of what the Sacred Scriptures are for Christians, but rather the equivalent of Christ, the Eternal Word of God come down to earth. And thus the Muslim does not see the Koran as open to interpretation and adaptation, as the Sacred Scriptures are, which are “divinely inspired” but still written by men.

But it is possible because in the Muslim world – above all among the Shiites, but also among the Sunnis, from Morocco to Turkey to Indonesia – there are nevertheless currents that acknowledge and practice various interpretations of the Koran, and some of these are capable of incorporating its principles with modern democracy. Together with his former theology students, Benedict XVI dedicated a meeting of study last September at Castelgandolfo to precisely this varied approach to divine revelation on the part of Muslims.

As for the second step toward the integration of Muslims into Europe, the education of minds, last August 20 Benedict XVI insisted upon this in his meeting in Cologne with some of the exponents of the Muslim community in Germany.

After condemning in biting words the acts of terrorism carried out “as if this could be something pleasing to God,” the pope addressed the Muslims present there as follows:

“You guide Muslim believers and train them in the Islamic faith. Teaching is the vehicle through which ideas and convictions are transmitted. Words are highly influential in the education of the mind. You, therefore, have a great responsibility for the formation of the younger generation. As Christians and Muslims, we must face together the many challenges of our time.”

This is the interreligious and intercultural dialogue between Christians and Muslims that Benedict XVI wants.

We remain dubious that the Europeans will ever refortify their Christian foundations enough to have a firm ground from which to force Islamic integration.

The good in Muslim hearts offers a better self-portrait than violence: A distinct American Muslim voice is quietly emerging in the arts. (Ibrahim N. Abusharif, 2/21/06, CS Monitor)

A growing discussion among American Muslims centers on this observation: We are missing from the diverse cultural space of American life. The focus on terrorism and the vague war against it threatens to relegate and typecast Muslims forever. What more can we do to encourage and empower American Muslims to produce and show their art, to express what they value through literature, theater, film, song, visual arts, and even humor? [...]

The signs are there, but they're still "signs." American Muslims in their 20s and early 30s easily admit to the struggle of presenting spiritual traditions in the face of cultural anonymity and journalistic repetitions that link violence to a great world religion. But it is naive to expect the American public to independently reject mendacious labels about Islam if the flavorful and extraordinarily rich traditions of this religion and its people are kept secret.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:03 PM


When fear cows the media (Jeff Jacoby, February 19, 2006, Boston Globe)

[T]he Phoenix isn't publishing the Mohammed drawings, and in a brutally candid editorial it explained why.

''Our primary reason," the editors confessed, is ''fear of retaliation from . . . bloodthirsty Islamists who seek to impose their will on those who do not believe as they do . . . Simply stated, we are being terrorized, and . . . could not in good conscience place the men and women who work at the Phoenix and its related companies in physical jeopardy. As we feel forced, literally, to bend to maniacal pressure, this may be the darkest moment in our 40-year-publishing history."

The vast majority of US media outlets have shied away from reproducing the drawings, but to my knowledge only the Phoenix has been honest enough to admit that it is capitulating to fear. Many of the others have published high-minded editorials and columns about the importance of ''restraint" and ''sensitivity" and not giving ''offense" to Muslims. Several have claimed they wouldn't print the Danish cartoons for the same reason they wouldn't print overtly racist or anti-Semitic material. The managing editor for news of The Oregonian, for example, told her paper's ombudsman that not running the images is like avoiding the N-word -- readers don't need to see a racial slur spelled out to understand its impact. Yet a Nexis search turns up at least 14 occasions since 1999 when The Oregonian has published the N-word unfiltered. So there are times when it is appropriate to run material that some may find offensive.

Rationalizations notwithstanding, the refusal of the US media to show the images at the heart of one of the most urgent stories of the day is not about restraint and good taste.

Given that the Phoenix runs Dan Savage it certainly isn't about decency and good taste.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:47 PM


David Irving jailed for Holocaust denial (The Guardian, February 20, 2006)

The British revisionist historian and Nazi apologist David Irving was today sentenced to three years in prison after he admitted denying the Holocaust.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:35 AM


Irish Immigration Slips Into Reverse: As Post-9/11 Security Increases Pressure on the Undocumented, Emerald Isle Offers Haven (Michelle Garcia, February 20, 2006, Washington Post )

By now the shipping container carrying Jonathan Langan's material life in the United States has arrived in Ireland. The plush green furniture, his American flag and the construction tools of his trade are all gone from his Queens apartment.

Langan, a lanky, red-haired Irishman, was bidding a final farewell to his adopted country. He didn't leave for want of work -- his fledgling construction company was booming. Success was his problem. The more prosperous his company became, the more Langan feared he would get snared by immigration agents.

"You don't want to give off red flags because you're not supposed to be working," said Langan, 24, who lived illegally in the United States for three years. "It's too dangerous, what happens if you get caught."

The green is draining out of the Irish immigration boom that revitalized neighborhoods across New York over the past two decades. Fear of getting caught in a post-Sept. 11 net coupled with the booming economy in Ireland is drawing thousands of Irish back to the Emerald Isle. Numbers vary on how many have left: The Irish government estimates that about 14,000 Irish returned from the United States since 2001, with more than half of them coming from New York. The Census Bureau reported that between 2000 and 2004, the Irish population throughout the United States shrank by 28,500 people, to 128,000.

That'll make Buchanan and Tancredo happy, no?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:16 AM


Air Strikes against Iran Would Kill Thousands (Yassin Musharbash, 2/20/06, Der Spiegel)

Thousands of soldiers and civilians would likely be killed if the United States or Israel were to attack Iran. The strikes would also spark a lasting regional crisis in the entire Middle East and the risks would be enormous, a new British study warns.

If the air strikes come, the bombs would fall without warning, dropped from fighter jets stationed in the Persian Gulf and from long-range bombers that would start their sorties in Britain. Their targets: Iranian research reactors in Tehran, nuclear facilities in Isfahan, Natanz, Arak and Bushehr. Research-related facilities at Iranian universities would also likely fall under the sights. The result of a four to five day series of air strikes would likely be thousands of dead Iranian soldiers, hundreds of dead civilians.

That's the scenario for a possible United States-led military strike against Iran's nuclear program described in "Iran: Consequences of a War," a newly released report by British conflict researcher Paul Rogers commissioned by the Oxford Research Group think tank.

The awkward flip-side of democratic legitimacy is that citizens, especially in a democracy, are responsible for the actions of their governments and, therefore, acceptable collateral damage.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:03 AM

60 IN '06:

Vander Plaats bows out: Takes second spot on Nussle ticket (James Q. Lynch, 2/20/06, The Gazette)

Bob Vander Plaats will end his bid for the Republican nomination for governor Wednesday and become U.S. Rep. Jim Nussle's running mate, party leaders said Monday.

The Nussle campaign told high-ranking party members Monday of the decision by the campaigns to join forces, ending what some believed could have become a bitter primary battle between the eight-term congressman from Manchester and the Vander Plaats, a Sioux City businessman.

Well, Can't Cantwell Be Beat?: Washington Republicans are optimistic, for a change. (Fred Barnes, 02/27/2006, Weekly Standard)
[R]epublicans have a realistic chance of capturing the Senate seat now held by Democrat Maria Cantwell, 47, who ousted Gorton six years ago. The reason is the Republican candidate, Mike McGavick, a former insurance executive and titan of the Seattle business and civic community. To be successful in Washington, Vance says, a Republican candidate must be "conservative enough to unite

the base, moderate enough to win." And McGavick, 48, "fits perfectly." The McGavick election strategy, says his campaign manager, Ian Goodnow, is simple: "It's him."

McGavick is a protégé of Gorton, having served as a foreign policy adviser, then as chief of staff in Gorton's Senate office. In the 1990s, he worked in the insurance industry in Chicago, which led to his becoming a widely respected figure in Seattle when he turned around Safeco, the insurance giant headquartered here.

Safeco lost $1 billion in 2001, and McGavick was summoned to revive the company. He cut the payroll, slashed administrative expenses, and trimmed the lines of insurance the company offered. Safeco made a profit of $300 million the next year. McGavick announced his plans to leave Safeco and run for the Senate last year. This is his first race for public office. [...]

Is Cantwell vulnerable? Her personal fortune is gone, along with the dot-com bubble. She's irritated some liberals by voting for the Iraq war, the Patriot Act, and cloture to shut off a filibuster of Supreme Court nominee Sam Alito. But she's held a double-digit lead over McGavick in the polls for months.

Vance, the ex-Republican chairman, insists Washington is not a knee-jerk Democratic state. "If both sides have good candidates that are well financed, you end up with a dead heat," he says. That's what happened in the governor's race in 2004, the contest for secretary of state in 2002, and the Cantwell-Gorton election in 2000. All three wound up with recounts. The best guess is the Cantwell-McGavick race will be tight as well.

Given Ms Cantwell's poll standing, trouble with the base and campaign debt it wouldn't even be much of an upset, except to Democrats who think this is their 1994.

Red Washington Podcast #2: Mike McGavick (Timothy Goddard)

This second Operation: Red Washington podcast features Mike McGavick, the Republican candidate for Senate, who’s taking on Maria Cantwell in November. Listen now!

In the interview, Mike discusses his thoughts on how state legislative candidates can best make use of whatever coattails he posesses come November, and also argues that the state Republican party has been remiss in their attention to important issues, particularly education and the environment. He explains how he hopes to appeal to both the independent minded voters who make up the bulk of the state electorate and the conservative Republicans whose party he is in–and to do it without compromising his principles. He also gives a thumbs up to the Internet-driven Porkbusters project, and shares his less than complimentary thoughts on the current United States Senate. All that and more in episode #2 of the Operation: Red Washington Podcast.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:57 AM


Health invoices good idea, Tory says: Conservative leader pushes patient statements as way to boost grasp of true costs (ROB FERGUSON AND RICHARD BRENNAN, 2/19/06, Toronto Star)

Ontarians need to get it through their heads that health care is pricey and the best way to do it is by sending annual statements showing how much theirs costs, Progressive Conservative Leader John Tory says.

He's reviving an old, but never fulfilled, 1998 plan by the previous Conservative government of Mike Harris to mail those details in hopes of keeping health costs from rising so fast.

"People, I think, in many cases, believe that health care is free," Tory told reporters yesterday at a party conference helping to develop campaign promises for the provincial election coming Oct. 4, 2007.

"It's not free... The more they understand how much procedures and rooms and doctors' visits and emergency visits and so on cost, I think they will have a better understanding."

The problem has been that the government doesn't have the necessary computer systems in place to prepare such statements, a situation that is "shocking," Tory said.

"Visa seems to keep track every month of everything we buy."

Aren't they likely to just be happy that someone else is footing the bill?

The wall comes (slowly) tumbling down (Steven Martinovich, February 20, 2006, Enter Stage Right)

It was a timid step but it would appear that Quebec will be the first province in the nation to allow a role for private health care. According to a proposal contained in a policy paper released by Premier Jean Charest and Health Minister Philippe Couillard last week, private insurance and delivery would be permitted for a limited range of services -- namely hip, knee and cataract surgery. Under the proposal, hospitals in the province will be allowed to subcontract those surgeries to private clinics in order to meet guidelines for timely care contained in legislation that has yet to be introduced.

"We're putting the private sector to work for the public. We have chosen to maintain, as a principle, a public health care system in which the private sector can play a role in support," stated Charest.

In truth Charest's hand was a bit forced after a Supreme Court ruling last June in Chaoulli v. Quebec which declared that prohibitions against private health care were ideologically based and that "an absolute prohibition on private insurance is necessary to protect the integrity of the public plan" had no basis in fact. The court declared that forcing patients to wait lengthy periods of time for both minor and major procedures was a violation of their right to security.

As timid as Quebec's step was, it opens the door yet further for the introduction of a private health care system in this country, one of only three on the planet -- the others being North Korea and Cuba -- that refuse to allow a private or parallel system.

Such proud company.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:46 AM


Reagan vs. Dubya: A size of government contest (W. James Antle III, February 20, 2006, Enter Stage Right)

While Bush has amassed deficits of a greater absolute size, Reagan’s average deficit was larger as a percentage of GDP, peaking at 6.3 percent in 1983. During the Reagan years, the federal budget surpassed $1 trillion for the first time—rapidly closing in on $2.8 trillion today—and the national debt more than doubled. Although federal revenues increased despite lower marginal income tax rates, as the supply-siders predicted, federal spending grew even faster.

It’s also worth noting that as bad as Bush has been on spending—proposing expensive new programs, endorsing government growth and refusing to impose discipline on profligate appropriators—Congress has often been worse. The GOP majority hasn’t been reluctant to outspend the president’s budget proposals.

Both these caveats should raise red flags. First, the deficits of the 1980s and early ‘90s seriously undermined the Reagan project. The red ink was used to paint a caricature of tax cuts as irresponsible fiscal policy and eventually marginal tax rates crept up to 39.6 percent. Even after almost annual tax cuts from the Bush administration, the top rate is still higher than when Bill Clinton took office.

FEDERAL INCOME TAXES, AS A SHARE OF GDP, DROP TO LOWEST LEVEL SINCE 1942, ACCORDING TO FINAL BUDGET DATA: Erosion of income tax base drives other key budget developments (Isaac Shapiro, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities)
The final budget figures for fiscal year 2003 were released on October 20 by the Treasury Department. They indicate that income tax receipts (including receipts from both the individual and corporate income tax) equaled just 8.6 percent of the Gross Domestic Product. This is the lowest level of income tax collections, as a share of the economy, since 1942.

W is who they think Reagan was.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 9:42 AM


Healthy chocolate a dream come true? (MSNBC, February 20th, 2006)

It’s every chocolate lover’s wish that their favorite indulgence could somehow be healthy for them. Now, chocolate makers claim they have granted that wish.

Mars Inc., maker of Milky Way, Snickers and M&M’s candies, next month plans to launch nationwide a new line of products made with a dark chocolate the company claims has health benefits.

Called CocoaVia, the products are made with a kind of dark chocolate high in flavanols, an antioxidant found in cocoa beans that is thought to have a blood-thinning effect similar to aspirin and may even lower blood pressure. The snacks also are enriched with vitamins and injected with cholesterol-lowering plant sterols from soy.

But researchers are skeptical about using chocolate for its medicinal purposes and experts warn it’s no substitute for a healthy diet.

“To suggest that chocolate is a health food is risky,” said Bonnie Liebman, nutrition director for the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

Recent research has not established a link between flavanols and a reduced risk of cancer or heart disease, she said. And with obesity already a serious health problem, “the last thing we need is for Americans to think they can eat more chocolate.”

Properly understood, the doctrine of original sin holds that man is born trying to avoid brussels sprouts and is condemned to a life struggling futilely to escape them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:26 AM


Eco-friendly builders starting to grow (DAVID ROEDER, 2/20/06, Chicago Sun-Times)

Gold is the second highest of four ratings the organization gives office buildings. It's awarded on a point system, with 111 S. Wacker accumulating its score on many factors, from the landscaping and storm-water collection system on its roof to the recycling system and bicycle storage space in the building's depths.

In between, attention was paid to column-free floors that allow deep penetration of natural light. Working with architectural firm Goettsch Partners and other advisers, Buck met standards for sourcing construction material nearby, with much of it recycled, and for the design and installation of air-filtration systems and monitors for indoor pollutants.

Why go to the trouble? Daniel Jenkins, principal at the Buck firm, said the little green details can produce savings for tenants. In turn, that enhances a building's image and can justify a higher rent.

The details include the programmable light switches and motion sensors that can reduce the electric bill. But Jenkins said those savings just scratch the surface. Expenses such as utilities or taxes are a small part of a tenant's overall occupancy costs. Typically, 81 percent of the cost is for the tenant's labor, he said.

By emphasizing cleaner air, natural light and other amenities, LEED-certified buildings can cut turnover and absenteeism, producing savings in the largest source of tenant expenses, Jenkins said.

Kent Swanson, chief financial officer at Buck, said understanding of the LEED process has grown quickly. When the Buck firm opened its 1 N. Wacker office tower in 2001, LEED was on no one's agenda. "It's now a conversation point, and many of the big tenants are demanding LEED certification. The larger organizations have corporate goals to support the environment," he said.

Swanson said Buck is again going for the gold rating for a potential office building at 155 N. Wacker that it currently is shopping to users. "It's getting to the point where if you're not LEED, you won't have the anchor tenants you need to start the building," he said.

Steven Nilles, a partner with the Goettsch firm, commented, "When an idea like this becomes mainstream, the power of the market is enormous." Nilles is certified in LEED design, an architectural subspecialty in increasing demand.

For evidence of cost savings, the Washington-based green building council points to studies showing that "people-friendly" green designs improve productivity by 16 percent. Nilles said companies have reported efficiency gains of from 10 percent to 26 percent.

The funny thing is that the econocons, who would normally think such efficiencies a good thing, oppose them because of their feelings about conservation and the environment and their emotional attachment to wasting gasoline. But reactionaries never beat the market.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:23 AM


Bernanke's testimony helps economy (MICHAEL J. MARTINEZFebruary 20, 2006, Chicago Sun-Times)

Turns out that the economy is doing pretty well, after all.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke's congressional testimony sparked a major rally on Wall Street last week, with the Dow Jones industrial average hitting a new 41/2-year high after the Fed chief gave a bullish assessment of economic growth for 2006.

Throw in strong earnings from Hewlett-Packard Co. and oil prices that dropped below $60 per barrel for the first time this year, and investors saw opportunities to buy in the stock market.

For the week, the Dow gained 1.8 percent, the Standard & Poor's 500 index was up 1.6 percent and the Nasdaq composite index rose 0.91 percent.

I feel personally betrayed by Paul Krugman.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:15 AM


ARMS AND ALARMS: Yanks' pitching depth could disappear if old injury issues return (ED PRICE, February 19, 2006, Newark Star-Ledger)

Before the Yankees even took physicals this spring, Carl Pavano had a setback. And the team was concerned enough to look for insurance in Scott Erickson, who has two major-league victories since Aug. 7, 2002.

"Anytime you can get yourself a little stockpile going ... because you know something's going to happen," said Torre, entering his 11th season as Yankees manager. "If nothing happens, or very little happens, you're lucky."

The Yankees last year used 14 starters, their most since 1989. Original rotation members Kevin Brown, Jaret Wright and Carl Pavano combined for only 43 starts because of time on the disabled list; Chien-Ming Wang missed two months with a torn rotator cuff; and Mike Mussina sat out three weeks in September with an elbow problem.

The forgettable Sean Henn, Tim Redding and Darrell May got turns and Al Leiter came in out of desperation before Shawn Chacon and Aaron Small emerged to save the Yankees' season.

In all, Yankees starters had a 4.59 ERA, eighth in the AL. Now the lineup seems better with Johnny Damon, and the middle relief is revamped -- but the rotation looks familiar.

If you were starting the team from scratch the only one you'd choose is Chacon.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:38 AM


UK moths 'in serious decline' (Helen Briggs, 2/20/06, BBC News)

The British moth population is in rapid decline, according to the most comprehensive study of its kind.

A report by Butterfly Conservation says the number of common moths has fallen by a third since 1968.

Geez, in the old days they used to evolve every time the particulate matter rose or dropped by a particle per billion.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:35 AM


I.B.M. Researchers Find a Way to Keep Moore's Law on Pace (JOHN MARKOFF, 2/20/06, NY Times)

I.B.M. researchers plan to describe an advance in chip-making on Monday that could pave the way for new generations of superchips. The development, which comes from materials research in the design of advanced lenses and related technologies, will make it possible to create semiconductors with wires thinner than 30 nanometers, one-third the width in today's industry-standard chips.

The advance potentially clears one of the biggest hurdles facing the progress of Moore's Law, the observation of Gordon E. Moore, a co-founder of the Intel Corporation, that the density of chips doubles roughly every two years. Mr. Moore made the observation about chip-making technology in 1965, and most semiconductor engineers now believe that the doubling rate will continue through at least the middle of the next decade.

Currently, the densest computer memory chips store 4 billion bits of information; the extension of Moore's Law might make possible a generation storing 64 billion bits by 2013. Such a chip could store roughly 2,000 songs based on today's storage standards.

Just one form of hidden deflation.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


In the Valley of the Shadow of Death (Joseph Collison, October 1999, New Oxford Review)

We have made a covenant with death, and with Hell we have made a pact. -- Isaiah 28:15

In 1993 Jane Fonda, baby-boomer America's leading authority on foreign policy, addressed the UN General Assembly (really!) on today's overpopulated world. "In the nine years since 1984," she lamented, "grain output was only expanded one percent a year, falling behind population and leading to a per capita decline of one percent a year."

"Overpopulation" is a cherished anxiety of our chattering classes — a kind of New-Age version of the Yellow Peril. It is a fact so ungainsayable that the mere assertion of it can turn a Hollywood actress into an international demographer. And yet — it is not a fact. It is, as Betsy Hartman wrote in Reproductive Rights and Wrongs, "one of the most pervasive myths in Western society, so deeply ingrained in the culture that it profoundly shapes the culture's world view."

Our culture's fixation on "population control," with mass sterilizations and abortions, had its origins in Thomas Malthus's 1798 Essay on Population. Malthus wrote that increasing population would eventually overtake the world's food supply and mass famine would result. (He later changed his mind and retracted this assertion, but his later writings are conveniently ignored.)

So-called Malthusian Doctrine grew in the universities throughout the 19th century and finally blossomed in the 1920s in the Eugenics Society and the Birth Control League. These merchandisers of death fulminated against "the weeds…overrunning the human garden" (as Margaret Sanger described the less fortunate of her day). When the Birth Control League was criticized for its admiration of Nazi eugenics programs, it was renamed — inappropriately — Planned Parenthood.

It can't be emphasized enough that the point of abortion is just the dead baby.

February 19, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:49 PM


'Sleeping on it' best for complex decisions (Gaia Vince, 2/16/06, New Scientist)

Complex decisions are best left to your unconscious mind to work out, according to a new study, and over-thinking a problem could lead to expensive mistakes.

The research suggests the conscious mind should be trusted only with simple decisions, such as selecting a brand of oven glove. [...]

Ap Dijksterhuis at the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands, and colleagues recruited 80 people for a series of lab-based and “real-world” tests. The participants were provided with information and asked to make decisions about simple and complex purchases, ranging from shampoos to furniture to cars. [...]

“At some point in our evolution, we started to make decisions consciously, and we’re not very good at it. We should learn to let our unconscious handle the complicated things,” Dijksterhuis says.

One tries to take these folks and their Just So stories seriously, but they make it impossible.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:37 PM


Ten years up, Howard on a high (Michael Gordon, February 20, 2006, The Age)

JOHN Howard will mark his 10 years in power with historically high personal approval ratings that are overwhelmingly due to the hip-pocket nerve and his handling of the war on terrorism, a special AgePoll has found.

A survey of voter attitudes suggests people are prepared to forgive the Prime Minister all manner of perceived shortcomings, including committing troops to the invasion of Iraq, on the strength of his economic management.

As Mr Howard prepares to celebrate a decade in office on March 2 — only his political hero, Bob Menzies, served longer as prime minister — voters think they have personally done well under the Howard Government. [...]

Almost half the electorate consider themselves better off after the Howard decade. More than 80 per cent of those who rate the economy as the most important issue say Mr Howard has handled it well or very well. Nearly 20 per cent of voters say they are "much better off" than in 1996. Just 4 per cent consider themselves much worse off.

But despite the prosperity, about half the electorate consider Australia a meaner and more divided country, and 55 per cent consider Mr Howard to be a divisive prime minister. [...]

Irving Saulwick and Dennis Muller, who conducted the study for The Age, say it reveals "an exquisite paradox", with Mr Howard receiving a strong endorsement despite being marked down "on many, perhaps most, issues".

For all the angst they've summoned in their opponents and the charges that they're uniquely divisive figures, the first generation of Third Way leaders have just kept winning elections.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:36 PM


After Neoconservatism (FRANCIS FUKUYAMA, 2/19/06, NY Times Magazine)

[I]t is the idealistic effort to use American power to promote democracy and human rights abroad that may suffer the greatest setback. Perceived failure in Iraq has restored the authority of foreign policy "realists" in the tradition of Henry Kissinger. Already there is a host of books and articles decrying America's naïve Wilsonianism and attacking the notion of trying to democratize the world. The administration's second-term efforts to push for greater Middle Eastern democracy, introduced with the soaring rhetoric of Bush's second Inaugural Address, have borne very problematic fruits. The Islamist Muslim Brotherhood made a strong showing in Egypt's parliamentary elections in November and December. While the holding of elections in Iraq this past December was an achievement in itself, the vote led to the ascendance of a Shiite bloc with close ties to Iran (following on the election of the conservative Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as president of Iran in June). But the clincher was the decisive Hamas victory in the Palestinian election last month, which brought to power a movement overtly dedicated to the destruction of Israel. In his second inaugural, Bush said that "America's vital interests and our deepest beliefs are now one," but the charge will be made with increasing frequency that the Bush administration made a big mistake when it stirred the pot, and that the United States would have done better to stick by its traditional authoritarian friends in the Middle East. Indeed, the effort to promote democracy around the world has been attacked as an illegitimate activity both by people on the left like Jeffrey Sachs and by traditional conservatives like Pat Buchanan.

The reaction against democracy promotion and an activist foreign policy may not end there. Those whom Walter Russell Mead labels Jacksonian conservatives — red-state Americans whose sons and daughters are fighting and dying in the Middle East — supported the Iraq war because they believed that their children were fighting to defend the United States against nuclear terrorism, not to promote democracy. They don't want to abandon the president in the middle of a vicious war, but down the road the perceived failure of the Iraq intervention may push them to favor a more isolationist foreign policy, which is a more natural political position for them. A recent Pew poll indicates a swing in public opinion toward isolationism; the percentage of Americans saying that the United States "should mind its own business" has never been higher since the end of the Vietnam War.

More than any other group, it was the neoconservatives both inside and outside the Bush administration who pushed for democratizing Iraq and the broader Middle East. They are widely credited (or blamed) for being the decisive voices promoting regime change in Iraq, and yet it is their idealistic agenda that in the coming months and years will be the most directly threatened. Were the United States to retreat from the world stage, following a drawdown in Iraq, it would in my view be a huge tragedy, because American power and influence have been critical to the maintenance of an open and increasingly democratic order around the world. The problem with neoconservatism's agenda lies not in its ends, which are as American as apple pie, but rather in the overmilitarized means by which it has sought to accomplish them. What American foreign policy needs is not a return to a narrow and cynical realism, but rather the formulation of a "realistic Wilsonianism" that better matches means to ends.

The problem for Mr. Fukuyama and others counseling a return to Realism is that the neocons aren't the driving force behind the policy of humanitarian interventionism. It is instead a function of the Judeo-Christian remoralization of Anglo-American foreign policy that Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan began and that continued unabated under Tony Blair and Bill Clinton, reaching its current heights under our most openly evangelical president, George W, Bush. With Australia, India, Japan, and perhaps now Canada joining the Axis of Good, which requires that regimes be democratic in order to be considered legitimate, there's not much chance danger of the kind of retreat he's fretting about. And with John McCain the odds on favorite to be our next president we're more likely to be increasingly interventionist rather than less.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:34 PM


How Many Lives Did Dale Earnhardt Save? (STEPHEN J. DUBNER and STEVEN D. LEVITT, 2/19/06, NY Times Magazine)

[N]ascar's record of zero deaths in five years over six million miles is perhaps not as remarkable as it first sounded. Still, driving a race car would seem to be substantially more dangerous than taking a trip to the supermarket. What has Nascar done to produce its zero-fatality record?

It's a long list. Well before Earnhardt was killed, each driver was already wearing a helmet, fireproof suit and shoes and a five-point safety harness. Months after Earnhardt's death, Nascar began requiring the use of a head-and-neck restraint that is tethered to a driver's helmet and prevents his head from flying forward or sideways in a crash. (Like many race-car drivers who are killed, Earnhardt suffered a fracture to the base of the skull.) It erected safer walls on its race tracks. And it began to zealously collect crash data. This Incident Database (which Nascar politely declined to let us examine) is gleaned from two main sources: a black box now mounted on every vehicle and the work of a new Field Investigation unit. These field investigators meticulously take key measurements on every car before every race, and then if a car is involved in a crash, they retake those measurements.

"In the past, a car would be in an accident, the driver would have no injuries and the team would load up the car and go home," says Gary Nelson, who runs Nascar's research and development center. "But now they measure every car in certain areas, and we make a log of that. Like the width of the seat — it seems simple, the width of the headrest from left to right. But in an accident, those things can bend, and the amount they bend can help us understand the energy involved. When we began, we thought our seats were adequately strong, but we found these things to be bending more than we thought. So we've come back since and rewritten the regulations."

Although it is wildly reductive to put it this way, a Nascar driver has two main goals: to win a race and to not be killed. Nascar's recent safety measures seem to have considerably reduced the likelihood of being killed. So could it be that drivers are now willing to be more reckless? When crashing is made less costly, an economist would fully expect drivers to be crashing like crazy; could it be that Nascar's safety measures have led to fewer deaths but more crashes?

A quick look at the data seems to suggest so. In last year's Nextel Cup races, there were 345 cars involved in crashes, an all-time high. But, as Matt Kenseth points out, the two cup races held during 2005 at Lowe's Motor Speedway near Charlotte, N.C., were unusually brutal — the track had a new surface that caused numerous flat tires — and may have aberrationally affected the crash count. "In Charlotte, pretty much everybody wrecked in both races," he says. "It was the fault of the track and the tires — but if you take those races out of it, crashes are probably about even." And there were actually fewer crashes in 2004 than there were in 2003. While the number of overall crashes are up a bit since Earnhardt's death (Nascar will not release annual crash counts, but one official did confirm this trend), they haven't increased nearly as much as an economist might have predicted based on how Nascar's safety measures would seem to have shifted a driver's incentives.

Maybe that's because there are other, perhaps stronger, incentives at play. The first is that Nascar has increased its penalties for reckless driving, not only fining drivers but also subtracting points in their race for the cup championship. The other lies in how the cup championship itself has been restructured. Two years ago, Nascar gave its 36-race season a playoff format. In order to qualify for the playoffs — and have a chance at winning the $6 million-plus cup championship — a driver must be among the points leaders after the first 26 races of the season. While a couple of 20th-place finishes during those first 26 races won't necessary ruin your championship hopes (each race fields a slate of 43 cars), a few bad crashes might.

So Nascar has reduced a danger incentive but imposed a financial incentive, thus maintaining the delicate and masterful balance it has cultivated: it has enough crashes to satisfy its fans but not too many to destroy the sport — or its drivers. (Nascar fans love crashes the way hockey fans love fights; when you watch the Speed Channel's edited replays of Nascar races, the plot is always the same: green flag, crash, crash, crash, crash, crash, checkered flag.)

And here lies the most startling statistic concerning Nascar and driver safety. In the past five years, more than 3,000 vehicles have crashed in Nascar's three top divisions, with zero fatalities. How does this compare with crashes on American highways? For interstate travel, there are 5.2 driver deaths per 1,000 crashes. At this rate, it would seem likely that those 3,000 Nascar crashes would have produced at least 15 deaths — and yet there have been none.

Safer, richer and better is Dale Earnhardt's legacy (Rupen Fofaria, 2/19/06, ESPN.com)

Reminders of him are everywhere.

They're in the scores of "3"-clad fans flooding the grandstands, the flapping of Earnhardt flags over infield motorcoaches, and the impersonators who, like their Elvis counterparts, dedicate themselves to their mirrored glasses, moustaches and Goodyear jumpsuits in hopes of most resembling their idol.

"We're constantly reminded of him," driver Terry Labonte said.

The reminders are in the safety innovations of the past five years. They're in the stripes which form the letter "E" on the side of Dale Earnhardt Inc.'s cars. They're in chats with Mark Martin: "Being an old school guy," the retiring vet says, "I like to talk about back when. And a lot of that back when had to do with Dale."

And they're in that picture Jeff Gordon keeps with him still. The picture was taken at Pocono after Gordon had passed Earnhardt and the Intimidator rammed his car into the back of Gordon's. Earnhardt hit the gas, pushed Gordon down the back straightaway and kept on chugging through the turn. Gordon finally had to lay on the brake to keep from running straight into the wall, and when he did, Earnhardt turned him sideways.

Gordon remembers confronting Earnhardt about it afterward. "Nope. Wasn't me," Earnhardt told Gordon. "I didn't do anything." So Earnhardt's story stayed until one day a fan found Gordon and showed him the incredible photograph he shot from behind Turn 3 at Pocono. Gordon headed straight for Earnhardt's hauler.

"I told you," Gordon exalted. "Man, you were six inches underneath my rear bumper!"

Gordon still laughs when he sees that picture, which now also boasts Earnhardt's signature.

"It's the only autograph I've ever gotten from a driver that I've raced against," Gordon said.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:19 PM


Many Muslims ignore Iran’s incitement over cartoons (Iran Focus, 19 Feb 2006)

An attempt by Iran’s radical theocratic government to organise an international conference of Islamist parties in Tehran to adopt a unanimous position on the publication of cartoons depicting Islam’s Prophet Muhammad may have to be put off due to lack of interest from political parties across the Muslim world.

Iran invited a total of 149 various political parties in Muslim countries to take part in its “Global Conference of Parties from Islamic States”.

The event was billed by Iran’s state-run media as a major international response to the “blasphemous, Islamophobic moves of Western governments”. A draft resolution prepared by the organisers included references to Iran’s nuclear stand-off with the West and declared support for the Islamic Republic.

Contrary to their expectation, the organisers have not heard from the vast majority of the invitees. Up until now, only three parties from Algeria have signed up for the conference, despite the extensive advertisement that has been carried out and the huge cost that comes with it.

The event has had to been postponed several times due to lack of interest.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 6:05 PM


Migrants use gay marriage loophole (Robert Winnett, Ali Hussain and Claire Newel, The Times, February 19th, 2006)l

Lawyers are prepared to advise potential immigrants how to gain British citizenship by signing up for “gay marriages” even if they are heterosexual.

Undercover reporters were told by six different firms of solicitors how to exploit a loophole in the civil partnership rules to get passports.

Immigrants face less rigorous tests if they seek to gain British citizenship through a civil partnership than through a heterosexual marriage.

Under laws that took effect last December, gay people have the same immigration rights as married people — and may secure a full passport after two years in the country.

However, while marriages have to be consummated to qualify there is no such requirement on couples in a civil partnership. It is thus not illegal for two heterosexual friends to form a civil partnership and then to “divorce” after two years once the foreigner has gained British citizenship.

Obviously the consummation requirement is an outrageous denial of the human rights of heterosexuals.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:02 PM


New Clerk for Alito Has a Long Paper Trail (ADAM LIPTAK, 2/19/06, NY Times)

JUSTICE SAMUEL A. ALITO JR., who was so bland and self-effacing at his Supreme Court confirmation hearings last month, made a bold decision on arriving at the court. He hired Adam G. Ciongoli, a former top aide to Attorney General John Ashcroft and an architect of the Bush administration's legal strategy after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, to be one of his law clerks. [...]

