June 30, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:42 PM


Beatles' Legacy Revived With 'Love' Show (RYAN NAKASHIMA, June 30, 2006, The Associated Press)

The Beatles are back, not in the U.S.S.R, not on "The Ed Sullivan Show" or even at Shea Stadium _ but on the Las Vegas Strip as the focus of international theater troupe Cirque du Soleil's surrealistic portrayal of the Fab Four's career.

Friday's grand opening performance of "Love" was to feature red carpet arrivals at the retooled Siegfried & Roy Theatre at The Mirage hotel by Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr along with the widows of John Lennon and George Harrison, Yoko Ono and Olivia Harrison.

The deconstructed musical trip through the Beatles' past is filled with characters from their songs _ the walrus, Lady Madonna, Sgt. Pepper _ parts of songs, outtakes and fragments that are sure to please fans and at the same time leave them full of questions.

Reportedly, the most frequently asked question is: Please, may I switch places with Fateh Mohammad?

Posted by Pepys at 3:22 PM


Hamdan v. Rumsfeld: Common Sense at War (Ronald Cass, 30 June 2006, RCP)

Liberty may have been the traditional casualty of war, but common sense is its new colleague. The Supreme Court, trying hard on the anniversary of last term's Kelo decision to find a suitable sequel, performed a rare triple loop in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld. It found jurisdiction in the face of a statute directly taking jurisdiction away from the Court. It second-guessed the President on the need for particular security features in trials of suspected al Qaeda terrorists. And it gave hope to One-World-ers by leaning on international common law to interpret U.S. federal law. If that weren't enough, the (left, lefter, and far left) turns were executed in the course of giving a court victory to Osama bin Laden's driver. What a perfect way to end the term!...

...Of course, the justices wrote a careful, precedent-laden, critically analyzed decision, well within the bounds of ordinary judicial craftsmanship - just as they did in Kelo. The proper criticism of their decision is not that it is politically inspired, not that it boldly ignores the law, and not that it is a decision that is utterly without support (though all these critiques may well come from the right). Instead, the proper criticism is that the decision is simply wrong, just as Kelo was, and will have consequences that no sensible American should applaud.

The comparison to Kelo is really insightful. Yet again, for some unknown reason (perhaps they believe their biases are secretly shared by the average American?) SCOTUS has decided to hand down a decidedly unpopular and legally unnecessary decision whose ramifications strike fear into the hearts of the people. Happily, Congress is ready to do what's right and the end result will again be nothing more than the continued erosion of faith in the Left side of the Court.

Posted by Pepys at 2:17 PM


Surprise Drop in Oil? (Larry Kudlow, 29 June 2006, RCP)

The Energy Department just announced that crude oil supplies rose 1.4 million barrels to 347.1 million for the week ended June 16. Analysts had been expecting a drawdown, so this news caught them by surprise. More, crude oil supplies in the U.S. are now at their highest levels since May 1998, when oil was trading around $15 a barrel. Add in the fact that Canadian oil inventories are fully stocked, and the more imminent reality is of a sizable oil-price decrease -- not a huge increase.

Recently I interviewed four oil-tanker executives who control a combined 85 percent of the oil coming into the United States. They confirmed market rumors that the amount of oil being stored on large carriers on the high seas is abnormally high. One of the CEOs even predicted the possibility of $40 to $50 oil in the next 6 to 12 months. In another interview, Chevron CEO David O'Reilly suggested that gasoline and energy demands have flattened in the U.S., and may be showing signs of decline.
The speculative premium people are now paying for oil can't last. Too bad there is almost no chance of the market correcting itself before the November elections. That being said, I'll still absolutely blow a gasket if Pelosi gets to take credit for "lowering gas prices".
Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:06 PM


Mubarak Demands Syria Expel Mashaal (IsraelNN.com, 6/30/06)

Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak has demanded from Syrian President Bashar Assad the expulsion of Hamas head Khaled Mashaal unless Hamas frees kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.

Mubarak says deal reached with Hamas (JPost.com Staff and Associated Press, Jun. 30, 2006)
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said Friday that a compromise had been reached with several Hamas leaders for a conditional release of kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit.

The agreement that Mubarak claimed to have reached with the kidnappers involved an Israeli withdrawal from Gaza and the release of prisoners scheduled to be released anyway in the next year, in exchange for the release of Cpl. Gilad Shalit who was kidnapped on Sunday, Palestinian sources said.

Posted by David Cohen at 12:22 PM


Superman eschews longtime patriot act (Tatiana Siegel, Hollywoodreporter.com, 6/30/06)

Ever since artist Joe Shuster and writer Jerry Siegel created the granddaddy of all comic book icons in 1932, Superman has fought valiantly to preserve "truth, justice and the American way." Whether kicking Nazi ass on the radio in the '40s or wrapping himself in the Stars and Stripes on TV during the Cold War or even rescuing the White House's flag as his final feat in "Superman II," the Krypton-born, Smallville-raised Ubermensch always has been steeped in unmistakable U.S. symbolism.

But in the latest film incarnation, scribes Michael Dougherty and Dan Harris sought to downplay Superman's long-standing patriot act. With one brief line uttered by actor Frank Langella, the caped superhero's mission transformed from "truth, justice and the American way" to "truth, justice and all that stuff."...

"We were always hesitant to include the term 'American way' because the meaning of that today is somewhat uncertain," Ohio native Dougherty explains. "The ideal hasn't changed. I think when people say 'American way,' they're actually talking about what the 'American way' meant back in the '40s and '50s, which was something more noble and idealistic."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:54 AM


Did Bush commit war crimes?: Supreme Court's decision in Hamdan vs. Rumsfeld could expose officials to prosecution. (Rosa Brooks, June 30, 2006, LA Times)

Although the decision's practical effect on the military tribunals is unclear — the administration may be able to gain explicit congressional authorization for the tribunals, or it may be able to modify them to comply with the laws of war — the court's declaration that Common Article 3 applies to the war on terror is of enormous significance. Ultimately, it could pave the way for war crimes prosecutions of those responsible for abusing detainees.

Common Article 3 forbids "cruel treatment and torture [and] outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment." The provision's language is sweeping enough to prohibit many of the interrogation techniques approved by the Bush administration. That's why the administration had argued that Common Article 3 did not apply to the war on terror, even though legal experts have long concluded that it was intended to provide minimum rights guarantees for all conflicts not otherwise covered by the Geneva Convention.

But here's where the rubber really hits the road. Under federal criminal law, anyone who "commits a war crime … shall be fined … or imprisoned for life or any term of years, or both, and if death results to the victim, shall also be subject to the penalty of death." And a war crime is defined as "any conduct … which constitutes a violation of Common Article 3 of the international conventions signed at Geneva." In other words, with the Hamdan decision, U.S. officials found to be responsible for subjecting war on terror detainees to torture, cruel treatment or other "outrages upon personal dignity" could face prison or even the death penalty.

Don't expect that to happen anytime soon, of course. For prosecutions to occur, some federal prosecutor would have to issue an indictment. And in the Justice Department of Atty. Gen. Alberto Gonzales — who famously called the Geneva Convention "quaint" — a genuine investigation into administration violations of the War Crimes Act just ain't gonna happen.

But as Yale law professor Jack Balkin concludes, it's starting to look as if the Geneva Convention "is not so quaint after all."

If you could find a Federal prosecutor who's willing to torch his own career, a prosecution of the President for being mean to terrorists would get him back over an 80% approval rating.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:02 AM


Worries Build As GOP Seen Pushing Bills To Rally Base (Ori Nir, June 30, 2006, The Forward)

In the face of Republican efforts in Congress to rally the party's conservative base, Jewish organizations are stepping up efforts to push liberal positions on several legislative fronts. [...]

On reproductive rights, several Jewish organizations are joining forces to put pressure on the Food and Drug Administration to legalize the over-the-counter sale of the so-called "Plan B" contraceptive. Last week, senior executives with several Jewish influential organizations — including the National Council of Jewish Women, Hadassah, the American Jewish Committee, the Union for Reform Judaism and the JCPA — circulated a letter around Capitol Hill. The letter called on House members to sign on to a letter to FDA Acting Director Dr. Andrew von Eschenbach, urging him to make a decision on the drug that is also known as the "morning after pill."

In 2003, two FDA advisory committees recommended that the drug be made available without a physician's prescription. Women's rights groups and other advocates have since joined Barr Pharmaceuticals, Inc., the maker of the drug, in urging the FDA to act on the committees' recommendations. Named for its purpose to prevent pregnancy when conventional contraceptives fail to do so, or following unprotected intercourse, the drug reduces chances of pregnancy by 89% if taken within 72 hours after sex.

Under pressure from conservatives, the FDA has put off a decision on allowing universal access to the drug. Plan B proponents emphasize that preventing pregnancy during the short hours that follow intercourse could help avoid a risky, morally controversial and emotionally traumatic abortion later on. "Now it is time for [the FDA] to do its job and issue a decision regarding this important advance in women's health," said the president of NCJW, Phyllis Snyder, in an interview with the Forward.

Jewish organizations are also at loggerheads with conservatives over the Pledge Protection Act, a bill that would ban federal courts from hearing challenges to the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance.

Their motto is Jews for a Culture of Death.

Spinoza: Hero, Infidel, Celebrity: a review of Betraying Spinoza: The Renegade Jew Who Gave Us Modernity By Rebecca Goldstein (Daniel B. Schwartz, June 30, 2006, The Forward)

Betrayal haunts the image of 17th-century philosopher Baruch (Benedictus) Spinoza like no other Jewish historical celebrity. For centuries, the name of this radical pantheist, pioneering biblical critic and defector from Judaism — once described as "the first Jew to separate himself from his religion and people without a formal religious conversion" — has been synonymous with infidelity. His caustic treatment of Judaism in the "Tractatus Theologico-Politicus" has made even some of his greatest Jewish admirers in modern times uncomfortable, while causing enemies like German Jewish philosopher Hermann Cohen to accuse him of "humanly incomprehensible betrayal."

Yet if Spinoza could speak today, he might well charge his Jewish interpreters with betrayal — perhaps especially his apostles. Since the start of Jewish Enlightenment and the Emancipation in the late 18th century, when a Jewish identity outside Jewish law emerged as a possibility, Jews have increasingly claimed Spinoza as one of their own. With the advantage of hindsight, he has come to be seen as "the first modern Jew" and specifically as a precursor for an array of rival movements, ranging from Reform Judaism to secular Yiddishism to Labor Zionism.

A Jew freed from the Law isn't Jewish.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:58 AM


Labor's Desperate Measures (Dennis C. Vacco, 6/29/2006, The American Spectator

The Restaurant Opportunity Center of New York, otherwise known as ROC-NY, has come to represent a curious new strategic model for labor organizers -- one that all small and medium-sized business owners would do well to heed.

With financial and organizational support from Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees Local 100, ROC-NY was initially formed to help find employment for the surviving employees of Windows on the World, destroyed when the World Trade Center was attacked. To date, the group continues to emphasize its role as a September 11-based organization when soliciting donations. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth.

ROC-NY is a nonprofit organization sanctioned by traditional labor while clearly operating on the fringes of traditional labor laws. It has set out to aggressively attempt to remake the labor landscape by using the protections afforded to a nonprofit organization, publicly funded law firms, and old fashioned intimidation to shake down its targets. ROC-NY was formed with help from HERE Local 100 to increase union enrollment in the restaurant industry in New York where, surprisingly, only 1% of the 150,000 workers are unionized. In 2002, HERE 100 turned to two of its key organizers, Fekkak Mandouh and Saru Jayaraman, to run ROC-NY. With funding and salaries provided by HERE 100 to the two organizers, ROC-NY essentially became a subsidiary of the union.

BUT ROC-NY'S APPARENT union organizing efforts would represent a huge legal problem for a nonprofit entity. As a nonprofit corporation, ROC-NY is entitled to special tax treatment (i.e., it pays no taxes) and enjoys the benefits of tax-deductible contributions.

Simply put, ROC-NY is abusing the favorable tax treatment it receives and what's worse, it is using donations that are tax deductible to the contributor to then go out and attack businesses throughout New York.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:54 AM

THERE IS NO SPAIN (via Matthew Cohen):

Spain PM ready to open Eta talks (BBC, 6/30/06)

The Spanish prime minister has said his government will begin talks with the banned Basque separatist group Eta.

The statement in parliament by Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, a Socialist, was broadcast live on Spanish TV.

"The government is going to start negotiations with Eta," he said. The group is demanding Basque independence.

Any people that considers itself a nation is one.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:49 AM


Fed raises interest rates a quarter-point (Patrice Hill, 6/30/06, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

The Federal Reserve raised interest rates another quarter-point yesterday but backed off recent tough rhetoric, saying an impending slowdown from the rousing 5.6 percent growth rate of the first quarter should do much to tame this year's troubling spike in inflation.

The sudden softening by the Fed, whose members had vowed in speeches earlier this month to vanquish "unwelcome" inflation at nearly any cost, soothed investors and sparked powerful rallies in Wall Street stock and bond markets.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average, already boosted yesterday by the robust first-quarter growth reading from the Commerce Department, soared after the Fed's statement and closed up 217 points at 11,191, in its biggest jump since 2003.

Fortunately the American economy is harder to kill than Rasputin.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:40 AM


Ruling Leaves Uncertainty at Guantánamo (TIM GOLDEN, 6/30/06, NY Times)

As the Supreme Court prepared to rule on the Bush administration's plan to try terror suspects before special military tribunals here, the commander of Guantánamo's military detention center was asked what impact the court's decision might have on its operations.

"If they rule against the government, I don't see how that is going to affect us," the commander, Rear Adm. Harry B. Harris, said Tuesday evening as he sat in a conference room in his headquarters. "From my perspective, I think the direct impact will be negligible."

The Defense Department repeated that view on Thursday, asserting that the court's sweeping ruling against the tribunals did not undermine the government's argument that it can hold foreign suspects indefinitely and without charge, as "enemy combatants" in its declared war on terror.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:39 AM


Early signs of elephant butchers (BBC, 6/30/06)

Bones and tusks dating back 400,000 years are the earliest signs in Britain of ancient humans butchering elephants for meat, say archaeologists.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:34 AM


Reformist gains in Kuwaiti vote (BBC, 6/30/06)

The opposition reformists - many of whom are Islamists - gained four seats, taking their total number of seats in parliament to 33.

State media reported a turnout of up to 78% in some voting centres.

By electing reformist candidates, the voters have sent a clear message to the government that they want change in Kuwaiti society, our correspondent says. [...]

Kuwait's parliament is considered to be the strongest of those in the Gulf monarchies, and the National Assembly often expresses differences of opinion with cabinet in a robust fashion.

However the emir has the final word on most government policies and key cabinet posts are held by members of the ruling family.

Many candidates made fighting alleged corruption in the ruling elite a key issue.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:32 AM


Alarm at Japan population trends (Chris Hogg, 6/30/06, BBC)

There is now a greater proportion of elderly people in Japan than anywhere else in the world, according to the country's government.

Preliminary figures from last year's Japanese census show that the number of people aged 65 and over reached 21%, overtaking Italy for the first time.

The ratio of children under 15 is also lower than anywhere else in the world.

New ideas will be needed if Japan is to stem or even reverse what has become a worrying trend.

Nope. The old idea.

Japan's population now world's grayest (Japan Times, 7/01/06)

The proportion of people age 65 and older in Japan reached the world's highest at 21 percent in 2005, surpassing Italy's 20 percent, the government said Friday in a preliminary report.

At the same time, the percentage of people under 15 in the total population hit the world's lowest at 13.6 percent, the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry said.

For both men and women, the percentage of unmarried people went up in all groups age 20 to 64, the report says.

As China Ages, a Shortage of Cheap Labor Looms (HOWARD W. FRENCH, 6/30/06, NY Times)
By 2020 about a third of Shanghai's population, currently 13.6 million, will consist of people over the age of 59, remaking the city's social fabric and placing huge new strains on its economy and finances.

The changes go far beyond Shanghai, however. Experts say the rapidly graying city is leading one of the greatest demographic changes in history, one with profound implications for the entire country.

The world's most populous nation, which has built its economic strength on seemingly endless supplies of cheap labor, China may soon face manpower shortages. An aging population also poses difficult political issues for the Communist government, which first encouraged a population explosion in the 1950's and then reversed course and introduced the so-called one-child policy a few years after the death of Mao in 1976.

That measure has spared the country an estimated 390 million births but may ultimately prove to be another monumental demographic mistake. With China's breathtaking rise toward affluence, most people live longer and have fewer children, mirroring trends seen around the world.

Those trends and the extraordinarily low birth rate have combined to create a stark imbalance between young and old. That threatens the nation's rickety pension system, which already runs large deficits even with the 4-to-1 ratio of workers to retirees that it was designed for.

Demographers also expect strains on the household registration system, which restricts internal migration. The system prevents young workers from migrating to urban areas to relieve labor shortages, but officials fear that abolishing it could release a flood of humanity that would swamp the cities.

As workers become scarcer and more expensive in the increasingly affluent cities along China's eastern seaboard, the country will face growing economic pressures to move out of assembly work and other labor-intensive manufacturing, which will be taken up by poorer economies in Asia and beyond, and into service and information-based industries.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:25 AM


A Spat Over Iraq Revealed On Tape: Rice and Russian Caught Bickering At Private Lunch (Glenn Kessler, June 30, 2006, Washington Post)

During the meal -- the recording picks up the clinking of ice in glasses and the scratch of cutlery on plates -- Rice said she wanted to make a few "small points" about a draft statement prepared by lower-level officials. In particular, she said, she was seeking a stronger show of support for the nascent Iraqi government.

Lavrov demurred, suggesting the new leaders had not done enough to promote national reconciliation.

"I'm always a little bit sensitive about this on behalf of the Iraqis," Rice shot back. "Here we sit in Moscow or in Washington or in Paris telling them to make efforts on national accord when their brothers and sisters are being killed. I just think it's gratuitous."

Lavrov eventually gave ground, but then protested when Rice wanted to delete a sentence in a section regarding the killing of five Russian diplomats in Iraq.

"Urgent methods are being taken to provide security for diplomats," Rice said. The sentence "implies they are not being taken, and you know on a fairly daily basis we lose soldiers, and I think it would be offensive to suggest that these efforts are not being made."

Lavrov countered that the sentence was not intended to criticize but was "just a statement of fact, I believe."

"I don't believe security is fine in Iraq, and I don't believe in particular that security at foreign missions is okay," he said. He suggested shortening the sentence to emphasize "the need for improved security for diplomatic missions."

"Sergei, there is a need for improvement of security in Iraq, period," Rice said in a hard voice. "The problem isn't diplomatic missions. The problem is journalists and civilian contractors and, yes, diplomats as well."

She continued: "The problem is you have a terrorist insurgent population that is wreaking havoc on a hapless Iraqi civilian population that is trying to fight back. The implication that by somehow declaring that diplomats need to be protected, it will get better, I think, is simply not right."

Lavrov began to respond, but Rice cut him off.

"I understand that in the wake of the brutal murder of your diplomats, that it is a sensitive time," she said. "But I think that we can't imply that this is an isolated problem or that it isn't being addressed."

Other ministers jumped in and suggested compromise language to calm tempers: "The tragic event underscores the importance of improving security for all in Iraq."

Then Rice said she wanted to seek an endorsement of an Iraqi proposal for an "international compact" in which the Baghdad government would have to meet certain broad goals in order to collect aid, similar to a package for Afghanistan. But Lavrov refused, saying the concept was too new and needed more development and support from other countries. He suggested the creation of a forum of neighboring governments to oversee reconciliation in Iraq.

Rice said she worried he was suggesting greater international involvement in Iraq's affairs.

"I did not suggest this," Lavrov said. "What I did say was not involvement in the political process but the involvement of the international community in support of the political process."

"What does that mean?" Rice asked.

There was a long pause. "I think you understand," he said.

"No, I don't," Rice said.

Lavrov tried to explain, but Rice said she was disappointed. "I just want to register that I think it's a pity that we can't endorse something that's been endorsed by the Iraqis and the U.N.," she said, adding tartly: "But if that's how Russia sees it, that's fine."

Note that his concern is exclusively Russia while hers is exclusively Iraq.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:22 AM


House May Chill Bush's Wooing of Latino Voters (Charles Babington, June 30, 2006, Washington Post)

By pushing English-only policies and tough measures against illegal immigrants, House conservatives are endangering President Bush's goal of drawing millions of Latino voters to the Republican Party and helping realign ethnic politics for years to come, according to an array of analysts and officials.

The latest blow to Bush's efforts to woo Hispanics came last week, when a band of House Republicans unexpectedly balked at renewing the 1965 Voting Rights Act, partly because of a 30-year-old requirement that many local governments provide bilingual ballots. The revolt, which forced House GOP leaders to abruptly postpone a vote, came as House Republicans are stiffening their resistance to Bush's bid to allow pathways to legal status for millions of illegal immigrants while also strengthening borders and deportation efforts.

"It's sort of a double whammy," said Sen. Mel Martinez (R-Fla.), a Cuban native who is among the GOP's most visible Hispanic leaders. Under Bush's leadership, he said in an interview, "our party has shown a very welcoming approach to the emerging Hispanic vote." However, he said, "there obviously are those who feel that's not important. . . . I think there could be great political risks to becoming the party of exclusion and not a party of inclusion."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:18 AM


After one drink, most study participants overlooked an ape onscreen (Warren King, 6/30/06, Seattle Times)

So you think you can drive just fine after only one stiff drink?

New research by the University of Washington may make you think again: Most of the study participants who had had only one cocktail didn't even notice a gorilla walking through the middle of a ballgame.

That's right. The UW researchers tested people while they focused intently on a single task — counting the number of basketball passes in a video. Most of them couldn't see much else, such as realize that the clip features a woman in an ape suit who suddenly walks to center screen, beats her chest and exits — a nine-second cameo.

They were twice as likely to miss it as nondrinkers.

"We were very surprised to see how strong the results were," said Seema Clifasefi, who led the research in the UW's Department of Psychology.

Ban driving. Keep drinking.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:43 AM


Tour de France hit by massive doping scandal (Associated Press, 6/30/06)

Favourites Jan Ullrich, Ivan Basso and dozens of other cyclists were barred Friday from cycling's premier race in a doping scandal, causing a massive upheaval on the eve of cycling's premier race.

Tour director Christian Prudhomme said team managers had agreed that riders implicated in a Spanish drug scandal would not be allowed in the race that starts Saturday.

Earlier, the T-Mobile team suspended Ullrich, fellow rider Oscar Sevilla and sporting director Rudi Pevenage because of the probe.

Basso and Ullrich — a five-time Tour runner-up who has spent most of his career in Lance Armstrong's shadow — were among 56 cyclists named in a Spanish probe as having contact with a doctor charged in connection with alleged doping, a Spanish radio station reported Thursday.

Unusual Wimbledon bets prompt investigation (Sports Network, 28 Jun 2006)
Tennis officials were investigating reports Wednesday of irregular betting activity surrounding a first-round match at Wimbledon.

British media reported that wagers of up to $546,000 US were placed on Carlos Berlocq of Argentina, ranked 89th in the world, to lose his match Tuesday to Englishman Richard Bloomfield, who is rated 170 places below him and made the tournament as a qualifier.

Berlocq lost in straight sets, 6-1, 6-2, 6-2.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:37 AM


GST cut just the start, Flaherty says
: Ottawa wants to chop taxes across the board, Finance Minister declares (STEVEN CHASE, 6/30/06, Globe and Mail)

On the eve of the GST reduction, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said he wants to make further across-the-board federal tax cuts to help spur economic growth — giving Canadians a glimpse of the Conservatives' postbudget agenda.

“We would like to reduce the tax burden as we go forward in all areas of taxation, as we did in Budget 2006,” he told reporters after a speech to the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce.

“We think taxes are too high — still, in Canada — despite the reductions that are coming into force.”

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:32 AM

NOBLESSE OBLIGE (via Bryan Francoeur):

Teacher Twin Ready for Takeoff (Amy Argetsinger and Roxanne Roberts, June 29, 2006, Washington Post)

Jenna Bush , the nation's most famous public-school teacher, is skipping the country and bidding a happy adios to the young-Washington social scene she once ruled. Uh-oh, what do we do now?

Friends say that the blond, younger-by-minutes First Twin has been quietly making plans over recent months to leave D.C. for a teaching job in Latin America, most likely around the end of summer.

The move reflects the growing seriousness of a 24-year-old whose collegiate partying provided endless fun for gossip columnists during her father's first years in office -- yet also offers an escape from the Washington spotlight she and sister Barbara always have seemed to resent. Last week marked her final day at the Mount Pleasant charter school where she taught for a year and a half. [...]

She's slimmer than in her old party snaps, with a sleeker haircut. Friends paint a picture of Jenna as "normal," down-to-earth and approachably nice. While her dark-haired sister went east to Yale and is known to show up at beautiful-people galas, Jenna stayed close to home at the University of Texas. She has told friends she can't stand Washington and the who-do-you-work-for ? mentality of its ambitious young politico class.

"She has a disdain for that whole rat race," said one, "despite the fact that she's the person everyone would want to talk to."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:28 AM


A Promise Not Kept: World Trade Organization Gathers for Last-Ditch Attempt To Give Farmers in Poor Nations Better Access to Markets (Paul Blustein, 6/30/06, Washington Post)

Even before the meetings could begin in earnest, initial comments from some ministers underscored the difficulties. Peter Mandelson, the European Union trade commissioner, said Thursday that the E.U. may offer sharp cuts in tariffs on farm goods in an effort to satisfy developing countries. But Mandelson can't count on bringing along even the countries he ostensibly represents.

His remarks drew sharp rebuttals from European member countries with powerful farm lobbies. They suggested their governments would use their clout to block deep cuts. Christine Lagarde, the French trade minister, saw "no room to maneuver in that direction." [...]

Many people "got angry at the end of the '90s about the system and its inability to help poor people," said Jamie Drummond, executive director of the advocacy group DATA -- for Debt, AIDS, Trade, Africa -- founded by the Irish rock star Bono. "The point was to make capitalism look good again. If that's your goal, you'd better do a lot better than they're doing."

This weekend's meeting is crucial because WTO members face a deadline they may not be able to ignore: the looming expiration of a U.S. law that gives President Bush special authority to negotiate trade deals. Although the law doesn't expire until July 2007, failure to complete a deal in the next few months would mean that it could not get approval from Congress under the law's special procedures, under which amendments are prohibited. [...]

Leading the U.S. delegation is Susan C. Schwab, the newly appointed U.S. trade representative. She portrays the United States as the leader in the talks, claiming that its willingness to make concessions has not been matched by other big powers, notably the European Union and Brazil. The United States has offered what the Bush administration describes as a 60 percent cut in farm subsidies, with the proviso that rich nations, including the E.U., cut tariffs on farm products by an average of about two-thirds.

In a show of resolve, Schwab joined congressional leaders at a news conference this week to show that there is little, if any, room for compromise in the U.S. position.

"What have we seen in response to [the U.S.] proposal?" said Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee. "A very weak, very unmeaningful and uncomprehensive proposal, frankly, coming out of the European Union." The E.U. proposal would cut average farm tariffs considerably less than would Washington's, and it would keep many "sensitive" products such as beef, dairy and poultry sheltered from foreign competition.

If European nations won't cut their subsidies just send them home.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:26 AM

SAVE A WHALE, DRIVE A SUBURBAN (via Bryan Francoeur):

Gray whale births rebounding on Pacific Coast (AP, 6/30/06)

The number of gray whales born along the Pacific Coast has rebounded from record low levels, suggesting that pregnant females are thriving despite a warming Arctic feeding environment, federal biologists said.

And by despite they mean because of.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:15 AM


Stealth plan to 'privatise' NHS care (Sam Lister, 6/30/06, Times of London)

THE world’s biggest private health companies are being invited to bid for the chance to spend substantial chunks of the £80 billion NHS budget.

A six-page “contract notice” placed by the Department of Health in the supplement to the Official Journal of European Union, and seen by The Times, encourages the private sector to apply for a wide range of roles in the control and running of primary care trusts (PCTs).

The trusts are responsible for about 80 per cent of the annual £80 billion NHS budget. They not only fund GP surgeries but also commission hospital operations and have a large say over which drugs patients in their area can receive.

Critics said that the move was like “putting the NHS up for sale”, while some also said it signalled the end of PCTs’ role as providers of clinical services.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:10 AM


Cameron is first Tory to beat Blair on popularity (George Jones, 30/06/2006, Daily Telegraph)

David Cameron has cast off the jinx of unpopularity that has dogged Conservative leaders for more than a decade and is now the public's preferred choice of prime minister, according to a YouGov poll for The Daily Telegraph today.

In little more than six months, Mr Cameron has transformed the public perception of his party to become the first of five successive Tory leaders to be more popular than Tony Blair.

The poll will make grim reading for Gordon Brown, the increasingly frustrated "prime minister in waiting". It shows that Mr Cameron is close to trumping the Chancellor's strongest card - a reputation for economic competence - while Mr Brown's personal appeal with the voters is waning.

Posted by Pepys at 12:27 AM


Cuban Revolution: Short-Selling by Journalists (Larry E. Ribstein, 23 June 2006, TCS)

Maybe Mark Cuban will be consoled for his Mavs' loss in the NBA finals by his new media venture. As discussed in Business Week, Cuban's planning an online publication that will engage in investigative business journalism. The tricky part is that Cuban evidently plans to trade on the information the journal finds, before publication. Presumably this means that he will sell "short" the stocks the journal investigates, and then buy them after the revelations puncture the price.

Absolutely brilliant, Cuban has figured out an efficient way to police corporate fraud and make himself even more rich and famous. Who needs Sarbanes-Oxley when you can just pay the whistleblowers to roll-over?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:06 AM


Here's a great bit by Daniel J. Boorstin in his Forward to Empire of the Czar: A Journey Through Eternal Russia by the Marquis de Custine:

New England Puritans of our colonial age could never be disillusioned, simply because they were never illusioned. Their concept of Original Sin made them surprised and grateful that corrupt Man could accomplish anything.

Explains in a nutshell the Founding, why all comedy is conservative and the difference between conservatives (Judeo-Christians) and liberals (rationalists).

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Rights unit challenges U.S. over bank data (Dan Bilefsky, JUNE 28, 2006, International Herald Tribune)

A human rights group in London said Tuesday that it had lodged complaints in 32 countries against a banking consortium in Brussels, contending that it violated European and Asian data protection rules by providing the United States with confidential information about international money transfers.

Simon Davies, director of Privacy International, said the organization filed the complaints with the data protection authorities with the aim of halting what it called "illegal transfers" of private information to the United States by the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications, or Swift.

Privacy isn't a human right, it's where they're violated.

June 29, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:00 PM


Crisp turns on the jets to beat the Mets: What started as a superb pitching duel between two aces wound up as a star turn by Coco Crisp -- first on the bases and then in the field. (STEVEN KRASNER, 6/30/06, Providence Journal)

Crisp's beautifully deadened leadoff bunt single in front of the plate, a first-pitch stolen base that came courtesy of a huge jump, a nicely executed sacrifice bunt by Alex Gonzalez and Kevin Youkilis' sacrifice fly to left manufactured the run that snapped a 2-2 tie in N.L.-like fashion.

And Crisp's speed saved the game defensively, too. Crisp ran down David Wright's potential score-tying two-out gapper off Mike Timlin in the eighth, backhanding the ball a few inches off the ground with an all-out dive in left-center.

Or they can beat you with small ball and great defense.

Sox grab some perfection: Crisp ‘D’ keys 12th in a row (Michael Silverman, 6/30/06, Boston Herald)

Breaking every law of gravity in the books, Coco Crisp and his soaring catch in the eighth inning last night now stands as the signature moment for a suddenly invincible 2006 Red Sox team.

And just think, it was just one of a dozen or so beautifully large and unselfishly small moments of defense, offense and pitching in a 4-2 Red Sox victory over the Mets that should be downloaded into the hard drives of baseball history as one of the most picture-perfect baseball games any team could wish to play.

Not only did the Red Sox do everything right, their efforts meant their winning streak grew to 12 games (nine at home), their lead grew to four games over the idle Yankees in the AL East and they now share the MLB record for the most games (16) played in a row without an error. [...]

“That was one of the most exciting moments I have ever experienced on a baseball field,” veteran second baseman Mark Loretta said of the Crisp catch. “You should see the replay - every one of the infielders had raised their hands.”

Mariners sweep D-Backs (DAVID ANDRIESEN, 6/30/06, Seattle P-I)

At some point, a team crosses a line between just playing well and starting to put together something special.

Mariners manager Mike Hargrove thinks the road trip that ended Thursday night with a come-from-behind 3-2 victory over the Diamondbacks might just have carried his team over that line.

"Winning a game like this tells you a lot of things," Hargrove said. "The biggest thing it tells you is that these guys are starting to believe in themselves, and that's a big, big hurdle we have to get over."

It's something that has been building the past 10 days.

"It was there a little bit before, but probably (on this trip)," Hargrove said. "It really came to the front in L.A."

In Los Angeles, the Mariners took two of three from the Dodgers with late-game rallies. They went to San Diego and won two of three again. Thursday night they capped a three-game sweep of the Diamondbacks with the most unlikely win of them all.

With Thursday's victory, the Mariners took over second place in the American League West and are a half-game ahead of Texas, which lost 2-1 to San Francisco. Seattle remains two games behind division leader Oakland, which got past San Diego 6-5 in 14 innings. [...]

Meche pitched well for the fifth straight start, allowing six hits and one earned run in seven innings. He finished June 3-0 in five starts with a 1.60 ERA.

Detroit is deep in pitching (Jason Beck, 6/29/06, MLB.com)
Chris Carpenter, Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte came to town in the past week. All three were outpitched.

Johan Santana met the same fate last month. So did Cincinnati's Aaron Harang. Scott Kazmir was basically pitched to a draw two weeks ago. All of them have become evidence in the story of the 2006 Tigers, that Detroit is deep in pitching. [...]

The numbers are impressive on their own. As an entire pitching staff, the Tigers' 3.45 ERA is nearly a half-run lower than any other team in the big leagues and three-quarters of a run under the next-best in the American League. The Padres' are next lowest at 3.89. The Yankees are second-lowest in the AL at 4.18.

Whittle the numbers to starting pitchers only, and the difference is even more dramatic. The Tigers lead the Majors with a 3.39 ERA. The next-best team, the Giants, come in at 4.14. The A's are next-best in the AL at 4.31. They also boast the most wins, lowest WHIP ratio, lowest slugging percentage and second-lowest on-base percentage allowed of any Major League rotation.

For the past month, they've been even stingier than that. They've posted a 15-2 record and 2.55 ERA in 25 games since June 2, holding opponents under a .240 average. It has gone on so long that Leyland has openly wondered if his starters are trying to top each other as much as the opponent.

He might be right.

N.B. Of course, even the Royals are over .500 in Interleague play, All around, AL shows elders who is boss (Tracy Ringolsby, June 30, 2006, Rocky Mountain News)

The Senior Circuit is developing an inferiority complex.

Numbers don't lie.

The truth is, the American League has become the dominant league.

The American League has won 10 of the past 14 World Series, with Boston and Chicago sweeping St. Louis and Houston the past two years.

The American League has won the past eight All-Star Games that have not ended in a tie (which happened in Milwaukee in 2002).

And now this.

The AL has a 131-79 edge in interleague play this season. The most lopsided season in the nine previous years of interleague play was 2003, when the NL had a 137-115 edge.

NL May Be Out of Its League (Thomas Boswell, June 30, 2006, Washington Post)
Most of the big stories in baseball at the moment are really just different manifestations of one large trend. The American League is kicking the living daylights out of the National League like no league has ever dominated the other.

Baseball has never seen a slaughter like this. With interleague play mercifully ending on Sunday, the AL entered yesterday's games with a stupendous 127-75 advantage, the kind of .629 winning percentage that we associate with a 102-win champion. This season, a typical interleague game has been a travesty of a mismatch -- the equivalent of a World Series contender playing a cellar-dweller. Or -- and this is a painful thought for baseball -- a big league team playing a bush league bunch. Is the NL now the new Class AAA?

On the surface, we see teams that have suddenly gotten scalding hot as the summer arrives while other clubs seem to have simultaneously fallen apart. The stunning hot streaks of the Tigers, Twins, White Sox and Red Sox compete for our daily attention with the collapses of supposed contenders like the Braves and Phillies and the slump of the Cards. Close to home, the Nats are on the verge of folding like the Pirates and Cubs while the Orioles show signs of life. However, in every case, the truth serum of interleague play has brought each team's strengths or weaknesses into the spotlight.

What is at work, under the surface, is complete hegemony by the AL.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:56 PM


Operation removes lightbulb from anus (Reuters, 6/29/06)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:49 PM


Happy 4th!

Braised Pork with Three Peppers

* Extra-virgin olive oil
* 1 pork tenderloin, cut into 1/2-inch slices and then cut into 1/2-inch
* 1/4 teaspoon salt
* 1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
* 2 teaspoons coarse chopped fresh rosemary leaves
* 1 each large sweet red and yellow peppers, cored, seeded, and cut into
2-inch pieces
* 1 medium-hot fresh chile, such as Red Jalapeño, Hungarian Wax or
Cubanelle, seeded and cut into 2-inch pieces
* 1/2 medium onion, thin sliced
* 2 large cloves garlic, minced
* 3 oil-packed anchovy fillets, rinsed
* 2 bay leaves
* 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
* 1/4 cup white or red wine
* 1/2 cup water
* 4 whole canned tomatoes, drained

1. Lightly film a 12-inch straight-sided sauté pan (not nonstick) with olive
oil. Set over medium-high heat. Roll the pork in salt, pepper and rosemary.

Toss in the hot oil just to sear (the meat should be pink inside). Remove
from the pan and set aside.

2. Keep the heat medium-high as you add the peppers, chile, onion, garlic,
anchovy, and bay leaves. Sauté over medium-high to soften the peppers.

3. Add the vinegar, stirring to scrape up all the brown glaze on the bottom
of the pan. Boil down to nothing. Repeat the same process with the wine.

4. Add the water and tomatoes, crushing them with you hands as they go into
the pan. Adjust heat so sauce simmers gently. Cook, uncovered, 5 to 10
minutes. Taste for seasoning and intense flavor. Blend in the pork and all
of its juices. Simmer gently 2 to 3 minutes to cook through. Serve hot piled
in a bowl.

Grilled Sweet Potato Salad

2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch pieces
2 sweet onions, peeled, trimmed, and cut into 1/2-inch wedges
2 mangos, peeled, seeded, and cut into 3/4-inch pieces
1 red bell pepper, stem, rib, and seeds removed, cut into 3/4-inch pieces
1/4 cup olive oil
2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
Pinch cayenne
1/3 cup chopped toasted peanuts
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Preheat a grill.

In a large bowl, combine the potatoes, onions, mangos, and bell peppers. Add
the oil, lime juice, cinnamon, cumin, nutmeg, salt, and cayenne, and toss
well to coat evenly.

Lay 2 large pieces of heavy aluminum foil in a stack on a work surface.

Mound the sweet potato mixture into the middle and wrap in the foil, turning
up the edges to make a tight, well-sealed package. Place directly on the
grill and cook until the vegetables are tender, about 30 minutes.

(Alternately, preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Place the potato-mango
package in the middle of the oven and roast until the potatoes begin to
soften, 45 to 50 minutes. Uncover and roast until tender and starting to
caramelize, 15 to 20 minutes.)

Remove from the grill and let cool slightly before unwrapping. Transfer the
sweet potato mixture to a large, decorative bowl and adjust the seasoning,
to taste. Sprinkle with peanuts and fresh cilantro and serve.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:43 PM


Koizumi, Bush trumpet new global-scale alliance (Japan Times, 6/30/06)

Japan and the United States declared Thursday a new alliance for the 21st century, agreeing to work with China to maintain stability in Asia and to stand united in pressuring North Korea to back off on its missile threat and to resolve the fate of abducted foreigners.

In a joint statement issued after talks in Washington, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and U.S. President George W. Bush reaffirmed the strengthening and expansion of the bilateral alliance to a so-called global scale, based on "common values and interests," including areas outside of traditional security cooperation.

Celebrating a close friendship, Bush welcomed Koizumi with the pomp due a leader whose country gives the U.S. a crucial bulwark against a rising China and a volatile North Korea.

...that the conventional wisdom holds George W. Bush to be particularly stupid, yet the Left, Right and the press still think it's Europe and the Atlantic Alliance that matter?

Posted by Pepys at 8:06 PM


Cutting Through the Hyperbole on Hamdan (Dennis Byrne, 29 June 2006, RCP)

If you read the decision together with the appeals court opinion, the conclusion is inescapable: The Bush administration followed the rule of law, as it saw it laid out in statute and case law. A divided Supreme Court (5-4, if you include Roberts' earlier decision on the appellate court), saw the law differently. To say that the Bush administration was flouting the law is a slander that only the ignorant or the dishonest would commit.

Despite all the brouhaha, this was a win for everyone. The Left gets to wag their fingers at Bush and he doesn't have to give the guy up or try him. And, if Bush does decide to try him, the noises coming out of Congress today indicate they're just falling all over themselves to provide authorization and drop the hammer on the residents of Gitmo. Finally, that bit about the Geneva Conventions applying to the entire war is just Dicta and as OJ likes to point out: the Court doesn't actually have the power to infringe on the Unitary Executive anyway.

Supreme Court Ruling May Not Slow White House (Doyle McManus, Peter Wallsten and Richard B. Schmitt, June 29, 2006, LA Times)

Since the 2001 terrorist attacks, President Bush has asserted almost unlimited authority to define the rules of what he calls "a different kind of war." And, faced with the Supreme Court's rejection of administration policies on "enemy combatants" Thursday, the White House signaled that it had no intention of backing down.

Meeting the Supreme Court's objections required little more than having Congress put its stamp of approval on a system of military tribunals, the White House suggested. And some congressional Republicans quickly agreed.

"The Supreme Court did not require these people to be let go. They simply said if you want to try them, Mr. President, you need to get Congress involved. I agree," Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a former military lawyer, told CNN.

"Once we do that," Graham said, I think this problem will be behind us."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:38 PM


Kuwaiti woman's campaign: Ayesha Al-Reshaid bids for parliament as women vote in their first national election (Jamie Etheridge, 6/30/06, The Christian Science Monitor)

Dominated by former member of parliament (MP) Waleed Tabtabae - infamous for his opposition to women's rights, public dancing, and women wearing shorts during sports matches - Keifan is a conservative stronghold where most of the women wear the body-length abaya, hijab (head scarf), and the face-covering niqab.

Armed with a broad winning smile, Ms. Reshaid - one of 28 female candidates among 253 hopefuls - says that she chose to take on the Islamists directly because "I'm very competitive and this area [Keifan] is very difficult. If I succeed, then that success will be that much more special."

Is Pakistan ready for democracy in '07?: Secretary of State Rice's visit put the spotlight on the regime's efforts to reform local government. (David Montero, 6/30/06, The Christian Science Monitor)
In a visit as short as it was secretive, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice swept through Islamabad this week with a firm reminder for President Gen. Pervez Musharraf: Ensure free and fair elections in 2007. [...]

Nearly two years after seizing power in a bloodless coup, Musharraf implemented a Devolution of Power Plan in 2001, heralding it as a new era of democratic reform. Elected governments at the district and subdistrict level were to provide greater autonomy from the center, greater access to public officials, and empowerment of marginalized groups such as women and the poor. Since its implementation, local governments in 101 districts have been voted into office, each headed by an elected official known as a nazim, or mayor.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:32 PM


OK, I'M A GORE FLACK (Martin Peretz , 06.28.06, New Republic)

I confess: I did buy five copies of Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth. But that doesn't explain why the book is on nearly every one of the important best-seller lists in the country. This coming Sunday, it's number one on The New York Times paperback best-seller list. Last week, it was already number one on the best-seller lists of The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, and Denver Post. Book Sense, the weekly report of the Independent Book Sellers Association, also has it in the top place.

Do I think this should worry Hillary Clinton? Yes. Not because she hasn't written a book that was on the best-seller list. She may have even written two: It Takes a Village and Living History. But let's face facts. In contrast to Gore's writing his own three books, she didn't really write any of hers herself. And, frankly, they are not serious books anyway, although It Takes a Village is a warm and fuzzy volume purporting to be about children's policy.

The New Republic will apparently never figure out that the reason Al Gore isn't president today is because he's the kind of guy who might write his own books.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:39 PM


Fatah official: Hamas brought violence (Associated Press and JPost.com Staff, June 29, 2006)

A senior Fatah member said on Thursday that although Israel should be condemned for its incursion into the Gaza Strip and the arrest of senior Hamas officials, it was Hamas who brought these actions upon the Palestinian people.

He blamed Hamas' uncompromising, extremist approach - especially that of Hamas leader in Damascus Khaled Mashaal - for turning the whole world against the Palestinians.

The official, an associate of Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, told Israel Radio said that Mashaal interfered with any attempt at moderation or mitigation of the economic embargo on the Palestinians. [...]

Mashaal's aides have denied he had a direct role in the capture, but Israel has accused him of masterminding the kidnapping. Late Wednesday, it sent warplanes to buzz the summer home of Assad, who it accuses of protecting Mashaal.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:24 PM


Why Iran is taking its time (Sanam Vakil, 6/30/06, Speaking Freely: Asia Times Online)

Clearly, the regime is struggling to assess its options in the wake of the Bush administration's continued pressure over Tehran's two ticking clocks - one nuclear, the other democratic. The nuclear clock epresents international pressures; the democratic clock, internal pressure.

These ticking clocks are important to consider as Iran ponders the nuclear offer, and the administration of US President George W Bush continues to pressure the regime and stimulate the Iranian people with words about democracy and freedom. At the same time, Iran has been subject to a burst of domestic hostility toward the regime from students, ethnic minorities and religious leaders. Undoubtedly, this increase in internal activity has made the regime feel the ticking of its democratic clock. While Washington hopes to stimulate this movement, Tehran aims to re-create a situation that balances its nuclear clock while stalling its democratic one. Understanding the dynamics behind these two clocks is necessary to deconstructing the Iranian decision-making process.

For many months it appeared that Tehran had managed to capture the upper hand in the nuclear balancing act through its divide-and-conquer confrontational strategy with the international community. The breakthrough counter-announcement by the Bush administration tactically tilted the scales of power in favor of Washington and gave Tehran's leaders reason to pause. Now, it is the Islamic Republic that has experienced a reversal of fortune and must carefully weigh its delicate international pressures against its domestic ones.

The ultimate goal for the Islamic Republic is regime preservation. To this end, the mullahs have pursued a two-pronged process: they've tried to keep the nuclear clock running while stalling the democracy clock. This approach worked for the regime throughout the nuclear negotiations until Washington pulled out its trump card. Tehran can no longer use the nuclear issue to buffer against the threat of growing domestic unrest.

Iran is that rare case where the President could achieve more by making love than war.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:13 PM


Rabbi and Former Nun Settle Down in Miami (REBECCA SPENCE, June 30, 2006, The Forward)

To the two protagonists, it is the heartwarming story of how a small-town Conservative rabbi and a flamenco dancer-turned-Russian Orthodox nun fell in love and wound up living together in a condo in Miami. The rabbi's heartbroken wife and his irate former congregants, however, see a sordid tale of betrayal and abandonment.

Whichever description one chooses, the latest twist is the same: Rabbi Ephraim Rubinger, 62, recently resigned his membership in the Conservative movement's Rabbinical Assembly as the organization launched an ethics investigation into his conduct. Rubinger is casting his resignation as an act of defiance and principle, saying that he quit the R.A. rather than submit himself to the judgment of a "kangaroo court."

The resignation could prove to be the final chapter in a scandal that rocked the Jewish community in the sleepy town of Columbia, S.C. — population 116,000 — where Rubinger served as the religious leader of Beth Shalom Synagogue from August 2005 until being forced out three months ago.

Last summer, Rubinger moved to Columbia with his wife, Diana, and his 13-year-old son from a previous marriage. Just an hour's drive to the south lived a nun by the name of Leslie Villaverde who had spent the past six years at the Saints Mary and Martha Orthodox Monastery in Wagner, S.C.

At the time, Villaverde was in the throes of what she now describes as a "crisis of faith," and she had furtively begun to explore Judaism.

Nothing wrong with Jews and Christians getting together, nor even with a nun deciding she wants to get her freak on instead of being a bride of Christ, but breaking up a marriage is evil.

Posted by Bryan Francoeur at 1:05 PM


The Real Roots Of Mideast Terrorism (Rutland Herald)

One of the definitions of terrorism in my dictionary states, "a mode of governing or of opposing government by intimidation" and a terrorist is "one who favors or practices terrorism."

So to fight terrorism in the Middle East, our folks in Washington want us to install democracies in much of this region. I am very much opposed to the U.S. telling any country what kind of government they should have. If they live in a monarchy or under a dictator, so be it. That is their business, not ours.

Yes, I would agree that family members and/or friends of the king or the dictator will live rather nicely. Perhaps much better than the average citizen in that country. But I don’t have to look very hard before I see that those in power in this country, namely our senators in Washington, have voted themselves a much better retirement program than they give the average worker in this country. Are they on Social Security? No way, but then that is the way governments work, any and all governments.

So what does the kind of government a nation has in the Middle East have to do with terrorism? Nothing really! So many in the Arab world despise us not because we are a democracy while they may live under a dictator or a king. They despise us for one reason and one reason only—the way we are treating some of the Arabs in the Middle East, namely the Palestinians.

For more than 50 years, the U.S. has given Israel billions of dollars in economic and military aid. And what has Israel done with these billions? Israel has built settlements in occupied land, which the entire world (except Israel and the U.S.) has said is not right. Additionally, they have built a military force that far exceeds any and all of its neighbors, including the atom bomb. What we have given the Palestinians is peanuts compared to the aid to Israel.

And now our latest gimmick. The folks in Washington persuaded the Palestinians to become democratic and have a free election and elect a government of their choice. So they had this free election and elected a government by the name of Hamas. How could this happen in a democracy? Ask the folks in Washington. So Washington’s respose to this election was to cut off all aid to the Palestinians, as small as it might be, compared to Israel’s.

And who suffers the most—the mostly innocent folks, the poor, the children, the sick, the elderly, etc. If you were a parent struggling to feed your family in occupied land, how would you feel?

Our Middle East foreign policy is simply creating more volunteers to become suicide bombers. Are these folks terrorists? Yes, they are. But how about when Israel sends a plane, provided by us, to bomb an apartment building, housing a suspected terrorist, and kills innocent men, women and children. Isn’t this also an act of terrorism? I certainly think so. But the folks in Washington don’t think it is.

Terrorism was once described as waging a war on innocents to break their political leaders. It would appear to me that this is exactly what the folks in Washington allow Israel to do, but when the Palestinians respond with a suicide bomber, that is a terrible thing. And Washington wonders why so many in the world hate us.

Bob Long


This was one of the letters to the editor a couple of weeks ago in our local weekly fishwrap, The Randolph Herald. I read it in the paper edition, but had to wait for it to come to the free online section before posting it.

I like the way the author draws a moral equivalence between Saddam filling mass graves and Congress voting themselves a pay raise.

And of course, it's all the fault of the JOOOZ! How dare they try to defend themselves! What monsters!

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:09 PM


Economy zips ahead at a 5.6 percent pace (JEANNINE AVERSA, AP )

The economy sprang out of a year-end rut and zipped ahead in the opening quarter of this year at a 5.6 percent pace, the fastest in 2 1/2 years and even stronger than previously thought.

The super-rich got tax cuts and what did you and I get...besides an economy that's growing like kudzu....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:21 AM


'American Eats' Offers the True American (Pizza) Pie (VIRGINIA HEFFERNAN, 6/29/06, NY Times)

American pie is no longer apple, if it ever was. Or so goes the argument of the History Channel tonight, when stateside pizza is the focus of the channel's buoyant, intelligent and cuisine-ecumenical series "American Eats."

The migration of pizza westward — from southern Italy to New York, Chicago, Los Angeles — is the story of mutation, innovation, perversion. And in spite of the documentary's wonderfully nonjudgmental narration, viewers will find it hard not to take sides.

Midwestern deep-dish types tend to see coastal pies as too wan or too fancy. Californians like their Spago-era artworks all fusioned and deluxe; I imagine they silently believe that other kinds of pizza are only for fat people. New Yorkers, who are fundamentally right on this subject, know they have the real thing.

Or almost. One thing this documentary does well is show how importation is always transformation: even when Gennaro Lombardi, the founding father of American pizza, opened his shop on Spring Street in SoHo a century ago, he was tampering with tradition.

Authentic junk never tastes as good as the American version and when it comes to pizza the only one that matters is New York style.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:13 AM


Italian football trial adjourned (BBC, 6/29/06)

The trial of four leading Italian football clubs on match-fixing charges has been opened and adjourned.

Champions Juventus, plus AC Milan, Fiorentina and Lazio could be relegated from Serie A and forced out of European competition if found guilty.

A six-strong panel of judges convened at the Olympic Stadium to try the clubs, plus 26 senior officials, referees and linesmen.

Murray stung by English backlash (EBEN HARRELL AND ALAN PATTULLO, 6/29/06, The Scotsman)

ANDY Murray's online blog has been flooded with comments from English fans who say they will no longer cheer the Scot at Wimbledon because he refuses to support England in the World Cup.

Murray's blog has received comments from more than 550 fans, all but a handful of whom criticise him for having said he would support Paraguay in England's opening match.

The comments were posted on Tuesday, the evening of Murray's first-round victory at the All-England Club, in which he wore the colours of the saltire and a wristband in the shape of the St Andrew cross.

'Disabled' fans ejected for dancing (Ananova)
Three Argentinian football fans were thrown out of their team's World Cup clash with Holland for pretending to be disabled.

The fans bought wheelchairs and then bought special cheap tickets reserved for disabled fans to get into the match.

But their ruse was discovered when one of the trio got carried away by the game and started jumping up and down.

One of the three, who gave his name as only Gustavo, told Folha de SP: "Our friend couldn't stop jumping and a person near us thought there was a miracle happening."

No, it's a miracle when a goal is scored.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:08 AM


Supreme Court Rejects Guantanamo War Crimes Trials: In 5-3 Decision, Justices Rebuke Bush's Anti-Terror Policy (William Branigin, June 29, 2006, Washington Post)

The case raised core constitutional principles of separation of powers as well as fundamental issues of individual rights. Specifically, the questions concerned:

# The power of Congress and the executive to strip the federal courts and the Supreme Court of jurisdiction.

This is just a dispute between the branches and there's no reason the Executive should cede power to the Judiciary that the Constitution doesn't grant them, like determing the proper handling of prisoners in time of war

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:59 AM


Kuwaitis vote in landmark polls (BBC, 6/29/06)

Kuwaitis are voting in parliamentary elections which, for the first time, allow women to cast ballots and stand as candidates.

It's more fun to unilaterally change hostile regimes, but healthier when allies democratize on their own.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:25 AM


Mariners making move in AL West: Seattle crosses .500; just two games out of first (DAVID ANDRIESEN, June 29, 2006, Seattle P-I)

The postgame music in the visitors' clubhouse at Chase Field told the story, the hip-hop beat blaring the anthem: "Hey, it's a new day."

Is it ever. The Mariners are over .500, within two games of the American League West lead and enjoying every minute of it.

"We're playing happy," second baseman Jose Lopez said after a 10-3 victory Wednesday over the Diamondbacks.

The big things for the M's are that Jeremy Reed appears to finally be getting his act together, Gil Meche looks healthy again, and it's easy to see Jarrod Washburn, Joel Pineiro and Felix Hernandez having big second halves. At some point they'll likely need to flip-flop Soriano and Putz, but that's a nice problem to have.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:18 AM


Slumming the Golden Arches (Rolf Potts, Jun 5, 2006, Traveling Light)

This month marks the beginning of student-travel season in Europe, which means that — at any given moment — continental McDonald's restaurants will be filled with scores of American undergraduates. Quiz these young travelers, and they'll give you a wide range of reasons for seeking out McDonald's — the clean restrooms, the air conditioning, the fact that it's the only place open during festivals or siesta. A few oddballs will even claim they are there for the food.

European onlookers will tell you (with a slight sneer) that these peripatetic Yanks are simply seeking the dull, familiar comforts American culture. And this explanation might be devastatingly conclusive were it not for the fact that European McDonald's also happen to be crammed this time of year with travelers from Japan, Brazil, Israel, New Zealand, Argentina, Korea, Canada, India, Taiwan, Australia, Mexico, South Africa, and — yes — neighboring European countries.

Indeed, despite its vaunted reputation as a juggernaut of American culture, McDonald's has come to function as an ecumenical refuge for travelers of all stripes. This is not because McDonald's creates an American sense of place and culture, but because it creates a smoothly standardized absence of place and culture — a neutral environment that allows travelers to take a psychic time-out from the din of their real surroundings. This phenomenon is roundly international: I've witnessed Japanese taking this psychic breather in the McDonald's of Santiago de Chile; Chileans seeking refuge in the McDonald's of Venice; and Italians lolling blissfully in the McDonald's of Tokyo.

Thus the Timezone Rule.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:16 AM


NBC, YouTube Strike Deal on Channel (Andrew Salomon, June 28, 2006, Backstage)

NBC announced on Tuesday it is partnering with YouTube.com to create a channel on the site for rebroadcasts of the network's shows as well as original programming, another sign that websites for user-generated content have entered the world of mainstream media. [...]

Like a screwball romantic comedy from the 1940s, what started out as a rancorous feud over trivial matters ended up being a marriage of sorts: six months ago, NBC threatened legal action against YouTube when one its users uploaded a Saturday Night Live skit, "Lazy Sunday."

Julie Suppan, the senior director of marketing at YouTube, told OMMA magazine a few months ago that her company tried to head off the confrontation by forming a partnership with the network. YouTube didn't hear back from its officials until February, when they issued a legal warning.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:09 AM


Somber Pedro reflects on ‘beautiful’ friend (Michael Silverman and Dave Wedge, June 29, 2006, Boston Herald)

Pedro Martinez held yesterday’s Herald in his hands, gazing longingly and smiling softly at a picture on Page 1 of a smiling woman wearing a silver satin dress and pearl necklace.

“She was so beautiful,” he said, sitting in the New York Mets clubhouse before last night’s game against the Red Sox at Fenway. “Look at her.”

She was Linda Bilton, the Delta flight attendant whose battle with bladder cancer was waged with Martinez playing confidante and friend.

On long cross-country flights spent with Martinez when he was still a Red Sox, Bilton, when her work was done, would go to the back of the plane and sit with Martinez.

The two spoke of “deep, personal” things, said Martinez, “things I could never repeat with anybody” but their bond grew deep.

Martinez had lost contact with Bilton since he went to the Mets but the last he had heard, Bilton had been winning her fight.

He was shocked to hear Tuesday night that the mother of four died Aug. 9 at age 54.

“Linda thought very much of him,” said Bilton’s mother, Joan McCormack. “He calmed her down a lot of times. It was a friendship - just him being a nice guy. She was just thrilled to have somebody besides her family that she knew cared.”

Of course, said McCormack, her gratitude to Martinez aside,“I have to root for the Red Sox. I’ve been rooting for them for 78 years. I’m not going to stop now.”

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:06 AM


Japan's leader, Bush going to Graceland (David Jackson and Richard Benedetto, 6/28/06, USA TODAY

President Bush is taking Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi to the Elvis Presley shrine at Graceland on Friday, although first the two leaders have serious matters to discuss.

By Adrian Wyld, Canadian Press, via AP

That's American. Now let's see if the President can get Mr. Koizumi to have one of these bad boys for lunch.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:01 AM


Insurgents offer cease-fire deal (STEVEN R. HURST AND QASSIM ABDUL-ZAHRA, June 29, 2006, AP)

Eleven Sunni insurgent groups have offered an immediate halt to all attacks -- including those on American troops -- if the United States agrees to withdraw foreign forces from Iraq in two years, insurgent and government officials told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

Withdrawal is the centerpiece of a set of demands from the groups, which operate north of Baghdad in the heavily Sunni Arab provinces of Salahuddin and Diyala. Although much of the fighting has been to the west, those provinces are increasingly violent and attacks there have crippled oil and commerce routes.

The groups who've made contact have largely shunned attacks on Iraqi civilians, focusing instead on the U.S.-led coalition forces. Their offer coincides with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's decision to reach out to the Sunni insurgency with a reconciliation plan that includes an amnesty for fighters.

At a minimum it's helpful to make them free-fire zones.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:50 AM


Obama warns Dems: Heed religion (DENNIS CONRAD, 6/29/06, Chicago Sun-Times)

Sen. Barack Obama on Wednesday warned fellow Democrats they must take religion seriously, delivering a highly personal speech that noted his own religious awakening and how his father died an atheist and his mother a skeptic about organized worship. [...]

''We first need to understand that Americans are a religious people; 90 percent of us believe in God ... substantially more people believe in angels than do those who believe in evolution.''

''My father . . . was born Muslim but as an adult became an atheist. My mother . . . grew up with a healthy skepticism of organized religion herself. As a consequence, so did I.''

''In time, I came to realize that something was missing ... that without a vessel for my beliefs, that without a commitment to a particular community of faith, at some level I would always remain apart, and alone.''

Of course, Senator Obama ran against gay marriage because his faith compelled him to oppose it then voted against the Amendment and has a 100% pro-abortion voting record.

June 28, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:26 PM


Human rights ruling leaves anti-terror law in tatters (Joshua Rozenberg and George Jones, 29/06/2006, Daily Telegraph)

The Government's anti-terrorism laws suffered a major setback yesterday when a High Court judge quashed control orders on six suspected Iraqi terrorists who had been under house arrest for 18 hours a day.

Mr Justice Sullivan ruled that restrictions imposed on the men's liberty by the Home Office were so severe that they breached article 5 of the European convention on human rights, which prohibits detention without trial.

The ruling left the Government's control order regime in tatters and threatened a fresh confrontation between ministers and the judiciary over the interpretation of the convention.

Thus are contradictions forced.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:36 PM


Pretty much a textbook illustration of how improved the Red Sox are in 2006--a dominating pitching performance from their number three starter, Josh Beckett (10-3; 5-0 at Fenway), with a couple meaningless homeruns mixed in; a homer from the red-hot Alex Gonzalez (who may have passed Hanley Ramirez in ops tonight); and they tie the AL mark for most consecutive errorless games (one behind the major league record).

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:31 PM


Wise hurt by salad tongs (John Sahly, 06/28/2006, MLB.com)

Baseball has seen its share of freak injuries. Now, Matt Wise can add his name to the list.

Wise joined a long list of weird injuries in baseball by cutting the middle finger on his pitching hand with a pair of salad tongs on Sunday in Kansas City.

Good thing he wasn't at a Benihana.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:53 PM


Home Fly-By Sends Message to Syrian Leader (JOSEF FEDERMAN, 6/28/06, Associated Press)

Israeli warplanes buzzed the summer residence of Syrian President Bashar Assad early Wednesday, military officials said, in a message aimed at pressuring the Syrian leader to win the release of a captured Israeli soldier.

The officials said on condition of anonymity that the fighter jets flew over Assad's palace in a low-altitude overnight raid near the Mediterranean port city of Latakia in northwestern Syria. Israeli television reports said four planes were involved, and Assad was home at the time.

The flight caused "noise" on the ground, the military officials said on condition of anonymity, according to military guidelines.

The officials said Assad was targeted because of the "direct link" between Syria and Hamas, the Palestinian militant group holding Cpl. Gilad Shalit, 19, in the Gaza Strip. Syria hosts Khaled Meshaal, Hamas' exiled supreme leader.

There's more to be gained by taking out Assad and the Hamas militants he shelters than by mucking about inside Palestine.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:37 PM


Five-term Incumbent Cannon Wins Republican Primary (AP, 6/28/06)

U.S. Rep. Chris Cannon says his solid victory in Utah's Republican primary is good news for President Bush and those seeking a consensus on immigration policy this year.

The five-term incumbent turned back challenger John Jacob 56 percent to 44 percent, or 32,306 votes to 25,589 votes, with all precincts reporting but an unknown number of absentee ballots to be counted.

Cannon said his win Tuesday indicates House Republicans need not fear compromise on immigration reform.

This was the race that the far Right swore was going to demonstrate the salience of their issue. Instead they show themselves to be the conservative version of the Daily Kos folks.

The Renewal of the West (Jerry Bowyer, 28 Jun 2006, Tech Central Station)

If 200 years from now America will be filled with people who know and love the ideas of Jefferson and Madison -- but these people are overwhelmingly dark skinned -- will this be good or bad?

That's the question I asked Pat Buchanan when I debated with him about the content of his book, The Death of the West. He said it would be 'a disaster and a tragedy'. What do you say?

Your answer is a pretty good indicator of whether you're a we-hold-these-truths-to-be-self-evident conservative or a blood-and-soil conservative. [...]

Clearly, there is a rage of anti-immigrant feeling in large swaths of my political party (Republican) at the moment. I don't think, however, that it's racism that drives it. It's nostalgia. Large numbers of conservatives seem to think that they have a constitutional right to have their country look the same in their old age as it did in their childhoods. The problem of course, is that the country of their childhoods, didn't look the same as the country of their parent's childhoods.

Nah, it's racism.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:42 PM


House vote lifts India nuclear deal hopes (Caroline Daniel and Demetri Sevastopulo, June 28 2006, Financial Times)

The Bush administration scored a key victory in securing congressional support for its historic agreement to allow civil nuclear co-operation with India when the House foreign relations committee voted 37 to five on Tuesday to allow it to proceed with legislation. [...]

Administration officials had been concerned that Congress would impose new amendments, such as forcing New Delhi to impose a moratorium on fissile material production, that had threatened to derail the whole deal.

However, that amendment was overwhelmingly defeated.

Although the initial bill expanded from the two-page version submitted by the Bush administration to 30 pages, one aide closely involved in talks, said: "In the operative language of the legislation there were no new conditions added. That's the big story.

"The vote exceeded my expectations."

The emerging American/Indian alliance is the most important geopolitical story in the world today, but is this even in your paper?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:37 PM


‘Big Brother’ eyes make us act more honestly
(Debora MacKenzie, 6/28/06, New Scientist)

We all know the scene: the departmental coffee room, with the price list for tea and coffee on the wall and the “honesty box” where you pay for your drinks – or not, because no one is watching.

In a finding that will have office managers everywhere scurrying for the photocopier, researchers have discovered that merely a picture of watching eyes nearly trebled the amount of money put in the box.

Melissa Bateson and colleagues at Newcastle University, UK, put up new price lists each week in their psychology department coffee room. Prices were unchanged, but each week there was a photocopied picture at the top of the list, measuring 15 by 3 centimetres, of either flowers or the eyes of real faces. The faces varied but the eyes always looked directly at the observer.

In weeks with eyes on the list, staff paid 2.76 times as much for their drinks as in weeks with flowers. “Frankly we were staggered by the size of the effect,” Gilbert Roberts, one of the researchers, told New Scientist.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:33 PM


The Prodigal Sun: Back from space, superhero asks us to shine our better selves—not such a bad moral for summer movies, either (Brian Miller, 6/28/06, Seattle Weekly)

Just when you've been Hulk-ed and Catwoman-ed and Fantastic Four–ed into never wanting to see another comic-book movie, Superman Returns is a pleasant, welcome surprise, eliciting the same warm feelings the people of Metropolis have for their homecoming hero. "Where have you been for these last five years?" they ask. The world has gone to hell during Superman's absence; crime and catastrophe dominate the news. (Never mind Darfur or 9/11; the Daily Planet headlines are reassuringly unreal.) And we ask—"Where have you been all summer?" It's not that we've been pining for a new man in tights, or a new and vastly expensive studio franchise, as Superman is destined to start. All the knocks against the original old DC Comics hero—he's too square, too good, too simple—turn out to be a virtue.

Careful, those are all the things the same folks dislike about middle America.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:37 AM


Court Nixes Part of Texas Political Map (GINA HOLLAND, June 28, 2006, The Associated Press)

The Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld most of the Texas congressional map engineered by former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay but threw out part, saying some of the new boundaries failed to protect minority voting rights. [...]

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, writing for the majority, said Hispanics do not have a chance to elect a candidate of their choosing under the plan. [...]

On a different issue, the court ruled that state legislators may draw new maps as often as they like _ not just once a decade as Texas Democrats claimed. That means Democratic and Republican state lawmakers can push through new maps anytime there is a power shift at a state capital.

The Constitution says states must adjust their congressional district lines every 10 years to account for population shifts. In Texas the boundaries were redrawn twice after the 2000 census, first by a court, then by state lawmakers in a second round promoted by DeLay after Republicans took control.

That was acceptable, justices said.

Texas ought to just ignore the Court which has no legitimate role in districting.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:33 AM


Senate warms to 'border first' (Amy Fagan, June 28, 2006, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

Key backers of the Senate immigration bill said yesterday they are willing to consider a compromise that would delay the guest-worker program and "amnesty" portions until the borders have been secured.

The proposal was floated by Senate Judiciary Chairman Arlen Specter in an interview Monday with editors and reporters at The Washington Times.

"I think it's worth discussing," said Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican. "Many of us have said we could work on border enforcement and, at the same time, work on other aspects that would take more time."

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, said a delay will occur anyway because it will take a few years to set up the guest-worker program and the structure to process millions of illegal aliens onto a pathway to citizenship.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:29 AM


New Rules Force States to Curb Welfare Rolls (ROBERT PEAR, 6/28/06, NY Times)

The Bush administration plans to issue sweeping new rules on Wednesday that will require states to move much larger numbers of poor people from welfare to work.

The rules, drafted in response to a budget signed into law by President Bush in February, represent the biggest changes in welfare policy since 1996, when Congress abolished the federal guarantee of cash assistance for the nation's poorest children.

Since then, the number of welfare recipients has plunged more than 60 percent, to 4.4 million people, from 12.2 million. Most of the decline occurred in the first years, before the 2001 recession. Federal and state officials say they expect the new rules to speed the decline in welfare rolls, which has slowed in recent years.

The rules are far more than a bureaucratic application of the new law, passed after four years of partisan deadlock. For the first time, they set a uniform definition for permissible work activities and require states to verify and document the number of hours worked by welfare recipients.

Nationally, in 2004, the last year for which official figures are available, about 32 percent of adults on welfare were working. Under the new rules, 50 percent of adult welfare recipients must be engaged in work or training in the fiscal year that starts Oct. 1, or states will face financial penalties.

Friend Perlstein needs to stop reading National Review and look at the reality of how completely conservatism is dominating the culture.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:20 AM


U.S. Details Dangers of Secondhand Smoking (Marc Kaufman, June 28, 2006, Washington Post)

Secondhand smoke dramatically increases the risk of heart disease and lung cancer in nonsmokers and can be controlled only by making indoor spaces smoke-free, according to a comprehensive report issued yesterday by U.S. Surgeon General Richard H. Carmona.

"The health effects of secondhand smoke exposure are more pervasive than we previously thought," Carmona said. "The scientific evidence is now indisputable: Secondhand smoke is not a mere annoyance. It is a serious health hazard that can lead to disease and premature death in children and nonsmoking adults."

According to the report, the government's most detailed statement ever on secondhand smoke, exposure to smoke at home or work increases the nonsmokers' risk of developing heart disease by 25 to 30 percent and lung cancer by 20 to 30 percent. It is especially dangerous for children living with smokers and is known to cause sudden infant death syndrome, respiratory problems, ear infections and asthma attacks in infants and children.

Always strange to hear otherwise sensible conservatives defend this literal evil.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:10 AM


Bush Calls on Senate to Pass Line-Item Veto (Peter Baker, June 28, 2006, Washington Post)

President Bush pushed the Senate yesterday to give him and his successors the power to strip special projects out of spending bills, part of a broader political effort to assuage disaffected supporters that he really is a fiscal conservative despite the growth of government on his watch.

The president summoned key senators to the White House and later gave a speech promoting a line-item veto to fight earmarks, or spending requests that members of Congress slip into larger bills without going through the normal budget process. The House has passed one version of the proposal and another is waiting for a vote on the Senate floor.

Bush said he needs the power to have more influence over lawmakers as they spend taxpayer money. "I want to be a part of the budgetary process," he said in an address sponsored by the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research. "It's an important part of the president's working with Congress and I'm not going to deal myself out of the budgetary process."

If Congress were serious about curtailing spending it would just restore Gramm-Rudman.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:08 AM


Chávez's Image Becomes Tool for Attack in Mexican Presidential Race (Manuel Roig-Franzia, 6/28/06, Washington Post)

Hugo Chávez is not running for president of Mexico. But some days it's been hard to tell.

The Venezuelan president's face has been all over Mexican television at critical stages in this country's bitter mudfest of a presidential race.

For a while, the party of candidate Felipe Calderón filled its ads with shots of Chávez paired with less-than-flattering images of Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the left-leaning Mexican presidential candidate. Later, a political activist group put Chávez back on the tube, surrounded by machine guns and soldiers, and accompanied by a dire voice-over: "In Mexico, you don't have to die to define your future -- you only have to vote!"

The strategy of López Obrador's opponents has been clear. By linking the candidate to Chávez, they have tried to frighten voters into believing López Obrador will be a carbon copy of the Venezuelan president, who has been accused of crushing dissent and crippling democratic institutions.

Mexican political experts generally agree the tactic has been effective.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:02 AM


U.S. Military Expects to Meet Training Goal for Iraqi Security Forces (Josh White, 6/28/06, Washington Post)

U.S. military commanders expect to meet their goal of training and equipping more than 325,000 members of the new Iraqi security forces by the end of this year, an important step in developing Iraq's self-defense, Lt. Gen. Martin Dempsey, who leads the training effort, said yesterday.

Iraqis capture al-Qaida member wanted in shrine bombing (BASSEM MROUE, June 28, 2006, ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Iraqi forces captured a key al-Qaida suspect wanted in the bombing of a Shiite shrine, but the mastermind of the attack that brought the country to the brink of civil war was still at large, a top security official said Wednesday.

Yousri Fakher Mohammed Ali, a Tunisian also known as Abu Qudama, was captured after being seriously wounded in a clash with security forces north of Baghdad a few days ago in which 15 other foreign fighters were killed, National Security Adviser Mouwafak al-Rubaie said.

He also identified the fugitive ringleader in the operation as an Iraqi named Haitham Sabah Shaker Mohammed al-Badri, the head of a gang that included two other Iraqis, four Saudis and Abu Qudama. He said the gang planted bombs in the 1,200-year-old Askariya mosque that exploded on Feb. 22 and obliterated its glistening golden dome, an addition completed in 1905.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:59 AM


One Riot Breaks Ground in China (Edward Cody, 6/28/06, Washington Post)

For 24 hours, thousands of rampaging farmers here unleashed their rage over confiscated farmland this month -- holding local officials hostage and, clubs and bottles of acid in hand, forcing a band of private security guards to spend the night cowering behind locked doors.

The riot in many ways resembled other uprisings in rural China in recent years. But this one ended with a twist: The villagers won significant concessions.

Outcry greets new Chinese bid to muzzle media (GEOFFREY YORK, 6/28/06, Globe and Mail)
A new attempt to clamp down on China's media has provoked an outcry from Chinese journalists and parliament members, sparking a controversy that could kill the proposal. [...]

[I]n an unexpected mutiny, the Chinese media responded angrily to the proposed law this week. "These restrictive regulations will not only cause an absurdity in emergency situations, but it will show that some people have insufficient knowledge about the functions of the news media," said a commentary in Southern Metropolitan Daily, a prominent Chinese newspaper.

"The media's watchdog role is accepted by the public as common sense," the newspaper said. "Using the law to affirm governmental control over the administration of news outlets is an utterly dangerous endeavour."

The website of the People's Daily, the state-run newspaper, published criticism of the draft law by several Chinese media outlets. "There is a lot of evidence that some local governments have delayed their reports on disasters, or even lied or intentionally concealed the facts for their own benefit, in recent years," one newspaper said. "These actions are increasing. Without monitoring by the media, will those officials become even bolder?"

A popular website, Red Net, said the law would violate press freedom and the public's right to know. "It would make the public doubt the government's ability to deal with emergencies," it said. "The media have an obligation to report on emergencies. From the public viewpoint, the media should not be fined but should be praised."

In chat rooms on the Chinese Internet this week, the reaction to the proposed law was equally unhappy. "If this is approved, why would we still need the media?" a commentator asked on one website. "It's a tragedy for China," another said. "Are they afraid of the people's voice?"

Even the state-owned news agency, Xinhua, acknowledged that the draft law was under attack from some parliamentarians and might be revised.

When the Tsar won't fire into the crowds anymore he's toast.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:23 AM


Baseball guru Gammons stricken (Jeff Horrigan, June 28, 2006, Boston Herald)

Telephone calls and e-mails from the highest ranks of the baseball and music worlds flooded the press box at Fenway Park last night as word filtered out that Peter Gammons had been stricken by an aneurysm earlier in the day.

Friends and family members were cautiously optimistic about Gammons’ chances of recovery late last night following approximately five hours of surgery at a Boston-area hospital.

The revered ESPN baseball analyst, who primarily resides in Brookline, was overcome by the aneurysm while near his Cape Cod home. He was initially taken to Falmouth Hospital before being airlifted to Boston for surgery. No immediate word on his condition has been released but it is believed that surgery was able to take place before the artery in the brain could rupture, which typically bodes well for the degree of recovery. He is expected to be held in the intensive-care unit for at least the next week.

...but isn't just about your first thought how much he would have enjoyed the game? Pray he recovers fully and quickly.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:07 AM


N.L.'s best can't match Sox: Jon Lester gets through five innings and Boston notches its 10th straight victory by clubbing the Mets. (SHALISE MANZA YOUNG, 6/28/06, Providence Journal)

With the last outstanding Red Sox homegrown left-hander, Bruce Hurst, here to celebrate the 1986 American League pennant-winning team, Boston's potential lefty of the future took to the mound last night for his fourth major-league start.

Jon Lester got himself in and out of trouble better than a four-year-old against the New York Mets last night, giving up two runs over five innings as Boston notched its 10th straight win -- all against National League East opponents -- by a 9-4 count.

Coupled with the Yankees' loss to Atlanta, Boston is a season-high 3 1/2 games up in the A.L. East.

The Mets, owners of the second-best road record in the majors and the best record in the N.L., were supposed to pose a formidable threat to the Sox. But though both teams started rookie pitchers, one of the young guns was able to keep it together on the mound while the other struggled. [...]

Varitek was impressed with Lester's composure.

"We stayed out of a big inning against a very good lineup; Lester did a good job," said Varitek. "We hoped he would go further, but he didn't. But anytime you get out of jams, it gives you confidence; if you don't panic and don't let innings [get out of hand], it gives your teammates a chance to win."

"It's amazing," Francona said. "In two innings, he threw 76 pitches and gave up one run. Against one of the best young hitters in the game (Wright), he throws a 3-2 breaking ball. Any pitcher, let alone one with only three major-league starts, would try to be fastball-dominant, and he didn't do that." [...]

