April 30, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:40 PM


UN is like the Twilight Zone, says Bolton: In his first interview with a British newspaper, America's ambassador to the United Nations tells Alec Russell why it is in dire need of reform ((Filed: 01/05/2006, Daily Telegraph)

America's bantam cock of an ambassador is something of a cult figure at the UN.

When meetings end he is followed by a crowd of cameramen keen to capture that famous walrus moustache and his colourful asides. Rival ambassadors salute his skill as a communicator and his diligence.

He keeps Washington rather than New York hours, starting work before dawn and often going to bed by nine. While he speaks off the cuff, he assiduously takes notes of others' speeches, the opposite of the usual UN style.

He is far less haughty than many of his predecessors.

But it is exasperation as much as envy that defines reactions to him in the UN. His undiplomatic ways have infuriated even America's allies and UN officials pushing for reform.

Eight months after President George W Bush made his highly contentious appointment, no one could suggest he has "gone native".

A long-term conservative hawk, in 1994 he said the UN could easily do without the top 10 of its 39 floors. He also said there was no such thing as the UN, just an international community that can be led by the US.

His language is a little more circumspect now but only a little. Has his opinion changed? "It's exactly what I expected ... an organisation that needs substantial reform," he replied

"This atmosphere is like a bubble. It is like a twilight zone. Things that happen here don't reflect the reality in the rest of the world.

"There are practices, attitudes and approaches here that were abandoned 30 years ago in much of the rest of the world. It's like a time warp. I think that's not useful for the organisation."

UN officials mutter that far from helping to push through much-needed reforms to ensure embarrassments such as the oil-for-food scandal are never repeated, his methods have impeded the chances of agreement.

In December, he forced a six-month limit on the UN budget, infuriating the developing world, by making further funding dependent on the passage of key reforms.

America's EU allies, especially Britain, had to negotiate a compromise - "they pulled his chest hairs from the fire" said a veteran UN observer.

Mr Bolton rolls his eyes when asked if he is combative because he is not really interested in reform. "That criticism is a complete non sequitur," he retorts. "My stance is not combative. I would describe it as assertive.

"We feel strongly that we need reform. Condoleezza Rice said last September we want a revolution of reform. It's not often an American secretary of state calls for revolutions."

Revolution is only an appropriate course of action when you don't mind the risk of completely annihilating the institution and starting from scratch. It's appropriate at the UN.

Posted by pjaminet at 8:24 PM


Ayaan Hirsi Ali Loses Her Home (HotAir, 4/30/2006)

Ayaan Hirsi Ali is the Somali-born Dutch parliamentarian whose outspokenness on the rights of women under Islam has made her a marked woman. Islamists have issued a fatwa calling for her death. And now she’s been evicted by court order at the request of her neighbors, who find her security concerns a nuisance. The Dutch court used superseding European law as the basis of its ruling:
The court considers in its ruling that the neighbors have been put into a situation that has contributed to them feeling less safe in their own house. That feeling is extended to the communal living spaces of the apartment complex, but also to their own apartments. The court argues that this is a severe violation of one’s private life (as per Article 8 of the European Treaty for Human Rights).

The EU Treaty for Human Rights is, no doubt, nearly as elastic as the US Constitution, interpreted by the Ninth Circuit. However, there seems to be a flaw in the ruling. Where can she live without neighbors feeling "less safe"? It would seem that the only way to vindicate the human rights of European residents is preemptive guillotining.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:19 PM


The Rehabilitation of the Cold-War Liberal (PETER BEINART, 4/30/06, NY Times Magazine)

Consider George W. Bush's story: America represents good in an epic struggle against evil. Liberals, this story goes, try to undermine that moral clarity, reining in American power and sapping our faith in ourselves. But a visionary president will not be constrained, and he wields American might with relentless force, until the walls of oppression crumble and the darkest region on earth is set free.

If this sounds familiar, it should. It was Ronald Reagan's story as well. To a remarkable degree, the right's post-9/11 vision relies on a grand analogy: Bush is Reagan, Tony Blair is Margaret Thatcher, the "axis of evil" is the "evil empire," the truculent French are the truculent French. The most influential conservative foreign-policy essay of the 1990's, written by the Weekly Standard editor William Kristol and Robert Kagan of the Carnegie Endowment, was titled "Toward a Neo-Reaganite Foreign Policy." And since 9/11, most conservatives have seen Bush as Reaganesque. His adherence to a script conservatives know by heart helps explain their devotion, which held fast through the 2004 election, and has only recently begun to flag, as that script veers more and more disastrously from the real world.

Liberals don't have a script because they don't have a Reagan.

reagan and W are actually secondary to the script, which is indeed what the Left lacks because it no longer believes in good and evil, nevermind that America is the former.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:42 PM


Six years later, the Dow is back:
Propelled by the economy, the Dow is nearing its all-time high of 11,723 from 2000. (Ron Scherer, 5/01/06, The Christian Science Monitor)

Despite soaring oil prices, the Dow, watched as a barometer of the economy and Main Street, has regained more than 4,000 points that slipped away after the dotcom bust and the 2001 recession. Now, the average is closer than it's ever been to its Jan. 14, 2000, high of 11,723 - a number that brings back memories of taxi drivers talking about their stock portfolios and a book predicting a 36,000 level for the Dow.

Behind the rebound is a solid economy, emphasized last Friday when the Commerce Department reported that the nation's gross domestic product grew at a swift 4.8 percent, the best growth in 2-1/2 years. [...]

Some analysts expect the next leg in the economy to be powered by the capital spending of cash-rich companies.

Yet Democrats are so deranged by George W. Bush they seem to be serious about running their midterm campaign on the notion that folks will want to make a radical change in the country's direction.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:06 PM


Poll finds Californians back comprehensive immigration policy (Mark Z. Barabak, April 30, 2006, Los Angeles Times)

Californians generally favor a carrot-and-stick approach to illegal immigration, mixing tougher border enforcement with a guest-worker program and a pathway to citizenship for people already in the United States, according to a new Los Angeles Times Poll.

By a ratio of more than 3 to 1, those surveyed said they preferred a comprehensive approach to the immigration issue, which President Bush and a bipartisan group of U.S. senators advocate, rather than the more punitive legislation passed by the House of Representatives.

Just gain control over the process and we can admit them by the millions without so much angst.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:49 PM


American vampire (Debra J. Saunders, April 25, 2006, SF Chronicle)

TWO YEARS ago, the New York Times ran a story about a 48-year-old Brooklyn woman who, facing death after years of dialysis treatments and failing health, received a kidney from a Brazilian peasant who was paid $6,000 for the organ. The chilling story bared the human misery that surrounds the black market on human parts. Some donors faced ill health and even (unlike the recipients) prosecution. The kidney recipient talked to the Times reporter, but felt enough shame that she did not want her name in the newspaper.

Last week, The Chronicle ran a story by reporter Vanessa Hua about a San Mateo man who flew to Shanghai and paid $110,000 for a liver -- with nary a thought about human-rights activists' contention that China has executed prisoners in order to harvest their organs. Not only was Eric De Leon's name in the paper, he even has a blog about his Shanghai transplant. The man clearly is not ashamed.

Last year, the Chinese deputy health minister admitted, as he promised reform, that the organs of executed prisoners were sold to foreigners. This month, the South China Morning Post reported that a leading Chinese transplant surgeon estimated that more than 99 percent of transplanted organs in China came from executed prisoners. [...]

[A]s the De Leons blogged, "You and I have no right and are in no position to know and/or judge China's judicial system." In De Leon's America, you don't judge, you use other people's parts.

There seems little doubt that in a food shortage such folks would dumpster dive at abortion clinics to find meat for dinner.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:42 PM

THREE-FER (via Gene Brown):

A battle for oil could set the world aflame: International powers will do everything to protect their access to dwindling resources. We are mad not to have an alternative strategy (Will Hutton, April 30, 2006, The Observer)

Oil is transforming world politics. Iran can afford to face down the wrath of the West and be robust about becoming a nuclear power because it has the cast-iron support of China - secured by oil.

In November 2004, Iran gave China the rights to exploit the giant Yadavaran field. Importantly, China plans to bring this oil into China, not across the Indian Ocean and through the Malacca Straits, but by pipeline across central Asia, free from the surveillance of the US fleet. China's attitude to Iran is foretold; it has refused to condemn Sudan over the killings in Darfur since Sudan allowed it to build a 500-mile pipeline to the coast. Ahmadinejad can therefore be 100 per cent certain that China will veto any attempt to win UN approval for military intervention in Iran.

China feels acutely vulnerable over oil. It has no strategic oil reserves and deputy chief of the Chinese General Staff, General Xiong Guangkai, has called for a build-up of both reserves and military capacity and for a fleet to defend its oil tankers. Iran is part of this equation. So is winning control of oil and gas reserves in the East China Sea, where the key is the disputed sovereignty of the uninhabited Senkaku Islands.

In February of last year, Japan formally occupied the islands to back up its sovereignty claim; in April, China replied with an ultimatum to Japan to withdraw and in September sent a naval force to patrol the disputed territory.

So far, China has backed off, but there is no question that it expects at least a compromise settlement that the Japanese, themselves vulnerable over oil, are reluctant to concede. The US has to be careful to keep China onside.

There's no bad reason to regime change China, but doing it over the issues of Iran, Japan and oil would be quite sensible.

Japan to step up its Asia security role: Accord on realignment of US forces in Japan, expected Monday, aims to boost security cooperation. (Bennett Richardson, 5/01/06, The Christian Science Monitor)

An agreement to realign US forces in Japan, to be finalized Monday in Washington, marks another step forward for Tokyo's ambitions to play an integral part in maintaining stability in a potentially volatile Asia-Pacific region. [...]

The agreement is expected to lead to closer cooperation between the two militaries, as well as a more equal security partnership. The accord provides for the relocation of both a US division headquarters from the state of Washington and the Japanese Ground Self-Defense Forces Command to Camp Zama in Kanagawa, making intelligence sharing more comprehensive. It also establishes joint US-Japan use of the air base at Yokota, near Tokyo.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:31 PM


Where's the dissent about source of quote? (MARK STEYN, 4/30/06, Chicago Sun-Times)

John Kerry announced this week's John Kerry Iraq Policy of the Week the other day: "Iraqi politicians should be told that they have until May 15 to deal with these intransigent issues and at last put together an effective unity government or we will immediately withdraw our military."

With a sulky pout perhaps? With hands on hips and a full flip of the hair?

Did he get that from Churchill? "We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender, at least until May 15, when I have a windsurfing engagement off Nantucket."

Actually, no. He got it from Thomas Jefferson. "This is not the first time in American history when patriotism has been distorted to deflect criticism and mislead the nation," warned Sen. Kerry, placing his courage in the broader historical context. "No wonder Thomas Jefferson himself said: 'Dissent is the greatest form of patriotism.' "

Close enough. According to the Jefferson Library: "There are a number of quotes that we do not find in Thomas Jefferson's correspondence or other writings; in such cases, Jefferson should not be cited as the source. Among the most common of these spurious Jefferson quotes are: 'Dissent is the highest form of patriotism.' "

Such petulance would have seen us withdraw from Germany before Adenauer was in place.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:22 PM


Osama Needs More Mud Huts (Fareed Zakaria, May 8, 2006, Newsweek)

Al Qaeda Central, by which I mean the dwindling band of brothers on the Afghan-Pakistani border, appears to have turned into a communications company. It's capable of producing the occasional jihadist cassette, but not actual jihad. I know it's risky to say this, as Qaeda leaders may be quietly planning some brilliant, large-scale attack. But the fact that they have not been able to do one of their trademark blasts for five years is significant in itself.

Moreover, bin Laden's latest appeals have a very changed character. His messages used to be lyrical, sharp and highly intelligent. They operated at a high plane, rarely revealing anything about Al Qaeda's operations. In fact, intelligence agencies looked for small signs—an offhand reference, an item of apparel—to reveal where Al Qaeda would strike next. Bin Laden's most recent appeal is a mishmash of argument and detail, and seems slightly crazed. He has broadened his verbal attacks against the "Zionist-Crusaders" to include the United Nations and China. The latter he condemns because it "represents the Buddhists and Pagans of the world."

Like Hitler crazily declaring war on the United States after Pearl Harbor, bin Laden is adding to his slew of formidable enemies: China was the only major world power that was unconcerned about him. (And his reference to the United Nations as a "Zionist-Crusader tool" would surely surprise most Israelis.) Bin Laden also makes some plaintive appeals to Muslims to rise up and attack the "crusaders" in the west of Sudan. This shows desperation because there are no "crusaders" in Sudan. The troops there are African Union peacekeepers. But more interestingly, the victims in Darfur are Muslim. Bin Laden's real objective appears to be to support the government in Sudan—which once housed him—as it brutally exterminates tribes that oppose it. What does this have to do with Islam? Most revealingly, bin Laden makes a parochial appeal for foreign aid, to help those Qaeda supporters in Waziristan who have been rendered homeless by Pakistani Army attacks. That suggests he and his friends are having a rough time. Strip away the usual hot air, and bin Laden's audiotape is the sign of a seriously weakened man.

The change in tone may just be because OBL is dead these past five years.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:28 AM


A Walk May Not Be as Good as a Hit (ALAN SCHWARZ, 4/30/06, NY Times)

David Neft, a retired vice president for research at Gannett and an editor of several baseball statistical tomes, was looking at OPS recently and realized it needed some updating. When he started his work, he harked back to his Columbia University economics classes.

"You look at it like opportunity cost," Neft, 69, said. "It isn't just what you do with capital, but what you could have done."

When considering the value of a batter's walks, he reasoned, the benefit of reaching first base should first be diminished by the opportunity cost of his power being unplugged.

"Not all walks are created equal — they're batter-dependent," Neft said. "Any manager is less upset when his pitcher walks the cleanup hitter than when he walks the No. 9 hitter. They aren't crazy. They intuitively understand this concept."

Neft prefers to view walks somewhat backward, through the eyes of the pitcher. In figuring what he calls on-base advantage, walks (and times hit by pitch) are weighted not as full-unit successes for the batter, but by their marginal benefit beyond the batter's sidestepped slugging percentage.

For example, walks for Pujols are worth only .110 to him (1 minus his gargantuan .890 slugging percentage entering Friday's games). To a less brawny batter like his St. Louis teammate Yadier Molina, walks are worth .792 (1 minus .208).

However jarring to those riding the modern walk bandwagon, Neft's refinement makes perfect sense. From the pitcher's standpoint, a batter expected to slug 1.000, on average, should always be walked because his average hit is more damaging than a walk.

Meanwhile, walking a player with a .000 slugging percentage is grounds for an early shower, because he is no threat in the first place. The higher the slugging percentage, the less costly the walk.

Neft then adds a batter's on-base advantage to slugging percentage for a refined OPS — call it OAPS — to get a better idea of how dangerous a hitter has actually been. This does not knock Pujols off his perch as the season's best hitter so far, but it does bring him back to the pack somewhat. His 1.385 OPS is 82 percent higher than the National League average of .760; his 1.250 OAPS is 63 percent higher than average.

In contrast, players who rarely walk, like the Blue Jays' Alex Rios and the Rangers' Kevin Mench, move up in the rankings because their slugging is unleashed more often.

While Pujols, Jason Giambi and other players who walk frequently sit in dry dock for a dozen or more plate appearances every month, the likes of Rios and Mench are getting to swing the bat (for now) and have their slugging affect games.

"It doesn't always make much difference in rating hitters, but it's a more realistic reflection of what's going on in the game," Neft said.

The other night Hector Luna stole second with Albert Pujols up with predictable results. Even on a passed ball or wild pitch the runner should stay at first when Albert is at the plate.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:40 AM


Bush Addresses Press Alongside Lookalike (ELIZABETH WHITE, 4/30/06, Associated Press)

The featured entertainer was Stephen Colbert, whose Comedy Central show "The Colbert Report" often lampoons the Washington establishment. [...]

He...paid mock tribute to Bush as a man who "believes Wednesday what he believed Monday, despite what happened Tuesday."

You could hardly ask for a better pocket definition of a conservative--someone who doesn't abandon core principles because of a bad day.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:17 AM


Barnes & Noble Goes to Baghdad: A brilliant plan to send American books to the Middle East. (Fred Kaplan, April 28, 2006, Slate)

Juan Cole, a blogger and professor of Middle Eastern history at the University of Michigan, has come up with an intriguing idea for how to fill this gap. He wants to hire skilled linguists to translate into Arabic the classic works of American political thought—especially those works that deal with freedom of religion, division of powers, sovereignty of the people, and equal rights. He has in mind the essays and speeches of Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Tom Paine, Benjamin Franklin, Martin Luther King Jr., and Susan B. Anthony; a solid history of American Jews and other minority groups; maybe a few good books, written by American historians, about Iraq. Cole also wants to subsidize Middle Eastern publishers to print these books in large numbers and at low prices, and he wants to pay fees to book dealers throughout the region—just as publishers pay Borders and Barnes & Noble here—to display the books prominently.

This isn't just an idea. Cole has established the Global Americana Institute and the Library of Americana Translation Project. Since he outlined the idea in his blog late last year, readers have sent him $13,000. He claims that some foundations are "jumping-up-and-down enthusiastic" to pour in the big bucks, once he obtained the legal status of a nonprofit organization. The federal government just gave him this status two weeks ago. He's filling out the grant applications now. He also recently returned from the Beirut international book fair, where he says several Middle Eastern publishers and dealers expressed great interest in the project (and, no doubt, in the prospect of the money).

Mr. Kaplan didn't work himself into such high dudgeon when an Israeli think tank similarly took it upon itself to translate the great works of Anglo-American liberalism into Hebrew. Of course, one has to not understand de Tocqueville at all to see something wrong with such projects being voluntary citizen initiatives rather than government projects.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:07 AM


Immigration's Bottom Line: How a Restaurant and Its Workers Ripple Through the Economy (Neil Irwin and Dana Hedgpeth, April 30, 2006, Washington Post)

At table 10 of the Oval Room, a high-price lawyer slurped an $8 bowl of asparagus soup. Over at table 71, a crowd of Office and Management and Budget staffers toasted a retiring colleague, while at table 76, a White House correspondent leaned in to hear what her lunch partner was saying.

In the kitchen of the restaurant, there was a different kind of kaleidoscope. The sous-chef, a Panamanian immigrant, directed two cooks from El Salvador, one from Guatemala and one from Honduras. A Salvadoran immigrant ran the food to the tables. All the activity was monitored by the general manager, an Austrian by birth, who needs to satisfy the owner, originally from India.

Just as all of those workers depend on the swirl of official Washington business for their livelihood, official Washington depends on them. Tomorrow, immigrant groups plan to boycott workplaces and stores to prove just that point. But one day of activity at the Oval Room, a sleekly designed spot a block from the White House, shows how difficult it is to make any kind of simple calculation.

The tangled web of economic connections among immigrants and those born in the United States creates jobs at a Philadelphia seafood distributor and revenue for the local cable company, even as it causes a financial drain on local hospitals and schools. The impacts are so intertwined that significant changes to immigration laws could change the nation's commerce in unforeseen ways.

"We would not exist without immigrant labor," said Ashok Bajaj, owner of the restaurant. "If the laws change, the entire economics of the restaurant industry would change, too."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:04 AM


A Children's Cartoon From the Middle East Has a New Mideast Peace Plan (JACQUES STEINBERG, 4/30/06, NY Times)

The show, "Ben and Izzy," is about the sometimes-rocky friendship between two 11-year-old boys — one American, one Arab. Though the show is meant, first and foremost, to be entertaining, each character serves at least partly as a proxy for the anxieties of the Middle East. As the queen's involvement and its lavish promotion suggest, the series' pedigree is unique. [...]

"Ben and Izzy," which features three-dimensional, computer-generated graphics evocative of "Toy Story" and "Finding Nemo," is being produced by a fledgling Jordanian media company named Rubicon, which regards Pixar, the American animation studio that made those movies, as a role model. Led by Randa Ayoubi, 43, a Jordanian woman who was first exposed to American cartoons through imported episodes of "Tom and Jerry" and "The Flintstones," Rubicon aspires to demolish the boundaries separating the world's children by exporting animated shows and movies produced in the Mideast. The venture also hopes to turn a profit, and "Ben and Izzy" is its calling card.

Whether or not "Ben and Izzy" ever gets the opportunity to find an audience — in America, the creators have made preliminary presentations not only to Cartoon Network but also Discovery Kids and PBS, among others —the story of the show's creation is compelling in its own right, as if a United Nations meeting had played out in the back room of a television studio.

The international crew behind "Ben and Izzy" is led by an American, David Pritchard, a onetime "Simpsons" producer whom Rubicon hired as the series' executive producer. Among the others on his creative team are three Iraqis — one is the lead animator; two others are artists — as well as a Jordanian (the art director) and a Palestinian (technical director). Rounding out the roster is King Abdullah II of Jordan — who, when not running his country, relaxes with the queen by watching "The Simpsons" via satellite. (Their four young children, Queen Rania said in a recent telephone interview from Amman, are devotees of American fare like reruns of "Lizzie McGuire" on the Disney Channel, "SpongeBob SquarePants" on Nickelodeon and "Dexter's Laboratory" on the Cartoon Network.)

Mr. Pritchard, who was also a producer of "Family Guy" and before that an international banker with business in Jordan, said he has met with the king throughout the early development of "Ben and Izzy," to show him drafts of scripts and even some rough animation. Among the investors in Rubicon is the King Abdullah II Fund for Development, which was established by royal decree in 2001 to invest in technology and other ventures.

The main advice the king has given him, Mr. Pritchard said the other day by telephone from Amman, "is to make sure it's funny." The creators say they have taken that dictum to heart, providing Benjamin Martin (the American, whose grandfather, like Izzy's, is an archeologist) and Izzy Aziz (born in Jordan, his full given name is Issam) all manner of raucous adventures. Traveling back through moments in history, they are to be accompanied by a genie named Yasmine and one step ahead of an evil, obese antiquities dealer named Clutchford Wells.

But the real goal of "Ben and Izzy" is more serious: to help young Americans and Arabs steer clear of the prejudices of their parents and grandparents, which may have been reinforced by the Sept. 11 attacks and the war in Iraq. In promotional materials, Ben the American is described as "a symbol for his country" who is "big" and "energetic," but "on the negative side, he is a bit xenophobic, self-centered, needs-to-win competitive."

"Like his native land," the creators write, "he sometimes blunders into situations without thinking."

Izzy the Jordanian, by contrast, is "slight of build, sinewy and studious," but "on the downside, Izzy can be a little too serious, self-righteous, superior, even devious."

The boys don't like each other at first — they argue but don't fight with guns or knives, the promotional materials point out — but they will ultimately learn "that as a team, they can outsmart almost anyone."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:54 AM


Saudi Arabia's unseen reform: Saudi Arabia is mainly viewed by others as a traditionally conservative society, particularly in its attitudes towards women. But, below the surface change is happening, even if reformers are wary of moving too quickly in case they face a traditionalist backlash. (Bridget Kendall, 4/30/06, BBC)

The protest by Saudi women who dared flout the ban on driving during the first Iraq war in 1991 had been disastrous, prompting a wave of conservative anger. That mistake must not be repeated this time.

"We lost 30 years, derailed by those who rejected the Western model and wanted to go back to the 14th century," said one woman, a senior executive in an oil company.

"We can't afford to lose more time. We educated Saudi women have been quietly empowering ourselves for decades." she went on, "Now we hope society is ready. But we mustn't alarm anybody."

The key, all agreed, was women's education.

Saudi universities are segregated, separate campuses for men and women, to the extent that male lecturers as a rule only interact with female students via videophone linkups.

But there are now more female than male students in Saudi Arabia all keen to seize new opportunities and an inevitable threat to young Saudi males, already facing rising unemployment.

From a European point of view, it is reform at snail's pace. Seen through Saudi eyes, there is a definite shift taking place.

And the key, it seems, is that it has been blessed by the country's new ruler, King Abdullah.

There is no democracy here.

There are no political parties, or even a proper parliament. And criticism of the ruling Royal Family is out of the question.

Ask someone about Saudi princes and you will find the conversation soon peters into silence.

But a reform-minded King can send a signal no-one will disobey, even if privately they are against it.

Absolute monarchy has its uses.

Of course, one of the key reforms is to retain the monarchy but make it not absolute.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:45 AM


France speculates on PM's future (Andre Vornic, 4/30/06, BBC News)

There is widespread speculation in France that the prime minister might be forced to resign over his implication in a long-running legal case.

A military official told magistrates Dominique De Villepin ordered him to probe corruption allegations against Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy.

The prime minister denies targeting his government rival, who has since been cleared in the case.

But the charge is a further blow after his failure to reform labour markets.

It may be possible to argue that France isn't objectively an enemy of the United States, but it's not possible to argue that Mr. de Villepin isn't.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:38 AM


Liberal thinker JK Galbraith dies (BBC, 4/30/06)

Renowned economist and liberal thinker John Kenneth Galbraith has died in the US at the age of 97.

He died on Saturday of natural causes in hospital in Cambridge, Massachusetts, his son Alan said.

The Canadian-born Harvard professor wrote over 30 books on socio-economic issues, the most famous of which was The Affluent Society in 1958.

He moved in political circles, advising Democratic presidents and serving as John F Kennedy's envoy to India.

Consider that when a mystified Richard Hofstadter wrote about American anti-intellectualism in the early 60s, Mr. Galbraith was the public intellectual par excellence. If you wanted to capture his philosophy in a couple lines you could do worse than this:
The lesson of the whole post-Keynesian world is that governments are now responsible for economic performance. Any notion that poor performance can't be remedied by the state is a reversion to 19th-century attitudes, which I'm not prepared to accept.

The result was that he did as much as anyone to give us the nightmare of the 70s and the twenty five years since we elected Ronald Reaghan have largely been an effort to undo the damage Mr. Galbraith helped cause.

John Kenneth Galbraith, 97, Dies; Economist Held a Mirror to Society (HOLCOMB B. NOBLE and DOUGLAS MARTIN, 4/30/06, NY Times)

John Kenneth Galbraith, the iconoclastic economist, teacher and diplomat and an unapologetically liberal member of the political and academic establishment that he needled in prolific writings for more than half a century, died yesterday at a hospital in Cambridge, Mass. He was 97.

Life holds no more bitter irony than to be an iconoclast who discovers late in life that the icons were right.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:34 AM


The Towering Dream of Dubai (Anthony Shadid, April 30, 2006, Washington Post)

"The only limitations are your own limitations," [Ahmad Sharaf] said matter of factly. "No one tells you that it cannot be done, that it should not be done. The only pushback has always been let's do it bigger, let's do it better, and let's do it smarter."

He reflected on what was being built -- the Dubai model, as its advocates call it, the region's most ambitious experiment in bringing success to an Arab city by shearing away the qualities that have long defined it as Arab.

"You know how the West was won?" Sharaf asked of the American experience. "From the Eastern seaboard to the West, you had to build a railroad -- the fastest way to get there and the most efficient way to get there to exploit the resources."

"Dubai," he said confidently, "is the railroad for the Middle East."

Railroad is a metaphor often heard in Dubai, an autocratic city-state ruled by a dynasty that evokes a language uncommon in the Arab world today: an utter confidence, brimming with pride and optimism, that collides with the dejection heard elsewhere in the Middle East. It has emerged as a 21st-century phenomenon, a city of perspectives, whose globalization suggests its inspiration and the discontent of those left behind.

To Sharaf and others, Dubai is the answer to the Arab world's ills, so diverse that conversations in taxicabs are sometimes a patois of Arabic, English and Hindi. Its architecture suggests Pharaonic ambition; at 3 billion square feet, the amusement park known as Dubailand will be three times the size of Manhattan, complete with a replica of the Eiffel Tower and a 60,000-seat stadium. The city's growth, vision and dynamism -- to advocates, at least -- chart a way forward for Arab development independent of the Bush administration's emphasis on democratic reform. Arab expatriates who have flocked here declare Dubai a success and say that the Arab world needs a success story.

"We're seeing the beginning of an Arab renaissance, and I find it very hopeful," said Nasser Saidi, a former Lebanese minister and the chief economist of the Dubai International Financial Center.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:10 AM


Father of the Bush Doctrine: George Shultz on pre-emption and the Revolt of the Generals. (DANIEL HENNINGER, April 29, 2006, Opinion Journal)

[George Shultz] recently sent me a speech on terrorism that he gave last month at the Woodrow Wilson International Center at Princeton. There is a quote in it from a speech he gave back in 1984, which of course is also the title of George Orwell's predictive novel. What Mr. Shultz had on his mind in 1984 was also eerily predictive. It was dealing with terrorism: "We must reach a consensus in this country," he said 22 years ago, "that our responses [to terrorism] should go beyond passive defense to consider means of active prevention, pre-emption and retaliation."

Arguably, this makes George Shultz the father of the Bush Doctrine, or at least its most controversial tenet--pre-emption. I asked how he arrived at the idea. "Being a Marine [1942-45, Pacific theater], probably my worst day in office was when the Marine barracks were bombed in Beirut." On the morning of Oct. 23, 1983, a suicide bomber drove an explosives-filled truck into the barracks and killed 220 Marines and 21 other U.S. service personnel. [...]

"I worried a lot about terrorism," Mr. Shultz told me, "and I didn't think we had an adequate strategy." So in that 1984 speech, the next sentence says this: "The question posed by terrorism involves our intelligence capability, the doctrine under which we would employ force, and most important of all our public's attitude toward this challenge."

I wonder out loud whether this view made people nervous back then. GS: "President Reagan thought it was OK, but there were a lot of people that didn't." DH: "Now it's part of the Bush doctrine." GS: "I think the idea that you would do everything you can to prevent what is coming at you by way of something very disruptive--a 9/11--it's a no-brainer."

Was a no-brainer. President Bush's approval rating is in the dumpster, and much of the public is discomfited by the violent reports out of Iraq, which ironically are the product of the same mentality that killed the Marines in 1983. The Iraq war may or may not turn out well, but clearly now it is in a dark moment. When I put this to the former secretary of state, his response, characteristically, is optimism: "I think this is the most promising moment, almost, in the history of the world--a time when the information age has made it clear to people what it takes for them to get ahead in their lives and succeed, to have prosperity, to have growth, and it's a critical matter not to have that great opportunity aborted by a wave of radically inspired terrorists. So we have to confront this, and we have to do it on a sustainable basis because it's going to take a long time."

So what, then, would he say to the people who've come to feel that because of the constant bombings and the struggles of the new Iraqi government that we're not going to make it? "We don't want to give up. The more you talk about not making it, the more you encourage the people who are trying to be sure the Iraqis don't make it. You encourage them to keep doing what they're doing."

Mr. Shultz associated himself with the Bush presidency early on, introducing the Texas governor to Condoleezza Rice at the Hoover Institution in 1998. In light of that, I asked what Mr. Shultz made of the idea that the Bush foreign policy and Iraq war were sprung from a coven of neoconservatives.

"I don't know how you define 'neoconservatism,' " he replied, "but I think it's associated with trying to spread open political systems and democracy. I recall President Reagan's Westminster speech in 1982--that communism would be consigned to 'the ash heap of history' and that freedom was the path ahead. And what happened? Between 1980 and 1990, the number of countries that were classified as 'free' or 'mostly free' increased by about 50%. Open political and economic systems have been gaining ground and there's a good reason for it. They work better. I don't know whether that's neoconservative or what it is, but I think it's what has been happening. I'm for it."

Though the Right viewed Mr. Schultz wth suspicion, as a crypto-dove, and trusted Cap Weinberger, as an uber-hawk, the reality was that the Secretary of Defense served his institution--ladling on more money and opposing deployments--while it was Mr Schultz who was willing to utilize the military in foreign affairs. The current "revolt of the generals" is merely a function of a SecDef who isn't a captive of his own bureaucracy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:02 AM


Pats grab hanging Chad: Trade up for Florida WR (Dan Ventura, April 30, 2006, Boston Herald)

The Patriots gave Chad Jackson their version of the Wonderlic test.

The fact that they moved up 16 spots in the second round to select the Florida wide receiver 36th overall would lead one to assume Jackson passed the test with flying colors.

“They gave me some of their offensive alignments when they were down here and I broke it down for them. Then when I went up there to New England to visit them, they re-quizzed me on it again and I read it to them off the board,” Jackson said. “They were the only team that did that to me, so I felt like they were pretty interested in me. I had at least four or five visits with them and I felt pretty good after every one of them.”

Given the interest, Jackson felt pretty confident that he would hear his name called when the Patriots were picking 21st in the first round. When the selection of Minnesota running back Laurence Maroney crossed the screen, Jackson was a bit miffed.

“I thought I would be taken there, especially after seeing them four or five times,” he said. “But I know on draft day, everything changes. I’m just happy that they picked me pretty high in the second round.”

How the heck did he manage to draft both?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:24 AM


Turkey, Israel make undersea connections (Jay Bushinsky, April 30, 2006, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

Leaders in Israel and Turkey envision a network of four underwater pipelines for transporting Russian oil and natural gas, with feeder lines to Jordan, the Palestinian Authority and Lebanon.

The joint Turkish-Israeli development plan holds the promise of accelerating economic growth in the Middle East. A $50 million feasibility study is financed by the Luxembourg-based European Investment Bank, officials from Turkey and Israel say.

India is a main backer of the proposed network of pipelines because of the energy needs of its fast-growing economy.

Jews/Muslims/Hindus working together--the End is here.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM

HEY, ART DOESN'T HAVE TO SUCK! (via Mike Daley):

Bright Spots: The Harlem Studio of Art (Roger Kimball, 4.28.2006, New Criterion)

So much distasteful rubbish is foisted upon us today in the name of culture that it is easy to fall prey to despondency and think: "The game's up! Our culture is rotten to the core. Cyril Connolly was right when he complained that it was `Closing time in the gardens of the West.'" It's easy, but it's mistaken. Really, if you look, there are plenty (well, some) bright spots in our culture. And if it is important to expose the rotten bits (and that is important), it is also important to celebrate the good, the salubrious, the vital, the hopeful. It's not just that despair is a sin, as the Doctors of the Church remind us: it's also that there really are plenty of things worth admiring if only we have the patience to see them.

To that end, I herewith inaugurate an occasional series of musings I shall denominate Bright Spots: good things, promising things in our culture that have been unfairly neglected or are as yet insufficiently known. My first offering is The Harlem Studio of Art, a classically-oriented art school and atelier in the upper reaches of Manhattan. Directed by Andrea J. Smith, the Harlem Studio offers students something almost unheard of today: rigorous training in modeling, one-point perspective, cast drawing, and all the other technical aspects of art that, based in Renaissance practice, one used to assume would be part of an artist's training but, for at least the last five or six decades, have gone the way of good manners and other accoutrements of civilization. It is a small atelier, with only a handful of students, but it makes a big impression and has already begun to attract a number of talented students and artists interested in continuing rather than destroying the tradition of our artistic heritage.

Make sure to follow the link to see the artwork.

April 29, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:46 PM


'Vote BNP and you're as bad as they are' (Melissa Kite, 30/04/2006, Sunday Telegraph)

With fears growing that the BNP will harvest a big protest vote and gain council seats on Thursday, particularly in east London, the Tories are effectively telling people toying with the idea of voting for Nick Griffin's gang that they ought to be ashamed of themselves. [...]

Eric Pickles, the Conservative deputy chairman and local government spokesman, told The Sunday Telegraph yesterday: "We are not differentiating between the candidates who stand for the BNP and the people who vote for them. We believe it is a shameful act to vote for the BNP, no matter how badly you feel you have been let down by Labour. These people are motivated by race and it is not an acceptable use of a protest vote to vote for the BNP."

The Conservative attack tells its own story. Put bluntly, the Tories do not have as much to lose from insulting prospective BNP supporters as Labour does. Mr Pickles's comment is a clear indication that the majority of BNP support this week will come not from the Right, but from the Left and disaffected Labour voters.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:42 PM


Friend Pepys needs to make an apple pie and wondered if anyone had a good recipe or link to one.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:46 AM


Chartering a course: Lifting cap on schools paves the way for proper learning (Stanley Crouch, April 27, 2006, NY Daily News)

We should all know by now that the public school system needs to be overhauled, and the changes will not come about as quickly as necessary. There will be battles with the unions, which hold failed practices in place while providing cover for the many incompetents whose terrible or substandard work disgraces what is one of our noblest professions.

Yet the public school student gets ever closer to high school graduation while these various, intricate battles are fought. That is why change at a swift but responsible speed is always of optimum importance. Given that fact, it is more than irresponsible for New York State to keep in place its cap on charter schools.

Mayor Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Joel Klein are serious about bringing New York's public schools out of the darkness. That is why they want the cap removed. It is but one way to address a crisis in which many kids suffer from poor preparation or the intellectual suicide symbolized by dropping out. [...]

The public should support Bloomberg and Klein in fighting to lift the cap on charter schools. While the battle with the teachers union continues, we should seek out as many alternatives that go beyond talk as possible.

Even though suburban whites are unethusiastic about them, the GOP should push universal education vouchers, not just because they're a worthwhile reform but because they divide two core Democrat constituencies.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:30 AM


Enough Already (TIM ROEMER, 4/29/06, NY Times)

In 1946, Karl Frost, an advertising executive, suggested a simple slogan to the Massachusetts Republican Committee: "Had Enough? Vote Republican!" Frost recognized that these simple words could unite his national party and blame its opponents, who controlled Congress, for causing or failing to solve the many problems facing the country, including meat shortages, economic difficulties and labor unrest. The strategy worked: in 1946, both houses of Congress flipped.

Sixty years later, Democrats would be smart to turn Karl Frost's slogan on Karl Rove's strategy.

"Had Enough? Vote Democratic!"

GDP Growth Strongest in 2 - 1 / 2 Years (Reuters, 4/29/06)
The U.S. economy grew at its fastest rate in 2-1/2 years during the first quarter on strong spending and investment, while moderate price rises reinforced hopes for a pause in U.S. interest rate rises this summer.

Gross domestic product grew at a 4.8 percent annual rate in the January-March quarter, the Commerce Department said on Friday, more than twice the fourth quarter's 1.7 percent rate.

It was the best quarterly GDP performance since a 7.2 percent spurt in the third quarter of 2003.

"This rapid growth is another sign that our economy is on the fast track,'' President George W. Bush told reporters.

In 1946 the GDP shrank and US Debt hit a historic high of 120%. Asking voters if they've had enough of an economic boom is political suicide.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:13 AM


Pressure grows for Darfur peace (BBC, 4/29/06)

The UN's top human rights official, Louise Arbour, is due in Sudan amid growing pressure on the government to end fighting in the Darfur region.

It comes as campaigners prepare to hold mass rallies across the US calling for an end to killings in Darfur.

On Friday, US President George W Bush endorsed the rallies, saying "genocide" in Sudan was unacceptable.

Let us hear no more about how America oughtn't intervene unilaterally in sovereign states for the sole purpose of vindicating human rights and liberal democracy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:07 AM


German Leader Rides a Wave Of Popularity Into Washington (Craig Whitlock, April 29, 2006, Washington Post)

Six months ago, Chancellor Angela Merkel was battling for her political survival. Her party was forced to share power after a dismal campaign in which it squandered a double-digit lead in the polls, as voters expressed doubts about her policies and her lack of charisma.

Next week, when she arrives in Washington to meet with President Bush, Merkel will be greeted as perhaps the most popular politician in Europe. Her approval ratings in opinion polls top 80 percent, a sharp turnabout from September, when her Christian Democrats won only 35 percent of the vote in national elections. [...]

During the campaign, Merkel scared many voters by vowing to shake up the German welfare state model that many economists blame for dampening growth and contributing to high unemployment. She also promised to raise the national sales tax rate from 16 percent to 19 percent, an idea that didn't win her much applause on the stump.

Her strategy nearly backfired when the Christian Democrats lost a large lead during the campaign and barely captured a plurality on election day. Since then, she's changed her tack and tried to assuage voters that any policy changes will be modest and gradual. Her cabinet, for instance, has agreed to raise the retirement age from 65 to 67, but the extension won't fully take effect until 2029.

"There will not be a big bang in Germany which will suddenly move us on, but we need to move fast and decisively every day even if we do not see the fruits of our labors for three or four years," Merkel told the German Banking Congress in a speech Tuesday in Berlin. "Change is so often associated in Germany with a turn for the worse. People need to see it as an opportunity as well."

Her predecessor, Gerhard Schroeder, spent years tinkering with the welfare system, to the dismay of millions of Germans. Now the public seems generally pleased with the toned-down approach. A poll released Friday by the television network ZDF put Merkel's job approval rating at 83 percent, according to a survey of 1,200 voters.

To be popular in a social welfare state is to be failing its people by pleasing them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:59 AM


President Wants Anthem Sung in English (Jim VandeHei, April 29, 2006, Washington Post)

President Bush yesterday said "The Star-Spangled Banner" should be sung in English, not Spanish, and condemned plans by some immigrant groups to stage a work protest on Monday to sway the debate over the nation's immigration laws.

With passions running high over the release of "Nuestro Himno," a Spanish-language version of the national anthem, Bush told reporters that people who want to be citizens of the United States should learn English and "ought to learn to sing the national anthem in English." [...]

On the national anthem controversy, Bush, who speaks Spanish, was pulled into the debate after British music producer Adam Kidron released the Spanish version yesterday. Kidron said he wanted to honor U.S. immigrants.

In a statement released after Bush spoke, Kidron said: "The intention of recording 'Nuestro Himno' (Our Anthem) has never been to discourage immigrants from learning English and embracing American culture."

So long as they learn English there's nothing wrong with singing the Star-Spangled Banner in other languages. The real problem with this version is that they changed the words, Nuestro Himno (Chicago Tribune, 4/26/06):
Verse 1

Oh say can you see, a la luz de la aurora/Lo que tanto aclamamos la noche al caer? Sus estrellas, sus franjas flotaban ayer/En el fiero combate en senal de victoria,/Fulgor de lucha, al paso de la libertada,/Por la noche decian: "Se va defendiendo!"

Coro: Oh, decid! Despliega aun su hermosura estrellada,/Sobre tierra de libres, la bandera sagrada?


It's time to make a difference the kids, men and the women/Let's stand for our beliefs, let's stand for our vision/What about the children los ninos como P-Star

These kids have no parents, cause all of these mean laws.

See this can't happen, not only about the Latins.

Asians, blacks and whites and all they do is adding

more and more, let's not start a war

with all these hard workers,

they can't help where they were born.

No flag burning, no cartoons of Muhammed, and leave the National Anthem alone.

The Japanese, who face the prospect of having to allow huge immigration as they age, have wisely chosaen to focus on the assimilation angle, Diet handed 'patriotic' education bill: Proposed change of '47 law has foes, including teachers, fearing Big Brother (AKEMI NAKAMURA and HIROKO NAKATA, 4/29/06, Japan Times)

The government submitted a bill to the Diet Friday that will revise the Fundamental Law of Education for the first time since its enactment in 1947 to include fostering "patriotism."

Drafted during the Allied Occupation, the present law does not mention patriotism because the word was associated with Japan's wartime totalitarianism and militarism, according to scholars.

Conservative politicians have long sought to emphasize the concept in school curricula, but Japan "has been sensitive about patriotism, mainly due to memories of the (totalitarian) education before and during the war," said Hidenori Fujita, a professor at International Christian University in Tokyo.

"Patriotism" as stipulated in the bill, however, goes beyond the usual definition of love, loyalty and zealous support of a nation, by requiring people to cultivate "an attitude that respects tradition and culture, loves the nation and homeland that have fostered them, while respecting other countries and contributing to international peace and development."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:57 AM


Prostitution Alleged In Cunningham Case (Jo Becker and Charles R. Babcock, April 29, 2006, Washington Post)

Federal authorities are investigating allegations that a California defense contractor arranged for a Washington area limousine company to provide prostitutes to convicted former congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-Calif.) and possibly other lawmakers, sources familiar with the probe said yesterday. [...]

The Cunningham investigation's latest twist came after Mitchell J. Wade, a defense contractor who has admitted bribing the former congressman, told prosecutors that Wilkes had an arrangement with Shirlington Limousine, which in turn had an arrangement with at least one escort service, one source said. Wade said limos would pick up Cunningham and a prostitute and bring them to suites Wilkes maintained at the Watergate Hotel and the Westin Grand in Washington, the source said.

This scandal has always been in desperate need of a sex angle, though hookers and the Watergate seems almost cliche.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:54 AM


Report Sets Stage For Action on Iran: U.N. Nuclear Agency Provides Evidence Needed to Open Security Council Debate (Molly Moore and Dafna Linzer, April 29, 2006, Washington Post)

In a sharply worded report, the International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed Friday that Iran is accelerating its uranium enrichment efforts and hiding crucial information about its nuclear program. The report opens the way for the U.N. Security Council to debate potential actions against Iran.

The Vienna-based U.N. nuclear monitoring agency said serious gaps in the information provided by Iran made it impossible "to provide assurance about the absence of undeclared nuclear materials and activities" or to assess the role of the Iranian military in the nuclear work.

The eight-page report provided official evidence that the United States, Britain and France have sought to launch a push for possible sanctions against Iran. But Russia and China, also permanent members of the Security Council, have repeatedly expressed skepticism with that approach.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:46 AM


Tories quietly expand NORAD (BRUCE CAMPION-SMITH, 4/29/06, Toronto Star)

Stephen Harper's government has quietly committed Canada to "indefinite" participation in NORAD and agreed to give the military alliance new responsibilities to watch for a terror attack by sea.

Fresh off his softwood lumber truce, Harper's government yesterday gave another boost to Canada-U.S. relations when it signed off on the renewal of the landmark North American Aerospace Defence Command treaty.

Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor and David Wilkins, the U.S. ambassador in Canada, signed the new pact at a "ceremony in Ottawa," according to Janelle Hironimus, a spokesperson with the U.S. State Department.

U.S. hails new era after deal (GRAHAM FRASER, 4/29/06, Toronto Star)
U.S. Ambassador David Wilkins yesterday called the softwood lumber deal the proof that Canada matters in Washington, and the precursor of a new era of co-operation between the two countries.

"Leadership matters," he told a Public Policy Forum conference in Ottawa. "Call it a breath of fresh air, a new effort, new energy, a renewed momentum, whatever term you want to describe it — but there is a sense, in my opinion, both in Washington and in Ottawa, that we are entering a positive, productive stage in our relationship."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:42 AM


Hamas’ Impossible Mission (Ramzy Baroud, 29 April, 2006, Countercurrents.org)

It should be established by now that most Western governments are the least interested in honoring the decided democratic choice of the Palestinian people, which elevated to power a movement that is branded ‘terrorist’ by Israel, thus by much of the Western hemisphere.

Since facts and common sense are of little concern to those who hastily decided to withhold badly needed funds to support the battered economy of the Occupied Territories, there would be no need to once again marvel at the rhetorical inconsistencies of the Bush Administration and of the European Union.

So what if Hamas has adhered to a virtually unilateral ceasefire for over a year, while Israel did not? So what if the newly formed government has given ample evidence that it is keenly interested in dialogue, not violence? So what if the majority of the Palestinian people have adamantly and repeatedly -- according to recent public opinion polls -- expressed their interest in a negotiated settlement with Israel? Indeed, so many “so whats” that hardly matter now, since it is quite clear that the US and the EU’s real intentions are to topple the Palestinian government, along with the sham of a doctrine which claims that democratizing the Arabs is the ultimate policy objective of Bush and Blair.

Not just democracy, but liberal democracy. All Hamas has to do is the will of the Palestinian preople --accept the Palestinian state that's been on offer since Oslo and peaceful co-existence with the state of Israel and folks'll shovel money at them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:38 AM


The United States Of Israel? (Robert Fisk, 28 April, 2006, The Independent)

Stephen Walt towers over me as we walk in the Harvard sunshine past Eliot Street, a big man who needs to be big right now (he's one of two authors of an academic paper on the influence of America's Jewish lobby) but whose fame, or notoriety, depending on your point of view, is of no interest to him. "John and I have deliberately avoided the television shows because we don't think we can discuss these important issues in 10 minutes. It would become 'J' and 'S', the personalities who wrote about the lobby - and we want to open the way to serious discussion about this, to encourage a broader discussion of the forces shaping US foreign policy in the Middle East."

"John" is John Mearsheimer, a political scientist at the University of Chicago. Walt is a 50-year-old tenured professor at the John F Kennedy School of Government at Harvard. The two men have caused one of the most extraordinary political storms over the Middle East in recent American history by stating what to many non-Americans is obvious: that the US has been willing to set aside its own security and that of many of its allies in order to advance the interests of Israel, that Israel is a liability in the "war on terror", that the biggest Israeli lobby group, Aipac (the American Israel Public Affairs Committee), is in fact the agent of a foreign government and has a stranglehold on Congress - so much so that US policy towards Israel is not debated there - and that the lobby monitors and condemns academics who are critical of Israel.

"Anyone who criticises Israel's actions or argues that pro-Israel groups have significant influence over US Middle East policy," the authors have written, "...stands a good chance of being labelled an anti-Semite. Indeed, anyone who merely claims that there is an Israeli lobby runs the risk of being charged with anti-Semitism ... Anti-Semitism is something no-one wants to be accused of." This is strong stuff in a country where - to quote the late Edward Said - the "last taboo" (now that anyone can talk about blacks, gays and lesbians) is any serious discussion of America's relationship with Israel.

Walt is already the author of an elegantly written account of the resistance to US world political dominance, a work that includes more than 50 pages of references. Indeed, those who have read his Taming Political Power: The Global Response to US Primacy will note that the Israeli lobby gets a thumping in this earlier volume because Aipac "has repeatedly targeted members of Congress whom it deemed insufficiently friendly to Israel and helped drive them from office, often by channelling money to their opponents."

It makes perfect sense for academics/intellectuals to hate the great Jewish state, Israel, and the great Christian one, America. We are, after all, their enemies.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:34 AM


Draft surprise: It's Williams at No. 1 (Kristie Rieken, 4/28/06, The Associated Press

The Houston Texans' decision to snub Heisman Trophy winner Reggie Bush and sign defensive end Mario Williams with the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft has cut a slack-jawed swath across the NFL. [...]

The Texans' move left the New Orleans Saints with an opportunity to take Bush as the No. 2 pick. Saints spokesman Greg Bensel said Friday night the team had no comment.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Trading Frenzy Adding to Rise in Price of Oil (JAD MOUAWAD and HEATHER TIMMONS, 4/29/06, NY Times)

In the latest round of furious buying, hedge funds and other investors have helped propel crude oil prices from around $50 a barrel at the end of 2005 to a record of $75.17 on the New York Mercantile Exchange last week. Back in January 2002, oil was at $18 a barrel. [...]

"Clearly the big attraction of commodity markets like oil is that they've been going up," said Marc Stern, the chief investment officer at Bessemer Trust, a New York wealth manager with $45 billion in assets. "Rising prices create interest."

This year alone, oil prices have gained 18 percent; they were up 45 percent in 2005 and 28 percent in 2004, a performance far superior to the Standard & Poor's 500-stock index, whose gains in these years have been in the single digits. And to some extent, the rising price of oil feeds on itself, by encouraging many investors to bet that it is likely to continue doing so.

"The hedge funds have come roaring into the commodities market, and they are willing to take risks," said Brad Hintz, an analyst with Sanford C. Bernstein & Company, an investment firm in New York.

April 28, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:58 PM


Well, Well: You don't have to hate oil companies to want an excess-profits tax (Michael Kinsley, April 28, 2006, Slate)

Taxes are not a form of punishment. And you don't need to find wrongdoing to justify a special tax on their profits. You only need a pocket calculator—to figure out how much they owe.

The math is rough, but it's not complicated. About a third of the oil consumed in the United States comes from wells in the United States. That's about 150 million barrels a month. The oil industry refers to this as "production," but a more accurate term would be "extraction." Nature produced the oil and charges nothing for it.

Oil is oil, no matter where it comes from, so the price of those 150 million barrels will go up and down with the price of the 300 million or so barrels we import every month. A year ago, that price was about $46 a barrel. Now it's more than $70 a barrel. The cost of extracting those 150 million American barrels depends a lot on how you figure it and varies well by well. But we can make a few reasonable simplifying assumptions. First, no one was forced to pump oil at gunpoint a year ago. So, however you figure it, in April 2005 it must have been possible to extract 150 million barrels of oil out of American ground for less than $46 a barrel, including a reasonable profit.

Costs change. Wells have to be pumped harder or they run dry. Gradually, we are running out and need to import more and more. But these changes are nothing like the fluctuations in the price for which oil can be sold. If 150 million barrels could be extracted a year ago for $46 a barrel, it shouldn't cost much more than that to extract another 150 million barrels in 2006.

Let's round off a bit and say that American oil extractors are getting an extra $25 a barrel. For 150 million barrels a month, that's $45 billion a year. And that's just for the oil that's extracted. The oil that remains in the ground is also about $25 a barrel more valuable. And other energy resources—used and unused—are more valuable by a similar amount.

To get this windfall, the oil companies didn't have to conspire with the Bush administration to start a war in Iraq. They didn't have to conspire among themselves to raise prices at the pump. If you own oil anywhere in the world, you didn't have to do a damned thing. Just close your eyes, make a wish, open them, and—surprise—you're getting an extra $25 a barrel.

Ordinarily, and wisely, the U.S. government doesn't try to guess what is or is not a reasonable profit and doesn't try to tax away profit that is unreasonable. As a general principle, the government tries to tax all business profits at a rate that will produce enough revenue to help cover the cost of government without unduly destroying the incentive to produce. Under Republican administrations, the government usually goes further and gives business a bunch of absurd tax breaks. The oil industry has been a special pet over the years.

Ordinarily, we shouldn't want the government to decide when profits become "excess." But the case of huge profits from the run-up in oil prices is different for two reasons.

Actually, taxes are inevitably a form of punishment which is why they effect social engineering whether you want them to or not. So the simple question here is which is more desirable for our society, cheaper gas and increased dependence on the petrostates or more expensive gas with the corresponding reductions in its use. If you want the former then, by all means, tax profits but accept the consequences and stop whining about war for oil, but if you want the latter then tax the sale of gas itself at a higher rate.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:44 PM


Bernard Lewis Marking 90 At Grand Fete (ELI LAKE, April 28, 2006, NY Sun)

There are few academics or historians who have matched the achievements of the emeritus Princeton University professor. He has written more than 24 books, received 15 honorary degrees, and fluently speaks, according to Ms. Churchill, eight languages which include the four languages of the Middle East - Arabic, Hebrew, Persian, and Turkish - as well as Danish.

A former student of Mr. Lewis's and scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, Ruel Marc Gerecht, said his book, "The Muslim Awakening of Europe," is "one of the best history books ever written. It is one of the rare history books that has a chance to still be read 50 years after it was published." Even his rivals acknowledge his intellectual power. The late literature professor Edward Said built much of his popular theory of Orientalism, the view that Western analysts and historians write about indigenous cultures as a rationalization for their exploitation, as an attack on Mr. Lewis.

Mr. Lewis debated Mr. Said and author Christopher Hitchens in 1983 on the topic of Orientalism that many of Mr. Lewis's followers believe marked the decline of their mentor's field. "They believed it was a predatory conspiracy of western imperialists," Mr. Lewis said. "I took the view this was a legitimate branch of scholarship. Since then the Saidian view has triumphed in western universities."

Mr. Lewis's ideas about the Middle East are also more current today than they were 30 years ago. His name is invoked almost constantly by critics of neoconservatives for the counsel he provided to Vice President Cheney about Iraq and the Middle East. Mr. Lewis first met with the vice president in 1990 on the eve of the first Gulf War. On the eve of the Iraq war, Mr. Cheney went on NBC's "Meet the Press" and called Mr. Lewis "one of the great students" of the Middle East.

Mr.Lewis says his role in shaping war policy has been exaggerated. "I do meet people and talk to people I am not a consultant or adviser. I do not have any security clearances," he said.

"To say Bernard is a double barreled fan of democracy in the Muslim world is not exactly right," Mr. Gerecht said. "What Bernard Lewis has shown is the extent to which a lot of very bad Western ideas have implanted themselves in the Muslim world. The better one, the hardest one to absorb, democracy, has not. But there is reason to believe that might be changing."

On a deeper level, however, Mr. Lewis has become one of the most relevant intellectuals on the region in the twilight of his life. In 1976, he wrote an essay for Commentary called "The Return of Islam" that made the case that Islam was emerging as the primary way Arabs identified themselves and predicted the rise of Islamic demagoguery. At the time, this insight deflated much of the claims of the waning pan-Arabists of the region. In 1978, Mr. Lewis began translating the writings of Ayatollah Khomeinei - before the 1979 revolution in Iran. His scholarship provoked the late senator, Henry "Scoop" Jackson, to ask the CIA formally about the exiled cleric in Paris, who famously insisted his writings (since proved not only authentic but prescient) were forgeries. Mr. Lewis wryly notes that the only texts of Khomeini's "Islamic Government" were in Persian and Arabic. "This meant that most of Washington could not understand it," he said.

Professor Samuel Huntington has even credited Mr. Lewis with coining the phrase, "conflict of civilizations."

Born in London in 1916, Mr. Lewis became interested in studying the Middle East, according to Ms. Churchill during his bar mitzvah.

Perhaps Mr. Lewis's fundamental insight is that because something has clearly gone wrong in Islam things will have to change. There is danger in that, but also reason for optimism.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:40 PM


Steve Howe, 1958-2006: Troubled ex-pitcher dies in car accident (BEN WALKER, 4/28/06, The Associated Press)

Steve Howe, the relief pitcher whose promising career was derailed by cocaine and alcohol abuse, died Friday when his pickup truck rolled over in Coachella, Calif. He was 48.

Mr. Howe was killed at 5:55 a.m. about 130 miles east of Los Angeles, said Dalyn Backes of the Riverside County coroner's office. He had been in Arizona on business and was driving back to the family home in Valencia, Calif., business partner Judy Welp said. Mr. Howe's vehicle drifted and hit a center divider, and police said he wasn't wearing a seatbelt.

Toxicology tests had not yet been performed.

The hard-throwing lefty was the 1980 National League Rookie of the Year with the Los Angeles Dodgers, closed out their 1981 World Series championship and was an All-Star the next year.

But for all of his success on the field, Mr. Howe was constantly troubled by addictions — he was suspended seven times and became a symbol of the rampant cocaine problem that plagued baseball in the 1980s.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:30 PM


Shinjo leaves the ballpark for a quiet life of nude modelling (Mainichi Daily News, 4/26/06)

"I've decided to take my uniform off at the end of this season."

With these words, Nippon Ham Fighters outfielder Tsuyoshi Shinjo announced his plans to end one of the more unconventional careers in Japanese professional baseball.

What the fans at Tokyo Dome didn't realize when 34-year-old Shinjo told them on April 18 that he was removing his uniform, was that he was speaking literally, according to Shukan Gendai (5/6-13).

Many were shocked that Shinjo chose a mid-April date to announce his plans to quit -- the season was only a few weeks old, after all -- most say it's characteristic behavior for the player nicknamed "Spaceman," who's as well known for his tendency to come out of left field (even though he's a centerfielder) as for his baseball. [...]

Post-baseball life doesn't appear to be too lonely for Shinjo, though. The enormously popular outfielder is already apparently being swamped with offers for work once he's finished playing. And that's where it comes to taking his uniform off for the last time. As it turns out, it seems likely that his baseball uniform won't be the only garments Shinjo plans to shed.

"Actually, Shinjo's thinking about releasing a collection of nude photos. Straight after he announced his retirement, the president of a major talent agency Shinjo is expected to join on his retirement called the player and said, 'If you're gonna do nude stuff, let me look after it for you.' And, as a bit of an extra for his real fans, there's also talk of Shinjo and his wife doing a nude shot together. If they don't want to go all the way, it could be a shot of them in some pretty racy underwear. The Shinjos are a lot more appealing than David and Victoria Beckham," Motoji Takasu, a publishing company producer, tells Shukan Gendai.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:05 PM


Bean ball: Jose Mesa is three-for-three in hitting former teammate Omar Vizquel (John Dawson, 5/06/06, World)

San Francisco Giants infielder Omar Vizquel must wish Colorado pitcher Jose Mesa would try to kill him more softly. Baseball's most heated feud got a bit hotter in April when the Giants traveled to Colorado to play the Rockies. There, for the third time since 2002 when the infielder penned a book slamming Mr. Mesa's performance in the 1997 World Series, Mr. Vizquel stepped into the batter's box against the hard-throwing reliever. And just like the two previous times, Mr. Vizquel got to first with a fastball in his back.

How did Mr. Vizquel offend Mr. Mesa? In his book, Omar! My Life on and off the Field, Mr. Vizquel blamed his then-teammate for collapsing in the 9th inning of Game 7 against the Florida Marlins in 1997. "The eyes of the world were focused on every move we made," Mr. Vizquel wrote in his 2002 autobiography. "Unfortunately, Jose's own eyes were vacant. Completely empty. Nobody home."

Folks could have expected the hard-throwing right-hander to be miffed. Mr. Mesa was beyond that, though. "I will not forgive him," Mr. Mesa told reporters after the book was released. "Even my little boy (Jose Jr.) told me to get him. If I face him 10 more times, I'll hit him 10 times. Every time. I want to kill him." Mr. Mesa has repeated the death threats.


“‘You are scared of Cincinnati.’ That’s what I told my teammates, "Every time we play Cincinnati, the hitters are on their ass.”

