July 31, 2006

Posted by Pepys at 8:22 PM


New York Cops: Still the Finest (Heather Mac Donald, Summer 2006, City Journal)

New York City has shattered criminology’s central myth, but criminologists remain in denial. Policing, they still insist, can do little to lower crime. Economic inequality, demographic trends, changing drug-use patterns—these determine crime levels, they say, not police tactics. Nevertheless, since 1994, New York City has enjoyed a crime drop unmatched in the rest of the country—indeed, unparalleled in history—and only Gotham’s revolutionary style of policing can explain it. Yet rather than flooding the city to study this paradigm-breaking phenomenon, most criminologists are busy looking the other way.
The dimensions of New York’s crime rout are breathtaking. From 1990 to 2000, four of the seven major felonies—homicide, robbery, burglary, and auto theft—dropped over 70 percent. Crime fell across the country during this period, but in New York it plummeted at twice the national average. By 2000, New York’s crime profile looked more like that of a small suburb than a big city, notes University of California sociologist Frank Zimring, whose forthcoming The Great American Crime Decline is the only major study so far that acknowledges the significance of the city’s crime turnaround. Gotham’s homicide rate in 2000 was half that of the big-city average; its robbery rate, which started out 50 percent higher than that of other big cities in 1990, was 10 percent below the average.
The national crime decline flattened out as the new century began. Some cities that were darlings of the media and the criminologists in the nineties have seen sharp increases in murder. Boston, lauded by the New York Times and others as the kinder, gentler corrective to New York’s allegedly overaggressive policing approach, has suffered its highest murder rate in a decade this year. Milwaukee and Memphis had double-digit homicide spikes in 2005. Philadelphia, Houston, San Francisco, and Kansas City are also seeing their nineties crime gains erode.
Not New York. From 2000 to 2005, the city’s crime rate fell another 30 percent. New York’s twenty-first-century experience is distinctive in the breadth and the depth of the continued decline. Even San Diego, the other favorite un–New York policing success story of the nineties, has not kept up with New York. While Gotham’s crime rate clocked in at 71 percent below its 1990 level in 2004, San Diego mustered a 55 percent decline. “Something qualitatively different is going on in New York,” says Zimring.

Posted by Glenn Dryfoos at 7:56 PM


The great jazz pianist, Hank Jones, turns 88 today...a fitting number for a piano player. Hank was the older brother of renowned jazzmen Thad (trumpet) and Elvin (drums), both of who predeceased their less-famous, but no less talented, big brother.

Jones was born in Pontiac, Michigan, and came out of a Detroit jazz scene than within a few years spawned such other influential players as Tommy Flanagan, Kenny Burrell, Milt Jackson and Pepper Adams. I heard Hank play on New Years Eve a few years ago, and he was still at the top of his game.

A few albums I recommend are Joe Lovano's recent Joyous Encounter, Live at Maybeck Recital Hall and Legends with Benny Carter. ( Of course, anything by his long-time working trio, The Great Jazz Trio (with Elvin on drums and Richard Davis on bass), is worth checking out.

He has a new album, Hank and Frank with Frank Wess, but I haven't heard it yet.

Posted by Pepys at 7:48 PM


When the devil dislikes the stink of brimstone (Spengler, 1 August 2006, Asia Times)

It's a bit like the devil disliking the stench of sulfur, but Iran's leaders now complain that the United States has thrown the Middle East into chaos in order to reshape the region. That is a man-bites-camel story. With the exception of the late Yasser Arafat, no one has wielded the weapon of instability with greater skill than Iran. Israel's disproportionate response to the July 12 Hezbollah provocation changed the rules of the game in the region. Whether the players have the presence of mind to exploit the new rules remains an open question...
Israel's strongest move on the chessboard would be a massive armored incursion into Lebanon to crush Hezbollah combined with limited strikes against Syria...
Washington's best move would be an ultimatum to Tehran with a deadline for dismantling its nuclear-weapons program, followed by aerial attacks in the event of non-compliance. Rather than engage the regime of President Bashar al-Assad in Syria, Washington should take the opportunity to destabilize it. Rather than attempt to hold together its Frankenstein monster in Iraq, it should partition the country...

Chaos equals opportunity.

Posted by Pepys at 6:22 PM


RUDY, THE FRONT-RUNNER Cruising ahead of McCain (Ryan Sager, 25 July 2006, NY Post)

It's early in the game yet, but it's becoming undeniable: Rudy Giuliani will run for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008 - as the clear front-runner...
But McCain would trounce Rudy in those states if people knew about his positions on abortion and gay rights (and his marital history), right? Wrong again. Strategic Vision CEO David Johnson told me of some "push polling" in Florida and Georgia - where his firm told voters about Rudy's positions and marital problems and about McCain's support for campaign-finance reform and working with Democrats against President Bush.
The effect on Rudy's numbers, Johnson said, "underwhelmed" his expectations significantly, merely putting the two candidates into a statistical dead heat - not launching the more conventionally conservative (at least on issues like abortion) McCain into the lead. "Some people who identify themselves as strong conservatives, even when we did do the push-poll questions in Georgia and Florida, were still more willing to go with Giuliani," Johnson said. "Strong, Christian conservatives."...
What about McCain's "crossover appeal"? Isn't he a better shot against Hillary? Nope. Pretty much every poll taken on the matter shows Rudy beating Sen. Clinton by a much bigger margin than McCain would. In May, a Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll showed Rudy with a nationwide nine-point lead over her; McCain, only a statistically insignificant 4 points. (And, in "blue" New York, where both Rudy and Hillary are known best, McCain loses to Hillary, as expected, while Rudy beats her in one of the most liberal states in the country - a state with 31 electoral votes.)...
"A lot of people don't particularly like McCain," Dr. Eddie Floyd, finance co-chairman of Bush's 2000 and '04 campaigns in South Carolina, told me the other day. He and other South Carolina GOP activists met with Giuliani recently. "We were very, very impressed with the mayor," he said. "When he explained his positions, they were not as far off as you would think."
"A lot of people"? Try nobody.

Posted by Pepys at 6:19 PM


Silence in the Court! Why are liberals urging that the Supreme Court do next to nothing? (Dahlia Lithwick, 24 July 2006, Slate)

It has become something of a vogue among liberal legal academics to draw an intellectual Maginot line between themselves and the landmark Supreme Court decisions of the 1960s and '70s. There is a deep sense of something—is it shame?—informing their views of those reckless Warren Court do-gooders and their well-meaning, slobbering efforts to protect women, minorities, and criminal defendants...
There is no sharper critic of the Supreme Court than the New Republic's Jeffrey Rosen, and there is no finer ambassador between the planet of legal academia and that of the popular media. That's why Rosen's newest offering, The Most Democratic Branch, is so radical. Following in the wake of Radicals in Robes, a call to judicial "minimalism" by University of Chicago Law School's brilliant Cass Sunstein, it gives both a body and a voice to all this progressive uneasiness. First, Rosen channels some of the most agonized liberal legal scholarship (Roe v. Wade was both badly decided and terrible for progressives; Brown v. Board of Education wasn't really all that central to the project of desegregation). Then he ties it all up with this neat prescriptive bow: Supreme Court justices, in order to do justice, should do almost nothing at all...
Rosen rejects the "romantic myth" of "antidemocratic courts protecting vulnerable minorities against tyrannical majorities." He contends that "the least effective decisions have been those in which courts unilaterally try to strike down laws in the name of a constitutional principle that is being actively and intensely contested by a majority of the American people." And then he urges that if the courts want to maintain "democratic legitimacy" they must become safe, cautious; forever lagging one step behind Congress and the public-opinion polls...

MORE (via Eugene Volokh):

ANTI-HERO (Richard A. Posner, 24 February 2003, The New Republic)

I met justice William Douglas, the longest-serving member of the Supreme Court, when I was clerking for Justice William Brennan. Douglas struck me as cold and brusque but charismatic--the most charismatic judge (well, the only charismatic judge) on the Court. Little did I know that this elderly gentleman (he was sixty-four when I was a law clerk) was having sex with his soon-to-be third wife in his Supreme Court office, that he was being stalked by his justifiably suspicious soon-to-be ex-wife, and that on one occasion he had to hide the wife-to-be in his closet in order to prevent the current wife from discovering her. This is just one of the gamy bits in Bruce Allen Murphy's riveting biography of one of the most unwholesome figures in modern American political history, a field with many contenders. Murphy explains that he had expected the biography to take six years to complete but that it actually took almost fifteen. For Douglas turned out to be a liar to rival Baron Munchausen, and a great deal o0f patient digging was required to reconstruct his true life story. One of his typical lies, not only repeated in a judicial opinion but inscribed on his tombstone in Arlington National Cemetery, was that he had been a soldier in World War I. Douglas was never in the Armed Forces. The lie metastasized: a book about Arlington National Cemetery, published in 1986, reports: "Refusing to allow his polio to keep him from fighting for his nation during World War I, Douglas enlisted in the United States Army and fought in Europe." He never had polio, either...
From my account, Murphy's book may seem a hatchet job, with its mountain of often prurient detail about Douglas's personal life and character. Not so. Murphy displays no animus toward Douglas. He does not try to extenuate Douglas's failings as a human being, or to excuse them, or even to explain them, but he greatly admires Douglas's civil liberties decisions, and (without his actually saying so) this admiration leads him to forgive Douglas's flaws of character. The only time his realism regarding Douglas's character falters is when he is discussing Felix Frankfurter. His portrayal of Frankfurter is relentlessly and excessively critical; he sees Frankfurter exclusively through Douglas's hostile eyes...
Murphy is right to separate the personal from the judicial. One can be a bad person and a good judge, just as one can be a good person and a bad judge. With biography and reportage becoming ever more candid and penetrating, we now know that a high percentage of successful and creative people are psychologically warped and morally challenged; and anyway, as Machiavelli recognized long ago, personal morality and political morality are not the same thing. Douglas was not a good judge (I will come back to this point), but this was not because he was a woman-chaser, a heavy drinker, a liar, and so on. It was because he did not like the job.
Justice Douglas never met a decision he didn't want to make.

Posted by Pepys at 6:16 PM


Simmering Rage Within the GOP (David S. Broder, 27 July 2006, The Washington Post)

My weekend visitor was one of the founders of the postwar Republican Party in the South, one of those stubborn men who challenged the Democratic rule in his one-party state. He was conservative enough that in the great struggle for the 1952 nomination, his sympathies were with Sen. Robert Taft of Ohio, not Dwight D. Eisenhower.
He has lived long enough to see Republicans elected as senator and governor of his state and to see a Republican from the Sun Belt behemoth of Texas capture the White House. His profession won't let him speak with his name attached, but he is sadly disillusioned...
Whew, that's the next best thing to Dionne calling it for the Dems.

Posted by Pepys at 6:13 PM


The tall story we Europeans now tell ourselves about Israel (Charles Moore, 29 July 2006, UK Daily Telegraph)

You could criticise Israel's recent attack for many things. Some argue that it is disproportionate, or too indiscriminate. Others think that it is ill-planned militarily. Others hold that it will give more power to extremists in the Arab world, and will hamper a wider peace settlement. These are all reasonable, though not necessarily correct positions to hold. But European discourse on the subject seems to have been overwhelmed by something else - a narrative, told most powerfully by the way television pictures are selected, that makes Israel out as a senseless, imperialist, mass-murdering, racist bully.
Not only is this analysis wrong - if the Israelis are such imperialists, why did they withdraw from Lebanon for six years, only returning when threatened once again? How many genocidal regimes do you know that have a free press and free elections? - it is also morally imbecilic...
It is as if, having relinquished power, we Europeans now wish our own powerlessness upon the rest of the world.

Posted by Pepys at 6:11 PM


Pause Celebre (Trevor Butterworth, 17 September 2005, Financial Times)

"You're kidding," said Ann Keatings, an applied linguist, as she absorbed the news I had brought from the US, where I have lived for the past 12 years: Americans see the semicolon as punctuation's axis of evil. Or at least many of them do. "But I like semicolons," she protested, "they allow a writer to go further." Trevor McGuinness, a business manager, was equally incredulous. "Hazlitt," he said, smacking the table indignantly, "look at Hazlitt!" Had midnight been closer and the bottle emptier, we might have taken him literally; but the point still floated within the grasp of sober minds: if so great a prose stylist as William Hazlitt had embraced the semicolon, then surely we could too?...
Big deal or not, there is really only one use of the semicolon that is "more or less mandated", says Ben Yagoda, professor of English at the University of Delaware and author of About Town, a monumental account of The New Yorker magazine (whose history is marked by fractious debates over the placement of commas). And that is to separate series elements containing commas (for example, "The cities represented were Albany, New York; Wilmington, Delaware; and Selma, Alabama). The other principal uses, says Yagoda, are discretionary: "That is I might, with total grammatical correctness and without changing my meaning in the slightest, choose any one of the following: 1. 'The book under review is utter hogwash; and that is why it is worth examining.' 2. 'The book under review is utter hogwash, and that is why it is worth examining.' 3. 'The book under review is utter hogwash; that is why it is worth examining.' 4. 'The book under review is utter hogwash. That is why it is worth examining.'" Deciding which of the four to choose is strictly a matter of sound and rhythm, says Yagoda - that is to say, personal style. "Writers who like (consciously or unconsciously) to stop and pause, and/or who are under the influence of Hemingway, choose 4. Those who like balanced rhythms might choose 3. Those aiming for a 'transparent' style might choose 2. And those who are a little bit enamoured with the sound of their own voice might choose 1."...
Style, as F.L. Lucas observed through pages larded with semicolons, "is a means by which a human being gains contact with others; it is personality clothed in words, character embodied in speech." And surely there is something brutish in being assaulted by wave after wave of fact through prose that has the unyielding rhythm and cadence of a machine gun. That, in the end, is what rattled everyone in Termon House on New Year's Eve: the storm rolling in from the west was figurative; the hyperpower at the gate was full of passionate intensity, and it did not do nuance.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:53 AM


'The Putting of First Things First': The revival of the romance of the antiwar left is a potential disaster for the Democrats. It's what gave the world Richard Nixon in 1968. (Jonathan Alter, 8/07/06, Newsweek)

The same Democrats who are justifiably angry with Lieberman for not holding Bush accountable are harming efforts to, well, hold Bush accountable.

Lieberman's problems began long before he was kissed by President Bush at last year's State of the Union. With his Senate seat safe, he didn't have to fight in 2000. He went easier on Dick Cheney in their vice presidential debate than he did a few weeks back against fellow Democrat Lamont. During the Florida recount, he made a point of favoring military absentee ballots likely to be Republican. Lieberman has voted 90 percent of the time with the Democrats—but his first impulse is often to find fault with them. His 2004 run for the White House was better known for its attacks on fellow Democrats than on the incumbent. He approved of Washington intervention in the Terri Schiavo case. On Iraq, he buys the GOP argument that equates criticism of the commander in chief with hurting the troops, which means no real oversight. (Has he forgotten the Truman Committee during World War II?) The duty of the opposition is to oppose. [...]

The bloggers who have noisily intervened deny they're interested in ideological purity. They point to their support in Senate races for pro-life candidates. But on Iraq, the liberal blogs brook no dissent. Not that it matters in Connecticut. If Lamont wins, only the laziest analysts can attribute it to the Netroots. Daily Kos is not exactly Topic A in the diners and union halls of the Nutmeg State.

But if the blogs aren't a force on the ground, they are becoming a powerful factor in directing the passions (and pocketbooks) of far-flung Democratic activists. They're helping fuel a collective version of what shrinks call "projection," where the anger of Democrats at Bush is projected on a handy target, in this case Lieberman. But in doing so, they have neglected what FDR called "the putting of first things first." Job one for Democrats is identifying which Republican House incumbents are vulnerable in their own states and directing all available energy against them. Savaging fellow Democrats (except those who cannot win) should come after taking control, not before.

Note that the trangressions that Mr. Alter says justify the anger towards the Sentor are pretty much the ones that got Susie shunned by the cool girls on your playground in 7th grade.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:00 AM


Somalia Has 1st Commercial Flight in Years: Somalia Has First Commercial Flight in Decade; Prime Minister Survives No-Confidence Vote (MOHAMED SHEIKH, 7/31/06, The Associated Press)

The first commercial flight in a decade departed Mogadishu's newly reopened international airport Sunday, demonstrating how Islamic militants have pacified the once-anarchic capital and much of southern Somalia.

Local airlines had been operating from private airstrips outside the capital.

Now, Islamic militiamen are guarding the airport for commercial passengers, said Sheik Muqtar Robow, deputy defense chief for the Islamic group.

"This is a historic flight for me," passenger Hawa Abdi Hussein said before boarding the Somalia-based Jubba Airways plane to the United Arab Emirates. "I think we at last gained peace and security."

Security has to precede Freedom.

Posted by David Cohen at 8:25 AM


Romney apologizes for use of expression: To some, `tar baby' is racial pejorative (David Abel, Boston Globe, 7/31/06)

Governor Mitt Romney yesterday apologized for using the expression "tar baby" -- a phrase some consider a racial epithet -- among comments he made at a political gathering in Iowa over the weekend.

"The governor was describing a sticky situation," said Eric Fehrnstrom, the governor's spokesman. ``He was unaware that some people find the term objectionable, and he's sorry if anyone was offended."...

"The best thing for me to do politically is stay away from the Big Dig -- just get as far away from that tar baby as I possibly can," he said in answer to a question from the audience.

The expression "tar baby" has had different meanings over the years.

A definition from Merriam Webster's Collegiate Dictionary traces the expression to the tar baby that trapped Br'er Rabbit in an Uncle Remus story by Joel Chandler Harris, which became popular in the 19th century. The dictionary now defines the expression as "something from which it is nearly impossible to extricate oneself."

But it also has been used as a pejorative term for dark-skinned blacks....

As for Romney's use of the expression, Pastor William E. Dickerson of the Greater Love Tabernacle in Dorchester called it ``a poor choice of words."

"There are some words that we should eradicate from our vocabulary, so we don't use them inappropriately," he said. "Saying someone is a 'tar baby' is like calling them the black sheep of the family. Kids with darker skin were often teased, and they would cringe at hearing it. That's why we should avoid it, especially a public servant."

I have to admit to avoiding the wonderfully expressive term "tar baby" out of an excess of caution, but "black sheep?"

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:41 AM


America: a democracy and an empire (HIROAKI SATO, 7/31/06, Japan Times)

In April 1789, Washington became president of the U.S. in New York City, the first capital of the newly formed union, but evidently he wasn't happy with the place. So, "was I to commence my career of life anew," he wrote, he would propose a tract of land on the Potomac River as the site for "the seat of the Empire."

When you think of it, the concept of the new land as empire may not really have been a conceit. The U.S. was born of the final phase of the Seven Years' War, the clash for global hegemony between the greatest European powers of the day, Britain and France. Washington fought in it on the British side, naturally.

As soon as the republic got its act together, it started territorial expansion. One bit of irony in this regard is that John Quincy Adams, who in 1821 famously proclaimed his nation would not go overseas to spread the gospel of democracy ("She goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy"), helped create two years later the Monroe Doctrine, which would lead to some of the more destructive interventions in the belief that South America was the backyard of the U.S.

In 1845, journalist John O'Sullivan declared it was "the common duty of Patriotism" to strive for "the fulfillment of our manifest destiny to overspread the continent." He did this to support the annexation of Texas even as he lined up California for the next step in his overspreading plan for America. The American-initiated war with Mexico had started a year before.

Only eight years later, Commodore Matthew Calbraith Perry would be sent to Japan to pry the country open under the threat of guns. Little wonder that Edgar Allan Poe, in one of his last stories, "The Domain of Arnheim," casually called the U.S. "the empire."

In 1935, the editors of Fortune magazine took it upon themselves to tell their readers what the U.S. has been all about. "It is generally supposed that the American military ideal is peace," they wrote. "But for this high-school classic, the U.S. Army, since 1776, has filched more square miles of the earth by sheer military conquest than any army in the world, except only that of Great Britain. And as between Great Britain and the U.S. it has been a close race, Britain having conquered something over 3,500,000 square miles (9 million square km) since that date, and the U.S. (if one includes wresting the Louisiana Purchase from the Indians) something over 3,100,000."

This observation necessarily reminds me of the American writer Helen Mears' 1948 book, "Mirror for Americans." Mears, who was briefly in Japan on the U.S. commission to advise the Japanese government on labor issues after the war, was as clear-eyed as the Fortune editors. The central pretext for the Occupation was the proposition that the Japanese were "inherently militaristic and expansionist," but the West's postwar condemnation of Japan as a warmonger nonpareil was, Mears wrote, "a perfect illustration of respectable people smashing their own glass houses."

Yeah, but the other guys always throw the first stone.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:38 AM


Schools told it's no longer necessary to teach right from wrong (David Charter, 7/31/06, Times of London)

SCHOOLS would no longer be required to teach children the difference between right and wrong under plans to revise the core aims of the National Curriculum.

Instead, under a new wording that reflects a world of relative rather than absolute values, teachers would be asked to encourage pupils to develop “secure values and beliefs”.

The draft also purges references to promoting leadership skills and deletes the requirement to teach children about Britain’s cultural heritage.

Ministers have asked for the curriculum’s aims to be slimmed down to give schools more flexibility in the way they teach pupils aged 11 to 14.

...when you're doing such a good job destroying your own culture.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:36 AM


A baffling ballot paper is the only hitch in first free election (Jonathan Clayton in Kinshasa and Tristan McConnell in Bukavu, 7/31/06, Times of London)

In scenes repeated across this huge, impoverished country, millions of people waited patiently to vote in the first free elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo in more than forty years, an event organised by the United Nations and monitored by thousands of international observers.

In the far eastern province of South Kivu, the scene of some of the latest war’s worst fighting, eager voters braved the morning chill to join queues outside rural polling stations. About four million people died in the 1998-2003 civil war, making it the world’s costliest conflict since the Second World War.

At Tubimbi primary school the sun rising over the surrounding hills illuminated hundreds of villagers standing in neat lines, the women wrapped in brightly coloured printed fabric, babies strapped to their backs. Pascalina Faida, 18, had queued since 4am. She said: “I want my country to be better and to be peaceful so I will vote.”

July 30, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:16 AM


First Saudi tabloid survives closure and arrest (Andrew Hammond, July 24, 2006, Reuters)

The fact that he still has a newspaper to edit is proof enough to Khalaf Alharbi that the ceiling of freedom in ultraconservative Saudi Arabia is rising.

His mischievous tabloid Shams, Arabic for Sun, has endured suspension, the arrest of one of its journalists and the carping of Islamist hard-liners who say it embodies the Westernized future they fear Saudi Arabia will face if liberals get their way.

But with a daily print-run of nearly 70,000, and recent permission to print inside the oil-producing kingdom instead of in neighboring Bahrain, Alharbi says the paper for young people aims to set a new standard after its first turbulent six months. [...]

Saudi Arabia is one of the world's most conservative societies, an absolute monarchy which governs through a strict interpretation of sharia, Islamic law. When King Abdullah came to power last year, he promised progress on a range of political, social and economic reforms.

The appearance of Saudi Arabia's first tabloid last December has been seen as another sign of slow, but inevitable, change.

The paper has published sensational features about forced marriage for young girls, premarital relationships, unemployment among women, an official ban on school sports for girls and arbitrary detention by police.

And it managed to survive its most daring act of all -- publishing some of the Danish cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad that provoked a global outcry among Muslims earlier this year.

The paper was shut down after running the caricatures, but the Ministry of Information, seen as a progressive force in Saudi Arabia under Minister Iyad Madani, allowed it to return a few weeks later, under its new editor Alharbi, a short-story author who had previously written in Gulf newspapers.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:12 AM


‘Bingo’ is special to Jones: Actor thinks movie about black ballplayers was misunderstood. (RAYMOND DOSWELL, Jul. 30, 2006, The Kansas City Star)

[T[he role that started [James Earl Jones's] run of baseball films was Leon Carter — the intellectual, nonconformist, power-hitting catcher in “The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars and Motor Kings,” which debuted 30 years ago.

In a phone interview from an office near his upstate New York home, Jones, 75, reflected on the irony of acting in films such as “Bingo Long” and “The Great White Hope,” where he plays a prizefighter.

“I’m 6-1 and know nothing about sports,” Jones said. “I’m flat-footed. I couldn’t hit a ball. I had to fake hitting a ball.”

As a child, his exposure to baseball came from listening to a radio connected to a car battery. His grandfather was a fan of Kansas City Monarchs pitcher Satchel Paige.

“(Paige) was an icon in our family,” Jones said. “It had something to do with style, I think, too, which I think we tried to capture in ‘Bingo Long.’ ”

“Bingo Long” came to the screen when young Hollywood producer Rob Cohen convinced Motown Records founder Barry Gordy to invest in rights and writers fees to turn author William Brashler’s gritty baseball novel, of the same title, into a feature film. Brashler fictionalized segregated America in 1939 through the lens of a rebellious black exhibition baseball team. They work through various misadventures — battling bad luck and racism with athletic skill and humor — while barnstorming the country to escape an oppressive owner from the Negro Leagues.

Since the late 1800s, there had been a tradition of players or teams who added vaudevillelike antics to their performances. The All-Stars on screen were patterned more after the Indianapolis Clowns of the later Negro Leagues than the Kansas City Monarchs or the Homestead Grays, who played straight baseball. The cast of “Bingo Long” even featured some old Clowns players.

“They took the game of baseball seriously, but they took life lightly and they would entertain people,” Jones said about the All-Stars. “They’d use midgets, they’d use one-armed players. They would do anything to draw a crowd.”

But the film wasn’t a big box-office draw, and later that summer it had to compete against another baseball movie, “The Bad News Bears.” The negative critiques of “Bingo Long” were disappointing to Jones.

“Even the liberal press was upset because Cohen and his group of actors spent all their time and money making a ‘comedy’ when you had a great tragedy you could tell about the Negro players,” Jones said. “Well, we didn’t set out to make a tragedy, but that’s what they wanted in that year.”

The '70s were our liberal decade--nothing was supposed to be funny.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:06 AM


The Insanity Defense Goes Back on Trial (MORRIS B. HOFFMAN and STEPHEN J. MORSE, 7/30/06, NY Times)

For centuries we have had a rough idea of the categories of people whom we should not hold criminally responsible. Early cases labeled them “the juvenile, possessed or insane.” The idea was that only people capable of understanding and abiding by the rules of the social contract may justly be declared criminally responsible for their breaches. Someone who genuinely believes he has heard God’s voice command him to kill another does not deserve blame and punishment, because he lacks the ability to reason about the moral quality of his action. [...]

Once we agree that there may be some small percentage of people whose moral cognition is seriously disordered, how can the law identify those people in a way that will not allow the materialism of science to expand the definitions of excusing conditions to include all criminals? That is, if paranoid schizophrenia can provide part of the basis to excuse some criminal acts, why not bipolar disorder, or being angry, or having a bad day, or just being a jerk? After all, a large number of factors over which we have no rational control cause each of us to be the way we are.

The short answer is that we should recognize that the criteria for responsibility — intentionality and moral capacity — are social and legal concepts, not scientific, medical or psychiatric ones. Neither behavioral science nor neuroscience has demonstrated that we are automatons who lack the capacity for rational moral evaluation, even though we sometimes don’t use it. Some people suffer from mental disorder and some do not; some people form intentions and some do not. Most people are responsible, but some are not.

Punishing the deserving wrongdoers among us — those who intentionally violate the criminal law and are cognitively unimpaired — takes people seriously as moral agents and lies at the heart of what being civilized is all about. But being civilized also means not punishing those whom we deem morally impaired by mental disorder. Convicting and punishing a defendant who genuinely believed that God commanded him to kill is not unscientific, it is immoral and unjust.

We should be skeptical about claims of non-responsibility. But, if insanity-defense tests are interpreted sensibly to excuse people who genuinely lacked the ability to reason morally at the time of the crime, and expert testimony is treated with appropriate caution, the criminal justice system can reasonably decide whom to blame and punish.

It's crazy to punish people who aren't responsible actors.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:56 AM


Lieberman's Eroding Base: Many Democratic Faithful Support a Political Newcomer Rather Than the Senator Who Has Not Toed Party Line (Shailagh Murray, 7/30/06, Washington Post)

[A]n insurgency fueled by liberal anger over the senator's support for the Iraq war, coupled with an agile, well-financed campaign by Lamont that capitalizes on that discontent, is threatening to topple Lieberman in the Aug. 8 Connecticut Democratic primary. If he loses, Lieberman is likely to run as an independent in November, drawing on his popularity with Republicans and unaffiliated voters. Yet the stunning turnabout is a cautionary tale of how quickly a political career can unravel. [...]

In an editorial published today, the New York Times endorsed Lamont over Lieberman, arguing that the senator had offered the nation a "warped version of bipartisanship" by supporting Bush on national security.

Lieberman is accustomed to the rough and tumble of politics, and can be combative in his own defense, as he showed during a recent debate. But he said he has been jarred by the intensity of Democratic anger toward Bush -- and, by extension, toward him. Liberal bloggers have called Lieberman a "liar" and a "weasel."

"It's not just opposition to Bush," he said. "The hatred is so deep."

As the story suggests, those who are furious aren't [and weren't] the Senator's base.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:53 AM


Hezbollah fight shifts spotlight from Gaza (Joshua Mitnick, 7/30/06, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

To the chagrin of many Palestinians, a resolution to the Gaza clashes often is linked to a cease-fire agreement between Israel and Hezbollah.

"The Palestinians have to prove that they are not in the same basket and that they should not be punished for the Lebanese cause," said Omar Shaban, a Gaza-based political analyst.

"We have our own political agenda. We need a political solution. What is going on in Lebanon is different. Hezbollah has no political agenda. Lebanon is not occupied by Israel."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:50 AM


The life of a talent-spotter who left his mark on both jazz and rock-and-roll. (Jonathan Yardley, July 30, 2006, Washington Post)

Late in the evening of July 7, 1957, Count Basie and his orchestra took the stage to wrap up that year's Newport Jazz Festival. The all-black band was introduced by a tall, skinny, crew-cut white guy with a voice so plummy as to border on unintentional self-parody. I was there and remember it vividly, but anybody can hear it on the album "Basie at Newport," and to this day almost everybody is likely to agree that the contrast between the Manhattanite voice and the down-home Kansas City band is just about too exquisitely hilarious to be true.

But it was, and is, no joke. The speaker was John Hammond, and he deserved to be there. Though little-known beyond the innermost circles of American popular music, Hammond was a man of almost incalculable influence on that music. Twenty years earlier, after hearing the Basie band on the radio -- the band was celebrated in Kansas City but otherwise obscure -- Hammond had driven to Missouri from New York specifically to offer his services as producer, booker and just about everything else, not for the money it might make for him but because he believed Basie and his band deserved and must be presented to a larger audience. For this Basie remained grateful ever after, which is why he was no doubt delighted to be led onstage in Newport by his old benefactor and friend.

It could be said that Hammond spent almost his entire life leading musicians onstage. Born in December 1910 into a wealthy New York family -- his mother was a Vanderbilt -- Hammond rarely had more than fleeting financial worries throughout his 76-year life and was free to concentrate his very considerable energies on the two causes with which he was obsessed: American popular music, jazz most particularly, and civil rights for African Americans. As a boy he was steered toward classical music by his mother, but he was far more interested in the music sung and played by the servants, many of whom were black. Dunstan Prial writes:

"As Hammond observed in his memoirs, as well as in numerous interviews, he sensed from an early age that there was a reason this music was as deeply passionate as it was. It was uniquely American music, written by and played for people who had known the harsher realities of life firsthand. In particular, it was music by and for people whose skin color kept them perpetually at the bottom rung of American society. Listening to this music helped awaken Hammond to the vast class differences that separated him from the servants in the basement."

Hammond was barely out of knee-pants before he started venturing to Harlem, where musicians and nightclub operators seem to have adopted him as an odd but agreeable mascot.

Posted by David Cohen at 9:49 AM


Fridays with Florence: Gay Marriage — a Dead Cert (Florence King, National Review, 6/3/96) (reprinted at NRO, 3/26/04)

The major brainwashing, soon to begin, will proceed as follows.

Magazines will run cover stories that thinking Americans — all 17 of us — recognize as that brand of persuasion called "nibbled to death by a duck." Time does "Debating Same-Sex Marriage" and Newsweek does "Rethinking Gay Marriage." Lofty opinion journals weigh in with "A Symposium on," "In Defense of," and "Voices from," while Parade does "If They Say 'I Do' . . . Will We Say 'You Can't?'" Cover art consists of a pair of wedding rings sporting identical biological signs: two arrow-shooting circles for men, two mirror-handle circles for women. We will start seeing these logos in our sleep.

Next, the pundits. Molly Ivins writes "Bubba, Hold Yore Peace." Ellen Goodman waxes earnest about tradition versus change in "Something Old, Something New," Ruth Shalit writes something borrowed, and Richard Cohen, Victim America's identifier-in-chief, does a column called "We're All Single." Arianna Huffington will figure out a compassionate way to be against gay marriage, but most conservatives stand to fare badly in this debate. Will Durant wrote, "When religion submits to reason it begins to die." In a media-saturated society teeming with talk-show producers casting dragnets over think tanks, proponents of gay marriage win merely by being scheduled. By contrast, the conservative instinctively recoils from analyzing eternal verities. He may know the words to legal arguments such as "the need to show a compelling state interest, etc." but he doesn't know the tune. In the final analysis he believes in the sanctity of marriage "just because."

OJ's link to a Florence King column below prompted me to reread some of her greatest hits on NRO. None are better than this column. What an ear Ms. King has for the pomposities and stale rhetoric of the liberal media. How many times over the last few years have we seen those linked wedding rings she predicted in 1996?

In the end, though, she is too pessimistic, as misanthropes tend to be when making predictions about America. Not that she is wrong about conservatives' inability to argue with liberals on the liberals' terms. But, where ever Americans get to vote on their inchoate understanding of the world, gay marriage is stymied. Naturally, the left wants these decisions taken away from the forum in which they lose -- the voting booth -- and sent to the forum in which they win -- the media and the courts. Voting, however, is slowly but surely making the even the courts uncongenial. The liberals have been reduced to seeking victory in a handful of state courts, and even there they have lost. It is likely no coincidence that judges never face the electorate in the only state where the left has won on gay marriage and that, in that state, the left is trying its best to make sure that gay marriage never makes the ballot.

So the left is, more and more, turning to a new tactic. We are all agreed Americans must be free from any governmental compulsion to belong to a specific religion, or even to believe in any god at all. Now the left argues that no policy is legitimate if it is supported by a religious impulse. This is a complete break from the past, when all the great campaigns for American progress -- independence, abolition, robust militarism, temperance and civil rights -- were expressly and unabashedly religious.

This nonsense has already made in-roads. In its Lawrence decision striking down anti-sodomy laws and in the Goodridge decision requiring gay marriage, the Supreme Court and the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court have held that morality is not, in and of itself, a rational basis for any law. On the one hand, this might seem clearly true -- morality makes no pretense of rationality. On the other hand, "rational" is in this instance a term of art and no law is within the power of the state unless rationally related to a legitimate state end. In other words, it is beyond the scope of the legislature or, at least at the state level, the people to adopt a law simply because it is moral. The law is now expressly amoral.

That rationality requires the law to be amoral is, to the conservative, non-sense. Taken as a whole, only the moral society is rational. An amoral society would be an impoverished dictatorship; if no person could trust another and neither the citizen nor the government could rely on the other, civil society would be dead. The best we could hope for would be tribalism or sectarianism such as we've seen in Lebanon and Somalia. The same result would come if the legislature weren't prohibited, by the people, from passing immoral laws. In a successful society, morality is both a necessary and sufficient basis for law. That is the only rational conclusion that can be drawn, regardless of whether every jot and tittle of our moral code can be justified rationally.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:43 AM


Secrets & lies: The case of Brooke Astor highlights concerns of elder abuse in the city (GINA SALAMONE, 7/30/06, NY Daily News)

Accusations that Brooke Astor is being mistreated by her son, acting as her caretaker, have shocked New Yorkers, but the beloved philanthropist's situation is far from unique.

Up to 50,000 seniors in the city are believed to be suffering through some form of abuse each year, according to the Department for the Aging. And most of these cases are never brought to light.

One woman, who we'll call Beth to protect her identity, was physically attacked for two years and psychologically abused for five years by a live-in family member. It was only after he put her in the hospital that she decided it had to stop.

He punched her all over her body on that occasion, and she nearly passed out from the blows.

"Up until that time I hadn't told anybody," Beth says. "Then I realized either I did something about it or he was going to kill me - by mistake. And I don't want to die."

Yet the Left believes he should be allowed to kill her. After all, her quality of life is terrible. Who'd want to live that way.....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:39 AM

THE GOSPEL OF ST. PEAT (via Tom Corcoran):

Ancient Book of Psalms Unearthed in Irish Bog (Shawn Pogatchnik, July 26, 2006, Associated Press)

Irish archaeologists Tuesday heralded the discovery of an ancient book of psalms by a construction worker who spotted something while working in a bog.

The approximately 20-page book has been dated to 800-1000 A.D. Trinity College manuscripts expert Bernard Meehan said it was the first discovery of an Irish early medieval document in two centuries.

"This is really a miracle find," said Pat Wallace, director of the National Museum of Ireland.

"There's two sets of odds that make this discovery really way out. First of all, it's unlikely that something this fragile could survive being buried in a bog at all, and then for it to be unearthed and spotted before it was destroyed is incalculably more amazing."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:31 AM


So Big and Healthy Grandpa Wouldn’t Even Know You (GINA KOLATA, 7/30/06, NY Times)

The Keller family illustrates what may prove to be one of the most striking shifts in human existence — a change from small, relatively weak and sickly people to humans who are so big and robust that their ancestors seem almost unrecognizable.

New research from around the world has begun to reveal a picture of humans today that is so different from what it was in the past that scientists say they are startled. Over the past 100 years, says one researcher, Robert W. Fogel of the University of Chicago, humans in the industrialized world have undergone “a form of evolution that is unique not only to humankind, but unique among the 7,000 or so generations of humans who have ever inhabited the earth.”

The difference does not involve changes in genes, as far as is known, but changes in the human form. It shows up in several ways, from those that are well known and almost taken for granted, like greater heights and longer lives, to ones that are emerging only from comparisons of health records.

The biggest surprise emerging from the new studies is that many chronic ailments like heart disease, lung disease and arthritis are occurring an average of 10 to 25 years later than they used to. There is also less disability among older people today, according to a federal study that directly measures it. And that is not just because medical treatments like cataract surgery keep people functioning. Human bodies are simply not breaking down the way they did before.

Even the human mind seems improved. The average I.Q. has been increasing for decades, and at least one study found that a person’s chances of having dementia in old age appeared to have fallen in recent years.

The proposed reasons are as unexpected as the changes themselves. Improved medical care is only part of the explanation; studies suggest that the effects seem to have been set in motion by events early in life, even in the womb, that show up in middle and old age.

“What happens before the age of 2 has a permanent, lasting effect on your health, and that includes aging,” said Dr. David J. P. Barker, a professor of medicine at Oregon Health and Science University in Portland and a professor of epidemiology at the University of Southampton in England.

Each event can touch off others. Less cardiovascular disease, for example, can mean less dementia in old age. The reason is that cardiovascular disease can precipitate mini-strokes, which can cause dementia. Cardiovascular disease is also a suspected risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease.

The effects are not just in the United States. Large and careful studies from Finland, Britain, France, Sweden and the Netherlands all confirm that the same things have happened there; they are also beginning to show up in the underdeveloped world.

Of course, there were people in previous generations who lived long and healthy lives, and there are people today whose lives are cut short by disease or who suffer for years with chronic ailments. But on average, the changes, researchers say, are huge.

Even more obvious differences surprise scientists by the extent of the change.

If we were finches on the Galapagos the Darwinists would claim we were a different species than our grandparents. But the Applied Darwinism of the Holocaust caused them such shame that they never mention humans anymore.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:23 AM


Gay-marriage advocates grapple with their next course of action (Lornet Turnbull, 7/30/06, Seattle Times)

Like civil-rights crusaders of the 1960s, champions of gay rights have long looked to the courts to grant them what they believed they couldn't get elsewhere.

Judges, they believed, are charged with righting historic wrongs and delivering pure justice in a way voters with their own biases and the lawmakers beholden to them often would not.

And, indeed, the landmark civil-rights rulings of the past century bear them out: Brown v. Board of Education, which ordered school desegregation, and Loving v. Virginia, which later struck down laws banning interracial marriages.

But a string of recent court decisions, including last week's 5-4 Washington Supreme Court ruling that upheld the state's ban on same-sex marriages, suggests the judicial path may have failed them and that justices who have found themselves pilloried as activists will not deliver full salvation for gays after all.

Taken together, the decisions represent a body of case law that might make following Massachusetts' lead in allowing same-sex marriage that much more difficult for the handful of states still weighing the question.

Blacks based their case on the country's religious beliefs and made a moral claim on the national conscience. They only required that America live up to its own ideals.

Gays are demanding that we violate those religious tenets, privilege immorality and forget about our ideals.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:15 AM


The Iranian elephant in the room: Whether or not Tehran actually ordered its Hezbollah allies to attack Israel, the Shiite regime is a major player in the conflict. Too bad Washington refuses to negotiate. (OLIVIA WARD, Jul. 30, 2006, Toronto Star)

Whatever the nature of Iran's involvement in the current crisis, says Ali Ansari, an associate professor at University of St. Andrews in Scotland, the major questions are whether it will be the winner or loser when the crisis is over and whether the shaky balance of power in the Middle East will be disturbed.

"Hezbollah was always Iran's deterrent force against Israel," says Ansari, author of Confronting Iran: The Failure of American Foreign Policy and the Next Great Conflict in the Middle East.

"If Hezbollah is strengthened by the conflict, Iran will come out of it better and the Sunnis in the region will be terrified. But if Israel weakens Hezbollah, Iran could also be strategically weakened."

In spite of its public belligerence, Ansari says, Tehran wants to present itself as a peacemaker.

Holding talks with Washington might help defuse both the Lebanon crisis and the nuclear standoff, but the Bush administration has declared Iran part of the "axis of evil" and refuses all contact with its government.

"The problem with Iran goes much deeper than the current crises," says Ansari.

"It has to do with decades of suspicion and misconceptions between Washington and Tehran.

"Now, there is an absurd situation with senior diplomats saying Iran and Syria are responsible for the conflict in Lebanon, but refusing to talk to either of them.

Ansari argues that Iran's image in the region has been inflated by Western blunders rather than by Tehran's shrewdness.

"Iran's successes are the result of our incompetence," he says. " It is the elephant in the room, but not for the reasons we think."

Hezbollah can't lose this fight--it will remain the repository of Lebanese Shi'ite political aspirations. But Israel and America can still win if Syria's regime is changed and the Iranian nuclear program decimated.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:09 AM


THE FALL, RISE & FALL OF BEIRUT: The latest bombing of Beirut comes at a time when the ancient city has finally emerged from the rubble of a 15-year civil war. The regeneration has been a stunning success, guided by a certainty, clarity and almost poetic sensibility (CHRISTOPHER HUME, 7/30/06, TORONTO STAR)

That conflict, which lasted from 1975 to 1990, was a time of astounding self-destruction. But the reconstruction that followed is widely regarded as one of the great examples of urban regeneration. It is familiar to planners and planning students around the world as a process that worked wonders, a model for the rest of the world.

It was often referred to in these parts when the Toronto Waterfront Revitalization Corp. was being set up; experts said it offered many lessons for this city.

One of its most ardent admirers is Toronto urban designer Tony Coombes. He spent several years in Beirut during the mid- to late-1990s as an adviser to Solidere, the corporation created in 1994 by the Lebanese government to oversee the rebuilding of central Beirut.

The mandate and structure of Solidere — which is still in operation, or was until the Israeli onslaught — has been much studied. It was the key to the success of Beirut's revival.

As Coombes explains it, Solidere acquired the land in the central district of Beirut and issued shares to owners and tenants on the basis of their property holdings. Three tribunals were created to ensure that those involved received what to which they were rightfully entitled. Another stipulation was that no one person or business could own more than 10 per cent of Solidere shares.

The intention was to enable Solidere to set rules, makes business deals, establish design guidelines and work directly with developers. Shareholder dividends were paid from funds raised selling land to developers.

As Coombes recalls, the time he spent in Beirut was one of uncertainty: "The electricity could go off at any time and the phones didn't necessarily work. The central district had been destroyed. No one was living there but squatters."

"Solidere was an extraordinary response to an extreme situation," he says. "It was essentially an invention of the great prime minister, Rafik Hariri, who himself put money into the company."

A self-made billionaire who twice served as prime minister of Lebanon, Hariri was assassinated on Feb. 14, 2005. His death, for which many held Syria responsible, inspired a grassroots democratic movement that toppled the government and saw Syrian forces leaving Lebanon after 26 years of occupation.

The reconstruction of Beirut continued throughout those anxious days. According to Coombes, the process itself created a small army of administrators, architects, designers, builders and artisans to carry on the work.

Says Coombes: "It became one of the great urban reconstruction companies in the world. It was a tour de force, a heroic act, one of the most astonishing examples of city-building of the last 50 years."

Solidere even managed to transform the vast landfill site in the old harbour into a new public space.

July 29, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:06 PM


Roberts and Alito Misled Us (Edward M. Kennedy, July 30, 2006, Washington Post)

[T]he careful, bipartisan process of years past -- like so many checks and balances rooted in our Constitution -- has been badly broken by the current Bush administration. The result has been the confirmation of two justices, John G. Roberts Jr. and Samuel A. Alito Jr., whose voting record on the court reflects not the neutral, modest judicial philosophy they promised the Judiciary Committee, but an activist's embrace of the administration's political and ideological agenda.

Now that the votes are in from their first term, we can see plainly the agenda that Roberts and Alito sought to conceal from the committee. Our new justices consistently voted to erode civil liberties, decrease the rights of minorities and limit environmental protections. At the same time, they voted to expand the power of the president, reduce restrictions on abusive police tactics and approve federal intrusion into issues traditionally governed by state law.

The confirmation process became broken because the Bush administration learned the wrong lesson from the failed Bork nomination and decided it could still nominate extremists as long as their views were hidden.

Since it did so successfully oughtn't we say the Administration learned the right lesson?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:48 PM


N. Korea missile didn't go as far as Japan estimated (Japan Times, 7/29/06)

The United States has told Japan that the Taepodong-2 missile fired July 5 by North Korea exploded in midair within 1.5 km of the launchpad, not 400 to 600 km away as the Japanese government had initially estimated, sources said Saturday.

Japan had earlier estimated the missile reached well into the Sea of Japan.

According to the sources, U.S. satellite information suggests the Taepodong-2 exploded in midair above a northeastern region of North Korea...

Only the far Left and far Right can still be surprised that a communist military is only a threat to itself.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:34 PM


Quantum Enigma: Physics Encounters Consciousness (Bruce Rosenblum and Fred Kuttner)

Try summarizing the implications of quantum theory, and what you get sounds mystical.

Let's try a rough summary anyway. To account for the demonstrated facts, quantum theory tells us that an observation of one object can instantaneously influence the behavior of another greatly distant object--even if no physical force connects the two. Einstein rejected such influences as "spooky interactions," but they have now been demonstrated to exist. Quantum theory also tells us that observing an object to be someplace causes it to be there. For example, according to quantum theory, an object can be in two, or many, places at once--even far distant places. Its existence at the particular place it happens to be found becomes an actuality only upon its (conscious) observation.

This seems to deny the existence of a physically real world independent of our observation of it. You can see why Einstein was troubled.

Erwin Schrodinger, a founder of modern quantum theory, told his now famous cat story to illustrate that since the quantum theory applies to the large as well as the small, the theory is saying something absurd. Schrodinger's cat, according to quantum theory, could be simultaneously dead and alive--until your observation causes it to be either dead or alive. Moreover, finding the cat dead would create a history of it developing rigor mortis; finding it alive would create a history of its developing hunger--backward in time.

Anyone who takes the implications of quantum theory seriously would presumably agree that you can't accept it with equanimity. Niels Bohr, the theory's principal interpreter, tells us: "Anyone not shocked by quantum mechanics has not understood it."

The funny thing is, only the Brights are shocked by this truism.

Posted by David Cohen at 6:01 PM


The McCains and War: Like Father, Like Son (Massimo Calabresi, Time.com, 7/29/06)

Exclusive: Vietnam hero and Senator John McCain has unyieldingly backed the Iraq war. Now son Jimmy is heading to boot camp and, maybe, to battle

This September, Senator John McCain's youngest son, Jimmy, 18, will report to a U.S. Marine Corps depot near Camp Pendleton in San Diego. After three months of boot camp and a month of specialized training, he will be ready to deploy. Depending on the unit he joins, he could be in Iraq as early as this time next year, and his chances of seeing combat at some point are high.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:28 PM


Why don't you just have Carrasco walk Ortiz & pitch to Manny?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:33 PM


We've often recommended the excellent Commissario Guido Brunetti series by Donna Leon and there's an especially good passage in Death in a Strange Country. Despite a somewhat anti-American tone and a plot that tries
to compare the U.S. Military to the Mafia and the corrupt Italian bureaucracy, Ms Leon eventually has Guido approach his father-in-law, a powerful Count, and ask his help in getting an illegal toxic waste site dealt with. The Count agrees, but reluctantly:

"Don't you care about any of this?" he asked, unable to keep the passion from his voice. [...]

"Yes, I care about it, Guido, but not in the same way you do. You have managed to retain remnants of optimism, even in the midst of the work you do. I have none. Not for myself, nor for my future, and not for this country or its future. [...]

We are a nation of egoists. It is our glory, but it will be our destruction, for none of us can be made to concern ourselves about something as abstract as 'the common good.' The best of us can rise to feeling concern for our families, but as a nation we are incapable of more."

And, of course, the birth rates in Europe demonstrate that they don't care about family in the abstract either, just the self.

The Egotism; or Bosom Serpent (Nathaniel Hawthorne)

All persons chronically diseased are egotists, whether the disease be of the mind or body; whether it be sin, sorrow, or merely the more tolerable calamity of some endless pain, or mischief among the cords of mortal life. Such individuals are made acutely conscious of a self, by the torture in which it dwells. Self, therefore, grows to be so prominent an object with them that they cannot but present it to the face of every casual passer-by.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:19 PM


U.S. Economy Cools As Consumers Pull Back (Nell Henderson, 7/29/06, Washington Post)

Despite higher prices and slower growth, "there are no clear signs that the economy is close to a recession," said Eugenio J. Alemán, senior economist for Wells Fargo Economics, noting low unemployment and evidence that "the real estate market is slowing down but not collapsing."

Stocks and bonds rallied yesterday on hopes that slower economic growth will encourage Federal Reserve policymakers to stop raising interest rates soon, after two years of steady hikes aimed at keeping a lid on prices.

After the GDP report was released yesterday, traders in futures contracts bet that Fed policymakers will leave their benchmark short-term interest rate unchanged at 5.25 percent at their next meeting, Aug. 8, which would mark the first meeting since June 2004 without a hike. On Thursday, the markets saw the outcome of the next meeting as roughly a tossup.

Fed Chairman Ben S. Bernanke indicated to Congress last week that he and his colleagues are counting on a cooler economy to weaken price pressures over the next 18 months -- a sign that they don't plan to raise interest rates high enough to cause a sharper slowdown this year. Their report to Congress showed that they expect the economy to grow at about a 2.5 percent annual rate for the rest of the year and then rebound to a pace around 3.2 percent next year.

Chairman Greenspan always went the extra cuts too far--hopefully Mr. Bernanke has stopped sooner.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:09 PM


Watch Ann Go Whoosh!: Analyzing La Coulter (FLORENCE KING, 8/07/06, National Review)

Wondering what life in America would be like if Coulter used a stiletto instead of a sledgehammer is a tempting but futile excursion into dreamland. Suppose, for example, she was confronted, like Jennie Churchill, with a pompous young man who boasted that his financйe’s virtue was “priced above rubies.” Without missing a beat, Jennie said, “Try diamonds.” But if the young man said the same thing to Coulter?

“The godless liberals are trying to link Pat Robertson to Charles Taylor’s diamond-smuggling cartel in Liberia while they cry crocodile tears over the poor starving Africans they’re helping to starve by conniving with radical ANC goons trained by Winnie Mandela who controls every mine in South Africa, all because they hate Robertson’s Christian beliefs so much they’ll be cheering and dancing in the streets if Taylor and the God-hating Marxists succeed in smearing him!”

If Coulter lacks Jennie Churchill’s sophisticated wit, neither does she show any trace of Dorothy Parker’s lethal impishness. Parker’s assessment of her dependent husband — “Alan will always land on somebody’s feet” — would probably leave her cold. Not because she didn’t get it, but because it is so perfectly epigrammatic that there is no way to “mischaracterize” it, to use Coulter’s favorite fighting word; it can be quoted in context, out of context, or out of the blue without losing a thing.

Wit keeps sexual repartee from being offensive; the sharper the wit, the cleaner the joke. Challenged to use the word horticulture in a sentence, Parker immediately shot back, “You can lead a horticulture but you can’t make her think.” Her opinion of the current crop of debutantes: “If they were laid end to end I wouldn’t be a bit surprised.” The English adventuress who broke her leg in the middle of her divorce trial: “She probably did it sliding down a barrister.”

If only Ms King were a hottie, she'd get the tv gigs.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:07 PM


Mel gives cops hell: Report: Drunken Gibson threatens officer in rant (MICHELLE CARUSO, 7/29/06, NY DAILY NEWS)

Gibson, 50, was pulled over for speeding at 3:10 a.m. on the Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu, Calif., cops said. The Oscar-winning "Braveheart" star and director was driving 80 mph when he was snared by a radar trap, sheriff's deputies said. The speed limit in that area is 45 mph to 55 mph.

Gibson failed both alcohol breath and field sobriety tests, deputies said. His blood-alcohol level was .12, Deputy Anthony Moore said. The legal limit is .08 in California.

According to the incident report obtained by TMZ.com, the Road Warrior embarked on a belligerent, anti-Semitic outburst when he realized he had been busted.

"F-----g Jews. The Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world," Mee's report quotes him as saying.

"Are you a Jew?" Gibson asked the deputy, according to the report.

The actor also berated the deputy, threatening, "You motherf----r. I'm going to f--- you," according to Mee's report.

The actor also told the cop he "owns Malibu" and would spend all his money "to get even with me," Mee said in his report.

TMZ quoted a law enforcement source as saying Gibson noticed a female sergeant on the scene and yelled at her, "What do you think you're looking at, sugar t--s?"

But he took responsibility well, Mel Gibson apologizes for DUI arrest (SANDY COHEN, 7/29/06, AP)

Mel Gibson issued a lengthy statement Saturday apologizing for his drunk driving arrest and saying he has battled alcoholism throughout his life.

The actor and "The Passion of the Christ" director also apologized for what he said were "despicable" statements he made to the deputies who arrested him early Friday on Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu.

"I acted like a person completely out of control when I was arrested," he said in a statement issued by his publicist. "I disgraced myself and my family with my behavior and for that I am truly sorry. I have battled with the disease of alcoholism for all of my adult life and profoundly regret my horrific relapse."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:06 AM


Report: Cuban baseball players defect in Colombia (ESPN.com, 7/28/06)

Two more Cuban baseball players have reportedly defected.

Three days after three Cubans defected to the Dominican Republic, Yulieski Gurriel and Eduardo Paret defected to the Colombian city of Cartagena, the local press reported Friday.

"One of the members of the Cuban team who deserted is star second baseman Yulieski Gourriel, considered as one of the best in the world at his position," The Bogota Times reported Friday. "It appears that his next destination would the New York Yankees.

...that the Yankee farm system depends on importing immigrants.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:49 AM

THAT IS THE PARADIGM (via Raoul Ortega):

Carlessness (Philip Dawdy, 7/27/06, Seattle Weekly)

This week, our paper has a cover story about bicycling in Seattle, and especially about commuting by bike. I mention this because a little over a year ago I decided to go carless and try to do the good prog-liberal thing and see how it worked out. [...]

I am here to tell you at the liberal paradigm is, in this respect, an abysmal failure. Or at least it was for me.

My social life went down the tubes. If a friend of mine lived outside of Capitol Hill, downtown, Belltown, the ID, or Pioneer Square, I was screwed. I have a lot of friends who don't live in those places, and suddenly I wasn't being invited to pop over to a friend's house for impromptu barbeques and parties. That sucked. And if I needed to run an errand to, say, Best Buy at Northgate, it would take an hour-plus in each direction to get there—and with Metro's schedules, don't try that in the evening. Besides, you cannot carry more than a couple of shopping bags on Metro.

Not having a car got in the way of work, as well. I am the kind of reporter who prefers to meet people in person, if possible, and I suddenly had to resort to doing a lot of phone interviews unless I did a lot of planning for taking transit—and giving up half an afternoon for a half-hour interview. There were also public meetings I wasn't able to attend, either, all of a sudden—unless they happened to be downtown or somewhere close by.

In other words, he had to make friends with his own neighbors, stop running pointless errands, and do a job by phone that should be. It worked.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:48 AM


Burying the elephant (CURTIS RUSH, 7/29/06, Toronto Star)

So, how do you bury an 8,500-pound elephant?

Not easily, as you might suspect.

Patsy, the 40-year-old African elephant who had arthritis so bad it was tough for her to walk, was put to sleep Monday night, and buried in an unmarked grave Tuesday at a remote location at the Toronto Zoo.

There were several logistical issues in burying Patsy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:24 AM


The 'Baby Bump' Is So Hot Right Now (Ellen Goodman, July 29, 2006, Truthdig)

So how did this fixation on celebrity babies, this upbeat bump beat, happen just as we are being told that parenthood is onerous and grueling and that parents are overworked and overwhelmed?

Readers of Star, In Touch, OK! and US Weekly probably did not pick up the latest lament about parenting at their supermarket checkout. It was offered by Barbara Dafoe Whitehead, co-director of the National Marriage Project and still best known for siding with Dan Quayle in his spat over single motherhood with Murphy Brown. Now, she's painted a disheartening picture of parenthood as "a conspicuous source of anxiety and distress.'' She then points to a demographic and cultural culprit. (full report / summary)

Parenting, writes Whitehead, takes up a shorter amount of the expanding life cycle these days, somewhere between a child-free youth and a child-free empty nest. So the culture that once thought of adulthood and parenthood as synonymous now portrays child-raising as an unsatisfying timeout from the fun.

"If the popular culture were the only source of knowledge about American parenthood,'' she says, "one would quickly conclude that being a parent is one of the least esteemed and most undesirable roles in the society.'' She describes a society that is "indifferent at best, and hostile, at worst, to those who are caring for the next generation.''

But if the popular culture casts parenthood as grim, who's feeding the pro-natalist message to its audience?

Here's a better question: how can intellectuals still not grasp that America holds them and their ideas in contempt?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:13 AM


Hezbollah Politicians Back Peace Package (SAM F. GHATTAS, 7/28/06, AP)

Hezbollah politicians, while expressing reservations, have joined their critics in the government in agreeing to a peace package that includes strengthening an international force in south Lebanon and disarming the guerrillas, the government said.

The agreement - reached after a heated six-hour Cabinet meeting - was the first time that Hezbollah has signed onto a proposal for ending the crisis that includes the deploying of international forces.

Once they're running a government in Lebanon we'll supply them with weapons and training.

Shiite Pilgrimage Leads to Church: On Perilous Border, Lebanese Christians Take In Muslims (Anthony Shadid, 7/29/06, Washington Post)

The word went out -- there was refuge in a Christian village -- and thousands came.

In a pilgrimage of fear, Shiite Muslims from the towns most ravaged along the Lebanese border fled for Rmeish, a hilltop hamlet along a road where Israeli shells fell, at times, every 15 seconds Friday. Here, they escaped to a church, and at the church, a basement lit by soft shafts of sunlight. In it were the wretched of this war: children with dirty feet and a pregnant woman who feared giving birth in squalor, an 85-year-old man whose donkey, his sole possession, was killed by a bomb and hundreds of others among the at least 10,000 who arrived in Rmeish, some drinking from a fetid pool and walking the streets in search of food and goodwill.

"The safety of God," said Heidar Issa, one of those here. "That's what we were counting on."

In a country fractured by faith, torn asunder by 15 years of civil war, they found refuge among the Lebanese Christians they once fought. Their politics often diverged -- over support for Hezbollah, their views of today's conflict -- but they shared a plight. And in a common misery wrought by war, less than a mile from the Israeli border, there was fleeting coexistence rather than talk of strife.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:05 AM


Circus peanuts: one of life's sweet mysteries (John Seewer, July 29, 2006, ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Steve Kerr pulled apart the freshly made circus peanut and pressed his thumbs into its spongy, orange center.

Not too moist or too rigid -- just right. "It's all about feel," he said.

He wasn't tempted to taste it, though.

"I'm not a big fan," conceded Mr. Kerr, vice president of operations for Spangler Candy Co., one of the few remaining makers of circus peanuts.

The marshmallow confection is as controversial as it gets when it comes to candy. What makes the circus peanut so intriguing and sparks debate among candy connoisseurs is that the treat is a mystery on many levels.

"People can't wrap their brains around why it's sweet and get really confused by the flavor," said Beth Kimmerle, author of "Candy: The Sweet History."

Though they are orange and look like peanuts, they taste like banana. And they are chewier than a traditional marshmallow. Even those who like circus peanuts can't agree whether they are better soft and fresh or stale and hard after sitting out for a week.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:54 AM


Minimum Wage Hike Passed By House: GOP Bill Also Cuts Estate Tax (Jonathan Weisman, 7/29/06, Washington Post)

The House last night voted to boost the minimum wage for the first time in nearly a decade while also permanently slashing the estate tax, a coupling that GOP leaders calculated might garner enough Senate support to become law.

House lawmakers also approved the biggest overhaul of the nation's pension laws in 30 years.

