November 30, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:29 PM


Middle East hot spots merging: The recent trips by President Bush and Secretary Rice signal a US push for a holistic, regional solution. (Joshua Mitnick, 12/01/06, The Christian Science Monitor)

A growing number of observers - most notably British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Jordan's King Abdullah - have advocated that solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would boost stability. But others say the rise of radical Islam, Iran's push to become a nuclear and regional power, and the US initiative to promote democracy have created a complex web of forces that contribute to conflicts around the Middle East. [...]

President Bush said Thursday the US will speed a turnover of security responsibility to Iraqi forces but assured Mr. Maliki that Washington is not looking for a "graceful exit" from a war well into its fourth year. "One of his frustrations with me is that he believes that we've been slow about giving him the tools necessary to protect the Iraqi people," Bush said. "He doesn't have the capacity to respond. So we want to accelerate that capacity."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:22 PM


On road to clean fuels, automakers cover some ground (Daniel B. Wood, 12/01/06, The Christian Science Monitor)

More than any time since the early '70s, automakers are thinking and designing "green," say many industry analysts. The trend is not moving as fast as environmental activists or most climate scientists would like - as protests here make clear - but it also may not be as slow as some critics claim.

Electric vehicles, gasoline-electric hybrids, diesels, and flex-fuel and hydrogen-powered cars are inching up the consumer on-ramp at a faster pace, judging from world debuts of 21 alternative-fuel vehicles.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:32 PM


How Many Kids Have Autism? (Carl Bialik, November 30, 2006, Wall Street Journal)

How important is it to accurately count the number of children with autism? Does the one-in-166 number seem too high, or too low, or accurate? Do you generally believe statistics on the number of people suffering from conditions? Do such numbers affect your opinions?

Autism experts told me that research broadly supports the estimate -- with two major caveats. Those caveats help explain why the stat, while alarming, doesn't support related claims by some advocates: that autism cases have been mushrooming with "epidemic speed," and that more than one million Americans have autism.

First, the stat comes from figures published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, based on a review of several studies that came up with estimates. But the CDC was careful to point out that the studies produced a wide range of results. Indeed, the headline-grabbing number focuses on the worst-case scenario: The CDC said the number of children with autism was somewhere between one in 500 and one in 166.

Second, the numbers take into account a relatively modern definition of autism that includes a full range of disorders. The changing definition of autism has played a major role in influencing statistics.

Fiddle the definition enough and the experts can get a 1 to 1 ratio. Then the grant money will really roll in...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:30 PM


Michigan man gets 3rd successful U.S. hand transplant (CNN, November 30, 2006)
..but two seems plenty.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:03 PM


Will the real Ramadi please stand up? (Michael Fumento, 11/30/06)

"The U.S. military is no longer able to defeat a bloody insurgency in western Iraq [Al Anbar Province] or counter al Qaeda's rising popularity there, according to newly disclosed details from a classified Marine Corps intelligence report," began a front-page article in yesterday's Washington Post by Dafna Linzer and Thomas E. Ricks. It concerned the so-called "Devlin Report," a five-page document allegedly filled with gloom and doom. It contrasts completely with my article Return to Ramadi, in the Nov. 27 Weekly Standard, in which I write that the largest city in the province is slowly being reclaimed from al Qaeda. By coincidence, the day my article hit the stands the Times of London published an extensive article coming to the same conclusion as mine. But for the timing, you'd practically think one of us had plagiarized the other.

Why such different conclusions between our articles and the Post's and whom to believe?

It helps to know that the Times writer and I both went to and reported from Ramadi. We didn't summarize classified documents or quote unnamed sources. Linzer and Ricks stayed home and reported from Washington, relying entirely on an unpublished document in addition to quoting a "senior intelligence official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:01 PM


Medicare Part D (Michael Barone, 11/30/06, US News)

It was an article of faith with Democratic politicians and political consultants that seniors would be dissatisfied with Part D. They would find the array of choices too complicated and hard to figure out. They would be angry at the "doughnut hole"–the fact that out-of-pocket drug costs from $2,250 to $3,600 are not covered. But it turns out that seniors, even if not as Internet-savvy as the rest of the population, were able to deal with the array of choices and were able to find plans they liked. There are even insurance policies available that cover the doughnut hole. Choice and competition turn out to work better, and more inexpensively, than centralized command and control. Don't take my word for it; the Post quotes a leading Democratic policy analyst:

Urban Institute President Robert D. Reischauer, a former director of the Congressional Budget Office, called that a remarkable record for a new federal program.

Initially, he said, people were worried no private plans would participate.

"Then too many plans came forward," Reischauer said. "Then people said it's going to cost a fortune. And the price came in lower than anybody thought. Then people like me said they're low-balling the prices the first year and they'll jack up the rates down the line. And, lo and behold, the prices fell again. And the reaction was, 'We've got to have the government negotiate lower prices.' At some point you have to ask: What are we looking for here?"

All of this is vindication for the people who in 2003 put Part D together–especially outgoing House Ways and Means Chairman Bill Thomas and Thomas Scully, then head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the Medicare-regulating agency–and for those who got Part D up and running: Mark McClellan, who recently resigned as head of CMS, and Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt. And it's a vindication of the Bush administration and the House and Senate Republican leaders who put together the just barely successful campaign to pass the 2003 Part D bill.

Interestingly, the Post notes that a couple of leading Democrats on healthcare issues, incoming health subcommittee Chairman Pete Stark and incoming Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus, don't seem to be interested in the kind of sweeping changes Democrats called for during the campaign.

The GOP should have been running on this success. Instead the wingnut Right treated it like a defeat.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:58 PM


Ancient Moon 'computer' revisited: The delicate workings at the heart of a 2,000-year-old analogue computer have been revealed by scientists. (Jonathan Fildes, 11/30/06, BBC News)

The Antikythera Mechanism, discovered more than 100 years ago in a Roman shipwreck, was used by ancient Greeks to display astronomical cycles.

Using advanced imaging techniques, an Anglo-Greek team probed the remaining fragments of the complex geared device.

The results, published in the journal Nature, show it could have been used to predict solar and lunar eclipses.

The elaborate arrangement of bronze gears may also have displayed planetary information.

"This is as important for technology as the Acropolis is for architecture," said Professor John Seiradakis of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece, and one of the team. "It is a unique device."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:40 PM


GOP Rep. Calls Miami 'Third World Country' (CBS/AP, 11/30/06)

[Gov. Jeb Bush], who plans to move to Miami after vacating the governor's office, said in his letter, said Tancredo's comments were "disappointing" and "naïve."

"Miami is a wonderful city filled with diversity and heritage that we choose to celebrate, not insult," Bush said.

They missed the "t".

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:30 PM


U.S., Iraq Unified On Way-Forward Policy, Spokesmen Say (Gerry J. Gilmore, 11/30/06, American Forces Press Service)

Today’s meeting between President Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in Amman, Jordan, was historic and demonstrated the two leaders’ accord on how to move forward in Iraq, a senior U.S. military officer told reporters at a Baghdad news conference today.

The two senior leaders had a very productive talk on how to best address the current security situation in Iraq, Army Maj. Gen. William Caldwell, a Multinational Force Iraq spokesman, told Ali al-Dabbagh, a senior Iraqi government official who accompanied the general to the briefing. [...]

Bush and Maliki agreed to speed up the transfer of authority and responsibility for security matters in Iraq to the country’s government and its military and police forces, Caldwell said.

Dabbagh echoed Caldwell’s comments, saying Maliki’s meeting with Bush “paints the horizons of relations between Iraq and the United States.”

The Iraqi official added that his government “will make an all-out review for the security situation in Iraq and take necessary steps in order to make Iraqi security forces enabled to hold (increased) responsibilities.”

In addition, Dabbagh said, Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi recently met with Jordan’s King Abdullah, and discussed the mutual desirability of countries bordering Iraq to have a positive influence on the country’s internal affairs.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:29 PM


Marie Antoinette Pelosi? (Paul Bedard, 11/30/06, US News)

Looks like the Republicans in the House aren't planning to play nice-nice with the Democrats after all. The emerging House Republican plan on how to address the new Democratic majority is turning toward an aggressive effort to portray Speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi and her team as out of touch and liberal.

"Come January, we'll take her head off every day," said a top GOP aide involved in the planning. "It will be a pure war of ideas over the next two years."

Leading the battle with be incoming House Minority Leader John Boehner and his conservative team. Insiders say that the goal is to pick at Democratic initiatives as pro-tax, pro-spending, or unworkable.

"We are going to re-establish that we are the party of ideas, that they got elected in a fluke, and we're going to make that known every day, every way," said the official.

Hardly a fair fight, since the Democrats have no ideas.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:27 PM


Pope turns to Mecca at Istanbul (AFP, December 01, 2006)

AFTER offending the Muslim world by linking their religion with violence, Pope Benedict XVI, in an exceptional gesture, turned towards Mecca in an attitude of Muslim prayer at the Blue Mosque in Istanbul today, Turkish state television showed.

Benedict XVI, who became the second Pope in history - after John Paul II in Damascus in 2001 - to set foot in a Muslim house of worship, made the gesture at the suggestion of Istanbul Mufti Mustafa Cagrici, his guide for the occasion.

Pope's outreach eases Muslim wariness: In Turkey, Pope Benedict XVI supported Turkey's bid to enter the European Union and visited a key mosque. (Scott Peterson, 12/01/06, The Christian Science Monitor)

Throughout his days here, the pope has chosen language that appeals to Turks' deep sense of nationalism - this "noble land" and it's "glorious past," he said, yielded a "great modern state" - and its aspiration to be seen as equal to European nations.

Coupled with effusive papal praise of Islam, by which Turkey presided over a "remarkable flowering of Islamic civilization," the pope's attempt to prove his "great esteem for Muslims" has had some effect on a skeptical public.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:24 PM


Much Lies Beyond the Grasp of Arrogant Atheism (David Klinghoffer, Nov 24, 2006, The Forward)

I’m no longer surprised by the cluelessness of Jewish educational institutions. Thus a friend studying at a certain Orthodox-affiliated college emailed me this week, asking for my definition of conservatism. He explained that he is taking a class in advanced psychology, the specific topic being the “authoritarian personality.”

That phrase encapsulates a highfalutin’ slur on religious and other conservatives, inspired by psychologist Robert Altemeyer. It holds that conservatism arises not from ideology, but from a personality deformation associated with “conventionalism,” “authoritarian aggression” and “authoritarian submission.” Since most of his fellow students, as Orthodox Jews, would likely rank as right-wing authoritarians on Altemeyer’s scale, my correspondent wrote with his earnest request for an outside perspective.

Interestingly, my young friend’s demanding course has exactly two required texts. One is by Altemeyer. The other is Watergate alumnus John Dean’s recent “Conservatives Without Conscience.” Dean claims that, especially on the “religious right,” conservatism has no meaningful definition but simply masks certain resentments and anxieties.

It's like a madrassa.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:22 PM


Soccer Fans’ Brawl Jolts French Jews (Marc Perelman, Dec 01, 2006, The Forward)

A deadly incident rife with racial and political overtones has roiled France for the past week and heightened a sense of siege among the country’s 600,000-strong Jewish community.

On November 23, a fan of the Paris Saint-Germain soccer team was shot and killed and another fan was seriously wounded by a plainclothes police officer who was rescuing a French Jew after a game between Paris and an Israeli team, Hapoel Tel Aviv.

The prosecutor in charge of the case said that the policeman, who is black, probably acted in self-defense to protect himself and the Jewish fan, Yanniv Hazout, from a group of a dozen enraged Paris supporters near the stadium after the game, which the Israeli team won 4-2.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:19 PM


Flak: Richards Not a Jew, Just Jewish (Dan Levin, Dec 01, 2006, The Forward)

According to witnesses, Richards yelled anti-Jewish vitriol toward an audience member, saying: “You’re a f***ing Jew. Your people are the cause of Jesus dying.” [...]

“He is Jewish and he said, ‘I’m absolutely not anti-Semitic,’” the Post quoted [damage-control guru Howard Rubenstein] as having said. “He acknowledged that he said those things. He said that he was role-playing and playing a character. He said, ‘There is no way I’m anti-Jewish.’”

Trouble is, Richards, in fact, is not Jewish. An article published last week in the Los Angeles Jewish Journal quoted an unnamed television director as saying that the actor was raised Catholic and is “very involved in the Masons.”

Faced with evidence that Richards is not Jewish, Rubenstein hedged.

“He said to me he has adopted the Jewish religion as his belief, but he wasn’t born Jewish,” Rubenstein said, adding that while Richards does not practice Judaism, he has had some “Jewish advisers” in the past.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:17 PM


Jewish Groups To Challenge Ethics Reform (Nathan Guttman, Dec 01, 2006, The Forward)

Two of America’s most influential Jewish organizations are gearing up for their first direct confrontation with the incoming, Democratic-led Congress. The topic: Democratic proposals for congressional ethics and lobbying reform.

At issue are two key congressional perks, targeted for elimination, that Jewish organizations rely on to achieve community goals: overseas junkets, including dozens of trips to Israel each year, funded by Jewish organizations; and an estimated $25 million a year in earmarked funds for Jewish communal projects. Both the trips and the earmarked funding face possible elimination as part of the Democrats’ pledge to fight corruption on Capitol Hill.

Speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi has said she plans to bring up the ethics reform legislation “within the first 100 hours of the 110th Congress,” which will begin its session in January 2007. Activists with several Jewish and pro-Israel groups said they will be working in the coming weeks to head off or soften the specific measures they fear most.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:20 PM


Costly fuel cools Americans' love for cars (Bruce Nichols , 11/30/06, Reuters)

High gasoline prices not only slowed fuel demand growth and cut sales of gas-guzzling vehicles in 2005, they also prompted Americans to drive less for the first time in 25 years, a consulting group said in a report Thursday.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:08 PM


Mashing matters: For standout spuds, you've got to master the technique (Kate Shatzkin, Baltimore Sun)

Baltimore International College chef instructor Greg Wentz weighs in with some timely tips. He says you should start by choosing the right potatoes. The higher the starch, the better they mash, he says, so look for russets, Yukon golds or fingerling potatoes if you want a smooth finish. If you prefer a chunkier, smashed version with peels on, lower-starch red potatoes work well and add color to the dish.

Look for potatoes that are consistent in size, and chop them in a large dice so they will cook uniformly. Bring cooking water to a gentle, not rapid, boil and cook until potatoes are tender but still hold their shape. When you add milk, butter or cream, it should be hot; cold liquid can make your potatoes gummy.

For smooth potatoes, you can use a hand masher or a mixer. Wentz suggests using a flat-topped potato masher with a plastic head so you can mash the drained potatoes right in the cooking pan. That way, you'll have a more immediate sense of when you've worked the potatoes enough. For a chunkier dish, a mixer can work well, too, but in either case remember that thoroughly cooked potatoes need to be mixed for only a short time.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:09 PM


The Best Minor League Defenders (Jeff Sackmann, 11/30/06, Baseball Analysts)

Prospect analysis has always been one of the most contentious issues in the "stats vs. scouts" debates. However, for all the breakthroughs in statistical techniques, analysts have almost always had to rely on scouting to assign a value to the defensive contribution of a young player.

No longer. Through its website, Minor League Baseball has made available a play-by-play log of every game played in the affiliated minors, complete with some batted-ball information. A person with enough time, desire, and misdirected energy can track every ball that was pitched, hit, or caught by a bush leaguer in 2006.

For pitching and hitting, there's We can turn our attention, then, to fielding. Using a statistic called Range, I came up with plus/minus ratings for every 2B, 3B, SS, and OF in the minors. (For more information on how Range is calculated, here's David Gassko's introduction to his creation.) [...]

Center Field

Player Level Org IP PAA PAA/150
Jacoby Ellsbury A+/AA Bos 914 44 65
Justin Upton A Ari 918.3 32 47
Brent Johnson A+ Sea 847.3 28 45
Dustin Majewski A+/AA Tor 856 28 44
Tony Gwynn Jr. AAA Mil 812.7 26 44
Antoan Richardson A Sfg 1000.7 29 39
Chris Amador A+/AA Chw 805.7 23 39
Sam Fuld A+ Chc 734 21 38
Yordany Ramirez A+ Sdp 638.7 17 37
Matt Young A+ Atl 747 20 36

I can't wait to work out MLB equivalents for these; if Ellsbury's true talent level is even half of his 2006 PAA/150, he could be one of the best defensive centerfielders in baseball right now. It's tough to get quite so excited about Justin Upton just yet, but Diamondbacks fans who would like to see him stick in center have to be encouraged by his ranking here.

...besides trading for Javy Lopez instead of an Alberto Castillo-type, was not just putting Ellsbury in CF when Coco got hurt.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:49 AM


Report: Conservation efforts offset land lost to sprawl (Patrick O'Driscoll, 11/30/06, USA TODAY)

The National Land Trust Census, conducted every five years by an umbrella organization for land conservation groups, says private land under protective trusts and easements now total 37 million acres, a 54% increase from the last count in 2000.

Conservation of private land from 2000 to 2005 averaged 2.6 million acres a year — about half the size of New Jersey, according to the Land Trust Alliance, which represents 1,200 of the USA's 1,667 local, state and national land trusts.

This means additional land protected each year exceeds the 2.2 million acres that the Agriculture Department has estimated is converted annually to "developed land."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:47 AM


Half in New Health Plans Want to Switch, Poll Shows (Christopher Lee, 11/30/06, Washington Post)

The survey of 1,389 people by the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation found that 71 percent of those in the new "consumer-directed health plans" said the policies prompted them to consider cost when seeking health care, compared with 49 percent of those with more traditional employer-sponsored coverage.

For instance, people in the new plans were more likely to ask about the cost of a doctor's visit and inquire about the availability of lower-cost alternatives in treatments and tests. More than half, 55 percent, who sought care said the new plans have changed their approach to using health care.

Such findings are in line with assertions by the Bush administration and other advocates who say that the new plans will check spiraling health-care spending by giving consumers a financial incentive to shop around for the best care at a reasonable price -- and to get only the care they need.

"It's a cultural shift," said Devon Herrick, a health economist at the National Center for Policy Analysis in Dallas. "When you go to Wal-Mart you don't have to ask about price -- it's right there next to the good or service you are buying. Health care is not there yet, but it's getting that way. This is the early stages. We have the incentives to get people more responsible and asking about price."

In contrast with other plans that typically require $15 or $20 co-payments for visits to the doctor, the new plans can require consumers to shell out hundreds or thousands of dollars of their own money for medications, physicians' services and hospital care before most coverage kicks in. The plans have high annual deductibles, but their premiums tend to be lower.

Meanwhile, the Right frets about a few nickels and dimes on the prescription plan.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:49 AM


Study Group to Call for Pullback (Thomas E. Ricks and Robin Wright, 11/30/06, Washington Post)

Under the recommendations of the commission, led by former secretary of state James A. Baker III and former congressman Lee H. Hamilton (D-Ind.), the emphasis of the U.S. military presence in Iraq would shift from fighting the insurgency and containing sectarian violence to backing up Iraqi security forces dealing with those problems.

This approach would place less emphasis on combat operations and more on logistics, intelligence and training and advising Iraqi units. Also, a large residual combat force would be required to protect all the personnel involved in those operations and to provide a security guarantee to the Iraqi government.

Thus, even if the combat forces were withdrawn, the person familiar with the group's thinking noted, the recommendation envisions keeping in Iraq a "substantial" U.S. military force.

Some people knowledgeable about the group's deliberations said it might be possible in a year or two to halve the U.S. military presence, to about 70,000 troops. Earlier reports that said that the group simply had decided to call for withdrawing combat forces from Iraq were "garbled," the source familiar with the panel's recommendations added. "It wasn't as specific as that, and it was a lot more conditional," he said. He declined to discuss those conditions.

"We reached a consensus, which in itself is remarkable," said another source close to the 10-member panel of prominent Republicans and Democrats. Divisions had been deep in the run-up to this week's final deliberations.

The findings dovetail with recommendations being considered by the military's Joint Chiefs of Staff, who are conducting their own review of Iraq policy. That group is leaning toward an option that involves a brief surge of troops in Iraq, followed by a partial drawdown and a shift from combat operations to training and advising, according to sources familiar with the process. Troops would remain in Iraq for five to 10 years under this option, which is known within the military as "go long."

Bush agrees to speedy turnover in Iraq (DEB RIECHMANN, 11/30/06, Associated Press)
President Bush said Thursday the United States will speed a turnover of security responsibility to Iraqi forces but assured Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki that Washington is not looking for a "graceful exit" from a war well into its fourth violent year.

As Mark Moyar's excellent study, Triumph Forsaken: The Vietnam War, 1954-1965, makes clear, the key will be to support the Iraqis, rather than try dictating to them, as the Occupation too often has. Drawing down and allowing a devolution of the country into its constituent parts are excellent first steps, even if several years late.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:44 AM


Democrats Reject Key 9/11 Panel Suggestion (Jonathan Weisman, November 30, 2006, Washington Post)

It was a solemn pledge, repeated by Democratic leaders and candidates over and over: If elected to the majority in Congress, Democrats would implement all of the recommendations of the bipartisan commission that examined the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

But with control of Congress now secured, Democratic leaders have decided for now against implementing the one measure that would affect them most directly: a wholesale reorganization of Congress to improve oversight and funding of the nation's intelligence agencies.

Diogenes couldn't find a Democrat who actually intended to implement all the nonsense that commission came up with.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:34 AM


The cost of privatisation will haunt us for years to come: New Labour's aversion to borrowing to invest is driven by corporate siren voices. It is time to ditch this irrational dogma (Kelvin Hopkins, November 30, 2006, The Guardian)

If Labour is to win the next general election a major change of direction across a wide range of policies is now vital. Simply changing the names on the doors in Downing Street will do nothing to dig the party out of its current depression, nor revive the enthusiasm of the millions of Labour voters yearning for that fundamental break with Thatcherism they expected in 1997.

Beyond the Iraq war, nothing has dismayed Labour supporters more than the government's relentless determination to privatise public services.

New Labour's reactionary agenda has failed (The Independent, 30 November 2006)
When New Labour was in opposition, it adopted a progressive stance on questions of crime and punishment. In 1993, Tony Blair famously spoke of the need to be tough, not only on crime but also "the causes of crime". When the former home secretary, Michael Howard, declared that "prison works", he was criticised for being dangerously over-simplistic.

But New Labour in office has been a very different beast. Since 1997 we have been subject to a succession of home secretaries, each wielding more reactionary policies on criminal justice than the last. New Labour's approach to criminal justice over the past decade has amounted to a crude demand that the courts lock more up people - and that they lock them up for longer. All those progressive intentions on crime and punishment have crumbled in the face of sustained hysteria whipped up by the populist press.

Thirty years of Thatcherism is enough?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:29 AM


George Soros and Dangerous Political Currents (ZALMAN SHOVAL, November 30, 2006, NY Sun)

International money-manager and philanthropist George Soros hitherto has not been known as overly concerned with the fate of the Jewish state. But this now has changed — though in a somewhat perverse fashion.

As noted in The New York Sun, the Financial Times, and other news outlets, Mr. Soros is considering giving his support to a new initiative for an "influential alternative" that would be "a powerful voice to lobby for peace with the Palestinians." It could come to be seen as a counterweight to Aipac and other Jewish organizations.

For some obscure reason, there is no mention of a similar effort to create "a powerful voice" to lobby the Palestinians for peace with Israel. The insinuation is clear: The reason peace hasn't arrived isn't the Palestinians' refusal to compromise on anything or to adhere to the international "roadmap," their violation of every single agreement signed in the past, the ongoing terrorism against Israeli civilians, or even their rejection of the Jewish people's very right to a state in any part of its historic homeland — but is due to Israel's unyielding positions.

Ahmadinejad Asks Americans To Reject Bushism, Zionism (BENNY AVNI, November 30, 2006, NY Sun)
Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is using press outlets based here to appeal to "the American people," urging them to change regimes and rid themselves of "Zionist" impositions on the Bush administration.

Coming at the same time that the Bush administration is being urged by many in Washington to open up new diplomatic channels to Tehran, the letter from Mr. Ahmadinejad is laced with Old World anti-Semitism. It pushes hot-button issues like anger over Hurricane Katrina, warns newly elected Democrats to change Washington, and calls on Americans to reject President Bush and withdraw from Iraq.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:25 AM


Winning Muslim hearts and minds: These wars will be won or lost not just by soldiers, spies, and policemen, but ultimately by the wider public (Michael Burleigh, 11/30/06, Daily Telegraph)

The widespread discredit into which the Left-liberal ideology of multi-culturalism has fallen should make us more, not less, cosmopolitan. This is not just a matter of recruiting people with Arabic, Dari or Urdu into the security services: we also need to expand the circle of what we take a sympathetic interest in. What happened, for example, to the 5,000 Africans maimed by al-Qa'eda bombs in 1998? Did the children blinded by flying glass get an education?

As in the Cold War we need to foster and respect cultural dissidence. This was brought home to me when I read Last Summer of Reason, whose author, Tahir Djaout, was murdered in 1993 by Algerian Islamists. Those who like pop music could try the Indonesian rock star Ahmad Dhani, whose hit Warriors of Love is a brave, moderate, Sufi challenge to the terrorists of that country. Everywhere in the Islamic world — 80 per cent of which is non-Arab — there are reasonable, cosmopolitan people who do not want, if they are Lebanese Shia, to be represented by Hizbollah or ruled by Syria, nor to have their tastes dictated by clerical zealots. Let's reach out to them, or at least create some forum where we can be reminded of their existence. So far the West's public diplomacy has been pathetic.

Rather, we lazily allow Islamist fundamentalists to equate our culture with trashy television programmes about penile implants, rather than Bach, Rubens or Mozart, Newton, Pascal or Einstein. As the philosopher Roger Scruton has written, we should be more careful about what image (and reality) of ourselves we project into more traditional societies.

Far too often we concede too much to the terrorists' vision, not only of us, but of themselves. How exactly would the caliphate of bin Laden's imaginings be governed? Hardly at all, judging by the carnage that enveloped Afghanistan under the Taliban. What precisely do the self-appointed emirs and imams know about Islam? How do you subvert the cultural supremacy of Arabic within it? Surely we should be encouraging authoritative voices that regard radical jihadists as heretics rather than kow-towing to useless so-called "community" leaders?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:11 AM


Pope calls divisions among Christians 'scandal to the world' (AP, 11/30/06)

Pope Benedict XVI called divisions among Christians a "scandal to the world" and recalled the faith's deep roots in Europe at a joint ceremony Thursday with the spiritual leader of Orthodox Christians at his ancient enclave.

"The divisions which exist among Christians are a scandal to the world," the pope said after joining Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I to mark the feast day of St. Andrew, who preached across Asia Minor and who tradition says ordained the first bishop of Constantinople, now called Istanbul.

The symbolism of the nearly three-hour Orthodox Liturgy was highly significant to Roman Catholics. Andrew was the brother of St. Peter, who was martyred in Rome and is considered the first pope.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:02 AM


Pausing for breath: A partial Israeli-Palestinian ceasefire is underway (, Nov 28th 2006)

There is little doubt that both Israel and the Palestinian leaders are under pressure to make some sort of change. Since its luckless escapade against Hizbullah in Lebanon this summer, Israel has seemed to be floundering. The war in Lebanon damaged Mr Olmert’s credibility and undermined his long-term plan, a unilateral withdrawal of settlements from the West Bank. Since then, shelling Gaza has failed to halt the Qassams and has not procured the release of a kidnapped Israeli soldier. Worse, it has provoked international condemnation for the slaughter of Palestinians.

On the other hand, the Israeli shelling has battered Hamas, killing some of its members and piling pressure on the movement to find its own new strategy. The various branches of the Palestinian leadership are in much the same bind as Israel. Gazans are starting to notice that the carnage they are suffering has something to do with the radicals in their midst, who insist on popping home-made tubes of explosives at Israel. Although few of these do any damage (many don’t even fly far enough to avoid falling on Gaza) they have caused outrage and despair in southern towns in Israel. Hamas, which runs the PA and whose refusal to recognise Israel has earned the PA an eight-month-long international boycott, is under growing pressure to do something, anything, to relieve the misery. Mr Abbas, the president, who is from Fatah, brokered the ceasefire with the other factions and called the Israelis to get them to agree too. He, like Mr Olmert, is eager to attract Mr Bush’s attention.

Their desperation may be enough to keep the ceasefire going.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:57 AM

OOPS, WRONG COUNTRY (via Bryan Francoeur):

New Congress must show courage (Lou Dobbs, 11/29/06, CNN)

Victorious Democrats will, with the opening of the 110th Congress, have a historic opportunity to right the course of a country that has been hell-bent on permitting free-trade corporatists and faith-based economics to bankrupt the nation.

As the New Year approaches, newly elected Democrats in the House and Senate will be battered by calls, even demands, to stay the course, rather than right it. And we can only hope they and their new leadership in both houses will have the courage and character to be rationalists and realists and overcome their partisan political debt to corporate America, and U.S. multinationals in particular.

Rationalism, protectionism, and nativism--perhaps Mr. Dobbs should work for French tv, not American. He's a perfect example of how the far Right has become the Left.

November 29, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:13 PM


The N-Word: Unmentionable lessons of the midterm aftermath. (Diane McWhorter, Nov. 28, 2006, Slate)

The gist of this essay would appear to be that America is already pretty nearly Nazi Germany--as demonstrated by the fact that you're not allowed to say that in public and people are willing to persecute Islamic terrorists even though each of us might be one--but that Republicans lost the mid-term because W isn't as effective a fuhrer as we demand.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:01 PM


We must alter Soc Sec, Rangel says (Celeste Katz, 11/29/06, NY Daily News)

Raising retirement age or reducing benefits can't be ruled out if the Social Security system is to be saved from going bust, Rep. Charles Rangel said yesterday.

"All of these things are on the table to find some way to make certain that Social Security is solvent," said Rangel, who is poised to take control of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee.

So their offer to the American people is to pay more and get less from a statist program rather than get more and own it yourself in a privatized one? It's not even December yet and the Democrats have already provided more amusement than years of Hastert/Frist.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:59 PM


US economic growth beats forecasts (Eoin Callan and Krishna Guha, November 29 2006, Financial Times)

The US economy grew at a rate of 2.2 per cent in the third quarter, faster than previously thought, while wage growth earlier this year was revised down on Wednesday, adding to evidence that the economy is on track for a soft landing.

This picture was reinforced by the latest Fed Beige Book survey of economic conditions, which offered little sign of a deterioration in the US economy during October and early November.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:05 PM


This Christmas, Give the Gift that Keeps On Giving: Grammar. (Henry Edmondson, November 27, 2006, Townhall)

There is nothing more elegant than a well - turned phrase, a persuasive paragraph or an evocative sonnet. Without an appreciation of beauty, though, nothing is beautiful, nor is anything ugly. The moral implications of such linguistic poverty are frightening to contemplate.

What might make a nice grammatical gift for the holidays? The best books on grammar are both a delight to read and also follow the rubric "less is more." The ones to avoid take a shoehorn and cram so many rules into the text that the reader may be driven in despair to sign language. Entertaining grammar need not be an oxymoron.

In my view, until the day that James J. Kilpatrick decides to combine his weekly syndicated column "The Writers Art" into a text, we'll just have to settle for second best.

Lynne Truss's cleverly titled "Eats, Shoots and Leaves", now a classic, is out in paperback for the holidays. A Grammar Book for You and I (Oops, Me): "All the Grammar You Need to Succeed", by C. Edward Good, is as practical as it is witty.

Going on two decades, William Safire's "How Not To Write: The Essential Misrules of Grammar", is just the right size to stuff the stocking. Safire advises, "In their writing, everyone should make sure that their pronouns agree with its antecedent." My favorite this year is "The Mountain Man's Field Guide to Grammar: A fearless Adventure in Grammar, Style, and Usage." The examples fit the theme nicely. In respect to the conjunction "but", it is redundant to say, "Zeke Hatcher had no doubt but that Parker Daniels deserved to hang." Better in this case to omit the conjunction and get on with justice: "Zeke Hatcher had no doubt that Parker Daniels deserved to hang."

Finally, if your interest is more in style than in grammar, consider either the perennial favorite by Strunk and White, "The Elements of Style", and the newer contender, "Write Tight" by William Brohaugh. None of these recommendations is likely to be returned on December 26.

One of the best things about the recent Far From the Madding Gerund is its hilarious sustained assault on Strunk & White.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:40 PM


Racism on the rise in Europe, new study says (Lucia Kubosova, 11/28/06, EUOBSERVER)

Although there is a lack of objective data on discrimination and racist violence in several EU member states, a new study suggests that racism has increased in Europe, particularly towards the Roma community, Muslims, Jews and immigrants. [...]

"Roma are a particular target for racist violence and crime, both at the hands of the general public and public officials. Members of the Jewish community continue to experience anti-Semitic incidents. Rising Islamophobia is an issue of particular concern," noted Anastasia Crickley, chair of the EUMC management board.

"In effect, in spite of some heartening examples of good practice, I stand here today unable to say that there has been a substantial improvement with regard to racism and xenophobia in the EU member states," she added.

Within the countries that have filed data on the issue, eight countries - Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Poland, Slovakia and UK - have recorded a rise in racist crimes or violence.