In 1970, ‘71, and ‘72, he says, the rest of the league was afraid of the Pirates. “they say, 'Here come the big bad Pirates. They’re going to kick our ass!’ Like they give up. That’s what our team was starting to do." Cincinatti will bull[****] with us and kick our ass and laugh at us. They’re the only team that talk about us like a dog. Whenever we play that team, everybody socializes with them.” In the past the roles had been reversed. “When they ran over to us, we knew they were afraid of us. When I saw our team doing it, right then I say, "We gunna get down. We gonna do the do. I’m going to hit these motherf******s.’” [...]

Taking his usual warm-up pitches, Dock noticed Pete Rose standing at one side of the batter’s box, leaning on his bat, studying his delivery. On his next-to-last warm-up, Dock let fly at Rose and almost hit him.

A distant early warning.

In fact, he had considered not hitting Pete Rose at all. He and Rose are friends, but of course friendship, as the commissioner of baseball would insist, must never prevent even-handed treatment. No, Dock had considered not hitting Pete Rose because Rose would take it so well, ”He’s going to charge first base, and make it look like nothing.” Having weighed the whole matter, Dock decided to hit him anyway.

“The first pitch to Pete Rose was directly toward his head,” as Dock expresses it, “not actually to hit him, ” but as “the message, to let him know that he was going to get hit. More or less to press his lips. I knew if I could get close to the head that I could get them in the body. Because they’re looking to protect their head, they’ll give me the body.” The next pitch was behind him. “the next one, I hit him in the side.”

Pete Rose’s response was even more devastating than Dock had anticipated. He smiled. Then he picked the ball up, where it had falled beside him, and gently, underhanded, tossed it back to Dock. Then he lit for first as if trying out fro the Olympics.

As Dock says, with huge approval, “You have to be good, to be a hot dog.”

As Rose bent down to pick up the ball, he had exchanged a word with Joe Morgan who was batting next. Morgan taunted Rose, “He doesn’t like you anyway. You’re a white guy.”

Dock hit Morgan in the kidneys with his first pitch.

By this time, both benches were agog. It was Mayday on May Day. The Pirates realized that Dock was doing what he said he would do. The Reds were watching him do it. “I looked over on the bench, they were all with their eyes wide and their mouths wide open, like, 'I don’t believe it!’

“The next batter was [Dan] Driessen. I threw a ball to him. High and inside. The next one, I hit him in the back.”

Bases loaded, no outs. Tony Perez, Cincinnati first baseman, came to bat. He did not dig in. “There was no way I could hit him. He was running. The first one I threw behind him, over his head, up against the screen, but it came back off the glass, and they didn’t advance. I threw behind him because he was backing up, but then he stepped in front of the ball. The next three pitches, he was running, "I walked him.” A run came in. “The next hitter was Johnny Bench. I tried to deck him twice. I threw at his jaw, and he moved. I threw at the back of his head, and he moved.”

With two balls and no strikes on Johnny Bench—-eleven pitches gone: three hit batsmen, one walk, one run, and now two balls—-[manager, Danny} Murtaugh approached the mound. “He came out as if to say, 'What’s wrong? Can’t find the plate?’” Dock was suspicious that his manager really knew what he was doing. “No,” said Dock, “I must have Blass-itis.” (I was genuine wildness, ªnot throwing at batters—-that had destroyed Steve Blass the year before.)

“He looked at me hard,” Dock remembers. “He said, 'I’m going to bring another guy in.’ So I just walked off the mound.”

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:07 PM


Jane Jacobs, 1916–2006: New York’s indispensable urban iconoclast (Howard Husock, 27 April 2006, City Journal)

In a way, Jane Jacobs, who died this week, did to urban renewal what Rachel Carson did to DDT and Ralph Nader did to the Corvair. The Death and Life of Great American Cities marked Jane Jacobs as one of the great protest authors of the early 1960s. Upon the release of her book in 1961, the idea of wholesale government clearance of poor urban neighborhoods, whether for housing or highways, almost immediately fell out of favor. It is not surprising that three decades after its release, Death and Life was included in the Modern Library series of classics.

Despite her prominence, Jacobs was almost universally misunderstood. Her role in the public life of New York in the 1960s may explain some of this misunderstanding. Her opposition, to the point of arrest, to plans for a highway through Washington Square Park and to a development scheme that would have destroyed hundreds of buildings in the West Village led her to be seen as the mother of all preservationists, pedestrians, and community activists. And because she moved to Toronto, in part because of opposition to the Vietnam War, it is assumed she was a woman of the Left.

That she was none of these is not superficially apparent from her work. Because Death and Life poetically describes the rhythms of neighborhood street life—its teeming sidewalks, local characters, and small merchants—Jacobs is frequently invoked as the patron saint of old neighborhoods, protecting them from rapacious developers who would supplant the last drugstore that still has a soda fountain. Because she wrote of the value of small blocks and smaller buildings, it is easy to infer that she was a Jeffersonian opponent of bigness per se, whether of new developments or firms—or even cities, if they got too large.

But Jane Jacobs had no more desire to buffer cities from change than Herman Melville had to save the whale. For Jacobs, change was the very essence of city life. One cannot seek through public policy to “freeze conditions and uses as they stand. That would be death,” she wrote in Death and Life. Indeed, her great trilogy of works on cities—The Death and Life of Great American Cities (1961), The Economy of Cities (1969) and Cities and the Wealth of Nations (1984)—are a plea for us to understand the dynamism, crucial to human progress, that arises in cities relatively unfettered by government. “Most city diversity,” she wrote in Death and Life, “is the creation of incredible numbers of different people and different private organizations, with vastly differing ideas and purposes, planning and contriving outside the framework of public action. The main responsibility of city planning and design should be to develop—insofar as public policy and action can do so—cities that are congenial places for this great range of unofficial plans, ideas, and opportunities to flourish.”

The Jane Jacobs story is a remarkable one. [...]

The real Jane Jacobs not only enjoyed busy city blocks but deplored high levels of welfare spending that inhibit urban economies. The real Jane Jacobs not only enjoyed the great variety of small businesses which cities offer, but questioned the public operation of services such as transit that preempt the formation of private competitors.

To get Jane Jacobs right, start with her reasons for opposing urban renewal. Her opposition was not primarily based on aesthetic and planning concerns, though there is no doubt that the design of public housing deeply concerned and offended her. In her view, the quintessential housing-project design of the high-rise tower set in a plaza or park defied common sense. Plazas that people don’t regularly traverse for a wide range of reasons—some going to work, some to the library, some to their homes—are apt to become dangerous gauntlets, as are the long corridors in high-rises, where the neighborly eyes Jacobs found watching the street in old neighborhoods are absent. The wealthy might be able to afford doormen and security patrols, but, Jacobs made clear, the less affluent need the self-policing that older, unplanned neighborhoods can provide.

But the heart of Jacobs’s quarrel with the advocates of urban renewal and city planning involved much more than design considerations. In her view, urban renewal was simply one manifestation of a set of beliefs that threatened to smother the economic life of cities as well as to level old neighborhoods. Put another way, Jacobs actually saw herself as an apostle, not an opponent, of progress, but was convinced that policies pursued in the name of economic and aesthetic improvement were actually anti-modern and would deaden the city’s economy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:48 AM


Bush Set to Approve Takeover of 9 Military Plants by Dubai (JIM RUTENBERG and DAVID E. SANGER, 4/28/06, NY Times)

President Bush is expected on Friday to announce his approval of a deal under which a Dubai-owned company would take control of nine plants in the United States that manufacture parts for American military vehicles and aircraft, say two administration officials familiar with the terms of the deal.

The officials, who were granted anonymity so they could speak freely about something the president had not yet announced, said that the final details had not yet been set and that Mr. Bush might put conditions on the transaction to keep military technology in the United States. [...]

[R]epresentative Peter T. King, Republican of New York, the chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security and one of the foremost critics of the ports deal, said on Thursday that he would not necessarily have a problem this time around, in large part because the White House had given the deal a thorough review.

The only difference is that Mr. King realizes he made an ass of himself last time.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:36 AM


Dartmouth Review Celebrates 25 Years (GARY SHAPIRO, 4/28/06, NY Sun)

The peal of the old Dartmouth Indian war cry “Wah-hoo-wah”resounded as the Dartmouth Review, the insouciantly conservative student publication, celebrated its 25th birthday at a dinner in Manhattan last week. For a quarter century, its jaunty pages have enlivened the idyllic campus in Hanover, N.H., challenging liberal presuppositions — sometimes raucously — while earning recognition as a model for conservative newspapers nationwide. Distributed door to door to every student and mailed to subscribers across the country, the Review has been at the center of stormy cultural and political debates since its inception.

Alvino-Mario Fantini ’90 told The New York Sun that some friends on campus stopped talking to him after they learned he worked for the Review. “All we wanted to do was spark debate and discussion on campus and have an exchange of ideas,which is what you would think a university is for,”he told the Sun. [...]

The Review began when disaffected editors fell out with the Daily Dartmouth over issues such as endorsing a conservative trustee candidate.

The review was hatched at the home of emeritus professor Jeffrey Hart, and it went on to raise a ruckus during the culture wars, on subjects ranging from shantytowns and South African divestiture to trying to restore the school’s Indian symbol, which was perceived as politically incorrect.

The Review, Ms. Dhillon noted, harbored “a withering disdain for anodyne and characterless school mascots.” Ms. Ingraham recalled how the Review hired the Gallup organization to conduct a poll of all living Indian chiefs in the United States and found that 82.7 percent thought the college should keep the Indian mascot.

Whereas the late Dartmouth president James Freedman thought the college experience could be exemplified in the lonely act of “writing poetry or mastering the cello or solving mathematical riddles or translating Catullus,” the Review sought to tap into an older Romantic Dartmouth model of the warrior poet.

Mr. Hart, writes Joseph Rago in the anthology, would crank a mechanical wooden hand to drum loudly on a mahogany table when faculty meetings grew tedious. He sported an anklelength raccoon coat at football games, Mr. Robinson recalled, dipping into a hip flask to take a swig when Dartmouth scored. Preferring, Mr. Rago wrote,“the exuberance of the Jazz age to the austerity of the Carter years,” Mr. Hart wore a chauffeur’s cap and drove around in a secondhand Cadillac taking up three metered spots on campus.In response to stickers advising, “Turn out the light. Energy is scarce,” Mr. Hart added, “In that case, produce more energy.”

“For me,” Thomas “Harry” Camp said, “the Dartmouth Review embodied the Dartmouth spirit: A hard-working and highly intellectually stimulating atmosphere that nonetheless always found time for barbecues, cocktails, and croquet.”

Hard to recall how outraged folks were when it started at the very notion that a college campus would have a conservative publication. When people fret about how the culture wars are going just consider how far we've come even in Acadenia in just 25 years.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:05 AM


Local al-Qaida in Iraq leader killed (THOMAS WAGNER, April 28, 2006, ASSOCIATED PRESS)

U.S. forces killed a local al-Qaida in Iraq leader and two other insurgents in a raid north of Baghdad on Friday, and roadside bombs killed an American soldier and an Iraqi policeman, officials said.

Separately, the death toll in two days of fighting in Baqouba, 35 miles northeast of Baghdad, climbed to 58, including seven Iraqi soldiers, Maj. Gen. Ahmed al-Awad said.

U.S. forces, acting on Iraqi intelligence, raided a house where Hamid al-Takhi, the local al-Qaida in Iraq leader, and the two other insurgents were hiding just outside Samarra, 60 miles north of Baghdad, the U.S. military said.

Al-Takhi, known as the "emir" of Samarra, was gunned down while fleeing the house, and the other two militants were killed while trying to defend it with grenades, the U.S. military said. After they were killed, the U.S. troops found a car parked nearby containing a grenade launcher, rockets, AK-47s, grenades and a shotgun, the U.S. military said.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:48 AM


NATO to intensify its role in Sudan's Darfur region (Nicholas Kralev, 4/28/06, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said yesterday that NATO leaders have agreed to take on a more "robust" role in Sudan's Darfur region and urged other international bodies to prepare the way.

NATO diplomats said that earlier disagreements among the allies over involvement in Darfur had been resolved, but impediments remained, such as the Sudanese government's objection to a U.N. peacekeeping mission.

"Everybody recognizes that the [African Union] mission, while it has been successful thus far, is not robust enough to deal with the continued violence in Darfur and, particularly, problems that are emerging in western Darfur given the situation and problems on the border with Chad," Miss Rice said.

Cave men can't stop the Crusade.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:09 AM


U.S. Economy Still Expanding at Rapid Pace (DAVID LEONHARDT and VIKAS BAJAJ, 4/28/06, NY Times)

Gas prices are rising, as are mortgage rates. House prices in many once-hot markets have started slipping. The American automobile industry shows no sign of recovery. And the paychecks of most workers have not even kept up with inflation over the last four years.

Yet the national economy continues to speed ahead, with families and businesses spending money at an impressive pace. Forecasters expect the Commerce Department to report this morning that the economy grew at a rate of around 5 percent in the first quarter, the biggest increase since 2003.

The industries leading the way are ones that have been receiving far less attention than cars or real estate, though they have been adding thousands of new workers each month. In the last year, hospitals, doctors' offices and other health care employers have created almost 300,000 jobs; restaurants have added 230,000; and local governments — including schools — have added 170,000.

"The good news for the U.S. is that growth has diversified," said Nariman Behravesh, chief economist at Global Insight, an economic research firm. "We aren't just relying on the consumer and housing."

U.S. Economy Grew 4.8% in 1st Qtr, Most in Two Years (Bloomberg, 4/28/06)
The U.S. economy expanded in the first quarter at an annual pace of 4.8 percent, the fastest in more than two years, led by resurgent consumer spending and the biggest jump in business investment since 2000.

The rise in gross domestic product, the value of all goods and services produced in the U.S., followed a 1.7 percent annual rate of increase in the previous three months, the Commerce Department reported today in Washington. Consumer spending on durable goods such as appliances rose the most since 2001.

Growth in jobs and wages and unseasonably warm weather spurred shopping at retailers and auto dealers, while businesses invested in equipment and software at the fastest pace in six years. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke yesterday said growth may moderate as the year progresses and allow the Fed to pause in its series of interest-rate increases.

Market fuel prices drop (Patrice Hill, April 28, 2006, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

Oil and gasoline prices took another tumble in New York trading yesterday on signs of increasing supplies and slackening demand in the United States and China, adding to an 18-cent drop in wholesale gas prices that likely will produce relief at the pump in the days ahead. [...]

The biggest factors causing price drops have been signs that demand for gas is running about 1 percentage point behind last year's level -- most likely in response to the rapid run-up in pump prices since last month -- even as refineries are racing to take advantage of high prices and increase scarce supplies of summer fuels.

"At the end of the day, the best cure for high prices is high prices," said David Hackett, president of Stillwater Associates LLC, an energy-consulting company, noting that consumers are angry about high prices and apparently are beginning to balk at paying them.

If the Fed treats such price hikes as unsustainable they are.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:59 AM


'What the hell is going on?' (PETER HOWELL, 4/28/06, Toronto Star)

Those who say it is too soon for a film like United 93 should ask themselves if fear is keeping them from the truth.

On that terrible day of Sept. 11, 2001, we all kept wishing it were only a movie. I recall interviewing a woman who said, "If only Harrison Ford would come and save us from this."

Now the terror attacks of 9/11 have become a movie, one that paradoxically makes the horror seem more real. As real as the stomach ache I got watching United 93, brought on by the almost unbearable tension it achieves merely by presenting what we already know.

And yet this is a picture we all must see. It is a movie that matters.

The best films show without telling. There is no need for elaborate voiceovers or character exposition if what you are imparting reaches the corner of the brain where understanding is instinctual.

United 93, sensitively written and skilfully directed by Britain's Paul Greengrass, is such a work. It seeks not to take sides — both hawks and doves can and will embrace it — but rather to light history's lamp, so that clearer insights can be gained.

It continues to amaze how we've dropped the images of that day down the memory hole even as we fight a war.

Too Soon to Forget (James Pinkerton, 28 Apr 2006, TCS)

"United 93" is a paradoxical film.

On the one hand, it reminds us of the power of cinema. It's a difficult film to watch, but it's even more difficult not to be affected by it. Yet on the other hand, "93" uses few of the tricks directors use to enhance effect. It doesn't have to -- the thing speaks for itself.

Hijacking the Hijacking: The problem with the United 93 films (Ron Rosenbaum, April 27, 2006, Slate)
Could it be that the three films are a symptom of our addiction to fables of redemptive uplift that shield us from the true dimensions of the tragedy? Redemptive uplift: It's the official religion of the media, anyway. There must be a silver lining; it's always darkest before the dawn; the human spirit will triumph over evil; there must be a pony.

That's always been the subtextual spiritual narrative of media catastrophe coverage: terrible human tragedy, but something good always can be found in it to affirm faith and hope and make us feel better. Plucky, ordinary human beings find a way to rise above the disaster. Man must prevail. The human spirit is resilient, unconquerable. Did I mention there must be a pony?

9/11 is no different. Flight 93 has become 9/11's pony. The conjectural response to the hijacking has become (even more than the courage of the rescuers in the rubble) the redemptive fable we cling to, the fragment we shore against our ruin. Or so it is as envisioned in The Flight That Fought Back and Flight 93 and now United 93. A film in which, we are told by its production notes, we see "the courage that was born from … the crucible" of 9/11. A story of "something much larger than the event itself," Greengrass tells us, a story in which "we … find wisdom." One almost hears the subtext: This is "the feel-good film about 9/11."

To question this is not meant to take anything away from the heroism of the passengers on Flight 93. (Although to imply that they were the only ones who displayed courage in the face of the events of that day is to slight the cops and firefighters who rushed into the Twin Towers, many of whom never returned alive.)

Still, the director makes a case that, even more than the "first responders," the Flight 93 passengers were the first to recognize and confront the barbarism of al-Qaida, "the first people to inhabit the post-9/11 world," the first to discover the "shape [of] something larger than the event itself—the DNA of our times," Greengrass—who seems to want to control the response of the first responders to his film—tells us.

But is the fable of Flight 93 the recompense that it's been built up to be? Does what happened on Flight 93 represent a triumph of the human spirit, a microcosmic model and portent of the ultimate victory of enlightenment civilization over theocratic savagery, as the prerelease publicity about the new film insists? Or is the story of United Flight 93 a different kind of portent, not "the DNA of our times," but rather the RIP?

I guess it depends on your definition, your threshold of uplift. Yes, it appears from the cockpit recordings recently released that something noble—a passenger uprising that disrupted the hijackers' plans—happened on that flight. But is it possible to separate it out from the other events of the day? In three out of four cases savage mass murderers prevailed. A "war on terror" has ensued; a war in Iraq followed. In neither case is it clear that the outcome is going to be favorable. The story of 9/11 as a whole increasingly seems a portent that Flight 93 was an aberration, and that those intent on suicidal martyrdom may well prevail over those who value human life over holy books. This possibility is something no one likes to dwell on, and in that sense the "triumphant" fable of Flight 93, genuinely heroic as it is, represents a comforting diversion. There must be a pony.

As a matter of fact though, rather few people--though obviously far too many--have been killed by al Qaeda while America has rapidly defeated it and radically altered the culture of the Middle East. The takeaway from 9-11 isn't ultimately nutbags killing Americans but Americans retaking control of history. After all, there are a fair number of Pear Harbor flicks too and it's hardly because we're afraid that Japan won.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:38 AM


10 great places in the USA to look up to a tree

"Only God can make a tree," poet Joyce Kilmer wrote. But it's people who plant them — and save them. Today is National Arbor Day. For inspiration, visit some of the USA's national champion trees or nominate the one in your backyard for the National Register of Big Trees. (The new 2005-06 list is online at americanforests.org and will be in the next issue of American Forests magazine, due next week.) Deborah Gangloff, executive director of American Forests, describes some of the champions to Anne Goodfriend for USA TODAY.

-National Arbor Day Foundation
-Arbor Day (Wikipedia
-Experiment takes root to keep American chestnut from perishing (JON RUTTER, 4/12/06, Lancaster Sunday News)

Forty years ago, from a remote bluff haunted by the stumps of a once great forest, Derek Pritts spirited a piece of the Holy Grail.

It was a single, toothed, canoe-shaped leaf, still green. "I was the only one in my class to find an American chestnut," Pritts recalled of that long-ago sapling. "I was very excited."

Pritts was a boy then, intent on a sixth-grade science project in rural Fayette County.

He went on to earn a Penn State degree in agriculture and become a waterways conservation officer for the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission here.

But he never forgot his childhood vow to "set things right" for the trees decimated by blight in the early 1900s.

Two weeks ago at Speedwell Forge Lake, he and other chestnut lovers embarked on a groundbreaking project to do just that.

They are establishing two groves of trees with seedlings and seed nuts gleaned through The American Chestnut Foundation and the American Chestnut Cooperators Foundation in 12 states.

Birches (Robert Frost, 1920)
When I see birches bend to left and right
Across the lines of straighter darker trees,
I like to think some boy's been swinging them.
But swinging doesn't bend them down to stay.
Ice-storms do that. Often you must have seen them
Loaded with ice a sunny winter morning
After a rain. They click upon themselves
As the breeze rises, and turn many-coloured
As the stir cracks and crazes their enamel.
Soon the sun's warmth makes them shed crystal shells
Shattering and avalanching on the snow-crust
Such heaps of broken glass to sweep away
You'd think the inner dome of heaven had fallen.
They are dragged to the withered bracken by the load,
And they seem not to break; though once they are bowed
So low for long, they never right themselves:
You may see their trunks arching in the woods
Years afterwards, trailing their leaves on the ground,
Like girls on hands and knees that throw their hair
Before them over their heads to dry in the sun.
But I was going to say when Truth broke in
With all her matter-of-fact about the ice-storm,
I should prefer to have some boy bend them
As he went out and in to fetch the cows--
Some boy too far from town to learn baseball,
Whose only play was what he found himself,
Summer or winter, and could play alone.
One by one he subdued his father's trees
By riding them down over and over again
Until he took the stiffness out of them,
And not one but hung limp, not one was left
For him to conquer. He learned all there was
To learn about not launching out too soon
And so not carrying the tree away
Clear to the ground. He always kept his poise
To the top branches, climbing carefully
With the same pains you use to fill a cup
Up to the brim, and even above the brim.
Then he flung outward, feet first, with a swish,
Kicking his way down through the air to the ground.
So was I once myself a swinger of birches.
And so I dream of going back to be.
It's when I'm weary of considerations,
And life is too much like a pathless wood
Where your face burns and tickles with the cobwebs
Broken across it, and one eye is weeping
From a twig's having lashed across it open.
I'd like to get away from earth awhile
And then come back to it and begin over.
May no fate wilfully misunderstand me
And half grant what I wish and snatch me away
Not to return. Earth's the right place for love:
I don't know where it's likely to go better.
I'd like to go by climbing a birch tree~
And climb black branches up a snow-white trunk
Toward heaven, till the tree could bear no more,
But dipped its top and set me down again.
That would be good both going and coming back.
One could do worse than be a swinger of birches.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:35 AM


White House wants to change mileage standards for passenger cars (AP, 4/27/06)

The Bush administration asked Congress on Thursday to give it the authority to change fuel economy standards for passenger cars amid rising gas prices and growing concerns about the nation's energy security.

Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta wrote House and Senate leaders asking for Congress to — for the first time — allow it to create a similar program it recently completed for pickups, sport-utility vehicles and vans.

"Along with other previously announced energy policies, the president believes these actions are critical to promoting our nation's energy security and independence," Mineta wrote.

Set higher standards and let automakers innovate ways to attain them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:33 AM


TSA tries bonuses to retain workers (Thomas Frank, 4/27/06, USA TODAY)

The Transportation Security Administration will pay airport screeners up to a $1,000 bonus to entice them to stay at the turnover-plagued agency as it prepares for a summer of record air travel.

Roughly one in four screeners left last year, a rate nearly twice the rest of the federal workforce. Gale Rossides, an associate TSA administrator, said the bonuses are aimed at preventing a screener shortage during the upcoming peak travel months — when long lines could lead to higher security risks for travelers. [...]

Screeners make $23,504 to $44,580 depending on experience and where they work. Rossides said many screeners leave in their first year as they struggle to adjust to fluctuating work schedules and a "hectic pace."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:12 AM


Commenter Tim Fellows and daughter, Kelly, stopped by during their college visit last week.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 7:07 AM


A terrifying, Gore-splattered frightfest! (Chris Knight, National Post, April 28th, 2006)

With the Hot Docs film festival starting its 10-day run in Toronto today, the Trailer Tracker turns its gaze to another new documentary that looks at the hot topic of global warming.

"It will shake you to your core," it begins, spelling out the words in a font that must be Helvetica Ominous. "If you love your planet ... If you love your children ... You have to see this film."

And then comes the voice. Not the deep trailer voice, but the slightly more nasal and southern-sounding voice of Al Gore, the also-ran (and also-won) of the 2000 presidential election. His latest stump speech is not to get elected, but to save the planet: "If you look at the 10 hottest years ever measured," he says, "they all occurred in the last 14 years, and the hottest of all was 2005."

An Inconvenient Truth is director Davis Guggenheim's documentary about Gore's pro-Earth, anti-warming message of hope and, some say, more than a little fear. The trailer flashes through quick images of floods, fires, melting ice, hurricane-force winds and general catastrophe to the sound of beating kettle drums, while Gore intones: "This is really not a political issue so much as a moral issue."

The printed message picks up again by asking, "Last August ... Did the planet betray us ... Or did we betray the planet?" The shots of smoke rising from New Orleans seem like an echo of the smoking towers of New York on 9/11, a point Gore drives home by asking, "Is it possible we should prepare against other threats besides terrorists?"

Finally, as the scary music swells, we see the effects of rising ocean levels on Florida, Shanghai, Calcutta and lower Manhattan, which would become lower-than-sea-level Manhattan. "Think of the impact of a couple of hundred thousand refugees," Gore says, "and then imagine 100 million."

The trailer can be seen at (here). The film opens on June 2. It should be a hot ticket.

Surely this one will knock Reefer Madness off the cult circuit.

Posted by Matt Murphy at 12:20 AM


Can George Bush win back the press? (Howard Fineman, MSNBC, 4/27/06)

For the first time in his political career, George W. Bush finds himself in an uncomfortable position: he has to deal with the press on its terms, not his. For such a proud, controlling –- and, some would say arrogant -– guy, meeting the media at least half way won’t be easy. But he has no choice if he wants the last third of his presidency to amount to much. Bush has the charm to succeed, but the effort may require more candor than he can afford, more humility than he has, and more changes in policy than he will allow.

Put aside all the laughable assertions in that paragraph, and focus closely on the contention that Bush must -- absolutely must -- cuddle up to Mr. Fineman's journalistic colleagues in order to save his presidency.

Why exactly is that necessary? If the press simply reports the news and doesn't actually set the terms of the debate, that is at least a questionable proposal. If, on the other hand, journalists are like the rest of the human race and have real problems separating their biases from their work, then this idea may make some sense. For those with eyes to see, Mr. Fineman has just put a torch to the journalist's catechism.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


M's starters armed with hope (Bob Finnigan, 4/28/06, Seattle Times)

[T]he team ranked sixth in the league in earned-run average entering Thursday's games, with a 4.64 mark.

Even better, the starters have a 4.21 ERA, which was fourth in the league.

"We're only a couple of dozen games into the season, and it's a good start," said Jamie Moyer, who has had his team in every one of his five games. "But you have to get into the meat of the season to tell for sure who and what we are as a staff.

"However, on the whole, we have good ability and good arms. And some of our guys have shown maturation, that they've learned how to pitch. Others seem to be still learning."

The learned left-hander said the addition of Jarrod Washburn is a significant plus to the rotation.

"He knows what he's doing and he's a true competitor," Moyer said. "He's got some good ideas and he's not shy about expressing them."

Moyer also spoke well of the bullpen, where Rafael Soriano, in particular, J.J. Putz and lefty George Sherrill have given Hargrove a solid group to hold leads through the seventh and eighth innings.

One American League scout singled out that group, saying, "The back end of their bullpen looks good, kids coming of age."

Should closer Guardado continue his mysterious misery, Soriano and Putz give Seattle real options in his place.

Inside the numbers, the rotation is averaging almost six innings per starts and have held the opposition to three runs or fewer in 16 of 23 games.

With Soriano scored on in only one of 11 games, Sherrill in two of 11 and Putz three of 11, relievers have retired 37 of 60 first batters and stranded 24 of 34 inherited runners.

Washburn in particular is one of the most underrated starters in the AL.

Meanwhile, Up in flames - Indians burn Beckett, Sox (Jeff Horrigan, April 28, 2006, Boston Herald)

Prior to last night’s game, Red Sox manager Terry Francona lauded Josh Beckett for his fiery disposition on the mound, which has drawn the ire of opposing batters.

Hours later, however, Beckett was burned like never before on a major league mound, which resulted in a humiliating, 15-3 loss at Jacobs Field.

Beckett (3-1) turned in what was statistically the worst start of his career by getting pounded for a personal-worst nine runs on six hits and five walks in only 3 2/3 innings, including three home runs for the second consecutive outing. It marked the first time that a Red Sox pitcher allowed nine runs in a start since June 29, 2004, when Derek Lowe gave up nine in an 11-3 defeat at Yankee Stadium, and the most overall runs surrendered by the Sox since a 15-2 loss to Toronto at Fenway Park last July 1.

“There’s no excuse for tonight,” Beckett said. “It was brutal, brutal, brutal.”

If baseball were easy Europeans would play it.

April 27, 2006

Posted by Matt Murphy at 11:58 PM


Rosie O'Donnell Named New 'View' Co-Host (Access Hollywood, 4/27/06)

Access Hollywood has learned that Rosie O'Donnell will be named as the newest co-host of "The View," replacing the exiting Meredith Vieira.

ABC will reportedly make the official announcement will be made tomorrow, Friday, April 28.

O'Donnell will replace Vieira who is leaving to replace the departing Katie Couric on NBC's "Today."

They don't deserve Patricia Heaton anyway.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:51 PM


Kennedy faces fight on Cape Wind: Key lawmakers oppose his bid to block project (Rick Klein, April 27, 2006, Boston Globe)

As record oil prices turn attention to the need for renewable fuels, momentum is building in Congress to buck Senator Edward M. Kennedy's bid to block the proposed Cape Cod wind energy project, potentially reviving efforts to construct the sprawling windmill farm in Nantucket Sound.

The chairman and the top Democrat on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources committee said yesterday that when the bill Kennedy backs that would effectively halt the wind farm comes up for a vote in the Senate, they will object on procedural grounds. They say they'll argue that a renewable energy project shouldn't be lumped in with a bill governing the Coast Guard.

Meanwhile, a group of rank-and-file House members, worried about the political ramifications of rejecting alternative energy sources while motorists pay $3 a gallon at the gas station, have persuaded House leaders to sidetrack the entire bill for at least several weeks, even though it was slated for action this week. The delay could give supporters of the wind farm time to make their case to members of Congress.

''Are we going to be for developing alternative energy or not?" said Representative Charles Bass, a New Hampshire Republican who helped persuade House leaders to table the bill until at least mid-May. ''The longer you delay it, the longer there is for people to examine the issue, and to determine what's going on here."

If you just put a propeller in front of him when he talks the Senator could power at least a third of Washington DC.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 8:11 PM


Why Run After a Ball (Simon Jeffery, Guardian Newsblog, April 27th, 2006)

Iraq the Model reveals the radical Shia cleric's views on the beautiful game. It is not clear when his comments were made, but the tone of them makes it unlikely that either the prospect of an Arsenal versus Barcelona Champion's League final or "Big Phil" Scolari taking on the England job would do much to sway him.

Football - according to Iraq the Model's translation - has done little but distract Arab minds while, Mr Sadr suggests, the US and Israel "mostly turned to scientific things".

He explains: "The west made things for us that distract us ... made us run after a ball, habibi."

The cleric asks what it means to "see a man, big tall and wide and Muslim" run after a ball (clearly, he is no fan of soon-to-retire Zinedine Zidane). He suggests the goals a believer pursues should be those that "reach for the satisfaction of almighty Allah".

Mr Sadr then delivers the thrust of his argument - that Arabs would do better if they wasted less time on football.

Canadian hockey consultants are on their way as we speak

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:06 PM


Hamas Poses Dilemma for Egypt, Jordan (Ori Nir, April 28, 2006, The Forward)

Jordan and Egypt, the two Arab countries that have signed peace treaties with Israel, have called on Hamas to endorse the Arab League's peace plan of 2002, which involves full recognition of and peace with Israel in return for an Israeli withdrawal to the pre-1967 borders. Egypt and Jordan are not conditioning their contact with Hamas on its acceptance of the Arab League plan, but officials in both Cairo and Amman are making it clear to Hamas that it will enjoy only limited support unless it accepts Israel and renounces terrorism.

"The issue for [Jordan's King] Abdullah and Mubarak is not so much changing Hamas as it is not creating the conditions for it to become a successful alternative to Fatah," said a Western diplomat in Washington who follows Arab politics. "For both of them, the notion that an Islamist party across the border can take power and effectively rule is a serious threat," the diplomat said.

That sense of threat, experts say, is shared by other Arab regimes, albeit to a lesser extent.

In an interview with the Forward, the Arab League's ambassador to Washington, Hussein Hassouna, confirmed that such thinking in Arab capitals "might be in the background." He emphasized, however, that the Arab League does not support the isolation of Hamas. Instead, he said, the goal should be "to convince the new government to evolve its position [in support of a two-state solution] by engaging them."

For Jordanian and Egyptian officials, popular support in their countries for the Palestinian population makes it difficult to pressure Hamas, some observers said.

"They are going to have to try to walk a tightrope on this thing, so they are seen as supporting the Palestinian people but not necessarily supporting Hamas," said Edward Walker, former assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs. Walker also served as America's ambassador to Israel.

"It's a tricky road," said Walker, who is now president of Washington's Middle East Institute, "but clearly, they do not want to see [the Hamas government] succeed."

It's not all that tricky, just condition the support on Hamas's acceptance of Israel, like everyone else is doing.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:54 PM


Unions' Advice Is Failing Teachers: Labor groups have joined forces with investment firms to steer members into savings plans that often have high expenses and poor returns. (Kathy M. Kristof, April 25, 2006, LA Times)

Some of the nation's largest teachers unions have joined forces with investment companies to steer their members into retirement plans with high expenses that eat away at returns.

In what might seem an unlikely partnership, the unions endorse investment providers, even specific products, and the companies reciprocate with financial support. They sponsor union conferences, advertise in union publications or make direct payments to union treasuries.

The investment firms more than recoup their money through sales of annuities and other high-fee products to teachers for their 403(b) plans — personal retirement accounts similar to 401(k)s.

New York State United Teachers, for instance, receives $3 million a year from ING Group for encouraging its 525,000 members to invest in an annuity sold by the Dutch insurance giant.

The National Education Assn., the largest teachers union in the country with 2.7 million members, collected nearly $50 million in royalties in 2004 on the sale of annuities, life insurance and other financial products it endorses.

Teachers unions across the country — including those in Las Vegas and San Diego and statewide teacher associations in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Oregon — have struck their own endorsement deals.

Unions in Dallas, Miami, Phoenix, Seattle and Atlanta, among others, refer members to products approved by the NEA and typically receive a share of endorsement revenue in return.

Many teachers say they presume an endorsement means their union has used its clout to get the best price, as unions do on products from eyeglasses to automobiles. But when it comes to retirement accounts, union backing is often a sign that the product will cost more, not less.

Buyers of an NEA-endorsed annuity sold by Security Benefit Life Insurance Co. pay annual fees totaling at least 1.73% of their savings. That is about 10 times as much as they would pay in 403(b) plans available from Vanguard Group, T. Rowe Price and other low-cost mutual fund providers.

The costliest option in the NEA-endorsed plan charges 4.85% a year. That means an investor would have to earn a return of nearly 5% just to break even.

Union leaders defend the endorsement deals and the prevalence of high-fee annuities.

Bad enough the unions exist to benefit teachers at the expense of students, but if they can't even get that part right they're really pointless.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 6:45 PM


Sigmund the Fraud (Roger Scruton, The Spectator, April 29th, 2006)

Freud was born 150 years ago, on 6 May 1856, the same year as Wagner finished work on Die Walküre, the work which dramatises all the themes, from dreams to incest, that were to fascinate Freud. There is no doubt in my mind that it was Wagner, not Freud, who got things right, and that a knowledge of Wagner’s masterpiece casts serious doubts on Freud’s claims to originality. However, Freud’s reputation remains as great today as it was in my youth, when the Kleinians, the Jungians and the Adlerians were disputing his legacy. The idea of sexual repression has entered the culture, as has the doctrine (not one of Freud’s) that repression is harmful. It is almost universally assumed that the mind has a large unconscious component, that the sex drive (the ‘libido’) is the motive of our primary attachments, and that we all have ‘complexes’ instilled in childhood according to the archetypal patterns proposed by Freud. And every now and then some commentator will tell us that these assumptions are not merely true but also the proven results of a genuine science. Freud, who assumed the mask of the objective observer, who presented his results as the inescapable conclusions of arduous empirical study, who repeatedly claimed that his psychological discoveries would one day be grounded in biology, is now widely accepted at mask-value. Freud the artist, Freud the literary critic, Freud the high priest of manipulation, Freud the sex-obsessed and cold-blooded enemy of womankind are rarely put on display, though all those personae lie behind the mask, and each is much closer to the original inspiration than the Freud to whom psychology now defers. [...]

It is especially hard to recognise the true nature of Freud’s genius, which lay not in his theories, which are bunkum, nor in his practice, which was inspired quackery, but in his astonishment. Freud saw mysteries where others saw facts. He recognised that the influence of parents on their children ran through deep and hidden channels, that it showed itself in every aspect of their future lives, and in no matter more fatefully than that of sexual desire. He pondered the mysteries of guilt, anxiety and mourning and tried to fathom them. He was amazed by both jokes and dreams, and offered a crazy diagnosis of their meaning. Where others saw muddle and eccentricity he imagined diseases of the soul, and set out to vanquish them. And in his case studies he presented unforgettable portraits of wrecked human beings, about whose flailing carcasses he patrolled like a jackal, tearing off pieces and holding them up to the light, which he imagined to be a light of science, but which was in fact a light of the imagination, transfiguring all on which it fell.

Freud suffered from the ‘charm of disenchantment’. Like Marx he was irresistibly drawn to explanations that demean us, and which turn our world-view upside down — or set it, as Marx insisted, ‘on its feet’. This is apparent in Freud’s theory of the ‘incest tabu’, which begins from a characteristic gesture of astonishment. Why is it that incest is not just avoided but forbidden? What explains the horror and the sense of pollution that caused Jocasta to hang herself and Oedipus to stab out his eyes? Freud leaps at once to his conclusion: that which is forbidden is also desired. And the horror is needed because the desire is great. If it is so great, it must be there in all of us, repressed but simmering, seeking the channels through which to flow in some disguised but virulent version.

A real scientist, observing the facts, would draw the opposite conclusion. Incest arouses horror not because we desire it but because we don’t. Why don’t we? First, because incest undermines the relationships on which the home is built, and so impedes the transfer of social capital; second, because communities that permit incest pay a genetic price. The horror is there because societies that lack it have all died out. The Freudian story is a fiction, believed not because of its explanatory power but because of its charm. We are thrilled by disenchantment, which seems to set us free from social norms. We watch with fascination as our ideals are punctured, and our gods brought down to earth. After this Götterdämmerung, we imagine, there will be a bleak but permissive dawn.

Even today, therefore, people are drawn to the most disenchanting of Freud’s theories, which is the theory of infantile sexual-ity. And once again the theory is upside-down. Children develop from blobs of needy flesh to rational adults, and their sexuality develops with them. Only with puberty does it begin to focus on the Other, since only then can sexual desire be integrated into personal life. Were it otherwise, then chaos would ensue, both in the home and in the reproductive potential of the community. Paedophilia horrifies us; but societies without the horror have all died out.

Freud simply cannot accept that kind of explanation. Instead of reading childish sexuality forward into its mature realisation in adult desire, he reads adult desire backwards, into the naive titillations of the child. By thus polluting the image of childhood he casts a spell over his readers. This is how it must be, he implies; and as with the theory of incest, we acquiesce in fascination as our last picture of innocence is destroyed.

As with his spiritual cohorts, Marx and Darwin, Freud was a superb conjurer. He somehow managed to reduce our notion of man to an insignificant, meaningless, enslaved and rather sordid accident while at the same time persuading us that he held the key to significance, meaning, liberation and purpose.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:12 PM


Iraq cleric calls for disarmament (BBC, 4/27/06)

Ayatollah Ali Sistani, one of Iraq's most senior Shia clerics, has called for the next government to dismantle militias operating in the country.

The grand ayatollah said only the government should have weapons, and its forces should be loyal to the nation - not to individual political parties. [...]

During a meeting in Najaf, the ayatollah told Mr Maliki he had to end bombings, drive-by shootings and kidnappings, fight corruption and restore electricity and clean drinking water.

Ayatollah Sistani also urged Mr Maliki to form a government of leaders who would put the national interest above "their personal, party or sectarian interests".

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:01 PM


House OKs deadly force in public (KEVIN LANDRIGAN, 4/27/06, Nashua Telegraph)

The gun owners lobby scored a surprising reversal Wednesday, winning final approval of a bill that lets anyone use deadly force when attacked in public – even if retreating from an attacker is an option.

Under current law, deadly force can be used only if people are threatened in their home, or if in public they are the target of a deadly attack, a kidnapping or attempted rape. In other situations, retreat is required.

After a campaign by gun rights groups, House membersWednesday embraced expanding the deadly force law, on a vote of 193-134. Only five weeks ago, they had cast a lopsided measure against a similar bill.

The Senate already approved the bill, which goes now to Gov. John Lynch. The governor has “concerns” about the bill, but has yet to decide if he’ll sign or veto it, according to his communications director, Pamela Walsh.

There has to be some bogus bill the GOP could bring to the floor in Congress along these lines that would make Democrats go on record against the gun wahoos. Nothing would help more in the Fall.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:09 PM


In iTunes War, France Has Met the Enemy. Perhaps It Is France. (AUSTAN GOOLSBEE, 4/27/06, NY Times)

In their fervor to free listeners from the shackles of their iPods, French politicians have abandoned one of the guiding principles of antitrust economics: penalize companies that harm consumers, not the ones that succeed by building better products.

Antitrust authorities normally follow well-established procedures when considering such moves. They weigh the loss to consumers of not being able to play iTunes songs on other players against the damage that forcing iTunes to open might have on innovation. France's own Competition Council did a similar analysis in 2004 and ruled that Apple's refusal to share the iTunes codes did not harm consumers. The legislature paid no mind to such analysis and seems not to have considered innovation at all. Therein lies the danger.

Apple largely created the online market for legal music. The record labels' own attempts flopped embarrassingly. Until iTunes, virtually no one paid for online music. Since then, iTunes has sold more than one billion songs. Its success comes largely from two crucial innovations.

First, Apple's music store is simple and works extremely well with the iPod. Find the music. Click "Buy It." Drag the files onto the iPod icon. That's it. Experiences with other players and music stores are far more complicated.

Further, iTunes keeps getting better. Apple has added video capability, celebrity play lists, exclusive music, the ability to convert home movies into iPod format, and many other features — all free.

Second, iTunes has lots of music. Largely because of the innovative iTunes FairPlay copy protection and digital rights management software, Apple persuaded major record labels to let them sell much of their best content online. The combination of simplicity and variety proved a huge winner.

If the French gave away the codes, Apple would lose much of its rationale for improving iTunes. [...]

Sharing the iTunes codes would undermine the two innovations that Apple used to create the online market for legal music in the first place. With France accounting for only 5 percent of iTunes sales, Apple would probably shut down iTunes in France rather than give up the codes.

We could use some more trusts that give away their product for free.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:58 AM


The Murderer Next Door: The limits of sociobiology: a review of The Murderer Next Door: Why the Mind Is Designed to Kill, by David M. Buss (Theodore Dalrymple, 24 April 2006, City Journal)

All this fits quite well with the data, as does the fact that stepfathers are 40 times more likely to kill a stepchild than is a biological father to kill his child. A stepfather wants his woman to attend to his offspring, not those of another man (do not lions routinely kill the cubs of the lioness’s former impregnator?). But the example of stepchildren actually demonstrates the limitations of sociobiological explanation as well as its strengths: for the fact is that, even if stepfathers kill stepchildren 40 times more often than biological parents, only one in 2,000 stepchildren dies at his stepfather’s hand.

With this statistic in mind, it follows that the best reproductive strategy for men, if they were really concerned mainly to spread their genes, would be to father as many children as possible, and then desert them to the care of stepfathers, secure in the knowledge that only one in 2,000 of their children will be killed. The time that a biological father would otherwise have devoted to—wasted in—supporting his own offspring would now be free to devote to impregnating hundreds or thousands of women and thereby spreading his genes far and wide. Meanwhile, hundreds or thousands of foolish stepfathers would be raising children who were not theirs, and in the process putting themselves hors de combat in the biological competition.

One might argue that something approaching this state of affairs has developed in the western world’s lower-class ghettoes. But then why has it not existed throughout human history, if the principle determinant of human behavior were of the kind sociobiologists propose?

There is nothing in Buss’s book as to why the murder rate in the United States was 1.5 per 100,000 in 1900 and 10 per 100,000 in 1990 (and the rate would have been 50 per 100,000 if not for improvements in the medical treatment of trauma). There is nothing either as to why the murder rate in Japan was one eleventh that of the United States in 1990. Are the Japanese sociobiologically different from the Americans? Were the Americans of a century ago sociobiologically different from the Americans of today?

The explanatory force of sociobiology, contrary to its practitioners’ claims, is slight when it comes to human behavior—precisely where the discipline’s aspirations are greatest.

One of the most amusing things about Darwinists is the staggering amount of nonsense they're required to believe while denouncing faith.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:43 AM


Science in Wonderland: Getting some perspective (250 million years' worth) on the evolution controversy. (John Wilson, 04/05/2006, Christianity Today)

The contempt that many scientists have expressed for Intelligent Design knows no bounds, but it can be summarized in a single dismissive sentence: "It's not science." Now string theory—that's another matter. String theory generates articles and grants and symposia. String theory has charismatic spokesmen like Brian Greene. (What is string theory? Ah, the universe is … made up of these … strings. Best if you read Greene's book, The Elegant Universe, or watch the accompanying DVD. You still won't understand it, but your ignorance, like mine, will be better informed.)

The man who is sometimes referred to as the father of string theory is Leonard Susskind, who is Felix Bloch Professor of Theoretical Physics at Stanford University and who recently published a book called The Cosmic Landscape: String Theory and the Illusion of Intelligent Design. You might wonder what a theoretical physicist is doing messing with questions of Intelligent Design. Isn't that a job for biologists?

Well, do you remember talk a few years back about the extreme improbability of all the conditions required for life as we know it evolving just so? The reaction of the science establishment was to huff and puff and hint darkly about stealth creationism. But many cosmologists took the question seriously—so seriously, in fact, that some of them began to argue that our universe is but one of an unimaginable number of universes, say 10500, in which case the features of any one universe (ours, for instance) are unremarkable.

This theory has not met with, shall we say, universal approbation, not least because it can't be empirically tested. You could even say it's not science, and some have said that, but they don't hiss the way they do when they talk about Intelligent Design.

And here is an interesting footnote. At the end of an interview in New Scientist, Leonard Susskind, a very engaging character, is asked—if his theory is ultimately not borne out—"Are we stuck with Intelligent Design?" And Susskind gives a candid answer that no doubt provoked wrath among many of his colleagues:

I doubt that physicists will see it that way. … I am pretty sure that physicists will go on searching for natural explanations of the world. But I have to say that if that happens, as things stand now, we will be in a very awkward position. Without any explanation of nature's fine-tunings we will be hard pressed to answer the ID critics. One might argue that a hope that a mathematically unique solution will emerge is as faith-based as ID.

Susskind was really very naughty to say that, and you can sense that he knew it.

Just stay in one place and the scientists will come back to you eventually.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:39 AM

IF JAILBIRDS VOTE THEN WHY CAN'T I? (via Bryan Francoeur):

Songbirds can learn basic grammar (AP, 4/26/06)

The simplest grammar, long thought to be one of the skills that separate man from beast, can be taught to a common songbird, new research suggests.

Starlings learned to differentiate between a regular birdsong "sentence" and one containing a clause or another sentence of warbling, according to a study in Thursday's journal Nature.
Brother Francoeur wants to know how long before Spain gives them the vote.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:18 AM


In U.A.E., Tradition Yields to Times (Anthony Shadid, April 27, 2006, Washington Post)

Zaabi lives in Fujairah, one of seven small monarchies that make up the United Arab Emirates, along the turquoise waters of the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman. When she was a child, fishing and farming brought in a few dollars. Today, the annual per capita income is more than $21,000 and nearly 10 percent of the world's oil is within the emirates' borders. There are 88 cellphones for every 100 people.

From beneath her black gown, Zaabi pulled out one of those devices and belted out a string of salutations.

"I'll call you later," she shouted. "I have guests now."

And back she ventured to a reservoir of memory, the relics of another life that she has collected over the years near her home.

"There weren't dishwashers in those days," she said. "It was all by hand, and it was torture."

She pointed to a lantern, obsolete with the advent of electricity. "We used this back then," she said.

Zaabi grasped a hanging bag, woven of palm fronds, where fruit and salted meat once hung, cooled by a breeze. Then she hurried to a sheepskin pouch that, when shaken, turned milk to cheese.

"Beautiful!" she cried out, and she moved on to a saddle, stitched of worn leather.

"You'd put it on the donkey's back and then you would ride," she said -- two days to Abu Dhabi, the capital, or two months across the desert to Mecca, the destination of the Muslim pilgrimage. "Thank God, it's not like that now."

"Sheik Zayed," she said simply. "God rest his soul."

Sheik Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan was the founder of the United Arab Emirates, in 1971, and he presided over the country's modernization until his death in 2004. A simple man, albeit with tremendous wealth, he is remembered fondly here, credited by many with maintaining tradition amid change. Those forces are still at work today -- with the breakneck growth of booming Dubai, where English has become a lingua franca, and with the vestiges of the past in a place like Fujairah, population 130,000, where conversations celebrate the success of Dubai, the U.A.E. capital, and recoil at its materialism, competition and, in the eyes of some, greed.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:09 AM


Conservatives grow more popular (ALEXANDER PANETTA, 4/27/06, Canadian Press)

The Conservatives have seized a commanding lead in popularity over the Liberals and inched into majority-government territory, says a new survey released Wednesday.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Tories held a 15-point advantage over the Liberals and broke past what is considered the benchmark for winning a majority government, says the Decima poll.

Nothing's impossible in politics, but the idea that Democrats will sweep the GOP from office in November requires a belief that America will trand to the Left at a time when every other nation in the Anglosphere, plus Germany, Poland, & Japan are trending Right. Theoretically possible, but it has never happened before.

No Outcry About Lobby Scandal, Lawmakers Say (Jeffrey H. Birnbaum and Thomas B. Edsall, 4/27/06,
Washington Post)

The scandal surrounding disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff has been a Washington obsession for months, but Republican lawmakers who returned from a two-week recess this week said they felt free to pass a relatively tepid ethics bill because their constituents rarely mention the issue.

One key component of the inside the Beltway belief in a Democrat takeover is the insistence that 1994 was about scandal, not about ideas. The opposite is, of course, the case

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:54 AM


What FDR Teaches Us: Long Shadow: A new book relives his first 100 days. Have a look, Mr. President. (Jonathan Alter, 5/01/06, Newsweek)

On one level, it's unfair to compare a sitting president to his predecessors, especially when he has more than two and a half years to go. And it's doubly unfair to compare George Walker Bush, currently experiencing some of the lowest approval ratings in the history of polling, to Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who is on the list of even conservative historians as one of our best presidents. But juxtaposing the two men may shed some light on both Roosevelt's unusual gifts and Bush's current troubles. FDR's presidency can offer some useful lessons—for today's White House, and for anyone intrigued by the mysteries of leadership. [...]

Two weeks after barely dodging assassination in Miami in February of 1933, Roosevelt took office and performed a similar conjuring act on a larger stage. With the banks closed and millions of Americans wiped out, FDR used his "first-class temperament" to treat the mental depression of Americans without curing their economic one. In the days following his "fear itself" Inaugural and first "Fireside Chat," the same citizens who had lined up the month before to withdraw their last savings from the bank (and stuff it under the mattress or tape it to their chests) lined up to redeposit patriotically. This astounding act of ebullient leadership marked the "defining moment" of modern American politics, when Roosevelt saved both capitalism and democracy within a few weeks and redefined the bargain—the "Deal"—the country struck with its own people.

In "The Defining Moment," my new book examining FDR's election and storied Hundred Days, I don't draw explicit comparisons with Bush. But they're hard to ignore.

In fact, as David M. Kennedy points out in his entirely orthodox liberal history of the period for the Oxford History of the United States, Freedom from Fear, FDR's hundred Days were a complete flop and it was only several terms later that the economy started growing again in any meaningful way, largely because we were building stuff to sell to the Europeans who were at war. Meanwhile, the notion that capitalism and democracy were in any peril is the kind of claptrap you get from folks who don't believe in them to begin with, else they'd not think them so fragile.

It is worth considering though what George W. Bush would have accomplished with a congressional majority and a landslide victory of the size that FDR was handed by circumstances in 1932. The undoing of the New Deal/Great Society would be much further along, with personalized retirement accounts, universal school vouchers and perhaps even some kind of universal HSAs. We'll likely still manage to undo the damage FDR caused, but it will take a while longer.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:43 AM


America, Minus A Human Factor: From Guns to Bunions, A Statistical Portrait That Doesn't Quite Add Up (Joel Garreau, 4/27/06, Washington Post)

In 1979, there were an estimated 29,869,000 pot tokers in this country, but that number dropped pretty steadily, to 18,710,000 in 1998. Cocaine users dropped dramatically, from 10,459,000 in 1982 to 3,664,000 in 1995, before going up by half a million two years later. What was that about? Crack?

Such random, mind-boggling connections are the beauty and sensational weirdness of the recently released, 28.5-pound, $825, five-volume Historical Statistics of the United States, Millennial Edition.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:31 AM


Bad Fences Make Bad Neighbors (Joseph Richey, 4/27/06, AlterNet)

President Bush has publicly promoted a guest worker program and called massive deportation "unrealistic," but when he's not on the podium, he's already expanding an immigration plan that's not so immigrant-friendly.

With Bush's approval, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff has ordered new and expanded programs on the frontier in Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and internally at Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and its Office of Detention and Removal (DRO). Their 2007 budget request seeks ten times more funding for detention and removal than it does for employer violations and apprehension.

Precisely the message the Administration is trying to sell.

April 26, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:20 PM


Dow ends at 6-year high (Chris Sanders, 4/26/06, Reuters)

Stocks ended higher on Wednesday, with the Dow industrials hitting a 6-year high, buoyed by stronger-than-expected earnings from companies such as top brewer Anheuser-Busch Cos. and a key broker's dropping its "sell" rating on General Motors Corp.

The latest string of results in a stronger-than-forecast earnings season overshadowed investors' worries about rising interest rates after orders in March for durable goods such as airplanes and refrigerators surpassed expectations. [...]

The Dow Jones industrial average ended up 71.24 points, or 0.63 percent, at 11,354.49, its highest close since January 19, 2000.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:57 PM


Monday's act heroic after 30 years (Ben Platt, 04/25/2006, MLB.com)

It was 1976, a fun year for America. It was the country's bicentennial, the war in Vietnam had ended a year earlier and everyone really wanted to put all the problems from the 1960s, Watergate and Vietnam behind them and just enjoy the country's yearlong 200th birthday party.

On April 25, the Chicago Cubs were visiting Dodger Stadium for a three-game series. Playing center field for the Cubs was Rick Monday, the first player taken in the amateur draft that was created 11 years earlier. Monday was born and raised in Santa Monica, Calif., so playing in front of his friends and family was always special to him. On this day, fate would hand Monday a moment that people still talk about with reverence 30 years later. Monday recounts the moment in his own words.

"In between the top and bottom of the fourth inning, I was just getting loose in the outfield, throwing the ball back and forth. Jose Cardenal was in left field and I was in center. I don't know if I heard the crowd first or saw the guys first, but two people ran on the field. After a number of years of playing, when someone comes on the field, you don't know what's going to happen. Is it because they had too much to drink? Is it because they're trying to win a bet? Is it because they don't like you or do they have a message that they're trying to present?

"When these two guys ran on the field, something wasn't right. And it wasn't right from the standpoint that one of them had something cradled under his arm. It turned out to be an American flag. They came from the left-field corner, went past Cardenal to shallow left-center field.

"That's when I saw the flag. They unfurled it as if it was a picnic blanket. They knelt beside it, not to pay homage but to harm it as one of the guys was pulling out of his pocket somewhere a big can of lighter fluid. He began to douse it.

"What they were doing was wrong then, in 1976. In my mind, it's wrong now, in 2006. It's the way I was raised. My thoughts were reinforced with my six years in the Marine Corp Reserves. It was also reinforced by a lot of friends who lost their lives protecting the rights and freedoms that flag represented.

"So I started to run after them. To this day, I couldn't tell you what was running through my mind except I was mad, I was angry and it was wrong for a lot of reasons.

They also have the game call by Vin Scully, who speaks for every decent American.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:45 PM


China grapples with a labor dragon (Antoaneta Bezlova, 4/27/06, Asia Times)

Labor unrest has surged despite the Chinese authorities' efforts to keep workers quiet. The CCP has found itself unable to intervene because the proportion of the workforce belonging to the official state-run trade union, the All China Federation of Trade Unions, has declined and now represents a minority of workers.

Most of the industrial workforce no longer works in state factories, but in private enterprises, foreign-invested factories, and a huge cluster of enterprises run by local governments. Even in state factories, union enrollment has been falling, since the legal union body is run by the CCP.

The result has been a proliferation of underground and illegal trade unions and a dramatic surge in labor disputes.

"The government's use of anti-union tactics such as crackdowns on industrial actions and imprisonment of those fighting for workers' rights is simply fanning the flames of what is emerging to be a major threat to their own rule," said the ICFTU report.

China labor watchers said many of the disputes related to workers demanding that employers paid them the minimum wage. Many employers have been able to take advantage of the ignorance of their workforce and pay rates half those set by the authorities, and they add on unrestricted overtime.

For example, in the export-processing hub of Shenzhen, which offers the highest minimum wage, the rate is set at 690 yuan (US$85) per month. But studies show that average manufacturing wages are only between 38% and 75% of this minimum.

However, there is growing pressure from inside and outside the country to raise labor regulations to international standards.

As your economy develops and folks demand rights, including decent wages, you price their labor right out of the market and the jobs move to the next country.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:39 PM


Record 20,692 foreign kids lack Japanese fluency (Japan Times, 4/27/06)

The number of foreign students in public schools who require classes in Japanese as a second language rose to 20,692 as of last September, up 5.2 percent from the prior year and topping 20,000 for the first time, the education ministry said Wednesday.

From Ireland, EU hears hum of cheap labor: By Monday, Western Europe must decide whether to lift restrictions on low-wage Eastern European immigrants. (Peter Ford, 4/27/06, The Christian Science Monitor)
Foreigners, who made up 3 percent of the population six years ago, now make up nearly 10 percent, says Macdara Doyle, spokesman for the Irish Congress of Trade Unions. "This is going to have massive economic and social consequences that are going to start showing up soon," he warns.

So far, most of the economic consequences have been good. The Eastern European migrants have filled gaps in the job market, fueling the "Celtic Tiger" boom that has seen the highest growth rates in Europe, and increased the government's tax and social security revenues.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:37 PM


$ 26 billion bill coming Japan's way: Pentagon (JJapan Times, 4/27/06)

Tokyo will be paying an estimated $ 26 billion or more to implement the overall U.S. military realignment in Japan over six to seven years, compared with Washington's share of $ 4 billion, a senior Pentagon official said Tuesday.

Posted by pjaminet at 8:06 PM


Peace Corp. (Boston Globe, 4/23/2006)

THREE YEARS OF FIGHTING in the Darfur region of Sudan have left an estimated 180,000 dead and nearly 2 million refugees. In recent weeks, both the UN and the US have turned up the volume of their demands to end the violence (which the Bush administration has publicly called genocide), but they've been hard pressed to turn their exhortations into action. The government in Khartoum has scuttled the UN's plans to take control of the troubled peacekeeping operations currently being led by the African Union, and NATO recently stated publicly that a force of its own in Darfur is ''out of the question."...

But according to J. Cofer Black, vice chairman of the private security firm Blackwater, there is another option that ought to be on the table ...

A few weeks ago, at an international special forces conference in Jordan, Black announced that his company could deploy a small rapid-response force to conflicts like the one in Sudan. "We're low cost and fast," Black said, "the question is, who's going to let us play on their team?"...

Private military companies have had a hard time convincing the international community that privatizing peacekeeping would be as good for Darfur, and for the rest of the world, as for their industry.... Kofi Annan ... [once declared] that "the world is not yet ready to privatize peace."

Just as with health care, education, telephones, and every other pastime, so with peace. If you oppose privatizing it, you oppose it.

Posted by Matt Murphy at 7:41 PM


Kerry still undecided on Nantucket Sound wind farm (Andrew Miga, AP, 4/26/06)

Think of all the John Kerry jokes you could wring out of that headline alone.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:50 PM

WORK WITH ME, ME (via Tom Morin):

The dying animal: In the post-religious world of Philip Roth's fiction, humans do not have immortal souls. Death and desire is all we are. A S Byatt on a brief and bleak morality tale for our times: a review of Everyman by Philip Roth (A S Byatt, New Statesman)

Philip Roth is the great recorder of Darwinian Man - "unaccommodated man", who is no more than "a poor, bare, forked animal", as old King Lear observed. Roth has understood what it means to be a conscious creature, driven by sexual desire towards the death of the body, nothing more. [...]