The Boston hitters got to New York starter Alay Soler early. He threw 42 pitches in the first inning alone, when the Sox got things going with a two-run single by Varitek to score Kevin Youkilis and Manny Ramirez. Boston cobbled together a run in the second, but effectively put the game out of reach with five total runs in the fourth and fifth. Ramirez had a towering shot drop just in front of the wall to score two runs in the fourth, while in the next inning Mike Lowell had a solo home run and Alex Gonzalez clubbed a two-run homer over the Green Monster.

The curve Lester snapped off against Wright was just filthy, the defense and homreuns from Lowell and Gonzalez more predictable.

Fortunately, the Mets are run pretty badly. They'd be a much better team today with Jorge Julio in the bullpen and Aaron Heilman starting than they are with Soler & El Duque starting, they've never addressed their obvious 2B problem, and Lastings Milledge is too immature to be promoted to the majors. That said, they're certainly the best team in the NL, comparable to the Mariners or As.

Sox -- Too hot to handle: Winning streak hits 10 (Jeff Horrigan, June 28, 2006, Boston Herald)

The 10-game winning streak, which is the 22nd double-digit streak in franchise history, is the longest since a 10-game run from Aug. 24-Sept. 3, 2004.

“I think our pitchers have been setting the tone, but our defense has been great and we’re swinging the bats really good,” said Mike Lowell, who surpassed his 2005 homer total with his ninth of the year off Soler in the fifth inning. “That’s a great recipe for winning games, no matter who you’re playing.”

June 27, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:44 PM


Amendment on Flag Burning Fails by One Vote in Senate (CARL HULSE and JOHN HOLUSHA, 6/27/06, NY Times)

The Senate today fell one vote short of approving a constitutional amendment that would have enabled Congress to ban desecration of the American flag.

The vote was 66 to 34. To pass, the measure needed 67 votes. [...]

[O]pponents, mainly Democrats....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:31 PM


Germany to spark 'climate crisis' (Roger Harrabin, 6/27/06, BBC)

The German government is about to trigger a new crisis in Europe's flagship climate policy, the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS).

BBC News understands the German cabinet is likely to agree a deal that will reduce carbon emissions from industry by only 0.6% between 2004 and 2012.

The decision is likely to influence other EU countries, including the UK, which still have to set their own caps.

Environmental groups describe the target as "pathetic and shameful".

"These figures are unbelievably unambitious," said Regina Gunther from WWF Germany. "It is shameful that our environment minister has agreed to this."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:11 PM


Blair ready to quit in the spring (Toby Helm, George Jones and Rachel Sylvester, 28/06/2006, Daily Telegraph)

Tony Blair is ready to announce that he will step down next year, probably around his 10th anniversary in Downing Street in May.

Senior Blairite MPs said that high-level discussions were going on to prepare for a transition to an expected Gordon Brown premiership.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:05 PM


Is there a snapping turtle at the bottom of that lake? (Robert Klose, 6/28/06, CS Monitor)

Snappers usually lie quietly in mud at the bottom of streams, lakes, and rivers, keeping to themselves - although on hot, bright days sometimes they will slowly crawl out of the water and onto rocks to bask in the sun. If disturbed, they will raise themselves up on their long legs and scoot back into the water, returning to the muck below.

Snappers have a fearsome reputation. If irritated, they can lash out with their powerful jaws. In fact, they "snap" so aggressively that their entire bodies lurch forward. And although they move slowly on land, in the water they can rise up from the mud with tremendous bursts of speed as they go after fish, frogs, or even ducklings.

But getting the duckling to stay on your hook is the hard part.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:01 PM


Backstory: The senators' minister (Mary Beth McCauley, 6/28/06, The Christian Science Monitor)

Barry Black can do high church. He can do jive. He can do Aristotle, John Stuart Mill, and Oprah. Psychologist, theologian, professor, comedian, the 62nd Chaplain of the United States Senate seems such an ingeniously 21st-century incarnation of a centuries-old role, you wonder if he's been heaven-sent.

Chaplain Black is charged with bringing a bit of the holy to the secular basilica on Capitol Hill. He pastors the 7,000-strong Senate side - the legislators themselves, their staffers, employees, and families. He leads five Bible studies each week, along with a senators' prayer breakfast. He marries, buries, counsels, visits the sick and, of course, prays. He and his three-person staff also field senators' inquiries on religion, morality, and ethics.

Nothing better reveals the boilerplate nature of the 1st Amendment than the fact that the first act of the first session of Congress was to hire chaplains.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:59 PM


Eisenhower's 'autobahn' at 50 (The Monitor's View, 6/28/06)

On June 29, 1956, President Eisenhower signed a bill to build the Interstate Highway System - a dream of his since he crossed the US in 1919 and, later, after he saw Hitler's autobahn. [...]

As the world's largest public-works project, the Interstate fully transformed Americans into a car-centric, oil-guzzling, and pollution-spewing people.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:55 PM


Tolls and taxes keep India from the fast lane (Scott Baldauf, 6/28/06, The Christian Science Monitor)

On paper, India is an economic power, with vast natural resources and a massive population of talented workers. In reality, India remains a collection of 28 separate states and seven union territories, each with its own rules and regulations, its own tax code, and in many cases, its own separate language and cultural customs. To solve this problem, India may need a free-trade agreement with itself. [...]

In many respects, the European Union is a more coherent polity. "India is more complex, larger, and more diverse than all of the European nations put together," says Rajiv Kumar, director of the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations in New Delhi.

They have a wonderful opportunity to cut to the chase by devolving government power to the various regions while simplifying the trade rules.

Posted by Matt Murphy at 10:51 PM


A fickle flip of fate favors OSU (Tom Shatel, 7/27/06, Omaha World-Herald)

Beaver Believer? Nah.

To paraphrase Jack Buck, not Dallas Buck, it's hard to believe what I just saw.

Oregon State loses its first game at the College World Series, 11-1 to Miami, and wins the national championship? No way.

The Beavers trot out Jonah Nickerson, the rubber band man himself, and he goes 100 pitches, on three days rest? And Nickerson throws 323 pitches in three starts in one week? And holds North Carolina to two runs, neither earned? Forget about it.

North Carolina attempts to steal home and the play fails because the batter ends the inning with a strikeout? You must be joking.

Oregon State's starter on Saturday night, Dallas Buck, comes in with two on and no outs in the eighth and the score tied 2-2 and gets out of the jam, including striking out the last two batters? You must be kidding.

The Beavers score the winning run in the bottom of the eighth when Bryan Steed, the backup second baseman, takes a routine grounder and throws the ball wide of first base, where Tim Federowicz - the all-CWS catcher - can't make the catch? Unbelievable.

And Kevin Gunderson, the little warrior, comes back from throwing 51/3 innings of relief the night before to record the final two outs? OK, maybe we believe that one.

And, finally, Oregon State wins its first national championship in a major sport at the CWS?

It was our pleasure to witness it.

I was there for most of it and it was quite a game, although people are possibly overemphasizing Steed's error and underemphasizing the opportunity that was missed when Benji Johnson of UNC swung at a pitch outside the strike zone while his teammate was rushing towards home plate for a likely run. That was the third out of the inning and I think much of the crowd instinctively sensed that it simply wasn't North Carolina's night.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:36 PM


Israeli threat unites Hamas, Fatah: with Israeli troops on Gaza border, militant Hamas sided with Fatah on two-state plan (Joshua Mitnick, 6/28/06, The Christian Science Monitor)

Under mounting international pressure to free a kidnapped Israeli soldier, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh closed ranks Tuesday by concluding a power-sharing agreement aimed at ending months of violent Hamas-Fatah fighting and laying down principles for talks with Israel. [...]

The Abbas-Haniyeh agreement is based on a document drafted by a coalition of jailed Palestinian militant leaders that calls for Hamas's integration into the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO). Because the PLO is the signatory to peace accords with Israel, the bargain is seen as a major departure for Hamas, which has opposed peace negotiations and the idea of Israeli and Palestinian states coexisting alongside one another. The document also calls for a unity government with Fatah, another concession by the Islamic militants who would be admitting they are unable to govern without the help of their bitter adversaries.

No matter how tortuous the path, the Palestinian/Israeli road map only has one destination.

Hamas U-turn on Israel's right to exist (Tim Butcher, 28/06/2006, Daily Telegraph)

With Israel threatening to re-invade Gaza, Hamas, the militant Palestinian movement, made a historic policy reversal yesterday when it signed up to an agreement implicitly recognising the right of the Jewish state to exist.

Victory for Abbas as Hamas gives in on peace talks (Chris McGreal, June 28, 2006, the Guardian)
The Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, won his biggest political gamble yesterday when Hamas bowed to an ultimatum to accept the pursuit of a negotiated permanent peace with Israel or face a referendum on the issue.

If it had gone to a ballot and he had lost, Mr Abbas would have been out of power. But his closest aides said he had little to lose given his isolation by Israel and Hamas's insistence that it spoke for the people after its landslide election victory in January. Meanwhile, the Palestinian economy was rapidly collapsing under international sanctions in response to the Islamist government's refusal to recognise Israel.

Yesterday the gamble paid off as Hamas cut its losses and decided not to face the people.
Such is the discipline of democracy.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 7:16 PM


Truth should be more important than unity (Rt. Rev. Michael Nazir-Ali, The Telegraph, June 26th, 2006)

In many ways, the United States is a study in contrasts. It is full of clashing colours and jangling messages. Socially and politically, it is very divided. The "neocons" have clear views on everything from Iraq to abortion, and the "progressives" have the opposite - but also equally clear - opinions on such matters. We would expect, then, to find these divisions reflected in broadly-based organisations such as the Churches and we would not be wrong. All of the so-called "mainline" Churches have this fault-line running through them.

Why, then, should I have been shocked on entering the Greater Columbus Convention Centre in Ohio, where the General Convention of the Episcopal Church (the Anglican Church in the USA) was being held? Should I not have expected tension, difference and debate? There was, first of all, culture shock. It felt to me like a trendy exhibition put together by some ultra-politically-correct organisation, with all the favourite causes of the fashionable prominent. There was, however, a more profound reason for feeling uncomfortable: it became plain quite quickly that this was not a conflict merely of styles, attitudes or even opinions but of two quite different views of religion.

One tendency that was informing the culture of the convention, in a major way, was to do with the diffuse religiosity of the present-day West. Such religiosity, in my view, has much in common with New Age ideas, vague as these often are, such as nature mysticism, or a sense of oneness with the world around, and pantheism, the belief that everything is divine: God is identified with Mother Nature and also with our own souls. Jesus then becomes just a special example of a god-self. Such a world-view is likely to be optimistic, inclusive and non-judgmental. It regards the world and the people in it as more or less as God intended them to be. Such people should be accepted as they are and, if they wish to be, fully included in the life of the Church without further question.

My natural friends in ECUSA, however, are those who want to hold on to the historic, Biblical and catholic faith as it has been received through the ages and in every part of the world. Such a view sees the value of God's creation and regards human beings as made in God's image but it also takes seriously what is wrong with the world and ourselves. We need to be saved from the consequences of our own thoughts and deeds as well as from the "wrongness" of the world. People need not just acceptance and inclusion but conversion and transformation. The work of the Spirit is not formless, vague and without direction, as some "progressives" would have us believe. It is, rather, that of witnessing to Christ, making plain the words and works of Jesus to us and glorifying both Christ and the Father who sent him. The Spirit is continually forming us so that we attain to the fullness of life in Christ.

Such a view of the Christian faith and of the Church that holds it need not be backward-looking. It should be able to engage with the moral and spiritual issues of the day. It can, for instance, uphold fundamental human dignity in the debate about beginning and end of life issues. Because we are in God's image, from the earliest to the last moments, there is an inalienable dignity that cannot be taken away. The abortion debate, for example, is showing us that change as a result of increasing knowledge need not always be in the permissive direction. A properly Christian view of marriage is desperately needed for the sake of family stability and the bringing up of children. Single parents can be heroic in what they do but it is generally recognised that a two-parent family is best for children. The prophetic books in the Bible and the ministry of Jesus himself enable Christians to give sacrificially to charity, to be involved in caring for the poor, needy and ill and to struggle for justice, compassion and peace.[...]

As Christians, it is our duty to pray for the unity of all those who call themselves followers of Jesus but unity does not come at any price and it as well to be prepared for the worst.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 6:48 PM


Silence modern music in church, says Pope (Malcolm Moore, The Telegraph, June 26th, 2006)

The Pope has demanded an end to electric guitars and modern music in church and a return to traditional choirs.

The Catholic Church has been experimenting with new ways of holding Mass to try to attract more people. The recital of Mass set to guitars has grown in popularity in Italy; in Spain it has been set to flamenco music; and in the United States the Electric Prunes produced a "psychedelic" album called Mass in F Minor.

However, the use of guitars and tambourines has irritated the Pope, who loves classical music. "It is possible to modernise holy music," the Pope said, at a concert conducted by Domenico Bartolucci the director of music at the Sistine Chapel. "But it should not happen outside the traditional path of Gregorian chants or sacred polyphonic choral music."

And, much to the fury of lapsed Catholics, he wants us all in by 11:00 pm at the latest.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:54 PM


Has string theory tied up better ideas in physics? (SHARON BEGLEY, 2006-06-23, The Wall Street Journal)

In his book, "Not Even Wrong," published in the U.K. this month and due in the U.S. in September, [mathematician Peter Woit of Columbia University] calls [string] theory "a disaster for physics."

A year or two ago, that would have been a fringe opinion, motivated by sour grapes over not sitting at physics' equivalent of the cool kids' table. But now, after two decades in which string theory has been the doyenne of best-seller lists and the dominant paradigm in particle physics, Mr. Woit has company.

"When it comes to extending our knowledge of the laws of nature, we have made no real headway" in 30 years, writes physicist Lee Smolin of the Perimeter Institute in Waterloo, Canada, in his book, "The Trouble with Physics," also due in September. "It's called hitting the wall."

He blames string theory for this "crisis in particle physics," the branch of physics that tries to explain the most fundamental forces and building blocks of the world. [...]

In fact, "theory" is a misnomer, since unlike general relativity theory or quantum theory, string theory is not a concise set of solvable equations describing the behavior of the physical world. It's more of an idea or a framework.

Partly as a result, string theory "makes no new predictions that are testable by current _ or even currently conceivable _ experiments," writes Prof. Smolin. "The few clean predictions it does make have already been made by other" theories.

Worse, the equations of string theory have myriad solutions, an extreme version of how the algebraic equation X2 4 has two solutions (2 and -2). The solutions arise from the fact that there are so many ways to "compactify" its extra dimensions _ to roll them up so you get the three spatial dimensions of the real world. With more than 10 raised to 500th power (1 followed by 500 zeros) ways to compactify, there are that many possible universes.

"There is no good insight into which is more likely," concedes physicist Michael Peskin of the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center.

If string theory made a prediction that didn't accord with physical reality, stringsters could say it's correct in one of these other universes. As a result, writes Prof. Smolin, "string theory cannot be disproved." By the usual standards, that would rule it out as science.

String theory isn't any more wrong than preons, twistor theory, dynamical triangulations, or other physics fads. But in those cases, physicists saw the writing on the wall and moved on. Not so in string theory.

In fairness to the poor string theorists, you can see why they'd figure physicists ought to be able to get away with the same sort of substitution of ideology for science that the Darwinists have in biology.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:54 PM


Americans Rank No. 1 in Patriotism Survey (MEGAN REICHGOTT, 6/27/06, Associated Press)

When it comes to national pride, Americans are No. 1, according to a survey of 34 countries' patriotism. Venezuela came in a close second in the survey, released Tuesday by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago.

People rated how proud they were of their countries in 10 areas: political influence, social security, the way their democracy works, economic success, science and technology, sports, arts and literature, military, history, and fair treatment of all groups in society.

In the U.S., "the two things we rank high on are what we think of as the political or power dimension," said Tom W. Smith, a researcher at the university. "Given that we're the one world superpower, it's not that surprising."

Patriotism is mostly a New World concept, the researchers said. Former colonies and newer nations were more likely to rank high on the list, while Western European, East Asian and former socialist countries usually ranked near the middle or bottom.

They're nationalist, not patriotic.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:43 PM


Overthrow, Over and Over (Laura S. Washington, June 27, 2006, In These Times)

The old saw goes, "the trend is your friend." Let's try that one again.

Stephen Kinzer's new book, Overthrow: America's Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq (Times Books) puts the kibosh on that notion. Kinzer, a former New York Times foreign correspondent, deconstructs America's disturbingly counterproductive foreign policy through competing critiques of the country's imperialism and its incompetence. His chronicle of America's role in interventions into 14 sovereign nations posits failure and avarice as our lasting progeny. It is a history lesson we can't afford to forget.

Surfers, slackers, grass skirts and sunsets -- that's what Hawaii is all about, right? Think again. Think regime change. The 1893 overthrow of Hawaii's monarch, Queen Liluokalani, launched 110 years of American-led regime changes around the globe. Hawaii's monarch was overthrown by a group of haole (the Hawaiian term for white Americans). These wealthy sugar planters teamed up with John L. Stevens, the American ambassador to Hawaii.

The "convenient" presence of the American gunboat Boston and 200 marines in Honolulu Harbor allowed the haole to lay Queen Liluokalani low. Minister Stevens, in classic American diplomatese, offered a "request" to Boston Captain Gilbert Wiltse: "In view of the existing critical circumstances in Honolulu, indicating an inadequate legal force, I request you to land marines and sailors from the ship under your command for the protection of the United States legation and the United States Consulate and to secure the safety of American life and property."

Hawaii was the first domino to fall. There have been 13 more, and we're still counting: Cuba, Nicaragua, Puerto Rico, the Philippines, Guatemala, Honduras, Vietnam, Chile, Iran, Grenada, Panama, Afghanistan and Iraq. The circumstances are familiar, the parallels eerie.

What kind of monsters are we, that we want to turn Saddam's gulag into a vacation paradise?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:35 PM


Suckers for Meritocracy: As the Roberts Court is demonstrating, what really matters in the Supreme Court is the justices’ politics -- not their legal credentials. (Harold Meyerson, 06.26.06, American Prospect)

[T]he Supreme Court has gone from a court with three hard-right justices, two center-right justices, and four center-left justices to a court with four hard-right justices, four center-left justices and one center-right justice – the 69-year-old Anthony Kennedy – who all by his lonesome holds the current balance of power.

The public-policy consequences of the court’s transformation are already apparent. In mid-June, the court abandoned its longstanding “knock and announce” rule that required police both to have warrants and to announce their presence before entering somebody’s home, ruling 5-to-4 that police were no longer required to state their intention to enter. Alito’s predecessor, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, had taken the position that homeowners' rights trumped the police’s desire to enter unannounced, but the new court – that is, the four hard-right justices plus Kennedy – ruled otherwise.

In another decision earlier this month, the four right-wingers endorsed an Antonin Scalia opinion that would have eliminated the jurisdiction of the Clear Water Act over tens of millions of acres of wetlands, chiefly in western states. The four center-left justices affirmed that jurisdiction, and Kennedy sought to split the difference with an opinion requiring the Army Corps of Engineers to decide what was and wasn’t a wetland on a case-by-case basis. Kennedy’s confusing ruling is the one that counts, but if he is succeeded by a jurist in the Roberts-Alito mode, today’s wetlands may become tomorrow’s Wal-Marts.

A slew of crucial decisions will come down before the court adjourns at the end of the month, but the handwriting is on the wall. The new justices are moving the court rightward, yet a significant share of liberal and centrist political and opinion leaders either supported their confirmation or limited their opposition to them because Roberts and Alito were – in a narrow, professional sense – clearly competent and even excellent at the judge’s trade.

Mr. Meyerson is obviously wrong. What matters is neither a nominee's politics nor his credentials. All that matters is the nominator's politics.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:27 PM


Iraq: A Shocking Waste of Money (Matthew Yglesias, June 27, 2006, The American Prospect)

The shocking truth, according to Bilmes and Stiglitz, is that if one applies the Congressional Budget Office's basic assumptions about the duration of the conflict ("a small but continuous presence"), it will cost nearly a staggering $1.27 trillion dollars before all is said and done.

Which raises the single most important geopolitical question of the 21st century: which other murderous dictatorship, besides Saddam's, does the Left think isn't worth getting rid of when we can do them at a cost of just one twelfth of one year's GDP--North Korea, Burma, Syria, Cuba, Zimbabwe....? How little are basic human rights worth to the supposed heirs of Wilson, FDR, Truman, JFK, and Clinton?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:24 PM


Marlins deserve shot at upgrades: Will Loria help young club as it makes run at improbable wild card? (Mike Berardino, June 27, 2006, South Florida Sun-Sentinel)

Now that South Florida is slowly emerging from its White Hot haze, now that the last piece of confetti has been swept up along Biscayne Boulevard, we interrupt your basking for a bulletin.

The Marlins are pretty good. No, really. They are.

What Joe Girardi's boys have done over the past five weeks has been nothing short of remarkable.

They have taken a Green Day season -- Wake Me Up When September Ends -- and turned it into an old-school U2 summer (Wide Awake and Not Sleeping.)

There's no other way to describe this stretch that has seen the Marlins win 22 of 31 games -- including Monday's 8-5 comeback against Tampa Bay -- and claw their way back from an 11-31 start to the fringe of the National League wild-card race. [...]

Despite using 20 rookies, these Marlins have pulled within 6½ games of the wild card. By comparison, the 2003 Marlins were 4½ games from the wild card when they made the epic July trade for Ugie Urbina.

I'm not saying they are one deal away from winning their third World Series. But it is intriguing to consider what they might be able to accomplish with a few choice additions to an impressive young core. [...]

There's also the Marlins' farm system, which is rolling out top arms the way Honda does hybrids. Yankee-killer Anibal Sanchez is the latest, and more are on the way.

But first, the Marlins should step up their search for an upgrade in center field, where their production ranks 13th in the league and they recently passed on Joey Gathright after an earlier flirtation. [...]

[O]nce the Cubs decide to pack it in, the Marlins should consider taking Pierre off their hands. They won't have to give back Ricky Nolasco, and they might even get the Cubs to pay the bulk of the remaining money.

The Astros may be souring on Willy Tavares. Luis Matos is buried on the Orioles bench. And if Choo Freeman keeps improving in Colorado, maybe the Rockies would talk about speedy Cory Sullivan.

The price has to be right, of course. No vital pieces should be sacrificed to feed what might be a short-term monster.

But after the way this season started, it sure is fun to consider.

A rotation that starts out Dontrelle Willis, Josh Johnson, Scott Olsen, Ricky Nolasco is as good as any in the NL, whether Anibal Sanchez is ready to be the #5 or not. What the Marlins have driven home this year though is just how much effort it takes for the Pirates and Royals to stay so wretched. Rebuilding just isn't that hard.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:27 PM


Mass Martyr: WHAT IS CONSERVATIVE CULTURE? (Rick Perlstein, 06.27.06, New Republic)

Ask a conservative activist to explain what anchors and unites their fractious movement, and he will point to ideas: to weighty tomes by Eric Voegelin, Russell Kirk, Wilhelm Roepke, Edmund Burke; to the development of the philosophy of "fusionism," by which the furrow-browed theorists at National Review cogitated their way past the conflicts between the traditionalist, libertarian, and anti-communist strains of the American right. They will make it sound almost as if the 87 percent of Mississippians who voted for Barry Goldwater did so after a stretch of all-nighters in the library.

They will not mention an illustration popular among college conservatives in the 1960s: a peace symbol-shaped B-52 bomber with the words drop it on the wings. Nor will they discuss the annual "McCarthy-Evjue" lecture that student conservatives in Wisconsin (among them, present-day right-wing luminaries David Keene of the American Conservative Union and Alfred Regnery, formerly of Regnery Publishing) put on to honor their favorite Wisconsin senator and to mock William Evjue, the editor of the Madison newspaper William F. Buckley labeled "Prairie Pravda." (They advertised the lecture on pink paper.) They will not mention the Southern Californians who flocked to church basements, high school auditoriums, and VFW halls to hear hellfire-and-brimstone lecturers like World War I flying ace Eddie Rickenbacker, author of The Socialistic Sixteenth--A National Cancer, or the Reverend Billy James Hargis ("Is the Schoolhouse the Proper Place To Teach Raw Sex?").

And they certainly will not mention the John Birch Society meetings in suburban parlors nationwide, in which chapters no bigger than two dozen members--a cell structure ostensibly to prevent Red infiltration but that, as it happened, was also the ideal size for a cocktail party--plotted how to forestall the Communist takeover of the PTAs by taking them over first. "I just don't have time for anything," a Dallas housewife told Time in 1961. "I'm fighting Communism three nights a week."

They will not mention, in short, the extraordinary role the development of a self-contained and self-conscious conservative culture played in transforming the politics of the United States. One way to define "culture" is not as a set of ideas or a static social code, but rather as the performances people enact in their everyday lives that outline the boundaries between those who belong and those who don't. "Culture" is the set of practices that reminds each individual within the group that they are normal and correct, that their beliefs are natural and true.

Conservative culture was shaped in another era, one in which conservatives felt marginal and beleaguered. It enunciated a heady sense of defiance. In a world in which patriotic Americans were hemmed in on every side by an all-encroaching liberal hegemony, raw sex in the classrooms, and totalitarian enemies of the United States beating down our very borders, finally conservatives could get together and (as track twelve of the Goldwaters' Folk Songs to Bug the Liberals avowed) "Row Our Own Boat."

But now conservatism has grown into a vast and diverse chunk of the electorate. Its culture has become so dominant that one can live entirely within it. Shortly after the Republicans took over Congress in 1994, a Washington activist could, if he so chose, attend nothing but conservative parties, panels, and barbecues; a recent Pew Research Center study suggested that partisan divisions are increasing at the community level. And yet, far inside these enclaves, conservatives still rely on the cultural tropes of that earlier period: At one living room "Party for the President" in 2004, a woman told me, "We're losing our rights as Christians. ... and being persecuted again." The culture of conservatives still insists that it is being hemmed in on every side. In Tom DeLay's valedictory address, as classic an expression of high conservative culture as ever was uttered, he attributed to liberalism "a voracious appetite for growth. In any place or any time on any issue, what does liberalism ever seek, Mr. Speaker? More. ... If conservatives don't stand up to liberalism, no one will."

How to explain these strange continuities? And what does it say about the politics of our own time? Kirk offers no answers, because what holds the movement together isn't its intellectual history but its cultural one. [...]

I often exchange e-mails with two favorite conservative activists. I started out with a plan: One of them posts frequently on FreeRepublic; another writes on his blog of FreeRepublic's "shrieking lunacy." I've tried to get them to fight each another. It never works. They've got me, a liberal, to bug. That is how conservative culture works so well: the joy of feeling as one in their beleaguered conservatism.

No matter how often I chastise him, Friend Perlstein continues to believe that the true pulse of conservatism can be found in the drool-immersed comments section at Free Republic, just because the core of the modern Left is accurately depicted at foil-wrapped places like Democratic Underground and Daily Kos. But, as he accurately points out in this essay, conservatism has triumphed quite thoroughly and restored its natural dominance of American culture (after all, that's why there's something wrong with Kansas). The proper place to look for conservative culture is, therefore, American culture in general.

The National Review lists he makes fun of richly deserve it, but the folks at NR or The Weekly Standard are really just variants within the rather marginal intellectual class, as they made accidentally clear in their hilarious answers to a few questions from The New Republic that put them at odds with the overwhelming majority of Americans, especially conservatives. It's not that conservatism is embattled in the country at large but that this crowd is a minority within their peer group. Meanwhile, those lists are inevitably superfluous when all of the great rock songs, novels, movies and all comedy are conservative.

Of course, Friend Perlstein reveals why he gets this all so wrong when he says that Russell Kirk is no help in defining what unites the conservative movement. In reality, Mr. Kirk provided a coherent set of themes that you'll notice not only bind conservatives of various stripe, but which define America's deeply Judeo-Christian and Anglicized culture. It's pointless to search for a discrete Conservative culture because American culture is itself conservative. The more interesting task would be to try and find any important American cultural artifact--novel, movie, etc.--that deviates from Kirk's conservative themes to any significant degree. There are either none or so close to none as to be dispositive.

'Superman Returns' to Save Mankind From Its Sins (MANOHLA DARGIS, 6/27/06, NY Times)

There's always been a hint of Jesus (and Moses) to the character, from the omnipotence of his father to a costume that, with its swaths of red and blue, evokes the colors worn by the Virgin Mary in numerous Renaissance paintings. It's a hint that proves impossible not to take.

Intentionally or not, the Jesus angle also helps deflect speculation about just how straight this Superman flies. Given how securely Lois remains out of the romantic picture in "Superman Returns," now saddled with both a kid and a fiancé (James Marsden), it's no surprise that some have speculated that Superman is gay. The speculation speaks more to our social panic than anything in the film, which, much like the overwhelming majority of American action movies produced since the 1980's, mostly involves what academics call homosocial relations. In other words, when it comes to Hollywood, boys will be boys and play with their toys, whether they're sleeping with one another or not, leaving women to weep, worry and wait to be rescued.

Every era gets the superhero it deserves, or at least the one filmmakers think we want. For Mr. Singer that means a Superman who fights his foes in a scene that visually echoes the garden betrayal in "The Passion of the Christ" and even hangs in the air much as Jesus did on the cross. It's hard to see what the point is beyond the usual grandiosity that comes whenever B-movie material is pumped up with ambition and money.

Psssst...the point is that's why Superman is an American cultural icon. Duh?

Posted by David Cohen at 10:44 AM


Letter to the Editors of The New York Times (John W. Snow, 6/26/06)

Mr. Bill Keller, Managing Editor
The New York Times
229 West 43rd Street
New York, NY 10036

Dear Mr. Keller:

The New York Times' decision to disclose the Terrorist Finance Tracking Program, a robust and classified effort to map terrorist networks through the use of financial data, was irresponsible and harmful to the security of Americans and freedom-loving people worldwide. In choosing to expose this program, despite repeated pleas from high-level officials on both sides of the aisle, including myself, the Times undermined a highly successful counter-terrorism program and alerted terrorists to the methods and sources used to track their money trails.

Your charge that our efforts to convince The New York Times not to publish were "half-hearted" is incorrect and offensive. Nothing could be further from the truth. Over the past two months, Treasury has engaged in a vigorous dialogue with the Times - from the reporters writing the story to the D.C. Bureau Chief and all the way up to you. It should also be noted that the co-chairmen of the bipartisan 9-11 Commission, Governor Tom Kean and Congressman Lee Hamilton, met in person or placed calls to the very highest levels of the Times urging the paper not to publish the story. Members of Congress, senior U.S. Government officials and well-respected legal authorities from both sides of the aisle also asked the paper not to publish or supported the legality and validity of the program.

Indeed, I invited you to my office for the explicit purpose of talking you out of publishing this story. And there was nothing "half-hearted" about that effort. I told you about the true value of the program in defeating terrorism and sought to impress upon you the harm that would occur from its disclosure. I stressed that the program is grounded on solid legal footing, had many built-in safeguards, and has been extremely valuable in the war against terror. Additionally, Treasury Under Secretary Stuart Levey met with the reporters and your senior editors to answer countless questions, laying out the legal framework and diligently outlining the multiple safeguards and protections that are in place.

You have defended your decision to compromise this program by asserting that "terror financiers know" our methods for tracking their funds and have already moved to other methods to send money. The fact that your editors believe themselves to be qualified to assess how terrorists are moving money betrays a breathtaking arrogance and a deep misunderstanding of this program and how it works. While terrorists are relying more heavily than before on cumbersome methods to move money, such as cash couriers, we have continued to see them using the formal financial system, which has made this particular program incredibly valuable.

Lastly, justifying this disclosure by citing the "public interest" in knowing information about this program means the paper has given itself free license to expose any covert activity that it happens to learn of - even those that are legally grounded, responsibly administered, independently overseen, and highly effective. Indeed, you have done so here.

What you've seemed to overlook is that it is also a matter of public interest that we use all means available - lawfully and responsibly - to help protect the American people from the deadly threats of terrorists. I am deeply disappointed in the New York Times.



John W. Snow, Secretary
U.S. Department of the Treasury

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:38 AM


Prospects Tabbed (Barry Svrluga, 6/27/06, Washington Post)

Nationals scouting director Dana Brown and player personnel director Bob Boone have both seen New York Yankees Class AA affiliate Trenton over the past two weeks, an indication of the Nationals' hope that the Yankees might eventually be willing to deal hard-throwing right-hander Philip Hughes as the July 31 trade deadline approaches. Hughes, the youngest player in the Class AA Eastern League at 20, is 4-3 with a 3.18 ERA with 64 strikeouts in 62 1/3 innings, and some Nationals executives believe he's no worse than a No. 3 starter in the majors, "and he could be a [No.] 1," one executive said.

And, gosh, won't Joe Torre get along great with Jose Guillen?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:18 AM

Does Julia Roberts really have a single out called Men & Mascara?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:15 AM


German Turks' divided loyalties (Sam Wilson, 6/27/06, BBC News)

Turks make up the largest ethnic minority in Germany, but there are none in Germany's World Cup squad. [...]

The future looks no different.

One of Germany's most exciting young players hails from Borussia Dortmund. Nuri Sahin became the youngest player ever to feature in the German Bundesliga in August last year, at 16 years old.

But despite approaches from the German side, he has opted to play international football for Turkey.

He made his Turkey debut in October - against Germany - in a friendly. He came on as a substitute with four minutes left - and took only three to score the winning goal.

"I was actually born in Germany but feel more Turkish," said Sahin, explaining his career decision.

"I learnt my football in Germany but as a Turk, I have never thought of playing for Germany... Scoring a goal in my first game was nice but it is even better to score against Germany."

Posted by David Cohen at 10:01 AM


Womb environment 'makes men gay': A man's sexual orientation may be determined by conditions in the womb, according to a study (BBC News, 6/27/06)

Previous research had revealed the more older brothers a boy has, the more likely he is to be gay, but the reason for this phenomenon was unknown.

But a Canadian study has shown that the effect is most likely down to biological rather than social factors....

He found the link between the number of older brothers and homosexuality only existed when the siblings shared the same mother....

He suggests the effect is probably the result of a "maternal memory" in the womb for male births.

A woman's body may see a male foetus as "foreign", he says, prompting an immune reaction which may grow progressively stronger with each male child.

The antibodies created may affect the developing male brain.

So it is all the mother's fault.

What is the "just so" evolutionary justification for making younger sons more likely to be gay? Because second in importance to the instinct for reproduction is the instinct for fabulous fashion?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:00 AM


Mojito frenzy hits U.S. mainstream: It's gone from the drink of old Cuba to the hip and trendy. But now mojitos have reached the mainstream. (ELAINE WALKER, 6/27/06, MiamiHerald.com)

While the mojito has a long way to go before catching up with the top-ranked margarita, DeGroff and other experts believe it's neck and neck with the cosmopolitan.

Don't have time to ''muddle'' the fresh mint leaves, lime juice and sugar for the traditional mojito mixing preparation? Williams-Sonoma and Crate & Barrel offer a mojito mix in a bottle. By next month, frozen Bacardi mojito concentrate will be everywhere from Publix to Wal-Mart.

''Not a lot of consumers are going to make the effort and take the time to make an authentic mojito,'' said Paul Nardone, chief executive of Stirrings, a Massachusetts company that makes the mojito mix for Williams-Sonoma, Delta and its own label. ``It's a very intimidating drink. We solve the problem for a lot of people.''

The mojito mix has quickly become a top seller for Stirrings, and it's not the only one enjoying a spike in sales. Mojito mints are the best selling flavor for Oral Fixation, a mint company whose product is featured at high-end hotels like the Delano. Mint growers like Bill Varney of Fredericksburg Herb Farm in Texas have seen sales double over the past year.

But the one reaping the biggest benefit of the fascination with all things mojito is Bacardi, which has seen rum sales increase about 5 percent each of the past several years, driven in part by mojitos.

For the giant liquor company, whose Cuban roots are intertwined with the drink, that growth hasn't been by chance. Bacardi U.S.A. marketing executives in Miami have been working since the late 1990s on taking the mojito mainstream.

Posted by David Cohen at 8:12 AM


Bush Ignores Laws He Inks, Vexing Congress (Laurie Kellman, AP, 6/27/06)

A bill becomes the rule of the land when Congress passes it and the president signs it into law, right?

Not necessarily, according to the White House. A law is not binding when a president issues a separate statement saying he reserves the right to revise, interpret or disregard it on national security and constitutional grounds.

That's the argument a Bush administration official is expected to make Tuesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired by Arlen Specter, R-Pa., who has demanded a hearing on a practice he considers an example of the administration's abuse of power....

But Specter and his allies maintain that Bush is doing an end-run around the veto process. In his presidency's sixth year, Bush has yet to issue a single veto that could be overridden with a two-thirds majority in each house.

Instead, he has issued hundreds of signing statements invoking his right to interpret or ignore laws on everything from whistleblower protections to how Congress oversees the Patriot Act.

From Federalist 51:
TO WHAT expedient, then, shall we finally resort, for maintaining in practice the necessary partition of power among the several departments, as laid down in the Constitution? The only answer that can be given is, that as all these exterior provisions are found to be inadequate, the defect must be supplied, by so contriving the interior structure of the government as that its several constituent parts may, by their mutual relations, be the means of keeping each other in their proper places. Without presuming to undertake a full development of this important idea, I will hazard a few general observations, which may perhaps place it in a clearer light, and enable us to form a more correct judgment of the principles and structure of the government planned by the convention....

It is equally evident, that the members of each department should be as little dependent as possible on those of the others, for the emoluments annexed to their offices. Were the executive magistrate, or the judges, not independent of the legislature in this particular, their independence in every other would be merely nominal. But the great security against a gradual concentration of the several powers in the same department, consists in giving to those who administer each department the necessary constitutional means and personal motives to resist encroachments of the others. The provision for defense must in this, as in all other cases, be made commensurate to the danger of attack. Ambition must be made to counteract ambition. The interest of the man must be connected with the constitutional rights of the place. It may be a reflection on human nature, that such devices should be necessary to control the abuses of government. But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.

The grant of power to the President in the Constitution is broad. "The executive Power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America." (Article. II, Section. 1). Nonetheless, as the federal government is designed, Congress is meant to be the driving force of the government. Congress sets taxes and controls spending. The Senate has the right to reject judges, high administration officials and treaties. The President has very little express power, on the other hand, to interfere with the workings of the legislature. The veto is his only express tool and it is relatively weak.

And yet, from George Washington on, we have had some very strong Presidents and very weak Congresses.

The reasons for this are well-rehearsed. The President is elected by the nation while Congress is parochial. The President has almost plenary powers when it comes to defense and foreign affairs. The President has the power of the bully pulpit; nicely captured by the annual spectacle of the State of the Union speech -- the President in the well of the House, surrounded by all the symbols of the glory of the United States, carrying out a constitutional duty -- being followed by a reactive, petty political response. Less charitably, the Presidency allows for, indeed almost demands that, the people invest their hopes in a strong leader; the proverbial man on a white horse. We saw this most clearly after 9/11 when George W. Bush, a divisive figure coming off a divisive election, gained the approval of 90% of the nation.

We usually celebrate the genius of our constitution by ticking off our freedoms, or our wealth, or noting the noble goals of American exceptionalism. But in reality the genius of the constitutional system is best illustrated by this trite, less-than-noble jockeying for power. The President claims some power. Congress pushes back. The Framers knew that they were not instituting a government of angels. They knew that office-holders always try to accumulate power. They therefore famously set up a system of checks and balances; one of which is that, if the President is gaining power, Congress is losing power. Congress, regardless of faction and party, is as an institution loath to lose power and will do what it can to stem the tide. Here, the signing statements are a sideshow. Both the Congress and the Administration know that those statements have no power to change legislation or the President's constitutional powers. This is just one small skirmish in the war between Congress and the President, each of whom keeps the other in check by desiring to capture as much power as possible.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:10 AM


No more coded critiques - let's have an open debate on where we go next: I want more far-reaching public service reform and an interventionist foreign policy. My Labour critics want a change of direction (Tony Blair, June 27, 2006, The Guardian)

In my view, renewing the Labour party means taking further what we've done, putting more power in the hands of the service user - power based not on wealth but need. I want to see the public sector become truly enabling, not controlling, breaking up monopoly provision, extending choice and voice, eliminating old barriers that restrict the creativity of the frontline. I would go further on the law-and-order policies of the past nine years, where we have been more on the side of the people than either Tories or Lib Dems. I would keep our alliances with the US and the EU both strong and where necessary interventionist. I think we have to be a party of enterprise and business as well as trade unions.

I believe these are the correct positions for progressive politics in the modern era. But if others feel they're not the right policies, and some clearly do, let us debate them openly and candidly. That's my point. The time for coded references and implied critiques is gone. Reading some of the recent Guardian articles by those talking of "renewal", they are clearer about what they oppose - public service reform, big business, "centralisation" - than what might be a viable programme for government. At the heart of this account of "renewal" lies a recognisable narrative - the myth of betrayal. [...]

We have a proud economic record, but the next stage will be about fostering public and private investment in science, skills and infrastructure; energy security and sustainable growth; streamlining planning and stimulating private enterprise to give us a knowledge-based, high-value-added industrial and service base.

We have made real progress on employment, education and poverty. But we need to be more ambitious and radical in addressing the problems of the most socially excluded by using some of the ideas of our public-service reforms - greater diversity of provision, payment by results, individualised budgets.

Our model of public-service reform combines ambitious national standards with diversity of providers and giving citizens new choice or a stronger voice in shaping those services. We need to take this forward and adapt it to new areas, like criminal justice. As public services become self-improving systems driven by citizens themselves, we need to modernise central and local government.

We must balance rights with responsibilities. As well as investing in Sure Start, the New Deal and extended schools, we need to complete a radical reform of the criminal-justice system that focuses on the offender, not simply the offence and the rights of the victim. On welfare reform we need to go further with the principle of new entitlements matched by higher expectations.

Our foreign policy must be interventionist, internationalist, multilateralist - and above all driven by our values. We need to reform international institutions to embody these values and respond to the world's biggest challenges.

Mr. Blair recognizes the need to get back to the Right of David Cameron, but his party has stopped following.

Tony Award (Peter Beinart, 06.26.06, New Republic)

The Iraq war has produced three tragic figures. The first is Kanan Makiya, the courageous Iraqi liberal who went home to post-Saddam Iraq and discovered how illiberal Iraqi society had become. The second is Colin Powell, who went before the United Nations to sell a war in which he never truly believed--and suffered the greatest humiliation of his career as a result. And the third is British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Blair's tragedy is the most global in scope, because he is articulating a coherent, desperately needed vision for the post-cold-war, post-September 11 world. It is a vision deeply rooted in the liberal tradition--and fundamentally different from that of George W. Bush. [...]

"There is a hopeless mismatch," he declared last month at Georgetown University, "between the global challenges we face and the global institutions to confront them. After the Second World War, people realized that there needed to be a new international institutional architecture. In this new era, in the early twenty-first century, we need to renew it."

To build that new architecture, Blair proposed empowering the U.N. secretary-general to respond rapidly to emerging humanitarian crises, before the next Bosnia or Darfur spins out of control. He proposed revamping the Security Council to include India, Germany, and Japan--so it better reflects the power realities of today. He urged fundamental reform of the International Monetary Fund. He proposed an international uranium bank that makes peaceful nuclear power easier and nuclear proliferation harder. And he called for a powerful U.N. environmental organization to coordinate dramatic action on global warming.

Rather, it is folks on the Decent Left who are the tragic figures, unable to accept that in the absence of such massive reforms, to make transnational institutions mere tools of Anglo-American values, Mr. Blair is just as unilateralist as Bill Clinton and George Bush.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:59 AM


You can’t pitch to Papi (John Tomase, June 27, 2006, Boston Herald)

Perhaps it’s not our place to offer the following advice, but apparently, the rest of Major League Baseball isn’t getting the hint, so we’ll just say it:

For the love of all that is holy, pitch to Manny.

We have officially reached the point where facing David Ortiz with the game on the line equals not only waving the white flag but providing a detailed map back to your hideout, where the antiquities have been boxed to expedite the looting process. Total annihilation is guaranteed. [...]

Seriously. Next time they should just balk the winning run around the bases and get it over with.

“I was saying on the bench, if you don’t pitch to David in the 11th because you’re afraid he’s going to beat you, why pitch to him in the 12th?” said Red Sox second baseman Alex Cora, referring to an earlier Ortiz walk. “I guess (Phillies manager) Charlie (Manuel) knows Manny. It’s tough.”

Sure, Manny's the best right-handed hitter in baseball, but David Ortiz would appear to have given Lola what she wants.

Posted by David Cohen at 7:59 AM


Bush: Climate change is 'serious problem' (AFP, 6/27/06)

US President George W. Bush said it was time to move past a debate over whether human activity is a significant factor behind global warming and into a discussion of possible remedies.

"I have said consistently that global warming is a serious problem. There's a debate over whether it's manmade or naturally caused," Bush told reporters.

"We ought to get beyond that debate and start implementing the technologies necessary to enable us to achieve a couple of big objectives: One, be good stewards of the environment; two, become less dependent on foreign sources of oil, for economic reasons as for national security reasons," he said.

Bush cited "clean-coal technology," efforts to develop automobiles powered by hydrogen or ethanol, and his push for the United States to develop significant new nuclear energy capabilities.

"The truth of the matter is, if this country wants to get rid of its greenhouse gases, we've got to have the nuclear power industry be vibrant and viable," he said.

Global warming is the perfect problem for a Bushian compassionate conservatism solution. By throwing lots of money at the problem, lets say .25% of GDP, he'll distract both the left and the right from the fact that the only effective part of the program is a massive nuclear reactor development campaign. That part of the program won't take much money at all, as it requires only some regulatory changes and less public paranoia. I am particularly impressed by the President's use of a trope of the global warming nuts -- we have to "move past" the issue of whether there really is anthropogenic global warming -- to completely ignore rising temperatures as an issue.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:49 AM


Black candidates paint new picture for GOP politics (Jill Lawrence, 6/276/06, USA TODAY)

[Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell, t]he Republican candidate for governor, an imposing 6-foot-4 in this small, packed room, is sharing his experiences as a black person in America. His father was a meatpacker, he says. He grew up in public housing, selling peanuts and helping at a funeral home. He worked in the civil rights movement, and he challenged the lending practices of white bankers in Cincinnati. [...]

When he's done, several Democratic pastors say they might vote for Blackwell for governor this fall over Democratic U.S. Rep. Ted Strickland. Henry McNeil, pastor of Alpha & Omega First Baptist Church, says Blackwell closed the sale. "I didn't come with a made-up mind. It was made while he spoke," says McNeil, who backed Democrat John Kerry for president in 2004.

Voters like these are making Democrats edgy this year. In Ohio, Pennsylvania and Maryland, some African-Americans are rethinking their party loyalties in light of black Republicans running for high office.

The GOP recruits candidates who don't look like the stereotype of a Republican, but whose views are entirely orthodox. Democrats, meanwhile, are running around recruiting candidates who look and sound like Republicans. It's a revealing difference.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:46 AM


Limbaugh detained at Palm Beach airport (The Associated Press, 6/27/2006)

Rush Limbaugh was detained for more than three hours Monday at Palm Beach International Airport after authorities said they found a bottle of Viagra in his possession without a prescription.

Customs officials found a prescription bottle labeled as Viagra in his luggage that didn't have Limbaugh's name on it, but that of two doctors, said Paul Miller, spokesman for the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office.

A doctor had prescribed the drug, but it was "labeled as being issued to the physician rather than Mr. Limbaugh for privacy purposes," Roy Black, Limbaugh's attorney, said in a statement.

If he had a sense of humor he'd have done Viagra ads, like Bob Dole.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:30 AM


Harry, others may die in the end, J.K. Rowling says (Seattle Post-Intelligencer, June 27, 2006)

Author J.K. Rowling said two characters will die in the last installment of her boy wizard series, and hinted Harry Potter may not survive, either. [...]

"The last book is not finished. But I'm well into it now. I wrote the final chapter in something like 1990, so I've known exactly how the series is going to end," she said.

June 26, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:44 PM

Anyone want to take a crack at explaining why you pitch to David Ortiz with a base open and the game on the line?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:52 PM

MALLOW YELLOW (via Glenn Dryfoos):

Marshmallow Fluff Is the Stuff Legislation Is Made Of: How much sugar goo is too much in a school lunch? A Massachusetts state senator raises the sticky issue after his son comes home craving Fluffernutters. (Elizabeth Mehren, June 26, 2006, LA Times)

The Fluff war of 2006 began innocently enough, when 8-year-old Nathaniel Barrios asked one of his daddies to make him a Fluffernutter, his new favorite sandwich from school.

State Sen. Jarrett T. Barrios was indignant. He and his partner run a healthy household. Since when was one of their two sons eating peanut butter and Marshmallow Fluff?

When the Democratic legislator filed a measure to limit the amount of marshmallow spread that Massachusetts schools can serve at lunch, the Fluff flap broke out in full force.

The sugary spread known as Fluff is a native product, born nearly a century ago in the kitchen of Archibald Query in Somerville, a town in Barrios' district.

State Rep. Kathi-Anne Reinstein, also a Democrat, was one of two legislators who instantly retaliated with bills to make the Fluffernutter the official state sandwich.

Don't be such sissies--make a man's meal your state sandwich.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:41 PM


The Way of All Flesh: On Christian sex sites, anything goes, so long as you are married (JoAnn Wypijewski, July/August 2006, Mother Jones)

The Reverends Paul and Lori Byerly of Austin, Texas, established The Marriage Bed to rescue sex from the porn industry and the shame-mongers of their own faith. Although distinguished by its kaleidoscopic approach to people’s desires to express desire just so, theirs is a ministry shared by a vast array of Christian sex counselors, radio talk show hosts, authors, webmasters, itinerant healers, and entrepreneurs across the country. Like so many before, they have remade their God in their own image, to suit their own needs. Himself a voyeur of sorts, present in the bedchamber, seeing whether His creation is good, or not, this sex-friendly God has given an Eleventh Commandment: Christians, have more fun.

The list of “What’s Okay, What’s Not,” as revealed to The Marriage Bed, gives the faithful broad license. They must shun porn, but are commanded to pleasure. They may enjoy oral and anal sex, toys and fantasies, “mild pain” through spanking, biting (so long as nothing becomes a fetish or substitutes for intercourse, and couples fantasize together, of themselves married and forsaking all others). They may study the numerous guides to intimacy and multiple orgasms by the Byerlys and other Christian authors, explore exotic positions, talk dirty, use condoms and other forms of birth control. They may slather their skin with chocolate body butter and Happy Penis Massage Cream, restrain each other with silken bonds, use blindfolds and swings, vibrators and pierced-tongue stimulators, penis extenders and dildos (though not those molded after real flesh). All this may be theirs if they are straight and married.

The Byerlys are both, and as the Reverend Paul writes, “You are married, or you are not. Kind of like you are alive or dead—there really is not much in between.”

They are certainly right that straight monogamous couples can have a varied sex life that's consistent with Judeo-Christian morality, and that others can't, but they run off the rails with the suggestion that intentionally inflicting pain, anal sex and using implements can be reconciled with treating your spouse with human dignity.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:35 PM


Call for Lobbying Changes Is A Fading Cry, Lawmakers Say: Calming of Political Storm Cited as Reason for Attitude Shift (Jeffrey H. Birnbaum and Jim VandeHei, 6/26/06, Washington Post)

Six months later, the legislation has slowed to a crawl. Along the way, proposals such as Hastert's that would sharply limit commonplace behavior on Capitol Hill have been cast aside. Committee chairmen once predicted the bill would be finished in March, but the Senate did not pass its ethics bill until March 29 and the House passed its version May 3. The House has yet to name negotiators to draft the final package.

Legislators and public-interest group advocates say the most likely result this year is a minimalist package that would allow members to say they have responded to the Abramoff situation and other scandals but would do little to crimp their ability to accept lobbyist favors.

The change, these people say, reflects a calculation that the political storm has mostly passed and that the need for more intrusive efforts to alter the congressional culture and the lobbyist-lawmaker relationship is less urgent.

"Initially, I worried that Congress would do this bill too quickly and that it might not be as well-thought-out as it needed to be," said Susan Collins (R-Maine), chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, which had partial jurisdiction over the legislation. "That fear seems ludicrous now."

It was ludicrous then too, though that hasn't stopped Democrats from basing their entire '06 campaign on it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:32 PM


Dogfight that could bring down Airbus (Oliver Morgan, June 25, 2006, The Observer)

When Jacques Chirac, Tony Blair, Gerhard Schroder and Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero came together in Toulouse 18 months ago, they were gathered in praise of one of Europe's most ambitious technological collaborations: the Airbus A380 superjumbo.

Playing host, Chirac pointed to the 555-seat double-decker and waxed philosophical: here was a metaphor for a successful European industrial policy, propelling Airbus past Boeing as the world's leading aircraft maker, embodying European integration.

A year and a half later, things could not have turned out more differently. Far from establishing Airbus's dominance over its US rival Boeing, orders for the A380 have stalled at just over 150.

Against this came a bombshell that could wreck the company and even threaten the French government.

On 13 June, Airbus announced a €2bn (£1.37bn) profits warning. The reason: the A380. The problem: technical difficulties with its electrical systems. The result: Airbus's parent company, EADS, lost a quarter of its value in a day.

But this was not all. Attention focused on EADS co-chief executive, Noel Forgeard, who had made €1.5m for himself by selling EADS shares in March. Did he know something?

It was hardly a secret that the plane is a white elephant.

Posted by David Cohen at 1:49 PM


Bush slams leak of terror finance story (Terence Hunt, AP, 6/26/06)

President Bush on Monday sharply condemned the disclosure of a program to secretly monitor the financial transactions of suspected terrorists. "The disclosure of this program is disgraceful," he said.

"For people to leak that program and for a newspaper to publish it does great harm to the United States of America," Bush said, jabbing his finger for emphasis. He said the disclosure of the program "makes it harder to win this war on terror."

The program has been going on since shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks. It was disclosed last week by the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and the Los Angeles Times.

If this leak wasn't a Rove operation, it ought to have been.

Posted by David Cohen at 12:35 PM


This morning, the Supreme Court announced its 6-3 decision in Randall v. Sorrell, 548 U. S. ____ (2006), invalidating Vermont's very restrictive campaign financing act. The best explanation of why the Vermont Act is unconstitutional comes from Justice Kennedy's concurrence (pdf at 38-40):

As the plurality notes, our cases hold that expenditure limitations “place substantial and direct restrictions onthe ability of candidates, citizens, and associations to engage in protected political expression, restrictions that the First Amendment cannot tolerate.” Buckley v. Valeo, 424 U. S. 1, 58–59 (1976) (per curiam); see also Colorado Republican Federal Campaign Comm. v. Federal Election Comm’n, 518 U. S. 604, 618 (1996) (principal opinion); Federal Election Comm’n v. National Conservative Political Action Comm., 470 U. S. 480, 497 (1985).

The parties neither ask the Court to overrule Buckley in full nor challenge the level of scrutiny that decision applies to campaign contributions. The exacting scrutiny the plurality applies to expenditure limitations, however, is appropriate. For the reasons explained in the plurality opinion, respondents’ attempts to distinguish the present limitations from those we have invalidated are unavailing. The Court has upheld contribution limits that do “not come even close to passing any serious scrutiny.” Nixon v. Shrink Missouri Government PAC, 528 U. S. 377, 410 (2000) (KENNEDY, J., dissenting). Those concerns aside, Vermont’s contributions, as the plurality’s detailed analysis indicates, are even more stifling than the ones that survived Shrink’s unduly lenient review.

The universe of campaign finance regulation is one this Court has in part created and in part permitted by its course of decisions. That new order may cause more problems than it solves. On a routine, operational level the present system requires us to explain why $200 is too restrictive a limit while $1,500 is not. Our own experience gives us little basis to make these judgments, and certainly no traditional or well-established body of law exists to offer guidance. On a broader, systemic level political parties have been denied basic First Amendment rights. See, e.g., McConnell v. Federal Election Comm’n, 540 U. S. 93, 286–287, 313 (2003) (KENNEDY, J., concurring in judgment in part and dissenting in part). Entering to fill the void have been new entities such as political action committees, which are as much the creatures of law as of traditional forces of speech and association. Those entities can manipulate the system and attract their own elite power brokers, who operate in ways obscure to the ordinary citizen.
Viewed within the legal universe we have ratified and helped create, the result the plurality reaches is correct; given my own skepticism regarding that system and its operation, however, it seems to me appropriate to concur only in the judgment.

The Court did not give any hint that it regretted its decision upholding federal campaign finance reform. On the other hand, as Justice Kennedy suggests, it is possible to read the decision as indicating that, in the future, restrictions on free speech will be subjected to stricter scrutiny than in the past.

Justice Thomas continues his assault on precedent -- though joined this time by Justice Scalia, who usually gives precedent more weight -- by arguing in his concurrence that the Court's CFR jurisprudence, starting with the Buckley case that first held that contribution limits are permissible, was wrongly decided and therefore not entitled to deference.

Although I agree with the plurality that Vt. Stat. Ann.,Tit. 17, §2801 et seq. (2002) (Act 64), is unconstitutional, I disagree with its rationale for striking down that statute. Invoking stare decisis, the plurality rejects the invitation to overrule Buckley v. Valeo, 424 U. S. 1 (1976) (per curiam). It then applies Buckley to invalidate the expenditure limitations and, less persuasively, the contribution limitations. I continue to believe that Buckley provides insufficient protection to political speech, the core of the First Amendment. The illegitimacy of Buckley is further underscored by the continuing inability of the Court (and the plurality here) to apply Buckley in a coherent and principled fashion. As a result, stare decisis should pose no bar to overruling Buckley and replacing it with a standard faithful to the First Amendment. Accordingly, I concur only in the judgment.

I adhere to my view that this Court erred in Buckley when it distinguished between contribution and expenditure limits, finding the former to be a less severe infringement on First Amendment rights. “[U]nlike the Buckley Court, I believe that contribution limits infringe as directly and as seriously upon freedom of political expression and association as do expenditure limits.” The Buckley Court distinguished contributions from expenditures based on the presence of an intermediary between a contributor and the speech eventually produced. But that reliance is misguided, given that “[e]ven in the case of a direct expenditure, there is usually some go-between that facilitates the dissemination of the spender’s message.” Likewise, Buckley’s suggestion that contribution caps only marginally restrict speech, because “[a] contribution serves as a general expression of support for the candidate and his views, but does not communicate the underlying basis for the support,” even if descriptively accurate, does not support restrictions on contributions. After all, statements of general support are as deserving of constitutional protection as those that communicate specific reasons for that support.

Accordingly, I would overrule Buckley and subject both the contribution and expenditure restrictions of Act 64 to strict scrutiny, which they would fail....

Even Buckley... v. Valeo, 424 U. S. 1 (1976) (per curiam), recognizes that contribution limits restrict the free speech of contributors, even if it understates the significance of this restriction.... An individual’s First Amendment right is infringed whether his speech is decreased by 5% or 95%, and whether he suffers alone or shares his violation with his fellow citizens. Certainly, the First Amendment does not authorize us to judge whether a restriction of political speech imposes a sufficiently severe disadvantage on challengers that a candidate should be able to complain....

[T]he plurality’s determination that this statute clearly lies on the impermissible side of the constitutional line gives no assistance in drawing this line, and it is clear that no such line can be drawn rationally. There is simply no way to calculate just how much money a person would need to receive before he would be corrupt or perceived to be corrupt (and such a calculation would undoubtedly vary by person). Likewise, there is no meaningful way of discerning just how many resources must be lost before speech is “disproportionately burden[ed].” Buckley, as the plurality has applied it, gives us license to simply strike down any limits that just seem to be too stringent, and to uphold the rest. The First Amendment does not grant us this authority. Buckley provides no consistent protection to the core of the First Amendment, and must be overruled. [Footnotes and citations omitted]

Campaign finance reform is always pro-incumbent, as Justice Thomas recognizes. It is therefore difficult to assess CFR as "left" or "right." Although almost all of the resistence to CFR came from the GOP, it is equally true that without maverick Republicans, CFR would never have passed. Here, Justice Kennedy, Justice Thomas and Justice Scalia are on the side of more freedom, Justices Souter, Ginsberg and, in part, Stevens, are on the side of more regulation. Perhaps the best that can be said of the rest of the Court is that they are pragmatic when it comes to freedom or regulation.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:34 PM


Burning Cole (PHILIP WEISS, July 3, 2006, The Nation)

Neoconservatism is an elite calling. It thrives in think tanks, not union halls; its proponents want most of all to influence the powerful. No wonder Ivy League labels have always been important to neocons. This fixation on intellectual prestige explains the recent neocon uprising over the possibility that Juan Cole, scholar and blogger, would become a Yale professor. It was one thing for Cole to hold forth from the University of Michigan, where he has been a professor for twenty years. But Yale would provide "honor" and "imprimatur," says Scott Johnson, a right-wing blogger. "That's a huge thing, to have them bless all his rantings on that blog."

On June 2 Johnson broke the story (on powerlineblog.com) that Yale's Senior Appointments Committee had the day before rejected Cole after three other Yale committees had signed off on him. By then a process that usually takes place behind closed doors had become thoroughly politicized by the right. "I'm saddened and distressed by the news," John Merriman, a Yale history professor, said of the rejection. "I love this place. But I haven't seen something like this happen at Yale before. In this case, academic integrity clearly has been trumped by politics."

The controversy erupted this spring after two campus periodicals reported that Cole was under consideration by Yale for a joint appointment in sociology and history. In an article in the Yale Herald, Campus Watch, a pro-Israel group that monitors scholars' statements about the Middle East, was quoted as saying that Cole lacked a "penetrating mind," and suggesting that Yale was "in danger of sacrificing academic credibility in exchange for the attention" Cole would generate. Alex Joffe, then the director of Campus Watch, told me Cole "has a conspiratorial bent...he tends to see the Mossad and the Likud under his bed." For its part, the Yale Daily News twice featured attacks on Cole by former Bush Administration aide Michael Rubin, a Yale PhD associated with Campus Watch and the American Enterprise Institute. In an op-ed Rubin wrote, "Early in his career, Cole did serious academic work on the 19th century Middle East.... He has since abandoned scholarship in favor of blog commentary."

Academics dispute this. [...]

Of course, Cole is on the left....

Because, in academia in particular, to be on the Left is to be non-political.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:05 AM


No doubt about Tigers after sweep of Cards (Danny Knobler, 6/26/06, Michigan Live)

This was the weekend where it started to feel real.

Big crowds, thrilling wins. Big-name opponent, and it didn't make a bit of difference.

Can anyone doubt the Detroit Tigers right now?

Sunday's 4-1 sweep-ending win against St. Louis was typical, from the outstanding starting pitcher (Jeremy Bonderman) to the shut-down bullpen (Joel Zumaya, Wilfredo Ledezma and Todd Jones) to the eye-popping defense (Brandon Inge) to the clutch late hit (Curtis Granderson).

Granderson's eighth-inning double off left-handed reliever Randy Flores put the Tigers in front for the first time all afternoon, but it hardly came as a surprise. It's what the whole weekend was building to, wasn't it?

"We flat-out just beat them,'' Inge said. "And I think they would say that, too.''

Not that the Tigers aren't terrific, but this year's interleague play has really demonstrated just how wide the gap is between the AL and the NL, especially in terms of pitching (other than the Yankees and the Marlins).

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:01 AM


H'WOOD WARRIOR RIPS CLOONEY (PageSix, June 26, 2006, NY Daily News)

Pat Dollard was Soderbergh's 10- percenter until he ditched his lucrative Tinseltown career to make a pro-war documentary about U.S. Marines fighting insurgents in Iraq. Last year, his Humvee convoy was blown up in Ramadi, killing two Marines and sending Dollard to the hospital with a concussion and shrapnel wounds.

So it's understandable that Dollard might have been annoyed when Clooney chastised Democrats last year for not having the guts to condemn the war. While Dollard was careful not to name names, he told Page Six that he went into "a black rage" while in Iraq after reading a certain movie star's pompous pronouncements online.

"I read something on the Internet in which someone was patting himself on the back for having the courage to oppose the war," Dollard recalled. In an obvious reference to Clooney, who owns a villa in Italy, he said, "They actually equate bravery with speaking out against the president because [losing fans] might cost them one less servant at their Italian villa . . . It put me into a black rage and made me sick to my stomach." [...]

Dollard says his enthusiasm for the war has left some of his former showbiz colleagues cold. "Being a Republican in Hollywood today is not much different than being a communist in Hollywood in the 1950s," he said. "I'm not trying to overstate the case, but the reality is there is a blacklist in Hollywood. It's very McCarthy-like. It just shows the hypocrisy of the left."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:54 AM


Saddam's WMD: Why is out intelligence community holding back? (PETER HOEKSTRA AND RICK SANTORUM, June 26, 2006, Opinion Journal)

On Thursday, Mr. Negroponte's office arranged a press briefing by unnamed intelligence officials to downplay the significance of the report, calling it "not new news" even as Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was reiterating the obvious importance of the information: "What has been announced is accurate, that there have been hundreds of canisters or weapons of various types found that either currently have sarin in them or had sarin in them, and sarin is dangerous. And it's dangerous to our forces. . . . They are weapons of mass destruction. They are harmful to human beings. And they have been found. . . . And they are still being found and discovered."

In fact, the public knows relatively little about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Indeed, we do not even know what is known or unknown. Charles Duelfer, former head of the Iraq Survey Group, stated that the ISG had fully evaluated less than 0.25% of the more than 10,000 weapons caches known to exist throughout Iraq. It follows that the American people should be brought up to date frequently on our state of knowledge of this important matter. That is why we asked that the entire document be declassified, minus the exact sources, methods and locations. It is also, in part, why we have fought for the declassification of hundreds of thousands of Saddam-era documents.

The president is the ultimate classifier and declassifier of information, but the entire matter has now been so politicized that, in practice, he is often paralyzed. If he were to order the declassification of a document pointing to the existence of WMDs in Iraq, he would be instantly accused of "cherry picking" and "politicizing intelligence." He may therefore not be inclined to act.

In practice, then, the intelligence community decides what the American public and its elected officials can know and when they will learn it. Sometimes those decisions are made by top officials, while on other occasions they are made by unnamed bureaucrats with friends in the media. People who leak the existence of sensitive intelligence programs like the terrorist surveillance program or financial tracking programs to either damage the administration or help al Qaeda, or perhaps both, are using the release or withholding of documents to advance their political desires, even as they accuse others of manipulating intelligence.

We believe that the decisions of when and what Americans can know about issues of national security should not be made by unelected, unnamed and unaccountable people.

The Administration's penchant for secrecy has served them and us poorly. Just declassify everything and let the chips fall where they may.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:49 AM


7 Sunni insurgent groups reportedly seek truce under reconciliation plan (SAMEER YACOUB, 6/26/06, AP)

Seven Sunni Arab insurgent groups have contacted the government to declare their readiness to join in efforts at national reconciliation, a key Shiite legislator said Monday.

The seven lesser groups, most of them believed populated by former members or backers of Saddam Hussein's government, military or security agencies, have said they want a truce, said Hassan al-Suneid, a legislator and member of the political bureau of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's Dawa Party.

The contact by the insurgent organizations, which could not be independently verified, would mark an important potential shift and stand as evidence of a growing divide between Iraqi insurgents and the more brutal and ideological fighters of "al-Qaida in Iraq," who are believed to mainly be non-Iraqi Islamic militants.

Leaving their rallying point alive has obviously been one of the key mistakes of the war.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:41 AM


Report over troop withdrawal angers defeated Democrats (Michael Abramowitz and Thomas E. Ricks, 6/26/06, The Washington Post)

Senate Democrats reacted angrily to a report Sunday that the U.S. commander in Iraq had privately presented a plan for significant troop reductions in the same week they came under attack by the GOP for trying to set a timetable for withdrawal.

How many times does the Administration have to say that we're bringing them home ASAP but not on any artificial timetable?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:30 AM


Weathering new heights -- Sox rained out for 6th time in ’06 (Jeff Horrigan, June 26, 2006, Boston Herald)

With a relentlessly blotchy weather radar and a dire forecast calling for the potential of a hard day’s night at Fenway Park, Major League Baseball decided it was best for the Red Sox and Philadelphia to wait until today at 1:05 p.m. to wrap up their interleague series. [...]

With a more encouraging forecast in line for today and both teams sharing a mutual day off, the decision to reschedule was relatively easy.

“If you’re going to lose an off day, at least they did it (early) so the guys can get out of here and have the rest of the day (off),” Sox manager Terry Francona said. “That is very helpful and very considerate.”

The rainout was the Sox’ sixth this season, with five coming at Fenway. It marked the most home rainouts for the team since 1989, when it also had five games postponed. The Sox only had four rainouts all of last year.

Here's how biblical the rain has become in New England: the greatest obstacle to mowing your lawn isn't the puddles but the frogs that have taken up residence.

More ammo for arsenal: Lester’s cutter boosts his stock (John Tomase, 6/26/06, Boston Herald)

Jon Lester considers his cutter his fourth pitch, which says a lot about his fastball, curveball and changeup.

The left-hander may very well have the best pure stuff on the Red Sox staff, effortlessly tossing 94-mph fastballs, snapping off 77-mph curveballs and hitting just about every speed in between.

The pitch that really helped him take off is the cutter. It gives him a weapon off the inner third of the plate against right-handers and makes the rest of his repertoire more dangerous.

“You’ve got a two-seamer running away, a four-seamer in, a curveball and changeup away, and a cutter in,” Lester said. “You’ve got basically five or six different looks and the hitter has to honor each one. It gives the hitter another pitch to think about in the back of their mind that you might throw.”

While the cutter may be a revelation to observers, it’s not to his teammates.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:26 AM


33 Innings, 882 Pitches and One Crazy Game (IRA BERKOW, 6/24/06, NY Times)

A few years ago, Bruce Hurst recalled Friday afternoon, he was on a golf course in Scottsdale, Ariz., when he ran into Cal Ripken Jr., the likely Hall of Fame shortstop. "I'm sure he didn't remember me, but of course I knew him," said Hurst, once a standout pitcher for the Boston Red Sox.

"And then we went back to that one night, that cold, crazy night when we were in the minor leagues. It seems for any of us who were involved in that game, no matter what else we did in our baseball career, we inevitably come back to that night. We still can hardly believe it."

The game between the Pawtucket Red Sox and the Rochester Red Wings, the Class AAA affiliates of the Boston Red Sox and the Baltimore Orioles, began in Pawtucket, R.I., on the night of April 18, 1981, went into the early morning of April 19 (when the game was halted), and concluded June 23.

It became the longest game in the history of professional baseball, lasting 33 innings, with a total of 882 pitches thrown and 156 baseballs used over 8 hours 25 minutes. It finally ended with Pawtucket scoring a run in the bottom of the 33rd.

A reunion commemorating the 25th anniversary of the game's conclusion was held Friday at a downtown hotel here, with 20 former Pawtucket players and 9 former Rochester players attending a luncheon. There was another ceremony Friday night at McCoy Stadium, the Pawtucket team's home park.

The 1981 game began on a Saturday night at McCoy Stadium with 1,740 fans in attendance. When it was stopped, after 32 innings, at 4:09 Easter morning, with the score tied at 2-2, 19 fans were left in the stands.

"No, none of the players fell asleep," Hurst said. "We were just trying to stay warm. It was the coldest I've ever been in uniform."

Marty Barrett, then the second baseman for Pawtucket, recalled that as the game went on, the temperature began to drop. "It must have been in the mid-30's, and the wind was blowing in at about 15 miles an hour — I bet the wind chill factor was 20 degrees," he said. Barrett said that Bob Ojeda, the eventual winning pitcher, found a 55-gallon trash can and lit a fire with the numerous bats that broke during the game.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:19 AM


Tory lead over Labour strengthens (Brendan Carlin, 26/06/2006, Daily Telegraph)

David Cameron challenged Gordon Brown yesterday to an early general election if he succeeds Tony Blair as soon as next year.

The Tory leader threw down the gauntlet as a YouGov survey for The Daily Telegraph showed the Conservatives strengthening their lead over Labour.

The poll puts the Tories on 39 per cent, up one percentage point from last month and close to the 40-plus rating needed to have a majority at the next election. They are now seven points ahead of Labour - their biggest lead for the last six years - and six points up from the General Election. Labour are on 32 per cent, the same as last month but four points down from the election and the Liberal Democrats are on 17 per cent, six points down since May 2005.

Tories win in redraw of political landscape (David Charter, 6/25/06, Times of London)

BOUNDARY changes make a hung Parliament much more likely at the next election, according to research seen by The Times.

In a double whammy for Labour, the analysis shows that the party will have its overall majority cut to the bone and that several wafer-thin marginals will be created in the South, where Tory leader David Cameron’s appeal is thought greatest.

Had the changes been in place at the last election, Labour’s 64-seat victory would have dropped to 44 with several more seats too close to call, The Times has learnt.

It means that a national swing of just1 per cent will be needed at the next election to wipe out Labour’s overall Commons majority.

June 25, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:18 PM


The Right: The Next Big Thing?:
Conservative pundit Hugh Hewitt marries the power of talk radio with the reach of the 'netroots.' Watch out, Kos (Andrew Romano, July 3-10, 2006, Newsweek)

Hugh Hewitt is a master of multitasking. Week after week, the sanguine, persistent pundit hosts his "center-right" talk radio show from a nondescript office in Orange County, Calif.—and more than a million people tune in. Two computers flank his mike. While on the air, Hewitt uses the first to surf news sites, then swivels to the second during breaks to update his well-trafficked blog. "Both spoken words and written words are powerful," he says. "Acting in harmony, the effect is exponential." Just ask Rick Santorum. In May, he urged Hewitt's listeners to fork over campaign funds, and the host, ever eager, posted a link. Donations shot up 500 percent.

Chances are Santorum won't be the last candidate between now and November to benefit from Hewitt's brand of blog-broadcast synergy. On July 4, Salem Communications, one of the country's largest radio-station owners, will relaunch an old Web war horse called Townhall.com as a hub for its stable of stars (including Bill Bennett, Michael Medved and Hewitt himself). The hope? That "Web 2.0" wherewithal can transform what was once an op-ed clearinghouse into a single nerve center serving the separate conservative communities of talk radio and the Internet. To Hewitt, a valuable White House ally, the math is simple: add 6 million Salem fans to Townhall's 1.4 million unique monthly visitors and you've got an audience six or seven times the size of liberal site Daily Kos, the Web's biggest political blog. "We will overwhelm them," he says.

To: Loyal Townhall Readers
From: Jonathan Garthwaite
Date: Friday, June 23, 2006
Subject: The Revolution Begins July 4 – the New Townhall.com

Dear Readers,

Seven weeks ago we asked you what you wanted Townhall.com to be. Thousands of you responded and we listened.

The New Townhall.com - July 4thOn July 4, we will launch a new Townhall.com that continues to feature the best conservative columns as well as exclusive new features like online talk radio, new blogs, editorial cartoons, a personalized action center, and more.

• 75% said you listen to talk radio almost daily. Townhall.com is now adding a new Talk Radio Online section that features audio streaming and podcasting of Bill Bennett, Mike Gallagher, Dennis Prager, Michael Medved, Hugh Hewitt as well as Townhall.com shows like the National Defense from the VFW, the Northern Alliance, Jay Sekulow Live, TCS Daily and more!

• 72% of you regularly read blogs. Townhall.com will be the first conservative website offering free blogging tools to any of its readers. Create your own blog with its own design in seconds. When you create your own blog you will be part of a conservative blog community that features Mary Katharine Ham, Hugh Hewitt, Mike Gallagher, Dennis Prager, Michael Medved, Kevin McCullough, and Radio Blogger.

• 90% said you have been active in politics. We want it to be 100%. The new Townhall.com features a personalized action center that delivers talk radio call-in numbers for your area, allows you to easily contact your state and federal legislators and more.

Hundreds of thousands of you have been getting an email from me every day for years – can you do it better? We want to give you the chance. Our new action center allows you to create your own Townhall.com email list featuring any columns YOU choose.

So why is all of this a revolution? Because Townhall.com is the first to combine the grassroots media of talk radio and the online grassroots voices of the web and blogosphere. Townhall.com has been America’s conservative opinion page for a decade – it is far past time that your voice is featured on Townhall.com alongside our conservative leaders!

Click here for more details and stay tuned because in the next week we’ll highlight a few more big surprises as we get closer to the July 4 start of the revolution!


Jonathan Garthwaite

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:14 PM


Iraq oil output hits record level (news.com.au, June 26, 2006)

IRAQ'S oil production is now over 2.5 million barrels a day, a record since the fall of Saddam Hussein, the country's oil minister said overnight.

Oil Minister Hussein Shahristani said on US television that Iraq hopes to be producing 4.3 million barrels by 2010 and to be challenging Saudi Arabia as the world's largest producer by 2015.

Production was about 2.5 million barrels a day when president Saddam Hussein was deposed by US-led forces in 2003. It then collapsed to virtually nothing and has been slow to rebuild because of insurgent attacks and other problems.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:08 PM


America's new healthy eaters find an unlikely ally: Wal-Mart (Largest retailer boosts organic market as nation tackles bulging waistlines (Suzanne Goldenberg in Charles Town, West Virginia, June 26, 2006, The Guardian)

[M]s Smoot, 27, a stay-at-home mother who changed her diet last October after developing high blood sugar, says she is determined to eat better. Dinner tonight is low-carb salmon wraps, a mozzarella and tomato salad, and soy milk smoothies. "We are trying to eat a little more healthy - nothing canned or frozen," says her sister, Amber.

Families like the Smoots were part of Wal-Mart's calculation when the world's largest retailer announced last April that it would begin selling organic food at its famously low prices, charging a 10% premium over non-organic.

Organic food for the masses has arrived...

In order to be surprised you have to have bought into the Left's paranoia about Wal-Mart in the first place.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:03 PM


Mogadishu's miracle: peace in the world's most lawless city: After 16 years of chaos, the warlords have left and the capital's streets are quiet (Xan Rice, June 26, 2006, The Guardian)

Mohamed Abdullahi no longer shoves his mobile phone down his trousers when leaving the house. Abdulaziz Mohamed has dismissed the armed men that used to guard his stationery shop. Farh Dir enjoys a restaurant dinner with a childhood friend - the first time he has been out at night in years.

"What has happened in Mogadishu is a miracle," said Abdi Haji Gobdon, the 62-year-old director of Voice of Peace radio in the Somali capital. "We are still trying to take it all in."

Three weeks ago, the last of Mogadishu's warlords were chased from the city by a combination of Islamist militia firepower and what people here describe as a "societal uprising".

After 16 years of chaos, the world's most lawless city suddenly has a taste of peace and security. Almost overnight, the atmosphere has changed from one of fear and despair to euphoria and even cautious optimism about the future.

"Everybody is happy," said Ahmed Mohamed, a spectacled 41-year-old businessman. "We are only a short time into this revolution, but we all hope this could be the start of a new life."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:57 PM


Koizumi leaves LDP factions in tatters (MASAMI ITO, 6/26/06, Japan Times)

When Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi assumed the presidency of the Liberal Democratic Party in April 2001, he vowed to "destroy" the party that had been in power for almost the entire time since its creation in 1955.