In the rush to bolster their party's accomplishments before leaving today on a five-week summer break, House Republican leaders effectively took a gamble. If the Senate follows the House and passes legislation shoring up the pension system, raising the minimum wage, permanently cutting the estate tax, and extending such measures as a research-and-development tax credit, Republicans can say they departed for the summer in a flourish of accomplishments.

The GOP should pass several more Democratic proposals, especially those of Hillary and the DLC, though tweaked to serve their own purposes as well.

July 28, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:25 PM


Landis says his testosterone is naturally high (AP, 7/28/06)

His voice steady and his tone defiant, Floyd Landis told the world he would clear his name of allegations he cheated to win the Tour de France and prove he deserved the victory in cycling's signature event.

In his first public appearance since a positive test for high testosterone cast his title into doubt, the American cyclist said his body's natural metabolism - not doping of any kind - caused the result, and that he would soon have the test results to prove it.

"We will explain to the world why this is not a doping case but a natural occurrence," Landis said during a surprise press conference in the Spanish capital.

Dang right his voice is steady and deep--not squeaky like those Euros...

Posted by David Cohen at 7:23 PM


The Political Economy of Beef: Oppression of Cows and Other Devalued Groups in Latin America Schedule Information


The focus of this paper is the effects of raising cows for “beef,” and the accompanying increase in the production of feed crops, in Latin America. It is suggested that the practice of “beef”-eating, a practice primarily of the elite and of the masses in affluent nations, has been promoted in the last century by large transnational corporations and protected by Latin American governments, with the support of the United States government and its military apparatus. Countless other animals and humans have been killed, and many others displaced, impoverished and exploited, as the profitable but devastating “hamburger culture” expands in the 21st century.

This paper will be given during the Animals and Society Paper Session at next months annual meeting of the American Sociological Association, in Montreal.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:14 PM


Army Dismisses Gay Arabic Linguist (DUNCAN MANSFIELD, 7/28/06, Associated Press)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:11 PM


Campaign Finance Effort Resumes, Without McCain (JOSH GERSTEIN, July 28, 2006, NY Sun)

The elided surnames of the four men, "McCain-Feingold-Shays-Meehan," have become synonymous with so-called campaign finance reform, but Senator McCain, a Republican of Arizona, is conspicuously absent from the latest effort. [...]

A longtime advocate for campaign finance restrictions, Meredith McGehee, said she believed Mr. McCain's decision stemmed from a desire to avoid criticism if he decides to forgo public financing during the Republican nominating contest.

"He does not want to be caught in a position where he can be accused, rightly or wrongly, of hypocrisy," Ms. McGehee, policy director at the Campaign Legal Center, said. She said Mr. McCain has pledged to abide by other campaign legislation he has proposed, even before it is enacted.

"I don't think he wants to lock himself into living by a bill, with a public financing system that's pretty broken,"she said.

Mr. Shays told The New York Sun that he could not speak for Mr. McCain, but could not advise him to agree to public financing under the current rules. "It doesn't really make sense to," the congressman said. "If Senator McCain or anyone else was looking to run for president, I wouldn't be recommending they stay on the system right now."

to still insist he isn't running, right?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:21 PM


Boosting Extremists With Bombs: Hezbollah's popularity rises, dimming the prospects for democracy (Dilip Hiro, 25 July 2006, YaleGlobal)

To understand how and why Hezbollah has loomed so large on the Israeli radar, take a quick canter down the history lane. By all accounts, Muslims now make up two thirds of the Lebanese population, with Christians half as numerous. But such is the “confessional democracy” – established by France as the Mandate Power, modified after the 1975-1990 civil war and buttressed by the Cedar Revolution of 2005 – that Muslims and Christians have an equal share of seats in the 128-member parliament.

While Shiites are three fifths of the Muslim population, they are entitled to two fifths of the Muslim seats. Among high officials, Maronite Catholics are entitled to the presidency, elected by the parliament; Sunni Muslims to the premiership; and Shiite Muslims merely to the parliamentary speaker. [...]

After the end of the Lebanese civil war in October 1990, Hezbollah fighters moved to the area adjacent to the Israeli-occupied southern Lebanon.

In late 1991 a three-way swap – involving 450 Lebanese and Palestinian prisoners, seven dead or captured Israeli soldiers, and the remaining Western hostages – ended this phase of Hezbollah’s hostage-taking.

Steadily, Hezbollah increased attacks on the Israeli and its surrogate south Lebanon army targets, pushing the total to 1,200 in 1998. Unable to withstand the pressure, Israel withdraw unconditionally from southern Lebanon in May 2000, except from the disputed Shebaa Farms, as required by the UN Security Council resolution 509 of June 1982.

This boosted the standing of Hezbollah, led since 1992 by Hassan Nasrallah following the assassination of his predecessor Abbas Musawi by the Israelis. By then, Hezbollah had contested three general elections and established a parliamentary presence, with enough political clout to resist surrendering arms.

Kind of bizarre the way otherwise sensible folks think the Shi'ites of Lebanon ought to just lay back and enjoy it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:35 PM


Commuting Is a Drag (on the Economy) (Laura Rowley, July 28, 2006, Yahoo)

[Ron] Rogers is one of the 3.4 million workers that the Census Bureau has dubbed "extreme commuters." At least 2 percent of Americans wake up to a commute of 90 minutes or more one way. Not surprisingly, most of these workers live near major metropolitan centers: New York, New Jersey, Maryland, California, and Washington, D.C., have the most workers with extreme commutes.

The number of super-commuters nationwide has skyrocketed 95 percent since 1990, as workers hang on to lucrative jobs in city centers but move farther and farther afield in search of better housing, low crime, and good schools.

Unfortunately, commuting is a bitter pill that rarely gets easier to swallow. Researchers have found that people have the capacity for "hedonic adaptation" -- in laymen's terms, the ability to adjust to extreme circumstances, both happy and unhappy.

For instance, classic studies of lottery winners and paralyzed accident victims found only small differences in life satisfaction between these groups and control subjects. But certain experiences -- living near a noisy highway, for example -- become more aggravating over time, something scientists call "sensitization." Commuting falls into this category.

A 2004 study by two economists at the University of Zurich found that people tend to overestimate what they'll get by commuting long distances -- i.e., a bigger paycheck, a more prestigious position, the ability to buy more stuff -- and underestimate what it will cost them in stress, health, and loss of connection to family and friends. [...]

[Another] study suggests that our unwillingness to sacrifice our social lives at the office, combined with our love affair with cars, costs $3.9 billion in fuel and time annually.

You see this effect in action when folks pretend their cars liberate them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:30 PM


Pander and Run (Peter Beinart, July 28, 2006, washington Post)

It's jingoism with a liberal face.

The latest example came this week when Democratic senators and House members demanded that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki either retract his criticisms of Israel or forfeit his chance to address Congress. Great idea. Maliki -- who runs a government propped up by U.S. troops -- is desperate to show Iraqis that he is not Washington's puppet. And the United States desperately needs him to succeed because, unless he gains political credibility at home, his government will have no hope of surviving on its own.

Maliki took a small step in that direction this week when he articulated a view of the Israeli-Hezbollah conflict quite different from that of the Bush administration. His views were hardly surprising: Iraq is not only a majority-Arab country; it is a majority-Shiite Arab country. And in a democracy, leaders usually reflect public opinion. Maliki's forthright disagreement with the United States was a sign of political strength, one the Bush administration wisely indulged.

But not congressional Democrats. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid demanded that Maliki eat his words or be disinvited from addressing Congress. "Your failure to condemn Hezbollah's aggression and recognize Israel's right to defend itself raise serious questions about whether Iraq under your leadership can play a constructive role in resolving the current crisis and bringing stability to the Middle East," wrote Reid and fellow Democratic Sens. Richard J. Durbin and Charles E. Schumer on July 24.

How, exactly, publicly humiliating Maliki and making him look like an American and Israeli stooge would enhance his "leadership" was never explained in the missive. But of course Reid's letter wasn't really about strengthening the Iraqi government at all; that's George W. Bush's problem. It was about appearing more pro-Israel than the White House and thus pandering to Jewish voters.

Reid's letter is not an anomaly; it is part of a pattern.

The one thing the Democrats have going for them is they can say any asinine thing they want because no one takes them seriously anyway.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:12 PM


'Nazi aircraft carrier' located (BBC, 7/28/06)

The Polish navy says it is almost certain that it has located the wreck of Nazi Germany's only aircraft carrier, the Graf Zeppelin.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:08 PM


Town Battling Illegal Immigration Is Emptier Now (JILL P. CAPUZZO, 7/28/06, NY Times)

The downtown streets of this working-class town — usually filled with many of the immigrants who have made this place home — were unusually empty the day after the Township Council approved an ordinance banning employers and landlords from hiring or housing illegal immigrants. [...]

“They’re jealous of the Brazilians because they’re hard workers and they live well,” said Celeste Martiniano, a Portuguese-American who owns the Pavilion Barbecue restaurant here. [...]

Before Brazilian immigrants began moving here in the last five years or so, Ms. Martiniano said, the downtown business district, once a bustling shopping area, had been in decline. But the new ordinance, she said, “this is going to kill the town.”

For the last 25 years, Ms. Martiniano has lived in this Burlington County town of 8,000 residents, where as many as 2,000 to 3,000 immigrants live today. Business has been good since the opening of her restaurant two years ago, largely because of the growing Brazilian population. But on this day, there were no takers for the chicken legs spinning on spits over open flames.

Ms. Martiniano said that immigrants here were scared in the aftermath of the vote, and that those who have been most vocal against immigrants “are not working and have nothing better to do.”

Ingrid Reinhold said that the new ordinance smacked of discrimination. She and her husband, Gustav, own three businesses along Scott Street: a music store that features mostly Latin music, a Brazilian cafe that is undergoing renovations, and a bustling Western Union office, where many of the immigrants can stay in contact with relatives back home. Down the block is another Brazilian restaurant and a Brazilian nail salon. The yellow and green Brazilian flag is pasted to many shop windows.

“Three years ago this was a dead town,” said Ms. Reinhold, who was born in Ecuador. “Now you see all the stores are open, the people are out. If they do this, it’s going to be like it was before.”

Standing in front of his recording studio next door, Ed Robins talked about the Wednesday Council meeting. Describing the meeting’s adversarial atmosphere among members in the audience, Mr. Robins said “it reminded me of being on Jerry Springer.”

Although his business depends very little on the town’s growing immigrant population, Mr. Robins also worried about the ordinance’s impact on the business district and real estate values, which he said have increased with the influx of Brazilians.

“As a community, we should have drawn everybody together, including the illegals and approached it intelligently, rather than taking this small town and ripping it apart,” Mr. Robins said.

Certainly, the Brazilians are not the only immigrant population to call Riverside home. This town on the Delaware River was originally settled by Germans in 1851, followed by Poles, Italians and Irish in the early 20th century. Once a thriving industrial town, the immigrants provided much of the workforce for the textile mills of Riverside, once the country’s leading manufacturer of men’s hosiery, and the Philadelphia Watchcase Company, headquartered here until it closed its doors in 1956.

After the factories closed, the movie theater burned down and many shoppers migrated to nearby malls. Its new distinction, recognized at one point by the Guinness Book of World Records, was having the most bars and liquor licenses in a mile-square town.

Many of those bars remain, and in some of them there is talk about what needs to be done to slow the tide of immigration.

Fairly archetypal: The immigrants work while the natives drink and fret about their culture. Here's a town that ought to be in Europe instead of America.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:40 AM


Brewers trade Lee to Rangers, get Cordero (Keith Law, 7/28/06, ESPN Insider)

The Milwaukee Brewers are trading slugger Carlos Lee to the Texas Rangers as part of a multiplayer deal, ESPN.com learned Friday.

The Brewers are sending Lee, minor league outfield prospect Nelson Cruz to the Rangers for relief pitcher Francisco Cordero and outfielders Kevin Mench and Laynce Nix.

Is Frank Fracisco really ready to set up Otsuka? On the other hand, Cruz could put up some nice numbers though you have to DH him.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:08 AM


G.O.P. Nears Vote to Increase U.S. Wage (CARL HULSE, 7/28/06, NY Times)

House Republicans were still assembling a proposal Thursday night. But the momentum had clearly shifted in favor of considering an increase of at least $2 in the $5.15 an hour minimum wage, despite strong resistance from conservative Republicans and the party’s allies in the business community. [...]

Democrats have been trying to highlight the issue for months, accusing Republicans of blocking an increase while allowing Congressional pay to rise steadily.

There goes another "issue."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:50 AM


Very light jet takes big step skyward (The Associated Press, 7/28/06)

A new fleet of very light jets that could redefine the way Americans travel received preliminary certification Thursday from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

It's the first step in getting 2,500 of the planes skyward to help reduce congestion at major airports, Acting Transportation Secretary Maria Cino said.

The FAA granted Eclipse Aviation of Albuquerque, N.M., the certification for the Eclipse 500, a cheaper and faster type of flying SUV, during a ceremony at the Experimental Aircraft Association's 54th annual AirVenture fly-in in Oshkosh.

Vern Raburn, a former Microsoft executive, is president of Eclipse Aviation, a venture that is backed by Bill Gates. He said the company expects to receive the final FAA approval by Aug. 30, allowing its first 50 new jets to be delivered to customers this year.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:40 AM


The Face of Poverty Ages In Rapidly Graying Japan (Anthony Faiola, 7/28/06, Washington Post)

As the world's most rapidly graying nation struggles to cope with the exploding costs of its aging population, it is cutting back its famed safety net of universal health care, generous pensions and welfare benefits for seniors of all social classes. But those already living on the margins are being hit the hardest.

Over the past decade, the number of indigent seniors nationwide skyrocketed by 183 percent to about half a million people, Welfare Ministry statistics show. Most of them are victims of the protracted recession that Japan endured in the '90s, and many have been abandoned by children bucking the Japanese tradition of living with one's elderly parents.

The creation of a new underclass of the down, out and old in Japan -- a country that long prided itself on being a "one-class society" -- is giving public housing complexes the feel of poor retirement communities. Almost one in every two people on welfare in Japan is now 65 or older, the government here reports. By comparison, roughly one in 10 welfare recipients in the United States are senior citizens, according to U.S. government statistics.

The homeless population expanded rapidly during the recession years and now numbers about 30,000, according to advocacy groups. An official survey in 2003 put the average age of the homeless at 56. The government requires seniors to have a fixed address to receive welfare, so many on the streets are getting no support.

Now the Japanese economy -- the world's second-largest -- is in the midst of a buoyant recovery. But the country is moving toward a more American-style system of senior services by shifting the burden of care from the government to the elderly themselves.

"The government talks about how we need to be more independent and care for ourselves now," said Kakizaki. "But we are old. How are we supposed to become independent at our age? How can they even ask us to?"

In the wake of WWII, American policy makers were so terrified of communism that they were only too happy to establish or re-establish socialism in Japan and Europe, making entire nations into welfare dependents not unlike our urban poor--except for the lack of kids. Among the costs of the Cold War was the sacrifice of these putative allies.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:12 AM


Fixing the Sox: A 7-step solution (JOE COWLEY, July 28, 2006, Chicago Sun-Times)

The White Sox are no strangers to forcing their fans to the ledges of buildings. It happened last season, when a seemingly unconquerable 15-game division lead in August melted to just 1-1/2 games by late September.

The result? A World Series championship.

While avoiding one of the biggest chokes in baseball history would seem like a huge obstacle overcome, the Sox apparently enjoy doing things the hard way.

One season later, they're at it again. A team with arguably more talent than last season's went into the All-Star break trailing red-hot Detroit by just two games in the American League Central, while looking to be a sure thing for at least the wild card.

Two weeks later, Sox fans are back on the ledges, looking for answers.

While the problems are many, not one is beyond repair.

Baseball teams with that many problems don't fix them in season and he doesn't even touch on the two biggest.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:05 AM


The Church in Spain Is Sick, but It’s not Zapatero’s Fault: The sickness is the loss of faith among the people, and the poor instructors are above all the progressive theologians. The accusation comes from the Spanish bishops. In a document coordinated with Rome, as a model for other episcopates (Sandro Magister, July 28, 2006, Chiesa)

The document is in the form of a “pastoral instruction,” and is entitled “Theology and secularization in Spain, forty years after the end of Vatican Council II.” It is the outcome of three years of work, and was prepared by the commission for the doctrine of the faith of the Spanish bishops’ conference. But then it was examined by all of the bishops, who in two voting sessions, in November and then in March of this year, approved it by a margin of over two thirds. The bishops most active in promoting the document included the two most “Ratzingerian” cardinals of Spain, Antonio Cañizares Lovera, of Toledo, and Antonio María Rouco Varela, of Madrid, together with one of the latter’s auxiliary bishops, Eugenio Romero Pose, president of the doctrinal commission.

What prompted the instruction, and what are its aims? In an interview with “Il Regno,” Romero Pose said that with this document the Spanish bishops intend to indicate “both the sickness and the cure.”

The sickness is “the secularization within the Church”: a widespread loss of faith caused in part by “theological propositions that have in common a deformed presentation of the mystery of Christ.”

The cure is precisely that of restoring life to the profession of faith: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16), in the four areas where it is most seriously undermined today:

– the interpretation of Scripture,
– Jesus Christ as the only savior of all men,
– the Church as the Body of Christ,
– moral life.

The instruction is organized under these four main headings. In each section, the document first presents the features of correct Christological doctrine, and then denounces the theologies that deform it.

It denounces the theologies, not the theologians. The instruction does not target particular authors, but limits itself to denouncing erroneous tendencies. [...]

In Spain, the instruction could be the basis for the Church’s return to doctrinal order.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:48 AM


Best bet -- Red Sox should keep their top prospects (Steve Buckley, 7/28/06, Boston Herald)

If the Sox don’t make a huge acquisition by the trading deadline (or some kind of August waiver deal) and if they get beaten out of a playoff spot, a lot of people around here will be screaming.

But if Epstein is as smart as we all keep saying he is, then at this very moment he’s trying to steer the Red Sox toward a playoff spot without trading away the likes of Jon Lester, Craig Hansen, Manny Delcarmen and an array of promising kids who haven’t even tasted their first cup of big league coffee.

For the first time in recent memory, the Red Sox have a well-stocked farm system. Outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury, drafted only last year, already is at Double-A Portland. Outfielder David Murphy, who struggled early last year at Portland, is hitting well at Triple-A Pawtucket. Right-hander Edgar Martinez, a converted catcher, is opening eyes at Portland. Infielder Dustin Pedroia, currently at the Pawtucket Finishing School, could be a Sox starter next year.

Can you imagine a 2007 Red Sox roster that includes Jonathan Papelbon, Lester, Hansen, Delcarmen, Pedroia and Murphy? If they turn out to be as good as we all think they will be - and Papelbon already is a top performer - the Red Sox could emerge with the kind of payroll flexibility that could turn them into a powerhouse over the next five or six seasons.

With so many young kids on the roster, the Red Sox will have the financial resources to sign whatever big-ticket player they need to either solidify the starting rotation or add another powerful bat to the lineup.

Just finished reading Seth Mnookin's fine book, Feeding the Monster, which is less about how the Red Sox won the World Series in '04 and missed in '03 and '05 than about the struggle over the direction of the team between Theo Epstein and his baseball guys--who want to build from within and have the kind of team that can win together for five or six years--and the businessmen who own it--and would understandably like to maximize marketing and revenue. It's been my experience--and all such should be distrusted--that most Red Sox fans are down with the program and quite willing to go through a transition period where some of the more expensive vets get shuffled off while youngsters get broken in and true professionals--Lowell, Gonzalez, Cora, Loretta--fill in, even if it means not having the bnest team imaginable on the field for a discrete playoff run.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:42 AM


Jewish voters dis Bush: Israel’s defender deserves better (Virginia Buckingham, July 25, 2006, Boston Herald)

Why aren’t Jewish voters rock-solid behind the first president who has made eradicating terror as big a priority for the United States as it has long been for Israel?

Because of his faith.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:32 AM


GM's dilemma: Are Tigers good enough to win it all without trade? (Danny Knobler, July 27, 2006, Booth Newspapers)

One veteran major-league scout who has seen all 30 teams play this season said the other day that he'd give three teams an equal shot in October: the Boston Red Sox, the New York Mets and the Tigers.

But other scouts who have watched the Tigers over the last several weeks have come to the same conclusion that many Tiger officials have. If you add Alfonso Soriano or Carlos Lee to this team, then you'd really have a good chance in the playoffs.

The Tigers don't seem to want to deal for spare parts. They don't want to tweak the roster. If they're going to make a move, they want it to be the big one, the one that puts them over the top.

General manager Dave Dombrowski has to be careful. Dombrowski and his staff (don't forget to credit ex-scouting director Greg Smith) have built this organization to the point where the Tigers could be good for several years to come.

A pitching rotation anchored by Jeremy Bonderman and Justin Verlander (both 23 years old) and a bullpen led by Joel Zumaya (still 21), with more pitching on the way (Humberto Sanchez, Jair Jurrjens, Andrew Miller), should give the Tigers more than just a one-year joyride.

Dombrowski would almost certainly part with Sanchez in a deal for Soriano or Lee (although he'd never admit it until a deal was done). There has to be some concern that the Tigers would again be trading a John Smoltz for a Doyle Alexander (Smoltz was less accomplished in 1987 than Sanchez is now), but the difference is that the Tigers have a young rotation in the big leagues, with multiple pitching prospects lined up behind Sanchez.

The biggest concern really ought to be how heavily they have to lean on Verlander to make it deep into the playoffs. After throwing just 120 innings in his first professional year he's on a pace for over 200 this year and looking at as many as six or seven more starts in the playoffs. It'd be a shame to do to him what Ozzie has done to the Sox starters.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:25 AM


Lowell putting up gold numbers with the glove (Gordon Edes, July 28, 2006, Boston Globe)

[Eric] Chavez has made just two errors and leads AL third basemen with a fielding percentage of .992, but Lowell is right behind him at .986, with just four errors, and he's handled 49 more chances (295-246). Lowell made three errors in a one-week span (April 21-28), then made an error almost a month later (May 24), but hasn't made one since, his errorless streak at 54 entering this weekend.

Last season, Lowell made just six errors for the Marlins, matching the NL record for fewest errors by a third baseman who had played at least 135 games.

This season, Lowell threatens to obliterate the Red Sox record for fielding percentage by a third baseman, set by Rico Petrocelli in 1971 with a .976 fielding percentage (11 errors in 156 games).

Mr. Edes understates how dominant Lowell has been with the glove.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:14 AM

O. G.:

Salsa pioneer still hearkens to a rebel beat (JORDAN LEVIN, 7/28/06, MiamiHerald.com)

They were rough, untrained kids from the slums, improvising streetwise rhymes, horrifying the musical and social establishment with their vulgarity and menace. They mixed traditional Cuban and Puerto Rican music with rock, funk, R&B, jazz, and a jumble of Latin American genres to come up with a new kind of Latin music that spoke for a new generation of Latinos growing up in the United States.

Before reggaeton, before Latin alternative, there was New York salsa. And one of the men who created it and changed the course of Latin music is Willie Colon, who plays the West Dade club La Covacha Saturday night.

He says it will be his last tour after 43 years of performing. Maybe.

''I had planned to stop touring in November,'' Colon, now 57, said recently from his office in midtown Manhattan. But we've gotten so many calls to please just come here.''

After a lifetime of musical revolution, it's hard to stop. [...]

Colon's grandmother worked in a sweatshop, but she managed to buy her 11-year-old grandson a trumpet. Colon started playing on the street with his buddies, passing the hat and picking up enough change to inspire him to continue in music.

By 13, he was playing in a professional wedding band. At 14, he switched to trombone. But he couldn't get an audition for the high school band. The frustration drove him to drop out. ``I became self-righteously indignant and just said screw them. I said I'm gonna make it on my own.''

It was a classic start to what usually turns into a road to nowhere. But for Colon it launched him into what would soon become an incredibly vibrant and creative music scene.

Latin music was about to come out of a fallow period in the mid-1960s. The mambo heyday, cut off from Cuban music and musicians after the revolution of 1959, was over, as was an early-'60s craze for a Latin/funk hybrid called boogaloo. But in the late '60s and early '70s, something new began to percolate: Cuban and Puerto Rican music mixed with jazz, R&B, and rock, with a wild improvisational edge and the driving energy of New York City.

It was called salsa, a term that old school Latin musicians often hated but gave a catchy ring to a style that pushed social and musical boundaries. The civil rights movement was inspiring the Young Lords and a movement for Puerto Rican rights. Black jazz musicians would sit in with the Latin musicians at clubs all over town.

Musically and politically, salsa was hot.

''You could compare it a lot to rap and reggaeton,'' says Colon. ``It was rebellious music. We were watching Martin Luther King walking into Selma and the dogs and water cannons. The music wasn't explicitly political yet, but the music was a magnet that would bring people together.''

Ed Morales, Latin music critic for New York Newsday and author of The Latin Beat, a history of Latin music, says the salsa scene's rough-and-ready vibe spoke to the exploding population of Puerto Ricans in a city that was rapidly becoming a much tougher place.

''It coincided with the formation of these hardcore urban slums,'' Morales says. 'The audience was mainly the people from the barrios. Willie said we invented gangster rap, and he sort of has a point. There's a lot of that transforming the elegant energy of the mambo dance halls to `this is the hood.' ''

Colon quickly became one of salsa's stars, largely because of his partnership with Hector Lavoe, a Puerto Rican country kid with an outsize voice and genius for improvisation. They recorded some of the biggest hits of the genre for Fania Records, the label for the burgeoning genre.

Records like El Malo (The Bad Guy, released when Colon was only 17) and Lo Mato -- Si No Compra Este LP (I'll Kill Him -- If You Don't Buy This Record, with a photo of Colon holding a gun to a man's head) featured a swaggering bad-guy image -- but laced with the substance of Lavoe's gorgeous voice and Colon's gift for musical innovation.

July 27, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:16 PM


Illusions of identity: Amartya Sen discusses his new book, in which he claims that the British approach to multiculturalism has undermined individual freedom: a review of Identity and Violence by Amartya Sen (Kenan Malik, August 2006, Prospect)

At the heart of the book is an argument against what Sen calls the communitarian view of identity—the belief that identity is something to be "discovered" rather than chosen. "There is a certain way of being human that is my way," the Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor wrote in his much-discussed essay "The Politics of Recognition." "I am called upon to live my life in this way." But who does the calling? Seemingly the identity itself. For Taylor, as for many communitarians, identity appears to come first, with the human actor following in its shadow. Or, as the philosopher John Gray has put it, identities are "a matter of fate, not choice."

Sen will have none of it. "There are two issues here," he says when I meet him at King's College, Cambridge, where he was master until returning to Harvard two years ago. "First, the recognition that identities are robustly plural and the importance of one identity need not obliterate another. And second, that a person has to make choices about what relative importance to attach, in a particular context, to their divergent loyalties and identities. The individual belongs to many different groups and it's up to him or her to decide which of those groups he or she would like to give priority to." We are multitudes and we can choose among our multitudes.

Sen is particularly critical of the ways in which communitarian notions of identity have found their way into social policy, especially through the ideas of multiculturalism, and in so doing have diminished the scope for individual freedom. "I am not opposed to multiculturalism," he says. "But I am opposed to the way it has been interpreted. There are two basically distinct approaches to multiculturalism. One concentrates on the promotion of diversity as a value in itself. The other focuses on the freedom of reasoning and decision-making, and celebrates cultural diversity to the extent that it is freely chosen. The way that British authorities have interpreted multiculturalism has very much undermined individual freedom. A British Muslim is not asked to act within the civil society or the political arena but as a Muslim. His British identity has to be mediated by his community."

What makes the communitarians so maddening is that their analyses tip-toe right up to the edge of common sense and then they shy away for fear of being seen as judgmental, when the point is we a decent community has to make judgements.

The Dictatorship of Relativism (Most Reverend Robert C. Morlino – Bishop of Madison, April 7, 2006, National Catholic Prayer Breakfast)

Since I was asked to address the topic "The Dictatorship of Relativism" it behooves me to return to the original text from which that very important phrase emanated. In his homily at the mass "Pro Eligendo Romano Pontifice" celebrated in St. Peters Archbasilica on April 18th, 2005, the then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, spoke as follows:

"whereas relativism, that is, letting oneself be "tossed here and there, carried about by every wind of doctrine", seems the only attitude that can cope with modern times. We are building a dictatorship of relativism that does not recognize anything as definitive and whose ultimate goal consists solely of one's own ego and desires. We, however, have a different goal: the Son of God, the true man. He is the measure of true humanism."

In the space of just a few sentences, Pope Benedict connects the dots in terms of relativism as a divorce from God and friendship with Christ, and truth as attained in the most fully human way, only within the context of this friendship. Thus, Pope Benedict takes us back to the insights of the encyclical, Fides et Ratio of John Paul the Great – the desire written by the Creator in every human heart for the truth and for the fullness of love, can only be satisfied in Christ.

Those among you who know me will not find it surprising that my remarks this morning express three points. First I would like to, unpack, if you will, the metaphor of the then Cardinal Ratzinger, articulated as "The Dictatorship of Relativism". I would note that just this past January, Pope Benedict spoke of policies which promote contraception and abortion as "a dogma of hedonism" which opens the door to the culture of death. The second comment regarding a dogma of hedonism leading to a culture of death certainly explicates the metaphor "Dictatorship of Relativism" as we shall see.

The first question we might ask as we unpack the metaphor "the Dictatorship of Relativism" is "Who are the members of the junta who govern this dictatorship?" As one who is called to Holy Orders, and thus to refrain even from the appearance of offering partisan political comments, it would be best for me to refrain from naming the key players. However, we all know that the mass media are generally accomplices to those who govern the Dictatorship of Relativism; they are generally not innocent bystanders or detached journalists who report in an objective way – willing cooperators in this dictatorship are also those who live their lives according to polling results, frequently sponsored by the mass media.

We might also ask "What are the principal enforcement mechanisms of the Dictatorship of Relativism, what weapons are contained in the arsenal of these dictators?" The first is inconsistency in civil law and practice, inconsistency being just another instance of relativism. This inconsistency is especially neuralgic because the civil law is our teacher. We have the very same individuals protesting against warrantless surveillance of possible terrorists' activities, and then in the northwest, affirming warrantless surveillance of people's garbage containers to ensure that no recyclables are to be found. On the one hand warrantless surveillance with regard to possible terrorism is politically incorrect while warrantless surveillance of personal garbage is politically correct. The polls determine what is politically correct and thus the same people find themselves caught in a clear inconsistency in the context of a culture which never even thinks to question it. Polls rarely divulge information which reaches beyond the trivial and transitory but truth is neither trivial nor transitory. Those who claim otherwise promote the Dictatorship of Relativism.

A second example of this inconsistency has to do with killing of a mother who is carrying a child. In certain instances the murderer is charged with the death of two human beings, both mother and child. However, if a woman exercises her alleged reproductive rights and has an abortion, the law clearly determines that no crime of murder has been committed. Thus, a human life is precious when someone thinks it is, be it a parent or be it a civil court, and when that life is deemed not to be human or otherwise be without value, then it is expendable. This kind of gross inconsistency is not questioned in our society but is taken for granted with serenity, sad to say.

In addition to inconsistency in the civil law and practice, the second weapon in the arsenal of those who would dictate relativism to the rest of us consists in a series of linguistic redefinitions, euphemisms, and other anomalies. Language, as the philosopher Heidegger said, "is the house of being". If our language is contorted and deconstructed through euphemisms, redefinitions and other anomalies then, the being housed by language becomes indeterminate, there are no fixed meanings, that is relativism pushed to its pinnacle, nihilism itself. Allow me to take a brief excursion into these redefinitions, euphemisms, and anomalies.

In the first case, our society speaks of openness and tolerance as almost supreme virtues but to be open means precisely to be closed to the objective truth. If one would claim the existence of objective truth, one is considered closed and arrogant, rather than open and tolerant. So go the language games. The euphemistic approach is perhaps best captured by the words "late-term abortion." This term covers up the fact that a partially born human being is brutally murdered in the process of being born. It is always interesting to hear the commentators talk about late-term abortions, adding that these are sometimes called partial-birth abortions by anti-abortion activists. If one were to watch a video of this procedure taking place would one more likely describe it as a late-term abortion or a partial-birth abortion?

We also have the euphemism – discard, used when speaking of the fate of frozen embryos which are "superfluous" and "left-over" as part of the process of in-vitro fertilization. We never speak of the destruction of innocent human beings whose fate has become absurd and who are completely under the domination of other human beings. We say that these human beings are discarded, like the one last sticky note on our notepad that might just as soon be discarded, as we take out a fresh pad for our use. There are many language games being played. Supreme Court justices we're told, should be uniters not dividers, when it comes to Roe v. Wade. How ironic, since Roe v. Wade has become our great source of division. Now to be a uniter means to uphold that which divided us in the first place.

Pro-choice. I've never heard anyone defend a pro-choice position with regard to bank robbery. The only time this expression is used without reference to what we're pro-choice about is when the most innocent and helpless human being is at stake. Pro-choice is synonymous with pro- abortion because no one speaks of pro-choice in any other context. Pro-choice is a euphemism that causes us to forget the baby.

The word "transparency" it seems to me, is being used so that we no longer even hear the word "truth" in our public dialogue and conversation. We already have a very good word for transparency: truth and truthfulness. Why is it the agenda of some to rid our language of the usage of the word, truth? Talk about the Dictatorship of Relativism! When the term "prochoice" won the day in our cultural, linguistic usage we temporarily lost the battle to protect the most innocent and most helpless human lives. Language games, euphemisms, redefinitions are very dangerous. We are at the point where, because of in-vitro fertilization, surrogate motherhood and what flows from that, we are no longer sure what the words "father" and "mother" mean. In some cases, there is the genetic mother, the gestational mother, and the mother who actually raises the child to adulthood. There are at least three mothers. When we move to the redefinition of marriage, as including other options than "one husband – one wife – one lifetime – with openness to children", we find ourselves in very troubling waters indeed. The Dictatorship of Relativism gains strength from the outrageous manipulation of language, and if we are to overcome this dictatorship with true democracy, we're going to have to regain control of the use of language so as to point to the objective truth. Certain Catholic legislators recently received a correction from our Bishops' Conference when they attempted to promote a redefinition of primacy of conscience as a line item veto with regard to elements of the Ten Commandments and the teachings of the Church, another example of surrender to the Dictatorship of Relativism.

Let me move on to the second point which, thank God, can be made more briefly. The opposite of dictatorship is democracy. The Dictatorship of Relativism leads to secularism as a state imposed religion. Only in the context of relativism and deconstructionalism can secularism flourish. Religions, generally, make claims to objective truth. To impose secularism as the state religion one must rule out as outrageous the concept of objective truth, which is precisely what the Dictatorship of Relativism seeks to accomplish. Opposition to the Dictatorship of Relativism involves the right relationship of church and state as taught by the Second Vatican Council and repeated by Pope Benedict XVI in his recent encyclical Deus Caritas Est – God is Love. The relationship between church and state involves three simple rules. First, the state is never to force anyone to practice a particular religion. Secondly, the state is never to prevent anyone from practicing a particular religion. And third, generally the state should favor the practice of religion, because religious experience includes a moral code according to which people restrain themselves so that restraint by the state becomes less necessary. Thus if the state wishes to encourage democracy and needs less to intervene in the lives of individuals, one key to this strengthening of the sphere of freedom, this strengthening of democracy, is the favoring of religion by the state. Secularism founded upon relativism and deconstructionalism, should never be imposed as a state religion.

The third and last point is, "what should our response be as we seek to protect democracy and combat the Dictatorship of Relativism?" Our response is not to seek the embodiment of distinctive Catholic convictions in civil law. We should not be seeking to pass civil laws requiring belief in the Trinity or attendance at Sunday Mass or fasting from meat during the Fridays of Lent. Our response should be to seek the embodiment of natural law in the civil law. Natural law is that law written on the human heart which can be known by every human being through reason alone. There are three propositions of the natural law that need our attention and promotion precisely as such, that is to say, as natural law not as distinctively Christian or Catholic doctrine. The first is the existence of God. The founding documents of our country made reference to nature and to nature's God because there are a variety of ways through which reason arrives at the conclusion that the Creator God exists. There are arguments that are more experientially based, there are arguments that are more abstract, but there are valid arguments which prove the existence of God. They are arguments of philosophy or logic; they are not arguments of science. Nothing is more narrow than to claim that the only real truth is scientific truth. This claim serves the cause of relativism because scientific truth develops through paradigm change whereas objective truth does not. Objective truth is not subject to paradigm change; its substance never needs to be updated. It is good when science advances through paradigm change. But to grant the claim that scientific truth is the highest form of truth is to hand over the day to those who lead the Dictatorship of Relativism.

The second proposition of the natural law teaches us that every human being has a priceless and unique dignity. So many modern and contemporary philosophers have arrived quite apart from religious faith at the conviction that a person is an end in him or herself and never a means to an end. Persons are never to be manipulated or treated as things by other persons. To live in peace in a just society is impossible apart from the conviction arrived at by reason alone, that every person is an end in himself or herself and never to be used as a means. The third proposition of the natural law teaches us, as we reflect on the desire of every human being for social relationships and intimacy, and on human anatomy – that marriage means a one-flesh communion of "one husband – one wife – for one lifetime – with openness to children". Artificial contraception and abortion are not behaviors which someone has a right to choose. To be sure, one is able to choose them but there is no right to do so. One has a right to marry or not to marry. Within marriage, one has a right to acts of marital intimacy and by mutual agreement, husband and wife also have a right to refrain from those acts for a just cause. Husband and wife do not have a right to a child - a child is a human being, a human being is not a thing, people have rights to things, and they never have rights to human beings. So there is no right to a child, there is no right to abortion, there is no right to artificial contraception. There is a right to marry or not. There is a right to the acts proper to marriage. That is a scandalously brief overview of the natural law.

In closing, let me say that we must reclaim the proper use of language if we are to combat the dictatorship of relativism. Instead of hearing "pro-choice" all over the place, we need to promote the use of "natural law" all over the place or better some equivalent, that is a more catchy sound- bite. Some of you might well be gifted to articulate that sound-bite. We need to insist that the existence of God, the dignity of every human being, and the definition of marriage are not catholic curiosities that we are trying to force on the rest of the world, but the dictates of reason - of the natural law itself. Language has been used to lead us into the Dictatorship of Relativism, the dogma of hedonism, and the culture of death. But Jesus Christ is Risen from the dead and the Church is alive with the truth of Christ and the truth of the natural law. Let us live with joy and with hope, proclaiming the truth of Christ with love for all, but especially for our time and our culture, proclaiming with love and a smile the truth of the natural law.

When you and I were first created, that is, when the Lord created your soul and mine, we glimpsed, just for a moment, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. And as soon as our souls took flesh, when we were conceived in our mother's womb, because we were not immaculately conceived like our Blessed Mother but conceived as heirs of the sin of Adam, we experienced a kind of amnesia and forgetfulness of that glimpse which we have had of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. When we listen to the voice of reason within us, that word, that meaning, is an echo of the Eternal Word Whom we saw and heard at the moment of the creation of our soul. The law of reason within us when given unrestricted range cannot arrive at any other truth in the end than the truth of Jesus Christ. He is Risen, His victory is ours. The challenges are difficult but we have every reason, the reason who is Christ Himself, never to give in to discouragement. Our faith in which alone our reason finds total fulfillment, that faith is our sure victory. Thank you for listening to me. God bless you all! Praised be Jesus Christ!

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:12 PM


Congolese hopeful as they head to polls: The Democratic Republic of Congo votes Sunday in its first free presidential election in 46 years (Tristan McConnell, 7/28/06, The Christian Science Monitor)

Yet, despite the monumental logistical challenges - and early claims of irregularities, sporadic violence, and opposition boycotts - most Congolese voters, especially in the country's war-torn east, have an optimistic outlook.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:06 PM


Report: Nasrallah is in Damascus (ASSOCIATED PRESS, 7/27/06)

A top Iranian envoy was in Syria on Thursday for talks on the Israeli-Hizbullah conflict in a meeting that brought together the guerrilla organization's two key sponsors, according to Iranian news reports. A Kuwaiti newspaper reported that Hizbullah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah was taking part in the session.

Kuwait's Al-Siyassah newspaper, known for its opposition to the Syrian regime, said the meeting was designed to discuss ways to maintain supplies to Hezbollah fighters with "Iranian arms flowing through Syrian territories."

Al-Siyassah said it learned of the meeting from "well-informed Syrian sources" it did not identify. According to the newspaper, Nasrallah was moving through Damascus with Syrian guards in an intelligence agency car. He was dressed in civilian clothes, not his normal clerical garb.

While Israel mucks about in a sideshow...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:02 PM


Chinese rule-of-law activist becomes a case in point (Robert Marquand, 7/28/06 The Christian Science Monitor)

"This is justice in the Chinese countryside, not like Zhang Yimou's candied film version," says Jerome Cohen of New York University, who is assisting Chen. "There are no kind, avuncular public security officers or judges to mete out justice. They can instead be found surrounding his house. No local lawyer has been willing to help, and Beijing lawyers who have sought to defend Chen have been repeatedly beaten."

Chen's challenge to country justice makes him a kind of Rosa Parks of China. His standoff with Linyi authorities and Mayor Li Qun, who served briefly as assistant to the mayor of New Haven Conn., has captured the imagination of legal reformers here and top foreign legal eagles - raising the question of whether law in China is a tool for control or is evolving into a system to adjudicate justice.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:07 PM


Israeli strikes may boost Hizbullah base: Hizbullah support tops 80 percent among Lebanese factions. (Nicholas Blanford, 7/28/06, CS Monitor)

The ferocity of Israel's onslaught in southern Lebanon and Hizbullah's stubborn battles against Israeli ground forces may be working in the militant group's favor. [...]

The stakes are high for Hizbullah, but it seems it can count on an unprecedented swell of public support that cuts across sectarian lines.According to a poll released by the Beirut Center for Research and Information, 87 percent of Lebanese support Hizbullah's fight with Israel, a rise of 29 percent on a similar poll conducted in February. More striking, however, is the level of support for Hizbullah's resistance from non-Shiite communities. Eighty percent of Christians polled supported Hizbullah along with 80 percent of Druze and 89 percent of Sunnis.

Nohing Israel is going to do will change the fact that Hezbollah will be the dominant party in a free Southern Lebanon. All this episode has done is give a younger generation, that didn't experience the last foolish incursion personally, fresh reasons to hate them. Long term Israeli interests would have been better served by doing nothing at all.

Israel and Lebanon: a long and bitter entanglement: Does the latest conflict fit historical trends or is this something different? (Dan Murphy, 7/28/06, The Christian Science Monitor)

Arab militants strike across the border from southern Lebanon, provoking a massive Israeli response, with thousands of soldiers pouring into Lebanese territory and airstrikes pounding enemy positions.

The Israeli prime minister says the only objectives of the invasion are to "root out the evil weed" of terrorism. Israel will protect itself by pushing militants beyond the Litani River and establishing a buffer zone along the border. The Israeli incursion is also described as "limited." And though Israel says its strikes are carefully targeted against militants, at least 100,000 Lebanese civilians flee their homes and hundreds die.

That was 1978.

Making Enemies: Hamas and Hizbullah should not be confused with Al Qaeda. Bush's insistence on doing so shows his failure to understand his foes (Michael Hirsh, 7/26/06, Newsweek)
The president has used Al Qaeda to gin up the threat from Iraq, just as he is now conflating Hizbullah and Hamas with Al Qaeda as "terrorists" of the same ilk. Actually these groups had little connection to one another—or at least they didn't until America decided to make itself their common enemy. Al Qaeda was always, in truth, the only "terrorist group of global reach" in the world—which is how Bush accurately defined things back in that long-ago fall of 2001. Both Hizbullah and Hamas had publicly disavowed any interest in backing Osama bin Laden's goals. Al Qaeda was Sunni, Hizbullah is Shiite. Even within the Muslim world these groups had scant support, although Hamas and Hizbullah had a lot more than Al Qaeda did because they were providing social services in Lebanon and Gaza.

How does this affect current events in the Mideast? In strategic terms, the U.S. endorsement of Israel's retaliation against Hizbullah had some merit at the start, within limits: a Lebanon with an armed Hizbullah in its midst was never going to graduate to real democracy. The Israeli action is also, in a way, a proxy war against Iran and its nuclear program. Reducing Iran's influence in the region by degrading the power of its principal means of terror (and therefore of retaliation) is in America's interest, as well. This is the unspoken logic both of the fierce Israeli assault and Bush's fierce defense of it: "In the back of everyone's head is Iran looming as a threat over the region," says one Israeli official.

But with each errant bomb that kills more Lebanese children, the U.S. position becomes less defensible. By walking in lockstep with the Israelis, we Americans make it impossible for Muslims not to see us as an enemy. And every Muslim official knows, even if Bush does not, that Hizbullah is not identical with Iran but is a client of it, in a relationship not unlike that of the United States and Israel. By making Israel's war our own we ensure that the Lebanese group and the Tehran mullahs will be even closer allies in the future. We place the Muslims whom we desperately need as allies, like Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, in an impossible position. Maliki, a Shiite, can no longer stand with Bush, as he showed during his tense visit to Washington this week.

And at cafes and around kitchen tables throughout the Arab world, good-hearted Muslims can no longer defend America against their more hate-filled brethren. They have fallen silent; they have no arguments left. "The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity," as the poet Yeats memorably put it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:01 PM


Widower of Terry Schiavo to campaign for Lamont on Friday (AP, July 27, 2006)

The husband of Terri Schiavo will campaign tomorrow for businessman Ned Lamont, who is challenging U.S. Senator Joe Lieberman in a primary.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:55 PM


Why Not Involve Iran in Effort To Establish Order in Mideast? (Abbas Maleki, July 21, 2006, The Forward)

If you look at the performance of Iran's Islamic Republic, it is clear despite all of the difficulties it has faced — the problems, the turmoil and the wars all around Iran — the system has survived. This is not accidental; rather, it shows that the Iranian system has checks and balances — think tanks and consultative bodies, as well as other structures and processes for rational decision-making — that permit the system to achieve optimum results.

If it is true that Iran is a major player in the turbulent areas of the Middle East and in the energy market, then why can we not use the influence of such a country to help establish regional order and solve global crises?

The major global crises the world is facing can be divided into three categories: terrorism, nuclear and energy. [...]

Insurgencies can be classified into two categories. The first is those groups that Iran and the United States agree to be terrorist organizations. These include Al Qaeda, the Taliban, Hizb-ul Tahrir in Central Asia, Sepah Sahabeh in Pakistan, and the Mujahedeen-e Khalq. The elimination of terrorism by these groups suits Iran, and so Iran is ready to cooperate in the areas of media relations, social affairs, intelligence and perhaps even military strikes. Iran has vast amounts of intelligence and information on these groups, having monitored their activities and their predecessors's going as far back as several decades.

The second form of insurgencies includes those groups about which the United States and Iran can have a legitimate disagreement over their characterization as terrorist organizations. These include Hezbollah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

However, even with this category Iran could be a key to moderating their activities, because Iran has some influence over these groups. [...]

Regarding the nuclear issue, Iran is seeking a face-saving resolution that maintains a minimum degree of access to nuclear technology inside Iran. The incentives proposed to Iran by the "5+1 group" — the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, plus Germany — are exactly the sort of things that Iran's economy and industries need. Iran simply wants to see better-defined and better-clarified terms in the incentive offer, something that is not very hard for the other side to provide. Addressing Iran's nuclear concerns can only strengthen the Non-Proliferation Treaty and ease the way for new steps to be taken together in the global effort against the threats posed by nuclear weapons and nuclear stockpiles.

Finally, regarding the energy issue it should be noted Iran has the second-largest proven oil and gas reserves in the world. There are still vast regions in Iran with oil potential that have not been studied in the past because of political conditions or technology limitations.

Iran's energy capabilities on oil, gas, pipelines, electrical power plants and its access to neighboring countries are unique.

Israel, Iran, and America share a common interest in stable democratic Shi'a states in South Lebanon and Iraq, an independent Palestinian state, and liberalization in places like Syria and Saudi Arabia. The only stumbling blocks to working together are psychological.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:02 PM


China's economy is out of control: China is growing so fast -- using cheap money to build steel mills, highways and textile factories it doesn't need – that the coming crash grows uglier by the day (Jim Jubak, 7/27/06, MSN Money Central)

In a train wreck, there comes the moment when it's no longer possible to avert disaster. Pull the brakes as hard as you can, the momentum of the train is so great that disaster is unavoidable.

I fear that China's economy passed that point of no return in the second quarter of 2006.

Today, I'm going to tell you why I think China's economy is headed for a train wreck. Not tomorrow, but in the reasonably near future. I'd say 2009. [...]

The government seems extremely reluctant to tackle the root causes of these bubbles. Despite the People's Bank of China's April increase in the benchmark one-year interest rates to 5.85% -- the first rate increase in 18 months -- interest rates for borrowing are still ridiculously low. Companies can borrow at an after-inflation rate of about 3.5%.

On the other hand, the People's Bank left the one-year interest rate that depositors get paid at 2.25%. That worked to bolster the profits of the big Chinese banks that the government is interested in taking public with Western investors as major buyers. It also created a massive disincentive for companies to save their cash. Instead, companies are reinvesting their cash, adding to the growth of fixed assets and to capacity gluts in some industries. According to the World Bank, retained corporate earnings accounted for more than half of new investment last year. That's about double the ratio in the United States.

Such corporate reinvestment has completely negated government efforts to shift more of China's national economy from investment and exports to buying by consumers. In 2005, the investment and export share of the economy actually increased and the consumer share fell to an all-time low of just 38% of GDP, according to the Institute for International Economics. And this corporate investment in fixed assets is largely unaffected by any changes in banking regulations or bank interest rates.

An increase in the value of the yuan against the dollar would damp corporate profits, slow the speed of investment in fixed assets and reduce speculative inflows from overseas investors who anticipate a yuan appreciation. Hiking the one-year benchmark interest rate again and again, and raising the interest rates paid to depositors would have similar effects. But such actions would also slow the economy and reduce the number of jobs that the economy is creating. China needs GDP growth north of 7% a year just to stay even with the number of new job seekers thrown up by its massive population every year. Reducing unemployment and underemployment -- categories that take in about 40% of the Chinese population by some counts -- requires even faster growth.

A significant portion of China's small ruling inner circle has fought efforts to attack the problem at the source to a standstill. Commerce Minister Bo Xilai, for example, has complained that any appreciation in the yuan will cripple profits in marginal industries such as textiles, where the profit margin is just 3%. A purely rational economic analysis would say that if Chinese textile makers can't compete after the yuan is appropriately revalued, then the least-efficient companies in the sector should go out of business and the jobs should flow to countries, perhaps Vietnam, where lower labor costs would allow textile makers to make a profit.

That would mean shipping jobs out of China, however, and advocating that is political death in a country that needs to create 20 million jobs a year to keep the population governable by the Communist regime.

Sure, cheesy jobs will calm those millions of single young men....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:56 AM


Syria's military flatters to deceive (Richard M Bennett, 7/28/06, Asia Times)

While it is still largely true that the Syrian military remains one of the largest and best-trained forces in the Arab world, it has significantly lost every major conflict with Israel since 1948. Its combat strength has deteriorated dramatically over the past 15 years as its equipment has become increasingly obsolescent, poorly maintained and short of spare parts.

The collapse of the Soviet Union created immense problems of resupply for the Syrians, and the slowdown experienced by the Syrian economy resulted in a further downgrading of the military's combat efficiency.

"Yes, yes, of course, we all know you cannot poke a stick through the walls of a concrete tower, but here's something to think about: what if the walls are only a painted backdrop?"

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:48 AM


Tour De France Winner Flunks Drug Test (AP, July 27, 2006)

Tour de France champion Floyd Landis tested positive for high levels of testosterone during the race, his Phonak team said Thursday.

The statement came a day after the UCI, cycling's governing body, said an unidentified rider had failed a drug test during the Tour.

The Swiss-based Phonak said in a statement on it Web site that it was notified by the UCI Wednesday that Landis' sample showed "an unusual level of testosterone/epitestosterone" when he was tested after stage 17 of the race last Thursday.

"The team management and the rider were both totally surprised of this physiological result," the statement said.

Phonak said Landis would ask for analysis of his backup "B" sample "to prove either that this result is coming from a natural process or that this is resulting from a mistake."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:45 AM

F TROOP BACK TO NORMAL (via Mike Daley):

Theocracy, Theocracy, Theocracy (Ross Douthat, August/September 2006, First Things)

To understand what, precisely, the anti-theocrats think has gone so wrong, it’s necessary to understand what they mean by the term theocracy. This is no easy task. The word is often used to connote government by a specific institutional faith—Shia imams in Iran, say, or Wahhabi clerics in Afghanistan—with the clergy writing laws and a temple guard enforcing them. But the clout of institutional religion is at low ebb in American politics. No prelate wields the kind of authority that Catholic bishops once enjoyed over urban voters, no denomination can claim the kind of influence that once belonged to the old WASP mainline, and the evangelical Protestantism that figures so prominently in anti-theocracy tracts is distinguished precisely by its lack of any centralized ecclesiastical government.

Occasionally, the anti-theocrats flirt with the possibility that one institutional church or another might pose a threat to the democratic order. In American Theocracy, for instance, Kevin Phillips waxes paranoid about the Southern Baptist Convention’s role as the “state church” of the South, and he tallies, darkly, the number of Baptists who have insinuated themselves into the highest levels of American government. But for the most part, the sum of all secular fears is slightly—but only slightly—more plausible than a Southern Baptist caesaropapism. The real danger, the anti-theocrats suggest, is an ecumenical theocracy that would install a right-wing Mere Christianity as its established religion, subject unbelievers to discrimination, and enshrine the Mosaic code as the law of the land.

We've survived 400 years of that model quite nicely.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:38 AM


Administration and Critics, in Senate Testimony, Clash Over Eavesdropping Compromise (ERIC LICHTBLAU, 7/27/06, NY Times)

[C]ritics attacked the agreement Wednesday as abdication to the White House. Mr. Specter, the Pennsylvania Republican who heads the Judiciary Committee, appeared particularly stung at the hearing when a civil liberties advocate, James X. Dempsey, told him he would prefer to see no legislation at all, allowing the National Security Agency to continue wiretapping Americans without warrants, than Congressional approval of procedures outside the scope of the 1978 law that created the secret court.

In agreeing to that court’s review of the N.S.A. program, the White House had insisted that the bill include language implicitly recognizing the president’s “constitutional authority” to collect foreign intelligence beyond the provisions of the 1978 law. Mr. Dempsey, policy director of the Center for Democracy and Technology, said at the hearing that he appreciated Mr. Specter’s efforts to bring the N.S.A. program under judicial review but that “the price you paid for that simple concession is far too high.”

The proposal, he said, “would turn the clock back to an era of unchecked presidential power, warrantless domestic surveillance and constitutional uncertainty.”

Mr. Specter grew testy over the attack, saying President Bush’s agreement to submit the program to the intelligence court was no simple concession.

“Have you ever gotten a concession from a president?” he demanded of Mr. Dempsey.
"No? Well, that makes two of us."

This whole issue is a demonstration of the central fact of the Bush presidency--he's never won more completely than when his foes think they have.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:22 AM

MOM KNOWS BEST (via Bryan Francoeur):

'Jeopardy' Champ Rips Show (AP, 7/25/06)

"Jeopardy!" ace Ken Jennings, who won $2.5 million during his 74-game winning streak, has a few unkind words to say about the show — and dapper host Alex Trebek.

"I know, I know, the old folks love him," Jennings writes in a recent posting, titled "Dear Jeopardy!" on his Web site.

"Nobody knows he died in that fiery truck crash a few years back and was immediately replaced with the Trebektron 4000 (I see your engineers still can't get the mustache right, by the way)."

Jennings also takes aim at the show's "effete, left-coast" categories and "same-old" format.

The Mother Judd was on Jeopardy with both Art Fleming, who she thought a real gemtleman, and Alex Trebek, who she thought a yutz.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:19 AM


Travelling hopefully: ON THE ROAD TO KANDAHAR by Jason Burke (AMIR TAHERI, Times of London)

In this fast-paced narrative of a decade of travelling and living in half a dozen Muslim countries, Burke endeavours to share that fascination and sympathy. For the most part, he succeeds. His main concern is to show the diversity of Islam and to reject attempts by the West to turn Islam into a monolithic “other”. Muslims number 1,300m and are a majority in 57 countries. They are divided into six doctrinal schools and hundreds of sub-schools. Burke’s brisk reportage shows that being a Muslim in Pakistan is not the same as being one in neighbouring Afghanistan, let alone Bosnia or Morocco. That diversity, however, has not prevented Islamism from masquerading as the sole representative of the faith. Islamism is a political movement that, in its different versions, is seeking world conquest.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:11 AM

REDEFINING SKULL (via The Swaddling Duck):

Warrant issued after dancer skips her court date in body-parts case (TOM HAYDON AND SULEMAN DIN, July 27, 2006, Newark Star-Ledger)

Linda Kay, a dancer at Hott 22, an all-nude juice bar on Route 22 in Union, was arrested about 1:15 p.m. Friday when officers investigating a report of a man threatening to kill himself went to the Diana Drive house in South Plainfield.

Police didn't find any man there, but they did find found a jaggedly severed hand in a mason jar of formaldehyde on Kay's dresser in her basement bedroom.

Officers also found six human skulls in another bedroom. Authorities said they suspect the skulls were purchased online, but police they were included as part of the criminal charge until they complete an investigation into how Kay obtained them. The Middlesex County Medical Examiner's Office was attempting to get fingerprints from the severed hand. [...]

Daniel Russo, owner of Hott 22, said reports about Kay have been good for business.

"We've gotten a lot of calls. Guys are asking if the skull girl is dancing tonight," Russo said. "It's too much. It's pretty funny."

The Duke lacrosse team is lucky they didn't pick on her.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:52 AM


A gas chamber in Manchester: a review of KALOOKI NIGHTS
by Howard Jacobson (A. C. Grayling, Times of London)

IN THIS AGE OF LAZY reviewing, facile judgment and inflated rhetoric, how is one to convey news of the arrival of a work of genius? This powerful, troubling, moving, profound novel is nothing less. Its architecture — more accurately: its engineering, the construction of it — is a feat of brilliance, so sustained and accurate is it; and yet this is the least of its merits. What really steals one’s breath away is its sharpness and depth of insight — a sharpness that flays, and a depth almost too vertiginous to describe — and the remorseless tragedy it unfolds, even as it makes one laugh aloud, sometimes in shock. It is the most intelligent and important novel to appear in this country in years.

Howard Jacobson’s gifts as a novelist of the first rank, not just in England but in English, are well known. He is a master of the language, whose piercing eye makes him the most excoriating as well as the wittiest of writers. Equally to the point, he is one of that small group of authors whose superiority to the average seems to put him well beyond the competence of Booker and Whitbread judges; it is as if winning any such prize would be a diminution of his stature, for he is in a different league, and this novel proves it.

The thread of the novel is its narrator’s effort to discover why a childhood friend from their Manchester Jewish community has murdered his parents by gassing them. By itself this theme is enough to jerk one’s attention to the highest pitch — consider the two awful impossibilities it combines: Jewish parenticide, and by gassing — but of course there can be no addressing such a theme without also addressing what presses behind it, namely, Jewish history’s 5,000 years of bitterness. Comprehending so speaking an individual Jewish tragedy has to involve comprehending the tragedy of the Jews — in both senses of comprehend — and that is what Jacobson essays here.

“Five thousand years of bitterness” is what the narrator, a professional cartoonist and refugee from the self-made shtetl of Manchester immigrant Jews, calls his magnum opus, a graphic (again, in both senses) history of his people. He had started it with his Orthodox Jewish friend, the later murderer, when they were at school together and first grappling with the fact of Jewish besiegement. Genius sees the universal and the particular in each other, and Jacobson’s genius leads him to anatomise the terrible relationship between Jews and Gentiles in the narrator’s unsuccessful (and wickedly funny) marriages to Gentile women, and in the spindle on which the murder turns, another attempt to bridge that fraught divide.

This is a novel of debate, and it is extraordinary how Jacobson achieves every point of view, every possible nuance of attack and defence on the question of the essence of Jewishness — its endurance, the implacable enmities it has suffered, its self-inflicted wounds and obsessions, its unutterable sorrows.

I confess to having never even heard of this author. Anybody read him?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:53 AM


U.S. outdoes Canada in cutting toxic pollution
Canadian Press, 7/27/06)

U.S. manufacturing facilities cut their releases of toxics by 21 per cent between 1998 and 2003, while Canadian manufacturers cut releases by 10 per cent.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:34 AM


The Bolton Nomination, Act II: Bush Presses Anew for Confirmation of Controversial Envoy (Colum Lynch, 7/27/06, Washington Post)

U.N. Ambassador John R. Bolton's blunt diplomatic style has made him a political rock star among conservative Republicans who relish his routine exposure of U.N. foibles and criticism of its bureaucrats.

But international diplomats, including several from countries closely allied with the United States, complain that he has furthered U.S. isolation here and undercut U.S.-backed efforts to reform the sprawling bureaucracy of the United Nations. [...]

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee begins hearings Thursday on whether to make Bolton's temporary appointment, which will expire in January, permanent. His appearance in Washington, where Democratic leaders have vowed to oppose Bolton, is expected to be as polarizing as his presence at U.N. headquarters.

Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.) said, "Mr. Bolton's performance at the U.N. only confirms my conviction that he's the wrong person for this job." He suggested that Democrats may filibuster a Senate vote unless the Bush administration releases documents Biden believes detail Bolton's use of National Security Agency intercepts involving U.S. citizens. [...]

Israel's U.N. envoy, Dan Gillerman, said Bolton's arrival has been a "breath of fresh air at Turtle Bay precisely because he's not your typical diplomat."

