October 31, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:48 PM


Iowa candidate asks Kerry to cancel campaign visit (AP, 10/31/06)

A Democratic Congressional candidate from Iowa is canceling a campaign event later this week with Senator John Kerry.

Brucy Braley says Kerry's recent comments about the Iraq war were inappropriate.

Braley is running against Republican Mike Whalen in Iowa's First District congressional race. It's a contest considered to be one of the most competitive House races in the country.

Braley's decision to distance himself from Kerry came as a furor grew from comments Kerry made about the Iraq War during a campaign stop in California on Monday.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:24 PM


Poll Shows Worries on Iraq Eclipse: Bush's Slight Gain on Economy (JOHN HARWOOD and JACKIE CALMES, October 31, 2006, wall Street Journal)

President Bush is getting a bit more credit from voters for positive economic news, but there is little sign the modest bump is benefiting fellow Republicans in a midterm election campaign dominated by voters' anxieties about Iraq.

A week before Election Day, the new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll shows the president receiving improved marks for handling the economy, an issue Republicans are increasingly emphasizing in their 11th-hour attempts to hold their congressional majorities. Amid rising stock values and falling gas prices, Mr. Bush essentially breaks even on the issue with 46% of voters approving his economic stewardship and 48% disapproving. That is up from 39% approval and 56% disapproval in June.

It's easy to make fun of the Democrats for not recognizing that the economy was going to be in fine shape going into this election, but it's mystifying why Bush/Rove hasn't concentrated more on the good economic news than on Iraq and the WoT. Folks like Jim Geraghty, in his book Voting to Kill, swear that 9-11 still matters most, but it seems unlikely that it even mattered much in the '02 midterm, never mind today. Folks just can't feel that threatened at this point.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:15 PM


Rating Countries for the Happiness Factor: A study pulled together from sources and surveys found that good health care and education are as important as wealth to modern happiness (Marina Kamenev, 10/11/06, Business Week)

According to Adrian White, an analytic social psychologist at Leicester who developed the first "World Map of Happiness," Denmark is the happiest nation in the world.

White's research used a battery of statistical data, plus the subjective responses of 80,000 people worldwide, to map out well-being across 178 countries. Denmark and five other European countries, including Switzerland, Austria, and Iceland, came out in the top 10, while Zimbabwe and Burundi pulled up the bottom.

Not surprisingly, the countries that are happiest are those that are healthy, wealthy, and wise. "The most significant factors were health, the level of poverty, and access to basic education," White says. Population size also plays a role. Smaller countries with greater social cohesion and a stronger sense of national identity tended to score better, while those with the largest populations fared worse. China came in No. 82, India ranked 125, and Russia was 167. The U.S. came in at 23.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:20 PM


Maliki Orders Lifting of Checkpoints Around Sadr City: U.S. Disbands Military Blockade After Prime Minister's Announcement (John Ward Anderson, Ellen Knickmeyer and William Branigin, 10/31/06, Washington Post)

U.S. forces ended a five-day-old military blockade of Baghdad's impoverished Sadr City section Tuesday, meeting a deadline set by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki amid tensions between U.S. and Iraqi officials and pressure from the anti-American cleric whose militia controls the sprawling Shiite slum.

Maliki ordered that the security cordon be lifted hours after cleric Moqtada al-Sadr called for a civil disobedience campaign in Sadr City to protest the blockade, which the U.S. military launched Wednesday in an effort to find an abducted U.S. soldier and capture a purported Iraqi death squad leader.

It was the Maliki government's greatest demonstration of independence from the occupying U.S. military forces, following two weeks of increasingly pointed exchanges between Iraqi and U.S. officials.

It's long past time for us to dance to their tune.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:18 PM


Airbus customer turns to Boeing with billion-dollar 777 order (Dominic Gates, 10/31/06, Seattle Times)

Airbus' largest customer in Latin America, TAM Airlines of Brazil, has defected to Boeing with an order for four 777-300ERs.

The deal is worth about $1 billion at list prices, but its significance goes beyond money. Until now, TAM's fleet of large airplanes has been all-Airbus. The order is a huge vote in favor of the 777, over both the A340 and the forthcoming enlarged A350.

The decision cements a growing Boeing hold on this segment of the large jet market, where the twin-engined 777 has almost killed the four-engined and therefore less fuel-efficient A340. On Saturday, Emirates of Dubai canceled an order for 10 of the A340s and said it would switch to 777s.

In addition, because Airbus has re-positioned its much-postponed A350 as a contender against both the 787 and the 777, this order is a blow to the A350.

Loyal Airbus fan goes Boeing with 777 order (Dominic Gates, 10/31/06, Seattle Times)

Boeing won the order on more than the 777's merits.

TAM needed midsize wide-bodies right away. Just last week, Brazilian aviation authorities granted it rights to fly additional routes into Europe.

Those rights must be exercised within six months or are lost.

Boeing had available some used planes that will fly until the 777s are delivered in mid-2008, and that sealed the win.

"It is very important to be on time to market," said TAM Chief Executive Marco Antonio Bologna in a conference call from Seattle with Brazilian and U.S. journalists. "Boeing gave us a complete solution."

Boeing Capital, the company's airplane-financing unit, was able to supply TAM three used MD-11 aircraft on a short-term lease.

Industry analyst Scott Hamilton of Leeham.net said this immediate need made TAM "a target of opportunity" for Boeing, giving the sales team a win with long-term implications.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:35 PM


Modern Humans, Neanderthals May Have Interbred (E.J. Mundell, Oct 30, 2006, HealthDay News)

There may be a little Neanderthal in all of us.

That's the conclusion of anthropologists who have re-examined 30,000-year-old fossilized bones from a Romanian cave -- bones that languished in a drawer since the 1950s. [...]

"From my perspective, the replacement vs. continuity debate that raged through the 1990s is now dead," said the study's American co-author, Erik Trinkaus, a professor of anthropology at Washington University in St. Louis.

Trinkaus comes down firmly on the side of the assimilation theory.

"To me, what happened is that the Neanderthals were [genetically] absorbed into and overwhelmed by modern humans coming into Europe from Africa, and they disappeared through this absorption," Trinkaus said.

Another species turns out to just be a variety.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:21 PM


Heavy coverage at midterm favors Democrats, study says (The media mix By Peter Johnson, 10/31/06, USA Today)

Network news coverage has favored Democratic candidates in the midterm election, and the page scandal involving former congressman Mark Foley has been the main story line, drawing almost as much coverage as Iraq and terrorism combined, a new study finds.

An analysis by the Center for Media and Public Affairs of midterm election stories aired on the ABC, CBS and NBC evening newscasts Sept. 5-Oct. 22 found that 2006's coverage has been almost five times as heavy as in the 2002 midterm elections: 167 stories, compared with 35 four years ago.

It's not like the GOP doesn't know the MSM serves the Democrats, so you can't hand them issues like the Foley follies to whip you with.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:17 PM


Black Democrats Cross Party Lines To Back Steele For U.S. Senate: Pr. George's Politicians Lash Out at State Party (Ovetta Wiggins, 10/31/06, Washington Post)

A coalition of black Democratic political leaders from Prince George's County led by former county executive Wayne K. Curry endorsed Republican Michael S. Steele's bid for the U.S. Senate yesterday.

The support from Curry, five County Council members and others barely a week before Election Day reflects their continued disappointment that the Democratic Party has no African American candidates at the top of the ticket and a sense that the county is being ignored, officials said.

"They show us a pie, but we never get a slice," said Major F. Riddick Jr., a former aide to then-Gov. Parris N. Glendening and a former county executive candidate. "We are here today to say we've waited and we've waited and we're waiting no longer."

Is anyone else put in mind of blacks moving to the front of the bus or siutting at the Woolworth's counter by that headline?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:07 PM


Suspect and A Setback In Al-Qaeda Anthrax Case: Scientist With Ties To Group Goes Free (Joby Warrick, October 31, 2006, Washington Post)

In December 2001, as the investigation into the U.S. anthrax attacks was gathering steam, coalition soldiers in Afghanistan uncovered what appeared to be an important clue: a trail of documents chronicling an attempt by al-Qaeda to create its own anthrax weapon.

The documents told of a singular mission by a scientist named Abdur Rauf, an obscure, middle-aged Pakistani with alleged al-Qaeda sympathies and an advanced degree in microbiology.

Using his membership in a prestigious scientific organization to gain access, Rauf traveled through Europe on a quest, officials say, to obtain both anthrax spores and the equipment needed to turn them into highly lethal biological weapons. He reported directly to al-Qaeda's No. 2 commander, Ayman al-Zawahiri, and in one document he appeared to signal a breakthrough.

"I successfully achieved the targets," he wrote cryptically to Zawahiri in a note in 1999.

Precisely what Rauf achieved may never be known with certainty. That's because U.S. officials remain stymied in their nearly five-year quest to bring charges against a man who they say admitted serving as a top consultant to al-Qaeda on anthrax -- a claim that makes him one of a handful of people linked publicly to the group's effort to wage biological warfare against Western targets.

Rauf, 47, has been under scrutiny in Pakistan since he was detained there for questioning in late 2001, according to U.S. and Pakistani officials who agreed to talk about the case for the first time. But officially he remains free, and Pakistan now says it has no grounds for arrest.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:52 PM

SNUFFED OUT (via Bryan Francoeur):

'Death of a President' dies at box office (Reuters, 10/31/06)

The provocative film "Death of a President," which imagines the assassination of George W. Bush, bombed at the North American box office with a meager $282,000 grossed from 143 theaters in its first weekend.

The pseudo-documentary played at 91 U.S. theaters and 52 Canadian cinemas during its first three days of release, averaging an estimated $1,970 per screen, according to distributor Newmarket Films, which reportedly paid $1 million for U.S. rights to the picture.

"That's a very poor opening," said Brandon Gray, an analyst at industry watcher Web site boxofficemojo.com. [...]

Newmarket distribution chief Richard Abramowitz called the opening tally for "Death of a President" "a little disappointing" in light of the "enormous awareness" generated by the film since its premiere last month at the Toronto Film Festival.

One of the things you sometimes read is that the anti-communist Right had created a political climate in which it was okay to shoot JFK. Suppose for a moment that we accept that notion: what sort of climate has the anti-Reformation Left tried creating today?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:44 PM


Gay-marriage ruling recharges GOP (Steven Thomma, 10/31/06, MCCLATCHY NEWSPAPERS)

In the final stretch before Election Day, embattled Republicans feel as though they have received a gift from an unlikely donor: advocates of gay marriage.

They think that last week’s ruling by New Jersey’s Supreme Court ordering equal rights for gay couples — seven of whom had sued for the right to marry — is re-energizing Christian conservatives, who had been losing interest in politics. Republicans predict that could draw more conservatives to the polls next week, especially in the eight states that will vote on proposed amendments to their state constitutions to ban gay marriage.

Among the eight states are Virginia and Tennessee, which have close Senate races that could decide which party controls the Senate next year. The other states are Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, South Carolina, South Dakota and Wisconsin. [...]

Nearby, Sen. George Allen, R-Va., visited two largely black churches Sunday, where he invoked the New Jersey ruling as a reminder of the need to pass the proposed amendment to the Virginia state constitution banning gay marriage.

"The Supreme Court decision in New Jersey this week showed even more importantly to the people of Virginia why the Virginia marriage-protection amendment is so important," he said afterward.

Sen. John Kerry: 'I Apologize to No One' (Newsmax, 10/31/06)
At a Tuesday afternoon press conference in Seattle, Kerry said "I apologize to no one” for what he categorized as criticism of the Bush administration’s Iraq war policy.

Kerry touched off a storm of protest when he told a college audience on Monday that "if you study hard and you do your homework, and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. If you don’t, you get stuck in Iraq.”

The comments drew demands for an apology from Sen. John McCain, the National Commander of The American Legion, and others.

Democrats have forgotten rule one: hide everyone in the party and everything they believe from the voters.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:38 PM


Airing it out was group effort: Receiving corps shows its depth (Christopher L. Gasper, October 31, 2006, Boston Globe)

New England threw the ball 43 times and Watson, who had a career-high 95 yards on seven catches, and receivers Reche Caldwell, Doug Gabriel, Troy Brown, Chad Jackson, and Jabar Gaffney combined for 23 catches for 288 yards, quieting criticism about the group's ability to provide quarterback Tom Brady with targets.

"Internally, in this group we knew what we had in here," said Watson. "We knew it from the beginning. We know we're going to have ups and downs each week. We know that every week is not going to be a great passing week, but we know that with the guys in this room we work hard and we try to correct our mistakes."

The Patriots' receiving corps had been blamed for a lack of big plays in the passing game. Before last night, New England didn't have a pass play longer than 35 yards. Gabriel (five catches for 83 yards) took care of that on New England's first drive, when he took a third-and-10 pass from Brady around the Minnesota 30 and turned it into a 45-yard gain.

Four plays later, Caldwell (seven catches for 84 yards) capped the drive with a 6-yard touchdown reception, his first in a New England uniform. Caldwell was the first of four pass-catchers to haul in a touchdown from Brady. Watson, Brown, and Jackson also got into the act. [...]

The touchdowns were a welcome reward, but the most encouraging sign from the much-maligned group was the big plays, all of which were the result of running with the ball after the catch. In all, it produced three plays of 34 yards of more, all of which led to scores.

Watson had a 40-yard catch-and-run in the second quarter on a drive that resulted in a Stephen Gostkowski 23-yard field goal, and Caldwell went 34 yards on a wide receiver screen to pick up a key first down on the drive that ended in Watson's TD catch. [...]

By the time Jackson took a pass from Brady, shook free from safety Dwight Smith, and burrowed into the end zone for a 10-yard touchdown reception with five seconds left in the third, giving New England a 31-7 lead, the Vikings were probably air sick. Up to that point, New England had passed the ball 38 times and run it just nine.

Chris Mortensen said he talked to an NFL scout who had a pretty good line: "Everyone talks about Brady losing his favorite receivers, but his favorite is the one who's open."

Belichick takes Childress to school: Nothing the Vikings tried seemed to work on Monday night. It was just the opposite for the well-tuned Patriots and their crafty coach. (Jim Souhan, 10/31/06, Minneapolis Star Tribune)

Over the past week, you couldn't tell whether Childress was poking fun at Belichick or offering the sincerest form of flattery. Childress closed his practices as much as NFL rules allowed, and flooded his injury report with silliness and subterfuge in the classic Belichick style.

By Monday night, you had a Vikings team that is as healthy as any in the NFL playing in front of a loud crowd at home against the Patriots' banged-up offensive and defensive lines.

It was no contest.

Oh, it's easy to give Belichick all the credit when the Patriots win, because the sworls of his fingerprints stand out so prominently on the Lombardi Trophy.

It would be a mistake to conclude that his teams lack talent, though. They just lack the kind of talent that demands constant attention.

Hard lesson brought home to the NFC (Ron Borges, October 31, 2006, Boston Globe)
In the NFC, the Vikings are a playoff contender. Against the AFC, they are cannon fodder. In the NFC, they are a physical team that can run over you with a massive offensive line or shut down yours with a massive defensive line. Against the AFC, they are no more than an annoyance.

The Vikings came to the Metrodome to make their first home appearance in five years on "Monday Night Football" armed with those massive fronts, a raucous crowd, and an abundance of confidence after manhandling the defending NFC champion Seahawks just a week ago. By halftime, they had learned a sad truth: Beating the Seahawks may be a big deal in the NFC, but in the AFC, you haven't beaten anybody until you've beaten the iron -- the Patriots, Broncos, and Colts -- and the Vikings couldn't even beat the Bills, the AFC's version of cannon fodder.

Minnesota had sound reasons to believe it could face down the Patriots, who walked onto the field with a depleted offensive line reduced to using third-string guard Billy Yates to block massive Kevin Williams and with All-Pro defensive end Richard Seymour clearly impaired by the braced left arm he nearly broke a week ago. Yet by halftime, it was obvious that these football teams were in two different classes.

For unsuspecting Viking fans, it was like going to the zoo for the first time and learning the difference between a hyena and a lion. One may be irksome at times but the other is to be feared at all times.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:52 AM


In Key House Races, Democrats Run to the Right (SHAILA DEWAN and ANNE E. KORNBLUT, 10/29/06, NY Times)

In their push to win back control of the House, Democrats have turned to conservative and moderate candidates who fit the profiles of their districts more closely than the profile of the national party.

One such candidate, Heath Shuler, was courted by Republicans to run for office in 2001. Mr. Shuler, 34, is a retired National Football League quarterback who is running in the 11th Congressional District in North Carolina. He is an evangelical Christian and holds fast to many conservative social views, like opposition to abortion rights.

“My guess is that if Democrats are in the majority, it’s going to be because of these New Democrat, Blue Dog candidates out there winning in these competitive swing districts,” Representative Ron Kind of Wisconsin, co-chairman of a caucus of centrist House Democrats, said in an interview.

But if candidates like Mr. Shuler do help the Democrats gain majority control of Congress, it could come at a political price, which may include tensions in the party between its new centrists and its more liberal political base.

In Ohio, Democrats Show a Religious Side to Voters (DAVID KIRKPATRICK, 10/31/06, NY Times)
Representative Ted Strickland, an Ohio Democrat and former Methodist minister, opened his campaign for governor with a commercial on Christian radio vowing that “biblical principles” would guide him in office.

In his first major campaign speech, Mr. Strickland said “the example of Jesus” had led him into public service. He has made words from the prophet Micah a touchstone of his campaign.

Ohio, where a groundswell of conservative Christian support helped push President Bush to re-election two years ago, has become the leading edge of national Democratic efforts to win over religious voters, including evangelicals.

Explaining his hope to win conservative Christian votes, Mr. Strickland said, “I try to make a distinction between the religious right — people who have a conservative theological perspective — and the political religious right, who seem to have as their primary motivation political influence.”

If elected to the Senate a guy like Mr. Strickland (it'is actually Sherrod Brown running for the Senaste and Strickland for Governor) would at least get six years before having to explain to evangelicals that he consistently voted for abortion and gay rights--what's someone like Mr. Shuler supposed to do when he'd have to run again in just two years with Hillary already acting as a drag at the top of the ticket?

The Elephant in the Room (ANNE E. KORNBLUT, 10/29/06, NY Times)

FOR years, Sheri Langham looked at the Republican politics of her parents as a tolerable quirk, one she could roll her eyes at and turn away from when the disagreements grew a bit deep.

But earlier this year, Ms. Langham, 37, an ardent Democrat, found herself suddenly unable even to speak to her 65-year-old mother, a retiree in Arizona who, as an enthusiastic supporter of President Bush, “became the face of the enemy,” she said.

“Things were getting to me, and it became such a moral litmus test that all I could think about was, ‘How can she support these people?’ ” said Ms. Langham, a stay-at-home mother in suburban Virginia.

The mother and daughter had been close, but suddenly they stopped talking and exchanging e-mail messages. The freeze lasted almost a month.

“Finally, it hit me that if one of us got hit by a bus tomorrow, I don’t want my final thought to be, ‘She supports George Bush,’ ” Ms. Langham said. They resumed contact, but have agreed not to discuss the administration and the war, or even forward each other humorous political e-mail messages.

Imagine the psychic dislocation as your own party moves Right and you become your own enemy?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:25 AM


China's reverse population bomb (Scott Zhou, 11/01/06, Asia Times)

By 2015, China's baby-boom generation will start reaching retirement age. China is already an "aging society" by United Nations definition. The UN maintains that a society is defined as aging when adults aged 65 or older exceed 7% of the total population. China crossed this line some time between 2000 and 2005.

It is estimated that by 2010, the country's population of those over 60 years old will reach 174 million, accounting for 12.78% of the total. Furthermore, China's work-age population, 15-64, will reach its peak in 2020 to a total of 940 million. It will then decline and be overtaken by India.

Around 2035, the whole Chinese population will peak at 1.46 billion, and then begin to decline, again to be replaced by India as the world's most populous nation. [...]

Nowadays, quite a number of economists, inside China and outside, are keen on making headlines by predicting when China's economy will overtake the United States, but they may simply ignore the demographic dynamics between the two countries.

From 2000 through to 2050, China, India and the US will be the three most populous countries in the world, which will largely define the geo-economy in the 21st century. Of the three countries, China's major challenge lies in its preparedness for an aging society and its ability to build an army of skilled workers.

China is getting older faster than it's getting richer compared with the US. According to a UN projection, by 2040, the proportion of elderly people in Chinese population will rise to 28%, which is higher than what it predicts for the United States. Also, in the long run, India's population structure will become better than China's in that in 15 years India will have a labor force that is both bigger and younger than China's.

China's internal dynamics will change too. If it fails to put in place an adequate system of old-age support by then, it will be unable to manage the demographic transition without widespread economic hardship - which will jeopardize President Hu Jintao's strategy of building up a "harmonious society".

The experts haven't accounted for demographics? Who'da think it?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:04 AM


Facing Down Ahmadinejad (AMNON RUBINSTEIN, October 31, 2006, NY Sun)

There is one advantage to President Ahmadinejad's latest outburst at the University of Tehran: It removes the fog of misinformation and misunderstanding surrounding the major issue of the Middle East — the survival of the Jewish state. That issue, or rather the Arab and Muslim opposition to Israel's existence, has not really disappeared since 1948, when the Arabs sought to annihilate the fledgling state.

Nevertheless, in recent years there were encouraging signs that the Arab world, having failed to crush Israel militarily, would learn to co-exist with the "Zionist entity" once Israel would relinquish the territories occupied in the 1967 war. At the same time, Israel bashers have waged a campaign against Israel describing the Jewish state as an invincible superpower guilty of the most heinous crimes against humanity. Recently, two prominent American professors, Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer, in their paper, "The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy," described the Jewish state as immune from all danger and discounted the notion that Iran poses any threat to Israel.

Now the situation has changed. A non-Arab regional power — Iran — is threatening Israel. This past summer's war in Lebanon, which actually was the first skirmish with a well-equipped, Iranian-supplied army called Hezbollah, proved Israel's extreme vulnerability. Throughout the Muslim world, the encounter was viewed as the first defeat suffered by the "infidels." Iran, armed with this alleged victory, is lashing out with even more vitriol against the "heathen state" of Israel. Iran's president, emboldened by his reception in the United Nations and at the Council on Foreign Relations, bluntly repeats his threats: to annihilate Israel and punish the West for supporting its existence. He compounds this by denying not only the Holocaust but also the Bible, saying that there have never been Jews in the holy land.

Shimon Peres rightly reacted to this diatribe by calling Iran's president the new Hitler and by chiding the Council on Foreign Relations for inviting him to speak to that august body (where, by the way, he claimed that "Iran was freer then the U.S.").

With those views he ought to have been a humanities professor.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:54 AM


Chalabi Outlines Steps to Save Iraq from Ruin (IRA STOLL, October 31, 2006, NY Sun)

[The former deputy prime minister of post-Saddam Iraq, Ahmad] Chalabi, who as president of the Iraqi National Congress lobbied for the Iraq Liberation Act that helped set America on the path of overthrowing Saddam Hussein, had a series of suggestions for "how we can get out of this conundrum."

Mr. Chalabi called on America and Britain to "make good on the promise of handing over security to the government of Iraq."

"Iraqis must be in charge of recruitment, training, supply, and deployment of the army," he said. He called for those provisions to be included in a new U.N. Security Council resolution on Iraq that is planned for next month. And he said Iraq needs to build up, within its defense ministry, "a competent staff" of accountants, auditors, and supply officers.

Mr. Chalabi said that while the Iraqi budget funds 372,000 police jobs, fewer than 250,000 of them have been filled.

He said the Iraqi intelligence service is "entirely funded in a mysterious way that is not disclosed."

"Put the Iraqi intelligence service under Iraqi control," Mr. Chalabi urged. Mr. Chalabi also urged a diplomatic offensive aimed at Iraq's neighbors, many of which are hoping that Iraq's experiment with pluralism, democracy, and federalism ends in failure.

What Makes Suicide Bombers Tick?
(Stan Crock, 7/06/05, Business Week)
Here's a summary of [Robert Pape's] analysis, which is based on the 315 suicide terrorist attacks from 1980 to 2003:

Sri Lanka's Tamil Tigers, a Marxist-Leninist Hindu group opposed to religion, committed the largest number of suicide attacks, 76. The Kurdish PKK, which used the tactic 14 times, is headed by a secular Marxist-Leninist, Abdulah Ocalan. The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, another Marxist-Leninist group, and the al-Aqsa Brigade, which has ties to the socialist Fatah movement, account for a third of the attacks against Israel. Communist and socialist groups account for 75% of the attacks in Lebanon. Islamic fundamentalists, he concludes, were associated with about only half of the attacks from 1980 to 2003. And such fundamentalist Islamic countries as Iran and Sudan aren't producing any suicide bombers.

Pape argues that the common denominator among the bombers in 95% of the cases is that they're nationalist insurgents with a secular, strategic goal: ousting the military forces of democratic countries from land the insurgents believe is theirs. The suicide terrorists, who account for about 5% of all terrorist incidents but about 75% of all fatalities, believe their land and way of life are threatened. The religions of the occupier and the insurgents invariably are different, Pape notes, but he contends that difference is merely a useful recruiting tool and isn't at the root of the animosity.

Al Qaeda fits this pattern. Osama bin Laden's opposition to the House of Saud stemmed from its decision to allow U.S. troops on Saudi soil. Bin Laden's goal is not simply to kick the U.S. out of Saudi Arabia, a country that's a Western construct, but rather from the Arabian Peninsula, which arguably stretches as far north as Iraq and includes Kuwait, Bahrain, and other countries in the region where the U.S. has troops.

Almost every suicide attack is aimed at a democracy, from the Tamil Tigers targeting Sri Lanka to Kashmir strikes against India. That's because the insurgents view democracies as vulnerable to this pressure, as President Bush noted. Indeed, the watershed event that sparked copycat attacks was the suicide bombing of the Marine barracks in Lebanon, which prompted President Reagan to bring U.S. troops home. Indeed, governments have made concessions in 7 of 13 completed campaigns (5 are ongoing). Not bad odds. And growing American disenchantment with the military operation in Iraq proves the point yet again.

The mere presence of foreign troops is the instigation for the attacks, so lengthy stays to secure democracy actually make attacks more probable and help boost recruitment. Substituting Iraqi security forces for U.S. troops is the only thing that will likely make a difference. Pape notes that arrests of al Qaeda and other insurgent leaders are rising, but the metric that counts is the number of attacks, and they're rising, too. That suggests al Qaeda is growing stronger, not weaker.

Equally troubling is that even as the total number of terrorist attacks globally is declining, the number of suicide attacks is rising. The first five months of this year saw as many suicide attacks as all of last year.

Yet there are some encouraging signs. Pape points to the sharp decline in attacks in Israel when it left southern Lebanon, as it prepares to leave Gaza, and as it builds a protective fence. The insurgents need public support to survive, and if the goal of getting the enemy out is achieved, support for such tactics evaporates.

STRATEGIC PLANNING. Interestingly, Pape doesn't believe Uncle Sam should high-tail it out of Baghdad right away. He thinks the U.S. needs to turn the security responsibility over to the Iraqis as quickly as possible but says doing it immediately isn't feasible.

And Pape isn't an isolationist. He suggests that long-term, America should revert to the strategy of the 1970s and 1980s, when the U.S. relied on local regimes but had forces ready to jump when needed -- but not constantly on the ground, poisoning the atmosphere with their presence on land.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:48 AM


Another One Bites the Dust (BRENDAN BERNHARD, October 31, 2006, NY Sun)

Sunday's headline at FoxNews.com consisted of three words and a number: "‘STUDIO 60' CANCELLATION IMINENT."

The third word, as you'll have noticed, was misspelled. If it came to the attention of "Studio 60" writer, Aaron Sorkin — the sort of man, as P.G. Wodehouse might have written, who can spot a typo at 40 paces — you have to assume he got a small, sour chuckle out of it. [...]

"Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip" (to give its full title), NBC's show about putting on a "Saturday Night Live"-style TV show, has been preceded in its maiden season on Monday nights by "Heroes," which starts at 9 p.m. "Heroes" is about a group of people with superhuman powers trying to prevent a nuclear holocaust, and I suspect it's the kind of program that makes Mr.

Sorkin feel quite ill. It's also the hit of the fall season, attracting 14.3 million viewers on its last outing, many of them young, limber, and eager to buy things. But when "Studio 60" comes on, they flee, leaving NBC with 7.7 million.

If you've been watching "Studio 60," just imagine how Jack Rudolph, the reptilian network chairman played by Steven Weber, would react to those numbers.

No one's been watching--that's the point.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:35 AM


How high will bids go for Japanese superstar? (Larry Stone, 10/31/06, Seattle Times)

[Lou] Melendez is Major League Baseball's vice president of international operations, based out of its New York offices. It is to him that teams will soon fax or e-mail their blind bids for the right to negotiate with Matsuzaka, setting into motion the most watched negotiating scenario of this winter.

"It's really a very simple process," Melendez said Monday.

Simple, perhaps, but fraught with mystery and intrigue.

Virtually every major-league team covets a pitcher of [Daisuke] Matsuzaka's potential — he was the most valuable player of the World Baseball Classic and went 17-5 with a 2.13 earned-run average for the Seibu Lions in 2006, all at the age of 26 — so this bidding will be expensive.

Very expensive, especially for a pitcher who has logged high pitch counts and was nagged by minor injuries this year. [...]

With Scott Boras signed as Matsuzaka's agent, and already positioning his client as deserving to be paid like an established No. 1 starter, the Mariners apparently are not willing to get heavily into bidding that could reach $20 million or $30 million just for the right to negotiate a contract with Matsuzaka.

As a possible reference point for the contract itself, think Houston's Roy Oswalt, who signed a five-year, $73 million contract extension in August that kept him out of free agency.

Very Few Safe Bets Among Free Agent Starting Pitchers (TIM MARCHMAN, October 31, 2006, NY Sun)

Really, there are two qualities worth paying for in a free agent pitcher: Reliability and upside. Reliability is worth paying a lot for. The team that signs Tom Glavine knows more or less exactly what it's going to get: 200 innings and an ERA between 3.50 and 4.00. Upside is worth paying for, but only if you're not paying a lot for it. If your team doctor and pitching coach are absolutely convinced that a new training method they've devised can keep Mark Mulder healthy and effective as a starter, it's worth signing him, but not at a price that means you'll have to rely on him as a rotation anchor. This last part is the problem with most signings: It's one thing to take a calculated risk that Pavano has matured into a valuable no. 2 starter, quite another to pay him like one. All of this depends of course on circumstances; the Mets had the money and were in the position to take a gamble that Martinez would stay healthy. The Twins would have been psychotic to take the same risk.

Looking at things this way, it shouldn't be too hard to tell which are the better pitchers on the market this year. The top name is probably Barry Zito. There really is a lot not to like about Zito. He walks a lot of hitters, for one; he's also quite reliant on his defense, consistently putting up ERAs much better than those suggested by his underlying statistics. He's been worked quite hard in his career, he doesn't have a great fastball, he's going to get paid like an ace, and he has floppy hair.

That's all quite true, but none of it much matters. His relatively high walk rate and apparent reliance on his defense are a bit troublesome, but a pitcher with a big, sweeping breaking ball like Zito's can get away with a pitching strategy based on pitching around hitters and inducing bad contact. Far more important, though, Zito is incredibly consistent. Every year he goes out and pitches 220 innings of quality about equal to those Glavine pitched this year. It's easy to gloss over that innings total and focus on his ERA that isn't quite elite, but 200 innings a year is the benchmark for durability today, and Zito exceeds it by 10% every year. In any given year there will be between 10 and 20 more valuable pitchers, but very few who are a good bet to pitch at that level for the next three or four years, and none who is on the market right now. Zito might be more like Glavine than Greg Maddux, but that's hardly a reason to damn him.

The next-best bet is Daisuke Matsuzaka, ace of the Seibu Lions and Scott Boras client.

Red Sox look to Japan for new pitcher: But they're not the only team interested in Seibu Lions ace Daisuke Matsuzaka. The Yankees and several other clubs are prepared to make bids. (SEAN McADAM, 10/31/06, Providence Journal)
"He's got very good stuff, no question" offers a major-league talent evaluator who has only seen the pitcher via video. "His fastball is in the low 90s, he's got a good split, and a good changeup. He's definitely legit."

Though not physically imposing, Matsuzaka has command of as many as five pitches, including a slider hybrid that is known as the "gyroball."

Bobby Valentine, the former Rangers and Mets manager who has managed in Japan the last four seasons, told The New York Times earlier this month that Matsuzaka "is the real deal. He has the ability to be one of the top starters in MLB."

For the Red Sox, Matsuzaka could provide a potential top-of-the-rotation arm to a staff in desperate need of upgrade. For the second straight season, the Red Sox finished 11th in the American League in pitching and the rotation has dipped dramatically since winning the 2004 World Series.

In 2007, two of the team's starters, Curt Schilling and Tim Wakefield, will be 40. Thanks to concerns about his shoulder, Jonathan Papelbon will be making the transition from the bullpen back to the rotation, where he has made just three career starts. Josh Beckett, though he won 16 games in his first season with the Sox, remains a work in progress.

But the Red Sox pursuit of Matsuzaka will not be solitary. The Yankees, New York Mets, Baltimore Orioles, Chicago Cubs, Seattle Mariners and Los Angeles Dodgers are all expected to bid, and one club executive predicted that both the Texas Rangers and Detroit Tigers -- both of whom have done a lot of business with Boras in recent seasons -- will also take part.

October 30, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:00 PM


Can Brazil's Lula deliver on promises?: After his victory in Sunday's presidential vote, Lula now faces the difficult task of pushing through needed reforms. (Andrew Downie, 10/31/06, The Christian Science Monitor)

"They are going to try to go for the tax and fiscal reform, political reform and labor reform, and they will go back and look at social security [reform] again," says David Fleischer, the author of the weekly political journal Brazil Focus. "But it will be hard to do all four reforms, I'd say he may only get a third of it done." [...]

"Everyone agrees, I think, on what needs to be done," says Helio Magalhaes, chairman of the board at the American Chamber of Commerce in Brazil. "The tax burden needs to be reduced, government spending has to come down, and social security needs to be reformed because it generates such a huge deficit. And the government needs to invest in infrastructure to create the conditions for long-term investment. From a business point of view, those are the fundamental things."

Here's one way to look at current affairs, the Democratic Party that hopes to take control of America's congress next month wouldn't help Lula pass those measures because they're too conservative.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:19 PM


Sadr okayed US raid on bastion: Aide (AFP, 10/31/2006)

Radical cleric Muqtada Al Sadr gave the go-ahead to a US-led raid on the bastion of his Mahdi Army militia in Baghdad and plans to purge his movement of violent elements, an aide said yesterday.

Sheikh Abdel Razzaq Al Naddawi, a senior assistant to the firebrand Shi’ite preacher, said Sadr had given the green light to last week’s action by US and Iraqi forces after meeting Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki.

“It was meant to pinpoint the bad elements and hold them accountable before the law,” Naddawi said here. “This movement does not protect those who abuse people and the innocent.”

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:29 PM



The New York Post today surpassed the Daily News and The Washington Post to become the 5th largest newspaper in America after bucking the national trend and chalking up a whopping 5.1 percent jump in circulation. [...]

"This is a great and historic day for The Post," said Rupert Murdoch, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of News Corporation, which owns The Post.

"We have created a newspaper with a unique voice that reflects the heart and soul of New York, and today's publisher's statement, which for the first time places us ahead of the Daily News and in the top five newspapers in the country, is a testament to the vitality of the paper and the cherished role it plays in the life of this city."

The New York Post, founded by Alexander Hamilton on November 16, 1801, is the oldest continuously published daily newspaper in the United States.

Here are the top 25 daily newspapers in the U.S. by circulation (with percent change) for the six-month period ending September 2006.

1. USA Today: 2,269509, (-1.3%)
2. The Wall Street Journal: 2,043235, (-1.9%)
3. The New York Times: 1,086,798, (-3.5%)
4. Los Angeles Times: 775,766, (-8.0%)
5. The New York Post: 704,011, 5.3%
6. Daily News: 693,382, 1.0%
7. The Washington Post: 656,297, (-3.3%)
8. Chicago Tribune: 576,132, (-1.7%)
9. Houston Chronicle: 508,097, (-3.6%)
10. Newsday: 413,579, (-4.9%)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:53 PM


George Will's Nostalgic Conservatism (James Lewis, October 30th, 2006, American Thinker)

[George] Will is a Madisonian conservative. He believes in small government above all. That is a safe hope for his liberal admirers, because they know it’s not going to happen. The best conservatives can hope for is Newt Gingrich-style voucher programs, with Federal education money empowering children and their parents rather than the fat and self-serving education industry. But Gingrich isn’t really betting that the US Goverment will actually shrink. Federal dollars for education haven’t gone down in a century.

So liberals can feel happy with Mr. Will. He is a sort of old-fashioned bangle on their string of conservative intellectuals, admirable but harmless. Yes, yes, wouldn’t it be nice to go back to a misty memory of Mount Vernon and Thomas Jefferson (sans the slaves), but we all know that’s a nostalgic fiction. George Will allows the Washington Post to pride itself on its fairness; after all, it has a distinguished conservative on its otherwise wildly skewed list of pundits.

The Bush administration is everything Mr. Will despises about modern conservatism. Stylistically it is Jacksonian, not Madisonian. Andrew Jackson’s cowboys are whooping it up again in the White House, and Mr. Will’s lip is curling. The Bush Administration carries out a vigorous and hotly debated foreign policy, rather than avoiding foreign entanglements, as George Washington advised. Bush has added money to education, though he has tried to make it more accountable. Bush hasn’t vetoed any Congressional spending bills—or anything else for that matter. As far as George Will is concerned, vetoing spending is the main function of a President.

All you need to know about Mr. Will is that he thinks George Allen and Jim Webb are political heavyweights.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:46 PM


Militants Blame U.S. for Pakistan Strike (PAUL GARWOOD, Oct 30, 2006, AP)

Pakistani helicopter gunships on Monday destroyed a religious school the military said was fronting as an al-Qaida training camp, killing 80 people in the country's deadliest military operation targeting suspected terrorists.

Islamic leaders and al-Qaida-linked militants blamed the United States for the airstrike and called for nationwide demonstrations to condemn the attack that flattened the school known as a madrassa and ripped apart those inside.

Pakistan Ties Site It Attacked to Militants (SALMAN MASOOD, 10/30/06, NY Times)
[The] madrassa, that was run by a local cleric, Maulvi Liaqut, according to military officials. Ground troops then stormed the compound.

Local news reports said Mr. Liaqut was killed in the attack.

He had once been a member of the defunct militant movement Tehreek Nifaz-e-Shariat Mohammadi, which sent thousands of tribal fighters into Afghanistan to support the Taliban before being banned in 2002 by President Gen. Pervez Musharraf. Mr. Liaqut was accused by the government of harboring local and foreign militants at the school.

“We received confirmed intelligence reports that 70 to 80 militants were hiding in a madrassa used as a terrorist-training facility, which was destroyed by an army strike, led by helicopters,” Maj. General Shaukat Sultan, a spokesman for the Pakistani military, told The Associated Press.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:34 PM


Analysis: GOP Likely to Lose House Seats (Liz Sidoti, October 30, 2006, Associated Press)

Little more than a week before the elections, the Democratic advantage in national polls is much wider that in previous midterm elections when Democrats captured a few Republican-held districts. That has led analysts to conclude that Democrats inevitably will gain seats this fall.

For months, Democrats have been widely favored over Republicans on the question most every pollster asks to measure where the campaign for control of the House stands. It's some version of what the Associated Press and Ipsos asks — "If the election for U.S. House of Representatives were held today, would you vote for the Democratic or Republican candidate in your congressional district?"

The latest AP-AOL News poll showed 56 percent of likely voters said Democrats, while 37 percent said Republicans, a 19 percentage-point advantage less than two weeks before voters choose a new House. The gap was 10 percentage points in early October. [...]

"The question traditionally has done a good job of measuring the popular vote, and the popular vote is a good predictor of the number of seats each party will win," said Andrew Kohut, director of the Pew Research Center, an independent public opinion organization.

Democrats have to be leading the generic ballot by a good margin, but the likelihood that their lead doubled over two weeks of relentlessly good economic news is pretty minimal.

GOP Will Cling to Control of House (John Gizzi, Oct 30, 2006, Human Events)

Because of post-2000 redistricting, there are relatively few competitive races. Two years ago, 98.7% of incumbents were re-elected, a post-World War II record. In addition, in the 21 districts where Republicans are stepping down or have resigned, George W. Bush won an average of 57% of the vote in 2004.

In my view, the Republicans will lose a net of 12 seats, resulting in a House that has a 220-to-215 Republican majority...

The VT race is hardly leaning--it's a toss-up at best.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:56 PM


Shocktoberfest (Nate Silver, October 28, 2006, Sports Illustrated)

I've just watched the Detroit Tigers play 44 innings of terrible baseball. They couldn't hit, they couldn't field, they couldn't run the bases, and all the pine tar in the world isn't going to buy you a championship when you can't do any of those things.

I don't think it was bad luck. I think this team wasn't in the right frame of mind to play winning baseball.

You want numbers? I'll give you numbers.

During the regular season, Tigers pitchers had a respectable .939 fielding percentage. During the World Series, Tigers pitchers made five errors in 17 chances. The odds of that happening based on chance alone are 355-to-1 against.

During the regular season, Detroit's leadoff hitters got on base 33 percent of the time. During the World Series, their leadoff men reached base five times in 44 plate appearances. The odds of that happening based on chance alone are 843-to-1 against.

In other words, it wasn't that the Tigers lost. It was the way in which they lost.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:37 PM


Republican hard-liner a legitimate contender (Steven Harmon, 10/29/06, Contra Costa Times)

Californians could be on the cusp of electing the state's most conservative lieutenant governor in nearly 30 years -- a candidate who is firmly to the right of most of the state on issues such as abortion, the environment and government spending.

State Sen. Tom McClintock, arguably the most popular conservative in the state, is running neck and neck in his race with Democrat John Garamendi, the term-limited state insurance commissioner. [...]

"McClintock can be a sleeper," said Darry Sragow, a former adviser to Westly, who defeated McClintock by just 22,730 votes despite a 5-to-1 spending advantage. "Democrats dismiss him as a kooky right-wing guy, but there's clear evidence that he's better known than a lot of Democratic insiders like to think and that people like him."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:33 PM


Curry, key Democrats back Steele (Jon Ward, October 30, 2006, Washington Times)

Former Prince George's County executive Wayne K. Curry, backed by five black members of the Prince George's County Council, today endorsed Republican Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele's campaign for the U.S. Senate.

Mr. Curry, a Democrat who became the first black Prince George's county executive in 1994, and served two terms, is influential in Prince George's, the state's second-largest county, with about 846,000 residents, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. [...]

Prince George's is also 65 percent black, and is expected to play a key role in Maryland's Nov. 7 U.S. Senate race between Mr. Steele, who is from Prince George's, and Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin, who is white and from Baltimore.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:49 AM


The Church and Islam: A Sprig of Dialogue Has Sprouted in Regensburg: After the storm, the Muslim world is also producing signs of discussion “according to reason.” An erudite question-and-answer between the Catholic Martinetti and Muslim theologian Aref Ali Nayed. And cardinal Bertone writes... (Sandro Magister, October 30, 2006, Chiesa)

The Regensburg effect shows new developments every day. After the storm that followed the “lectio” by Benedict XVI on September 12, the Muslim world is producing more and more measured, reasoned replies to the pope’s arguments.

The “open letter” to the pope from 38 Muslim leaders and scholars – prominently featured by this website – is so far the most striking sign of this new attention on the part of the Muslim world.

But both before and after this letter, there have been other significant contributions.

The first in-depth analysis of Benedict VXI’s lecture in Regensburg on the part of a Muslim theologian was published on this website on October 4. The author, Aref Ali Nayed, born in Libya, is currently the managing director of a technology company headquartered in the United Arab Emirates. He studied hermeneutics and the philosophy of science in the United States and Canada, has taken courses at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, and has given lectures at the Pontifical Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies. He is a consultant for the Interfaith Program of the University of Cambridge. He is a devout Sunni Muslim, and describes himself as a “theologian of the Asharite school, Maliki in jurisprudential tendency, and Shadhili-Rifai in spiritual leanings.”

But the commentary by Aref Ali Nayed, which was later published in its complete form on an English Islamic website, didn’t end there.

Some of the passages of Aref Ali Nayed’s exposition received a reply from an Italian Catholic scholar who is an expert in medieval philosophy and theology, Alessandro Martinetti, from Ghemme in the province of Novara. [...]

But before the erudite dispute between Martinetti and Aref Ali Nayed, in their comments on Benedict XVI’s lecture in Regensburg, another text is presented on this page, one that is quasi-unpublished, written by the Vatican secretary of state, cardinal Tarcisio Bertone. [...]

The cardinal secretary of state announces a reinforcement of the activities of the apostolic nunciatures in Muslim countries, and a more systematic use of the Arabic language by the Vatican.

It expresses hope for increased “dialogue with the thinking [Muslim] élites, with the confidence of reaching the masses after this, of changing mentalities and educating consciences.”

As for the terrain of possible agreement between Christianity and Islam, Bertone identifies this in the “promotion of the dignity of every person” and in “education toward the understanding and protection of human rights.” But this does not mean that the Church would renounce “proposing and proclaiming the Gospel, and among Muslims as well, in the ways and forms most respectful toward the freedom of the act of faith.”

Pope's call for dialogue: One Muslim's response: Affirm commonalities - and set the record straight on Islam. (Asma Afsaruddin, 10/31/06, CS Monitor)
In a famous historical work, Masudi wrote that the Byzantine Christians of his time were suffering civilizational decline because they had rejected the pagan Greek sciences as incompatible with Christianity. In contrast, he wrote that Muslim civilization was prospering because it had assimilated ancient learning and built on it. [...]

Two main trends remain influential within Sunni Muslim theology today. One is represented by the Ashari school of thought, which maintains that faith or revelation always trumps reason. The other is represented by the Maturidi school, which holds that reason, independent of revelation, can arrive at the same truths. Both camps are considered orthodox within Sunni Islam, with Maturidi thought gaining ground.

In an earlier period, the Mutazilis (known as the Rationalists) claimed that there was no incompatibility between faith and reason. Shiites have also historically emphasized the rational basis of their school of thought.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:45 AM


`Cracker' finally back on the case, for BBC America (Charlie McCollum, 10/30/06, San Jose Mercury News)

In the pantheon of modern-day British crime solvers, criminal psychologist Edward (Fitz) Fitzgerald of ``Cracker'' ranks right up there with Jane Tennison of ``Prime Suspect,'' Endeavour Morse of ``Inspector Morse'' and Tony Hill of ``Wire in the Blood.''

But it's been a long time between cases for Fitzgerald. The last original ``Cracker'' film aired in this country more than a decade ago on A&E. There was a quickly canceled Americanized version on ABC in 1997, but for true aficionados, that doesn't count.

Well, the brilliant but infuriating profiler is back for at least one more murder in ``Cracker: A New Terror'' (10 tonight, BBC America), written by creator Jimmy McGovern, with Robbie Coltrane returning to the role that made him famous. [...]

Coltrane's portrayal of the often-obnoxious Fitzgerald will come as a revelation to those who know him only as the loyal Hagrid in the ``Harry Potter'' films. He is as brilliant as ever in this part; we are as fascinated with Fitzgerald as we are repelled by his excesses. Certainly, he and McGovern have resisted any temptation to make Fitzgerald any more lovable than he was a decade ago.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:41 AM


TV's going cheap and cheaper (Joanne Ostrow, 10/30/06, Denver Post)

They're not firing, they're "rightsizing." They're not cost-cutting, they're inventing fabulous user-generated programming.

In the euphemistic world of network TV, executives make cutbacks sound like boldly progressive new ventures. The fact is, nobody knows whether today's cutback will yield tomorrow's creative, fantastically successful breakthrough program.

Last week NBC slashed jobs and put an end to expensive early-evening dramas, alerting viewers that, in the future, we should expect "Deal or No Deal" rather than "Friday Night Lights" in the 7 p.m. time slot. Cheaper to produce and more reliable in the ratings, quiz shows are one economical answer to NBC's current woes.

Wait - it gets cheaper.

The networks are launching do-it-yourself video sites, inviting amateur filmmakers to contribute content.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:30 AM


Going Native (Peter Beinart, 10.30.06, New Republic)

Who is the most left-wing commentator on mainstream television? Keith Olbermann? Bill Maher? Not even close. I'm talking about a man who says both parties are "bought and paid for by corporate America," and calls lobbyists "arms dealers in the war on the middle class." This latter-day William Jennings Bryan denounces the "corporate supremacists" in Congress who write "consumer-crippling" bankruptcy laws, pass job-exporting free-trade deals, and raise the interest on college loans. He peppers his economic analyses with quotes from the labor-supported Economic Policy Institute. And he recently called the GOP's effort to link a minimum-wage hike to a repeal of the estate tax "obscene." I refer, of course, to Lou Dobbs.

The flaxen-haired ex-Republican, who used to host a boosterish business show, should be the answer to lefty dreams. For years, writers like Thomas Frank, author of What's the Matter with Kansas, have argued that what liberalism needs is a strong dose of populism. From Joseph McCarthy to George Wallace to Bill O'Reilly, the modern American right has defined itself against cultural elites. Liberals, Frank and others argue, must fight fire with fire: attacking economic elites with as much gusto as the populists of old.

That's exactly what Dobbs is doing. And it's working so well--Dobbs's ratings are up 33 percent in 2006--that some of his CNN colleagues are getting in on the act. A few weeks ago, curmudgeonly anchorman Jack Cafferty ventured that big oil companies were bringing down gas prices to help Republicans at the polls. To be sure, CNN still features Wolf Blitzer and other just-the-facts, straight-down-the-middle types. But Dobbs increasingly ranges across the entire network, venturing beyond his 6 p.m. slot as a talking head on other shows. And he is turning mild-mannered CNN into the closest thing the United States has to an anti-corporate network.

So why aren't liberals cheering? Because, for Dobbs, taking on corporate America means taking on corporate America's thirst for illegal-immigrant labor. Dobbs is downright obsessive about the issue, and he isn't above nativist scare-mongering--calling Mexican illegal immigrants an "army of invaders" who are bringing leprosy and malaria across the Rio Grande.

Mr. Beinart has accidentally stumbled on the reason why the Democrats will be the anti-immigration party. The politics of envy, Reason, and hate can't help but be nativist.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:12 AM


$7-trillion warning on global warming (ALAN FREEMAN, 10/30/06, Globe and Mail)

Global climate change will cost the world economy as much as $7-trillion in lost output and could force as many as 200 million people out of their homes because of flood or drought unless drastic action is taken by governments worldwide, a report to the British government says. [...]

“Our actions over the coming few decades could create risks of major disruption to economic and social activity later in this century and in the next, on a scale similar to those associated with the great wars and the economic depression of the first half of the 20th century,” Sir Nicholas writes.

If the Depression had likewise cost just one half of one year's American GDP, no one would call it "Great" nor capitalize the "D".

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:52 AM


KFC plans 'important' trans fat 'milestone' (Bruce Horovitz, 10/29/06, USA TODAY)

KFC's fried chicken is about to become finger-lickin' trans-fat-less.

The chicken kingpin, often mocked as a poster child of fast food's nutritional negatives, on Monday will unveil plans to switch to a new soybean oil from a partially hydrogenated oil by April and eliminate the artery-clogging trans fats in its fried chicken sold in the USA.

The change in a major chain's signature product makes this one of fast food's most important concessions to the growing consumer demand for better-for-you eating.

Responding to the folks who consume your product isn't a concession, just good business sense.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:47 AM


Pakistanis kill 80 in raid on school (AP, 10/29/06)

Pakistani troops backed by missile-firing helicopters on Monday launched their deadliest-ever attack against suspected militants, killing 80 people and destroying a purported al-Qaeda-linked training facility, the military said.

If correct, the death toll in the remote northern tribal-dominated Bajur district, close to the Afghan border, would be the highest ever for any single military operation targeting purported Islamic terrorists in Pakistan. [...]

The attack came two days after 5,000 pro-Taliban tribesmen held an anti-American rally near Damadola.

It also coincided with the Monday's planned signing of a peace deal between Bajur tribal leaders and the military along the lines of an accord signed earlier this year in nearby North Waziristan, which aims at stopping militants operating in the area and crossing into Afghanistan. U.S. and Afghan officials believe the deal could make North Waziristan a terrorist haven.

Only their whackos and ours actually think its a bad thing to turn these regions int free-fire zones under the guise of safe areas.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:24 AM


No Donkey Serenade for Wall Street (DAN DORFMAN, October 30, 2006, NY Sun)

"Close, but no cigar" is essentially the message on prospective resounding Democratic victories in both the House and Senate that Mr. Gabriel, the Prudential Equity Group's chief Washington strategist, fired off Friday in an election update to the firm's clients.

Barring any last minute dramatic surprises, he now expects the Democrats to retake control of the House, but fall shy in the Senate, a political showing which, he believes, would lead to political gridlock, but pose no serious worries for the stock market. [...]

To win the Senate, the Democrats need to net six new seats. Mr. Gabriel thinks they'll take four, namely Montana, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Ohio. But the key, as he sees it, is that the Republicans' Senatorial prospects in Missouri and Tennessee seem to be stabilizing and he expects the party to hold both seats.

When all is said and done, he says, "it's a benign verdict for the investment community. It won't produce a result that will impede the market rally."

But suppose he's wrong and the Democrats retake control of both the House and Senate?

On that basis, he suggests, all bets are off. "It would then be the beginning of a two-year risk cycle for the market," he says.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:20 AM


Wiesel, Havel Join the Fight To Free Korea (EDWARD HARRIS, October 30, 2006, Associated Press)

Elie Wiesel, who survived the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz and later won a Nobel peace prize, commissioned a 123-page report detailing North Korean atrocities. He did so with the dissident playwright and Czech president between 1989 and 2003, Václav Havel, and a former prime minister of Norway, Kjell Magne Bondevik.

In the report, the three said the dispute over the country's nuclear program should not eclipse deadly political repression there; rather, the council should open another path to influence North Korea by taking on Kim Jong Il's regime over its treatment of the country's 23 million people. [...]

"Nowhere else in the world today is there such an abuse of rights, as institutionalized as it is in North Korea," Mr. Bondevik told the Associated Press. "The leaders are committing crimes against humanity."

The report argues that Security Council action is warranted under a resolution unanimously approved in April by the 15-nation council that endorsed a 2005 agreement aimed at preventing tragedies like the 1994 Rwanda genocide.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:02 AM


Historic Vote in Congo Is Peaceful: Turnout Appears Massive as Presidential Hopefuls Vie in Runoff (Stephanie McCrummen, 10/30/06, Washington Post)

Voting was largely peaceful, despite analysts' predictions that it would not be, as the largest U.N. peacekeeping force in the world patrolled dirt roads and swarms of international and local observers looked on. [...]

The two presidential contenders are men accustomed to leading by force.

President Joseph Kabila's father, Laurent Kabila, toppled the longtime dictator Mobutu Sese Seko in a 1997 coup; Jean-Pierre Bemba is a businessman-turned-rebel leader-turned-vice president in Kabila's transitional government. Fighting among their supporters killed at least 14 in the wake of the July balloting, and small skirmishes have erupted here and there across the country in recent days.

But on Friday, under pressure from the United Nations and border countries such as Rwanda and Uganda that have at various points backed both men, Kabila and Bemba pledged to accept the election results.

Meanwhile, holed up in a mansion in the rolling green mountains near Goma, Laurent Nkunda, a rebel leader charged with war crimes, also appears to be vying for legitimacy. He had ordered his soldiers not to interfere in the voting and, in recent months, had created his own political party, the National Congress for the People's Defense. With his power waning, observers say it remains unclear whether he will be arrested or given a position in government.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:57 AM


Brazilian President Wins Second Term By Sizable Margin (Monte Reel, 10/30/06, Washington Post)

[Former Sao Paulo state Gov. Geraldo] Alckmin's promises of lower taxes and more rapid growth of the gross domestic product also failed to energize voters. That the economy grew by only about 2.5 percent last year -- one of the most sluggish rates in Latin America -- seemed less important to many voters than the lowered inflation and currency gains of the past four years. For many, Alckmin was simply the person to direct protest votes toward, a passive foil in an election completely defined by the charismatic but controversial Lula.

"This has nothing to do with Alckmin," said Gerson Costa, 37, a graphic designer who voted for Alckmin on Sunday. "It's a clear referendum on Lula. In 2002, I voted for Lula because I thought, 'This guy will be different.' I was wrong, and now I can't stand him."

During his first term, Lula approached foreign policy pragmatically, preferring to play the role of negotiator rather than firebrand. Lula has preserved free-market economic reforms implemented by his predecessor, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, and has tried to serve as a communicator able to maintain generally friendly relations with both Venezuela's Hugo Chávez and President Bush. On Sunday he said that he has tried to encourage regional trade alliances, citing his strong support of South America's Mercosur trading bloc as an example of his regional leadership.

Analysts said that in his second term, Lula will be pressured to enact major reforms of Brazil's large labor sector and enormous pension system, which many believe could prevent the country from reaching growth rates needed to sustain the poverty reduction measures Lula achieved during his first term.

If they get in the habit of holding elections between two free-market, anti-inflation, pro-American candidates, they should eventually get the Latin America seat in the reformed UN Security Council.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:46 AM


Wiggling to the top (KRISTIN RUSHOWY, 10/30/06, TORONTO STAR)

Three of the Wiggles — Field, Cook and Page — met at Macquarie University in Sydney, studying early childhood education. They began collaborating on children's songs as part of a music project.

As here, it was unusual for males to be in the child-care field, Field said, adding that before he arrived, in 100 years of the university's history, just two men had graduated in early childhood ed.

"I got there totally by accident. I was an infantry soldier in the army and when I got out, my sister was doing early childhood. It was less curriculum-based, more free-thinking," said Field. "And after being in the army that sounded good.

"When I was growing up, I just never thought I'd be doing that. But becoming a preschool teacher, I really enjoyed it, I enjoyed empowering children and promoting their self-esteem."

Field knew Fatt from their '80s band The Cockroaches and encouraged him to join.

"A lot of what we do comes from a child's perspective," Field said. "It's got a lot to do with what the songs are about and the language we use, and I like to think we know how to write pretty catchy tunes. Right from the start we gave a lot of thought to what was appropriate for children's music."

Along the way, they've had huge hits — "Hot Potato," "We're Dancing with Wags the Dog," "Fruit Salad" — but also a few misses.

"We're still creating new things, new songs," said Field. "Sometimes we hit the mark, sometimes we don't ...

"Over the years, we've tried things with all good intentions. A couple of years ago onstage, it was my brilliant idea to do an interactive part of the show called `Dorothy's question time,'" — Dorothy the Dinosaur, that is — "where we'd ask if anyone in the audience has a question for Dorothy.

"We should have known: children put up a hand and would say `I've got a dog' or `I'm 4.' And I'm wracking my brain about how to handle it. It became a bit of a pattern, no one was asking Dorothy a question.

"Then Murray said `Maybe they don't understand what a question is, let's make it Doro- thy's news time.' We'd ask `Does anyone have news for Dorothy?' and they'd put up their hands and say `I've got a dog.' It worked."

But that's what happens "when you think like an adult," Field said. "Thinking like a kid is the key. You've got to try and think about where they're thinking and where they are in their world; they are different thinkers than adults."

With Theodore Tugboat and Thomas the Tank Engine no longer on regularly, it's easily the best of the kid shows. The four-year old likes Handy Manny though and the other day the wrench asked Manny if he could help remove some ball joints and Manny said: "I don't think you can get your jaws around these big balls." Cute, huh?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:06 AM


Ignore the Win Total; Cards Are No Fluke (TIM MARCHMAN, October 30, 2006, NY Sun)

The 2000 Yankees won all of 87 games, which wouldn't have been good even for second place in either the American League Central or the American League West; does anyone think they weren't real champions? Of course not. That team was just one in a line of excellent teams, and some quirks of the way it was constructed made it a more effective team in October than it had been in the regular season. There was some or a lot of luck involved, too, but then there is for every team that wins a World Series.

Like those Yankees, the Cardinals were a better fit for the playoffs than they were for the regular season, largely because two starting pitchers they didn't need in October soaked up a ton of innings in the regular season. Mark Mulder and Jason Marquis were absolutely horrible this year; replace those two with the sort of average pitchers St. Louis is usually able to dig up, and they'd have won their customary 95 or so games. Yes, the Cards were lucky to make the playoffs in the first place, but so were the Yankees in 2000 and plenty of other champions. What matters is how you do once you're there, not how you got there.

The Cardinals team we saw over the last few weeks is the same one we've seen pretty much every year this decade, when they've been on one of the less-remarked upon runs of greatness I can think of. With the exception of this year and 2003, the Cardinals have won between 93 and 105 games every year this decade. In every year save 2003, they've either won the National League pennant or been beaten by the team that did. Short of the Yankees and Braves, no team has had a more successful run in the wild card era.

Because of that, and because this team, built around Albert Pujols, Scott Rolen, Jim Edmonds, Chris Carpenter, and a set of mix-and-match utility guys, chumps, washouts, rookies, scrubs, and scrappy hustle guys, is exactly the same team that's been winning 95 games a year this decade, it's impossible to see how this team can even enter into the conversation about which team is the most illegitimate champion. This wasn't a one-off fluke, but the crowning and validating achievement of a truly great team that's been truly great since before George W. Bush was in office and will probably continue to be great after he's left office. During nearly all of this time they have had a transcendently great player in Pujols, likely future Hall of Famers in Rolen and Edmonds, several short-term aces like Carpenter and Matt Morris, and a legendary manager in Tony LaRussa, like his style or not (I don't). That isn't the makeup of a team that's going to baffle baseball historians in future decades while they're going through World Series winners trying to pick out the weak ones.

It hardly seems a coincidence that the Tigers and Cards had defensively dominant catchers.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


What has four letters, begins with E and is slowly killing half of Europe? (Anatole Kaletsky, 10/26/06, Times of London)

What we see in Eastern and Southern Europe today are the consequences of the EU’s transformation from a union of democratic countries into a sort of supra-national financial empire in which the most important decisions affecting EU citizens are no longer subject to democratic control.

In Italy the Government is on the brink of collapse because of Signor Prodi’s insistence on implementing tax increases and budget cuts demanded by Joaquín Almunia, the EU Economic Commissioner, under the terms of the Maastricht Treaty. In Hungary, the riots began a month ago because the Prime Minister showed his contempt for democracy by publicly admitting that he had “lied, morning, noon and night” about the tax increases and public spending cuts that he had promised Señor Almunia before a recent election — and after the election was over, he naturally felt that his promises to Brussels were far more important than the ones he had made to Hungarian voters.

The resulting budget cuts of 7 per cent of GDP over two years would be roughly equivalent in Britain to closing down the entire NHS. And Hungary, remember, is being forced to do this to comply with the Maastricht treaty, without even being admitted to the eurozone.

There is now almost no chance of Hungary, or any other new European country, being admitted to the euro-zone in the foreseeable future. [...]

The Maastricht treaty has turned the Eastern Europeans into second-class citizens. The belated recognition of this fact is starting to have the predictably ugly impact on the politics of Europe’s eastern periphery. But before getting too indignant about the injustices to Eastern Europe, let us spare a thought for the citizens of old Europe who are privileged to “enjoy” full membership of the eurozone. The latest budgetary crisis in Italy may well be averted and the Prodi Government will probably survive for a few more months. But as Signor Prodi’s huge tax increases begin to bite, the Italian economy is almost certain to sink back into recession. Moreover, there will be no chance of Italy tackling any of its real economic problems once unemployment starts rising next year.

What Italy needs today is competition, privatisation of grossly inefficient state-sponsored utilities, deregulation of the financial system and changes in labour laws. Such reforms can be hard to implement even in a booming economy. In a stagnant or declining one, they will become impossible.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


All yours, if the price is right (Bill Reynolds, October 29, 2006, Providence Journal)

[T]he word is Manny's available. Then again, we shouldn't be surprised. It seems like he's always available, whether it's to get out from under his onerous contract or because the Sox [have] simply grown tired of the act. [...]

Manny's salary has always been viewed as an albatross by this new ownership of the Red Sox, especially for so problematic a player. Or if you're paid $20 million a year, can't you at least hustle most of the time? And if A-Rod makes the most money of any player in the game, why isn't he carrying the Yankees on his back like the Yankees' greats of old did? Money is always part of the equation with these two players. How can it not be?

Which is not to say it's a sure thing either will be moved.

We've heard this before with Manny, of course.

But whom do you replace him with him?

Unless you're getting Albert Pujols or A-Rod you can't replace Manny, who's one of the best right-handed hitters in baseball history. But you don't have to precisely match his production in order to protect David Ortiz and you can improve the team in a variety of other ways, particularly in a deal with the LA Angels. Ideally you might get Juan Rivera, who's already established himself as a big-league power hitter. But even without him in the deal, the Angels have extras at all the spots where the Sox could use help over the next few seasons: 3B (Dallas MacPherson), ss (Erick Aybar/Brandon Wood), catcher (Jeff Mathis), 1b (Kendry Morales/Casey Kotchman), and starting pitching (Ervin Santana, Joe Saunders, Nick Adenhart, Tommy Mendoza, etc.).

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Fewer teens are giving birth, but cost to taxpayers still steep (Wendy Koch, 10/29/2006, USA TODAY)

[Sarah Brown] welcomes a one-third decline from 62 births per 1,000 teen girls in 1991 to 41 births in 2004. [...]

The abortion rate dropped even more, from 37 abortions per 1,000 teen girls in 1991 to 22 in 2002, the last year for which figures are available, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a non-profit organization that studies sexual and reproductive health policy. [...]

The report says the 2004 costs of teen childbearing include $1.9 billion for health care, $2.3 billion for child welfare, $2.1 billion for incarceration and $2.9 billion in lower tax revenue. That federal, state and local tab is offset slightly by family support for younger teens. The cost to government averages $1,430 per child per year.

The price tag varies by state, depending on the number of births and benefit levels, from $12 million in Vermont to $1 billion in Texas.

Teen birth rates generally have fallen since 1957 but rose in the late 1980s. The subsequent drop saved taxpayers an estimated $6.7 billion nationally in 2004, the report says. The savings ranged from more than $1 billion in California to $5 million in Wyoming.

While reducing out of wedlock births (which many births to teens are) and abortions are excellent social goals, these numbers require that the additional citizens be considered only as liabilities, never as assets.

October 29, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:09 PM


Chirac's horror as woman burnt in riot (Peter Allen, 30/10/2006, Daily Telegraph)

Riot police reinforcements were deployed in Marseille last night after the latest outbreak of urban violence in France left a young woman in a critical condition with life-threatening burns.

President Jacques Chirac expressed his horror at the attack hours after the 26-year-old woman and three others were ambushed by rioting teenagers while travelling on a bus in the southern port city.

The assailants – said by some witnesses to be as young as 15 – forced the vehicle's doors open, spilled flammable liquid inside, and set it alight.

There were similar attacks in major cities across the country at the weekend, just hours after the passing of the anniversary of the rioting and car-burning that brought terror to urban areas last year.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:32 PM


There are rewards in this 'what if' scenario in Congress (DAVID S. BRODER, 10/28/06, Houston Chronicle)

It was, in the president's judgment, "a tricky little question" that Stephen Dinan of The Washington Times asked — one that seemingly caught him by surprise.

"With a Republican Congress," Dinan said, "you failed to achieve three major goals of your second term: Social Security reform, a tax code overhaul and a comprehensive immigration bill. Why shouldn't Americans give Democrats a chance to work with you on those issues, especially when divided government seemed to work in the late 1990s on the budget?"

When the president recovered from his surprise at the question from the conservative newspaper's correspondent, he went into his familiar assertive, told-you-so mode. "First," he said, "I haven't given up on any of those issues. I've got two years left to achieve them. And I firmly believe it is more likely to achieve those three objectives with a Republican-controlled Congress and a Republican-controlled Senate. And I believe I'll be working with a Republican-controlled Congress and a Republican-controlled Senate."

Bush went on for four paragraphs spelling out his belief that Republicans would defy the pollsters and pundits and win the Nov. 7 election, segued into a rap about the joys of electioneering and wound up by telling the questioner, "Anyway, thanks for asking about the campaign."

At no point did he venture within six feet of the original question — and it's not hard to see why. He's not yet ready to think of Democrats except as opponents. But the premise of Dinan's question is historically correct. It was the combination of a Democratic president, Bill Clinton, and the Republican Congress elected in 1994 that finally got a grip on budget deficits and produced the only balanced budgets of modern times.

The President would happily sign immigration reform, if the Democrats could get it past a republican filibuster, but there's a touching naivete to the notion that they've any interest in beginning the privatization of Social Security or the flattening of taxes, and shifting them from income to consumption, just because those things are good policy and are being pursued in the rest of the Anglosphere by parties of both Left and Right. You'd think Mr. Broder would have seen enough of politics to lose the delusion that Democrats are primarily interested in good government rather than liberal ideology. He even misses his own point: Bill Clinton could only achieve the two things for which he'll be remembered--two free trade bills and Welfare Reform--because the GOP overrode his own party.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:47 PM


Top Democrat casts doubt on regulatory co-operation (Jeremy Grant and Holly Yeager, October 29 2006, Financial Times)

Financial regulators on both sides of the Atlantic may not be able to resolve policy disputes through co-operation and the creation of a global regulator should be considered, according to Barney Frank, the senior Democratic congressman.

The views of the man widely expected take over the chair of the House financial services committee if the Democrats retake the chamber stand in stark contrast to those of the Securities and Exchange Commission, the financial regulator that the committee oversees.

In many ways, George Bush's most enjoyable two years as president could be his last two, if these guys are running Congress and he gets to just stomp them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:30 PM


A society that does not allow crosses or veils in public is a dangerous one (Rowan Williams, 10/27/06, Times of London)

COMING BACK from a fortnight in China at the beginning of this week, into the middle of what felt like a general panic about the role of religion in society, had a slightly surreal feel to it. The proverbial visitor from Mars might have imagined that the greatest immediate threat to British society was religious war, fomented by “faith schools”, cheered on by thousands of veiled women and the Bishops’ Benches in the House of Lords. Commentators were solemnly asking if it were not time for Britain to become a properly secular society.

The odd thing was to come into this straight from a context where people were asking the opposite question. Wasn’t it time that China stopped being a certain kind of secular society? The political and intellectual world that is emerging in the new China is having to cope with a vacuum where cohesive social morality ought to be, a vacuum shaped by the past 50 years of Chinese history.

The culture of total state provision collapsed during and after the Cultural Revolution; under Deng Xiaoping, the new tolerance of capitalist enterprise fostered a driven and selfish climate; the one-child policy designed to save China from demographic disaster resulted in an ageing population, a generation of children both indulged and crippled with expectations — and a record of forced abortion and sterilisation. Frustrations about not having the “ right” to a male child intensified a contempt for women’s dignity among the uneducated public.

And now the approach of party and government to social cohesion has dramatically changed. NGOs working in China agree that their freedom to operate is far greater than ten years ago; indeed, there is a real burgeoning of new and local NGOs, as fresh issues are identified (not least around the welfare of children and the disabled). Government is pragmatic enough to work out when to back these.

Among such initiatives are a good many that are rooted in the Christian Church. The Chinese Government now repeats regularly that religion is essential to the “harmonious society” it aims to create — the sort of statement that would have been unthinkable ten or fifteen years ago. Of course, it is religion on the Government’s terms. What China means by religious freedom is not unrestricted liberty of association. Before the visit to China, we were told that we should see only what the Government allowed us to, and that we would be conscripted into a propagandist agenda that ignored the continuing repression of religion.

You cannot be unaware that religious activity is controlled by strict regulation and that the manifold possibilities of infringing these regulations give ample opportunity for malicious or corrupt officials to intimidate, imprison and maltreat supposed “offenders” who (deliberately or accidentally) fail to go through the motions of registering. But, for all the undoubted scandal of this, it is simply not possible to say now that there is a general strategy to eliminate religious belief or practice.

Which makes it more liberal than Europe.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:07 PM


Know-Nothing Party flexes its muscles (Chuck Mobley | Saturday, October 28, 2006, Savannah Morning News)

In early November 1856, as election day drew near, a night-time political rally took place in downtown Savannah.

Participants marched through the streets and squares, carrying torches and banners, including one that neatly encapsulated a major issue then dividing Americans: "Freedom for Foreigners, but Supremacy for Ourselves; Foreigners may Ride, But Sam must Drive."

The local Know-Nothings were making their bid for control of city hall.

This Savannah movement was part of a national drive that had fused the demise of the Whig Party with the demonization of immigrants into a loosely grouped political force.

Its meetings and membership were secret. If asked about the organization, members were instructed to reply "I know nothing," hence the party's somewhat irreverent moniker.

The party's goals were simple - limit immigration, particularly Catholic immigration, and limit immigrant participation in the political process, principally by imposing a 21-year wait before becoming eligible to vote.

It was an astute political stance. The massive influx of Catholics from Ireland had alarmed and angered many Americans.

The timing was also propitious as the old Whig Party, riven by sectionalism and wracked by the deaths of long-time leaders Henry Clay and Daniel Webster, had ceased to exist as a national force by 1854.

The Know-Nothing Party got off to a promising start that year, electing governors in eight states, putting more than 100 congressional candidates into offices and winning thousands of local elections, including a handful in Savannah.

Many old-line Whigs, Abraham Lincoln of Illinois among them, simply sat on the political sidelines, not willing to publicly embrace the tenets of Know-Nothingism, but temporarily without a party they could openly support.

Privately, Lincoln was dismissive of the Know-Nothings.

Writing a friend in 1855, he denied accusations he was part of that movement: "How could I be?" If Know-Nothings gained control, he said, the Declaration of Independence would be amended to read "all men are created equal, except negroes, and foreigners, and catholics."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:24 PM


Kurdistan: A conversation with the president of Iraq's most successful region. (JUDITH MILLER, October 28, 2006, Opinion Journal)

Unlike Baghdad, 200 miles away, the air here does not echo with the sound of gunfire, car bombs and helicopters. Residents of this city of a million people picnic by day in pristine new parks and sip tea with friends and relatives at night. American forces are not "occupiers" or the "enemy," but "liberators." Mentioning President Bush evokes smiles--and not of derision.

American forces were "most welcome" when stationed here at the start of the invasion of Iraq, says Massoud Barzani, the president of Kurdistan in the north. Not a single U.S. soldier was killed in his region, he adds proudly, "not even in a traffic accident." Would U.S. forces be welcome back now? "Most certainly," he declared this week in an interview in his newly minted marble (and heavily chandeliered) palace. The more American soldiers the better, a top aide confirms.

The secret of Kurdistan's relative success so far--and of America's enduring popularity here--is the officially unacknowledged fact that the three provinces of the Kurdish north are already quasi-independent. On Oct. 11, Iraq's parliament approved a law that would allow the Sunni and Shiite provinces also to form semi-autonomous regions with the same powers that the constitution has confirmed in Kurdistan. And while Kurdish leaders pay lip-service to President Bush's stubborn insistence on the need for a unified Iraq with a strong centralized government, Kurdistan is staunchly resisting efforts to concentrate economic control in Baghdad.

The U.S., Mr. Barzani believes, should leave it to the Iraqis to decide if they want "one or two or three regions." Then, he adds: "But it already exists. The division is there as a practical matter. People are being killed on the basis of identity." As for Baghdad, "it should have a special status as the federal capital. But the rest should be regions that run their own affairs. Or they should be separate. Only a voluntary union can work. Either you have federalism with Baghdad as a federal capital with a special status, or you have separation. Those are the facts."

There was nothing wrong in principle with the idea of making Iraq a sort of model multi-ethnic/multi-religious country, but neither is there any shame in letting it devolve naturally into its constituent parts.

Posted by Pepys at 1:45 PM


Going, going, Gonzo... Review of THE JOKE’S OVER: Memories of Hunter S Thompson by Ralph Steadman (Christopher Hitchens, 15 Oct 2006, UK Times Online)

Perhaps you can picture the work of Roald Dahl without the illustrations of Quentin Blake, or of Charles Dickens without the cartoons of Phiz. In a part of my mind, when reading Anthony Powell, I retain the images of the characters furnished by the imperishable Mark Boxer. Would we really have appreciated Alice in Wonderland without the drawings of Tenniel? However these questions may be decided, it is a certainty that the noir contribution of Ralph Steadman (who also produced a brilliantly illustrated Alice Through the Looking Glass) is as inseparable from the output of Hunter S Thompson as Marks from Spencer, or Engels from Marx.
...To describe the subsequent partnership as addictive would be disconcertingly accurate, although “disconcerting” would be the weakest way of expressing Steadman’s alarm at the properties of a small yellow pill that his friend so thoughtfully gave him on a later bad trip — if you will excuse the expression — to the America’s Cup in Rhode Island. The ensuing near-death experience is described without either rancour or self-pity, and, indeed, Steadman cannot claim not to have been warned.
Despite his recent evolution, Hitchens' enduring love affair with Thompson shows just how powerful the attraction of Death and Misanthropy is for the Left.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:39 PM


Court is divorced from reality ( Paul Mulshine, October 29, 2006, Newark Star-Ledger)

Like other conservatives all over America, I wish to offer a warm and sincere "thank you" to the New Jersey Supreme Court.

We conservatives have been arguing for some time now that the only way to prevent activist judges from imposing same-sex marriage on America is through a federal constitutional amendment.

Last week, the New Jersey court proved us right. The court issued an order giving the state Legislature six months to enact a law legalizing same-sex marriage or its functional equivalent, civil unions for gays. But what will happen if the legislators ignore that order?

"When I vote against it, is the judge going to throw me in jail?" asks Michael Doherty, a Republican assemblyman from Warren County.

Absurd. No judge would ever claim the power to order an elected official jailed for failing to vote the way the judge desired. If you think that, you don't know Jersey judges. A few years ago, Doherty came within a few hours of being thrown in jail by a judge in Warren County who didn't like the way the then- freeholder was voting on a building plan for the county college. If that doesn't give you an idea of just how nutty the judges in this state are, I invite you to read the opinion in the case decided last week.

The Left's reliance on the courts rather than democracy to try and obtain gay rights suggests just how at odds they are with the American people and the recent dust-up on the set of Grey's Anatomy shows why the Democrat coalition is so vulnerable if it pushes the social issues that motivate the party elite.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:25 AM


A Collision of Prose and Politics: A prominent professor's attack on a best-selling memoir sparks debate among Iranian scholars in the U.S. (RICHARD BYRNE, 10/13/06, Chronicle of Higher Education)

[Hamid] Dabashi, a professor of Iranian studies and comparative literature at Columbia University who has been active in the antiwar movement since the attacks of September 11, 2001, heard a call to action.