Among the factors contributing to the LDP's strength over the decades were the rivalry among its intraparty factions, its close ties with the bureaucracy and big business, and its role as coordinator for vested interest groups, which in turn served as the party's support base.

But in the five years since taking office, Koizumi has indeed shattered the LDP -- and for the worse, his political foes say.

"Koizumi has managed to go further than just destroy the LDP -- he has completely annihilated it," grumbled People's New Party leader Tamisuke Watanuki, a former House of Representatives speaker. "Koizumi has turned Japan from a democracy into a dictatorship where everyone must do whatever he tells them to."

Watanuki, an LDP member for more than three decades, broke ranks with the party because he opposed Koizumi's plan to privatize the postal system and as such was banned from running on the party ticket in September's general election, which was called because the privatization legislation did not clear the Diet. Many who opposed privatization feared losing postal workers' votes.

Not only do all the Third Way guys govern alike but the criticisms of them are indistinguishable. You can substitute Blair or Bush in that story and reprint it in London or America.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:55 PM


U.S. moves up new radar test in Japan (Japan Times, 6/26/06)

The United States will test a high-resolution military radar in northeastern Japan as early as Monday to monitor moves related to North Korea's possible launch of a ballistic missile, a U.S. government official said Sunday.

Operation of the mobile X-Band radar at the Air Self-Defense Force's Shariki base in Tsugaru, Aomori Prefecture, was initially scheduled to begin in the summer.

Venezuelan Leader to Visit Kim Jong-il (Chosun-ilbo, 6/25/06)
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, a fierce critic of the United States, said Saturday he will meet North Korean leader Kim Jong-il. Observers speculate that ideas for cooperation between the two countries could include an oil-for-missiles deal.

Chavez, who has mentioned plans to visit North Korea several times, told reporters the trip would be about bilateral agreements in technology and science. He did not specify a date.

Two stooges with one bird.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:38 PM


Democrats in tough primaries cross '08 contenders over pullout: Bills to withdraw from Iraq split candidates trying to energize the left from those playing to the center (Liz Sidoti, 6/25/06, ASSOCIATED PRESS)

When two Democrats looking toward 2008 pushed hard for a firm date on withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq, they crashed headlong into Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid's effort to retake the Senate this year.

Sens. John Kerry of Massachusetts and Russ Feingold of Wisconsin want to pull out all combat forces during the next year, a proposal that delights the left wing of the Democratic Party but that failed overwhelmingly in the Senate on Thursday.

That 86-13 vote forced Democrats in difficult midterm election campaigns, such as Sens. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut and Maria Cantwell of Washington, to go on record on the question of ending the military mission in Iraq -- and risk the wrath of liberals in their states. [...]

In the end, the GOP-led Senate defeated the two Democratic plans for pulling out U.S. forces -- but only after two weeks of haggling that left the party fractured on Iraq and even caused divisions in the leadership ranks, pitting Reid against his top lieutenant, Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois.

What coiuld be more revealing of the state of the modern Democratic Party than their terror of voters finding out where they stand on the issues?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:42 PM


The War's Left Front: The Daily Kos thinks the politics of Iraq will help him shape the Democratic Party. (Jonathan Darman, July 3-10, 2006, Newsweek)

Markos Moulitsas Zuniga is sitting on his back porch in Berkeley, Calif., listening to the hummingbirds and explaining his plans to seize control of the Democratic Party. It is one week after YearlyKos, the Las Vegas conference of progressives that Moulitsas sponsored and promoted heavily on his popular liberal blog, DailyKos.com. Every major media outlet in the country had attended the conference, detailing the spectacle of Democratic bigwigs (including the party's Senate minority leader and four of its leading 2008 presidential aspirants) embracing Moulitsas as the guru of an activist movement they were eager to exploit. With the conference, Moulitsas says, his movement had finally proved its relevance to the party. "We're not sitting around waiting for the so-called professionals to give us power in the party," he tells NEWSWEEK. "We're taking it for ourselves."

It seems as though the rock-thrower is growing up. Inside, a handyman is remodeling the Moulitsases' suburban living room, where soon the futon will be replaced by a daybed, and the big, boxy television by a sleek new flat-panel. If YearlyKos—where he was quizzed by the likes of Maureen Dowd and Tim Russert on what the Democrats ought to do to win—proved anything, it was that Moulitsas had forced his way into the upper echelons of party strategists. Moulitsas sees his new status as the start of a natural progression: "We said we wanted to crash the gates. We never said we weren't going to come in."

The important aspect of the Kos story isn't that they're nuts, but that they are, as Martin Peretz amply demonstrated, in the mainstream of what remains of the Democratic Party. The answer to Thomas Frank's question is that it's a party that's designed to appeal to Kosans, not Kansans.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:26 PM


CLUBHOUSE CONFIDENTIAL (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinal, 6/24/06)

As an indication that the Brewers are preparing for the possibility of trading leftfielder Carlos Lee, they sent Lee Thomas to Trenton, N.J., to watch New York Yankees prospect Philip Hughes pitch Friday night for that Class AA club against Connecticut. Thomas, a special assistant to general manager Doug Melvin, watched Hughes pitch a spectacular game - 8 innings, 1 hit, 0 runs, 2 walks, 10 strikeouts. Hughes (4-3, 3.18) is considered the top pitcher in the farm system of the Yankees, who have definite interest in Lee, with outfielders Hideki Matsui and Gary Sheffield on the disabled list.

You can almost feel sorry for Yankee fans sometimes.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:42 AM


Another Kennedy Living Dangerously (MARK LEIBOVICH, 6/26/06, NY Times)

ONE of Robert F. Kennedy Jr.'s family mementos is a boyhood photo of himself in the Oval Office with his uncle President John F. Kennedy. Then 9, Mr. Kennedy — who is still known as Bobby — had just given the president a spotted salamander in a small vase. The salamander appears to be dead.

"He does not look well," President Kennedy told Bobby as they observed the slimy pet. The president is prodding it with a pen, to no avail. "I was in denial," Bobby Kennedy said, explaining that he had probably doomed the salamander by keeping it in chlorinated water.

Not to attach too much significance to a dead salamander, but, oh, what the heck: the photo distills some Bobby Kennedy essentials — his matter-of-fact presence in royal circles, his boyish chutzpah and a lifelong appreciation for animals (even those he has killed).

Now 52, Mr. Kennedy, is one of the country's most prominent environmental lawyers and advocates. Clearly he was traumatized by his youthful act of environmental insensitivity and vowed as an adult to become a fervent protector of all the planet's salamanders. Or perhaps this is overreaching, seeing too much in a simple picture. (Sometimes a dead salamander is just a dead salamander). [...]

Recently, much of Mr. Kennedy's public focus has been on democracy, and he has taken increasingly audacious leaps into political swamps that transcend the environment. He roiled the blogosphere and cable news shows this month after declaring — in an article he wrote in Rolling Stone — that Republicans stole the 2004 presidential election through a series of voting frauds. "I've become convinced that the president's party mounted a massive, coordinated campaign to subvert the will of the people in 2004," Mr. Kennedy wrote in the exhaustive, strenuously footnoted article, which relied heavily on the published research of others.

He has repeated the accusation on Air America, the liberal radio network on which he is co-host of a program, and on a procession of television talk-'n'-shout fests (with Stephen Colbert, Wolf Blitzer, Tucker Carlson, Chris Matthews). Mr. Kennedy is hitching his iconic name to a cause that has largely been consigned so far to liberal bloggers and which nearly all Democratic leaders and major news media outlets have ignored and which, unsurprisingly, Bush supporters have ridiculed. Tracy Schmitt, the Republican National Committee press secretary, accused Mr. Kennedy of "peddling a conspiracy theory that was thoroughly debunked nearly two years ago."

Farhad Manjoo, of Salon.com, wrote: "If you do read the Kennedy article, be prepared to machete your way through numerous errors of interpretation and his deliberate omission of key bits of data."

It is impossible to read the Rolling Stone article without wondering how Mr. Kennedy's audacious accusations might relate to his philosophical evolution or even affect his political viability.

One of the more amusing things that gets the Left worked up about George W. Bush is that he blew up frogs when he was a kid. Apparently, it's considered normal by these folks to be so consumed with guilt about the rather normal mistreatment of critters in your youth that you become anti-human as an adult.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:37 AM


U.S. population to hit 300 million in 2006 (STEPHEN OHLEMACHER, 6/25/06, Associated Press)

The U.S. population is on target to hit 300 million this fall and it's a good bet the milestone baby — or immigrant — will be Hispanic.

No one will know for sure because the date and time will be just an estimate.

But Latinos — immigrants and those born in this country — are driving the population growth, accounting for almost half the increase last year, more than any other ethnic or racial group. [...]

As of early Sunday, there were 299,058,932 people in the United States, according to the Census Bureau's population clock. The estimate is based on annual numbers for births, deaths and immigration, averaged throughout the year.

The 300 millionth person in the U.S. will likely be born — or cross the border — in October, though bureau officials are wary of committing to a particular month because of the subjective nature of the clock.

What wouldn't Putin give....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:35 AM


Murtha says U.S. poses top threat to world peace (South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 06.25.2006)

American presence in Iraq is more dangerous to world peace than nuclear threats from North Korea or Iran, Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., said to an audience of more than 200 in North Miami Saturday afternoon.

Even as the American Left diverges from America and converges with European opinion they wonder why they're doing so badly in elections.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:33 AM


Same-Sex Marriage Flounders: Few Homosexuals Interested in Tying the Knot (Zenit.org, 6/24/06)

After the clamor to legalize same-sex marriage, it turns out that not many homosexuals really want it. Following a bitter battle last year, the Spanish government gave homosexuals the right to marry. Since the law took effect last July 3, until May 31, only 1,275 same-sex marriages took place, reported the Madrid daily newspaper ABC last Saturday.

Comparatively, that would add up to a mere 0.6% of the 209,125 marriages contracted in Spain during 2005. Of the total number of same-sex marriages, 923 were between males and 352 among females.

A recent study by the Virginia-based Institute for Marriage and Public Policy did a roundup of same-sex marriage trends. The study, "Demand for Same-Sex Marriage: Evidence from the United States, Canada and Europe," was published April 26.

So far the highest estimate of the proportion of homosexuals who have used the new laws to marry is in the American state of Massachusetts, with 16.7% tying the knot. But this seems to be an exception. In the Netherlands, where same-sex marriage has been established the longest, the percentage was far lower.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:19 AM


Cameron 'could scrap' rights act (BBC, 6/25/06)

The Conservatives would consider getting rid of the Human Rights Act and replacing it with a British Bill of Rights, leader David Cameron has said.

In an interview for BBC One's Sunday AM, Mr Cameron said the Act hindered the fight on crime and terrorism.

A US-style bill of rights would outline the rights of citizens, while the Human Rights Act incorporates European rules into British law.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:14 AM


Dodo skeleton find in Mauritius (BBC, 6/25/06)

Scientists say they have discovered part of the skeleton of a dodo, the large, flightless bird which became extinct more than 300 years ago.

One of the team in Mauritius said it was the first discovery of fully preserved bones which could give clues as to how the bird lived its life.

Last year, the team unearthed dodo bones in the same area, but said the current find was more "significant".

The bird is thought to have been hunted to extinction by European settlers.

Nothing ever goes extinct naturally.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:05 AM


Misreading Tehran (Karl Vick, June 25, 2006, Washington Post)

What's your idea about Iranians? Almost everyone I encountered in my 10 visits to the Islamic republic over the past 3 1/2 years resembled the mortified colleagues of the mad mullah: gracious, hospitable, apparently genuine in their regard for ordinary Americans and reasoned in their criticism of Washington. Years before the Bush administration's recent and surprising agreement to Tehran's request for negotiations , Iranian officials were likely as not to close an interview with a sidelong bid for some contact, any contact, between the two governments.

Perhaps that's why, in scanning my recollection for scenes that might encourage the understanding that eludes both countries, what stands out are the extremes, outliers such as the lanky, intense cleric in the Tehran crowd gathered for the free food and festival on the 26th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution. Every few steps, he bent at the waist, plucked a paper Iranian flag from the ground and tore the emblem from the center. Then he kissed the scrap and stuffed it in his pocket.

The emblem contained the word ''Allah," he explained, and a close reading of religious texts dictated that it should never touch the ground. His son, who looked about 7, gazed at the street littered with thousands of the paper flags, then up at his father, struggling for comprehension.

You tend to do that in Iran, a place that newcomers invariably describe as not what they expected. The reality turns out to be less severe -- less like the billowing black chador so irresistible to photographers: big, vaguely frightening and often in counterpoint to the more nuanced background scene it overwhelms.

The severity exists these days mostly as memory and threat, a reservoir of fear that surged to the surface of more liberal Iranians last year when Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was elected president. The day after the election, a young secretary given to wearing spring pastels with matching sandals showed up at work looking like a nun. "I am making myself ready," she said.

But the crackdown never came. Iran's ruling theocrats know their failures as well as anyone: stunning rates of opiate addiction, brain drain, traffic fatalities and a feeble per capita income. They clearly have calculated that the nation's young majority will not abide both joblessness and ruthlessness. The fear runs both ways.

In a morale meeting for hardliners last month, a young man who five years ago had the power to chastise the young women in his office for not sufficiently covering themselves whined: "They make fun of me."

So today on one side of a Tehran thoroughfare, a fading wall mural celebrates a Palestinian suicide bomber, while on the other a line of posters advertise HUMMER, a cologne named for the American war wagon.

After 2,500 years on the plateau that holds them -- along with their self-regard -- above the Arabs, Iranians know who they are. Their traditions are elegant. If they are indeed proud, as the children of empire will be, a particular aspect of history often pointed out these days is that almost all of Iran's wars have been defensive.

"Why don't Americans know this about us?" a man asked me last month in Arak , where the government is building a water reactor as part of its nuclear program. [...]

Near the center of the city, two stooped men pushed a cleaner's cart while struggling to support a third man, older and unable to walk by himself. Crabbing along, Khodadad Torshamli, his brother and his uncle were a scene from Beckett framed by the dingy white marble that encases half the buildings in the capital.

"I just hear noises," said Torshamli, 46, when I asked him about the Iranian nuclear controversy. "There's no money in it, so why should we care?"

The trio had lost their jobs as farmers in the provinces and come to Tehran like millions of other economic migrants. They worked sweeping the tidy streets. After four years, they were still trying to raise money so their uncle might be able to have surgery on his back.

"What the latest news is, I don't know," Torshamli said. "But they keep saying they are very wise and brave." His smile was deadpan. "What we are looking for is security, but in these noises there's no money, there's no security. I can't smell anything good."

He put a shoulder into the cart and got it moving again, sideways and forward at the same time.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:59 AM


Manzanar redux?: In an echo of Japanese internment, a judge's ruling allows foreign nationals to be rounded up on the basis of their race or religion (David Cole, June 16, 2006, Los Angeles Time)

'WHAT WILL they do to us if there is another attack? Will they intern us like they interned the Japanese?"

That is the single most common question I get when speaking about counter-terrorism policies and civil liberties to Arab and Muslim audiences. Until Wednesday, I assured them that such a response was unthinkable. The Japanese internment during World War II is now so widely recognized as morally, legally and ethically wrong, I told them, that it could not possibly be repeated.

But after a decision by a federal judge in New York, I'm no longer confident that I can be so reassuring. Dismissing a case challenging the detention of Arab and Muslim foreign nationals in the weeks after 9/11, U.S. District Judge John Gleeson ruled that it is constitutionally permissible to round up foreign nationals on immigration charges based solely on their race, religion or country of origin. What's more, he said that they can be detained indefinitely, even after they have agreed to be removed to their home countries.

In essence, he authorized a repeat of the Japanese internment — as long as the internment is limited to foreign nationals charged with visa violations (a group that at last count numbered about 11 million people).

The parallel is haunting, just as FDR and Earl Warren interned people solely because of their ethnicity, so could we imprison people solely for violating the law.

Historians measuring Bush's scandals against past presidents (KEN HERMAN, 6/18/06, Cox News Service)

It's been a collection of scandals and problems without handy monikers. But the Bush administration has had enough of them to begin nudging the needle on the presidential scandal-o-meter.

Historians are measuring them against the brand-name scandals — Watergate, Iran-Contra, Whitewater, Monica - that have plagued previous presidents.

"I think it's still kind of high-average," political scientist Ryan Barilleaux of Miami University said Tuesday after word broke that longtime Bush friend and adviser Karl Rove would not be indicted by a grand jury looking into the White House disclosure of a CIA operative's name. [...]

"There is something that is different about the current administration and more worrisome about this," said presidential historian William Leuchtenburg, a University of North Carolina professor emeritus. "The kinds of problems that administrations have had in the past have usually involved bad behavior by an individual on his own."

"What's different about this administration is that the behavior involves important matters of policy of breach of security," Leuchtenburg said. "From what we actually know, it hasn't yet reached the dimensions of the Nixon White House. But it certainly goes beyond the sort of petty personal scandals that one associates with Truman and Eisenhower or with Carter." [...]

Barilleaux said the jury is out on where Bush's woes rank when compared to previous presidential scandals.

"The highest ranking would be the kind of scandal on the order of Watergate, something that consumes the administration is to the point of potentially damaging an entire presidency, the way Watergate did," he said.

One level down is Iran-Contra of the Reagan era, "the kind of scandal that will attract a lot of attention, raises a lot of questions about presidential involvement and about the administration but didn't quite rise to the level of a Watergate."

Another level down is what Barilleaux calls "garden-variety scandals that seem to hit many recent administrations."

"We are somewhere in the area of the kinds of things that crop up in lots of administrations, people getting in trouble for various things," Barilleaux said.

And while Leuchtenburg worries that Bush's problems swirl around substantive security matters, Barilleaux believes those kinds of problems - as opposed to fooling around with an intern - can be easier to deal with.

"On one hand, these do potentially involve bigger national security issues," he said. "On the other hand, the public has often been willing to accept various kinds of behaviors by presidents or administration officials if they can make the case those are really in the nation's interest."

So they acknowledge that the biggest difference is that the controversies surrounding the President himself are just policy differences, on which the public and the Constitution suport him, while the petty scandals touch only on a few aides, unlike prior administrations where cabinet members, and even a president, were forced to resign or where someone like Bill Clinton was impeached and disbarred.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:55 AM


West Windsor's Dilemma of Values (Kristen Fountain, 6/25/06, Valley News)

The Hales have lived and farmed in the shadow of Mount Ascutney since the Revolutionary War.

Brothers from Scotland settled in the western part of the town, said Maria Hale, 67, who lives along one of the long fields off the Brownsville-Hartland Road that the family has owned for generations. Summer days find her brother, Joel Hale, 71, outside his home down the street doing what he has done since he was a child: tending the herd.

Unbeknownst to them, however, the ground beneath their feet has been turning to black gold.

In recent years, out-of-towners from Massachusetts, New Jersey, Maryland and Florida and elsewhere have purchased tracts in the surrounding hills for $10,000 to $20,000 an acre, using them for homes and weekend havens. Their willingness to pay such hefty sums has sent the values of large parcels sky high.

West Windsor residents recently learned that a townwide revaluation completed in May has made the combined taxable value of their properties 2½ times greater than before. But that increase pales compared with the shock being felt by residents such as the Hales, whose farm- and forestland is appreciating at a much faster pace because of its potential value as a country estate.

“Strange world,” Joel Hale said recently, shaking his head as he stared out at the sun-dappled pasture from the vantage point of his tractor seat. To him and his cows, he said, “it ain't worth any more than it was.”

But according to the revaluation, his 236 acres, previously assessed for tax purposes at $330,000, is now valued at almost $2.8 million. Their previous tax bill was around $8,000, said Joel Hale. This year, it could be $40,000 or higher. [...]

Josephine Bernatchez, 52, and her brother David own the land their father bought for a dairy farm in 1922. Their 205 acres on Bryant Road increased in value in the reassessment from $283,400 to $2,373,800, making her worry. “We're not among the people with a lot of money,” she said. “Are we going to lose our homes?”

Lesson One: Never let a cow make an important financial decision.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:20 AM


Future health rosier? (RITA DALY, 6/24/06, Toronto Star)

The new face of Canada smokes and drinks less and is more physically active than the general population, according to a sweeping poll examining the behaviours and social attitudes of immigrant Canadians.

For a country that loves its beer and bars, the results of the survey may sound sacrilegious.

But the poll, conducted by the Solutions Research Group, raises the welcome possibility that a population practising healthier lifestyles could eventually save the $100 billion public health care system millions of dollars in doctors visits and medical treatment for certain diseases, including lung cancer.

At the very least, experts say, the country's diverse immigrant population could shift the emphasis of medical treatment away from some illnesses to others. Tuberculosis, for example, has seen a resurgence among many immigrants years after Canadian doctors stopped having to treat the illness.

Immigration accounts for 70 per cent of population growth in Canada.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:11 AM


Superheros choose sides in war on terror (Bryant Jordan, 6/25/06, The Army Times)

During World War II, the United States unleashed more than just its military against the Axis powers. In the pages of comic books, a new and timely generation of superheroes — Captain America, the Submariner and the Human Torch — took on the enemy as well.

Every soldier who thumbed through the dog-eared pages of a comic knew exactly where the superheroes stood. With them.

In "Civil War," a seven-part comic book series that pits Captain America, Iron Man and other heroes against each other over issues grown of today's war on terrorism, Marvel Comics is throwing out a challenge not only to its pantheon of superheroes, but also to its readers: "Whose side are you on?" [...]

Iron Man, a.k.a. Tony Stark, billionaire industrialist and arms manufacturer, takes the government side.

"Becoming public employees makes perfect sense if it helps people sleep a little easier," Iron Man tells a roof full of superheroes gathered at Fantastic Four headquarters to discuss the pending legislation.

Captain America, who has been wearing the stars and stripes as a uniform and fighting America's enemies for more than 60 years, comes down on the other side.

"Super heroes need to stay above (politics) or Washington starts telling us who the supervillains are," he tells the government's heavily armed "superhuman response unit" sent to sign him up or take him down.

It's important to remember that the only reason a lot of intellectuals artists backed the Allies in WWII was because the Party told them to. Until Hitler attacked the USSR they were sympathetic to the Axis.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:04 AM


Amid its poverty, Mexico booms (Alfonso Chardy, 6/25/06, Knight Ridder Newspapers)

Lost in all the publicity about the rising tide of poor Mexican workers besieging the U.S. border in search of better-paying jobs is one fact: From Tijuana on the border with California to Merida in the Yucatan peninsula, oil-rich Mexico is booming. Inflation remains low, economic growth is steady and salaries are rising. The Mexican government has more than $76 billion in foreign-currency reserves, the most in its history.

Mexico's annual per-capita income has more than doubled in the last decade, to more than $7,000, the highest in Latin America. The inflation rate is less than 3.5 percent per year, lower than that of the United States.

Economic analysts credit the boom to high oil prices; the North American Free Trade Agreement among Mexico, the United States and Canada; and the pro-business policies of the current administration, led by President Vicente Fox of the National Action Party, or PAN in its Spanish initials, and of the previous three under the long-dominant Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI).

A hundred years from now, all the Clinton administration will be noted for is extending free trade and beginning an era of entitlement reform.

GO BACK TO WHAT WORKS (Be Like Bill) (Al From and Bruce Reed, June 11, 2006, Washington Post)

As the 2006 and 2008 elections loom ever nearer, Democrats are racking their brains for a political philosophy that can return the party to power. Everywhere, we hear the same lament: If only Democrats had a proven formula for winning elections and governing the country.

Fortunately, we do: It's called Clintonism.

By any logical standard, Democrats of every stripe ought to be embracing Clintonism and its central tenets -- providing people with more opportunity while demanding more responsibility, and being willing to try new methods to realize progressive ideals. As an instrument of progress, it's beyond compare. Just recall its achievements: record budget surpluses, rising incomes, more than 22 million new jobs, millions leaving welfare and poverty for work.

As a political formula, its record is just as impressive. Not only was Bill Clinton the first Democratic president in 60 years to be reelected, but consider this: In the three elections before 1992, Democrats averaged 58 electoral votes. In 1992 and 1996, Clinton averaged 375. He won a dozen red states twice.

So why haven't Democratic elites embraced Clintonism -- particularly after the ill-fated campaigns of 2000 and 2004, when party nominees who shied away from it didn't carry a single Southern state? Unfortunately, some in our party never accepted Clinton's willingness to challenge orthodoxy to achieve progressive ends on welfare reform, fiscal responsibility, crime and trade.

It's easy enough achieve--all Democrats would have to do is reverse their opposition to every free trade agreement of the past two decades, reverse their opposition to SS reform, and back the law-and-order judges whose nominations they're blocking.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:54 AM


A bare-knuckles politician hulks over Senate race here (Alicia Mundy, 6/25/06, Seattle Times)

Waving his hands, his voice rising in anger, [Ted] Stevens admonished his colleagues that a vote against ANWR drilling would impoverish Hurricane Katrina victims, leave the elderly to freeze during the winter and even aid terrorists.

He vowed to travel the country and tell voters about the harm their senators inflicted by blocking the flow of Alaskan oil and the money it would raise.

Then he turned his attention to Cantwell, who had led the opposition: "I hope the senator from Washington likes my visits to Washington state, because I'm gonna visit there often.

It was an embarrassing public defeat for someone who has directed billions in taxpayer dollars to help other senators. And it was the culmination of a rift between Stevens and Cantwell over energy and environmental issues.

However, the final sentence he muttered is more crucial to understanding the depth of Stevens' anger. As he ended, he stared at his colleagues and said, "The time I've spent with you, working on your problems ... ."

They owed him. Ultimately, he would collect those IOUs.

Stevens, the most senior Republican in the Senate, is the high priest of bare-knuckle politics. For almost longer than Cantwell has been alive, he has practiced that religion fervently in public, and more fervidly behind closed doors.

He has used his seat on the Appropriations Committee and his perfect knowledge of lawmaking's arcane details to reward supporters and punish opponents.

As chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, he oversees fisheries, telecommunications, oil-tanker safety and other issues important to the Northwest. He's also president pro tempore of the Senate, which makes him third in line for the presidency.

Closer to home, his long history working with Washington's congressional delegation has led some people to call him the state's third senator.

But now there's acrimony, with Stevens striking out against the state to get at Cantwell and the two snapping at each other at public hearings.

He blames Cantwell.

"Cantwell really hasn't done much around here, so she needed something to attack," Stevens said in an interview. "She and her staff have been out to make me the enemy of Seattle."

He added, "We've got a bad apple in this basket." [...]

ANWR is back, too.

Last month, the U.S. House voted to approve oil drilling in the Arctic refuge. The issue likely will go back to the Senate, where Cantwell and Stevens could face off again.

Some members of Washington state's D.C. contingent say Cantwell should try to smooth over the hard feelings and call Stevens or send him a note.

He doubts that will happen, noting the antagonism in Congress between the two parties.

"It is necessary to have across-the-aisle relationships," Stevens said. "It is not an aisle now, it is a canyon.

"Build a bridge across that one," he said, smiling, "and that is a bridge to nowhere."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:49 AM


‘Burbs’ buildings gobbled up: Hub towers’ prices spur interest (Scott Van Voorhis, June 25, 2006, Boston Herald)

Faced with towering prices for Hub high-rises, real estate investors are turning to a tactic that just a few years ago might have had them committed to an asylum.

Buying up half-empty - and sometimes banged-up - suburban office buildings.

Such deals come amid a steady improvement in the long-sluggish local economy that has companies once again hiring - and starting to fill - office parks along Route 128 and Interstate 495.

With downtown Boston prices out of sight, some investors are scooping up suburban fixer-uppers in a bid to get ahead of what they are betting will be a return of the boom times.

Rebound in IT jobs: Another boom or not? (Mary Jacobs, 6/25/06, The Dallas Morning News)
Information Week recently ran a story headlined "More U.S. Workers Have IT Jobs Than Ever Before." Yet the headline of another article in the same publication offered a seemingly contradictory assessment: "Five Reasons We're Not in a Tech Boom."

What's the real story?

First, it's clear the tech job market is picking up.

For Good or Ill, Boom in Ethanol Reshapes Economy of Heartland (ALEXEI BARRIONUEVO, 6/25/06, NY Times)
Dozens of factories that turn corn into the gasoline substitute ethanol are sprouting up across the nation, from Tennessee to Kansas, and California, often in places hundreds of miles away from where corn is grown.

Once considered the green dream of the environmentally sensitive, ethanol has become the province of agricultural giants that have long pressed for its use as fuel, as well as newcomers seeking to cash in on a bonanza.

The modern-day gold rush is driven by a number of factors: generous government subsidies, surging demand for ethanol as a gasoline supplement, a potent blend of farm-state politics and the prospect of generating more than a 100 percent profit in less than two years.

The rush is taking place despite concerns that large-scale diversion of agricultural resources to fuel could result in price increases for food for people and livestock, as well as the transformation of vast preserved areas into farmland.

Even in the small town of Hereford, in the middle of the Texas Panhandle's cattle country and hundreds of miles from the agricultural heartland, two companies are rushing to build plants to turn corn into fuel.

As a result, Hereford has become a flashpoint in the ethanol boom that is helping to reshape part of rural America's economic base.

Despite continuing doubts about whether the fuel provides a genuine energy saving, at least 39 new ethanol plants are expected to be completed over the next 9 to 12 months, projects that will push the United States past Brazil as the world's largest ethanol producer.

The new plants will add 1.4 billion gallons a year, a 30 percent increase over current production of 4.6 billion gallons, according to Dan Basse, president of AgResources, an economic forecasting firm in Chicago. By 2008, analysts predict, ethanol output could reach 8 billion gallons a year.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:44 AM


2 coalition troops, 45 militants killed in Afghanistan (ASSOCIATED PRESS, 6/25/06)

Fighting killed two coalition soldiers and 45 militants in southern Afghanistan, military officials said Sunday. [...]

The four-hour gunbattle began late Saturday in the Panjwayi district of southern Kandahar province, said Gen. Rahmatullah Roufi.

Coalition forces initially engaged eight to 10 enemy fighters, the coalition said. The militants attempted to flee the but then joined other fighters in a nearby compound.

Coalition forces attacked the compound, killing an estimated 45 militants, the coalition said.

Military officials recovered a weapons cache of AK-47s and rocket-propelled grenades, Roufi said.

The deaths come a day after more than 80 militants were reported killed in multiple gunfights in southern Afghanistan.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:41 AM


The horror and the hustings (DANIEL PEPPER, 6/25/06, Scotland on Sunday)

As the people of DR Congo prepare for their first multiparty, democratic elections in more than 40 years, stories such as M's are all too common. Fighting rages between the new Congolese army and remnants of scattered militias throughout the east. At four million, the death toll is the worst of any conflict since the Second World War, even though the war in DR Congo supposedly ended with a peace agreement four years ago. According to the UN, more than a thousand people die from disease and malnutrition every day.

The elections have been pushed back twice already, but now seem to be on track for July 30, when about 23 million registered citizens will cast ballots for one of 33 presidential candidates and choose from over 9,000 candidates to fill a new 500-member parliament.

Costing nearly £300m, the elections are an attempt to turn around a country long mired by the plundering of ruthless dictators, from Belgium's King Leopold II who ran the Congo as his private fiefdom for 23 years to the Western-friendly dictator, Mobutu Sese Seko, whose control lasted 32 years and ended in 1996.

When Laurent Kabila, father of the current president Joseph Kabila, took power shortly afterwards in a coup, he enlisted the help of neighbouring armies, but soon turned against them. He was assassinated in 2001.

That spawned a complex series of militias backed by neighbouring Uganda and Rwanda, dragging the mineral-rich region east through bloody turf battles.

"This is potentially a turning point for Congo. If elections go well and are seen as free and transparent then they are the first step in helping to move Congo on to a more peaceful footing," says Anneke van Woudenberg, a senior researcher at Human Rights Watch. "A stable Congo could become the driver for development in the rest of Africa."

Today, the militia are largely replaced by the new Congolese army. But even as the Congolese army tries to stamp out the last of the militia, it has acquired a reputation for being equally murderous and uncontrollable.

"How does one have free and secure elections when there is still active fighting in the Congo?" asks van Woudenberg.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:35 AM


Revealed: the true scale of NHS cancer waiting times (EDDIE BARNES, 6/25/06, Scotland on Sunday)

THE shocking extent of cancer treatment delays in Scotland has been revealed in official new figures which also lay bare the postcode lottery facing patients across the country.

Despite repeated promises and billions of pounds invested, the hospital-by-hospital breakdown reveals some patients are waiting more than a year between GP referral and treatment.

The statistics also expose massive variations in average waiting times across Scotland, with some units beginning treatment for lung cancer in 10 days while others take 10 weeks.

Ministers last night admitted the situation was "unacceptable".

On the bright side, most referrals are bogus anyway.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:32 AM


In Remotest Indonesia, Unfinished Business: Fear, Distrust, Insurgency Simmer in Papua (Ellen Nakashima, 6/25/06, Washington Post)

Here, in the chilly central highlands of Papua, Yumbologon Wandikbo wears nothing but an orange-beaded choker and a covering known as a penis gourd, a custom of his Dani tribe. "When we get freedom," he said with a hint of defiance, "I will put on clothes."

Boy, you wouldn't want to get those two items of clothing mixed up if you were dressing in the dark.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:25 AM


McLeish attacks McConnell 'English posturing' (MURDO MACLEOD, 6/25/06, Scotland on Sunday)

JACK McConnell's continuing refusal to support England at the World Cup could lead to more violence on the streets of Scotland, former First Minister Henry McLeish has warned.

A war of words has been ignited after ex-footballer, McLeish - who won a Scotland cap as a youth player - said that his successor's failure to support England was damaging Scots' image abroad.

But cementing its place in the Anglosphere, where one can't help but notice that America, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Ireland, & India are uninterested in soccer altogether.

England fans held by riot police (BBC, 6/25/06)

Riot police have been removing England supporters from Stuttgart's main square after chairs and bottles were thrown by small groups of rival fans.

Police have so far arrested 150 England fans who were being held together in a corner of the city's main square. That figure is expected to rise to 250. [...]

A further 122 England supporters arrested in Stuttgart on Friday night are also expected to be held until after Sunday's game against Ecuador.

June 24, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:12 PM


NY study: No environmental link to cancer (FRANK ELTMAN, June 23, 2006, ASSOCIATED PRESS)

A multiyear study of elevated breast cancer rates in several Long Island communities found no environmental factors contributing to the spike, the state Health Department announced Friday.

"The results of the investigation found nothing unusual," the agency said in a statement released in Albany.

"We hope that our findings will ease concern among residents in Suffolk County about breast cancer and the local environment," said Health Commissioner Antonia C. Novello. "This investigation represented the largest and most thorough examination of environmental risk factors that may be related to cancer in a particular geographic area."

Despite Novello's comments, a breast cancer advocate immediately derided the findings.

Because these hysterias have nothing to do with reality.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:12 PM



It feels a bit demeaning to defend oneself against Kos. But I am one of the neo-con owners, and I am titular editor-in-chief. So here goes: The New Republic is very much against the Bush tax programs, against Bush Social Security "reform," against cutting the inheritance tax, for radical health care changes, passionate about Gore-type environmentalism, for a woman's entitlement to an abortion, for gay marriage, for an increase in the minimum wage, for pursuing aggressively alternatives to our present reliance on oil and our present tax preferences for gas-guzzling automobiles. We were against the confirmation of Justice Alito. And, institutionally, TNR was against several policies that I favor, including allowing the government more rather than less leeway in ferreting out terrorists and allies of terrorists.

On the one hand, New Republic is asking its readers to recognize that these guys are not just nuts, but fascist nuts. On the other, they want to make it clear that they're in complete agreement on policy. It's just a procedural quarrel.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:00 PM


Fair trade: A dull sport for a bland beer (Paul Mulshine, June 22, 2006, Newark Star-Ledger)

I turned on the TV to give the World Cup a try. Portugal was playing Mexico. People were falling over a lot and the ball was going everywhere but into the goal. The announcer seemed excited anyway. It turned out that Angola was playing Iran at the same time, he said. "If anything happens in that game, we'll switch over to it," he told us.

Well, there you have it: A direct admission from an expert that, during most of the typical soccer game, nothing happens.

Yet that nothing seems tremendously exciting to the fans. Throughout the game, they kept up a din so loud that it must have awakened the scorekeeper from the long naps he takes between goals.

Hence the need for beer. It is impossible to imagine sober people working themselves up into such a lather while nothing is happening on the field. And up till this tournament, European soccer fans had access to great quantities of high- quality stuff. The English have their wonderful ales, the Germans their lagers and so forth.

That all changed this year. It seems that Anheuser-Busch paid $40 million to become the exclusive beer sponsor of the tournament, which is run by a group called FIFA, one of the initials of which stands for "football" even though it's a soccer tournament. [..]

In Europe, Bud sells at premium prices. And the Europeans gladly pay, says Dave Hoffman, who runs the Climax Brewery in Roselle Park.

"When I went to London, I was appalled," said Hoffman. "Half the people at the bar were drinking Bud, Coors or Miller."

So Franklin Foer got that wrong too--not even soccer can resist Americanization. Fortunately, he was quite right that we easily avoid soccerization.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:52 PM


Koizumi's foreign policy: U.S. always comes first (REIJI YOSHIDA, 6/25/06, Japan Times)

As far as diplomacy is concerned, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi is arguably the most controversial leader Japan has seen in recent years -- a man both censured and praised since taking office in April 2001.

His diplomatic stance has been a nightmare for those hoping for closer ties between Japan and its Asian neighbors, but to conservatives he has been a quick, decisive leader advocating stronger military ties with the United States.

"(Koizumi) likes to make things clear, like black or white," observed Tomohito Shinoda, an associate professor of politics at International University of Japan in Niigata Prefecture.

Shinoda said Koizumi is a unique prime minister in that he has exercised strong diplomatic initiatives in a country that traditionally prefers consensus-building and control by bureaucrats.

His main pillar has been full commitment to the security alliance with the United States. He has said he believes the better Japan's ties with Washington, the greater the likelihood good relationships can be forged with other nations.

If your relationship with the Anglosphere is strong enough does it really matter what lesser nations think of you?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:43 PM


Maliki's Master Plan: A national reconciliation plan for Iraq calls for a timetable for withdrawal of U.S. troops and, controversially, amnesty for insurgents who attacked American and Iraqi soldiers. (Rod Nordland, 6/24/06, Newsweek)

NEWSWEEK has obtained a draft copy of the national reconciliation plan, and verified its contents with two Iraqi officials involved in the reconciliation process who declined to be identified because of the sensitivity of the plan's contents. Prime Minister Maliki will present the document to the National Assembly when it convenes on Sunday, and it's expected to be debated over the coming week. Maliki has made reconciliation and control of party militias the main emphasis of his new government. This plan follows a series of secret negotiations over the past two months between seven insurgent groups, President Jalal Talabani and officials of the U.S. embassy. The insurgent groups involved are Sunnis but do not include foreign jihadis like al Qaeda and other terrorist factions who deliberately target civilians; those groups have always denounced any negotiations.

The distinction between insurgents and terrorists is one of the key principles in the document, and is in response to Sunni politicians' demands that the "national resistance" should not be punished for what they see as legitimate self-defense in attacks against a foreign occupying power. Principle No. 19 calls for "Recognizing the legitimacy of the national resistance and differentiating or separating it from terrorism" while "encouraging the national resistance to enroll in the political process and recognizing the necessity of the participation of the national resistance in the national reconciliation dialogue."

The plan also calls for a withdrawal timetable for coalition forces from Iraq, but it doesn't specify an actual date—one of the Sunnis' key demands. It calls for "the necessity of agreeing on a timetable under conditions that take into account the formation of Iraqi armed forces so as to guarantee Iraq's security," and asks that a U.N. Security Council decree confirm the timetable. Mahmoud Othman, a National Assembly member who is close to President Talabani, said that no one disagrees with the concept of a broad, conditions-based timetable. The problem is specifying a date, which the United States has rejected as playing into the insurgents' hands. But Othman didn't rule out that reconciliation negotiations called for in the plan might well lead to setting a date. "That will be a problem between the Iraqi government and the other side [the insurgents], and we will see how it goes. It's not very clear yet."

The senior coalition military official, who agreed to discuss this subject with NEWSWEEK and The Times of London on the condition of anonymity, notably did not outright rule out the idea of a date. "One of the advantages of a timetable—all of a sudden there is a date which is a much more explicit thing than an abstract condition," he said. "That's the sort of assurance that [the Sunnis] are looking for."

"Does that mean the subject of a date is up for negotiation?" he was asked. "I think that if men of goodwill sit down together and exchange ideas, which might be defined either by a timetable or by ... sets of conditions, there must be a capacity to find common ground," the official said.

The U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, in a recent interview with NEWSWEEK referred to a "conditions-driven roadmap" rather than a timetable.

kind of silly to get your panties in a twist about guys who attacked US forces getting amnesty when we helped hide Nazis after WWII and cut deals with the North Koreans, North Vietnamese & Soviets.

U.S. General in Iraq Outlines Troop Cuts (MICHAEL R. GORDON, 6/25/06, NY Times)

The top American commander in Iraq has drafted a plan that projects sharp reductions in the United States military presence there by the end of 2007, with the first cuts coming this September, American officials say.

According to a classified briefing at the Pentagon this week by the commander, Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the number of American combat brigades in Iraq is projected to decrease to 5 or 6 from the current level of 14 by December 2007.

Under the plan, the first reductions would involve two combat brigades that would rotate out of Iraq in September without being replaced. Military officials do not typically characterize reductions by total troop numbers, but rather by brigades. Combat brigades, which generally have about 3,500 troops, do not make up the bulk of the 127,000-member American force in Iraq, and other kinds of units would not be pulled out as quickly.

American officials emphasized that any withdrawals would depend on continued progress, including the development of competent Iraqi security forces, a reduction in Sunni Arab hostility toward the new Iraqi government and the assumption that the insurgency will not expand beyond Iraq's six central provinces. Even so, the projected troop withdrawals in 2007 are more significant than many experts had expected.

The "experts," of course, believed their own nonsense about our wanting a permanent foothold there.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:17 AM


Plan B for Plurilateralists (Bernard K. Gordon, 22 June 2006, The Wall Street Journal)

It's the developing nations, led by Brazil and India, which are calling for just a "modest outcome," and it's time to recognize they have too small a stake to make that case. In fact, the world's 50 "least developed" nations account for less than 1% of global trade, and even with India and Brazil added, the total is less than 3%. The economies that are in fact the world's trade leaders are, not surprisingly, in North America, northeast Asia, the EU and the Asia/Pacific region.

If those trade heavyweights cannot close a satisfactory deal this summer, it will be time to start on Plan B, which would be centered on "plurilateral" or less than global-scale trade agreements. These would retain the key elements of the present multilateral system, which means they must exclude all preferences or preferential treatment; be based on full reciprocity; and be open to all who abide by those rules.

Fortunately the two essential elements to do just that are already in place. One building-block is the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade's Article 24, which was initially drafted to allow for the original European Community. It provides legal cover for groups of nations to establish FTAs, so long as "substantially all trade" is included. The second building-block is in the several "free trade" agreements the U.S. already has signed, and the others on its current agenda. Included are NAFTA, the recent agreements with Singapore, Australia and Chile, earlier agreements with Jordan and Israel, and the largely completed CAFTA. FTA talks recently begun with Korea and Malaysia have produced encouraging signs (those with Thailand are on hold), and further down the road are several FTAs in the Middle East.

Realisatically, if we add free trade with India and Brazil, to the regime we already have, what choice does anyone else have?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:59 AM


A McDonald's Ally in Paris (JOHN TAGLIABUE, 6/20/06, NY Times)

Never mind that Denis Hennequin was the top executive here when a half-built McDonald's restaurant was bulldozed seven years ago to protest the Americanization of France.

"We are an icon, a symbol, we don't claim to be otherwise," Mr. Hennequin said. "Yes, we were shocked," he went on, recalling how his business meeting was interrupted by the news of the bulldozing.

But even as protesters sought to cast McDonald's as the embodiment of all that is wrong with fast food and American culture, the French never stopped eating its hamburgers. Indeed, for all the attacks on the company, McDonald's operating profit in France last year was second only to that of McDonald's in the United States.

You'd think the Germans and Brits would be even more desperate for something edible.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:57 AM


Corruption scandal hits Beijing Olympics (Richard Spencer, 24/06/2006, Daily Telegraph)

Beijing's preparations for the 2008 Olympics were plunged into turmoil yesterday as a corruption scandal threatened to engulf plans for the construction of venues for the Games.

President Hu Jintao was reported to have taken personal charge of the corruption probe after a third senior official was called in for questioning.

Jin Yan, the deputy director of the city's Olympic venues construction office, was the latest official to be summoned away from his duties, according to Beijing-backed newspapers in Hong Kong. It is the first time that an official with the Beijing Olympic Committee has been targeted in the investigation.

The vice-mayor of Beijing in charge of urban planning has already been sacked, while it was confirmed this week that the chairman of Capital Land, the city's largest state-owned development company, was being questioned by officials.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:53 AM


Italians Get Ready to Vote on Referendum (Sabina Castelfranco, 23 June 2006, VOA News)

Italians will hold a two-day referendum June 25 and June 26 to decide whether to confirm constitutional reforms giving more power to regional governments. The reforms, which boost powers in areas of health, education and local policing, were passed by the Italian parliament in November. [...]

While the center-left agrees on the need for some changes to the constitution, the prime minister and the other leaders of his coalition have branded the planned constitutional reform as fatal...for the country.

That's the point.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:51 AM


Police may get wider powers to help 'decent majority' (Philip Johnston, 24/06/2006, Daily Telegraph)

Tony Blair yesterday signalled that he was ready to give the police more summary powers to deal with alleged offenders as he sided with "the decent law-abiding majority" against the political and legal establishment.

Only Bill Clinton as regularly sided against his own party.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:33 AM


The Dream of Sleep: It's 5:30 a.m. why aren't these people asleep? (Anne Marie Owens, June 24, 2006, National Post)

"Are you getting any?"

Once a cheeky inquiry about sex, that question is now more likely to be a serious one about sleep.

Canadians are getting up earlier and going to bed later, spending less quality time asleep and subsequently becoming a nation of the sleep-deprived, according to a wide range of indicators.

Everything from hydro usage to business opening hours to traffic patterns suggests we are stretching our days ever longer in the desire to fit everything in, and the thing that is inevitably sacrificed is sleep.

No wonder then that sleep, or the lack of it, has become our new obsession.

In our 24/7, BlackBerry-bolstered existence, getting eight hours of sleep at night now seems as anachronistic -- quaint even -- as the 9-5 workday.

And sleep disruption, even in minimal amounts, has been found to affect judgment, reaction time and many aspects of the brain's problem-solving ability. It is also linked to obesity, performance errors and accidents.

There are diverse indicators in the way we live that are beginning to show the dramatic overhaul in society's standard sleep-and-wake patterns.

The train system shuttling commuters from the suburbs that feed into Toronto has grown more rapidly in the 6:30-7:30 a.m. time slot in the past decade than in the 8:30-9:30 a.m. slot. While the 7:30-8:30 a.m. commute remains the busiest, the number of GO Transit riders has nearly doubled in the earliest morning rush.

In Vancouver, a handful of grocery stores in the Lower Mainland began opening their stores at 6 a.m. to appeal to customers keen to squeeze errands in at the beginning of the day. A year and a half later, the retail experiment has paid off, and 27 Save-On Foods outlets now cater to a growing population of early-morning shoppers happy to trade in an after-work stop at the grocery store to stock up at the start of the day.

Over the course of the past decade, the morning drive time for radio and major morning television shows has gradually moved back in all major markets from a traditional 7-9 a.m. slot to a 6 a.m. or, in a growing number of cases, 5:30 a.m. start time.

Habits are changing at the other end of the day, too: The daily peak electricity demand associated with the return home from work traditionally occurred at around 5 p.m. but is now shifting to around 6 or 7. In fact, for the first four months of this year, the daily peak demand -- when everyone gets home and turns on the lights, the oven, the laundry and everything else -- took place across Ontario at 7 or 8 p.m.

"We don't know exactly what's going on, but these numbers support the idea that everyone's getting home later from work, so we're starting dinner later, turning on all the lights later, everything is getting pushed back later," says Terry Young, spokesman for the Independent Electricity System Operator, which manages the province's power system.

"We don't know for sure if people are going to bed later, but with everything getting pushed back, it's not unreasonable to think that what used to be a wind-down at 10:30 p.m., 11 p.m., might not be occurring until later."

You can't keep making energy cheaper and cheaper and not expect people to use it more.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:29 AM


Lots of good ideas for Dems to run on if they only will (HELEN THOMAS, 6/24/06, Houston Chronicle)

When are the Democrats going to get their act together? [...]

In addition to an endless war for no known American objective, there are a host of other issues that Democrats should embrace to hit home to every American

They could shout from the rooftops against the chipping away at the Bill of Rights and expansion of presidential power.

President Bush has asserted the right to wiretap and eavesdrop on any American without a warrant in the name of fighting terrorism. He has asserted presidential power beyond stated constitutional rights and there is no Republican gutsy enough to call his hand.

The Bush administration also has detained hundreds of suspected terrorists in limbo without charges or trials.

And then there are the shameful alleged secret prisons abroad where prisoners may be subjected to torture under interrogation.

The fact that millions of Americans lack health insurance is a theme that Democrats should campaign on. The Democrats should support universal health care. When the Bush administration lays down the law in the prescription drug program that drug prices are not negotiable, who is it working for?

Another rich target for Democrats: Bush and the Republican Congress cut taxes for the richest people in the country while fighting to keep the 10-year-old minimum wage at $5.15.

There's your 40% agenda: retreat from the WoT, better treatment for terrorists, opposition to the popular drug plan, and higher taxes.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:25 AM


Young German doctors leaving the country (KIRSTEN GRIESHABER, 6/23/06, Associated Press)

Germany's well-trained but frustrated young doctors are leaving the country for higher pay in ever greater numbers, leaving some hospitals struggling to fill positions.

More than 12,500 German doctors are working abroad already, and 2,300 left the country in 2005 alone, according to the doctors' association, the Marburger Bund. The Netherlands, Britain, United States, Australia, Switzerland and the Scandinavian countries are among the top destinations.

"There are more than 5,000 jobs available at hospitals due to the number of people who have left," Michael Helmkamp, a spokesman for the Marburger Bund, said Tuesday. "Clinics all over Germany are facing shortages and many hospitals cannot provide their former standard of health care anymore."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:14 AM


Vietnamese leaders resign posts (BBC, 6/24/06)

Vietnam's top three leaders have resigned, saying they want to make way for younger politicians.

The National Assembly in Hanoi approved the resignations of President Tran Duc Luong, Prime Minister Phan Van Khai, and Assembly Speaker Nguyen Van An. [...]

The new president is expected to be Nguyen Minh Triet and the new Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, currently deputy prime minister and seen as an economic liberal.

Both men come from the south of the country.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:06 AM


Farc 'wants Colombia peace talks' (BBC, 6/24/06)

Colombia's left-wing guerrillas, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc), have said they are prepared to negotiate with the government.

Farc would talk to President Alvaro Uribe if he ended US-backed operations against them and demilitarised swathes of jungle territory, a spokesman said.

The group is also prepared to exchange some 60 hostages, the spokesman told Venezuelan TV channel TeleSur.

Mr Uribe has stressed he will not agree to the guerrillas' terms.

When one side in a conflict oiffers to negotiate they've already lost.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:02 AM


US-led forces 'kill 65 Taleban' (BBC, 6/24/06)

US-led coalition forces in Afghanistan say they have killed at least 65 Taleban militants in recent offensives in the south.

Coalition and Afghan forces attacked a large group of militants and fought a three-hour battle in Zharie district in Kandahar province on Friday.

Troops fought a five-hour battle on the same day with Taleban fighters in neighbouring Uruzgan province.

Violence in Afghanistan has soared in recent months.

Ever notice how every "Taliban Strengthening" story is followed by a "## Taliban Killed" story?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:47 AM


Oddballs tried mix of creeds & religions (JEANNE DEQUINE in Miami, ADAM LISBERG in Chicago and HELEN KENNEDY in New York, 6/24/06, NY DAILY NEWS)

The details emerging yesterday about the seven accused wanna-be jihadists did not make up a picture of your standard Islamic terrorists.

Either Haitian immigrants or the sons of Haitian immigrants, they belonged to an off-the-wall Biblical sect called the Seas of David that mixed elements of Christianity and Islam.

Their leader, Narseal Batiste, was known in his native Chicago for his large, wooden walking stick, flowing robes and matching headdress - either white or purple.

"He used to stand on the corner for a long time talking up at the sky and holding a big stick," said Sarah Villasensor, 53, who owns the Latina Jewelry store a few doors down from where Batiste used to live. "He would stay for hours right there."

Batiste, at 32 the oldest of the group, imposed an ascetic regime: no women, no booze, no drugs, no meat and lots of martial arts. They affected a military bearing and wore black uniforms with homemade shoulder patches that some described as a Star of David.

"We study and we train through the Bible, not only physical but mentally," a member calling himself Brother Corey told CNN. "We are not no terrorists."

They don't believe in the Trinity but are down with the double negative.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:45 AM


Some tricks for recipe substitutions (HELOISE, 6/24/06, Seattle Post-Intelligencer)

Dear Readers: Who hasn't been in the middle of making a recipe only to find that you are out of an ingredient? So, you either are forced to rush out to the store or attempt to find something that you can substitute.

Here are some substitutions you may find helpful! But keep in mind that sometimes when you substitute, the flavor and texture of a recipe may not be the same:

# Apple-pie spice: For each teaspoon of seasoning, mix 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon and 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg.

# Baking powder: For each teaspoon needed, mix 1/4 teaspoon baking soda and 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar.

# Bread crumbs: Crush crackers, cereal or chips to use in place of them.

# Buttermilk: For 1 cup, mix 1 tablespoon vinegar and 1 cup regular milk.

# Chocolate: Don't have a square of unsweetened chocolate for baking? Substitute 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder and 1 tablespoon cooking oil (or shortening) for one square.

# Cornstarch: For each tablespoon of cornstarch, use 2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour.

# Tomato sauce: For 1 cup, mix 1/2 cup tomato paste and 1/2 cup water.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:27 AM


Bush restricts eminent domain (Jennifer Loven, 6/23/06, The Associated Press)

President Bush ordered Friday that federal agencies cannot seize private property except for public projects such as hospitals or roads. The move occurred on the one-year anniversary of a controversial Supreme Court decision that gave local governments broad power to bulldoze people's homes for commercial development. [...]

Many critics — particularly in the West — see the decision as a dangerous interpretation of the "takings clause" in the Constitution's Fifth Amendment, which allows the government to seize property for public use with just compensation. They have argued such takings are an unjustified governmental abuse of individual rights.

Cities, though, see the takings power as an important tool for urban-renewal projects crucial to revitalizing cities.

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, welcomed Bush's executive order. But since the federal government has only a limited role in such projects, he said Congress must do more.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:24 AM


Beckett stellar as Sox roll on: Boston's starter is perfect for 5 1/3 innings while Manny Ramirez clouts two homers and drives in five runs. (JOE McDONALD, June 24, 2006, Providence Journal)

It was obvious from the get-go that Josh Beckett and the Red Sox were going to have an extraordinary night.

In fact, it was only a matter of time before Beckett proved why the club acquired the right-hander last November as part of a seven-player deal. Even though he entered last night's interleague game against the Philadelphia Phillies with an 8-3 record in 14 starts, it was time for him to emerge from relative hibernation and unleash a pitching fury.

The result was a near-perfect game, but Beckett had to settle for a three-hitter in eight innings en route to a 10-2 victory last night at Fenway Park that ran the Sox winning streak to seven games. He retired the first 16 Philadelphia batters and had a perfect game going until David Bell hit a weak ground ball up the middle to erase the possibility of perfection.

Beckett was relieved after throwing 104 pitches, allowing two runs in recording his ninth victory of the season

Glove affair for Gonzalez (Jeff Horrigan, 6/24/06, Boston Herald)
Pokey Reese earned the reputation of being arguably the best defensive infielder ever to wear a Red Sox uniform during his sole season in Boston in 2004, but Terry Francona said he might want to recast his vote.

After watching Alex Gonzalez during the first three months of the season, the Sox manager said his shortstop may be even better than the dynamic Reese, who is now out of baseball.

“Alex Gonzalez is one of the best defensive players I’ve ever seen,” he said. “Pokey was pretty special, but I’ve never seen some of the things that this guy has done. You’re talking about two of the best defensive guys we’ve ever seen. Either way, you’re splitting hairs.”

Gonzalez and his teammates established a club record in last night’s 10-2 win over the Philadelphia Phillies by completing their 11th consecutive errorless game. The previous high of 10 was set from Sept. 26-Oct. 5, 1986. [...]

Gonzalez entered last night’s rain-delayed game with a league-leading .995 fielding percentage, having committed only one error in 211 total chances. He has gone 51 consecutive games since being charged with his only error on April 9, establishing a Red Sox record for shortstops.

Actually, it was a pretty ordinary effort for Beckett, Manny & the defense but, thankfully, the Phillies started Ryan Madson, their best bullpen guy the past few years, and not Scott Matthieson, their best pitching prospect, who looked tremendous.

Kids contribute to an era of good feelings (Tony Massarotti, 6/24/06, Boston Herald)

These are truly the very best of times at Fenway Park. The Red Sox are winning now and planning for later, and the turnstiles at the oldest ballpark in baseball continue to spin like pinwheels.

Extending their romp through the subterranean floors of the National League East, the Red Sox pasted the Philadelphia Phillies last night, 10-2. The Sox now have won seven straight and remain two games ahead of the New York Yankees, and the hometowners are doing it all with a host of baby-faced, diaper-laden young men who think Boston is just another place to play baseball.

Welcome to hardball nirvana. [...]

Ultimately, of course, this all goes back to the championship. The Sox and their fans were an impatient, desperate lot before the Sox changed history in 2004, and the ripple effects are still being felt now. Without that world title, the Sox might not have been able to nurture Jonathan Papelbon and Jon Lester; Kevin Youkilis and Manny Delcarmen. Certainly, they would not be able to turn to those players now, with the Sox in the hunt and the season approaching its dog days. [...]

Now the Red Sox have Papelbon and Lester; Youkilis, Delcarmen and the highly touted Craig Hansen. With the exception of Youkilis, who had 287 career at-bats entering this season, all of them are rookies. It is difficult to remember a time when the Red Sox had this many young players, on the pitching staff or otherwise, without having sacrificed the chance to play in at least one October.

Seriously, how does it get any better than this?

In fact, one of the few significant mistakes they've made this year was sending Adam Stern down to AAA, "To get a chance to play everyday," when they couyld have just had him replace the injured Coco Crisp and play every day. Stern isn't a major league starter in the long-run--and Jacoby Ellsbury will be in CF next year--but he was hot and an excellent defender and a better option than Pena/Harris for a few weeks.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:18 AM


Kids movie 'Cars' needs retooling, critics say (ANDREW HERRMANN, 6/24/06, Chicago Sun-Times)

Disney's new film "Cars" is a winner with kids. But the nation's railroads, nudged by a west suburban physician, say the movie sends a losing message.

Their objection: a scene in the G-rated cartoon where a cocky young race car named Lightning McQueen tries to beat a train at a railroad crossing, ignoring the flashing lights and clanging signals.

The railroads and the national safety group Operation Lifesaver acknowledge it's too late to cut the scene from theaters but want it snipped from future DVD versions.

The McQueen character beats the train, but the scene could leave the impression that "ignoring warning signs is OK when in a hurry" or that "racing a train is thrilling, good, clean fun,'' Operation Lifesaver officials wrote Disney execs in a letter, which was also signed by the Association of American Railroads, the CEO of Norfolk Southern and the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

Despite the prejudices of carophiles, the train always wins.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Human Events Book Service is having a massive sale, with 100 books for under $10--we'd particularly recommend:

The Spanish Civil War, the Soviet Union, and Communism by Stanley G. Payne

Witness by Whittaker Chambers

Perjury: The Hiss-Chambers Case by Allen Weinstein

Witness to Hope by George Weigel

Ancestral Shadows by Russell Kirk

Aliens in America by Peter Augustine Lawler

That Printer of Udell's by Harold Bell Wright

FROM THE ARCHIVES [first posted 6/20/02]:

There's a tendency when folks put together lists of suggested summer reading to assume that readers don't want to have to think. So such lists usually have a lot of mindless thrillers and the like. It seems to me that a book can be mentally challenging but still be reasonably easy to read, in fact most of the best books are. So here's a list that won't strain your brain too much but that won't waste your time either.

These are the rough guidelines for the choices :

(1) It should be big. Five-hundred-pages-or-better big. You should be able to only take two books from the list and still have enough reading to get you through a week.

(2) It should be readable. No note-taking needed. Not a whole lot of names to remember. You should be able to pick it up and put it down again without having to reorient yourself. Most of all, you should enjoy it.

(3) Ideally it should be a book that you've been meaning to read but you've put off, probably because of its size. But now, when it's the only one, or one of the only ones, you have with you, you'll be "forced" to read it. At the same time, it should be good enough that you won't regret having brought it. No experiments.

So here are a few suggestions (with links to our reviews where applicable)(please add your own suggestions in the comments section) :

What it Takes : The Way to the White House (1992) (Richard Ben Cramer)
[A whopping 1051 pages, but you won't even notice. Available in a nice paperback edition.]
Mr. Cramer's account of the 1988 presidential campaign is an amalgam of both The Right Stuff and Moby Dick. It may be the quintessential book about America.

The Power Broker : Robert Moses and the Fall of New York (1974) (Robert Caro)
[1246 pages. Available in hardcover]
Mr. Caro writes biography in order to understand political power. He's in the middle of his acclaimed four volume Lyndon Johnson series, but for a
one volume masterpiece this one can't be bettered. Along with Mr. Cramer's book and All the King's Men it forms my personal triumvirate of great American political books.

Memoirs of a Superfluous Man (1943) (Albert Jay Nock? 1872-1945)
[Not 500 pages, but I never miss a chance to plug it. Hard to find, but looks to be available in paperback.]
An idiosyncratic thoroughly charming book by a conservative writing at a time when conservatism appeared dead.

The Last Hero (1990) (Peter Forbath)
[729 pages. Hard to find (though I have four copies and might be convinced to
send you one.)]
Maybe the best historical novel ever written, based on Henry Morton Stanley's expedition up the Congo to relieve the embattled Emin Pasha.

Sweet Soul Music : Rhythm and Blues and the Southern Dream of Freedom () (Peter Guralnick)
[448 pages (Close enough). Available in paperback.]
There's no better music writer in America and no better book about American music. If you take this one, you'd better bring some Solomon Burke cds too. His Elvis bio is excellent too.

All the King's Men (1946) (Robert Penn Warren 1905-1989)
[531 pages. Available in a fairly cheap hardcover.]
You might have had to read it for a class and thus ended up hating it. But it is an amazing political fable of good intentions corrupted by political power.

The Pity of War : Explaining World War I (1998) (Niall Ferguson) (Grade: A+)
[608 pages. Available in Paperback.]
I'm especially partial to authors who argue against the conventional wisdom. Mr. Ferguson takes on nearly everything you think you know about WWI.

Falls the Shadow (1989) (Sharon Kay Penman)
[580 pages. Available in paperback.]
Churchill mentions Simon de Montfort as an early hero of democracy in his History of the English-Speaking Peoples. Ms Penman takes the ball and runs with it. Went to Spring Training one year with married friends. Players went on strike. The couple fought over who got to read the book all week.

The Crisis Years: Kennedy and Khrushchev, 1960-1963 (Michael R. Beschloss)
[Looks to be out of print.]
Though Mr. Beschloss is more impressed by the handling of the Cuban Missile Crisis than I, this is a terrific, nearly novelistic, account of the utter hash that a drug-addled and sexually compromised JFK made of American Soviet relations.

The Conservative Mind : from Burke to Eliot (1953) (Russell Kirk 1918-94)
[Clocks in at 535 pages. Nice paperback edition available.]
Kirk is such a good writer that though the topic may appear dry you'll be captivated. Written in sections so if you find you're not particularly interested in one of the authors he's discussing, you can easily skip without losing anything.

Witness (1952) (Whittaker Chambers 1901-61)
[Roughly 800 pages. I'm not familiar with the edition that's available.]
Lost in the controversy between Hiss and Chambers, an understanding of which is central to comprehending mid-Century America, is the fact that Mr. Chambers was a great writer. This book is a psychodrama, a spy thriller, a courtroom story, and a testimony of faith all rolled into one.

Parting the Waters : America in the King Years (1989) (Taylor Branch)
[1064 pages. Available in paperback.]
America has no greater tale to tell than that of the successful and largely peaceful struggle for civil rights in the 1950s and 60s. Mr. Branch tells it well.

A Man In Full (1998) (Tom Wolfe 1931-)
[727 pages. Available in Hardcover.]
One assumes everyone has read The Right Stuff and Bonfire of the Vanities, but the mixed reviews on this one seem to have turned many folks off. Don't be one of them. It's a terrific satirical social novel that offers a sweeping panorama of America in the 90s.

Coming of Age in the Milky Way (1988) (Timothy Ferris)
[495 pages (so sue me). Available in a nice paperback.]
Mr. Ferris is one of the best popular science writers going--take it from someone who hates science. His history of Cosmology is a thrilling intellectual adventure.

Tai-Pan (James Clavell)
[730 pages. Available in a mass market paperback that might not be ideal for older eyes.
King Rat, Shogun and Noble House are excellent also, but Tai-pan is my favorite. A great anti-anti-colonial novel.

The Russian Revolution (1991) (Richard Pipes)
[944 pages. Available in paperback.]
As Daniel Pipes is to the war on terror, so his Dad was to the Cold War. He was the scourge of fuzzy thinking about the Soviet Union and this great history of the Revolution--from showing why it was not necessary to showing Lenin to be the father of the Terror--is unparalleled.

How Green Was My Valley (1939)(Richard Llewellyn 1906-1983)
[512 pages. Available in paperback.]
Heartbreaking look back at life in a dying Welsh mining village. You won't want it to end and won't ever forget it.

Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus (2001) (Rick Perlstein 1969-)
[671 pages. Available in Hardcover]
The book's worth buying just for the cover. Mr. Perlstein, though a self described "European-style Social Democrat", gives a fair and wonderfully readable account of the rise of grassroots conservatism, culminating in the 1964 nomination of Barry Goldwater.

Lindbergh (1998) (A. Scott Berg)
[628 pages. Available in paperback.]
All any of us remember is that he flew, he lost a child and he was a Nazi. The last is untrue. The first is far more remarkable than we realize any more. The second is heartbreaking.

And the Band Played On (1987) (Randy Shilts)
[672 pages. Available in paperback.]
Fairly even-handed history of the early years of the AIDs crisis, by one of its victims.

Modern Times : The World from the Twenties to the Nineties (Paul Johnson)
[880 pages. Available in paperback.]
Takes on the convential wisdom decade by decade.

Up in the Old Hotel and Other Stories (1992)(Joseph Mitchell? 1908-96)
[716 pages. Available in paperback.]
Mr. Mitchell was later to become a staple of fiction himself, as the writer's-blocked old fellow wandering the halls of the New Yorker, but before his pen went dry he wrote some of the best essays--mostly about New York City and its characters--that you'll ever read.

The New Dealers' War: FDR and the War Within World War II (2001) (Thomas Fleming) (624 pages) (available in paperback)

Mr. Fleming offers a devastating portrayal of FDR's mishandling of the war, from underestimating the capacity of the Japanese prior to Pearl Harbor to impulsively demanding unconditional surrender from Germany to completely misapprehending the nature of Stalin.

A Better War : The Unexamined Victories and the Final Tragedy of America's Last Years in Vietnam (1999) (Lewis Sorley 1934-)
[528 pages. Available in Hardcover.]
It's a major rethinking of whether even if we weren't going to "win the Vietnam War we might have at least salvaged South Vietnam and our honor.

The Great Bridge : The Epic Story of the Building of the Brooklyn Bridge (1972)(David McCullough 1933-)? (Grade: A+)
[640 pages. Available in a very nice Hardcover edition.]
Remarkable story about the building of an engineering marvel that the rest of the skyline eventually dwarfed, but never diminished.

Dune? (1965)(Frank Herbert? 1920-1986)?? (Grade: A+)
[528 pages.
Available in Hardcover.]
An intensely political science fiction novel. I never liked any of the sequels, but this first is terrific and stands alone quite nicely.

Ulysses S. Grant : Soldier & President (1997) (Geoffrey Perret)
[560 pages. Available in paperback.]
Mr. Perret, who writes wonderfully, challenges the caricatures of Grant and refurbishes his tarnished reputation.

Independent People (1946)(Halldor Laxness 1902-98) (Grade: A+)
[480 pages. Available in Hardcover in an excellent translation.]
If you pick this one, take two more. But if you're willing to trust me, it's just an amazing book, in which an Icelandic sheepherder becomes an "epic" hero.

Case Closed: Lee Harvey Oswald and the Assassination of JFK (1994) (Gerald Posner)
[600 pages. Available in paperback.]
One of the great feats of debunking as Mr. Posner just shreds every last bit of the JFK conspiracy theories.

And a few more for the slightly more adventuresome palate :
Don Quijote (Part 1--1605, Part 2--1615)(Miquel de Cervantes?1547-1616)(translated by Burton Raffel)? (Grade: A+)
[Available in a Norton Critical edition paperback.]
For years, you'd start this book with every intention of reading it but be defeated by the translation. That all changed with Burton Raffel's masterful work. It's now very accessible and quite wonderful.

Possession: A Romance (1990)(A.S. [Antonia Susan] Byatt? 1936-) (Grade: A+)
[608 pages. Available in a nice Modern Library hardcover.]
A seeming chick book that none of the women I've recommended it to have much liked--just a good literary mystery.

With Fire and Sword (1899) (Henryk Sienkiewicz 1846-1916)
[1135 pages. Hard to find and it's imperative to get the Kuniczak translation (not Curtin)]
The Polish names can make for tough sledding, but once you get into it you'll fly. Sienkiewicz won the Nobel prize and richly deserved it. You might want to start with Quo Vadis?? (1896)(Grade: A+) instead.

And, for teens, see :
Mr. Doggett's Suggested Summer Reading for Students

June 23, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:39 AM


Red Sox pick Cox closing teams out (Conor Nicholl, 6/22/06, MLB.com)

Bryce Cox faced a jam of epic proportions.

With Miami runners on first and third and one out in the bottom of the ninth inning Tuesday night in the College World Series, Cox was set to face John Jay, the Hurricanes' best hitter.

"I was fired up," Cox said.

Protecting a precarious 3-2 Rice lead, Cox went right after Jay. The center fielder, batting over .360 for the Canes, quickly fell 0-1 on a slider low and inside. After a ball, Cox threw another mid-80s slider that bore in on lefty Jay's hands.

He fouled the ball straight down. Set up at 1-2, Cox tossed a 97-mph heater outside, before coming back in with another inside slider. Jay tried to check his swing, but couldn't hold up. Two outs.

Now facing Danny Valencia, the clutch cleanup hitter who hit a go-ahead grand slam for Miami in the Super Regional Final against Ole Miss, Cox unleashed another barrage of high-90s fastballs and mid-80s sliders. The best contact Valencia could muster was a foul tap down the third baseline.

Cox struck him out on a filthy 85-mph slider to preserve the victory and keep Rice in the drivers' seat.

"That last slider was the reason that I didn't have much of a career in the big leagues -- I couldn't hit it either," Owls head coach Wayne Graham said.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:40 AM


Seven Canadian Women to Wed . . . Themselves (Hilary White, June 22, 2006, LifeSiteNews.com)

The fallout of the dissolution of the legal institution of marriage in Canada is proving the recently established maxim that the modern world is impervious to satire.

While homosexual activists insisted that with the redefinition of marriage to allow them to register their partnerings, the whole affair would be closed, activists defending marriage warned that the redefinition had kicked the supports out from under the institution. Many warned that taking marriage out of its natural context and re-defining it according to the whims of special interest groups would lead inevitably to polygamy being included as a religious rights issue.

Now a group of women in Vancouver are going one better than mere polygamy and are moving into previously unexplored realms of narcissism and marrying themselves. One said, “You can't commit to anyone else unless you're in touch with yourself.”

Even Narcissus at least loved only a reflection of himself.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:36 AM


From the Los Angeles Times: North Korea Missile Threat Draws U.S., Japan Into Security Alliance (Associated Press, June 23, 2006)

Japan and Washington agreed Friday to strengthen cooperation on missile defense amid concerns of a possible long-range rocket launch by North Korea, as U.S. forces wrapped up massive Pacific war games in a show of military might.

The five days of exercises -- the largest in the Pacific since the Vietnam War -- brought together three aircraft carriers along with 22,000 troops and 280 warplanes off Guam in the western Pacific.

The exercise "was a demonstration of the U.S. Pacific Command's ability to quickly amass a force ... and project peace, power and presence in the region," Air Force Lt. Gen. David Deptula told The Associated Press.

In Tokyo, Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso and U.S. Ambassador Thomas Schieffer signed documents about cooperation on joint ballistic missile defense development, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement. Japan's Defense Agency also said a high-resolution radar that can detect a ballistic missile has been deployed at a base in northern Japan.

Just do it.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 9:14 AM


Study reveals 'oldest jewellery' (Paul Rincon, BBC, June 22nd, 2006)

The earliest known pieces of jewellery made by modern humans have been identified by scientists.

The three shell beads are between 90,000 and 100,000 years old, according to an international research team.

Two of the ancient beads come from Skhul Cave on the slopes of Mount Carmel in Israel. The other comes from the site of Oued Djebbana in Algeria. [...]

They represent a remarkable early expression of modern behaviour in the archaeological record, experts say.

"The interesting thing about necklaces and this kind of behaviour is that it is symbolic. When we wear items like this, we are sending a message," said co-author Professor Chris Stringer of London's Natural History Museum.

"The message may be that we are powerful, or wealthy, or sexy, that we're part of a particular group, or to ward off evil. They're not just decorative; we think they had a social meaning." [...]

Up until recently, examples of modern behaviour before 50,000 years ago had eluded researchers, even though humans with modern-looking anatomy are known in the fossil record from about 195,000 years ago onward.

This had led some researchers to propose that modern anatomy and modern behaviour did not evolve in tandem.

Instead, they argued, a fortuitous mutation in the human brain may have triggered an explosion in human creativity 50,000 years ago, leading to a sudden appearance of personal ornaments, skilfully-crafted art, novel tools and weapons.

The discovery of 75,000-year-old Nassarius shell beads at Blombos Cave in South Africa challenged this idea. These beads even bore traces of red ochre, used as a pigment. Now the dates for beads from Skhul and Oued Djebbana further weaken the "cultural explosion" scenario, says Stringer.

Professor Alison Brooks, an expert in African archaeology at George Washington University, US, said the study was "very well researched".

"I am not surprised because I have long thought that the wide variety of bead types that we see during the Upper Palaeolithic in Europe had to have an antecedent. And this tradition is a very logical antecedent," she told the BBC News website.

"It supports my thought that there are no great revolutions in the evolution of modern human behaviour - it is a gradual process."

At least it was before we invented gender sensitivity seminars and self-esteem workshops to shed all those irrational social constructs that keep holding us back and making us miserable.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:11 AM


Cameron backs Blair on Iraq war (BBC, 6/23/06)

Conservative leader David Cameron has said he still believes going to war with Iraq was the right thing to do.

In an interview for BBC's Friday Night with Jonathan Ross, he said the war had been "very unpopular" and some bad decisions had been made since it began.

But Mr Cameron said "those of us who supported" the military action should "see it through".

He praised Tony Blair's reform of the Labour party but said he wanted the Tories to be "the party of the future".

On the issue of Iraq, he told Ross he supported Mr Blair's decision to go to war.

Nice to see he learned from the smackdown the white House delivered to Michael Howard--Iraq is not a political issue for the Right to use against Blair.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:06 AM


Daley: Special big-box rules might hurt city (FRAN SPIELMAN, 6/23/06, Chicago Sun-Times)

If the City Council mandates wage and benefit standards for "big-box" retailers on the heels of banning foie gras, it will send a dangerous message to business: Stay away from Chicago, Mayor Daley warned Thursday.

One day after the City Council's Finance Committee ordered big-box retailers to pay employees who work more than 10 hours a week at least $10 an hour and $3 an hour in benefits, Daley signaled his intention to block a final vote at Wednesday's City Council meeting.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:54 AM


Experts tell Blair to halt wave of crime laws (Alan Travis, June 23, 2006, The Guardian)

Britain's leading crime experts have accused Tony Blair of becoming an uncritical "cheerleader for more punishment"...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:35 AM


Rivals agree Somalia peace deal (BBC, 6/23/06)

Somalia's government and the Islamic group that controls the capital have agreed to end military campaigns at peace talks in Sudan.

The talks come two weeks after the Union of Islamic Courts took control of Mogadishu from an alliance of warlords.

The Islamists also agreed to recognise the legality of the interim government - a key demand - and to further talks.

Sudan's President Omar al-Beshir described the accord as "the beginning of the end of conflicts in Somalia."

Life under Mogadishu's new rulers: Unemployed Mogadishu resident Mohammed Abdirahman tells the BBC News website about life in Somalia's capital since Islamist militias seized overall control. (BBC, 6/20/06)
[T]rade has become easier. People are going about their daily lives, going to the market, setting up business. Near Bakara market, the Courts control the main street and people are happy as security is in a good state there.

And people can buy homes and cars and there is some functioning administration. A few of the people who fled their houses during the fighting have returned. But people are very concerned about the future of our city.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:20 AM


House Sacrifices Revenue and Earmarks: GOP Whacks Estate Taxes, Gives President Line-Item Veto Over Spending (Jonathan Weisman, June 23, 2006, Washington Post)

The House yesterday approved a deep, permanent tax cut on large, inherited estates that would cost the Treasury hundreds of billions of dollars, then sought to burnish its reputation for fiscal discipline by granting the president power to rescind pet projects from spending legislation. [...]

Both measures face some difficulties. Senate Budget Committee Chairman Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) has vowed to block consideration of the line-item veto legislation unless it is included in a much broader, more significant package of budget controls that cleared his committee this week.

The estate tax bill is within a few votes of the 60 needed to beat a Democratic filibuster in the Senate. But some moderate Republicans say the House bill is too large a drain on the Treasury, while others say the bill would leave too high a tax rate -- as much as 40 percent -- on the largest estates.

Deficits don't matter, but you could silence the hawks and impose some discipline by restoring Gramm-Rudman.

June 22, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:56 PM


Excommunicated: DAILY KOS STRIKES AGAIN (Jonathan Chait, 06.22.06, TNR Online)

I realize that the new, counterintuitive thing to say about the left blogosphere these days is that it's not really that radical. Markos Moulitsas Zuniga says nice things about Mark Warner, which means he's really just a pragmatist (or easily co-opted, but the effect is the same). All this is mostly true. What this interpretation misses, however, is that the radicalism of the lefty bloggers lies not so much in their ideological platform but in their ideological style. They think like sectarians. And that style is on perfect display in Kos's attack on The New Republic.