"I'm certainly not going to tell the Senate or House of Representatives how to vote, but if John Bolton were to be confirmed by the Israeli Knesset, he would get all 120 votes," Gillerman said.

Are Democrats really going to oppose a neocon with Israel at war? Their hysteria over Mr. al-Maliki's visit suggests they're in a kowtowing mood.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:15 AM


400-year-old pistol found on site of first American colonists (RICHARD LUSCOMBE, 7/26/06, The Scotsman)

ARCHAEOLOGISTS have uncovered a rare but perfectly preserved early 17th-century Scottish pistol at the historic former British colony known as the birthplace of the United States, making the firearm one of the oldest artefacts of European origin ever discovered in North America.

The weapon probably belonged to one of the first settlers to arrive at Jamestown, Virginia, in 1607, and was recovered from a well at the site with several other "hugely significant" artefacts.

And here we thought the gun culture originated in 1994.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:13 AM

THUS THE BASEMENT RULE (via Bryan Francoeur):

Sun kills 60,000 a year, WHO says (Reuters, 7/26/06)

As many as 60,000 people a year die from too much sun, mostly from malignant skin cancer, the World Health Organization has reported.

It found that 48,000 deaths every year are caused by malignant melanomas, and 12,000 by other kinds of skin cancer. About 90 percent of such cancers are caused by ultraviolet light from the sun.

Radiation from the sun also causes often serious sunburn, skin aging, eye cataracts, pterygium -- a fleshy growth on the surface of the eye, cold sores and other ills, according to the report, the first to detail the global effects of sun exposure.

Yet people still insist Summer isn't evil?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:09 AM


Conservative revival is bad news for Lib Dems (Julian Glover, July 27, 2006, The Guardian)

As MPs start their two-month break from the Commons, the Lib Dems emerge as the main losers in a poll which also sees the Conservatives on a 13-year high, equalling their best Guardian/ICM rating since Black Wednesday in 1992.

Only 17% of voters said they would back the Lib Dems in an immediate general election, down four points on a month, and six points below the party's rating a year ago when it was led by Charles Kennedy. [...]

[T]his month's poll puts Labour up three points, to 35%, narrowing the gap on the Conservatives, who climb two points to 39%.

That is close to the 40% rating which Conservatives believe could allow them to challenge for power in a general election. The Conservatives last scored 39% in a Guardian/ICM poll in January 1993, as they recovered briefly before a decade-long collapse in public support.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:01 AM


Flush with cash? BoSox toilet may fill your needs (Gayle Fee and Laura Raposa, July 27, 2006, Boston Herald)

How would you like to pee where Roger Clemens, Johnny Damon and heck yes, even Bill Buckner peed???? Well then, here’s your dream come true!

Lelands, the New York sports memorabilia auction house, is selling the potty that stood inside the home dugout. The very bowels of Fenway Park, so to speak.

The prize piece of porcelain “got up close and very personal with the likes of Boggs, Ramirez, Damon and Pedro,” the auction catalogue brags.

The possibly Cursed crapper was installed just prior to the doomed 1986 season and was ripped out during the clubhouse renovations in 2004 - taking its bad john juju with it! Lelands said it got the one-of-a-kind artifact from the construction crew that renovated the old ballyard. [...]

“Last year we sold the urinal from the Cardinals clubhouse to a St. Louis area urologist for over $2,100. He put it in his office,” said auction house spokesguy Doug Drotman. “The Cardinals fans are pretty rabid about their team but there are not many more avid collectors than Red Sox fans.”

And, as Lelands points out, this is the throne that “caught Clemens.”

The hardball loo is up for grabs at www.lelands.com for 30 days.

I'm almost afraid to tell W. Hodding Carter.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:54 AM


Chicago's Struggles Alter AL Landscape (STEVEN GOLDMAN, July 27, 2006, NY Sun)

[W]ith the White Sox ice cold and the Yankees hot, the wild card safety valve is again open.

Chicago's tailspin began just before the All-Star break, when the Red Sox beat their hosiery counterparts in two of three contests. Beginning with that series, the White Sox have gone 4–11. Over that same span, the Yankees have gone 10–5 and a comeback kids-style Minnesota Twins team has gone 12–4. On July 6, the Sox held a wild-card lead of seven games.As of yesterday afternoon's loss to the Twins, it's gone.

Chicago's failure has been systemic, though it was pitching that went down harder. Left-handed ace Mark Buehrle has been so bad for so long that the soundness of his arm must be questioned.With another disastrous start yesterday, Buehrle has been pasted in five consecutive starts, going 0–5 with a 12.15 ERA. During the July slide, Freddy Garcia's July ERA is 5.76. Javier Vazquez's is 6.48. Overall, the staff's ERA during the slide has been 5.44.

Given hot hitting, a team might be able to survive that kind of pitching.The Sox haven't had it. Though their power production has remained steady, with 27 home runs and a .455 slugging percentage over the last 15 games, the team's onbase average is just .305. Key offenders include Paul Konerko, whose on-base average is just .281 (though he has hit four home runs in 57 at bats) and A.J. Pierzynski, who is batting .176 AVG/.208 OBA/.294 SLG. As a result, the Sox have scored just under four runs a game. When the pitching staff is allowing more than five runs a game at the same time, it takes an awful lot of luck to win.

July 26, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:50 PM


Alone in the Universe (Iain Murray, The American Enterprise)

As a long-time devotee of science fiction, I have always been excited by the possibility that mankind might encounter extraterrestrial life. But I have always tried to apply the rules of logic and reason to those prospects. And it is becoming increasingly clear to me, and others, that merely wanting to believe is not enough.

As our observation methods have improved, we've learned that somewhere on the order of 20-50 percent of all stars have planets orbiting them. We have no idea whether life-friendly planets are common, or what the chances are that life, much less intelligent life, exists on such planets, but if we assume that there is nothing special about our own solar system, we come up with some pretty optimistic numbers. Astronomers Frank Drake and Carl Sagan suggested that there could be 10 million civilizations as advanced as or more advanced than us in the galaxy today.

Such a theory, however, begs an important question, one raised by Italian physicist Enrico Fermi way back in 1950. He turned to his lunch partners at Los Alamos, who included Edward Teller, and asked simply, "Where is everybody?" If intelligent, communicating life is common, why haven't we seen evidence of it? After all, if the formation of civilizations has been fairly constant through the long life of the universe, then there should have been billions of them by now.

... We are therefore led to the uncomfortable conclusion that there may be something wrong with the assumption that life can exist in numerous other places. Perhaps our solar system is not average at all. Perhaps life-friendly planets are rare. ... It is quite possible, then, that we are the only civilization around at the moment. ... For life as we know it, we are today left with the unpalatable but rational conclusion that instead of Carl Sagan's millions of civilizations, there is a very good chance we are the only one. The latest decade's discoveries and arguments do not mean that we are alone for certain, but they are probabilities that point strongly in that direction.

Mr. Watson offers the following comment: "This conclusion is, of course, unacceptable to scientific materialists because it would imply that the statisitical arguments against Neo-Darwinism have merit, that life does not arise easily from the random interactions of atoms, and that mankind occupies a unique position in the galaxy."

Puckish (Brothers Judd, 7/30/2003)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:45 PM


The Novel Moscow Feared: The precursor to "1984" wasn't published in its author's land until 1988. (JOHN J. MILLER, July 26, 2006, Opinion Journal)

Authors sometimes gripe about the long wait between the completion of a book and its publication. Perhaps the sad case of the Russian writer Yevgeny Zamyatin will help them put things in perspective: He finished his novel "We" in 1921, but it didn't appear in print in his native land until 1988.

The problem wasn't that Zamyatin and his manuscript were obscure or unknown. Rather, it was that they offended communist censors, who correctly understood "We" to be a savage critique of the totalitarianism that was starting to take shape in the years following the Russian Revolution.

They managed to suppress "We" inside the Soviet Union, but they weren't able to keep it from making a deep impression elsewhere: Two of the most iconic novels in the English language--"Brave New World" by Aldous Huxley and "1984" by George Orwell--owe an enormous debt to Zamyatin.

That's because "We" is the ur-text of science-fiction dystopias: It described an Orwellian society almost three decades before Orwell invented his own version. Although the book has never been especially hard to find in the U.S.--editions have been in print since 1924--it will now become even more readily available, thanks to Natasha Randall's new translation, published this month by the Modern Library.

Orwell actually had a tough time tracking down the novel for himself.

One novel of totalitarianism does remain stubbornly forgotten, Aerodrome.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:32 PM

RACING TO GATTACA (via Lisa Fleischman):

Confessions of a "Genetic Outlaw": A new method for screening embryos for disease may provide more reason to brand some people dissidents for bringing their kids into the world (Elizabeth R. Schiltz, 7/20/06, Business Week)

From time to time, we are all confronted with the disconnect between how we see ourselves and how others see us. I've always seen myself as a responsible, law-abiding citizen. I recycle, I vote, I don't drive a Hummer. But I've come to realize that many in the scientific and medical community view me as grossly irresponsible. Indeed, in the words of Bob Edwards, the scientist who facilitated the birth of England's first test-tube baby, I am a "sinner." A recent book even branded me a "genetic outlaw." My transgression? I am one of the dwindling number of women who receive a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome and choose not to terminate our pregnancies. [...]

Scientists are beginning to tell me precisely how much dissident acts like not aborting my son cost society. A study published in 2000 in the American Journal of Medical Genetics concluded that the average lifetime cost of each "new case" of Down syndrome is $451,000. This study differentiated the lifetime costs of various types of prenatally diagnosed disabilities leading to abortions in one hospital in Michigan. For reasons I can't fathom, Down syndrome turns out to be the most expensive by far. In contrast, the lifetime costs of conditions like spina bifida ($294,000) and cleft lip or palate ($101,000) seem almost negligible.

This study was offered to quantify the cost of banning "second trimester elective terminations for prenatally diagnosed abnormalities." Imagine the public outrage that would greet the publication of a study calculating the cost of not terminating pregnancies if it were broken down into a category such as family income. Although most of our civil rights laws now include "disability" in the litany of prohibited bases for discrimination—along with race, gender, and ethnic origin—our enlightened liberal commitment to diversity appears to go only so far. While we are willing to mandate accommodation to make jobs or public transportation accessible to a person with spina bifida, the social cost of accommodating her birth is increasingly being seen as exceeding her worth.

EUGENICS BY DEFAULT. This emerging public consensus in favor of eugenics is not the product of any sort of reasoned debate. There has been no referendum, no debate in Congress, no move to amend the Constitution. It's emerging from the collective force of countless decisions by loving and caring mothers and fathers, in consultation with conscientious medical professionals who are using the truly miraculous and astonishing discoveries of brilliant scientists plunging deeper and deeper into the mysteries of life. These people are not intentionally practicing eugenics in order to create a perfect master race. They are simply trying to alleviate potential suffering and protect the quality of the lives they are bringing into the world.

But it is time for us to acknowledge the collective effect of these private decisions. Do we truly endorse the implicit message we are sending to our disabled brothers and sisters—that our commitment to diversity does not extend to genetic diversity? We need to confront the disconnect between how we see ourselves—as an enlightened, liberal society committed to fully integrating people with disabilities in all sectors of life—and how people living with the disabilities we would identify for extinction must see us.

The Holocaust began with the "best" of intentions.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:56 PM


Jury finds Yates not guilty in drownings (ANGELA K. BROWN, 7/26/06, Associated Press)

In a dramatic turnaround from her first murder trial, Andrea Yates was found not guilty by reason of insanity Wednesday in the drowning of her children in the bathtub.

The 42-year-old woman will be committed to a state mental hospital and held until she is no longer deemed a threat. If she had been convicted of murder, she would have been sentenced to life in prison.

She's ill, not evil. The people who left her with the kids should be prosecuted.

Andrea Yates: More To The Story: As a judge formally sentences the convicted murderer, TIME's Timothy Roche examines the role of a key prosecution witness (TIMOTHY ROCHE , 3/18/02, TIME)

In Texas, the law on insanity defenses is among the most restrictive in the nation. So narrow are the nuances of the state's centuries-old law that it was not enough for Yates' defense lawyers to simply prove that she twice attempted suicide, had been hospitalized four times for psychiatric care and nursed a psychosis before the drownings clearly documented in thousands of pages of medical records. No, Andrea's motives may have been delusional, but if she were able to distinguish right from wrong — good from evil — while committing the crime, jurors had little choice but to reject her plea of not guilty by reason of insanity and convict her.

To reach their verdict, jurors seemed to rely heavily on the persuasive testimony of a famous forensic psychiatrist, Park Dietz, who was paid $500 an hour by prosecutors to dispute claims that Andrea Yates was insane under the Texas law. Now, TIME has learned, questions are surfacing about the reliability of the state's key witness who has admitted that he mixed up facts that prosecutors wound up emphasizing to the jury. Dietz also has told TIME that he opposes the very law that he helped prosecutors apply to Yates and jurors used to deny her insanity defense. [...]

While defense lawyers called several expert witnesses who had different opinions about Andrea's actual diagnosis, each told jurors she obviously had been psychotic and delusional at the time. After her arrest, jail psychiatrist Melissa Ferguson testified, Andrea was put on medications that enabled her to finally talk about the visions and voices that she says guided her actions. It was only after she was placed in a jail cell, naked, on suicide watch that Andrea spoke of the Satan inside her and the only was to be rid of him: She had to be executed. And she had to kill the children, as Satan demanded, to get the death penalty.

Andrea tried to explain. "It was the seventh deadly sin. My children weren't righteous. They stumbled because I was evil. The way I was raising them they could never be saved," she told the jail psychiatrist. "They were doomed to perish in the fires of hell."

Jurors took notes as Rusty testified about his life with Andrea, whom he had met when they were both 25 years old and living in the same apartment complex in Houston. He told them how their family had grown, and how they had moved from a house in suburbia to a camping trailer to a bus converted into a motor home, where Andrea focused on raising the toddlers. After the birth of their fourth child, Luke, in 1999, Andrea tried twice to commit suicide. She was hospitalized both times and was diagnosed with postpartum depression and psychosis.

The couple and their four sons moved from the bus into their house on Beachcomber Lane in a Houston suburb. She recovered while using Haldol, but eventually stopped taking the medication. Against the advice of her psychiatrist, Andrea soon became pregnant again with their fifth child, Mary. Within months, following the death of her ailing father, her psychosis returned. Instead of taking her back to the same doctor who'd treated her before, Rusty told jurors that he and Andrea went to the Devereux-Texas Treatment Network, where Mohammed Saeed became Andrea's psychiatrist. Rusty testified that he never knew that Andrea had visions and voices; he said he never knew she had considered killing the children. Neither did Dr. Saeed, even though the delusions could have been found in medical records from 1999. Andrea would not talk or eat.

After only slight improvement, Andrea was released from Devereux. A month later, she had another episode. Rusty took her back to Devereux. Again, she was released. Dr. Saeed reluctantly prescribed Haldol, the same drug that worked in a drug cocktail for her in 1999. But after a few weeks, he took her off the drug, citing his concerns about side effects. (For more on Saeed's response, see our previous examination of the Yates trial.) Though Andrea's condition seemed to be worsening two days before the drownings, when her husband drove her to Saeed's office, Rusty testified, the doctor refused to try Haldol longer or return her to the hospital. Rusty was frustrated, he told the jury, and he didn't know what else to do.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:51 PM


Cartoonist likens Olmert to Nazi (MICHAEL FREUND, 7/26/06, Jerusalem Post)

Invoking a scene from the film Schindler's List, one of Norway's largest newspapers recently published a political cartoon comparing Prime Minster Ehud Olmert to the infamous commander of a Nazi death camp who indiscriminately murdered Jews by firing at them at random from his balcony.

The caricature by political cartoonist Finn Graff appeared on July 10 in the Oslo daily Dagbladet. It has prompted outrage among the country's small Jewish community and led the Simon Weisenthal Center to submit a protest to the Norwegian government.

Muslims wouldn't tolerate it and Jews oughtn't appease him.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:45 PM


Prosecutors Look at UWM Project, Meeting (Todd Richmond, 7/26/06, AP)

Gov. Jim Doyle brushed off word that state and federal investigators are considering launching two more probes of his administration Wednesday, dismissing the news as typical political fodder during a heated campaign season.

Department of Justice spokesman Mike Bauer said prosecutors are reviewing how a firm that donated to Doyle won a University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee building contract and whether a campaign fundraiser for Doyle arranged a meeting between a lawyer seeking state business and Doyle's top state aide in his office. [...]

A decision to investigate the UW-Milwaukee affair and the meeting would mean more problems for Doyle, who faces U.S. Rep. Mark Green, R-Green Bay, in the November general election.

Doyle's administration already is under investigation over a state travel contract that went to a company whose executives gave to his campaign and whether campaign donations from employees of two utilities factored into state regulators' decision to allow the sale of the utilities' nuclear power plant. [...]

Bauer said the prosecutors are reviewing for possible investigation a complaint from a developer called Prism over how Doyle's administration handled the bidding process for the $68.7 million UW-Milwaukee project. Prism lost out on a bid to turn a university building into student housing and retail space.

Howard Dean says I should vote against such corrupt bums....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:41 PM


Gay-marriage ruling could rock Supreme Court races (DAVID AMMONS, July 26, 2006, AP)

The deeply divided Washington Supreme Court's decision to retain the state ban on gay marriage may roil the already volatile court elections this fall.

Chief Justice Gerry Alexander, who is under attack from the right and from the building industry and others, joined the shaky 5-4 majority. That puts him on the side of public opinion, according to the polls, but might alienate some of his progressive backers, analysts said Wednesday. Alexander is opposed by attorney John Groen.

Two other justices up for re-election this fall, Susan Owens and Tom Chambers, were among the four dissenters and would have thrown out the state's gay-marriage ban, called the Defense of Marriage Act.

Owens already was considered vulnerable and faces a strong challenge from state Sen. Stephen Johnson, R-Kent. Chambers is considered a safe bet for re-election and the case isn't expected to hurt him much.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:32 PM


Senate Removes Abortion Option for Young Girls (CARL HULSE, 7/26/06, NY Times)

The Senate passed legislation Tuesday that would make it a federal crime to help an under-age girl escape parental notification laws by crossing state lines to obtain an abortion.

The bill was approved on a 65-to-34 vote, with 14 Democrats joining 51 Republicans in favor.

...is a last ditch defense of killing minors' babies? They've come a long way....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:27 PM


CITIZEN MCCAIN: As the 2008 presidential race approaches, New York voters ponder the possibility of a McCain White House (JOHN DESIO, 7/26/06, New York Press)

At the end of March, the Arizona Senator was the keynote speaker at a packed-to-the-rafters rally for immigration reform in the heavily-Irish Woodlawn section of The Bronx. The greeting McCain received from the crowd—Republicans, Democrats and Independents all together—was not what you would expect to hear for a politician, but for a rock star.

They sang, they cheered, they even engaged in some traditional soccer chants for McCain. The crowd exploded for McCain when he walked into the room, and only stopped when he asked them to. Otherwise, they might have cheered all night.

That reaction illustrates just why McCain can do what no Republican presidential candidate has done since Ronald Reagan and win New York in 2008, so claims Charlie Szrom, director of the national movement to draft McCain for president in 2008 (www.mccainmovement.com). Headed into his senior year at Indiana University, Szrom formed the “Draft McCain” movement in April as a way to drum up support for the Senator’s likely presidential run. The all-volunteer group boasts members in 31 states including New York and regional coordinators in 11 of those states. Szrom says he hopes to have a New York director in the very near future.

“We’re fans of McCain, and we want to do something to put the man we feel is best suited for it into the White House in 2008,” said Szrom, adding that unlike most politicians, McCain does not guide his career on polling data, but makes pragmatic decisions on what he feels best serves the country and his own deep convictions. That practical streak will help McCain in New York, said Szrom, noting that one of the most liberal states in the union have handed Republican Governor George Pataki three straight victories, and that the largest liberal city in the United States has elected Republicans for mayor—Rudy Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg—four consecutive times. “New York is a great state for McCain,” said Szrom.

Victories by Pataki, Giuliani and Bloomberg are typically used as evidence by Republicans that their party is alive and well in New York. For Szrom, it represents the high level of sophistication of the average state voter.

“Voters in New York are more focused on issues, on what a candidate can offer, not just on their party line,” said Szrom. “John McCain appeals to a broad spectrum of voters, and he’ll appeal to New Yorkers in 2008.”

Not only can the Senator win NY, but he has a realistic shot at running the table.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:10 AM


Israeli 'Doves' Say Response Is Legitimate: Support for Campaign Bridges Political Divides (John Ward Anderson, 7/26/06, Washington Post)

Two weeks into a war that began after a cross-border Hezbollah raid captured two Israeli soldiers, Israelis have shown extraordinary unanimity in backing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's military campaign to inflict a punishing and perhaps lethal blow to the militant Shiite group, despite a rain of rockets into northern Israel and hundreds of civilian deaths and widespread bombing destruction in Lebanon.

This singularity of purpose, which bridges Israel's weary center, dovish left and hawkish right in a way rarely seen here, is all the more striking coming just six years after Israel's unilateral withdrawal from the self-declared security zone it held in Lebanon for nearly two decades, ending a painful experience that inflicted deep wounds on the national psyche and might have made some wary of reentering the Lebanese morass.

"Lebanon was Israel's Vietnam, and when we went there in 1982, it was really a march of folly, it was wrong morally, it was wrong strategically, and we paid dearly for that grave mistake," said Ari Shavit, a dovish columnist for Haaretz newspaper, referring to the full-scale invasion masterminded by then-Defense Minister Ariel Sharon to drive out the Palestine Liberation Organization.

But today is different, he said, "because Israeli is not the aggressor marching into another land." Rather, the current campaign "is an old-fashioned war where we are right, and we were attacked for no reason whatsoever. This is probably the most justified war in our history."

In a survey published Friday by Israel's Maariv newspaper, 95 percent of those sampled said that attacks against Hezbollah were justified, and 90 percent said that fighting should continue until Hezbollah was pushed away from Israel's northern border.

They're certainly justified--the question is whether they're acting wisely.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:58 AM


Twins creep closer to slumping Sox (Andrew Seligman, 7/26/06, The Associated Press)

The way Johan Santana sees it, this is how it's going to be the rest of the season — the Minnesota Twins and the Chicago White Sox locked in step.

At the moment, they're teams headed in different directions.

Santana outpitched Jose Contreras, and Jason Bartlett hit a three-run homer as the surging Twins pulled one game behind slumping Chicago with a 4-3 victory on Tuesday night. [...]

The Twins have won 33 of their last 41, while the White Sox suffered their 11th loss in 14 games. Chicago is 7 ½ games behind first-place Detroit in the AL Central, and the Twins are another game out in third. And the White Sox lead the New York Yankees by one-half game in the wild-card race, with Minnesota right behind.

In fairness to the Chisox, it's not as if they're choking, they just aren't that good.

July 25, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:10 PM


Web, Lieberman and the Netroots (ARI MELBER, July 25, 2006, The Nation)

As progressive bloggers focus on ousting Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman from office for his alleged disloyalty to Democrats, in Virginia, another candidate who embodied the Republican cause has infiltrated the Democratic Party. But ironically, the bloggers support this former Reagan official.

Jim Webb, a Vietnam combat veteran who served as Secretary of the Navy under President Reagan, is not only the new darling of the national netroots in his challenge to Republican incumbent George Allen; he was recruited to run for office by Internet activists. Webb, an iconoclastic, progun, prochoice, antiwar, libertarian, economic populist from a rural military family, recently declared his membership in the Democratic Party. In a summer campaign season punctuated by talk of purges and ideological purity, online enthusiasm for Webb's candidacy tells a different story about blog activism, raising fundamental questions about the netroots' emerging electoral strategy.

Hardly a coincidence that Joe Lieberman is Jewish and Jim Webb celebrates clanishness.

Hatred-politics endanger Lieberman race (Morton Kondracke, 7/25/06, Whittier Daily News)

If former Greenwich Selectman Ned Lamont beats Lieberman in the Democratic primary, it will represent a signal victory for the MoveOn.org- Michael Moore-DailyKos left wing of the Democratic Party and for vicious name-calling as a political tactic.

The Democratic Party already is handicapped by the fact that its liberal base amounts to just 20 percent of the electorate, while the Republicans' conservative base is 33 percent, according to decades of polling. Both parties must appeal to the remaining 47 percent who describe themselves as "moderate"- which Democrats can't do if the left triumphs.

But the left is ascendant. MoveOn's preferred 2000 presidential candidate, Howard Dean, is now chairman of the Democratic National Committee, and the party's leaders in Congress, Sen. Harry Reid, Nev., and Rep. Nancy Pelosi, give every evidence of being influenced by the left-leaning blogosphere's obsessive hatred of President Bush.

Reid and Pelosi press conferences are dominated by Bush-bashing and virtually empty of positive proposals. Even so, mainstream Democrats are under constant Weblog pressure to "take on" Bush and routinely get attacked for being too accommodating.

Lieberman is a target primarily because he supports the Iraq war, but also because he rejects Bush-hatred and often cooperates with Republicans, even though he votes with his party 80 percent of the time.

When fellow Senate Democrats Joseph Biden, Del.; Ken Salazar, Colo.; and Barbara Boxer; endorsed Lieberman, the liberal blog Democrats.com featured this warning:

"If they read progressive blogs at all - and by now one would assume they do - \ certainly know that the Democratic `base' hates Lieberman and will be furious at his defenders."

The blogger, Bob Fertik, asked, "So why are these senators kissing Lieberman's ass/ring?" He speculated that one reason was that Lieberman could help them raise money, "in particular conservative Jewish money" and noted that "ideologically, Lieberman practically owns the `Democratic sellout' brand," which he warned Biden and Salazar to avoid.

Even before the current Middle East conflict, Lieberman was subjected to anti-Semitic attacks on liberal blogs DailyKos and Huffington Post. One commentary declared, "Ned Lamont needs to beat Lieberman to a pulp in the debate and define what it means to be an American who is NOT beholden to the Israeli lobby."

Posted by David Cohen at 5:16 PM


Snookering Stevens: A justice gets duped (Ramesh Ponnuru, NRO, 7/25/06)

In deciding how to read the amendment [limiting the Court's jurisdiction over cases like Hamdan], Justice Stevens, writing for the Court, looked at senators’ statements, among other things. Here he encountered a problem: The senators disagreed. Senators Lindsey Graham and Jon Kyl, the Republican authors of the amendment, thought that it applied to pending cases. Other senators, notably Democrat Carl Levin, did not.

Stevens handles the problem in footnote 10. The statements by Kyl and Graham, he writes, “appear to have been inserted into the Congressional Record after the Senate debate. . . . All statements made during the debate itself support Senator Levin’s understanding” (emphasis in original).

But Stevens has it wrong. None of the statements he cites — on either side of the issue — was made during floor debate in the Senate. All of them were submitted for the record after the debate (but before the vote on the act).

Using the right legislative history, a judge can make a statute that says "white" mean "black."

Posted by David Cohen at 4:59 PM


Raise Wages, Not Walls (Michael Dukakis and Daniel J.B. Mitchell, NY Times, 7/25/06)

There is a simpler alternative. If we are really serious about turning back the tide of illegal immigration, we should start by raising the minimum wage from $5.15 per hour to something closer to $8. The Massachusetts legislature recently voted to raise the state minimum to $8 and California may soon set its minimum even higher. Once the minimum wage has been significantly increased, we can begin vigorously enforcing the wage law and other basic labor standards.

Millions of illegal immigrants work for minimum and even sub-minimum wages in workplaces that don’t come close to meeting health and safety standards. It is nonsense to say, as President Bush did recently, that these jobs are filled by illegal immigrants because Americans won’t do them. Before we had mass illegal immigration in this country, hotel beds were made, office floors were cleaned, restaurant dishes were washed and crops were picked — by Americans.

I assume the glaring problem with this plan is clear to everyone but erstwhile Democratic presidential nominees, and their ilk.

Posted by David Cohen at 4:44 PM


Hezbollah Says Israeli Response a Surprise (Scheherezade Faramarzi, AP, 7/25/06)

"The truth is _ let me say this clearly _ we didn't even expect (this) response.... that (Israel) would exploit this operation for this big war against us," said Komati.

He said Hezbollah had expected "the usual, limited response" from Israel to the July 12 cross-border raid, in which three Israelis were killed.

Never has the immorality of a proportional response been made so clear.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:58 PM


Chorizo is the new Racing Sausage (Don Walker, 7/25/06, JS Online Blogs)

Chorizo, a tasty Mexican sausage, will join fellow meaty friends Hot Dog, Bratwurst, Polish and Italian as the newest member of the Klement's Famous Racing Sausages team at Miller Park.

Chorizo, who will be adorned with a sombrero and decked out in red, green and white, will be formally introduced on Thursday at a press conference at Miller Park.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:32 PM


Case Closed: The truth about the Iraqi-Niger "yellowcake" nexus. (Christopher Hitchens, July 25, 2006, Slate)

I shall quote here, with his permission, from a letter I have received from Ambassador Rolf Ekeus. Ambassador Ekeus, currently high commissioner for national minority questions for the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, is a founder of the renowned Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, has been Sweden's envoy both to the United Nations and the United States, and won great acclaim for his effective defanging of Iraq when he was the first chairman of UNSCOM after the first Gulf War in 1992. (When it was proposed 10 years later that the U.N. inspectors be sent back to Iraq, Kofi Annan actually renominated Ekeus for the job but was overruled by France and Russia, who wanted the more conciliatory Hans Blix.) Ekeus writes to me as follows, having known Zahawie in a professional capacity and having read the posting, apparently from him, in Slate's "Fray":

One of my colleagues remembers Zahawie as Iraq's delegate to the IAEA General Conference during the years 1982-84. One item on the agenda was the diplomatic and political fall-out of Israel's destruction of the Osirak reactor (a centerpiece of Iraq's nuclear weapons ambitions). Zahawie in his response [to Slate] appears to confirm that he was Iraq's delegate, though not the Permanent delegate, to the IAEA (the General Conference) and therefore clearly not foreign to the nuclear issues, especially as he was the under-secretary of the foreign ministry selected by Baghdad to represent Iraq on the most sensitive issue, the question of Iraq's nuclear weapons ambitions. His participation as leader of the Iraqi delegation to the 1995 Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference merely confirms his standing as Iraq's top negotiator on nuclear weapons issues. [italics mine]

He confirms that he was Iraq's ambassador to the Vatican, a not unimportant position given that all Iraq's [other] embassies in the West lacked senior or ambassadorial leadership and that all Western embassies in Iraq were closed. His modesty in this case is puzzling if you don't take into account that a resident ambassador in Rome was ideally placed to undertake discreet and sensitive missions, especially as he was fully plugged into the intricacies of nuclear-weapons diplomacy.

Zahawie furthermore confirms his trip to Niger. The question remains, why Iraq's top man on nuclear weapons diplomacy and negotiations would travel to Niger: with all respect, not the dream-place for a connoisseur of Mozart and Italian bel canto, though no longer of Wagner.

(Ambassador Ekeus' allusion in that last sentence is to Zahawie's affecting claim that he was posted to Rome in virtual semiretirement and mainly for the music. This is as credible as his claim, made to Hassan Fattah—then of Time magazine—that when he visited Niger he did not know that it exported yellowcake—which is famously just about the only thing that it does export.)

Let me now introduce a second corroborative witness, whose acknowledged expertise in the field is hardly less than that of Ekeus...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:36 PM


In EU's new states, a return to nationalism (Richard Bernstein, July 25, 2006, The New York Times)

One villager, Wieslaw Cygan, who teaches in a technical college, is one of the 48 people here who voted for the League for Polish Families, a political party once deemed to occupy the Polish rightist fringe that is now part of the governing coalition.

"I would like to see a new political party," Cygan said in his tidy home, sparsely decorated with the kind of religious and landscape paintings in fashion across much of Central and Eastern Europe. "I call it a People's Democratic Christian Conservative Party that would be Catholic and patriotic," he said.

The labels that Cygan attaches to his dream party suggest the struggle for identity that is going on in deeply Catholic and rural Poland and in some ways rippling across other formerly Communist countries in Europe. Now that they are firmly embedded in the European Union and the Western alliance, they seem to feel an urge to reassert older, more traditional parts of themselves.

Indeed, nearly 17 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall and two years after Poland and other former Soviet bloc states joined the European Union, it is a surprising time in Europe. On the very heels of what could certainly be deemed a historic achievement, the defeat of Communist dictatorship and the merging of Eastern and Western Europe into a 25-member club of peaceful, secure and solidly democratic countries, Europe is in a strange and sour mood.

What's strange and sour about opposing secularism and transnationalism?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:49 AM


Praying for Hummus, Getting Hamas: In the 1990s, Israelis sincerely thought that peace was just around the corner. Now, the Middle East is torn apart by war. A former Israeli peace activist explains why he has laid down his olive branch and is prepared to grab for his rifle. (Zeev Avrahami, July 25, 2006, Der Spiegel)

The war in Lebanon 24 years ago turned Israel upside down: A high-ranking officer refused his orders to invade Beirut and thousands of Israelis protested against the war while soldiers were still fighting and dying. After years of being the world's darlings, international public opinion suddenly turned against us. And then there were the horrors of Sabra and Shatila. There were no glorious photo albums after this war, no heroes. It was Israel's Vietnam. [...]

The growing opposition of my generation was our first major contribution to shaping Israeli society and to adding the next layer to our young nation. The first generation of Israelis built the country, fought its war of independence and developed the infrastructure of a nation-state. The second generation fought glorious wars helping establish a Jewish post-Holocaust identity. We, who were born in the mid-1960s and the beginning of the 70s, called for the normalization of Israel. We wanted Israel to become a country like any other; we wanted borders, both geographical and ethical. The war we fought was the one against the convictions of our parents' generation.

As my generation matured -- and began taking its place in the Israeli economic, cultural and political establishment -- we triggered a great change in Israeli public opinion. Ours was the generation that pushed -- both with votes and with lifestyle -- for talks with the Palestinians and for peace agreements with Arafat and Jordan. The young generation that came after us instigated the pull-out from Lebanon in 2000, and pushed for a final agreement with the Palestinians. In the last election, for the first time in Israeli history, three politicians who did not rise up through the ranks of the Israeli army were elected to our government's highest posts: Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had been the mayor of Jerusalem, Foreign Minister Zipi Livni is a lawyer and Defense Minister Amir Peretz was a union leader. We wanted our government to focus on welfare issues, invest in education and civil rights.

Deep down, of course, we knew that was wishful thinking. My generation, after all -- which had largely missed the last heroic war in 1967 and which was born into the reality of Israel as an occupier -- also helped make Ariel Sharon prime minister in 2001. Sharon's reputation then was not only stained by the Lebanon war, but he was also the living symbol for the settlement project; it was Sharon, as minister of infrastructure and agriculture, who devoted huge amounts of money to the expansion of the settlements. His election signalled a change: There was a waning belief that peace with the Palestinians was possible and a desire for a strong leader as Israel braced for the next war.

Like an experienced shepherd, Sharon sensed exactly which way the herd wanted to go. After his election, he led Israel into confrontation with the Palestinians -- the Second Intifada. He also forced Israelis to take the next step, that of turning their backs on their Palestinian neighbors. For my generation, this represented a huge defeat, and we felt betrayed when the younger generation agreed to Sharon's policy. It is this betrayal -- and this complete rejection of the idea of peace with the Palestinians -- which fills me with sadness when I follow the news today.

The anger, though, is not far behind. When the rockets from Gaza began falling on southern Israel, my former peace activism became but a distant memory. The recent killings and kidnappings of soldiers on the Gaza and Lebanese borders sent us back to our past and into our closets: Once again, we Israelis are looking for our uniforms.

Today, I am convinced that Israel is fighting a justified war. Far from being an "optional war," this conflict was forced upon us. There is a feeling that every positive step taken in recent years has been answered by punishment. Now we are prepared to do whatever it takes to turn Israel into a safe place, even if this means invading Lebanon once again. We also want to sip coffee and play backgammon. We've had enough of rockets from the north and south and suicide bombers from everywhere. We also want to lead a normal life, just like the people in New York, Berlin or Rome who don't have to look up every time a stranger enters their favorite cafe.

We pulled out of Gaza and we have no desire to be pulled back in. We want to go to work, study, raise a family, enjoy the beach, and eat hummus as we watch with delight how the Palestinians use the money they get from around the world to build their own infrastructure, to create jobs allowing them to go to the beach, raise families, and eat hummus. We prayed for hummus and instead we got Hamas.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:54 AM


Democrats' Plan Focuses on Middle Class: Sen. Clinton Presents Domestic Agenda Featuring Tax Breaks and Tuition Help (Dan Balz, 7/25/06, Washington Post)

The American Dream Initiative includes proposals that DLC President Bruce Reed said would cost $450 billion to $500 billion over 10 years. He said the cost could be offset by eliminating corporate subsidies in the tax code, cutting out 100,000 unnecessary federal contractors and making a more aggressive effort to identify and collect taxes now going uncollected by the Internal Revenue Service. The initiative also calls for a return to pay-as-you-go budget rules in Washington, which means that all spending on new programs must be offset by cuts elsewhere.

The centerpiece proposal would provide additional support for college costs, with the goal of increasing the number of college graduates by 1 million a year by 2015. The proposal includes $150 billion in block grants for states to ease rising tuition costs and a consolidated tax credit for students. To qualify, states and universities would have to limit tuition increases to the rate of inflation.

Other ideas include requirements for employers to establish retirement accounts for all workers and a refundable tax credit for savers; "baby bonds" that would create a government-funded savings account of $500 for every child born in the United States; a refundable tax credit to help provide the down payment on housing; universal health care for children; and benefits for small businesses to lower the cost of providing health insurance to workers.

The DLC often has put itself at odds with the party's liberal wing, but the new agenda was designed to create a unified message for the Democrats, although congressional leaders also have put forth a party agenda. The DLC document bears the imprint of several other progressive organizations, and DLC founder Al From said he believed that it represented "a set of ideas around which Democrats of all stripes can rally as we head into the fall election."

A generally sensible direction made needlessly complex by their terror of being associated with bigger ideas. They could achieve all their ends by simply advocating: private accounts in Social Security to which workers would be entitled to add the money that now goes into 401k's (and invest in higher risk funds); making HSA's mandatory and universal and funding them for the poor and unemployed; and Paul O'Neill's plan for investment accounts that start at birth.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:51 AM


Gaza groups ready to deal on cease-fire, release of Shalit (Avi Issacharoff, 7/25/06, Haaretz)

All groups in Gaza, including Hamas, would now accept a cease-fire deal with Israel which would include releasing Gilad Shalit, according to the Palestinian Agriculture Minister, who also heads the coordinating committee of Palestinian organizations there.

Ibrahim Al-Naja said the factions were ready to stop the Qassam rocket fire if Israel's ceased all military moves against the Palestinian factions in Gaza. They are also ready to release Shalit in exchange for guaranteeing the future release of Palestinian prisoners.

Hamas leaders did not confirm this report on Monday, but if it is true, then this is the first time that Hamas has indicated its acceptance of the Egyptian proposal to solve the crisis.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:41 AM


Ex-president takes step into Connecticut's fray (Peter S. Canellos, July 25, 2006, Boston Globe)

Should national Democrats back Lieberman in big numbers, they would stand accused of abandoning the party's core antiwar voters. However, if leading Democrats supported Lamont, and if Lieberman were to win, there would be no end to the havoc a bruised and resentful Lieberman could wreak on his party. If control of the Senate were at stake, Lieberman could choose to vote with the Republicans. [...]

A few weeks ago, Clinton bemoaned the fact that Democrats were warring among themselves over the Iraq issue. ``If we allow our differences over what to do now in Iraq to divide us instead of focusing on replacing Republicans in Congress, that's the nuttiest strategy I've ever heard in my life," he said.

Clinton knows that if national Democrats abandon Lieberman, Republicans will argue that Democrats are the captives of the angry, antiwar left. He also knows that the party's leading presidential aspirants -- especially Hillary Clinton -- can't embrace Lieberman without alienating the increasingly influential liberal blogosphere. A former president can get away with such things far more easily than current contenders can.

Kind of sad that the only adult supervision in the Democratic Party comes from Boy Bill.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:18 AM


The Last Full Measure (Steven Malanga, Summer 2006, City Journal)

From Lookout Point at Eagle Rock Reservation in West Orange, New Jersey, you see some of the most spectacular views in the New York metropolitan area. No wonder that early settlers used it as a surveying station and that in the Revolutionary War, Washington’s army set up a post there to chart British movements. Today, the point reveals an unobstructed view of New York’s skyline 15 miles away—which is why Essex County officials chose it as the site for a September 11 memorial. Opened barely a year after 9/11, the $1.2 million, privately financed memorial features a bronze sculpture of an American eagle in flight, inscriptions of the names of all those who died on 9/11, and individual tributes to rescue workers. In its first year, the site attracted some 75,000 visitors, and it continues to draw thousands seeking to remember the dead, to contemplate the heroic acts and sacrifices of that day, and to recall the Manhattan skyline back when the Twin Towers graced it.

The impressive Eagle Rock memorial is one of dozens that have gone up in and around the New York metropolitan area since 9/11, even as controversy and fecklessness have paralyzed efforts to create a memorial on the grounds of the former World Trade Center itself. At Ground Zero, the projected cost of the proposed memorial ballooned to a staggering $1 billion, even though no construction ever began. The commission formed to build the memorial, in utter disarray, has fallen far short of fund-raising goals, prompting the recent resignation of its head and the sharp downsizing of its plans. The monument’s proposed design—dubbed by its creators Reflecting Absence—has faced intense criticism for its vacuity, fastidiously rejecting any tribute to the heroism of the day or the rock-solid American values that the terrorists attacked.

No such paralysis seems to have encumbered the dozens of commissions that local governments and ordinary citizens set up around the tristate area to honor the dead and remember the day. Though the terrorist attacks were a tragedy for the entire nation, they hit home most acutely in the scores of commuter towns within 100 miles of New York City, where many World Trade Center workers lived. Those communities have responded with a wide array of memorials.

Most are modest in scope and cost, but they are often inspired and poignant. Some serve as gravestones for local victims who have no known resting place. Others commemorate the valor that Americans exhibited on 9/11, especially New York’s rescue workers. By contrast, the World Trade Center site will have no unique memorial to the sacrifices of the city’s firefighters and police. In an age when many memorials, like Reflecting Absence, are abstract gestures that avoid invoking anything except loss—and not even directly but in a glass darkly—some of these local monuments are throwbacks, robust statements of American ideals, rendered in an unapologetically realistic style that might dismay postmodern critics but that successfully translates our common feelings about September 11 into concrete form. Deeply moving, a tour of these memorials also reminds us of the gigantic failure that has left Ground Zero little more than an opening in the earth.

One thing that comes through in visiting these memorials is just how much people miss the Twin Towers.

We moved to NJ in the mid/late '60s and lived in East and West Orange, so Eagle Rock was a frequent haunt. The view of the NY skyline is amazing and the Towers were always a blight upon it. I always wondered how we'd manage to tear them down, so felt weirdly guilty watching them fall.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:17 AM


On the Benefits of Social Stigmas: REMOVING ROAD SIGNS CAN BE DANGEROUS (David C. Stolinsky, December 1997, Oxford Review)

For a generation now we have been busy removing crucial signs from the winding and dangerous road of life. Hoping to be nonjudgmental, wishing to increase freedom, believing even that we were being compassionate, we have almost systematically deprived the young and inexperienced of much of the benefit of our experience. Life holds as many sharp curves, steep grades, and hazardous intersections as ever, but we have conspired to render them unmarked.

For example, we removed most of the signs that warned teenagers of the dangers of premature sex and pregnancy. When I went to school in the 1950s, only one girl became pregnant in six years of junior and senior high. Pregnant girls had to leave school and go live with relatives or attend Continuation School, where returning dropouts went. There was stigma attached to unmarried pregnancy. This was hard on pregnant girls, but because of it there were far fewer of them.

There was little sex education then, but there also was little teenage pregnancy. Pregnancy rates rose as sex education increased, but this unhappy fact has not dampened our enthusiasm for sex education. Indeed, we are convinced that high teen pregnancy rates mean that even more sex education is needed.

Past generations would not have dreamed of rewarding pregnant teenagers with government checks, with which they could afford their own apartments. Pregnant girls had to live with relatives, which was difficult, or at homes for unwed mothers, which was embarrassing. The responsible boy was usually given a very hard time by his family, if not the court. In some states, birth certificates bore a notation that the baby was illegitimate. Stigmatizing a child seems unjust, but the effect was to add to the mother's stigma. There were, in short, penalties rather than rewards.

Moreover, abortion was unsafe, illegal, and rare. Some women were killed or injured by illegal abortions -- a terrible price to pay. But maybe that's one reason why there were so few abortions.

Transgressive behavior has to have consequences.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:16 AM


Daley calls big-box ordinance 'redlining' (FRAN SPIELMAN, July 25, 2006, Chicago Sun-Times)

Mayor Daley on Monday denounced as "redlining" a proposal to establish wage and benefit standards for Wal-Mart and other retailing giants and suggested that aldermen who don't want big-box stores simply "opt out."

Daley played the race card, flanked by some of Chicago's most influential black ministers, two days before a City Council showdown on an ordinance that could change the economic landscape in Chicago.

"This is going to hurt the minority community. . . . You talk about redlining. This is basically redlining. . . . This deals with economic development in the African-American community," Daley told a City Hall news conference.

"No one would ever bring that up in the suburban area. We're not talking about the Near North Side. . . . We're not talking about Wrigleyville. We're not talking about any of those [white] communities. We're talking about the West Side and the South Side. . . . For us to say, 'No, we don't want these stores,' that puts Chicago more on the map [as anti-business] than foie gras. That says, 'We don't want development.' ''

There's a whole stage full of folks who haven't accepted yet that they're Republicans.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:16 AM


Why Hezbollah won't be easy to defeat: Islamic group is deeply entrenched and enjoys grassroots support (OLIVIA WARD, 7/25/06, Toronto Star)

"I was going to university in 1982, but I believed that defending my land was a sacred duty," the wheelchair-bound Wahabi said in an interview before the current war. "Israel had invaded our country and my brother was killed in the fighting. It was not a difficult decision for me to go and fight too," he said, referring to Israel's offensive to root out Palestinian guerrillas attacking it from Lebanon.

But Wahabi's fighting career ended six years later when he was shot through the neck by an Israeli sniper. Quadriplegic, and deeply depressed, he lived in isolation in his parents' flat.

However, Hezbollah's loyalty to its supporters is as legendary as its ruthlessness toward its enemies. Its informal "marriage agency" for disabled guerrillas introduced him to Kamila, a striking young woman who shared his Shiite sense of sacrifice. It was, she said, "a love match."

With Hezbollah's medical aid, the union produced four healthy children, housed in an apartment tended by a paid nurse's aide. The family was confident the children would receive the best education until they were self-supporting.

The Wahabis' home now lies in one of the worst-hit areas of Lebanon as Hezbollah continues its rocket barrage into Israel and Israeli bombs pound Lebanon's towns and cities.

But the network of community support that Hezbollah (which means Party of God) has built during the past 15 years with its financial, medical, educational and housing services has paid dividends.

Although the group's military training programs have dwindled since the civil war ended in 1990, and it is estimated to have no more than 500 to 600 crack troops, it can call on tens of thousands of reservists whose will and loyalty are assured. They are joined by dedicated young people who have grown up under Hezbollah's paternal social wing.

"If we're at peace with Israel I can live with that," said Mustapha Naji, now 15, supported and educated by Hezbollah after his father was killed fighting Israeli forces near his village in southern Lebanon. "If they take aggressive action in Lebanon, I'm ready to fight."

And all we offer is that they subject themselves to a central government that's never given a fig about them.

MORE (via Marisa):
U.S. Wants Force To Block Arms Shipments (Ori Nir, July 21, 2006, The Forward)

During a briefing with senior officials at several major Jewish organizations, Deputy National Security Advisor Elliot Abrams reportedly said that a multinational force in Lebanon would have to be “combat ready,” authorized and appropriately equipped to engage Hezbollah militarily if needed. Such a force, he said, would also have to patrol not only Lebanon’s border with Israel but also Lebanon’s border with Syria, to prevent smuggling of weapons to Hezbollah. In addition, such a force would have to observe Lebanon’s sea and air ports to make sure that Iran is not rearming Hezbollah, Abrams reportedly said.

It is not clear whether Abrams’ position was shared by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, when she left Sunday on her Middle East shuttle mission in search of a resolution to the Israel-Hezbollah conflict. According to several Washington insiders who in recent days spoke with senior State Department officials and other U.S. policy makers, Abrams’ statements do seem to reflect the administration’s approach.

In several conversations with Jewish communal leaders, administration officials made clear that, once the current hostilities subside, they do not expect that the Lebanese army will be able to reign in Hezbollah. The army is not only weak, understaffed and poorly equipped, but also approximately 60% Shiite, senior administration officials said. There is no guarantee that Lebanese soldiers would be more loyal to their commanders than to Hezbollah, a Shiite group, and therefore there is a chance that when directed to confront their religious brethren, the troops would either seek a way out or flatly refuse to carry out their orders.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:15 AM


Brown has moved as far to the right as Blair. So where do we turn now?: The concerns of the centre-left hold the key to the party's renewal, but they are being shut out of the debate (John Harris, July 25, 2006, The Guardian)

In the midst of the government's serial difficulties, one underlying story seems to have been missed. Blair may be on his way out - departing in "a year and a bit" according to an overheard Alastair Campbell - but for those of us who have spent the past decade standing at an ever-increasing distance from his government these are still grim times. If there were small shafts of light in the 2005 election campaign they now seem like something from another age: after the nosedive of the initially Blairite election effort and the PM's claim to have "listened and learned", we appear to be speeding into the unremittingly New Labour future we were promised in the first place - from trust schools to brazen healthcare privatisation, and on to John Reid's desperate 24-point crime plan.

Meanwhile, the figure on whom so many hopes are projected usually seems set on dashing them. Like most of my Labour friends, for reasons increasingly more emotional than rational, I cannot quite snuff out my faith in Gordon Brown, but the signs are hardly promising. No one expects any explicit words of dissent, but even when it comes to coded messages there is an uneasy silence - and from time to time there come pronouncements that seem to confirm the worst. Take, for example, the run of interviews at the end of last year, when Brown boasted - with the belligerent air of a school bully - about the blows he has landed on Labour orthodoxy: "I have introduced most of the private finance initiative, sold off air traffic control, made a controversial decision on the London Underground, set up the Gershon review to sack or make redundant 80,000 civil servants."

Flick through the recent Mansion House speech in which he announced his support for a renewal of Britain's nuclear armoury and you may start to feel very miserable indeed. Here, of course, he was playing to the City gallery, but his glowing mentions of "contestability and choice" in education, the necessity of seeking a "low-tax economy", and his obligation to make the flimsily regulated UK "more flexible" tapped into already familiar themes. As with Reid's latest wheeze, here was another reminder that nine years of Labour government have left the post-Thatcherite terms of trade depressingly intact. Brown and his associates talk a lot about the prospect of a progressive consensus, though it often seems a distant hope: if the commendable work done by the Treasury - not least when it comes to poverty - has either been hushed up or sat uncomfortably with much of the New Labour narrative, part of the explanation lies with the chancellor's own endorsement of priorities that would once have caused mainstream Labour hearts to sink.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:14 AM



ESPN yesterday fired analyst Harold Reynolds from Baseball Tonight, sources told The Post. The reason was not immediately known.

"We are not going to comment," ESPN VP Josh Krulewitz said. [...]

Reynolds was known for a smooth style that usually was player friendly. He never found himself in too much controversy for what he said on the air. In fact, ESPN was so high on him he was expected to stay with the network through its just signed eight-year deal with MLB.

Now, after yesterday, Reynolds is no longer welcome in Bristol.

Posted by Stephen Judd at 10:04 AM


Fat stem cells turn into muscle in US experiment (Maggie Fox, Reuters, 7/24/06)

The stem cells found in fat are known as multipotent stem cells. They can produce a variety of cell and tissue types, but are not as flexible as embryonic stem cells.

Last week, President George W. Bush vetoed a bill that would have broadened federal funding of human embryonic stem cell research, saying he preferred that researchers pursue so-called adult stem cells, such as those used at UCLA.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:19 AM


West Coast boppers - Power helps Beckett claim 13th win (Jeff Horrigan, July 25, 2006, Boston Herald)

Alex Gonzalez, Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz each clobbered home runs off Zito to support the near-dominant pitching of Josh Beckett, who became the first 13-game winner in the majors. Jonathan Papelbon wrapped up the win with a scoreless ninth to lower his ERA to 0.53, and the Sox maintained their 2 -game lead over the New York Yankees in the American League East.

Tigers making habit of big first innings (TOM WITHERS, July 25, 2006, Chicago Sun-Times)

With a five-run first inning, the Tigers became the first team in 115 years to score at least five runs in the first at-bat of three consecutive games, and they held on for a 9-7 victory against the Cleveland Indians. The Tigers scored five runs in the first Saturday and six in the first Sunday against the Oakland Athletics.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Tigers -- who opened a 71/2-game lead over the White Sox in the American League Central -- are the first team since the 1891 St. Louis Browns of the American Association to score five runs or more in the first inning three games in a row.

July 24, 2006

Posted by David Cohen at 5:12 PM


Peace prize winner 'could kill' Bush (Annabelle McDonald, The Australian, 7/25/06)

NOBEL peace laureate Betty Williams displayed a flash of her feisty Irish spirit yesterday, lashing out at US President George W. Bush during a speech to hundreds of schoolchildren....

"I have a very hard time with this word 'non-violence', because I don't believe that I am non-violent," said Ms Williams, 64.

"Right now, I would love to kill George Bush." Her young audience at the Brisbane City Hall clapped and cheered....

"My job is to tell you their stories," Ms Williams said of a recent [sic] trip to Iraq.

"We went to a hospital where there were 200 children; they were beautiful, all of them, but they had cancers that the doctors couldn't even recognise. From the first Gulf War, the mothers' wombs were infected.

"As I was leaving the hospital, I said to the doctor, 'How many of these babies do you think are going to live?'

"He looked me straight in the eye and said, 'None, not one'. They needed five different kinds of medication to treat the cancers that the children had, and the embargoes laid on by the United States and the United Nations only allowed them three."

In order to follow Ms. Williams' logic, let's accept for the moment that there were 200 Iraqi children who had "cancer" caused by "infection" of their mothers' wombs during the first gulf war. Let's accept that they couldn't get the medicine they needed because of the United Nations' embargo of Iraq. Why does Ms. Williams want to kill the man who did what had to be done to save the children?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:45 PM


Truly Inconvenient Truths: What we’re loath to talk about when we talk about Israel and Lebanon (Kurt Andersen, 8/08/06, New York)

Al Gore’s movie about global warming has a brilliant title: It flatters us—those of us who believe the scientific consensus about climate change—that we are clear-eyed and honest and brave enough to admit this “inconvenient truth” that the Bush administration and its reckless, craven, venal corporate allies refuse to admit. Yet the truth about greenhouse gases, although plenty scary, is really not so inconvenient: The blame for inaction is easy to lay on others, a solution seems possible, and that solution doesn’t look that onerous.

Whereas concerning the Middle East, there is for most of us no obvious overriding analysis, let alone fix. Concerning Israel and the Palestinian territories, all the truths tend to be truly, deeply, tragically inconvenient.

And the big one is this: Israel is a good and miraculous nation that deserves the support of civilized people, but the great unfortunate fact about its creation—being carved by the U.N. out of Arab land in 1947—cannot be ignored or wished away. We have no choice but to support Israel, even though the Israeli Defense Forces are killing civilians, dozens a day, in Lebanon. All of those deaths, one wants to believe, are unintentional, unavoidable mistakes. Yet as Richard Cohen wrote in his Washington Post column last week, “Israel itself is a mistake . . . an honest mistake, a well-intentioned mistake, a mistake for which no one is culpable [but which] has produced a century of warfare and terrorism of the sort we are seeing now.” Sixty years on, there can be no revising or reversing that mistake—and when the choice is Israel versus unaccommodating Islamist fanatics, we must be for Israel. Is there any more inconvenient truth?

Sure, the truth is even more inconvenient.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:41 PM


Joe Lieberman’s War: The hawkish senator finds himself in an epic battle—with his own party (Meryl Gordon, 8/07/06, New York)

Nothing is working out as Lieberman expected. Although he’d assumed that, because of his support for the Iraq war, he’d face some opposition for reelection, he was unprepared for the backlash of anger against him and the groundswell of support for Lamont, a cable-TV mogul and political novice who has surged ahead in the polls thanks to his get-out-of-Iraq stance. The shoot-out in Connecticut has turned into a national political event—a referendum on the war and a fight for the soul of the Democratic Party, one that may put a safe Democratic Senate seat at risk and have implications for other nonconformist Democrats around the country. In this topsy-turvy race, Lamont, a wealthy great-grandson of J. P. Morgan’s business partner, has somehow seized the mantle as the “real” Democrat. Meanwhile, Lieberman is being heckled at campaign stops (“It’s getting scary,” one aide says. “They’re so angry”) and excoriated in the blogosphere, from state sites like My Left Nutmeg to the leading national Democratic outlet, Daily Kos, where Markos Moulitsas Zúniga posted after the debate, “For Lieberman it’s all about power, and he’ll be as vicious, as rude, as boorish and dishonest as he needs to be to cling to it.”

This kind of reception is an astonishing turnaround for a man whose selection as Al Gore’s running mate in 2000 was seen as brilliant political strategy. Lieberman caught the public’s fancy back then as a social progressive who believed in a muscular foreign policy and a moralist who could help distance Gore from Clinton’s Lewinsky scandal. But now, as the body count mounts in Iraq, he has been recast as a villain, Bush’s lackey and partner in crime.

There's no room in the post-Clinton Democratic Partyy for a hawkish moralist.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:25 PM


He Who Cast the First Stone Probably Didn't (DANIEL GILBERT, July 24, 2006, NY Times)

In virtually every human society, "He hit me first" provides an acceptable rationale for doing that which is otherwise forbidden. Both civil and religious law provide long lists of behaviors that are illegal or immoral -- unless they are responses in kind, in which case they are perfectly fine. [...]

The problem with the principle of even-numberedness is that people count differently. Every action has a cause and a consequence: something that led to it and something that followed from it. But research shows that while people think of their own actions as the consequences of what came before, they think of other people's actions as the causes of what came later.

In a study conducted by William Swann and colleagues at the University of Texas, pairs of volunteers played the roles of world leaders who were trying to decide whether to initiate a nuclear strike. The first volunteer was asked to make an opening statement, the second volunteer was asked to respond, the first volunteer was asked to respond to the second, and so on. At the end of the conversation, the volunteers were shown several of the statements that had been made and were asked to recall what had been said just before and just after each of them.

The results revealed an intriguing asymmetry: When volunteers were shown one of their own statements, they naturally remembered what had led them to say it. But when they were shown one of their conversation partner's statements, they naturally remembered how they had responded to it. In other words, volunteers remembered the causes of their own statements and the consequences of their partner's statements.

What seems like a grossly self-serving pattern of remembering is actually the product of two innocent facts. First, because our senses point outward, we can observe other people's actions but not our own. Second, because mental life is a private affair, we can observe our own thoughts but not the thoughts of others. Together, these facts suggest that our reasons for punching will always be more salient to us than the punches themselves -- but that the opposite will be true of other people's reasons and other people's punches.

Statesmanship is childishness.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:55 PM

TCS Daily Spotlight Interview John Lukacs (Audio): TCS Daily columnist Ed Driscoll speaks with historial John Lukacs on his latest book, "June 1941: Hitler and Stalin." (24 Jul 2006)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:05 PM


Surveillance We Can Live With (Arlen Specter, July 24, 2006, Washington Post)

Critics complain that the bill acknowledges the president's inherent Article II power and does not insist on FISA's being the exclusive procedure for the authorization of wiretapping. They are wrong. The president's constitutional power either exists or does not exist, no matter what any statute may say. If the appellate court precedents cited above are correct, FISA is not the exclusive procedure. If the president's assertion of inherent executive authority meets the Fourth Amendment's "reasonableness" test, it provides an alternative legal basis for surveillance, however FISA may purport to limit presidential power. The bill does not accede to the president's claims of inherent presidential power; that is for the courts either to affirm or reject. It merely acknowledges them, to whatever extent they may exist.

Of course, the beauty of it is that if the power exists it doesn't matter what the judiciary branch says either.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:34 PM


Fear of Snakes May Have Driven Pre-Human Evolution (Ker Than, 7/24/06, Fox News)

An evolutionary arms race between early snakes and mammals triggered the development of improved vision and large brains in primates, a radical new theory suggests. [...]

"Primates went a particular route," Isbell told LiveScience. "They focused on improving their vision to keep away from [snakes]. Other mammals couldn't do that."

Geez, back when we were in school the Darwinists still pretended, at least rhetorically, that there was nothing special about Man, but now they view us as uniquely capable of evolving ourselves just by focusing hard?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:26 AM


Fight a democracy, kill the people (Spengler, 7/25/06, Asia Times)

Conventional armies can defeat guerrilla forces with broad popular support, for it is perfectly feasible to dismantle a people, destroy its morale, and if need be expel them. It has happened in history on occasions beyond count.

The British did it to the Scots Highlanders after the 1745 rising, and to the Acadians of Canada after the Seven Years' War; Ataturk did it to the Greeks of Asia Minor in 1922; and the Czechs did it to the Sudeten Germans after 1945. It seems to be happening again, as half or more of Lebanon's 1.2 million Shi'ites flee their homes. To de-fang Hezbollah implies the effective dissolution of the Shi'ite community, a third of whom live within Katyusha range of Israel. [...]

"Fight a dictatorship, and you must kill the regime; fight a democracy, and you must kill the people," I warned on January 31 (No true Scotsman starts a war), meaning that one turns a proud and militant folk into a deracinated rabble. Sometimes it is not necessary to kill a single individual to crush an entire people. When a warlike people rather would fight, eg the Chechens, the result is butchery.