The article prompted him to dust off an essay that he had written a few years before and publish it in the June 1 edition of the Egyptian English-language newspaper Al-Ahram. His target? Not President Bush or the Pentagon, but Azar Nafisi, author of the best-selling memoir Reading Lolita in Tehran and a visiting fellow at the Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies, in Washington.

Ms. Nafisi's memoir, published by Random House in 2003, blended a harrowing portrayal of the life of women in post-revolutionary Iran with a powerful personal testimony about the power of literary classics. The book found a wide audience, and its success made Ms. Nafisi a celebrity.

Gazing at the book through the lens of literary theory and politics, Mr. Dabashi had a much less favorable reaction to it. His blistering essay cast Ms. Nafisi as a collaborator in the Bush administration's plans for regime change in Iran. He drew heavily on the late scholar Edward Said's ideas about the relationship between Western literature and empire and the fetishization of the "Orient" to attack Reading Lolita in Tehran as a prop for American imperialism. He also pilloried Ms. Nafisi personally for what he described as her cozy relationship with prominent American neoconservatives.

"By seeking to recycle a kaffeeklatsch version of English literature as the ideological foregrounding of American empire," wrote Mr. Dabashi, "Reading Lolita in Tehran is reminiscent of the most pestiferous colonial projects of the British in India, when, for example, in 1835 a colonial officer like Thomas Macaulay decreed: 'We must do our best to form a class who may be interpreters between us and the millions whom we govern, a class of persons Indian in blood and color, but English in taste, in opinions, words and intellect.' Azar Nafisi is the personification of that native informer and colonial agent, polishing her services for an American version of the very same project."

Oughtn't a patriotic Iranian's fondest wish be to get their nation going as well as India? It's too late for Iran to reap the benefits of being an Anglo-American colony, but not too late for it to learn from the Anglosphere.

THE IRAN PLANS: Would President Bush go to war to stop Tehran from getting the bomb? (SEYMOUR M. HERSH, 2006-04-17, The New Yorker)
Native informers and the making of the American empire: Lacking internal support or external legitimacy, writes Hamid Dabashi*, the US empire now banks on a pedigree of comprador intellectuals, homeless minds and guns for hire (Hamid Dabashi, June 2006, Al-Ahram)

Three years after the publication of Azar Nafisi's Reading Lolita in Tehran, and right in the middle of a global concern about yet another American military operation in the region, one can now clearly see and suggest that this book is partially responsible for cultivating the US (and by extension the global) public opinion against Iran, having already done a great deal by being a key propaganda tool at the disposal of the Bush administration during its prolonged wars in such Muslim countries as Afghanistan (since 2001) and Iraq (since 2003). A closer examination of this text thus reveals much about the way the US imperial designs operate in its specifically Islamic domains.

The publication of Azar Nafisi's Reading Lolita in Tehran coincided with the most belligerent period in the recent US history, the global flexing of its military muscles, and as such the text has assumed a proverbial significance in the manner in which native informers turned comprador intellectuals serve a crucial function in facilitating public consent to imperial hubris. With one strike, Azar Nafisi has achieved three simultaneous objectives: (1) systematically and unfailingly denigrating an entire culture of revolutionary resistance to a history of savage colonialism; (2) doing so by blatantly advancing the presumed cultural foregrounding of a predatory empire; and (3) while at the very same time catering to the most retrograde and reactionary forces within the United States, waging an all out war against a pride of place by various immigrant communities and racialised minorities seeking curricular recognition on university campuses and in the American society at large.

So far as its unfailing hatred of everything Iranian--from its literary masterpieces to its ordinary people--is concerned, not since Betty Mahmoody's notorious book Not Without My Daughter (1984) has a text exuded so systematic a visceral hatred of everything Iranian. Meanwhile, by seeking to recycle a kaffeeklatsch version of English literature as the ideological foregrounding of American empire, Reading Lolita in Tehran is reminiscent of the most pestiferous colonial projects of the British in India, when, for example, in 1835 a colonial officer like Thomas Macaulay decreed: "We must do our best to form a class who may be interpreters between us and the millions whom we govern, a class of persons Indian in blood and colour, but English in taste, in opinions, words and intellect." Azar Nafisi is the personification of that native informer and colonial agent, polishing her services for an American version of the very same project.

Domestically within the United States, Reading Lolita in Tehran promotes the cause of "Western Classics" at a time when decades of struggle by postcolonial, black and Third World feminists, scholars and activists has finally succeeded to introduce a modicum of attention to world literatures. To achieve all of these, while employed by the US Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowits, indoctrinated by the father of American neoconservatives Leo Straus (and his infamous tract Persecution and the Art of Writing ), coached by the Lebanese Shi'i neocon artist Fouad Ajami, wholeheartedly endorsed by Bernard Lewis (the most wicked ideologue of the US war on Muslims), is quite a feat for an ex-professor of English literature with not a single credible book or scholarly credential to her name other than Reading Lolita in Tehran.

Azar Nafisi's book is thus the locus classicus of the ideological foregrounding of the US imperial domination at home and abroad in three simultaneous moves: (1) it banks on a collective amnesia of historical facts surrounding successive US imperial moves for global domination--for paramount in Reading Lolita in Tehran is a conspicuous absence of the historical and a blatant whitewashing of the literary; (2) it exemplifies the systematic abuse of legitimate causes (in this case the unconscionable oppression of women living under Muslim laws) for illegitimate purposes; and (3) through the instrumentality of English literature, recycled and articulated by an "Oriental" woman who deliberately casts herself as a contemporary Scheherazade, it seeks to provoke the darkest corners of the Euro-American Oriental fantasies and thus neutralise competing sites of cultural resistance to the US imperial designs both at home and abroad, while ipso facto denigrating the long and noble struggle of women all over the colonised world to ascertain their rights against both domestic patriarchy and colonial domination. In the latter case, the project of Reading Lolita in Tehran is just on the surface limited to denigrating Iranian and by extension Islamic literary cultures and feminist movements; its equally important target is to dismiss and disparage competing non-white cultures of the immigrant communities, ranging from African-American, to Asian-American, to Latino-American, and other racialised minorities.

Rarely has an Oriental servant of a white-identified, imperial design managed to pack so many services to imperial hubris abroad and racist elitism at home--all in one act. It is thus exceedingly important to read Nafisi not just for her ideological services to the US imperial designs globally, but, equally if not more important, for her reactionary consequences inside the United States as well.

ON THE SURFACE, Azar Nafisi's Reading Lolita in Tehran has a very simple plot. A female professor of English literature at an Iranian university, having been born to a privileged family and thus educated in Europe and the United States, is finally fed up with the atrocious limitations of an Islamic republic, resigns her post, goes home, collects seven of her brightest female students and they get together and read some of the masterpieces of "Western literature," while connecting the characters and incidents of the novels they thus read to their daily predicaments in an ungodly Islamic republic. The plot, factual or manufactured or a combination of both, provides an occasion for the narrator to give a sweeping condemnation of not just the Islamic revolution but with it in fact the entire nation, the poor and the disenfranchised, that has given rise to it--for which she has absolutely nothing but visceral contempt. To connect this simple plot and its extended services to the US imperial operations at home and abroad, we need a larger theoretical frame of reference in comparative literary studies.

In his study of the cultural foregrounding of imperialism, Culture and Imperialism (1993), Edward Said examined the overlapping territories, as he called them, between the literary and the political, the cultural and the imperial, in the Euro-American imperial imaginary. This, as he was never tired of repeating, was not to reduce European literature to the political proclivities of any given period, but in fact conversely to posit the political fact, in his proverbial contrapuntal hermeneutics, as the principal interlocutor of the literary event--of the European literature of the period in particular.

In her similarly groundbreaking work on the relationship between domestic and foreign policies of an empire and their cultural manifestations, The Anarchy of Empire in the Making of US Culture (2002), Amy Kaplan has demonstrated the link between domestic and foreign affairs in the manufacturing of such an imperial project. In this extraordinary work of literary investigation, Amy Kaplan demonstrates how at least since the middle of the nineteenth century and the commencement of successive wars with Mexico, Spain, Cuba and the Philippines, the US imperial expansionism is tightly connected with such domestic political issues as race, class, and gender.

From the other side of the same argument, in her pioneering investigative scholarship, Masks of Conquest: Literary Study and British Rule in India, Gauri Viswanathan has traced the establishment of English literary studies back to its colonial origins in India and as an effective strategy of colonial control. The study of English literature, as Viswanathan has ably demonstrated, in both the matter and the manner of its literary claims, was instrumental in facilitating the British rule via the education of a generation of Indians who, as Macaulay put it, were "Indian in blood and colour, but English in taste, in opinions, words and intellect."

From Edward Said to Amy Kaplan and Gauri Viswanathan, we now have a sustained body of scholarship, extended from the US, through Europe, to India and by theoretical implication all around the colonised world, a persuasive argument as to how the teaching of English literature has historically been definitive to the British, and now by extension American, imperial proclivities. Again, none of these scholars and theorists has reduced the literary to the political, but simply posited a political interlocutor next to the work of literature by way of a hermeneutic provocation of meaning and significance--with almost the same token that one can place a feminist or an anti-racist critique of the selfsame texts without negating or compromising their literary significance.

The publication of Azar Nafisi's Reading Lolita in Tehran is the most cogent contemporary case of yet another attempt at positing English literature yet again as a modus operandi of manufacturing trans-regional cultural consent to Euro- American global domination. The factual evidence of the connection of Azar Nafisi to the US leaders of the neoconservative movement and her systematic deprecation of Iranian culture, and by extension local and regional cultures of actual or potential resistance to the US empire, glorifying instead a canonised inner sanctum for an iconic celebration of "Western literature," are additional factors in placing her squarely at the service of the predatory US empire--the service delivered via the most cliché-ridden invocation of the most retrograde Oriental fantasies of her readers in the United States and Europe.

Master of the Island: Which country is the best colonizer? (Joel Waldfogel, Oct. 19, 2006, Slate)
Book clubbed,/a>: A prominent scholar accuses Azar Nafisi’s bestselling memoir, ‘‘Reading Lolita in Tehran,’’ of being neoconservative propaganda aimed at Islam (Christopher Shea, October 29, 2006, Boston Globe)
Dabashi’s extreme, long-winded assault on Nafisi, who has taught at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Washington since 1997, might have caused little commotion had the Chronicle not given it so much attention. Still, it raises a host of issues.

First, beneath the rhetorical bluster and postcolonial jargon(‘‘Rarely has an Oriental servant of a white-identified, imperial design,’’ Dabashi writes of Nafisi, ‘‘managed to pack so many services to imperial hubris abroad and racist elitism at home—all in one act’’) there’s the question of whether anything in the book could be said to match the critic’s description. More broadly, there is the issue of how a discussion of women’s rights in the Muslim world ought to be framed in the West.

In ‘‘Reading Lolita,’’ Nafisi describes her apartment as an oasis for ‘‘my girls’’: outside was a ‘‘war zone, where young women who disobey the rules are hurled into patrol cars, taken to jail, flogged, fined, forced to wash the toilets, humiliated.’’ She writes wistfully of the free lives she and even her mother led before the revolution.

Dabashi is a firm critic of the Islamic Republic, describing, in an interview, the current government as ‘‘misogynist’’ and as a practitioner of ‘‘gender apartheid.’’ But he says ‘‘Reading Lolita’’ is devoid of context. In her pining for the past, he charges, Nafisi is ‘‘entirely silent’’ about the atrocities of the Shah whom the revolution deposed. American novels are held up as examples of the best that’s been thought and said—but without any discussion of how Iranian distrust of America is rooted in the CIA’s role in the anti-democratic coup that restored the Shah to power in 1953. Nor is there any reference to Iranian democratic activism in the memoir, or any acknowledgment of Iran’s own rich literature and cinema.

Dabashi makes other, less convincing arguments, such as his claim that the book encourages an unwholesome sexual interest in its subjects (‘‘Orientalized pedophilia’’). Such instances have led some observers to question the intellectual merit of the brand of literary criticism he practices. In an online interview, Dabashi even compared Nafisi with Lynndie England, who was convicted of abusing Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib. ‘‘Over what kind of faculty does [Columbia president] Lee Bollinger preside?’’ wrote The New Republic’s Marty Peretz.

And yet, despite the several thousand words he spends eviscerating the book, Dabashi’s main point is not about this specific text, he says. Rather, ‘‘It’s the questions I raise about the selective memory and selective amnesia’’; the book’s black-and-white portrayal of Iran, he argues, mirrors the simplified picture pressed by conservative hawks.

The Sins of Edward Said (Ibn Warraq and Lynn Chu, Writers Rep)
Late in life, Edward Said made a rare conciliatory gesture. In 1998, he accused the Arab world of hypocrisy for defending a holocaust denier on grounds of free speech. After all, he observed, free speech "scarcely exists in our own societies." The history of the modern Arab world was, he admitted, one of "political failures," "human rights abuses," "stunning military incompetences," "decreasing production, [and] the fact that alone of all modern peoples, we have receded in democratic and technological and scientific development."

At last, Said was right about something. Sadly, Said will go down in history for having practically invented the contemporary intellectual argument for Muslim rage. Orientalism, Said's bestselling multiculturalist manifesto, introduced the Arab world to the art and science of victimology. Unquestionably the most influential book of recent times for Arabs and Muslims, Orientalism stridently blamed the entirety of Western history and scholarship for the ills of the Muslim world. It justified Muslim hatred of the West, taught them the Western art of wallowing in self-pity over one's victimhood, and gave vicious anti-Americanism a sophisticated, high literary gloss. Said was naturally quite popular in France.

Were it not for the wicked imperialists, racists and Zionists, the Arab world would be great once more, Orientalism said. Islamic fundamentalism too, as we all now know, calls the West a great Satan that oppresses Islam by its very existence. Orientalism simply lifted that concept, and made it over into Western radical multiculturalist chic.

In his recent book Terror and Liberalism, Paul Berman traces the absorption of 20th century Marxist justifications of rage and terror by Arab intellectuals, and shows how it became a powerful philosophical predicate for the current Muslim campaign of terror. Said was the last and most influential exponent of this trend. Said and his followers also had the effect of cowing liberal academics in the West into a politically correct, self-censoring silence about Islamic fundamentalist violence for much of the two decades prior to 9/11. Orientalism's rock star status among the literary elite put middle eastern scholars in constant jeopardy of being labelled "orientalist" oppressors. And some of these scholars, most famously Salman Rushdie, and less famously myself, must to this day remain in hiding in order to protect ourselves and our families from Islamic extremists who regard us apostates from Islam and targets for murder.

Orientalism was a political polemic that masqueraded as a work of scholarship. Its historical analysis was over the years gradually debunked, mostly in academic journals, by numerous scholars of impeccable skills and integrity. A literary critic, it became clear that Said used poetic license, not empirical inquiry, while couching his conclusions as facts. His scholarly technique was to spray his charges of racism, imperialism, and Eurocentrism on the whole of Western scholarship of the Arab world. This technique, familiar to anyone in the field of higher learning in America over the past 20 years, was to claim a moral high ground due to his race and his Ivy League faculty chair, then to deploy slippery, deceptive rhetoric, lies, and ad hominem smears to paint all scholars who might disagree as racists and collaborators with imperialism. Orientalism was larded with half-truths, errors and lies.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:05 AM


What Keeps Bill Parcells Awake at Night (MICHAEL LEWIS, 10/29/06, NY Times Play Magazine)

Bill Parcells is the only coach in N.F.L. history to take four different teams to the playoffs, but that only begins to set him apart. In 1983, in his first N.F.L. head coaching job, he took over a New York Giants team that had one winning season over the previous decade, turned it around on a dime and led it to Super Bowl titles in the 1986 and 1990 seasons. In 1993, he became head coach of the New England Patriots a year after they finished 2-14. Two seasons later they were 10-6 and in the playoffs for the first time in eight years; another two seasons later, they were in the Super Bowl. From there Parcells went to the Jets, who were coming off a 1-15 season, and coached them to a 9-7 record in his first year and a 12-4 record in his second. The Cowboys had finished 5-11 three seasons in a row before Parcells arrived in 2003. His first year they were 10-6 and reached the playoffs. No N.F.L. coach has ever proven himself so clearly to be a device for turning a losing team into a winning one. And yet, even now, as he begins his 16th season as a head coach in the N.F.L., he lives the psychological equivalent of a hand-to-mouth existence.

After the late-night flight home from Jacksonville, he went to his condo to catch a few hours’ sleep. He woke up not long after he nodded off, choking on his own bile. “It only happens to me during the football season,” he says. “It happens no other time of the year. And it wasn’t something I ate.” After that, he couldn’t sleep at all. He found that his ex-wife, Judy — they divorced in 2002, after 40 years of marriage — had left a message on his answering machine. She saw the game on TV. “Please don’t let it affect your health,” she said.

He still returns in his mind to a question his wife often asked him: why do you do what you do? Coaching football doesn’t make him obviously happy. Even in the beginning, in the late 1960’s, when he was an assistant coach at West Point, he would come home after games so evidently displeased that his eldest daughter would sit on the sofa next to him, silently, and put on a long face. She was 5 years old and had no idea what had happened; she just picked it up from his expression that postgame wasn’t happy time. “When my wife asked me that question,” he says, “I never had a good answer. There was no answer. There is no answer.”

Mr. Parcells started his college playing career at Colgate, but when someone beat him out for the starting job he transferred. A few years ago the guy who beat him out was at a function that the coach spoke at and walked up to introduce himself:

"Hi, I doubt you remember me, but I'm..."

"Damn right I remember you, you're the son-of-a-bitch who took my job...."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:29 AM


Economists warn of nation's coming fiscal meltdown, call for hard choices (Matt Crenson, 10/28/06, The Associated Press)

David Walker sure talks like he's running for office.

"This is about the future of our country, our kids and grandkids," the comptroller general of the United States warns a packed hall at Austin's historic Driskill Hotel. "We the people have to rise up to make sure things get changed."

But Walker doesn't want, or need, your vote this November. He already has a job as head of the Government Accountability Office, an investigative arm of Congress that audits and evaluates the performance of the federal government. [...]

Walker has committed to touring the nation through the 2008 elections, talking about the "demographic tsunami" that will come when the baby-boom generation begins retiring and the recklessness of borrowing money from foreign lenders to pay for the operation of the U.S. government. [...]

The federal government actually produced a surplus for a few years during the 1990s, thanks to a booming economy and fiscal restraint imposed by laws that were passed early in the decade. And though the federal debt has grown in dollar terms since 2001, it hasn't grown dramatically relative to the size of the economy.

But that's about to change, thanks to the country's three big entitlement programs — Social Security, Medicaid and especially Medicare. Medicaid and Medicare have grown progressively more expensive as the cost of health care has dramatically outpaced inflation over the past 30 years, a trend that is expected to continue for at least another decade or two.

And with the first baby boomers becoming eligible for Social Security in 2008 and for Medicare in 2011, the expenses of those two programs are about to increase dramatically.

Medicare already costs four times as much as it did in 1970, measured as a percentage of the nation's gross domestic product. It currently comprises 13 percent of federal spending; by 2030, the Congressional Budget Office projects it will consume nearly a quarter of the budget.

Economists Jagadeesh Gokhale of the American Enterprise Institute and Kent Smetters of the University of Pennsylvania calculate that by 2030, Medicare will be about $5 trillion in the hole, measured in 2004 dollars. By 2080, the fiscal imbalance will have risen to $25 trillion. And when you project the gap out to an infinite time horizon, it reaches $60 trillion. [...]

Social Security is a much less serious problem. The program currently pays for itself with a 12.4 percent payroll tax, and even produces a surplus that the government raids every year to pay other bills. But Social Security will begin to run deficits during the next century, and ultimately would need an infusion of $8 trillion if the government planned to keep its promises to every beneficiary.

Calculations by Boston University economist Lawrence Kotlikoff indicate that closing those gaps — $8 trillion for Social Security, many times that for Medicare — and paying off the existing deficit would require either an immediate doubling of personal and corporate income taxes, a two-thirds cut in Social Security and Medicare benefits, or some combination of the two.

America's GDP hit $1 trillion in around 1970, when national debt had fallen to about 40% of GDP (from a post--WWII high of about 125%). Today, after GDP has increased by 14 times that we have a debt of about 60% of GDP. If GDP increases by 14 times today's $14 trillion by 2080 and we grant them their projections of $68 trillion in SS and Medicare debt, it'll only be about a third of GDP (note that today's household net worth--which doesn't even count people as assets--already stands at over $53 trillion). Forgive us for not worrying much.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:18 AM


How we lose (Herbert London / Linden Blue, October 29, 2006, Washington Times)

President Bush asserts forcefully that the United States will prevail in the war against radical Islamists. He may be right. We pray he is right. However, it is also important to understand the strength of the forces arrayed against us.

There are at least five reasons why we may lose the war against radical Islam -- which is in fact, a war for the Free World as we know it. [...]

• Fifth, arguably the most significant point, is that Islamists are united, notwithstanding the well-publicized differences between Sunnis and Shi'ites. Islamists believe the West has been weakened by cultural degradation. They also believe their goal of caliphates from Madrid to Jakarta is an inevitability. By contrast, the United States itself and its allies are divided on strategy and on the marshaling of resources to fight the enemy. The U.S. electorate wishes this war would go away. By contrast, the persistence and virulence of the Sunni Ba'athists reflects their efforts to regain punitive dominance. This needs to be understood in the context of the great wealth and power at stake. The Saddamists had a very good thing going when they controlled all the oil in Kurdish and Shia territories. To them, jihad is a desperate attempt to reassert their dominance, though they represent only about 20 percent of Iraq's population. Thus they will keep fighting until they come to believe they cannot win. Only then will their interests lie in accommodation. Winning is essential to radical Islamists.

At this point in the essay the authors have tipped from ludicrous to incoherent. Saddam and the Ba'athists aren't Islamists. Saddam's model was Stalin, not Osama, and he ended up failing just as miserably as the Communists always have, though even that was more success than OBL ever enjoyed. But the most obvious problem with this paragraph is that if the Ba'athists were Islamists and if the Shi'ites in Iraq were radical Islamists and if the radical Islamists were unified then the Saddamists would be working with Sadrists instead of executing each other in the night. Islamicism is a feeble threat, though one that should be dealt with for the good of Muslims.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:05 AM


In Iraqi Villages, Troops See Strides and a Big Challenge (Josh White, October 29, 2006, Washington Post)

The smell of baking bread wafted over the dusty central square as children clamored to get closer to the U.S. troops and their hulking armored vehicles. Lt. John Sirhal tried fruitlessly to keep order among a group of boys waiting for M&Ms, while Capt. Adam Sawyer calmly walked up to businessmen hawking their wares.

Samir Hassan, a 53-year-old shopkeeper, said he was happy with the U.S. forces who have maintained peace around his home. But the Iraqi police who have set up a checkpoint at the entrance to Mustafar have made the residents uneasy, he said, as have the Shiite militias that operate just miles away.

"We feel safe here," Hassan said, waving his arm at the throngs of people in the streets on a recent day. "But now we can't go to Baghdad. We need to have security in Iraq. The government has no control, and I don't trust the Iraqi forces."

It is in small villages like these that U.S. soldiers say they are making their biggest strides but also face their biggest challenges. Commanders in Iraq say they can win any battle against armed insurgents and conduct any military operation successfully, but persuading Iraqis to believe in Iraq could end up being the most difficult battle in this war.

You can't leave the Ba'ath in power for thirty years and not expect it to take a toll.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:02 AM


Cash Aid Program Bolsters Lula's Reelection Prospects: Incentives for Families To Help Themselves Spreads Beyond Brazil (Monte Reel, October 29, 2006, Washington Post)

In this sparsely furnished cinder-block house with seven rooms, one tattered love seat and no chairs, the refrigerator doesn't work and the electric stove won't heat up. But the 13-inch television can conjure a picture through its rabbit-ear antenna, and that's what Edmundo Rodrigues da Silva points to when explaining how he'll vote in Brazil's presidential election Sunday.

"The reason I got the television was to keep my kids in the house, instead of watching them go to a neighbor's house to watch their television," said Rodrigues da Silva, a 54-year-old father of seven and a subsistence farmer. "And the reason I was able to get it was President Lula. After he got into office, we got Bolsa Familia."

Bolsa Familia is the cash assistance program that pays more than 11 million low-income families in Brazil about $40 per month in cash if they meet conditions such as ensuring their children regularly attend school and have regular health checkups and vaccinations. [...]

Such "conditional cash transfer" aid programs have spread throughout Latin America in recent years and have recently been exported to the United States, where New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg this month announced that his city would adopt a version.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:56 AM


Methadone fails 97% of drug addicts (EDDIE BARNES, 10/29/06, Scotland on Sunday)

A KEY government drugs policy has been exposed as a shocking failure after it emerged that giving methadone to heroin addicts has a 97% failure rate.

In a damning indictment of the Scottish Executive's 'softly softly' approach to managing the heroin problem, research found that three years after receiving methadone only 3% of addicts remained totally drug-free.

Of course, the same folks who advocate this stuff think condoms will work.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:51 AM


Bush on late campaign blitz; gay-marriage stand draws big response (Molly Hennessy-Fiske and James Gerstenzang, 10/29/06, Los Angeles Times)

At his first campaign rally this election season, President Bush on Saturday galvanized supporters in a packed high-school gym by pledging to oppose gay marriage, a theme Republican candidates have revived after a New Jersey court ruling in favor of gay couples.

"Activist judges try to define America by court order," Bush told the crowd of 4,000 at Silver Creek High School, flanked by local Rep. Mike Sodrel, R-Ind., who is running for re-election. "Just this week in New Jersey, another activist court issued a ruling that raises doubt about the institution of marriage. We believe marriage is between a man and a woman."

At that, the crowd went wild, members shouting "USA," stomping feet and shaking pompoms.

Aren't they all supposed to be terribly upset about Jack Abramoff?

October 28, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:54 PM

IN SUMMATION (via Mike Daley):

It's just so doggone enlightening: This collection of losers and nutters manages to touch on almost every folly of our times (MARK STEYN, 10/26/06, MacLeans)

What gives you a better grasp of the realities of Europe today? The front-page reports on the G8 and the U.S.-EU summit? The in-depth profile of Jacques Chirac or Dominique de Villepin? Or the small space-filler about a French police lieutenant promoted to captain despite spending 12 of the last 18 years on "paternity leave," in the course of which he wrote three books about the Beatles.

As a summation of contemporary Europe that could hardly be improved, not least in the way the generosity of Continental "paternity" leave seems to be inversely proportional to their barren societies' actual paternity rate. I found it, under the heading "Sgt. Pepper," in John Robson's new Top Five Book.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:38 PM


Colombia city makes a U-turn: Bogota, once a world capital of mayhem, is now held up as a model. (Chris Kraul, October 28, 2006, LA Times)

A decade ago, the Bosa slum was the black hole of Bogota. Its darkest corner was Laurel Park, a grassless, trash-strewn lot with open sewage and gun-toting gangs bent on muggings and murder.

Today, Bosa has paved streets, new schools, health clinics and cafeterias, and links to a new mass transit system. Laurel Park has been rechristened Park of the Arts and is alive with children at play and free theater, fashion shows and concerts.

Like much of this re-energized capital of more than 7 million inhabitants, the war zone that was Bosa has been transformed. [...]

[Ex-Mayor] Antanas Mockus, son of Lithuanian immigrants and a former university rector, tried to restore a sense of citizenship, employing a whimsical approach that included using mimes to shame motorists into heeding stoplights and crosswalks. But he also played fiscal hardball to improve tax collection and clean up the city's finances.

Mockus said in an interview that he also attacked Bogota's seemingly unsolvable crime problem by approaching it as an "epidemiologist would tuberculosis." He mapped out areas where crime was highest and targeted them by increasing patrols and halting liquor sales selectively after 1 a.m. on weekends.

"Crime is caused not only by professional criminals but by social aggression, arguments that get out of hand, often when alcohol is involved," Mockus said. "My approach was that all of us have a rude person inside of us and it's our job to regulate him."

Although crime has by no means disappeared, most Bogotanos you stop on the street tell you their city feels safer.

"Two or three years ago, I never walked downtown alone. Now I feel I'm taking no risk in going," 25-year-old domestic worker Mari Cordero said as she left her job in Bogota's wealthy Chico section.

By the end of Mockus' first term in December 1997 (he was reelected in late 2000 and began a second three-year term in 2001), crime rates had begun to fall and public finances were strengthening. Thanks to Castro's improved property-tax collection and Mockus' reorganization of the power company, Mockus left a budget surplus of about $700 million for incoming Mayor Peñalosa.

A part-time professor and business consultant with the U.S. firm Arthur D. Little before taking office, Peñalosa used the surplus to launch a public works program designed to dramatically reduce traffic, which he describes as Bogota's bane. "Cars are lethal weapons that dehumanize society," he said.

"I could have used the surplus to build seven elevated highways for more cars, but that would have left no money for public spaces or libraries," Peñalosa said. "Those highways would have been undemocratic since 70% of Bogotanos don't have cars."

Using a model set by the Brazilian city of Curitiba, he planned and began construction of the Transmilenio bus system and restricted each private automobile's circulation to five days a week.

Almost worth violating the state border rule...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:26 PM


A Country Ruled by Faith (Garry Wills, 11/16/06, NY Review of Books)

Bush promised his evangelical followers faith-based social services, which he called "compassionate conservatism." He went beyond that to give them a faith-based war, faith-based law enforcement, faith-based education, faith-based medicine, and faith-based science. He could deliver on his promises because he stocked the agencies handling all these problems, in large degree, with born-again Christians of his own variety. The evangelicals had complained for years that they were not able to affect policy because liberals left over from previous administrations were in all the health and education and social service bureaus, at the operational level. They had specific people they objected to, and they had specific people with whom to replace them, and Karl Rove helped them do just that.

The funniest thing about this essay is that, while Mr. Wills think it's a hit piece, Karl Rove wishes he could get every conservative in America to read it by next Tuesday.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:24 PM


Passing of a Celtics legend (Peter May, October 28, 2006, Boston Globe)

Arnold Red Auerbach, named the greatest coach in the history of the National Basketball Association and, for more than half a century, the combative, competitive and occasionally abrasive personification of pro basketball's greatest dynasty, the Boston Celtics, has died at age 89. [...]

In two decades of NBA coaching, Auerbach won 938 games, a record when he retired in 1966, as well as a record nine NBA titles, a record he shares with Phil Jackson. In those 20 years, 16 of them with the Celtics, Auerbach had only one losing season while winning almost two thirds of his games. He was inducted into the NBA Hall of Fame in 1968 and, 12 years later, was recognized as the greatest coach in NBA history by the Professional Basketball Writers Association of America. That same year, 1980, he was inducted into the Hall of Fame a second time as a contributor.

In 1996, he was honored on the 50th anniversary of the NBA as one of its greatest 10 coaches. His coaching achievement is recognized annually with the awarding of the Red Auerbach Trophy to the league's Coach of the Year. Auerbach himself won the award only once, in 1965, two years after it was instituted.

But Auerbach's genius extended well beyond his coaching years, when he moved into the Celtics front office, starting in 1966. By then, he already had shown his ability to judge and acquire talent with the acquisitions of Hall of Famers such as Bill Russell, John Havlicek, and Sam Jones through trades or the NBA draft. Later, as the team's general manager, he engineered deals for Hall of Famers such as Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Robert Parish, and Dave Cowens.

A testament to Auerbach's impact on the game as both a coach and talent evaluator is seen by the number of his players who made it to the Hall of Fame and to the number of his players who followed his footsteps into professional coaching. There are 14 Hall of Famers who had extended Celtics careers thanks to either playing for, or being drafted by, Auerbach. More than 30 Auerbach players ended up in coaching positions, including eight of the 12 players on his 1962-63 championship team. Three of his players, Tom Heinsohn, Bill Sharman, and Don Nelson, later won Coach of the Year honors. Nelson won it three times.

He was also a social force in the NBA, drafting the league's first African-American player in 1950 in Chuck Cooper, hiring pro sports' first African-American head coach in 1966 in Russell, and starting five African-Americans on the Celtics, an NBA first. He was an international ambassador for the game as well, leading NBA teams on exhibition tours through Europe.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:46 PM


Aide: Iraqi leader playing on U.S. angst (STEVEN R. HURST and QASSIM ABDUL-ZAHRA, 10/28/06, Associated Press)

After a hastily arranged video conference with George Bush, Iraq's prime minister said Saturday that the U.S. president promised to move swiftly to turn over full control of the Iraqi army to the Baghdad government. A close aide to Nouri al-Maliki said later the prime minister was intentionally playing on U.S. voter displeasure with the war to strengthen his hand with Washington.

Hassan al-Suneid, a member of al-Maliki's inner circle, said the video conference was sought because issues needed airing at a higher level than with U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad.

Al-Suneid said the prime minister complained to Bush that Khalilzad, an Afghan-born Sunni Muslim, was treating the Shiite al-Maliki imperiously.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:35 PM


Iraq, China to Revive 1997 Oil Deal (Associated Press, October 28, 2006)

China and Iraq are reviving a $1.2 billion deal signed by Beijing and Saddam Hussein's government in 1997 to develop an Iraqi oil field, Baghdad's oil minister said Saturday.

Officials will meet next month to renegotiate the agreement over the al-Ahdab field, said Iraqi Oil Minister Hussain al-Shahristani. He was wrapping up a three-nation tour to secure investment for Iraq's oil industry.

"If agreement is reached very quickly then I expect them to start working right away," al-Shahristani said at a news conference.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:28 PM


I sympathize, but Fox is still wrong (MICHAEL COREN, 10/28/06, Toronto Sun)

It is impossible not to be moved by television ads showing a shaking, obviously profoundly ill Michael J. Fox asking American voters to elect politicians sympathetic to stem-cell research. The actor has Parkinson's disease and he is convinced that he and others could be helped by such medical efforts.

He might be right.

It is possible that by killing unborn children and using their limbs, flesh, organs and stem cells to conduct research into neurological and other medical problems we could help sufferers and prolong life.

Mind you, there is enormous evidence that embryonic stem cells are not particularly helpful and that adult cells, easily obtainable from living people, give us far more hope for finding cures and gathering information. It is an ongoing debate.

What is not open to dispute, however, is that a child in the womb cannot give his or her permission for what amounts to organ donation -- and that to kill the weak so as to help the powerful has until now been considered one of the most obscene acts known to humanity.

We attempt to cloud our understanding by pretending that a child is not a "real person" before it is born. Thing is, at heart we know we're lying. It's why almost everybody has a visceral reaction to abortion. It revolts us. "I wouldn't have one myself," many say, "but I wouldn't stop someone else from having one."

Look, if an abortion is merely the removal of unwanted tissue, there should be no instinctive revulsion and there is no reason why anybody should not have one. If it is, though, the killing of a child, then nobody should have one. And it is, without doubt, the killing of a child.

And surely one big reason that the Death Lobby has been losing so badly in recent years is because they give off the unmistakable sense that they'd happily eat a baby a day if it might prolong their own miserable lives, just as they eagerly seek to kill the elderly and disabled when they become encumbrances.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:49 PM


Tangled Webb: Cognitive dissonance in Virginia (Andrew Ferguson, 11/06/2006, Weekly Standard)

The culture so dramatically symbolized by the Southern redneck [is] the greatest inhibitor of the plans of the activist Left and the cultural Marxists for a new kind of society altogether.

From the perspective of the activist Left, [rednecks] are the greatest obstacles to what might be called the collectivist taming of America, symbolized by the edicts of political correctness. And for the last fifty years the Left has been doing everything in its power to sue them, legislate against their interests, mock them in the media, isolate them as idiosyncratic, and publicly humiliate their traditions in order to make them, at best, irrelevant to America's future growth.

--from Born Fighting: How the Scots-Irish Shaped America,
by James Webb (2004)

Yowie. We don't often hear rude talk like that up here in Arlington, Virginia, straight across the river from Washington, D.C. Here the leafy, winding streets are lined with Priuses and Volvos and the bumper stickers say "Visualize World Peace" and "Goddess Power." We especially don't hear such rude talk during Sunday afternoon house parties like the one Pat Langley hosted two weeks ago. Mrs. Langley is a Democratic party activist in this most liberal of suburbs in this most conservative of states. She'd invited friends, fellow activists, and neighbors over for punch and coffee and finger food. She wanted them to watch a campaign video and listen to a conference call over a speaker phone, and then give as much money as they could to her favorite candidate, James Webb.

That's the same James Webb--the staunch defender of the right to bear arms who's warned his countrymen about collectivist taming by the Left, its war on salt-of-the-earth "Joe Sixpack" through such programs as affirmative action, also known (to Webb, among others) as "state-sponsored racism." The same Jim Webb whose war novels bristle with contempt for the professional liberals, mollycoddlers, and antimilitary cultural Marxists who constitute society's decadent elite and who have made their home in the Democratic party ever since their treacherous betrayal of our fighting men in Vietnam.

Something's not right with this picture, obviously, but then so many pictures seem out of whack this election year, and nowhere more so than in Virginia. Here George Allen--former governor, favorite of the conservative movement, and one-term Republican senator of no particular distinction--is being challenged by the most sophisticated right-wing reactionary to run on a Democratic ticket since Grover Cleveland.

It turned out that not many people at Mrs. Langley's knew much about Webb. As committed activists, they were just happy he's a Democrat who's been running even in the polls with Allen and has a fair chance at an upset. [...]

Webb's views of immigration, like many of his positions on questions of domestic policy, are unformed. It's not hard to imagine where his populism and ethnic allegiance would lead him, though. One thing that all economists agree on--those who favor the present influx of immigrants and those who don't--is that mass immigration lowers the wages of unskilled, uneducated native-born workers; "my people," as Webb calls them. A quick way to raise those wages would be to cut off the future flow of unskilled immigration. Yet this step toward "economic fairness" is not available to a Democratic candidate these days (or to many Republicans either).

In a brief and uncomfortable stump speech, Webb told the Hispanic crowd that he was against a guest-worker program. "We must first define our borders," he said. "And then we must ensure corporate responsibility, because a lot of this is going to come down to the employers."

The crowd seemed puzzled. Later reporters asked Webb to clarify his position. With Tejada next to him, he said he favored some path to legalization and citizenship for the illegals already here. Tejada nodded solemnly. But what about the future? a reporter asked. Would Webb favor tough economic sanctions against businesses that employ illegals, as a way of drying up the tide of immigrants?

"Yes," Webb said, "there needs to be corporate enforcement. We've had no corporate enforcement for six years! There's got to be employer sanctions, otherwise you're going to keep wages down. We have got to get a handle on this."

Tejada glanced at the ceiling. Punishing employers who hire illegals is not, needless to say, part of the game plan for the community, or for Arlington Democrats.

After Webb was gone, I asked Tejada about this. "Does Webb really want to punish employers who hire members of the community?"

"The devil is in the details," Tejada said. "Jim is a very complex thinker. We as a country need to have a long debate about these things."

"But wouldn't punishing employers reduce the opportunities for workers coming across the border?" I said.

"We will continue to work with Jim on this," Tejada said. "We will consult with him, advise him going forward. Educate him."

Let's assume he's not going to ask for a seat next to Senator Obama.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:43 PM


Corzine will seek to block bear hunt: Annual Game Code will not be approved (BRIAN T. MURRAY AND JOSH MARGOLIN, 10/27/06, Newark Star-Ledger)

Gov. Jon Corzine, a long-time opponent of the state's black bear hunts, is hoping to prevent this year's six-day season by not signing off on a key measure that regulates hunting and fishing in New Jersey, two administration officials said last night.

The officials said Corzine expects his actions will trigger lawsuits from sporting groups that have sued in the past to preserve the hunts.

The city party can't hope to maintain a majority in America.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:04 PM


Major Airbus A380 customer sending in the auditors (Reuters, October 27, 2006)

The biggest buyer of the world's largest airliner, Emirates, said Friday that it would send its own audit team to Airbus before entering talks to address the A380 superjumbo's two-year delay and the fact the plane is 5.5 tons overweight.

"We have not yet engaged with Airbus as regards not only the delay but the fact it is overweight," the president of Emirates, Tim Clark, said. [...]

Clark said that he planned to lease seven Boeing 777 planes and would hold onto them for 10 to 15 years, giving himself some insurance should there be any further delay to the A380 schedule.

Airlines angered by the delay have demanded late-delivery fees from Airbus to cover the cost of leasing other aircraft while they wait and some have threatened to cancel their orders.

Clark said that cancellation was one of many options open in the negotiations but stressed that Emirates still needed the A380.

"It will still be a hugely potent profit generator for us," he said. "They are an integral part of the Emirates expansion plan."

Emirates decided against getting two of the freighter version of the A380 and has also balked at taking delivery of the Airbus A340- 600 HGW (for high gross weight) model.

Clark said Emirates was interested in Boeing's new 747-8 Intercontinental model, the latest variant of the jumbo, which is due for passenger service in 2010.

Further blow for Airbus as Virgin delays A380 order (NICK BEVENS, 10/28/06, The Scotsman)
In a further blow to the troubled aircraft maker - owned by European group EADS - Virgin, which had ordered six of the new "super-jumbos" for delivery in 2009, now wants to delay their arrival till 2013.

There had been speculation that Virgin would ditch the A380 altogether, but the firm now wants the aircraft to prove itself in commercial service for several years before it puts its own into operation. Virgin is instead planning to extend its leases on a number of Boeing 747-400 jumbo jets to cover the delay. [...]

EADS now says it will have to sell 420 aircraft - more than half the total it hopes to sell in the entire service life of the A380 - to break even, rather than the 270 it originally estimated.

There can't still be folks so credulous as to believe they'll ever make a profit on this lemon. It's a jobs program, not an airplane company.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:53 PM


Kurds keep the faith despite problems (Steve Negus, October 27 2006, Financial Times)

As bad as the present might be, they also recall a day 18 years ago when the Iraqi army rolled into town as part of its Anfal campaign, an attempt to isolate Kurdish guerrillas by depopulating the regions from which they drew their support. The Kurds estimate 180,000 people lost their lives. One policeman recalls how men, women and children were loaded into trucks and driven away, never to be seen again. “The [problems] today are all paradise compared to how it was then,” he says.

Like other ethnic communities emerging from a long struggle for independence, Iraq’s Kurds are going through a period of disillusionment with their wartime leaders.

The region, an oasis of stability in the country, is going through an economic boom as Iraqi capital flees north but many claim they have seen little benefit.

Kurds point to the region’s numerous half-finished roads and sniff that some party crony must have received the contract. They look at the ranks of shiny new condominiums on the outskirts of large towns and say they are out of the price range of all but the party elites.

Nonetheless, there is little serious challenge to the current government, largely because many Kurds see their independence struggle as only half-finished. Two years ago, the region held a non-binding referendum on whether Kurdistan should seek independence or remain part of Iraq. Nearly 99 per cent voted to break away.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:08 AM

WHAT COLOR IS THE SKY IN HIS WORLD? (via David Hill, The Bronx):

Democrats can win House, but can they keep it? (Rick Perlstein, October 27, 2006, Chicago Tribune)

Apparently, Americans have had enough, but will a post-Republican Washington look any different? Democratic House Minority leader Nancy Pelosi has promised it will.

She has proposed that the new Democratic Congress' "first 100 hours" will break the link between lobbyists and legislation, enact every recommendation of the bipartisan commission that investigated Sept. 11, halve the interest on student loans, open up federal funding for stem-cell research and negotiate directly with the pharmaceutical companies for lower Medicare drug prices.

Democrats also will vote for an increase in the minimum wage and dare President Bush to veto it--it's a reform favored, a Pew Center poll suggests, by 86 percent of the nation.

It's powerful, practical stuff but can it begin to turn the battleship of Republican Washington around?

Next year, there will be a passel of new congressmen returning home to districts that have just voted Democratic for the first time in decades. Some of their constituents, in places such as Colorado Springs, consider liberals such as Pelosi familiars of the devil. What can Pelosi and her new Democratic Congress do to turn these districts into Democratic strongholds? How can the Democrats cement their own new culture in Washington?

That will be far from automatic. Democrats have enjoyed earthshaking congressional landslides before, only to see them melt away. In 1964, scores of new Democrats were swept into Congress on Lyndon B. Johnson's coattails; Republicans then won an astonishing 47 of those seats back in 1966. In 1974, there was a class of "Watergate babies" and in 1976 a Mr. Clean Democratic president--much of those gains swept away by 1980, by a grass-roots tax revolt and a popular sense that America had lost its way. In both cases, Democrats weren't able to turn their temporary advantage to a bedrock sense that they could best protect the interests and anxieties of ordinary Americans.

How do Democrats make a sea-change stick?

Uh-oh, while Friend Perlstein remains delusional about the quality of the respective pols of the two parties (the only difference being their ideas, not their inevitable corruptibility), even he's apparently starting to realize that this is just going to be two and out. Indeed, John McCain could easily defeat Hillary by a wide enough margin to increase the GOP majority over what it is today.

One fears though that he hasn't processed the fact that because Democrats, upon losing in 1994, changed the rules of the game so that nearly everything in the Senate requires 60 votes and because a George W. Bush with whom Democratic leaders almost never cooperated wil retain the veto pen, a Speaker Pelosi would be able to accomplish next to nothing.

What Democratic control of Congress would set up is a situation where Ms Clinton is obligated to vote in favor of every crackpot notion the far Left hasn't had a chance to bring to the floor for twelve years and John McCain gets to position himself as a leader of those stopping these lunacies from being inflicted on the American people. There's little chance of Democrats winning back the White House if they squander this election, but none if they win it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:49 AM


830!: How a Massachusetts carpenter got the highest Scrabble score ever. (Stefan Fatsis, Oct. 26, 2006, Slate)

On Oct. 12, in the basement of a Unitarian church on the town green in Lexington, Mass., a carpenter named Michael Cresta scored 830 points in a game of Scrabble. His opponent, Wayne Yorra, who works at a supermarket deli counter, totaled 490 points. The two men set three records for sanctioned Scrabble in North America: the most points in a game by one player (830), the most total points in a game (1,320), and the most points on a single turn (365, for Cresta's play of QUIXOTRY).

In the community of competitive Scrabble, of which I am a tile-carrying member, the game has been heralded as the anagrammatic equivalent of Wilt Chamberlain's 100-point game in 1962 or Don Larsen's perfect game in the 1956 World Series: a remarkable, wildly aberrational event with potential staying power. Cresta's 830 shattered a 13-year-old record, 770 points, which had been threatened only infrequently.

Since virtually all sports involve variable conditions, comparing one performance to another is technically imperfect. Consider the absence of black players in Babe Ruth's day, or the presence of steroids in the Barry Bonds era. On its face, the new Scrabble records seem to avoid such problems. No one's juicing in Scrabble. Points in a game are just points in a game, and Michael Cresta scored 830 of them. On Scrabble's members-only list-serve, Crossword Games-Pro, most players have hailed this harmonic convergence of vowels and consonants as a triumphal moment. But the record-worthiness of the shot heard 'round the Scrabble world is more complicated than it might look.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:33 AM


Tigers throw Series away (ANTHONY McCARRON, 10/28/06, NY DAILY NEWS)

In their World Series loss to the Cardinals, the Tigers reverted to the form that had them losing 119 games in 2003 - especially in the field, where they made eight errors in five games and allowed eight unearned runs. A Tigers pitcher made an error in each game, setting a Series record Detroit would like to forget. [...]

Verlander made an error in his Game 1 start, too, so he tied another dubious record for the most E-1's in a Fall Classic, last done by the Yankees' Allie Reynolds in 1952, a series the Yankees won. Verlander tied yet another negative mark by throwing two wild pitches in the first inning. The Tigers threw four wild pitches in the Series.

Detroit's pitchers made only 15 errors during the regular season, but made one-third of that total against the Cardinals. No other pitching staff had made more than three errors in one Series. Third baseman Brandon Inge also had a rough Series in the field, making three errors.

Inge is so much better than other thirdbasemen that he had a whopping 60 more assists than anyone else, but he does have a correspondingly high error total. The pitchers are just inexplicable.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:29 AM


Stringing Along: The Trouble with Physics: The Rise of String Theory, the Fall of a Science, and What Comes Next by Lee Smolin (Doug Brown, Powells.com)

From the title, one might expect Lee Smolin to be some cranky science writer, or even some sort of anti-science Luddite. However, Smolin is the real deal. He got his doctorate in physics at Harvard, spent some time teaching at Yale, spent more time studying at the Princeton Institute for Advanced Study (the place Einstein spent his last twenty years), is one of the founders of a model called "loop quantum gravity," and he has worked on string theory. Folks in the physics community should give him a listen, and more broadly people interested in science will likely find this an interesting book.

The first half of The Trouble with Physics covers (as the subtitle says) the rise of string theory. It has been through several incarnations, each one shot down before someone modified it and started it back up. The trouble alluded to in the title is that there is no experimental evidence to support string theory. Well, actually, that's only part of the trouble. Another part is there actually isn't a string theory; there's a bunch of separate theories, each of which isn't a theory itself. What I mean is, all we have now are approximations that suggest there might be an actual theory called string theory (a.k.a. "M-Theory"), but we're too stupid to figure out the math. None of the approximations agree with each other. One of them includes gravity (it has 25 dimensions), most of the others don't (they mostly have 10 spatial dimensions). Different models (there are hundreds of thousands) can be tuned to describe different aspects of our world, but no single model does it all, and none of them predict that the world should be the way it is.

In short, from the standards that used to be applied to science, string theory is a mess. It makes no testable predictions, there is no evidence it is right, and it isn't even in a form yet where one could begin testing it anyway.

That would be pre-Darwinian scientific standards.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:19 AM


The End of the World As We Know It? (Jane Smiley, October 28, 2006, HuffingtonPost.com)

In a week or so, the New York Review of Books is going to publish an article by James Lovelock, the originator of the Gaia hypothesis (in which the Earth is viewed as more than an ecosystem, closer to a living being, that can be healthy or diseased, and can change, through evolution, from one state to the other). Lovelock will declare that the Earth's temperature is about to rise five to eight degrees centigrade (depending on where you are -- more at the poles, less in the tropics), and that this temperature rise will have disasterous consequences for all life, eventually, for example, reducing the human population from six billion to two hundred million, mostly living in the far north, and, as another example, submerging the British Isles, creating out of the highest points of land an archipelago, where some, but not much, habitation will be possible. As for the western United States, done for, along with much of the rest of the world, and civilization as we know it, of course. [...]

But to get back to Lovelock, horrible as it is, Iraq is not the point, Iraq is only the canary in the mine, giving voice to the coming cataclysm. Not even the US is the point, although since 1980, the Republicans have been pandering to the greedy appetites of Americans for driving big vehicles, arming themselves, and thinking themselves superior to everyone in the world. They have egged Americans on to destroying the world's environment for the sake of more and more goods, and now America is in big trouble. But empires come and go. Get over it.

What is the point is human survival. If Americans had started taking the meaning of oil dependence seriously in 1977, when Jimmy Carter asked us to, or had not ridiculed the idea of climate change in 1992, when Al Gore brought it up, we might have gotten a start by this time in reducing emissions, we might not be looking at one horrific disaster paving the way for another.

But we are. There aren't many tyrants in history who can truthfully say they put the entire future of civilization at risk just to make a buck and feel the power, but Dick Cheney and the Pnackers can. So here's a word to the 200 million who will someday be left: Good luck, and it was these guys who pulled the trigger.

What's especially quaint about the anti-human Left is that they appear not t grasp that their belief that human engineering will cause some kind of catastrophic global warming is identical to their belief that they could human engineer a Marxist utopia.

October 27, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:37 PM


Elias will probably tell us by tomorrow, but one wonders if any team has ever had pitchers make errors in five straight games, nevermind five straight post-season games.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:16 PM


Battlestar Galacticons: A close look at the right's scary affinity for sci-fi foreign policy punditry (Brad Reed, 10.27.06, American prospect)

As the midterm elections approach, many conservatives are feeling betrayed by one of their most important allies in the war on terror: Battlestar Galactica. [...]

National Review’s Jonah Goldberg, who writes regularly about Galactica’s politics on NRO’s group blog, The Corner, also picked up on parallels between the show and the war on terror. Goldberg took particular glee in attacking Galactica’s anti-war movement, which he said consisted of “radical peaceniks” and “peace-terrorists” who “are clearly a collection of whack jobs, fifth columnists and idiots.” Goldberg also praised several characters for trying to rig a presidential election. “I liked that the good guys wanted to steal the election and, it turns out, they were right to want to,” wrote Goldberg. Stolen elections, evil robots, crazed hippies … what more could a socially inept right-winger want from a show?

But alas, this love affair between Galactica and the right was not to last: in its third season, the show has morphed into a stinging allegorical critique of America’s three-year occupation of Iraq. The trouble started at the end of the second season, when humanity briefly escaped the Cylons and settled down on the tiny planet of New Caprica. The Cylons soon returned and quickly conquered the defenseless humans. But instead of slaughtering everyone, the Cylons decided to take a more enlightened path by “benevolently occupying” the planet and imposing their preferred way of life by gunpoint. The humans were predictably not enthused about their allegedly altruistic rulers, and they immediately launched an insurgency against them using improvised explosive devices and suicide bombers. Needless to say, this did not go over very well in the Galacticon camp.

“The whole suicide bombing thing … made comparisons to Iraq incredibly ham-fisted,” wrote a frustrated Goldberg, who had hoped the struggle against the Cylons would look more like Le Resistance than the Iraqi insurgency. “The French resistance vibe … is part of what makes the Iraq comparison so offensive. It’s a one-step remove from comparing the Iraqi insurgency to the (romanticized) French resistance.”

Fellow Corner writer John Podheretz shared Goldberg’s assessment, and chided conservative fans of the show who were still in denial about its sudden leftward drift. “Message to BSG fans on the Right,” wrote Podheretz sternly. “You cannot … come up with some cockamamie explanation whereby it’s not about how we Americans are the Cylons and the humans are the ‘insurgents’ fighting an ‘imperialist’ power.”

No one holds the sci-fi loving, AV-clubbing, libertarian Right in less esteem than we do, but could even they not figure out that the folks on the show who worship God are the good guys and the pagans the bad?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:12 PM


Bloomberg Sends Troops to Help Lieberman (DIANE CARDWELL, 10/28/06, NY Times)

In his battle for re-election to the United States Senate without the backing of the Democratic Party, Joseph I. Lieberman is deploying a secret weapon in the race’s closing days: a sophisticated operation to identify and turn out voters, courtesy of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg.

The Bloomberg group includes several top-level operatives who played key roles in the mayor’s decisive re-election last year or who are in the administration, and have taken leaves from their jobs to work on Mr. Lieberman’s campaign.

Since Mr. Lieberman lost the Democratic primary in Connecticut to Ned Lamont, they have helped open campaign offices, devised a strategy to reach voters and are corralling enough volunteers to cover 2,800 shifts at more than 700 polling sites on Election Day, Nov. 7.

Nice to see him go to bat for the Senator.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:10 PM


Emirates cancels order for 10 Airbus A340 planes (AFP, 27 October 2006)

Emirates airline has cancelled an order for 10 long-range Airbus A340-600 planes plus the option of 10 more, its president Tim Clark told reporters gathered at Heathrow airport on Friday.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:46 PM


AAA: Gas prices continue to drop (Associated Press, 10/27/06)

Retail gasoline prices fell across the state for the 12th week in a row, according to the AAA Texas gasoline price survey released Friday.

The survey showed the retail price of regular, self-serve gasoline averaged $2.08 per gallon, 2 cents less than last week and 46 cents less than last year. The national average was $2.20 per gallon, also two cents less than last week.

U.S. Economic Growth Slowed in 3rd Quarter (JEREMY W. PETERS, 10/27/06, NY Times)
With the economy shifting into a lower gear, analysts believe that the Federal Reserve will be unlikely to resume raising interest rates any time soon. The Fed paused in August after a two-year campaign of steady increases in its benchmark overnight lending rate, meant to combat inflation. It has kept the rate steady at 5.25 percent through three policy-setting meetings since then, even though the inflation rate has remained stubbornly high.

The majority view at the Fed is that the economy is already on a slowing trend that will bring inflation to heel, and the new report supports that view.

A closely watched measure of inflation in today’s report, the G.D.P. price index, rose at a 1.8 percent annual rate in the third quarter, seasonally adjusted, compared with 3.3 percent in each of the first and second quarters. Falling fuel prices helped bring the rate down.

The Fed raised for too long--it needs to not wait too long to start lowering.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:23 PM


Webb on sex passage recital: 'It's smear after smear' (Joshua Levs, 10/27/06, CNN)

In a news release and list of quotes posted Friday on the Drudge Report Web site, Sen. George Allen, R-Virginia, accused his opponent, former Navy Secretary Jim Webb, of "demeaning women" and "dehumanizing women, men and even children" through his fiction writings. At least two of the listed passages include children in sexual situations. [...]

He has written six best-selling novels from 1978 to 2001, his Web site says. His writings have largely focused on war and military storylines, influenced by things he experienced.

The first quote describes a shirtless man picking up a naked boy who runs toward him. The book describes what happens after the man picks up the boy and turns him upside down. It comes from the 2001 book "Lost Soldiers."

Webb responded Friday morning on Washington Post radio. "Let me explain what that was," he said. "I actually saw this happen in a slum of Bangkok and when I was there as a journalist. A man placing his lips on his son's private parts ... and the duty of a writer is to illuminate the surroundings."

His defense is that he was a passive observer of incestual pedophilia and just related what he saw?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:14 PM


Bochy lined up for the job (Andrew Baggarly, 10/27/06, San Jose Mercury News)

The Giants are expected to introduce Bruce Bochy as their new manager at a news conference today, sources told the Mercury News.

Bochy, 51, has spent the past 12 seasons managing the San Diego Padres and just led them to their second consecutive National League West title -- a first for the franchise. But San Diego CEO Sandy Alderson has declined to discuss an extension beyond 2007, when Bochy's contract would expire.

He's well liked and he wins--what more do the Padres expect from his successor?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:12 PM


Improper sexual conduct found at coroner's office (Kelly Pakula, 10/27/06, SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:50 AM


British and French Noir (Neil McDonald, December 2003, Quadrant)

Some noirs were even in colour, like Leave Her to Heaven and Desert Fury - the menace and corruption beneath the richly textured visuals.

WHICH IS WHERE Inspector Morse comes in. The Oxford portrayed in the series, with its Gothic and Elizabethan architecture and panelled interiors of the colleges where many of the stories are set, is actually reminiscent of Raymond Chandler's sun-drenched California - the corruption infecting unseen. University rivalries result in multiple murders; the master of a college is revealed as a paedophile; and from the very beginning we are reminded of Oxford's dark history as a persecutor of "heretics", with one scene set at the site where Cranmer and Ridley were burnt at the stake. This is perhaps not enough to justify calling Morse British noir. Colin Dexter's novels, on which the series was based, are from exactly the opposite tradition to the hard-boiled literature that inspired so much of American and French noir. For all their wit and adroitness, Dexter's plots are in the tradition of puzzle plot narratives dating back to Trent's Last Case and the works of Agatha Christie and Dorothy L. Sayers - both of whom were sent up mercilessly by Raymond Chandler:

There is one of Dorothy L. Sayers '[Busman's Honeymoon] in which a man is murdered alone at night in his house by a mechanically released weight which works because he always turns the radio on at just such a moment, always stands in just such a position in front of it, and always bends over just so far. A couple of inches either way and the customers would get a rain check. This is what is vulgarly known as having God sit in your lap; a murderer who needs that much help from Providence must be in the wrong business.

There is a scheme of Agatha Christie's [Murder on the Orient Express] featuring a M. Hercule Poirot, that ingenious Belgian who talks in a literal translation of schoolboy French, wherein, by duly messing around with his "little grey cells", M. Poirot decides that nobody on a certain sleeper could have done the murder alone, therefore everybody did it together, breaking the process down into a series of simple operations, like assembling an eggbeater. This is the type that is guaranteed to knock the keenest mind for a loop. Only a halfwit could guess it.

Ironically, in Service of All the Dead Colin Dexter playfully reworks the Orient Express device; yet it's the one film of the series where the visual style is closest to traditional forties noir, with Morse given a slightly menacing presence from low-angle close-shots or highlights accentuating his eyes. The interior of the church - the setting for the murders - is filled with shadows, and Morse and his sergeant's exchanges seem to come from two silhouettes. This style was abandoned after the first series, but the further Inspector Morse moved towards picturesque visuals - especially when writers such as Julian Mitchell, Anthony Minghella, Alma Cullen and Daniel Boyle were freed from the constraints of Dexter's novels and began to develop their own screen-plays - the blacker the plots became. There were cases of paedophilia, satanism, drug addiction, plus many of the cultural changes of the 1980s.

In confronting these issues, Morse became a late-twentieth-century equivalent of Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe or Dashiell Hammett's Sam Spade. Noir films and fiction always had an element of redemption to go with the angst, and Chandler scholars have been quick to point out that for all Marlowe's "rude wit" and very American dialogue, his values are those of the best kind of English gentleman. Not surprising, since Chandler himself went to an English public school. While it's pretty clear that Morse went to grammar school, he is an ex-student of the series 'fictional Lonsdale College; Morse is widely read ("I thought you swallowed a dictionary at birth!" his sergeant tells him); does the Times crossword; plays Mozart, Wagner and Puccini; and despises most modern innovations: "I don't use plastic - I'll mail you a cheque," he barks down the phone when trying to book a seat at Covent Garden.

When Morse is not trying to inveigle his subordinate Sergeant Lewis into buying him drinks - a traditional English ale, naturally - he tries to educate him in the finer points of English grammar and literature. As played by John Thaw and Kevin Whately, Morse and Lewis have one of the best relationships in crime movies. Lewis can be bitterly critical of his superior - never more so than in the splendid Way Through the Woods, with its theme of shifting loyalties - but also learns from him. Morse may be at times irascible and exploitative, but we never doubt his respect and affection for Lewis - a superlative combination of fine writing and sensitive acting. The corruption of modern education becomes the object of Morse's most scathing rebukes: "Money seems to play a large part in the decisions of your college," he tells an educational administrator. And as every devotee of the series knows, Morse drives a red Jaguar - an emblem of old-fashioned Britain. [...]

Like Marlowe, it's Morse's search for a hidden truth that gives the stories their momentum. The inspector is not always right, and is often as exasperated and confused as any noir protagonist. But ultimately it is by his standards that the other characters' actions are judged, and Morse is not afraid to implement his own justice. In Death is Now My Neighbour, he virtually orders a particularly repellent character out of town. "Now this is really blackmail," the villain expostulates.

"You should have got ten years for what you did," Morse replies.

The inspector's justice never involves violence. On the two occasions in thirty-three films when he's forced to kill someone, Morse is devastated. He gets nausea at autopsies, and the deaths never occur just to provide a corpse or create a puzzle.

The mysteries in Inspector Morse are as much whydunits as whodunits. I'm not suggesting that the late Kenny McBain and Ted Childs - the executive producers of the series - deliberately set out to transform the strong material they inherited from Colin Dexter. Describing how Inspector Morse belongs to a more complex cinematic and literary tradition only demonstrates that the film-makers (including one of Britain's finest actors, the late John Thaw) achieved far more than they had intended. In so doing, they have created a body of work that is far more impressive than anyone realised when it first appeared. Inspector Morse is both in the tradition of English mystery fiction - complete with eccentric sleuth and intricate puzzle plots - and British noir, with a social commentary and complexity found in the best of the hard-boiled school of crime fiction. Unlike some of the modern practitioners of the genre such as James Elroy or Robert B. Parker, there is no celebration of violence. Inspector Morse is a powerful embodiment of civilised values, proving that late-twentieth-century television was capable of great artistry.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:58 AM


Cubans Begin to Just Say No (MARY ANASTASIA O'GRADY, October 27, 2006, Wall Street Journal)

At this time the military seems to be loyal to Raul. Nevertheless, the dictator in waiting has at least two reasons to be worried. The first is Hugo Chávez, who pours an estimated $2 billion into the Cuban economy annually and seems to believe that he is the rightful revolutionary successor to Fidel. Rumor has it that attitude is not going down too well with Raul or his men. As Brian Latell, former CIA analyst and author of "After Fidel" (Palgrave Macmillan, 2005), pointed out this week: "It may also be reasonable to speculate that Raul and his military commanders feel contempt for the mercurial and often bizarre Venezuelan, who rose no higher than lieutenant colonel in the decidedly less professional and accomplished Venezuelan military."

Fold into this mix the tension that already exists between elements of the regime that see themselves as ideologically pure and loyal to Fidel and Raul's army, which seems to enjoy making money -- as Mr. Latell describes so well in his book -- and all kinds of complications arise.

Yet Hugo and the fidelistas might be the least of Raul's troubles. Less noticed by the international press but at least as threatening are the island's dissidents, who are once again stirring things up, this time with their "non-cooperation campaign." While conventional wisdom discounts the movement as weak, disorganized and easily infiltrated, every action of the government suggests that popular resistance to the regime is spreading, even after a brutal wave of repression was unleashed more than a year ago.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:37 AM


Marriage Is Alive And Well Among Foreign-Born Americans (Pueng Vongs, October 27, 2006, New America Media)

[A] greater percentage of foreign born continue to outpace their native-born counterparts in tying the knot. Some 61.9 percent of foreign born are married, compared with 51.9 percent of native born.

Comparing household figures from a 2004 survey, 58.4 percent of foreign-born households consisted of a married couple, or 8.3 million, a figure that dipped slightly in 2001 but has inched up annually between 2002 and 2004.

With growing immigration, the prototypical American family with husband, wife and child will increasingly gain a new face. Observers say the high marriage rate may be attributed to immigrants bringing old-world, traditional values to the new world, and the frequency with which the foreign born emigrate with spouses.

Which is why the pro and anti immigration positions must eventually switch parties.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:33 AM


Yankees reportedly will promote Mattingly to bench coach next year (Providence Journal, October 27, 2006)

Don Mattingly will take over as bench coach for the New York Yankees next season, replacing Lee Mazzilli, according to a newspaper report.

The move puts Mattingly one step closer to manager Joe Torre's job, making him the favorite to take over when the long-time skipper leaves, according to the report, posted last night on Newsday's Web site.

Keith Olbermann, who follows the Yankees almost as closely as he does the rise of fascism in America, has stated in no uncertain terms that Mattingly is incapable of leading a team, just because of the nature of his personality.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:25 AM


Baseball's (on-line) field of dreams
(GRANT ROBERTSON, 10/27/06, Globe and Mail)

In some cases, the data will be served up so quickly on Major League Baseball's website that the statistics and graphics will be posted on computer screens around the world before the call is even made on radio or TV because of the slight broadcast signal delay.

That live element, part of MLB.com's Enhanced Gameday feature, has become a smash hit on the Internet this postseason as baseball fanatics flock to the Internet to supplement their postseason viewing. In September alone, Comscore MediaMetrix reports, nearly 10 million people logged on to the site.

In less than six years, MLB has turned its Web operations into a multibillion-dollar on-line juggernaut. With a vast archive of every game played this season and last, plus dozens of historic games dating back to the 1950s — all available on-demand — the site is the only sports-related property to be mentioned in the same breath as streaming video kings YouTube, Yahoo and MySpace in terms of the number of clips served up.

America's pastime, which blossomed on the radio and came of age on television, is now using the Internet not only to reach fans on multiple platforms but to give them a depth of content — accessible and immediate — never enjoyed by any sports fan before.

Other sports leagues — and for that matter, other media firms — are looking on enviously at what MLB has built on the Internet in just a few years.

For next to nothing you can listen to Vin Scully call Dodger games all season--what other sport can compete with that?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:06 AM


Mitts in the air, pal ...: The thugs in noir flicks used to pull off capers like nobody's business. Joe Queenan decides he wants a piece of the action (Joe Queenan, October 27, 2006, The Guardian)

The rerelease of John Huston's classic film noir The Asphalt Jungle should be a cause of jubilation for trainee thugs and hoodlums-in-waiting. No motion picture ever did a better job of addressing the problems a master criminal faces when assembling a gang of strangers hell-bent on making a real killing. Released in 1950, it has a cast that includes the rough-and-tumble, yet endearingly boyish, Sterling Hayden (the lunatic in Dr Strangelove and the crooked police captain in The Godfather), and a voluptuous newcomer named Marilyn Monroe. Shot in black and white in a series of exquisitely crummy dives, The Asphalt Jungle still looks like a million bucks, even if some of the dialogue - "Don't bone me!"; "My book beats his"; "They knocked over that clip joint" - sounds a tad mouldy.

The film recounts the adventures of Doc (Sam Jaffe), a criminal mastermind from Deutschland who has just spent seven years in the hoosegow, preparing to pull off the caper of a lifetime. It is an escapade so audacious, he will pocket enough of the long green to retire to Mexico and paw the sultry chiquitas till the cows come home. The target: a bank. The gambit: tunnelling in from next door. The payoff: $1m in precious stones, with half the take going to the fence and the rest getting split four ways. The problem: finding skilled palookas to pull off the job.

Though the upside is enormous, Doc realises that his preposterously cunning plan may never bear fruit. The fence is a double-crossing louse. The driver is a hunchback with attitude. The safecracker gets antsy, goes overboard on the nitro, stops a bullet, books a one-way ticket on the Sayonara Special. The stoolie fronting the cash is a rat fink. The heavy's moll is a floozy; the fence's doxie is a banana head. Only the rustic "hooligan" from Cain-tuck (Sterling Hayden), who supplies the muscle for the operation, is up to snuff. But Hayden - a hard-luck ploughboy with a scamp's smile concealed beneath a forest of 11 o'clock shadow - plays the ponies, has a short fuse, is a loser in love and is too quick on the trigger.

Hayden is the kind of actor who does not exist any more: dangerous but seductive, grizzled but glamorous, tough but tender. In short: not Orlando Bloom. Like his granite-jawed contemporary, Robert Ryan, Hayden evokes a bygone era when men with doxies named Blanche LaRue kept puffing on their stogies even when they'd just taken a .38 slug to the solar plexus. The closest thing we have to Hayden today is Russell Crowe, who is about 28 inches shorter, or Clive Owen, who seems a bit too cerebral to pass as a thug. It is telling that when Americans start casting about for an actor who resembles the charismatic tough guys of the 1940s and 50s, they must look to the Commonwealth. Leonardo won't do. Matt Damon won't do. Mark Wahlberg won't do. Johnny Depp is too sweet, Val Kilmer too weird. Only Sean Penn is in the ballpark. But Sean Penn is not a looker.

See also Stanley Kubrick's not dissimilar, The Killing.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:51 AM


Cardin skips debate in Charles County (S.A. Miller and Jon Ward, October 27, 2006, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

U.S. Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin last night skipped an NAACP-sponsored debate in Charles County, Md., a day after the Democratic Senate nominee stammered and stumbled during a faceoff with the Republican nominee, Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele. [...]

Mr. Cardin, who is from Baltimore, stumbled several times during Wednesday's televised debate at NewsChannel 8 studios in Rosslyn.

He was rattled when Mr. Steele said that he was "handpicked" by House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer, a Maryland Democrat credited with boosting Mr. Cardin's primary campaign against Kweisi Mfume, past president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

"I won a competitive primary," a visibly flustered Mr. Cardin said. "Kweisi Mfume is supporting me."

Mr. Steele's remark came in response to Mr. Cardin's quip that President Bush "recruited" the lieutenant governor for the Senate race.

The congressman also stammered when Mr. Steele questioned him about the proposed route of Metro's Purple Line, which Mr. Steele used to portray him as being out of touch with the D.C. suburbs.

Mr. Cardin "is rattled and has gone back on their word that they have publicly given throughout their campaign," said Steele campaign spokesman Doug Heye. "His campaign [said] they will be at a debate any time, anywhere. This was publicly announced. It was publicly reported. They never asked for it to be corrected."

Last night's debate was widely publicized as the second of three between Mr. Cardin and Mr. Steele, culminating Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press."

Mr. Cardin has struggled to woo black voters -- the Democrats' most loyal voting bloc -- amid criticism from Mr. Mfume and other black leaders about the party's lack of black candidates at the top of the Maryland ticket.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:30 AM


Tigers Left Fielding Questions, Or Maybe It's Just Karma (Thomas Boswell, October 27, 2006, Washington Post)

When the highlights of this Series are shown, Granderson's slip and Eckstein's clutch hit will be shown. "The best game I've probably ever had, considering the [Series] stage," said Eckstein, who was the sparkplug of the '02 champion Angels.

However, all this game detail, and the thunderous excitement here that surrounded it, obscured a deeper problem that has undone the Tigers throughout this Series. Ignore the Granderson-relives-Flood play -- not that anybody with a sense of history would want to do such a thing. But think instead of the Rodney error on a play far easier than Granderson's. But just as devastating.

The Tigers had six days off between winning the American League pennant and opening the World Series. Nobody knew quite what the team should do with all that spare time. Now they do. They should have sent their pitchers to Lakeland, Fla., to their spring training camp to practice the simplest fielding plays in baseball.

They needed to remember how to field a soft ground ball without bobbling it. Recall how to throw a routine pickoff to first base with a slow runner on base without heaving it into the right field corner. Learn not to throw to third base when you have an easy double play by throwing to second; and if you do throw to third, don't miss the third baseman by 10 feet so two runs can score. And, finally, in a Game 4 which will probably be seen as the pivot point in the Series, don't through a simple sacrifice bunt into the right field corner.

No team in history has ever had four errors in a Series by its pitchers. The Tigers needed only four games to pull off the malfeasance with Todd Jones, Justin Verlander, Zumaya and Rodney doing the dishonors.

When the Tigers start Kenny Rogers is it for his defense?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:28 AM


Word of the Day (Wordsmith, 10/27/06)

pococurante (po-ko-koo-RAN-tee, -kyoo-) adjective

Indifferent, apathetic, nonchalant.


A careless or indifferent person.

[From Italian poco (little) + curante, present participle of curare,
(to care), from Latin curare (cure, care).]

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:23 AM


Sales of new houses on rise; median price down 9.7% (Bob Willis and Joe Richter, 10/27/06, Bloomberg News)

New-home sales in the U.S. unexpectedly rose for a second month in September as builders focused on meeting demand for cheaper homes, but a surge in demand for dwellings in the $150,000-to-$200,000 range drove the median price of a new home down 9.7 percent from a year ago, the most since 1970.

The median price of a new home declined to $217,100 in September from $240,400 a year earlier, Thursday's report showed. It was the biggest decrease since an 11.2 percent year-over-year drop in December 1970, the Commerce Department said. The median price was the lowest since $211,600 in September 2004.

Sales rose in two of four regions. They increased 24 percent in the West to 280,000, and 6.9 percent in the South to 603,000. They fell 35 percent in the Northeast to 57,000, and 6.3 percent in the Midwest to 135,000.

How will the USA cope with unprecedented growth? (Haya El Nasser, 10/27/06, USA TODAY)
The USA added 100 million people in the past 39 years and last week topped 300 million. We'll add the next 100 million even faster. Sometime around 2040, according to government estimates, the population clock will tick past 400 million. [...]

Can the USA, which trails only China and India in population, absorb another 100 million people in such a short time? Where will everybody live? Space itself isn't the issue. More than half of Americans live within 50 miles of the Atlantic, Pacific, Gulf and Great Lakes coasts on just a fifth of the country's land area, according to the Center for Environment and Population, a non-profit research and policy group based in New Canaan, Conn.

But people can't live on land alone, especially if they want water in the desert, plentiful fuel to power long commutes, energy to cool and heat bigger houses and clean air and water. How and where they live could determine how well the nation — and the environment — will handle the added population.

How many more millions do we need to import just to build houses for the next 100 million?

Cheer Up, Homeowner (DIANA FURCHTGOTT-ROTH, October 27, 2006, NY Sun)

[H]ousing is naturally slowing from its rate of the past two years. Its rapid growth could not continue. Even though last month's national housing starts, a measure of new houses under construction, surprised analysts by rising 5.9%, for the year as a whole, starts are down 9% from 2005. If this year's trends continue, it would result in a level of 1.85 million housing starts in 2006.

John Weicher, my colleague at Hudson and formerly assistant secretary and federal housing commissioner at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, says that this level of housing starts "is lower than the past three years but better than any previous year back to 1978."

Similarly, yesterday it was announced that sales of new single-family homes actually rose by 5.3% in September. Existing home sales fell 2% in September to an annualized level of 6.18 million units. It's likely that 2006 sales for both will end up below 2004 and 2005, but in line with 2003 figures.

The boom years of 2004-2005 provide an unrealistic perspective when we look at housing starts and sales. Because these years were off the charts, 2006 looks poor in comparison. But 2006 levels are in line with 2003 patterns. What we are seeing is a return to a more sustainable growth path.

One reason for this sustainable growth path can be found in new research by a professor at Princeton, Harvey Rosen, along with economists Kristopher Gerardi and Peter Willen of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.

Mr. Rosen finds the financial deregulation that took place in the 1980s has enabled households to borrow based on their long-term rather than their current incomes. Milton Friedman won a Nobel Prize for the now-common idea that people spend based on expectations of lifetime, rather than current, income. But the impediment to spending in accordance with future income is the ability to borrow. Being able to borrow based on lifetime income makes the demand for housing stronger.

Using information on earnings and spending for the period 1969 to 1999, Mr. Rosen finds that up to the mid-1980s the size of mortgages was closely related to current income. After 1985, the market for housing finance improved, and Americans were more likely to be able to obtain mortgages that were in line with their long-term income prospects.

The mortgage products available to Americans have expanded dramatically over time. In the 1970s homeowners could get any mortgage they wanted — as long as it was a 30-year fixed term. By the end of the 1980s they could get adjustable rate mortgages, 20-year mortgages, and even interest-only mortgages, many developed by New York financial institutions. Another change was that portfolios of mortgages began to be converted to securities and traded among New York investors.

According to Mr. Rosen, the "combination of innovative mortgage products, deregulation, and the development of a secondary market in mortgages" has substantially enhanced the ability of Americans to buy homes that make sense for them given their expected future incomes.

The ease of obtaining a mortgage is especially important to first-time homebuyers, whose major constraint is the down payment. It is also more important to lower-income homebuyers with future potential for income growth, who found their ability to borrow limited under prior regulations.

Immigrants fill gap, some industries say (PATRICK McGEE, 10/27/06, DFW STAR-TELEGRAM)
Leaders of some industries say there's no room for a debate about whether immigrants are taking American jobs. There's only room for more workers.