Now, quick, everyone pretend the new Islamophobia is qualitatively different than the old hatreds....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:29 PM


Bush reaffirms push for Mideast democracy: His speech cited 'freedom' as region's most pressing need. (Howard LaFranchi, 11/29/06, The Christian Science Monitor

[President George W.] Bush did not use the word "stability" - the watchword of foreign-policy realists - even one time in his speech Monday. Many foreign-policy experts have speculated that in the coming months the US would shift from an emphasis on democracy to a focus on stabilizing the country - even at the cost of some individual freedoms. Leaders in the region have appeared to favor a renewed focus on stability. Notably, Jordan's King Abdullah, who will host Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki for talks Wednesday and Thursday, warned earlier this week of three civil wars in the region: in Iraq, Lebanon, and the Palestinian territories.

While Bush did refrain from heralding Iraq as a potential beacon to other Middle Eastern countries struggling for freedom - an image he has employed in the past - he did speak of Iraq as one focal point of the 21st- century's defining struggle: freedom's battle with totalitarian extremism.

What does Reality have to do with America?

President Bush Discusses NATO Alliance During Visit to Latvia (George W. Bush, Grand Hall Latvia University, Riga, Latvia, 11/28/06)

The most basic responsibility of this Alliance is to defend our people against the threats of a new century. We're in a long struggle against terrorists and extremists who follow a hateful ideology and seek to establish a totalitarian empire from Spain to Indonesia. We fight against the extremists who desire safe havens and are willing to kill innocents anywhere to achieve their objectives.

NATO has recognized this threat. And three years ago, NATO took an unprecedented step when it sent allied forces to defend a young democracy more than 3,000 miles from Europe. Since taking command of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, NATO has expanded it from a small force that was operating only in Kabul into a robust force that conducts security operations in all of Afghanistan. NATO is helping to train the Afghan National Army. The Alliance is operating 25 Provincial Reconstruction Teams that are helping the central government extend its reach into distant regions of that country. At this moment, all 26 NATO allies, and 11 partner nations are contributing forces to NATO's mission in Afghanistan. They're serving with courage and they are doing the vital work necessary to help this young democracy secure the peace.

We saw the effectiveness of NATO forces this summer, when NATO took charge of security operations in Southern Afghanistan from the United States. The Taliban radicals who are trying to pull down Afghanistan's democracy and regain power saw the transfer from American to NATO control as a window of opportunity to test the will of the Alliance. So the Taliban massed a large fighting force near Kandahar to face the NATO troops head on. It was a mistake. Together with the Afghan National Army, NATO forces from Canada and Denmark and the Netherlands and Britain and Australia and the United States engaged the enemy -- with operational support from Romanian, Portuguese, and Estonian forces. According to NATO commanders, allied forces fought bravely and inflicted great damage on the Taliban.

General David Richards, the British commander of NATO troops in Afghanistan, puts it this way: "There were doubts about NATO and our ability to conduct demanding security operations. There are no questions about our ability now. We've killed many hundreds of Taliban, and it has removed any doubt in anybody's mind that NATO can do what we were sent here to do."

Taliban and al Qaeda fighters, and drug traffickers and criminal elements and local warlords remain active and committed to destroying democracy in Afghanistan. Defeating them will require the full commitment of our Alliance. For NATO to succeed, its commanders on the ground must have the resources and flexibility they need to do their jobs. The Alliance was founded on a clear principle: an attack on one is an attack on all. That principle holds true whether the attack is on our home soil, or on our forces deployed on a NATO mission abroad. Today Afghanistan is NATO's most important military operation, and by standing together in Afghanistan, we'll protect our people, defend our freedom, and send a clear message to the extremists the forces of freedom and decency will prevail.

Every ally can take pride in the transformation that NATO is making possible for the people of Afghanistan. Because of our efforts, Afghanistan has gone from a totalitarian nightmare to a free nation, with an elected president, a democratic constitution, and brave soldiers and police fighting for their country.

Over 4.6 million Afghan refugees have come home. It's one of the largest return movements in history. The Afghan economy has tripled in size over the past five years. About two million girls are now in school, compared to zero under the Taliban -- and 85 women were elected or appointed to the Afghan National Assembly. A nation that was once a terrorist sanctuary has been transformed into an ally in the war on terror, led by a brave President, Hamid Karzai. Our work in Afghanistan is bringing freedom to the Afghan people, it is bringing security to the Euro-Atlantic community, and it's bringing pride to the NATO Alliance.

NATO allies are also making vital contributions to the struggle for freedom in Iraq. At this moment, a dozen NATO allies, including every one of the Baltic nations, are contributing forces to the coalition in Iraq. And 18 NATO countries plus Ukraine are contributing forces to the NATO Training Mission that is helping develop the next generation of leaders for the Iraqi Security Forces. To date, NATO has trained nearly 3,000 Iraqi personnel, including nearly 2,000 officers and civilian defense officials trained inside Iraq, plus an additional 800 Iraqis trained outside the country. NATO has also helped Iraqis stand up a new military academy near Baghdad, so Iraqis can develop their own military leaders in the years to come. And NATO has contributed $128 million in military equipment to the Iraqi military, including 77 Hungarian T-72 battle tanks. By helping to equip the Iraqi Security Forces and train the next group of Iraqi military leaders, NATO is helping the Iraqi people in the difficult work of securing their country and their freedom.

Tomorrow, I'm going to travel to Jordan where I will meet with the Prime Minister of Iraq. We will discuss the situation on the ground in his country, our ongoing efforts to transfer more responsibility to the Iraqi Security Forces, and the responsibility of other nations in the region to support the security and stability of Iraq. We'll continue to be flexible, and we'll make the changes necessary to succeed. But there's one thing I'm not going to do: I'm not going to pull our troops off the battlefield before the mission is complete.

The battles in Iraq and Afghanistan are part of a struggle between moderation and extremism that is unfolding across the broader Middle East. Our enemy follows a hateful ideology that rejects fundamental freedoms like the freedom to speak, to assemble, or to worship God in the way you see fit. It opposes the rights for women. Their goal is to overthrow governments and to impose their totalitarian rule on millions. They have a strategy to achieve these aims. They seek to convince America and our allies that we cannot defeat them, and that our only hope is to withdraw and abandon an entire region to their domination. The war on terror we fight today is more than a military conflict; it is the decisive ideological struggle of the 21st century. And in this struggle, we can accept nothing less than victory for our children and our grandchildren.

We see this struggle in Lebanon, where last week gunmen assassinated that country's Industry Minister, Pierre Gemayel, a prominent leader of the movement that secured Lebanon's independence last year. His murder showed once again the viciousness of those who are trying to destabilize Lebanon's young democracy. We see this struggle in Syria, where the regime allows Iranian weapons to pass through its territory into Lebanon, and provides weapons and political support to Hezbollah. We see this struggle in Iran, where a reactionary regime subjugates its proud people, arrests free trade union leaders, and uses Iran's resources to fund the spread of terror and pursue nuclear weapons. We see this struggle in the Palestinian Territories, where extremists are working to stop moderate leaders from making progress toward the vision of two democratic states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security.

In each of these places, extremists are using terror to stop the spread of freedom. Some are Shia extremists, others are Sunni extremists -- but they represent different faces of the same threat. And if they succeed in undermining fragile democracies, and drive the forces of freedom out of the region, they will have an open field to pursue their goals. Each strain of violent Islamic radicalism would be emboldened in its efforts to gain control of states and establish new safe havens. The extremists would use oil resources to fuel their radical agenda, and to punish industrialized nations, and pursue weapons of mass destruction. Armed with nuclear weapons, they could blackmail the free world, spread their ideologies of hate, and raise a mortal threat to Europe, America, and the entire civilized world.

If we allow the extremists to do this, then 50 years from now history will look back on our time with unforgiving clarity, and demand to know why we did not act. Our Alliance has a responsibility to act. We must lift up and support the moderates and reformers who are working for change across the broader Middle East. We must bring hope to millions by strengthening young democracies from Kabul to Baghdad, to Beirut. And we must advance freedom as the great alternative to tyranny and terror.

I know some in my country, and some here in Europe, are pessimistic about the prospects of democracy and peace in the Middle East. Some doubt whether the people of that region are ready for freedom, or want it badly enough, or have the courage to overcome the forces of totalitarian extremism. I understand these doubts, but I do not share them. I believe in the universality of freedom. I believe that the people of the Middle East want their liberty. I'm impressed by the courage I see in the people across the region who are fighting for their liberty.

We see this courage in the eight million Afghans who defied terrorist threats and went to the polls to choose their leaders. We see this courage in the nearly 12 million Iraqis who refused to let the car bombers and assassins stop them from voting for the free future of their country. We see this courage in the more than one million Lebanese who voted for a free and sovereign government to rule their land. And we see this courage in citizens from Damascus to Tehran, who, like the citizens of Riga before them, keep the flame of liberty burning deep within their hearts, knowing that one day its light will shine throughout their nations.

There was a time, not so long ago, when many doubted that liberty could succeed in Europe. Here in the Baltics, many can still recall the early years of the Cold War, when freedom's victory was not so obvious or assured. In 1944, the Soviet Red Army reoccupied Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia, plunging this region into nearly five decades of communist rule. In 1947, communist forces were threatening Greece and Turkey, the reconstruction of Germany was faltering, and mass starvation was setting in across Europe. In 1948, Czechoslovakia fell to communism, France and Italy were threatened by the same fate, and Berlin was blockaded on the orders of Josef Stalin. In 1949, the Soviet Union exploded a nuclear weapon -- and weeks later, communist forces took control in China. And in the summer of 1950, seven North Korean divisions poured across the border into South Korea, marking the start of the first direct military clash of the Cold War. All of this took place in the six years following World War II.

Yet today, six decades later, the Cold War is over, the Soviet Union is no more, and the NATO Alliance is meeting in the capital of a free Latvia. Europe no longer produces armed ideologies that threaten other nations with aggression and conquest and occupation. And a continent that was for generations a source of instability and global war has become a source of stability and peace. Freedom in Europe has brought peace to Europe, and freedom has brought the power to bring peace to the broader Middle East.

Soon after I took office, I spoke to students at Warsaw University. I told them America had learned the lessons of history. I said, "No more Munichs, and no more Yaltas." I was speaking at the time about Europe, but the lessons of Yalta apply equally across the world. The question facing our nations today is this: Will we turn the fate of millions over to totalitarian extremists, and allow the enemy to impose their hateful ideology across the Middle East? Or will we stand with the forces of freedom in that part of the world, and defend the moderate majority who want a future of peace?

My country has made its choice, and so has the NATO Alliance. We refuse to give in to a pessimism that consigns millions across the Middle East to endless oppression. We understand that, ultimately, the only path to lasting peace is through the rise of lasting free societies.

Here in the Baltic region, many understand that freedom is universal and worth the struggle. During the second world war, a young girl here in Riga escaped with her family from the advancing Red Army. She fled westward, moving first to a refugee camp in Germany, and then later to Morocco, where she and her family settled for five-and-a-half years. Spending her teenage years in a Muslim nation, this Latvian girl came to understand a fundamental truth about humanity: Moms and dads in the Muslim world want the same things for their children as moms and dads here in Riga -- a future of peace, a chance to live in freedom, and the opportunity to build a better life.

Today, that Latvian girl is the leader of a free country -- the Iron Lady of the Baltics, the President of Latvia. (Applause.) And the lessons she learned growing up in Casablanca guide her as she leads her nation in this world. Here is how she put it earlier this year, in an address to a joint meeting of the United States Congress: "We know the value of freedom and feel compassion for those who are still deprived of it. Every nation on Earth is entitled to freedom," your President said. She said, "We must share the dream that some day there won't be a tyranny left anywhere in the world. We must work for this future, all of us, large and small, together."

Like your President, I believe this dream is within reach, and through the NATO Alliance, nations large and small are working together to achieve it.

We thank the people of Latvia for your contributions to NATO, and for the powerful example you set for liberty. I appreciate your hospitality at this summit. America is proud to call you friends and allies in the cause of peace and freedom. May God bless you, and may God continue to bless America. Thank you very much. (Applause.)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:06 PM


From Foe to Friend in Turkey (Der Spiegel, 11/28/06)

It didn't take long for Pope Benedict XVI to transform himself from one of Turkey's worst enemies to one of the country's best friends. Already on Wednesday, the pope was being given praise for his attempts to bridge the gaps between Christians and Muslims -- and mend the fence that he crashed through in September with comments that many Muslims took to be insulting to the Prophet Muhammad. His comments on Tuesday saying that Islam was a religion of peace was well received.

But that wasn't all. The pope came bearing a surprise gift as well: support for Turkish membership in the European Union. "This trip is important for Turkey's EU membership," wrote the daily Milliyet. "This is a big warning for conservative politicians who think the EU is a Christian club."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:03 PM


Mystery bird from Africa graces Los Altos Hills (Lisa M. Krieger and Linda Goldston, 11/29/06, San Jose Mercury News)

Found: One East African crowned crane. Serious inquiries only.

The tall and majestic bird, 9,000 miles from its native home, has settled into an old Los Altos Hills apricot orchard, where it shares corn with quail, intimidates cats and thrills neighbors.

``I said to my husband: `Do you see what I see?' not really believing my eyes,'' said Sandra Humphries, who with neighbor Colette Cranston is keeping a watchful eye on the crane, which is the national bird of Uganda.

It doesn't seem to know that it's lost. It strolls contentedly through the fall foliage, scratching for seeds. It yields to passing cars. While wary of humans, it is not alarmed by them. It notes displeasure by flapping its wings.

Ten billion years of evolution so it can thrive wherever it decides to stop....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:55 PM


Is the Philippines Finally Turning Around?: Growth is up. The deficit is down. President Arroyo has survived impeachment threats. The service sector is thriving. Yet much remains to be done (Assif Shameen , 11/22/06, Business Week)

[T]he fact that the center is even close to completion is significant. It is all part of a concerted rebranding effort underway under Arroyo's leadership for this sprawling archipelago—long viewed as a politically unstable economic underachiever. "We want the region and the world to see that the Philippines has arrived," Arroyo said during an exclusive interview with on Nov. 20.

Maybe Arroyo has arrived too, in a way. That she is even around to host the summit is nothing short of a miracle. A year ago, Arroyo's five-year-old administration was under siege. Almost daily street demonstrators called for her ouster in what was billed as "People Power III." That was not a good place to be, considering two previous people power waves of protest led to the removal of dictator Ferdinand Marcos in 1986 and Joseph Estrada in January 2001.

Amid rumors of military coups (that never transpired), Arroyo also managed to narrowly avoid an impeachment trial in the Congress over allegations of government corruption and vote fraud. Along the way, though, she stayed focused on economic reforms, pushing through tax hikes to cope with the country's massive fiscal problems and ushering in other revenue-boosting measures. The economy is now in the best shape it has been since the 1950s. "I have said all along there is no gain without pain," she points out.

Economists have boosted growth forecasts this year to 5.6%—and to more than 6.5% in 2007. Chronic budget deficits have almost been eliminated in a nation that was under scrutiny from credit agencies as a government-default candidate. Moreover, foreign investors are testing the waters again. Foreign direct investments hit $1.2 billion last year and likely will grow to $2 billion this year based on preliminary data. "We are now ready for a take-off," Arroyo insists.

Analysts enjoy the Philippines turnaround story even though they say much more needs to be done. "Stronger economic fundamentals and growth are starting to feed off one another," notes Rob Subbaraman, an economist for Lehman Brothers in Hong Kong.
Long Way to Go

Indeed, he is so impressed with the turnaround that Subbaraman says "credit rating agencies should start rewarding the Philippines for its economic growth" with upgrades. "The reforms have reached a critical point where virtuous spirals are developing," he thinks.

President Arroyo's Vision for the Philippines: She tells about her plans to privatize, invest in infrastructure, and make the archipelago a top player in business process outsourcing (Assif Shameen , 11/22/06, Business Week)
Not long ago, the Philippines was in political turmoil, suffering from a huge budget deficit, weak currency and worries the country couldn't compete with China or India. Today the International Monetary Fund praises the country. What has changed?

I am glad that people are seeing that we've finally arrived. There is no looking back from here. Clearly, because of the steps we took, the days of huge deficits are gone. Gone, too, are the days of stagnation and poor economic growth. We fought hard for economic reforms. The first phase was to raise the revenues needed to invest in our infrastructure and our people so that Philippines is a more competitive place to do business and have a better standard of living. Those first battles have been won.

The budget deficit is under control, we are on our way to having a balanced budget by 2008, the stock market is up, the peso is strong, poverty rate is down, per capita income is up, investors are coming in again, growth is robust, new revenues can now be invested in long-overdue repair and rebuilding of our infrastructure, education, health, and job creation. The IMF and credit-rating agencies recognize this and so we are getting constant upgrades. We believe we are now in a virtuous cycle where one good thing leads to another.

Still, the Philippines has an image problem. How do you counter this image issue and tell investors this time it's for real?

Well, they can see the difficult economic reforms that we've undertaken. They can see the revenues that we've raised in order to make investments in infrastructure and education. They can also see that I was even willing to pay a political cost to get these through. Now the results are coming in. I am happy the investors are more forthcoming.

The IMF and credit rating agencies reflect the image that we have in the world and we are getting accolades from them for the improvements we have made. Investments are coming in a range of sectors from business process outsourcing to mining. We've made it clear that we only encourage mining investments that are ecologically responsible so that there is sustainable development.

Because we now have money to invest, I have announced a trillion peso (nearly $20 billion) infrastructure program for the medium term. The money will come from our new revenues, from government corporations as well as the private sector. A lot of private-sector companies and foreign investors have shown interest and we are now trying to move on the infrastructure projects.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:55 AM


Sox reportedly getting closer to deal with Drew (SEAN McADAM, 11/29/06, Providence Journal)

According to industry sources throughout baseball, the Red Sox are nearing completion of a multi-year deal for free-agent outfielder J.D. Drew.

Drew stands ready to sign a four-year contract, with the two sides still at work on a fifth year that would offer the Red Sox some protection with the injury-prone Drew.

It's unknown whether the fifth year will be in the form of a vesting option -- under which Drew could guarantee the final year by reaching minimum numbers of games played and at-bats recorded -- or a straight team option.

According to Baseball Prospectus, Mr. Drew's most comparable major league players are Johnny Grubb and Johnny Briggs, neither of whom was much use even in their early thirties and didn't make it until their late, and Bobby Abreu, who's gotten to play in the steroid era. So limiting the contract to four years or less is obviously a must. The money is insignificant.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:37 AM


Freud's Will to Power (RONALD W. DWORKIN, November 29, 2006, NY Sun)

Legend has it that Freud, although educated in the philosophies of his day, studiously avoided the work of Nietzsche to preserve the originality of his ideas against external influence. Nietzsche's analysis of the human psyche, how values were supposedly projections of people's unspoken jealousies and fears, ran dangerously close to Freud's idea (still a work in progress at the end of the 19th century) that the roots of conscious behavior lay in unconscious desires.

But after reading Dr. Peter Kramer's outstanding new biography of Freud (HarperCollins, 213 pages, $21.95), one wonders if Freud feared something else, not influence but self-knowledge, for Dr. Kramer's Freud is practically the living embodiment of Nietzsche's will to power. It's not simply that Freud was incredibly ambitious. (At age four, after soiling a chair, he reassured his mother that he would grow up to be a great man and buy her another.) Rather, it was Freud's determination to systematize the world, to bring order to chaos, and to impose his theory of life on life itself — a determination so intense that one of Freud's colleagues called it a "psychical need."

This criticism of Freud the systematizer runs throughout Dr. Kramer's book, highlighted by Freud's irritating tendency to generalize whole theories of human nature from a handful of personal observations.

And Freudianism has been soiling couches ever since...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:33 AM


Iraq violence a threat to region (Miami Herald, 11/29/06)

The worst fears about U.S. intervention in Iraq are now true: The nation liberated from Saddam Hussein has devolved into ethnic warfare that cannot be distinguished from civil war. No matter how the United States shifts its Iraq policy, there are no good answers for stopping the violence or leaving the country. Even the high-powered Iraq Study Group, which plans to issue its report next month, has no sure-fire fix-it formula.

Whether the United States stays in Iraq or leaves, the threat persists that sectarian violence will spill over and destabilize the region.

Similarly, Solidarity destabilized the Iron Curtain.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:22 AM


N.J. bill calls for rights for gays, siblings (Associated Press, November 28, 2006)

Conservative groups in New Jersey are pushing a proposal that would grant the rights of marriage - but not the title - to gays, siblings and others involved in domestic partnerships. The plan comes in reaction to a landmark Supreme Court ruling last month that said gay couples in New Jersey should have access to the same rights and benefits as married couples. Whether to call those rights marriages, civil unions or something else was left up to lawmakers.

Under the conservatives’ plan, rights would be available to gay couples, relatives and other twosomes who are not eligible to marry, said Len Deo, president of the New Jersey Family Policy Council. Unrelated opposite-sex couples, who can legally marry, would not be eligible for the designation.

Smart for the Stupid Party.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:17 AM


From pigs to horses and cattle, animals brought to Hawaii flourish with mixed results (Associated Press, November 29, 2006)

In Hawaii’s warm, moist environment, interlopers have flourished.

Known as invasive species, they pillage native forests, screech through the night in suburban neighborhoods and root around in rural taro patches.

Stealthy, unwelcome species such as hybrid Polynesian pigs and a newly discovered gall wasp have eluded eradication efforts and taken hold in an ecosystem that was once home to only one terrestrial mammal, an insectivorous bat. [...]

Still, despite the annoyances and ecological upheaval these introduced animals and plants have caused here, not everyone feels they all need to be wiped out.

“I think semantics plays a big role in this. The term ’invasive species’ makes one think that the hordes are at our gates and threatening to destroy life as we know it, when actually the animals who are considered invasive for the most part had no say in coming to Hawaii,” said Cathy Goeggel, Animal Rights Hawaii director.

Even funnier than the ease with which the non-natives thrive despite coming from other environments is the implicit assumption of Design that underlies viewing them as "invasive."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:45 AM


Fancy long-range 777s fit Singapore's swank service (Dominic Gates, 11/29/06, Seattle Times)

The chief executive of Singapore Airlines, Chew Choon Seng, picked up two lavishly appointed long-range 777 jets in Everett on Tuesday.

On a rare Seattle visit, the influential playmaker in the world of commercial aviation offered his views on the fierce competition between Boeing and Airbus across the range of their products.

Chew gave a strong endorsement of the hot-selling twin-engine 777. And comments by key General Electric executives here for the event indicated Airbus could have trouble delivering a choice of engines for a proposed jet that would compete against the Boeing airplane.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:44 AM


Bush wants more countries in visa-waiver program (Mimi Hall, 11/29/06, USA TODAY)

President Bush said Tuesday that he wants more countries in a program that allows foreigners to stay in the USA without visas, despite criticism that the move could open the door to terrorists.

"We want people to come to our country," Bush said in Tallinn, Estonia, one of several European countries that have asked to be included in the visa-waiver program, in which 27 foreign countries now participate. "It's in our nation's interest that people be able to come and visit."

Bush said his administration aims to add more countries to the program, created to facilitate tourism and business travel 15 years before the 9/11 attacks increased fears of terrorism.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:42 AM


Amtrak ridership increases (Oren Dorell, 11/29/06, USA TODAY)

Tighter airport security and higher gas prices appear to be boosting Amtrak ridership in the Northeast, the South and Midwest.

Trains in North Carolina, Pennsylvania and New England saw double-digit jumps in ridership.

Which is why we should make gas more expensive, not less.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:34 AM


The Man, Movie, and Legend (ANDREW FERGUSON, November 29, 2006, NY Sun)

Biographers agree that in his last years Bobby Kennedy developed a sensitivity to poverty and race that he earlier lacked. Yet even here his liberalism is pretty sketchy.

In 1966, by now a senator from New York, Kennedy talked several friendly businessmen into funding a pilot anti-poverty program in the Bedford Stuyvesant section of New York.

The program drew much more from the conservative ideals of private enterprise and individual initiative than from the big-government liberalism of his rival Johnson. Ronald Reagan, who was governor of California at that time, for one, was delighted with Kennedy's approach. "He's talking more and more like me," Reagan said approvingly.

Kennedy called for "doing away as much as possible with the welfare system, the handouts and getting people jobs by giving the private sector tax incentives."

That quote comes from a debate, held a few days before the California primary, with Senator Eugene McCarthy, one of Kennedy's rivals for the Democratic nomination (and no relation to Joe).

Eugene McCarthy was a genial man in his later years, but at the mention of Bobby's name he would grimace and say only, "an awful man."

Part of the reason for McCarthy's distaste was that last debate. When the moderator asked about poverty and race, McCarthy said that the black ghettos should be broken up by dispersing subsidized housing around the country, beyond the inner cities.

Kennedy, on camera, looked horrified, and with his eye trained on the then all-white suburbs of Los Angeles, he said: "We have 10 million Negroes who are in the ghettos at the present time. … You say you are going to take 10,000 black people and move them into Orange County. It is just going to be catastrophic."

McCarthy never quite recovered. Kennedy's distortion made his opponent look like a despoiler of white suburbia, a sentimentalist at best, and a radical at worst.

But it worked. This bit of ruthless race-baiting — "political thuggery," as the otherwise worshipful reporter Jules Witcover called it — frightened enough white suburbanites into voting for Kennedy to hand him the California primary and to send him, in triumphant good humor, into the ballroom of the Ambassador Hotel on the evening of June 4, 1968.

Forget the race-baiting for the moment, try to imagine a Democratic presidential debate in 2008 between a candidate whose main program is Welfare Reform and one who's pro-Ownership Society.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:26 AM


End of housing decline near?: Drops in price and sales moderate, hinting market may be starting to stabilize (Kimberly Blanton, November 29, 2006, Boston Globe)

Price drops and declining sales in the Massachusetts housing market moderated in October, two housing reports showed yesterday, suggesting that the monthslong slump in the real estate market may be nearing its end.

The median price for a single-family home fell 2 percent in October to $341,000 compared to the same month in 2005, according to data compiled by the Massachusetts Association of Realtors.

Sue Hawkes, managing director of Collaborative Cos., a real estate marketing firm, was heartened by October's results.

"In the scheme of things," she said, a 2 percent price drop "is quite low. People think prices have dropped 10 or 15 percent, but the statistics aren't showing that. That's very encouraging news."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:21 AM


Hastings, Harman Rejected for Chairmanship: Pelosi Decides Against Both of House Intelligence Panel's Top Two Democrats (Jonathan Weisman and Peter Slevin, November 29, 2006, Washington Post)

House Speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has decided against naming either Rep. Jane Harman (Calif.), the senior Democrat on the House intelligence committee, or Rep. Alcee L. Hastings (Fla.), the panel's No. 2 Democrat, to chair the pivotal committee next year. [...]

The fight over the top spot on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence has exposed the kind of factional politics that bedeviled House Democrats before they were swept from control in 1994. Harman, a moderate, strong-on-defense "Blue Dog" Democrat, had angered liberals with her reluctance to challenge the Bush administration's use of intelligence. Hastings, an African American, was strongly backed by the Congressional Black Caucus but was ardently opposed by the Blue Dogs, who said his removal from the bench disqualifies him from such a sensitive post.

Complicating the matter was Pelosi's relationship with black Democrats. Earlier this year, she enraged the Black Caucus by removing one of its members, Rep. William J. Jefferson (La.), from the Ways and Means Committee after court documents revealed that federal investigators looking into allegations of bribery had found $90,000 in cash neatly bundled in his freezer.

You don't need to pay off blacks or Jews, who've shown they'll vote Democrat no matter what the Party does to them--give it to the Latinos, who actually keep their vote in play.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:18 AM


In Following His Own Script, Webb May Test Senate's Limits (Michael D. Shear, 11/29/06, Washington Post)

At a recent White House reception for freshman members of Congress, Virginia's newest senator tried to avoid President Bush. Democrat James Webb declined to stand in a presidential receiving line or to have his picture taken with the man he had often criticized on the stump this fall. But it wasn't long before Bush found him.

"How's your boy?" Bush asked, referring to Webb's son, a Marine serving in Iraq.

"I'd like to get them out of Iraq, Mr. President," Webb responded, echoing a campaign theme.

"That's not what I asked you," Bush said. "How's your boy?"

"That's between me and my boy, Mr. President," Webb said coldly, ending the conversation on the State Floor of the East Wing of the White House.

His next memoir is going to be called: Saving Private Webb.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:08 AM


Banana breads by the bunch (ANN LOVEJOY, 11/28/06, Seattle Post-Intelligencer)

My sons' favorite is the most basic of all. Sturdy and simple, Boston Banana Bread makes the best toast ever and is fantastic when used for French toast. It's also great sliced warm with sweet butter. If there is a secret to great banana bread, it's fresh baking soda and baking powder. Toss out your old ones each fall and you'll discover that fresh leavening makes a positive difference. [...]


* 3 ripe bananas, mashed
* 2 eggs, beaten until fluffy
* 1 teaspoon vanilla
* 1 cup unbleached white flour
* 1 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
* 3/4 cup sugar
* 1 teaspoon baking soda
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Butter a large loaf pan, dust with flour; set aside.

Combine bananas, eggs and vanilla; set aside.

Sift dry ingredients together and blend with banana mixture. Fill pan 2/3 full. Bake until a toothpick comes out clean (55-60 minutes).

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:03 AM


Night of soccer violence in France reveals an ugly underside (Elaine Sciolino, November 28, 2006, The New York Times)

What's the overside?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:59 AM


Borat's humour is immoral (Marcel Berlins, November 29, 2006, The Guardian)

The humour of humiliation has become distressingly popular. The success of the film Borat is the latest example. I disliked it and was angered by it. I admit to laughing quite often because parts of it are very funny...

‘Borat’ blowup Rocked Pam’s marriage (Boston Herald wire services, November 29, 2006)

Did “Borat” blow up Pamela Anderson and Kid Rock’s chance to make it to their first wedding anniversary?

Pals of the newly estranged couple told the New York Post that Anderson filed for divorce from Rock after just fourth months of marriage because his “male insecurity and major anger issues,” came to light at a “Borat” screening two weeks ago.

Apparently the redneck rocker (born Robert Richie) lost his cool at Universal Studio chief Ron Meyer’s Beverly Hills home after viewing the Sasha Baron Cohen comedy.

“Ron Meyer held a screening of “Borat” at his house for a bunch of people, including Pam and Bob,” dished the Anderson friend. “It was the first time Bob had seen the movie, and, well, he didn’t like it.”

November 28, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:10 PM


Kei Igawa (Rotoworld, Nov. 28, 2006)

According to, the winning bid for Japanese left-hander Kei Igawa was for about $25 million.

Incredible. Igawa's stuff has drawn mixed reviews, and while he might be well ahead of MLB hitters in his first season in the U.S., it seems unlikely that he'll settle in as more than a third or fourth starter. If it costs a total of $40 million to bring him in for three years, we have a new candidate for the biggest bust of the winter. It's expected that we'll know tonight who won the bidding for Igawa.

Yankees win rights to Japan's Igawa (RONALD BLUM, 11/28/06, Associated Press)
The New York Yankees won the bidding for Japanese pitcher Kei Igawa when the Hanshin Tigers accepted their offer of about $25 million Tuesday.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:36 PM


Once upon a time in the west: a review of DANGEROUS NATION: America and the World 1600-1898 by Robert Kagan (Robert Cooper, Sunday Times of London)

The Monroe Doctrine of 1823 — that the US would not accept European interference in the Western hemisphere — was unilateral, like all subsequent American “doctrines”. But America also retained an ideological preference for Britain over the continental powers; if not a republic, it was at least a liberal monarchy. This was not the special relationship that the British still like to imagine. Britain was the superpower of the day; and it is this that accounts for the remarkable survival of Canada on a continent where the United States took everything else within reach. Dealing with America is always easier if you are powerful.

Why was the nation dangerous? Because it believed in itself and in its cause. America, Kagan tells us, was never a status quo power. It wanted to remake the world in its own image; and because its cause was righteous it saw no reason to limit its power. Reacting to the American wish to be rid altogether of the French and Indians, Edmund Burke argued for a balance of power in America. The idea that you could feel secure “only by having no other Nation near you was alien and repulsive to the European mind”. The search for absolute security — which was American policy then and now — represented, like the search for absolute power, immoderation; and that was dangerous.

So are idealism and democracy. The unnecessary wars that America fought in the 19th century — in 1812 against Britain, and in1898 against Spain — began on a wave of popular enthusiasm. (By contrast, America entered the necessary wars of the 20th century with reluctance.) Throughout this period the United States was long on ambition but short on the power to impose its ideals. But by the end of the century it had taken over most of the continent, settled the question of slavery, and was sending gunboats to Samoa, Brazil and Korea.

Dangerous Nation’s emphasis on democracy as a constant goal, accompanied occasionally by regime change (starting 200 years ago, during the war on piracy, with an attempt to overthrow the Pasha of Tripoli), make this a neoconservative history. Perhaps, but the case is well put and is beautifully written. This reader could not put it down, and cannot wait for part two.