Blame George W Bush for this grim necessity in Lebanon, where the refugee count already has reached 15-30% of the total population. In the name of Lebanese democracy, Washington brought Hezbollah into mainstream politics, and the newly legitimized Hezbollah in turn became the focus of life for Lebanon's 1.2 million Shi'ites. To uproot Hezbollah, one has to uproot the Shi'ite community.

The Shi'a aren't the enemy and we aren't going to kill the 150 million of them, are we?

and certainly not via an antiseptic air war, U.S. doubts Israeli figures about damage of air war (Rowan Scarborough, July 22, 2006, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

Israel is overstating the damage its air war has inflicted on the Hezbollah militia, which hides its weapons in tunnels and civilian neighborhoods throughout Lebanon, Bush administration and intelligence officials said yesterday.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:31 AM


The Clash of Civilizations: A Novelist's Perspective (Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, 7/24/06, History News Network)

The naval Battle of Lepanto took place on 7 October 1571 when a galley fleet of the Holy League, a sometimes-flimsy coalition of the Papacy (under Pope Pius V), Spain, Venice, Genoa, Savoy, the Knights of Malta and others, defeated a force of Ottoman galleys. The 5-hour battle was fought at the northern edge of the Gulf of Patras, off western Greece, where the Ottoman forces sailing westwards from their naval station in Lepanto met the Holy League forces, which had come from Messina, in the morning of Sunday 7 October[1]. It was the final major naval battle in world history solely between rowing vessels.--Wikipedia

The challenge when writing historical fiction is to show the reader not what the people of the time in question did – that is known and readily accessible – but what they thought they were doing. Non-fiction may have a similar goal in mind, but it conveys its understanding of historical events by telling the reader about them. It may seem like a small difference, but it is not. As a novelist who has written a great deal of historical fiction, I am often caught up in trying to find ways to make a period’s view of itself comprehensible to the reader without resorting to the dreaded and boring expository lump. It is also an element I tend to search out early when I start putting a book together, for the matter of an era’s self-perception and context means the difference between solid historical fiction and costume drama.

So what does this have to do with my popular history book, Confrontation at Lepanto by one of my alter-egos, T. C. F. Hopkins? It came about as a kind of detour. I had written a portion-and-outline of a novel about the events leading up to Lepanto from the point of view of a number of different characters, and showing how the social climate in Europe and the Middle East were affected by the battle. My agent submitted it, and it went nowhere, not because it wasn’t exciting, but because almost none of the editors who saw the portion-and-outline knew anything about the battle and therefore assumed it was unimportant.

Lepanto (G.K. Chesterton)
WHITE founts falling in the Courts of the sun,
And the Soldan of Byzantium is smiling as they run;
There is laughter like the fountains in that face of all men feared,
It stirs the forest darkness, the darkness of his beard;
It curls the blood-red crescent, the crescent of his lips; 5
For the inmost sea of all the earth is shaken with his ships.
They have dared the white republics up the capes of Italy,
They have dashed the Adriatic round the Lion of the Sea,
And the Pope has cast his arms abroad for agony and loss,
And called the kings of Christendom for swords about the Cross. 10
The cold queen of England is looking in the glass;
The shadow of the Valois is yawning at the Mass;
From evening isles fantastical rings faint the Spanish gun,
And the Lord upon the Golden Horn is laughing in the sun.

Dim drums throbbing, in the hills half heard, 15
Where only on a nameless throne a crownless prince has stirred,
Where, risen from a doubtful seat and half attainted stall,
The last knight of Europe takes weapons from the wall,
The last and lingering troubadour to whom the bird has sung,
That once went singing southward when all the world was young. 20
In that enormous silence, tiny and unafraid,
Comes up along a winding road the noise of the Crusade.
Strong gongs groaning as the guns boom far,
Don John of Austria is going to the war,
Stiff flags straining in the night-blasts cold 25
In the gloom black-purple, in the glint old-gold,
Torchlight crimson on the copper kettle-drums,
Then the tuckets, then the trumpets, then the cannon, and he comes.
Don John laughing in the brave beard curled,
Spurning of his stirrups like the thrones of all the world, 30
Holding his head up for a flag of all the free.
Love-light of Spain—hurrah!
Death-light of Africa!
Don John of Austria
Is riding to the sea. 35

Mahound is in his paradise above the evening star,
(Don John of Austria is going to the war.)
He moves a mighty turban on the timeless houri's knees,
His turban that is woven of the sunsets and the seas.
He shakes the peacock gardens as he rises from his ease, 40
And he strides among the tree-tops and is taller than the trees;
And his voice through all the garden is a thunder sent to bring
Black Azrael and Ariel and Ammon on the wing.
Giants and the Genii,
Multiplex of wing and eye, 45
Whose strong obedience broke the sky
When Solomon was king.

They rush in red and purple from the red clouds of the morn,
From the temples where the yellow gods shut up their eyes in scorn;
They rise in green robes roaring from the green hells of the sea 50
Where fallen skies and evil hues and eyeless creatures be,
On them the sea-valves cluster and the grey sea-forests curl,
Splashed with a splendid sickness, the sickness of the pearl;
They swell in sapphire smoke out of the blue cracks of the ground,—
They gather and they wonder and give worship to Mahound. 55
And he saith, "Break up the mountains where the hermit-folk can hide,
And sift the red and silver sands lest bone of saint abide,
And chase the Giaours flying night and day, not giving rest,
For that which was our trouble comes again out of the west.
We have set the seal of Solomon on all things under sun, 60
Of knowledge and of sorrow and endurance of things done.
But a noise is in the mountains, in the mountains, and I know
The voice that shook our palaces—four hundred years ago:
It is he that saith not 'Kismet'; it is he that knows not Fate;
It is Richard, it is Raymond, it is Godfrey at the gate! 65
It is he whose loss is laughter when he counts the wager worth,
Put down your feet upon him, that our peace be on the earth."
For he heard drums groaning and he heard guns jar,
(Don John of Austria is going to the war.)
Sudden and still—hurrah! 70
Bolt from Iberia!
Don John of Austria
Is gone by Alcalar.

St. Michaels on his Mountain in the sea-roads of the north
(Don John of Austria is girt and going forth.) 75
Where the grey seas glitter and the sharp tides shift
And the sea-folk labour and the red sails lift.
He shakes his lance of iron and he claps his wings of stone;
The noise is gone through Normandy; the noise is gone alone;
The North is full of tangled things and texts and aching eyes, 80
And dead is all the innocence of anger and surprise,
And Christian killeth Christian in a narrow dusty room,
And Christian dreadeth Christ that hath a newer face of doom,
And Christian hateth Mary that God kissed in Galilee,—
But Don John of Austria is riding to the sea. 85
Don John calling through the blast and the eclipse
Crying with the trumpet, with the trumpet of his lips,
Trumpet that sayeth ha!
Domino gloria!
Don John of Austria 90
Is shouting to the ships.

King Philip's in his closet with the Fleece about his neck
(Don John of Austria is armed upon the deck.)
The walls are hung with velvet that is black and soft as sin,
And little dwarfs creep out of it and little dwarfs creep in. 95
He holds a crystal phial that has colours like the moon,
He touches, and it tingles, and he trembles very soon,
And his face is as a fungus of a leprous white and grey
Like plants in the high houses that are shuttered from the day,
And death is in the phial and the end of noble work, 100
But Don John of Austria has fired upon the Turk.
Don John's hunting, and his hounds have bayed—
Booms away past Italy the rumour of his raid.
Gun upon gun, ha! ha!
Gun upon gun, hurrah! 105
Don John of Austria
Has loosed the cannonade.

The Pope was in his chapel before day or battle broke,
(Don John of Austria is hidden in the smoke.)
The hidden room in man's house where God sits all the year, 110
The secret window whence the world looks small and very dear.
He sees as in a mirror on the monstrous twilight sea
The crescent of his cruel ships whose name is mystery;
They fling great shadows foe-wards, making Cross and Castle dark,
They veil the plumèd lions on the galleys of St. Mark; 115
And above the ships are palaces of brown, black-bearded chiefs,
And below the ships are prisons, where with multitudinous griefs,
Christian captives sick and sunless, all a labouring race repines
Like a race in sunken cities, like a nation in the mines.
They are lost like slaves that sweat, and in the skies of morning hung 120
The stair-ways of the tallest gods when tyranny was young.
They are countless, voiceless, hopeless as those fallen or fleeing on
Before the high Kings' horses in the granite of Babylon.
And many a one grows witless in his quiet room in hell
Where a yellow face looks inward through the lattice of his cell, 125
And he finds his God forgotten, and he seeks no more a sign—
(But Don John of Austria has burst the battle-line!)
Don John pounding from the slaughter-painted poop,
Purpling all the ocean like a bloody pirate's sloop,
Scarlet running over on the silvers and the golds, 130
Breaking of the hatches up and bursting of the holds,
Thronging of the thousands up that labour under sea
White for bliss and blind for sun and stunned for liberty.

Vivat Hispania!
Domino Gloria! 135
Don John of Austria
Has set his people free!

Cervantes on his galley sets the sword back in the sheath
(Don John of Austria rides homeward with a wreath.)
And he sees across a weary land a straggling road in Spain, 140
Up which a lean and foolish knight for ever rides in vain,
And he smiles, but not as Sultans smile, and settles back the blade....
(But Don John of Austria rides home from the Crusade.)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:27 AM


Cuban regime feeling heat from Czechs: The Czechs are stepping up their efforts to aid the Cuban dissident movement, triggering an angry response from Havana (PABLO BACHELET, 7/24/06, MiamiHerald.com)

Once a subservient member of the Soviet bloc, the Czech Republic is now one of Fidel Castro's top foreign tormentors, providing material and moral support to dissidents, leading efforts to condemn the island's human-rights record in U.N. bodies and pushing a reluctant European Union to take a tougher stance on Castro.

Such actions have earned the tiny nation of 10 million vitriolic condemnations by the Castro government, the harassment of its diplomats in Havana and the gratitude of the Cuban-American community.

''The Czech Republic is at the heart of the U.S. efforts to secure multilateral support for precipitating a transition for democracy in Cuba,'' says Miami Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. ``They've stuck to their principles every step of the way. Thank the Lord for the Czech Republic.''

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:23 AM


'New dawn' breaking for assembly (BBC, 7/24/06)

Legislation that will give the Welsh assembly more powers is facing its final hurdle.

Later on Monday, the House of Lords will debate the Government of Wales Bill, which will allow politicians in Cardiff Bay to make their own laws.

Welsh Secretary Peter Hain has called it a new dawn for devolution, but he also said the bill was on a knife-edge.

If peers do not accept the bill, it will run out of time and will have to be reintroduced in October.

The new legislation would be the biggest transfer of power since the assembly began sitting seven years ago.

It would give the assembly greater ability to pass laws without having to go through Parliament.

With even the most developed and stable countries devolving into their constituent nations, folks think they can hold together the utterly artificial states of the Third World?

Sectarian break-up of Iraq is now inevitable, admit officials (Patrick Cockburn, 24 July 2006, Independent uk)

The Iraqi Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, meets Tony Blair in London today as violence in Iraq reaches a new crescendo and senior Iraqi officials say the break up of the country is inevitable.

A car bomb in a market in the Shia stronghold of Sadr City in Baghdad yesterday killed 34 people and wounded a further 60 and was followed by a second bomb in the same area two hours later that left a further eight dead. Another car bomb outside a court house in Kirkuk killed a further 20 and injured 70 people.

"Iraq as a political project is finished," a senior government official was quoted as saying, adding: "The parties have moved to plan B." He said that the Shia, Sunni and Kurdish parties were now looking at ways to divide Iraq between them and to decide the future of Baghdad, where there is a mixed population. "There is serious talk of Baghdad being divided into [Shia] east and [Sunni] west," he said.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:16 AM


Hezbollah's Iranian War in Lebanon (Dr Walid Phares, 7/24/06, History News Network)

The “Waad al sadeq” operation

By early July 2006, Hezbollah’s preparations for the bloody return to the top were fulfilled. The organization had already accomplished its Lebanese tasks:

1) Elimination (direct or in conjunction with Syrian intelligence or Syrian Social Nationalists) of visible symbols of anti-Syrian leadership: Tueni, Qassir and Hawi, and attempts against others such as May Chidiac, as an intimidation lesson to all others.

2) Paralysis of PM Seniora’s cabinet from the inside and in cooperation with President Lahoud's networks on the outside.

3) Paralysis of the parliament in collaboration with speaker Berri and the Aoun bloc.

4) Dragging the political forces in the country in the so-called national dialogue on the weapons of Hezbollah, a major waste of time and marginalization of the 1559 stipulation

3) Intimidation of the Lebanese army command.

4) Attempts to divide the Lebanese Diaspora by implanting agents linked to the axis.

5) Reactivation of the pro-Syrian and Jihadist networks in Lebanon and within the Palestinian camps.

6) Distribution of weapons among allied militias

7) Finally and most importantly, completing the final steps in the deployment of a system of rockets and long range artillery batteries aimed at Israel.


It is based on these domestic achievements in Lebanon and on strategic injunctions by its regional sponsors that Hezbollah decided to trigger its awaited Armageddon. What was the Hezbollah’s initial plan? The pro-Iranian militia had constructed a theory of invincibility based on the rationalization of a string of former successes against the United States and France in the 1980s, against Israel and the ex-South Lebanon Army in the 1990s, and its intimidation of the Cedars Revolution in 2005. In short, Nasrallah’s team was convinced of the following: A spectacular operation against Israeli military would

# Bring back the “struggle with Israel” to the forefront of Lebanese politics, thus cornering the Lebanese Government into capitulation on the Hariri and the disarmament matters.

# Lead to a harsh Israeli retaliation, good enough to attract world condemnation, but not strong enough to change realities in Lebanon.

The operation, dubbed “al-Waad al sadeq” (Faithful Promise) would signal the beginning of a series of skirmishes with Israel and a generalized assault on the Cedars Revolution and the Seniora cabinet, who were to be accused of treason and collusion with the Zionists.

With the crumbling of the Lebanese Government under the strikes by Hezbollah-Lahoud-Aoun, the pro-Syrian President would dismiss the Seniora cabinet, and in cahoots with pro-Syrian Berri, would disband the Parliament. A massive campaign of assassinations, arrests and exile would target the March 14 movement, followed by Terror-backed legislative elections, brining back a pro-Syrian Hezbollahi assembly and a radical Government.

The “putsch” would reestablish a Pro-Syrian-Iranian regime in Lebanon, and reconstruct a third wing to the Tehran-Damascus axis, reanimating the Arab-Israeli conflict, rejuvenating the Syrian dominance, isolating Jordan, reaching out to Hamas, crumbling Iraq, and unleashing Iran’s nuclear programs unchecked. The domino effects of Hezbollah’s “Waad al sadeq” are far from being even imagined by Western and Arab policy planners.

Plans and surprises

Nasrallah seemed to be in control of his strategy when he appeared in his press conference of victory. His back was safe since he has terrorized the Cedars Revolution’s movement, enlisted Aoun’s support (breaking Christian community unity), and pushed Sunni and Druze breakaways to challenge Jumblat and Hariri (the son). To his south, he was applauding Haniya’s Hamas “cabinet” for having already engaged the Israelis. To his east, Syria was mobilizing and waiting. In Iran, the “masters” were extending their strategic umbrella; and in Iraq, the Terror sapping of sectarian relations was on. All the brothers in Khumeini Jihadism were awaiting Hezbollah to break the chain of events from the Galilee. Nasrallah was at the forefront of a plan aiming at wrecking the rising democracy and the fledgling stability of the region. The stakes were really high for the “axis.”

But Hassan Nasrallah’s master plan failed. First the Lebanese Government, smelling the odors of conspiracy was quick to distance itself from the operation. “The Government was not informed by it nor does it endorse it,” stated the Seniora release. Second, Israel’s volte-face surprised Hezbollah and their allies. Why would the Olmert Government, declare a full war on an organization that classical armies cannot take out, thought the Tehran planners. Then came, the Arab position: Arabia, Egypt and Jordan, followed discretely by others didn’t extend their full support to the move. They certainly criticized Israel to the fullest of rhetoric, but didn’t praise the “Hizb.” On the international level, the Terror group “that-provide-services” didn’t fare better. The United States firmly extended its bipartisan support to UNSCR 1559; France and the rest of Europe stated the same –with their continental language- Russia wouldn’t side with Nasrallah against the world, and China has other priorities on its plate. Only Iran threatened to wage wars in the rescue of its most western army. Nasrallah fell into his own trap but decided to come up with a contingency plan.

Hezbollah’s Contingency plan

Not so different from Plan A, the objectives of Plan B have been readjusted. If Israel bombards Hezbollah’s infrastructure to the ground, Iranian oil will rebuild it. If Israel invades by land, it will find itself against a more aggressive Hezbollah than the one of the 1990s. Besides, Hezbollah will attempt nevertheless to go after the Seniora Government anyway. Calling on the “reserves,” Hezbollah enlisted President Lahoud and his son in law Defense Minister Elias Murr to drag the Lebanese Army in the War against Israel’s forces. And in collaboration with Aounist cadres (while the majority of his partisans are still stunned by the events), Hezbollah has unleashed an international campaign against the “inhumane aggression.” If things go well, Nasrallah expects Plan B to become Plan A, and a land advance by Israel would unleash a total offensive against the Government of Lebanon by pro-Iranian and Syrian forces. If Israel moves north to create a safe area against rockets, Hezbollah would move north to control the rest of Lebanon. The Syrian-Iranian axis will refuse UNSCR 1559, reject international initiatives for disarming the militias, and will make its stand in Lebanon, even if the Switzerland of the Middle East is to be reduced to rubbles. Assad wants to save his regime in Beirut, and Ahmedinijad wants to shield his bomb in the Bekaa: Alea Jacta Est, the dice are rolling.

They've been remarkably successful so far to precisely the extent that Israel has failed to take out the Assad regime and America has failed to eradicate the Iranian nuclear program.

Bush hopes to turn Assad against Hizbollah (Patrick Bishop, 24/07/2006, Daily Telegraph)

Israel's attack has turned Hizbollah's fighters into heroes in the eyes of the Arab street. But in the palaces of Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan, there is quiet rejoicing at the thought of the organisation finally getting its comeuppance.

The Sunni powers are worried by the rise of Shia influence in the region and the imperial yearnings of Iran - Hizbollah's patron and inspiration. A decisive Israeli military victory would be a welcome setback to Teheran's ambitions.

Now America is hoping to persuade its friends in the Arab world to deal a political blow to Hizbollah.

At the point where you think assad is your friend you've lost sight of your own purposes in this war.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:57 AM


Into the black: In Johnny Cash's last days, it took Rick Rubin's unlikely friendship to bring out his final statement (BRAD WHEELER, 7/24/06, Globe & Mail)

The world-shaker was winding down. He couldn't walk much, couldn't see much. His adored wife had died. All Johnny Cash had left was his voice, and some days he didn't even have that.

It was all he had left in him to churn out one of the best albums of his career.

Before he died in May, 2003, Cash laid down the vocals to 60 or so tracks. A dozen of them made their way on to the just-out American V: A Hundred Highways, the fifth release in a series of records produced by Rick Rubin, the serene bush-bearded enigma who owns his own imprint, American Recordings. The four previous discs all won Grammy Awards: American Recordings (1994); Unchained (1996); American III: Solitary Man (2000); and American IV: The Man Comes Around (2002). A sixth album, with material drawn from the same sessions as American V, is in the works.

Rubin (a vegetarian longhair who loves speed-metal, yoga and professional wrestling) and Cash (a deeply spiritual hell-raiser) began working on the fifth album the day after the fourth album was completed in 2002, with the pace accelerating with the death of June Carter Cash in the spring of 2003. "The schedule changed; it got more intense," Rubin recalls. "Johnny called me and told me, 'I need to work every single day.' "

July 23, 2006

Posted by Matt Murphy at 11:15 PM


Marriott Hotels Ban Smoking In Rooms (Michael S. Rosenwald, 7/20/06, Washington Post)

Marriott International Inc., the nation's largest hotel chain, said yesterday that it will ban smoking in its nearly 400,000 hotel rooms in the United States and Canada, casting the decision as less about public health and more about taking care of the bottom line.

Two decades ago, about half the company's rooms were set aside for smokers, but demand has steadily dropped, with only 5 percent of customers now requesting smoking rooms. At the same time, complaints about cigarette odor have increased, and company officials have struggled to address the issue.

When a company with as many hotel rooms as Marriott takes the plunge, everybody else will follow.

Posted by Matt Murphy at 9:57 PM


No More Joe: `Dead Wrong' On The War And Defense Of Bush, White House Excesses (Irving Stolberg, 7/23/06, Hartford Courant)

Joe Lieberman and I have been friends and colleagues for 38 years. We ran for and won seats in the Connecticut legislature as a team of reformers in 1970. He was my state senator and I was his state representative. He rose to Senate majority leader as I became speaker of the House. With others, we formed the Caucus of Connecticut Democrats, a progressive coalition, to further the causes of peace in Vietnam and justice at home.

I have supported him in every election he has had - until now. This year I am supporting Ned Lamont to unseat Joe. [...]

His blind support of the Iraq war, begun illegally and a continuing catastrophe, is monstrous.

And his defense of an incompetent president, a vice president who fits the dictionary definition of fascism and an extremist administration that has perpetrated torture, illegal eavesdropping and a general shredding of the Constitution is insulting to the people who elected him in the first place. [...]

His announcement that he will not support the winner of the Democratic primary but will seek election as an independent if he loses the primary seems to put self above principle. I thank Ned Lamont, a good and decent man, for giving the people of Connecticut a real choice. We need someone who will confront the Bush-Cheney evils of lies, manipulation and incompetence, which have done us so much harm at home and abroad.

This kind of hateful loopiness has become so routine that sometimes it pays to stand back for a moment and reflect on the situation: This is a mainstream figure -- a two-time former speaker of the Connecticut House of Representatives -- who tosses off words like "monstrous" and "fascism" to describe his political opponents. And every indication is that he means it.

Posted by David Cohen at 8:57 PM


Kerry knocks Bush on handling of Mideast conflict (Valerie Olander, The Detroit News, 7/23/06)

U.S. Sen. John Kerry, D- Mass., who was in town Sunday to help Gov. Jennifer Granholm campaign for her re-election bid, took time to take a jab at the Bush administration for its lack of leadership in the Israeli-Lebanon conflict.

"If I was president, this wouldn't have happened," said Kerry during a noon stop at Honest John's bar and grill in Detroit's Cass Corridor.

Bush has been so concentrated on the war in Iraq that other Middle East tension arose as a result, he said....

Hezbollah guerillas should have been targeted with other terrorist organizations, such as al-Qaida and the Taliban, which operate in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Kerry said. However, Bush, has focused military strength on Iraq.

"This is about American security and Bush has failed. He has made it so much worse because of his lack of reality in going into Iraq.…We have to destroy Hezbollah," he said.

What in the world can this mean? President Kerry only wanted to pull the troops out of Iraq to send them to Lebanon? Leaving Saddam in power would have impressed Iran and Syria with our resolve? Hezbollah was in on 9/11? I know there's a high threshold, but this might be the stupidest thing John Kerry has ever said.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:15 PM


US cyclist's win lends glow to embattled Tour de France: Floyd Landis made up an 8-minute deficit to capture victory in France's signature sporting event. (Susan Sachs, 7/24/06, The Christian Science Monitor)

The "maillot jaune," the treasured yellow jersey of the Tour de France, went to Floyd Landis, a fresh-faced American farm boy who rode past the pain of a hip injury to win the 23-day race through the summer-scorched French countryside. He clinched the victory with a final sprint on Sunday up the Champs Elysées in Paris.

His performance and gee-whiz charm helped put the glow back into this year's Tour after its gloomy start, when nine racers were disqualified for suspected doping.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:51 PM


What if Black Holes Didn't Exist?: How an alternate theory of the universe exposes the 'war of words' that underlies modern cosmology. (Richard Morgan, July 21, 2006, Seed)

[George Chapline's] work reinvents black holes as so-called "dark energy stars," which are what is left over when matter transitions to dark energy as it passes a point of no return similar to a black hole's event horizon. That redefinition, if correct, would invalidate much of the intellectual framework of traditional black holes.

Chapline's ideas take inspiration from his colleague Robert Laughlin, a condensed matter physicist at Stanford University who won a Nobel for his work on quantum fluids.

Laughlin is quick to point out that the hubbub he and Chapline's ideas have caused "is a battle of words rather than a battle of science.

"In science, you decide whose theory is right (or wrong) by means of an experiment," he said, "not by polling experts."

Unfortunately for theoretical physicists, experimenting on the nature of the universe is not an easy undertaking. Revisionism of one sort or another is constantly occurring, due to the field's heavier-than-normal reliance on theories based on observation, extrapolation and imagination.

"In some ways our playground is too big," said Leonard Susskind, a theoretical particle physicist at Stanford and an outspoken critic of the Chapline-Laughlin theory.

"Practically speaking, much of our subject matter is inaccessible to direct experimentation," he continued. "It doesn't make the science any less valid...

Though it does make it not science.

Meanwhile, leave it to a baseball man to display the kind of humility foreign to modern science:

At the time of [Bill] James hiring, some observers predicted the Red Sox would be transformed into a team that relied on the computations of pasty, number-crunching geeks and completely ignored the tobacco-chewing wisdom of traditional scouts. James found this viewpoint comical. "I believe In a universe that is too complex for any of us to really understand," he says. "Each of us has an organized way of thinking about the world--a paradigm, if you will... But the problem is the real world is vastly more complicated than the image of it we carry around in our heads."

Darwinists, String Theorists, etc. confuse their paradigm with reality.

Posted by Pepys at 3:53 PM


The Romance of Economics Milton and Rose Friedman: Dinner with Keynes? Yes. War with Iraq? They disagree. (TUNKU VARADARAJAN, 22 July 2006, The Wall Street Journal)

Is immigration, I asked--especially illegal immigration--good for the economy, or bad? "It's neither one nor the other," Mr. Friedman replied. "But it's good for freedom. In principle, you ought to have completely open immigration. But with the welfare state it's really not possible to do that. . . . She's an immigrant," he added, pointing to his wife. "She came in just before World War I." (Rose--smiling gently: "I was two years old.") "If there were no welfare state," he continued, "you could have open immigration, because everybody would be responsible for himself." Was he suggesting that one can't have immigration reform without welfare reform? "No, you can have immigration reform, but you can't have open immigration without largely the elimination of welfare.
"At the moment I oppose unlimited immigration. I think much of the opposition to immigration is of that kind--because it's a fundamental tenet of the American view that immigration is good, that there would be no United States if there had not been immigration. Of course, there are many things that are easier now for immigrants than there used to be. . . ."
Did he mean there was much less pressure to integrate now than there used to be? Milton: "I'm not sure that's true . . ." Rose (speaking simultaneously): "That's the unfortunate thing . . ." Milton: "But I don't think it's true . . ." Rose: "Oh, I think it is! That's one of the problems, when immigrants come across and want to remain Mexican." Milton: "Oh, but they came in the past and wanted to be Italian, and be Jewish . . ." Rose: "No they didn't. The ones that did went back."
Mrs. Friedman, I was learning, often had the last word.

Once again, Mr. Friedman finds himself occupying the center of American politcal thought.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:35 AM


Buckley: Bush Not A True Conservative: In Exclusive Interview, Buckley Criticizes President For Interventionist Policies (Thalia Assuras, July 22, 2006, CBS News)

Buckley finds himself parting ways with President Bush, whom he praises as a decisive leader but admonishes for having strayed from true conservative principles in his foreign policy.

In particular, Buckley views the three-and-a-half-year Iraq War as a failure.

For the Darwinian conservative it can't be good policy to save brown peoples, thus the return to isolationism even if it makes their anti-Communism incoherent.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:32 AM


Seven Qassam rockets land in western Negev; no injuries (Mijal Grinberg and Avi Issacharoff, 7/23/06, Haaretz)

According to reports Sunday, the Hamas leadership in Gaza is ready to halt Qassam fire as part of a cease-fire deal that would involve an end to IDF action in the Gaza Strip. Senior members of Fatah made similar claims Saturday.

The initiative, discussed by representatives of Palestinian organizations in Gaza over the past several days, also includes an agreement to set up a unity government.

The Egyptian-initiated plan consists of freeing abducted IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, a joint cease-fire and the cessation of IDF assassinations in the Gaza Strip. The release of Palestinian prisoners would be part of the deal, but come at a later stage.

It is not clear, however, whether the Hamas political leader in Damascus, Khaled Meshal, would agree to such a deal.

Israel's war isn't in Palestine, where Hamas is just a normal political partty.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:49 AM


Pitchers 'paying for every mistake' (TONI GINNETTI, 7/23/06, Chicago Sun-Times)

Pitching drove the White Sox through the 2005 season and to the World Series title. Now inconsistent pitching more than anything else has hindered the Sox of late.

"The staff knows they're struggling,'' manager Ozzie Guillen said. "They need to be a little more consistent. Everyone except Jose Contreras has had some problems. I don't have many complaints about the last few starts. It just seems they have one bad inning. A bloop hit here and there is part of the game. But it seems they're paying for every mistake.''

In the 22 games before their latest loss to the Texas Rangers on Saturday, Sox starters had a 6.29 ERA and ranked eighth overall in the American League this season with a 4.71 ERA after finishing second in the league last year with a 3.75 ERA.

Levis improve when you wear them until they're distressed--starting pitchers don't.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:37 AM


Dogs are howling but nobody hears (Ted Byfield, 7/23/06, Calgary Sun)

The surest sign a society may truly be changing comes when it's discovered its old, tried and true incantations don't work any more.

I saw a lot of this back in the '60s, when frantic citations about "the traditional Canadian home and family," about our "reputation for sound government" and about our "moderation" were repeatedly uttered, but seemingly nowhere heard.

I saw it again in the '90s when the Klein government took office in Alberta and began sizable cuts in welfare and other provincial services. The usual pitiful photos appeared, with heart-rending stories attached, and everybody waited for Ralph to back down. He didn't. The media hype no longer worked.

I saw it again in the mid-'90s when big cuts to the CBC began, and the "Friends of Canadian Broadcasting" ran the customary full-page ads with the customary 500 or so names (Pierre Berton, Margaret Atwood and Patrick Watson in the lead), appealing for restoration of the traditionally big CBC budget. The silence in response was deafening.

Obviously, nobody but those within the CBC circle gave a damn. She might take a long time dying, but seemingly old Mother Corp was doomed.

Finally, and amusingly, I saw it again last week when Harper declared support for Israel, and implicitly for the Bush government.

Funny how a domestic terror threat focusses the mind.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:23 AM


Harper delivers: Liberals are in the hole and Canada is on a roll (Paul Jackson, 7/23/06, Calgary Sun)

Six months ago today every Canadian with even an ounce of patriotism in their veins put an end to the sleaze-driven, scandal-riddled Jean Chretien/Paul Martin era.

Assessing the past six months, and harking back across some four decades of political journalism, I have not seen an individual move as deftly into the prime minister's office as Stephen Harper, nor newly-installed members perform as well as those of the current Conservative cabinet.

A former MP -- and cabinet minister -- from Brian Mulroney's first term in office ventured even Mulroney's team hit a few initial bumps before finding its footing.

Harper and his team, he perceived, moved into office as if they had been skilled practitioners for years.

The learning curve shortens when all you have to do is ape Blair/Clinton/Bush/Howard/etc.....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:11 AM


In Iran�s Streets, Aid to Hezbollah Stirs Resentment (MICHAEL SLACKMAN, 7/23/06, NY Times)

There is a huge amount of anger here about what is happening in Lebanon, but it is not all the result of Israeli bombs, missiles and artillery.

�Of course I am angry,�� said Hamid Akbari, 30, a deliveryman. �All our income is going to Palestine and Hezbollah.�

For decades, Iran has been Hezbollah�s prime patron, helping create it as a Shiite Muslim militia and then nurture it with money, expertise and weapons. But now that Hezbollah is in the midst of full-blown fighting with Israel, Iranian officials have been adamant in insisting that they had nothing to do with the events that set off the crisis.

Part of the reason may be fear, or concern, that the United States and Europe would punish Iran, if it were proved otherwise. But Iranian officials may have a wary eye on their public. In interviews in central Tehran Saturday, person after person said the same thing: Iran should worry about Iran�s problems and not be dragged down by others� battles.

�We Iranians have a saying,� said Ali Reza Moradi, 35, a portrait artist who works in a small booth downtown. �We should save our own house first and then save the mosque. A lot of people think this way. The government should help its people first, and then help the people in Lebanon.� [...]

Although Iran sits atop one of the largest known oil reserves, it cannot refine enough gasoline to meet its own needs � and so prices are rising. Mr. Ahmadinejad may have been elected on a populist economic message, but on the streets people report more pain, more unemployment and higher prices.

Mr. Ahmadinejad can't survive the next election.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:30 AM


CAN ISRAEL WIN? (RALPH PETERS, July 22, 2006, NY Post)

ISRAEL is losing this war. For a lifelong Israel supporter, that's a painful thing to write. But it's true. And the situation's worsening each day.

A U.S. government official put it to me this way: "Israel's got the clock, but Hezbollah's got the time." The sands of the hourglass favor the terrorists - every day they hold out and drop more rockets on Israel, Hezbollah scores a propaganda win.

All Hezbollah has to do to achieve victory is not to lose completely. But for Israel to emerge the acknowledged winner, it has to shatter Hezbollah. Yet Israeli miscalculations have left Hezbollah alive and kicking.

Israel has to pull itself together now, to send in ground troops in sufficient numbers, with fierce resolve to do what must be done: Root out Hezbollah fighters and kill them. This means Israel will suffer painful casualties - more today than if the Israeli Defense Force had gone in full blast at this fight's beginning.

The situation is grave. A perceived Hezbollah win will be a massive victory for terror, as well as a triumph for Iran and Syria.

Israel Will Accept a Disarmed Hezbollah (Robin Wright, 7/23/06, Washington Post)
The United States, Israel, the United Nations and the European Union have reluctantly concluded that despite punishing military attacks, Hezbollah is likely to survive as a political player in Lebanon, and Israel now says it is willing to accept the organization if it sheds its military wing and abandons extremism, according to several key officials.

"To the extent that it remains a political group, it will be acceptable to Israel," Israeli Ambassador Daniel Ayalon said yesterday in the strongest sign to date that the Israelis are rethinking the scope and ultimate goals of the campaign. "A political group means a party that is engaged in the political system in Lebanon, but without terrorism capabilities and fighting capabilities. That will be acceptable to Israel."

In a bid to contain Hezbollah, the United States is hoping to persuade Arab allies over the next week -- Saudi Arabia in talks today and Egypt and Jordan at an emergency meeting Wednesday in Rome -- to get Syria to stop arming, funding and facilitating Hezbollah's military operations, U.S. officials said.

The hawks have been wrong about this episode from day one, egging Israel on in a futile offensive--the useful and winnable war is in Syria.

July 22, 2006

Posted by Pepys at 1:43 PM


U.S. needs help from World of Order (Thomas Friedman, 22 July 2006, Deseret News)

Lebanon, alas, has not been able to produce the internal coherence to control Hezbollah and is not likely to soon. The only way this war is going to come to some stable conclusion anytime soon is if The World of Order — and I don't just mean "the West," but countries like Russia, China, India, Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia too — puts together an international force that can escort the Lebanese army to the Israeli border and remain on hand to protect it against Hezbollah...
I am not talking about a U.N. peacekeeping force. I am talking about an international force, like the one that liberated Kosovo, with robust rules of engagement, heavy weapons and troops from countries like France, Russia, India and China that Iran and its proxies will not want to fight...
Bush and Condoleezza Rice need to realize that Syria on its own is not going to press Hezbollah — in Bush's immortal words — to just "stop doing this s---." The Bush team needs to convene a coalition of The World of Order. If it won't, it should let others more capable do the job. We could start with the elder George Bush and Bill Clinton, whose talents could be used for more than just tsunami relief...

Hey Guys!... Guys!... I had this great idea last night!... Yeah, I had the bong out for a while... So what?... Listen!... There's not a New World Order, there's a World of Order and a World of Disorder!... And all we have to do is get the Forces of Order to act together and we can solve all this mess in the Middle East!... What?... Who's in the World of Order?... Dude, it's obvious when you think about it... There's us and Russia, China, India, Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia... Hey, cut it out, I'm serious here!

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:49 AM


Sox' slide can't be stopped (TONI GINNETTI , 7/22/06, Chicago Sun-Times)

The scoreboard is reflecting what White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen is seeing in his players -- a sinking record and sinking spirit. [...]

The Sox dropped one more game to the American League Central-leading Detroit Tigers, who now have a 61/2-game lead. But the Minnesota Twins are gaining, too, their eighth consecutive victory Friday putting them only three games behind the wild-card-leading Sox.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:15 AM


Yo, Blair: the real meaning of the Tony 'n' George rap (Roland Watson, 7/22/06, Times of London)

The transcript: [...]

Someone asks Bush whether he wants someone to prepare his closing remarks for the end of the G8 summit.

Bush: No. Just gonna make it up. I'm not going to talk too damn long like the rest of them. Some of these guys talk too long. [...]

Blair, standing over Bush as the President eats, tries to engage on the stalled global trade negotiations.

Blair: On this trade thingy . . .


Some of the ensuing conversation is inaudible but Blair evidently wants Bush to make a statement on the talks.

Blair: Are you planning to say that here or not?

Bush: If you want me to.

Blair: Well, it's just that if the discussion arises . . .

Bush: I just want some movement.

Blair: Yeah.

Bush: Yesterday we didn't see much movement.

Blair: No, no, it may be that it's not, it may be that it's impossible.

Bush: I am prepared to say it.

Blair: But it's just I think that we need to be an opposition . . .

Bush: Who is introducing the trade?

Blair: Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor

Bush: Tell her to call me.

Blair: Yes.

Bush: Tell her to put me on the spot.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:51 AM


Bolton's Nomination Revives After Senator Changes Mind (Charles Babington, July 22, 2006, Washington Post)

One senator's change of heart about John R. Bolton has rekindled efforts to win Senate confirmation for the interim U.N. ambassador, as Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) yesterday called for "swift action" on the nomination.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee has scheduled a hearing next week on Bolton, a sharp-tongued conservative whose aggressive style has earned him enemies as well as fans. On Thursday, Sen. George V. Voinovich (R-Ohio) said he no longer objects to confirming Bolton to the U.N. job for the remainder of the Bush administration.

Outlasted another one....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:46 AM


Blogger Media at the Forefront of the Middle East Coverage War (PRNewswire, 7/21/06)

Pajamas Media (PJM) is providing special extended coverage of the Middle East War in conjunction with its new initiative called Politics Central. Within the PJM Network of 90 bloggers are several in theater commenting on the war between Hamas, Hezbolla and Israel from a first hand perspective. Pajamas has also been providing a real time and continuous chronology of news events via its global editors and contributors. Within PJM's new Politics Central initiative, PJM is distributing exclusive podcast interviews that are longer and more in depth than typical cable news organizations are able to provide.

With full-time editors in Sydney, Barcelona and Los Angeles working with contributing bloggers worldwide in such places as Tel Aviv, Haifa, Baghdad and Washington, Pajamas Media has been offering round-the-clock battlefield reporting in tandem with the most thoughtful commentary from the global blogosphere and traditional sources. Under the guidance of Editor-in-Chief Gerard Van der Leun in Seattle, Pajamas Media mixes the best news and views from on-the-scene citizen journalists with seasoned professionals in an unprecedented manner.

A literal living chronology of the ongoing Israel-Hezbollah War has been created and made available on the Pajamas Media front page (http://www.pajamasmedia.com). "This chronology's intention is to give the public moment-to-moment access to the vicissitudes of the war and ultimately to provide historians with a record of the evolving struggle," says Pajamas' CEO Roger L. Simon.

In the early stages of the war, PJM wanted direct and exclusive coverage from the Middle East. With this Politics Central readers could actually hear what was going on from the people on the ground themselves.

"When we discovered a seventeen-year old -- Eugene -- blogging from a bunker in Haifa ('Live from an Israeli Bunker' @ http://www.israelibunker.blogspot.com), we jumped at the opportunity to do a podcast interview with him," said Simon. After Simon's podcast with Eugene was published on the Pajamas Media site, the young man from Haifa was immediately interviewed by the Washington Post, CNN and NBC, creating a virtual blog firestorm.

Pajamas Media's Politics Central is now planning other podcasts from the Middle East to appear in the next few days. Some of these will feature Arab bloggers talking with Israeli bloggers.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:44 AM


Greenpeace publishes nuclear waste train timetable for UK (GERRI PEEV, 7/22/06, The Scotsman)

ENVIRONMENTAL campaigners yesterday revealed detailed timetables for the trains that carry nuclear waste across Britain, triggering alarm that terrorists could exploit the information.

The report, from Greenpeace, includes details of more than 1,000 nuclear transports through the UK every year, including journeys through the centre of Edinburgh and other Scottish population centres.

The organisation's actions follow an undercover sting by a tabloid newspaper, which exposed how easy it was to plant a fake bomb on a train in London carrying nuclear waste.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:36 AM

ME, ME. ME, I, I, I:

The Old World is getting older, putting Europe in a new bind (Veronika Oleksyn, 7/22/06, The Associated Press)

"What's the world coming to? It's all about work and money nowadays," says 86-year-old Elfriede Kobsa. "Yes, whatever happened to having a family and children?" says Elisabeth Nagl with a sigh.

Good question.

The statistics speak for themselves. By 2010 — just four years from now — there will be more 55- to 64-year-olds than 15- to 24-year-olds in the European Union, Austria's social affairs minister warns.

The growing number of older Europeans, coupled with low birth rates across the 25-nation bloc, is giving lawmakers a big headache. At issue is how to financially shoulder the burden of an aging society while staying competitive globally and finding workable incentives for people to have more babies.

"It's getting worse and worse. If things continue like this, no one is ever going to get to retire," said Roni Howath, 56, a former Vienna postal worker who retired early and now drives a cab from time to time to supplement his monthly pension.

July 21, 2006

Posted by Pepys at 11:29 PM


Run, Newt, Run! Gingrich 2008? (Rich Lowry, 21 July 2006, National Review)

The casual TV viewer has probably noticed two things during the past few days — there’s a war in the Middle East, and Newt Gingrich is commenting on it...
The old conventional wisdom about Gingrich was that we wouldn’t have him to kick around anymore. The new conventional wisdom is that he’s back, and he’s doing the kicking. Ousted by his own party after its losses in the 1998 midterm elections, Gingrich has reestablished himself as a party leader through sheer intellectual energy. He has had something intelligent to say about literally every issue of the hour, from health care to Katrina to the war on terror. “He has helped himself immensely — he’s all over the place,” says former Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie...
Whatever happens, Gingrich stands to be the party’s most important intellectual table-setter. “Whoever wins,” says Gillespie, “is going to have spent a lot of time talking about what Newt was talking about.” There are worse places for the party to look for a renewed agenda...

Of course, Gingrich can never win, but Lowry is right that he would be a fantastic asset during the primary season. His arrogance is only matched by his instinct for the politcally popular.

Posted by Pepys at 8:06 PM


The Judiciary Strikes Back: The government fails to kill off a court challenge to NSA snooping. (Patrick Radden Keefe, 19 July 2006, Slate)

Until Thursday, the NSA wiretapping scandal had gone remarkably well for the Bush administration...
But that all changed when a federal judge in San Francisco on Thursday issued a ruling on an obscure procedural point in a court case between the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital rights nonprofit, and AT&T. Judge Vaughn Walker rejected the government's claim that because of the doctrine of state secrets, traditionally used to prevent the introduction into court of specific evidence that might compromise national security, he should dismiss EFF's entire case against the phone company...

Game, Set and Match to Bush. Let's assume that 1) Bush's Separation of Powers claims are without basis and 2) that Congress fails to strip jurisdiction from the courts and that 3) both the Supreme Court and the 9th Circuit (who has been surprisingly deferential on these matters) side with Judge Walker, at that point, all Congress has to do is codify the common-law states secrets privilege into whatever form ends the suit.

Posted by Matt Murphy at 7:28 PM


Stabbed in the Back!: The past and future of a right-wing myth (Kevin Baker, 7/14/06, Harper's)

Every state must have its enemies. Great powers must have especially monstrous foes. Above all, these foes must arise from within, for national pride does not admit that a great nation can be defeated by any outside force. That is why, though its origins are elsewhere, the stab in the back has become the sustaining myth of modern American nationalism. Since the end of World War II it has been the device by which the American right wing has both revitalized itself and repeatedly avoided responsibility for its own worst blunders. Indeed, the right has distilled its tale of betrayal into a formula: Advocate some momentarily popular but reckless policy. Deny culpability when that policy is exposed as disastrous. Blame the disaster on internal enemies who hate America. Repeat, always making sure to increase the number of internal enemies.

As the United States staggers past the third anniversary of its misadventure in Iraq, the dagger is already poised, the myth is already being perpetuated. To understand just how this strategy is likely to unfold—and why this time it may well fail—we must return to the birth of a legend. [...]

On domestic issues as well as ones of foreign policy, from Ronald Reagan’s mythical “welfare queens” through George Wallace’s “pointy-headed intellectuals”; from Lee Atwater’s characterization of Democrats as anti-family, anti-life, anti-God, down through the open, deliberate attempts of Newt Gingrich and Karl Rove to constantly describe opponents in words that made them seem bizarre, deviant, and “out of the mainstream,” the entire vernacular of American politics has been altered since Vietnam. Culture war has become the organizing principle of the right, unalterably convinced as it is that conservatives are an embattled majority, one that must stand ever vigilant against its unnatural enemies—from the “gay agenda,” to the advocates of Darwinism, to the “war against Christmas” last year.

This has become such an ingrained part of the right wing’s belief system that the Bush Administration has now become the first government in our nation’s history to fight a major war without seeking any sort of national solidarity. [...]

Given this state of permanent culture war, it is not surprising that the Bush White House trotted out the stab-in-the-back myth when its Iraq project began to run out of steam early last summer. It was first given a spin, as usual, by the right’s media shock troops, and directed at both Democratic and renegade Republican lawmakers who had dared to criticize either the strategic conduct of the war or our treatment of detainees. The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page opined, “Where the terrorists are gaining ground is in Washington, D.C.” and noted that General John Abizaid, of the U.S. Central Command, had said, “When my soldiers say to me and ask me the question whether or not they’ve got support from the American people or not, that worries me. And they’re starting to do that.”

Again, the link was made. Soldiers of the most powerful army in the history of the world would be actively endangered if they even wondered whether the folks at home were questioning their deployment. The right was looking for a target, and it got one when Sen. Dick Durbin (D., Ill.), appalled by an FBI report on the prisons for suspected terrorists at Guantánamo Bay, compared them to those run by “Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime—Pol Pot or others—that had no concern for human beings . . . ”

The right’s response was predictably swift and savage. The Power Line blogger Paul Mirengoff commented that the senator “slanders his own country. Normally that kind of slander is uttered only by revolutionaries seeking the violent overthrow of the government.” Rush Limbaugh harrumphed that “Dick Durbin has just identified who the Democrats are in the year 2005, particularly when it comes to American national security and when it comes to the U.S. military. These are the same people that say they support the troops. This is how they do it, huh? They give aid and comfort to the enemy.”

There is far too much nonsense in this essay to debunk all at once, but note that Mr. Baker apparently thinks that the goofier segments of leftist antiwar criticism actually have no impact on the morale of our soldiers and don't get picked up by people who would enjoy doing us harm. Back outside the confines of the Harper's magazine croissant crowd, Saddam Hussein is sounding remarkably like Air America:

Saddam pins war on Bush, pro-Israel lobby (Bassem Mroue, 7/21/06, AP)

Saddam Hussein said in a letter released Friday that President Bush and pro-Israel groups lied to Americans to justify the Iraq war, and he added that Iran "and its agents" helped facilitate the aggression.

Saddam also urged Americans to "save your country and leave Iraq" in a letter written in prison to the American people and released by his lawyers in Jordan.

"I see that officials of your administration are still lying to you and they still do not give you a true explanation for the reasons that motivated them to rush on the road of aggression against Iraq," Saddam wrote.

Saddam said seven years of U.N. inspections failed to find evidence that Iraq was still trying to build weapons of mass destruction.

"They also exploited the so-called war on terrorism which prevailed in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks" to claim a link between Iraq and al-Qaida, Saddam said. [...]

He said the loss of prestige was due to the "reckless behavior of your government, pushed by Zionism and influential centers of power which led to the commission of these crimes and scandals in order to attain certain interests which do not include the interest of the American people."

Saddam said most Americans could not question U.S. strategy before the war began because "the Zionist people within the (pro-Israel) lobby that was pushing for war" was "deceiving you so you were confused and lost the ability to see the truth as it was."

Now, Saddam said the American people must decide whether to "allow the killing machine to continue grinding the flesh of both the Iraqis and the Americans" or to act "decisively to stop it."

Replace "Zionism" with the typical autopilot ranting about neocons, and you're all set.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:19 PM


Yankees' Mussina rips struggling Rodriguez
(CBC Sports, 21 Jul 2006)

"I don't know what's going on," said a pained Mussina. "I know he's played better. I know he's disappointed in the way he's playing. It's not him right now. We need him back the way he's supposed to be." [...]

"It's a play I should have made," said Rodriguez. "It got away. I just tried to throw it around the runner and kind of pulled it.

"I was a little hesitant. It was hit a little soft but I felt I had a play at home and I think I was right."

However, Mussina didn't mince words when assessing the play.

"All he had to do was throw it on target," he said. "He would have been out by 20 feet."

Mussina was cruising through the first five innings, but gave up three straight hits in the sixth after Rodriguez's blunder.

"It bothers me when it all mounts up like that, especially after pitching so well for five innings," said Mussina. "When you get momentum going like that it's tough to stop."

In fairness to the Yankees and White Sox, it should be observed that they got fat in the first half by facing bad teams and you just aren't going to look as good when you play better ones.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:04 PM


Britain And US Defy Demand For Immediate Ceasefire (Anne Penketh, Ben Russell, Colin Brown and Stephen Castle, 21 July 2006, The Independent)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:34 PM


How Faith Saved the Atheist: Why did the doctors stop asking me to pull the plug? (PAMELA R. WINNICK, July 21, 2006, Opinion Journal)

A medical resident--we called her "Dr. Death"--at the Intensive Care Unit at Long Island's North Shore Hospital chased us down the hallway.

"Your husband wants to die," she told my mother, again. Just minutes before I had asked her to leave us alone. [...]

"Dr. Death" was just one of several. A new resident appeared the next day, this one a bit more diplomatic but again urging us to allow my father to "die with dignity." And the next day came yet another, who opened with the words, "We're getting mixed messages from your family," before I shut him up. I've written extensively about practice of bioethics--which, for the most part, I do not find especially ethical--but never did I dream that our moral compass had gone this far askew. My father, 85, was heading ineluctably toward death. Though unconscious, his brain, as far as anyone could tell, had not been touched by either the cancer or the blood clot. He was not in a "persistent vegetative state" (itself a phrase subject to broad interpretation), that magic point at which family members are required to pull the plug--or risk the accusation that they are right-wing Christians.

I complained about all the death-with-dignity pressure to my father's doctor, an Orthodox Jew, who said that his religion forbids the termination of care but that he would be perfectly willing to "look the other way" if we wanted my father to die. We didn't. Then a light bulb went off in my head. We could devise a strategy to fend off the death-happy residents: We would tell them we were Orthodox Jews.

My little ruse worked. During the few days after I announced this faux fact, it was as though an invisible fence had been drawn around my mother, my sister and me. No one dared mutter that hateful phrase "death with dignity."

Though my father was born to an Orthodox Jewish family, he is an avowed atheist who long ago had rejected his parents' ways. As I sat in the ICU, blips on the various screens the only proof that my father was alive, the irony struck me: My father, who had long ago rejected Orthodox Judaism, was now under its protection.

As though to confirm this, there came a series of miracles. Just a week after he was rushed to ICU, my father was pronounced well enough to be moved out of the unit into North Shore's long-term respiratory care unit. A day later he was off the respirator, able to breathe on his own. He still mostly slept, but then he began to awaken for minutes at a time, at first groggy, but soon he was as alert (and funny) as ever. A day later, we walked in to find him sitting upright in a chair, reading the New York Times.

I've never been one of those Jews who makes facial contortions at the mere mention of the Christian Right; I actually agree with them on some matters. And this experience with my father has given me a new appreciation for the fight many evangelicals have waged against euthanasia.

Nice to know that even angels of death are reticent about trying to convince Jews that they're just offering deliverance.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:31 PM


Bloggers Offer Unusual Take On Raging Conflict: Silence (JENNIFER SIEGEL, July 21, 2006, The Forward)

Bloggers — as the feisty class of Internet pundits are known — love to paint themselves as free-speech warriors who bravely tackle the hard truths that mainstream media outlets either ignore or distort. But as the fighting between Israel and Hezbollah raged on and conventional media outlets covered the news from the ground, major players in the liberal blogosphere were keeping, by their own admission, decidedly quiet.

However, even shutting up the moonbats isn't worth the war.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:31 PM


The killing formula: What is to blame for the growth of Hezbollah? Lebanese-Canadian writer Rawi Hage says it was Israeli bombardments and invasions into Lebanon (RAWI HAGE, 7/21/06, Maclean's)

In Lebanon, Hezbollah are simultaneously respected and feared. They are respected because they were instrumental in ending the Israeli occupation of Lebanon (though they were not the sole resisters to the occupation of the Israelis. Many leftists' forces were also active in the beginning of the resistance movement). Hezbollah are also respected because they never turned their firearms inward, meaning that they never participated in the Lebanese civil war. And they always delivered what they promised, giving them an air of integrity in a region much plagued by corruption and political failure. They are feared because they are a religious party that advocates the dominance of one sect. As a person of non-Muslim background with a secular, social-democratic political affiliation, I wouldn't want to see Hezbollah as the sole ruling party in Lebanon (nor the old Reform party in Canada, for that matter).

But who is to blame for the birth of Hezbollah, if there is anyone to be blamed? In 1978, Israel bombed and invaded the south of Lebanon (on many occasions in retaliation for Palestinian operations), and in the process uprooted olive trees and demolished the houses and infrastructure of the Shiite community who predominantly lived in the south. Historically, in Lebanon, the Shiite community was the most underprivileged. Lebanon's sectarian/feudal society left each community to fend for its own. The Shiites of Lebanon were predominantly the farmers and the poor, with the highest illiteracy rate among all religious communities. With every bombardment and Israeli invasion, more farmers from that community moved to the city as they found it impossible to cultivate their land. Not to mention that Israel did reorient some of the rivers in the area, cutting off irrigation sources to the local farmers.

In 1996, the intensive bombardments by the Israelis drove half a million Shiite refugees to the periphery of the capital, Beirut, to add more refugees to one of the most overpopulated places in Lebanon, what is now known as al-Dahia (pronounced Dahieh in the Lebanese slang). Excluded from receiving social assistance from the government or outside aid, the area became a recruiting ground for religious fundamentalists, who offered social assistance, jobs, schools and hospitals. Hence, the birth of Hezbollah. Ever since, Hezbollah has evolved to become a legitimate party in the Lebanese government, having seats in the parliament, its own TV station (watched by Israelis and Arabs alike) and, as we lately have seen, a well-organized armed force.

One should stress and examine the motives that drove Hezbollah to such a unilateral confrontation with Israel. By doing so, the Party of God had achieved an unprecedented coup d'état on the Lebanese state, taking it by surprise and in the process imposing itself as an independent force that, like most religious fundamentalist parties, in the West and East alike, give a priority and allegiance to God over the nation-state.

Nation-states are never important to those who don't control them, which is why Shi'ism so resembles Judaism and Christianity.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:25 PM


North Korea’s Missiles Backfire: With Beijing and Moscow on the UN sanctions bandwagon, it’s time for a hard decision by Kim Jong Il (Shim Jae Hoon, 18 July 2006, YaleGlobal)

On his first extended meeting some years ago with Vladimir Putin in Moscow, North Korean leader Kim Jong Il reportedly joked to his host that his weeklong train trip over Siberia had taught him all he needed to know about the new Russia. Judging by Moscow’s and Beijing’s reactions at the United Nations to Kim’s missile threat, that remark may now be seen as misplaced cockiness.

Despite slightly toning the text down at the behest of Russia and China, the UN Security Council issued a unanimous resolution condemning North Korea’s recent series of missile launches in international waters and imposed sanctions – which must have come as a shock to Kim Jong Il. The July 5 launches by North Korea in defiance of international opinion, including its closest ally and neighbor China, proved to be the last straw for Moscow and Beijing, after patiently trying to shield Pyongyang against an enraged international community. More significantly, North Korea’s latest round of missile brinkmanship may have soured its relations with South Korea, whose political and economic support has been invaluable to a nation teetering on the brink of disaster.

The missiles of Summer seem to be falling most heavily on those who launched them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:22 PM


What a Bush veto would mean for stem cells (NANCY GIBBS, ALICE PARK, MIKE ALLEN, MASSIMO CALABRESI, July 17, 2006, TIME)

The good news for all sides is that over the course of this long argument, researchers have learned more about how stem cells work, and the science has outrun the politics. Adult cells, such as those found in bone marrow, were thought to be less valuable than embryonic cells, which are "pluripotent" master cells that can turn into anything from a brain cell to a toenail. But adult cells may be more elastic than scientists thought, and could offer shortcuts to treatment that embryonic cells can't match.

Researchers have discovered that many tissues and organs contain precursor cells that act in many ways like stem cells. The skin, intestines, liver, brain and bone marrow contain these stem cell-- mimicking cells, which could become a reservoir of replacement cells for treating diseases such as leukemias, stroke and some cancers. "Brain stem-cells can make almost all cell types in the brain, and that may be all we need if we want to treat Parkinson's disease or ALS," says Dr. Arnold Kriegstein, who directs the University of California at San Francisco's Institute for Regeneration Medicine. "Embryonic stem cells might not be necessary in those cases." When it comes to treating heart disease, "if you could find a progenitor cell in the adult heart that has the ability to replicate," says Douglas Melton, co-director of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute, "then it's likely easier to start with that cell than begin with an embryonic stem cell, which has too many options."

Cheerleaders for adult stem-cell research point to progress on everything from spinal-cord injuries to diabetes. Scientists at the University of Minnesota have used umbilical-cord-blood stem cells to improve some neurological function; in a paper published last month, Dr. Carlos Lima in Portugal wrote about restoring some motor function and sensation in a few paralyzed patients. At a recent conference of researchers from around the world, a team from Kyoto University in Japan reported success in taking a skin cell, exposing it to four key growth factors and turning it into an embryo-like entity that produced stem cells--all without using an egg. The Kyoto group has submitted its work for publication, after which it will be open to the scrutiny of the scientific community. If successful, it could turn stem-cell science from a tedious, finicky process into a relatively straightforward chemistry project.

The embryonic stem cells aren't needed, some folks are just in love with Death.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:16 PM


Court voids 'Wal-Mart law': U.S. district judge says Md. violated federal authority (Matthew Dolan, Stephanie Desmon and Andrea Walker, July 19, 2006, Baltimore Sun)

Republican Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.] told reporters Wednesday that he felt vindicated by the court's decision and accused Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller and House Speaker Michael E. Busch of endorsing an anti-business bill that threatened to harm one of the state's largest employers. [...]

The Maryland Fair Share Health Care Fund Act requires that companies with more than 10,000 workers spend at least 8 percent of their payroll for employee health care or make up the difference in an equivalent payment to the state.

Of the four companies that size operating in the state, only Wal- Mart matched the criteria set out in the law, leading the company to charge that it had been singled out unfairly. The law was due to take effect in January 2007.

Lawyers for the state argued that Wal-Mart had options under the new law to pay a tax to the state, estimated at $6 million a year, in lieu of additional health care payments for employees.

That alternative meant the Maryland statute would not conflict with federal law, the state's lawyers claimed.

But in February, a trade group filed suit in federal court on behalf of the Wal-Mart to strike down the law as passed, saying federal rules don't allow states to spell out how companies allocate benefits.

In the 32-page decision released Wednesday, U.S. District Court Judge J. Frederick Motz largely agreed, writing that his ruling adhered to "long established Supreme Court law that state laws which impose employee health or welfare mandates on employers are invalid under" the federal Employment Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, known as ERISA.

Motz, who was nominated to the bench by President Ronald Reagan in 1985, further ruled that the law harmed Wal-Mart by requiring the company to make reports to the state about its payroll and health care contributions, a requirement that was not imposed on other employers in the state.

Those problems were enough to doom the law, the judge ruled.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:14 PM


Count Ethnic Divisions, Not Bombs, to Tell if a Nation Will Recover From War (AUSTAN GOOLSBEE, 7/20/06, NY Times)

WITH repeated Shiite and Sunni killings in Iraq, the Hezbollah rocket attacks on Israel, Israeli attacks on Lebanon and Gaza, the assaults by the Taliban and counterassaults by American forces in Afghanistan, and a train bombing in India, it has been quite a fortnight for at least two of the horsemen of the apocalypse — war and death.

With little prospect of a quick resolution to most of these conflicts, perhaps it is worth looking at the long-run prospects for these nations once the wars actually end (assuming that they do end, of course).

The good news is that history suggests that the destruction of war has no lasting impact on economic prospects. The bad news is that most of these countries, especially Iraq, are filled with ethnic divisions and civil discord. The evidence shows that these problems, unlike bombs, cause lasting damage to the prospects for a nation’s economy, even if they do not boil over into civil war.