Roth's characters inhabit a truly post-religious world, in which we do not have immortal souls, only sick, lively desire, and the dying of the animal. [...]

The body - his body, everyman's body - is the solid certainty in the story. [...]

Roth works with things, not with symbols or metaphors, but he chooses them craftily.

Though Ms Byatt cleverly gets off a couple double entendres there, she's obviously quite wrong about Mr. Roth, whose work is too onanistic to be Darwinian.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:53 PM


The spy who loved us - Oleg Penkovsky: KGB defector Oleg Penkovsky was dying to give America the Soviets' deepest secrets, So how did the CIA lose him?: The Spy Who Saved the World
by Jerrold L. Schecter, Peter S. Deriabin (Tim Weiner, May 1992 , Washington Monthly)

The Central Intelligence Agency knew little of value about the Soviet Union in the summer of T1960, when presidential candidate John F. Kennedy was terrifying voters with the fraudulent but powerful image of a missile gap. The fear of Soviet nuclear superiority was founded in ignorance. In 1960, there was no CIA station chief in Moscow and no station to speak of, no CIA officer who spoke Russian, no way to penetrate the steely Soviet shield -no one, in short, to listen when Oleg Penkovsky, a deeply disgruntled colonel in Soviet military intelligence who knew the truth about Soviet missilery, tried to deliver himself unto America. [...]

This book has something of the air of an official history, which should come as no surprise given that one author is a journalist and former White House spokesman and the other a KGB defector who served as a consultant to the CIA for 30 years. But the authors go beyond even the agency's glowing appraisal to anoint Penkovsky savior of the world, the spy whose intelligence kept the Berlin crisis of 1961 and the Cuban missile crisis from exploding into nuclear war.

The transcripts of Penkovsky's debriefings were generously bequeathed to the authors by the CIA under the Freedom of Information Act. (They were published in 1965, albeit in sanitized, souped-up, and somewhat fictionalized form, with the CIAs editorial assistance, as a purported spy's diary, The Penkovsky Papers. The current book's co-author, Peter Deriabin, translated the edited transcripts of the original CIA bestseller.) Lengthy excerpts of the conversations between Penkovsky and the CIA over the months in which they communed form the basic text of this book. They show-as The Penkovsky Papers did not -that this most valuable agent revealed that the Soviets were playing a game of liar's poker with their nuclear weapons.

U.S. strategic doctrine of the day called for the destruction of the Soviet Union and all its satellites with more than 5,000 nuclear weapons in the event of a Soviet invasion of Europe. Everything of strategic value from Poland to the Pacific would have been reduced, as a U.S. naval officer who saw the war plan of the late fifties observed, to "a smoking, radiating ruin" within two hours. The plan was developed after the U.S. Air Force invented the "missile gap" by creating and leaking estimates during the late fifties that the Soviets had hundreds of ICBMs and soon would have thousands.

Penkovsky divulged that the Soviets had a mere handful of ICBMs, whose electronics and fuel systems were dubious. Fans of Le Carre will see in Penkovsky the basis for Dante, the physicist in The Russia House who reveals Soviet rocketry to be as efficient as Soviet econometrics.

In their first meeting, Penkovsky told the CIA that "the Soviet Union is definitely not prepared at this time for war... Khrushchev is not going to fire any rockets." There was no Soviet ICBM force worth the name, though the Soviets were struggling furiously to catch up with the U.S.-a goal they would not achieve for nearly 20 years.

Not only was Khrushchev lying when he claimed Moscow was squeezing out intercontinental ballistic missiles "like sausages," but the Soviet Union's sausages were horsemeat. The economy was crumbling because "everything is subordinated to the armaments race." Penkovsky continued:

[In a land war in Europe] countless numbers of officers and soldiers would simply desert to the other side. This is because all of these ideals for which many of our fathers, brothers, and relatives died have turned out to be nothing but a bluff and a deceit. There is always the promise that things will be better, but actually nothing is better and things are only getting worse. I swear to you that only in Moscow and Leningrad can one even purchase decent food.... [Outside the cities] it is difficult to get bread. There are no roads, which results in unbelievable transportation delays and breakdowns; grain is rotting since it cannot be delivered.

The enemy was really nothing more than Upper Volta with rockets-and not many rockets at that.

Some myths are too precious for even the Right to give up, like the notion that the USSR was a threat and nuclear war unwinnable.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:36 PM


Japan pins hopes on 'speed dates' (Duncan Bartlett, 4/26/06, BBC World)

It's not everybody's idea of romance: meeting a rapid succession of people from the opposite sex, with bare minutes to make a connection before a bell signals it's time to move on.

But speed dating parties, as such events are known, are proving increasingly common in many countries.

In Japan, though, some are paid for by the government.

The hope is that by encouraging people to date, marry and start a family, the current demographic trend leading towards a shrinking population can be arrested.

It might not seem the most obvious scheme to tackle a falling birth rate, but it has proved extremely popular, and speed dating events happen across Japan every night of the week.

They seem to radically underestimate how much they need to change their culture.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:33 PM


900 foreign criminals go missing (Alan Travis, April 26, 2006, The Guardian)

An urgent hunt for more than 900 freed prisoners who should have been deported was under way last night after Charles Clarke shouldered responsibility for a "shocking administrative blunder" that had allowed them to stay in the country.

The Home Office said it had so far managed to track down only 107 of the 1,023 foreign nationals convicted of serious crimes who should have faced deportation over the past seven years.

Officials could not confirm that the five convicted killers and nine rapists in the list had been tracked down.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:28 PM


Socialists: Give apes human rights (Spain Herald, 4/25/06)

The Spanish Socialist Party will introduce a bill in the Congress of Deputies calling for "the immediate inclusion of (simians) in the category of persons, and that they be given the moral and legal protection that currently are only enjoyed by human beings." The PSOE's justification is that humans share 98.4% of our genes with chimpanzees, 97.7% with gorillas, and 96.4% with orangutans.

To be a secularist is to believe that the shared bits matter more than the distinctions.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:26 PM


President Announces Tony Snow as Press Secretary (George W. Bush, James S. Brady Briefing Room, 4/26/06)

THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. I'm here in the briefing room to break some news. I've asked Tony Snow to serve as my new press secretary.

Tony already knows most of you, and he's agreed to take the job anyway. (Laughter.) And I'm really glad he did. I'm confident Tony Snow will make an outstanding addition to this White House staff. I am confident he will help you do your job. My job is to make decisions, and his job is to help explain those decisions to the press corps and the American people.

He understands like I understand that the press is vital to our democracy. As a professional journalist, Tony Snow understands the importance of the relationship between government and those whose job it is to cover the government. He's going to work hard to provide you with timely information about my philosophy, my priorities, and the actions we're taking to implement our agenda.

He brings a long record of accomplishment to this position. He has spent a quarter of a century in the news business. He's worked in all three major media -- print, radio and television. He started his career in 1979 as an editorial writer for The Greensboro Record in North Carolina. He's going to -- went on to write editorials for The Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk. He ran the editorial pages in both The Daily Press of Newport News and The Washington Times. He's written nationally syndicated columns for both The Detroit News and USA Today.

During his career in print journalism, he's been cited for his work by the Society for Professional Journalists, the Associated Press, and Gannett. For seven years, he served as the host of "FOX News Sunday." Most recently, he reached Americans all across our country as the host of "The Tony Snow Show" on FOX News Radio, and "Weekend Live with Tony Snow" on the FOX News Channel.

He's not afraid to express his own opinions. For those of you who have read his columns and listened to his radio show, he sometimes has disagreed with me. I asked him about those comments, and he said, "You should have heard what I said about the other guy." I like his perspective, I like the perspective he brings to this job, and I think you're going to like it, too.

Tony knows what it's like to work inside the White House. In 1991, he took a break from journalism to serve as Director of Speechwriting and Deputy Assistant to the President for Media Affairs. He's taught children in Kenya. He belongs to a rock band called Beats Working. He's a man of courage, he's a man of integrity, he loves his family a lot. He is the loving husband of a fine wife, and the father of three beautiful children.

He succeeds a decent and talented man in Scott McClellan. I've known Scott since he worked for me in Texas. We traveled our state together, we traveled our country together, and we have traveled the world together. We have also made history together. Scott should be enormously proud of his service to our nation in an incredibly difficult job. I've always -- I will always be grateful to him. I will always be proud to call him, "friend."

I appreciate Scott's offer to help Tony Snow prepare for his new job, and I'm proud to welcome Tony as part of our team.

MR. SNOW: Well, Mr. President, I want to thank you for the honor of serving as Press Secretary. And just a couple of quick notes, I'm delighted to be here. One of the things I want to do is just make it clear that I -- one of the reasons I took the job is not only because I believe in the President, because believe it or not, I want to work with you. These are times that are going to be very challenging. We've got a lot of big issues ahead, and we've got a lot of important things that all of us are going to be covering together.

And I am very excited, and I can't wait, and I want to thank you, Mr. President, for the honor, and thank all you guys for your forbearance, and I look forward to working with you.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:22 PM


Ottawa considers joining rival to Kyoto Protocol
(BILL CURRY, 4/26/06, Globe and Mail)

The Conservative government is considering joining the Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate, considered a more lax rival to the Kyoto Protocol.

Environment Minister Rona Ambrose said yesterday that she is taking a close look at the partnership of the six countries -- the United States, India, China, Australia, South Korea and Japan -- that together produce more than half of the world's greenhouse gases.

Not a tough call whether to side with the US, India, and Australia or France and Germany, is it?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:31 AM


Jane Jacobs, 89; Writer, Activist Spoke Out Against Urban Renewal (Adam Bernstein, April 26, 2006, Washington Post)

Jane Jacobs, 89, a writer and activist who condemned urban-renewal efforts for devastating inner-city neighborhoods and, despite an initial reputation as a radical and heretic, was vindicated as an influential thinker on city planning, died April 25 at a hospital in Toronto. She apparently had a stroke, according to media reports.

The urban-renewal movement of the mid-20th century spent hundreds of millions of dollars clearing communities that were deemed slums, building low-income housing projects and creating parks and highways. Anyone criticizing the model, with its political backing, was not looked on kindly.

In this atmosphere came Mrs. Jacobs, a middle-aged, self-taught architectural and urban-planning specialist with Architectural Forum magazine. She was an incautious woman, at times disheveled in appearance, who tended to anger very powerful people. Several times, she courted arrest to speak out against plans by Robert Moses, a New York City commissioner whose portfolio included oversight of the city's parks and roads.

In her name-making book, "The Death and Life of Great American Cities" (1961), she recorded what she considered the human toll of urban renewal.

She spoke of the displacement of thousands of residents and the destruction of small, if untidy, communities whose diversity she said was crucial to a city's allure. She maintained that urban renewal worsened the problems it was intended to solve: high crime, architectural conformity and a general dullness infecting daily life.

She attacked the arrogance of city planners for making decisions without consulting those affected.

"The planner's greatest shortcoming, I think, is lack of intellectual curiosity about how cities work," she told the New York Times in 1969. "They are taught to see the intricacy of cities as mere disorder. Since most of them believe what they have been taught, they do not inquire about the processes that lie behind the intricacy. I doubt that knowledgeable city planning will come out of the present profession. It is more likely to arise as an offshoot of economics."

When "The Death and Life of Great American Cities" was published, the director of the American Society of Planning Officials urged members to "batten down the hatches." The usually urbane urban-planning expert Lewis Mumford, insulted by his portrayal in the book, wrote a critique of Mrs. Jacobs printed in the New Yorker magazine under the heading "Mother Jacobs' Home Remedies for Urban Cancer."

Others considered her a visionary.

Jane Jacobs, Urban Activist, Is Dead at 89 (DOUGLAS MARTIN, 4/25/06, NY Times)
Jane Jacobs, the writer and thinker who brought penetrating eyes and ingenious insight to the sidewalk ballet of her own Greenwich Village street and came up with a book that challenged and changed the way people view cities, died today in Toronto, where she lived. She was 89.

She died at a Toronto hospital, said a distant cousin, Lucia Jacobs, who gave no specific cause of death.

In her book "Death and Life of Great American Cities," written in 1961, Ms. Jacobs's enormous achievement was to transcend her own withering critique of 20th-century urban planning and propose radically new principles for rebuilding cities. At a time when both common and inspired wisdom called for bulldozing slums and opening up city space, Ms. Jacobs's prescription was ever more diversity, density and dynamism — in effect, to crowd people and activities together in a jumping, joyous urban jumble.

Ms. Jacobs's thesis was supported and enlarged by her deep, eclectic reading. But most compelling was her description of the everyday life she witnessed from her home above a candy store at 555 Hudson Street.

She wrote the book on cities (WARREN GERARD, Apr. 26, 2006, Totonto STAR)
Jane Jacobs was an urban fable.

She was a writer, intellectual, analyst, ethicist and moral thinker, activist, self-made economist and a fearless critic of inflexible authority.

Jacobs died yesterday in a Toronto hospital. She was 89. Her 90th birthday would have been next week.

An American who chose to be Canadian, Jacobs was a leader in the fights to preserve neighbourhoods and kill expressways, first in New York City, and then in Toronto.

Her efforts to stop the proposed expressway between Manhattan Bridge on east Manhattan and the Holland Tunnel on the west contributed toward saving SoHo, Chinatown, and the western part of Greenwich Village.

In Toronto, her leadership galvanized the movement that stopped the proposed Spadina Expressway. It would have cut a swath through the lively Annex neighbourhood and parts of the downtown.

Toronto Mayor David Miller, who called Jacobs both a friend and a mentor, interrupted yesterday's city council meeting to announce to his colleagues that Jacobs had died.

"The power of her ideas is what helped make this city choose a different path, a path where you have vibrant downtown neighbourhoods where people could live, a path where you didn't have expressways cutting through neighbourhoods," Miller told reporters.

"She gave me all sorts of advice over time. The way she gave you advice was she invited you over for tea. And you had tea and you talked and if you were smart, you kept quiet and you listened because you could really learn from Jane Jacobs."

Her son, Ned Jacobs, said in an interview from Vancouver that his mother had been in hospital for a few days.

"She died of old age. She just wore out," he said. "Every part of her was worn out. She was working as best she could right to the end."

Her first book, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, published in 1961, became a bible for neighbourhood organizers and what she termed the "foot people."

It made the case against the utopian planning culture of the times — residential highrise development, expressways through city hearts, slum clearances and desolate downtowns.

She believed that residential and commercial activity should be in the same place, that the safest neighbourhoods teem with life, short winding streets are better than long straight ones, lowrise housing is better than impersonal towers, that a neighbourhood is where people talk to one another. She liked the small-scale.

Former Toronto mayor David Crombie said that while people see her as a city builder, affecting the city form, her impact was much bigger and deeper.

"The most important thing she did for me and us was remind us that ideas matter, and the ideas that were most important are the ones that mattered to us," Crombie said.

Not hard to best Robert Moses and Lewis Mumford now, but she did it when they were riding high.

-Jane Jacobs (Wikipedia)
-Jane Jacobs Writing on the Web (The Preservation Institute)
-The Jane Jacobs Home Page
-INTERVIEW: Jane Jacobs Interviewed by Jim Kunstler (Metropolis Magazine, March 2001)
-INTERVIEW: City Views: Urban studies legend Jane Jacobs on gentrification, the New Urbanism, and her legacy. (Interviewed by Bill Steigerwald, June 2001, Reason)
-T.O. owes debt to Jacobs (CHRISTOPHER HUME, 4/26/06, Toronto Star)

More than most cities, Toronto owes a huge debt of gratitude to Jane Jacobs.

Jacobs, who died yesterday eight days short of her 90th birthday, loved this city almost as much as it loved her.

Even if she hadn't moved here from New York in 1968, she would have left this town a different place. But the mere fact of her presence, which the city wore like a badge of honour, ensured that her ideas were always close to the centre of any debate about the future of urbanism in Toronto.

Plain-spoken, utterly unpretentious, self-taught and full of sly humour, Jacobs was disarming in the directness of her opinions. She despised jargon and railed against experts, especially planners and politicians, whom she considered the cause of many of the problems that have plagued North American cities since the end of World War II.

In her seminal 1961 work, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, she did for urbanism what Rachel Carson's Silent Spring did for the environment. Though untrained in any formal sense — she studied neither urban planning nor architecture nor economics — Jacobs had the power of being able to see what was actually in front of her, rather than what she was told to see.

Indeed, she used to say she wrote Death And Life after having visited countless urban renewal projects in the 1950s that were never quite as their promoters described.

-Jane Jacobs (1916-2006) (FEE, April 26, 2006)
-REVIEW: of Cities and the Wealth of Nations by Jane Jacobs (John Chamberlain, The Freeman)
-REVIEW: of Systems of Survival: A Dialogue on the Moral Foundations of Commerce and Politics by Jane Jacobs (Peter J. Boettke, The Freeman)
-Building on Ideas for Urban Conservation (LINDA BAKER, March 4, 2001, NY Times)
-ARTICLE: Jane Jacobs still helping to shape cities: "Death and Life of Great American Cities" author influential guide to new generation of urban planners (CNN, November 23, 2000)
-PROFILE: CITIES AND SONGS (Adam Gopnik, 2004-05-17, The New Yorker)

Posted by Peter Burnet at 8:31 AM


Lazy and deceitful (Charles Clarke, The Guardian April 25, 2006)

Writing on these pages, Jenni Russell claimed that "Tony Blair's administration is removing the safeguards that protect all of us from the whims of a government and the intrusion of a powerful state. It is engaged in a ferocious power-grab." These are ridiculous assertions, unsupported by any hint of understanding of the balance of powers that exist in our society. This and other articles in the press are symptomatic of a more general intellectual laziness that seeks to slip on to the shoulders of modern democratic states the mantle of dictatorial power. Some of this flows from criticism of the US, particularly the policies of the Bush administration, notably in relation to Iraq, but more generally it is in criticism of the response of the US and UK to 9/11. Such criticism fails to understand the immense significance of 9/11.

From 1945 until the end of the 20th century it was the fight for democracy against dictatorship that dominated the media and politics. In that climate, the human rights of the individual in relation to the state were pre-eminent. It was in response to those imperatives that the UN conventions and the European convention on human rights were established.

However, as democracy has advanced so powerfully across the world, other rights become important too. The right to go to work safely on the tube. The right not to be killed by someone who has served his sentence for violent crime but remains dangerous. The right to live at home without being disturbed by antisocial behaviour outside the front door. None of these removes the right of any individual to exercise their freedoms in relation to the state. None of them removes the obligation on the state to operate in accordance with its national and international obligations under law. But when we respond, for example, with counter-terror legislation or proposals to control those criminals who are dangerous to society, many in the media retort that we are destroying democracy and constructing tyranny. And too many resort to misrepresentation and deceit to try to strengthen their case.

The left and far too many libertarians have locked themselves into a mindset where decency, public order and civility are viewed as antithetical to freedom.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:19 AM


Al-Qaeda jihad vs US 'long war' (Paul Reynolds, 4/26/06, , BBC News)

We...now have two almost simultaneous documents from the leading forces in the war and they are worth comparing.

There will be those who say that any comparison is odious but no professional intelligence officer I know would allow emotion to obscure analysis and it is on that basis that I proceed. [...]

The al-Qaeda leader lists about 20 struggles worldwide. It is important to know what they are. [...]

It is evident that Bin Laden has lost none of his determination in the years since 11 September 2001 ("the Manhattan conquest").

His manifesto is characterised by absolutism. Even the fight in Iraq is pitched in terms of protecting "monotheism", which is an implied rejection of the Iraqi majority, the Shias, according to Islamic scholars. [...]

Critics are already saying that the Pentagon will no doubt also demand the big-ticket items like new jet fighters and heavy equipment for the army.

But the thinking behind the review is to configure forces to better prevent or counter the kind of surprise attacks launched by al-Qaeda and its network of networks.

What the review does not get into, because it is not meant to, is the place that military tactics occupy in the wider strategy in such a long war.

The document does allude to this at the end by stating: "The United States will not win the war on terrorism... by military means... simultaneous, effective interaction with civilian populations will be essential to achieve success."

And of course the lesson from the Cold War is that it was not won by military means, though military strength certainly played a key role. It was won by one system collapsing.

That last is the only bit that approaches genuine insight here. The real takeaway is that the jihad movement is in the midst of an existential crisis, with pretty much the entire Islamic world liberalized or liberalizing to one degree or another. Its long war, which we could maybe date from the 80s, looks to be ending in collapse by the late aughts. Meanwhile, for America this is just the latest chapter in The Long War that has lasted for centuries. Islamicism is just the latest and last absolutist ism to claim that it offers a viable alternative to liberal parliamentary democracy and not only is it the weakest of the challengers so far but, coming so late in process, it finds few who take its claims seriously--unlike its fellow ideologies -- communism, nationalist socialism, etc. In effect, the system has already collapsed, all al Qaeda has left is faux military means. It can run around like a chicken with its head cut off -- and C-4 strapped to its back -- for awhile, but it's already lost the War.

Sudan, torn by war, could be vulnerable to al-Qaeda, experts say (Mohamed Osman and Alfred De Montesquiou, 4/24/06, ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Sudan dismissed Osama bin Laden's renewed calls for “jihad” in its troubled Darfur region, saying on Monday that it will not harbor terrorists or allow foreign interference in the country. [...]

The call made headlines in most of Sudan's newspapers Monday, but Khartoum's leadership seemed eager to dissociate itself from bin Laden, who was based in the country through much of the 1990s but thrown out in 1996.

“We are not concerned with such statements, or any other statement that comes from foreign quarters about the crisis in Darfur,” Sudanese Foreign Ministry spokesman Jamal Eldin Mohammad Ibrahim was quoted as saying by the Al Sahafa newspaper.

Sudan will cooperate with the international community to solve the ongoing humanitarian crisis “and we will not host any terrorist,” the spokesman said.

Osama no friend of Palestinians: The Islamic fundamentalism purveyed by al-Qa'ida is the enemy of moderate Muslims and secular Palestinians (Richard King, April 26, 2006, The Australian)
That sympathy for the Palestinian cause is widespread in the Islamic world is so obvious that it hardly needs to be said. But bin Laden is also very aware that Palestine is a hot-button issue in the West, where many liberal and left-wing commentators seem willing and even eager to believe that the rise of Islamic fundamentalism is attributable to American support for Israel. His pronouncements from the mid-1990s on are peppered with references to the Palestinians, but in recent years they have become more frequent. In my view, the reason for this is simple: these references have fallen on fallow ground.

Take, for example, Messages to the World: The Statements of Osama bin Laden, published by the left-leaning Verso Books. This book is a collection of bin Laden's pronouncements from 1994 to 2004, required reading for anyone interested in the real objectives of al-Qa'ida. And yet certain editorial decisions would appear to betray a hidden agenda.

For example, bin Laden's first major pronouncement (December 1994) is headed "The betrayal of Palestine". But the statement has less to do with Palestine than it does with the hated House of Saud and its tendency to put big business before Islam. The volume's editor, Bruce Lawrence, has chosen to give the issue of Palestine a prominence that the text does not warrant.

Probably Lawrence takes it for granted that bin Laden is motivated by the Palestinian cause. If so, he is certainly not alone. Recently, I had a conversation with a friend who said that she had a soft spot for bin Laden. I pointed out that bin Laden probably didn't have a soft spot for her - a female liberal and a lover of music - and that the kind of society he'd like to create would be a pretty grim place for her and her daughters.

Hamas rejects bin Laden message (Al-Jazeera, 23 April 2006)
Hamas and a Sudanese rebel group have distanced themselves from a statement from Osama bin Laden condemning the West for its actions in both countries. [...]

Bin Laden also called "upon the mujahidin and their supporters in Sudan and its surroundings - including the Arabian Peninsula - to prepare to lead a prolonged war against the "crusader robbers in western Sudan".

Ahmed Hussein, from the Justice and Equality Movement, a Sudanese rebel group, said: "We categorically reject these declarations.

"His words are completely disconnected from the reality in Darfur. Bin Laden is still preaching the theory of an American-Zionist conspiracy when the real problem comes from Khartoum, which is a Muslim government killing other Muslims."

He warned that such comments risked "encouraging the Khartoum regime to perpetuate injustice and its strategy against Darfur".

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:04 AM


Rice joins Rumsfeld in surprise visit to praise Iraq progress (AP, 4/26/2006)

America's top two foreign policy officials flew unexpectedly into Iraq separately Wednesday in a strong show of support for the country's emerging new government. [...]

"We just want to make sure there are no seams between what we're doing politically and what we're doing militarily," Rice told reporter on her plane en route to Iraq. "Secretary Rumsfeld and I are going to be there together because a lot of the work that has to be done is at that juncture between political and military."

She and Rumsfeld planned to meet jointly with the newly designated prime minister and Rice scheduled a separate one-on-one meeting with him for later.

Casey did not elaborate on his timeline for reducing U.S. forces, but he has said in the past that a "fairly substantial" reduction could be made this year if the insurgency did not grow worse and if Iraq made continued progress on the political and security training fronts.

Asked whether the breakthrough agreements last weekend to name Jawad al-Maliki as prime minister and to fill six other top government posts moves U.S. officials closer to implementing the expected troop reductions this year, Casey replied, "It certainly is a major step in the process."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:03 AM


Bush, senators agree on alien citizenship, shut out critics (Stephen Dinan, April 26, 2006, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

President Bush and a group of senators yesterday reached general agreement on an immigration bill that includes a pathway to citizenship for many illegal aliens. [...]

"There was a pretty good consensus that what we have put into the Hagel-Martinez proposal here is the right way to go," said Sen. Mel Martinez, Florida Republican. "I think he was very clear [on] pathway to citizenship, so long as it goes to the back of the line, and he even opened the door here for something we've haggled back and forth on, that you can shrink the time for people to become citizens by simply enlarging the number of green cards."

And Sen. Sam Brownback, Kansas Republican, said Mr. Bush "endorsed the concept of an earned citizenship."

Posted by Peter Burnet at 6:57 AM


Chirac unveils his grand plan to restore French pride (Angelique Chrisafis, The Guardian, April 26th,2006)

The French president, Jacques Chirac, yesterday unveiled what he hopes will be his great legacy to France's struggle against the global dominance of the US: a series of technological projects including a European search engine to rival Google.

Mr Chirac, who walked out of an EU summit last month when a fellow Frenchman committed the grave offence of speaking English, styles himself as the defender of France in the globalised world.

After the biggest street protests in decades forced him to stage a U-turn on employment reform last month, Mr Chirac is keener than ever to be remembered for doing something positive for French pride. Yesterday, he announced that he would provide €2bn (£1.4bn) in funding for a series of innovative grands projets, including a Franco-German search engine to compete with Google and Yahoo!.

Named Quaero - Latin for "I search" - the search engine aims to be the first to efficiently sort through audio, images and video. It would search the growing array of podcasts and videoclips on the web and deliver the information to computers and mobile phones. Quaero has been a pet project of Mr Chirac's for some time. In his new year speech at the Elysée Palace, he spoke of the need to "take up the global challenge posed by Google and Yahoo!".

A government-sponsored Internet search engine in French? We would have counseled taking a page from the Gideons and distributing complimentary copies of Being and Nothingness in the worlds’ hotel rooms, but we've always lacked the vision thing.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


It’s Manny to the rescue -- Blast saves Schilling, Sox (Jeff Horrigan, April 26, 2006, Boston Herald)

Minutes after Curt Schilling squandered a one-run lead by heading back to the mound despite an already-high pitch count, Manny Ramirez swooped in and made everything right again by slamming a three-run home run with two outs in the eighth inning to send the Red Sox to an 8-6 victory over the Indians.

Ramirez went 3-for-4 against his former team and had an adventurous night on the basepaths before he snatched it back with his third homer of the season and the 438th of his career. The opposite-field swat, which tied Ramirez with Andre Dawson for 32nd on the all-time list, sent the Sox to their sixth straight win at Jacobs Field since the start of the 2002 season. It also improved Ramirez to .355 lifetime against the team he played for from 1993-2000.

“I don’t know why people worry about Manny not hitting,” said David Ortiz, who was intentionally walked immediately prior to the homer. “He’s going to hit. He’s always been a hitter. In this day, people look at who’s hot and who’s not, which is the right thing to do. He’s coming back. Then what are they going to do?”

April 25, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:49 PM


America's economic hegemony is safe (Gerard Baker, 4/25/06, Times of London)

BARRING some wholly unexpected statistical oddity, we will get another spectacular signal of the health of the American economy this Friday.

The gross domestic product figures for the first quarter are expected to show that America’s output expanded at an annual rate of about 5 per cent in real terms in the three months to the end of March. In this age of exaggerated gloom about the condition of the world, with all its imbalances, inequalities and uncertainties, it is worth pausing for a moment simply to reflect on the scale of US economic success.

Given that the United States is a $12 trillion ($6,700 billion) economy, the new data mean that in the first quarter the US added to global output an amount that, if sustained at that pace for a year, would be about $600 billion — roughly the equivalent of adding one whole new Brazil or Australia to global economic activity every year, just from the incremental extra sweat and heave and click of 300 million Americans.

Think of it another way. In an era in which China embodies the hopes and fears of much of the developed world, the US, with a growth rate of half that of China’s, is adding roughly twice as much in absolute terms to global output as is the Middle Kingdom, with its GDP (depending on how you measure it) of between $2 trillion and $4 trillion and its growth of about 10 per cent. [...]

[O]n current trends, for at least the next decade the US will actually keep growing in total dollar or yuan numbers by a larger amount than will China (even if the yuan is substantially revalued, by the way). And beyond that ten-year horizon, can anybody really be confident that China will maintain its current rate of growth?

Consider just the GDP per capita numbers for 2005:

China: $6,300

America: $42,000

Folks who imagine an America in decline are engaged in a truly odd form of wishful thinking.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:38 PM


Koizumi era one of change, tension (HIROKO NAKATA, 4/26/06, Japan Times)

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, who pledged to "destroy" his own Liberal Democratic Party when he became its president five years ago, will probably be remembered for putting in place much-needed structural reforms.

But as Koizumi marks his fifth year in office Wednesday, many observers say his administration will also be remembered for souring Japan's relations with other parts of Asia and for chipping away at the middle class. [...]

"More than 50 years after the war, Koizumi is the . . . first prime minister who takes responsibility for what he pledges to the public," said Hidekazu Kawai, a professor of comparative politics at Chubu University.

One of the highlights of Koizumi's stint thus far was the LDP's landslide victory in last September's House of Representatives election, which gave him a broad mandate to privatize the nation's postal system -- something he had sought to do for years.

Throughout his term, Koizumi has promoted administrative reforms under the slogan "No growth without reform."

Similar to his fellow Third Wayers, George W. Bush, who came to office bent on transforming a conservatism that had backstabbed his father, and Tony Blair, of whom Geoffrey Wheatcroft wrote upon his election: "Someone who knows him says, 'You have to remember that the great passion in Tony's life is his hatred of the Labour Party.'"

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:25 PM


Fox News's Snow on Verge of Being White House Press Secretary (Howard Kurtz, April 26, 2006, Washington Post)

Fox News commentator Tony Snow has decided to accept the White House press secretary's job after top officials assured him that he would be not just a spokesman but an active participant in administration policy debates, people familiar with the discussions said yesterday.

Snow's appointment could be announced as early as today. The only potential obstacle would be the results of a CAT scan taken Thursday, which he hopes will reveal no recurrence of the cancer that forced him to have his colon surgically removed last year, these sources said.

A director of speechwriting for President George H.W. Bush, Snow views himself as well-positioned to ease the tensions between this White House and the press corps because he understands both politics and journalism, said the sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the appointment has not been announced.

If he really thinks that he doesn't understand them.

Tony Snow to Be Named White House Press Secretary (Melissa Drosjack, 4/25/06, Fox News)

Tony Snow will be named new White House press secretary on Wednesday morning, FOX News has learned. Snow is expected to be at the White House for the announcement. He has been mulling the offer for the last several days.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:16 PM


Rage at Don: The war on Rumsfeld is really a bureaucratic turf battle. (BRENDAN MINITER, April 25, 2006, Opinion Journal)

On Sept. 10, 2001, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld held a town hall meeting at the Pentagon and identified what he saw as the gravest threat to national security: the Pentagon's own bureaucracy. "With brutal consistency, it stifles free thought and crushes new ideas. It disrupts the defense of the United States and places the lives of men and women in uniform at risk," he said. He may have underestimated both the size and tenacity of this foe.

In the opening pages of their new book about the Iraq war, "Cobra II," Michael R. Gordon and Gen. Bernard E. Trainor quote the Sept. 10 speech to frame the battle that has raged inside the Pentagon for five years. As the nation has weathered the most deadly terrorist attack on its soil in history, fought a global war on terror and liberated two countries, there has been a battle inside the Pentagon over the size, organization and weaponry of the U.S. military. And that battle has only intensified as the bureaucracy that Mr. Rumsfeld chastised for being stuck in a Cold War mindset has picked up allies in Congress, the military and in some quarters of the administration. It is this coalition that is now pushing for Mr. Rumsfeld to be fired.

But it's not just the defense secretary's head the former generals, anonymous leakers and senators are after. This is a classic Washington turf and policy war. In the balance is the nation's ability to fight the war on terror and confront other threats around the globe.

Bureaucracies serve their own interests.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:41 PM


The Left's Big Ideas (E. J. Dionne, 4/26/06, Real Clear Politics)

What has become clear in recent months is that the impatience on the center-left with the hopeless endeavor of waiting for workaday politicians to come up with ideas -- Godot would deliver faster -- has spilled over the barriers of conventional politics. The brooding, musing and, yes, thinking since President Bush's victory in 2004 is starting to show results.

The biggest change is that moderates and liberals have begun to accept that they cannot simply adjust to conservative dominance of the political debate and alter their ideas to fit the current consensus. As Michael Tomasky writes in the current issue of The American Prospect, Democrats and their allies must destroy the current political ``paradigm'' based on ``radical individualism'' and replace it with a politics of the ``common good.'' Only a larger argument rooted in a different conception of government and society, Tomasky argues, will allow the party to ``do a lot more than squeak by in this fall's (or any) elections based on the usual unsatisfying admixture of compromises.''

In describing his common-good approach, Tomasky notes it has significant implications in challenging Democrats to stand for more than ``diversity and rights,'' however valuable these commitments might be. Both diversity and rights, he argues, would be better defended in a common-good framework.

Here are three common good proposals they could run on: universal education vouchers, universal health savings accounts, and universal retirement accounts. Of course, the fact that those are all part and parcel of the current political paradigm of George Bush's Republican Party puts paid to the truly deranged notion that the Left has to fight off radical individualism.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:34 PM


Overeaters, smokers and drinkers: the doctor won't see you now: Health care is meant to be open to everyone equally. But some doctors question, even deny, treatment to those with certain vices. (NICHOLAS KOHLER AND BARBARA RIGHTON, 4/18/06, Maclean's)

At issue: health care for patients with self-destructive vices -- overeating, smoking, drinking or drugs. More and more doctors are turning them away or knocking them down their waiting lists -- whether patients know that's the reason or not. Frightening stories abound. GPs who won't take smokers as patients. Surgeons who demand obese patients lose weight before they'll operate, or tell them to find another doctor. Transplant teams who turn drinkers down flat. Doctors say their decisions make sense: why spend thousands of dollars on futile procedures? Or the decision is the product of frustration: why not make patients accountable for their vices? Others call it simple discrimination. But in a health system with more patients than doctors can treat, where doctors have discretion over whom they'll take on, some say it's inevitable that problem patients will get shunted aside in favour of healthier, less labour-intensive cases.

So here's the question: if people won't stop hurting themselves, can they really expect the same medical treatment as everyone else? Health care in Canada is supposed to be about equal treatment for all comers. For some doctors, however, there are patients who are less equal than others. Winnipeg GP Frederick Ross is one. In 2002, he told his patients he'd no longer see them if they continued smoking. "I said, this is stupid. I told my patients, you have three months to quit or I am going to ask you to find another doctor," recalls Ross, a genial man. "I said, your smoking is impeding my progress in treating you." Some people left in a huff. One challenged him on the basis of human rights (a tribunal later threw the case out). Others -- hundreds, he says -- stayed and quit smoking.

Cutting out the cigarettes might have helped some patients avoid an appointment with Dr. Alberto de la Rocha. As a former thoracic surgeon in Timmins, Ont., de la Rocha operated on lung cancer patients for 17 years before quitting. "I burned out in an atmosphere of indifference and lack of accountability -- public and personal accountability," says de la Rocha, who is now a medical officer of health in northeastern Ontario. Smoking, says de la Rocha, goes hand in hand with entitlement. "It goes like this: 'I am sick. You are the guy who is supposed to cure me. You are going to do that in whatever condition I am in and that is my right.' "

Not in my operating room, said de la Rocha, who decreed that his lung cancer patients would have to minimize their risks of a heart attack on the table or of post-op respiratory complications by not smoking for at least five weeks before surgery.

Obviously it makes even more sense where health care is rationed, but is good policy regardless.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:06 PM


Time for a Tex-Mex Marshall Plan (Steven Hill, April 23, 2006, Washington Post)

Two years ago, the European Union admitted 10 new members. Like Mexico, all of these nations were poor, some of them fairly backward and most recently ravaged by war and communist dictatorship.

To deal with the situation, the leaders of the European Union wisely created policies for fostering regional economic and political integration that make efforts such as the North American Free Trade Agreement "look timid and halfhearted by comparison," according to Bernd Westphal, consul general of Germany.

Europe realized it had to prevent a "giant sucking sound" of businesses and jobs relocating from the 15 wealthier nations to the 10 poorer ones. It also had to foster prosperity and the spread of a middle class in these emerging economies and prevent an influx of poor workers to the richer nations.

So for starters it gave the new states massive subsidies -- billions of dollars' worth -- to help construct schools, roads, telecommunications and housing, thus making these nations more attractive for business investment. [...]

This bold yet carefully planned E.U. approach suggests the direction that policy between the United States and Mexico should take. Increasingly the demands of the global economy will push North American regional integration out of the realm of a shadow economy and flawed free trade agreement. But what might such an American-Mexican union look like?

It would start with massive subsidies from the United States to Mexico, a Tex-Mex Marshall Plan, with the goal of decreasing disparities on the Mexican side of the border and fostering a climate riper for investment. This would create more jobs in Mexico and foster a middle class, homeownership and better schools, roads and health care. Fewer Mexicans would then want to emigrate north. Instead, they'd stay home, becoming consumers of U.S. products.

Though he's often praised for it, Bill Clinton's failure to extract significant reforms from Mexico as a condition of propping up the peso was a terrible mistake.

Of course, we essentially funnel them billions in aid already, THE SILENT GLOBALIZATION OF REMITTANCES (Richard Reeves Mon Apr 24, 2006, Yahoo)

More than 20 million Latin American and Caribbean citizens living abroad sent home an average of $2,500 each last year, according to Business Week magazine. The total sent was $52 billion, an increase of almost 10 percent over 2004.

This is how it works, according to Geri Smith of that magazine, who chronicled the life of a young Mexican husband and wife who left $4.25-an-hour work in the fields of California to work in a pork-packaging plant in Iowa: "They each earn $12 an hour now, and after income taxes and
Social Security are withheld -- yes, they do pay U.S. taxes -- they clear about $3,500 a month. That's nearly 10 times what they could earn in Mexico, and it's enough to buy a used two-bedroom trailer and a 1998 pickup truck to cart their two preschool children around town. Once a month, he wires $250 to his 50-year-old mother in Mexico City."

A former Washington Post reporter, Robert Suro, added this in a foundation-funded study a few years ago: "During the course of the summer in Los Angeles, Esteban did everything, including painting, landscaping, loading and unloading trucks at garment district warehouses. The pay was always close to the minimum wage and always in cash. Esteban figured that he wired home (to Mexico) between $150 and $250 a week. Housing was a blanket on the floor of a church-run shelter. All his belongings fit into a small gym bag. 'On Saturday,' he said, 'I send back whatever I have and keep $5 for myself.'"

Officials of the IMF and many government economists argue that private consumption is less efficient than planned development. Maybe, but private consumption is the American way, and is also a way to make America more secure. Without remittances, the world, and particularly North America, would be a more dangerous place. It is not in the interest of a rich country such as the United States to have even more poor and desperate people living just across its southern border. Legal or illegal, those remittances make Mexico and Central America more stable and the United States more safe.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:09 AM


Michigan pulling itself out of slump (Haya El Nasser, 4/25/06, USA TODAY)

Detroit, Michigan's most populous city, has shrunk by more than 50,000 people this decade to about 900,000. Its biggest industry, automobiles, has been battered by global competition.

One of its largest employers, General Motors, lost $10.6 billion last year and has offered buyouts to more than 100,000 workers.

But fresh county population estimates from the Census Bureau show modest turnarounds in several other parts of the state. Sixty of Michigan's 83 counties have grown this decade, and 19 had population gains of at least 5%.

"It's an industrial state in significant transition," says Keith Schneider, deputy director of the Michigan Land Use Institute.

Michigan is moving away from manufacturing and tapping its intellectual base around universities and medical centers. It's not clear how the GM buyouts will affect migration and retirement patterns.

It was Michigan's great misfortune that Ronald Reagan's protectionist import quotas artificially propped up the American automobile industry. Happily, the two most recent presidents have been free traders.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:30 AM


Will all autos some day have breathalyzers? (Jayne O'Donnell, 4/25/06, USA TODAY)

Could the day be coming when every driver is checked for drinking before starting a car?

Widespread use of ignition interlock devices that won't allow a car to be started if a driver has had too much alcohol, once considered radical, no longer seems out of the question. Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) gives a qualified endorsement to the idea. New York state legislators are considering requiring the devices on all cars and trucks by 2009. And automakers, already close to offering the devices as optional equipment on all Volvo and Saab models in Sweden, are considering whether to bring the technology here. [...]

MADD and others trying to reduce the 17,000 alcohol-related fatalities a year say ignition interlocks are the only sure way to separate potential drunken drivers from their "weapons." [...]

Barry Sweedler, a former National Transportation Safety Board official, is trying to persuade automakers to put the wiring for ignition interlocks in all cars to make it easier to install the devices. And once interlocks can automatically check alcohol levels without any action from drivers, Sweedler thinks they should be standard equipment on cars.

Current technology requires a driver to blow heavily into a breathalyzer device before starting the car and regularly while driving. With that system, "Unless a person is an offender, to require it for everyone is too intrusive," says Sweedler, past president of an anti-impaired-driving group that has sponsored ignition interlock conferences for the past six years.

George Ballance, director of sales and marketing for device maker DraegerSafety, says his company advocates interlocks as part of teen driving laws and insurance company discounts.

"We want to get on the preventive side of the cycle and not just be on the court-ordered side," he says.

Preventing five 9-11s a year seems eminently worthwhile.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:26 AM


Sources: Tony Snow likely to take White House post (Suzanne Malveaux, 4/25/06, CNN)

Sources close to the White House said Monday that Fox anchor Tony Snow is likely to accept the job as White House press secretary, succeeding Scott McClellan.

The sources said they expect him to announce his decision within the next few days.

A source familiar with the discussions said Monday that newly appointed Chief of Staff Josh Bolten asked Snow to make a decision by early this week.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:18 AM


Amazon offers on-demand DVD manufacturing service (Monica Soto Ouchi, 4/25/06, Seattle Times)

For those obsessed with the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, the PBS mainstay "Nova" or Matt Lauer, Amazon has something for you.

The online retailer Monday began offering a service that allows film studios and TV networks to sell more obscure or niche titles through an on-demand DVD manufacturing service.

The Media Gateway program — developed by Amazon subsidiary CustomFlix Labs — encodes films and TV shows in a digital format and archives the content.

When a customer orders a film or show on Amazon, the online retailer manufactures the DVD and ships it to the customer. While film studios and TV networks already sell their most popular titles online, the service erases the financial risk associated with manufacturing DVDs and holding inventory for lesser-known works.

Welcome to custom-made online radio (Althea Legaspi, April 23, 2006, Chicago Tribune)

There's that legendary record store person who knows everything, and when you mention a band, he or she has about 10 suggestions for what you might like. In these brick-and-mortar-less days of online music, he is now a program that runs on your computer.

Pandora.com and Last FM do their jobs in different ways, but both are that future: music boiled down to a science, where radio plays only the music you like. Your "neighbours" have similar tastes, and you can discover new music, regardless of label affiliation and without repetitive set playlists. Welcome to personalized radio. Oakland-based Pandora and London-based Last FM are helping artists and listeners find each other in a way traditional and Internet radio have never done before.

While customized Internet radio has been in existence for years, in which a listener can pick specific genres and artists to tailor a station, Pandora looks to the actual composition, analyzing musical attributes that describe a song. Initially named Savage Beast and created in 2000 to be a recommendation service licensed to companies such as Best Buy and AOL, it evolved into Pandora by mid-2004. Through its Music Genome Project, Pandora's filter, it discovers and catalogs some 400 genes -- such as vocal tonality, instrumentation and mood. The genes are the basis of how songs are grouped together on a Pandora "radio station."

Listeners create a station simply by typing in a song name or artist, and Pandora launches a radio stream, playing songs that have similar attributes to the individual user's selection. Each listener can then fine-tune the personal station, giving a "thumbs up" or "thumbs down" to songs, and Pandora responds, paring the attributes more specifically to the user's taste. Conversely, users can add more music to expand the musical gene pool. Listeners can share their personally created "radio stations" with others by e-mail and can also view top stations being played.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Softwood lumber deal appears close
(BARRIE MCKENNA AND STEVEN CHASE, 4/25/06, Globe and Mail)

Canada and the United States appear very close to a historic breakthrough in the enduring softwood lumber dispute.

Industry sources who have been briefed on the discussions told The Globe and Mail that U.S. President George W. Bush called Stephen Harper on the weekend to outline an offer. In it the United States would lift duties on Canadian lumber and return most of the $5-billion it has collected from Canadian lumber companies. [...]

Mr. Bush wants to remove a long-standing irritant from relations with his country's largest trading partner and get a deal before U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman moves to the White House as budget director. Mr. Harper has made repairing strained Canada-U.S. relations a priority.

April 24, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:24 PM


Joseph Wilson's Revenge: Why no special prosecutor for the latest CIA leak case? (Christopher Hitchens, April 24, 2006, Slate)

[M]ary McCarthy has been given the sack. And the New York Times rushes to her aid, with a three-hankie story on April 23, moistly titled "Colleagues Say Fired CIA Analyst Played by the Rules." This is only strictly true if she confined her disagreement to official channels, as she did when she wrote to Clinton in 1998. Sadly enough, the same article concedes that McCarthy may have lied and then eventually told the truth about having unauthorized contact with members of the press.

Well! In that case the remedy is clear. A special counsel must be appointed forthwith, to discover whether the CIA has been manipulating the media. All civil servants and all reporters with knowledge must be urged to comply, and to produce their notes or see the inside of a jail. No effort must be spared to discover the leaker. This is, after all, the line sternly proposed by the New York Times and many other media outlets in the matter of the blessed Joseph Wilson and his martyred CIA spouse, Valerie Plame.

I have a sense that this is not the media line that will be taken in the case of McCarthy, any more than it was the line taken when James Risen and others disclosed the domestic wiretapping being conducted by the NSA. Risen's story is also the object of an investigation into unlawful disclosure. One can argue that national security is damaged by unauthorized leaks, or one can argue that democracy is enhanced by them. But one cannot argue, in the case of a man who says that his CIA wife did not send him to Niger, that the proof that his wife did send him to Niger must remain a state secret. If one concerned official can brief the press off the record, then so can another.

It has long been pretty obvious to me that the official-secrecy faction within the state machinery has received a gigantic fillip from the press witch hunt against Lewis Libby and Karl Rove. What bureaucrat could believe the luck of an editorial campaign to uncover and punish leaking? A campaign that furthermore invokes the most reactionary law against disclosure this century: the Intelligence Identities Protection Act? It was obvious from the first that the press, in taking Wilson and Plame at their own estimation, was fashioning a rod for its own back. I await the squeals that will follow when this rod is applied, which it will be again and again.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:40 PM


Common ground on who's American: Amid a heated immigration debate, a survey finds behavior is more important than background. (Daniel B. Wood, 4/25/06, The Christian Science Monitor)

In survey responses, Dr. Straughn says he found support for the concept that America is different from other nations, which are defined by common language, homogenous people, or geography. By contrast, Americans generally see the US as defined by ideas and philosophies, which can change over time. [...]

[A] solid majority, 86 percent, believes immigration improves America with new ideas from different cultures and roughly the same percentage say groups should adapt to the larger US community.

The great irony is that immigrants come here because they believe in those American ideals while nativists dream of forsakinmg those ideals and making America more like those other nations that identify themselves by ethnicity.

A high fence and a big gate (Thomas Friedman, NY Times)

America today is struggling to find the right balance of policies on immigration.

Personally, I favor a very high fence, with a very big gate.

So far, neither President Bush's proposal to allow the nation's 11 million illegal immigrants to stay temporarily on work visas, nor the most hard-line Republican counterproposal, which focuses only on border security, leaves me satisfied. We need a better blend of the two - a blend that will keep America the world's greatest magnet for immigrants. [...]

An amnesty for the 11 million to 12 million illegal immigrants already here is hardly ideal. It would reward illegal behavior. But since we are not going to deport them all, some version of the Arlen Specter bill seems like the right way to go: Illegal immigrants who were in the U.S. before Jan. 7, 2004, could apply for three-year guest-worker visas, each renewable one time if the applicant pays a $1,000 fine and passes a background check. After six years, if the immigrant learned sufficient English and paid another $1,000 fine and back taxes, he or she could start to apply for citizenship.

But because I strongly favor immigration, I also favor a high fence - if not a physical one, then at least a tamperproof national ID card for every American, without which you could not get a legal job or access to government services. We will not sustain a majority in favor of flexible immigration if we can't control our borders.

Good fences make good immigration policy. Fences make people more secure and able to think through this issue more calmly.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:31 PM


Study reveals domestic abuse is widespread in Syria: The first study of its kind in the country shows 25 percent of women may be victims of violence. (Rhonda Roumani | Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor)

[A] new study released earlier this month that says as many as 1 in 4 Syrian women may be victims of physical violence is beginning to reveal just how widespread a problem domestic abuse is throughout the country.

The study, funded by the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) and conducted by the state-run General Union of Women, is the first of its kind to try to quantify and explain the types of violence Syrian women face.

As Phyllis Chesler and Donna M. Hughes argue in the essay we included in Redefining Sovereignty, feminists need to work with religious conservatives if they are to help liberate women in the Islamic world.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:28 PM


http://www.csmonitor.com/2006/0425/p01s02-woap.html>China's many messages to quell unrest: To ensure stability, Communist leaders invoke Mao, Confucius, and Buddha. (Robert Marquand , 4/25/06, The Christian Science Monitor)

"It is a very intelligent strategy," says a Western historian here. "If people are nostalgic for Mao [Zedong] and old moral values, they've got Lei Feng [a model soldier lauded for selfless service]. For those who say China has lost its traditions, they promote Confucianism. For those who long for spirituality, it is Buddhism. The party is saying, 'you name it, we've got it.'"

But the disparate propaganda campaigns often seem like unrelated story lines in search of a central script.
Only the One Story will help the Chinese, but it will end the PRC.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:37 PM


Introducing the Purple Party: Depressed about the Democrats? Revolted by the Republicans? You’re not alone. Here in New York (with its Republican mayor and Democratic voters), a third way is being plotted. Follow the purple-brick road. (Kurt Andersen, New York)

In the last four mayoral elections, I’ve voted for the Republican three times—Giuliani in 1993 and 1997, and Bloomberg last fall. Each of those Republican votes felt a little less transgressive and weird.

I don’t consider myself a true Democrat. Yet my mayoral votes notwithstanding, I am not now nor have I ever been a Republican, and could never be unless the Lincoln Chafee–Olympia Snowe–John McCain wing of the party were to take decisive control, or hell freezes over. For me, what has happened politically in New York City stays in New York City. [...]

Republicans used to brag that theirs was the party of fresh thinking, but who’s brain-dead now? All the big new ideas they have trotted out lately—privatizing Social Security, occupying a big country with only 160,000 troops, Middle Eastern democracy as a force-fed contagion—have given a bad name to new paradigms.

As for the Democrats, the Republicans still have a point: Where are the brave, fresh, clear approaches passionately and convincingly laid out? When it comes to reforming entitlements, the Democrats have absolutely refused to step up. Because the teachers unions and their 4 million members are the most important organized faction of its political base, the party is wired to oppose any meaningful experimentation with charter schools or other new modes. Similarly, after beginning to embrace the inevitability of economic globalization in the nineties, and devising ways to minimize our local American pain, the Democrats’ scaredy-cat protectionist instincts seem to be returning with a vengeance. On so many issues, the ostensibly “progressive” party’s habits of mind seem anything but.

However, what makes so much of the great middle of the electorate most uncomfortable about signing on with the Democratic Party is the same thing that has made them uncomfortable since McGovern—the sense that the anti-military instincts of the left half of the party, no matter how sincere and well meaning, render prospective Democratic presidents untrustworthy as guardians of national security. It’s no accident that Bill Clinton was elected and reelected (and Al Gore won his popular majority) during the decade when peace reigned supreme, after the Cold War and before 9/11. [...]

So the simple question is this: Why can’t we have a serious, innovative, truth-telling, pragmatic party without any of the baggage of the Democrats and Republicans? A real and enduring party built around a coherent set of ideas and sensibility—neither a shell created for a single charismatic candidate like George Wallace or Ross Perot, nor a protest party like the Greens or Libertarians, with no hope of ever getting more than a few million votes in a presidential election. A party that plausibly aspires to be not a third party but the third party—to winning, and governing.

Let the present, long-running duopoly of the Republicans and Democrats end. Let the invigorating and truly democratic partisan flux of the American republic’s first century return. Let there be a more or less pacifist, anti-business, protectionist Democratic Party on the left, and an anti-science, Christianist, unapologetically greedy Republican Party on the right—and a robust new independent party of passionately practical progressives in the middle.

It’s certainly time. As no less a wise man than Alan Greenspan said last month, the “ideological divide” separating conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats leaves “a vast untended center from which a well-financed independent presidential candidate is likely to emerge in 2008 or, if not then, in 2012.”

And it’s possible—indeed, for a variety of reasons, more so than it’s been in our lifetimes. In 1992, a megalomaniacal kook with no political experience, running in a system stacked powerfully against third parties, won 19 percent of the presidential vote against a moderate Democrat and moderate Republican—and in two states, Perot actually beat one of the major-party candidates. In 1912, former president Teddy Roosevelt, running as a third-party progressive, got more votes than Taft, the Republican nominee. The Republicans, remember, began as a dicey new party until their second nominee, Lincoln, managed to get elected president.

It wouldn’t be easy or cheap to create this party. It would doubtless require a rich visionary or two—a Bloomberg, a Steve Jobs, a Paul Tudor Jones—to finance it in the beginning. And since a new party hasn’t won the presidency in a century and a half, it would have to struggle for credibility, to convince a critical mass of voters that a vote for its candidates would be, in the near term, an investment in a far better political future and not simply a wasted ballot.

Is this a quixotic, wishful conceit of a few disgruntled gadflies? Sure. This is only a magazine; we’re only writers. But the beautiful, radical idea behind democracy was government by amateurs. As the historian Daniel J. Boorstin wrote, “An enamored amateur need not be a genius to stay out of the ruts he has never been trained in.” We have a vision if not a true platform, sketches for a party if not quite a set of blueprints. Every new reality must start with a set of predispositions, a scribbled first draft, an earnest dream of the just possibly possible. In our amateur parlor-game fashion we are very serious about trying to get the conversation started, and moving in the right direction.

And New York, as it happens, is the ideal place to give birth to such a movement. This city’s spirit—clear-sighted, tough-minded, cosmopolitan, hardworking, good-humored, financially acute, tolerant, romantic—should infuse the party. Despite our lefty reputation, for a generation now this city’s governance has tended to be strikingly moderate, highly flexible rather than ideological or doctrinaire. While we have a consistent and overwhelming preference for Democratic presidential candidates, for 24 of the past 28 years the mayors we have elected—Koch, Giuliani, Bloomberg—have been emphatically independent-minded moderates whose official party labels have been flags of convenience. (And before them, there was John Lindsay—elected as a Republican and reelected as an independent before becoming an official Democrat in order to run for president.) Moreover, New York’s stealth-independent-party regime has worked: bankruptcy avoided, the subways air-conditioned and graffiti-free, crime miraculously down, the schools reorganized and beginning to improve.

We’re certainly not part of red-state America, but when push comes to shove we are really not blue in the D.C.–Cambridge–Berkeley–Santa Monica sense. We are, instead, like so much of the country, vividly purple. And so—for now—we’ll call our hypothetical new entity the Purple Party.

“Centrist” is a bit of a misnomer for the paradigm we envision, since that suggests an uninspired, uninspiring, have-it-both-ways, always-split-the-difference approach born entirely of political calculation. And that’s because one of the core values will be honesty. Not a preachy, goody-goody, I’ll-never-lie-to-you honesty of the Jimmy Carter type, but a worldly, full-throated and bracing candor. The moderation will often be immoderate in style and substance, rather than tediously middle-of-the-road. Pragmatism will be an animating party value—even when the most pragmatic approach to a given problem is radical.

Take health care. The U.S. system requires a complete overhaul, so that every American is covered, from birth to death, whether he is employed or self-employed or unemployed. What?!? Socialized medicine? Whatever. Half of our medical costs are already paid by government, and the per capita U.S. expenditure ($6,280 per year) is nearly twice what the Canadians and Europeans and Japanese pay—suggesting that we could afford to buy our way out of the customer-service problems that afflict other national health systems. Beyond the reformist virtues of justice and sanity, our party would make the true opportunity-society argument for government-guaranteed universal health coverage: Devoted as the Purple Party is to labor flexibility and entrepreneurialism, we want to make it as easy as possible for people to change jobs or quit to start their own businesses, and to do that we must break the weirdly neo-feudal, only-in-America link between one’s job and one’s medical care.

But the Purple Party wouldn’t use its populist, progressive positions on domestic issues like health to avoid talking about military policy, the way Democrats tend to do. We would declare straight out that, alas, the fight against Islamic jihadism must be a top-priority, long-term, and ruthless military, diplomatic, and cultural struggle.

We would be unapologetic in our support of a well-funded military and (depoliticized) intelligence apparatus, and the credible threat of force as a foreign policy tool. We would seldom accuse Democrats of being dupes and wimps or Republicans of being fearmongers and warmongers—but we would have the guts and the standing to do both.

Mr. Andersen may not be willing to face it, but what he's talking about -- except on replacing morality with permissiveness -- is the kind of party that George W. Bush is leading. The only thing he really needs to accept is that universal health care will come in the form of things like HSAs, not a Canadian-style plan, but you'd think a guy whjo wants new ideas would be readyt to jettison that old, failed one.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:30 PM


Why we should love high oil prices (Martin Vander Weyer, 25/04/2006, Daily Telegraph)

The official figure for inflation, reported last week, is a barely significant 1.8 per cent - because, while fuel has risen, the cost of manufactured goods, including clothing and electrical goods imported from low-wage Asian countries, has fallen dramatically. [...]

[T]here are sound, non-doomster arguments why the price is just as likely to fall back in the medium term, and it is worth rehearsing the reasons why a period of relatively high oil prices has not been entirely a bad thing.

For a start, it changes the power structure and investment profile of the global oil industry. At current price levels, oil companies can exploit deep offshore deposits in the North Sea, the Caspian and the Gulf of Mexico, and reopen smaller, depleted wells in Texas and elsewhere.

The frozen wastes of Siberia and Central Asia look a lot less inhospitable than they used to.

Suddenly Canada, one of our closest allies, is a big player in the 21st-century energy game, with its vast wilderness tracts of tar-soaked sands in northern Alberta.

All these new and mostly non-Opec sources can now feasibly be brought on stream, along with new refining capacity in which the industry was reluctant to invest when prices were low.

All these factors combine to mean that we are slightly less at the mercy of the Opec cartel and the violent instability of the Middle East.

Meanwhile, at the consumer end of the equation, higher oil prices engender better environmental and economic behaviour. [...]

Eventually, however - experts disagree widely as to when, but it won't be soon - the world will run out of oil. By the time it happens, man will have harnessed new energy from the sun, the tides, the wind, the hydrogen cell and advanced forms of nuclear fission.

The present phase of high prices will help both to retard the exhaustion of oil and to accelerate the search for alternatives. It may be uncomfortable and worrying in the short term, but in the long term we may even be thankful for it.

High gas prices propel a new 'moped madness': Scooters and mopeds see a rise in sales - and cachet - thanks in part to a youth energy ethic. (Patrik Jonsson, 4/25/06, The Christian Science Monitor)

The moped and its bigger, flashier cousin, the scooter, are swarming out of Jimmy Carter's America and into George W. Bush's republic - a movement propelled by soaring gasoline prices surpassing those of the late 1970s and by legions of Americans who take seriously the call for oil independence. If the serious intent is mixed with a little fun from "moped gangs" who call themselves the Heck's Angels or the Hardly Davidsons, so much the merrier.