Back to the Future (Fouad Ajami, November 26, 2006, US News)

The sin of George W. Bush, to hear his critics tell it, is that he unleashed the forces of freedom in Arab-Islamic lands only to beget a terrible storm. In Iraq and in Lebanon, the furies of sectarianism are on the loose; and in that greater Middle East stretching from Pakistan to Morocco, the forces of freedom and reform appear chastened. Autocracy is fashionable once again, and that bet on freedom made in the aftermath of the American venture into Iraq now seems, to the skeptics, fatally compromised. For decades, we had lived with Arab autocracies, befriended them, taken their rule as the age-old dominion in lands unfit for freedom. Then came this Wilsonian moment proclaimed in the course of the war on Iraq. To the "realists," it had been naive and foolhardy to hold out to the Arabs the promise of freedom. We had bet on the Cedar Revolution in Lebanon, thrilled to these young people in Beirut's plazas reclaiming their country from Syrian tyranny. But that promise, too, has been battered, and in the shadows, the old policy of ceding Lebanon to the rule of Syria's informers and policemen now claims a measure of vindication. On the surface of things, it is the moment of the "realists," then: They speak with greater confidence. The world had lived down, as it were, to their expectations. And now they wish to return history to its old rhythm.

But in truth there can be no return to the bosom of the old order. American power and the very force of what had played out in the Arab-Islamic lands in recent years have rendered the old order hollow, mocked its claims to primacy and coherence. The moment our soldiers flushed Saddam Hussein from his filthy spider hole, we had put on display the farce and swindle of Arab authority.

Primacy and power. We can't shy away from the very history we unleashed. We had demonstrated to the Arabs that the rulers are not deities; we had given birth to the principle of political accountability. In the same vein, we may not be comfortable with all the manifestations of an emancipated Arab Shiism--we recoil, as we should, from the Mahdi Army in Iraq and from Hezbollah's Hassan Nasrallah in Beirut--but the Shiite stepchildren of the Arab world have been given a new claim on the Arab political order of primacy and power. In the annals of Arab history, this is nothing short of revolutionary. The Sunni Arab regimes have a dread of the emancipation of the Shiites. But American power is under no obligation to protect their phobias and privileges. History has served notice on their world and their biases. We can't fall for their legends, and we ought to remember that the road to all these perditions, and the terrors of 9/11, had led through Sunni movements that originated in Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:15 PM


Follies of youth: Year-After Effect could strike many young arms in '07 (Tom Verducci, November 28, 2006, Sports Illustrated)

I've been tracking the [Year-After Effect] for about a decade now. It's based on a general rule of thumb among executives and pitching coaches: young pitchers should not have their innings workload increased by more than 25 or 30 innings per year. It's the same principle as training for a marathon; you get to 26.1 miles incrementally, not by jumping directly from a 10K. The body cannot easily withstand being pushed so far behind its previous capacity for work, at least not without consequences. Typically, those consequences occur the next season, not the year in which the body is pushed.

When I've looked at major league pitchers 25-and-younger who were pushed 30 or more innings beyond their previous season (or, in cases such as injury-shortened years, their previous pro high), I've been amazed how often those pitchers broke down with a serious injury the next season or took a major step backward in their development. (The season total includes all innings in the minors, majors and postseason. )

For example, let's look at the YAE for the Class of 2005, the young pitchers who were pushed beyond the 30-inning threshold that season: Matt Cain (+33.1 innings at age 20), Francisco Liriano (+34.2 at 21), Gustavo Chacin (+35.2 at 24), Zach Duke (+44.1 at 22), Scott Kazmir (+51.2 at 21) and Paul Maholm (+98.1 at 23). Liriano (elbow), Chacin (elbow) and Kazmir (shoulder) all suffered significant injuries. Cain (+1.82), Duke (+2.66) and Maholm (+2.58) all saw dramatic rises in their ERAs.

The bottom line: a dramatic increase in innings on a young pitcher elevates the risk of injury or a setback to their development. This has been true for years. The Kansas City Royals were negligent with young pitchers for years, pushing young arms such as Chad Durbin (+49 in 2001), Runelvys Hernandez (+92 in 2002) and Zack Greinke (+33.2 in 2004). Even breakout young stars took a step back because of the YAE, such as Kevin Millwood (+78.1 in 1999), Dontrelle Willis (+52 in 2003), Horatio Ramirez (+34 in 2003) and Mark Prior (+67 in 2003).

Like any rule of thumb, there are exceptions, especially for big-bodied pitchers. C.C. Sabathia (+40 in 2001) and Carlos Zambrano (+72.1 in 2003) proved the YAE is not one-size-fits-all.

Now the bad news for the Class of 2006. I can't remember more young pitchers getting pushed this hard in all the years I've been tracking the YAE. I found 11 pitchers 25-and-under who went more than 30 innings beyond their 2005 log, or (where marked with an asterisk) their previous professional high.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:43 AM


Air Berlin orders 60 Boeing jets (AP, Nov 28, 2006)

German budget carrier Air Berlin said Tuesday it is ordering 60 new Boeing 737 jets as it works to secure its future growth.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:35 AM


Colorado congressman calls Miami a 'Third World country': A critic of citizenship opportunities for illegal immigrants says 'Third World' Miami shows America's future if immigration isn't checked. (LESLEY CLARK, 11/27/06,

Rep. Tom Tancredo, the leader of the anti-illegal immigration faction in the U.S. House, spent a recent weekend at The Breakers in Palm Beach.

Ninety miles to the south, he found a symbol to bolster his belief that unfettered immigration is endangering the United States: Miami, he told a conservative online news site, ``has become a Third World country.'' [...]

The remarks drew an instant rebuke from Miami Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who called Tancredo ''flat out wrong'' and extended an invitation for him to come and judge the city for himself.

''I invite my friend, Tom, to visit beautiful Miami, my hometown, and experience firsthand our hospitality,'' Ros-Lehtinen said. ``Come on down, Tom, the water's fine!''

Remember when the nativists thought the Jews were ruining Miami? (which, by the way, is the envy of the First and Second Worlds, nevermind the Third)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:28 AM


It's Official: Media Body Burning Story is Bogus (Greg Sheffield, November 27, 2006, Newsbusters)

The news that six Sunnis were captured by Shiites, doused with kerosine and burned alive, was too sensational to not be picked up by the mainstream media. But it turns out that the event never happened. Furthermore, the Iraqi "spokesman" relied on to give all information regarding this event is as fictional as the story itself.

Jamil Hussein, the man news reports called "police Capt. Jamil Hussein," was the source for all information regarding the burning. Although he is mentioned by USA Today, the Associated Press, CBS News, and other outlets, Central Command says no such person exists. Centcom also asked the Associated Press to retract the story unless it has proof beyond Jamil Hussein's word.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:26 AM


-EXCERPT: from The Intellectual Devotional By David Kidder and Noah Oppenheim

Daily Devotionals have long been a favored tool of those looking for a regular dose of spiritual growth. Bedside volumes, read upon waking in the morning or before retiring at night, Devotionals consist of 365 exercises in learning and reflection. One easily digestible entry is tackled each day.

The Intellectual Devotional is a secular compendium in the same tradition. It is one year's worth of daily readings that will refresh your spirit, stimulate your mind, and help complete your education. Each entry is drawn from a different field of knowledge: History, Literature, Visual Arts, Science, Music, Philosophy, and Religion. Read one passage a day and you will explore each subject once a week.

These readings offer the kind of regular exercise the brain requires to stay fresh, especially as we age. They represent an escape from the day-to-day grind into the rarefied realm of human wisdom. And, they will open new horizons of intellectual discovery.

A brief summary of the journey ahead . . .

Monday -- History

A survey of people and events that shaped the development of Western civilization.

Tuesday -- Literature

A look at great writers and a synopsis of their most important works -- poems and novels that continue to inspire readers today.

Wednesday -- Visual Arts

An introduction to the artists and artistic movements that yielded the world's most influential paintings, sculptures, and works of architecture.

Thursday -- Science

From the origin of black holes to a description of how batteries work, the wonders of science are simplified and revealed.

Friday -- Music

What inspired our greatest composers, how to read a sheet of notes, and why Mozart is so revered -- a comprehensive review of our musical heritage.

Saturday -- Philosophy

From ancient Greece to the twentieth century, the efforts of mankind's greatest thinkers to explain the meaning of life and the universe.

Sunday -- Religion

An overview of the world's major religions and their beliefs.

We hope your progress through this collection of knowledge inspires your curiosity and opens new areas of exploration in your life.

--David S. Kidder and Noah D. Oppenheim

Week 1


Monday, Day 1

The Alphabet

In circa 2000 BC, the Egyptian pharaohs realized they had a problem. With each military victory over their neighbors, they captured and enslaved more prisoners of war. But the Egyptians could not pass down written orders to these slaves as they could not read hieroglyphics.

Early writing systems, such as Egyptian hieroglyphics, were extremely cumbersome and difficult to learn. These systems had thousands of characters, with each symbol representing an idea or word. Memorizing them could take years. Only a handful of Egyptians could actually read and write their complicated script.

Linguists believe that almost all modern alphabets are derived from the simplified version of hieroglyphics devised by the Egyptians four thousand years ago to communicate with their slaves. The development of an alphabet, the writing system used throughout the Western world, changed the way the ancients communicated.

In the simplified version, each character represented only a sound. This innovation cut back the number of characters from a few thousand to a few dozen, making it far easier to learn and use the characters. The complicated hieroglyphic language was eventually forgotten, and scholars were not able to translate the characters until the discovery of the Rosetta stone in 1799.

The alphabet was extremely successful. When the Egyptian slaves eventually migrated back to their home countries, they took the writing system with them. The alphabet spread across the Near East, becoming the foundation for many writing systems in the area, including Hebrew and Arabic. The Phoenicians, an ancient civilization of seaborne traders, spread the alphabet to the tribes they encountered along the Mediterranean coast. The Greek and Roman alphabets, in turn, were based on the ancient Phoenician script. Today most Western languages, including English, use the Roman alphabet.

Additional Facts

1. Several letters in modern-day English are direct descendents of ancient Egyptian characters. For instance, the letter B derives from the Egyptian character for the word house.
2. The most recent edition of the Oxford English Dictionary contains 171,476 words in current usage, among the most of any language.


Tuesday, Day 2


James Joyce's Ulysses (1922) is widely regarded as the greatest novel written in English in the twentieth century. It retells Homer's Odyssey in the context of a single day -- June 16, 1904 -- in Dublin, Ireland, recasting Homer's great hero Odysseus in the unlikely guise of Leopold Bloom, an aging, cuckolded ad salesman who spends the day running errands and making various business appointments before he returns home at long last.

Though Bloom seems unassuming and ordinary, he emerges as a heroic figure, displaying compassion, forgiveness, and generosity toward virtually everyone in the odd cast of characters he meets. In his mundane and often unnoticed deeds, he practices an everyday heroism that is perhaps the only heroism possible in the modern world. And despite the fact that he always feels like an outsider -- he is a Jew in overwhelmingly Catholic Ireland -- Bloom remains optimistic and dismisses his insecurities.

Ulysses is celebrated for its incredibly rich portraits of characters, its mind-boggling array of allusions to other literary and cultural works, and its many innovations with language. Throughout the course of the novel, Joyce flirts with literary genres and forms ranging from drama to advertising copy to Old English. The novel is perhaps most famous for its extensive use of stream-of-consciousness narrative -- Joyce's attempt to render the inner thoughts of his characters exactly as they occur, with no effort to impose order or organization. This technique became a hallmark of modernist literature and influenced countless other writers, such as Virginia Woolf and William Faulkner, who also experimented with it in their works.

Not surprisingly, Ulysses poses a difficult journey for the reader, especially its famous last chapter, which recounts the thoughts of Bloom's wife, Molly. Molly's reverie goes on for more than 24,000 words yet is divided into only eight mammoth sentences. Despite the challenge it poses, the chapter shows Joyce at his most lyrical, especially in the final lines, which reaffirm Molly's love for her husband despite her infidelity:

and then he asked me would I yes to say yes my mountain flower and first I put my arms around him yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will Yes.

Additional Fact

1. Ulysses was banned for obscenity in the United States for nearly twelve years because of its (mostly indirect) sexual imagery.

Visual Arts

Wednesday, Day 3

Lascaux Cave Paintings

The cave paintings at Lascaux are among the earliest known works of art. They were discovered in 1940 near the village of Montignac in central France when four boys stumbled into a cave. Inside they found a series of rooms with nearly 1,500 paintings of animals that were between 15,000 and 17,000 years old.

There are several theories regarding the function of the paintings. A natural feature of the cave may have suggested the shape of an animal to a prehistoric observer who then added highlights to relay his vision to others. Since many of the paintings are located in inaccessible parts of the cave, they may have been used for magical practices. Possibly, prehistoric people believed that the act of drawing animals, especially with a high degree of accuracy, would bring the beasts under their control or increase their numbers in times of scarcity.

The animals are outlined or portrayed in silhouette. They are often shown in what is called twisted perspective, that is, with their heads in profile but their horns facing front. Many of the images include dots, linear patterns, and other designs that may carry symbolic meaning.

The most magnificent chamber of the cave, known as the Great Hall of the Bulls, contains a painted narrative. From left to right, the pictures depict the chase and capture of a bison herd.

As soon as the paintings had been examined and identified as Paleolithic, the caves were opened to the public in 1948. By 1955, however, it became increasingly evident that exposure to as many as 1,200 visitors per day was taking its toll on the works inside. Although protective measures were taken, the site closed in 1963. In order to satisfy public demand, a life-sized replica of the cave was completed in 1983, only 200 meters from the original.

Additional Facts

1. The cave painters were conscious of visual perspective; they painted figures high on the wall, styled so that they would not appear distorted to the viewer below.
2. The only human figure depicted in the cave appears in the Shaft of the Dead Man. The fact that it is drawn more crudely than the animals suggest that they did not think it was endowed with magical properties.


Thursday, Day 4


In 1997, a baby sheep named Dolly introduced the world to reproductive cloning. She was a clone because she and her mother shared the same nuclear DNA; in other words, their cells carried the same genetic material. They were like identical twins reared generations apart.

Scientists at the Roslin Institute in Scotland created Dolly by a process called nuclear transfer. Taking the genetic material from an adult donor cell, they transferred it into an unfertilized egg whose genetic material had been removed. In Dolly's case, the donor cell came from the mammary gland of a six-year-old Finn Dorset ewe. The researchers then gave the egg an electric shock, and it began dividing into an embryo.

One of the reasons Dolly's creation was so astounding was that it proved to the scientific community that a cell taken from a specialized part of the body could be used to create a whole new organism. Before Dolly, almost all scientists believed that once a cell became specialized it could only produce other specialized cells: A heart cell could only make heart cells, and a liver cell could only make liver cells. But Dolly was made entirely from a cell extracted from her mother's mammary gland, proving that specialized cells could be completely reprogrammed.

In many ways, Dolly was not like her mother. For example, her telomeres were too short. Telomeres are thin strands of protein that cap off the ends of chromosomes, the structures that carry genes. Although no one is sure exactly what telomeres do, they seem to help protect and repair our cells. As we age, our telomeres get shorter and shorter. Dolly received her mother's six-year-old telomeres, so from birth, Dolly's telomeres were shorter than the average lamb her age. Although Dolly appeared to be mostly normal, she was put to sleep in 2004 at the age of six, after suffering from lung cancer and crippling arthritis. The average Finn Dorset sheep lives to age eleven or twelve.

Additional Facts

1. Since 1997, cattle, mice, goats, and pigs have been successfully cloned using nuclear transfer.
2. The success rate for cloning is very low in all species. Published studies report that about 1 percent of reconstructed embryos survive birth. But since unsuccessful attempts largely go unreported, the actual number might be much lower.
3. Before she died, Dolly was the mother of six lambs, all bred the old-fashioned way.
4. A group of Korean researchers claimed to have cloned a human embryo in 1998, but their experiment was terminated at the 4-cell stage, so there was no evidence of their success.


Friday, Day 5

The Basics

Music is organized sound that can be replicated through imitation or notation. Music is distinct from noise in that the sounds of a door creaking open or fingernails on a blackboard are irregular and disorganized. The sound waves that map these noises are complex and cannot be heard as identifiable pitches.

Some of the basic ways that we analyze musical sounds are:

Pitch: How high or how low a sound is to the ear. Pitch is measured technically by the frequency of a sound wave, or how often waves repeat themselves. In western music there are twelve unique pitches (C, C-sharp or D-flat, D, D-sharp or E-flat, E, F, F-sharp or G-flat, G, G-sharp or A-flat, A, A-sharp or B-flat, and B). The pitches followed by sharps or flats are called accidentals, and they are most easily described as the black keys on the piano keyboard. They are located musically, one half step between the two pitches on either side of them. For example, D-sharp and E-flat have the same pitch. When referring to pitches in the context of notated, or written music, they are called notes.

Scale: A stepwise arrangement of pitches (for example, C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C) that often serves as the basis for a melody. A piece, or a portion of a piece, will often use only notes found in a particular scale. Western music primarily uses the major scale or the minor scale, in one form or another. To most people, the major scale, because of its particular arrangement of pitches, has the quality of sounding "bright," "happy," or "positive." A minor scale, likewise, is usually described as "dark," "sad," or "pessimistic."

Key: An arrangement or system of pitches, usually based on one of the major or minor scales, that is meant to serve as a reference point and a guiding force of a melody. The tonic of a key is often the starting and ending point for a piece written in a particular key -- so if a piece is in E major, then the pitch E will serve as the piece's tonal center.

Additional Facts

1. All of these basic elements can be notated on the staff, which is a repeating of five parallel horizontal lines. Often it is divided into measures to indicate metric divisions in the piece and marked at the beginning of each staff of the page with a clef to indicate reference points for identifying pitches.
2. When a piece strays from its basic key, this is called modulation. Keys are indicated in written music by a key signature at the beginning of each staff.
3. There are hundreds of scales used in the world's many different musical cultures. In India, music played on the sitar and other instruments chooses pitches from a collection of twenty-two possibilities, with the distances between scale steps sometimes larger and sometimes smaller than those used in Western music. This can make differences between pitches extremely subtle and demands a high virtuosity from Indian classical musicians.


Saturday, Day 6

Appearance and Reality

Throughout its history, one of the great themes of philosophy has been the distinction between appearance and reality. This distinction was central to the thought of the earliest philosophers, called the Presocratics, because they lived before Socrates.

The Presocratics believed that the ultimate nature of reality was vastly different from the way it ordinarily appeared to them. For instance, one philosopher named Thales held that appearances notwithstanding, all reality was ultimately composed of water; Heraclitus thought the world was built from fire. Further, Heraclitus maintained that everything was constantly in motion. Another thinker, Parmenides, insisted that nothing actually moved and that all apparent motion was an illusion.

The Presocratics took seriously the possibility that all of reality was ultimately made up of some more fundamental substance. And they suspected that uncritical, everyday observation tends to present us with a misleading picture of the world. For these reasons, their thinking is often considered a precursor to modern science as well as philosophy.

Many later philosophers -- including Plato, Spinoza, and Leibniz -- followed in this tradition and presented alternative models of reality, which they claimed were closer to the truth than ordinary, commonsense views of the world.

Additional Facts

1. The distinction between appearance and reality is also central to the venerable philosophical tradition known as skepticism.
2. Immanuel Kant also addressed the difference between appearance and reality. He distinguished between things we experience and what he called a "thing-in-itself."


Sunday, Day 7


The Torah is the name generally given to the first five books of the Hebrew Bible, or the Five Books of Moses. Christians refer to these books as the Old Testament. The word Torah can also refer to the entire breadth of Jewish law encompassing several texts as well as oral traditions.

The Five Books of Moses are the basis for the 613 laws that govern the Jewish faith, and they are the foundation for the world's three great monotheistic faiths -- Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. They are as follows:

Genesis: Tells the story of creation as well as the history of the Israelites, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and their families
Exodus: Recounts the exodus from Egypt to Canaan, including Moses receiving the Ten Commandments
Leviticus: Contains the rules and practices of worship
Numbers: Relates the journey of the Israelites in the wilderness
Deuteronomy: Consists of speeches made by Moses at the end of his life that recount Israelite history and ethical teachings

The five books are traditionally believed to have been given to Moses on Mount Sinai. Alternative theories claim the beginning of the Torah was given on Mount Sinai but that the revelation continued throughout Moses's life.

Historically, archaeologists have argued that the Torah was written sometime between the tenth and sixth centuries BC. Proponents of the Documentary Hypothesis, which according to Orthodox Jews is heretical, claim that the original five books came from four sources, eventually compiled into one by a fifth author or redactor. The arguments in favor of this theory are the multiple names used for God, varying styles of writing. and the repetition of stories.

From the beginning, the Torah was accompanied by an oral tradition, which was necessary for its complete understanding. Although it was thought to be blasphemous to write the oral tradition down, the necessity for doing so eventually became apparent, leading to the creation of the Mishna. Later, as rabbis discussed and debated these two texts, the Talmud was written in order to compile their arguments.

The Jewish tradition uses the text of the Torah to derive innumerable laws and customs. Rabbinic scholars have spent entire lifetimes parsing every word for meaning.

Additional Facts

1. Torah scrolls written in Hebrew by hand, contain 304,805 letters and may take more than a year to produce by hand. If a single mistake is made, the entire scroll becomes invalid.

It's certainly less painful to read a blurb about Ulysses just before bedtime than to suffer the book.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:18 AM


Giuliani, McCain, Obama rank highest with voters, poll finds (Associated Press, November 27, 2006)

The Quinnipiac University poll’s “thermometer reading,” taken the week after Nov. 7 election, asks voters to rate their feelings for 20 leaders on a scale of 0 to 100.

Giuliani, a Republican weighing a presidential bid in 2008, scored the highest at 64.2. Obama and McCain, who are also considering a 2008 campaign, finished next at 58.8 and 57.7.

Another possible Democratic contender, New York Sen. Hillary Clinton, scored ninth of the 20 leaders with a score of 49. Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, the 2004 Democratic nominee who was roundly criticized before this month’s election for suggesting that students who don’t study could end up stuck in Iraq, came in last at 39.6.

The big advantage for Senators McCain and Clinton are that he's run a national campaign and she's been First Lady yet their numbers are still that high. Mr. Obama and the Mayor are ciphers.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:18 AM


The Exceptionally Entrepreneurial Society (Arnold Kling, 27 Nov 2006, Tech Central Station)

Edmund Phelps is the 2006 winner of the Nobel Prize in economics. Shortly after his award was announced, Phelps published an essay on how capitalism in the United States differs from the system in Continental Europe. Phelps wrote,

There are two economic systems in the West. Several nations -- including the U.S., Canada and the U.K. -- have a private-ownership system marked by great openness to the implementation of new commercial ideas coming from entrepreneurs, and by a pluralism of views among the financiers who select the ideas to nurture by providing the capital and incentives necessary for their development. Although much innovation comes from established companies, as in pharmaceuticals, much comes from start-ups, particularly the most novel innovations...

The other system -- in Western Continental Europe -- though also based on private ownership, has been modified by the introduction of institutions aimed at protecting the interests of "stakeholders" and "social partners." The system's institutions include big employer confederations, big unions and monopolistic banks.

In Continental Europe, large banks control the bulk of investment. The United States has a more vibrant stock market, many more banks, venture capital firms, and other financial channels.

In Continental Europe, large established firms have access to funds from the large banks, but newer enterprises have a much more difficult time raising money. In the United States, the more competitive financial system gives more opportunity for entrepreneurs to raise start-up capital. [...]

If the United States is exceptional because of our entrepreneurial culture, then our natural allies may not be in Continental Europe, in spite of its democratic governments and high levels of economic development. China seems more dynamic than Europe, but I would argue that China's government-controlled financial system ultimately is not compatible with American-style entrepreneurship. Instead, we may have more in common with other nations of the Anglosphere, as well as such entrepreneurial outposts as India, Israel, and Singapore.

For the half century following World War II, the United States focused on democracy as the cornerstone of foreign policy. Democratic nations were our allies, and promoting democracy abroad was a top priority. However, it may be that American exceptionalism mostly reflects entrepreneurship. In that case, we have less in common with European social democracy than we thought previously. And, if our goal is to have more countries that look like America, then having them adopt a democratic political system may not be necessary and will certainly not be sufficient.

One wouldn't expect a libertarian to grasp the fact, bit neither democracy nor capitalism are sufficient. They're means, not ends.

The War of All Against All (Chuck Colson, 11/28/2006, Breakpoint)

Whatever it’s called, the evolutionary “explanation” for altruism is basically the same: It’s really selfishness in disguise. When the son offers to give away half of his food, it’s not goodness—it’s a kind of enlightened self-interest. We do what we perceive as “good” for others so that they, in turn, might do the same for us and, thus, increase both of our chances for survival.

Of course, the transaction being described isn’t “altruism” at all; it’s called “cooperation.” It’s the stuff of zebras and baboons, both of which live in large groups for mutual protection and neither of which would knowingly sacrifice its life to save another’s.

But in the Darwinian scheme, true altruism “has no place in nature.” When you start from the assumption that our behavior is the product of “selfish genes,” then you must agree with the sociobiologist who wrote “scratch an ‘altruist’ and watch a hypocrite bleed.”

Little wonder that Stove called Darwinism, especially sociobiology, a “ridiculous slander on human beings.” Darwinism not only cannot account for what is most essentially human—that is, things like altruism and music—it insists on denigrating them, as well.

In contrast, Christians understand that while we are born with the capacity for selfishness and even cruelty, we are also capable of caring for others. Because we are created in the image of God, we not only don’t have to be at war with our neighbors, we can willingly die for them, as well.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:37 AM


To Make Catholics Fit Into America: We Hold These Truths: Catholic Reflections on the American Proposition. By John Courtney Murray (Thomas Storck, November 2006, New Oxford Book Reviews)

John Courtney Murray, a Jesuit and Professor of Theology at Woodstock College in Maryland, spent much of the 1950s writing articles whose aim was to overturn the then-reigning Catholic doctrine that, all things being equal, the best situation for Catholics was to live in a Catholic state with an explicitly Catholic government -- a government that was distinct from the Church to be sure, but not separate in the sense that the two powers pursued their own aims without reference to each other. Because of this, Murray got into some trouble with his Jesuit superiors and was prohibited from attending the first session of the Second Vatican Council. But he did eventually attend, and, according to the generally accepted account, Murray's views were then embodied in the Council's decree of religious liberty, Dignitatis Humanae. But this is not the place to discuss that document. Suffice it to say that Dig­nitatis Humanae need not be understood as reflective of Murray's position, and can be read as consistent with the traditional teaching of the Church.

Although Pope Leo XIII had reminded American bishops in 1895 that "it would be very erroneous to draw the conclusion that in America is to be sought the type of the most desirable status of the Church" and that the Church here "would bring forth more abundant fruits if, in addition to liberty, she enjoyed the favor of the laws and the patronage of the public authority," this teaching was never very popular, or even very much known, among American Catholics. Laboring under an inferiority complex and desiring above all to fit in, Catholics in general enthusiastically embraced the messianic nationalism that most often passes for patriotism in the U.S. Murray's dissatisfaction with Pope Leo's teaching seems to have stemmed from that same root, namely, his desire to be a good American above all. And so We Hold These Truths is in the main a book about Catholics fundamentally embracing what he calls the "American proposition." Yes, Murray is nuanced; yes, he writes with more of a sense of theological tradition and of the shortcomings of American Protestantism than the Catholic neoconservatives of today. But at bottom his aim is to explain and justify America as a Catholic project, or at least one that can be made Catholic.

We Hold These Truths is a collection of essays that appeared during the 1950s in various journals of opinion, Catholic and secular. Like most such compilations, it addresses a variety of themes. He deals with the questions of public support for parochial schools, the ethics of nuclear warfare, and our policy toward Communism, both at home and abroad. But a fundamental theme runs through the book, especially the first five chapters and the concluding two: How Catholic thought, and especially the Natural Law tradition, can justify and enrich the "American proposition."

We may question what Murray seems to take for granted -- the assertion that America is a proposition. In the very first sentence of his own Preface, Murray states that it "is classic American doctrine…that the new nation which our Fathers brought forth on this continent was dedicated to a ‘proposition.'" But why this should be so, Murray never says. Why a nation should be more an idea than a place, and why America, more than Spain or Argentina or Australia, should be dedicated to an idea are questions most Americans have never asked. Nor does Murray ask them. He simply accepts that we are as much a proposition as a nation and goes on from there. [...]

This discussion of the Church and the American political tradition leads to Murray's principal error: America is bigger than the Catholic Church. We must unite in a political community whose boundaries are set not by Catholic doctrine but by American tradition. The First Amendment is an "article of peace," prescribing agreement about how we are to act without agreement about ultimate truths. But how can we have anything except accidental agreement unless we agree about ultimates? And where does this lead in the end? Murray writes: "in a pluralist society no minority group has the right to demand that government should impose a general censorship, affecting all the citizenry…according to the special standards held within one group." Although Murray wrote this with regard to censorship, who cannot see here almost the same words that are used with reference to the legal prohibition of abortion or same-sex unions? The Catholic Church, the Universal Church, is now simply a "minority group," and her teachings, guaranteed by the protection of Almighty God, are now only "special standards held within one group." Moreover, Murray's constant appeal to Natural Law means little if the voice of the Catholic Church, the guarantor of both natural and revealed truth, is excluded from a final determination of what is and is not moral. While it is certainly the case that we are in no practical position to insist that Catholic morality -- which is mostly Natural Law -- reign supreme over American political and cultural life, that does not mean that we should simply acquiesce in our status as a "minority group" or admit in principle that American pluralism is either good or inevitable.

Murray's project, then, is to make Catholics fit into America. He is correct that, with Natural Law, Catholics can provide the best intellectual framework for the "American proposition," but he errs when he subordinates the Church to what he sees as a larger project. We become, in the end, simply another "minority group." Murray has reversed Chesterton's dictum that the Church is larger than the world, and has made America the framework within which the Church must act and even understand herself.

Of course, Mr. Murray just anticipated Pope Benedict, the "Tocquevillian in the Vatican." The Church has ultimately had to understand itself within the American proposition, just as Judaism did, and Islam will.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:21 AM

KASSTING CALL (via Mike Daley):

The Hard Stuff (Phil Bowermaster, November 24, 2006 , The Speculist)

Lacking the controversy of Borat and the hype of Casino Royale (hype which we have enthusiastically been a part of here at The Speculist), the new Will Ferrell / Emma Thompson film Stranger than Fiction has not received an awful lot of attention. And that’s too bad. Stranger than Fiction entertains an idea that we have largely scorned here at The Speculist: a proposition often cited by opponents to life-extension research. In fact, it’s an idea that has been endorsed by no less than Leon Kass himself.

Simply put, the idea is this – the eventuality of death gives life meaning and beauty that it would not otherwise have. In a paradoxical way, death is what makes life meaningful. So it would be a great loss, Kass and others have argued, to delay death in any substantial way. To do so is to cheapen life, and it’s just not worth it.

Up to now, you could count me among the supremely unconvinced. But this movie – that’s right, a Will Ferrell movie – has given me cause to rethink this significant philosophical question and I find that, upon reflection, my views on the subject have changed. Somewhat.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:10 AM


Dr, Nail vs. the Monster (Tom Clynes, Popular Science)

In 1995 a Clemson University graduate student named Ed Sutt took off for a spur-of-the-moment trip to the Caribbean. But beaches and rum drinks weren’t on the agenda for this civil engineer. Hurricane Marilyn had just torn through St. Thomas, and Sutt was part of a team examining how and why 80 percent of the island’s homes and businesses had collapsed in the storm’s 95mph winds.

“The destruction was so complete in places that it was almost surreal,” Sutt recalls. “There were troops in the streets and military helicopters hovering overhead.” As Sutt moved through the wreckage of roofless and toppled-over houses, he was struck by the sense that much of the destruction could have been avoided. “In house after house,” he says, “I noticed that it wasn’t the wood that had failed—it was the nails that held the wood together.” [...]

During the HurriQuake nail’s six years of development, 14 major hurricanes and tropical storms destroyed hundreds of thousands of houses in the U.S. and inflicted an estimated $166 billion in damages. The U.S. hasn’t had a major earthquake since parts of the Los Angeles area were leveled in the Northridge quake of 1994, but around the world, thousands of people have lost homes and family members as wooden structures collapsed.

Although there are no precise statistics, Sutt’s research indicated that nail failure accounted for a substantial percentage of the destruction in these catastrophes. And when nails fail, it’s for one of three reasons. Either the nail rips its head through the sheathing, its shank pulls out of the frame, or its midsection snaps under the lateral loads that rock a house during high winds and earthquakes. Sutt’s job was to design a nail that resisted all three. “With the first prototypes,” Sutt says, “we proved that a bigger head has substantial advantages in terms of stopping the nail from pulling through the sheathing. But it couldn’t be too big, because it needed to fit into popular nail guns.”

As the Bostitch team tweaked the head-to-shank ratio, Sutt and metallurgist Tom Stall worked on optimizing high-carbon alloys, trying to find the highest-strength trade-off between stiffness and pliability—the key to preventing snapped nails. “Meanwhile,” Sutt says, “we were focusing on how to keep the nail from pulling out.” The team machined a series of barbed rings that extend up the nail’s shaft from its point, experimenting with the size and placement of the barbs. “You want the rings to have maximum holding power,” he says, “but if they go up too high, it creates a more brittle shank that shears more easily.”