There's nothing real about these states to begin with--they're just creations of colonial powers. The quicker they devolve into their constituent and coherent parts the better.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:05 PM


Hostage to Hezbollah: Lesson for Nasrallah: "The violence done to Lebanon shall overwhelm you." (FOUAD AJAMI, July 21, 2006, Opinion Journal)

Nasrallah's brazen deed was, in the man's calculus, an invitation to an exchange of prisoners. Now, the man who triggered this crisis stands exposed as an Iranian proxy, doing the bidding of Tehran and Damascus. He had confidently asserted that "sources" in Israel had confided to Hezbollah that Israel's government would not strike into Lebanon because Hezbollah held northern Israel hostage to its rockets, and that the demand within Israel for an exchange of prisoners would force Ehud Olmert's hand. The time of the "warrior class" in Israel had passed, Nasrallah believed, and this new Israeli government, without decorated soldiers and former generals, was likely to capitulate. Now this knowingness has been exposed for the delusion it was.

There was steel in Israel and determination to be done with Hezbollah's presence on the border. States can't--and don't--share borders with militias. That abnormality on the Lebanese-Israeli border is sure not to survive this crisis. One way or other, the Lebanese army will have to take up its duty on the Lebanon-Israel border. By the time the dust settles, this terrible summer storm will have done what the Lebanese government had been unable to do on its own.

In his cocoon, Nasrallah did not accurately judge the temper of his own country to begin with. No less a figure than the hereditary leader of the Druze community, Walid Jumblatt, was quick to break with Hezbollah, and to read this crisis as it really is. "We had been trying for months," he said, "to spring our country out of the Syrian-Iranian trap, and here we are forcibly pushed into that trap again." In this two-front war--Hamas's in the Palestinian territories and Hezbollah's in Lebanon--Mr. Jumblatt saw the fine hand of the Syrian regime attempting to retrieve its dominion in Lebanon, and to forestall the international investigations of its reign of terror in that country.

In the same vein, a broad coalition of anti-Syrian Lebanese political parties and associations that had come together in the aftermath of the assassination last year of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, called into question the very rationale of this operation, and its timing: "Is it Lebanon's fate to endure the killing of its citizens and the destruction of its economy and its tourist season in order to serve the interests of empty nationalist slogans?"

In retrospect, Ehud Barak's withdrawal from Israel's "security zone" in southern Lebanon in the summer of 2000 had robbed Hezbollah of its raison d'être. [...]

[N]asrallah was in the end just the Lebanese face of Hezbollah. Those who know the workings of the movement with intimacy believe that operational control is in the hands of Iranian agents, that Hezbollah is fully subservient to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. The hope that Hezbollah would "go Lebanese," and "go local," was thus set aside. At any rate, Nasrallah and his lieutenants did not trust the new Lebanon to make the ample room that a country at war--and within the orbit of Syria--had hitherto made for them in the time of disorder. Though the Shiites had risen in Lebanon, there remains in them a great deal of brittleness, a sense of social inadequacy relative to the more privileged communities in the country.

If true, the irony would be that what Hezbollah requires is a more nationalistic leader to vindicate the desire of a Shi'ite state in Southern Lebanon

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:55 PM


War Fair: THE ETHICS OF BATTLE (Michael Walzer, 07.19.06, New Republic)

It is an important principle of just war theory that justice, though it rules out many ways of fighting, cannot rule out fighting itself--since fighting is sometimes morally and politically necessary. A military response to the capture of the three Israeli soldiers wasn't, literally, necessary; in the past, Israel has negotiated instead of fighting and then exchanged prisoners. But, since Hamas and Hezbollah describe the captures as legitimate military operations--acts of war--they can hardly claim that further acts of war, in response, are illegitimate. The further acts have to be proportional, but Israel's goal is to prevent future raids, as well as to rescue the soldiers, so proportionality must be measured not only against what Hamas and Hezbollah have already done, but also against what they are (and what they say they are) trying to do.

The most important Israeli goal in both the north and the south is to prevent rocket attacks on its civilian population, and, here, its response clearly meets the requirements of necessity. The first purpose of any state is to defend the lives of its citizens; no state can tolerate random rocket attacks on its cities and towns. Some 700 rockets have been fired from northern Gaza since the Israeli withdrawal a year ago--imagine the U.S. response if a similar number were fired at Buffalo and Detroit from some Canadian no-man's-land. It doesn't matter that, so far, the Gazan rockets have done minimal damage; the intention every time one is fired is to hit a home or a school, and, sooner or later, that intention will be realized. Israel has waited a long time for the Palestinian Authority and the Lebanese government to deal with the rocket fire from Gaza and the rocket build-up on the Lebanese border. In the latter case, it has also waited for the United Nations, which has a force in southern Lebanon that is mandated to "restore international peace and security" but has nonetheless watched the positioning of thousands of rockets and has done nothing. A couple of years ago, the Security Council passed a resolution calling for the disarming of Hezbollah; its troops, presumably, have noticed that this didn't happen. Now Israel has rightly decided that it has no choice except to take out the rockets itself. But, again, how can it do that?

The crucial argument is about the Palestinian use of civilians as shields. Academic philosophers have written at great length about "innocent shields," since these radically exploited (but sometimes, perhaps, compliant) men and women pose a dilemma that tests the philosophers' dialectical skills. Israeli soldiers are not required to have dialectical skills, but, on the one hand, they are expected to do everything they can to prevent civilian deaths, and, on the other hand, they are expected to fight against an enemy that hides behind civilians. So (to quote a famous line from Trotsky), they may not be interested in the dialectic, but the dialectic is interested in them.

There is no neat solution to their dilemma. When Palestinian militants launch rocket attacks from civilian areas, they are themselves responsible--and no one else is--for the civilian deaths caused by Israeli counterfire. But (the dialectical argument continues) Israeli soldiers are required to aim as precisely as they can at the militants, to take risks in order to do that, and to call off counterattacks that would kill large numbers of civilians. That last requirement means that, sometimes, the Palestinian use of civilian shields, though it is a cruel and immoral way of fighting, is also an effective way of fighting. It works, because it is both morally right and politically intelligent for the Israelis to minimize--and to be seen trying to minimize--civilian casualties. Still, minimizing does not mean avoiding entirely: Civilians will suffer so long as no one on the Palestinian side (or the Lebanese side) takes action to stop rocket attacks. From that side, though not from the Israeli side, what needs to be done could probably be done without harm to civilians. [...]

Until there is an effective Lebanese army and a Palestinian government that believes in co-existence, Israel is entitled to act, within the dialectical limits, on its own behalf.

Too bad we couldn't get Mr. Walzer for yesterday's discussion, but we were fortunate enough to get to use one of his essays in the book.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:46 PM


Bush Uses First Veto to Reject Stem Cell Legislation (Bloomberg, 7/19/06)

"This bill would support the taking of innocent human life in the hope of finding medical benefits for others,'' Bush said at the White House, flanked by families with children who had been adopted as frozen embryos. "It crosses a moral boundary that our decent society needs to respect.'' [...]

Iowa Senator Tom Harkin, a Democrat and one of the measure's sponsors, said Bush was setting himself up as a "moral ayatollah.''

The veto is not based on constitutional or legal objections, Harkin said. ``He is vetoing it because he says he believes it is immoral,'' Harkin said. ``Mr. President, you are not our moral ayatollah, maybe the president nothing more.''

A surprisingly insightful analysis by Mr. Harkin of why Europe will be a better place after Islam takes over.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:52 AM


Evolution and Me: ‘The Darwinian theory has become an all-purpose obstacle to thought rather
than an enabler of scientific advance’ (George Gilder, July 17, 2006, National Review)

I first became conscious that something was awry in Darwinian science some 40 years ago as I was writing my early critique of sexual liberation, Sexual Suicide (revised and republished as Men and Marriage). At the time, the publishing world was awash with such titles as Desmond Morris’s The Naked Ape and The Human Zoo and Robert Ardrey’s African Genesis, which touted or pruriently probed the animality of human beings. Particularly impressive to me was The Imperial Animal, a Darwinian scholarly work by two anthropologists aptly named Lionel Tiger and Robin Fox that gave my theory of sex roles a panoply of primatological support, largely based on the behavior of patriarchal hamadryas baboons.

Darwinism seemed to offer me and its other male devotees a long-sought tool — resembling the x-ray glasses lamentably found elsewhere only in cartoons — for stripping away the distracting décor of clothing and the political underwear of ideology worn by feminists and other young women of the day. Using this swashbuckling scheme of fitness and survival, nature “red in tooth and claw,” we could reveal our ideological nemeses as naked mammals on the savannah to be ruled and protected by hunting parties of macho males, rather like us.

In actually writing and researching Sexual Suicide, however, I was alarmed to discover that both sides could play the game of telling just-so stories. In The Descent of Woman, Elaine Morgan showed humans undulating from the tides as amphibious apes mostly led by females. Jane Goodall croodled about the friendliness of “our closest relatives,” the chimpanzees, and movement feminists flogged research citing the bonobo and other apes as chiefly matriarchal and frequently homosexual.

These evolutionary sex wars were mostly unresolvable because, at its root, Darwinian theory is tautological. What survives is fit; what is fit survives. While such tautologies ensure the consistency of any arguments based on them, they could contribute little to an analysis of what patterns of behavior and what ideals and aspirations were conducive to a good and productive society. Almost by definition, Darwinism is a materialist theory that banishes aspirations and ideals from the picture. As an all-purpose tool of reductionism that said that whatever survives is, in some way, normative, Darwinism could inspire almost any modern movement, from the eugenic furies of Nazism to the feminist crusades of Margaret Sanger and Planned Parenthood. [...]

Based as it is on ideas, a computer is intrinsically an object of intelligent design. Every silicon chip holds as many as 700 layers of implanted chemicals in patterns defined with nanometer precision and then is integrated with scores of other chips by an elaborately patterned architecture of wires and switches all governed by layers of software programming written by human beings. Equally planned and programmed are all the computers running the models of evolution and “artificial life” that are central to neo-Darwinian research. Everywhere on the apparatus and in the “genetic algorithms” appear the scientist’s fingerprints: the “fitness functions” and “target sequences.” These algorithms prove what they aim to refute: the need for intelligence and teleology (targets) in any creative process.

I came to see that the computer offers an insuperable obstacle to Darwinian materialism. In a computer, as information theory shows, the content is manifestly independent of its material substrate. No possible knowledge of the computer’s materials can yield any information whatsoever about the actual content of its computations. In the usual hierarchy of causation, they reflect the software or “source code” used to program the device; and, like the design of the computer itself, the software is contrived by human intelligence.

The failure of purely physical theories to describe or explain information reflects Shannon’s concept of entropy and his measure of “news.” Information is defined by its independence from physical determination: If it is determined, it is predictable and thus by definition not information. Yet Darwinian science seemed to be reducing all nature to material causes.

As I pondered this materialist superstition, it became increasingly clear to me that in all the sciences I studied, information comes first, and regulates the flesh and the world, not the other way around. The pattern seemed to echo some familiar wisdom. Could it be, I asked myself one day in astonishment, that the opening of St. John’s Gospel, In the beginning was the Word, is a central dogma of modern science?

In raising this question I was not affirming a religious stance. At the time it first occurred to me, I was still a mostly secular intellectual. But after some 35 years of writing and study in science and technology, I can now affirm the principle empirically. Salient in virtually every technical field — from quantum theory and molecular biology to computer science and economics — is an increasing concern with the word. It passes by many names: logos, logic, bits, bytes, mathematics, software, knowledge, syntax, semantics, code, plan, program, design, algorithm, as well as the ubiquitous “information.” In every case, the information is independent of its physical embodiment or carrier. [...]

Darwin’s critics are sometimes accused of confusing methodological materialism with philosophical materialism, but this is in fact a characteristic error of Darwin’s advocates. Multiverse theory itself is based on a methodological device invented by Richard Feynman, one that “reifies” math and sees it as a physical reality. (It’s an instance of what Whitehead called “the fallacy of misplaced concreteness.”) Feynman proposed the mapping of electron paths by assuming the electron took all possible routes, and then calculating the interference patterns that result among their wave functions. This method was a great success. But despite some dabbling as a youth in many-worlds theory, Feynman in his prime was too shrewd to suggest that the electron actually took all the possible paths, let alone to accept the theory that these paths compounded into entire separate universes.

Under the pressure of nothing buttery, though, scientists attempt to explain the exquisite hierarchies of life and knowledge through the flat workings of physics and chemistry alone. Information theory says this isn’t possible if there’s just one universe, and an earth that existed for only 400 million years before the emergence of cells. But if there are infinite numbers of universes all randomly tossing the dice, absolutely anything is possible. The Peers perform a prestidigitory shuffle of the cosmoses and place themselves, by the “anthropic principle,” in a privileged universe where life prevails on Darwinian terms. The Peers save the random mutations of nothing buttery by rendering all science arbitrary and stochastic.

Science still falls far short of developing satisfactory explanations of many crucial phenomena, such as human consciousness, the Big Bang, the superluminal quantum entanglement of photons across huge distances, even the bioenergetics of the brain of a fly in eluding the swatter. The more we learn about the universe the more wide-open the horizons of mystery. The pretense that Darwinian evolution is a complete theory of life is a huge distraction from the limits and language, the rigor and grandeur, of real scientific discovery. Observes Nobel-laureate physicist Robert Laughlin of Stanford: “The Darwinian theory has become an all-purpose obstacle to thought rather than an enabler of scientific advance.”

Which is what makes them such boorish monomaniacs.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:03 AM


The backward veto (Seattle Times, 7/21/06)

President Bush's veto of an effort to expand federally funded embryonic stem-cell research shows once again how far he is willing to go to appease religious conservatives and set our country backward.

Once again, private religious beliefs drive public policy.

At least they acknowledge that signing the bill would have required setting aside one's religious beliefs. If you're going to advocate amorality it's best to do so honestly.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:50 AM


In Mideast Strife, Bush Sees a Step To Peace (Michael Abramowitz, 7/21/06, Washington Post)

As the president's position is described by White House officials, Bush associates and outside Middle East experts, Bush believes that the status quo -- the presence in a sovereign country of a militant group with missiles capable of hitting a U.S. ally -- is unacceptable.

The U.S. position also reflects Bush's deepening belief that Israel is central to the broader campaign against terrorists and represents a shift away from a more traditional view that the United States plays an "honest broker's" role in the Middle East.

In the administration's view, the new conflict is not just a crisis to be managed. It is also an opportunity to seriously degrade a big threat in the region, just as Bush believes he is doing in Iraq. Israel's crippling of Hezbollah, officials also hope, would complete the work of building a functioning democracy in Lebanon and send a strong message to the Syrian and Iranian backers of Hezbollah.

"The president believes that unless you address the root causes of the violence that has afflicted the Middle East, you cannot forge a lasting peace," said White House counselor Dan Bartlett. "He mourns the loss of every life. Yet out of this tragic development, he believes a moment of clarity has arrived."

One former senior administration official said Bush is only emboldened by the pressure from U.N. officials and European leaders to lead a call for a cease-fire. U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan demanded yesterday that the fighting in Lebanon stop.

"He thinks he is playing in a longer-term game than the tacticians," said the former official, who spoke anonymously so he could discuss his views candidly. "The tacticians would say: 'Get an immediate cease-fire. Deal first with the humanitarian factors.' The president would say: 'You have an opportunity to really grind down Hezbollah. Let's take it, even if there are other serious consequences that will have to be managed.' "

Jack Rosen, chairman of the American Jewish Congress, said Bush's statements reflect an unambiguous view of the situation. "He doesn't seem to allow his vision to be clouded in any way," said Rosen, a Democrat who has come to admire Bush's Middle East policy. "It follows suit. Israel is in the right. Hezbollah is in the wrong. Terrorists have to be eliminated, and he sees Israel fighting the war he would fight against terrorism."

honest broker (Answers.com)

A neutral agent, as in mediation: “enhanced Canada's position as honest broker in the Commonwealth” (Kenneth McNaught).

Imagine trying to explain to a normal American that we are neutral as between Israel & Hezbollah?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:30 AM


President Bush Addresses NAACP Annual Convention (George W. Bush, Washington Convention Center, Washington, D.C., 7/20/06)

Thank you all very much. (Applause.) Thank you very much. Bruce, thanks for your introduction. Bruce is a polite guy -- I thought what he was going to say, it's about time you showed up. (Laughter and applause.) And I'm glad I did. (Applause.) See, I see this as a moment of opportunity. I have come to celebrate the heroism of the civil rights movement, and the accomplishments of the NAACP. (Applause.)

I want to talk about ways to build what the NAACP has always sought -- a nation united, committed to destroying discrimination and extending to every American the full blessings -- the full blessings -- of liberty and opportunity. (Applause.) It's important to me. It's important to our nation. I come from a family committed to civil rights. My faith tells me that we're all children of God, equally loved, equally cherished, equally entitled to the rights He grants us all.

For nearly 200 years, our nation failed the test of extending the blessings of liberty to African Americans. (Applause.) Slavery was legal for nearly a hundred years, and discrimination legal in many places for nearly a hundred years more. Taken together, the record placed a stain on America's founding, a stain that we have not yet wiped clean. (Applause.)

When people talk about America's founders they mention the likes of Washington and Jefferson and Franklin and Adams. Too often they ignore another group of founders -- men and women and children who did not come to America of their free will, but in chains. (Applause.) These founders literally helped build our country. They chopped the wood, they built the homes, they tilled the fields, and they reaped the harvest. They raised children of others, even though their own children had been ripped away and sold to strangers. (Applause.) These founders were denied the most basic birthright, and that's freedom.

Yet, through captivity and oppression, they kept the faith. They carved a great nation out of the wilderness, and later, their descendants led a people out of the wilderness of bigotry. Nearly 200 years into our history as a nation, America experienced a second founding: the Civil Rights movement. Some of those leaders are here. (Applause.) These second founders, led by the likes of Thurgood Marshall and Martin Luther King, Jr. believed in the constitutional guarantees of liberty and equality. They trusted fellow Americans to join them in doing the right thing. They were leaders. They toppled Jim Crow through simple deeds: boarding a bus, walking along the road, showing up peacefully at courthouses or joining in prayer and song. Despite the sheriff's dogs, and the jailer's scorn, and the hangman's noose, and the assassin's bullets, they prevailed. (Applause.)

I don't know if you remember, three weeks ago, I went to Memphis, Tennessee. (Applause and laughter.) A lot of people focused on the fact that my friend, the Prime Minister of Japan, was an Elvis fan, because we went to Graceland. But we also went to another stop, a stop Reverend Jesse Jackson knows all too well, a painful moment in his life and in the life of our nation, reflected in the Lorraine Motel.

The Prime Minister and I went there, which is now the National Civil Rights Museum. By the way, if you haven't been there, you ought to go. (Applause.) Among the people greeting me there was Dr. Benjamin Hooks. (Applause.) It's good to see you again, sir. He led me out onto the balcony of Room 306. I remember Dr. Hooks pointed to the window that was still half-cracked. You know what I'm talking about, Jesse. It's not very far away. It was a powerful reminder of the hardships this nation has been through, the struggle for decency.

I was honored that Dr. Hooks took time to visit with me. He talked about the hardships of the movement. With the gentle wisdom that comes from experience, he made it clear we must work as one. And that's why I've come today. (Applause.) We want a united America that is one nation under God -- (applause) -- where every man and child and woman is valued and treated with dignity. We want a hopeful America where the prosperity and opportunities of our great land reach into every block of every neighborhood. We want an America that is constantly renewing itself, where citizens rise above political differences to heal old wounds, to build the bonds of brotherhood and to move us ever closer to the founding promise of liberty and justice for all.

Nearly a hundred years after the NAACP's birth, America remains an unfolding story of freedom. And all of us have an obligation to play our part. (Applause.)

I want to thank your chairman, Julian Bond, for his introduction. And thanks for greeting me today, Mr. Chairman. (Applause.) I asked him for a few pointers on how to give a speech. (Laughter.) It doesn't look like they're taking. (Laughter.)

I want to thank Roslyn Brock, the Vice Chairman of the board, as well. (Applause.) I thank all the board members, all the participants, all the members of the United States Congress for joining us today, as well. (Applause.)

I congratulate Bruce Gordon on his strong leadership. (Applause.) I've gotten to know him. See, shortly after he was elected, he came by the Oval Office. He doesn't mince words. (Laughter.) It's clear what's on his mind. He's also a results-oriented person. I'm pleased -- I'm pleased to say that I have -- I'm an admirer of Bruce Gordon, and we've got a good working relationship. (Applause.) I don't know if that helps you or hurts you. (Laughter.) But it's the truth. I admire the man.

We've had frank discussions, starting with Katrina. We talked about the challenges facing the African American community after that storm. We talked about the response of the federal government. And most importantly, we talked about the way forward. We talked about what we can do working together -- (applause) -- to move forward. As a result of that first meeting, we found areas where we share common purpose, and we have resolved to work together in practical ways. I don't expect Bruce to become a Republican -- (laughter) -- and neither do you. (Laughter.) But I do want to work with him, and that's what I'm here to talk to you about. (Applause.)

So we've been working together in helping the citizens along the Gulf Coast recover from one of the worst natural disasters in our nation's history. You know, when we met, I told Bruce that I would work with the Congress to make sure we dedicated enough money to help the folks. He kind of looked at me like, sure, he's heard these political promises before. It's not the first time that he had heard somebody say, well, we'll work together to see if we can't get enough money, and I suspect he might have thought, well, he's just trying to get me out of the Oval Office. (Laughter.)

But I meant what I said, and I want to thank the United States Congress for joining with the administration. We committed over $110 billion to help the people in the Gulf Coast. (Applause.) That's money to go to build new homes, good schools. Bruce and I talked a lot about how do we make sure the contracting that goes on down there in the Gulf Coast goes to minority-owned businesses. (Applause.)

The road to recovery is long and difficult, but we will continue to work together to implement the strategy that Bruce and I worked on along with people -- other people like Donna Brazile and other leaders. We've got a plan, and we've got a commitment. And the commitment is not only to work together, but it's a commitment to the people of the Gulf Coast of the United States, to see to it that their lives are better and brighter than before the storm. (Applause.)

We also worked together to ensure that African Americans can take advantage of the new Medicare drug benefit. Look, I understand that we had a political disagreement on the bill. I know that. But I worked with the Congress to make sure that the days of seniors having to choose between food and medicine is over. And that's the case of this new Medicare benefit. (Applause.) The federal government pays over 95 percent of the cost for our nation's poorest seniors to get this new drug benefit.

And I want to thank the NAACP for recognizing that it's important to help our seniors sign up for this benefit. (Applause.) We put politics aside. We said, the day is over of arguing about the bill; let's make sure people receive the benefits of this bill. Bruce Gordon has shown leadership on this important issue, and I want to thank you for that. (Applause.)

We'll work together, and as we do so, you must understand I understand that racism still lingers in America. (Applause.) It's a lot easier to change a law than to change a human heart. And I understand that many African Americans distrust my political party.

AUDIENCE: Yes! (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT: I consider it a tragedy that the party of Abraham Lincoln let go of its historic ties with the African American community. For too long my party wrote off the African American vote, and many African Americans wrote off the Republican Party. (Applause.)

That history has prevented us from working together when we agree on great goals. That's not good for our country. That's what I've come to share with you. We've put the interests of the country above political party. I want to change the relationship. (Applause.) The America we seek should be bigger than politics. And today I'm going to talk about some areas where I believe we can work together to reduce the obstacles for opportunity for all our citizens. And that starts, by the way with education. (Applause.)

Surely, we share the same goal: We want an excellent education for every child. Not just some children, but every single child. I can remember being the governor of Texas -- I don't know if there's any Texans here or not. (Applause.) Tell them "hi" at home. (Laughter.)

I remember going to a ninth grade class when I was the governor. It was in a neighborhood that's -- a low-income neighborhood there in Houston. And I asked the ninth grade teacher, I said, how's it going? The man looked me in the eye and said, my students cannot read. That's wrong to hear a ninth grade teacher say, my students cannot read.

I decided to do something about it when I was the governor, and I decided to do something about that when I became the President. See, we must challenge a system that simply shuffles children through grade to grade, without determining whether they can read, write, and add and subtract. It's a system -- see, I like to call it this: We need to challenge the soft bigotry of low expectations. If you have low expectations, you're going to get lousy results. (Applause.) We must not tolerate a system that gives up on people.

So I came to Washington and I worked with Democrats and Republicans to pass the No Child Left Behind Act. Let me tell you the strategy behind the act. It says that the federal government will spend more money on education in primary and secondary schools -- and we have increased the budgets by 40 percent. It also says, and in return for additional help, you must measure. We didn't say the federal government is going to measure, we said, we want the local -- the states and the local districts to measure.

And so why do you ask that? Why do you say that in return for increased money, you need to measure? And the reason why is because, in order to solve a problem you've got to diagnose the problem. Measuring results can tell us whether or not teaching methodology is sound. Measuring results can enable us to figure out which children are falling behind early.

You know, one of the interesting things about the No Child Left Behind Act, it says that when we find a child falling behind early there will be extra money for tutoring, extra money for help. The whole purpose is to make sure people are at the starting line. The whole purpose is to make sure that the teacher that told me that, my children can't read, no longer happens in the 9th grade. Measuring helps us determine how we're doing.

There's an achievement gap in America that's wrong for America, an achievement gap that says we're not fulfilling the promise. One of the barriers to opportunity, one of the obstacles to success is the fact that too many of our children aren't reading at grade level. And we know that because we measure, and we're doing something about it. Actually, the achievement gap is beginning to close. There's more work to be done. Measuring allows parents to see how the school that their child is going to is doing. It lets the parents determine whether or not they should be satisfied with the education their child is getting.

I strongly believe that parental involvement is important for our school systems. (Applause.) And I believe -- and I strongly believe a parent knows what's best for his or her child. That's what I believe. And therefore, when we find schools that are not teaching and will not change, our parents should have a different option. If you want quality education you've got to trust the parents.

You know, an amazing thing about our society today is wealthier white families have got the capacity to defeat mediocrity by moving. That is not the case for lower-income families. And so, therefore, I strongly believe in charter schools, and public school choice. I believe in opportunity scholarships to be able to enable parents to move their child out of a school that's not teaching, for the benefit of the United States of America. (Applause.)

I also understand that we've got to do more for primary -- more than just primary and secondary education. I'm proud to report that working with the United States Congress, the number of low-income Americans receiving Pell grants has increased by about a million Americans since I have become the President. Pell grants are an important part of educational excellence and opportunity.

We're expanding money for our community college system. I met my pledge to increase funding for historically black universities by 30 percent. (Applause.) A decent education is the gateway to a life of opportunity. It is a fundamental civil right. And I look forward to working with the NAACP to enhance educational excellence all across the United States of America. (Applause.)

Second, I hope we can work together in an America where more people become owners, own something, something that they can call their own. From our nation's earlier days, ownership has been at the heart of our country. Unfortunately, for most of our history, African Americans were excluded from the dream. That's the reality of our past. Most of your forefathers didn't come to this land seeking a better life; most came in chains as the property of other people. Today, their children and grandchildren now have an opportunity to own their own property, and good policies will encourage that. And that's what we ought to work together on.

For most Americans, ownership begins with owning your own home. Owning a home is a way to build wealth. Owning a home is to give something they can leave behind to their children. See, one of the concerns I have is that because of the past, there hasn't been enough assets that a family can pass on from one generation to the next. And we've got to address that problem. And a good way to do so is through home ownership. (Applause.) Owning a home gives people a stake in their neighborhood, a stake in the future.

Today, nearly half of African Americans own their own homes, and that's good for America. That's good for our country, but still got to do more. So we -- working to do our part with helping people afford a down payment and closing costs, helping families who are in rental assistance to become home owners, helping people understand the fine print when it comes to mortgage documents.

One of the things I want to work with the NAACP on is to encourage more people to be able to open the front door of the place where they live and say, welcome to my home, welcome to my piece of property. (Applause.)

I also want to work to home ownership in other areas. We want to see more African Americans own their own businesses, and that's why we've increased loans to African American businesses by 40 percent. (Applause.) We're taking steps to make it easier for African American businesses to compete for federal contracts. We're working to expand help to have African American workers own a piece of their own retirement.

You know, one of my friends is Bob Johnson, founder of BET. He's an interesting man. He believes strongly in ownership. He has been a successful owner. He believes strongly, for example, that the death tax will prevent future African American entrepreneurs from being able to pass their assets from one generation to the next. He and I also understand that the investor class shouldn't be just confined to the old definition of the investor class.

You know, an amazing experience, when I went to Canton, Mississippi, I asked the workers there, who were mainly African American workers, I said, how many of you have your own 401(k)? Nearly all the hands went up. That means they own their own assets. It's their money. They manage their own money. It's a system that says, we want you to have assets that you can leave from one generation to the next. Asset accumulation is an important part of removing the barriers for opportunity. I think it's really important, and I want to work with Bruce, if possible. The federal government should encourage ownership in the government pension program, to give people a chance to own an asset, something they can call their own.

Ownership is vital to making sure this country extends its hope to every neighborhood in the United States of America. And I look forward to working with the NAACP to encourage ownership in America. (Applause.)

I want to work with you to make sure America's communities are strong. I've got a friend named Tony Evans. Some of you may know Tony, from Dallas, Texas. He was one time giving a sermon. I heard him speak, and I want to share with you what it was. He said -- he told a story about the man who had a crack on one of the walls in his home. So he got the plasterer to come by, and the guy plastered the wall. And about four days later, the crack reappeared. Got another plasterer in, put the plaster on the wall, and it reappeared again. He's getting frustrated. He finally called a wise fellow over. The man explained what the problem was with the cracks on the wall. He said, look, in order to solve the cracks on the wall, you have to fix the foundation.

What I want to do is work with the NAACP to help fix the foundations of our society. We want strong families. (Applause.) We want to help people who need help. We want to help the addicted, we want to help the homeless, we want to help those who are trying to reenter society after having been incarcerated. That's what we want to do. We want to help lives be improved. (Applause.) Government can hand out money -- and we do -- but it cannot put hope in a person's heart, or a sense of purpose in a person's life. That's why I strongly support institutions of faith and community service all around our country. I believe in the neighborhood helpers and healers.

And I put this policy in place. We've provided more than $5 billion to faith-based groups that are running the soup kitchens and sheltering the homeless, and healing the addicted, and helping people reenter our society -- people who are providing compassionate care and love. Organizations of faith exist to love a neighbor like they'd like to be loved themselves. And I believe it's important for government to not only welcome, but to encourage faith-based programs to help solve the intractable problems of our society.

And this faith-based initiative is being challenged in the courts. They claim that -- they fight the initiative in the name of civil liberties, yet they do not seem to realize that the organizations they are trying to prevent from accessing federal money are the same ones that helped win the struggle of civil rights. I believe if an organization gets good results, that helps people turn their lives around, it deserves support of government. We should not discriminate based upon religion. We ought to welcome religious institutions into helping solve and save America, one soul and one heart at a time. (Applause.)

Finally, you and I seek America that commits its wealth and expertise to helping those who suffer from terrible disease. We believe that every person in the world bears the image of our Maker, and is an individual of matchless value. And when we see the scourge of HIV/AIDS ravaging communities at home and abroad, we must not avert our eyes.

Today more than a million of our fellow Americans live with HIV, and more than half of all AIDS cases arise in the African American community. This disease is spreading fastest among African American women. And one of the reasons the disease is spreading so quickly is many don't realize they have the virus. And so we're going to lead a nationwide effort -- and I want to work with the NAACP on this effort -- to deliver rapid HIV/AIDS -- HIV tests to millions of our fellow citizens. (Applause.) Congress needs to reform and reauthorize the Ryan White Act, and provide funding to states, so we can end the waiting lists for AIDS medications in this country. (Applause.)

To whom much is given, much is required. This nation is a blessed nation, and when we look at HIV/AIDS on the continent of Africa, we haven't turned away. We believe it's our nation's responsibility to help those who suffer from this pandemic.

We're leading the world when it comes to providing medications and help. Today more than 40 million people around the world are living with HIV/AIDS; 26 million of those live in Sub Sahara Africa, including 2 million children under the age of 15. We're calling people together. We pledged $15 billion to provide medicine and help. We launched the emergency plan for AIDS relief. Before this AIDS emergency plan was passed, only 50,000 in Sub Sahara Africa were getting medicine. Today, that number has grown to more than 560,000 people, and more are getting help every day. By working together we can turn the tide of this struggle against HIV/AIDS and bring new hope to millions of people.

These goals I've outlined are worthy of our nation. In the century since the NAACP was founded, our nation has grown more prosperous and more powerful. It's also grown more equal and just. Yet this work is not finished. That's what I'm here to say. The history of America is one of constant renewal. And each generation has a responsibility to write a new chapter in the unfinished story of freedom.

That story began with the founding promise of equality and justice and freedom for all men. And that promise has brought hope and inspiration to all peoples across the world. Yet our founding was also imperfect because the human beings that made our founding were imperfect. Many of the same founders who signed their names to a parchment declaring that all men are created equal permitted whole categories of human beings to be excluded from these words. The future of our founding, to live up to its own words, opened a wound that has persisted to today.

In the 19th century the wound resulted in a civil war. In the 20th century, it denied African Americans the vote in many parts of our country. And at the beginnings of the 21st century, the wound is not fully healed and whole communities -- (applause) -- to heal this wound for good, we must continue to work for a new founding that redeems the promise of our declaration and guarantees the birthright of every citizen. (Applause.)

For many African Americans this new found began with the civil rights movement and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. A generation of Americans that has grown up in the last few decades may not appreciate what this act has meant. Condi Rice understands what this act has meant. (Applause.) See, she tells me of her father's long struggle to register to vote, and the pride that came when he finally claimed his full rights as an American citizen to cast his first ballot. She shared that story with me. Yet that right was not fully guaranteed until President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law. President Johnson called the right to vote the lifeblood of our democracy. (Applause.) That was true then, and it remains true today.

I thank the members of the House of Representatives for re-authorizing the Voting Rights Act. Soon the Senate will take up the legislation. I look forward to the Senate passing this bill promptly without amendment -- (applause) -- so I can sign it into law. (Applause.)

There's an old Methodist hymn that speaks of God guiding us with a hand of power and a heart of love. We cannot know God's plans, but we trust in his purposes, because we know that the Creator who wrote the desire for liberty in our hearts also gives us the strength and wisdom to fulfill it. And the God who has brought us thus far on the way will give us the strength to finish the journey.

Thank you for having me. May God bless. (Applause.)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:19 AM


America's New Strategic Partner?: Over the last year, the U.S. and Indian governments struck a deal that recognizes India as a nuclear weapons power. Critics say Washington gave up too much too soon and at a great cost to nonproliferation efforts. Perhaps. But India could in time become a valuable security partner. So despite the deal's flaws and the uncertainties surrounding its implementation, Washington should move forward with it. (Ashton B. Carter, July/August 2006, Foreign Affairs)

Previous U.S. administrations adopted the stance that India's nuclear arsenal, which was first tested in 1974, was illegitimate and should be eliminated or at least seriously constrained. They did so for two reasons. First, they feared that legitimating the Indian arsenal might spur an arms race in Asia because Pakistan, India's archrival, and China might be tempted to keep pace with India's activities. Second, Washington wanted to stick strictly to the principles underlying the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT): parties to the treaty could engage in peaceful nuclear commerce; states that stood outside the NPT regime, such as India, could not. U.S. policymakers feared that compromising these principles might both give states with nuclear aspirations reason to think they could get around the NPT if they waited long enough and dishearten those other states that loyally supported the treaty against proliferators.

A stance, however, is not a policy. And eliminating India's arsenal became an increasingly unrealistic stance when Pakistan went nuclear in the 1980s -- and then became a fantasy in 1998, when India tested five bombs underground and openly declared itself a nuclear power. After India's tests, the Clinton administration sought to nudge New Delhi in directions that would limit counteractions by China and Pakistan and above all prevent an Indo-Pakistani nuclear war. All the while Washington firmly maintained that U.S. recognition of India's nuclear status was a long way off. After the attacks of September 11, 2001, which prompted Washington to take a fresh look at U.S. policies in South Asia, the Bush administration first reached out to Pakistan to secure its help against Islamist terrorists.

But then it also turned toward New Delhi, and in the summer of 2005 finally granted India de facto nuclear recognition. In a stroke, Washington thereby invited India to join the ranks of China, France, Russia, the United States, and the United Kingdom -- the victors of World War II -- as a legitimate wielder of the influence that nuclear weapons confer. When, earlier this year, the Bush administration negotiated the specific terms of its nuclear arrangement with New Delhi, Washington abandoned, against the advice of nonproliferation specialists, any efforts to condition the deal on constraints that would keep India from further increasing its nuclear arsenal.

Under the terms of the deal, the United States commits to behave, and urge other states to behave, as if India were a nuclear weapons state under the NPT, even though India has not signed the treaty and will not be required to do so. (Even if the Bush administration had wished to make India a de jure nuclear weapons state under the NPT, such a change probably would not have been possible, as it would have required unanimous approval by all 188 parties to the treaty.) Washington has also undertaken to stop denying civil nuclear technology to India and has determined to require India to apply the safeguards of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) only to nuclear facilities it designates as being for purely civil purposes. India is now also authorized to import uranium, the lack of which had long stalled the progress of its nuclear program.

Nuclear recognition will bring enormous political benefits to the Indian government. Naturally, the deal is popular with domestic constituencies, which were already well disposed toward the United States. (In 2005, a poll by the Pew Research Center found that 71 percent of Indian respondents had a favorable view of the United States -- the highest percentage among the 15 leading nations polled.) Singh supporters in the National Congress Party have downplayed the importance of the few obligations that India has undertaken, such as the commitment to voluntarily subject some of its nuclear facilities to inspections, a routine practice in all the other recognized nuclear states, including the United States. Criticism from the opposition BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) has been narrow and technical -- and it probably reflects the BJP's chagrin that the agreement was secured while the National Congress Party was in power. Although some members of the marginal Left Front parties have criticized the terms of the deal, their complaints have smacked of antiquated NAM politics, and the detractors are unlikely to be able to block the deal's approval by the Indian Parliament. Barring the imposition of new conditions by the U.S. Congress, the deal is thus likely to sail through the legislature in India.

American critics of the deal contend that India's past behavior does not warrant this free pass. They argue that Washington should at least ask India to stop making fissile material for bombs, as the NPT's acknowledged nuclear powers have already done, rather than wait for the proposed fissile Material Cutoff Treaty to come into existence. Others contend that India should be required to place more nuclear facilities under IAEA safeguards, to prevent any diversion of fissile materials from its nuclear power program to its nuclear weapons program. Still others want India to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty rather than be allowed merely to abide by a unilateral moratorium on further underground testing, as it has done since 1998.

The Indian government, backed by Indian public opinion, has resisted all attempts to impose such technical constraints on its nuclear arsenal. So far, the U.S. government has effectively supported New Delhi's position by insisting that the India deal is not an arms control treaty but a broader strategic agreement. The Bush administration has described the nuclear issue as the "basic irritant" in U.S.-Indian relations and has argued that once the issue is out of the way, India will become a responsible stakeholder in the nonproliferation regime, jettison its vestigial NAM posturing, take a more normal place in the diplomatic world -- and become a strategic partner of the United States. [...]

The real benefits of the India deal for Washington lie in the significant gains, especially in terms of security, that the broader strategic relationship could deliver down the road. For one thing, with New Delhi as an informal ally, Washington should expect to have India's help in curbing Iran's nuclear ambitions, even if India's assistance would risk compromising its friendly relations with Iran. There have been some promising signs. At meetings of the IAEA Board of Governors over the past year, India joined the United States and its European partners in finding that Iran had violated its NPT obligations and then in referring the matter to the un Security Council -- two welcome signs that India supports the international campaign to curb Iran's nuclear ambitions. Whether India actively cooperates with the United States against Iran or persists in offering rhetorical support for the spread of nuclear-fuel-cycle activities (uranium enrichment and plutonium reprocessing) will be the clearest test of whether nuclear recognition "brings India into the mainstream" of nonproliferation policy, as the Bush administration predicts will happen.

The United States will also want India's assistance in dealing with a range of dangerous contingencies involving Pakistan. Pakistan's stock of nuclear weapons, along with Russia's, is the focus of urgent concern about nuclear terrorism. Whatever version of the A. Q. Khan story one believes -- that the Pakistani government and military were unaware of Khan's activities or that they permitted them -- its moral is worrisome. It suggests that terrorists could buy or steal the materials (namely, plutonium or enriched uranium) necessary to building nuclear bombs from Pakistan thanks to diversion by radical elements in the Pakistani elite or if the Musharraf regime crumbles. And if an incident were to originate in Pakistan, the United States would want to respond in concert with as many regional players as possible, including India.

Such risks are still difficult for Washington and New Delhi to acknowledge publicly, however, as both governments try to maintain a delicately balanced relationship with Islamabad. The United States needs Pervez Musharraf's support to search for Osama bin Laden and other terrorists on Pakistani territory, prevent the radicalization of Pakistan's population, and stabilize Afghanistan; it can ill afford to be perceived as tilting too far toward India. The Indian government, for its part, also seems intent on improving its relations with Islamabad. But it is still reeling from the fallout of the bombings on the Indian Parliament last year, which have been attributed to Pakistani terrorists. And India, too, could be a victim of loose nukes in the event of disorder in Pakistan.

Down the road, the United States might also want India to serve as a counterweight to China. No one wishes to see China and the United States fall into a strategic contest, but no one can rule out the possibility of such a competition. The evolution of U.S.-Chinese relations will depend on the attitudes of China's younger generation and new leaders, on Chinese and U.S. policies, and on unpredictable events such as a possible crisis over Taiwan. For now, the United States and India are largely eager to improve trade with China and are careful not to antagonize it. But it is reasonable for them to want to hedge against any downturn in relations with China by improving their relations with each other. Neither government wishes to talk publicly, let alone take actions now, to advance this shared interest, but they very well might in the future.

The India deal could also bring the United States more direct benefits, militarily and economically. Washington expects the intensification of military-to-military contacts and hopes eventually to gain the cooperation of India in disaster-relief efforts, humanitarian interventions, peacekeeping missions, and postconflict reconstruction efforts, including even operations not mandated by or commanded by the United Nations, operations in which India has historically refused to participate. Judging from the evolution of the United States' security partnerships with states in Europe and Asia, the anticipation of such joint action could lead over time to joint military planning and exercises, the sharing of intelligence, and even joint military capabilities. U.S. military forces may also seek access to strategic locations through Indian territory and perhaps basing rights there. Ultimately, India could even provide U.S. forces with "over-the-horizon" bases for contingencies in the Middle East.

On the economic front, as India expands its civilian nuclear capacity and modernizes its military, the United States stands to gain preferential treatment for U.S. industries. The India deal theoretically creates economic opportunities in the construction of nuclear reactors and other power infrastructure in India. These should not be exaggerated, however. The United States would have to secure preferences at the expense of Russian and European competitors and would need to persuade India's scientific community to focus its nuclear power expansion on conventional reactors rather than on the type of exotic and expensive technologies (for example, fast-breeder reactors) it currently favors. India is also expected to increase the scale and sophistication of its military, in part by purchasing weapons systems from abroad. The United States can reasonably anticipate some preferential treatment for U.S. vendors. Early discussions have concerned the sale of f-16 and f-18 tactical aircraft and p-3c maritime surveillance aircraft.

In addition to the excellent piece on the Shi'a (below), this edition of Foreign Affairs has a series of good essays on India. This one is pretty amusing in the way it tries to argue both that the President gave away too much and that we stand to gain a tremendous amount from the new alliance.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:10 AM


When the Shiites Rise (Vali Nasr, July/August 2006, Foreign Affairs)

The war in Iraq has profoundly changed the Middle East, although not in the ways that Washington had anticipated. When the U.S. government toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003, it thought regime change would help bring democracy to Iraq and then to the rest of the region. The Bush administration thought of politics as the relationship between individuals and the state, and so it failed to recognize that people in the Middle East see politics also as the balance of power among communities. Rather than viewing the fall of Saddam as an occasion to create a liberal democracy, therefore, many Iraqis viewed it as an opportunity to redress injustices in the distribution of power among the country's major communities. By liberating and empowering Iraq's Shiite majority, the Bush administration helped launch a broad Shiite revival that will upset the sectarian balance in Iraq and the Middle East for years to come.

There is no such thing as pan-Shiism, or even a unified leadership for the community, but Shiites share a coherent religious view: since splitting off from the Sunnis in the seventh century over a disagreement about who the Prophet Muhammad's legitimate successors were, they have developed a distinct conception of Islamic laws and practices. And the sheer size of their population today makes them a potentially powerful constituency. Shiites account for about 90 percent of Iranians, some 70 percent of the people living in the Persian Gulf region, and approximately 50 percent of those in the arc from Lebanon to Pakistan -- some 140 million people in all. Many, long marginalized from power, are now clamoring for greater rights and more political influence. Recent events in Iraq have already mobilized the Shiites of Saudi Arabia (about 10 percent of the population); during the 2005 Saudi municipal elections, turnout in Shiite-dominated regions was twice as high as it was elsewhere. Hassan al-Saffar, the leader of the Saudi Shiites, encouraged them to vote by comparing Saudi Arabia to Iraq and implying that Saudi Shiites too stood to benefit from participating. The mantra "one man, one vote," which galvanized Shiites in Iraq, is resonating elsewhere. The Shiites of Lebanon (who amount to about 45 percent of the country's population) have touted the formula, as have the Shiites in Bahrain (who represent about 75 percent of the population there), who will cast their ballots in parliamentary elections in the fall.

Iraq's liberation has also generated new cultural, economic, and political ties among Shiite communities across the Middle East. Since 2003, hundreds of thousands of pilgrims, coming from countries ranging from Lebanon to Pakistan, have visited Najaf and other holy Shiite cities in Iraq, creating transnational networks of seminaries, mosques, and clerics that tie Iraq to every other Shiite community, including, most important, that of Iran. Pictures of Iran's supreme religious leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and the Lebanese cleric Muhammad Hussein Fadlallah (often referred to as Hezbollah's spiritual leader) are ubiquitous in Bahrain, for example, where open displays of Shiite piety have been on the rise and once-timid Shiite clerics now flaunt traditional robes and turbans. The Middle East that will emerge from the crucible of the Iraq war may not be more democratic, but it will definitely be more Shiite.

It may also be more fractious. Just as the Iraqi Shiites' rise to power has brought hope to Shiites throughout the Middle East, so has it bred anxiety among the region's Sunnis. De-Baathification, which removed significant obstacles to the Shiites' assumption of power in Iraq, is maligned as an important cause of the ongoing Sunni insurgency. The Sunni backlash has begun to spread far beyond Iraq's borders, from Syria to Pakistan, raising the specter of a broader struggle for power between the two groups that could threaten stability in the region. King Abdullah of Jordan has warned that a new "Shiite crescent" stretching from Beirut to Tehran might cut through the Sunni-dominated Middle East.

Stemming adversarial sectarian politics will require satisfying Shiite demands while placating Sunni anger and alleviating Sunni anxiety, in Iraq and throughout the region. This delicate balancing act will be central to Middle Eastern politics for the next decade. It will also redefine the region's relations with the United States. What the U.S. government sows in Iraq, it will reap in Bahrain, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and elsewhere in the Persian Gulf.

Yet the emerging Shiite revival need not be a source of concern for the United States, even though it has rattled some U.S. allies in the Middle East. In fact, it presents Washington with new opportunities to pursue its interests in the region. Building bridges with the region's Shiites could become the one clear achievement of Washington's tortured involvement in Iraq. Succeeding at that task, however, would mean engaging Iran, the country with the world's largest Shiite population and a growing regional power, which has a vast and intricate network of influence among the Shiites across the Middle East, most notably in Iraq. U.S.-Iranian relations today tend to center on nuclear issues and the militant rhetoric of Iran's leadership. But set against the backdrop of the war in Iraq, they also have direct implications for the political future of the Shiites and that of the Middle East itself. [...]

Just five years ago, Iran was still surrounded by a wall of hostile Sunni regimes: Iraq and Saudi Arabia to the west, Pakistan and Taliban-ruled Afghanistan to the east. Iranians have welcomed the collapse of the Sunni wall, and they see the rise of Shiites in the region as a safeguard against the return of aggressive Sunni-backed nationalism. They are particularly relieved by Saddam's demise, because Iraq had been a preoccupation of Iranian foreign policy for much of the five decades since the Iraqi monarchy fell to Arab nationalism in 1958. Baathist Iraq worried the shah and threatened the Islamic Republic. The Iran-Iraq War dominated the first decade of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's revolution, ravaged Iran's economy, and scarred Iranian society.

If there is an Iranian grand strategy in Iraq today, it is to ensure that Iraq does not reemerge as a threat and that the anti-Iranian Arab nationalism championed by Sunnis does not regain primacy. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and many leaders of the Revolutionary Guards, all veterans of the Iran-Iraq War, see the pacification of Iraq as the fulfillment of a strategic objective they missed during that conflict. Iranians also believe that a Shiite-run Iraq would be a source of security; they take it as an axiom that Shiite countries do not go to war with one another.

All this is small consolation for the Sunnis in the region, who remember the consequences of Iran's ideological aspirations in the 1980s -- and now worry about its new regional ambitions. A quarter century ago, Tehran supported Shiite parties, militias, and insurgencies in Bahrain, Iraq, Kuwait, Lebanon, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia. The Iranian Revolution combined Shiite identity with radical anti-Westernism, as reflected in the hostage crisis of 1979, the 1983 bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut, and Tehran's continued support for international terrorism. In the end, the Iranian Revolution fell short of its goals, and except for in Lebanon, the Shiite resurgence that it inspired came to naught.

Some say the Islamic Republic is now a tired dictatorship. Others, however, worry about the resurgence of Iran's regional ambitions, fueled this time not by ideology but by nationalism. Tehran sees itself as a regional power and the center of a Persian and Shiite zone of influence stretching from Mesopotamia to Central Asia. Freed from the menace of the Taliban in Afghanistan and of Saddam in Iraq, Iran is riding the crest of the wave of Shiite revival, aggressively pursuing nuclear power and demanding international recognition of its interests.

Leaders in Tehran who want to create a greater zone of Iranian influence -- something akin to Russia's concept of "the near abroad" -- view Tehran's activities in southern Iraq as a manifestation of Iran's great-power status. Yet none of them holds on to Khomeini's dream of ruling over Iraq's Shiites. Rather, Tehran's goal in southern Iraq is to exert the type of economic, cultural, and political influence it has wielded in western Afghanistan since the 1990s. Although Tehran clearly expects to play a major role in Iraq, it may not aim -- or be able -- to turn the country into another Islamic republic. [...]

Iran's aspirations leave Washington and Tehran in a complicated, testy face-off. After all, Iran has benefited greatly from U.S.-led regime changes in Kabul and Baghdad. But Washington could hamper the consolidation of Tehran's influence in both Afghanistan and Iraq, and the U.S. military's presence in the region threatens the Islamic Republic. In Iraq especially, the two governments' short-term goals seem to be at odds: whereas Washington wants out of the mess, Tehran is not unhappy to see U.S. forces mired there.

So far, Tehran has favored a policy of controlled chaos in Iraq, as a way to keep the U.S. government bogged down and so dampen its enthusiasm for seeking regime change in Iran. This strategy makes the current situation in Iraq very different from that in Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban in late 2001, when Iran worked with the United States to cobble together the government of Hamid Karzai. Tehran cooperated with Washington at the time largely because it needed to: its Persian-speaking and Shiite clients in Afghanistan made up only a minority of the population and were in no position to protect Iran's interests. Tehran's calculus in the aftermath of the Iraq war has been different. Not only do Iran's immediate interests not align with those of the United States, but Tehran's position in Iraq is stronger than it was in Afghanistan thanks to the majority status of Shiites in Iraq. Seeing the Bush doctrine proved wrong in Iraq would be an indirect way for Iran's leaders to discredit Washington's calls for regime change in Tehran. Their recent willingness to escalate tensions with Washington over Iran's nuclear activities suggests that they believe they have largely succeeded in this goal; Iran is now stronger relative to the United States than it was on the eve of the Iraq war.

And yet, in the longer term, U.S. and Iranian interests in Iraq may well converge. Both Washington and Tehran want lasting stability there: Washington, because it wants a reason to bail out; Tehran, because stability in its backyard would secure its position at home and its influence throughout the region. Iran has much to fear from a civil war in Iraq. The fighting could polarize the region and suck in Tehran, as well as spill over into the Arab, Baluchi, and Kurdish regions of Iran, where ethnic tensions have been rising. As former Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Maleki has put it, chaos in Iraq "does not help Iranian national interest. If your neighbor's house is on fire, it means your home is also in danger." Clearly wary, Tehran has braced itself for greater troubles by appointing a majority of its provincial governors from the ranks of its security officials and Revolutionary Guard commanders.

Two groups within Iran could help convince the Iranian leadership that cooperation with Washington is in its interest. The first are Iraqi refugees, who act as a lobby for Iraqi Shiite interests in Tehran. They have encouraged Iran to pursue talks with the United States over Iraq, partly because they view Washington and Tehran as the twin pillars of their power in Iraq. The escalation of tensions between the two governments would not serve the interests of Iraqi Shiites, and that lobby does not want to see Iraq become hostage to the international standoff over Iran's nuclear program. The second important constituency is made up of the many Iranians who are greatly concerned about the sanctity of Iraq's shrine cities. Every major bombing in Najaf and Karbala so far has claimed Iranian lives. The Iranian public expects Tehran to ensure the security of those cities; its influence has already provided Khamenei with a pretext for publicly endorsing direct talks with Washington over Iraq.

Still, Iran will actively seek stability in Iraq only when it no longer benefits from controlled chaos there, that is, when it no longer feels threatened by the United States' presence. Iran's long-term interests in Iraq are not inherently at odds with those of the United States; it is current U.S. policy toward Iran that has set the countries' respective Iraq policies on a collision course. Thus a key challenge for Washington in Iraq is to recalibrate its overall stance toward Iran and engage Tehran in helping to address Iraq's most pressing problems.

President Bush's actions in the WoT have generally reflected a recognition that it is the Shi'a who are our allies in the region, but his rhetoric hasn't matched up, leaving open the question of whether he truly understands the effects of his own policies and the strategy we ought to be pursuing.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:06 AM

TWO SEEMS AMPLE (via Kevin Whited):

Iraqis dismiss split, approve of al-Maliki (David R. Sands, July 19, 2006, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

Iraqis overwhelmingly reject a breakup of their country along religious or ethnic lines and see some hope for progress with the formation of the new unity government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, according to a nationwide poll being released today.

The mid-June survey of nearly 3,000 Iraqis, conducted for the Washington-based International Republican Institute (IRI), found that 78 percent of Iraqis either disagree or "strongly disagree" with the idea of segregating the country by religious or ethnic sect.

Large majorities in both Sunni and Shi'ite Arab regions of the country rejected the idea, while reaction was more mixed in the Kurdish-dominated north.

About 55 percent of Iraqis approved of the job Mr. al-Maliki had done in his first month, compared with 20 percent who disapproved and an additional 25 percent who had no opinion or declined to answer.

The real question is why the Shi'a should give the Sunni a region of their own.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:01 AM


Scopes Guilty, Fined $100, Scores Law (The New York Times, July 21, 1925)
The trial of John Thomas Scopes for teaching evolution in Tennessee, which Clarence Darrow characterized today as "the first case of its kind since we stopped trying people for witchcraft," is over. Mr. Scopes was found guilty and fined $100, and his counsel will appeal to the Supreme Court of Tennessee for reversal of the verdict. [...]

Dr. John R. Neal of the defense spoke, and then Mr. Bryan rose again and said the people would decide this issue.

"I don't know that there is any special reason why I should add to what has been said, and yet the subject has been presented from so many viewpoints that I hope the Court will pardon me if I mention a viewpoint that has not been referred to," he said. "Dayton is the centre and seat of this trial largely by circumstance. We are told that more words have been sent across the ocean by cable to Europe and Australia about this trial than has ever been sent by cable in regard to anything else doing in the United States. That isn't because the trial is held in Dayton. It isn't because a school teacher has been subjected to the danger of a fine of from $100 to $500, but I think it illustrates how people can be drawn into prominence by attaching themselves to a great cause.

"Causes stir the world, and this cause has stirred the world. It is because it goes deep. It is because it extends wide and because it reaches into the future beyond the power of man to see. Here has been fought out a little case of little consequence as a case, but the world is interested because it raises an issue, and that issue will some day be settled right, whether it is settled on our side or the other side. It is going to be settled right. There can be no settlement of a great cause without discussion, and people will not discuss a cause until their attention is drawn to it, and the value of this trial is not in any incident of the trial, it is not because of anybody who is attached to it, either in any official way or as counsel on either side.

"Human beings are mighty small, your Honor. We are apt to minify the personal element and we sometimes become inflated with our importance, but the world little cares for man as an individual. He is born, he works, he dies, but causes go on forever, and we who have participated in this case may congratulate ourselves that we have attached ourselves to a mighty issue.

"Now, if I were to attempt to define that issue I might find objection from the other side. Their definition of the issue might not be as mine is, and therefore, I will not take advantage of the privilege the Court gives me this morning to make a statement that might be controversial, and nothing that I would say would determine it.

"I have no power to define this issue finally and authoritatively. None of the counsel on our side has this power, and none of the consul on the other side has this power. Even this honorable Court has no such power. The people will determine this issue. They will take sides upon this issue, they will state the questions involved in this issue, they will examine the information -- not so much that which has been brought out here, but this case will stimulate investigation an divestigation will bring out information, and the facts will be known, and upon the facts as ascertained the decision will be rendered, and I think my friends and your Honor, that if we are actuated by the spirit that should actuate every one of us, no matter what our views may be, we ought not only desire but pray that that which is right will prevail, whether it be our way or somebody else's."

His words brought a last retort from Mr. Darrow. He thanked Dayton for its hospitality and courtesy and liberality and thanked the Court for not sending him to jail, which aroused laughter.

"Of course there is much that Mr. Bryan has said that is true," he continued. "And nature- nature. I refer to- does not choose any special setting for mere events. I fancy that the place where the Magna Charta was wrested from the barons in England was a very small place, probably not as big as Dayton. But events come along as they come along.

"I think this case will be remembered because it is the first case of this sort since we stopped trying people in America for witchcraft, because here"- and he thundered out the last words- "we have done our best to turn back the tide that has sought to force itself upon the modern world of testing every fact in science by a religious dictum. That is all I care to say."

The contrast between Mr. Bryant's humility and Mr. Darrow's self-importance pretty much says it all.

"THE MONKEY TRIAL": A Reporter's Account (H. L. Mencken)

July 20, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:23 PM


Corruption Issue Comes to Fore (Jim VandeHei, 7/20/06, Washington Post)

Three months from the election, the political scandals in Washington are not resonating broadly as a major issue in a campaign dominated by Iraq and high gasoline prices. A series of public polls show corruption ranks near the bottom when voters are asked about the most important issues in this campaign. In a Washington Post-ABC News poll taken in May, 2 percent of voters listed ethics and corruption as their top concern.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:34 PM


Euthyphro's Dilemma: Plato's challenge concerning the nature of goodness is still being heard today: Is an act right because God says it's so, or does God say it's so because it's right? (Gregory Koukl, Stands to Reason)

Plato's famous dilemma concerning the nature of goodness is still being raised today as a serious challenge to Christianity. Is an act right because God says it's so, or does God say it's so because it's right? The question first surfaces in Plato's dialog Euthyphro.

The Challenge

In Plato's dialogue between Socrates and Euthyphro, Socrates is attempting to understand the essence of piety and holiness:

Socrates: And what do you say of piety, Euthyphro? Is not piety, according to your definition, loved by all the gods?

Euthyphro: Certainly.

Socrates: Because it is pious or holy, or for some other reason?

Euthyphro: No, that is the reason.

Socrates: It is loved because it is holy, not holy because it is loved?

The dilemma Euthyphro faced is this: Is a thing good simply because the gods say it is? Or do the gods say a thing is good because of some other quality it has? If so, what is that quality? The problem stumped Euthyphro. [...]

Plato's challenge forces us to consider an important detail in any discussion on the nature of morality: grounding.

The word "ground" originally meant "the lowest part, base, or bottom of anything."

In philosophy it refers to the foundation or logical basis of a claim. Euthyphro's task was to identify the logical grounding of piety or virtue. What base does morality "stand on"?

Frank Beckwith and I chose a title for our book on relativism that paints a word picture: Relativism: Feet Firmly Planted in Mid-Air. Our point: Relativists who make any claim to knowledge have no basis for their assertion. They are standing not on solid ground, but on thin air.

A law is only as legitimate as the authority upon which it rests. The U.S. government can't pass laws governing Canadians. Our federal laws apply only to the people of this country. Individuals can't make up laws that apply to their neighbors. They don't have that authority.

The founders of our country argued that even governments are subject to a higher law. Certain truths are transcendent, they argued, grounded not in human institutions but in God Himself. This appeal to higher Law was their rational justification for the morality of the American Revolution.

The problem of grounding morality is a difficult one for atheists who claim one can have ethics without God. Certainly, an atheist can act in a manner some people consider "moral," but it's hard to know what the term ultimately refers to. It generally means to comply with an objective standard of good, a Law given by legitimate authority. However, without a transcendent Lawmaker (God), there can be no transcendent Law, and no corresponding obligation to be good. [...]

The general strategy used to defeat a dilemma is to show that it's a false one. There are not two options, but three.

The Christian rejects the first option, that morality is an arbitrary function of God's power. And he rejects the second option, that God is responsible to a higher law. There is no Law over God.

The third option is that an objective standard exists (this avoids the first horn of the dilemma). However, the standard is not external to God, but internal (avoiding the second horn). Morality is grounded in the immutable character of God, who is perfectly good. His commands are not whims, but rooted in His holiness.

Could God simply decree that torturing babies was moral? "No," the Christian answers, "God would never do that." It's not a matter of command. It's a matter of character.

So the Christian answer avoids the dilemma entirely. [...]

Even the atheist understands what moral terms mean. He doesn't need God in order to recognize morality. He needs God to make sense of what he recognizes.