"We don't normally contemplate a high-level Justice Department official becoming a Supreme Court clerk," said Ronald D. Rotunda, a specialist in legal ethics at George Mason University School of Law. "It's just asking for problems that are unnecessary." Most Supreme Court law clerks, who prepare memorandums and draft decisions for the justices, have little of note on their résumés beyond superior grades at a top law school and a clerkship with a federal appeals court judge.

"They're like legal Doogie Howsers — child prodigies of the law," said David Lat, a former federal prosecutor whose blog "Underneath Their Robes" reports on the hiring of Supreme Court clerks. "Yet they're influencing decisions that affect millions."

Mr. Ciongoli, 37, represents a different model. He has a rich and public history in government and, most recently, as a senior lawyer at Time Warner.

"It really indicates a lapse in judgment," Deborah L. Rhode, who teaches legal ethics at Stanford, said of Justice Alito's decision. "I just don't think it helps your reputation for nonpartisanship, particularly after such partisan confirmation hearings, to start out by hiring someone who is perceived to have an ideological agenda."

It's a lifetime appointment, what does reputation matter?

This does though open up a whole range of possibilities for justices to hire the very best in the profession to clerk for them, rather than inexperienced twerps.

Parsing Alito's Clerk Picks (Tony Mauro, 02-21-2006, Legal Times)

Two of Justice Samuel Alito Jr.'s former law clerks stopped in at his chambers earlier this month to congratulate him on winning confirmation.

Alito was so happy to see them, apparently, that he offered them jobs on the spot. He asked Hannah Smith, a Williams & Connolly associate, and Jay Jorgensen, a partner at Sidley Austin, to serve as his law clerks this term. Both, after clerking for Alito, had subsequent high court experience -- Jorgensen clerked for the late Chief Justice William Rehnquist and Smith for Justice Clarence Thomas -- and that was exactly what Alito needed.

Alito's other, more headline-making law clerk hire, Adam Ciongoli, does not have Supreme Court experience. But he is a trusted, high-energy former Alito clerk who could help Alito make his way through official Washington. Out of the blue, Ciongoli got the call, and he too returned to the marble palace on short notice, abandoning a high-flying, to-die-for job as vice president and general counsel of Time Warner Europe.

And there's just a slight pay cut. Ciongoli will earn $63,335 as a law clerk.

The Ciongoli pick was quickly portrayed as an early signal of Alito's conservative stripes, given that before he went to Time Warner, Ciongoli was counselor to then-Attorney General John Ashcroft and one of the architects of the Bush administration's post-9/11 anti-terror legal strategy.

But Alito's embrace of Ciongoli, even to some liberal Court watchers, may have a less partisan significance. It could mean that Alito, like most other freshman justices, suddenly saw the enormity of his job and realized he needed help -- big time.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:58 PM


By 2025, Planners See a Million New Stories in the Crowded City (SAM ROBERTS, 2/19/06, NY Times)

With higher birth rates among Hispanic and Asian New Yorkers, immigrants continuing to gravitate to New York City and a housing boom transforming all five boroughs, the city is struggling to cope with a phenomenon that few other cities in the Northeast or Midwest now face: a growing population. It is expected to pass nine million by 2020. [...]

Elaborating on Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg's disclosure last month that city planners were drafting a strategy to cope with this expected growth, Daniel L. Doctoroff, the deputy mayor for economic development, said the city could accommodate a million additional people or more, but only if it began planning for their needs now.

"We have the capacity through rezoning and underutilized land to go well over that number," he said. "But you cannot simply divorce the issue of growth from the infrastructure required to support it. It opens up great opportunities only if the growth is smart, if we have the things that make cities worth living in."

Mr. Doctoroff said the strategy would explore opportunities for growth both citywide and in 188 individual neighborhoods. It would determine how land use regulations and other constraints might be altered to create sufficient housing, schools, subway routes and parks, preserve factory jobs and identify sites for less desirable but necessary structures, including power plants.

Last month, the New York Building Congress, a trade group, estimated that proposed development, including the World Trade Center site and the Hudson Yards in Manhattan and the Atlantic Terminal area in Brooklyn, would generate a 21 percent increase in jobs by 2025. That, the group said, would require new sources of electricity.

With NY City Democrats so closely wedded to blacks and the public service unions there's an enormous opportunity here for the GOP.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:29 PM


For Elderly in Japan, a Very Long Winter: Social Changes Leave Many To Fend for Themselves (Anthony Faiola, 2/19/06, Washington Post)

Over the past 2 1/2 months, the snow and cold weather have been blamed in the deaths of 85 senior citizens across Japan's northwest and the injuries of more than 1,000 -- many of whom were living alone or with elderly spouses.

The mounting toll from this winter, analysts and officials say, has exposed one of Japan's greatest challenges as it struggles to cope with the world's most rapidly aging population. For generations, Japanese families practiced the time-honored tradition of living with and caring for grandparents under one roof. But that tradition has faded. Many Japanese now live in homes with only members of their nuclear family, and the number of single people living alone in cities is also on the rise.

Accordingly, the number of Japanese seniors living alone or with elderly spouses has doubled over the past decade. The situation has presented the nation with a stark question: As the nature of family changes in Japan, how will the Japanese care for the soaring number of seniors being left to live on their own?

The vulnerability of this group is obvious. In this snow-blanketed rural town 140 miles northwest of Tokyo, Shinichi Nakajima, 89 and a recent widower, died after falling into a well while trying to clear piles of snow from his yard. In another, equally horrific incident, Kyoko Hasegawa, an 80-year-old widow living alone on the outskirts of the northern city of Akita, became trapped in snow while attempting to board up her windows and froze to death.

"There was a time in Japan when grandparents always lived with their children's family, and there was always someone young around the house to do the physically difficult chores," said Tokozumi, who is now undergoing rehabilitation after having pins inserted in one of his heels.

"But those days are vanishing," he continued, glancing out a hospital room window at the falling snow. "In my neighborhood, most of the households are now elderly people living without their extended families. And we're all getting older. I don't know what we're going to do."

Always amusing to hear people chatter who think the Japanese still live in tenement-like population density.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:24 PM


Promise to Shore Up Ethics Loses Speed: GOP Schedule Slips In House; Senate Panels to Act Soon (Jeffrey H. Birnbaum, February 19, 2006, Washington Post)

The rush to revise ethics laws in the wake of the Jack Abramoff political corruption scandal has turned into more of a saunter.

A month ago, Republican leaders in Congress called legislation on the topic their first priority, and promised quick action on a measure that would alter the rules governing the interaction between lawmakers and lobbyists.

But now they do not anticipate final approval of such a measure until late March at the earliest.

The primary holdup is in the House. Republican lawmakers left Thursday for a week-long recess without agreeing on a proposal that would serve as a starting point for debate. [...]

Talks on the issue among House Republicans will go on through the break and continue when lawmakers return at the end of this month, Bonjean said.

Things won't speed up now that they've been back in their districts and realized no one cares or has ever heard of Abramoff.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:21 PM


Conservative black candidate makes Ohio race interesting (GEORGE WILL, February 19, 2006, Chicago Sun-Times)

Maryland borders Pennsylvania, which borders Ohio, which borders Michigan. In that swath of America, extending 950 miles from the shores of the Chesapeake Bay to the shores of Lake Superior, this year could produce a remarkable quartet of Republican victories -- black U.S. senators from Maryland (Michael Steele, who now is lieutenant governor) and Michigan (Keith Butler, a former Detroit city councilman, now pastor of a suburban church with a congregation of 21,000), and black governors in Pennsylvania (Lynn Swann, the former Pittsburgh Steeler) and Ohio (Ken Blackwell, now secretary of state).

Blackwell is particularly noteworthy because he has had the most varied political career -- a city councilman at 29, mayor at 31, national chairman of Steve Forbes' 2000 presidential campaign. And because he is the most conservative.

Polls suggest Blackwell, 57, can win the GOP primary May 2. National party leaders think that only he can keep the governorship Republican, because the state GOP has been hostile to him, and Ohio voters are now robustly hostile to it.

He annoys the establishment because he, unlike it, believes things.

It's especially funny to see the black candidates run to the Right of their state parties.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:17 PM


Supply hurts solar energy's day in the sun (TARA GODVIN, 2/19/06, Chicago Sun-Times)

The problem is that while demand for solar panels is increasing, the ability to meet that demand hasn't caught up, said Reed, president of the Hawaii Solar Energy Association.

The pressure could soon become even tougher in Hawaii as state politicians push for bigger incentives for residents to install the panels. Gov. Linda Lingle has proposed boosting the caps on credits for single family homes from the current $1,750 to $10,000. The caps for businesses would double to $500,000.

With a growth rate of almost 40 percent per year in the past five years, the solar panel industry is today worth $15 billion globally, said Rhone Resch, president of the Solar Energy Industries Association.

And the United States is starting to catch on.

We need to lead, not follow.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:06 PM


Coal company wants more Hispanics (ALLEN G. BREED, February 19, 2006, Chicago Sun Times)

Sidney Coal Co. President Charlie Bearse was expressing an opinion that many in these mountains secretly share. Problem was, he put that opinion in writing.

''It is common knowledge that the work ethic of the Eastern Kentucky worker has declined from where it once was,'' Bearse wrote to the state mining board. Bad attitudes and drug abuse, he argued, were affecting attendance ''and, ultimately, productivity.''

Bearse's appeal to the board: Relax an English-only policy in the mines so he could bring in Hispanic workers.

U.S. companies are constantly complaining they need migrant workers to do the low-paying, menial tasks Americans just won't. But at $18 an hour and up, plus benefits, these are some of Appalachia's best jobs.

If Tom Tancredo's son said he was moving to Butcher Holler instead of going to college he'd have been disowned.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:04 PM


Coyotes on the prowl in the city (CHRISTOPHER MARTIN, 2/19/06, Chicago Sun-Times)

John Ruberry enjoys his daily jog through Chicago's tree-filled parks. But he doesn't like the half dozen coyotes he's had to run around in the last few years.

"Coyotes should be in the wild, not in the city,'' says Ruberry, 44, who lives on the North Side and jogs along the lakefront. "It's a little scary to know there are so many."

Chicago has become a downtown coyote capital, with a tenfold surge in complaints this decade, says a coyote researcher for Cook County.

With an estimated 2,000 coyotes in the area, Chicago is the biggest urban area covered by such a consultant, who tracks critters lounging under taxis, ambling through the Lincoln Park Zoo and strolling the boardwalk of Navy Pier.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:00 PM


Congo Adopts New Constitution, But Polls Look Delayed (David Lewis, 18 February 2006, VOA News)

Diplomats said that it was another step in the right direction for the vast African country which is struggling to recover from a five year war that has killed four million people.

The new constitution will bring in leaders due to be elected in polls later this year that are considered the cornerstone for peace deals that ended Congo's last conflict.

The last time Congo had a new constitution was in 1967, when Mobutu Sese Seko took power and went on to rule for decades, crippling the mineral-rich giant at the heart of Africa.

However, Congo's conflict is believed to be the most deadly since the Second World War and the international community has invested billions there, not only in U.N. peacekeepers but also the process of organizing elections.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:12 AM


The Click That Broke a Government's Grip (Philip P. Pan, February 19, 2006, Washington Post)

The government's Internet censors scrambled, ordering one Web site after another to delete the letter. But two days later, in an embarrassing retreat, the party bowed to public outrage and scrapped the editor in chief's plan to muzzle his reporters.

The episode illustrated the profound impact of the Internet on political discourse in China, and the challenge that the Web poses to the Communist Party's ability to control news and shape public opinion, key elements to its hold on power. The incident also set the stage for last month's decision to suspend publication of Freezing Point, the pioneering weekly supplement that Li edited for the state-run China Youth Daily.

Eleven years after young Chinese returning from graduate study in the United States persuaded the party to offer Internet access to the public, China is home to one of the largest, fastest-growing and most active populations of Internet users in the world, according to several surveys. With more than 111 million people connected to the Web, China ranks second to the United States.

Although just a fraction of all Chinese go online -- and most who do play games, download music or gossip with friends -- widespread Internet use in the nation's largest cities and among the educated is changing the way Chinese learn about the world and weakening the Communist Party's monopoly on the media. Studies show China's Internet users spend more time online than they do with television and newspapers, and they are increasingly turning to the Web for news instead of traditional state outlets.

The government has sought to control what people read and write on the Web, employing a bureaucracy of censors and one of the world's most technologically sophisticated system of filters. But the success of those measures has been mixed. As a catalyst that amplifies voices and accelerates events, the Internet presents a formidable challenge to China's authoritarian political system. Again and again, ordinary Chinese have used it to challenge the government, force their opinions to be heard and alter political outcomes.

The influence of the Web has grown over the past two years, even as President Hu Jintao has pursued the country's most severe crackdown on the state media in more than a decade. The party said last week that Freezing Point would resume publishing, but Li and a colleague were fired, making them the latest in a series of editors at state publications to lose their jobs.

With newspapers, magazines and television stations coming under tighter control, journalists and their audiences have sought refuge online. The party's censors have followed, but cyberspace in China remains contested terrain, where the rules are uncertain and an eloquent argument can wield surprising power.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:08 AM


Tories plan rapid repeal of hunting ban (Melissa Kite, 19/02/2006, Daily Telegraph)

The Conservatives have drawn up detailed plans for an immediate reversal of the hunting ban if they win power as a way of throwing "red meat" to the party faithful.

Rumours that David Cameron was backing away from the issue were flatly denied by senior Tories, who revealed that three options have been prepared to tackle the ban speedily no matter how small a Tory majority might be.

The first anniversary of the hunting ban yesterday coincided with the news that a record number of foxes have been killed since the Hunting Act came into force.

Hunts estimate that tens of thousands have been shot, snared or accidentally killed by hounds during trail hunts, which remain legal, since February 18, 2005.

The Tories' favoured option is for a one-line Bill annulling the Hunting Act to be put through Parliament in a matter of days on a free vote.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:43 AM


Trillion-Dollar Gimmick: Extending Bush's Tax Cuts Through Sleight of Hand (David S. Broder, February 19, 2006, Washington Post)

The president is urging Congress to make [his] tax cuts permanent, but his proposal is controversial and has not yet passed.

This year, however, the budget the president submitted on Feb. 6 simply assumes that the tax cuts have been made permanent -- and thus includes them in the "baseline" for all future years.

The effect, according to the center's analysis, is that "legislation to make these tax cuts permanent will be scored as having no cost whatsoever."

In fact, this analysis says, "The administration's proposal, by changing the rules after the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts were enacted but before they are extended, would ensure that the cost of continuing the tax cuts in the years after the current sunset dates would never be counted. The costs in those years were not counted when the tax cuts were first enacted. . . . Now, the administration is proposing that the tax cuts for those years also be ignored when the tax cuts are extended. To fail ever to count the cost of the tax cuts in the years after the sunset dates . . . would represent one of the largest and most flagrant budget gimmicks in recent memory."

No non-wonk can decipher that, so let's make it a tv ad tagline: Vote for us and we'll raise your taxes by a trillion dollars!

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:27 AM


This worked surprisingly well last time, so maybe we'll try it every few weeks: for a long weekend with not much going on, how about some discussion and recommendations?

Here are three questions about what you've found especially good to read, listen to, or watch recently--the less well-known your discovery the better since I'm really just fishing for ideas (we'll phrase the questions for maximum hippness, but don't fret if you still use a Betamax and an 8-track player):

My favorite recent discovery for my iPod is:

Thunderbirds are Go! (Busted)

It wasn't just the film that rocked--ask any 4 year old.

My favorite recent discovery at Netflix is:

Hamish MacBeth

Robert Carlyle, who had a star turn as an overenthusiastic Liverpool fan in the great series Cracker, plays M. C. Beaton's Scottish constable in a village that'll remind you of Local Hero. Carlyle later worked in a couple of Danny Boyle's flicks and Boyle wrote and directed a couple episodes of this tv series.

My favorite recent book discovery is:

Prayers for the Assassin (Robert Ferrigno)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:10 AM


The God Genome: Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon by Daniel C. Dennett (Leon Wieseltier, NY Times Book Review)

THE question of the place of science in human life is not a scientific question. It is a philosophical question. Scientism, the view that science can explain all human conditions and expressions, mental as well as physical, is a superstition, one of the dominant superstitions of our day; and it is not an insult to science to say so. For a sorry instance of present-day scientism, it would be hard to improve on Daniel C. Dennett's book. "Breaking the Spell" is a work of considerable historical interest, because it is a merry anthology of contemporary superstitions.

The orthodoxies of evolutionary psychology are all here, its tiresome way of roaming widely but never leaving its house, its legendary curiosity that somehow always discovers the same thing. The excited materialism of American society — I refer not to the American creed of shopping, according to which a person's qualities may be known by a person's brands, but more ominously to the adoption by American culture of biological, economic and technological ways of describing the purposes of human existence — abounds in Dennett's usefully uninhibited pages. And Dennett's book is also a document of the intellectual havoc of our infamous polarization, with its widespread and deeply damaging assumption that the most extreme statement of an idea is its most genuine statement. Dennett lives in a world in which you must believe in the grossest biologism or in the grossest theism, in a purely naturalistic understanding of religion or in intelligent design, in the omniscience of a white man with a long beard in 19th-century England or in the omniscience of a white man with a long beard in the sky.

In his own opinion, Dennett is a hero. He is in the business of emancipation, and he reveres himself for it.

Try Mr. Wieseltier's own terribly sad, but truly serious, meditation on faith, Kaddish, instead.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:01 AM


Mind Over Splatter (DON FOSTER, 2/19/06, NY Times)

If a previously authenticated Pollock painting was actually done by a disciple, or by Norman Rockwell, or by a monkey with a paintball gun, yet looks to be authentic Pollock, so what? The look-alike might be worth less at Sotheby's, but would it be worth less as art?

At stake in such attributional debates is a question of methodology: how can experts tell the difference between the real thing and an imitation? If the qualitative judgment of Pollock or Shakespeare scholars differs from quantitative analysis of a computer-assisted study, whose verdict will carry the day? That Richard Taylor's analysis can inform us of patterns generated by Pollock much of the time provides no guarantee that Pollock reproduced those patterns all of the time. But if the Pollock canon includes a forgery, it may be that Taylor's analysis provides a more objective mode of analysis than aesthetic appreciation.

I am well acquainted with the risks of over-reliance on quantitative techniques. In 1989 I published a book proposing that the 1612 poem "A Funeral Elegy," by "W. S.," might be Shakespeare's. Seven years later, the elegy made front-page news when computer-assisted analysis, along with the opinion of other Shakespeare scholars, tended to confirm that "W. S." was indeed Shakespeare. But in 2001, a French Shakespearean, Gilles Monsarrat, proposed that W. S. was in fact Shakespeare's junior colleague, John Ford. Computer-assisted analysis confirmed that this was probably right, and the title-page initials, wrong.

In the art world, the problem of attribution is complicated by market value. Nobody made more money by including "A Funeral Elegy" in editions of Shakespeare printed from 1997 to 2001. But if you have paid, say, a half-million for a Pollock painting and some physicist and his computer say that you were hoodwinked, the question of the work's value is not wholly aesthetic.

Whether it's good art certainly remains purely aesthetic.

Meanwhile, no one has challenged Mr. Foster's analysis of the Talking Points memo, which he demnstrated could not be the work of Monica Lewinsky and/or Linda Tripp and traced to the White House.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:58 AM


At a Scientific Gathering, U.S. Policies Are Lamented (CORNELIA DEAN, 2/19/06, NY Times)

David Baltimore, the Nobel Prize-winning biologist and president of the California Institute of Technology, is used to the Bush administration misrepresenting scientific findings to support its policy aims, he told an audience of fellow researchers Saturday. Each time it happens, he said, "I shrug and say, 'What do you expect?' "

But then, Dr. Baltimore went on, he began to read about the administration's embrace of the theory of the unitary executive, the idea that the executive branch has the power or even the obligation to act without restraint from Congress. And he began to see in a new light widely reported episodes of government scientists being restricted in what they could say in public.

"It's no accident that we are seeing such an extensive suppression of scientific freedom," he said. "It's part of the theory of government now, and it's a theory we need to vociferously oppose."

As Dr. Baltimore implicitly acknowledges, science is just politics by other means.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:49 AM


Bush's Chat With Novelist Alarms Environmentalists (MICHAEL JANOFSKY, 2/19/06, NY Times)

One of the perquisites of being president is the ability to have the author of a book you enjoyed pop into the White House for a chat.

Over the years, a number of writers have visited President Bush, including Natan Sharansky, Bernard Lewis and John Lewis Gaddis. And while the meetings are usually private, they rarely ruffle feathers.

Now, one has.

In his new book about Mr. Bush, "Rebel in Chief: Inside the Bold and Controversial Presidency of George W. Bush," Fred Barnes recalls a visit to the White House last year by Michael Crichton, whose 2004 best-selling novel, "State of Fear," suggests that global warming is an unproven theory and an overstated threat.

Mr. Barnes, who describes Mr. Bush as "a dissenter on the theory of global warming," writes that the president "avidly read" the novel and met the author after Karl Rove, his chief political adviser, arranged it. He says Mr. Bush and his guest "talked for an hour and were in near-total agreement."

"The visit was not made public for fear of outraging environmentalists all the more," he adds.

And so it has, fueling a common perception among environmental groups that Mr. Crichton's dismissal of global warming, coupled with his popularity as a novelist and screenwriter, has undermined efforts to pass legislation intended to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide, a gas that leading scientists say causes climate change.

The irony being that it was the President who influenced the novelist, not vice versa.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:45 AM


Israel to impose Hamas sanctions (BBC, 2/18/06)

Before the cabinet meeting, acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert called the Hamas-led PA a "terrorist authority" and ruled out direct talks. [...]

"It is clear that in light of the Hamas majority in the PLC and the instructions to form a new government that were given to the head of Hamas, the PA is - in practice - becoming a terrorist authority," Mr Olmert said.

"Israel will not hold contacts with the administration in which Hamas plays any part - small, large or permanent."

What Hamas fears most is responsibility, so just pile more on them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:42 AM


McConnell told: speed up reform (MURDO MACLEOD, 2/18/06, Scotland on Sunday)

A WHITEHALL minister has challenged the Scottish Executive to move faster on an English-style reform of public services, warning that voters will reject Labour unless areas such as health and education improve.

Writing in today's Scotland on Sunday, Jim Murphy - a Cabinet Office minister and the MP for East Renfrewshire - has said that Labour needs to have "zero tolerance" of failing services.

The comments are being seen in the party as a challenge to First Minister Jack McConnell to allow more reform of the public sector north of the Border. McConnell and his team have been seen as reluctant to embrace the kind of radical reform seen in England, such as foundation hospitals and trust schools.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:39 AM


Quinn warns of quick exit (PAUL HUNTER, 2/19/06, Toronto Star)

When it was over and the colour had returned to Pat Quinn's face, Canada's hockey coach issued a stern warning: "We tried to rely on talent tonight and it wasn't good enough. If we don't learn from this, we'll be going home early."

In a stunning afternoon at Torino Esposizioni, amidst a joyous atmosphere enlivened by the cowbell-ringing, song-singing, flag-waving Swiss fans, underdog Switzerland stood up for itself as a hockey nation and shocked Canada's sleeping giants 2-0 in a Winter Olympics preliminary-round game.

Canada apparently lost in curling yesterday too.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:34 AM


Children 'wrongly given' Ritalin (ARTHUR MACMILLAN, 2/18/06, Scotland on Sunday)

THOUSANDS of Scottish children, some as young as six, are wrongly being labelled hyperactive and given controversial drugs to stop anxious parents thinking they are to blame for unruly behaviour, a leading academic has warned.

Dr Gwynedd Lloyd says doctors are wrongly diagnosing ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) when many youngsters are just behaving badly as a normal part of growing up.

The Edinburgh University academic claims this is leading to "widespread abuse" of the controversial drug methylphenidate, commonly known as Ritalin, by doctors who over-rely on checklists when deciding on medication for children.

Ritalin, nicknamed the "chemical cosh", has been criticised amid claims it has dangerous side-effects, including abdominal pain, anxiety, dizziness, headaches and psychosis.

Lloyd, head of the educational studies department at Edinburgh University, claims that a lack of proper investigation by doctors and pressure from parents are leading doctors to diagnose ADHD inappropriately.

You know the old saying: spare the soma, spoil the adult's day.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:23 AM


Dems Need A Newt Of Their Own: The Party Can't Have a Revolution Without the Revolutionaries (Elizabeth Wilner and Chuck Todd, February 19, 2006, Washington Post)

Back in 1992, seven upstart Republican freshmen forced real change in the House of Representatives.

Egged on by a more senior revolutionary, Rep. Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), these feisty newcomers exploited the House Bank and Post Office scandals unfolding on the watch of a longtime Democratic majority. The GOP lawmakers even posed for a poster, a macho black-and-white group shot. "The Gang of Seven," the caption read. "We closed the House Bank. We're changing Congress. Join the fight."

Today, as a lobbying scandal plays out on the watch of the Republican majority in Congress, the question is: Where is the Democrats' Gang of Seven? Why isn't some spirited group of junior House Democrats capturing the public's imagination and sinking its teeth into the spreading Jack Abramoff mess? And where is the Democratic equivalent of Gingrich?

They Served, and Now They're Running (JAMES DAO and ADAM NAGOURNEY, 2/18/06, NY Times)
[C]arl Forti, a spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee, said: "[H]ouse races tend to be about pocketbook issues."

Republicans continue to benefit from the Democrats' mistaken belief that the 1994 election was primarily about the arcania of how the House is run, rather than about policy differences between the two parties.

One experiment that the Democrats might find instructive, though terrifying, would be to attempt to put together their own Contract with America. Trying to find ten issues where roughly 75% of the American people support the Democratic position would be such an exercise in futility that it might force them to finally confront the reality that they are a natural minority party in this country.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:14 AM


They Served, and Now They're Running (JAMES DAO and ADAM NAGOURNEY, 2/18/06, NY Times)

[S]oldier-candidates are marching across the campaign field in numbers not seen in a half-century, many veterans of the Iraq, Afghan, Vietnam, Balkan and first gulf wars — nearly 100 candidates in all, not including a single incumbent.

Most are Democrats, but Republicans have come up with their own veterans as well. Many were recruited by their parties, but others decided to run on their own or were encouraged by left-leaning bloggers who think these candidates can help Democrats win back Congress. Some candidates are motivated by opposition to the Iraq war, but others are talking about health care, job creation or energy. [...]

In truth, despite all the Democratic emphasis on recruiting candidates with military experience, veterans may not be nearly the invincible candidates they once seemed to be. After all, attacking war heroes has been fair game: John Kerry's Vietnam record was attacked when he ran for president, and Max Cleland, a triple-amputee and Vietnam veteran, lost his Senate seat in Georgia in 2002 after Republicans accused him of being soft on national security. John McCain, when he ran for the Republican presidential nomination in 2000, was accused of abandoning veterans. Many of the newest candidates are discovering that the political battlefield may be as challenging as the military one. [...]

For their part, Republicans are quick to note that nearly two-thirds of the veterans in Congress today are Republicans and that most districts where Democratic veterans are running voted for President Bush in 2004.

As for the notion that military experience might shore up the Democrats on defense, Carl Forti, a spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee, said: "That would be great if national security was a big issue in House races. But it's not. House races tend to be about pocketbook issues."

This wave of interest by veterans in politics has come at a time when the percentage of veterans in Congress has hit its lowest point in the post-World War II era. Only 26 percent of the members can claim military experience, down from a high of 77 percent in the 95th Congress of 1977 and 1978, according to statistics compiled by the Military Officers Association of America, a nonprofit group.

Yet even as fewer Americans can claim military experience, respect for the military has grown. After hitting a low point during and after the Vietnam War, the military has come to be seen as one of the most trusted and respected institutions in the country, polls show.

Burdett A. Loomis, a political scientist at the University of Kansas who has written about the first Congressional class elected after Vietnam, said Americans' attitudes toward returning veterans today was strikingly different from those in the 1960's and 1970's, when many veterans were all but branded war criminals. That, in turn, may have discouraged returning veterans from running for Congress, he said.

But today, he said, "Even the most severe critic of this war will say he isn't criticizing the troops."

For that reason, experts say it makes complete sense for both parties to look to the ranks of the military for candidates.

And it makes particular sense for Democrats, because of lingering concerns among voters that they are brittle on national defense issues. The image of Michael Dukakis wearing a helmet and riding sheepishly in a tank during the 1988 presidential campaign still burns.

But after John Kerry's loss in 2004, some Democratic strategists have given up on the idea that a candidate's military experience alone would even the playing field on the issue of national security.

Representative Rahm Emanuel of Illinois, the head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, who started the year aggressively recruiting veterans, said that a candidate who had worn a uniform was not enough.

"It's a credential to talk about," Mr. Emanuel said. "But you've got to have more than that."

In fact, Democrats appear to have made an mistake typical of their party over the last four decades, recruiting soldiers only because they think their past service gives them cover to be anti-war. Instead they just end up with guys who blend into the general unseriousness of the party on national security issues but sound especially bitter doing so. America doesn't vote bitter.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 8:06 AM


University paper defiant after running cartoons (Canadian Press, February 18th, 2006)

A student newspaper at Canada's largest university is not backing down after publishing a cartoon depicting the Prophet Muhammad and Jesus kissing.

Nick Ragaz, managing editor for the Strand, says the newspaper is not pulling the controversial issues off campus and the cartoon will also remain on its website.

In a message online he says the cartoon was intended to provoke debate, dialogue, and thought, and should not be understood to promote violence or hate.[...]

“We reject completely the idea that what we published was an act of hate or an attack on the Muslim faith, or on Muslims or the Christian community.”

Of course not. It was intended to promote brotherhood and tolerance by lending a helping hand to faith in order to make the transition to post-modern reality. Meanwhile, the Muslim world continues here, here, here, here and here to prove that, contrary to the tenets of two hundred years of Western thinking, you can indeed stop progress.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 6:48 AM


How it all ends (Geoffrey Miller, National Post, February 18th, 2005)

Fitness-faking technology tends to evolve much faster than our psychological resistance to it. The printing press is invented; people read more novels and have fewer kids; only a few curmudgeons lament this. The Xbox 360 is invented; people would rather play a high-resolution virtual ape in Peter Jackson's King Kong than be a perfect-resolution real human. Teens today must find their way through a carnival of addictively fitness-faking entertainment products: MP3, DVD, TiVo, XM radio, Verizon cellphones, Spice cable, EverQuest online, instant messaging, Ecstasy, B.C. Bud. The traditional staples of physical, mental and social development (athletics, homework, dating) are neglected. The few young people with the self-control to pursue the meritocratic path often get distracted at the last minute -- the MIT graduates apply to do computer game design for Electronics Arts, rather than rocket science for NASA.

Around 1900, most inventions concerned physical reality: cars, airplanes, zeppelins, electric lights, vacuum cleaners, air conditioners, bras, zippers. In 2005, most inventions concern virtual entertainment -- the top 10 patent-recipients are usually IBM, Matsushita, Canon, Hewlett-Packard, Micron Technology, Samsung, Intel, Hitachi, Toshiba and Sony -- not Boeing, Toyota or Wonderbra. We have already shifted from a reality economy to a virtual economy, from physics to psychology as the value-driver and resource-allocator. We are already disappearing up our own brainstems. Freud's pleasure principle triumphs over the reality principle. We narrow-cast human-interest stories to each other, rather than broadcasting messages of universal peace and progress to other star systems.

Maybe the bright aliens did the same. I suspect that a certain period of fitness-faking narcissism is inevitable after any intelligent life evolves. This is the Great Temptation for any technological species -- to shape their subjective reality to provide the cues of survival and reproductive success without the substance. Most bright alien species probably go extinct gradually, allocating more time and resources to their pleasures, and less to their children.

Heritable variation in personality might allow some lineages to resist the Great Temptation and last longer. Those who persist will evolve more self-control, conscientiousness and pragmatism. They will evolve a horror of virtual entertainment, psychoactive drugs and contraception. They will stress the values of hard work, delayed gratification, child-rearing and environmental stewardship. They will combine the family values of the Religious Right with the sustainability values of the Greenpeace Left.

My dangerous idea-within-an-idea is that this, too, is already happening. Christian and Muslim fundamentalists, and anti-consumerism activists, already understand exactly what the Great Temptation is, and how to avoid it. They insulate themselves from our Creative-Class dream-worlds and our EverQuest economics. They wait patiently for our fitness-faking narcissism to go extinct. Those practical-minded breeders will inherit the earth, as like-minded aliens may have inherited a few other planets. When they finally achieve Contact, it will not be a meeting of novel-readers and game-players. It will be a meeting of dead-serious super-parents who congratulate each other on surviving not just the Bomb, but the Xbox. They will toast each other not in a soft-porn Holodeck, but in a sacred nursery.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Trigger-happy Dick Cheney is a dangerous man to have on your side (Niall Ferguson, 19/02/2006, Sunday Telegraph)

At some point, when the history books get written, the question will have to be asked: Was George W Bush the 43rd President of the United States, or was it actually Dick Cheney? Serious analysts of American politics generally discount the idea that the President is merely a puppet whose strings the Vice-President pulls.

So Mr. Ferguson establishes his own unseriousness.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


In Search of the Great American Hockey Novel (KEITH GESSEN, 2/19/06, NY Times Book Review)

What accounts for the marginal place of hockey in the world of American professional sports? Might it not, in the end, have something to do with its marginal place in the world of American letters? While the literatures of boxing and baseball are vast, and basketball (John McPhee's "Sense of Where You Are") and football (Don DeLillo's "End Zone," H. G. Bissinger's "Friday Night Lights") also have their classic texts, hockey remains comparatively undocumented. Will historians of the future even know that at the beginning of the 21st century, rugged men from many nations gathered in artificially chilled arenas in Buffalo, Ottawa, St. Paul and Philadelphia to contest Lord Stanley's Cup? To paraphrase Saul Bellow: Where is the Chekhov of the Chicago Blackhawks? Who is the Stendhal of the stick to the groin?

There are just two great hockey books and neither is a novel:

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Bridging the Divide on Abortion (E. J. Dionne Jr., February 14, 2006, Washington Post)

[T]here is a new argument on abortion that may establish a more authentic middle ground. It would use government not to outlaw abortion altogether but to reduce its likelihood. And at least one politician, Thomas R. Suozzi, the county executive of New York's Nassau County, has shown that the position involves more than soothing rhetoric.

Last May Suozzi, a Democrat, gave an important speech calling on both sides to create "a better world where there are fewer unplanned pregnancies, and where women who face unplanned pregnancies receive greater support and where men take more responsibility for their actions."

Last week Suozzi put money behind his words. He announced nearly $1 million in county government grants to groups ranging from Planned Parenthood to Catholic Charities for an array of programs -- adoption and housing, sex education, and abstinence promotion -- to reduce unwanted pregnancies and to help pregnant women who want to bring their children into the world. Suozzi calls his initiative "Common Sense for the Common Good" and, as Newsday reported, he was joined at his news conference by people at both ends of the abortion debate.

This is a matter on which no good deed goes unpunished, and Suozzi was immediately denounced by Kelli Conlin, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice New York, for the grants that went to abstinence-only programs, which, she insisted, do not work.