The team tested hundreds of designs, looking for the best compromises. The late prototypes held fast, and Bostitch came out with a barbed nail with a larger head in 2005 called the Sheather Plus. But the solutions created problems of their own: As the barbs pierced the sheathing, they generated a hole that was slightly bigger than the shank, resulting in a loose, sloppy joint.

“We needed a way to lock the top of the shank into the sheathing,” says Sutt, who attacked the problem in a series of brainstorming sessions with his engineers. Their solution: a screw-shank, a slight twist at the top of the shaft that locks the nail in place. The combination of the screw-shank, barbed rings, fatter head, and high-strength alloy added up to an elegant solution to the failures that had plagued nails for more than two centuries. Sutt’s team had, in effect, reinvented the nail.

Tinkering matters. Thinking doesn't.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:03 AM


Alarm at Shia gains in Bahrain's elections (Kim Sengupta, 28 November 2006, Independent)

A radical Shia Islamist group has made significant gains in Bahrain's national elections, raising serious concern among neighbouring conservative Sunni monarchies in the region.

Al-Wefaq National Islamic Society has won 16 of the 40 seats in parliament and the party declares that its gains are even more significant than the figures suggest, because it had won all but one of the seats it had contested.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:01 AM


The revolutionary dream in Latin America is fading away (Maria Zaldivar, HACER)

The revolutionary dreams that encouraged indigenous-Bolivarian populisms in South America are decolouring at a high speed. Evo Morales’ authority in Bolivia is deteriorating at a vertiginous rate, and he is not able to avoid the secessionist attempts that are under way. Fidel Castro’s imminent death further obstructs any support for a regime characterized by systematic illegitimacy and the despise and systematic violation of basic human rights, and this is how, thanks to God, Castro’s utopia is dying with its founder.

The hegemonic dream of the Argentinean president is not doing any better. Néstor Kirchner is being hacked by the same reality that helped him appear to be leading a successful administration during the first years of government. At that time the general conditions of global economy, China’s opening and its wide demand of commodities, the sustained growth of the whole region and a gross devaluation of Argentine currency were the framework in which the current administration started. However, things have changed. The valuation of commodities is down from the sidereal values of 2004 and 2005; oil and gas reserves are exhausted due to a disinvestment that is starting to hit home; regional economy is drifting apart from the profitability margins of the last two years, and inflation has started to devour the benefits of the currency devaluation. Besides, Argentineans keep more than 100,000 million dollars abroad because the country does not offer the necessary guarantees for the capital to stay. President Kirchner himself is among those holding millionaire deposits outside national frontiers.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:50 AM


Hostility at home: A strong showing for a far-right party in the Dutch elections (, Nov 23rd 2006)

ONCE a country renowned for tolerance of minorities of all stripes, the Netherlands now risks being known for an ugly debate over its growing Muslim population. As preliminary results emerged from general elections on Wednesday November 22nd, it became clear that a previously insignificant far-right party, the Party For Freedom, may claim as many as nine seats in a parliament of 150. The party had campaigned for a halt to all immigration, and in particular was hostile towards Muslims, calling for a ban on the building of religious schools and mosques and for a ban on veils worn by Muslim women. [...]

Instead the Dutch might look across the Atlantic. A slew of recent books by smug, mostly conservative American authors might be unhelpful. (Some with titles like “While Europe Slept”, “America Alone” and “The Death of the West”, argue that Europe has allowed immigration and Islam to undermine Western values from within). But there is something to learn from America. American laws on freedom of expression and religion are more permissive than those in Europe. Only those who mask their faces explicitly to hide themselves and intimidate others—like the Ku Klux Klan—are forbidden to cover their faces in public forums like marches. A law banning the burqa would be flatly unconstitutional. So, probably, would be a ban on headscarves in schools. And America’s success with its Muslims probably also owes something to the flexible American labour market, which gives minorities of all kinds the hope (if not the reality) of climbing the social ladder.

The unsupportable assumption is that Europe is only anti-Muslim, rather than anti-religious. Secular statism can not afford to tolerate any religion.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:47 AM


Online traffic surge downed some retailers' websites (Jayne O'Donnell and Jon Swartz, 11/27/06, USA TODAY)

Deal-hungry shoppers flocked to the Internet on Monday, beating last year's post-Thanksgiving pace and overwhelming a retail industry website offering hundreds of special offers.

North American retail website traffic reached 2,145,558 visitors per minute at 2 p.m. ET Monday, says Internet service provider Akamai Technologies. That's up 19% from the peak on Cyber Monday last year. Although traffic dipped around 5 p.m. ET, it was still over 2 million visitors per minute at 9 p.m.

The Monday after Thanksgiving, when workers are back at their desks with their employers' fast Internet connections, is considered the start of the online holiday shopping season. It was the second-busiest Internet shopping day in 2005, surpassed only by Dec. 12, the last day many online retailers offered free shipping by Christmas.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:40 AM


Fence plan alarms landowners (Kevin Johnson, 11/28/06, USA TODAY)

From his perch on the front lines of the battle against illegal immigration, Moody would seem to be the type of person who would embrace the federal government's most provocative effort to stop illegals from entering this country: a plan to build 700 miles of fence along the 2,100-mile Southwest border, including Moody's land. Instead, Moody is a powerful voice in a growing alliance of border landowners and local law enforcement officials who oppose a fence.

"They're not gonna build it," Moody says flatly. "We darn sure don't need a wall. Everybody knows the Great Wall of China wasn't worth a damn."

Most everyone here agrees that more border security is needed to curb illegal immigration. Ranchers such as Moody and Dob Cunningham, who has a 700-acre spread north of here with 2 miles of river frontage, say they often give Border Patrol agents access to their land to help the agents track down illegals.

However, the fence plan — the centerpiece of an immigration bill President Bush signed last month — has come to reflect the disconnect between many landowners here and officials in Washington who see the project as a key part of the nation's strategy to slow illegal immigration. Here, where the impact of illegal immigration is greatest, the fence is widely viewed as an economic and environmental threat. In Eagle Pass, a city of 25,000 that is 95% Hispanic, it's also seen as a rejection of the region's tradition of shared cultures and open ranges.

It'll be especially fun to watch Montana's new senator, John Tester, who ran on being a rancher and "securing the borders" try to square the circle (k).

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:04 AM


Sides work on extending cease-fire to West Bank (Herb Keinon, 11/27/06, THE JERUSALEM POST)

Both Olmert's and Abbas's staffs were exploring ways to expand the agreement to include the West Bank, government officials said. They added that it was easier to deal with the Palestinians on this issue than on the release of Shalit, because the decision to free Shalit needed the approval of Hamas's Damascus-based leader Khaled Mashaal, while cease-fire issues needed PA Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh's okay.

According to these officials, since Haniyeh lives in Gaza and is in touch with the daily plight of the people there, he was more apt to want to take actions that could alter the difficult situation on the ground.

Officials in the Prime Minister's Office said Olmert's decision to directly address the Palestinian people and say he would release numerous Palestinian prisoners, "including ones who were sentenced to lengthy prison terms," was meant to go over Mashaal's head and tell the Palestinians that Mashaal was the obstacle standing in the way of a reunion with their relatives.

"I hereby declare that when Gilad Shalit is released and returned to his family, safe and sound, the government of Israel will be willing to release numerous Palestinian prisoners - including ones who were sentenced to lengthy prison terms - to increase the trust between us and prove that our hand is truly extended in genuine peace," Olmert said.

"I said it before Gilad Shalit was abducted, and I have not changed my position," he added. "I know that many Palestinian families yearn for the day when their loved ones will return home. This day could be very close."

The unstated subtext, a senior official in the Prime Minister's Office said, was that Mashaal was keeping this from happening.

The official also said Olmert would be willing to release a large amount of prisoners, "larger than they probably think."

Rather than blowing up flunkies in the territories, Israel ought to reach out and touch the leadership of the Ba'ath, Hamas, etc., in Damascus.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Rwanda Redux (Mauro De Lorenzo, November 21, 2006, American)

A decade after the genocide, Rwanda, with help from two Chicago financiers, has been spreading the idea that it’s a good place to do business, not just a place for do-gooders to come help. Now, it’s the most improved country in Africa. [...]

[F]or those in the know, Rwanda is hot. After fighting two wars in neighboring Congo, resettling more than a million refugees, and designing a system of justice for several hundred thousand imprisoned genocide suspects, Rwanda’s leaders are now turning their energy to making the country hospitable to business. Rwanda’s president, Paul Kagame, a charismatic former guerrilla leader who earned a diploma in business studies by correspondence after he took office (his exams were proctored by the British ambassador), has a vision of Rwanda as a service economy integrated into the global marketplace through information technology—a sort of Dubai in the highlands of Central Africa.

This year, the Heritage Foundation/Wall Street Journal Index of Economic Freedom recognized Rwanda as the most improved country in Africa over the past ten years (and seventh most improved in the world) in terms of economic freedom. The World Bank’s annual Doing Business survey, which measures regulation around the world, notes Rwanda’s impressive gains in contract enforcement, tax administration, and ease of starting a business.

November 27, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:08 PM


John Edwards' folly: A book signing gone wrong (Manchester Union-Leader, 11/27/06)

[Former Sen. John] Edwards would not be caught dead inside a Wal-Mart. Saying that the company pays its employees too little, Edwards has embarked on an anti-Wal-Mart crusade. He instructs his staff members and all Americans not to shop at Wal-Mart.

"Wal-Mart makes plenty of money. They need to pay their people well," Edwards said at a Pittsburgh anti-Wal-Mart rally in August.

So naturally Edwards is holding his book signing at Barnes & Noble instead of Wal-Mart. Which is too bad for his anti-low-wages campaign, because in Manchester Wal-Mart pays hourly employees more than Barnes & Noble does.

The Barnes & Noble where Edwards will hawk his book pays $7 an hour to start. The Wal-Mart that sits just yards away pays $7.50 an hour.

Oh, the humanity!

Boy, these folks have to get out of the big city. Up here you can get way more to start almost everywhere.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:49 PM


Haiti's Trade Push Hits New Political Head Wind (GREG HITT, November 27, 2006, Wall Street Journal)

Haiti's struggle to persuade Congress to help its apparel makers underscores a new reality: In the political climate on Capitol Hill, even small trade gestures face big hurdles.

Haiti is trying to secure passage of an initiative that would allow the Caribbean country to use non-American-made material in garments destined for the U.S., while still qualifying for duty-free access. Currently, Haitian garments must be made from material produced in the U.S., or in some cases from the Caribbean region, to get duty-free treatment. Using foreign-made fabric, such as from China, could significantly lower production costs for Haitian garments makers and make their goods more competitive in global markets.

Haiti exported $447 million in goods to the U.S. in 2005, a fraction of total U.S. imports. Haitian officials say the deal could create as many as 40,000 sorely needed jobs there. [...]

But with voter concern over globalization having tipped important races in midterm elections and helped Democrats retake Congress, Haiti now faces an even-tougher environment, trade experts said.

"There's going to be a pronounced change of tone, from a period of accommodation and negotiation to litigation and enforcement," said Dan Ikenson, associate director of the Center for Trade Policy Studies at the Cato Institute, a free-market think tank.

Maybe Democrats could slap tariffs on Darfur while they're at it...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:29 PM


Top 10 Prospects: Detroit Tigers (Jon Paul Morosi, November 27, 2006, Baseball America)

The most impressive thing here isn't just the quality of the prospects they still have coming but the number of guys from their projected 2010 roster who are already contributing in the majors despite their youth, including almost the whole pitching staff.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:24 PM


Olmert offers 'serious' plan for new state (Stephen Farrell, 11/27/06, Times of London)

Twenty-four hours after Palestinian militants began a ceasefire in Gaza, Israel’s Prime Minister sought to maintain the momentum yesterday by offering peace talks leading to the creation of a Palestinian state.

Ehud Olmert said that Israel would release prisoners, withdraw from West Bank Jewish settlements and ease checkpoints if Palestinians abandoned violence.

Pretty good test for the Palestinians--if they sit down it's over.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:12 PM


Bring back Saddam Hussein: Restoring the dictator to power may give Iraqis the jolt of authority they need. Have a better solution? (Jonathan Chait, November 26, 2006, LA Times)

THE DEBATE about Iraq has moved past the question of whether it was a mistake (everybody knows it was) to the more depressing question of whether it is possible to avert total disaster. Every self-respecting foreign policy analyst has his own plan for Iraq. The trouble is that these tracts are inevitably unconvincing, except when they argue why all the other plans would fail. It's all terribly grim.

So allow me to propose the unthinkable: Maybe, just maybe, our best option is to restore Saddam Hussein to power. [...]

Here is the basic dilemma: The government is run by Shiites, and the security agencies have been overrun by militias and death squads. The government is strong enough to terrorize the Sunnis into rebellion but not strong enough to crush this rebellion.

Meanwhile, we have admirably directed our efforts into training a professional and nonsectarian Iraqi police force and encouraging reconciliation between Sunnis and Shiites. But we haven't succeeded. We may be strong enough to stop large-scale warfare or genocide, but we're not strong enough to stop pervasive chaos.

Hussein, however, has a proven record in that department. It may well be possible to reconstitute the Iraqi army and state bureaucracy we disbanded, and if so, that may be the only force capable of imposing order in Iraq.

Recently Brother Francoeur forwarded an article in which folks were brandishing the absurd factoid that Iraq has lasted longer than American participation in WWII did. The case would be a bit stronger if opponents considered, as they ought, the Iraq War to have begun in 1990-91, but even this requires us to twist the ugly truth about WWII.

Let us though start a bit earlier, with WWI, since it is our failure there that is still playing itself out in the Middle East. It would seem eminently fair to say that a successful conclusion to WWI would, from an American perspective, have tracked with Woodrow Wilson's Fourteen Points. Consider just one--far the most important--of them: "A free, open-minded, and absolutely impartial adjustment of all colonial claims, based upon a strict observance of the principle that in determining all such questions of sovereignty the interests of the populations concerned must have equal weight with the equitable claims of the government whose title is to be determined." The fact is that in a considerable portion of the post-colonial world we still haven't given proper weight to the interests of the population concerned. Indeed, the liberalization we are currently forcing on the Middle East is simply a realization of this aim, though it comes ninety years late. George W. Bush is just writing the final chapters of WWI.

As regards WWII, it would seem fair to consider our war aims to have been ably laid out by FDR and Churchill in the Atlantic Charter of 1941. It includes language not dissimilar to Wilson's: "they respect the right of all peoples to choose the form of government under which they will live; and they wish to see sovereign rights and self government restored to those who have been forcibly deprived of them." Leave us not take quite so universalist a view as we did over WWI and consider just Poland. The Poles got to choose a government in 1990, some 49 years after the Allied leaders met and set as their goal its liberation.

By contrast to these obviously failed wars--WWI was inarguably a mistake while WWII was noble enough in principle but in practice utterly misconceived--the people of Iraq already get to choose their own government and have for a couple years now. The war aims that President Bush laid out for Iraq (and like nations) in the 2002 National Security statement have been effected there: "the United States will use this moment of opportunity to extend the benefits of freedom across the globe. We will actively work to bring the hope of democracy, development, free markets, and free trade to every corner of the world"--though, admittedly, imperfectly. Development and stable freedom are works in progress -- untidy ones at that -- but Kurdistan and Shi'astan are already well on their way. The question now is what sort of state will emerge in Baghdadistan. If the people get to choose freely it is likely to be a Shi'a dominated democracy--even after carving out a Shi'a state in the South of the original Iraq. If the Ba'athists, al Qaedists, and Realists were to prevail it would be some kind of totalitarian Sunni rgime whose main purpose would be the subjugation or extermination of the Shi'a. This is the solution (Final?) that Mr. Chait is pimping for here.

It seems pretty unlikely that we, Mookie al Sadr and the Shi'a in the South, or Iran would tolerate such a result, but there are always going to be folk who prefer "security" at any cost to freedom. Indeed, it was the illusion of security/stability that led us to betray our own war aims in WWI and WWII and that leave us still completing the unfinished work of those prior wars today. If Mr. Chait's intention is merely to be shocking, there's a far more sensible suggestion he might make that would still shock many. It builds off of his own notion that we are strong enough to stop full-scale warfare/genocide. The question is why are we stopping it? Since it is the Sunni who are causing the instability he so fears, why not allow the Shi'a to repress or expel them? Just as Indian freedom led to an exodus of Muslims to Pakistan and Hindus to India, so too might an exodus of Sunni from Iraq be a logical outcome of decolonization/liberation. At any rate, reimposing Saddam would appear to be the least effective idea for the long term, however much schaudenfreude it might stir up in those who dislike W and the war.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:19 PM


In Class Warfare, Guess Which Class Is Winning (BEN STEIN, 11/26/06, NY Times)

The fourth argument in response to my suggestion was that “deficits don’t matter.”

There is something to this. One would think that big deficits would be highly inflationary, according to Keynesian economics. But we have modest inflation (except in New York City, where a martini at a good bar is now $22). On the other hand, we have all that interest to pay, soon roughly $7 billion a week, a lot of it to overseas owners of our debt. This, to me, seems to matter.

Besides, if it doesn’t matter, why bother to even discuss balancing the budget?


Save and invest (Kansas City Star, 11/27/06)

Over the past decade, total assets in 401(k) plans have grown from $864 billion to $2.4 trillion, according to the Investment Company Institute.

Foreigners lend us money which we then invest and get a rate of return twice that at which we repay them. There is no economic theory under which that's a bad decision.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:12 PM


A Fix for Social Security?: How Personal Accounts Could Please Both Sides (Sebastian Mallaby, November 27, 2006, Washington Post)

Democrats may be allergic to personal Social Security accounts, but they are enthusiastic about other ideas for personal retirement accounts that just don't have "Social Security" in the title. For example, Gene Sperling, a former Clinton adviser, has called for a "Universal 401(k)" that would extend the benefits of 401(k) saving to workers whose companies don't offer such accounts. In Sperling's vision, everyone would get the chance to contribute to an account and receive a government contribution as a match, with the most generous match going to low-income workers. To pay for this program, the government could prune the existing $150 billion patchwork of tax breaks for saving. This patchwork is extraordinarily, scandalously regressive: 90 percent of the tax breaks go to the richest 40 percent of taxpayers.

Sperling is motivated by a desire to help low-income people. As he writes in his book, "The Pro-Growth Progressive," 85 percent of workers in the bottom fifth of the labor force have no access to a company 401(k), nor do 75 percent of Hispanic workers or 60 percent of black workers. Globalization, which has boosted the volatility of family incomes, makes it especially important to help workers build assets that can cushion them against job loss, illness or the financial fallout from divorce. Although the Universal 401(k) would be primarily aimed at retirement security, there could be limited earlier withdrawals at times of misfortune.

So while Republicans have been pushing personal retirement accounts as part of an entitlement fix, Democrats have been pushing personal retirement accounts because they worry about worker insecurity. By enlarging the debate so that it's about savings in the era of globalization rather than just Social Security, negotiators can conjure up the common ground that was missing during the 2005 train wreck. Personal accounts need not be merely the alternative to the traditional Social Security benefit. They can simultaneously be the alternative to the nation's outrageously regressive system of tax breaks for saving and a way to help ordinary people build nest eggs. When personal accounts become both of these things, perhaps Republicans and Democrats alike will back them.

If it's just a matter of semantics, why not simply let people fund their Democratic.Sperling Accounts out of their SS taxes?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:09 PM


Deborah Pryce Wins Reelection (Eve Mueller and Eric James, Nov 27 2006, 10TV)

A winner has finally declared in the race between Republican Deborah Pryce and Democrat Mary Jo Kilroy, 20 days after the election.

Incumbent Deborah Pryce will still represent Ohio's 15th Congressional District, but this story is far from over.

The provisional ballots are in and the Board of Elections declared Pryce the winner.

A remarkable number of the GOP's most vulnerable incumbents hung on.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:58 PM


MAN VERSUS MACHINE: Kramnik and 'Deep Fritz' Vie for Chess Supremacy (Der Spiegel, 11/27/06)

[W]ith his IQ boosted by countless gigabytes, Fritz has been granted a rematch against Kramnik, whose brain capacity is presumably unchanged. Fritz has been overhauled and improved, and is now able to look into the future to the tune of nine moves for both players. He can calculate 8 million positions per second.

And Kramnik? His only hope is to discover the computer's weaknesses. That, in fact, is exactly what he tried to do in the first match of the series, being played in the Art and Exhibition Hall of the Federal Republic of Germany in Bonn. In Saturday's opener, he chose a strategy which the computer had not been trained for -- and seemed to have the upper hand for awhile. But the computer fought back and the match ended in a draw.

Even that, though, should be seen as something of a success for Kramnik, what with the improvements made to "Deep Fritz." This is, after all, the first time in the history of man vs. machine matches that the machine entered the duel as the favorite. And the question remains: Have the machines overtaken us?

On SPIEGEL ONLINE International you can watch the series live -- every match, every move and with audio commentary by Yasser Seirawan, a four-time US chess champion, a one-time world junior chess champion and author of numerous chess books.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:25 PM


Crush the Sunnis (James Kurth, 11.25.06, New Republic)

Before it leaves Iraq...the United States must inflict a dramatic and decisive defeat upon the Sunni insurgents--one that will demonstrate the unbearable cost and utter futility of the Islamist dream of establishing a Muslim umma under the rule of a global Sunni caliphate. That defeat must be more than military; it must also be political: The United States should divide Iraq into two parts, leaving the Kurds in control of the north, the Shia in control of the south--and the Sunnis stateless in between.

The Sunni Arabs of Iraq have much to answer for. Since they have always made up a rather small minority--about 15 to 20 percent of the country's total population--the regimes they created were historically authoritarian ones. They compensated for their small base by employing especially brutal methods against their Kurdish and Shia neighbors. Successive Sunni governments became steadily more repressive, leading eventually to the rule of the Baath Party and culminating in the ferocious regime of Saddam Hussein.

Baathist Iraq was often compared to Nazi Germany: Saddam was said to play the role of Adolf Hitler and the Baath Party that of the Nazi Party. A more accurate comparison, however, would analogize the Baath Party to the Waffen S.S., the Nazi Party's elite unit, and the Sunni Arab community to the Nazi Party as a whole, which eventually made up as much as 15 percent of Germany's population.

But, unlike their Nazi counterparts in Germany in 1945, the Sunni Arabs in Iraq in 2003 were not totally defeated, devastated, and demoralized by the time their government was toppled. Consequently, they were soon able to initiate and support a vicious insurgency.

At the confluence of demographics and political theory the end is self-evident: the Sunni have to submit to Shi'a rule or leave.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:58 AM


Revealed: rise of creationism in UK schools (James Randerson, November 27, 2006, The Guardian)

Dozens of schools are using creationist teaching materials condemned by the government as "not appropriate to support the science curriculum", the Guardian has learned.

The packs promote the creationist alternative to Darwinian evolution called intelligent design and the group behind them said 59 schools are using the information as "a useful classroom resource".

A teacher at one of the schools said it intended to use the DVDs to present intelligent design as an alternative to Darwinism. Nick Cowan, head of chemistry at Bluecoat school, in Liverpool, said: "Just because it takes a negative look at Darwinism doesn't mean it is not science. I think to critique Darwinism is quite appropriate."

While the racialist paradigm that produced Darwinism shifted decades ago, nationalist pride in the intellectual status of a native son sustained the theory in England longer than in the US -- even encouraging hoaxes to try rescuing it, like Piltdown Man and Peppered Moths -- but the collapse is inevitable.

Atheists Agonistes (RICHARD A. SHWEDER, 11/27/06, NY Times)

[T]he popularity of the current counterattack on religion cloaks a renewed and intense anxiety within secular society that it is not the story of religion but rather the story of the Enlightenment that may be more illusory than real.

The Enlightenment story has its own version of Genesis, and the themes are well known: The world woke up from the slumber of the “dark ages,” finally got in touch with the truth and became good about 300 years ago in Northern and Western Europe.

As people opened their eyes, religion (equated with ignorance and superstition) gave way to science (equated with fact and reason). Parochialism and tribal allegiances gave way to ecumenism, cosmopolitanism and individualism. Top-down command systems gave way to the separation of church from state, of politics from science. The story provides a blueprint for how to remake and better the world in the image and interests of the West’s secular elites.

Unfortunately, as a theory of history, that story has had a predictive utility of approximately zero. At the turn of the millennium it was pretty hard not to notice that the 20th century was probably the worst one yet, and that the big causes of all the death and destruction had rather little to do with religion. Much to everyone’s surprise, that great dance on the Berlin Wall back in 1989 turned out not to be the apotheosis of the Enlightenment.

In fact, it marked the final triumph over the Enlightenment. The rest is just mopping-up.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:44 AM


Conspicuous Proliferation: a review of War Made New: Technology, Warfare, and the Course of History, 1500 to Today by Max Boot (William H. McNeill, December 21, 2006, NY Review of Books)

War Made New begins with a crisp introduction, sketching four revolutions in warfare since 1500 around which Max Boot chose to organize his book. It ends in a fog of acronyms for weapons still on the drawing boards, uncertainty about future military revolutions, and "The Danger of Too Much Change—and Too Little." In between Boot found many persuasive things to say about how changes in military technology and management affected the course of European and world history, illustrating each of his military revolutions with detailed accounts of three specific battles or campaigns. [...]

Boot skips over World War I just as he skipped the advances in weaponry and ideological mobilization between 1750 and 1866, although that conflict introduced many new weapons, and raised the intensity of mobilization on the home front to previously unimagined heights. But Boot prefers to make his "Second Industrial Revolution" in military affairs coincide with World War II and emphasizes three innovations—tanks, aircraft carriers, and heavy bombers—by focusing on the defeat of France in 1940, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, and the American firebombing of Tokyo in 1945.

As always, these narrative chapters are well written and make a good case for the importance of the three new weapons he chose to discuss. At the same time, he recognizes the partiality of his approach, and acknowledges that other innovations—radar, code breaking, amphibious landings, and improvements in older technologies like submarine warfare and industrial production lines—also affected the outcome.

I quite concur with his summing up of "What Produced Victory?" Here are some of his observations:

The Germans outthought their enemies in the interwar period, which is why in 1939–41 the Third Reich was able to outfight the countries of Western and Eastern Europe.... On paper, at least, this gave the Third Reich the potential to compete against the US and USSR.... Japan, too, grabbed a vast empire for itself in Asia that should have given it greater ability to hold its own. Yet by 1942 the US was outproducing all of the Axis states combined. The USSR, too, staged a remarkable recovery...and was soon outproducing Germany....

He continues:

On the whole, however, the Allies pulled off the difficult feat of war management far better than the Axis. Nazi Germany was plagued by the erratic and often irrational decision-making of Adolf Hitler, who fostered an atmosphere of bureaucratic chaos and infighting. While Japan had no single leader of comparable power, it was handicapped by the lack of coordination between its army and navy. The British and Americans, by contrast, set up a Combined Chiefs of Staff Committee that, despite some inevitable friction, capably coordinated their joint war effort....

This underscores a theme running throughout this volume: Having an efficient bureaucracy is the key determinant of whether a country manages to take advantage of a military revolution.... The reason German armies were able to reach the gates of Moscow and Japanese armies the borders of India before being defeated was that the Axis had done a better job of organizing beforethe war. This gave them an important initial advantage that they allowed to slip away through catastrophic miscalculations—which once again goes to show that the early movers in a military revolution are not necessarily the long-term winners.

This last observation strikes me as a useful warning for American policymakers who are dealing with the ongoing "Information Revolution" that Boot dates from the 1990s, which has transformed warfare with high-tech advances such as cruise missiles, computer-guided targeting and navigation systems, and stealth planes invisible to radar. "While much is still murky," he declares, "one impact of the Information Age so far is reasonably clear: Even while decreasing the importance of traditional nation-states, it has given a substantial boost to the American position in relation to that of other states." More particularly, "American weaponry remains at the cutting edge of military developments."

Both seem to miss the point--because the organization of you society determines how effectively you can use whatever weapons, the Islamicists are, like the Communists and Nazis before them, their own worst enemies and not a realistic threat.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:31 AM


The Nine: On Hiatus? Canceled? (Buddy TV, November 27, 2006)

On Saturday, the powers-that-be at ABC announced that they would be pulling The Nine from their schedule. Much-hyped and critically acclaimed coming into the season, The Nine failed to gain a wide viewership, even with it's cushy time slot. You'd think that an edgy, high-concept serial drama would thrive in the post-Lost time slot, but, obviously, this was not the case. The Nine regularly retained less than half of Lost's audience.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:10 AM


A Day When Mahdi Army Showed Its Other Side: Militia Seen as Heroic In Aiding Bomb Victims (Sudarsan Raghavan, 11/27/06, Washington Post)

Since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, Fartoosi has been a militiaman with the Shiite Muslim Mahdi Army of firebrand cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. Last week, he also served as a relief worker, a policeman, a traffic controller and a guard.

So did thousands of his militia comrades who mobilized to assist victims of the deadliest attack on Iraqis since the invasion, highlighting the power associated with the Mahdi Army's less-publicized roles in Iraqi society.

"We do even more than what the government should do," said Fartoosi, 21, as he recalled the eight grueling hours after a barrage of car bombs, mortars and missiles killed more than 200 people in Baghdad's Shiite heartland.

For U.S. officials, dismantling the Mahdi Army and other Shiite militias that have fomented sectarian strife in Iraq is a cornerstone of their calculus to stabilize Iraq and bring U.S. troops home. They view it as a crucial step toward isolating the Sunni Arab insurgency and reconciling the nation.

But the attacks Thursday illustrated the immense difficulties involved in tackling the Mahdi Army, the country's largest and most violent militia, in today 's Iraq. The militiamen were heroes that day, Sadr City residents said in interviews. They did everything that Iraq's fragile unity government did not, or could not, do. In the days since, their actions have boosted Sadr's popularity and emboldened him.

"The Mahdi Army are the people who helped us after the explosion," said Shihab Ahmed, 24, a salesman who was wounded by flying shrapnel. "They saved us."

We've never figured this out about Hezbollah or Hamas either--there is just one side. They fill the roll of government, with the armed forces just being a part of the whole. Neither would Washington and Franklin have seen themselves as opposites.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:50 AM


Here Come the Economic Populists (LOUIS UCHITELLE, 11/27/06, NY Times)

FOR years, the Clinton wing of the Democratic Party, exercising a lock on the party’s economic policies, argued that the economy could achieve sustained growth only if markets were allowed to operate unfettered and globally.

Overcoming protests from labor unions, a traditional constituency, the Clinton administration vigorously supported free trade agreements like Nafta and agreed to China’s admission into the World Trade Organization. If there was damage to workers, then the Clinton camp proposed dealing with it after it occurred — through wage insurance, for example, or worker retraining and other safety-net measures.

This approach coincided with a period of economic prosperity, low unemployment and falling deficits. Over time, this combination — called Rubinomics after the Clinton administration’s Treasury secretary, Robert E. Rubin — became the Democratic establishment’s accepted model for the future.

Not anymore.

Because he refused to talk about it, the President has allowed the election of Democrats who oppose the economic prosperity he and fellow Third Wayers fostered. Fortunately they're powerless to do much damage.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:48 AM


America the charitable: a few surprises (Mark Trumbull, 11/27/06, The Christian Science Monitor)

Charitable giving plays an even larger role in the economy than is suggested by some $260 billion in annual contributions. Each dollar of giving appears to create $19 of extra national income, according to a book released this past weekend. [...]

One thing that's long been known: The US leads the world in levels of charitable activity. The pattern runs from the rich, steeped in long tradition of philanthropy, to the poor. Those making $20,000 or less a year give away more, as a share of their income, than do higher income groups.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:14 AM


New Hampshire Is Middle America (DAVID SHRIBMAN, November 27, 2006, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

Only a few weeks ago, when summer still seemed visible in the rear view mirror, this was a Republican state — not quite as conservative as it had been a generation ago, when Barry Goldwater felt comfortable enough in New Hampshire to put forward ideas on privatizing Social Security that go even further than President Bush's, but Republican enough to have a certain party purity to it. The congressional delegation was 100% Republican, the state House was 100% Republican, and the state Senate was 100% Republican.

That's gone. New Hampshire's voters elected two Democratic House members for the first time since 1912, and at the same moment, for the first time since 1911, these same voters installed Democrats in both the state Senate and state House. States turn over their political complexions all the time and we hardly notice. When it happens in New Hampshire, we can't afford not to notice.

Sobering thought, but true: The New Hampshire primary, the nation's first, is only 14 months away. It is here, amid the pines and birches and the newly ascendant Democrats, that candidates will test their messages and then be tested themselves. And though you know that Iowa's caucuses come first, and the caucuses in Nevada, a newcomer to early presidential politics, now come next, remember that New Hampshire's primary has a special quality that makes it a model for the national contest in November 2008: Independents can vote here.

That's important. The Democratic caucuses in Iowa are almost certainly going to be dominated by the left. The United Auto Workers are an important force in the state, skewing the trade debate, and anti-war forces in Ames and Iowa City are going to draw the Democrats leftward. The Republican caucuses in Iowa are almost certainly going to be dominated by the right, and almost certainly by religious conservatives, who since 1988 have mastered the rhythm of these peculiar Monday evening contests. Senator Santorum may have won only about 40% of the vote in his re-election fight in Pennsylvania, but 40% in the Iowa caucuses is a very big number. He may be out of the Senate beginning in January, but he's still a political giant.