They say huge labor shortages exist in some industries, such as trucking, welding and restaurant work, and they've got numbers to show it. Large chunks of the U.S. work force are approaching retirement age, and there are not enough young workers to replace them, so immigrant workers are needed, they say.

The American Welding Society, an industry group based in Miami, predicts a shortage of 200,000 welders nationwide by 2010.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:10 AM


Rush Limbaugh Fakes Stupidity: You may think he's dumb as a chair, but it's all an act. (Timothy Noah, Oct. 25, 2006, Slate)

Many people have concluded, from Rush Limbaugh's recent disparaging comments about Michael J. Fox and Parkinson's disease, that Limbaugh must be an utter fool. But of course that's exactly what Rush wants you to think. Does the man's capacity for manipulation know no bounds? [...]

Limbaugh later retreated to the position that Fox didn't fake the symptoms, but rather that he refrained deliberately from taking his medication, something Fox apparently did seven years ago to demonstrate the effects of the disease while testifying before Congress. It's certainly possible that Fox once again skipped or delayed taking his meds to achieve the same goal (though Fox's public response to Limbaugh suggests not; during a public appearance for yet another political candidate, Fox appeared steadier and said, "My pills are working really well right now"). The obvious retort to Limbaugh is: So what? Whether Fox takes his meds or doesn't take his meds is nobody's business but Fox's, and there would be nothing counterfeit about Fox filming an ad unmedicated. He's been known to twitch, OK?

We're all appropriately sorry about Mr. Fox's illness., but if he's using it to try and sway public opinion in the political arena then it is, of course, our business. And you'd have to be just as gullible a rube as these monsters who want to treat human beings like meat think we are in flyover country not to notice that when Mr. Fox has a paying gig in his chosen profession, like his guest run on Scrubs, he is noticeably ill, but not exactly the scarecrow in a hurricane that he appears when begging for free human remains to experiment with in this ad. Add the fact that he's pulled the stunt in the past and it could hardly be a more legitimate subject of public discourse.

Fox: I Was Over-Medicated In Stem Cell Ad (CBS/AP, 10/26/06)

Responding to criticism by conservative pundit Rush Limbaugh, actor Michael J. Fox defended his appearance in a political campaign ad, saying he wasn't acting or off his medication.

In fact, at the time he was over-medicated for his Parkinson's disease, Fox said Thursday in an exclusive interview with CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric

Shame on Michael J. Fox (Gary Loftis, October 27, 2006, Orlando Sentinel)
[D]r. Dick Gilson, a professor at the University of Central Florida who teaches neuroscience courses, is actively involved in stem-cell research. He has a strong personal incentive to find applications for Parkinson's; he has the disease. Dick will tell you the promise of stem-cell "cures" is merely speculation; no current science supports it.

Non-stem-cell research has great promise, but it somehow hasn't captured political imaginations. Earlier this year, gene researchers announced a new therapy, using a virus to place a powerful protein into the brain to change its dopamine-production characteristics. The possible benefits for patients with neurological diseases are great.

This therapy could be in clinical trials in three to five years, long before any stem-cell application is identified. (http://www.genome newsnetwork.org/articles/10-00/ Parkinsons-monkeys.shtml)

The embryonic stem-cell debate is not about allowing stem-cell research, because that is taking place unimpeded. The debate really is about legalizing the commerce in human embryos. [...]

Michael J. Fox has chosen to be spokes victim for a fraudulent cause.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:08 AM


Apple Chomper: How Nokia can knock the iPod from its perch (Alexander Dryer, Oct. 25, 2006, Slate)

I'm bullish on Nokia's chances after spending the last week with the N91, part of the company's line of multimedia phones. Constructed of matte stainless steel with silver and black plastic highlights, the N91 looks like any other candy-bar-style handset, albeit with a bit of extra heft around the middle. The most visible difference is the group of playback controls—pause, rewind, etc.—that takes up the area beneath the screen. To make a phone call, you slide down these controls to reveal a standard keypad. The other big difference between the N91 and standard phones is on the inside, where Nokia has installed a 4-gigabyte hard drive in place of the typical low-capacity flash chip. (The N91 I tested was released in April; a new version announced last month offers an 8-gigabyte drive and various small improvements.)

Music phones (most notably, Motorola's iTunes-compatible ROKR) have gotten pretty terrible reviews. I was surprised, then, to discover how much I enjoyed the N91. All the traditional phone functions work flawlessly, and calls sound as clear as they do on my landline. There's even a bare-bones e-mail application and a surprisingly powerful browser. Most significantly, the music player integrates with all of this seamlessly. If you're listening to a song when the phone rings, it will pause until you finish your conversation, then resume automatically. The playback controls work no matter what else you're doing, so you can rewind in the middle of writing a text message. A dedicated key next to the play button also lets you flip back and forth between "phone mode" and "music-player mode." The sound wasn't perfect—I noticed some skips when selecting a new playlist or flipping through songs—but it was remarkably good.
Click Here!

Transferring music from my laptop was relatively painless, too. The Nokia Music Manager installed without a hitch on my MacBook Pro and allowed me to copy my iTunes library with ease. (The N91, like all non-Apple devices, cannot play music purchased from the iTunes Store.) PC users can get even smoother integration—the N91 connects directly to Windows Media Player without the need for an external application.

The bottom line? The N91 is a good music player and a superb phone. That said, I wouldn't buy one for the outlandish current price of $599 when you can get an iPod and a phone separately for less money. However, keep in mind that today's music phones are for the early adopter crowd. Mobile-service providers are notorious for taking months to approve new phones for their networks, but once the N91 or a similar Nokia model is cleared, the Nseries won't be for early adopters anymore—it will be a legitimate competitor to the iPod. Since the service providers subsidize phone prices to win customers, the 8 GB N91 probably will cost around $200-$250, about the same as the 8-gigabyte iPod nano.

October 26, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:53 PM


Dow notches yet another record (UPI, 10/26/06)

The Dow Jones industrial average posted its 13th record close in 18 sessions Thursday, finishing at 12,163.66.

MORE (via Bryan Franceour):
Nicaragua votes to outlaw abortion (Rory Carroll, October 27, 2006, Guardian)

Nicaragua last night voted to outlaw all forms of abortion, including operations to save a pregnant woman's life, after a campaign by the Catholic church.

The main political parties supported a bill establishing jail sentences of six to 30 years for women who terminate their pregnancies and doctors who perform the procedure.

The proposal was fast-tracked through parliament in the run-up to a presidential election next month, prompting accusations that it was an opportunistic vote-grabbing ploy.

It's real progress when the Left realizes that Life is populist.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:12 PM


Remarks Spark Walkout at Arizona Candidates’ Forum (Jennifer Siegel, Oct 27, 2006, The Forward)

A Jewish spokeman for Republican Rep. J.D. Hayworth of Arizona drew jeers and sparked a mass walkout during a recent candidates’ forum when he claimed that the Baptist lawmaker was “a more observant Jew” than the audience members.

Jonathan Tratt, a real estate investor and political fund-raiser, made the remark while defending Hayworth’s opposition of abortion rights. Tratt, who is Jewish, was referring to the fact that although ancient rabbinic law does not ban abortion, it restricts it to instances when the health of the mother is in danger.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:01 PM


Northern Ireland lessons (Rami G. Khouri, 10/20/06, Jordan Times)

Several important points about the Northern Ireland process stand out. For one thing, it is working, and needs to be studied to grasp precisely why that is the case. It has not been fully implemented, but the region is no longer convulsed by political violence and terror. Any agreement that achieves that through negotiations deserves closer scrutiny.

It appears to be working primarily because of three reasons. First, it brought into the negotiating process all the key parties who were deemed to be legitimate in the eyes of their own communities, regardless of how other communities saw them. So Sinn Fein represented the IRA, regardless of the Unionists' revulsion for the IRA. The fact of being inclusive was an important element for success.

Second, the parties recognised that they would achieve, through peaceful negotiations, important gains that could not be achieved through continued militancy. Diplomacy that succeeded and offered a vision of a better future spurred a greater willingness to persist on the path of peaceful negotiations, and so all sides committed to peaceful resolution of their conflict.

Third, the external mediator — the United States — was at once persistent, patient and impartial. It did not take sides, but worked tirelessly to bridge gaps between the parties and offer mechanisms to restore confidence when it was shaken.

None of these elements exists today in the Arab-Israeli situation, and so it is not surprising that our region of the world witnesses destructive wars while Northern Ireland joins the ranks of the world’s wealthy societies. The sad irony is that as the Northern Ireland situation resumes its momentum towards a permanent settlement, its historic lessons for the Arabs and Israelis are ignored, even though many of the broad dynamics of the two conflicts seem so similar.

For example, Israel and the United States refuse to deal with a Palestinian government led by Hamas, which was democratically elected. Yet in Northern Ireland, the British and the United States had no problem dealing with the IRA, which used terror for many years. Their decision to engage the IRA through Sinn Fein proved wise and productive, because the IRA soon got out of the terror business and decommissioned its arms. That experience suggests that focusing on the substance of the political goals that one desires from a negotiation is more important than allowing oneself to get hung up on whom one should talk to or not talk to.

Even better, Israel and the U.S. can force the substance upon Hamas even without negotiation.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:14 PM


Scientists Find Lamprey A 'Living Fossil': 360 Million-year-old Fish Hasn't Evolved Much (University of Chicago Medical Center, October 26, 2006)

Scientists from the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa, and the University of Chicago have uncovered a remarkably well-preserved fossil lamprey from the Devonian period that reveals today's lampreys as "living fossils" since they have remained largely unaltered for 360 million years. [...]

Chicago's Michael Coates, PhD, joined Witwatersrand's Bruce Rubidge, PhD, and graduate student and lead author Rob Gess to describe the new find in the article, "A lamprey from the Devonian of South Africa" to be published in the Oct. 26, 2006, issue of Nature.

"Apart from being the oldest fossil lamprey yet discovered, this fossil shows that lampreys have been parasitic for at least 360 million years," said Rubidge, director of the Bernard Price Institute for Palaeontological Research.

Wow, that's an even longer parasitic existence than France.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:09 PM


Virgin Atlantic to delay A380 deliveries until 2013
(Steve Goldstein, Oct 26, 2006, MarketWatch)

Virgin Atlantic on Thursday said it's agreed to push back deliveries of the troubled Airbus A380 superjumbo until 2013, a move it said would give Airbus the ability to focus on getting first versions of the planes to key customers.

The privately held airline said by then, the A380 will have proved its "innovative design" over several years in customer service. Virgin had previously anticipating delivery of its first A380 in 2009.

The deferral will allow Airbus to prioritize production and deliveries for launch customers such as Singapore Airlines, Virgin said, adding it's extended the leases of several Boeing 747-800 aircraft to meet its fleet needs.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:07 PM


Is violence Palestinian "disease"?-Hamas official (Nidal al-Mughrabi, 10/17/06, Reuters)

Ghazi Hamad, a member of Hamas who also acts as the spokesman for the Hamas-led government, said he was disturbed by growing factionalism in the Palestinian territories, including recent deadly clashes between rival political movements.

"Has violence become a culture implanted in our bodies and our flesh?" he asked in the sharply worded article, published in the widely read Palestinian newspaper al-Ayyam.

"We have surrendered to it until it has become the master and is obeyed everywhere -- in the house, the neighbourhood, the family, the clan, the faction and the university."

It was the second time in recent months that Hamad, who is based in Gaza, had written an opinion piece in al-Ayyam critical of Palestinian in-fighting.

In August, he criticised Palestinian militant groups fighting Israel, saying they were not doing the cause of Palestinian independence any good by launching attacks at moments when it appeared progress was being made.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:57 PM


Poll: Most feel civil liberties not harmed by war on terror (CNN, 10/25/06)

Most Americans do not believe the Bush administration has gone too far in restricting civil liberties as part of the war on terror, a new CNN poll released Thursday suggests.

While 39 percent of the 1,013 poll respondents said the Bush administration has gone too far, 34 percent said they believe the administration has been about right on the restrictions, according to the Opinion Research Corp. survey. Another 25 percent said the administration has not gone far enough.

Asked whether Bush has more power than any other U.S. president, 65 percent of poll respondents said no. Thirty-three percent said yes. Of those who said yes, a quarter said that was bad for the country.

But Democrats are pitching their campaign to the bitter 9%.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:55 PM


Muggers.org (The Lowell Sun, 10/26/2006)

Give us your money or else. That's the threat from MoveOn.org, the ultra-liberal political blog, to U.S. Rep. Marty Meehan.

For a week now, MoveOn.org's political extortionists have mounted an Internet campaign against Meehan because he refuses to accede to their wishes. They want Meehan to open his $4.9 million campaign war chest to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which is trying to win back the House from Republicans.

Meehan has resisted, and rightly so.

But what began as playful politics has escalated into a nasty MoveOn.org shakedown.

First, the bloggers sought a $1.2 million contribution from Meehan. They called him "cheap" when he didn't budge. Next, they ratcheted up the pressure, urging Democrats across the nation to e-mail Meehan. On Tuesday, they trotted out a Meehan supporter who has a son serving in the U.S. military in Iraq and fed the father to the press. The Lowell man implied that if Meehan didn't help the Democratic cause, his son might not come home on schedule. Yesterday, MoveOn.org's coordinator Adam Green sent an e-mail to Meehan's Lowell district manager, saying if Meehan forks over $250,000 "there is still time to make this a net positive instead of a net negative for Meehan."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:33 PM


We Answer to the Name of Liberals: A response to Tony Judt, and a manifesto for liberals in the waning Bush era. (Bruce Ackerman and Todd Gitlin, 10.18.06, American Prospect)

As right-wing politicians and pundits call us stooges for Osama bin Laden, Tony Judt charges, in a widely discussed and heatedly debated essay in the London Review of Books, that American liberals -- without distinction -- have "acquiesced in President Bush's catastrophic foreign policy." Both claims are nonsense on stilts.

Clearly this is a moment for liberals to define ourselves. [...]

Make no mistake: We believe that the use of force can, at times, be justified. We supported the use of American force, together with our allies, in Bosnia, Kosovo, and Afghanistan. But war must remain a last resort.

This is a hilariously vapid "liberal manifesto"--the notion that the immediate attack on Afghanistan was a last resort but the enforcement of UN resolutions against Saddam after twelve years of violation wasn't is the sort of self-contradictory idea that only an intellectual could hold. But certainly the highlight of the exerrcise comes here:
Reason is indispensable to democratic self-government. This self-evident truth was a fundamental commitment of our Founding Fathers, who believed it was entirely compatible with every American's First Amendment right to the free exercise of religion. When debating policy in the public square, our government should base its laws on grounds that can be accepted by people regardless of their religious beliefs.

One hardly need point out to normal Americans -- non-intellectuals -- that the self-evident truths of the Founders are a function of the faith of Abraham, not Reason.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:32 PM


Oracle threatens Red Hat with price war on Linux support (KC Star, 10/26/06)

Oracle Corp. Chief Executive Larry Ellison is shaking up the software industry again, only this time a takeover bid isn’t involved — yet.

Ellison posed a challenge to Linux software leader Red Hat Inc. late Wednesday by announcing that Oracle would begin offering maintenance services for Red Hat products — and charge less for that than Red Hat does. Red Hat shares were crushed by the news.

Redwood Shores, Calif.-based Oracle expects to offer discounts of at least 50 percent. The threat wiped out more than one-quarter of Red Hat’s market value — nearly $1 billion — amid today’s deepening investor worries about the much smaller company’s ability to withstand the challenge.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:56 PM


Iraqi PM sees peace in 6 months - if U.S. cooperates (Mariam Karouny and Alastair Macdonald, 10/26/06, Reuters)

In sharp criticism of the handling of Iraq's security by the United States, Nuri al-Maliki denied U.S. assertions he was working to a timetable of steps agreed with Washington.

He also told Reuters in an interview he had no fear the Americans might oust him, after President George W. Bush said on Wednesday his patience was "not unlimited" and that he would back Maliki "as long as he continues to make tough decisions".

"They think building Iraqi forces will need 12 to 18 months, for us to be in control of security," Maliki said, referring to remarks two days ago by U.S. commander General George Casey.

"We agree our forces need work but think that if, as we are asking, the rebuilding of our forces was in our own hands, then it would take not 12-18 months but six might be enough."

He called for more say on security policy once the U.S.-led Coalition's U.N. mandate runs out in December.

"If anyone is responsible for the poor security situation in Iraq it is the Coalition," Maliki said.

"I am now prime minister and overall commander of the armed forces yet I cannot move a single company without Coalition approval because of the U.N. mandate," Maliki said.

"I have to be careful fighting some militias and terrorists ... because they are better armed than the army and police," Maliki said. "The police are sharing rifles."

I'm reading the outstanding Triumph Forsaken: The Vietnam War, 1954-1965, by Mark Moyar, and one of the parallels that really stands out is the way the "helpful" meddling of the Americans, French and others tended to hamstring the quite competent and well-regarded (by the Vietnamese) Diem. Rather than helicopter in and pretend to know exactly how these societies need to be run, we ought to trust them to be able to figure things out by themselves for the most part and stand by to provide just, but nearly all, the assistance they actually ask for. It goes without saying that the elected government should have the final say over how it deploys its own forces and that we should be supplying them adequately.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:24 PM


Seven Days in Shea: Why do the Mets keep torturing us? (Emma Span, October 24th, 2006, Village Voice)

Thursday, October 19: Game 7

Cardinals 3, Mets 1

It's a strange twist of the human psyche that the best-played losses are often the hardest to take. The Yankees went down like lead against the Tigers, and as a result, the loss was aggravating and disappointing—but it was never that close and therefore not the kind of game you find yourself replaying endlessly in January. This, however, was one of those games. The Mets were so perfectly set up for one of the greatest postseason comebacks in recent memory—bottom of the ninth, bases loaded, two outs, Beltran at the plate . . . I'm not even really a Met fan, but this game broke my heart.

Endy Chavez's catch will be remembered, though not as well as it would be if they'd won, and probably not as well as it deserves. I've never seen anything like it in person; even the beat reporters jumped to their feet. "Under the circumstances, it's one of the best plays I've ever seen," said Glavine. "Thank God it wasn't me," said a hobbling Floyd. It was impossible to witness that catch and not feel that fate was with the Mets.

Still, after the loss, the team took Willie Randolph's advice, and kept their heads up. They were acutely disappointed but still proud of their season, and had anyone raised the possibility that perhaps Randolph might be fired, they would have been laughed out of Flushing. The Cardinal locker room, meanwhile, squishy with champagne and beer, brought back unpleasant memories of seedy frat parties.

Since my first day in the Met clubhouse, I wondered about the team's remarkable geniality and closeness—does that just happen, or had Omar Minaya done this on purpose? How much had he taken personality into account in forming this team? Isn't it hard enough to find a decent pitcher without worrying about whether he can play well with others? Minaya himself has the reputation of being a "good guy," as everyone puts it, both with reporters and, perhaps more tellingly, with the workers at Shea, who almost to a man will nod approvingly when he passes. And although the season was now over, chemistry and charisma be damned, I still wanted to know.

"I'm very careful about who we bring in here," Minaya said. "You know, put a whole bunch of humans together, you don't know how it's going to work out. But it did work out." Almost.

We're hardly averse to good guys, but trade Lastings Milledge for Barry Zito and they're in the World Series right now.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:05 PM


Cheney calls 'water-boarding' a valuable interrogation tool: The vice president confirmed that an interrogation technique that simulates drowning and has been called 'cruel and inhumane' was used on al Qaeda suspects. (JONATHAN S. LANDAY, 10/26/06, McClatchy)

In the interview on Tuesday, Scott Hennen of WDAY Radio in Fargo, N.D., told Cheney that listeners had asked him to ``let the vice president know that if it takes dunking a terrorist in water, we're all for it, if it saves American lives.''

''Again, this debate seems a little silly given the threat we face, would you agree?'' Hennen said.

''I do agree,'' Cheney replied, according to a transcript of the interview released Wednesday. ``And I think the terrorist threat, for example, with respect to our ability to interrogate high-value detainees like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, that's been a very important tool that we've had to be able to secure the nation.''

Cheney added that Mohammed had provided ``enormously valuable information about how many [al Qaeda members] there are, about how they plan, what their training processes are and so forth. We've learned a lot. We need to be able to continue that.''

''Would you agree that a dunk in water is a no-brainer if it can save lives?'' asked Hennen.

'It's a no-brainer for me, but for a while there, I was criticized as being the vice president `for torture.' We don't torture. That's not what we're involved in,'' Cheney replied. ``We live up to our obligations in international treaties that we're party to and so forth. But the fact is, you can have a fairly robust interrogation program without torture, and we need to be able to do that.''

It seems unlikely that any vice-president of the United States ever has had or ever will have as much fun as Dick Cheney has.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:55 AM


What Osama Wants (PETER BERGEN, 10/26/06, NY Times)

THE French saying, often attributed to Talleyrand, that “this is worse than a crime, it’s a blunder,” could easily describe America’s invasion of Iraq. But for the United States to pull entirely out of that country right now, as is being demanded by a growing chorus of critics, would be to snatch an unqualified disaster from the jaws of an enormous blunder.

To understand why, look to history. Vietnam often looms large in the debate over Iraq, but the better analogy is what happened in Afghanistan since the Soviet invasion. During the 1980’s, Washington poured billions of dollars into the Afghan resistance. Around the time of Moscow’s withdrawal in 1989, however, the United States shut its embassy in Kabul and largely ignored the ensuing civil war and the rise of the Taliban and its Qaeda allies. We can’t make the same mistake again in Iraq.

A total withdrawal from Iraq would play into the hands of the jihadist terrorists. As Osama bin Laden’s deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri, made clear shortly after 9/11 in his book “Knights Under the Prophet’s Banner,” Al Qaeda’s most important short-term strategic goal is to seize control of a state, or part of a state, somewhere in the Muslim world. “Confronting the enemies of Islam and launching jihad against them require a Muslim authority, established on a Muslim land,” he wrote. “Without achieving this goal our actions will mean nothing.” Such a jihadist state would be the ideal launching pad for future attacks on the West.

And there is no riper spot than the Sunni-majority areas of central and western Iraq.

This is silly, of course: nothing could be worse for the Islamicists than for the Sunni to be purged from the rest of Iraq and gathered into a separate state in Western Iraq which would become a free fire zone for both Shi'ites and Crusaders once we had our own troops out of the way. Knocking off regimes could hardly get any easier--insurgencies are tough.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:48 AM


Two pens and four swords: A review of THE THREE MUSKETEERS by Alexandre Dumas translated by Richard Pevear (Antonia Fraser, Times of London)

READING DUMAS’ The Three Musketeers again after 60 years, I was utterly engrossed. This is a new translation by Richard Pevear, more than 700 pages of it, with an excellent introduction.

I was momentarily taken aback to learn that Dumas, like a modern celebrity, had a “researcher” who did most of the work — a minor writer named Auguste Maquet. Dumas and Maquet first collaborated in 1843 when Dumas “reworked” one of Maquet’s novels. In 1844 Maquet brought Dumas another project for collaboration: the plan of a novel featuring Louis XIII, Anne of Austria, the Duke of Buckingham and Cardinal Richelieu.

This was the story that was to become The Three Musketeers. It was supposedly based on the Memoirs of M D’Artagnan, written by one Gatien de Courtils and published in 1700, although the final novel has little in common with them, beyond the use of the historical D’Artagnan. Maquet toiled thereafter on a number of Dumas’ finest books, including that work of genius The Count of Monte Cristo. Maquet did all the preliminary research and even a rough draft that was turned over to Dumas. This seems quite a long way to go for an author not acknowledged on the title page.

But before one feels too sorry for the “ghost”, it has to be recorded that, by a cruel chance, 90 pages of Maquet’s first draft of The Three Musketeers have survived: “A comparison with the finished version shows just how important Dumas’ reworking was,” Pevear writes. “Maquet’s musketeers would have been forgotten at once; Dumas’ touch transformed them into immortals.”

Mr. Pevear and his translating partner, Larissa Volokhonsky, have even managed to make Dostoevsky and Tolstoy accessible to English readers--imagine what he can do with one of the most accessible novels of all time?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:43 AM


Pomp and Significance, Tempered by a Twerpy Side (JON PARELES, 10/26/06, NY Times)

After graduation, life can get complicated. When the Killers performed on Tuesday night at the Theater at Madison Square Garden, they were a band caught between two personas that might be described as high-school and sophomoric: self-mocking versus earnest, self-obsessed versus lofty. Brandon Flowers, the Killers’ lead singer, wore a silvery suit that proclaimed him a showman and performed under a sign proclaiming the title of the band’s new album, “Sam’s Town,” surrounded by the little triangular flags seen at the opening of used-car dealerships. But he was making a show of sincerity.

The Killers’ 2004 debut album, “Hot Fuss,” sold three million copies by plunging into the torments of high-school romance, particularly the way it can feel devastating and absurd at the same time. Like high schoolers, the Killers — Mr. Flowers is now 25 — tried on others’ styles. Although the band is from Las Vegas, it was drawn to the shameless artifice of British glam, new wave and the grander Britpop that followed it; with borrowed sounds, the Killers tapped into the gawky self-consciousness, the mixed yearning and irony, of adolescents grappling with grand passions.

“Sam’s Town” (Island), strives to address a much wider world — a hometown, family memories, even the nature of America. It cranks up guitars instead of synthesizers and sets aside any second thoughts. Along with the Cure and David Bowie, now the Killers’ models are U2, Coldplay, Bruce Springsteen and, for pop underpinnings, the Cars. The lyrics strive for significance and mostly succumb to clichés: “Higher and higher, we’re gonna take it/Down to the wire, we’re gonna make it,” Mr. Flowers sang in “Bling (Confession of a King).” With his voice rising to try and sound heroic, he was like Bono recast as a twerp.

But his twerpy side is the promising one. With a sound that hints at doubts and insecurities — the sound that the new songs suppress — Mr. Flowers can temper the music’s pomp, lending the songs some depth.

Rock has no depth--it is just adolescent self-obsession. Doesn't mean it's not worth listening to if it sounds good.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:22 AM


Collective bargaining agreement set till 2011 (Ronald Blum, October 26, 2006, The Associated Press)

Bud Selig and Donald Fehr sat in the center of a dais, flanked by players and owners. For the second time in four years, they were proclaiming labor peace.

"The last agreement produced stunning growth and revenue," Selig said. "I believe that five years from now people will be stunned how well we grew the sport."

The five-year collective bargaining agreement, which runs through the 2011 season, is subject to ratification by both sides. The deal makes relatively minor changes to the previous agreement and doesn't alter baseball's drug rules.

"This is the golden era in every way," Selig said.

Supposedly the management teams of the union and MLB were forced to work together a lot on preparations for the World Baseball Classic, which is what fostered this new spirit of co-operation. Whatever it was, almost twenty years without a work stoppage is like a gift from Abner Himself.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:19 AM


The Era of Big Cinema Is Over (Edward B. Driscoll Jr., 26 Oct 2006, Tech Central Station)

Prior to the 1970s, Hollywood aimed its movies at a mass culture. But by the late 1970s, the first signs of political correctness began to increasingly separate movie makers from their audience, beginning perhaps most visibly with Warren Beatty's Reds in 1981. But even during that decade, Hollywood balanced films such as Platoon and Salvador with Rambo and Top Gun. And it was pretty clear that the characters played by Stallone, Schwarzenegger, Harrison Ford and Bruce Willis were on the side of Truth, Justice and The American Way.

Jump cut to this past summer, where that Superman movie that Warner Brothers was counting on to kick-start their perennial superhero franchise instead became infamous for having Perry White utter "truth, justice and all that other stuff", because the film's writers were ashamed of, well, the American way.

This wasn't all that new a development—even before 9/11, Michael Bay's Pearl Harbor was chided for its revisionist history and moral equivalence. But after 9/11, Hollywood's PC freefall merely accelerated, causing further alienation from the industry's domestic audience. The 2006 Academy Awards ceremony was something of a watershed. As blogger Charlie Richards noted this past February, "it's a big year for films nobody will see", to the point where March of the Penguins, which won for best documentary, made more money than any of the Best Picture Nominees. And as author and blogger John Scazi wrote at the time, "When Hollywood's best films can't compete with chilled, aquatic birds, there's something going on."

What was going on was that Hollywood had alienated a wide swatch of its audience-perhaps to the point where relations are irreparable. Like television networks, the two mediums once shared a monopoly on viewers. But these days, technology such as videogames and DVDs, hundreds of channels of satellite TV, the "Long Tail" of the Internet, and the do-it-yourself "prosumer" movement have made Hollywood just another niche market that competes for audiences' eyeballs.

And the consumer electronics industry increasingly challenges the movie going experience as American middle class home contain technologies that make the den the equivalent of a 1930s private Hollywood screening room.

That's the environment that Hollywood must compete in. And increasingly, its movies just aren't up to the task.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:07 AM


Now we're talking (David Warren, 10/22/06, Ottawa Citizen)

[T]he significance of what [the thirty-eight Muslim] said went beyond -- far beyond -- being a formal reply to the Pope’s remarks at Regensburg. Truly with reason and restraint, they defend the honour of the Islamic faith as it has come down through 14 centuries of interpretation and experience -- that faith in its breadth, and not in the narrowness of postmodern psychopaths, trying to reconstruct the conditions of 7th-century Arabia.

The signatories renounced and condemned violence against Christians in the name of Islam. They accepted without qualification the Pope's post-Regensburg clarifications, and both accepted and applauded his call for dialogue. They unambiguously denounced and rejected all terrorist interpretations of the word "jihad"; they insisted on the priority of Surah 2:256 of the Koran ("There is no compulsion in religion"), stating explicitly that it is not obviated by later Koranic passages or Hadiths. They went so far as to aver that the declaration of Jesus in Mark 12:29-31 expresses the essence of all Abrahamic religion -- Muslim, Christian, Jewish.

That is Mark’s version of the Gospel message that there are "two great commandments". The first is to love God with all thy heart and soul and mind; and the second, to love thy neighbour as thyself. (And please, secular humanists, note the order in which those commandments are always given: first God, then man.)

The signatories agree with the Pope that the dialogue between Christianity and Islam must be founded in reason. They admit, just as Christians admit, there are limitations to human reason, for what is divine goes beyond what humans can know. But what is divine is not incompatible with reason, and within the sphere of human relations, between peoples who do not confess the same faith, reason is the only sound guide.

This does not mean that violence is forsworn in all circumstances. As the Muslim signatories note, Jesus himself violently turned the moneychangers out of the Temple precincts. But reason itself determines when violence is the only appropriate defence against unreason.

Islam is thus, in the words of 38 of its most qualified living exponents, not merely “a religion of peace”, but more essentially a religion of love -- of love, from and for the one God we all worship; the one true Lord we know by His works, and who is Love in all His actions. For what is done in hatred cannot be done in God’s name, and will always be false religion.

Now take this in. In a moment of increasing worldwide violence and tension, Pope Benedict XVI issued a call, echoing his predecessor John-Paul II, for a real dialogue between religions at the highest level of reason. And authoritative spiritual leaders of the Islamic umma responded favourably to this, and declared, in a fine, noble, and open spirit: “Let the dialogue begin!” This is news of very great significance. It should have been the top headline in every newspaper in the world.

Found a copy of Robert Spencer's Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam for a quarter the other day and thought it worth checking out the hymnal the Islamophobes are singing from. Couldn't get past pages 5-6, where he reacts in high dudgeon to Muhammad instructing his followers that they are allowed to use violence even in the sacred month of Rajab in order to defend the faithful. As Mr. Spencer rages: "The moral absolutes enshrined in the Ten Commandments...were swept aside in favor of an overarching principle of expediency." Presumably he believes that if you attack Jews on Saturday or Christians on Sunday they'll turn the other cheek, since the Sabbath is a moral absolute, eh?

October 25, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:18 PM

51-49 OR BUST:

If they can't make it this year (John Farmer, 10/23/06, NEWHOUSE NEWS SERVICE)

Look at it this way: If Democrats can't capture either the Senate or the House of Representatives in a climate this toxic for Republicans — incompetent conduct of a needless war abroad and mounting evidence of congressional corruption at home — they'll be a national laughingstock.

It won't be easy, especially capturing the Senate, where Democrats need to win at least six of the seven or eight seats rated toss-ups while retaining the seat they already hold in New Jersey that's considered up for grabs. The House, where Democrats need a net gain of 15 seats among the 40 to 45 deemed competitive, looks more doable. But no sure thing. Still, should they blow it, Democrats can expect a popular demand that they do the right thing and file for bankruptcy. Go the way of the Whigs, as it were. [...]

Russ Hemenway of the liberal National Committee for an Effective Congress in New York has been working in national electoral politics for more than 50 years and says he has seen few years as promising for Democrats as this one — but the risk that goes with that promise is great.

The impact of another Democratic failure Nov. 7, he said, "would be a terrible psychological blow." On a more practical level, it would be disastrous for Democratic efforts to recruit attractive candidates in the years immediately ahead and for raising money, he said.

Democrats have enjoyed one of their best years in memory in the search for top-tier candidates for the Senate and House, Hemenway said. But it wasn't easy and it required an extravagant promise.

"We told them they'll be in the majority in the next Congress, that these were the best conditions for Democrats in years," Hemenway said. "We told them they will be able to get things done."

Even if they were to win both houses they couldn't get anything done that the President doesn't approve of--that's just silly.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:06 PM

NOTHING TO FEAR... (via Lou Gots):

New Russian ballistic missile fails again in test (Associated Press, THE JERUSALEM POST, Oct. 25, 2006)

An experimental Russian ballistic missile veered off its course shortly after having been launched from a Russian nuclear submarine and fell into the sea Wednesday in its second consecutive launch failure in as many months, officials said. [...]

"The failure means that the entire new class of submarines has no missile to be equipped with," Pavel Felgenhauer, an independent military analyst, told The Associated Press. "That's a big problem for the military." [...]

Felgenhauer said that authorities had skipped test launches of Bulava from land-based launchpads in order to save funds and speed up their deployment. "During the Soviet times, they didn't test-fire experimental missiles from submarines because it was considered too risky," he told the AP.

Which is why we can do North Korea whenever we want.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:47 PM

Friend Bruno Behrend interviews the one man content provider of the Anglosphere, Mark Steyn.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:20 PM


The Pope was wrong: Pope Benedict's recent comments on Islam were riddled with inaccuracies (Abdal Hakim Murad, November 2006, Prospect)

Another theme of Benedict’s speech that baffled Muslims was his distinction between a Catholic concept of a God who must act in accordance with reason, and the supposed Islamic view that God can only be fully free if he has the ability to act irrationally (see Edward Skidelsky, Prospect November 2006). The Pope acknowledges a spectrum of Catholic views but cites only one Islamic thinker, Ibn Hazm of Cordova, whose view of an essentially non-rational, capricious God was rejected by virtually every other Muslim. Far from teaching an irrational obedience to a non-rational deity, mainstream Islamic theology insists on the systematic use of reason, since the Koran itself asks its audience to deduce the existence of God from his orderly signs in nature. Of the two schools of Sunni orthodoxy, Ash’arism and Maturidism, the latter—the orthodoxy of perhaps 80 per cent of Muslims—is particularly insistent on the rationality of God’s actions.

Benedict’s speech saluted the Greek dimension of the New Testament, and proposed that it supply Europe with a special relationship with Christianity. Many Muslims are uncomfortable with the implications of this for current debates over citizenship and immigration. Some have recalled that the original St Benedict of Nursia, the "Patron of Europe," was famous for defending Catholicism from the semi-literate and warlike barbarians who had invaded from the east. The new Pope, it is claimed, chose his name because he feels that the growing Muslim presence in some ways recalls that threat.

Yet the average Turk in Hamburg or beur in Paris is not a follower of Attila the Hun. Muslims too are heirs to Greek rationality; indeed, one of the first great endeavours of Islamic civilisation was the systematic translation of Greek philosophical classics into Arabic. Advanced Islamic theology is shot through and through with Greek rationalism, so that three quarters of a classical Muslim theology text is usually taken up with logic and other intellectual methods of Greek ancestry.

One is almost inclined to think that the Pope should misrepresent Islam more often so that Muslims will speak out more.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:16 PM


Pretty good ad, except that Kurt Warner looks like he's been arrested.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 2:22 PM


Joblessness, discrimination plague France a year after riots (Cecile Brisson, Ottawa Citizen, October 24th, 2006)

Any jobseeker in France’s down-and-out housing projects knows that if you want work, it’s better to be named Alain than Mohamed.

Unemployment is still a major obstacle for French minorities a year after riots ravaged poor districts and exposed deep-rooted anger over racism and alienation.

Labour Minister Jean-Louis Borloo said in a recent interview that discrimination is “considerable,” especially against those of North African and African origin. He conceded that it will take years before government efforts to redress a failure to integrate its immigrants produce results.

“There are 40 years of failure to make up for,” he told Associated Press Television News. In rough neighbourhoods, he said, “We distribute rage instead of diplomas.”

Joblessness in those areas is often more than double the countrywide level of nine per cent. Among men of Algerian origin, for example, unemployment is 23 per cent, according to the Inequality Observatory, an independent research group. Among disadvantaged youth, the figure soars to nearly 50 per cent.

As Mark Steyn quipped, it’s not easy to summon up a lot of or energy for jihad after putting in a long day at the auto repair shop or hospital emergency roon.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:17 PM


A Return to Triangulation: Republicans need to reach out to the libertarian center (David Boaz & David Kirby, 10/25/06, National Review)

Since as early as 2001, Rove’s campaign strategy has been based on the faulty premise of polarization. On this view, we’re a country split down the middle: Red versus blue, liberal versus conservative. With fewer true independents and swing voters, elections are supposed to be won by turnout of the base. Guided by pollster Matthew Dowd, Rove has opted for narrow electoral victories that ignore the small group of voters in the center and concentrate instead on the base.

But new polling data demonstrate that Rove’s premise is wrong. In our analysis of data from Pew, Gallup, and American National Election Studies, we find that the terrorism issue has masked an otherwise large swing of independent voters away from the Republican party from 2000 to 2004.

These independents are largely libertarian: They are fiscally conservative and socially liberal on a series of general questions about the role of government. According to our research, about 15 percent of American voters hold libertarian views—about the same share of the electorate as the “religious right,” and a larger share than the fabled “soccer moms” and “NASCAR dads.” Our analysis shows that, in 2004, the libertarian vote for Bush dropped from 72 to 59 percent, while the libertarian vote for the Democratic nominee almost doubled. Republicans’ margin among the libertarian swing vote thus narrowed by 31 points.

Republicans have spent the past six years pushing libertarian swing voters away. President Bush’s record on federal spending, the war in Iraq, expansion of entitlements, executive authority, the federal marriage amendment, and civil liberties have held little appeal for libertarians. Moreover, by emphasizing turnout of social conservatives and promoting a “values agenda,” Republicans have further antagonized libertarians, who should be a key part of the Republican coalition.

Alienating libertarians and wooing conservatives -- not least Latinos -- moved W from a loss to Al Gore in 2000 to a comfortable victory over John Kerry in '04 but the GOP should toss the religious over the side?

The best thing that could happen to the Republican Party is for these marginal amoralists of the Right to switch to the Democrats and, in return, religious blacks, Latinos, jews, etc. to switch to the GOP.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:59 AM


Humans Living Far Beyond Planet's Means (Ben Blanchard, 25 October, 2006, Reuters)

Humans are stripping nature at an unprecedented rate and will need two planets' worth of natural resources every year by 2050 on current trends, the WWF conservation group said on Tuesday.

How did Julian Simon find someone stupid enough to bet real money on this idiocy?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:37 AM


The House Elections (Michael Barone, 10/25/06, US News)

People are always asking me, Which party is going to win the House elections? The answer is, I don't know. We have very many more publicly released polls than we used to have, and therefore more basis for making estimates. But they're still just estimates, subject to error. I've had a pretty good, but far from perfect, record of predicting election results in the past.

In any case, I decided to address the issue today, by looking at individual races, those with polling information and those without, and making my own best estimate of who would win if the election were held today. I used the Real Clear Politics list of 50 House races in play. And I decided to take the plunge of classifying each of the 45 seats in the list that are currently held by Republicans as sure Democratic, lean Democratic, lean Republican, or sure Republican. I didn't include a tossup category, which pretty much guarantees that some seats I place in the Republican column will end up Democratic and some I place in the Democratic column will end up Republican. I've consulted the polls but haven't treated them mechanically: Some pollsters I believe more than others, and I take some account of possible trends away from or toward an incumbent. Anyway, here goes... [...]

My predictions would produce an almost evenly divided House: 219 Democrats, a net gain of 16, and 216 Republicans. Such a result would raise the question of whether Mississippi Democrat Gene Taylor, who declined to vote for Nancy Pelosi for speaker in this Congress, would do so again, and whether another Democrat might do so—which could produce a Republican majority for speaker. My predictions also suggest, correctly, that I do not see this, at least yet, as a "wave" election.

If nothing else, a divide that close either way would give us all a two year break from Washington doing anything meaningful. They might as well just pass continuing resolutions for the budget and go home.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:23 AM


Pumpkin French 75 (Nicole Tsong, 10/25/06, Seattle Times)

Pumpkin French 75

1 ounce pumpkin butter

1 ounce gin

1.5 ounces fresh lemon juice

1.5 ounces simple syrup


Blend of cinnamon, sugar and nutmeg for rim

Mix all ingredients except champagne in a pint glass filled with ice, shake. Strain into champagne flute, top with champagne.

Do folks drink these while they watch Grey's Anatomy?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:37 AM


Pie in the Sky?: As Battle of Britain Day approaches Brian James has been finding out why some of today’s leading military historians argue that it was not the RAF but the Royal Navy that saved Britain in 1940. (Brian James, September 2006, History Today)

In fact it is almost impossible to come up with a creditable scenario in which a German invasion could have sustained itself so long as the navy existed.

Andrew Gordon says that by September 1940 the German army – which ‘didn’t have a clue how you scale up the technique they used for river-crossings to tackle swift tidal waters’ – now had an excuse, like the navy, to blame the Luftwaffe. It had failed to deliver on Goering’s boast. ‘No great defeat in the air for the RAF?…ah ha! Therefore, sorry, no invasion.’

Why did Hitler go through the motions of assembling barge-fleets and so on? ‘To try to make Churchill be reasonable. Hitler would have offered very easy terms rather than let the fight go on.’ Did Churchill truly believe invasion was possible? ‘He was fairly frank in his books. Part of his defiance was a hook to draw the Americans in. Part was hype to keep the British public behind him. And hype to keep the trade unions quiet – the last six months in 1940 was the only time in WW2 that Churchill had no trouble with trade unions.’

Some historians have always tried to explode the myths surrounding the Battle of Britain, particularly that the RAF was outnumbered. In a detailed account of events (Battle of Britain Day, September 15th, 1940, 1999) Alfred Price pointed out that on that day the RAF twice put around 250 fighters into the air – and still used less than half its available strength, against a Germany that used every fighter it possessed. The losses that day – 56 German (compared with the 185 claimed at the time) against 29 RAF – convinced the Luftwaffe it was not winning. In 1990 Clive Ponting showed that while Britain had 644 fighters against Germany’s 725 at the beginning of the battle, by October superior British production methods had changed the balance in Britain’s favour. But what of the fliers? 30 per cent of our trained pilots, Ponting claimed, were tied down in desk jobs throughout the conflict.

Then why did the myth of outnumbered heroes and a nation about to be swamped take such hold – and resist amendment? Social historian Angus Calder has one answer:

My sister lived through 1940 and she knows that every single day was sunny – no matter what meteorological records say. We had a need for heroes in 1940, the process of myth-building was absolutely necessary – myths are facts which circumstances needed to create. At that time they enabled Britain to feel stronger than it was – producing the men who stopped the Nazis in their tracks. So who now wants to know that the Luftwaffe lost fewer men in fighter aircraft than did the RAF? If it was necessary in 1940 to believe in our military heroes, later it became doubly necessary as our colonies fell away.

The funny thing is that no one believes the patently absurd myth more blindly than we colonials.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:22 AM


Clinton, McCain: Irresistable and Unstoppable (JOHN BATCHELOR, October 25, 2006, NY Sun)

"He who is not against us is for us," the Gospel of Mark observes. This is as succinct a statement as exists of the stealthy and smart presidential contest already under way between the junior senator from New York and the senior senator from Arizona.

Of 300 million Americans, startlingly few don't know who Hillary Clinton and John McCain are, and even fewer are against both of them, which, after Mark, means that we are overwhelmingly for them. As a couple, they are already in royal purple. As rivals, we approach a smash-up that will match Lord and Lady Macbeth.

An appetizing new book, "The Way to Win: Taking the White House in 2008," from two veteran White House watchers, Mark Halpern of ABC News and John Harris of the Washington Post, overflows with advice to the start-up candidate for the presidency, and it elucidates the electioneering of Bill Clinton and George Bush. But the heart of the book is celebration of the fact that Mrs. Clinton and Mr. McCain are irresistible and unstoppable.

If the Democrats were to win the Senate it would be a disaster for Ms Clinton, who'd be forced to vote on all the little pet projects of the Left that she's been able to avoid taking a stand on for six years. Meanwhile, John McCain would be handed all kinds of opportunities to posture against such bills, restoring his cred on the Right.

Who Knew Democrats Could Not Spend? (ANDREW FERGUSON, October 25, 2006, NY Sun)

In this space a few weeks ago, I stuck out my wattled neck and declared, with the kind of confidence only political columnists can summon, that the Democratic Party is busy developing policy ideas about how to run the government — assuming, of course, its members win control of Congress next month.

And ever since, I've been looking for further evidence that my confidence was well-placed.

I've come up empty. Hoping to find a new version of the GOP's winning "Contract with America" in 1994, I've found instead that this year's Democratic campaigns for Congress are essentially negative — against the war in Iraq above all.

"I'm not a Republican" seems to be a sufficient argument to wow voters at the moment, and who can blame them?

A substance-free strategy in this season of discontent may be smart politically. And it's tactically efficient. But it also helps explain a curious anomaly in many polls: As approval ratings for congressional Republicans fall, congressional Democrats haven't enjoyed a corresponding rise the way Republicans did against their Democratic counterparts before the 1994 election.

It's hard, in other words, to build positive ratings without a positive message. Next year and beyond, Democrats may come to regret they didn't have one.

The only reason a political party in a democratic society remains silent about what it wants to do is because it knows the voters are opposed.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:20 AM


Face Facts (LAWRENCE M. WEIN, 10/25/06, NY Times)

Our government must draw up a plan for educating the public about effective nonpharmaceutical interventions like hand washing and face protection like masks.

A prerequisite for doing so is determining the biggest culprit in spreading influenza: droplet transmission, in which an infected person sneezes or coughs directly into the mouth, nose or eyes of someone who is susceptible); contact transmission, in which virus is transferred via hands either directly, say, through a handshake, or indirectly through an object like a doorknob; and aerosol transmission, in which evaporated virus-containing particles are inhaled.

Remarkably, this issue has not been resolved: the Department of Health and Human Services’ Pandemic Influenza Plan states that “the relative clinical importance of each of these modes of transmission is not known.” As a result, the government enthusiastically endorses frequent hand washing — which would reduce contact transmission, and costs nothing — but remains noncommittal about face protection. While the government says that it might be beneficial, it doesn’t make respirators or masks available. Yet face protection would guard against aerosol and droplet transmission, and even reduce contact transmission by making it difficult to place fingers into one’s mouth or nose.

He's playing right into terrorists' hands.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:11 AM


Going Down the Tube (WARREN KOZAK, October 25, 2006, NY Sun)

A television executive is walking on the beach when the devil appears with an offer. "I will give you the number one show that will blow out the competition for five, no make that ten seasons in a row," the devil tells him, "but in payment I want your soul, your children's souls and the souls of your children's children." The television fellow sizes up the devil with a curious look and asks, "What's the catch?"

It's an old joke, but it may need updating. Last week, NBC announced that it would substantially cut spending both in its prime-time entertainment division, where it would look for lower-cost programming, and in its news division. Expect a lot more game shows — which may or may not be an improvement. NBC is simply acknowledging the truth about today's network economics. Instead of walking around like the zombies in "Night of the Living Dead," NBC is the first of the big three to admit that the old world is over. CBS and ABC will, no doubt, follow its lead.

Call it the ultimate in reality TV. Gone are the days when the three networks competed among themselves for the entire national audience. Over the past 25 years, they have watched their shares of that audience melt away as cable, movies on demand, and the Internet have drawn the public's fancy. In turn, we have watched a downward spiral of quality coming into our living rooms.

These networks have been broadcasting for fifty years now--they have entire libraries full of quality programming that no one has seen in decades. Not only that, but they could buy or trade with the BBC and other foreign networks for their libraries full. Instead of making a conscious effort to produce cheap crap, why not try putting on cheap quality? Heck, I bet you could just make one night of the week your NFL night and show old games, which just happen to be three hours and would fill primetime. You'd get more young men watching that than any of this new junk.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:06 AM


ABC's Woodruff at work on book, special (Miami Herald, 10/25/06)

ABC's Bob Woodruff is working on a prime-time special and, with his wife, a book about his painstaking recovery since being seriously hurt by a roadside bomb in Iraq in January, the network said last week.

The ABC News special, expected to be Woodruff's first on-camera appearance since his injuries, is planned for next spring.

Woodruff will interview eyewitnesses and the medical team that saved his life on Jan. 29, the network said. He will also focus on the military's medical recovery teams and the stories of other injured soldiers from Iraq and their families. [...]

Random House will publish the memoir by Woodruff and his wife, Lee, as they discuss how their family was affected by the injury.

Mutual friends report that he's doing unbelievably much better than anyone would have imagined possible at the time of the attack.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:02 AM


Unmasking a False Gospel (BRUCE CHILTON, October 25, 2006, NY Sun)

For more than four decades, New Testament scholars have been discussing the "Secret Gospel of Mark." In 1960 Morton Smith, a professor at Columbia University, announced the existence of this document at a meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature, a year and a half after he said he found it in a monastic library near Jerusalem. Press coverage proved wide and instantaneous, because "Secret Mark" climaxes with an evocative image: A young man who wore only "a linen cloth over his naked body" spends the night with Jesus, who "taught him the mystery of the kingdom of God." That proved too good a lure to pass up: What reader of the Gospels could fail to wonder whether Jesus engaged in the sexually charged initiation that "Secret Mark" describes? Smith himself, a homosexual at a time when homophobia ran high, had little doubt.

That controversy got in the way of resolving complications that should have been sorted out from the beginning, because this text is not an ancient manuscript at all. [...]

Since Smith's alleged discovery and its endorsement by neo-Gnostics, "Secret Mark" has influenced a generation of scholars and found a big popular audience. Within the "Jesus Seminar," which claims to be searching for the historical Jesus, John Dominic Crossan championed "Secret Mark" as authentic, making it a cornerstone in his portrait of Jesus as a deliberately anti-conventional philosopher in the style of the Greek Cynics. Helmut Koester at Harvard has even claimed that "Secret Mark" is an earlier version of the Gospel according to Mark in the New Testament. Elaine Pagels wrote a glowing foreword for a reprint of Smith's book for Dawn Horse Press, the publishing wing of a movement guided by the self-designated Avatar Adi Da Samraj, who claimed to continue Jesus's sexually liberating practices.

To untangle the claims about "Secret Mark," scholars need to ask themselves whether Clement of Alexandria wrote the letter, then whether Clement got Carpocrates's teaching straight, and then — and only then — whether "Secret Mark" tells us anything about Jesus and the formation of the Gospels. But reactions to the image of a homoerotic Jesus shortcircuited common sense as well as sound professional judgment four decades ago, and continue to do so today.

Partisan scholars opposed to "Secret Mark," for the most part conservative evangelicals, have dismissed the document and those who support its picture as "radical fringe." Because they often do so before dealing with any evidence, they inevitably seem uncritically defensive of orthodox Christianity. Proponents of "Secret Mark," on the other hand, have contended that Carpocrates's teaching represents an early version of Mark, prior to what is in the New Testament, and that Jesus and his followers engaged in esoteric — and sexual — practices.

A recent book by Stephen C. Carlson shows us how the basics of scholarship were eclipsed by sensationalism on the left, compounded by willful dismissal on the right, and why "Secret Mark" needs to be seen as a fraud. In "The Gospel Hoax: Morton Smith's Invention of Secret Mark" (Baylor University Press, 151 pages, $24.95), Mr. Carlson, a lawyer, argues his case as if in a civil proceeding, meeting the test of proof by preponderance of evidence, rather than beyond a reasonable doubt. He has mastered his brief impressively, and although in my view he does not quite prove that Smith was a forger, he does demonstrate — within the limits of certainty that incomplete evidence involves — that "Secret Mark" is someone's forgery, and that Smith, who died in 1991, was the likely culprit.

When the facts don't fit your whims you have to glue the moth to the tree.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:57 AM


The GOP Leans on A Proven Strategy: White House Courts Conservative Base (Peter Baker, 10/25/06, Washington Post)

Beset by discouraging polls and division within ideological ranks, the White House is accelerating efforts to woo back disaffected conservatives and energize the Republican base in a reprise of a strategy that succeeded in the last two campaign cycles.

President Bush and Vice President Cheney have given multiple interviews to conservative journalists, senior adviser Karl Rove has telephoned religious and social activists, and the White House has staged signing ceremonies for legislation cracking down on terrorism and illegal immigration. Two weeks before Election Day, Bush aides invited dozens of radio talk show hosts for a marathon broadcast from the White House yesterday to reach conservative listeners. [...]

Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform and a close Rove associate, said the White House team is blanketing the conservative circuit. "They're out there, they're talking to people, they're at our meetings," he said. "This is a full-court press." Norquist dismissed conservatives who are threatening to stay home on Election Day: "They're not doing anything other than whining."

Mid-terms, even more than presidentials, are just about turnout and we still don't see how Democrats generate high turnout with the economy booming.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:45 AM


Vietnam’s Roaring Economy Is Set for World Stage (KEITH BRADSHER, 10/25/06, NY TIMES)

Nearly four decades ago, South Vietnamese leaders mapped out their battle plans inside the presidential palace here. When they lost the war, the palace became the base for the Ho Chi Minh City People’s Committee, which worked to impose tight Communist control.

But in September it was the scene of a very different gathering: a board meeting of the Hongkong and Shanghai Bank.

In the three decades since Vietnam has gone from communism to a form of capitalism, it has begun surpassing many neighbors. It has Asia’s second-fastest-growing economy, with 8.4 percent growth last year, trailing only China’s, and the pace of exports to the United States is rising faster than even China’s.

American companies like Intel and Nike, and investors across the region, are pouring billions of dollars into the country; overseas Vietnamese are returning to run the ventures.

Even Ted Kennedy couldn't prevent the End of History from reaching Vietnam.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:16 AM


Covering Iraq: The Modern Way of War Correspondence (Michael Fumento, November 7, 2006, National Review)

Ramadi, Iraq

Would you trust a Hurricane Katrina report datelined “direct from Detroit”? Or coverage of the World Trade Center attack from Chicago? Why then should we believe a Time Magazine investigation of the Haditha killings that was reported not from Haditha but from Baghdad? Or a Los Angeles Times article on a purported Fallujah-like attack on Ramadi reported by four journalists in Baghdad and one in Washington? Yet we do, essentially because we have no choice. A war in a country the size of California is essentially covered from a single city. Plug the name of Iraqi cities other than Baghdad into Google News and you’ll find that time and again the reporters are in Iraq’s capital, nowhere near the scene. Capt. David Gramling, public affairs officer for the unit I’m currently embedded with, puts it nicely: “I think it would be pretty hard to report on Baghdad from out here.” Welcome to the not-so-brave new world of Iraq war correspondence.

Vietnam was the first war to give us reporting in virtually real time. Iraq is the first to give us virtual reporting. That doesn’t necessarily make it biased against the war; it does make it biased against the truth.

During my three embeds in Iraq’s vicious Anbar Province, I’ve been mortared and sniped at, and have dodged machine-gun fire — all of which has given me a serious contempt for the rear-echelon reporters. When I appeared on the Al Franken Show in May, after my second embed, it was with former CNN Baghdad bureau chief Jane Arraf — who complained about the dangers of being shot down by a missile while landing in Baghdad, and the dangers of the airport road to the International Zone (IZ) . . . and how awful the Baghdad hotels were.
Descent into Hell?

Most rear-echelon reporters seem to have studied the same handbook, perhaps The Dummies’ Guide to Faux Bravado. It usually begins with the horrific entry into Baghdad International Airport. Time’s Baghdad bureau chief, Aparisim Ghosh, in an August 2006 cover story, devotes five long paragraphs to the alleged horror of landing there.

It’s “the world’s scariest landing,” he insists, as if he were an expert on all the landings of all the planes at all the world’s airports and military airfields. It’s “a steep, corkscrewing plunge,” a “spiraling dive, straightening up just yards from the runway. If you’re looking out the window, it can feel as if the plane is in a free fall from which it can’t possibly pull out.” Writes Ghosh, “During one especially difficult landing in 2004, a retired American cop wouldn't stop screaming ‘Oh, God! Oh, God!’ I finally had to slap him on the face – on instructions from the flight attendant.”

The Associated Press gave us a whole article on the subject, titled “A hair-raising flight into Baghdad,” referring to “a stomach-churning series of tight, spiraling turns that pin passengers deep in their seats.”

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:08 AM


So far, it's well worth watching: The Tigers-Cardinals matchup wasn't exactly what viewers or networks had hoped for, but there's been no shortage of intrigue in Games One and Two. (MIKE FITZPATRICK, 10/24/06, Associated Press)

Pitching to Albert Pujols, chasing Christy Mathewson, and Smudgegate.

Hey, this ain't so bad!

Turns out, the World Series that nobody wanted has been pretty entertaining so far. In the first two games alone there was enough controversy, questionable strategy and conspiracy talk to keep Oliver Stone and Michael Moore happy.

Plus, it won't be a sweep, which is a major step up from the past two years.

All right, so the St. Louis Cardinals and Detroit Tigers aren't exactly the sexiest teams in baseball. They're short on stars, they never wear pinstripes and they don't believe in age-old curses.

But there's all kinds of intriguing stuff going on here.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:06 AM

...AND HEALTHIER... (via Tom Morin):

Coming Soon: Fried Purple Tomatoes (The Associated Press, 21 October 2006)

Oregon State University researchers are fine-tuning a purple tomato, a new blend of colors and nutrients. The skin is as dark as an eggplant. But it doesn't just look cool, it could be better for you.

The novel pigment contains the same phytochemical found in blueberries that is thought to reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease.

Six years in the making, the purple hybrid could hit salad plates in two years.

Genetic origins are not at issue. The purple tomato traces its roots to a wild species in South America, not a petri dish.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:03 AM


Labour support at lowest level since Thatcher's last election victory (Julian Glover, October 25, 2006, The Guardian)

Support for Labour has dropped to its lowest level in almost 20 years with the Conservatives opening up a potentially election-winning 10-point lead, according to a Guardian/ICM poll published today.

Labour has the backing of only 29% of voters, equal to its lowest-ever level of support in a Guardian/ICM poll - recorded in May 1987, a month before Margaret Thatcher won a third term. [...]

The poll, carried out last weekend, follows David Cameron's attack on NHS cuts as well as the publication last week of a party report advocating tax cuts of £21bn.

The results suggest that campaigning on the NHS offers the Tories potential gains, with an overwhelming majority of voters believing that the record sums being spent on health by the government have largely being wasted.

Similarly, because Bill Clinton did not even try to reform SS, the GOP, for whom the issue had once been toxic, won three consecutive elections running on it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Allegedly abused pit bull in felony bestiality case may be put down (Jennifer Sullivan, 10/25/06, Seattle Times)

Pierce County Animal Control officials say a 4-year-old pit bull at the center of an alleged case of felony bestiality will likely be euthanized, prompting an outcry from animal-welfare groups.

The pit bull, named Sara, has been kept in isolation at the Humane Society of Tacoma & Pierce County since shortly after a woman told police she photographed her husband having sex with the animal in the couple's Spanaway yard.

October 24, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:54 PM


Cosmic Rays Linked to Global Warming (Sara Goudarzi, 23 October 2006, LiveScience)

Earth's recent warming trend might in part be due to a lack of starlight reaching our planet, a new study suggests. But other scientists are not so sure.

According to a theory proposed a decade ago, when a star explodes far away in the Milky Way, cosmic rays—high-speed atomic particles—go through the Earth’s atmosphere and produce ions and free electrons.

The released electrons act as catalysts and accelerate the formation of small clusters of sulfuric acid and water molecules, the building blocks of clouds. Therefore, cosmic rays would increase cloud cover on Earth, reflecting sunlight and keeping the planet relatively cool.

However, because the Sun’s magnetic field—which shields the Earth from these rays—doubled in intensity during the last century, there has been a reduction in cloudiness, a possible contributor to Earth’s warming.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:52 PM


The Killers 'offended' by Green Day: Brandon Flowers doesn't want to be an 'American Idiot' (New Music Express, 10/25/06)

Brandon Flowers has criticised Green Day for what he sees as their calculated anti-Americanism.

In particular, Flowers singled out the track 'American Idiot' and the fact they filmed their DVD 'Bullet In A Bible', which features the song, in the UK.

"You have Green Day and 'American Idiot'. Where do they film their DVD? In England," The Killers' frontman told The Word. "A bunch of kids screaming 'I don't want to be an American idiot' I saw it as a very negative thing towards Americans. It really lit a fire in me." [...]

The Killers' frontman said he believed that his band's new album 'Sam's Town' is a much better representation of America.

Don't get him started on the Dixie Chicks....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:43 PM


Schröder targets role of religion in America (Judy Dempsey, October 22, 2006, International Herald Tribune)

Schröder said he was "anything but anti-American, even though he openly challenged U.S. policy in Iraq. In the Der Spiegel interview, he described how he had tears in his eyes as he watched the events of Sept. 11, 2001, on television. "It was important to me that Germany fulfill its requirements as an ally," he said.

But when it came to the planning for the Iraq war, Schröder, referring to Bush, told Der Spiegel that "if a person adopts a policy based on what he gleans from his prayers, in other words, a personal talk with God, it can lead to difficulties in democracy."

Schröder went on to criticize the growing role of religion in U.S. politics.

"We rightly criticize that in most Islamic states, the role of religion for society and the character of the role of law are not clearly separated," he said. "But we fail to recognize that in the U.S.A., the Christian fundamentalists and their interpretation of the Bible have similar tendencies."

It's helkpful that he ties together secular European Islamophobia and Christophobia, but he leaves out the anti-Semitism.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:35 PM


One of FBI's 'Most Wanted Terrorists' confirmed dead (CNN, 10/24/06)

An al Qaeda operative wanted in connection with the 1998 U.S. Embassy bombings was killed in April in Pakistan, American officials have confirmed.

Pakistani officials had said that Muhsin Musa Matwalli Atwah was killed in North Waziristan during an airstrike by Pakistani forces near the border with Afghanistan.

DNA testing confirmed the Pakistani government's claim, U.S. officials said, and Atwah's name was removed from the FBI's list of Most Wanted Terrorists.

Atwah, 42, was born in Egypt. He was indicted in connection with al Qaeda's suicide bombings of U.S. embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. The attacks killed 224 people, including 12 Americans.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:11 PM


Will the Union see its 300th birthday? (Alan Cochrane, 25/10/2006, Daily Telegraph)

Is the United Kingdom heading for fragmentation with the secession of Scotland from the Union, even as it prepares to celebrate its 300th anniversary next year? And if it is, should those who make up the vast bulk of its population - the English - give a damn?

The questions arise following a series of astonishing events, beginning 10 days ago when nearly 1,200 delegates packed the new Concert Hall in Perth - the biggest gathering at a political conference that Scotland has seen in recent memory - to hear Alex Salmond, the leader of the Scottish National Party, deliver his keynote address to his annual conference. His strident call for the break-up of the United Kingdom was cheered to the echo by his adoring audience.

Nothing new there, but what was surprising was what happened next. Two days later, Sir Tom Farmer, the founder of the Kwik Fit chain of exhaust and tyre depots, told the world that Scottish independence was "inevitable".

His words followed hard on the heels of the announcement by this self-same self-made man that he was donating £100,000 to the SNP's coffers to help it fight next year's elections to the Edinburgh parliament. He is not alone. Thanks to big donations from emigré Scots, the most famous of all being Sir Sean Connery, the nationalists reckon that they will have at least as much to spend next May as Labour.

On the same day as Sir Tom's prediction came another extraordinary intervention, not from a captain of industry, but a prince of the church - Cardinal Keith O'Brien, spiritual leader of Scotland's 800,000 Roman Catholics. The Ulster-born cardinal said that he would have no problem with an independent Scotland, if that was the will of its people and, significantly at least in the eyes of this observer, he pointed out that other small nations - such as Ireland - had done exceptionally well since gaining their independence.

Although they insist that it is not entering the political arena, the Roman Catholic hierarchy in Scotland enjoys a decidedly rocky relationship with Scottish Labour, lambasting the devolved administration for what it sees as the Scottish Executive's "anti-family" policies, such as those on same-sex "marriages", gay adoption and contraceptive advice to under-age schoolgirls. Neither Sir Tom nor Cardinal O'Brien has endorsed the SNP, but their espousal of independence has confirmed the growing trend towards separatism.

The interesting thing is not the truism that separation is inevitable, but that this is the exact opposite of the sort of European Union that intellectual elites thought was inevitable.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:53 PM


Visiting Iraq oil minister sees stability by late '07 (Japan Times, 10/25/06)

Iraq will see drastic changes in the security situation and many foreign troops will be able to leave the conflict-ravaged country by the end of 2007, the Iraqi oil minister said Tuesday in Tokyo.

Hussain al-Shahristani, who arrived Sunday for a three-day visit, did not say when he expects U.S. troops to leave. But he said the Iraqi government is recruiting young men to take charge of security from foreign troops.

Speaking at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan, al-Shahristani also urged Japanese and other foreign companies to invest more to tap Iraq's rich oil and gas resources. He said the government will target an increase in crude oil production of 4 million barrels a day by 2010 from 2.5 million barrels now.

Depending on how much progress is made developing new oil fields in the north, Iraq, with cooperation from foreign companies, will further push up capacity to 6 million barrels a day by as early as 2012, al-Shahristani said.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:42 PM


Never mind altruism: 'Saving the earth' can mean big bucks: Some $1 trillion in 'green' business opportunities await creative entrepreneurs, a report finds (Mark Rice-Oxley, 10/25/06, The Christian Science Monitor)

As the international community faces costs in the trillions to address climate change, businessmen are increasingly becoming aware that changing the world - its fuels, technologies, energy sources, and waste disposal practices - can be an opportunity as well as a cost.

For small- and medium-sized British companies, it could mean $55 billion worth of business opportunities over the coming decade, according to a new report commissioned by oil giant Shell UK. And globally, the market could be worth $1 trillion over the next five years, the report found. Such conclusions challenge President Bush's assertion that adopting the Kyoto Protocol, which compels signatories to cut greenhouse gases, would seriously damage America's economy.

In fact, it's doubtful cutting emissions would do much for the environment, but it would give the economy a good goose.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:34 PM

LADY MARMALADE (via Bill Teague):

Marmite is toast of the art world (Metro uk, October 23, 2006)

IT'S an entirely new genre of art dubbed 'Marmart' – and, like the yeast extract spread, you'll either love it or hate it.

Creator Dermot Flynn is exhibiting his portraits of celebrities on pieces of toast daubed with Marmite, that notorious divider of opinion. The idea is that they are all people Britons either loathe or adore.

Is there any straight male who doesn't prefer the Iron Lady slathered in jam?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:16 PM

David Zucker's next political ad is out and on YouTube.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:05 PM


Hellboy Animated on Cartoon Network: Sword of Storms Debuts October 28 (ICv.2, August 14, 2006)

The Hellboy animated feature, Sword of Storms, will debut on the Cartoon Network on October 28th, months before it becomes available on DVD on February 6th. Sword of Storms finds the BPRD enforcer immersed in Japanese folklore and it should fit in perfectly with the both the Cartoon Network's penchant for all things Japanese (anime) and the Toon Net's traditional pre-Halloween horror and supernatural-based programming.

Even the Cartoon Network site doesn't have any info posted about this, but Entertainment Weekly just gave it a good review.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:00 PM


UPDATE: paper airplanes, paperback launches (Robert Ferrigno, 10/24/06, Robert's Blog)

If you’re reading this, you’ve proably already bought the hardback of Prayers.

I just want to say THANKS

Prayers, originally dubbed “career suicide” by my long-time agent and rejected by my long-time publisher, went on to become a New York Times and LA Times best-seller, and the most sucessful book I’ve ever written. My new (Scribner) publisher’s decision to promote the book almost exclusively through blogs led to over 200 blogs covering the book: news blogs, political blogs of every description, here, here, religious blogs, 2nd Amendment blogs, smart guy blogs, military blogs. Mark Steyn is a category all his own. I also got lots of hate mail, which I confess, I enjoy. Every major newspaper in the US and the UK covered the book, along with the Times of India,.

As of today, foreign rights have been sold to:
Mainland China
Thailand (we’ll see if I get paid after the military coup)

What’s interesting about this is that most of these countries have never bought any of my eight previous books. Even more interesting to me is that Italy, France and Germany, where publishers have bought all my previous books immediately rejected Prayers, citing the fear of lawsuits or worse. France and Italy have strict laws against publications that “insult” religion, the same laws that entangled Orianna Fallaci, the most courageous journalist I’ve ever read, may she rest in peace. The fact that Muslim countries like Turkey and Egypt found nothing in Prayers that insulted their faith evidently was not persuasive. Fear eats the soul.

Based on the strong sales of the hardback, my publisher has rushed out the mass-market paperback from Pocket Books, available NOW. If you’ve already read it, I urge you to tell your friends to buy it, then you can borrow it and read the first two teaser chapters of the followup included at the back of the book.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:37 PM


'Paris Syndrome' leaves tourists in shock: Japanese visitors found to suffer from psychiatric phenomenon (Reuters, 10/23/06)

Around a dozen Japanese tourists a year need psychological treatment after visiting Paris as the reality of unfriendly locals and scruffy streets clashes with their expectations, a newspaper reported on Sunday.

"A third of patients get better immediately, a third suffer relapses and the rest have psychoses," Yousef Mahmoudia, a psychologist at the Hotel-Dieu hospital, next to Notre Dame cathedral, told the newspaper Journal du Dimanche. [...]

"Fragile travelers can lose their bearings. When the idea they have of the country meets the reality of what they discover it can provoke a crisis," psychologist Herve Benhamou told the paper.

The phenomenon, which the newspaper dubbed "Paris Syndrome", was first detailed in the psychiatric journal Nervure in 2004.

A psychosis caused by an inability to reconcile the rhetoric and the reality would explain the French.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:29 PM


Airbus to ask board to approve A350 XWB in November, but delays supplier strategy briefing (Guy Norris, 10/24/06, Flight International)

Flight International understands that major systems and engine suppliers that were originally intending to travel to Toulouse for Airbus's regular six-monthly future products strategic planning meeting around mid-November have been told to cancel. "They have no strategic plan at the moment," says one key supplier, which does not want to be identified. [...]

In an interview last week with French daily newspaper La Dépêche du Midi, Gallois said that the Airbus Power 8 cost-cutting plan created by his predecessor Christian Streiff would be needed "even without the A380 problems...simply to tackle the weakness of the dollar". He added that the weak dollar has resulted in Airbus losing "20% of our competitiveness to Boeing since the launch of the A380 programme in 2000", and that the "very future of Airbus is in the balance" without the cost-cutting effort.

Get used to that notion: "...even without the A380..."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:39 PM


Separate classes for boys, girls OK'd (ASSOCIATED PRESS, October 24, 2006)

The Bush administration is giving public schools wider latitude to teach boys and girls separately in what is considered the biggest change to coed classrooms in more than three decades.

After a two-year wait, the Education Department issued final rules today detailing how it will enforce the Title IX landmark anti-discrimination law. Under the change taking effect Nov. 24, local school leaders will have discretion to create same-sex classes for subjects such as math, a grade level or even an entire school.

"Some students may learn better in single-sex education environments," Education Secretary Margaret Spellings said. "These final regulations permit communities to establish single-sex schools and classes as another means of meeting the needs of students."

By the time the Right figures out we've won powdered wigs will be back in fashion...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:23 AM


Qatar extends unprecedented invitation to Israeli FM (Albawaba, 24-10-2006)

Foreign israel Tzipi LivniIn what has been labeled by some a “breakthrough” in Middle East political relations, Qatar on Tuesday extended an invitation to Israel’s Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni to visit the Arab nation for the first time. [...]

Last year, relations between the two countries began to show signs of warming when the foreign minister at the time, Silvan Shalom, met with Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jasam al-Thani, in New York at the United Nations headquarters.

Qatar at the time revealed that it was contemplating establishing open diplomatic relations with Israel.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:45 AM


Born to restyle
(ALEXANDRA GILL, 10/19/06, Globe and Mail

Last time we checked their look in the mirror, when the Killers were riding high on Hot Fuss (their debut album, which shot out of nowhere to sell five million copies worldwide), they were wearing eyeliner, channelling the Cures with glittery new-wave pop tempos and being touted as the best British band this side of the Atlantic.

For Sam's Town, the band's highly anticipated follow-up — which made its debut at No. 1 on the Canadian Nielsen Soundscan chart last week — the group has grown handlebar mustaches, metaphorically jumped behind the wheel of a Chevy, cranked up the bass and reinvented itself as an all-American, anthem-sized rock ‘n' roll guitar band.

To almost anyone who will listen, Flowers has been gushing praise for Bruce Springsteen, explaining how his new-found appreciation for Born in the USA played a major part in the metamorphosis.

He also boasted to the British music weekly NME that Sam's Town was “one of the best albums of the past 20 years.”

This startling self-confidence, combined with the immodest references to rock's biggest icons (Flowers has also referenced U2, Oasis and Queen), unleashed a critical hammering. Rolling Stone's Rob Sheffield said the Killers “leave no pompous arena cliché untweaked”; Entertainment Weekly's Jody Rosen said the album plays like “a parody of rock bombast”; and in The New York Times, Sia Michel called it “a classic case of a young band overreaching to assert its significance.”

Flowers is unrepentant.

“I'm not ashamed of how much I love [Springsteen],” the 25-year-old singer says backstage before the Vancouver concert.

Hot Fuss was terrific, but you can't blame them for tiring of being The Cure--the makeup and hairstyling alone must take hours a day.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:38 AM

PLAYING CATCH UP (via Tom Morin):

One University Under God? (Stanley Fish, 1/07/05, The Chronicle Review)

In every sector of American life, religion is transgressing the boundary between private and public and demanding to be heard in precincts that only a short while ago would have politely shown it the door.

And the academy is finally catching up. Not that religion has been absent from the university as an object of study. Courses like "The Bible as Literature" and "The American Puritan Experience" have been staples in the curriculum for a long time, as have related courses on the civil wars in 17th-century England and the religious poetry (formerly called "metaphysical") of the same period.

The history of religion has always been a growth industry in academe and has brought along with it the anthropology of religion, the sociology of religion, the economics of religion, the politics of religion, religious art, religious music, religious mysticism, religion and capitalism, religion and law, religion and medicine, and so forth.

But it is one thing to take religion as an object of study and another to take religion seriously. To take religion seriously would be to regard it not as a phenomenon to be analyzed at arm's length, but as a candidate for the truth. In liberal theory, however, the category of truth has been reserved for hypotheses that take their chances in the "marketplace of ideas."

Religious establishments will typically resist the demand that basic tenets of doctrine be submitted to the test of deliberative reason. (The assertion that Christ is risen is not one for which evidence pro and con is adduced in a juridical setting.) That is why in 1915 the American Association of University Professors denied to church-affiliated institutions of higher learning the name of "university"; such institutions, it was stated, "do not, at least as regards one particular subject, accept the principles of freedom and inquiry." That is, in such institutions the truths of a particular religion are presupposed and are not subjected to the rigorous and skeptical operations of rational deliberation.

What that meant, in effect, was that in the name of the tolerant inclusion of all views in the academic mix, it was necessary to exclude views that did not honor tolerance as a first and guiding principle.

Walter Lippmann laid down the rule: "Reason and free inquiry can be neutral and tolerant only of those opinions which submit to the test of reason and inquiry." And what do you do with "opinions" (a word that tells its own story) that do not submit? Well, you treat them as data and not as candidates for the truth. You teach the Bible as literature -- that is, as a body of work whose value resides in its responsiveness to the techniques of (secular) literary analysis.

Or you teach American Puritanism as a fascinating instance of a way of thinking we have moved beyond: There used to be these zealots and they wanted to run things, but we've gotten over that and now we can study them without being drawn into the disputes about which they were so passionate.

Of course, there's still a lot of that, but alongside of it is a growing awareness of the difficulty, if not impossibility, of keeping the old boundaries in place and of quarantining the religious impulse in the safe houses of the church, the synagogue, and the mosque.

Again the causes of this shift are many and would require volumes to explain, but some things seem obvious. The enormous effort of John Rawls to maintain the boundaries by elevating for public purposes one's identity as a citizen above one's identity as a believer ("For the purposes of public life, Saul of Tarsus and Paul the Apostle are the same person") has produced a vast counter-literature of its own, much of it opening up questions that the liberal academic establishment had thought long settled.

The debate was joined from another perspective in l984 when Richard John Neuhaus published his enormously influential The Naked Public Square, a passionate argument against the exclusion from the political process of religious discourse. Not long afterward, Neuhaus established the journal First Things, a subsidiary of the Institute on Religion and Public Life "whose purpose is to advance a religiously informed public philosophy for the ordering of society."

Many of the contributors to First Things are high-profile academics situated in our most distinguished private and public universities, and it is clear from their commentaries that they see no bright line dividing their religious lives from the lives they pursue as teachers and scholars.

Following in the wake of Rawls and Neuhaus, any number of theologians, philosophers, historians, and political theorists -- led by major figures like Alasdair MacIntyre, Michael Sandel, Charles Taylor, and Stanley Hauerwas -- have re-examined, debated, challenged, and at times rejected the premises of liberalism, whether in the name of religion, or communitarianism, or multiculturalism.

To the extent that liberalism's structures have been undermined or at least shaken by these analyses, the perspicuousness and usefulness of distinctions long assumed -- reason as opposed to faith, evidence as opposed to revelation, inquiry as opposed to obedience, truth as opposed to belief -- have been called into question. And finally (and to return to where we began), the geopolitical events of the past decade and of the past three years especially have re-alerted us to the fact (we always knew it, but as academics we were able to cabin it) that hundreds of millions of people in the world do not observe the distinction between the private and the public or between belief and knowledge, and that it is no longer possible for us to regard such persons as quaintly pre-modern or as the needy recipients of our saving (an ironic word) wisdom.