As the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy has argued for years, the best approach to the problem involves neither abstinence-only nor contraception-only programs but a combination of the two. But the merits of the issue aside, it's unfortunate that Suozzi's initiative is caught in the cross fire of this year's campaign for governor of New York. Suozzi is expected to challenge state Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, the front-runner for the Democratic nomination. NARAL strongly supports Spitzer, who opposes the ban on partial-birth abortion that Suozzi -- otherwise an abortion rights supporter -- favors.

You'd think Mr. Dionne might note not just that the abortionist oppose abstinence but that the Democrat's candidate will be the guy who even supports infanticide.

February 18, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:29 PM


Islamic truths (Mansoor Ijaz, February 18, 2006, LA Times)

[T]here is no such human persona as a "moderate Muslim." You either believe in the oneness of God or you don't. You either believe in the teachings of his prophet or you don't. You either learn those teachings and apply them to the circumstances of life in the country you have chosen to live in, or you shouldn't live there.

Haters of Islam use the simplicity and elegance of its black-and-white rigor for devious political advantage by classifying the Koran's religious edicts as the cult-like behavior of fanatics. The West would win a lot of hearts and minds if it only showed Islam as it really is — telling the story, for example, that the prophet Muhammad was one of the great commodity traders of all time because he based his dealings on uniquely Muslim values, or that the reason he had multiple wives was not for the sake of sex but to give proper homes to the children of women made widows during a time of war. The cartoon imbroglio offered Western media an opportunity to portray the prophet in his many dignified dimensions, not just the distorted ones; sadly, there were few takers.

But to look at angry Islam's reaction on television each night forces the question of what might be possible if all the lost energy of thousands of rioting Muslims went into the villages of Aceh to rebuild lost homes or into Kashmir to construct schools.

In fact, the most glaring truth is that Islam's mobsters fear the West has it right: that we have perfected the very system Islam's holy scriptures urged them to learn and practice. And having failed in their mission to lead their masses, they seek any excuse to demonize those of us in the West and to try to bring us down. They know they are losing the ideological struggle for hearts and minds, for life in all its different dimensions, and so they prepare themselves, and us, for Armageddon by starting fires everywhere in a display of Islamic unity intended to galvanize the masses they cannot feed, clothe, educate or house.

This is not Islam. And the faster its truest believers stand up and demonstrate its values and principles by actions, not words, the sooner a great religion will return to its rightful role as guide for nearly a quarter of humanity.

Indeed, to moderate religious belief is to believe in nothing but oneself. The point is that just as one can easily be totally Jewish or totally Christian and be politically moderate, the Reformation of Islam must demonstrate that one can be totally Muslim and politically moderate, which will be easier for Shi'ites than Sunni to accept. The great challenge is to remind Muslims of the reality that Man is Fallen and that Paradise can therefore never be recreated here on Earth by we mere humans.

The ideal to which we can realistically aspire is that enunciated by Erif Hoffer

Free men are aware of the imperfection inherent in human affairs, and they are willing to fight and die for that which is not perfect. They know that basic human problems can have no final solutions, that our freedom, justice, equality, etc. are far from absolute, and that the good life is compounded of half measures, compromises, lesser evils, and gropings toward the perfect. The rejection of approximations and the insistence on absolutes are the manifestation of a nihilism that loathes freedom, tolerance, and equity.

That in America, where we've come closest to realizing those ideals, we've also created the society in which Muslims can come closest to achieving the sort of decent society that is at the core of Islamic values, where all individuals are treated with respect, ought to be revealing. That those societies where politics is totalitarian are also those that are farthest from achieving those values ought to be even more revealing. Perhaps the following is the most psychically dislocating question a muslim today could ask himself: if Mohammed were to come back today, in which country would he say that the people live with the kind of dignity he demanded?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:11 PM


Hamas: The Perils of Power (Hussein Agha, Robert Malley, March 9, 2006, NY Review of Books)

Power confronts Hamas with other uncomfortable choices and uncertain prospects, for example how to respond to future attacks against Israel carried out by more radical groups, such as Islamic Jihad, or less disciplined ones, such as Fatah's al-Aqsa Brigades. What methods to employ to secure the release of thousands of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails? What should Hamas do if Israel resumes targeted assassinations, builds more settlements in East Jerusalem, or completes the separation barrier? How is Hamas to handle the roughly 70,000 armed security forces who are loyal to Fatah and are not about to report to a Hamas command?

Nor does the power Hamas has gained look quite so considerable now that it has it. The Islamists may hold the Palestinian Legislative Council, but that means they control only a little over half of one of five branches of power, and not the most influential one at that. The presidency remains in Abbas's hands, the security forces are allied with Fatah, the Islamists' status in the Palestine Liberation Organization is still unclear, and, for now at least, they have no part in the government. Even in terms of the popular vote, Hamas's victory is less than it may seem, for more Palestinians cast ballots for Fatah and Fatah-leaning independents than they did for the Islamists. In a sense, Hamas's electoral success may highlight its political and structural weakness. The Islamists triumphed over Fatah but only in the battle between two organizations, and organization never was Fatah's strong suit. Rather, Fatah derives strength from the loyalties it elicits, the memory it evokes, the paramount leader it once had, and the inclusive ideas it still espouses. Those strengths, Hamas is likely to find, will be far harder to vanquish.

But the headache is not Hamas's to bear alone. How others react undoubtedly will influence what it ultimately will do. Early reactions by Fatah reflected shock and anger, but, more than that, a thirst for revenge. In voting for Hamas, as some 45 percent did, Palestinians were expressing the belief that the Islamists could succeed where the nationalists didn't. As many in the nationalist movement see it, it is important to prove them wrong. The last thing to do would be to give Hamas cover, allow it to control a technocratic government from afar, benefit from its successes, and profit from its international support. Rather, Hamas should be forced to confront hard choices. If it sticks to a hard line against recognition of Israel's legitimacy, it will lose international support and fail. If it agrees to compromise, it will be exposed in public eyes as hypocritical and flounder. Either way, so goes the logic, Fatah will gain.

In a sign of bewilderment that was unusual even by the standards of the Bush administration, the United States all at once pressed for the recent elections, warned that armed militias such as Hamas should not participate, and opposed Israeli efforts to keep Hamas off the ballot. After the elections, President Bush both praised the Palestinians' exercise in democracy and hinted they might be punished for their choice. US perplexity is the price, perhaps, of years of chasing an illusion, the so-called Fatah young guard that was supposed to democratize, reform, and stabilize the Palestinian Authority, while also enjoying the necessary legitimacy to disarm militias and compromise with Israel. The occupation weighs too heavily and Palestinian society is too traditional, traumatized, and dispersed for people who lack deep, authentic roots ever to achieve that. Having waited in vain, and at heavy cost, for the nonexistent young guard to emerge, the US inherited instead the Islamists. It now must figure out what to do with them.

In Washington, there is palpable temptation to be tough, and require of Hamas wholesale ideological conversion before economic or diplomatic benefits can flow. That conversion, it readily is conceded, is unlikely to happen. But for some, setting the experiment up for failure is not the worst one could do. Hamas should not be let off the hook easily; its intolerant Islamist outlook should not be sanctioned; and, besides, there is more at stake than Palestine alone. Throughout the region, radical Islamists already have been emboldened by Hamas's victory; if the experiment is allowed to succeed, they may become unstoppable. Hence the need to maintain a coherent, united, and solid international front demanding that Hamas renounce violence and recognize Israel as a precondition for engaging with any government it would back.

It's easy enough to argue that the U.S, should not have supported democracy for the Palestinians -- after all, Realism has long prevailed in the Middle East as we've backed dictatorships out of fear of the people -- but there's nothing incoherent or perplexed in the Administration's position that democracy should proceeed and that the Palestinians should not have voted for an Islamic party but that they were entitled to do so and we in turn are entitled to insist that such a party moderate its views before being treated as legitimate. Either democracy and the demands of the electorate will serve to discipline the leadership of Palestine or else a day of military recknoning will have to come. All the Bush/Sharon policy has done is give Palestinians an opportunity to determine their own fate--whatever happens from here on out is to their credit or they're to blame.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:49 PM


Lance Armstrong vs. Sheryl Crow: George W. Bush to Blame? (Tina Sims, Feb 12, 2006, The National Ledger)

Lance Armstrong and Sheryl Crow have said all the right things so far as the speculation for their break shifts gears. One tabloid even examines that it may be President George W. Bush's fault as Lance is a Bush fan while Sheryl is a Bush basher.

The Star details that a friend of the singer said they knew the bust up was coming.

"Sheryl said Lance didn't just support Bush, - he'd go off and fight if the president asked him too.

Recall Crow sported a "War is not the answer," tee-shirt last July and Lance answered by biking with Bush in August of 2005.

There have always been reports that Mr. Armstrong would consider a political; career himself--probably just as well to ditch her before she has to hang out with Tom DeLay....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:45 PM


Hunters Poll: Dick Cheney Accident Common (Newsmax, 2/17/06)

In a poll sponsored by South Dakota's Sioux Falls Argus-Leader newspaper, 883 South Dakota bird hunters were asked, "Have you ever been peppered with shotgun BB's?"

More than half, 55 percent, said they had. Forty-one percent said "they were wearing orange vests when sprayed."

The poll was taken before Cheney's accident by Pheasant Country, a web site sponsored by the South Dakota paper, according to the Washington Times.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:56 AM


The Quiet Resolve of a German Anti-Nazi Martyr (STEPHEN HOLDEN, NY Times)

"Sophie Scholl: The Final Days" conveys what it must have been like to be a young, smart, idealistic dissenter in Nazi Germany, where no dissent was tolerated. This gripping true story, directed in a cool, semi-documentary style by the German filmmaker Marc Rothemund from a screenplay by Fred Breinersdorfer, challenges you to gauge your own courage and strength of character should you find yourself in similar circumstances. Would you risk your life the way Sophie Scholl (Julia Jentsch) and a tiny group of fellow students at Munich University did to spread antigovernment leaflets? How would you behave during the kind of relentless interrogations that Sophie endures? If sentenced to death for your activities, would you still consider your resistance to have been worth it? In a climate of national debate in the United States about the overriding of certain civil liberties to fight terrorism, the movie looks back on a worst possible scenario in which such liberties were taken away. It raises an unspoken question: could it happen here?

That, in a nutshell, is the source of the Left's continual Nazi references, the need to inflate their petulance into a form of great moral courage. Too bad Ms Scholl isn't around to laugh at them with us.

Brother Driscoll has news that makes it perhaps just as well Ms Scholl isn't around.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:23 AM


Perotists: a review of Three's a Crowd: The Dynamic of Third Parties, Ross Perot, and Republican Resurgence By Ronald B. Rapoport and Walter J. Stone (Martin Peretz, 02.17.06, New Republic)

In his first presidential race, Perot appealed to the economic nationalism of voters when the two major party contenders were trying to play down the issue entirely. In the House elections of 1994, a revolutionary year for the Republican Party, Perot voters gravitated mostly to GOP candidates because they spoke to and for a familiar muscular patriotism.

The Perot wild card without Perot is bad news for Democrats. Most of those middle-aged voters who went for Perot simply cannot vote for the mushy Democratic policies and attitudes on national defense and security. In any case, it is good news for John McCain. As the authors demonstrate, McCain picked up many Perot voters in the 2000 primaries. He has distanced himself from the most distasteful of Bush policies without losing the hard edge that people can attribute to his long and heroic stay in the Hanoi Hilton. In any event, this is one reason why the aspirants to the Republican succession can read this book with some pleasure. And why, probably, since they don't like encountering unpleasant tidings, Howard Dean and company may not have yet bought it. In the end, they will because they will have to. But it will probably be too late.

Hillary Clinton will easily pick up Perot voters if she runs on isolationism, protectionism and anti-immigrationism, all natural positions for her party's base.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:07 AM


The Man Who Would Be le Président: Nicolas Sarkozy wants to wake up France. (Christopher Caldwell, 02/27/2006, Weekly Standard)

[Nicolas] Sarkozy has been a politician for most of his 51 years. He resembles Bill Clinton in that he leaves the impression that politics is the only thing he cares about really deeply; he resembles Ronald Reagan in that he seems to view politics as a battle between, on the one hand, hard-working people with on-the-ground knowledge of problems, and, on the other, vainglorious dispensers of official baloney, from academicians to columnists to "community leaders." Very few ministers of any description have visited the isolated and anomic banlieues that exploded in riots last fall. Sarkozy has been there dozens of times. As the minister of the interior, Sarkozy is responsible both for keeping order in the banlieues and for organizing France's religions, particularly the 5 million or so Muslims whom he has with difficulty shepherded into the French religion-and-state system, by means of the French Council of the Muslim Faith, which he launched two years ago.

When an 11-year-old boy was shot to death last spring while washing his father's car as a Father's Day present in the Cité des Quatre Mille housing project outside of Paris, Sarkozy promised to clean up the neighborhood "à Kärcher"--citing the trade name of a company that makes high-pressure hoses. While he was visiting Aulnay-sous-Bois at the height of the riots, a mother pleaded with him from a window to do something about the "low-lifes" (racaille) who were burning down the neighborhood. Sarkozy shouted back that he would, and used the word himself. To say that his impetuosity gets him in trouble, as the newspapers often do, is to miss the point. True, Sarkozy is a polarizer. The senior-circuit tennis player Yannick Noah, who--quite bizarrely--is one of the most quoted celebrities in France, allegedly told Paris Match last summer (the remark was never printed), "S'il passe, je me casse!" (If he gets in, I'm out of here!). But at this point Sarkozy is as popular as any politician in the country, even in parts of the banlieues themselves. While some kids echo the condemnations of the press ("Vraiment, 'Kärcher', 'racaille', ça ne passe pas," one Marseille teenager told Le Monde), others admire him. Everyone knows him.

One thing Sarkozy does not resemble in the slightest is a traditional French politician. "I am a man of the right," he says over breakfast, "even if I'm not a conservative in the traditional sense." This is an extraordinary admission. No presidential hopeful in decades, even in the UMP created by Jacques Chirac in the wake of De Gaulle's RPR, has ever accepted the label. Never in his political life has Jacques Chirac made a similar statement. From his time as prime minister in the mid-seventies, when he described his goal as the creation of "a labor movement à la française," to his recent New Year's address, in which he again attacked American-style capitalism, Chirac has taken many positions, but none of them on the "right." Since Sarkozy's profession leaves him liable to accusations in the French press that he is the favored candidate of Americans or free-marketeers, he is anxious to spell out exactly what he means by a "temperament of the right." It is something he has obviously thought about a lot. "First, the primacy of work; second, the need to compensate personal merit and effort; third, respect for the rules, and for authority; fourth, the belief that democracy does not mean weakness; fifth, values; sixth, . . . I'm persuaded that, before sharing, you have to create wealth. I don't like egalitarianism."

Out of this value system come plans for everything.

You don't have to be particularly savvy to notice that parties of the Right have been dominating Western elections in recent years, nor to figure out that the egalitarian path that Rousseau's France diverged onto over two hundred years ago has been a disaster. But Sarkozy is the first to recognize these things.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:03 AM


A blues King reigns with class (JEFF JOHNSON, 2/18/06, Chicago Sun-Times)

There are about 80 reasons for someone attending a B.B. King concert these days to have only modest expectations. There's one reason to hope for something great, but it's a compelling one: A great showman rises to any occasion.

The new octogenarian summoned all his energy Thursday night at the House of Blues to deliver his best local show in recent memory. The years seemed to melt away through the course of his 100 minutes onstage.

The best-known of all living blues legends played his trusty guitar Lucille tenderly if somewhat sparingly. But with every solo, dazzling one-string run or vibrato, he showed why he's always up near the top of any credible "greatest guitarists" list. His vocals were equally powerful, displaying the range and power of a much younger man.

Maybe it was a brief respite from the road before beginning what has been erroneously billed as King's last world tour.

Perhaps it was the Grammy he received last week -- No. 14 overall -- for "80," a duets album.

It may have been the presence of his Chicago blues belter daughter Shirley King and other relatives.

And then he was making his first appearance at the House of Blues in the city he acknowledged as "the home of the blues."

Or maybe he was just thumbing his nose at critics on several recent tour stops who complained that King at 80 talks more than he plays.

We don't have enough blues, jazz, and soul legends left to quibble about an uneven performance level, do we?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:56 AM


The Multiculturalism of the Streets: When Americans eat at Baja Fresh or Panda Express, they’re digesting more than they think. (Joel Kotkin, Spring 2006, American Interest)

The fate of the West in the 21st century may depend on how well its nations integrate ambitious people from the rest of the world into its fold. No advanced Western country—not even America—produces enough children to keep itself from becoming a granny nation by 2050. So unless indigenous birth rates rise beyond pattern and probability, only immigration—and the industry and energy these newcomers and their children bring—can provide the spark to keep Western societies vital and growing.

We see the dynamism of immigrant culture already before our eyes. Many of the most bustling sections of Western cities today, from Belleville in Paris to the revived communities along the 7 train in Queens, are precisely those dominated by immigrant enterprise. Sergio Muñoz, a Mexican journalist and a long-time resident of Los Angeles, calls what is happening in these and so many other places “the multiculturalism of the streets.” These are the true laboratories of successful ethnic integration—a form of multiculturalism that takes place through face-to-face contact, informal cultural exchange and, above all, capitalist commerce.

This “multiculturalism of the streets” differs enormously from the political variety of multiculturalism taught in ethnic studies programs or embraced by governments in racial quotas and “official” Islamic councils. It is also very different from the futile French cult of enforced secularism, which denies ethnic differences and bans individual expression such as the cross, kippah or headscarf. Whenever multiculturalism is formally enforced or officially banned, it distorts natural impulses to ethnic association and invariably causes problems. This is particularly true when the chance to operate a street-level economy is stifled by state intervention— through taxes, labor regulations, certifications— as it is in much of western Europe.

Here in America, as well, we have distorted the benign multiculturalism of the streets in other ways, through militant ethnic studies programs at many American universities, racial quotas and sectarian politics, all of which are associated with the Left and with parts of the Democratic Party. The cadences of America’s culture wars being what they are, such manifestations of institutional multiculturalism have evoked dire warnings from the Right about the dangers to national unity posed by our increasingly diverse population. These concerns, raised in works such as Samuel Huntington’s Who Are We? and Victor Davis Hanson’s Mexifornia, focus primarily on ideological and linguistic perspectives. Huntington worries about the future of Anglo-Saxon democracy and fears that our newcomers—whom he calls ominously a “migrant tide”—will become part of “a continuous Mexican society from the Yucatan to Colorado.” Hanson focuses largely on the Hispanic population in places like his rural homeland near Fresno, California. He plays back the pronunciamentos of some Latino politicians, academics and student activists who advocate a separate Spanish-language quasi-state in the American Southwest. Like Huntington, Hanson fears that the rise of a primarily Spanish-language Mexifornia will infect America with the often dysfunctional social, political and cultural patterns of Latin America.

These concerns are not frivolous, particularly in reference to illegal immigration, but they do seem exaggerated. The rural Central Valley near Fresno has long been a center of backwardness, poor schools and social dysfunction. Parts of it resemble Mexico more than they do the modern United States, and integration there may continue to prove difficult. Yet the Hispanic population of the rural Valley constitutes less than a tenth of the overall Latino presence in California, which clusters in large cities and suburbs where mixing is much easier and far more common.

Huntington and Hanson are also correct about the need to bolster the Anglo-Saxon political heritage against the depredations of leftist intellectuals, Latino or otherwise. Yet there is little evidence that Mexican-Americans as a whole have bought into campus-minted separatist notions. Latinos represent a growing proportion of the U.S. military—hardly a sign of disaffection from the national culture. And while Huntington and Hanson are right, as well, that many recent arrivals have primary loyalty to another country and culture and plan to return home, this is nothing new. So it was in the 19th century, too, when many British, Italian and Greek immigrants ultimately returned home. The difference is that immigrants today are far less likely to return to their native countries after sojourning here.

Most important, we must not confuse the intellectual emanations of our culture wars for real life. The sights, smells and sounds of the street are not sources of national disunion today any more than they were a century ago. In 1907, after a long voluntary exile in Europe, Henry James complained bitterly about his “sense of dispossession” as he walked down the streets of American cities. He particularly disliked the guttural tones and business methods of the Jews who crowded New York, Boston and other East Coast urban areas.

Yet the Jews, Italians, Irish and other migrants so detested by James later became the parents of a whole generation of great American writers, as well as some of the nation’s leading politicians, entrepreneurs, scientists and soldiers—not to mention its solid, ordinary blue-collar families. If we look at today’s new Americans, we see the same pattern.

As in all things, it is the intellectuals who are the enemy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:51 AM


Insects provided foe in Civil War's epic struggle, scientist finds (TOM HOWELL JR., 2/16/06, Capital News Service)

Twice as many Civil War soldiers died from insect-related disease than direct combat - an obscure fact Gary Miller has discovered in his unique, decades-long hobby.

Since the 1970s, Miller, 48, of Laurel, Md., has pored over books, soldiers' letters and regimental histories for insect references. He found that mosquitoes, body lice and flies were a constant nuisance to Union and Confederate soldiers. Roughly 60,000 soldiers died from malaria on the Union side alone, he said.

"I think the beauty of looking at the insects is it's a topic that we all can relate to," he said. "Few of us can relate to combat."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:38 AM


Joan's Passion on the Screen, Plus Chorus and Orchestra (ANTHONY TOMMASINI, 2/18/06, NY Times)

Should the composer Richard Einhorn's "Voices of Light" be heard as an oratorio that accompanies the 1928 silent film classic "The Passion of Joan of Arc"? Or is it the film, by the Danish director Carl Theodor Dreyer, that accompanies Mr. Einhorn's 80-minute musical work? [...]

"Voices of Light" has been performed more than 100 times around the world over the last 10 years, providing a nice income source for Mr. Einhorn, who has also been a record producer. If nothing else, the composer deserves thanks for introducing new audiences to Dreyer's masterpiece, which was nearly lost.

Shortly after its premiere, the film was destroyed in a fire. Though shattered, Dreyer reconstructed an acceptable version using negatives from outtakes. Incredibly, the replacement film was lost in a second fire. For decades the work was known only through various bastardized versions. Then, in 1981, as Mr. Einhorn explained to the audience, an intact copy of the original film was discovered in a janitor's closet in a mental hospital in Oslo. When Mr. Einhorn saw this wonderfully restored print, he was moved to compose his score.

"Voices of Light" has a libretto of Latin and French texts assembled by Mr. Einhorn. Anonymous 4 sing quotations of Joan's words from the transcript of her trial for blasphemy in 1431. The chorus and soloists sing a patchwork of writings from medieval mystics, mostly women. Mr. Einhorn's sensitive score deftly shifts styles from evocations of neomedieval counterpoint to wistful modal murmurings over droning pedal tones, from bursts of Minimalistic repetitions to moments of piercing modern harmony.

The Criterion Collection version of the film is set to Voices of Light and is amazing. Also, check out Garrett Fisher's haunting Passion of Thomas More.

Posted by David Cohen at 8:32 AM


Retirement age 'will rise to 85' (Paul Rincon, BBC, 2/17/06)

The age of retirement should be raised to 85 by 2050 because of trends in life expectancy, a US biologist has said.

Shripad Tuljapurkar of Stanford University says anti-ageing advances could raise life expectancy by a year each year over the next two decades.

That will put a strain on economies around the world if current retirement ages are maintained, he warned.

All of our current social security projections are based on the assumption that life expectancy will not rise more than six years in the coming century.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:27 AM


Report on Impact of Federal Benefits on Curbing Poverty Reignites a Debate (ERIK ECKHOLM, 2/18/06, NY Times)

A brief report this week from the Census Bureau, highlighting how welfare programs and tax credits affect incomes among the poor, has fanned the politically charged debate on poverty in the United States and how best to measure it, with conservatives offering praise and liberals saying it underplays the extent of deprivation.

The report, "The Effects of Government Taxes and Transfers on Income and Poverty: 2004," found that when noncash benefits like food stamps and housing subsidies were considered, as well as tax credits given to low-income workers, the share of Americans living under the poverty line last year was 8.3 percent.

This is well below the 12.7 percent of Americans that the government officially says lived below the poverty line in 2004, using the conventional methodology that only counts a family's cash income.

Conservatives have long maintained that poverty levels are overstated, and the new report was hailed by Douglas Besharov, an expert on social policy at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative research group in Washington, as a much needed corrective. Mr. Besharov issued a news release saying, "The new data show that real progress against poverty has been made in the last 40 years."

And given the number of unfilled jobs we have and the massive importation of foreign workers the economy has required, you pretty much have to want to live in poverty if you're still there.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:24 AM


Bush Sees Need to Expand Role of NATO in Sudan (DAVID E. SANGER, 2/18/06, NY Times)

President Bush signaled a new American commitment on Friday to addressing the crisis in Darfur, saying he would support an expanded role by NATO to shore up a failing African peacekeeping mission there.

Mr. Bush also said he favored doubling the number of peacekeepers operating in Darfur under United Nations control, as proposed by the Security Council last month. He discussed Darfur, in western Sudan, as an offshoot of a question about the fate of children in war-ravaged northern Uganda.

"I talked to Kofi Annan about this very subject this week," Mr. Bush said, referring to a meeting with the United Nations secretary general. "But it's going to require, I think, a NATO stewardship, planning, facilitating, organizing, probably double the number of peacekeepers that are there now, in order to start bringing some sense of security. There has to be a consequence for people abusing their fellow citizens."

We've done much good in the Sudan, but have much left to do.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:22 AM


MIT develops new fast-charging battery technology ideal for automobiles (GizMag, February 18, 2006

With the world going mobile and billions of new devices requiring electrical storage, battery technology is almost certainly due for a renaissance in the near future and recent developments suggest MIT will play a role in the next significant battery technology. Less than a week ago, we reported on work being done by MIT's Laboratory for Electromagnetic and Electronic Systems (LEES) that could become the first technologically significant and economically viable alternative to conventional batteries in 200 years. Now a second new and highly promising battery technology is emerging from MIT - a new type of lithium battery that could become a cheaper alternative to the batteries that now power hybrid electric cars.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:10 AM


Israel and Hamas quietly do business (BBC, 2/17/06)

As the Palestinian militant group Hamas prepares to assume control of the Palestinian Authority, BBC Middle East correspondent James Reynolds visits the West Bank town of Qalqilya, where Hamas officials and Israeli civil servants are already working together. [...]

We followed the town's acting mayor Hashem Masri up the stairs into the town hall.

He is standing in for the real mayor, who is serving time in an Israeli jail.

Every day Mr Masri faces a dilemma: his party Hamas does not recognise the state of Israel, but his town Qalqilya needs services from Israel in order to survive.

So he has to deal with the Jewish state. And it seems that the Jewish state has to deal with him.

Mr Masri says that he has twice met an employee of the Israeli state electricity company in order to sort out the town's electricity bill.

"I meet him in a car, here beside Qalqilya. He is responsible for Arabic services, we met for one-and-a-half hours," he explained.

Asked if it was a friendly meeting, he says: "Why not? It was civil, without any problem between him and I. The big problem is with the occupation here."

So, two men in a car - one an elected representative from Hamas and the other an Israeli civil servant.

A direct meeting like this is unusual. But, in general, indirect contact between Hamas mayors and Israel is not particularly uncommon.

Reality is a tough taskmaster.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:06 AM


Tory supports private role in public system (ROB FERGUSON AND RICHARD BRENNAN, 2/18/06, Toronto Star)

Ontario can expect more private specialty hospitals like the Shouldice clinic for hernia treatment if Progressive Conservatives win the next election, leader John Tory said yesterday as he kicked off a party policy conference. [...]

The weekend Progressive Conservative conference is a defining moment in Tory's leadership as he gets the party ready for the Oct. 4, 2007 election. Tory has begun talking about the importance of people taking charge of their own lives instead of relying on Queen's Park.

"The government has a very important role to play but people still have to take more responsibility for every aspect of their own life, especially if those people don't want to pay ever-higher taxes," he said, adding this would be a theme of his speech to the 1,000 delegates tonight.

"The notion that we should expect the government to do everything for everybody ... is not realistic," he said.

One policy that is not up for debate, Tory told reporters, is his decision to scrap the controversial Liberal health tax, which costs up to $900 per person per year and raises $2.6 billion annually.

"I think it is important that we should get rid of that health tax," he said, adding that it would be phased out over the term of the government rather than all at once.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:46 AM


Tea riding wave of coffee craze (Jen Haberkorn, February 18, 2006, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

An ancient beverage is making a comeback.

Tea, thought to have been first consumed in China in 2737 B.C., is brewing in teahouses, retail shops, grocery stores and restaurants throughout the country.

Teahouses "were primarily in major metropolitan areas five years ago," said Joe Simrany, president of the Tea Association of the USA, a New York trade group. "They're in towns big and small now."

The group estimates 1,500 to 1,700 tea shops are in the country today, compared with 200 five years ago.

Teahouses are part of the $6.16 billion tea industry, which 15 years ago was a quarter of its current size. Bottled teas, frozen teas and tea bags of traditional black and specialty flavors also are riding a wave of popularity, bolstered by the coffee craze of the 1990s and the increased awareness of tea's health benefits.

Green tea in particular is high in antioxidants, which preliminary studies have found lowers the chances of developing some forms of cancer and arthritis while helping weight loss and strengthening the immune system.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:01 AM


No ifs, ands or butts: Sox OK Curt’s shirt (Herald staff, February 18, 2006 )

The Red Sox said Curt Schilling’s decision to wear a T-shirt that might be deemed offensive during a workout at the team’s minor league complex yesterday was a nonissue.

Schilling played catch and threw in a bullpen on a back field for just over 10 minutes while wearing a shirt that provided a twist on the old “I’m With Stupid” novelty jerseys of decades past. It read: “I’m trying to see things from your point of view but I can’t stick my head that far up my [keister].”

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Is he a Johnny-come-lately?: Crisp rejects that notion, saying he'll be his own man for Red Sox (Chris Snow, February 18, 2006, Boston Globe)

''I'm not interested," Francona said, ''in Johnny Damon-Coco Crisp comparisons. I don't think it's pertinent or fair."

It is probably neither, which is why you won't hear the Red Sox manager, general manager, or equipment manager suggest the following: Crisp is becoming Damon, only quicker than Damon did.

Crisp reported to camp yesterday, several days ahead of schedule, marking the beginning of the Year 1 A.D. (After Damon), and his persona and career ascent, juxtaposed against those of the 25 members of the 2005 Red Sox, most closely resembles . . . Damon's.

Crisp has 1,626 major league at-bats, and in that time has accomplished the following: .287 average, .332 on-base percentage, .424 slugging percentage, 35 home runs, 176 RBIs, 54 stolen bases, 29 times caught stealing.

Damon, through 1,623 major league at-bats, amassed these totals: .272 average, .326 OBP, .395 slugging, 29 homers, 157 RBIs, 65 steals, 25 times caught stealing.

Damon, in his second, third, and fourth major league seasons, steadily increased his home run totals (6 to 8 to 18), doubles (22 to 12 to 30), and OPS (.680 to .723 to .779). Crisp's home run totals have increased quicker (3 to 15 to 16), and so have his doubles (15 to 24 to 42) and OPS (.655 to .790 to .810).

Crisp reached what appears to be his cruising altitude of roughly .300-15-70 in his third season. Damon got there in his fourth year.

The equally alluring comparison is in the people, not the players. Both are loquacious, both are bemused by and responsive to media inquiries, and each is as defined by his disposition as his position.

The comparison is most unfair to Mr. Damon, who's 33 this year and has a bum throwing arm.

February 17, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:37 PM


Russia's first gay parade vetoed by 'outraged' city (Andrew Osborn, 17 February 2006, Independent)

Plans to stage Russia's first gay pride parade have been vetoed by Moscow's city government on the grounds that the idea has caused "outrage" in society.

Mayor Yuri Luzhkov's administration said yesterday it would not even consider an application for a parade, prompting Russia's gay community to threaten legal action in the European Court of Human Rights.

Gay and lesbian activists have been campaigning for permission to stage the country's first gay pride event on Saturday 27 May.

The date marks the 13th anniversary of the decriminalisation of homosexuality in Russia in 1993. But the plans have drawn a furious reaction from religious leaders and been condemned as "suicidal" by other gay activists .

Earlier this week Chief Mufti Talgat Tadzhuddin warned that Russia's Muslims would stage violent protests if the march went ahead. "If they come out on to the streets anyway they should be flogged. Any normal person would do that - Muslims and Orthodox Christians alike ... [The protests] might be even more intense than protests abroad against those controversial cartoons."

The Russian Orthodox Church has called it "the propaganda of sin". Bishop Daniil of Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk yesterday condemned the plans as a "cynical mockery" and likened homosexuality to leprosy.

It's all well and good to defend morality, but unless the Russians address their demographic problems there'll be no one left to enjoy the culture they preserve.

Posted by David Cohen at 6:59 PM


Impeaching Bush Is 'Cause Worth Fighting for,' Actor Says (Randy Hall, CNSNews.com, 2/17/06)

"There are causes worth fighting for even if you know that you will lose," Dreyfuss said during a speech at the National Press Club. "Unless you are willing to accept torture as part of a normal American political lexicon, unless you are willing to accept that leaving the Geneva Convention is fine and dandy, if you accept the expansion of wiretapping as business as usual, the only way to express this now is to embrace the difficult and perhaps embarrassing process of impeachment."...

"If we refuse to debate the appropriateness of the process of impeachment, we endorse that behavior, and we approve the enlargement of executive power," regardless of whoever may occupy the White House in the future, he said....

During his address on the subject of Hollywood's view of contemporary news media, Dreyfuss said he is not a cynic or a liberal, but is instead a "'libo-conservo-middle-of-the-roado,' and I have been for many years."...

The actor saved his harshest tone for those who accuse critics of the government and its officials of having a more serious motive. [Emphasis added]

"Watch me lose my sense of humor if people accuse me of treason," Dreyfuss said....

This is the weirdest case of self-aggrandisement I've ever seen. "Traitor," which implies some self-knowledge, would be a step up.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:42 PM


Chinese Censors of Internet Face “Hacktivists” in US (Geoffrey A. Fowler, 14 February 2006, The Wall Street Journal)

Surfing the Web last fall, a Chinese high-school student who calls himself Zivn noticed something missing. It was Wikipedia, an online encyclopedia that accepts contributions or edits from users, and that he himself had contributed to.

The Chinese government, in October, had added Wikipedia to a list of Web sites and phrases it blocks from Internet users. For Zivn, trying to surf this and many other Web sites, including the BBC's Chinese-language news service, brought just an error message. But the 17-year-old had loved the way those sites helped him put China's official pronouncements in perspective. "There were so many lies among the facts, and I could not find where the truth is," he writes in an instant-message interview.

Then some friends told him where to find Freegate, a software program that thwarts the Chinese government's vast system to limit what its citizens see. Freegate -- by connecting computers inside of China to servers in the U.S. -- enables Zivn and others to keep reading and writing to Wikipedia and countless other Web sites.

Behind Freegate is a North Carolina-based Chinese hacker named Bill Xia. He calls it his red pill, a reference to the drug in the "Matrix" movies that vaulted unconscious captives of a totalitarian regime into the real world. Mr. Xia likes to refer to the villainous Agent Smith from the Matrix films, noting that the digital bad guy in sunglasses "guards the Matrix like China's Public Security Bureau guards the Internet."