Kos announces in his headline, "TNR's defection to the Right is now complete." If this sounds vaguely familiar, it's because it is. More than two years ago, Kos launched what he called his "anti-TNR campaign," in which he declared us to be enemies of the people. Wait, sorry, wrong jargon--I meant, enemies of the people-powered movement.

You just know the disputants want to pull each others' hair.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:51 PM


Why Gaza attacks are deadlier: The Israeli army is facing an internal investigation into why recent missile strikes have gone so badly. (Ilene R. Prusher, 6/23/06, The Christian Science Monitor)

After three botched military strikes in Gaza in just over a week, in which 13 Palestinian civilians were killed, the Israeli army is facing an internal investigation into why guided missile strikes that in the past have been called "targeted," "efficient," and even "surgical" have gone so badly, fueling the fires of resentment and sparking international calls for restraint. [...]

Fifteen Israelis have been killed in rocket attacks from Gaza in the past five years, according to army figures, and more than 175 rockets of different kinds have been launched by Palestinians into Israel in the past month.

Israeli PM apologizes for air strike deaths (JAMAL HALABY, 6/22/06, ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert apologized Thursday for the deaths of Palestinian civilians in recent Israeli army air strikes after meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at an informal breakfast in Jordan.

Some 13 Palestinian civilians have been killed in Israeli air strikes in the past week, including two people in a Gaza house on Wednesday and three children in Gaza on Tuesday.

Olmert said he felt "deep regret for the death of innocent Palestinians."

"It is against our policy and I am very, very sorry," he added.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:48 PM


Chinese villages, poisoned by toxins, battle for justice: Tainted wells have spurred legal drive for cleanup, compensation. (Kathleen E. McLaughlin, 6/23/06, The Christian Science Monitor)

Along with its overheated economic growth, China has developed vast environmental problems. Even as spoiled air, water, and soil have degraded the environment across the country, they have often caused illnesses. Serious protests have often followed: The countryside saw nearly 90,000 uprisings last year, the government says, and 50,000 were related to pollution. [...]

[S]mall towns like Leifeng and Puxing, which are just a few hundred miles away from those cities, have languished. Good intentions from the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA) can't solve every problem, and local officials often have little incentive to do the right thing. The job of fighting for victims of environmental disasters is thus being taken up by growing ranks of activists and lawyers.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:45 PM


In Iraq war vote, Democrats fail (Linda Feldmann and Gail Russell Chaddock, 6/23/06, The Christian Science Monitor)

The difficulty for the Democrats is that they "exposed their weaknesses and showed none of their strengths," says Marshall Wittmann, a senior fellow at the Democratic Leadership Council. "They played into the hands of [Bush adviser] Karl Rove, who is planning to run an election based on Democrats' divisions and weaknesses."

Why for should this vote be different than any other?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:43 PM


Is Iran studying North Korea's nuclear moves? (Howard LaFranchi, 6/23/06, The Christian Science Monitor)

There may be no such thing as a North Korea playbook for would-be nuclear proliferators.

But many Western leaders suspect Iran of trying to emulate North Korea's secretive development of nuclear weapons. And as both nations continue to command international attention for their nuclear programs, it's clear the two countries watch each other for "how to" lessons in nuclear diplomacy.

Nothing would be more helpful than showing Iran how to make its nuclear sites into smoking craters.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:28 PM


Ah, no kids afoot: Empty trains, work till you die: Some figure birthrate drop will make more room, job options, better life, but it'll cost (MAYUMI NEGISHI, 6/23/06, Japan Times)

Manabu Akagawa, author of "Kodomo ga Hette Nani ga Warui?" ("What's Wrong with Fewer Kids?"), ... is not alone in his criticism of the government's efforts to keep the population numbers up. Takuro Morinaga, a visiting researcher at Mitsubishi UFJ Research & Consulting Co., said negativity and fretting about the future of the pension and social welfare systems solves nothing. [...]

He listed many ways that Japan stands to benefit from a declining population: less crowded trains and vacation spots, more spacious and less expensive housing, and fewer traffic jams.

This assumption, however, doesn't take into account the possibility of fewer trains, and railroad employees, if ridership falls, and the realities of urban real estate ownership, with its restricted parameters.

"We will not be able to sustain the pension system (if the population keeps falling), but that can be solved by creating a society where we (all) work for life," Morinaga said.

Imagine how often the dead man switch will go off when the guy driving the train is some 95 year-old who can't retire because there's no longer a safety net?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:25 PM


Our friends at Yale University Press are having a Clearance Sale too.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:46 PM


How not to secede while really trying: Other countries cope with separatist movements. We cope with a never-quite-separating separatist movement (Mark Steyn, June 19, 2006, Western Standard)

Up to the eighties, the Cold War provided useful cover for Quebec's bluff: the map was, for the most part, frozen. But, in the wake of the Soviet collapse, any folks who thought they were a nation could pretty much be one. And evidently Quebecers don't, not in any meaningful way. Why not? They've got all the characteristics of a nation. Compared to their nominal compatriots, they speak a different language, they come from a different ethnic stock, they have a different (albeit mostly residual) religion. By contrast, Montenegrins are all but identical to Serbs in lingo, race, religion and culture. And yet 600,000 fellows up in the hills now have their own nation, and seven million Quebecers don't.

You'll search hard in Quebec for any signs of affection for Canada. The symbols of the state are all but absent. You can drive for hours in the hinterland and not see a single Canadian flag flying from anything other than a post office. The head of state hasn't ventured any deeper into the province than Hull in 30 years. Her representative, the lieutenant-governor, isn't allowed into the national assembly to read the throne speech.

Much of this is fairly recent. It's well known during the blockbuster Royal tour of 1939 that the streets of Anglo Canada were jammed: a million turned out to cheer the king and queen in Vancouver, a million and a half in Toronto. But the Montreal and Quebec City stops attracted comparable crowds. As Their Majesties passed through Trois-Rivierès, 50,000 people swarmed the train station to sing "Dieu Sauve Le Roi." The queen (i.e., the late queen mum) was asked whether she considered herself English or Scottish and replied that, ever since arriving at Quebec City, she'd been Canadian.

Sixty-seven years on, you'd be hard put to find anyone in Quebec City who considers himself Canadian, outside a few tourists in the bar of the Chateau Frontenac. Quebec "nationalism" did a grand job at lowering the province's Canadianness to all but undetectable levels. What they failed to do was provide anything to put in its place. It's an old political axiom that you can't beat something with nothing. The Péquistes were very effective at transforming the Canadian something into a big nothing, and then they left it at that. But it seems you can't beat nothing with nothing. Quebec nationalism successfully semi-detached itself from Canada, only to run out of gas in no man's land.

Quebec is an object lesson in how multi-culturalism can remove any organizing principle whatsoever from a society.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:41 PM


United Ukraine parties to form new gov't (NATASHA LISOVA, 6/22/06, Associated Press)

Former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko announced in parliament Thursday that she and other allies from Ukraine's Orange Revolution had reunited into as a majority coalition and would start forming a government.

"Today we start our struggle so that our country can be democratic," Tymoshenko said. "We were given a second chance, and ... if we don't use this second chance, then the Ukrainian people will say it serves us right."

The coalition of pro-Western reformers who aim to move the former Soviet republic out of Russia's shadow was formally accepted after their names were read out in parliament.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:34 PM


New Fuel Source Grows on the Prairie: With Oil Prices Up, Biomass Looks More Feasible (Justin Gillis, June 22, 2006, Washington Post)

Farmers have pushed for years to get more people using gasoline mixed with ethanol made from corn kernels, but so far such ethanol has replaced only about 3 percent of the nation's gasoline, and by most estimates, the country would never be able to grow enough corn to replace more than 10 or 12 percent of its fuel supply.

Now many scientists -- and eager Silicon Valley venture capitalists -- are focusing on a new type of ethanol made from agricultural wastes and other plant residues, a potentially vast supply of material known as biomass.

While ethanol made from cornstalks may sound a lot like ethanol made from corn, the technology required is markedly different. The technique was long considered too expensive to compete with gasoline produced from oil, but the cost is declining rapidly just as oil prices hit record highs.

Experts say that soon, those trends will open the possibility of a vast new industry in this country producing a homegrown fuel.

Brown Goes Green: EPA and Partners to Unveil UPS Truck With 60 to 70 Percent Higher Fuel Economy (EPA, June 21, 2006)
Your normal UPS delivery truck will not be the same as EPA unveils the world's most fuel-efficient and cost-effective delivery vehicle. The first of its kind, EPA and UPS partnered to develop a UPS truck that uses EPA-patented hydraulic hybrid technology that can achieve fuel efficiency by 60-70 percent in urban driving and lower greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent.

"EPA and our partners are not just delivering packages with this UPS truck – we are delivering environmental benefits to the American people," said EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson. "President Bush is moving technology breakthroughs from the labs to the streets. We are doing what is good for our environment, good for our economy, and good for our nation's energy security."

Laboratory tests show that this hybrid technology has the potential to dramatically improve the fuel economy for package delivery vehicles, shuttle and transit buses, and refuse pickup. More than 1,000 gallons of fuel each year could be saved per vehicle. EPA estimates that upfront costs for the hybrid components could be recouped in fewer than three years for a typical delivery vehicle.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:27 PM


Top Court Sides With Gov't in Duress Case (AP, June 22, 2006)

The Supreme Court clamped down Thursday on defendants who claim they were coerced into breaking the law.

Those defendants, not prosecutors, have the burden of proving in trials that they committed crimes only under duress. [...]

The court's liberals were split in the 7-2 ruling against a Texas woman who claimed her abusive boyfriend forced her to illegally buy him guns while his accomplices held her children hostage. [...]

"The issue is a close one," Justice Stephen Breyer wrote in a dissent with Justice David H. Souter. "Where a defendant acts under duress, she lacks any semblance of a meaningful choice. In that sense her choice is not free."

Justice John Paul Stevens, considered the court's most liberal member, wrote the opinion, and was joined by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a former women's rights lawyer — a lineup that surprised some.

Again we see the genius of the Chief: if you can get Stevens vote you let him write.

Posted by David Cohen at 4:08 PM


Report: Hundreds of WMDs Found in Iraq (FoxNews, 6/22/06)

The United States has found 500 chemical weapons in Iraq since 2003, and more weapons of mass destruction are likely to be uncovered, two Republican lawmakers said Wednesday.

"We have found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, chemical weapons," Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., said in a quickly called press conference late Wednesday afternoon.

Does anyone really care about this? Do any supporters of the war, having lost their faith, now feel vindicated? Are any opponents tearing up their "Bush Lied" placards and conceding the necessity of invading Iraq?

There were no bad reasons for invading Iraq, and any number of good reasons. As Paul Wolfowitz said, WMDs were simply the clearest, easiest reason that worked for everyone. But WMDs were neither necessary nor sufficient reason to go to war, and 500 shells don't even come close. Of course, this is an easy position to take, given that the war has been such a stunning success.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:05 PM


Eye of the Storm: Kuwait makes history (Amir Taheri, 6/21/06, THE JERUSALEM POST)

Next week, Kuwaitis will go to the polls to elect a new National Assembly which will, in turn, approve a new prime minister and cabinet.

The Kuwaitis will be making history for a number of reasons. This is the first election in which women are allowed to vote, which means the size of the electorate has more than doubled. More importantly, and much to the chagrin of Islamists who insist that women are unfit to play any role in politics, a number of women are standing, often on a platform of radial social and economic reform.

With a native population of one million, Kuwait is one of the smallest states that form the Arab League. Nevertheless, its general election is important for the impact it is certain to have on broader Arab politics.

One reason is that the exercise will help consolidate the idea of holding elections as a means of securing access to power, something new and still fragile in most Arab states. Days before the Kuwaitis were due to go to the polls, the United Arab Emirates announced that it, too, would opt for a parliamentary system based on elections. This means all but five of the Arab states are now committed to holding reasonably clean elections at the municipal and/or national level.

SOME OF this new interest in holding elections is due to the impact of Iraq on the broader Arab imagination. Many within the Arab ruling elites saw, with a mixture of admiration and terror, how Saddam Hussein's regime, regarded as the strongest of the Arab despotic structures in recent memory, collapsed within three weeks.

The message was clear: An Arab regime without some mandate from the people is never more than a house of cards. Next, the Arab masses began to see millions of Iraqis queuing to cast their ballots in several municipal elections, a referendum, and two general elections, all in a couple of years.

Finally, several radical Islamist movements turned to elections, as opposed to armed jihad, as a means of winning power.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:55 PM


Honoring Our Religion (The Forward, June 23, 2006)

The quarrel that erupted this week between Moshe Katsav, president of Israel, and Rabbi Eric Yoffie, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, could easily be dismissed as a case of wounded pride, an inconsequential squabble over symbols without substance. But that would seriously understate the gravity of the dispute. In refusing to address the leader of Reform Judaism as "rabbi" — and in publicly stating that he would behave the same way toward any other rabbi who isn't Orthodox — the president of Israel has deliberately and directly denied the legitimacy of the religion followed by the majority of American Jews. Symbolic it may be, but there's nothing inconsequential about it. [...]

It is true, of course, that Reform and Conservative Judaism face far more substantive burdens in Israel than the way their leaders are addressed by a man who is himself a figurehead. Reform and Conservative rabbis cannot perform legally valid marriages or divorces in Israel. They face rank discrimination in funding, zoning and a hundred smaller procedures. Even conducting their prayers at the Western Wall, Judaism's holiest site, poses humiliating obstacles. These disputes have been going on for decades, and have become part of the very fabric of Israel-Diaspora relations. Successive Israeli prime ministers have acknowledged the distress caused to Diaspora Jews by the disenfranchisement of their leaders, but each has professed powerlessness in the face of Israel's political realities. Commissions and task forces have risen and fallen. Israeli courts have handed down one deadline after another for their political system to address its own contradictions. All in vain.

Until now, however, the dispute usually was conducted with some measure of common courtesy. At the very least, the leaders of American Judaism could expect to be received by the leaders of Israel with a modicum of civility. The current president of Israel seems unable to summon even that.

American Judaism isn't.

Posted by David Cohen at 3:47 PM


U.S. fails to advance (AP, 6/22/06)

There was no glory for the United States at this year's World Cup, only frustration and failure.

Done in by their own mistakes, the Americans lost to Ghana 2-1 Thursday in a game they had to win to advance past the tournament's first round.

Cheered on by thousands of boisterous fans bedecked in red, white and blue, the Americans fell flat against an opportunistic team that was stronger and faster. The surprising Black Stars, newcomers to the World Cup, joined Italy from Group E in the knockout phase.

I knew I didn't like the game, but I had no idea we were so bad at it. It's nice when you pay attention to something you're contemptuous of and it turns out you were right all along.

Ah, the bliss of not having to think about soccer for another four years.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:50 PM


Cantwell's lead over McGavick nearly gone: Latest poll shows senator losing ground to challenger (NEIL MODIE, 6/22/06, Seattle Post-Intelligencer)

Dwindling voter support for U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell's re-election bid has put her in a statistical toss-up with her Republican opponent, according to a new poll announced Wednesday. [...]

While some political experts are skeptical of Rasmussen's automated telephone-polling methodology, the firm claims to have been the nation's most accurate pollster during the 2004 presidential election. And other surveys have shown a similar narrowing of Cantwell's lead.

Rasmussen said Cantwell was viewed favorably by 53 percent of likely voters and unfavorably by 42 percent, including 20 percent who viewed her "very unfavorably." McGavick, who has never run for elective office before, was viewed favorably by 46 percent and unfavorably by 35 percent.

Hovering 6 percentage points below 50 percent in a head-to-head matchup is a big danger sign for an incumbent. In a news release, Rasmussen attributed Cantwell's eroding support largely to her past backing of the Iraq war and her vote against an attempt to block the nomination of Samuel Alito to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Both positions have angered voters on Cantwell's left. She now has two anti-war opponents in the Democratic primary as well as an anti-war Green Party opponent.

The revolting eat their own.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:05 AM


Overconfidence is a disadvantage in war, finds study (Roxanne Khamsi, 6/21/06, New Scientist)

Overconfident people are more likely to wage war but fare worse in the ensuing battles, a new study suggests. The research on how people approach a computer war game backs up a theory that “positive illusions” may contribute to costly conflicts.

“It supplies critically needed experimental support for the idea that positive attitude - which is generally a [beneficial] feature of human behaviour - may lead to overconfidence and [damaging] behaviour in the case of war,” comments Peter Turchin of the University of Connecticut, US. [...]

Dominic Johnson of Princeton University in New Jersey and his colleagues recruited 200 volunteers to play the role of the leader of a fictitious country that is in conflict with another over newly discovered diamond resources that lay along a disputed border.

Before the game, volunteers were asked to predict how their performance would rank compared with the other 199 people in the experiment. They then played anonymously against other volunteers and received $10 if they won the game, that is, if they amassed the most wealth or defeated their opponent in war.

Each player began with $100 million in game money to invest in their military or industrial infrastructure, or to reserve as cash. The program gave them constant updates about the offers and actions of their opponents.

Careful negotiations with opponents could win players additional resources in exchange for the diamonds. But they also had the option of waging war. Their victory in battle was determined by how much they had invested in their military, along with an element of chance.

Players who made higher-than-average predictions of their performance – those who had higher confidence - were more likely to carry out unprovoked attacks. These warmongers ranked themselves on average at number 60 out of the 200 players, while those who avoided war averaged out at the 75 position.

A further analysis showed that people with higher self-rankings ended up worse off at the end of the game. “Those who expected to do best tended to do worst,” the researchers say. “This suggests that positive illusions were not only misguided but actually may have been detrimental to performance in this scenario.” [...]

“One wishes that members of the Bush administration had known about this research before they initiated invasion of Iraq three years ago,” he adds. “I think it would be fair to say that the general opinion of political scientists is that the Bush administration was overconfident of victory, and that the Iraq war is a debacle.”

Even setting aside the assumption that war is primarily about financial gain, as Mr. Boys points out, the over-confident players in the WoT have been Sadam Hussein, Al Quaeda, the Taliban, Zarqawi, Osama Bin Laden, etc...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:58 AM


Bush visit marks Hungary uprising (BBC, 22 June 2006)

US President George W Bush is on a state visit to Hungary to mark 50 years since the country's uprising against Soviet occupation.

After talks with Hungarian leaders, the president laid flowers in memory of the victims of the 1956 uprising.

He is delivering a speech acknowledging the high cost Hungary paid in its struggle for independence.

Mr Bush is expected to use his visit to promote a vision of democratic regimes triumphing with US encouragement. [...]

Soviet tanks rolled into Budapest in 1956 after a national uprising and then Prime Minister Imre Nagy's call for the country to pull out of the Soviet-led Warsaw Pact.

Thousands of people died in the ensuing crackdown by Soviet forces, while hundreds of thousands more fled the country. In 1958, Soviet authorities announced Mr Nagy had been executed.

The failure to settle the Soviets' hash right then extracted costs we're still recovering from.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:49 AM


Pro-Israel Donors Rally For Joe, as Left Takes Aim (Jennifer Siegel, June 23, 2006, The Forward)

With Senator Joseph Lieberman facing an increasingly tight primary fight, pro-Israel interest groups are stepping up their support for the former vice presidential candidate. [...]

The Lamont-Lieberman race has emerged as one of the most closely watched primaries in the country, in large part because unseating Lieberman, one of the most conservative Democrats in Congress, has emerged as a priority among activists on the left. MoveOn.org — the Web-based liberal organization whose fund-raising efforts gave wings to Howard Dean's presidential campaign in 2004 — decided to support the Lamont campaign after it held a mock primary on the Internet last month.

It's no a good sign when a simple renomination bid forces the contradictions in your coalition.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:30 AM


Former Defense Officials Urge U.S. Strike on North Korean Missile Site (Glenn Kessler and Anthony Faiola, 6/22/06, Washington Post)

Former defense secretary William J. Perry has called on President Bush to launch a preemptive strike against the long-range ballistic missile that U.S. intelligence analysts say North Korea is preparing to launch.

In an opinion article that appears in today's Washington Post, Perry and former assistant defense secretary Ashton B. Carter argue that if North Korea continues launch preparations, Bush should immediately declare that the United States will destroy the missile before it can be fired.

Perry and Carter suggest using a cruise missile launched from a submarine and carrying a high-explosive warhead. "The effect on the Taepodong would be devastating," they write, using the name of the Korean missile. "The multi-story, thin-skinned missile filled with high-energy fuel is itself explosive -- the U.S. airstrike would puncture the missile and probably cause it to explode. The carefully engineered test bed for North Korea's nascent nuclear missile force would be destroyed."

The advantage of doing North Korea first is that even if it doesn't deter Iran it makes it clear that this is about denying our enemies nukes, not about Islam.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:21 AM


Navigating Battlestar America: Sci-Fi Show Asks Real-World Questions (Alex Wainer, 6/14/2006, BreakPoint)

[G]alactica has quite deliberately shaped itself as a metaphoric exploration of America in the post-9/11 era, with the democratic Colonials as the U.S. and the Cylons as radical Islamists determined to destroy the West and its values. But one episode from this spring, “The Captain’s Hand,” was particularly relevant for one of the big questions facing us: Can a civilization increasingly downsizing itself confront a growing Muslim population that is increasingly “over here” in Western nations?

Like most contemporary dramatic television episodes, “The Captain’s Hand” has at least two plots. In the episode’s main story, the Colonialists’ abortion policy is brought into question. The subplot involves a young woman who has smuggled herself aboard the Galactica seeking an abortion, which is legal, though she comes from a colony that frowns on the procedure—sort of like their version of the Bible Belt. When President Laura Roslin (Mary McDonnell), who has always supported abortion rights, expresses her support for the young woman’s decision, Admiral Adama (Edward James Olmos) urges her to reconsider. President Roslin is sitting under the whiteboard where she keeps a running count of the usually declining human population which now numbers 49,584.

Adama: I hate to say this. Because I know that this is a political issue. The fact is that that number doesn't go up very often.

Roslin: I fought for a woman's right to control her body my entire career. No. No.

Adama: I'm just remembering what you said. Right after the Cylon attack. That if we really want to save the human race, we'd better start having babies.

Adama’s words found real-world echoes in a column written by Mark Steyn that points out at length that the West—that is, Europe, England, and the United States, as well as other modern and developed nations—face their disappearance this century not because we will be outfought on the battlefield, but because of the crisis of childlessness. Western nations, as well as Japan, China and other countries, are, simply put, not replacing their current populations by having at least two children per couple. In the West, populations are dropping—at least white populations are—but in Europe, Muslim populations continue to grow. Steyn and others argue that it’s a simple mathematical progression that in two generations or more, Islam will have triumphed without a battle simply because the self-imposed depopulation of the West will cause it to lose cultural weight, creating a vacuum to be filled by Islam.

Steyn asserts that, in the real world, we are at war with radical Islam, which finds its foot soldiers from growing masses who are confident of an eternal reward for their deaths in the battle with the West and face an enemy with no clear reason to fight them:

That's what the war's about: our lack of civilizational confidence. As a famous Arnold Toynbee quote puts it: "Civilizations die from suicide, not murder"—as can be seen throughout much of "the Western world" right now. The progressive agenda—lavish social welfare, abortion, secularism, multiculturalism—is collectively the real suicide bomb.

Modernity provides the conditions for diminishing procreation. Speaking in purely economic terms, when an agrarian society changes to an industrialized, urbanized society, the need for children to help with the family farm’s crops decreases and the outgo of family wealth in the cost of raising and educating them receives very little in return. That’s the case Glenn Harlan Reynolds makes in an article about declining birthrates. He also discusses how parenting has simply become more difficult as overprotectiveness and the need to cart kids to endless activities drains the joy out of raising children. And this increases the pressure to have fewer or no children.

Add to that the assumptions of autonomous individualism—the ease of birth control, consumerism, the rise of the welfare state and other factors, all contributing to rationales for abortion—and you have a formula for a birthrate under the replacement level.

It requires an astonishing level of self-absorption to think that raising children has become more difficult because you need to drive the little rug rats to little league than it was when you lived in fear of not being able to feed them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:08 AM


Britain to buy new nuclear deterrent (Philip Webster and Michael Evans, 6/22/056, Times of London)

BRITAIN is to have a new generation of nuclear submarines and missiles after a promise by Gordon Brown yesterday to replace the Trident deterrent if and when he becomes Prime Minister.

The Chancellor, widely expected to take over from Tony Blair next year, faced a furious response from the Left after pledging to retain the nuclear capability in this Parliament and “in the long-term”. But the Chancellor was told that he was upsetting his natural allies in the party and the unions after using a City speech to make his most important non-economic policy pledge so far.

In remarks that will please the the Armed Forces and the US Government, Mr Brown was trying to show that, as Labour leader, he would not lurch to the Left or be soft on defence.

A key component of our nuclear deterrent plan should be to force Britain and France to surrender theirs, which we never should havew allowed them to develop in the first place.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:21 AM


Liberals spurn standing vote on Tory ethics bill
(CURRY AND JANE TABER, 6/22/06, Globe and Mail)

The Conservative government's central piece of legislation – the federal accountability act – has passed through the House of Commons without a single record of which MPs support or oppose it.

Liberal Leader Bill Graham refused to say yesterday whether his party supports the bill and abruptly ended a scrum with reporters when he was pressed to state a position.

"We support increased accountability but there are certain elements in this bill which we clearly criticized in committee and we made our opposition to that clear," Mr. Graham said when asked to state the Liberal position.

He then said his MPs might have a position if the Liberal senators amend the bill. [...]

NDP ethics critic Pat Martin criticized the Liberals for not wanting to take a position on two of the major issues in the House.

"It's not much of an Official Opposition if they don't have an opinion on the single biggest centrepiece of the legislative agenda. I can't believe the Liberals don't have a strong opinion," he said. Mr. Martin said he suspects the Liberals felt they would be hurt politically no matter what position they took.

I kid you not--the bill on which they refuse to have their votes recorded is called the Accountability Act.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:10 AM


Lieberman's 'Little Fun' in Animated Ad Rankles Opponent (Zachary A. Goldfarb, June 21, 2006, Washington Post)

A couple of old hands in Connecticut politics are ganging up on Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (D).

George Jepsen, a former chairman of the state Democratic Party and former state Senate majority leader, on Monday endorsed the candidacy of Ned Lamont, a businessman who is closing in on Lieberman in the polls. Lamont's support has come largely from antiwar activists angry with Lieberman's stance on Iraq. Jepsen's endorsement follows one from former senator Lowell P. Weicker Jr., who was defeated by Lieberman in 1988.

"It's a very difficult decision, because I've known Joe Lieberman for 20-odd years, and I like him and I thought he's sincere in what he believes," Jepsen said. "But it's become increasingly clear on most of the major issues of the day that I don't share his values. . . . I personally believe the war is possibly the worst foreign policy mistake of the post-World War II era, and Joe has been an enabler of that."

Meanwhile, Mr. Lieberman is pretty nearly the only national Democrat who most of the country thinks might share their Judeo-Christian values.

Lieberman Vs. the Democrats (Harold Meyerson, June 21, 2006, Washington Post)

Lieberman's problem is not that he faces expulsion from a sect but that he has chosen to stand outside what remains a big, messy tent of a party. Moreover, he seems to have reversed the roles that the two parties play when it comes to Iraq.

By criticizing the president on the war, he has said, the Democrats are playing partisan politics. His opponent, Lieberman told Broder, criticized him for breaking "Democratic unity. . . . Well, dammit, I wasn't thinking about Democratic unity. It was a moment to put the national interest above partisan interest."

How's that again? To criticize Bush on the war is partisan, while refusing to criticize Bush on the war affirms the national interest? That's taking a rather partisan -- a pro-Bush partisan -- view of the national interest.

Substitute either "President" or "government" for "Bush partisan" and Mr. Meyerson's point, such as it is, evaporates.

June 21, 2006

Posted by Peter Burnet at 6:15 PM


Hurricanes capture 1st Stanley Cup (CBC, June 20th, 2006)

The Carolina Hurricanes took a page out of the Edmonton Oilers' playbook Monday night to win the first Stanley Cup in the history of the franchise.

More: Why hockey rules...And other sports suck (Andrew Coyne, National Post, June 21st, 2006)

With the just-completed hockey playoffs coinciding this year with the World Cup of soccer, as well as the overlapping basketball and baseball seasons -- also Canadian football, the U.S. Open of golf and, later this week, Wimbledon -- we are afforded a rare, eclipse-like opportunity to compare the major spectator sports at close range. Compare, and declare: There is one game that stands out as objectively, scientifically, mathematically superior to the rest. I am of course talking about "the best game you can name," le sport des glorieux, the gentlemanly sport of hockey. Let's break it down by category.

The game. There is more action in five minutes of hockey than in your average 90-minute game of soccer, whose fans live for the moment when, by some mischance, the ball strays within 50 yards of the net. Basketball suffers from the opposite affliction: As the comedian David Brenner argues, they should start both teams at 100 and make the games two minutes long, since that's what every basketball game comes down to. Only hockey combines frequency of scoring chances with difficulty of actually scoring: Fans, especially at playoff time, are kept in a state of near-permanent hysteria, the prospect of a game-altering goal ever present.

Hockey is fluid, where baseball and football are static. It has been calculated that a 60-minute football game, though it takes nearly three hours to complete, adds up to no more than about 10 minutes of actual playing time. The rest is huddles, signal-calling, etc. Baseball players spend half of every game sitting around on the bench, chewing tobacco. The rest is spent standing around in the field, chewing tobacco. But oh, the geometry.

"The beautiful game?" I'll tell you what's beautiful: a perfectly timed hip check at mid-ice, sending the other player cartwheeling onto his head. It's ice dancing, only with more bruises and fewer sequins.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:52 PM

WHAT A WASTE (via Glenn Dryfoos):

Papelbon is a perfect fit in 'pen (Bill Simmons, 6/21/06, ESPN)

The 2006 Red Sox MVP happens to be a rookie, a potential 20-game winner who hasn't started a single game this season. Instead, he's been moonlighting in the closer role, almost like a bartender waiting tables for a few days because two of the waitresses are sick. Now, a few days have turned into a few months. Will he ever go back to bartending? That's the big question.

I'm talking about Jonathan Papelbon, the baby-faced assassin who has single-handedly kept my team's playoff hopes alive and prevented a Boston Strangler-level panic attack in New England. When Terry Francona opted for Papelbon over floundering Keith Foulke to close the third game in April, Red Sox Nation braced for a closer controversy. It never came. Paps got the next save chance. And the next one. And the next one. By early June, Paps had converted 20 straight and evolved into a Rivera-esque weapon, someone who gets you more than three outs if necessary and seems equally unperturbed in sold-out Yankee Stadium or lifeless Tropicana Field. He's the best player on the team. There's no question.

Here's the catch: Papelbon's ceiling as a starter has been compared to that of everyone from (a healthy) Mark Prior to Roger Clemens. And baseball experts unanimously agree that a great starter is more important than a great closer, if only because we're talking about 220 to 250 innings instead of 70 to 80. Starters have more value. Starters have longer careers. Starters earn more money than closers. No team that ever employed Clemens, Pedro, Greg Maddux or Bob Gibson said, after the fact, "Man, it's too bad we didn't make him a closer." Yes, Jonathan Papelbon should join Boston's starting rotation some day. It's the logical move. It's the only move.

So why do I find myself hoping they don't make it? [...]

We have watched dozens of quality relievers over the years, but only a few were dominant forces: Rivera, Goose Gossage, Bruce Sutter, Eric Gagné, K-Rod. That's about it. You can always overspend for Billy Wagner or call up someone like Chris Ray, but how far will that get you? Can we even quantify Rivera's worth compared with that of the average closer? Was there a more indispensable player over the past decade, a bigger disparity between the No. 1 and the No. 2 guys at any other position? We rarely consider closers as MVP candidates, but name another player who came through in the playoffs more times. With the way October baseball works in the 21st century -- three rounds and 19 possible games over four weeks -- an extraordinary reliever might be the single greatest asset for any team. [...]

I like feeling safe in the ninth, holding a trump card in every close game -- one who thrives in his particular job more than anyone else at any other position. Maybe it defies all logic, but I hope Jonathan Papelbon stays my team's closer for the next 15 years.

Some things are just meant to be.

That's absurd. There are no stud closers for 15 years. Gossage was great for about 9 years, Sutter for 6. No one thinks K-Rod's arm can hold up. Gagne had a couple good years and now he's toast--and remember he was converted because he was an awful starter. Rivera is freakish but this is his 11th year and he's near done.

Meanwhile Joe Borkowski, Takaisi Saito, and JJ Putz are doing effective jobs closing this year.

Roger Clemens is 22 years into a dominating career. Maddux 21. Glavine 20. Moyer 20. Randy Johnson 19. Smoltz 18. Even Pedro is 15 years in.

Here's all you really need to know--even the D'backs with no closer but two great starters were able to beat Rivera.

The fall-off from Papelbon to even someone like Mike Timlin would be at most a couple wins, while the fall -off from Papelbon to DiNardo/Wells/Snyder/etc. has been dramatic.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:08 PM


Poll: Michigan governor's race is close (AP, 6/21/06)

Michigan's gubernatorial race between Democratic incumbent Jennifer Granholm and Republican challenger Dick DeVos is close, according to a poll released Wednesday.

Forty-six percent of 600 likely voters said they would vote for DeVos, while 44 percent said they would vote for Granholm. [...]

In the latest poll, conducted June 13 through Tuesday, 41 percent gave Granholm a positive rating and 58 percent a negative rating, with 1 percent undecided, similar to her numbers earlier this month.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:49 PM


U.S. offense is missing in action (Detroit News wire services, 6/21/06)

Shots by the U.S. team at the World Cup have been scarcer than tickets.[...]

America's lack of offense has been startling. According to FIFA's statistics, the only shot on goal was Claudio Reyna's drive off a post in the 28th minute against the Czech Republic. That's by far the lowest total after two games for any of the tournament's 32 teams. Angola is next-to-last with four. [...]

The way the Americans played against the Czechs was a step back, but their tie against the Italians was one of their best games -- even though they had no shots.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:20 PM


Constantine: Britain’s Roman Emperor: 1,600 years ago this month, York saw the proclamation of a man who changed the course of the history of the world. (Christopher Kelly, july 2006, History Today)

At noon on October 28th, ad 312, God dramatically intervened in the course of human history. At least according to Eusebius (bishop of Caesarea on the coast of Palestine) the self-appointed biographer of the newly Christian Roman emperor, Constantine. In late October 312 Constantine advanced on Rome, the culmination of a swift and bloody civil war against Maxentius, a rival claimant to the imperial throne.

The armies met at the Milvian Bridge outside the city. Maxentius’ forces crossed the Tiber on boats lashed together. They were quickly routed by Constantine’s more experienced troops. Attempting to retreat to the safety of the city walls, the crush of panicked men fleeing for their lives caused the pontoon-bridge to break up. Maxentius and his bodyguard were pitched into the river and swept away in its swift-flowing current.

In Eusebius’ view this was a memorable moment of Christian triumph. Above all, it recalled the Israelites’ crossing of the Red Sea. Constantine’s defeat of Maxentius at the Battle of the Milvian Bridge replayed the Biblical account in Exodus. Constantine was a modern Moses. Maxentius failed like Pharaoh before him. Drowned in the turbulent waters of the Tiber, he ‘sank to the bottom like a stone’.

For Eusebius, victory at the Milvian Bridge was inevitable. Before the campaign Constantine had prayed for divine aid. One day at noon the Emperor and his men saw a shining cross of light with the sun behind it. From a banner attached to the cross blazed forth the words, ‘By this conquer’. Eusebius continues: ‘Amazed by this marvellous sight, and determined to worship no other god than the one who had appeared, he summoned those expert in his words and asked who this god was.’

The meaning of this sign was confirmed that night in a dream. According to Constantine, Christ had appeared and urged him to make a copy of what he had seen in the sky. The next morning the imperial goldsmiths and jewellers were hurriedly summoned. A huge cross was swiftly constructed. From it hung a costly golden tapestry with the Emperor’s portrait fixed above. Under such a battle-standard, Constantine’s success was now divinely assured.

This version of Constantine’s conversion to Christianity and of events at the Battle of the Milvian Bridge has not always been believed. In his The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (first published in 1776), Edward Gibbon sneeringly dismissed the whole account. In Gibbon’s view the ‘interest of religion’ was irreconcilable with the duty of a rational historian. [...]

Modern historians have not been persuaded. On the one hand, confronted with Eusebius’ account of a glittering cross in the noonday sky there has been a reluctance to replace rational explanation with divine intervention; on the other, presented with Zosimus’ tale of a family at war, modern historians have expressed a clear distaste for the kind of wild and unsubstantiated stories which inevitably collect around any bloody dynastic feud. In the end, whatever the most plausible explanation – perhaps somewhere between the dramatically miraculous and the desperately cynical – Constantine’s open and enthusiastic support for Christianity should not be doubted.

For Constantine, his religious experience before the Milvian Bridge and his success in battle were inextricably linked. The Christian God had supported the victor. Fifteen years later (in the mid-320s) the Emperor was to claim that the final, bloody show-down against Maxentius on the outskirts of Rome was the culmination of a much longer process of conversion. On this pious re-telling of events, it had all begun six years before, when Constantine had accompanied his father – the emperor Constantius I – on a military expedition to northern Britain. [...]

[I]mportantly, for Constantine that sense of Roman history, and of his own place in ensuring its continuance, was not incompatible with his own commitment to fulfilling a divine Christian mission, entrusted to him on his accession in York and confirmed by his vision at the Milvian Bridge. Flushed with success after his defeat of Licinius in 324, he issued a public letter to the people of Palestine. This is one of the most uncompromising statements of Constantine’s faith.

Beginning from Britain in the far west where it is decreed by Heaven itself than the sun should set, I have repelled and scattered those horrors which held everything in subjection, so that the human race, taught by my obedient service, might restore the religion of the most dread Law … I could never fail to acknowledge the gratitude I owe, believing that this is the best of tasks … Indeed, my whole soul and whatever breath I draw, and whatever goes on in the depths of my mind, that, I am firmly convinced, is owed by us wholly to the greatest God.

The text of the letter was preserved by Eusebius, but its authenticity has often been doubted. Such a defiantly Christian Constantine seemed unlikely. The same clarity and purpose so powerfully conveyed by Eusebius’ version of the events before the Battle of the Milvian Bridge was for some scholars a sure indication of forgery. This letter was simply too good to be true.

Any doubts were definitively silenced in 1953 with the publication of a battered scrap of fourth-century papyrus from Egypt (now in the British Library) on which a scribe had copied out part of Constantine’s letter to the people of Palestine. This contemporary document confirmed that Eusebius’ version of the text was accurate. Clearly, not all of Constantine’s unambiguously Christian pronouncements are the result either of wishful thinking or artful fakery on the part of his supporters. [...]

Under Constantine it was clear that Christianity – and not paganism – enjoyed the Emperor’s explicit support. The Christian clergy was given legal privileges and tax immunity. Christian bishops were now a trusted part of the imperial entourage. Strikingly, Christian language, symbols and rituals became part of the vocabulary of imperial power. On 25th July 336, celebrating the anniversary of the Emperor’s accession thirty years before in York, Eusebius of Caesarea delivered a series of grand orations before the assembled court in Constantinople. His imagery was arresting. In its magnificence, the Emperor’s palace might be compared to Heaven. In his compassionate concern for the welfare of the empire and its people, Constantine might be compared to Christ Himself.

Arrayed as he is in the image of the kingdom of heaven, the Emperor pilots affairs here below, following – with an upward gaze – a course modelled on that ideal form ... Let those who have entered the sanctuary within these holy halls, that innermost, most inviolate of places, having shut the doors to profane hearing, declare the sovereign’s secret mysteries to those alone who are initiated in such things. Let those whose ears have been purified by these flowing streams of piety ... celebrate the ruler of all, performing these sacred rites in respectful silence.

These themes were repeated by Christians around the empire. In the mid fourth century – a long generation after Milvian Bridge – the owner of a grand villa at Hinton St Mary (in Dorset, not far from Dorchester) had one of its principal rooms decorated with a magnificent floor mosaic. At its centre a roundel displays the bust of a young, clean-shaven Christ whose appearance seems deliberately to parallel portraits of Constantine or his sons. Behind his head the Chi-Rho, a monogram made up of the first two letters of Christ’s name in Greek. On either side are pomegranates, ancient symbols of eternal life.

Sixty years before such a clear affirmation of Christian belief by a wealthy landowner would be unthinkable. At the beginning of the 290s, at imperial command, Roman officials launched their most systematic and effective attempt to suppress Christianity. This was a time of state-sponsored terror remembered by Christians as the ‘Great Persecution’. That less than twenty-five years later a Roman emperor should himself publicly proclaim his own belief in the Christian God marks one of the great turning points in European history. It is Constantine’s lasting legacy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:02 PM

ALL DOWNHILL SINCE '70-'72 (via The Mother Judd and the Other Brother):

Dartmouth Alumni Battles Become a Spectator Sport (DIANA JEAN SCHEMO, 6/21/06, NY Times)

Back when Daniel Webster, class of 1801, defeated an attempt by the governor to take control of the Dartmouth College board, his argument before the Supreme Court gave rise to a line famous among Dartmouth students: "It is, sir, as I have said, a small college. And yet there are those who love it."

Now those passions for the Ivy League institution have it embroiled in a new and bitter battle over its board, this time pitting alumni critical of the college against loyalists who have risen through the ranks of the Alumni Association.

The fracas has drawn the attention of conservative bloggers and publications all over the country.

It began when candidates for the governing board of trustees endorsed by the Alumni Association were unexpectedly defeated two years in a row by outsiders who got on the ballot by petition. The outsiders accused the college administration of sacrificing free speech to political correctness and of abandoning Dartmouth's historical focus on undergraduates to turn it into a "junior varsity Harvard."

Now the officers of the Dartmouth Alumni Association have canceled a coming vote for new executive officers and are proposing a constitution with new rules for how candidates get on the ballot. Critics say the effort is intended to block outsiders from gaining yet more seats.

Conservative publications and blogs that accuse academia of a liberal bias have lionized the three insurgents at Dartmouth and are tearing into the proposed constitution. The blog of one student, Joseph Malchow, describes the process of drafting the constitution in a "Timeline of Dirty Tricks."

But supporters of the constitution say the effort began well before the outsiders' triumph and was spurred by simmering alumni discontent and a steep decline, until recently, in alumni donations to the college since the 1980's.

They do everything they can to alienate the alumni and then wonder why they aren't giving money.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:09 PM


Nation of Workaholics Sleeps on the Job: Japanese Executives and Students Recharge at Lunch (Anthony Faiola, June 21, 2006, Washington Post)

For high school students everywhere, the classroom desk is often a place to catch a few winks of sleep. But instead of receiving a scolding, dozing teenagers at Meizen high school are more likely these days to find their teachers dimming the lights, putting on classical music and joining their students for a power nap.

In a nation known for its tireless diligence, the students have joined a repose revolution that has investment bankers and bureaucrats sharing lunchtime with the sandman. Meizen High, in this progressive southern metropolitan area of 5 million, last year became the first school in the nation to promote mental alertness by officially encouraging all students to take 15-minute naps in their classrooms after lunch. Several schools have followed suit, and others have said they might adopt the practice.

After-lunch naps have long been stigmatized as a sign of laziness in a society that experts call among the most sleep-deprived on earth. But, suddenly, they have become the latest rage, part of a mental alertness craze sweeping a nation known for its fondness for such fads. A flurry of scientific studies, books and high-profile news reports are heralding mini-siestas as an integral part of new daily regimens for enhancing mental agility. [...]

It has been to the benefit of the 991 students at Meizen high school, where summer break does not begin until July and where surveys showed most students slept only five to six hours a night. Since the napping program was introduced in June 2005, test scores have markedly increased and reports of students drifting off during class have sharply declined, said the principal, Shinei Otaka.

"You can't compare the lifestyles of these kids to kids back in the States," said Melissa Fabrose, the English teacher at Meizen who is on an exchange program this year from her San Francisco high school. "Most of these kids are waking up around 5:30 or 6 a.m., and lots of them are commuting on public transport. Some of them are traveling more than two hours each way and then spend lots of time studying. They don't have a lot of time to sleep."

Of course, studies also show that it's asinine to have teenagers,m in particular, start their days as early as we have them do so.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:05 PM


England shirt attacks condemned (BBC, 6/21/06)

Prime Minister Tony Blair has condemned attacks on a seven-year-old boy and 41-year-old man who were wearing England shirts in Scotland.

The attacks in Edinburgh and Aberdeen are being treated as football-related racist assaults.

A tad redundant.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:03 AM


An Ear for the Market (DAVID MORRIS, 6/21/06, NY Times)

CONGRESS is considering several bills to extend the 51-cent-per-gallon tax credit for ethanol producers beyond its 2010 expiration date. But let's hope that our elected representatives don't make their decision in the grips of an ethanol haze. The state of the ethanol industry changed so substantially since the last extension, one year ago, that a fundamental and clearheaded redesign is in order. [...]

Last year, Congress ordered a near doubling of ethanol sales by 2012. Industry has responded so rapidly that the nation may have enough capacity to meet the Congressional goal by 2008. Indeed, Congress is already debating measures to increase mandated levels to 10 billion gallons in 2010 and 30 billion in 2020.

If the current 51-cent-per-gallon tax credit remains in place, these mandates would cost the Treasury Department $5 billion in 2010 and more than $15 billion in 2020. In the face of high oil prices, such subsidy levels are likely to prove politically untenable when there's no need for tax credits to make ethanol competitive.

Rather than favor one alternative, ethanol, which almost certainly won't turn out to be the best one, Congress should just disfavor what it's trying to reduce our consumption of, gas, and do it via increased taxes.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:46 AM


Roberts' rule: judicial humility (EJ Dionne, 6/21/06, Seattle Times)

Many on the right and the left think the purpose of the Supreme Court is to lay out very broad principles and to decide as much as those principles demand — or permit.

Scalia's theory of "originalism" holds that the one thing that matters is what the writers of the Constitution "originally" meant. That often seems to correlate with what conservatives want to do, although Scalia will occasionally ditch his devotion to originalism if he needs another way to get to a conservative outcome. That's what happened last week in a, well, 5-4 decision expanding police search powers. A more libertarian approach, Scalia said, applied "in different contexts and long ago." So much for originalism.

You can't be both an originalist and opposed to legislative history anyway.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:33 AM


Radiohead dances, tinkers -- fans love it (JIM DEROGATIS, 6/21/06, Chicago Sun-Times)

[T]here is absolutely nothing natural about Radiohead's music. This is the sound of digital overload and a high-tech nervous breakdown -- a system crash of harrowing proportions. But like a flower springing up from the concrete, "the utterance of life" nevertheless seeps through, generally via the haunting melodies of Thom Yorke, whose voice is, admittedly, an acquired taste; it has taken me years to be won over by the charms of its spastic hiccups.

Taking a cue from one of its inspirations, the Pink Floyd of the mid-'70s, the British art-rock quintet is using this tour to road test and tweak its new material in the midst of recording its seventh album, expected in 2007. The disc doesn't as yet have a name or a home; one of the biggest rock bands in the world is currently without a major-label record deal, and it's seriously considering whether it even needs one. Of the 23 songs in its almost two-hour set, nine were new numbers, complete with plenty of kinks still to be worked out, and unfamiliar to the majority of its fans. Yet the audience embraced these challenging sounds as if they were already chart-topping hits.

This is another trait that Radiohead shares with Pink Floyd circa "Wish You Were Here" and "Animals": Despite the avant-garde nature of much of its music, it has become a platinum-selling superstar act, somehow fashioning arena rock out of the most difficult sonic experiments.

This is a feat that is best appreciated onstage, where the interaction between Yorke, the sonic alchemist tag team of guitarists, keyboardists and noisemakers Jonny Greenwood and Ed O'Brien, and the fluid yet mechanically precise rhythms of bassist Colin Greenwood and drummer Phil Selway pack a visceral punch that can be obscured by the layers of electronics or the intentional fragility of the band's recordings.

Can't wait to hear what Luther Wright does with OK Computer.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:31 AM


Homemade pot stickers are well worth the work (HSIAO-CHING CHOU, 6/21/06, Seattle Post-Intelligencer)

There are foods that should be left in the hands of the professionals. In general, dishes that come in small portions on large white plates and garnished with sauce from a squeeze bottle or preparations that involve rare ingredients someone had to "source" from a guarded purveyor ought to remain in the domain of chefs.

Pot stickers, however, are a peasant food, so utilitarian in concept and economical to make. There is nothing haute about a dough pouch filled with ground meat and cabbage or a meal that is made communally like Christmas tamales. The dumpling can be steamed, boiled or pan-fried. When it is fried, it is called a pot sticker (or guo tieh) because the bottom sticks to the pan and forms a crispy crust. [...]



# 2 cups all-purpose flour
# 3/4 to 1 cup lukewarm water
# 2 cups ground pork
# 2 cups chopped Chinese cabbage (also called napa cabbage)
# 1 stalk green onion, finely chopped
# 1 teaspoon minced ginger
# 2 tablespoons soy sauce
# 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
# 1 teaspoon sesame oil
# Vegetable oil

For the dough: In a large mixing bowl, combine 2 cups flour with water. Start with 3/4 cup water. (You may need a touch more if the dough doesn't come together.) Mix well with a dough mixer or wooden spoon until it starts to come together. Then work with your hands to form the dough into a rough ball. If the dough is too wet, you can add a little more flour. The dough won't feel smooth at this point. Set the dough ball in a bowl, cover with a damp towel and let it rest while you make the filling.

For the filling: Combine the ground pork, Chinese cabbage, green onions, ginger, soy sauce, white pepper and sesame oil in a bowl. Combine thoroughly. (Clean hands are the ideal mixing tool.)

To form the dumplings: Knead the dough for several minutes until it feels smooth. Divide it into 4 sections. Roll each portion into a log about 5 inches long and 1/2-inch in diameter. Cut the log into 9 or 10 even pieces. Dust with flour as needed.

Roll each piece into a ball, then press it between your palms into a silver-dollar-size disk. With a Chinese rolling pin (available in Asian markets, or get a 3/4-inch wooden dowel from a hardware store), roll each disk into a flat circle about 3 inches in diameter. Don't worry about making a perfect circle.

Place a dollop of filling, about a teaspoonful or so, in the center of the wrapper. Fold the round so you get a half-moon shape and pinch shut. (See note.) The dough should be just sticky enough to seal without using water or egg. Repeat until you have used up all the dough or you run out of filling.

To cook: Heat an 8- to 10-inch non-stick skillet over medium-low to medium-high heat (you may have to adjust the heat according to your stove). Add about 3 tablespoons vegetable oil and swirl it around to coat the bottom. Place as many dumplings in the skillet as will fit. Add 1/2 to 3/4 cup water to the pan, depending on the size of the pan. Cover immediately with a lid and do not remove or the steam will escape. Cook until bottoms are crisp and brown but not burned, about 7 to 9 minutes. The sizzling will subside as the water evaporates. Remove the pot stickers with a spatula. Serve with dipping sauce.

June 20, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:50 PM


On Iraq, Kerry Again Leaves Democrats Fuming (KATE ZERNIKE, 6/21.06, NY Times)

When Senator John Kerry was their presidential nominee in 2004, Democrats fervently wished he would express himself firmly about the Iraq war.

Mr. Kerry has found his resolve. But it has not made his fellow Democrats any happier. They fear the latest evolution of Mr. Kerry's views on Iraq may now complicate their hopes of taking back a majority in Congress in 2006.

As the Senate prepared for what promises to be a sharp debate starting on Wednesday about whether to begin pulling troops from Iraq, the Democratic leadership wants its members to rally behind a proposal that calls for some troops to move out by the end of this year but does not set a fixed date for complete withdrawal. Mr. Kerry has insisted on setting a date, for American combat troops to pull out in 12 months, saying anything less is too cautious.

In drawing up a schedule for the Wednesday session, the Democratic leadership has arranged for its plan to be debated first, pushing Mr. Kerry and his proposal into the evening, too late for the nightly television news, to starve it of some attention. [...]

Stepping into an elevator on Capitol Hill late last week, Mr. Kerry was asked whether he was under pressure in the Democrats' meetings to withdraw his proposal. As he insisted he was not, Senator Christopher J. Dodd, Democrat of Connecticut, standing behind him, raised his eyebrows, then winked.

In an interview, Mr. Dodd, who is also considering a presidential run, said one danger in the November election was in making Democrats look indecisive. "If the argument comes down to, Is it one year or eighteen months, I think we're going to confuse people," he said. "I'm not sure what the value is; I think it hurts us rather than helps."

You're in big trouble when your party's big problem is John Kerry standing too firm.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:44 PM


Surge of Population in the Exurbs Continues (RICK LYMAN, 6/21/06, NY Times)

Once again, the fastest-growing cities in the United States are some of the far-flung exurbs in the Sun Belt and the Far West, according to fresh population estimates from the Census Bureau.

The bureau's annual survey of municipalities with at least 100,000 residents shows that from July 1, 2004, to July 1, 2005, four outer suburbs in California, three in Florida, two in Arizona and one in Nevada were the country's most rapidly growing. [...]

The only change in population ranking among the nation's 10 largest cities was that San Antonio supplanted San Diego in seventh place, although Phoenix came within fewer than 2,500 people of taking over fifth place from Philadelphia, as it will almost certainly do in next year's estimates.

In terms of the actual number of additional residents, as opposed to percentage growth, Phoenix attracted the most, its population rising an estimated 44,456, to 1,461,575.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:03 PM


Mexican mansions bloom from U.S. jobs (Ioan Grillo, 6/19/06, Associated Press)

Clementina Arellano grew up with her six brothers in a shack in this dusty Mexican hamlet. Now 42, she's raising her sons in a spacious, 10-room mansion with Roman-style pillars at the doorway and a garden full of flowers and singing birds.

How did she transform her fortunes so dramatically? By waiting tables and sweating in a furniture factory for about 10 years in Hickory, N.C., and sending home up to $500 a month.

A couple of doors down, Berta Olgin, lives under a leaky roof, with skinny sheep gnawing at sparse patches of grass in her yard. Her sons all decided to stay in Mexico to work as farmers or laborers, earning about $10 a day.

The two women are a vivid illustration of why so many Mexicans head north from this arid valley in central Mexico. Those who make it to the U.S. send dollars to

carve out a Mexican dream between gnarled cacti and jagged rocks. Those who stay behind condemn another generation to a life deprived of material privileges. [...]

Last year, Mexican migrants sent home a record $20 billion, making them Mexico's biggest foreign earner after oil, according Mexico's Central Bank. In the first four months of this year, the amount was $7 billion, a 25 percent increase over the same period last year.

Only illegal immigration keeps the migration from getting out of control.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:01 PM


French Jews veer to political right (Yossi Lempkowicz, 20/Jun/2006, EJP)

The political right is gaining ground within France’s Jewish community with more than 40 percent of French Jews supporting a right-wing party, according to the results of an opinion poll published Monday by the daily newspaper “Le Figaro”.

The survey conducted by the IFOP polling institute shows that the centre-to-right UDF and UMP governing parties have the support of 33,3 percent of Jews while this figure is only 29,1 percent for the total French electorate, which represents a difference of more than 10 percent.

The left-wing parties – socialists, far left and Communists – get 37,4 percent of the Jewish voters against 35,6 percent for the whole French electorate, a difference of 1.8 percent. Women are more left-leaning than men.

The extreme-right “Front National” only get 4.9 percent against 10.1 percent in the French electorate, the poll shows.

The poll was conducted among a representative electoral sample of 1,000 people between January 2004 and February 2006.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:57 PM


Homosexuality a Psychological Disorder: Pentagon Document (John Jalsevac, June 20, 2006, LifeSiteNews.com)

A pro-homosexual group known as Center for the Study of Sexual Minorities in the Military (CSSMM), a think tank at the University of California, Santa Barbara, claims to have unearthed a current Pentagon document that lists homosexuality as a psychological disorder.

According to the CSSMM the Department of Defense Instruction that so categorizes homosexuality was signed by the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness in 1996 and re-certified as "current" in 2003.

Although homosexuality has traditionally been considered a psychological disorder the American Psychiatric Association (APA) removed homosexuality from its list of mental illnesses over thirty years ago, claiming that it "implies no impairment in judgment, stability, reliability, or general social and vocational capabilities." The APA’s decision, however, has been the subject of criticism in recent years with some alleging that the 1973 move to remove homosexuality from the list of disorders was highly influenced by homosexual activism and not objective scientific data (http://www.lifesite.net/ldn/2006/feb/06020902.html).

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:51 PM


High Court Splits on Wetlands Protections (Tony Mauro, 06-19-2006, Legal Times)

On a day that foreshadowed politically charged battles ahead, the Supreme Court on Monday divided sharply on the scope of the Clean Water Act while also agreeing to widen its review of the federal partial-birth abortion ban next fall. [...]

Also on view was a dispirited liberal wing of the Court. Though Stevens, 86, read from his dissent vigorously, the justices who joined him — Stephen Breyer, David Souter, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg — appeared gloomy and fatigued.

Senate Set for Busy Summer on Judicial Nominees (Robert B. Bluey, 06-20-2006, Human Events: Right Angle)

The Senate Judiciary Committee is quietly maneuvering to act on two of President Bush's appellate court nominees this summer, while a third nominee awaiting action on the Senate floor is slowly moving closer to a vote, Republican aides told HUMAN EVENTS today.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:45 PM


US troops kill Zarqawi's 'right-hand man' (ABC au, June 21, 2006)

The US military says it has killed the "right-hand man" of slain Al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

Major General William Caldwell says Iraqi Mansur Suleiman al-Mashhadani was killed on Friday by US forces in Yusifiyah, south of Baghdad.

"We do know that Sheikh Mansur was a key leader in Al Qaeda in Iraq with excellent religious, military and leadership credentials within that organisation," General Caldwell said.

He describes him as Zarqawi's right-hand man and a liaison between Al Qaeda and tribes in the restive area south of Baghdad.

The Mashhadani are a major tribe of Sunni Arabs.

"He was tied to the senior leadership, including having relationships with both Zarqawi and al-Masri," General Caldwell said, referring to Abu Ayub al-Masri, whom the US military claim to be Zarqawi's successor.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:07 PM


Relief for consumers as natural-gas prices drop: Ten months after Katrina caused a price spike, electric utilities switch to natural gas. (Ron Scherer, 6/21/06, The Christian Science Monitor)

Even with their air conditioners at full blast, some consumers might eventually be in for a surprise: relief on their energy bills.

The price of natural gas has fallen about 50 percent since hurricane Katrina drove up prices last fall. As oil prices hover around $70 a barrel, analysts say the spot price of natural gas now equals the energy potential of oil worth $41 a barrel - a differential that is spurring businesses and utilities to start switching over to the less costly fuel.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:38 PM


Cold Comfort: Liberalism's hawkish past is less useful as a guide to confronting future threats than Peter Beinart would like to believe. (Fred Kaplan, July/August 2006, Washington Monthly)

There is a 400-pound gorilla tearing at the margins of this book, and that is the war in Iraq. Beinart's December '04 New Republic essay was targeted at the Democratic opponents of that war. (Opponents of the Afghanistan invasion, whom the article also--more properly--trounced, comprised a minority of a minority, hardly worth such heavy ammunition.) Beinart was one of the "liberal hawks" who, even at that late date, still supported the war. In the introduction to his book, he now admits that he was wrong: "I was too quick to give up on containment... I overestimated America's legitimacy." He adds, "It is a grim irony that this book's central argument"--the continuing relevance of cold war liberalism as a vision of American self-confidence, containment, restraint, and legitimacy--"is one I myself ignored when it was needed most."

It is a graceful and gracious retraction, but it also succinctly summarizes the book's other main conceptual flaw: its romanticizing of the Cold War. Beinart writes as if "cold war liberalism" were some coherent doctrine that Democratic presidents, especially Truman and (in his finest hours) Kennedy, adopted to the letter. His intellectual heroes are George Kennan, the statesman who coined the policy of containment, and Reinhold Niebuhr, the theologian who reconciled moral principles with the hard-headed interests of realpolitik. Both are worthy heroes. Niebuhr especially deserves a reassessment these days. Believing in the Christian tenet that all men are sinners, Niebuhr reasoned that all nations are capable of evil, too. America has a superior political system, he allowed, in that it keeps evil at bay through checks and balances. But that only means it must do the same in its foreign policy--by accepting some restraints on its power: not to the point of refraining from warfare (Niebuhr was no pacifist), but stringently guarding against the delusion that America's intentions are inherently pure and that its leaders can therefore do as they please without seeking consent from the community of nations.

Using Niebuhr as a template, Beinart pinpoints what's so basically dangerous about Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and the neocons (all of them, as he cogently puts it, the "intellectual heirs" of John Foster Dulles and his "rollback" doctrine). It's precisely their "complacent confidence in American virtue," which not only blinds them to the world's skepticism but keeps them from seeing any need to prove the skeptics wrong. By contrast, in the liberal view, as Beinart paints it, "America's challenge lies not in recognizing our moral superiority but in demonstrating it... [N]ational greatness is not inherited and it is not declared; it is earned."

Not only is it obscene to imply that Reinhold Niebuhr would have counseled leaving Saddam Hussein in power because France, Russia and Germany wanted to, but as worthy as the Reverend Mr. Neibuhr was, nevermind when he was writing in the forties and fifties, even when he died, in 1971, the dehumanizing oppression of the Soviet Union and its satellites had another twenty years to run. The Cold War was a moral obscenity that his generation has to answer for and from which Europe will never recover. For the Decent Left to choose this sort of accommodation with evil as their template for the War on Terror would be a tragedy.

At the heart of the notion of containing evil is the cynical decision to let the monsters do whatever they want within their own borders so long as they don't cross ours and, by promising not to intervene in their affairs, it enables these despots. In doing so we do reduce ourselves to their moral level. Demonstrating moral superiority requires ending their immoral rule, even if it means getting our hands a bit dirty. I

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:18 PM


Why Conservatives Can't Govern (Alan Wolfe, July/August 2006, Washington Monthly)

Search hard enough and you might find a pundit who believes what George W. Bush believes, which is that history will redeem his administration. But from just about everyone else, on the right as vehemently as on the left, the verdict has been rolling in: This administration, if not the worst in American history, will soon find itself in the final four. [...]

Contemporary conservatism is first and foremost about shrinking the size and reach of the federal government. This mission, let us be clear, is an ideological one. It does not emerge out of an attempt to solve real-world problems, such as managing increasing deficits or finding revenue to pay for entitlements built into the structure of federal legislation. It stems, rather, from the libertarian conviction, repeated endlessly by George W. Bush, that the money government collects in order to carry out its business properly belongs to the people themselves.

We're not sure what needs redeeming in a presidency that has been distinguished by major reforms of nearly aspect of the federal government, strong economic growth, a remarkable extension of liberty abroad, and ahistorical increases in the Republican majority, but given that Governor Bush's first major campaign speech admonished the congressional GOP for behaving as if government were an enemy, you'd think even Mr. Wolfe would have figured out by now that not only is the President not a libertarian but that his Compassionate Conservative/Third Way politics are premised on strong government.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:18 PM



Physicist and computer scientist W. Daniel Hillis has noted:

"Notions like Selfish Genes, memes, and extended phenotypes are powerful and exciting. They make me think differently. Unfortunately, I spend a lot of time arguing against people who have overinterpreted these ideas. They're too easily misunderstood as explaining more than they do. So you see, this Dawkins is a dangerous guy. Like Marx. Or Darwin."

Part of Dawkins' danger is his emphasis on models derived from cybernetics and information theory, and that such models, when applied to our ideas of life, and in particular, human life, strike some otherwise intelligent people numb and dumb with fear and terror. Some have called the cybernetic idea the most important in 2000 years...since the idea of Jesus Christ. And that would make it one of the most dangerous ideas.

Pinker eloquently writes about how information theory fits into Dawkins' ideas, and implies why some may find these ideas troubling:

"Dawkins’s emphasis on the ethereal commodity called “information” in an age of biology dominated by the concrete molecular mechanisms is another courageous stance. There is no contradiction, of course, between a system being understood in terms of its information content and it being understood in terms of its material substrate. But when it comes down to the deepest understanding of what life is, how it works, and what forms it is likely to take elsewhere in the universe, Dawkins implies that it is abstract conceptions of information, computation, and feedback, and not nucleic acids, sugars, lipids, and proteins, that will lie at the root of the explanation."

These guys are nothing if not amusing. They analogize their faith to computer programming and then become apoplectic when the ID crowd analogizes theirs to a programmer or programmers.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:14 PM


Ehrlich to Rise?: Don't count on a big Democratic year in Maryland. (BRENDAN MINITER, June 20, 2006, Opinion Journal)

If this is going to be a watershed year for Democrats, there is little sign of it here, in the heart of one of the bluest states in the country. Only four other states handed Sen. John Kerry wider margins of victory two years ago, and registered Democrats outnumber Republicans nearly 2 to 1.

Nonetheless, four years after becoming the Old Line State's first Republican governor since Spiro Agnew became vice president in 1969, Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. is in a strong position to win re-election this fall. He's raising plenty of money (including $1 million in one night at a fundraiser headlined by President Bush), is quietly cheered on by middle-of-the-road Democrats, and enjoys surprisingly high approval ratings. His approval rating has reached as high as 67%, and at the end of the Legislature's regular session in April--when ratings are typically at low ebb--he was polling at 55%. [...]

[T]he state's largest newspaper, the Baltimore Sun, has been engaged in a protracted fight with the governor. Its opening shot came during the 2002 campaign, when Mr. Ehrlich tapped Michael Steele, who is black, as his running mate. The Sun editorialized that Mr. Steele "brings little to the team but the color of his skin." That remark and a list of errors (including some 80 instances of misspelling the governor's name) spurred Gov. Ehrlich to instruct his administration not to talk to two Sun reporters. The paper sued, claiming its free speech rights were being violated, but was forced to drop its suit after losing in every court that heard the case.

Last year the governor set up a Halloween display on the front lawn of the executive mansion and he was blasted for that too. Sun columnist Laura Vozzella scoffed at the large inflatable jack-o-lantern and other ornaments, calling them "a little, well, Arbutus"--a dig at the governor's blue-collar hometown. Mr. Ehrlich has also been grilled by the media on why he supports defining marriage as between a man and a woman and why he put "Merry Christmas" on his Christmas cards.

It's a safe bet that no one at the Sun appreciates how politically helpful have been Mr. Ehrlich's defense of marriage and Christmas, his working-class background and his choice of a popular African-American as lieutenant governor--though clearly Mr. Ehrlich understands how helpful it has been to use the Legislature and the media as a foil. He has a framed picture of that inflatable jack-o-lantern on the wall inside the governor's mansion. In it he's standing next to two Democrats who understand how to win elections, Virginia's former governor Mark Warner and Washington's Mayor Anthony Williams. All three of them are giving the "Arbutus" jack-o-lantern the thumbs up.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:11 AM


Housing construction posts increase in May (MARTIN CRUTSINGER, 6/20/06, Associated Press)

Construction of new homes and apartments, after posting three straight months of declines, increased in May, helped by dry weather.

The Commerce Department reported that builders started construction at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.957 million units last month, an increase of 5 percent from the April construction pace. The better-than-expected increase came after declines of 5.5 percent in April, 7.5 percent in March and 5.9 percent in February.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:54 AM


Somali peace force moves closer (BBC, 6/20/06)

The African Union and western diplomats have agreed to send a team to Somalia to assess the possibility of deploying peacekeepers there.

The assessment team will decide how many troops would be needed.

The Islamists, who control the capital Mogadishu, fiercely oppose the idea and last week held large protests. [...]

After a meeting in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, AU Peace and Security Commissioner Said Djinnit told reporters that there was unanimity among the international community to support the interim government, which has requested peacekeepers. [...]

Intense diplomatic pressure is being applied by the international community to try to stop Somalia, which has had no effective government for 15 years, from spiralling further into civil war.

If the Islamists are willing to work with the international community there's a legitimate role for them--if not they have to accept the cosequences.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:42 AM


Justices Rein In Clean Water Act (Charles Lane, 6/20/06, Washington Post)

The Supreme Court ruled yesterday that new limits could be placed on the federal government's power to enforce the 34-year-old Clean Water Act, but a set of opinions handed down by the justices did little to define what those limits might be.

The splintered decision was the clearest sign yet that the court's long-standing ideological divisions have not disappeared with the addition of two conservative justices. It also underscored that, perhaps more than ever, forming a majority in significant cases depends on winning the vote of a single justice -- moderate conservative Anthony M. Kennedy.

In yesterday's ruling, a five-justice majority agreed that the Army Corps of Engineers, the lead federal agency on wetlands regulation, exceeded its authority when it denied two Michigan developers permits to build on wetlands. The court said the Corps had gone beyond the Clean Water Act by making landowners obtain permits to dump rocks and dirt not only in marshes directly next to lakes and rivers but also in areas linked to larger bodies of water only through a network of ditches and drains.

But there was no clear majority as to where the Corps should have drawn the line, with a four-justice plurality made up of Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr. arguing for an across-the-board reduction in the Corps' regulatory role but Kennedy rejecting that view and calling for a case-by-case approach.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:37 AM


Personality, Ideology and Bush's Terror Wars (MICHIKO KAKUTANI, 6/20/06, NY Times)

The title of Ron Suskind's riveting new book, "The One Percent Doctrine," refers to an operating principle that he says Vice President Dick Cheney articulated shortly after 9/11: in Mr. Suskind's words, "if there was even a 1 percent chance of terrorists getting a weapon of mass destruction — and there has been a small probability of such an occurrence for some time — the United States must now act as if it were a certainty." He quotes Mr. Cheney saying that it's not about "our analysis," it's about "our response," and argues that this conviction effectively sidelines the traditional policymaking process of analysis and debate, making suspicion, not evidence, the new threshold for action. [...]

Mr. Suskind's book also reveals that Qaeda operatives had designed a delivery system (which they called a "mubtakkar") for a lethal gas, and that the United States government had a Qaeda source who said that plans for a hydrogen cyanide attack on New York City's subway system were well under way in early 2003, but the attack was called off — for reasons that remain unclear — by Osama bin Laden's deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri. The book also reports that Al Qaeda had produced "extremely virulent" anthrax in Afghanistan before 9/11, which "could be easily reproduced to create a quantity that could be readily weaponized."

There's a winning argument for the Left: Ninety-nine and a half will just have to do.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:32 AM


Immigrants from India spread business success to homeland (Edward Iwata, 6/20/06, USA TODAY)

Bhatia and many thousands of Indian immigrants with strong ties to the USA and India are storming back to their ancestral homeland to cultivate business and cut deals. With 1 billion people, a rising wave of consumers and annual economic growth of 8% since 2004, India is the world's most promising economy after China.

Indian engineers, executives and investors are launching start-ups in business services, telecommunications, computers and software, manufacturing and other sectors. They're paving the way for research and development centers. They're encouraging foreign investment and pressing the Indian government to continue opening their markets to the world.

"Brick by brick, we are building an 8,000-mile bridge between the U.S. and India," says Navneet Chugh, an attorney and founder of the Chugh Firm in Los Angeles. He has strong business and charity ties to India.

The business growth between the two countries is gratifying to Chugh, who immigrated to Los Angeles 25 years ago and earned an MBA from the University of Southern California before starting his law firm.

Chugh grew up in a middle-class neighborhood of Nagpur, India, where his parents' home overlooked a huge, smoke-covered shantytown. The shantytown had no gas or electricity, and its 100,000 people lived in dwellings made of rusty tin and dried cow dung.

If India's economy grows 10% a year for several years, Chugh says, it will strengthen trade and investments between India and the USA while lifting millions of Indians out of poverty. Chugh also is a trustee of the American India Foundation, which donates millions of dollars a year to charities in India.

"India is booming with cross-cultural development," says Chugh, who lives in the Los Angeles suburb of Cerritos with his wife and two kids. "Indians and white business people are bringing their cultures and creativity together."

The stronger U.S.-India business connection is also evident in venture capital. When high-tech banker Ash Lilani took U.S. investors on their first trip to Bangalore in 2003, barely a handful of U.S. venture firms were funding Indian start-ups. Many investors held stereotypes of India as a home for cheap labor, outsourcing and call centers.

Once on the ground, though, the U.S. investors realized that India was a business gold mine. The country boasted top engineering and managerial talent, an English-speaking workforce and a British-style legal and regulatory system.

Which is why it's more promising than China.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:53 AM


Relief From Retread: Sox Pen Strong After Snyder's Solid Start (JEFF GOLDBERG, 6/.20/06, Hartford Courant)

The Royals didn't want Kyle Snyder, and the Red Sox couldn't be happier. [...]

Snyder, 28, was claimed by the Red Sox on Friday. The 6-foot-8 righthander, who made his major league debut at Fenway in 2003, was designated for assignment by the Royals June 11, three days after he allowed nine runs (five earned) in two innings against Texas in his only other start this season.

With David Wells, Matt Clement and Lenny DiNardo on the disabled list, the Red Sox turned to Snyder to bail out a pitching staff worn thin after a six-game trip. Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein called Snyder Friday in Sarasota, Fla., where Snyder was visiting his girlfriend.

"He asked me if I would be ready on Monday and I said, `No problem,'" Snyder said. "I started shaking a little bit. It wasn't what I was anticipating, obviously, but under the circumstances, it was one of the best feelings I ever had."

Snyder (1-0, 10.29 ERA), who threw 67 pitches, retired the final seven batters he faced after giving up a homer to Jose Guillen in the third.

"It's been a roller coaster of emotions," Snyder said. "I can't say enough about the opportunity I've been given. Where it goes from here, we'll see, but I'm going to do all I can to help this ballclub."

It was expected the Sox would send Snyder to Triple A Pawtucket after the game. Instead, it was reliever Jermaine Van Buren who was demoted, with reliever Craig Hansen called up for the second time this season.

He does seem to have trouble getting the fastball down -- perhaps because of his height and a bad release point? -- but the overhand curve he was throwing was like something from a 1960's highlight reel. Teams like the Royals have to really work at it to be as dreadful as they are.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 7:45 AM


Rules for robots to make sure robots don't rule (Ed Habershon and Richard Woods, The Australian, June 20th, 2006)

The race is on to keep humans one step ahead of robots: an international team of scientists and academics is to publish a "code of ethics" for machines as they become more and more sophisticated.

Although the nightmare vision of a Terminator world controlled by machines may seem fanciful, scientists believe the boundaries for human-robot interaction must be set now, before super-intelligent robots develop beyond our control.

"There are two levels of priority," says Gianmarco Verruggio, a roboticist at the Institute of Intelligent Systems for Automation in Genoa, northern Italy, and chief architect of the guide, to be published next month. "We have to manage the ethics of the scientists making the robots and the artificial ethics inside the robots."

Verruggio and his colleagues have identified key areas that include ensuring human control of robots, preventing illegal use, protecting data acquired by robots and establishing clear identification and traceability of the machines.

"Scientists must start analysing these kinds of questions and seeing if laws or regulations are needed to protect the citizen," Mr Verruggio says.

"Robots will develop strong intelligence and in some ways it will be better than human intelligence - but it will be alien intelligence. I would prefer to give priority to humans."

The analysis culminated at a recent meeting in Genoa of the European Robotics Research Network (Euron) to examine the problems likely to arise as robots become smarter, faster, stronger and ubiquitous.

"Security, safety and sex are the big concerns," says Henrik Christensen, a member of the Euron ethics group. How far should robots be allowed to influence people's lives? How can accidents be avoided? Can deliberate harm be prevented? And what happens if robots turn out to be sexy?

Yes, men the world over will shudder at the thought of being chased by sultry, seductive robots. Nonsense or not, it is extremely amusing to see these Dr. Frankensteins assure us they can protect us from robots that are “smarter, faster, stronger and ubiquitous” by developing just the right ethical guidelines.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:32 AM


Very quietly, they reject Fidel Castro: Children of the Cuban regime's ruling class who have emigrated to Spain find they must keep a lid on any dissenting views so they can continue to visit relatives on the island. (GUY HEDGECOE, 6/17/06, The Miami Herald)

They are the sons and daughters of Cuba's ruling class, living in Spain but keeping a low profile so that Fidel Castro's government will let them return home for visits.

They are known as quedaditos, which means ''those who stayed'' but implies the under-the-radar lives they lead to avoid the whiff of dissidence that might stick to their decision to live outside the communist system. [...]

Some are critical of Cuban leader Fidel Castro. Others just want to get away from the island's intense politics. Others want to do business, without Cuba's draconian controls. But for all, unlike Miami, living in Spain does not immediately point to dissidence and the end of their possibility of frequently visiting the island. [...]

Cubans have been flocking to Spain for decades in order to start new lives. Some arrived as exiles from Castro's system, some married Spaniards, and some obtained Spanish passports based on their parents' Spanish citizenship. But after the collapse of the Soviet Union and its massive subsidies to Cuba, this new kind of migrant began to arrive, a privileged group often connected to the very highest circles of the Castro government.

Among persons they do not know or trust, they may defend Castro's government or remain quiet, according to fellow Cubans in Spain. But among friends, they reveal varying levels of discontent.

''I don't think anyone over here is in favor of the regime,'' said the Cuban lawyer, who asked for anonymity to avoid being identified and perhaps punished by the Cuban authorities. But, she added, ``a lot of us don't get caught up in political issues because of our families.'' [...]

[M]any of the quedaditos could hardly be classed as economic migrants. Many are professionals, the offspring of pro-Castro parents for whom the revolution has provided relatively comfortable lives.

That's because all Cubans living abroad who want to visit their homeland must first obtain a Cuban government Permit for Residence Abroad, a hard-to-get license that allows the possibility of returning often on vacation.

''You request the permit, and they either give it to you or they don't,'' said Julián Mateos, a Spanish lawyer who represents Cubans in Spain and Spanish firms in Cuba.

According to Mateos, up to 200,000 Cubans live in Spain, about 60,000 of whom have obtained Spanish nationality. The Spanish government and the Cuban Embassy in Madrid would not give figures or comment for this report.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:07 AM


Mexico's Election (NY Times, 6/19/06)

Something unusual is going on in Mexico — a normal presidential election. Mexico's relatively new democratic institutions are not being strained, and are not at risk. There are three major candidates, and while they have been doing a lot of mudslinging, they offer voters a real ideological choice.

Mexico lived through 71 years of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, which fell in 2000 to an opposition candidate, Vicente Fox, who proved to be a lackluster president. In other new democracies in Eastern Europe and Latin America, voters at this point have tended to grow nostalgic for dictatorship or eager to find an outsider who promises revolution. The first democratic election after dictatorship is always joyous; the second one can be deadly.

Not so in Mexico. Roberto Madrazo, the PRI candidate, is far back. One front-runner is Felipe Calderón, who was Mr. Fox's energy minister. He is a respectable model of the Latin American colorless, Harvard-educated, pro-business candidate. He wants to modernize Mexico and make it more globally competitive, thereby creating more jobs. Mr. Calderón advocates opening Mexico's poorly run and underfinanced energy sector to foreign investment. It is an unpopular idea, but sorely needed.