The message of the midterm congressional elections is that the middle counts, and New Hampshire is well-positioned to move the campaign back toward the center.

Which is why a challenge from Hillary's Left or McCain's Right is likely to be futile. Meanwhile, President McCain will carry the state by a wide enough margin to sweep the GOP back into power. This midterm was unique in that -- in addition to there being no presidential candidate at the top of the ticket -- neither popular senator was up for re-election and the Democratic governor, who'd been unable to do anything significant with an otherwise Republican dominated state government was, therefore, enormously popular. His newfound capacity to govern will probably be fatal in its own right. Of course, Republicans have to nominate a good gubernatorial candidate next time, something they've not managed in over a decade. Attorney General Kelly Ayotte could be the ticket.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:55 AM


Spending up 19% in holiday kickoff (Mary Jane Credeur, 11/27/06, Bloomberg News)

Shoppers spent 18.9 percent more over the Thanksgiving weekend than in 2005, kicking off holiday gift buying with purchases of discounted widescreen televisions and clothes, the National Retail Federation said Sunday. [...]

Shoppers limited much of their spending to sale items such as Wal-Mart Stores' $997 37-inch LCD TV and Sears Holdings' discounted jewelry and toys, said consultant Howard Davidowitz.

Discounts may threaten profit margins in a quarter when retailers collect a third of their annual earnings.

"How much money can retailers be making on half-priced TVs?" said Walter Todd, who helps manage $850 million at Greenwood Capital in Greenwood, S.C. [...]

Laura Brown, 38, an Atlanta nurse, bought a 42-inch Panasonic plasma TV for $1,000 at Best Buy the day after Thanksgiving. The set was marked down from $1,700 and was "my gift to me," Brown said.

"It was shocking, because people were only buying doorbusters. You can't have people just come in and buy doorbusters and leave," said Davidowitz.

We all know that by March the discount price of today will be the wholesale price.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:49 AM


Medicaid spending sees first decline (Dennis Cauchon, USA TODAY)

Medicaid spending has declined unexpectedly this year, the first drop since the health program for the poor was created in 1965. [...]

Medicaid spending fell 1.4% in the first nine months of the year compared with the same period a year ago, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. The drop was even greater — an unprecedented a 5.4% decline — after adjusting for the rate of health care inflation. [...]

"States have made really aggressive changes in how care is managed in Medicaid," Arizona Medicaid Director Anthony Rodgers said. "Every state has taken a different approach, but the success can be seen almost everywhere."

Democrats have vowed to reverse this.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:31 AM


Canada pushes Beijing on rights (Rowan Callick, November 27, 2006, The Australian)

UNDER the former Liberal government of Paul Martin, Canada was for a long time out of step with the rest of the Anglosphere on international affairs and the war on terrorism.

The election of conservative Stephen Harper as Prime Minister in February changed that - with one large exception: China.

While Australian Prime Minister John Howard finds much in common with Mr Harper in other matters, the two leaders could scarcely be further apart on China.

Mr Harper has chosen to hitch his China policy to human rights - which Mr Howard tends to leave to the discreet annual dialogues on the contentious issue, and other quiet diplomatic representations.

While it's certainly understandable that decent Canadians feel the need to play catch-up, some division of labor within the sphere is also sensible.

November 26, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:41 PM


We are in a war to the death – craven concessions won't win it (Janet Daley, 27/11/2006, Daily Telegraph)

What Islamic fundamentalism plans to achieve (and it has made no secret of it) is a righting of the great wrong of 1492, when the Muslims were expelled from Spain: a return of the Caliphate, the destruction of corrupt Western values, and the establishment of Sharia law in all countries where Muslims reside. That is what we are up against.

The Pope characterised it as a battle between reason and unreason. Scholars may debate the theological and historical soundness of his analysis. But what is indisputable is that this is not an argument that is within the bounds of diplomatic give and take, the traditional stuff of international policy argy-bargy. What we could plausibly offer to the enemy, even at our most craven, would never be sufficient.

What is being demanded is the surrender of everything that Western democracy regards as sacred: even, ironically, the freedom to practise one's own religion, which, at the moment, is so useful to Muslim activists. We are forced to accept the Islamist movement's own estimation of the conflict: this is a war to the death, or until Islamism decides to call a halt.

But we do not have to accept all that Islamism claims for itself: most importantly, the idea that it alone embodies the true principles of its faith. The argument that the Islamic religion is inherently violent, which the Pope was thought to have supported in his Regensburg lecture, is academic, in both the literal and metaphorical senses.

What matters for us now is that a great many Muslims – including some enthusiastic converts who cannot even lay claim to a life history of persecution or injustice for their beliefs – are prepared to use their religious affiliation as a justification to commit mass murder. How are we to deal with this? There is only one way: we must, with the co-operation of the Muslim majority, separate the faith from its violent exponents.

Liberal democracy reached an understanding with religion a long time ago: your right, as a citizen, to observe your faith without persecution will be explicitly protected by the state. In return, you will agree to make your peace with the civil law and respect the rights of others to pursue their beliefs. That's the deal. We cannot make exceptions either by removing Muslims who accept their side of the bargain from that protection, or by permitting those who refuse to accept it to flout our law (on, say, sexual equality or the overt slavery of forced marriages).

As Caroline Cox and John Marks argue in their book The West, Islam and Islamism, republished in a new edition by Civitas this week, it is imperative that we distinguish between the Islamic faith and Islamist ideology. If we accept – or even countenance – the view that the two are indistinguishable, we will either be paralysed by our own democratic commitment to religious freedom or forced to engage in all-out religious war.

If they're just patient, they can move into an empty Spain in a few years.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:36 PM


Pinochet shows no remorse (Jeremy McDermott, 27/11/2006, Daily Telegraph)

Augusto Pinochet, the former Chilean dictator, used the occasion of his 91st birthday at the weekend to accept, for the first time, responsibility for the crimes committed by his military junta.

Yet there was no remorse for the 1973 coup and the subsequent killings of suspected Left-wing sympathisers and activists, some 3,000 of whom were murdered by military death squads.

"Today, near the end of my days, I want to say that I harbour no rancour against anybody, that I love my fatherland above all and that I take political responsibility for everything that was done," said his wife, reading out a statement while the visibly frail Gen Pinochet held her hand. The coup that overthrew the Socialist president Salvador Allende had "no other motive than to make Chile a great place and prevent its disintegration", the general insisted.

He condemned the continuing trials of military officers and the charges against him, stating that his regime had saved Chile and made it one of the richest and most stable nations in Latin America.

"Thanks to their courage and decision, Chile moved from the totalitarian threat to the full democracy which we restored and which all our compatriots enjoy."

The Middle East will have done well if thirty years from now it has a few Pinochet's of its own, who can look back and say that their brutality made their nations safe for democracy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:31 PM


OBIT: Robert Lockwood Jr (Daily Telegraph, 27/11/2006)

Robert Lockwood Jr, who died on November 21 aged 91, was one of the last of the Mississippi Delta blues guitarists.

A contemporary of Muddy Waters, Memphis Slim and Johnny Shines, he learned his trade from the genre's founding father and continued playing until shortly before his death.

Robert Lockwood Junior was born on March 27 1915 at Turkey Scratch, Arkansas, a farming hamlet some 25 miles from Helena. His first interest in music was in playing the family harmonium – his father had been a local preacher – but after his parents' divorce he took up the guitar, when he was aged 11.

He received lessons from his mother's on/off live-in boyfriend, Robert Johnson, the most important influence on the Delta style and, according to Eric Clapton, "the most important blues musician who ever lived".

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:18 PM


The Giant, Helpless, Pitiful Democratic Majority (DICK MORRIS & EILEEN MCGANN, November 24, 2006,

For all of the dire warnings and pre-election commotion about the impact of a Democratic majority in Congress, the fact is that - now that it is upon us - it can do little or nothing but harass the administration.

There is no real danger of any legislative action emerging from this Congress. Yes, the president has a veto the Democrats cannot override, but nothing will ever make it as far as the desk at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., are just spinning their wheels.

In the Senate, there is no such thing as a majority. Ever since the elder Bush's administration, the filibuster has become routine. No longer reserved for civil-rights issues or for egregious legislation, it now is used to counter even motions for recess and adjournment. Members of the Senate are no longer subjected to the indignity of standing on their feet and reading a telephone book. Rather, the gentlemen's filibuster applies.

The majority leader phones the minority leader and asks if a filibuster is in effect. With his feet up on his desk, the Republican replies that it is and the Democrat, despite his majority, does not even think about bringing up his bill for consideration unless he has a good shot at the 60 votes required to shut off debate. In the Senate, 51 votes determine who gets the corner office, but to pass legislation, one needs 60.

Sure, the Left will be frustrated by how little this election meant, but perhaps their derangement will abate somewhat just by virtue of the illusion of power.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:17 PM


Would a drop in population be a positive or a negative? (Jonathan Last, 11/26/06, Philadelphia Inquirer)

The Danish economist Ester Boserup upended the classical Malthusian model of agriculture in 1965 by proposing that population increase fosters agricultural innovation, which, in turn, spurs leaps in production. Her theories have been borne out.

What about overcrowding? Everywhere you go today, you find traffic jams and sprawl, with people packed into condominiums and crowded malls. But this is a problem of density, not population. There's plenty of land available out there. The problem is that people who used to live in the countryside have relocated to cities: There are fewer people living in the Great Plains today than there were in the 1920s.

Environmental concerns are more interesting. However, such end-of-the-world warnings are not new. In the 1970s, many scientists were concerned about a new Ice Age. But leave aside global warming, on which science is conflicted, and take the other concern principally cited by environmentalists: that the Earth has a finite supply of resources that we shall surely soon deplete.

This, too, is an argument we have heard before. As Massimo Livi-Bacci explains in his Concise History of World Population, more than 100 years ago, economists "feared that coal supplies would be used up, and about 30 years ago the Club of Rome made similar predictions regarding other raw materials." Instead, markets and human innovation stepped in to provide greater efficiency.

For instance, in the America of 1850, you needed an average of 4.6 tons of petroleum equivalent to produce $1,000 of goods and services. By 1950, you needed only 1.8 tons, and, by 1978, 1.5 tons. Markets are exceptional engines of conservation.

Which leaves us with the economy. In 1971, Simon Smith Kuznets won the Nobel Prize in economics for his theory of "tested knowledge." As Kuznets explained: "More population means more creators and producers, both of goods along established production patterns and of new knowledge and inventions."

Kuznets was codifying what others had noticed before. Adam Smith remarked that "the most decisive mark of the prosperity of any country is the increase of the number of its inhabitants." As Livi-Bacci observes, "All things being equal, population increase leads to increased per capita production."

So the proposed "benefits" of population decline are, at the very least, suspect.

On the other hand, there are worrying potential costs of population decline. Of course, this worry is theoretical because we've never seen population decline on the massive scale that's coming our way. Or rather, we've never seen it in the modern world. There are, however, two historical examples.

Between 400 B.C. and the birth of Jesus, world population increased from about 153 million to 252 million. For the next 200 years, growth slowed almost to a halt. Then, between A.D. 200 and 600, population shrank from 257 million to 208 million. It took 400 more years for the population to recover to the level it had attained in Jesus' time.

The other drop in population occurred between 1340 and 1400, when the Black Death ravaged the world. Global population fell from 442 million to 375 million. Neither of these moments were particularly pleasant periods in human history.

Or, as Mark Steyn notes in America Alone, "There is no precedent in human history for economic growth on declining human capital."

...only Americans will be around to enjoy them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:44 AM


Dreams of an investment in future drive voters (Habib Toumi, 11/26/06, Gulf News)

Luqman Al Qassab said that he was confident that the Council of Representatives will not be as weak as its predecessor. "We look forward to a bright future because I am convinced that living conditions and housing schemes will be improved," said Al Qassab who did not vote in 2002.

"Boycotting the elections then was significant to maintain unity within the ranks, but this year we are all convinced that participation would help enhance our lives," he said while carrying his young child.

Like many of the people who thronged the Jid Hafs polling station, Al Qassab saw the exercise as a manifestation of strong support for Shaikh Ali Salman and an investment in the future.

"I am overwhelmed by the sight of thousands of people lining up to cast their ballots," the Al Wefaq leader told Gulf News three hours into the one-day vote.

Many voters had younger members with them in front of the stations where vivacious children and adolescents were distributing pictures under the smiling oversized posters of the candidates.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:20 AM


Abu Sayyaf in American’s beheading in 2001 nabbed in Basilan: Suspect ‘most dangerous Abu Sayyaf’ (Julie Alipala, 11/25/06, Inquirer)

Military intelligence agents have arrested the Abu Sayyaf leader who allegedly decapitated American hostage Guillermo Sobero in June 2001, the military said Saturday.

Major Eugene Batara, spokesperson of the Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom), said Annik Abbas alias Abu Anek was arrested on Friday evening in Colonia village in Lamitan, Basilan.

Abbas’s victim, Sobero, was among 21 persons -- including American couple Martin and Gracia Burnham -- taken from the Dos Palmas resort in Palawan during a raid by the group of bandits in May 2001. [...]

Akbar said Abbas was previously arrested but managed to escape from prison during the 2004 jail break in Basilan. He rejoined the Abu Sayyaf and was named commander of the group previously under Hamsiraji Sali, who was killed by soldiers in 2003, according to Akbar.

"I am giving P1 million to the civilian informants who helped the Army's 103rd Infantry Brigade in his arrest," the Basilan governor said.

On Thursday evening, police intelligence operatives also killed an Abu Sayyaf member during an operation here.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:16 AM


Hundreds of thousands rally to back Venezuelan opposition leader in presidential vote (The Associated Press, 11/26/06)

Hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans packed a major highway on Saturday in one of the largest demonstrations in years, waving flags as presidential candidate Manuel Rosales vowed to unseat incumbent Hugo Chavez in elections next weekend.

Shouts of "Dare to change!" arose from the crowd that filled the highway and nearby overpasses and streets. [...]

"They are scared," Rosales shouted, pumping his fists in the air and prompting loud applause from the crowd. "We are going to win on Dec. 3."

A dense crowed spilled for several kilometers along a broad highway beyond the major intersection where Rosales spoke. Some journalists estimated the crowd at roughly 800,000, but there were no official estimates.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:03 AM


How the Yes Man Learned to Say No (ALAN EHRENHALT, 11/26/06, NY Times)

Wherever he looked, Whyte found what he called the “social ethic,” a set of values that “makes morally legitimate the pressures of society against the individual.” In the boardroom, in the office cubicles, in the Park Forest cul-de-sacs, in the schools and churches, the young adults of the 1950s were being trained to think and act in unison, to absorb the values of the team, to suppress any truly innovative ideas in the interest of harmony. “In our attention to making organization work,” he complained, “we have come close to deifying it.”

Not only that, but the American middle class was transmitting the ethic of mindless conformity to the children it was raising. When parents in Park Forest were asked what they thought the schools there should emphasize, most responded that schools should teach children “how to get along with other people.”

One might spend an interesting evening debating whether Whyte really captured midcentury American culture with the precision that most critics applauded — or whether he simply defined it in terms so vivid that they achieved a status as intellectual dogma impervious to challenge.

What we can say with confidence half a century later is that Whyte got the future almost entirely wrong.

Intellectual dogma has never gotten anything right, which is why American anti-intellectualism, which intellectual dogma saw as a dangerous flaw, has been our salvation.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:50 AM


As Power Shifts in New Congress, Pork May Linger (DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK, 11/26/06, NY Times)

[Senators Ted Stevens of Alaska and Daniel K. Inouye of Hawaii] routinely deliver to their states more money per capita in earmarks — the pet projects lawmakers insert into major spending bills — than any other state gets. This year, Alaska received $1.05 billion in earmarks, or $1,677.27 per resident, while Hawaii got $903.9 million, or $746.05 per resident, according to Taxpayers for Common Sense, a nonpartisan group that tracks such figures.

Representative Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic leader, and many Democratic candidates have railed for months against wasteful “special interest earmarks” inserted into bills “in the dark of night.” Now their party’s electoral victories mean that Mr. Stevens will hand Mr. Inouye the gavel of the Senate defense appropriations subcommittee, which presides over the largest pool of discretionary spending and earmarks. But if the Democratic leaders are talking about “earmark reform,” that may be news to Mr. Inouye.

“I don’t see any monumental changes,” Mr. Inouye said in a recent interview.

Democrats were elected, just like Republicans before them, to bring home the bacon, not to share it more evenly.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:47 AM


Success of Drug Plan Challenges Democrats: Medicare Benefit's Cost Beat Estimates (Lori Montgomery and Christopher Lee, 11/26/06, Washington Post)

Drug-company lobbyists, Bush administration officials and many congressional Republicans are preparing to block any effort to increase federal control over drug prices, saying the Medicare benefit is working well. They contend that instead of saving money, government negotiations could raise drug prices for all consumers while limiting choices for people on Medicare.

"This is going to be much more of a morass than people think," said Marilyn Moon, director of the health program at the American Institutes for Research and a former trustee of the Social Security and Medicare trust funds. Negotiating drug prices is "a feel-good kind of answer, but it's not one that is easy to imagine how you put into practice."

The Medicare drug benefit, one of the Bush administration's signature domestic programs, was created in 2003 and took effect in January. It has enrolled 22.5 million seniors, some of whom had no previous drug coverage.

Polls indicate that more than 80 percent of enrollees are satisfied, even though nearly half chose plans with no coverage in the doughnut hole, a gap that opens when a senior's drug costs reach $2,250 and closes when out-of-pocket expenses reach $3,600. By the latest estimates, 3 million to 4 million seniors will hit the doughnut hole this year and pay full price for drugs while also paying drug-plan premiums.

The cost of the program has been lower than expected, about $26 billion in 2006, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. The cost was projected to rise to $45 billion next year, but Medicare has received new bids indicating that its average per-person subsidy could drop by 15 percent in 2007, to $79.90 a month.

Urban Institute President Robert D. Reischauer, a former director of the Congressional Budget Office, called that a remarkable record for a new federal program.

Initially, he said, people were worried no private plans would participate. "Then too many plans came forward," Reischauer said. "Then people said it's going to cost a fortune. And the price came in lower than anybody thought. Then people like me said they're low-balling the prices the first year and they'll jack up the rates down the line. And, lo and behold, the prices fell again. And the reaction was, 'We've got to have the government negotiate lower prices.' At some point you have to ask: What are we looking for here?"

There are going to be plenty of "challenges" when you win an election based on completely undoing the most successful presidency since Coolidge's.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:42 AM


Sword of the Shia: He can deal out death through his black-clad followers and roil the government any time he chooses. Why Moqtada al-Sadr may end up deciding America's fate in Iraq. (Jeffrey Bartholet, 12/04/06, Newsweek)

Sadr is a unique force in Iraq: a leader from the majority Shiites who has resisted American occupation from the start. He's a populist, a nationalist and an Islamic radical rolled into one. Part of his power is simply that he's powerful. Large numbers of impoverished Shiites view Sadr as their guardian—the one leader who is willing not just to stand up for them but to strike back on their behalf. "People count on the militias," says Lieutenant Hartley, who deals with Sadr's thugs on a regular basis. "It's like the mob—they keep people safe."

The longer Sadr has survived, the greater his prestige has grown. Iraqis and foreigners who meet him are impressed by the transformation. He's more diplomatic and commands more respect. He used to greet visitors at his Najaf office sitting on pillows on the floor. Now he has a couch set. His concerns are high-minded: he speaks of fuel shortages and cabinet politics. In the past, Sadr was shrugged off as a rabble-rouser and a nuisance. Now he is undeniably one of the most popular leaders in the country. He is also its most dangerous, for he has the means to wage political or actual war against any solution that is not precisely to his liking. He is driven by forces America has long misread in Iraq: religious sentiment, economic resentment and enduring sectarian passions.

And he is now a primary target of Sunni insurgents bent on provoking all-out civil war. Last Thursday, Sunni militants carried out their deadliest attack since 2003. Multiple car bombs, accompanied by mortars, killed more than 200 people in Sadr City, a Shiite slum of 2 million people in Baghdad that is dominated by the Mahdi Army. Shiite forces responded immediately by firing mortars at a revered Sunni mosque in Baghdad, and by torching other holy places. Only the presence of U.S. troops—and a wide curfew over the city—prevented far bloodier revenge attacks.

More than anyone, Sadr personifies the dilemma Washington faces: If American troops leave Iraq quickly, militia leaders like Sadr will be unleashed as never before, and full-scale civil war could follow. But the longer the American occupation lasts, the less popular America gets—and the more popular Sadr and his ilk become.

That's not a dilemma, it's a solution staring us in the face. Why should the Sunni minority stop trying to regain control of the majority if we're countenancing their actions?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:35 AM


Putting Parents First: A new approach to domestic policy for conservatives. (Yuval Levin, 12/04/2006, Weekly Standard)

We are beginning to get used to national security elections in America. The 2006 election cycle was the third in a row focused almost exclusively on the war on terror and Iraq. Apart from immigration and the vague odor of corruption, it is hard to find a single domestic issue that candidates consistently stressed on the stump this year. Indeed, neither party has campaigned on anything that might be called a domestic policy vision or platform since September 11.

But there is reason to think the 2008 election will be different. The war on terror will surely still be crucial, but if we are indeed in a generational struggle, then concerns of war and peace will come to coexist with more familiar social and economic issues in the public's mind, as was the case during the Cold War. And in the absence of George W. Bush, the next presidential election will also be less taken up with disputes over the minutiae of every administration decision. Polls already show voters increasingly concerned again with familiar domestic priorities like education and health care.

For conservatives, this presents a challenge and an opportunity. It is a challenge because conservatives today lack a coherent domestic policy vision that would either build upon or move beyond the Bush agenda. Those who approve of "compassionate conservatism," or of Bush's tax or education policies, are hard pressed to point to a logical next step. And those who complain about the president's direction--about spending, government programs, a new entitlement, and so
on--have been short on realistic alternatives.

The GOP did indeed lose because of its focus on national security, which is passe, but the next steps for compassionate conservatism are very clear: privatized SS; pre-funded retirement accounts; universal HSAs; voucherizing federal education money; immigration amnesty; transition from income tax to consumption; abortion restrictions; etc.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:31 AM


Kick him out: UN must expel Ahmadinejad's murderous regime, says one of the world's leading moral voices (ELIE WIESEL, 11/25/06, NY Daiy News)

[E]ven in the domain of evil, differences and degrees exist. Certain dictators are worse than others, and their hateful actions have consequences more dangerous.

For the reader who has not yet guessed, I am speaking of the current president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: More than so many others who abuse their position if not their power, this one represents the darkest of political action. [...]

This is why I maintain that such a figure does not have a place within the community of international leaders. Persona non grata, an undesirable individual, this is what he should become, because of what he is doing to his country, to his people, to all of humanity. This is why he deserves to be turned away everywhere. I'll go even further: The country he leads and embodies should be excluded from the United Nations as long as he is its ruler and symbol. On what grounds? It is quite simple: One member state of the United Nations that threatens to destroy another member state of these same United Nations violates its very charter and conventions.

Is something like this possible? I am not naive enough to believe that this could really happen. What state would introduce such a UN resolution? And how many delegates would vote to adopt it? I know all too well: very few. But at least they won't feel so comfortable in their fear. At least they'll learn from lessons of the not-so-distant past: We know with whom a dictator will begin; but he will not stop there. If Iran were to have a nuclear weapon, do we really think that Israel would remain its only target?

Some will say: What about North Korea? Why aren't we doing something about them? Don't they have the same atomic ambitions? Yes, they do. But there is still quite a difference. North Korea has never threatened to wipe away another state.

Well, other than South Korea and the U.S.. He's half right anyway--both should be excluded.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:21 AM


In Washington: What's your solution? (MJ Rosenberg, Nov. 23, 2006, THE JERUSALEM POST)

[My colleague] said that all you have to do is ask the status-quo supporters, "So, how is your solution doing?" That is a perfect response.

There is no reason for those of us who support negotiations to feel defensive or to give a point-by-point rebuttal to those who champion the status quo. Just tell them to read the newspapers.

The Oslo process collapsed in the fall of 2000 and, ever since, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has intensified with a vengeance. Compare the half dozen civilians killed inside Israel between the fall of 1997 and the fall of 2000, and the 1,125 Israelis and 4,286 Palestinians killed since.

The only people who should be defensive about the diplomatic process are those who oppose it.

Of course, no one ever flat-out says they oppose negotiations.

To the contrary, what should be tested is skipping negotiation altogether and giving the Palestinians what their people want.

Israel accepts ceasefire offer (Herb Keinon, Yaakov Katz and JPost staff, Nov. 25, 2006, THE JERUSALEM POST)

Israel announced on Saturday, following a telephone conversation between Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, that it would accept the Palestinian factions' offer of a ceasefire.

According to the Prime Minister's Office, Abbas phoned Olmert and told him he had received an agreement from all the different Palestinian factions to the cease-fire, and in response "requested that Israel would stop all military operations in the Gaza Strip, and withdraw all its forces from there."

The statement said that after speaking to his senior ministers and top security officials, Olmert told Abbas that Israel would respond favorably "since Israel was operating in the Gaza Strip in response to the [Palestinian] violence."

Olmert, according to the statement, told Abbas that "the end of the violence could bring about the end of Israeli operations, and his hope that this would bring stability to both sides."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:10 AM


Venezuela's great divider (Ana Julia Jatar, November 26, 2006, Boston Globe)

ON DEC. 3, Venezuelans will decide whether to elect President Hugo Chávez to another six-year term. Many American liberals will be rooting for Chávez to win because they see him as a champion of Venezuela's poor and admire his fierce opposition to President Bush. However, they should recognize him for who he is and not for who they wish him to be.

But then they'd be conservatives.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:03 AM


Brothers grim: Masters of animated fairy tales, twins Stephen and Timothy Quay create live-action fable in 'Piano' (Damon Smith, November 26, 2006, Boston Globe)

Masters of stop-motion animation in the vein of Jan Svankmajer ("Lunacy ") and Walerian Borowczyk, the Brothers Quay (who are 58-year-old identical twins from Philadelphia) have previously directed one feature, "Institute Benjamenta ," in addition to numerous shorts, like their enchanting 1986 allegory "Street of Crocodiles ," which was nominated for the Palme d'Or at Cannes.

Despite the critical accolades, however, their new live-action fable, "The Piano Tuner of Earthquakes ," was dead in the water for 10 years until "Brazil" director Terry Gilliam signed on as executive producer.

"We went to [Britain's] Channel 4 with this project," says Stephen, who like his brother has chiseled features and a rakish mane of sandy-brown hair, "and they made a lot of stipulations about accessibility." Since their idea was partly inspired by Jules Verne's tale "The Carpathian Castle ," the Quays decided to pitch it as "poetic science fiction." But in the end, despite repeated rewrites, no one would fund the production until Gilliam threw his weight behind the project in 2004.

Set on an eerie, forested island, "The Piano Tuner of Earthquakes" -- which opens Thursday at the Museum of Fine Arts -- tells the story of Dr. Droz (Gottfried John), a mad genius who kidnaps gorgeous opera singer Malvina (Amira Casar) with the intention of turning the bride-to-be into a musical automaton. Assisted by Assumpta (Assumpta Serna), his succubus-like helpmate, Droz lures Felisberto (Cesar Sarachu ) to the isle, where the gaunt piano tuner begins to fine-tune the mechanisms that will, unbeknownst to him, eventually imprison her.

Watching this elliptically structured fantasy, which won a special mention for "visual atmosphere" at the 2005 Locarno International Film Festival , one gets the sense of "living in someone else's imagination," as a dazed Filisberto intones at one point. But the Quays -- who scripted, directed, and designed special effects for "Piano Tuner" -- say evoking that kind of intersubjective consciousness isn't their goal.

"We tend to hold the mirrors out," says Stephen, "toward life, toward a kind of theoretical beyond."

That Alice is clever, but disturbing.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:00 AM


Lower bill? Thank a careful driver (Bruce Mohl, November 26, 2006, Boston Globe)

Safer cars and a boomlet of more cautious drivers are nudging auto insurance rates down across the nation, but industry officials say prices appear to be falling even faster in Massachusetts.

Thank MADD.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:54 AM


Hatred of Rachael Ray can be a powerful uniting force (Rob Walker | November 26, 2006, Boston Globe)

Consumer culture and indeed popular culture revolve in large part around shared admiration, shared likes: Fandom, in a word, is a thing that can bring us together.

But what about shared dislikes? Can a community form around that? What is the opposite of a fan club? The answer is the Rachael Ray Sucks Community.

Gathering by way of the blogging and social-networking site LiveJournal, this group has more than 1,000 members, who are quite active in posting their latest thoughts and observations about the various shortcomings, flaws, and disagreeable traits of Rachael Ray, the television food personality.

"This community," the official explanation reads, "was created for people that hate the untalented twit known as Rachael Ray." The most important rule for those who wish to join: "You must be anti-Rachael!"

As with any community, the key to attracting members is not just a clear core idea but one that can be fulfilled in a variety of ways. Members of the Rachael Ray Sucks Community certainly do this, criticizing her cooking skills, her over-reliance on chicken stock, her kitchen hygiene, her smile, her voice, her physical mannerisms, her clothes, her penchant for saying "Yum-o," and so on.

They ought to just go 24/7 with A.B. and Sondra Lee.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


The (Naked) City and the Undead (TOM WOLFE, 11/26/06, NY Times)

CHIN up, tummy out, Aby Rosen, the 46-year-old German developer, owner of the Seagram Building and Lever House, was posing for pictures in front of 980 Madison Avenue barely one month ago when he grew so bold as to boast: “I have zero fear. Fear is not something I have.”

Easy for you to say, braveheart! The courage-crowing tycoon knows very well that in the current battle over 980 Madison, a five-story Art Moderne building stretching from 76th Street to 77th Street, the contest is already completely snookered in his favor.

On top of this block-long low-rise he intends to build one of his Aby Rosen jumbo glass boxes full of commercial space and condominiums, rising straight up a sheer 30 stories. His big problem — or, to be more accurate, “problem” — is that 980 Madison is in the heart of the Upper East Side Historic District, and it would be hard to dream up anything short of a Mobil station more out of place there than a Mondo Condo glass box by Aby Rosen.

The writer Tom Wolfe and other neighbors have taken to lobbing objections in the direction of the Landmarks Preservation Commission, the city’s official watchdog for landmarked areas. The commission has already held a hearing and could stop Aby Rosen dead in his tracks at a moment’s notice, just like that.

But what, him worry? Like every major developer in town, he knows that the Landmarks Preservation Commission has been de facto defunct for going on 20 years. Today it is a bureau of the walking dead, tended by one Robert B. Tierney.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


REVIEW: of Another Place by Bunky Green (Norman Weinstein, All About Jazz)

This release is a welcome reminder that Bunky Green is alive and well—and one of the dozen most important alto sax players in the country. In spite of notable associations with bands led by Charles Mingus, Sonny Stitt and Yusef Lateef, Green's available catalog until this release consisted of a single disc, Healing the Pain (Delos, 1990). But Green was befriended by Steve Coleman, and we have this recording as a result. Part of Coleman's genius is getting talent, ranging from a young Cassandra Wilson to an elderly Von Freeman, to be noticed by labels and audiences. Coleman produced this impressive session and introduced Green to perhaps the greatest rhythm section of his career: pianist Jason Moran, bassist Lonnie Plaxico and drummer Nasheet Waits.

To say that Green has “his own sound” is just one way of noting his achievement. He has flawless control of the alto's upper registers and his own form of the blues cry: piercingly passionate, yet always integrated within exquisitely crafted solos that are teeming with ideas.

November 25, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:27 PM


Tories look into the 35-hour work week (Melissa Kite, 25/11/2006, Sunday Telegraph)

A controversial 35-hour working week is under consideration by a group of David Cameron's key advisers.

The Quality of Life policy group has been consulting on whether the Conservatives should bring in European-style working hours for the "general wellbeing" of the population.

John Gummer, chairman of the panel, said: "It is a pretty peculiar situation that we work many more hours than many other countries but our productivity is not very high."

On the bright side, they'll have to import nearly every Pole.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:24 PM


US diplomatic initiative in Middle East (Harry De Quetteville, 25/11/2006, Sunday Telegraph)

America has launched a week-long, high-stakes diplomatic offensive for control of the Middle East, rallying allies against Iranian influence sweeping through the region.

Dick Cheney, the US vice-president, began the battle to stop the rising tide of Iranian power with a visit yesterday to Saudi Arabia, America's key oil-producing ally in the Gulf.

The Administration has lost track of its own narrative.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:19 PM


England wants its independence (Patrick Hennessy and Melissa Kite, Sunday Telegraph)

The United Kingdom should be broken up and Scotland and England set free as independent nations, according to a huge number of voters on both sides of the border.

A clear majority of people in both England and Scotland are in favour of full independence for Scotland, an ICM opinion poll for The Sunday Telegraph has found. Independence is backed by 52 per cent of Scots while an astonishing 59 per cent of English voters want Scotland to go it alone.