Roughly a dozen Chinese government agencies employ thousands of Web censors, Internet cafe police and computers that constantly screen traffic for forbidden content and sources -- a barrier often called the Great Firewall of China. Type, say, "media censorship by China" into emails, chats or Web logs, and the messages never arrive.

Even with this extensive censorship, Chinese are getting vast amounts of information electronically that they never would have found a decade ago. The growth of the Internet in China -- to an estimated 111 million users -- was one reason the authorities, after a week's silence, ultimately had to acknowledge a disastrous toxic spill in a river late last year. But the government recently has redoubled its efforts to narrow the Net's reach on sensitive matters.

Keep making them double their efforts and you win eventually.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:14 PM


Ahmadinejad on the warpath (Mahan Abedin , 2/18/06, Asia Times)

The most important feature of the second-generation revolutionaries is that they developed their political consciousness in the battlefields of the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s, and not in the revolutionary struggle against the Pahlavi regime. While they are intensely loyal to the memory of the late ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini (the leader of the Iranian revolution and founder of the Islamic Republic), the second-generation revolutionaries have tenuous ties (at best) to the conservative clerical establishment that controls the key centers of political and economic power.

Contrary to Western reporting, Ahmadinejad's performance has generated more controversy and ill-feeling within the corridors of power in Tehran than in the crucible of Western public opinion. Arguably, the most surprising development in the past six months is the extent of Ahmadinejad's independence and freedom of action.

Originally dismissed as the lackey of the clerical establishment, Ahmadinejad has proved time and again that the only agenda that drives him is his own. In the space of a few months the former IRGC commander has emerged as certainly the most independent and arguably the most powerful president in the republic's 27-year history. Even the Islamic Republic's spiritual leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, does not seem to have any appreciable influence over Ahmadinejad and his inner circle.

While liberals and reformists are, broadly speaking, in opposition to the Ahmadinejad government, it is the conservative establishment that has emerged as the second-generation revolutionaries' most formidable adversary. This is not surprising, given that the latter aspire to reorder fundamentally the socio-economic system in the Islamic Republic, changes that would fatally weaken the conservatives.

The conservative establishment hoped to delay the coming of age of the second-generation revolutionaries by positioning Hashemi Rafsanjani in the presidency. But Rafsanjani lost to Ahmadinejad, and he has since played the part of a bad loser. Indeed, the most vociferous opposition to the changes of the past six months has been made by Rafsanjani in his unofficial capacity as the public head of the conservative establishment.

You can count the Western analysts who understand that Khamenei didn't want Ahmadinejad to win on one hand, and that Mordecai Brown's.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:05 PM


Shooting victim supports Cheney: Whittington, 78, says 'accidents do and will happen' (Associated Press, 2/17/06)

The lawyer shot by Vice President Dick Cheney during a hunting trip was discharged from a hospital Friday and told reporters he was deeply sorry for all the trouble Cheney had faced over the past week. [...]

In Texas, Whittington wore a suit and tie as he gave his brief statement outside the hospital. His voice was a bit raspy, but strong, and he had what appeared to be a line of cuts on his upper right eyelid and scrapes on his neck.

"We all assume certain risks in what we do, in what activities we pursue," the 78-year-old Austin attorney said. "Accidents do and will happen." [...]

During his statement, Whittington said the past weekend involved "a cloud of misfortune and sadness that is not easy to explain, especially with those who are not familiar with the great sport of quail hunting."

He said he sent his love and respect to Cheney and his family.

"My family and I are deeply sorry for everything Vice President Cheney and his family have had to deal with," he said. "We hope that he will continue to come to Texas and seek the relaxation that he deserves."

White House Slow to Reveal Burr-Hamilton Duel (Joel Achenbach, 2/13/06, Washington Post)

A Washington Post researcher dug up this notice that ran on page 3 of the July 18, 1804 edition of the Gettysburg Centinel:

"By a gentleman from Philadelphia we learn, that last week a duel took place at New York, between Colonel Aaron Burr, Vice President of the U. States, and General Alexander Hamilton, in which the latter was mortally wounded, and expired in a short time after he was taken from the field. The cause of the duel, or who was the challenger, we did not learn."

Posted by Peter Burnet at 5:00 PM


How we all became Jewish mothers (Steven Mintz, National Post, February 17th, 2006)

Anxiety is the hallmark of contemporary parenting. Today's parents agonize incessantly about their children's physical health, personality development, psychological well-being, and academic performance. From birth, parenthood is coloured by apprehension. Contemporary parents worry about Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and physical and sexual abuse, as well as more mundane problems, such as sleep disorders and hyperactivity.[...]

Contributing to parental anxiety are three decades of panics over children's well-being. Since the early 1970s, there has been recurrent alarm over stranger abductions, poisoned Halloween candies, childhood obesity, and pedophiles luring children over the Internet.

An information revolution has played a crucial role in transforming childhood. Today, over a quarter of two-year-olds have a TV set in their bedroom and half of all kids between seven and 16 have a cellphone. We're a long way from a world where a child had to climb on a bookcase to sneak a peek at Fannie Hill or a father's collection of Playboy magazines. Now, pornography can be found with a click of a mouse.

One of the most striking developments is a phenomon known as "age compression." Fashion, movies, TV shows, and videogames originally targeted at teenage audiences are now consumed by tweens or even younger children. Barbie no longer appeals to 10- or 12-year olds. Instead, she is coveted by three- and four-year-olds.

Have these changes enhanced or harmed children's well-being? By many measures, today's kids are doing much better than their parents. Despite high rates of divorce, single parenthood, and out-of-wedlock births, children, with the notable exception of those in poverty, are healthier, safer, and better off financially. Kids miss fewer days of school than in 1960 and youth crime has fallen to levels not seen since the early 1960s. Teenage smoking, drug abuse, pregnancy, and suicide have shrunk. Girls and children of colour have more role models and opportunities than ever before. Test scores are as high as ever.

Yet all is not well. More children suffer from disabilities and chronic diseases than ever before. These include autism, asthma, and Attention Deficit Disorders. The onset of clinical depression occurs earlier.

Other problems are more difficult to quantify. The historian Daniel Kline has identified three forms of psychological violence directed at contemporary children:

- the "violence of expectations," parents' tendency to push kids beyond their capabilities;
- the "violence of labeling," the tendency to call normal childish behaviour pathological; and
- the "violence of representation," the exploitation of children by opportunistic marketers, politicians, and well-meaning advocacy groups.

Today's society is child-obsessed. But whether contemporary society is child-friendly is another matter. We now have a private obsession with perfecting our own children. And this obsession has come at a cost. It has restricted children's geography and play and has transformed childhood from a time of risk, experimentation, and freedom into a rigorously monitored and structured stage of life.

Our challenge is to allow childhood to be an odyssey of self-discovery, not merely preparation for a premature adulthood.

Apart from slandering Jewish mothers, Mr. Mintz misses the whole point. It isn’t just that we are overly-protective of our children. It is that the collapse of the spiritual and moral in modern life has left many of us unable to see any difference between raising our children and taking care of our cars.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:44 PM


How Is a Hedge Fund Like a School?:
Hedge-fund guru Joel Greenblatt applied Wall Street principles—and $1,000 per student—to turn around a struggling Queens elementary school. And it worked, spectacularly. (Robert Kolker, New York)

On a weekday morning in the spring of 2002, Joel Greenblatt took a radical detour from his usual commute. Instead of riding the Long Island Rail Road from his home on the North Shore to his office in midtown, the 44-year-old hedge-fund manager hired a car service to deliver him to P.S. 65Q, a small, struggling elementary school in working-class Ozone Park, Queens. Little about his past pointed to this visit. Over the previous two decades, Greenblatt had quietly built a reputation as one of Wall Street’s most successful stock-pickers: He had steered his fund, Gotham Capital, to a 40 percent average annual rate of return (it’s now worth about $1.6 billion), and as the author of investment manuals like You Can Be a Stock-Market Genius (Even If You’re Not Too Smart)—the predecessor to his current best seller, The Little Book That Beats the Market—he’d become something of a guru to a generation of elite fund managers. But that morning, Greenblatt was taking a break from Wall Street to focus on the less glamorous world of New York public schools.

P.S. 65Q had opened several years earlier to serve a growing population of extremely poor South American and South Asian immigrants. Housed in a former airplane-parts factory, the school sits on an industrial street with no homes in sight, in the shadow of the elevated A train. The vast majority of the school’s 540 students couldn’t read or do math at the proper grade level, and their parents were largely too beleaguered or disengaged to help.

At the time of Greenblatt’s visit, P.S. 65Q was staring down the loss of an important grant. Under Iris Nelson, the principal who had started at the school a year after it had opened, P.S. 65Q had secured government funds for a reading program called Success for All. The program had led to some promising gains in reading scores, but the grant was expiring at the end of the year. Greenblatt, who had developed an interest in public education only a few years earlier, had become a fan of Success for All and was looking for a school where he could introduce or broaden the program to boost overall achievement. The Success for All Foundation’s director, Bob Slavin, arranged a meeting between Greenblatt and Nelson to try and make a match.

The principal and her staff hadn’t been told much about Greenblatt—just that he was a wealthy banker interested in discussing a contribution. In Nelson’s office, Greenblatt didn’t let much time pass before making it clear his visit wasn’t about just a grant. “I want to keep spending money,” he said, “until everyone can read.”

Nelson struggled to contain her disbelief. Before long, she and Greenblatt were touring the school. About the only thing that didn’t get settled that day was how much money, exactly, Greenblatt would give. Before he left, he asked Nelson to put together a grant proposal.

For weeks, Nelson fretted over how much to request. Finally, she decided to take Greenblatt at his word: To keep everyone from falling behind, she calculated, it would take an incremental $1,000 per student per year for five years, or $2.5 million.

Greenblatt had clearly done his homework. “That,” he told her later, “is exactly what we thought you’d need.”

Today, thanks to Joel Greenblatt’s friendly takeover, P.S. 65Q is a turnaround story worthy of a Harvard B-school case study. Perhaps no school in New York City has ever bounded so swiftly from abject failure to unqualified success. From 2001 to 2005, the proportion of fourth-graders passing the state’s standardized reading test doubled, rising from 36 to 71 percent of the class—and since then, the students’ performance has only gotten better. Nearly every child who has been at the school for three years or more now reads and does math at their proper level or beyond—even the special-ed kids. Last spring, the school was one of fourteen statewide to win the public-school version of the Nobel Prize: a Pathfinder Award for improved performance. The city schools that usually win are in rapidly gentrifying neighborhoods like the Lower East Side or Fort Greene—what one P.S. 65Q administrator calls “God’s country.”

None of this would have happened, of course, without Greenblatt. It’s true that a certain breed of civic-minded capitalist has argued for years that the public schools should be run more like private businesses. Mike Bloomberg and his school chancellor, Joel Klein, have prayed mightily at the altar of management reform, pushing for top-down accountability and Jack Welch–inspired leadership training. It’s also true that writing fat checks to city schools has become fashionable. Caroline Kennedy has helped solicit more than $300 million in private and corporate donations. And outsiders like Teddy Forstmann have gone the voucher route, paying to airlift kids into private schools. But Greenblatt’s plan is more ambitious. He wants to create an effective and affordable public-school prototype that could be franchised citywide—and fast. “I’m an investor,” he says. “I spend my time trying to figure out whether a business model works or not. I wanted to find a model that worked and roll it out.”

Sadly, given the deathgrip that the Education establishment has on schools, iot'll have to be a hostile takeover.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:23 PM


On Private Web Site, Wal-Mart Chief Talks Tough (STEVEN GREENHOUSE and MICHAEL BARBARO, 2/17/06, NY Times)

In a confidential, internal Web site for Wal-Mart's managers, the company's chief executive, H. Lee Scott Jr., seemed to have a rare, unscripted moment when one manager asked him why "the largest company on the planet cannot offer some type of medical retirement benefits?" [...]

The Web site has a folksy name — Lee's Garage, because Mr. Scott pumped gas at his father's Kansas service station while growing up.

But its tone is at times biting. In his response to the store manager who asked about retiree health benefits, Mr. Scott wrote: "Quite honestly, this environment isn't for everyone. There are people who would say, 'I'm sorry, but you should take the risk and take billions of dollars out of earnings and put this in retiree health benefits and let's see what happens to the company.' If you feel that way, then you as a manager should look for a company where you can do those kinds of things."

Mona Williams, a Wal-Mart spokeswoman, said Mr. Scott responded so sharply because of the manager's sarcastic tone. The question, she said, indicated the manager failed to understand how competitive retailing is and would not be able to convey that to his subordinates.

"At Wal-Mart, we communicate very candidly with one another," she said. She added that Mr. Scott's tone did not deter employees from asking questions, noting that 2,147 questions have been asked since last April.

Commenting on a labor union that is fighting Wal-Mart's expansion plans in New York City and elsewhere, Mr. Scott wrote in the Web site, "that way its members' employers" — meaning many Wal-Mart competitors — "can continue to charge extremely high prices for food and tolerate poor service."

Stung by the many news media reports about allegations of sex discrimination, off-the-clock work and child labor violations at Wal-Mart, Mr. Scott wrote, "The press lives on things that are negative."

The Web site shows many sides of one of the nation's most powerful executives. He denounces managers who complain about the company or their subordinates. He frets about the success of his discount rival Target. He exhorts employees to act with integrity. He mocks General Motors for problems caused by its generous benefits. He rejects a manager's suggestion that Wal-Mart has created "a culture of fear," and he hails Wal-Mart's performance in responding to Hurricane Katrina.

Mr. Scott has made some of these points before in public speeches, but in these confidential e-mail messages to managers, he delivers far blunter insights in much greater detail.

In one posting, he urges managers to set an example by doing more to comply with the company's 10-foot rule, requiring employees to smile and ask "Can I help you" when a shopper is less than 10 feet away. [...]

Throughout the dozens of postings, Mr. Scott shows deep concern about the many attacks and allegations that Wal-Mart skirts environmental and labor laws. He acknowledges that Wal-Mart used to have a greater tolerance for managers who cut corners, but his postings insist that Wal-Mart's new focus is on total compliance with the law. In a posting last June, he quoted the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., saying, "The time is always right to do what is right."

Responding to a manager's question about attacks on Wal-Mart's image, Mr. Scott wrote in an April 2004 posting: "Your value to Wal-Mart is outweighed by the damage you could do to our company when you do the wrong thing."

"If you choose to do the wrong thing: if you choose to dispose of oil the wrong way, if you choose to take a shortcut on payroll, if you choose to take a shortcut on a raise for someone — you hurt this company," he added. "And it's not unlikely in today's environment that your shortcut is going to end up on the front page of the newspaper. It's not fair to the rest of us when you do that." [...]

At several points, Mr. Scott addressed criticisms that Wal-Mart health plan was too stingy toward its employees. He said that Wal-Mart's health plan "stacks up very, very competitively" with other retailers. In a knock at companies that provide more generous benefits, Mr. Scott wrote: "One of the things said about General Motors now is that General Motors is no longer an automotive company. General Motors is a benefit company that sells cars to fund those benefits."

In one posting, Mr. Scott talked about how proud he was about Wal-Mart's response to Hurricane Katrina, when it rushed urgent supplies to the Gulf Coast. "The media coverage has been extremely positive and speaks to who we really are as individuals, and as a company."

When one manager asked how an associate — Wal-Mart's term for an employee — could become chief executive of the world's largest retailer, Mr. Scott wrote, "The first thing you can do is make sure you treat your people well, and understand that your associates are what will make you a success."

Note that in the unscripted moments he sounds exactly the same as in the scripted, only more so? Isn't this the same trick the media fell for with George Bush's "accidentally" open mike last week?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:05 PM


Backroom Battles: Economic sabotage, whisper campaigns, and threats: How the Democrats took Paul Hackett out. (David Goodman, February 16, 2006, Mother Jones)

Hackett was running against seven-term Akron Democrat Rep. Sherrod Brown in a May primary, with the winner going on to face two-term Republican Sen. Mike DeWine in November (assuming DeWine wins his own primary against a longshot Republican challenger). DeWine is considered one of the most vulnerable incumbent Republicans, and the national Democratic Party is pulling out the stops to defeat him.

But first, the Democrats had to get Hackett out of the way. The weapons used in the rubout included economic sabotage, whisper campaigns, and threats. [...]

Swift boats soon appeared on the horizon. A whisper campaign started: Hackett committed war crimes in Iraq—and there were photos. “The first rumor that I heard was probably a month and a half ago,” Dave Lane, chair of the Clermont County Democratic Party, told me the day after Hackett pulled out of the race. “I heard it more than once that someone was distributing photos of Paul in Iraq with Iraqi war casualties with captions or suggestions that Paul had committed some sort of atrocities. Who did it? I have no idea. It sounds like a Republican M.O. to me, but I have no proof of that. But if it was someone on my side of the fence, I have a real problem with that. I have a hard time believing that a Democrat would do that to another Democrat.”

In late November, Hackett got a call from Sen. Harry Reid. “I hear there’s a photo of you mistreating bodies in Iraq. Is it true?” demanded the Senate minority leader. “No sir,” replied Hackett. To drive home his point, Hackett traveled to Washington to show Reid’s staff the photo in question. Hackett declined to send me the photo, but he insists that it shows another Marine—not Hackett—unloading a sealed body bag from a truck. “There was nothing disrespectful or unprofessional,” he insists. “That was a photo of a Marine doing his job. If you don’t like what they’re doing, don’t send Marines into war.”

A staffer in Reid’s office confirmed that Hackett had showed them several photos. “The ones I saw were part of a diary he kept while serving in Iraq and were in no way compromising. The one picture in question depicted Marines doing their work on what looked like a scorching day in Iraq,” said the aide.

But the whispering continued, and Hackett was troubled. “It creates doubt and suspicion,” Hackett told me, saying his close supporters were asking him privately about the rumors. “It tarnishes my very strength as a candidate, my military service. It’s like you take a handful of seeds, throw them up in the wind, and they blow all around and start growing. It really bothered me.”

Hackett backers suspected the smear was being floated by Sherrod Brown’s campaign. A senior Brown staffer angrily dismissed the charge this week as “ridiculous.”

Brown campaign spokesperson Joanna Kuebler declined to respond to the rumors. She offered this prepared statement: “This campaign has never been about Paul Hackett or about Sherrod Brown. This campaign is about the hard working people of Ohio, and what Republican corruption has done to them.”

As was mentioned a couple weeks ago, we were mysteriously put on a Sherrod Brown mailing list and they sent us dish on Mr. Hackett:


Though, in fairness, they never sent us any photos.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:48 PM


There's Been a Big Change in Islamic States of America: a review of Prayers for the Assassin by Robert Ferrigno (JANET MASLIN, 2/16/06, NY Times)

Robert Ferrigno's "Prayers for the Assassin" is a futuristic fantasy that puts an Orwellian nation, the Islamic Republic, where the United States of America used to be. The author does not treat this as a pleasant prospect. He imagines a 2040 in which New York and Washington are gone, Mecca is radioactive, Mount Rushmore has been eradicated and the aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan has been renamed for Osama bin Laden. Super Bowl cheerleaders are men. Barbie's got a burka. At least Starbucks prices aren't much higher than they used to be.

The book is a thriller, and in some ways a surprisingly commonplace one. But Mr. Ferrigno has given serious thought to his hypothetical scenario. He tries to envision the complexities of daily life in a world where all the rules have changed — except in the Bible Belt, which has become a Christian refuge. In the Muslim nation, the black robes enforce religious laws and goats' heads are delicacies at butcher shops. Amusement-park attractions include AK-47's and suicide belts for children. Popular songs deliver constructive moral lessons. Needless to say, nobody draws political cartoons.

These aspects of the book are by far its most involving. Mr. Ferrigno has done his best to take an outline of Islam and morph it with American tradition, catalyzing these changes with a whiff of nuclear war. And since he is not on a suicide mission, he takes care to note that many Muslims in the new regime are good citizens, reasonable people both modern and moderate. They are wary of fundamentalism, and they tolerate anything-goes zones where strict religious rules of behavior are suspended. Las Vegas remains ground zero for forbidden games.

While the book's background exerts a grim sci-fi fascination, its central story manages to be surprisingly ordinary. Even in this radically altered future, heroes and villains and romantics behave pretty much as expected.

Funny that a radically different future doesn't alter human nature and that there are decent Muslims, huh?

-INTERVIEW: with Robert Ferrigno: What would America look like in 40 years if it was an Islamic republic? (Hugh Hewitt Show, 2/16/06)

Prayers For The Assassin author Robert Ferrigno joins Hugh Hewitt

HH: As promised, in studio with me now, Robert Ferrigno...Welcome to the Hugh Hewitt Show. It's great to have you here.

RF: Good to be here. Thanks.

HH: I want to do a little background, and then get to Redbeard and the old man, and Rakim, and all the characters of this amazing novel that Mark Steyn was just mentioning.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:31 PM

BATTLE OF THE GEEKS (via Raoul Ortega):

It's Planes Vs. Soccer In Redmond (Corwin Haeck, 2/16/06, KOMO TV)

A century-old tradition of model plane flying faces a stiff challenge from King County's growing demand for soccer fields. The controversy over Redmond's Sixty Acres South is the story of an older generation's love of aviation versus a younger generation's hunger for soccer.

"It may seem like a silly activity to some, but it's very enjoyable and very inspriring, really," says Seth Arlow, who flies his remote control plane with a five-foot wingspan at Sixty Acres.

Sixty Acres North has 17 soccer fields. The undeveloped county-owned land to the south is used by "modelers," mostly older men. Homer Smith is one of them.

"We have the problem of not being able to fly anywhere except in a large field," Smith says.

"There are lots of soccer fields," Arlow says. "Hundreds of them. But there is only one Sixty Acres South.

Arlow is alarmed by reports the Lake Washington Youth Soccer Association will annex the open space in north Redmond to build more fields.

"What's wonderful about this field is it's a unique place where we can actually fly this type of aircraft." Arlow says there isn't another adequate space in King County.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:11 PM


Frat Accused In Alleged Goat Sex Hazing Incident (Internet Broadcasting Systems, February 17, 2006)

Some Bowling Green, Ky., police officers found more than they bargained for after stopping by a Western Kentucky University fraternity party early Thursday. [...]

Officials aren't sure why the goat was in the storage room and don't know how long the goat had been held captive. Some of the students told police the goat was going to be used in a hazing ritual.

Brian Peyton, the president of Western's Alpha Gamma Rho chapter, said the goat was brought in as a prank, to make some pledges think they would have to have sex with it, WBKO reported. But Peyton told the TV station that the incident wasn’t related to hazing. He said that nobody actually was going to have sex with the goat, the TV station reported.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 PM


Communism may be dead, but clearly not dead enough: The battle over history reflects a determination to prove that no political alternative can challenge the new global capitalism (Seumas Milne, February 16, 2006, The Guardian)

Fifteen years after communism was officially pronounced dead, its spectre seems once again to be haunting Europe. Last month, the Council of Europe's parliamentary assembly voted to condemn the "crimes of totalitarian communist regimes", linking them with Nazism and complaining that communist parties are still "legal and active in some countries". Now Göran Lindblad, the conservative Swedish MP behind the resolution, wants to go further. Demands that European ministers launch a continent-wide anti-communist campaign - including school textbook revisions, official memorial days and museums - only narrowly missed the necessary two-thirds majority. Yesterday, declaring himself delighted at the first international condemnation of this "evil ideology", Lindblad pledged to bring the wider plans back to the Council of Europe in the coming months.

He has chosen a good year for his ideological offensive: this is the 50th anniversary of Khrushchev's denunciation of Stalin and the subsequent Hungarian uprising, which will doubtless be the cue for further excoriation of the communist record. The ground has been well laid by a determined rewriting of history since the collapse of the Soviet Union that has sought to portray 20thcentury communist leaders as monsters equal to or surpassing Hitler in their depravity - and communism and fascism as the two greatest evils of history's bloodiest era. [...]

The fashionable attempt to equate communism and Nazism is in reality a moral and historical nonsense.

[Editor's note: The Brothers Judd policy against profanity prevents us from running Orrin's comment, except as follows: FU,UFNF,F!]

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:56 AM


'Peace Mom' greeted by protests at St. Xavier (MARK J. KONKOL, February 17, 2006, Chicago Sun-Times)

You'd think that a woman with such an Irish-sounding name would have gotten a better reception down in Mount Greenwood.

But Cindy "Peace Mom" Sheehan, known for protesting the Iraq war, was greeted at St. Xavier University on the Southwest Side with, well, protests. [...]

Before her talk, dozens of bikers and blue collar workers gathered outside the field house, in the freezing rain, carrying signs that read: "Support Our Troops."

Bill Naughton, a truck mechanic from Hillside, said he showed up so Sheehan didn't get all the spotlight.

"She gets to say what she wants. We get a say," he said. "She says 'Bring them back. We're fighting for oil.' I don't believe we're fighting for oil. I support what our guys enlisted to do, volunteered to do."

Keep your eyes peeled for a Thomas Frank sequel: "What's the Matter With Blue Collar Workers?"

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:43 AM


Germany: Iran Has Crossed Nuclear 'Red Line' (Michael Drudge, 17 February 2006, VOA News)

The leaders of Germany and Britain have discussed ways to increase diplomatic pressure on Iran over its nuclear program. German Chancellor Angela Merkel hosted British Prime Minister Tony Blair for talks in Berlin Friday.

The Blair-Merkel meeting focused on what steps can be taken to break the stalemate between the international community and Tehran over the Iranian nuclear program.

After their talks, both leaders stressed the need for a diplomatic solution to the impasse, as Mrs. Merkel explained.

"Germany, France and the United Kingdom have indeed worked very closely together, and gave a very important contribution to the international community, making it very clear that Iran has crossed a red line," Merkel said. "And, we also exchanged to what degree diplomatic efforts have to be made, in order to impress on Iran what sort of steps it has to take, in order to make cooperation with it possible again."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:16 AM


Faith groups take lead as Gulf Coast rebuilds (MICHAEL KUNZELMAN, 2/17/06, Chicago Sun-Times)

With government agencies stretched thin by the huge scope of the Gulf Coast recovery effort, religious groups are shouldering a heavy share of the workload.

Amish and Mennonites are mucking out and rebuilding homes across the coast, with dozens living together at a religious-affiliated summer camp in Pass Christian.

''We feel it's our duty to do it because it's God's work,'' said King, whose volunteers have gutted more than 300 homes in Waveland alone.

Lutheran and Islamic groups are providing free medical care to thousands in Biloxi. Southern Baptists have cooked an estimated 14 million meals in New Orleans and other hard-hit communities. The Salvation Army has had roughly 52,000 people working in Louisiana and Mississippi since the storm.

Johnson, who had never met an Amish person before the hurricane, has come to admire their work ethic and respect their way of life, which shuns technology. ''They're probably some of the hardest workers I've met in my life,'' he said. ''You don't have to teach them anything. You just show them where the house is.''

Tens of thousands of volunteers from faith-based groups have poured into the region. That makes them a valuable resource for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which helps coordinate their efforts to avoid duplication.

Volunteer groups have been the ''only show in town'' as the work shifted from emergency relief to long-term recovery and rebuilding, said Ken Skalitzky, FEMA's voluntary agency liaison for Mississippi, Alabama and six other states.

''FEMA is limited in the amount of assistance it can provide a family,'' he said. ''There's been an incredible reliance on faith-based and other volunteer agencies.''

In December, FEMA doled out $66 million in Katrina-related grants for 10 social service and volunteer groups, including Catholic Charities, Episcopal Relief and Development, Lutheran Disaster Response and the United Methodist Foundation of Louisiana.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:40 AM


Gasoline falls below $2 in some spots (James R. Healey, 2/16/06, USA TODAY)

Gasoline prices have slipped lower than $2 in a few places in a harbinger of lower prices nationwide.

The nationwide average has dropped to $2.269, down half a penny overnight, travel organization AAA said Thursday. Scattered stations already have posted prices starting with "1" rather than "2." Users of a fuel-price website Thursday reported $1.96 gasoline near Minneapolis, for instance.

Averages in a number of metropolitan areas are likely to fall to less than $2, perhaps as soon as today. Corpus Christi, Texas, averaged $2.006, and several other metro areas were just a few cents more.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:34 AM


On the menu today: horse penis and testicles with a chilli dip (Richard Spencer, 17/02/2006, Daily Telegraph)

The menu at Beijing's latest venue for its growing army of gourmets is eye-watering rather than mouth-watering.

China's cuisine is renowned for being "in your face" - from the skinned dogs displayed at food markets to the kebabbed scorpions sold on street stalls - and there is no polite way of describing Guo-li-zhuang.

The waitress presents a dish combining the male organs of the ox and snake
A dish combining the male organs of an ox and a snake

Situated in an elegantly restored house beside Beijing's West Lake, it is China's first speciality penis restaurant.

Here, businessmen and government officials can sample the organs of yaks, donkeys, oxen and even seals. In fact, they have to, since they form part of every dish - except for those containing testicles. [...]

In China, you are what you eat...

Indeed, PRC is very nearly an anagram for what they're eating and are.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:28 AM


Getting elected may have been easy part for Préval (MARINA JIMÉNEZ, 2/17/06, Globe and Mail)

Mr. Préval, a mild-mannered man who was once an ally of former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, now faces the difficult task of appeasing political opponents and bridging the gap between Haiti's many conflicting groups without alienating his support base, the same impoverished masses who support Mr. Aristide.

All of these challenges will be made doubly difficult in a polarized country with a "winner-takes-all" political culture and no tradition of bringing opposition faces into cabinet in the spirit of reconciliation.

"There is no tradition of compromise or an ability to work with the opposition in Haiti," said Carlo Dade, an adviser with the Canadian Foundation for the Americas, an Ottawa think-tank. "We need a government of national unity and the international community -- Brazil, the U.S., Canada -- must push this." [...]

The most pressing challenge for Mr. Préval will be to bring order and stability to the Western hemisphere's poorest country, which has been besieged by kidnappings and armed battles in slums where his supporters have clashed with UN troops sent to stabilize the country.

Many of Mr. Préval's supporters in shantytowns such as Cité Soleil have pressed for the return of Mr. Aristide, who was ousted Feb. 29, 2004, after a bloody uprising by thugs and ex-soldiers. While the two men were once close allies, Mr. Préval has tried to distance himself from the exiled leader.

"Préval is very much aware that Mr. Aristide's early return is unacceptable. It will bring chaos to Haiti," the political consultant in Port-au-Prince said.

The U.S. And Mr. Anan ought to be able to shame the UN, France, the OAS, etc. into getting more deeply involved in building institutions and an economy in this godforsaken place that we've all helped make a hash of.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:20 AM


The Silent Treatment (ROBERT WRIGHT, 2/17/06, NY Times)

Editors at mainstream American media outlets delete lots of words, sentences and images to avoid offending interest groups, especially ethnic and religious ones. It's hard to cite examples since, by definition, they don't appear. But use your imagination.

Hugh Hewitt, a conservative blogger and evangelical Christian, came up with an apt comparison to the Muhammad cartoon: "a cartoon of Christ's crown of thorns transformed into sticks of TNT after an abortion clinic bombing." As Mr. Hewitt noted, that cartoon would offend many American Christians. That's one reason you haven't seen its like in a mainstream American newspaper.

Or, apparently, in many mainstream Danish newspapers. The paper that published the Muhammad cartoon, it turns out, had earlier rejected cartoons of Christ because, as the Sunday editor explained in an e-mail to the cartoonist who submitted them, they would provoke an outcry. [...]

Besides, who said there's no American tradition of using violence to make a point? Remember the urban riots of the 1960's, starting with the Watts riot of 1965, in which 34 people were killed? The St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Bob Gibson, in his 1968 book "From Ghetto to Glory," compared the riots to a "brushback pitch" — a pitch thrown near a batter's head to keep him from crowding the plate, a way of conveying that the pitcher needs more space.

In the wake of the rioting, blacks got more space. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People had been protesting broadcast of the "Amos 'n' Andy" show, with its cast of shiftless and conniving blacks, since the 1950's, but only in 1966 did CBS withdraw reruns from distribution. There's no way to establish a causal link, but there's little doubt that the riots of the 1960's heightened sensitivity to grievances about the portrayal of blacks in the media. (Translation: heightened self-censorship.)

Amid the cartoon protests, some conservative blogs have warned that addressing grievances expressed violently is a form of "appeasement," and will only bring more violence and weaken Western values. But "appeasement" didn't work that way in the 1960's. The Kerner Commission, set up by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1967 to study the riots, recommended increased attention to the problems of poverty, job and housing discrimination, and unequal education — attention that was forthcoming and that didn't exactly spawn decades of race riots.

The commission recognized the difference between what triggers an uproar (how police handle a traffic stop in Watts) and what fuels it (discrimination, poverty, etc.).

Pakistani riots about more than cartoons: Violent protests may have been influenced by poverty as much as religious fervor (David Montero, 2/17/06, The Christian Science Monitor)
Over the past week, Islam and religious fervor have been fingered as the source of the spreading violence. But to some analysts, the erratic nature of the demonstrations points to different root causes.

The flash conflagrations, they argue, highlight a profound discontent in Paki-stan over economic and social inequality that has deepened over the past five years, sparking alienation and resentment.

Folks generally have too much invested emotionally in the canard that they are totally different than we to think rationally about this tempest.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:16 AM


China Seeking Auto Industry, Piece by Piece (KEITH BRADSHER, 2/17/06, NY Times)

China is pursuing a novel way to catapult its automaking into a global force: buy one of the world's most sophisticated engine plants, take it apart, piece by piece, transport it halfway around the globe and put it back together again at home.

In the latest sign of this country's manufacturing ambitions, a major Chinese company, hand-in-hand with the Communist Party, is bidding to buy from DaimlerChrysler and BMW a car engine plant in Brazil.

Because the plant is so sophisticated, it is far more feasible for the Chinese carmaker, the Lifan Group, to go through such an effort to move it 8,300 miles, rather than to develop its own technology in this industrial hub in western China, the company's president said Thursday.

If the purchase succeeds — and it is early in the process — China could leapfrog competitors like South Korea to catch up with Japan, Germany and the United States in selling some of the most fuel-efficient yet comfortable cars on the market, like the Honda Civic or the Toyota Corolla.

The failure of China to develop its own version of sophisticated, reliable engines has been the biggest technical obstacle facing Chinese automakers as they modernize and prepare to export to the United States and Europe, Western auto executives and analysts said.

Thus the silliness of fears that they'll ever be rival technological innovators.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:09 AM


Quebec's private health solution (ANDREW MILLS, SEAN GORDON AND ROB FERGUSON, Feb. 17, 2006, Toronto Star)

The government of Quebec wants to expand the role of private health care in areas where that will help fix the public system's biggest problems.

But the government has stopped far short of forging ahead with the two-tier health-care system feared by supporters of medicare.

Quebec's response to a landmark Supreme Court of Canada decision last year that opened the way for private health insurance has been anxiously awaited around the country.

The proposals announced yesterday by Premier Jean Charest call for a three-pronged approach only for hip and knee replacements and cataract surgery, which have the longest waiting times.

If you've not seen it -- or even if you have -- this weekend's rental should be the exceptionally good, The Barbarian Invasions.