The End of History doesn't skip states.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:05 AM


Of meat, Mexicans and social mobility (The Economist)

A hundred years ago, a sensational novel attacking the meatpacking industry prompted Congress to draft the first federal food-safety laws. The author of “The Jungle”, Upton Sinclair, was disappointed. He had hoped to persuade Americans to embrace socialism. For him, the important point was not that the slaughterhouses of Chicago were unsanitary, but that they were “the spirit of capitalism made flesh”—a system in which “a hundred human lives did not balance a penny of profit.” The book's central character, a Lithuanian named Jurgis Rudkus, had come to America believing that through hard work he could grasp the American Dream. But he found that “the whole country...was nothing but one gigantic lie.”

Rarely has a great novelist been so wrong about so much. No one now worries about the poverty of Lithuanian-Americans. But many still worry about the health of the American Dream. Can immigrants still work their way up from the bottom? Can they become American?

Many fear that, for the latest wave of mostly-unskilled immigrants from Latin America, the answer is no. Some fret that the newcomers are too ill-educated and culturally alien to prosper or assimilate. Others are convinced that immigrant workers are horribly exploited or trapped forever in low-wage jobs. Both worries are largely unfounded.

Consider Alberto Queiroz, who crept across the border 12 years ago. After a stuffy ride in the boot of a car, he found his first job in a Chinese-owned clothes factory in Los Angeles. Workers with papers were paid the minimum wage, he recalls. Having none, he had to make do with $2.50 an hour. Though unlawfully stingy, this was much better than he could have earned back home in Mexico.

After two years he moved to North Carolina, a state that was then just starting to become a magnet for Mexicans. He picked blueberries for $5 a box, earning nearly $100, tax free, for a 12-hour day. But this job lasted only two months, until the harvest ended. So he sought more stable employment, which he eventually found at America's largest hog slaughterhouse.

Smithfield Foods' plant at Tar Heel, North Carolina, turns some 32,000 pigs a day into hams and loins. Thanks to selective breeding and efficient, hygienic processing, American meat has grown steadily leaner, cheaper and safer, says Joe Luter, Smithfield's chairman. A hundred years ago, food ate up half of Americans' take-home pay; now it is only about a tenth, and no one gets trichinosis from Mr Luter's pork chops.

But is a slaughterhouse a nice place to work? Smithfield does not let journalists in, for reasons of “biosecurity”. Human Rights Watch, a watchdog from New York, issued a report in 2004 entitled “Blood, Sweat and Fear”, which accused American meat and poultry firms of “systematic human-rights violations”. Slaughterhouses are harsh and dangerous places to work, said the report, and illegal immigrants, who form a large chunk of the workforce, find it hard to defy abusive employers.

Mr Queiroz takes a more benign view. Yes, the work is hard. The line goes fast and you have to keep cutting till your hands are exhausted. And yes, it is sometimes dangerous. He says he once saw a co-worker lose a leg when he ducked under the disassembly line instead of walking round it. But many occupations are risky. Taxi-drivers are 34 times more likely to die on the job than meatpackers.

Mr Queiroz does not think Smithfield was a bad employer. Wages of more than $10 an hour enabled him to buy a house back in Mexico. Cutting up pigs was easier than picking blueberries, he says, because he did not have to toil under the sun all day. And when he had had enough, he quit and set up a taco stand with his brother. That was five years ago. Now he owns a Mexican restaurant. America, he says, is “the land of opportunity”.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 6:50 AM


Catholic school parents want grades (Justine Ferrari, The Australian, June 20th, 2006)

The overwhelming majority of Catholic school parents support the introduction of the new A-to-E report cards, particularly the move to rank students against their peers.

The support opens up a potential split with parents groups in government schools after their national body, the Australian Council of State School Organisations, foreshadowed at the weekend a campaign to inform parents of their right to refuse the new plain-English reports.

ACSSO president Jenny Branch wants state parents and citizens branches to ensure parents are aware they can choose to exclude their child from the new system, designed in response to complaints existing assessment models are vague and confusing.

Challenging the push towards simpler A-to-E gradings on report cards, she told The Weekend Australian on Saturday the "traditional end-of-the-year report card is a celebration of achievement of a child throughout the year".

But a survey by the Federation of Parents and Friends Associations and the Catholic Education Office in Sydney shows almost three in four Catholic school parents support the introduction of the plain-English reports and just 8per cent are opposed.

Reporting the results in the parents newsletter, About Catholic Schools, federation executive officer Franceyn O'Connor said parents were "largely enthusiastic" about the five-level grading system. "Many parents have indicated in several discussions and meetings held throughout the year that they welcome the opportunity to compare their child's progress against statewide standards using a common grading scale," Ms O'Connor said.

"They appreciate how difficult it may be for teachers to convey bad news but they still want a fair and honest assessment of their child's abilities to determine their rate of progress."

It is really not terribly difficult for teachers to convey bad news, but it is work.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 6:31 AM


London fails civility test in survey of world cities (Alan Hamilton, The Times, June 20th, 2006)

English good manners, did you say? No, they don’t exist. In fact, we’re as rude as the French, and that’s saying something. They’re more polite even in Zagreb.

For courtesy these days you have to go to New York, a city once famed for its intensely irritating “Have a nice day” culture and for the most ignorant and impatient taxi drivers on the planet.

But, according to a former mayor of the Big Apple, 9/11 changed all that.

Reader’s Digest magazine sent reporters into the principal city of each of the 35 countries in which it publishes to conduct a survey of local politeness. Three tests were employed: dropping papers in a busy street to see if anyone would help; checking how often shop assistants said “thank you”; and counting how often someone held a door open.

London and Paris came a disappointing joint 15th, beaten by such cities as Berlin, Warsaw, Madrid and Prague. New York came top in the survey, with a score of 80 per cent, compared with 57 per cent for London and Paris.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Iran Urged to Accept Limits: Bush Says Tehran Has 'Historic' Chance to Better Future (Michael A. Fletcher, June 20, 2006, Washington Post )

President Bush said Monday that the package of incentives being offered to Iran to abandon its nuclear ambitions is a "historic opportunity," and he warned starkly that the alternative for the Islamic nation is increased isolation and crippling economic sanctions.

Speaking at the 70th commencement ceremony of the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, Bush said Iran's stated desire for a peaceful nuclear power program is "legitimate," and one supported by the incentive package from the United States and its allies.

"We believe the Iranian people should enjoy the benefits of a truly peaceful program to use nuclear reactors to generate electric power," said Bush, who in the past has expressed skepticism about the need for oil-rich Iran to pursue nuclear power.

President Delivers Commencement Address at the United States Merchant Marine Academy (George W. Bush, Captain Tomb Field at Brooks Stadium, United States Merchant Marine Academy, Kings Point, New York, 6/19/06)

To win the war on terror, we will continue to build and strengthen ties with our friends and allies across the world. America's alliance with Europe is a key pillar of our strategy for victory. And tomorrow, Laura and I will depart on my 15th trip to Europe since I have taken office. This visit comes at a critical moment for America and our allies. We have important decisions to make that will affect the prospects for peace and prosperity across the world. And today I'm going to talk to you about the objectives I will pursue on this important trip.

My first stop will be Vienna, where I will attend the annual summit between the United States and the European Union. And then I'm going to travel to Budapest to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Hungarian Revolution. And I'm really looking forward to the trip. Americans have strong ties to the European people. We have warm friendships with European nations. And on my trip this week, we will strengthen our close and growing partnership with the European Union.

America's partnership with the European Union grows from sturdy roots -- our common love of freedom, and our commitment to democratic principles. Those of you graduating today have grown up with a Europe whose major powers are at peace with one another. Yet in the sweep of history, this is a dramatic change. There was a time in history when Europe was the site of bloody conflicts and bitter rivalries. As recently as the last century, Europe was the site of two devastating world wars. Now, because generations have sacrificed for liberty and built strong democracies, the nations of Europe are partners in common union, and neighbors on a continent that's whole, free, and at peace.

A free and peaceful Europe is one of the great achievements of the past century. My generation, and yours, will be judged by what comes next. So America and Europe must work together to advance freedom and democracy. We will cooperate to expand trade and prosperity. We will strengthen our efforts to combat terrorism. And we will stand together to stop the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. (Applause.)

Our work begins with a common commitment to extending the reach of freedom and democracy. On Prime Minister Blair's recent visit to America, he said: "The governments of the world do not all believe in freedom. But the people of the world do." As people who have secured our own freedom, America and Europe have a duty to help others do the same. (Applause.) We're fulfilling that duty together in Belarus, where we support the reformers seeking to erase the stain of dictatorship from Europe. We're fulfilling that duty together in Georgia and Ukraine, where we stand with brave people striving to consolidate democratic gains. We're fulfilling that duty together in the Balkans, where people who have suffered so much have made a choice to live in liberty, and should be welcomed as a part of Europe in the 21st century.

As we saw on September the 11, 2001, the actions of a repressive regime thousands of miles away can have a direct impact on our own security. In this new century, the loss of freedom anywhere is a blow to freedom everywhere. And when freedom advances, people gain an alternative to violence, and the prospects for peace are multiplied and all nations become more secure. So America and Europe have launched bold initiatives to aid democratic reformers across the world, especially in the broader Middle East. We've worked with the United Nations to end the Syrian occupation of Lebanon -- and we will not rest until the Lebanese people enjoy full independence. (Applause.) We're determined to end the conflict in the Holy Land and bring about a solution with two democratic states, Israel and Palestine, living side-by-side in peace and security. (Applause.)

Our shared commitment to extending freedom and democracy is clear in Afghanistan and Iraq. Together America and Europe have helped bring about a historic transformation in those countries. Two of the world's most dangerous regimes have been removed from power, and the world is better off for it. (Applause.) Al Qaida's training camps have been closed in Afghanistan. Al Qaida's leader in Iraq has been killed. (Applause.) Two violent dictatorships are being replaced with growing democracies that answer to their people, that respect their neighbors, and that serve as allies in the war on terror. Afghanistan and Iraq are taking their rightful place in the free world -- and America and Europe must work tirelessly to help them succeed. (Applause.)

One week ago today, I left Camp David and flew to the capital of a free and democratic Iraq. (Applause.) In Baghdad I met with Prime Minister Maliki and members of his cabinet. The Prime Minister is a man of strong character; he has a clear and practical plan to lead his country forward. He briefed me on the immediate steps he's taking to improve security in Baghdad, to build up Iraq's economy and to reach out to the international community.

The formation of a new government and successful raids on al Qaeda targets in Iraq have created a moment of opportunity. Iraqis must seize this moment -- and we will help them succeed. I assured the Prime Minister that when America gives a commitment, America will keep its word. (Applause.) By helping Prime Minister Maliki's new government achieve its aims, we will expand opportunity for all the Iraqi people, we will inflict a major defeat on the terrorists, and we will show the world the power of a thriving democracy in the heart of the Middle East. (Applause.)

A free and sovereign Iraq requires the strong support of Europe. And some of the most important support for Iraqis is coming from European democracies with recent memories of tyranny -- Poland and Hungary and Romania and Bulgaria and the Czech Republic and Slovakia, Georgia, Ukraine, Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia. Others in Europe have had disagreements with our decisions on Iraq. Yet we've all watched the Iraqi people stand up for their freedom -- and we agree that the success of a democratic government in Baghdad is vital for the Iraqis and for the security of the world.

The European Union has been the world's most -- among the world's most generous financial donors for reconstruction in Iraq. And Europe and America will encourage greater international support to help Prime Minister Maliki implement his plans for recovery. The international community has pledged about $13 billion to help this new government. Yet only $3.5 billion has been paid. This is a critical time for Iraq's young democracy, and assistance from the international community will make an immediate difference. All nations that have pledged money have a responsibility to keep their pledges -- and America and Europe will work together to ensure they do so. (Applause.)

America and Europe also stand together in our determination to widen the circle of prosperity. We're cooperating on projects to develop clean, secure energy sources, especially alternatives to fossil fuel. (Applause.) On the continent of Africa, we're working to strengthen democracy, relieve debt, fight disease, and end the genocide in Darfur. (Applause.) At the World Trade Organization, we're working to lower trade barriers by concluding the Doha talks. America has made a bold proposal to eliminate trade-distorting agriculture subsidies and tariffs -- and I call on Europe to join us, so we can set an example of free and fair trade for the world. (Applause.) By spreading prosperity, America and Europe will create new opportunities for our people, to help alleviate poverty, and deliver hope and dignity and progress to millions across the world. (Applause.)

Together America and Europe are laying the foundations for a future of peace and prosperity. And yet the terrorists are threatening this progress. So at our summit this week, we'll take new steps to strengthen our cooperation on counterterrorism, to improve transportation security, and to crack down on terrorist financing. And we will renew our commitment to support the voices of peace and moderation in the Muslim world, to help provide a hopeful alternative to radicalism. America and Europe must stand united in this war on terror. (Applause.) By being steadfast, and by being strong, we will defeat the enemies of freedom. (Applause.)

America and Europe are also united on one of the most difficult challenges facing the world today, the behavior of the regime in Iran. The leaders of Iran sponsor terror, deny liberty and human rights to their people, and threaten the existence of our ally, Israel. And by pursuing nuclear activities that mask its effort to acquire nuclear weapons, the regime is acting in defiance of its treaty obligations, of the United Nations Security Council, and of the International Atomic Energy Agency. Nuclear weapons in the hands of this regime would be a grave threat to people everywhere.

I've discussed the problem of the Iranian regime extensively with leaders in Europe, particularly in Great Britain and Germany and France. I've also consulted closely with the Presidents of Russia and China. We've all agreed on a unified approach to solve this problem diplomatically. The United States has offered to come to the table with our partners and meet with Iran's representatives -- as soon as the Iranian regime fully and verifiably suspends its uranium enrichment and reprocessing activities. (Applause.) Iran's leaders have a clear choice. We hope they will accept our offer and voluntarily suspend these activities, so we can work out an agreement that will bring Iran real benefits. If Iran's leaders reject our offer, it will result in action before the Security Council, further isolation from the world, and progressively stronger political and economic sanctions.

I've a message for the Iranian regime: America and our partners are united. We have presented a reasonable offer. Iran's leaders should see our proposal for what it is -- an historic opportunity to set their country on a better course. If Iran's leaders want peace and prosperity and a more hopeful future for their people, they should accept our offer, abandon any ambitions to obtain nuclear weapons, and come into compliance with their international obligations.

I've a message for the Iranian people: The United States respects you and your country. We admire your rich history, your vibrant culture, and your many contributions to civilization. When Cyrus the Great led the Iranian people more than 2,500 years ago, he delivered one of the world's first declarations of individual rights, including the right to worship God in freedom. Through the centuries, Iranians have achieved distinction in medicine and science and poetry and philosophy, and countless other fields.

In the 21st century, the people of Iran, especially the talented and educated youth, are among the world's leaders in science and technology. Iranians have a large presence on the Internet, and a desire to make even greater progress, including the development of civilian nuclear energy. This is a legitimate desire. We believe the Iranian people should enjoy the benefits of a truly peaceful program to use nuclear reactors to generate electric power. So America supports the Iranian people's rights to develop nuclear energy peacefully, with proper international safeguards.

The people of Iran, like people everywhere, also want and deserve an opportunity to determine their own future, an economy that rewards their intelligence and talents, and a society that allows them to pursue their dreams. I believe Iranians would thrive if they were given more opportunities to travel and study abroad, and do business with the rest of the world. Here in the United States, Iranian Americans have used their freedom to advance in society and make tremendous contributions in areas from business to medicine, to academics.

To help provide more opportunities for the people of Iran, we will look for new ways to increase contact between Americans and Iranians, especially in education and culture, sports and tourism. We'll provide more than $75 million this year to promote openness and freedom for the Iranian people. These funds will allow us to expand and improve radio and television broadcasts to the people of Iran. These funds will support Iranian human rights advocates and civil society organizations. And these funds will promote student and faculty exchanges, so we can build bridges of understanding between our people.

Americans believe the future of Iran will be decided by the people of Iran -- and we believe that future can be one of progress and prosperity and achievement. We look forward to the day when our nations are friends, and when the people of Iran enjoy the full fruits of liberty, and play a leading role to establish peace in our world. (Applause.)

The advance of freedom is the calling of our time -- and the men and women of the United States Merchant Marine Academy are answering that call. In a few moments, you'll walk through Vickery Gate and leave the Academy that's been your home. You leave with a bachelor's degree, a license as a Merchant Marine officer, and a commission in one of the branches of our Armed Services. And you leave with something else: The great truth that duty and honor and courage are not just words; they are virtues that sustain a free people, people who are determined to live under self-government. They're the virtues that will be your anchor and compass in a life of purpose and service. These are the virtues that America demands of those entrusted with leading her sons and daughters in uniform. And these are the virtues that America has come to expect from the blue and grey.

We see the devotion to duty and honor and country in the life of one of this Academy's finest graduates, Aaron Seesan. Aaron was an Ohio boy who grew up dreaming of being a soldier. He brought that dream with him to this Academy -- and when he walked through these gates three years ago, he carried on his shoulders the gold bar of a second lieutenant in the United States Army. After entering the Army, Lieutenant Seesan trained as a combat engineer. And he was serving at Fort Lewis, Washington, when a group of soldiers who were based at the fort were struck by a suicide bomb in Iraq. Two of the men were killed. And that's when this young lieutenant volunteered to go to Iraq to take the place of a wounded platoon leader.

When Lieutenant Seesan arrived in Iraq, some of his fellow soldiers wondered what was the Army thinking. His platoon sergeant said, "I didn't know what the hell a Merchant Marine graduate was doing here in the 73rd Engineering Company." The sergeant quickly changed his mind when he saw Lieutenant Seesan in action, taking care of his men as they patrolled the most dangerous roads in and around Mosul. In May 2005, he was leading a routine sweep of a city street when a bomb exploded and hit the fuel tank of his Humvee. Those who were with him recall his last words: "Take charge, Sergeant Arnold, and take care of the others."

He died on May 22 -- on National Maritime Day. For his act of bravery, Lieutenant Seesan was awarded the Bronze Star. And the campus memorial that bears his name will remind all who come here of Kings Point commitment to service above self.

Aaron Seesan gave his life freely. While still in high school, he wrote a poem that now seems prophetic. He wrote, "Mourn not my terrible death, but celebrate my cause in life." Aaron's cause in life was freedom, and as you take your place as officers in our Armed Forces, I ask you to celebrate the freedom for which Aaron fought and died.

America has invested in you, and she has high expectations. My call to you is this: Trust your instincts, and use the skills you were taught here to give back to your nation. Do not be afraid of mistakes; learn from them. Show leadership and character in whatever you do. The world lies before you. I ask you to go forth with faith in America, and confidence in the eternal promise of liberty.

In all that lies ahead, I wish you fair winds and following seas. As I look out at the men and women before me, I will leave here knowing that you will bring honor to our nation, and to this Academy that has prepared you for the challenges you will face. May God steer thee well, Kings Point. And may God bless America.

June 19, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:30 PM


Power of Scottish MPs 'a threat to UK' (Toby Helm, 20/06/2006, Daily Telegraph)

Growing anger in England over the power that Scottish MPs wield at Westminster could destroy the 1998 devolution settlement, a powerful Commons committee said yesterday.

The report by the Labour-dominated Scottish affairs committee makes grim reading for Gordon Brown by highlighting how a majority of people in the United Kingdom now oppose a Scot becoming prime minister.

The MPs say that the West Lothian Question - the anomaly giving Scottish MPs a say over English laws but English MPs no similar rights where power has been devolved - is a time bomb that urgently needs to be defused. "It is a matter of concern to us that English discontent is becoming apparent," they said.

Scotland is a nation--it oughtn't have any say in how Engalnd is governed & won't.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:15 PM


Colombia's displaced trickle home: Only Sudan has more internal refugees. But government aid and better security are helping Colombians reclaim their land (Danna Harman, 6/20/06, The Christian Science Monitor)

[T]he trickle of those desplazados who do return home and successfully rebuild their lives - here in Diamante, 290 miles northwest of Bogotá, and in small villages and towns elsewhere around the country - is a whiff of what the government hopes a more peaceful future will bring.

In the past three years, with President Alvaro Uribe's dedication to both strengthening the military and entering into peace negotiations with all sides to the conflict, security in parts of the country is improving. This, together with a vast government assistance program that has rebuilt 7,000 houses in 150 villages, has allowed half a million desplazados to go home, says Luis Alfonso Hoyos Aristizábal, director of Acción Social, the lead government agency responsible for the displaced. "Is the situation grave? Yes. Have we fixed it? No," he says. "But we have some results."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:11 PM


Supreme Court upholds California's searches of parolees: In a 6-to-3 ruling, the justices say that parolees must consent to searches without a warrant. (Warren Richey, 6/20/06, The Christian Science Monitor)

In an important privacy ruling with major implications for individuals on parole, the US Supreme Court voted 6 to 3 Monday to uphold a California law that requires all state prisoners to agree as a condition of release that they consent to warrantless searches by law enforcement.

"Examining the totality of the circumstances pertaining to petitioner's status as a parolee ... we conclude that petitioner did not have an expectation of privacy that society would recognize as legitimate," writes Justice Clarence Thomas in the majority opinion.

The interesting question is what happens to the minority when Stevens finally retires--does anyone else have such a vested interest in things like the privacy and pro-criminal rulings of thirty and forty years ago?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:02 PM


Woman finds bear eating oatmeal in her kitchen (Associated Press, Jun. 19, 2006)

It was a real-life version of Goldilocks and the Three Bears - only in reverse - when a woman came home to find a young bear eating oatmeal in her kitchen.

The bear apparently entered through an open sliding glass door, broke a ceramic food container and started eating, West Vancouver police Sgt. Paul Skelton said.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:47 PM


Leaving the Left (Seth Swirsky, June 19, 2006, RealClearPolitics.com)

[W]hen I was about 27, in the late 1980s, cracks in my liberal worldview began to appear. It started with an uproar from the Left when Tipper Gore had the audacity to suggest a label on certain CDs to warn parents of lyrics that were clearly inappropriate for young people. Her suggestion was simple common sense and I was surprised by the furor it caused from the likes of Frank Zappa (and others) who felt their freedoms were being encroached upon. It was my first introduction into the entitled, selfish and irresponsible thinking I now associate with the Left.

In 1989, I remember questioning whether Democrat David Dinkins was the best choice for Mayor of New York City (where I lived) over Rudy Giuliani. After all, Dinkins' biggest claim to fame was as a city clerk in the Marriage License Bureau while Giuliani, as a United States District Attorney, had just de-fanged the mob. But, racial "healing" was the issue of the day, Dinkins won, and the city went straight downhill. When Giuliani beat Dinkins in a rematch four years later - Surprise! - the crime rate plummeted, tourism boomed, Times Square came alive not with pimps but with commerce. Since 1993, the overwhelmingly liberal electorate in New York City has voted for Republicans for Mayor. Yet, to this day, many of my liberal friends refer to the decisive and effective Giuliani as a Nazi, even as they stroll their children through neighborhoods he cleaned up.

After moving to Los Angeles in the early 90s, I watched from the roof of my apartment building as the city burned after the Rodney King verdicts were handed down. I thought what those four cops did to King was shameful. But I didn't hear an uproar from my friends on the Left when rioters rampaged through the city's streets, stealing, looting, and destroying property in the name of "no justice, no peace." And it was impossible not to notice the hypocrisy when prominent Hollywood liberals, who had hosted anti-NRA fundraisers at their homes a week before the riots were standing in line at shooting ranges the week after it.

I watched carefully as Anita Hill testified during Clarence Thomas's Supreme Court nomination hearing, claiming Thomas - once head of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission - sexually harassed her after she rebuffed his invitations to date him. At the time, I rooted, as did all my friends, for Miss Hill, hoping that her testimony would result in Thomas not getting confirmed. In retrospect, I'm ashamed that I was ever on the "side" of people who so viciously demonized a decent, qualified person like Judge Thomas, whether you agree with his judicial philosophy or not. Condoleezza Rice, during eligibility hearings for both National Security Advisor and Secretary of State, also had to deal with rude people like Barbara Boxer, who seemed not to be able to fathom that a black American could embrace conservatism.

I voted for Al Gore in 2000. When he lost, I was disappointed, mostly in my fellow Democrats for thinking that the election had been "stolen" and in having forgotten their American history. The Electoral College has elected three other Presidents in our history: John Quincy Adams in1824, Rutherford B. Hayes in 1876, and Benjamin Harrison in1888. The rush to judgment by the now conspiracy consumed Left put me off. Where, I asked, were all the "disenfranchised" black voters who would have given Gore a victory in Florida? No one could produce a single name. And how exactly were the voting machines in Ohio "rigged" in 2004? I now refer to the Democrats as the Grassy Knoll party.

Still, I approached the 2004 primaries with an open mind. I was still a Democrat, still hoping that leaders like Sam Nunn and Scoop Jackson would emerge, still fantasizing that Democrats could constitute a party of truly progressive social thinkers with tough backbones who would reappear after 9/11.

I was wrong. The Left got nuttier, more extreme, less contributory to the public debate, more obsessed with their nemesis Bush - and it drove me further away.

Except that Rodney King only got what he deserved.

Posted by David Cohen at 4:42 PM


District pulls plug on speech: Foothill valedictorian criticizes decision to censor her proclamation of faith (Antonio Planas, Review-Journal, 6/17/06)

She knew her speech as valedictorian of Foothill High School would be cut short, but Brittany McComb was determined to tell her fellow graduates what was on her mind and in her heart.

But before she could get to the word in her speech that meant the most to her -- Christ -- her microphone went dead.

The decision to cut short McComb's commencement speech Thursday at The Orleans drew jeers from the nearly 400 graduates and their families that went on for several minutes.

However, Clark County School District officials and an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union said Friday that cutting McComb's mic was the right call. Graduation ceremonies are school-sponsored events, a stance supported by federal court rulings, and as such may include religious references but not proselytizing, they said.

They said McComb's speech amounted to proselytizing and that her commentary could have been perceived as school-sponsored.

In other words, the government, backed by the ACLU, censored speech based upon its content. Had McComb's speech praised Fidel Castro and proselytized for Commmunism, the ACLU would have defended her rights vociferously, had it occurred to the school district to protest.

The only basis upon which the government can censor religious speech where it would not censor secular speech is if the circumstances are such that a reasonable person would believe that the government endorsed the religious message. If it wants, the government is allowed to specifically disavow the message. Now, would a reasonable audience of graduating seniors and the parents think that the school supported McComb's speech? Would they disregard a statement, either in the program or from the podium, saying that the students' opinions were there own? Unless the answer to both questions is "yes," the school system here appears to have violated Ms. McComb's right to free speech.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:03 PM


Here Illegally, Working Hard and Paying Taxes (EDUARDO PORTER, 6/19/06, NY Times)

In contrast to the typical image of an illegal immigrant — paid in cash, working under the table for small-scale labor contractors on a California farm or a suburban construction site — a majority now work for mainstream companies, not fly-by-night operators, and are hired and paid like any other American worker.

Polo — who, like all the workers named in this article, agreed to be interviewed only if his full identity was protected — is employed by a subsidiary of ABM Industries, a publicly traded company based in San Francisco with 73,000 workers across the country and annual revenues of $2.6 billion. Emilio works for the Kimco Corporation, a large private company with 5,000 employees in 30 states and sales of about $100 million.

More than half of the estimated seven million immigrants toiling illegally in the United States get a regular paycheck every week or two, experts say. At the end of the year they receive a W-2 form. Come April 15, many file income tax returns using special ID numbers issued by the Internal Revenue Service so foreigners can pay taxes. Some even get a refund check in the mail.

And they are now present in low-skilled jobs across the country. Illegal immigrants account for 12 percent of workers in food preparation occupations, for instance, according to an analysis of census data by the Pew Hispanic Center. In total, they account for an estimated one in 20 workers in the United States.

The building maintenance industry — a highly competitive business where the company with the lowest labor costs tends to win the contract — has welcomed them with open arms. According to the Pew Hispanic Center, more than a quarter of a million illegal immigrants are janitors, 350,000 are maids and housekeepers and 300,000 are groundskeepers.

The janitorial industry has been transformed in recent years as a handful of companies have consolidated by taking over hundreds of small local operators. That activity has gone hand-in-hand with the steady advance of immigrants, legal and illegal — almost all of them Hispanic — who have been drawn into what was once an overwhelmingly American-born work force.

What always surprised me was how stoic the illagals I've worked with are about paying into the system from which they got back nothing, just accepting it as a reasonable cost for the opportunity they've been given.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:56 PM


Paras strike deep into the Taliban heartland (Thomas Harding, 19/06/2006, Daily Telegraph)

British forces have scored dramatic successes against the Taliban during a lightning push deep into the lawless regions of southern Afghanistan, senior commanders revealed yesterday.

The scale and effect of the operation had not previously emerged but the British force in southern Afghanistan has advanced 75 miles into the insurgents' stronghold leaving dozens of Taliban dead.
British troops in Afghanistan
Members of 3 Bn the Parachute Regiment prepare a vehicle patrol in Goreskh, Helmand province

Despite suffering one dead and two seriously wounded last week, Operation Mountain Thrust has forced the insurgents out of villages and recovered areas not held by security forces for 30 years.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:40 PM


Barack Obama: The End Of Small Politics: Editor's Note: These remarks are excerpted from a speech Obama delivered at the Take Back America conference on June 14, 2006. Click here to watch a video of the speech. (Barack Obama, June 19, 2006, AlterNet)

[W]hile the world has changed around us, unfortunately it seems like our government has stood still. Our faith has been shaken, but the people running Washington haven't been willing to make us believe again. Now, it's the timidity, it's the smallness of our politics that's holding us back right now -- the idea that there are some problems that are just too big to handle, and if you just ignore them that sooner or later they'll go away, so that if you talk about the statistics on the stock market being up or orders for durable goods being on the rise, that nobody's going to notice the single mom who's working two jobs and still doesn't have enough money at the end of the month to pay the bills. That if you say "plan for victory" often enough and have it pasted -- the words behind you when you make a speech, that nobody's going to notice the bombings in Baghdad or the 2,500 flag-draped coffins that have arrived at Dover Air force Base. The fact is we notice, we care, and we're not going to settle for less anymore. ...

I don't think that - I think George Bush loves this country. I really do. I don't think his administration is "full" of stupid people. ... The problem is not that the philosophy of this administration is not working the way it's supposed to work; the problem is that it is working the way it's supposed to work. They don't believe -- they don't believe that government has a role in solving national problems because they think government is the problem. They think that we're better off if we just dismantle government; if, in the form of tax breaks, we make sure that everybody's responsible for buying your own health care and your own retirement security and your own child care and your own schools, your own private security forces, your own roads, your own levees.

It is called the "ownership society" in Washington. But, you know, historically there has been another term for it; it's called "social Darwinism" -- the notion that every man or woman is out for him or her self, which allows us to say that if we meet a guy who has worked in a steel plant for 30, 40 years and suddenly has the rug pulled out from under him and can't afford health care or can't afford a pension, you know, life isn't fair. It allows us to say to a child who doesn't have the wisdom to choose his or her own parents and so lives in a poor neighborhood, pick yourself up by your own bootstraps. It allows us to say to somebody who is seeing their child sick and is going bankrupt paying the bills, tough luck.

It's a bracing idea, this idea that you're on your own. It's the simplest thing in the world, easy to put on a bumper sticker. But there's just one problem; it doesn't work. It ignores our history. Now, yes, our greatness as a nation has depended on self-reliance and individual initiative and a belief in the free market, but it's also depended on our sense of mutual regard for each other, our sense that we have a stake in each other's success -- that everybody should have a shot at opportunity.

Americans understand this. They know the government can't solve all their problems, but they expect the government can help because they know it's an expression of what they're learning in Sunday school. What they learn in their church, in their synagogue, in their mosque - a basic moral precept that says that I have to look out for you and I have responsibility for you and you have responsibility for me, that I am your keeper and you are mine. That's what America is.

And so I am eager to have this argument with the Republican Party about the core philosophy of America, about what our story is.

If he were eager to have the argument he wouldn't so cynically mischaracterize the politics of Blair/Clinton/Bush and would propose a set of alternatives to the Third Way. Of course, he can't, because the entire Anglosphere has rejected the Second Way.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:20 PM


Because no one actually likes practicing law anymore.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:04 PM


Islamocapitalism (Mustafa Akyol, 19 Jun 2006, Tech Central Station)

Is Islam compatible with modernity? This has become a hotly debated question in the past few decades. Much of the discussion focuses on issues relating to political liberalism -- democracy, pluralism and freedom of thought. Another important dimension of modernity is, of course, economic liberalism. So we should also ask whether Islam is compatible with it, i.e. a free market economy, or, capitalism.

Most Islamists would reply to this question with a resounding "no!" Since they perceive Islam as an all-encompassing socio-political system, they regard capitalism as a rival and an enemy. The struggle against both communism and capitalism has been one of the standard themes in Islamist literature. Sayyid Qutb, the prominent ideologue of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, wrote a book titled Ma'arakat al-Islam wa'l-Ra's Maliyya (The Battle Between Islam and Capitalism) in 1951. At an Islamic conference held in the Spanish city of Granada on July 2003, attended by about 2,000 Muslims, a call was made to "bring about the end of the capitalist system."

However such radical rejections of the capitalist economy don't seem well-suited to the theological attitude and the historical experience of Islam towards business and profit-making. As a religion founded by a businessman -- Prophet Muhammad was a successful merchant for the greater part of his life -- and one that has cherished trade from its very beginning, Islam can in fact be very compatible with a capitalist economy supplemented by a set of moral values that emphasize the care for the poor and the needy.

The more important question in the long term is whether capitalism is compatible with modernity. Without the moral basis that the monotheisms provide it will likely be difficult, if not impossible, for socities to maintain the freedom that capitalism requires, or maintain their societies at all.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:59 AM


Guess who (quietly) likes Quebec's carbon tax? (PATRICK BRETHOUR, 6/19/06, Globe and Mail)

The oil industry would never admit it, but Quebec's proposed carbon tax is just what it — secretly — prefers.

Economists say the planned Quebec tax on hydrocarbons is going to end up being passed on by industry to be paid by consumers, creating a levy on energy when it is consumed, not when it is produced.

And that version of a carbon tax, rather than a charge when oil, gas or coal is extracted, is far preferable to the energy industry.

As should everyone who wants to reduce carbon use.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:28 AM


As Barry Bonds, so Mr. Horowitz: Tales of instrument tinkering tainted the pianist's legend. Sound familiar, sports fans? (Richard S. Ginell, June 18, 2006, LA Times)

You don't have to be a sports nut to be aware of the brouhaha surrounding Barry Bonds, who's inched past Babe Ruth's lifetime total of 714 home runs and is gunning for Henry Aaron's 755. Bonds' pursuit of baseball's most famous home run records — allegedly fueled by various performance-enhancing substances and further soured by his almost gleeful contempt for a press corps that gives him so much attention — is fodder for network news shows and talking heads alike.

And now, you're going to read about him in the arts section of your newspaper.

No, Bonds is not about to make his debut as the Fourth Tenor or a composer, thank goodness. It's just that a music critic who also happens to be a baseball fan was thinking about Bonds one lazy afternoon as he watched the surly slugger on the tube being granted yet another intentional walk. He wondered why a gifted athlete — one of the best of his time, one who was headed to the Baseball Hall of Fame anyway for his rare combination of speed and power — would want to jeopardize his health and his reputation by taking steroids. Why grab an extra artificial edge when he already had a natural edge over just about everyone else in the game?

Then, it occurred to me that there was something weirdly familiar about Bonds' situation. With a mighty leap of subjects and conventional logic, I made the connection: Vladimir Horowitz's piano!

Stay with me on this.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:37 AM


Opportunity, And Paradise, Lost at Open (Thomas Boswell, June 19, 2006, Washington Post)

Whether he knew it or not, Mickelson had joined the mood of the mob -- joyful, hopeful but, in a golf sense, mindless. Grab that driver, Phil, don't play it safe. And Mickelson did just that, not carrying a 3-wood Sunday despite Saturday-night advice from his caddie. Mickelson let the big dog eat all day. And it devoured him. He hit two fairways.

On No. 16, his drive found the rough and led to bogey. At 17, his next drive landed in a garbage can. Honest. After a free drop, he saved a zany par. But once your ball goes in the garbage, what's next? An Open down the drain? Panic was in place.

Finally, by the 18th hole, Mickelson had completely lost his golf senses. He hit four of the most poorly judged, badly executed and disastrous shots that any great player has ever inflicted on himself one right after the other.

When his final tee shot left the club, Mickelson said, "Oh, no." It's hard to hit the Champions Tent. But he did it. The fates gave him a double-edged break. From a hard-pan lie in the rough, he could pitch safely back to the fairway, probably make bogey at worst and have a Monday playoff. Or he could bomb his ball into the 18th grandstand 200 yards away and get a free drop near the green, virtually ensuring a bogey at worst and still leaving the possibility of an Open-winning up-and-down for par.

Or he could do what the crowd wanted: He could try the brave, dumb "Tin Cup" shot, a big slice carved between two trees that might, with luck and ideal execution, somehow reach the green.

"No problem, Phil," yelled a fan as Mickelson contemplated this trick shot from hell.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:03 AM


Catalan Voters Endorse Greater Autonomy (John Ward Anderson, June 19, 2006, Washington Post)

Voters in northeastern Spain overwhelmingly approved a referendum Sunday giving their region, Catalonia, broad new autonomous powers, according to nearly complete preliminary returns. Many analysts see the autonomy measure as a model that could help promote peace talks between Spain's government and separatists in the Basque part of the country.

About 74 percent of the voters who cast ballots in Catalonia, a region of about 7 million people centered on the cosmopolitan Mediterranean city of Barcelona, approved the autonomy measure, according to a tally of almost 99 percent of the vote that was posted on the Internet by the region's government. About 21 percent voted no.

Dreams of a unified Europe were never going to withstand the reality of continental nationalism.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:56 AM


Brown aide: we will lose next election: Labour must regain public trust or face 15 years in opposition, MP warns (Patrick Wintour, June 19, 2006, The Guardian)

One of Gordon Brown's closest aides has warned that Labour on its current course will lose the next election and be out of power for 15 years, since voters have lost trust in the party and will no longer listen to its message.

The warning by Michael Wills, a former Home Office minister and the Labour MP for Swindon North, is the most public disclosure yet of the deep concern in the chancellor's circle that Labour may lose the election unless there is a radical renewal of the party.

Mr Wills said: "The trouble with the current approach is that we will go out of power and we will go out of power for 15 years."

Why only fifteen years? What is the dynamic that will get the parties of the Left to try the Third Way again given how much they've come to despise the guys like Bill Clinton and Tony Blair who forced it upon them?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:51 AM


Raising age of consent sparks uproar (DEBRA BLACK, 6/19/06, Toronto Star)

The federal government plans to introduce legislation this week to raise the age of consent to 16 from 14. On the surface, the bill seems like a slam-dunk, particularly in a world where parents fear Internet luring and predators of all sorts.

But it is a thorny issue, one that is emotionally charged and has everyone from public health officials to youth workers wondering if changing the age teens can legally have sex will really deal with the problem of child sexual exploitation.

The proposed bill, which has been promised by the Conservative government since it took power last February, is creating controversy even before it has seen the light of day.

In Mogadishu, a New Moral Code Emerges (Craig Timberg, June 19, 2006, Washington Post)

In the years between the fall of the central government in 1991 and the victory of the Islamic militias on June 5, this oceanside capital had few rules. A group of warlords controlled the city, but in the absence of schools or laws, youths adopted lifestyles devoted to music, fashion and surreptitious meetings with the opposite sex.

That has changed with a swiftness that many young adults say has left them frustrated and afraid.

Abdifatah Nur, 26, said he was watching a World Cup soccer match at a movie house when Islamic militiamen crashed through the doors and ordered the television turned off. They beat the children with lashes and took the young men to a jail. Before the militiamen let their prisoners free three days later, Nur said, they whipped him and cut off his long, curly hair.

Nur said that a few days later, in a different movie house, he watched as Islamic militiamen beat the owner to death, apparently for ignoring earlier orders to not show soccer matches.

"I hate what they are doing," Nur said. "We have no choice."

Several leaders of the Islamic militias have said they have issued no orders banning World Cup broadcasts or requiring men to cut their hair. And in dozens of interviews in Mogadishu, such accounts seemed confined to only some areas of the city.

But even supporters of the Islamic militias acknowledge that their leadership is divided between extremists and moderates, and few are willing to predict which will consolidate power in the weeks and months ahead.

To many young Somalis, the Islamic militias seem to bear an eerie resemblance to the old warlords. In many cases, they are in fact the same gunmen, carrying the same AK-47s while riding on the backs of the same pickup trucks, residents here said. As the secular warlords' grip weakened, many of the families controlling the gunmen simply ordered them to switch sides.

"The people who are running the sharia courts now are no better than the warlords," said Salad Adan, 16, who lost an eye to a stray bullet when he was 14 and, this year, was shot in the leg by a gunman working for a warlord. "They are the same. . . . It's like they put on another shirt." Sharia refers to Islamic law.

Several young women in Mogadishu said they felt growing pressure to cover every bit of their hair and their faces.

"We are afraid to walk in the street with these clothes," said Nawaal Mohamuud, 18, a student, as she gestured to her bright red headdress, which revealed some of her hair and a sliver of her neck. A friend sitting beside her, Ismahaan Ali, 18, wore a similar one that was pink with gold lamé.

"Before the Islamic courts, we used to walk down the street like this," Mohamuud said. "We would listen to music, and we would dance with boys."

Some young Somali men were also attentive to their looks, using gel to tease their hair into high, curly locks.

Faysal Dhaqane, 22, still carefully styles his hair and has elaborately manicured fingernails. But when he sees the Islamic militias approaching, he said, he pulls a cap over his head and stuffs his hands in his pockets. As the militias gained control, he also closed out of fear his business of playing music at weddings. Some Islamic militiamen once ordered him to turn off his sound system.

"It is forbidden," Dhaqane recalled being told.

Like some other youths, he longs for the days before the Islamic militias came to power. "During the days of the warlords," he said, "we were free."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:46 AM


Migration 'not home crisis cause' (BBC, 6/18/06)

The government has denied claims its approach to immigration is the cause of a housing crisis, saying more single households are to blame.

It comes after Migrationwatch said projected housing demand figures were based on the assumption that net UK immigration would be 65,000 a year.

From 1996 to 2004 the actual level averaged 140,000 a year, it claimed.

Meanwhile, a council has warned that migrant workers wanting to stay in the UK could create a housing shortage.

They come here and all they want to do is buy homes and fuel the economy...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:35 AM


To really save on gas, hybrid car grows tail (Mike Lindblom, 6/19/06, Seattle Times)

Ryan Fulcher was so intent on getting more than 100 miles a gallon that he drove his Toyota Prius overnight to a technology fair in California, changed the wiring, and installed an extra battery in the trunk.

He returned to Washington as the owner of a "plug-in," a car that consumes even less fuel than an ordinary hybrid.

The additional battery serves as a spare fuel tank, except it supplies electrons, not gasoline. Each night, Fulcher recharges it from a wall socket at his Federal Way home.

Then, the engine can run all-electric for 30 miles before taking its first sip of gas. A Prius that normally attains 50 mpg can achieve hundreds of mpg at low speed.

Fulcher may be a pioneer in a potentially large-scale shift to plug-ins, which are gaining momentum with politicians and environmentalists as a route to energy independence.

June 18, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:30 PM


In 2003, U.S. Spurned Iran's Offer of Dialogue: Some Officials Lament Lost Opportunity (Glenn Kessler, June 18, 2006, Washington Post)

Just after the lightning takeover of Baghdad by U.S. forces three years ago, an unusual two-page document spewed out of a fax machine at the Near East bureau of the State Department. It was a proposal from Iran for a broad dialogue with the United States, and the fax suggested everything was on the table -- including full cooperation on nuclear programs, acceptance of Israel and the termination of Iranian support for Palestinian militant groups.

But top Bush administration officials, convinced the Iranian government was on the verge of collapse, belittled the initiative. Instead, they formally complained to the Swiss ambassador who had sent the fax with a cover letter certifying it as a genuine proposal supported by key power centers in Iran, former administration officials said.

Last month, the Bush administration abruptly shifted policy and agreed to join talks previously led by European countries over Iran's nuclear program. But several former administration officials say the United States missed an opportunity in 2003 at a time when American strength seemed at its height -- and Iran did not have a functioning nuclear program or a gusher of oil revenue from soaring energy demand.

His mishandling of Iran is a big entry on the debit side of George W. Bush's ledger, as it's been for nearly every American president.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:11 PM



Jerome Armstrong, the political strategist who followed a famous Internet fundraising effort for Howard Dean in 2004 with a book on "people-powered politics," has a sordid past as a shill for a worthless dot-com stock.

Armstrong, 42, touted a dubious Chinese software company, BluePoint, beginning in 1999, without disclosing that he accepted "below-market" shares in exchange for the glowing reports he posted on a site called Raging Bull, according to a 2003 civil suit that named him as a defendant.

"Armstrong posted over 80 times on the BluePoint message board located on the Raging Bull Web site in the first three weeks [it traded]," reads the complaint, filed by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

At no point in any of the 80 posts did Armstrong disclose he was paid for the service, the suit alleged. In fact, The Post has uncovered hundreds of Armstrong posts from 1999 to 2003, many supporting now virtually or entirely worthless stocks. [...]

Considered an authority on political blogging and 'Net campaigning, Armstrong's MyDD.com is a trendsetter in liberal circles.

TROUBLE IN KOSISTAN? (Jason Zengerle , 6/18/06, New Republic)
Uh oh. The rumblings about "Kosola" (i.e. Kos's and his friend and collaborator Jerome Armstrong's financial relationships with certain politicians) have migrated from various blog comments sections to Salon to, now, The New York Times, where the Opinionator formerly known as Chris Suellentrop lays them all out (behind the TimesSelect wall, alas). Most significantly, Suellentrop links the work Kos and Armstrong have done hyping Howard Dean, Sherrod Brown, and now Mark Warner (while one or both were on said pol's payroll) to an episode from Armstrong's past.

We can also reveal, in a Brothers Judd exclusive, that Daily Kos invested tens of millions of dollars in aluminum futures just before their recent Reynolds-wrapped Konklave.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:07 PM


Indonesia strikes back at Islamist hardliners (Gary LaMoshi, 6/14/06, Asia Times)

Last week was a rough one for jihadis in Indonesia. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's administration launched a long-overdue comprehensive campaign against violent Islamic extremists. In the country with the world's most Muslims, the outcome of Yudhoyono's initiative could prove far more significant in the global war for the hearts and minds of Muslims than the assassination of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. [...]

The last straw stirring Yudhoyono's ponderous government appears to have been an attack on former president Wahid on May 23. At an interfaith forum in the West Java town of Purwakarta, members of FPI and other radical groups forced Wahid, virtually blind and limited physically because of a series of strokes, off the stage. The radicals cited Wahid's opposition to the anti-pornography bill as an insult to Islam.

Mainstream Muslim groups Nahdlatul Ulama - formerly headed by Wahid - and Muhammidyah, with a combined membership of 70 million, denounced FPI's action against Wahid. Hundreds of his young supporters from the National Awakening Party's paramilitary wing poured into the streets, clashing with FPI members.

It may not have been just the political cover from mass organizations and the prospect of further street violence that moved the government. If the extremists went after Wahid, a Muslim cleric and scholar as well as a former president, no politician could feel safe. While Wahid's iconoclasm and failed presidency - he was removed in favor of Megawati Sukarnoputri after two stormy years in office - have left him virtually powerless, he's still widely respected as a symbol of Indonesia's unique brand of Islam. Radicals might have miscalculated Wahid's political impotence as a signal they'd win applause rather than condemnation for attacking him. [...]

When the Indonesian police receive political support, as in the Bali bombings of 2002, they've proved they can act professionally and decisively. The Bali investigation featured star officer Mangku Pastika in charge, and the spotlight now falls on Jakarta police chief Gani to show his stuff. Even though vigilantism isn't restricted to Jakarta, the capital has seen the highest-profile incidents and Gani stands out as a symbol of police indifference.

On Friday, Home Minister M Ma'ruf announced an agreement with legislative leaders to enact a law enabling the government to dissolve organizations "disturbing security and order". Though the vague wording smacks of Suharto-era repression, human-rights activists didn't promptly unleash their usual complaints. Perhaps they realize that thuggery is a greater threat to rights than a potentially restrictive new law. They may also recognize that the real purpose of the proposal is to get political parties - Yudhoyono represents a tiny party and gets spotty support from the larger ones - and legislators to denounce vigilantism and withdraw their support from such groups.

These are all good, solid moves, breaking the government's deafening silence on extremist violence. Expect more this week: Yudhoyono (or Vice President Jusuf Kalla) will meet with the leaders of major Muslim organizations, and each group's head will denounce extremist violence as contrary to Islam. A similar meeting and announcement after the second Bali bombings last October reversed the groups' lukewarm criticism of terrorist violence - it's wrong but we understand why - and prompted a sea change in public opinion from indifference to condemnation of such acts of terror.

No one ever expected the Islamicist to do other than get their heads handed to them by the Far Enemy, but it's their lack of success with the Near Enemy that spells their doom.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:50 PM


The Submerging Republican Majority (JAMES TRAUB, 6/18/06, NY Times Magazine)

During the 2000 presidential campaign, Karl Rove, the political mastermind George W. Bush called Boy Genius, was wont to draw an analogy with the election of 1896, in which the Republican William McKinley drubbed William Jennings Bryan. McKinley's election ushered in a 35-year era chiefly characterized by G.O.P. dominance; so, too, Rove argued, would Bush's hasten the progress toward an era of virtual one-party rule. [...]

It is not hard to see why Rove fastened on McKinley as Bush's precursor. McKinley was an amiable governor around whom Mark Hanna, the Karl Rove of the day, could raise enormous sums of money from industrial and financial circles. But Rove also insisted on a more far-reaching parallel: with the Civil War a fading memory, the Republicans of 1896 could no longer run as the party of the Union and needed to forge a new politics. McKinley, "the advance agent of prosperity," as he was known, offered himself as a tribune not only of the new business class but also of an emerging industrial society, as against Bryan's appeal to agrarian values and to the dispossessed. McKinley made Republicans the party of the future. And he brought new voting blocs to the Grand Old Party. Rove noted in a 2002 speech that McKinley "attempted deliberately to break with the Gilded Age politics" he had inherited by appealing to "Portuguese fishermen and Slovak coal miners and Serbian ironworkers," all of whom he made a very public point of receiving at his Ohio home in the course of his "front-porch campaign."

Rove postulated that Bush, like McKinley, had arrived at a moment when the old politics no longer applied and the new had yet to be formed. By offering himself as a pro-immigrant, pro-growth, "compassionate" conservative, he would attract the new voters of the day, including Hispanic immigrants, as well as workers in the postindustrial economy, while at the same time mobilizing the party's conservative Christian base. He would be the candidate of growth and the future while casting his rival, Al Gore, as the embodiment of an exhausted big-government credo. And this strategy worked: in 2000, Bush made gains among Hispanics and carried 97 of the country's 100 fastest-growing counties. Of course, Gore won the popular vote and, by some accounts, the election. And yet since that time, the Democrats have come to look like the party of the underprivileged and the highly educated and scarcely anyone else.

So why doesn't 2006 recall the G.O.P.'s glory years?

Because the GOP won't lose the seats in '06 that it did in 1898?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 PM


Recalling the Time of the Signs at Shea (VINCENT M. MALLOZZI, 6/18/06, NY Times)

One recent morning in Queens, Karl Ehrhardt walked over to his bedroom closet and unlocked the door to a dozen memories, every one of them in black and white.

Ehrhardt, 81, better known to fans of a certain vintage as the Sign Man of Shea, looked down at a pile of placards he once flashed in Flushing, bits of commentary designed to praise and inspire, or tease and rattle, the Mets and their opponents.

From 1964 to 1981, the Sign Man, dressed in a blue shirt and a black derby emblazoned with a Mets logo, responded on cue to much of the drama played out between the white lines. One summer day in 1979, the Sign Man followed a bouncing ball into and out of the glove of Mets shortstop Frank Taveras. The Sign Man showed no mercy:

"Look Ma, No Hands."

And whenever the journeyman Jose Cardenal struck out for the Mets, the Sign Man never failed to hoist:

"Jose, Can You See?"

"I just called them the way I saw them," Ehrhardt said.

A commercial artist from Queens who grew up in Brooklyn rooting for the Dodgers, Ehrhardt said he "adopted the Mets" in 1962, the year the franchise was born, five years after the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles.

When Shea Stadium opened in 1964, the Sign Man set up shop, running his business of baseball barbs from a box seat behind the third-base dugout. Long before television coverage and giant scoreboards became littered with never-ending distractions, the Sign Man was the only sideshow in town.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:38 AM


Right-thinking French woman plots revolution (Matthew Campbell, 6/18/06, Sunday Times of London)

AN ambitious young Frenchwoman whose fight against trade unions has earned her the nickname Mademoiselle Thatcher is to stand for parliament at the start of a political career which she hopes will revolutionise France.

If elected next year, Sabine Herold, the darling of the French right, will become the country’s youngest MP so far at the age of 25.

In March, Herold helped to launch Liberal Alternative, a political party that already has representatives in 150 French towns and cities. She hopes that it will soon have several MPs.

“People are hungry for change,” she said in an interview last week. “But none of the traditional parties on the left or the right offers any prospect for a break with the past. We want to create a new generation of politicians to be able to change France.” [...]

“I like what Margaret Thatcher did in Britain,” she acknowledged, noting that France’s unions still enjoy the disruptive power that has not been seen in Britain for more than two decades. “The unions in this country should be made more accountable. They are not even obliged to reveal the source of their funding.”

In her view, neither of the main candidates in next year’s presidential election will be able to shake France out of its stagnation and energise its outmoded economy.

No matter how much Nicolas Sarkozy, the conservative interior minister and most likely candidate for the centre-right, promises a “rupture” with the past, he has a strong dirigiste streak, complained Herold, referring to the French tradition of big intrusive government.

It seems unlikely she could win, unless she were to couple the Amer-English economic model with more continental nationalism, but even the French seem to be figuring out, after a mere two hundred and twenty years, that their model is alternatively homicidal and suicidal.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:35 AM


Pardon talk for Libby begins (TOM BRUNE, June 17, 2006, Newsday)

Now that top White House aide Karl Rove is off the hook in the CIA leak probe, President George W. Bush must weigh whether to pardon former vice presidential aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, the only one indicted in the three-year investigation.

Speculation about a pardon began in late October, soon after Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald unsealed the perjury indictment of Libby, and it continued last week after Fitzgerald chose not to charge Rove.

"I think ultimately, of course, there are going to be pardons," said Joseph diGenova, a former prosecutor and an old Washington hand who shares that view with many pundits.

"These are the kinds of cases in which historically presidents have given pardons," said the veteran Republican attorney.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:27 AM


As Natural Gas Glut Looms, Producers Eye the Weather (Steven Mufson, June 16, 2006, Washington Post)

The whole world is talking about energy shortages, but for the moment, the U.S. natural gas business is looking at a potential glut.

Thanks in part to a warm winter, inventories of natural gas have built up to levels far greater than normal for this time of year. And terminals built to handle imports of liquefied natural gas from other countries are operating at about half of their capacity.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:45 AM


Obama's Profile Has Democrats Taking Notice: Popular Senator Is Mentioned as 2008 Contender (Charles Babington, June 18, 2006, Washington Post)

EAST ORANGE, N.J. -- Barack Obama was standing before a packed high school auditorium when he noticed a familiar face in the crowd -- none other than singer Dionne Warwick. He paused, flashed a mischievous smile, then let loose with a perfectly on-key performance of the opening line of her hit song "Walk On By."

The audience of 300 students and adults roared with approval.

Hidden here is a story that speaks volumes about how its own leadership has betrayed black America. Not only does East Orange have a public school named for Ms Warwick, a truly minor pop singer, but the elementary school that we attended was renamed a few years ago from Benjamin Franklin to Whitney Houston Academy, in "honor" of Ms Warwick's crack-addled cousin.

Maybe the Democrats could wait until Mr. Obama does something--anything--in Washington before they decide he should be president?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:42 AM


Catalonia votes on autonomy plan (BBC, 6/18/06)

The Spanish region of Catalonia is voting on a new charter that would declare it a nation within Spain.

If the "yes" vote for greater autonomy is successful, Catalonia, in the north-east, would become one of Europe's most independent regions.

The draft plan allows for more independence in areas such as how tax is spent and immigration policies.

Latest opinion polls suggest most Catalans favour the plan, but more than half of all Spaniards reject it.

Yeah, but the Spaniards don't matter.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:39 AM


U.S. Airstrikes Rise In Afghanistan as Fighting Intensifies: In Response to More Aggressive Taliban, Attacks Are Double Those in Iraq War (Thomas E. Ricks, June 18, 2006, Washington Post)

As fighting in Afghanistan has intensified over the past three months, the U.S. military has conducted 340 airstrikes there, more than twice the 160 carried out in the much higher-profile war in Iraq, according to data from the Central Command, the U.S. military headquarters for the Middle East.

The airstrikes appear to have increased in recent days as the United States and its allies have launched counteroffensives against the Taliban in the south and southeast, strafing and bombing a stronghold in Uruzgan province and pounding an area near Khost with 500-pound bombs.

U.S. officials say the activity is a response to an increasingly aggressive Taliban, whose leaders realize that long-term trends are against them as the power of the Afghan central government grows.

"I think the Taliban realize they have a window to act," Army Maj. Gen. Benjamin Freakley, commander of the 22,000 U.S. troops in the country, said in a recent interview. "The enemy is working against a window that he knows is closing."

When your reality is that when you cluster you get bombed and when you attack you get shot you're looking through a darn small window to begin with.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:30 AM


Debunking "The Code" (Philip W. Eaton, 6/18/06, THE SEATTLE TIMES)

[I]n an interview with Matt Lauer on the "Today" show, Dan Brown, the author of "The Da Vinci Code," says quite nonchalantly that "all of it is based on historic fact." Brown is consistently portrayed by the media and by his own self-promotion as a thorough and meticulous researcher. "The only thing fictional in the book are the characters," Brown says to Linda Wertheimer on NPR. "Everything else is factual."

Rather than "just a rollicking good bit of entertainment," apparently the author of the novel wants to strike a different posture, the pose that we are about to encounter the truthful retelling of the Christian story. [...]

But can we get historical accuracy from this novel? It might be helpful to start with some of the simpler "facts" found on the very first page of the book. The first word in the book is the word "fact," implying that what we are about to experience is based on fact. Brown claims on this page, for example, that descriptions about a mysterious secret society called the Priory of Sion are fact. In addition, at an even simpler level, Brown proudly touts sophisticated accuracy in his descriptions of architecture, detail that does indeed provide some of the delight and texture of the novel. But can we go along with the author that we are entering the realm of fact and accuracy?

N.T. Wright, the great British New Testament scholar and Anglican bishop, says the stories about the Priory of Sion are "really forgeries cooked up by three zany Frenchmen in the 1950s. They cheerfully confessed to this in a devastating television program shown on British television in February this year."

Wright goes on to note quite playfully that the "accurate" descriptions of Westminster Abbey, for example, are blatantly distorted and could have been corrected with a 10-minute walk through this glorious structure. Wright should know — he occupied an office as canon theologian at Westminster for a number of years.

"If Brown is so careless," Wright asks, "and carelessly inventive, in details as easy to check as those, why should we trust him in anything else?" N.T. Wright is among the finest Christian scholars of our day and says quite clearly that "the deepest irony" about the book "is that it portrays itself as historically rooted, when it is a tissue of fantasy."

"Any picture of Jesus," he adds, must "be produced by serious and sober historical scholarship." The claims to fact in "The Da Vinci Code" are quite simply "all pure imagination." [...]

He also presents as fact a total misunderstanding of what happened at the Council of Nicea in 325, where he supposes that Constantine suppressed the real truth in order to solidify power.

While all of this is too complicated for this short space, the historical sequence presented by Brown is totally out of whack, the texts he honors come centuries after Christ, and the record is entirely silent on some of Brown's key assumptions. The real story, by the way, is as intriguing and intellectually exciting as anything presented in the novel, but it isn't what Brown portrays it to be.

Having not read the book, it was surprising how easily Bart Ehrman, himself a skeptic of the Christ tale, annihilated Dan Brown.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:19 AM


WAITING FOR THE APOCALYPSE: Ten years after Samuel Huntingdon predicted a `clash of civilizations,' there's much debate about whether his prophecy is coming true. Olivia Ward writes there is scant reason for reassurance. (OLIVIA WARD, 6/18/06, Toronto Star)

Gerges and others who study the progress of jihadism and the war on terror say that building a basement bunker is premature for worried people on both sides of the cultural divide.

The real clash, they insist, is not between Muslims and the West, but within Islam itself. There is also a fierce battle between Western liberals and conservatives struggling for the souls of their countries.

"We're talking about a clash of fundamentalisms in both camps," says Gerges. "In the Muslim world, a thin layer of culture and tradition is being imposed on the wider community. Even though the people who are doing it belong to a tiny minority, they are very effective at campaigning and they have set powerful forces in motion."

America, says former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, follows the same dangerous pattern: "It is sometimes convenient for purposes of rhetorical effect for national leaders to talk of a globe neatly divided into good and bad," she warned in a recent essay in the Los Angeles Times.

"It is quite another, however, to base the policies of the world's most powerful nation upon that fiction. The (George W. Bush) administration's penchant for painting the perceived adversaries with the same sweeping brush has led to a series of unintended consequences."

In America, analysts say, such apocalyptic thinking fits neatly into the culture of fundamentalist Christianity, and a substantial number of Americans believe the end of the world is inevitable. Launching wars against "evildoers" and unbelievers is a way of provoking a "final battle" of all against all. Bush's religiously tinged rhetoric convinces some of his critics that a clash of civilizations is his goal.

"One suspects that the right is full of apocalyptic excuses for not facing the huge challenges looming in the future," says Deepak Chopra, author of numerous books on spiritual healing. "There is a whiff of apocalypse hanging over the Iraq war, whose rationale may have a lot to do with the Book of Revelations, the rise of the Anti-Christ, a climactic battle in the Holy Land and so on.

"These scenarios are not divinely manifested, though — we make them happen out of our own will, expectations, and perverse love of crisis," he said in the Huffington Post.

Extremists in the Muslim world are also courting the Armageddon that a clash of civilizations would create. And, analysts say, the invasion of Iraq has intensified and speeded up the violent evolution of jihad.

"There is a sense of apocalypse now," says Reuven Paz, director of the Project for the Research of Islamist Movements at the Israel-based GLORIA Center. "Not just youngsters, but people with families, in their 30s, are willing to go to Iraq and blow themselves up. That is something new. About 700 people a year are killing themselves there. They feel that they are living on the eve of the end of history, and the great victory of Islam is coming."

New, too, is the attraction to terrorism of middle-class and wealthy young Muslims in Arab countries and the West, who are backing and planning attacks against "infidels" and "occupiers."

And, Paz says, their nihilism is reflected in an American policy of endless war against terrorism that was exemplified by the invasion of Iraq.

"When the Americans started the Iraq war, they waked all kinds of sleeping demons, both Sunni and Shia. They aroused many social and cultural ones, not just in Iraq, but throughout the Arab world. That has fuelled the jihad. If you look at the reaction to the killing of Zarqawi, you see that hundreds are thanking the Americans, because now there will be an even bigger wave of jihad."

Loretta Napoleoni, London-based author of Insurgent Iraq: Al Zarqawi and the New Generation, agrees: "It's turned into an anti-imperialist movement without end," she says.

"Many of the jihad recruits aren't interested in classic motivations like recreating the Islamic Caliphate. The ones who were arrested in (the recent bomb plot in) Ontario may not even have a final objective. As long as they attack, it's sufficient. It's purely nihilistic, like some of the old anarchist movements in Europe. And because the people who attack are gone afterwards, it's much more difficult to find out who (the cells) are and how they operate."

The problem with the theory is that it is the final battle for the few jihadists but barely a dust-up for the West. The comnparison to the anarchists is apt--they too were annoying and even murderous for awhile before dwindling away to naught.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 9:15 AM


The True Story of American Soccer (Dave Eggers, Slate, June 9th, 2006)

Our continued indifference to the sport worshiped around the world can be easily explained in two parts. First, as a nation of loony but determined inventors, we prefer things we thought of ourselves. The most popular sports in America are those we conceived and developed on our own: football, baseball, basketball. If we can claim at least part of the credit for something, as with tennis or the radio, we are willing to be passively interested. But we did not invent soccer, and so we are suspicious of it.

The second and greatest, by far, obstacle to the popularity of the World Cup, and of professional soccer in general, is the element of flopping. Americans may generally be arrogant, but there is one stance I … stand behind, and that is the intense loathing of penalty-fakers. There are few examples of American sports where flopping is part of the game, much less accepted as such. Things are too complicated and dangerous in football to do much faking. Baseball? It's not possible, really—you can't fake getting hit by a baseball, and it's impossible to fake catching one. The only one of the big three sports that has a flop factor is basketball, where players can and do occasionally exaggerate a foul against them, but get this: The biggest flopper in the NBA is not an American at all. He's Argentinian! (Manu Ginobili, a phony to end all phonies, but otherwise a very good player.)

But flopping in soccer is a problem. Flopping is essentially a combination of acting, lying, begging, and cheating, and these four behaviors make for an unappealing mix. The sheer theatricality of flopping is distasteful, as is the slow-motion way the chicanery unfolds. First there will be some incidental contact, and then there will be a long moment—enough to allow you to go and wash the car and return—after the contact and before the flopper decides to flop. When you've returned from washing the car and around the time you're making yourself a mini-bagel grilled cheese, the flopper will be leaping forward, his mouth Munch-wide and oval, bracing himself for contact with the earth beneath him. But this is just the beginning. Go and do the grocery shopping and perhaps open a new money-market account at the bank, and when you return, our flopper will still be on the ground, holding his shin, his head thrown back in mock-agony. It's disgusting, all of it, particularly because, just as all of this fakery takes a good deal of time and melodrama to put over, the next step is so fast that special cameras are needed to capture it. Once the referees have decided either to issue a penalty or not to our Fakey McChumpland, he will jump up, suddenly and spectacularly uninjured—excelsior!—and will kick the ball over to his teammate and move on.

American sports are, for better or worse, built upon transparency, or the appearance of transparency, and on the grind-it-out work ethic. This is why the most popular soccer player in American history is Sylvester Stallone. In fact, the two greatest moments in American soccer both involved Sylvester Stallone. The first came with Victory, the classic film about Allied soccer-playing POWs, and the all-star game they play against the Nazis. In that film, Stallone plays an American soldier who must, for some reason—no one can be expected to remember these things—replace the goalie on the POW team. Of course, Stallone knows nothing about soccer, so he must learn to play goalie (somewhere, Moron McCheeby grins triumphantly). Stallone does this admirably, the Allies win (I think), and as the crowd surrounds them, they are hidden under coats and fans and sneak away to freedom.

Surely the last word on why soccer is un-American but beloved by Europeans, even if he does have his facts wrong about basketball.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:14 AM


Volpe attack jolts Liberal race (SUSAN DELACOURT, 6/18/06, Toronto Star)

Joe Volpe is spoiling to be the bad boy of the otherwise polite and low-key Liberal leadership race, now accusing his rival Michael Ignatieff of sharing the same politics as Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

At the second leadership debate, in Moncton yesterday, Volpe pointedly singled out Ignatieff in his opening remarks, waving a newspaper headline about his views on Canada's role in Afghanistan, and arguing that only Harper would agree with the former Harvard law professor.

Volpe did it deliberately and unapologetically, declaring to reporters later about Ignatieff's debate performance: "I only heard Harper's narrative." [...]

At issue, mainly, is Ignatieff's support of Canada continuing its military role in Afghanistan in a recent Commons vote.

Liberals were split on the issue, but Ignatieff has said the Afghanistan presence adheres to Canada's commitment to the "responsibility to protect" doctrine, as endorsed by the United Nations and which he helped to draft as a policy.

"The idea that I'm making nice with Mr. Harper seems a little peculiar, since I've made it clear in every intervention in the House of Commons that if he changes the mission, I will hold him to account . ..What I support is the Liberal mission that we engaged in 2001."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:06 AM


Mexico Worries About Its Own Southern Border: Even as its officials denounce Washington's plans, Mexico has begun a re-examination of its own immigration policies. (GINGER THOMPSON, 6/18/06, NY Times)

Quiet as it is kept in political circles, Mexico, so much the focus of the United States' immigration debate, has its own set of immigration problems. And as elected officials from President Vicente Fox on down denounce Washington's plans to deploy troops and build more walls along the United States border, Mexico has begun a re-examination of its own policies and prejudices.

Here at Mexico's own southern edge, Guatemalans cross legally and illegally to do jobs that Mexicans departing for the north no longer want. And hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants from nearly two dozen other countries, including China, Ecuador, Cuba and Somalia, pass through on their way to the United States.

Dense jungle makes establishing an effective law enforcement presence along the line impossible. Crossing the border is often as easy as hopping a fence or rafting for 10 minutes. But, under pressure from the United States, Mexico has steadily increased checkpoints along highways at the border including several posts with military forces.

The Mexican authorities report that detentions and deportations have risen in the past four years by an estimated 74 percent, to 240,000, nearly half along the southern border. But they acknowledged there had also been a boom in immigrant smuggling and increased incidents of abuses and attacks by corrupt law enforcement officials, vigilantes and bandits. Meanwhile, the waves of migrants continue to grow.

Few politicians have made public speeches about such matters. But Deputy Foreign Minister Gerónimo Gutiérrez recently acknowledged that Mexico's immigration laws were "tougher than those being contemplated by the United States," where the authorities caught 1.5 million people illegally crossing the Mexican border last year.

Thus we see that the nativists are advocating unAmerican ideas.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:58 AM


The philosopher and the ayatollah: In 1978, Michel Foucault went to Iran as a novice journalist to report on the unfolding revolution. His dispatches — now fully available in translation — shed some light on the illusions of intellectuals in our own time (Wesley Yang, June 12, 2005, Boston Globe)

"IT IS PERHAPS the first great insurrection against global systems, the form of revolt that is the most modern and most insane." With these words, the French philosopher Michel Foucault hailed the rising tide that would sweep Iran's modernizing despot, Mohammed Reza Pahlavi Shah, out of power in January 1979 and install in his place one of the world's most illiberal regimes, the Shi'ite government headed by Ayatollah Seyyed Ruhollah Khomeini.

Foucault wasn't just pontificating from an armchair in Paris. In the fall of 1978, as the shah's government tottered, he made two trips to Iran as a "mere novice" reporter, as he put it, to watch events unfold. "We have to be there at the birth of ideas," he explained in an interview with an Iranian journalist, "the bursting outward of their force; not in books expressing them, but in events manifesting this force, in struggle carried on around ideas, for or against them."

While many liberals and leftists supported the populist uprising that pitted unarmed masses against one of the world's best-armed regimes, none welcomed the announcement of the growing power of radical Islam with the portentous lyricism that Foucault brought to his brief, and never repeated, foray into journalism.

"As an Islamic movement it can set the entire region afire, overturn the most unstable regimes, and disturb the most solid," Foucault wrote enthusiastically. "Islam — which is not simply a religion, but an entire way of life, an adherence to a history and a civilization — has a good chance to become a gigantic powder keg, at the level of hundreds of millions of men." [...]

Foucault's Iranian adventure was a "tragic and farcical error" that fits into a long tradition of ill-informed French intellectuals spouting off about distant revolutions, says James Miller, whose 1993 biography "The Passion of Michel Foucault" contains one of the few previous English-language accounts of the episode. [...]

When Foucault went to Tehran, he was France's dominant public intellectual, famous for a critique of modernity carried out through unsparing dissections of modern institutions that reversed the conventional wisdom about prisons, madness, and sexuality. In his most famous work, "Discipline and Punish," Foucault argued that liberal democracy was in fact a "disciplinary society" that punished with less physical severity in order to punish with greater efficiency. More broadly, his counternarrative of the Enlightenment suggested that the modern institutions we imagined were freeing us were in fact enslaving us in insidious ways.

In the fall of 1978, an escalating series of street protests and violent reprisals and massacres by the Iranian police had placed the shah and the Iranian populace on a collision course. The uprising consisted of a broad coalition, including Communists, student leftists, secular nationalists, socialists, and Islamists. But by late 1978, the Islamists — directed by Khomeini from Paris, long a center for Iranian exiles — were the dominant faction. The shah abdicated in January 1979, and Khomeini returned to rapturous rejoicing on Feb. 1, 1979.

The mistake here is the notion that Foucault didn't understand how totalitarian Khomeinism was.

June 17, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:54 PM


Spy who turned tide with Libya is brought back to target Teheran (Toby Harnden, 18/06/2006, Sunday Telegraph)

The American spy who persuaded Libya to renounce its weapons of mass destruction is to return to the Central Intelligence Agency, where he will direct an aggressive drive to recruit informants inside Iran to aid possible negotiations over Teheran's nuclear capability.

Stephen Kappes, a former United States Marines officer who resigned from the CIA after a clash with its then director, Porter Goss, has been brought back from self-imposed exile in London by George W Bush. [...]

Mr Kappes is a Farsi and Russian speaker who, while stationed in Frankfurt in the late 1980s, was in charge of collecting information about Ayatollah Khomeini's regime and debriefing Iranian exiles.

Mr Kappes is understood to have told friends months ago that he favoured direct engagement with Iran, even suggesting that there might be a case for restoring diplomatic relations with the country and reopening the American embassy in Teheran, closed since the 1979 hostage crisis. [...]

In October 2003, Mr Kappes led a 15-strong American and British team that went into Libya to test an overture by President Muammar Gaddafi, suggesting that he might be willing to give up his weapons of mass destruction. The information gathered by Mr Kappes helped to persuade the Libyans that the West had clear evidence of the military intent of their nuclear programme.

Libya was easy because Saif al-Islam had prepped the ground. The question is whether similarly powerful members of the Iranian regime are ready to cut a deal and come in from the cold.

Ayatollah's grandson calls for US overthrow of Iran (PHILIP SHERWELL, 18/06/2006, Sunday Telegraph)

The grandson of Ayatollah Khomeini, the inspiration of Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution, has broken a three-year silence to back the United States military to overthrow the country's clerical regime.

Hossein Khomeini's call is all the more startling as he made it from Qom, the spiritual home of Iran's Shia strand of Islam, during an interview to mark the 17th anniversary of the ayatollah's death. [...]

Mr Khomeini briefly emerged as an unlikely critic of the Islamic Republic in 2003, when he called for armed invasion during a visit to Washington and New York.

The cleric returned to Iran at his family's insistence and was protected from retribution by his grandfather's widow, Batol Saqafi Khomeini.

It is not clear why he has chosen now to speak out again or whether the regime was aware that he would be talking to Al-Arabiya after banning other media organisations from interviewing him. A translation of his comments, made on May 31, was first released last week by the Middle East Media Research Institute.

He said that if he came to power in Iran, one of his first acts would be to make wearing the hijab (veil) an optional choice for women.

Mr Khomeini's mentor is believed to be the regime's best-known religious critic, Grand Ayatollah Ali Montazeri, who was released from house arrest in Qom in 2003 after six years for criticising the rule of Ayatollah Ali Khameini.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:44 PM


U.S. Muslim Clerics Seek a Modern Middle Ground (LAURIE GOODSTEIN, 6/18/06, NY Times)

Every seat in the auditorium at the University of Houston was taken, and the crowd was standing in the back and spilling out into the lobby, straining to hear. The two men onstage began to speak to the crowd in Arabic, with such flawless accents and rarefied Koranic grammar that some audience members gaped when they heard the Arabic equivalent of the king's English coming from the mouths of two Americans.

Sheik Hamza Yusuf, in a groomed goatee and sports jacket, looked more like a hip white college professor than a Middle Eastern sheik. Imam Zaid Shakir, a lanky African-American in a long brown tunic, looked as if he would fit in just fine on the streets of Damascus.

Both men are converts to Islam who spent years in the Middle East and North Africa being mentored by formidable Muslim scholars. They have since become leading intellectual lights for a new generation of American Muslims looking for homegrown leaders who can help them learn how to live their faith without succumbing to American materialism or Islamic extremism. [...]

Mr. Yusuf, 48, and Mr. Shakir, 50, are using their clout to create the first Islamic seminary in the United States, where they hope to train a new generation of imams and scholars who can reconcile Islam and American culture.

The seminary is still in its fledgling stages, but Mr. Yusuf and Mr. Shakir have gained a large following by being equally at home in Islamic tradition and modern American culture. Mr. Yusuf dazzles his audiences by weaving into one of his typical half-hour talks quotations from St. Augustine, Patton, Eric Erikson, Jung, Solzhenitsyn, Auden, Robert Bly, Gen. William C. Westmoreland and the Bible. He is the host of a TV reality show that is popular in the Middle East, in which he takes a vanload of Arabs on a road trip across the United States to visit people who might challenge Arab stereotypes about Americans, like the antiwar protesters demonstrating outside the Republican National Convention.

Mr. Shakir mixes passages from the Koran with a few lines of rap, and channels accents from ghetto to Valley Girl. Some of his students call him the next Malcolm X — out of his earshot, because he so often preaches the importance of humility.

Both men draw overflow crowds in theaters, mosques and university auditoriums that seat thousands. Their books and CD's are pored over by young Muslims in study groups. As scholars and proselytizers of the faith, they have a much higher profile than most imams, as Muslim clerics who are usually in charge of mosques are known. Their message is that both Islam and America have gone seriously astray, and that American Muslims have a responsibility to harness their growing numbers and economic power to help set them straight.

They say that Islam must be rescued from extremists who selectively cite Islamic scripture to justify terrorism. Though Mr. Yusuf and Mr. Shakir do not denounce particular scholars or schools of thought, their students say the two are challenging the influence of Islam's more reactionary sects, like Wahhabism and Salafism, which has been spread to American mosques and schools by clerics trained in Saudi Arabia. Where Wahhabism and Salafism are often intolerant of other religions — even of other streams within Islam — Mr. Yusuf and Mr. Shakir teach that Islam is open to a diversity of interpretations honed by centuries of scholars.

Mr. Yusuf told the audience in Houston to beware of "fanatics" who pluck Islamic scripture out of context and say, "We're going to tell you what God says on every single issue."

"That's not Islam," Mr. Yusuf said. "That's psychopathy." [...]

Islamic studies experts say that what Mr. Yusuf and Mr. Shakir are teaching is traditional orthodox Islam, and that it is impossible to characterize their theology as either conservative or liberal.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:38 PM


Scrap ID cards and build jails, say Tories (Melissa Kite, 18/06/2006, Sunday Telegraph)

The Tories would build more prisons and keep offenders behind bars for longer in a £15 billion plan to be paid for by the scrapping of identity cards.