Though Gen-Xers and baby boomers are among those flinging a leg over these two-wheelers, the vehicles may owe their newfound cachet to their embrace by a younger set. Sometimes called "the millennials," they are said to embody a sense of social purpose, adopt a "team" approach to life, and rebel from their elders by hewing to the small-scale. It's an attitude with a simple message: Small-bore is cool.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:06 PM


Bush's Thousand Days (Arthur Schlesinger Jr., April 24, 2006, Washington Post)

The issue of preventive war as a presidential prerogative is hardly new. In February 1848 Rep. Abraham Lincoln explained his opposition to the Mexican War: "Allow the President to invade a neighboring nation, whenever he shall deem it necessary to repel an invasion and you allow him to do so whenever he may choose to say he deems it necessary for such purpose -- and you allow him to make war at pleasure [emphasis added]. . . . If, today, he should choose to say he thinks it necessary to invade Canada to prevent the British from invading us, how could you stop him? You may say to him, 'I see no probability of the British invading us'; but he will say to you, 'Be silent; I see it, if you don't.' "

This is precisely how George W. Bush sees his presidential prerogative: Be silent; I see it, if you don't . However, both Presidents Harry S. Truman and Dwight D. Eisenhower, veterans of the First World War, explicitly ruled out preventive war against Joseph Stalin's attempt to dominate Europe. And in the Cuban missile crisis of October 1962, President Kennedy, himself a hero of the Second World War, rejected the recommendations of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for a preventive strike against the Soviet Union in Cuba.

Just imagine how many tens of millions of lives would have been saved and how much better off the world would be today had we regime changed the Soviets in the 40s. Mr. Schlesinger's argument is that the hundred million killed by communism were a fair price to pay for a legal nicety.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:22 PM


Gearing Up for '08? McCain Befriends Old Enemies: He's Receiving Money From People Who Attacked Him in 2000 (JAKE TAPPER, April 23, 2006, ABC News)

In March 2000, in the thick of that highly-charged GOP presidential competition between McCain and then-Gov. George W. Bush, Texas businessmen Sam and Charles Wyly -- major contributors to Bush -- funded a $2.5 million advertising campaign by a group calling itself "Republicans for Clear Air" that ran an ad against McCain in California, New York and Ohio.

Initially the Wylys did not acknowledge they were responsible for the ads -- and once it came out that they were they and the Bush 2000 presidential campaign denied any coordination, which would have been a violation of Federal Election Commission laws. McCain's campaign filed a complaint with the FEC alleging the Wylys broke the law.

The candidate himself referred to the brothers as "Wyly coyotes" and asked a campaign audience in Boston, "Are we going to allow two cronies of George W. Bush to hijack this election? Tell them to keep their dirty money in the state of Texas, my friends. Don't spread it all over New England and America."

But now the candidate from Arizona, planning a potential run for president in 2008, seems to have a different relationship with the coyotes.

Sam Wyly and his wife Cheryl have given McCain's political action committee a total of $10,000, according to records on the PAC's Web site. Additionally, Sam, Cheryl, and Charles Wyly are all co-chairing a May 15 fundraiser for McCain's PAC, to be hosted in Dallas, and featuring Republican National Committee chairman Ken Mehlman.

"This all seems to me to be a reflection of the fear that lots of old-line Republicans have of what lies ahead in 2008," said Norm Ornstein, congressional scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, "and the ability of McCain to seduce them in a sense into a belief that he's the only guy that can win."

It's just his turn at the top and they'd use the same tactics to stop an insurgency against him. The party is hierarchical and challengers aren't welcome.

MORE (via Peps):
He's a weasel, but he's my weasel (Jonathan Chait, April 23, 2006, LA Times)

Remaining competitive for the Republican Party's 2008 nomination has required McCain to mend fences with the conservatives who savaged him during the 2000 primary season and after. Most of the concessions he has made to the right, though, have been symbolic.

He lavished extravagant praise on President Bush for his leadership in the war on terror, even though McCain criticized most of Bush's specific decisions, such as letting Osama bin Laden escape and invading Iraq with too few troops. His overtures to Jerry Falwell and his endorsement of "intelligent design" sent friendly signals to conservatives without actually binding McCain to legislative positions if he wins.

These are, certainly, acts of weaselry. But like I said, I don't really care. Politicians can always persuade themselves to make small compromises in the pursuit of a larger good. I think McCain has a genuine desire to transform his party and his country, and he's willing to say things he doesn't agree with in order to be able to do it.

It's possible he was lying then and he's telling the truth now. But why would he? The liberal positions he took during the GOP primaries made him radioactive to the base and killed his campaign. They nearly got him run out of the party he hoped to lead. If he was acting out of expediency, he would have toed the line.

The more pertinent question is, will McCain make specific promises to the right that he can't weasel out of? His vote to extend the Bush tax cuts he once opposed is a bad sign (though he hasn't said he'd veto any tax hike). Also, can McCain get through a GOP primary without committing himself to a series of litmus tests? Will he surround himself with conventional right-wing staff?

I suspect that if he emerges victorious from the primaries, he will have had to shed many of his ideals. It's not attractive. On the other hand, it's better than a Republican who didn't have to sell his soul to get the nomination. I'd prefer somebody who's uncomfortable in Karl Rove's Republican Party to somebody who genuinely likes it.

Boy, Mr. Chait's head is gonna explode when the Senator hires Karl Rove.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:35 PM


Katrina's Tide Carries Many to Hopeful Shores (JASON DePARLE, 4/23/06, New York Times)

LITHONIA, Ga. One afternoon last August, a young bus driver headed to an office in a suburb of New Orleans, humming the song to an old television show. He arrived just before his wife, who was pregnant with their first child and escorting four troubled teenagers from the alternative school where she worked.

At 24, the driver, Whitney Marcell, weighed 300 pounds, and answered to the name Big Man. His wife, Jeralyn, who goes by Fu, had just turned 28. She brought along the hard-faced adolescents because her own hard life had presented her with a gloriously teachable moment: Big Man and Fu, up-from-nothing products of New Orleans's roughest projects, were about to buy their first home.

"Are you sure you can afford it?" friends had sniped, but Mr. Marcell's only worry about the $86,500 loan was whether the terms would let him pay it off early. The couple signed a pile of legal papers and left the office owning a house in New Orleans' Lower Ninth Ward.

As he packed that night, Mr. Marcell returned to the song from "The Jeffersons," a sitcom about a dry cleaner and his wife who had risen to the black bourgeoisie. Like his television heroes, George and Louise, Mr. Marcell crooned about "moving on up," then startled himself by crying.

Two days later, Hurricane Katrina struck with biblical force, destroying the Marcells' new home, and chasing them to the outskirts of Atlanta, where they became part of the largest American diaspora since Dust Bowl days. But despite the loss of nearly everything they owned, the Marcells say they have moved up again.

The median household income in their new neighborhood is nearly twice that in the Lower Ninth Ward, and more than four times that in the projects where they had lived. Though they had recently worked their way out of poverty in New Orleans, the Marcells say this mostly black suburb offers much safer streets, better schools and a stronger economy.

The Marcells' journey illustrates one surprising benefit from an otherwise terrible storm: the exodus took low-income families to areas richer in opportunity.

It's kind of troubling how often the staff of america's leading newspaper is surprised by the utterly predictable.

MORE (via Tom Morin):
Movin' on up? : Two large-scale studies examine how neighborhoods affect the well-being of children and whether moving can make a difference. (TORI DeANGELIS, July/August 2001, Monitor on Psychology)

In two groundbreaking mega-studies, social scientists are examining how factors in poor urban neighborhoods affect a particularly vulnerable population: minority children and adolescents. These studies coincide with a major federal policy effort to improve conditions for the urban poor by tearing down urban housing projects and working to better integrate communities along racial and class lines--an experiment that's still in its infancy.

In one study, researchers are part of a government project to help poor families move to better communities. The study is showing dramatic results: Child and adolescent arrests for violent crime decreased by as much as 40 percent when the young people's families were offered the chance to move to affluent areas.

In the other large-scale study, social scientists are looking within poor communities to ascertain what helps some children fare well--despite where they live--while others are pushed into criminal behavior and academic failure.

These studies provide a fresh look at a subject tarnished by partisan bickering about race, class and poverty, study investigators say.

"From a research perspective, this research is giving us the best demonstration we've ever had of how neighborhoods affect kids," says Jeanne Brooks-Gunn, PhD, a psychologist and investigator in both studies and Virginia Marx Professor of Child Development and Education at Columbia University's Teachers College.

Indeed, say researchers, both studies show that neighborhood characteristics and family factors seem to have a profound effect on how well children do socially and academically.

If only we could summon the political will to depopulate every urban area.

MORE MORE (via Tom Morin)
Katrina and China's whirlwind growth (Spengler, 4/25/06, Asia Times)

The best thing the US could do for the poor people of its urban ghettos is to expel them. One does not do poor people a favor by concentrating them in government housing (or for that matter refugee camps) where they depend on the public dole. Given the incidental costs of major hurricanes, there probably are cheaper ways to accomplish this, eg, simply pay them to leave.

This is difficult to accomplish in a democracy, to be sure, for the elected representatives of immiserated black Americans form a bloc large enough to thwart legislative attempts to better their conditions. Were the urban poor dispersed into the rich regions of the country, they no longer would vote as a bloc for the sort of congress members who now conspire to keep them poor.

It was the great luck of the poor blacks of New Orleans that a great wind came along to carry them away from servitude to their political leaders. The Black Caucus of America's Congress keeps urban blacks as political hostages, much as the regimes of the Arab world have exploited Palestinian refugees, whom they refuse to take in, and expel when convenient. [...]

Many of Katrina's refugees are ascending out of the humiliating poverty that blighted their lives back home. Now they will have the means to watch sex and violence on plasma-screen televisions, spend their free time in the esthetic dystopia of shopping malls, and worship in mega-churches.

Will more money make them happier? I do not think so, any more than the loss of traditional Chinese culture in the globalized urban jungle of the coastal cities will make Chinese peasants happier. With the admonition Careful what you wish for, I addressed that issue in a March 21 review of Rod Dreher's book Crunchy Cons.

What it will do, however, is enable them to contemplate their unhappiness with a sense of empowerment. People with money, education and opportunity may be as miserable as any illiterate dirt farmer, but they have the means - how did Thomas Jefferson put it? - for the pursuit of happiness.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 3:13 PM


The madness of bombing Iran (Robert Skidelsky, The Times, April 23rd, 2006)

Note: You have to feel sorry for the left sometimes. It took them three hard and turbulent years, but they finally convinced themselves that, while Saddam was not exactly a gentleman, his errors and excesses paled beside the greatest genocidal crime of the century---the undermining of international law by Bush and Blair. But there is no rest for the weary and suddenly they are faced with the task of defending their blessed multilateralism in the face of an even more dangerous and renegade lunatic from Iran. They are hard at it all over the MSM and the blogosphere and you are invited to share your favourite example (with links if possible) of the stupidest, most fatuous idea for bringing Iran to heel within their sacrosanct transnational system. Here is mine:

First, it needs to be trumpeted that a military strike now would be illegal under international law. The UN Security Council would never authorise it, since Iran has not breached the terms of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty that allows every signatory to develop nuclear energy for peaceful use. However, the hawks no longer even talk about the need to get Security Council approval —this is the measure of the damage to international law that Bush and Blair have inflicted.

The United States (or Israel) would claim it was acting in self-defence. But by long-established customary law a pre-emptive strike is justified only to defend against an “imminent and certain” attack. True enough, what happens tomorrow is never certain, but if another country’s troops start massing at one’s frontier that would be pretty good evidence of hostile intention. To claim the right of self-defence against a threat that may or may not emerge in five years’ time is to claim the right to wage aggressive war whenever one chooses. This was one of the two grounds on which Nazi leaders were convicted and executed at Nuremberg. [...]

People who support military action ask: how do we know that Iran isn't lying when it says that its uranium enrichment programme is intended only for civilian use? Surely, this is a clear case for invoking the precautionary principle: the risk may be slight but the consequences of ignoring it may be catastrophic. But no one is arguing that the risk should be ignored. The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty now also allows for intrusive inspections. Hans Blix has written: “If you want a control system that gives a maximum of assurance, you can . . . require that inspectors have the right to go almost anywhere, any time, and demand any kind of documents.” Iran has accepted this protocol and operating under it the International Atomic Energy Agency has found no evidence that it is developing a weapons programme. However, the protocol could be strengthened for states such as Iran whose leaders make Hitlerian pronouncements.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:58 PM


The 'American Inquisition' (James Reston Jr., 4/17/2006, USA Today)

Through the mist of time, the Spanish Inquisition has come down to us as one of the most barbarous periods in all of history. Its viciousness peaked in the late 15th century, during the reign of the messianic "Catholic kings," Ferdinand and Isabella.

Paranoia gripped Spanish society as the Inquisition coincided with a Christian war against the Muslims of southern Spain. Clandestine trials, secret prisons, rampant eavesdropping, torture, desecration of Islam's holy books, and gruesome public executions created an atmosphere of pervasive terror. Suspects were assumed to be guilty, with no recourse to a defense, to a jury, or to a legitimate court.

In the chaos now roiling the Western world, does any of this sound familiar?

It is time to ask whether the United States, with some of these same touchstones, is entering a period of its own peculiar Inquisition. Of course, there are no burning places for heretics in America now. No Tomás de Torquemada presides over this period of internal anxiety and investigation.

But the word, inquisition, is not exclusive to Spain in the Middle Ages. It is a useful term for historians to characterize phases of history that are distinguished by religious intolerance, by Christian holy war and Islamic jihad, by racial profiling and xenophobia, by show trials, and by snooping of secret police.

This country, too, is seized with collective paranoia. President Bush knows, as Ferdinand, Isabella and Torquemada knew, that constant warnings about secret terrorists are a powerful deterrent to dissent and a useful tool for consolidating political power.

Bush, like his Spanish precursors, presses for a unity of faith and a credo of purification. His faith mixes the secular and the spiritual. Its hallmarks are Jeffersonian democracy for all the world, unquestioning patriotism and revitalized Christianity. Unbelievers in this holy trinity are to be ferreted out. Not to subscribe to the methods in the war on terrorism is not so much dissent as heresy.

the key to America's greatness, of course, is that it is nearly always in the grip of its own peculiar Inquisition. From our periodic religious revivals, anti-intellectualism, persistent Puritanism, and enduring messianic streak to annihilating the South to make it extend democracy to blacks to the successive suppression of anarchists, Klansmen, Socialists, Nazis, Communists, radicals, militiamen, etc., to our Jacksonian foreign policy we have required extreme conformity to the Founding ideals not just at home but progressively abroad as well.

Dissident President: George W. Bush has the courage to speak out for freedom. (NATAN SHARANSKY, April 24, 2006, Opinion Journal)

There are two distinct marks of a dissident. First, dissidents are fired by ideas and stay true to them no matter the consequences. Second, they generally believe that betraying those ideas would constitute the greatest of moral failures. Give up, they say to themselves, and evil will triumph. Stand firm, and they can give hope to others and help change the world.

Political leaders make the rarest of dissidents. In a democracy, a leader's lifeline is the electorate's pulse. Failure to be in tune with public sentiment can cripple any administration and undermine any political agenda. Moreover, democratic leaders, for whom compromise is critical to effective governance, hardly ever see any issue in Manichaean terms. In their world, nearly everything is colored in shades of gray.

That is why President George W. Bush is such an exception. He is a man fired by a deep belief in the universal appeal of freedom, its transformative power, and its critical connection to international peace and stability. Even the fiercest critics of these ideas would surely admit that Mr. Bush has championed them both before and after his re-election, both when he was riding high in the polls and now that his popularity has plummeted, when criticism has come from longstanding opponents and from erstwhile supporters.

With a dogged determination that any dissident can appreciate, Mr. Bush, faced with overwhelming opposition, stands his ideological ground, motivated in large measure by what appears to be a refusal to countenance moral failure.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:42 PM


France: The Children's Hour (William Pfaff, May 11, 2006, NY Review of Books)

Over a month of demonstrations by French students, workers, and would-be workers have delivered a devastating blow to the government of Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin, which was forced to withdraw its new law meant to increase employment opportunities for young people lacking formal qualifications. Hundreds of thousands—the organizers say millions— have been in the streets of cities across the country. Students left their classes and blocked others from attending. Some universities and lycées shut down to prevent violence between striking students and those anxious to study for impending examinations. The Sorbonne's auditorium was temporarily occupied, and classrooms there and elsewhere trashed. These events have dominated the political scene. Foreign observers were waiting for the revolution.

All this activity was intended to force the withdrawal of a minor change in the French government's employment legislation, which mainly would have benefited the young people in the ghetto suburbs who last fall were rioting nightly and burning thousands of automobiles in outrage at their "exclusion." The scale of the affair has been grotesquely out of proportion to its ostensible purpose. Yet it has turned into a symbolic event of high significance. The protests became a challenge to a certain model of capitalist economy that a large part, if not most, of French society regards as a danger to national standards of justice—and, above all, to "equality," that radical notion which France is nearly alone in proclaiming as a national cause, the central value in its republican motto of "liberty, equality, fraternity."

Villepin surely had no notion of the consequences when he launched what seemed to him a small but constructive employment initiative, intended to loosen current inhibitions to job creation by encouraging the hiring of the unqualified young. Villepin's measure created a new "first-job contract" that would make it easier for employers to hire people for two-year trials, with the possibility of discharging them, without explanation, if they didn't work out (or if the employer no longer could afford them). Under the long-prevailing system, such dismissals were largely forbidden. [...]

The message of the mostly Muslim suburbs resembles the message of class conflict in the past—the demand for equality. The crucial difference is that the conflict is no longer one economic class against another, which was a purposeful conflict, but protest by those excluded for cultural and racial reasons (which money doesn't cure) from the larger society. The response to that exclusion can only be immigrant assimilation. This was understood and is not impossible, since France has always been more colorblind than any other country in Europe—assimilation for the French is a matter of language and culture. But whether the public response will be adequate remains to be seen; so does the degree to which the Muslim minority is prepared to be assimilated.

Villepin, in putting forward a change in the employment laws, inadvertently opened a fundamental question about what economic and social model should be adopted in France, just as two years ago the referendum on the European constitution posed disturbing questions about the political future of the European Union and the direction being taken by European capitalism.

The French obviously are not alone in their concerns. A kindred debate about "models" of capitalism persists in Germany, which has suffered recent labor unrest, connected to demands for wage sacrifices by workers, and in the European Commission itself, which since EU expansion to twenty-five members has, under the commission presidency of Portugal's José Manuel Barroso, tipped away from the established "European social model," with its emphasis on provisions for welfare, and toward Anglo-American market capitalism, provoking considerable controversy. Even Britain saw its biggest strike since the 1920s on March 28, when workers for local authorities protested against proposed changes in their pensions.

Two hundred years of failure for the French model and a hundred million dead isn't enough?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:21 PM


A Million Paths to Peace (Michael Strong, 24 Apr 2006, Tech Central Station)

Something extraordinary is happening in global development circles. For the first time since the 19th century, progressive activists are embracing trade as positive tool for change. The global NGO Oxfam is the latest progressive interest group to change its tune. It has launched a campaign to end agricultural subsidies in the developed world.

This could represent a fundamental turning of the tide from a world based on nationalism and violence to a world based on commerce and peace.

Oxfam has a new section on its website devoted to "the private sector's role in development," where they acknowledge that "Oxfam GB believes that the private sector plays a central role in development, impacting on or contributing to poverty reduction in many different ways." The awkward "impacting on," rather than simply "contributing to," poverty reduction rings of compromise language, perhaps included to satisfy lingering "old Left" market resentments among certain Oxfam stakeholders, but we should be strictly grateful for the core thesis: "The private sector plays a central role in development."

In a recent paper, Columbia University political science professor Erik Gartzke shows that economic freedom (as measured by the Fraser Economic Freedom Index) is about fifty times more effective than democracy in diminishing violent conflict. Although it is not literally true that two nations with McDonald's do not go to war with each other, nations with high levels of economic freedom are far less likely to be engaged in violent conflict than are nations without economic freedom. The democratic peace turns out to be the free market peace.

Evangelizing for democracy and capitalism is the transnationalism of the Right.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:04 PM


Anthony killer attacked (JOHN KAY, 4/24/06, The Sun)

RACIST killer Michael Barton has been beaten up in jail by three black prisoners. [...]

Last month he was switched to a young offenders’ institution — and found more than 20 per cent of the 150 inmates were black.

They immediately targeted Barton, who was branded a “racist thug” at his trial, and three of them attacked him when he took a shower.

As Barton screamed in terror, they beat him with their fists and slashed his face with a makeshift weapon constructed from razor blades.

He was left with cuts and severe bruising which needed treatment in the prison’s health centre.

The three prisoners responsible confessed and were punished with loss of privileges — but Barton was too scared to make an official complaint.

An insider at the institution, Moorland, near Doncaster, South Yorks, said yesterday: “He is now living in fear of his life and has become a gibbering wreck.

“He is no longer the swaggering racist thug he was now he is surrounded by so many black faces in a closed environment. The fact he was branded a racist thug by a judge has made him a number one target for revenge attacks.”

It would seem they traded some privileges for the privilege--an eminently fair trade.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:37 AM


Judging Rummy (Gregory Scoblete, 24 Apr 2006, Tech Central Station)

Donald Rumsfeld returned to the post of Defense Secretary in 2000 with a clear view of both the politics and the instrument. He promised to transform the military from the plodding, manpower intensive force of the Cold War into a leaner, networked military which would employ superior firepower and maneuver to compensate for fewer soldiers and lighter ground vehicles. This military, with its emphasis on remotely piloted aircraft and high altitude, precision strike capability, could produce quicker victories against a broader array of threats -- and with fewer casualties. It would have fewer massive bases overseas and more "forward operating sites" -- bare-bones facilities where supplies, troops and equipment could be "surged" in the event of conflict.

This vision of "military transformation" was not uniquely Rumsfeld's. Many scholars and service-members had been promoting the "revolution in military affairs" before he arrived at the Pentagon. But Rumsfeld seized on it with a single minded determination. The theory of transformation had the usual retinue of critics and cheerleaders, but the press was largely interested in which weapons system were on the chopping block (and by extension, which pork-addled members of Congress were positioning themselves between the knife) - not to mention how the Army was peeved at Rumsfeld's management style. Rarely did the press focus on the core question of just what political ends this Rumsfeldian military was being built to accomplish. The transformation debates took place in what was, before the Iraq war, a political vacuum.

Rumsfeld knew what kind of military he was building and he knew what that military was supposed to do. In a January 2002 speech, he listed six criteria:

"First, to protect the U.S. homeland and our bases overseas. Second, to project and sustain power in distant theaters. Third, to deny our enemies sanctuary, making sure they know that no corner of the world is remote enough, no mountain high enough, no cave or bunker deep enough, no SUV fast enough to protect them from our reach. Fourth, to protect our information networks from attack. Fifth, to use information technology to link up different kinds of U.S. forces so that they can in fact fight jointly. And sixth, to maintain unhindered access to space and protect our space capabilities from enemy attack."

It was a mission, he later said, that was "determined and inviolable." What it was not was a colonial army, a manpower-intensive force designed to occupy nations or failed states and restore working political institutions (let alone electric or sewer systems). Rather, Rumsfeld was building an army for what Council on Foreign Relations fellow Walter Russell Mead termed "Jacksonian" America -- an army to fight and win wars, not perform social work. [...]

In a revealing interview with talk show host Rush Limbaugh, Rumsfeld said he spends his days "working on transformation and seeing that we manage the force in a successful way, and working on things involving Iraq." That the present, hot war in Iraq ranked third among the Defense Secretary's priorities was illuminating, but not surprising. In a profile of Rumsfeld, Washington Post Magazine writer David Von Drehle noted how the secretary viewed his job as ensuring that the Iraq war did not siphon off funds and resources destined for transformative weapons systems. He never envisioned -- let alone desired -- a prolonged occupation to reconstitute Iraq as a liberal democracy and is determined to ensure (by the military he is building) that it is not a precedent.

Iraq would be more stable today had we withdrawn as quickly as the Rumsfeld transformation would envision.

Japan, US Clear Last Big Hurdle for Defense Realignment (Steve Herman, 24 April 2006, VOA news)

The last major stumbling block has been cleared for the United States and Japan to initiate a realignment of American forces in Japan. The breakthrough came when the two allies agreed on dividing the cost of transferring thousands of U.S. Marines from southern Japan to a U.S. island in the western Pacific.

Japan's Defense Agency Director General Fukushiro Nukaga says Tokyo will contribute $6 billion of the total cost, which will exceed $10 billion. The Japanese share will include some loans.

Nukaga says during their meeting Sunday, the two allies agreed on all points related to moving the Marines.

U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says the deal will improve security for both countries.

"We have come to an understanding that we both feel is in the best interests of our countries," he says.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:18 AM


In Egypt, Revival of Political Farce: Renowned Comic Navigates Censorship to Tackle Contemporary Ills (Daniel Williams, 4/24/06, Washington Post)

If Albert Brooks, the American comedian, was really "Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World," as the title of his satirical movie said, all he had to do was go into a Cairo video shop and pick up one of two dozen uproarious films by Adel Imam. [...]

Fifty years ago, Imam emerged as a new character on Egypt's stage and screen: the ugly matinee idol. "He was the first Egyptian superstar who was not handsome," said Samir Farid, a veteran film critic. Farid once likened Imam to E.T., Steven Spielberg's extraterrestrial, a comparison that grated on Imam. These days, he's at ease with such descriptions but adds, "Yes, I was not handsome, but I got a lot of girls." [...]

Arguably, Imam's most memorable movie was "Terrorism and the Kebab," from 1993, in which he played a citizen caught up in a bureaucratic nightmare in the halls of Mugamma, Cairo's central government office building, when he seeks documents to transfer his son from one school to another. A pious clerk is too busy praying to take care of Imam's business. A rifle falls into Imam's hands; he takes over the building and negotiates for a shipment of fresh roasted ground lamb to feed a band of followers. He and his comrades chant "Kebab, kebab, or your life will be hell," while police and ministers line up outside Mugamma for an assault.

Brooks's 2005 movie was less a parody of Muslims than of Americans who assume Muslims are all terrorist sympathizers, with the notion that making them laugh would be a daunting chore. Imam runs counter to the stereotype. He speaks out against terrorism. He played the lead in "The Terrorist," a film about a fugitive assassin who takes refuge with a family of well-off Muslims and has to hide his distaste for their lifestyle of unveiled women and Western music. The film was made under heavy police guard.

Imam was already the target of radical Islamic ire when, a decade before, he performed in the southern town of Assiut in protest against bombings and assassinations. "You could see the fanatics on the roofs with their rifles," he said. "But people came and they sold music on the street, something the fanatics had banned. The fanatics published pamphlets about me. They called me a homosexual, but I knew for a fact I was not," he said with a lusty laugh. [...]

He described Egyptians as "schizophrenic" about the United States. "We send lots of immigrants to America," he said, "but we dislike its bias to Israel."

He called Gamal Abdel Nasser, the army officer who overthrew Egypt's monarchy and became a hero throughout the Middle East, "Egypt's first true president." Asked whether he was Egypt's last true president, Imam was silent. No reference to The Big Man. A bit later, he said, "Egypt is not like Iraq under Saddam Hussein. People insult the president every day."

Like many of his generation, Imam longs for a Cairo of the past: cosmopolitan, smaller, orderly and easygoing. That memory is part of the appeal of his role as Zaki. "He lived through a beautiful time when Egypt was privileged with multiple ethnicities and religions," he said. "The city looked beautiful. Buildings were more beautiful than in Paris. Now they are filled with garbage."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:10 AM


New Orleans mayor loses support of whites (MICHELLE ROBERTS, 4/24/06, Chicago Sun-Times)

Nagin garnered less than 10 percent of the vote in predominantly white precincts, according to GCR & Associates Inc., a consulting firm analyzing demographic data for the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority.

He received 65 percent or more of the vote in predominantly black neighborhoods, the consultant found.

Those divisions are all the more important because the city is more white than it was before Katrina hit Aug. 29: Fewer than half the city's 455,000 residents have returned, and most of those displaced are black. Only about 20,000 evacuees participated in Saturday's election by absentee ballot, fax and satellite stations, although an unknown number returned to the city to vote in person.

Nearly half of voters in predominantly white areas turned out, compared with about 30 percent of registered voters in black neighborhoods, which also tended to be the worst hit by flooding.

Landrieu, who is white, finished with 29 percent of the overall vote to Nagin's 38 percent. He finished second in black neighborhoods to Nagin and second in white neighborhoods to overall third-place finisher Ron Forman, bolstering his claims that he can help bring together racially diverse groups to help New Orleans emerge from the devastation left by Hurricane Katrina.

Hard to see how the Mayor adds many votes to his total, especially since turnout tends to drop in run-offs.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 9:05 AM


Shopping brain cells identified (The Times, April 24th, 2006)

A part of the brain that helps people to make economic choices has been identified by a group of American scientists. Researchers at Harvard Medical School in Cambridge, Massachusetts, have pinpointed a network of nerve cells in the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) section of the brain, right, that measure the value of specific items, helping the brain to decide what it wants and how much it is willing to pay for it. The findings, which are based on a study of macaque monkeys, are published today in the journal Nature.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:04 AM


Readers Write: Immigration Debate (Maria Luisa Tucker, April 24, 2006, AlterNet)

Over the last few weeks I have written a series of pieces advocating compassionate immigration reform that includes earned citizenship for this country's 11 million to 12 million undocumented immigrants. The first article, "Sí, Se Puede!" described the enthusiasm of the burgeoning movement for immigrants' rights. "Immigration Debate Creates Strange Bedfellows" looked at the strange political alliances created by the fracas, and finally, "Defining the Melting Pot" recounted the huge April 10 rally in New York.

The passion of the debate following these articles took me by surprise. [...]

The majority of commentators voiced opposition to legalization for undocumented immigrants, and scolded me personally and AlterNet at large for supporting such a proposition. Metahope asked, "Alternet, why are you supporting illegal immigrants rights over the rights of American citizens?" Metahope, like many others, viewed undocumented immigrants as a major threat, saying that "illegal immigrant scabs are destroying unions in Brooklyn, N.Y., and all over the United States They work hard at undermining our economic security … They don't deserve our largesse … They are lower than saboteurs, they are infestations."

Many agreed, though in less harsh terms, that illegal immigration is a threat to blue-collar citizens. Clocksmith wrote, "I am tired of hearing that illegal immigrants do the jobs that Americans won't do. If these jobs paid a fair and decent wage, Americans would do them." Clocksmith summed up the most consistent argument against illegal immigration (and immigration in general) -- the belief that immigrants "keep wages depressed for the rest of us" and make life more difficult for American workers. [...]

Medstudgeek felt that citizens who support illegal immigrants were insensitive to the repercussions on black American workers: "Notice that civil rights *leaders* are supporting immigration while ordinary blacks frequently oppose it. Why? Because, for sociological reasons, young black men always go to the bottom of the employment pile. Immigrants take spots ahead of them. The only way to help black people out of poverty is to create a scarcity of labor."

Similarly, Feller wrote, " racism has nothing to do with the majority of players in this game. It's money. MONEY. Bucks. The practical effect of a successful Latino immigrant movement will be additional misery for young African-Americans. Similarly for many poor white high school and college dropouts." [...]

Disagreeing with my pro-immigrant stance, one reader attributed my politics to a personal identity crisis. "Maria's a wannabe," gotmyeyeonyou wrote. "Tucker has written articles before about how she's pissed that her parents were 'forced' into speaking only English, so she's been reduced to pandejo status among the 'real' Hispanics this grave injustice of being denied her true destiny of speaking Spanish as a native is now the basis of her entire political/social outlook."

The subtext, of course, was both a questioning of my own ethnic authenticity and a tendency to characterize nonimmigrants who supported the immigrant rallies as elitists, hyperpolitically correct "faux liberals," corporate sympathizers or, more simply, sheep following some party line. Which party line, however, was up for debate, proving just how tangled the immigration debate has become:

"Are you all dupes for the Democratic Party?" asked jyork. "They sold out to their corporate money base and here you are doing it too." Yet, in another thread JPHickey wondered if I and/or AlterNet at large were "covert Bush administration spin doctors."

Because opposition to immigration is inextricably bound up with racial politics, isolationism, and protectionism its natural appeal is to the Left.

Meanwhile, the actual future of the West lies in a competition for immigrants to fill open jobs and kleep economies and social welfare systems from tanking,
Alberta too hot for some
(PATRICK BRETHOUR, 4/24/06, Globe and Mail)

The rising tide of Alberta's economy has created an undertow for non-energy businesses, which have had to endure the strains of superheated growth without the massive revenues of an oil producer. “As a manufacturing company, it's been miserable,” Mr. English said.

The province's dominant energy sector is struggling with the same problem, although it is one largely of its own creation. Husky Energy Inc. president and chief executive officer John Lau warned last week of the spread of the labour shortage, saying that his Calgary-based company is now looking outside of the country to build a massive bitumen upgrader because there are not enough workers locally. [...]

[T]he labour shortage problem turned critical for Raydan after it launched an expansion in Nisku, and found that it took nearly a year to find the 30 workers it needed. “We wanted to increase the size of our facility, but we couldn't find the people,” he said. A second phase of the expansion seemed out of reach.

Mr. English soon was having to pay close to double the hourly wages of his competitors in Ontario — not surprising when the McDonald's fast-food restaurant in nearby Leduc is hiring workers at $9.50 an hour, substantially higher than Alberta's hourly minimum wage of $7.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:01 AM


Asexuals Unite (Traci Hukill, April 24, 2006, AlterNet)

What do you do if you're a self-proclaimed asexual and you fall in love with another asexual?

You cuddle and kiss and talk a lot. You go to dinner parties, bicker over movies, sleep in the same bed. Maybe you even snuggle up and spoon, the two of you curled up in a cozy double-S.

But it does not occur to you to make the beast with two backs. Your sexual congress is permanently adjourned. You're in love, you're just not making any.

That's more or less the explanation given by Paul Cox, a 21-year-old Long Island University student. While organizing meet ups of New York asexuals last year, Cox met a young woman from the Brooklyn group and started spending a lot of time with her. All his time, actually, and for months, until she pointed out that their friendship had blossomed into a romance. Cox didn't even realize what was happening. "She's the one who dragged it out of me and drilled it into my head," he says, still sounding a little baffled.

Sounds like normal male-female relations. Cox says everything about them is normal. "It's kind of amazing how little of a difference it makes that we're not actually sexually attracted to each other," he says. "The longer we're in this, the more trivial it seems."

The Asexuality Visibility and Education Network couldn't have said it better.

Their not mating is an act of mercy to the species.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:50 AM


Bin Laden's chilling call to arms (BEN LYNFIELD IN JERUSALEM AND MICHAEL THEODOULOU, 4/24/06, The Scotsman)

AL-QAEDA leader Osama bin Laden issued ominous new threats in an audiotape broadcast yesterday on Arab television, accusing Western civilians of supporting a war on Islam and urging his followers to go to Sudan to fight a proposed UN peacekeeping force.

The speaker, who sounded like the Saudi-born militant, also said that the West's shunning of the Hamas Palestinian government showed it was waging a "crusader-Zionist war" on Muslims.

In the tape, bin Laden blamed Western civilians for causing death and destruction in the Muslim world because they had re-elected their leaders.

While OBL most likely died at Tora Bora, al Qaeda correctly points out that our peacekeeping efforts in Sudan are just another aspect of the Crusade, that the political leaders waging it have paid little or no price at the polls, and that citizens are responsible for the actions of their governments.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:27 AM


Removing America's Blinders (Howard Zinn, April 24, 2006, The Progressive)

[I]f we know some history, if we know how many times Presidents have made similar declarations to the country, and how they turned out to be lies, we will not be fooled. Although some of us may pride ourselves that we were never fooled, we still might accept as our civic duty the responsibility to buttress our fellow citizens against the mendacity of our high officials.

We would remind whoever we can that President Polk lied to the nation about the reason for going to war with Mexico in 1846. It wasn't that Mexico "shed American blood upon the American soil," but that Polk, and the slave-owning aristocracy, coveted half of Mexico.

We would point out that President McKinley lied in 1898 about the reason for invading Cuba, saying we wanted to liberate the Cubans from Spanish control, but the truth is that we really wanted Spain out of Cuba so that the island could be open to United Fruit and other American corporations. He also lied about the reasons for our war in the Philippines, claiming we only wanted to "civilize" the Filipinos, while the real reason was to own a valuable piece of real estate in the far Pacific, even if we had to kill hundreds of thousands of Filipinos to accomplish that.

President Woodrow Wilson -- so often characterized in our history books as an "idealist" -- lied about the reasons for entering the First World War, saying it was a war to "make the world safe for democracy," when it was really a war to make the world safe for the Western imperial powers.

Harry Truman lied when he said the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima because it was "a military target."

Everyone lied about Vietnam -- Kennedy about the extent of our involvement, Johnson about the Gulf of Tonkin, Nixon about the secret bombing of Cambodia, all of them claiming it was to keep South Vietnam free of communism, but really wanting to keep South Vietnam as an American outpost at the edge of the Asian continent.

Reagan lied about the invasion of Grenada, claiming falsely that it was a threat to the United States.

The elder Bush lied about the invasion of Panama, leading to the death of thousands of ordinary citizens in that country.

And he lied again about the reason for attacking Iraq in 1991-- hardly to defend the integrity of Kuwait (can one imagine Bush heartstricken over Iraq's taking of Kuwait?), rather to assert U.S. power in the oil-rich Middle East.

Given the overwhelming record of lies told to justify wars, how could anyone listening to the younger Bush believe him as he laid out the reasons for invading Iraq?

Hard to take him seriously when he leaves Lincoln and FDR, not because they lied any less but for fear of offending blacks and Jews who were liberated by such lies, as were the Iraqis.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:23 AM


Learning to Love America (Nina Burleigh, April 24, 2006, AlterNet)

In the fall of 2004, we enrolled our son in kindergarten at the Narrowsburg School. The school's reputation among our friends, other "second-home-owners," was not good. "Do they even have a curriculum?" sniffed one New York City professor who kept a weekend home nearby. Clearly, Narrowsburg School was not a traditional first step on the path to Harvard. As far as I could tell, though, no one besides us had ever set foot inside the building. When my husband and I investigated, we were pleasantly surprised. The school had just been renovated; it was clean, airy, cheerful. The nurse and the principal knew every one of the 121 children by name. Our son would be one of just twelve little white children in a sunny kindergarten class taught by an enthusiastic woman with 18 years' experience teaching five-year-olds.

Still, for the first few months, we felt uneasy. Eighty of Narrowsburg's 319 adults are military veterans and at least ten recent school graduates are serving in Iraq or on other bases overseas right now. The school's defining philosophy was traditional and conservative, starting with a sit-down-in-your-seat brand of discipline, leavened with a rafter-shaking reverence for country and flag. Every morning the students gathered in the gym for a "Morning Program," open to parents, which began with the Pledge of Allegiance, followed by a patriotic song, and then discussion of a "Word of the Week." During the first few weeks, the words of the week seemed suspiciously tied to a certain political persuasion: "Military," "tour," "nation" and "alliance," were among them.

But it wasn't until our boy came home with an invitation in his backpack to attend a "released-time" Bible class that my husband and I really panicked. We called the ACLU and learned this is an entirely legal way for evangelicals to proselytize to children during school hours. What is against the law is sending the flyer home in a kid's backpack, implying school support. After we called to inquire about the legality, the ACLU formally called the principal to complain. She apologized and promised never to allow it again. While we were never identified as the people who dropped the dime to the ACLU, there was clearly no one else in the school community who would have done so -- and the principal never looked at us quite as warmly again.

Shortly afterward, another parent casually told me that she wanted to bring her daughter's religious cartoon videos in to share with the class but couldn't because "some people" might object. When we later learned that the cheery kindergarten teacher belonged to one of the most conservative evangelical churches in the community, we were careful not to challenge anyone or to express any opinion about politics or religion, out of fear our son would be singled out. Instead, to counteract any God-and-country indoctrination he received in school, we began our own informal in-home instruction about Bush, Iraq and Washington over the evening news.

Politically, Narrowsburg is red dot in a blue state. It is not named for any small-town frame of mind, but for the way the Delaware River narrows at the edge of town, then widens into a serene, lakelike eddy that at twilight mirrors the lights of town and the ranch-style houses on the flats. The towering pines along the river are nesting spots for bald eagles that soar year-round in pairs above Main Street and swoop down into the river to sink their talons into trout sighted from a hundred feet up. That year, driving to school every morning along the water, my son and I witnessed the wind gradually scrape away the bright foliage, the snow fall and the ground freeze. In the white, leafless months, we could see the entire span of the Delaware River valley from the car, a long arc of pastoral perfection.

If you knew nothing else of the world, if you were just five or six or ten years old, and this place was your only America, you wouldn't have any reason at all to question the Narrowsburg School's Morning Program routine. Hand over heart, my son belted out the Pledge with gusto every morning, and memorized and sang the Star Spangled Banner. I never stopped resisting the urge to sit down in silent protest during the Pledge. But I also never failed to get choked up when they sang "America the Beautiful."

The bizarre thing is to simultaneously recognize the value of such a place and seek to destroy it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:01 AM


Drivers switch to public transit (Barbara Hagenbaugh, 4/24/2006, USA TODAY)

•Washington, D.C. Thursday was the sixth-busiest day in history on Metrorail, the area's train system, while Tuesday was the ninth busiest. There were no special events in the area to explain the higher ridership. "We think gas prices had something to do with it," Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority spokeswoman Candace Smith says.

•Salt Lake City. Ridership is up 50% on the 19-mile, light-rail system in Salt Lake City from a year ago. The Utah Transit Authority has added 10 used rail cars it bought from San Jose, Calif., to meet demand. But in some cases, cars are becoming so packed that the doors are dragging on the platforms at stops because of the increased weight, spokesman Justin Jones says.

Riders responding to onboard polling increasingly are saying they are motivated to take public transportation because of higher gas prices, Jones says.

•Tulsa. Tulsa Transit's March ridership was the highest since August 2003. For the fiscal year, which began in July, trips on the bus system are up 28% from the prior year.

•San Francisco. After taking a "nosedive" in recent years, ridership on Bay Area Rapid Transit is up 4.1% this fiscal year, which began July 1, spokesman Linton Johnson says. He attributes the gain to heavier traffic and higher gas prices.

The increase in ridership, or number of trips, is similar to last year when gasoline prices hit record levels, William Millar, of the American Public Transportation Association, says. The number of trips nationwide was up 5% in August and September compared with the same months in 2004. "It looks like history is repeating itself," he says. "The spike in gas prices is causing many people to look for ways to beat the high cost, and trying transit is one of the things they are doing."

Always fun to listen to free market ideologues who insist that people will drive no matter what fuuel costs.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:00 AM


Ortiz’ bunt a hit: More may be in store (Tony Massarotti, April 24, 2006, Boston Herald)

Seemingly irked by a defensive alignment that cost him at least one hit yesterday, Ortiz bunted for a single in the sixth inning of the Red Sox’ 6-3 win over the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre. As many teams do against left-handed power hitters, the Blue Jays were dramatically overshifted to the right side when Ortiz pushed a bunt toward the open area near third base for an easy single.

Toronto manager John Gibbons had just summoned left-handed reliever Scott Schoeneweis to pitch to Ortiz, but the slugger’s decision to bunt seemingly had as much to do with fighting the alignment as it did with his desire to get the right-handed-hitting Manny Ramirez to the plate. [...]

“He (bunted) on his own. I would never tell him to do that,” Francona said. “At the same time, you have Manny hitting (next). I don’t have a problem with it, if that’s what you’re asking.”

The one who should be questioned is Terry Francona. The Jays then intentionally walked Manny to get to Trot Nixon, who's helpless against lefties, and Mr. Francona didn't go to Wily Mo Pena who owns them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:39 AM


Biggest number of offenders are "registered counselors" (Julia Sommerfeld and Michael J. Berens, 4/24/06, Seattle Times)

To be a manicurist in the state of Washington, you must take 600 hours of training and pass both a written exam and a skills demonstration.

To cut hair, you need 1,000 hours of training and the two tests.

But to be a registered counselor, someone who will help guide troubled clients through some of their most difficult life challenges, you need take only a four-hour AIDS-awareness class. That's it — that and a $40 registration fee. You don't even need a high-school diploma.

That sounds like an invitation for trouble — and it is.

In the past decade, the state has sanctioned 104 registered counselors for sexual misconduct. That's more than for any other health profession, and more than the cases involving doctors, dentists and registered nurses combined. It's just a fraction of the actual incidents of abuse, since, experts say, most go unreported.

Likewise pedophiles seek out jobs in the clergy and schools.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:01 AM


Been there, done that: Talk of a U.S. strike on Iran is eerily reminiscent of the run-up to the Iraq war. (Zbigniew Brzezinski, April 23, 2006, LA Times)

IRAN'S ANNOUNCEMENT that it has enriched a minute amount of uranium has unleashed urgent calls for a preventive U.S. airstrike from the same sources that earlier urged war on Iraq. If there is another terrorist attack in the United States, you can bet your bottom dollar that there also will be immediate charges that Iran was responsible in order to generate public hysteria in favor of military action.

But there are four compelling reasons against a preventive air attack on Iranian nuclear facilities:

First, in the absence of an imminent threat (and the Iranians are at least several years away from having a nuclear arsenal), the attack would be a unilateral act of war. If undertaken without a formal congressional declaration of war, an attack would be unconstitutional and merit the impeachment of the president. Similarly, if undertaken without the sanction of the United Nations Security Council, either alone by the United States or in complicity with Israel, it would stamp the perpetrator(s) as an international outlaw(s).

It's nonsense, of course, but were it really the case that a Democrat wouldn't attack Iranian nuclear facilities, or any other such enemy, without the UN okay they'd never win another election. Giving France, China, and Russia a veto over our national interest would be an act of political suicide. The reality is that a President Gore or Kerry would be likewise preparing an attack and the only difference is that they'd have the full support of the other party.

April 23, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:23 PM


TV station catches gaffe by McKinney (BRIDGET GUTIERREZ, 04/24/06, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

[Cynthia McKinney], who has been in the media spotlight since she scuffled with a Capitol Hill police officer last month, was caught bad-mouthing a senior staffer Saturday.

Unfortunately for McKinney, a DeKalb County Democrat who is running for re-election in the 4th Congressional District, a TV microphone she was wearing picked up her indelicate grumbling.

"Crap!" an irritated McKinney is heard saying after ending an interview with CBS 46 in which reporter Renee Starzyk repeatedly asked about the fallout from the police dust-up. "You know what? They lied to Coz and Coz is a fool."

McKinney, apparently realizing her blunder, then returned to face the camera and tell the reporter that comments about her communications director, Coz Carson, were off the record.

But the TV stationed aired the footage Saturday and the story later was picked up by CNN.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:11 PM


Cameron calls on voters to back anyone but the BNP (George Jones, 24/04/2006, Daily Telegraph)

David Cameron called yesterday on voters in next month's English local elections to support any party other than the far-Right British National Party.

The Conservative leader accused the BNP of "thriving on hatred" and wanting to set one race against another.

"I hope nobody votes for the BNP. I would rather people voted for any other party," Mr Cameron told Sky News.

You expect it of the French, but the Brits are too decent to vote for nazis.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:39 PM


President Lincoln 'Lied' Us Into War Too (Thomas Bray, 4/23/06, Real Clear Politics)

One is struck by the parallels in reading Doris Kearns Goodwin's masterful new book, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln.

Lincoln repeatedly asserted that his aim was to prevent the spread of slavery, not eliminate it in the South. "I believe I have no lawful right to do so," Goodwin quotes him as saying. Thus when he finally issued his Emancipation Proclamation two years into the war, freeing the slaves in the Confederate states, his Northern critics claimed that he had misled the country. A bloody and unnecessary war was being fought in a Utopian effort to bring the blessings of democracy to a people who had little experience with it.

Oh, and by the way, where did this President get off claiming, as Lincoln did, that his implied powers as Commander in Chief allowed him to tinker with institutions, such as slavery, expressly acknowledged in the Constitution? Or suspending the writ of habeas corpus, perhaps the most fundamental bulwark of liberty in the Anglo-Saxon tradition?

Convenient too that folks forget that their immigrant forefathers engaged in genuinely traitorous draft riots.

Is U.S. being transformed into a radical republic? (Lawrence Wilkerson, April 23, 2006, Baltimore Sun)

We Americans came not from a revolution but from an evolution.

That is in large part why our so-called revolution produced success while most throughout history did not. We came as much from the Magna Carta as from our own doings, as much from British common law and parliamentary development as from the Declaration of Independence and Continental Congress.

Unlike the true revolution on the other side of the Atlantic that led to Napoleon's dictatorship and strife and conflict all across Europe, our evolution founded the greatest country the world has ever seen. That was true in every element of power and in the uniqueness that makes us great, our constant striving for "a more perfect union" and, as we do so, our open arms for the other peoples of the world "yearning to be free."

As Alexis de Tocqueville once said: "America is great because she is good. If America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great."

In January 2001, with the inauguration of George W. Bush as president, America set on a path to cease being good; America became a revolutionary nation, a radical republic. If our country continues on this path, it will cease to be great - as happened to all great powers before it, without exception.

Only someone who would still attribute those lines to de Tocqueville long after they've been debunked could write an essay this inane.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:27 PM


'We would have been close even if 9/11 hadn't happened' (Con Coughlin, 23/04/2006, Daily Telegraph)

How easy was it to establish a good working relationship with Bush after Clinton?

"Even those who most strongly disagree with President Bush in the international community would say that he is both extremely courteous and very straightforward. I suspect it would still have been a good, close, working relationship if September 11 had not happened, but obviously that redefined the relationship at every single level. If you look at the joint press conference we gave after meeting for the first time in February 2001, I was talking about the whole issue to do with proliferation, of nuclear and biological weapons, of terrorism, because I had become increasingly concerned about it.

"By 2001, before September 11, I was already in a pretty tough mode towards global terrorism or the proliferation of nuclear weapons. [I was] becoming increasingly alarmed at the number of terrorist incidents and also that this terrorism seemed to be aimed at creating the largest number of casualties."

From a very early stage in Blair's premiership, he seemed determined to have a close working relationship with the White House. How much was this down to the influence of Baroness Thatcher and the other people he conferred with when he first became Prime Minister, and how much was it his own judgment that Britain's defence and security needs were best served by having a close alliance with the US?

"Yes, it's true a lot of people expressed that view. But I had come to the conclusion before we came to office - and even more so afterwards - that the transatlantic alliance was crucial to the security of the world.

"The American relationship is absolutely central. I run our foreign policy on the basis that Britain should have strong alliances in Europe and maintain its pivotal alliance with America. I would not have committed this country to conflict simply on the basis of the American relationship."

Irrespective of who the president is?

"Absolutely. Irrespective of who the president is."

Clearly this was very much in your mind when 9/11 happened. You were straight out there…


Standing shoulder to shoulder, there's no daylight between us?

'I never had a moment's doubt about this. Because 9/11 for me was, 'Right, now I get it. I absolutely get it.' This has been building for a long time. It is like looking at a picture and knowing it was important to understand it, but not quite being able to make out all its contours. And suddenly a light was switched on and you saw the whole picture. It was a defining moment. We stood shoulder to shoulder with America because my belief then, and my belief now, is that America was attacked not because it was America - but because it was the repository of the values of the Western world, and it was the main power embodying them. It was an attack on all of us. And I don't mean that in a sentimental way."

There's a tendency to romaticize the FDR/Churchill, Reagan/Thatcher, Bush/Blair relationships, but that such leaders and loyalties arise whenever needed suggests that the specific people are rather secondary.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:39 PM

BROTHERS MARGOLIS (via The Mother Judd)

Blogger heads: Conservative twins find niche (Lisa Wangsness, April 23, 2006, Boston Globe)
The Margolis twins are blogging to you from an undisclosed location, somewhere on the North Shore. [...]

The 26-year-old twins are nearly identical: dark hair, wide girth, firmly conservative. Their cellphone numbers differ by one digit. Matt has a small beard so that people can tell them apart.

They love to be provocative; they sometimes worry about whom they've provoked.

They spend most of their days huddled over building plans at architectural firms (both are taking a semester off from their graduate studies in the field).

But on their lunch breaks and late into the night, they can be found toiling alongside empty Starbucks coffee cups, scarfing up the day's news and hurling commentary back into cyberspace via their blog.

Their goal, as the campaign season heats up, is to make hubpolitics.com the online home for conservatives in one of the country's bluest states. Since its inauguration July 4, hubpolitics.com has drawn as many as 2,000 hits a day, by its own count, making it one of the state's most-read conservative websites.

''Hopefully, Hub Politics will be a place they can go to and people will be able to say, 'Hey, there are Republicans out there,' " Matt Margolis said.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:00 AM


Why the Euston group offers a new direction for the left: A disparate set of left-wing thinkers meeting in a London pub has reopened an essential debate on the nature of democracy (Will Hutton, April 23, 2006, The Observer)

To be on the left is to be both temperamentally inclined to dissent and to be passionate about your own utopia, which can never be achieved. Condemned to disappointment, you rage at the world, your party and your leader.

Relative peace comes when the right is in power and the left temporarily sinks its differences before the greater enemy. But to survive in office, the left leader must keep utopian factionalism at bay and that means making your followers understand hard realities and tough trade-offs and selling them the ones you make yourself.

Until Iraq, Blair had been pretty effective in squaring away his various critics, but the war has overwhelmed him. Almost every strand of left utopianism has been offended, from human-rights activists to anti-American imperialists, internationalists to straightforward peaceniks. And with Iraq now on the edge of civil war, their every fear and warning has been amply validated. With no strand in the left ready to utter a word in his support, the Prime Minister has had zero leverage to fight back. Down and down he has gone in the eyes of his left-wing critics.

Which is why a small meeting of disillusioned leftist journalists, university lecturers and passionate bloggers in a London pub last year is proving a potentially important political event. Two or three internet bloggers have been arguing strongly for some months that whether it was for or against the Iraq invasion, Western liberal opinion must now stand united behind the attempt to create and entrench the panoply of democratic and human rights in Iraq and be against the religious fundamentalism propelling it down.

Western liberalism has been making a fundamental mistake in claiming that, because they spring from a war so many of us opposed, the anti-Enlightenment jihadists and insurgents are somehow Bush and Blair's responsibility. The right course now is to construct an Iraqi democracy which means backing the hated Blair and Bush.

Note the core problem that Mr. Hutton and the most good-intentioned members of the Decent Left can't overcome: they accept the notion that you can be a liberal in good standing but oppose replacing a genocidal tyrant like Saddam with a parliamentary democracy on principle. They want to sleep with Evil but wake up virginal in the morning.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:22 AM


The Conservative Humanist: Those who are pro-life and pro-family should have no problem being pro-human. (Glenn T. Stanton, 04/21/2006, Christianity Today)

Here is my proposal: Just as I had to go "upstream" from the issue of abortion to the family, I propose that we need to go upstream again, this time from the family to humanity itself.

What if there were a movement dedicated to the question, What does it mean to be human?

Asking such a question would lead us to explore and demonstrate what it means to live, to feel, to hope, to love, to give, to receive, to be wounded, and to be healed. It would lead us to explore why our families' failures and rejections hurt us so much and why we desperately need others. It would drive us to ask what dignity means and what its enemies are. Ultimately, it would lead us to ask, What does it really mean to have life abundantly? These are not narrow, issue-based questions. They are not questions for the pro-family movement alone. They are human questions.

I hasten to add that moving upstream does not mean leaving family matters behind. Rather, focusing our attention on the meaning of being human will powerfully illuminate why everything else downstream matters. The pro-family movement is a critical subset of the pro-human movement. But our work needs the context provided by realizing that we have just left the most technologically advanced, but still humanly impoverished, century in history. We must weep at the human death, pain, and alienation caused by genocide, war, global poverty, substance abuse, fatherlessness, aids, and cancer, as well as pornography, human trafficking, child abandonment, commercialization, and radical individualism. Perhaps most of all, we must confront the fact that our knowledge of how to stop many of these scourges has never been greater. We just lack the wisdom and the will.

We must become students of humanity. We must become humanists: people who are unreservedly committed to human life at its fullest, and people deeply pained by human life at its worst. Yes, someone from the Religious Right said we must become humanists.

I don't primarily mean that the suffering of the modern era should drive us to humanism. As Christ said, the poor will always be among us. Human suffering in all its forms is a tragic reminder of the reality of the Fall. We will only be free when Christ's redemption is complete. However, we must become serious students of humanity because just as the Fall is real, so too is the Incarnation. The Incarnation of the second person of the Trinity—the Son of God leaving his eternal and divine communion with the Father and the Holy Spirit to become flesh and dwell among us—this is what should draw us to the question of what it means to be human in these inhumane times.

In his essay The Grand Miracle, C. S. Lewis wrote that if the Incarnation happened, "It was the central event in the history of the earth—the very thing that the whole story has been about." The Incarnation is the center of the Christian story, summed up by Jacob Handl in the 16th century:

God has become human. He remained what he was, and what he was not, he became, suffering neither confusion nor division.

The Incarnation is a heavenly declaration that humanity—both flesh and spirit—matters. Humanity matters because what God creates, becomes, and is seeking to redeem cannot escape our fascination.

It's not just that Christ became human. He lingered in humanity for 33 full years. I sometimes tease my colleagues by saying that if Jesus had been a good evangelical, he would have stayed in a human body for only a day or so, just enough time to get to the important "spiritual" work of saving humanity. If we verge on Gnosticism in our passion for "spiritual things," our Lord does not. It took him 30 years to get around to what we call his "public ministry." Christ, always obedient to the Father, was content to linger in daily human life. Perhaps the reason we have little record of his first 30 years is that they were largely unremarkable. Simple humanity was enough for God in the flesh.

The Incarnation means there are no small lives. All of human experience is meaningful. And while the Incarnation may be a distinctly Christian doctrine, it is also the doctrine that commits us most completely to seeking the common good of our non-Christian neighbors. We serve a God who created our humanity, weeps at the fall of our humanity, became our humanity, and is redeeming our humanity.

True humanism will demolish our gnostic tendencies to believe in a small God who is only interested in our eternal destiny and our moral behavior. If the Incarnation is true, God is intensely interested in every part of human experience, every corner of creation. We, too, should be intensely interested in it, dedicated to showing others the fingerprints of God everywhere, in everything.

True humanism will refuse to see people as things to be used.

Despite Mr. Schaefer, we are all Thomists now or Postmodern Augustinian Thomists.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 9:14 AM


Adultery is inevitable, but divorce is not (Minette Marrin, The Times, April 23, 2006)

Marriage, as my ferocious mother-in-law always used to say, gazing balefully about her, is not a love affair. I always used to find that rather discouraging, especially when I was first married to her son. However, I do know what she meant. Marriage isn’t only a love affair, though ideally it begins with one.

Marriage is, most importantly, a social contract, the most important social contract there is in a civil society. I think it should be seen as a contract. No one should be allowed to break it with impunity. The odd thing is that people often do break up their marriages with impunity, without any sense of one party being more to blame than the other.

That sort of perverse moral equivalence seems to be a tendency of the time. There are always two sides to a story; one side is just as responsible as the other; it’s impossible to judge — those are the things people nearly always say when their friends separate. Fifty-fifty is the outward and visible sign in the law courts of this attitude. The number of divorces where the family wealth is split equally between husband and wife has been growing. The figure more than doubled between 2004 and 2005, when it applied to 63% of cases, according to a survey published by Grant Thornton, the chartered accountants.

That may be right in some cases, but it is clearly wrong in others. If a wife gets bored with her perfectly reasonable husband and runs away with her well-toned personal trainer, it is wrong that she should be able to take the family home, children, maintenance and pension rights with her, totalling at least 50% of what the poor man has. Similarly if a husband abandons his perfectly reasonable wife and family for the office vamp, his spouse ought not to be the one that suffers more, financially; he should. If marriage is not a love affair, falling in love with someone else is not a good enough reason to end it without impunity. Nor is being bored.

This all might sound harsh. Of course I understand that life is complex, especially married life. All the same I have come across many cases of clear injustice when someone is not only abandoned, but impoverished, in someone else’s unreliable pursuit of happiness.

So I felt, I admit, a sneaking pleasure in a headline last week that said adulterers may pay the price for their marriage break-up. Why not, I thought. Bring back blame. Since marriage is a contract, blame can usually best be expressed contractually, ie, financially.

By that I don’t mean adulterers should necessarily be named, shamed and blamed. On the contrary, I am a bit of an apologist for adultery. It seems largely inevitable for many people. What I am against is divorce. People who break up their marriages simply because one person has fallen in love with someone else should usually accept the greater share of blame.

This is the kind of “smarten-up” appeal to responsibility that many conservatives hope might be sufficient to reverse the modern plague of family breakdowns. It won’t work. Ms Marrin’s casual attitude to adultery (one detects more than a whiff of British aristocratic tradition here) while professing to oppose divorce betrays the same naivete she rightly accuses the “everyone is equally to blame” crowd of. The hard fact is that very few marriages can survive adultery and the corrosive sense of betrayal that comes with it (that's why family feuds and civil wars are so savage), and it can be cruel in the extreme to demand it be tolerated or forgiven as just one of life’s little unpleasant surprises. It is simply beyond the emotional and psychological (or even physical) capacity of most people to continue to live with an adulterer in whom one has invested all one’s faith, trust and material future, children or no children.