More firms seek pension cuts (JAMES DAW, Feb. 17, 2006, Toronto Star)

Federal regulators are reporting a marked increase in companies asking for approval to cut pension plan benefits.

Nicholas Le Pan, superintendent of financial institutions, says his office has already approved a half-dozen requests, affecting 7,000 to 8,000 plan members. Reductions have been in the range of 10 per cent so far.

"In some cases, this option may be better for plan members than the alternative of plan terminations," he said yesterday in a speech to the Empire Club of Canada.

Le Pan estimates some three-quarters of pension plans do not have enough assets to support all benefits earned to date, largely due to low interest rates and longer life spans. "Our watch list is rising and we expect it to rise further," he said.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:50 AM


Cameron to avoid clash as 'honeymoon ends' (Ben Hall, February 17 2006, Financial Times)

David Cameron is to retreat from confrontation with the government over identity cards and the glorification of terrorism as tensions emerge among Conservatives about his liberal stance on security issues.

The Tories are preparing to drop their opposition to identity cards when the bill returns to the Lords and are likely to do the same with regard to glorification al-though individual peers will be encouraged to "improve" the relevant clauses of the terrorism bill.

Following the government's victory on identity cards and glorification in the Commons this week, Labour officials argued that the Tories had ended up on the wrong side of the popular argument and could suffer for it in the local elections in May, Mr Cameron's first big electoral test.

Some senior Tories are concerned that Mr Cameron's stance has tipped too far towards the protection of individual liberties.

Opposing bills you'd naturally support just because Tony Blair proposed them is how they got themselves into a mess.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 6:24 AM


New Islamist alliance alters Mideast dynamic (Mark Mackinnon, Globe and Mail, February, 17th, 2006)

Call it the new "axis of Islam," or, more accurately, the anti-American and anti-Israeli alliance. In the wake of strong performances by Islamist forces at the ballot box in recent months there's a new power rising in the Middle East.

At the Beirut headquarters of Hezbollah, the Shia militia that controls south Lebanon and regularly exchanges fire with the Israeli army, they don't have a name for the new grouping, but there's a definite feeling that the bloc is on the rise, strengthened by Iran's increased willingness to butt heads with the international community and the victory of the militant Hamas movement in the recent Palestinian legislative election.

Hussein Hajj Hassan, one of 14 Hezbollah members in the Lebanese parliament, said the new alliance was cemented in a little-publicized summit in Damascus late last month that was attended by leaders of both Hamas and Hezbollah, as well as Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad and Syrian leader Bashar Assad.

Islamic Jihad, another armed Palestinian faction dedicated to the destruction of Israel, was represented at the meeting.

And the Iraqi Shia firebrand cleric Muqtada al-Sadr also travelled recently to Damascus for talks.

"If neighbouring Muslim countries are attacked, the Mahdi Army will support them," Mr. al-Sadr said last week after his meeting with Mr. Assad. "I am at the service of Iran and Syria."

Hopefully, we soon will be too.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 5:00 AM


School play Romeos face bar on kissing (John Clare, The Telegraph, February 17th, 2006)

Romeo will no longer be allowed to seal his love for Juliet with "a righteous kiss" or, indeed, any kiss at all under new guidelines for school plays drawn up by the Welsh Assembly.

The advice, which could soon be extended to the rest of the UK, says love scenes between pupils should "stop at a peck on the cheek to protect youngsters from abuse".

It goes on: "Drama teachers must cut or adapt plays if they have to in order to protect children and young people. They should not rely on arguments about the artistic integrity of the text."

A Welsh Assembly spokesman said yesterday: "Protecting children is our key priority. Teachers should be sensitive to learners' concerns about issues such as kissing and never insist that any child or young person should kiss another."[...]

Ending the balcony scene, Romeo tells Juliet: "Farewell, farewell! One kiss and I'll descend."

And in the play's tragic climax, Juliet, suiting the action to the words, says to her dead lover: "I will kiss thy lips; haply some poison yet doth hang on them?"

In neither case does a peck on the cheek seem to meet the case.

Love is too obscene to be included in the goody bag.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Secret Data Exposed in Terrorism Case: Federal officials erred in releasing intelligence documents to an Islamic charity's defense team. (Greg Krikorian, February 16, 2006, LA Times)

Federal officials in Dallas mistakenly disclosed classified counter-terrorism information in a breach of national security that could also threaten one of the country's biggest terrorism prosecution cases, newly unsealed court records show.

The blunder exposed secret wiretap requests that commonly include classified information from U.S. agencies, foreign intelligence reports and confidential sources. [...]

The unsealed records, included in boxes of selected classified data turned over to defense lawyers in April, included what a federal prosecutor called "extraordinarily sensitive information."

But it was more than four months before FBI agents discovered, on Aug. 12, that the documents included still-secret data not intended for release.

When authorities scrambled to retrieve the secret documents from a courthouse room reserved for defense lawyers, a court security official blocked their access, records show.

According to a government legal brief filed in the case, the erroneous disclosures represent the first such misstep in the 27-year history of the nation's top-secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court. Defense lawyers have always been denied access to applications and affidavits justifying warrants for national security surveillance.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Lobbyists have given more to Democrats (Charles Hurt, February 17, 2006, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

Democrats have taken more money from lobbyists than Republicans during the past 15 years, according to an independent analysis of campaign contributions.

Since the 1990 election cycle, Democrats have accepted more than $53 million from lobbyists while Republicans have taken more than $48 million for their election campaigns, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Data provided by the nonpartisan group also shows that when Democrats controlled Congress in the early 1990s, they consistently hauled in more than 70 percent of the town's lobbyist money. The group is a leading critic of Texas Republican Rep. Tom DeLay's ties to lobbyists.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


27% Say Cheney Hunting Accident Raises Serious Questions (RasmussenReports.com, February 16, 2006)

Twenty-seven percent (27%) of Americans believe that the recent hunting accident involving Dick Cheney raises serious questions about his ability to serve as Vice President. Twice as many, 57%, say it was "just one of those very embarrassing things that happens to all of us." [...]

Thirty-nine percent (39%) say the United States needs stricter gun control laws. Fifty-two percent (52%) disagree.

Here the Left could hardly decide whether he was more likely to resign or be impeached and no one cares....

February 16, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:52 PM


Critics: Mishap shows Cheney's secretive side (Susan Page, 2/14/06, USA TODAY)

Some friends see the episode as classic Cheney. In the administration's early days, he fought a court battle rather than release names of oil and gas company executives who met with the energy task force he headed. He almost never holds news conferences, and reporters are often unaware of his whereabouts — including when he leaves town on hunting trips.

He doesn't seem to worry about reporters' outrage.

"My personal preference is to go along with the press' sense of entitlement because it's easier to go along with it than try to fight it," says Charlie Black, a Republican strategist close to the White House. "But I don't think he thinks that way." [...]

Cheney's attitude toward the news media changed when he served as secretary of Defense in the first Bush administration, according to former Wyoming senator Alan Simpson, an old friend. During his tenure in the U.S. House, Cheney was "open and responsive" to reporters' questions as they campaigned together in the Cowboy State, Simpson said.

During the lead-up to the 1991 Gulf War, however, Cheney was appalled when reporters would ask at briefings, say, when the first strikes would be launched. Since then, Cheney has "handled the media dismissively," Simpson says. His attitude: " 'You ask the stupid questions, and I won't answer them.' "

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:38 PM


Single market as far away as ever (David Rennie, 17/02/2006, Daily Telegraph)

If this was such a blow for free markets, why, exactly, was the Tory in charge of shepherding the directive through the parliament, Malcolm Harbour MEP, being given manly hugs by Martin Schultz, head of the Socialist group in the European Parliament, and Robert Goebbels, a Lefty from Luxembourg? Mr Harbour contrived to look pleased, arguing that it did not matter at all that the heart of the directive - "the country of origin" principle - had been cut out at the demand of colleagues from Germany, Belgium, Austria and France. The principle was still "implicit" in the text, Mr Harbour insisted.

Now Mr Harbour is a decent sort, and committed to a free single market. But after a while in Brussels, my rule of thumb is that, if a piece of market-opening legislation is cheered by French MEPs and earns you bear-hugs from German socialists, something has gone badly wrong.

In one of those little ironies that history likes to throw up, on this very day, 20 years ago, Margaret Thatcher signed the Single European Act (SEA), signing away thick slices of British sovereignty in the name of creating a true "internal market" for Europe.

The loss of various British veto rights, Mrs Thatcher was persuaded at the time, was justified by the great cause of a single market, defined in the SEA as "an area without internal frontiers in which the free movement of goods, persons, services and capital is ensured". Those freedoms had been a long time coming - the "four freedoms" of goods, people, services and capital can be found in the Treaty of Rome, in 1957.

Fast-forward 20 years, to poor Mr Harbour in his Socialist bear-hug. Everyone in Brussels knew the service directive was doomed to be watered down since the moment last year that Jacques Chirac called for it to be scrapped and "started from scratch".

Just in case MEPs forgot the hostility to any hint of free market reforms, they were visited this week in Strasbourg by 30,000 trade unionists from France, Germany, Belgium and the other usual suspects, baying about "economic liberalism", "Anglo-Saxon" dog-eat-dog capitalism, and the rest.

Small surprise that free marketers in the parliament were sunk in gloom this week. I found Chris Heaton-Harris, a Tory MEP, in mourning for the "good and liberalising" Bolkestein directive that left the internal market committee on which he sits, many months ago, before having its heart ripped out at the orders of Paris and Berlin.

In this current toxic climate, I would argue, it would be impossible to launch the single market from scratch as a project. It would trigger too much rage from French voters, and put too much pressure on Angela Merkel's "grand coalition" government in Germany.

Mr Heaton-Harris told the parliament the 30,000 protesters were doing themselves a disservice by fighting reforms - not to mention a disservice to the EU's 20 million unemployed. He was booed for his pains by MEPs, with the exception of new members from east and central Europe, whose constituents are itching to try their luck in the single market.

That is, as soon as they are allowed to work in it. Alex Stubb, a centre-Right Finnish MEP, reflected gloomily on the current state of the "four freedoms". It is not just the freedom of services, he said. The free movement of capital is being challenged by Polish and Italian authorities, moving to shield local banks from competition. The freedom to move goods has not stopped Paris unveiling a policy of "economic patriotism", blocking foreign ownership of strategic firms.

The free movement of people is a hollow boast, thanks to laws that keep EU citizens from Poland and other eastern and central new members from working freely in most of "Old Europe".

"We're fighting tooth and nail to keep the four freedoms alive," said Mr Stubb. The idea that Europe must defend its welfare states from capitalism is a dangerous fallacy that is gaining ground, he argued. "Populists from Left and Right are trying to argue that the single market leads to insecurity. But without the four freedoms, without the internal market, I defy any member state to find enough growth to fund their welfare states."

But the beauty of secularism is that you live only for yourself. The folks around now figure they'll get their welfare and they don't give a fig what happens when they're gone.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:23 PM


Trapped in a legal no-man's land: In a rare visit by a British journalist, Con Coughlin reports on the changes that have taken place at Guantanamo Bay detention centre. (Con Coughlin, 17/02/2006, Daily Telegraph)

The detainees come from a total of 44 countries and speak a total of 17 different languages. All have been detained as a result of Operation Enduring Freedom, the American-led military campaign against al-Qa'eda and the Taliban in Afghanistan. The majority are Afghan, Pakistani, Saudi and Yemeni nationals, although there is also an Australian who converted to radical Islam to take up arms against the West.

Of 750 detainees, nearly 250 have been released. Some have been released after US officials deemed them no longer a threat or to possess useful information. Others - such as the British detainees - returned to their home countries following the intervention of their governments.

But the remainder face an uncertain future, as US officials insist they are too dangerous to be released, or that they possess high-quality intelligence that is regarded as crucial to the successful prosecution of the war on terror. Even after four years in detention, some of the detainees possess critical information about the international terror network being operated by Osama bin Laden, the al-Qa'eda leader.

"One of the detainees was able to provide key information relating to the London bombings," a senior US military official at Guantanamo told The Daily Telegraph. "Even after four years they are able to provide crucial intelligence about the al-Qa'eda network."

American officials are also concerned about releasing detainees who, once released, could resume hostilities against coalition forces. At least 12 of those released so far on the grounds that they no longer posed a threat have been involved in anti-coalition attacks, including an Afghan who was fitted with a prosthetic limb while being held at Guantanamo.

During those four years the Guantanamo detention facility has changed beyond all recognition from the disturbing images that first appeared of bound, blindfolded detainees being taken for interrogation in orange jump suits. Those pictures were provided courtesy of Cuban leader Fidel Castro, who allowed an American photographer unprecedented access to a sensitive border post on the Cuban border with Guantanamo to heap embarrassment on his long-standing American enemies.

The detainees are no longer held in the makeshift, iron-mesh open air structures at Camp X-Ray where the first arrivals were held following their arrival from Afghanistan in early 2002. Camp X-Ray itself now lies abandoned, covered in weeds.

The US Defence Department has spent hundreds of millions of dollars transforming what was once a sleepy, uneventful navy base into what is effectively a state-of-the-art, maximum high-security prison capable of holding hundreds of detainees for as long as the US wants to hold them. In many cases, US officials say this could be for the "duration of hostilities", which given the uncertain nature of the war on terror, could be decades.

For despite all the international criticism Washington has received over its treatment of the detainees - or "enemy combatants" as the US prefers to call them - Guantanamo has been institutionalised to the extent that work is still under way on building new, multi-million dollar maximum security facilities.

"Basically there is nowhere else we can hold these people," said a senior US official. "And so long as they pose a threat to our security, or can provide information that can help us prevent further bloodshed, then we need to have properly-equipped, maximum security facilities in Guantanamo in which we can detain them humanely."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:19 PM


A gallop down the road to serfdom: ID cards and smoking bans are only the tip of British servitude (Theodore Dalrymple, 2/17/06, Times of London)

I HAVE LIVED under a Latin American military dictatorship where daily life was freer than in Britain today. Of course, you couldn’t go out into the street and shout “Down with Señor Presidente”, at least not without dire consequences; on the other hand, you were considerably less surveyed, supervised and harried as you went about your business than you are in contemporary Britain. [...]

The pettiness of this official persecution of smokers (who are not prevented from paying a lot of tax) can hardly be exaggerated. The hospital in which I used to work instituted a no-smoking policy, so that smokers had to leave the building to smoke. To do this, one orthopaedic patient needed a wheelchair, but to hire a wheelchair he had to pay a £60 deposit, which he did not have. He grew so angry that he needed sedation.

Tony Blair and George Bush have the near magical ability to turn otherwise sensible men into raving loons.

'More people hunt and more foxes killed' since ban (Rachel Sylvester and Alice Thomson, 17/02/2006, Daily Telegraph)

More people are hunting with hounds and more foxes are being killed than
before the hunting ban came into force a year ago, Kate Hoey, the chairman
of the Countryside Alliance, says today.

In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, Miss Hoey, Labour MP for Vauxhall,
admits that the law is regularly being broken, inadvertently, as hounds kill

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:07 PM


Darwin's warm pond theory tested (Rebecca Morelle, 2/13/06, BBC News)

Life on Earth was unlikely to have emerged from volcanic springs or hydrothermal vents, according to a leading US researcher.

Experiments carried out in volcanic pools suggest they do not provide the right conditions to spawn life.

The findings are being discussed at an international two-day meeting to explore the latest thinking on the origin of life on Earth.

What makes such experiments truly exquisite is the notion that should intelligent beings recreate the conditions that gave rise to life it will demonstrate natural evolution.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:15 PM


France steps up rhetoric on Iran (BBC, 2/16/06)

France has for the first time explicitly accused Iran of using its nuclear programme as a cover for clandestine military nuclear activity.

Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy told French TV no civilian programme could explain Iran's activity. [...]

BBC diplomatic correspondent Jonathan Marcus says that Mr Douste-Blazy's blunt characterisation shows that, in diplomatic terms at least, the gloves are coming off.

France, the UK and Germany have had a key role in pursuing long-running contact with Tehran, in an effort to persuade it to give up its plans.

But the mood among the Europeans is sombre, laced with an element of frustration, our correspondent says - as Iran now appears intent on pursuing its nuclear research programme.

Meanwhile, China has expressed concern about the nuclear issue.

Let the French whip up the hysterics and then we do the heavy military lifting.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:40 PM


Justice Alito Hires Trusted Conservatives (GINA HOLLAND, 2/15/06, The Associated Press)

Alito, 55, has surrounded himself with solid conservatives and loyalists _ all three clerked for him when he was an appeals court judge, dating back a decade.

Two of the new clerks, Jay Jorgensen and Hannah Smith, are previous Supreme Court clerks who traveled across the country as part of a public relations campaign on Alito's behalf last month.

The third, former Justice Department lawyer Adam Ciongoli, participated in so-called "murder boards," mock sessions that got Alito ready for his Senate confirmation hearings.

Earlier, Jorgensen was among the conservatives who raised questions about the credentials of Bush's early court nominee, Harriet Miers. When Miers withdrew in the face of conservative criticism, Bush turned to Alito. Jorgensen also prepared a paper for the Federalist Society on the nomination of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a liberal member of the court.

"I think what's notable is that he's picked individuals who are so defined on the right ideologically. That tells us who Samuel Alito is," said Erwin Chemerinsky, a liberal Duke University law professor.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:28 PM


Jewish Groups Divided Over New Air Force Guidelines (E.J. KESSLER, February 17, 2006, The Forward)

Two months after the head of the Anti-Defamation League called for a united Jewish front against evangelical attempts to "Christianize" America, the ADL found itself pitted against a raft of other communal organizations in a controversy over guidelines for religious speech in the U.S. Air Force.

The Air Force released revised interim guidelines last week to address what the military has acknowledged were "systemic" problems with Christian religious coercion at the Air Force Academy. The academy is situated in Colorado Springs, Colo., home of a number of evangelical Christian organizations.

An earlier draft of the guidelines, released in June 2005, was criticized by evangelical groups and some conservative congressmen as overly restrictive of religious liberties. Conservatives last week hailed the new guidelines as a victory that would safeguard Christians' rights to share their views in the military.

The guidelines were slammed by the national director of the ADL, Abraham Foxman. He was joined by activist Mikey Weinstein — the New Mexico lawyer and 1977 academy graduate who is suing the federal government over religious coercion at the academy — and by the Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

Mr. Foxman has essentially turned the ADL from an anti- into a pro- hate group.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:15 PM


Salute Danna Vale: The backbencher raises legitimate questions about demographic changes (Mark Steyn, 16feb06, The Australian)

Demography doesn't explain everything but it accounts for a good 90 per cent. The "who" is the best indicator of the what-where-when-and-why. Go on, pick a subject. Will Japan's economy return to the heady days of the 1980s when US businesses cowered in terror? Answer: No. Japan is exactly the same as it was in its heyday except for one fact: it stopped breeding and its population aged. Will China be the hyperpower of the 21st century? Answer: No. Its population will get old before it gets rich.

Check back with me in a century and we'll see who's right on that one. But here's one we know the answer to: Why is this newspaper published in the language of a tiny island on the other side of the earth? Why does Australia have an English Queen, English common law, English institutions? Because England was the first nation to conquer infant mortality.

By 1820 medical progress had so transformed British life that half the population was under the age of 15. Britain had the manpower to take, hold, settle and administer huge chunks of real estate around the planet. Had, say, China or Russia been first to overcome childhood mortality, the modern world would be very different.

What country today has half of its population under the age of 15? Italy has 14 per cent, the UK 18 per cent, Australia 20 per cent - and Saudi Arabia has 39 per cent, Pakistan 40 per cent and Yemen 47 per cent. Little Yemen, like little Britain 200 years ago, will send its surplus youth around the world - one way or another.

So, whether or not her remarks were "outrageous" (the Democrats' Lyn Allison), "insensitive" (the Greens' Rachel Siewert), "offensively discriminatory" (Sydney's Daily Telegraph) and "bigoted" (this newspaper), I salute Danna Vale. You don't have to agree with her argument that Australia's aborting itself out of recognition and that therefore Islam will inherit by default to think it's worth asking a couple of questions...

And Tom Tancredo won't be trying to stop the influx of white Europeans.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:07 PM


Border wall may be financial boon for smugglers (Alfredo Corchado, Feb. 16, 2006, Dallas Morning News)

A bill to erect a wall to help keep undocumented immigrants out of the United States has not been approved by Congress, but it probably can count on support from an unlikely constituency - people smugglers.

That's because along the border, and in places such as this town in San Luis Potosi state, smugglers expect that such a wall would lead to an increase in their business moving people across the Rio Grande.

Already some coyotes, as the smugglers are known, are pumping up their prices. The fee they charge to take a Mexican to Dallas, for instance, has increased from $1,200 to $1,500, some residents say.

"That's the way it is," said a smuggler who identified himself as Gregorio Prieto as he played pool and negotiated with prospective clients at the Ahualulco Billiards hall near the town's central plaza.

"Any time the crossing gets harder, the price also goes up. Because nothing will stop the flow as long as Americans want their labor. They're just making it more difficult for the "ilegales" and more profitable for us."

Coyotes may not be able to take down a poodle, but they understand economics better than the nativists do.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:01 PM


President Discusses Health Care (George W. Bush, Wendy's International, Inc., Dublin, Ohio, 2/15/06)

I now want to talk to you about how the rest of us need to have a health care system if you don't fall into those categories. What should the role of the government be? And I believe the role of the government ought to be to empower consumers to make choices. And so let me talk to you about five ideas I have to make sure that health care is more available and more affordable.

And the first one is to expand health savings accounts. I call them HSAs. When you hear me say HSA, that's kind of government-speak for health savings account. They -- HSAs are helping to begin a movement away from what's called a third-party payer system to one where the consumer is very much involved in making wise purchases of health care. That's a very important philosophical point.

The traditional insurance today will cover your health care costs -- most of your health care costs -- in exchange for a high premium payment up front. The costs are generally shared by you and your employer. You may also pay a small deductible and co-payment at the time of treatment. What's interesting about this system is that those payments cover only a fraction of the actual costs of health care, the rest of which are picked up by a third party, basically your insurance company.

It means most Americans have no idea what their actual cost of treatment is. You show up, you got a traditional plan, you got your down payment, you pay a little co-pay, but you have no idea what the cost is. Somebody else pays it for you. And so there's no reason at all to kind of worry about price. If somebody else is paying the bill, you just kind of -- hey, it seems like a pretty good deal. There's no pressure for an industry to lower price. And so what you're seeing is price going up. If you don't care what you're paying, and the provider doesn't have any incentive to lower, the natural inclination is for the cost to go up and the insurance companies, sure enough, pass on the costs -- the increase in cost to you and your employer. That's what's happening.

The fundamental problem with traditional coverage is that there's no incentive to control how their health care dollars are spent. You don't have any incentive, whatsoever. And that's one of the cost drivers in our system. If we want to solve health care problems, if we want to make health care affordable and available, we've got to analyze and address the cost drivers of health care. And there's one right there. If patients controlled how their health care dollars are spent, the result is better treatment at lower cost.

I'll give you an interesting example of a procedure called LASIK -- laser eye surgeries. It's a good example of how the market can work when there's not a third-party payer involved. You might remember when LASIK first appeared, was approved about a decade ago for its use. It went through the process of getting government approval, and when approved it was an opportunity for people to have their eyesight -- feeling a little nervous about LASIK surgery when it first came out, and it was awfully expensive. Consumers began to, however, inquire as to why something costs the way it costs, how safe it was; doctors felt more comfortable starting to offer more and more of the surgery; more providers came in the market, there was transparency of pricing. You might -- I can remember billboards springing up with people advertising LASIK surgery. Today the price of LASIK surgery has dropped dramatically. More people are getting the surgery -- they're giving up their glasses and contact lenses.

The market is working. I think if you go back and look at the history of the pricing of LASIK surgery, the availability of LASIK surgery, you'll find that when consumers start showing up saying, I want to know information, I'm interested in this idea, how about -- how does your cost compare to old Joe's over here -- the market began to adjust. LASIK surgery is now more widespread, at much more reasonable cost for consumers.

And so, how to affect those kinds of cost changes in the health care industry -- that's what we're really here to discuss. And one way to do so is to -- to make health care more responsive is through health savings accounts. Many people in our country don't know what a health savings account is. I will start to try to explain it here.

First, it is a part of our drive to make health care more consumer-driven. There's two components to a health savings account; one is low-cost catastrophic insurance coverage, and a tax-free health savings account. Those are the two components of what I'm talking about. Catastrophic coverage protects you and the family in the event of devastating medical illness -- if you're really sick, a catastrophic plan kicks in.

The health savings account portion of this product allows you and your employer to contribute tax-free to pay for routine medical costs. In other words, your company, or yourself, or a combination of the two makes a tax-free contribution into a health savings plan, a savings plan that you own. It's yours to call your own. And the savings within that plan are tax-free. In other words, you're not just going to put it under your pillow, you put it into a bank until you use it. The interest will be tax-free. Your money is growing.

It means that if you don't spend money in your savings account on health care, you can roll it over to the next year, tax-free. You have money growing for health care to pay incidental expenses; it's growing at a reasonable interest rate; it's yours you call your own, and if you don't spend it in a year you can put it into the next year, and the next year, and the next year.

For many routine medical needs, HSAs mean you can shop around until you get the best treatment for the best price. In other words, it's your money; you're responsible for routine medical expenses; the insurance pays for the catastrophic care. You're responsible for paying for the portion of your health care costs up to your deductible. And so you -- you talk to your doctor, you say, can't we find this drug at a little cheaper cost? Or you go to a specialist, maybe we can do this a little better -- old Joe does it for X, I'm going -- why don't you try it for Y? It allows you to choose treatment or tests that meet your needs in a way that you're comfortable with when it comes to paying the bills. In other words, decisions about routine medical treatments are made by you and the doc, not by third-party people that you never know. And all of a sudden, when you inject this type of thinking in the system, price starts to matter. You're aware of price. You begin to say, well, maybe there's a better way to do this, and more cost-effective way.

The combined cost of catastrophic insurance coverage and HSA contributions are usually less expensive than traditional coverage. That's important to know. In other words, HSAs are making health care more affordable. By the way, these HSAs became expanded -- George tried to do it in the mid-1990s, 1996 I think -- yes -- medical savings accounts, he called them. He couldn't get them going. People who had the business didn't want any competition, which sometimes happens in the marketplace. (Laughter.) But he thought of the idea, it made sense. This really -- these HSAs have kicked off big time because of the Medicare bill I signed. They haven't been around a long time, they're just kind of a fresh product that the marketplace is becoming used to.

Forty percent of those who own HSAs have family incomes below $50,000 a year. In other words, if people are having trouble affording traditional insurance, all of a sudden the HSA becomes a more affordable product. HSAs make a difference -- are making health care more accessible to those without insurance. In the first year HSAs were available, more than a third of those who bought HSAs had been uninsured. In other words, as health care becomes more affordable, it makes it easier, obviously, for somebody who is uninsured to be able to pick up health insurance.

You know, a lot of young folks are uninsured. You might remember the days when you kind of felt like you were never going to get sick. (Laughter.) So why should you buy insurance? Why do you need coverage? A lot of young folks are saying, wait a minute, this is a pretty good deal. If I'm going to stay healthy and can save a portion of that money, tax-free, and I'm not going to spend money on health care for a while, all of a sudden a nest egg really begins to build. By the way, it's a nest egg they call their own, not something the government -- if there's excess money in your account, the government can't take it away, or insurance can't take it away, it's yours. You own the thing. It's -- a vital part of kind of a responsible society is when there's a sense of ownership in important parts of our economy.

Over the last 10 months, the number of HSAs has tripled. In other words, people are becoming aware. One of the reasons I'm here talking about HSAs at Wendy's is because you've decided to implement this product. I want people to be aware of it. The number of people who bought HSAs has gone from a million to 3 million. I'm going to talk today about ways to make sure that HSAs are -- even expand even further.

You know, I can remember the debate in Washington -- I'm sure you can, as well -- I remember one person who said, health savings accounts are not a solution for the uninsured, they're regressive, they favor the wealthy. It's just not the facts. They've helped the uninsured and a lot of folks with incomes under $50,000 are buying these plans. It's kind of basically saying, if you're not making a lot of money you can't make decisions for yourself. That's kind of a Washington attitude, isn't it -- we'll decide for you, you can't figure it out yourself. I think a lot of folks here at Wendy's would argue that point of view is just simply backwards and not true.

People have said that expanding HSAs would fail to reduce health care costs. It's just not the case. I just talked to Joe Cava -- he knows what it's done to your costs. Wendy's decided to take on this product. You were facing double-digit increases in the cost of providing health care. That's a strain if you're a CEO. In order to have a workforce you've got to have a workforce that's comfortable with the health care plan, and all of a sudden it's beginning to take big bites out of the balance sheet. It's hard to grow when more and more of your costs are being consumed by health care. And it provides a real tension for small business owners or large business managers -- how do you take care of your people? No corporation, no entity can run unless the people are taken care of, and at the same time expand your business.

The company wanted to reduce projected health care increases. You didn't want to keep passing on the high costs of -- increasing costs to your employees. So they adopted HSAs. About 9,000 of Wendy's full-time employees and their families have got HSAs. In other words, Wendy's said, why don't we give people a chance to make health care decisions themselves. They don't have some of the attitude in Washington. If you believe like Washington believes, you would never try an HSA, because people can't decide for themselves, see? That's not what the folks here at Wendy's thought.

At the end of the first year with HSAs, more than 90 percent of Wendy's employees had positive balances in their savings accounts. In other words, there's a sharing ratio. The company helped pay the premium for the catastrophic care. They shared the money that goes in to help pay for incidental or routine expenses. But 90 percent of the folks didn't use all the money for the routine expenses. It's kind of interesting, maybe it helps preventative medicine, I guess -- when you're watching your own money, and you realize that if you take care of your body and you exercise and you don't do stupid things, you end up saving money. (Laughter.) And when you save money, it's your money, not the company's money. (Applause.)

Medical claims through this company have decreased by 17 percent since they've implemented HSAs. It's an interesting statistic, I think. After more than 5 years of health care costs going at double-digit rates, Wendy's overall health care costs rose only by 1 percent last year. HSAs have had a positive effect. This has a positive effect on the individual employee, it's had a positive effect on the income statement of the company. They work.

And, Jeff, you made a good -- get the boy a raise. (Laughter.) Here's what he said -- you know, never mind. He said, "We entered into this plan to use our money more wisely, and to allow our employees to use their money wisely." Kind of an interesting corporate concept, to allow our employees to use their own -- more money wisely. "It's making health care more transparent," Jeff says, "and making improved health more sustainable for our employees and for all the consumers of health care." I think he gets it. He gets the philosophy of having a consumer-driven system.

The savings have allowed Wendy's to raise the company's contribution to its employees' HSA accounts. By saving money on health insurance, it enables them to put more money into your account, which has got to be a heck of a good benefit, working for this company. It's your money now, it grows tax-free. It goes in tax-free, it grows tax-free, and you take it out tax-free.

I met with Marla Hipsher. Thanks for coming, Marla. She works here. She is a senior paralegal for four years. She was part of the briefing party that was there when I arrived. She is a single mom with a 24-year-old daughter and two teenage sons. As an aside, she has the toughest job in America, being a single mother. She obviously cares about her health care for herself, and more importantly, for her children. Marla's sons are on her HSA plan with her. In other words, it's a family plan. She enjoys the choice. She's comfortable with the control she has over her HSA. Marla's premiums with her HSA are 18 percent lower than the traditional plan she used to have at Wendy's. She's saving money. It makes it easier to do the hardest job in America, which is being a single mother. She likes her HSA so much, she's helping her 24-year-old daughter look into setting one up herself. Listen to your mother, it makes a lot of sense. (Laughter and applause.)

I want folks who don't understand HSAs to listen to what Marla has to say: "It has made me more informed, because you discuss it with your doctor now." She's talking about health care. "You want to know up front what it's going to cost and what you need to know. You become a better informed consumer." HSAs are working, they're working. And I'm looking forward to working with Congress to expand them to more Americans.

I'm going to talk about three ways to make them more attractive, so more people can have the benefits of an HSA, like Marla, or the small business owners we've had. The greatest obstacle -- one of the greatest obstacles to expansion of HSAs is the tax code. One problem is that under current law, employers and employees pay no income or payroll tax on any health insurance provided through the workplace. The health care plan here at Wendy's, you don't pay for it. It's a benefit that's not taxable. Those who buy their insurance on their own don't get the same tax break. That means that the self-employed, the unemployed, and workers at companies that do not provide insurance are at a disadvantage. The playing field isn't level. And so I believe that one thing Congress needs to do is to give Americans who purchase their own HSA policies the same tax breaks as those who get their health insurance from their employers. (Applause.)

Another problem is that under current law, the amount you can put into your HSA tax-free is limited to the amount of your deductible. But sometimes your out-of-pocket expenses are greater than your deductible. That's because on some catastrophic plans, there is an additional co-pay and, therefore, when you -- you're paying after-tax dollars under the current law if you exceed the amount of money you spend beyond your deductible. We can change that. We can raise the cap on the amount of money you put into your HSA so it remains tax-free, so that all out-of-pocket expenses can be covered. (Applause.)

And finally, HSAs -- we want to make sure they meet the practical needs of today's workers. I told you people are changing jobs. And one of the problems is, a lot of folks fear that when they choose jobs, they're going to lose their health care. And that means -- people feel like they've got to get locked into a job because of health care. And that's not right. They need to be more thoughtful to our workers, and recognize that this is a changing world in which we live. And so we ought to make sure people can take their own health savings account with them job to job.

Today the savings in your health account -- health savings account are portable -- portable means you can take it job to job. So you've got savings in your own account, you can take it with you. But the health insurance that comes with the account you can't take with you, because of outdated laws and practices that prevent insurers from offering portable policies. So I believe that health insurers should be allowed to sell portable HSA policies nationwide.

You see, it's like car insurance. If you change jobs, you can take your car insurance with you. You can't take your insurance in your HSA with you. In order to make sure this economy works better, in order to make sure the health care system functions better for our workers, we've got to make sure portability in HSAs is consistent and real. It's going to make a difference in people's lives when Congress gets that done.

The second policy -- way to make sure health care is affordable and accessible is to increase transparency in our health care system. (Applause.) To be smart consumers, you need to be informed consumers. It's hard to make wise choices unless you have information available. In order to spend your HSA dollars wisely, you need to know in advance what your options are. You need to know the quality of doctors and hospitals in your area; you need to know the full extent of procedures that someone recommends to you. You know, like when you buy a new car, you have access to consumer research on safety, you have access to information on reliability, you can compare price. There's performance data. You can become an informed consumer before you purchase your automobile. And that same sense of transparency and information ought to be available in health care. A modern health care system recognizes that people ought to be encouraged to shop for quality and price. And so the health care industry, and the insurance industry, needs to provide reliable information about prices and quality on most common medical procedures.

Tomorrow I'm going to have a little visit with people in the insurance industry and the health care industry and the business industry to encourage transparency. I know members of Congress are working on a bill. It would be better this be done with people saying, oh, we understand it's important to be transparent. There's always a bill out there in case the volunteerism is not quite as strong as it should be. (Laughter.)