The radical idea has been devised by David Cameron and David Davis as the Conservatives open up a new offensive on law and order.

Puritanism sells in the Anglosphere.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:23 PM


EXCERPT: Introduction from The Central Liberal Truth By Lawrence E. Harrison*

I am convinced that the luckiest of geographic circumstances and the best of laws cannot maintain a constitution in despite of mores, whereas the latter can turn even the most unfavorable circumstances and the worst laws to advantage. The importance of mores is a universal truth to which study and experience continually bring us back. I find it occupies the central position in my thoughts: all my ideas come back to it in the end.
--Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

The influence of cultural values, beliefs, and attitudes on the way that societies evolve has been shunned by scholars, politicians, and development experts, notwithstanding the views of Tocqueville, Max Weber, and more recently Francis Fukuyama, Samuel Huntington, David Landes, Robert Putnam, and Lucian Pye, among others. It is much more comfortable for the experts to cite geographic constraints, insufficient resources, bad policies, and weak institutions. That way they avoid the invidious comparisons, political sensitivities, and bruised feelings often engendered by cultural explanations of success and failure. But by avoiding culture, the experts also ignore not only an important part of the explanation of why some societies or ethno-religious groups do better than others with respect to democratic governance, social justice, and prosperity. They also ignore the possibility that progress can be accelerated by (1) analyzing cultural obstacles to it, and (2) addressing cultural change as a remedy.

The influence of culture on the way that societies evolve is central not only to the goal of reducing poverty and injustice around the world. It is also a key factor in foreign policy, with particular relevance to the Bush administration's keystone policy of promoting democracy: "[the] values of freedom are right and true for every person, in every society." If culture matters in making democracy work, as Tocqueville insists, and as the disappointing experience of the United States in promoting democracy (e.g., in Latin America) suggests, then the keystone is likely to crumble under the pressure of cultures averse to democracy, as in the Arab countries, not one of which has yet produced stable democracy.

Some fundamental questions about what drives human progress cannot be answered without considering the role of culture and/or cultural change. For example:

* Why have democratic institutions failed to take root in any Arab country?
* Why have the Confucian societies of East Asia experienced transforming rates of economic growth?
* Why are East Asian immigrants so successful wherever they migrate?
* Why are Jews so successful wherever they migrate?
* What explains the "miracle" of Spain's transformation from a traditional autocracy to a modern Western European democracy?
* Why do the Nordic countries lead the rest of the world in most indicators of progress?
* Why have Haiti and the Dominican Republic, two countries that share the Caribbean island of Hispaniola, followed such divergent paths?

Other Factors Matter, Too

Culture can be crucial, but it is only one factor, if an important one, in play in human progress. Geography, including climate and resource endowment, also matters, not only in its direct impact on economic development but also through its influence on culture. Jared Diamond makes a compelling case for the powerful influence of environment in his best-selling Guns, Germs, and Steel, but he leaves space for culture: "Among other factors [explaining why some societies have advanced more rapidly than others] cultural factors . . . loom large . . . Human cultural traits vary greatly around the world. Some of that cultural variation is no doubt a product of environmental variation . . . But an important question concerns the possible significance of local cultural factors unrelated to the environment. A minor cultural feature may arise for trivial, temporary local reasons, become fixed, and then predispose a society toward more important cultural choices . . ."

That colder climates forced humans to plan ahead to get through the winter, while humans in tropical zones had no such problem, must surely be relevant in explaining why most poor countries are found in the tropical zones; and it may also be relevant in explaining why the warmer portions of some countries -- for example, the south of Italy, the south of Spain, the south of the United States -- are poorer than the colder portions.

Ideology and governmental policies can also profoundly influence the pace and direction that development takes: toward or away from democracy and social justice, toward or away from sustained rapid economic growth. In contrast with Italy, Spain, and the United States, the northern part of Korea is poor, the southern part rich. This reversal is largely because, in the North, an ideology and the policies that flow from it are hostile to economic development and political pluralism, while the ideology and policies of the South have proven conducive to economic development, which in turn has nurtured democracy. This is a case where ideology and economic policy seem to matter much more than culture. Yet even in such cases, culture is in play. North Korea's authoritarian government is in part a product of the same authoritarian current in Confucianism that produced the autocracies of Mao Zedong and his predecessors and successors in China -- and the progressive authoritarianism of Lee Kuan Yew in Singapore. And, as we shall see, ideological shifts have played a key role in cultural change in several countries.

The role of political leaders with a vision of a better society can also play a crucial role. The Meiji leadership in late-nineteenth-century Japan, Mustafa Kemal in Turkey following World War I, and Franklin Roosevelt in the United States of the 1930s and '40s all brought about transforming change -- in a political and economic sense, to be sure, but in a cultural sense as well. A more recent example is the crucial role played by Mikhail Gorbachev in the demise of the Soviet empire and the movement, rapid in some of its components and slow in others, toward democratic capitalism.

I note in passing that each of these leaderships came to power at a time of national crisis, validating an observation by Samuel Huntington, "Societies . . . may change their culture in response to major trauma." The corresponding crises: Japan's awareness of its technological backwardness and vulnerability in the wake of the arrival of Commodore Perry's flotilla in Tokyo Bay in 1853; the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in World War I; the Great Depression and World War II; the failure of Communism to produce prosperity, and increasing evidence that the West was winning the Cold War.

Generally, however, what I wrote in Underdevelopment Is a State of Mind twenty years ago remains valid: "the cultural environment importantly influences the process through which leaders gain their positions, the priorities they apply in shaping policies, and the people, institutions, and practices they use to execute those policies" -- not to mention culture's influence on the leaders themselves.

Success can also breed cultural change that slows the pace of economic growth. Such has been the case in Japan in the 1990s and the first years of the twenty-first century, and it may also be true of some European countries, too, as symbolized by France's move to a 35-hour work week. The New York Times recently noted that Norway's "bedrock work ethic" is caving in as a result of the country's affluence. These cases evoke the kind of post-industrial culture that Ronald Inglehart has analyzed: "Having attained high levels of economic security, the populations of the first nations to industrialize have gradually come to emphasize . . . values [other than prosperity]; these groups give higher priority to the quality of life than to economic growth." I am reminded of Thomas Mann's early novel of a north German commercial dynasty, Buddenbrooks, in which the dynastic fortune is dissipated through lack of interest in business in third and fourth generation offspring; also a Chinese adage that covers three generations: From rags, to riches, to ruin.

The foregoing is not a full cataloguing of the noncultural factors that influence how societies evolve. But it does address significant factors, some of which, for example, ideology in North Korea (and in East Germany) have trumped culture. Culture is one of several relevant factors. But in many cases, it may be the crucial one.

Defining "Culture"

What do we mean by "culture"? "It has been defined in myriad ways," as a recent World Bank study observes. We commonly hear references to "popular culture," which includes food, entertainment, and clothing styles, among other dimensions. And "culture" often brings to mind literature, art, and music -- "high" culture. But for our purposes, culture is the body of values, beliefs, and attitudes that members of a society share; values, beliefs, and attitudes shaped chiefly by environment, religion, and the vagaries of history that are passed on from generation to generation chiefly through child rearing practices, religious practice, the education system, the media, and peer relationships. Those values, beliefs, and attitudes are disaggregated in a 25-factor typology of progress-prone and progress-resistant societies presented in chapter 2.

Culture is powerfully influenced by religion, and the cultures discussed in this book are defined, at a broad level of generalization, by the predominant religion or ethical code: Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox Christian, Jewish, Islamic, Confucian, Hindu, and Buddhist. These are roughly comparable to the "civilizations" that Samuel Huntington analyzes in The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, although he groups together the European Protestant and Catholic countries and the British offspring countries (the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand) as "the West." However, our analysis will go beyond these general categories to specific countries within "civilizations," and even to some provinces, cities, towns, and ethnic groups.

Over the generations, culture develops a powerful momentum, but it is susceptible to change. Attitudes and beliefs are more susceptible than values: examples are the transformation of attitudes on race in the United States in recent decades, and the not uncommon shifting of political beliefs, or ideologies, from one political party to another. Values, on the other hand, are the bedrock of culture, and they usually change more slowly than attitudes and beliefs. An example is the central Confucian value of filial piety -- the responsibility of the child to honor, respect, and obey the father. But rapid modernization in Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore, and now China itself has shaken even that bedrock value.

How does culture influence the way that societies progress? Cultures can be thought of as overlays on a universal human nature, overlays that go a long way toward explaining the behavioral differences that are reflected in the divergent political, social, and economic evolution of societies, for example of Western Europe and the Arab countries. Relevant is an observation from the widely read Arab Human Development Report 2002, commissioned by the United Nations Development Program and Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development:

Culture and values are the soul of development. They provide its impetus, facilitate the means needed to further it, and substantially define people's vision of its purposes and ends. Culture and values are instrumental in the sense that they help to shape people's hopes, fears, ambitions, attitudes and actions, but they are also formative because they mould people's ideals and inspire their dreams for a fulfilling life for themselves and future generations. There is some debate in Arab countries about whether culture and values promote or retard development. Ultimately, however, values are not the servants of development; they are its wellspring . . .

Governments -- Arab or otherwise -- cannot decree their people's values; indeed, governments and their actions are partly formed by national cultures and values. Governments can, however, influence culture through leadership and example, and by shaping education and pedagogy, incentive structures in society, and use of the media. Moreover, by influencing values, they can affect the path of development.

Throughout this book, I will be generalizing about cultures and religions. That is inevitable in a project that seeks a deeper understanding of what constitutes "culture," how it influences behavior, and what might be done to modify it. But one must be mindful that cultures are not homogeneous; that all cultures have, in Robert Hefner's words, "their own internal pluralism, variety, or rival 'streams."' Moreover, individual variation exists in all cultures: progress-prone people will surely be found in progress-resistant cultures, and vice versa. Nevertheless, there is compelling evidence, for example from Geert Hofstede's comparative analyses of cultural differences in IBM offices around the world, and the World Values Survey, which assesses values and value change in some 65 countries, that meaningful patterns exist in the values, beliefs, and attitudes of nations, and even "civilizations," that make generalizations both valid and useful.

Defining "Progress"

Any attempt to define "progress" is likely to collide with the views of people who subscribe to cultural relativism, the theory that each society or culture must define its own ideas "about what is true, good, beautiful and efficient" and that cultures are neither better nor worse, simply different. Cultural relativism was at the root of the American Anthropological Association's opposition to the 1948 United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights on the grounds that it was an ethnocentric imposition of the West on the rest of the world. Yet the declaration today provides us with a definition of progress that is substantially accepted well beyond the boundaries of "the West":

* The right to life, liberty, and security of person
* Equality before the law
* Freedom of thought, conscience, and religion
* The right to take part in . . . government . . . directly or through chosen representatives
* [The right to assure that] the will of the people [is] the basis of the authority of government
* The right to an [adequate] standard of living
* [The right to] adequate medical care and necessary social services
* The right to education

No one can argue that the UN Declaration is fully "universal." Surely, there are individuals and groups who would disagree with one or more of the components of progress. However, a majority of the world's people surely would agree with the following assertions, which are a restatement of the declaration:

Life is better than death.
Health is better than sickness.
Liberty is better than slavery.
Prosperity is better than poverty.
Education is better than ignorance.
Justice is better than injustice.

*Thanks to the folks at FSB Associates for permission to reprint the excerpt.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 7:40 PM


Nine-man U.S. holds on to tie Italy (Associated Press, June 17th, 2006)

Bloodied but not beaten, the United States bounced back to hold Italy to a 1-1 tie Saturday night in an ugly World Cup game with three ejections, a disallowed American goal and wide-open play.

With thousands of fans in red, white and blue cheering the United States on a warm night, the Americans came out aggressive - and then hung on while playing most of the second half at a man disadvantage. Their reward was their first World Cup point in Europe.

Stupid game, of course, but if you have to cheer for someone...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:15 PM


Tocqueville's Influence on "Deus Caritas Est": Interview With Samuel Gregg of Acton Institute (Zenit.org, , APRIL 3, 2006)

Q: Who was Alexis de Tocqueville? Why is his thought notable?

Gregg: Count Alexis de Tocqueville is perhaps one of the most important social philosophers of modern times.

Born in 1805 into one of the oldest French aristocratic families, Tocqueville grew up in the shadow of the French Revolution -- a revolution, I might add, that guillotined several of his relatives.

Despite this, Tocqueville recognized that there was no going back to the ancient régime. He was, however, appalled by the ferocity of the violence unleashed by the Revolution, especially against the Catholic Church.

Another paradox is that though Tocqueville was a practicing Catholic, we know from his correspondence that he struggled with the question of faith for his entire life.

What Tocqueville did not, however, question was the pivotal role played by Christianity in creating and sustaining societies that aspire, as John Paul the Great once wrote, to be both free and virtuous.

In terms of books, Tocqueville is most famous as the author of "Democracy in America," a text that many regard as containing the most enduring insights into democracy's promise and its challenges.

The book draws heavily from observations made by Tocqueville during his visit to the United States in 1831 and 1832, in which he traveled the length and breadth of the country.

"Democracy in America" is especially penetrating when it comes to describing Christianity's role in grounding the young American republic in basic moral principles that helped to prevent this free society -- with the obvious and terrible exception of slavery -- from degenerating into anarchy upon which it is so easy to establish dictatorship.

Q: Why do you think Tocqueville influenced the thought of Benedict XVI, especially in "Deus Caritas Est"?

Gregg: St. Augustine's "City of God" was a background influence on Tocqueville's thinking, and Benedict XVI has never disguised St. Augustine's profound effect on his own work.

But more concretely, there were several occasions before his election as Pope when Joseph Ratzinger mentioned his admiration for Tocqueville's thought.

In a 1992 speech, for instance, Cardinal Ratzinger described Tocqueville as "the great political thinker" and remarked that Tocqueville's "'Democracy in America' has always made a strong impression on me." He also underlined Tocqueville's insistence that democracies cannot sustain themselves without widespread adherence to "common ethical convictions," which, in America's case, had been provided by Christianity.

As far as "Deus Caritas Est" is concerned, I'd suggest a particularly Tocquevillian influence may be found in Paragraph 28. Here, Pope Benedict underlines the folly of allowing the state to absorb all social activity and letting it evolve into an all-encompassing bureaucracy that is incapable of discerning people's deeper moral and spiritual needs.

In "Democracy in America," Tocqueville suggested that democracies were especially susceptible to this temptation and could develop the characteristics of what is called soft despotism.

This despotism, Tocqueville argued, was one in which the democratic state slowly but surely suffocated all the independent and spontaneous initiatives arising from that complex of free associations we often call "civil society" -- associations that are, in most situations, far more effective in addressing people's problems than bureaucracies.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:39 PM


-ESSAY: How to Watch the World Cup: Politics and War by Other Means (Tony Karon, 6/09/06, Common Dreams)

National idioms of play may, however, be on the wane, as Europe's professional club leagues -- housing almost all of the world's leading players -- create nearly year-round the sort of spectacle for a global-satellite TV audience once restricted to the World Cup. In many developing countries today (including Brazil), ever fewer people attend domestic league games, reserving their soccer time religiously for TV broadcasts of the top European leagues where they're more likely to see the best players from their own countries.

Today, a match in London between Arsenal and Manchester United involves players from Latin America, much of West Africa, the Arab world, northern, southern, and eastern Europe, and Asia. The global TV audience it attracts is good news for the marketers of players' jerseys and other soccer paraphernalia, even if it's a tad bizarre for a British army squaddie patrolling Basra in southern Iraq to encounter a Mehdi Army militiaman sporting the shirt of Arsenal, the soldier's "local" London team – a jersey that he and his mates might wear on a night out back home to signify a kind of tribal identity. But there's nothing "local" about Arsenal anymore: When it played Real Madrid earlier this year in the Champion's League, there were only two Englishmen on the field, both playing for the Spanish side.

With this rapid globalization of the "local" game comes a homogenization of styles: England, today, has one or two players who like to run at the defense with the ball at their feet and can bend a shot from 40 yards; Brazil now plays with one or two "holding" midfielders, that traditional European demolition man whose job is simply to break up opposition attacks and win the ball for his more creative teammates.

By some estimates, there are now more than 4,000 Brazilians playing professional soccer abroad, which is why Brazil's starting lineup in Germany will consist entirely of European-based players. (Indeed, Brazil could probably field two teams for the tournament, each of which would feature many of Europe's leading club players.) Germany's squad, by contrast, is almost entirely home grown, although even in the German league, many of the leading lights are Brazilian imports.

This fusing of different styles has been accelerated by the migration of coaches as well as players. Last season, the coaches of the top five clubs in England's Premier League were Portuguese, Scottish, Spanish, French, and Dutch. Three Dutch coaches are bringing non-Dutch teams to the World Cup; most African teams are coached by Frenchmen and Germans, the English team by a Swede, and Portugal by a Brazilian.

Despite the urge of fans to invoke national mythologies from a distant past, many European national teams now reflect the continent's increasingly cosmopolitan makeup. Thanks to postwar economic migrations into Europe from former colonies, many of the best players available to a European national team are second- and even third-generation immigrants. France fields a team in which all but one, sometimes two, players are of African or Arab origin. The racist politician Jean Marie Le Pen actually complained in 1998 that the World Cup winners were "not a real French team." Some English fans are more accepting of their cosmopolitan fate, as reflected in one of their chants that extols Britain's new national cuisine: "And we all love vindaloo..."

The world soccer authority FIFA allows players to play for the country of their citizenship or the one of their origins. This creates oddities: Dakar-born Patrick Vieira marshals France's midfield, while Paris-born Khalilou Fadiga stars for Senegal. In addition, the ability of emerging players to make professional migrations seeking fame and fortune sometimes tempts soccer federations to recruit for the national team by fast-tracking the citizenship of promising players. In recent weeks, a Dutch effort to expedite the citizenship process for Ivoirian striker Salomon Kalou fell afoul of that country's new chill on immigration.

If it had succeeded, Kalou would have been in the bizarre position of playing against an Ivory Coast team that happens to include his brother, Bonaventure. Meanwhile, the luckiest Brazilian going to Germany is surely Francileudo Dos Santos, a France-based striker who wouldn't even come in tenth among contenders for his position on the Brazilian team; but fast-tracked into instant citizenship by Tunisia, he is now that country's leading goal-scorer. (Hopefully he will have learned to avoid offending the fans of his adopted country, as he did two years ago by draping himself in the Brazilian flag to celebrate victory.)

Although many of the stars of almost every domestic league from Russia westward are from the African Diaspora (which includes Brazil), an astonishing level of racism persists among fans and even coaches at the highest levels of the game. Ukraine coach Oleg Blokhin, for example, bemoaned the globalization of his domestic league thus: "The more Ukrainians there are playing in the national league, the more examples there are for the young generation. Let them learn from [our players] and not some zumba-bumba whom they took off a tree, gave two bananas and now he plays in the Ukrainian league.''

Then there was the Spanish team's coach, Luis Aragones, caught on TV telling striker Jose Antonio Reyes that he was better than his French Arsenal teammate Thierry Henry. Except Aragones didn't say Henry's name, he said, "that black s**t." A few days later, he insisted that there was nothing racist about the remark: "Reyes is ethnically a gypsy," said Aragones. "I have got a lot of gypsy and black friends. All I did was to motivate the gypsy by telling him he was better than the black."

In many European stadiums, today, black players are targeted for racial abuse in the form of ape noises and bananas thrown from the stands. In fact, the World Cup offers a range of opportunities for the racist xenophobes in the ranks of many countries' "ultra" football fans -- those who go to games not only to support their side in a ritual of combat, but to seek actual combat against the ultras of the other side. For years, England's games were a rallying and brawling point for the racist far right. They nonetheless looked positively tame when compared with the Serbian ultras originally grouped around the fan club of Red Star Belgrade. Under their leader Arkan, they became the core of the notorious "Tiger" militia accused by the Hague War Crimes Tribunal of some of the most brutal "ethnic cleansing" violence in Bosnia from 1991 to 1993.

As Europe confronts the challenge of integrating millions of immigrants on whose labor the survival of their welfare economies depend, soccer matches increasingly become the avenue for a political ritual of a different type -- channeling rampant racism. Not without reason do German authorities fear that the country's resurgent neo-Nazis will use the World Cup as an opportunity to announce their presence to a watching world. If they do, they will have plenty of allies in the "ultras" of Serbia, Poland, Italy and even England.

Although the "national narrative" that binds fans to their teams is open to progressive or reactionary appropriation, it's not the game's driving force any more. Soccer, today, is a multibillion-dollar global industry whose power centers are transnational corporations -- the moneyed clubs of Europe whose financial well-being depends on the ability of their "brand" to sell merchandise from Baghdad to Beijing. Manchester United may be based in a city whose prosperity has declined with that of the British textile industry, but most of the young men sporting its jersey from Gaza to Guangdong would undoubtedly struggle to locate the home of "their" team on a map. And it's a safe bet that the Ecuadorian busboy and the Bangkok cab driver wearing the blue and red jersey of Barcelona are blissfully unaware of "their" team's centrality to Catalan nationalism.

Franklin Foer's book, How Soccer Explains the World, which ostensibly argues that Americans should follow soccer, instead demonstrates that it is thoroughly un-American.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:18 PM


Fighting Antisemitism With Theology (EUGENE KORN, June 9, 2006, The Forward)

Recently some Jewish leaders issued criticisms of Pope Benedict XVI for his failure to focus on antisemitism and Jewish martyrs during his visit to Auschwitz. Yet these leaders appeared to miss the significance of what Benedict did say. While he was at the extermination camp, the pope made a number of stunning theological statements about Jews and Judaism that hold enormous positive value. [...]

He asserted in the name of the church that today's Jewish people remain living witnesses to God who spoke to their ancestors at Sinai. Further, he explained that the Final Solution was a Nazi attempt to banish God from the world that could only be achieved by first exterminating the Jewish people. This is a firm denial of the doctrine of Judaism as obsolescence and the Adversus Judeus church tradition. In doing so, Benedict indicated that he and the church understand the continuing religious and moral validity of Judaism and Jews.

Indeed, traditional Jews hold the very same convictions today about our faith and our people. Both faithful Jews and faithful Christians understand that there was no way for Nazi genocide to coexist with God's moral authority and "Thou shall not murder." It is therefore no surprise that researchers at Rutgers School of Law have discovered documents indicating that if Hitler had succeeded in destroying the Jewish people — God forbid — he would have proceeded to destroy the church. After the Shoah, both religions are allies in upholding morality and guiding humanity.

The problem isn't between religious Jews and Christians and it is the specter that seculars see rising of just such an alliance against them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:20 AM


Ahmadinejad’s Demons (Matthias Kuntzel, April 24, 2006, The New Republic)

The Shia call all the male descendants of the Prophet Muhammad “imams” and ascribe to them a quasi-divine status. Hussein, who was killed at Karbala by Yazid, was the third Imam. His son and grandson were the fourth and fifth. At the end of this line, there is the “Twelfth Imam,” who is named Muhammad.

Some call him the Mahdi (the “divinely guided one”). He was born in 869, the only son of the eleventh Imam. In 874, he disappeared without a trace, thereby bringing Muhammad’s lineage to a close. In Shia mythology, however, the Twelfth Imam survived. The Shia believe that he merely withdrew from public view when he was five and that he will emerge from his “occultation” in order to liberate the world from evil.

In Among the Believers: An Islamic Journey, V. S. Naipaul described seeing posters in post-Revolutionary Tehran bearing motifs similar to those of Maoist China: crowds, for instance, with rifles and machine guns raised in the air as if in greeting. The posters always bore the same phrase: “Twelfth imam, we are waiting for you.”

According to Shia tradition, legitimate Islamic rule can only be established following the twelfth imam’s reappearance.

Khomeini, however, had no intention of waiting. He vested the myth with an entirely new sense: The Twelfth Imam will emerge only when the believers have vanquished evil. To speed up the Mahdi’s return, Muslims had to shake off their torpor and fight.

It was this culture that nurtured Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s worldview.

Which is why Ayatollah Sistani and the new Iraq scare the Iranian leadership so badly, they highlight the heretical nature of Khomeneism.

MORE (via Karma):

: INSIDE IRAN'S NEW POWER STRUGGLE (Amir Taheri, 6//17/06, NY Post)

For his part, Khamenei has maintained an uneasy distance from both camps while his son discusses a compromise with the "new men."

Much of this power struggle is fueled by personal rivalries and mundane political differences, but its theological theme bears mention, too. This centers on a dispute that has marked duodecimo (Twelver) Shi'ism for over 1,000 years.

The duodecimo Shi'ites believe that Allah created the world for the family of Muhammad and bestowed all power on 12 descendants of his favorite daughter Fatimah. The last of the 12, one Muhammad bin Hassan, known as the Mahdi (The Guide), disappeared in 940 AD, ushering in a period of "ghaybat al-kubra" (Long Absence) during which no government anywhere in the world has legitimacy. The return of the Hidden Imam, the Mahdi, will mark the end of the world as we know it and the start of a new and perfect one.

The theological division among Shi'ites concerns a simple question: What should believers do while the Imam is absent? One doctrine, known as Intizar (waiting) maintains that the best that believers can do is to be patient and wait until the Imam decides to return. Followers of that doctrine are known as Muntazeris (Those Who Wait).

That doctrine is opposed by another known as Ta'ajil (To hasten). Its adepts believe that believers should act to hasten the coming of the Mahdi. The Ta'ajilis (Hasteners) insist that believers should seek to unite the entire Islamic ummah and lead it into battle against the "Infidel," with the view of provoking a final showdown for global domination in the hope that, when the crunch comes, the Hidden Imam will return to ensure the victory of the Only Truth.

Throughout history, the overwhelming majority of Shi'ites in Iran have subscribed to the doctrine of Patient Waiting. The new elite, however, is decidedly seduced by the doctrine of Hastening the Return. President Ahmadinejad openly claims that the aim of his government's actions is to hasten the coming of the Mahdi.

The U.S. has enormous leverage to drive a wedge between the Ahmedinejadists and the people on the one hand and Ayatollah Khamenei and company on the other, leaving the Hasteners thoroughly isolated and primed to be disposed of next election.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:10 AM


Immigration Drowning In Paper (KEITH EPSTEIN, Jun 17, 2006, The Tampa Tribune)

They are called the Alien Files - or simply, the "A-Files."

There are 55 million of them, each up to hundreds of pages thick, stashed in a government warehouse in Missouri.

Though they detail no science-fiction secrets of UFO landings or beings from distant planets, they can prove an irritating mystery to those who need them most - immigration officers deciding who can stay in the United States.

The "aliens" are people from other countries seeking work permits, residency or citizenship. The records contain their applications, photos and fingerprints.

Each time an immigration officer weighs an outsider's destiny, the file must be found and shipped back and forth between 89 field offices and the warehouse.

There is so much paper, such an outmoded tracking system and so many newcomers waiting for word that just keeping up has proved impossible for immigration authorities, years of government reports show - a troubling sign as Washington weighs legitimizing millions of illegal immigrants.

Import enough Indians and spend enough money and you can reduce the backlog.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:07 AM


Tension Builds Between L.A. Mayor, Angelides: Villaraigosa declines to endorse the candidate, who's refused to back takeover of school district (Michael Finnegan, June 17, 2006, LA Times)

Tension between Antonio Villaraigosa and Democratic gubernatorial nominee Phil Angelides surfaced Friday as the Los Angeles mayor declined to say whether he backed his own party's candidate to unseat Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The rift between two of California's top Democrats became clear just after they appeared with Magic Johnson to celebrate the opening of a Starbucks on Crenshaw Boulevard.

Minutes after Villaraigosa's tepid remarks on his candidacy, Angelides refused to take a stand on Villaraigosa's plan to take over the Los Angeles public schools.

The dual snubs were part of a broad conflict between the two Democrats.

Villaraigosa is torn between party loyalty and the potential rewards offered by his new alliance with the Republican governor. He plans to campaign with Schwarzenegger for bond measures on the November ballot that could offer Los Angeles billions of dollars for schools, housing and traffic relief. And the governor would decide where much of that bounty went.

There is also a matter of personal ambition: Villaraigosa is widely seen as a top Democratic candidate for governor in 2010 — provided that Angelides loses.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:54 AM


Democrats Outline a Platform for the Fall (KATE ZERNIKE, 6/17/06, NY Times)

Over and over, the leaders contrasted Republican priorities — which they deemed "the wrong direction" — with their own — "a new direction." [...]

The Democrats' declaration comes after two weeks that have reversed a run of bad news for Republicans. The Republicans won a special election in the California Congressional district that both sides saw as a bellwether for November; and a special prosecutor investigating the leak of a C.I.A. operative's name announced he would not indict Karl Rove, the president's senior adviser, whom Democrats hold up as a symbol of Republican corruption.

And the president's trip to Iraq and the killing of the Iraqi insurgent leader Abu Masab al-Zarqawi gave Republicans an opportunity to rebut the argument that the war was going badly.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:36 AM


Guns Finally Silent In Somalia's Capital: Islamic Militias Impose a Welcome Calm (Craig Timberg, 6/17/06, Washington Post)

The thugs manning the roadblocks are gone. The warlords are on the run. And the guns in a city long regarded as among the world's most heavily armed have fallen silent. Most, in fact, have disappeared from view.

Since Islamic militias took control of this city last week, U.S. and other Western officials have worried that Mogadishu's new leaders will impose a severe, Taliban-style government and harbor terrorists. But after 15 years of deadly chaos, residents interviewed here expressed nothing short of jubilation that somebody has made their city safe and that, for now, the daily crackle of gunfire is finally gone.

"Our ears are resting now," said Diiriye Jimcaale, 45, who has been unemployed since the onset of inter-clan warfare forced him to close his small clothing shop in 1991. "Now we hear nothing."

Anxiety remains, both about the militias' ability to maintain order and about the possibility that extremist elements within the movement will go too far in imposing Islamic rule.

By helping them to maintain order the rest of the world may be able to help them avoid the extremes eternally associated with it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:21 AM


Fall Elections Are Rove's Next Test (Jim VandeHei and Dan Balz, June 17, 2006, Washington Post)

Most Republicans and Democrats interviewed for this article said Rove's White House stature has been diminished only slightly, and perhaps only temporarily, by Bush's political problems and the leak probe. Ed Gillespie, the former Republican National Committee chairman, struggled to find the right superlative. "He is, he is, he is, well, Karl Rove," Gillespie said. And Democratic strategist Donnie Fowler called him the "shrewdest of his generation -- and the toughest."

The record, they say, speaks for itself: Rove was the architect of a series of victories for Bush -- the presidential elections of 2000 and 2004, as well as the 2002 midterms -- that left Democrats demoralized and divided. While it might be Washington myth that Rove is responsible for all of Bush's wins -- after all, it was the president who executed the plans and earned the vote -- the balding Texan with the mischievous grin gets much of the credit in the eyes of Republicans and Democrats alike.

He also gets the blame when numbers go down. "Karl is rightly called a genius, and, like any genius, his can be big mistakes," said Rep. Tom Feeney (R-Fla.). He said that Rove is the smartest political mind in the party today but that his efforts to "buy votes" from independents by expanding the education system and creating a Medicare prescription drug benefit in the first term are hurting Republicans badly today. "Those issues turned off the base," Feeney said.

The Social Security debate, however, was probably his biggest blunder, Republicans inside and outside the White House said. Fresh off the 2004 victory, Rove convinced Bush that an in-depth analysis of past second-term presidents showed the only way to succeed was to act quickly and boldly. Internally, Rove championed a plan to restructure Social Security by allowing younger Americans to put some of the their Social Security taxes into private accounts in exchange for a reduction in guaranteed benefits.

Rove gambled that Bush could bend Congress and a skeptical public to his will. He was wrong.
Mr. Feeney, of course, has it exactly backwards. What he counsels is buying the votes of the Right -- which the GOP obviously already has -- by playing up pointless hot button issues and ignoring the kinds of sweeping entitlement reforms that are transforming government. There is a class of Republicans like this, who have made their peace with the Second Way and prefer a status quo they can blame on seventy years of Democratic control of Washington to making serious change if it means that the resulting big government will be a Republican project. In effect, they're stuck in a minority mindset and unwilling to assume the responsibilities that come with the power they want to hold.

Karl Rove Laughs Last: Why his non-indictment is such good news for the White House (Fred Barnes, 06/26/2006, Weekly Standard)

On Social Security reform, I suspect the president would not have made it his top domestic priority in his second term without Rove's urging. In fact, he might not have broached the subject at all, despite having raised it in his 2000 campaign. But Rove was convinced the public was ready to accept sweeping reforms of Social Security. So Bush stepped front and center.

The conventional wisdom is that Bush's failed pitch for Social Security reform in 2005 was a political and substantive disaster. It surely didn't help Bush's job approval rating. The president moved the ball, though, making partial privatization far more publicly acceptable,
but probably leaving the job of achieving it to a successor. Conservatives should be thrilled with Bush on Social Security since he boldly went where Reagan feared to tread.

On immigration, Rove has reinforced Bush's instincts, which are to seek the maximum--stiffer border enforcement, a temporary worker program, and earned citizenship for illegal immigrants living in the United States. This irritates conservatives who favor enforcement only, but matches the view of Reagan, the conservative standard-bearer.

Immigration affects the Hispanic vote, a long-term obsession of Rove and Bush. In 2004, Bush lifted the Republican share of that vote to 44 percent, a record for a Republican presidential candidate. Left to their own devices, conservatives and congressional Republicans would enact an enforcement-only bill that might drive away Hispanics and deny Republicans a lasting majority in America. Rove and Bush are eager to prevent that by saving conservatives from themselves.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:52 AM


India offers surgery in a hurry (PRITHI YELAJA, 6/17/06, Toronto Star)

When his doctor in Nova Scotia treated his chest pain with cholesterol pills and a wait-and-see attitude, Richard Johnson decided to get a second opinion — and ended up fast-tracked into surgery to open his blocked arteries.

To get it he came halfway around the world, to Escorts Heart Institute & Research Centre in New Delhi, a high-tech private hospital directed by Dr. Naresh Trehan, a New York University-trained Indian cardiac surgeon Johnson found on the Web. [...]

[J]ohnson is on the leading edge of a trend: "medical tourists" from Europe and North America who seem willing to overlook the poverty, teeming streets and decrepit airports of India if it means circumventing long wait times and high costs for health care.

For Canadians, who will have to pay out of pocket even for medically necessary care, speed is the crucial attraction.

Getting care in Canada, Johnson says, is like a visit to the motor vehicles office: "You take a number and wait. We put up with that because we don't know better. The system we have sucks."

Procedures in India cost one-third to one-tenth what they would in the United States — $6,000 (U.S.) for typical cardiac surgery, versus $30,000.

As a bonus, patients may be treated with advanced techniques not routinely available back home. Ninety per cent of open-heart surgeries at the Apollo chain of 33 hospitals, for example, are done without shutting down the heart — easier on the patient but more challenging for the surgeon.

Foreign patients, who pay about 25 per cent more than Indians, can also opt for a vacation package deal with airport transfers, deluxe hospital room, mobile phone and sightseeing.

Which nation is Third World?

Posted by Peter Burnet at 7:25 AM


Good intentions, gone awry (George Jonas, National Post, June 15th, 2006)

Simply put, the country's brave new progressive-liberal-socialist mandarins decided on a three-step program for revamping Canada culturally and demographically. It entailed (a) reducing immigration from "traditional" (read: West European) sources; (b) increasing it from non-traditional sources; and then (c) advancing from Conservative prime minister (till 1963) John Diefenbaker's ideal society of unhyphenated Canadians to the Trudeaucratic Liberal ideal of a multicultural Canada.

By encouraging hyphenation, multiculturalism was said to build on an earlier Canadian tradition, the so-called "cultural mosaic." In contrast to the American "melting pot," with its gung-ho patriotism and crude pressures of assimilation, the cultural mosaic had the appearance of a more elegant and decorative model of nationhood. The political fashion of the pre-war period saw it producing a richer royal tapestry for the Crown in Canada than America's republican monochrome. In reality, the notion of a mosaic had less to do with elegance than with British (and French) standoffishness -- the reluctance of the founding nations to share the country with the riff-raff of the world on a completely equal footing. The hint of apartheid built into the concept of a "mosaic" was there to ensure the dominant position of the founding groups.

Multiculturalism aimed for the very opposite: It was to do away not just with the British-French, but the essentially European or First World character of Canada as a nation. Trudeau's ambitious, unannounced, possibly unexamined and merely intuitive design would, within two or three generations, take Canada out of the ambit of Christendom altogether and establish it as an advance pawn of the Third World in the Western Hemisphere.

As an incidental benefit, multiculturalism might also drown the noise of Quebec's demands for cultural distinction in the din of other distinct cultures clamouring for attention.

If this wasn't Trudeau's plan, God alone knows what he thought the natural consequences of his policies would be. In any event, one result was a rapid retreat from the principle that immigration should serve the interests of the host country first. Next came the notion that the host country isn't a legitimate entity with its own culture, but just a political framework for various co-existing cultures. Finally, a new type of immigrant was encouraged to make his entrance. Reincarnated from the era of the Great Migrations -- periods of population shifts during which large groups of people, having despaired of finding a future for themselves in their native lands, invade other countries in massive numbers -- this kind of newcomer no longer sought to merely fit and prosper. A conqueror rather than a settler, his quest was to tailor a new country to suit him, or carve out a congenial niche in it for his own tribe, language, customs or religion.

Trudeau and his acolytes didn't facilitate this because they wished or expected their policies to contribute to alienation, dissension, and terror in the world. Canada's pirouetting bon vivant leader neither desired nor envisaged the 21st century being ushered in by disaffected Muslims shooting Dutch politicians, crashing airliners into Manhattan skyscrapers, blowing themselves up in buses and trains, and allegedly plotting to behead Canadian prime ministers. Trudeau & Co. pursued their policies because, stumbling about in a mixture of psychoactive fumes and what Tom Wolfe called a "quasi-Marxist fog," they came to believe that the ills of the planet were due to Western ways, and the sooner they could replace the crumbling edifice with a '60s-type New Left Utopia, the better.

If they had no real blueprint for it, it didn't matter: Blueprints were for fuddy-duddies, linear thinkers, not for the free spirits of the spontaneous generation. In the prevailing Zeitgeist, they could wing it as they went along.

Intellectual fashions rise like tides, easily overwhelming scholarship, logic and common sense, at least in the short run. In this climate, early warnings, like the British politician Enoch Powell's "rivers of blood" speech, could be -- and were -- swept aside as so much reactionary twaddle. In the heady atmosphere of the times no one in authority could -- or perhaps would -- note the potential for trouble in multicultural paradise, namely that a well-meaning attempt to limit cultural dominance by any one group within a country, harmless and equitable on its face, has the capacity of turning a nation-state into a railway station in which passengers mingle, occasionally sharing a destination but no destiny.

Fair enough, as far as it goes, but Mr Jonas’ focus on leftist intellectual dirigistes like Trudeau tends to understate the degree to which multiculturalism was widely and enthusiastically welcomed by the native-born boomer generation and even their parents. Far from being a response to the demands of immigrants (who were often confused by it), it dovetailed perfectly with a worthy rejection of racism and anti-Semitism and melded seamlessly into a postwar zeitgeist hellbent on rejecting traditional notions of family, self-reliance, reverence, patriotism and morality. That project was largely successful, which leaves the modern nativist with the interesting challenge of identifying just what traditions he believes are left for mass immigration to undermine and threaten.

Despite the real, specific and time-sensitive challenge of Islamicism, Mr. Jonas’ not-so-subtle suggestion that European immigrants assimilate more readily and make better Americans or Canadians is simply not born out by the evidence of the past several generations. Do Poles and Greeks somehow absorb The Federalist Papers or the lessons of Antietam faster than Lebanese and East Indians? Do Koreans and Haitians retain any stronger a loyalty to their native lands than Irish and Italians? Is Muslim expression of faith any more threatening to the civil order than Jewish or Catholic? Whatever legitimate concerns there are about modern mass immigration, they should not be pitted against an after-the-fact notional cause of preserving traditions and customs we threw overboard years ago. If our future hinges on family, industry, faith, progress, self-reliance, tolerance and patriotism, an immigrant from just about any country will give the average native-born a run for his money any day, provided nobody tries to dissuade him from fulfilling his dream of assimilating proudly.

June 16, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:32 PM


Rove’s Trap: The president's strategist is politicizing the Iraq war for partisan political gain. Will the Dems figure out how to fight back? (Eleanor Clift, 6/16/06, Newsweek)

Our towel-snapping president is feeling better.

Just because you feel like you've been whipped like a rented mule doesn't make him a towel-snapper.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:04 PM


New Icelandic Prime Minister Takes Office (KRISTA MAHR , 06.15.2006, AP)

Geir Haarde became Iceland's new prime minister Thursday, marking a return to the office for Iceland's largest political party and a likely shift toward a tighter fiscal policy.

Haarde said the new administration will focus on the economy and continue discussions with the U.S. over the nation's defense.

The country's coalition government was quickly restructured last week under the fiscally conservative Independence Party after Halldor Asgrimsson announced his resignation as prime minister in the wake of his Progressive Party's poor performance in local elections.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:00 PM


Democrats call for 'new direction' (UPI, Jun. 16, 2006)

Democratic Party leaders in the U.S. Congress Friday announced a "new direction," with a plan that seeks affordable healthcare and fiscal responsibility.

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., issued a release claiming the "failed Bush Republican leadership has taken America in the wrong direction."

"Our new direction will advance a common agenda, seek common ground, and apply common sense in the service of the common good," said Pelosi.

What kind of misbegotten focus group can possibly have been that wild about the boilerplate word "common?"

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:42 PM


Account trade deficit posts unexpected improvement (Associated Press, 6/16/06)

The deficit in the broadest measure of foreign trade showed an unexpectedly large improvement during the first three months of this year, but soaring global oil prices are expected to limit such gains.

The Commerce Department reported Friday that America's current account trade deficit fell to $208.7 billion in the January-March quarter, down 6.5 percent from the all-time high deficit of $223.1 billion set in the final three months of last year.

The improvement far exceeded expectations which had the first quarter imbalance dropping by just $1 billion from the fourth quarter record high. [...]

The deficit must be financed by the willingness of foreigners to hold an increasing amount of U.S. assets. So far, that has not been a problem because foreigners have been more than willing to sell their cars, televisions and computers to Americans and hold dollars in return. That money is invested in stocks, Treasury bonds and other U.S. assets.

Consumers' mood brightens in June (Rex Nutting, June 16, 2006, MarketWatch)
U.S. consumers' mood improved for the first time since March in early June, according to proprietary research from the University of Michigan released Friday.

The UMich consumer sentiment index rose to a reading of 82.4 in June from 79.1 in May, according to media reports. The index peaked at 96.5 in July, before devastating hurricanes sent gasoline prices soaring.

Inflation expectations for the next year slipped to 3.4% from 4%, reports said. Federal Reserve officials are monitoring inflation expectations carefully as they try to keep prices under control.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:54 PM


(DEBORAH ORIN, June 16, 2006, NY Post)

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton is the scariest top candidate for president, and the prospect that she'll run in 2008 frightens a stunning 36 percent of voters, a new poll found.

By contrast, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani is tagged as scariest by just 17 percent, or less than half as many, Al Gore by 15 percent, and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) is the least scary at 11 percent.

Even among Democrats, 22 percent single out Clinton as the candidate who frightens them the most - compared to Giuliani at 29 percent; McCain, 14; and Gore, 10.

The numbers suggest just how radically realigning an election McCain v. Clinton in 2008 stands to be.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:51 PM


Rather out at CBS, sources say (Gail Shister, 6/16/06, Philadelphia INQUIRER)

It's over.

After 44 years, Dan Rather will leave CBS by the end of the month, at the latest, industry sources said Friday. His departure could come as early as next week.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:59 PM


Jumbo Camera Taking World's Largest Photo (GILLIAN FLACCUS, 6/14/06, AP)

Walk into the massive air hangar and the first thing you notice is an oppressive darkness broken only by a tiny beam of light from a gumball-size hole in the wall.

Then, as the eye adjusts, an upside-down image emerges on the opposite wall that is startling in its clarity - a dilapidated air traffic control tower, an overgrown runway and palm trees clustered amid rolling hills.

Once home to roaring fighter jets, this decommissioned Marine Corps hangar is now the world's largest camera poised to take the world's largest picture.

If all goes well, within days the hangar-turned-camera will record a panoramic image of what's on the other side of the door using the centuries-old principle of "camera obscura."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:41 PM


Iraq to take over the south's security: deputy PM (AP, June 16, 2006)

Iraq's deputy prime minister says Iraq has an agreement to take over security responsibilities from Australian, British and Japanese forces in southern Iraq this month. [...]

At a defence meeting of the three countries last week in London, British officials told their counterparts that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki will announce the transfer of security authority in southern Iraq next Tuesday, Kyodo News agency reported, citing coalition sources.

London will then announce the pullout of its forces from the southern province of Al Muthanna, and Tokyo and Australia will follow with similar announcements, Kyodo said.

Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi is expected to announce a pullout by Japan from the southern city of Samawah as early as next Wednesday, Japanese government and ruling coalition sources said.

Australia is expected to announce plans to pull its forces out of the area the same day.

The withdrawal of Japanese troops is likely to begin later this month and may be completed by the end of July, the sources said.

Top Sunni asked Bush for pullout timeline (Associated Press, 6/16/06)

Iraq's vice president has asked President Bush for a timeline for the withdrawal of foreign forces from Iraq, the Iraqi president's office said.

Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi, a Sunni, made the request during his meeting with Bush on Tuesday, when the U.S. president made a surprise visit to Iraq.

"I supported him in this," President Jalal Talabani said in a statement released Wednesday. Al-Hashimi's representatives could not immediately be reached for comment Thursday.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:34 PM


The Freaks of Father's Day (Jeremy Adam Smith, June 16, 2006, AlterNet)

The day started ordinarily enough. I came home from my office at noon. My wife Shelly went to work. I took our toddler Liko to a cafe for lunch and then we strollered to the playground.

From noon until 7 most weekdays, I'm a Mr. Mom -- a term that bothers some stay-at-home dads as a knock on their masculinity. Personally, it doesn't bother me. The reader will not be surprised to hear that I'm usually the only dad I see at Liko's swim and music classes. I don't mind that, either. After a hard period of adjustment, I came to accept the relative isolation that goes along with my role. [...]

The 2004 census says that there are 143,000 stay-at-home-dads caring for 245,000 kids under 15. That's about 1.7 percent of all U.S. parents who are taking care of children, a pretty marginal group, but it's also double the number who stayed home in 1995, which suggests a trend. And the Bureau of Labor Statistics says that about 2 million dads work part-time for "non-economic reasons" that include child care, a category into which I fit.

So what? Those numbers are small, and it's still mostly women taking care of children, often pulling double shifts as workers and mommies. If there is a trend toward more paternal involvement in child rearing -- and there is, no question, and that's a good thing -- we should still keep it in perspective.

On Father's Day, we stay-at-home dads are the freaks.

Hard to believe he feels out of place with the women.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:21 PM


Policy Wonks Versus Bernanke (Jessica Holzer, 06.16.06, Forbes)

[W]ashington economists don't see the threat of prices spiraling out of control, and thus are perplexed by the notion that aggressive tightening by the Fed is necessary.

"We have a strong growth economy with very little inflation--remarkably little considering what's happening to oil," says Alice Rivlin, the vice chair of the Fed's board of governors from 1996 to 1999 and a scholar at the Brookings Institution in Washington.

The economy doesn't have the ingredients for runaway price increases, argues Allan Meltzer, the founder of the Shadow Open Market Committee, a group that tracks Fed policy, and a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. Money growth is slow, unit labor costs are falling and productivity growth is barreling along, he points out. "There isn't a sign of a long-term inflation problem."

On this score, the Washington experts see eye to eye with high-strung investors, who aren't gripped by inflation fears either. On Wednesday, the Labor Department reported that core inflation, as measured by the consumer price index, rose by 2.4% over the past year--well above the Fed's 1% to 2% comfort zone. Yet the Dow surged 110 points.

Meanwhile, the market for precious metals, which are often used to hedge against inflation and have enjoyed a recent boom, is softening quite dramatically. After peaking in March, prices have fallen off between 24% and 37%.

"It's not 'fear of inflation' that spooked the markets on June 5 but fear of the Fed," says Reynolds.

The Fed has a history of tightening too far, especially when there's a new guy in charge who is trying to prove his inflation-fighting mettle. Some critics argue that former Fed chief Alan Greenspan helped to precipitate the stock market crash of 1987 by airing his inflation concerns and raising the discount rate, a lesser-used tool that the Fed uses to guide interest rates.

A look at the historical numbers should dispel Bernanke's inflation fears, points out Reynolds, who argues that an annual inflation rate of 2.4% is near record lows. Before 1998, it had never been that low, and it averaged 4.7% from 1967 to 2005.

"He may be looking at the wrong numbers or he's not looking at them in the proper historical perspective," says Reynolds.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:54 PM


India, Israel discuss joint space project (Tzvi Zinger, 6/15/06, Ynet)

A senior delegation from the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) has visited Israel secretly to discuss future cooperation and showed interest in new Israeli defense industries’ advancements.

The delegation met with senior officials from the Science Ministry and from the defense industries.

The signal achievement of Anglo-Americanism and the End of History is that Hindu, Jewish, Muslim, and Confucian states have more in common with the Christian states and with each other than separates them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:59 AM


Open Borders Threaten Jewish Clout (Stephen Steinlight, June 16, 2006, The Forward)

In passing President Bush's Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act last month, a bipartisan Senate coalition has shown itself to be suffering from the dubious, irresponsible mindset articulated in Yiddish as "Sie machen sich nicht wissentig" and by Thomas Aquinas as "Ignorantia Affectata": willfully making themselves unknowing while feigning ignorance about inconvenient facts.

A majority of Senate Democrats chose to pander to Latinos, abandoning principle and the party's historical base to placate a potentially larger electorate.

When your party is nothing but a coalition of special interest anything that threatens to tip the balance in favor of one group--especially one that doesn't share the ideology of the rest--is destabilizing.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:47 AM


Congress Erupts in Partisan Fight Over Iraq War (ROBIN TONER and KATE ZERNIKE, 6/16/06, NY Times)

The House and the Senate engaged in angry, intensely partisan debate on Thursday over the war in Iraq, as Republicans sought to rally support for the Bush administration's policies and exploit Democratic divisions in an election year shadowed by unease over the war.

It was one of the sharpest legislative clashes yet over the three-year-old conflict, and it came after three days in which President Bush and his aides had sought to portray Iraq as moving gradually toward a stable, functioning democracy, and to portray Democrats as lacking the will to see the conflict through to victory.

Tough for Democrats to argue that they want America to win in Iraq at the same time they're generating headlines about their partisan fight against the war.

Divided House rejects Iraq pullout date: 42 Democrats break ranks and join majority (AP, 6/16/06)

The House on Friday handily rejected a timetable for pulling U.S. forces out of Iraq, culminating a fiercely partisan debate between Republicans and Democrats feeling the public's apprehension about war and the onrushing midterm campaign season.

In a 256-153 vote that mirrored the position taken by the Senate earlier, the GOP-led House approved a nonbinding resolution that praises U.S. troops, labels the Iraq war part of the larger global fight against terrorism and says an "arbitrary date for the withdrawal or redeployment" of troops is not in the national interest. [...]

"Stay the course, I don't think so Mr. President. It's time to face the facts," House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California answered, as she called for a new direction in the conflict. "The war in Iraq has been a mistake. I say, a grotesque mistake."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:54 AM


Iran welcomes nuclear proposals (BBC, 6/16/06)

Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has welcomed a package of incentives offered to resolve the dispute over its nuclear programme as "a step forward". [...]

In his first response to the offer, the president also insisted: "We are not seeking to develop nuclear weapons."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:53 AM


'Many killed' in Afghan fighting (BBC, 6/16/06)

The US military says coalition and Afghan forces have killed 40 insurgents in an operation in a remote mountain province in south-east Afghanistan.

The deaths came during air and ground strikes in Paktika province in an operation on Wednesday and Thursday.

One coalition member was killed in the fighting, a military statement said.

Hundreds of suspected Taleban fighters and militants have been killed in fierce fighting in the past two months, mainly in the south and east.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:45 AM


The multicultural menace, anti-semitism and me: Once a woman of liberal views, Melanie Phillips is now known for her scathing criticism of modern Britain. In her new book, she turns her outrage on multiculturalism, immigration and the anti-semitism she believes has turned London into Europe's 'epicentre of Islamic militancy'. What's all that about? And what drives such fury? Jackie Ashley braves her wrath (Jackie Ashley, June 16, 2006, The Guardian)

Driving to my rendezvous with Melanie Phillips, scourge of the Guardian-reading liberal establishment, voice of rightwing moral outrage, and reflecting on her relationship with this paper, it seemed to me like the aftermath of a vicious divorce, in which both parties were obsessed with the other. Phillips, once a Guardian staffer, now star columnist at the Daily Mail, as well as being a regular on The Moral Maze and Question Time, is renowned for her scathing criticism of this country's moral and cultural malaise. Her world view, whether she is writing about the inadequacies of the education system or the sanctity of marriage, seem a world away from Guardian values now. She clearly sees the split in the same way.

"I worked for Guardian Newspapers for the best part of 20 years and I regard it as a bit like a family from whom one has had a terrible divorce. I look back with enormous affection at what was, and yet the relationship broke down, and that's very sad." Acknowledging the mutual fascination, she adds: "I think that's simply because I am an apostate and there is no one who is more hated than an apostate." She goes on to talk of the Guardian's "rage" and "vilification". Within minutes she is repeatedly accusing me of misrepresenting her views and failing to understand her new book. Almost as soon as I get home, a long protest email has arrived, copied to the Guardian's editor, Alan Rusbridger, claiming that I had misunderstood almost everything she stands for and warning about "the possible inflammatory consequences of any misrepresentation of my views".

Well, perhaps I should have expected that. Phillips is a renowned controversialist whose spare, lean frame seems to be sustained by argument rather than food and drink. She arrives, at a French cafe in Chiswick, west London, tense and intense, in a pink shirt, and orders only black coffee.

We are here to discuss her new book, titled Londonistan: How Britain Is Creating a Terror State Within. It argues that anti-semitism and liberal weakness have turned London into "the epicentre of Islamic militancy in Europe". Britain, she says, "is currently locked into such a spiral of decadence, self-loathing and sentimentality that it is incapable of seeing that it is setting itself up for cultural immolation". She concludes that "the emergence of Londonistan should be of the greatest concern to the free world".

This danger has been caused by decadence: "Among Britain's governing class - the intelligentsia, its media, its politicians, its judiciary, its church and even its police - a broader and deeper pathology has allowed and even encouraged Londonistan to develop."

Throughout the book there are shards of evidence and penetrating questions that deserve to be at the centre of political debate. Did the security services in the 80s and 90s take a naive and complacent view of the growth of extreme Islamist cells run from London by political exiles, thinking that they wouldn't bite the hand that fed them? Have we got the right balance between protecting and promoting the rights and languages of minorities on the one hand, and the safety and culture of the majority on the other? Is the left overinfluenced by the Palestinian question, and too ready to close its eyes to the brutal realities of extreme Islamist thinking and practice?

While the Islamophobic Right is indeed often hysterical, it's worth remembering Flannery O'Connor: "You have to push as hard as the age that pushes against you."

MORE (via The Mother Judd):
A feminist success story (Caryl Rivers, June 16, 2006, Boston Globe)

Coulter's newest book once again takes on her favorite bete noir, those liberals. In ``Godless," she says they will burn in hell for casual sex, opposing school prayer, not believing that the world was created in six days, or not thinking that sex education is the handiwork of Satan. In her last book, ``Treason," anti-Communist crusader Joe McCarthy was the good guy and all Democrats, she said, were anti-America Benedict Arnolds.

She's had her own Time magazine cover, something akin to beatification on planet Infotainment. The Time piece was a cotton-candy valentine, basically writing off her racial and Arab-bashing remarks as rather adorable. Time said, ``It would be easier to accept Coulter's reasoning if a shadow of bigotry didn't attach to many of her statements about Arabs and Muslims." Not to mention blacks. Coulter once wrote that school desegregation has led to ``illiterate students knifing one another between acts of sodomy in the stairwell." She also noted in a speech, ``Liberals are about to become the last people to figure out that Arabs lie," and said that airports should establish separate security lines for men and boys who look dark enough to be from the Middle East. ``Swarthy men . . . We'd be searching, you know, Italians, Spanish, Jews."

Coulter's books are a mishmash, seemingly put together with a trowel instead of a pen, a blend of invective, jokes, outrageous statements, and, from time to time, a modicum of sense. She's much more fun on television, where she can make grown men gasp.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:36 AM


Hamas offers to restore ceasefire (BBC, 6/16/06)

The Hamas-led Palestinian government is willing to urge militants to renew a ceasefire if Israel halts its attacks on Gaza, a spokesman has said.

Ghazi Hamad said the government would urge militant groups to stop firing rockets from Gaza into Israel.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:31 AM


Brokenhearted, But Unbowed (Thomas Boswell, June 16, 2006, Washington Post)

How can you be an immortal if you admit you're human?

Tiger Woods walked off the 18th green here at Winged Foot after shooting 76 in the first round of the U.S. Open and said exactly what his late father would have expected: no problem. Played pretty well. Just have to adjust to putting on greens that were slower than expected. Tighten up the driving a bit. Shoot under par on Friday and Saturday. Then win the U.S. Open on Father's Day.

Win the Open after an opening 76? "It's been done before, hasn't it?" Woods said.

Oh sure, if you count '51 and '55, when Ben Hogan and Jack Fleck still played with shepherd's crooks and 76 wasn't such a bad score.

No doubt, Woods believed every word he said Thursday, even though, to any objective eye, his self-evaluation was utter self-delusion. Yet that is exactly the competitive core that Earl Woods tried to instill in his prodigy from toddler days. The willed emphasis on the positive, the stubborn clinging to hope, the refusal to admit vulnerability -- all so common among champions and those of exceptional achievement -- were standing Earl's son in good stead in a bleak hour.

Gotta think that if his life was at stake and you offered Mr. Boswell a choice of Tiger or the field he'd take Tiger. And you probably couldn't find anyone in the world, including Mr. Montgomerie himself, who thinks the clubhouse leader will finish ahead of Tiger on Sunday evening.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:25 AM


$1 billion tax windfall would wipe out projected deficit (Andrew Garber, 6/16/06, Seattle Times)

The state's hot economy is expected to bring in almost $1 billion more in tax revenue than projected over the next three years, apparently wiping out a large budget deficit that lawmakers worried they'd face next year.

ChangMook Sohn, the state's chief revenue forecaster, said all sectors of the economy are performing well, but "we clearly underestimated the strength of the construction sector."

As Democrats like to point out, they've opposed every step the GOP has taken to foster this economy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:19 AM


Queen quotes Groucho as she thanks nation for its support: 350 guests hear her pay tribute at lunch in the Mansion House to ‘overwhelming’ messages of goodwill (Alan Hamilton, 6/16/06, Times of London)

IF GROUCHO MARX declined to join any club that would have him as a member, would he have wanted to live in a country whose otherwise dignified head of state quoted his jokes?

The Queen was in playful mood yesterday as she addressed a grand lunch given by the Lord Mayor of London to celebrate her 80th birthday, and the 85th of her husband, attended by the Prime Minister, the Archbishop of Canterbury and Sir Cliff Richard among 350 distinguished guests.

Appreciative laughter filled the gold and white Egyptian Hall in the Mansion House, the Lord Mayor’s official residence, when, in a reference to her own advancing years, she repeated one of the late screen comedian’s aphorisms: “Anyone can get old. All you have to do is live long enough.”

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:00 AM


Bush Signs Legislation On Broadcast Decency: Measure Boosts Maximum Fine to $325,000 (Peter Baker, June 16, 2006, Washington Post)

Complaining that television and radio shows in recent years have "too often pushed the bounds of decency," President Bush signed legislation yesterday to escalate dramatically the penalties against broadcasters who violate federal standards.

"The language is becoming coarser during the times when it's more likely children will be watching television," Bush said, citing a study of nighttime programming. "It's a bad trend, a bad sign." He noted that complaints to regulators have exploded since he took office. "People are saying, 'We're tired of it, and we expect the government to do something about it.' "

The ceremony came on a busy day for Bush as he tended to various matters in between his surprise visit to Baghdad this week and a domestic fundraising trip starting today followed by a European summit next week. In back-to-back events, Bush also gave a speech calling for action on stalled global trade talks, signed a bill to improve coal mine safety and authorized creation of the world's largest protected marine reserve.

June 15, 2006

Posted by Matt Murphy at 10:23 PM


'Some Democrats' will need identifying (Paul Krugman, 6/15/06, New York Times)

Back in 1971, Russell Baker, the legendary Times columnist, devoted one of his op-ed columns to an interview with Those Who - as in "Those Who snivel and sneer whenever something good is said about America." Back then, Those Who played a major role in politicians' speeches.

Times are different now. There are those who say that Iraq is another Vietnam. But Iraq is a desert, not a jungle, so there. And we rarely hear about Those Who these days. But the Republic faces an even more insidious threat: the Some.

The Some take anti-American positions on a variety of issues. For example, they want to hurt the economy: "Some say, well, maybe the recession should have been deeper," said President Bush in 2003. [...]

Mainly, however, the Some are weak on national security. "There's Some in America who say, 'Well, this can't be true there are still people willing to attack,' " Bush said during a visit to the National Security Agency.

The Some appear to be an important faction within the Democratic Party - a faction that has come out in force since the killing of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Last week, the online edition of the Washington Times claimed that "Some Democrats" were calling al-Zarqawi's killing a "stunt."

Even some Democrats (not to be confused with Some Democrats) warn about the influence of the Some. "Some Democrats are allergic to the use of force. They still have a powerful influence on the party," said Michael O'Hanlon of the Brookings Institution after the 2004 election.

Joe Klein, the Time magazine columnist, went further, declaring that the Democratic Party's "left wing" has a "hate-America tendency."

And when Democratic U.S. Sen. Barack Obama told The New Yorker that Americans "don't believe that the main lesson of the past five years is that America is an evil hegemon," he seemed to be implying that influential members of his party believe just that.

But here is the strange thing: It is hard to figure out who those Some Democrats are.

For example, none of the Democrats quoted by the Washington Times actually called the killing of al-Zarqawi a stunt or said anything to that effect. Klein's examples of people with a "hate-America tendency" were "Michael Moore and many writers at The Nation." That is a grossly unfair characterization, but in any case, since when do a filmmaker who supported Ralph Nader and a magazine's opinion writers constitute a wing of the Democratic Party?

And which Democrats are "allergic to the use of force"?

What a horrible mess we have here trying to sort this one out. One could refute it virtually line-by-line, but that would simply take too much time. Let's pick out some of the more glaring inanities:

* Michael Moore, who Mr. Krugman says is unfairly termed "anti-American," has denied that the insurgents in Iraq are terrorists and has compared them to the Minutemen from the Revolutionary War.

* Mr. Krugman says no Democrat quoted in the Washington Times story called the Zarqawi killing a stunt. The following italicized font was how the Washington Times quoted one Democratic lawmaker: "This is just to cover Bush's [rear] so he doesn't have to answer" for Iraqi civilians being killed by the U.S. military and his own sagging poll numbers, said Rep. Pete Stark, California Democrat. "Iraq is still a mess -- get out."

* The esteemed Mr. Judd has already noted the amusing tendency for many liberals to loudly deny any semi-pacifistic attitudes while, in the next breath, completely confirming that impression. Here's a link in case anybody needs a refresher in that particular political reality.

* Mr. Krugman says that The Nation and Michael Moore do not represent a wing of the Democratic party. Fair enough. How about loyal Democratic voters from states like Iowa, South Carolina, and New Hampshire? A 2003 poll indicated that most of them were largely unconcerned with terrorism or national security issues.

* Of course, we can always quote Mr. Krugman himself, regarding his stated wish that a huge scandal will hit the executive branch so his side can have a chance to win elections again:

New York Times columnist Paul Krugman says he believes the United States needs a "mega-Watergate" scandal to uncover a far-reaching right-wing conspiracy, going back forty years, to gain control of the U.S. government and roll back civil rights.

Krugman made the comments during a forum, "Books on Bush," at New York University Monday evening. While other authors present [...] directed their fire at the Bush administration, Krugman told the crowd that the president is simply a front man for larger and more sinister forces. [...]

Now, Krugman said, getting rid of George W. Bush is "necessary but not sufficient" to repair the damage done by the right. "The answer, I think, my great hope now, is that we need an enormous unearthing of the scandals that we know have taken place," Krugman said. "We need a mega-Watergate that rocks them back.

Of course, forgetting what one said a few years ago is practically a job requirement for an economist.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:09 PM


The New Band of Brothers: With the 1st Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division in Ramadi (Michael Fumento, June 19, 2006, The Weekly Standard)

Terrorist-infested Ramadi in the wild west of Iraq is for U.S. troops the meanest place in the country, "the graveyard of the Americans" as graffiti around town boast. There is no better place to observe American troops and the fledgling Iraqi army in combat. That's why I came. When military public affairs asked where I wanted to be embedded, I told them, "the redder, the better" (red means hostile). So they packed me off to Camp Corregidor in eastern Ramadi with the 1st Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault). The 506th's official motto is "Currahee," Cherokee for "stands alone." But they're better known as the "Band of Brothers" – so dubbed by author Stephen Ambrose and HBO (although the term originally applied to just one company in the regiment).

During the Battle of Fallujah in November 2004, many of the enemy who had vowed to fight to the death, including foreign terrorists, slipped the U.S. cordon. Ramadi, a city of 400,000, was a logical destination. The southwest point of the Sunni Triangle, it lies about 30 miles west of Fallujah and that much closer to Syria – a reliable source of both supplies and foreign jihadists. It's also the capital of Al Anbar province and a favorite stomping ground of al Qaeda in Iraq, led by Jordanian-born terrorist Abu Musab al Zarqawi until two 500 lb. bombs blew apart his hideout last Wednesday.

To most of the media, Baghdad is where Iraq begins and ends. So naturally, they think Baghdad is the most dangerous part of the country. Wrong. "The sheer scale of violence in Ramadi is astounding," wrote AP's Todd Pitman after spending time with several units there. Pitman arrived in Corregidor the same night I did, after spending a few previous weeks with the Marines in Ramadi. "One recent coalition tally of 'significant acts' – roadside bombs, attacks, exchanges of fire – indicated that out of 43 reported in Iraq on a single day, 27 occurred in Ramadi and its environs," he wrote in a dispatch. Track the weekly butcher's bill for all of Iraq and you'll often find that a third to a half of U.S. combat deaths are in this one city about a third the size of Baghdad.

Units that go "outside the wire" during the daytime are usually zapped. I went on two day patrols; both times we got hit. Capt. Joseph "Crazy Joe" Claburn, commander of C Company, told me by email after I left: "I have been involved in two firefights in the last two days. We fired over 1,500 rounds of .50 cal [.50 caliber ammunition from an M2 Browning heavy machine gun] and 500 of 7.62mm, 40 rounds of 40mm [40 millimeter grenades] and brought everybody out okay. However, yesterday we had a close friend and Marine hit in the knee. We found out today that he would lose his leg. Does anyone else in Iraq see this on a daily basis?"

There are four minarets within sniping distance of Corregidor, and the gentlemen in these places of worship regularly shoot at the raised observation posts around the camp and sometimes into the camp itself. Mortars as large as 122mm smash into Corregidor on average every other day. I saw a steel container (the kind carried on flatbed trucks and train cars) hit by a mortar; it looked like an aluminum can blown up with a cherry bomb. Improvised explosive devices (IEDs) pop up like mushrooms, and vehicle-borne IEDs delivered by young men determined to get at those 72 perpetually renewing virgins are also a constant threat.

But here in this hellhole, I found men who would have made their famous World War II forerunners proud. They are no longer paratroopers but are brave, bold, and elite in every sense of the word. The actions of these men in fighting an enemy less skilled than the Germans yet far more vicious and fanatical tell a story that has remained largely ignored.

A great follow-up to the piece in Enter Stage Right. replete with pictures and streaming video.

Posted by David Cohen at 9:42 PM



June 10, 2006 was the date for the World Naked Bike Ride, which -- as its name suggests -- is an international political event at which protesters take off all their clothes and ride bicycles through various cities around the globe.

The focus of the protest is theoretically to encourage people to give up their "dependence on fossil fuel" -- but in practice the messages (which the organizers tell participants to paint directly on their bodies) are more scattered, ranging from "free speech" to presidential politics.

The first picture alone makes a particular conservative argument better than 1,000 volumes could possibly. WARNING: Naked Bike Riding. Really. For those of you who expect to be titillated, this is average San Franciscans Berkleyites riding bicycles. Nude.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:35 PM


American Conservatism: an interview (Paul J Cella, 6/14/06, Red State)

Earlier this year, the venerable Intercollegiate Studies Institute published a volume of the first importance: an encyclopedia of American Conservatism. There can be little question of the shaping influence of Conservatism on the history of this country since the Second World War. The irony is, of course, that Conservatism in America only acquired (or discovered) a sense of its own identity — its nature and destiny — after its more instinctual grounding in the American political tradition was shaken and displaced by the dissolution of the twentieth century: by war, socialism, brassbound and bloody error, and revolution. In other words, Conservatism only discovered its identity in defeat. This is not so surprising, for part of the essence of Conservatism is that alarm a man feels, and the reaction it provokes in him, when something dear to him is threatened. Many a Conservative did not even recognize himself as such until the machinations of some mad malcontent menaced his home, his family, his community, his creed. So it was defeat that gave form and identity to Conservatism as an organized political movement. It is fair to say, I think, that some important losses have since been recovered; but others have been so consolidated by the other side that many of our own no longer even realize they were lost. This fact is made abundantly clear throughout American Conservatism: an Encyclopedia. The unprepared reader, thinking the conservatism prominent in the public square today the only viable variety, will be stopped short; will be, in the highest sense, forced to think anew. This, I trust we can agree, is all for the good; and it is one of the abiding merits of this fine book that most any reader who fancies his own Conservatism the “true” one, will — if he reads with a probing intellect — find his fancy rebuked. Diversity is among the most brutalized of words in our day; yet in Conservatism we find a diversity deep and humane and exhilarating. We find, in short, a solid rock of opposition to that “narrowing uniformity” which is the mark of modernity.

I recently interviewed two of the editors of American Conservatism: an Encyclopedia via email. Jeremy Beer is the Publications Director and Editor in Chief at ISI Books. He has written about educational and cultural matters for First Things, Crisis, Utne Reader, and the Intercollegiate Review, among other periodicals. Bruce Frohnen is Associate Professor of Law at the Ave Maria School of Law. His books include Virtue and the Promise of Conservatism: The Legacy of Burke and Tocqueville, The American Republic: Primary Sources, and The Anti-Federalists: Writings and Speeches. A former Visiting Scholar at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, he is incoming Editor of the Political Science Reviewer.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:34 PM

JEB'S VP IN '12 (via Mike Daley):

AUDIO: Blackwell Interview (Michael Medved)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:25 PM


Live Bait: Grunt with a Camera Eye (Max Borders, 15 Jun 2006, Tech Central Station)

Editor's note: J.D. Johannes is a former Marine Sergeant and embedded reporter who linked up with his old Marine Corps unit for syndicated TV news reports on the current conflict in Iraq. He sat with Max Borders for an interview about his experiences.

Borders: So based on your personal observations and the work you were doing there, what's one of the biggest stories the mainstream media has missed?

Johannes: The reality sunk in very quickly. As you watched on the news early on, all you saw was the bombing, shoot outs, and explosions. What you didn't see was the day in, day out boredom of the war.

Where I was -- with this group of marines in 2005 around the Fallujah AO -- we (the unit) would spend days and weeks trying to get into a shoot out -- attempting to get into a shoot out. I know that sounds absolutely insane, but that's the only way that you can engage the enemy. And when you have an enemy that you have to work so hard to bait out into the open, you're not dealing with a very strong enemy. You're dealing with a very annoying enemy. A very deadly enemy. But not a very strong enemy.

What makes the Democrats defeatism so peculiar is that there is no North Vietnam to take over for the defeated insurgents in this war nor does Ted Kennedy have the political power to back stab this ally when we withdraw.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:06 PM


Short-handed Minutemen hire contractors to build fence (Associated Press, Jun. 15, 2006)

The Minuteman anti-illegal immigration group has hired a contractor to finish building 10 miles of fence along a rancher's property abutting Mexico.

Leaders of the group, formally the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, said soaring heat has led to a shortage of volunteers but quality control is the primary reason for the switch.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:58 PM

60 IN '06:

The Note: The Choice Is Clear: Framing Is Destiny (MARK HALPERIN, DAVID CHALIAN, TEDDY DAVIS, K. HINMAN, N. VENKATARAMAN, and M. STUART with M. DUBERT, A. FINE, A. PIPITONE, and D. WENGER, June 15, 2006, ABC News: The Note)

Riddle us this, Note readers and Batman fans:

Which party's fall message is already clear and which party's is not?

For the Democrats, there is: the Biden view on Iraq; the Murtha view on Iraq; the Kerry views on Iraq; the Senate caucus's ever-dynamic debate about what the party should stand for; the mass conspiracy of silence over taxes and health care, taxes and the rich, and taxes and taxes; Together, We Can Do Better; Together, America Can Do Better; Better, America Can Be, Together; opportunity, responsibility, and community; community; the modern communication skills of Leaders Reid and Pelosi, and their control over their own public images; Six in '06; New Direction for America; Rahm's view on Iraq; the Pelosi-Hoyer friendship; Murtha's abortive leadership bid; Howard Dean's discipline; and the bloggers. (For a super smart take on all this, see Noonan, Peggy — on Jim Webb as "Nancy Pelosi with medals.") LINK

For the Republicans, there is what the Strategist-in-Chief laid out in the Rose Garden yesterday (for those Democrats and reporters too lazy to track down a transcript of Monday's Granite State Karl Rove fan dance):

"I believe we're going to hold the House and the Senate, because our philosophy is one that is forward-looking and optimistic and has worked. We've got a record to run on.

"There's an interesting debate in the Democrat Party about how quick to pull out of Iraq. Pulling out of Iraq before we accomplish the mission will make the world a more dangerous place. It's bad policy. I know it may sound good politically; it will endanger our country to pull out of Iraq before we accomplish the mission.

"See, Iraq is a part of the global war on terror. It's not 'the' global war on terror, it's a theater in the global war on terror. And if we fail in Iraq, it's going to embolden al Qaeda types. It will weaken the resolve of moderate nations to stand up to the Islamic fascists. It will cause people to lose their nerve and not stay strong.

"And so I look forward to taking the debate — that's not quite right — kind of getting warmed up as a result of your question — the timing is not right for me to get out there yet. But I think the Democrat economic policy of raising people's taxes isn't going to work either. I know they'll couch it in all kinds of language, but really what they're saying is we're going to raise your taxes."

The Note folks asren't really being fair to the Democrats whose three word platform (geopolitical/social/economic) is unchanged since '02/'04: Surrender, Sodomy, and Taxes!

MORE: (via David Hill, The Bronx):
The Republican Party's Iraq Offensive: The war may not be popular, but the GOP is betting that steadiness and clarity are, and that Democrats won't be able to muster enough by November. (Peter Wallsten and Maura Reynolds, June 15, 2006, LA Times)

The Iraq war is the most immediate foreign policy problem besetting the Bush administration. But as a political issue, the White House and top Republican strategists have concluded that the war is a clear winner. [...]

Officially, the House debate will be the first time the chamber has argued the pros and cons of the invasion and occupation of Iraq since the war began more than three years ago. But Democrats, who have repeatedly called for debate on the war, have denounced this week's events as little more than a political trap to embarrass them and force acquiescence with the administration's policy.

The resolution expresses support for U.S. troops and a commitment to combat terrorism. It also unequivocally asserts that the conflict in Iraq is part of a "global war on terror" — an assertion that Democrats and some Republicans dispute.

Bush hammered that assertion Wednesday. "If we fail in Iraq, it's going to embolden Al Qaeda types," he said. "It will weaken the resolve of moderate nations to stand up to the Islamic fascists. It will cause people to lose their nerve and not stay strong."

Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D-Hawaii) complained Wednesday that House leaders were not going to permit Democrats to offer amendments to the resolution, forcing them into a position of either voting against supporting the troops or for the Republican formulation of the war.

At the point where the democratic process is your enemy your party is in deep Brazilian midfielder.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:37 PM


Police don't have to knock, justices say (AP, 6/15/06)

The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that police armed with a warrant can barge into homes and seize evidence even if they don't knock, a huge government victory that was decided by President Bush's new justices.

The 5-4 ruling clearly signals the court's conservative shift following the departure of moderate Sandra Day O'Connor. [...]

In a dissent, four justices complained that the decision erases more than 90 years of Supreme Court precedent.

Wouldn't it be more accurate to say that it restores 120 years of court precedent?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:32 PM


Party on Wall Street: Major gauges surge, tripping trading circuit breakers, after Bernanke speech eases inflation jitters; Dow finishes above 11,000 (Steve Hargreaves, June 15, 2006, CNNMoney.com)

The Dow posted its best day of the year Thursday, settling above 11,000, after Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke delivered a non-alarmist speech on inflation, extending a morning rally sparked by tame economic reports.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (up 198.27 to 11,015.19, Charts) jumped about 1.8 percent, while the broader Standard & Poor's 500 index (up 26.12 to 1,256.16, Charts) advanced 2.1 percent, according to early tallies.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:30 PM


U.S. Railroad Profits Tied To New Investment (Oxford Analytica, 06.15.06)

With nearly 160,000 kilometers (km) of track, U.S. rail infrastructure is more than double that in Russia or China. It is also the most efficient and profitable network in the world.

However, the system suffers from increasing delays and bottlenecks. Rail customers are up in arms. A cadre of company representatives recently descended on Washington to lobby Congress for reforms aimed at reducing and more fairly distributing the costs created by delays. This capacity crunch has been caused by dramatic traffic growth...

You can never have enough.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:28 PM


Senate rejects U.S. troop pullout in Iraq (LIZ SIDOTI, 6/15/06, Associated Press)

The vote was 93-6 to shelve the proposal, which would have allowed "only forces that are critical to completing the mission of standing up Iraqi security forces" to remain in 2007.

Yup, it's the perfect climate for a Democratic takeover of Congress, eh?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:02 PM


The Price of Pickles: a review of The Wal-Mart Effect: How an Out-of-Town Superstore Became a Superpower by Charles Fishman (John Lanchester, London Review of Books)

The moment of revelation is a little different for every person who experiences it. For Sam Walton, founder of Wal-Mart, the road to Damascus came in the form of a pair of knickers. At the time – 1945 – Walton was in his late twenties, and was running a small department store in Newport, Arkansas belonging to a franchise called Ben Franklin. Walton had grown up in Missouri and attended the state university, then gone on to a clerical job during the war. He married Helen Robson, borrowed some money from her lawyer-banker father, then opened his Ben Franklin ‘variety store’.