Adultery may be inevitable the way armed robbery is inevitable, but that is not what Ms. Marrin appears to mean. She seems to want to oppose divorce while preserving the very modern notion that sexual satisfaction is both a need, right or entitlement and no big thing, all at the same time. As long as that thinking prevails, adultery will thrive and so will divorce.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:08 AM


Faithful Community Life (Karl Zinsmeister, May 2006, The American Enterprise)

This issue of The American Enterprise doesn’t concern itself with all of the ways Judeo-Christianity has influenced us, but focuses specifically on how religion creates social bonds—how it knits people and communities together. The common view among liberal intellectuals today is that religion is something that divides peo­ple, a “wedge,” a force that corrodes unity. Everything from today’s “culture wars” to the recent marauding of disaffected Muslims through European cities is blamed vaguely on “too much religion.”

That is a crude reduction of the actual effects of religious belief on most people. It’s true that religion is a potent influence on all aspects of a civilization. “The beginning of culture is cult,” reminds Michael Novak. Often, religious views have soaked so deeply into the social fabric that most citizens are no longer even conscious of them, even as their culture continues to be shaped by echoes of faith.

In particular, it is the religious impulse that makes typical men and women capa­ble of concern for their fellows. The verdict of history, says Novak, is that “apart from the worship of God, human beings cannot transcend themselves in the large num­bers needed to sustain a civilization. Unless human beings have a vision of something beyond the bounds of their own natures, they cannot be pulled out of themselves.”

America has a richer and more varied tradition of religious community-making than any other country on Earth. The Puritans, Quakers, Catholics, and other persecuted believers who first arrived on these shores came specifically to set up faithful societies denied to them elsewhere. Anabaptists, Shakers, Jews, Moravians, and many others followed them across the ocean so they could cohere with other worshippers in congregations, neighborhoods, and towns. Then there were rafts of homegrown religious communities: pioneer Method­ists, Christian Scientists, the Oneida Movement, Seventh-Day Adventists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Lubavitchers, Latter-Day Saints, and many others.

Religious communities in the U.S. are not just some his­torical remnant. Mormons, Chabadniks, various Anabaptists, orthodox Catholics, and broad spectrums of evangelical Prot­estants are burgeoning in number and prospering within close-knit home places sprinkled from New York City to Nashville; Wheaton, Illinois to Moscow, Idaho; Grand Rapids, Michigan to Waco, Texas. There are entire cities in this country—as dif­ferent as Provo, Utah and Kiryas Joel in upstate New York—that are built on religious fraternity. Informal groupings of believers lean on their fellow saints in towns like Santa Paula, California (profiled on page 33), inside hundreds of megachurches in a range of U.S. localities (page 28), and even in brand new com­munities built around a religious core—like Ave Maria, now being constructed on Florida’s prosperous Gulf Coast.

Religious communities continue to attract people because they function differently, and feel quite distinct from other places. In a statistics-laden paper given at the American Enter­prise Institute, MIT economist Jonathan Gruber recently pre­sented some pioneering documentation of this. People who reside near co-religionists not only participate in worship at a higher rate than more isolated believers (as you might expect), but also conduct themselves differently in other ways. Being surrounded by a community of believers inspires more work, study, and marriage, and less divorce and freeloading. A 10 per­cent increase in the density of co-religionists in your neighbor­hood, Gruber found, leads to an extra half year of education, an increase in income, a 4 percent rise in marriages and equivalent decline in divorces, and 16 percent less welfare use.

“Religion…is more needed in democratic republics than in any other,” wrote Alexis de Tocqueville. The untrammelled individual autonomy fostered by U.S.-style gov­ernance needs to be balanced by a sense of responsibility and communal loyalty. Only when religious parameters discipline personal appetites and imbue citizens with authentic concern for others will a people be able to live entirely free, without despots over them, Tocqueville concludes.

Thankfully, some invisible spring (which has gone dry in Europe and other places) keeps refilling American breasts with religious convictions and truths.

While the End of History will force everyone to ape Anglo-American lberal democracy -- with its capitalism, protestantism, and parliamentarianism -- because so few societies are fed by that stream the End will not work out terribly well for most of them, as witness Europe.

Washington's Faith and the Birth of America (Michael Novak, Jana Novak, May 2006, The American Enterprise)

So how did George Washington persevere? As he acknowledged many times, he trusted “Providence.” George Washington had a silent ally to whom he regularly gave thanks, publicly and privately. [...]

Some historians seem to fear religious interpretations of Washington. More recent biographers often suggest Washington was at best a lukewarm Anglican, that he was more a deist than a Christian, and that his concept of “Providence” was closer to the Greek or Roman “Fate” or “Fortuna” than to the Biblical God. Yet Washington’s own stepgranddaughter, “Nelly” Custis, thought his words and actions were so plain and obvious that she could not understand how anybody failed to see that he had always lived as a serious Christian. As she wrote to one of Washington’s early biographers:

It was his custom to retire to his library at nine or ten o’clock, where he remained an hour before he went to his chamber. He always rose before the sun, and remained in his library until called to breakfast. I never witnessed his private devotions, I never inquired about them. I should have thought it the greatest heresy to doubt his firm belief in Christianity. His life, his writings, prove that he was a Christian. He was not one of those who act or pray “that they may be seen of men.” He communed with his God in secret.

At times Washington spoke boldly, once urging the Delaware chiefs, “You do well to wish to learn our arts and ways of life, and above all the religion of Jesus Christ.” For the most part, however, Washington kept his religious beliefs and sentiments private. Such undemonstrativeness was common among Anglicans of his time and station, as was resistance to “enthusiasm,” and a preference for decorum and formality. (Nonetheless, some Virginian Anglicans, like Washington’s best friend Bryan Fairfax and Virginia governor Patrick Henry, did write movingly of their spiritual struggles as Anglicans, at least in private letters and diaries.) The fact that Washington sometimes spent a whole day in prayer and fasting, and that he was unusually attentive to his duties as church vestryman, may have said enough in Washington’s own mind about his seriousness in matters religious. [...]

There is some dispute concerning how religious most of America was during the years of the War of Independence. The shortage of clergymen and even churches was always severe along the paths of the westward migration. On the other hand, recent studies suggest that religious practice was more intense than previously thought. The “First Great Awakening,” a broad renewal of religious conviction, was slowly spreading through the colonies, even in the Anglican South, threatening the laws of religious establishment, for example, in Virginia.

Thus, it can be no surprise that at the first meeting of the Continental Congress in Philadelphia, in September 1774, when news was received of the sudden outbreak of war in Boston, the very first motion on the floor was for a prayer to seek the guidance of Almighty God. Resistance immediately erupted—not because prayer was thought inappropriate, but because John Jay and others protested that they could not pray in the same terms as other people present (Anabaptists with Quakers, Congregationalists with Episcopalians, Unitarians with Presbyterians). Sam Adams settled the dispute by announcing loudly that he was no bigot and could pray along with any minister so long as he was a patriot.

And so George Washington meditated alongside Patrick Henry, Edmund Randolph, John Jay, Edward Rutledge, and Richard Henry Lee. In a letter written to Abigail a week later, John Adams described the electrifying effect of that prayer, which was from Psalm 35. “It seemed as if Heaven had ordained that Psalm to be read on that morning,” he explained to his wife. “It has had an excellent effect upon everybody here.” [...]

The stresses never drove Washington off balance—for he had learned to work with, not against, reality and the rough edges of life. This didn’t mean blind acceptance, however. He was intent on making his fighting force worthy of God’s favor, and worked hard to clean up their behavior. “We can have little hopes of the blessing of Heaven on our arms if we insult it by our impiety and folly,” stated one of his orders. “Let vice and immorality of every kind be discouraged, as much as possible, in your brigade; and as a chaplain is allowed to each regiment, see that the men regularly attend divine Worship,” stipulated another.

As he had while leading Virginian forces earlier in life, he put chaplains in position throughout his army, and had the government pay their salaries: $40 per month. He issued many orders enjoining his troops to pray, fast, attend worship, and observe days of thanksgiving. Washington insisted that soldiers respect the free exercise of religion among local citizens. In New England, he forbade the celebration of Guy Fawkes Day with its fierce anti-Catholic symbolism.

One of his orders stated that “All chaplains are to perform divine service tomorrow, and on every succeeding Sunday…. The commander in chief expects an exact compliance with this order, and that it be observed in future as an invariable rule of practice—and every neglect will be considered not only a breach of orders, but a disregard to decency, virtue and religion.” Washington grew even more explicit as the war dragged on: “While we are zealously performing the duties of good citizens and soldiers we certainly ought not to be inattentive to the higher duties of religion. To the distinguished character of patriot, it should be our highest glory to add the more distinguished character of Christian.”

Despite urgings from the Congress to live off the land, Washington ordered his troops to go hungry rather than force citizens to part with victuals at bayonet point. He forbade his troops under pain of death to utter blasphemies, even profanity. They must live among the people as Christian soldiers, he explained, and demonstrate the moral character of the American cause.

At the same time, experience had taught Washington that it is wrong to expect too much from virtue alone, and that it is wise not to be surprised by failure, poor performance, or even disgraceful behavior, for these will most assuredly occur from time to time. A great commander must aim his men high, to draw more from them than seems humanly possible. Yet while leading his citizen army Washington often tasted the bitter cup of human weakness and failure. In this realism, he acted as a Christian general.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:03 AM


'Nobel' lies on campus (Nathanael Blake, Apr 21, 2006, Townhall)

Rigoberta Menchu Tum was awarded the 1992 Nobel Peace Prize “in recognition of her work for social justice and ethno-cultural reconciliation based on respect for the rights of indigenous peoples.” She is also guilty of a literary fraud that would get her expelled from OSU for academic dishonesty if she were a student. Or perhaps not – she’s going to be an honored speaker on campus this weekend. [...]

So ubiquitous is she in academic circles that Dinesh D’Souza’s 1991 Illiberal Education used her popularity as the symbol for the replacement of great classical works with mediocre multicultural education. “Rigoberta’s peasant radicalism provides independent Third World corroboration of Western progressive ideologies. Thus she is really a mouthpiece for a sophisticated left-wing critique of Western society,” and her book, “represents not the zenith of Third World achievements, but rather caters to the ideological proclivities of American activists.”

Such criticisms were for naught; Rigoberta won the Nobel the next year, with D’Souza ruefully remarking, “All I can say is that I am relieved she didn’t win for literature.” As it turns out, that might have been more appropriate. In the late 1990’s, the story that informed Rigoberta’s secular sainthood came apart. Anthropologist David Stoll, in research confirmed by the New York Times, revealed that she had been lying all along. She wasn’t illiterate, but had been educated in a prestigious Catholic boarding school. The land dispute central to formulating her Marxism beliefs didn’t pit her family against wealthy landowners, but against their own relatives. Her brother Nicolas didn’t die of starvation, but was alive and well in Guatemala.

But she retains much of her popularity. Her book is still assigned in classes, and she’s still welcome to speak at universities, including my own.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:56 AM


Take a Moment: Take a dip into spring avocados (Virginia Linn, April 23, 2006, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

Avocados, the perfect fresh fruit for spring dips, get a bad rap because of their reputed high-fat content. A half of a medium avocado has 160 calories and 15 grams of fat, but two-thirds of that fat is monounsaturated -- the best kind for your diet.

Avocados also are high in fiber and folate and a good source of vitamins C and E and potassium, with some vitamin B3 and magnesium.

Guacamole (Recipe courtesy Alton Brown, See this recipe on air Monday May. 22 at 7:00 PM ET/PT, Good Eats: Food Network)
3 Haas avocados, halved, seeded and peeled
1 lime, juiced
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 medium onion, diced
2 Roma tomatoes, seeded and diced
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
1 clove garlic, minced

In a large bowl place the scooped avocado pulp and lime juice, toss to coat. Drain, and reserve the lime juice, after all of the avocados have been coated. Using a potato masher add the salt, cumin, and cayenne and mash. Then, fold in the onions, tomatoes, cilantro, and garlic. Add 1 tablespoon of the reserved lime juice. Let sit at room temperature for 1 hour and then serve.

Posted by David Cohen at 8:51 AM


Tilting at Windmills (Anne Applebaum, Washington Post, 4/19/06)

But they also reflect a deeper American malady. The problem plaguing new energy developments is no longer NIMBYism, the "Not-In-My-Back-Yard" movement. The problem now, as one wind-power executive puts it, is BANANAism: "Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything." The anti-wind brigade, fierce though it is, pales beside the opposition to liquid natural gas terminals, and would fade entirely beside the mass movement that will oppose a new nuclear power plant. Indeed, the founders of Cape Wind say they embarked on the project in part because public antipathy prevents most other utility investments in New England.

Still, energy projects don't even have to be viable to spark opposition: Already, there are activists gearing up to fight the nascent biofuel industry, on the grounds that fields of switch grass or cornstalks needed to produce ethanol will replace rainforests and bucolic country landscapes. Soon the nonexistent "hydrogen economy" will doubtless be under attack as well. There's a lot of earnest, even bipartisan talk nowadays about the need for clean, emissions-free energy. But are we really ready, politically, to build any new energy sources at all?

There has been some discussion recently about what the Democratic Party stands for. From the right, the questions seems odd; the Democrats are now the reactionary party. They are a bunch of bananas.

The Republicans used to be the reactionary party and we recognise the symptoms. The reactionary party -- out of power, out of fashion and out of ideas -- moans that everything is terrible and any change is for the worse. Social security is broken, but any change will make things worse. Education is broken, but any change will make things worse. The economy is broken, but any change will make things worse. Health care is broken, but any (politically tenable) change will make things worse. Iraq and Iran and North Korea are broken, but nothing can be done.

The Republicans were eventually rescued by Ronald Regan, who broke the impass by convincing Americans that things could get better just when the Democrats were tilting towards reaction. Is there a Ronald Reagan for the Democrats? Nothing is more certain than that, eventually, the Democrats will be back on top, though by that time they may not be the party of socialism lite. But Republican hegemony is still young by historical standards and the Democrats have a problem that the Republicans did not face. The Democratic Party is a coalition and its various blocks can easily be at cross-purposes. Almost anything the Party does for blacks, for example, will make things worse for teachers, and vice versa. Almost anything the Party does for labor will make things worse for immigrants, and vice versa. Almost anything the Party does to court the electorate will alienate the left, and vice versa. As a result, the Party is now a coalition of vetos and cannot easily break out of its reactionary spiral. You can indict a ham sandwich, but in America you cannot elect a bunch of bananas.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:49 AM


China, Vatican Edge Toward Accord (Edward Cody, April 23, 2006, Washington Post)

After more than half a century of hostility, China and the Roman Catholic Church have inched within reach of normal relations, a historic shift aimed at improving the lives of 10 million Chinese who regularly practice the faith, according to leaders and analysts on both sides of the divide.

The irregular contacts, often made at meetings in Rome between Vatican diplomats and Chinese Communist Party officials, remain clouded by mutual suspicion, they said. Party elders particularly fear that the church could become a rallying point for anti-government agitation as it did in Eastern Europe.

But the process has overcome a major stumbling block with recent signals from the Vatican that it is willing to break with Taiwan and set up diplomatic relations with Beijing as part of an overall accord guaranteeing the church's role in China.

Realpolitik is amoral and for the Vatican to practice it especially repellant.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:25 AM


Al-Maliki takes duty to unite Iraq (Mussab al-Khairalla, April 23, 2006, REUTERS NEWS AGENCY)

Tough-talking Shi'ite Jawad al-Maliki was given the responsibility of forming a coalition government by Iraqi leaders yesterday, ending a four-month political deadlock that many feared could pitch the country into a sectarian civil war.

"We are going to form a family that will not be based on sectarian or ethnic backgrounds," Mr. al-Maliki told reporters, seeking to shed a hard-line Shi'ite image and present himself as a prime minister able to unite Shi'ite Muslims, Sunni Arabs and Kurds.

But in his first policy speech, Mr. al-Maliki called for Iraq's powerful militias to be merged with U.S.-trained security forces -- an explosive issue in the country because militias are tied to political parties and operate along religious lines.

"Arms should be in the hands of the government. There is a law that calls for the merging of militias with the armed forces," said Mr. al-Maliki, nominated by the ruling Shi'ite Alliance, the largest bloc in parliament after December elections.

Recognizable sovereignty requires that only the government of a state have the authority and power to use force.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:23 AM


NHS 'enjoying best year' - Hewitt (BBC, 4/23/06)

Despite huge job losses and mounting financial problems, the NHS is enjoying "its best year ever" according to Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt.

The service faces a financial deficit of up to £800m and some 7,000 job losses have already been confirmed.

Every year closer they come to it falling apart completely is better than the year before.

A painful lesson on healthcare in the NHS Bermuda triangle (Simon Jenkins, 4/23/06, Times Online)

To the public the present NHS “crisis” must be baffling. Not a day passes without a bad news story in the press. Deficits are soaring, hospitals going into virtual administration, drug treatments being decided by the High Court and 6,000 staff about to be sacked. Even in fashionable Kensington and Chelsea the health trust has recently found itself with £6m in invoices not accounted for and the auditor not noticing. The same auditor, Price Waterhouse Coopers, is then called in to audit the loss, doubtless adding its own invoice to the pile.

Yet I can dimly see method in Blair’s pain and gain. There is at last an NHS “narrative”. Waiting lists are down and gleaming hospitals are rising at least in the big cities. The much-quoted £800m deficit is no big deal in a service costing £72 billion. It is only getting publicity because, at last, the government is refusing to rob Peter to pay Paul. The pus of inefficiency is finally starting to ooze from the NHS patient.

The British health service had by the mid-1980s become an unsustainable racket. Doctors were running hospitals according to mind-bending restrictive practices. Theatre productivity was pitiful. Nurses and paramedics were treated by doctors as serfs. A&E patients were handed from one clinician to another in a ludicrous make-work scheme. Drug companies, computer firms, management consultants, negligence lawyers and staff unions were walking away with the till each night.

By 1987 the Tories had doubled spending and the money had vanished. Margaret Thatcher lost her temper. Wailing to Panorama about the “bottomless pit” of NHS costs, she set in train what became the 1990 NHS Act and two decades of reform.

Any Briton who smugly insults public administration in France or Italy or Paraguay or Papua New Guinea should study Britain’s NHS, c1990-2006. Thatcher’s reform began as essentially sound. She introduced fundholding doctors and trust hospitals, forcing GPs to be more resource-minded and trying to release hospitals from the grip of a reactionary medical profession. A bureaucratised NHS would be supplanted by a market-led local one.

The 1990 Act was scuppered first by the Treasury and then by the Labour party. The Treasury refused to allow hospital trusts financial autonomy, even denying them freedom to negotiate their own wages. They lost control of their costs and simply dumped the bill on the exchequer. Yet as a recent report for auditors KPMG by Rupert Darwall — a director of the Reform think tank — has shown, Thatcher’s fundholding yielded a more dramatic fall in waiting times than did Labour’s extravagance.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:19 AM


Morocco orders captives' release (BBC, 4/23/06)

Morocco's King Mohammed has ordered the release of 48 Sahrawi activists jailed last year for demonstrations demanding the independence of Western Sahara.

Officials said the pardon would free the last remaining political prisoners from Western Sahara. [...]

Morocco has rejected a UN-sponsored peace plan involving immediate self-government for Western Sahara and a referendum on independence within five years.

But Morocco has offered to give the territory greater autonomy.

"The sovereign has pardoned all the Sahrawi prisoners and they are already being freed," an official source was quoted by news agency AFP.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 8:19 AM


For a new international community (Caroline Glick, Jerusalem Post, April 20th, 2006)

In a nutshell, the reason that the international community is unable to contend with the threat Iran poses to international security is because today's dominant international institutions are constituted in a manner that protects those who endanger international security at the expense of those they target with aggression. Today, most states in the world are neither stalwart US enemies like Iran and North Korea, nor stalwart US allies like Israel, Poland, Australia and Britain. They can roughly be divided into two groups.

First there are the states that do not share the US's perception of the threat of global jihad and those that believe that America's loss is their gain. China, Russia, Venezuela, Cuba, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey, South Africa, and - depending on the weather - France, Norway, Sweden and Belgium are members of this group.

The second group is comprised of states that do share the US's perception of the threat Islamo-fascism presents to international security. States in this category have two main reasons for not wishing to join the US today in contending with Iran. First, some of these states assume they can sit on the fence and still enjoy an American security guarantee. This group of free riders includes Canada, Mexico, the Philippines and Western European states, which - again depending on the weather - sometimes include France, Belgium, Norway and Sweden. Second, many states are simply unconvinced the US has the staying power to win this war and as a result are unwilling to risk the potential repercussions of joining forces with America. This group includes states like Singapore, India, Pakistan, Thailand, Holland and Indonesia.

As was the case three years ago when the US worked to build an international coalition ahead of its invasion of Iraq, today its attempts to build a coalition against Iran suffer from two critical weaknesses. First, the US is not making a distinction between states that have no interest in helping it and those who wish it to succeed. Indeed, Washington seems more intent on currying the favor of inherently hostile states like China and Russia than in engendering the support of inherently non-hostile states like Holland, Denmark, Singapore and even Britain.

Second, the US is seeking to build its coalitions within the framework of the UN and NATO, which are institutionally incapable of advancing US interests. The UN is controlled by countries like China and Russia that do not share the US's perception of threats to global security, by states that believe their fortunes are improved by US failure like Egypt, Venezuela and Saudi Arabia, and by states like France that believe that they can get away with opposing the US because America will protect them anyway.

NATO was established in 1949 to contain the Soviet Union. It remained relevant until the end of the Cold War because the nations of Western Europe wanted the US to protect them from Soviet invasion and the US wanted to prevent Soviet expansion. But today, in the absence of the Soviet Union, NATO has no real importance. In the 1990s it was hoped that the alliance would be able to reinvent itself as a US-led international security organization. But in light of France and Turkey's refusal to participate in the war against the global jihad, NATO has been rendered incapable of playing a role in today's international security environment. So against Iran today, like against Iraq three years ago, the US is unable to use NATO as the basis for an international coalition.

In light of these realities, it is clear that if the US wishes to build an international coalition against Iran, it must fashion a new international organization that will provide incentives to countries like Germany and India to fight alongside the US. Three years ago, the US successfully convinced some 40 countries to join its campaign against Iraq. But that coalition of the willing was never institutionalized. Its members - like Spain and Italy - were free to come and go as they pleased. As a result, it cannot be relied on today against Iran. While the task of building a new institutional framework for international action against Iran - and perhaps against Syria and North Korea in the future - seems daunting, the US has vast military and economic and cultural resources that it can offer as convincing incentives for joining.

It’s hard to see where the usually tough-minded Ms. Glick is going here. If there is one thing we learned from Iraq, neither Washington nor even its most supportive friends are going to bind themselves to either engage or not engage in any theoretically foreseeable military action on the basis of a majority vote in a multilateral institution, incentives or no incentives. NATO was a specific response to a concrete threat in unique historical circumstances, not a model for ever-expanding internationalism. The really troubling issue here is the symbolic importance of “allies” on both sides of debate in the West, particularly in the United States. Looking back to 2003, one wonders just why Poland’s support and Canada’s Euro-cowardice were given the political importance they were, as no one ever believed either would make a military difference. Obviously, Iran has no such hang-ups.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:11 AM


Democrats vow to set nation on course (Steven Thomma, 4/23/06, Knight Ridder Newspapers)

NEW ORLEANS — Democrats cast themselves Saturday as the party that will change the nation's unpopular course but hedged on how they would do it.

It's apt that they're still using New Orleans seven months after everyne else figured out that it wasn't an issue that helped Democrats.

New Orleans mayor faces run-off (BBC, 4/23/06)

New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin is to face challenger Mitch Landrieu in a run-off after a mayoral poll considered crucial to the hurricane-hit city's future.

Mr Nagin, criticised by some for his response to Hurricane Katrina last August, got 38% in the first round against Mr Landrieu's 29%.

The poll was dogged by race issues as many of the majority black community are still evacuees.

Mr Nagin caused controversy, saying he wanted the city to remain "chocolate".

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:08 AM


Rumsfeld OKs wider anti-terror role for military (Ann Scott Tyson, 4/23/06, The Washington Post)

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has approved the military's most ambitious plan yet to fight terrorism and retaliate more rapidly and decisively in the case of another major terrorist attack on the United States, according to defense officials.

[T]he documents in general envision a significantly expanded role for the military — and in particular a growing force of elite Special Operations troops — in continuous operations to combat terrorism outside of war zones such as Iraq and Afghanistan. Developed over about three years by the Special Operations Command (SOCOM) in Tampa, Fla., they reflect a beefing up of the Pentagon's involvement in domains traditionally handled by the CIA and State Department.

For example, SOCOM has dispatched small teams of Army Green Berets and other Special Operations troops to U.S. embassies in more than a dozen countries in the Middle East, Asia and Latin America, where they do operational planning and intelligence gathering to enhance the ability to conduct military operations where the United States is not at war.

And in a subtle but important shift contained in a classified order last year, the Pentagon gained the leeway to inform — rather than gain the approval of — the U.S. ambassador before conducting military operations in a foreign country, according to several administration officials. "We do not need ambassador-level approval," said one defense official familiar with the order.

Overall, the plans underscore Rumsfeld's conviction since the Sept. 11 attacks that the U.S. military must expand its mission beyond 20th-century conventional warfare by infantry, tanks, ships and fighter jets to fighting shadowy and fleeting nonstate groups that are, above all, difficult to find.

Military guys want a huge force getting tons of money and set piece battles and tradtional campaigns that end in predictable medals and promotions, just like their fathers and grandfathers knew.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 7:31 AM


Finland gets bloody minded (Matthew Campbell, The Times, April 23rd, 2006)

Fed up with their “losers” tag at the Eurovision song contest, the usually nondescript Finns can hardly avoid being noticed this year. They will be represented by a group of men in repulsive monster masks, one of them wielding a blood-spurting chainsaw. The heavy-metal band Lordi like to blow up slabs of meat on stage and are a departure from the wholesome fare more generally associated with a contest that launched the careers of Abba and Celine Dion.

And it’s a far cry from 1970, when Dana’s sickly-sweet All Kinds of Everything took the plaudits. Rather than “Snowdrops and daffodils, butterflies and bees”, Lordi’s entry, Hard Rock Hallelujah, includes “I got horns on my head, my fangs are sharp and my eyes are red”.

Finland’s religious leaders are among a growing army of critics who have warned that the monster mutants with giant retractable wings could inspire devil worship. But vocalist Tomi Putaansuu, a former film student who calls himself Lordi, denies any satanic leanings, despite the horns and black, 6in-long fingernails. [...]

Yet many Finns are attracted by the monsters. Lordi’s members include Amen, a mummy in a rubber loincloth, and Kita, an alien predator who plays flame-spitting drums from inside a cage. There is speculation that their use of flaming, dragon-encrusted swords appeals to latent warrior Viking instincts.

You know your society is in big trouble when the only philosophical principle it has left to distinguish good from evil is: “Eww...that’s gross!”

April 22, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:31 PM


The left splits over immigration: Most liberals have celebrated the recent pro-immigration marches. But some leading progressives say illegal immigration hurts American workers. (Michelle Goldberg, 4/20/06, Salon)

Britt Minshall is a United Church of Christ pastor and a proud member of the religious left. A former civil rights Freedom Rider, he heads an interracial Baltimore congregation of 200, which has ministries that care for recovering addicts and for prostitutes. He also works in Haiti, and has written a self-published novel "to expose the pernicious effects of American foreign policy" on the people of that country. He calls the current administration "evil, wrong, treasonous ... a pack of monsters." And yet as he watched hundreds of thousands of immigrants march through the streets of America's biggest cities in the past few weeks, he found himself agreeing with some of the most right-wing Republicans. Most liberals are "dead wrong" on immigration, he says, arguing that social justice demands a crackdown on the undocumented. "I'm afraid the Minutemen have a point here," he says.

Most liberals have celebrated the recent pro-immigration marches, seeing in them a new kind of civil rights movement. They've supported calls to legalize many of the 11 million undocumented immigrants currently in the United States. Many have delighted in the fissures opening up on the right, where nativists are pitted against laissez-faire business interests hungry for cheap labor. Yet there are fault lines on the left as well, with a small but notable number of progressive commentators warning that by championing rights for illegal immigrants and expanded legal immigration, liberals are working against the interests of low-skilled American workers. "I'm instinctively, emotionally pro-immigration," New York Times columnist Paul Krugman wrote last month. "But a review of serious, nonpartisan research reveals some uncomfortable facts about the economics of modern immigration ... [W]hile immigration may have raised overall income slightly, many of the worst-off native-born Americans are hurt by immigration -- especially immigration from Mexico." [...]

[T]he liberal debate over immigration isn't simply one between the left and the center. It cuts across ideologies. There are conservative Democrats, civil rights activists and leftist multiculturalists calling for legalizing undocumented immigrant workers, while figures including antiwar Air America radio host Thom Hartmann, writer Michael Lind and Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., are urging much tougher restrictions. The central question is whether the interests of working-class Americans and those of immigrants, legal and illegal, are necessarily in opposition, and if they are, how progressives -- and the lawmakers they support -- should deal with it. What does it mean if the inspiring words inscribed on the Statue of Liberty -- "Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me" -- can't be reconciled with the needs of this country's workers?

Opposition to immigration naturally unites nativists (especially blacks who stand to lose their urban power base), protectionists and isolationists across party lines.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:23 PM


Beckett feeling right at home in Boston (Jayson Stark, 4/22/06, ESPN.com)

Maybe it's fate that Josh Beckett has come to this storied place, with its ghosts and its history, with its 24/7 adrenaline monsoon, with its fabled 37-foot left field wall.

All men have their time. But not everyone finds his place.

And there is something about this place -- Fenway Park, Boston, the New England baseball repertory stage -- that feels as if it's been almost designed in the lab for this 25-year-old rocket launcher from Texas.

No matter how many years he pitches for the Red Sox, Beckett may never learn how to properly pronounce "Hah-vahd," or figure out how to safely navigate around a Boston rotary. But it's obvious he already understands something way more important about his new baseball homeland:

The magic of Fenway … and the fully enriched nuclear energy supply that is attached, free of charge, to all Red Sox paychecks.

For weeks, Beckett has been looking forward to playing in a place where he's been told they play "162 Green Bay Packer games a year." And now we're seeing why.

As he showed last night, he is still just 25 years old.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:42 AM


To many, organs give life to baseball (Scott Merkin, 04/21/2006, MLB.com)

White Sox organist Nancy Faust could be described as one part entertainer, one part musician and one part mad scientist. How else could the following scenario be explained?

Let's say, for example, Cleveland's Travis Hafner is stepping to the plate at U.S. Cellular Field. What music does Faust immediately decide to play for the Indians slugger? Her choice is either J. Geils' "Centerfold" or Bon Jovi's "Livin' on a Prayer," of course.

"Livin' on a Prayer" has the lyric "We're halfway there," thus relating somewhat to HAF-ner. But "Centerfold?"

"Because of Hugh Hefner," said Faust with a laugh, referring to how Hafner and Hefner have very similar last names. "That's the way my little brain works."

Faust's little brain has been working as part of the White Sox organization since 1970, when as a psychology major at North Park College, she listened to her friends and wrote a letter to the team about becoming the organist at Comiskey Park. She was hired almost immediately and only missed time out of her booth on the main concourse for the birth of her son during close to four decades on the job.

That stretch of consecutive workdays came to an end for Faust last Friday night, by her own choice. With television cameras and friends sitting around with her husband at their farm in Mundelein, Ill., Faust began her new employment structure of only working day games.

While Faust made the call in this particular situation, other organists around baseball have gradually been moved out of their position or reduced to lesser in-game roles. It's not exactly a bitter switch, but more an indication of the changing times and cultural tastes.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:31 AM


Five Colleges Book Sale ($/22/06)

Usually 35-40,000 books in all fields, in good condition and carefully sorted
maps, prints, computer materials, CDs, tapes, DVDs, ephemera-- discounts on first-day sales over $200 -- sealed-bid auction of special items -- most things half-price second day

No Previews

Dealers Very Welcome


In 2006:

Saturday, 22 April, 9 - 5

Sunday, 23 April, 11- 4 (most items half-price)

>>>>>>>>> NEW LOCATION <<<<<<<<<

Lebanon High School Gym, Lebanon, NH
(handicap accessible)

Posted by Peter Burnet at 8:18 AM


Queen Elizabeth II celebrates 80th birthday(Jennifer Quinn, Associated Press, April 21st, 2006)

Cheering crowds, red-jacketed bandsmen in bearskin hats and ceremonial gunfire saluted the Queen on her 80th birthday Friday, but clouds denied the monarch her wish for sunshine.

Wearing a cerise coat and matching feathered hat, the Queen appeared promptly after noon through the Henry VIII gate at Windsor Castle.

Prince Philip, her husband of 58 years, briefly trailed behind but then moved off to greet other sections of the crowd, estimated by police to number 20,000.

Friday's events included a 21-gun salute at Windsor, a 41-gun salute at Hyde Park in London and a formal dinner at Kew Palace. But for monarchists and celebrity spotters, the day's big event was the chance to greet the Queen outside the imposing castle founded by William the Conqueror.[...]

"She's always the same. She never changes, does she?'' marvelled John Tyler, 69, a retired military man who came with his wife Iris. "She's got older, but she's always been a person of the people. She's the Queen of the people. Try and find another in the world like her. You won't, will you?''

Another man in the crowd, Colin Edwards, 65, of Wales, said he had been a bystander at 113 royal events since 1982.

"She has never been involved in a scandal, she has carried out her duties superbly, we love her to bits and hope that she reigns for at least another 20 years,'' Edwards said.

"She's fantastic,'' added Mary Wintle, 71, who also came from Wales to cheer the monarch. [...]

On a visit to the British Broadcasting Corp. on Thursday, the Queen was asked what she wanted for her birthday.

"A nice sunshiny day - that would be nice,'' she said.

It is one of the delightfully irrational quirks of British history and government that the country that invented male primogeniture has had so many strong, beloved queens and so many feckless, unpopular kings.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:10 AM


Uniform policies fit well for high schools (Tarron Lively, April 22, 2006, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

Four high schools in Prince George's County have reported improved honor rolls, student behavior and attendance since instituting school uniform policies in August.

The four schools -- Charles Herbert Flowers, Suitland, Northwestern, and Forrestville Military Academy -- joined more than 100 elementary and middle schools in the county that already had uniform policies in place. [...]

"The uniforms do away with fashion stereotypes and create an even playing field for students to concentrate on academics," said Suitland Principal Mark Fossett.

Bill Clinton's conservatism is too easily underestimated.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:04 AM


CIA Officer Is Fired for Media Leaks: The Post Was Among Outlets That Gained Classified Data (Dafna Linzer, April 22, 2006, Washington Post)

The CIA fired a long-serving intelligence officer for sharing classified information with The Washington Post and other news organizations, officials said yesterday, as the agency continued an aggressive internal search for anyone who may have discussed intelligence with the news media. [...]

The CIA did not reveal the identity of the employee, who was dismissed Thursday, but NBC News reported last night she is Mary McCarthy. An intelligence source confirmed that the report was accurate. [...]

The CIA's statement did not name the reporters it believes were involved, but several intelligence officials said The Post's Dana Priest was among them. This week, Priest won the Pulitzer Prize for beat reporting for articles about the agency, including one that revealed the existence of secret, CIA-run prisons in Eastern Europe and elsewhere.

CIA Director Porter J. Goss told the Senate intelligence committee in February that the agency was determined to get to the bottom of recent leaks, and wanted journalists brought before a federal grand jury to reveal their sources. Regarding disclosures about CIA detention and interrogation of terrorist suspects at secret sites abroad, Goss, the former chairman of the House intelligence committee, said that "the damage has been very severe to our capabilities to carry out our mission."

In better days we executed such people. Doesn't help that she appears to be a Kerry donor.

Pulitzer Prizes for treachery (Douglas MacKinnon, April 21, 2006 , Washington Times)

Dana Priest of The Washington Post, won the best reporting award for revealing that the CIA was using secret prisons in Easter Europe to interrogate terrorists.

In other words, they gave an award to a reporter who got a tip from a government worker who betrayed his or her country by revealing top-secret information. The reporter and The Post, in an effort to become the darlings of left, then splashed said top secret information all over the front page. Who benefited from this "Pulitzer Prize Winning Reporting?" Terrorists who mean to kill everyone in the United States.

Next, you have the New York Times winning a Pulitzer Prize for announcing President Bush's "domestic eavesdropping program." Again, a proudly left-of-center newspaper is given a prestigious award for revealing top secret information that can only bring aid and comfort to al Qaeda and other terrorists who mean to destroy us and our allies.

It should be noted that with regard to the two prizes just mentioned, in the interests of national security, Mr. Bush personally appealed the patriotism and commonsense of both The Post and the New York Times, and implored them not to run the stories. Both papers, it seems, put their strong dislike of Mr. Bush and his policies before the future safety of Americans.

No Proof of Secret C.I.A. Prisons, European Antiterror Chief Says (DAN BILEFSKY, 4/21/06, NY Times)
The European Union's antiterrorism chief told a hearing on Thursday that he had not been able to prove that secret C.I.A. prisons existed in Europe.

"We've heard all kinds of allegations," the official, Gijs de Vries, said before a committee of the European Parliament. "It does not appear to be proven beyond reasonable doubt." [...]

Many European nations were outraged after an article in The Washington Post in November cited unidentified intelligence officials as saying that the C.I.A. had maintained detention centers for terrorism suspects in eight countries, including some in Eastern Europe.

Let's at least give her the benefit of the doubt and assume there really were secret detention facilities.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:57 AM


Director J.J. Abrams signs on for 11th 'Star Trek' film (Seattle Post-Intelligencer, April 22, 2006)

"Mission: Impossible III" director J.J. Abrams is going from Cruise control to warp speed. A couple of weeks before the arrival of Tom Cruise and "M:I3," Abrams has committed to producing the 11th "Star Trek" feature film, and there are plans for him to direct as well, Paramount Pictures announced Friday.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:47 AM


Polish forces 'may stay in Iraq' (BBC, 4/22/06)

Poland may not pull its troops out of Iraq at the end of the year as planned, its defence minister has said.

Radek Sikorski told the BBC that while he thought it was unlikely Polish forces would stay on, that could change depending on circumstances.

Poland has about 1,500 troops currently serving in Iraq.

The previous government had said it would withdraw them at the start of the year, but the present administration reversed this when it took power.

THE LURE OF POLAND: Foreign Investment Flooding East: With attractive rebates for investors and low corporate taxes, Poland's special economic zones are attracting companies from all over Europe. The first wave brought big businesses like Volkswagen to Poland. Now, more and more small businesses are going east. (Sebastian Ramspeck, 4/21/06, Der Spiegel)
Two years after its entry into the European Union, Poland is still home to 14 special economic zones that it uses to attract foreign investment. Companies that set up shop there are allowed to deduct up to 65 percent of their investment from their company taxes. During the first few years, they don't even have to pay a single zloty to the tax office. Companies that invested in the economic zones prior to 2001 could even profit from a 100-percent rebate. Outside the special economic zone, businesses still have a huge advantage over Germany and other Western European countries: the corporate flat tax is 19 percent compared to a 39.4 percent rate in Germany.

It's an offer that many businesses have been unable to refuse. At its plant in the Legnica special economic zone, Volkswagen has been assembling automobiles since 1998. From there, it can also quickly service its fast-growing Eastern European market. Sweden's Electrolux recently moved part of its production facility for its AEG brand from Nuremberg to Poland's Walbryzch economic zone.

But more and more small- and medium-sized German firms are also taking advantage of the tax rebate. The Wuppertal-based die casting firm Paul Hirsch recently bought parcel 23 in the Kostrzyn-Slubice zone. And just next door to Dieckmann's property, on parcel 22, the Cologne electronics firm Fraba is building an assembly plant. Bremen-based Karl Könecke produces sausages here. A company called Brinkhaus, based in the western German city of Warendorf, makes pillows and Hanke of Dortmund makes toilet paper.

Eike Schulz, the CEO of Paul Hirsch, is enthusiastic about doing business in the special zones. It only took two months before he got the go-ahead for construction here. "In Germany, I would have had to wait until 2008 just to get the permits," he says, laughing. But more than anything, he's pleased with his Polish workers. "In Germany, the workers have gotten fat and spoiled," he says, "but here they are hungry for work."

EASTERN EUROPE'S ECONOMIC BOOM: The Tiny Tigers: Accepted into the European Union last year, the former eastern bloc countries are the latest to capitalize on globalization. Followed by Slovenia and Slovakia, the Baltic States have set a cracking pace with their radical economic reforms. Their fervor is alarming its old-school neighbors in the West. (Marion Kraske and Jan Puhl, 4/21/06, der Spiegel)
The Slovenian economy is booming "thanks to our successful export industry," says Irena Rostan from the Chamber of Commerce in Ljubljana. This year the EU newcomer is targeting 3.7 percent growth - a rate exceeding that of many long-time members, although most of these still play in a different economic league. But for how much longer?

Like Slovenia, other fresh arrivals in the European Union are producing stellar figures - thanks to their burning ambition, demand born of dispossession, a near-obsession with reforms, and a fearless approach to competition. Eighteen months after the eight countries were officially accepted into the European family, a region is clearly emerging between Tallinn in the north and Ljubljana in the south that is focusing its sights on the global market. The prospect has sent a shudder through the powerful yet lethargic industrial nations of Old Europe.

In Brussels, leaders are therefore eying the lengthening shadows cast by the brilliant newcomers: Service regulations? Need reworking fast. Social dumping? More controls required. Turkey, Bulgaria and Romania as the next new members? Agreed, only to be hotly contested again. And how long will net contributors like the German government continue to subsidize the new EU competitors from the East? While Franz Müntefering, until recently SPD chairman, garners public approval for condemning the evil power of international capital, the EU newcomers are putting it to profitable use.

German politicians know they are caught in a pincer movement: between new regulations coming from Brussels and low-wage workers coming from the East. A sense of unease has gripped Germany, producing more questions than answers - even among experts. True, the waves of cleaners and seasonal workers were welcomed with open arms. But will they soon be followed by a tide of migrants prepared to work more for less? Will the bloodletting continue, driving more German companies to the supposedly cheap-production countries?

Skyrocketing growth rates have set the tone of public debate in the new EU member states. They reflect a success painfully wrought from reforms engulfing everything from the job market to the healthcare system.

To follow the Anglosphere is indeed radical.

April 21, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:58 PM

7 7/8THS-8, THANKS:

Manny finds power stroke (Michael Silverman, April 22, 2006, Boston Herald)

One of the only bright spots emitted from last night’s 7-6, 12-inning Red Sox loss was that Manny Ramirez rediscovered his home run stroke.

Ramirez’ first home run of the season came in the third inning, a flick of a 97-mph A.J. Burnett fastball on a 3-1 count that sailed the opposite way over the fence in right field. Five innings later, Ramirez, who has hits in six of his last seven games, again flicked his bat across the plate to reach for a Scott Schoeneweis offering, homer No. 2 of the season sailing into the right-field bleachers.

After beginning this season with a career-worst 16-game homer drought, Ramirez appears primed to begin one of his patented rolls.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:14 PM


Scott Crossfield (Daily Telegraph, 22/04/2006)

Scott Crossfield, who died on Wednesday in a plane crash, was one of the test pilots during the early days of rocket power documented by Tom Wolfe in The Right Stuff; he was the first person to travel at twice the speed of sound, and the first to travel at three times the speed of sound and survive.

Albert Scott Crossfield was born at Berkeley, California, on October 2 1921, one of three children of a petroleum engineer who moved the family to Wilmington when Scott was a year old. The boy had his first trip in a plane aged six, and became determined to earn his living by flying. [...]

Crossfield then joined the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (which from 1958 became became NASA). From 1950 until 1955, he piloted most of NACA's high-speed flights in the F-100 and F-102 supersonic fighters, the X-1, X-4 and X-5 rocket research planes and the Douglas 558-II Skyrocket.

In the last he set four speed records before breaking Mach 2 in 1953. He made more than 130 air-launched rocket flights in all.

Crossfield was closely involved in the design and development of the X-15, then the most advanced of the rocket planes, which was intended to travel at a height of 50 miles and at a speed of Mach 6.

When North American Aviation secured the contract to build the plane, Crossfield left NACA to supervise the project, which was completed in 1958.

His most dangerous moment came not in flight, but when he failed to turn on an oxygen valve on a pressure suit during ground tests. He passed out after inhaling nitrogen gas coolant; he recovered consciousness and, by frantically signalling to his crewman, Pete Barker, managed to have the helmet removed from his head only a few seconds before he would have died.

The first test of the X-15 in 1959 resulted in a fire in the tail section, but the second was judged a complete success. On the third flight an emergency landing nearly broke the plane in two, but the following year Crossfield became the first man to reach Mach 3 and survive. (Captain Mel Apt had died on the first flight to break the limit several years before.)

Posted by Peter Burnet at 5:58 PM


A short guide to winning arguments (Madsen Pirie, The Spectator, April 22nd, 2006)

When I taught logic at an American university, the chief problem was to entice students to take the course. The smorgasbord approach they used to build a degree meant that students wanted things which might be useful to them, or ones they might be good at. Logic, alas, was perceived as neither, and classes were largely made up of very bright students who were not afraid of it and who thought it might be fun.

It would be difficult to show that it is a valuable life skill, given the remarkable number of successful people who happily get by without it. Many high-achieving executives, respected media commentators and prominent politicians do not seem to be held back by a lack of logical fluency, while many who are precise with their words and arguments are neither successful nor popular; nor, indeed, are they rich.

The students were correct about the fun side of it, though. My staff colleagues used to demand a warning when the part of the course devoted to logical fallacies began. Students would point to alleged errors committed by professors and lecturers in other courses, giving impressive-sounding names to the fallacies they claimed to have spotted.

Does it win arguments, though? Yes, it can. If the cracked steps in an adversary’s chain of reasoning can be identified, you might not change their mind, but you might undermine their case to onlookers. You might also learn how to avoid gaps in your own arguments.

Some suggest, for example, that we should lower the speed limit on motorways to 60 mph on the grounds that it would save lives. One might dispute this, but surely it isn’t a fallacy? Yes it is. It is a runaway train. We might indeed save lives by lowering the limit to 60 mph, but if saving lives is our motive, we’d save even more by lowering it to 50 mph, and more still at 40 mph. The train doesn’t stop at 60 unless extra arguments are added, otherwise it goes on until we save the maximum number of lives, with a speed limit of 0 mph.

A speed limit represents a compromise between the need to reach places within acceptable times, and the risk of death or injury which high speeds incur. Currently, it has settled on 70 mph. To argue successfully against 60 mph, you need only ask why that figure is better than other ones. Any reduction might well save lives, but why that one?

England’s national fallacy is probably the argumentum ad temperantiam, which is the supposition that a moderate middle course must be the superior option. A distaste for extremism has ingrained in the English a preference for standing in the middle of every alternative, and thus reaching only halfway to accuracy and virtue. If you see someone in a pub claiming that two plus two equals four, against another who says they equal six, just walk over and suggest that five is probably about right. Every Englishman in the pub will nod sagely in agreement with your moderation. Nonetheless, sometimes one of the extremes may be correct; there is no link between moderation and accuracy.

Nothing is more frustrating for a blogger than to have some illiterate troll accuse you of making an argument ad verecundiam when you know the most you are guilty of is a slight argument post hoc ergo propter hoc. Still, they are the tools of the trade and one can only dream of what the level of public discourse would be like if these were taught to our kids.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:37 PM


SWEPT UNDER THE CARPET: reviews of Bad Faith: A Forgotten History of Family and Fatherland By Carmen Callil and The Unfree French: Life Under the Occupation By Richard Vinen (Simon Heffer, April 2006, Literary Review)

After the purges of 1944-45, whose climax was the execution of the Vichy Prime Minister Pierre Laval and the sentencing to death (commuted to life imprisonment) of the 89-year-old Marshal Petain, French society seemed to draw a veil over what, to put it mildly, had been an unhappy episode. War criminals who had helped the Nazis deport Jews and round up dissidents went unpursued, even when tried and sentenced in absentia. It became impolite to discuss such things, as the Fourth and Fifth republics set about constructing and maintaining the myth of social unity as a means of recovery from the trauma.

That was why in 1969 Marcel Ophuls' four-and-a-half-hour documentary Le Chagrin et la pitie - which recounted events during the occupation in France in general and the Auvergne capital of Clermont-Ferrand in particular - caused such outrage that it was not shown on French television until 1981. Throughout the documentary, a series of interviews demolishes the myth brick by brick, as interviewees reveal their contempt for other sections of French society and expose the frequently less-than-heroic behaviour engaged in at the time. France's rampant Anglophobia is also exposed, with the occasional expression of the view that, after the capitulation, France was better off as a neutral bystander while the two apparently equally appalling nations of Britain and Germany slugged it out.

Worst of all for those who chose to avoid reality was Ophuls' use of newsreel footage, showing (for example) French functionaries shaking the hand of Heydrich as they busily went about his mission of removing Jews from the face of the Third Reich. [...]

Richard Vinen's book is a refreshing contrast to those stodgy histories of the Occupation that deal solely in the high - or, more often, low - politics of the period. This is a history of the French people under occupation from their point of view, using their own accounts and records of everyday life. After dealing with the humiliation of 1940 and the establishment of Vichy, he looks in detail at the lives of significant groups of the French, though with less emphasis on the Resistance than is usual in such works. Vinen's aim is not to concentrate on either the heroics or the frequent wickedness of daily life under the Germans, but to present a picture of what was a remarkably normal existence for a majority of people, who chose simply to get on with their lives.

He mentions the often surprisingly courteous relations that the Wehrmacht had with the conquered people, contrasting them with the barbarism of the Gestapo towards the Maquis and the terrifying reprisals that took place - such as the slaughter of whole villages - as the Germans were being driven out in the summer of 1944. He examines the fate of Jews, though not in such a specific fashion as Callil, and reveals how certain hill towns in the south became havens for Jewish refugees - the Germans lacked the right vehicles to access them, and so never bothered. He deals with the everyday survival of the French people - much of their food and wealth were being sent to Germany throughout the occupation, as, before long, were many of their workers. There was also the fate of prisoners of war, many of whom were disappointed when not repatriated immediately after their country's capitulation; and he writes with tact and without prurience about the other great feature of the occupation, that of horizontal collaboration, and the women who found themselves abused, paraded (often naked) through the streets, their heads shaved in the orgy of self-righteousness that followed the liberation.

Finally, Vinen deals with the other great postwar French myth: that the French had, somehow, liberated themselves.

I'm reading a terrific thriller, The Devil's Halo, by Chris Fox. It's set in the near future and has France leading an attack on the United States. Imagine that instead of hating Catholicism Dan Brown were a Francophobe. The website for the book opens with an image sure to bring a smile to every American, whether they've been subjected to The Red Balloon or not.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:21 PM


China’s Investors Are to Get Freer Hand Abroad (James T. Areddy, Craig Karmin, Michael Phillips, 4/20/06, The Wall Street Journal)

China said it will let companies and individuals make significant financial investments overseas for the first time, a policy shift that could temporarily ease U.S. pressure on Beijing to revalue its currency, the yuan. [...]

The new investment rules from the State Administration of Foreign Exchange allow professionals to buy overseas stocks and make investments outside of China. The rules also let Chinese individuals buy at least $20,000 in foreign currency each year, while companies will be able to hold more in foreign currencies than currently allowed. The changes take effect May 1.

A healthy recognition that there's nothing in China worth investing in.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:16 PM


Bush Counsel May Be Next in Shake-Up (ELISABETH BUMILLER and JIM RUTENBERG, 4/21/06, NY Times)

[R]epublicans said that Tony Snow, a commentator for Fox News and a former speechwriter for Mr. Bush's father, was in negotiations for the job of White House press secretary. Mr. Snow would replace Scott McClellan, who announced Wednesday that he was resigning. [...]

Republicans close to the White House said Mr. Bush was the driver of the changes made so far, including the decision to ask Mr. Rove to focus primarily on the midterm elections.

"This is not Josh, this is Bush," said the Republican close to Mr. Bolten. "Bush is very good at using other people as a vehicle to get things done."

Republicans said Mr. Bolten has been focused on finding a new White House press secretary with good contacts in the Washington news media and a deep understanding of how they work. [...]

Associates of Mr. Snow, 50, said he has been weighing whether he and his family are up for the rigors of such a demanding job.

Mr. Snow had surgery for colon cancer last year and is awaiting an clearance from doctors before making a deal, according to people with knowledge of his deliberations who spoke on condition of anonymity because they did not want to upset private discussions at a sensitive time.

Mr. Snow's deliberations played out on Fox News on Thursday night, when be acknowledged the downside of the job. "You get a massive cut in pay," he said, adding that a press secretary can get treated "like a piñata," and that the job would cut into time with his children.

On the plus side, he said, "You become part of something that's very rare, which is an inner White House circle."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:09 PM


My Summit Problem: What would you do after you'd been trapped in the wilderness and forced to cut off your own arm? You probably wouldn't try to become the first person to climb all 59 of Colorado's 14,000-foot peaks in winter—and alone. (Aron Ralston, April 2006, Outside)

TO SAY I WAS UNDERQUALIFIED at the outset would be euphemistic; I was an overambitious kid, with far more enthusiasm than talent or skill. When I conceived the idea, I'd never held an ice ax, put on crampons, gone snow camping, dug a snow cave, or even skied off-piste. And my plan was to go unsupported and unmechanized, meaning no partners, no snowmobiles, no chance of avalanche rescue. Without training, as my concerned Intel friend and mountaineering mentor Mark Van Eeckhout pointed out over the phone one night, the project would likely kill me. This wasn't news to me: I was well aware of my inexperience. But I also knew how to learn.

For an engineer, little is more satisfying than a well-defined objective with easily tracked milestones, and, beginning in September 1999, when I transferred to Intel's Rio Rancho plant, just outside Albuquerque, New Mexico, I committed all my resources to the project. I read mountaineering book after mountaineering book. I enlisted Mark to teach me the basics of backcountry travel. I volunteered on the Albuquerque Mountain Rescue Council, attended the Silverton Avalanche School, in Colorado's San Juans, and spent my summer weekends reconning the peaks. I also bought some polypropylene.

It's easy to find people who are young and stupid. It's harder to find someone older and still stupid. I didn't want to be that guy, but sometimes it seemed like my destiny. I made just about every mistake possible, some of them more than once. A few (like forgetting the toilet paper) I seemed to like so well that I repeated them every season.

But I got better—even though I rang in the millennium with a Gorbachevian blotch of frostnip on my forehead. (That was a Christmas gift from 14,172-foot Mount Bross, where I'd cluelessly worn my headlamp all day, allowing the 100-mile-per-hour summit winds to conduct the cold straight through my hat and headband.) Almost every weekend for three winters, I'd drive north from Albuquerque to Colorado, careful to leave word with friends about my plans and to put a detailed note about my route on the dash of my car, legible from the outside. My strategy was to start with the easiest, most accessible peaks: the Mosquito and Front ranges, closest to Denver, then the Sangre de Cristos and the Sawatch Range, flanking the San Luis and Arkansas valleys in the center of the state. I'd leave after work on Friday, climb Saturday and Sunday, and return post-midnight in time for work. I figured I was running about $300 per summit in gas, gear, and expenses—about $18,000 over the course of the project—not to mention the $6,000 I spent fixing my truck after I hit a deer one night south of Leadville.

The personal costs were harder to quantify. I hadn't turned into a hermit—I still saw my friends on weeknights, road-tripped with my high school buddies, and visited my family in Denver—but I was vaguely aware that I was holding even the people closest to me at a subtle distance. I realized I'd made a conscious decision to defer having a serious girlfriend; I couldn't be fully available to someone when my passions were so wrapped up in my quest. However, I also saw altruism in my goal. I figured that if I, as unremarkable and average as I am, could do something historic, it might inspire others to dream big, too.

After three winters, I had 23 of the 59 under my belt. My mountain-rescue friends had taught me to telemark, and skinning up the peaks and skiing down was both a huge improvement over snowshoeing and an opportunity for spectacular ass-over-teakettle crashes. I progressively minimized my bivouac kit down to a lightweight down jacket, stove, fuel, pot, and lighter and quickly figured out which foods were most readily swallowed sans saliva. The best were Odwalla super-protein drinks or Gatorade, warmed up and kept insulated inside the jacket in my pack; gels like Clif Shots that I could thaw in my glove, as long as I had some unfrozen water for a chaser; and—my favorite—soggy, dashboard-thawed Patio-brand burritos.

By the end of winter 2002, I was up to 36, and I started planning my endgame. For a year, I'd been ready to move to Colorado and leave my engineering career behind; that March, I got a sign. At the edge of a willow meadow on the west side of 14,421-foot Mount Massive, I stopped short as three gray wolves loped down a hillside not 30 yards to my left—this in a region where wolves had supposedly been extinct for 60 years. The two summits I reached that day were superfluous. For weeks, I replayed what I'd witnessed like a hayseed abducted by aliens; the Forest Service representative in Leadville even responded in a strained X Files whisper: "I knew it—I knew they were out there." If those wolves could migrate from as far away as, I imagined, Yellowstone, then I could make the move, too.

A few weeks later, I quit my job at Intel. Actually, I called it my retirement. I sold my furniture, rented out my townhouse, bought a camper shell for my truck, and traveled around climbing for six months. That fall, I moved into a low-rent group house in Aspen and got a job at a mountaineering shop.

I had 23 mountains left—the toughest on the list. I was getting to the good part. During the winter of 2003, I climbed Longs, Holy Cross, and the seven summits of the Elks Range, around Aspen—including Capitol and Pyramid peaks and the Maroon Bells, whose steep slopes, technical ridges, complicated route finding, loose rock, and avalanche exposure made them the most dangerous of the lot. The scariest moments of the whole project came on a weekly basis: I fell a sobering six feet off the pinnacled summit ridge of Pyramid, pushed through a brutal night storm on Holy Cross, got frostbite on eight fingers on Capitol, and, on Longs Peak, slipped while descending a steep slab of verglased granite just below the summit and slid toward the nothingness below.

In that eternity before the pick of my ice ax caught on the bare rock, I was more terrified than I'd ever been. But my guardian angels were working overtime that season. Indeed, my closest brush with death came not as part of the solo project but when I was on vacation from it.

Jeff Long's thriller, The Wall, is a surprising antidote to all the climbing stories.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:56 AM


Divide and heal: Despite the imminent formation of a government of national unity, Iraq is splintering into its three historic provinces. The break-up can be managed, but it cannot be avoided. The western powers and Iraqi nationalists must now accept that radical federalism is the only alternative to civil war (Gareth Stansfield, May 2006, Prospect)

Sometime in the next few days or weeks, a government of national unity will finally be formed in Iraq. This rare piece of good news will briefly rekindle some of the optimism about the political future of a unified Iraq that followed last December's election. But the reality on the ground is that Iraq is breaking up. The Kurdish north is largely independent and Basra, capital of the Shia south, is increasingly falling out of Baghdad's orbit. Moreover, there is anecdotal evidence of significant population movement—with Shias leaving Sunni areas, Sunnis leaving Shia areas, and Kurds (and many professionals of all identities) moving north to the relative sanctuary of Kurdistan.

The partitioning, or rather radical decentralisation, of Iraq is under way. This should not necessarily be seen as a problem. Historical Iraq was a place of three semi-independent parts—Kurdish north, Sunni centre and Shia south—within the loose framework of the Ottoman empire. It is the centralised Iraq—starting with Britain's creation of the modern state in 1921-23 and reaching its nadir in nearly three decades of Saddam Hussein's dictatorship—that has failed and should be allowed to die.

There are, however, powerful forces refusing to contemplate partition or "hard federalism." The radical Shia movement led by Muqtada al-Sadr, emerging as one of the most powerful groups in Iraq, rejects federalism as a divide-and-rule tactic and defends Iraqi identity in traditional nationalist terms. Opposition among the Arab Sunnis who have traditionally dominated the state is even stronger. Whether radical Islamists, ex-Ba'athists or secularists, Arab Sunnis see federalism as undermining everything they have stood for in nearly a century of Iraqi history.

Division is certainly a viable option for the fiction that is Iraq, but the notion of a tripartite one begs the question: if the Sunni are a minority in the central region why shouldn't the Shi'ites govern it? And if the Sunni are a majority--likely only a slim one--are they capable of governing liberally enough that the Shi'ite should tolerate their rule?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:44 AM

ABSURDITY SQUARED (via Bryan Francoeur):

'See the tree, how big it's' -- groan (Todd Leopold, April 21, 2006, CNN)

I knew it was coming.

Every day, at the end of almost every hour, XM's '60s channel plays the top six hits of a corresponding week from that decade. As an aficionado of the Billboard charts -- I've got a bunch of the Billboard Top 40 and No. 1 books at home -- I knew what was going to be No. 1 when the countdown got to mid-April 1968: "Honey," by Bobby Goldsboro.

The Worst Song of All Time.

I sat transfixed in my car as it played, as if I were in the midst of an accident. The simpering melody, the tearjerking lyrics: God, how I hated it. And yet I couldn't change the station.

"See the tree, how big it's grown / But friend, it hasn't been too long, it wasn't big ..." [...]

I asked CNN.com staffers what they thought the worst song of all time is -- and you'll get your chance as well.

I only had two rules: the song had to have been a hit -- preferably the kind you hear on the radio so often you can't change the station fast enough -- and it can't have been a song that wore out its welcome through repetition. A really bad song is one you hate from the word "go."

Worst song of all time is like genocides, you never compare anything to Killing Me Softly or to the Holocaust.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:38 AM


Joltin’ Jew: Ex-Yankee and memoirist Ron Blomberg is in the record books for being the first DH. (That doesn’t stand for Designated Hebrew.) (Mark Jacobson, New York)

How did the Jewish community react when you first got to New York?