Some of these are our sworn enemies. Some of them are our colleagues. Many of them are our students. (There are 27 religious organizations for students on my campus.) Announce a course with "religion" in the title, and you will have an overflow population. Announce a lecture or panel on "religion in our time" and you will have to hire a larger hall.

And those who come will not only be seeking knowledge; they will be seeking guidance and inspiration, and many of them will believe that religion -- one religion, many religions, religion in general -- will provide them.

Are we ready?

We had better be, because that is now where the action is. When Jacques Derrida died I was called by a reporter who wanted know what would succeed high theory and the triumvirate of race, gender, and class as the center of intellectual energy in the academy. I answered like a shot: religion.

Reason and Faith at Harvard (John I. Jenkins and Thomas Burish, October 23, 2006, Washington Post)
What should a properly educated college graduate of the early 21st century know?

A Harvard curriculum committee proposed an answer to that question this month, stating that, among other things, such a graduate should know "the role of religion in contemporary, historical, or future events -- personal, cultural, national, or international."

To that end, the committee recommended that every Harvard student be required, as part of his or her general education, to take one course in an area that the committee styled "Reason and Faith."

Whether that becomes policy remains to be seen, but the significance of the recommendation should not be understated. Harvard is the drum major of American higher education: Where it leads, others follow. And if Harvard says taking a course in religion is necessary to be an educated person, it's a good bet that many other colleges and universities will soon make the same discovery. We hope they will.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:06 AM


Punjab farmers seek Canada bonanza (Sanjoy Majumder, 10/24/06, BBC News)

Over a cup of tea, [Harkirat Singh] tells me that the future of his trade appears bleak.

"It's becoming very difficult to farm in Punjab. We are working against all odds. We have endless power cuts. If we have to depend on generators it's too expensive. Diesel costs are rising all the time.

"There is also no sense of security for people like us, those who have a bit of land."

His wife Jasveen thinks it's best for their little son.

"I think the system there is much better. There is no sense of law and order here. And then there is the education opportunities which will be much better for our child," she says.

But while life in Punjab is indeed becoming harder, the Singhs are also cashing in on a real estate boom.

With the value of land increasing, they are able to generate enough money by selling a part of their farm to buy a farm of their own in Canada.

"Land has become so valuable here now that even if you sell five to six acres here you can buy thousands of acres there.

"About five years ago this land would have given me $13,000 per acre. Now it's gone up to $220,000 per acre. It's becoming so expensive that it's not worth farming on anymore."

It's a realisation that is dawning across a whole generation of Punjabi farmers. With real estate developers eyeing vast tracts of farmland across Punjab, many here are tempted to sell their land and move on.

And there are a number of immigration agencies all across Punjab which can help them avail of the opportunities and also make the transition.

One of the biggest is the World Wide Immigration Consultancy Services which operates out of a vast complex in the Punjab capital, Chandigarh, that was once a television manufacturing factory.

The call centre operators assist prospective immigrants over the phone after which they are helped with the daunting application process, which can sometimes take several years.

Retired government official JS Ahluwalia explains why there is growing demand for farmers in Canada.

"They need immigrants because by 2016 the rate of growth of their population will be negative," he says.

Many farms in Canada are being abandoned because their owners are too old and the next generation has switched careers or migrated to the cities.

"So they need outsiders to come in and do the job. We are one of the countries providing it," he adds.

So with an investment of 150,000 Canadian dollars ($130,000), a farmer in Punjab can buy a farm in Canada.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:03 AM


Cell phones may hurt sperm (TENILLE BONOGUORE, 10/24/06, Globe and Mail)

Men who spend hours on their cell phones have lower sperm counts than usual, according to new research that suggests radiation or heat from the phones could be to blame.

I was at college for Summer term when the report came out in 1981 that underwear briefs were associated with testicular cancer, or some such, and pretty nearly every guy on campus bought boxers that day.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:54 AM


Exploring Composers and Their God (FRED KIRSHNIT, October 24, 2006, NY Sun)

Leon Botstein and the American Symphony Orchestra inaugurated their new season at Avery Fisher Hall with a concert designed to demonstrate the relationships between five diverse composers and their God. The program, titled "The Art of the Psalm," was shaped as if it were a major choral symphony in five movements, something Gustav Mahler might have conceived.

The event began with the devout Catholic Anton Bruckner and his setting of Psalm 150, the last sacred work written by the Linz master. Bruckner would devote his last five years to imbedding God into his final two instrumental symphonies — the 8th and the unfinished 9th. This setting is a glorious Allelujah and, though I detected some shrillness in the higher voices of the Concert Chorale of New York, this was still a powerful performance.

Those same female voices carried the next piece, the American premiere of Franz Schreker's Psalm 116. Schreker was born and raised a Catholic, but was ethnically Jewish, a fact not unnoticed by the Nazi regime. [...]

Most of this music was unfamiliar, as befits an ASO presentation, but there was one famous melody to be heard. What seemed to be an orchestration of that familiar Rachmaninoff Prelude in C sharp minor turned out to be the opening of the setting of Franz Liszt's Psalm 13. This was originally envisioned as a full-blown operatic scene, but all of the splendid material went to one tenor soloist when the work was published. [...]

Alexander von Zemlinsky was certainly the most ecumenical of these five composers. His father was a Catholic who converted to Judaism, while the composer himself eventually became a Protestant (and added the "von" to his name to assist in his assimilation). His setting of the familiar 23rd psalm was lovely, filled with sounds of nature and expressionistic tone painting — the dissonant muted horns at the word "enemies" being a prime example. Here the orchestra was superb in changing colors quickly and meaningfully.

But the best performance of the afternoon was the triumphant reading of Max Reger's mighty setting of Psalm 100. Americans who know this music have most likely only experienced it in its "cleansed" version by Paul Hindemith, who unilaterally decided that Reger's dense harmonies were too difficult to follow. But they are not at all murky in the right conductor's hands, as Mr. Botstein demonstrated this day, in what turned out to be the American premiere of the original version of the piece.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:43 AM


Tsuris From Soros (HILLEL HALKIN, October 24, 2006, NY Sun)

Super-tycoon George Soros, it's been announced, has decided to sponsor a new "progressive Jewish lobby" that will counter the influence of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and other pro-Israel Jewish organizations in order to help "promote Israeli-Arab peace."

The rumor has long been that Mr. Soros got his start by helping to take the property of Jews, so it's only fair that he plow some of his own accumulated wealth back into the cause, eh?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:35 AM


Zito or Not, Expect Mets Rotation To Improve Next Year (TIM MARCHMAN, October 24, 2006, NY Sun)

Here is a quick question: How many Mets starters pitched at least 100 innings with a park-adjusted ERA that was average or better?

The answer, when you think about it at all, is pretty shocking: Two — Tom Glavine and Orlando Hernandez.

When a team wins 97 games, there's a temptation to say that they were good in every phase of the game. The Mets weren't, and they weren't even close — the starting pitching just wasn't good. Good pitchers like Pedro Martinez and John Maine were hurt; bad pitchers like Steve Trachsel pitched a lot, and a bizarre assortment of castoffs, prospects, and nonames soaked up an awful lot of innings. Jose Lima, Victor Zambrano, Alay Soler, Brian Bannister, Oliver Perez, Dave Williams, Geremi Gonzalez, and Mike Pelfrey combined to throw 182.2 innings with a 6.56 ERA. Between them and Trachsel (whose 4.97 ERA actually overstated his effectiveness), the Mets essentially got worse performance than you'd expect to get from a random quadruple-A journeyman from two different rotation spots.

The Mets won because of a truly great offense and a truly great bullpen, which wasn't merely effective, but very durable. The pen ranked third in the National League in innings pitched, which is especially impressive considering that for obvious reasons there's usually an inverse proportion between how often a team uses its relievers and how good it is.

Next year, the offense will again be excellent — probably not quite as good, but more than good enough to win 95 games. The bullpen, too, should again be excellent — Willie Randolph and Rick Peterson have showed real talent for putting unexceptional pitchers in position to take advantage of whatever it is they do will, and so filling in the blanks around Billy Wagner, Aaron Heilman, and Duaner Sanchez shouldn't prove too difficult.

What all this means is that the Mets aren't really forced to improve the rotation dramatically, and it will probably improve if they don't make a big move over the winter.

You can open the season with a rotation of Glavine, Maine, Heilman, Perez, Pelfrey, with Bannister in the wings at AAA, groom Humber for awhile in the bullpen, and have Pedro pitch in relief when he comes back late in the season, but that's a staff that cries out for a genuine righthanded horse.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:31 AM


Golijov plants seeds of hope as a composer (Kyle MacMillan, 10/21/06, Denver Post)

At a time when ethnic differences and ancient religious rifts are tearing apart countries, roiling European suburbs and igniting forms of previously unimaginable terrorism, Osvaldo Golijov's messages of inclusion could hardly be more timely.

"I believe in the possibility of music as hope," Golijov said. "I don't believe in music as a Hallmark card. But, look, all Bach has higher ideals. Mozart's operas have higher ideals. And why not? Why shouldn't music have those ideals today?"

Gramophone magazine emphasized that point earlier this month when it granted one of its prestigious annual awards to a recording of a new song cycle by the composer, who weaves compositions with threads from a rich diversity of musical traditions.

Classical audiences in Colorado will be among the first in the country to have the opportunity to hear a newly orchestrated version of "The Dreams and Prayers of Isaac the Blind" (1994), one of Golijov's best-known and most frequently performed works. [...]

"I don't believe in the modernist dogma," he said. "That's the difference, maybe, between me and other 20th-century people. Why not beauty? And by the same token, why not ugliness, things the neo-romantics wouldn't do? Everything is part of the human experience."

The composer has created a very personal style that derives from his unusual upbringing in an Eastern European Jewish household in La Plata, Argentina.

As a child, he was surrounded by chamber music, Jewish liturgical and klezmer music and innovative tangos by Astor Piazzolla. These idioms and others he would encounter later, such as Gregorian chant and flamenco, have become the building blocks of his compositions.

"What makes him particularly special is his ability to synthesize so many different kinds of music, so many different languages and styles," Kahane said, "and to do so with a kind authenticity - musical authenticity but also an emotional and spiritual authenticity."

Rather than fabricate pastiches, Golijov goes much further, exploring the expressive power that derives from the unexpected intersections of different, sometimes even seemingly contradictory, musical traditions.

"It's not a matter of just a collage," he said. "It's a matter of transforming each of those symbols, of putting them in new constellations. To me, it's equivalent to Mahler going from C minor to E major.

"Composition means to put things together - that's the root of the word - so I'm putting things together. Other people put chords (together). I put styles (together). I modulate between cultures, but it's the same musical process."

While Golijov does not see himself as a kind of musical Mahatma Gandhi, he is not oblivious to the potential healing effect that his inclusive music can exert on a divided world.

"If music can represent the ideals to which mankind can aspire, this composer manages to pull in a multitude of strong and individual cultures," wrote the editors of Gramophone magazine. "Although they each always retain their own identity, they are harmonized to create a greater whole.

"And what better example for today can music set?"

Among the first works Golijov composed in the synthesized style for which he is known was "Isaac the Blind," originally written for klezmer clarinet and string quartet. It was inspired by the 13th-century writings of Isaac the Blind, a cabalist rabbi who asserted that all things in the universe are the product of combinations of the Hebrew alphabet's letters.

"It's the first piece that I still identify myself with," Golijov said. "There are other earlier pieces that I really like, but I feel like they are by somebody I knew but not me. Of course, I also moved on from 'Isaac,' but I feel, 'Oh, here is where I found myself.' Not so much in the mixture of the idioms but in the possibility of encompassing all kinds of states of the spirit, of the mind."

The big turning point in the composer's career came in 2000 with the premiere of the "St. Mark Passion," which was commissioned to commemorate the 250th anniversary of Johann Sebastian Bach's death. It created a sensation and vaulted him to the top of the classical world.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:11 AM


Author cons UK and US publishers with bogus book (Daily Mail, 5th October 2006)

In the sometimes highly strung world of the classical violin, they were today trying to get to grips with the fiddling of Rohan Kriwaczek.

A busker, violinist, clarinetist, flautist and bagpipe player, who graduated from the Royal Academy of Music in 1994, he brought murmurs of acclaim from the academic publishers, Duckworth, for his learned tome on the lost art of the funerary violin.

In 208 pages he told how the Guild of Funerary Violinists – motto Nullus Funus Sine Fidula (No Funeral Without A Fiddle) - had been established in 1580, received a Royal warrant from Queen Elizabeth 1, flourished under practitioners like George Babcotte and Herr Hieronymous Gratchenfleiss, and was almost wiped out by the "great funerary purges of the 1830’s and 40s."

Such was the fervour of the art, he said, that violinists duelled with each other at funerals to see who could wring the most tears from mourners.

Duckworth’s owner Peter Mayer, who also owns the American publishing house Overlook, reputedly paid Kriwaczek – acting president of the Guild of Funerary Violinists - more than £1,000 for the book: 'An Incomplete History of the Art of the Funerary Violin' which is currently on sale in Britain for £14.99.

Except, as has now been discovered, there is, nor never was, any such thing as a funerary violin, nor a guild, nor a Royal warrant, nor a history, let alone an incomplete one.

Yesterday, as Mr Kriwaczek, 38, kept a low profile, Mr Mayer told how he had been taken in by him at a meeting last year.

"In he walks, deadly serious with his violin," he said. "I ask him a whole bunch of questions. He gave more or less credible answers to them. Some of them he said 'I can’t answer Mr Mayer, because it is a secret society and it is dying out.'

"Maybe I have been fooled. It is possible. But it reads so extraordinarily serious and passionate. If it is a hoax, I can only say, I have my cap off.

"I just thought, whether it is true or not true, it is the work of some crazy genius. If it is a hoax, it is a brilliant, brilliant hoax."

Isn't a sufficiently brilliant hoax a work of art itself?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:11 AM


For Hispanics, Poverty Is Relative (Marcela Sanchez, Washington Post)

[I]f immigrants, especially Hispanics, are card-carrying members of the U.S. underclass, society at large is having a hard time convincing them of it: Latino immigrants are too busy working, buying cars, purchasing homes and even investing abroad.

Such a lifestyle is not exactly the picture of poverty. The poor are supposed to be the down and out -- the hungry and depressed standing in bread lines. Under this stereotype, they struggle for basic goods and services and are left outside the mainstream, unable to get ahead.

Yet observers of the Latino experience in the United States say that Hispanic immigrants generally don't fit this mold for two basic reasons: choices and attitude. Immigrants cut what corners they can to keep rent, health care, sundry expenses and taxes to a minimum. They also leave family behind, clearly the most painful among their money-saving strategies to reduce the number of dependents in the United States.

The income they pull together from their jobs is pumped into work-related expenses and living essentials, putting 90 percent of their earnings back into the U.S. economy, according to the IDB. They invest most of the rest of their incomes in their homelands.

The IDB report found that immigrants will send home about $45 billion in 2006, creating one of "the broadest and most effective poverty alleviation programs in the world." It also found that the majority of migrants want to buy a family home or open a small business in their home country. One-third said they had already made investments, mainly in real estate. These are not the actions of the economically deprived.

Hispanic immigrants don't necessarily feel excluded or underserved either. In an education survey, the Pew Hispanic Center and the Kaiser Family Foundation found two years ago that Hispanic immigrants were notably positive about the quality of public school education in their areas. More pointedly, the survey concluded that Hispanics are not a "disgruntled population that views itself as greatly disadvantaged or victimized."

They won't be truly assimilated until they bitch endlessly.

October 23, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:51 PM


Air Zimbabwe tickets up by 500% (BBC, 10/23/06)

Zimbabwe's loss-making state airline has announced a 500% increase in fares, making air travel impossible for all but the country's most wealthy.

Air Zimbabwe said spiralling costs had forced it to increase ticket prices on all domestic and international routes.

Zimbabwe's economic crisis, the worst since independence in 1980, pushed inflation to over 1,000% last month.

A return trip between London and Harare now costs 1,865,000 Zimbabwean dollars, or $7,460 (£3,982).

On the bright side, Air Zimbabwe has been voted airline most likely to complete a purchase of an A380...

Posted by Matt Murphy at 7:29 PM


See a smoker in Omaha? Dial 9-1-1: Nebraska city imposes toughest enforcement policy in nation (10/22/06, WorldNetDaily)

Omaha's tough new anti-smoking ordinance banning the practice in nearly all public places comes with an even tougher enforcement policy.

The Nebraska city's elected leaders and police department are urging residents who see violations to call the 9-1-1 emergency system for an immediate response.

Omaha banned smoking in public Oct. 2. Penalties are $100 for the first offense, $200 for the second and $500 for the third and subsequent infractions.

The accompanying photograph shows Sean Penn and says he could be in hot water the next time he's in Omaha. Anybody here have a problem with that?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:57 PM


U.S. Stocks Advance as Oil Slides (Hilary Johnson, 10/23/06, Bloomberg)

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 102.14, or 0.9 percent, to a record 12,104.51 at 3:39 p.m. in New York. [...]

Optimism that the pace of consumer spending will shore up the economy and companies will beat earnings estimates spurred stocks to build on an October rally that pushed the Dow above 12,000 for the first time. The S&P 500 has climbed 3.4 percent this month, putting it on pace for its best month this year.

Central bankers begin a two-day meeting tomorrow. All 106 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News expect the Fed to keep interest rates unchanged at 5.25 percent for a third straight month as a weakening housing market slows the economy.

Gross domestic product probably rose 2 percent in the July through September period, according to economists, easing from a 2.6 percent rate in the second quarter. The Commerce Department will release the data on Oct. 27.

The GDP report is also projected to show consumer spending, which accounts for about 70 percent of the economy, grew at an annual rate of 3.1 percent last quarter, up from a 2.6 percent gain the previous three months.

Today, oil retreated for a second day on skepticism that the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries will cut production by as much as members pledged last week. Crude oil for December delivery declined 0.9 percent to $58.81 a barrel in New York. Prices have plunged 25 percent from the record of $78.40 a barrel reached July 14.

Democrats promise they can reverse the nation's course....

Posted by Matt Murphy at 4:44 PM


Horns slip past Huskers on walk-on kicker's game-winning FG (10/21/06, AP)

Texas coach Mack Brown had some encouraging words for Ryan Bailey before the backup kicker took the field in the final seconds.

"You're the luckiest guy in the world," Brown told the sophomore walk-on. "You've got a chance to be Dusty Mangum on your first kick."

Time will tell whether Bailey's 22-yard field goal with 23 seconds left to beat 17th-ranked Nebraska 22-20 ranks alongside Mangum's 37-yarder to defeat Michigan in the Rose Bowl two years ago. [...]

The Huskers were on the verge of pulling the upset after taking a 20-19 lead with 4:54 left. But Texas caught a huge break when receiver Terrence Nunn fumbled as the Huskers were trying to kill the clock. Marcus Griffin recovered at the Nebraska 44 with 2:17 left.

For those of you who did not see it: The receiver had the first down and almost certainly the win, had he not fumbled. The time seems opportune to discuss favorite sports screw-ups, so post them below and I'll decide which one is the greatest.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:48 PM


Religion, madness and secular paranoia: Why would a major corporation invest big money in a gratuitous insult of millions of potential customers who, according to the company’s own figures, represent a clear majority of the American public? (Michael Medved, October 4, 2006, Townhall)

Those who believe that religious conservatives want to impose a nightmare of intolerance and oppression on those who disagree with them must classify the nation’s heroic past, from its founding through the landmark school-prayer cases of 1961, as representative of a similar nightmare. It’s secularists and leftists who seek to alter the long-term essence of this deeply religious, majority Christian country (as Sam Harris, for one, freely acknowledges), rather than believing fanatics who want to remake the nation as an alien, unrecognizable theocracy.

Why, then, the current paranoia over the often exaggerated prominence and power of religious conservatives? In Letter to a Christian Nation, Sam Harris unwittingly provides the answer. Addressing his believing fellow citizens, he dramatically declaims: “If the basic tenets of Christianity are true, then there are some very grim surprises in store for nonbelievers like myself. You understand this. At least half of the American population understands this. So let us be honest with ourselves: in the fullness of time, one side is really going to win this argument, and the other side is really going to lose.”

Mr. Harris, in other words, seems to worry that people assume he’s bound for damnation and an eternity of regret because in one tiny corner of his mind, at least, he fears they may be right. In the argument he describes, it’s not possible that Christian believers are “really going to lose.” If Mr. Harris is right about humanity and materialism, then there will be no sense of regret or despair if religious people fail to reach heaven after death. If we are, indeed, just spiritless chemicals and soulless matter, then we won’t be around in any sense to feel remorse over a life wasted in prayer, religious fellowship, love of family and good deeds. When he suggests that one side is “really going to lose” he can only have his own side in mind.

It’s the contemporary version of the famous “bargain” of Blaise Pascal, the French scientist and Catholic religious philosopher who died in 1662. When asked how he would react if he discovered at the end of life that his firm belief in God proved unjustified, he suggested that he would still have gained the enormous benefit of having lived as if God existed — and would feel no regret at all. If, on the other hand, non-believers like Sam Harris ultimately discover that the Almighty lives, and has been judging them all along, then, in the words of the great theologian Ricky Riccardo, “they got a whole lot of es-plainin’ to do.”

That’s why even the most benign, loving Biblically based religious ideas seem so threatening to non-believers. The more that people of faith develop confidence, sophistication and intellectual influence, the more that those on the other side nurse the dark, clammy, cold, intolerable fear that these theists just may be right about God and eternity. When polemics and newspaper ads seek to “arm” so-called “rational Americans with powerful arguments,” it’s not that they need defense against rampaging Christians with pitchforks and torches. They ultimately seek protection against creeping, subversive doubts about their own unbelief.

Is there really any question that seculars hate our past and want to radically change America?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:23 PM


For Connecticut's Governor (NY Times, 10/23/06)

Gov. M. Jodi Rell of Connecticut should not squander the opportunity to aim high. With that admonition, we endorse her for governor.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:17 PM


Gasoline prices tumble again (CNN, 10/22/06)

Gas prices continued their downward spiral across the nation, falling by an average of nearly 8 cents a gallon over the past two weeks, the publisher of the national Lundberg Survey said Sunday.

The Dow Jones Industrials Reach New High (Joe Bel Bruno, 10/23/06, AP)
Wall Street extended its October rally Monday as investors grew more optimistic about upcoming earnings reports and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. said it will cut capital spending to drive overall returns. The Dow Jones industrials shot up more than 110 points and crossed 12,100 for the first time.

Generally upbeat reports have instilled a new confidence about the future in investors, and allowed them to lay down some bets about the future just half-way through third-quarter earnings season.

Iran's President Urges Higher Birth Rate (Breitbart, 10/23/06)
Iran's president is urging couples to have more children to boost the country's population, state media said. [...]

In the 1980s, reformist President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani persuaded prominent clerics to support his family planning program, reducing the country's birthrate to 1.7 children per couple from 3.2.

No one can keep up with us.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:36 AM


A sobering setback in stem-cell research (CAROLYN ABRAHAM, 10/23/06, Globe and Mail)

The progress of science is paved with stories of high hopes and heartbreaks. But in a busy lab at the University of Rochester the two extremes have met in one dazzling yet devastating experiment.

Researchers there have for the first time essentially cured rats of a Parkinson's-like disease using human embryonic stem cells. But 10 weeks into the trial, they discovered brain tumours had begun to grow in every animal treated.

"Here we have this method that works so well to reverse the symptoms of Parkinson's," said lead investigator Steven Goldman, "But no matter how you look at it, it's an expanding mass and that's bad news."

...if John Kerry had been elected, Christopher Reeve would look like John Merrick today.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:18 AM


Patriots show signs of returning to Super Bowl form (Ira Miller, Oct. 22, 2006, San Jose Mercury News)

It's not too early to say the New England Patriots are a factor again.

That's not based just on their 28-6 victory over Buffalo that left the Patriots with a 5-1 record, which is better than they started in two of their three recent Super Bowl-winning years. It's based on the team's body of work all season.

While so much ink has been spilled over the loss of place-kicker Adam Vinatieri, over the depletion of the receiving corps and over Tom Brady's body language during a loss to Denver a month ago, the Patriots quietly have been repairing a defense that fell off during the 2005 season, and getting better on offense.

You don't hear anyone arguing with the Patriots brain trust anymore and its obviously accurate assessment that football players are entirely fungible commodities.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:57 AM


The Playwright President (ERIC GRODE, October 23, 2006, NY Sun)

When Václav Havel begins his eight-week residency at Columbia University on Wednesday, October 25, a central focus will be his 13 years as president of Czechoslovakia and the Czech Republic. This is appropriate: Mr. Havel's rise from dissident playwright to world leader marks a unique chapter in Cold War history.

But it is crucial that the daring, spry, richly amusing plays not be slighted in the process. [...]

Those who picture rigorous discourse when they think of "political theater" will find Mr. Havel's work a bit discombobulating. In "Disturbing the Peace," an insightful book-length series of interviews, he stresses that his style of theater "is not here to explain how things are. It does not have that kind of arrogance; it leaves the instructing to Brecht."

Mr. Havel — who began his career as a playwright during his compulsory Army stint, of all places — was drawn less to the dialectical proscriptions of Bertolt Brecht or the portentous cadences of J.B. Priestley and more to the scorched-earth absurdities of Eugene Ionesco and Samuel Beckett. "I have the feeling that, if absurd theatre had not existed before me, I would have had to invent it," says Mr. Havel, who has called the movement "the most significant theatrical phenomenon of the twentieth century, because it demonstrates modern humanity in a ‘state of crisis.'"

This debased state, against which Mr. Havel crusaded as a playwright, as a dissident, and as a politician, spurred him to create a mechanized, schematic fictional world in which individuation is nearly impossible. Back in 1965, the protagonist of his early comedy "The Memorandum" bemoaned the pernicious effects of a nonsensical form of bureaucrat-speak called Ptydepe:

"Manipulated, automatized, made into a fetish, Man loses the experience of his own totality; horrified, he stares as a stranger at himself, unable not to be what he is not, nor to be what he is."

When even language morphs into an existential threat, one solution is to become silent. After Soviet tanks crushed the promise of 1968's Prague Spring, Mr. Havel's works were banned from the stage for several years, and he spent most of 1974 working at a rural brewery. This experience yielded a one-act play the following year called "Audience," in which a boorish foreman conducts a beer-soaked meeting with a meek employee named Ferdinand Vanek. [...]

From the perspective of a Western playgoer who regards freedom of speech and expression as inalienable rights, Vanek's mumbling, stammering diffidence can at times seem contrarian, almost priggish. Declining to supply weekly self-incriminating statements is one thing, but refusing to indulge a proud parent's anecdote about his infant son, as in "Unveiling"?

Mr. Havel, whose involvement with the human-rights document Charter 77 resulted in his being jailed for more than four years for "subverting the republic," addressed this quality of Vanek's in his own roundabout way upon being freed in 1983.

While recovering from the illnesses that spurred his release, he spent a month in the hospital — "released from the burden of prison, but not yet encumbered by the burden of freedom," as he describes it in "Disturbing the Peace." That second burden bears poignant fruit in 1985's "Largo Desolato," perhaps his best-known work, thanks to a crisp translation by fellow Czech Tom Stoppard.

Mr. Havel's revised surrogate, Professor Leopold Nettles, here reflects what biting one's tongue for 10 years will do to a person: Vanek, who showed tremendous courage in his understated way, has devolved into a paranoid, pill-popping, impotent husk of a man, incapable of leaving his apartment, let alone of putting pen to paper.

After focusing for so long on state repression, Mr. Havel turns his gaze within and focuses on the deleterious effects of his own self-denial. "I'm lacking a fixed point out of which I can grow and develop," Nettles complains to a young woman. "I'm ... no longer the self-aware subject of my own life but becoming merely its passive object." The chilling irony is that not even these words are Nettles's own: He is merely parroting a speech made lines earlier by a concerned friend. He's not even present enough to realize his own absence.

We make allowances for the Eastern Europeans that we'd never extend to the Arabs.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:22 AM


Former Syrian VP: 'Assad regime is on brink of collapse' (Associated Press, THE JERUSALEM POST, 10/22/06)

Abdul-Halim Khaddam, who is wanted in Syria on treason charges, said in an address to the Syrian people that Assad's "oppressive" regime will soon be replaced with a democratic civil government, but he did not elaborate.

His address was on the occasion of Eid al-Fitr, the Islamic feast marking the end of the fasting month of Ramadan, and was broadcast on Lebanon's Future TV, an anti-Syrian station owned by the family of slain former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

"Ask yourselves, my brothers, after six years of his taking over the administration of the country, what has Bashar Assad done except spread corruption, increase suffering and (take) wrong decisions that have led to weakening national unity and subjecting Syria to Arab and international isolation," Khaddam said.

"I assure you that the corrupt and tyrannical regime is on the brink of collapse and in the near future, the ruler will see the opportunists and hypocrites that rallied around him fleeing. He and his corrupt family and entourage will find themselves in the hands of justice," he added.

Khaddam's address was aired several days after Arab newspapers reported that the former vice president met with Saudi officials, including King Abdullah and Crown Prince Sultan.

An Arab diplomat said the meetings took place in Saudi Arabia last week and were significant because they send a message to Syria that the kingdom is upset at Syria's policies and may be exploring other options to deal with the Damascus regime.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:40 AM


Fantasy Sports? Child’s Play. Here, Politics Is the Game. (CINDY CHANG, 10/23/06, NY Times)

When Ellen Montgomery’s co-workers relive the latest Chicago Bears victory or commiserate over the hometown team’s defeat, she has nothing to add to the conversation.

Ms. Montgomery, 27, a grass-roots organizer, says she has “zero” interest in sports and is even less equipped to engage in the statistics-laden talk of fantasy sports leagues that dominates at many water coolers in sports-crazy cities like Chicago. The hours sports fans spend tracking their favorite players are for Ms. Montgomery devoted to scouring the legislative agendas of members of Congress.

Now, she and fellow policy buffs have an outlet for their competitive urges. Fantasy Congress, a Web site created by four students at Claremont McKenna College in Southern California, made its debut three weeks ago. Through word of mouth and blog entries, it has attracted nearly 600 participants from states including Texas and Florida, from as far away as Denmark and, of course, from the Beltway.

For those who have no idea how many yards Peyton Manning threw for on Sunday but can cite every legislative amendment proposed by Senator Richard Durbin, Democrat of Illinois, the game could be an alternative to the prevailing fantasy sports culture.

Congress is in recess, and many Fantasy Congress leagues are still recruiting players or are waiting until after the Nov. 7 elections to get started. It remains to be seen how the game will play out over a long legislative session. But policy enthusiasts like Ms. Montgomery say they are thrilled that there is finally something for them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:36 AM


America at 300 Million: Reluctant to Reproduce (MARK STEYN, October 23, 2006, NY Sun)

[E]ven if you haven't got a book to plug, the arrival of Junior 300 Mil is something everyone should celebrate.

So why don't we? The answer is that too many people who should know better are still peddling the same old 40-year-old guff about "overpopulation." What does Professor Myers mean by "quality-of-life degradation?" America is the 172nd least densely populated country on earth. If you think it's crowded here, try living in the Netherlands or Belgium, which have, respectively, 392 and 341 inhabitants per square kilometer compared to 31 folks per square kilometer in the US. To be sure, somewhere such as, say, Newark, New Jersey is a lot less bucolic than it was in 1798. But why is that? No doubt Professor Myers would say it's urban sprawl. But that's the point: you can only sprawl if you've got plenty of space. As the British writer Adam Nicholson once wrote of America, "There is too much room in the vast continental spaces of the country for a great deal of care to be taken with the immediate details." Nothing sprawls in Belgium: it's a phenomenon that arises not from population pressures but the lack thereof.

As for other degradations the weight of which is so crushing to Professor Myers, name some. America is one of the most affordable property markets in the western world. I was amazed to discover, back in the first summer of the Bush Presidency, that a three-bedroom air-conditioned house in Crawford, Texas could be yours for 30,000 bucks and, if that sounds a bit steep, a double-wide on a couple of acres would set you back about 6,000. And not just because Bush lives next door and serves as a kind of one-man psychological gated community keeping the NPR latte-sippers from moving in and ruining the neighborhood. The United States is about the cheapest developed country in which to get a nice home with a big yard and raise a family. That's one of the reasons why America, almost alone among western nations, has a healthy fertility rate.

Everywhere else, for the most part, they've taken the advice of Professor Myers and that think-tank in Vermont. In America, there are 2.1 live births per woman. In 17 European countries, it's 1.3 or below — that's what demographers call "lowest-low" fertility, a rate from which no society has ever recovered. Spain's population is halving with every generation. These nations are doing what Professor Myers and the Vermont "sustainability" junkies would regard as the socially responsible thing, and having fewer babies. And as a result their countries are dying demographically and (more immediately) economically: they don't have enough young people to pay for the generous social programs the ever more geriatric Europeans have come to expect.

Breeding for God: In Europe, the fertility advantage of the religious over non-believers has historically been counterbalanced by the march of secularisation. Not any more. Secularisation in Europe is now in decline, and Islam continues to grow. Europe will start to adopt a more American model of modernity (Eric Kaufmann, Prospect)
What is not contestable is that many latter-day religious groups have thrived thanks to high fertility. The Mormons, for example, like Stark's early Christians, have maintained a 40 per cent per decade population growth rate for 100 years. They remain 70 per cent of Utah's population in the teeth of substantial non-Mormon immigration, and have even expanded into neighbouring states. In the 1980s, the Mormon fertility rate was around three times that of American Jews. Today the Mormons, once a fringe sect, outnumber Jews among Americans under the age of 45.

Demography is also critical to explaining the rise of the religious right in America. An important recent article in the American Journal of Sociology by Michael Hout, Andrew Greeley and Melissa Wilde examines trends in American religious denominational growth in the 20th century. The authors find that conservative Protestant denominations increased their share of all white Protestants from one third among those born in 1900 to two thirds for those born in 1975. Three quarters of the growth of white conservative Protestant denominations is demographic, since they have maintained a fertility advantage over more liberal denominations for many decades. As with the rise of Christianity itself, slow-moving sociological pressures created the conditions for a political "tipping point" to occur. This time, Republican strategists played the role of Constantine's advisers, who saw which way the wind was blowing and moved to exploit the new social trends.

Outside the US, there is further evidence for this thesis. In Israel, the growth of the ultra-Orthodox proportion of the Jewish population is all but assured because of their threefold fertility advantage over secular Jews. Elsewhere in the middle east, the relative decline of Arab Christians—especially in their Lebanese heartland—has nothing to do with conversion and everything to do with demography.

The share of the world's population that is religious is growing, after nearly a century of modest decline. This effect has been produced by the younger generations in the developing world rejecting secularisation, combined with higher religious fertility levels. Throughout the world, the religious tend to have more children, irrespective of age, education or wealth. "Secular" Europe is no exception. In an analysis of European data from ten west European countries in the period 1981-2004 I found that next to age and marital status, a woman's religiosity was the strongest predictor of her number of offspring. Many other studies have found a similar relationship, and a whole school of thought in demography—"second demographic transition theory"—suggests that fertility differences in developed countries are underpinned by value differences, with secular men and women unwilling to sacrifice career and lifestyle aspirations to have children and have them early.

In a series of controversial articles, Phillip Longman of the New America Foundation has drawn attention to the political ramifications of religious demography in the US, pointing to the sizeable fertility advantage enjoyed by more religious "red" states over the Democratic "blue" states. As Arthur Brooks of Syracuse University recently wrote in the Wall Street Journal, "if you picked 100 unrelated politically liberal adults at random, you would find that they had, between them, 147 children. If you picked 100 conservatives, you would find 208 kids. That's a 'fertility gap' of 41 per cent. Given that about 80 per cent of people with an identifiable party preference grow up to vote the same way as their parents, this gap translates into lots more little Republicans than little Democrats to vote in future elections." Many liberals challenge this logic. Surely many of the children of the religious in the US will become secular, as they have in western Europe for generations. In Europe, religion counts for less in elections than it ever has, and Catholic Europeans from Dublin to Barcelona are still embracing secularism with gusto. Even in the US, there has been an appreciable growth in the "no religion" population over the past decade to 14 per cent. Seizing upon this evidence, Pippa Norris and Ronald Inglehart, two leading political scientists, advance the argument that the world is still heading in a more secular direction. They accept that the reverse is occurring in the short term, but claim that modernisation will result in increased wealth and security in the developing world, lowering religiosity and fertility. Secularism will eventually trump religious fertility.

They have a point. Phillip Longman is correct to identify religious fertility as important, but has neglected the "apostasy" side of the equation. If fertility is always the main mechanism of social change, we would expect much higher populations of Amish, Seventh-Day Adventists, Jehovah's Witnesses and other sects with very high fertility. Yet we know that these sects suffer high "defection" rates—even the Mormons lose a higher percentage of their children than most American denominations. A religious population is more porous than an ethnic population, because conversion or abandonment of the faith can take place rapidly and easily. And as long as the rate of abandonment is high enough to compensate for the religious fertility advantage, there is no threat to secularism. European data show that the religious have had a demographic advantage over their secular counterparts for several generations, but also that this advantage has been balanced out by the secularisation of many of the children of Europe's faithful. Bearing this in mind, I developed a more nuanced model of religious change that accounts for both religious fertility and abandonment of faith in Europe.

I found that the classical secularisation trend does not work as it used to. The case of the US sheds some light on this. Much of the 20th-century growth of conservative Protestant denominations could have been lost to secularism or to more liberal, higher status sects like the Episcopalians, as conservative Protestants became better educated, wealthier and more urban. What impeded such an "assimilation" of conservative Protestants into more liberal theologies was a disruption of the pattern linking social and religious mobility. Conservative Protestants, once content to be led by an urbane liberal-Protestant elite, became increasingly conscious of their group identity. They began to reject the leadership of liberal Protestants, starting in the 1920s with their secession from the Federal Council of Churches. This intensified after 1970 with the so-called "culture wars." Liberal theologies and secularism came to be typecast as the malign "other" against which true Christians should mobilise. As evangelicals gained in self-consciousness, they increasingly erected communal boundaries—such as their own media—which could bind the generations regardless of education or wealth.

The value changes of 1960s America proved a high-water mark of cultural mobility that has been replaced by a cold war of value stasis. The pool of unselfconscious or moderately religious people is on the wane as the "extremes" of fundamental religiosity and secularism grow. When battle lines become firmly drawn, potential converts, like floating voters, dry up. A similar process seems to be occurring in Europe—as the religious become increasingly self-conscious of their unusual identity in a secular society, they become more resistant to secularisation.

Europe—especially western Europe—is seen as the world leader in secular modernisation, and is used as the model by Norris and Inglehart for their theory of secularisation. But if western Europe really is the trend-setter for secularism, there is a problem: secularisation appears to be losing force in its own backyard. Western Europe can broadly be divided in two. On the one hand are Catholic countries like Spain or Ireland, where religiosity is still high—around 60 per cent of the Irish population regularly attend church—and secularisation arrived only in the second half of the 20th century. On the other are the largely Protestant nations (including Britain) and Catholic France, which secularised earlier. But survey data from 1981-2004 show that in these latter nations, on average, postwar generations are no longer becoming more secular. It seems as though western Europe, with the possible exception of Italy, will converge towards a church attendance rate of little more than 5 per cent. However this will mask a much larger proportion—around half—who continue to describe themselves as religious and affiliate with a religious denomination.

These people, described by Grace Davie as "believing without belonging," are seen by some as carriers of a flimsy faith which will soon disappear, and which doesn't affect behaviour or attitudes. But if this is the case, how do we explain the fact that the fertility of these non-attending believers is much closer to church attenders than to non-believers? The non-attending religious are also significantly more likely than non-believers to identify themselves as ideologically conservative, even when controlling for education, wealth, age and generation. And the religious population has two demographic advantages over its non-believing counterpart. First, it maintains a 15-20 per cent fertility lead over the non-religious. Second, religious people in the childbearing 18-45 age range are disproportionately female. Offset against this is the much younger age structure of secularists.

The pivotal question is where the balance lies between religious fertility and religious abandonment in the secular cutting-edge societies of France and Protestant Europe. The population balance in these countries stands at roughly 53 per cent non-religious to 47 per cent religious. My projections, based on demographic differences between the populations and current patterns of religious abandonment, suggest that the secular population will continue to grow at a decelerating rate for three or four more decades, to peak at around 55 per cent. The proportion of secular people will then begin to decline between 2035 and 2045. The momentum behind secularisation in the most secular countries is a reflection of the religious abandonment of the pre-1945 generations, which overwhelmed the fertility advantage of the faithful. The end of apostasy in more recent generations means a population more religious at the end of the 21st century than at its beginning. As in the case of the Mormons or early Christians, demography rather than mass conversion will be the main agent of change.

This slow shift against secularisation would have only a gradual impact on the spirit of European society were it not for immigration. Immigration from Latin America has enabled American Catholics to grow despite losing far more believers to other denominations than they get in return. In Europe, immigration will similarly drive the rise of the religious population, especially its Islamic part.

In the US, we know that the population will be less than 50 per cent non-Hispanic white by 2050, but it is difficult to predict what proportion of Europe's population will be of non-European descent in the future because few European countries collect census data on ethnicity and religion. The occasionally cited figure of 30 per cent ethnic minorities in western Europe by 2050 is little more than an educated guess. One of the few countries to collect ethnoreligious census information is Austria, where a recent projection—based on a conservative estimate of 20,000 immigrants a year and various assumptions about religious abandonment and fertility—predicted that Muslims would make up between 14 and 26 per cent of the population in 2050, up from 4 per cent today.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:26 AM


The Threat of Pay-Go (LAWRENCE KUDLOW, October 23, 2006, Creators Syndicate Inc.)

Most supply-siders believe that if the Democrats manage to take the House and Senate two and a half weeks from now, President Bush's investor tax cuts will be safe.

First, the tax cuts already have been extended to 2010. Second, the president will surely veto any tax-hike legislation that a new Democratic Congress might pass. (Think Grover Cleveland, the greatest presidential vetoer in American history.)

Maybe so, but the political story will be more complicated, especially if a Democratic Congress passes new "pay-as-you-go" rules. This could put the tax cuts in jeopardy as early as next year.

There are essentially two kinds of pay-go. One is a spending limitation that was used by the Gingrich Congress to balance the budget in the 1990s.This would be good. The other is a revenue pay-go, which is not so good. In this scenario, if the Democrats cobbled together a big-bang deficit-reduction package, large tax hikes would be put in place to meet the new deficit targets. [...]

Should revenue pay-go materialize, President Bush might be confronted with having to veto a so-called $500 billion deficit-reduction package that would increase the cap-gain, dividend, and top-income-bracket tax rates.

Not that the Democrats can get such a bill even through a Congress they'd control--think Hillary is going to run in '08 on a $500 billion tax hike?--but the President would be eager to veto it. This is just one of the ways in which this election doesn't matter--except in so far as the GOP has to wait 6 years to reclaim a couple Senate seats.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:20 AM


Saddam Hussein to be murdered for the GOP (Joshua Holland, October 22, 2006, AlterNet)

As you know, just two days before Americans go to the polls this November, a verdict is expected in (one of) Saddam Hussein's trial(s). He and his co-defendants are almost certain to get the death penalty.

You've got to be extraordinarily naïve to believe that the timing isn't intentional. For the last two news cycles before the vote, pundits will point to the verdict as a tangible sign of progress in Iraq, even as the country stands on the brink of falling into total chaos.

The trial's been driven by politics since its start. In January, the first judge to hear Saddam's case resigned because of the government's attempt to influence the proceedings. An Iraqi source told reporters: "He's under a lot of pressure. The whole court is under political pressure."

That pressure originates in Washington, and is transmitted via an occupation authority that is filled with Republican political hacks with no experience or qualifications to justify their appointments.

Of course, if anyone deserves the death penalty it's Saddam Hussein. Let's be clear on that point.

But, as Mr. Holland himself makes clear, he's only going to be executed because of George W. Bush. Democrats no longer believe in giving genocidal dictators what they deserve.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:17 AM


The Gambler's legend grows (Larry Stone, 10/23/06, Seattle Times)

This is getting seriously historical, what Kenny Rogers is doing in this October of his redemption.

Rogers is snorting and snarling his way to one of the all-time great postseasons, one that started out evoking the name of Orel Hershiser and now is moving rapidly into Christy Mathewson territory.

On a bitterly cold night at Comerica Park, Rogers on Sunday put another indelible stamp on his growing legend, and added a bit of intrigue and controversy in the process.

Just what was that dark blotch on the palm of his pitching hand, isolated on TV still shots after the first inning? Was it pine tar, as some Cardinals hitters seem to have suspected? Or merely dirt, as Rogers insisted, and umpire supervisor Steve Palermo concurred?

It hardly mattered in the big picture.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Quietly Keeping Tigers Humming: Unassuming Guillen Takes Spotlight (Barry Svrluga, October 23, 2006, Washington Post)

The Detroit Tigers boast about their blandness, thrive in their low-wattage ways. Look at their roster, and try to find a full-fledged, name-in-lights star. Ivan Rodriguez, the catcher? Indeed, he'll likely head to the Hall of Fame. But he could walk down the streets of Manhattan with nary a problem. Magglio Ordoñez? Kenny Rogers? Justin Verlander and Joel Zumaya? Nice players all, but their combined Q-rating doesn't reach that of, say, Michigan-bred Derek Jeter all by his lonesome.

Which brings us to the Tigers' shortstop who has, for the last two postseason series, unassumingly played first base. Sunday night, he didn't draw the attention of Rogers, with his eight scoreless innings, or provide the flair of Craig Monroe, who homered for the second straight night. The most notable factoid about him, before this World Series: In 1998, as a 22-year-old minor league shortstop, he was part of a deal that sent Randy Johnson from Seattle to Houston.

Didn't know that? Doesn't matter. Know this: Sunday night, Carlos Guillen hit an RBI double, a triple, a single and drew a walk, raising his postseason average to .378, keying the offense in a 3-1 Tigers victory that evened the series at one game apiece.

Guillen had a better year than Jeter yet the World Series preview gave Eckstein the edge at ss?

October 22, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:07 PM


How I Came to Love the Veil (Yvonne Ridley, October 22, 2006, Washinghton Post)

I used to look at veiled women as quiet, oppressed creatures -- until I was captured by the Taliban.

In September 2001, just 15 days after the terrorist attacks on the United States, I snuck into Afghanistan, clad in a head-to-toe blue burqa, intending to write a newspaper account of life under the repressive regime. Instead, I was discovered, arrested and detained for 10 days. I spat and swore at my captors; they called me a "bad" woman but let me go after I promised to read the Koran and study Islam. (Frankly, I'm not sure who was happier when I was freed -- they or I.)

Back home in London, I kept my word about studying Islam -- and was amazed by what I discovered. I'd been expecting Koran chapters on how to beat your wife and oppress your daughters; instead, I found passages promoting the liberation of women. Two-and-a-half years after my capture, I converted to Islam, provoking a mixture of astonishment, disappointment and encouragement among friends and relatives.

Now, it is with disgust and dismay that I watch here in Britain as former foreign secretary Jack Straw describes the Muslim nikab -- a face veil that reveals only the eyes -- as an unwelcome barrier to integration, with Prime Minister Tony Blair, writer Salman Rushdie and even Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi leaping to his defense.

Having been on both sides of the veil, I can tell you that most Western male politicians and journalists who lament the oppression of women in the Islamic world have no idea what they are talking about. They go on about veils, child brides, female circumcision, honor killings and forced marriages, and they wrongly blame Islam for all this -- their arrogance surpassed only by their ignorance.

These cultural issues and customs have nothing to do with Islam. A careful reading of the Koran shows that just about everything that Western feminists fought for in the 1970s was available to Muslim women 1,400 years ago.

He says he's doing something for women's sake.

The veil dust-up has nothing to do with women.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:49 PM


Why does 21st-century woman seem like a throwback to the Fifties? (Sylvia Patterson, 10/22/06, Sunday Herald)

This week, a survey of what it means to be a ‘21st-century woman’ is beaming glossily from the pages of Glamour magazine in all its impossibly aspirational splendour like a Hollywood screen-buffed fairytale harmonised into infinity by the Philharmonic Orchestra. [...]

More surprising, though, than the consumerism, sexual opportunism and cavalier financial flakiness which may characterise the actual concept of being 28, is a picture looming into focus here of a curious, forthcoming conservatism. Young women, it seems, are going culturally back in time, the feminist uprising and boardroom battles of the Seventies and Eighties now fading into mum’s own history as the new generation teeters forwards on its gigantic Miu Miu baroque platform wedges (£320) into the ideal home of the future which looks more like the Fifties, a place where mum stays at home, dad goes to work, the kids eat carrots they grew in the family allotment, while tradition, comfort and middle-class values rule.

A staggering 80% of our 21st-century supposed careerists would, in an ideal world, on having children, give up work altogether . However, 68% say it’s ‘acceptable’ for mothers to work full-time which means, presumably, 32% find it unacceptable. In the imminent political future, meanwhile, Gordon Brown may be a stuffily weird old man: if there was a general election tomorrow, the majority 29% would vote Conservative. As opposed to 24% Labour, 23% Liberal Democrat and 11% the Greens. [...]

Perhaps, to our ambitious, materialist, self-possessed and immaculate 28-year-old, where the terrifying outside world continues to explode, the inner world is the only one you can trust and the only one you can control, so bunker in, pucker up and concern yourself with your own.

And somewhere, perhaps, in a hairdresser’s at an exclusive spa on the outskirts of the Maldives, Margaret Thatcher flicks on through the glossy magazines and smiles.

Now, if they'd just start dressing like the Iron Lady....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:22 PM


High Dow signals investors' high confidence (Ron Scherer, 10/23/06, The Christian Science Monitor)

Having surpassed 12000 for the first time last week - closing at 12011.73 Thursday and 12002.37 Friday - the Dow is signifying confidence among investors that economic growth will continue next year, even if at a slower pace. And, if the economy is OK, then future earnings prospects of blue-chip companies such as GE and Citigroup are also promising.

"The Dow really reflects the economic mood, the social mood, the political mood," says Fred Dickson, chief investment strategist at D.A. Davidson & Co. in Lake Oswego, Ore. "It's really a window on the heartland of the country."

And in three weeks we're supposed to vote as if it were November 1929 in America?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:19 PM


Radical Islam finds US 'sterile ground': Home-grown terror cells are largely missing in action, a contrast to Europe's situation. (Alexandra Marks, 10/23/06, The Christian Science Monitor)

To understand why, experts point to people like Omar Jaber, an AmeriCorps volunteer; Tarek Radwan, a human rights advocate; and Hala Kotb, a consultant on Middle East affairs. They are the face of young Muslim-Americans today - educated, motivated, and integrated into society - and their voices help explain how the nation's history of inclusion has helped to defuse sparks of Islamist extremism.

"American society is more into the whole assimilation aspect of it," says New York-born Mr. Jaber. "In America, it's a lot easier to practice our religion without complications."

In a nation where mosques have sprung up alongside churches and synagogues, where Muslim women are free to wear the hijab (or not), and where education and job opportunities range from decent to good, the resentments that can breed extremism do not seem very evident in the Muslim community.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:59 PM


In Iraq, Shiite vs. Shiite power play: Moqtada al-Sadr's followers have clashed with US and Iraqi forces in the past week. (Dan Murphy and Awadh al-Taiee, 10/23/06, CS Monitor)

US policymakers and senior Iraqi politicians alike agree that the most important precondition for ending the country's sectarian war is to defang the Sunni and Shiite militias.

But doing so means taking on Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army, one of the country's largest and most powerful militias. Already, efforts to rein in Mr. Sadr's army have met fierce resistance and contributed to the rise in violence throughout the country this month.

The gaping presupposition here is that the sectarian violence ought to end before Mookie and company have settled the Sunni hash.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:52 PM

...AND LOWER...:

U.S. gasoline prices dip to $2.20 a gallon (Reuters, 10/22/06)

The national retail average for self-serve, regular gas was $2.2012 a gallon on October 20, down about 7.79 cents per gallon in the past two weeks, according to the nationwide Lundberg survey of about 6,000 gas stations. [...]

"These latest two weeks (gasoline price declines) come nearly entirely from more crude on the market than the market requires," said survey editor Trilby Lundberg.

If it's really falling just on fundamentals and the speculators haven't been cleared out yet then there's a much steeper decline to follow.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:37 PM


A nation 'fearful of young people' (Press Association, October 22, 2006)

Britain is a nation fearful of young people, a children's charity has claimed.

Youngsters have been "demonised" by the media and politicians creating myths and increasing fear amongst adults, Barnardo's said.

The political war between the many old and the few young in the secular world (the West other than the U.S.) is going to be very ugly. In the early innings the aged will tax the young more and more heavily, but eventually the young will have to realize their physical strength and, especially given the racial divergence, violence is not unlikely to follow.

The Exceptional Nation (Austin Bay, 20 Oct 2006, Tech Central Station)

["A]merica Alone" is a doom book of a peculiar sort -- it's insistently witty and trenchantly written. Both are achievements, given the core subject matter: American demographic success and vitality (fecundity, folks) compared to the demographic decline of other democracies and modern, industrialized nations.

Steyn is an arch "Euro-pessimist," who backs his pessimism with numbers.

Europeans are reproducing below the "replacement rate" -- thus the average age of their populations is increasing sharply. If current trends continue, by 2050 one in three Germans and Italians will be over 65 years old. In the United States, only one in five will be so gray.

As a result, the Europe of the European Union (Steyn disdainfully calls it "Eutopia") faces economic decline and risks systemic change. Steyn writes: "Tax revenues that support the ever growing numbers of the elderly and retired have to be paid by equally growing numbers of the young and working. The design flaw of the radically secularist Eutopia is that it depend on a religious-society birth rate."

Japan faces the same "gray threat." Even China has a birthrate below the demographic replacement rate. Among the modern industrial nations, only the United States (and possibly India) has the knack for reproduction.

The United States also grows through immigration that includes political and cultural integration.

Europe's Muslims, however, are multiplying -- but they are not integrating culturally. Steyn argues that if European nations fail to culturally integrate Muslims, Europe faces profound political changes.

"As fertility dries up," he writes, "so do societies. Demography is the most obvious symptom of civilizational exhaustion, and the clearest indicator of where we're headed."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:34 PM


Mike McGavick for U.S. Senate (Seattle Times, 10/22/06)

In Sen. Maria Cantwell and challenger Mike McGavick, Washington has two fully qualified choices for the Senate. The better choice is the Republican, McGavick.

Some see this election as a referendum on George W. Bush. If we did, we would be for a solid Democratic ticket. But like most Washington voters, we take our candidates one at a time. Mike McGavick is an unusual businessman-politician. He managed the multibillion-dollar turnaround of Safeco Corporation, sacrificing some jobs but saving many others. He showed a sense of social purpose in his stress on racial inclusion at Safeco. He knows politics, having worked for Sen. Slade Gorton. He has run a clean campaign.

This is the sort of eminently winnable seat that the GOP could end up having to wait another six years to take because the Right has its panties in a twist these days.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:33 PM


Iraq oil production claim stuns experts (Ben Lando, October 20, 2006, United Press International)

Iraq's oil minister stunned experts this week when he said production had reached 2.86 million barrels per day - higher than pre-war levels and above what was known as Iraq's capacity of about 2.5 million barrels per day.

Oil minister Hussein Al Shahristani said production in the south - home of Iraq's largest known reserves - and the north, which has been hit with violence, have improved, the Middle East North Africa Financial Network reported Wednesday, citing the Arabic Al Sabah newspaper.

Think they'll heed the Sunni's oil quota?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:21 PM


We are biased, admit the stars of BBC News (SIMON WALTERS, 10/22/06, Mail on Sunday)

It was the day that a host of BBC executives and star presenters admitted what critics have been telling them for years: the BBC is dominated by trendy, Left-leaning liberals who are biased against Christianity and in favour of multiculturalism. [...]

At the secret meeting in London last month, which was hosted by veteran broadcaster Sue Lawley, BBC executives admitted the corporation is dominated by homosexuals and people from ethnic minorities, deliberately promotes multiculturalism, is anti-American, anti-countryside and more sensitive to the feelings of Muslims than Christians.

One veteran BBC executive said: 'There was widespread acknowledgement that we may have gone too far in the direction of political correctness.

'Unfortunately, much of it is so deeply embedded in the BBC's culture, that it is very hard to change it.'

Culture is a misnomer.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:04 AM


Banking Data: A Mea Culpa (BYRON CALAME, 10/22/06, NY Times)

Since the job of public editor requires me to probe and question the published work and wisdom of Times journalists, there’s a special responsibility for me to acknowledge my own flawed assessments.

My July 2 column strongly supported The Times’s decision to publish its June 23 article on a once-secret banking-data surveillance program. After pondering for several months, I have decided I was off base. There were reasons to publish the controversial article, but they were slightly outweighed by two factors to which I gave too little emphasis. While it’s a close call now, as it was then, I don’t think the article should have been published.

Those two factors are really what bring me to this corrective commentary: the apparent legality of the program in the United States, and the absence of any evidence that anyone’s private data had actually been misused.

What makes this an especially amusing example of unbiased media bias is that, while the original story was front page news, this belated recognition comes only after a tidbit about the Times hiring a perfume critic.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:48 AM


Hollywood's 'security celebs' new voting bloc for Republicans (Bridget Johnson, 10/21/2006, LA DAily News)

The security celeb is...a product of the 9-11 terrorist attacks - not only are there the security concerns of other Americans, but the added knowledge that radical Islamists see Hollywood as the bane of civilization, thus making them additional targets.

Two years ago, I heard producer and director David Zucker of "Airplane!" fame talk about his conversion to a "Sept. 11 Republican." A lifelong liberal with a keen interest in protecting the environment, security concerns prompted Zucker to switch to the GOP, making an anti-John Kerry television ad in 2004 and two new commercials for next month's midterm elections.

"I still can't believe I'm a Republican," Zucker told The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles earlier this month. "There are just certain things ingrained in our Jewish roots. Our fathers voted for Roosevelt, and we voted for JFK, Humphrey and Clinton. But the Democratic Party has changed."

Though the security celeb doesn't necessarily make the GOP crossover while making his concerns known, such as James Woods or Ron Silver, the security celeb may also be motivated by the left's increasing animosity toward Israel. As many left-wingers were marching in the streets against the Jewish state during the recent Hezbollah war, Spielberg's foundation donated $1 million toward relief efforts in Israel. Adam Sandler also donated 400 PlayStation consoles to Israeli children whose homes were hit by Hezbollah rockets.

Perhaps the most visible recent statement of the security celebrities was a full-page ad taken out in the L.A. Times in August, signed by dozens of Hollywood types including Nicole Kidman, Michael Douglas, Bernie Mac, Dennis Hopper, Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis, Danny De Vito, Don Johnson, James Woods, Kelly Preston, Patricia Heaton, William Hurt, Ridley Scott, Michael Mann, Sam Raimi and Paramount chairman Sumner Redstone, as well as former Paramount chairwoman and longtime Democratic contributor Sherry Lansing.

"We the undersigned are pained and devastated by the civilian casualties in Israel and Lebanon caused by terrorist actions initiated by terrorist organizations such as Hezbollah and Hamas," the ad read. "If we do not succeed in stopping terrorism around the world, chaos will rule and innocent people will continue to die. We need to support democratic societies and stop terrorism at all costs."

We were watching Sherlock Holmes and the Scarlet Claw the other night, which seems to be set in Canada for no other reason than so that Holmes can end the film with a ringing endorsement of our vital ally to the North, replete with quote from Winston Churchill--kind of sad that it's so noticeable that Hollywood was once patriotic.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:21 AM


Who are these guys?: Tony Soprano's better known than candidates (DAVID SALTONSTALL, 10/22/06, NY DAILY NEWS)

What election?

In a sign of just how bored voters are by this year's statewide races, a highly unscientific survey by the Daily News found that most New Yorkers have no idea what the candidates even look like.

The News stopped 100 people on the streets of Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan and asked them to identify this year's major candidates - plus actor James Gandolfini, aka Tony Soprano - from the pictures shown here.

The results were not pretty.

Only 47 out of the 100, for example, could put a name to Democrat Eliot Spitzer, the attorney general for the last eight years and the odds-on favorite to be the next governor.

Democrats may not have yet reconciled themselves to the need to return to the Third Way of Bill Clinton/George W. Bush, but they have had sense enough to just not propose to do anything at all, which -- combined with the fact that George Bush will be president regardless -- makes this perhaps the lowest stakes election since before the Crash in '29. Why would anyone pay attention?

The Mere Midterms (NOAH FELDMAN, 10/22/06, NY Times Magazine)

In the modern era, though, midterm elections have come to serve mainly as expressions of the public mood. Putting aside especially popular or unpopular local candidates, they offer a snapshot judgment on the president’s performance — more like a midterm exam than a final that really counts. Voter turnout reflects these diminished stakes. Even though control of both the House and the Senate could change, and the late Bush years are politically charged times by any measure, we’ll be lucky if more than 40 percent of the American electorate bothers to vote — as opposed to 60 percent in 2004.

Under the right circumstances, of course, a strong midterm result can directly influence policy making. The 1994 elections that brought Newt Gingrich to power in the House decisively shaped the remaining years of Bill Clinton’s presidency, pushing him further to the right and bringing out his latent tendency to govern every day as if an election were being held the next. And even a lame-duck president can be affected by a clear midterm message if he wants to see his vice president elected and preserve his historical legacy.

This year, though, it is doubtful that the midterm elections will significantly alter the Bush administration’s way of governing.

A Democratic sweep – and then what? (Robert J. Caldwell, October 22, 2006, San Diego Union-Tribune)
[T]here is one especially startling difference between the 1994 GOP blowout and the apparently pending Democratic sweep this year.

In 1994, Republicans nationalized the midterm congressional elections by uniting around a national agenda, Newt Gingrich's Contract With America, endorsed by 370 Republican congressional candidates. In stark contrast, the Democrats this year have no agreed-upon national agenda.

The Democrats' strategy, to the extent they have one, is to make the 2006 midterms a referendum on an unpopular president and an unpopular war. That may be enough to get them elected, but then what?

U.S. to Hand Iraq a New Timetable on Security Role (DAVID S. CLOUD, 10/22/06, NY Times)
The Bush administration is drafting a timetable for the Iraqi government to address sectarian divisions and assume a larger role in securing the country, senior American officials said.

Details of the blueprint, which is to be presented to Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki before the end of the year and would be carried out over the next year and beyond, are still being devised. But the officials said that for the first time Iraq was likely to be asked to agree to a schedule of specific milestones, like disarming sectarian militias, and to a broad set of other political, economic and military benchmarks intended to stabilize the country.

Although the plan would not threaten Mr. Maliki with a withdrawal of American troops, several officials said the Bush administration would consider changes in military strategy and other penalties if Iraq balked at adopting it or failed to meet critical benchmarks within it.

China squeezes Pyongyang (Japan Times, 10/22/06)
A series of meetings last week among the foreign ministers of the United States, Japan, South Korea and China were significant for helping the four nations confirm their mutual cooperation in implementing sanctions against North Korea following its first nuclear-weapons test Oct. 9. [...]

It is noteworthy that China, Pyongyang's traditional ally and largest trading partner and aid supplier, is now taking a tough stance toward its reclusive neighbor. At a joint news conference with Ms. Rice, Mr. Li said China will fulfill its obligation under the resolution. He said, "As a member of the United Nations and a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council, China will, as always, continue to implement our relevant international obligations."

Although he did not specifically mention the cargo inspection issue, Ms. Rice, who also met with Chinese President Hu Jintao, said she was convinced that the Chinese leaders were determined not to allow illicit materials to cross the land border between China and North Korea.

President Hu earlier told Ms. Chikage Ogi, president of Japan's Upper House, that he regrets that North Korea went ahead with the nuclear-bomb test in defiance of China's warnings not to do so. He said, "We need to make the country aware of the strong reactions from the international community" against its nuclear test. At the same time, he called for coolheadedness in dealing with the problem.

China is wary of the possibility that too much pressure on North Korea will lead to a collapse of the Pyongyang regime and an exodus of refugees. But there are reports that China appears to be carrying out inspections of cargo entering and leaving North Korea along the two countries' land border.

Chinese banks have stopped financial transactions with the North under government orders, and China has stopped air services between the two countries. These developments represent a sea change in China's attitude, which had been one of reluctance to take a harsh approach to North Korea.

If the Democrats take Congress, here's what they'd do (David S. Broder, 10/22/06, Washington Post)
No one speaks more authoritatively for the Democrats on defense and national-security issues than Sens. Carl Levin of Michigan and Jack Reed of Rhode Island, both longtime members of the Armed Services Committee. If you want to know what Democratic gains in this midterm election would mean for national security policy, Levin and Reed can provide the answers.

In a telephone conference call with reporters the other day, the two senators outlined the changes in U.S. policy toward North Korea and Iraq that they and their fellow Democrats would like to see. They signal to voters the kind of change a Democratic victory would mean.

In the case of North Korea, Levin called for doing something that President Bush has refused for six years to do — engage directly in talks with representatives of the communist regime. [...]

On Iraq, the two Democrats harked back to the amendment that 39 senators supported during a debate earlier this year — an amendment that called for a start on U.S. troop withdrawals within six months, but set no numbers and specified no target date for ending the U.S. military presence.

Wow, did you feel the tectonic plates shift?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:16 AM


We're Muslim-Americans - kill us, too (ASLAM ABDULLAH, Oct. 21, 2006, THE JERUSALEM POST)

The leader of al-Qaida in Iraq, Abu Hamza al-Muhajer, recently issued a decree to its supporters: Kill at least one American in the next two weeks "using a sniper rifle, explosive or whatever the battle may require."

Well, Abu Hamza al-Muhajer, I am an American too. Count me as the one of those you have asked your supporters to kill.

I am not alone. There are thousands of Muslims with me in Las Vegas, and many more millions in America, who are proud Americans and who are ready to face your challenge. You hide in your caves and behind the faces of civilians in Afghanistan and Iraq. You don't show your faces and you have no guts to face Muslims. You thrive on the misery of thousands of Muslim youth and children who are victims of despotism, poverty and ignorance.

During the past two decades, you have brought nothing but shame and disaster to your religion and your world.

You said "not to drop your weapons," not to let "your enemies rest until each one of you kills at least one American within a period that does not exceed 15 days."

But I invite you to surrender, to seek forgiveness from God almighty for the senseless killing you and your supporters are involved in and repent for everything you have done.

You say that the word of God is the highest. Yes, it is. But you are not worthy of it. You have abandoned God and you have started worshipping your own satanic egos that rejoice at the killing of innocent people. You don't represent Muslims or, for that matter, any decent human being who believes in the sanctity of life.

Many among us American Muslims have differences with our administration on domestic and foreign issues, just like many other Americans do. But the plurality of opinions does not mean that we deprive ourselves of the civility that God demands from us. America is our home and will always be our home. Its interests are ours, and its people are ours. When you talk of killing Americans, you first have to kill 6 million or so Muslims who will stand for every American's right to live and enjoy the life as commanded by God.

Interesting to see how much more vocal Muslims are becoming at the very moment the Left wants to surrender to the extremists.

Dubai tours offer positive view of Islam (JIM KRANE, 10/21/06, Associated Press)

Dubai's leader, Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, is funding mosque tours for Western visitors that aim to clear up misconceptions about Islam, especially that the religion condones violence. The ultimate goal is defusing strains between Muslims and Christians that rose after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks in the United States, and the war in

The hope is that tourists can spread understanding of Muslims in their home countries. [...]

Now, the government-linked center wants to expand inside the United Arab Emirates and beyond with an eye on the more than 1 million Westerners, mostly Europeans, who visit every year.

It has budgeted $2.7 million for a multimedia center devoted to Islam and Arab culture at the mosque. The center is also expanding tours to seven more mosques in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, capital of the Emirates.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:13 AM


Egypt, Under Stress, Sees U.S. as Pain and Remedy (MICHAEL SLACKMAN, 10/22/06, NY times)

Faced with twin political threats — a rising Islamic movement at home and diminished influence throughout the region — Egypt is pressing the United States for an aggressive promotion of Palestinian statehood as a means of strengthening itself and other Arab governments allied with Washington, senior officials say.

Egyptian officials told Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on her recent visit here that the United States should move straight “to the endgame,” with a major policy initiative tackling the most contentious Palestinian issues: borders of a future state, the site of the capital, and the so-called right of return for Palestinian refugees.

If Egypt, Israel, the US, Britain, Canada, Australia and Japan recognize a state of Palestine then there is one--which should have been done years ago.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:55 AM


How a legendary athlete became the heart of his team -- and of his city.: a review of JOHNNY U: The Life and Times of John Unitas By Tom Callahan (Jonathan Yardley, October 22, 2006, Washington Post)

Tom Callahan's affectionate account of the life and times of Johnny Unitas isn't so much a biography as an informal portrait, and it really is as much about the times as it is about the man, or, as he says, "less about a specific place in the country than a place where the whole country used to be." Unitas joined the Baltimore Colts of the National Football League in 1956, when professional football still existed at the periphery of American sports and when the money was anything except big. Callahan writes:

"The time was different. The players lived next door to the fans, literally. There wasn't a financial gulf, a cultural gulf, or any other kind of gulf, between them. Except for a dozen Sundays a year, the Colts were occupied in the usual and normal pursuits of happiness. 'I remember when Alan and I bought our first row house,' Yvonne Ameche said. 'We paid eight thousand dollars for it. John Unitas came over and laid our kitchen floor. Everyone pitched in, painted and helped us get that little row house ready.' . . . In an annual visit to every locker room in the league, the Philadelphia-based commissioner of the NFL, DeBenneville 'Bert' Bell, emphasized the virtue of community. 'He told us,' [one Baltimore player] said, 'that if you're going to play professional football in a town, you have to live in that town, really live there. "Otherwise," he said, "don't play." A lot of us took that to heart.' "

Nobody could have known it at the time, but huge change was only a couple of years away. The decisive moment occurred in December 1958, when Unitas and the Colts defeated the New York Giants for the NFL championship in an overtime game for which the only appropriate adjective was, and remains, thrilling . I remember it as though it had just happened. I was 19 years old, at home from college for Christmas vacation, bored to the point of comatose. The school where my father was headmaster had a black-and-white television set in its recreation room, to which I retreated in desperation the afternoon of Dec. 28. I knew nothing about pro football when the game began and was hooked on it for life when it ended.

So too were millions -- literally, millions -- of other Americans.

The Unitas Factor: How a skinny rookie QB turned the Colts into champs (Excerpted from Johnny U: The Life and Times of John Unitas, by Tom Callahan)

The Colts beat the Los Angeles Rams in Baltimore (Unitas completed 18 of 24 passes for 293 yards and three touchdowns), but they mostly lost the rest of the way. "When it came time to play a postponed Redskins game [two days before Christmas]," the Sun's Snyder said, "everybody in town knew Weeb's job was on the line."

With 15 seconds left, the Colts had the ball on their 47-yard line, losing 17-12. "In the huddle," Mutscheller said, "John didn't call a play. He just gave the pass-blocking numbers and told me, 'Go deep, Jim, and then loop back. It'll be there.' I ran as fast as I could to the goal line, turned and came back a step, and there it was. Three Redskins and I jumped like basketball players going up for a rebound. I don't know how, but I tipped the ball [or it bounced off Norb Hecker's head] and then caught it on the way into the end zone as the gun went off. We won 19-17."

Ewbank's job was saved. Unitas's position was officially secured. John's 55.6 passing percentage for the season (110 completions in 198 attempts for 1,498 yards and nine touchdowns) was the best by a rookie quarterback in the 38-year history of the NFL. Nobody noticed, of course, but with that 53-yard heave to Mutscheller, John had passed for a touchdown in three straight games. One hundred and two touchdown passes later, on Dec. 11, 1960, the streak would end at 47 games.

"There was no crash of thunder early on when I thought to myself, This is going to be the great Johnny U," said Moore. "No. I could see that he was improving. But I was improving. Raymond was improving. Nobody really singled John out yet as being the reason we all were improving. But he was the reason. John was the first one of us to think in terms of being world champions. He made us rally around him. We didn't have a choice. Going into the second half of our rookie year, I had started to settle in. Hey, man, I thought, you can handle this after all. One morning before practice, JU looked over at me and said, 'You're feeling pretty happy with yourself, huh?' You see, he could read your mind. I told him, 'I know I've still got a lot to learn.' He smiled and said, 'Let's learn it together.'"

Ewbank could be decisive at important junctures, but his tendency to become flustered and tongue-tied under pressure combined with his cartoon build and fondness for pregame oratory to make him a figure of fun among the players. In those days the quarterback called most of the plays. Colts guard Alex Sandusky said, "We're in the huddle late in a game. It's third down, three or four yards to go. We need a TD. And here comes a play from the sideline: 'John, Weeb says to get the first down.' We're all trying not to laugh, but holy hell. Weeb sometimes would actually send in the play, 'Tell John to score a touchdown.'"

Unitas laughed along. He recalled this sideline exchange: "'Do you have anything for me?' I asked Weeb during a timeout. 'Nope.' 'Does anybody else?' I said. He checked with his assistants. 'Nope.' 'Nope.' 'Nope.' 'Honestly,' I said, 'I don't know why I even come over here.'" But the truth was, there were plays to get first downs and there were plays to get touchdowns. John knew what Weeb meant.

"Always, at some point in the game," Sandusky said, "Unitas would come up to you and say, 'Do you need anything? Should we run a draw play to get this guy off your ass? How can I help? What can I do?' At the same time, one of us might say, 'Hey, John, a trap should work pretty soon.' He'd inventory it. Invariably he'd get around to using it. Of course, we did all of our talking before the huddle formed. Unless he asked you a question, only John spoke in the huddle."

As Penn State seldom threw the ball, Moore wasn't certain he could catch it in the pros. "Weeb wanted all of the backs to learn the wide receiver position, too, just in case," Moore said. "This was what led to me becoming a flanker and to Mutscheller becoming a tight end and to the whole game changing." Lenny was catching the ball well enough, especially on the slant passes. So he was surprised and a little annoyed when Berry pulled him aside one afternoon to say, "We're not getting everything we can from you." "I thought, What the hell is he talking about?" Moore recalled. "'Hey,' I told him, 'John's the one calling the plays.' 'That's not what I mean. John's not going to throw to you if he doesn't have confidence in you, and he can't have confidence in you if you haven't worked with him. Lenny, John won't ask you to stay after practice. You've got to do it yourself. He has to know that after three and two-tenths seconds, this is where you're going to be. You've got to time it up with him.' From then on I stayed out after practice enough to win John's confidence."

In the huddle Unitas might ask, "What do you have?" and Moore might reply, "I can do the slant-takeoff-sideline. I'll see what else we got going later on."

"John wouldn't necessarily call it right away," Lenny said. "He'd file it in the back of his head. Raymond would come in and say, 'I can do a Z-out pattern. I can do a Q.' Most of the time John would go right to what Raymond suggested. But sooner or later he'd turn to me and ask, 'Do you think we can do that thing now?' Sometimes he'd get on a roll and just start reeling off my whole list. The angle-ins, the angle-outs, the angle-out-in, the angle-out-loop. As soon as I'd start to make my plant, I knew the ball was already in the air. I'd turn around and, wham, it would be on top of me. Three and two-tenths seconds."

Moore never stopped being astonished by how much of the field John could see, even under the worst duress. "There were 13 seconds left at Wrigley," Lenny said. "The Bears were leading us by three, and we were about 40 yards away. It had been a brutal game, typical Bears game. Alex Sandusky had to reach down into the mud to pack off John's bloody nose. His upper lip was shredded too. We get in the huddle, and John asks me, as casual as anything, 'You know Sixty-six?' 'Yeah, an angle in, at 12 yards, out of, like, the Sixty-two series.' 'Right. I want the line to give me the Sixty-two blocking protection, but I want you to give me the Sixty-six takeoff with a good look to the inside, like you're poised for a quick hitter. I'll make a real big pump. You make a real good head turn. Plant hard, then break to the outside and take off.'

"Sure enough, the fake drew the defensive back inside. JU laid it right out. Six points. I mean, with everything that was spinning around him at that moment, how in hell could he think of a play that we don't ever run? He had told me not just what to run but how to run it. He had been watching my man all game long and waiting. He knew exactly what my man was going to do when it mattered. I can't tell you how many games came down to a play like that."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:54 AM


Lengthy Layoff May Have Taken Edge Off Detroit (Barry Svrluga, October 22, 2006, Washington Post)

The obvious question after the Detroit Tigers' lackluster 7-2 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 1 of the World Series on Saturday night came not about the game itself, but in all the time the Tigers had to dilly-dally before the series began. Six days of practicing is, after all, not the same as six days of playing. Did the layoff affect the Tigers, who had won seven straight games?

"I'm sure it did," third baseman Brandon Inge said. "It seemed like we were just one step behind, and the intensity wasn't quite there. I would imagine that's what it was from, because in the World Series, you shouldn't be as relaxed at all."

Other players tossed the layoff aside. "That's an excuse," designated hitter Sean Casey said. But there was evidence of rust on the Tigers, such as when Inge committed two errors on the same play in the sixth inning.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:50 AM


Ehrlich woos anti-O'Malley Democrats (Jon Ward, 10/21/06, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. yesterday rallied in Baltimore County with Democratic lawmakers and officials who endorse the Republican's re-election bid, as Democratic leaders urged voters in the city to defeat the governor even if they "don't care for" the party's candidate to replace him.

"I have represented majority-Democratic districts for all of my entire career," Mr. Ehrlich said, standing on a truck bed in a Dundalk parking lot before about 100 supporters.

"Many, many Democrats are stepping up ... not leaving their party, just voting for the person they believe will lead the state," the governor and former congressman from Baltimore County said.

If blacks were to re-elect Governor Ehrlich and send Michael Steele to the Senate even the Democrats would start listening to their concerns.

A personality for politics: Steele's reviews are mixed, but his charisma puts him at center stage (Jennifer Skalka and Matthew Hay Brown, October 22, 2006, Baltimore Sun)

As a teenager, Michael S. Steele was a natural on the stage. Tall and handsome, with a dazzling smile, he won parts in high school, college and summer-stock theater that allowed him to be the central figure, the star.

But even when he failed to land the leads, Steele managed to make himself visible.

"Somehow, he always found his way to the front," says Jim Mumford, Steele's former drama director at Archbishop Carroll High School in Washington. He was "so enthusiastic," Mumford says, "that, of course, you let him stay up there."