There is also further evidence of rising English nationalism with support for the establishment of an English parliament hitting an historic high of 68 per cent amongst English voters. Almost half – 48 per cent – also want complete independence for England, divorcing itself from Wales and Northern Ireland as well. Scottish voters also back an English breakaway with 58 per cent supporting an English parliament with similar powers to the Scottish one.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:31 AM


Tolls could cut congestion, test shows (Eric Pryne, 11/25/06, Seattle Times)

For about eight months, drivers in 275 Seattle-area households agreed to pay for something the rest of us get for free: The right to drive on the region's freeways and streets.

They were guinea pigs in a pioneering study that explored how motorists' behavior might change if they had to pay tolls — not just on a few bridges or highways, but on almost every road with a yellow center line.

Researchers established virtual tolls ranging from a nickel to 50 cents a mile. They gave participants pre-paid accounts of between $600 and $3,000, and told them they could keep whatever the tolls didn't eat up.

The experiment ended in February. Preliminary results, released this month, suggest that if such so-called "road pricing" were widespread, it could make a significant dent in traffic.

Make driving cost the individual what it costs us as a society and folks won't.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:23 AM


The economic challenge facing Democrats (Robert Kuttner, November 25, 2006, Boston Globe)

Clearly the voters are sick of an economic system that allows moguls to make annual incomes running into the hundreds of millions, for manipulating commerce in ways that leave ordinary people worse off. In an election billed as a referendum on Iraq and Republican corruption (which it certainly was), the sleeper issue was the economy as it affects regular Americans.

But transforming this reality will require a lot more than a higher minimum wage or even universal health insurance. BusinessWeek is right: The current rules of globalism do weaken government's ability to use instruments that once allowed prosperity to be more widely shared -- tighter regulation of finance, a more progressive tax system with the proceeds invested in ordinary people, and a stronger labor movement.

As Rubin's role attests, the partisans of a globalized casino economy are almost as influential in the Democratic Party as the Republican Party. As Barney Frank takes a closer look at the abuses and risks of the new wave of speculation on Wall Street, he may find that the financial economy requires more regulation, not less, to deliver on the promise of an America with more broadly shared prosperity.

The problem for Democrats is that, post-Clinton, the GOP has co-opted the Third Way solutions that share wealth more equitably in a fashion that's consistent with a free market economy. HSA's, personal SS accounts, and the like asre the surest way to build wealth for even the poorest Americans, but Democrats are stuck reflexively opposing them. This is where Hillary could make her breakthrough--back to where Bill ended--if she has the stomach for it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:20 AM


Paris goes to war for bigger slice of Airbus (Russell Hotten, 25/11/2006, Daily Telegraph)

Shareholders in the Franco-German aerospace group EADS are at war after the Paris government said it wanted to increase its stake in the company to fund development of a new long-range A350 aircraft for its Airbus division.

EADS cancelled a board meeting yesterday when France indicated it would block a proposal by the company's two main industrial investors to raise a substantial amount of the aircraft's €10bn (£6.78bn) launch aid from the capital markets.

Giving France a higher stake in EADS risks upsetting the delicate political and commercial balance. The French state and Lagardère own 29.99pc through a holding company. DaimlerChrysler owns 22.9pc, and the Spanish government 5.48pc. The rest of the shares are in free float.

A source said France wants to raise its holding by up to 15pc. DaimlerChrysler has already said it wants to reduce its stake and the Bonn government is trying to ensure the shares are placed with German institutions. The German government has said it does not want to buy a direct stake in EADS.

If even the German government is smart enough not to board the sinking ship, why would a private German investor?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:18 AM


Female hopefuls counter traditional roles (Habib Toumi, 11/25/06, Gulf News)

They are smart, ambitious and highly educated. They also have a growing sense about the role of literate women in confronting traditions and working on par with men to create a more positive reality for them.

They are women whose exceptional fortitude has brought vociferous female voices to male-dominated campaigns in the last five weeks.

Dr Jameela Al Sammak did it with extraordinary panache. In fact, she took the battle to a public ground and did not hesitate to tell the people about the relentless onslaught on her and on her team.

"When I announced my decision to run in the polls, I was subjected to tremendous pressure to withdraw my candidature for the sake of another candidate. I was told that by running in the elections, I was dispersing the votes in the constituency which, they claimed, was theirs," she said.

Jameela said that her critics should have understood that imposing choices on people was not condoned by religion Jameela insisted that her "crime" was that she was not a member of a large society.

"I have never opposed religious scholars. But when for instance they say that Al Wefaq is the Bloc of the Believers, does that make me an atheist?" she wondered.

"You are mentally retarded for opposing women's political rights," blurted a woman inside the overcrowded tent as she addressed one of Bahrain's best known preachers and newspaper columnists.

It takes exceptional audacity and daring nerve to utter such an accusation in the overcrowded tent of the candidate. Huda Al Mutawa has both and much more.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:12 AM


Stores revert to 'Merry Christmas' (Tricia Bishop, November 24, 2006, Chicago Tribune)

Christmas is back at Wal-Mart - not that it really ever left.

After testing out a generic, yet all-inclusive, "happy holidays" theme last year, the nation's largest retailer announced this month that Christmas will dominate its seasonal marketing in the U.S.

"We've learned our lesson," said Wal-Mart spokeswoman Marisa Bluestone. "This year, we're not afraid to say, 'Merry Christmas.'"

Neither are Walgreens, Target, Macy's, Kmart and Kohl's, among others. In interviews this week, spokesmen from those major retailers said that their stores acknowledge the Christmas holiday, hoping to avoid a repeat of last year's backlash led by conservative Christian groups.

Islam can't help but be envious.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:05 AM


Progress made in talks between Drew and Sox (Gordon Edes, November 25, 2006, Boston Globe)

One possible hurdle, according to a source with direct knowledge of the talks, is that no Sox player has been given a contract for longer than four years by the current ownership. Drew, who turned 31 Monday, is seeking a deal for more years, according to the source, and with Soriano signing for eight years and Matthews and Pierre getting five-year deals, he would appear to have the leverage.

His asking price, according to sources, is at least $14 million. That's $4 million a year more than the Sox offered last winter to Johnny Damon before he signed a four-year, $52 million deal with the Yankees. Bobby Abreu, the right fielder the Sox passed on in July because of luxury-tax ramifications before he was dealt by the Phillies to the Yankees, is due $15 million in 2007, with the Yankees holding an option of $16 million for 2008.

Manny Ramírez, who is due $18 million next season ($4 million deferred), ranks as the Sox' highest-paid position player. David Ortiz, who this spring signed a four-year, $50 million deal, is next at an average salary of $12.5 million. The club holds an option year of $12.5 million in 2011; offering Drew option years could be one way Epstein may be able to circumvent Drew's desire for a deal longer than four years.

Statistically, Drew ranks among the game's best players. In the last three seasons, he has an OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage) of .946, which ranks 11th among players with at least 1,200 plate appearances, just ahead of Alex Rodriguez of the Yankees (.945). Only four outfielders had a higher OPS: Ramírez (1.014), Lance Berkman of the Astros (1.000), Vladimir Guerrero of the Angels (.961), and Edmonds of the Cardinals (.947).

Drew's on-base percentage of .415 over the last three seasons ranked sixth overall, and third among outfielders, trailing only Berkman (.428) and Abreu (.419).

Last season, Drew led the Dodgers with 100 RBIs, 89 walks, 34 doubles, and a .393 OBP, and tied Nomar Garciaparra for the team lead in home runs with 20, despite a 43-game span between June 2 and July 26 in which he failed to hit one. His best season in the majors came in 2004, with the Atlanta Braves, when he hit .305 (.436 OBP) with 31 home runs and 93 RBIs, and finished sixth in the National League MVP voting.

Defensively, he's considered an above-average outfielder who can play both right and center field.

"If you get him on the field, he's the best free agent outfielder of the bunch," said an executive with a team that signed one of this offseason's other prime targets.

The era of steroids seems to have made baseball executives forget an ancient truth--players, especially speedy white ones, decline rapidly in their mid/late 30s.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:58 AM


Cameron invites Toynbee to join conference (Toby Helm, 25/11/2006, Daily Telegraph)

In a speech on social policy yesterday, the Conservative leader ditched the Thatcherite idea that poverty was best tackled through free market policies that made society richer as a whole, enabling wealth to "trickle down" to the most needy.

His daring in endorsing traditional Left-wing thinking is reminiscent of Tony Blair's willingness to praise aspects of Margaret Thatcher's legacy after he entered No 10.

He argued that it was time to move on from promoting "economic liberalism" to a new phase of Conservatism where government and the voluntary sector was freed, via tax reform and deregulation, to help the poorest in society.

His move is designed to take the Tories directly on to ground traditionally regarded as Labour's preserve and rid it of its uncaring image.

"Economic liberalism is necessary – but it is not sufficient," he said in an address to mark the 25th anniversary of the Scarman Report into the Brixton riots. "State welfare is also necessary – but it is not efficient. 'Trickle-down' economics is not working."

Mr Cameron, who has already angered the Right by refusing to promise tax cuts before the next election, said John Moore, a social security minister under Margaret Thatcher, had been "wrong to declare the end of poverty", in the late 1980s.

"Even if material want did disappear, that would not be the 'end of the line for poverty'. Because as well as absolute poverty, there is relative poverty."

Here's who he should invite instead.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:55 AM


Coup d'État In Venezuela: Made In The USA (Chris Carlson, 25 November, 2006,

In 1999, when the U.S.-led bombing campaign in Serbia didn't get rid of Slobodan Milosovic, Washington changed its strategy. U.S. intelligence organized a $77 million effort to oust Milosovic through the ballot box. They sent in CIA front organizations funded by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). Instead of guns and bombs, these U.S. forces were armed with fax machines, computers, and perhaps most importantly, sophisticated surveys done by the Washington-based polling firm Penn, Schoen & Berland.(1) Their mission: to take down Milosovic by strengthening opposition groups.

Milosovic is now long gone, as the U.S. effort to mobilize the opposition and produce mass protests was successful in unseating him in the 2000 elections. This victory was a landmark for U.S. intelligence agencies. They had developed a new way to overthrow unfriendly regimes, and it was much easier than a violent overthrow, or a messy invasion. Penn, Schoen & Berland had played an important role; so important that the U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright commended them, saying "This may be one of the first instances where polling has played such an important role in setting and securing foreign policy objectives."(2) They did, indeed, secure their foreign policy objectives. Milosovic was out, and the U.S.-backed opposition took power.

Since 2000, this smooth new strategy to influence elections and topple regimes has been implemented in many other countries. Dubbed as the "post-modern coup" by Jonathan Mowat, the same brilliant techniques were used in Belarus in 2001, in Georgia in 2003, and in the Ukraine in 2004, to name a few. Although it ultimately failed in Belarus, in Georgia the U.S. effort produced the "Rose Revolution" which overthrew President Eduard Shevardnadze. In the Ukraine it was the "Orange Revolution" that installed Victor Yushchenko in 2004.(3) Each time, groups financed by the NED, and USAID worked inside the country to build popular support for the opposition candidate. Each time they constructed an appealing campaign image using the modern marketing tactics that they have perfected along the way. And each time, they used Penn, Schoen & Berland election "polls" to shape the public's perception. [...]

These days the U.S. has a new arch nemesis; Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Surely Washington would be delighted to get rid of him in the same fashion as all the rest. But there is one small problem; Hugo Chavez is no Slobodan Milosovic. He is immensely popular among the masses in Venezuela and throughout Latin America. Pro-Chavez parties have continued to win democratic elections over the last 8 years, and will most certainly win again in the December 3rd presidential contest. This time U.S. forces have their work cut out for them. They know that it is basically impossible to beat Chavez at the ballot box; he's too popular. It looks like they will have to go to plan B: a coup d'etat.

The U.S. has already set up camp in Venezuela, and all the original cast members are here. We've got NED, USAID, and yes, once again, Penn, Schoen & Berland. Just like in Serbia, or Ukraine, the objective of the U.S. forces is to remove Chavez from power. Therefore they have teamed up with major opposition groups to map out and implement their strategy. The strategy in Venezuela takes from many of the important lessons that they first learned in Serbia, and have since been carried to many other nations. The goal is to create a situation like in Ukraine in 2004: huge protests against the elections and against the government in order to cause chaos and instability.

In particular, the midterm won't even slow the Bush Doctrine.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:53 AM


US Could Bomb Iran Nuclear Sites In 2007: Analysts (25 November, 2006, Agence France Presse)

President George W. Bush could choose military action over diplomacy and bomb Iran's nuclear facilities next year, political analysts in Washington agree.

"I think he is going to do it," John Pike, director of, a military issues think tank, told AFP.

"They are going to bomb WMD facilities next summer," he added, referring to nuclear facilities Iran says are for peaceful uses and Washington insists are really intended to make nuclear bombs, or weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

"It would be a limited military action to destroy their WMD capabilities" added the analyst, believing a US military invasion of Iran is not on the table.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:50 AM


Empire's Ally: Canadian Foreign Policy (Greg Albo, 25 November, 2006,

Since the coming into power of the Stephen Harper Conservative government in January of this year, there has been much gnashing of teeth over the foreign policy stance of Canada. In particular, Canada's relation with the U.S. on a phalanx of fronts has been at the centre of controversy. One has been the softwood lumber deal cut by Ambassador Michael Wilson, which limits Canadian lumber exports to the U.S. and allows the Americans to keep $1 billion in duties ruled by trade tribunals as illegal. This has been judged by the government as a necessary step to re-establishing 'good' bilateral relations to secure and deepen economic integration. A second has been Canada's Middle East policy, in terms of the deployment of Canadian troops into a major combat position in southern Afghanistan, and the uncompromising support for the Israeli and U.S. positions on the summer assault of Lebanon and Gaza by Israel. These stances have been celebrated by the Right, especially the cynics w! ho dominate the national media in defending U.S. policies at every turn, as bringing a new 'ethical realism' to Canadian foreign policies.

Realism is never ethical--they mean moral idealism.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:46 AM


Discord Accompanies Bahrain Vote: Charges Against Ruling Sunni Minority Mar Run-Up to Election Today (Faiza Saleh Ambah, November 25, 2006, Washington Post)

Friction between Sunni and Shiite Muslims in this strategic Persian Gulf kingdom, which is holding its second parliamentary elections in three decades, has clouded the voting set here for Saturday.

The campaign for the National Assembly's 40-member lower house has been marred by an alleged plot by a senior government official to rig the elections in favor of the ruling Sunni minority.

A 214-page report disclosed in September accused a senior official of secretly plotting to sideline the country's majority Shiites. The report, released by a former government adviser, is the latest in a series of events that have exacerbated Sunni-Shiite discord in this nation of 700,000, home to the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:43 AM


Energy Firms Come to Terms With Climate Change (Steven Mufson and Juliet Eilperin, November 25, 2006, Washington Post)

While the political debate over global warming continues, top executives at many of the nation's largest energy companies have accepted the scientific consensus about climate change and see federal regulation to cut greenhouse gas emissions as inevitable.

The Democratic takeover of Congress makes it more likely that the federal government will attempt to regulate emissions. The companies have been hiring new lobbyists who they hope can help fashion a national approach that would avert a patchwork of state plans now in the works. They are also working to change some company practices in anticipation of the regulation.

"We have to deal with greenhouse gases," John Hofmeister, president of Shell Oil Co., said in a recent speech at the National Press Club. "From Shell's point of view, the debate is over. When 98 percent of scientists agree, who is Shell to say, 'Let's debate the science'?"

Forced modernization is good policy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:39 AM


Sensing You’re Too Drunk to Drive (NY Times, 11/25/06)

There aren’t many social problems that can be solved with a “technical fix,” but drunken driving may be one of the most amenable. Technologies that are already in limited use can lock the ignitions of cars whose drivers have high alcohol levels in their breath, thus preventing them from turning their vehicles into lethal unguided weapons.

These existing technologies and more futuristic devices still under development are the cornerstones of a new phase in the campaign that was announced this week by Mothers Against Drunk Driving. The initial goal, which is backed by associations of state highway officials and car manufacturers, is to have all states do what New Mexico has already done: require that all convicted drunken drivers, even first-time offenders, have devices installed in their cars that measure alcohol in the breath and immobilize the car if levels exceed set limits.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:35 AM


Philippe Noiret, an Actor of Elegance and Dry Humor, Dies at 76 (ALAN RIDING, 11/25/06, NY Times)

Philippe Noiret, a much-loved French character actor who gained international renown through the movies “Il Postino” and “Cinema Paradiso,” died on Thursday at his home on the Left Bank in Paris. He was 76.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:32 AM


Despite a Year of Ire and Angst, Little Has Changed on Wiretaps (ERIC LICHTBLAU, 11/25/06, NY Times)

When President Bush went on national television one Saturday morning last December to acknowledge the existence of a secret wiretapping program outside the courts, the fallout was fierce and immediate.

Mr. Bush’s opponents accused him of breaking the law, with a few even calling for his impeachment. His backers demanded that he be given express legal authority to do what he had done. Law professors talked, civil rights groups sued and a federal judge in Detroit declared the wiretapping program unconstitutional.

But as Democrats prepare to take over on Capitol Hill, not much has really changed. For all the sound and fury in the last year, the National Security Agency’s wiretapping program continues uninterrupted, with no definitive action by either Congress or the courts on what, if anything, to do about it, and little chance of a breakthrough in the lame-duck Congress.

Nor can the Democrats do anything about it going forward.

November 24, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:34 PM


Flexing Your Flex Account (Carrie Coolidge 11.17.06, Forbes)

Most people know the pre-tax payroll contributions they have made over the year to a flexible spending account are used to pay for medical expenses not covered by insurance. These accounts offer great tax benefits by reimbursing plan participants for out of pocket expenses ranging from insurance deductibles and doctor co-payments to medications.

Many participants, however, don't realize that flex spend accounts can also be used to pay for medical services that don't require prior physician approval or that may not be covered by their company health plan. Indeed, flex spend accounts can be used to pay for a wide range of things including laser eye surgery, dental expenses, acupuncture, speech therapy, psychiatric care, vision expenses (including prescription eyeglasses), vaccinations and immunizations and dermatology services (as long as they aren't for cosmetic purposes). Lesser known reimbursable expenses include learning fees to special schools for a child with severe learning disabilities, transportation costs incurred to get medical treatment and, for the vision-impaired, Braille books and magazines as well as guide dogs.

And that's not all. In 2003, the Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service announced that certain over-the-counter drugs could be paid for with flexible spending account money. OTC products are reimbursable if they are used to alleviate or treat personal injuries or sickness and are generally accepted as falling within the category of medicine or drugs. Over-the-counter drugs that are now eligible include such products as Johnson & Johnson's Tylenol, aspirin and cough and flu medications. Even allergy and sinus drugs, such as Claritin, which is manufactured by Schering-Plough, can be reimbursed through a flex spend account. Dietary supplements, including vitamins, minerals, herbals and botanicals, are covered when used to treat a current illness but not when used for general health purposes., an online health and beauty retailer, called upon some of the largest U.S. benefits administrators to create a list of items that are eligible for reimbursement under most plans. On its Web site, offers some 2,000 OTC items deemed likely to be eligible at its "FSA Store."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:31 PM


Steam Train Maury, 5-Time Hobo King, Is Dead at 89 (DOUGLAS MARTIN, 11/23/06, NY Times)

Steam Train Maury, who started life as Maurice W. Graham until a train whistle’s timeless lament compelled him to hop a freight to freedom and, much later, fame, as the first and only Grand Patriarch of the Hobos, died on Nov. 18 in Napoleon, Ohio, near Toledo.

Mr. Graham was 89 and chief caretaker of the hobo myth, a cornerstone of which is the hobos’ term for death: “taking the westbound.” In his case, that last westbound freight left the yard when he suffered the last of several strokes and slipped into a coma, Phyllis Foos, manager of Walter Funeral Home in Toledo, said.

Mr. Graham wrote a book about his life on “the iron road,” was a founding member of the Hobo Foundation and helped establish the Hobo Museum in Britt, Iowa. At the National Hobo Convention in Britt, he was crowned king five times — in 1973, 1975, 1976, 1978 and 1981 — and, in 2004, was anointed grand patriarch.

No one else has ever been named a hobo patriarch. Mr. Graham also had the title Life King of the Hobos East of the Mississippi.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:55 AM


Nothing but woes for Baker group (TIMOTHY M. PHELPS, 11/22/06, Newsday)

Internal strife within the Baker commission, outright opposition from President George W. Bush and Tuesday's assassination of a cabinet member in Lebanon are complicating the prospect of U.S. overtures to Syria and Iran over Iraq, informed sources say.

A source who spoke recently to a leader of the Iraq Study Group said he complained bitterly about internal dissension and partisanship among members of the supposedly bipartisan group, and was worried about reaching consensus on the key issues. [...]

[L]ast week the president strongly endorsed his administration's past tough line with both countries. On Iran he said: "Our focus of this administration is to convince the Iranians to give up its nuclear weapons ambitions ... And so we have made it very clear, our position regards Iran, and it hasn't changed."

Accusations that Syria was behind Tuesday's assassination of Lebanese Christian cabinet minister Pierre Gemayel are expected to make an opening to Syria more difficult.

Phebe Marr, an Iraq expert who advised the Baker group, said that while she favors approaching Iran and Syria for help, the United States would have to make concessions to each country. "There is a price for that, and it is not clear to me the Bush administration is willing to pay it," she said.

Iran and Syria have interests in a stable Iraq lest they be destabilized themselves. We don't until they have been.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:30 AM


Dividing Iraq might multiply problems (JAROSLAV TIR AND PAUL F. DIEHL, 11/24/06, Chicago Sun-Times)

As efforts to stabilize Iraq fail and the Iraq Study Group ponders new directions in U.S. policy, partitioning that country into separate Kurdish, Shiite, and Sunni mini-states has been advanced as a panacea that will resolve conflict and allow U.S. troops to withdraw. In reality, however, the likely outcomes are far less certain, with potential for both conflict de-escalation and expansion.

Our research indicates that the best time to divide a country along ethnic or religious lines is before tensions escalate to civil war or large-scale violence. Since 1900, mini-states that emerge from peaceful breakups of countries have a 95 percent success rate in avoiding militarized confrontations with each other.

The bad news is that the optimal time to partition Iraq has passed. The months soon after Saddam Hussein's removal from power in 2003 -- that is, before Iraqi politics came to be dominated by extremist leaders advocating sectarian violence -- provided a window of opportunity for dividing the Iraqi state. Of course, partitioning the country while things appeared to be going well did not seem necessary.

The partition scenario that now faces Iraq is not as desirable as it once was, but neither is it hopeless.

Kurdistan in particular should have been recognized as an independent state before hostilities resumed in '03.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:27 AM


In the Wii-PS3 Playoff, Nintendo Upsets Sony on the Fun Factor (Mike Musgrove, November 23, 2006, Washington Post)

There was a showdown between the Nintendo Wii and the Sony PlayStation 3 at The Post's game testing lab last weekend.

Here's how it went down: I invited a bunch of my friends, five guys and three gals, over to check out the new systems. Few of them play or care about video games, but they were all curious to see the PlayStation 3, the cutting-edge game console that sparked real-world mayhem on its release Friday.

By comparison, most of my friends arrived having heard little about Nintendo's new system. But, as it turned out, that device was the hit of the party. [...]

While the people in my group preferred looking at the PS3's games, they preferred playing the Wii.

My friends played the Wii's sports games against each other all weekend, using goofy, cartoony avatars called "Miis" that they constructed to represent themselves in the game. Give a couple of newlyweds a pair of Wii controllers, pop in the boxing game and the entertainment value is priceless. We started out playing the game sitting down, but eventually we took to our feet to get a better range of motion with the controllers.

I have never seen a bunch of non-gamers get into this stuff like this, and I have never heard anybody laugh so much while playing any video game. A few of them now say they plan to buy the system for themselves.

My friend Andy has always seemed to dislike video games, but he was immediately taken by the Nintendo system in a way that I -- and he -- did not expect. "I'm surprised by how much I like it," he said. "The controller is so intuitive."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:38 AM


Three cheers, er, make that five cheers, for Hanukkah (Rebekah Denn, 11/24/2006 Seattle Post-Intelligencer)

No matter what (or if) your religion, get in the holiday spirit of silliness with a tasting of "HE'BREW -- The Chosen Beer." [...]

The shtick is funny, but Time Out New York recently wrote that the goods are "not just a marketing ploy." Samples will include "Jewbelation," named best winter beer by Pacific Brewing News last year. (It wrote, "We think it is safe to say this was a surprise for most of us, but this beer had it all.") Also featured: Genesis 10:10, made with pomegranate juice, and Bittersweet Lenny's R.I.P.A, in honor of Lenny Bruce, and "brewed with an obscene amount of malts and hops."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:18 AM


Finding his place in the jazz lineage (Siddhartha Mitter, November 24, 2006, Boston Globe)

To properly unpack the layers of musical and cultural meaning in ‘‘African Tarantella,’’ the latest album from the brilliant vibraphonist and bandleader Stefon Harris, it would require a longer article than these columns permit.

So here’s a summary. A tarantella is an Italian dance whose frenzied execution was once believed to cure a tarantula’s bite — hence, supposedly, the name. Indeed, the album’s cover photo shows Harris bent forward to display a hairy arachnid perched on his head. ‘‘African Tarantella’’ is Harris’s attempt to express the dual European and African paternity of jazz — and with it, in some ways, of American culture itself.

If that sounds abstract, have no fear. ‘‘African Tarantella,’’ which Harris brings this weekend to the Regattabar, is wholly accessible, a beautiful program of movements from suites by Duke Ellington and Harris himself, interpreted on the album by a thoughtfully constructed ensemble that includes, among other instruments, viola, cello, trombone, and flute.

For Harris, 33, who only found jazz in college but in just over a decade has become the top vibraphonist and one of the most original bandleaders of his generation, ‘‘Tarantella’’ is a triumph of lyricism that marks, to use a dreaded term, an arrival at a certain maturity.

-AUDIO: Stephon Harris on Raphsody
-VIDIO: Stefon Harris & Blackout (You Tube)
-Stefon Harris (Marian McPartland Jazz Piano, NPR)
-AUDIO INTERVIEW: Stefon Harris Does the Vibes (The Connection, 2/15/02)
-Archives: Stephon Harris (NPR)
-Stefon Harris (Blue Note Records)
-Stefon Harris (Wikipedia)
-Stefon Harris Dukes it out at Jazz Bakery: Jazz, metal and wildlife (GREG BURK, October 25, 2006, LA Weekly)
-Stefon Harris taps faith roots for jazz (William R. Wood, 10/01/06,
-Strikingly good vibes from Stefon Harris (Don Heckman, October 30, 2006, LA Times)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:09 AM


Inside Story: how the Quebec motion was hatched: When Mr. Harper's press secretary approached him about 6 p.m. on Tuesday with the Bloc motion in hand, it didn't take him long to decide on action: defining Québécois as a nation within Canada (GLORIA GALLOWAY, 11/24/06, Globe and Mail)

Prime Minister Stephen Harper was surprised by the Bloc Québécois motion calling for the recognition of Quebeckers as a nation. But he'd been pondering the subject for some time — at least since the question was put to him by a reporter in the province last spring.

Over the summer, the Prime Minister discussed the concept with Quebec Premier Jean Charest.

And when the Liberals waded into the quagmire after leadership candidate Michael Ignatieff supported a party motion stating that Quebec was a nation within Canada, Mr. Harper knew the issue would eventually confront the Conservatives.

So when his press secretary, Dimitris Soudas, approached him about 6 p.m. Tuesday with the Bloc motion in hand, he didn't take long to decide that action must be taken, Conservative insiders said Thursday. [...]

He and his staff drafted a motion identical to the one to be put forward by the Bloc Québécois but for four critical words added on to the end, reading: “That this House recognize that the Québécois form a nation within a united Canada.”

Any people who thinks of themselves as a nation is one.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:07 AM


Ségolène win fires up 'grandfather' Chirac (John Lichfield, 24 November 2006 , Independent)

President Jacques Chirac has convinced himself that he is the only politician on the French right who can defeat the Socialist candidate, Ségolène Royal, in next year's presidential election.

Although he has not yet decided whether to run for a third term,M. Chirac, who is 74 next week, believes that only a "grandfather figure" can take on and deflate the pretensions of the "mother figure", Mme Royal. [...]

In an opinion poll this week, only 1 per cent of likely voters for M. Chirac's governing party, the Union pour un Mouvement Populaire (UMP), said they thought the President should stand again. M. Sarkozy scored 67 per cent.

Nevertheless, M. Chirac has convinced himself that Mme Royal's emergence will overturn the board game.

...not that it's much of one.

November 23, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:40 PM


Nothing But Nets (Rick Reilly, 4/25/06, Sports Illustrated)

I've never asked for anything before, right? Well, sorry, I'm asking now.

We need nets. Not hoop nets, soccer nets or lacrosse nets. Not New Jersey Nets or dot-nets or clarinets. Mosquito nets.

See, nearly 3,000 kids die every day in Africa from malaria. And according to the World Health Organization, transmission of the disease would be reduced by 60% with the use of mosquito nets and prompt treatment for the infected.

Three thousand kids! That's a 9/11 every day!

Put it this way: Let's say your little Justin's Kickin' Kangaroos have a big youth soccer tournament on Saturday. There are 15 kids on the team, 10 teams in the tourney. And there are 20 of these tournaments going on all over town. Suddenly, every one of these kids gets chills and fever, then starts throwing up and then gets short of breath. And in seven to 10 days, they're all dead of malaria.

We gotta get these nets. They're coated with an insecticide and cost between $4 and $6. You need about $10, all told, to get them shipped and installed. Some nets can cover a family of four. And they last four years. If we can cut the spread of disease, 10 bucks means a kid might get to live. Make it $20 and more kids are saved.

So, here's the ask: If you have ever gotten a thrill by throwing, kicking, knocking, dunking, slamming, putting up, cutting down or jumping over a net, please go to a special site we've set up through the United Nations Foundation. The address is: Then just look for the big SI's Nothing But Net logo (or call 202-887-9040) and donate $20. Bang. You might have just saved a kid's life.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:38 PM


The hate factory: N-word outburst adds to the denigration that passes as entertainment (Stanley Crouch, 11/22/06, NY Daily News)

This was another moment to question what the ongoing vulgarization of our popular culture has actually come to mean. Two groups - women and black people - are disdainfully addressed and demeaned constantly. Only one has made any protest against being the constant butt of overstated vulgarity. White women have stood up against the misogyny in popular entertainment, but black people have not had much to say about the denigration.

Rap producers and others in the business of selling anything that gives a little spice to the minstrel content of our popular culture have been known to claim that the N-word has become a common means of expression and has taken on a universal understanding through rap. We can now be treated to young people of all ethnic groups referring to each other when using the word.

Does that prove anything? I think not. When Richard Pryor first made liberal use of the N-word, he could not have imagined what emerged in the wake of his performances. But when Pryor himself took a position against minstrel updates, no one listened to him. He had passed out the right of irresponsibility and could not take it back.

Mr. Crouch forgets the most successful group at not allowing themselves to be made the butt of elite hatreds: Muslims.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:35 PM


Schwarzenegger gains among Latinos: His election strategy pays off in best GOP showing since 1990 (Aurelio Rojas, 11/21/06, Sacramento Bee)

One day last summer, as Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger was about to step into a meeting with the editorial board of a Spanish-language newspaper, he received a briefing from a campaign aide.

They discussed issues that could come up, potential land mines in the governor's efforts to woo Latino voters, such as the Minutemen and Proposition 187.

After conferring with other aides, the governor went into the meeting and for the first time disavowed his previous support for the civilian border patrol brigade President Bush has branded as "vigilantes" -- and reaffirmed that he was wrong to vote for the 1994 measure to ban public services to illegal immigrants.

More vocal opponents of illegal immigration criticized Schwarzenegger for his statements to the editorial board of La Opinion. But the governor's change in tone marked the beginning of his turnaround with Latino voters.

At the time, a Field Poll showed only 22 percent of them supported Schwarzenegger. In cruising to a 17-point re-election victory this month over Democrat Phil Angelides, the governor received 39 percent of their vote, according to exit polling done for The Bee.

That threshold has not been reached by a GOP gubernatorial candidate in California since 1990. And it was reached as Republicans with more strident views on illegal immigration were being punished by voters around the country. [...]

Perhaps troubling for the future of the GOP in California was how poorly two conservative Republicans running for constitutional offices fared with the fastest-growing share of the state's electorate.

State Sens. Tom McClintock, R-Thousand Oaks, and Chuck Poochigian, R-Fresno, tallied only 23 percent and 20 percent of the Latino vote, respectively, in their losing bids for lieutenant governor and attorney general.

The lone bright spot for the Republican Party in down-ballot races was Steve Poizner, the Silicon Valley billionaire who easily beat Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante to become the state's insurance commissioner.

Running against the state's high-ranking Latino officeholder, Poizner -- a social moderate who spent more than $13 million of his fortune on his campaign -- received 35 percent of the Latino vote, according to GOP pollster Steve Kinney.

For the GOP to hold on to the Governor's Office in 2010, after the centrist Schwarzenegger moves on, Republicans may have to turn to a candidate who is more like Poizner and less like McClintock and Poochigian.

No GOP candidate for governor since the 1970s has won in California without getting at least one-third of the Latino vote.