This is precisely why the moral argument for God's existence is such a good one. The awareness of morality leads to God much as the awareness of falling apples leads to gravity. Our moral intuitions recognize the effect, but what is the adequate cause? If God does not exist, then moral terms are actually incoherent and our moral intuitions are nonsense.

This "dilemma" is to the atheist as the peppered moth hoax is to Darwinists.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:58 PM


Without fix, Airbus may turn into afterthought (Andrea Rothman, 7/05/06, Bloomberg News)

Buffeted by delays in the A380 superjumbo jet that triggered the ouster of senior management this week, Airbus faces the growing risk of losing its position as one of the world's two dominant aircraft makers. [...]

Without a plane in this category, Toulouse, France-based Airbus would cede a market worth an estimated $450 billion over the next 20 years to Boeing.

"Airbus is at risk of becoming a marginal, niche manufacturer in a couple of years unless they act now," says Richard Aboulafia, vice president of Teal Group, a Fairfax, Va.-based consulting firm.

Is there really much of a niche for airplanes made by dying countries?

Boeing takes lead as Airbus order book nosedives (David Robertson, 7/05/06, Times of London)

AIRBUS will confirm tomorrow that it has lost the lead in aircraft orders to its rival Boeing after five years of dominance, The Times has learnt.

The beleaguered jet builder will collate its half-year order book at a sales meeting in Toulouse tomorrow and a yawning gap between the two companies will become apparent.

Airbus has definitive orders for 145 to 150 aircraft so far this year. In May it had 105 orders. Boeing has three times as many with 445 (358 in May).

There was no pig in the poke.

Posted by Pepys at 4:34 PM


The Era of Hostage States (Arnold Kling, 19, July 2006, TCS)

It is safe to assume that most Lebanese do not like what is happening to their country now. But up until recently, the Lebanese government seemed to have no objection to Hezbollah's weapons arsenal and control over territory. Based on the actions of their elected government, one might infer that the Lebanese people were quite willing to tolerate a heavily armed, radical independent militia in their country. Perhaps the Lebanese would say that they only did so out of fear. To the extent that is the case, then perhaps the Lebanese have been hostages of Hezbollah for a long time...

Perhaps this is the way to fight stateless terror. Declare every state that tolerates them a "hostage" and come to the rescue. Then again, there are no bad reasons to kill terrorists.

Posted by Pepys at 4:08 PM


Gateway to Nowhere? The evidence that pot doesn't lead to heroin. (Ryan Grim, 19 July 2006, Slate)

Earlier this month, professor Yasmin Hurd of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine released a study showing that rats exposed to the main ingredient in marijuana during their adolescence showed a greater sensitivity to heroin as adults. The wire lit up with articles announcing confirmation for the "gateway theory"—the claim that marijuana use leads to harder drugs...
On close inspection, Hurd's research, published in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology, doesn't show otherwise. For the most part, it's a blow to the gateway theory. To be sure, Hurd found that rats who got high on pot as adolescents used more heroin once they were addicted. But she found no evidence that they were more likely to become addicted than the rats in the control group who'd never been exposed to delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, marijuana's main ingredient...
Extrapolate the study to human behavior, Hurd says, and it suggests that teenagers who smoke pot are no more likely than other kids to become addicted to heroin. (Her study doesn't speak to whether they'd be more likely to try the drug.)...

Give him a few more years of this and he'll ditch the old self-incriminating parenthetical statement thing.

Posted by Pepys at 3:25 PM


The Tribal Way of War Forget Clausewitz: Nations now fight clans driven by pride, vengeance and martial religiosity.(Robert D. Kaplan, 19 July 2006, Wall Street Journal)

While the U.S. spends billions of dollars on sophisticated defense systems, the dime-a-dozen kidnapper and suicide bomber have emerged as the most strategic weapons of war. While we tie ourselves in legal knots over war's acceptable parameters, international law has increasingly less bearing on those whom we fight. And while our commanders declare "force protection" as their highest priority, enemy commanders declare the need for more martyrs. It seems that the more advanced we become, the more at a disadvantage we are in the 21st-century battlefield...
There is no better example of how traditional warrior cultures hold fast in the face of globalization than Chechnya, where cowardice is among the worst of transgressions and a dagger the most prized material item. There is in Chechnya, too, as the authors note, the Sufi proclivity for asceticism and mysticism: the former providing the mental discipline for overcoming physical hardships and the latter for sustaining morale. Furthermore, the Chechens' decentralized, clan-based structure--and their tradition of raiding--help to determine their guerrilla style, which has resulted in lethal hit-and-run tactics by small units on large, conventional Russian forces in the "urban canyons" of Grozny...

That's my dream. That's my nightmare. Crawling, slithering, along the edge of a straight razor, and surviving.

Posted by Stephen Judd at 11:30 AM


OJ is moderating a panel at 11:30 Eastern this morning at the Heritage Foundation. To watch, go to http://www.heritage.org/Press/Events/index.cfm, and click on Watch Live under the Redefining Sovereignty event. The panelists are Paul Driessen, Ramesh Ponnuru, and Jeremy Rabkin.

Update (7/20/2006, 2:00PM): You can view the archived talk or listen to the MP3 here: http://www.heritage.org/Press/Events/ev072006a.cfm

July 19, 2006

Posted by Pepys at 11:30 PM


Strange Bedfellows: What's behind the enduring alliance between Syria and Iran? (Daniel Byman, 19 July, 2006)

The Middle East is home to many unusual alliances, but one of the oddest is the enduring partnership between Syria and Iran. Syria portrays itself as a champion of secular Arab nationalism, although in practice it is a minority-dominated military dictatorship. Iran, in contrast, rides under the banner of revolutionary Islam, although as a Persian country, it is often at odds with the Arab world, particularly since the vast majority of Iranians are Shiites, while most Arabs are Sunnis...
But geopolitics has brought Iran and Syria together despite these many differences. In a strategic partnership that would have made Metternich proud, the two nations banded together against Saddam's Iraq, which both saw as an immediate threat to their security. Israel, too, provided a common foe. Iran's revolutionary ideology saw Israel as anathema; Syria also opposed the Jewish state, especially after its humiliating defeat in the 1967 war, since when it has strived to regain the Golan Heights. The United States is hostile to both regimes, producing further incentive to cooperate. Both countries worry that the chaos in Iraq will creep across their borders, but they're also keen for the United States to suffer a bloody nose to dampen its enthusiasm for regime change. Finally, both nations have few allies, making the other's support especially valuable.

The last sentence is the truth. They're allies because they've go their backs against the same wall.

Posted by Pepys at 11:08 PM


Presidential Power on Steroids: Courtesy of Sen. Specter's eavesdropping bill. (Patrick Radden Keefe, 19 July 2006, Slate)

So, to sum up this civic morass: In 1978 Congress passed a sweeping law limiting the power of the president to spy on the American people. A quarter-century later, Bush administration lawyers concluded that this law was unconstitutional. Rather than challenge its constitutionality in the courts, they elected to violate it in secret. And now, in the name of oversight, the chair of the Senate Judiciary committee is proposing to bypass any rigorous judicial assessment of the president's constitutional prerogatives and instead to endorse the administration's position—a position, incidentally, that the Supreme Court rejected just weeks ago in another context. The bill amounts to the repeal-by-amendment of FISA.

The Left has become so accustomed to rule by judicial fiat that they can no longer conceive of an issue on which the Supreme Court does not have final say.

Posted by pjaminet at 10:48 PM


Iranian President Ahmadinejad: Day of happiness for region near (YNetNews, July 18, 2006)

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Tuesday, “The day of happiness for the region is near… The world is on the verge of great changes,” according to the Iranian news agency.

To those who have been following Ahmadinejad's statements to the Iranian people, the "day of happiness" is obviously the coming of the Twelfth Imam, or Mahdi -- the hidden Imam who is supposed to usher in the reign of Allah and conversion of the whole world to Islam. The premise of Khomeinism (and Ahmadinejadism) is that the coming of the Mahdi can be hastened through terrorism and warfare by Muslims.

What's interesting to me is that in recent months, Iran has openly attacked the United States and our allies in Iraq and Israel. Hezbollah's attack on Israel has included cruise missiles based on the Chinese Silkworm that were obviously provided by Iran; Revolutionary Guard forces have been observed fighting with Hezbollah; and Iran has flagrantly orchestrated attacks in Iraq by Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army and jihadist groups on democrats both Sunni and Shi'a as well as Americans. Iran is not hiding its effort to provoke war. Such openness doesn't make sense as a diplomatic strategy or as a warfare-by-terrorism strategy, both of which benefit from secrecy and try to inflict damage without provoking a strong response. But openness may make theological sense as a prerequisite for drawing the Mahdi.

I find that Omar at Iraq the Model has the same concern: Just new banners, or war drums? (Iraq the Model, July 19)

A few days ago we mentioned that we tend to believe that this ongoing war in -- geographically -- Lebanon is not only about Hizbollah and Israel; that it is probably the first stage of a wider regional conflict that is going to extend far beyond the borders of Lebanon and Israel....

What we must realize here is the involvement of the theological (mythological) element in this particular conflict which is also the reason why this conflict has the potential to expand into full-scale regional war....

[T]his time there's a totally different theological belief that is being used by Iran to provoke and direct this war; I think the best way to say it is that we are about to see Iran launch the mullahs' version of an 'Armageddon'.
I know this may sound absurd and maybe some of you are thinking no one could possibly be thinking that way but remember, I am telling you what extremist theocrats seem to be planning for and logic has very little space in the mullahs' way of thinking....

I know about those of the regime in Iran and its arm in Iraq; both Ahmedinejad and Sadr are devout believers in the 'Savior Imam' of Shia Islam who is the 12th grandson of prophet Mohammed, also known by the name 'Imam Mehdi' hence the name of Sadr's militias 'the Mehdi Army'....

Both Ahmedinejad and Sadr believe it is their duty to pave the way and prepare the ground for the rise of the Imam whose rise, according to their branch of Shia Islam, requires certain conditions and a sequence of certain events....

We are seeing some signs here that make us think that Iran and its tools in Iraq are trying to provoke the rise of the imam through forcing the signs they believe should be associated with that rise. One of the things that do not feel right is the sudden appearance of new banners and writings on the walls carrying religious messages talking specifically of imam Mehdi....

The interesting part is that these banners appeared within less than 24 hours after Hizbollah kidnapped the Israeli soldiers. Coincidence? I don't think so.

I believe that Iran has had nuclear weapons for several years, obtaining some from North Korea at about the time of the Iraq invasion in 2003 and completing its own assembly line since. They certainly have the capability to wage a very deadly war. Perhaps they believe that nuclear weapons are what the Mahdi has been waiting for.

The sensible thing for Iran to do would be to draw back from war, but they haven't been sensible for some time now. Any bets on where this goes next? Does Iran back down, or raise the stakes?

Posted by Pepys at 4:55 PM


A proud imperial defeatist (Michael T Klare, 19 July 2006, Asia Times)

Recently, I was accused by a writer for the ultra-right Washington Times of being a "defeatist" when it comes to America's expansionist military policy abroad. The giveaway, it seems, is that I penned a book for the American Empire Project - a series of critical volumes published by Metropolitan Books. Contributors to the series, the article claimed, want "a retreat from Iraq to be the prelude to a larger collapse of American pre-eminence worldwide". My initial response on reading this was to insist - like so many anxious liberals - that no, I am not opposed to US pre-eminence in the world, only to continued US involvement in Iraq. But then, considering the charge some more, I thought, well, yes, I am in favor of abandoning the US imperial role worldwide. The United States, I'm convinced, would be a whole lot better off - and its military personnel a whole lot safer - if we repudiated the global dominance project of the Bush administration and its neo-conservative boosters...
Why, then, is the US squandering so many lives and so much treasure in a desperate effort to hold on in Iraq? Only one answer makes any sense from a Washington policymaker's point of view: to remain the dominant military power in the Persian Gulf region and thereby control the global flow of oil. This is the only interpretation that fits with the Pentagon's admission that it plans to retain at least some bases in Iraq indefinitely, no matter what sort of future government emerges in Baghdad (or whether such a government approves of a US presence).
The striking expansion of the US military presence in Central Asia, Southwest Asia and Africa in recent months reveals a similar geopolitical impulse. All of these areas are becoming increasingly important to the United States as sources of oil and natural gas, and in none of them can it be said the US is setting up bases to serve as beacons for the further advance of freedom and democracy, not given the nature of most of the governments the US supports in those places. Because many of America's leading energy suppliers in these regions are subject to internal unrest and ethnic conflict - a reaction, in most cases, to despotic regimes that remain in power with Washington's blessing - the United States is becoming ever more deeply involved in their defense, whether through the delivery of arms and military aid (as in Angola, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Nigeria) or via a direct US military presence (as in Iraq, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates).

It's a strange sensation to agree on the facts yet disagree completely on the conclusion.

Posted by Pepys at 2:51 PM


Four in 10 Republicans Would Not Find McCain an "Acceptable" Nominee (Jeffrey Jones, 19 July 2006, The Gallup News Service)

A recent Gallup Panel poll asked Republicans and Democrats whether they would find each of several possible contenders for their party's 2008 presidential nomination to be "acceptable" nominees. Unlike other nomination ballot questions that measure respondents' first choice from among a list of possible candidates, this question paints a broader picture of the level of potential support and opposition for each candidate...
Hillary Clinton is the clear front-runner among Democrats when voters are asked to choose which one candidate they would prefer for the Democratic nomination for president, but the current poll finds Democrats are about equally likely to rate Clinton, John Edwards, and Al Gore as acceptable nominees. Rudy Giuliani and Sen. John McCain typically vie for the lead in Republican preference polls, but a greater percentage of Republicans say they would find Giuliani acceptable than say this about McCain (73% to 55%). Four in 10 Republicans say they would not find McCain to be an acceptable GOP presidential nominee. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is also widely considered by Republicans to be an acceptable nominee...

The thing is, as good as this looks for Rudy in the primaries, he does even better among independents and Democrats.

Posted by David Cohen at 9:43 AM


Political blogs: Are they dead? (Mary Carey, Daily Hampshire Gazette, 7/19/06)

IS the heyday of the political blog already past?

Joe Trippi, the savvy online political organizer for former presidential candidate Howard Dean, says the relevance of the Weblogs might be fading.

Skeptics say the discussions at the online forums inevitably tend to devolve into less-than-enlightened shoutfests. For an example, they point to a recent debate at the Daily Kos, the country's most influential left-leaning blog. Over 1,000 posters piled on to an exchange about whether the Kos had become a cult of personality.

Kos posters complained about 'trolls,' and 'troll ratings.'

The former, for the uninitiated, is 'someone who comes into an established community ... and posts inflammatory, rude, repetitive or offensive messages designed intentionally to annoy and antagonize the existing members or disrupt the flow of discussion, including the personal attack of calling others trolls,' according to the online encyclopedia Wikipedia.

Asking whether political blogs are dead is kind of silly. If the question is whether political blogs have lost their influence, the answer is that they never had much influence. The on-line population is too different from the real world population. Try to imagine people voting based upon a blog's endorsement; once you get past Kos, it's almost impossible -- and Kos always loses.

Kos is an outlier. Kos (and DU and, for all I know, Free Republic) are Cass Sunstein's nightmare of self-selecting ideological segregation come to life. These sites are obsessed with the party line and punish the smallest deviation. A commenter who dares to suggest, on DU, that maybe the 2004 election wasn't stolen is dismissed as a Freeper. On Kos, he's made invisible. But these sites are not, in the BrothersJudd sense, blogs.

What a political blog can do is facilitate conversation between those who inhabit a more narrow ideological spectrum. Right libertarians can talk to theocons who can talk to neocons. Sometimes, Darwinists can talk to aDarwinists who can talk to anti-Darwinists. But for this discourse to work, there must be limits. For example, no one can talk to those who are anti-car.

This is a long way 'round to, once again, thanking the commenters for making Brothers Judd blog such a congenial place from which to stand athwart the information superhighway of history, yelling "stop."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:17 AM


Floyd Landis: The next great U.S. cycling hero? (Andrew Vontz, 7/18/06, FOXSports.com)

The ancient Greeks had some odd habits, but many of their life lessons continue to resonate today. Take, for example, the concept of pathos-mathos, or wisdom through suffering. The Greeks were a real lemons-into-lemonade bunch and believed that adversity existed so that humans could learn from it and push themselves to a higher state of consciousness and achievement.

American Floyd Landis, the current leader of the Tour de France, is clearly not an ancient Greek, but he does have a busted right hip in need of replacement pronto. During the Tour's first rest day, Landis let the world know that for the past two years he has suffered from a condition known as osteonecrosis. The degenerative condition has crumbled the ball of his hip joint so that it no longer fits neatly into the socket, and if that weren't bad enough, arthritis has set in.

The bum hip must be replaced, but Landis has elected to continue racing because there is no medical precedent for a Tour-caliber cyclist returning to racing and staying competitive following hip replacement. The 2006 Tour may well be his last ride and in the event that it is, he's headed for retirement flat out like Thelma and Louise flooring it toward the canyon.

The condition virtually cripples Landis off the bike, but since cycling is not a weight-bearing activity and doesn't place as much strain on his hip as, say, walking or getting in and out of a car, he claims he's able to manage the pain while on the bike.

Isn't this the condition that Bo Jackson had?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:12 AM

BUCK 94:

O'Neil to play in minor league all-star game (AP, 7/18/06)

John Jordan "Buck" O'Neil never got a free pass in life.

The grandson of a man brought to this continent as a slave, O'Neil moved to Kansas City to avoid racial persecution in the Deep South and played baseball during an era of segregation.

It figures that on Tuesday night, when the 94-year-old steps into the batter's box during a minor league all-star game, nobody will quibble over an intentional walk.

Except maybe O'Neil.

"I just might take a swing at one," he said before Tuesday night's Northern League event. [...]

"I imagine the bat's a little heavier than that club I've been swinging," said O'Neil, who maintains he can still shoot his age in golf. "It's been a long time since I've picked up a bat."

July 18, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:36 PM


Nasrallah's terms of surrender will be hard to change (Zvi Bar'el, 7/19/06, Haaretz)

After all that has taken place so far in Lebanon, nothing has succeeded in altering the basic equation: Any diplomatic solution will have to pass through the Lebanese political grinder and gain Hezbollah's agreement. "Everything is up in the air" according to Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, including direct and indirect talks with Hezbollah, and therefore nothing has changed since before the outbreak of fighting

The question is not only what will stop Israel's onslaught but also what will the conditions be that will allow Hassan Nasrallah to nod approvingly. Mediators heard about what may work in a meeting with Nabih Berri, a "contact person" to Hezbollah, the speaker of Lebanon's parliament and head of Amal, another Shi'ite group. According to Berri, even if the United Nations decides to deploy a "significant" force to south Lebanon, it will need Nasrallah's approval, otherwise such a force will be involved in incessant fighting and Israel will continue to suffer missile attacks.

If Hezbollah will be asked to lay down its arms, Nasrallah will have to approve this since there is not a single political power in Lebanon on Tuesday that is capable of carrying out the group's disarmament. In fact, the idea of a disarmed Hezbollah is so far-fetched to senior Israel Defense Forces officers and Israeli politicians that they are willing to make do with a "significant weakening" of the group.

It's a shame to see Israel and America squander a perfect pretext for doing Assad.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:38 PM


Bush to address NAACP (Reuters, 7/18/06)

After rebuffing the NAACP for five years, President Bush will speak at the annual convention of the oldest U.S. civil rights organization for the first time since taking office because he sees "a moment of opportunity," the White House said Tuesday. [...]

[T]ies have warmed with current NAACP President Bruce Gordon. Bush expressed appreciation for Gordon's "strong leadership" during a tribute to civil rights leaders Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks in January.

Asked why the change of heart, White House spokesman Tony Snow replied: "He wants to because I think there's a moment of opportunity here. I think the president wants to make the argument that he has had a career that reflects a strong commitment to civil rights."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:36 PM


Pope backs G8 Middle East declaration (Ireland On-Line, 18/07/2006)

Pope Benedict XVI tonight lent his support to the G8 summit declaration on the Middle East, which blamed the militant groups Hamas and Hezbollah for the escalation in fighting and which urged Israel to exercise restraint.

“I fully agree with the G8 communique,” the Pope said when he returned to his Alpine holiday retreat after an excursion in the mountains.

Nice to have the Church in the Anglosphere.

Posted by Pepys at 8:44 PM


Stealing First: Dick Cheney as the next First Amendment poster child. (Akhil Reed Amar, 18 July 2006, Slate)

In an administration not known for its love of the Bill of Rights, Vice President Richard Cheney may soon find himself in a new role: defender of the First Amendment...
Along with several other current or former administration officials, Cheney is being sued by Valerie and Joseph Wilson, who claim that, in response to an anti-administration op-ed Mr. Wilson published in July 2003 in the New York Times, the defendants violated the Wilsons' constitutional rights by organizing a vicious whispering campaign against them. One result of this campaign was a newspaper column, authored by journalist Robert Novak, that outed Ms. Wilson (nee Valerie Plame) as a CIA operative...
Zenger defended freedom of expression, and Cheney should do likewise. In other words, Cheney should use this as a teaching moment, to explain how a proper understanding of First Amendment principles actually supports him and not the Wilsons, who have claimed that Cheney violated their free-expression rights. The result would be an elegant First Amendment jujitsu, using all the Wilsons' free-press momentum against them, to defeat their lawsuits.
Here is the key fact that Cheney should stress: Unlike Nixon, who fired a government whistle-blower, Cheney did not fire the Wilsons. He merely spoke out against them. True, he did so furtively, in what many might view as an underhanded whispering campaign. But the First Amendment protects a wide variety of speech and expression, encompassing the right to print, orate, and yes, to whisper—even to whisper anonymously and with petty or partisan motivation.
And to whom were Cheney and his fellow defendants whispering? To the press! This is the other key fact for the New Dick Cheney—the Zorro/Zenger Defender of the First Amendment. The Wilsons claim that they were being punished for speaking out against Cheney and the administration. But if the Wilsons have a right to criticize Cheney in the press, Cheney can claim that he has an equal right to criticize the Wilsons when talking to the press, whether on the record or off.
Hear that? That's the sound of hundreds of Con Law professors tearing their hair out and gnashing their teeth.

Posted by Pepys at 8:26 PM


The GOP: Drinking Itself Sober (Douglas Kern, 18 July 2006, TCS)

My handy Republican catechism tells me that The Three Deadly Republican Spending Rationalizations are:

1) "This program will be expensive, wasteful, and corrosive to the virtues that make a free society function, but it's popular, and we need it in order to keep the Republican majority."
2) "This program will be expensive, wasteful, and corrosive to the virtues that make a free society function, but it's necessary in the name of national security."
3) "This program will be expensive and wasteful, but it will actually improve the virtues that make a free society function, because it uses the power and affluence of a large central government to subsidize independence, self-discipline, decentralization, and the rejection of the welfare state mentality."

Numbers 1 and 3 sure sound familiar, don't they?

Posted by Pepys at 7:38 PM


Rural China: Too little, too late (Swati Lodh Kundu, 19 July 2006, Asia TImes)

Using the annual session of the National People's Congress (NPC) in March as its stage, the ruling Chinese Communist Party with much fanfare launched a package of rural policies with the expressed aim of building a "new socialist countryside"...
And why not? The top Chinese leadership is clearly alarmed by an upsurge in peasant protests unprecedented in China's post-1949 history. Last year, 87,000 "mass incidents" ripped across the country. Remote towns such as Huaxi, Taishi and Shanwei broke into the news and became symbols of China's "new rebellious countryside"...
After three decades of pro-capitalist reform, rural China faces a catastrophe: massive environmental degradation, falling living standards and a creeping takeover of villages by clans and gangsters. The income gap between urban and rural Chinese is officially 3:1, one of the largest disparities anywhere in the world. But Chinese Academy of Social Studies calculations put the difference at 7:1 when such factors as social services, health care and education are taken into account.

Economy grows 10.9% in first half (19 July 2006, Asia Times)

The Chinese economy surged 10.9% year-on-year in the first half of this year, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) revealed on Tuesday, roaring ahead despite a range of measures imposed by the government to ease investment growth...
The six-month growth was driven by 11.3% growth in the second quarter - the fastest pace in a decade...
China's macro-economy presents "obvious overheating of investment" in the first half of this year, Wang Xiaoguang, a macroeconomics professor at the economic research institute of the National Development and Reform Commission, told Xinhua.

And I won't be much when she get's through with me....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:16 PM


Beaten off the start (Scott Merkin, 7/16/06, MLB.com)

The clear-cut strong suit of the White Sox first World Series championship since 1917, not to mention their drive to repeat in 2006, suddenly has become the South Siders' Achilles' heel.

Entering Sunday's series finale at Yankee Stadium, White Sox starting pitchers owned a 7.44 ERA over their last six starts and 33 2/3 innings. They posted a combined 6.73 ERA in their last 17 trips to the mound, covering 99 innings.

Ozzie Guillen's staff ranks seventh in the American League with a 4.69 ERA, after finishing second in 2005 with a 3.75 ERA. Having pitched an extra month of baseball, and a very intense month, at that, obviously takes a toll on pitchers such as Mark Buehrle, Freddy Garcia, Jon Garland and Jose Contreras.

But even with Brandon McCarthy available out of the bullpen to spell a starter or two for a turn in the rotation, the White Sox manager sees no reason to make any sort of immediate alteration.

"We aren't going to skip anyone. I don't think we need it," Guillen said. "Five days, with a couple of days off, they know how to do it. We try to stay the same way and not move anyone up and down.

"If we need someone to get a rest, then we will do it," Guillen added.

Everyone knew when he successfully rode his starters so hard in the playoffs that, coming into this year with an even worse bullpen, Ozzie wouldn't be happy until he was whipping Barbaro.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:04 PM


Gotta love Tony Snow.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:46 PM


Saddam 'warns Syria against alliance with Iran' (DPA, Jul 18, 2006)

'The president told us that the Syrian leadership should not go too far in its alliance with Iran, because the Persians harbour bad intentions for all Arabs and aspire to see them vanquished,' [Iraqi lawyer Khalil Duleimi] said.

'The Israeli aggression on Lebanon and the Palestinians is a natural result for what happened to Iraq with Iranian backing,' Saddam reportedly said, alluding to the US-led invasion of Iraq that resulted in the ouster of his regime in April 2003.

'Therefore, I do not exclude other Arab countries becoming the victim of US-backed Israeli attacks that serve Iranian objectives in the region,' he added. [...]

'I am convinced that the Iranian and US agendas have met in Iraq and elsewhere in the Arab world and Arabs are now placed between the US-Israeli hammer and the Iranian anvil,' Duleimi quoted Saddam as saying.

Saddam understands these de facto alliances better than any of the commentators and analysts you'll read.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:28 PM


The Gumps of August (Spengler, 7/18/06, Asia Times)

Until now, history has given Americans a great dispensation to wander Gump-like through the disasters that befall other folk, with bemused curiosity about the filling of the next piece of chocolate in the box. It will be borne in upon Americans that the destiny of most peoples is tragic, and there is no predicting how Americans will react to the rude awakening out of their complacency.

Only a delusion of surpassing consolation could prompt the extremes of denial that Washington has evinced over the past year. If a stupider idea possessed statesmen than the proposition that democracy could thrive in Lebanon in the presence of an Iranian-controlled military organization more powerful than the Lebanese army, I do not know what it was. Bush believed that drawing Hezbollah into democracy would persuade them to abandon terrorism. In a March 16 press conference he said:

Our policy is this: We want there to be a thriving democracy in Lebanon. We believe that there will be a thriving democracy, but only if - but only if - Syria withdraws ... her troops completely out of Lebanon ... I like the idea of people running for office. There's a positive effect when you run for office. Maybe some will run for office and say, vote for me, I look forward to blowing up America. I don't know, I don't know if that will be their platform or not. But it's - I don't think so. I think people who generally run for office say, vote for me, I'm looking forward to fixing your potholes, or making sure you got bread on the table.

The whole matter was so preposterous that I framed it as a Gilbert and Sullivan spoof, The Jihadis of Penzance (March 22, 2005). Hezbollah fixed the potholes, all right, evidently digging the deeper ones out as missile silos. Syrian troops departed, but Hezbollah remains unassailable by that summer camp for six-month conscripts comically named the Lebanese army. By drawing Hezbollah into the Lebanese parliament, US diplomacy made the Shi'ite militia legitimate. Now it cannot be displaced without tearing apart Shi'ite communities in southern Lebanon, at enormous human cost. That is precisely what the Israelis will do when their ground offensive begins early this week; there is no other way but military to stop the missile attacks.

The problem, rather, is that there is no Lebanon. Hezbollah will be the dominant political party in the Shi'ite state that emerges in at least the southern portion of what was Lebanon and the quicker you help them realize their nationalist aspirations and force them to accept responsibility for their people the better. The emergence of the Shi'a Crescent is obviously in the best interests of Israel, both because the Shi'a are natural democrats and because tensions between Sunni and Shi'a will deflect attention from the jewish state.

Hezbollah and the art of the possible (Sami Moubayed, 7/18/06, Asia Times)

It would be only natural for the Saudis, who are historically at odds with Iran, and tactical allies of Saad al-Hariri, the current leader of Lebanon's Sunni community and a member of parliament, to oppose the adventurism of Nasrallah. Too much Saudi money and investment, from the days of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik al-Hariri, is at stake in Lebanon.

The Saudis are the traditional backers of the Sunni community that is led by the Hariri family, which wants a Westernized, economy-oriented country and not a hotbed for revolutionary warfare. They cannot afford to losing their influence in Lebanon and have it replaced by that of Iran - which is exactly what happens whenever Hezbollah gets the upper hand in Lebanese politics. [...]

Jerusalem is currently asking for the release of the two prisoners and the disarming of Hezbollah. While releasing the prisoners is possible, if Israel offers Hezbollah something in return, getting Nasrallah to disarm is out of the question.

Israel should remember the words of German chancellor Otto von Bismarck: "Politics is the art of the possible, the attainable ..." And Israel forcing Hezbollah to disarm is impossible. Also, continuing this war to force Hezbollah to disarm is impossible for Israel.

Napoleon Bonaparte once said, "I have tasted command. I like it. And I will never give it up." Nasrallah has been in command of the largest armed sect in Lebanon since 1992. He is a highly popular leader who has a wide power base that spreads throughout the Arab and Muslim worlds. He is wholeheartedly backed by Syria and Iran, and the Lebanese Shi'ites (40% of the country's 3.7 million) are overwhelmingly with him.

Disarming Hezbollah, and writing them off the political scene in Lebanon, would be like asking the Shi'ites of Iraq, who now have real power since the downfall of Saddam Hussein, to give it up.

The Shi'ites of Lebanon have the exact same dilemma. They, too, had been the underclass in Lebanon, maltreated by Sunnis and Christians for more than 100 years. They had their day in sun under the leadership of Imam Musa al-Sadr in the 1970s, and Nasrallah from 1990s onward.

They believe that holding on to their arms is a must to protect them from further Israeli atrocities in south Lebanon, or in the case of sectarian violence inside Lebanon, from their opponents in the Lebanese political scene. Or from anybody who tries to disarm them by force, and restore them to the status of inferiors.

For all of these reasons, the Israelis will have to amend their proposal for a ceasefire in Lebanon if they want an end to hostilities. To gain the release of their arrested soldiers, they must talk to Hezbollah.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:01 PM


Violating 'Sovereignty': Questioning a Concept's Long Reign (Carlin Romano, 9/10/04, The Chronicle Review)

As an explosive real-world political idea, sovereignty propels international armies and costs untold lives. As a historical concept within political philosophy -- roughly defined by one scholar as "supreme authority within a territory" -- it remains a back-alley matter, outside the main arena.

Compared with idealistic de jure notions like "justice" and "democracy," it's often a de facto embarrassment. Compared with relatively coherent concepts like "desert" or "entitlement," it's a mongrel: born in "divine right" theology and circumstance, barely coherent at best, terminally ambiguous at worst, preternaturally dangerous.

[Alan Cranston's] posthumously published essay, recently issued as The Sovereignty Revolution (Stanford University Press), begins dramatically: "It is worshiped like a god, and as little understood. It is the cause of untold strife and bloodshed. Genocide is perpetrated in its sacred name. It is at once a source of power and of power's abuse, of order and of anarchy. It can be noble and it can be shameful. It is sovereignty."

An indefatigable international diplomat, Cranston insists on his subject's enormous sway: "The fires of passionate crusades to achieve, assert, or defend sovereignty for one purpose or another or to avenge some breach of it light up the night skies of our time like some giant uncontrolled forest fire raging all over the world."

Most of Cranston's essay alternates between reporting the bare bones of multiple world crises rooted in the vagaries of his subject, and advancing a few basic positions. He argues that when people understand sovereignty as the absolute power of a government over its own territory and citizens, a shield against the intervention of other governments, nongovernmental organizations, and outside powers, it is an illegitimate and dangerous medieval idea. At best, sovereignty should be understood as the right of people to determine their own destinies. Such sovereignty, he maintains, delegable to governments through democratic process, is the only legitimate form, and political history in the West happily continues to head in that direction.

Finally, sovereignty as a defense against outside intervention to stop extraordinarily unacceptable behavior by a government against its people is always, in Cranston's view, heinous and unjustified. International covenants on genocide and human rights similarly demonstrate the world community's declining appetite for claims of such absolute state sovereignty. [...]

Dan Philpott, the University of Notre Dame political scientist who offers the definition of "supreme authority within a territory" in his excellent Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy article on the subject, draws attention to facets of the concept important for current purposes. He writes that if sovereignty assumes authority, then authority, as the philosopher R.P. Wolff outlined, assumes both a right to command and a right to be obeyed. Philpott, author of Revolutions in Sovereignty (Princeton University Press, 2001), notes that a "holder of sovereignty derives authority from some mutually acknowledged source of legitimacy -- natural law, a divine mandate, hereditary law, a constitution, even international law. In the contemporary era, some body of law is ubiquitously the source of sovereignty." Yet much media discussion of sovereignty ignores the issue of whether a thug regime -- e.g., Saddam Hussein's -- has in any sense earned a right to be obeyed, and thus earned sovereignty.

Similarly, Philpott observes, "territoriality is now deeply taken for granted" in the sense that simple presence within a geographical area presumptively places someone under a particular sovereignty. But a case such as that of the Kurds, a stateless people who have suffered under Turkish, Iraqi, and Syrian sovereignty without any moral acceptance of that rule, shows how sovereignty often plays out merely as a recognition of power, not an acknowledgment of just power.

Such historical and philosophical perspective suggests that moral foreign policy must cut through the threshold concept of sovereignty instead of allowing it to be a conversation stopper. It must push on to sovereignty's etiology, to issues of justice, democracy, and legitimacy. Debates that reflexively criticize, for instance, the United States for violating Iraqi sovereignty, or Israel for violating Palestinian sovereignty, or Russia for violating Chechen sovereignty, make little sense if one doesn't explain why the supposedly violated sovereignty deserves that status.

Alan Cranston?

{originally posted: 2/06/05]

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:04 AM


Another key connector shut (Adrienne P. Samuels and Stephanie Conduff, July 17, 2006, Boston Globe)

The latest closing, expected to last for at least two weeks, shuts down the westbound I-90/Ted Williams ramp to I-93 in South Boston at Exit 24 and will affect motorists headed westbound from Logan International Airport, East Boston, and Route 1A. The ramp was open until late Saturday, but was ordered closed yesterday after inspectors discovered the suspect bolts.

Motorists will be forced to take Exit 25 and use surface streets. While additional Boston and State Police officers will be directing the traffic detoured onto local roads -- an estimated 3,000 vehicles an hour during peak periods -- the congestion will spill over into many parts of Boston.

``This is going to have a huge impact," said Mariellen Burns, spokeswoman for the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, which runs the Big Dig. ``We're asking for the motoring public's patience. Obviously, safety is the first priority here."

Officials are urging commuters to take public transportation, alternate routes, or seek staggered work hours.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:00 AM


Democracy's Caudillo (Alvaro Vargas Llosa, Hispanic American Center for Economic Research)

These are the kinds of passions that Bolívar, the liberator of five South American countries (six if you count Panama, which was part of Colombia), continues to arouse. Not even two like-minded South Americans are able to agree on whether he was a great founding father born ahead of his time or a part of the reason why South America, two centuries after it gained independence, is still in its political and economic infancy. My own view of him has become slightly more benign, though I still insist that the Liberator was not only a military force of nature but also a dangerous strongman who did not understand that the best way to prevent the things he feared—factionalism, and ethnic and class revolt against the Creole elite—was the rule of law, and not an allegedly enlightened but still authoritarian caudillismo.

John Lynch's new biography of Bolívar is sympathetic to its subject—more sympathetic, I think, than is warranted by the facts that it presents; but it is impeccably researched, uncommonly honest, and genuinely balanced, and also very well written. The general conclusion to which Lynch leads us is that Bolívar's failures were due to factors beyond his control, that the leader of the independence struggle was a victim of the times he lived in. I am not so sure. Even though he towered above his peers in many respects and was the undisputed architect of the end of colonial rule, Bolívar embodied the original sin of the Latin American republics: elitism, authoritarianism, and an unexamined passion for what we call social engineering.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:55 AM


Unrelenting summer swelter pushes region's hot button (Nathan Bomey and Jon Ward, July 18, 2006, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

Searing. Sweltering. Sizzling.

Forget the adjectives. It's just plain hot, and it's going to stay that way for the rest of the week.

"For Washington, D.C., it's looking like the high is going to be right around 100 [degrees]," said Sarah Allen, a meteorologist in the National Weather Service's Baltimore-Washington forecast office.

The District's high temperature reached 96 degrees, and the record high for July 17 is 102 degrees.

But high humidity made it feel like more than 105 degrees in the District and around the region yesterday.

A man's gotta have more sense than to violate his own state border rule.

MORE (via The Other Brother):
Understanding Hezbollah’s rockets:Katyushas and the failed Westphalian system (Austin Bay, 7/178/06)

When fired from positions in southern Lebanon or Gaza, the extended-range Katyushas place roughly sixty percent of Israel’s population in range. (That’s my estimate.) All of Israel’s major cities and towns may soon be a bull’s eye– Hezbollah leaders boast of striking beyond Haifa and “beyond beyond Haifa.” Indeed, there are indications that longer range rockets are being employed. These rockets are “FROG-type” — free rocket over ground. They lack guidance systems but have more reach. They may be able to carry chemical warheads (the Russian series of FROGs could carry chemical warheads).

But now for the layer complexity: Hezbollah hides these weapons among apartment houses and in villages– other words, nests of rockets in neighborhoods.

These neighborhoods and villages are controlled by Hezbollah, not the Lebanese government.

Israel is being fired upon from a Lebanon that “is not quite Lebanon” in a truly sovereign sense.The rockets, of course, come from “somewhere,” but Hezbollah’s “somewhere” is a political limbo in terms of maps with definitive geo-political boundaries. Lebanon is a “failed state”– a peculiar failed state (its not Somalia), but nevertheless failed. It will continue to fail so long as the Lebanese government cannot control Hezbollah–and control means disarm.

So Hezbollah attacks Israel with ever more-powerful, longer-range rockets, then hides behind the diplomatic facade of the greater Lebanese nation state.

Thus terrorists and terror-empowering nations, like Iran and Syria, abuse the nation-state system– or exploit a “dangerous hole” in the system..

Iran and Syria then appeal to the United Nations (a product of the Westphalian “nation state” system) to condemn Israel for attacking Lebanon– when Israel is attacking Hezbollah, which “is and is not Lebanon.”

Everybody’s got to be somewhere, but maps and UN seats and press bureaus don’t make an effective nation state; they are the trappings of state-dom.

Weaknesses in the Westphalian system exist, in part because it has never been a complete system. (The Westphalian system evolved from the Treaty of Westphalia (1648) and the series of peace settlements that ended the Thirty Years War in Europe.) Westphalia’s “nation-state system” has always faced “gaps” (anarchic regions) and “failed states” (which are often collapsing tribal empires with the trappings of modernity, not the institutions).

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:50 AM


Hezbollah a bump on 'escalation road'? (David R. Sands, July 18, 2006, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

Israel's clash with Hezbollah in Lebanon may just be the undercard bout.

With the rhetoric rising and positions hardening, many in the region fear that the current fighting could easily spiral out of control, pitting Israel and the United States in the main bout against the two countries they accuse of arming and inciting Hezbollah fighters: Syria and, especially, Iran. ,/blockquote>
Clearly it would be better if we control the spiral of escalation.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:23 AM


Canada's `evaluation' accurate, Harper says (LES WHITTINGTON, 7/18/06, Toronto Star)

"We sent a firm message that the extremists who committed cross-border murder and kidnapped Israeli soldiers bear the responsibility for instigating the crises in Lebanon and Gaza," Harper said of the G-8's position. [...]

With the death toll now above 200, mainly in Lebanon where Israeli warplanes have been pounding Hezbollah strongholds, Harper was asked if he regretted using the word "measured" in connection with Israel's military action.

"I think our evaluation of the situation has been accurate," the Prime Minister said at a news conference.

"Obviously, there's been an ongoing escalation. And frankly, ongoing escalation is inevitable once conflict begins."

But, rejecting charges by Arab groups who blame the current crisis on Olmert's government, Harper said, "We are not going to give in to the temptation of some to single out Israel, which was the victim of the initial attack."

He said it's clear that the current upsurge in combat was sparked by the raids on Israeli soil by Hezbollah and Hamas fighters.

the Burnets are in town and we were talking last night about how pleasant it is to have Canada standing with the good guys instead of backstabbing and about how little traction Mr. Harper's critics have bneen able to gain, particularly the press, which he's made a point of being confrontational towards.

It's also amusing to cast your mind back a few years to when the Left and Realists were certain that George W. Bush's unilateralism was doing irreparable harm to our relations with former allies who would never see the world in our stark moral terms. Funny how those nations have instead been electing leaders who see the world the same way and even the Arabs generally support Israeli unilateralism at this point.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:47 AM


Mickey Spillane crafted the steely Mike Hammer (BRUCE SMITH, 7/18/06, The Associated Press)

Mickey Spillane, the macho mystery writer who wowed millions of readers with the shoot-'em-up sex and violence of gumshoe Mike Hammer, died Monday. He was 88. [...]

Born Frank Morrison Spillane on March 9, 1918, in Brooklyn, Mr. Spillane attended Fort Hayes State College in Kansas before beginning his career writing for magazines. [...]

Mr. Spillane was a quintessential Cold War writer, an unconditional believer in good and evil. He was also a rare political conservative in the book world. Communists were villains in his work, and liberals took some hits as well.

"Spillane is like eating takeout fried chicken: so much fun to consume, but you can feel those lowlife grease-induced zits rising before you've finished the first drumstick," Sally Eckhoff wrote in the liberal weekly The Village Voice.

While intellectuals looked to Arthur Miller and other fellow travelers to explicate their world view, the American people followed Mike Hammer.

Detective novelist Spillane dies (BBC, 7/18/06)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:27 AM


The End of the Affair: Novak exonerates the Bushies in the Plame case (Christopher Hitchens, July 17, 2006, Slate)

To summarize, we now know that:

1. Novak was never approached by any administration officials but approached them instead.

2. He was never told the name Plame but discovered it from Who's Who in America, which contained it in Joseph Wilson's entry.

3. Special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald had all along known which sources had responded to Novak's questions.

When one thinks of the oceans of ink and acres of paper that have been wasted on this mother of all nonstories, one wants to weep for the journalistic profession as well as for the trees. [...]

As Novak says, the original question was: How did a man publicly critical of the Bush policy get the CIA's nomination for a mission to Niger? When he asked this question of his first source, he was told in effect, "That's easy. His wife works there and recommended him for the trip." This has since been confirmed by the report of the Senate intelligence committee, which quotes a memo from Valerie Plame making the recommendation in so many words (on the bizarre grounds that Wilson already enjoyed warm relations with the people he would supposedly be investigating at the Niger Ministry of Mines). It seems to me that Novak was well within his rights to check with Karl Rove and with the CIA that this was indeed the case, and to take down his copy of Who's Who in America from the shelf. As he puts it, "I considered his wife's role in initiating Wilson's mission … to be a previously undisclosed part of an important news story."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:18 AM


Iran to Hizbullah: Curb attacks on Israel: Arabic language newspaper reports Iran was warned by European country that Israel is ready to attack targets in Syria in campaign to liquidate Hizbullah; Tehran sends foreign minister to Damascus to demand Hizbullah curtail attacks against Israel (Roee Nahmias, 7/18/06, Y-Net)

Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki was sent to Damascus to urge Hizbullah to curb rocket attacks against Israel and to release two Israel Defense Forces soldiers captured a week ago in order to avoid further escalations, a London-based Arabic daily reported. [...]

The report, which was based on leaks by an Iranian presidential aide, said Iran is worried by criticism waged against Hizbullah by an array of Lebanese politicians like Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, Druze leader Walid Jumblatt and Saad Hariri, son of slain former prime minister Rafik Hariri.

The trio outspokenly attacked Hizbullah for being Iran's proxy and condemned as "irresponsible" the kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers.

The official said: "Iran enjoyed a good reputation among the Lebanese for supporting Hizbullah. Today, many of our allies have turned their backs on us."

In a letter to his Syrian counterpart Bashar Assad, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Iran is ready to defend Syria against Israeli attacks.

You could hardly set the dominoes up better yourself. All Israel has to do (or/and the U.S.) is take out Hezbollah, Hamas, and regime targets inside Syria and then if Iran retaliates take out the Iranian nuclear program. You get four birds (Lebanon, Palestine, Syria and Iran) with one stone.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:14 AM


How welfare reform changed America (Richard Wolf, 7/17/06, USA TODAY)

When Clinton signed the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act, conservatives celebrated and liberals screamed; three administration officials quit their jobs in protest. The act ended a 60-year-old federal guarantee of cash aid for the poor.

The law, modeled on state pilot programs begun in 1994 with federal approval, was intended to prod welfare mothers and fathers into the workplace with a series of carrots and sticks. Work, and you got help with child care, job training, transportation. Refuse, and you risked sanctions and being cut off by time limits.

A decade later, the worst fears of liberals haven't materialized. States did not enter what critics feared would be a money-saving "race to the bottom." Thousands of poor children did not wind up "sleeping on grates," as Democratic senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan predicted.

Major employers hired thousands of welfare recipients. UPS hired 52,000; CVS/pharmacy hired 45,000, 60% of whom remain. Welfare offices have shed the look and language of their first 60 years for the aura of job-services agencies.

Nearly 70% of all single women are working, compared with 66% of married women, a reversal of the past. Single women's incomes have risen, thanks in part to the expansion of the earned income tax credit, a tax break of up to $4,400 for low-income workers. Child poverty rates have dropped, particularly among blacks and Hispanics. Teen pregnancies are down. Child support collections are up.

"Everything has worked," says conservative Douglas Besharov of the American Enterprise Institute. "Every critique one might have is about what could have gone better, not something that has gone poorly."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:07 AM


Bush confirms reputation as straight talker (Caroline Daniel, July 17 2006, Financial Times)

The coarse exchange appeared to underline Mr Bush’s preference for colloquial straight talking Texan over diplomatic ambiguity. Mr Bush remains the gung-ho leader, with a black and white view of the world, clearly dividing it into enemies and friends.

For him the root cause of the crisis remains Hizbollah and Syria, as self-evident villains. As Condoleezza Rice, secretary of state, put it, the recent violence legitimised the US vision for a “different kind of Middle East” and showed that its “sponsors are in Tehran and in Damascus. Things are clarified now. We know where the lines are drawn.”

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:00 AM


f Israel has the right to use force in self defence, so do its neighbours: The west appears to insist that only one side in the conflict is able to intervene militarily across borders. That will never be accepted (Ahmad Samih Khalidi, July 18, 2006, The Guardian)

Much has been made in recent days - at the G8 summit and elsewhere - of Israel's right to retaliate against the capture of its soldiers, or attacks on its troops on its own sovereign territory. Some, such as those in the US administration, seem to believe that Israel has an unqualified licence to hit back at its enemies no matter what the cost. And even those willing to recognise that there may be a problem tend to couch it in terms of Israel's "disproportionate use of force" rather than its basic right to take military action.

But what is at stake here is not proportionality or the issue of self-defence, but symmetry and equivalence. Israel is staking a claim to the exclusive use of force as an instrument of policy and punishment, and is seeking to deny any opposing state or non-state actor a similar right. It is also largely succeeding in portraying its own "right to self-defence" as beyond question, while denying anyone else the same. And the international community is effectively endorsing Israel's stance on both counts.

From an Arab point of view this cannot be right. There is no reason in the world why Israel should be able to enter Arab sovereign soil to occupy, destroy, kidnap and eliminate its perceived foes - repeatedly, with impunity and without restraint - while the Arab side cannot do the same. And if the Arab states are unable or unwilling to do so then the job should fall to those who can.

They have the same "rights", but it's precisely because these states are so dysfunctional that they lack the capacity. The exquisite irony is that in order to be the kind of states that we'd take seriously as strategic players they'll have to reform along the lines that we're insisting they should. Cool, huh?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:48 AM


Big Night for Drew Brothers (Steve Henson, July 18, 2006, LA Times)

Want to become a top draft pick? Turn off the television.

That's advice from the Drew brothers, the only family with three siblings drafted in the first round.

The oldest, J.D., played on the same field as his youngest brother, Stephen, for the first time in an organized game Monday. Middle brother Tim, a pitcher rehabilitating a shoulder injury, will join their parents in the stands tonight.

They'll watch a ballgame. Just not on television.

"We didn't have cable until I was 18, and we rarely watched any TV," J.D. said. "We played sports and spent our time outdoors."

So did the Brothers Judd, but, until they start a Professional Kick-the-Can League, the skills we developed don't seem to be in demand.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:11 AM


Warning over suncream's skin cancer protection (Daily Mail, 17th July 2006)

Rubbing suncream into the skin drastically reduces its effectiveness, experts have warned.

Protection against dangerous radiation linked to skin cancers and premature ageing is cut almost to zero.

The risk of damage can actually be increased because the cream still stops the skin burning, encouraging people to lie in the sun for longer.

The alarming research by the RAFT charity found that sunscreens work properly only if they are used in a thick 'buttery' layer.

July 17, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:58 PM


The Democrats' Unreligious Fringe (Gregory Rodriguez, July 16, 2006, LA Times)

Just as the Republican Party pays obeisance to the demands of the 37% of its base that is white evangelical Christian, the Democrats feel they must not offend the 22% of their core voters who claim no religious affiliation. Why not? Because although they make up less than one-quarter of the coalition, these secular Democrats are much more likely than others to be high-level party activists.

That was not always the case. Some scholars point to the Democratic National Convention of 1972 as not only the moment Democrats edged toward secularism but the event that created the religious rift in American politics. Before 1972, both major parties were essentially indistinguishable in their approach to religion. The activist cores of both were dominated by members of mainstream religious groups: the GOP by mainline Protestants and the Democratic Party by Catholics and Jews.

But the Democratic delegation that nominated South Dakota Sen. George McGovern for president at the '72 convention represented a profound shift from what had been the cultural consensus in American politics. Whereas only 5% of Americans could be considered secular in 1972, fully 24% of first-time Democratic delegates that year were self-identified agnostics, atheists or people who rarely, if ever, set foot in a house of worship. This new activist base encouraged a growing number of Democratic politicians to tone down their appeal to religious voters and to seek a higher wall separating church and state. With little regard for the traditionalist sensitivities of religious people within or outside of the party, the Democrats also embraced progressive stances on feminism and homosexuality that the public had never openly debated.

Meanwhile, the Republican delegation — and by extension the party platform — remained unchanged, and the GOP essentially became the party of tradition and religion by default. "The partisan differences that emerged in 1972," writes University of Maryland political scientist Geoffrey Layman, "were not caused by any sudden increase in the religious and cultural traditionalism of the Republican activists but by the pervasive secularism and cultural liberalism of the Democratic supporters of George McGovern."

Over the next generation, the shift in the Democratic Party pushed many religious voters, including the traditionally Democratic bloc of Southern evangelicals, into the arms of the Republican Party.

So, the GOP leadership may not be particularly religious in personal terms, but recognizes that its voters are, so advances religious causes. Meanwhile, Democratic voters may not be secular, but the party leadership doesn't much care about them and just advances its own fringe causes. Then they wonder why they're a 40% party?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:37 PM


Searching for baseball's Bigfoot (Jeff Passan, March 13, 2006, Yahoo! Sports)

The search started Saturday afternoon. I was looking for the pitch that doesn't exist.

I saw Daisuke Matsuzaka trotting off the field at Angel Stadium. He is the best pitcher in Japan, 25 years old with a grown-out mohawk streaked with red dye. His face is round, his body angular, his gait tall and proud. When he swooped into the dugout, I asked him about the gyroball. [...]

The gyroball is baseball's version of alien life. No one knows if they've seen it. No one knows what it looks like. No one knows much about it. Except there's a small pocket of American fans who graze the Internet champing to see Matsuzaka, because they're all convinced that he throws a gyroball and they're all convinced it will revolutionize the sport.

There hasn't been a new pitch in baseball since the split-finger fastball, and it did everything from making Bruce Sutter a Hall of Famer to prolonging Roger Clemens' career by 10 years. Baseball evolves so slowly, unearthing a new pitch is like finding an Easter egg that happens to be filled with gold.

In the minds of the gyro-obsessed, Matsuzaka is their 24-karat answer. So when he heard the gyroball question, chuckled and started talking, it was obvious he did know the pitch, and that maybe, just maybe, it existed after all.

The concept of the gyroball was perfected in a supercomputer by two Japanese scientists named Ryutaro Himeno and Kazushi Tezuka. In simulations, they showed how a pitcher with good mechanics could throw the baseball in a way that it spun like a bullet – or, in sporting sense, like a perfect football spiral – and broke like nothing anyone has ever seen.

Roughly translated, the title of their book is "The Secret of the Miracle Pitch," and it's loaded with anime cartoons and mathematical formulas that attempt to explain how to throw a gyroball.

The Ghost Pitch (Will Carroll, RobNeyer.com)

The pitch is like a ghost. People claim they have seen it, but like a UFO or the Loch Ness Monster, the evidence is a bit harder to come across. Jerky video from Japan hides in the depths of specialty baseball discussion boards. Breathless tales from scouts and fans discussing this ghost would be laughable...

If they weren’t true.

Not since the advent of the split-fingered fastball has there been a real "new" pitch. Sure, there are variants like R.A. Dickey's "Thang" and others that recall Rick Vaughn's "Terminator," but the gyroball is not only real, it's teachable.

The gyroball is less a pitch than an effect. Over the past five years, a new science of pitching is beginning to take hold in Japan. While the translations are non-existent, the best available to me is "Double Spin Mechanics." Rather than using high-speed video like advanced pitching gurus Tom House and Mike Marshall use, the Japanese have gone to supercomputers.

Simulating various mechanical models, Japanese researchers -- and I would name them if I could find someone to translate their book -- discovered a series of biomechanical techniques that would remove much of the stress from throwing a baseball. This new mechanical paradigm takes a book to explain properly, but the short version is that instead of using the linear kinetic chain that’s the subject of American research, the Japanese attempt to coordinate two circular motions. The first is a motion of the hips and is very similar to the findings of Dr. Glenn Fleisig of ASMI. There is a nearly one-to-one relationship between hip velocity and ball velocity; increase one and the other increases.

The second "spin" -- and this is what’s revolutionary, perhaps -- is the motion of the upper arm. This differentiates from Mike Marshall’s Newtonian model and demands a forceful yet controlled rotation of the humerus. To get the idea of this in your head, hold your arm out so that your upper arm (humerus) is parallel to the floor. Have your forearm at a ninety-degree angle and hold the ball so that the ball is between your hand and your ear. The proper second "spin" is done by rotating the upper arm so that the forearm goes from pointing up to pointing down and the hand goes from pointing in at the body to pointing away from the body (pronation) just after the release of the ball.

Got all that?

Double-spin mechanics are almost unknown in America, but slowly they're reaching these shores.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:50 PM


In reversal, Pedro up & throwing (ADAM RUBIN, 7/17/06, NY DAILY NEWS)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:46 PM


Why we're flush with success
: It's difficult to plumb the depths of the debt the civilized world owes to the brains behind our drains. (W. Hodding Carter, July 17, 2006, LA Times)

The Romans gave our heroes their name. The Latin word for lead is plumb, and the men who shaped it into pipes and connected them throughout the Roman empire were called plumbarii. Improving on Middle Eastern and Greek engineering, the Roman plumbarii lifted water supply to new heights (quite literally, with some lead pipes hundreds of feet above rivers and low valleys).

Besides insane emperors and a crushing army, Rome's most exalted creation was its baths and overflowing fountains — whether planted in semi-arid North Africa or sodden England. While local barbarians thought themselves lucky to gulp a handful of tainted river water, Roman citizens sipped somewhat-filtered water and took hours-long steam baths after a hard day betting at the Coliseum.

Skipping past the Dark Ages, because there wasn't a whole lot of bathing going on, we get to how those Irish monks saved civilization. They had indoor plumbing. As Roman aqueducts and water pipes fell into disrepair and people resorted to throwing their waste out into the streets, monks throughout Europe sat in private latrines flushed by running water and bathed with water supplied through — guess what — lead pipes. They therefore stayed clean, healthy and able to scribble down all those great works.

And how did England become Great Britain? Back in the mid-1800s, when London was engulfed by the Great Stink — a summer in which members of Parliament ran from their chambers thanks to an odiferous attack of rotting sewage frothing in the Thames — it was the plumbers and civil engineers who set things straight, building unequaled subterranean brick aqueducts and connecting all the city with modern lead and iron pipes. Queen Victoria's son, whose life was saved when a plumber realized that a faulty royal toilet was breeding typhus, declared upon recovering, "If I could not be a prince, I would be a plumber."

Flushed: Brothers Judd interview of W. Hodding Carter (Orrin Judd, July 17, 2006, Enter Stage Right)

W. Hodding CarterIn his new book, Flushed: How the Plumber Saved Civilization, W. Hodding Carter plunges into the reality and history of sewage and plumbing with all the zeal of a missionary. His message for modern man is that we need to face up to the fetid facts about our own body functions and the technological marvels by which we process them. The book is as funny as it is fascinating and we recently had the honor of an e-mail interview with the author.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:00 PM


Attack Add: WHY ISRAEL SHOULD BOMB SYRIA (Michael B. Oren, 07.17.06, New Republic)

Back in 1966, Israel recoiled from attacking Syria and instead raided Jordan, inadvertently setting off a concatenation of events culminating in war. Israel is once again refraining from an entanglement with Hezbollah's Syrian sponsors, perhaps because it fears a clash with Iran. And just as Israel's failure to punish the patron of terror in 1967 ultimately triggered a far greater crisis, so too today, by hesitating to retaliate against Syria, Israel risks turning what began as a border skirmish into a potentially more devastating confrontation. Israel may hammer Lebanon into submission and it may deal Hezbollah a crushing blow, but as long as Syria remains hors de combat there is no way that Israel can effect a permanent change in Lebanon's political labyrinth and ensure an enduring ceasefire in the north. On the contrary, convinced that Israel is unwilling to confront them, the Syrians may continue to escalate tensions, pressing them toward the crisis point. The result could be an all-out war with Syria as well as Iran and severe political upheaval in Jordan, Egypt, and the Gulf.

The answer lies in delivering an unequivocal blow to Syrian ground forces deployed near the Lebanese border. By eliminating 500 Syrian tanks--tanks that Syrian President Bashar Al Assad needs to preserve his regime--Israel could signal its refusal to return to the status quo in Lebanon. Supporting Hezbollah carries a prohibitive price, the action would say. Of course, Syria could respond with missile attacks against Israeli cities, but given the dilapidated state of Syria's army, the chances are greater that Assad will simply internalize the message. Presented with a choice between saving Hezbollah and staying alive, Syria's dictator will probably choose the latter. And the message of Israel's determination will also be received in Tehran.

Any course of military action carries risks, especially in the unpredictable Middle East. But if the past is any guide, and if the Six Day War presents a paradigm of an unwanted war that might have been averted with an early, well-placed strike at Syria, then Israel's current strategy in Lebanon deserves to be rethought. If Syria escapes unscathed and Iran undeterred, Israel will remain insecure.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:56 AM


Is Bush Still Too Dumb to Be President?: You can't run a country on horse sense. (Jonathan Chait, July 16, 2006, LA Times)

WAY BACK when he first appeared on the national scene, the rap against George W. Bush was that he might be too dumb to be president. As time passed, questions about Bush's mental capabilities faded away.

After 9/11, his instinctive rather than analytical view of the world seemed to be just what we needed, and Americans of all stripes were desperate to see heroic qualities in him. (As Dan Rather announced at the time: "George Bush is the president; he makes the decisions; and, you know, as just one American, wherever he wants me to line up, just tell me where.")

On top of that, Democrats decided it was politically counterproductive to attack Bush's intelligence. Bruce Reed of the Democratic Leadership Council said in 2002, for instance, that calling Bush dumb "plays directly into Bush's strength, which is that he comes across as a regular guy."

In fact, there's no better predictor of which candidate will win a presidential race between non-incumbents than which one is perceived as less intellectual (the sole exception in over a century being Herbert Hoover) and none better for predicting the likelihood for success of the ensuing presidency than that the new executive is perceived as a dullard.

Posted by David Cohen at 9:52 AM


A New Alliance Of Democrats Spreads Funding: But Some in Party Bristle At Secrecy and Liberal Tilt (Jim VandeHei and Chris Cillizza, Washington Post, 7/17/06)

An alliance of nearly a hundred of the nation's wealthiest donors is roiling Democratic political circles, directing more than $50 million in the past nine months to liberal think tanks and advocacy groups in what organizers say is the first installment of a long-term campaign to compete more aggressively against conservatives.