Third policy that's important is to apply modern information technology to our medical system. Doctors practice 21st century medicine, they still have 19th century filing systems. And this is an important issue. One reason it's an important issue, because when a doc writes their files by hand, you generally can't read the writing. (Laughter.) That leads to inefficiency and error. In hospital there is more risk of preventable medical error when records are handwritten, instead of being cross-checked on a computer. Oftentimes doctors duplicate expensive tests because they do not have access to previous results. In other words, the medical system has not taken advantage of information technology like I'm sure Wendy's has, or other industries around the country.

And so I set a goal in 2004 that most Americans would have an electronic health record within 10 years. You'd have your own health record on a chip. And we're making pretty good progress toward that goal. Mike Leavitt is the Secretary of Health and Human Services. He's got a whole division inside HHS aiming towards getting information technology spread throughout health care.

First thing is, they've got to have a language that kind of can talk between a hospital in Dublin and a hospital in Crawford, you know? Well, they don't have a hospital in Crawford. (Laughter.) How about a hospital close to Crawford? (Laughter.) And that's important, because there's a lot of different -- the language needs to be standardized. And Mike is making pretty good progress on that.

We're developing solutions for a nationwide health information network. One of the things I've insisted upon is that it's got to be secure and private. There's nothing more private than your own health records. And so any system that works is one that is -- it's your record -- you decide the disclosure of your health records.

So let me give you an example about how such a system can work and what I'm trying to explain to you about how to help control costs and reduce medical errors. After Katrina hit, there was hundreds of veterans that had to be relocated. What's interesting is, is that the Veterans Department has already started this information technology modernization. There are medical -- electronic medical records for veterans. And so when these poor folks got scattered around the country, the doctors and providers had access to the electronic records of our veterans.

So if a person had a diabetes issue, up pops on the screen the information, the latest test, the medicine being taken. It was an incredibly efficient way to make sure that the health care needs of our veterans were met during this time of catastrophe. It helped people fill out the prescription drugs of our seniors without fear of error. It helped a local doc say, well, gosh, look, you've been taking this medicine in the past, I'm going to prescribe it for you in the future, in order to make sure that your health care needs continue. If you have your own medical record, your own electronic medical record, and you get sick in a remote part of our country, people instantly see your blood type, the issues that you've faced in the past, really important information about who you are and what you're going to need to help you.

And we're on our way to providing a nationwide information network. It's going to help save maybe 25 percent of the costs in medical care. I told you that one of the important things we've got to be worried about is how to deal with the cost drivers, how to come up with ways to, practically, with a common-sense solution, deal with rising costs. One way is to modernize health care. Another way is to put consumers in charge of making decisions with transparency in pricing.

I want to talk a little bit about small businesses. Obviously, I've told you once and I really mean it, I understand how important small businesses are for the economy. I also love the thought of America being a great place for entrepreneurship. There's nothing better than talking to somebody and saying, I started my own business, or, I own my own company. It's refreshing to me. It's just really an important part of the American experience. And, obviously, as I mentioned, health care is a really important issue for small business. If you sat down with a roundtable of small businesses, the first issue that comes to their mind is, I can't provide health care for my people; how do you expect me to stay in business when health care costs are driving us out? Well, HSAs help a lot, and I really urge American small businesses to take a look at HSAs. They're good for Wendy's, they'll be good for you, as well.

Here's another idea. One of the problems that small businesses have is that they enter into the market, if they're trying to provide traditional insurance, without any risk pool behind them. If you've got three people you're trying to insure, it's a heck of a lot more expensive then if you're trying to insure 3,000 people or 10,000 people. In other words, the more people that are in the risk pool, the lower the cost of traditional insurance is for a small business. And so I look forward to working with the Congress to expand what we call associated health plans. That's kind of Washington-speak for allowing small firms to band together to buy insurance at the same discounts that big companies get. (Applause.)

I'll give you an example. You've got yourself a family restaurant here in Dublin, Ohio. They've got 10 employees, and you try to go in the marketplace and it's prohibitively expensive. It seems to make sense to me that the family restaurant in Dublin ought to team up with family restaurants all across the country, so that the employees provide one big risk pool to help lower the cost for small businesses. It is a practical way of helping small businesses that choose not to go into HSAs to be able to buy traditional insurance in a cost-effective way.

The bill passed the House of Representatives; it remains stuck in the United States Senate. I urge the Senate -- I urge the Senate -- for the sake of affordable health care for small businesses and their employees, to pass associated health plans.

I'll talk about one other issue. I hope you're hanging in there with me here. (Laughter.) And that issue is one that I remember well when I was traveling your state, and that is the number of good docs that are getting driven out of practice because of frivolous lawsuits. (Applause.) If you're worried about affordabilty of health care and availability of health care, then you have got to be concerned about junk lawsuits. You just have to be, because a lot of docs and providers, thinking they're going to get sued, practice what's called defensive medicine. They order tests, they write prescriptions that simply are not necessary, so they can protect themselves from being sued in a court of law by a trial lawyer. That's just a fact of life.

I find interesting a quote from an emergency physician here. Here's what this person said: "In an effort to reduce our malpractice exposure" -- that means, in an effort not to get sued -- "we're being encouraged to over-treat, over-test, and over-admit patients." And it has to be driving medical costs right out of the roof, and it is. It is. In order to address the rising cost of health care we've got to have a rational liability system. If you're harmed, you ought to have your day in court. There ought to be justice for you, if you're injured. But we can write laws that make sure that you get you due claims without encouraging a plethora of junk lawsuits that is costing you a lot of money.

I'll tell you how it's costing you money. The cost of defensive medicine -- in other words, practicing medicine that is otherwise not necessary -- is estimated to cost our society $60 billion to $100 billion a year. It raises the cost of Medicare, Medicaid, Veterans Affairs, and other health programs by an estimated $28 billion a year.

You're paying it. You're working hard, you're putting money into the -- paying your taxes, and $28 billion of those taxes goes to pay for the cost of frivolous and junk lawsuits. As equal -- more importantly, in my judgment, actually, is that good docs are leaving the practice of medicine.

I said something in the State of the Union and it's a startling statistic, if you really take time to think about it, and that is there are 1,500 counties in America without an OB/GYN. There are 15 counties in your state of Ohio without an OB/GYN. Now, that isn't right. These are good docs who are involved with the precious -- the delivery of precious life. And they're getting sued -- a lot. And they're leaving the practice. And it's putting a lot of women in a bind. Women are having to travel miles. There's nothing worse than being -- having uncertainty at this very important time of life.

And we need to do something about it, you know. I thought when I got to Washington it was a state issue, Governor. Now when I see the effect on the federal budget of $28 billion a year, it's a national issue. It requires a national response. The House of Representatives passed a good piece of legislation. The trial lawyers have got it stuck in the United States Senate. For the sake of affordable health care and available health care, for the sake of good health care for our women across the United States of America, we need medical liability reform this year. (Applause.)

So that's what I wanted to talk about. (Laughter.) Ways to make health care more affordable and more available. I hope you can get a sense of my philosophy that when you trust the American people to make wise decisions about their health care, positive things happen. Free markets and competition transform our world. They have the power to transform our health care system. It's important to recognize -- Wendy's recognized that when you introduced health savings accounts.

The agenda I just talked about, one I'm looking forward to working with both Democrats and Republicans in Congress, builds on the strengths of the private sector, recognizes what's good and let's continue to build on that. It focuses on practical, market-based solutions. It offers the potential to deliver real improvements, genuine improvements in the lives of our fellow citizens.

The heart of the reform is that you got to trust the people of the United States of America. And I do. And I do. I want to thank you for giving me a chance to come by and visit with you. God bless you. God bless our country.

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.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:51 PM


Gallup: More Republicans Than Democrats Own Guns, and Use Them in Hunting (E&P Staff, February 16, 2006)

With the shooting incident involving Vice President Cheney still very much in the news, the Gallup organization revealed today that a review of its recent polling data shows a wide disparity in numbers of Republicans and Democrats who say they own guns.

It showed that 41% of Republicans own guns, and only 23% of Democrats. Just over 1 in 4 Independents said they own one or more guns.

Overall, 4 in 10 Americans says thy gun in their home or on their property, with 30% saying they personally own a gun and 12% who say another member of their house owns one.

It's funny to hear the Beltway pundits, who pretend to understand everything from the finer points of Islamic theology to stem cell research methods, preface every discussion of the Cheney incident with, "From what friends who have fired a gun tell me...."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:44 PM


Area home prices inch up (STEVE BROWN, 2/16/06, The Dallas Morning News)

What bubble?

Despite year-end gains, Realtors are predicting that home appreciation will slow dramatically this year.

Fourth-quarter comparisons show that the Dallas-Fort Worth area continues to trail the rest of the country in home price gains.

Prices in North Texas were up by just 6 percent at the end of 2005 – less than half the nationwide rate, the National Association of Realtors said Wednesday.

And the D-FW area had one of the weakest home price increases in the state.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:35 PM

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:29 PM


Sen.: White House Agrees to Spy Law Change (KATHERINE SHRADER, 2/16/06, Associated Press)

Senate Intelligence Chairman Pat Roberts said he has worked out an agreement with the White House to change U.S. law regarding the National Security Agency's warrantless surveillance program and provide more information about it to Congress.

"We are trying to get some movement, and we have a clear indication of that movement," Roberts, R-Kan., said.

Without offering specifics, Roberts said the agreement with the White House provides "a fix" to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and offers more briefings to the Senate Intelligence Committee. [...]

Earlier in the day, White House spokesman Scott McClellan hinted at a "good discussion going on" with lawmakers and praised in particular "some good ideas" presented by Sen. Mike DeWine. The Ohio Republican has suggested the FISA law be changed to accommodate the NSA program.

However, McClellan left the impression that any deal would not allow for significant changes.

This was always going to be resolved by Congress agreeing that what the Executive did was constitutional.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:24 PM


Man Shot In Accident After Laughing At Cheney (AP, 2/16/06)

Hours after laughing about Vice President Dick Cheney's hunting mishap, Josh Kayser was himself shot by a friend during a hunting expedition.

The 21-year-old Lafayette man was taken to the hospital Monday night after his girlfriend accidentally shot him while they were trailing a raccoon that had been preying on chickens on his family's property.

"I read that thing about the vice president and said to myself 'how can you shoot your friend with your gun?' And look what happened," he said Tuesday.

That was no raccoon--it was a vengeful vp...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:12 PM


Virtual World Accused of Discriminating Against Gays (Fox News, February 16, 2006)

A gay-rights uproar in the popular "World of Warcraft" online game has spurred the game's maker to review its treatment of gay players.

The massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG), which draws more than five million players worldwide, was hit by controversy last month after a player was threatened with expulsion from the virtual Warcraft world when she sought to recruit others into her gay-friendly team.

Seems like only a few years ago we were trying to stop such recruitments on-line.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:46 PM


Senate turns back attempt to block Patriot Act (Associated Press, 2/16/06)

The Senate overwhelmingly rejected an effort Thursday to block renewing the Patriot Act, the 2001 law passed weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks to help the government hunt down terrorists.

The 96-3 vote was no suprise to Sen. Russell Feingold, the Wisconsin Democrat who was the lone senator to oppose the law four and a half years ago and is the chief obstacle to extending 16 provisions now due to expire March 10.

Feingold, who is exploring seeking his party's presidential nomination in 2008, plans to make the Senate spend several more days on the bill and complained that Majority Leader Bill Frist had used procedural maneuvers to prevent him from trying to amend the bill.

"We still have not addressed some of the most significant problems with the Patriot Act," Feingold said.

Only Sens. Jim Jeffords, I-Vt., and Robert C. Byrd, R-W.Va., supported Feingold on Thursday's vote to stop what Frist had characterized as a filibuster preventing the Senate from acting on the legilsation.

There's Hiram Lewis's first ad.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:26 PM


China Daily It Has Hole in Middle, and All Want One

Designed by Italians who thought long and hard about the best way to symbolize their country, the Turin medals are very different from any predecessor.

Which is to say, for the first time in Winter Games history, the gold, silver and bronze all have a hole in the middle.

So now we know, God is round-shaped.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:19 PM


Cheney's remark on leak may help Libby (Pete Yost, February 16, 2006, AP)

Vice President Dick Cheney disclosed Wednesday that he has the power to declassify sensitive government information, authority that could set up a criminal defense for his former chief of staff, Lewis "Scooter" Libby.

Cheney's disclosure comes a week after reports that Libby testified under oath that he was authorized by superiors in 2003 to disclose highly sensitive prewar information to reporters. The information, about Iraq and alleged weapons of mass destruction, was used by the Bush administration to bolster its case for invading Iraq.

When special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald revealed Libby's assertions to a grand jury that he had been authorized by his superiors to spread sensitive information, the prosecutor did not specify which superiors.

But in an interview on Fox News, Cheney said there is an executive order that gives the vice president, along with the president, the authority to declassify information.

"I have participated in declassification decisions," Cheney said.

All Mr. Libby had to do was testify truthfully and he'd be home free.

The Little-Noticed Order That Gave Dick Cheney New Power: Have you ever heard of Executive Order 13292? (Byron York, 2/16/06, National Review)

Cheney was referring to Executive Order 13292, issued by President Bush on March 25, 2003, which dealt with the handling of classified material. That order was not an entirely new document but was, instead, an amendment to an earlier Executive Order, number 12958, issued by President Bill Clinton on April 17, 1995.

At the time, Bush's order received very little coverage in the press. What mention there was focused on the order's provisions making it easier for the government to keep classified documents under wraps. But as Cheney pointed out Wednesday, the Bush order also contained a number of provisions which significantly increased the vice president's power.

Throughout Executive Order 13292, there are changes to the original Clinton order which, in effect, give the vice president the power of the president in dealing with classified material. [...]

In the last several years, there has been much talk about the powerful role Dick Cheney plays in the Bush White House. Some of that talk has been based on anecdotal evidence, and some on entirely fanciful speculation. But Executive Order 13292 is real evidence of real power in the vice president's office.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 12:18 PM


Get out of the way... he hasn't forgotten (Roger Highfield, The Telegraph, February 16th, 2006)

The reputation that elephants have for never forgetting has been given a chilling new twist by experts who believe that a generation of pachiderms may taking revenge on humans for the breakdown of elephant society.

The New Scientist reports today that elephants appear to be attacking human settlements as vengeance for years of abuse by people.

In Uganda, for example, elephant numbers have never been lower or food more plentiful, yet there are reports of the creatures blocking roads and trampling through villages, apparently without cause or motivation.

Scientists suspect that poaching during the 1970s and 1980s marked many of the animals with the effects of stress, perhaps caused by being orphaned or witnessing the death of family members - and producing the equivalent of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Many herds lost their matriarch and had to make do with inexperienced "teenage mothers". Combined with a lack of older bulls, this appears to have created a generation of "teenage delinquent" elephants.

Joyce Poole, the research director at the Amboseli Elephant Research Project in Kenya, who has co-authored a paper on elephant behaviour, said: "They are certainly intelligent enough and have good enough memories to take revenge.

Sure, militarily they are no match for us, but the ones smart enough to hire New York reparations lawyers will be big trouble.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:08 PM

RANDY HO' DERE? (via The Mother Judd):

Sex education for parents too (Randye Hoder, February 13, 2006, LA Times)

The truth is, when Emma arrived home the previous Saturday night clutching a goody bag from Glove Affair, my liberal credentials were instantly tested. One by one I pulled the following from her white plastic sack: a condom; pamphlets on masturbation, oral sex and intercourse; the "Rubber Bible," featuring alternative names for prophylactics, such as "gent tent" and "peenie beanie"; and an information wheel labeled "Condom Comebacks," which included a list of excuses boys might make for not wearing a condom and possible rejoinders a girl could offer.

Him: "It doesn't feel good."

Her: "I've got moves rubbers can't stop."

I tried to play it cool. As it turned out, I was a little too cool. While standing in the kitchen with my daughter and her friend, getting all the post-party gossip, I absentmindedly reached into the bag and handed my 8-year-old son a squishy red toy that resembled one of those ubiquitous M&M candy guys.

The girls burst out laughing. "What's so funny?" I asked. They snatched the trinket from my son and turned it upside down. Printed there was the web address stopthesores.org. This was no candy icon; it was a toy syphilis lesion, bright red, with feet.

That's when I insisted my son go to bed, bid the girls goodnight and went upstairs, where I tossed the information wheel at my husband. "Boy," I said casually, "Jerry Falwell would sure bust an artery over this."

My husband spun the wheel to the "They don't fit" excuse and read the answer aloud: "If it's too big for a condom, it's too big for me."

"Forget Jerry Falwell," he said, looking up. "I'm going to bust an artery." I was relieved that I wasn't the only one feeling prudish.

Fear not! After a titanic struggle with conscience she gets past those silly moral qualms and liberal disorder is restored.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:53 AM


AUDIO: 11:00 Charles Fishman: "The Wal-Mart Effect" (Diane Rehm Show)

A look at how the world's largest retailer is transforming the American economy.

Guests: Charles Fishman, senior writer, Fast Company

Poor Ms Rehm, today's show was a perfect illustration of how adherence to Leftism requires ignorance of reality. At the point where Mr. Fishman explained that 15% you can save on groceries at Wal-Mart essentially buys some families 7 weeks of free food a year, it seemed a possibility her head might explode.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:50 AM


From Arrival to Errant Shot, a Timeline of Cheney's Hunting Accident (RALPH BLUMENTHAL, 2/16/06, NY Times)

This time the celebrity at the 50,000-acre Armstrong Ranch was Mr. Cheney, a regular visitor in quail season and a longtime friend, particularly to Ms. Armstrong's 78-year-old mother, Anne, a former counselor to President Gerald R. Ford and the first woman to serve as United States ambassador to Britain.

The other guests were Ms. Willeford, the ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein, and her husband, George, a physician in Austin; Ben Love, a West Texas rancher whom Ms. Armstrong called her "beau"; her sister, Sarita Hixon, a Houston museum chairwoman, and her husband, Bob, an insurance executive; Nancy Negley, an art philanthropist whose family once controlled Brown & Root, now a part of Halliburton; and Mr. Whittington, a 78-year-old Austin lawyer, Republican stalwart and presiding officer of the Texas Funeral Service Commission, and his wife, Mercedes.

At first Ms. Armstrong declined to say who besides Mr. Cheney and her sister had been her guests, but she provided the names after The Austin American-Statesman learned of Ms. Willeford's presence. Ms. Willeford spoke Monday by phone but declined to be interviewed again Wednesday. Mrs. Hixon and Ms. Negley did not respond to several messages.

All the guests were there by 6 p.m. Friday, Ms. Armstrong said. The others drove, but Mr. Cheney flew in with his Secret Service entourage; his wife, Lynne, had also been expected but could not come at the last minute, Ms. Armstrong said. Quartered in adjoining ranch houses, the group dined together Friday night and retired by about 10.

They were up before 8 Saturday and headed out in two groups, with outriders on horseback to flush the birds and about a dozen American pointers and Labrador retrievers.

They broke at 1 p.m. for a picnic lunch — Mr. Cheney said he had had one beer but "nobody was drinking, nobody was under the influence" — then returned to the house to freshen up before heading out again with different partners. Ms. Armstrong drove an old Jeep with Mr. Cheney, Mrs. Hixon, Ms. Willeford and Mr. Whittington.

By close to 5:30 p.m., she said, each group had bagged perhaps 40 quail for the day, well below the limit of 15 per person, and they were following their last covey, or flock.

At that point, Ms. Armstrong said, they figured they had 10 to 15 minutes of good light, and it would have taken 40 minutes or so to find another covey, so this was to be their last shooting of the day.

They had taken turns shooting, and now Ms. Armstrong was in the Jeep with her sister. About 100 yards away, Mr. Cheney, Mr. Whittington and Ms. Willeford were walking in a line in a low spot on gently sloping ground.

After Mr. Whittington bagged his birds he dropped out of sight along with one of Ms. Armstrong's bird dogs, Gertie, Ms. Willeford recalled.

Then, suddenly, he was in a dip about 30 yards away against the sun just as Mr. Cheney fired a blast from his Italian-made 28-gauge Perazzi shotgun. Mr. Whittington caught the spray of birdshot on the right side of his face, neck and chest. "I said, 'Harry, I had no idea you were there,' " Mr. Cheney recalled, adding: "He didn't respond."

Ms. Armstrong initially faulted Mr. Whittington. "You tell your companions you're there, and he failed to do that," she said.

Ms. Willeford described her reaction as "stunned" and said, "The vice president immediately started moving over to check on him."

Ms. Armstrong used her cellphone to call Mr. Love, who was in the other hunting party, with Mrs. Whittington. "Until we know how Harry is, it's best not to say anything to Merce," Mr. Love said she had told him.

An ambulance — one always accompanies Mr. Cheney — arrived in about 30 minutes.

Ms. Armstrong called Mr. Love back. "He looks O.K.," she said. "He's responsive, he's talking." Mr. Love agreed to tell Mrs. Whittington. "She sat upright and asked, 'How bad?' " Mr. Love recalled.

They saw the ambulance, bearing Mr. Whittington, speeding toward them and tried to flag it down for his wife, but it sped away, Mr. Love said. He and Mrs. Whittington, Dr. Willeford and Mr. Hixon then made their own way about an hour and 20 minutes north to the Christus Spohn hospital in Kingsville.

Mr. Whittington's injuries were deemed serious enough to require treatment at Christus Spohn Memorial Hospital in Corpus Christi, at least another hour's drive away, and he was flown there by helicopter.

When they reached the hospital in Corpus Christi, Dr. Willeford and Mr. Hixon called the others at the ranch to report on Mr. Whittington's condition, which Ms. Armstrong described as non-life-threatening. "He was O.K., he checked out fine," she said.

The Secret Service, which put the time of the shooting at 5:50 p.m., said it had notified Sheriff Ramon Salinas III of Kenedy County by 7 p.m.

Sheriff Salinas said he had dispatched a deputy, and he later issued a news release suggesting that the officer had been turned away at the ranch. The Washington Post on Wednesday quoted Sheriff Salinas as saying that he first learned of the shooting from one of his captains, who had been summoned to escort the ambulance, but that he arrived after the ambulance left and that the Border Patrol agent guarding the gate during Mr. Cheney's visit knew nothing of any shooting.

Sheriff Salinas did not return repeated calls, and a reporter seeking to resolve the discrepancies was turned away Wednesday by the sheriff's office in Sarita, which said he was "unavailable."

Ms. Armstrong said she knew nothing of any attempted visit by a deputy on Saturday night.

The Secret Service appears also to have gotten word to the White House.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:29 AM


The Trouble with the Turing Test (Mark Halpern, Winter 2006, New Atlantis)

The part that has seized our imagination, to the point where thousands who have never seen the paper nevertheless clearly remember it, is Turing’s proposed test for determining whether a computer is thinking—an experiment he calls the Imitation Game, but which is now known as the Turing Test.

The Test calls for an interrogator to question a hidden entity, which is either a computer or another human being. The questioner must then decide, based solely on the hidden entity’s answers, whether he had been interrogating a man or a machine. If the interrogator cannot distinguish computers from humans any better than he can distinguish, say, men from women by the same means of interrogation, then we have no good reason to deny that the computer that deceived him was thinking. And the only way a computer could imitate a human being that successfully, Turing implies, would be to actually think like a human being.

Turing’s thought experiment was simple and powerful, but problematic from the start. Turing does not argue for the premise that the ability to convince an unspecified number of observers, of unspecified qualifications, for some unspecified length of time, and on an unspecified number of occasions, would justify the conclusion that the computer was thinking—he simply asserts it. Some of his defenders have tried to supply the underpinning that Turing himself apparently thought unnecessary by arguing that the Test merely asks us to judge the unseen entity in the same way we regularly judge our fellow humans: if they answer our questions in a reasonable way, we say they’re thinking. Why not apply the same criterion to other, non-human entities that might also think?

But this defense fails, because we do not really judge our fellow humans as thinking beings based on how they answer our questions—we generally accept any human being on sight and without question as a thinking being, just as we distinguish a man from a woman on sight. A conversation may allow us to judge the quality or depth of another’s thought, but not whether he is a thinking being at all; his membership in the species Homo sapiens settles that question—or rather, prevents it from even arising. If such a person’s words were incoherent, we might judge him to be stupid, injured, drugged, or drunk. If his responses seemed like nothing more than reshufflings and echoes of the words we had addressed to him, or if they seemed to parry or evade our questions rather than address them, we might conclude that he was not acting in good faith, or that he was gravely brain-damaged and thus accidentally deprived of his birthright ability to think.

Perhaps our automatic attribution of thinking ability to anyone who is visibly human is deplorably superficial, lacking in philosophic or scientific rigor. But for better or worse, that is what we do, and our concept of thinking being is tightly bound up, first, with human appearance, and then with coherence of response. If we are to credit some non-human entity with thinking, that entity had better respond in such a way as to make us see it, in our mind’s eye, as a human being. And Turing, to his credit, accepted that criterion.

Turing expressed his judgment that computers can think in the form of a prediction: namely, that the general public of fifty years hence will have no qualms about using “thinking” to describe what computers do.

The original question, “Can machines think?” I believe to be too meaningless to deserve discussion. Nevertheless I believe that at the end of the century the use of words and general educated opinion will have altered so much that one will be able to speak of machines thinking without expecting to be contradicted.

Note that Turing bases that prediction not on an expectation that the computer will perform any notable mathematical, scientific, or logical feat, such as playing grandmaster-level chess or proving mathematical theorems, but on the expectation that it will be able, within two generations or so, to carry on a sustained question-and-answer exchange well enough to leave most people, most of the time, unable to distinguish it from a human being.

And what Turing grasped better than most of his followers is that the characteristic sign of the ability to think is not giving correct answers, but responsive ones—replies that show an understanding of the remarks that prompted them. If we are to regard an interlocutor as a thinking being, his responses need to be autonomous; to think is to think for yourself. The belief that a hidden entity is thinking depends heavily on the words he addresses to us being not re-hashings of the words we just said to him, but words we did not use or think of ourselves—words that are not derivative but original. By this criterion, no computer, however sophisticated, has come anywhere near real thinking.

Posted by Matt Murphy at 10:26 AM


Spoiled brat media (Thomas Sowell, 2/16/06, Townhall.com)

The first revolt of the American colonists against their British rulers was immortalized by Ralph Waldo Emerson as "the shot heard round the world." Vice President Dick Cheney's hunting accident has now become the shot heard round the Beltway.

The accidental shooting of Harry Whittington, while he was on a hunting trip with Dick Cheney, has nothing to do with government policy or the Vice President's official duties but the mainstream media have gone ballistic over it nevertheless.

They are also angry that the news was not given to them more quickly, which prevented it from becoming the feeding frenzy of the Sunday television talk shows. Whether this delay was deliberate or otherwise, it is being called a "cover-up" in the media, as if there were some crime to cover up.

NBC White House correspondent David Gregory was shouting at White House press secretary Scott McClellan, as if Mr. Gregory's Constitutional rights were being violated. It was a classic example of a special interest demanding special privileges -- as if they were rights.

There is nothing in the Constitution or the laws that says that the media have a right to be in the White House at all, much less to have press conferences.

As Dr. Sowell implies at his column's end, one gets the feeling that the Beltway media is secretly rooting for Whittington's death.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:20 AM

THE RULE (via Ali Choudhury):

To the Scene of “Massive Reconstruction”: Kurdistan today. (Q&A by Stephen Spruiell, 2/16/06, National Review)

Michael J. Totten has written extensively on the Middle East and the conflict in Iraq for outlets such as the Wall Street Journal, TCS Daily, and his own blog, michaeltotten.com. Totten just returned from two weeks in Iraq, and for the next three weeks he’ll be blogging about his travels there. Totten spoke by phone with National Review Online's media reporter, Stephen Spruiell, from Beirut, Lebanon on Wednesday. [...]

Totten: : [S]ince Kurdistan is quiet, there are going to be a lot of things happening there that can’t happen in those other places. Things that are positive and things that I didn’t know were happening until I got there.

NRO: Such as?

Totten: Massive, and I mean massive, reconstruction. In Sulaymaniyah, there are 300,000 people living where three years ago there were only half as many. Like all massive urban immigration, most of the people are settling on the outskirts. But unlike in the most of the third world, the outskirts aren’t slums. They are so nice, in fact, that you might not believe you were in the Middle East. You would look at some of these pictures and swear that this wasn’t the Middle East at all.

The only exception is Halabja. Halabja still looks like a third-world country. This is the city that was gassed by Saddam Hussein. It was totally destroyed and had to start over at zero.

NRO: Why aren’t we hearing more about this kind of rebuilding in the U.S.?

Totten: The only thing you can really do is feature pieces or blogging. There’s not much wire-agency news that comes out of there. If I were a wire reporter, there would only have been one story I could have filed during the entire two weeks I was there. That would be the unification of the two Kurdish political parties to form one. In Erbil you had the Kurdish Democratic party, and in Sulaymaniyah you had the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan. They had parallel governments, parallel administrations, and they are merging together to form one unified government.

But that’s a pretty big reason you’re not going to read about Kurdistan in the New York Times or Washington Post. But you can get it in periodicals. National Geographic had a terrific article about Kurdistan last month. It’s places like that where you’re going to get good reporting on Kurdistan.

NRO: Some people who were against deposing Saddam Hussein are now discounting Kurdistan’s success by saying, well, under Saddam, Kurdistan was protected by the no-fly zone, so Kurdistan would have been fine without U.S. action.

Totten: That’s not true. What people say and what you just said… and I didn’t realize that it wasn’t true until I got there. Almost all this construction I’m describing happened post-invasion. For two reasons. First, all of Iraq, including Kurdistan, was under sanction. The reconstruction was not economically possible. The second reason is that nobody had any confidence when Saddam was in Baghdad. Nobody could be sure that he wouldn’t come back. And it should be noted that not all of Kurdistan was protected by the no-fly zone. The city of Sulaymaniyah was not protected by the no-fly zone ever. Saddam could have rolled back in there and no one would have been there to stop him.

The hysterical ranting about Islam as an iredeemable death cult and other such nonsense requires you to ignore the lived life of all but a few Muslims.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:10 AM


If you saw Lost last night ("One of Them"), or can grab the Podcast of it, the Said plotline was a startlingly direct and hawkish commentary on 9-11 and the WoT.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:54 AM


'13' CYBER CLUES TO 9/11 PILOT (NILES LATHEM, February 14, 2006, NY Post)

An active-duty military intelligence analyst has told congressional investigators that 9/11 pilot Mohamed Atta surfaced 13 times in a controversial Pentagon computer program before he executed the attacks, The Post has learned.

Congressional sources said last night that an officer in the Pentagon's secretive Land Information Warfare Center told the staff of Rep. Curt Weldon (R-Pa.) about the computer hits.

The revelation is significant because the 9/11 commission has asserted that Atta was not on the intelligence community's radar screen before the attacks.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:36 AM


If Canadians Ruled: If the world were ruled by Canadians. (Worth 1000 Photoshop Contest)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:28 AM


Tories pursue meeting with Bush (BBC, 2/16/06)

Shadow Foreign Secretary William Hague has said a Tory visit to Washington will "pave the way" for a meeting between David Cameron and George Bush.

Mr Hague is due to meet key Bush aide Karl Rove later on Thursday.

In 2004, Mr Rove reportedly told ex-Tory leader Michael Howard: "You can forget about meeting the president full stop. Don't bother coming." [...]

Mr Hague said he hoped the Tory delegation's visit would lay the ground for Mr Cameron to meet Mr Bush.

He said he "did not have a timetable" but he was "sure" such a meeting would take place "later in the year", although a Conservative spokesman later indicated it may take longer than that to set up.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:22 AM


The Lessons of Counterinsurgency: U.S. Unit Praised for Tactics Against Iraqi Fighters, Treatment of Detainees (Thomas E. Ricks, February 16, 2006, Washington Post)

The last time the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment served in Iraq, in 2003-04, its performance was judged mediocre, with a series of abuse cases growing out of its tour of duty in Anbar province.

But its second tour in Iraq has been very different, according to specialists in the difficult art of conducting a counterinsurgency campaign -- fighting a guerrilla war but also trying to win over the population and elements of the enemy. Such campaigns are distinct from the kind of war most U.S. commanders have spent decades preparing to fight.

In the last nine months, the regiment has focused on breaking the insurgents' hold on Tall Afar, a town of 290,000. Their operations here "will serve as a case study in classic counterinsurgency, the way it is supposed to be done," said Terry Daly, a retired intelligence officer specializing in the subject.

U.S. military experts conducting an internal review of the three dozen major U.S. brigades, battalions and similar units operating in Iraq in 2005 privately concluded that of all those units, the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment performed the best at counterinsurgency, according to a source familiar with the review's findings.

The regiment's campaign began in Colorado in June 2004, when Col. H. R. McMaster took command and began to train the unit to return to Iraq. As he described it, his approach was like that of a football coach who knows he has a group of able and dedicated athletes, but needs to retrain them to play soccer.

Can't have been that easy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:11 AM


Market watch: New Fed chief talks (Chicago Sun-Times, February 16, 2006)

Crude oil dropped below $58 a barrel for the first time this year, triggering speculation that falling energy costs might bolster consumer spending.

Bernanke, in his first testimony to Congress, said sustained U.S. economic growth might lead to rate increases to contain inflation. Stocks slipped to the day's lows after his comments, only to rebound as oil retreated.

"No doubt a fall in energy prices makes his job over the next 12 months easier," said Jeff Kleintop, who helps manage $50 billion as chief investment strategist of PNC Advisors in Philadelphia.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:08 AM


Coyotes attack poodle in Oak Brook (GARY WISBY, 2/16/06, Chicago Sun-Times)

An Oak Brook woman's toy poodle, taking a bathroom break in the backyard over the weekend, was attacked by what experts suspect was a family of coyotes.

Reason enough to reintroduce the critters.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:05 AM


None of you Mike & Mike in the Morning listeners will have been surprised to hear that Julia Roberts is going to play Mr. Greenburg in the movie.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:38 AM


Japanese Putting All Their Energy Into Saving Fuel (Anthony Faiola, 2/16/06, Washington Post)

With the world's second-largest economy and virtually no domestic sources of fossil fuel, Japan has had little choice but to turn energy efficiency into an art form, experts say. Japan has dramatically diversified its power sources over the years, becoming far less dependent on oil while cultivating a culture of conservation.

Kamiita's decision to turn off the heat, which brought it national media attention, came after a nationwide "warm biz" campaign led thousands of businesses and government offices to set their thermostats no higher than 68 degrees this winter while encouraging employees to wear sweaters and jackets at work. If it sounds like a gimmick, consider the figures from the similar "cool biz" campaign launched by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's cabinet last summer. Companies including Toyota, Hitachi, Isuzu and Sharp asked everyone from chairmen down to salarymen to strip off their much-loved ties and jackets as office air conditioners were set no cooler than 82.4 degrees. In metropolitan Tokyo alone, the campaign saved 70 million kilowatts of power from June through August -- enough to power a city of a quarter-million people for one month, according to Tokyo Electric Power Co.