To be able to play in front of 8 million Jews! Can’t beat it. I lit everyone’s candles for every bar mitzvah in the city. It was like I was related to everyone. They named a sandwich after me at the Stage Deli.

What were the guys like back then?

There were definitely some anti-Semites on those teams, believe me. But we had crazy times, like when Mike Kekich and Fritz Peterson switched families, wives, kids, the whole thing. Then Reggie came. Even now, at Old Timers’ Day, guys don’t talk to Reggie. But I liked him. [In spring training] he hit fourth, and sometimes I’d be fifth. He’d hit a homer and make a big deal out of it. So I knew I was going to get drilled. I lived in Riverdale, in the same building with Willie Mays. Since I was a Jewish guy, I knew people in the garment center. Willie and I went down there in his pink Caddy with the say hey written on the side, and we got some free clothes. I took three, four suits. But Willie took 300, 400. All polyester. Orange and purple. He looked like a Goodwill explosion.

N.B. (*) The Israelite House of David was not, of course, actually a Jewish baseball team, nor even a Jewish sect.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:27 AM


Haiti's Second Round Parliament Election Opens Friday: Haitians return to the polls Friday to elect a parliament. The vote is seen as a crucial step in establishing a legitimate democratic government in the politically unstable Caribbean nation. (Amelia Shaw, 21 April 2006, VOA News)

United Nations spokesman Damien Onses Cardona says that the logistical preparations are in order, and that the U.N. and Haitian police are confident Friday's vote will be peaceful. He says the elections are an important part of Haiti's political transition.

"I mean the transition is starting now - this was a provisional government, to get the country out of chaos or almost civil war, to a certain degree of normality," he said. "Now the work really starts, for this you need a president, you need a good government, you need a good parliament, and this is what will happen if tomorrow's elections are a success."

The elections will decide the outcome for 97 deputies and 30 senators.

Cardona says that parliamentary elections can have a major impact on the country's ability to rebuild its democratic institutions and enact much-needed legal reforms.

"Haiti is a country with a presidential system, which means the president has strong power. But the parliament - there are so many reforms that everybody has been saying the country needs, for months, not just us," said Cardona. "The reform of justice, reform of the penal criminal code. All these are work of the parliament, not of the president."

The prime minister will be chosen by the parliament, and will serve alongside president-elect Rene Preval.

Is there a better example than Haiti of why you should try the American form of government, not the French?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:20 AM


Overqualified Immigrant (Ilya Shapiro, 21 Apr 2006, TCS)

If the federal government ever gets its act together and passes a much-needed immigration reform, I'm giving up my legal career and taking up a profession that will actually allow me to become a U.S. citizen. Like gardening. Or construction. Or anything else that counts as "unskilled."

Wanna bet?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:56 AM


BNP set to win seats as support surges (George Jones, 21/04/2006, Daily Telegraph)

The British National Party is on course to make significant gains in the local elections in England in two weeks time, according to a YouGov poll for The Daily Telegraph today.

It shows that seven per cent of voters are ready to back the far-Right party and that 24 per cent have considered voting BNP in the past or are thinking of doing so now.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:49 AM


As Iran Presses Its Ambitions, Its Young See Theirs Denied: Lack of Economic Opportunity Leads Many to Drugs (Karl Vick, 4/21/06, Washington Post)

"You people, you have got a very good life in the U.S. What is this place?" He glanced down the main street of a town called Shaft, where young men with gelled hair and no jobs sauntered at aimless angles. "Everything is miserable."

While the world focuses on Iran's nuclear ambitions, Iranians focus on the unmet aspirations of the two-thirds of the population that is younger than 30. Nearly three decades after a revolution that swept aside a monarchist system grounded in privilege, the typical Iranian has seen average income shrink under a religious government that has cultivated an elite of its own atop a profoundly dysfunctional economy.

The 80 percent of the population working in the private sector struggles mightily to make a living in the 20 percent of the economy that is not controlled by the government. The end product is a frustration edging into resentment that informs every private conversation with ordinary Iranians and frames every public issue.

Which is why Islamicism isn't a long term threat--it doesn't work.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:34 AM


Foreign Service lacks 'constructive dissent' (Nicholas Kralev, 4/21/06, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

The union representing American diplomats said yesterday it has had a difficult time soliciting nominations for its annual awards for "constructive dissent" in the Foreign Service because its members are reluctant to be perceived as mavericks.

They're our employees. They're there to implement our policies not dissent from them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:17 AM

12,000 = 60:

Dow hits 6-year high; eBay sinks Nasdaq (ELLEN SIMON, 11/21/06, Chicago Sun-Times)

The Dow rose 64.12, or 0.6 percent, to 11,342.89. That was the blue chip index's best close since it settled at 11,351.30 on Jan. 20, 2000. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 1.53, or 0.1 percent, to 1,311.46, while the Nasdaq composite index fell 8.33, or 0.4 percent, to 2,362.55.

Metals hit as price of silver goes into freefall (Richard Irving, 4/21/06, Times of London)
THE price of silver collapsed into freefall yesterday afternoon, racking up its biggest one-day loss in almost two decades and triggering a massive sell-off in other precious metals.

Dealers blamed the near-14 per cent plunge in the silver price on a strong bounce in the dollar, prompting some of the hot money that has been chasing the market to a 23-year high to cash in profits. The sell-off gathered momentum as speculators who had been gambling on the silver price breaking through $15 an ounce scrambled to cut their losses, dealers said. [...]

Jitters also unnerved other commodities, including oil, where benchmark US crude gave up more than $1.5 a barrel after earlier hitting a new high of $72.49, and copper, where prices fell by more than $200 a tonne.

Dealers had been cautioning that metals markets might be vulnerable to a correction following recent spikes in many commodities, but the violence of the downturn still took many by surprise.

Given that the natural price of oil is under $50 per barrel they're in for a real surprise at some point.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:13 AM


Distractions to blame in 8 of 10 car accidents (MONIFA THOMAS, 4/21/06, Chicago Sun-Times)

[E]ight out of 10 car accidents involve drivers who are distracted in some way, according to a study released Thursday by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

More than 200 drivers were videotaped for thousands of hours behind the wheel during the four-year study.

The resulting data showed that, in nearly 80 percent of crashes and 65 percent of near-crashes, someone or something distracted the driver at least three seconds before. [...]

Researchers found that reaching for a moving object in the car made a crash or near-crash 9 times more likely, while reading, applying makeup and dialing a hand-held device, such as a cell phone, all tripled the risk.

One of the real eye-openers of a long weekend trip by car was the sheer number of m[or]ongoloids chatting away on car phones as they drive.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:04 AM


An Explosive Pair: Take a Mentos, and a Diet Coke... (Andrea Seabrook, April 13, 2006, All Things Considered)

What happens when you put a handful of Mentos candy into a bottle of diet soda? As many fans of Web video have found out, the results are pretty explosive.

But it's no secret -- folks are taking video cameras and posting images of the their homemade soda explosions on the Internet -- and there is actually a scientific explanation. Michele Norris speaks with science correspondent David Kestenbaum about the science behind Diet Coke and Mentos.

Anyone who doesn't try that in their own yard this weekend is a soccer fan.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:01 AM


Scientists cool outlook on global warming (Jennifer Harper, April 21, 2006, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

Using temperature readings from the past 100 years, 1,000 computer simulations and the evidence left in ancient tree rings, Duke University scientists announced yesterday that "the magnitude of future global warming will likely fall well short of current highest predictions."

Supported by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation, the Duke researchers noted that some observational studies predicted that the Earth's temperature could rise as much as 16 degrees in this century because of an increase in carbon dioxide or other so-called greenhouse gases.

The Duke estimates show the chances that the planet's temperature will rise even by 11 degrees is only 5 percent, which falls in line with previous, less-alarming predictions that meteorologists made almost three decades ago.

In recent years, much academic research has indicated otherwise, often in colorful terms and citing the United States as the biggest contributor to global warming.

F.D.A. Dismisses Medical Benefit From Marijuana (GARDINER HARRIS, 4/21/06, NY Times)
The Food and Drug Administration said Thursday that "no sound scientific studies" supported the medical use of marijuana, contradicting a 1999 review by a panel of highly regarded scientists.

The announcement inserts the health agency into yet another fierce political fight.

Susan Bro, an agency spokeswoman, said Thursday's statement resulted from a past combined review by federal drug enforcement, regulatory and research agencies that concluded "smoked marijuana has no currently accepted or proven medical use in the United States and is not an approved medical treatment."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:14 AM


Baghdad presses hum with sound of freedom (Zaid Sabah, 4/20/2006, USA TODAY)

In a back room at al-Shams printing house in Baghdad sits a clamoring German-built printing press, reverberating with the sound of a newfound independence.

"What has changed in the business is the freedom," says Ameer Marouki, 50, who has operated the printing house since 1979. "Under Saddam, we were not able to print religious books, cleric's posters and newspapers. Now we can print anything we want," he says.

If anyone is capitalizing on freedom, it's Iraq's printers. Under Saddam Hussein's regime, there were nine government-sponsored newspapers and four magazines in Iraq. Since then, at least 294 independent newspapers and magazines have been established in Iraq, according to the Pentagon.

But Sean Wilentz doesn't take a Baghdad paper...

Iraq Leader Cedes His Nomination As Premier (Nelson Hernandez, Bassam Sebti and K.I. Ibrahim, April 21, 2006, Washington Post)

Iraq's prime minister on Thursday relinquished his nomination to a new term after weeks of intense pressure, capping a day of surprises that left many politicians here hopeful that a months-long stalemate over formation of a new government would finally end.

Pakistan Forces Kill Suspected Senior al-Qaida Militant (VOA News, 21 April 2006)
Pakistan security officials say they believe the militant killed in a clash with soldiers in a tribal area bordering Afghanistan on Thursday was a wanted al-Qaida terrorist.

Officials say the man is believed to be Abu Marwan al-Suri, a Saudi Arabian national. They say he was killed at a checkpoint near Khar, the main town in the Bajaur tribal district, when he opened fire on security personnel, killing one of them. [...]

The man is believed to have been one of several senior al-Qaida members targeted in a U.S. bombing attack in January, in the town of Damadola, that killed at least 18 civilians and several al-Qaida operatives.

If they do it we don't have to.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 6:21 AM


Smut's savvy peddler (Fr. Raymond deSouza, National Post, April 20th, 2006)

The grandiose term "Playboy philosophy" was coined by Hefner himself, who has always fancied himself something more than a savvy peddler of smut. The Playboy philosophy, written in the early 1960s, is an extended (150,000 words) riff on the findings of Alfred Kinsey, the now-discredited but massively influential sex researcher. Hefner's argument was that the sexual appetite was unruly (something one does not need Kinsey to confirm) and therefore should not be subject to rules, lest the personality be suffocated by repression. The Playboy philosophy argued that the uninhibited libido was the path of personal liberation.

That ran directly counter to the more traditional wisdom that the task of civilization was precisely to domesticate the appetites, so that the sexual energies of men in particular would be channeled toward marriage and children, upon which the future of a free and virtuous society depends.

The older wisdom disdained the playboy as just that -- one who played liked a boy instead of assuming the responsibilities of a man. Hefner's philosophy was to recast the playboy not as a dissolute cad, but a refined sophisticate.

"What is a Playboy?" Hefner asked. "Is he simply a wastrel, a ne'er-do-well, a fashionable bum? Far from it: He can be a sharp-minded young business executive, a worker in the arts, a university professor, an architect or engineer. He can be many things, providing he possesses a certain point of view. He must see life not as a vale of tears but as a happy time; he must take joy in his work, without regarding it as the end and all of living; he must be an alert man, an aware man, a man of taste, a man sensitive to pleasure, a man who -- without acquiring the stigma of the voluptuary or dilettante -- can live life to the hilt. This is the sort of man we mean when we use the word playboy."

Taste. Pleasure. To the hilt. Nothing about sacrifice, or endurance, or anything oriented to another. And it was, and remains, Hefner's style not to say too much about the most relevant other: the women -- or playmates, or bunnies. Like most poor philosophers, Hefner uses language mischievously. At the moment, he has a reality TV show featuring his three "girlfriends," though most men who put their multiple sleeping partners on the payroll are not considered "boyfriends."

That's the difficult bit about the Playboy philosophy -- the unrestrained male appetite requires a certain bit of servicing. The man who enjoys a nude layout alongside his book reviews and feature profiles requires somewhere a naked girl to do the posing. So Hefner devoted his energies and money to mainstreaming the porn industry. The married man suffocated in his marriage and seeking a little play on the side needs to be free of his wife. So Hefner's philosophy championed easy divorce. And above all, the playboy needs to be protected from the threat posed by the child, so Hefner was zealous in promoting easy contraception and abortion. The explanation for why feminists let Hefner off so lightly is to be found in his longstanding generosity to the abortion industry.

The Playboy philosophy, much like its photographers, airbrushes out the blemishes. Hefner never mentions, and is rarely asked, about the role of his philosophy in creating a society of disposable marriages, wives and children. The link between pornography and sexual abuse and assault is unremarked. The staggering rebellion of nature against the playboy's promiscuous practices, measured in the astonishing spread of sexually transmitted diseases, is kept discreetly out of sight, like an ugly girl who shows up at Hefner's mansion.

As Fr. de Souza shrewdly notes, Hefner’s genius lay as much in his philosophical airbrush as his photographic one. He was not unlike Disney in his knack for masking the sordid, selfish and destructive with giggles, bubbles and balloons, and the truly astounding thing about his enterprise was how quickly his opponents were disarmed and generally dismissed as prigs with complexes. Indeed, when his competitors quickly took his philosophy to rawer heights, the man who restricted his porn to Playboy came to be seen as a bit of a conservative prude.

His other genius was the way he confused and co-opted mainstream opinion among women. In focusing on abortion, Fr. de Souza sees only part of the story. Gloria Steinem tried to take him on in one of the earliest 1960's feminist brouhahas, but she was no match for the siren call of individual choice and freedom. Hef simply invited her and all her sisters to join the party and promised equal opportunity orgasms (although not breakfast), one of the oldest seduction techniques in the book. Although most women kept a wary distance on grounds of taste, they lost any principled basis for objecting to male indulgence or challenging the whole philosophy as degrading to women and a threat to children. The result was pretty much the result of all modern feminist causes--a boon for some professional and upper middle-class women and a disaster for all the rest.

April 20, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:22 PM


Census: Americans Are Fleeing Big Cities (STEPHEN OHLEMACHER, 4/20/06, Associated Press)

Americans are leaving the nation's big cities in search of cheaper homes and open spaces farther out.

Nearly every large metropolitan area had more people move out than move in from 2000 to 2004, with a few exceptions in the South and Southwest, according to a report being released Thursday by the
Census Bureau.

Northeasterners are moving South and West. West Coast residents are moving inland. Midwesterners are chasing better job markets. And just about everywhere, people are escaping to the outer suburbs, also known as exurbs.

"It's a case of middle class flight, a flight for housing affordability," said William Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank. "But it's not just white middle class flight, it's Hispanics and blacks, too."

The future of the city is as an office/amusement park and their dwindling populations is just more bad news for Democrats.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:15 PM


Why a strong economy is no GOP asset: Republicans have struggled to get credit for low unemployment and steady growth. (Linda Feldmann, 4/21/06, The Christian Science Monitor)

In many ways, they say, these are the best of times: Unemployment is at 4.7 percent, lower than the averages of the 1970s, '80s, and '90s. The economy is showing strong, consistent growth, without significant inflation. And the stock market is roaring along. [...]

Independent pollster John Zogby sees the public's skepticism over the economy as part of a larger picture of overall concern over the direction of the nation and a president struggling to recapture Americans' confidence. "It's not just the economy," he says. "If we were at peace or the war was going well or there was confidence in other areas, then the economic news could be bolstered and people could begin to feel better."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:34 PM


The heart of environmentalism (ELIZABETH GUDRAIS, 4/20/06, Providence Journal)

The Sierra Club's executive director entreated a Brown University crowd yesterday to resort to "the language of the heart" in making environmental arguments.

"Most people who listen to environmental discourse do not understand that it's about ethics, and it therefore does not touch their hearts," Carl Pope said, in a talk titled "The Future of Environmentalism."

"I think we can't treat ethics, any longer, as something we tag on to the end of a scientific or a policy conversation," Pope said.

A Sierra Club survey found that 75 percent of people agree with the group's principles, but just 30 percent would identify themselves as environmentalists, Pope said.

The reason for that gulf, he said, is that people "feel the Sierra Club is culturally different than they are."

He proceeded to lay out stereotypes that he said fit most of the group's members -- people who are white and well to do, who are liberal when it comes to politics and religion, who live on the coasts or along the Great Lakes but nowhere in between. [...]

Pope peppered his talk -- the first in a series by several speakers at Brown, titled "Envisioning Alternative Environmental Futures" -- with religious references, quoting from the Bible and the Koran, and invoking piety as one of the core principles of environmentalism. "Man is not the center of the universe," he said. "We are part of something much larger, to which we have obligations and duties."

The problem for Mr Pope and his liberal coastal cohort is that it is not the environment that is at the center of the Universe nor the environment to which man has obligations and duties and to speak of piety in the context that he does is to try to replace God, who is due such piety, with Nature, which is not.

Meanwhile, 25 years of conservatism has done the environment rather well, On Earth Day, hope for the environment (Brad Knickerbocker, 4/21/06, The Christian Science Monitor)

"The facts speak for themselves," says Steven Hayward, author of the 2006 Index of Leading Environmental Indicators, released last week by the Pacific Research Institute in San Francisco and the American Enterprise Institute in Washington. "It's impossible to deny the environmental improvements we've made and the certain progress we'll continue to make over time."

Among the indicators included in the report: A steady increase in the percentage of toxic waste superfund sites where contaminated groundwater has been controlled; a large drop in the rate of automobile hydrocarbon emissions; while the number of cars and miles driven has more than doubled since 1970, smog levels have dropped, resulting in far fewer "code red" days in Los Angeles, Washington, and other cities.

In the context of economic and social trends, such improvements may be more impressive.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:20 PM


Superstar doesn't shine in show (Howard Kissel, April 20, 2006, NY Daily News)

There's almost no point discussing Richard Greenberg's "Three Days of Rain" as a play. With Julia Roberts as its leading lady, it's an event! [...]

A major problem in this production is that there's no chemistry between Roberts and the men. At the end of the first act, for example, she kisses Cooper.

Given that Nan and Pip were once lovers, this should be a powerful moment, not just a peck on the forehead.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 2:30 PM


They love capitalism, but not elections (Boris Johnson, The Spectator, April 22nd, 2006)

It was towards the end of my trip to China that the tall, beautiful communist-party girl turned and asked the killer question. ‘‘So, Mr Boris Johnson,’’ she said, ‘‘have you changed your mind about anything?’’ And I was forced to reply that, yes, I had. Darned right I had.

I had completely changed my mind about the chances of democracy in China. Before flying to Beijing I had naively presumed that the place was not just exhibiting hysterical economic growth, but was about to enter a ferment of political change. I had assumed that Tony Blair was right when, in 2005, he went there and announced that the 1.3 billion Chinese were on an ‘‘unstoppable march’’ towards multi-party politics. I now know that he was talking twaddle, and, what is more, that his Foreign Office advisers knew it.

Like most reporters of my generation I spent a certain amount of the 1980s in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, and we all remember that sense of suppressed mutiny, how easy it was to find people willing to prophesy over late-night vodka or slivovitz that one day the lid would blow off the cooker and Western-style democracy would be ushered in. Well, it’s not that way in China today.

I came away with an impression of a gloriously venal capitalist explosion being controlled by an unrepentant Bolshevik system, and — this is the key thing — with the patriotic support of almost all the intelligentsia.

Given that almost all of the Western intelligentsia, media and business communities (Google, come on down!) are on side with them too, it seems likely that “democrat” and “dissident” will be synonyms in China for many years to come.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:27 PM


How Bush's Bad Ideas May Lead to Good Ones (ALAN WOLFE, 4/14/06, Chronicle Review)

If, like me, you are in the business of ideas, the presidency of George W. Bush is a dream come true. That is not because the president is fond of the product I produce; on the contrary, he may be the most anti-intellectual president of modern times, a determined opponent of science, a man who values loyalty above debate among his associates. But governance is impossible without ideas, and by basing his foreign and domestic policies on so many bad ones, President Bush may have cleared the ground for the emergence of a few good ones.

Mr. Wolfe confuses two separate questions here. Mr. Bush is indeed -- like Ronald Reagan, Ike, Calvin Coolidge, William Howard Taft, and most all our other successful modern presidents -- an anti-intellectual president. Of course, America is a notoriously anti-intellectual nation as is Anglo-Americanism a deeply anti-intellectual culture. That is, in fact, how we avoided the disastrous isms of the 20th century and how we differ from those who followed the Enlightenment/French model to ruin.

However, it is precisely because Mr. Bush is so hostile to the products of Reason and dependent on faith, history, and tradition that his ideas about governance are so powerful and destined to prevail regardless of who follows him in office or from what party. No elected American leader is going to diverge very far from his understanding that the words of the Declaration are literally true and, universally, the only basis for decent government :

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. --That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

Contrary to the two books under review in Mr. Wolfe's essay then, America will continue to force the Middle East towards liberalization and continue to transform our welfare system from a statist one with defined benefits to one with mandatory contributions, an Ownership Society.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:20 PM


The Euston Manifesto: It started with some like-minded progressives meeting in a London pub. Disenchanted with what they saw as the wrong-headed thinking of the anti-war movement, they began to talk of a new left movement. (Norman Geras and Nick Cohen, 17th April 2006, New Statesman)

In the preamble to the Euston Manifesto, we announce our broad aim:

We are democrats and pro-gressives. We propose here a fresh political alignment. Many of us belong to the left, but the principles that we set out are not exclusive. We reach out, rather, beyond the socialist left towards egalitarian liberals and others of unambiguous democratic commitment. Indeed, the reconfiguration of progressive opinion that we aim for involves drawing a line between the forces of the left that remain true to their authentic values, and currents that have lately shown themselves rather too flexible about these values. It involves making common cause with genuine democrats, whether socialist or not.

We then go on to a statement of principles. There is no space here to present them in detail, but this is a brief summary:

We value the traditions and institutions of the liberal, pluralist democracies, and we decline to make excuses for, to indulgently "understand", reactionary regimes and movements for which democracy is a hated enemy. We hold the fundamental human rights codified in the Universal Declaration to be precisely universal. Equally, violations of these rights are to be condemned whoever is responsible for them and regardless of cultural context. The manifesto speaks of our attachment to egalitarianism in all domains.

We reject the anti-Americanism which is infecting so much left-liberal thinking. We support the right of both the Israeli and the Palestinian peoples to self-determination within the framework of a two-state solution. There are paragraphs opposing racism and identifying the resurgence of anti-Semitism; on terrorism and against the excuses made for it; on humanitarian intervention when states violate the common life of their peoples in appalling ways.

We argue that the time is long overdue to break with the tradition of left apologetics for anti-democratic forces and regimes; that there is a duty of respect for the historical truth; and that it is more than ever necessary to affirm that, within the usual constraints against incitement, people must be at liberty to criticise beliefs - including religious be liefs - that others cherish.

The left now has to fight two battles simultaneously. We defend democracies against all who make light of the differences between them and tyrannical regimes. But these democracies have shortcomings. Their social and economic foundations are marked by deep inequalities and unmerited privilege. In turn, global inequalities are a scandal to the moral conscience of humankind. Millions live in terrible poverty, an standing indictment against the international community. In keeping with our traditions, we on the left fight for justice and a decent life for all. In keeping with the same traditions, we have also to fight against powerful forces of tyranny, which are on the march again.

The supporters of the Euston Manifesto took different views on the war in Iraq, both for and against. We recognise that it was possible reasonably to disagree about the justifications for the war and the manner in which it was carried through. We are, however, united in our judgement of the reactionary, murderous character of the Ba'athist regime in Iraq, and we recognise its overthrow as a liberation of the Iraqi people. We are also united in the view that, from the day this occurred, the proper concern of the liberal left should have been the battle to put in place in Iraq a democratic political order and to create, after decades of brutal oppres-sion, a life for Iraqis which those living in democratic countries take for granted - rather than endlessly rehearsing the arguments over intervention.

This puts us in opposition not only to those on the left who have actively spoken in support of the gangs of jihadist and Ba'athist thugs of the Iraqi "resistance", but also to others who manage to find a way of situating themselves between such forces and those trying to bring a new democratic life to the country, or who pay lip-service to this aim, while devoting most of their energy to criticism of their political opponents at home and observing a tactful silence about the ugly methods of the Iraqi "insurgency".

The problem -- as Michael Walzer, who's featured in Redefining Sovereignty, has pointed out -- is that there seemingly can't be a Decent Left. In effect, these folks are somewhat unwilling members of the Right. However, should they ever process the fact that Third Way/New Democrat/Ownership Society policies are the best way to help the world's poor they may become willing.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:09 PM


Berlusconi Stubborn in the Face of Defeat (ALESSANDRA RIZZO, April 20, 2006, The Associated Press)

Premier Silvio Berlusconi is hanging tough, refusing to concede to center-left leader Romano Prodi even as a top court confirmed his defeat in the lower house of parliament in one of Italy's closest elections.

"We'll fight. They'll have to deal with us," Berlusconi was quoted as saying Thursday in the newspaper La Repubblica. Other newspapers published similar comments, and many reported the conservative leader has no intention of calling Prodi.

Berlusconi 'is biding his time' (David Willey, 4/20/06, BBC)
The final figures show by just how narrow a majority Mr Prodi's centre-left coalition won the poll - only 24,755 votes in a total of almost 38 million.

Under new proportional voting rules passed by the last parliament, the winner in the lower house gets an immediate bonus of 70 seats in the 640 seat chamber.

So even though his majority is wafer-thin, Mr Prodi in theory can win any confidence vote in the new Chamber of Deputies quite comfortably. [...]

The final result for the Senate will not be announced for some days.

According to the latest election computations, Mr Prodi enjoys a slim two-seat majority in the Senate, but here he receives no winner's bonus.

Under new voting rules, six senators representing Italians living overseas have been appointed for the first time. The political allegiance of some of these new senators from North and South America, from Africa and from Europe is by no means certain.

At least one of the new senators has said he is only going to make up his mind whether to support the centre-left or the centre-right when he arrives in Rome.

There is also a small number of senators-for-life, including a Nobel Prize winner, and several former presidents, whose vote could be crucial in a confidence vote.

Until the two chambers meet on 28 April, the arithmetic of who actually controls the Senate may not become clear. [...]

Mr Berlusconi, in the opinion of more than one leading analyst, is already conducting the beginning of his next election campaign. He believes that even if Mr Prodi does succeed in forming a government next month, it will be short lived.

He is also well aware that Italians will in any case be returning to the polls shortly.

Local elections are due in May and a national referendum is also due to be held shortly over the controversial constitutional reform measures Mr Berlusconi pushed through the last parliament.

Italy looks for brave new future (Ben Richardson, 4/20/06, BBC News)
If anyone doubts the difficulties the country's government will face trying to boost growth, they need only look at what happened to Professor Marco Biagi.

An expert on labour law and industrial relations, Mr Biagi was assassinated on 19 March, 2002, in Bologna by the left-wing terror group the Red Brigade.

His crime had been to help draft, and advocate, changes to Italy's rigid and slow-moving labour market.

On the one hand, Mr. Berlusconi ought to step aside and let an orderly transition occur--on the other, it's Italy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:31 PM


U.S. aid eclipsed by private donors (Joyce Howard Price, April 20, 2006, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

U.S. foreign aid from private sources totaled $71.2 billion in 2004, a sum more than 3? times greater than the foreign aid the U.S. government provided that year, according to a study by the Hudson Institute. [...]

"What struck me working on this first Index was the explosion in the number of nongovernmental organizations that promote entrepreneurship by helping start-up businesses with training and acquiring venture capita. Traditional international grantmakers ... are now joined by multinational companies, business schools, investment bankers, and new foundations in finding new ways to help poor people prosper," said Carol C. Adelman, director of the Hudson Institute's Center for Global Prosperity, in an introduction.

She noted that charitable organizations, such as CARE, Save the Children, Catholic Relief Services, and World Vision, "have new colleagues who are experimenting with online giving to overseas projects, cutting out middlemen and expensive overhead and striving for maximum transparency and accountability."

Support from foundations, charities, corporations and religious groups accounts for only a third of all the private donations made abroad. The other two-thirds comes from immigrants living in this country, who send money home.

The study says "massive amounts of money are sent home by immigrants and temporary workers" either individually or collectively through hundreds of so-called hometown associations throughout the U.S.

The far Right deludes itself that it can turn off the spigot and not create even more immigration.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:24 PM


Supreme Court to Review Insanity Defense (Charles Lane, April 20, 2006, Washington Post)

The Supreme Court embarked on a potentially far-reaching review of the insanity defense yesterday, as the justices heard oral arguments in the case of an Arizona man, Eric Michael Clark, who was suffering from paranoid schizophrenia at the time he shot a police officer to death.

At issue in the case is whether Arizona's version of the insanity defense, which requires defendants to prove with "clear and convincing" evidence that they were too mentally ill to understand that their conduct was wrong, is so narrow that it violates the constitutional right to due process of law. [...]

The state is backed by the Bush administration, which argues that, although the federal insanity defense law is more broadly worded than Arizona's, Congress's discretion might be limited by a ruling in favor of Arizona. A brief from 16 states also supports Arizona, arguing that a broad ruling in Clark's favor "will call into serious question the validity of the majority of state insanity statutes."

Although the insanity defense has deep roots in English common law, the Supreme Court has never ruled that the Constitution requires it.

In other words, the Constitution manifestly doesn't require it, though the Court might legislate it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:59 AM


Drivers curb use as gas goes up (James R. Healey, 4/19/06, USA TODAY)

Americans have cut back gasoline use in apparent response to increasing prices, separate surveys by the government and a petroleum trade organization showed Wednesday.

Gas use last month was 0.6% less than a year ago, the American Petroleum Institute reported, because "high fuel prices have led to decreased demand for gasoline and other refined oil products."

The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) said gasoline use the past four weeks was up a slight 0.6% vs. a year ago. Typical is an increase of 1.5%, and that's the growth rate assumed in many industry, analyst and government forecasts.

Cutting back just a little more could cause gasoline prices — which average $2.801 nationwide, up 57.7 cents from last year, according to motorist organization AAA — to drop dramatically, one veteran analyst says.

"If everyone decided to drive 3% less the next 30 days, prices would crash," says Tom Kloza, senior analyst at the Oil Price Information Service.

Getting serious about energy (Cal Thomas, Apr 20, 2006, Townhall)

No study or special commission is needed to understand the root cause of growing energy costs. We've known it for years. Demand fuels cost. While there have been numerous efforts to curb demand or seek alternative energy sources since the 1973 Arab oil boycott, which began the escalation of gas prices, none has taken hold because the price always fell back to acceptable levels. From solar power, to windmills, to today's hybrid cars, nothing seems to have caught on sufficiently to force us to change our oil consuming ways.

Here's something that will: an enemy.

In 1961, President John F. Kennedy announced a goal of putting an American on the moon by the end of the decade. That goal was achieved eight years later. What drove America was the "space race" with the Soviet Union. Communism was evil and we could not afford to allow the Soviets to get to the moon before we did. There were military concerns about what the Soviets might do with a base on the moon, but pride and prestige were also important factors.

It is going to take an enemy to break our oil addiction. The perfect enemy is the oil-producing states with a track record for funding terrorism and whose brand of religion produces young fanatics determined to destroy the West.

If we can get to the moon, virtually from scratch and in just eight years, we can become independent of the mullahs, ayatollahs, sheiks, imams and whackos like the president of Iran and assorted other world criminals who hate us and want to destroy us. This will call for strong leadership from President Bush and future presidents, regardless of party.

Various congressional investigations and reporting have revealed that the United States is subsidizing its own destruction because some of the biggest oil-producing states underwrite terrorism.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 9:57 AM


Ryton workers have a better future than French brothers (Boris Johnson, The Telegraph, April 20th, 2006)

It was in 1864 that Karl Marx stood up in London and announced that the hour of the international proletariat was at hand. If only they could see their common class interest, he raved, the workers could unite across frontiers, dispossess the bosses, and throw off their shackles.

As we all know, Marx was completely wrong. So strong was the feeling of national particularism that, far from uniting, the workers of the world spent much of the next century slaughtering each other. Indeed, the international proletariat has consistently shown that it is loyal to family, community, factory, country - but never to the international proletariat.

The workers of France and Spain will not go on strike for the workers of Ryton, for the simple prudential reason that they know that international capital will always be able to relocate, just as Peugeot itself is building a new factory in Slovakia and global manufacturing is moving to China, and whatever their sympathies for families in Coventry, the workers of France will feel that their first duty is to themselves and their families.

Now put like that it sounds cruel and ruthless; and yet what Marx also failed to understand was that this capitalist system was, in fact, the best available protection for the interests of the working man, since it is this very flexibility of labour, and mobility of capital, that allows new jobs to be created and all the joy and excitement of industrial innovation.

It is frankly rubbish to say that the Ryton closure is a "body blow" to British manufacturing, or even to the British motor-car industry. The amazing truth is that this supposedly services-obsessed economy is currently producing about 1.6 million cars a year - almost an all-time record, and far more than were being produced in the 1970s.

Look at Land Rover, free from the ossification of its design, now going through the biggest sales boom in its history. Look at those wonderful new Minis - brilliant, burly, bustling scarabs - most of them made by the ingenious workforce of south Oxfordshire. The German parent company is planning to pump in another ££100 million, pushing sales up from 200,000 to 250,000, and we wouldn't be able to attract that kind of German money if it were not for the labour-market flexibility now being denounced by Amicus and the T&G.

No one would have the confidence to invest so much in the car industry, and to employ so many people, if they did not have the simultaneous confidence that they could also lay people off when the market became difficult.

So fixated is the European left and much of its right on shielding everyone from chance and guaranteeing timeless security that one marvels they were ever able to break out of feudalism.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:47 AM


Every country needs a labour party. We no longer have one: If Blair loses votes to the BNP next month, it will be because New Labour has abandoned working class communities and values (George Galloway, April 20, 2006, The Guardian)

Labour's long retreat from class politics - marked by the marginalisation of trade unions, privatisation, the abandonment of council housing and the helter-skelter of billionaires queueing up to fill the party funding gap - has finally forced some worms to turn.

Margaret Hodge, New Labour minister and formerly Islington's red duchess, and Jon Cruddas, once Downing Street's union-link man, have broken ranks to highlight the rupture in Labour's heartland: the end of the 100-year affair with white working people, those with nothing to sell except their work.

Labour's 1945-97 coalition of the working class and progressive middle-class allies - buttressed from the mid-60s by millions of mainly Commonwealth migrants - is being crushed in a vice-like process. The abandonment of traditional Labour social policy has been coupled with a foreign policy that deeply alienates parts of that coalition. The resulting fracture is now haemorrhaging votes from each element.

Labourism/Socialism doesn't work, but a significant portion of population will always want it, which traps the Left into backing policies that make it unelectable most of the time.

A Plan To End The War - Dump The Democrats (Joshua Frank, 20 April, 2006, Countercurrents.org)

Across the country opposition to the war in Iraq is fast setting in. The latest Bush job approval ratings are dismal, hovering around 35%, in large part due to peoples’ wariness about the disorder and uncertainty engulfing Iraq. Two weeks ago 24 towns in Wisconsin passed antiwar resolutions. According to Institute for Policy Studies in Washington that pushes the total number of cities to pass similar referendums nationwide to 100. But as the sentiment against the war continues to mature, the most significant question still remains unanswered: What are all of us who want to bring our troops home now going to do to stop the war?

Getting off our lazy haunches and protesting in the streets is one thing, but until we are willing to voice our objections at the ballot box, nothing in Iraq will ever change. Marching through our Main Streets with anti-Bush placards in hand, no matter how refreshing and energizing it may seem, still doesn’t hold all the hawks accountable for the war they have instigated. And I am not just talking about the Republican warmongers. On the other side of the isle the antiwar movement is faced with its principal challenge -- the Democratic Party.

It’s more than a challenge. In fact antiwar allegiance to the pro-war Democrats may well be our biggest problem. Despite the mounting opposition across the US to the war in Iraq, not one major Democrat has endorsed an immediate unconditional withdrawal of troops from Iraq. A few have supported Rep. Murtha’s “strategic redeployment” plea, which would sanction air strikes of Iraq as well as continued US military outposts throughout the region. But not one leading Democrat wants US troops home now. And what has the antiwar movement done to punish them? Nothing.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:35 AM


Plunge in death rate raises eyebrows (Mike Stobbe, 4/20/06, ASSOCIATED PRESS

Preliminary government figures released yesterday showed that the annual number of deaths in the United States dropped by nearly 50,000 in 2004, the biggest decline in nearly 70 years.

The 2 percent decrease, reported by the National Center for Health Statistics, comes as a surprise to many because the United States is growing in population, aging and getting fatter. In fact, some specialists said, they suspect the numbers may not hold up when a final report is released later this year.

Nevertheless, center officials said the statistics, based on a review of about 90 percent of death records reported in all 50 states in 2004, were consistent across the country and were deemed solid enough to report.

The center said drops in the death rates for heart disease, cancer and stroke accounted for most of the decline.

Hardly surprising that plummeting rates of smoking -- together with the decades long war on drink and drugs -- should yield such numbers.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:28 AM


Liberal critics want ceasefire in 'phony war' over child care (GLORIA GALLOWAY AND RHÉAL SÉGUIN, 4/20/06, Globe and Mail)

The opposition Liberals say Prime Minister Stephen Harper is engaged in a "phony war" designed to promote conflict over proposals to help parents care for their children.

Ralph Goodale, the Liberal House Leader, said yesterday that his party and the Conservatives are "on the same side" when it comes to the government's plan to give parents $1,200 annually for every pre-school child.

No one wants to be on the wrong side of the Third Way.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:24 AM


Mirren's 'Elizabeth' a fiery, flirty monarch (DOUG ELFMAN, April 20, 2006, Chicago Sun-Times)

I asked Helen Mirren if she is drawn to characters whose emotional cores are most like her own. No, she said, and that's when she laid out one of most confident lines I've heard from an actor.

"I'm emotionally capable as an actress to reach great heights. I can do that," Mirren said.

Is she ever right. In "Elizabeth," Mirren plays Elizabeth I -- during the last few decades of the English queen's life -- with the dynamics of a fine musician. She is elegantly pianissimo (quiet) during romantic interludes with Robert Dudley (Jeremy Irons). She's playfully mezzo-forte (medium loud) while charming her political court.


PART ONE / ***
7 to 9 p.m. Saturday (repeating at 1 p.m. Sunday, 5:15 p.m. Monday and 8 p.m. Tuesday) on HBO.

7 to 9 p.m. Monday (repeating at 8 p.m. Thursday and 3:25 a.m. Friday) on HBO.

And then comes the fortissimo (very loud) as Elizabeth shouts down an underling who has informed her of assassination plots. [...]

This could sound strange, but Mirren is a fantastic screamer.

Though no Karen Flores.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:10 AM


Expect a lot less backslapping for Hu in the other Washington (Kristi Heim, Alwyn Scott and Lisa Chiu, 4/20/06, Seattle Times)

For 26 hours, Chinese President Hu Jintao basked in the warm welcome of a region that has strong economic ties with his country. But he wrapped up his visit with a speech conveying that he is unlikely to offer concessions when he meets with President Bush today in Washington, D.C.

Concluding his two-day visit to the Seattle area Wednesday, Hu gave a sweeping policy address that contained no surprises but laid out firm positions on issues that have caused friction with the U.S.

He found a receptive audience among the 600 state business and government leaders who turned out for the luncheon at the Future of Flight Museum and gave him standing ovations before and after the speech.

More muscle, with eye on China (Bill Gertz, April 20, 2006, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

The Pentagon is engaged in an extensive buildup of military forces in Asia as part of a covert strategy to strengthen and position U.S. and allied forces to deter -- or defeat -- China.

The buildup includes changes in deployments of aircraft-carrier battle groups, the conversion of nuclear-missile submarines and the regular dispatch of bombers to areas close to targets in China, according to senior Bush administration officials and a three-month investigation by The Washington Times.

Other less-visible activities that are part of what is being called a "hedge" strategy include large-scale military maneuvers, increased military alliances and training with Asian allies, the transfer of special-operations commando forces to Asia and new requirements for military personnel to learn Chinese.

President Bush approved elements of the first phase of the strategy within the past several months. The key architect is Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.

China's Internal Crisis (STEPHEN GLAIN, April 19, 2006, The Nation)
[N]owhere does the image of China as the Next Big Threat jar with reality more than in China itself, where economic, social and environmental upheaval has turned the country into a caldron. For now at least, the Chinese regime is a greater threat to its own population, unmoored and angry, than it is to the United States or even its neighbors. Popular unrest is now a common feature of China's political landscape, with more than 74,000 reported cases of unrest in 2005, according to an official count. The same economy that has grown by nearly 10 percent a year for the past twenty-five years has also become a perilous source of discontent.

Take the December riots in the southern Chinese city of Dongshan, when riot police fired on villagers as they protested the seizure of their land to make room for a power plant. Some twenty people were killed, according to witnesses, in the first such lethal show of force since the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989. The clash in Dongshan was only the latest in a running nationwide feud between local authorities and angry Chinese uprooted or marginalized by the country's unbridled economic expansion. Just last week, violent protest erupted in Bo Mei, a village in southern Guangdong province, when authorities tried to destroy unauthorized water dikes. Some two dozen people were wounded in clashes with riot police.

While the Bush Administration inflames the Muslim world, Beijing confronts its own fires ignited by an increasingly cutthroat and corrupt economy. National income has risen dramatically since China adopted free-market reforms in the late 1970s, but so has income disparity. The country is straining under an urbanization drive that in the past two decades has eliminated some 135 million rural jobs and has turned much of China's cities into ghettos for uneducated migrant workers. A number of credit cooperatives have failed, taking the meager savings of itinerant laborers down with them. Privatization of state-owned companies and appropriation of farmland for mushrooming urban communities have been exploited into asset grabs by colluding apparatchiks.

The northeastern Rust Belt province of Liaoning, the foundry of Chinese Communism, is now its epicenter of unrest. According to official police figures, one in twelve major demonstrations in China last year occurred in Liaoning, the consequence of a privatization program that left in its wake an angry legion of pink-slipped engineers, line managers and office clerks.

"Liaoning has by far the highest number of protests in China," says Murray Scot Tanner, a senior China analyst at the Rand Corporation. "And we've actually seen an increase over the last couple of years."

Posted by Peter Burnet at 8:23 AM


Canada rates in top five in sexual satisfaction survey (Associated Press, April 19th, 2006)

Japanese adults can't get enough satisfaction, but Austria's mojo is working.

An international study finds that sex is more satisfying in countries where women and men are considered equal.

The survey of people between the ages of 40 and 80 was conducted by the University of Chicago. Austria topped the list of 29 nations studied with 71 per cent of those surveyed reporting being satisfied with their sex lives.

Spain, Canada, Belgium and the United States also reported high rates of satisfaction, rounding out the top five. [...]

Sociologist Edward Laumann believes the findings show that male-centred cultures where sexual behaviour is more oriented toward procreation tend to discount the importance of sexual pleasure for women.

Professor Laumann went on to share his belief that sexual satisfaction correlates strongly with support for the United Nations, membership in the ACLU and belief in Darwinism and the progressive income tax. By contrast, those who voted for President Bush are mired in Frustration City.

Austria? Belgium?

April 19, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:06 PM


Decades of Denial About AIDS (Jacob Laksin, April 22, 2006, FrontPageMagazine.com)

[M]ore than one out of every four gay males living in San Francisco--nearly 26 percent--is infected with the HIV virus. Of the estimated 63,577 gay males over the age of 15 who call the city home, a total of 16,401 test positive for HIV. Those findings accord with years of research showing that HIV, far from an “equal opportunity virus,” targets specific groups, especially homosexual men and intravenous drug users.

Yet, even with this evidence at his disposal, McFarland admitted that he had difficulty calculating the number of gay men infected with HIV because of what he termed “sensitivities over the issue.” Those “sensitivities” have a long and tragic history. [...]

What made the resurgence all the more regrettable is the fact that common-sense measures -- like mandatory testing for HIV -- could have prevented many of the new cases. A 2001 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), for instance, found that 40 percent of AIDS sufferers did not discover that they had the virus until ten years after their infection. For many, that was ten years too late.

Yet many on the doctrinaire left declared against testing. David Webber, the editor of the treatise AIDS and the Law and a contributor to The Nation, assured his readers that “proponents of mandatory testing for HIV appear to have been motivated merely by a desire to inflict harm or punishment on those infected.” Webber found a prominent ally in the ACLU, which insisted that mandatory testing would lead to “discrimination and personal turmoil.” Anti-testing activists in California and New York, the states with some of the highest rate of AIDS cases, succeeded in passing legislation banning testing.

Ignored by its opponents were the deadly consequences of failing to mandate the test. At the end of 2003, the CDC reported that there were 462,792 people living with HIV/AIDS in the 35 areas with a history of confidential name-based HIV reporting. But it placed the total number of people infected with HIV-AIDS at between 1,039,000 and 1,185,000, with as many as 27 percent undiagnosed and unaware of their HIV infection. In a recent column, Robert Bazell, a Science and Health Correspondent for NBC News, pointed out that “The failure to test as widely as possible is a big reason why 40,000 Americans still get infected with HIV every year and 14,000 die from AIDS.”

For homosexual men especially, the numbers add up to disaster. And, as Dr. Stuart Brody, now a professor of Psychology at the University of Paisley, Scotland, notes, much of the responsibility must be attributed to those continue to put politics above public health. “The traditional means of countering sexually transmitted diseases (contact tracing, involving contacting the sexual contacts of infected persons, and if they are infected, contacting their sexual contacts, etc.) has been deliberately avoided in the case of HIV, because the political goal of avoiding ‘stigma’ took precedence over saving the lives of homosexual men,” Brody told FrontPageMag.com. As a result, “resources have been squandered on frightening persons at little or near-zero risk.” The grim irony, as Brody observes, is that “political ideologues have often touted the idea of ‘the people’, but may have little or no regard for the suffering or death of actual people.”

Looked at from a distance, you'd be hard put to say that it wasn't the intent of gay activists to decimate their own population.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:39 PM


Central America eyes sweet alternative to oil (Mica Rosenberg, 4/20/06, Reuters)

At the Palo Gordo refinery two hours' drive south of Guatemala City, a Brazilian-designed ethanol processing plant hums next to decades-old machinery turning freshly cut cane into sugar.

The plant is part of a new push across Central America to reduce the region's reliance on expensive imported oil by following the example of Brazil, Latin America's alternative energy powerhouse.

Sugar-producing countries are looking to ethanol to breathe new life into the decades-old sugar industry. The fuel, also known as ethyl alcohol, is made from a sugar by-product and then mixed with gasoline to reduce pollution and lower prices.

"Sugar cane has changed its name," said Erick Perez, who manages alcohol processing at the Palo Gordo plant.

"Now we call it 'energy cane,'" he said, showing off the three-storey ovens that burn cane fibre to generate all the electricity used by the refinery.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:43 PM


Gasoline Prices, Iraq, or Both? (HeavyLifting, 4/08/06)

This is a plot of Pres. Bush's approval rating and the inverse of gas price index.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:23 PM

W JR.:

McCain defends immigration stance, No Child Left Behind (Eugene Scott, Apr. 19, 2006, The Arizona Republic)

Education, immigration and the war on terror were hot-button topics Wednesday as Arizona Senator and possible presidential hopeful John McCain visited Tempe for a town hall-style event. [...]

McCain supports a guest-worker program allowing immigrants to enter the country if they remain employed, he said, and is against giving undocumented residents already living in the U.S. amnesty.

"They broke the law," he said. "I'm not ready to forgive someone who broke our laws."

McCain said deporting all of those already here isn't feasible, so laws need to be passed that will help them gain citizenship.

McCain also addressed the War on Terror, saying that America's specific enemies are "radical Islamic extremists" and Osama bin Laden.

"(Bin Laden's) on the Afghanistan/Pakistan border, an area that has never been controlled in history," he said. "I'm not excusing us for not getting Osama, but I think we underestimate how difficult it is."

But McCain did commend President Bush and his administration for preventing another terrorist attack, something that many experts said would occur shortly after 9/11.

"The fact that we've gone this long without one means we've done something right," he said. "I do think we're making progress. Slowly, but steadily."

McCain also addressed education, saying that holding teachers accountable for educating students improves schools, but No Child Left Behind needs to be reviewed to measure its full efficacy.

"It is the first attempt to place some standards on teachers," he said. "Is it an end-all? No. But it's a great start."

McCain said he supports incentives for students interested in fields integral to the country's future - engineering, the sciences and computer science.

The U.S. needs to entertain other energy sources, given rising oil prices, he said, citing Brazil's use of ethanol and France's use of nuclear power as examples. Providing incentives to foreign energy companies might help keep gas prices down, he said.

There's not even wiggle room between him and the President.

Posted by Matt Murphy at 8:13 PM


The Worst President in History? (Sean Wilentz, 4/21/06, Rolling Stone)

George W. Bush's presidency appears headed for colossal historical disgrace. Barring a cataclysmic event on the order of the terrorist attacks of September 11th, after which the public might rally around the White House once again, there seems to be little the administration can do to avoid being ranked on the lowest tier of U.S. presidents. And that may be the best-case scenario. Many historians are now wondering whether Bush, in fact, will be remembered as the very worst president in all of American history. [...]

George W. Bush is in serious contention for the title of worst ever. In early 2004, an informal survey of 415 historians conducted by the nonpartisan History News Network found that eighty-one percent considered the Bush administration a "failure." Among those who called Bush a success, many gave the president high marks only for his ability to mobilize public support and get Congress to go along with what one historian called the administration's "pursuit of disastrous policies." In fact, roughly one in ten of those who called Bush a success was being facetious, rating him only as the best president since Bill Clinton -- a category in which Bush is the only contestant.

The lopsided decision of historians should give everyone pause. Contrary to popular stereotypes, historians are generally a cautious bunch. We assess the past from widely divergent points of view and are deeply concerned about being viewed as fair and accurate by our colleagues. When we make historical judgments, we are acting not as voters or even pundits, but as scholars who must evaluate all the evidence, good, bad or indifferent. Separate surveys, conducted by those perceived as conservatives as well as liberals, show remarkable unanimity about who the best and worst presidents have been.

Historians do tend, as a group, to be far more liberal than the citizenry as a whole -- a fact the president's admirers have seized on to dismiss the poll results as transparently biased. [...]

How does any president's reputation sink so low? The reasons are best understood as the reverse of those that produce presidential greatness. In almost every survey of historians dating back to the 1940s, three presidents have emerged as supreme successes: George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Franklin D. Roosevelt. These were the men who guided the nation through what historians consider its greatest crises: the founding era after the ratification of the Constitution, the Civil War, and the Great Depression and Second World War. Presented with arduous, at times seemingly impossible circumstances, they rallied the nation, governed brilliantly and left the republic more secure than when they entered office.

Calamitous presidents, faced with enormous difficulties -- Buchanan, Andrew Johnson, Hoover and now Bush -- have divided the nation, governed erratically and left the nation worse off. In each case, different factors contributed to the failure: disastrous domestic policies, foreign-policy blunders and military setbacks, executive misconduct, crises of credibility and public trust. Bush, however, is one of the rarities in presidential history: He has not only stumbled badly in every one of these key areas, he has also displayed a weakness common among the greatest presidential failures -- an unswerving adherence to a simplistic ideology that abjures deviation from dogma as heresy, thus preventing any pragmatic adjustment to changing realities.

That's an especially farcical line when you consider the unhinged nature of the American left, typified here by the usual lockstep consensus during any Republican administration that the current occupant of the office is uniquely odious. And speaking of "unswerving adherence to a simplistic ideology," try defending President Bush in a faculty lounge sometime and see where it gets you.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:38 PM


Chavez gets macho with US over oil (TVNZ, Apr 20, 2006)

Ratcheting up a war of words with Washington, President Hugo Chavez said on Wednesday that Venezuela would blow up its oil fields if a US attack he has repeatedly warned about becomes reality.

While many Chavez supporters in poor neighbourhoods consider a US invasion a real threat, critics and most international observers call it a far-fetched fantasy designed to fire up Chavez's political base.

"We would not have any alternative... We will blow up our own oil fields... they are not going to take that oil," Chavez said in comments broadcast on state television from a meeting of South American presidents in the Paraguayan capital Asuncion.

Breaking their oil dependency might save their nation.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:10 PM


Hamiltonian Democrats (Harold Meyerson, April 19, 2006, Washington Post)

It's come to this: The chief project to restate Democratic economics for our time was unveiled a couple of weeks ago, and it's named after the father of American conservatism, Alexander Hamilton.

Necessarily, the authors of the Hamilton Project preface their declaration with an attempt, not altogether successful, to reclaim Hamilton from the right. The nation's first secretary of the Treasury, they note, "stood for sound fiscal policy, believed that broad-based opportunity for advancement would drive American economic growth, and recognized that 'prudent aids and encouragements on the part of government' are necessary to enhance and guide market forces."

Which is true, as far as it goes. Hamilton believed in balanced budgets...

Alexander Hamilton's Financial Program (Digital History)
The most pressing problems facing the new government were economic. As a result of the revolution, the federal government had acquired a huge debt: $54 million including interest. The states owed another $25 million. Paper money issued under the Continental Congresses and Articles of Confederation was worthless. Foreign credit was unavailable.

The person assigned the task of resolving these problems was 32-year-old Alexander Hamilton. Born out-of-wedlock in the West Indies in 1757, he was sent to New York at the age of 15 for schooling. One of New York's most influential attorneys, he played a leading role in the Constitutional Convention and wrote 51 of the 85 Federalist Papers, urging support for the new Constitution. As Treasury Secretary, Hamilton designed a financial system that made the United States the best credit risk in the western world.

The paramount problem facing Hamilton was a huge national debt. He proposed that the government assume the entire debt of the federal government and the states. His plan was to retire the old depreciated obligations by borrowing new money at a lower interest rate.

States like Maryland, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Virginia, which had already paid off their debts, saw no reason why they should be taxed by the federal government to pay off the debts of other states like Massachusetts and South Carolina. Hamilton's critics claimed that his scheme would provide enormous profits to speculators who had bought bonds from Revolutionary War veterans for as little as 10 or 15 cents on the dollar.

For six months, a bitter debate raged in Congress, until James Madison and Thomas Jefferson engineered a compromise. In exchange for southern votes, Hamilton promised to support locating the national capital on the banks of the Potomac River, the border between two southern states, Virginia and Maryland.

Hamilton's debt program was a remarkable success. By demonstrating Americans' willingness to repay their debts, he made the United States attractive to foreign investors. European investment capital poured into the new nation in large amounts.

The notion that Hamilton would have been much bothered by running a larger than normal debt to finance a war is just silly. Note too that the foreigners today are only too happy to have us issue debt because we're the only ones they can trust to repay it going forward.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:09 PM


Containing China: The US's real objective (Michael T Klare, 4/20/06, Asia Times)

Slowly but surely, the grand strategy of the Bush administration is being revealed. It is not aimed primarily at the defeat of global terrorism, the incapacitation of rogue states, or the spread of democracy in the Middle East. These may dominate the rhetorical arena and be the focus of immediate concern, but they do not govern key decisions regarding the allocation of long-term military resources. The truly commanding objective - the underlying basis for budgets and troop deployments - is the containment of China.

This objective governed White House planning during the administration's first seven months in office, only to be set aside by the perceived obligation to highlight anti-terrorism after September 11, 2001; but now, despite President George W Bush's preoccupation with Iraq and Iran, the White House is also reemphasizing its paramount focus on China, risking a new Asian arms race with potentially catastrophic consequences.

There's no meaningful difference between Islamicism and Communism the defeat of both of which will require their respective transitions to democratic parliamentarianism. You'd think this poor guy would be more embarrassed to admit that W uniquely understood the Long War all along.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 2:57 PM


Running on optimism (Niall Ferguson, National Post, April 19th, 2006)

I am by nature and upbringing a pessimist. As a boy in Glasgow I was encouraged to expect the worst, on the principle that by doing so you'll never be disappointed and sometimes you may even be pleasantly surprised. So I live my life with the worst-case scenario permanently hovering before my eyes.

This is not the American way. Ever since Thomas Jefferson cited "the pursuit of happiness" as a reason for American independence, optimism has been in the DNA of the USA. Louis Armstrong epitomized the upbeat national mood in that wonderful song On the Sunny Side of the Street:

If I never had a cent
I'd be rich as Rockefeller
Gold dust at my feet
On the sunny side of the street

Nowhere is that sunny side sunnier than in Miami. I went there last week and was dazzled. The place is more than booming. Red Ferraris and black Hummers line the manicured boulevards of Coral Gables. The good times have returned to the Biltmore Hotel, that glorious masterpiece of Roaring Twenties architecture.

The numbers bear out the impression of febrile prosperity. Tourism, which is Miami's biggest business, has more than recovered from the shock of 9/11. Thanks to surging trade volumes, both the port and the airport are thriving. Financial services are also growing apace. Unemployment here is as low as it gets in the United States -- and that's low.

Turn to the Miami Herald and you find full-page advertisements with headlines like "Create Generational Wealth through Real Estate": "No money? It matters not. Bad credit? No problem. No education? So what. Over 65? There's still time to change your financial future." The sunny side of the street indeed.

Note, too, that Miami's prosperity is a triumph for free migration as well as free trade and the free market. The population of Miami-Dade County is 57% Latino, largely though by no means exclusively Cubans. Yet the contrast with shabby, down-at-heel Havana could scarcely be more stark.

So it's small wonder the lecture I delivered in Miami unnerved people. Even by my standards, it was sombre in its conclusions. I pointed out that, if history is any guide, our present golden age of globalization -- which is so beneficial to Miami -- is unlikely to endure. It could be ended by a geopolitical crisis. Or it could be ended by a gradual domestic backlash. Such pessimism is rare in the U.S. and maybe that's just as well.

This is what it means to walk on the sunny side of life's street. You simply don't contemplate the possibility that you might get made redundant, or fall sick, or get old. You hang on to that American dream that you'll be one of the lucky few who scales the socio-economic ladder to become "rich as Rockefeller."[...]

The world, as I've said, has reason to be thankful for American optimism. The imbalance between American optimism and Asian caution manifests itself in the huge U.S. current account deficit. U.S. imports now vastly exceed U.S. exports. Americans finance the gap by borrowing abroad. Asian savings thus help finance American consumption, to the benefit of both parties.

By the same token, however, the world has reason to fear an American mood swing. And such a mood-swing could be much more imminent than a flying visit to Miami would lead you to believe. After all, interest rates have now been rising steadily since the summer of 2004, driving up the cost of servicing credit card debts and adjustable rate mortgages (which have grown increasingly popular in recent years). And it's generally assumed that the new chairman of the Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke, will raise rates again next month. With wage inflation surging -- not least in places like Miami -- he really has no option but to press harder on the brakes.

So long as Americans keep walking on the sunny side of the street, the global economy will carry on growing. The nightmare scenario, however, is that optimism could quite suddenly tip over into pessimism.

"The only thing we have to fear," declared Franklin Roosevelt during the Depression, "is fear itself." That fear has been long absent from American life. But we should never forget what a devastating thing it can be on those rare occasions when the United States crosses over to the shady side of the street.

Ah, there is nothing quite as deliciously quixotic as a Scottish (or Canadian) congenital pessimist musing darkly about a downturn in American optimism. Yet surely it is this above all that distinguishes Americans from the rest of the world, more so even than freedom or pragmatism. Canadians and Australians stand an easy second and they are chronic depressives by comparison. In only these and a handful of other countries do polls show majorities believe the individual is primarily responsible for his or her fate in life.

And therein lies the conundrum for those Americans frustrated in the extreme that a world where almost everyone says they crave freedom yet where so many make such a widespread hash of actually finding it. Individual freedom is not a terribly meaningful concept without complementary doses of optimism and self-reliance, two qualities of which there is a decided global shortage. Which is why so many countries who are handed freedom on a platter, often with American assitance and sacrifice, manage to find creative ways to throw it all away quickly.

But maybe I'm just being too pessimistic.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:34 PM


Party in Search of a Notion: The opportunity before the Democrats is far bigger than a few House and Senate seats if they can recognize -- and seize -- this unique historical moment. (Michael Tomasky, 04.18.06, American Prospect)

What the Democrats still don’t have is a philosophy, a big idea that unites their proposals and converts them from a hodgepodge of narrow and specific fixes into a vision for society. Indeed, the party and the constellation of interests around it don’t even think in philosophical terms and haven’t for quite some time. There’s a reason for this: They’ve all been trained to believe -- by the media, by their pollsters -- that their philosophy is an electoral loser. Like the dogs in the famous “learned helplessness” psychological experiments of the 1960s -- the dogs were administered electrical shocks from which they could escape, but from which, after a while, they didn’t even try to, instead crouching in the corner in resignation and fear -- the Democrats have given up attempting big ideas. Any effort at doing so, they’re convinced, will result in electrical (and electoral) shock. [...]

In terms of political philosophy, this idea of citizens sacrificing for and participating in the creation of a common good has a name: civic republicanism. It’s the idea, which comes to us from sources such as Rousseau’s social contract and some of James Madison’s contributions to the Federalist Papers, that for a republic to thrive, leaders must create and nourish a civic sphere in which citizens are encouraged to think broadly about what will sustain that republic and to work together to achieve common goals. This is what Dad asked me to understand that day in our Granada.