The Party paid a high price for not following W, as Arnold did.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:32 PM


MAURITANIA: Another step in democratic transition (IRIN, 11/23/06)

Provisional results from historic legislative and municipal elections in Mauritania indicated on Thursday that opposition parties that had defied the country's previous military regime had made a strong showing.

The Rally of Democratic Forces (RDF), which struggled against former military ruler Maaouya Ould Sid Ahmed Taya, won 12 of 43 National Assembly seats in the 19 November polls. Sixty-three percent of municipal posts went to opposition parties, mainly in urban areas.

Other parties that opposed the Taya government won seven assembly seats. They include the Progressive Popular Alliance, which represents former slaves who say they remain marginalised. Slavery was formally abolished in Mauritania in 1981.

Mauritania follows in the footsteps of West African neighbours Mali, Niger and Nigeria in introducing elections as part of a transition to democracy after military officers ousted authoritarian regimes or took over after their leader died.

Kind of embarrassing that even Africa is stealing a march on the Middle East.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:19 PM


"The Fountain": Beautiful, imaginative, sometimes mystifying (Moira Macdonald, 11/22/06, Seattle Times)

In the making for seven years, the film has a three-tiered structure. Its main story is set in the present, with a scientist named Tommy (Hugh Jackman) racing to discover a cure for the cancer that is killing his wife Izzi (Rachel Weisz). Meanwhile, in 16th-century Spain, Queen Isabel (Weisz) sends a conquistador, Tomas (Jackman), through battle to find the Fountain of Youth. And far into the future, a man (Jackman) travels to a distant planet to find the Tree of Life. [...]

All of this is the stuff of fantasy; even the contemporary segment seems to take place in another world, of strangely dark operating rooms and picturesque dustings of blue-tinged snow. But Tommy and Izzi's tale resonates as romantic tragedy, so much so that it's almost painful to watch. [...]

"The Fountain" would likely reward multiple viewings; at 96 minutes it's curiously short, as if its wings were slightly clipped. But it's refreshing to be in the hands of a filmmaker with a unique vision, and a pleasure to be challenged by a film's flights of imagination.

This seems a better follow-up to Mr. Aronofsky's terrific film, Pi, than Requiem was.

: That Darren Aronofsky sure is ambitious. Too bad his movie makes no sense. (J. Hoberman, November 21st, 2006, Village Voice)

What The Fountain lacks in coherence it makes up in ambition. Aronofsky has not only aspired to make the most strenuously far-out movie of the 21st century, but the greatest love story ever told. Lest anyone imagine The Fountain to have been written by Madonna's kabbalah teacher after a week pondering El Topo and dancing to the Incredible String Band, the words "By Darren Aronofsky" are twice inscribed during the final credits. The third inscription will reveal itself in 500 years.

-A Love That Tries to Conquer All (A. O. SCOTT, NY Times)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:37 AM


The Stuff of Democratic Life: Lincoln, Gettysburg and Thanksgiving. (ALLEN GUELZO, November 23, 2006, Opinion Journal)

In 1863, the United States was the only significant democracy in the world. The French Revolution had drowned itself in blood; the democratic uprisings of the 1820s and 1840s had been easily and successfully repressed by kings and emperors; and everywhere, it was power and hierarchy rather than liberty and equality which seemed the best guarantee of peace and plenty. Americans remained the one people who defined themselves by a natural proposition, that all men are created equal, so that no one was born with a superior entitlement to command. But this republic of equal citizens had two basic weaknesses. The first was its tolerance of slavery, which drew the line of race across the line of equality. The second weakness was the question of authority in a democracy. In a society where every citizen's opinion carried equal weight, decisions would have to be made by majority rule. But a citizen whose opinion carries such weight might find it difficult to submit to the countervailing vote of a majority which thinks differently, and the result is likely to be a simple truculent refusal to go along. Refusals make for resistance, and resistance makes for civil war. Is there, Lincoln asked in 1861, some deep flaw in popular government, some weird centripetal force, which inevitably condemns popular government to whirl itself into pieces "and thus practically put an end to free government upon the earth"? To that question, every king and autocrat in 1861--and every fuehrer, duce and president-for-life since--has answered, smirkingly, yes. And the American Civil War looked like the chief evidence that this was so. Which is why, as Lincoln looked out across the thousands who had gathered on that November day, it seemed to him that what he was viewing was more than just another noteworthy battlefield. It had fallen to him to argue that the Civil War signaled not a failure, but a test, to determine once and for all whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure.

We pass this test, Lincoln said, not by dedicating cemeteries, but by dedicating ourselves. That dedication lies first in seeing that equality is an imposition of self-restraint. It means refusing to lay upon the backs of others the burdens we do not wish laid on our own.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:25 AM


Strong outlook for holiday retail: Most forecasts run 5 to 6 percent above 2005, promising a lift for the US economy. (Ron Scherer, 11/24/06, The Christian Science Monitor)

The nation's holiday spending, even adjusted for inflation, sets a record every year, and this year will be no exception. Surveys and analysts predict holiday spending will rise about 5 to 6 percent over last year, which was 6.1 percent higher than 2004. If this level of spending prevails, it will give merchants - and the economy as a whole - a solid foundation going into 2007. [...]

Americans will be entering the holiday period with enough cash in their pockets, or room on their credit cards, to happily hit the malls, some economists and retail experts say. "Every month this year, all the way back to last October, there has been an increase in real disposable income," says Richard Feinberg, a researcher at the Purdue Retail Institute in West Lafayette, Ind.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:51 AM


Genetic breakthrough that reveals the differences between humans: Scientists hail genetic discovery that will change human understanding Steve Connor, 11/23/06, Independent)

Scientists have discovered a dramatic variation in the genetic make-up of humans that could lead to a fundamental reappraisal of what causes incurable diseases and could provide a greater understanding of mankind.

The discovery has astonished scientists studying the human genome - the genetic recipe of man. Until now it was believed the variation between people was due largely to differences in the sequences of the individual " letters" of the genome.

It now appears much of the variation is explained instead by people having multiple copies of some key genes that make up the human genome.

Until now it was assumed that the human genome, or "book of life", is largely the same for everyone, save for a few spelling differences in some of the words. Instead, the findings suggest that the book contains entire sentences, paragraphs or even whole pages that are repeated any number of times.

The findings mean that instead of humanity being 99.9 per cent identical, as previously believed, we are at least 10 times more different between one another than once thought... [...]

Another implication of the finding is that we are more different to our closest living relative, the chimpanzee, than previously assumed from earlier studies.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:49 AM


Dutch Voters Favor Prime Minister's Christian Democrats: Extremists Also Gain Power in Parliament (Molly Moore, 11/23/06, Washington Post)

Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende's right-of-center Christian Democratic Appeal party, which has led efforts to curtail Muslim immigration at a time of growing xenophobia in the Netherlands, won the most seats in parliamentary elections Wednesday, but voters voiced strong discontent with his government by giving unprecedented support to extremist parties at both ends of the political spectrum.

After half a decade of politically motivated murders and some of Europe's most acrimonious debate over the rapid influx of immigrants into this once homogenous country, election results reflected a public schizophrenia over how to resolve the country's problems and laid a political minefield for creating a coalition that can effectively govern the country.

As expected, no party won enough seats for a majority in the lower house of parliament. The erratic voting patterns shifted significant numbers of seats to parties with extremist views and robbed moderate parties of influence -- a result that stunned government officials and political analysts.

"It's a new signal from the voters," said Jan Marijnissen, leader of the Socialist Party, which won the third-highest number of seats in one of the biggest upsets of the day. The party promotes an anti-globalization, anti-European platform and advocates greater public spending on the poor and elderly.

So they're all nationalist and some are socialist.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:34 AM


Latin Americans Wonder If Democrats Are Traders: Anxiety High Over Stance of Incoming Congress (Sibylla Brodzinsky and Peter S. Goodman, 11/23/06, Washington Post)

Here in Colombia and next door in Peru, which awaits congressional approval for its own trade treaty, anxiety runs high.

"We watch the news and we're nervous about what might happen with what we send to the United States," said Janeth Palacio Ramirez, 35, who supports her 15-year-old daughter and her elderly parents by punching zipper stops onto 7,000 pairs of jeans a day, earning about $200 a month. "Everything we make here goes there, so if there are problems with exports, we'll all lose our jobs."

As Democrats prepare to reshape U.S. trade policy, the impact is being felt far from the Carolina mill towns and rust-belt factories that are a perennial focus of domestic concern.

Addressing fears that too many jobs are being sacrificed at home, the new Democratic leadership wants to slow the worldwide effort, which the United States has led since 1947, to lower import tariffs that hinder trade.

Other than a $13 trillion GDP and increasing global liberalization, what has fifty years of American leadership on free trade done for us?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:24 AM


100 Notable Books of the Year (NY Times Book Review, 12/03/06)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:21 AM


Fed Chief’s Help Enlisted for Trip to Press China (STEVEN R. WEISMAN, 11/23/06, NY Times)

Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. has enlisted Ben S. Bernanke, the Federal Reserve chairman, to join an unusual delegation of cabinet members to China next month that will press for changes in Chinese economic policies long criticized by the administration and Congress, officials said Wednesday.

The trip in mid-December, to be led by Mr. Paulson, a former Goldman Sachs chairman with extensive experience in China, escalates the pressure on the Beijing leadership to crack down on piracy, open up its economy to outside investors and allow the value of the Chinese currency to fluctuate more freely, Treasury officials say. [...]

Mr. Bernanke, along with Mr. Paulson, shares responsibility for overseeing the United States economy and the major role that China now plays in it. He is expected to repeat what he and other central bankers have said in recent years: that the huge borrowing from China by the United States to finance its trade imbalance is not sustainable in the long run. Mr. Bernanke, who would not comment on his plans, has in the past urged the Chinese to be more flexible with the yuan and their economy.

Why not? It works for everyone else.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:17 AM


If Cameron can climb on my caravan, anything is possible: For the Tories to admit that ignoring relative poverty was a terrible mistake represents a real breakthrough (Polly Toynbee, November 23, 2006, The Guardian0

When David Cameron, the Tory leader, speaks on poverty tomorrow, he will, according to his advisers, accept much of Clark's analysis of Margaret Thatcher's policies: "Ignoring the reality of relative poverty was a terrible mistake." The Churchillian idea that all the state need do is provide a basic safety net to stop the poor starving is over. Poverty is measured internationally in relative terms, because that is how people feel it. To be poor is to fall too far behind what most ordinary people have in your own society.

Clark cites an analogy from my book, Hard Work: Life in Low Pay Britain, in which I described society as a caravan moving across a desert. All may move forward, but how far behind do the poor at the back have to fall before they cease to be part of the same caravan at all? Political parties will differ on how far that stretch can be - but at least now they agree all must travel at the same speed to stay within the same society.

Relative poverty has been a hard message to get across, so will the Tories now do some of the heavy lifting in engaging voters? Asked cold, the public tend to make a number of contradictory responses. They think the out-of-control greed at the top is obscene, and they think the gap between rich and poor is far too great. But the focus group of middling waverers used by the Fabian commission on life chances suggests that, at first, most people don't think real poverty exists. Then they think it is the fault of the poor themselves - feckless addicts or scroungers; if they have a phone and a TV, is that really poor?

But presented with facts about poor children having so much less than ordinary children like their own, focus group members changed their minds. When they considered the quarter of children who never go on a summer holiday and have no money to go swimming, have a birthday party or a sleepover or take school trips, let alone own a computer or a mobile phone, they thought it unjust.

What kind of heartless bastards would deny the right of every child to a cell phone?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:12 AM


Proof Is Scant on Psychiatric Drug Mix for Young (GARDINER HARRIS, 11/23/06, NY Times)

[A] growing number of children and teenagers in the United States are taking not just a single drug for discrete psychiatric difficulties but combinations of powerful and even life-threatening medications to treat a dizzying array of problems.

Last year in the United States, about 1.6 million children and teenagers — 280,000 of them under age 10 — were given at least two psychiatric drugs in combination, according to an analysis performed by Medco Health Solutions at the request of The New York Times. More than 500,000 were prescribed at least three psychiatric drugs. More than 160,000 got at least four medications together, the analysis found.

Many psychiatrists and parents believe that such drug combinations, often referred to as drug cocktails, help. But there is virtually no scientific evidence to justify this multiplication of pills, researchers say. A few studies have shown that a combination of two drugs can be helpful in adult patients, but the evidence in children is scant. And there is no evidence at all — “zero,” “zip,” “nil,” experts said — that combining three or more drugs is appropriate or even effective in children or adults.

“There are not any good scientific data to support the widespread use of these medicines in children, particularly in young children where the scientific data are even more scarce,” said Dr. Thomas R. Insel, director of the National Institute of Mental Health.

there's only one question that matters: do the drugs make the kids more manageable?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:09 AM


Merkel mulling German push for EU-US trade zone (Financial Express, 11/22/06)

Chancellor Angela Merkel is considering pushing for a transatlantic free trade zone when Germany takes on the European Union presidency next year. The idea could gain momentum when Merkel’s conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) votes on it next week.

Despite scepticism in some European capitals, the vote at a CDU party congress in Dresden may trigger a new drive by Berlin for a notion long cherished by some conservatives keen to improve relations with Washington. “We want to start considering a common market between Europe and America,” Merkel told Bild newspaper on Wednesday.

If Britain and Germany joined NAFTA the rest of Europe would follow meekly.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:53 AM


His world records are house of cards: Professional card stacker comes back to his home state for festival of storytellers, magicians and jugglers (MARY CHALLENDER, 11/22/06, Des Moines REGISTER)

Architect Bryan Berg spends weeks, sometimes even months, building some of the largest, most elaborate structures of their kind in the world.

Then the Iowa native typically picks up a leaf blower and sends his creations fluttering to the ground.

It's all in a day's work when you're a professional card stacker. [...]

As a kid growing up in the Okoboji area, Berg said he liked stacking cards but was just average until one day, during an Iowa blizzard, when he stumbled upon the honeycomb formation that became the trick behind his trade.

That day, he said, he built a house of cards that touched the ceiling of his parents' house. He hasn't looked back since.

In 1992, as a 17-year-old high school senior, Berg captured his first Guinness record for tallest card tower when he carefully arranged 400 decks of cards to build a house 14 1/2 feet tall.

Unsure card stacking was considered a normal pursuit, he told everyone he had taken on the card challenge as a math project.

"I had no idea that incident would basically derail my entire life," he said.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:44 AM


Pilgrims' Progress; Let's Talk Turkey
(Clifford D. May, November 25, 2004, Scripps Howard News Service)

In his masterful volume, �A History of the American People,� British historian Paul Johnson describes the Puritans who landed at New Plymouth on December 11, 1620 this way: �They were the zealots, the idealists, the utopians, the saints, and the best of them, or perhaps one should say the most extreme of them, were fanatical, uncompromising and overweening in their self-righteousness.�

But, he concedes, they also were �immensely energetic, persistent, and courageous.� They and their heirs were to weave one of the most vibrant designs in the American tapestry.

It was a Puritan leader, William Bradford, who first called this community Pilgrims. But �they were not ordinary pilgrims, traveling to a sacred shrine, and then returning home to resume everyday life,� Johnson writes. �They were, rather, perpetual pilgrims, setting up a new, sanctified country which was to be a permanent pilgrimage, traveling ceaselessly toward a millenarian goal. They saw themselves as exceptions to the European betrayal of Christian principles, and they were conducting an exercise in exceptionalism.�

They left Europe to escape religious persecution -- not quite the same as saying they came for religious freedom -- and �to create His kingdom on earth.� John Winthrop, whom Johnson calls �the first great American,� considered Europe �a lost cause,� both irreligious and badly governed. Winthrop said of Europe: �This land grows weary of its Inhabitants.�

In a very real sense, the Puritans were Judeo-Christians. They saw themselves as the spiritual progeny of Moses' tribe, fleeing from Egypt (17th century Europe) to the Promised Land (the New World, in particular New England).

On the Mayflower � a cramped old ship built not to carry passengers across the Atlantic but only barrels of wine between Bordeaux and London � they signed a social compact �based upon the original Biblical covenant between God and the Israelites.� Also influenced by early-17th-century social-contract theory, they drafted �just and equal laws� that were firmly anchored in the teachings of the church.

Their piety did not diminish their thirst for education � quite the contrary. Nor did their faith deter them from a keen interest in science. Indeed, among the most famous of the Puritans was Cotton Mather (1663-1728) who entered Harvard at the age of 12, learned seven languages and wrote 450 books. He popularized the Copernican system of astronomy. He also believed in witchcraft. He was concerned, too, with the rights of slaves and Indians, not big issues in those days.

The Puritans considered it their mission to create a better society than any the world had seen before. Winthrop wrote: �We must consider that wee shall be as a Citty upon a Hill, the eyes of all people are upon us.�

Boston became the Pilgrim's capital, but by 1638, the Rev. John Davenport concluded that corruption had set in there, so he led a congregation to what is now New Haven, Conn. Among those who went with him was David Yale, �a learned gentleman,� whose descendent, Elihu Yale was to found an institution of higher learning that would educate many future American presidents, as well as many others who merely aspired to that office.

It is tempting to theorize that the Puritan/Pilgrim spirit has, over the past few hundred years, moved further inland, far from Massachusetts and other coastal communities, to what we now call the Red states. But that would be simplistic. As Johnson points out, the Puritans were eventually joined by adherents to other religious traditions, and over time, �the Puritan merged into the Yankee, �a race whose typical member is eternally torn between a passion for righteousness and a desire to get on in the world.'�

Edmund Morgan has called it the Puritan Dilemma: "the paradox that required a man to live in the world without being of it." To it can be traced the enduring and quite healthy tension in America between state and society, and our unique distrust of the former.

(originally posted: 11/25/04)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:36 AM


English & Allies (Daniel Mandel, 11/23/06, Front Page)

[A] formal "Anglosphere" alliance among Australia, Britain and the United States could be an idea whose time has come. [...]

In his book "The Anglosphere Challenge: Why the English-speaking nations will lead the way in the 21st century," James C. Bennett speaks of "network commonwealths," groupings based on technological integration but short of formal alliance. But the objective of a formal Anglosphere alliance would be to achieve not only technological integration but also military - especially naval - integration.

For such a purpose, Australia, Britain and the United States have much in common. Each has stood apart politically in its region. Each is based on traditions of political liberty anchored in representative, secular government and free trade. Each has fought steadfastly alongside the other two during the past century.

And all three share strong naval traditions and modern naval forces. Common language and advanced levels of technology would make naval integration, if not easy, at least achievable. (Compare this to the widening technological gap between the United States and its continental NATO allies). Last but not least, each is under attack by jihadist terrorists.

An Anglosphere alliance would also have a striking geographic advantage in its global naval coverage of the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans, as well as the Mediterranean Sea. The countries surrounding these waters include almost all of the nations threatened by or engaged in jihadist terrorism. [...]

Such an alliance would be a vigorously sovereign, free-market, democratic antidote to the politically centralizing, bureaucratic collectivism of the United Nations and the European Union, two organizations that consistently are more part of the problem than the solution to jihadist terror.

He left out the key component: India.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:31 AM


Homegrown Terror: a review of Redemption: The Last Battle of the Civil War by Nicholas Lemann (Steven Hahn, New Republic)

Colfax, Louisiana was scarcely a town in 1873. It was more a collection of buildings on a plantation owned by William Calhoun. As much as any site in the former Confederate South, however, Colfax came to embody the complex political dynamics of Reconstruction, and the troubling relation of terror and democracy in the history of the United States. [...]

What the white supremacists scorned was the most breathtaking democratic revolution in the nineteenth-century world. In the cauldron of the Civil War, the largest and most powerful slave regime in the Americas was defeated militarily, and slavery was abolished without direct compensation to slaveowners. This alone distinguished the American experience from every other servile society of the time, save for Haiti. Then, responding to the wartime service of black soldiers, the demands of radicals of both races, and the political needs of the Republican Party, the federal government extended civil and political rights to former slaves on the same basis as those rights were enjoyed by whites, and set the stage for the reorganization of politics and government in the former Confederacy.

This revolution is known as Radical Reconstruction. The Republican Party, for the first time, moved into the Southern states. African Americans registered to vote in overwhelming numbers and, through the vehicles of Union Leagues, churches, and Republican Party clubs, mobilized new political communities. State constitutions, which created new civil and political societies and new public sectors, were written and ratified. And elections were held with a dramatically expanded electorate, resulting in Republican governments at the state and local levels. Most of the officeholders were white men who had been on the political margins before the Civil War; but in the Deep South states of South Carolina, Mississippi, and Louisiana and in the plantation districts stretching from Virginia to Texas, African Americans -- many of whom had just been freed from slavery -- came to serve as state representatives and senators, and as magistrates, county commissioners, surveyors, treasurers, and occasionally sheriffs.

Before long, the Republican regimes were rebuilding the economic infrastructures of the South, establishing systems of public education open to blacks and whites (separately, for the most part), setting up new social services, reforming the tax structure (sometimes with a view to making land available to former slaves), and, when possible, attacking various forms of racial discrimination. Equally consequential, in the counties and the parishes, the regimes constructed judicial systems in which blacks could bring suits, testify in courts, and serve on juries, and thus in which black laborers could resist the exploitative practices of their employers through legal means. Never in the history of the United States, and rarely in the history of any other nation, were the balances of power shifted so markedly away from the propertied elite and toward the working class.

Had the former Confederates accepted the new rules of the political game, something amounting to a genuine democracy, involving both races, might have taken root in the South. But instead they regarded the civil enfranchisement and the political empowerment of African Americans as the grossest of illegitimacies and the direst of threats, and they mobilized militarily in opposition. Initially through vigilante bands such as the Ku Klux Klan, and eventually through paramilitary organizations closely tied to the Democratic Party, they sought to destroy blacks' capacity to engage in politics. They broke up Union Leagues, harassed black voters, assassinated black leaders, and, when Republicans won local elections, tried to prevent them from taking office or to drive them out once they began to serve. This was what the white supremacists were up to in Colfax in 1873, and this was how they decided to put an end to Republican rule more generally in Louisiana and Mississippi in what Lemann calls "the last battle of the Civil War."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:26 AM


Iraqi leader calls insurgents for talks to end the violence (Ned Parker, 11/23/06, Times of London)

The Prime Minister of Iraq will sit down for the first time next week with representatives of insurgent groups in his most concerted effort yet to quell the country’s sectarian war.

Nouri al-Maliki’s Government has asked insurgent leaders to send intermediaries to a national reconciliation conference, marking a new domestic drive to bring peace to Iraq.

It will pave the way for a subsequent conference outside Iraq, possibly in Damascus or Amman, with insurgent leaders themselves.

He has a big, though illusory, chip to trade: our withdrawal. It gives the Sunni an apparent victory to save face.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:23 AM


With a song in their hearts a review of BOLLYWOOD: A History by Mihir Bose (TARQUIN HALL, Sunday Times of London)

[B]ose’s account of the rise and rise of Bollywood is long overdue. It is an insightful and often hilarious account of how Indian cinema moulded itself into such a unique phenomenon. His ability to place the genre in cultural context and trace how ancient traditions and taboos nurtured its evolution provides an enlightening perspective into why Indian cinematic tastes are so wildly different.

Bose’s punchy narrative recounts how, in the early 1900s, the die was cast by India’s first professional film-maker, Dadasaheb Phalke. An artistic and entrepreneurial pioneer, he took his films and projector across India by bullock cart. But he faced stiff competition. From time immemorial, travelling theatres had entertained the masses with Hindu epics. Audiences were accustomed to six-hour performances combining action, tragedy, betrayal, comedy, love and, of course, music and dance. By pandering to these tastes, Phalke gave his audiences their money’s worth. Thereafter, Indians flocked to his makeshift cinemas in vast numbers “to see their gods brought to life, albeit on film”.

The age of colour and sound completed the impact of this spectacle. Elaborate sets tantalised those seeking an escape from poverty. Meanwhile composers created a new genre of popular music, the “filmi song”, a blend of Indian, Middle Eastern and European forms. To this day, Hindi songs usually make or break a film. They are sung not by the onscreen stars, who merely lip-sync, but by so-called “playback” singers, many of whom are legends in their own right.

Raj Kapoor, India’s first superstar, was unrepentant of the Bollywood formula. “I am not making films for drawing-room conversation,” he said. “I am making films to entertain the millions of this country.”

A concept that Hollywood opposes.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:40 AM


Sandwiches with a twist put turkey to good use (Aleta Watson, 11/22/06, San Jose Mercury News

The weeks of planning, shopping and cooking are over. Happily stuffed family and friends have pushed away from the table and freshly washed pots are sitting on the drainboard. Now comes the unsung blessing of Thanksgiving -- a refrigerator full of leftovers.

With a long weekend stretching ahead, there are few better feelings than the satisfaction of knowing most of the heavy lifting already has been done in the kitchen. Those leftovers are the cook's ticket to go shopping, hit the hiking trails, catch a movie or just hang out with friends.

After all the T-Day indulgence, it feels good to eat simply. My family is usually content to merely warm up the bounty for at least one meal. Then we turn to sandwiches.

Toasted turkey sandwiches with caramelized onions (San Jose Mercury News, 11/23/06)

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
4 hand-cut slices of whole grain bread ( 1/4-inch thick)
6 ounces turkey breast, sliced
3 ounces provolone cheese, sliced
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

In medium skillet over medium-low heat, warm olive oil. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes, or until golden brown and very soft. Transfer onion to bowl, but do not clean skillet.

Spread a generous amount of the onion on two bread slices. Top with turkey and cheese. Lightly spread mustard on the remaining 2 bread slices. Cover each sandwich with 1 bread slice, mustard-side down.

Place the sandwiches in the same skillet you used to cook the onion and set over medium heat. Cook sandwiches, turning once, about 4 minutes per side, or until sandwiches are browned on both sides and cheese is melted.

Remove sandwiches from skillet, let stand a few minutes, and cut in half or into quarters.

``Toast,'' by Jesse Ziff Cool

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:36 AM


Bush Makes Secret Thanksgiving Visit to Iraq (Steve Holland, November 27, 2003, Reuters)

President Bush secretly flew to Baghdad for Thanksgiving dinner with U.S. troops on Thursday in a bid to boost the morale of forces amid mounting casualties and political pressure at home.

In an elaborate plan to ensure his security, Bush slipped away from his Texas ranch on Wednesday night, arrived in Iraq on Thursday and spent 2-1/2 hours with the troops, becoming the first U.S. president to visit Iraq.

"I bring a message on behalf of America: We thank you for your service, we are proud of you and America stands solidly behind you," an emotional Bush told about 600 soldiers, who were stunned to see the president at the heavily fortified Baghdad International Airport. [...]

To make the clandestine trip, Bush scrapped plans to eat a traditional turkey dinner with his wife and family. His plane swooped in for landing under cover of darkness, window shades drawn and lights dimmed to keep Bush from being a target in the perilous capital, more than six months after the government of Saddam Hussein was toppled. [...]

Without hinting at the surprise, Iraq's U.S. civil administrator Paul Bremer told members of the U.S. Army's 1st Armored Division and the 82nd Airborne he was supposed to read the president's Thanksgiving address but would defer to a more senior person.

Bush became teary-eyed when he emerged to loud cheering.

"I was just looking for a warm meal somewhere," Bush said. "Thanks for inviting me to dinner."

We'd thought he'd do this when he went to the APAC conference, but that may have been too obvious.

President Travels to Baghdad and Addresses Soldiers at Airport (BRIAN KNOWLTON, November 27, 2003, International Herald Tribune)

In a stunning mission conducted under enormous secrecy, President Bush flew into Baghdad today aboard Air Force One to share Thanksgiving dinner with United States officials and several hundred astonished American troops.

His trip � the first ever to Iraq by an American president � had been kept a matter of absolute secrecy by the White House, which had said that Mr. Bush was to spend the holiday weekend at his ranch outside Crawford, Tex.

Even his wife, Laura, and his parents, the former President George Bush and his wife, Barbara, who had also come to Crawford, received only a few hours' notice of the trip, officials said later.

The mission was an extraordinary gesture, with scant precedent, and was seen as an effort by Mr. Bush to show the importance he attaches to the embattled United States-led effort to pacify and democratize Iraq.

He told the troops that the United States would not back down in the face of stern resistance in Iraq.

Text of President Bush's Remarks in Iraq (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, November 27, 2003)
Thank you. I was just looking for a warm meal somewhere. Thank you for inviting me to dinner. General Sanchez, thank you, sir, for your kind invitation and your strong leadership. Ambassador Bremer, thank you for your steadfast belief in freedom and peace. I want to thank the members of the Governing Council who are here, pleased you are joining us on our nation's great holiday, it's a chance to give thanks to the Almighty for the many blessings we receive.

I'm particularly proud to be with the 1st Armored Division, the 2nd ACR, the 82nd Airborne. I can't think of a finer group of folks to have Thanksgiving dinner with than you all. We're proud of you. Today, Americans are gathering with their loved ones to give thanks for the many blessings in our lives. And this year we are especially thankful for the courage and the sacrifice of those who defend us, the men and women of the United States military.

I bring a message on behalf of America: We thank you for your service, we're proud of you, and America stands solidly behind you. Together, you and I have taken an oath to defend our country. You're honoring that oath. The United States military is doing a fantastic job. You are defeating the terrorists here in Iraq, so that we don't have to face them in our own country. You're defeating Saddam's henchmen, so that the people of Iraq can live in peace and freedom.

By helping the Iraqi people become free, you're helping change a troubled and violent part of the world. By helping to build a peaceful and democratic country in the heart of the Middle East, you are defending the American people from danger and we are grateful.

You're engaged in a difficult mission. Those who attack our coalition forces and kill innocent Iraqis are testing our will. They hope we will run. We did not charge hundreds of miles into the heart of Iraq, pay a bitter cost in casualties, defeat a brutal dictator and liberate 25 million people only to retreat before a band of thugs and assassins.

We will prevail. We will win because our cause is just. We will win because we will stay on the offensive. And we will win because you're part of the finest military ever assembled. And we will prevail because the Iraqis want their freedom.

Every day you see firsthand the commitment to sacrifice that the Iraqi people are making to secure their own freedom. I have a message for the Iraqi people: You have an opportunity to seize the moment and rebuild your great country, based on human dignity and freedom. The regime of Saddam Hussein is gone forever.

The United States and our coalition will help you, help you build a peaceful country so that your children can have a bright future. We'll help you find and bring to justice the people who terrorized you for years and are still killing innocent Iraqis. We will stay until the job is done. I'm confident we will succeed, because you, the Iraqi people, will show the world that you're not only courageous, but that you can govern yourself wisely and justly.

On this Thanksgiving, our nation remembers the men and women of our military, your friends and comrades who paid the ultimate price for our security and freedom. We ask for God's blessings on their families, their loved ones and their friends, and we pray for your safety and your strength, as you continue to defend America and to spread freedom.

Each one of you has answered a great call, participating in an historic moment in world history. You live by a code of honor, of service to your nation, with the safety and the security of your fellow citizens. Our military is full of the finest people on the face of the earth. I'm proud to be your commander in chief. I bring greetings from America. May God bless you all.

-'We will win,' Bush tells troops in Iraq (Richard Tomkins, 11/27/2003, UPI)
-Rodgers: 'There was explosive, euphoric reaction' (CNN, 11/27/03)
U.S. troops weren't the only ones surprised by President Bush's Thanksgiving Day visit to Iraq. The White House press corps was, too. For security reasons, Bush's trip would have been canceled if the information had leaked, so most reporters were kept in the dark.

Only about a dozen reporters who were with the president on Air Force One knew of his secret plans. CNN senior international correspondent Walter Rodgers, who is in Baghdad, learned of the president's visit after Air Force One had already left Baghdad. He joined CNN anchor Miles O'Brien to share what the troops told him of the visit.

RODGERS: We could say, not too facetiously, that the president's visit here was the second best kept secret in Iraq. The best kept secret remaining, where is Saddam Hussein? But, indeed, no one here in Iraq, in the journalism corps and for that matter most of the soldiers in Iraq, had any idea that the president was here until after the bulletin on The Associated Press crossed, and that, of course, broke the news.

But the soldiers who were in the hangar or at the dining hall with the president were told, if they wanted, they could enter a lottery, and they would have Thanksgiving dinner with the chief U.S. administrator in Iraq, Paul Bremer. So they said, what the heck, let's do it. And then the next thing you know, the president of the United States pops out from behind the curtain.

There was explosive, euphoric reaction here. These soldiers, men and women, are extraordinarily homesick, so any familiar face from home would have been welcome. And, of course, the president's their commander in chief. So all the more so.

Bush Pays Surprise Thanksgiving Visit to Troops in Iraq (Mike Allen, , November 27, 2003, Washington Post)
The president was introduced to the troops by L. Paul Bremer, the U.S. civilian administrator in Iraq, who kept the crowd off guard by saying it was time for the most senior official present to read the president's Thanksiving Proclamation.

"Is there anyone back there more senior than us?" he asked, the signal for Bush to emerge from behind a curtain and for the stunned audience to erupt in cheers, "hoo-ahs" and waves of applause. The president was wearing a jacket bearing the patch of the 1st Armored Division.

Speaking in the chow hall before helping dish up the plates, Bush included a call to the people of Iraq to "seize the moment and rebuild your great country, based on human dignity and freedom."