Low-emission vehicles -- including increasingly popular hybrids like Toyota's Prius that have recently caught on in the United States -- already account for almost 11 million, or 21 percent, of all autos on Japanese roads. Across greater Tokyo, the world's largest metropolis with a population roughly as large as California's, "intelligent machines" from subway fare chargers to building escalators automatically turn off when not in use.

The government has set strict new energy-saving targets for 18 kinds of consumer and business electronics. Home and office air conditioners, for instance, must be redesigned to use 63 percent less power by 2008. The targets have sparked a gold rush among electronics makers, who are churning out record numbers of energy-saving -- but higher-priced -- consumer products.

Canon's $225 Pixus MP500 printer, which uses 60 percent less electricity than the company's other models, has become the number one seller here despite a variety of less costly options on the market. Matsushita, maker of the Panasonic and National brands, is selling a $600 energy-efficient ceiling lamp that proudly tells its users, "You are saving 10 percent on electricity," each time it's switched on. Last year, the company jumped into the housing subdivision business and is now building suburban "eco-homes" fully equipped with energy-saving gadgets and solar panels that can chop 65 percent off the average Japanese power bill of about $180 a month.

For some products, it can take years for savings on energy bills to offset the initial investment. Thus, experts say, the boom here is not likely to spread overseas until product prices come down. But with opinion polls showing that more than three-fourths of Japanese view energy conservation as a personal responsibility, many here are willing to shell out the cash.

That has contributed to the fact that Japan's energy consumption per person is now almost half that of the United States. Conservation fever swept the nation after the Kyoto Protocol, the 1997 treaty written in Japan that aims to reduce greenhouse gases. The United States has not ratified the treaty.

But Japan's transformation, experts note, dates from well before the Kyoto treaty -- and was rooted more in economics than environmentalism.

After the 1970s oil crisis, Japan "went into a panic. We have no oil of our own, and are completely dependent on imports," said Takako Nakamura, an official at the Global Environment Bureau of the Environment Ministry. "That weakness changed the way we looked at energy."

The country embarked on a major effort to wean itself off oil. Japan now imports 16 percent less oil than it did in 1973, although the economy has more than doubled. Billions of dollars were invested in converting oil-reliant electricity-generation systems into ones powered by natural gas, coal, nuclear energy or alternative fuels. Japan, for instance, now accounts for 48 percent of the globe's solar power generation -- compared with 15 percent in the United States.

At the same time, Japanese industries dramatically reduced oil consumption. Nippon Steel, the nation's largest steelmaker, has cut its dependency on oil by 85 percent since 1974; oil now accounts for only 10 percent of the fuel used to heat its factory furnaces.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:10 AM


Search engine giants 'enabling dictatorship' (FOSTER KLUG, 2/16/06, The Scotsman)

Representative Tom Lantos, the full committee's senior Democrat, told the company officials that they had amassed great wealth and influence "but apparently very little social responsibility".

"Your abhorrent actions in China are a disgrace," Mr Lantos said at the hearing.

"I simply don't understand how your corporate leadership sleeps at night."

Representatives from the companies attempted to defend themselves before the committee hearing, but a Google official acknowledged that working in China's internet market "has been a difficult exercise".

Google's Elliot Schrage said: "The requirements of doing business in China include self-censorship - something that runs counter to Google's most basic values and commitments as a company."

Still, he said, Google decided to enter China because it thought it "will make a meaningful, though imperfect, contribution to the overall expansion of access to information in China".

Democracy's Slow Boat to China (Ying Ma, February 15, 2006, Asian Wall Street Journal )
When the U.S. Congress granted Permanent Normal Trade Relations to China in 2000, proponents of expanded trade predicted that China's ongoing economic opening would ultimately lead to political liberalization. The Internet was supposed to be a crucial engine spurring such liberalization. Then President Bill Clinton observed, "[B]y letting our high-tech companies in to bring the Internet and the information revolution to China, we will be unleashing forces that no totalitarian operation rooted in the last century's industrial society can control."

Some five years later, Beijing has managed to upgrade its censorship techniques to adapt to the Internet age, intimidating both political dissidents and American companies alike. The Chinese government's success at political repression has reminded policymakers that at least in the short run, Beijing may have found a way to persist in its authoritarian, repressive ways while devouring cash and technological know-how from the West.

At the moment, these problems are overshadowed by congressmen's far greater interest in seeking legislation to limit U.S. business collaboration with Chinese Internet censorship. The most sensible legislative proposal currently comes from the U.S.-China Economic and Security Commission, which has suggested that Congress prohibit U.S. companies, in the absence of formal legal action, from disclosing information about Chinese users or authors of online content to the Chinese government. Such a solution allows U.S. Internet companies to continue to compete in China while easing the pressure to succumb to demands from the Chinese police state.

As long as the legislation the Congress passes is fairly minimal, this will have been an almost perfect exercise in liberalization theater. Google and company probably do advance the cause of freedom--by making knowledge more available--in China, but they need to always be pushing the envelope to get more info out to users. The best way to guarantee that they dpo so is to publicly shame them here and to give them the image of government pressure to use in their negotiations with the PRC.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:05 AM


Humiliation for France as court sinks toxic ship's passage to India (Charles Bremner, 2/16/06, Times of London)

FRANCE suffered a humiliating blow to its prestige yesterday when President Chirac was forced to order the return of the former flagship of the Gallic navy from the Arabian Sea after environmentalists scuppered its proposed break-up in an Indian scrapyard.

The President commanded the U-turn by Le Clemenceau, the decommissioned aircraft carrier, after France’s highest court ordered her to stay out of Indian waters, pending a suit by environmental campaigners.

An Indian court had already banned the 27,000-tonne warship from entering port while deciding whether her asbestos was a hazard to shipyard workers.

The decision was a triumph for environmental pressure groups, led by Greenpeace, which have led a vocal campaign against the practice of industrialised nations to export waste to South-East Asia for disposal.

Humiliating> Isn't it a French victory that thing actually floats?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:03 AM


Blair wins fight to ban glorifying of terrorism (Philip Webster and Greg Hurst, 2/16/06, Times of London)

TONY BLAIR secured legislation outlawing the glorification of terrorism last night after accusing the opposition parties of trying to weaken it and after beating off another backbench rebellion.

The passing of the legislation is likely to pave the way for the banning of extremist Muslim groups such as Hizb Ut-Tahrir, an Islamist splinter group that aims to establish a Muslim state across the Middle East under religious law and preaches that Western-style democracy is unacceptable.

It's just about your choice of witches.

February 15, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:43 PM


Bin Laden's Game: Most officials thought last month's Osama bin Laden tape was no big deal— maybe even a gesture of weakness. Author and ex-CIA analyst Michael Scheuer, who founded the Agency's bin Laden unit 10 years ago, thinks they're dead wrong. (Steve Perry, 2/15/06, City Pages)

City Pages: You've dissented strongly from the Bush administration line that says bin Laden and other Islamic radicals "hate us for our freedoms." What's the real root of their opposition?

Michael Scheuer: The real root of their opposition is what we do in the Islamic world. If they were hating us because we had elections, or gender equality, or liberty, they would be a lethal nuisance, but they wouldn't be a threat to our security. If you remember, the Ayatollah tried waging a jihad against Americans because we were degenerate—we had X-rated movies, we drank liquor, women were in workplaces. Very, very few people were willing to die for that kind of thing. [...]

CP: After the latest bin Laden tape aired, the official spin was to call it a political bluff, or even a call for truce out of weakness on his part. But you've written and spoken about seeing a different aim behind these bin Laden warnings, one that has more to do with meeting the expectations of a Muslim audience than a Western one.

Scheuer: I think that's very much the case. He's very conscious of the tradition from which he comes and how that history works. It's the tradition of the prophet that you warn your enemy and you offer a truce before the fighting starts. Saladin followed the same tradition against the Crusaders in medieval times, and bin Laden has been very careful to follow that in his time. He's offered us warnings numerous times, but this is the first time he's offered a truce in addition. In the early summer of 2004, he offered the Europeans an almost identical truce or cease-fire. They refused him much like we did, and he attacked them in July of '05 in London. [...]

CP: From the standpoint of practical politics, do you think bin Laden and his associates feel obliged to make the next attack on U.S. soil more spectacular than the last?

Scheuer: That's certainly what they have promised. And one of the things I've tried to point out when I've been interviewed is that, objectively, if you examine bin Laden's rhetoric, the correlation between words and deeds is pretty much—close to perfect. One of the things he always stressed from the very first days of al Qaeda was, I intend to incrementally ratchet up the severity of the pain I cause Americans until they begin to listen and change their policies. So my answer would be yes. To keep true to his world, which seems to be a major concern for him, the next attack on America will have to be more damaging than 9/11.

There don't seem to be many more willing to die for the al Qaeda jihad and if 7/07 was their big follow-up to their last warning then the threat is wildly overblown.

Posted by Matt Murphy at 9:08 PM


Secret Saddam WMD Tapes Subject of ABC Nightline Special (Sherrie Gossett, 2/15/06, Cybercast News Service)

Secret audiotapes of Saddam Hussein discussing ways to attack America with weapons of mass destruction will be the subject of an ABC "Nightline" program Wednesday night, a former federal prosecutor told Cybercast News Service.

The tapes are being called the "smoking gun" of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in Iraq. The New York Sun reported that the tapes have been authenticated and currently are being reviewed by the U.S. House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

The panel's chairman, Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-Mich.), declined to give the Sun details of the content or context of the recordings, saying only that they were provided to his committee by former federal prosecutor John Loftus.

Loftus has been tight-lipped about the tapes, telling the Sun only that he received them from a "former American military intelligence analyst." However, on Wednesday he told Cybercast News Service, "Saddam's tapes confirm he had active CW [chemical weapons] and BW [biological weapons] programs that were hidden from the UN."

On Tuesday night, Loftus told Cybercast News Service that ABC's "Nightline" would air an "extensive report" on the tapes Wednesday night. Loftus also described an ABC News "teaser," which reportedly contains audio of Saddam Hussein discussing ways to attack America with WMD. "Nightline will have a lot more," said Loftus.

The tapes are scheduled to be revealed to the public Saturday morning at the opening session of The Intelligence Summit, a conference which brings together intelligence professionals from around the world.

Before the show begins tonight, let's try to guess the ways in which Nightline will turn this into a "Bush Lied" expose.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:36 PM


Stewardship and Economics: Two Sides of the Same Coin (Jordan Ballor, 2/15/06, Acton.org)

Perhaps the most important point to recognize is the common foundation for our respective understandings of stewardship and economics. The two are related linguistically by their common Greek origins, and related theologically by their biblical usage. [...]

The Bible uses these terms frequently, sometimes to refer to the providential work of God in redemptive history. But even in these cases, the more mundane analogue is another biblical use of the terms, regarding the everyday maintenance of a household in the Ancient Near East.

Joseph, for example, acted as the steward of Potiphar’s household when he first arrived in Egypt (Genesis 39:2–6). Jesus tells the parable of the shrewd οικονόμος (manager) in Luke 16:1–15, who used his position over worldly wealth not as an end in itself but rather with eternal consequences in mind. Jesus concludes by saying, “No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money” (v. 13).

These few examples display the shared biblical origin of the terms economics and stewardship. Economics can be understood as the theoretical side of stewardship, and stewardship can be understood as the practical side of economics. [...]

Far from being a discipline that explains all of human existence, in the biblical view, as we saw in the case of the shrewd manager, economics is the thoughtful ordering of the material resources of a household or social unit toward the self-identified good end. Thus, if we hold a biblical view of economics and stewardship, we will not be tempted to divorce the two concepts but instead will see them as united.

On a larger scale, then, economics must play an important role in decisions about environmental stewardship. Economics helps us rightly order our stewardship. The fact that some advocates for political action on global warming are now attempting to propose economic arguments for their position is a positive step toward reconciling these two often estranged concepts.

Sadly, those who believe in economism make the mistake of treating economics as an end rather than a means, which makes them just as dangerous as the environmentalists.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:25 PM


Tories move to heal White House rift (Alec Russell in Washington and George Jones, 16/02/2006, Daily Telegraph)

The Tories will today seek to end an extraordinary rift with their natural allies in the White House with a staunch statement of support for President George W Bush over the need to stop Iran having a nuclear weapon.

At the start of a two-day visit to repair relations, Liam Fox, the Conservative defence spokesman, will tell a Washington think-tank that Britain remains America's "most reliable and effective ally". [...]

In the last few years Washington has been difficult terrain for the Tories. To the frustration of Democrats - and some Conservatives in Britain - the Republicans' respect for Tony Blair since the September 11 attacks has rivalled their affection for their more obvious soul-mates, Lady Thatcher and Winston Churchill.

The nadir of the Tories' standing in Washington came in 2004 when Karl Rove, President George W Bush's chief adviser, made clear Michael Howard would not be welcome in the White House after he attacked Mr Blair over Iraq.

Today, however, comes the rapprochement. First William Hague, the shadow foreign secretary, George Osborne, the shadow chancellor, and Dr Fox meet Mr Rove, known by wags as "Bush's brain".

Then they fan out across Washington to meet senior government officials and politicians from both parties.

Nile Gardiner, of the Heritage Foundation, said the visit was a signal that the Tories were "back in business after years in the wilderness".

He added: "There was lots of bad blood but there is a growing recognition in the White House that Blair's days are numbered. This symbolises the beginning of the end of the Blair era of dominance in Washington."

Should have sent I.D.S.--he's the only one with an intuitive grasp of compassionate conservatism.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:12 PM


Batman Takes Aim at Osama (ABC News, Feb. 14, 2006)

Beware, terrorists! The Caped Crusader is targeting a villain more sinister than the Joker — Osama bin Laden.

At the WonderCon 2006 comic-book convention in San Francisco last weekend, legendary comics writer and artist Frank Miller revealed that Batman would hunt down bin Laden and al Qaeda in his next DC Comics graphic novel.

In "Holy Terror, Batman!" the Caped Crusader goes after the terror leader and his organization after Gotham City is attacked by terrorists. Though the graphic novel's title is a take on Robin the Boy Wonder's catchphrase, Miller said there was nothing campy about the story. [...]

Miller called "Holy Terror, Batman!" a "piece of propaganda" where "Batman kicks al Qaeda's a—." He said his graphic novel channeled an era in the comic-book industry when writers and artists used heroes to spread a clear message and generate patriotism.

"Superman punched out Hitler. So did [Marvel Comics'] Captain America," he said. "That's one of the things they're there for. … These are our folk heroes. It just seems silly to chase around the Riddler when you've got al Qaeda out there."

Sort of sad that artists and entertainers have become so openly despicable--at least the Communists had the decency to be ashamed of it--that such sentiments surprise us. We've come a long way (downhill) since Robert Warshow famously said: "Nobody seriously questions the principle that it is the function of mass culture to maintain public morale, and certainly nobody in the mass audience objects to having his morale maintained."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:21 PM


Tiny island that's ready to stop Europe in its tracks (David Rennie, 15/02/2006, Daily Telegraph)

In the decade since they voted to join the European Union the islanders of the Aland archipelago in the Baltic Sea have been outvoted and overruled by Brussels, time and again.

Now Aland, a unique, autonomous region of Finland, is about to teach Brussels a lesson in democracy it may never forget.

Thanks to a quirk of early 20th-century history, Aland's 26,000 people are essentially sovereign co-rulers of their home nation of Finland. As such, they can veto any international treaty that Finland wants to enter, including EU treaties.

And the islanders are threatening to do just that when the European Commission attempts to revive the moribund EU constitution later this year.

It would be worth a Time Zone Rule violation to vacation at Club Aland.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:15 PM


Cheney: 'I'm the Guy Who Pulled the Trigger' (Jane Roh, 2/15/06, Fox News)

Vice President Dick Cheney told FOX News on Wednesday that he alone is responsible for a weekend hunting accident in which he shot Austin attorney Harry Whittington.

"Ultimately I'm the guy who pulled the trigger that fired the round that hit Harry," Cheney said in his first interview since the incident. "I'm the guy who pulled the trigger and shot my friend, and that's something I'll never forget." [...]

One thing for which Cheney was not apologetic was the way the news of the shooting was delivered to the media. Armstrong, a private citizen, went to a local newspaper about the incident on Sunday. The Corpus Christi Caller-Times published the story near 3 p.m. EST Sunday. The scoop upset many in the White House press corps, who were not with Cheney on the private retreat.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:12 PM


Smooth road for Fed chair so far, uncertainties ahead: Bernanke's comments calm markets, but future oil prices and housing values pose fundamental challenges. (Mark Trumbull, 2/16/06, The Christian Science Monitor)

While the path of the economy - and of the Bernanke Fed - has uncertainties, the new chairman used his first semiannual testimony on Capitol Hill Wednesday to reassure policymakers and the public of two points: The economy appears to be doing well, and he will be vigilant in guarding against enemy No. 1, inflationary pressures that could threaten price stability.

"The economic expansion remains on track," Chairman Bernanke told members of the House Financial Services Committee. "Nevertheless, the risk exists that ... output could overshoot its sustainable path, leading ultimately ... to further upward pressure on inflation."

Or the moon could break out of its orbit and knock us into the sun.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:09 PM


In Brazil, partial prohibition: Violence dropped sharply in Diadema after a ban on late-night sales of alcohol. (Andrew Downie, 2/16/06, The Christian Science Monitor)

The long arm of the law has been preaching - and enforcing - prohibition in Diadema for four years now. Under a bold and controversial bill passed in 2002 to combat the alcohol-fueled bloodshed that made this industrial city one of the most violent in Brazil, authorities banned the serving of liquor after 11 p.m. in almost all the city's 4,800 bars and restaurants. [...]

The effect has been stunning.

"The number of murders fell by 47.4 percent in Diadema between 2002 and 2005," said Regina Miki, the city's social services secretary. "The number of road accidents fell by 30 percent. The number of assaults against women fell by 55 percent. And the number of alcohol-related hospital admissions fell by 80 percent.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:52 PM


Feingold launches another lonely effort to block the Patriot Act (LAURIE KELLMAN, 2/15/06, Associated Press)

In a case of legislative deja vu, Sen. Russell Feingold launched another lonely filibuster against the USA Patriot Act, but sponsors predicted enough support to overcome the objection and extend parts of the law set to expire March 10.

Feingold, D-Wis., said protracted talks with the White House over the law's protections for civil liberties produced only a "fig leaf" to cover weaknesses that leave people vulnerable to government intrusion.

Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter, R-Pa., said he had the 60 votes required to overcome Feingold's filibuster, as soon as this week. He agreed, though, that any revisions to a House-Senate accord blocked last year were "cosmetic.

"But sometimes cosmetics will make a beauty out of a beast and provide enough cover for senators to change their vote," Specter told reporters Wednesday.

Indeed, the filibuster seemed doomed. No Democrats were expected to join Feingold, according to officials of both parties.

Now that he's narrowed his position down to a pure 1%, how can Mr. Feingold help but be the '08 choice of the Left?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:46 PM


Chicago Merc to trade snow futures, options (Darrell Hassler and Nandini Sukumar, February 9, 2006, Bloomberg News)

The Chicago Mercantile Exchange, the biggest U.S. futures market, is creating futures and options contracts that pay out based on amount of snow that falls in New York's Central Park and Boston's Logan International Airport.

The Merc, the only exchange to offer weather derivatives, is expanding its range as trading surges in existing contracts linked to the number of frosty days and the temperature in U.S., European and Asian cities.

Weather derivatives trading at the Merc jumped more than sevenfold last year to 889,000 contracts on demand from companies whose fortunes change with the weather. The derivatives might be used by municipal snow removers or energy traders, said Brian O'Hearne, managing director of the environmental and commodity markets for Swiss Reinsurance Co.

``There really is an increasing interdependence of commodity price action and weather action,'' O'Hearne said in an interview from his New York office. He is also president of the Washington- based Weather Risk Management Association, a trade group.

-AUDIO: Snow Futures (Here and Now, February 15, 2006)
Starting later this month, the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) will begin trading snowfall futures. The contracts will rely on how much snow falls at Boston's Logan Airport and New York's Central Park.

According to the CME, snowfall futures could help businesses who are affected by the weather or cities struggling to maintain snow removal costs. Snowfall futures join a growing field of what investors call weather derivatives.

Guests: Felix Carabello, director of alternative investments for the Chicago Mercantile Exchange

Only political hysteria prevented us from using such market mechanisms to determine where we're most vulnerable to terrorism.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:39 PM


Ohio 2006 Poll Results Executive Summary (Discovery Institute, February 13, 2006)

This was a telephone survey of Ohio likely voters conducted by Zogby International 2/2/06 thru 2/3/06. [...][

Which of the following two statements come closest to your own opinion?

A) Biology teachers should teach only Darwin’s theory of evolution and the scientific evidence that supports it.

B) Biology teachers should teach Darwin’s theory of evolution, but also the scientific evidence against it.

C) Neither/Not Sure

In 2006 in Ohio:

A = 19%
B = 68.8%
C = 12%

In 2002 in Ohio:

A = 19%
B = 65%
C = 16

The controversy is philosophical, not scientific.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:32 PM


Alito Hires as a Clerk Former Ashcroft Aide (Charles Lane, February 15, 2006, Washington Post)

Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. has hired one of the architects of then-Attorney General John D. Ashcroft's policies to serve as his law clerk at the Supreme Court for the rest of the current term, the court announced yesterday.

Adam G. Ciongoli, 37, a senior vice president at Time Warner Inc., served as counselor to Ashcroft from 2001 to 2003. He attended Georgetown University Law Center, clerked for Alito at the Philadelphia-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit from 1995 to 1996, and helped prepare the justice for his recent confirmation hearings.

Ciongoli was an aide to Ashcroft during Ashcroft's years as a senator and then came to the Justice Department, where he advised Ashcroft on terrorism issues in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Among the issues he worked on were the detention of thousands of terrorism suspects in the United States and the use of military tribunals to try them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:22 PM


Tax Cheating Has Gone Up, Two Federal Studies Find (DAVID CAY JOHNSTON, 2/15/06, NY Times)

A new report by the Commerce Department found that Americans failed to report more than a trillion dollars in income on their 2003 tax returns. That was a 37 percent increase in unreported income from 2000.

In a separate report, the Internal Revenue Service looked at both unreported income and improper deductions and concluded that Americans shortchanged the government by $345 billion in 2001 — an amount almost equal to the projected federal budget deficit for 2007.

What percent is cheating and what percent confusion because of a code that no one can fathom?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:13 PM


The Islam Gap (KARIM RASLAN, 2/15/06, NY Times)

SOUTHEAST Asian Muslims have not been roiled by a clash of civilizations. Rather, people like me — Western-trained, English-speaking and constantly traveling — have begun to see the subtle differences that fracture our civilizations from within.

Whether we are conservative or liberal, many of us are appalled and angered by the stupidity and insensitivity of the Danish newspaper cartoons. But that doesn't mean we've taken leave of our senses. I, for one, won't be throwing out my Lego set or my Bang & Olufsen sound system, let alone plotting to unveil a Zionist conspiracy. I may be a Muslim, but I can tell the difference between a newspaper and a people, a country and a principle.

Even Din Syamsuddin, the head of Indonesia's 30 million strong Muhammadiyah Muslim association (and a firebrand by most accounts), told his followers to remain calm: "I urge Muslims not to overreact and act in a violent and anarchist way because those things are completely against Islamic teachings."

We generally believe that anger and violence are self-defeating.

Indonesia is also a Muslim democracy of over 200 million people.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:19 PM


Mao aide joins battle against China censors (Chris Buckley, 2/14/06, Reuters)

They said the closing of the Freezing Point section of the China Youth Daily was an "historic incident" in a struggle between Communist Party controls and calls for media freedom.

"History demonstrates that only a totalitarian system needs news censorship, out of the delusion that it can keep the public locked in ignorance," they said in a public letter signed February 2 but issued on Tuesday.

Many of the signatories were officials under Zhao Ziyang and Hu Yaobang, the relatively liberal party chiefs ousted in the 1980s, and they reflected growing discontent about censorship even among party veterans, Li Datong, the editor of Freezing Point, told Reuters.

The signatories include Mao's secretary and biographer, Li Rui; an ex-editor-in-chief of the Communist Party's own mouthpiece, the People's Daily, Hu Jiwei; and a former propaganda boss, Zhu Houze.

They said China's elaborate restrictions on information could have dire consequences for China's political evolution.

"Depriving the public of freedom of expression so nobody dares speak out will sow the seeds of disaster for political and transition."

Beijing Censors Taken to Task in Party Circles (JOSEPH KAHN, 2/15/06, NY Times)

The interventions amounted to the most extensive exertion of press control since President Hu Jintao assumed power three years ago.

But propaganda officials are also facing rare public challenges to their legal authority to take such actions, including a short strike and string of resignations at one newspaper and defiant open letters from two editors elsewhere who had been singled out for censure. Those protests have suggested that some people in China's increasingly market-driven media industry no longer fear the consequences of violating the party line.

The authors of the letter predicted that the country would have difficulty countering the recent surge of social unrest in the countryside unless it allowed the news media more leeway to expose problems that lead to violent protests.

"At the turning point in our history from a totalitarian to a constitutional system, depriving the public of freedom of speech will bring disaster for our social and political transition and give rise to group confrontation and social unrest," the letter said. "Experience has proved that allowing a free flow of ideas can improve stability and alleviate social problems."

Some of the signers held high official posts during the 1980's, when the political environment in China was becoming more open. Although they have long since retired or been eased from power, a collective letter from respected elder statesmen can often help mobilize opinion within the ruling party.

One of those people who signed the petition is Li Rui, Mao's secretary and biographer. Others include Hu Jiwei, a former editor of People's Daily, the party's leading official newspaper; Zhu Houze, who once ran the party's propaganda office; and Li Pu, a former deputy head of the New China News Agency, the main official press agency.

Party officials and political experts say President Hu, who was groomed to take over China's top posts for more than a decade, has often attended closely to the opinions of the party's elder statesmen.

Mr. Hu is widely thought to favor tighter media controls. Party officials said he referred approvingly to media management in Cuba and North Korea in a speech in late 2004.

But he has also solicited support from more liberal elements.

Nicely embodying the schizophrenia of the entire system.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:16 PM


Republicans happier than rivals (Jennifer Harper, February 15, 2006, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

Conservative Republicans are among the most joyous, according to a survey released yesterday by the Pew Research Center for the Public and the Press, which found that 47 percent of respondents who were both conservative and Republican said they were "very happy."

The survey was specific. This isn't just ho-hum happy. This is emphatically happy.

The group was eclipsed only by well-heeled Republicans with more than $150,000 in annual incomes -- 52 percent were very happy -- and people who attend church at least once a week, with incomes of more than $50,000 a year. Half of them also said they had a happy mind-set. [...]

The poll suggests there may be something to popular observations of an "angry" Democratic Party; a distinct happiness gap is afoot.

If they'd waited unti pitchers and catchers report the numbers would have been even higher.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:07 PM


Congressional Probe of NSA Spying Is in Doubt (Charles Babington, February 15, 2006, Washington Post)

Congress appeared ready to launch an investigation into the Bush administration's warrantless domestic surveillance program last week, but an all-out White House lobbying campaign has dramatically slowed the effort and may kill it, key Republican and Democratic sources said yesterday.

They ought to let the Democrats hold hearings.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:59 AM


An Arrogance of Power (David Ignatius, February 15, 2006, Washington Post)

For a White House that informs us about the smallest bumps and scrapes suffered by the president and vice president, the lag is inexplicable. But let us assume the obvious: It was an attempt to delay and perhaps suppress embarrassing news. We will never know whether the vice president's office would have announced the incident at all if the host of the hunting party, Katharine Armstrong, hadn't made her own decision Sunday morning to inform her local paper.

Nobody died at Armstrong Ranch, but this incident reminds me a bit of Sen. Edward Kennedy's delay in informing Massachusetts authorities about his role in the fatal automobile accident at Chappaquiddick in 1969.

Because, when you get right down to it, there's just not much difference between medevacing someone to the hospital and leaving them at the bottom of a river....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:54 AM


Oil dip gives stocks shot in the arm (ELLEN SIMON, 2/15/06, AP)

A drop in oil prices below $60 a barrel sent stocks soaring Tuesday, carrying the Dow Jones industrial average 136 points higher and past 11,000 for the first time in a month. A surge in retail sales added to the market's good mood. [...]

Crude oil futures fell amid expectations that a U.S. supply report today will show higher crude inventories. A barrel of light crude settled at $59.57 a barrel, down $1.67, in trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Energy prices have been declining steeply. Gasoline futures have fallen roughly 22 percent in the last two weeks, while crude is down roughly 13 percent and natural gas prices are 50 percent lower than their mid-December peak, Sitko said.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:33 AM


Why has Stephen Harper stayed out of sight?
: Setting up shop 'a formidable task,' aide says of PM's lack of public action (GLORIA GALLOWAY, 2/15/06, Globe and Mail

Stephen Harper will re-enter the public realm this afternoon to offer a few patriotic words about Flag Day before returning to the prime ministerial bunker and his preferred task of shaping government.

In more than a week since his controversial cabinet took the oath of office, Mr. Harper has made few forays into the world of cameras and digital recorders.

There was a news conference after a cabinet meeting on the first day in office. There was a brief address before a caucus meeting. There was a speech Friday night in Halifax to honour his supporter, outgoing Nova Scotia Premier John Hamm. And there were phone conversations in his camera-filled office with Olympic flag bearer Danielle Goyette and gold-medallist Jennifer Heil.

But, for the most part, the new Prime Minister has stayed well out of the public eye...

None of the theories that George Bush and Karl Rove had settled on for guiding this presidency served us better than their determination to lower the president's piublic profile -- after the omnipresence of Bill Clinton -- and save his appearances for times when what he had to say was important. This heightened the effect of President Bush's post-9-11 speeches precisely because he hadn't been pretending that everything else he had to say was of world-shaking importance.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:21 AM


Special report: America's Long War: US introduces radical new strategy (Simon Tisdall, Ewen MacAskill and Richard Norton-Taylor, February 15, 2006, The Guardian)

>European governments are still digesting the contents of the US report and are expected to give full responses in the next few weeks. But initial reaction appears to be one of caution.

The Ministry of Defence said yesterday it had been consulted by the Pentagon as the review was drawn up and was pleased to see references to working with allies. As the consultation took place, Royal Marine commandos arrived at their base in southern Afghanistan yesterday at the start of a mission described in the Commons by government opponents as confused and unclear.

But British commanders expressed concern that increased attacks on suspect terrorists using drones - in which decisions are made rapidly by secret watchers based thousands of miles away - could have legal implications. They also highlighted potential infringements of sovereignty and the bypassing of political controls and of established rules of engagement.

Never mind the 21st century political correctness that would pass up a shot at the enemy just because of transnational legal fictions, if they haven't figured out yet that our recognizing the sovereignty of others depends on their meeting our liberal democratic standards then they have their other foot in the 19th century.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:12 AM


A close ally, but no influence (Richard Norton-Taylor, February 15, 2006, The Guardian)

The Pentagon review has significant political, military, financial and even legal implications for Britain, analysts have told the Guardian. It assumes Britain will be closely tied to the US without any influence on its military strategy, they say, while the UK and its European allies are left with the burden of peacekeeping.

The US could in future be a "more comfortable partner" for Britain, says Colonel Christopher Langton of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, if it means there will be greater emphasis on "preventive threats rather than a heavy footprint". But this is only a part of the picture painted by the Pentagon. British military chiefs, MI5 and MI6 have never liked the idea of a war on terror. Now, they say, the concept of a long war gives a spurious legitimacy to international terrorists.

The Pentagon makes clear the US will rely less and less on "static" alliances such as Nato. "We would by implication be part of any coalition of the willing in any part of the world," Col Langton says.

Amyas Godfrey of the Royal United Services Institute says Britain will be "the biggest partner" in this enterprise. "If we want a say in international affairs we need to be part of it." He compares a close partnership with the US in the long war with Britain's status as a nuclear power in the cold war.

But Britain would be an increasingly junior partner, analysts suggest. Col Langton says: "The UK has to assume it will be piggy backing."

The relationship between America and Britain has never been closer, and George Bush demonstrated his regard for Tony Blair (and Colin Powell) by acceeding to their request to try to use the threat of WMD to get the UN to endorse regime change in Iraq, but when it looked like Mr. Blair might do himself real damage at home if he joined in the war, Mr. Bush told him to feel free to bail out because we were fine going without them. Mr. Blair was reportedly stunned not so much by the magnanimity of the gesture as by the recognition of Britain's ultimate insignificance.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:59 AM


America's Long War: Last week US defence chiefs unveiled their plan for battling global Islamist extremism. They envisage a conflict fought in dozens of countries and for decades to come. Today we look in detail at this seismic shift in strategic thinking, and what it will mean for Britain (Simon Tisdall and Ewen MacAskill, February 15, 2006, The Guardian)

The report sets out a plan for prosecuting what the the Pentagon describes in the preface as "The Long War", which replaces the "war on terror". The long war represents more than just a linguistic shift: it reflects the ongoing development of US strategic thinking since the September 11 attacks.

Looking beyond the Iraq and Afghan battlefields, US commanders envisage a war unlimited in time and space against global Islamist extremism. "The struggle ... may well be fought in dozens of other countries simultaneously and for many years to come," the report says. The emphasis switches from large-scale, conventional military operations, such as the 2003 invasion of Iraq, towards a rapid deployment of highly mobile, often covert, counter-terrorist forces.

Among specific measures proposed are: an increase in special operations forces by 15%; an extra 3,700 personnel in psychological operations and civil affairs units - an increase of 33%; nearly double the number of unmanned aerial drones; the conversion of submarine-launched Trident nuclear missiles for use in conventional strikes; new close-to-shore, high-speed naval capabilities; special teams trained to detect and render safe nuclear weapons quickly anywhere in the world; and a new long-range bomber force.

The Pentagon does not pinpoint the countries it sees as future areas of operations but they will stretch beyond the Middle East to the Horn of Africa, north Africa, central and south-east Asia and the northern Caucasus.

The cold war dominated the world from 1946 to 1991: the long war could determine the shape of the world for decades to come. The plan rests heavily on a much higher level of cooperation and integration with Britain and other Nato allies, and the increased recruitment of regional governments through the use of economic, political, military and security means. It calls on allies to build their capacity "to share the risks and responsibilities of today's complex challenges".

The Pentagon must become adept at working with interior ministries as well as defence ministries, the report says. It describes this as "a substantial shift in emphasis that demands broader and more flexible legal authorities and cooperative mechanisms ... Bringing all the elements of US power to bear to win the long war requires overhauling traditional foreign assistance and export control activities and laws."

The Cold War was ultimately won by rhetoric as much as by the Soviets' inability to compete militarily. It should be even easier to defeat Islamicism because, unlike Communism, no one considers it feasible in the first place, not even Western intellectuals.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:26 AM


Cost of E85 fuel is higher than gasoline (James R. Healey, 2/14/06, USA TODAY)

The heavily promoted alcohol fuel called E85 might cut America's oil use and help support U.S. agriculture, but it's not reducing motorists' fuel bills. It's boosting them significantly.

It's not about cost.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:24 AM


Quieter presence urged in Mideast (John Diamond, 2/14/06, USA TODAY)

The United States should launch a major covert information campaign to promote the nation's image in the Middle East and sow division among radical Muslim groups, according to a West Point critique of U.S. terrorism policy.