As an adult, Steele has taken on a broad array of roles: Roman Catholic seminarian. Washington securities lawyer. Small-business owner. Republican Party leader. Maryland lieutenant governor and the state's highest-ranking black elected official.

And though his reviews in many roles have been mixed, his charisma and personality have kept him moving forward.

Now Steele, 48, is auditioning for the biggest role of his professional life: U.S. senator. He was recruited by the White House and is running against Democratic Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin for the seat now held by Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes.

Campaigning in a state where Democrats hold a 2-1 edge over Republicans in voter registration, and where 59 percent disapprove of President Bush's performance in office, he is putting some of that stage experience to use.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Ugly, Thorny Things (Joseph Epstein, wall Street Journal)

I get most of my notions about the world and how it works less from experience than from books. Almost all my interesting discoveries, my Eureka moments, have been found in other writers' pages. I've been reading "The Letters of George Santayana," for instance, and, in a letter from his student days in Germany, Santayana notes the complete incapacity of the Germans for boredom. Bouncing the bottom of my palm off my forehead, I exclaim, "Of course." Suddenly I understand the ability of the Germans to spend 14 or more hours listening to Wagner's Ring Cycle, or thrill to Goethe's "Faust."

I had another such moment while reading James Buchan's "Crowded with Genius," a book about the 18th-century Scottish Enlightenment. The moment came with these two sentences: "The 18th century had more ideas about the past than it had facts: archeology and philology were infant sciences. (The 21st century has more facts than ideas.)" Eureka! The relation between facts and ideas appeared to me in an entirely new light.

Not only have the past 50 or so years been largely bereft of grand ideas, but much of the best intellectual work of the period has been devoted to eliminating the major ideas, or idea systems, of the previous 100 or so years: notably, Marxism and Freudianism, with Darwinism perhaps next to tumble. The lesson seems to be that the accretion of new facts tends to undo ideas.

October 21, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:13 PM


Jews embrace Stephen Harper (LORRIE GOLDSTEIN, 10/20/06, Toronto Sun)

The real story when Prime Minister Stephen Harper addressed the annual award of merit dinner sponsored by B'nai Brith in Toronto Wednesday wasn't what he said about Israel.

It's that the huge crowd containing many of the Canadian Jewish community's movers and shakers treated Harper like a rock star.

There was a standing ovation when he first came into the room and more of them during and after his speech, which was really nothing more than a repeat of previous statements he's made in support of Israel and against terrorism.

But the audience was buzzing. Here, finally -- after 13 years of maddeningly "nuanced" Liberal foreign policy on the Mideast -- was a Conservative PM standing up strongly and unapologetically for Israel, Canada's ally in the war on terror.

After Harper finished, Frank Dimant, executive vice-president of B'nai Brith, didn't just thank him for attending the dinner, which honoured Toronto businessmen Walter Simon Arbib and Surjit Singh Babra, co-owners of SkyLink, for their charitable work and promotion of inter-faith dialogue.

Instead, Dimant said of Harper's election victory to the largely Jewish audience: "I believe the Almighty has answered our prayers".

Posted by Peter Burnet at 4:20 PM


The President isn't an aberration (Robert Fulford, National Post, October 21st, 2006)

It's safe to say that millions of Americans would also enjoy that prospect. Hatred of Bush has become a popular emotion, almost as popular in the United States as in Canada and Europe. But have those who yearn to see him go thought about how they will feel when they no longer have Bush to kick around?

For more than five years they have grounded their response to world events in their view of Bush as a uniquely malign force. They may not know it, but their emotional well-being depends on him.

In a time of danger and instability, Bush has provided a perfect whipping boy.

Andre Glucksmann, the French philosopher, summarized the European view of Bush in a recent article: "He is the cause of all our evils. If he disappeared, universal harmony would be re-established."

Glucksmann pointed out that Bush can be (and often is) blamed whenever Muslims slaughter each other, in Iraq, Afghanistan or anywhere else. It's his fault when Iran or North Korea builds nuclear weapons. Glucksmann considers that nonsense, a "fantasy of an all-powerful America and a satanic Bush."

Still, it's become a necessary form of nonsense, a perverse kind of consolation.

What will Bush-haters put in its place? My guess is that his departure will induce mass trauma.

Millions of people, all over the world, will pine for the happy days when they knew whom to despise. The place where they nourished Bush-hatred will contain nothing but a void, with a touch of nostalgia.

It won't improve their mood when they realize that the Post-Bush Era looks a lot like the Bush Era.

BDS really does merit its own UN Special Commissioner.

Posted by Pepys at 2:03 PM


Supreme Court upholds Arizona's photo ID law for elections (Amanda Crawford, 20 Oct 2006, AZCentral.com)

Arizona voters will have to present identification at the polls on Nov. 7 after all.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Friday that Arizona can go ahead with requiring voters to present a photo ID, starting with next month's general election, as part of the Proposition 200 that voters passed in 2004. The ruling overturns an Oct. 5 decision by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which put the voter ID rules on hold this election cycle.
The Supreme Court on Friday did not decide whether the new voter ID rules are constitutional. That decision is still pending in federal district court.
As the last sentence indicates, a final ruling has yet to occur, but the cat's out of the bag and it's very hard to put angry cats back into bags.
Posted by Pepys at 1:48 PM


Geologist: Earth has lots and lots of oil (20 Oct 2006, UPI)

A University of Washington economic geologist says there is lots of crude oil left for human use.

Eric Cheney said Friday in a news release that changing economics, technological advances and efforts such as recycling and substitution make the world's mineral resources virtually infinite.
For instance, oil deposits unreachable 40 years ago can be tapped using improved technology, and oil once too costly to extract from tar sands, organic matter or coal is now worth manufacturing. Though some resources might be costlier now, they still are needed.
"The most common question I get is, 'When are we going to run out of oil?' The correct response is, 'Never,'" said Cheney. "It might be a heck of a lot more expensive than it is now, but there will always be some oil available at a price, perhaps $10 to $100 a gallon."
Cheney also said that gasoline prices today, adjusted for inflation, are about what they were in the early part of the last century. Current prices seem inordinately high, he said, because crude oil was at an extremely low price, $10 a barrel, eight years ago and now fetches around $58 a barrel.
Nothing has happened in the last eight years to warrant a significant increase in the price of oil. The current price of $58 dollars a gallon, errr... BARREL is due entirely to speculation and irrational pessimism.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:26 PM


Tigers to defeat injured Cards in five (Bob Matthews, 10/21/06, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle)

Detroit feasted on the NL in interleague play this season (15-3, including a three-game home sweep of St. Louis by a combined 21-13 June 23-25). The Cardinals were 5-10 in interleague play

It's worth noting that the Cards top three starting pitchers all moved to the NL with considerable success after failing in the AL.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:38 AM


The 1956 Hungarian Revolution in the Eyes of Ronald Reagan (János Horváth, 56 Stories)

President Ronald Reagan had a great interest in and knowledge of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution, and this knowledge helped to shape his world views and contributed to his morally firm statesmanship. Contrary to the conventional wisdom of his time, he understood that the Soviet Union was not the strong, stable superpower and the wave of the future that it pretended to be. Moreover, he was aware that the smaller nations that had been engulfed into its colonial empire strongly resented the yoke under which they were held. As President of the United States, these convictions helped to shape the foreign policy of his administration – a policy designed to further weaken the USSR.

I became acquainted with Ronald Reagan in 1974 when he was Governõr of California. At the time I was head of the Department of Economics at Butler University in Indianapolis. Governõr Reagan came to Indiana repeatedly during the early months of that year to help in the Republican primary election campaign his friend and colleague, Governõr Edgar Whitcomb, who aspired to become a U.S. Senator. I was Chairman of Economic Advisors for Governõr Whitcomb, and in that capacity I accompanied the two men on many campaign trips throughout the state. [...]

In 1981, when Ronald Reagan assumed the presidency of the United States, the cold war tension and the atomic war horizon forecasted the shadow of nuclear disaster. Within these circumstances the President’s self-confidence became decisive. He did not hesitate to brand the Soviet Union an “evil empire” and to emphasize that “in the arsenals of the world there exists no such weapon as the moral courage of free men.” Then he continued with these sentiments: “I call upon the nation’s scientists, who had created the nuclear weapons, that this time they turn their talents to the service of humanity and world peace, and create those instruments that render nuclear weapons ineffective.” During the subsequent years it happened that in the “Star Wars” competition the Soviet Union fell so far behind that the whole colonial empire went bankrupt and fell apart. In this way the rockbed fortitude and moral statesmanship of Ronald Reagan led, in 1989, to the freedom and independence of Hungary for which the freedom fighters of 1956 had fought so valiantly.

Of course, all the same folks who opposed Ronald Reagan and Star Wars now oppose George W. Bush and the Reformation of the Middle East.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:29 AM

DOW 12K + GAS < $2 = ?:

Survivor!: The GOP Victory (JIM MCTAGUE, 10/23/06, Barron's)

JUBILANT DEMOCRATS SHOULD RECONSIDER their order for confetti and noisemakers. The Democrats, as widely reported, are expecting GOP-weary voters to flock to the polls in two weeks and hand them control of the House for the first time in 12 years -- and perhaps the Senate, as well. Even some Republicans privately confess that they are anticipating the election-day equivalent of Little Big Horn. Pardon our hubris, but we just don't see it.

Our analysis -- based on a race-by-race examination of campaign-finance data -- suggests that the GOP will hang on to both chambers, at least nominally. We expect the Republican majority in the House to fall by eight seats, to 224 of the chamber's 435. At the very worst, our analysis suggests, the party's loss could be as large as 14 seats, leaving a one-seat majority. But that is still a far cry from the 20-seat loss some are predicting. In the Senate, with 100 seats, we see the GOP winding up with 52, down three

We studied every single race -- all 435 House seats and 33 in the Senate -- and based our predictions about the outcome in almost every race on which candidate had the largest campaign war chest, a sign of superior grass-roots support. [...]

Is our method reliable? It certainly has been in the past. Using it in the 2002 and 2004 congressional races, we bucked conventional wisdom and correctly predicted GOP gains both years. Look at House races back to 1972 and you'll find the candidate with the most money has won about 93% of the time. And that's closer to 98% in more recent years, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Polls can be far less reliable. Remember, they all but declared John Kerry president on Election Day 2004.

Our method isn't quite as accurate in Senate races: The cash advantage has spelled victory about 89% of the time since 1996. The reason appears to be that with more money spent on Senate races, you need a multi-million-dollar advantage to really dominate in advertising, and that's hard to come by.

Hold that cork... (Eric Alterman, October 20, 2006, The Guardian)
I've been in a tiny minority of late - well, it's been me and Karl Rove and a few others - who worry that the polls indicating a Democratic tsunami taking over both houses of Congress may be vastly overstating the likely result.

When NBC reports that "52% say they prefer a Democratic-controlled Congress, compared with 37% who want Republicans to maintain power", that's both a misleading and irrelevant statistic. This is not a national election. It is about 500 individual elections, the vast majority of which are fixed by structural factors including gerrymandering, money, population disparities and the power of incumbency. I've beaten this horse to death , and the great Molly Ivins has picked it up, as have a few others.

This morning I happened upon another significant statistical analysis which states the problem as follows: "After their stunning loss of both houses of Congress in 1994, the Democrats have averaged over 50% of the vote in congressional races in every year except 2002, yet they have not regained control of the House. The same is true with the Senate: in the last three elections (during which 100 senators were elected), Democratic candidates have earned three million more votes than Republican candidates, yet they are outnumbered by Republicans in the Senate as well. 2006 is looking better for the Democrats, but our calculations show that they need to average at least 52% of the vote (which is more than either party has received since 1992) to have an even chance of taking control of the House of Representatives."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:26 AM


USA, India to improve strategic relations (India Defence, 21/10/2006)

Determined to move forward with its strategic relationship with India, a top US state department official will be visiting India in November with a large delegation to fulfil the direction given by their political leadership.

'We have a blueprint and a framework in the July 18, 2005 and March 2, 2006 joint statements of President Bush and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh,' undersecretary of state Nick Burns, told the Indian media Friday announcing his plans to visit New Delhi.

Describing the India-US civilian nuclear deal as the 'symbolic centre of the new strategic relationship' he said it was Washington's 'top concern, top objective and top legislative priority' for the lame duck session of the outgoing Congress when it resumes after the Nov 7 midterm poll.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:22 AM


Bush stop a coincidence? Farmer's glad either way (BILL MCKELWAY, October 21, 2006, Richmond TIMES-DISPATCH)

So, was Bill Gallmeyer, like his pick-your-own pumpkins, handpicked?

"I have no idea," said the ruddy-faced pumpkin king of eastern Henrico County.

Gallmeyer, who is closing in on 70 and loves listening to Rush Limbaugh in the cab of his 20-year-old F-350 pickup truck, told President Bush on Thursday, "You are my hero."

He seems likely to have crossed the photo-op crosshairs of political strategy in a too-close-to-call campaign for the U.S. Senate.

"I was as shocked to see my picture in the paper as I was to see the president," Gallmeyer said yesterday.

He was summoned to his pumpkin stand Thursday afternoon, moments before a serpentine convoy of motorcycles and limousines squealed to a stop at Gay Avenue and Millers Lane, a few blocks from the Interstate 64 and Laburnum Avenue interchange.

Though the Gallmeyer family has occupied the spot for more than 100 years, it is not exactly on the way from the airport to down- town Richmond. Unless you need a pumpkin and know where to look.

"Thina calls me from the counter to come down there because you won't believe it, but the president is coming," Gallmeyer recalled, referring to his wife.

So he went.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:12 AM


: 'I'M HAPPIER': EDWARDS' WIFE (IAN BISHOP, October 21, 2006, NY Post)

In a biting personal and political dig, the wife of John Edwards said yesterday she's "happier" and "more joyful" than Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton - her husband's possible Democratic rival in the 2008 presidential race.

"She and I are from the same generation. We both went to law school and married other lawyers, but after that, we made other choices," Elizabeth Edwards said.

"I think my choices have made me happier. I think I'm more joyful than she is."

Her shocking salvo, made Thursday during a Ladies Home Journal luncheon to promote her new memoir, "Saving Graces," also included a veiled shot at Clinton's social etiquette by recalling a time the New York senator surprised her by unexpectedly showing up for dinner at the Edwards' Georgetown home.

"Apparently, she had confirmed with John just a little while earlier, but news hadn't reached me," Mrs. Edwards said.

In fairness to Ms Clinton, she has invited Mrs. Edwards to a return luncheon by the cannon at Fort Marcy Park.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:08 AM


Saxophone Colossus Strides Into a New Life (NATE CHINEN, 10/21/06, NY Times)

Until recently, Sonny Rollins practiced his tenor saxophone in a cottage studio a short, loping distance from his house here, on the rustic property he and his wife, Lucille, bought nearly 35 years ago. Mr. Rollins, who has long been lionized, partly for his intense, solitary practicing — or woodshedding, in jazz argot — would often work in the cottage past nightfall. At the house, his wife would turn on the porch light so he could find his way back through the dark.

Lucille Rollins died not quite two years ago, and Mr. Rollins initially turned to his regimen for solace. “So I came out here a few times,” he said in his studio one recent afternoon, “and then I looked, and there was no light on the porch. It just kind of highlighted that, well, there’s nobody there now.” These days, he practices in the house.

Mr. Rollins has faced many more changes since the death of his wife, who scrupulously managed his business affairs for more than 30 years. Last year he fulfilled his recording contract with Milestone, and instead of renewing it, he formed his own label, Doxy Records, through which he is releasing his strongest studio album in a decade or more, “Sonny, Please.” And while the album has been licensed to Universal, which plans to distribute a digital version next month and a CD in January, it has quietly been available for several months, along with other merchandise and free audio and video clips, at sonnyrollins.com. For Mr. Rollins, who turned 76 six weeks ago, this has all been new terrain.

As an elder statesman, Mr. Rollins is aware of the emblematic impact of his decision to abandon the traditional recording-industry model, though he plays down that impact. “This is where the business is going,” he said. “I hate technology myself, but that aside, one of the good things technology has done is allowed guys to use the Internet and sell their own product. I think this is inevitable.”

A certain amount of faith accompanies that claim, given that Mr. Rollins does not own a computer.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:05 AM


What Will Stop North Korea (Charles Krauthammer, October 13, 2006, Washington Post)

It shall be the policy of this nation to regard any nuclear missile launched from Cuba against any nation in the Western Hemisphere as an attack by the Soviet Union on the United States, requiring a full retaliatory response upon the Soviet Union .
-- President John F. Kennedy, Oct. 22, 1962

Now that's deterrence.

Kennedy was pledging that if any nuke was launched from Cuba, the United States would not even bother with Cuba but would go directly to the source and bring the apocalypse to Russia with a massive nuclear attack.

The remarkable thing about this kind of threat is that in 1962 it was very credible. Indeed, its credibility kept the peace throughout a half-century of the Cold War.

Deterrence is what you do when there is no way to disarm your enemy.

Deterrence is the craven way you take when you don't care about the Cuban people, the Koreans, the Russians, or whomever enough to disarm the enemy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:01 AM


An Old Bush Hand Takes on a New Role on the Iraq War (STEVEN R. WEISMAN, 10/21/06, NY Times)

For years, James A. Baker III was asked to explain why the first President Bush, whom he served as secretary of state, did not oust Saddam Hussein in 1991 at the end of the Persian Gulf war.

“Guess what?” Mr. Baker says these days. “Nobody asks me that anymore.”

Long path to Iraq's sectarian split (David Gritten, BBC News)
For more than 1,000 years, Iraq has served as a battleground for many of the events that have defined the schism between Sunni and Shia Muslims.

In more recent decades, the political and economic dominance of Iraq's minority Sunni Arabs and their persecution of the country's Shia majority have only served to stoke sectarian tensions.

The US-led invasion in 2003, in which the nominally secular Baath government of Saddam Hussein was overthrown, finally gave Iraq's Shias an opportunity to seek redress and end the imbalance of power.

Of course, Mr. Baker tried keeping the USSR together too. The Realists just prefer stability to liberty. Meanwhile, it's because of Mr. Baker and his cohorts in the first Bush adminstration that the Shi'a were so justifiably ambivalent about the '03 war.


TALK to Iraqis these days, and you'll likely hear one thing: What are the Americans and Brits up to? The worry is that the U.S. and U.K. political mainstreams now regard the Iraq project as a disaster, with cut-and-run, or whistle-and-walk-away, the only options.

Most Iraqis regard the toppling of Saddam Hussein, the dismantling of his machinery of war and oppression and the introduction of pluralist politics to Iraq as an historic success. The issue is how to consolidate that victory, not to snatch defeat from its jaw. Those challenging this historic victory are enemies of both the Western democracies and the Iraqi people.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:57 AM


Diwali: Lighting up joy and faith: Hindu festival a sweet celebration that transcends religions and cultures to brighten dull days of fall (PRITHI YELAJA, 10/21/06, Toronto Star)

Don't forget to wish your desi friends a Happy Diwali today, and perhaps pick them up a box of mithai (sweets) in Little India.

For social fun and camaraderie, the Hindu holiday may well be on its way to becoming the South Asian equivalent of St. Patrick's Day (minus the booze-up aspect) — a celebration that can transcend culture and religion as it brings some sparkle to a dull time of the Canadian year.

"No, it doesn't offend me," Pandit Roopnauth Sharma, president of the Federation of Hindu Temples of Canada, says of the comparison. "Diwali is also a joyous occasion, a celebration of life, a time of socializing with family and friends, singing, dancing and gift giving."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:54 AM


Rhythms of Ramadan (NICHOLAS KEUNG, 10/21/06, Toronto Star)

Asif Khan, 33, an investment advisor with Nesbitt Burns, and Tanya, 31, an elementary school teacher, both consider themselves "morning people."

But come Ramadan, they push themselves out of bed earlier than usual. Facing a dawn-to-dusk fast, they'll need to consume enough liquid and food before the sun rises to carry their bodies through the day. And they can't afford not to be time-conscious.

According to the sahar and iftar timetable they follow carefully, on this day, daybreak will be at 6:11 a.m. and sunset at 6:41 p.m., meaning for Asif no food or drink between those hours.

Tanya is three months pregnant, so this year — like those sick or travelling, menstruating women and children too young to fast — she is exempted from strict adherence to the fast.

But that doesn't mean she isn't observing the month in other meaningful ways. And she will fast at another time to make up for it, she adds, Ramadan fasting being one of the five "pillars" of Islam, along with belief in one God, regular prayers, help to the needy and a pilgrimage to Mecca.

5:45 a.m. It's Friday, the Islamic holy day, and in her simply decorated, semi-detached home in the quiet suburb of Maple, Tanya is already up and putting together some omelettes with toast, fruit salad and the strong espresso typical of her parents' native Lebanon.

"You eat what you normally eat and not gorge yourself," she says of this predawn meal.

One reason for the fast is to encourage empathy and charity toward those who go hungry because of poverty. During Ramadan, says Tanya, "You feel what the hungry feel. Regardless of one's social and economic status, hunger feels the same for everybody. And you'd be amazed how little we need to survive."

While it takes some adjustment at first, Asif says a Ramadan in fall or winter is much easier than one in mid-summer, when the fast can stretch from as early as 5 a.m. until 9:30 p.m. (Because the Islamic calendar follows moon cycles, the month of Ramadan moves around the seasons.)

"Physically, it does strain your body," says Asif, whose parents came from Pakistan. "But that's when spirituality comes in. That's what gets you through over the 30 days."

The close-knit community of which the family is part plays a big role during this period of spiritual rejuvenation.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:36 AM


Bush pins label of 'defeat' party on Democrats (Stephen Dinan, 10/21/06, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

"The Democrat Party that has evolved from one that was confident in its capacity to help deal with the problems of the world to one that is doubting, today still has an approach of doubt and defeat," Mr. Bush said in a campaign speech to donors to the National Republican Senatorial Committee at the Mayflower Hotel near the White House.

He said that shift began in 1972, with the nomination of George McGovern to run for president, continued into President Jimmy Carter's administration and characterized Democrats during Republican President Ronald Reagan's administration.

"They'd gotten to the point where they didn't think that we could win," Mr. Bush said. "Many of their leaders fought the Reagan defense buildup; they fought his Strategic Defense Initiative; they opposed the liberation of Grenada; they didn't like America's support for freedom fighters resisting Soviet puppet regimes."

He contrasted that with Presidents John F. Kennedy and Harry S. Truman, who he said "understood the challenges of their time and were willing to confront those challenges with strong leadership."


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:33 AM


Short Series Would Be Sweet for the Tigers (Thomas Boswell, October 21, 2006, Washington Post)

Everybody thinks Detroit, a team few thought had a chance just three weeks ago when it blew the American League Central Division on the last day of the season, not only will win the World Series that starts today, but quickly sweep away the St. Louis Cardinals.

The Tigers probably will. Their league is better, their pitching deeper and they have the home-field frostbite advantage. They won a dozen more games than the truly humble, and currently quite injured Cardinals. Besides, Detroit just snuffed the Yankees and Athletics like contract hit men straight out of an Elmore Leonard Motor City crime caper. Blow the safe, grab the swag, no witnesses, just that telltale Tiger smell of smoke left hanging in the air from all those 98-mph fastballs.

However, like efficient executioners, the Tigers better do their work quickly. Don't let the mark get his bearings. Right now, the Cardinals look like pigeons. They're still in recovery from their seven-game struggle with the Mets, a weird but thrilling series that left St. Louis physically battered and emotionally drained.

So Detroit needs to sap 'em twice over the head this weekend at Comerica Park, then maybe finish the job at Busch Stadium next week or in Game 6 back home, at the latest.

Detroit needs to grab its chance fast because the longer this Series goes, the more the Tigers are going to see of Chris Carpenter, Jeff Suppan and Jeff Weaver and the less they're going to like it.

Here's a stat for you: the NL hasn't won a World Series game since 2003.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:31 AM


Israeli War Plan Had No Exit Strategy: Forecast of 'Diminishing Returns' in Lebanon Fractured Unity in Cabinet (Scott Wilson, October 21, 2006, Washington Post)

Just two days after Israel launched a punishing counterattack against Hezbollah this summer, Israeli military and diplomatic officials were deeply split over war strategy.

On July 14, as Israeli aircraft prepared to bomb south Beirut, the research unit of Israel's military intelligence branch presented a report to senior Israeli officials that questioned the war plan's ability to achieve the government's goals.

The analysis, according to senior Foreign Ministry officials who read it, concluded that the heavy bombing campaign and small ground offensive then underway would show "diminishing returns" within days. It stated that the plan would neither win the release of the two Israeli soldiers in Hezbollah's hands nor reduce the militia's rocket attacks on Israel to fewer than 100 a day.

Those initial conclusions held true when the war ended 31 days later.

You didn't need to be in the Israeli military to realize the war was pointless as soon as it was launched.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:26 AM


World Series Preview: Young arms to open the World Series (Ronald Blum, October 21, 2006, The Associated Press)

Even before the first pitch is thrown, the St. Louis Cardinals and Detroit Tigers are making this World Series memorable.

Game 1 will have two rookie starters for the first time, with Justin Verlander pitching tonight for the Tigers and Anthony Reyes for the Cardinals. [...]

Verlander, 23, and Reyes, 25, have combined for 23 career wins. When John Smoltz opened the 1996 Series for Atlanta, he had 24 victories in that year alone.

Verlander and Reyes will be the first rookies to start in the World Series since John Lackey led the Anaheim Angels against San Francisco in 2002's Game 7. Livan Hernandez was the previous rookie to start Game 1, selected in 1997 by Florida Marlins manager Jim Leyland -- now guiding the Tigers.

The previous low for wins by a Game 1 starter was set by Howard Ehmke for the 1929 Philadelphia Athletics. He went 7-2 during the regular season, then beat the Chicago Cubs and Charley Root, 3-1, in Game 1.

Not since Jon Matlack opened the 1973 World Series for the New York Mets against Oakland after going 14-16 had a pitcher with a losing record started Game 1. The Athletics won that one, 2-1, behind Ken Holtzman.

Who has the edge? A position-by-position look at World Series matchup (Seattle Times, 10/21/06)
How they compare

A position-by-position look at the World Series matchup

Obviously Albert Pujols gets the edge over every 1b in baseball, but the three other spots where they give the Cardinal the edge are dubious even when the guy is healthy, which none of the three are.

World Series lifts Detroit's morale (John Lippert and Larry DiTore, October 21, 2006, BLOOMBERG NEWS)

The Tigers' success is now a symbol of Detroit's determination in hard times. The area's two biggest employers, Ford and General Motors Corp., are cutting 60,000 jobs. A third of Detroiters live in poverty. And no state has a higher unemployment rate than Michigan's 7.1 percent.

"To have pride and optimism, even if it's just from baseball, is important to Detroit in a way that people in cities like New York will never understand," says Kevin Boyle, a former resident who wrote a book on Detroit's race relations.

The city has been through this before. The Tigers' 1984 World Series appearance came as automakers were recovering from an oil price spike that forced Ford to cut its U.S. work force in half. In 1968, they went to the Series 15 months after a race riot that left 43 dead. The Tigers won the Series both years.

Detroit's latest mood swing is so stunning it might help Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm win re-election against Republican Dick DeVos, said Ed Sarpolus, president of EPIC-MRA, a polling firm in Lansing, Mich.

Before the baseball playoffs began Oct. 3, a poll found that 26 percent of Michigan residents expected the state's economy to improve during the next six months. By last week, the number had jumped to 34 percent, Mr. Sarpolus said.

They ain't makin' cars out there.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:22 AM


Scientists say 9/11 search dogs healthy (Amy Westfeldt, 10/21/06, The Associated Press)

They dug in the toxic World Trade Center dust for survivors, and later for the dead. Their feet were burned by white-hot debris. But unlike thousands of others who toiled at Ground Zero after Sept. 11, these rescue workers aren't sick.

Scientists have spent years studying the health of search-and-rescue dogs that nosed through the debris at Ground Zero, and to their surprise, they have found no sign of major illness in the animals.

They are trying to figure out why this is so.

"They didn't have any airway protection; they didn't have any skin protection. They were sort of in the worst of it," said Cynthia Otto, a veterinarian at the University of Pennsylvania, where researchers launched a study of 97 dogs five years ago.

Of course the scientists know exactly why this is so, it's just politically incorrect to say so.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:20 AM


Magadan handed the job of adding punch to lineup (SEAN McADAM, October 21, 2006, Providence Journal)

Following a 16-year major league career and the past five years as a coach with the San Diego Padres, Magadan's has finally landed in Boston, introduced yesterday as the Red Sox hitting instructor.

Signing out of high school with the Sox was "something I always thought about," said Magadan yesterday. "It's strange how things come full circle."

Magadan replaces Ron Jackson, who was not invited back after this season. After being dismissed as the Padres' hitting coach in June, Magadan met with Red Sox general managerTheo Epstein late in the season to discuss role in the organization.

"We offered an invitation to come aboard with the Red Sox in a role to be determined later," Epstein said. "I thought he had a lot to offer the organization, whether it be in a scouting capacity, roving (instructor) capacity or coaching capacity. We exposed him to a lot of different areas of our organization. We all put our heads together and decided the best role would be as our major league hitting coach."

October 20, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:16 PM


Angelides Doesn't Question Jokes (Scott Martelle, October 20, 2006, LA Times)

Only days after urging Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to renounce questionable sexual comments made to high school students by a Republican assemblywoman, Democratic challenger Phil Angelides sat through a morning radio talk show Thursday without objecting to a series of dubious gags about sex, ethnicity and an elderly female guest.

Angelides protested — humorously — only when syndicated radio host Adam Carolla made sexual comments about Angelides' 28-year-old daughter, Megan, who was in the studio.

Asked later why he didn't object to the tenor of the other comments — an earlier African American guest was described as a "tall glass of chocolate milk" while Angelides was in the station — Angelides said his performance was not inconsistent with his earlier comments about Schwarzenegger. [...]

Angelides' appearance came after a segment in which a 20-year-old African American man named Master agreed to kiss a 72-year-old white woman named Sara to win a ticket to an upcoming promotional event at Hugh Hefner's Playboy Mansion in Holmby Hills.

Carolla made a joke about a "May-casket" romance, playing off "May-December," and said Sara had a case of "jungle fever," a pejorative reference to white women attracted to black men. Carolla is the former host of the canceled television program "The Man Show."

Later, near the end of the first segment of the show, Carolla told Angelides that he wanted to ask him something after the commercial break.

"I'm not going to kiss Sara," Angelides quipped on the air. "I want to be clear. I decided early."

An anonymous voice-over also alluded to Angelides' ethnic background with a sexual innuendo. Angelides let it pass without comment.

Angelides' appearance on the radio show was notable given his campaign's new strategy of questioning the character of the governor, specifically citing complaints about his comments about women.

Comedy and liberalism just don't jibe.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:07 PM


Five Ways to Kill a Man (Edwin Brock)

These are, as I began, cumbersome ways to kill a man.
Simpler, direct, and much more neat is to see
that he is living somewhere in the middle
of the twentieth century, and leave him there.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:39 PM


Master of the Island: Which country is the best colonizer? (Joel Waldfogel, Oct. 19, 2006, Slate)

One of the deep questions in economics is why some countries are rich and others are poor. It is widely believed that institutions such as clear and enforceable property rights are important to economic growth. Still, debates rage: Do culture, history, government, education, temperature, natural resources, cosmic rays make the difference? The reason it's hard to resolve this question is that we have no controlled experiments comparing otherwise similar places with different sets of legal and economic institutions. In new research, James Feyrer and Bruce Sacerdote, both of Dartmouth College, consider the effect of a particular aspect of history—the length of European colonization—on the current standard of living of a group of 80 tiny, isolated islands that have not previously been used in cross-country comparisons. Their question: Are the islands that experienced European colonization for a longer period of time richer today? [...]

Feyrer and Sacedote's key findings are that the longer one of the islands spent as a colony, the higher its present-day living standards and the lower its infant mortality rate. Each additional century of European colonization is associated with a 40 percent boost in income today and a reduction in infant mortality of 2.6 deaths per 1,000 births.

By itself, the relationship between longer colonization and higher living standards could arise either because European contact raised living standards or because European explorers colonized the most promising islands first. The authors cleverly reject the latter possibility by noting that the sailing of the day relied on wind, which meant that islands located where wind is weak were "less likely to be discovered, revisited, and colonized by Europeans." Thus, wind conditions, rather than island promise, determined which islands were colonized first, and so which islands remained as colonies longer. The relationship between colonial duration and wealth reflects the effect of colonization on material living standards, rather than the other way around.

So, what did the Europeans do right? The authors conclude that there's no simple answer. The most plausible mechanisms include trade, education, and democratic government. When the study directly measures these factors, some of them help to explain income differences among islands—for example, the places that traded only basic agricultural products in colonial times now have lower living standards. But even after accounting for these concrete determinants, longer European colonization has some extra pro-growth effect. Exposure to European colonizers, it appears, benefits living standards for reasons apart from the direct effects of government, education, and markets. [...]

The authors also compare the experiences of separate Pacific islands with eight different colonizers: the United States, Britain, Spain, Denmark, Portugal, Japan, Germany, and France. Their verdict is that the islands that are best off, in terms of income growth, are the ones that were colonized by the United States—as in Guam and Puerto Rico. Next best is time spent as a Dutch, British, or French colony. At the bottom are the countries colonized by the Spanish and especially the Portuguese.

Cool work by Friends Feyrer and Sacerdote, not least because so politically incorrect...

Two questions arise:

Doesn't some of the work of Alberto Alesina, and I think Mr. Sacerdote with him, suggest that islands often have significant advantages in economic development anyway -- all that Size of Nations stuff -- so how badly do you have to screw yourselves over to be a backwards island nation?

And isn't the divider between the more and less successful colonies generally which were colonized by Protestant nations and which by Catholic? Lawrence Harrison suggests even such things as Confession may influence that tendency, with Protestants believing that their sins stick with them so avoiding them more assiduously.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:21 PM

...AND LOWER...:

OPEC Skeptics Push Oil Prices Lower: Oil prices fall in sign of traders' skepticism about OPEC's resolve to cut production (BRAD FOSS, 10/20/06, AP)

[M]any analysts believe the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries will have difficulty enforcing the production cut in its entirety because oil prices are still twice as high as they were just three years ago.

"It's clear there will be some production cutbacks. But is it going to be 1.2 million barrels? That's probably unlikely," said Andrew Lebow, a broker at Man Financial.

Light sweet crude for November delivery on the New York Mercantile Exchange fell $1.05 to $57.45 a barrel. In London, December Brent crude on the ICE Futures exchange declined by 52 cents to $60.35 a barrel.

Oil prices have slumped since July due to rising global supplies, a weaker-than-anticipated hurricane season and expectations for slower economic growth.

"The question now is whether OPEC members will comply with the new quotas or whether history will repeat itself and OPEC members over-produce," Global Insight analyst Simon Wardell said in a research note. "The markets appear to be betting on the latter."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:41 PM


Medical Ethics: Doctors join South Dakota's effort to ban abortion (Jonathan Cohn, 10/20/06, TNR Online)

It's not often you see large groups of physicians speaking out against abortion rights. Maybe it's because their scientific training makes them less likely to accept the dictates of faith. Maybe it's because they tend to be well-off financially, and wealthy people tend to be more liberal on social issues. Or maybe it's simply because they don't like outsiders telling them when they can and cannot perform medical procedures. Whatever the reason, though, anecdotally, the medical community has generally supported giving women the right to obtain abortions. In fact, it's the one issue on which the medical community seems to lean most conspicuously to the left.

That's why a new television advertisement running in South Dakota is so striking. [...]

[W]hen doctors don the white coats to address the public, they create the impression that they will be conveying medical information and hard facts--that they will be acting as scientists, not moralists. And yet moralizing is precisely what the physicians in that commercial are doing. Consider that first statement: "Science now proves that life begins at conception." This is an apparent reference to a finding by the state task force that laid the intellectual groundwork for the new ban. It's also absurd on its face. Science can prove a lot of things about the process of human reproduction, like what happens when a sperm and egg meet, how the newly formed zygote behaves after that point, when it implants in a woman's uterus, and so on. But the one thing science cannot "prove" is at which point in this process life actually begins--because, by definition, that is a subjective judgment based as much on moral and religious beliefs as on observable scientific facts.

The statement that 96 percent of abortions in South Dakota are for birth control is, in some ways, more curious. Insofar as the point of abortion is to end a pregnancy, and therefore control a birth, it would seem that every single abortion is a form of birth control--in the same way, say, that steering a car could be called a form of motion control.

Of course, the point of this ad is to imply something else: To suggest that women are having abortions for frivolous reasons. The figure, 96 percent, comes from survey findings that only 4 percent of abortions are performed because of rape, incest, or concerns over the mother's health. The unstated assumption, then, is that all other abortions are, in the parlance of the right-to-life movement, "abortions of convenience."

But who's to say which reasons for an abortion are frivolous and which ones aren't? Is a woman with several children, already struggling to provide for them emotionally and economically, being cavalier if she chooses to end an unplanned pregnancy? What about a woman who simply doesn't feel ready to have a child?

Which is sillier, the notion that doctors oughtn't express traditional moral judgements or that inconvenience isn't a frivolous reason to kill a dependent?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:33 PM


The Magic of Deep Characters Strikes Again (STEVEN SNYDER, October 20, 2006, NY Sun)

Even before "The Prestige," [Christopher] Nolan's fourth major film, the 36-year-old director had proven an uncanny ability to play with time and structure, turning shallow gimmicks into drama of almost Shakespearean magnitude.

His breakout, 2000's "Memento," played out from end to beginning (matching the main character's lack of short-term memory), setting the audience up for an ending that rewrote everything that had come prior. In 2002's "Insomnia," he made time itself the enemy of a weary, sleepless, paranoid detective. His work in last year's "Batman Begins" didn't just resuscitate a franchise by excavating its roots, but revived the realism of the superhero film, painting Bruce Wayne not as a savior but as a conflicted and tortured soul, protecting the very city that despised him.

And so arrives "The Prestige," a stylish film that's far more captivating than it really deserves to be — an optical illusion that earns our admiration more than our comprehension.

Again playing with time, Mr. Nolan — along with co-writer and co-sibling Jonathan Nolan, from the book by Christopher Priest — divides the film's timeline into three sections. In the far past, we see the earliest days of Alfred (Christian Bale) and Robert's (Hugh Jackman) magic careers. Planted in the audience, they are the assistants of a third-rate hack, chosen by the magician to come up on-stage and help tie up assistant Julia (Piper Perabo), preparing her restraints for the infamous water tank stunt. It's a setup that's directly linked to what's to come — or, as Mr. Nolan depicts it, what came before.

Sporadically, we learn about Alfred and Robert's clashing personalities — Alfred is more arrogant and ambitious, Robert more cautious and pragmatic — and see Alfred's determination to do things his own way.

He starts to improvise with the act, tying different kinds of knots around Julia's hands, which worries Robert, her husband. When one night she can't slip the knots off her hands, she drowns, and at her funeral, it becomes clear the two men will be enemies for life.

But in true Christopher Nolan style, this is not where we start the film. Much like "Batman Begins," we begin this mystery at the midpoint, as one of the two magicians lies in a jail cell, convicted of murdering the other. And like "Memento," we watch the past catch the present, as Alfred and Robert become embroiled in a game of cat and mouse — or unsuspecting magician and assistant — as they pursue each other in advance of this murder.

If this sounds confusing, it's because Mr. Nolan is more skilled a director than I am a writer.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:27 PM


It’s a grand figure for the Dow — 12 grand (RICK BABSON, 10/20/06, The Kansas City Star)

The Dow Jones industrial average’s second run past 12,000 was a little more lasting as the index of blue-chip stocks closed above the mark for the first time.

After failing to hold 12,000 after an early run Wednesday, the Dow on Thursday closed at 12,011.73, up 19.05 points, or 0.16 percent. It was the ninth record close for the Dow in a little more than two weeks.

The Dow’s latest milestone came on the anniversary of Black Monday in 1987, when the Dow plunged 508 points and also suffered its second-biggest percentage drop in history. The Dow finished that day at 1,793.90.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:02 AM


Aliens Teach University Economics Class (Nell Boyce, October 19, 2006, All Things Considered)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:55 AM


Iraq Kurdistan launches tourism campaign (Alicia A. Caldwell, 10/20/06, Associated Press)

It's not for the casual traveler. But if you are up for an adventure in a place that boasts peace, democracy and an experienced security force, a California marketing firm has a suggestion: Kurdistan.

"It has always been a tourist destination for Iraq and other parts of the Middle East," said Sal Russo, whose Sacramento, firm helped the Kurdistan Development Corp. create a new television ad campaign for the three-province region in Northern Iraq. "Westerners walk around freely and there is an active nightlife."

Russo, whose firm handles largely Republican campaign clients, acknowledges that it "might be close by in miles" to the Iraq war, "it's a lot further from that in reality."

In the long term, you'd think tourism and banking would be more valuable, and certainly healthier economically, to Baghdadistan than the oil of Kurdistan and Shiastan.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:53 AM


TV Guide tosses its print version: Free online listings coming Nov. 28 (THULASI SRIKANTHAN, Oct. 20, 2006, Toronto Star)

Remember the days of flipping through your TV Guide searching times for The Facts of Life or Diff'rent Strokes?

Or perhaps it was The Cosby Show or The Dukes of Hazzard.

You didn't realize it then, but the '80s were the height of TV Guide glory. It was a golden age that saw more than a million copies a week flying off the shelves.

But how times have changed.

Yesterday, Transcontinental Media announced the magazine — 243,695 in circulation at last count — will soon cease print copies and will move online. As of yesterday morning, six people were let go, leaving 28 others behind.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 9:29 AM


Kim sorry about N. Korea nuclear test (MSNBC, October, 20th, 2006)

North Korean leader Kim Jong Il expressed regret about his country’s nuclear test to a Chinese delegation and said Pyongyang would return to international nuclear talks if Washington backs off a campaign to financially isolate the country, South Korean media reported Friday.

“If the U.S. makes a concession to some degree, we will also make a concession to some degree, whether it be bilateral talks or six-party talks,” Kim was quoted as telling a Chinese envoy, the mass-circulation Chosun Ilbo reported, citing a diplomatic source in China.

Kim told the Chinese delegation that “he is sorry about the nuclear test,” the newspaper reported.

Well then, let the healing begin!

Posted by Peter Burnet at 8:51 AM


Tolstoy says the land belongs to all (Leo Tolstoy, The Guardian, October 20th, 1908)

The injustice of the seizure of land has long ago been recognised by thinking people. The realisation has become specially necessary, not only in Russia but also in all so-called civilised States. The abolition of property in land everywhere demands its solution as insistingly as half a century ago the problem of slavery demanded its solution in Russia and America.

The supposed right of landed property now lies at the foundation, not only of economic misery, but also of political disorder, and, above all, the deprivation of the people. The wealthy ruling classes, foreseeing the loss of the advantages of their position inevitable with the solution of the problem, are endeavouring by various false interpretations, justifications and palliatives, with all their power, to postpone as long as possible its solution.

But as 50 years ago the time came for the abolition of man's supposed right of property over man, so the time has now come for the abolition of the supposed right of property in land, which affords the possibility of appropriating other people's labour. The time is now so near at hand that nothing can arrest the abolition of this dreadful means of oppressing the people. Yet some effort, and this great emancipation of the nations shall be accomplished. I will be very glad if I shall be able to add my small efforts to yours.

Thank-you for sharing that, Leo.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:25 AM


Celebs Ignore "Green" Wal-mart's Worker Oppression (Evan Derkacz, 10/20/06, AlterNet)

When Wal-Mart hired Leslie Dach, "a prominent Democratic operative," earlier this year, Wal-Mart critics worried that the world's richest retailer would get just what it paid for.

Next Monday evening, when Wal-Mart CEO H. Lee Scott Jr. is honored by a raft of lifelong liberals "for his commitment to environmental sustainability," it'll be that much harder to argue that Dach wasn't an excellent acquisition for the global behemoth. In fact, it'll be their biggest public relations coup since Al Gore's green patina graced the offices of Wal-Mart executives this Summer.

Monday's event is to be hosted by Weinstein brothers, lifelong Democrats and producers of the most successful documentary in the history of cinema, Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11. Among the other prominent guests scheduled to attend are both PBS journalist Charlie Rose and Gore buddy and Democratic heavy Bob Pitmann. Musical accompaniment will be provided by the Eagles, led by singer/songwriter Don Henley, whose history as a champion of the environment pads his bulging resumé as one of the best-selling recording artists in history.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 8:11 AM


Stereotypes add up on math tests (Stephanie Levitz, Globe and Mail, October 19th, 2006)

Telling a female that girls aren't naturally good at math will probably make her bomb out on tests, researchers at the University of British Columbia have found.

Though the research adds fuel to the long-simmering debate on gender difference in math ability, the UBC team says its study also has implications for how scientists should handle discoveries of genes linked to mental and physical conditions.[...]

“The influence of genes on behaviour is enormously complex but unfortunately the way these messages are conveyed are in grossly simplified terms,” said Steven Heine, an associate professor of social psychology at UBC and the co-author of the study.

He cited the example of the discovery of a link between genetics and obesity.

“People seem to interpret it as meaning that if I have this gene I must become obese,” he said.

“The relations between genes and behaviour are very complex and unfortunately people do view them in more deterministic terms than they ought to.”

Determinist: “There is no such thing as free will. All our actions and beliefs are determined by (evolution, genetics, the sub-conscious, history, etc.)."

Sceptic: “Including your belief in determinism?”

Determinist: “Oh well, if you are going to be silly about it.”

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:47 AM


One Swing Crushes Mets' Hopes, Sends Cards to Series (TIM MARCHMAN, October 20, 2006, NY Sun)

Of all people, Perez and Chavez were the last two who were supposed to have saved the Mets' season, which they almost did. Perez, owner of a 3–13 record this year, came to the Mets in July as part of a minor trade, not only two seasons removed from a campaign in which he'd established himself as one of the game's most brilliant young pitchers, but so far removed from the pitcher he'd once been that his continued viability as a major leaguer was in question. From mechanics and conditioning to desire and health, nothing about him wasn't doubted.And Chavez, on his fourth stint with the Mets, was signed as a 25th man — a brilliant defender whose inability to hit much better than Rey Ordonez made him little more than a luxury. Willie Randolph put faith in them, though, and didn't expose them, and they turned into assets. Down the stretch Perez showed every sign that he could with time become the dominant starter he had once promised to be. Playing every outfield spot and left alone near the bottom of a powerful lineup, Chavez was one of the very best reserve outfielders in the major leagues, working his way on, stealing bases, and playing wonderfully in the field. Still — this?

That's how it went for the Mets. The vaunted lineup, on which everyone who was paying attention expected they would have to rely to have a prayer of winning this series, completely collapsed, no more so than last night, when they went hitless after the first inning until the ninth.They managed to get none in both with the bases loaded and no outs and later with one on, none out, and Carlos Delgado and David Wright coming up. Instead it was Perez, Chavez, John Maine, Chad Bradford, and even Aaron Heilman — who pitched as brilliantly as we've become accustomed to until giving up the last run of the Mets' season and probably wouldn't have been in position to give it up if not for Billy Wagner's meltdown over the last week — who bore the brunt.

There's no shame in losing, though — there was nothing but honor in the tenacity with which the Mets fought short-handed, and if the offense failed in the end, so it will sometimes happen.

It was a beautiful season, and a series as dramatic as any we've seen in many years — and it's only months until the Mets will take the field again

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:07 AM

FOLDING TO THE FUNDIES (via Kevin Whited):

NBC won't show Madonna on the cross: source (Reuters, 10/19/06)

After weeks of controversy, NBC has decided not to show pop star Madonna suspended from a giant cross and wearing a crown of thorns when the network airs a special of her "Confessions" tour, a source close to the organization of the event said on Thursday.

The source spoke after NBC announced it had revised the two-hour concert special, which airs November 22, but did not elaborate on what changes would be made.

The source said the portion of the "Live to Tell" song in which Madonna sings suspended from a giant cross and wearing a crown of thorns will not be shown in the broadcast.

Stunning, eh?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Return of the Roman: Knowledge of Latin may be in decline, but novels, films and documentaries about the Romans have never been more popular. We are still dimly, unconsciously, aware that our culture grew out of classical civilisation (Allan Massie, November 2006, Prospect)

[I]f classical studies are in decline, as they unquestionably are, there is still much interest in the ancient world. Settis is not, admittedly, impressed by this: "The spread of superficial and persistent 'classical' references (particularly apparent in advertising and the cinema) is not preventing the expulsion of classical culture from our shared cultural horizon." It depends, of course, on what you judge to be "superficial.'' Novels set in ancient Rome or Greece, for instance? A matter of opinion, certainly. As Jason Cowley wrote in last month's Prospect: "Robert Harris may be one of Britain's most popular novelists, but he remains a victim of literary snobbery, or so he thinks. Interviewed recently in the Observer, he complained that the kind of novels shortlisted for the Booker prize were as much works of genre as any other. Harris is considered to be a genre writer: a writer of the airport thriller and historical saga. As such he is never in contention for the main prizes, and his latest novel, Imperium, was predictably not among the 19 titles on this year's Man Booker longlist."

Of course, Harris's publishers may not have entered it for the prize. But if they did, the novel had two things against it. First, the proof copy came with the boast that it had a publicity budget of £400,000, information guaranteed to offend high-minded judges. Second, it is indeed genre fiction, being about the political career of Marcus Tullius Cicero. It is also written with close attention to the historical sources and is a highly intelligent political novel.

It is popular, too—number three in the bestseller list as I write. No doubt some buy it because they have enjoyed Harris's other novels. But others must do so because of their interest in the subject. Is that interest to be judged "superficial"? If so, it is likely to be deepened by a reading of the novel. At the very least the reader will close the book having learned a good deal about life and politics in the late republic.

Why are so many novelists in the modern age drawn to write about the ancient world, especially Rome but also, to a lesser extent, Greece? The line of those who have done so goes back at least to Edward Bulwer-Lytton and The Last Days of Pompeii, written at a time—the 1830s—when classical studies were central to education throughout western Europe. Some such genre novels are actually very "literary"—Walter Pater's Marius the Epicurean, for example. But most, whatever their literary quality, aim to be popular, which is to say that they have a strong narrative, striking characters and richly dramatic scenes. If not bestsellers, Roman novels are certainly intended to please the "common reader." Two which did are Henryk Sienkiewicz's Quo Vadis and Lew Wallace's Ben Hur, both of which had a Christian theme, not a characteristic of the modern Roman novel.

The father of the genre, in English anyway, was Robert Graves, himself a classical scholar, if an eccentric one. His two novels about the emperor Claudius have scarcely been out of print since first being published in the 1930s. They were also successfully adapted for television in the 1970s (the series was recently repeated on BBC4). Jack Lindsay, a Marxist whose Rome for Sale, about the Catiline conspiracy, would make a nice companion to Harris, actually published his first Roman novels before Graves wrote I, Claudius, but they never enjoyed the same success and his books are now mostly out of print.

Graves's success encouraged others. It was as if he had opened a door, through which novelists such as Rex Warner, Thornton Wilder, Alfred Duggan, Peter Green, Gore Vidal, Howard Fast, Colin Thubron, Ross Leckie and Conn Iggulden crowded. I myself have written six Roman novels, offering a fictionalised history of Rome from Julius Caesar to the Flavian emperors. There have also been Roman novels in other European languages, notably The Death of Virgil by Hermann Broch and Marguerite Yourcenar's Memoirs of Hadrian (perhaps the finest of all). Most of these books deal with the elite—politicians, generals, emperors. More recently, however, there have been crime novels by Lindsey Davis, David Wishart and Steven Saylor, in which low-life characters mingle with the great.

Novels set in ancient Greece have been fewer, reflecting, perhaps, a lower level of interest in and knowledge of Greek history as distinct from myth and legend. Mary Renault had a big success in the 1960s with her fine novel about the Peloponnesian war, The Last of the Wine, and then with her trilogy about Alexander. Homer and the Greek tragedians have been plundered less often than one might expect. Two exceptions are Hilary Bailey's Cassandra and Barry Unsworth's The Sons of the Kings, which masterfully evokes the ethos of the Achaeans.

The list could be lengthened, but what's clear is that the classical world still holds attraction for both authors and readers. Some of this interest may be "superficial," but by no means all of it is. In any case, it is natural that there should be such interest. There is still an appreciation in our culture of the fact that our civilisation has its roots in Greece and Rome—as well, of course, as in biblical Israel—and that Greek and Roman history, legend and myth are part of our inherited culture.

Perhaps the most interesting recent instance of this attraction was Ridley Scott's Gladiator which, like his later Kingdom of Heaven, stood genuine history (the original culture) on its head in order to make it serve our own ideals (the inherited culture). The first time you watch the film (either film) the departures from the record are disorienting/annoying, assuming you know anything of it, but on subsequent viewing there's an undeniable power to the myth itself, not least because it is our own myth, rather than that of the ancients.

There's a pretty good series of books by Liam Hearn (a pseudonym), Tales of the Otori, that's set in an intentionally fictionalized version of feudal Japan and incorporates a Christian-like religious sect, The Hidden, and some supernatural elements and whatnot. The fictional treatment makes for fewer distractions, while still invoking the historical setting we know, and raises the question of whether Mr. Scott might be better off making his films more explicitly fantasies, instead of pretending they're straightforward historical epics. But maybe there's also something to be said for the conceit of co-opting classical civilization to serve our own.

October 19, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:54 PM


Sending a Message: Congress to courts: Get out of the war on terror. (JOHN YOO, October 19, 2006, Opinion Journal)

During the bitter controversy over the military commission bill, which President Bush signed into law on Tuesday, most of the press and the professional punditry missed the big story. In the struggle for power between the three branches of government, it is not the presidency that "won." Instead, it is the judiciary that lost.

The new law is, above all, a stinging rebuke to the Supreme Court. It strips the courts of jurisdiction to hear any habeas corpus claim filed by any alien enemy combatant anywhere in the world. It was passed in response to the effort by a five-justice majority in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld to take control over terrorism policy. That majority extended judicial review to Guantanamo Bay, threw the Bush military commissions into doubt, and tried to extend the protections of Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions to al Qaeda and Taliban detainees, overturning the traditional understanding that Geneva does not cover terrorists, who are not signatories nor "combatants" in an internal civil war under Article 3.

Hamdan was an unprecedented attempt by the court to rewrite the law of war and intrude into war policy. The court must have thought its stunning power grab would go unchallenged. After all, it has gotten away with many broad assertions of judicial authority before. This has been because Congress is unwilling to take a clear position on controversial issues (like abortion, religion or race) and instead passes ambiguous laws which breed litigation and leave the power to decide to the federal courts.

Until the Supreme Court began trying to make war policy, the writ of habeas corpus had never been understood to benefit enemy prisoners in war.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:11 PM


Mubarak: Muslims must revamp image (Associated Press, THE JERUSALEM POST Oct. 20, 2006)

"Shouldn't we Muslims shoulder part of the responsibility of these wrong ideas about Islam? Have we fulfilled our duty in correcting the image of Islam and the Muslims? What did we do to face a terrorism that wears Islam's cloak and targets the lives of the people," Mubarak said in the remarks that were televised live. [...]

He said Islam for 14 centuries had established "principles of forgiveness, righteousness and reform and prevented wrong doings and did not allow racism or discrimination. Fascism or Nazism did not rise from Islam's land."

Mubarak said the golden age of Islamic civilization had retreated when creativity in Islam disappeared and people strayed away from the essence of the doctrine.

"We need a new religious approach that teaches people the correct things in their religion that gives greater value for interrelations, behavior, devotion and advocates principles of forgiveness and stands against exaggeration and extremism," he said.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:11 PM


Cheer the players? Nah. Just crunch their numbers. (Peter Grier, 10/20/06, The Christian Science Monitor)

Old standbys like batting averages and RBIs (Runs Batted In) have been outmoded for years. Now, general managers and serious fans talk about QERA (an acronym for "QuikERA"), VORP (Value Over Replacement Player), and other measurements that sound like unheard-of species from "Lord of the Rings." [...]

And when it comes to predicting the winner of the World Series, you can't [could?] do worse than go with the ex-Cub factor, invented by the late Chicago columnist Mike Ryoko.

(1) The last 11 home teams to win Game 6 and force a Game 7 have won it too.

(2) If Jeff Suppan were to win tonight he'd be only the second player in MLB history to win two Game 7s.

We'll send a book to whoever names the other.


* Okay, we all know Tony LaRussa is a genius, but could he really not find room for So Taguchi?

* A major league hitter who knows fastball is coming and can't hit it (particularly when he's right-handed, the pitcher is left-handed, and the pitch is a strike in the low 90s) shouldn't be in the game.

* Does LaRussa really think it's going to be a 2-1 game? That squeeze seems odd, no matter how bad a hitter the pitcher is and Suppan isn't bad.

* Shouldn't it be Oliver's New Model Army?

* Anyone have any idea why Luis Gonzalez thinks you pitch to Pujols with the runner on 3b but not 2b?

* Toy poodles? That's no way to win Denzel.

* Imagine trying to get Gil Hodges to do an on-air interview in the middle of the game?

* Isn't Eric Gregg dead?

* They'll certainly hit for Perez leading off next inning, so he just needs to get 3 outs before Pujols comes up.

* How can Willie not have a right-hander ready to face Pujols?

* There's only one rule for facing a Cards team that's this bad--don't give Albert Pujols a chance to beat you. Just because Willie got away with it that time doesn't make it a sensible decision, especially when you're just going to hit for him.

* Someone wanna tell Preston he's not in CF tonight?

* So why don't they just brew regular Bud longer?

* Rolen can't hit a high fastball and you've got a submariner ready to face him?

* Holy Crap!

* How do you let the guy most likely to K on your roster hit here?

* Okay, maybe he is a genius and it is going to be a 2-1 game....

* or 3-1...

* of course, Adam Wainwright is hardly a sure thing.

* ...but that's a big league curve...

* Who's the last closer to rely on his curve as an out pitch, Gregg Olson?

* Gotta be thinkin' Tigers in three.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:54 PM



A young Yale overachiever just wanted a job on Wall Street - but his overblown video resume is triggering an Internet firestorm rivaling Paris Hilton's sex video.

Aleskey Vayner, a senior history major, envisioned himself as a perfect candidate for Wall Street power, boasting of an "insatiable appetite for success" and a credo to always "ignore losers."

Instead, he unleashed a torrent of outrage and jokes on the 'Net, where his slick video resume was derided as egotistical bunk loaded with fakery, such as a karate chop through seven red bricks and a scene supposedly portraying him bench-pressing 495 pounds. [...]

Vayner told Dow Jones he might sue UBS for breach of privacy because he sent his paper resume to UBS with a cover letter saying he would "consider a career" offer from the firm.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:25 PM


Has Diesel Grown on the United States? (Sholnn Freeman, 10/19/06, Washington Post)

On Sunday, the Environmental Protection Agency began requiring refiners and fuel importers to reduce the sulfur content in diesel fuel by 97 percent. The low-sulfur fuel opens the door to a new generation of clean diesel cars, and automakers are moving to bring out more models in the U.S. market.

The change promises to significantly cut air pollution caused by diesel emissions. Regulators say high concentrations of sulfur in the old diesel fuel poison the engine systems that clean exhaust of harmful pollutants. The biggest concern is particulate matter, one of the byproducts of engine combustion, said Margo Oge, director of the EPA's office of transportation and air quality. The particles are a fraction of the size of a human hair. Public health advocates have described the particles as tiny spaceships that dive into the respiratory system when people inhale, damaging the lining of the lungs.

Particles from diesel emissions are classified by the government as a potential carcinogen and are linked to premature deaths, heart attacks to respiratory illness.

Mark MacLeod, director of special projects for Environmental Defense, an advocacy group, said the new EPA rules are expected to prevent about 8,000 premature deaths each year, 1.5 million lost work days and 360,000 asthma attacks.

Detroit automakers have pledged to expand diesel offerings, particularly in pickup trucks. J.D. Power and Associates projects that the diesel share of light-vehicle sales is expected to increase to more than 10 percent by the middle of the next decade from 3.2 percent in 2005. Japanese automakers are also stepping up development of diesel technology.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:15 PM


Five keys to Game 7 (John Donovan, October 19, 2006, Sports Illustrated)

Mets manager Willie Randolph won't leave Perez in long enough to get into too much trouble, not with a ready bullpen that has been one of the best in baseball.

Submariner Chad Bradford, lefty Pedro Feliciano, steady Aaron Heilman and hard-thrower Roberto Hernandez have combined for 11 innings in the first six games of the NLCS and given up just one earned run. If Perez is pulled early, look for Darren Oliver in that mix, too. Closer Billy Wagner has not been good this series, but Randolph won't back off if he needs him.

Willie Randolph seems to see Oliver Perez as just a way to get to Darren Oliver, so why not just start the latter instead of the former?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:57 PM


Inflation deflation (Peter Morici , 10/20/06, Asia Times)

Core consumer price inflation remains above Fed chief Ben Bernanke's target range of 1 to 2%. However, core consumer price inflation in recent months reflected the continuing pass-through of prior surges in energy prices to non-energy products. Those pressures are now reversing.

Slowing economic growth, moderating housing prices and falling oil and natural gas prices should relieve pressures on both the broader consumer price index and core consumer prices. Inflation should decline the remainder of this year.

With the housing and automobile sectors slowing, raising interest rates further would serve no useful purpose. The Fed should not change interest rate policy before its January meeting.

Growth should recover to about 3% by the first half of next year.

Home prices are moderating, not collapsing, and overall these have risen nearly 50% over the past five years. Falling energy prices are bolstering consumer confidence, and consumers still have considerable home equity to tap. Holiday retail sales will demonstrate unexpected strength, and along with more robust commercial construction and business investment, will pump new life into to aging economic expansion.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:52 PM


Why this military coup is different (Rodney Tasker, 10/19/06, Asia Times)

The conventional Western perception of coups is of a military faction or individual seizing power for selfish, often anti-democratic reasons. There is little flexibility in this mindset - hence the uniform denunciation of Thailand's latest military coup by the US and other Western democracies.

Western media op-ed writers, apparently relying on precious little on-the-ground background, have highlighted the fact that ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra was a democratically elected leader and therefore any non-elective move against him was necessarily bad for the future of Thailand's democracy.

Such simplistic interpretations, however, just don't fit with the current Thai situation and woefully ignore the reform mentality of professional generals in today's Thai army, including coup-leader General Sonthi Boonyaratglin and former army commander, now interim Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont. Professional in the Thai context translates to military officers who take their oath of allegiance to protect the monarchy and state seriously, overriding any lure of power and money. [...]

Many Western observers still fail to appreciate the essential role played by King Bhumibol Adulyadej in maintaining Thailand's enviable political stability, economic progress and social harmony. Look across Thailand's borders to the comparative political repression and economic deprivation in neighboring Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia and one striking historical difference is those countries' lack of a figure of moral authority that genuinely looked after national rather than particularistic interests.

Which is how a monarch perfects a mixed republic.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:46 PM


Gain in wages slightly ahead of inflation (DIANE STAFFORD, 10/19/06, The Kansas City Star)

The median weekly earnings of the nation’s 108.2 million full-time wage and salary workers were $675 in the third quarter 2006, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics said today.

That represented a 4 percent nominal gain over the median weekly pay reported in the third quarter 2005. But, the bureau noted, inflation advanced at a 3.3 percent rate over the same period.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:17 PM


Katie Couric quickly slips down news ratings slope (Susan Young, 10/19/2006, Inside Bay Area)

EVEN NON-NEWS junkies should tremble at the news that last week, the second-season finale of VH-1's "Flavor of Love" garnered 7.5 million viewers, while CBS's evening news with Katie Couric could manage just 7.3 million.

To put this in perspective, Couric spent the week telling viewers about a Congressional scandal and Amish schoolgirls gunned down.

Flavor Fav, formerly of the rap group Public Enemy, was choosing yet another girlfriend in a dubious field that initially included a woman who defecated onstage because she couldn't make it to the restroom in time.

Oh, and Flavor gives the women nicknames because, he admits, after years of substance abuse, his memory is shot.

Flavor didn't even have every newspaper and magazine in the country covering his TV series, unlike Couric who popped up on grocery store tabloid covers like she was a TomKat-Brangelina-Vinnifer cocktail. He didn't blast onto the scene with 13.6 million viewers for his first show, only to slip down to about half that amount.

It's five years after 9-11, with no follow-up, and the economy continues to boom--how much interest need folks take in the news?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:13 PM


Union Group Links President Bush With Wal-Mart (Susan Jones, October 19, 2006, CNSNews.com)

A union-affiliated group says it plans to run campaign ads linking Wal-Mart's "right-wing" agenda with that of President George W. Bush.

Most Americans Wild for Walmart (Rasmussen Reports, June 28, 2006)
A Rasmussen Reports survey conducted on June 28, 2006 found that 69% of Americans have a favorable opinion of Walmart, including 29% who have a very favorable opinion of the retail giant. Twenty-nine percent (29%) also have an unfavorable opinion of the firm. Lower and middle income Americans are more likely to have a favorable opinion of Walmart than upper income Americans.

The reviews are even better among those who have worked for Walmart (or have family members who have been employed by the firm). Among these workers, 79% have a favorable opinion of the company.

Forty-two percent (42%) of all Americans say they shop at Walmart at least once a month. This includes 7% who visit at least once a week. Not surprisingly, Walmart shoppers have a much higher opinion of the store than those who rarely or never shop there.

Twenty-five percent (25%) of Americans say they rarely or never shop at Walmart. Among these adults, just 35% have a favorable opinion of the company.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:01 PM


Ignore the Downsiders -- Population Growth Is Necessary and Good (JAMES LILEKS, 10/19/06, Newhouse News Service)

Some might find the 300 million mark a sign of American dynamism and success, but it's Growth, and Growth is bad. As a Reuters story put it:

"The 300 million mark has prompted alarm from some environmentalists, who question whether the country's natural resources can support additional population."

Of course it prompted alarm. The only way you can prevent alarm is to hold your breath until you die, and even then you get dinged for exhaling too much CO2 at the end.

Can we fit more people in this jam-packed cramhole? Sure. Granted, things are cozy on the coasts, but the Downsiders must believe the Midwest is one giant smoking tire fire incapable of supporting life.

North Dakota alone has almost 2 trillion square feet. It has nine people per square mile. France has 270 per square mile, and you don't see them clawing over each other to get their next meal.

Then again, France isn't adding to its population at the same pace as the United States. Most of Western Europe is shrinking. Blame sclerotic socialism; blame the sense of cultural self-confidence that died at Verdun; blame the "Zero Population Growth" nonsense that condemned the productive societies to willful self-extinction.

European culture is libertine but infertile; the culture of Muslim immigrants is puritanical but fecund. The former will eventually adapt to the wishes of the latter -- and that's a downside the proponents of the European model didn't see coming.

Perhaps they were too busy anticipating the day America collapses from the sheer weight of humanity.

The Washington Post's article on the 300 millionth Yank quoted Dowell Myers, a professor of urban planning. He sang the Downsider creed in fine voice: "When we hit 200 million, we were solidifying our position. But at 300 million, we are beginning to be crushed under the weight of our own quality-of-life degradation."

Who can argue? No one; our degraded life here in the Boomtown Gulag crunches the very air from your lungs. As Time magazine described this heckhole: "Pollution disintegrates nylon stockings in Chicago and Los Angeles. Rapidly industrializing Denver, which for many years boasted of its crystalline air, is now often smogbound."

Granted, Time said that in 1967...

It's important not to miss the point of these negative stories: for these folk there's a downside to the existence of anyone but themselves.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:22 PM


Tory plan to knock down Brown's monolith and wipe £21bn off tax bill (Graeme Wilson, 19/10/2006, Daily Telegraph)

When George Osborne put Lord Forsyth of Drumlean in charge of the Conservatives' tax commission last October, he asked him to come back with a simpler, flatter tax system.

Eleven months later, the formidable Scottish peer has returned with a potentially explosive package of proposals that would slash taxes by £21 billion. [...]

Its response is based on four principles that are the foundation of an efficient tax system: tax should be as low as possible; the least well-off should pay a smaller proportion; tax should be easy to understand, calculate and collect; and changes to the system should be kept to a minimum.

It argues that the "flat tax" system mooted by Mr Osborne last year is "theoretically attractive" but would not be viable in Britain. Despite this, it argues that is essential to move towards a flatter tax system.

Instead, the report sets out detailed ideas that will reduce and simplify personal and business taxation. Forty proposals are spelt out, including plans to scrap inheritance tax, cut the basic rate of income tax to 20 per cent and introduce transferable personal allowances.

Most of the proposals could be introduced during the Tories first term in office.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:19 PM


Cross is our symbol of hope, says archbishop (Jonathan Petre, 19/10/2006, Daily Telegraph)

The Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, defended the wearing of crosses yesterday in response to British Airways's decision to suspend an employee who insisted on wearing a crucifix necklace. [...]

"The cross is a symbol used by Christians to remind them of hope. It is the hope of light overcoming darkness, life victorious over death and good triumphing over evil."

He added: "For those of us who wear a cross, there is not only hope but also a responsibility. The responsibility that goes with claiming the name of a Christian. The responsibility to act and to live as Christians.

"Those wearing a cross proclaim themselves followers of Christ and have the duty of acting accordingly; of showing love to our neighbours of all faiths and none, of forgiving those who offend or persecute us, or choosing a life of service to those we meet in this community be they students or teachers, the cool or the uncool, the weak or the strong. Our duty is to show love to them all.

"And this is why I will put this cross into the time capsule. Not only as an enduring symbol of hope, but also as a reminder to those generations to come of their continuing duty to care for the world in which they find themselves years from now and to love all of those with whom they share that world and this very special place."

It's an outdated tradition that only serves to divide and that many object to.....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:15 PM


Priest acknowledges Foley relationship (AP, 10/18/06)

A Roman Catholic priest said he had an inappropriate two-year relationship with former Rep. Mark Foley in the 1960s that included massaging the boy in the nude, but he did not specifically remember having sex, a newspaper reported Thursday.

Mr. Foley was just recruiting the next generation....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:10 PM


Mel Gibson Did It Again! (Father Jonathan Morris, October 19, 2006, FOX News)

His film matters. That's my critique of “Apocalypto.”

Don't get me wrong. This is no sequel to “The Passion of the Christ.” Some of his fervent fans will be disappointed if they were hoping for another religious epic. Mel just didn't have it in him. He doesn't see himself as a prophet, a spiritual director, or a religious role model. But he knows how to make movies, and he has been making good and responsible ones for a very long time.

That's what Mel has done again. He's made a heart-stopping, mythic action-adventure that tells an ancient story in a way that matters. During the process of releasing the “Passion,” Mel realized a tremendous hunger in the audience for a different kind of film. Talking about his reasoning for making “Apocalypto” he said, “People want big stories that say something to them emotionally and touch them spiritually.”

Of all of his past films, this one most resembles “Braveheart.” The only difference is that it takes place in an ancient Mayan jungle, is spoken in the ancient Mayan language, and is represented by a bunch of unknown actors who, for the most part, had never acted before. Oh yeah, and the story is not about Scotland's fight for independence from the Brits, but rather the fight for personal and spiritual independence of a hero who risks his life to free himself from an opulent, but now decaying pre-European Mayan culture.

The protagonist is Juguar Paw (played by newcomer Rudy Youngblood). He is innocent. He is strong. He is in love with his wife, his family, and his traditional culture. In the darkness of an ordinary night, invaders abruptly interrupt his idyllic existence. What ensues is a riveting and relentless chase film that provides a unique context for telling a story about personal and societal survival.

The analogy to our present culture is discreet, but powerful. A society that allows itself to fall apart from within will be unable to withstand threats from without.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 PM


Jungle Fevers: Werner Herzog's sui generis Amazon fever dream and an oral history of Jonestown (J. Hoberman, October 17th, 2006, Village Voice)

Elaborating on the story of the mutinous conquistador Lope de Aguirre (c.1510–61), Herzog mythologized history even as he dramatized his own working methods. Aguirre's quest for a nonexistent "golden city" in the heart of the Amazon rain forest dovetails with the German filmmaker's crazy attempt to recapitulate this venture, producing his own low-budget extravaganza in the same jungle location. (Herzog's El Dorado would have been commercial success; Aguirre, at least initially, achieved only cult status.)

Aguirre gave Klaus Kinski his career role—a half-mad actor playing a full-fledged lunatic—but the filmmaker is the protagonist. The opening sequence—in which the Spanish expedition, complete with sedan chairs, llamas, and Indian slaves, descends out of the Andes through the clouds—is a spectacular show of cinematic might. The exclamation point is a cannon that explodes as it falls into the river. "The spectacle is real; the danger is real," Herzog later boasted. "It is the real life of the jungle, not the botanic gardens of the studio." [...]

As noted by his longtime champion, former Voice critic Mike Atkinson, Herzog has always been an image-maker others have looted: His vocation is "making movies, not watching them." Herzog's river journey anticipated Coppola's in Apocalypse Now (another example of auteurist psychodrama); Aguirre is the influence Terrence Malick's over-inflated New World can't shake. Herzog even attempted his own failed Aguirre remake with Fitzcarraldo, but the earlier film is sui generis. Is Aguirre an exotic thriller, a swashbuckler, a documentary? Manny Farber was reminded of "a bad Raoul Walsh adventure, an episodic paceless film in which you're wondering 'will they make it or not.'" (Then again, he cited its "seething passion.") The meeting between voracious explorers and uncanny aliens approaches science-fiction.

The premise is scary. The tone is absurd. The mood, cued by the lush drone of Popol Vuh's score, is languorous, even trippy. The drama ends in a fever of denial—someone hallucinates a boat in a tree, someone else dies from a nonexistent arrow. Alone with corpses and monkeys on a raft that drifts in circles as it is circled by the camera, Aguirre is the last man standing—ranting still, amid the illusion of brute existence.

I'd actually argue that Fitcarraldo is superior. Aguirre is kind of a cop out because the protagonist is so clearly mad, where as Fitzcarraldo's obsession is plausible but of questionable value. While Herzog makes it impossible to have much sympathy for Aguirre, your reaction to Fitzcarraldo reveals everything about you. It all boils down to whether or not you agree with Don Antonio Moreno:
Ah, sir, may God forgive you for the damage you've done to the whole rest of the world, in trying to cure the wittiest lunatic ever seen! Don't you see, my dear sir, that whatever utility there might be in curing him, it could never match the pleasure he gives with his madness?

An Infamous Mutiny, A Descent Into Madness (BRUCE BENNETT, October 20, 2006, NY Sun)

In 1972, German filmmaker Werner Herzog entered the jungle swamps of the Peruvian Amazon along with a tiny crew, a small cast led by European character actor and theatrical eccentric Klaus Kinski, and several hundred native Indian extras from a local socialist collective. Armed with a camera he personally "liberated" from the Munich film school, a scraped-together budget of just under $400,000 (a third of which was set aside to pay Kinski's fee),and a script written during road trips with the amateur football team he played for, Mr. Herzog and company endured six weeks of deprivations as they struggled to bring his vision to cinematic life.

The result, "Aguirre, the Wrath of God," begins a one-week engagement at Film Forum in a new print tonight, and it is not to be missed.

Mr. Herzog based his script on a littleknown sidebar to the history of the European explorers who first traveled the new world. In 1560, a Spanish expedition set off across the Andes in search of the mythical city of gold, El Dorado. Upon reaching the Amazon, the group's leaders assigned Don Pedro de Ursua the task of leading a smaller splinter expedition downriver to see if El Dorado might be reached by raft. At some point on the journey, Ursua's aide, Don Lope de Aguirre, rebelled, murdered his superior, and drafted a letter to king of Spain declaring himself the wrath of God on earth and abolishing the Spanish crown.

"Aguirre the Traitor's" (or "Aguirre the Madman"as he's alternately remembered by history) expedition ended in starvation and murder, and is one of the more bizarre anecdotes to emerge from the conquest of South America.

Inspired by the story of, as Mr. Herzog called him,"one of history's great losers," the director took the bare bones facts — the raft expedition, the revolt, and the Amazon itself — and built a film of such self-assured hallucinatory clarity and ingenious visual invention that it has no equal, even among Mr. Herzog's previous and subsequent work.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:51 AM


2003 Bush Tax Cut: By The Numbers (Daniel Clifton, 10/18/06, The Sharholders' Corner)

Total Increase in Household Wealth Since April 2003

Total Increase in Shareholder Wealth Since May 20, 2003

Total Amount of Tax Cuts Enacted Since Fiscal Year 2003

Total Amount of Additional Tax Cuts to be Returned to Taxpayers Through 2010

Total Increase in Federal Tax Revenues Since FY 2003

Reduction in the Deficit in the Past 29 Months Due to Stronger Economic Growth

Combined Income Gains for Shareholders From Dividend Increases & Tax Savings 03-05

Surplus of Capital Gains Tax Revenue Not Accounted For By Revenue Estimators

Deficit REDUCTION Since the Tax Cut Was Signed Into Law

Total Number of Americans benefiting from President Bush’s Tax Cut

Number of Individuals Owning Shares of Stock in America

Number of Small Businesses Benefiting from Income Tax Reductions

Number of Jobs Created Since the Tax Cut Was Signed Into Law

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:51 AM


How do you parse that disease? (SETH BORENSTEIN, 10/19/06, Associated Press)

Using grammar rules alongside test tubes, biologists may have found a promising new way to fight nasty bacteria, including drug-resistant microbes and anthrax.

Studying a potent type of bacteria-fighters found in nature, called antimicrobial peptides, biologists found that they seemed to follow rules of order and placement that are similar to simple grammar laws. Using those new grammar-like rules for how these antimicrobial peptides work, scientists created 40 new artificial bacteria-fighters.

Nearly half of those new germ-fighters vanquished a variety of bacteria, and two of them beat anthrax, according to a paper in Thursday's journal Nature. [...]

Using grammar as their guide, scientists could easily produce tens of thousands of new bacteria-fighters and test them for use as future drugs, said study lead author Gregory Stephanopoulos, a chemical engineering professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Even the Biologists are Designists these days.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:19 AM


Crowding Out The U.N. (JOSEPH STERNBERG, October 19, 2006, NY Sun)

Private equity firms are moving into the developing world and that's a good thing, despite what the United Nations says. A report just released by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development finds that "collective investment funds" — meaning private equity firms and their sisters, hedge funds — are fast-growing players in the world of development economics. [...]

Only a Turtle Bay bureaucracy could be puzzled about the "strategic motivations" of private equity and hedge fund investors. The investors themselves are certainly unabashed about their motives. It's profits, pure and simple. "One of the greatest roles [of such funds in developing countries] is following the profits," one hedge fund manager who invests in developing countries, Marshall Stocker, says.