This is what Democrats used to ask of people. Political philosophers argue about when they stopped; Michael Sandel believes that republicanism died with the New Deal. But for me, it’s clear that the great period of liberal hegemony in this country was, in fact, a period when citizens were asked to contribute to a project larger than their own well-being. And, crucially, it was a period when citizens (a majority of them, at least) reciprocally understood themselves to have a stake in this larger project. The New Deal, despite what conservative critics have maintained since the 1930s, did not consist of the state (the government) merely handing out benefices to the nation (the people), turning citizens into dependent wards; it engaged and ennobled people: Social Security and all the jobs programs and rural electrification plans and federal mortgage-insurance programs were examples of the state giving people the tools to improve their own lives while improving the collective life of the country (to say nothing of the way Franklin Roosevelt rallied Americans to common purpose in fighting through the Depression and the war). Harry Truman turned the idea of common purpose outward to the rest of the world, enacting the Marshall Plan, creating NATO and other regional alliances, exhorting Americans to understand that they belonged to a community larger than even their country. John Kennedy engaged Americans precisely at the level of asking them to sacrifice for a common good, through the things that are obvious to us -- the Peace Corps, and of course “ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country” -- and through things that history’s fog has made less obvious (his relentless insistence that victory in the Cold War could be truly achieved only through improvement at home, which would require sacrifice and civic engagement).

Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society, until it washed up on the bone-strewn beaches of Vietnam and New Left–driven atomization, fit the paradigm, too. Consider just the first two sentences of Johnson’s remarks upon signing the Civil Rights Act: “I am about to sign into law the Civil Rights Act of 1964. I want to take this occasion to talk to you about what that law means to every American.” Not black people. Not Southerners. Not even “our nation.” Every American -- the words gave citizens agency and a stake in seeing that this unprecedented social experiment would succeed. In March 1965, Johnson again emphasized every American’s stake in the fight for equal rights: “should we defeat every enemy, and should we double our wealth and conquer the stars, and still be unequal to this issue, then we will have failed as a people and as a nation. ... Their cause must be our cause, too. Because it is not just Negroes, but really it’s all of us who must overcome the crippling legacy of bigotry and injustice.”

What Johnson and his advisers knew, just as Hubert Humphrey down Pennsylvania Avenue in the Senate knew, was that desegregation would fail if the matter were put to the American people only in terms of the rights of those directly affected; it had to be presented as advancing the common good. This was a core belief for these Democrats (besides which, they knew -- and their testimony on this point is amply demonstrated in books and memoirs and the like -- that their programs would never get through Congress if they lacked this element).

Today’s Democratic Party has completely lost connection with this principle. How and when did this happen? Against this small-r republican tradition that posits sacrifice for larger, universalist purposes is another tradition that has propelled American liberalism, that indeed is what the philosophers call liberalism proper: from Locke and Mill up to John Rawls in our time, a greater emphasis on the individual (and, later, the group), on tolerance, on rights, and on social justice. In theory, it is not inevitable that these two traditions must clash. But in the 1960s, it was inevitable that they did. And it is clear which side has won the argument within the Democratic Party.

The problem is that irrespective of the rhetoric with which its leaders sold the New Deal and Great Society to the white middle class they were in practice about things like entitlements, racial quotas, and the like all funded by rising taxes. What Mr. Tomasky is groping for here is not just small-r republicanism but the Republicanism of George W. Bush, the Third Way policies that the Democrats couldn't wait to ditch along with Bill Clinton, who was too conservative for the party, and that is proving politically popular in Britain--where Tony Blair is likewise too far Right for his Party, Canada, Australia, Japan, etc. Democrats could, indeed, return to the philosophy that won them two presidential elections in the '90s, but just imagine what would happen if they issued a Third Way/New Democrat agenda...the GOP would just pass it all and thank them for ending their obstructionism. Hardly a winning electoral strategy...

Mr. Tomasky runs up against the central dilemma that plagues the Decent Left today, they're unwilling disciples of President Bush.

The Strange Death That No One Cares About (Orrin C. Judd, 1/27/05, Tech Central Station)
-Vision Problems: INDIVIDUAL RIGHTS V. THE COMMON GOOD (Noam Scheiber, 04.28.06, New Republic)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:52 PM


Fatah-Loyal Media Taking Hamas to Task (SARAH EL DEEB and MOHAMMED DARAGHMEH, 4/18/06, Associated Press)

Never mind the icy winds blowing from the West. The Hamas government's toughest detractors have popped up at home, criticizing the Islamic militant rulers in Palestinian newspaper cartoons, TV commentaries and radio talk shows.

Most of the Palestinian media are loyal to the Fatah Party, defeated in January parliament elections, and Hamas is getting increasingly upset about the unflattering coverage. Such friction between the government and the media is rare for the Arab world.

The Hamas government has proven an easy target. It's broke and internationally isolated because of its refusal to moderate its hard-line views, and has been unable to pay the salaries of tens of thousands of government employees.

Hamas remains defiant, claiming it'll be able to govern without Western aid by persuading Arab and Muslim countries to step in — an assertion ridiculed in the Palestinian media.

A cartoon in the Al Ayyam daily lampooned Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, who told a rally Palestinians would rather live on bread with olives, hyssop and salt than bow to Western demands. The cartoon showed a Palestinian with an empty shopping basket standing before bank cash machines labeled olives, salt and hyssop. He called his wife and, waving his bank card, asked what she wanted for dinner.

Barghouti plans Palestinian ceasefire (JPost.com Staff, Apr. 19, 2006, THE JERUSALEM POST)
Jailed Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti was reportedly conducting efforts recently to get all Palestinian movements to hold a ceasefire with Israel.

According to a report by the Palestinian news agency Ma'an, Barghouti's initiative would have the Palestinians declare a ceasefire unilaterally. Furthermore, they would urge the international community, especially Europe, to have Israel cease military activity in the Palestinian territories.

The plan, if accepted, would not necessarily address the recognition of Israel or its right to exist, but rather, it would urge Hamas to respect all prior agreements signed between Israel and the Palestinians.

Hamas was elected to improve the economic lives of Palestinians. If they can't, they're gone next election.

Levitt: Hamas Unlikely to Moderate Stance Now That It Controls Palestinian Government: Interviewee: Matthew Levitt (Interviewer: Bernard Gwertzman, Consulting Editor, March 20, 2006, CFR)

Some people have speculated that just as the PLO once was regarded as a terrorist organization until it recognized Israel, Hamas in power might moderate its positions because of the problems it would face trying to run a government. Do you think there's much to be said for that point of view?

Being the government, I don't think, is going to moderate Hamas in the least. And the reason for that is they have a model they have already articulated that they intend to follow, which is the model of Hezbollah in the north. Hezbollah has been part of the government in Lebanon for many years, and it does have a cabinet minister. And it has set a very good example for those who are inclined to engage in militancy, whether it's guerrilla attacks or terrorist attacks, while simultaneously being involved in government and politics and social welfare.

Hamas has made it very clear it intends to follow that model and has already taken steps to actively parallel itself in the West Bank and Gaza to Hezbollah's situation in southern Lebanon in particular. Months before the election, Hamas announced it was going to be setting up a standing militia, the Qassam Brigade; it would not take the place of, but would sit parallel to, existing terrorist wings. This militia is similar to Hezbollah's standing militia in southern Lebanon.

And it also did other things. Hezbollah, for example, has set up an international satellite television station, al-Manar, which it uses to broadcast its message worldwide, and Hamas has now openly acknowledged that its efforts to set up a Hamas television station, al-Aqsa TV out of Gaza, is based on lessons it learned from Hezbollah. Hamas is going to use its situation in power to solidify its rule as a political player in the West Bank and Gaza; it's going to try and incorporate the existing Palestinian security services into its standing militia.

Are there not some people who favor a more moderate bent?

That doesn't mean there are not elements within Hamas that could conceivably moderate. About two years ago there was an internal Hamas document that was circulated in the West Bank by some members of Hamas arguing perhaps it was time for the movement to follow the path of other Muslim Brotherhood groups—Hamas is the Palestinian wing of the Muslim Brotherhood—and like the Islamic Action Front, which is the Brotherhood's political entity in Jordan, perhaps it should pursue Islamist goals through politics and social activity without the parallel guerrilla or terrorist activity.

The fact that a debate and a discussion occurred is telling, even though it was shouted down. There are elements within Hamas that could be moderated. Whenever I have this discussion, I'm brought back to a conversation I had in person with Abbas al-Sayyid. Abbas al-Sayyid is the convicted mastermind of the Passover bombing of the Park Hotel in Netanya on March 27, 2002, that killed thirty and left 140 injured. That was the straw that broke the camel's back leading Israeli forces to reinvade the West Bank that year. I interviewed Abbas al-Sayyid in prison, and at one point got into a conversation with him about the issue of whether Hamas can moderate, whether it would be willing to pursue its agenda—even if that agenda includes the destruction of Israel—through political and other peaceful means.

I was arguing that the issue the international community has with Hamas isn't so much its agenda but its means of pursuing its agenda. I argued that some people, though they may disagree vociferously on Hamas' political agenda, may accept them as a political entity. What he told me is, "Look, I'm a religious person and Hamas is a religious movement. It's not only a terrorist group, it also tells you how to live every aspect of your life through sharia, Islamic law. And as such, I as a Muslim cannot cede any part of what I believe to be an Islamic endowment—all of Israel, presently Israel—to the Jews or anybody else. If I were to agree to a temporary truce—a tahiya—that would be exactly what it is, temporary."

Al-Sayyid said "temporary" can mean a generation or two, but he added: "If I were to subscribe to one of these long-term ceasefires, don't think that I would not continue to train my son, who would enable his son, to eventually consider the struggle, the fight, to regain all of this Islamic endowment that is now Israel." So what we're left with is a situation where those who are primarily nationalists of an Islamic bent could possibly be moderated. But those who are Islamists of a nationalist bent are less likely to be amenable to moderation.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:50 AM


Mayor Overrules 2 Aides Seeking Food Stamp Shift (SEWELL CHAN, 4/18/06, NY Times)

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg took the rare step yesterday of overruling his own top two social service officials, deciding not to pursue a federal waiver that would make it easier for able-bodied childless adults to receive food stamps. [...]

In explaining the administration's decision not to seek the waiver, [Deputy Mayor Linda I. ] Gibbs said in a statement, "This potential policy change is not consistent with the mayor's goal of helping New Yorkers become self-sufficient." [...]

The decision stunned advocates for the needy, who had been pressing for more-generous food stamp policies since the mayoralty of Mr. Bloomberg's predecessor, Rudolph W. Giuliani, who opposed most public assistance programs under the argument that they discouraged work and subsidized dependence.

"It looked like we were departing from the Giuliani era's stinginess and cruelty when it came to dealing with poor people," said Douglas Lasdon, executive director of the Urban Justice Center, a nonprofit law firm that sued the city, under both mayors, over food stamp rules and procedures. "This has not been an administration that has bowed to the political winds. It is a bit petty and odd."

By what right can opponents of self-sufficiency for the able-bodied be said to be their advocates?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:27 AM


McClellan Out as White House Press Secretary (Fred Barbash and Jim VandeHei, April 19, 2006, Washington Post)

White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan announced his resignation this morning and President's Bush's longtime adviser Karl Rove is scaling back his responsibilities. [...]

Rove, who was named a deputy chief of staff for policy after Bush's second election, will leave that post to spend more time on politics as the mid-term elections approach. He is expected to be replaced by Joel Kaplan, who now serves as deputy White House budget director.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:13 AM


What Muslims Hear at Friday Prayers: Is there really a clash of the cultures between Islam and the West? SPIEGEL documents Friday sermons from mosques around the world. As imams guide their congregations, they praise the delights of paradise, sow the seeds of doubt in government authority -- and sometimes preach hatred. (Der Spiegel, 4/19/06)

Islam has many faces, and on the Friday before the Prophet's birthday, SPIEGEL correspondents visited mosques from Nigeria to Indonesia to listen to the sermons of the imams. They were there in part to look into a suspicion that has taken hold in the West, especially since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Have the mosques been transformed from a place of prayer into a hotbed of extremism and center of Islamist indoctrination? Is there truly a dangerous clash of cultures underway, as so many people in Europe and America fear? [...]

Whereas imams in places like Istanbul and Jakarta tended to devote their sermons to theological exegesis, Friday prayers in Pakistan, Iran and the Gaza Strip were markedly more political. In these places, religious scholars whipped their listeners into a holy frenzy and drew a sharp line between the Dar al-Islam, or House of Islam, and the Dar al-Harb, or House of War -- the two spheres into which schools of Islamic legal thought have divided the world.

But at the same time, often in the same sermon, imams ask God for help in confronting everyday woes, issue moral appeals to their own political leaders and constantly return to the Islamic world's greatest lament: a comparison between the gloomy present and the glorious past. [...]

[D]idin Hafiduddin, the imam at Istiqlal Mosque in the Indonesian capital Jakarta, made no mention of the precarious geopolitical situation in his sermon, given in one of the world's largest houses of prayer. Titled "Professionalism and Honest Trusteeship," it sounded more like a presentation at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland than fiery religious rhetoric. Hafiduddin told the faithful in the most populous Islamic country about Joseph the Israelite, the man charged with running the Egyptian pharaoh's economy. He drew parallels between the story -- which is also mentioned in the bible -- and modern-day Indonesia's struggles with corruption.

"Place me in charge of the granaries of the land, and you will see that I am a clever custodian," Joseph advises the pharaoh in the Koran sura that bears his name. No one has ever been a more efficient manager than Joseph, at least according to the imam from Jakarta. Today's leaders ought to take a page from Joseph's book, he said, adding that "corruption, laziness and fraud bring about destruction." By contrast, said the Indonesian imam, God rewards professionalism and a "strict work ethic" with happiness and fulfillment.

The moral appeal to one's own political leadership is a leitmotif in the sermons of Muslim preachers -- but also a natural response to strict autocratic conditions in many Islamic countries. It was almost an understatement when Sheikh Ibrahim Abu Bakr Ramadan, an imam in the Nigerian city of Kano, said that the "injustice emanating from our leadership is the worst part of our society," in reference to President Olusegun Obasanjo's efforts to amend the constitution so that he can be reelected when his current term expires in 2007.

In Peshawar, Pakistan, Maulana Khalil Ahmad compared the world's monotheistic religions and -- perhaps not surprisingly -- praised Islam as being the most complete of them all: "Contradictions prevail, especially in Christianity and Judaism, as well as in Communism." But that was mild compared with the sermon his fellow local imam Abd al-Akbar Chitrali gave in the same spot a week earlier, when he derided Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf's claim to have given Pakistan true democracy. Musharraf, the imam complained, is trying to introduce the "Western secularism" of his idol, Turkish leader Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. The founder of the modern Turkey, said Chitrali, was a man who "turned mosques into churches and had religious scholars murdered. Listen to me, Muslims! Kemal Atatürk is not our ideal. Musharraf is not just attempting to placate the West and the USA, but also to remain permanently in power."

It's no coincidence that Turkey has a GDP per capita of $8k. That's the psychic break that Islam faces--they can't escape from the gloomy present to a glorious future unless they reform along the lines of the Western separation of Church and State.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:37 AM


Foreign troops arrive in Solomons (BBC, 4/19/06)

Australia troops are arriving in the Solomon Islands to help restore peace after rioting and looting in the capital, Honiara.

Hundreds of demonstrators marched on the government building on Wednesday, demanding the Prime Minister-elect, Snyder Rini, stand down.

Parts of Honiara are in ruins following rioting on Tuesday, and demonstrators have threatened more destruction.

Mr Rini denies claims he is corrupt and favours Chinese businessmen.

Much of Honiara's Chinatown area was razed overnight and some families were forced to jump from burning buildings. Police have imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew on the city. [...]

Some 180 Australian soldiers and police have begun arriving in the country to try to impose order after a written request from the Solomons government. A smaller contingent of additional New Zealand peacekeepers are set to arrive on Thursday.

We're from the Anglosphere and we're here to help.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:34 AM


Bush Names New Budget Chief: More Changes Coming But Rumsfeld Will Stay In Job, President Says (Jim VandeHei, 4/19/06, Washington Post)

In a short Rose Garden news conference, Bush announced that Portman, the U.S. trade representative and a close ally of House GOP leaders, will be promoted to the White House inner circle as head of the Office of Management and Budget. White House advisers said Bush picked Portman in part to send a clear signal that he is serious about working more cooperatively with disgruntled GOP lawmakers.

"We finally have one of our own in the Bush inner circle," said Kyle Downey, spokesman for Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.). [...]

White House officials, who guard internal discussions over staff changes like state secrets, said the next round of resignations and appointments could come as early as next week. Among those said to be contemplating leaving, Republican officials believe, are Treasury Secretary John W. Snow, White House spokesman Scott McClellan and several mid-level officials.

Ari Fleischer, White House spokesman during Bush's first term, said the president is responding to pressure from Republican lawmakers and strategists by reaching out to Portman and other officials with close congressional ties. "The whole series of staff changes is by and large a Washington game, but you have to play that game if you are going to win," Fleischer said.

In a change described by congressional aides as seemingly small but symbolically significant, Portman himself called Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) on Monday to tell him about his new job, and other officials contacted a few congressional GOP leadership aides to give them a heads-up later that night.

Ron Bonjean, Hastert's spokesman, said the selection of Portman shows that Bush is "taking Congress seriously." Portman is an unusual breed: He is well liked both by Bush and by congressional Republicans, and operatives regard him as effective at media relations.

Portman, 50, was widely considered a future candidate for majority leader or speaker before he left the House a year ago to run the trade office. A fiscal conservative with a pragmatic streak, Portman has been close to the Bush family since his days as George H.W. Bush's point man in New Hampshire in the 1980 presidential campaign. As a congressman, he was one of the few GOP lawmakers President Bush would reliably turn to for advice on politics and policy.

He also possesses what has become a prerequisite for job seekers in Washington's current season of scandal: a clean ethics record. John Bridgeland, a former adviser to Portman and later to Bush, said that Portman's politics are similar to Bolten's but that his congressional experience will give him additional clout with Congress.

"There is certainly no substitution for someone who has been a member . . . and has the intimate, day-to-day relationships with members," Bridgeland said.

Ex-Congressman Is Tapped for Budget Post (JIM RUTENBERG and EDMUND L. ANDREWS, 4/19/06, NY Times)

Also on Tuesday, speculation increased that the White House was focusing on changing its press secretary, Scott McClellan. Officials have spoken with Tony Snow, a commentator for Fox News and a former speechwriter for the president's father, to see if he would be interested in the job, said two people with knowledge of the discussion who were granted anonymity so they could speak freely about a matter the White House did not want to be publicly known.

One of them said Mr. Snow had been contacted very recently about the job, and both said they did not believe Mr. Snow was the only person the White House was considering.

Republicans have been speculating about potential successors, including Rob Nichols, the former Treasury spokesman, and Victoria Clarke, the former Pentagon spokeswoman. Mr. McClellan has refused to comment about his plans.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:30 AM


White House Puts Face on North Korean Human Rights (Peter Baker, 4/19/06, Washington Post)

The story of how an obscure instance of individual hardship came to figure in a meeting between two of the world's most powerful leaders sheds light on the crosscurrents of U.S. foreign policy under Bush. The son of a former envoy to Beijing, Bush has worked to build stable relations with China and wants its help on urgent priorities such as curbing Iran's nuclear ambitions. Yet the same president has proclaimed expanding freedom to be the guiding principle of his foreign policy, with the goal of "ending tyranny in our world."

So as diplomats and bureaucrats throughout the U.S. government in recent weeks assembled briefing books on the Chinese currency and the trade deficit and other issues of importance to Bush's business backers, another corner of government, much smaller, has worked to put on the table China's treatment of desperate North Koreans who slip across the border.

They have been aided in that quest by a growing movement of Christian activists who lately have adopted North Korea as a cause, much as they earlier did Sudan, and pushed Congress into passing legislation intended to make human rights in Asia's last Stalinist outpost a higher U.S. priority.

"We just feel this is what we're commanded to do," said Deborah Fikes, executive director of the Midland Ministerial Alliance from the president's Texas home town. "If you're a follower of Christ, this should be one of your number one priorities, speaking out for the oppressed, and I can't think of anybody more oppressed than the North Koreans."

The case of Kim offered an opportunity to put their concern front and center. Never before has the Bush White House singled out a North Korean asylum seeker by name and held Beijing responsible for her fate, according to U.S. officials and human rights workers. The timing was especially pointed, coming just before the arrival of Chinese President Hu Jintao, who will be greeted tomorrow by a 21-gun salute on the South Lawn of the White House.

Administration officials said Bush feels strongly about the situation. "He's taken a very personal interest and a fairly significant interest in the issue of human rights," said Jay Lefkowitz, whom Bush appointed last year as a special envoy for human rights in North Korea. "He fundamentally believes the character of the North Korean regime is defined by its human rights conduct."

It's almost as if he's serious about all that human rights guff....

Mr Hu goes to Washington (after he's seen Bill Gates and the Boeing factory) (Jane Macartney in Beijing and Tom Baldwin in Washington, 4/19/06, Times of London)

THE leader of the world’s most populous nation was warmly welcomed to America last night by the world’s most influential man.

President Hu Jintao was guest of honour for a lavish banquet at Bill Gates’s Seattle lakeside mansion on the opening night of what China is calling a four-day “state visit”.

But when the Chinese leader arrives in Washington for talks with President Bush tomorrow — after first stopping off at the Boeing plant — he will find that the social temperature has, deliberately, dropped a few degrees. He will, for example be offered only a “social lunch” during what the White House insists is merely “a visit”.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:26 AM


Game shifted into the bizarre (Nick Cafardo, April 19, 2006, Boston Globe)

Devil Rays manager Joe Maddon said it took him five rides on the stationary bike to come up with the David Ortiz shift he implemented in last night's 7-4 loss to the Red Sox.

''We've been thinking about this for a while," Maddon said. ''The topic's been broached, but we finally put it into play today. Honestly, I've been thinking and thinking about it. When I do my bike rides, I think about things like that.

''I've been involved with defense for years. When you look at the charts, there's very few balls hit on the ground on the left side. But there's a lot of balls hit into the gap."

So Maddon employed a shift in the first inning that left no infielders on the left side and six players in the outfield. Third baseman Ty Wigginton moved to left field, and the other outfielders moved over. And the right-side infielders were positioned in short right field.

''The last several years, it's crossed my mind," Maddon said. ''He's on the level with Barry Bonds as far as his hitting ability. He's just so hard to pitch to. There really are no holes. He covers everything. We're just going to keep trying. We play them 19 times. We've got to try something."

Ortiz went 2 for 5, solving the shift with a pair of shots off the Wall for doubles.

In baseball you've never seen it all.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:15 AM


Chicago looks at changing parking meter rates (Matthew Blake, 4/13/06, Medill News Service)

Revamping how Chicago sets parking meter rates could help raise money for city services such as mass transit, a community planning organization says.

The Metropolitan Planning Council suggests the city put in more parking meters and set charges based on demand for parking in that area. Busy business districts would cost a lot more than residential areas. [...]

The concept is the brainchild of Donald Shoup, a professor of Urban Planning at UCLA. Pasadena, Calif., adopted the idea and in its first full year collected an additional $1.2 million for civic improvements.

Under Shoup's concept, meter rates are increased in high-traffic areas until drivers stop circling in hopes of finding a "cheap" parking space.

According to Efrat Dallal, of the Chicago Department of Revenue, city aldermen usually have the discretion to establish the location of parking meters and meter rates in their specific wards.

Shoup contends these decisions in Chicago are based on political favors and not economic factors.

If there is a homo economicus then you can get him to change his behavior by making some decisions more rational than others, no?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:11 AM


Rate news sparks rally (ADAM GELLER, April 19, 2006, Chicago Sun-Times)

Stocks soared Tuesday on news that Federal Reserve policymakers believed their run of interest rate increases probably is nearing an end, propelling the Dow Jones industrials up nearly 195 points.

The report helped offset the effects of oil prices that passed $71 a barrel.

Wall Street was already climbing in mid-afternoon when the Fed released minutes of the Federal Open Market Committee's March 27-28 meeting that showed most of the panel's members "thought that the end of the tightening process was likely to be near, and some expressed concerns about the dangers of tightening too much, given the lags in the effects of policy."

That's what Chairman Bernanke is there for.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:03 AM


Moving to the Right: Brit Hume's Path Took Him From Liberal Outsider to The Low-Key Voice of Conservatism on Fox News (Howard Kurtz, 4/19/06, Washington Post )

As a senior Fox News executive and anchor who landed the only interview with Vice President Cheney after his hunting accident, Hume has traveled light-years since his early days as a dogged investigator. He has made the transition from newspaper reporter to television star, from outside critic to charter member of the Washington establishment, from garden-variety liberal to committed conservative. He has become an acerbic critic of his chosen profession. And he has endured a family tragedy that changed his outlook on life.

There is a formal bearing about Hume that transcends his suspenders and American flag lapel pin. He speaks deliberately, unhurriedly, making his points with logic rather than passion. On a network filled with flamboyant personalities, he gave his nightly program the bland title "Special Report."

"I was trying to develop a show that wasn't about me," says Hume, 62.

Fred Barnes, an old friend and regular panelist on "Special Report," says Hume has essentially rejected the Beltway social scene.

"He doesn't go to the Kennedy Center," Barnes says. "He doesn't want to have dinner with Cabinet members or hang around with other people in the press. It's not normal for a person at the top of the heap in Washington."

Despite an aura of self-confidence bordering on cockiness, Hume shies away from self-promotion. The day that he scooped the world with Cheney's first account of his accidental shooting of a hunting companion, the former ABC newsman declined an invitation from "Good Morning America," saying he had time only to appear on Fox's morning show.

Cheney's choice of Hume was widely mocked, although most journalists acknowledged that the interview, while polite, was thorough. Hume, like his network, has clearly become a lightning rod in a polarized media environment. Hume is almost evangelical in his belief that he is fair and balanced while most of the media are not, an argument challenged by several studies showing that his program leans to the right.

Hume is no partisan brawler in the mold of some of Fox's high-decibel hosts. By virtue of his investigative background, his understated style and his management role, he represents a hybrid strain: conservatives who believe in news, not bloviation, but news that passes through a different lens, filtered through a different set of assumptions.

Not that the profile isn't fair or Mr. Kurtz incapable of impartiality, but there's something deeply odd about the host of a program on a rival liberal cable network writing about the potential conservative bent of Mr. Hume, no?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:54 AM


Revisiting ramen, an Asian staple but an American afterthought (HSIAO-CHING CHOU, 4/19/06, SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER)

Instant ramen has sustained life under dire circumstances and yet it is incapable of escaping its harsh American reality as the food that most people gladly leave behind once the paychecks fatten. Some people even harbor resentment for ever having depended on the four-for-a-dollar staple.

Its alter-ego lives the good life in Asian supermarkets, where entire aisles are dedicated to noodle display. It's daunting the number of brands and flavors that are available. Most people tend to stick with one or two favorites. So I thought it would be fun to choose a dozen varieties for a taste test.

Two "connoisseurs" joined me on the panel. Kaz Iwasaki, who works with International Cross-Cultural Committee, eats instant ramen about once a week. He prefers the Ichiban brand and he usually adds some fresh vegetables to the broth. Takumi Ono, who is the president of the Japanese-language Web site Junglecity.com, used to spend time during her visits home to Japan to try all the new flavors of instant ramen that had hit the shelves since her previous visit.

I have written before about the "relationship" Asians have with instant ramen: First of all, there is no shame in buying this convenience product because it almost always is one check mark on a long list of fresh produce and meat or seafood items. Second, the ramen industry continues to create new flavors, some of which actually resemble the "real" dishes they try to imitate.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:41 AM


Where Do 31 Elephants Sleep?: At a retirement home in Florida. (GEOFFREY NORMAN, April 19, 2006, Opinion Journal)

The Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Center for Elephant Conservation...is not a tourist attraction. There are no billboards pointing the way, and the gate is locked and anonymous. The facility is closed to the public, though student groups and the like can arrange for tours. The purpose of this facility is not to entertain but to. . .well, what?

"The three R's," Bruce Read, a biologist and Ringling's vice president of animal stewardship, explains: "research, reproduction and retirement."

The retirement part is easy enough. Elephants live a long time--45 years or so--and when their careers in show business are over, they need someplace to go. You can't drop them off at the local animal shelter or send them back to India or Malaysia or wherever they came from. The circus has been around for 135 years and has experience in the care and feeding of aging elephants.

"We have another facility, north of here, that is strictly a retirement operation," Mr. Read says. The mission of the CEC is much more ambitious. These 200 acres of what was formerly cattle and orange-grove country support, he notes, "the only sustainable elephant population in the world." That is, "more are born than die."

Mr. Norman is the author of an underappreciated series of detective novels.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:36 AM


Red Sox Nation tunes in: Readers suggest songs Papelbon can close to (Matt Kalman, April 19, 2006, Boson Herald)

More than 1,100 readers e-mailed the Herald with suggestions for Papelbon’s potential new intro tune, and AC/DC was by far the most popular band.

No fewer than seven of the band’s tunes were recommended at least once, and its song “Thunderstruck” won the popularity contest by a wide margin. [...]

Ed Valauskas, bass player for local band The Gentlemen, was among several respondents who said a good choice would be “Super Bon Bon” by Soul Coughing because of the lyrics and word play.

“It’s easy: ‘Super Bon Bon’ by Soul Coughing,” wrote Tim McIntire. “Not only does it have part of Papelbon’s name in it, but the chorus says it all: ‘Move aside, and let the man roll through . . . let the man roll through.’ Combine that with a sick bass line - it’s the perfect song.”

The funny thing is, he'll be in the rotation by the end of June.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:32 AM


Throws like a girl — with 70 mph fastball (DAVID GROSSMAN, 4/19/06, Toronto Star)

Samantha Mullins heard the snickers coming from a handful of what she referred to as "macho guys" at her east-end Toronto high school.

At first, the 16-year-old didn't take too kindly to their reaction after word spread that she was trying out for the boys' baseball team at Birchmount Park Collegiate.

"I remember they were laughing at me thinking it was some kind of joke," said Mullins. "It didn't discourage me. If anything, it got me pumped. When I got out to practice, there were other guys who were quite the opposite and very supportive."

Mullins ignored the chatter and focused on making the final roster when the Toronto District School Board season starts in a few weeks. She made the cut and is now the only girl on the 20-player Birchmount Park team, considered one of the best programs in the province.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:28 AM


PM's daycare election dare (TONDA MACCHARLES, 4/19/06, Toronto Star)

With his government's crucial first budget just weeks away, Prime Minister Stephen Harper is taking dead aim at his political foes, all but daring them to bring down the minority government.

At a children's playgroup in the urban sprawl that surrounds downtown Vancouver, Harper challenged his opponents to vote against the Tory plan to give parents of pre-schoolers a $1,200 cheque, and warned he would be happy to fight an election over it.

"We know this is popular," said Harper. "We are going to proceed with it. It will be in the budget. So I hope the opposition considers the alternatives very carefully," the Prime Minister said as children shrieked in the background.

"Make no mistake about it: We will take that commitment back to Canadians if we have to."

Nothing could suit him better than a chance to boost his majority.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:12 AM


Rumsfeld says foes fear change (Rowan Scarborough, 4/19/06, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said yesterday that retired generals' calls for his resignation are rooted in opposition to his push to streamline and restructure the Army.

In his first press conference since the six retired generals went public and since President Bush gave him a full vote of confidence Friday, Mr. Rumsfeld did not mention Iraq war planning or the war itself while discussing why some in the military establishment have called on him to quit. Instead, he talked about his other main objective: transformation for 21st-century threats.

"Change is difficult," Mr. Rumsfeld told reporters at the Pentagon. "It also happens to be urgently necessary. Transforming this department is important."

Even by the low standards of the punditocracy this has been a poorly analyzed kerfuffle. They're all focussed on Iraq and firing Mr. Rumsfeld as a way to make amends for mistakes there, but the WoT is just a sideshow and the President needs a bureaucratic infighter like Rummy to effect the transformation of the military that is his primary mission. It's worth keeping in mind that the worst mistakes we made in Iraq were a function of still having a Cold War military.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 6:49 AM


Cool at any age: the Vespa hits 60(Richard Owen, The Times, April 19th, 2006)

The Vespa was created in April 1946 by Enrico Piaggio, an aircraft manufacturer looking for new postwar markets, and Corradino D’Ascanio, the aeronautical engineer and helicopter designer.

Its elevation to the status of national icon came in 1953, with William Wyler’s film Roman Holiday, in which Gregory Peck takes Audrey Hepburn for a ride around Rome on a Vespa. Other film stars who subsequently posed on one include Ursula Andress, Ingrid Bergman, Anthony Quinn, Jean-Paul Belmondo and Jennifer Lopez.

By the 1950s, Vespas were being manufactured under licence in 180 countries, including Britain, where they became an essential element of Mod culture.

Part of the Vespa’s success was that women felt comfortable on one. As La Repubblica noted, it was “a tool of emancipation — and seduction”. Even at this time of deep political division and dire economic predictions, Italians can unite around the nostalgia it inspires.

Since 1946, some 17 million have been sold, and 40 per cent are still made at the Piaggio plant at Pontedera in northern Italy. Although the Vespa has been through 140 models, its design remains much the same.

This is one of the few genuinely superior facets of modern European life. Urban North America would be far more livable if these delightful, cheap machines-for-all-ages had caught on here.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 6:27 AM


Smoke as far as the eye can see (The Guardian, April 19th, 1873)

The airy wheels that rest on the skeleton scaffolding and the high pit banks around the shaft do not obtrude upon the sight as elsewhere. On the pleasant hills which encompass Oldham about, in the valley to which the town gently slopes, right in the streets and among the houses, wherever people may stand, there are "mills to the right of them, mills to the left of them, mills in the front of them, clatter and rumble".

Rising high, storey piled on storey, like oblong models of the incompleted [sic] Tower of Babel, or standing lower, square, and compact, like large family mansions in their own grounds, they extend throughout a boundless perspective, and the high stacks pouring out smoke in an endless volume, and pointing with silent finger to the skies they dim, may be seen stretching over hill and dale as far as the heavy clouds permit the eye to follow.

See them in the soft eventide, when the orb of day is slowly sinking behind the western hills, and the walls of flaring brick and the multitudinous windows, "whose panes the sunken sun incarnadines" glow with a universal ruddiness, and you seem to be looking upon the scene of a huge conflagration.

See them next by day, as the sooty exhalations roll up from the myriad fires that animate the loom and shuttle, and you may imagine the smoke to be rising from the unexpired embers of the evening's fire. From each of these giant structures all day long proceeds a sound like the murmuring of innumerable bees, and the air vibrates with the hum of industry.

One wonders how much of the current global warming scare can be put down to actual increases in greenhouse gases and how much to the fact that we have climate scientists with computer models and they did not.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:07 AM


A Time to Make Friends? (Der Spiegel, 4/19/06)

Ermyas Mulugeta, the Ethiopian-born German citizen and father of two who was attacked Sunday night in Potsdam near Berlin, was still in critical condition on Wednesday. Doctors say he will be kept in an artificially induced coma for several weeks. While Potsdam's mayor has lamented the damage done to the city's reputation, some 400 demonstrators took to the streets this week in a spontaneously organized demonstration against right-wing violence. The police have received numerous leads after placing a recording of the voices of Mulugeta's attackers on the Internet (Mulugeta tried to phone his wife during the attack, and her mobile phone mailbox recorded the event). German federal prosecutors, calling the attack "public risk," have announced that they will direct the search for the perpetrators, which would otherwise have remained a local police operation. Showing the immense scrutiny the incident is receiving only two months before Germany hosts the World Cup, Chancellor Angela Merkel has also described it as a "despicable act."

German dailies discussing the attack interpret it both as a reflection of Germany's ongoing problems with xenophobia and right-wing violence and as one of the worst crimes to have occurred in Potsdam for many years. The various editorials set out to compare it to past attacks, as well as raising the question of what right-wing violence means for the upcoming soccer World Cup starting in June.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:01 AM


A Matter of Coarse (Quin Hillyer, 4/19/2006, American Spectator)

Anyone who takes even the most occasional peek at leftist blogs knows that this is par for the course. It's not enough to be frustrated or angry or to disagree with those of us on the Right, and certainly not enough to try to use reasoned arguments to persuade or enlighten. Instead, all that seems to matter is the intensity of the rant and the inventiveness of the calumny that can be heaped on conservatives. Aside from the puerility -- indeed, the perpetual adolescence -- of the Left's fascination with vulgarities, what's also lost is any sense that reasoned discourse is of any value whatsoever, along with any sense of responsibility for maintaining a civil society.

At the risk of paying too much attention to Ms. O'Connor -- she is hardly unique in her rantings, but is so representative of the Angry Left that she serves this column's purpose well -- she actually did write a lengthy blog post in which she explained/defended the regular use of vulgarities. Here's the "nut graph" (a journalism term meaning the paragraph that sets up and explains the rest of the story, but in this case the double-entendre is appropriate) of her argument, such as it is (complete with her original emphases):

These people aren't offended by our use of profanity -- these people are offended by our existence. They don't want us to stop using profanity -- they want us to shut up -- or, even better, to be made to shut up. Preferably with force, and maybe tortured to make sure we'll STAY shut up after they leave the room. So, pardon me if I blow a giant f***ing raspberry sound when that particular boogeyman of an argument gets plopped into the discussion about profanity....

Except, of course, that she actually spelled out the word before "raspberry."

Though one must always distrust personal experience, it's been ours that the folks whose comments have to be edited for profanity are almost exclusively those on the Left and the far Right.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Senate Hearings on Bush, Now: In this VF.com exclusive, a Watergate veteran and Vanity Fair contributor calls for bipartisan hearings investigating the Bush presidency. Should Republicans on the Hill take the high road and save themselves come November? (CARL BERNSTEIN, Vanity Fair)

Worse than Watergate? High crimes and misdemeanors justifying the impeachment of George W. Bush, as increasing numbers of Democrats in Washington hope, and, sotto voce, increasing numbers of Republicans—including some of the president's top lieutenants—now fear? Leaders of both parties are acutely aware of the vehemence of anti-Bush sentiment in the country, expressed especially in the increasing number of Americans—nearing fifty percent in some polls—who say they would favor impeachment if the president were proved to have deliberately lied to justify going to war in Iraq.

John Dean, the Watergate conspirator who ultimately shattered the Watergate conspiracy, rendered his precipitous (or perhaps prescient) impeachment verdict on Bush two years ago in the affirmative, without so much as a question mark in choosing the title of his book Worse than Watergate. On March 31, some three decades after he testified at the seminal hearings of the Senate Watergate Committee, Dean reiterated his dark view of Bush's presidency in a congressional hearing that shed more noise than light, and more partisan rancor than genuine inquiry. The ostensible subject: whether Bush should be censured for unconstitutional conduct in ordering electronic surveillance of Americans without a warrant.

Raising the worse-than-Watergate question and demanding unequivocally that Congress seek to answer it is, in fact, overdue and more than justified by ample evidence stacked up from Baghdad back to New Orleans and, of increasing relevance, inside a special prosecutor's office in downtown Washington.

In terms of imminent, meaningful action by the Congress, however, the question of whether the president should be impeached (or, less severely, censured) remains premature.

Perhaps he meant stillborn, not premature?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Psychopath nurse killed two and took 15 to the brink so he could try to save them (Steve Bird, 4/19/06, Times of London)

A NURSE who murdered two patients and took fifteen others to the brink of death to revel in the thrill of trying to revive them was told yesterday that he faced life behind bars.

Benjamin Geen injected his victims, often frail pensioners, with morphine, other anaesthetic drugs and muscle relaxants to make them suffer respiratory failure and require emergency resuscitation.

The nurse, described as a narcissistic and psychopathic killer, was obsessed with being at the centre of life-and-death dramas at Horton General Hospital, in Banbury, Oxfordshire.

He should have just taken a job with Planned Parenthood in SD or MS.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


NHS can't afford drug that transforms lives (Nigel Hawkes and David Charter, 4/19/06, Times of London)

A ROW over a “breakthrough” treatment for diabetes broke out yesterday as it was rejected for NHS use by the Government’s drug watchdog on the grounds that it was not cost effective.

The new product, insulin that is inhaled, could transform the lives of sufferers, who have to inject insulin up to five times a day. However, it costs about £500 a year more per patient.

This latest example of “drug rationing” came as Tony Blair insisted that the NHS was not facing disaster despite thousands of job losses and cutbacks in expensive treatments as a result of a financial squeeze.

The first item of the Democrats' Contract would be to give us such a health system.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Fantasy Baseball: Do some shopping to get out of cellar (Jerry Faull, 4/19/06, Seattle Times)

Anyone out there languishing among fantasy baseball's bottom-feeders?

We're just two weeks into the season and there are already owners who can't stand to look at their underperforming roster or even acknowledge their place in the standings.

They're wondering what went wrong, cursing all the time spent preparing for the draft and maybe even considering quitting altogether and never playing again.

If you're one of those owners, stop panicking. It's not quite time to turn your attention to football season.

A rule I've seen referenced a lot is that an owner — in rotisserie and head-to-head leagues — shouldn't even look at the standings until May. The theory being that one's attention should be fully focused on their team and how to make it better.

The hardest part is to maintain enough faith in a starting pitcher to absorb a series of drubbings.

April 18, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:28 PM


Israel resists revenge attack against Hamas (Tim Butcher, 19/04/2006, Daily Telegraph)

Israel has held back from authorising military strikes against the Hamas-led Palestinian government, despite holding it responsible for Monday's suicide bombing in Tel Aviv.

Defence officials are believed to have drawn up a list of Hamas targets that could be attacked, although Ehud Olmert, Israel's interim prime minister, is staying his hand.

Military strikes on Hamas would end the ceasefire agreed 15 months ago after negotiations brokered by Mahmoud Abbas, the moderate Palestinian leader, to end the second intifada.

Hamas was not behind Monday's bombing, but its spokesmen said the attack was justified as retaliation for the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land.

In fact, by striking Islamic Jihad the IDF will help Hamas to establish control over Palestine.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:14 PM


Al-Arian Admits His Role In Jihad (ELAINE SILVESTRINI, 4/18/06, Tampa Tribune)

When Sami Al-Arian denied raising funds for the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, he now says he was lying.

The former University of South Florida professor has portrayed himself as a martyr to free speech, a victim of anti-Muslim sentiment and the nation's war on terrorism. He maintained he supported only peaceful solutions to the problems in the Middle East.

But in court papers unsealed Monday, Al-Arian admitted he raised money for the Islamic Jihad and conspired to hide the identities of other members of the terrorist organization, including his brother-in-law, Mazen Al-Najjar. He also admitted knowing "that the PIJ achieved its objectives by, among other means, acts of violence."

U.S. District Judge James Moody on Monday approved a deal in which Al-Arian pleaded guilty to conspiring to help a terrorist organization. The plea was entered in a secret hearing Friday as part of an agreement that calls for Al-Arian to be deported after serving a prison sentence that amounts to a little more than time served.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:06 PM

JFK WAS NO W (via Tom Morin):

The invasion that could have saved Latin America (Val Prieto, April 17, 2006, Babalu Blog)

My father in law was a member of La Brigada 2506 and fought in the Bay of Pigs in what was called Operation Mongoose by the US Government. He has a million stories to tell, everything from the moment he decided to join La Brigada and fight for the freedom of Cuba, to the training, the embarcation, the invasion, the battle on the beaches, his capture and incarceration and the subsequent torture -- physical and mental -- at the hands of fidel castro, to his release and reunification with his wife and daughter here in the States. My words can do his story no justice, but someday it will be told. Until then, Edgar, Happy Birthday. The following articles are for you and your brothers and sisters in arms to assure you that this generation, our generation, has not and will not forget your sacrifice and love for una Cuba libre.

Today is the 45th Anniversary of the Bay of Pigs Invasion and in honor of those who fought and sacrificed for the freedom of Cuba, Babalú Blog offers the following homages.

Even if you forgive John Kennedy for biffing the Bay of Pigs, there's no excuse for not taking advantage of the pretext he was handed in the missile crisis. He didn't even need to lie about WMD.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:04 PM


Yale's Next Tenured Radical? (ELIANA JOHNSON and MITCH WEBBER, April 18, 2006, NY Sun)

Yale University is on the verge of offering a faculty appointment to the University of Michigan Professor Juan Cole. That is the word around the campus here in New Haven. If Yale proceeds with the appointment, it will bring in one of the few professors in the United States, perhaps the only one, who has publicly endorsed the recent paper warning against American support of Israel by John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago and Stephen Walt of Harvard.

A professor of modern Middle East and South Asian history at the University of Michigan, Mr. Cole rose to national prominence in the wake of September 11 when reporters and journalists began seeking him out as an authority on the modern Middle East. It is on similar grounds - seeking a scholar of the contemporary Middle East - that the Yale Center for International and Area Studies and the Yale History Department have sought out Mr. Cole.

The prospect of Mr. Cole joining the Yale faculty is disturbing for many reasons. His "scholarship" in this area consists entirely of crude polemics, and his outlook is colored by a conspiratorial view of history. Mr. Cole has used his modicum of fame not to participate in the realm of respectable scholarly debate but to express his deep and abiding hatred of Israel and to opine about the influence of a Zionist cabal on American foreign policy.

Mr. Cole's most frequent public statements and writing - many of which appear on his blog, Informed Comment - have deviated considerably from his areas of expertise. He rarely misses an opportunity to inveigh against Israel. If it were up to Mr. Cole, the country wouldn't exist at all. It would have been preferable, he claims, for the British to have accepted Jewish refugees "rather than saddling a small, poor peasant country with 500,000 immigrants hungry to make the place their own."

Being anti-immigrant is hardl radical these days.

MORE (via Mike Daley):
Search for scholar spotlights politics in classroom (YOTAM BARKAI, 2/17/06, Yale Herald)

When Yale formally hires a professor of Middle East Studies sometime in the next few years, students accustomed to comfortably liberal lecturers may be confronted with a notorious anti-Western firebrand. Faculty at the Yale Center for International and Area Studies (YCIAS) have confirmed that Juan Cole, an openly anti-George W. Bush, DC ’68, and anti-Israel history professor at the University of Michigan, is under consideration to fill a new slot as an interdisciplinary professor of contemporary Middle East studies. Whether or not the YCIAS search committee ultimately decides to offer the post to Cole, the possibility of such a controversial figure’s coming to Yale has reignited the ongoing campus debate about the role of politicized classes and opinionated professors in a college environment. [...]

Besides evoking questions of Cole’s specific personal views, his potential appointment and its surrounding controversy raise larger questions about the role of politics in the classroom. When professors are teaching students about the most pressing—and polarizing—subjects of the day, is it possible to keep their classes in the neutral zone?

History Professor Ted Bromund agreed that no classroom can be wholly free of politics. “There can be no courses—not even the sciences—that rely entirely on fact without opinions,” he said. “Reading, for instance, cannot cover all points of view: Choosing among the almost infinite options must involve opinion. Informed opinion is still opinion.”

According to Gaddis, the greatest danger of politicized classes and openly opinionated professors is that they obviate academic discussion. “There’s no way professors can separate their own opinions from what they teach, but these should not be the only views they teach,” he said. “And they should always treat their students with respect: There’s never an excuse for failing to do this.”

Though some degree of bias is unavoidable, Bromund emphasized that the search committee’s most important task is to hire professors who avoid politics in the classroom as much as possible. “The finest scholars and teachers are not entirely apolitical, or non-political, but they are ones that seek to limit the role of politics” in their scholarship, he said. “Committees should not necessarily shy away from a scholar who has achieved fame or notoriety for non-academic work.”

Presenting a wide range of perspectives may be even more central to the mission of YCIAS than other departments: The center often treats the most relevant foreign policy questions of the day, with questions on the Middle East among the most divisive. Nancy Ruther, associate director of the YCIAS, insisted that the center preserves a diversity of views in its faculty and speakers, in accordance with its philosophy of balanced coverage. “We hosted the Taliban foreign minister when the Taliban regime was in charge; we hosted a panel for the 50th anniversary of the state of Israel,” she said. “To have all range of views represented in every lecture is simply a pipe dream. Across the board, our Middle Easternists do a very good job keeping a wide range of views represented.”

Yet according to Michael Oren, a visiting fellow in international security studies and senior fellow at the Shalem Center in Jerusalem, figures such as Cole overstep the boundaries of political freedom in the classroom. On Feb. 17, 2003, Cole wrote in an online post, “Apparently [Bush] has fallen for a line from the neo-cons in his administration that they can deliver the Jewish vote to him in 2004 if only he kisses Sharon’s ass.” Oren said of this comment, “Clearly, that’s anti-Semitism; that’s not a criticism of Israeli policy. If you’re accusing Jews of manipulating the American government to fight wars for Israel without any evidence, then that’s not legitimate criticism; that’s in the area of racial hatred.”

Still, Cole can claim a number of supporters, especially among his students, many of whom find him dynamic, funny, and enthusiastic. Miriam Liebman, a sophomore at the University of Michigan, said Cole’s course “America and Middle Eastern Wars” last semester was substantive and informative. “It was a great class, one of the best classes I’ve taken at Michigan,” she said. Liebman admitted that Cole is openly far left and that his political opinions pervaded his lectures. “But I never saw it as a big deal,” she said. “I don’t think the goal of the class is to brainwash 250 Michigan students into thinking the way he does. I think any professor you have will be biased one way or another.”

But Naamah Paley, another sophomore who took his class, pointed out that a professor can profoundly influence and alter students’ perceptions of a controversial and complex topic. According to Paley, Cole’s lecture on the history of Zionism and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was given on Rosh Hashanah, when no religious Jewish students were present in class to contest his views. Moreover, Paley said Cole’s midterm exam concentrated on the controversial massacres at the Arab village of Deir Yassin and Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in Lebanon rather than on balanced coverage of Israeli history.

For Paley, moreover, the close-minded opinions of a political firebrand like Cole can alienate and stifle students. Earlier this year, Paley met with Cole to discuss her interest in studying abroad in Egypt next year. Yet she said she feared engaging Cole in an argument or even mentioning her Judaism or Zionist beliefs. “I didn’t want him to see me in his eyes as a Jewish student, but as a serious student of Middle East studies who wanted to talk to him about Arabic,” she said.,/blockquote>

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:56 PM


Black business owners on rise (Elwin Green, April 18, 2006, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

Black Americans are becoming entrepreneurs at a rapidly increasing rate and Pittsburgh is following the trend, a new report issued by the Census Bureau suggests.

The report, "Survey of Business Owners: Black-Owned Firms: 2002," says that between 1997 and 2002, the number of black-owned businesses in the United States rose 45 percent to 1.2 million, while the combined revenue increased 25 percent to $88.8 billion.

"It's encouraging to see not just the number but the sales and receipts of black-owned businesses are growing at such a robust rate, confirming that these firms are among the fastest growing segments of our economy," said Census Bureau Director Louis Kincannon.

Black-owned businesses booming (FRANCINE KNOWLES, April 19, 2006, Chicago Sun-Times)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:52 PM


President Bush Nominates Rob Portman as OMB Director and Susan Schwab for USTR (George W. Bush, Rose Garden)

Good morning. Today I'm announcing my nomination of two outstanding individuals to serve in my Cabinet and on my economic team.

First, I will nominate Rob Portman to be the Director of the Office of Management and Budget. Rob will replace Josh Bolten, who this week started in his new role as my Chief of Staff. The Office of Management and Budget is one of the most essential agencies of our government. The OMB has a central responsibility of implementing the full range of my administration's agenda, from defense programs that will keep our people secure, to energy initiatives that will break our dependence on oil, to tax policies that keep our economy growing and creating jobs.

In these and other areas, the job of the OMB Director is to ensure that the government spends the taxpayers' money wisely, or not at all. He is the person in charge of meeting our goal of cutting the budget deficit in half by 2009. And he is responsible for managing federal programs efficiently. The American people deserve results for every hard-earned dollar they send to Washington.

The job of OMB Director is really an important post, and Rob Portman is the right man to take it on. Rob's talent, expertise and record of success are well-known within my administration and on Capitol Hill. For the past 11 months, Rob has served as United States Trade Representative. When he took the job I told him to focus on opening new markets for American exports, to ensure that our producers and farmers are treated fairly, and to get Congress to pass essential American-Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement. He's accomplished those goals.

I signed CAFTA into law last summer, and Rob Portman and his staff completed trade agreements with Bahrain, Oman, Peru and Colombia. He also re-energized the Doha trade talks at the World Trade Organization. Before joining my Cabinet, Rob represented the 2nd district of Ohio in the United States Congress for more than a decade. He was a key part of the House leadership. He was an influential member of the Ways and Means Committee. And he served as Vice Chairman of the Budget Committee.

His legislative achievements range from reforming the Internal Revenue Service, providing tax relief for working families, to encouraging retirement savings. Rob's leadership in Congress was also marked by an ability to work across the aisle and bring people together to get things done. He's going to bring that same skill to his new post. [...]

I'm also pleased to announce that I'm going to nominate Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab to succeed Rob Portman as the new U.S. Trade Representative.

Trade is one of the most powerful engines of growth and job creation. America accounts for about 5 percent of the world's population, and that means that 95 percent of our potential customers live overseas. So my administration has taken an aggressive agenda to break down barriers to American exports across the world.

When I took office, we had three free trade agreements. Now, we have free trade agreements with 11 countries, and 18 more are pending. Susan will work hard to conclude these agreements and ensure that American goods, services and crops are treated fairly in overseas markets.

Last year, the countries with which we have free trade agreements represented about 7 percent of the economy abroad, but about 42 percent of our exports. Lowering trade barriers to the sale of our goods and services helps provide a level playing field for American workers and farmers and ranchers. And that means more jobs and opportunities, because our workers and ranchers and farmers can compete with anybody, anytime, anywhere, so long as the rules are fair, and Susan Schwab understands that.

The Deputy U.S. Trade Representative for the past five months, Ambassador Schwab worked tirelessly to open up new markets, and at the same time, making sure our people were treated fairly. Her trade portfolio covered several continents, and she led USTR efforts in a number of vital policy areas, including intellectual property enforcement.

Susan also worked closely with Ambassador Portman to advance the Doha negotiations. Now she will use her experience to help complete the Doha round and create other new opportunities for American exporters.

Mr. Portman got spectacular reviews when he was nominated to the Trade post.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:53 AM


The clash: Punk meets Islam in a local band that shreds stereotypes (Omar Sacirbey, April 18, 2006, Boston Globe)

Meet the Kominas, a musical threesome from the Boston area ready to take on conservative clergy and Homeland Security.

Their music has attracted fans of all stripes but speaks to young South Asian Muslims who identify with both their faith and American culture, and yet feel welcomed by neither. They're fed up with racist classmates, judgmental relatives, suspicious neighbors, and the extremists -- Islamic and Islamophobic -- who have made it a burden to be Muslim in the United States. But thanks to online communities and sites like MySpace, where they post songs and have attracted a substantial following, they now have a pulpit, too.

The band's next shows are Saturday at the Chandni Raat -- Night of the Moon -- Festival at the University of Massachusetts at Lowell and May 7 at Club Hell in Providence.

The Kominas, whose name means ''bastards" in Punjabi, say they hate labels but offer ''Bollywood Muslim punk" to describe their sound, a blend of punk, metal, and Bhangra folk music. The lyrics, written mainly by Usmani, are clever, sometimes risque commentaries on racial profiling, foreign policy, and religion.

The Kominas are among the first American Muslim musicians to emerge from a nascent punk culture its adherents call Taqwacore, the name taken from a novel by a white convert to Islam named Michael Muhammad Knight. If it develops -- and channel MTV Desi has already done a spot on the Kominas -- the band will likely be remembered as Taqwacore's pioneers.

Knight was 15, listening to Public Enemy and reading ''The Autobiography of Malcolm X," when he converted. As a teenager, he was rapt with faith and went to Pakistan to study Islam, and even considered joining Pakistani mujahideen bound for Chechnya before a teacher counseled him against it.

But this almost-John Walker Lindh also saw corruption, poverty, and racism in Pakistan and returned home to upstate New York dogged by doubts about his faith. After bouncing in and out of college, Knight, now 28, began writing ''The Taqwacores," a novel about a group of Muslim punk rockers who smoked dope, read scripture, slam-danced, prayed, had sex, and embodied the tolerance and compassion that Islam encouraged but that, in Knight's view, were being neglected in favor of rules and rigidity.

He made copies and drove to Chicago, where the Islamic Society of North America, arguably the country's biggest Muslim organization, was hosting close to 40,000 people at its 2003 annual convention. There, he peddled the novel from his backpack to young Muslims who looked like they might relate.

''The Taqwacores" was ultimately picked up for distribution by Alternative Tentacles, the publisher and music label owned by former Dead Kennedys vocalist Jello Biafra. By early last year it had developed a small following of young South Asians, or Desis, and Muslims, including Usmani and Khan.

Around the same time, Usmani was beginning to hear from disgruntled Desi peers who responded to his online ruminations about music, identity, and community pressures.

Basim Usmani, frontman for Muslim punk band The Kominas (Michael Muhammad Knight , Muslim WakeUp! Inc.:The World's Most Popular Muslim Online Magazine)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:35 AM


I'm O.K., You're Biased (DANIEL GILBERT, 4/16/06, NY Times)

VERIZON had a pretty bad year in 2005, but its chief executive did fine. Although Verizon's earnings dropped by more than 5 percent and its stock fell by more than a quarter, he received a 48 percent increase in salary and compensation. This handsome payout was based on the recommendation of an independent consulting firm that relied on Verizon (and the chief executive's good will) for much of its revenue. When asked about this conflict of interest, the consulting firm explained that it had "strict policies in place to ensure the independence and objectivity of all our consultants."

Please stop laughing.

The person who made this statement was almost certainly sincere. Consultants believe they can make objective decisions about the companies that indirectly employ them, just as legislators believe that campaign contributions don't influence their votes.

Doctors scoff at the notion that gifts from a pharmaceutical company could motivate them to prescribe that company's drugs, and Supreme Court justices are confident that their legal opinions are not influenced by their financial stake in a defendant's business, or by their child's employment at a petitioner's firm. Vice President Dick Cheney is famously contemptuous of those who suggest that his former company received special consideration for government contracts.

Voters, citizens, patients and taxpayers can barely keep a straight face. They know that consultants and judges are human beings who are pulled by loyalties and pushed by animosities, and that drug reps and lobbyists are human beings who wouldn't be generous if generosity didn't pay dividends. Most people have been around people long enough to have a pretty good idea of what drives their decisions, and when decision-makers deny what seems obvious to the rest of us, the rest of us get miffed. Sell our democracy to the highest bidder, but don't insult our intelligence.

So who's right — the decision-makers who claim objectivity or the citizens who roll their eyes? Research suggests that decision-makers don't realize just how easily and often their objectivity is compromised. The human brain knows many tricks that allow it to consider evidence, weigh facts and still reach precisely the conclusion it favors.
Which is why the key to a successful and decent society is to accept the objective biases of faith and tradition rather than to pretend that folks can Reason.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:10 AM


OPEC believes oil prices are too high: delegate (Reuters, 4/18/06)

OPEC believes oil prices are too steep, after setting a fresh record high above $70 a barrel, and the rise is not justified by market fundamentals, a senior OPEC delegate said on Tuesday.

The delegate said there was no shortage of crude oil supply and that OPEC giant Saudi Arabia and other producers had pledged in the past to keep markets well supplied.

"OPEC believes strongly that prices are too high and nobody wants to see these prices," the delegate told Reuters. "(But) it has nothing to do with fundamentals."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:03 AM


A SECULAR RELIGION WITHOUT HOPE: Political Correctness Is Doomed (Philip E. Devine, May 1995, New Oxford Review)

Understanding PC requires understanding the social position of its adherents. Yes, one can make too much of the elite credentials of PC people: Pat Robertson, like President Clinton, has a law degree from Yale. But PC remains the outlook of those who consider themselves, and to some extent are considered by others, the most sophisticated element in American culture.

PC people are not only an elite, but an extraordinarily disconnected one. They are disconnected, first, from the larger society; second, from the past; and, third, from any hope for the future.

First, PC people hate and fear the majority of Americans. Racial minorities are of course accepted, but only so long as they play their assigned political part. Black people are allowed a greater license than white people -- e.g., they are allowed to be moderately serious about their religious beliefs. But a black person whose views are outside the acceptable range will cause PC people to "go ballistic."

Second, for people who presumably are well educated, PC people are remarkably hostile to attempts to remedy the historical illiteracy of the rising generation. More importantly, they do not draw on any tradition of even moderate duration. Their intellectual forbears (and sometimes their earlier selves) drew upon a wide range of sources, ranging from Marxism to Social Gospel Protestantism, and including secular progressivism, Rerum Novarum Catholicism, and the teachings of the Hebrew prophets. But all of these sources are regarded, in PC circles, as hopelessly "phallogocentric."

Third, PC people are disconnected from the future. The members of the PC world are more likely than the general population to be childless, though since many of them work in education this does not have as much importance as it would otherwise. More important than literal childlessness is their lack of a way of life that they might hope to transmit. Their position is one of negation: Down with Western culture! Down with Big Daddy in the Sky! But you can't raise your metaphorical children (i.e., your students) on negations, let alone your real children.