The life-changing pair of panties appeared in a list of goods sold by a garment-industry middleman in New York. The pants were ‘two-barred, tricot satin panties with an elastic waist’ and their price, $2 a dozen, was 50 cents cheaper than that offered by Walton’s current supplier. This differential allowed Walton to sell the knickers at four for $1 instead of three for $1. The panties began to get up off the shelves and walk out of the shop on their own. The clouds parted, a beam of light shone down, and, as Walton reports in his autobiography, Made in America:

Here’s the simple lesson we learned . . . which eventually changed the way retailers sell and customers buy all across America: say I bought an item for 80 cents. I found that by pricing it at $1 I could sell three times more of it than by pricing it at $1.20. I might make only half the profit per item, but because I was selling three times as many, the overall profit was much greater. Simple enough. But this is really the essence of discounting: by cutting your price, you can boost your sales to a point where you earn far more at the cheaper retail price than you would have by selling the item at the higher price. In retailer language, you can lower your mark-up but earn more because of the increased volume.

Arthur Danto once observed that Andy Warhol had only one idea – roughly, that mass-produced media images could be seen as a form of art – but that what was unique about him was that he fully grasped that idea in every aspect, artistically, philosophically, commercially, psychologically. Sam Walton was a little like that about price. Many people in many different businesses have had their equivalent cheap-knicker epiphany. But Walton was the only person to do two things. First, he made price the central question at every stage of his business, from top to bottom, from the utmost frugality of his own offices and living habits, to paying everybody involved at every stage of the business as little as possible, to exerting the maximum pressure on his suppliers, not just to not-raise their prices, but to lower them, every year. This is easy to conceive: it would be not much of an exaggeration to say that every business in the world fantasises about keeping costs rigorously down. But it is very, very hard to do, and to keep doing, when things like an extra lick of paint, or a slightly increased wage bill, or the wiggle room offered by giving customers a hint of style – which allows retailers to charge more – are all so tempting. Second, Walton combined his fanatical insistence on low prices with a manic appetite for expansion and innovation: he would open everywhere, he would try anything to sell stuff, and he would do so without ever relaxing his grip on the numbers and the costs and the always paramount question of price, price, price. Most company mottoes and advertising slogans are bulls[quat]. Wal-Mart means what it says: ‘Always low prices’ – a slogan which on some of its stores now simply appears as ‘Always’, in the knowledge that its customers can be trusted to complete the thought.

What the Left can't seem to grasp is that their war on Wal-Mart is, in turn, a defense of higher costs to consumers and a less efficient economy. Mr. Fishman revealed this in hilarious fashion several months ago:

AUDIO: 11:00 Charles Fishman: "The Wal-Mart Effect" (Diane Rehm Show)

A look at how the world's largest retailer is transforming the American economy.

Guests: Charles Fishman, senior writer, Fast Company

Poor Ms Rehm, today's show was a perfect illustration of how adherence to Leftism requires ignorance of reality. At the point where Mr. Fishman explained that the 15% you can save on groceries at Wal-Mart essentially buys some families 7 weeks of free food a year, it seemed a possibility her head might explode.

Posted by pjaminet at 5:01 PM


What's Black and White and Red All Over? (Richard Morin, Washington Post, June 15)

More ink equals more blood, claim two economists who say that newspaper coverage of terrorist incidents leads directly to more attacks....

"Both the media and terrorists benefit from terrorist incidents," [the] study [by Bruno S. Frey of the University of Zurich and Dominic Rohner of Cambridge University] contends. Terrorists get free publicity for themselves and their cause. The media, meanwhile, make money "as reports of terror attacks increase newspaper sales and the number of television viewers."

The researchers counted direct references to terrorism between 1998 and 2005 in the New York Times and Neue Zuercher Zeitung, a respected Swiss newspaper. They also collected data on terrorist attacks around the world during that period. Using a statistical procedure called the Granger Causality Test, they attempted to determine whether more coverage directly led to more attacks.

The results, they said, were unequivocal: Coverage caused more attacks ...

I doubt Drs. Frey and Rohner have evidence for their assertion that media make more money through terrorism coverage. US media have had declining sales throughout this period of increasing terrorism coverage.

But their study strongly supports the idea that media coverage inspires the terrorists to further attacks. As penance for its last 7 years of terrorism-promoting publicity, I suggest that the publisher and editors of the New York Times let us test another proposition for the next 7 years: that publicizing heroism by the U.S. military, and death and destruction among terrorists, will decrease terrorism.

It's all in the cause of science!

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:46 PM


Butterfly effect: New species hatches in lab (James Randerson, June 15, 2006, The Guardian)

The creation of a new species, something that scientific orthodoxy says should take thousands of years of genetic isolation has been achieved in the lab in just three months.

Scientists think they have recreated the process that produced a stunning South American butterfly called Heliconius heurippa virtually overnight. And they suggest that similar rapid species creation could help to explain puzzling groups of closely related species such as Darwin's finches and cichlid fish. The finding is yet another challenge to the charge from creationists that evolutionary biologists are unable to explain large scale evolutionary shifts that result in new species.

It would be easier to accept the Darwinist protest that they shouldn't be held responsible when folks so badly mangle the concepts of species, Darwinism, Creationism, ID, etc. if just one of them got it right occassionally.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:43 PM


'Fossil' rock rat pictured alive (BBC, 6/15/06)

Images have been obtained of a live Laotian rock rat, the animal science now believes to be the sole survivor of an ancient group of rodents.

The kha-nyou, as it is known locally, was trapped by an expedition in May.

The pictures show a friendly, furry creature about the size of a squirrel that waddles a bit like a duck.

Experts say the kha-nyou can trace its line to a rodent family that initial studies had suggested became extinct more than 11 million years ago.

After 11 million years he's not the only survivor.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:58 PM


Text of al-Zarqawi Safe-House Document (The Associated Press

Text of a document discovered in terror leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's

hideout. The document was provided in English by Iraqi National Security Adviser Mouwafak al-Rubaie:


The situation and conditions of the resistance in Iraq have reached a point that requires a review of the events and of the work being done inside Iraq. Such a study is needed in order to show the best means to accomplish the required goals, especially that the forces of the National Guard have succeeded in forming an enormous shield protecting the American forces and have reduced substantially the losses that were solely suffered by the American forces. This is in addition to the role, played by the Shi'a (the leadership and masses) by supporting the occupation, working to defeat the resistance and by informing on its elements.

As an overall picture, time has been an element in affecting negatively the forces of the occupying countries, due to the losses they sustain economically in human lives, which are increasing with time. However, here in Iraq, time is now beginning to be of service to the American forces and harmful to the resistance for the following reasons:

1. By allowing the American forces to form the forces of the National Guard, to reinforce them and enable them to undertake military operations against the resistance.

2. By undertaking massive arrest operations, invading regions that have an impact on the resistance, and hence causing the resistance to lose many of its elements.

3. By undertaking a media campaign against the resistance resulting in weakening its influence inside the country and presenting its work as harmful to the population rather than being beneficial to the population.

4. By tightening the resistance's financial outlets, restricting its moral options and by confiscating its ammunition and weapons.

5. By creating a big division among the ranks of the resistance and jeopardizing its attack operations, it has weakened its influence and internal support of its elements, thus resulting in a decline of the resistance's assaults.

6. By allowing an increase in the number of countries and elements supporting the occupation or at least allowing to become neutral in their stand toward us in contrast to their previous stand or refusal of the occupation.

7. By taking advantage of the resistance's mistakes and magnifying them in order to misinform.

Somebody want to wipe the oatmeal off John Murtha's chin and let him know we won?

Papers show 'gloomy' state of insurgency (SAMEER N. YACOUB, Associated Press )

A blueprint for trying to start a war between the United States and Iran was among a "huge treasure" of documents found in the hideout of terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, Iraqi officials said Thursday. The document, purporting to reflect al-Qaida policy and its cooperation with groups loyal to ousted President Saddam Hussein, also appear to show that the insurgency in Iraq was weakening.

Seize the Day: "Our objective in Iraq is victory." (L. PAUL BREMER, June 15, 2006 , Opinion Journal)
George Bush made his trip to Baghdad, he told the new prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, "to look you in the eye." Yet his surprise visit established more than a first-hand connection. It signposted the dramatic events of the past week, which bode well both for Iraq's future and for the broader war on terrorism. As he stood in the hall of one of Saddam's former palaces--quite literally in the eye of the storm--Mr. Bush implored the Iraqis to "seize the moment." There are now emerging indications that they are doing just that. [...]

Two years ago, in an extraordinary letter, Zarqawi told his followers that democracy was coming to Iraq and that there was no place for them in a democratic Iraq. When the Iraqis held three elections last year, Zarqawi's fear and hatred of democracy was captured in his blunt message to them: "You vote, you die." So every Iraqi who went to the polls was risking his or her life. Yet in the elections on Dec. 15, voter turnout was higher than in any American presidential election in 130 years. It is hard to imagine a more dramatic example of national courage.

By fortunate coincidence, the day Zarqawi died, Mr. Maliki took another important step by completing his cabinet. And in his meetings with President Bush on Tuesday, the prime minister laid out his program. He confirmed his government's intention to prosecute the war to victory. He reiterated that the illegal militia must be brought under central government control. He spoke of reconciliation among Iraqis, while his ministers of defense and interior made stirring calls for unity, stressing their intention to "work for all Iraqis."

The key to success in Iraq is providing security; and the key to security is defeating the Sunni insurgency. This will deny al Qaeda important support and remove the excuse Shiite militia have for taking action into their own hands. It will give the government the opportunity to rebuild the economy and to continue on the path to full democracy.

What is needed is a military campaign to defeat the insurgents. The campaign plan should determine subsidiary questions of the number, type and deployment of coalition forces. The prime minister's announcement Wednesday of a major operation to secure Baghdad may be the first step in such a plan. We should seize the opportunity now to provide all possible support to the Iraqi government. President Bush said at his press conference that ultimate success depends on the Iraqis, and that is true. But he was also right to stress that we will do what is necessary to enable that success.

It took the Administration an intolerably long time to figure out what al Qaeda always knew--it's us and the Shi'ites against Sunni recalcitrants.

Picture of a weakened Iraqi insurgency: Document released Thursday by Iraq's government appears to show that Al Qaeda in Iraq feels vulnerable. (Scott Peterson | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor)

An Al Qaeda document linked to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi purports to show that Iraq's insurgents believe they face a "current bleak situation" that may require fomenting a war between the US and Iran to "get out of this crisis." [...]

This is "the beginning of the end of Al Qaeda in Iraq," Mowafaq al-Rubaie, Iraq's national security adviser, declared Thursday, adding that the data include network names and locations gleaned from Al Qaeda computers captured before Zarqawi's death. "The government is on the attack now ... to destroy Al Qaeda and to finish this terrorist organization in Iraq."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:28 PM


Quinnipiac poll shows volatile senate race (Deborah Howlett, 6/15/06, Newark Star Ledger)

The race for the U.S. Senate remains close and highly volatile after the primary election, according a Qunnipiac University poll released today.

Democratic incumbent Sen. Robert Menenedez led Republican state Sen. Tom Kean, Jr., by a thin margin of 43 percent to 36 percent. In late April, Menendez held a 40 percent to 34 percent edge.

“When you consider the margin of error, that’s not much movement,” said Clay Richards, the assistant poll director.

One in five voters surveyed remains undecided, and half of those who had a preference for a candidate said they could change their mind before the election.

This is a seat that Rudy Giuliani could help win and needs to.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:27 AM


Are you ready for some futbol? Not anymore (JAY MARIOTTI, 6/15/06, Chicago SUN-TIMES)

We can't even agree on the name. What the rest of the world calls football, we call soccer, simply because we already have our football and it reflects America's desired macho profile of bleeding, crippling physicality. Our soccer is a fringe sport of moms, kids and diehards, contrary to their football, a life-and-death psychosis that can breed hooliganism, suicide and occasional murder if a player heads a ball into his own net.

They don't relate to us, we don't relate to them. They are on Mars, we are on Pluto. When Bono narrates those cool World Cup promos with accompanying U2 music, we see kids kicking balls and wonder why they aren't throwing or shooting balls. Clearly, the world cares and we don't, for reasons more political and generational than we'll ever grasp. The only time your typical "SportsCenter'' guy has talked soccer is when Brandi Chastain ripped off her shirt, introducing the wonders of the sports bra to the male consciousness. To this day, our biggest and best kid athletes play football and kids too small generally play soccer, which could be a metaphor for American life.

So why even try to be part of the global football culture? Why force-feed ourselves into an elite party when we don't have the pedigree or the passion, when we fail to get a buzz over teams squeezing maybe a minute or two of cumulative excitement out of a 90-minute match? This sports nation in 2006 is about football's speed and hard knocks, basketball's speed and creativity, NASCAR's speed and crashes. If we want to hang out, ponder strategy, drink beer and watch life go by, we attend baseball games and cheer home runs, 1-2-3 innings and catcher-to-catcher knuckle sandwiches.

Soccer? On the food chain, it ranks somewhere above lacrosse and below Sudoku.

Except that here in the Northeast we care about lacrosse.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:23 AM


Hundreds of raids carried out since al-Zarqawi's death (KIM GAMEL, 6/15/06, ASSOCIATED PRESS)

American and Iraqi forces have carried out 452 raids since last week's killing of terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, and 104 insurgents were killed during those actions, the U.S. military said Thursday.

[Maj. Gen. William Caldwell, a U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad,] said 255 of the raids were joint operations, while 143 were carried out by Iraqi forces alone.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:00 AM


Political gurus explore U.S.-Canada split (SUSAN DELACOURT, 6/15/06, Toronto Star)

"Father knows best" isn't just an old TV show any more — it's where Canada and the U.S. beg to differ, according to Environics pollster Michael Adams. [...]

One of Adams' most stunning illustrations of Canada-U.S. differences to the conference was on the question of family dynamics —— specifically the idea of the father as head of the family.

In Canada, that notion has been slowly eroding since 1992. In the United States, it's been growing.

In 1992, 26 per cent of Canadians said they agreed with the statement: "The father of the family must be the master of his own house." In 2005, only 18 per cent of Canadians agree with that notion, according to Adams' numbers.

By contrast, 42 per cent of Americans agreed with that statement in 1992. But by 2005, more than half of Americans — 52 per cent — said that dad must be the boss at home.

"If my wife heard that, she'd be mad at Americans. Heck, she'd be mad at me," joked Liberal party president Mike Eizenga, who's one of about 150 delegates to this week's Canada 2020 conference.

Conference attendees were excited by the Adams' finding.

They believed it underscores the idea that Canadians are far more wary overall of authoritarianism, hierarchy and other hallmarks of conservative politics.

Some pundits, in fact, have taken to calling Prime Minister Stephen Harper "big daddy" for his tough, highly centralized style of governing since he took office in February.

More important is that morality is fundamentally male -- a necessary precondition of freedom -- while unconditional love (relativism) is feminine.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:56 AM


Charred Spanish Ham and Cheese Melts and 'Hot' Olives with Herbs and Spices ( "30 Minute Meals," by Rachel Ray, June 15, 2006)

Preheat grill pan or outdoor grill to medium-high. This dish takes about 10 minutes to prepare and 10 minutes to cook.

* 8 slices crusty bread from a good-sized loaf, 1/2-inch thick, at least 5 inches across and 3 inches wide
* 1/3 pound thinly sliced serrano ham
* 1/3 to 1/2 pound manchego, thinly sliced with sharp knife or cheese plane
* 1 cup hot pickled vegetable salad of cauliflower, carrots, celery and hot peppers (giardiniera), drained
* 1/2 cup sweet pickled red pepper relish or sweet pickle relish
* 2 cups mixed good quality olives
* 2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves, finely chopped
* 1 tablespoon lemon zest
* 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
* 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
* Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling

Layer serrano and cheese in equal amounts on 4 slices of bread. Grind the hot pickled vegetables and the sweet pickle relish in food processor and pulse to make a relish. Spread the relish evenly on sandwich tops and set into place.

Place olives in a foil pouch and season with thyme, lemon zest, cumin seeds and red pepper flakes. Drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil and seal the pouch. Place pouch on grill and cook a few minutes on each side to heat the olives, herb and spices.

Place sandwiches on grill and weight down with heavy skillet or a brick covered in foil. Char and heat the sandwiches through, about 2 to 3 minutes on each side.

Cut sandwiches in half and serve with "hot" olives alongside.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:32 AM


Judge Rules That U.S. Has Broad Powers to Detain Noncitizens Indefinitely (NINA BERNSTEIN, June 15, 2006, NY Times)

A federal judge in Brooklyn ruled yesterday that the government has wide latitude under immigration law to detain noncitizens on the basis of religion, race or national origin, and to hold them indefinitely without explanation.

The ruling came in a class-action lawsuit by Muslim immigrants detained after 9/11, and it dismissed several key claims the detainees had made against the government.

Courts just keep ruling that the police state the AG imposed was perfectly conmsistent with the Constitution.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:26 AM


China Easing Its Stance On Taiwan: Tolerance Grows For Status Quo (Edward Cody, June 15, 2006, Washington Post)

Gradually and without fanfare, China has substantially softened its stand on Taiwan, according to senior officials and diplomats. President Hu Jintao, they said, has begun to play down China's long-standing vow to recover the self-ruled island by force if necessary and shifted the focus to preventing any move toward formal independence.

The adjustment, which has become clearer in recent months, has brought China's policy on the volatile Taiwan issue closer to that of the United States. Washington has long maintained that the island's half-century-old status quo -- independent in fact but not in law -- should not be changed until Beijing and Taipei can work out a mutually acceptable peaceful solution.

"Before, we never said 'status quo,' " said a Chinese academic who advises Hu's government on Taiwan. "Now we say it all the time."

As Confucius said, if independence is inevitable, lay back and enjoy it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:23 AM


Hospitals cut errors and save 120,000 patients (MIKE STOBBE, 6/15/06, The Associated Press)

Hospitals have reduced lethal mistakes and breakdowns in care to prevent the unnecessary deaths of more than 120,000 patients in the past 18 months, said leaders of an unprecedented national campaign.

"I think this campaign signals no less than a new standard of health care in America," said Dr. Donald Berwick, a Harvard professor who organized the campaign.

About 3,100 hospitals took part in the project, sharing mortality data and carrying out study-tested procedures that prevent infections and mistakes.

"We in health care have never seen or experienced anything like this," said Dr. Dennis O'Leary, who heads the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:17 AM


Somalia's change could be U.S. gain (Seattle Times, 6/15/06)

The United States has a real chance for positive gain in the Muslim world. To achieve it, the U.S. would have to swallow its Western pride and open talks with the Islamist militants who defeated the reportedly CIA-backed warlords in Somalia's capital, Mogadishu.

The struggling and violent nation is in dire need of stability. The secular warlords have not provided that structure since Somalia's government collapsed in 1991. Muslim clerics stepped in and created a semblance of stability in the form of Islamic courts.

The moderate clerics — with whom, historically, Somalia lined up religiously — have told Western leaders that their rule will not be like that of the severe Taliban of Afghanistan.

To be of any help, the U.S. first must pull away from the remaining warlords — who were employed in the hunt for al-Qaida cells after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, according to a wide array of news reports — and call for them to lay down their weapons. Then the U.S. and other key nations should sit down with the clerics and discuss how to bring in the weak transitional Somali government from its ineffective vantage 155 miles outside of Mogadishu in the city of Baidoa.

The U.S. would bolster its image and clout internationally by working with the Islamists to make Somalia whole again. America could demonstrate to the world that it can work with a new Islamist movement, and help a people in desperate need.

It serves our interest to work with Islamists to structure political solutions that aren't Islamicist. There's no reason the Somalis can't combine a rather puritanical social/legal regime with a freer economy and consensual government.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:13 AM


Hawaiian island chain will get national-monument status (Elizabeth Weise, 6/15/06, USA TODAY)

President Bush is expected Thursday to create the world's largest marine sanctuary in a chain of uninhabited islands and atolls 1,200 miles northwest of the main Hawaiian Islands.

White House officials say Bush will elevate the area now known as the Northwestern Hawaiian Island Coral Reef Ecosystem Reserve to national-monument status. The designation will immediately afford the region the strongest legal protections, with fishing and commercial operations being phased out over the next five years and visitors primarily limited to scientific researchers.

"It's the ocean equivalent of Yellowstone, Yosemite and the Grand Canyon all rolled into one," says Joshua Reichert, director of the environmental program of the Pew Charitable Trusts in Philadelphia.

The area comprises 140,000 square miles of ocean dotted with dozens of coral reefs and tiny islands; it is a 1,400-mile-long, 100-mile-wide swath of pristine marine habitat larger than all U.S. national parks combined.

The area is considered an ecological jewel. [...]

There are 13 national marine sanctuaries in U.S. waters, and White House officials say this new one will be seven times larger than all of them combined. It is almost 100 years in the making, with U.S. presidents setting it apart with increasing levels of protection.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:04 AM


Wal-Mart: The giant people love to hate (Corinne Purtill, Jun. 14, 2006, The Arizona Republic)

On a recent evening in Ahwatukee Foothills, about 100 people gathered in a park to discuss what to do about an unwelcome would-be newcomer.

Just across the street from where the world's largest retailer wants to build its first Wal-Mart in Ahwatukee (and well beyond its 3,800th nationwide) residents cheered their emcee's rallying cry: "We do not want to see Wal-Mart in the Ahwatukee Foothills or anywhere else in this community," Lani Kuban said.

Ahwatukee's battle is just the latest in a wave of clashes nationwide against the blue-vested behemoth that sold more than $312 billion in goods last year.

It's hip to hate Wal-Mart these days. The reasons are complex.

No, it's just the hipness--fashionable Leftwing causes seldom depend on reason.

Wal-Mart, housing pitched for Avondale Mall (DAVID SIMPSON, 06/15/06, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Wal-Mart and DeKalb officials unveiled Wednesday night a proposal to replace the vacant Avondale Mall with a Wal-Mart Supercenter and 66 housing units.

The residential development would be a cluster of four-story buildings designed to look like townhomes and called "Avondale Brownstones." The units would have one to three bedrooms priced from around $170,000 to around $350,000. Twenty percent would be "work-force housing" designed to be affordable for workers such as police officers and teachers.

Early reaction was mixed, ranging from complaints about the size of the store — more than 182,000 square feet — to optimism that the store would bring jobs and the housing would help revitalize the Memorial Drive corridor in central DeKalb.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:00 AM


Cops: Boozing ‘patrolman’ not one of us (Michele McPhee, 6/15/06, Boston Herald)

Chugging vodka, and yelling “Pull over!” - a homeless man playing policeman hijacked an unattended cruiser and raced around the city with flashing lights and wailing sirens until the real cops slammed the brakes on his joy ride, police said.

It took transit police at least an hour to locate Car 7089 with cop wannabe Jeffrey P. Jarosz at the wheel, and only after other motorists - apparently doubting the apparently drunken 51-year-old suspect was connected to law enforcement - called 911.

Now Jarosz - who has a long record of bad behavior - is back on the wrong end of the legal system, held on $100,000 bail after being charged in Brighton District Court on charges of drunken driving, impersonating a police officer and stealing a motor vehicle.

And the MBTA police are reassessing where they leave the keys to cruisers.

Of course, the new passive breathalyzer technology would have prevented that.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:52 AM


Two Butterfly Species Evolved Into Third, Study Finds (James Owen, June 14, 2006, National Geographic News)

A butterfly species from South America has been revealed as nature's answer to Frankenstein's monster, scientists say.

New research shows the insect was originally created from two different butterflies in an evolutionary process many biologists didn't think possible.

The scientists arrived at this conclusion by successfully re-creating the butterfly in the lab, using "second-hand parts" from two related species.

Animals are thought usually to evolve in the opposite manner, when a single species gradually splits into two over many generations. [...]

While the butterfly is able to breed with one of its parent species, "heurippa much prefers to breed with itself," Jiggins said.

So, almost two hundred years into the Darwinian dead end they've arrived at the shocking revelation that within a genus stuff can breed pretty freely and and make other stuff that breeds rather easily. Heck, the farmers told Darwin that.

June 14, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:10 PM


Artist laughs his head off at the RA (Sally Pook, 15/06/2006, Daily Telegraph)

David Hensel could not help but chuckle when he went to see his sculpture on display at the Royal Academy.

At first, after wandering through the Summer Exhibition, he concluded that it was nowhere to be seen. But eventually he found it. Or rather, he didn't.

What he did find was the sculpture's empty plinth and wooden base displayed as "Exhibit 1201".

Mr Hensel had never considered the empty plinth a work of art in itself. But the exhibition selectors evidently did. So, too, did visitors, who pronounced it beautiful.

No one seemed to notice, or mind, that the sculpture itself, a laughing head entitled One Day Closer to Paradise, was missing. "What apparently happened was that they had become separated and the selectors judged the empty base a good enough sculpture in its own right to include it in the show," said Mr Hensel.

Which is all you really need to know about Modern Art.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:42 PM


LDP panel mulls consumption tax geared for welfare (Japan Times, 6/15/06)

The ruling Liberal Democratic Party's tax panel proposed Thursday to use consumption tax revenues for social security when the levy is raised in the future.

The consumption tax reform is part of a tax overhaul outline prepared by a subcommittee of the party's Research Commission on the Tax System.

It's too little and too late, but at least Mr. Koizumi is trying.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:28 PM


N.C. court candidate draws ire of both Republicans and Democrats (MIKE BAKER, June 13, 2006, Associated Press)

The leaders of the state's Democratic and Republican parties have asked voters not to cast ballots for state Supreme Court candidate Rachel Lea Hunter, whose fiery rhetoric in recent weeks has included comparing the actions of a black congressional candidate to that of a slave.

"She's unstable and unqualified, and the thought of her serving on the highest court in North Carolina is scary," state Republican party chairman Ferrell Blount said Tuesday.

Blount's comments came after Hunter, a former Republican running as a Democrat, used the title "Dur Fuhrer" -- commonly associated with Nazi leader Adolf Hitler -- when referring to state Democratic party chief Jerry Meek. Such rhetoric led Meek to endorse Republican-backed incumbent Mark Martin in his race with Hunter for a seat on the state's high court. [...]

Last week, in a post on her Web site, Hunter criticized congressional candidate Vernon Robinson for running for office as a Republican, even though the staunch and outspoken conservative lost his bid for state GOP chair at the party's convention in 2005.

"Like a good slave, he has returned to the plantation," Hunter wrote about Robinson, who is black.

On Tuesday, Hunter revised that statement on her Web site, calling Robinson's behavior like that of an "Uncle Tom" -- considered to be a contemptuous term for a black whose behavior toward whites is regarded as fawning or servile.

"While I don't have a high regard for Vernon Robinson, I would never characterize him the way she did," Meek said.

Hunter also ran for a seat on the Supreme Court in 2004, finishing third to winner Paul Newby.

"She's not stable," Blount said. "I would applaud Jerry Meek, calling it the way he sees it. If she was still a Republican, I would have done the same thing."

It would be easier to dismiss her as crazy if she didn't sound like the mainstream of the Democratic Party in Washington.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:11 PM


Khomeini's grandson slams Tehran regime (UPI, 6/14/06)

The grandson of Iran's revolutionary Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini says the republic has devolved into a dictatorship that should be toppled by other countries.

Speaking to the al-Arabiya network on the 17th anniversary of the republic's founding by his late grandfather, Ayatollah Hussein Khomeini denounced the "dictatorship of clerics" leading the fundamentalist Islamist state.

"My grandfather's revolution has devoured its children and has strayed from its course," he said.

He went on to suggest U.S. President George Bush should send troops to occupy Iran, al-Arabiya said.

"Freedom must come to Iran in any possible way, whether through internal or external developments. If you were a prisoner, what would you do?" Khomeini told the network.

Unlikely Pair Emerges as Foe Of Iran Regime (ELI LAKE, June 13, 2006, NY Sun)
Hossein Khomeini emerged in the fall of 2003 as one of the least likely enemies of the Islamic Republic that his famous grandfather helped create in 1978 and 1979 during the country's revolution, when he visited Washington and New York in September and October to give speeches and interviews calling for an armed intervention to depose the ruling clerics. But soon after his visit to America, the young cleric went back to Iran at the urging of his family and kept his thoughts on regime change at least to himself.

When Mr. Khomeini returned to Iran, many of his close followers had assumed that he had been lured back to the country for the safety of his family. A senior researcher yesterday at the London based Center for Arab-Iranian Studies who has been in touch with the grand ayatollah's grandson, Alireza Nourizadeh, said he was able to return safely to Iran only after Khomeini's widow and Hossein's grandmother, Batol Saqafi Khomeini, sent a stern warning to Iran's supreme leader.

"She sent a message to the director of Ayatollah Khomeini's personal office, a man named Mohammadi Golpaygani. The message was, 'My grandson is going to come back. If anything happens to him, even if he has been taken for questioning, I will not be silent,'" Dr. Nourizadeh said.

Dr. Nourizadeh added that Mr. Khomeini lived with his grandmother in Tehran for three weeks upon returning to Iran and then began a mentorship with Iran's most senior cleric and a harsh critic of the mullahs, Ayatollah Ali Montazeri.

The tutelage of Mr. Montazeri has not tempered the opinions of the young Khomeini. When asked by al-Arabiya about his earlier calls for America to invade, he said, "Freedom must come to Iran in any possible way, whether through internal or external developments. If you were a prisoner, what would you do? I want someone to break the prison."

By contrast, the son of the Shah, Reza Pahlavi, is not such a hardliner. In this week's issue of Time Magazine's European edition, Mr. Pahlavi said he could not imagine an American invasion of Iran. "I cannot foresee any military action which could be feasible," he said. "The thought of foreign tanks rolling into Tehran is beyond imagination. No Iranian could tolerate an invasion. It would be an attack on our homeland. Even limited air strikes: If you want to alienate people, strike the first blow." [...]

During Mr. Khomeini's 2003 visit to Washington he asked author and columnist, Christopher Hitchens, to inquire of Mr. Pahlavi whether he would renounce his claim to the throne in Tehran.

Mr. Hitchens yesterday said Mr. Khomeini "said he heard nice things about him, that he would be ready to work with him on a democratic secular outcome on condition that he renounced the Pahlavi claim to the Iranian throne. And so I put this to young Reza and he would not do that. It was quite clear, he said he did not claim to be the Shah of Iran. But that's not what the message inquires. He wants to know if you renounce the claim."

Mr. Hitchens remembers pressing Mr. Pahlavi on the specific point of renouncing the throne, and Mr. Pahlavi would not abdicate, nor would he criticize some of the human rights abuses of his father's old regime.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:07 PM


Top Bush Adviser to Step Down (Peter Baker, 6/14/06, Washington Post)

Michael J. Gerson, one of President Bush's most trusted advisers and author of nearly all of his most famous public words during the past seven years, plans to step down in the next couple weeks in a decision that colleagues believe will leave a huge hole in the White House at a critical period.

Gerson said in an interview that he has been talking with Bush for many months about leaving for writing and other opportunities but waited until the White House political situation had stabilized somewhat. "It seemed like a good time," he said. "Things are back on track a little. Some of the things I care about are on a good trajectory."

Since first joining the presidential campaign in 1999, Gerson has evolved into one of the most central players in Bush's inner circle, often considered among the three or four aides closest to the president. He has been called one of the best speechwriters of his age, the conscience of the White House and the embodiment of Bush's vision of "compassionate conservatism."

Beyond shaping the language of the Bush presidency, Gerson shaped much of its policy as well. He was one of the architects of the Bush doctrine making the spread of democracy the fundamental goal of U.S. foreign policy. He led a personal crusade within the administration to make unprecedented multibillion-dollar investments in fighting AIDS, malaria and poverty around the globe. He became one of the lone voices pressing for more action to stop the genocide in Darfur.

"He might have had more influence than any White House staffer who wasn't chief of staff or national security adviser" in modern times, said William Kristol, who was top aide to Vice President Dan Quayle and now edits The Weekly Standard. "Mike was substantively influential, not just a wordsmith, not just a crafter of language for other people's policies, but influenced policy itself."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:30 PM


Flag-desecration amendment needs 1 more vote (Andrea Stone, 6/14/06, USA TODAY)

The Senate is one vote away from passing a constitutional amendment that would ban desecration of the U.S. flag, the closest that amendment supporters have been to passage.

The American Legion, which supports the amendment, and the American Civil Liberties Union, which opposes it, both say there are 66 votes to pass it.

Whether advocates can find the 67th vote to send the flag amendment to the states for ratification remains unclear. A Senate vote is set for the week of June 26.

In politics the next best thing to winning on a popular issue is losing by one vote.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:26 PM


Airlines pummel Airbus over A380 delays (ANGELA CHARLTON, 6/14/06, Associated Press)

Airlines around the world punished Airbus on Wednesday for delays in the delivery of its A380 superjumbo, demanding compensation, reconsidering orders — and in one case, striking a major deal with its rival Boeing Co.

Shares in Airbus' parent company crashed and Boeing's soared as repercussions of the production problems with the world's biggest passenger plane resonated throughout the industry.

They also raised questions about the European planemaker's management and strategy, and the future of the double-decker A380.

Would you fly Aeroflot?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:22 PM


Lieberman weighing run as independent (SUSAN HAIGH, 6/14/06, Associated Press)

Democratic Sen. Joe Lieberman, warily watching his primary challenger advance in the polls, must soon decide whether to start collecting signatures for a possible independent bid this November.

Lieberman's campaign contends that it's focused only on winning the Aug. 8 primary, but the Democrat has not ruled out petitioning his way onto the November ballot as part of a backup plan to secure a fourth term in the Senate.

"I am not going to close out any options," the senator recently told reporters.

Lieberman has until Aug. 9 — the day after the Democratic primary — to collect 7,500 signatures from registered voters to gain a spot on the ballot as an unaffiliated candidate. [...]

The poll found that if Lieberman runs as an independent, he would win with 56 percent of the vote, compared to 18 percent for Lamont and 8 percent for Republican Alan Schlesinger. Lieberman enjoys higher ratings among Republicans and unaffiliated voters than Democrats, the poll found. Unaffiliated voters are the state's largest bloc of voters, followed by Democrats and then Republicans.

John McCain, Karl Rove, the President, Bill Frist, Liddy Dole, etc., ought to show him the love and get him to run as a member of the party that likes him.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:15 PM


My Mommy War: The reader said she didn't want children. I urged her to reconsider. Here's what happened next (Emily Yoffe, June 14, 2006, Slate)

Hundreds of people have written demanding an apology and a retraction for the "disgusting," "offensive," "hurtful," "appalling," and "shocking" reply I gave in a recent Dear Prudence column. The letter I got was from a woman in her 30s who was about to marry a wonderful man, and they did not want children. What should she tell friends and family members who were asking when they were going to have kids? I gave some advice on how to fend them off—then added five sentences to this effect: Now that her life circumstances were changing, I wrote, she might want to re-examine this decision not to have kids.

I expected my answer would annoy people, but I was surprised by the fury of the response. You would think my reply was the equivalent of running around the streets with a turkey baster full of sperm, impregnating happy childless women. [...]

The majority of letter-writers were not single but happily married and professionally successful—the people you'd expect would make wonderful parents, and in a previous generation probably would have. Many didn't just write about the adult pleasures of their childless (or "childfree") life—travel, restaurants, undamaged upholstery, sex in the living room—but expressed contempt for those deluded enough to want to reproduce. As one woman wrote: "My husband and I are childless by choice and I heartily encourage all younger friends to consider it. It is the most wonderful lifestyle, free of whining and sniveling and mini-vans."

What is going on when there is so much scorn for parenthood—the way a society perpetuates itself? Fertility rates are much in the news these days. The United States is rare among developed nations in that it is still producing children at a replacement rate. But many countries collectively agree with the people who wrote to me—that children are a tantrum wrapped in a diaper and not worth the trouble. So, Germany, Italy, Japan, and Spain, among others, are going down the demographic tubes, with shrinking pools of young workers to support growing masses of seemingly immortal retirees.

It's not parenthood they hate but other people.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:06 PM


Meth use rare in U.S., study says (Associated Press, Jun. 14, 2006)

Methamphetamine use is rare in most of the United States, not the raging epidemic described by politicians and the news media, says a study by an advocacy group. [...]

The report cites statistics compiled by the government to make its case, including a 2004 survey that estimated 583,000 people used meth in the past month, or two-10ths of 1 percent of the U.S. population. Four times as many people use cocaine regularly and 30 times as many use marijuana, King said.

A separate survey of high-school students showed a 36 percent drop in meth use between 2001 and 2005.

The report acknowledged that methamphetamine is more widely used today than it was 10 years ago. Data from the jail populations of a handful of cities on the West Coast also show what King called a "highly localized" problem.

Among men arrested in Phoenix, 38.3 percent tested positive for methamphetamine. Figures for other cities are: Los Angeles, 28.7 percent; Portland, Ore., 25.4; San Diego, 36.2 percent; and San Jose, Calif., 36.9 percent.

But nationally, just 5 percent of men who had been arrested had meth in their systems. By contrast, 30 percent tested positive for cocaine and 44 percent for marijuana, the report said, citing government statistics.

All you had to do was show folks meth mouth to keep it from being a pathlogy of the young and the middle class.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:01 PM


Mogadishu's unfamiliar calm: Islamist control of the city worries Western nations, but Somalis welcome the quiet (Rob Crilly, 6/15/06, The Christian Science Monitor)

A sense of calm has descended on the rubble-filled capital of Somalia since a coalition of Islamists, promoting a strict adherence to sharia law, announced their militias had taken control of the city last Monday. [...]

Such comparisons are difficult to pin on Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, chairman of the Union of Islamic Courts. Speaking at his ramshackle headquarters, he says the courts' mission was simply to pacify Mogadishu. "We have to know first what people want. The last 16 years there was civil war and people are very poor," he says as gently as he can in the harsh, consonant-heavy Somali tongue. "Our only priority is to bring peace. Anything else will come later."

It's a moment when the UN, the Arab League, the African Uniuon, the EU and the US should all be offering massive assistance in exchange for their meeting some international norms of governance.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 4:30 PM


The family doctor is out (Aaron Derfel, The Gazette, June 14th, 2006)

Access to family doctors in Montreal is the worst of any city in the country, a survey by Statistics Canada has found.

At least 32 per cent of Montrealers don't have a regular doctor - more than triple the proportion in Toronto, according to the Canadian Community Health Survey.

The only regions where finding a general practitioner poses a greater problem are the Yukon, the Northwest Territories, Nunavut and an area of Labrador.

"It's tragic," Jean Rodrigue, director of communications for the Quebec Federation of General Practitioners, said yesterday.

"Yes, there is a lot of difficulty in finding a family doctor in many regions of Quebec."

Paul Saba, of the group Physicians for Social Justice, said the lack of access is jeopardizing the health of many elderly Montrealers who need a regular doctor.

"The problem is not going to go away, and this is having a negative impact on the health of people," said Saba, himself a GP.

"If people can't see a doctor, they can't be diagnosed and treated early - whether it's heart disease, cancer or a life-threatening illness."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:43 PM


With Rove reportedly no longer under investigation in Plame case, will reporters now demand answers to Rove-related questions? (Media Matters, 6/13/06)

Following reports that special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald has told White House senior adviser Karl Rove that he does not anticipate charging Rove in connection with the CIA leak investigation, Media Matters for America has compiled a list of questions previously asked about Karl Rove by the media, which the White House has to date refused to answer, citing the ongoing nature of the investigation. Now that Fitzgerald has apparently decided not to pursue charges against Rove, the White House's stock response would presumably no longer apply to questions concerning Rove and his involvement in the disclosure of the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame.

Media Matters has already urged reporters to ask about Rove's security clearance, given that, as Media Matters has previously explained, both Rove's apparent confirmation of Plame's identity to syndicated columnist Robert D. Novak and his alleged disclosure of her identity to Time's Matthew Cooper should trigger the loss of his security clearance under the Classified Information Nondisclosure Agreement.

But there are numerous other questions the media previously asked, which they presumably would still consider important and in response to which -- with respect to Rove -- the White House can apparently no longer cite an ongoing investigation:

Fitzgerald Leaves Questions Unanswered (Dan Froomkin, , June 13, 2006, Washingtonpost.com)
Senior White House political adviser Karl Rove's successful avoidance of criminal charges in the CIA leak investigation is a huge win for the White House.

It's also a massive blow to those who had hoped that special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald's investigation would end Rove's career as a cunning and outlandishly successful Republican strategist.

And finally, it means Fitzgerald probably won't be shedding any more light on Rove's role in the outing of Valerie Plame.

By all rights, that latter job should now fall to the press.

The White House has long maintained -- spuriously, I might add -- that the ongoing criminal investigation precluded them from answering any questions even vaguely related to Rove's conduct.

Now, without charges against Rove in the offing, the media should demand answers to a slew of questions.

Heck, not only will they ask the questions they'll write their names on your press release.....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:35 PM


2006 College Player Of The Year: Miller piles up stats while pitching Heels to Omaha (Will Kimmey, June 13, 2006, Baseball America)

Andrew Miller's 13-2, 2.11 season stands as a key reason for North Carolina's first College World Series berth since 1989. But the junior lefthander would rather be known as one of many Tar Heels piled atop one another after Chad Flack's game-ending home run to clinch a super-regional series win at Alabama.

"I think he kind of feels uncomfortable talking about himself," North Carolina coach Mike Fox said of his junior lefthander. "You know how kids can be, they don't want people to think they think they're better than anybody. His parents said he's always been like that. Even in high school he didn't really want the attention. He's a big kid at heart and a great teammate."

But Miller, all 6 feet and 6 inches of him, can't hide from the attention now. His dominant junior season, in which he posted a 119-36 strikeout-walk ratio and allowed seven extra-base hits (and only one home run) in 111 innings, not only helped him meet a personal goal of reaching Omaha, but also earned him Baseball America's College Player of the Year award.

"I appreciate all the awards and the accolades, but the biggest memory for me is going to be we went to Omaha and what we accomplished there," Miller said. "I certainly wouldn't want to have a good year on a team that's not as good. I've never really been a part of a team like this."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:11 PM

Better book your hotel and make your reservations now.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:28 AM


Author's Picks: Best of the Upper Valley Beers (Dan Mackie, 6/14/06, Valley News)

Here are the author's Upper Valley region picks:

* Flying Goose Brew Pub and Grille, New London: Crockett's Corner Oatmeal Stout: “Pours a deep ruby color with lightly roasted notes, the flavor mixes roasted malts and a decided smoothness to achieve a very drinkable stout.'’

* Seven Barrel Brewery, West Lebanon: Champion Reserve IPA: “Pours with a hazy, deep golden color and offers strong floral hop aromas. The IPA possesses a zesty hop flavor, with slight, earthy notes and a nice chewy malt character as a balancing point. The beer finishes with a nice, sharp, hoppy exit.''

* Long Trail Brewing Co. Bridgewater Corners: Double Bag: “While I enjoy each of Long Trail's well-built selections, the gloriously malty Double Bag combines the best of German brewing. The strong ale includes a substantial malt base, followed by a healthy dose of noble hops to make a very drinkable, warming beer.'’

* Jasper Murdock's Alehouse, Norwich Inn, Norwich: Jasper Murdock's Private Stock. “This is akin to picking favorites among your children. Tim Wilson's excellent English-style ales are all well-rounded, but the Private Stock is really something special A very limited-edition strong ale made with hops from the Inn's own hop garden, this beer is a wonderful mastery of malt and hops.’’

* Harpoon Brewery, Windsor. 100 Barrel Series: “Brewed on site here at the Windsor facility, these specialty releases are bottled in 22-ounce packages and appear only once. The brewers take turns designing and brewing the beers, which have included a Smoked Porter, Barleywine and Maibock.''

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:34 AM


Ex-California governor says GOP timid on immigration (GEBE MARTINEZ, 6/14/06, Houston Chronicle)

The political godfather of California's initiatives against illegal immigrants in the 1990s said Monday that lawmakers who favor citizenship opportunities for such workers do so only because they are afraid of being labeled racists and nativists.

"I think a great many Republicans have been intimidated, and I, frankly, am quite disappointed," former California Gov. Pete Wilson said during a speech at the Hudson Institute, a conservative think tank.

Better yet, you could ask Gene Mauch how to handle a pennant race.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:04 AM

IS IT EVEN CRIMINAL? (via Bryan Francoeur):

Fans killed for cheering too much (AP, 6/14/06)

Thai police are searching for a gunman who shot and killed two soccer fans at a beach resort after complaining they were cheering too loudly during a broadcast of Italy's World Cup opener against Ghana, officials said Wednesday.

He should have watched it at a bar in America--turn it on and you'll be able to hear a pin drop after the place empties.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:57 AM


Spitting Into the Wind: When it comes to immigration, be careful what you wish for (HOLMAN W. JENKINS JR., June 14, 2006, Opinion Journal)

Fuss in Washington notwithstanding, there's an easy way to reduce illegal immigration. It doesn't involve building fences or spending hundreds of billions to create an intrusive bureaucracy to hunt down illegals one by one and deport them. Just introduce a fraud-proof national ID card with biometric information; make it illegal, with real penalties, for employers to hire anyone, citizen or immigrant, who doesn't have one.

Presto. Businesses would no longer be able to profess the impossibility of judging who's legal and who isn't. Most of the jobs illegal immigrants do would disappear, and many if not most of the immigrants would leave for the same reason they came--better opportunities elsewhere.

Before we go down this road, however, would we really like the consequences?

With 12 million illegals in the country, whole sectors of our economy exist only because of immigrant labor. Farms would shut down along with jobs for suppliers of seeds, packaging and ancillary services. Jobs for waiters, maître d's and chefs would vanish, not just those of immigrant busboys, kitchen hands and cleaners. Some 1.2 million illegals are believed to work in construction. If the cost of home building goes up, demand goes down: Less wood is sold, fewer nails, fewer power tools, fewer pickup trucks. Contractors would make less profit; ergo, Harley-Davidson would sell fewer Road Kings with all the chrome and finery.

Armchair wonks say, "Enforce the law and damn the consequences." Every time the government does, however, a few of those couch warriors suddenly become vocal activists on the other side. It's their employer, their brother-in-law, their neighbor who finds himself facing criminal charges. It's their house that doesn't get finished. Don't be surprised if some of the latest politically inspired crackdowns end the same way. Blowback in the Cincinnati area is already growing against the arrest last month of four foremen for Fischer Homes, a well-liked local home builder.

Shouldn't we all imprison ourselves since we all, in effect, employ them?

Breaking the Skins (Susy Buchanan, June 5, 2006, Intelligence Report)

On March 24, 2003, neo-Nazi Skinhead leader Josh Fiedler sat regally on a sofa in the living room of his suburban Phoenix home.[...]

"Do I know you?" a confused Josh Fiedler asked, squinting into the face of the detective cuffing him in front of his home several months later.

"Yeah, you do, you moron," responded Matt Browning, a Mesa detective who spent 10 years off and on working Arizona's white power circles -- and two years in an intensive undercover period that broke two major murder cases. Overall, Browning's work has wreaked havoc on Arizona's Skinhead scene.

Fiedler's arrest came more than a year after he led a home invasion of a family whom he robbed of jewelry, guns and two pounds of marijuana. It was a typically brutal Skinhead affair -- a disabled child was duct-taped to a chair while Fiedler and a cohort ransacked the home. Fiedler wore a ski mask, but he forgot to cover up a telltale tattoo on his neck and a piercing between his eyes showed through the mask. When police working the case contacted Browning, he knew right away who the culprit was -- the tattoo and piercing removed all doubt. As a result, Fiedler was arrested, tried and sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Browning's remarkable ability to insinuate himself into a particularly ugly and vicious segment of society has helped pull a number of suspected violent criminals off the street -- including eight accused murderers. His is an uncommon profession wrought with stress and danger. But Browning makes it look easy.

"There are very few detectives that take an interest in something, develop a passion for it and focus all their energy on it. Not many detectives are willing to invest the personal time," says Browning's sergeant Mike Ivey. "He's really a lightning rod for this stuff in this area." And a successful one at that. Out of the original 37 members and associates of Fiedler and his Skinhead crew that Browning collected intelligence on, 18 have been sentenced to prison, are in custody awaiting trial, or have been released after spending time in jail. [...]

Now a muscular 6-foot, 4-inches with giant hands and steel blue eyes he uses to punctuate his sentences, Browning grew up in Phoenix playing football in high school and dreaming of becoming a forest ranger or a cop. He joined the Mesa Police Department 15 years ago, and it was through his work on the gang squad that he began to take an interest in political extremists.

As the only white member of an otherwise all-Hispanic squad working Latino street gangs, Browning had grown tired of being the guy who got to stay with the car. In 1996, of his own volition, Browning began looking into violent white supremacists.

"Initially, I was interested in the freemen and constitutionalists [parts of the militia movement that peaked in the mid-1990s]," Browning recalls. "As I started working the militia angle, I found out that a lot of the militia groups had Klan ties. So I joined the Klan." It was surprisingly easy.

"You know that stupid little Klan passport, that card you get from [Knights of the Ku Klux Klan Imperial Wizard] Thom Robb? That got me all over the place. People look at that and they don't question it."

Browning also joined a series of neo-Nazi groups: Aryan Nations, National Alliance, Volksfront, and the World Church of the Creator.

In 1997, he was transferred from gangs to Mesa's intelligence unit.

"When I became intel, I devoted almost all my time to working these guys. If there was a meeting, I'd be there. When the National Alliance started in Phoenix, I was their No. 4 guy, and it got to where they wanted me to run the East Valley chapter." Browning declined the invitation.

He used an alias and told his targets that he was a business owner infuriated because Hispanics had stolen all of his equipment. Neither his story nor his identity was questioned. Not once.

"At that time, they were so hard up for people they didn't check anything out," Browning says. "Now, I would probably backstop everything. Now, they are sending people to polygraph school to check the new people coming in."

Browning admits he made a few mistakes along the way, like the time he brought Mexican beer to a white-power barbecue. "I'd been born and raised in Arizona, so I was thinking I would just get a case of Corona. I even got the little limes. That was bad," he says, shaking his head with wry amusement. "They saw it and looked at me and I said, 'You know what? I'll be right back.' I went and bought some Heineken."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:48 AM


Trip to Iraq was shrouded in secrecy (Joseph Curl, June 14, 2006, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

"The POTUS is on board!" yelled a man of nearly 60 wearing a Navy baseball cap, dark pants and no tie, who had just climbed the drop-down backstairs of Air Force One in the dark and slipped into the rearmost cabin, crammed full with reporters and photographers.

It was, in fact, not just the customary announcement made when the president of the United States (POTUS) boards his plane. This was, in fact, the POTUS himself, minutes before Monday night's secret trip to Baghdad, one so elaborately planned that it included the president lying to his closest aides and the White House duping reporters.

At 7:45 p.m. Monday, Mr. Bush, nearing the end of the first of two days of meetings on Iraq at Camp David, sought his leave from his top military and intelligence advisers, including National Intelligence Director John D. Negroponte, CIA Director Air Force Gen. Michael V. Hayden and Marine Corps Gen. Peter Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

"I'm losing altitude -- I'm going to read," Mr. Bush told the group, ostensibly heading to bed. But he did not. Instead, he slipped out of the fortified presidential retreat and into an unmarked helicopter, not his normal Marine One chopper, for a quick ride to Andrews Air Force Base and an 11-hour flight to Baghdad.

Vice President Dick Cheney was about the only one at the nighttime Camp David gathering who knew that the president was headed to Iraq.

Those of us of a certain age recall the spate of stories in the '70s about how the presidency had become too big a job for one man, when the real problem was the string of men we'd made president who were just too small for the job. Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and Heorge W.. Bush have taken real joy in the office and even George H. W. Bush at least liked the governing part, if not the dealing with voters bit.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:46 AM


Blair warns leftwing critics of return to Tory government (David Hencke, June 14, 2006, Guardian)

Tony Blair yesterday rounded on leftwing critics who claimed they were "betrayed and alienated" by New Labour, warning that the alternative would be a return to the impotence of opposition under a new Tory government.

Speaking at the GMB union conference in Blackpool yesterday, the prime minister won a standing ovation from delegates after an hour-long question and answer session. Mr Blair faced hostile questioning from delegates on everything from "happy-clappy" city academies to demands to pull troops out of Iraq. He told delegates: "You want a leftwing government. Great. But you won't get a Labour government elected at all unless you have a broad coalition of support."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:30 AM


Outspoken New Englander Is New Poet Laureate (DINITIA SMITH, 6/14/06, NY Times)

The head of the Library of Congress is to name Donald Hall, a writer whose deceptively simple language builds on images of the New England landscape, as the nation's 14th poet laureate today. [...]

Mr. Hall, 77, lives in a white clapboard farmhouse in Wilmot, N.H., that has been in his family for generations. [...]

The library deliberately avoids attaching specific duties to the post so that the poet can do his or her own writing. But in recent years holders of the title have used the platform to enlarge the presence of poetry in the culture. Mr. Hall said that he would like to follow in the tradition of Mr. Kooser and other laureates who have tried to expand poetry's reach. "I'd like to encourage NPR to pay more attention to poetry," he said, referring to public radio, "and the cable networks, with the possibility of HBO doing something."

As poet laureate, Mr. Kooser has had a syndicated weekly newspaper column sponsored jointly by the Poetry Foundation and the Library of Congress that is offered free to newspapers around the country. The column includes a poem chosen by him, along with a commentary.

"If Ted Kooser doesn't continue with his column, I might pick it up," Mr. Hall said. But, "I would like to include more poetry of the 17th century."

Mr. Hall is an extremely productive writer who has published about 18 books of poetry, 20 books of prose and 12 children's books. He has won many awards, including a National Book Critics Circle Award in 1989 for "The One Day," a collection.

In recent years much of his poetry has been preoccupied with the death of his wife, the poet Jane Kenyon, in 1995. In "Without," he wrote about the period of her illness:

we lived in a small island stone nation
without color under gray clouds and wind
distant the unlimited ocean acute
lymphoblastic leukemia without seagulls
or palm trees without vegetation
or animal life only barnacles and lead
colored moss that darkened when months did.

The critic William Pritchard said that Mr. Hall "doesn't fit neatly into a category" as a poet. The poems about Ms. Kenyon are raw and direct, he said, adding that "Without," for instance, "has none of the formal organizing means poets make use of, yet, line by line, has a rhythmic force to it that saves it from flaccidity and formlessness."

Nonetheless, Mr. Pritchard noted, one of Mr. Hall's best-known poems, "Baseball," is structured like the nine-inning game and written in a highly formal style, carefully comprising nine sections of nine verses each, with each verse having nine lines. Mr. Hall says in the poem:

Well, there are nine players on a baseball team, so to speak, and
there are nine innings, with trivial
exceptions like extra-inning games
and games shortened by rain or darkness,
by riot, hurricane, earthquake...

Robert Pinsky, who was poet laureate from 1997 to 2000, said he welcomed Mr. Hall's appointment, especially in light of his previous outspokenness about politics and the arts. "There is something nicely symbolic, and maybe surprising," Mr. Pinsky said, "that they have selected someone who has taken a stand for freedom."

His poetry's nothing to write home about, but he's written two baseball classics:

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:22 AM


Core inflation rises 0.3% in May (Rex Nutting, Jun 14, 2006, CBS MarketWatch)

U.S. core inflation increased 0.3% for the third month in a row in May, putting pressure on the Federal Reserve to keep raising interest rates.

The consumer price index increased 0.4% in May, led by higher energy and shelter costs, the Labor Department said Wednesday. The increase matched expectations.

By the time the volatiles can work through to raise the core they're already falling.

New fear: A Fed gone too far: OK, another rate hike is baked in. The worry now is whether the Fed will overshoot and cripple the economy. Uttering the 'R' word (Chris Isidore, June 14, 2006, CNNMoney.com)

The debate about the Fed and rates is over. Long live the new debate. [...]

[T]he possibility of significantly higher rates was what was worrying some on Wall Street Wednesday.

"We don't really fear inflation, we fear the medicine," said Art Hogan, chief market analyst at Jefferies & Co. "The real fear is that the Fed goes too far and really slows the economy down more than we would like to see. The medicine, if you take too much of it, can cause a recession."
Already higher than neutral?

Some economists argue that the Fed may have already gone past "neutral" in setting short-term rates; a so-called neutral fed funds rate would neither spur nor slow the economy.

Jeoff Hall, chief U.S. economist at Thomson Financial, said he would put the neutral rate at about 2 percentage points above the core rate of inflation, which strips out volatile food and energy prices. Even with the core CPI rising to 2.4 percent in Wednesday's report, that suggests the Fed passed neutral two or three rate hikes ago.

Posted by pjaminet at 9:04 AM


Incredible Machine (YouTube video)

It's amazing what a childless society can accomplish in all that extra time. The irony is that while the Japanese do the hard work of innovating, in the long run it's our children who will reap most of the benefits of their advances.

MORE: Honda "The Cog" commercial.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:59 AM


Webb Wins Democratic Nomination In Virginia: Ex-Republican to Face Allen for U.S. Senate (Michael D. Shear, June 14, 2006, Washington Post)

Virginia Democrats yesterday chose Vietnam War hero James Webb to challenge Sen. George Allen (R), siding with their party's national leadership, which had declared the former Republican to be the only candidate with a chance to beat Allen in November. [...]

The springtime squabble between Democrats produced a near-record low turnout that a state election official described as "dismal." Polling places across Virginia reported being empty for long stretches, even though voting was open to all of the state's 4.5 million registered voters.

Webb now faces the challenge of raising millions of dollars in an attempt to oust Allen, a popular ex-governor who is considering a bid for the presidency in 2008. Allen has more than $7.5 million in the bank and a long history of winning in a state that usually votes for Republicans in federal contests.

Good to see the Democrats havve widened the tent enough that a little old-fashioned anti-Semitic propaganda is no bar to being their standard-bearer, huh?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:56 AM


Singapore Air orders Boeings after new A380 delay (Reuters, 6/14/06)

Singapore Airlines ordered Boeing aircraft worth $4.52 billion after it was disappointed with new delays on the A380 superjumbo and is seeking compensation from Airbus parent EADS for the setback.

Airbus revealed delays of at least six months in deliveries of the A380 on Tuesday, an embarrassment expected to blow a 2 billion euro ($2.5 billion) cash hole in Airbus parent EADS starting in 2007.

They'd have been more disappointed if they took delivery.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:46 AM


Nova Scotia Premier fiddles, Liberals burn (JANE ARMSTRONG, 6/14/06, Globe and Mail)

The fiddler from Cape Breton pulled it off — barely. Rodney MacDonald won a minority government in Nova Scotia Tuesday, proving his party was right to pick a rookie cabinet minister to lead the Progressive Conservatives and the province.

“Nova Scotia is truly a great province where the son of Mabou County can be elected premier,” Mr. MacDonald, 34, told a throng of cheering supporters in his Cape Breton hometown, his wife Lori-Ann and son Ryan by his side. Mr. MacDonald's narrow win is the third minority government for Nova Scotia in less than a decade.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:03 AM


Who Is the Real McCain? (Bob Geiger, 6/14/06, AlterNet)

The biggest disconnect from reality comes in the public perception of McCain as a potential president whose strong suit would be national security, even though his record in the 109th Congress alone shows a man who follows the senate majority leader's commands, no matter how much weaker those edicts make our country.

Here are just a handful of things McCain voted against in 2005 and 2006, and bear in mind that these 'nay' votes were not procedural devices to simply allow him to vote for Republican bills with similar, noble intent -- though it would certainly torpedo his bipartisan, centrist mantle if that were the case. McCain voted against a large number of such bills to bolster homeland security, support troops and help Veterans, with no Republican alternatives and while offering no substantive legislation himself to strengthen America:

* Sen. Daniel Akaka's, D-Hawaii, S.Amdt. 3007, which was intended to increase veterans medical services funding by $1.5 billion in 2007 by closing corporate tax loopholes.

* Three bills by Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., -- S.Amdt. 3056, S.Amdt. 1687 and S.Amdt. 1217 -- that would have provided critical funds for interoperable communications equipment for emergency first responders so that they could effectively communicate with one another during natural disasters, terrorist attacks and other public safety situations.

* S.Amdt.2737, sponsored by Jack Reed, D-R.I., sought a rollback in capital gains tax cuts to purchase much-needed equipment for troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. "We have the responsibility to be responsible, not only give the troops what they need but pay for it so we do not increase the deficit," argued Reed on the Senate floor at the time. "I hope we respond by supporting my amendment which takes care of the troops but does so in a responsible way by providing the resources to pay for this necessary equipment."

* Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., had two amendments defeated by the GOP (S.Amdt. 1189 and S.Amdt. 1190) that would have provided $70 million to identify and track hazardous materials shipments and fund new security programs for inspection of air cargo containers.

* Sens. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and Patty Murray, D-Wash., both had legislation killed -- S.Amdt. 2634 and S.Amdt. 344, respectively -- that would have funded additional medical care and readjustment counseling "… for [Iraq] veterans with mental illness, post-traumatic stress disorder, or substance use disorder."

The common denominator in all of these was McCain, the alleged maverick, doing exactly what his masters told him to do: He voted against every single one of these bills designed to bolster our national security and care for our veterans and active military.

So what should voters truly make of McCain as he begins what will most assuredly be a run for the presidency in 2008? Looking at reality, versus a facade strangely reinforced by an overly fawning media would be a good start.

While McCain stridently voted to impeach and remove Bill Clinton from office during Clinton's 1999 trial, he has done absolutely nothing to call George W. Bush to account for lying America into a war and for breaking the law in spying on millions of Americans without a warrant. And, in embracing Falwell, as he now does, the man many like to consider a moderate is lining himself up squarely with a man who once said, "AIDS is the wrath of a just God against homosexuals. To oppose it would be like an Israelite jumping in the Red Sea to save one of Pharaoh's charioteers … AIDS is not just God's punishment for homosexuals; it is God's punishment for the society that tolerates homosexuals."

With friends like those, even in Bush's America, you're not a moderate.

And while some actually believe that McCain takes a "moderate" stance on gay marriage because he has said repeatedly that he will vote against a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, that's not exactly his position, as he is too happy to point out to the Religious Right. McCain would only vote against a constitutional amendment if it would supersede a pending, Arizona gay-marriage measure, which he strongly supports.

If the Arizona ban was struck down, McCain would switch gears and vote for a federal prohibition on gay marriage via a constitutional amendment.

"I will vote against a constitutional amendment, which will come before the Senate on this issue, because I think the states should decide. That's the essence of federalism," said McCain, appearing on Meet the Press in April. "In my state of Arizona, we have a ballot initiative on this issue, which I am supporting. And so … if through the court process, they say that that's not constitutional, then I would support a constitutional amendment."

He's also been a leader in the Bush Crew's attempts to blind Americans with fear to regain support for the war in Iraq. "We must win in Iraq. We cannot fail. If we lose in Iraq, they're coming after us. We will fight them somewhere else -- like here," said McCain this month at the Utah Republican Party Convention. "It's all part of a gigantic, titanic struggle between good and evil."

Finally, it is important for voters to examine McCain's entire political identity which shows him to be a 98-pound political weakling who does best when others tell him what to do and who is every bit a George W. Bush conservative.

"I haven't changed. My record is the same on all issues, which is that of a conservative Republican," said McCain in early May. "Not a liberal Republican, not a moderate Republican."

And, on that, it is very important for Americans to take McCain at his word.

Isn't the biggest disconnect from reality the idea that a guy who was winning GOP presidential primaries wasn't a rock-ribbed conservative?

Democrats remain divided on prospect of troop withdrawal in Iraq (Jeff Zeleny, 6/14/06, Chicago Tribune)

The fissures inside the Democratic Party over the war in Iraq were on vivid display here Tuesday during rare back-to-back speeches before a crowd of liberal activists whose cheers — and jeers — underscored the challenges facing the party. "It is important that we recognize the real dangers we face," said Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., who renewed her opposition to setting a date for U.S. troop withdrawal. "Sometimes this is a difficult conversation, in part because this administration has made our world more dangerous than it should have been."

The senator talked over moments of heckling, hissing and booing from a Democratic audience as she sought to explain why she believes it would not be a "smart strategy" to create a specific timeline to leave Iraq. But Clinton said Iraqis must ultimately assume responsibility for their own security, saying: "That is not the job of the American military."

As she left the stage, a chorus of cries began to swell: "Bring the troops home! Bring the troops home! Bring the troops home!"

Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., who is proposing a Senate amendment calling for most troops to be withdrawn by the end of the year, captivated the same crowd only minutes later with an impassioned criticism of the war. He restated his regret for initially supporting the Iraq war and chastised other politicians, but not mentioning Clinton by name, for failing to follow suit.

Liberal Activists Boo Clinton (Dan Balz, June 14, 2006, Washington Post)
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) drew boos and hisses from an audience of liberal activists yesterday as she defended her opposition to a timetable for withdrawing U.S. forces from Iraq, and later she received an implicit rebuke from Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) for failing to acknowledge that her support for the war was a mistake.

Clinton's and Kerry's appearances at the Take Back America conference at the Washington Hilton put on vivid display the Democratic Party's divisions over the foreign policy issue that dominates this year's midterm elections, and the two possible 2008 presidential candidates offered a preview of the debate that could dominate the battle for the party's nomination.

Clinton and Kerry supported the 2002 congressional resolution authorizing the Iraq war.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:51 AM


Stravinsky & Co. (Terry Teachout, June 2006, Commentary)

Fortunately, some of the obstacles to writing about Stravinsky were removed in 1986 by the long-awaited opening to scholars of his private papers and manuscripts, followed a decade later by the publication of Richard Taruskin’s Stravinsky and the Russian Traditions, an exhaustively detailed study of Stravinsky’s profound and lifelong indebtedness to his Russian heritage. Then, in 1999, Stephen Walsh, a British musicologist, brought out A Creative Spring: 1882-1934, the first installment of a two-volume biography by a writer who, working independently from Craft, has sought to provide a factually reliable account of the composer’s life. Not surprisingly, Craft, who once went so far as to claim that he was the only person competent to write a life of Stravinsky (though he never did so), dismissed Walsh’s first volume as a “bungled” effort. Most other reviewers, myself included, disagreed.

Now Walsh has brought out the second and final volume of Stravinsky, subtitled The Second Exile: France and America, 1934-1971.2 Presumably Robert Craft will have something to say about The Second Exile in due course; he figures prominently in its pages, where his writings on Stravinsky and his family are bluntly described by Walsh as “riddled with bias, error, supposition, and falsehood.”

I also expect that Stravinsky scholars will spend much of the coming year wrangling over The Second Exile, and some will no doubt find that its author, like all biographers, has made his share of minor errors (though I myself have found none). Be that as it may, The Second Exile, like its predecessor, is an inspiring piece of work, at once comprehensive and beguilingly well written. After two careful readings, I feel safe in ranking it—alongside David Cairns’s Berlioz, Lewis Lockwood’s Beethoven: The Music and the Life, and Anthony Tommasini’s Virgil Thomson: Composer on the Aisle—as one of the finest biographies of a classical composer to be published in the modern age of musical scholarship.

One of the things that makes The Second Exile so readable is that Walsh has struck a near-ideal balance between life and work, integrating succinct yet acute descriptions of Stravinsky’s major compositions in-to a smoothly flowing narrative. Like A Creative Spring, it is meant to be accessible to the general reader. (Indeed, in what seems to me the book’s only real shortcoming, Walsh has gone so far as to omit notated musical examples altogether.) Yet there is nothing superficial about Walsh’s approach to Stravinsky’s music. Not only has he thought deeply about it, but he has succeeded in relating it meaningfully to the circumstances of its creation, one of the hardest tasks with which the biographer of a great artist must grapple.

A case in point is Walsh’s discussion of the Symphony in C (1938-40), the masterpiece of the later phase of Stravinsky’s neoclassical period, premiered by the Chicago Symphony after he pulled up stakes for the second time in his life and emigrated from France to the U.S.:

Conducting symphony concerts all over provincial America, Stravinsky had become conscious of the intensely conservative world he was invading, and what an incongruous figure he cut in it. . . . What sort of work might he himself contribute to such a culture? The obvious answer was a symphony: a symphony in C, of course—like Beethoven’s first and Mozart’s last, the purest, most archetypical, most classical, above all least frightening kind of orchestral concert work.

This is but one instance of Walsh’s admirable ability to place Stravinsky and his music in a broader cultural context without diminishing the autonomous significance of the music itself. We are left in no doubt that the Symphony in C is an important work, but at the same time we are given an illuminating glimpse of the way in which the world in and through which Stravinsky moved helped to shape that work.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:35 AM


The Marginalized Mainstream (Shawn Macomber, 6/14/2006, American Spectator)

Somewhere between donning tongue-in-cheek tinfoil hats to symbolically deride those who label them conspiracy theorists and insisting they were "a fairly representative cross-section of the Democratic Party," the gathered at a well-attended Yearly Kos panel on Reforming the Electoral Process cheered wildly at the suggestion that, well, whitey don't know what he done got coming to him.

"By the year 2020 we will be a majority minority state which means we will have more people of Latino, African American and Native American heritage than of Anglo heritage and I'm really looking forward to the revolution at that time," said Arizona State Representative Krysten Sinema, a self-described former socialist "bisexual criminal defense attorney who represents murderers."

For a moment Sinema basked in the applause, and then said, "Um, I just said that on camera...oops!" Wink, wink. Tee hee hee. Viva La Revoluccion!

The whooping got even louder when Sinema urged the public financing of campaigns to remove "overweight white men" in favor of candidates "more like myself, individuals of an oppressed minority."

Yup, the additional 100 million Latino immigrants George W. Bush is importing are notorious for their support of gay rights, huh?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:24 AM


'New Direction' is new theme for Democratic plan (Kathy Kiely, 6/13/2006, USA TODAY)

Democratic House and Senate leaders are planning to reduce the cost of student loans and prescription drugs, raise the minimum wage and launch an effort to develop alternative fuels if they win back control of Congress.

In an interview Tuesday with USA TODAY, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi previewed the "New Direction for America" platform hammered out by Democratic members of Congress, mayors and governors. She and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid plan to formally unveil the plan today. [...]

Pelosi discouraged comparisons with the Republican "Contract With America," a 10-point pledge that GOP lawmakers and candidates signed six weeks before the 1994 election. That campaign manifesto helped the GOP win control of both the House and Senate for the first time in 40 years.

Because the 10 points in the Contract were specific popular proposals on issues that the Democrat Congress wasn't acting on, whereas the only item here with broad support and GOP resistance is the minimum wage hike?

June 13, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:38 PM


Unbelievable pitching duel at the Metrodome tonight, with Johann Santana throwing a dominating change-up for strikeouts and Schilling forcing grounders, followed by each team's closer. Then they got into the middle relievers and it got ugly. Two questions: (1) Why doesn't Santana move to the first base side of the rubber against lefties?; (2) Why Tavarez in a save situation when Delcarmen has been your best reliever other than Papelbon lately?

Aces go 1-on-1: Schill, Santana duel (Karen Guregian, 6/14/06, Boston Herald)

The way Johan Santana was striking out Red Sox batters last night, memories of two historic pitching performances by Roger Clemens came to mind.

Curt Schilling?

He wasn’t nearly as dazzling, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t as effective as the Twins southpaw. He just mowed down batters in a different way.

The two aces certainly lived up to all the hype surrounding their duel. Neither was involved in the decision, with the Twins winning 5-2, coming back from a 2-1 deficit in the bottom of the 12th on a grand slam by Jason Kubel off Julian Tavarez.

Santana (6-4) surrendered just one run on five hits in eight innings. He struck out 13 including 11 in the first five innings. When Clemens twice set the major league record of 20 strikeouts, he fanned 12 through five innings.

Only two lefties in history have struck out more Sox during a game. Randy Johnson fanned 15 in eight innings while pitching for Seattle in 1998, and Detroit’s Mickey Lolich struck out 15 in nine innings in ’72.

Santana’s only mistake was a seventh-inning changeup to Jason Varitek, who sent it over the wall in left-center field for a 1-0 lead. Schilling, meanwhile, had pitched flawlessly to that point, but gave the run back in the bottom of the inning, surrendering a homer to Michael Cuddyer.

The Sox ace left after eight innings, giving up just the one run on six hits. He had thrown just 91 pitches, but was spent.

The funny thing is, neither would have been a homerun at Fenway.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:23 PM

IT'S, NO? (via Pepys):

'The fact is, it's tax.' Blimey, O'Reilly, you never said five truer words (William Rees-Mogg, 6/12/06, Times of London)

Last week David Wighton, of the Financial Times, had lunch with Sir Anthony O’Reilly in Manhattan; the interview was published in Saturday’s FT magazine. [...]

[T]he key passage refers to tax. O’Reilly’s view is that the main reason for the Irish economic “miracle” has been the low level of corporate tax in Ireland. He is working to persuade the UK Government to reduce the rate of corporation tax in Northern Ireland to that of the south; that is, from the UK’s 30 per cent to the Republic’s 12.5 per cent. He comments that the Irish miracle is not “because the pubs are great, the golf is great and the climate is, well . . . the fact is, its tax.”

This is, indeed, one of the political truths that politicians ignore at their peril. O’Reilly’s “the fact is, its tax,” is just as valid as Bill Clinton’s “it’s the economy, stupid”. Of course, from the British point of view, there can be no question of cutting the Northern Ireland rate of corporation tax without cutting the UK level. If 12.5 per cent is good for the Republic — and it is — then indeed it would also be good for Northern Ireland. If it would be good for Northern Ireland it would be equally good for England, Wales and Scotland. Not only good, but essential.

Most politicians have little understanding of tax. They think it is easier to tax business because global businesses do not have votes. They do not realise that Ireland has found that lower tax rates produce higher yields. The result is that Conservative tax policies are inadequate, Liberal Democrat policies are self-defeating, and Labour’s are complex and perverse.

Politicians do not appear to understand that global businesses are free to arrange their tax affairs on a global basis. Most private individuals are still tied to the place in which they earn their living, though the genuinely rich can afford to live where tax is lowest. International companies, by definition, earn their profits internationally. They can, by and large, choose to place their headquarters in a low-tax jurisdiction. For instance, in the Republic of Ireland.

Why would you tax something you want more of?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:16 PM


AFL-CIO leaflet gets presidents mixed up (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, 6/13/06)

A union-prepared leaflet claims that a Republican candidate for governor used his influence to win a tax break benefiting his company that was "signed into law by President Bush in 1997."

One problem: Bush didn't become president until 2001. Democrat Bill Clinton was in charge in 1997.

Isn't he the same conservative ideologue who passed GATT, NAFTA, and Welfare Reform?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:59 PM


Lieberman Ally Advises: Run As An Independent (MARK PAZNIOKAS, June 13 2006, Hartford Courant)

A prominent ally of U.S. Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman urged Monday that Lieberman run for re-election as an independent and not trust his career to left-leaning Democratic primary voters in August.

John F. Droney Jr., a former Democratic state chairman who helped Lieberman unseat Republican Sen. Lowell P. Weicker Jr. in 1988, said Lieberman should make his case for re-election to all voters in November.

"I think to be terrorized through the summer by an extremely small group of the Democratic Party, much less the voting population, is total insanity for a person who is a three-term senator," Droney said.

Droney's suggestion was not welcomed by the Lieberman campaign. The senator's staff has been trying to discourage speculation that Lieberman, who is more popular with Republicans and unaffiliated voters than Democrats, might run as an independent.

Such a half measure would be beneath his dignity--just run as a Republican.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:42 PM


The Other Cheney Behind the Scenes>: Since 2005, Dick Cheney's daughter Elizabeth has held a powerful position guiding Middle East policy. And like father, like daughter: Liz is a key player in the push for regime change in Iran and Syria. (Robert Dreyfuss, June 13, 2006, The American Prospect)

At the very heart of U.S. Middle East policy, from the war in Iraq to pressure for regime change in Iran and Syria to the spread of free-market democracy in the region, sits the 39-year-old daughter of Vice President Dick Cheney. Elizabeth "Liz" Cheney, appointed to her post in February 2005, has a tongue-twisting title: principal deputy assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern Affairs and coordinator for broader Middle East and North Africa initiatives. By all accounts, it is an enormously powerful post, and one for which she is uniquely unqualified.

During the past 15 months, Elizabeth Cheney has met with and bolstered a gaggle of Syrian exiles, often in tandem with John Hannah and David Wurmser, top officials in the Office of the Vice President (OVP); has pressed hard for money to accelerate the administration's ever more overt campaign for forced regime change in both Damascus and Teheran; and has overseen an increasingly discredited push for American-inspired democratic reform from Morocco to Iran.

Just in case you thought the Left supported democratizing the Middle East.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:38 PM


Amnesty plan for 500,000 illegal migrants (Philip Johnston, 14/06/2006, Daily Telegraph)

The prospect of an amnesty for more than half a million illegal immigrants was raised by the Home Office for the first time last night.

Liam Byrne, the immigration minister, refused to rule one out when he was questioned by the Commons home affairs select committee.

Pressure has been growing on the Government from unions and religious leaders to consider ''regularising'' the position of an estimated 570,000 economic migrants and failed asylum seekers who are unlikely ever to go home.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:35 PM


The devaluing of human life (Nat Hentoff, June 12, 2006, Washington Times)

A friend of mine told me of a recent conversation at his family's dinner table that keeps reverberating in my mind. His wife, a physician, also performs abortions. And their 9-year-old son -- hearing the words and curious about its meaning -- looked up from his plate and asked, "What is an abortion?" His mother tried carefully to describe it in simple terms.

"But," said her son, "that means killing the baby." The mother then explained that there are certain months during which an abortion cannot be performed, with very few exceptions. The 9-year-old shook his head. "But," he said, "it doesn't matter what month. It still means killing the babies." Hearing the story, I wished it could be repeated to the justices of the Supreme Court, in the hope that at least five of them might act on this 9-year-old's clarity of thought and vision.

The boy's spontaneous insistence on the primacy of life also reminded me of a powerful pro-life speaker and writer who, many years ago, helped me become a pro-lifer. He was a preacher, a black preacher. He said: "There are those who argue that the right to privacy is of a higher order than the right to life.

"That," he continued, "was the premise of slavery. You could not protest the existence or treatment of slaves on the plantation because that was private and therefore out of your right to be concerned." This passionate reverend used to warn: "Don't let the pro-choicers convince you that a fetus isn't a human being. That's how the whites dehumanized us... The first step was to distort the image of us as human beings in order to justify what they wanted to do and not even feel they'd done anything wrong."

That preacher was the Rev. Jesse Jackson.

It's all in the dehumanization.

The bad week for America continues… (Protein Wisdom, 6/13/06)

From the Daily Kos, commenter CheChe puts into words what I think many of us are feeling today, what with Bush in Baghdad and Rove cleared (though to be fair, some, God bless their fortitude, continue to hold out hope that Rudolph’s magical red nose will bring that Fitzmas sled in under heavy fog, no matter what Mr Luskin says):

I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a look of misery and dejection on the face of my daughter as I just did a moment ago. She just couldn’t understand why the President would be going to Iraq when so many things are wrong in this country. “Doesn’t Mr. Bush care about us anymore?” she asked pitifully.