That's precisely why the new breed of development investor is such a breath of fresh air. For 60 years and more, development economists have lurched from one fad to another in their attempt to allocate billions upon billions of dollars of development aid. The result has been little noticeable development. Mr. Easterly's first book, "The Elusive Quest for Growth: Economists' Adventures and Misadventures in the Tropics," is at heart a catalog of decades of such failures — a steady supply of African "bridges to nowhere."

In contrast, the private sector can "efficiently allocate resources whereas governments don't," Mr. Stocker says. Private equity firms and hedge funds have the expertise, not to mention the incentives, to identify genuine opportunities for productive investment. Doing so is what has transformed private equity into a multibillion-dollar industry in the first place. Nor do they make their profits in isolation — they do so largely by increasing the productivity of the firms in which they invest, which has the knock-on effect of improving life for the workers, for example.

Private equity investors and hedge funds also have the potential to do what the World Bank and other institutions have failed to do for six decades: force politicians in the developing world to implement sound economic policies, again by chasing profits. Mr. Stocker's fund is idealistically named World Freedom Select, but not even he makes any bones about his management philosophy.

"When countries liberalize economies, you see above-average investment returns," he says. Thus, the private capital market tends to favor freer countries. And, thanks to the "short-termism" about which the U.N. report matters, capital flows offer "almost instantaneous feedback" to policy makers, Mr. Stocker adds.

That might be one reason the United Nations sounds a little nervous about this trend.

Just another reason Islamicism is no threat.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:12 AM


Grading Congress on the economy (David S. Broder, 10/19/06, Seattle Times)

The editors of National Journal, a respected and independent Washington publication, had the smart idea of inviting 11 distinguished economists to fill out a scorecard on the economic performance of the Republican Congress. The grades are published in the latest issue of the weekly magazine. [...]

Short-term fiscal policy grades averaged out at B minus. Gramley and Sinai gave it an A and A-minus, largely because the tax cuts had stimulated investment and productivity. Five others put it down around C, because so little of the revenue growth was channeled into reducing budget deficits.

The only other category that rated an overall B-minus was government regulation. The range of grades was small, with only one D and seven at or near B. The reason: The economists applaud restraint. As Lereah said, "Less regulation is usually better than more."

That's about all the good news. In long-term growth and competitiveness, the grade was C. No one gave it more than a B, largely because the tax cuts were passed without reforms and because the efforts to improve education and training of the work force seemed feeble.

International economic policy also was graded C. In the face of rising balance-of-payments deficits — a key measure of economic activity between countries — major trade initiatives have stalled. While radical protectionist measures have been rejected, Congress has balked at bigger steps to open international markets, the economists said.

Congress was given a C for its economic leadership and the same grade for its overall economic performance. Aside from cutting taxes, the lawmakers did little to help or harm the economy. They balked at tax reform and Social Security reform, but made some improvements in pension reliability. Overall, this Congress was no better or worse than most of its predecessors, the graders said.

But there was one area where they said it failed and failed badly. That was long-term fiscal policy. There were five F's, three D's, and no grade higher than a B-minus, for a composite grade of D. Speaking of the long-term liabilities of Medicare and Social Security, Gramley told National Journal, "Congress and the administration are not facing" reality. Behravesh called the response to those long-term deficits "quite irresponsible."

Does all this add up to a case for or against the Republican Congress? The economists were not asked that question, but most of their comments convey support for the Bush tax cuts and opposition to the trade restrictions favored by many Democrats.

Let's all put our heads together and see if we can figure out which party votes down the line in opposition to free trade, tax cuts, tax reform, SS reform, pension reform, reductions in regulation...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:06 AM


Wal-Mart cutting prices on more than 100 toys (Reuters, 10/18/06)

Wal-Mart Stores (WMT) on Wednesday declared an early start to the holiday shopping season, cutting prices on more than 100 toys and games, effective immediately.

The world's biggest retailer said the markdowns were "just the start of thousands of price cuts on key gift, entertaining and holiday items," setting the stage for a fiercely competitive finish to the year.

Wal-Mart Speeds Generic Rollout (Reuters, 10/19/2006)

The Bentonville, Ark., retailer said its $4 generic prescription program will be now be available in an additional 1,264 stores in 14 added states: Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Texas and Vermont. [...]

The $4 generics program includes 314 generic prescriptions available for up to a 30-day supply at commonly prescribed dosages. The list of 314 generic prescriptions is made up of as many as 143 compounds in 24 therapeutic categories. Wal-Mart estimates that the list of $4 prescription medications represents nearly 25% of prescriptions that it currently dispenses in its pharmacies nationwide.

Bill Simon, executive vice president of the Professional Services Division for Wal-Mart, said Wal-Mart filled 88,235 new prescriptions in 10 days after the program started.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:03 AM


Space off limits to hostile nations: U.S (MARC KAUFMAN, 10/19/06, Toronto Star)

U.S. President George W. Bush has quietly signed a new National Space Policy that asserts his country's right to deny access to space to anyone "hostile to U.S. interests."

The policy also rejects future arms-control agreements that might limit U.S. flexibility in space.

The document characterizes the role of U.S. space diplomacy largely in terms of persuading other nations to support U.S. policy, encourages private enterprise in space and emphasizes security issues.

"Freedom of action in space is as important to the United States as air power and sea power," the document, a revision of the U.S.'s previous space policy, asserts in its introduction.

Non-democratic nations should even be denied their own satellites.

MORE (via Tom Morin)
Bush Sets Defense As Space Priority: U.S. Says Shift Is Not A Step Toward Arms; Experts Say It Could Be (Marc Kaufman, 10/18/06, Washington Post)

National Security Council spokesman Frederick Jones said in written comments that an update was needed to "reflect the fact that space has become an even more important component of U.S. economic, national and homeland security." The military has become increasingly dependent on satellite communication and navigation, as have providers of cellphones, personal navigation devices and even ATMs.

The administration said the policy revisions are not a prelude to introducing weapons systems into Earth orbit. "This policy is not about developing or deploying weapons in space. Period," said a senior administration official who was not authorized to speak on the record.

Nevertheless, Michael Krepon, co-founder of the Henry L. Stimson Center, a nonpartisan think tank that follows the space-weaponry issue, said the policy changes will reinforce international suspicions that the United States may seek to develop, test and deploy space weapons. The concerns are amplified, he said, by the administration's refusal to enter negotiations or even less formal discussions on the subject.

"The Clinton policy opened the door to developing space weapons, but that administration never did anything about it," Krepon said.

He says that like it's a good thing...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:57 AM


For Muslims, strict rules of Ramadan yield to a sweet feast with family and friends (Gretchen McKay, 10/19/06, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

All through Ramadan, observant Muslims are required to abstain during daylight hours from all food, drink and sensual pleasures; no matter how parched their lips or dry their throats, Mrs. Kucukkal points out, even a sip of water is prohibited. (There are exceptions for children, the elderly, and the sick and pregnant.) But once the new moon is sighted over the Muslims' holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia, Ramadan and its mandatory fasting period -- known as "sawm" in Arabic -- comes to an end, and Muslims the world round enjoy one of Islam's two most important celebrations, Eid al-Fitr, or the Festival of Fast-Breaking. (The other is Eid al-Adha, the Feast of Sacrifice, which will begin at the end of December.)

After a month of gastronomic denial, it goes without saying that food -- lots of it, and of an infinite variety -- is a big part of the festivities.

Everywhere you go, Mrs. Kucukkal notes, you eat, even if you're not particularly hungry or have already enjoyed that particular dish at someone else's house. Otherwise, she says, you risk making your host feel badly. As a result, most Muslim women spend several days before the festival preparing traditional meals: flaky baklava and a super-sweet confection made from thin sheets of pastry soaked in milk known as gullac, from Turkey; chickpea salad in a tangy tamarind dressing from Pakistan, bulgur salad from Saudi Arabia. [...]


This traditional kabob can also be made with 1 pound ground beef in place of the potatoes. Kids will enjoy it served with ketchup.

* 4 large potatoes, boiled and peeled
* 1 onion, diced
* 1/2 teaspoon coriander
* 1/2 teaspoon cumin
* 1 teaspoon salt
* 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
* Fresh parsley, chopped
* 1 teaspoon lemon juice
* 1 egg, beaten
* Oil for frying

Mash potatoes in bowl, and add onion, spices, salt, pepper and parsley and lemon juice. Shape into small patties. Dip patties in beaten egg, and fry in hot oil until golden brown. Drain and serve with lemon slices.

Makes about 20 kabobs.

-- Shazia Ahmad

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:53 AM


Virtual colonoscopy accurate and 'less invasive' (Jennifer Harper, 10/19/06, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

Here's welcome news for anyone alarmed by a standard "optical" colonoscopy, the oft-dreaded and unpopular exam for colon cancer that yields an accurate diagnosis, right along with patient discomfort and embarrassment.

Three-dimensional computed tomography colonography -- or virtual colonoscopy -- is getting high marks from the Radiological Society of North America, which is lauding both the procedure's accuracy and appeal. Simply put, there is no 52-inch "scope" involved, and no sedation.

The most dreaded words in a man's life: close your eyes and think of Denzel.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 6:36 AM


Massachusetts school bans playing tag at recess over fears of injuries, lawsuits (CBC, October 18th, 2006)

Officials at an elementary school south of Boston have banned kids from playing tag, touch football and any other unsupervised chase game during recess for fear they'll get hurt and hold the school liable.

Recess is "a time when accidents can happen," said Willett Elementary School principal Gaylene Heppe, who approved the ban.

While there is no districtwide ban on contact sports during recess, local rules have been cropping up. Several school administrators around Attleboro, a city of about 45,000 residents, took aim at dodgeball a few years ago, saying it was exclusionary and dangerous.

Elementary schools in Cheyenne, Wyo., and Spokane, Wash., also recently banned tag during recess. A suburban Charleston, S.C., school outlawed all unsupervised contact sports.

Danger has little to do with it. What is objectionable to these folks is that it is unsupervised

Posted by Peter Burnet at 6:16 AM


Young people most likely to consider themselves 'Europeans,' new study suggests
(Associated Press, October 19th, 2006)

The European Union may be struggling to forge a common identity, but most of the continent's young people already consider themselves "Europeans" as much as anything else, a new study suggests.

In the study published in this week's issue of the journal Science, a team of Austrian sociologists reviewed public opinion surveys spanning 1996 to 2004 and found evidence of a "slowly evolving feeling of identity in the national and European context," lead researcher Wolfgang Lutz said.

By 2004, the most recent year for which data were examined, 42 percent of respondents to a Eurobarometer survey said they felt themselves to be solely nationals of their own country, but the remaining 58 percent acknowledged at least somewhat identifying themselves as Europeans.

The study dealt only with the 15 core EU member states in Western Europe, and not with the 10 newcomer nations — eight ex-communist countries from Eastern Europe plus Cyprus and Malta — which joined the bloc in May 2004.

The experts' forecast: By 2030, if the trend holds, the great majority of Europeans — a projected 226 million people — will see themselves with multiple identities, not just national ones, compared to an estimated 130 million today.

"The older the respondents, the higher is the chance that they feel only a national identity," the authors wrote in an article for Science. "As older, more nationally oriented cohorts die, there are likely to be significant changes in the pattern of European identity."

We’ve all seen many studies like this. The sub-text is that rational insight and cutting-edged progressive thinking are widespread among the young, while the elderly are still prisoners of a dark and dangerous mix of small-minded tradition and prejudice---too feeble and hidebound to get with the programme. Once the admittedly kind but hopelessly befuddled old wrinklies die off (take your time, but hurry up!), we will be free to enjoy the broad sunlit uplands of transnationalism secured by international law, environmentally-sensitive progress and unfettered individual freedom. The authors are conveniently oblivious to the fact that today’s European seniors grew up awash in unadulterated marxism, Sartre’s existentialism and an all-encompassing contempt for national cultures. Is it just possible experience sometimes translates into wisdom?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


A New Mayor Tests His Promises on Newark’s Reality (ANDREW JACOBS, 10/19/06, NY Times)

After a campaign in which Mr. Booker sailed into City Hall with a landslide 72 percent of the vote to replace Sharpe James, the 20-year incumbent mired in accusations of malfeasance, he has found running New Jersey’s largest city more challenging than he ever expected. To watch his new team up close is to witness the clash between political promises and the nitty gritty of governing, to see goals and plans sidelined by the realpolitik of race and budget gaps, and to experience the frustratingly sluggish pace of change.

Turning Newark into the paragon of American cities sounded nice in campaign speeches, but 100 days in, the ambitious 37-year-old mayor is starting to settle for a city that is a little less bruised. Campaigns are run on emotion and white-knuckle grit, he has discovered, while governing demands ruthless dispassion to tolerate reordered priorities and a disappointed public.

In these early days of his administration, Mr. Booker has infuriated homeowners by pushing through an 8.4 percent property tax increase to fill a deficit he did not anticipate. His openness with the press has sometimes backfired, such as when an offhand comment about needing to shrink the municipal workforce of 4,000 by as much as 20 percent angered the City Hall rank and file. Firefighters’ union officials were irked by a reorganization of the department that led to the closing of three firehouses.

And stepping up arrests, he has learned, does not necessarily reduce violence; shootings and homicides rose compared with the previous summer, along with burnout on the 1,300-officer force and overtime costs mounting to $20 million.

“Things come at you 1,000 miles an hour, and much of the time you’re dealing with chaos,” an exhausted Mr. Booker said one recent evening as he rode to Manhattan for a private dinner with Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of New York. “You can easily get distracted by issues that are not central.”

To keep focused, Mr. Booker often pulls a crumpled square of paper from his pocket.

“To be America’s leading urban city in safety, prosperity and nurturing of family life,” reads the note he typed to himself shortly after his election in May. “Newark will set a national standard for urban transformation by marshaling its resources to achieve security, economic abundance and an environment that is nurturing and empowering for families.”

It is Mr. Booker’s mission statement, invoked often in public speeches as well as impromptu pep talks to his staff.

A bold statement, considering that Newark, population 275,000 and one of the nation’s poorest cities, remains a stubborn synonym for urban dysfunction. One third of its children live in poverty. Fewer than 9 percent of its adults have a college education. Every year, 1 out of every 800 residents is hit by gunfire.

His BlackBerry buzzes with the news of each shooting. One afternoon, Mr. Booker bolted from a staff meeting and sped to the scene when a 14-year-old girl was hit in the knee as she walked home from school, then to the hospital to console her family.

“Listen, Mr. Mayor,” said Daisy Hargraves, the girl’s grandmother, as she lectured him in the emergency room. “I don’t want to hear any blame about the past administration. I just want you to stop the violence. It’s not enough to just lock people up.”

As he passed the 100-day mark in office last week, Mr. Booker had compiled some things to crow about (though he postponed a celebratory news conference until Wednesday because the glossy handouts were not ready). Despite a rise in homicides, shootings were down 20 percent in September. Dozens of no-show employees have been purged from the municipal payroll. In the coming months, 50 police surveillance cameras will be installed across the city — the first ever.

“The air is filled with the electricity of hope,” said Lawrence P. Goldman, president of the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, echoing business and civic leaders who describe a spirit of revival sweeping the city.

But some say Mr. Booker has unrealistically lofty expectations for his tenure. He is grappling both with the impatience of those who expected a revolution, and the sniping of others who feel slighted or left out by the new regime. After a generation of machine-style rule by Mr. James, Mr. Booker’s shakeup has inevitably led to a scorecard of winners and losers.

Some critics have never gotten over the fact that the Ivy League-schooled, Buddhist-inspired, vegetarian mayor was raised in an affluent Bergen County suburb, Harrington Park. Others are unhappy that much of his inner circle is made up of recruits from New York, and that many are white.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Tigers Offer a Lesson In Roster Management (CHRISTINA KAHRL, October 19, 2006, NY Sun)

[C]onsider Alexis Gomez, the hero of Game Two in the ALCS. Gomez came to the Tigers organization as a minor league free agent in 2005, abandoning the Royals organization that first found him in the Dominican Republic. After playing regularly for the International League champion Toledo Mudhens in 2005,Tigers' general manager Dave Dombrowski brought him back as a non-roster invite. Gomez first came up this year on April 15 when DH Dmitri Young initially got injured and was put through waivers and outrighted back to Toledo three weeks later. He was brought back a month later, and outrighted again at the end of June, and was finally brought up to stay just before the end of August.

Gomez's strengths are straightforward enough — defense, and a lefty bat good enough for a big league bench, but only just.At times, the Tigers needed the roster space he took up to bring in a spare pitcher, rather than keep him around for playing time he wasn't going to get, the Tigers kept his bat fresh by playing him regularly at Toledo.So while he only got 111 plate appearances with the Tigers — not much over six months of action — he really had the benefit of more than 250 plate appearances with the Mudhens, keeping his skills sharp, and helping keep him in readiness for postseason possibilities.

Similarly, the Tigers employed reserve infielder Ramon Santiago sparingly on the big league roster, utilizing him as a defensive replacement and garbage time player for starting shortstop Carlos Guillen. Although the originally had him on the Opening Day roster, by July it was becoming clear he wasn't get a lot of action. Rather than let him continue to rot at the end of the bench, the Tigers could afford to send him to Toledo to get some real playing time. While Santiago's never going to be much of a hitter, his ability to contribute on any level was shored up by a month spent playing games in Toledo instead of watching them in Detroit.

Modern pitching staff management has fallen into certain usage patterns, not all of them conducive to keeping every pitcher sharp or productive over the course of a full season. In particular, the challenges of being a situational reliever can be difficult to adapt to, especially for a younger pitcher who might be more used to starting every five days, or using all of his pitches. A situational lefthander doesn't get a lot of opportunities to work on his pitches in live action, since he's often limited to facing a batter or two before he's pulled; he also frequently has to work from the stretch to keep inherited baserunners close to the bag. Veteran situational lefty Jamie Walker has been solid in the role for the Tigers all season, but finding a second lefty wasn't necessarily easy.

Dombrowski and Leyland found their second lefty by calling up Wil Ledezma in mid-June. Rather than strand him in situational work, Leyland used Ledezma in more old-fashioned long relief work and also used him in a couple of spot starts to help space out other starting pitcher's appearances. That doesn't mean that Ledezma can't now be used as a situational lefty in situations that Leyland doesn't want to use Walker, but by managing Ledezma's workload in a way that kept him productive during the regular season, Leyland gave himself an additional postseason weapon for which some teams pay seven figures to a free agent.

One of the main reasons to believe the Tigers will be around for awhile is that Ledezma, Andrew Miller and Humberto Sanchez are all capable of being quality starters as early as next year.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


No fountain of youth in pills and patches, study shows (MIKE STOBBE, 10/19/06, Associated Press)

Widely used DHEA supplements and testosterone patches failed to deliver their touted anti-aging benefits in one of the first rigorous studies to test such claims in older men and women.

The substances did not improve the participants' strength, their physical performance, or certain other measures of health.

“I don't think there's any case for administering these” to elderly people, said Dr. K. Sreekumaran Nair of the Mayo Clinic, lead author of the study, published in Thursday's New England Journal of Medicine.

The case is the same as for the whole moder pharmacopia: egotism and the bottom line.

October 18, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:54 PM


Stem cells create tumours, says expert (Jane Bunce, October 10, 2006, news.com.au)

EMBRYONIC stem cells turn into tumours when injected into human tissue and therefore cannot be used to treat diseases, a visiting US expert said today.

Professor James Sherley, a researcher in the field of adult stem cells, is one of a series of experts in Canberra to lobby MPs ahead of a conscience vote on whether a ban on therapeutic cloning should be overturned.

Prof Sherley, from Boston's Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), today said scientists had failed to reveal problems with embryonic stem cells that would prevent them being used in humans.

Because their primary interest is grant money.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:39 PM


Can You Tell a Sunni From a Shiite? (JEFF STEIN, 10/17/06, NY Times)

FOR the past several months, I’ve been wrapping up lengthy interviews with Washington counterterrorism officials with a fundamental question: “Do you know the difference between a Sunni and a Shiite?”

A “gotcha” question? Perhaps. But if knowing your enemy is the most basic rule of war, I don’t think it’s out of bounds. And as I quickly explain to my subjects, I’m not looking for theological explanations, just the basics: Who’s on what side today, and what does each want? [...]

[S]o far, most American officials I’ve interviewed don’t have a clue. That includes not just intelligence and law enforcement officials, but also members of Congress who have important roles overseeing our spy agencies. How can they do their jobs without knowing the basics?


Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:21 PM


Muslim scholars write the pope - and everyone else (Dan Murphy, 10/19/06, The Christian Science Monitor)

"What you see in the media are people like [Osama] bin Laden, or Zarqawi, the sorts of people who don't represent Islam or the religion at large,'' says Nakhooda, the Jordan-based editor in chief of Islamica Magazine, which has been helping to publicize the "unprecedented" open letter by Muslim scholars.

"These individuals are a law unto themselves and, sadly, they get the most publicity.... The intent [of the letter] is to start a dialogue rolling so the public would see there's a positive initiative, an alternative to anger."

...the most important dialogue must take place as such scholars explain to the Islamic world that its theology conforms to our standards.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:17 PM


Falling US fuel prices ease fears of recession (Mark Trumbull, 10/19/06, The Christian Science Monitor)

Over the past two months price shifts in gasoline and natural gas have put some $90 billion, annualized, back in US consumers' pockets, according to research by economist Andrew Tilton at the investment firm Goldman, Sachs. That's sizable even in a $13 trillion economy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:12 PM

Creamy pumpkin soup (San Jose Mercury News, Oct. 18, 2006)

4 tablespoons butter, divided use
1/4 cup chopped onion
2 medium leeks, white part only, thinly sliced
2 cups peeled, chopped pumpkin meat or unsweetened canned pumpkin
1 medium potato, diced small
2 medium tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
4 to 6 cups chicken stock
2 teaspoons salt, if desired
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 dashes of Tabasco
1/2 cup chopped celery leaves
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1/2 cup peeled raw shrimp, optional (see Note)
2 cups light cream or half-and-half
1 cup croutons

In large (6-quart) saucepan, melt 1 tablespoon butter; cook onion and leeks, covered, until translucent and soft, about 10 minutes. Add pumpkin, potato, tomatoes and stock. Season with salt, pepper and Tabasco. Add celery leaves and parsley. Cook until vegetables are tender, about 30 minutes. Remove from heat.

When soup has cooled a bit, process it in equipment giving the desired result. The food processor leaves tiny particles in the soup. For a truly creamy soup, put it through a blender or fine sieve.

Note: If using shrimp, peel while the soup cooks. Drop shrimp into processor or blender along with 1/2 cup of puree. Blend until smooth and add to soup pot.

Bring soup (with or without shrimp) to a simmer and cook over low heat 10 minutes. Add cream and remaining 3 tablespoons butter; continue heating almost to a simmer, but don't allow to boil. If soup is too thick, thin with stock or water.

``The Complete Book of Soups and Stews'' by Bernard Clayton Jr.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:10 PM

A HEAPIN' HELPIN' OF BAD JUJU (via Glenn Dryfoos):

Photo reveals double curse in '86 (Paul Lukas, 10/18/06, ESPN)

If you want to imbue a discussion with an air of gravitas, you start by identifying the main character by his full name: George Herman Ruth. Dwight David Eisenhower. Homer Jay Simpson.

So consider the case of one William Joseph Buckner, who almost two decades ago (the precise anniversary is Wednesday, Oct. 25) bent over to field a grounder hit by Mookie Wilson. We all know what happened after that -- you've seen the video a few jillion times, you've read about the scapegoating, and the subsequent reaction to the scapegoating. After 20 years of scrutiny under the electron microscope of modern media, the Buckner play has been dissected so thoroughly that you pretty well know everything about it.

Well, almost everything.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:07 PM


Coffins to bear logos of baseball teams (PATRICK WALTERS, 10/18/06, Associated Press)

Many crazed baseball fans have said they would die for a championship. But are they willing to take that devotion to the grave? Major League Baseball and a company that makes funeral products will soon find out just how many fans want to be decked out for all eternity in tribute to their team.

Starting next season, fans of the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Detroit Tigers, Philadelphia Phillies, Chicago Cubs and Los Angeles Dodgers will be able to have their ashes put in an urn or head six feet under in a casket emblazoned with their team colors and insignia.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:46 PM


American slashes fares (TERRY MAXON, October 18, 2006. The Dallas Morning News)

American Airlines responded overnight to Southwest's new fares by slashing its own fares on competing service, generally a maximum of $218 round-trip plus fees and taxes.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:36 PM


Housing start gain may signal slide is over: Latest reading on new home market shows surprise increase in housing starts, although permits fall more than forecasts (Chris Isidore, October 18 2006, CNNMoney.com)

Home building may be ready to shake off its 2006 slump, as housing starts posted the biggest jump since January, according to a government report Wednesday.

The report also showed that building permits, seen as a sign of builder confidence, fell more than expected.

But the housing starts number was seen by some as perhaps a signal that home building has hit bottom and is ready for a recovery. At the very least, the market appeared more resilient than many experts had assumed.

Who but an expert could imagine that a country without enough housing would face a protracted housing slump?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:21 PM


For Halloween, dare to return to Dracula's Romanian roots in these recipes (MARY MEITUS, October 18, 2006, ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS)

If you'd like an authentic touch of Dracula's homeland at a Halloween party, consider preparing some of the dishes of Romania. [...]

The food is primarily bread- and meat-based. After years of occupation by many countries, Romania's cuisine takes its influence from Hungary and Russia, as well as the seasonal availability of native ingredients.

The Romanian National Tourist Office (www.romaniatourism.com) in New York City describes these ingredients as sour cream, eggs and tarragon, and lists favorite foods such as tart soups, hearty stews, mititei (small skinless grilled sausages), lamb, beef and poultry dishes, carp and herring, tuica (a plum brandy), breads, polenta and clatite, a dessert crepe. The region also produces some well-respected wines.

Bram Stoker, whose famous "Dracula" started it all, is thought to have based his character on a real-life "dracula." Rather than downplay the Dracula myth, many Romanians embrace the original Stoker story, even if it's just for the benefit of tourists. In Bucharest, the capital, there's even a restaurant called the Count Dracula Club. And the Romanian National Tourist Office provided the crepe recipe, with permission from Nicolae Klepper, from her cookbook "Taste of Romania." [...]


# 3-4 garlic cloves, peeled
# Juice of 2 lemons
# 1/2 teaspoon salt
# Freshly ground black pepper to taste
# 1 (2- to 3-pound) flank steak or 4 sirloin (New York) strip or rib-eye steaks or an equivalent amount of skirt steak
# 3 tablespoons butter, melted
# 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves

If you have a mortar and pestle, pound the garlic with the lemon juice and salt until a paste is formed. Otherwise, mince the garlic finely and stir it with the salt into the lemon juice. Use the back of a wooden spoon to smash the garlic as much as you can.

Press the pepper into the steak and then spread the garlic mixture evenly on both sides. Let the steak marinate for an hour at room temperature.

Meanwhile, start a charcoal or gas grill or preheat the broiler; the fire should be moderately hot and the rack about 4 inches from the heat source.

When ready to cook, brush the melted butter onto the steak and then place on the grill. Continue to baste with any remaining butter while the steak is cooking, about 4 minutes per side for medium-rare. Garnish with the parsley and serve.

From "The Best Recipes in the World" by Mark Bittman

Posted by Peter Burnet at 1:57 PM


Sealed with... 146 muscles (Roger Highfield, The Telegraph, October 17th, 2006)

A kiss is more than just a kiss. Kissing is a symbol of romance, love and affection. A polite peck is an accepted greeting between friends and family. A hungry snog a symbol of base desire.

In the Bible, a sly smacker is even a symbol of betrayal. Now the resources of science are being applied to shed new light on this most powerful gesture.

The question of "what's in a kiss" has taxed lovers, poets and scientists throughout the ages.

Dr Henry Gibbons defined it as: "The anatomical juxtaposition of two orbicularis oris muscles in a state of contraction", while, in Cyrano de Bergerac, Edmond Rostand said it was a "rosy dot placed on the 'i' in loving".

The physical nature of a kiss was first revealed a few years ago in detail by an animated scan of a vertical cross-section through the head, made by Elaine Sassoon, Annabelle Dytham, Robert Scully and Prof Gus McGrouther at the Rayne Institute in University College London.

The scan revealed that a kiss is mostly due to the squashing of a pair of muscles with a J-shaped cross-section, drawing on all 34 facial muscles for success.

"Not only do you use your facial muscles in kissing, but approximately 112 postural muscles as well," added Prof McGrouther, now at the University of Manchester.[...]

A few days ago, an intriguing insight into the enduring nose problem was published in the journal Nature Neuroscience by Martin Sereno and Ruey-Song Huang of the University of California, San Diego.

Planting a kiss on the lips, and avoiding that troublesome proboscis, requires "prompt, co-ordinated processing of spatial visual and somatosensory information," said Dr Sereno.

Busy old fools.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:29 AM


Behold Indonesia's democratic beacon (Shawn W Crispin, 10/19/06, Asia Times)

Eight years after launching a highly ambitious political reform program, Indonesia has surprised many analysts and academics by how quickly and smoothly the world's fourth-largest country has consolidated meaningful democratic gains. Indonesia has since 1998 overhauled every fundamental aspect of its former authoritarian state, including an amended constitution, a more powerful parliament and a reformed election system.

The country's first-ever direct presidential elections in 2004, in which former general Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was elected on a strong reform ticket, represented a democratic high-water mark. What's gone less noticed over that same period have been 250 or so different local-level elections, which are now contested down to the grassroots regent level.

Breaking with former strongman Suharto's top-down New Order regime, Indonesia's peripheral populations are now less captive to the interests and abuses of local political heavies, who under Suharto often inserted themselves as gatekeepers to financial and natural resources through central government authority. While many attempted to co-opt new democratic institutions to perpetuate their power, nearly 40% of local level incumbents have in recent years been booted from office at the ballot box.

In certain conflict-plagued regions, local democracy is even having a healing effect. According to a recent report in the Jakarta-based Van Zorge Report, head and vice head candidates, often representing respectively localities' Muslim majority and Christian minority populations, have frequently teamed up to beat competing candidates who ran on a one-religion ticket. That is, local-level democracy is rewarding politicians who form religiously inclusive, not exclusive, coalitions. [...]

[I]ndonesia's extraordinary democratic progress has put the lie to academic debates about whether Islam and democracy can peacefully co-exist. Predictions that dismantling Suharto's highly secular state institutions would lead to a coincident rise in Islamic fundamentalism have notably not panned out. Political parties that have campaigned on strict Islamic platforms fared poorly against more secular candidates at the 2004 parliamentary polls.

Fundamentalists elected on anti-corruption tickets that have since attempted to push Islamic-tinged legislation in parliament, including a controversial anti-pornography bill, have seen their popularity fall dramatically in public opinion polls.

It's actually not in their best long term interest to keep a country of that size and diversity in one piece, but it is to devolve it slowly.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:47 AM


Ad firm touts 'design thinking' (RICHARD BLACKWELL, 10/18/06, Globe and Mail)

One of the hottest catchphrases in today's management-speak is “design thinking.”

The theory says businesses and their managers must apply the innovative and creative processes used by designers if their ventures are to be successful.

That means being extremely open-minded at the start of a project, figuring out exactly how a client or user “experiences” your company's product or service, and trying out multiple prototypes before you choose a solution.

If you can work this way, the proposition goes, your business can replicate the success of Apple Computer Inc.'s brilliantly designed iPod or the ubiquitous Starbucks Corp. coffee shops.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:44 AM


Bouchard furor: Do Quebeckers work enough? (RHEAL SEGUIN, 10/18/06, Globe and Mail)

“We don't work enough,” [Lucien]. Bouchard said Monday night on the French-language TVA network. “We work less than Ontarians and infinitely less than Americans. We have to work harder.”

In the interview, Mr. Bouchard blamed what he called Quebeckers' poor work ethic and low productivity for the province's high debt and taxes and its economic stagnation.

He likened Quebec to an airplane flying with reckless disregard toward economic disaster.

an Airbus?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:35 AM


Initial Airbus cuts aimed at German staffing, operations (The Associated Press, 10/18/06)

The European aircraft maker said it would not renew contracts with employment agencies supplying about 1,000 of its 7,300 temporary workers in Germany.

It also announced a raft of measures for its regular staff in Germany, including cutting work schedules to as little as 28 hours a week for some employees — though without reducing their pay.

The workers will be expected to make up the hours later, when orders are healthier.

The measures will affect all seven Airbus facilities in Germany and are covered by a 2003 agreement with labor representatives, the company said. [...]

However, the 2003 agreement with German labor unions rules out firing any regular staff in Germany until 2012.

Bismarck wouldn't take that lying down.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:30 AM


Mets' reality hits home (John Harper, 10/18/06, NY Daily News)

In the end, there was no one in particular to shoulder the burden of failure. Every Met regular had a hit on this night. But where were the big ones? What happened to all that thunder from two nights ago?

More to the point: What now? [...]

When two of the big guys finally came through in the eighth inning, Delgado with a single and David Wright with a double, it was left to Green and Valentin.

Tony La Russa went to lefthanded reliever Randy Flores, and here is where the Mets needed a dependable righthanded bat off the bench. But Julio Franco is the best they have, and he hasn't looked good at all in the postseason.

So Green was allowed to hit, and Flores beat him with a fastball, producing a shallow fly to center. La Russa then went to his closer, Adam Wainwright, who struck out Valentin looking at a curveball that he thought was outside.

The Mets are still so much better that it's hard to favor the Cards by much even with a 3-2 lead in the series, but two questions arise (besides the obvious Heilman one): (1) why does Beltran continue to bat left-handed against Kinney?; and (2) is Willie Randolph the only person in baseball who doesn't realize Valentin's hot stretch was a fluke?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:27 AM


Social Security cost-of-living adjustment expected to be lower (AP, 10/18/06)

The nation's nearly 49 million Social Security recipients are in line to get a smaller average increase in their monthly benefit checks in 2007 than they did this year, though less of the gain will be eaten up by rising Medicare premiums.

Private economists are predicting an increase of around 3.4% for 2007. That follows a benefit increase of 4.1% this year, which was the largest percentage rise in 15 years.

Phasing out the COLA altogether would be a good way to continue the transition to private accounts.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:25 AM


The Case For Helmets In Soccer (Paul Gardner, October 17, 2006, NY Sun)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:11 AM


Mentor of strongman urges his ouster (KWANG-TAE KIM, 10/18/06, ASSOCIATED PRESS)

The man once considered the mentor of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il said yesterday the reclusive country's nuclear weapons program cannot be stopped unless the strongman is ousted.

But Kim's total grip on the communist society makes that a remote possibility, said Hwang Jang-yop, the highest-ranking North Korean government official ever to defect to South Korea. Hwang, 83, wearing a lapel badge in the shape of the South Korean national flag, is also skeptical United Nations sanctions imposed on the North for a nuclear test explosion will hurt Kim's rule. [...]

He said South Korea, the United States, China, Russia and Japan should not bargain with the North.

They should instead isolate the regime, he said, calling it an "international criminal organization and the enemy of democracy."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:09 AM


Streisand steals T.O. hearts (RICHARD OUZOUNIAN, 10/18/06, Toronto Star)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:06 AM


Wynn accidentally damages Picasso (Norm, 10/17/06, Las Vegas Review-Journal )

Pablo Picasso's "dream" painting has turned into a $139 million nightmare for Steve Wynn.

In an accident witnessed by a group that included Barbara Walters and screenwriters Nora Ephron and Nicholas Pileggi, Wynn accidentally poked a hole in Picasso's 74-year-old painting, "Le Reve," French for "The Dream."

A day earlier, Wynn had finalized a record $139 million deal for the painting of Picasso's mistress, Wynn told The New Yorker magazine

The accident occurred as a gesturing Wynn, who suffers from retinitis pigmentosa, an eye disease that affects peripheral vision, struck the painting with his right elbow, leaving a hole the size of a silver dollar in the left forearm of Marie-Theresa Walter, Picasso's 21-year-old mistress.

Not only does his "art" stink, but he was a cretin. Before she went loopy, Arianna Huffington wrote a deliciously savage bio of Picasso. In her Introduction she mentioned that when she was considering the book she was told that David McCullough was writing one to. She duly contacted him, but he told her that he had decided to drop the project because he found himself disliking his subject so thoroughly.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


The Regensburg Effect: The Open Letter from 38 Muslims to the Pope: Instead of saying they are offended and demanding apologies, they express their respect for him and dialogue with him on faith and reason. They disagree on many points. But they also criticize those Muslims who want to impose, with violence, “utopian dreams in which the end justifies the means” (Sandro Magister, October 18, 2006, Chiesa)

[T]he letter signed by the 38 – together with the preceding essay by Aref Ali Nayed, previewed by www.chiesa on October 4 – goes towards what the pope meant to accomplish with his audacious lecture in Regensburg: to encourage, within the Muslim world as well, public reflection that would separate faith from violence and link it to reason instead. Because, in the pope’s view, it is precisely the “reasonableness” of the faith that is the natural terrain of encounter between Christianity and the various other religions and cultures.

A first point on which the letter from the 38 Muslims “reasons” with Benedict XVI concerns sura 2:256 of the Qur’an: “There is no compulsion in religion.” The authors of the letter assert that Mohammed formulated this commandment, not when he found himself “powerless and under threat” – which the pope maintains as “probable” in his lecture – but when he was in a position of strength, in Medina. And that he intended by this to appeal to Muslims, whenever they conquered a territory, “not to force another’s heart to believe.”

A second point on which the letter dwells concerns the transcendence of God. That Muslim doctrine holds that God is “absolutely transcendent,” as the pope asserts, is in the judgment of the 38 signatories “a simplification which can be misleading.” The eleventh-century Muslim author to whom the pope refers - Ibn Hazm - is in their view “a worthy but very marginal figure, who belonged to the Zahiri school of jurisprudence which is followed by no one in the Islamic world today.” It is not true – they write – that “the will of God is not bound to any of our categories,” that the God of Islam is a “capricious” God, and far less so that he could delight in bloodshed. God has many names in Islam, and his “clemency and mercy” have the greatest prominence: they are present in the sacred formula that the Muslims recite every day.

The third point is the use of reason. The authors of the letter write that Islamic thought has always wanted to avoid two extremes: the first is that of raising up analytic reason as the arbiter of truth, and the other is that of denying the capacity of the human intellect to address the ultimate questions. There is – they write – a harmony between the questions of human reason and the truths of Qur’anic revelation, “without sacrificing one for the other.”

The fourth point is holy war. The 38 signatories of the letter recall that the word “jihad” properly means “struggle in the way of God,” which is not necessarily war. Even Christ used violence when he chased the merchants from the temple. They sum up in this way Islam’s three “authoritative and traditional” rules on war:

– civilians are not approved targets;
– religious creed alone cannot make a person the object of an attack;
– Muslims can and must live peacefully beside their neighbors, although the legitimacy of self-defense and the maintenance of sovereignty remain valid principles.

So if some Muslims – they write – have ignored such well-established teaching on the limits of war, preferring to this “utopian dreams where the end justifies the means, they have done so of their own accord and without the sanction of God, His Prophet, or the learned tradition.”

The fourth point taken into consideration is forced conversion. As a political reality – write the authors of the letter – Islam certainly did spread in part by military conquest, “but the greater part of its expansion came as a result of preaching and missionary activity.” The commandment of the Qur’an, “no compulsion in religion,” must always hold true: the fact that some Muslims disobey this is “the exception that confirms the rule.” “We emphatically agree that forcing others to believe – if such a thing be truly possible at all – is not pleasing to God.”

The fourth point: the “new” – and moreover “evil and inhuman” – things that Mohammed is imagined to have brought, according to Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus as cited by Benedict XVI in the lecture in Regensburg. The 38 authors of the letter object that, according to Islamic doctrine, even before Mohammed “all the true prophets preached the same truth to different peoples at different times: the laws may be different, but the truth is unchanging.”

The two faiths are even more alike than the Pope understood.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Rabbis tout Jewish option to courts (Matthew Wagner, Oct. 18, 2006, THE JERUSALEM POST)

With a vision in their hearts of an Israeli state run in accordance with Jewish legal tradition, a group of leading religious Zionist rabbis and experts in Jewish law met in Jerusalem Tuesday evening for the official launch of a chain of rabbinic courts that aspires to replace the civil court system.

"Who is smarter, Aharon Barak or Maimonides?" the press release promoting the launch asked rhetorically, assuming it is clear to all that the 12th-century halachic authority is the correct answer.

"Then why do you prefer Israeli law to Jewish law?" asks the PR notice, chastising those unfaithful Israelis who forsake Judaism's rich legal tradition for Israel's mishmash of British and Ottoman law.

The initiative is called Gazit, which was the name of the historic venue of the Sanhedrin on the Temple Mount before the destruction of the Temple. Unlike the parochial haredi rabbinic courts, which serve ultra-Orthodox enclaves, Gazit men (women cannot be rabbinic judges) aspire to reach all walks of Israeli society. These rabbis and Jewish legal experts want Israelis - religious and secular, male and female, Jewish and gentile - to settle their monetary disputes and torts the Jewish way. Turning to civil courts, they say, shows a lack of Jewish pride.

Gazit, which is a union of nine rabbinical monetary courts scattered across the country, can decide on a wide variety of cases from cellular phone antenna disputes to salary delays to car accidents to intellectual property claims - all according to a 2,000-year-old legal tradition.

Assuming Gazit adheres to accepted legal procedure, its decisions would be enforced by the district courts like any other arbitration body.

Gentlemen, start your difference engines....

October 17, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:52 PM


CBS correspondent Christopher Glenn dies (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, 10/17/06)

Christopher Glenn, a longtime CBS news correspondent who anchored coverage of the space shuttle Challenger explosion and was the voice of the children's program "In the News" in 1970s and 80s, has died. He was 68.

Glenn died Tuesday of liver cancer in Norwalk Hospital less than three weeks before his induction into the Radio Hall of Fame, the network said.

The award-winning newsman retired in February after 35 years with CBS. His distinctive voice was familiar to those who remember the Emmy-award winning "In the News." The 2 1/2-minute feature on one topic was broadcast every half hour during Saturday children's programming on CBS. It debuted in September 1971 and ran for 5,000 episodes over 13 seasons.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:27 PM


Heard from Julia Gorin, one of the conservative comedians featured in Brian Anderson's South Park Conservatives. She and a couple friends are pitching a show that would be an alternative to The Daily Show and they've got a sample up on You Tube. Ms Gorin's own stand-up bit is very funny.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:14 PM


TV Really Might Cause Autism (Slashdot, 10/17/06)

Cornell University researchers are reporting what appears to be a statistically significant relationship between autism rates and television watching by children under the age of 3.

Gosh, you mean parents who use the tv as a baby sitter are more likely to get their kids diagnosed? This was basically the plot of The Cable Guy, and just another example of how Jim Carrey is the greatest star of conservative films since the Jimmy Stewart/John Wayne/Gary Cooper generation.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:54 PM


Human species 'may split in two' (BBC, 10/17/06)

Humanity may split into two sub-species in 100,000 years' time as predicted by HG Wells, an expert has said.

Evolutionary theorist Oliver Curry of the London School of Economics expects a genetic upper class and a dim-witted underclass to emerge.

The human race would peak in the year 3000, he said - before a decline due to dependence on technology.

People would become choosier about their sexual partners, causing humanity to divide into sub-species, he added.

The descendants of the genetic upper class would be tall, slim, healthy, attractive, intelligent, and creative and a far cry from the "underclass" humans who would have evolved into dim-witted, ugly, squat goblin-like creatures. [...]

The logical outcome would be two sub-species, "gracile" and "robust" humans similar to the Eloi and Morlocks foretold by HG Wells in his 1895 novel The Time Machine.

Anyone care to wager on which species he thinks his descendants will be?

Posted by Matt Murphy at 8:14 PM


"The List" (of Gay GOP Aides on the Hill); Hubris on Bloggingheads.tv (David Corn, 10/4/06, davidcorn.com)

There's a list going around. Those disseminating it call it "The List." It's a roster of top-level Republican congressional aides who are gay. [...]

I have a copy. I'm not going to publish it. For one, I don't know for a fact that the men on the list are gay. And generally I don't fancy outing people--though I have not objected when others have outed gay Republicans, who, after all, work for a party that tries to limit the rights of gays and lesbians and that welcomes the support of those who demonize same-sexers. [...]

Let's be clear about one thing: the Mark Foley scandal is not about homosexuality.

Uh-huh. Mr. Corn needs to take the red pill and look again.

Also, let's decipher his supposed high-mindedness: "For all I know, The List was conjured up by a couple of Democratic staffers after downing a few beers, but what the hey? I'm chickening out because some of my progressive buddies might be unhappy if I actually listed anybody, although there's really nothing wrong with shifting my principles as long as I dislike the folks I'm targeting. By the way, The List does exist in case you want to get it from somebody other than me."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:31 PM


Big scares bring about scarier ‘solutions’ (John Tierney, 10/17/06, Kansas City Star)

In 1968, the year after the U.S. population reached 200 million, Linus Pauling, Jonas Salk and other scientific luminaries signed a full-page newspaper ad. It pictured a beatific baby in diapers who was labeled, in large letters, “Threat to Peace.”

“It is only being realistic,” the scientists warned, “to say that skyrocketing population growth may doom the world we live in.”

They shared the concerns of Paul Ehrlich, who was on the best-seller lists warning of unprecedented famines overseas in the 1970s and food riots on the streets of America in the 1980s.

Today, when the 300 millionth American is born, the parents will not be worrying about a national shortage of food. If anything, they’ll worry about their child becoming obese.

“Overpopulation” is history’s oldest environmental crisis, and it’s the most instructive for making sense of today’s debates about energy and climate change.

Four decades ago, scientists were so determined to prevent famines that they analyzed the feasibility of putting “fertility control agents” in public drinking water. Physicist William Shockley suggested using sterilization to impose a national limit on the number of births.

Those intellectuals didn’t persuade Americans to adopt their policies, but they had more effect overseas. [...]

In the long debate about overpopulation and famine, none of the gloomy projections by intellectuals proved to be as prescient as an old proverb in farming societies: “Each extra mouth comes attached to two extra hands.”

Fortunately, the Anglosphere is too hostile to intellectuals for them to do much damage here.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:26 PM


At $2.21 a gallon, have gasoline prices bottomed out? (TIMOTHY C. BARMANN, 10/17/06, Providence Journal)

Here's where we were yesterday. The state average price of gasoline was $2.219 a gallon, down another 3 cents from last week, according to the state Office of Energy Resources. The average price has fallen for 11 consecutive weeks, dropping a total of 89 cents a gallon since this year's peak of $3.109 a gallon in late July. Yesterday's price is a penny away from tying the lowest price of the year -- $2.209 in February.

To understand the dramatic drop, consider what happened last spring and summer, said Peter Tertzakian, chief energy economist of ARC Financial Corp., a Canadian firm in Calgary, Alberta.

Weather forecasters warned that the United States was in for a busy hurricane season that could disrupt the flow of fuel from the Gulf of Mexico; war in Lebanon broke out; the nuclear standoff with Iran was heating up; and corrosion in the Alaskan pipeline disrupted supply to the mainland.

"We had all these issues that were percolating, driving prices higher and higher," said Tertzakian, who is author of the book, A Thousand Barrels a Second.

"It's fair to say it was a fear factor," he said.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:22 PM


One in Four Smokers Will Get Lung Disease (HealthDay News, 10/17/06)

A new study finds that at least 1 in every 4 smokers will develop progressive and incurable chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a much higher risk than previously believed.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:13 PM


Wholesale prices plummet; industrial production also falls (Associated Press, 10/17/06)

Wholesale inflation, helped by a record plunge in gasoline prices, dropped by the largest amount in more than three years in September. [...]

While the overall inflation performance was much better than expected, core inflation, which excludes energy and food, jumped by 0.6 percent in September, the biggest increase in this area in 20 months.

However, the increase in core inflation was heavily influenced by increases in new car prices, reflecting the end of dealer incentives which had been used to try to sell off a glut of unsold cars. Excluding the rise in car and truck prices, core inflation would have been up a much smaller 0.1 percent.

Brian Bethune, U.S. economist at Global Insight, called the overall performance of wholesale prices in September “unequivocally good news” and said it should keep the Federal Reserve on hold when policymakers meet next week.

After raising interest rates 17 consecutive times over two years, the Fed has left rates unchanged since August with economists predicting the central bank will likely remain on hold for the rest of the year.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:56 PM


The Average American: 1967 And Today (Tom Van Riper, 10.17.06, Forbes)

As the U.S. population crossed the 300 million mark sometime around 7:46 a.m. Tuesday (according to the U.S. Census Bureau), the typical family is doing a whole lot better than their grandparents were in 1967, the year the population first surpassed 200 million.

Mr. and Mrs. Median's $46,326 in annual income is 32% more than their mid-'60s counterparts, even when adjusted for inflation, and 13% more than those at the median in the economic boom year of 1985. And thanks to ballooning real estate values, median household net worth has increased even faster. The typical American household has a net worth of $465,970, up 83% from 1965, 60% from 1985 and 35% from 1995.

Throw in the low inflation of the past 20 years, a deregulated airline industry that's made travel much cheaper, plus technological progress that's provided the middle class with not only better cars and televisions, but every gadget from DVD players to iPods, all at lower and lower prices, and it's obvious that Mr. and Mrs. Median are living the life of Riley compared to their parents and grandparents. [...]

The fact is that in real terms, the Medians are doing great. Mr. Median makes 25% more than his father did 30 years ago, even after holding for inflation. Mrs. Median is a lot more likely to work in the professional ranks than her mom was, and to be paid about three times as much doing so. And though she still makes only 77% of what her male counterparts earn, this is up from 33% in 1965. They dote on the same number of children (two), but waited longer to have them, until both careers are well under way. They also pay less tax to the federal government and have 8% more purchasing power than they did 20 years ago, including 5.7% more than they had just ten years ago.

But, if despite their prosperity, the Medians need some cheering up, there is one powerful person whose wage growth they have outpaced nicely over the last two generations.

When Lyndon Johnson occupied the White House in 1965, he earned $100,000 a year, or 14 times what the Medians earned. This year, George W. Bush will earn $400,000, or just eight times the Medians.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:50 PM


McCain Lands State Sen. Mike Fair (Hotline, October 17, 2006)

In the world of SC politics, the smaller fish often taste the best. Sen. John McCain's Straight Talk America PAC has signed up State Sen. Mike Fair, who represents some of the most conservative precincts in Greenville. Fair was a strong supporter of Pres. Bush in 2000. He is a strong, strong conservative -- he ran to Sen. Jim DeMint's right in the '98 Senate primary (and lost). He's leading the charge to give science teachers in the state more latitude to teach "intelligent design" as an alternative to Darwinian evolution.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:57 PM


Cheney Feels the Love as He Hits the Heartland (MARK LEIBOVICH, 10/17/06, NY Times)

Grace Mosier lives with her mom and dad, goes to birthday parties, takes ballet classes and is just like a lot of other 6-year-old girls. Except that she happens to be obsessed with Dick Cheney.

“I really, really like him,” says Grace, who can tell you what state the vice president was born in (Nebraska), where he went to grade school (College View, in Lincoln) and the names of his dogs (Dave and Jackson). She gets her fix of Cheney fun-facts by visiting the White House Web site for children. It says there that his favorite teacher was Miss Duffield and that he used to run a company called Halliburton.

So when Mr. Cheney came to town Thursday, Grace was at Forbes Field, holding a little American flag and a sign that said, “Welcome, Mr. Vice President, pet Dave and Jackson for me.” She watched him get off Air Force Two, step into a car and speed off to a fund-raiser.

“Like a rock star coming to town,” says Dene Mosier, Grace’s mother. And while Mr. Cheney might be an unusual object for a 6-year-old’s fixation, it is probably less unusual here, in the heart of Cheney Country.

The terrain consists of hotel ballrooms, military bases and private homes deep in the reddest of red states like Kansas (where President Bush and Mr. Cheney won by 25 percentage points in 2004). As a rule, people still love Mr. Bush in Cheney Country, at least relative to some locales. But the president cannot be everywhere, so Mr. Cheney comes instead, exposing as he goes the durability and devotion of his party’s base.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:24 AM


U.S. reaches historic population point: 300,000,000 (Mike Swift, 10/17/06, San Jose Mercury News

When the nation's odometer clicked over to 300,000,000 people at 4:46 this morning, it was a milestone more figurative than literal.

Someone is born in this country every seven seconds; someone dies every 13 seconds; and one new immigrant arrives every 31 seconds. Put them together, and presto: the United States has added one new resident every 11.25 seconds since the U.S. Census Bureau made the last official count in 2000. [...]

Organizations such as the Center for Environment and Population warn that America's immigration-fueled growth, coupled with wasteful patterns of consumption, is causing environmental problems not only for the United States, but for the planet.

However, in many other industrialized countries without a significant number of immigrants the problem isn't growth, it's contraction.

In Germany, legislators are worried about their country becoming, in Frey's words, a ``geriatric ghetto.'' They are considering a plan to pay women who leave the workforce to have a child about $2,500 a month. In Spain, there are only half as many children younger than 5 than people in their parents' age group.

``You can't go back now and say, `Oops, we forgot to have kids,' '' said Carl Haub, a demographer with the Population Reference Bureau. He said those countries are headed for a time when one-third of the population will be older than 65.

While Europeans worry about America having become an uberpower, they just keep falling father behind.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:59 AM


Congressional District Demographics (USA Today, 10/17/06)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:55 AM


Venezuela Is Denied Security Council Seat: New Vote Scheduled Today as Intensive Campaign Fails to Win Two-Thirds of Ballots (Colum Lynch and Juan Forero, 10/17/06, Washington Post)

Venezuela was stymied Monday in its bid to win a seat on the U.N. Security Council, a result that shocked diplomats who had expected President Hugo Chavez's leftist, oil-rich government to gain a platform on the international stage. [...]

It also represented a personal blow to Chavez, who had run a costly political campaign that involved millions of dollars in aid to poor countries as well as state visits to Russia, China and the Middle East.

Cindy Sheehan wept.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:52 AM


James Webb Writes About Incest and Pedophilia John Hawkins, 10/17/06, Right Wing News)

Back in September, I did a piece on some of the N-Bombs and bizarre sexual content in three of James Webb's books, which to me, seemed to be pretty relevant.

After all, the WAPO has been trying to make the fact that George Allen said the word, "Macaca," which about 3 people had ever heard of before Allen said it, into the biggest story of the election cycle. Meanwhile, James Webb's books feature N-bombs galore and women slicing up fruit with their private parts. But that, the MSM doesn't want to go into detail about.

In any case, recently, someone alerted me to a depraved passage in another one of Webb's other books, that just blows everything away that I've posted so far. For reasons I cannot fathom, in Webb's book, Lost Soldiers, he has a scene that features incestuous pedophilia. Now here's the kicker: not only is it a completely gratuitous scene, the characters in the book, bizarrely, don't even seem to react to a sex act being performed on a child in front of them.

If that sounds surreal, it's because it is. It's like Webb was sitting around one day and said, "You know what this book needs? A father performing a sex act on his child while people act like it's an everyday occurrence. That will really throw people for a loop!"

Now, I'm going to go into detail about what happened, but it will be below the fold in case any of you want to spare yourself something even more disgusting than the Foley IMs.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:37 AM


Giant-Killer Lamont Stumbles: Democrat Will Need Republican Help to Unseat Lieberman (Dan Balz, 10/17/06, Washington Post)

Democratic Senate nominee Ned Lamont and Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (D-Conn.) met here Monday for their first general election debate, and the insurgent candidate did not get one direct question about the issue that dominated the August primary, the war in Iraq.

Poll: Foley scandal ranks low among election issues (CNN, 10/17/06)
Only about a quarter of Americans say the scandal over former Rep. Mark Foley will be "extremely important" in how they vote in November's congressional elections, according to a CNN poll released Tuesday.

That figure falls far below issues such as Iraq, terrorism and the economy.

And the only folks who even say they care about either issue are partisan Democrats.

It's not like they had any choice, because the Party doesn't believe in anything that the voters believe in too, but the Democrats have built their entire campaign on their certainty that folks would want to change the direction of the country as much as they do at a time of economic boom.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:34 AM


Detroit's architect has built champion: Shrewd moves by Dombrowski led to reversal of fortune (Associated Press, October 17, 2006)

The man who built the turnaround Tigers still has work to do before the World Series.

Like getting his voice back.

General manager Dave Dombrowski hollered himself hoarse after Magglio Ordoñez hit a home run to clinch the American League pennant Saturday, throwing his hands in the air and hugging everyone around him. It was a rare display for the reserved, buttoned-down executive.

"When you're in charge, you often have to keep your emotions inside," Dombrowski said Monday in an interview with The Associated Press.

"People don't see the emotional side of me often, but there are times you just let it go - like when you win the pennant in dramatic fashion at home like we did. Now, it's time to get composed again and, hopefully, we can react like that again because there's still another notch to go." [...]

After helping Florida win the title in 1997, Dombrowski was lured away from the Marlins to be the Tigers' president and CEO on Nov. 5, 2001. Dombrowski fired and replaced general manager Randy Smith five months later.

Along with the signing free agents, Dombrowski, 50, has pulled some trades that turned out to be steals, made savvy picks in the draft and reconnected with an incredible manager in Jim Leyland.

Quite a bit of success for someone who started his baseball career at 21 as an administrative assistant with the White Sox in their minor league and scouting department.

He kept working his way up and by 1990 was general manager of the Montreal Expos.

Perhaps the biggest player coup with the Tigers was acquiring shortstop Carlos Guillen from the Seattle Mariners two years ago for minor league infielder Juan Gonzalez and infielder Ramon Santiago. And Santiago is back with Detroit.

Trading to get ALCS Most Valuable Player Placido Polanco for closer Ugueth Urbina in June 2005 and acquiring Nate Robertson for Mark Redman in a swap of pitchers were among the other moves that were unpopular at the time but seem brilliant now.

"I looked at some of the moves he made when he came in and I wondered what he was thinking," said third baseman Brandon Inge, one of the handful of players still around from the Smith (1996 to 2002) years. "That's why Dave is in the front office and we're not. At this point, you understand what he was thinking."

Smart drafts also have helped. They took center fielder Curtis Granderson (third round) and fireballer Joel Zumaya (11th round) in 2002 and selected future ace Justin Verlander second overall in 2004.

The No. 1 move Dombrowski likely pulled was putting Leyland back in the dugout for the first time since 1999.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:13 AM


Blair says bond with Canada is forged in battle
(DOUG SAUNDERS, 10/17/06, Globe and Mail)

In a rare speech to an audience of Canadians, British Prime Minister Tony Blair Monday sketched out a transatlantic relationship that has been reduced to little more than a single basic element: The struggle against terrorism, especially in Afghanistan.

Using that increasingly controversial war as a rallying point, Mr. Blair outlined the possibility of a new special relationship between Britain and Canada built on that struggle and a common bond with the United States.

It has been more than five years since Mr. Blair last devoted his public attention to Canada, with an Ottawa address to the House of Commons and the Senate in early 2001.

Now that Canada has gone Tory, Mr. Blair has a peer he shares things in common with.

Posted by Bryan Francoeur at 9:05 AM


Unusual meteorite found in Kansas (AP, 10/16/06)

GREENSBURG, Kansas -- Scientists located a rare meteorite in a
wheat field thanks to new ground penetrating radar technology that
someday might be used on Mars.

Don't let the media fool you - this thing is already in LexCorp's labs

The dig in Kansas Monday was likely the most documented excavation yet
of a meteorite find, with researchers painstakingly using brushes and
hand tools in order to preserve evidence of the impact trail and to date
the event of the meteorite strike. Soil samples were also bagged and
tagged, and organic material preserved for dating purposes.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Biggest turnaround ever: Tigers' pennant may have been unlikeliest of all time (Tom Verducci, October 17, 2006, Sports Illustrated)

The annual bleating from World Series teams that "nobody expected us to be here" has become such a cliche that a beer company used it in a television advertisement that is a send-up of the postgame clubhouse celebration. Thank goodness for the Detroit Tigers. Their success is such a joyful surprise that even the Tigers themselves admit they did not expect to be in the 102nd World Series. Just ask them.

"We just wanted to get better," said third baseman Brandon Inge, one of the remaining survivors of the 119-loss embarrassment that was the 2003 season.

"I wasn't even a Tiger and I felt bad for those guys [in 2003]," closer Todd Jones said. "I guess to be here after being the butt of every Jay Leno and David Letterman joke, it's got to feel pretty good."

The Tigers played so well to begin the season and so tautly during their 6-1 postseason run thus far that it's worth remembering whence they came. Indeed, as I stood in the middle of the Comerica Park diamond Saturday, the Tigers still celebrating and their fans still not wanting to leave, I took a moment to simply study the scene and afix it in my memory.

Firstly, I was struck simply by how powerful was the illumination of the stadium lights. You could identify a friend in the upper deck if you wished. It was a bit of rush standing there in the middle of the infield and looking at this well-lit wall of 43,000 happy people. But what hit me even more was that this beautiful, underrated ballpark was filled with people who waited so very long for anything even close to this kind of happiness. There is no joy as moving as the joy that comes unexpectedly. And right then I began to wonder: are the 2006 Tigers the most shocking World Series team of all time?

I looked at the 202 other teams that reached the World Series before the '06 Tigers. (No, not in the infield; I waited until I got home.) But how do you decide which team was the biggest shock to get to the World Series? Start with an easy one.

Those of you who've had to leap on the Tiger bandwagon late may want to get a head start on next year. The Pirates could easily go from a .414% to the World Series.

They could use a Kenny Rogers-type elder anchor for the rotation: followed by Zach Duke, Ian Snell, Paul Maholm and Tom Gorzelanny. The bullpen is very deep: Mike Gonzalez, Salomon Torres, Matt Capps, John Grabow, Josh Sharpless. If Ryan Doumit and Jose Bautista develop the infield is a strength. Jason Bay is an unacknowledged star. Then they've got some decent fourth and fifth outfielders but could use a big bat in RF or a real good CF leadoff guy. When your main hole is outfielders you're in awfully good shape.

October 16, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:56 PM


So you had to figure the Bears would crush the Cards tonight, but, figuring the game would be over by 11:30, I checked the score and, seeing the Cards ahead 23-10 with ten minutes left, thought I'd see if Matt Leinart was really playing that well. Holy trainwreck, Batman.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:45 PM


Simply stated: Airbus is cooking its own goose (Mike Benbow, 10/16/06, Herald Net)

After billions of dollars in government support over three decades, Airbus finds itself $2 billion in debt and two years behind schedule in producing its new product, the A380 superjumbo jet.

The disaster prompted officials to bring in a new CEO, Christian Streiff, to fix the production problems. He came up with a plan to consolidate the wide-body work in France and the work on narrow-body jets in Germany, not unlike Boeing's scheme of building the big jets in Everett and the smaller ones in Renton.

He called for outsourcing more of the parts, again similar to what Boeing is doing by gathering partners in Italy and Japan to share the workload and the risk for its new jet, the 787 Dreamliner

But wait.

Political officials put the arm on Streiff, appearing to care more about jobs than efficiency. So he quit after only three months.

Enter Louis Gallois, the new chief executive.

He, too, said Airbus needs to cut jobs to climb out of red ink and make it competitive again, but he's insisting he will balance the cuts between participating nations. "We know that if we ask for cuts, we have to ask for balanced efforts between the different countries," Gallois said.

That would be like Boeing working to get approval for its business plan from the mayors of Everett and Lynnwood.

Right now, a ton of cliches are running through my head. Phrases like, "That's no way to run a railroad," or "That dog don't hunt."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:15 PM


Peretz: French UNIFIL say will fire at IAF overflights (Gideon Alon, Haaretz Correspondent and Haaretz Service, 10/17/06, Haaretz)

Commanders of the French contingent of the United Nations force in Lebanon have warned that they might have to open fire if Israel Air Force warplanes continue their overflights in Lebanon, Defense Minister Amir Peretz told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Monday.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:06 PM


Billionaire leads Ecuador poll, forcing Chávez ally into run-off (Rory Carroll, October 17, 2006, The Guardian)

A pro-US banana tycoon will challenge an ally of Venezuela's Hugo Chávez for the presidency of Ecuador in a run-off next month after a bitter first round of voting.

In a race splintered between 11 candidates, the billionaire Alvaro Noboa led with 27% of the vote with more than 70% of ballots counted, according to the country's electoral tribunal. His unexpectedly strong showing relegated the frontrunner, Rafael Correa, a political outsider and fierce critic of the Bush administration, to second place, with 22%. [...]

If the political establishment unites against him Mr Correa could disappoint those hoping for a resurgence of Latin America's "pink tide", following leftwing election defeats in Mexico and Peru. Mr Correa alleged fraud and irregularities in Sunday's poll and warned his supporters to be vigilant during the next vote. A Noboa victory would turn Ecuador into a private banana plantation, he said.

Mr Noboa, 55, who has twice before stood for the presidency, promised to take Ecuador towards "Spain, Chile, the US and Italy, where there is liberty" as opposed to "Correa's position of communism, dictatorship, of Cuba".

Morocco faces a choice between modernism and obscurantism (Anna Mahjar-Barducci, October 17, 2006, Daily Star)

As Morocco prepares for the next parliamentary elections in 2007, the electoral-campaign battle has already begun, and intellectuals and civil society are wondering which Morocco the population will choose. The elections will represent a battle between two main political forces: the liberal-socialist bloc and the Islamist Party of Justice and Development (PJD).

In the run-up to the polls, newspapers are full of debate about constitutional reforms and the overwhelming role of the monarchy. The liberal class that is trying to push Morocco toward modernization encounters two obstacles: the monarchy, which must be given credit for accepting to reform the Family Code and allowing greater freedom of speech in recent years; and, more importantly, the Islamists, who are preventing any changes in traditional Moroccan society.

During my last visit to Morocco, I was very eager to watch the latest hit: the movie "Marock" - a word play on Maroc (French for Morocco ) and rock music - by young film director Leila Marrakshi. The movie brings to light the division within Moroccan society - which is in a way reflected in the wider Arab and Muslim worlds - between modernism and obscurantism, between liberals and Islamists, and between pluralism of religion and the prevention of it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:55 PM


Fanatics lay claim to separate Sunni state (Oliver Poole, 17/10/2006, Daily Telegraph)

An alliance of Sunni insurgent groups claimed yesterday to be establishing a separate Sunni state in the west of Iraq in the latest demonstration of the growing fragmentation of the country.

The statement by the Mujahideen Shura Council, an umbrella organisation of fanatical Sunni groups that includes al-Qa'eda, is the first time a Sunni body has supported the break-up of Iraq.

It said the move was in response to the passing by the Iraqi parliament last week of a federalism law which would permit provinces to join together to form self-ruling regions. That is expected to result in the creation of a semi-autonomous Shia zone in the south, similar to the Kurdish state in the north.

A separate Sunni state was needed to protect itself from such an eventuality, the insurgent group said.

Even our special Providence can't explain enemies this stupid.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:52 PM


He hopes to do right on wrong Dodgers tickets (Jerry Crowe, October 16, 2006, LA times)

Saul Turteltaub knows it was an innocent mistake, knows that his heart was in the right place, knows that he meant no harm.

So why does he feel so lousy?

Why is he "inconsolable," as he wrote in an e-mail to The Times?

Because of the boy.

Visions of the boy haunt him, remind him of his grandsons.

He'd like to make this right.

He'd like the kid to know that Saul Turteltaub is not a cheat.

And all Turteltaub did was unknowingly sell a pair of worthless tickets to a couple of strangers, a man and a boy, depriving them of attending a Dodgers playoff game against the New York Mets at Dodger Stadium.

But wasn't that enough?

He said he's "guilt-ridden."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:52 PM


U.S. budget deficit could shrink further in 2007 (Reuters, Oct 16, 2006)

"As long as we don't find new things to spend money on and we have moderately sub-trend (economic) growth in the mid-2 percent range, it looks as if some improvement (in the deficit) is likely," said Lou Crandall, chief economist at Wrightson ICAP in Jersey City, New Jersey.

A narrowing budget deficit improves the government's ability to pay for long-term obligations, such as Social Security and health-care benefits, and also tends to push down interest rates.

Crandall is currently forecasting a fiscal 2007 budget deficit of $200 billion to $250 billion. The midpoint of that range would represent a 9.2 percent narrowing over fiscal 2006, which ended September 30.

How would you keep growth that low when falling gas prices are boosting consumer confidence and falling interest rates will keep the housing market from deflating much?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:41 PM


The Myth of Anti-sex Conservatism (Mollie Ziegler, Jul 26, 2006, Double Think)

The point is, just because someone is sexually conservative doesn’t mean they are asexual or opposed to sex for pleasure.

Yet the successful refutation of this ad hominem attack seems only to tee up another baseless accusation: Anyone who dares to criticize looser sexual mores must somehow derive their opposition to free love from their own deep-seated repression.

Well, guess what? A philosophical objection to bestiality doesn’t mean your feelings for the family Shih-Tzu go beyond the occasional tummy rub.

If I were to write that all gay men are that way because they had an absent father and an overbearing mother, the understandable response would be to accuse me of being unfair. Yet, somehow it’s okay to say that people oppose abortion because they aren’t getting any.

That’s just stupid. As much as our respective egos would love to think we’re unique in experiencing the heights of sexual pleasure, the fact is that all people, more or less, enjoy sex. (The Ramones being the main exception: “I don’t like sex and drugs / I don’t like waterbugs.”)

What we’re fighting about, then, is not enjoyment of sex but, rather, a sexual ethic. And since the data rather consistently suggest that those with traditional sexual morality have more satisfactory sex lives, it’s high time liberals shut up about conservatives’ anti-pleasure principles.

It’s not all the left’s fault that they don’t understand conservative sexual ethics. If a conservative wants to know how a liberal thinks—about culture, economics, or foreign policy, whatever—all they have to do is watch an hour of television. They will get fairly well-developed explanations. But what if a liberal wants to know how a conservative thinks? They’re screwed. All they get from television is crude Daily Show caricatures. And all they get from most books and magazines is more of the same: phony experts offering what-Martians-are-really-like guesswork on the alien conservative species.

So permit me to share a bit about the sexual ethics of religious adherents, conservatives, pro-lifers, and others on the right end of the political spectrum.

First and foremost: discretion. People of a conservative bent are just as likely to enjoy sex tremendously. But they don’t think their sex lives are improved or validated by a public airing on MTV. Sexual conservatives do not tell others about every sexual position they’ve tried out. Andrew Sullivan wrote recently about his love of discretion, but he used the word to mean “lying about infidelity to preserve a false harmony.”

“Monogamy is very hard for men, straight or gay, and if one partner falters occasionally (and I don’t mean regularly), sometimes discretion is perfectly acceptable,” Sullivan said.

Conservatives on the other hand are more appreciative of how difficult integrity and honor are to uphold. They at least know enough to avoid being cute about the importance of honesty and, you know, the “mono” part of monogamy. A good thing, too. Studies show that men who are divorced are twice as likely to have committed infidelity as those who aren’t divorced. So the Sully model—if anyone was wondering—might not be the best to follow, especially if you’re HIV-positive.

Which brings us to the issue of respect, a key component of a fulfilling sex life. Conservatives uphold respect for one’s own body, respect for one’s mate’s body, and even respect for a future spouse.

The fact is that while some liberals like to claim that the height of excitement is cosplay*** and swinging, these actions are often ways of avoiding intimacy. Rather than connecting with another person and revealing vulnerabilities over a lifetime, this point of view supposes that one X-fueled night can be the ultimate sexual experience. What happens when such peccadilloes are oversold?
You feel empty. You value yourself less, and you value your partner less.

This is why, contrary to belief, marriage often enables a fulfilling sex life. The realization that you’ve made a commitment to someone, and you can’t simply walk away, forces you to treat your partner with the same level of respect you wish to be shown. While marriage doesn’t always live up to this ideal, it’s at least built around the right archetype.

Many on the left accuse those on the right of opposing any sexual act that doesn’t result in procreation. That’s blatantly untrue. However, the conservative ethic does recognize where babies come from. That’s why conservatives support monogamous, committed relationships where children are a consideration, if not a goal. Conservatives understand that no matter how much feminists want to pretend otherwise, bearing children before the age of 45 is best for mother and child. So putting notch #124 in the bedpost at the 20th high school reunion is not considered virtuous.

This consideration of the natural course of events comes from a belief in the sanctity of the body. Not worship of the body, where the temple is prepped with boob jobs and genitalia is waxed to look prepubescent. Rather, the conservative ethic believes that bodies are not just vessels through which souls achieve their desires. Bodies were designed for higher purposes, such as procreation, but also for simpler ones, including giving your partner pleasure without endangering their health.

Of course, libertarians and the Left likewise think that because Muslim women don't want to dress like sluts they must be ashamed of themselves.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:38 PM


Can Rosa Parks Sell Pickup Trucks?: Chevy's icky, exploitative new ad. (Seth Stevenson, Oct. 9, 2006, Slate)

The spot: Singer John Mellencamp leans on the fender of a Chevy pickup, strumming an acoustic guitar. He sings, among other things, "This is our country." Meanwhile, a montage of American moments flies by: Rosa Parks on a bus. Martin Luther King preaching to a crowd. Soldiers in Vietnam. Richard Nixon waving from his helicopter. And then modern moments: New Orleans buried by Katrina floodwaters. The two towers of light commemorating 9/11. As a big, shiny pickup rolls through an open field of wheat and then slows to a carefully posed stop, the off-screen announcer says, "This is our country. This is our truck. The all-new Chevy Silverado."

This ad makes me—and, judging by my e-mail, some of you—very angry. It's not OK to use images of Rosa Parks, MLK, the Vietnam War, the Katrina disaster, and 9/11 to sell pickup trucks. It's wrong. These images demand a little reverence and quiet contemplation. They are not meant to be backed with a crappy music track and then mushed together in a glib swirl of emotion tied to a product launch. Please, Chevy, have a modicum of shame next time.

I actually found it immensely interesting that the company chose to associate the truck with such bleak bits of the American escutcheon and the sort of implicit suggestion that these are the kinds of things that hard-working folk (pick-up drivers) overcome. Do we really need more happy-smiley-'60s-psychedalia-throwback ads? I asked The Wife what she thought, but, significantly, it's an ad they show during sports events, not on Food Network, so she'd not seen it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:59 PM


German Entrepreneur Proposes Airline Just for Smokers (AP, October 13, 2006)

A German entrepreneur wants to create a nostalgic smokers' haven above the clouds by starting a nicotine-friendly airline offering Cuban cigars, caviar and flight attendants in designer uniforms — as well as smoking allowed in every seat.

Alexander Schoppmann, a 55-year-old former stockbroker, has come up with a business plan for Smoker's International Airways, or Smintair, which he says will offer flights between his home town of Duesseldorf in western Germany and Tokyo. [...]

"We are on the same price level with Lufthansa, British Airways and other airlines that operate on similar routes," he said. "Frankfurt-Tokyo and back costs $12,500 with Lufthansa for the first class and $8,125 for business class both ways. And those are exactly our prices."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:27 PM


Anti-Scottish feeling laid bare over question of next Prime Minister (HAMISH MACDONELL, 10/16/06, The Scotsman)

The poll, for the More 4 show Starkey's Last Word, provides the first real evidence of just how strong anti-Scottish feelings are in England.

A total of 59 per cent of English voters said they would be "influenced" at the next election by the presence of a Scottish Labour leader.

Of these, an overwhelming 93 per cent said they would be influenced in a negative way, and only 7 per cent said the influence would be positive.

The anti-Scottish feeling was even more pronounced among older people. Of the English pensioners who would be influenced by a Scottish Labour leader, 97 per cent said that influence would be negative.

Mr Brown is well aware that he cannot afford to lose the votes of any wavering voters in England. Of the 75 Labour marginal seats - defined as those where the party's majority is less than 10 per cent - 71 are in England.

The backlash has been caused, in part, by what is seen as the unfairness of the devolution settlement, which allows Scottish MPs to play their part in imposing domestic policies on England that are not imposed on their own constituents.

This so-called West Lothian Question, and the perception that Scotland does better financially than England, have caused resentment.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 1:18 PM


So, maybe I made most of this up, but, hey, does it really matter? (Anjana Ahuja, The Times, October 16th, 2006)

Fraud may also be good for science, according to Steve Fuller, Professor of Sociology at the University of Warwick. Since most scientific duplicity involves researchers “idealising” results that they probably would eventually have achieved anyway, such fact-fiddling actually oils the wheels of discovery. He even questions whether it should be labelled fraud at all.

Fuller, unsurprisingly, is a voice of dissent in a discussion of whether the race to publish encourages scientists to perpetrate fraud. The discussion appears in Science & Public Affairs, the quarterly magazine of the British Association for the Advancement of Science. He does, though, make an exception for drug studies, where misreporting could cause physical harm.

Another contributor, Dr Philip Campbell, the editor of Nature, insists that the pressure to publish is no excuse for unethical behaviour.

Fuller offers a blunt assessment of Campbell’s view: “It’s bullshit. It’s not a case of a few bad eggs. I think most fraud goes undetected. And if it was detected, the pace of science would probably slow down.” Indeed, a recent survey by Nature found that a third of postdocs in the US admitted to research misconduct.

What matters, Fuller insists, is whether the research turns out to be any good, and whether it spurs other discoveries: “The validity of a work is proven by its consequences. If enough people get good results out of what you’ve done, then that you derived your results under false circumstances doesn’t matter.”

As we scientists are fond of saying, you can’t build a rational enlightenment without breaking a few test tubes.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:32 PM


Specter's Role in Passage Of Detainee Bill Disputed (R. Jeffrey Smith, October 16, 2006, Washington Post)

The news reached Democrats working on the military commissions bill in the Senate cloakroom the morning of Sept. 27. Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), a sponsor of two amendments giving detainees a right to challenge their detention or treatment in federal court, had decided to bring the more extreme amendment to a vote.

Democrats had lined up behind Specter because the Judiciary Committee chairman told them he shared their antipathy to language in the bill stripping detainees of habeas corpus rights. But the amendment Specter put forward was defeated 51 to 48, allowing the bill to win congressional approval without change. It handed the White House an important pre-election victory.