The strategy, amounting to a secret campaign for hearts and minds, could involve paying for favorable publications and schools that promote moderate Islamic philosophies.

The report also proposes using Muslim allies, or at least groups hostile to the more militant Islamic movements, to exploit ideological rifts within terrorist groups.

Through it all, however, "it is essential that the U.S. hand not be seen," said the report by the Combating Terrorism Center at the U.S. military academy.

The strategy is sound enough, but do it publicly.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:12 AM


NATO allies cut military since 9/11 (Rowan Scarborough, February 15, 2006, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

America's major NATO allies have cut military manpower and defense funds as a share of their economies since the September 11 attacks, in sharp contrast with the United States, which embarked on deficit spending to boost arms outlays to fight global terrorists.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 6:03 AM


Short-message sex (Jack Kapica, Globe and Mail, February 15th, 2006)

It's no longer the telephone companies' dirty little secret: Cellphones are the newest sex toys.

Instead of playing coy by promoting their technological innovations, cellphone makers have embraced what they call the "textual revolution" and are actively selling their short-message service (SMS) as a sex aid.

Many cellphone companies have researched the market, and have been releasing their findings dressed up as Valentine's Day trivia: That texting, as an integral part of sex life, is hot, hot, hot.

Virgin Mobile Canada recently asked TV sex kitten Pamela Anderson to write a book called The Joy of Text, to be sold in bookstores and given away with a cellphone kit that Virgin calls its "Pleasure Pack." In it, Ms. Anderson talks about "textual intercourse" and offers Canadians advice on "how to spice up their text lives."

Vonage Canada breathlessly reported the other day that there are great advantages to text sex. About a third of their text sex users said they liked not having to get dressed up for a date; about one in five said they liked to do other things while exchanging moist messages, and one in 10 said it was because they didn't have to take precautions.

"The days of calling someone to ask them out on a date or sending a Valentine's Day card are so yesterday," reports Virgin Mobile Canada marketer Nathan Rosenberg.

Sex texting is even less "real" than its elder cousin, phone sex, which has reached such universal levels that more than half of Canadians confessed to Vonage that they engage in phone sex.

That seems awfully high until you remember we Canadians find talking to that sultry, automated female voice from Directory Assistance is a real turn-on.

February 14, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:55 PM


Gay Activists Ask Canada to Lower Age of Consent for Anal Sex, National Post Agrees (John-Henry Westen, February 14, 2006, LifeSiteNews.com)

Homosexual activists have long sought to distance themselves from pedophiles, however Canada's most prominent homosexual activist group has now demanded the lowering the age of consent for anal sex to 16 from 18. Surprisingly, Canada's National Post, regarded by some as a 'conservative' paper has come out in favour of the proposal.

Reacting to the Conservative Government's plan to raise the age of consent for normal sex from 14 to 16, EGALE (Equality for Gays and Lesbians Everywhere) has commenced a campaign to have the age of consent for anal sex lowered to 16 from 18. Laurie Arron, the director of advocacy for EGALE remarked to the Ottawa Citizen, "There's no reason to treat anal sex differently than other sexual acts except to stigmatize gay and bisexual men."

‘Gay marriage’ and homosexuality: some medical comments (JOHN SHEA, MD, JOHN WILSON, MD, et. al., February 2005, Lifesite)
The media portrays the homosexual lifestyle and relationships as happy, healthy and stable. However, the homosexual lifestyle is associated with a large number of very serious physical and emotional health consequences. Many 'committed' homosexual relationships only last a few years. This raises doubts as to whether children raised in same-sex households are being raised in a protective environment.

A. There are very high rates of sexual promiscuity among the homosexual population with short duration of even 'committed' relationships.

* A study of homosexual men shows that more than 75% of homosexual men admitted to having sex with more than 100 different males in their lifetime: approximately 15% claimed to have had 100-249 sex partners, 17% claimed 250-499, 15% claimed 500-999 and 28% claimed more than 1,000 lifetime sexual partners. (Bell AP, Weinberg MS. Homosexualities. New York 1978).

* Promiscuity among lesbian women is less extreme, but is still higher than among heterosexual women. Many 'lesbian' women also have sex with men. Lesbian women were more than 4 times as likely to have had more than 50 lifetime male partners than heterosexual women. (Fethers K et al. Sexually transmitted infections and risk behaviours in women who have sex with women. Sexually Transmitted Infections 2000; 76: 345-9.)

* Far higher rates of promiscuity are observed even within 'committed' gay relationships than in heterosexual marriage: In Holland, male homosexual relationships last, on average, 1.5 years, and gay men have an average of eight partners a year outside of their supposedly “committed” relationships. (Xiridou M, et al. The contribution of steady and casual partnerships to the incidence of HIV infection among homosexual men in Amsterdam. AIDS. 2003; 17: 1029-38.) Gay men have sex with someone other than their primary partner in 66% of relationships within the first year, rising to 90% of relationships after five years. (Harry J. Gay Couples. New York. 1984)

* In an online survey among nearly 8,000 homosexuals, 71% of same-sex relationships lasted less than eight years. Only 9% of all same-sex relationships lasted longer than 16 years. (2003-2004 Gay & Lesbian Consumer Online Census; www.glcensus.org)

* The high rates of promiscuity are not surprising: Gay authors admit that 'gay liberation was founded … on a sexual brotherhood of promiscuity.' (Rotello G. Sexual Ecology. New York 1998)

B. Among homosexuals, highly risky sexual practices such as anal sex are very common.

* The majority of homosexual men (60%) engage in anal sex, frequently without condom and even, if they know that they are HIV positive. (Mercer CH et al. Increasing prevalence of male homosexual partnerships and practices in Britain 1990-2000. AIDS. 2004; 18: 1453-8) As a result, a large number of diseases are associated with anal intercourse, many of which are rare or even unknown in the heterosexual population such as: anal cancer, Chlamydia trachomatis, Cryptosporidium, Giardia lamblia, Herpes simplex virus, HIV, Human papilloma virus, Isospora belli, Microsporidia, Gonorrhoea, Syphilis, Hepatitis B and C and others. (www.netdoctor.co.uk; www.gayhealthchannel.com;)

* There is a significant increase in the risk of contracting HIV when engaging in anal sex. Young homosexual men aged 15-22, who ever had anal sex had a fivefold increased risk of contracting HIV than those who never engaged in anal sex. (Valleroy L, et al. HIV prevalence and associated risks in young men who have sex with men. JAMA. 2000; 284: 198-204.)

* The term 'barebacking' refers to intentional unsafe anal sex. In a study of HIV-positive gay men, the majority of participants (84%) reported engaging in barebacking in the past three months, and 43% of the men reported recent bareback sex with a partner who most likely is not infected with HIV, therefore putting another man at risk of contracting HIV. (Halkitis PN. Intentional unsafe sex (barebacking) among HIV-positive gay men who seek sexual partners on the Internet. AIDS Care. 2003; 15: 367-78.)

* While many homosexuals are aware of HIV risk, a large number are unaware of the increased risk of contracting non-HIV STDs, many of which have serious complications or may not be curable. (K-Y lubricant and the National Lesbian and Gay Health Association survey)

* While 'always' condom use reduces the risk of contracting HIV by about 85%, Condoms, even when used 100% of the time, fail to give adequate levels of protection against many non-HIV STDs such as Syphilis, Gonorrhoea, Chlamydia, Herpes, Genital Warts and others. The only safe sex is, apart from abstinence, mutual monogamy with an uninfected partner. (Sex, Condoms, and STDs: What We Now Know. Medical Institute for Sexual Health. 2002)

C. Homosexuals have very high rates of sexually transmitted infections such as HIV which pose a major burden to the health service.

* Over 70% of all AIDS diagnoses in Canada in adults over the age of 15 up to June 2004 were in homosexual men (13,019 out of 19,238). 60% of all positive HIV tests are found in homosexual men. This contrasts with just over 15% of all positive HIV tests which are due to heterosexual contact. (Public Health Agency of Canada. HIV and AIDS in Canada. November 2004).

* The recently observed dramatic increases in syphilis in many large cities such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, but also in London and Manchester, UK are in the majority observed in homosexual men. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Trends in primary and secondary syphilis and HIV infections in men who have sex with men. MMWR 2004; 53: 575-8. and Nicoll A. Are trends in HIV, gonorrhoea, and syphilis worsening in western Europe? BMJ 2002; 324:1324-7.)

D. There are increased rates of mental ill health among the homosexual population compared to the general population. Many studies show much higher rates of psychiatric illness, such as depression, suicide attempts and drug abuse among homosexuals then among the general population. The homosexual lifestyle is associated with a shortened life expectancy of up to 20 years.

* In a New Zealand study, data were gathered on a range of psychiatric disorders among gay, lesbian, and bisexual young people. At the age of 21, homosexuals/bisexuals were at fourfold increased risks of major depression and conduct disorder, fivefold increased risk of nicotine dependence, twofold increased risk of other substance misuse or addiction and six times more likely to have attempted suicide. (Fergusson DM et al. Is sexual orientation related to mental health problems and suicidality in young people? Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1999; 56: 876-80.)

* In a recent US study of the mental health of homosexuals, it was found that gay/bisexual men had a more than 3-fold increased risk of major depression and a five-fold increased risk of panic disorder. They were three times as likely to rate their mental health as only 'fair' or 'poor' and to experience high levels of distress. Gay/bisexual women had a nearly four-fold increased risk of general anxiety disorder and both groups were more than three times as likely than the general population to require treatment in a mental health setting. (Cochran S. et al. Prevalence of mental disorders, psychological distress, and mental health services use among lesbian, gay, and bisexual adults in the United States. J Consult Clin Psychol. 2003; 71 :53-61.)

* It is claimed, that the high rates of mental illness among homosexuals are the result of 'homophobia'. However, even in the Netherlands, which has been far more tolerant to same-sex relationships and which has recently legalised same-sex marriages, high levels of psychiatric illness, including major depression, bipolar disorder ('manic depression'), agoraphobia, obsessive compulsive disorder and drug addiction are found. (Sandfort TG, et al. Same-sex sexual behavior and psychiatric disorders: findings from the Netherlands Mental Health Survey and Incidence Study (NEMESIS). Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2001; 58 :85-91.)

* Furthermore, if 'homophobia' and prejudices were the cause of the high rates of psychiatric disorders and suicide attempts among homosexuals, one would similarly expect to find higher rates of suicide attempts and suicide among ethnic minorities exposed to racism. However, this is not usually the case.

* In a Vancouver study, life expectancy at age 20 years for gay and bisexual men is 8 to 20 years less than for all men. If the same pattern of mortality were to continue, it is estimated that nearly half of gay and bisexual men currently aged 20 years will not reach their 65th birthday. (Hogg RS et al. Modelling the impact of HIV disease on mortality in gay and bisexual men. International Journal of Epidemiology.1997; 26:657-61)

Okay, other than that, why treat anal sex differently except to satisfy morality?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:17 PM


Gonzaga Students Asked To Stop Yelling 'Brokeback Mountain' (February 13, 2006)

"We implore the students of the Kennel Club to show the nation this weekend what makes Gonzaga different," Kennel Club advisers David Lindsay and Aaron Hill wrote in a letter in the student newspaper, the Bulletin. "We challenge the students of the Kennel Club to exhibit the class, the creativeness and the competitive drive that has become a foundation of this great university."

Fans of No. 5 Gonzaga have been asked to stop yelling "Brokeback Mountain" at opposing players. The reference to the recent movie about homosexual cowboys was chanted by some fans during Monday's game against Saint Mary's, and is apparently intended to suggest an opposing player is gay.

Is Saint Mary's mascot a cowboy?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:12 PM


Britain gives up smoking (Philip Webster and David Charter, 2/15/06, Times of London)

SMOKING will be banned in all pubs, clubs and workplaces from next year after historic votes in the Commons last night.

After last-minute appeals from health campaigners, MPs opted for a blanket prohibition which will start in summer 2007, ending months of argument over whether smoking should be barred in pubs and restaurants only. They voted to ban smoking in all pubs and clubs by 384 to 184, a surprisingly large majority of 200.

Smoking will still be allowed in the home and in places considered to be homes, such as prisons, care homes and hotels. But there are difficult decisions to be made on exemptions for places such as oil rigs, where smoking outside the workplace would be dangerous.

Was it O. Henry who wrote the story about the guy who gets arrested just for the free meals?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:36 PM


Avid readers swap their books online (Marilyn Gardner, 2/15/06, The Christian Science Monitor)

Avid readers everywhere can identify with the challenges Phyllis Gatto used to face in finding space for books she had read. After finishing a paperback, she would put it on a shelf. When the shelves filled, she moved books into cartons, hiding them under beds and in closets.

"The pile would just grow," says Mrs. Gatto, of Dayton, Tenn. "I'd give some to friends, but basically, they just accumulated."

Then a friend told her about an unusual book-sharing website, PaperBackSwap.com. Members swap used books, paying only the cost of postage - usually $1.59. In addition to saving money and freeing space, members can make electronic connections with far-flung readers.

I've been doing Peerflix -- which is similar for DVDs, but the postage is even cheaper -- and it's great.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:18 PM


Polls Distort U.S. Views on Abortion (NewsMax, 2/14/06)

As two vacancies on the Supreme Court opened up last year, a series of polls found that people in the U.S. approve of the Roe v. Wade decision by a significant margin – but these polls distort Americans’ real feelings regarding abortion.

That’s the view of Mark Stricherz, a contributing editor to Crisis magazine, who takes an in-depth look behind the polls in an article titled "A Terrible Misunderstanding.” [...]

[T]he Los Angeles Times framed its poll question more in line with what the Court’s rulings really mean: "Generally speaking, are you in favor of the Supreme Court decision which permits a woman to get an abortion from a doctor at any time, or are you opposed to that?”

The result: Only 43 percent of respondents were in favor. "It was the lowest level of support recorded because the rest of the polls misinterpret Roe and Doe. They view Roe v. Wade as a decision that legalized abortion but restricted the procedure, not one that made virtually all abortions legal,” writes Stricherz.

In fact, the overwhelming majority of respondents in Gallup polls disapprove of abortion when a woman and her partner simply do not want another child or when a pregnancy would interfere with a woman’s career.

Also, polls have routinely found that about two-thirds of respondents oppose legal abortion after the first trimester – and a 2003 CNN/USA Today poll found that 84 percent oppose it in the last three months of pregnancy.

Concludes Stricherz: "If the polls described what the rulings actually did, their results would yield far less public support” for Roe v. Wade.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 8:14 PM


Five years on, Milosevic is still in the dock (Vesna Peric Zimonjic, The Independent, February 13th, 2006)

The trial of the former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic, the first sitting head of state to be indicted for war crimes, enters its fifth year this week amid expectations that a verdict will be pronounced by the end of the year.

Mr Milosevic, 64, faces 66 charges stemming from the Balkan wars of the 1990s. He is accused of genocide against Muslims in Bosnia, war crimes and grave breaches of international conventions in the military offensives that led his forces into Bosnia, Croatia and Kosovo.

More than 300 witnesses have taken the stand, including Western politicians and the leaders of the former Yugoslav states torn apart by the war. Yet far from undermining Mr Milosevic's reputation in Serbia, the trial has provided the former leader with a new propaganda tool.

Who knew genocide was such a tricky forensic problem?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:14 PM


The Secret Cause of Flame Wars (Stephen Leahy, Feb, 13, 2006, Wired)

According to recent research published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, I've only a 50-50 chance of ascertaining the tone of any e-mail message. The study also shows that people think they've correctly interpreted the tone of e-mails they receive 90 percent of the time.

Handy rule of thumb: the Left never knows you're kidding.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:31 PM


More and More, Favored Psychotherapy Lets Bygones Be Bygones (ALIX SPIEGEL, 2/14/06, NY Times)

For most of the 20th century, therapists in America agreed on a single truth. To cure patients, it was necessary to explore and talk through the origins of their problems. In other words, they had to come to terms with the past to move forward in the present. [...]

"Average consumers who walk into psychotherapy expect to be discussing their childhood and blaming their parents for contemporary problems, but that's just not true any more," said John C. Norcross, a psychology professor at the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania.

Professor Norcross has surveyed American psychologists in an effort to figure out what is going on behind their closed doors.

Over the last 20 years, he has documented a radical shift. Psychotherapeutic techniques like psychoanalysis and psychodynamic therapy, which deal with emotional conflict and are based on the idea that the exploration of past trauma is critical to healing, have been totally eclipsed by cognitive behavioral approaches.

That relatively new school holds that reviewing the past is not only unnecessary to healing, but can be counterproductive. [...]

The therapy dwells exclusively in the present. Unlike traditional psychoanalytic or psychodynamic therapy, it does not typically require a long course of treatment, usually 10 to 15 sessions.

When cognitive therapy was introduced, it met significant resistance to the notion that people could be cured without understanding the sources of the problems. Many therapists said that without working through the underlying problems change would be superficial and that the basic problems would simply express themselves in other ways.

Cognitive advocates convinced colleagues by using a tool that had not been systematically used in mental health, randomized controlled clinical trials.

Although randomized controlled trials are the gold standard of scientific research, for most of the 20th century such research was not used to test the effectiveness of psychotherapeutic methods, in part because psychoanalysis, at the time the most popular form of talk therapy, was actively hostile to empirical validation. When research was conducted, it was generally as surveys rather than as randomized studies.

Cognitive behavioral researchers carried out hundreds of studies, and that research eventually convinced the two most important mental health gatekeepers — universities and insurance companies. Now the transformation is more or less complete.

"There's been a total changing of the guard in psychology and psychiatry departments," said Dr. Drew Westen, a psychodynamically oriented therapist who teaches at Emory University. "Virtually no psychodynamic faculty are ever hired anymore. I can name maybe two in the last 10 years."

Insurance companies likewise often prefer consumers to select cognitive behavioral therapists, rather than psychodynamically oriented practitioners. In the companies' view, scientific studies have shown that cognitive therapy can produce results in less than half the time of traditional therapies.

Short version: Stop gazing at your navel and change your behavior.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:37 PM


Episcopal bishop treated for alcoholism (AP, 2/14/06)

The Episcopal Church's first openly gay bishop, V. Gene Robinson, says he has started treatment for alcoholism.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:55 PM


First Doctor to Treat Cheney Victim Tells Texas Paper He Wanted to Send Him Home (Joe Strupp, February 14, 2006, Editor & Puvblisher)

While news reports from The New York Times to the Austin American-Statesman have been describing the injuries to Harry Whittington, the victim of Vice President Dick Cheney's accidental shooting, as more serious than first believed, as he remains hospitalized today, the tiny Alice [Texas] Echo-News Journal will offer a different version later today, E&P has learned.

According to the afternoon daily, located about 60 miles from the shooting site, the first doctor to treat Whittington immediately after the Saturday shooting contended that his wounds were superficial and not in need of further hospitalization.

"If it were just a normal citizen, he would have sent him home with antibiotics," said Ofelia Hunter, Echo-News Journal editor, who talked to the doctor. "He felt that it was more royal treatment that he was getting."

David Gregory got out of bed to cover this?

Hunter Shot by Cheney Has Heart Attack (AP, 2/14/06)

The 78-year-old lawyer who was shot by Vice President
Dick Cheney in a hunting accident has some birdshot lodged in his heart and he had a "minor heart attack," a hospital official said Tuesday.

Peter Banko, the hospital administrator at Christus Spohn Hospital Corpus Christi-Memorial, said Harry Whittington had the heart attack early Tuesday while being evaluated.

He said there was an irregularity in the heartbeat caused by a birdshot pellet, and doctors performed a cardiac catheterization. Whittington expressed a desire to leave the hospital, but Banko said he would probably stay for another week.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:38 PM


Blanco bills going down in flames: Handpicked leaders are deserting her (Jan Moller, February 14, 2006, N.O. Times Picayune)

A 12-day legislative session designed to show that Louisiana could speak in a unified voice on levee reform and other hurricane-recovery issues has instead disintegrated into a contentious affair in which Gov. Kathleen Blanco has proved unable to marshal support from her legislative allies on key initiatives.

In a capital where governors traditionally have worked hand-in-hand with legislative leaders, the mood this session has veered from rebellion to outright hostility. As a result, several of Blanco's proposals are languishing and some appear dead for the session. [...]

With Blanco's approval ratings hovering below 40 percent in recent polls, some analysts say legislators are more emboldened in their opposition than they would be if she were more popular with the public. "If she's going to change something, it'll be by marshaling public opinion," said Bernie Pinsonat of Southern Media and Opinion Research, a polling firm.

Governor Jindal has a ring to it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:10 PM


Bond, Treasury Bond: Bond prices are defying expectations and economic indicators. What does that mean for 2006? (Irwin M. Stelzer, 02/14/2006, Weekly Standard)

ECONOMIC THEORY is clear about one thing: increase the supply of a good and, other things being equal, its price will fall. So the U.S. government massively increased the supply of its bonds in order to finance its deficits, and their price . . . rose. (When bond prices rise, their yields, or interest rates, fall.) When the government was running surpluses of some $200 billion in 2000, retiring bonds and reducing their supply, the interest rates on 10-year Treasury bonds was above 6 percent. Last week, when President Bush sent to Congress a budget projecting a deficit for fiscal 2007 of well over $400 billion, portending a further increase in the issuance of Treasury IOUs, the yield on 10-year bonds was not higher, but lower--around 4.5 percent. [...]

America has now become the country of choice for overseas investors. They find the combination of safety provided by a stable political system and a central bank intent on raising interest rates attractive. So high-saving Chinese and other foreigners, their coffers overflowing with dollars earned from exporting to America, snap up U.S. Treasuries, keeping U.S. interest rates low.

The rapid growth of the American economy, which in the past would have set off inflation-alarms, has not caused panic because globalization makes available to American industry a huge supply of labor and productive capacity. In past years, the 4.7 percent unemployment rate now prevailing would have signaled a labor market so tight as to generate substantial wage inflation. But a pool of low-cost foreign labor and rising productivity have kept increases in wages and benefits within acceptable bounds. Or at least within bounds investors, ever on the watch for hints of inflation, find comforting.

The single most important, generally un-asked, question in modern economics is whether the world could withstand significant reductions in U.S. debt. The answer certainly appears to be, no.

Welcoming Back The Long Bond (Oxford Analytica, 02.14.06)

On Feb. 9, the U.S. Treasury issued $14 billion worth of 30-year bonds--reinstating the long bond after a five-year hiatus. The yield was the lowest ever for this maturity, due to high demand from pension funds desperate to match their long-term liabilities. The 30-year bond now yields less than the current two-year Treasury note.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:59 PM


The more they like sex, the more women like women: Bisexuality is on the rise - but only on one side of the gender gap (Jonathan Owen, 12 February 2006, Independent)

Being highly sexed changes men's and women's sexual orientation in startlingly different ways, a major academic study has concluded.

The research, conducted by Dr Richard Lippa, an internationally renowned sex expert at California State University, shows highly sexed women to be no less than 27 times more likely than men to become attracted to their own sex. The survey, of more than 3,500 people, is published in this month's Psychological Science. It showed that 0.3 per cent of men were attracted to their own sex, as opposed to 8 per cent of women.

Gay men aren't in it for the sex.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:48 PM


'Bin Ladenism': The Pentagon's vision for the "Long War." (BRENDAN MINITER, February 14, 2006, Opinion Journal)

The military can't win the Long War on its own. To defeat bin Ladenism, Americans must use every institution at their disposal--including the State Department and United Nations--to put pressure on those who spread the ideology of terrorism while not being timid in making the hard decisions necessary to confront rogue regimes. Iran cannot be allowed to build nuclear bombs, because it is a terror sponsoring state. Likewise Syria must be compelled to behave like a civilized country. Hamas won the Palestinian elections, but its leaders cannot be accepted by Western countries until they renounce terrorism and their desire to wipe Israel off of the map.

The Quadrennial Defense Review points out that the U.S. now has a window of opportunity to shape the world to bolster American security. Undercutting bin Ladenism now, before it gains the strength that Nazism and communism once had, will be much easier before another superpower (presumably China) emerges. America's long-term security depends on it.

In reality, the dust-up with Islamicism is just the last skirmish in what has been a Long War and the military doesn't play the most significant role, simple geopolitical reality does:
[T]he fundamental constitutional problem of the Long War has been answered. Government by consent, freely given and periodically capable of being withdrawn, is what legitimates the nation-state. Government under law--no government that is above the law--provides the means by which states are legitimated.

A Strategy for Heroes: What's wrong with the 2006 Quadrennial Defense Review? (Frederick W. Kagan, 02/20/2006, Weekly Standard)

THE PENTAGON RELEASED ITS QUADRENNIAL Defense Review on February 6. The latest installment of the congressionally mandated report on the state of the military declares, "manifestly, this document is not a 'new beginning.'" Indeed it is not. The new QDR reflects a concerted effort by the Pentagon to return to its pre-9/11 course, focusing on long-term dangers as though the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan had never happened, as if America's ground forces were not badly overstretched, as if the nation were not really at war. [...]

By refusing to propose radical growth in the defense budget even in this time of war, the administration has forced choices about whether to prioritize the present or the
future. And as this QDR shows, the Pentagon remains firm in its determination to organize for tomorrow's potential problems rather than today's actual crises.

President Bush placed military transformation at the center of his defense agenda from the time of his first address on national security issues as a candidate, the 1999 Citadel speech. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld made transformation the hallmark of his tenure within a few months of taking office. Transforming the military to prepare for the challenges of the future was the theme of the 2001 QDR, as it is of the just-released 2006 QDR. The administration at least has been steadfast.

Such steadfastness is remarkable considering the dramatically changed national security circumstances of the past five years. Military transformation was all the rage in the post-Cold War 1990s, when most analysts believed we would enjoy a "strategic pause," a period in which there were few visible threats. Most transformation discussions in the 1990s assumed that the military should therefore prepare for enemies in the 2020-2025 time frame. Transformation enthusiasts were regularly frustrated that so many resources were being devoted to current operations they felt were less important than the challenge of preparing for massive change decades away.

Bush and Rumsfeld embraced this focus on the distant horizon.

Funny when folks accuse W and Rummie of being neocons when they share almost none of their obsessions.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:06 PM


MILLION-DOLLAR MURRAY: Why problems like homelessness may be easier to solve than to manage. (MALCOLM GLADWELL, 2006-02-13 and 20, The New Yorker)

Murray Barr was a bear of a man, an ex-marine, six feet tall and heavyset, and when he fell down—which he did nearly every day—it could take two or three grown men to pick him up. He had straight black hair and olive skin. On the street, they called him Smokey. He was missing most of his teeth. He had a wonderful smile. People loved Murray.

His chosen drink was vodka. Beer he called “horse piss.” On the streets of downtown Reno, where he lived, he could buy a two-hundred-and-fifty-millilitre bottle of cheap vodka for a dollar-fifty. If he was flush, he could go for the seven-hundred-and-fifty-millilitre bottle, and if he was broke he could always do what many of the other homeless people of Reno did, which is to walk through the casinos and finish off the half-empty glasses of liquor left at the gaming tables.

“If he was on a runner, we could pick him up several times a day,” Patrick O’Bryan, who is a bicycle cop in downtown Reno, said. “And he’s gone on some amazing runners. He would get picked up, get detoxed, then get back out a couple of hours later and start up again. A lot of the guys on the streets who’ve been drinking, they get so angry. They are so incredibly abrasive, so violent, so abusive. Murray was such a character and had such a great sense of humor that we somehow got past that. Even when he was abusive, we’d say, ‘Murray, you know you love us,’ and he’d say, ‘I know’—and go back to swearing at us.”

“I’ve been a police officer for fifteen years,” O’Bryan’s partner, Steve Johns, said. “I picked up Murray my whole career. Literally.”

Johns and O’Bryan pleaded with Murray to quit drinking. A few years ago, he was assigned to a treatment program in which he was under the equivalent of house arrest, and he thrived. He got a job and worked hard. But then the program ended. “Once he graduated out, he had no one to report to, and he needed that,” O’Bryan said. “I don’t know whether it was his military background. I suspect that it was. He was a good cook. One time, he accumulated savings of over six thousand dollars. Showed up for work religiously. Did everything he was supposed to do. They said, ‘Congratulations,’ and put him back on the street. He spent that six thousand in a week or so.”

Often, he was too intoxicated for the drunk tank at the jail, and he’d get sent to the emergency room at either Saint Mary’s or Washoe Medical Center. Marla Johns, who was a social worker in the emergency room at Saint Mary’s, saw him several times a week. “The ambulance would bring him in. We would sober him up, so he would be sober enough to go to jail. And we would call the police to pick him up. In fact, that’s how I met my husband.” Marla Johns is married to Steve Johns.

“He was like the one constant in an environment that was ever changing,” she went on. “In he would come. He would grin that half-toothless grin. He called me ‘my angel.’ I would walk in the room, and he would smile and say, ‘Oh, my angel, I’m so happy to see you.’ We would joke back and forth, and I would beg him to quit drinking and he would laugh it off. And when time went by and he didn’t come in I would get worried and call the coroner’s office. When he was sober, we would find out, oh, he’s working someplace, and my husband and I would go and have dinner where he was working. When my husband and I were dating, and we were going to get married, he said, ‘Can I come to the wedding?’ And I almost felt like he should. My joke was ‘If you are sober you can come, because I can’t afford your bar bill.’ When we started a family, he would lay a hand on my pregnant belly and bless the child. He really was this kind of light.”

In the fall of 2003, the Reno Police Department started an initiative designed to limit panhandling in the downtown core. There were articles in the newspapers, and the police department came under harsh criticism on local talk radio. The crackdown on panhandling amounted to harassment, the critics said. The homeless weren’t an imposition on the city; they were just trying to get by. “One morning, I’m listening to one of the talk shows, and they’re just trashing the police department and going on about how unfair it is,” O’Bryan said. “And I thought, Wow, I’ve never seen any of these critics in one of the alleyways in the middle of the winter looking for bodies.” O’Bryan was angry. In downtown Reno, food for the homeless was plentiful: there was a Gospel kitchen and Catholic Services, and even the local McDonald’s fed the hungry. The panhandling was for liquor, and the liquor was anything but harmless. He and Johns spent at least half their time dealing with people like Murray; they were as much caseworkers as police officers. And they knew they weren’t the only ones involved. When someone passed out on the street, there was a “One down” call to the paramedics. There were four people in an ambulance, and the patient sometimes stayed at the hospital for days, because living on the streets in a state of almost constant intoxication was a reliable way of getting sick. None of that, surely, could be cheap.

O’Bryan and Johns called someone they knew at an ambulance service and then contacted the local hospitals. “We came up with three names that were some of our chronic inebriates in the downtown area, that got arrested the most often,” O’Bryan said. “We tracked those three individuals through just one of our two hospitals. One of the guys had been in jail previously, so he’d only been on the streets for six months. In those six months, he had accumulated a bill of a hundred thousand dollars—and that’s at the smaller of the two hospitals near downtown Reno. It’s pretty reasonable to assume that the other hospital had an even larger bill. Another individual came from Portland and had been in Reno for three months. In those three months, he had accumulated a bill for sixty-five thousand dollars. The third individual actually had some periods of being sober, and had accumulated a bill of fifty thousand.”

The first of those people was Murray Barr, and Johns and O’Bryan realized that if you totted up all his hospital bills for the ten years that he had been on the streets—as well as substance-abuse-treatment costs, doctors’ fees, and other expenses—Murray Barr probably ran up a medical bill as large as anyone in the state of Nevada.

“It cost us one million dollars not to do something about Murray,” O’Bryan said. [...]

In the nineteen-eighties, when homelessness first surfaced as a national issue, the assumption was that the problem fit a normal distribution: that the vast majority of the homeless were in the same state of semi-permanent distress. It was an assumption that bred despair: if there were so many homeless, with so many problems, what could be done to help them? Then, fifteen years ago, a young Boston College graduate student named Dennis Culhane lived in a shelter in Philadelphia for seven weeks as part of the research for his dissertation. A few months later he went back, and was surprised to discover that he couldn’t find any of the people he had recently spent so much time with. “It made me realize that most of these people were getting on with their own lives,” he said.

Culhane then put together a database—the first of its kind—to track who was coming in and out of the shelter system. What he discovered profoundly changed the way homelessness is understood. Homelessness doesn’t have a normal distribution, it turned out. It has a power-law distribution. “We found that eighty per cent of the homeless were in and out really quickly,” he said. “In Philadelphia, the most common length of time that someone is homeless is one day. And the second most common length is two days. And they never come back. Anyone who ever has to stay in a shelter involuntarily knows that all you think about is how to make sure you never come back.”

The next ten per cent were what Culhane calls episodic users. They would come for three weeks at a time, and return periodically, particularly in the winter. They were quite young, and they were often heavy drug users. It was the last ten per cent—the group at the farthest edge of the curve—that interested Culhane the most. They were the chronically homeless, who lived in the shelters, sometimes for years at a time. They were older. Many were mentally ill or physically disabled, and when we think about homelessness as a social problem—the people sleeping on the sidewalk, aggressively panhandling, lying drunk in doorways, huddled on subway grates and under bridges—it’s this group that we have in mind. In the early nineteen-nineties, Culhane’s database suggested that New York City had a quarter of a million people who were homeless at some point in the previous half decade —which was a surprisingly high number. But only about twenty-five hundred were chronically homeless.

It turns out, furthermore, that this group costs the health-care and social-services systems far more than anyone had ever anticipated. Culhane estimates that in New York at least sixty-two million dollars was being spent annually to shelter just those twenty-five hundred hard-core homeless. “It costs twenty-four thousand dollars a year for one of these shelter beds,” Culhane said. “We’re talking about a cot eighteen inches away from the next cot.” Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program, a leading service group for the homeless in Boston, recently tracked the medical expenses of a hundred and nineteen chronically homeless people. In the course of five years, thirty-three people died and seven more were sent to nursing homes, and the group still accounted for 18,834 emergency-room visits—at a minimum cost of a thousand dollars a visit. The University of California, San Diego Medical Center followed fifteen chronically homeless inebriates and found that over eighteen months those fifteen people were treated at the hospital’s emergency room four hundred and seventeen times, and ran up bills that averaged a hundred thousand dollars each. One person—San Diego’s counterpart to Murray Barr—came to the emergency room eighty-seven times. [...]

The leading exponent for the power-law theory of homelessness is Philip Mangano, who, since he was appointed by President Bush in 2002, has been the executive director of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, a group that oversees the programs of twenty federal agencies. Mangano is a slender man, with a mane of white hair and a magnetic presence, who got his start as an advocate for the homeless in Massachusetts. In the past two years, he has crisscrossed the United States, educating local mayors and city councils about the real shape of the homelessness curve. Simply running soup kitchens and shelters, he argues, allows the chronically homeless to remain chronically homeless. You build a shelter and a soup kitchen if you think that homelessness is a problem with a broad and unmanageable middle. But if it’s a problem at the fringe it can be solved. So far, Mangano has convinced more than two hundred cities to radically reëvaluate their policy for dealing with the homeless.

“I was in St. Louis recently,” Mangano said, back in June, when he dropped by New York on his way to Boise, Idaho. “I spoke with people doing services there. They had a very difficult group of people they couldn’t reach no matter what they offered. So I said, Take some of your