A year after its founding, Democracy Alliance has followed up on its pledge to become a major power in the liberal movement. It has lavished millions on groups that have been willing to submit to its extensive screening process and its demands for secrecy.

These include the Center for American Progress, a think tank with an unabashed partisan edge, as well as Media Matters for America, which tracks what it sees as conservative bias in the news media. Several alliance donors are negotiating a major investment in Air America, a liberal talk-radio network.

But the large checks and demanding style wielded by Democracy Alliance organizers in recent months have caused unease among Washington's community of Democratic-linked organizations. The alliance has required organizations that receive its endorsement to sign agreements shielding the identity of donors. Public interest groups said the alliance represents a large source of undisclosed and unaccountable political influence.

Basically, any charge leveled by a Democrat at a Republican is self-description. They're either a party of ten year olds or of the emotionally disturbed.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:35 AM


A Crash Course for the Elderly (ANDREW L. HAAS, NY Times)

Doctors are required to take continuing medical education courses each year in order to retain our licenses and hospital privileges. We must also take our board specialty examinations every 10 years to maintain our specialty certifications. We do this in order to reduce the risk to patients of injury or death caused by medical errors.

Yet there are few such precautions taken to reduce injury and death on American roads. Someone can get behind the wheel of a potentially lethal automobile without having had his basic competence tested in decades. Most drivers receive their last exposure to driver education and testing in their mid-teens.

This makes no sense. Given their great, and frequently proven, capacity to do harm, drivers should be required to take a continuing driver education course every 10 years.

Special emphasis should be placed on elderly drivers. Motor-vehicle injuries are the leading cause of injury-related deaths among 65- to 74-year-olds and are the second leading cause, after falls, among 75- to 84-year-olds. Older drivers have a higher fatality rate per mile driven than any age group except drivers under 25. The American Medical Association estimates that as the population of the United States ages, drivers aged 65 and older will eventually account for 25 percent of all fatal crashes.

Accordingly, it makes sense to recertify drivers at age 65 and require subsequent recertification, based on road testing, every five years thereafter.

You shouldn't be allowed to drive until 21 either.

Posted by David Cohen at 9:32 AM


Biography for Marcel Dalio (Michael Ryerson, IMDB)

Born Israel Moshe Blauschild, in Paris, in 1900, he became a much sought-after character actor. His lovely animated face with its great expressive eyes became familiar across Europe. He appeared in Jean Renoir's idiosyncratic Rules of the Game, and Grand Illusion, arguably the greatest of all films. True to his Frenchman's heart, he married the very young, breathtaking beauty Madeleine LeBeau. He worked with von Stroheim and Pierre Chenal. He had it all.

But then the Germans crushed Poland, swept across Belgium and pressed on toward Paris. He waited until the last possible moment and finally, with the sound of artillery clearly audible, with Madeleine, fled in a borrowed car to Orleans and then, in a freight train, to Bordeaux and finally to Portugal. In Lisbon, they bribed a crooked immigration official and were surreptitiously given two visas for Chile. But on arriving in Mexico City, it was discovered the visas were rank forgeries. Facing deportation, Marcel and Madeleine found themselves making application for political asylum with virtually every country in the western hemisphere. Weeks passed until Canada finally issued them temporary visas and they left for Montreal.

Meanwhile, France had fallen and, in the process of subjugating the country, the Germans had found some publicity stills of Dalio. A series of posters were produced and were then displayed throughout the city with the caption 'a typical Jew' so that citizens could more easily report anyone suspected of unrepentant Jewishness....

After a short time, friends in the film industry arranged for them to arrive in Hollywood....

Shooting started without a screenplay and little plot. Principal players were cast and a director hired but casting calls for supporting roles and bit players continued and sometime in the early spring Marcel Dalio and Madeleine LeBeau were cast as, respectively, a croupier and a romantic entanglement for the male lead. Veteran screen-writers were hired to produce a running screenplay, sometimes delivering pages of dialogue one day, for scenes to be shot the following day. No one knew exactly where the plot would go or how the story would turn out. No one was sure of the ending. And, of course, they produced a classic, perhaps the finest American movie.

They produced a screenplay of multiple genres, rich with characterizations, perfectly in tune with the unfolding events in Europe and loaded with talent from top to bottom. Oh, and they changed the title to 'Casablanca'....

Madeleine LeBeau plays Yvonne, the jilted lover of Humphrey Bogart, who is seen drowning her sorrows at the bar early in the film and who later, to get back at Rick and looking for solace takes up with a German officer finding only self-hatred. She is luminous.

And when Claude Rains delivers the signature line, 'I'm shocked! Shocked! To find that there's gambling going on in here!' the croupier, Emil, played by Marcel Dalio, approaches from the roulette table and says simply, 'Your winnings, sir.' It is a delicious moment ripe with scripted irony, one among many in this film, but one made all the more so, knowing where Dalio came from and what he and his wife had endured to arrive at that line.

Today would have been M. Dalio's 106th birthday.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:21 AM

GOTTA KNOW YOUR ALLIES (via David Hill, The Bronx):

In an About-Face, Sunnis Want U.S. to Remain in Iraq (EDWARD WONG and DEXTER FILKINS, 7/17/06, NY Times)

As sectarian violence soars, many Sunni Arab political and religious leaders once staunchly opposed to the American presence here are now saying they need American troops to protect them from the rampages of Shiite militias and Shiite-run government forces. [...]

[S]unni Arab leaders say they have no newfound love for the Americans. Many say they still sympathize with the insurgency and despise the Bush administration and the fact that the invasion has helped strengthen the power of neighboring Iran, which backs the ruling Shiite parties.

But the Sunni leaders have dropped demands for a quick withdrawal of American troops. Many now ask for little more than a timetable. A few Sunni leaders even say they want more American soldiers on the ground to help contain the widening chaos.

The new stance is one of the most significant shifts in attitude since the war began. It could influence White House plans for a reduction of the 134,000 troops here and help the Americans expand dialogue with elements of the insurgency. But the budding accommodation is already stirring a reaction among the Shiites, who make up about 60 percent of the population but were brutally ruled for decades by the Sunnis.

The War on Terror is actually just a war against radical Sunni Arabs--to side with them out of convenience would be a disaster.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:18 AM


Bond Criticizes, Invites Bush (Associated Press, July 17, 2006)

Julian Bond blasted the war in Iraq and conservative attacks on voting rights, yet the NAACP's chairman last night also urged President Bush to attend the civil rights group's annual convention this week.

"This year the convention has come to the president, and we hope and pray he is coming to us," said Bond, speaking at the Washington Convention Center, about a mile from the White House.

Bush has avoided the conventions since taking office in 2001, making him the first sitting president in decades not to have spoken to the group. His schedule for Wednesday lists an event with the notation "TBA," or "to be announced."

No matter how aggravating the appearance it would be great politics for the President to go there and challenge them to vote their values and interests instead of Democrat.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:03 AM


The Reagan Myth (FRED BARNES, July 17, 2006, Opinion Journal)

[I]t's...on the spending issue that the Reagan myth--Reagan as the relentless swashbuckler against spending--is most pronounced. He won an estimated $35 billion in spending cuts in 1981, his first year in office. After that, spending soared, so much so that his budget director David Stockman, who found himself on the losing end of spending arguments, wrote a White House memoir with the subtitle, "Why the Reagan Revolution Failed."

With Reagan in the White House, spending reached 23.5% of GDP in 1984, the peak year of the military buildup. Under Mr. Bush, the top spending year is 2005 at 20.1% of GDP, though it is expected to rise as high as 20.7% this year, driven upward by Iraq and hurricane relief.

Mr. Reagan was a small government conservative, but he found it impossible to govern that way. He made tradeoffs. He gave up the fight to curb domestic spending in exchange for congressional approval of increased defense spending. He cut taxes deeply but signed three smaller tax hikes. Rather than try to reform Social Security, he agreed to increase payroll taxes.

The Gipper's big spending ways are indeed the issue that makes folks like Peggy Nonan and Bruce Bartlett sound the silliest, but it's a more important measure of his liberalism relative to W that he did everything in his power to prop up the Second Way Welfare State.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:57 AM


Bush Curses Hezbollah at G-8 Luncheon (NewsMax, 7/17/06)

It wasn't meant to be overheard. Private luncheon conversations among world leaders, picked up by a microphone, provided a rare window into both banter and substance - including President Bush cursing Hezbollah's attacks against Israel. [...]

"See the irony is that what they need to do is get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing this (expletive) and it's over," Bush told Blair as he chewed on a buttered roll.

He told Blair he felt like telling U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who visited the gathered leaders, to get on the phone with Syrian President Bashar Assad to "make something happen."

The war is in Syria, not Lebanon.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:52 AM


U.S. Border Town, 1,200 Miles From The Border (Dale Russakoff, 7/17/06, Washington Post)

Jerry Nelson steered his grocery cart out of the Wal-Mart on a recent night, fuming about globalization, Southern style. "Another great night at the Mexican Wal-Mart," he groused to no one in particular.

The mass migration of Latinos to this corner of northwest Georgia known as the carpet capital of the world has changed the character of everything from factory floors to schools to superstores. On this night, Wal-Mart's ubiquitous TV monitors alternately promoted arroz and rice, aparatos and electronics.

Like many working-class natives of this once lily-white area, Nelson blames the changes on the carpet industry, which he insists lured the Mexicans -- and more recently, other Latinos -- to keep down wages and workers' leverage in this nonunion region. "We all know who the culprit is: Big Business. That's who's running our country," he said.

But the immigration-driven transformation of work in the United States is not simple, and Nelson played a role in the story, too. For decades, displaced farmers were the backbone of carpet mills. Nelson's mother left a farm in Appalachia to work in one until age 82. But Nelson didn't follow her. Neither did his wife, Georgia, also a mill worker's daughter. "We wanted more than our parents," said Jerry Nelson, who spent most of his career as a heating and ventilation contractor.

...Tom Tancredo would be sponsoring anti-elf legislation....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:24 AM

VANGUARD FUND (via Steve Jacobson):

A New Alliance Of Democrats Spreads Funding: But Some in Party Bristle At Secrecy and Liberal Tilt (Jim VandeHei and Chris Cillizza, July 17, 2006, Washington Post)

An alliance of nearly a hundred of the nation's wealthiest donors is roiling Democratic political circles, directing more than $50 million in the past nine months to liberal think tanks and advocacy groups in what organizers say is the first installment of a long-term campaign to compete more aggressively against conservatives. [...]

But the large checks and demanding style wielded by Democracy Alliance organizers in recent months have caused unease among Washington's community of Democratic-linked organizations. The alliance has required organizations that receive its endorsement to sign agreements shielding the identity of donors. Public interest groups said the alliance represents a large source of undisclosed and unaccountable political influence.

Democracy Alliance also has left some Washington political activists concerned about what they perceive as a distinctly liberal tilt to the group's funding decisions. Some activists said they worry that the alliance's new clout may lead to groups with a more centrist ideology becoming starved for resources.

If the Party had popular support it wouldn't need such funding from elites who despise the 60%-95% of Americans who disagree with them. It isn't possible to overstate how alienated the Left's bagmen are from the American mainstream.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:14 AM


Hil's keys to the Oval Office (FRANK LUNTZ, 7/17/06, NY Daily News)

Here's how Hillary can continue to lead the pack, and the four essential steps she needs to take to stay on top.

First, she must be herself. Her recent tack to the right - from equivocating on the Iraq war, to supporting a ban on flag burning - is fooling no one and is seriously agitating her liberal base. The reason Hillary became so popular in the first place was her unflinching willingness to tell it like it is. She must say what she means, and mean what she says.

Similarly, recent efforts by Clinton to inject religious references into her speeches to prove she's a person of faith is like fingernails on a chalkboard to Democrat primary voters. Clinton must win the primary first - then worry about the general election. If Democrats really cared about religion, they'd be Republicans.

Second, Clinton must give us answers, not just criticism. She is already applauded by most voters for her focus and determination and does a good job explaining the specifics (and even the minutiae) of the issues she cares about. None of that should change.

But she spends so much time criticizing the Republicans that voters aren't hearing enough of what she would do instead. [...]

Third, Clinton, who can be charming and funny in private, should be more candid and unpredictable. [...]

Fourth, Clinton needs to remember to speak from her heart, not her head. Right now, she sometimes sounds like Al Gore ... without the pizzazz. Successful Republicans think. Successful Democrats - like Bill Clinton - feel. Hillary should lower her decibel level, making voters strain to hear her. The softer she is, the more emotional she will sound.

Hardly surprising that Mr. Luntz would offer a Democrat lethal advice. There's little reason to believe that the American people would much like the real Ms Clinton and they've proven repeatedly that they hate her personal ideas about how to govern the country. More than anything she needs to not be herself and to be her husband, at least on the issues.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:06 AM


Need an operation? Here's your air ticket to ... India (JANE H. FURSE, 7/17/06, NY DAILY NEWS)

Don't look now, but that operation you've been putting off may be outsourced - to India.

American companies are encouraging workers to travel to India and other countries for costly medical procedures, Business Insurance magazine reports.

"It saves you literally tens of thousands of dollars," said Bonnie Blackley, benefits director at Canton, N.C.-based Blue Ridge Paper Products.

A heart valve replacement, for example, that runs between $68,000 and $198,000 in the United States costs only $18,000 in India.

Blackley said that although her company's survival depended on keeping medical costs in check, local health care providers "offered no extra discount or anything."

So she contracted with IndUShealth, a "medical tourism" company that specializes in arranging employee travel to accredited hospitals and board-certified physicians in India.

The beauty of it is that Americans won't fly a French plane to their Indian heart operation.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:00 AM


Boston wonders: Is Big Dig fixable? (Donna Leinwand and Dennis Cauchon, 7/17/06, USA TODAY)

Boston residents endured years of upheaval and detours to get a highway system touted as an urban planning breakthrough. The Big Dig took ugly, congested, elevated highways that divided the city and moved traffic into tunnels and onto an attractive new bridge.

When the project neared completion two years ago, Boston was ready to embrace it. Residents spoke glowingly of a 15-minute zip across town to Logan International Airport.

A single traffic fatality changed that.

It would have been a breakthrough if they'd gotten rid of the roads in the first place.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:55 AM


Economists in survey don't want rates raised (Barbara Hagenbaugh and Barbara Hansen, 7/17/06, USA TODAY)

The Federal Reserve will raise interest rates next month, then be done for the year, according to economists surveyed by USA TODAY.

But some economists aren't sure that's a good idea.

Nearly two-thirds of the 54 economists surveyed July 7-12 expect Fed policymakers will raise interest rates when they next meet Aug. 8.

But 61% say they wouldn't raise rates if they were the ones sitting within the Fed's marbled walls. Most of the economists expect the Fed will take the increase back early next year by cutting interest rates once.

Except that the rates have nothing to do with economics--they're just psychological.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:33 AM


Population decline (Boston Globe, July 16, 2006)

With all the attention given to continuing strong growth in the world population, one thing might come as a surprise: Forty-three of the 193 nations around the world will register a decline in population by 2050. Which country will experience the most significant population decline in absolute terms by 2050?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:26 AM


City's left is torn by Mideast crisis (Ben Smith, 7/17/06, NY Daily News)

The broadening violence in the Middle East is endangering a political species with deep roots in New York: the liberal Israel hawk.

Although parts of the American left are more sympathetic to the Palestinian side of that conflict, "in New York the liberals are Zionists, because they're Jews," says Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-Brooklyn, Queens).

But the anti-war, anti-Bush, pro-Israel "progressive" political space occupied by the likes of the upper West Side's Rep. Jerrold Nadler and national Democrats such as House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is shrinking.

Israel's American allies are increasingly in the Republican Party, and leading journals of the American left have been skeptical of Israel's aggressive military response to the kidnapping of its soldiers.

Nadler said he sees "an increasing strain on the far left that is unreasonably anti-Israel, which I do not understand." An unwillingness to support Israel's right to defend itself, he said, could be tantamount for supporting the destruction of Israel. "If this kind of support for genocide of Jews continues to infect the left - that's not a left I want to be part of," Nadler said.

The problem, of course, is that the entire Left isn't Jews and those that aren't hate Jews for the same reason they all hate Christians.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:14 AM


Growing number of voters ignore primary elections (Kathy Kiely, 7/17/06, USA TODAY)

Halfway through this year's primary season, voters are showing little interest in picking candidates for the Nov. 7 elections that will determine control of Congress and elect more than one-third of the nation's governors.

Twenty-five states held primaries through June 27. Sixteen of the 22 states that have certified figures or provided estimates to USA TODAY recorded voter turnout lower than 2002, the last national election that wasn't in a presidential year.

Some experts worry that a voter boycott of primaries could result in politics being dominated by single-issue special-interest groups.

"The higher the turnout, the more representative an election is," says Rhodes Cook, publisher of a non-partisan political newsletter. "The lower the turnout, the more the election is likely to reflect a wing of a party or an ideology."

The Democrats' delusion about a "throw the bums out" tide has obviously been exposed, but why would anyone expect many voters to be highly motivated to turn out for elections when both Republican and Democrat congresses and presidents have given us twenty uninterrupted years of growth and incremental implementation of the sort of Third Way entitlement reforms that majorities throughout the Anglosphere expect?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:07 AM


Tel Aviv plans 4-tier, intensifying offensive (Abraham Rabinovich, 7/17/06, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

One of the final stages, presumably, is the entry of ground forces into Lebanon.

If Israel's main objectives -- a halt in the firing of missiles into Israel and a Lebanese government agreement to displace Hezbollah from the border area -- have not been achieved by the end of this week, ground troops will cross the border, according to the sources.

Israel is unenthusiastic about the prospect of getting bogged down again in southern Lebanon as it was for 18 years before its pullout in 2000.

But the head of the IDF operations directorate, Brig. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot, said Saturday that any ground incursion will be limited in time and in the area affected.

Israeli officials say they don't think the international community will force Israel to cease fire before its goals are achieved.

Of course not--it would be the Israeli people who would force Israel to stop again because the objective is unattainable and the price not worth it.

In Israel, fury mixed with fears (Thomas Frank, 7/17/06, USA TODAY)

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, with cautious support from the Bush administration, signaled a newly aggressive strategy in which the aim is not to pummel Hezbollah into inactivity, as in the past, but to dismantle the Iranian-backed, Shiite Muslim militia for good.

That pleases some Israelis, especially in this northern region near the Lebanese border, within easy range of Hezbollah rockets.

But many also quietly worry about getting dragged back into what some call "the Lebanon mud" — a wary reference to Israel's bloody 18-year military presence in Lebanon that ended in 2000.

"We did it once. We don't want to do it again," says Alon Oppenheimer, who runs a now-empty family restaurant in this touristy beach town that has been peppered by Hezbollah rockets since Thursday. Israel's attacks on Lebanon will last a week, "two at the most," Oppenheimer says, "because our government is smart enough and doesn't want to get in the Lebanon mud."

July 16, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:47 PM


Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:01 PM


G8 Mideast statement targets Iran, Syria: US (AFP, 7/16/06)

The United States said that a Group of Eight statement on the Middle East crisis implicitly targets Syria and Iran as backers of extremists who attack Israel, even though it does not name them.

A G8 statement on the Middle East crisis warned that "extremist elements and those that support them cannot be allowed to plunge the Middle East into chaos and provoke a wider conflict."

"'Those that support them' are clearly understood to be Syria and Iran, who have long been backers and funders of both Hezbollah and Hamas," the US State Department's number three, Nick Burns told reporters on a conference call, referring respectively to the Lebanese Shiite movement and Palestinian radical group.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:58 PM


We are far too soft on City villainy: The British should emulate the Americans' vigorous fraud-busting approach (Will Hutton, July 16, 2006, The Observer)

Last week three bankers - the NatWest Three - became almost national heroes, resisting the long arm of American law which required them to face trial in the US over an alleged offence related to the Enron scandal. The extradition treaty under which they were being removed from Britain had not even been ratified by the Americans, it was said; the burden of proof there was lower; and not even their own British bank was pressing charges. The plane left Gatwick for Houston carrying these tribunes of liberty to a manacled future; businessmen demonstrated; there was a special debate in the House of Commons. A delegation is to be sent to Washington to press the Americans to ratify the treaty.

You have to blink at the craziness. Only towards the end of the week did sanity emerge. The affidavit from the FBI agent in the bail hearings disclosed the email exchanges between the three, and the extent of their involvement in a series of offshore transactions apparently set up to throw up personal profits. 'We're going to get rich,' wrote one. The NatWest Three declare their innocence in the transactions, but there are questions to answer.

It is unusual for the British to witness fraud being taken seriously so long after the event and with such intent by the prosecuting authorities. This is the rule of law at work. The principle is surely right? If any government believes that British nationals may have been party to fraud against organisations under their jurisdiction then it should collaborate to see justice done. And if we don't want to prosecute, then we must stand aside and let others do it. The principle at stake is justice - and whether we want to ring-fence the City of London so that, in effect, anything goes.

Unlike 9-11, no one will much remember Enron in a few years, but it's fitting that the lesson we'll take away is: if you want corporate fraud prosecuted seriously you have to rely on George W. Bush's America to vindicate justice.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:14 PM


Cross border independence (BBC, 7/17/06)

The drive towards independence is gathering momentum in England as well as Scotland, it has been claimed.

SNP leader Alex Salmond has welcomed a poll suggesting almost one in three people in England favour independence.

The ICM poll for the Sunday Mail newspaper indicated 31% support in England to govern its own affairs.

The SNP leader said it would be "much better" to have two self-governing nations who were friendly neighbours rather than "surly lodgers".

Dying alone won't make Scots any less surly.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:34 PM


A Medical Crisis of Conscience (Rob Stein, 7/16/06, Washington Post)

In Chicago, an ambulance driver refused to transport a patient for an abortion. In California, fertility specialists rebuffed a gay woman seeking artificial insemination. In Texas, a pharmacist turned away a rape victim seeking the morning-after pill.

Around the United States, health workers and patients are clashing when providers balk at giving care that they feel violates their beliefs, sparking an intense, complex and often bitter debate over religious freedom vs. patients' rights.

Legal and political battles have followed. Patients are suing and filing complaints after being spurned. Workers are charging religious discrimination after being disciplined or fired. Congress and more than a dozen states are considering laws to compel workers to provide care -- or, conversely, to shield them from punishment.

Proponents of a "right of conscience" for health workers argue that there is nothing more American than protecting citizens from being forced to violate their moral and religious values. Patient advocates and others point to a deep tradition in medicine of healers having an ethical and professional responsibility to put patients first.

You aren't putting patients first if you assist them in evil acts.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:51 PM


Correct the damage (THE JERUSALEM POST, Jul. 16, 2006)

At a time like this, we would like to be in a position to thank free nations, which we might expect would naturally come to the side of a country under unprovoked attack from some of the most vicious terrorist organizations in the world. Unfortunately, the leader of only one nation, the United States, President George Bush, has been unequivocal in his support for Israel's position, and even his Secretary of State, Condoleeza Rice, has pointedly called for Israeli "restraint."

This implied and preemptive US criticism is, of course, mild compared to the international chorus that is already condemning Israel for its "disproportionate response." On Thursday, the US vetoed a UN Security Council Resolution that would have, in a surreal reversal of time and moral culpability, first condemned Israel's "military assault" on Gaza and secondly "also the firing of rockets into Israel and the abduction of an Israeli soldier by Palestinian armed groups from Gaza, and the recent abduction and killing of an Israeli civilian in the West Bank."

The US veto came on numerous grounds, including that the resolution related only to Gaza, even though the Hizbullah-Iranian offensive had already begun.

It will be long remembered by this country that the UN could even consider such a lopsided resolution at a time when Israeli civilians were being killed over an international border that it had fully recognized. Though the US cast a lone "no" vote, it is the majority of 10 nations - including France, Russia, and China - which should be ashamed of their stance, as should the UK, which could only muster an abstention.

It's not really fair to measure the others against W, who is a Jewish head of state.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:50 AM


Islam's reformers: One year after the 7/7 attacks in London, a challenge to the traditionalist, literal reading of the Koran is gathering strength. A younger generation of Muslims is seeking a less insular and more western faith (Ehsan Masood, July 2006, The Prospect)

It is a scene I won't forget in a hurry: Jean-Marie Lehn, French winner of the Nobel prize in chemistry, defending his atheism at a packed public conference at the new Alexandria Library in Egypt. In much of the Muslim world, talking about atheism in public is dangerous.

But the Alexandria Library is run by Ismail Serageldin, a Muslim intellectual who has a bold and ambitious project for Egypt. This is to create a place for dissent in public life. He wants to encourage people to grow thicker skins, help them appreciate that if Muslim societies want to return to the forefront of global intellectual life, they need to be comfortable with public dispute. The library is one place where open debate can take place—although this is partly because it is protected by having as its chair Suzanne Mubarak, wife of President Hosni Mubarak.

Serageldin is not alone. In my travels across the Muslim world, I am finding that what he (and others) are trying to do in Egypt is also happening elsewhere. It is happening in places where you would expect it, such as multicultural Indonesia and Malaysia, as well as places where you wouldn't, such as Iran and Saudi Arabia. It is happening at the level of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (a mini-UN of 57 countries with mainly Muslim populations), which has embarked on a ten-year reform plan to try to turn Muslim states into beacons of human rights and free speech. It is also happening on our doorstep, among Muslim minorities in the west.

In Britain and the US, we have seen the emergence of a number of Islamic "rationalists" who are building a case for Muslim societies to change from within, and for Muslim minorities in western countries to change how they think of themselves in relation to wider society. They include the British-Pakistani writer and thinker Ziauddin Sardar, the philosophers Tariq Ramadan (Swiss-Egyptian) and AbdolKarim Soroush (Iranian). From the US, change is being advocated by the evangelist Hamza Yusuf Hanson, who regards himself as more traditionalist than reformer.

Each has a different vision and a different way of working. But they all want Muslim societies—and minorities—that are vibrant, just, humane, at peace with themselves and with modernity. They also agree that elements of the practice of Islam can be of benefit to the modern west: the importance of family networks; a strong framework for morals; social responsibility. It is significant that each of these scholar-activists is either based in a western country, or has spent substantial time in western research establishments. They did not emerge from within the Islamic world, but the influence of at least two of them now extends deep into it. Sardar is influential in Indonesia, Malaysia and South Africa; and Soroush's ideas are so popular in Iran that he is banned from appearing in the media. Ramadan, meanwhile, is listened to by the British government and Hanson has in the past advised President Bush.

So what needs to change? One area on which all are agreed is the need to break with the traditional literal interpretation of the Koran. The majority of Muslims are taught to believe that the Koran is the uncreated word of God as delivered to Muhammad—that human agency did not interfere with the process from revelation to transcription. Islam is also regarded by most believers as fixed and unchanging—unlike Christianity, whose example of change in the centuries since the death of Jesus Christ is one reason why Islam is seen by some Muslims as the last true faith. Indeed, in most schools, Islam's "easternness" and resistance to western modernisation is seen as one of its enduring strengths.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:24 AM

A LITTLE LESS HELP, HERE (via Luciferous):

'Aid only feeds Africa's corruption' (Carl Mortishead, 7/16/06, Times Online)

A broadcaster little known in the West says handouts exacerbate the continent's problems
ASK Andrew Mwenda how rich nations can help Africa and you get a quick and disturbing answer.

“The best thing the West can do is nothing,” he says. [...]

Aid is directing self-interest elsewhere because, instead of engaging in a risky dialogue with their citizens about reform, African politicians would rather talk to aid donors and solicit handouts. “Africans need to move on from the slave trade and stop whining,” says Mr Mwenda.

He compares the old colonial administrators rattling around in Land Rovers with today’s army of foreign aid officials and government bureaucrats. “There were 72 colonial administrators and frugal public expenditure. Today, there are 2,800 foreign expatriates. They fight poverty in a BMW. When was Uganda more colonised, in 1962 or today?”

No surprise that the message is ill-received in Kampala where Mr Mwenda was a guest for several days in one of President Museveni’s jails. He accused the Government of incompetence and negligence in sending John Garang, the Sudanese rebel leader, to his death in a Ugandan government helicopter which recklessly flew into a storm in a rebel area.

Mr Mwenda admits freely that he would like to be president. While criticising the Ugandan opposition parties, he says that he will eventually join one. He wants to replace the African tradition of patronage with a meritocracy and admires Botswana and post-civil war Rwanda as better systems.

“Aid has destroyed the concept of civil society in Africa. What exists are the NGOs. They are bureaucracies committed to the interests of donors. Cut off the foreign aid and 90 per cent will disappear,” says Mr Mwenda.

Paul Driessen's book, Eco-Imperialism, is terrific on the subject. We're honored to have him on the panel this week at the Redefining Sovereignty event at the Heritage Foundation.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:09 AM


Cry havoc, and let slip the puppies of war (Spengler, 7/15/06, Asia Times)

The old dogs in Tehran and Riyadh can do nothing to satisfy the deeply felt and long-frustrated aspirations of their pups in the Gaza strip or Baghdad's Sadr City, no more than Nicholas II could requite the nationalist hopes of Serbia without going to war with Austria and Germany. In fact, nothing can dampen the Palestinians' existential outrage against the misery of their circumstances, or fulfill the ambitions of Iraq's Shi'ites without the reduction of the Sunni population.

That leaves Tehran in a dilemma. Iran's power rests on its ability to threaten destabilization, especially in Iraq, and it is counting on this to keep the Bush administration at bay. Even the greatest military autocrat, though, is constrained by the character of his army, and the standing of the region's little powers depends on the outcome of the puppy fights now in progress. The logical result is continued escalation until America and Iran stand off in earnest.

Saudi Arabia, by the same token, cannot abandon its Sunni brethren in Iraq by acquiescing to an Iranian power play, which in the long run threatens the kingdom's own security. Dallas Morning News editor Rod Dreher spoke to Saudi Minister of State Abdullah Zainal Alireza on June 28, who stated "that the US cannot allow Iran to get the bomb". Dreher asked him, "What if it happens anyway?" The Saudi minister, Dreher reported, "repeated, firmly, that it must not be allowed to happen. Period. The end."

This declaration to a prominent US journalist should be assigned high significance. As I observed earlier this year, "Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have the most to lose from a nuclear-equipped Iran. No one can predict when the Saudi kingdom might become unstable, but whenever it does, Iran will stand ready to support its Shi'ite co-religionists, who make up a majority in the kingdom's oil-producing east."

It should be no surprise that Western governments are watching the events in Gaza slack-jawed and confused. Not only the dogs, but the dogs' owners, have plunged into the melee. The divisions inside Hamas make matters more complicated still.

Hamas' military wing in Gaza takes orders from the Syrian-based Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal, "because he distributes the funds received from Iran and the Gulf States", as the Guardian of London reported July 4. The region's governments blame each other for failing to persuade Meshaal to free the Israeli corporal.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who has the most to lose, blames Syria for ignoring Egyptian requests to arrange the soldier's release. But the Palestinian negotiator Nabil Shaath told the Saudi daily Al-Watan on July 9 that both Egypt and Saudi Arabia were blocking Western efforts to convince Iran and Syria to use their good offices to free Shalit.

Iran's President Mahmud Ahmadinejad and his Revolutionary Guard supporters are the puppies of the Iranian revolution. Western diplomacy presumes that the old dogs, specifically Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and former president Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, will kennel their curs before the US takes military action of some kind. But that is harder to do than some Western analysts suppose, for Iran's influence over Shi'ite militias in Iraq represents the Islamic Republic's most important source of leverage over the United States.

Tug on the loose ends and this whole ball comes untied. It obviously can not both be the case that Iran is the great center of Shi'ite power and the support and defender of Shi'ites across the Middle East and that it's primary weapon against the U.S. is to destabilize the Shi'ite dominated Iraqi state, an end that the Sunni enemy favors. In fact, one of the most important reasons for us to have withdrawn promptly from Iraq was because in our absence the Iranians would have to support the Shi'ite regime, even though it is anti-Khomeneist. Likewise, there is an easy conmtradiction to be forced in Syria, where Iran is in cahoots with a regime that represses the significant Shi'ite population.

Israeli strikes are part of a broader strategy (Robin Wright, July 16, 2006, The Washington Post)

Israel, with U.S. support, intends to resist calls for a cease-fire and continue a longer-term strategy of punishing Hezbollah, which is likely to include several weeks of precision bombing in Lebanon, according to senior Israeli and U.S. officials.

For Israel, the goal is to eliminate Hezbollah as a security threat -- or altogether, the sources said. A senior Israeli official confirmed that Hezbollah leader Hasan Nasrallah is a target, on the calculation that the Shiite movement would be far less dynamic without him.

For the United States, the broader goal is to strangle the axis of Hezbollah, Hamas, Syria and Iran, which the Bush administration believes is pooling resources to change the strategic playing field in the Middle East, U.S. officials say.

Except that Israel can't prevent eventual Shi'ite domination of Lebanon and the United States views the Shi'a as de facto allies against radical Islam.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:04 AM


Clinton, in Arkansas, Says Democrats Are 'Wasting Time' (ANNE E. KORNBLUT, 7/16/06, NY Times)

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, returning to her red-state ties, chastised Democrats Saturday for taking on issues that arouse conservatives and turn out Republican voters rather than finding consensus on mainstream subjects.

Without mentioning specific subjects like gay marriage, Mrs. Clinton said: “We do things that are controversial. We do things that try to inflame their base.”

“We are wasting time,” the senator told a group of Democratic women here, on part of a two-day swing through a state that could provide an alternate hub to New York if she starts a national political campaign.

The simple reality is that Democrats can't afford to talk about social issues.

the only way that democrats can regain a majority (Michael Lind, 8/04/05, TPM Cafe)

The good news for Democrats is that they can regain the majority if the now-dead Civil Rights Democrat coalition of 1968-2004, a coalition of social liberals who agreed to disagree about economic issues, is replaced by something like the New Deal coalition of 1932-68, a coalition of economic liberals who agree to disagree about social issues.

The bad news for social liberals is that in a Democratic majority defined by economic liberalism the social liberals would be the minority in their own party and the socially conservative, economically liberal populists would be the majority. Not only would social liberals have to welcome back pro-middle-class-welfare-state social conservatives to the Democratic party, but also they would have to consent to being the junior partners, as in the New Deal era.

Social liberals can be the minority in a majority party. Or social liberals can be the majority in a minority party. But social liberals can't be the majority in a majority party--not in the United States, not in the foreseeable future. There just aren't enough social liberals in the American electorate.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:56 AM


An American Foreign Policy That Both Realists and Idealists Should Fall in Love With (ROBERT WRIGHT, 7/16/06, NY Times)

[I]t’s now possible to build a foreign policy paradigm that comes close to squaring the circle — reconciling the humanitarian aims of idealists with the powerful logic of realists. And adopting this paradigm could make the chaos of the last week less common in the future.

Every paradigm needs a name, and the best name for this one is progressive realism. The label has a nice ring (Who is against progress?) and it aptly suggests bipartisan appeal. This is a realism that could attract many liberals and a progressivism that could attract some conservatives.

With such crossover potential, this paradigm might even help Democrats win a presidential election. But Democrats can embrace it only if they’re willing to annoy an interest group or two and also reject a premise common in Democratic policy circles lately: that the key to a winning foreign policy is to recalibrate the party’s manhood — just take boilerplate liberal foreign policy and add a testosterone patch. Even if that prescription did help win an election, it wouldn’t succeed in protecting America. [...]

Progressive realism begins with a cardinal doctrine of traditional realism: the purpose of American foreign policy is to serve American interests. [...]

There is a principle here that goes beyond arms control: the national interest can be served by constraints on America’s behavior when they constrain other nations as well. This logic covers the spectrum of international governance, from global warming (we’ll cut carbon dioxide emissions if you will) to war (we’ll refrain from it if you will).

This doesn’t mean joining the deepest devotees of international law and vowing never to fight a war that lacks backing by the United Nations Security Council. But it does mean that, in the case of Iraq, ignoring the Security Council and international opinion had excessive costs: (1) eroding the norm against invasions not justified by self-defense or imminent threat; (2) throwing away a golden post-9/11 opportunity to strengthen the United Nations’ power as a weapons inspector. The last message we needed to send is the one President Bush sent: countries that succumb to pressure to admit weapons inspectors will be invaded anyway. Peacefully blunting the threats posed by nuclear technologies in North Korea and Iran would be tricky in any event, but this message has made it trickier. (Ever wonder why Iran wants “security guarantees”?)

The administration’s misjudgment in Iraq highlights the distinction — sometimes glossed over by neoconservatives — between transparency and regime change. Had we held off on invasion, demanding in return that United Nations inspections be expanded and extended, we could have rendered Iraq transparent, confirming that it posed no near-term threat. Regime change wasn’t essential. [...]

The slaughter in Darfur, though a humanitarian crisis, is also a security issue, given how hospitable collapsed states can be to terrorists. But if addressing the Darfur problem will indeed help thwart terrorism internationally, then the costs of the mission should be shared.

President Bush’s belated diplomatic involvement in Darfur suggests growing enlightenment, but sluggish ad hoc multilateralism isn’t enough. We need multilateral structures capable of decisively forceful intervention and nation building — ideally under the auspices of the United Nations, which has more global legitimacy than other candidates. America should lead in building these structures and thereafter contribute its share, but only its share. To some extent, the nurturing of international institutions and solid international law is simple thrift.

And the accounting rules are subtle. [...]

Of course, resources aren’t infinite, and the world has lots of problems. But focusing on national interest helps focus resources. Notwithstanding last week’s carnage in the Middle East, more people have been dying in Sri Lanka’s civil war than in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. But given the threat of anti-American Islamist terrorism, forging a lasting two-state solution in the Middle East is a higher priority than bringing lasting peace to Sri Lanka.

This sounds harsh, but it is only acknowledgment of something often left unsaid: a nation’s foreign policy will always favor the interests of its citizens and so fall short of moral perfection. We can at least be thankful that history, by intertwining the fates of peoples, is bringing national interest closer to moral ideals.

The obvious problem for Mr. Wright is that the moral ideals that America seeks to vindicate are Judeo-Christian and that means that it will never be the "purpose of American foreign policy...to serve American interests." Interests can not be squared with morals. For instance, the Realists are uniformly hostile to Israel because it would serve our "interests" to remove that irritant from the Middle East. American foreign policy, hoever, is and always has been pro-Israel for exclusively moral reasons. Likewise, it couldn't matter less to our "interests" how many Jews a Hitler kills, how many Shi'ites and Kurds a Saddam kills, how many blacks in Darfur the Arabs kill, how badly Haiti is run, etc... We intervene -- over and over and over again, in situations with virtually no strategic implications -- because it is morally right, even when it is directly against our own interests.

Our foreign policy in no way approaches moral perfection, but it is morally motivated and an argument against that historical truth is unrealistic.

The Prophet and the Evangelist: The public "conversation" of Reinhold Niebuhr and Billy Graham. (Andrew S. Finstuen, July/August 2006, Books & Culture)

In 1948, the well-known neo-orthodox1 theologian Reinhold Niebuhr appeared on the cover of Time magazine's 25th anniversary edition. Niebuhr's stern visage was accompanied by the original sin-inspired caption: "Man's story is not a success story." Six years later, a portrait of evangelist Billy Graham stared directly out at Time's readers. A Garden of Eden scene, complete with a naked Eve and a menacing serpent coiled around the tree of knowledge, provided the backdrop.

Their respective cover appearances were more than mere happenstance. These two giants of American Protestantism revitalized the doctrine of original sin in the post-World War II era. Their interpretations of sin differed: Niebuhr focused on the complexities of individual and social sin, while Graham focused almost exclusively on individual sin. Indeed, Niebuhr had little patience for what he referred to as Graham's "pietistic individualism," which asserted that the solution to the world's problems was individual regeneration. Despite this theological divide, Niebuhr saw great potential in the ministry of Graham, and he poked and prodded the evangelist in several mid-Fifties articles aimed in part at helping Graham realize his potential as a prophetic leader within American Protestantism. For a brief moment, then, these two leading Christian personalities were not so much polarized from one another as typically imagined but rather in "conversation" with one another. And to a large degree, ministers and some lay believers of the day followed the conversation closely, appreciating each thinker for his respective gifts to the community of the faithful.

Yet few scholars have recognized this basic point of contact in the thought of Niebuhr and Graham, however distinct their interpretations of sin, nor have they given careful consideration to the space they shared within the mid-century public sphere. As the two most recognizable faces of postwar Protestantism (Paul Tillich and Norman Vincent Peale were the others), Niebuhr and Graham's thought was often juxtaposed in popular periodicals. In 1955, McCall's asked the nation's religious leaders, "Is our religious revival real?" Graham and Niebuhr joined a handful of other respondents by expressing suspicion of the "revival." The thrust of their reservations had a similar tone. Graham announced, "God is interested in the quality of converts, not quantity." Niebuhr also questioned the "quality" of the surging church-going population. He wondered whether "this generation is not expressing its desire to believe in something," though perhaps unwilling "to be committed to a God who can be known only through repentance."

This was not an isolated incident. Both figures voiced their concerns about the depth of the revival frequently, doing so again alongside one another in a Newsweek article in 1955. That same year, The Reader's Digest printed Graham and Niebuhr's reflections, one after the other, on the prospect of world peace. Both were hopeful but not unrealistic; they each cited the corruption of human nature as the biggest obstacle to any lasting peace. [...]

[G]raham startled the Protestant world with his admission in 1958 that he had read "nearly everything Mr. Niebuhr has written." Graham apparently meant what he said. As late as the 1980s, Graham claimed: "Look, I need some more Reinhold Niebuhrs in my life. I would say Reinhold Niebuhr was a great contributor to me. He helped me work through some of my problems."

Niebuhr never went quite so far as to profess any Grahamian influence on his work, but he never ceased praising Graham for his sincerity, integrity, and certain aspects of his evangelism. Niebuhr noted in a 1955 New Republic article, for instance, that Graham's "fundamentalist version of the Christian faith . . . expresses some of the central themes of the Christian faith. He demands that men be confronted with God in Christ; and hopes that this confrontation will lead to conversion." (We should note in passing that even as Niebuhr characterized Graham thus, fundamentalists were denouncing the evangelist.) Niebuhr also consistently distinguished Graham from the "success cult" of Norman Vincent Peale. Graham, Niebuhr thought, had something of the prophet in him in comparison with Peale. [...]

To his credit, Graham tackled the race problem in Life magazine seven weeks after Niebuhr's "Proposal." The article, one of the more substantive pieces Graham ever produced for popular consumption, ran for six pages, brooking no compromise with racism and segregation. A companion article—no doubt encouraged by Graham—featured a dialogue regarding the problem of integration among some leading evangelical Protestants, including Graham's father-in-law, L. Nelson Bell. Both articles denounced racism as unbiblical, though the latter article advocated a gradualist approach to desegregation.

Graham's article opened with overtones of deflection as well. He painted the problem of discrimination on a broader North American and worldwide canvas. The Dutch, the English, New Englanders, and, of course, Southerners shared in the shame and sin of American slavery and racism. At the same time, he stated the problem frankly: "We have sown flagrant human injustice and we have reaped a harvest of racial strife."

Niebuhr read the article and judged it, not surprisingly, incomplete. The editors of Christian Century commissioned a rebuttal from Niebuhr, but he declined. Although he contended "he [Graham] did not answer my challenge in his Life article," Niebuhr felt strongly that it would be inappropriate to challenge him again, "since many of the readers will not have seen Life and will not know whether he answered adequately or not." Niebuhr's negative assessment bespoke a stubborn pride. Graham had risen to his counterpart's "proposal" but Niebuhr refused to see it.

Graham had directly addressed the essence of Niebuhr's charge against his ministry. Niebuhr had accused Graham, despite his "enlightened" attitude on the issue of race, of ignoring the Christian "demand of love" that transcended "racial boundaries." For Niebuhr, it was not enough to condemn racial prejudice. The Christian must recognize his complicity in the corporate sin of racism, repent, and pursue a "whole-souled effort to give the Negro neighbor his full due as man and brother."28 Graham answered Niebuhr point by point with a thesis statement fully attentive to the intricacy of social sin, the temptation to complacency, and the need for honest contrition:

It is fashionable in some circles to tolerate current evils because of their tremendous complexity and the knotty problems involved in any attempt to improve the state of affairs. We and our fathers have made the situation what it is. In the midst of this tangled web it is more than ever our responsibility to weave a pattern of justice—and more than justice: the principle of the Golden Rule, the spirit of neighbor-love, and the experience of redemptive love and forgiveness.

The article continued with an unequivocal refutation of biblical arguments for racism. Any arguments maintaining that Jesus "never specifically denounced slavery" were "silly," since Jesus regarded any violation of "neighbor-love" a sin. Graham also disputed other scriptural defenses of racial difference, for example the curse of Ham, concluding: "There may be reasons that men give for practicing racial discrimination, but let's not make the mistake of pleading the Bible to defend it." In perhaps unspoken deference to Niebuhr, he further recognized the social obligations of Christians and the importance of combating the collective evil of segregation. The gospel of "pietistic individualism" that Niebuhr so reacted against remained, but Graham insisted that individual regeneration could not be separated from social regeneration. "The pulpit does only half its job," wrote Graham, when it "neglects the 'power' for social reconstruction peculiar to the Christian religion."

Graham, like Niebuhr, also paid homage to secular advances in race relations that outdistanced any Christian efforts at reconciliation. This "tragedy of 20th Century Christianity" notwithstanding, Graham maintained that "true neighbor-love" was only possible through Christianity, more specifically through individual salvation from sin. For Graham, one had to begin with the individual. An unrepentant person—whether Christian or non-Christian—could not possibly conjure the humility necessary to embark successfully on such an important social problem. The openness of a "twice born" Christian toward his "Negro" brother exceeded that of both the secular individual and the uncommitted "Christian." The truly penitent understood the abundant sin of individual and corporate life through confrontation with God.

In short, the judged should not judge one another. But Graham anticipated the Niebuhrian critique of this undo sanctification of the Christian, arguing that even the "twice born" fell short of this Christian ideal. Graham summarized his position powerfully:

The church, if it aims to be the true church, dares not segregate the message of good racial relations from the message of regeneration, for the human race is sinful—and man as sinner is prone to desert God and Neighbor alike. When he receives Christ as his Saviour being regenerated by the Holy Spirit he finds a power that turns the social patterns upside down. The twice-born man may not live up to his possibilities—and it is sad he falls so far short—but he has the possibilities and potentialities of Christ, and we had better not neglect this tremendous fact in our preaching and teaching.

In this instance, Graham was the prophetic equal of Niebuhr. Niebuhr devoted his career to extolling the ultimate superiority of the Christian perspective against other "schemes of meaning." In other words, he believed that individual Christians working together had the best chance of enacting the love principle, however inadequately, here on earth and of achieving the closest approximation of peaceful coexistence with the neighbor. Graham's view of the church, if only for a moment, matched Niebuhr's conceptualization of the duties of the Christian life.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:45 AM


Lieberman Hopes His Fate Isn’t Sealed With a Kiss (MARK LEIBOVICH, 7/16/06, NY Times)

Kisses mock Mr. Lieberman, the incumbent Democrat, all over Connecticut — on signs, on buttons, even on giant parade floats. They commemorate the one President Bush appeared to plant on his cheek after last year’s State of the Union address, a symbol, in the eyes of Mr. Lieberman’s liberal critics, of an unforgivable alliance in support of the Iraq war.

“It’s a ‘Godfather’ kiss — one of those kisses that says, ‘I own you,’ ” said Edward Anderson, a supporter of Mr. Lieberman’s Democratic primary opponent, Ned Lamont, who was distributing “kiss” buttons outside a Lieberman campaign event in Stamford, Conn., on Monday.

In an interview in his Senate office, Mr. Lieberman said he recalled only a hug, not a kiss, but acknowledged, “There has been some doubt, based on the postgame films.” Asked if there had been any subsequent kisses with the president, he said, “None that I’m prepared to talk about,” and chuckled. [...]

Mr. Lieberman’s allies discuss him these days with a tinge of sadness, as if mourning a kindly gentleman who has wandered into a bad neighborhood. “He’s being subjected to the hate machine like Bill Clinton and George Bush have,” said Mr. Davis, a former special counsel to Mr. Clinton. “Joe Lieberman has never been subjected to this before.”

Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona and one of Mr. Lieberman’s closest friends in the Senate, called him “one of the most decent men I have ever known” and simply shook his head when asked about his friend’s situation. “I hesitate to say anything nice about him, for fear that it would be used against him,” Mr. McCain said. “And that’s a terrible commentary on the state of politics and the political climate today.”

Switch parties and he'll slip you some tongue.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:38 AM


McGavick puts Cantwell on defensive (Seattle Times, 7/16/06)

If Washington's U.S. Senate campaign were a boxing match, the early rounds are going to Republican Mike McGavick.

McGavick is running numerous ads on TV and radio. He is advertising strategically on newspaper Internet sites. He is traveling around the state introducing himself, particularly to rural Washington. He is behaving like a well-organized, aggressive challenger. [...]

Last Monday, Cantwell launched her first TV ad, featuring her as a populist fighter on behalf of energy and gasoline consumers — a good ad with a clear message.

Still at this early juncture, the question arises: Who is running the better campaign? The edge goes to McGavick.

It can't be hard to counteract her pro-consumer theme when she opposes drilling for oil.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:36 AM


More parents resisting vaccines for kids (Carol M. Ostrom, 7/17/06, Seattle Times)

They're the "conscientious objectors" of the public-health world: parents who resist giving their children vaccines.

Their numbers are increasing, public-health officials say, although nobody knows exactly how many there are.

Some are parents like Pam Beck, a Vashon Island mom who says she once trusted doctors and public-health officials to know best. But years ago, when two of her children had what she calls extreme reactions to pertussis vaccine, that all changed.

"There's a lot of people here who don't vaccinate," Beck notes. "My daughter-in-law decided not to do it, just to be safe," she said, speaking of her 2 ½-year-old grandchild.

How is it conscientious to put your kids and public health at risk?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:31 AM


The Race Savings Gap (Michelle Singletary, July 16, 2006, Washington Post)

Some black workers may have less saved because they are counting on getting a pension, the survey found.

In the latest investor survey, two-thirds of employed blacks -- compared with about half of employed whites -- work for organizations with a traditional pension plan. Far more black than white workers surveyed (44 percent vs. 25 percent) have jobs in government, which are more likely to offer pensions.

But there is no assurance that the benefits for a traditional pension plan won't be changed for the worse or taken away. Just look at the corporate world.

Among families with an employment-based plan, the percentage with only a traditional pension plan decreased from 40 percent in 1992 to 24 percent in 2004, according to the Employee Benefit Research Institute.

"All across America, corporate pension funds are being frozen and many government pension systems are underfunded," pointed out Mellody Hobson, president of Ariel, a black-owned institutional money management firm and mutual fund company based in Chicago. "It's a national crisis that will hit blacks especially hard because we've all bought into the promise."

Of course, Democrats would prefer to keep them as permanent tax-eaters. It's the GOP, again, that wants to set them free.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:22 AM


Harper set to back Bush in G-8 Mideast debate (LES WHITTINGTON, 7/16/06, Toronto Star)

Bush is pressing for G-8 leaders to adopt a joint declaration laying the blame for the crisis directly on Hezbollah, as well as the militant Islamic group's allies in Iran and Syria and the Palestinian group Hamas.

But most other leaders here differ with Bush. While recognizing Israel's right to defend itself, they argue that the Jewish state's military onslaught in Lebanon in the past few days was an overreaction that is feeding the spiral of violence.

French President Jacques Chirac has sharply criticized Israel for what he said was an unbalanced response to the cross-border raid into Israel on Wednesday by Lebanese-based Hezbollah fighters who captured two Israeli soldiers and killed eight others.

Italian Premier Romano Prodi described Israel's military actions in the past few days as "disproportionate." Prodi called for all sides in the conflict to forsake violence.

Harper appears to be the only G-8 leader besides Bush who has singled out Islamic militants for blame in the latest outbreak of Middle East fighting.

Koizumi and Blair may be worried about domestic opinion, but won't likely oppose us openly. The others aren't allies.

Inside the Mind of Hezbollah (Robin Wright, July 16, 2006, Washington Post)

Nasrallah is a man of God, gun and government, a cross between Ayatollah Khomeini and Che Guevera, an Islamic populist as well as a charismatic guerrilla tactician. The black head wrap -- signifying his descent from the prophet Muhammad -- is now his trademark, and he is Lebanon's best known politician. Lines from his speeches are popular ring tones on cellphones. His face is a common computer screensaver. Wall posters, key rings and even phone cards bear his image. Taxis play his speeches instead of music.

At 46, Nasrallah is also the most controversial leader in the Arab world, at the center of the most vicious new confrontation between Israel and its neighbors in a quarter-century. Yet he is not the prototypical militant. His career has straddled the complex line between Islamic extremist and secular politician. "He is the shrewdest leader in the Arab world," Israeli Ambassador to the United States Daniel Ayalon told me on Friday, "and the most dangerous."

Until this eruption of violence along the Lebanese border -- the most dramatic cross-border acts of war by Israel since its invasion of Lebanon in 1982 -- Nasrallah had largely succeeded in being both. A fiery populist, he extolled the virtues of democracy to me in one breath, then argued that only suicide bombers can secure that democracy. "As long as there are fighters who are ready for martyrdom, this country will remain safe," he bragged in a speech earlier this year. But now the man who helped create Hezbollah may finally have to make a choice.

When we met in his office, before this new battle with Israel, Nasrallah claimed to see peaceful political activism as Hezbollah's future.

"We have ministers, we have members of parliament, we have municipal council members, leaders of unions and syndicates," he boasted as we sat on faux French brocade furniture at his now-bombed headquarters. "If we are maintaining our arms until now, this is due to the fact that the need for it is still there, due to the permanent or constant Israeli threats against Lebanon. Whether we keep on with the resistance or stop the resistance, we are effectively now a full-fledged political party." [...]

Hezbollah has become an enterprise in the dahiya, often outperforming the state. It runs a major hospital as well as schools, discount pharmacies, groceries and an orphanage. It runs a garbage service and a reconstruction program for homes damaged during Israel's invasion. It supports families of the young men it sent off to their deaths. Altogether, it benefits an estimated 250,000 Lebanese and is the country's second-largest employer.

In the dahiya, Nasrallah is an icon, famed for his oratory and revered as a champion of Lebanon's long-dispossessed Shiite minority. [...]

[H]ezbollah's shifts under Nasrallah should not be mistaken for moderation. As with other Islamist groups in the Middle East, change was about survival of both cause and constituents. The end of Lebanon's 15-year civil war in 1990 had altered the environment. From then on, Hezbollah needed to participate in the political system -- or face loss of the weapons that gave it power.

Today, Hezbollah holds 14 seats in parliament, one of the larger blocs, and in 2005 joined the government for the first time. This year, Nasrallah even made an unlikely alliance with a right-wing Christian who was once a Lebanese army general -- while still accepting what U.S. intelligence has pegged at about $100 million annually from Iran in goods, cash and arms, including an estimated 13,000 rockets and missiles.

For six years, Hezbollah also demonstrated some military restraint. When Israel ended its 18-year occupation of Lebanon in 2000, Nasrallah declared, "We have liberated the south. Next we'll liberate Jerusalem." Yet until last week, Hezbollah's increasingly infrequent offensives were largely limited to the disputed border town at Shebaa Farms.

But the transition is far from complete; Nasrallah still wants it both ways.

Hezbollah at a critical juncture: Conflict puts volatile movement's future up in the air. By Andrew Mills, Jul. 16, 2006. Toronto Star)
Most of the Christian and Sunni Muslim minority communities, which command a disproportionate control of Lebanon's political scene and its wealth, have never been fans of Hezbollah, which is funded by and tied to both Iran and Syria.

Recently, those communities had lined up behind the government's attempts to convince Hezbollah to set aside its weapons and hand over control of the Israeli border to the Lebanese army, which would bring the country into compliance with a crucial UN resolution most Western governments have been urging Beirut to address.

The government's efforts to disarm Hezbollah have not been going well. The central authority of the fractious coalition government has been too weak to strong-arm the group into giving up its weapons. And Hezbollah's leader, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, has insisted that Hezbollah must maintain its weapons to protect Lebanon from Israeli aggression.

This has unfolded at a time when Hezbollah's political clout is stronger than it has ever been. The group has its first member of the cabinet, making it a member of the governing coalition. What's more, most Shiite Muslims, who have long been Lebanon's most impoverished and marginalized sect, have started to look to Hezbollah as their first real representative that comes to the political table with significant clout.

"For the first time, they have been forming the Shiite identity and they are not willing to lose it," said Naoum.

"So if you want to disarm Hezbollah, you have to fight the Shiite community. In Lebanon, that means civil war."

Some experts believe Nasrallah's unilateral declaration of all-out war on Israel Friday evening has dragged the entire country unwillingly into conflict with its powerful neighbour. The fear is that the backlash against Hezbollah will only deepen the already-deep sectarian divide. [...]

But since the Israeli attacks have begun to target the infrastructure used by all Lebanese — and not exclusively Hezbollah — Timur Goksel, a former senior UN official and now a lecturer at the American University of Beirut, has noticed growing support for the militants.

"I think if the Israelis continue hitting non-military targets like they're hitting now ... there is a reason to line up behind Hezbollah," he said. "If the Israelis continue like this, they might be actually encouraging the people to unite behind Hezbollah."

Israel hasn't adjusted to the fact that the Shi'ites will be the dominant political force in Lebanon, which makes such attacks counterproductive. They should instead use this as a pretext for regime change in Syria, which sponsors terrorism in order to deflect attention from its own failings.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:16 AM


Has Putin sapped Russian democracy? (Damian Grammaticas, 7/16/06, BBC)

"The president is at the peak of his form," [Yaroslavl's Governor Anatoliy Lisitsyn] says. "He's the one who understands what Russia needs. Nobody could do a better job."

Even here, several hundred kilometres from Moscow, the Kremlin, under Mr Putin, has reasserted its influence.

On one side of the main square is Mr Lisitsyn's office, opposite it the local parliament. Russia has all the trappings of a democracy, but delve beneath the surface and it does not function like a democracy.

The debate in Yaroslavl's parliament is impassioned. But like the national legislature, it is now packed with government supporters. It's a rubber stamp.

The local media, like the national one, is now carefully controlled. People who supported opposition candidates in the last local election have been forced out of their jobs.

Oleg Vinogradov, an opposition MP, is in no doubt about Russian democracy today.

"Nobody is sent to Siberia now," he says. "But all our democratic institutions have been destroyed, our media, our parliament, our courts.

"Our country is led by people who were trained as spies, secret agents. Their view is if you are not with us you are against us. The trouble is, ordinary people just don't care."

The reason they don't care is that Mr Putin has delivered real improvements in people's standards of living, made possible by high oil prices supporting Russia's economy.

Stability and prosperity are prerequisites of the liberal democratic freedom that it is our role to keep pushing Russia towards.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:55 AM


No saves recorded during full day of baseball (IRA PODELL, July 16, 2006, AP)

There was no saving baseball during a wild Saturday full of blowouts and walkoff wins.

It marked the first time in nearly three decades a full day of major league games were played without a save recorded.

There were six blown saves in the 15-game schedule, including two each in Pittsburgh's 7-6 victory over Washington, and Cincinnati's 3-2 win against Colorado. The Nationals and Reds both won with ninth-inning rallies.

The last time baseball went a complete day without a save was Sept. 15, 1978, when all 26 teams were in action during a 14-game schedule -- including a doubleheader, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

July 15, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:59 PM


Democracy's Best Friend or Antidemocratic Elitist? (EDWARD ROTHSTEIN, 7/10/06, NY Times)

Could any tyrant have plotted a more patient, thorough and ruthless path to power? Leo Strauss, the political philosopher who died in 1973, might have seemed just a harmless German-Jewish émigré, teaching Plato and Machiavelli at the University of Chicago. But according to recent critics, he was actually preparing an intellectual putsch, which would take place 30 years after his death and culminate in the war in Iraq.

His students and followers, these critics say, learned their lessons well and like good soldiers began a long march through a variety of institutions, seeking control. They maneuvered into foundations, institutes and departments of state and war. Then they began their shadow rule, leading the nation into foolhardy war. Presumably, their mentor gazes down from the heavens (or upward from the other place), beaming with satisfaction.

I exaggerate slightly, but this really is a theory that has taken shape in recent years in newspaper reports, magazine articles and books. Strauss has been characterized as an antidemocratic ultraconservative: the shadowy intellectual figure behind some of the men who planned the Iraq war. He has been called a cynical teacher who encouraged his students to believe in their right to rule humanity, a patron saint of neoconservatives, a believer in the use of "noble lies" to manipulate the masses. And he has been linked (with variable accuracy) to, among others, Paul Wolfowitz, the former deputy secretary of defense; and Richard Perle, former chairman of the Defense Policy Board, an advisory group to Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld.

In 2004, Strauss's face demonically loomed over Tim Robbins's agitprop antiwar play "Embedded," at the Public Theater in New York, as he was hailed with brutish chants. Books like "Leo Strauss and the Politics of American Empire" (Yale) by Anne Norton have relished telling of his baleful influence. [...]

The self-righteous fury unleashed against Leo Strauss is partly because of the sense that he sinned against one of the most sacred doctrines of democratic culture: egalitarianism.

But in the end Strauss's message does get through. What the ancients remind us is that humanity is not infinitely perfectible, that the ideal world is not ruled by reason alone, that cultural and historical variation does not mean that anything goes, that notions of egalitarianism do not guarantee virtue.

These views can sound almost trite, reduced to such propositions. But consider, then, how few societies in the past have explored such far-reaching conclusions, how few have also been able to live by them, and how much opposition such views have spurred.

Hard to believe that the fury and the sinister caricature don't owe an awful lot to his being Jewish as well as denying the Rationalist (French) faith in egalitarianism.