All of us live in a rapidly changing world which often seems increasingly difficult to understand. Few there be who propose to make adjustment to change any easier. Even professed conservatives enthusiastically support a capitalist economy whose most conspicuous feature is the promotion of technological change, and whose capacity to disrupt communities by destroying their economic base is well known. For these reasons, the PC constituency has an extraordinary need for affirmation and conformity, for "clinging together against the dark" in Richard Rorty's phrase -- hence their obsession with "insensitivity." Even the smallest details of life are subject to PC oversight: I know a PC person who objected to calling John Paul II the Pope, on the entirely fanciful ground that Coptic Christians, about whom he knew nothing, might object. Hence the most conspicuous feature of PC people: their fondness for denouncing (and shunning) real or supposed racists, sexists, and homophobes. All religions are to some degree intolerant, but for the PC the hurling of anathemas is a virtual sacrament.

Note that political correctness proceeds from exactly the same source as xenophobia, insecurity.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:41 AM


You Wanna Talk? Let's Talk: The case for negotiating with Iran (Fred Kaplan, April 17, 2006, Slate)

The Iranians' call for more nuclear talks is probably a snare, designed to knot up the West in fruitless diplomacy while they accelerate their drive to build atomic bombs. Yet President Bush should take them up on their offer...

It's not an easy title to win, but no one writes more nonsense about how America should interact with its enemies than Mr. Kaplan.

Three Reasons Not to Bomb Iran—Yet (Edward N. Luttwak, May 2006, Commentary)

I know of no reputable expert in the United States or in Europe who trusts the constantly repeated promise of Iran’s rulers that their nuclear program will be entirely peaceful and is meant only to produce electricity. The question is what to do about this. Faced with the alarming prospect of an Iran armed with nuclear weapons, some policy experts favor immediate preventive action, while others, of equal standing, invite us to accept what they consider to be inevitable in any case. The former call for the bombing of Iran’s nuclear installations before they can produce actual weapons. The latter, to the contrary, urge a diplomatic understanding with Iran’s rulers in order to attain a stable relationship of mutual deterrence.

Neither position seems adequately to recognize essential Iranian realities or American strategic priorities. To treat Iran as nothing more than a set of possible bombing targets cannot possibly be the right approach. Still more questionable is the illogical belief that a regime that feels free to attack American interests in spite of its present military inferiority would somehow become more restrained if it could rely on the protective shield of nuclear weapons.

In contemplating preventive action, the technical issue may be quickly disposed of. Some observers, noting that Iran’s nuclear installations consist of hundreds of buildings at several different sites, including a number that are recessed in the ground with fortified roofs, have contended that even a prolonged air campaign might not succeed in destroying all of them. Others, drawing a simplistic analogy with Israel’s aerial destruction of Iraq’s Osiraq nuclear reactor in June 1981, speak as if it would be enough to drop sixteen unguided bombs on a single building to do the job. The fact is that the targets would not be buildings as such but rather processes, and, given the aiming information now available, they could indeed be interrupted in lasting ways by a single night of bombing. An air attack is not a demolition contract, and in this case it could succeed while inflicting relatively little physical damage and no offsite casualties, barring gross mechanical errors that occur only rarely in these days of routine precision.

The greater question, however, is neither military nor diplomatic but rather political and strategic: what, in the end, do we wish to see emerge in Iran? It is in light of that long-term consideration that we need to weigh both our actions and their timing, lest we hinder rather than accelerate the emergence of the future we hope for. We must start by considering the special character of American relations with the country and people of Iran.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:34 AM


The Future of Journalism as Told by Hilaire Belloc in 1918: "The Free Press," by Hilaire Belloc, describes, with some adjustment, the evolving relationship between political bloggers and the mainstream media. (VERLYN KLINKENBORG, 4/18/06, NY Times)

"The Free Press" is an extended essay examining the history of what Belloc calls the "Official Press" in England and the emergence of a rival "Free Press" in the form of small, often short-lived journals.

The Official Press, Belloc argues, is centralized and Capitalist (he always capitalizes Capitalist), and its owners are "the true governing power in the political machinery of the State, superior to the officials in the State, nominating ministers and dismissing them, imposing policies, and, in general, usurping sovereignty — all this secretly and without responsibility." The result "is that the mass of Englishmen have ceased to obtain, or even to expect, information upon the way they are governed." [...]

The free press that Belloc describes was a horde of small, highly opinionated, sometimes propagandistic papers that arose in reaction to "the official Press of Capitalism." What characterized the free press, Belloc wrote, was "disparate particularism."

As he says, "the Free Press gives you the truth; but only in disjointed sections, for it is disparate and it is particularist." (For "particularism," Belloc offers the synonym "crankiness.") To get at the truth by reading the organs of the free press, you have to "add it all up and cancel out one exaggerated statement against another." But his point is that you can get at the truth.

There are whole paragraphs in Belloc's essay where, if you substitute "blogs" for "the Free Press," you will be struck by the parallels.

First cancel out all the pretense that Eric and Julia Roberts are different people.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:31 AM


A New Crime Fighter, for $10 in Hay and Oats (ANDREW JACOBS, 4/18/06, NY Times)

[A]fter decades of consignment to Central Park patrols, ceremonial trots down Fifth Avenue and the occasional cameo at a raucous demonstration, these horses — and 85 of their brethren — have begun patrolling high-crime neighborhoods, making late-night shows of force through Times Square and taking the lead during search-and-rescue missions along thicket-filled riverbanks and wooded urban parkland.

And there soon will be more of them: Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly is increasing the budget for the mounted troop, 75 horses and officers over the next three years, to eventually bring the total to 160, giving mounted patrols a larger role in battling crime.

"There's a reason we call them the 10-foot cop," Mr. Kelly said. "You can see them from blocks away, they're great at crowd control and they're probably the most photographed piece of equipment we have. I'm a huge fan."

So are police departments around the country. After decades of being viewed as a quaint 19th-century throwback, horseback policing is undergoing a resurgence in cities like Honolulu, Las Vegas and Oklahoma City.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:25 AM


Long Memories From a Baseball Classic: After 25 Years, 33-Inning Game Remains Fresh for Those Who Played (Dave Sheinin, 4/18/06, Washington Post)

Begin with the box score, which, if box scores are like artwork, is the Sistine Chapel. Gaze at the artist's masterstrokes, the grand, virtuoso flourishes -- in this case, a pair of monumental last names, Ripken and Boggs, both of which share the designation "3b." Twenty-five years later, these two names would be the famous touches that give this celebrated piece its historical heft.

But as with any work of genius, the brilliance is in the details.

Take your time. Let the eye take you where it will. Recoil at the odd, all-caps designation at the top: "COMPLETION OF SUSPENDED GAME (April 18)." Pore over the lineups and pitching lines, stopping at each familiar name: Gedman, Barrett, Rayford, Hurst, Ojeda, all of them future big leaguers.

Linger upon the incongruities, which your keen, experienced eye discerns immediately. Take a moment to ponder poor "Williams cf," whose batting line reads 13 0 0 0 -- an 0-fer for the ages. Marvel at the pitching line for Umbarger: 10 4 0 0 0 9. Move your gaze to the very bottom, to the time of game: 8:25. Say it out loud: Eight hours 25 minutes.

Finally, contemplate the ungodly line score:

ROCHESTER 000 000 100 000 000 000 001 000 000 000 000 -- 2 18 3
PAWTUCKET 000 000 001 000 000 000 001 000 000 000 001 -- 3 21 1

There is an epic to be told from those two lines of type alone: Pawtucket's tying run in the bottom of the ninth.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:22 AM


Name that tune (Herald staff/ Herald Poll, April 18, 2006)

Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon isn’t thrilled with the song that heralds his entrance from the bullpen and wants fans to offer suggestions on a new tune.

E-mail your idea to sportspoll@bostonherald.com. Include the name of the song, the artist and one sentence explaining why you think he should choose your song.

April 17, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:00 PM


Voting for the BNP is about rage rather than race (Rachel Sylvester, 18/04/2006, Daily Telegraph)

I find it hard to believe that a sixth of people in this tolerant, decent and middle-of-the-road country really will - as the Rowntree report also claims - put an X in the far-Right box when they fill in their ballot papers in two weeks' time. A few may feel emboldened to do so by the recent coverage.

The BNP deserves scorn rather than scare-mongering. Not only is it utterly pernicious (a leaflet distributed by the party after the July 7 bombings said, "If only they had listened to the BNP"), it is also useless if faced with the reality of power.

When a handful of BNP councillors were elected in Burnley in 2003, they failed to turn up to the first budget debate, one of the most crucial moments in the local government year. In Barking, a BNP councillor stood down after eight months, telling his local paper: "Those meetings go right over my head and there's little point in me being there." Another elected representative left the party, claiming she had not realised it propagated extremist views - in fact, she said, she had cited Nelson Mandela as her political hero at her selection interview.

Meanwhile, Punch and Judy politics appear to be too timid for the BNP. One of its councillors was forced to resign after smashing a bottle in the face of a colleague and another has been convicted, since his election, of attacking his wife and a police officer.

And yet the BNP cannot be completely laughed off. There is a new professionalism to its campaigns that is beginning to worry the mainstream parties. [...]

The truth is that support for the BNP is not really a protest vote against a racially mixed society: it is a cry of rage about the quality of life in some of the poorest areas in the country. There is not much cheerleading for the far Right in the streets of Chelsea. The BNP is exploiting a growing sense of frustration with genuine problems: the lack of affordable housing, the increase in low-level crime, the failure of inner-city schools, the loss of a sense of identity among white working-class men following the collapse of traditional industries. These failures are not really anything to do with race - although, of course, the more people come to live in an area, the more stretched local resources will be - but the BNP has diverted a general sense of grievance into a specific feeling of unfairness based on a perception that there is "us and them".

In the midst of our prolonged boom and societal revival, Americans don't even have these excuses, feeble though they are.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:54 PM


It turns out Bush was right about Iraq's quest for uranium (John Leo, Apr 17, 2006, Townhall)

In a surprising editorial, The Washington Post deviated from the conventional anti-Bush media position on two counts. It said President Bush was right to declassify parts of a National Intelligence Estimate to make clear why he thought Saddam Hussein was seeking nuclear weapons. And the editorial said ex-ambassador Joseph Wilson was wrong to think he had debunked Bush on the nuclear charge because Wilson's statements after visiting Niger actually "supported the conclusion that Iraq had sought uranium."

In the orthodox narrative line, Wilson is the truth-teller and the Bush is the liar. But Wilson was not speaking truthfully when he said his wife, Valerie Plame, had nothing to do with the CIA sending him to Niger. And it obviously wasn't true, as Wilson claimed, that he had found nothing to support Bush's charge about Niger when he (Wilson) had been told that the Iraqis were poking around in that uranium-rich nation.

Testifying before the Senate intelligence committee, Wilson said that the former prime minister of Niger told him he had been asked to meet with Iraqis to talk about "expanding commercial relations" between the two countries. Everybody knew what that meant; Niger has nothing much to trade other than uranium.

Clueless Joe Wilson: How did the CIA's special envoy miss Zahawie's trip to Niger? (Christopher Hitchens, April 17, 2006, Slate)

The person whose response I most wanted is Ambassador Joseph Wilson, who has claimed to discover that Saddam was guiltless on the charge of seeking uranium from Niger, and has further claimed to be the object, along with his CIA wife, of a campaign of government persecution. On Keith Olbermann's show on April 10, Wilson was asked about my article and about Zahawie. He replied that Zahawie:

is a man that I know from my time as acting ambassador in Baghdad during the first Gulf War. ... He was ambassador to the Vatican, and he made a trip in 1999 to several West and Central African countries for the express purpose of inviting chiefs of state to violate the ban on travel to Iraq. He has said repeatedly to the press, he's now in retirement, and also to the International Atomic Energy Agency, to their satisfaction, that uranium was not on his agenda.

Once again, the details and implications of Zahawie's own IAEA background are ignored (as they were in the IAEA's own report to the United Nations about the forged Italian documents that were later circulated about Zahawie's visit). In the same press interviews to which Wilson alludes (and which I cited last week), Zahawie went a bit further than saying that uranium was "not on his agenda." He claimed not to know that Niger produced uranium at all! You may if you wish choose to take that at face value—along with his story that all he was trying to do was violate sanctions on flights to Iraq. Joseph Wilson appears to be, as they say, "comfortable" with that explanation.

And it's true that the two men knew each other during the Gulf crisis of 1990-1991. Indeed, in his book The Politics of Truth, Wilson records Zahawie as having been in the room, as under-secretary for foreign affairs, during his last meeting with Saddam Hussein. (Quite a senior guy for a humble mission like violating flight-bans from distant Niger and Burkina Faso.) I cite this because it is the only mention of Zahawie that Wilson makes in his entire narrative.

In other words (I am prepared to keep on repeating this until at least one cow comes home), Joseph Wilson went to Niger in 2002 to investigate whether or not the country had renewed its uranium-based relationship with Iraq, spent a few days (by his own account) sipping mint tea with officials of that country who were (by his wife's account) already friendly to him, and came back with the news that all was above-board. Again to repeat myself, this must mean either that A) he did not know that Zahawie had come calling or B) that he did know but didn't think it worth mentioning that one of Saddam's point men on nukes had been in town. In neither case, it seems to me, should he be trusted with another mission that requires any sort of curiosity.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:23 PM


In the home-buying frenzy, renters could reap bargains: The long-term trend toward ownership is making the 'bubble' look fairly solid. (John C. Weicher, 4/18/06, CS Monitor)

It's worth keeping the rental market situation in mind when reading the next round of stories about the housing bubble. The long-term shift from renting to owning indicates that the bubble is really pretty solid. Mortgage lenders are better able to provide homeownership opportunities. They have the technology to assess risk more accurately, and reach further down in the income distribution to identify reasonable would-be first-time home buyers. These families share the "American dream" of owning their own home.

As homeownership increases, house prices will continue to rise - not every month in every market, but from year to year broadly across the United States. And a substantial supply of rental homes and apartments will be available as well.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 7:31 PM


Seeking Ancestry in DNA Ties Uncovered by Tests ( Amy Harmon, New York Times, April 12th, 2006)

Alan Moldawer's adopted twins, Matt and Andrew, had always thought of themselves as white. But when it came time for them to apply to college last year, Mr. Moldawer thought it might be worth investigating the origins of their slightly tan-tinted skin, with a new DNA kit that he had heard could determine an individual's genetic ancestry.

The results, designating the boys 9 percent Native American and 11 percent northern African, arrived too late for the admissions process. But Mr. Moldawer, a business executive in Silver Spring, Md., says they could be useful in obtaining financial aid.

"Naturally when you're applying to college you're looking at how your genetic status might help you," said Mr. Moldawer, who knows that the twins' birth parents are white, but has little information about their extended family. "I have three kids going now, and you can bet that any advantage we can take we will."[...]

Given the tests' speculative nature, it seems unlikely that colleges, governments and other institutions will embrace them. But that has not stopped many test-takers from adopting new DNA-based ethnicities — and a sense of entitlement to the privileges typically reserved for them.

Prospective employees with white skin are using the tests to apply as minority candidates, while some with black skin are citing their European ancestry in claiming inheritance rights.

One Christian is using the test to claim Jewish genetic ancestry and to demand Israeli citizenship, and Americans of every shade are staking a DNA claim to Indian scholarships, health services and casino money.

"This is not just somebody's desire to go find out whether their grandfather is Polish," said Troy Duster, a sociologist at New York University who has studied the social impact of the tests. "It's about access to money and power."

Darwinism, after being all the rage for close to a century, fell into disfavour for a few decades after World War II. Having so clearly been the intellectual plinth upon which eugenics, scientifically-respectable racism and the horrors of the Holocaust stood, the world had no stomach for its noxious view of mankind, and it retreated to the lab. It was only with the advent of Neo-Darwinists like Dawkins and Dennett in the 1970's that it was resurrected to a receptive public. Historical memories had faded, and it was easy to convince everyone that Jim Crow, the sterilization of “imbeciles” and the Holocaust itself were due entirely to atavistic, uneducated, religiously-inspired ignorance. That they were, in fact, built on a superstructure of cutting-edged scientific thinking from Berlin to Princeton, and were dinner conversations of choice from the nation’s best salons to the White House, was easily hidden from the young boomer iconoclasts so desperate to equate the past with error and celebrate the modern as intrinsically superior.

Today, the march of Darwinism and its handmaiden, genetic engineering, is not advanced by instilling fears of being swarmed by inferior races or “morons”. Rather, it is done by throwing up the spectre of the tragically ill child and promising he/she shall be cured if only society drops the reins of faith, morality and any other archaic reservations that fetter the glorious freedom of unrestrained scientific inquiry. The argument is different, but the consequences will be just as ugly.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:59 PM


Fake Diamonds: How fantasy baseball is ruining the real game. (Amy Sullivan, May 2006, Washington Monthly)

Just one week after we started dating, my boyfriend sat me down and told me he had a confession to make. It's safe to say these are not normally words one wants to hear early in a relationship. In my past, they have been followed by bombshells like, "I have another girlfriend—do you mind?" or "I'm married," or "I'm a Republican." With ghosts of boyfriends past whirling through my brain, I braced myself for the worst. "I'm in a fantasy baseball league," he told me.

If you are a fantasy baseball neophyte, as I was then, you'll understand that I was relieved to learn that this—fantasy baseball?—was his deep dark secret of shame. It seemed endearingly geeky, making my whip-smart boyfriend a little more human. I was charmed. And although he seemed to believe that the news should upset me—a fact to which I should have paid more attention—I thought of fantasy baseball as simply an extended version of the NCAA tournament brackets I filled out every spring. You pick a few players, you root for them to do well, what's the harm?

Oh, foolish young love. If you are one of the roughly eight million men who play fantasy baseball each year (or are one of the women married to them), you may already be shaking your head at my naiveté. And you won't be one bit surprised to hear that as I was assuring my boyfriend that our relationship would survive this revelation, he interrupted me to ask if he could use my computer to check his scores.

The Wife didn't even bat an alluring eyelash when I told her I'd only go to Disney for our Honeymoon if we could hit a few Sprin[g] Training games.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:04 PM


In India, 'next great' industrial story (Anand Giridharadas, 4/17/06, International Herald Tribune)

As global manufacturers seek new places to plant their flags, India - where factories have long been conspicuous for their relative absence - is seeing early stirrings of an industrial renaissance. The effects could be profound for India's vast number of poor people, and for the international sourcing of goods from cars to bras.

For decades, manufacturing in India has been hobbled by antiquated labor laws, creaking infrastructure and paperwork. The new economy of call centers and software campuses arrived to buoy the relatively privileged, but for many of the three-quarters of Indians with less than middle-school education, few factories meant few jobs.

Across India, total exports - mostly manufactured goods - are rising at a 26 percent annual clip, the Commerce Ministry reported recently. The manufacturing sector is growing at 9.4 percent annually, compared with 6 percent a year from 1991 to 2004, according to the Finance Ministry.

Special economic zones - the same enclaves of relative economic freedom that spearheaded China's export-led industrialization - are now spreading here, providing tax holidays, more control over infrastructure like water and power and less regulation. At least 75 zones are in the works, with more than a dozen already operating.

India faces many of the same challenges as China--from population implosion to not being a coherent sovereign state--but has the great advantage of being an Anglospheric democratic ally, not an enemy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:33 PM


British school to offer happiness lessons (AFP, Apr 17, 2006)

One of Britain's leading fee-paying schools is to offer classes on happiness to combat the malaise in society caused by materialism and celebrity obsession, its headteacher announced.

"We are introducing classes on happiness," said Anthony Seldon, master of Wellington College, in Crowthorne, Berkshire, west of London.

"We have been focusing too much on academics and missing something far more important."


Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:22 PM


RYAN GUILTY (NATASHA KORECKI , 4/17/06, Chicago Sun-Times)

Former Gov. George Ryan was found guilty by a federal jury Monday of all 18 counts against him, ending a historic, marathon public corruption trial that started more than six months ago.

The six-man, six-woman jury reached one of the most awaited verdicts in recent history after 10 days of deliberations and after U.S. District Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer reconstituted the panel, swapping two dismissed jurors with alternates.

Ryan's codefendant, Lawrence Warner, 67, a lobbyist and businessman. was also found guilty on all counts against him. [...]

Ryan, 72, who served eight years as Illinois secretary of state and four years as governor, was accused of using his official position to steer state contracts to pals such as Warner. Ryan is also accused of lying to the FBI, misusing his campaign fund and filing false tax forms.

When he started currrying favor with death row inmates you knew he knew he was going to prison.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:15 PM


Keep Soccer Beautiful!: Nike's new ads cleverly slam Adidas. (Seth Stevenson, April 17, 2006, Slate)

The Spot: A burly, bearded man with an accent sits at a video-editing console. He cues up some old footage of a little kid playing soccer. Then he intercuts this with modern-day scenes of the kid all grown up, still playing soccer. Kid and man both execute some astonishing moves, bewildering their opponents and scoring goals at will. "So my advice to you," says the bearded man, "is never grow up, my friends." As the spot ends, we see the words "Joga Bonito" and a Nike swoosh. (Click here and mouse over the right-hand side of the screen to see the ad, called "Ronaldinho—Joy.")

When Brazil and Germany faced off in the 2002 World Cup final, it was not simply an important soccer match. It was an epic clash of logos. The German national team sported the three-stripe mark of Adidas, while the Brazilians were clad in the Nike swoosh. [...]

I do have one concern about the "Joga Bonito" campaign: Is it an effective way to sell soccer in the States? These ads will air all over the globe and will no doubt be a hit wherever they play … except, perhaps, here in America. First of all, the spots feature French soccer legend Eric Cantona (who is totally unknown to U.S. viewers—though so is Ronaldinho, to some extent) as their host, dressing all Euro-like and speaking with a heavy French accent. What's more, none of the players featured so far (Ronaldinho, England's Wayne Rooney, France's Thierry Henry) are American—though this is mostly because America has no superstars. But most important, the lighthearted "Joga Bonito" ethos seems to run contrary to Nike's usual message: Go for broke; take no prisoners; sweat and tears; Just Do It.

Take, for instance, the recent Nike ad titled "Awake"—my favorite ad of the year so far. It has all the hallmarks of a great Nike spot: superstar athletes (Tom Brady, Alex Rodriguez), a killer song (AC/DC's "Rock and Roll Ain't Noise Pollution"), and some brilliant editing (watch how the cuts accelerate as the drumbeat kicks into overdrive). But there's also an overarching message here that's smack in the middle of Nike's wheelhouse. The ad suggests that success takes hard work, dedication, and waking up early to punch the clock. It's not about "joy" and "playing beautiful"—it's about Brady studying game film before dawn, and A-Rod doing sit-ups in the gym. That's the core of Nike's brand.

Perhaps soccer is a sport with a wholly different mood, requiring a wholly different approach. But I wonder if Nike might have been better off with a set of U.S.-specific ads, showing American soccer players giving their all and muddying their uniforms.

Nevermind the bit about adults playing soccer--which is in America more appropriately a self-esteem sport for spazzy kids--or the fact that the game is sop boring fans actually care about who knits their jerseys, you've got to love the bit about the difference in mood.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 11:51 AM


Time to look on the bright side of boredom (Caitlin Moran, The Times, April 17th, 2006)

All goes well in the halls of academia. Presumably reflecting a world where our major problems have been solved and nothing bad has happened for at least 50 years, a psychology lecturer at Edge Hill College, Lancashire, is embarking on a study of boredom. Dr Richard Ralley hopes to present his eventual findings over the summer — traditionally a time when teachers experience great boredom themselves, what with there being no marking, or small boys to remove from big bins.

Dr Ralley, it seems, believes that boredom has been underestimated. While humanity has acknowledged its enjoyment of other negative emotions — blind murderous fury, say, or the kind of moping self-pity that involves wearing unwashed bed-socks for a week — it seems that boredom, like communism or Supertramp, is one of the few things not to have enjoyed a modish rediscovery trumpeted by Dazed and Confused.

“Boredom is something — it’s not just switching off,” Dr Ralley is quoted as saying, presumably in a perversely excited tone of voice. “Boredom has a bad name . . . but it can be a good thing. It can be useful.” He is particularly concerned that the large, grey estuary-like stretches of boredom that characterised the childhoods of previous generations might be lost to the modern child. He counselled parents contemplating the Easter holidays to cancel the activity school, swimming lessons and piano instruction, and “Leave children to their own devices. Let them recover from their last term at school.”

Of course, however laudable Dr Ralley’s aims, the layman can observe a few flaws in his project. First, one wonders how he will actually find any bored subjects to study. As he suggests, the combination of PlayStation, Sky+, contraceptives and skunkweed have surely eliminated the pockets of ennui that previous generations will have so readily not-enjoyed. Sunday trading alone has irrevocably altered the current generation. I can recall being so bored on Sundays — empty streets, tolling bells, a million identical roasts slowly drying in their ovens —that I had competitions with my seven siblings over who could hold their breath the longest. Often we passed out and fell to the floor whilst the others looked on, purple-faced and impassive. On other occasions we tried to eat small snacks with pugilistic slowness. My sister Caz once spent over two hours sucking on sultanas, until they eventually rehydrated back into brown grapes in her mouth. Eddie, meanwhile, managed to reduce a small cube of cheese into curds and whey, which he then triumphantly spat back into a spoon and drank.

As every good conservative knows, the absence of boredom is only one-half of the tragedy of modern youth. The other is too little pain.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:35 AM


Why Robespierre Chose Terror: The lessons of the first totalitarian revolution (John Kekes, Spring 2006, City Journal)

The American attitude toward the French Revolution has been generally favorable—naturally enough for a nation itself born in revolution. But as revolutions go, the French one in 1789 was among the worst. True, in the name of liberty, equality, and fraternity, it overthrew a corrupt regime. Yet what these fine ideals led to was, first, the Terror and mass murder in France, and then Napoleon and his wars, which took hundreds of thousands of lives in Europe and Russia. After this pointless slaughter came the restoration of the same corrupt regime that the Revolution overthrew. Aside from immense suffering, the upheaval achieved nothing.

Leading the betrayal of the Revolution’s initial ideals and its transformation into a murderous ideological tyranny was Maximilien Robespierre, a monster who set up a system expressly aimed at killing thousands of innocents. He knew exactly what he was doing, meant to do it, and believed he was right to do it. He is the prototype of a particularly odious kind of evildoer: the ideologue who believes that reason and morality are on the side of his butcheries. Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, Mao, and Pol Pot are of the same mold. They are the characteristic scourges of humanity in modern times, but Robespierre has a good claim to being the first. Understanding his motives and rationale deepens our understanding of the worst horrors of the recent past and those that may lurk in the future. [...]

Robespierre made no secret of his convictions. He expressed them in several crucial speeches, of which copies, written in his own hand, remain. In his August 1792 speech, Robespierre said that France was living through one of the great events in human history. After an initial period of stumbling, the Revolution of 1789 became in August 1792 “the finest revolution that has ever honored humanity, indeed the only one with an object worthy of man: to found political societies at last on the immortal principles of equality, justice and reason.” The Revolution was the finest ever, because, for the first time in history, “the art of government” aimed not at “deceiving and corrupting man” but at “enlightening them and making them better.” The task of the Revolution was “to establish the felicity of perhaps the entire human race.” “The French people seems to have out-distanced the rest of the human race by two thousand years.”

But a serious obstacle barred the way. “Two opposing spirits . . . [are] contending for domination . . . [and] are fighting it out in this great epoch of human history, to determine for ever the destinies of the world. France is the theater of this terrible combat.” The conflicts between the friends and the enemies of the Revolution “are merely the struggle between private interests and the general interest, between cupidity and ambition on the one hand and justice and humanity on the other.” All the current political choices, consequently, were choices between good and evil, allowing Robespierre to demonize his opponents.

Note that in declaring his aim to be a society in which “the immortal principles of equality, justice and reason” would prevail, Robespierre simply dropped liberty and fraternity, substituting whatever he regarded as justice and reason.

Equality and liberty are, of course, opposite ends of regime making and what the French Revolution did was to institute the pursuit of the former as the basis of the French model. Regimes based on the French model must destroy freedom in order to secure equality. Regimes based on the Anglo-American model accept inequality as a necessary side effect of liberty.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:27 AM


Dr. Detroit (Josh Hendrickson, 17 Apr 2006, Chicago Sun-Times)

Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick has never been known as a government reformer. In fact, he is probably best known for earning a distinction as one of the country's worst mayors by Time magazine. One reason for this dubious honor was his use of city funds to lease a Lincoln Navigator for his wife at the price of nearly $25,000. Rap mogul Russell Simmons even dubbed him the "hip-hop mayor," which sparked disapproval among Detroit's decidedly un-hip-hop suburbanites. Despite his faults, Kilpatrick won re-election in 2005.

Now he has become serious about balancing the city budget. The task has required him to rethink the role of government, and to decide which programs and services are worth the city's money. In timelessly non-bureaucratic fashion, he has worked fervently to reduce the size of city government and to open the door to privatization of city services.

Since taking office, Kilpatrick has eliminated 5,500 government jobs, which cut payroll by $272 million. To start with, benefits to city employees had simply become too much. According to the Detroit News, the city's liability for employee benefits is at "a rate three-times of the private-sector average".

On April 12, Mayor Kilpatrick announced plans to cut property taxes and charge a fee for garbage pick-up. Kilpatrick seeks to reduce what he calls a "$75 million subsidy" for trash pickup. Such language speaks volumes about Kilpatrick's newfound attitude towards government. Rather than referring to trash pick-up as a government service, he has instead viewed it as a subsidy. Many believe that this may be the first step towards privatization.

Privatization has thus become the talk of the local business community in Detroit. Mayor Kilpatrick is considering outsourcing management or even selling the Department of Public Lighting to a private company.

"We are not a power company," said Kilpatrick, quoted in the Detroit News. "If we are, we're a terrible one. We don't need to be in the power business." Such comments are seldom heard within the halls of any city hall, much less that of Motown.

Who does he think he is, Mayor Daley?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:35 AM

BODY ROCK (via Pepys):

Hear My Song, Fear My Fastball: What's the best entrance music for a pitcher coming out of the bullpen? (Daniel Engber, April 14, 2006, Slate)

You may have heard the uproar on sports talk radio: Billy Wagner, the Mets' newly acquired $43-million relief pitcher, races to the mound at Shea Stadium with Metallica's "Enter Sandman" blaring on the PA system. Doesn't he know that Yankees' closer Mariano "The Sandman" Rivera has been using that song in the Bronx for years? Rivera has said that he doesn't mind (he prefers Christian music), but that hasn't stopped Yankees fans from mocking Wagner (even though he's been using the song since 1996, a few years before Rivera). But this cross-town controversy brings up one of baseball's unanswered questions: What's the greatest closer entrance song of all time?

Right now, "Enter Sandman" and "Hell's Bells" by AC/DC are two of the most popular and effective closer themes in baseball. With spare, creepy intros that build to screaming I'm-gonna-get-you vocals, both songs fit the jock-rock genre that's supposed to freak out your opponents and psyche up your fans.

The closer theme in Beantown crisis is finally over, Papelbon has heater, stays cool (Dan Shaughnessy, April 17, 2006, Boston Globe)
He has his own theme music now. ''Bodies," by Drowning Pool.

'' 'Let the bodies hit the floor,' something like that," Jonathan Papelbon said yesterday after stuffing the Seattle Mariners with another 1-2-3 ninth in a 3-2 Red Sox victory. ''I think the fans were more worried about my entrance song than I was. They can send in suggestions if they have some."

For now, it's ''Bodies," which never will be mistaken for ''Three Coins in the Fountain" or ''American Pie." Don't even try dancing to it or humming a few bars. Rodgers & Hammerstein, it ain't.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:32 AM


It Must Be the Biowetter: In the minds of some Germans, the weather is responsible for all that ails humans. Here, people are as obsessive about their "Bio-Weather" reports as they are their horoscopes. (Der Spiegel, 4/13/06)

Germans are hypochondriacs. People here don't get hangovers, they get a Kreislaufstörungen (circulatory disruption). When the spring sun makes concentration difficult, they blame Frühlingsmüdigkeit (spring fatigue). Feeling depressed? Must be that foehn coming down off the Alps. Got a headache? Blame it on the barometric pressure.

Indeed, with so many ailments available, how is one to know which one will crop up next? Easy. The Germans have come up with a daily weather report to help them predict how Mother Nature is going to wreak havoc on their bodies each day. It's called the Biowetter -- or "bio-weather" -- report. If your German colleagues suddenly seem pale, withdrawn or otherwise out of sorts, check the Biowetter and you'll know why.

"Headaches will be more prevalent in those especially sensitive to the weather," the respected Süddeutshe Zeitung writes on its weather page on Thursday. "Many will be more tired and drained than usual. Scars from operations will be more likely to act up."

It may sound like a page out of a quack, new-age self-help book, but many Germans are dead serious about their "bio-weather".

When has something being quack science and Germans believing it devoutly ever been a contradiction?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:38 AM


'High School Musical' bops to the top (MISHA DAVENPORT, April 17, 2006, Chicago Sun-Times)

Since it first began airing in January, Disney Channel's "High School Musical" has been the little cultural mouse that roared: a $4 million made-for-TV musical that has seen ratings boom with every subsequent airing.

"We never planned on this," says Gary Marsh, president of entertainment for Disney Channel Worldwide. "This movie has taken on a life of its own."

As of its last airing in March, the movie was seen by 28.3 million unduplicated viewers. If the pattern holds, it again will be the top-rated cable movie in its time slots when the cable channel rebroadcasts it Friday in not one but two showings:

*A dance-along version, which walks viewers step-by-step through the choreography seen in the film, will air at [8] p.m.

Do you have any idea how many times your kids can play the soundtrack on a car ride from NH to Valley Forge?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:28 AM


Even tax-writing lawmakers don't want to fill out tax returns (MARY DALRYMPLE, 4/17/06, The Associated Press)

When it comes to their own tax returns, many members of Congress who specialize in writing tax laws turn to professional preparers rather than completing the paperwork themselves.

"It's onerous and everybody knows it," said Rep. Richard Neal, D-Mass. [...]

According to IRS statistics, that makes these members of Congress much like the public. More than 60 percent of taxpayers turn to a paid professional to prepare their returns.

The number typically increases a little each year.

Why the tax system keeps getting more complex (Martin Wolk, April 14, 2006, MSNBC)
The idea of simplifying the nation's tax system has broad public support, with 80 percent favoring major changes or a complete overhaul in one recent poll, and 52 percent saying they would give up some deductions to simplify federal taxes.

By itself, the complexity of the nation's tax system imposes high costs on businesses and individuals. Just complying with the system through record-keeping, education and compliance costs the nation $265 billion, or 2 percent of the gross domestic product, said Chris Edwards, director for fiscal policy studies at the Cato Institute.

"I think a bigger cost is in the way complexity interferes with economic planning," he said. On the business side, tax complexity has created an entire industry devoted to aggressive tax avoidance. National Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson, an internal IRS watchdog, talks of an "endless cycle" in which the complexity of the tax code creates loopholes that are exploited, leading to yet more regulations.

The reason the Contract on America was successful was because they were all items that polled that high with the public. However, they were also, not coincidentally, popular with the GOP base. If Democrats want a popular issue to run on they need something like tax simplification, but run into two major problems: (1) their leadership and base opposes it; (2) if they propose it the GOP will bring it to a vote.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:25 AM


Online barterer's goal is to trade up from a paper clip to a house (BRIAN BERGSTEIN, 4/17/06, The Associated Press

Kyle MacDonald had a red paper clip and a dream: Could he use the community power of the Internet to barter that paper clip for something better, and trade that thing for something else — and so on and so on until he had a house?

After a cross-continental trading trek involving a fish-shaped pen, a town named Yahk and the Web's astonishing ability to bestow celebrity, MacDonald is getting close. He's up to one year's free rent on a house in Phoenix.

Not a bad return on an investment of one red paper clip. Yet MacDonald, 26, vows to keep going until he crosses the threshold of his very own home, wherever that might be.

"It's totally overwhelming, I'm not going to lie," he said by phone from Montreal, where he and his girlfriend, Dominique Dupuis, live with two roommates. "But I'm still trading for that house. It's this obsessive thing."

The story begins last July.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:21 AM


Amnesty — plus a fence (Charles Krauthammer, 4/17/06, Seattle Times)

Martin Luther King had a case for justice that was utterly incontrovertible, yet he always appealed to the better angels of America's nature. It is all the more important for illegals, whose claims rest not on justice but on compassion, to appeal to American generosity, openness and idealism.

There is much generosity in America to be tapped. But that will require two things. First, a change of tone. And second, a clarification of goals.

If you find a stranger living in your basement, you would be far more inclined to let him stay if he assured you that his ultimate intent is just to improve his own life and not to prepare the way for his various cousins waiting on the other side of your fence.

And that's the critical issue that the demonstrators and their supporters ignore. Is the amnesty they are demanding/requesting the beginning or the end? Is it a precedent or a one-time — last time — exception? Are they seeking open-ended immigration or do they agree that they should be the last wave of illegals?

We know they support the spirit of the failed Senate bill which, when all the phony length-of-stay distinctions are stripped away, is about legalization and amnesty. And we know they oppose the House bill because it declares illegals to be felons. But House Republicans recognize that they made a huge political error with that language and are pledged to remove it. Will the demonstrators support the rest of the House bill, which would radically restrain new illegal immigration by means of a physical barrier and other measures?

If the answer to that is yes, then we have the makings of a national consensus to combine the House and Senate bills — a fence plus amnesty — into a comprehensive new policy. But we need an answer.

Each of us has thought we should be the last one admitted because those in back of us were dirty unassimilable freeloaders.

Behind the Debate: Propelled to Protest, Driven to Migrate: Mexican Deportee's U.S. Sojourn Illuminates Roots of Current Crisis (Manuel Roig-Franzia, 4/17/06, Washington Post)

Conventional wisdom has long explained the flood of migrants with a simple formula: Mexicans and other Latin Americans come to the United States for better-paying jobs. But the calculus is more complex because of pressure caused by Mexico's population explosion, which turned Flores's generation into one of the most desperate for work in modern Mexican history. Mexico's failure to create enough jobs after the enactment of the North American Free Trade Agreement pushed countless young people to migrate to the United States, while a growing U.S. demand for labor pulled them north.

Flores, born in 1979, is a product of Mexico's 1970s baby boom, a time when Mexican President Luis Echevarría said, " G obernar es poblar " -- to govern is to populate. Since 1970, Mexico's population has doubled. More important, the population of 15- to 34-year-olds -- the prime migrating years -- has swollen to 38 million, according to U.S. Census figures on foreign populations. That age group is projected to exceed 40 million in 2015. Mexican economists say this is almost certain to push more Mexicans across the border, further intensifying the United States' already heated immigration debates, unless Mexico's economy dramatically improves.

"You can't put a brake to it," said Jorge Santibáñez, president of El Colegio de la Frontera Norte, a Tijuana-based research institute. "The central point is that migration is going to continue at the rhythm we have now, or increase." [...]

Pew now estimates the undocumented population in the United States at a record level, between 11.5 million and 12 million. More than half, about 6.2 million, are Mexican, according to Pew. Mexicans account for even larger majorities in border states and in some large urban centers far from the border such as Chicago. But they make up only a small fraction of the migrant population in the Washington area, where Central Americans, particularly Guatemalans, Salvadorans and Hondurans, predominate.

The overall Hispanic population has also been growing, with nearly 38 million Hispanics in the United States, of whom two-thirds -- or 25.3 million -- were Mexican, according to a 2002 U.S. Census report. The increase has knitted the United States more tightly to its southern neighbors as more and more Hispanics lead dual-country existences, legally working or studying in the United States while maintaining family and business ties in their home countries.

The money generated by Latinos working in the United States seals the bond: Remittances from legal and illegal Mexican immigrants in the United States top $20 billion a year, close to double the foreign business investment in Mexico, according to Rafael Fernandez de Castro, a Mexico City international relations specialist.

Even as the number of illegal immigrants in the United States was growing, the NAFTA trade pact was off to a roaring start. It pumped up the Mexican economy in its first years and stoked commerce with maquiladoras , the assembly plants that sprang up along the U.S.-Mexico border. Foreign investors were pouring money into the country.

But while NAFTA's early promise heartened Mexico's leaders, an economic earthquake that would push migrants north was beginning to rumble.
Not a Magic Wand

In December 1994, the government of the new Mexican president, Ernesto Zedillo, sharply devalued the peso in hopes of stabilizing the country's wobbly currency. The opposite happened. Foreign investors fled, and Mexico slipped into a deep economic recession for two years. It took a bailout by the International Monetary Fund and the United States to stop the slide, and even with that, Mexico's recovery was slow.

As a result, Mexico's troubles pushed workers north just as the growing U.S. economy was creating new demand for labor.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:11 AM


Cantwell-McGavick Senate race a contrast of moderates (Alex Fryer, 4/17/06, Seattle Times)

Despite their stark differences, the matchup between Cantwell and McGavick presents a contrast of moderates.

Cantwell alienated some in her party for supporting the Iraq war, and she was one of only 19 Democrats who opposed an attempt to block Judge Samuel Alito's nomination to the Supreme Court in January.

McGavick notes with pride that his opposition to a federal abortion ban received a chilly reception from the Washington Federation of Republican Women. And last week, he issued a news release contending the Congress and White House — both controlled by Republicans — were partly to blame for high gas prices. [...]

Cantwell, 47, is single and a die-hard baseball fan, keeping track of Mariner games on a white board in her Senate office.

A former state legislator and House member, Cantwell poured $10 million of her own money into defeating Republican Slade Gorton by 2,229 votes in 2000 — a squeaker that instantly made her re-election a matter of speculation.

While she's not known as a firebrand in the Senate, Cantwell issues a steady stream of news releases expressing outrage over issues ranging from lax border security to gaps in the Medicare drug program, each promising that Cantwell's opponents have a fight on their hands. Even her allies urged her to concentrate on fewer issues. Cantwell's greatest successes recently involve energy policy, most prominently, her support of the Snohomish County Public Utility District in its legal troubles with Enron, and her victory keeping oil companies out of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR).

The League of Conservation Voters was so impressed with Cantwell's environmental record, it endorsed her more than a year before the election.

That's what Peter House wants the party faithful to remember on Election Day. But the chairman of the 36th District Democrats in Ballard says many on the left are baffled by Cantwell's support of the Iraq war.

"The group that is most upset about the war is disproportionately the people who get off their butts in campaigns," House said, adding that there's a perception that Cantwell has been "fairly tight-lipped" about her war views.

Unlike other pro-war Democrats such as Reps. Norm Dicks of Bremerton and Adam Smith of Tacoma, Cantwell so far has refused to characterize her 2002 vote to authorize the Iraq invasion as a mistake.

Instead, she focuses on the future of the occupation rather than how she would have voted in hindsight.

"2006 needs to be a year of transition, and I'm fighting to get the Iraqi people on their feet and get our troops home," she said.

"Did you think we needed to get rid of Saddam Hussein? Yes, and on the resolution I haven't changed my mind. I'm going to talk to them [anti-war Democrats] about what I think we need in 2006, and they can make the judgment on that."

This is the kind of race where the ideologues of both parties would prefer their own nominee lose to prove a point.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:57 AM


Beckett earns pressure points (John Tomase, April 17, 2006, Boston Herald)

Consider the following:

With a runner on and two outs in the second inning, Beckett struck out Jeremy Reed with a 96-mph fastball.

With two runs in after a Wily Mo Pena-aided triple to right field in the third, Beckett kept it a 2-2 game by finishing off Richie Sexson looking at a 97-mph fastball.

Saving his best for the sixth, Beckett struck out Sexson with a curve and Adrian Beltre with a 98-mph heater to strand the tying run at third.

“He’s got phenomenal stuff,” Varitek said. “It was our first crunch time situation where we needed to keep that run there or it was going to be a momentum swing, and he made quality pitches in quality locations.”

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:51 AM


'Roe v. Wade': The divided states of America (Susan Page, 4/17/06, USA TODAY)

USA TODAY used the Guttmacher data and other factors to calculate how states would be likely to respond if Roe were reversed. The 1973 decision recognized access to abortion as part of a constitutional right to privacy and limited states' ability to restrict it.

The conclusions:

•Twenty-two state legislatures are likely to impose significant new restrictions on abortion. They include nearly every state in the South and a swath of big states across the industrial Rust Belt, from Pennsylvania to Ohio and Michigan. These states have enacted most of the abortion restrictions now allowed.

Nine states are considering bans similar to the one passed in South Dakota — it's scheduled to go into effect July 1 — and four states are debating restrictions that would be triggered if the Supreme Court overturned Roe.

•Sixteen state legislatures are likely to continue current access to abortion. They include every state on the West Coast and almost every state in the Northeast. A half-dozen already have passed laws that specifically protect abortion rights. Most of the states in this group have enacted fewer than half of the abortion restrictions now available to states.

•Twelve states fall into a middle ground between those two categories. About half are in the Midwest, the rest scattered from Arizona to Rhode Island.

The result, according to this analysis, would be less a patchwork of laws than broad regional divisions that generally reinforce the nation's political split. All but three of the states likely to significantly restrict abortions voted for President Bush in 2004. All but four of the states likely to maintain access to abortion voted for Democrat John Kerry.

The 22 states likely to enact new restrictions include 50% of the U.S. population and accounted for 37% of the abortions performed in 2000, the latest year for which complete data were available.

The 16 states likely to protect access to abortion include 35% of the U.S. population and accounted for 48% of the abortions performed.

Then as migration patterns follow the kind of social climate that's been created you'd have Red states become even more American and Blue become even more European. Of course, that means the Red would keep growing while the Blue die off and since national power would keep shifting Redward you'd reach a point where the Blue lost control of the issue.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:48 AM


Drug convictions costing students their financial aid (Donna Leinwand, 4/17/2006 , USA TODAY)

One in every 400 students applying for federal financial aid for college is rejected because of a drug conviction, an analysis of Department of Education numbers by a drug policy overhaul group found.

A study to be released today by Students for Sensible Drug Policy says 189,065 people have been turned down for financial aid since the federal government added a drug conviction question to the financial aid form in the 2000-01school year.

A September report from the Government Accountability Office shows that in the 2003-04 academic year, about 41,000 applicants for federal student aid were disqualified because of drug convictions.

A student can regain eligibility, however, by completing a rehabilitation program that includes random drug tests.

"In the majority of cases, students retain their eligibility," Education Department spokeswoman Valerie Smith says.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:09 AM


Paul Revere's Ride (Henry Wadsworth Longfellow)

Listen my children and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,
On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-five;
Hardly a man is now alive
Who remembers that famous day and year.

He said to his friend, "If the British march
By land or sea from the town to-night,
Hang a lantern aloft in the belfry arch
Of the North Church tower as a signal light,--
One if by land, and two if by sea;
And I on the opposite shore will be,
Ready to ride and spread the alarm
Through every Middlesex village and farm,
For the country folk to be up and to arm."

Then he said "Good-night!" and with muffled oar
Silently rowed to the Charlestown shore,
Just as the moon rose over the bay,
Where swinging wide at her moorings lay
The Somerset, British man-of-war;
A phantom ship, with each mast and spar
Across the moon like a prison bar,
And a huge black hulk, that was magnified
By its own reflection in the tide.

Meanwhile, his friend through alley and street
Wanders and watches, with eager ears,
Till in the silence around him he hears
The muster of men at the barrack door,
The sound of arms, and the tramp of feet,
And the measured tread of the grenadiers,
Marching down to their boats on the shore.

Then he climbed the tower of the Old North Church,
By the wooden stairs, with stealthy tread,
To the belfry chamber overhead,
And startled the pigeons from their perch
On the sombre rafters, that round him made
Masses and moving shapes of shade,--
By the trembling ladder, steep and tall,
To the highest window in the wall,
Where he paused to listen and look down
A moment on the roofs of the town
And the moonlight flowing over all.

Beneath, in the churchyard, lay the dead,
In their night encampment on the hill,
Wrapped in silence so deep and still
That he could hear, like a sentinel's tread,
The watchful night-wind, as it went
Creeping along from tent to tent,
And seeming to whisper, "All is well!"
A moment only he feels the spell
Of the place and the hour, and the secret dread
Of the lonely belfry and the dead;
For suddenly all his thoughts are bent
On a shadowy something far away,
Where the river widens to meet the bay,--
A line of black that bends and floats
On the rising tide like a bridge of boats.

Meanwhile, impatient to mount and ride,
Booted and spurred, with a heavy stride
On the opposite shore walked Paul Revere.
Now he patted his horse's side,
Now he gazed at the landscape far and near,
Then, impetuous, stamped the earth,
And turned and tightened his saddle girth;
But mostly he watched with eager search
The belfry tower of the Old North Church,
As it rose above the graves on the hill,
Lonely and spectral and sombre and still.
And lo! as he looks, on the belfry's height
A glimmer, and then a gleam of light!
He springs to the saddle, the bridle he turns,
But lingers and gazes, till full on his sight
A second lamp in the belfry burns.

A hurry of hoofs in a village street,
A shape in the moonlight, a bulk in the dark,
And beneath, from the pebbles, in passing, a spark
Struck out by a steed flying fearless and fleet;
That was all! And yet, through the gloom and the light,
The fate of a nation was riding that night;
And the spark struck out by that steed, in his flight,
Kindled the land into flame with its heat.
He has left the village and mounted the steep,
And beneath him, tranquil and broad and deep,
Is the Mystic, meeting the ocean tides;
And under the alders that skirt its edge,
Now soft on the sand, now loud on the ledge,
Is heard the tramp of his steed as he rides.

It was twelve by the village clock
When he crossed the bridge into Medford town.
He heard the crowing of the cock,
And the barking of the farmer's dog,
And felt the damp of the river fog,
That rises after the sun goes down.

It was one by the village clock,
When he galloped into Lexington.
He saw the gilded weathercock
Swim in the moonlight as he passed,
And the meeting-house windows, black and bare,
Gaze at him with a spectral glare,
As if they already stood aghast
At the bloody work they would look upon.

It was two by the village clock,
When he came to the bridge in Concord town.
He heard the bleating of the flock,
And the twitter of birds among the trees,
And felt the breath of the morning breeze
Blowing over the meadow brown.
And one was safe and asleep in his bed
Who at the bridge would be first to fall,
Who that day would be lying dead,
Pierced by a British musket ball.

You know the rest. In the books you have read
How the British Regulars fired and fled,---
How the farmers gave them ball for ball,
From behind each fence and farmyard wall,
Chasing the redcoats down the lane,
Then crossing the fields to emerge again
Under the trees at the turn of the road,
And only pausing to fire and load.

So through the night rode Paul Revere;
And so through the night went his cry of alarm
To every Middlesex village and farm,---
A cry of defiance, and not of fear,
A voice in the darkness, a knock at the door,
And a word that shall echo for evermore!
For, borne on the night-wind of the Past,
Through all our history, to the last,
In the hour of darkness and peril and need,
The people will waken and listen to hear
The hurrying hoof-beats of that steed,
And the midnight message of Paul Revere.

-PORTRAIT: Paul Revere (John Singleton Copley, 1768)
-Paul Revere House (Boston, MA)
-Paul Revere (Wikipedia)
-Paul Revere Virtual Museum
-Paul Revere - Silversmith and Patriot (About > Travel > New England for Visitors > Paul Revere)
-Liberty's Kids . Archive . Paul Revere | PBS Kids
-ESSAY: The Boston Massacre: A Behind-the-Scenes Look At
Paul Revere's Most Famous Engraving (Archiving Early America)
-ESSAY: Paul Revere's Other Ride: December 13, 1774 (Seacoast NH)

Posted by Peter Burnet at 7:07 AM


Mammoth maketh the man (Mark Henderson, The Times, April 17th, 2006)

Regular meals of mammoth meat helped some early human tribes to expand more quickly than their largely vegetarian contemporaries, according to a genetic study by British scientists.

Human populations in East Asia about 30,000 years ago developed at dramatically different rates, following a pattern that appears to reflect the availability of mammoths and other large game.

In the part of the region covering what is now northern China, Mongolia and southern Siberia, vast plains teemed with large, now extinct mammals such as mammoths, mastodons and woolly rhinoceroses and the number of early human beings grew appreciably between 34,000 and 20,000 years ago.

Further south, where the terrain was covered in thick forest, the population expansion began much later — between 18,000 and 12,000 years ago. [...]

There is little direct evidence to connect mammoth-hunting to this trend, but Dr Tyler-Smith said that greater access to large game species was the explanation that made most sense. [...]

The extinction of mammoths and many other large mammals has also been persuasively linked to the arrival of humans on different continents: the decline of the creatures in North America, for example, correlates closely with the date at which a human presence there has been confirmed.

Scientists think it likely that Stone Age man hunted mammoths by ambushing them and attacking them with spears at close range. As the vast animals had no other natural predators they would have been easy prey. It is also possible that hunters drove them into traps or off cliffs.

Just so, although no doubt you are wondering how all those buffalo and caribou outwitted traditional aboriginal hunters so effectively. We here at Brothersjudd are delighted to tell you and thus fill in another mysterious gap in the epic story of Evolution: They didn’t have to worry about the lure of all those scheming blondes.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:15 AM


Europe, Too, Takes Harder Line in Handling Terrorism Suspects (KATRIN BENNHOLD, 4/17/06, International Herald Tribune)

[M]any European governments, including some that had criticized the United States for its antiterrorism measures, have been extending their own surveillance and prosecution powers. Officials, lawyers and human rights experts say that Europe, too, is experiencing a slow erosion of civil liberties as governments increasingly put the prevention of possible terrorist actions ahead of concerns to protect the rights of people suspected, but not convicted, of a crime.

Most of Britain's new counterterrorism legislation, which outlaws the vaguely worded "glorification" of terrorism, came into force on Thursday. Italy and the Netherlands have relaxed the conditions under which intelligence services may eavesdrop. French legislation recently gave investigators broader access to telephone and Internet data. German legislation being drawn up seeks to allow intelligence services easier access to bank and car registration records.

"We are fiddling with rights that only a few years ago seemed untouchable," said Álvaro Gil-Robles, human rights commissioner at the Council of Europe, an intergovernmental group that monitors human rights.

The most contentious areas concern treatment of terror suspects, he said. Several European countries are extending the length of time suspects who have not been charged may be held or restricted in their freedom.

Some nations have been seeking ways to deport suspects even if torture is practiced in the suspects' home countries. That brushes uncomfortably against major United Nations and European treaties that forbid deportations if the suspect faces a risk of torture.

"Something pretty fundamental is going on," said Gareth Peirce, a lawyer at Birnberg and Peirce in London who represents the Algerian man under surveillance in North London and nine other Middle Eastern and North African men arrested without formal charges within months of Sept. 11.

"A number of countries have been trying to avoid their treaty obligations in relation to arbitrary detention and torture," she said.

And here the Left and far Right keep telling us it's just a matter of George W. Bush being a crypto-fascist....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:10 AM


Cost of Illegal Immigration May Be Less Than Meets the Eye (EDUARDO PORTER, 4/16/06, NY Times)

Since 1980, eight million illegal immigrants have entered the work force. Two-thirds of them never completed high school. It is sensible to expect that, because they were willing to work for low wages, they would undercut the position in the labor market of American high school dropouts.

This common sense, however, ignores half the picture. Over the last quarter-century, the number of people without any college education, including high school dropouts, has fallen sharply. This has reduced the pool of workers who are most vulnerable to competition from illegal immigrants.

In addition, as businesses and other economic agents have adjusted to immigration, they have made changes that have muted much of immigration's impact on American workers.

For instance, the availability of foreign workers at low wages in the Nebraska poultry industry made companies realize that they had the personnel to expand. So they invested in new equipment, generating jobs that would not otherwise be there. In California's strawberry patches, illegal immigrants are not competing against native workers; they are competing against pickers in Michoacán, Mexico. If the immigrant pickers did not come north across the border, the strawberries would.

"Immigrants come in and the industries that use this type of labor grow," said David Card, an economist at the University of California, Berkeley. "Taking all into account, the effects of immigration are much, much lower."

In a study published last year that compared cities that have lots of less educated immigrants with cities that have very few, Mr. Card found no wage differences that could be attributed to the presence of immigrants.

Other research has also cast doubt on illegal immigration's supposed damage to the nation's disadvantaged. A study published earlier this year by three economists — David H. Autor of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Mr. Katz of Harvard and Melissa S. Kearney of the Brookings Institution — observed that income inequality in the bottom half of the wage scale has not grown since around the mid-1980's.

Even economists striving hardest to find evidence of immigration's effect on domestic workers are finding that, at most, the surge of illegal immigrants probably had only a small impact on wages of the least-educated Americans — an effect that was likely swamped by all the other things that hit the economy, from the revolution in technology to the erosion of the minimum wage's buying power.

When Mr. Borjas and Mr. Katz assumed that businesses reacted to the extra workers with a corresponding increase in investment — as has happened in Nebraska — their estimate of the decline in wages of high school dropouts attributed to illegal immigrants was shaved to 4.8 percent. And they have since downgraded that number, acknowledging that the original analysis used some statistically flimsy data.

Assuming a jump in capital investment, they found that the surge in illegal immigration reduced the wages of high school dropouts by just 3.6 percent. Across the entire labor force, the effect of illegal immigrants was zero, because the presence of uneducated immigrants actually increased the earnings of more educated workers, including high school graduates. For instance, higher-skilled workers could hire foreigners at low wages to mow their lawns and care for their children, freeing time for these workers to earn more. And businesses that exist because of the availability of cheap labor might also need to employ managers.

April 16, 2006

Posted by Peter Burnet at 7:34 PM


The Cost of Care (Alistair Brown, The Walrus, April, 2006)

Unable to get a university education in her native Romania, Elena Mihu emigrated to Canada, arriving in 1986. She was alone, with a dental technician's certificate and a hunger for knowledge. In less than ten years, she taught herself English, was accepted into university, and graduated from McMaster University's medical school. She also owed the government $100,000 in student loans and dearly missed the rural life of her childhood. On weekends she and her husband, Jean-Claude, would drive north in search of country property. On one such trip they found both the perfect home and a "Doctor Wanted" notice pinned to the door of the Kinmount township office.

The sign was not new. For almost six years there had been no local health services in Kinmount, Ontario—no family doctor, no immediate emergency care, with the nearest hospital some twenty kilometres away. The town, cradled by a long bend of the Burnt River at the edge of the Haliburton Highlands, numbered almost 400 permanent inhabitants. Several thousand more people lived in the immediate townships, and each summer the population increased significantly. If you fell ill here, however, you were on your own.

Then suddenly, in 1999, the sign was taken down and a banner welcoming Mihu replaced it. Kinmount, miraculously, had acquired a family physician...

A both depressing and inspiring short story that weaves together public healthcare madness, immigration and rural decline.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 7:13 PM


Libya marks 20 years since US raids (Al Jazeera, April 15th, 2006)

Libya has commemorated the 20th anniversary of deadly US air raids on the country's two biggest cities.

With Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's home as a backdrop, US singer Lionel Richie performed on Saturday in a concert on the anniversary of the raids that killed 40 in the North African country.

Earlier, at a conference on the attacks on Tripoli and Benghazi, a senior Libyan official damned the United States and said President George Bush was insane.

The United States "is a damned country, banished from divine mercy and deserving only of being cursed", deputy parliament speaker Ahmed Ibrahim said on Thursday.

You have to be a certain age to remember, after almost two decades of hand-wringing, negotiating, strategising, threatening, debating, pleading and overall cowering to terrorists, kidnappers and menacing thugs like Gaddafi , what a righteous and comforting relief it was when somebody finally showed the world that attacking America or Americans was an extremely dangerous thing to do. No one in the West, save Israel, had behaved that way in years. The left, of course, went absolutely ballistic.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:56 PM


For Almost All Americans, There Is God (CBS, April 13, 2006)

A new CBS News poll shows that almost all Americans believe in God or some higher power and more than half pray often and consider religion an important component of their daily lives.

Eighty-two percent of poll respondents said they believe in God, with nine percent saying they had faith in some sort of higher power or spirit. Doubt about the existence of God was highest in the "young" demographic as well that of political independents, those living in the West, people who live in big cities and men.

Fifty-nine percent of Americans indicated that they pray often and 40 percent said they attend weekly services. Religious observation also seems to have an effect on political preferences. Half of those who said they attend religious services almost every week approve of President Bush's job performance. However, a significant percentage of those who are less and non-observant of a religion disapprove of the job Mr. Bush is doing.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:12 AM


Re-creating a classic (Jeff Passan, 4/15/06, Yahoo! Sports)

In his four years at the University of Virginia, [Conor] Lastowka did all sorts of nothing, the most benign of which was obsessing over the classic Mets comeback and Red Sox heartbreak. Beyond that, Lastowka argued with his friends that automobiles should have U-turn signals. He drew a comic for the student newspaper that was an ode to a deceased friend who, actually, was alive. He started National High Five Day, a heal-the-world movement that encourages strangers to slap hands.

Mostly, though, Lastowka played RBI Baseball. For the uninitiated, RBI Baseball is a video game that first appeared on the original Nintendo in 1988. It took each of the four playoff teams from the 1986 and '87 seasons, plus an All-Star team for each league. The players looked all the same: short, round and white. When Lastowka's apartment got robbed on back-to-back days in his senior year, he rued most that the thief stole his Nintendo and RBI cartridge.

Through a video-game emulator on his computer, Lastowka had rekindled his love for RBI, and he had plenty of time. Six months ago, he quit his job as a database manager. He spent his days lazing on the San Diego beach for a few months, living off the money he had saved. The cash was dwindling quickly when Lastowka saw an ad for a YouTube-sponsored contest that would pay $25,000 for the best video satirizing pop culture.

Of all the things to lampoon, Game 6 was an easy target. And by using RBI to replay, pitch for pitch, the fateful 10th inning that ends with a Mookie Wilson grounder slipping th