When you're counting on a partisan hack from the president's own party to lead the opposition you're just kidding yourself.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:14 PM


Why gas prices dropped: Trust us. It wasn't OPEC or Republicans trying to influence midterm elections (Nelson D. Schwartz, 10/16/06, Fortune)

By late summer, hedge funds and other investors had poured billions into long positions in oil, gasoline, natural gas and the rest of what traders call the "energy complex," all betting on a replay of the severe 2005 hurricane season that sent prices soaring in the wake of Katrina and Rita. But one day after oil reached a monthly high of $76.98 a barrel on Aug. 7, government meteorologists downgraded their hurricane forecast and cautioned that a repeat of 2005 was "unlikely."

That announcement, combined with the end of the summer driving season and a recalibration of the Goldman Sachs (Charts) commodity index that reduced the weighting of gasoline, prompted speculators to head for the exits even faster than they'd piled in.

The switch in Goldman's basket of commodities had been previously announced by the firm, but that didn't stop the conspiracy theorists. "Hmm, what a coincidence, luring Goldman's top dog to take a HUGE pay cut by becoming Treasury's top dog, and then Goldman Sachs makes this unexpected decision, serving to dramatically drive down gas prices," said the Grey Matter, a liberal blog. But the grassy-knoll crowd didn't bother to crunch the numbers.

According to Joel Fingerman of Chicago-based OilAnalytics.net, between the peak of $77 a barrel in August and the October low of just under $58, traders dumped nearly 40 million barrels (a 20 percent drop) from their long positions. The volatile gasoline market showed an even sharper decline - with traders cutting long positions from 32 million barrels in midsummer to just 1.7 million in October.

"Whatever you want to call it - speculators, fast money, hot money - a big part of the drop in crude that we've seen this year is because of selling by hedge funds," says Merrill Lynch technical analyst Mary Ann Bartels.

Indeed, while we needn't see them as conspirators, a relatively small group of speculators was the only thing keeping prices so artificially high.

Shell USA says oil prices still high; fall doesn't change plans (MarketWatch, 10/16/06)

Oil prices at $58 a barrel are still high, Shell U.S. President John Hofmeister said on the sidelines of an oil industry conference.

"Fifty-eight dollars is not a low price to me, it's still a high," Hofmeister said.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:55 AM


Cowboy Nation: Against the myth of American innocence. (Robert Kagan, 10.16.06, New Republic)

Long before the country's founding, British colonists were busy driving the Native American population off millions of acres of land and almost out of existence. From the 1740s through the 1820s, and then in another burst in the 1840s, Americans expanded relentlessly westward from the Alleghenies to the Ohio Valley and on past the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific, southward into Mexico and Florida, and northward toward Canada--eventually pushing off the continent not only Indians, but the great empires of France, Spain, and Russia as well. (The United Kingdom alone barely managed to defend its foothold in North America.) This often violent territorial expansion was directed not by redneck "Jacksonians" but by eastern gentlemen expansionists like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and John Quincy Adams.

It would have been extraordinary had early Americans amassed all this territory and power without really wishing for it. But they did wish for it. With 20 years of peace, Washington predicted in his valedictory, the United States would acquire the power to "bid defiance, in a just cause, to any earthly power whatsoever." Jefferson foresaw a vast "empire of liberty" spreading west, north, and south across the continent. Hamilton believed the United States would, "erelong, assume an attitude correspondent with its great destinies--majestic, efficient, and operative of great things. A noble career lies before it." John Quincy Adams considered the United States "destined by God and nature to be the most populous and powerful people ever combined under one social compact." And Americans' aspirations only grew in intensity over the decades, as national power and influence increased. In the 1850s, William Seward predicted that the United States would become the world's dominant power, "the greatest of existing states, greater than any that has ever existed." A century later, Dean Acheson, present at the creation of a U.S.-dominated world order, would describe the United States as "the locomotive at the head of mankind" and the rest of the world as "the caboose." More recently, Bill Clinton labeled the United States "the world's indispensable nation."

From the beginning, others have seen Americans not as a people who sought ordered stability but as persistent disturbers of the status quo. As the ancient Corinthians said of the Athenians, they were "incapable of either living a quiet life themselves or of allowing anyone else to do so." Nineteenth-century Americans were, in the words of French diplomats, "numerous," "warlike," and an "enemy to be feared." In 1817, John Quincy Adams reported from London, "The universal feeling of Europe in witnessing the gigantic growth of our population and power is that we shall, if united, become a very dangerous member of the society of nations." The United States was dangerous not only because it was expansionist, but also because its liberal republicanism threatened the established conservative order of that era. Austria's Prince Metternich rightly feared what would happen to the "moral force" of Europe's conservative monarchies when "this flood of evil doctrines" was married to the military, economic, and political power Americans seemed destined to acquire.

What Metternich understood, and what others would learn, was that the United States was a nation with almost boundless ambition and a potent sense of national honor, for which it was willing to go to war. It exhibited the kind of spiritedness, and even fierceness, in defense of home, hearth, and belief that the ancient Greeks called thumos. It was an uncommonly impatient nation, often dissatisfied with the way things were, almost always convinced of the possibility of beneficial change and of its own role as a catalyst. It was also a nation with a strong martial tradition. Eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Americans loved peace, but they also believed in the potentially salutary effects of war. "No man in the nation desires peace more than I," Henry Clay declared before the war with Great Britain in 1812. "But I prefer the troubled ocean of war, demanded by the honor and independence of the country, with all its calamities, and desolations, to the tranquil, putrescent pool of ignominious peace." Decades later, Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., the famed jurist who had fought--and been wounded three times--in the Civil War, observed, "War, when you are at it, is horrible and dull. It is only when time has passed that you see that its message was divine."

Modern Americans don't talk this way anymore, but it is not obvious that we are very different in our attitudes toward war.

In fact, recognition of our own geopolitical power, of the moral superiority of the Anglo-American model that we're bringing to the defeated, and the relative ease with which we win now has made it so that the message more clearly precedes the war.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:57 AM


Nietzsche was wrong: a review of Republicanism, Religion, and the Soul of America By Ellis Sandoz (Thomas E. Brewton, October 16, 2006, Enter Stage Right)

Republicanism, Religion and the Soul of AmericaProfessor Ellis Sandoz's new book, Republicanism, Religion, and the Soul of America, demonstrates that Nietzsche's obituary for God was premature. Failure of atheistic socialism and today's developing world-confrontation with Islamic jihad make it impossible to ignore the reality of God, the Creator of our world.

Professor Sandoz, according to the publisher's summary, "Explores the role of Christianity, including John Wesley and the Great Awakening revival, in the formation of the American Republic; also considers Eric Voegelin's contributions to the philosophy of religious experience. Argues that modern republicanism grounds human dignity in spiritual individualism, thereby generating democratic agency for self-government under Divine Providence."

My own summation of the book is that our nation was founded by men and women who were deeply aware of human imperfection and recognized that just and effective political order depends upon faith in God's love to moderate sinfulness. Moreover this was a realistic view of human nature, as contrasted to the Enlightenment doctrine that humans were entirely benevolent in Rousseau's state of nature and were corrupted by the advent of private property. The simple proof is that our Constitution worked, and the endless succession of French socialist constitutions always crumbled under the impact of reality.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:39 AM


America reaches quiet milestone (Springfield News-Leader, 10/14/06)

This time, there will be no celebration. No cake. No noise- makers. No news conferences.

America's population is reaching a huge milestone next week. According to the Census Bureau, sometime Tuesday morning, the 300 millionth American will be born.

And what will the nation do?

Stick our heads in the sand and hope nobody notices.

That's a far cry from 1967 when the nation celebrated its 200 millionth resident with fanfare.

This number is more depressing, frankly.

Of course, if the Brights had their way and made us as anti-human as they wish to it would indeed end population growth. Europe anybody?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:29 AM


A room with a brew: a review of Where Men Hide By James B. Twitchell, photographs by Ken Ross (John W. Nelson, October 16, 2006, Enter Stage Right)

In Where Men Hide, Twitchell, a professor of English and advertising at the University of Florida, sets out with photographer Ken Ross to investigate the male sanctuary, those places where men go to "safely tinker and fool around, refectory spaces made inhospitable to women not because of any overt antagonism but just because the male seems to need do-nothing time."

Amen, brother. Still swaggering after having just read Harvey Mansfield's Manliness, I opened Twitchell's book expecting to find a like-minded celebration of the unneutered male (albeit one more jocular and journalistic than philosophical.) This would be no apologetic for aloofness but a spirited and playful defense of our testosterone-fueled sloth and seclusion.

Well, Where Men Hide is certainly light-hearted enough if not downright frivolous in places. (How else to describe Twitchell's characterization of Abu Ghraib as a "sprawling 280-acre gulag"?) But confidence in my guide was shaken just three pages into this exploration of the "man cave" when Twitchell reveals that he teaches Romantic poetry and has his hair cut at a unisex styling boutique – not a unisex salon, mind you, but a styling boutique. That's when I first had the feeling that I wasn't dealing with a fellow gorilla here but with Dian Fossey.

That feeling no doubt owes a lot to my own narrowly circumscribed construction of masculinity (to put it in the academese flung at me across the seminar table by more than one enraged feminist), but it's reinforced when Twitchell writes of his work as a "commercial ethnography" and of Ross' images as a "topography of space"; when he suggests that it might be tempting to see the male preference for dark, subterranean places as a "womb-like regression" (luckily for the reader, Twitchell leaves it at that since he's "not convinced that it's sexual"); or when he describes the contemporary version of the snuggery as a case of "ethnological ontogeny recapitulating phylogeny." Hulk no understand.

To be fair, Twitchell seems far from the pretentious academic, and it's with a certain degree of mischief that he occasionally couches his explanations of male behavior in what he recognizes to be "academic cant." As further evidence of Regular Guy status, he admits that he couldn't bring himself to attend a local men-only consciousness-raising group – even in the interests of research – out of the understandable fear that he'd have been forced to read works by French philosophers. It's not full-fledged Francophobia, but it's a start.

It's actually pretty amusing to watch Mr. Twitchell respond one way to masculinity in his gut--with approval, even longing--and another in his head--with a politically correct voice that's as obviously phony as General Garca doing ventriloquism.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:00 AM


Keep on sluggin': Mets will have to continue to cover for their pitchers (John Donovan, October 16, 2006, Sports Illustrated)

This is how the Mets have to do this thing, if they're going to do this thing at all. If they're going to win the National League pennant, if they're going to get into the World Series, they're just going to have to pummel people. They really don't have any other choice.

The Mets, let's face it, aren't going to win any pitcher's duels. That would require them to have pitchers who actually can shut a team down.

They're not going to small-ball anyone, either. These Mets, even with a speedy guy like Jose Reyes at the top of the lineup, don't do small-ball all that well.

No, if the Mets are going to win the NL Championship Series against the Cardinals and advance to the World Series, they're going to have to spend a couple of more nights like the one they had Sunday, when they blistered a bunch of hapless St. Louis pitchers -- if you want to call them pitchers -- in a 12-5 win at Busch Stadium.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:37 AM


One Less Eye on Gender Inequality (Marcia D. Greenberger, October 16, 2006, TomPaine.com

For the last five years, the Bush administration has repeatedly undermined laws and policies that support workplace equality for women. The latest blow in this continual assault came when the Department of Labor announced that it would eliminate a critical anti-discrimination tool, the Equal Opportunity Survey, which is needed to ensure that companies receiving federal dollars provide equal employment opportunities to their workers.

The elimination of the survey is a big win for federal contractors that receive millions of dollars in taxpayer-funded government contracts every year but want to evade scrutiny of their pay practices. The Department of Labor's ideological decision to gut the survey is the latest in a list of administration actions that undermine the civil rights protections and family-friendly policies that are particularly important to women in the workforce.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 6:30 AM


The new opiate of the middle-class masses (Anne Marie Owens, National Post, October 16th, 2006)

When the enthusiasts make their way through the streets of Toronto or alongside the shores of Prince Edward Island this weekend, when they fill the downtown in Chicago and Washington, D.C., after that, it is unlikely they will be pelted with derisive epithets or rotten apples.

There was a time, not so long ago, when practitioners of long-distance running were the subject of societal ridicule for an extreme athletic pursuit that was regarded as freakish.

These days, however, marathon running is the quintessence of mainstream. It has become so common among the ranks of upwardly mobile professionals that participating in such a race is almost expected -- the ancient event has been transformed into a thoroughly modern status symbol that singlehandedly conveys fitness, financial success, work-life balance and an unerring ability to do it all.

"If you look at a cross-section of marathoners in a big race, it would be almost identical to a cross-section of the urban middle class," says Ian Ritchie, a sociologist who studies sport and is a marathoner himself. "The event reinforces the values which are important to that class: individual ability, merit as a reward system, self-discipline, hard work, organization, constantly striving for self-improvement."

Between 400,000 and 500,000 people across North America run marathons in a single year, with October the busiest month of all.[...]

For Trish Murphy, a 52-year-old Calgary resident who shuttles between her native Dublin, her Canadian home and various exotic locales, the only constant in her peripatetic life is her long-distance running.

She took it up as a stay-at-home mother in a new city with no friends or community, where the long runs provided the regularity and discipline she desired.

"Running is not competitive, it is community," insists Ms. Murphy, who has competed in five marathons, the most recent, the legendary one in Boston. "You compete against yourself, your time, your desires to do another one ... We lead such hectic lives, running long distances gives a structure to your day, to your life really. It gives you that sense that you can do anything."

Remember way back when conservatives warned that the decline of the spiritual life would lead to overall sloth, gluttony, vice and dissipation? Did we ever call that one wrong. It’s turned out much weirder.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Why so cross?: a review of Unweaving the Rainbow by Richard Dawkins and The Pattern of Evolution by Niles Eldredge (Thomas Nagel, London Review of Books)

The biological problem that is the focus of the dispute is set out most clearly in Eldredge's book: what modification of the conception of the evolutionary process is required by the fact that the fossil record does not support Darwin's belief that evolution proceeded gradually, and at a more or less constant rate? The fossil record is of course very patchy, but what it seems to reveal are species that come into existence, persist largely unchanged, often for millions of years, and then become extinct. It does not reveal long sequences of gradually changing ancestors of new species, linking them by minute intergenerational variation to predecessor species. Nor does it reveal the kind of gradual, cumulative intraspecies evolution that finally results in a difference great enough to constitute a new species.

Rather, the time required for the appearance of a new species is apparently very short by comparison with the time during which it then persists largely unchanged. A species that appears in the geological blink of an eye - say, ten thousand years, too short a time for any transitional stages to show up as fossils - may stay the same for five to ten million years after that. The process by which a new species is formed is apparently too fast to show up in the fossil record, but too slow to be observed in human experience. 'No utterly convincing case of true speciation (that is, involving sexually reproducing organisms) has as yet emanated from a genetics lab,' Eldredge writes.

He believes that these facts are incompatible with an unmodified version of Darwin's theory, because Darwin believed in gradualism: that evolution proceeds at a constant rate, with gradual variations within species (of the kind commonly produced by animal breeders) leading to differences and branching that eventually become so great that they turn into separate species. In a sense, Eldredge says, Darwin didn't believe in the reality of species, as discrete entities. What was real were individuals - and the gradually developing differences between them. Species, however, do seem in some sense real: their distinctness and internal uniformity both at a time and over time are striking. Eldredge and Gould coined the term 'punctuated equilibria' to describe their theory of this non-gradual evolutionary process whereby short bursts of rapid change are followed by long periods of stasis.

Now this might seem like the locus of a profound disagreement within evolutionary theory. What gives rise to new species, suddenly, if not the slow process of incremental change that Darwin envisioned? Does it mean that creative forces of some kind are at work, generating radically new forms of life through a process internal to the genetic material? That would certainly be incompatible with the reductionist outlook of the traditional theory of natural selection.

Eldredge thinks nothing of the kind, however. He is as committed to the mechanism of natural selection as Dawkins is.

And, after all, isn't the true test of any scientific theory just how committed its adherents are to it in the face of the evidence?

October 15, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:03 PM


Navy 'too weak' for big role in Korea blockade (Thomas Harding, Damien McElroy in Washington and Richard Spencer in Beijing, 16/10/2006, Daily Telegraph)

[S]enior Royal Navy officers last night cast serious doubt over Britain's ability to make a significant naval contribution to the proposed UN force, claiming that drastic cuts in government spending on the navy over the past decade had severely reduced their ability to participate in major foreign operations.

"I am staggered that the Government is trying to make this commitment when it knows what our Armed Forces are going through," a senior Royal Navy officer last night told The Daily Telegraph.

"But it knows that to keep our presence on the Security Council Britain needs to demonstrate what we can do."

Defence experts predicted that the most the Royal Navy could contribute was a single frigate, a Royal Fleet auxiliary support vessel and a Trafalgar class hunter killer submarine.

But senior navy officers expressed deep concern about their ability to defend their ships against a hostile missile or fighter threat after a decision was enforced six months ago to scrap the Sea Harrier fighter.

As a result of government cutbacks any British ships deployed to the South China Sea to enforce the UN resolution would depend on the American or French navies to provide "beyond visual range" air defence with their aircraft carriers.

At this stage a British navy is pretty pointless as a strategic matter, but it's got to hurt what's left of their pride.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:58 PM


Christians are urged to boycott BA as storm over crucifix ban grows (Toby Helm, 16/10/2006, Daily Telegraph)

A former government minister called on Christians to boycott British Airways flights yesterday as the backlash grew over its decision to ban a Heathrow check-in worker from wearing a cross round her neck.

Ann Widdecombe, a former Home Office minister and devout Roman Catholic, said that if BA had not reversed its "crazy" policy by Monday evening, she would cut up her BA executive club card and refuse to fly with the airline.

Urging other Christians to join her in a mass boycott that would inflict huge commercial damage on the business, she said BA was guilty of "persecuting" an employee on the grounds of her faith.

Few spectator sports are more fun than watching the Right try to distinguish such from veil bans and the like.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:51 PM


Fear Will Fade (Kenneth L. Fisher, 10.16.06, Forbes)

I predict that the GOP will lose seats but not enough seats to lose either house of Congress.

What if I'm wrong? There are only three possibilities. One is that the Democrats win one house but not both. Another is they win both houses but with weak majorities. The third is a Democratic landslide.

With the first two, the outcome is gridlock, the mirror image of what we had in the late 1990s, when Republicans had Congress and Bill Clinton was President. The market loves gridlock. Nothing gets done. That is, we have no tax or regulatory upheavals.

For structural reasons, I believe there is zero chance the Democrats will win by an amount greater than gridlock--by enough, in other words, to override a Bush veto. There just aren't that many iffy seats. Not even close.

Still, suppose I'm wrong. Look ahead. We are only three months away from the third year of George Bush's term. In the entire history of the S&P 500 there have been only two negative third years of any President's term. They were both long ago: in 1931, in the midst of the 1929--32 crash, and in 1939, as we entered World War II. Both very weird and unusual times.

All other third years were double-digit positive, except single-digit positives in 1947 and 1987. The average return in third years is 20%. In fact, there have been only five negative S&P 500 years in the back half of presidential terms. Market risk is highest in the front half of Presidents' terms, which is historically when most attempts at redistributive legislation have occurred. Once the midterms are over, it gets better.

The House seats are easy enough to win back in the McCain/Hillary landslide, but it would be too bad to lose natural GOP Senate seats for six years, given that it seems like Democrats are hellbent on requiring a 60 seat Republican majority for SS Reform.

Donkeys Lack Ideas For 2008 (MICHAEL BARONE, October 16, 2006, NY Sun)

[W]hat are the new ideas that Democrats are campaigning on? They've had a hard time coming up with a list. At the top, usually, is raising the minimum wage. That's a law that Congress first passed in 1938. Liberal think tankers will tell you that if you want progressive redistribution of income, the minimum wage is a far weaker tool than the Earned Income Tax Credit.

Bill Clinton and the Democratic Congress did expand the EITC in the 1990s, with a small but perceptible redistributive effect — one of their policy successes. Democrats today could campaign on expanding it further. But the minimum wage tests better in polls.

As for the macroeconomy, the Democrats offer few policies except to refuse to extend the Bush tax cuts, which in important cases don't expire till 2010. On foreign policy, their stands tend to be incoherent: We should be more multilateral in Iraq and less multilateral on North Korea. "Redeployment" of troops from Iraq to Okinawa (John Murtha) or Kuwait (Hillary Clinton).

The Democratic plea is that the Republicans should be punished for incompetence. But even with majorities in both houses of Congress, Democrats will be poorly positioned to offer competence itself.

Reagan's 1986 Election,/a> (Jeffrey Lord, 10/16/2006, American Spectator)
The political goal for the Reagan White House had been to hold that Senate majority and make some incremental gains in the House, the latter last accomplished by FDR in 1934. As Reagan biographer Lou Cannon later wrote, President Reagan had agreed to an "extraordinary midterm campaign effort," for his sixth year. Certainly the President knew, as did all of us who worked for him, that year number six of a two-term presidency was historically a killer for Presidents when it came to congressional elections. The mighty Franklin Roosevelt had gotten clobbered in 1938, the beloved Dwight Eisenhower saw his party buried in 1958. Still, Reagan chose to fight. Rereading Cannon's account of that time period brings those memories flooding back.

The President traveled 24,000 miles for 54 appearances in 22 states. He raised some $33 million for Republican candidates. Over and over again, from one airport hangar to the next town square, he restated conservative principles. In the middle of it all we had to call a halt while he suddenly re-routed Air Force One to Reykjavik, Iceland, for a surprise summit with the Soviet Union's Mikhail Gorbachev. Returning in a hail of negative press for walking away from a deal to give up the Strategic Defense Initiative (it was only years later that his refusal to abandon the principle of military strength won him credit for toppling the Soviet Union), he picked up the fight. Extra campaign stops were laid on, many of us suddenly catching planes to California or North Carolina or Nevada to speak or lend a hand to the over-stretched advance operation abruptly charged with the details of yet another presidential stop at some destination we ourselves had recommended. Only once did the ever-protective Mrs. Reagan protest that I can remember, putting her foot down at the notion her husband was being sent to a Western state with a same-day return to Washington. Firmly noting the president's age (75) and the fact that he was already putting in a schedule that would exhaust a man half his years, she saw to it that there would be an overnight breather at his Santa Barbara ranch, much closer indeed.

And what did all of this win for the Reagan presidency? A loss of 9 of those 12 seats gained in 1980 and the end of the GOP Senate Majority. House races, which I was shepherding, produced a loss of five seats. While not bad for a six-year election, it was not the victory everyone wanted.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:57 PM


Joe Lieberman In No Man's Land: A Longtime Democrat, Now In Opposition, Is In Strange Company (MARK PAZNIOKAS, October 15 2006, Hartford Courant)

Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, a lifelong Democrat and student of politics, blanked when asked if America would be better off with his party regaining control of the U.S. House of Representatives.

A Democratic victory would immeasurably boost the influence of two Connecticut friends, U.S. Reps. Rosa L. DeLauro and John B. Larson, and provide a counterbalance to the Republican Senate and White House.

"Uh, I haven't thought about that enough to give an answer," Lieberman said, as though Democrats' strong prospects for recapturing the House hadn't been the fall's top political story.

He was similarly elusive about the race for governor. Is he voting for John DeStefano Jr., a Democrat and mayor of the city where Lieberman has lived since the 1960s?

"I'm, uh, I'm having," he stammered, then laughed and said his decision would remain private.

These are not hard questions. [...]

On the campaign trail, Lieberman's message has changed since the primary, when he stressed his party credentials as a vice presidential nominee and presidential candidate who opposed Bush. His target then was Democratic voters antagonistic to the war and disdainful of Bush.

Democrats now are the smallest segment of his support. A recent poll shows his support comes from 67 percent of Republicans, 45 percent of unaffiliated voters and 35 percent of Democrats.

Lieberman relies on talking points more often sounded by the Bush White House than Democratic congressional candidates, invoking patriotism and America's need to be vigilant in a dangerous world.

If the split were to end up 49 (D)-49 (R)-2 (1), with Bernie Sanders caucusing with the Dems, Mr. Lieberman could play the two parties and end up with any chairmanship he wants, plus president pro tempore.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:51 PM


Oil bonanza boosts Arab gross domestic product above $1 trillion for first time ever (Bassem Mroue, October 15, 2006, ASSOCIATED PRESS)

A sharp rise in oil prices has led the gross domestic product of Arab states last year to increase to more than $1 trillion for the first time, the chairman of a pan-Arab economic council said Sunday.

The GDP of the 22-member Arab League countries reached $1.05 trillion at the end of 2005, a $180 billion increase from the previous year, said Ahmed Gweili, chairman of the Arab Economic Unity Council.

A population of roughly 280 million Arabs would be close to our own population of 300 million, yet they've one twelfth of our GDP. And the only way they'll fix it is to become more like us.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:49 PM


China may back coup against Kim (Michael Sheridan, October 16, 2006, Times of London)

The Chinese Government has been ultra-cautious in its reaction. However, since Monday, Foreign Ministry officials have started to make a point of distinguishing between the North Korean people and their Government in conversations with diplomats.

Ahead of yesterday's Security Council vote, some in Beijing argued against heavy sanctions on North Korea for fear that these would destroy what remains of a pro-Chinese "reformist" faction inside the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

"In today's DPRK Government, there are two factions, sinophile and royalist," one Chinese analyst wrote online. "The objective of the sinophiles is reform, Chinese-style, and then to bring down Kim Jong-il's royal family. That's why Kim is against reform. He's not stupid."

More than one Chinese academic agreed that China yearned for an uprising similar to the one that swept away the Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu in 1989 and replaced him with communist reformers and generals. The Chinese made an intense political study of the Romanian revolution and even questioned president Ion Iliescu, who took over, about how it was done and what roles were played by the KGB and by Russia.

Mr Kim, for his part, ordered North Korean leaders to watch videos of the swift and chaotic trial and execution of Ceausescu and his wife, Elena, the vice-prime minister, as a salutary exercise.

The balance of risk between reform and chaos dominated arguments within China's ruling elite. The Chinese have also permitted an astonishing range of vituperative internet comment about an ally with which Beijing maintains a treaty of friendship and co-operation. Academic Wu Jianguo published an article in a Singapore newspaper - available online in China - bluntly saying: "I suggest China should make an end of Kim's Government."

"The Chinese have given up on Kim Jong-il," commented one diplomat. "The question is, what are they going to do about it?"

Hinting at the options, Chinese online military commentators have exposed plots and purges inside North Korea that were previously unknown or unconfirmed.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:42 PM


Vive Israel (Larry Derfner, Oct. 12, 2006, THE JERUSALEM POST)

When prime minister Ariel Sharon, reacting to anti-Semitic attacks in France, said in summer 2004 that French aliya is "a must and they have to move immediately," the French Jewish establishment, led by CRIF, was embarrassed.

French officials were scandalized; President Jacques Chirac even suggested that Sharon wasn't welcome in France, a spat that ended after Sharon lauded the French government for its vigilance against anti-Semitism.

But to Orthodox, generally rightward-leaning French Jews, who make up 30% of the community, and who fill most of the pool of potential immigrants to Israel, Sharon's call "was aimed at the right place at the right time," said Avi Zana, director in Israel of the French aliya organization AMI.

Since the intifada broke out six years ago, the number of French Jews making aliya to Israel has tripled - from about 1,000 a year before the violence began to 3,000 a year now, the highest figure since the Six Day War. Another 20,000 or so French Jews have made the final decision to immigrate to Israel, and are expected to arrive here in the coming years, said Zana, citing polls conducted for the organization three years ago. France is home to 600,000 Jews, by far Europe's largest Jewish community.

"You can assume that more people are making the decision [to immigrate to Israel] as time goes on," Zana added.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:04 AM


Farewell, old friend: The man who was more than a baseball great is gone, but he leaves a legacy of living, loving. (JOE POSNANSKI, 10/15/06, The Kansas City Star)

Every day since Buck O’Neil died — dozens of times every day — I’ve heard people tell stories about him. There were many Buck O’Neil stories told Saturday. They held his funeral at his longtime church, Bethel AME They held a celebration of his life at Municipal Auditorium. Yes, many stories were told.

These Buck stories are rarely complicated. They are instead about moments. Hugs he offered. Songs he sang. Impressions he left. Memories he shared. Many tell the simple story about having a photograph taken with him. Buck would hold women tight while a husband or boyfriend or friend fiddled helplessly with the camera. “Take your time,” Buck always said, and he squeezed tighter. “I like this.”

This is what he leaves behind. Photographs. Laughs. Hugs. Simple moments.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:12 AM


U.S. foreign policy has always been Wilsonian (Max Boot, 10/15/06, Manchester Union-Leader)

There are few epithets more damning in American politics than “Wilsonian.” It carries connotations of purblind self-righteousness, of senseless moralizing, of good intentions gone awry. Granted, most of those pejoratives apply to Woodrow Wilson, whose failures in peacemaking after World War I are notorious and helped set the stage for World War II. The fiasco in Iraq will undoubtedly strengthen the demonization of the Wilsonian impulse that was said to have animated the invasion.

Yet the Wilsonian label has always rested on a dubious conceit -- that the 28th president of the United States was the first to inject idealism and interventionism into our foreign policy. This notion cannot survive a serious examination of U.S. history before the 20th century. That is just what the distinguished scholar Robert Kagan provides in his important new book, “Dangerous Nation,” the first of a projected two-volume history of U.S. foreign policy.

Kagan, also the author of “Of Paradise and Power,” a best-selling essay about trans-Atlantic relations, sets out to explode the cherished myth that Americans are “by nature inward-looking and aloof, only sporadically and spasmodically venturing forth into the world, usually in response to external attack or perceived threats.” In fact, as he points out, Americans have been animated by an expansionist ethos since the days of the Puritans.

The tragedy of Wilsonism was that, given the opportunity to decolonize the Third World, he opted instead for an institutional transnationalism that is antithetical to America.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:54 AM


Once-mighty Russia fades to a dying population (Kim Murphy, 10/15/06, Los Angeles Times)

Russia is the only major industrial nation that is losing population. Its people are succumbing to one of the world's fastest-growing AIDS epidemics, resurgent tuberculosis, rampant cardiovascular disease, alcohol and drug abuse, smoking, suicide, and the lethal effects of unchecked industrial pollution.

In addition, abortions outpaced births last year by more than 100,000. An estimated 10 million Russians of reproductive age are sterile because of botched abortions or poor health. The public healthcare system is collapsing. And many parents in more prosperous urban areas say they can't afford homes large enough for the number of children they would like to have.

The former Soviet Union, with about 300 million people, was the world's third-most populous country, behind China and India. Slightly more than half of its citizens lived in Russia. The country has lost the equivalent of a city of 700,000 people every year since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, only partially offset by an influx of people from other former Soviet republics. A country that sprawls across one-eighth of the globe is now home to 142 million people.

The losses have been disproportionately male. At the height of the power of the Soviet Union, its people lived almost as long as Americans. But now, the average Russian man can expect to live about 59 years, 16 years less than an American man and 14 less than a Russian woman.

Sergei Mironov, chairman of the upper house of Russia's parliament, said last year that if the trend didn't change, the population would fall to 52 million by 2080. ``There will no longer be a great Russia," he said. ``It will be torn apart piece by piece, and finally cease to exist."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:41 AM


An end to the 'hug a thug' era (TORONTO SUN, 10/15/06)

Prime Minister Stephen Harper says the Conservatives will introduce legislation this week requiring repeat violent and sexual predators to prove why they should not be declared dangerous offenders and jailed indefinitely.

Police and victims rights groups have applauded the move as long overdue, while criminal defence lawyers attacked it.

Okay, let's see now, cops and victims rights groups in favour, criminal lawyers (and all the other usual soft-on-crime suspects) opposed.

Hmmm. Who should we support? Thinking ... thinking...

Getting tough on crime even got America's Blue cities to vote Red.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:25 AM


Democrats Have Intensity, but G.O.P. Has Its Machine (ROBIN TONER, 10/15/06, NY Times)

Voter intensity is a critical element in politics, especially in midterm elections, when Americans’ interest and turnout are typically much lower than in a presidential election year. Pollsters say enthusiasm among Democrats is particularly high this year — significantly higher, by several important measures, than the intensity of Republicans.

Republican strategists counter that they can compensate for any gap in enthusiasm with their legendary get-out-the-vote operation. The party has built its electoral success in the last two elections on identifying and producing nearly every obtainable Republican vote at the polls; this time may be more challenging, they say, but no different.

“I do think our base is coming together and will be coming together later, but four weeks is an eternity in this business,” said Representative Tom Cole, an Oklahoma Republican and longtime party strategist. Republicans will ultimately be motivated to vote, Mr. Cole said, and they will turn out on Election Day even if “this is a race where professionalism has to make up for enthusiasm.”

Even so, in the latest New York Times/CBS News poll, conducted Oct. 5-8, 46 percent of Democrats said they were more enthusiastic about voting this year than in previous Congressional elections, compared with 33 percent of Republicans.

A similar trend appears in recent polls by the Pew Research Center and Gallup, which show that Democrats’ level of engagement is higher than in the midterm elections of 2002, 1998 and especially 1994, when a Republican landslide gave the party control of the House and Senate.

How Bad Will It Be?: The GOP debacle to come (Fred Barnes, 10/23/2006, Weekly Standard)
REPUBLICANS and conservatives, brace yourselves! Strategists and consultants of both parties now believe the House is lost and House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi will become speaker. At best, Republicans will cling to control of the Senate by a single seat, two at most. For many election cycles, Republicans have been the boys of October, using paid media and superior campaign skills to make up lost ground and win in November. This year, they were the boys of September, rallying strongly until that fateful day, September 29, when the Mark Foley scandal erupted. October has been a disaster so far. A strong finishing kick for Republicans, minimizing Democratic gains, is possible. They pulled one off brilliantly in President Bush's first midterm election in 2002. But recovery will be harder this time, a lot harder.

The press is fixated on the so-called generic ballot--Do you want a Democratic or Republican Congress?--as an indicator of Republican setbacks on November 7. But that gauge has rarely been predictive. Two others are more reliable: presidential approval and party enthusiasm. And they tell an ominous story for Republicans about the difference between 2002 and 2006.

Presidential approval correlates with how the president's party fares in midterm elections. It's simple: High approval is linked to election success, low approval to defeat. In October 2002, with Bush's approval at 62 percent in the Gallup Poll, Republicans won six seats in the House and two in the Senate. Now Bush is at 37 percent in Gallup. The inescapable conclusion is that Bush
lacks the clout with the public he had four years ago. To make matters worse, presidents associated with unpopular wars are historically a drag on their parties (Truman, LBJ).

The most overlooked election indicator is the level of voter enthusiasm. In every election from 1994 through 2004, Republicans were more enthusiastic than Democrats. That was a decade of Republican growth. This year Democrats are more excited. And it's measurable. In 2002, 42 percent of Republicans said they were more enthusiastic than usual about the election. Thirty-eight percent of Democrats said the same. In 2006, the numbers have flipped. Republican enthusiasm has dipped to 39 percent and Democratic enthusiasm has jumped to 48 percent. Enthusiasm affects turnout. Gloomy voters are less inclined to vote.

GOP panic over midterm elections ends at White House front door (Michael Abramowitz, 10/15/06, The Washington Post)
Amid widespread panic in the Republican establishment about the midterm elections, two people strike even their closest allies as almost inexplicably upbeat: President Bush and his top political adviser, Karl Rove. [...]

The question is whether this is a case of justified confidence — based on Bush's and Rove's electoral record and knowledge of the money, technology and other assets at their command — or of self-delusion. Many Republicans suspect the latter. Three GOP strategists with close ties to the White House flatly predicted the loss of the House, although they would not do so on the record for fear of offending senior Bush aides.

To Rove and the small cadre of operatives who have been at his side throughout the administration, confidence flows from a conviction that a political operation that has produced three consecutive national victories is capable of one more, despite voter disaffection with Iraq and GOP scandals.

It seems unlikely that you can really work up Democratic passions when the economy is booming--particularly when unemployment is virtually non-existent--but the Right did work itself into a tizzy in '92 and cost George HW Bush re-election, so anything's possible.

As AWW points out, we need to come up with an election contest. Anyone got any ideas? Races we should include? How about you have to pick the overall House number, 10 or so Senate races and a couple governorships?

Democrats counting on zeal (ASSOCIATED PRESS, 10/15/06)

Democrats hope enthusiasm trumps Republican efficiency in the battle for control of Congress. Otherwise, they concede, they will have problems on Nov. 7 as a party still struggling to catch up with Republicans' ability to get voters to go to the polls.

"Makes me green with envy," said Ellen Malcolm, the president of EMILY's List, which backs female candidates who support abortion rights. [...]

"If the Republicans are less enthused, the independents are breaking our way, and the Democratic base is highly enthused, then we're in very good shape," said Karin Johanson, executive director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

An election Foley-equipped with frivolity (MARK STEYN, 10/15/06, Chicago Sun-Times)
Who is James Vicini? Well, he works for Reuters, the storied news agency. By "storied," I don't mean in the Hans Christian Andersen sense, though these days it's hard to tell. But they have an illustrious history and they're globally respected and whatnot. And last week newshound Vicini got assigned quite an interesting story:

"WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- A California-born convert to Islam, accused of making a series of al-Qaida propaganda videos, became on Wednesday the first American charged with treason since the World War II era, U.S. Justice Department officials said.

"Fugitive Adam Gadahn, 28, who is believed to be in Pakistan, was accused of treason, which carries a maximum punishment of death . . ."

Wow! Treason! First time in half-a-century, since the Tokyo Rose days. Since then, of course, the very word "treason" has come to seem arcane, if not obsolescent, like something some fellow in doublet-and-hose might accuse somebody of on "Masterpiece Theatre" but otherwise not terribly relevant and frankly no big deal: Indeed, the campus left usually gives the impression that "treason" is little more than an alternative lifestyle, like transvestism.

Yet the Justice Department wants this fellow over in Pakistan for treason. Now why would they do such a thing? After chugging through the various charges, Vicini got to the meat of his story: "Justice Department officials denied the case was timed to deflect attention from the fallout over lewd computer messages sent by a former Republican congressman to young male aides, a scandal that may help Democrats seize control of Congress in the Nov. 7 elections."

Cut out that paragraph and have it framed. Or now that the nights are drawing in, if you're at a loose end of an evening, sew it into an attractive sampler and hang it in your parlor. In years to come, you'll spend many precious moments treasuring it as the perfect summation of the 2006 U.S. election.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:22 AM


Security Council Backs Sanctions on North Korea (WARREN HOGE, 10/15/06, NY Times)

The Security Council voted unanimously on Saturday to impose strict sanctions on North Korea for its reported nuclear test, overcoming objections from Russia and China by explicitly excluding the threat of military force.

The resolution, drafted by the United States, clears the way for the toughest international action against North Korea since the end of the Korean War. Primarily, it bars the sale or transfer of material that could be used to make nuclear, biological and chemical weapons or ballistic missiles, and it bans international travel and freezes the overseas assets of people associated with the North’s weapons programs.

In its most debated clause, the resolution authorizes all countries to inspect cargo going in and out of North Korea to detect illicit weapons.

We starved, he called it paradise: Growing up in North Korea, Hyok Kang was surrounded by desperate people who ate grass and bark before they died. Yet pervasive propaganda made them feel lucky to be there (Hyok Kang, 10/15/06, Sunday Times of London)

The first time I ate chocolate was when I was five years old. My grandfather had relatives in Japan who were given exceptional permission to visit us. They came like extraterrestrials with their arms full of presents and food. I remember waving tins of condensed milk and chocolate bars under my friends’ noses. I was a horrid little boy. It was 1990 and I didn’t yet know what famine was. I wouldn’t taste chocolate again until we escaped to China when I was 13.

In 1994, shortly before the death of Kim Il-sung, the Great Leader, the state food distribution system began to break down. Eventually, there was no more rice, no more potatoes. We moved on to vile food substitutes. Weeds, of whatever kind, were boiled up and swallowed in the form of soup. We picked these inedible leaves on the edges of the fields or the banks of the river. The soup was so bitter that we could barely keep it down.

Our neighbours collected grass and tree bark — usually pine, or various shrubs. They grated the bark and boiled it up before eating it. And much good it did them: their faces swelled from day to day until they finally perished.

Not only food was scarce. Our teachers gave each of us collection quotas: maize leaves (for paper mills), copper and other metals — and, during the winter, dung for fertiliser. We had to take six whole carts of faecal matter to the school, and not any old excrement: it had to be human. As it was frozen — the temperature fell to -20C or -30C — we used a pick or a hatchet to hack it from the back of the rudimentary outdoor toilets by each dwelling. In extremis, dog poo was tolerated as well.

My mother started selling buns and pancakes in the market. She was shattered by the sight of dozens of ragged urchins (some of them little more than toddlers) avidly watching the customers as they ate their pancakes just in case they accidentally dropped some. Then they would dart forwards to pick up scraps and stuff them into their mouths. Some adults, racked with hunger, beat the children and stole from them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:09 AM


Freddy Fender, 69, Legend in Texas and Country Music, Dies (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, 10/14/06)

He hit it big in 1975 with “Before the Next Teardrop Falls,” which climbed to No. 1 on the pop and country charts. His success came after years of struggle in which he had had only regional success and done a stint in prison.

That same year, “Wasted Days and Wasted Nights” rose to No. 1 on the country chart and the Top 10 on the pop chart. [...]

More recently, he played with Doug Sahm, Flaco Jimenez and others in two Tex-Mex all-star combos, the Texas Tornados and Los Super Seven.

He won a Grammy for Best Latin Pop Album in 2002 for “La Musica de Baldemar Huerta.” He also shared in two Grammys: with the Texas Tornados, which won in 1990 for best Mexican-American performance for “Soy de San Luis,” and with Los Super Seven in the same category in 1998 for “Los Super Seven.”

Among his other achievements, Mr. Fender appeared in the 1988 motion picture “The Milagro Beanfield War,” directed by Robert Redford.

In February 1999, Mr. Fender was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame with help from Gov. George W. Bush, who wrote to the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce endorsing him.

John Hiatt was in town last night and dedicated a song in his encore to Freedy Fender--Across the Borderline, which he wrote with Ry Cooder and James Dickinson and Mr. Fender recorded for the film The Border.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:02 AM


The New South rises again, as cultural influences stir pot (Amy McConnell Schaarsmith, October 15, 2006, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

[I]n recent decades, demographic, economic and cultural change has seemed to accelerate as North Carolina, like many other southern states, has endured the erosion of traditional industries, such as tobacco and textiles.

Many of these have been replaced by higher-technology fields, such as banking and health care, that have brought in higher-paid workers and the entry-level service jobs their salaries help support -- drawing not just local workers but immigrants from throughout Latin America and Asia.

For Minh Nguyen, staying in Vietnam just wasn't an option after the war, even though it meant leaving behind his parents, brother and sister-in-law.

"I cannot stay in Vietnam because after the war, the communists took over and I didn't have freedom," he said.

Resettled by the Roman Catholic Church in 1975, Mr. Nguyen came to Charlotte as a 20-year-old, rented a room at a local YMCA and began working in a textile factory making T-shirts for $2.50 an hour.

"I paid $75 a week [at the YMCA], but I still saved a little money," he said.

Mr. Nguyen met his wife, Le Phi Le, in Charlotte in 1979, and the couple now owns and operates Le's Sandwiches and Cafe in Charlotte.

Immigrants like Mr. Nguyen arrived in a region already losing its grip on its blue-collar, industrial past and its onetime food culture of "meat and three," or a meat such as fried chicken or salisbury steak, plus three vegetables chosen from a predictable list: green beans, fried squash, fried okra, mashed potatoes, a small salad and banana pudding.

"If there was no other reason to move to the South, this is a region where banana pudding is a vegetable," said Tom Hanchett, staff historian for the Levine Museum of the New South in Charlotte and author of "Sorting Out the New South City: Race, Class and Urban Development in Charlotte, 1875-1975".

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:44 AM


Tigers take fairy tale to Series (Larry Stone, 10/15/06, Seattle Times)

The swing was pure power, the connection completely unambiguous.

There was no need for one of those classic Carlton Fisk gyrations, to will the ball fair enough, or deep enough. This one was a fait accompli from the moment Huston Street threw it and Magglio Ordonez hit it, hit every inch of it, sending the Detroit Tigers — the Tigers! — to the World Series, with a quick detour to delirium.

Ordonez knew. He stood and watched, walked the first few steps down the line, raised his right arm and began the 360-foot jog into history that only a rarefied few get to experience.

"It was like I was running on air," Ordonez would say afterward, after he had been pummeled by his jubilant teammates waiting at the plate and serenaded by the stupefied fans at Comerica Park.

You gotta believe: Tigers turnaround is complete with World Series berth (John Donovan, October 15, 2006 , Sports Illustrated)
Saturday night's comeback was almost as impressive as the Tigers' turnaround this postseason. Detroit, remember, lost 31 of its final 50 games to hand the AL Central title to the Twins. Still, neither of those bouncebacks comes close to what the Tigers have pulled off since that 119-loss debacle of 2003.

Since then, under general manager Dave Dombrowski, the team has been torn down and rebuilt, starting with the free-agent signing of catcher Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez before the '04 season, while moving through important trades (shortstop Carlos Guillen in 2004, Polanco in 2005) and more free-agent signings (Ordonez before the 2005 season, and starter Kenny Rogers and closer Todd Jones before this season).

All the while, Dombrowski has picked up role players like Monroe and drafted important players like leadoff man Curtis Granderson and pitchers Justin Verlander and Joel Zumaya. And, of course, before this season, Dombrowski brought in manager Jim Leyland, who wept as he embraced Ordonez after the game.

Maybe no one better personifies the re-birth of this franchise, though, than Saturday's starter, Jeremy Bonderman. Acquired in a trade from the A's in 2002, he lost 19 games with the Tigers as a 20-year-old during the 119-loss nightmare of 2003. This season, though, he went 14-8 with a 4.08 ERA, becoming a critical part of the starting rotation. He didn't get the win Saturday, but he pitched 6 2/3 innings, giving up just the three runs.

Bonderman was one of the players who found Horton -- who hit 36 homers for the 1968 World Series champion Tigers -- and gave him a long hug in the on-field celebration.

"Willie's been great. He's been there all year for us, telling how it is to be a champion," Bonderman said. "He is a champion. And we wanted to be a champion."

Now they are. After more than two decades, these Tigers have brought an AL title back to Motown and made the city believe in baseball again.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:36 AM


Flexing liberal muscles (EVAN R. GOLDSTEIN , Oct. 12, 2006, THE JERUSALEM POST)

[Peter] Beinart worries that the view of what he calls the "anti-imperialist Left" - those for whom the fundamental issue is American imperialism - is gaining ground.

He cites a May 2005 Pew Research Center study of the American electorate in which it found that "Foreign affairs assertiveness now almost completely distinguishes Republicanoriented voters from the Democratic-oriented voters." Another poll showed that while conservatives, and Americans in general, cited destroying al-Qaida as their top foreign policy priority, among liberals it tied for 10th.

This trend was underscored by a November 2005 M.I.T. survey, which found that only 59 percent of Democrats - as opposed to 94% of Republicans - still approved of America's decision to invade Afghanistan. And only 57% of Democrats - as opposed to 95% of Republicans - supported using US troops "to destroy a terrorist camp."

"Many liberals," Beinart writes, "simply no longer see the war on terror as their fight."

And for a liberal internationalist like Beinart - who believes America has a moral purpose at home and in the world - this is profoundly disheartening. After all, if liberals believe every step America takes abroad is the first step towards quagmire it is impossible to take any step at all. And in the age of jihad, how can such a timid ideology rally America to its own defense?

"I THINK there is a danger of over-learning the lessons of Iraq in the same way that some liberals over-learned the lessons of Vietnam," Beinart says from behind his bare and scuffed wooden desk.

As this juxtaposition almost accidentally points out, the Democrats jumped ship forty years ago. But why would they back a moral foreign policy when they're dead set against giving morality pride of place in domestic policy?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Killer's wife salutes Amish mercy (BBC, 10/15/06)

The widow of a man who shot dead five Amish girls at a school in the US state of Pennsylvania has thanked the Amish community for their love and support.

Marie Roberts said she and her family were "overwhelmed by the forgiveness, grace and mercy" shown to them following the murders on 2 October.

Local man Charles Roberts killed himself after his shooting spree.

The Amish have said they forgive him and have helped set up a fund for the Roberts family at a local bank.

"Your love for our family has helped to provide the healing we so desperately need," Marie Roberts wrote in a letter addressed to Amish friends, neighbours and the local community.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Al Qaeda leader 'in secret CIA jail' (Reuters, October 15, 2006)

A SUSPECTED al Qaeda leader, accused of being involved in September 11 and planning the 2004 Madrid train bombings, has been imprisoned in a secret US jail for the past year, Spain's El Pais newspaper reported today.

Mustafa Setmarian, 48, a Syrian with Spanish citizenship, was captured in Pakistan in October 2005 and is held in a prison operated by the US Central Intelligence Agency, Pakistani and European security service officials told El Pais.

A spokesman for the US embassy in Spain declined to comment on the report.

Setmarian's 2005 capture was reported in May of this year after the United States put a $5 million bounty on the head of the alleged founder of al Qaeda's Spanish network.

A photograph of the red-haired Setmarian has been removed from the US Federal Bureau of Intelligence's most-wanted web page.

The Administration has throughout the WoT demonstrated great discipline in not feeling compelled to advertise its triumphs.

October 14, 2006

Posted by Peter Burnet at 10:36 AM


Don’t attack the veil
(Rod Liddle, The Spectator, October 14th, 2006)

And in attacking those who wear the full veil — rather than countering the bitter, misogynist ideology which insists that women disport themselves with modesty lest they incite the uncontrollable urges of men — we do ourselves down. In our confusion, faced with a coherent, intractable and antithetical ideology, we flail at the wrong targets and leave ourselves open to the one charge which we should reasonably be able to level at the Islamists, without being gainsaid: intolerance.

The veil — whether a gentle covering of the hair with an agreeably patterned silk scarf or the full burka — matters only in that it is a symbol of female subjugation. The varying extremes to which Muslim women will (‘voluntarily’) go in order to comply with their religious strictures does not matter one jot; what matters is the central tenet, that women need to dress this way because otherwise they will be culpable for the lascivious attentions of men. That they are thus guilty of contributory negligence. And that, further, women have a clearly defined and specific role in life, which is to support their menfolk and do as they are bidden.

The best response from us Western liberals, I would suggest, is to counter this primitive, bigoted ideology in public, and leave those individuals who adhere to it alone. Attack the cause, not the practitioners. In other words, do not allow our state schools to cede one inch to ‘local community leaders’ who insist that the girls should be allowed — or forced — to wear approximations of Muslim dress as part of the school uniform, as happens up and down the country. Make the girls wear exactly the same costume as every other girl in the school, with no concessions to creed. Let’s face it: if a white, Christian girl petitioned a headmaster or local education department to allow her to cover herself up from top to toe because she feared the predatory attentions of her male co-students, she would be sent to the school psychiatrist.

Mr. Liddle is an honest enough Islamophobe to admit that the veil is a red herring. It is their faith that must be destroyed.

More: Most people want Muslims to try harder to integrate, poll reveals (Julian Glover, The Guardian, October 14, 2006)

Today's poll shows that 53% of voters think Mr Straw was right to suggest that the full veil creates a barrier between Muslim women and other people, with only 36% believing he is wrong on the issue.

Mr Straw also won support this week from Harriet Harman, the constitutional affairs minister, who writes in the current issue of the New Statesman magazine that "if you want equality you have to be in society, not hidden away from it".

She voices regret that women "whose mothers fought against the veil ... now see their daughters taking it up as a symbol of commitment to their religion".

The poll shows that support for the full veil is stronger among women than men.

Don’t you just hate it when you do all that work to liberate women from their clothing and the ungrateful wenches thank you like this? Honestly, the cheek of some people.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 10:12 AM


Nuclear tensions bring supporters flooding back to waning campaign (Duncan Campbell, The Guardian, October 14th, 2006)

In its heyday in the eighties, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament was able to mobilise 400,000 people for a rally in Hyde Park. The end of the cold war saw the organisation's influence wane and membership slump. But now, in the wake of the government's commitment to replace the Trident nuclear system and rising tension over North Korea and Iran, CND is claiming renewed support and a resurgence of interest.

Today in a university hall in Bradford, CND gathers for its annual conference, with new members signing up every week and new branches being launched.

"It has really galvanised people in an incredible way," said Kate Hudson, CND's chair, of the government's decision on Trident. "We feel that we are now articulating the majority view, perhaps for the first time in a long time. There is an incredible drive for peace and dialogue and debate at the moment and we feel we are part of that wave."[...]

She said CND is conscious of the need to broaden its support base. One of the first motions on the conference agenda "notes the predominantly white-British character of its membership" which Dr Hudson accepts is a problem. "It's something CND has been aware of but never been able to deal with."

Because only white Western leftists are stupid enough not to recognize suicidal self-contempt.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:00 AM


Former U.S.-Rep. Studds Dies at 69 (AP, October 14, 2006)

That's a cheap shot.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:47 AM


The man who likes to poke the world in the eye
: Journalist Mark Steyn says being offensive has its merits (Linda Frum, October 14, 2006, National Post

Long-time readers of the National Post will know that former columnist Mark Steyn is one of Canada's most gifted political writers, a man weirdly able to provoke laughter while forecasting the end of the world.

In his newly released book, America Alone, he argues that without vigilance and the unapologetic assertion of American force, we will all soon be living under Sharia law. And while Mr. Steyn muses in his book that he may not mind picking up a few extra wives, he worries that the rest of us may not like the system as much.

Mr. Steyn lives in rural New Hampshire with his (only) wife and three children. [...]

LF In your new book America Alone you argue that: "America should proclaim the obvious: We do have a better government, religion and culture than our enemies, and we should spread America's influence around the world." On a spiritual/emotional level do you consider yourself an American?

MS Well, I don't want to get into a whole kind of Michael Ignatieff pronoun-trouble thing. I'm sympathetic to him on that, because when I say "we" I generally mean "the West," or "the civilized world," or -- more broadly -- "the good guys." I feel I've got a stake in the United States because I'm a resident and a taxpayer and I have my children in the public school system in the State of New Hampshire. So if I was writing about public education, I feel it would be quite reasonable to say "we." It doesn't mean I've tossed out my passport and signed up with the Great Satan once and for all.

LF Is there a quick answer as to why you live in New Hampshire of all places?

MS Long ago I was on an Amtrak overnight train from Montreal to New York and it broke down halfway, and they tossed us all off the train in the middle of the night. They sent a little bus to take us to a neighbouring inn, and I woke up the following morning and thought, "Actually, it's quite nice around here." I like New Hampshire because it doesn't have a state income tax or a state sales tax, and it has a very limited government done at a very local level, which is my preference. On the other hand, there are great disadvantages. If you want to get a decent dinner, your best bet is to drive an hour and a quarter up I-91 and eat in almost any small Quebec town. [...]

LF One of your best qualities is that you're so insensitive. For example, when writing about what you call the most important fact of our time -- the explosion of the Muslim global population -- you say: "Those self-detonating Islamists in London and Gaza are a literal baby boom." Making offensive jokes like that takes guts. Where do you get the courage?

MS Being offensive actually has its merits. An excessive deference to sensitivity is very harmful, particularly when you're dealing with people so ready to take offence. I didn't really think of it in an Islamist context until the fall of 2002, when I said in the National Post, something like: "Is it just me, or does Ramadan seem to come around quicker every year?" The point is Ramadan is every eleven and a half months. And of course I immediately got all these humourless letters from people saying, "Oh, you complete idiot! Are you not aware that under the Islamic calendar Ramadan comes..." Of course I'm aware! I'm making a cheap joke about it! It's my standard Ramadan joke, and I'm going to do it every 11-point-however-many-months for as long as I live. I seriously do believe that it's very hard to have a functioning society if you can't make cheap jokes about each other all the time. One of the key signs of a shared culture is if you can all cheerfully abuse each other. In the space of the last five years the multiculturalists seem to have internalized the psychology whereby it's taken for granted that you make whatever abusive jokes you want about Christians, but none of those same jokes can be made about Muslims. Well, the minute you accept that, I think you're doomed.

We'll excuse the food snobbery for a neighbor and one of our favorite authors (there's no food served in all of Quebec that's better than the Ramunto's pizza he could drive twenty minutes for). I keep two of Mr. Steyn's books ready to hand and dip into them for one essay at a time, Head to Toe, for a chuckle, and Face of the Tiger, for a periodic reminder of why our current fight matters so much.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:42 AM


Here's how I'd define a great baseball year, not only are my Mets and Tigers headed for a World Series match-up, but I won three caps, the latest from Jim in Chicago, who foolishly insisted that Manny Ramirez would have an OPS under .930 as he proceeded to lead the majors in OBP and finish 7th in SLG.

Even better, as part of the deal he had to let me post a picture of him in the Red Sox hat. You'll notice he could fit most of his family and neighbors under the lid...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:31 AM


Micro-Credit Pioneer Wins Peace Prize: Economist, Bank Brought New Opportunity to Poor (Molly Moore, 10/14/06, Washington Post)

Bangladeshi economist Muhammad Yunus and the Grameen Bank he created won the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday for leveraging small loans into major social change for impoverished families.

The Grameen Bank's pioneering use of micro-credit has been duplicated across the globe since Yunus started the project in his home village three decades ago. Loans as low as $9 have helped beggars start small businesses and poor women buy cellular phones and basket-weaving materials.

"Lasting peace cannot be achieved unless large population groups find ways in which to break out of poverty," the Norwegian Nobel Committee said in its citation released Friday in Oslo. "Micro-credit is one such means." [...]

Yunus and the Grameen Bank are hardly household names outside of Bangladesh, but Yunus has been one of the world's most prominent and renowned leaders of poverty alleviation. The Grameen Bank model has been duplicated in more than 100 countries, from Uganda to Malaysia to Chicago's South Side.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation recognized the bank's efforts in August, providing a $1.5 million grant to expand its work worldwide through the Grameen Foundation.

A gentle, soft-spoken man who has been feted by kings and presidents for his groundbreaking and tireless efforts to improve the lives of poor families, Yunus nonetheless has remained most at ease in the steamy Bangladeshi villages where the bank's clients -- mostly sari-clad women -- line up at makeshift tables to repay their loans.

Yunus launched the idea of the Grameen Bank after he returned to Bangladesh from the United States to take a teaching job in the economics department at Chittagong University.

Alarmed at the poverty created by ongoing famine, he and his students started an experimental project giving women $27 loans to buy straw to make stools.

The bank they created -- Grameen means "village" in the Bengali language -- not only defied conventional lending rules by making loans to the poorest of the poor, but challenged cultural taboos by giving most of the loans to women in a Muslim-dominated society where rural women at the time were seldom allowed to touch money or work outside of their homes. The bank issues most of its loans to women because Yunus discovered that they spent their money more carefully and paid back the loans in far high percentages than did men.

You're well past the End of History when the Peace Prize goes to a banker.

The Adam Smith of poverty: A Nobel prize for the genius who bet the bank on the world’s disinherited (Times of London, 10/14/06)

[P]rofessor Yunus had to fight hard for his heretical great idea: against husbands, mullahs, the development establishment and his own Government — it took nine years to get Grameen incorporated as a bank. His business model turns convention inside out: priority goes to the poorest and the bank relies on honour and peer pressure. To qualify, borrowers must form a group of five women who must decide which two should get the first twelve-month loans, and what they should be for. Repayments, in tiny instalments, start being collected at village level a mere week later, and only if the first two keep up their payments do the others get loans. The bank helps people to rebuild if their businesses are wiped out by disaster, but requires them to repay these loans, too.

This is, as Professor Yunus says, a business plan that relies on the “pride and strength and creativity of the poorest”. The Make Poverty History campaign has implanted the idea that all debt is a curse, but debt can be beautiful; it is by borrowing that people with nothing can escape. The poor are poor because they have no money. The Nobel Peace Prize tends to go to the good and great. This prize goes not just to Professor Yunus, but to the 6.6 million poor women who have liter- ally repaid his faith with interest.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:59 AM


Virgin gives Airbus one week to respond to A380 proposals (The Associated Press, 10/14/06)

Virgin Atlantic Airways voiced more dissatisfaction Friday with major delays to the Airbus A380, but the plane's biggest customer, Emirates, said it had no current plans to cancel any of the 45 superjumbos it has on order.

Virgin Atlantic, which has warned that A380 cancellations are among the options it is reviewing, said it had given Airbus one week to respond to new proposals, likely to include more compensation and earlier deliveries than the aircraft maker had offered.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:21 AM


Celebrating Genghis Khan's Big Year: Eight centuries on, the Mongolian conqueror continues to influence culture worldwide. (Eric Powell, September 29, 2006, archaeology)

Instead of the scourge of civilization, Mongolians see Genghis as not just the founder of the Mongolian state, but as a force for progress and development during the Middle Ages, a leader whose legacy still has profound implications today, especially now that Mongolia is a democracy. The Khan was even the consensus vote for "Man of the Millennium" in surveys of historians a few years ago, a development that the Mongolian government still trumpets proudly in promotional material.

This was a big year for the Man of the Millennium. Mongolians celebrated the 800th anniversary of the formation of the Mongolian Empire. The somewhat arbitrary date of 1206 is the year that Genghis unified all the Mongolian tribes, his first step toward establishing the vast empire that eventually stretched from China to the Caspian Sea.

How to celebrate the anniversary? In addition to a number of academic conferences and other events marking the occasion, there is some talk about changing the capital's name to Genghis City. Some 30 miles from Ulaanbaatar, the government has a 130-foot-tall statue of the Khan in the works at the spot where, in 1177, young Temuujin found a horsewhip lying on a hilltop as he rode past. Horsewhips being lucky, he took it as an auspicious sign for his plan to re-unite the Mongols. [...]

[I]t turns out quite a few of us are even carrying the conqueror's DNA around. A genetic study done by Oxford geneticist Brian Sykes shows that 16 million people worldwide, eight percent of Asian men, are descended from the prolific Khan, who it turns out did more than put whole cities to the sword.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:15 AM


A deadly kind of fizzle (Todd Crowell, 10/14/06, Asia Times)

In July, North Korea tried to launch a multi-stage ballistic missile that fizzled out over the Sea of Japan (called the East Sea by Koreans) minutes after it was launched. This was the second test-firing in eight years and it was even less successful than the one in 1998, which at least flew over Japan, landing somewhere near the Aleutian Islands.

Two months after the July test, North Korea conducted a purported nuclear-weapon test, which may not have been an obvious fizzle, but its extremely low yield of less than a kiloton of conventional explosives (it was the equivalent of about 550 tons) strongly suggests it was a dud. [...]

Of course, Pyongyang may set off more nuclear tests (using up its limited stocks of plutonium). Someday it might build a multi-stage ballistic missile that really works; someday it may conduct a successful nuclear test; someday it may marry the two. Yes, and Kim Jong-il may live to be 100.

October 13, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:39 PM


Where's the drama?: Tigers most responsible for uninspiring postseason (Tom Verducci, 10/13/06, Sports Illustrated)

Can this postseason be saved? Thanks mostly to the juggernaut known as the Detroit Tigers, who are so hot they can bat Neifi Perez second and watch Kenny Rogers become John Wayne, baseball is giving us an October with almost no drama, no moments for posterity and no storyline for the FOX people to hook the viewer who needs a reason to come to the tube.

Welcome to a non-competitive October, which is the last thing we've come to expect from baseball. If the 2006 baseball playoffs were a sitcom or talk show --- hate to break it to you, folks, but we're sitting through the Arsenio Hall of postseasons -- it would have been cancelled long ago.

Why would you pay any attention to baseball anyway if you can't appreciate this Tiger team?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:12 PM


First of four C-17s is on its way to replace Hercules (Steve Creedy, October 13, 2006, The Australian)

The first of Australia's new fleet of four C-17 Globemaster III's was rolled out of the hangar this week in California, ahead of its initial flight later this month.

In the slow-moving world of defence procurement, US aerospace giant Boeing is moving at lightning speed to deliver the big four-engine jet airlifter before the end of the year.

The aerospace giant this week confirmed that it remained on track to deliver the first plane by November 28, less than seven months after Australia signed a letter of agreement with the US Government.

"It's very exciting to see Australia's first C-17 become a reality so quickly," said Boeing C-17 program manager Dave Bowman.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:32 PM

STAY (via John Resnick & Brian Boys):

Well, he's already rocked the Casbah.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:18 PM


Univ. Michigan: Consumer Sentiment Climbs in October (Reuters, October 13, 2006)

U.S. consumer sentiment rose more than expected in October, a preliminary report showed on Friday, as consumers' view of both future and current conditions improved.

The University of Michigan's preliminary reading on consumer sentiment in October was 92.3, up from September's final reading of 85.4, said sources who saw the subscription-only report.

The median forecast of Wall Street economists polled by Reuters was for the index to read 86.5.

The survey's index of current conditions jumped to 106.1 on a preliminary basis in October from 96.6 in September, while consumer expectations climbed to 83.4 from 78.2.

Up 13, Dow Sets Another Record Close (Tim Paradis, 10/13/06, AP)
The Dow Jones industrial average inched to another record close Friday, marking the third straight week of triple-digit increases in the blue chip index.

The Dow spent much of a quiet session Friday in the red following a strong surge Thursday in which it broke through 11,900 for the first time to set closing and trading highs. Thursday's advance came amid optimism over the health of corporate earnings and Friday's gain put the Dow 12,000 benchmark within closer reach.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:12 PM


Feds investigate Kolbe's '96 camping trip with pages (Jennifer Talhelm and Lara Jakes Jordan, 10/13/06, Associated Press)

Federal prosecutors in Arizona have opened a preliminary investigation into a camping trip that an Arizona lawmaker took with two former pages and others in 1996, according to a law enforcement official.

Rep. Jim Kolbe, R-Ariz., took the former pages as well as staff members and National Park Service officials on a Fourth of July rafting trip in the Grand Canyon in 1996, his spokeswoman Korenna Cline said Friday.

Can people really only now be figuring out that the priest abuse scandal was about gay men, not about the Chuuch?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:34 PM


History and the Movie “300” (Victor Davis Hanson, 10/11/06, Private Papers: Adapted from the introduction to the forthcoming book trailer published by Black Horse Comics, Inc. to accompany Director Zack Snyder’s new film “300”)

Recently, a variety of Hollywood films — from Troy to Alexander the Great — has treated a variety of themes from classical Greek literature and theater. But 300 is unique, a sui generis in both spirit and methodology. The script is not an attempt in typical Hollywood fashion to recreate the past as a costume drama. Instead it is based on Frank Miller’s (of Sin City fame) comic book graphics and captions. Miller’s illustrated novelette of the battle adapts themes loosely from the well-known story of the Greek defense, but with deference made to the tastes of contemporary popular culture.

So the film is indeed inspired by the comic book; and in some sense its muscular warriors, virtual reality sets, and computer-generated landscapes recall the look and feel of Robert Rodriquez’s screen version of Sin City. Yet the collaboration of Director Zack Snyder and screenwriters Kurt Johnstad and Michael Gordon is much more of a hybrid, since the script, dialogue, cinematography, and acting all recall scenes of the battle right from Herodotus’s account.

300, of course, makes plenty of allowance for popular tastes, changing and expanding the story to meet the protocols of the comic book genre. The film was not shot on location outdoors, but in a studio using the so-called “digital backlot” technique of sometimes placing the actors against blue screens. The resulting realism is not that of the sun-soaked cliffs above the blue Aegean — Thermopylae remains spectacularly beautiful today — but of the eerie etchings of the comic book.

The Spartans fight bare-chested without armor, in the “heroic nude” manner that ancient Greek vase-painters portrayed Greek hoplites, their muscles bulging as if they were contemporary comic book action heroes. Again, following the Miller comic, artistic license is made with the original story — the traitor Ephialtes is as deformed in body as he is in character; King Xerxes is not bearded and perched on a distant throne, but bald, huge, perhaps sexually ambiguous, and often right on the battlefield. The Persians bring with them exotic beasts like a rhinoceros and elephant, and the leader of the Immortals fights Leonidas in a duel (which the Greeks knew as monomachia). Shields are metal rather than wood with bronze veneers, and swords sometimes look futuristic rather than ancient.

Again, purists must remember that 300 seeks to bring a comic book, not Herodotus, to the screen. Yet, despite the need to adhere to the conventions of Frank Miller’s graphics and plot — every bit as formalized as the protocols of classical Athenian drama or Japanese Kabuki theater — the main story from our ancient Greek historians is still there: Leonidas, against domestic opposition, insists on sending an immediate advance party northward on a suicide mission to rouse the Greeks and allow them time to unite a defense. Once at Thermopylae, he adopts the defenses to the narrow pass between high cliffs and the sea far below. The Greeks fight both en masse in the phalanx and at times range beyond as solo warriors. They are finally betrayed by Ephialtes, forcing Leonidas to dismiss his allies — and leaving his own 300 to the fate of dying under a sea of arrows.

But most importantly, 300 preserves the spirit of the Thermopylae story.

The stamp of approval doesn't get much more authoritative for rightwing whackos.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:26 PM


N. Korea Air Sample Has No Radioactivity (ROBERT BURNS, 10/13/06, The Associated Press)

Results from an initial air sampling after North Korea's announced nuclear test showed no evidence of radioactive particles that would be expected from a successful nuclear detonation, a U.S. government intelligence official said Friday.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:58 PM


A New Look at "Racial Hygiene": US Holocaust Museum Travels to Germany (Andrew Curry, 10/13/06, Der Spiegel)

Historians looking back on the period today see the German obsession with race and eugenics not as an invention of Hitler's but as an idea planted decades earlier. Promoted by respected scientists around the world, in Germany the credibility of racial hygiene or eugenics was used by the Nazis to justify first sterilization, then segregation, then murder and ultimately genocide. "The work of geneticists made the genocidal task of the regime easier," says Sheila Weiss, a history professor at Clarkson University in Potsdam, New York, and a fellow at the American Academy in Berlin. "If a whole generation of medical professionals had never been taught this was something science substantiated, the Final Solution would have been a lot harder."

The idea of race science or eugenics was no German invention. In 1883, British biologist Francis Galton was the first to apply the idea of heredity and breeding to humans. As people flocked to crowded cities, scientists looked for something to explain the rise of crime rates, mental illness and disease. "Unfit human traits such as feeblemindedness, epilepsy, criminality, insanity, alcoholism, pauperism and many others run in families and are inherited in exactly the same way as color in guinea pigs," an American educational chart explained in 1929.

Though German "race science" was at the forefront of the field, eugenics was popular in North America as well. America had forced sterilization laws on the books as early as 1907. By the late 1920s more than half of US states had compulsory sterilization laws. California was the nation's leader, sterilizing more people by 1933 than the rest of America combined. In a 1927 Supreme Court case, Oliver Wendell Holmes made a plain case for eugenics: "It is better for all the world, if ... society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind." Even into the Nazi era, German policies were admiringly cited by American lawmakers, many of whom saw immigrants as contaminating America's Anglo-Saxon strength. Germany's leading eugenics and heredity research center, Berlin's Kaiser Wilhelm Institute, received funding from the Rockefeller Foundation until 1935.

Yet the Nazi's rise to power in Germany was a radical turning point. Eugenicists became an integral, unquestioned part of the state, and their scientific authority lent important support to Nazi policies. Gypsies were an early focus of research, as scientists tried to develop a blood test to detect Gypsy heritage. And in the Rhine Valley, where soldiers from French colonies had been used to police the occupied territory, Doctor Eugen Fischer carried out studies of mixed race children in 1933 (the field was called "Bastardforschung" or "bastard research"). In 1937, thousands of children were forcibly sterilized.

The collaboration between the Nazis and scientists created dangerously fertile ground. In the first three years of the Third Reich, 200,000 people were forcibly sterilized -- 10 times as many operations as the US had performed in three decades. "German eugenicists and racial theorists played a role by producing knowledge that was used by Nazi policymakers to further their agenda," Weiss says. "They were valuable for the Nazi state as junior partners for this Faustian bargain."

At first, it was unclear who was manipulating whom. "It wasn't the Nazis using the doctors, but the doctors using the Nazis," German historian Ernst Klee once said.

to W. Graham
(Charles Darwin, July 3rd, 1881)
I could show fight on natural selection having done and doing more for the progress of civilization than you seem inclined to admit. Remember what risk the nations of Europe ran, not so many centuries ago of being overwhelmed by the Turks, and how ridiculous such an idea now is! The more civilised so-called Caucasian races have beaten the Turkish hollow in the struggle for existence. Looking to the world at no very distant date, what an endless number of the lower races will have been eliminated by the higher civilized races throughout the world.

That Fish You Caught Was in Pain: Research challenges the myth among anglers that fish can't feel pain from barbed hooks (Victoria Braithwaite, October 8, 2006, LA Times)
EVERY YEAR, sportsmen around the world drag millions of fish to shore on barbed hooks. It's something people have always done, and with little enough conscience. Fish are … well, fish. They're not dogs, who yelp when you accidentally step on their feet. Fish don't cry out or look sad or respond in a particularly recognizable way. So we feel free to treat them in a way that we would not treat mammals or even birds.

But is there really any biological justification for exempting fish from the standards nowadays accorded to so-called higher animals?

There is, of course, no biological justification for caring whether any so-called lower animal feels pain. And, were Darwinism right, there'd be ample biological justification for defending your selfish genome against contamination from "lower animals" and to exterminate rival species/races. Whatever else it may have been, the Holocaust was perfectly good science.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:04 AM


Air America Radio Files Chapter 11 (AP, 10/13/06)

Air America Radio, a liberal talk and news radio network, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, a network official told the AP.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:16 AM


Harper targets repeat offenders (TENILLE BONOGUORE AND GLORIA GALLOWAY, 10/13/06, Globe and Mail)

Prime Minister Stephen Harper took a page out of tough U.S. justice legislation yesterday by announcing that his government will introduce a three-strikes law to force repeat violent and sexual offenders to justify why they should not be locked away indefinitely.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:12 AM


GOP focuses on taxes again (Ralph Z. Hallow, 10/13/06, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

Republicans grinned from ear to ear last month when the ranking Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee, New York Rep. Charles B. Rangel, just about guaranteed tax increases if his party takes over the House after Nov. 7. Asked whether Democrats would consider raising taxes across the whole spectrum of income, Mr. Rangel said, "No question about it." [...]

Mr. Rangel's remarks, however, have helped focus attention on taxes -- long a signature issue for the Republican Party, but one that Republican pollsters say wasn't polling well until recently.

The comeback of the tax issue is timely for Republicans, who have found their advantage slipping on other key issues. Newsweek magazine reported earlier this month that for the first time since 2001 its poll "shows that more Americans trust the Democrats than the GOP on moral values and the war on terror."

In several competitive congressional races, Republican campaigns have shifted away from a strong emphasis on national security and have begun hammering Democrats as the party of higher taxes -- as Mr. Bush did this week in Georgia.

"Next month, our nation has to make a choice: Do we keep taxes low so you can keep our economy growing? Or do we let the Democrats in Washington raise taxes and hurt the growth of the economy?" the president said while campaigning for Mr. Collins.

"The decision you make in the voting booth will have a direct impact on your bottom line," Mr. Bush told Georgia Republicans.

Republicans say the threat of Democrats taking over Congress has helped boost the issue.

"The tax issue wasn't working for us before because the economy was good, Bush and the Republican Congress had already slashed taxes, and people were focused on other things," Mr. Keene said. "Now, with only weeks before the election, people are being told this election is not about putting money in their pockets through tax cuts but about Democrats taking money out of people's pockets by raising taxes if they get to run the show."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:35 AM


Exit of Warner Boosts Chances of Clinton in 2008: Democrats Search for a New Candidate To Play ‘Anti-Hillary' (JILL GARDINER, October 13, 2006, NY Sun)

Senator Clinton is one step closer to becoming the Democratic nominee for president now that Mark Warner, the former governor of Virginia, has dropped out of the race.

Mr. Warner's early departure from the 2008 Democratic primary, which he announced yesterday after months of traveling the country to test the political waters, eliminates a formidable threat to Mrs. Clinton.

"This is good news for Senator Clinton and it's good news for a less rambunctious Democratic primary in 2008," one Democratic political consultant, Hank Sheinkopf, said. "It means there is one less significant player in the field that could bring problems and that could then help the Republicans in the general election."

If he were significant he'd still be running. He was a figment of the media's imagination. It's conceivable that Ms Clinton could lose in Democratic primaries to someone on her Left, not her Right.

N.H. poll: McCain, Clinton most popular (AP, October 13, 2006)

McCain drew the most support among state Republicans, with 32 percent backing him. He was followed by former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, with 19 percent; Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, with 15 percent; and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, with 10 percent. Two percent favor some other candidate, and 14 percent are undecided.

Clinton was the favorite among Democrats polled, with 30 percent supporting her. John Edwards drew 16 percent, Al Gore drew 10 percent and Sen. John Kerry had the support of 9 percent of Democrats. Four percent prefer some other candidate and 17 percent are undecided.

Mea culpa, the Post actually gets it right, Democrats Work to Fill Ideological, Electoral Void (Chris Cillizza, 10/13/06, The Washington Post)

Warner's anticipated campaign was to be built around the notion that in an age of polarized politics, many voters are eager for a leader focused on reaching across partisan barriers for solutions to big problems. The former technology executive talked often about his experience in Virginia; he had won a state where Republicans had easily won the governorship in the previous two elections and went on to persuade the GOP-controlled legislature to pass a tax increase he called necessary to the financial solvency of the commonwealth.

That résumé -- coupled with his personal wealth -- had elevated him as a preferred choice among many Democrats who believe that Clinton (N.Y.) will not be electable in 2008.

"This is disheartening information to Hillary-alternative Democrats," said Thomas F. Schaller, a professor of political science at the University of Maryland at Baltimore County.

Some party strategists suggested that the greatest opportunity for a Democrat seeking to be the anti-Clinton alternative will -- unlike Warner's canceled candidacy -- emerge on the ideological left.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:27 AM


New TV shows getting praise, but not viewers (Suzanne C. Ryan, October 12, 2006, Boston Globe)

Observers have plenty of theories on what's hampering the latest crop of programs, which critics have praised for their intricate plots, strong casts, and movie-worthy production values.

``When it comes to television, viewers are looking for characters they want to be with," argues Tim Brooks, co author of ``The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows, 1946-Present." `` You are inviting people into your home and you want to like them . . . You look at `Smith' and say, `I don't want to be with him.' `Studio 60' is on another planet. It's too slick, too us vs. you."

Lawrence Lichty, a professor of radio/television/film at Northwestern University, maintains that traditional medical shows and police procedurals with strong characters and sexy storylines have always topped the competition.

``It used to be `ER,' `St. Elsewhere,' and `Dragnet,'" he said. ``Those are proven formulas. `Ugly Betty?' Maybe I'm too old. It strikes me as an ABC after-school movie plot."