Posted by Pepys at 2:12 PM


The United States inches ever closer to criminalizing bad thoughts. (Dahlia Lithwick, 15 July 2006, Slate)

The government claims to have foiled two major terror plots in the past month—both in early planning stages that had not crossed the line from talk to action. In late June, seven men were arrested in Miami for allegedly concocting a plan to blow up, among other places, the Sears Tower in Chicago. Then last week, several men were arrested in the Middle East for plotting suicide bombings of transit tunnels between New Jersey and Manhattan...
Even the FBI has conceded that the so-called Miami 7's plan was "more aspirational than operational." Comedy writers lie awake at night dreaming about indictments like this: The leader of the Miami plotters met with an FBI informant posing as a member of al-Qaida and promptly demanded "a list of equipment needed, in order to wage jihad, which list included boots, uniforms, machine guns, radios and vehicles."...
Gonzales and his colleagues seem to be falling into a familiar trap here: They think that since 9/11 happened due to government inaction, any and all government action should be welcome—including widespread arrests of genuine plotters along with hapless paint-ballers. The law works best when it's used as a scalpel, not an ax. So please, let's not start arresting citizens for the badness of their thoughts. Because whoops, I just had another one.

That last paragraph is a real doozy: every sentence is wrong. All threats to American Society (be it the Confederacy, the Communists, the Mafia or the Millitiamen) have been met with overwhelming legal force. That' s just the way we do things around here.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:39 PM


Who's Resurrecting the Electric Car?: Forget those poky little golf cars — the battery-powered muscle car is just around the corner (JUDITH LEWIS, 7/12/06, LA Weekly)

The 1946 Oldsmobile that sits amid the old boat hulls and flywheels in the Reverend Gadget’s Culver City machine shop harks back to an era of voluptuous curves and radiant chrome; its owner, actor and comedian Tommy Chong, calls it “Ace,” and considers the car so exquisite that he lists it among his collection of sculptures. Open the door, however, and it looks like somebody doused Chong’s baby in gasoline and torched it: There’s no engine, no seats, no pedals — nothing, in fact, but a small white box bolted to the floor where the back seat should be, with two wires connecting the box to some contraption in the trunk.

“That’s for the air bags,” says Reverend Gadget, a.k.a. Greg Abbott, the craftsman, lay engineer and artist who’s restoring Chong’s Olds. A compact, muscular man, with a boyish grin and blue eyes that crinkle up when he laughs, he ushers me around the back of the car to see a little black machine branded “Praise the Lowered.” He flashes a smile and winks. “It’s a lowrider.”

When he finishes outfitting the Olds with a DC motor, enough serial-wired, nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) D-cell batteries to produce 340,000 watts of power, and a computerized controller to connect the two, Chong’s ride will be the first all-electric vehicle to bounce down San Fernando Road competing for glory with the ’60s-era Chevy Impalas of the Imperial Car Club. It will also do speed when necessary. “He’s getting a huge motor,” says Gadget of Chong. “He’ll be able to do burnouts in this car.”

And so what if the electric engine whines more than vrooms? “It’ll be my spaceship,” says Chong, who currently drives a Prius. “These cars glide. The only sound you’ll hear will be the sound system and the air bags.” Plus, he says, “by driving the ultimate electric stoner car, I can get off the titty. You know, the oil titty.”

There was a time not too long ago that Chong thought electric cars were only for “guys like Ed Begley — you know, people who wear Birkenstocks and don’t eat meat.” Only a year ago, he was building Ace as a hot rod with a gasoline engine. Then he went to a party at Gadget’s place and, as he puts it, “got educated.”

“He had all his cars sitting out, and I saw the possibilities,” Chong says. “He showed me the benefits of it all and how perfect it is, and how fast can it go. Now I don’t want to put gasoline in anything.”

Despite the reputation electric vehicles have as poky little wagons for hippies and old people, the electric muscle car has been around for a while. There’s even a National Electric Drag-Racing Association (NEDRA) devoted to high-performance electrics.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:59 PM


Technology Design or Evolution?: The two processes for building complex systems are fundamentally different. (Steve Jurvetson, 7/11/06, Technology Review)

Designed systems offer predictability, efficiency, and control. Their subsystems are easily understood, which allows their reuse in different contexts. But designed systems also tend to break easily, and they have conquered only simple problems so far. Compare, for example, Microsoft code and biological code: Word is larger than the human genome.

By contrast, evolved systems demonstrate that simple, iterative algorithms, distributed over time and space, can accumulate design and create complexity that is robust, resilient, and well adapted to its environment. In fact, biological evolution provides the only "existence proof" that an algorithm can produce complexity transcending that of its antecedents. Biological evolution is so inspiring that engineers have mimicked its operations in areas such as genetic programming, artificial life, and the iterative training of neural networks.

But evolved systems have their disadvantages. For one, they suffer from "subsystem inscrutability." That is, when we direct the evolution of a system, we may know how the evolutionary process works, but we will not necessarily understand how the resulting system works internally. For example, when the computer scientist Danny Hillis evolved a simple sort algorithm, the process produced inscrutable and mysterious code that did a good job at sorting numbers. But had he taken the time to reverse-engineer his system, the effort would not have provided much generalized insight into evolved artifacts.

Why is this? Stephen Wolfram's theory of computational equivalence suggests that simple, formulaic shortcuts for understanding evolution may never be discovered. We can only run the iterative algorithm forward to see the results, and the various computational steps cannot be skipped.

Thus, if we evolve a complex system, it is a black box defined by its interfaces. We cannot easily apply our design intuition to the improvement of its inner workings. We can't even partition its subsystems without a serious effort at reverse-engineering. And until we can understand the interfaces between partitions, we can't hope to transfer a subsystem from one evolved complex system to another.

These poor guys have themselves so far down the dead end they have to pretend there's a fundamental difference between kinds of intelligent design.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:17 AM


Report: Israel gives Syria ultimatum (Roee Nahmias, 7/16/06, Y Net)

The London-based Arabic language newspaper Al-Hayat reported Saturday that “Washington has information according to which Israel gave Damascus 72 hours to stop Hizbullah’s activity along the Lebanon-Israel border and bring about the release the two kidnapped IDF soldiers or it would launch an offensive with disastrous consequences.”

The report said “a senior Pentagon source warned that should the Arab world and international community fail in the efforts to convince Syria to pressure Hizbullah into releasing the soldiers and halt the current escalation Israel may attack targets in the country.”

Al-Hayat quoted the source as saying that “the US cannot rule out the possibility of an Israeli strike in Syria,” this despite the fact that the Bush administration has asked Israel to “refrain from any military activity that may result in civilian casualties.”

Stop them? We'll help them.

Q: How much fun would it be for W to pull Chirac aside and tell him we'd just done Assad?

A: Almost as much fun as this was, Putin rejects Bush's Iraq democracy model (CNN, 7/15/06)

During a joint news conference Saturday in St. Petersburg, Bush said he raised concerns about democracy in Russia during a frank discussion with the Russian leader.

"I talked about my desire to promote institutional change in parts of the world, like Iraq where there's a free press and free religion, and I told him that a lot of people in our country would hope that Russia would do the same," Bush said.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:09 AM


The two sharias: Islamic law is open to interpretation: a review of Radical Islam's Rules: The Worldwide Spread of Extreme Shari'a Law Edited by Paul Marshall (Morgana Sinclair, 11/07/05, Weekly Standard)

[A]s the authors here explain, there is a crucial distinction to be made between traditional and extreme sharia, and at the outset they provide two essential insights. First, Paul Marshall defines radical Islamism as "a program for the restoration of a unified Muslim ummah, ruled by a new Caliphate, governed by reactionary Islamic sharia law, and organized to wage jihad on the rest of the world."

Second, extreme sharia is shown to be a radical departure from traditional sharia, the body of guidance for Muslims, organized in varied schools. These formulated a legal consensus based on the Koran, the hadith, the lives of the Prophet and his original companions, and precedents from early Muslim jurists. Traditional sharia--"the path" or "the way"--incorporates guidelines for marriage, economics, and criminal law that exemplify justice, "the right," and "the good."

By contrast, extreme sharia claims to manifest divine will. Because extreme sharia, says Nina Shea in her essay, "is maintained as God's direct reign on earth--and not simply a fallible human interpretation of sacred law--it precludes checks and balances, a separation of powers, real legislative powers, the rule of law, and free elections." [...]

[T]he most brutal form of extreme sharia is the original one: Wahhabism, the state religion of Saudi Arabia, which spawned al Qaeda. It arose just 250 years ago in the desolate Nejd region of Arabia. "It is not conservative," writes Stephen Schwartz, in the opening essay, "but radical.... It is not based on sharia as understood during more than 1,000 years of Islamic jurisprudence but on a crude and ultra-simplistic interpretation that rejects the sharia embodied in the four established Sunni legal schools." Women are beaten in the streets for the slightest dress code violation, denied the vote, prohibited from driving, and have no rights even to the children they bear.

Wahhabi extremism did not remain within Saudi borders. Shocked by the Iranian Revolution, and fearful of rising Shia power in the region, the House of Saud launched a campaign for worldwide export of the Wahhabi version of sharia in 1980, funded by their oil wealth.

And Wahhabism will be Reformed out of existence because it bites the statist hand that fed it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:54 AM


Crisis seen as chance to reshape Mideast (Anne Barnard, July 15, 2006, Boston Globe)

[Ahmad Moussalli, a political science professor at the American University of Beirut,] said that Hezbollah's aggressive move was aimed at showing that Arabs can still deal military blows to Israel and indirectly to the United States by staging such a brazen raid, as well as help its state backers, Syria and Iran, flex their muscles at a time when both are on the ropes. Iran is threatened with international sanctions over its alleged nuclear arms program and Syria wants to regain its regional influence after its embarrassing ouster from Lebanon last year.

Israel, on the other hand, wants to win international support for its newly aggressive stance against Hamas and Hezbollah, and paint its enemies as part of a larger anti-Western coalition led by a nuclear-hungry Iran. An obstacle to the Israeli goal is that even though Hamas and Hezbollah are both shunned as terrorist groups by many countries, they have won power through democratic elections -- Hamas ruling the Palestinian Authority and Hezbollah fielding a bloc in the Lebanese parliament.

Mark Regev, a spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry, said Israel wants not just to stop Hamas and Hezbollah from firing rockets into Israel, but to force the total disarmament of Hezbollah -- a well-organized military group that operates as a state-within-a-state in southern Lebanon alongside the weak Lebanese government -- and to win strong international action against Iran and Syria.

Even more broadly, he said, Israel wants to build international consensus that armed groups should not be allowed to run in elections and to convince its allies that Hezbollah and Hamas have now made ``irrelevant" the decades-old assumption that Israel can unilaterally push for Middle East peace by giving up territory.

US, Arab, and Israeli analysts say that both Israel and its foes are taking big gambles that could end in disaster.

Israel risks repeating the mistakes of 1982, when it invaded Lebanon to drive out Palestinian militants and ended up bogged down in an 18-year occupation of southern Lebanon that spurred Hezbollah to popularity as a guerrilla group and eventually ended only because of widespread Israeli opposition.

Six years after the occupation ended, the Sh'ite Muslim militant group had lost considerable sway: It had been ordered to disarm under a United Nations resolution and had worn out its welcome among some sectors of Lebanon's complex mix of Sunnis, Shi'ites, and Christians.

Now, said Edward Walker, a former US ambassador to Israel and Egypt, Hezbollah is seeking through its attack Wednesday to provoke a new Israeli occupation in order to renew its popularity. By launching broad attacks on Lebanon's airport, bridges, and parts of Beirut, he said, Israel is playing into that strategy.

``They're the pawn in this thing, they were drawn into it," Walker, who now heads the Middle East Institute, a Washington think tank, said of Israel. ``They are being used by Hezbollah, Iran, and Syria to change the pieces on the chessboard."

He said Israel's military might was unlikely to root out Hezbollah entirely or to prod the weak Lebanese government to confront the group. ``Even when they occupied Lebanon they couldn't change the chessboard," he said. ``It's not something an occupying power can do, which we're finding out in Iraq."

Bush refuses to curb Israeli assault (Alec Russell in St Petersburg and Tim Butcher in Beirut, 15/07/200, Daily Telegraph)
Sheikh Nasrallah raised the stakes, threatening to attack Israel beyond the city of Haifa, 20 miles from the border, which was hit for the first time on Thursday. Also for the first time, Hizbollah rockets hit an Israeli naval vessel off Beirut. Four crew were reported missing although the military had said earlier that there was only light damage.

"Surprises will start from now," said the sheikh, who is admired by Arabs for Hizbollah's success in forcing Israel out of Lebanon in 2000. [...]

But the White House made clear that he would not call on Israel to end its offensive. Tony Snow, the White House spokesman, said the president "believes the Israelis have the right to protect themselves and that in doing that they should limit as much as possible so-called collateral damage, not only to facilities but also to human lives".

He said that Mr Bush had rejected Mr Siniora's appeal for him to tell the Israelis to rein in their assault. "The president is not going to make military decisions for Israel."

Occupations have been uniformly disastrous for Israel and they won't even try again this time, but sometimes you have to defend your friends even when they're acting foolish. But, as a genuine friend, we should push them to shift their focus to, and then help them to implement, regime change in Syria and a strike on Iran's nuclear program.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:48 AM


Wiretapping Review Is Criticized (ERIC LICHTBLAU, 7/15/06, NY Times)

Critics of the Bush administration’s program for wiretapping without warrants said Friday that they would fight a new White House agreement to let a secret court decide the constitutionality of the operation, and the compromise plan failed to deter lawmakers from offering up competing proposals of their own.

The agreement, completed Thursday by Senator Arlen Specter after negotiations with the White House, drew immediate scrutiny in Washington, as politicians, national security lawyers and civil rights advocates debated its impact and legal nuances.

The plan would allow the secret court known as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which normally issues wiretapping warrants in terror and spying cases, to review the program and decide on its legality. The proposal would have to be approved by Congress.

Representative Adam Schiff, a California Democrat who has been critical of the National Security Agency wiretapping program, said in an interview Friday that he saw the White House-Specter proposal as “a further abdication” of the role of Congress in setting rules for federal surveillance and wiretapping.

“We’re going to let a secret court decide for us what to do?” Mr. Schiff asked. “I think it’s a cop-out.”

Don't worry, the Executive won';t let a court stop them either. It's a Constitution-in.

Wiretap Surrender (Washington Post, July 15, 2006)

[T]he cost of this judicial review would be ever so high. The bill's most dangerous language would effectively repeal FISA's current requirement that all domestic national security surveillance take place under its terms. The "compromise" bill would add to FISA: "Nothing in this Act shall be construed to limit the constitutional authority of the President to collect intelligence with respect to foreign powers and agents of foreign powers." It would also, in various places, insert Congress's acknowledgment that the president may have inherent constitutional authority to spy on Americans. Any reasonable court looking at this bill would understand it as withdrawing the nearly three-decade-old legal insistence that FISA is the exclusive legitimate means of spying on Americans. It would therefore legitimize whatever it is the NSA is doing -- and a whole lot more.

Allowing the administration to seek authorization from the courts for an "electronic surveillance program" is almost as dangerous. The FISA court today grants warrants for individual surveillance when the government shows evidence of espionage or terrorist ties. Under this bill, the government could get permission for long-term programs involving large numbers of innocent individuals with only a showing that the program is, in general, legal and that it is "reasonably designed" to capture the communications of "a person reasonably believed to have communication with" a foreign power or terrorist group.

The bill even makes a hash out of the generally reasonable idea of transferring existing litigation to the FISA court system. It inexplicably permits the FISA courts to "dismiss a challenge to the legality of an electronic surveillance program for any reason" -- such as, say, the eye color of one of the attorneys.

This bill is not a compromise but a full-fledged capitulation on the part of the legislative branch to executive claims of power.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:43 AM


Couple Reiterate Claims They Were Punished (Daniela Deane, July 15, 2006, Washington Post)

Former U.S. ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV and his wife, former CIA officer Valerie Plame, said yesterday that Vice President Cheney, presidential adviser Karl Rove and other administration officials knowingly lied and abused their power to get revenge against the couple for criticizing President Bush's rationale for going to war in Iraq.

I must be missing something, why shouldn't the government punish an employee who seeks to undermine it?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:57 AM


Harper's a hit in London (LES WHITTINGTON, 7/15/06, Toronto Star)

Stephen Harper got a vote of confidence from Margaret Thatcher, exchanged global strategies with British Prime Minister Tony Blair and chatted with the Queen during his first visit to London as Prime Minister.

And on the eve of the G-8 summit in Russia, he announced Canada's emergence on the world stage as a "new energy superpower."

Earlier, Harper spent an hour going over his government's agenda with Thatcher, the former British prime minister, in an unannounced meeting at the PM's hotel in London.

"She complimented the Prime Minister on his government," said a Harper aide. Those around the Prime Minister felt it was an honour for Thatcher to have dropped in on Canada's new leader.

Harper also won praise from Blair for Canada's military role alongside British troops in Afghanistan.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:52 AM


A true diva swings concert from ordinary to memorable (JOHN LITWEILER, July 15, 2006, Chicago Sun-Times)

'Bring 'em Back Alive" was an old circus-menagerie slogan, and Thursday's Millennium Park concert surely brought back popular jazz of the 1950s and '60s.

True, Henry Johnson's Organ Express quartet is from a rather younger generation, but they specialize in playing good ol' soul. And Johnny Pate was a noted 1950s Chicago bassist and bandleader before he went on to Hollywood fortune, if not exactly fame. Guitarist and sometime singer Johnson and Pate's big band works were the main features of the show, but for the crowd, the most excitement was generated by a guest who joined to sing just four songs: Nancy Wilson, who like Pate was making a rare return to our town. [...]

There were no real highs or lows to the evening before, at last, Nancy Wilson appeared, in a white pantsuit. Immediately she raised the heat and humidity with "Day In, Day Out," which she swung despite a super-fast tempo and her rat-a-tat syllables. Her style is a more dramatic variation of Dinah Washington's, with her own strange emphases and drops in volume, with a wide, slow vibrato in long tones, with momentary catches, yodels and even one falsetto climax.

Earlier, Johnson had sung the sentimental "Here's to Life." He sounded like a bland Jacques Brel, and the colorlessness of his baritone voice and style stood out like a sore when he returned to sing duets with Wilson, from their recent CD "Organic." By contrast, there was Wilson's vocal vitality -- she sang with real flair, and her varied lines and jokey ad libs carried him through two songs. Wilson has always been a singing storyteller, and this time her tales almost turned an otherwise ordinary concert into an event.

July 14, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:20 PM


Welcome to Politics Central

Very much a work in progress, the mission of POLITICSCENTRAL is to elevate our political discourse.

Opposed to sound-bite politics, POLITICSCENTRAL aims to promote a deeper level of discourse, and seeks to introduce a consistent tone of civility in our coverage and discussions.

In addition, POLITICSCENTRAL will address the environment, which has allowed our discourse to become often crass and frequently thoughtless — that is the environment of knee-jerk polarization and hardened partisanship.

As citizen and voter you have undoubtedly noticed that American politics has become pretty polarized - meaning - are you in the “liberal box” or the “conservative box”. In addition partisanship goes further - “are you 100% in the liberal or conservative box or not?” (See X21 Central for more.)

In sum POLITICSCENTRAL will present the thoughts, opinions and insights of a broad range of people that span the American political spectrum. In doing so, it will strive to create a civil and collegial atmosphere to encourage this more thoughtful discourse on our views and aspirations.

Democrats, Republicans, liberals, conservatives, libertarians and the many who don’t choose to identify with any ideology are all invited to participate and debate the issues with us and with the blogosphere at large. Our topics will include election coverage, political issues, media the politics, and the X21 phenomena.

We will be exploring electoral issues via podcasts, vblogs and plain old-fashioned text from politicians, candidates, bloggers, pundits and others for the election of 2006… and then onward toward 2008.

Some of the people participating you will find on this page today. Others who will soon be joining our initiative include Joe Trippi, Claudia Rosett, Ron Rosenbaum, Victor Davis Hanson, Marc Cooper, Mike Godwin, Jeralyn Merritt, Jeff Goldstein, Micah Sifry, Michael Barone, David Corn, Michael Leeden and Austin Bay - a deliberate ideological hodge-podge. With more to come…

Not to mention the Mystery Pollster - yes, we intend to have fun.

Given the beta phase that we are in, there may be technical or content items that will need to be improved or even fixed over the next few weeks.

For now, we commend to you Craig Karpel’s article on moody voters and the exclusive podcast interviews with Sen. Rick Santorum and Jim Jonas of Unity08.

We thank you for visiting and both welcome and encourage your feedback (Suggestion Box: below right).

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:50 PM


Talabani: Iraq not compelled to pay debts accumulated in Saddam's reign (KUNA, 6.7.2006)

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani said his country was not compelled to pay back debts accumulated during the reign of the ousted regime.

"We are not responsible for the debts of Iraq during the reign of dictatorship," the president said during a joint press conference held Wednesday evening with the UN delegation headed by Deputy Secretary-General Mark Malloch Brown.

Talabani added, "International law stipulates that countries that helped dictatorships or accumulated debts through cooperation with these regimes have no right to demand that democracies set up after the fall of the dictatorships pay those debts."

They loaned it to a dictator, let them try and collect it from him.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:53 PM


The making of a terror mole: How a sharia activist infiltrated the 'Toronto 17' and helped authorities build a case against them (SONYA FATAH and GREG MCARTHUR AND SCOTT ROBERTS, 7/14/06, Globe and Mail)

One night in October, a group of young Muslims gathered at a Toronto banquet hall and tried to raise money for two men who had recently been convicted of gun smuggling and imprisoned.

The event was supposed to help their cause — but it may end up being remembered as the night that Canada's first home-grown Islamist terror cell came crashing down.

Among the men and women gathered in the room was an outsider named Mubin Shaikh, 30. He didn't attend the same Mississauga or Scarborough mosques as the supporters in the hall, and he didn't know many of the people in the room.

But he had instructions: Get to know Fahim Ahmad, the young man believed by authorities to be behind the gun-smuggling operation and an emerging terrorist cell.

The outsider approached Mr. Ahmad and told him about his training as a six-year member of the Royal Canadian Army Cadets. He told him about his survival skills and weapons training. He also told Mr. Ahmad that he believed firmly in jihad.

By the end of the evening, Mr. Shaikh was in.

That was 10 months ago, and since then, in media reports around the world, Mr. Ahmad has been identified as the ringleader of the so-called “Toronto 17,” the group of men and teenagers tied into an alleged plot to blow up three targets in Southern Ontario and storm Parliament Hill.

This is the story of the 18th man, the civilian mole and devout Muslim paid by CSIS and the RCMP to infiltrate Mr. Ahmad's circle and thwart an alleged plot to blow up those targets. Over a series of discussions with The Globe and Mail, Mr. Shaikh detailed his motives for bringing down the alleged terrorist cell. Above all, violence in Canada in the name of Islam cannot be tolerated, said Mr. Shaikh, who says he has learned to juggle his fierce commitment to both Islam and the secular values of Canadian society.

On one hand, he is an official at his west-end mosque, supports the jihads in Afghanistan and Iraq and was one of the most public supporters of the failed bid to introduce sharia law in Ontario, occasionally commenting on the debate on television.

On the other, he is also a onetime member of the York South-Weston Liberal Riding Association, whose family keeps a sticker of the Canadian flag on their mailbox.

“As a practising Muslim, the interests of the Muslim community are paramount,” Mr. Shaikh said.

“And as a Canadian, the safety and security of my fellow citizens is also primary.”

He's ably demonstrated that the two are quite compatible.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:43 PM


Cosmos a 'Lifetime' of memories for Messing (JOHN GENZALE, 7/14/06, Chicago Sun-Times)

[P]erhaps the most interesting character in the drama of goals, greed and girls was Shep Messing, the U.S. goalkeeper who was a native New Yorker and probably the least comfortable of all the Cosmos.

Messing was a key character on the team of stars put together by Warner Communications chairman Steve Ross years before most American parents were driving their kids to soccer practice. The Cosmos roster also included Pele, the world's greatest player; Franz Beckenbauer, the German soccer icon who led his country to World Cup titles as both player and coach, and the charismatic Italian idol Giorgio Chinaglia.

Messing is a key character in a new documentary that chronicles the rise and fall of the Cosmos, a team that was playing in a dilapidated facility on Randall's Island when Ross tried to turn them into the world's most glamorous club.

''Once in a Lifetime: The Extraordinary Story of the New York Cosmos'' has been released in the United States to coincide with the close of the World Cup in Germany.

''The film captures the chaotic story of the Cosmos,'' said Messing, who served as a color commentator for some of the World Cup matches on ESPN. While other North American Soccer League teams were drawing crowds that wouldn't fill an elevator, the Cosmos of the '70s were putting 70,000 butts in Giants Stadium seats and vying with the Yankees, Mets and Jets for the city's ink -- and were known as much for wild team parties and sex on planes as their on-field exploits. [...]

The reluctant goalkeeper, who excelled at baseball, basketball and football, became a soccer player ''because my high school stunk at the real sports but had a championship soccer team,'' he said. Messing hitchhiked to St. Louis in 1972 to try out for the U.S. Olympic team. [...]

He recently sold the rights to his 1979 book, The Education of an American Soccer Player, to Brian Helgeland, who optioned it to Sony and has written a script with the working title ''Messing.''

His book is worthwhile just for his first hand experience of the '72 Olympics (where West Germany peppered him with something like 70 shots on goal), where he'd befriended several Israeli athletes. If I recall correctly, he heard the games had been resumed from a stunned Duane Bobick, who was practically sleep-walking his way to the boxing venue where he'd been told on a moment's notice to go for his bout with Teofilo Stevenson. His impressions of Mark Spitz are interesting too.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:27 PM


Smoke in the Womb Makes Unruly Toddlers (Ker Than, 7/14/06, LiveScience)

A new study finds that unborn babies regularly exposed to cigarette smoke in the womb are much more likely to have behavioral problems as young children.

The study, detailed in current issue of the journal Child Development, is the first to show a link between smoking during pregnancy and child behavior problems in the first years of life.

The researchers found that 2-year-olds whose mothers were exposed to cigarette smoke while pregnant were nearly 12 times more likely to show clinical levels of behavioral problems compared to their unexposed peers.

Isn't it more likely that anyone with so little self control that they're engaged in this kind of self-destructive behavior in this day and age just isn't a particularly good parent either?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:15 PM


Court reinstates Nebraska's same-sex marriage ban (Omaha World-Herald, 7/14/06)

A federal appeals court has reversed a ruling that struck down Nebraska's same-sex marriage ban. The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals today overturned an earlier ruling by U.S. District Judge Joseph Bataillon, who ruled last year that the measure was too broad and deprived gays and lesbians of participation in the political process, among other things.

Or Tennessee, Voters to decide gay marriage ban (Knoxville News Sentinel, July 14, 2006)

Voters will be allowed to decide in November whether they want a constitutional ban on gay marriage in Tennessee, the state Supreme Court said in a unanimous decision filed Friday.

Had a legal challenge been successful, a public vote on the proposed amendment to the Tennessee Constitution would have been delayed by at least two years, the court said in a press release.

Writing on behalf of the court, Chief Justice William M. Barker rejected a legal claim by the American Civil Liberties Union, three state legislators and others that would have prevented the amendment from being placed on the ballot.

"Wishing to decide this constitutional matter, as we should, on the narrowest grounds possible, we affirm the ... decision dismissing the complaint because the Plaintiffs have failed to establish that they have standing to bring this lawsuit," Barker wrote.

Dang voters...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:01 PM


Bush Compromises On Spying Program (Charles Babington and Peter Baker, 7/14/06, Washington Post)

The White House conceded in part because it believes the NSA program will survive constitutional muster and the Specter bill will make it easier to argue that the program complies with congressional statutes as well. "We've always said it's constitutional," said one administration official who was not authorized to speak on the record.

The language acknowledging the president's constitutional authority to conduct intelligence operations also was important to the White House. "We see it as historic because here's a statute recognizing an authority the president says he has," the administration official said.

Still, that language alone might mean little because it did not define the scope of the authority or explicitly suggest that a president did not need to seek court approval for warrants. But at the same time, Specter agreed to repeal a section of the original FISA law that made it the exclusive statute governing such intelligence programs.

The combination of the statement acknowledging presidential authority and the deletion of the exclusivity clause left open the interpretation that Bush has the power to conduct other surveillance outside FISA's purview, a possibility administration officials noted with approval.

Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.) criticized the agreement, saying he will oppose "any bill that would grant blanket approval for warrantless surveillance of Americans, particularly when this administration has never explained why it believes that current law allowing surveillance of terrorist suspects is inadequate."

A thing of beauty--the Executive allows the courts one opportunity to rubber stamp the program or be ignored.

The Specter Bill’s Major Shift in Constitutional Authority to Conduct Monitoring (Orin Kerr, 7/14/06)

I have read the Specter bill, and am most intrigued by Section 9 of the bill, which is titled “CLARIFICATION OF THE FOREIGN INTELLIGENCE SURVEILLANCE ACT OF 1978.” Interestingly, the Section is a “clarification” only if you assume the correctness of the President’s more controversial claims to Article II authority. If you accept the more traditional understanding of the separation-of-powers seen recently in the Supreme Court’s decision in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld and Justice Kennedy’s concurrence in that case, then this “clarification” is actually a major reorientation of the role of Congress in foreign intelligence monitoring away from the 1978 framework of FISA. [See the Update at the bottom for further discussion.]

The key language is the new Section 801 of FISA:

Nothing in this Act [FISA] shall be construed to limit the constitutional authority of the President to collect intelligence with respect to foreign powers and agents of foreign powers.

That strikes me as a pretty major change, given that the purpose of FISA in 1978 was to attempt to regulate that authority. The Specter bill then would rewrite the prohibitions of FISA to explicitly allow for this authority.

He just keeps winning....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:34 AM


Senate denies funds for new border fence (Charles Hurt, 7/14/06, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

Less than two months after voting overwhelmingly to build 370 miles of new fencing along the border with Mexico, the Senate yesterday voted against providing funds to build it.

"We do a lot of talking. We do a lot of legislating," said Sen. Jeff Sessions, the Alabama Republican whose amendment to fund the fence was killed on a 71-29 vote.

Like all the silliness about cargo ships during the Dubai dust-up, no one's going to pay for serious security measures. It's an easy contradiction to force.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:21 AM


Hezbollah may have overplayed its hand (MITCH POTTER, 7/14/06, Toronto Star)

There are multiple reasons why Hezbollah chose precisely this moment to throw an already turbulent Middle East into cartwheels of even greater turmoil.

But for most observers, none stands larger than the militant Shiite Muslim movement's overarching quest to elevate itself as the pre-eminent defender of the pan-Arab realm.

Whatever secondary reasons may come into play — and there is no question that for Hezbollah's sponsors in Syria and Iran the new crisis presents a convenient diversion from the critical issues confronting them — Arab-Muslim pride is paramount.

Actually, Sunni Arabs have played this all quite wisely, criticizing Hezbollah and Iran as long as the Israelis are fighting the Shi'a for them.

Saudi Arabia blames Hizbollah in Lebanon crisis (Reuters, Jul 13, 2006)
Behind the Crisis, A Push Toward War (David Ignatius, July 14, 2006, Washington Post)

After Hezbollah guerrillas captured Israeli soldiers Wednesday, a furious Lt. Gen. Dan Halutz warned that the Israeli army would "turn back the clock in Lebanon by 20 years." Unfortunately, that statement was truer than he may have intended.

By pounding the Beirut airport and other civilian targets yesterday, the Israelis have taken a step back in time -- to tactics that have been tried repeatedly in Lebanon and the Palestinian territories without much success. Many Lebanese will be angry at Hezbollah leader Hasan Nasrallah for provoking the crisis, but that won't translate into new control on the militia's actions. Instead, the outcome is likely to be similar to what has happened in Gaza over the past several weeks: Israeli attacks to free a captured soldier further weakened the Palestinian Authority without much damaging the terrorists.

Watching the events of the past few days, you can't help but feel that this is the rerun of an old movie -- one in which the guerrillas and kidnappers end up as the winners. [...]

Israeli and American doctrine is premised on the idea that military force will deter adversaries. But as more force has been used in recent years, the deterrent value has inevitably gone down. That's the inner spring of this crisis: The Iranians (and their clients in Hezbollah and Hamas) watch the American military mired in Iraq and see weakness. They are emboldened rather than intimidated. The same is true for the Israelis in Gaza. Rather than reinforcing the image of strength, the use of force (short of outright, pulverizing invasion and occupation) has encouraged contempt.

Israel’s Invasion, Syria’s War (MICHAEL YOUNG, 7/14/06, NY Times)
Iran, of course, has long bankrolled Hezbollah, and the Israeli government said yesterday it feared the two kidnapped soldiers were being taken to Tehran. But Syria is the nexus of regional instability, giving shelter to several of the most intransigent Palestinian militants, transferring arms to Hezbollah, and undermining Lebanon’s frail sovereignty.

Israel can brutalize Lebanon all it wants, but unless something is done to stop Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, from exporting instability to buttress his despotic regime, little will change.

Get Tough with Syria (Jeffrey Azarva, July 14, 2006, Weekly Standard)
On June 25, Hamas terrorists tunneled into Israel and kidnapped 19-year-old Gilad Shalit, who was manning a border post. While executed from Gaza, the operation was planned in Damascus. In response to the Syrian connection, Israeli warplane buzzed Syrian president Bashar al-Assad's summer palace.

Assad was unfazed. On July 3, he criticized "Israeli aggression" and rebuffed U.S. appeals to shut down Palestinian terror offices in Syria. A week later, Khalid Mashaal, head of Hamas' exiled leadership in Damascus, accused Israel of "violating international law."

That terrorists operate openly in Damascus is no surprise. According to the 2005 State Department Country Reports on Terrorism, the Syrian government hosts Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and other terrorist groups. Damascus serves as the main "transshipment point" in Hezbollah's supply chain.

Assad may act with impunity because he perceives U.S. strategy to be scattershot.

Israel has failed to learn the primary lesson of 9-11. When radicals strike you use the pretext to retaliate against regimes, thereby raising the costs of terrorism and creating an unalloyed benefit from your reaction.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:04 AM


What we could learn from John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush: Lower taxes increase government revenue (Klaus Rohrich, July 13, 2006, Canada Free Press)

It seems that every 20 years or so social democrats have to relearn the same lessons. Laid out by three American presidents over the last 40-odd years, the lesson is that lower taxes increase government revenue. Voodoo economics? No, it’s proven to have worked three different times and each time the results have been the same.

The latest evidence that low taxes are good for the economy is the announcement by the U.S. Treasury Department that U.S. government revenues will be $274 billion higher than anticipated this year and are expected to be $243 billion higher the next year. Despite all the nay saying and hand wringing on the part of American Democrats, the Bush tax cuts have stimulated the economy to the extent that new jobs have been created through increased investment resulting in a corresponding increase in government revenues.

The Dems, of course, see the glass as half full, protesting that only "the rich" are benefiting from the tax cuts. Be that as it may, the increase in government revenues is in large part due to "the rich" paying a lot more in taxes because of their increased investments. But it isn’t only "the rich" who benefit. Those with more moderate means are also benefiting in terms of new jobs being more readily available. And, while the poor may not be reaping the rewards of investment income, they also pay the least in taxes.

This phenomenon occurred both in 1962, when John F. Kennedy (Senator Edward Kennedy’s smarter brother) instituted the biggest tax cut in American history and again in 1986 when Ronald Reagan cut income and investment taxes to the bone. It’s now reoccurring under Bush 43.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:00 AM


A new intolerance visits Provincetown: Police say gays accused of slurs (Adrienne P. Samuels, July 14, 2006, Boston Globe)

Town leaders here are holding a public meeting today to air concerns about slurs and bigoted behavior. And this time, they say, it's gay people who are displaying intolerance.

Police say they logged numerous complaints of straight people being called ``breeders" by gays over the July Fourth holiday weekend. Jamaican workers reported being the target of racial slurs. And a woman was verbally accosted after signing a petition that opposed same-sex marriage, they said.

The town, which prizes its reputation for openness and tolerance, is taking the concerns seriously, though police say they do not consider the incidents hate crimes.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:00 AM


PBS board nomination raises eyebrows (Los Angeles Times, 7/14/06)

Less than a year after the chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting was forced to resign amid charges that he injected partisanship into the agency, President Bush has nominated a television sitcom producer who has described himself as "thoroughly conservative in ways that strike horror into the hearts of my Hollywood colleagues" to the nonprofit's board.

The nomination of Warren Bell, executive producer of ABC's "According to Jim" and a contributor to the online edition of the conservative National Review magazine, has raised fears he could revive the sharp political debate that engulfed the system last year.

Did they think the President would appoint Meathead?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:43 AM


Mariners promote Jones: Young center fielder one of top prospects in organization (DAVID ANDRIESEN, 7/14/06, Seattle P-I)

Despite the need in center field, where Jeremy Reed is out because of a broken thumb, Jones' promotion is somewhat surprising because of his age and high prospect status. But his recent strong play apparently made the case.

Jones was batting .277 for Tacoma with 14 homers, 55 RBIs and 13 stolen bases and was the Rainiers' only representative in Wednesday's Triple-A All-Star Game -- but the Mariners made a late request that he not play in the game, portending Thursday's move.

Jones has been red-hot since June 1, batting .336 with six homers and eight doubles in 140 at-bats.

Jones, the Mariners' top pick in the 2003 draft, was the organization's minor league player of the year in 2005 after batting .296 between Inland Empire and Double-A San Antonio. He started this season in Tacoma and batted .234 in April and May before heating up. In June he batted .342 and had nearly as many hits (39) as he managed in the first two months of the season combined (44).

The right-handed batter recorded 25 multi-hit games and produced a 20-game hitting streak that ended just before the All-Star break, the longest in the Pacific Coast League this season.

It would be astonishing if he can hit the curve once that's all he's seeing. Matt Kemp can't.

Mariners building for now and the future (Bob Finnigan, 7/14/06, Seattle Times)

If Seattle officials choose to rebuild/reload by July 31, or later in the offseason, at least there is a solid nucleus with which to start.

If nothing else, the Mariners are far ahead of this time last year. They now have a middle infield that could excel for a decade, with second baseman Jose Lopez and shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt; a catcher in Kenji Johjima, despite his intermittent struggles behind the plate, to provide time for Rob Johnson, Rene Rivera or Jeff Clement to develop; and a bullpen centered on Rafael Soriano, George Sherrill and closer J.J. Putz.

When one adds Adam Jones or Jeremy Reed in center field, Seattle is strong in the spine of the defense, and young. That's huge.

They have also established pitching standards under new coach Rafael Chaves. [...]

The Mariners are also in a quandary concerning both Joel Pineiro, who has drawn some interest from the Yankees and other clubs, and Gil Meche. [...]

As it stands, the Mariners could be $24 million lighter in salaries next season, depending on which way they go with Moyer, Everett and Pineiro, at the July 31 deadline or this winter.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:35 AM


Sox-y offer to Mets: As Pedro ails, Javy available (ADAM RUBIN, 7/14/06, DAILY NEWS)

The Mets may have found a partner willing to deal a starting pitcher after all, which could be even more pressing as Pedro Martinez is about to miss his third straight start.

The White Sox have been calling around to clubs - including the Mets - letting it be known that Javier Vazquez or Freddy Garcia would be available. The price: top-notch relief help, which would allow the Sox to fortify their bullpen leading to closer Bobby Jenks, sources told the Daily News. Chicago has 23-year-old Brandon McCarthy ready to step into its rotation.

The Phillies, also looking to add to their rotation in a thin market, are willing to give up closer Tom Gordon in a deal with the Sox, according to a source. [...]

Omar Minaya has long been fond of Vazquez and pursued the former Expo last winter, before he was sent from the Diamondbacks to the White Sox for current Met Orlando Hernandez as well as reliever Luiz Vizcaino and outfield prospect Chris Young. He's 9-4 with a 5.07 ERA this season, while Garcia is 10-5 with a 4.91 ERA.

If the Phillies can get Brandon McCarthy for Tom Gordon it's a no-brainer (may as well swap Rowand for Brian Anderson too), but Aaron Heilman is a better starting pitcher than Vazquez. Indeed, he's better than El Duque, but that didn't stop Omar Minaya from making an awful trade.

Meanwhile, the cream of the Yankee system sinks, Duncan can't hide from expectations (M.A. MEHTA, 7/13/06, Newark Star-Ledger)

[Eric] Duncan could easily be a 21-year-old ball of stress, succumbing to the pressures that have swallowed recent Yankee bonus babies. The Florham Park native earned a $1.275 million signing bonus after the Yankees selected him in the first round (27th overall) of the 2003 amateur draft.

But the former Seton Hall Prep star has learned to live with the heightened expectations and scrutiny that comes with playing in your backyard, where anonymity isn't an option.

"It's not just that he's a Jersey kid playing professional baseball," Hal Duncan says of the ever-present spotlight on his son. "It's a Jersey kid playing for the Yankees. If he were in Kansas City, who cares?

"But the pressures never bothered him. I think it would have bothered me, but it doesn't bother him."

So the father wasn't surprised how his son dealt with his most recent challenge. Duncan was demoted to Double-A Trenton earlier this season after struggling at the start and then hurting his back at Triple-A Columbus, a stark reminder that, beyond the up-front cash, nothing is promised.

"He knew there would be setbacks on the way up," Seton Hall Prep coach Mike Sheppard Jr. says. "The road would be bumpy at times."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:35 AM


Oh brother, Papelbons shine all over (Jeff Horrigan, July 14, 2006, Boston Herald)

Forty-eighth round draft choices do not typically get showered with standing ovations upon entering games, customized chants and endless requests for autographs just weeks after turning professional.

Then again, not many 48th-round draft choices find themselves in the unique situation of playing Single-A ball just up the road from an overachieving older brother who has been nearly flawless during his first half-season as closer for a first-place, major league club.

“It’s unbelievable,” Lowell Spinners closer Joshua Papelbon said. “Every time I come into a game, it’s a standing ovation and everyone chanting, ‘Papelbon,’ and everyone wanting autographs. I knew it was going to be somewhat like this because of my brother but not this intense. I don’t think there’s ever been this much hoopla for a 48th-rounder.”

Papelbon, 23, bears a physical resemblance and possesses the same, “Awww-shucks” personality as his older brother, Jonathan. But that’s where most of the similarities end. Unlike the Boston closer, who was a highly regarded, hard-throwing fourth-round draft choice out of Mississippi State in 2003, the younger Papelbon is a submarine-style right-hander who nearly went undrafted before being selected by the Red Sox out of the University of North Florida with the 52nd of their 54 choices.

While hardly considered a can’t-miss prospect, he has done little on the field for the Spinners to end the comparisons to his brother. Through six appearances entering last night’s action, Papelbon is 0-0 with a two saves and a perfect 0.00 ERA, while striking out nine batters and walking only one in 7 1/3 innings.

So he can use Super Bon Bonn.

July 13, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:55 PM


Is Defeating Aging Only a Dream?: No one has won our $20,000 Challenge to disprove Aubrey de Grey's anti-aging proposals. (Jason Pontin, 7/11/06, Technology Review)

Last year, Technology Review announced a $20,000 prize for any molecular biologist who could demonstrate that biogerontologist Aubrey de Grey's "Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence" (SENS) -- a much publicized prescription for defeating aging -- was "so wrong that it was unworthy of learned debate." The purpose of the challenge was to determine whether de Grey's proposals were science or fantasy. [...]

In the end, the judges felt that no submission met the criterion of the challenge and disproved SENS, although they unanimously agreed that one submission, by Preston W. Estep and his colleagues, was the most eloquent. The judges also noted, however, that de Grey had not convincingly defended SENS and that many of his ideas seemed somewhat fanciful.

Nathan Myhrvold, writing for all the judges, offered this summary of their deliberations:

"At issue is the conflict between the scientific process and the ambiguous status of ideas that have not yet been subjected to that process.

"The scientific process requires evidence through independent experimentation or observation in order to accord credibility to a hypothesis. SENS is a collection of hypotheses that have mostly not been subjected to that process and thus cannot rise to the level of being scientifically verified. However, by the same token, the ideas of SENS have not been conclusively disproved. SENS exists in a middle ground of yet-to-be-tested ideas that some people may find intriguing but which others are free to doubt.

"Some scientists react very negatively toward those who seek to claim the mantle of scientific authority for ideas that have not yet been proved. Estep et al. seem to have this philosophy. They raise many reasons to doubt SENS. Their submission does the best job in that regard. But at the same time, they are too quick to engage in name-calling, labeling ideas as 'pseudo-scientific' or 'unscientific' that they cannot really demonstrate are so.

"We need to remember that all hypotheses go through a stage where one or a small number of investigators believe something and others raise doubts. The conventional wisdom is usually correct. But while most radical ideas are in fact wrong, it is a hallmark of the scientific process that it is fair about considering new propositions; every now and then, radical ideas turn out to be true. Indeed, these exceptions are often the most momentous discoveries in science.

"SENS has many unsupported claims and is certainly not scientifically proven. I personally would be surprised if de Grey is correct in the majority of his claims. However, I don't think Estep et al. have proved that SENS is false; that would require more research. In some cases, SENS makes claims that run parallel to existing research (while being more sensational). Future investigation into those areas will almost certainly illuminate the controversy. Until that time, people like Estep et al. are free to doubt SENS. I share many of those doubts, but it would be overstating the case to assert that Estep et al. have proved their point."

Doesn't it depend on the size of the pinhead the angels are dancing on?

Posted by David Cohen at 7:44 PM


Former CIA Officer Sues Cheney Over Leak (Toni Locy, AP, 7/13/06)

The CIA officer whose identity was leaked to reporters sued Vice President Dick Cheney, his former top aide and presidential adviser Karl Rove on Thursday, accusing them and other White House officials of conspiring to destroy her career.

In a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court, Valerie Plame and her husband, Joseph Wilson, a former U.S. ambassador, accused Cheney, Rove and I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby of revealing Plame's CIA identity in seeking revenge against Wilson for criticizing the Bush administration's motives in Iraq.

Several news organizations wrote about Plame after syndicated columnist Robert Novak named her in a column on July 14, 2003. Novak's column appeared eight days after Wilson alleged in an opinion piece in The New York Times that the administration had twisted prewar intelligence on Iraq to justify going to war.

The '08 strategy starts to fall into place....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:38 PM


Liberal Assault on Joe Could Hurt Democrats in Other Senate Races (E.J. KESSLER, July 14, 2006, The Forward)

Some Democrats are nervous that if Senator Joseph Lieberman loses his primary to an antiwar challenger, thousands of hawkish Jewish Democrats who see the Connecticut lawmaker as their standard-bearer will either abandon the party or sit out the November election.

As long as he's rejected for his ideas and not his ethnicity there's little evidence they'll mind.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:32 PM


Swedish Models (Johan Norberg, Summer 2006, National Interest)

Long the paragon of social democracy, the Swedish model is rotting from within. Ironically, the unique social and economic foundation that first allowed Sweden to construct its political edifice--and which makes it such a difficult model for other countries to emulate--has been critically weakened by the system it helped create. Far from a being a solution for the new sick men of Europe, Sweden must face serious and fundamental challenges at the heart of its social model.

TO SAY that other countries should emulate the Swedish social model is about as helpful as telling an average-looking person to look like a Swedish supermodel. There are special circumstances and a certain background that limit the ability to imitate. In the case of the supermodel, it is about genetics. In the context of economical and political models, it is about the historical and cultural background.

Gunnar and Alva Myrdal were the intellectual parents of the Swedish welfare state. In the 1930s they came to believe that Sweden was the ideal candidate for a cradle-to-grave welfare state. First of all, the Swedish population was small and homogeneous, with high levels of trust in one another and the government. Because Sweden never had a feudal period and the government always allowed some sort of popular representation, the land-owning farmers got used to seeing authorities and the government more as part of their own people and society than as external enemies. Second, the civil service was efficient and free from corruption. Third, a Protestant work-ethic--and strong social pressures from family, friends and neighbors to conform to that ethic--meant that people would work hard, even as taxes rose and social assistance expanded. Finally, that work would be very productive, given Sweden's well-educated population and strong export sector. If the welfare state couldn't work in Sweden, the Myrdals concluded, it wouldn't work anywhere.

Sweden's economic success story began in the late 19th century, after a fundamental political shift towards free markets and free trade. Swedish traders could export iron, steel and timber, and entrepreneurs created innovative industrial companies that became world leaders. Between 1860 and 1910, real wages for factory workers rose by about 25 percent per decade, and public spending in Sweden didn't surpass 10 percent of GDP.

The Social Democratic Party came to power in 1932 and has governed Sweden for 65 of the last 74 years. They realized early on that a party of class struggle wouldn't be able to hold on to power in Sweden. Instead, they became a party of the middle class by creating social security systems that gave the most pension, unemployment, paternal-leave and sick-leave benefits to those with high wages. (Most benefits were proportional to the amount paid in, so the wealthy middle class would have an interest in supporting the system.) It was a policy of socialization from the consumption side: The government would not take control of the means of production, but would instead tax workers, in the form of sales and income taxes, to provide welfare. It was markets and competition for big business, a welfare state for the people. Still, as late as 1950 the total tax burden was no more than 21 percent of GDP, lower than in the United States and Western Europe.

This meant that the Social Democrats were eager to please industry and not allow the social agenda to interfere with the economy's progress. Free trade was always the rule. Regulations that were introduced were adapted to benefit the biggest industries--for example, wages were equalized, but for the purpose of keeping wages low for the big companies, while small and less productive companies were forced out of business. The trade unions, for their part, were relatively positive to the creative destruction of capitalism, so they allowed old sectors like farming, shipping and textiles to pass away, as long as new jobs were created.

These policies, and the fact that Sweden stayed out of two world wars, meant that the economy yielded amazing results. Sweden was rich: In 1970 it had the fourth-highest per-capita income in the world, according to OECD statistics. But at this stage the Social Democrats began to radicalize, with coffers filled by big business and heads filled with ideas from an international leftist trend. Social assistance was expanded and the labor market became heavily regulated. Public spending almost doubled between 1960 and 1980, rising from 31 percent to 60 percent of GDP.

This was also the time when the model began to run into problems. From 1975 to 2000, while per-capita income grew by 72 percent in the United States and 64 percent in Western Europe, Sweden's grew by no more than 43 percent. By 2000, Sweden had fallen to 14th in the OECD's ranking of per-capita income. If Sweden were a state in the United States, it would now be the fifth poorest. As the Social Democratic Finance Minister Bosse Ringholm explained in 2002, "If Sweden would have had the same growth rates as the OECD average since 1970, our common resources would have been so much bigger that it would be the equivalent of 20,000 SEK [$2,500] more per household per month."

Too Much of a Good Thing

THE SOURCE of the problem was the fatal irony of the Swedish system: The model eroded the fundamental principles that had made the model viable in the first place.

The civil service is a powerful example of this phenomenon. The efficiency of the civil service meant that the government could expand, but this expansion began to undermine its efficiency. According to a European Central Bank study of 23 developed countries, Sweden now gets the least service per dollar spent by the government. Sweden still reports impressive results on living standards (just as it did before the introduction of the welfare state in the years following World War II), but not at all what you would expect from a country with the world's highest tax rates, currently at about 50 percent of GDP. If the public sector were as efficient as Ireland's or Britain's, for example, the expenditure could be reduced by a third for the same service. The Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions reports that Swedish doctors see four patients a day on average, down from nine in 1975. It is less than in any other OECD country, and less than half of the average. One reason is that a Swedish doctor spends between 50 and 80 percent of his time on administration.

On the economic side, the old Swedish system of encouraging investments in big industry worked well, as long as there was little need for innovation. Once that occurred, however, the system ran into trouble. The competitiveness of industry had to be propped up several times by depreciating the currency. Globalization and the new knowledge and service economy made it more important than ever to invest in human capital and individual creativity. High marginal tax rates on personal income, however, reduced individuals' incentives to take risks and to boost earning potential by investing in their education and skills, and made it extremely difficult to attract skilled workers from abroad.

Furthermore, the Swedish model was dependent on having a small number of large industrial companies. As these diminished in importance, or moved abroad, Sweden needed something to take their place. But the policies that benefited the biggest firms created a deficit of small- and medium-sized businesses. Those that did exist didn't grow, partly because of the risks and costs of highly burdensome employment rules that prevented the firing of workers. Indeed, the most important Swedish companies today are those that were born during the laissez faire period before the First World War; just one of the fifty biggest Swedish companies was founded after 1970. Meanwhile, services that could become new private growth sectors, like education and health care, were monopolized and financed by the government. As they grew in importance and size, a steadily growing part of the Swedish economy thus became protected from international market forces and investments that could have turned them into successful and productive enterprises.

In the early 1990s a deep recession forced Sweden to abandon a lot of the excesses from the 1970s and 1980s. Marginal tax rates were cut, the central bank was made independent, public pensions were cut and partially privatized, school vouchers were introduced, and private providers were welcomed in health care. Several markets were deregulated, like energy, the post office, transportation, television and, most importantly, telecom, which opened the way for the success of companies like Ericsson.

But Sweden retained the world's highest taxes, generous social security systems and a heavily regulated labor market, which split the economy: Sweden is very good at producing goods, but not at producing jobs. According to a recent study of 35 developed countries, only two had jobless growth: Sweden and Finland. Economic growth in Sweden in the last 25 years has had no correlation at all with labor-market participation. (In contrast, 1 percent of growth increases the number of jobs by 0.25 percent in Denmark, 0.5 percent in the United States and 0.6 percent in Spain.) Amazingly, not a single net job has been created in the private sector in Sweden since 1950.

During the recession in the early 1990s, Sweden had an unemployment rate of about 12 percent. The official rate has been halved since, but the difference has been offset by a dramatic increase in other forms of absenteeism. For example, there are 244,000 openly unemployed workers in a total population of 9 million. But this does not include 126,000 working in labor-market projects (the largely unsuccessful programs geared towards helping people acquire the skills to find employment) or the 89,000 job-seekers who are receiving some form of education. And there are another 111,000 in "latent unemployment", people who are not defined as part of the work force, but who can and would like to work. If all of these workers are included in the calculation, Sweden's true unemployment rate is still 12 percent. (Although other countries' unemployment figures, including those for the United States, also fail to reflect the real rate joblessness, Sweden's array of government-funded projects for work and education particularly distort the data. In addition, Sweden does not include in its figures students that are seeking employment, breaking with international norms.)

Moreover, the unemployment rate says nothing about another hidden labor problem: rampant absenteeism. Swedes are healthier than almost any other people in the world, but they are also out sick more often than any other people, according to available data. In 2004, sickness benefits absorbed 16 percent of the government budget, while health absenteeism has doubled since 1998. With a sickness benefit of up to 80 percent of a recipient's income (depending on his or her wage level), it is not surprising that there is an epidemic of absenteeism. Moreover, about 10 percent of the working-age population has retired with disability benefits. A researcher at the main trade union, LO, recently left his job when he was not allowed to publish his estimate that close to 20 percent of Swedes are unemployed, either openly or hidden in labor-market projects, long-term sick-leave and early retirement. [...]

SO IF THE Myrdals were right when they said that if the welfare state couldn't work in Sweden, it wouldn't work anywhere, what will it mean if Sweden's system fails? The answer seems obvious.

Culture matters, but at the end of the day culture is nothing more than religion.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:28 PM

AMERICA ISN'T A PLACE (via Mike Daley & Tom Morin):

Born American, but in the Wrong Place (Peter W. Schramm, April 2006, On Principle)

The war was hard on everyone and the war’s end brought little relief. When the Communists took control of the country in 1949, my parents’ little textile shop (about half the size of my living room) and everything that was in it, was taken from them. They were considered the "bourgeoisie," and therefore dangerous to this new kind of tyranny now in control. My father was later sentenced to prison for a year for "rumor mongering" (someone claimed he called a Communist a tyrant, which he did). He got out, washed windows for awhile and made illegal whiskey. He lived, and his family survived.

In that same year, 1949, my grandfather was sentenced to ten years hard labor by the Communists for having a small American flag in his possession (much like the kind we wave at July 4th celebrations or with which we decorate the graves of our fallen heroes). Dad tried then, unsuccessfully, to persuade my mother to leave. But their ties to family and friends were too strong, and she would not hear it. At my grandfather’s "trial" they asked him why he had the flag. Was he a spy? He replied that it represented freedom better than any other symbol he knew and that he had a right to have it. When my grandfather got an early release from the labor camp in 1956, he came back to us looking like a victim of the Holocaust. Still, the first thing he wanted to know was whether we still had the flag. Of course, we did not. It had long ago been confiscated. But my father did not want to break his father’s heart so he somehow managed to secure another one. We took it out of its hiding place and at that tender age I learned the very adult lesson of the complexity of telling the truth. Seeing that flag somehow erased much of the pain and torment those years of imprisonment caused my grandfather. That flag restored in him something like hope. In my father, it also stirred up righteous anger.

Now, with the revolution failing, came the final straw for my Dad. On one of his trips out to secure some bread, a hand grenade landed next to him but, miraculously, it did not go off. The spark that should have set off that grenade set off my father instead. He came home and announced to my mother that that was it. He said he was going to leave the country whether she would come or not. Mom said, "O.K., William. We will come if Peter agrees. Ask Peter."

My mother tells me, though I don’t remember saying this, that I told my father I would follow him to hell if he asked it of me. Fortunately for my eager spirit, hell was exactly what we were trying to escape and the opposite of what my father sought.

"But where are we going?" I asked.

"We are going to America," my father said.

"Why America?" I prodded.

"Because, son. We were born Americans, but in the wrong place," he replied.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:23 PM


Finches on Galapagos Islands evolving (RANDOLPH E. SCHMID, 7/13/06, AP)

Finches on the Galapagos Islands that inspired Charles Darwin to develop the concept of evolution are now helping confirm it - by evolving.

A medium sized species of Darwin's finch has evolved a smaller beak to take advantage of different seeds just two decades after the arrival of a larger rival for its original food source.

The altered beak size shows that species competing for food can undergo evolutionary change, said Peter Grant of Princeton University, lead author of the report appearing in Friday's issue of the journal Science.

It would be sadder that this -- citing disproof as proof -- is what they've been reduced to had their ideology not been so destructive. It illustrates again though that were they willing to settle for what was true about Darwin's insight it's still quite brilliant and useful, just not supportive of their ideological ends.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:31 PM


Tigers pick Miller named top NCAA arm (Kevin Yanik, 07/12/2006, MLB.com)

A southpaw topped a trio of right-handers Wednesday night for the Roger Clemens Award.

University of North Carolina left-hander Andrew Miller was the recipient of the third annual award at the Marriott Westchase of Houston. Miller won the award over right-handers Eddie Degerman of Rice, Tim Lincecum of the University of Washington and Brad Lincoln of the University of Houston.

"I never really thought it would happen," Miller said. "Those other guys had such great years. It's just such a huge honor to be here. It was in the back of my mind. To win an award with Roger Clemens' name on it is amazing."

For Miller, this last month has been a whirlwind. First of all, North Carolina played in the College World Series finals. Then, the Detroit Tigers selected Miller No. 6 overall in this season's First-Year Player Draft.

Now this.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:00 PM


Nationals acquire Austin Kearns, Felipe Lopez and Ryan Wagner as part of eight-player deal with Cincinnati (MLB, 07/13/2006)

The Washington Nationals today acquired outfielder Austin Kearns, shortstop Felipe Lopez and right-handed pitcher Ryan Wagner from the Cincinnati Reds in exchange for right-handed pitcher Gary Majewski, left-handed pitcher Bill Bray, infielder Brendan Harris, shortstop Royce Clayton and right-handed pitcher Daryl Thompson. Nationals Vice President and General Manager Jim Bowden made the announcement.

Kearns, Lopez and Wagner are former first-round selections-none of whom is older than 26 years-old. [...]

Lopez, 26, was batting .268 with 14 doubles, nine home runs, 30 RBI and a career-high 23 stolen bases in 85 games for the Reds at the time of the trade. Lopez is currently on pace to establish career highs in walks, stolen bases and runs scored. Currently tied for fourth in the NL in stolen bases, Lopez's 47 walks pace all NL shortstops, and his nine home runs are tied for 2nd among NL shortstops behind only Khalil Greene (12).

A career .259 hitter (477-for-1843) with 93 doubles, 17 triples, 54 home runs, 216 RBI and 56 stolen bases in 505 career games, Lopez is coming off his finest offensive season. Last season, at the age of 25, Lopez hit .291 with 34 doubles, five triples, 23 home runs, 85 RBI and 15 stolen bases in 148 games. For his efforts, Lopez earned his first Silver Slugger award, given annually to the league's top offensive shortstop. He also earned a spot on his first NL All-Star team.

Majewski and Bray are serviceable enough middle relievers and conceivable closers, but all of those Nationals together aren't worth either Lopez or Kearns.

Reds pay steep price to improve bullpen (Ken Rosenthal, 7/13/06, FOXSports.com)

"We paid a steep price, there's no question," Krivsky told FOXSports.com. "It speaks to how hard it is to get quality relief pitching in this market. You've got to give up good players."

Krivsky certainly did that; Kearns and Lopez are both 26, while reliever Ryan Wagner, the third player sent to the Nationals, is 24. [...]

Upon learning of the deal, one rival general manager was dumbfounded.

"On the surface, the Nationals made a great trade," the GM said.

The GM went on to explain, "Relief pitchers are risky. Their performance is risky. One year, they're great; the next year, they're mediocre. They're the hardest players to evaluate. Position players are the easiest. And the Nationals got two premium position players in their 20s."

Kearns is enjoying a long-awaited breakout season, batting .274 with 16 homers and 50 RBIs. Lopez was an All-Star last season, though his offense has dipped this season and Clayton is a better defender at shortstop.

Krivsky said that the right-handed Majewski, 26, and left-handed Bray, 23, will be setup men along with righty Todd Coffey for closer Eddie Guardado, whom Krivsky acquired from the Mariners last week. Majewski is in his second season. Bray, the Nationals' first-round pick in the 2004 draft, is a rookie.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:21 PM