I sat down with her on the sofa and (as calmly as I could) tried to explain to her why the President seems to be abandoning his country. “Honey, I think his boss, Mr. Rove, sent Mr. Bush out of the country in order to keep himself out of the newspapers. You see, he wasn’t sure if he was going to be arrested today or not, and so he planned Mr. Bush’s trip ahead of time just in case...”

I tried to keep my voice steady, but it became increasingly difficult - the rage and feelings of helplessness were just too much. I think my daughter could tell something was wrong. I found myself at such a loss for words - nothing made any sense; nothing makes sense anymore. I finally had to admit, “Honey, I just don’t know - I don’t know what’s going on in this country anymore...”

When I finished her lower lip started to tremble and her eyes began to fill with tears, “Daddy” she said, “why are the Republicans doing this to the country?” Well, that was it for me: I finally fell apart. She just fell into my arms and we both began sobbing for several minutes.

Maybe I'm missing something, but is there any way to read this other than that the bad week began with our getting Zarqawi?

Is it just me, or does Mr. Dionne sound like the delusional little girl in that story, A new and improved New Deal (E.J. Dionne, 6/14/06, Washingston Post)

There is no sturdier liberal or Democratic slogan than "Jobs, jobs, jobs." But liberals have a problem: The old capitalist job-production machine is not working the way it used to. The venerable promise that new (progressive) leadership will create masses of well-paying jobs is harder to make, and even harder to keep.

In principle, this is a larger problem for conservatives, whose main economic program involves reinforcing the status quo by giving tax cuts to rich people so they have more money to invest. Conservatives simply ignore the fact that fewer jobs are being created, particularly at home, for each dollar invested.

But conservatives are expected to stand up for the rich. Liberals are supposed to expand the standard of living for everybody else. That is harder than it used to be.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:27 PM


Why Pretend That Hillary Is Progressive? (Norman Solomon, June 12, 2006, AlterNet)

The scheduled speech by Sen. Hillary Clinton at the "Take Back America 2006" conference in Washington on June 13 is likely to intensify discussion about her relationship with the progressive grassroots of the Democratic Party.

Many weeks ago the conference sponsor, the Campaign for America's Future, sent out an email telling prospective attendees: "As in years past, we expect America's most prominent progressive leaders to attend and address the conference. Invited speakers include..." On the list was Hillary Clinton. [...]

[Jonathan Tasini, the longtime union activist who's running -- on an antiwar and all-around progressive platform -- against Clinton in this year's Democratic primary for senator from New York, ] points out that Hillary Clinton remains for the war in Iraq, for so-called "free trade" agreements and for the death penalty. She supported the notorious 2001 bankruptcy bill, "has never been for single-payer health insurance" and has worked hard to undermine a host of other progressive positions.

In the interests of truth-in-labeling, shouldn't Hillary Clinton be described as anti-progressive?

It's not sufficient just to oppose the progressives--she needs to actually propose, or better yet help pass, some compassionate conservative legislation--but it's a good start.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:24 PM


FATAL DESPERATION AT GUANTANAMO: While the government characterizes the suicides of three detainees as a 'PR move,' overwhelming evidence points to
the true cause of their deaths -- acute despair. (Onnesha Roychoudhuri, 6/13/06, AlterNet)

Handy rule of thumb: when your opponents feel acute despair they're losing.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:45 PM


Atlanta's former mayor sentenced to prison: Judge says Campbell has not accepted responsibility for crimes (CNN, June 13, 2006)

Former Atlanta Mayor Bill Campbell, who presided over the city's 1990s economic renaissance, was sentenced Tuesday to 30 months in prison and fined more than $6,000 for racketeering and tax evasion.

U.S. District Judge Richard Story praised Campbell, 53, for two decades of public service but said he could not ignore his crimes.

Strangely enough, the mayor appears not to be a member of any political party.

Official convicted in travel deal (STEVE SCHULTZE, June 12, 2006, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel)

A federal jury on Monday convicted a state procurement official of fixing a travel contract for a contributor to Gov. Jim Doyle's campaign, adding a potentially explosive issue to the race for governor this fall.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:40 PM


No music, no dancing, no football as Muslim law takes over from reign of the warlords: The man who drove US-backed warlords out of Mogadishu says he has no desire for an Islamic state (Rob Crilly, 6/13/06, Times of London)

THE man who has just imposed Sharia on one of Africa’s most brutal capitals breezes into the simple villa which serves as his headquarters.

“Please forgive my lateness,” Sheikh Sharif Ahmed says politely. He has spent the morning accepting donations of rice, sugar and cooking oil from local businessmen.

Sheikh Ahmed used to be a teacher until a gang kidnapped one of his students. He began campaigning for Islamic courts, with strict laws and punishments, to counter the chaos of a city run by warlords since the fall of President Siad Barre in 1991. Today his Union of Islamic Courts runs Mogadishu, its militias having expelled the warlords last week, and Sheikh Ahmed is causing consternation in the West.

Washington is widely believed to have been backing the warlords to check the spread of the Sharia courts and the alleged influence of al-Qaeda.

In an interview with The Times Sheikh Ahmed insists the courts have no interest in turning Somalia into an Islamic state or governing like the Taleban in Afghanistan. He claims to have no agenda beyond keeping the warlords from the city.

“We don’t do anything. We will make facilities for the community — whether politicians or intellectuals, women or youths — we make facilities for people to choose what they want,” he says. “We just want to defend our people.”

US trading hostilities for talk in Somalia?: An international meeting Thursday indicates the White House may be willing to work with certain Islamic militants. (Howard LaFranchi, 6/14/06, The Christian Science Monitor)
[T]he US is sending out conciliatory signals to the Islamic Courts Union, which vows to turn Somalia into a religious state under sharia law. In addition to setting up the international contact group, the State Department is issuing cautious, open-minded statements toward the advancing Islamists.

The tone suggests a carefully revised US position on Somalia, analysts say. The broader lesson, they add, may be that instead of rejecting Islamist political groups outright, the US will have to do more to differentiate friend from foe within Islamist political movements.

They're easy enough to dispose of if they turn out to be Talibanic.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:37 PM


NY gold loses most in 15 years (Reuters, 6/13/06)

Gold futures plummeted 7.3 percent on Tuesday, the biggest fall in more than 15 years, closing below $600 an ounce on heavy selling due to a stronger dollar, soft oil price and concerns over interest rate hikes.

Silver dropped 13 percent and fell below $10 an ounce as speculative liquidation pummeled the precious and base metals, and platinum and palladium futures also tumbled.

Stop-loss selling hammered gold after the market retreated below first $600 and then $590, which were recent trend-line support levels, said trading sources. It was the biggest decline for bullion since a 7.4 percent drop on January 17, 1991.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:54 PM


Bush May Meet Vow To Halve The Deficit Three Years Early (JED GRAHAM, 6/12/2006, INVESTOR'S BUSINESS DAILY)

Aided by surging tax receipts, President Bush may make good on his pledge to cut the deficit in half in 2006 — three years early.

Tax revenues are running $176 billion, or 12.9%, over last year, the Treasury Department said Monday. The Congressional Budget Office said receipts have risen faster over the first eight months of fiscal '06 than in any other such period over the past 25 years — except for last year's 15.5% jump. [...]

The CBO forecast in May that the 2006 deficit could fall as low as $300 billion. Michael Englund, chief economist of Action Economics, has long expected a deficit of about $270 billion this year. Now he thinks there's a chance the "remarkable strength in receipts" will push the deficit even lower.

With the economy topping $13 trillion this year, a $270 billion deficit would equal less than 2.1% of GDP, easily beating the president's 2.25% goal. Bush made his vow when the White House had a dour 2004 deficit forecast of 4.5% of GDP, or $521 billion. The actual '04 deficit came in at $412 billion, or 3.5% of GDP, before falling to $318 billion, or 2.6% of GDP, in 2005.

It was a sucker bet when he made it, but Democrats, the media and the far Right never seem to tire of playing the sucker for him.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:20 PM


U.S. court tosses lawsuit over "In God We Trust" (Reuters, 6/13/06)

A U.S. district court judge on Monday dismissed a lawsuit brought by a California atheist against the U.S. government for its use of the phrase "In God We Trust" on its coins and currency.

Michael Newdow, the Sacramento, California lawyer and doctor who had previously launched a court challenge on behalf of his daughter over the phrase "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance said in schools, had argued that "In God We Trust" on monetary instruments violates his rights.

Newdow claimed that by using coins and currency bearing the phrase, he is forced to carry religious dogma, proselytise and evangelise for monotheism.[...]

"The case is really straightforward. The history is overwhelmingly on my side," Newdow said.

He's right, of course, it's just the history is France's, not America's.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:27 PM


Democrats Make Wal-Mart an Issue at Their Peril (Thomas Riehle, 6/13/06, Real Clear Politics)

Democratic candidates hoping to gain politically by attacking Wal-Mart in this election cycle might want to rethink their strategy. In fact, results from a recent RT Strategies poll indicate such a campaign strategy would be counterproductive. By a 3-to-1 margin, 62% disapprove and only 21% approve of "Democratic candidates making Wal-Mart an issue in November's elections," in the RT Strategies poll conducted June 1-5 with a representative sample of 1,209 adults nationwide. The margin of error is + 2.7.

Almost half of each of the key Democratic subgroups disapprove of this type of anti-Wal-Mart campaign, including 49% of Democrats, 48% of non-whites, 51% of union households (!) , 51% of those who want Democrats to win control of Congress in 2006, and even 50% of 2004 Kerry voters all disapprove.

RT Strategies oversampled African-Americans and Hispanics in order to be sure we had enough adults from these base Democratic groups to draw statistically sound inferences about their reaction to a Democratic candidate who made Wal-Mart the issue in the campaign. On that basis alone, 29% of African-Americans and 30% of Hispanics would vote against that Democratic candidate.

If they weren't running with the 30% end of an issue the Democrats would feel lost.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:24 PM


Sex Isn't a Spectator Sport: Germany's World Cup pimping will fuel sex trafficking. (A Christianity Today editorial, 06/12/2006)

Seeking to better her life, Irina, 18, answers a newspaper advertisement for a training course in Berlin. Using a falsified passport, she travels from her native Ukraine to Germany. There she is told the school is closed and sent to Belgium for a "job." Upon arrival, Irina learns she owes those in charge $10,000 and must repay the debt by prostitution. Irina's handlers take her documents, beat and rape her, and make her a prostitute. Eventually they turn her over to another pimp in Brussels' red-light district. Watching for a chance at freedom, Irina escapes one day—only to be jailed by the police because she has no documentation.

Sexual trafficking is a huge problem in Europe and worldwide. University of Rhode Island researcher Donna M. Hughes, who relates Irina's story, says global trafficking in women and girls for purposes of sexual exploitation rakes in $7 billion every year. Untold millions more are domestic "sex workers" within their own countries.

Human-rights groups are understandably outraged by Germany's decision to make prostitution a spectator sport at the World Cup. Germany, which legalized the world's oldest profession in 2002, already has an estimated 400,000 legal prostitutes. Apparently that's not sufficient to satisfy 3 million visiting soccer fans. So Germany's World Cup cities have issued extra prostitution licenses and approved "sex huts" (complete with condoms and snacks) to be set up like portable potties around stadiums.

Anti-trafficking activists say these initiatives will bring 40,000 more women into the country. Many will be poor Eastern Europeans like Irina, under the control of organized crime.

Our book features an essay co-authored by Ms Hughes.

Posted by David Cohen at 4:21 PM


An excellent Army video.

Posted by David Cohen at 4:05 PM


Statement by Christopher Wolf, Proskauer Rose LLP, Counsel for Ambassador Joseph Wilson and Valerie Plame Wilson (6/13/06)

The following is a statement by Christopher Wolf, Proskauer Rose LLP, Counsel for Ambassador Joseph Wilson and Valerie Plame Wilson

We have become aware of the communication between Mr. Fitzgerald and Mr. Luskin concerning Karl Rove's status in the criminal investigation. We have no first-hand knowledge of the reason for the communication or what further developments in the criminal investigation it may signal. While it appears that Mr. Rove will not be called to answer in criminal court for his participation in the wrongful disclosure of Valerie Wilson's classified employment status at the CIA in retaliation against Joe Wilson for questioning the rationale for war in Iraq, that obviously does not end the matter. The day still may come when Mr. Rove and others are called to account in a court of law for their attacks on the Wilsons.

Because what could be more American than using the Courts to punish truthful political speech?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:28 PM


Wholesale Inflation Slows in May (MARTIN CRUTSINGER , 06.13.2006, AP)

Inflation at the wholesale level slowed in May after two big months of increases, even though gasoline prices and inflation pressures outside of energy and food continued to climb.

The Labor Department reported Tuesday that its Producer Price Index, which measures inflation pressures before they reach the consumer, was up just 0.2 percent last month, even better than the 0.4 percent rise that many economists had been expecting. The improvement reflected the fact that energy prices rose by just 0.4 percent after a 4 percent jump in April, and food prices actually fell by 0.5 percent.

However, the core rate of inflation, which excludes food and energy, was up 0.3 percent in May, compared with more modest gains of 0.1 percent in both March and April.

Posted by David Cohen at 12:43 PM


In a Ruined Copper Works, Evidence That Bolsters a Doubted Biblical Tale (John Noble Wilford, NY Times, 6/13/06)

In biblical lore, Edom was the implacable adversary and menacing neighbor of the Israelites. The Edomites lived south of the Dead Sea and east of the desolate rift valley known as Wadi Arabah, and from time to time they had to be dealt with by force, notably by the likes of Kings David and Solomon.

Today, the Edomites are again in the thick of combat — of the scholarly kind. The conflict is heated and protracted, as is often the case with issues related to the reliability of the Bible as history.

Chronology is at the crux of the debate. Exactly when did the nomadic tribes of Edom become an organized society with the might to threaten Israel? Were David and Solomon really kings of a state with growing power in the 10th century B.C.? Had writers of the Bible magnified the stature of the two societies at such an early time in history?

An international team of archaeologists has recorded radiocarbon dates that they say show the tribes of Edom may have indeed come together in a cohesive society as early as the 12th century B.C., certainly by the 10th. The evidence was found in the ruins of a large copper-processing center and fortress at Khirbat en-Nahas, in the lowlands of what was Edom and is now part of Jordan.

Thomas E. Levy, a leader of the excavations, said in an interview last week that the findings there and at abandoned mines elsewhere in the region demonstrated that the Edomites had developed a complex state much earlier than previously thought....

"We have discovered a degree of social complexity in the land of Edom," they wrote, "that demonstrates the weak reed on the basis of which a number of scholars have scoffed at the idea of a state or complex chiefdom in Edom at this early period."

The findings, Dr. Levy and Dr. Najjar added, lend credence to biblical accounts of the rivalry between Edom and the Israelites in what was then known as Judah. By extension, they said, this supported the tradition that Judah itself had by the time of David and Solomon, in the early 10th century, emerged as a kingdom with ambition and the means of fighting off the Edomites....

In the context, Dr. Levy and Dr. Najjar wrote, "the biblical references to the Edomites, especially their conflicts with David and subsequent Judahite kings, garner a new plausibility."

Any day now, we'll learn something our ancestors didn't know....

Posted by David Cohen at 9:21 AM


President Bush arrives in Iraq: state TV (Reuters, 6/13/06)

President Bush has arrived in Iraq, state television said on Tuesday.

It gave no more details.

Bush Makes Surprise Visit to Iraq (Michael Abramowitz, June 13, 2006, Washington Post )

President Bush arrived in Baghdad today for a face-to-face meeting with new Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki -- an effort, the White House said, to get a clear sense of the premier's priorities and how the U.S. government could help his government succeed.

The White House originally had said Bush was scheduled to be at Camp David and to hold a video-conference with Maliki this morning. Instead, without telling the Iraqi government or all but his closest advisers, the president slipped out of Washington last night and made the 11-hour trip to Baghdad International Airport, landing at 4:08 p.m. Baghdad time (8:08 a.m. EDT). [...]

"Good to see you," Maliki said to the president, who was escorted by a retinue of aides, including U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalizad and the senior U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. George W. Casey Jr.

Bush Makes Surprise Visit to Baghdad (Terence Hunt, AP, 6/13/06)
President Bush made a surprise visit to Iraq on Tuesday to meet newly named Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and discuss the next steps in the troubled, three-year-old war.

It was a dramatic move by Bush, traveling to violence-rattled Baghdad less than a week after the death of terror chief Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in a bombing attack. The president was expected to be in Baghdad a little more than five hours....

Landing at Baghdad airport, Bush transferred to a helicopter for a six-minute ride into the heavily fortified Green Zone. White House officials said the helicopter ride posed the greatest risk for the president....

In Baghdad, Bush was to meet with al-Maliki and senior members of his Cabinet. White House officials said the president wanted to meet face- to-face with the prime minister to size him up and assure him of U.S. support.

He said the message that he wants to send to the Iraqi government is "we stand with you. What you're doing is important."...

Bush's aides had expected the president to be with them [at Camp David] on Tuesday for a video conference between Baghdad and Camp David of al-Maliki and his cabinet members and Bush and his team.

Instead, Bush was in Iraq for the video conference.

The guy does have a sense of humor.

MORE MORE: Bush Flies to Baghdad to Back Iraqi Leader (John F. Burns, Christine Hauser, NY Times, 6/13/06)

After a secretive overnight flight to Baghdad, President Bush held his first direct talks with Iraq's Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki today, offering a dramatic show of support to the new government while driving home the message that the country's future is in Iraqi hands.
Have I crossed the wingnut threshold because I think that the use of "secretive" rather than "secret" is a lefty-bias jab at the President?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:35 AM


Will Chile's President Flunk the Test? (Mary Anastasia O'Grady, Wall Street Journal)

It is critical to separate the students' fundamental gripe from the radicalism of Chile's ultra left, which seeks to destabilize democracy itself. The students' central complaint -- that public schools are shoddy -- has a certain validity in the eyes of many law-abiding Chileans and even the conservative Catholic Church. Unfortunately, Ms. Bachelet's proposal to throw money at the problem doesn't inspire confidence in a solution.

In 1982, Chile introduced a voucher system that allows children to use government funds to attend either public or private schools. The voucher system seeks to improve the quality of education by creating competition for students. Among private-school students, it has worked; test scores are up. But public schools remain disappointing.

The problem is that rather than a full-fledged voucher system, Chile has a quasi-voucher program that distorts the choice and competition effects of vouchers by subsidizing public schools directly. The rationale for the subsidy is fine: Since the cost of educating a poor child is higher than a middle-class child, extra funding is needed to support poor children. But unfortunately, that extra funding does not go into the hands of the student as a tool for choice. Instead, it goes directly to the public schools that the poor children attend. If a poor student wants to go to a private school, he cannot take the subsidy with him.

Claudio Sapelli, a Chicago-trained economist at the Catholic University in Santiago, has studied the distortions of the quasi-voucher system and written a chapter in the book "What America Can Learn From School Choice In Other Countries," (Cato Institute, 2005). On the subject of the "non-portable" funding, he wrote, "schools receive it in the form of supply subsidies, which merely accentuates the dependence of poor students on public schools." In other words, in the absence of making the subsidy portable, neither choice nor competition have had a chance to emerge.

The trouble for Chilean politicians is that the government bureaucracy and teachers' unions are powerful special interests. So although a more competitive system is needed, the incentive to feed the monster bureaucracy may be greater.

How Chile's growth skipped its schools: Students have ended three weeks of protests, but vow to push for school reform. (Jen Ross, 6/14/06, The Christian Science Monitor)

Almost 15 percent of Chilean high school kids study in fully privatized schools, 35 percent are in municipal public schools, and the remaining 50 percent attend cheaper private schools with state subsidies. But according to Vera, only a handful of subsidized schools manage to achieve the results of those in the private system. He says almost 90 percent of students in fully privatized schools will go on to university, whereas only 10 to 15 percent do so from subsidized or fully public schools. On national exams, the average scores for students in Chile's public schools are almost half that of their counterparts in private schools.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:31 AM


Ex-Morales backer decries party betrayal (Martin Arostegui, 6/13/06, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

Adriana Gil braved death threats, public insults and social ostracism to campaign for Evo Morales in Bolivia's conservative eastern region during the presidential election last year. She now feels "betrayed" by the ruling Movement Toward Socialism, which expelled her and invaded her family's land.

Miss Gil had won a seat representing MAS on the city council, and her family contributed generously to Mr. Morales' campaign. But none of that has protected her from the new government's revolutionary land redistribution policies.

She cried before TV cameras earlier this month when truckloads of armed Quechua Indians occupied her farmland, burned down the homes of tenant farmers and seized their cattle.

"It's a conspiracy and a vendetta against me," said Miss Gil, a 24-year-old Santa Cruzheiress who described herself in an interview as a "social democrat."

She said she is being persecuted for speaking out against the increasingly authoritarian policies of the new president. "The Bolivian people voted for change, not for a dictator," she said.

Her mistake was thinking there's a difference between the two.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:29 AM


Australia overrules gay union law (BBC, 6/13/06)

Australia's conservative national government has overruled a local law allowing gay unions.

The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) became the first part of the country to legally recognise gay relationships when it voted on the issue last month.

But now the federal government has stepped in to invalidate the new law.

Attorney General Philip Ruddock said that federal law clearly defined marriage as being only between a man and a woman.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:27 AM


Zarqawi successor the new target (Stephen Dinan, June 13, 2006, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

President Bush said yesterday that U.S. forces will now hunt down the next leader of al Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Hamza al-Muhajer, who was named by a Web site as the replacement for slain terrorist Abu Musab Zarqawi.

"The successor to Zarqawi is going to be on our list to bring to justice," Mr. Bush said after spending the day discussing strategy with U.S. officials at Camp David, the presidential retreat in Maryland.

Al-Muhajer was not among the names that U.S. intelligence officials reportedly expected as successors. His name was posted on a Web site used by al Qaeda in Iraq, which called him "a beloved brother with jihadi experience and a strong footing in knowledge," according to the Associated Press.

And one foot in the grave.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:18 AM


Coffee cuts damage from alcohol: Study (CARLA K. JOHNSON, 6/13/06, ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Coffee may counteract alcohol's poisonous effects on the liver and help prevent cirrhosis, researchers say.

In a study of more than 125,000 people, one cup of coffee per day cut the risk of alcoholic cirrhosis by 20 per cent. Four cups per day reduced the risk by 80 per cent.

The coffee effect held true for women and men of various ethnic backgrounds.

Okay, so beer and coffee are good for you--what next? Lying on the couch watching sports on tv?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:02 AM


Hits just keep coming for Ichiro: M's right fielder continues brilliant batting in singular fashion (DAVID ANDRIESEN, 6/13/06, Seattle Post-Intelligencer)

Ichiro has gone on some tears, but what he's done the past few weeks would have to rank near the top. It took him just over a month to raise his average 100 points, from .260 to .362, between May 5 and June 8. He's batting .366, second in the American League.

Boosting your average 100 points in a month, in the middle of the season? It sounds all but impossible -- but then again so does batting .457 over a 31-game span, which is how Ichiro did it.

Two months ago he was on pace for his worst season. Now he's on pace for 255 hits, just a stone's throw from his major league record of 262. He set that record in 2004, when he started with a .255 April -- 32 points worse than his April performance this year.

"The league had a month to get him out," Mariners outfielder Willie Bloomquist said. "Now for the rest of the season, it's payback time."

He only has to boost it half that the rest of the way.

Ichiro's on another upswing (Bob Finnigan, 6/13/06, Seattle Times)

They'll have trouble translating this one back in Japan, but the latest word on Ichiro's batting is: "flat-dab."

As in: "The guy can just flat-dab hit."

That, according to Mariners manager Mike Hargrove, is pure Panhandle Texan talk.

Ichiro seemingly has, if not reinvented himself, reinvigorated the wonder, and helped recharge Seattle's batteries. Ichiro is hitting .461 since May 19, and the Mariners have gone 14-9 during that stretch and have a chance to right their season.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:58 AM


MMR scandal doctor may face professional misconduct charges (ALISON HARDIE, 6/13/06, The Scotsman)

ANDREW Wakefield, the disgraced doctor blamed for the MMR vaccine scare, could be prosecuted on four charges of serious professional misconduct, it emerged yesterday.

The General Medical Council (GMC) confirmed it was investigating Dr Wakefield as new figures highlighted once again that the number of children being given the MMR jab in Scotland had slumped dangerously low.

Experts warned that with an average of 90.9 per cent of two-year-olds receiving the vaccination, uptake levels were still well below the crucial "herd immunity" level of 95 per cent.

Research led by Dr Wakefield, published in medical journal The Lancet in 1998, suggested a link between the triple measles, mumps and rubella (German measles) jab and autism and bowel problems.

The Lancet later said that the research had been "entirely flawed" and admitted it should never have been published, because it represented a "fatal conflict of interest".

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:53 AM


Scotland to hit green energy target three years early (LOUISE GRAY, 6/13/06, The Scotsman)

SCOTLAND will meet its renewable energy targets three years earlier than planned as a string of controversial wind farm projects comes on stream, according to a report.

Scottish Renewables, the body that represents the green power sector, said the country was set to meet its 2010 target of generating 18 per cent of electricity from renewables by the end of next year.

And with more ambitious development of tide and wave power schemes, the organisation predicted that more than half of Scotland's electricity needs could be satisfied through sustainable means by 2020 - compared to an Executive target of 40 per cent.

Easy enough.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:47 AM


Flight of Young Adults Is Causing Alarm Upstate (SAM ROBERTS, 6/13/06, NY Times)

Upstate New York is staggering from an accelerating exodus of young adults, new census results show. The migration is turning many communities grayer, threatening the long-term viability of ailing cities and raising concerns about the state's future tax base.

From 1990 to 2004, the number of 25-to-34-year-old residents in the 52 counties north of Rockland and Putnam declined by more than 25 percent. In 13 counties that include cities like Buffalo, Syracuse and Binghamton, the population of young adults fell by more than 30 percent. In Tioga County, part of Appalachia in New York's Southern Tier, 42 percent fewer young adults were counted in 2004 than in 1990.

"Make no mistake: this is not business as usual," Robert G. Wilmers, the chairman of M & T Bank in Buffalo, told his shareholders this spring. "The magnitude and duration of population loss among the young is unprecedented in our history. There has never been a previous 10-year period in the history of the upstate region when there has been any decline in this most vital portion of our population."

In New York City and the five suburban counties in New York State, the number of people ages 18 to 44 increased by 1.5 percent in the 1990's. Upstate, it declined by 10 percent.

Over all, the upstate population grew by 1.1 percent in the 1990's — slower than the rate for any state except West Virginia and North Dakota.

Population growth upstate might have lagged even more but for the influx of 21,000 prison inmates, who accounted for 30 percent of new residents. During the first half of the current decade, the pace of depopulation actually increased in many places.

David Shaffer, president of the Public Policy Institute, which is affiliated with the Business Council of New York State, described the hemorrhaging of young adults as "the worst kind of loss."

"You don't just magically make it up with new births," he said. "These are the people who are starting careers, starting families, buying homes."

In almost every place upstate, emigration rates were highest among college graduates, producing a brain drain, according to separate analyses of census results for The New York Times by two demographers, William Frey of the Brookings Institution and Andrew A. Beveridge of Queens College of the City University of New York. Among the nation's large metropolitan areas, Professor Frey said, Buffalo and Rochester had the highest rates of what he called "bright flight."

Irwin L. Davis, president of the Metropolitan Development Association in Syracuse, which promotes economic growth in central New York, said, "We're educating them and they're leaving."

And Gary D. Keith, vice president and regional economist for M & T Bank, said, "Sluggish job growth is the biggest driver of out-migration among young upstate adults."

As young adults flee the dying Blue States for the vital Red it will just continue to shift power to the GOP in the House and make the Electoral College an insurmountable obstacle for Democrats.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:42 AM


Blair risks Arab anger by backing Israeli plan to impose new border (Richard Beeston, Diplomatic Editor, and Stephen Farrell in Gaza, 6/13/06, Times of London)

EHUD OLMERT, Israel’s new Prime Minister, was in jubilant mood last night after Tony Blair gave him tacit approval to move forward on the next stage of his controversial unilateral withdrawal plan.

“I feel very much encouraged. He wants what is good for us and the Palestinians,” the Israeli leader said after his talks at 10 Downing Street. The reason for his glowing assessment was Mr Blair’s unexpectedly positive remarks regarding Mr Olmert’s plan to “realign” Israel’s deployment in the West Bank.

After the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza last year, Mr Olmert wants to repeat the process in “90 per cent” of the West Bank. But the move is fraught with controversy. He intends Israel to hold on to several large Jewish settlement blocks and Arab East Jerusalem, which would be incorporated into Israel behind a security wall.

Mr Blair and Mr Olmert insisted that they would prefer a negotiated settlement with the Palestinian leadership.

How can folks still be surprised when Mr. Blair backs a member of the Axis of Good?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:23 AM


Prosecutors Inform Rove He Won't Be Charged in CIA Leak Case (John Solomon, 6/13/06, Associated Press)

Top White House aide Karl Rove has been told by prosecutors he won't be charged with any crimes in the investigation into leak of a CIA officer's identity, his lawyer said Tuesday.

How's that Democrat strategy of running on nothing but "corruption" looking?

No Indictment of Rove in CIA-Leak Case: Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald makes a decision. (Byron York, 6/13/06, National Review)

The key question to be resolved by Fitzgerald was said to be whether to charge Rove in connection with his testimony regarding a brief July 11, 2003, conversation with Time magazine’s Matthew Cooper. In both his interview with the FBI and in his first grand jury appearance, Rove did not tell investigators about the conversation with Cooper. By the time Rove appeared for a second time before the grand jury, Rove had discovered evidence — an internal White House e-mail — showing that he did indeed talk to Cooper. Rove gave the evidence to Fitzgerald, who then questioned him about it at length.

Rove is thought to have testified that he simply did not remember the Cooper conversation until he discovered the e-mail. (Cooper himself described the talk as being about two minutes long and occurring right as Rove was leaving on vacation.) Supporting Rove’s contention was the fact that Rove, apparently, testified from the very beginning that he talked to columnist Robert Novak, which suggested he was not trying to hide his involvement in the case from Fitzgerald.

June 12, 2006

Posted by David Cohen at 7:54 PM


How to Take Back Congress: Advice for the Democrats (Washington Post, 6/11/06)

The war in Iraq is over except for the dying. Campaign for a date to bring our forces home. Speak for Americans on big issues like gas prices, health care, the environment and alternative energy. Don't be afraid to say we're for the people, not the powerful. Be Democrats -- for a change.

-- Robert Shrum, senior adviser to John Kerry's 2004 presidential campaign

Just never say that Democrats are defeatists who are counting on the insurgents to bring victory to the Party.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:19 PM


Most dads don't want much for Father's Day, survey finds (Knight Ridder Newspapers, Jun. 12, 2006)

He taught you how to ride a bike, warded off the monsters under your bed and was your No. 1 fan on game day. So have you bought Dad anything for Father's Day yet?

Fear not. All he probably wants for the holiday is a greeting card, according to a new shopping trend survey. One-third of the dads in a survey sponsored by Discover Card said they considered a card their ideal gift.

We especially don't want the cards and The Wife frequently complains that I'm a heartless bastard because I don't save them. As if there was room in the boxes full of baseball cards and comic books from forty years ago for mere greeting cards.....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:50 PM


Arms race takes place in Motown (Sports Network, 6/12/06)

Two of baseball's most exciting young pitchers will be on display tonight in Detroit's Comerica Park when the Tigers start a four- game series with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

The Tigers will send out hard-throwing rookie Justin Verlander in Monday's opener, while the Devil Rays counter with 22-year-old sensation Scott Kazmir. Both hurlers enter the matchup with identical 7-4 season records and each ranks among the American League's top 10 in earned run average.

They could be two of the dominant arms for the next fifteen years and Monday Night Baseball is showing the Rangers/White Sox? Thank goodness for MLB radio...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:34 PM


Carry on the battle to conquer tyranny: From Iraq to Solomon Islands, Australians have a special duty to help extend the blessings of liberty and democracy across the world (Alexander Downer, June 13, 2006, The Australian)

Australia continues to be a significant force for the spread of freedom and democracy. We have fought wars for these values in the past, we continue to fight for them now and we will work in many ways to achieve the same outcomes in the future. [...]

It is a recurring theme in Australian foreign policy that where an oppressed people stand for freedom and democracy, Australia plays its part.

We are a significant country that is determined to use its resources and influence to support these values, whether it be with troops in the mountains of Afghanistan or with public servants in the offices of a Pacific island finance department. The desired outcome is similar.

I will not deny that there is a streak of altruism in this position. But it is also very much about self-interest. As I argued earlier, democracy, freedom, accountability and the rule of law all work against extremism and in favour of moderation and tolerance.

Therefore, by acting to support these values with our neighbours, in our region and across the globe, we help to provide a stable and secure environment in which we can live peacefully and prosper. This reality is borne out by simply contemplating the alternative: Australia trying to prosper in a region or a world of failed or despotic states.

While Australians are a little coy about how we express our commitment to freedom and democracy, we are also stoic and effective in the way we undertake the tasks involved. Our soldiers, our aid workers, our police and our bureaucrats are universally praised for their co-operative and egalitarian attitude as they go about their work in a matter-of-fact manner here and abroad. We will need those qualities for many years into the future because this is no easy task.

No matter how we express it, or the many ways we tackle it, support for freedom and democracy has to be an enduring aim of our foreign policy. And it will continue to be our guiding principle.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:50 PM


Addicted to Bad Data: Getting the Facts Straight on Ethanol (The New Atlantis, Spring 2006)

[Economist Kevin] Hassett’s sharpest line of attack [on President Bush's push for ethanol] was over the so-called “energy balance” of ethanol—that is, the difference between the energy produced by a fuel and the energy required to produce it. Hassett argued that ethanol’s energy balance is negative—that ethanol actually wastes energy, belying all claims that producing the biofuel serves our environmental or national-security interests. He writes:

A recent careful study by Cornell University’s David Pimentel and the University of California at Berkeley’s Tad Patzek added up all the energy consumption that goes into ethanol production. They took account of the energy it takes to build and run tractors. They added in the energy embodied in the other inputs and irrigation. They parsed out how much is used at the ethanol plant. Putting it all together, they found that it takes 29 percent more energy to make ethanol from corn than is contained in the ethanol itself.

While Hassett admits that “some other authors have disputed these findings,” he says “they invariably come up with more favorable calculations by excluding some of the costs.”

Well, actually, not so. Professors Pimentel and Patzek have published several studies on this subject, and these have been thoroughly and repeatedly debunked in the scientific literature, in government reports from the Department of Energy and Department of Agriculture, in congressional testimony, and elsewhere. (Much of this information is collected on the website of the Department of Energy’s Alternative Fuels Data Center.) Reputable scientists have publicly called the work of Pimentel and Patzek “shoddy,” “unconvincing,” and lacking in basic scientific transparency. The most recent dissection of their claims, appearing in the journal Science in January 2006, found that their results depended upon “some input data that are old and unrepresentative of current [ethanol-production] processes, or so poorly documented that their quality cannot be evaluated.”

One of the most harsh, clear, and forceful critiques of the Pimentel-Patzek studies has come from Bruce E. Dale, a professor of chemical engineering at Michigan State University. Among the many errors Dale has identified is that Pimentel’s work uses figures for corn yields that are too low, and figures for the amount of energy required to produce ethanol that are too high, all because they are seriously outdated. Dale also found that Pimentel’s work has wrongly assumed that all corn is irrigated when only about 15 percent of it is (resulting in exaggerated energy costs for the irrigation of ethanol-producing corn), and that Pimentel failed to assign any energy credit for the animal feed produced as a byproduct of ethanol production. Not only does Professor Dale argue that the energy balance for producing ethanol is significantly positive, but he has also pointed out that the balance of liquid fuel is enormously favorable: more than six gallons of ethanol are produced for every gallon of gasoline or diesel fuel expended in the process. That is a much more relevant metric for ethanol policy, as Dale explained in a 2005 debate with Patzek and Pimentel hosted by the National Corn Growers Association: “We do not need energy per se; we need the services energy provides.... The U.S. has lots of coal and natural gas, but they don’t work in the gas tank. They have the wrong energy quality.”

So how could two such distinguished professors be so wrong? The answer would surely horrify Hassett had he bothered to look into the matter. Patzek, the Berkeley professor, is an accomplished geoengineer with extensive ties to the oil industry; he seems only to have been writing about biofuels for the last few years. But Pimentel, the Cornell professor emeritus, is an entomologist who has been complaining about ethanol since the early 1980s. And he’s not just an opponent of ethanol production. He is also an opponent of beef production. He is a critic of the use of pesticides and opposes much of modern agriculture. He is highly critical of pet cats and dogs. He’s against immigration—both legal and illegal—and ran for a position on the board of the liberal Sierra Club in 2004 on a platform calling for a halt to all immigration. (He was defeated.)

And then there are babies. Professor Pimentel believes there should be fewer of them. Far fewer. According to Pimentel, the Earth’s “carrying capacity” is 2 billion people. The world’s population needs an “adjustment” down to that number, he wrote in the inaugural issue of the journal Environment, Development and Sustainability, and he called for a “democratically determined population control policy” requiring “that each couple produces an average of 1.5 children” to make that happen by the year 2010. (The United States population, he says, should be reduced to under 200 million people.)

Politics surely makes strange bedfellows. But it’s especially strange, and more than a little disappointing, to see Kevin Hassett—a pro-growth economist—quoting the discredited science of a radical Malthusian like David Pimentel. Surely, there are problems with America’s ethanol subsidy program and unsettled questions about the ultimate value of ethanol compared with other potential sources of energy. But it is foolish to allow a general opposition to subsidies to morph into an anti-scientific ideology, getting seduced by shoddy data that support the claims that one wants to make anyway.

It's hardly strange to find someone who's defending the current gasoline based system in league with the anti-human.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:34 PM


Is the idea of multicult a failure? (John Crosbie, June 11, 2006, Toronto Sun)

Last Sunday, my wife Jane and I returned to Canada following a cruise visiting Greece, Turkey, Bulgaria, Ukraine and Russia -- circumnavigating the Black Sea, where the contending forces of Christian and Muslim countries fought for hundreds of years.

Never once did we feel in any danger from any of the peoples we came across from many different nationalities, including the millions of Muslims who live in the areas we visited -- especially Turkey.

It was only as we returned to Canada that we had to think about what is the most important issue involving peace, security and violence in our world today -- with the news of the arrest of 17 suspects on terrorism-related charges in Ontario.

Why is it that Canadians of Christian faith can visit Istanbul and Turkey and not feel any tension or danger, walking together with tens of thousands of Turkish Muslim citizens on the streets of Istanbul, whereas in many western democratic countries today there are strong possibilities of acts of terror that might be committed by people who since World War II have come to these countries, presumably to seek better opportunities for themselves and their children?

Can the attempts of countries such as Canada, the U.S., the United Kingdom and other European Christian societies which have taken a multicultural approach be considered a success or a monumental failure in light of the terrorist threat posed by some of those they have welcomed?

Actually, the point is that for the most part they aren't Christian societies anymore--they're tolerant for tolerance sake.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:41 AM


For Wal-Mart, Fair Trade May Be More Than a Hill of Beans: Retail Giant Looks at Link With Coffee Farmer (Ylan Q. Mui, 6/12/06, Washington Post)

Wal-Mart is in the midst of overhauling its tightfisted image to win over shoppers searching for more than low prices. That effort has taken the company that built an empire on the principle of high volume and low costs into previously uncharted territory, into the realm of trendy apparel and organic food.

Now, with the help of Pereira, it is embarking on one of its most radical undertakings to date: fair trade.

Pereira, 40, is part of a small cooperative of growers living here in the heart of coffee country, where the rolling mountains are lush with trees. The late afternoon sun is strong. Pereira wipes the sweat from his brow with his forearm as he works his six acres. Dirt is jammed deep underneath his fingernails. He has been picking coffee cherries since 5 a.m., stripping them off the branches with his bare hands. They will be dried, and eventually only the pit will be left -- the coffee bean.

Pereira gets a premium for his harvest. His co-op is one of only seven in the country that is fair-trade certified, charging above-market price for beans because it meets certain social and environmental standards.

Wal-Mart is considering bringing Pereira's beans into its namesake stores. It would be a novel arrangement for a company infamous for squeezing pennies out of its suppliers -- and a test of how deep its makeover will really go.

For Pereira, the deal could mean more money, new computers for the co-op or a bigger school for the village. Already some children talk about college and life away from the farm. But it would also inextricably bind the co-op's fortunes to the company from Bentonville, Ark. -- putting all its beans, so to speak, in one basket.

Wal-Mart executives are planning to visit Poco Fundo at the end of the month before making a decision. It's part of the new corporate philosophy outlined by chief executive H. Lee Scott Jr.: "Doing well by doing good."

Pity the poor crunchy cons, all that emotion invested in pretending organic food has meaning and even the hoi polloi can afford it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:35 AM

SISTER...MOTHER....SISTER....MOTHER.... (via Kevin Whited):

US outflanked in Eurasia energy politics (F William Engdahl, 6/13/06, Speaking Freely: Asia Times Online)

The United States' global energy-control strategy, it's now clear to most, was the actual reason for the highly costly regime change in Iraq, euphemistically dubbed "democracy" by Washington. But while it is preoccupied with implanting democracy in the Middle East, the United States is quietly being outflanked in the rush to secure and control major energy sources of the Persian Gulf, the Central Asian Caspian Basin, Africa and beyond.

It's only Monday morning, but Brother Whited sends along a pice that may already have wrapped up the title for "incoherent mess of the week." The first paragraph alone argues that we didn't care about democracy, just oil, but are losing oil by focusing on democracy. Amazing.

Democrats Are Winning... Except at the Polls (Michael Barone, 6/12/06, Real Clear Politics)

"This is just to cover Bush's (rear) so he doesn't have to answer questions" about things in Iraq, said Rep. Pete Stark, second ranking Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee. "This insurgency is such a confused mess that one person, dead or alive at this point, is hardly significant today," said Rep. Jim McDermott, formerly the lead Democrat on the House ethics committee. The deceased, said Rep. Dennis Kucinich, a candidate for the 2004 presidential nomination, was a small part of "a growing anti-American insurgency." He said the United States should get out of Iraq. "We're there for all the wrong reasons."

Such was the reaction of the left wing of the Democratic Party to the killing of al-Qaida terrorist Abu Masab Zarqawi in Iraq. It was not the dominant note sounded by Democrats. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid and 2004 presidential nominee John Kerry all hailed the death of Zarqawi in unequivocal terms. And if Democrats also made the point that his death probably won't end the violence in Iraq, they were only echoing what George W. Bush said.

Nevertheless the Stark-McDermott-Kucinich reaction, echoed and amplified, often scatologically, by dozens of commenters on the popular dailykos.com and myDD.com left-wing Websites, tells us something disturbing about the Democratic Party -- and provides a clue why Democrats were unable to eke out a win in last week's special congressional election in the 50th congressional district of California.

It comes down to this: A substantial part of the Democratic Party, some of its politicians and many of its loudest supporters do not want America to succeed in Iraq.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:25 AM


Forces Kill 37 Militants in Afghanistan (NOOR KHAN, 6/12/06, AP)

Afghan and U.S.-led coalition forces killed 37 suspected militants, including a relative of Taliban leader Mullah Omar, in three separate battles, an Afghan army general said Monday.

Omar's brother-in-law, Mullah Amanullah, was among 15 insurgents killed in one of the battles in Siachave village, in southern Afghanistan's Uruzgan province, when troops stormed the area late Sunday after a tip from tribesmen, said army commander Gen. Rehmatullah Raufi.

Amanullah, whose body was recovered from the village, was the Taliban commander in Uruzgan province's Dihrawud district and responsible for numerous rebel attacks, Raufi said.

Ever get the feeling that at the end of the WoT we win a giant stuffed animal, because it's pretty much just a real-life version of Whack-a-Mole?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:19 AM


The gods are laughing (Tom Harris, June 07, 2006, National Post)

Albert Einstein once said, "Whoever undertakes to set himself up as a judge of truth and knowledge is shipwrecked by the laughter of the gods."

While the gods must consider An Inconvenient Truth the ultimate comedy, real climate scientists are crying over Al Gore's new film. This is not just because the ex-vice-president commits numerous basic science mistakes. They are also concerned that many in the media and public will fail to realize that this film amounts to little more than science fiction.

Gore's credibility is damaged early in the film when he tells the audience that, by simply looking at Antarctic ice cores with the naked eye, one can see when the American Clean Air Act was passed. Dr. Ian Clark, professor of Earth Sciences at the University of Ottawa (U of O) responds, "This is pure fantasy unless the reporter is able to detect parts per billion changes to chemicals in ice." Air over the United States doesn't even circulate to the Antarctic before mixing with most of the northern, then the southern, hemisphere air, and this process takes decades. Clark explains that even far more significant events, such as the settling of dust arising from the scouring of continental shelves at the end of ice ages, are undetectable in ice cores by an untrained eye.

Gore repeatedly labels carbon dioxide as "global warming pollution" when, in reality, it is no more pollution than is oxygen. CO2 is plant food, an ingredient essential for photosynthesis without which Earth would be a lifeless, frozen ice ball. The hypothesis that human release of CO2 is a major contributor to global warming is just that -- an unproven hypothesis, against which evidence is increasingly mounting.

In fact, the correlation between CO2 and temperature that Gore speaks about so confidently is simply non-existent over all meaningful time scales.

There's nothing funnier than a liberal speaking in earnest.

Chocolate, Elvis and foil hats as politicians woo the bloggers (Tom Baldwin, 6/12/06, Times of London)

THERE were people walking around in hats fashioned out of tin foil in Las Vegas over the weekend, the fruits of a workshop on the media at an inaugural annual convention of liberal internet bloggers.

“It’s to stop THEM from frying our brains,” said Lisa Schiff, who writes a regular blog — or web log — under the name of “Crkrjx”. She explained that the tin foil helmets were an “elaborate joke on the much-despised mainstream media”. She said: “Everyone thinks that because we are on the Left we must be conspiracy theorists, even though we have some pretty good ideas.

“I mean,” she added with a sly smile, “look at my hat. I’ve given it a receptor aerial so that it can pick up the truth.”

The Yearly Kos convention is the most formal manifestation yet of what organisers hope will be a burgeoning political movement similarly seeking to harness technology for a higher purpose.

Except for when they try to be funny and come across as earnest....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:17 AM


Beer ingredient may fight prostate cancer (AP, 6/12/06)

A main ingredient in beer may help prevent prostate cancer and enlargement, according to a new study. But researchers say don't rush out to stock the refrigerator because the ingredient is present in such small amounts that a person would have to drink more than 17 beers to benefit.

Oregon State University researchers say the compound xanthohumol, found in hops, inhibits a specific protein in the cells along the surface of the prostate gland.

The protein acts like a signal switch that turns on a variety of animal and human cancers, including prostate cancer.

Cancer typically results from uncontrolled cell reproduction and growth. Xanthohumol belongs to a group of plant compounds called flavonoids, which can trigger the programmed cell death that controls growth, researchers say.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:09 AM


States' Changes Reshape Medicaid: New Restrictions Aim to Save Money (Amy Goldstein, June 12, 2006, Washington Post)

After winning greater freedom from federal Medicaid rules, states are moving aggressively to transform the nation's largest public health insurance program, adding fees, restricting benefits and creating incentives for patients to take responsibility for their health.

The changes are just beginning in several states that are being watched closely by governors nationwide. Those changes are reshaping Medicaid, which covers 55 million poor and disabled Americans, so that the program more closely resembles private insurance, rather than a social welfare system run with a strong, central government hand. [...]

The emerging shape of Medicaid represents a victory for governors of both political parties and for fiscal conservatives, who argued for years that states deserved more control over the program so it would place less strain on their budgets. Some patients advocates, however, warn that the vulnerable patients Medicaid was designed to help will be less certain to get the health care they need.

Since its creation in the 1960s, Medicaid has been a shared responsibility of the federal government and the states. States shoulder more than 40 percent of the cost, which totals $338 billion this year, and have always had certain freedom to decide how many benefits to cover. But the federal government has determined many of the program's basic contours.

Last December, Congress granted states broad flexibility to alter benefits, charge patients more and expand the role of private insurers as part of a law that will cut federal Medicaid spending by $43 billion in the next decade. Even before the law, the Bush administration was sympathetic to states that wanted greater say over how their programs are designed.

The law, called the Deficit Reduction Act, and the administration's policies have eliminated a hallmark of the program: Until now, every Medicaid patient within a state has qualified for the same benefits.

Medicaid's new direction borrows ideas from the overhaul of the welfare system a decade ago. That transformation also decentralized a major piece of the social safety net, limited government assistance, expanded the private sector's role and tried to instill self-reliance in low-income people who had depended on government help.

The Bush administration is encouraging states to embrace the altered view of Medicaid. "We are trying to be as supportive as we can," said Mark B. McClellan, administrator of the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. His agency has been coaching states on the changes they can make -- and swiftly approving states' revisions. When West Virginia's Medicaid commissioner, Nancy V. Atkins, sent the federal agency the proposal for the state's redesigned program on April 26, she was startled that it was approved one week later.

The lighter side of George W. Bush's state funeral will be watching conservative talking heads, who today call him a crypto-liberal, brag about how they fought arm-in-arm with him to transform the welfare state.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:37 AM


I’ve found God, says man who cracked the genome (Steven Swinford, 6/11/06, Sunday Times)

THE scientist who led the team that cracked the human genome is to publish a book explaining why he now believes in the existence of God and is convinced that miracles are real.

Francis Collins, the director of the US National Human Genome Research Institute, claims there is a rational basis for a creator and that scientific discoveries bring man “closer to God”. [...]

For Collins, unravelling the human genome did not create a conflict in his mind. Instead, it allowed him to “glimpse at the workings of God”.

“When you make a breakthrough it is a moment of scientific exhilaration because you have been on this search and seem to have found it,” he said. “But it is also a moment where I at least feel closeness to the creator in the sense of having now perceived something that no human knew before but God knew all along.

“When you have for the first time in front of you this 3.1 billion-letter instruction book that conveys all kinds of information and all kinds of mystery about humankind, you can’t survey that going through page after page without a sense of awe. I can’t help but look at those pages and have a vague sense that this is giving me a glimpse of God’s mind.”

Collins joins a line of scientists whose research deepened their belief in God. Isaac Newton, whose discovery of the laws of gravity reshaped our understanding of the universe, said: “This most beautiful system could only proceed from the dominion of an intelligent and powerful being.”

Although Einstein revolutionised our thinking about time, gravity and the conversion of matter to energy, he believed the universe had a creator. “I want to know His thoughts; the rest are details,” he said. However Galileo was famously questioned by the inquisition and put on trial in 1633 for the “heresy” of claiming that the earth moved around the sun.

Among Collins’s most controversial beliefs is that of “theistic evolution”, which claims natural selection is the tool that God chose to create man. In his version of the theory, he argues that man will not evolve further.

“I see God’s hand at work through the mechanism of evolution. If God chose to create human beings in his image and decided that the mechanism of evolution was an elegant way to accomplish that goal, who are we to say that is not the way,” he says.

“Scientifically, the forces of evolution by natural selection have been profoundly affected for humankind by the changes in culture and environment and the expansion of the human species to 6 billion members. So what you see is pretty much what you get.”

At this rate the brights will be able to hold their meetings in a phone booth.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:07 AM


Dems slipping in state races (Susan Page, 6/12/06, USA TODAY)

In Michigan, Gov. Jennifer Granholm — the darling of Democrats when she was elected in 2002 — is now in a dead heat with Republican challenger Dick DeVos. A statewide poll last month by EPIC-MRA put him at 46%, her at 45%. Last fall, she had held a 23-point lead.

"Michiganders are furious at life, so they're furious at the governor," says Democratic pollster Celinda Lake. DeVos, former president of Amway, has been airing TV ads since February that tap voters' discontent over the state's direction and its battered economy. The state has the nation's second-highest unemployment rate, after Mississippi.

In Wisconsin, Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle is increasingly vulnerable, in part because of ethics controversies in his administration. In a statewide Strategic Vision poll in April, Doyle was at 45%; U.S. Rep. Mark Green, a Republican hopeful, was at 43%.

"At the beginning of the cycle, Democrats were expected to make significant gains," says Jennifer Duffy, who tracks governors' races for the non-partisan Cook Political Report. "Now they will likely make gains, but they won't be nearly what was originally thought."

Among the nation's 10 biggest states, Democratic prospects since the beginning of the year have gotten tougher in four — California, Georgia, Michigan and Pennsylvania — and better in one, New York.

The realigning is hardly done.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:01 AM


Some blacks say Latino immigrants taking their jobs (Lornet Turnbull, 6/12/06, Seattle Times)

A century ago, the same fears of displacement were raised by blacks when legal immigrants poured into the U.S. from across Europe and Asia. "The only time when the black workforce is desired is when there's low immigration," said Morris.

The result are two minority groups fighting for many of the same low-wage, low-skill jobs that promise neither a path out of poverty.

The showdowns are taking place on the streets of cities like Los Angeles, where African Americans have joined demonstrations against illegal immigration.

Some have teamed up with the Minuteman Project, a border-watch group that reports illegal crossings from Mexico into the United States, and whose members some have called vigilantes and racists.

Last month, a coalition of economists, educators and community leaders called Choose Black America called on Congress to reject legislation they believe will only flood the U.S. labor market with even more low-wage immigrants.

In recent months, Morris pointed out, illegal immigrants have become mobilized, with vast networks of support even among such venerable black organizations as the NAACP and the Urban League. Both favor a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants; local chapters have followed suit.

"Some of us feel a need to speak out for those who have no voice," said Morris, who is chairing Choose Black America. "They could be black, white, Hispanic. They are not the people financing campaigns; they are not visible or particularly articulate."

King County Council member Larry Gossett, who is black, denounces tactics he said only serve to divide poor people.

"It's not legitimate nor is it politically helpful to fall into the trap of dividing very poor, semi- or unskilled black and Latino workers," he said. "There's nothing beneficial there."

Sure there is--it makes it easier for the GOP to peel off the fastest rising demographic in the electorate.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:55 AM


Port talk is cheap (Seattle Times, 6/12/06)

Congress talks a good game about improving national security but the talk becomes hollow when the government fails to provide adequate funding to protect vulnerable ports and port cities.

By slashing nearly $650 million in new money for port security, the federal government is saving money at the wrong time and in the wrong place. [...]

All the bipartisan rhetoric about beefing up homeland security, all the indignation and outrage about Dubai Ports World making our country vulnerable, becomes empty when federal funding fails to materialize. This was an investment of federal dollars that made sense.

How's that port sale going, by the way.....
Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:52 AM


Get fill-up of the future now at a fuel oasis in San Diego (TIM MOLLOY, 6/12/06, The Associated Press)

If the United States is going to end its addiction to oil, the fuel station of the future might look like Pearson Ford Fuel Depot.

Along with gasoline and diesel, the one-of-a-kind station — part of a dealership near busy Interstate 15 — offers a full range of clean-burning alternative fuels from ethanol to propane to BioWillie, a brand of biodiesel made from soybeans and promoted by country singer Willie Nelson. [...]

At first glance, the facility looks like any other gas station — except there are pumps labeled "E85" and "compressed natural gas" along with recharging stations for people with electric cars.

The station is the only one in the country that sells such a wide range of fuels. And it's the only facility on the West Coast where private citizens can buy E85, a mix of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline that can be used in a number of models already made in the United States. [...]

High gas prices coupled with President Bush's call for Americans to cut their dependence on foreign oil are drawing more attention to alternative fuels that can be produced domestically, sold cheaper than oil and generate lower amounts of greenhouse gases.

One of the most promising is E85, known for getting fewer miles to the gallon but higher octane, resulting in more horsepower. The fuel works in more than 30 models, including the Yukon sport-utility vehicle from General Motors, Silverado trucks and Impala cars from Chevrolet, and the Ford Taurus. Those flex-fuel cars can run on gas, E85, or combinations of the two.

Automakers turn to gearless transmissions to improve gas mileage (Matt Krantz, 6/12/06, USA TODAY)

Instead of slicker aerodynamics or reduced horsepower, automakers scrambling to increase mileage amid skyrocketing gas prices are going straight to an unexpected place — the transmission.

Nissan and DaimlerChrysler are hoping to raise gas mileage by up to 10% in models by equipping them with a type of computer-controlled transmission that never shifts gears. Called continuously variable transmissions or CVTs, these high-tech gearing systems let engines move seamlessly through the power range.

Ontario to build reactors (ROBERT BENZIE, Jun. 12, 2006, Toronto Star)
The provincial government will announce tomorrow that Ontario is embracing more nuclear power plants, sources told the Toronto Star.

Premier Dalton McGuinty has privately spoken of his government's plans to confidants for days, insiders say.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:41 AM


How the Media Made -- and Killed -- Zarqawi (Brian Shott, June 12, 2006, New America Media)

[Editor's Note: Jamal Dajani is the director of Middle Eastern programming at Link TV. Here, he looks at Arab media's news coverage of the lethal airstrike on Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, Al Qaeda's leader in Iraq.] [...]

BS: What about reports that he was betrayed?

JD: If you listen to Iraqi Prime Minister Malaki, he essentially thanked the public. If the government was able to work with some of the Sunni tribal leaders to give up Zarqawi, that's a shift in tactics and a major achievement. Zarqawi's base is not really Al Qaeda and the foreign fighters, it's really the Sunnis. He managed to hide between them, between those tribal areas. One analysis I've seen is that it's not a coincidence he got betrayed -- people got tired of his indiscriminate killing.

And another analysis, this one from an Egyptian analyst more to the left, is that now the strongest spy agency in Iraq is coming from Iran, and this might be an Iranian gift to the United States. After all, Zarqawi had killed indiscriminately, but he's really been hitting Shiites hard. And of course Iran has strong ties with Iraqi's Shiite population. [...]

BS: So what took coalition forces and the Iraqi government so long to find him?

JD: The argument here is about the complexity of Iraq. That you cannot just come in with 150,000 troops and you're going to control the area. At the end of the day, you need an Iraqi, someone who knows the terrain, the language. The Americans can maybe go and surround a town and destroy it, but they don't have the informers, the knowledge from within.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:26 AM


Blending In, Moving Up (Tyler Cowen and Daniel M. Rothschild, June 12, 2006, Washington Post)

Beneath the surface of the immigration debate is a debate about shared values. If we look at just three of those values -- the English language, family and hard work -- we see a higher level of Latino assimilation than is often presumed.

Despite claims to the contrary, census data show that most Latino immigrants learn and speak English quite well. Only about 2.5 percent of American residents speak Spanish but not English. The majority of residents of Spanish-speaking households speak English "very well."

Only 7 percent of the children of Latino immigrants speak Spanish as a primary language, and virtually none of their children do. Just as they did a century ago, immigrants largely come knowing little English. But they learn, and their children use it as a primary language. The United States is not becoming a bilingual nation.

We've turned far stronger cultures into mere Americanism without any difficulty.

With 5,000 building jobs open here, illegal workers heed call (Brady McCombs, 6/12/06, Arizona Daily Star)

Four glossy Employee of the Month plaques hang side by side in the hallway of Jorge Quintanilla's South Side apartment.

A watch honoring five years of service lies on his nightstand.

Despite using a work alias, a fraudulent Social Security number and a fake green card, Quintanilla has fared well installing insulation in Tucson.

It's a symbiotic relationship for him and his employer.

Quintanilla, a married father of two, benefits from a steady job that last year paid $40,000. The company profits from a reliable worker willing to learn. Although Quintanilla and other workers interviewed for this story agreed to use their real names, the Star is withholding the names of their employers because that is the only way they would share their stories.

"The company appreciates my service, and I appreciate them keeping me," says Quintanilla, 36, who came from Hermosillo, Sonora, in 1999 and overstayed a tourist visa. "And each year it has gotten better with them."

Workers such as Quintanilla remain in demand in an industry that employs more than 27,000 people here and needs 5,000 more — even as lawmakers rebalance a seesaw tipped for decades toward keeping people out while ignoring businesses that hire them.

The Princeton Salutatorian Who Could Become a Leading Classics Scholar: He's an Illegal Immigrant: Illegal Immigrant Wins Oxford Scholarship, Risks Return to U.S. After Stint Overseas (DAVID MUIR, June 6, 2006, ABC News)
When Dan-el Padilla Peralta stood before his fellow Princeton graduates today and delivered the salutatory address, in Latin no less, it was a remarkable feat in itself.

But the story of how he made it to the Ivy League school rivals the Roman classics he fell in love with as a young boy.

Padilla came to the United States from the Dominican Republic as a 4-year-old on a short-term visa, as his mother sought urgent medical care. They remained, and his childhood was spent skipping from one shelter to another in New York.

"It was a kind of personal hell we were all going through," Padilla said. "Because of the rampant drug use, many people's lives were utterly broken."

While those around Padilla struggled in his New York neighborhood, Padilla inadvertently found a future for himself at age 9 when he started reading a book on ancient Greek and Roman culture.

He was hooked, and kept reading.

"It allowed me to sort of forge with my imagination a world that I was not a part of," Padilla said.

His reading and interest in learning helped him win a scholarship to a prestigious prep school, and he hid his school tie while walking from his family's tiny Harlem apartment to the subway.

Next, he earned a scholarship to Princeton, despite his lack of citizenship.

"To me, the only amazing thing about him was his ability," said Dennis Feeney, professor in Princeton's classics departmentt. "I had no idea he was undocumented."

That is, until now. Padilla has revealed his illegal status because he's been invited to study at Oxford University in England.

If he leaves the United States, immigration law says he can't come back for at least a decade.

Who'd want such a free-loader to be an American, huh?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:17 AM


Always the Party of What-Went-Wrong (Dan Balz, June 11, 2006, Washington Post)

Democrats are experienced at assembling learned conferences to debate their future (while spending most of their time looking longingly at their past). They are experts at commissioning papers analyzing their weaknesses. ("Why we can't win with______." Fill in the blank with "white men," "married women," "rural voters," "people of faith," "more Latinos," "the middle class," or whatever group is considered the party's latest demographic debacle.)

Democrats also have a minute understanding of the fault lines in their own coalition (hawks vs. doves; free traders vs. globalization skeptics; establishment vs. netroots) and the competing arguments for winning (base vs. swing; maximize strengths vs. neutralize weaknesses). They even know whom to blame (the last candidate for president; all consultants; the nasty and dishonorable Republicans; voters who ignore their self interest; Howard Dean; Rahm Emanuel).

In 1985, shortly after Ronald Reagan's reelection landslide, House Democrats retreated to the Greenbrier resort in West Virginia to lick their wounds. Richard A. Gephardt, then the leader of the House Democratic caucus, told reporters that weekend, "We're not soul-searching and we're not in the wilderness and we're not without ideas." Ten years later, when he had to hand over the gavel to newly sworn-in Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), none of the above was true.

At that meeting, Democrats heard from adviser-to-multiple-presidents David Gergen and motivational psychologist Ira Weinstein. Weinstein told the Democrats they had to learn from Reagan's success the importance of developing a product and packaging it. "Reagan was sold as a unified product brilliantly," he told them.

Twenty years later, even before losing to President Bush in 2004, Democrats were turning to Berkeley scholar and linguist George Lakoff for similar packaging advice; he offered them such concepts as "frames," "framing" and "branding" in their wars with the Republicans. "If you're a Democrat, you want to really change the frame," Lakoff told the liberal Web site AlterNet.org. "The problem is that there is no existing frame out there. You have to create it."

Not all such advice is welcome or accepted. Weinstein's appearance led to hoots of derision (privately, of course) from many House Democrats at the Greenbrier retreat. Lakoff has detractors, too, who see his prescriptions as peripheral to more fundamental problems that affect the attitudes of ordinary Americans toward the Democratic Party.

Bill Clinton understood the basic lesson of Reaganism, as hiring David Gergen amply demonstrated: to be successful Democrats need to at least appear to be Republicans.

Democrats to roll out action plan: Program on domestic issues part of strategy to retake House (Marc Sandalow, June 12, 2006, SF Chronicle)

Democrats will introduce a domestic agenda for the 2006 campaign this week, confident that their opportunity to pick up seats is the best in a generation, yet divided over how much an agenda will matter.

The Democratic program will consist of bread-and-butter priorities: increasing the minimum wage, cutting costs of prescription drugs, reducing interest rates on student loans, rolling back subsidies for oil companies, and pay-as-you-go budgeting, according to party officials.

Party strategists hope the timing will contrast favorably with the Republicans' recent push on social legislation such as constitutional bans on gay marriage and flag burning.

Classic--the Democrats oppose those positions shared by 60%+ of the American people but then pimp for marginal items that discrete parts of their coalition of interest groups want and then wonder why they don't win national elections.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:05 AM


You're happy. Imagine that!: Why people are so bad at predicting what will make them feel good (JUDY STOFFMAN, 5/21/06, TORONTO STAR)

Real estate agents say you should buy the worst house in the toniest neighbourhood rather than the best house on a modest street.

But Daniel Gilbert, a Harvard University psychology professor, believes such a purchase is rarely a prescription for happiness. Before you sign that offer to purchase, consider how you'll feel coming home each day to a dump amidst the mansions.

"It will make you feel bad because the brain is a difference detector; almost everything that it senses, it senses as a comparison," he says in Toronto to talk about his book Stumbling on Happiness.

The capacity to imagine future happiness or unhappiness — called "affective forecasting" — is, Gilbert says, what distinguishes us from other animals.

As he puts it, "We don't have to actually have gall bladder surgery or lounge around on a Caribbean beach to know that one of these is better than another."

Gilbert has spent 15 years at Harvard's Social Cognition and Emotion laboratory investigating how people imagine what will make them happy, and why they so often get it wrong.

He has found that small pleasures like coming home to a house no worse than the neighbour's is more likely to yield long-term joy than inheriting $1 million, getting a big promotion or being elected president.

"It's the frequency and not the intensity of positive events in your life that leads to happiness, like comfortable shoes or single malt scotch," he says. [...]

"The human brain mispredicts the sources of its own satisfaction," Gilbert says, "and the reason is that we fail to understand how quickly we will adapt to both positive and negative events. People are consistently surprised by how quickly the abnormal becomes normal, the extraordinary becomes ordinary. When people say I could never get used to that, they are almost always wrong."

Gilbert believes we have an emotional immune system that helps us regain our equilibrium after catastrophic events.

"The studies of Holocaust survivors are clear — most went on to lead happy and productive lives," he says.

He also cites extensive research to show that disabled people and those who have had cancer are just as likely to report that they are happy as the able-bodied and healthy.

"I am not saying that losing a leg won't change you in profound ways. But it won't lower your day-to-day happiness in the long run." [...]

Is there a better way to predict what will make us happy than using our imagination?

"Yes," he says, "but no one wants to use it. It's called surrugation, and it circumvents biases and errors. If you want to know how happy you'll be if you win the lottery, ask a lottery winner — it's a mixed blessing. Will having children make you happy? Observe people who have them."

People discount this approach because of what Gilbert calls "the myth of fingerprints."

"Most of us have the illusion of uniqueness," he says. "We believe that other people's reactions won't tell us about our likes and dislikes. But we are remarkably similar. We share the same biology, and others' experiences can teach us a great deal about our own.

"As long as we maintain our illusions about our uniqueness, we will continue to ignore information that's in front of our noses."

The insistence of euthanasia enthusiasts that they'd want to be put down like dogs rather than "live that way" is merely a way of expressing contempt for people who are different than they are.

June 11, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:19 PM


Your silence is deafening, conservatives: Research shows tax cuts produce more government spending. Why won't right-wingers respond? (Jonathan Chait, June 11, 2006, LA Times)

A FEW WEEKS ago, I wrote a column about a paper that decimated the conservative worldview. The study, by William Niskanen of the Cato Institute, found that the conservative "starve the beast" strategy does not work. Indeed, since 1981, he found that tax cuts tend to produce more spending, while tax hikes produce less.

I wrote that it would be interesting to see how conservatives reacted to having the factual basis for their entire domestic strategy exposed as a fraud. And it is interesting because "starve the beast" is so central to the GOP approach to governing and because the reaction is a case study in how the conservative movement reacts when its views are disproved.

According to Cato's own numbers, George Bush spent less than 2% more of GDP in 2004 than Bill Clinton did in 2000, but that entire increase is more than accounted for by the cost of the WoT, which it seems impossible to blame on the Bush tax cuts. Meanwhile, we have indeed cut our taxes to levels almost unprecedented in the developed world, OECD Releases New Data on Taxes as Percentage of GDP (Tax Prof, November 3, 2004)
The OECD has released new data on tax revenues as a percentage of gross domestic product among the 30 OECD countries. [...]

Here are the 5 lowest tax countries:

Country..........Tax Revenue as % of GDP
1. Mexico............19.5%
2. U.S.................25.4%
3. Korea.............25.5%
4. Switzerland...29.8%
5. Ireland...........30.0%

and we have a GDP growth rate over 5%, which likewise leads the developed world. That tax cuts don't automatically reduce government spending is obviously a truism, though it's easy enough to at least argue they've restrained the growth of such spending. On the basis of the past twenty-five years though, one thing we can say with some certainty is that the ethos of tax-cutting, which the last four presidents have all been elected on, has produced almost a quarter-century of uninterrupted economic growth. That's good enough for most of us.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:56 PM


The beautiful game can often be tedious (Jim White, 12/06/2006, Daily Telegraph)

When did you get bored? At what point did you decide that an urgent reorganisation of your sock drawer was preferable to watching Sven's boys labour in the Frankfurt sun on Saturday afternoon? You don't have to be embarrassed about it. Everyone found the longueurs a little tricky to navigate, even in the stadium. There was a bloke sitting a couple of rows along from me kitted out in full England fancy dress (this year's theme is Nazi helmets painted with the Cross of St George) and he was yawning by half-time. There were people who had paid upwards of 500 euros to buy a ticket from the touts, who used the match as an opportunity to catch up on a bit of sleep.

After all the build-up, all the hype, all the inflated expectation came an anticlimax worthy of the last Lib Dem leadership election. England did precisely what they always do under Sven-Goran Eriksson's miasmic stewardship: they took an early lead and then proceeded to sit back on it for 85 minutes, playing unadventurous football of a style that makes the curdling of milk seem replete with possibility as a spectator event. Not since Vanessa Feltz began investigating the wilder reaches of plastic surgery on Channel 5 can so many televisions have been switched off so hurriedly.

Americans cut to the chase by never turning it on.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:49 PM


Monday view: Storm clouds gather over a US economy heading for icebergs (Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, 12/06/2006, Daily Telegraph)

Fear is creeping into the markets that a hyperactive Federal Reserve run by a chatterbox novice, risks sinking the global economy by tightening too hard - supposedly to curb prices, in reality to combat his fatal reputation as an easy-money ideologue. [...]

Bernard Connolly, global strategist for Banque AIG, says the Fed, now chaired by Ben Bernanke, has already gone too far by raising rates sixteen times from 1pc to 5pc since June 2004, too much for an overspent economy running on fumes.

"Unless the Fed begins cutting rates by this summer, which it won't, then the US economy could be in for a nasty recession. The stock market has not yet woken up to the full gravity of this," he said. [...]

For now, Mr Bernanke seems determined to steam ahead with a quarter point rise to 5.25pc this month - and damn the icebergs. His pilloried "pause" talk in spring gave way last week to studied words about the "unwelcome" level of core inflation, now 2.1pc. Within hours the effects of this volte-face hit Turkey, South Africa, India and Thailand, all compelled to raise interest rates to defend their currencies and slow an exodus of foreign investors.

"He reintroduced testosterone to the inflation-fighting resolve of the Fed," said Diane Swonk, an economist at the US firm Mesirow Financial. She told the Washington Post: "This is a pure male thing. 'You think I'm a wimp? Take me on,' he said to the markets."

Yet the Fed's own staff said in May that inflation will peak over coming months before slowing later in the year. Hourly earnings are remarkably tame, rising just 0.1pc in April, down from 0.6pc in March. The Economic Cycle Research Institute's ECRI index, which signals future inflation, dropped 0.2pc in May and is now well below its peak in October.

Fed doves are pleading for caution. "We want to be looking through the windshield, we don't want to be just looking at the rear view mirror," said Governor Randall Kroszner.

Yet Mr Bernanke has buckled to the will of the Fed's monetary Ayatollahs - Dallas and St Louis come to mind - although he knows the risks of interest rate overkill all too well.

It was he, Professor Bernanke, who wrote the seminal 1995 paper - Inside the Black Box: The Credit Channel of Monetary Policy Transmission - describing how inflation lags the cycle, flashing amber long after the real danger has switched to recession.

And it was he - scholar of the Great Depression - who blamed the Fed for crushing the American banking system in the early 1930s by starving it of funds. "You're right, we did it," he said theatrically as a junior Fed governor at the 90th birthday party of Milton Friedman. "We're very sorry. We won't do it again."

Talk about hostages to fortune.

The onus was really on Alan Greenspan to reverse the disastrous course at the end of his term, so that Mr. Bernanke wouldn't have to prove his inflation hawk bona fides by further ill-advised hikes. But Mr. Bernanke has certainly done enough damage on his own now that he can stop fighting an inflation that does not exist.

U.A.W. Facing Tough Choices, Leader Warns (MICHELINE MAYNARD, 6/12/06, NY Times)

The president of the United Automobile Workers union told his members in a strikingly blunt report released Sunday that they cannot ride out the automobile industry crisis and should be prepared to make tradition-breaking decisions to help rescue the industry.

In the report, to be given to members at the union's convention, which opens here on Monday, the union president, Ron Gettelfinger, pointed to many causes of the industry's grave malaise, including "bad management" and declining auto sales.

But Mr. Gettelfinger acknowledged that the union's health care benefits helped create a ballooning health cost crisis that had become "unsustainable" in the face of the auto companies' declining sales. This, he said, was a reason why the U.A.W. agreed to substantial health care concessions last year.

"This isn't a cyclical downturn," Mr. Gettelfinger said in the report. "The kind of challenges we face aren't the kind that can be ridden out. They're structural challenges and they require new and farsighted solutions."

Why gasoline prices could ease soon: Demand for oil has dropped, sending its price lower. Another factor: an expected slowing in the economy (Ron Scherer, 6/12/06, The Christian Science Monitor)
For Americans tired of watching prices rise at the gasoline pump, relief may be on the way.

After the price of oil hit a high of $75.17 a barrel last month, demand in the United States dipped a few percentage points. Demand by other big developed economies has also eased in recent months, reaching a level that's actually lower than a year ago.

Inflation reports could tip balance (Sue Kirchhoff, 6/12/06, USA TODAY)
The government this week will issue two widely anticipated inflation reports that could determine whether the Federal Reserve keeps raising interest rates or stands aside. [...]

"The Fed apparently has made them (inflation reports) important. That's the corner that it's painted itself into," says Ken Mayland of ClearView Economics. [...]

Further, the yield on the 10-year bond fell below the Fed's short-term rate. The textbook definition of an inverted yield curve is that investors are expecting a sharp decline in the economy, says Bob Barbera, chief economist at ITG. The fear is "the Fed will get their slowdown and then some," he says. [...]

The overall consumer price index rose 3.5% in the 12 months through April. Core CPI was up 2.3% in the past 12 months and was running at a 3.2% annual rate in the past three months.

Other inflation measures used by the Fed also show inflation slightly above its range.

It might not take a big bump up in inflation to influence the Fed to raise interest rates for a 17th time. Analysts for Global Insight expect overall consumer inflation to rise at a brisk 0.4% pace in May. They predict core inflation will remain tame, rising 0.2%, but acknowledge risks.

Jim Paulsen of Wells Capital Management sees core inflation spiking above 3% this year before cooling. But he adds that in a world of low-cost competitors, "with all these new players coming on stream, there's no way we can have runaway world inflation. It's just not the '70s."

The Fed is like something out of a Star Trek episode, still fighting an enemy that no longer exists.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:35 PM


Sabotage fear as China's secret weapon crashes (Michael Sheridan, June 12, 2006, The Australian)

A DULL boom shook the misty bamboo forests of Guangde county, 200km southwest of Shanghai, last Sunday week and a plume of smoke rose in the sky.

Within 24 hours, China admitted that a "military aircraft" had crashed, that President Hu Jintao had ordered an investigation and that state honours would be bestowed on the victims.

Security teams sealed off the area, carting away the charred remains of 40 people and collecting wreckage with painstaking care. It looked like a routine military accident.

In fact, the crash would reverberate through Washington and Tel Aviv, revealing details of a covert Chinese espionage effort to copy Israeli technology in an attempt to match the US in any future air and sea battle.

The first clues were given by two Chinese-controlled newspapers in Hong Kong, Ta Kung Pao and Wen Wei Po. On Monday, they printed articles disclosing that the plane was a Chinese version of the formidable Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) aircraft flown by the US to manage air, sea and land battles.

They indicated it was a Russian Ilyushin cargo jet, rebuilt to house a conspicuous array of radars and codenamed KJ-2000. The doomed flight, they implied, had been a test mission.

The disaster robbed China of 35 of its best electronic warfare technicians, according to sources in Hong Kong. There were also five crew on board.

With memories fresh in Beijing that a Boeing 767 bought for the use of former president Jiang Zemin was found to be riddled with eavesdropping devices, there were suspicions of sabotage.

The Communist Party showed how seriously it took the crash by entrusting the inquiry to Guo Boxiong, vice-chairman of its central military commission, who handles sensitive security matters.

It was without question a calamity for the Chinese military. But for the Americans, who lost a spy plane forced down by a Chinese interceptor jet in 2000, it was not a cause for sincere mourning.

It was most likely just the inevitable incompetence of a communist regime, but it would be nice if we had intelligence services competent enough to spread the rumor we caused it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:27 PM


Death of a Terrorist: The Americans had come close to killing him before, but he'd managed to escape. Not this time. (Evan Thomas and Rod Nordland, 6/19/06, Newsweek)

All the while, the Americans were trying to catch Zarqawi. The name of the unit tasked with capturing him changed from time to time—the most recent moniker, Task Force 145, was recently dropped after it became too widely known, says a senior diplomat who did not wish to publicly discuss classified information. The toughest U.S. commandos were working the streets in Iraq for any clues, and their methods were not always Marquis of Queensberry. In March, a New York Times story described how an elite Special Operations unit called Task Force 6-26 had taken over one of Saddam's old torture chambers and turned it into an interrogation cell called the Black Room. Placards on the wall advised NO BLOOD, NO FOUL, and interrogators spat on prisoners and beat them with rifle butts, all to extract information that might lead to the capture of Zarqawi, according to the Times story.

The Iraqis and Americans came close on at least several occasions. Once, Iraqi forces actually held Zarqawi in custody outside Fallujah, but failed to recognize him and let him go after a half hour. Another time, American forces captured his driver and his laptop—but Zarqawi somehow slipped away.

It may seem odd that super-soldiers like Delta Force, celebrated for missions impossible in film and fiction, cannot catch a man with a $25 million bounty on his head in an area crawling with U.S. and Iraqi soldiers. But the bureaucratic and logistical obstacles facing even the