Janet Hull, a homemaker in Hanover, tried to sample some of the new shows but she couldn't keep up with the schedule. ``I missed the premiere of [CBS's nuclear attack survival story] `Jericho.' I missed the premiere of `Ugly Betty.' This season, it's almost overwhelming. There's an awful lot on. I may have to just wait for the reruns."

There's no question that new series traditionally take time to find an audience. But in an era when broadcast television faces relentless competition from cable and the Internet, not every program will be given that time.

NBC pushed its Wednesday night thriller ``Kidnapped" to Saturday night -- a TV dead zone -- after three episodes. Fox moved Monday night's ``Vanished" to Friday . ABC is pushing back the start of the comedy ``The Knights of Prosperity," possibly until January, a less competitive launch period.

One of the effects of DVDs is that we viewers don't have to be suckers and watch the first few episodes of a soon to be cancelled series. If they make it through a season we can watch the whole thing on DVD at our leisure.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:15 AM


Mets get blank look (MIKE FITZPATRICK, 10/13/06, The Associated Press)

Sharp and deceptive as ever, Tom Glavine took charge again, putting the pitching-depleted Mets on his 40-year-old back and giving New York the lead in the National League Championship Series.

Carlos Beltran rocked Shea Stadium with a homer that crashed off the scoreboard to back another gem by Glavine, and the Mets beat the St. Louis Cardinals 2-0 in Game 1 on Thursday night.

"Tommy was the key," New York manager Willie Randolph said. "He's quiet, goes about his business and is one of the leaders on our staff."

Making his 34th postseason start, Glavine shut down Albert Pujols and extended his scoreless streak to 13 innings in this postseason.

Did that growth on Jeff Weaver's face make anyone else regret the advent of HD-TV and 50" screens? He looked like he should have been pitching for Molokai.

Dumb Luck, Bad Decisions Have Backed A's Into Corner (CHRISTINA KAHRL, October 13, 2006, NY Sun)

The Quick Hook? When a starter doesn't have it early on in a postseason start, a manager doesn't have the same freedom to wait and see if he'll get himself ironed out. At this time of year, there are few tomorrows, and nobody gets a trophy for saving for tomorrow something that you really need today. Could Macha have helped himself by getting his starting pitchers out of the game earlier than he did? [...]

After watching Loaiza surrender his five runs in the first four innings, could Ken Macha have spared himself Loaiza's last, subsequently crucial pair of runs allowed in the sixth? Perhaps, but Loaiza only needed seven pitches to get through the fifth, and he'd thrown only 68 total pitches through five. Complicating matters was the A's having to use four relievers to finish up their Game 1 loss, including key setup men Kiko Calero and lefty Joe Kennedy. Combined, you can understand the reasoning to leave Loaiza out there, and after getting the first two batters in the sixth — including the Tigers' best, shortstop Carlos Guillen — it looked like Macha would get to the seventh with only those five runs allowed.

That brings us to one of the other things that have helped put the A's down 2–0, which is plain old Dumb Luck. Generally speaking, teams like to carry a second lefthander in the bullpen to give the manager the freedom of action to use his second-best southpaw when his team is trailing. Pulling Loaiza with the now-immortal Alexis Gomez due up in the sixth might have made sense on a tactical level — Gomez bats lefty, while Loaiza had been smacked around by left-handers (.319 AVG/.369 OPS/.522 SLG). Unfortunately, a second lefty wasn't in the A's bullpen. Part of that was a tactical decision made because the Tigers carry a lineup heavy in right-handed hitters, and part of that was the recognition that of their three bats from the left side of the plate, only rookie center fielder Curtis Granderson has an exploitable platoon split. So Macha decided to forego carrying a second lefty, and he'd already used Kennedy in Game 1. Using him again to come in to face Gomez in the sixth down 5–3 would have meant Kennedy wouldn't have been available later in the game. Subsequently, he ended up using Kennedy any way, but by then, it was too late to get back the two runs scored on Gomez's homer. The right bullet wasn't used at the right time, and the A's were down four runs instead of two.

Happy circumstance rewarded Jim Leyland's willingness to take a risk with Gomez, but the reason why it paid off was his willingness to take his cue from Casey Stengel, and look something up.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Desperately Seeking Susan: When did Susan B. Anthony, the great suffragette, cast her anti-abortion vote? (STACY SCHIFF, 10/13/06, NY Times)

[W]hen exactly did Susan B. Anthony — who fought more tenaciously for women’s rights than anyone else in our history — cast her anti-abortion vote?

There is no question that she deplored the practice of abortion, as did every one of her colleagues in the suffrage movement. [...]

The bottom line is that we cannot possibly know what Anthony would make of today’s debate.

The poor woman's dead, can't we give her the benefit of the doubt and assume that she wouldn't have embraced what she knew to be deplorable just because it's become fashionable?

October 12, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:59 PM


Turkey's Orhan Pamuk wins Nobel literature prize (AP, 10/12/06)

Pamuk has long been considered a contender for the Nobel prize and he figured high among pundits and bookmakers.

In its citation, the academy said that "Pamuk has said that growing up, he experienced a shift from a traditional Ottoman family environment to a more Western-oriented lifestyle. He wrote about this in his first published novel, a family chronicle ... which in the spirit of Thomas Mann follows the development of a family over three generations."

"Pamuk's international breakthrough came with his third novel, The White Castle. It is structured as an historical novel set in 17th-century Istanbul, but its content is primarily a story about how our ego builds on stories and fictions of different sorts. Personality is shown to be a variable construction," the academy said.

Engdahl said the The Black Book, was his personal favorite among Pamuk's works.

"He has a flowing imagination and impressive ingenuity," Engdahl told Swedish radio.

In winning the prize, Pamuk's already solid reputation will be boosted onto a global stage. He will also see out-of-print works returned into circulation and a sales boost. He will also receive a 10 million kronor (euro1.1 million; US$1.4 million) check, a gold medal and diploma, and an invitation to a lavish banquet in Stockholm on Dec. 10, the anniversary of the death of prize founder Alfred Nobel.

So they gave one to V.S. Naipaul, who opposes Islamicism; then one to Harold Pinter who opposes the Reformation; now one to another opponent of Islamicism; smart money is on Gore Vidal next year.

-ESSAY: ON TRIAL (Orhan Pamuk, 2005-12-19, The New Yorker)
-ESSAY: THE PAMUK APARTMENTS: Growing up among the ruins of the Ottoman Empire. (ORHAN PAMUK, 2005-03-07, The New Yorker)
REVIEW: of 'My Name Is Red' by Orhan Pamuk (RICHARD EDER, NY Times)

Time's deletions, like a computer's, are not really deleted. A technician can restore what the keyboard has made to vanish, and the past is never quite gone. Historical change deteriorates and slides back; defeat hangs around, sometimes for centuries, awaiting the chance to become victory. Not only did the South rise again; it went Republican.

Proust was literature's foremost artificer at undeleting an individual's memory. The Turkish novelist Orhan Pamuk, whose intricate intrusions of past into present have been compared to Proust's, works on the memory of a nation and a civilization.

Kemal Ataturk obliterated every vestige of the once-powerful, long-tottering 600-year Ottoman Empire. He decreed Westernization: Islam was restricted, fezzes and veils were out, the grand accretions of Persian and Arabic in the Turkish language were annulled to the point where Turks today can find it hard to read poems only a century old.

Pamuk himself, now in his 40's, began as a literary Westernizer, though set against the oppressiveness and corruption of Ataturk's heirs. He gorged on European and American literature, studied at the Iowa Writers' Workshop and adopted a contemporary blend of modernist and postmodernist techniques. He wrote of the stagnation and backwardness that 80 years of modernization had not only failed to eradicate but, across broad expanses of Turkish geography and society, had barely touched.

He is not an ideologue or a politician or a journalist. He is a novelist and a great one (nobody -- other than a small committee of Swedes -- could rule out a Nobel). His job is not to denounce reality but to be haunted by it, as a medium is haunted.

The reality that possesses him is that Turkey's attempt to obliterate the Ottoman heritage in Turkey hacked away roots. It aimed not just at what was retrograde but at what was still stubbornly alive and perhaps precious. (It may have been futile, in any case, as the resurgence of Islamic fundamentalism could suggest.)

Not to denounce the reality that haunts you does not mean to praise it. It is more a matter of speaking in a medium's divided voices -- a painful division and, in the case of Pamuk, both confusing and exhilarating. Three of his earlier dissonant-voiced novels have been published and critically praised here, but not widely read.

The new one, ''My Name Is Red,'' is by far the grandest and most astonishing contest in Pamuk's internal East-West war.

Turkish writer wins Nobel Prize in literature
(Associated Press, 10/12/06)
Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk won the Nobel Prize in literature on Thursday for his multitude of works that deal with the symbols of clashing cultures.

In its citation, the Swedish Academy said that the 54-year-old Istanbul-born Pamuk "in the quest for the melancholic soul of his native city, has discovered new symbols for the clash and interlacing of cultures."

"Pamuk has said that growing up, he experienced a shift from a traditional Ottoman family environment to a more western-oriented lifestyle," the academy said.

"He wrote about this in his first published novel, a family chronicle...which, in the spirit of Thomas Mann, follows the development of a family over three generations."

-Turkish Writer Wins Nobel Prize in Literature (SARAH LYALL, 10/13/06, NY Times)
“You’re beginning to notice a certain sensitivity to trends — they are giving the prize as a symbolic statement for one thing or another,” Arne Ruth, former editor in chief of the Swedish daily newspaper Dagens Nyheter, said in an interview. He said Mr. Pamuk “is a symbol of the relationship between Europe and Turkey, and they couldn’t have overlooked this when they made their choice.”

In an interview in New York, where he is spending a semester teaching at Columbia University, Mr. Pamuk said he saw the prize as a recognition of his work rather than a statement about his beliefs. “I think less than people think I do about politics,” he said. “I care about writing. I am essentially a literary man who has fallen into a political situation.”

Nationalist Turks have not forgiven Mr. Pamuk for an interview with a Swiss magazine in 2005 in which he denounced the mass killings of Armenians by the Ottoman Empire in World War I and the killing of Kurds by Turkey in the 1980’s. The remarks were deemed anti-Turkish, and a group of nationalists initiated a criminal case against him. The charges were dropped on a technicality in January. Accepting a literary award in Germany in 2005, Mr. Pamuk said: “The fueling of anti-Turkish sentiment in Europe is resulting in an anti-European, indiscriminate nationalism in Turkey.”

Mr. Pamuk’s work speaks to Europe’s growing skittishness about its Muslim population and to the preoccupation with the question of whether Islam is by nature compatible with secular European values on issues like criminal justice and women’s rights. Turkey is edging closer to becoming part of the European Union. On Thursday, though, the lower house of French Parliament passed a bill that would make it a crime to deny that the Turkish killing of Armenians from 1915 to 1917 constituted genocide — a law that contradicts Turkey’s view.

In remarks sure to further annoy Turkey, the Armenian foreign minister, Vartan Oskanian, weighed in with a message of congratulations for Mr. Pamuk. “We welcome this decision and only wish that this kind of intellectual sincerity and candor will lead the way to acknowledging and transcending this painful, difficult period of our peoples’ and our countries’ history,” Mr. Oskanian said in an e-mail message to The New York Times.

Because of the mixed feelings Mr. Pamuk inspires at home — pride in his international prominence, irritation at his political profile and provocative views — some prominent Turks trod gingerly in reacting to the news of his prize.

“I want to believe that the Nobel Prize was given to him purely on his literary talents, but not political declarations,” said Egemen Bagis, a member of Parliament from the ruling Justice and Development Party. At the same time, he said the prize “shows how far Turkey has come in its contribution to the world’s arts and literature.”

-INTERVIEW: Orhan Pamuk: 'I Was Not A Political Person' (ALEXANDER STAR, August 15, 2004, NY Times)
-INTERVIEW: Orhan Pamuk and the Turkish Paradox: Orhan Pamuk, 53, Turkish author and this year's winner of the German Book Trade Peace Prize, discusses his life in Istanbul, threats to his personal safety, the urge to take a political stand, Turkey's identity in Europe and his latest novel (Der Spiegel, 10/21/05)
-Nobel Prize for Turkish Author Pamuk: Loved abroad and controversial at home, Turkish author Orhan Pamuk was awarded the Nobel literature prize on Thursday. The Swedish Academy cited his work on the clash of cultures. (der Spiegel, 10/12/06)
-A Nobel for a Novelist of Melancholy (ADAM KIRSCH, October 13, 2006, NY Sun)
The Nobel Prize for Literature was awarded yesterday to Orhan Pamuk, a 54-year-old Turkish writer, whose ingeniously constructed novels explore the ambivalent relationship between Turkey and the West. Mr. Pamuk, one of Turkey's best-selling writers and the only one whose work is regularly published in America, has long been considered a favorite to win the prize. But the Swedish Academy's decision to honor Mr. Pamuk this year, in the wake of the novelist's prosecution by the Turkish government for the crime of defaming his country, is also an unmistakable gesture of support for freedom of expression.

A Nobel winner for our times (Margaret Atwood, October 13, 2006, The Guardian)
Orhan Pamuk, the celebrated Turkish novelist, has won the Nobel prize for iterature. It would be difficult to conceive of a more perfect winner for our catastrophic times. Just as Turkey stands at the crossroads of the Muslim East/Middle East and the European and North American west, so Pamuk's work inhabits the shifting ground of an increasingly dangerous cultural and religious overlap, where ideologies as well as personalities collide.

It's no exaggeration to say that you have to read Pamuk if you want to begin to understand what's going on in people's hearts, minds and souls, not only in Turkey, but also in Britain, where the current Jack Straw headscarf controversy eerily mirrors the subject matter of Pamuk's recently-translated 1996 novel, Snow (in which we are reminded that Ataturk's ruthless modernisation campaign included a much-disputed banning of headscarves.)

-ESSAY: THE EXPERIMENT: Will Turkey be the model for Islamic democracy? (DAVID REMNICK, 2002-11-18, The New Yorker)
-ESSAY: ANATOLIAN ARABESQUES: A modernist novel of contemporary Turkey. (JOHN UPDIKE, 2004-08-30, The New Yorker)
The Lost Son: Nobel Prize Winner Pamuk Divides Turkey (Dilek Zaptcioglu, 10/13/06, Der Spiegel)
In his native Turkey, many see Orhan Pamuk, the 2006 winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, as a moderately talented writer and an opportunist who, with his comments on Turkey's conflict with Armenia, has made a name for himself at the expense of his own people. This explains the mixed reactions in Turkey to Pamuk winning the Nobel Prize.

-ARTICLE: Turkish Laureate Criticizes French Legislation (SEBNEM ARSU, 10/14/06, NY Times)
-ESSAY: This noble winner should get the Peace Prize, too (Robert McCrum, October 15, 2006, The Observer)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:54 PM

Well, then, eliminate the people, curtail them, force them to be silent. Because the European Enlightenment is more important than people.
-Fyodor Dostoevsky, Notebooks for Brothers Karamazov (Quoted from Snow by Orhan Pamuk)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:07 PM


UK minister urged Aljazeera bombing (Aljazeera, 12 October 2006)

David Blunkett, the UK's former home secretary, has said that during the 2003 invasion of Iraq he suggested to Tony Blair that Britain's military should bomb Aljazeera's television transmitter in Baghdad.

Aljazeera television said on Thursday that Blunkett's claims - made in an interview with Britain's Channel 4 television to be aired on Monday - support its belief that the US and Britain deliberately bombed its Baghdad offices during the war.

Ahmed Al-Sheikh, editor-in-chief of Aljazeera's Arabic channel, said; "This adds to the growing number of evidences that will one day prove that the attack on Aljazeera was premeditated ... at the highest levels."

If they weren't targeted someone wasn't doing their job.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:51 PM


North Korean collapse a nightmare scenario for China: analysts (Peter Harmsen,Oct 12, 2006, AFP)

A collapsing North Korea is a nightmare China hopes will never come true, as it could lead to military and political chaos on its doorstep, according to analysts.

North Korea's declared nuclear test this week has highlighted an entire range of violent scenarios, one scarier than the other, and all with direct implications for China's national security, they said.

"China is opposed to any military action against North Korea," said Cui Zhiying, director of the Center for Asia-Pacific Studies at Shanghai's Tongji University. "Peace and stability is our prime concern."

Any abrupt, large-scale change on the Korean peninsula would go against China's overall strategy, which targets the stability required for a rapidly growing economy.

Fortunately, we have no interest in a stable Communist China.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:09 PM


Sharpton, Lieberman Exchange Barbs (Jennifer Siegel, Oct 13, 2006, The Forward)

“You never once attacked or questioned my commitment to Israel or any racial group in private or public” during the 2004 presidential primary campaign, Sharpton wrote in the 800-plus-word missive. “For you to now totally flip the script to hopefully incite some race based hysteria in a desperate attempt to save your political career is beneath the dignity of the man I thought I got to know.”

Sharpton was responding to comments made by Lieberman at a private fund-raiser in New York on October 4, during which the senator reportedly said that “to some extent you’ve got to judge people by their friends,” and characterized Sharpton’s appearance at Lamont’s side on primary night as “a remarkable moment.”

For months, Lieberman’s camp has questioned Lamont’s commitment to Israel based on his decision to campaign with Democratic congresswomen Maxine Waters and Marcy Kaptur, who both have a history of votes that upset some pro-Israel activists.

Sharpton himself often has been accused of race baiting by some in the Jewish community. In particular, he raised Jewish hackles for leading marches during the Crown Heights riots of 1991 and for referring to the neighborhood’s Jewish residents as “diamond merchants” at the funeral of the Guyanese boy accidentally killed by a Hasidic motorcade. In 1995, he was captured on videotape referring to the Jewish owner of Freddy’s Fashion Mart in Harlem as “a white interloper.” The store was subsequently torched.

It's hardly a coincidence that Mr. Lamont is the kept man of the MoveOn Left against Joe Lieberman.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:57 PM


Foley says White House snubbed him (Reuters, 10/12/06)

Disgraced former U.S. Rep. Mark Foley complained to Florida Gov. Jeb Bush two years ago that the White House snubbed him during presidential visits to the state, according to e-mails obtained by the Palm Beach Post.

In e-mails the newspaper excerpted on its Web site on Thursday, Foley asked the governor to intervene on his behalf with his brother, President George W. Bush.

"Have I done something to offend the White House? ... I am always getting the shaft," Foley wrote to Gov. Bush on September 29, 2004.

He wishes.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:44 PM


Jupiter's smaller spot getting redder (AP, 10/11/06)

The little brother to the Great Red Spot on Jupiter is getting redder and stronger.

Both spots are actually fierce storms in Jupiter's atmosphere. While the Great Red Spot -- at three times the size of Earth -- is much more noticeable, strange things are happening to the smaller spot.

Just a little more than a year ago, the Earth-sized spot was a pale white. Now it matches the reddish hue of its bigger sibling and boasts 400 mile per hour winds, according to new data from the Hubble Space Telescope.

If Al Gore were president those spots would have cleared up by now.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:35 PM


THE SHARPENED QUILL: Was Thomas Paine too much of a freethinker for the country he helped free? (JILL LEPORE, 2006-10-16, The New Yorker)

Thomas Paine is, at best, a lesser Founder. In the comic-book version of history that serves as our national heritage, where the Founding Fathers are like the Hanna-Barbera Super Friends, Paine is Aquaman to Washington’s Superman and Jefferson’s Batman; we never find out how he got his superpowers, and he only shows up when they need someone who can swim. For all that, Paine’s contributions to the nation’s founding would be hard to overstate. “Common Sense” made it possible to declare independence. “Without the pen of the author of ‘Common Sense,’ the sword of Washington would have been raised in vain,” Adams himself wrote. But Paine lifted his sword, too, and emptied his purse. Despite his poverty—he was by far the poorest of the Founders—he donated his share of the profits from “Common Sense” to buy supplies for the Continental Army, in which he also served. His chief contribution to the war was a series of dispatches known as “The American Crisis,” and printed in newspapers throughout the states. He wrote the first of them by the light of a campfire during Washington’s desperate retreat across New Jersey, in December, 1776. Getting ready to cross the frozen Delaware River—at night, in a blizzard—to launch a surprise attack on Trenton, Washington ordered Paine’s words read to his exhausted, frostbitten troops: “These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.” The next morning, the Continentals fought to a stunning, pivotal victory. [...]

[“T]he Age of Reason” cost Paine dearly. He lost, among other things, the friendship of Samuel Adams, who seethed, “Do you think that your pen, or the pen of any other man, can unchristianize the mass of our citizens?” Even before Paine returned to the United States, in 1802, Federalists used him as a weapon against Jefferson, damning the “two Toms” as infidels while calling Paine a “loathsome reptile.” Ministers and their congregants, caught up in the early stages of a religious revival now known as the Second Great Awakening, gloried in news of Paine’s physical and mental decline, conjuring up a drunk, unshaven, and decrepit Paine, writhing in agony, begging, “Oh, Lord, help me! Oh, Christ, help me!”

Some of that fantasy was founded in fact. Even at his best, Paine was rough and unpolished—and a mean drunk. In his tortured final years, living in New Rochelle and New York City, he displayed signs of dementia. (Scurrilous rumors about cats aside, Paine’s behavior throughout his life appears erratic enough that Eric Foner wondered if he suffered from crippling bouts of depression; Nelson offers a tentative diagnosis of bipolar disorder.) At home, he was besieged by visitors who came either to save his soul or to damn it. He told all of them to go to hell. When an old woman announced, “I come from Almighty God to tell you that if you do not repent of your sins and believe in our blessed Savior Jesus Christ, you will be damned,” Paine replied, “Pshaw. God would not send such a foolish ugly old woman as you.”

Admirers of Paine’s political pamphlets have tried to ignore his religious convictions. In 1800, a New York Republican Society resolved, “May his Rights of Man be handed down to our latest posterity, but may his Age of Reason never live to see the rising generation.” That’s more or less how things have turned out. So wholly has “The Age of Reason” been forgotten that Paine’s mantle has been claimed not only by Ronald Reagan but also by the Christian Coalition’s Ralph Reed, who has invoked him, and the North Carolina senator Jesse Helms, who in 1992 supported a proposal to erect a Paine monument in Washington, D.C. Nor have liberals who embrace Paine, including the editors of TomPaine.com, had much interest in the latter years of his career. Maybe that’s what it means to be a lesser Super Friend: No one cares about your secret identity. They just like your costume.

Historians, too, have tried to dismiss “The Age of Reason,” writing it off as simplistic and suggesting either that Paine wrote it to please his French jailers or that, in prison, he went mad. This interpretation began with Mercy Otis Warren, who called “The Age of Reason” “jejune,” and concluded that, in prison, Paine had “endeavoured to ingratiate himself.” Nelson, too, makes much of “the Terror’s devastation of Paine’s psyche.” (Only a miraculous if temporary recovery or the mania following depression, Nelson suggests, made it possible for Paine to write his last great work, “Agrarian Justice,” the very next year.)

But Paine considered his lifelong views on religion inseparable from his thoughts on government: “It has been the scheme of the Christian Church, and of all the other invented systems of religion, to hold man in ignorance of the Creator, as it is of Governments to hold man in ignorance of his rights.” Writing about kings and subjects in “Common Sense,” he wondered “how a race of men came into the world so exalted above the rest, and distinguished like some new species.” In “The Age of Reason,” he used much the same language to write about priests and prophets: “The Jews have their Moses; the Christians their Jesus Christ, their apostles and saints; and the Turks their Mahomet, as if the way to God was not open to every man alike.” He wrote “Common Sense,” “Rights of Man,” and “The Age of Reason” as a trilogy. “Soon after I had published the pamphlet ‘Common Sense,’ in America,” he explained, “I saw the exceeding probability that a revolution in the system of government would be followed by a revolution in the system of religion.”

Just because Paine was wrong about the coming of that revolution doesn’t mean we ought to forget that he yearned for it. In 1805, John Adams railed that the latter part of the eighteenth century had come to be called “the Age of Reason”: “I am willing you should call this the Age of Frivolity . . . and would not object if you had named it the Age of Folly, Vice, Frenzy, Brutality, Daemons, Buonaparte, Tom Paine, or the Age of the Burning Brand from the Bottomless Pit, or anything but the Age of Reason.”

It is precisely because Reason failed so spectacularly when it was tried on the Continent and that he so devoutly wished the Anglosphere to embrace it too that Paine is ultimately a third-rate Founder.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:14 PM


PM: Liberal leadership hopefuls 'anti-Israeli' (CTV.ca News, 10/12/06)

Prime Minister Stephen Harper waded further Thursday into the incendiary debate over Liberal leadership front-runner Michael Ignatieff's charge that Israel has committed a "war crime" in Lebanon, blasting the entire Grit hopeful lineup for what he called their "anti-Israeli position."

When asked about the term "war crime" to describe Israel's action against Hezbollah in Lebanon, Harper told reporters at a press conference on Thursday that he found the usage inappropriate, saying "I don't support that view."

But the prime minister went one step further, taking a jab not only at Ignatieff, but the entire lineup of Liberal leadership hopefuls.

"This is consistent with the anti-Israeli position that has been taken with virtually all of the candidates of the Liberal leadership, and I don't think it's helpful or useful."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:10 PM


Dow Rises to Record High (Tim Paradis, 10/12/06, AP)

The Dow Jones industrial average broke through 11,900 to close at a record high Thursday, boosted by optimism over the health of corporate earnings.

The index's gain marked its fifth record close in two weeks; the Dow also set a record intraday high.

The markets were upbeat Thursday, with investors focusing on positive news from well-known consumer brands such as McDonald's Corp. and on economic data that indicated the economy was holding up even as it slowed. Oil prices, which remain near lows for the year, also boosted the mood on Wall Street.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:48 PM

October 15th is the last day that Rightroots can raise money for the candidates it's supporting this cycle.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:36 PM


Out of their misery (David Warren, 10/12/06, Ottawa Citizen)

When a madman, holding hostages, says his gun is loaded -- it is time for the police to shoot him. No need to establish whether he’s telling the truth. (Or, whatever the equivalent in international relations.)

In our analogy the madman is North Korea.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:32 PM


Word of the Day (Dictionary.com, October 12, 2006)

concinnity \kuhn-SIN-uh-tee\, noun:

1. Internal harmony or fitness in the adaptation of parts to a whole or to each other. [...]

Concinnity comes from Latin concinnitas, "elegance; harmony of style," from concinnus, "well put together; pleasing, on account of harmony and proportion."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:48 PM


The Right Man (Peter Beinart, 10.12.06, New Republic)

[B]ush is not merely conservative; he is more conservative than Ronald Reagan, the man whose ideological legacy he has supposedly betrayed.

Start with economic policy, the greatest source of right-wing discontent. To listen to Bush's critics, you would think that discretionary, nonsecurity-related spending has exploded on his watch. But it hasn't. As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has shown, when you take account of inflation and population growth, it grew a mere 2 percent between 2001 and 2006. And, as a percentage of GDP, it actually fell. What has exploded--rising 32 percent after inflation and population growth--is spending on defense, homeland security, and international affairs. And the people most responsible for those increases are conservatives themselves, who demanded an expansive war on terrorism.

To be sure, the cost of entitlements like Medicare and Social Security has also grown. And Bush has expanded Medicare by adding a prescription-drug benefit. But, even here, right-wingers don't give Bush his due. After all, one reason the program costs so much is that Bush insisted on delivering it through private companies, which can't deliver the benefits as cheaply, in order to partially privatize Medicare--long a conservative goal. And Bush gets little credit for his campaign to partially privatize Social Security, perhaps the most serious assault on the American welfare state ever.

Compare all this with Reagan. For starters, domestic, nondefense discretionary spending was higher, on average, under the Gipper. Reagan made no effort to privatize Social Security, even though its 1983 fiscal crisis offered him a golden opportunity. Instead, he raised the retirement age and raised taxes. In fact, while Bush followed his initial 2001 tax cut with three more, Reagan followed his large 1981 cut with tax hikes in 1982, 1983, and 1984. Today, conservatives remember Reagan as an anti-government crusader. But, at the time, many called him a coward. "Conservatives owned the executive branch for eight years," wrote David Frum in 1994. "And yet, every time they reached to undo the work of Franklin Roosevelt, Lyndon Johnson, and Richard Nixon--the work they had damned for nearly half a century--they felt the public's wary eyes upon them. They didn't dare."

On social issues, the story is similar. In Conservatives Betrayed, Viguerie slams Bush for nominating "the unqualified, near-unknown Harriet Miers for the Supreme Court." But Bush relented and has now appointed two Supreme Court justices whom the Christian right adores. By contrast, Reagan stuck by his 1981 nomination of Sandra Day O'Connor even after Jerry Falwell said that every good Christian should oppose her. Viguerie himself attacked Reagan for siding "with the liberal establishment," and his fears proved well-founded. Not only did O'Connor support abortion rights, but Reagan's third Supreme Court appointee, Anthony Kennedy, also voted to uphold Roe v. Wade.

In his entire time in office, Reagan never took a highly unpopular position on a high-profile issue to satisfy his Christian base, something Bush has done on embryonic stem-cell research. But, rather than showing Bush gratitude, conservative activists keep finding new reasons to kvetch. The latest is immigration, where Bush has been widely scorned for supposedly backing amnesty for illegal immigrants. Where on earth could he have gotten that idea? From Reagan, of course, who, in 1986, signed a bill granting amnesty to illegal immigrants who had lived in the United States continuously since 1982.

Then there is foreign policy, where some conservatives have decided that the Iraq war violates their creed. But it wasn't always that way. As National Review's Romesh Ponnuru noted in June 2003, when Bush launched the Iraq war "almost everyone who considers himself a conservative did support it." In fact, Bush's foreign policy has proved more faithful to conservative principles than did Reagan's. When terrorists killed 3,000 Americans on September 11, Bush responded by invading two countries. When terrorists killed 241 American servicemen in Lebanon in October 1983, by contrast, Reagan promptly cut and ran. (The month before, when the Soviets shot down a South Korean airliner, killing 269 civilians, Reagan responded just as weakly: He did nothing.) And what about evil regimes? Bush shuns them. Reagan, by contrast, sold arms for hostages with Iran. And he placed so much faith in Mikhail Gorbachev that prominent conservative intellectuals called him a dupe. "Reagan," declared Will, "has accelerated the moral disarmament of the West by elevating wishful thinking to the status of political philosophy."

All of which raises a basic question. If conservatives were so angry with Reagan at the time, why do they worship him now? It's simple: Because his policies seemed to work.

Which is why these same rightwingers will be trying to get W carved on Mt. Rushmore twenty years from now. If the Right understood what was going on around it conservatism wouldn't be the Stupid Party. Heck, most of these guys haven't even figured out yet that Bill Clinton was more conservative than Reagan or Ike.

Take This Job (The Editors, 10.12.06, New Republic)

Keeping labor organizers at bay used to be a bloody business. In May 1937, when United Auto Workers leader Walter Reuther tried to unionize a Ford plant in Dearborn, Michigan, he was confronted by Henry Ford's hired goons. In the mêlée that ensued, the legendary labor organizer was slammed to the ground, kicked in the head, and tossed down multiple flights of stairs.

Today's business executives don't hire goons--and, thanks to George W. Bush, they don't need to.

Federal Deficit Now Lowest in 4 Years (DEB RIECHMANN, 10/12/06, The Associated Press)
The administration credits its tax cuts for the improving economy, contending they helped the nation withstand the 2001 recession, the terrorist attacks and corporate accounting scandals. The deficit narrowed sharply because revenues climbed by 11.8 percent, outpacing a 7.4 percent increase in spending.

Administration officials said the actual 2006 deficit is down to 1.9 percent of the gross domestic product. They said that is below the 40-year average deficit of about 2.3 percent of the GDP, which measures the value of all U.S. goods and services. This continues a positive trend that comes despite soaring war costs and $50 billion in emergency spending for hurricane relief, they said.

A word of caution, the far Right warns that 40-year average isn't sustainable.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:32 PM


SPIEGEL Interview with Aga Khan: Karim Aga Khan IV, descendant of the prophet Muhammad and spiritual leader of 20 million Ismaili Muslims, discusses the foundations of his faith, the controversy over the pope's recent statements about Islam and ways of preventing a global clash between religions. (der Spiegel, 10/12/06)

SPIEGEL: Does Islam have a problem with reason?

Aga Khan: Not at all. Indeed, I would say the contrary. Of the Abrahamic faiths, Islam is probably the one that places the greatest emphasis on knowledge. The purpose is to understand God's creation, and therefore it is a faith which is eminently logical. Islam is a faith of reason.

SPIEGEL: So, what are the root causes of terrorism?

Aga Khan: Unsolved political conflicts, frustration and, above all, ignorance. Nothing that was born out of a theological conflict.

SPIEGEL: Which political conflicts do you mean?

Aga Khan: The ones in the Middle East and in Kashmir, for example. These conflicts have remained unresolved for decades. There is a lack of urgency in understanding that the situation there deteriorates, it's like a cancer. If you are not going to act on a cancer early enough, ultimately it's going to create terrible damage. It can become a breeding ground for terrorism.

Now to the issue of spreading faith by the sword: All faiths at some time in their history have used war to protect themselves or expand their influence, and there were situations when faiths have been used as justifications for military actions. But Islam does not call for that, it is a faith of peace.

SPIEGEL: It's true that horrible crimes were committed in the name of Christianity, for example by the crusaders. That was long ago, that's the past. But jihadists commit their crimes now, in our times.

Aga Khan: It is not so far in the past that we have seen bloody fights in the Christian world. Look at Northern Ireland. If we Muslims interpreted what happened there as a correct expression of Protestantism and Catholicism or even as the essence of the Christian faith you would simply say we don't know what we are talking about.

SPIEGEL: "The West (will stand) against the Rest" wrote Professor Samuel Huntington in his famous book "Clash of Civilizations." Is such a conflict, such a clash inevitable?

Aga Khan: I prefer to talk about a clash of ignorance. There is so much horrible, damaging, dangerous ignorance.

SPIEGEL: Which side is responsible?

Aga Khan: Both. But essentially the Western world. You would think that an educated person in the 21st century should know something about Islam; but you look at education in the Western world and you see that Islamic civilizations have been absent. What is taught about Islam? As far as I know -- nothing. What was known about Shiism before the Iranian revolution? What was known about the radical Sunni Wahhabism before the rise of the Taliban? We need a big educational effort to overcome this. Rather than shouting at each other, we should be learning to listen to each other. In the way we used to do it, by working together, with mutual give-and-take. Together we brought about some of the highest achievements of human civilization. There is a lot to build on. But I think you cannot build on ignorance.

SPIEGEL: Nonethless, it is striking that a particularly large number of Muslim-dominated states figure among the most backward and undemocratic states in the world. Is Islam in need of an era of enlightment? Is the faith even incompatible with democracy as others claim?

Aga Khan: As I said before, one has to be fair. Some of the political leaders have inherited problems that are in no way attributable to the faith. New governance solutions have to be tested and validated over time. Nor do I believe Muslim states are systematically economic underperformers. Some of the fastest growing economies and some of the most successful newly industrialized countries are in the Islamic world. Now concerning democracy: My democratic beliefs do not go back to the Greek or French (thinkers) but to an era 1,400 years ago. These are the principles underlying my religion. During the prophet's life (peace be upon him), there was a systematic consultative political process. And the first imam of the Shiites, Prophet Muhammad's cousin and son-in-law, Hazrat Ali, emphasized: "No honor is like knowledge, no power is like forbearance, and no support is more reliable than consultation."

SPIEGEL: If pluralism, civil society and Islam can coexist harmoniously, as was proven in the past, then why is this so seldom achieved nowadays?

Aga Khan: I think we have a very diverse situation in the Islamic world. Wealthy countries with enormous ressources, newly industrialized countries, extremely poor ones.

SPIEGEL: Not many are functioning democracies.

Aga Khan: People speak about failed states. I do not think that states can fail, but democracies certainly can. The failure of democracy is not specific to the Islamic world. Indeed, about two years ago, the United Nations carried out an in-depth analysis of democracy in South America. About 55 percent of the population in South American states said that they would prefer to live under a paternalistic dictatorship instead of an incompetent or corrupt democracy that is not improving their living condition.

SPIEGEL: Most of your Ismaili constituency lives in states that cannot be called perfect democracies: Pakistan, Afghanistan, Syria and Iran. What makes democracies fail?

Aga Khan: I ask myself every day what we can do to sustain the multiple forms of democracy, to make these forms of government work, whether it is in Latin America, Africa or the Middle East.

SPIEGEL: And what do you believe to be the answer?

Aga Khan: I admit that I live in a mood of frustration. What is the point in these areas of the world of carrying out a referendum in a population that essentially cannot read and write? What is the point in testing a constitution with a population that knows no difference between a presidential regime or a constitutional monarchy? Elections, constitutions -- all this is necessary, but not sufficient. I think we have to accept that countries have different histories, different social structures, different needs, so we have to be a great deal more flexible than we have been. [...]

SPIEGEL: If you look back at the years that have passed since World War II -- the Cold War between the East and the West, the ideological conflict with communism -- would you ever have thought that this conflict could be replaced by one between the West and radical Islamists?

Aga Khan: I beg you, please get away from the concept of a conflict of religion. It is not such a conflict. Nobody will ever convince me that the faith of Islam, that Christianity, that Judaism will fight each other in our times -- they have too much in common. That's why I am talking about this global ethic which unites us all. That's why we are trying to work with the Catholic Church in Portugal on a program aimed at immigant minorities. I am aware of a sense of disaffection with the society that many young Muslims feel because they think that the Western society has the intention of marginalizing or damaging them.

SPIEGEL: The German government just organized a conference with many different Muslim groups and personalities who live in Germany. Do you consider such a forum useful or is it just window dressing?

Aga Khan: We can avoid misunderstandings by having such a forum where people from different faiths consult each other so they understand what really affects them. Once you have committed an offense all you can do is to try and reverse it. Anyone who knows the faith of Islam, for example, would have known that the caricatures of the prohet were profoundly offensive to all Muslims.

SPIEGEL: Again, this whole affair was misused by radical Islamists. They added caricatures much more offensive than the original ones to incite the masses.

Aga Khan: But I am told that there was an internal debate between the editors of that publication and they actually knew what they were doing. They took a risk and somebody should have said to them, Why get into that situation? Now we are talking about civility, which is a completely different concept. If we are talking about civility in a pluralist society, then how do you develop that notion of civility, particularly where there is ignorance. And that's the thing that's worrying. And that's why I get frustrated when I see these situations that go on and on and on. Because I'm not willing to believe that they are all inspired by evil intent.

SPIEGEL: Provocative, sad and distasteful. But the freedom of the press is one of the highest values in our democracy. We have to balance one thing against the other and we will allow non-believers to express even outrageous opinions.

Aga Khan: I think that you are now referring to one of the most difficult problems that we have and I don't know the answer. The industrialized West is highly secularized; the Muslim world is much less secularized and that stems largely from the nature of the faith of Islam, which you know and I know has an intrinsic meshing with everyday life. And that is a scenario where people of goodwill need to think very, very carefully.

SPIEGEL: In some of your speeches you mentioned Kemal Atatürk in a positive context. Turkey followed his path and is one of the very few countries with a predominant Muslim population where there is separation of church and state. Would you like to see others go the same way?

Aga Khan: I am not opposed to secularism as such. But I am opposed to unilateral secularism where the notions of faith and ethics just disappear from society.

To choose freedom of the press over civility is to elevate means above ends, a classic failing of the liberal mind.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:25 PM


The Dictator and His Hobby: Kalmykian Leader Makes Farce of Chess Championships (Maik Grossekathöfer, 10/12/06, Der Spiegel)

He claims that he can communicate with aliens. Once, he says, he was even taken on a tour of one of their UFOs. "The extraterrestrials put me in a yellow astronaut suit and showed me their spaceship. I was on the bridge. I felt quite comfortable in their company." And who is the lucky space tourist? None other than the president of the Russian Republic of Kalmykia, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov.

The 44-year-old multimillionaire has other interests than just space aliens. In the past, he regularly consulted a Bulgarian fortune teller named Babushka Vanga. About 13 years ago, the blind psychic told him that he would be appointed leader of Kalmykia and elected president of the World Chess Federation (FIDE), would open a factory to clean the wool of Kalmykian sheep and, last but not least, would have an oil pipeline built through the Caucasian steppes.

The pipeline doesn't exist yet, but the psychic's other predictions have all come true.

Ilyumzhinov has ruled one Russia's poorest republics, a dusty strip of land bordering the Caspian Sea, home to 290,000 people, since 1993. He assumed the presidency of FIDE two years later. In 1998, he organized the Chess Olympiad in the Kalmykian capital of Elista, fulfilling yet another of Babushka's predictions -- that people would come to Elista from all over the world in that year.

This year, the focus is once again on Elista, with its population of just over 100,000. The chess world championships are underway, with Russian Vladimir Kramnik and Bulgarian Veselin Topalov battling it out for the title. Entering Thursday's 12th and final match, the two chess geniuses are tied at 5.5 points a piece -- with a pot of $1 million waiting to be split between them.

But regardless of who wins the 2006 title, President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov has dragged competitive chess into its deepest crisis ever.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:16 PM


To Buy or not to Buy? (Der Spiegel, 10/12/06)

The chaos surrounding Franco-German aerospace giant Airbus -- still reeling from the announcement that it's A380 super jumbo jet would be delayed by two years -- continues to rein. In order to protect its role in the complicated structure of Airbus's parent company, EADS, the German government is considering the purchase of German-held shares from DaimlerChrysler. But conflicting public statements made on Thursday by officials in Hamburg -- which, with over 10,000 workers, is home to Airbus's largest German production plant -- and Berlin suggested that the government isn't on the same page.

"It is certain that the sale will happen," Hamburg Mayor Ole von Beust of the conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) said following a meeting with Airbus's new chief Louis Gallois on Thursday. The mayor said details must still be clarified, but he welcomed the "federal government's decision."

Less than a half-hour later, however, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, also of the CDU, contradicted the Hamburg mayor, saying the federal government had yet to decide whether to purchase shares in the crisis-plagued concern.

Did Ms Merkel really seek power in order to make the whole country more like East Germany?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:13 PM


Warner pulls out of Democratic presidential race (TIM HIGGINS, October 12, 2006, des Moines Register)

Former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner announced this morning that he will not seek the Democratic nomination for president.

“I have decided not to run for president,” Warner said in a statement posted on his Web site.

When your selling point is that you're the conservative straight white Southern guy, you aren't going to win the primaries of a Democratic Party that already rejected Clintonism.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:53 AM


Iran's Ahmadinejad blames media for inflation (Terra.net, 10/10/2006)

Iran's hardline president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has blamed the media for rising inflation, after the supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei urged him to control surging prices, a press report said.

Iran's hardline president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has blamed the media for rising inflation, after the supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei urged him to control surging prices, a press report said. [...]

But the chairman of state broadcaster IRIB, Ezatollah Zarghami, rejected the president's criticism.

"The scale of inflation is clear," Zarghami told the official IRNA news agency. "Perhaps the president has not had the time to watch all the television programmes or maybe the reports reaching him are incomplete.

"When the published price of a kilo of meat is 39,000 rials (4.30 dollars) but it is actually fetching 60,000 rials (6.60 dollars) on the market, we have a duty to tell people."

The official rate of inflation stands at an average of just over 10 percent, but unofficial sources estimate the figure is close to double that rate.

The prices of staples such as meat and chicken have surged for the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, sparking complaints by Iranian families and getting front-page coverage in the press.

Khamenei responded by calling on the government to control inflation.

"In the last weeks, the issue of high prices has put a lot of pressure on people, especially low-income ones. So the government and officials should look into the causes of the issue and solve it," he said earlier this month.

The Grand Ayatollah greases the skids...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:50 AM

...AND LOWER...:

As oil prices fall, OPEC wavers on production cuts
(SHAWN MCCARTHY, 10/12/06, Globe and Mail)

Amid new signs of weakening demand, OPEC ministers Wednesday were unable to agree on production cuts aimed at propping up prices — and the delay is damaging the cartel's credibility.

Several ministers from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries have spoken of an informal agreement to cut 1 million barrels per day of production, though analysts Wednesday were unsure whether the reduction would come from actual production or the official OPEC quota, which is higher.

Adding to the uncertainty was the silence from Saudi Arabia, the critical swing producer that has spent billions of dollars to boost production capacity and is being lobbied heavily by the U.S. administration to keep the taps open.

“There is only one country that really counts and that country has not spoken yet, and that's the Saudis,” energy analyst Paul Ting said Wednesday.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:30 AM


Kim Jong-il’s Suicide Watch (B. R. MYERS, 10/12/06, NY Times)

[A]lthough journalists persist in calling North Korea a Stalinist state, its worldview is far closer to that of fascist Japan.

Like the Japanese in the 1930’s, the North Koreans trace the origins of their race back thousands of years to a single progenitor, and claim that this pure bloodline makes them uniquely virtuous. The country’s mass games — government-choreographed spectacles with a cast of more than 100,000 — are often mistaken by foreign journalists as exercises in Stalinism. They are in fact celebrations of ethnic homogeneity. “No masses in the world,” the state-run Cheollima magazine reminded readers in 2005, “are purer and more upright than our masses.”

In state propaganda, Kim Jong-il is often linked, as Hirohito once was, to images of white horses, snow-capped mountain peaks and other symbols of racial purity. South Korea, on the other hand, is regarded as contaminated by too close contact with other races. At a recent meeting between generals from both Koreas, the North delegation’s leader condemned the South for allowing racial intermarriage. “Not a single drop of ink,” he intoned, “must be allowed to fall into the Han River.”

Naturally enough, the North Koreans’ race theory, like that of the Japanese fascists, actuates a blithe indifference to international law. A uniquely virtuous people has no reason to obey its moral inferiors, be they allies or enemies. China has now learned that despite decades of military and economic assistance it can draw on no residue of good will in dealing with Pyongyang.

Neither can the South Koreans, whom the North Koreans will revile for their ethnic treason no matter how much cash they pump northward. This utter imperviousness to gestures of friendship and conciliation bears obvious implications for the prospect of normal relations between North Korea and America.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:18 AM


Price war erupts as Bank of America offers free online stock trades (Matt Krantz, 10/11/06, USA TODAY)

Bank of America (BAC) stunned the online brokerage industry Wednesday by offering free stock trades to anyone who has $25,000 in a checking, savings or money market account at the bank. That came just days after Ontario, Calif.-based upstart Zecco.com offered free trades to anyone with a $2,500 account.

Online brokers suddenly find themselves under attack in a price war. That's a reversal of the dot-com boom, when online brokers such as TD Ameritrade (AMTD) and E-Trade (ET) stormed Wall Street by offering commissions just a fraction of those charged by big brokers.

And now the likes of E-Trade and Ameritrade could be pressured to come up with their own free-trade offers, says David Trone, analyst at Fox-Pitt Kelton.

Hopefully ATM fees are next.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:09 AM


Baghdad passes federalism law (QASSIM ABDUL-ZAHRA, 10/12/06, ASSOCIATED PRESS)

The federalism law sets up a system for allowing provinces to join together into autonomous regions that would hold considerable self-rule powers, a right given them under the constitution adopted last year in a national referendum.

Some Shiites want to create an autonomous zone in their heartland in the south, much like the self-ruling Kurdish region in northern Iraq.

Sunni Arabs deeply oppose the federalism measures, fearing it will divide Iraq into sectarian mini-states, giving Shiite and Kurds control over oil riches in the south and north, and leaving Sunnis in an impoverished central zone without resources. Some Shiite parties, including the faction of radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, oppose the measures for nationalist reasons.

Control of Baghdad and the tourism, banking, etc., that will go with it would seem a more attractive prize than mere oil, but why should the Shi'ites let the Sunni dominate it?

Tehran's secret war against its own people: The persecution of Ahwazi Arabs and the takeover of their land has led to accusations of 'ethnic cleansing' (Peter Tatchell, 10/12/06, Times of London)

Under the cover of secrecy the fundamentalist regime in Tehran is waging a sustained, bloody campaign of intimidation and persecution against its Arab minority. These Arabs believe that they are victims of “ethnic cleansing” by Iran’s Persian majority.

Sixteen Arab rights activists have been sentenced to death, according to reports in the Iranian media. They were found guilty of insurgency in secret trials before revolutionary courts. But most of the defendants were convicted solely on the basis of confessions extracted under torture. Ten are expected to be hanged in a couple of weeks, after the end of Ramadan. Amnesty International says that two of those sentenced to die, Abdolreza Nawaseri and Nazem Bureihi, were in prison when they were alleged to have been involved in bomb attacks. Three others — Hamza Sawa- eri, Jafar Sawari and Reisan Sawari — say that they were nowhere near the Zergan oilfield the day it was bombed.

The death sentences seem designed to silence protests by Iran’s persecuted ethnic Arabs.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:04 AM


Rainout Upsets Pitching Plans (Jorge Arangure Jr., 10/12/06, Washington Post)

In quite a huff, New York Mets pitcher Tom Glavine arrived at his locker shortly after Wednesday's Game 1 of the National League Championship Series had been postponed and promptly told reporters he would take a shower before speaking. The rainout probably most affects Glavine, who likely would have to pitch in Game 5 on three days' rest, something the veteran left-handed pitcher does not like to do. A shower perhaps would help him cool off.

It hasn't made any sense all year, but leaving Aaron Heilman in the bullpen as the rotation has imploded late in the year seems a real blunder.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:00 AM


Pol: Foley's lousy, but he's no Ted (KENNETH R. BAZINET, 10/12/06, NY DAILY NEWS)

The rancorous debate over disgraced ex-Rep. Mark Foley hit a new low yesterday when a GOP congressman said indiscretions with a male page were nothing compared to Sen. Ted Kennedy's Chappaquiddick incident.

Rep. Chris Shays (R-Conn.) was trying to defend GOP House Speaker Dennis Hastert when he took aim at the Massachusetts Democrat.

"I know the speaker didn't go over a bridge and leave a young person in the water, and then have a press conference the next day," Shays told The Hartford Courant.

"Dennis Hastert didn't kill anybody," he added.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:46 AM


Leyland's powerful pick (Janie McCauley, 10/12/06, The Associated Press)

Alexis Gomez impressed his teammates time and again by routinely hitting long home runs. In batting practice.

Still, Jim Leyland trusted his gut and went with the little-used Gomez as Detroit's designated hitter for Game 2 of the American League Championship Series — yet another spot-on call by the Tigers manager this postseason.

The result: a 2-0 series advantage heading home to Motown.

Meanwhile, Todd Jones is money.

October 11, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:07 PM


How Low Can Gas Prices Go?: Experts Predict Lower Gas Prices May Fall Even More (ABC News, Oct. 11, 2006)

New figures show the average price of a gallon of gas went down by a nickel last week, the ninth straight week of gas price declines.

In the last two months, the national average has plunged more than 75 cents, to $2.26 a gallon.

Across the country, oil and gas experts say Americans may see prices continue to drop for weeks, if not months. [...]

Can prices go lower? Yes -- experts are predicting them to drop 30 cents to 60 cents more.

Oil prices down despite OPEC cut (Agence France-Presse, 10/12/06)
WORLD oil prices fell sharply overnight, with New York crude hitting its lowest level of the year, as traders brushed off an OPEC announcement that cartel members would slash output next month.

New York's main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in November, lost 93 cents to close at $US57.59 a barrel. It had dropped as low as $US57.48, its worst point since December 27

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:54 PM


Abe reaps the benefits from nuclear test fallout (JOSEPH COLEMAN, 10/12/06, The Associated Press

North Korea's nuclear test has made defense a priority for Japan -- and gave a political boost to the nationalist prime minister.

Shinzo Abe took office last month stressing the need for Japan to have a robust defense policy, take a hard line against North Korea, and strengthen its military alliance with the United States.

With the timing of the North Korean test, Abe looks like the man of the moment.

In the meantime, Uncle's got you covered, Patriot missiles believed to have arrived (Japan Times, 10/12/06)
U.S. forces transferred Wednesday what is believed to be missiles for a U.S.-led missile defense system from a freighter in Urama, Okinawa, to the U.S. Air Force Kadena Ammunition Storage Area in the prefecture.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:24 PM


France questions 'failed' Korean nuclear test (Devika Bhat and agencies, 10/12/06, Times of London)

The French Defence Minister has cast doubts over the success of North Korea’s claimed nuclear test, saying that it produced an explosion so small that if indeed it was nuclear, it had been a failure.

Michele Alliot-Marie said that although experts had not yet determined the precise cause of the explosion, French, American and other scientists had detected that it was of "relatively limited size."

"In any case, if this was a nuclear explosion, it would be a case of a failed explosion," she said.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:18 PM


Yankee Dies in Plane Crash, Official Says (MARIA NEWMAN and WILLIAM K. RASHBAUM, 10/11/06, NY Times)

Cory Lidle, a pitcher for the New York Yankees, was killed today when his small private plane crashed into a residential high-rise building on New York City’s Upper East Side, igniting several apartments before pieces of the aircraft crashed to the ground, a high-ranking city official confirmed late this afternoon.

The plane was registered to Mr. Lidle, who was a licensed pilot. At a news conference this afternoon, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said that a flight instructor and a student pilot with 75 hours of experience were aboard and killed, but he would not confirm that Mr. Lidle was one of them, saying the families of the victims had not yet been notified.

“No bodies were found in the building,” the mayor said, adding that 11 firefighters were also injured in the fire.He said that the plane left Teterboro Airport in New Jersey at about 2:30 p.m., that it circled the Statute of Liberty and then headed north up the East River, where it “had not violated any air traffic control rules.”

The plane then lost touch with air traffic controllers, but radar showed that the plane flew near the 59th Street Bridge, he said.

Then, at 2:42 p.m., the mayor said, 911 received a call reporting a crash at a building on 72nd Street.

Following an afternoon of wild speculation about terrorism you end the day with Mets fans insisting it was just a way for George to claim the front page...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:57 PM


Happy holidays ahead (Peter Morici, 10/12/06, Asia Times)

Signs of recovery in consumer sentiments emerged after the North American Labor Day (September 4), as large retail chains were surprised by robust apparel sales.

Gasoline prices peaked in August, and falling prices are putting more spendable income in consumer pockets. Moreover, housing values are still up about 50% over the past five years. Even with a moderate pullback in the housing market, Americans are much wealthier than they were two and five years ago.

The key question is: Will Americans focus on the recent modest decline in home prices and save more, or will they focus on the longer-term gains they have enjoyed and are likely to sustain?

If consumers focus on the recent decline in home prices, savings performance will improve and economic growth could slow to 2% or less. If consumers focus on their longer-term housing gains, holiday sales will prove stronger than retailers have predicted.

My bet is that falling gasoline, heating-oil and natural-gas prices will be enough to ignite shopper enthusiasm, and holiday sales will be robust and beat conservative early-September forecasts.

Although housing construction will stay below boom levels through 2007, non-residential construction looks to be strong, and industrial capacity utilization levels have reached levels that require significant new investments in plant, equipment and software.

Overall, falling gasoline prices will give new life to the aging economic expansion, and growth will recover to about 3.2% in 2007. At that pace, labor markets will exhibit enough slack that wages will not threaten to reignite inflation.

Federal deficit now lowest in 4 years (MARTIN CRUTSINGER, 10/11/06, AP)
The federal budget deficit, helped by a gusher of tax revenues, fell to $247.7 billion in 2006, the smallest amount of red ink in four years.

The deficit for the budget year that ended Sept. 30 was 22.3 percent lower than the $318.7 billion imbalance for 2005, handing President Bush an economic bragging point as Republicans go into the final four weeks of a battle for control of Congress. [...]

"These numbers show that we have now achieved our goal of cutting the federal deficit in half and we've done it three years ahead of schedule," Bush told reporters at a Rose Garden news conference.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:53 AM


Anonymous poison pen used against guv candidate (Jim Phillips, 2005-12-15, Athens NEWS)

When U.S. Rep. Ted Strickland's Republican opponent tried in 2000 to make a campaign issue out of Strickland's vote on a controversial House resolution about child sexual abuse, Strickland went after his attacker legally and won sanctions against him.

Now, with Strickland, D-Lisbon, running for Ohio governor, someone else is trying -- anonymously -- to use his 1999 vote on the measure as a weapon to discredit him.

Local Democrats report having received unsigned letters, which purport to be from a Democrat who is supposedly concerned about Strickland's electability, based on the position he took on House Concurrent Resolution 107 during the 106th Congress.

The resolution, which Strickland did not support, condemned an academic study by the American Psychological Association, on the long-term effects of childhood sexual activity. The study concluded that available evidence suggests that sexual contact between adults and juveniles is not always highly destructive for the psyche of the younger person.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:34 AM


Inside the Hermit Kingdom (MARTIN REGG COHN, 10/11/06, TORONTO STAR)

Emerging from your cloistered hotel — almost always in the company of government minders — the first thing that strikes you about North Korea is the silence.

The world may be in a frenzy about the Axis of Evil, but morning rush hour in Pyongyang is a strangely subdued affair. With virtually no cars on the road, and only a handful of dilapidated trams lumbering down the creaky tracks, the enduring sound in this capital of 3 million people is that of shuffling feet.

Columns of commuters walk to work, avoiding all eye contact, staring intently at their shoes. Cocooned in a time capsule that has managed to produce a nuclear bomb.

By night, the lights are extinguished in most apartment blocks because of power shortages, transforming Pyongyang into a ghost town.

The eerie quiet is punctuated by the crowing of roosters kept on as emergency rations by hungry tenants.

Traffic lights grace every intersection, but without electricity they are useless.

Public buildings go unheated in winter, forcing students and hospital patients to bundle up in long underwear and overcoats.

Trying to penetrate Pyongyang's silence is as difficult as unravelling its nuclear machinations. After three trips into the Hermit Kingdom as a correspondent for the Toronto Star, I confess to being little the wiser about people's inner thoughts.

President Bush has been handed a perfect opportunity here, as the politically expedient course, an October Surprise, coincides with the morally necessary course, regime change.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:31 AM


Streisand snaps at pushy heckler during concert: Obscenity mars Madison Square Garden event; Fans show weariness at singer's anti-Bush skit (RICHARD OUZOUNIAN, 10/11/06, Toronto Star)

More tunes, less talk. More ballads, less Bush. More "People," less politics.

That's what America has been telling Barbra Streisand during the first three stops of her concert tour, which is scheduled to play the Air Canada Centre on Oct. 17 and 20. [...]

The superstar entertainer is a well known heart-on-her-sleeve liberal and the second act of her show features a sequence where impersonator Steve Bridges enters disguised as one of Streisand's particular bêtes noires, George W. Bush, and engages in a comic dialogue with her.

The one universal criticism of Streisand's generally acclaimed performances to date has been that the Bush segment goes on too long and really isn't that funny. [...]

During the Bush sequence, Variety's critic David Rooney told the Toronto Star that "scattered pockets of heckling were heard throughout the arena, gradually escalating into booing."

But after the Bush section, a particular solo heckler kept taunting her during one of her most sensitive ballads, "Have I Stayed Too Long at the Fair?" and Streisand finally reached her limit.

"Shut the f--- up, would you?" she snapped angrily. "Shut up if you can't take a joke."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:29 AM


Bahamas sex attacker faces whipping (Toronto Star, Oct. 11, 2006)

A man convicted of trying to rape an 83-year-old woman was sentenced to eight lashes with a cat-o'-nine-tails, a punishment used by the British navy in the 18th century and reinstated in the Bahamas 15 years ago.

Altulus Newbold, 34, was sentenced last Friday to 16 years in prison after being found guilty of burglary, attempted rape and causing harm. Justice Jon Isaacs also ordered that he receive four lashes of the whip at the start of his sentence and four upon his release, but suspended the punishment for three weeks pending a possible appeal.

The cat, a whip made of knotted cords, leaves flesh wounds and is used on the offender's back. Its use was reinstated in the former British colony in 1991 in the face of rising crime.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:24 AM


Wal-Mart's aesthetic evolution (TONY WONG, 10/11/06, Toronto Star)

You don't typically head to a Wal-Mart store because of the soothing architecture. But that might change.

Stung by criticism that its massive stores are eyesores that don't blend well with the communities in which they are located, Wal-Mart is unveiling a new look that foreshadows a significant shift for Canada's largest retailer. [...]

Looking more upscale than the average big-box retail store, the new 135,000-square-foot building has an exterior — if not for its sheer frontage — that might be mistaken for a condo, constructed with tasteful beige and brown brick and surrounded by tree-lined streets. Decorative paving, benches and pedestrian lighting give the area a neighbourhood feel.

"This is a first-rate design that is unlike any other Wal-Mart store in Canada," Wal-Mart Canada Corp. spokesperson Kevin Groh said. "We are making sure the stores we build are appropriate to their surroundings and architecturally relevant."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:22 AM


Men who have a cast-iron devotion to 'black-pot' cooking (ANNE SILIN, October 11, 2006, Seattle Post-Intelligencer)

"If you have some briquettes and a Dutch oven, you can prepare anything."

So says Gary Butterfield, director of the Puget Sound chapter of the International Dutch Oven Society. The Utah-based IDOS, with 37 chapters, is the world's largest organization dedicated to preserving and promoting Dutch oven cooking. Members are "black-pot enthusiasts," committed to cooking good food outdoors while creating a sense of community.

Inspired by an emergency-preparedness class taught at their church, Butterfield, Dale Beam and Brion Norton formed the Puget Sound chapter in March. [...]

The first step of Dutch oven ownership is seasoning the pot. Doing so requires a hot oven, and the overpowering smell of burning grease that typically results in a furious spouse. Preseasoned Dutch ovens are available, which Beam enthusiastically endorses for their spouse-friendly quality.

Once the pot is seasoned, you are ready to cook. [...]

Cooking with Dutch ovens doesn't require extra gear, but Beam and Butterfield admit to a touch of "castironitis." Between them they own 30 ovens. Carpenters by trade, they also have created gadgets, such as a "Dutch oven box" that includes kitchen tools necessary for any culinary emergency and a metal table ergonomically designed to reduce back strain while lifting heavy pots.

Ask each to name his favorite part of Dutch cooking, and he'll tell you it's the people.

"We've never met anyone in the Dutch oven classes or events that haven't just been genuine people" Butterfield said.

There's something about cooking outdoors with family and friends, united in preparation, anticipating the cooking pots, and finally gathering around a table for a hard-earned meal, that excites Dutchers.

"Our goal is to have good family fun," said Beam.

And Butterfield added: "We're here to spread and share the skills, share the love."



# 8 new potatoes, scrubbed & quartered
# 8 carrots, cut into 2-inch pieces
# 4 parsnips, cut into 2-inch pieces
# 2 large yellow onions, peeled and quartered
# 1/2 cup cooking oil
# 2 1/2 cups flour
# 1 teaspoon kosher salt
# 1 teaspoon white pepper
# 2 tablespoons dried thyme
# 8 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
# 1 14-ounce can chicken broth
# 1/2 cup water

Soak the vegetables in salted water.

In a medium bowl, mix 2 cups of flour, salt, white pepper and thyme. Pat dry the chicken breasts and add 1 at a time to flour mixture until well coated. Shake off excess flour and set aside on a platter.

Add oil to a 12-inch Dutch oven over medium-high heat until the oil reaches 350 degrees, or until a small bit of flour dropped into the oil sizzles and becomes golden brown. Being careful not to crowd the pan, fry the chicken until both sides are golden brown. Remove the chicken and set aside on a platter until all of the chicken is browned. Drain excess oil from the Dutch oven, but try to leave any chicken bits in the bottom of the pot.

Drain the vegetables and add them to the Dutch oven. Pour chicken broth over the vegetables. Place the lid on the Dutch oven and bring to a slow boil. Simmer vegetables for 25 or 30 minutes on medium heat, or until vegetables begin to soften. Add the chicken, along with any juices that have accumulated on the platter, to the top of the vegetables. Make sure the chicken does not touch the lid of the Dutch oven or it will stick to the lid. Simmer for another 10-15 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked and the vegetables are tender.

Leaving the broth in the Dutch oven, remove the chicken and vegetables and place them into serving bowls, covering to keep warm.

To make the gravy, in a small bowl whisk the remaining 1/2 cup flour and water together until smooth. Return the Dutch oven and broth to medium-high heat. Add half of the flour-water mixture to the broth, and whisk until smooth. Continue adding more of the flour-water mixture until you reach the desired consistency. Season to taste. Serve the gravy in a bowl together with the chicken and vegetables.

From the Kitchen of Dale Beam

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:10 AM


Really, Really Cheap Oil: Gasoline for $2? Michael Lynch says those good old days are just around the corner. (Christopher Helman, 10/11/06, Forbes.com)

Don't sell that SUV just yet. Oil, at a recent $66.50 a barrel, will fall to $45 by mid-2007 and could dip briefly into the 20s in 2008. Sometime next year you are going to see a $1.95 price on a gas pump.

So says Michael C. Lynch, 51, president of Strategic Energy & Economic Research in Amherst, Mass. He swears he hasn't been inhaling fumes. His reasoning: New supply, coming online from all corners of the world, is more than ample to satisfy growth in demand and sufficient even to withstand an embargo against Iran, which produces 3.75 million barrels of oil a day. Lynch argues that the threat of disruptions--nuclear brinkmanship, war, terrorism, hurricanes, pipeline corrosion--has larded oil prices with a $20-a-barrel risk premium. As these perils recede, oil prices will fall.

It'll be under $2 nationally a lot sooner than that.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:07 AM


Graphic anti-terrorism advert launched in the Middle East (Daily Mail, 11th October 2006)

A shocking television commercial showing bodies exploding during a suicide bombing has been screened across the Middle East in a bid to prevent terrorism.

The £800,000 advert shows people, cars and broken glass flying in slow motion through the air.

Packed with special effects, the graphic commercial uses the time-suspension technique made popular in the Hollywood film Matrix.

The 60-second clip opens with a young boy watching a man walk through a crowded market.

The man stops and exposes yellow explosives strapped to his body.

He detonates the bomb seconds later, sending cars flying and people crashing through the windows of a cafe.

The advert then shows victims weeping amid the fires and wreckage, before ending with the words "Terrorism has no religion" in Arabic.

The identity of the commercial's backers is shrouded in secrecy, prompting speculation that the US Government is attempting to deter potential terrorists away from violence.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:05 AM


Blair would have 'taken out' Brown if he hadn't publicly backed Iraq war - Blunkett (BENEDICT BROGAN, 10th October 2006, Daily Mail)

Tony Blair was ready to 'take out' Gordon Brown if he failed to back him publicly over the invasion of Iraq, according to David Blunkett. The former Home Secretary claims that Mr Brown narrowly avoided the sack in 2003 after deciding to support the war in public at the 11th hour.

The bitter tensions between the Prime Minister and the Chancellor over the decision to depose Saddam Hussein are revealed in his memoirs, serialised all this week in the Daily Mail.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:02 AM


'Women dress to impress at their most fertile' (Daily Mail, 11th October 2006)

Women try to "dress to impress" when they are at their most fertile, according to new US research.

The study of 30 university students found that as they approached ovulation they were likely to wear trendier clothes, flash more flesh, ditch trousers in favour of skirts and don eye-catching jewellery. [...]

The women, who did not know what the study was about and were all in stable relationships, were photographed in their least fertile and most fertile phases.

Then a group of 42 other people - just over half of them women - were asked to look at the pairs of pictures and judge in which one the woman was trying to look more attractive.

Their faces were blacked out to make sure the assessment was based on their attire.

The judges chose the photo taken during the the fertile phases 60% of the time, which the team said was " well beyond random chance".

The study's co-author April Bleske-Rechek, a psychologist from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, said what was remarkable about the effect of ovulation on women was that it was so easily observed.

"In our study, the approach of ovulation had a stronger impact on the way women dressed than the onset of menstruation, which is notorious for its supposedly deleterious impact," she said.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:53 AM


Report refutes fraud at poll sites (Richard Wolf, 10/11/06, USA TODAY)

At a time when many states are instituting new requirements for voter registration and identification, a preliminary report to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission has found little evidence of the type of polling-place fraud those measures seek to stop.

USA TODAY obtained the report from the commission four months after it was delivered by two consultants hired to write it. The commission has not distributed it publicly. [...]

The report, prepared by Tova Wang, an elections expert at the Century Foundation think tank, and Job Serebrov, an Arkansas attorney, says most fraud occurs in the absentee ballot process, such as through coercion or forgery. Wang declined to comment on the report, and Serebrov could not be reached for comment.

On the other hand, these conspiracy theories have kept the loons on both sides busy on trivial matters instead of gumming up the actual governance of the country.

U.S. Says Blacks in Mississippi Suppress White Vote (ADAM NOSSITER, 10/11/06, NY Times)

The Justice Department has chosen this no-stoplight, courthouse town buried in the eastern Mississippi prairie for an unusual civil rights test: the first federal lawsuit under the Voting Rights Act accusing blacks of suppressing the rights of whites.

The action represents a sharp shift, and it has raised eyebrows outside the state. The government is charging blacks with voting fraud in a state whose violent rejection of blacks’ right to vote, over generations, helped give birth to the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Yet within Mississippi the case has provoked knowing nods rather than cries of outrage, even among liberal Democrats.

The Justice Department’s main focus is Ike Brown, a local power broker whose imaginative electoral tactics have for 20 years caused whisperings from here to the state capital in Jackson, 100 miles to the southwest. Mr. Brown, tall, thin, a twice-convicted felon, the chairman of the Noxubee County Democratic Executive Committee and its undisputed political boss, is accused by the federal government of orchestrating — with the help of others — “relentless voting-related racial discrimination” against whites, whom blacks outnumber by more than 3 to 1 in the county.

His goal, according to the government: keeping black politicians — ones supported by Mr. Brown, that is — in office.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:48 AM


HOW HEZBOLLAH DEFEATED ISRAEL: PART 1: Winning the intelligence war (Alastair Crooke and Mark Perry, 10/12/06, Asia Times)

Hezbollah's primary arsenals and marshaling points were targeted by the Israeli Air Force (IAF) in the first 72 hours of the war. Israel's commanders had identified these bunkers through a mix of intelligence reports - signals intercepts from Hezbollah communications, satellite-reconnaissance photos gleaned from cooperative arrangements with the US military, photos analyzed as a result of IAF overflights of the region, photos from drone aircraft deployed over southern Lebanon and, most important, a network of trusted human-intelligence sources recruited by Israeli intelligence officers living in southern Lebanon, including a large number of foreign (non-Lebanese) nationals registered as guest workers in the country.

The initial attack on Hezbollah's marshaling points and major bunker complexes, which took place in the first 72 hours of the war, failed. On July 15, the IAF targeted Hezbollah's leadership in Beirut. This attack also failed. At no point during the war was any major Hezbollah political figure killed, despite Israel's constant insistence that the organization's senior leadership had suffered losses.

According to one US official who observed the war closely, the IAF's air offensive degraded "perhaps only 7%" of the total military resource assets available to Hezbollah's fighters in the first three days of fighting and added that, in his opinion, Israeli air attacks on the Hezbollah leadership were "absolutely futile". [...]

It now is clear that the Israeli political establishment was shocked by the failure of its forces to accomplish its first military goals in the war - including the degradation of a significant number of Hezbollah arsenals and the destruction of Hezbollah's command capabilities.

But the Israeli political establishment had done almost nothing to prepare for the worst: the first meeting of the Israeli security cabinet in the wake of the July 12 abduction lasted only three hours. And while Olmert and his security cabinet demanded minute details of the IDF's plan for the first three days of the war, they failed to articulate clear political goals in the aftermath of the conflict or sketch out a political exit strategy should the offensive fail.

Olmert and the security cabinet violated the first principle of war - they showed contempt for their enemy. In many respects, Olmert and his cabinet were captives of an unquestioned belief in the efficacy of Israeli deterrence. Like the Israeli public, they viewed any questioning of IDF capabilities as sacrilege.

The Israeli intelligence failure during the conflict was catastrophic. It meant that, after the failure of Israel's air campaign to degrade Hezbollah assets significantly in the first 72 hours of the war, Israel's chance of winning a decisive victory against Hezbollah was increasingly, and highly, unlikely.

"Israel lost the war in the first three days," one US military expert said. "If you have that kind of surprise and you have that kind of firepower, you had better win. Otherwise, you're in for the long haul."

IDF senior officers concluded that, given the failure of the air campaign, they had only one choice - to invade Lebanon with ground troops in the hopes of destroying Hezbollah's will to prevail.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:33 AM


The Lakoff Effect (ANDREW FERGUSON, October 11, 2006, NY Sun)

A disciple of the notoriously anti-American Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Noam Chomsky, [George] Lakoff first earned a wide public audience — inadvertently — with his essay "Metaphors of Terror," published a few days after September 11, 2001.

In it, he explored why the terrorist attacks affected so many so profoundly.

"Towers are symbols of phallic power," Mr. Lakoff explained, "and their collapse reinforces the idea of loss of power."

And if you think the twin towers were symbolically profound, wait till you get a load of the Pentagon: "Another kind of phallic imagery was more central here," Mr. Lakoff wrote. "The Pentagon, a vaginal image from the air, was penetrated by the plane as missile."

A man who could write such things may be suited to many tasks, but "counselor to a major political party trying to win elections" is not one of them.

Yet that is what Mr. Lakoff became before the 2004 elections. He spoke at conclaves of Democratic candidates, and the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee bought boxes of his book on political strategy ("Don't Think of an Elephant") and passed them out like party favors.

The book sold a quarter million copies — not, presumably, to Republicans — and Democratic Committee Chairman Howard Dean christened Mr. Lakoff "one of the most influential political thinkers of the progressive movement."

Like any bunco artist, Mr. Lakoff wowed his audience by telling them what they thought they wanted to hear. According to Mr. Lakoff, Republicans owed their electoral victories to "framing," the psychological manipulation of voters through the clever use of words — describing tax cuts, for example, as "tax relief."

"What conservatives have learned about winning elections is that they have to activate the ‘strict father model' in more than half the electorate — either by fear or by other means," Mr. Lakoff wrote.

The key to Democratic victory thus lay in an alternative manipulation of images — for example, by referring to trial lawyers, a favorite Republican whipping boy and a major Democratic constituency, as "public protection attorneys."

Mr. Lakoff's view of electoral politics was not only superficial but cynical — a kind of graduate-school version of the worldview of filmmaker Michael Moore, another Democratic pontificator. Both Messrs. Moore and Lakoff viewed the public as bovine, unsophisticated, and easily duped.

Which explained, for Democrats, why evil Republicans kept winning.

But Democrats lost elections listening to Mr. Lakoff, just as they'd lost elections before he became their swami. Now the more respectable elements in the party are giving him the heave-ho.

It's a matter of the Right ideas, not the right words, Democrats veer to the right in fight for House (Ralph Z. Hallow, 10/11/06, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)
Democrats "have adopted a different kind of candidate, out of the traditional political sphere," said Charlie Gerow, a Pennsylvania-based Republican strategist.

"There are especially strong cases of 'blank slate' candidates with no voting records, trying to hedge on every issue -- in Pennsylvania, Illinois and Virginia, for example -- and other Democrats running like they're Republicans, in Georgia, Indiana and North Carolina," says National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) spokesman Jonathan Collegio. [...]

The reasons for the plethora of rightward-running Democratic candidates? Polls show Democrats will have a hard time winning in strong Republican and swing districts if they spout traditional Democratic positions.

Democrats occupy seats in 41 congressional districts that voted for Mr. Bush in 2004, while Republicans hold 18 seats in districts that voted for John Kerry. That means that there are more than twice as many Democrats running in Bush-Republican districts than Republicans running in Kerry-Democrat districts.

To make a successful play for House control, Democrats have to win in Republican districts. But voter surveys consistently show that the national Democratic Party's liberal positions on taxes, abortion and other issues do not go down well in districts that supported Mr. Bush by 10 percentage points or more.

Therefore, the Democrats have recruited two types of candidates: those who often sound like their Republican opponents on abortion, guns, homeland security or taxes -- and those who simply don't talk much at all.

"It took 12 years in the minority for Democrats to realize that they couldn't win elections by running like Democrats -- so they've drafted candidates who either masquerade as conservatives or keep mum on the issues as long as politically possible," Mr. Collegio said.

These candidates, were they to win, would be exceptionally easy to pick off in '08 after they had a two year record of congressional votes, nevermind John McCain Vs. Hillary at the top of the ticket.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:55 AM


Nuclear North is Bill's fault, McCain tells Hil (KATHLEEN LUCADAMO, 10/11/06, NY DAILY NEWS)

In a surprise attack, Sen. John McCain told Sen. Hillary Clinton yesterday it was her husband's fault - not the fault of President Bush - that North Korea may now have a nuclear bomb.

The blast from McCain may be the first shot between the two likely presidential contenders.

McCain (R-Ariz.) issued his statement yesterday after Sen. Clinton (D-N.Y.) noted that six years ago North Korea's Kim Jong Il had no nukes and called Bush's policies on North Korea a "failure." She said it "raises questions, serious questions about the Bush foreign policy."

"I would remind Sen. Clinton," McCain said, "that the framework agreement [with North Korea] of the Clinton administration was a failure."

"The Koreans received millions of dollars in energy assistance. They diverted millions in food assistance to the military. And what did the Koreans do? They secretly enriched uranium," McCain charged. The Clinton policy, he said, "only encouraged bad behavior."

You can argue over blame, but it's easy for W to get all the credit for solving the problem.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:49 AM


It worked for poker: Can chess make it on TV? (Haley Edwards, 10/11/06, Seattle Times)

Eddie Chang, a Renton real-estate agent, and Clint Ballard, a Bainbridge Island software-company president, are chess aficionados with a dream of bringing the game to the average television-watching Joe. They will host a brand-new chess competition, Grand Master Slugfest, this weekend.

The relatively small group of high-profile players — seven Grand Masters and at least 15 competitors — will compete six times each during the three-day event, while vying for a $5,000 purse. Victor Mikhalevski, ranked 29th in the world, will fly in from Israel for the occasion, along with three-time U.S. Championship winner, Alexander Shabalov.

Here's the twist: Traditional scoring will be turned on its head. In an effort to reduce the number of draws, "which are boring for spectators to watch," Chang explains, the GM Slugfest will use a form of scoring invented by Ballard himself. The Ballard Anti-draw Point system (BAP) was first successfully introduced in a qualifying tournament this summer, but will be tested for the first time with high-level players this weekend.

In traditional scoring, white — the player with the initial advantage — often cuts his losses and calls for a "quick draw," allowing both white and black to receive one-half point. The BAP system discourages such conservative play, by awarding white no points and black one point, for draws. Accordingly, if white wins, he receives two points, and if black wins, he re