"The regime of Saddam Hussein is gone forever," he said. "The United States and our coalition will help you, help you build a peaceful country so that your children can have a bright future. We'll help you find and bring to justice the people who terrorized you for years and are still killing innocent Iraqis. We will stay until the job is done."

The goverrning council members with whom Bush met today were Ahmed Chalabi, head of the Iraqi National Congress, Jalal Talabani, a Kurdish leader who is this month's council president, Mowaffak Rubaie, a Shiite Muslim physician who returned from exile in Britain, and Raja Khozai, a Shiite who directs a maternity hospital in the southern city of Diwaniya.

Chalabi said Bush "made a very important statement" about "staying the course in Iraq and declaring in Baghdad that the United States is here to finish the job."

Rubaie said Bush remarked to the council members that "I believe in the people of Iraq. They will make democracy happen."

"It was a very powerful moment," Rubaie said. "It was a hyper-happy Eid [al-Fitr, marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan] for us and it's a hyper-happy Thanksgiving for the Americans."

-Bush's surprise trip to Baghdad given stunning level of secrecy (AP, 11/27/03)
-Presidents Who Have Visited War Zones (History New Network, 11/26/03)
On Thanksgiving Day 2003 President Bush visited Baghdad on a surprise visit to the troops occupying Iraq. Below is a list of several other presidents who have visited war zones.

(originally posted: 11/27/03)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:21 AM


We'd like to take a moment to thank everyone who helps make Brothers Judd so much fun for us, and hopefully for you. First, to the Brothers From Other Mothers, who do such yeoman's work. Second, to our very understanding families who tolerate our blogging. Third, to the many folks who send us stories of interest and make invaluable suggestions. Finally, to everyone who reads and comments, even, or especially, the lunatic Darwinists, soccer fans, and folks who believe that Eric and Julia Roberts are two different people. We are thankful for all of you.

God Bless you all.

(originally posted: November 25, 2004)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:16 AM


Lynne's Ultimate Turkey Sandwich (Lynne Rossetto Kasper , The Splendid Table, November 25, 2003,

Makes 1 sandwich and multiplies easily

2 slices good tasting, firm white bread

2 to 3 tablespoons cream cheese (not low fat), at room temperature

1 whole scallion, thinly sliced (optional)

2 to 3 tablespoons cranberry sauce (whatever you have in the house is fine)

A generous amount of thinly sliced turkey (light or dark meat it's your call)

Dark, grainy mustard (we use Gulden's)

1 lettuce leaf


1. Spread 1 slice of bread with the cream cheese. Sprinkle with scallions, then spread with the cranberry sauce. Top with the turkey. Spread a generous film of mustard over the turkey. Top with the lettuce. Then spread a thin film of mayonnaise over the second slice of bread. Put the sandwich together, cut in half or quarters, and enjoy!

Here's a helpful page full of href=>Thanksgiving
tips from the Boston Globe.

(originally posted: November 26, 2003)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:26 AM


Thanksgiving (The Splendid Table, November 19, 2005, NPR)

It's our annual Thanksgiving show and we're bringing you a banquet of recipes, stories, a cut of history, and new looks at feasting inside and outside our borders.

Food authority Joan Nathan talks real American food today from home kitchens across the country. Her recipe for Braised Butternut Squash with Mustard Seeds, Chili, Curry Leaves, and Ginger is from her new book, The New American Cooking.

Who but the Sterns would find popcorn missing from the Thanksgiving table? They fill the void at Yoder Popcorn in Topeka, Indiana.

Lynne has a new rule for the big feast and a whole do-ahead menu designed for one oven. It could change how you do Thanksgiving dinner from now on.

Sally Schneider is back tackling side dishes and the big pumpkin question: fresh or canned? Her delicious Cranberry-Walnut Conserve is one side dish you'll want on your table!

Peter Menzel and Faith D'Aluisio tell of going inside the kitchens and lives of families from Greenland to Chad to photograph what they eat in one week. It's all documented in their book, Hungry Planet: What the World Eats.

You'll hear about a coronation feast with a spine-tingling twist from Nichola Fletcher, author of Charlemagne's Tablecloth, and one urban activist tells the political side of dumpster diving.

Listen to the entire show

(originally posted: 11/24/06)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:56 AM


America Celebrates Thanksgiving Holiday (Michael Bowman, 25 November 2004, VOA NEWS)

People across the United States are celebrating Thanksgiving, a feast day when, as the name implies, Americans give thanks for all things good in their lives and the bounty their nation provides.

Put that way, you realize why only Americans give thanks.

(originally posted: November 25, 2004)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:55 AM


Students Free to Thank Anybody, Except God (Laurel Lundstrom, November 22, 2004, Fox News)

Maryland public school students are free to thank anyone they want while learning about the 17th century celebration of Thanksgiving � as long as it's not God.

And that is how it should be, administrators say.

Young students across the state read stories about the Pilgrims and Native Americans, simulate Mayflower voyages, hold mock feasts and learn about the famous meal that temporarily allied two very different groups.

But what teachers don't mention when they describe the feast is that the Pilgrims not only thanked the Native Americans for their peaceful three-day indulgence, but repeatedly thanked God.

"We teach about Thanksgiving from a purely historical perspective, not from a religious perspective," said Charles Ridgell, St. Mary's County Public Schools curriculum and instruction director.

School administrators statewide agree, saying religion never coincides with how they teach Thanksgiving to students.

What is the historic perspective other than religious?

(originally posted: 11/22/04)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:38 AM


Sen. Clinton Spends Thanksgiving in Afghanistan (Fox News, November 27, 2003)

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton promised Thursday that America will stand with Afghanistan as it tries to rebuild after a quarter-century of conflict and warned Taliban rebels that they "are fighting a losing battle."

But the New York Democrat also said more troops are needed in the multinational military coalition providing security. She told The Associated Press it was for others to decide whether those troops should come from the United States or other countries.

The former first lady, who was in Afghanistan along with Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., on a whistlestop tour to spend Thanksgiving with U.S. troops, said the United States is determined to support Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

"I am very impressed by the resolve of the Afghan government, President Karzai in particular," Clinton said after a meeting with Karzai at the presidential palace.

She spoke in a room at the palace still pocked by decades of conflict. Two windows behind Clinton had bullet holes in them.

The willingness, even eagerness, of our congressmen to visit the troops reflects very well on them all.

(originally posted: 11/28/03)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:34 AM


Creator of Stove Top Stuffing Dies (RYAN LENZ, 11/23/05, Associated Press)

Ruth M. Siems, a home economist who helped create Stove Top stuffing, a Thanksgiving favorite that will be on dinner tables across the country this year, has died at 74.

Siems, who worked for General Foods for more than 30 years, died Nov. 13 in Newburgh, Ind., after suffering a heart attack in her home.

Siems helped develop Stove Top in 1971 while working at General Foods' technical center in White Plains, N.Y. She was listed first among four inventors when the patent was awarded in 1975 for the quick and easy way of making stuffing without actually stuffing a turkey.

Kraft Foods, which now owns the Stove Top brand, sells about 60 million boxes each year around Thanksgiving.

(originally posted: 11/23/05)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:27 AM


Proclamation by the President: Thanksgiving Day, 2003

Each year on Thanksgiving, we gather with family and friends to thank God for the many blessings He has given us, and we ask God to continue to guide and watch over our country.

Almost 400 years ago, after surviving their first winter at Plymouth, the Pilgrims celebrated a harvest feast to give thanks. George Washington proclaimed the first National Day of Thanksgiving in 1789, and Abraham Lincoln revived the tradition during the Civil War. Since that time, our citizens have paused to express thanks for the bounty of blessings we enjoy and to spend time with family and friends. In want or in plenty, in times of challenge or times of calm, we always have reasons to be thankful.

America is a land of abundance, prosperity, and hope. We must never take for granted the things that make our country great: a firm foundation of freedom, justice, and equality; a belief in democracy and the rule of law; and our fundamental rights to gather, speak, and worship freely.

These liberties do not come without cost. Throughout history, many have sacrificed to preserve our freedoms and to defend peace around the world. Today, the brave men and women of our military continue this noble tradition. These heroes and their loved ones have the gratitude of our Nation.

On this day, we also remember those less fortunate among us. They are our neighbors and our fellow citizens, and we are committed to reaching out to them and to all of those in need in our communities.

This Thanksgiving, we again give thanks for all of our blessings and for the freedoms we enjoy every day. Our Founders thanked the Almighty and humbly sought His wisdom and blessing. May we always live by that same trust, and may God continue to watch over and bless the United States of America.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim Thursday, November 27, 2003, as a National Day of Thanksgiving. I encourage Americans to gather in their homes, places of worship, and community centers to share the spirit of understanding and prayer and to reinforce ties of family and community.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twenty-first day of November, in the year of our Lord two thousand three, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and twenty-eighth.

We would like, in particular, to thank each and every one of you, who have helped us to form our own community. We hope and pray that you all have a safe and happy Thanksgiving and that you've much to be thankful for this year.

Be well and God bless,
The Brothers (from sundry Mothers)

-Thanksgiving in the Midst of Fear: Seriously ill in the days of the Black Plague, poet John Donne still celebrated God's goodness (Updated by Philip Yancey and introduced by Christian History editor Chris Armstrong | posted 11/26/2003)
-Where Did We Get "Turkey"? (Lowell Ponte, November 27, 2003,

We now know, thanks to scientists, that the Mayflower Pilgrims were not the only undocumented immigrants at that first Thanksgiving. The Native American tribe that helped them survive had also come from thousands of miles away in Asia, trekking across the Bering Land Bridge from Asia into North America perhaps 12,000 years earlier.

And even the foods at that first Thanksgiving table were immigrants. The turkeys that might have on that first Thanksgiving dinner table originated in Mexico, then spread by migration, both natural and entrepreneurial. (The classic Mexican national dish Mole is made with turkey, chocolate, chili peppers and more.)

Scientists have confirmed by DNA tracing that the corn maize at that first Thanksgiving was not native to New England. It reached that banquet via the original North American Free Trade Association, passed from tribe to tribe along a trade route from its land of origin, central Mexico.

The pumpkin squash (from the Massachuset Indian name askootasquash) had migrated to their table and into our Thanksgiving pumpkin pies today from lands even more distant. Trade among Indians had brought its seeds from the gourd�s homeland in southern Mexico and Central America.

(originally posted: November 27, 2003)

Posted by David Cohen at 12:26 AM


Proclamation Establishing Thanksgiving Day

October 3, 1863

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle, or the ship; the axe had enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years, with large increase of freedom.

No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.

It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and voice by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand, and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the city of Washington, this third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the independence of the United States the eighty-eighth.

A. Lincoln

(originally posted: November 26, 2003)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:24 AM


The chemical in turkey that may cause people to nod off after Thanksgiving dinner also plays a role in maintaining good mood and memory, especially among people with a family history of depression, says new research published in the journal Brain, Behavior, and Immunity.

Lead author Wim J. Riedel, Ph.D., and colleagues at the Brain and Behavior Institute at the University of Maastricht in the Netherlands examined the effects of the body's depletion of an amino acid called tryptophan on mood and cognitive function. They also measured how long the effects of the depletion lasted.

Tryptophan, known for its presence in turkey and commonly blamed in the media for creating the sluggish after-meal sensations experienced by many Thanksgiving diners, is a metabolic precursor to the chemical messenger known as serotonin. In addition to turkey, the chemical is found in foods like milk, bread, cheese and bananas. Tryptophan depletion decreases serotonin levels in the brain, which in turn can lead to depression and other problems. While the study is not definitive and does not offer a solid conclusion that eating more tryptophan will enhance memory or mood, it does indicate a possible connection. [...]

The experiments involved 27 volunteers, 16 of whom had an immediate relative with major depression. Researchers lowered the level of tryptophan in the volunteers' bodies, and memory tests showed impairment in their ability to recall and recognize words they learned during, but not before, the tryptophan depletion time period. However, the volunteers did better on focused attention tasks, concentrated listening tasks and tasks measuring the speed of memory retrieval.

Now if only they'd find some health benefit to KELLOGG'S� CROUTETTES� Stuffing Mix and pecan pie. (originally posted: November 20, 2002)
Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:21 AM


Butterball hotline workers start talking turkey (JANET RAUSA FULLER, 11/09/04, Chicago Sun Times)

The most common question coming into the Butterball Turkey Talk-Line is about thawing. But in her 20 years on the job, Dorothy Jones has fielded more than her share of offbeat questions. [...]

For the last 20 years, Jones has worked the phones at the Butterball Turkey Talk-Line at ConAgra Foods' suburban headquarters, advising, consoling and cajoling thousands of home cooks intent on roasting the perfect bird.

Early Monday, Jones donned her headset once again, a thick reference guide at the ready and a gold wishbone charm dangling from her neck, as the hotline officially fired up for the holiday season.

The switchboard registered two calls at 8 a.m. sharp, but opening day at the Talk-Line flowed more like gravy than crackling hot oil.

It's a little like "you haven't ridden a bike in 20 years," said Talk-Line director Mary Clingman.

The vibe won't pick up until next week. On Thanksgiving Day, operators will field some 10,000 calls. [...]

Speaking of the holiday, Jones and her colleagues will have their headsets on starting at 6 a.m. Thanksgiving Day. That's part of the job, too -- working while most others relax. But Jones, who plans to celebrate on the weekend when her son is in town, says giving up her holiday has its payoff.

"You always feel so good on that day because people are always so gratified for the help," she said.

The Butterball Turkey Talk-Line, (800) BUTTERBALL, is open daily through Dec. 25.

A Liquid Thanksgiving: Turkey in the Straw (Reuters, 11/09/04)

After the startling success of its turkey and gravy-flavored soda during last year's U.S. holiday season, a Seattle soda company will be serving up green beans and casserole, mashed potatoes, fruitcake and cranberry flavors.

"Last year, the response to our Turkey and Gravy Soda was overwhelming, but we really didn't have side dishes to go with it," Peter van Stolk, chief executive of specialty soda maker Jones Soda Co., said on Monday.

The tan-colored turkey and gravy-flavored soda sold out last year in three hours after it was offered on the Web and later fetched prices over $100 on eBay Inc.

(originally posted: November 09, 2004)

November 22, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:59 PM


How To Be Big John: Five challenges for front-runner McCain. (John Dickerson, Nov. 21, 2006, Slate)

That these are his biggest challenges suggests the degree to which he's home free.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:58 PM


Divided Venezuelans United on Costly Policy of Cheap Gas (Juan Forero, 11/23/06, Washington Post)

In this famously polarized country, where President Hugo Chávez's government and a strident opposition never have anything good to say about each other, there is agreement about at least one thing: gas. The country's policy is unalterable, a hip-hip-hurrah for cheap fuel that is seconded by truckers, industrialists and suburban soccer moms in their SUVs.

"As an oil country, the state has the responsibility to guarantee energy and preserve the price of gasoline as it is," said Gabriela Ramírez, a pro-Chávez lawmaker in the National Assembly. "You raise the price one bolivar and you affect the economy because the price of bus tickets goes up, everything becomes more expensive."

Everyone in Venezuela also remembers what happened when prices were dramatically increased in 1989 -- an uprising that left hundreds dead. As the government and its foes prepare for the Dec. 3 presidential election, which most opinion polls show Chávez will win handily, the themes of the day range from Venezuela's expensive aid programs overseas to skyrocketing crime to the government's popular social programs. No one -- no one -- is talking about cheap gasoline.

"Of course, cheap gas is good," said Jesús Espinoza, a truck driver, perplexed that anyone could consider low gasoline prices debilitating. "In a country with so much petroleum riches, you cannot have expensive gasoline. It would be a contradiction."

One downside to the cheap gas, though, is that it eats up about $1 billion in subsidies and another $5 billion that Venezuela fails to earn by not selling the oil on the world market, where a barrel reached a high of $78 this year. It generates the horrendous traffic jams that mark this city, where 2 million cars snake along at an average speed of 9 mph. It also has made the sale of contraband gasoline to neighboring Colombia a major criminal enterprise.

The policy, critics say, is a vicious circle that feeds on itself as Venezuelans seeking investments, ever mindful that filling up a tank costs less than a ham sandwich, buy cars at a record clip.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:51 PM


Olmert: Israel safer post-Saddam (Etgar Lefkovits, THE JERUSALEM POST)

"Iraq without Saddam Hussein is so much better for the security and safety of the State of Israel," Olmert said in an address to the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, which is holding its biennial national convention in Jerusalem.

"Thank God for the courage, determination and leadership manifested by President George W. Bush in facing this challenge," Olmert said.

The premier's comments about the three-and-a-half-year-old American-led war were some of the most direct remarks made by an Israeli leader regarding the regional ramifications of that war from Israel's point of view, and come amid a groundswell of opposition in America to the US presence in Iraq.

Olmert heaped praise on Bush for his global war on terror, calling the US president "the great friend of the State of Israel who resides in the White House" even as the premier acknowledged that some of his domestic policies were controversial in America.

Olmert said he found "understanding and commitment" in his meeting with Bush at the White House earlier this month regarding Iran's nuclear program, which, the premier said, was the principal danger facing the State of Israel.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:16 PM


Repeat Abortions in the US on the Rise; Now Half of All Abortions (Steven Ertelt, November 22, 2006,

Repeat abortions used to account for about 40 percent of all abortions in the United States, but a new study from the Alan Guttmacher Institute shows that figure is on the rise. Now, about half of every abortion done annually is an abortion done on a woman who has had at least one previous abortion.

Abortion is just birth control for the irresponsible.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:49 PM


Global methane rise slowing down (BBC, 11/22/06)

The rise in concentrations of the greenhouse gas methane in the atmosphere has slowed down considerably in recent years, research suggests.

Scientists say levels have been stable for about seven years following a steep rise during the last century. [...]

The study also found that major forest fires, such as occurred in Indonesia in 1997 and 1998, produce significant quantities of methane.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:42 PM


Asia’s Agenda: This Time, Terrorism Takes a Back Seat to Trade Issues (DAVID E. SANGER, 11/22/06, NY Times)

“The Asians got tired of all this homework, and began to organize their own summit, one that excluded the United States, to return to the trade issues they view as so central,” said Michael Green, who left the administration late last year after running the Asia side of the National Security Council. “I think some in the administration realized we were sounding a little shrill on terrorism — because there has been a lot of quiet cooperation in Asia — and it was time to get the president back to the trade agenda.”

So instead of pressing the hunt for Al Qaeda affiliates in Indonesia and terror groups like Abu Sayyaf in the Philippines, this time Mr. Bush talked about the distant goal of creating a free trade area in the Pacific.

The talk was motivated partly by a desire to avoid American exclusion: Mr. Bush’s proposal for a sprawling free-trade area would compete with calls in Asia for a regional one that would exclude non-Asian countries. But it was less of an initiative than a long-range vision, like President Clinton’s call for a “free trade area of the Americas” in the early 1990s.

“It’s a recognition that in Asia, economics is where the game is — with China, and of course with India and others — and in that arena, the president has been in deep kimchi,” said James Lilley, who served as American ambassador to China and South Korea, and is close to Mr. Bush’s father.

Freer trade will do more to defeat terrorism than hunting down a few more AQ remnants.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:37 PM


Firemen Turn on Police in Paris Demo: Firemen and police usually stand united as fellow civil servants. Not in Paris, where a stand-off between thousands of fire fighters and their police counterparts resulted in injury, property damage and chaos in the French capital. (SPIEGEL ONLINE - November 22, 2006)

A demonstration of firefighters in Paris turned violent on Tuesday. And vulgar. Police say fifteen officers were wounded and two are in serious condition after protesters hurled flares, street signs and other heavy objects at them. A police vehicle, another car and several trash cans were also set ablaze. Thirty-five firemen have been taken into custody.

The crowning act of dissent, however, came when a handful of firemen clamored up a building on the Place de la Bastille, dropped trow and mooned the authorities down below.

According to official estimates, roughly 6,000 professional fire fighters took to the streets as part of a protest to demand better wages, a premium for dangerous missions and a "decent pension" at age 55.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:39 PM


Oil supplies swell, pump relief not seen (Steve Hargreaves, November 22 2006,

Supplies of crude oil continue to swell in the United States, but don't expect that to translate into lower gas prices any time soon, one expert says.
Alternative energy going more mainstream

In its weekly inventory report, the Energy Information Administration said crude stocks ballooned by 5.1 million barrels last week. Analysts were looking for a gain of 600,000 barrels, according to Reuters.

EIA said gasoline supplies rose by 1.4 million barrels. Analysts were looking for a drop of 900,000 barrels.

Distillates, used to make heating oil and diesel fuel, fell by 1.2 million barrels, in line with estimates.

"The last time there was this much crude was in 1999, when oil prices were $16 a barrel," said Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst with Oil Price Information Service, a publisher of industry reports.

The swelling stock pushed down the price of oil.

Once Big Oil soaks the holiday drive....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:07 AM


Interventionism's Realistic Future (Robert D. Kaplan, November 22, 2006, Washington Post)

Hard-core foreign policy realists (the kind who say this country should rarely intervene again, anywhere) are hoping that in the wake of our comeuppance in Iraq things will be going their way. That is to say, U.S. foreign policy will be defined by an obdurate caution, coupled with a ruthless, almost mathematical application of balance-of-power principles. You'd think -- to hear some of them talk -- that we're about to emulate China, which seeks only energy sources and advantageous trade agreements and cares nothing at all for the moral improvement of regimes in such places as Zimbabwe, Burma and Uzbekistan.

This is nonsense. Our foreign policy is about to experience an adjustment, not a flip-flop. Neither political party will support anything else if it really wants to elect a president in 2008. Just look at the dismay in this country over our failure to intervene in Darfur, even given the burden we already carry in Iraq. To be sure, the recent evidence that our democratic system cannot be violently exported will temper our Wilsonian principles, but it will not bury them. Pure realism -- without a hint of optimism or idealism -- would immobilize our mass immigrant democracy, which has always seen itself as an agent of change.

Until every nation realizes the ideals of our Declaration, we'll remain what we've always been, the greatest source of destabilization in the world. Indeed, we'll intervene in at least two countries over the next two years and even Democrats -- the Realist party -- will approve the missions.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:55 AM


On Iraq: Listen carefully to General Abizaid (Walid Phares, 11/20/06, World Defense Review)

General Abizaid was asked by a panel of well informed Senators last week, how to "measure" the need to send in additional U.S. forces or to begin withdrawal from Iraq.

In short military sentences, the CENTCOM boss told them it will all depend on the ability of U.S. forces to train, support and direct Iraqi units in their confrontation with the terrorists. The Senators didn't seem the get Abizaid's very accurate point. Both Republican and Democrat legislators wanted a quantitative answer:

"How many additional troops do you need so that we can pull out lots of troops after," they repetitively asked with hints at past and future electoral promises to end the conflict.

Sticking with his analysis, Abizaid (who speaks the language of the region and has studied its ideologies) said the question is not to bring in more troops to Iraq, but to have Iraqi forces begin to win their war. This was the first key in the whole hearing. The man was trying to tell the Senators that more important than bringing in additional 20,000 Marines and soldiers, was to train an additional 50,000 Iraqi troops.

Indeed, the ultimate objective in this war (at least the counter-terrorist part of it) is to help the Iraqis help themselves. Surely with half a million boots on the ground you can saturate the whole country, but from what? There is no standing army the U.S. is fighting against.

The fight is against a factory that is producing Jihadists, both external and internal. The answer is to build the counter-factory: i.e. an Iraqi military and intelligence force. And to do so, you have to allow it to fight the battle, with all the sacrifices and setbacks that come with it. U.S. forces cannot keep fighting instead of the Iraqis, and win the war for them.

Aware of this reality, General Abizaid (along with his colleagues) was trying to explain to Congress that – in the historical context of it – the war against terrorism in Iraq is one of the centers of the global conflict. Even the seasoned U.S. diplomat David Satterfield, who was also testifying on behalf of the State Department, asserted the inescapable reality: it is about the Iraqis' political will. And in addition to the General and the diplomat, may I stress as an academic, that the matter at the end is psychological.

If Iraqi citizens "see" their army engaging the terrorists and winning, the tide will turn. It is not about how many new troops or about the statistics of death. It is between al Jazeera convincing Iraqis that the U.S. is defeated and that former Secretary of State Jim Baker (co-chair of the Iraq Study Group) is supposedly negotiating the terms of the surrender, and between al Hurra TV showing Iraqi commanders fraternizing with Shia and Sunni villagers after encounters with terrorists and sectarian militias. It boils down to this: who would the Iraqis send their sons to fight with: The Jihadists of all types or the multiethnic Army?

Without this understanding of the conflict, advocated by Abizaid, decision-makers are left with mostly political calculations: how to cut deals, how to get out, how not to suffer more losses, and how to be reelected or super-elected in 2008. General Abizaid instead recommended moves that make sense only if we can see the bigger picture:

Insert U.S. forces within Iraqi units: Reduce the presence of American (and Coalition) military in the "Jihadi zones" and instead deploy more Iraqi-American solidified forces. Call on U.S. units to strategically support Iraqis when the Jihadists are rebuilding other "Fallujahs." Let the sons and daughters of Iraq take the fight to the terrorists, should they be Salafists or Khumeinists. This is their time to face off with their enemy (who happens to be our enemy). Let them engage and test their will and the will of the people they are protecting and liberating. Let al Jazeera and al Hurra (their media and ours) and the Iraqiya TV (Iraqi national TV) show the panache or the setback of their own forces. It is fine if we don't take all the credit for all the battles. It is fine if the Iraqi military takes the front row for the good and the bad. Let their generals, commanders, soldiers be in the media and lash out against the Jihadists. And at the core of each unit, let's place the best of our U.S. support. The bottom line, Iraqis needs victories in Arabic language (and also in Kurdish, Assyrian and Turkic). Audiences in Baghdad need to hear Iraqi commentators evaluating the conflict, not talking heads from New York to Los Angeles. This is not our exclusive war in Mesopotamia; this is also Iraq's war against terror and fascism, whether our intellectual elites like it or not.

U.S. and Coalition forces should redeploy inside Iraq not away from it at this point in time. The actual need for ground, sea, and air forces should be designed by those who are waging the war in the realm of reality; not by those who are managing domestic politics at home. For lovers of debates, televised war-rooms and partisan labyrinths we suggest another arena of talents: engage the Iraqi people, politicians, youth, women, and mobilize them. Visit Iraq and meet with them or invite them to your cities, towns and campuses back at home. Be a part of the international mobilization, not the global demobilization. Strategically, large chunks of the expeditionary force should be deploying on or about the Iraqi-Iranian and Iraqi-Syrian borders. Use the weight of American might to deter the two regimes who are at real war with Iraq's emerging democracy. Don't let the agents of Damascus and Tehran killing the guys and gals in convoys and patrols inside urban areas. Fulfill the strategy of liberation with smarter moves instead of self-collapsing.

A uniquely sensible analysis that the neocons would do well to study.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:33 AM


Mutter, Taking Mozart Seriously (Tim Page, November 22, 2006, Washington Post)

The violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter has thrown herself into the music of Mozart this season, recording all of the concertos, most of the sonatas and a number of the larger chamber works. She has also been taking Mozart on tour, with her longtime musical partner (and pianist of the National Symphony Orchestra) Lambert Orkis. On Monday, under the auspices of the Washington Performing Arts Society, the two came to the Kennedy Center Concert Hall for a program of duets. [...]

It was an ambitious program: five substantial works from Mozart's maturity, ranging from the haunting Sonata in E Minor, K. 304 (the only one of the composer's more than 35 compositions in this genre written in a minor key, yet still splashed with melancholy sunshine) through the exuberant Sonata in E-flat, K. 481, with its almost Bachian contrapuntal play. (For the record, the other pieces were the Sonata in F, K. 376, the Sonata in G, K. 379, and the Sonata in B-flat, K. 454.)

Mutter's great mentor was Herbert von Karajan, and she has many qualities in common with the late Austrian conductor. There are some who find both musicians cold technicians -- uninterestingly perfect and perfectly uninteresting -- and both have been accused of playing down emotional intensity for tonal beauty.

Unfair charges in both cases, or so it seems to me. Still, tonal beauty there certainly was, and in abundance.

Mozart wasn't Romantic.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:29 AM


The A380 superjumbo: The white elephant: The latest Airbus, hailed as a model of European co-operation, is running two years' late. So will this project ever truly fly? (Michael Harrison, 22 November 2006, Independent)

The problem has already blown a superjumbo-sized hole in the profits of the parent company. But further delays could threaten Airbus's very existence, and along with it, tens of thousands of jobs and the many billions of pounds sunk into this grand projet by the taxpayers of Britain, France, Germany and Spain. The plane was supposed to cost $10bn (£5.3bn) to develop - a lot for one aircraft, but a small price to pay, so Airbus and its sponsoring governments thought, for the chance to end Boeing's monopoly of the jumbo market once and for all. At the last count the development costs of the A380 had risen to $14bn.

But the financial pain does not end there. In October, the company which ultimately controls Airbus, EADS, came out with some figures even more stunning than the vital statistics of an A380. EADS admitted that the delays on the aircraft would cost it an additional $6bn in lost profits, meaning that the A380 would not begin to pay its way until some time into the next decade.

Airbus's latest 20-year forecast for the world jet market, to be published this morning, will put demand for the A380 at about 1,500 aircraft - almost four times the number that Boeing thinks will be sold.

But that continues to look like anoptimistic assumption, for everything appears to be conspiring against the A380, not least the value of the dollar, the currency in which all commercial aircraft are sold. When Airbus launched the programme six years ago, it needed to sell 300 aircraft to cover its costs. Because of the way the dollar has weakened, Airbus now needs to sell 420 planes. The order book stands at 149.

The American mail company FedEx has become the first launch customer to cancel its order for 10 freighter versions of the aircraft, and at least one passenger airline has indicated it could follow suit. If the cancellations turn from a trickle to a flood, then the consequences would be catastrophic.

The collapse of the A380 would be disastrous enough in itself. But the added problem for Airbus is that it needs the revenues the superjumbo is expected to generate in order to fund its next aircraft.

The funniest thing about the plane is that only those who consider themselves knowledgeable about aviation ever thought it wouldn't be a disaster. As always, expertise blinds.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:23 AM


Pelosi turns on one-time ally in Democrats' 'catfight in Congress' (Rupert Cornwell, 22 November 2006, Independent)

[A] new showdown is approaching in what Washington insiders have called "the catfight": her efforts to deny Jane Harman, her one-time friend turned rival, the chairmanship of the House Intelligence Committee. [...]

The two differ in style; Ms Pelosi is outgoing and wheeler-dealing. Ms Harman is cerebral, and sometimes abrasive. The Los Angeles Times, moreover, suggested yesterday that the former had been piqued when - even after Ms Pelosi had been elected Democratic leader in the House in 2002 - Ms Harman still received more media exposure, by dint of her position on the Intelligence Committee as Iraq dominated the headlines. [...]

[M]s Pelosi's inept handling of the election for majority leader, the No. 2 post in the House hierarchy, has weakened her position. [...]

Unfortunately, and just like Mr Murtha, Mr Alcee [Hastings] has a less than spotless ethics record. A former judge, he was impeached by Congress for conspiring to take bribes and removed from the federal bench in 1989. His elevation to one of the most sensitive jobs on Capitol Hill would risk making a mockery of the incoming Speaker's vow to run the "most honest, most ethical" Congress in history.

On the other hand, he is an African-American, and to bypass him in favour of a third candidate would upset the powerful black caucus of Congressional Democrats. In the end, Ms Pelosi is likely to play by the rules she knows. "If people are ripping your face off," she said of pre-election Republican attacks on her, "you have to rip their face off".

There's only one fair way to settle this--in a big tub of Jell-o....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:20 AM


Eastern Europeans take jobs Britons don't want (Nigel Morris, 22 November 2006, Independent)

The number of immigrants from the EU's new member states registering to work in this country has reached half a million for the first time since the EU expanded in May 2004.

By far the biggest group are Poles, who make up 307,660 of the new arrivals, followed by 54,640 Lithuanians and 50,230 Slovakians.

Office and business jobs were the most popular, with east Europeans filling 169,130 such posts, and just over 100,000 are working in restaurants, bars and catering. Agricultural work - the vast majority in seasonal employment - and factory jobs also had high numbers registering. But a detailed breakdown by the Home Office of the figures demonstrates the extraordinary variety of jobs filled by the newcomers, many of whom stay for a year or two before returning home.

They include 2,450 bus drivers, 2,020 bakers, 1,495 gardeners, 920 child-minders, 370 road sweepers, 355 civil engineers, 305 accountants, 165 hospital consultants, 140 software analysts and 120 fishermen. There were even 50 musicians, 40 opticians, 15 circus performers, 10 authors, 10 physiologists and five ship's captains.

More than four-fifths of the newcomers were aged between 18 and 34 and nearly 60 per cent were male.

Contrary to expectations, only a minority are heading for London and the South- east. With 73,035 workers, eastern England is the favourite destination, reflecting its large amount of agricultural land and heavy concentration of food processing factories.

But they are moving to every part of the UK in the search for the work, including 37,570 in Scotland, 12,670 in Wales and 18,530 in Northern Ireland.

Liam Byrne, the Immigration minister, said the new workers were "benefiting the UK, by filling skills and labour gaps that cannot be met from the UK-born population".

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:59 AM


U.S. legislator warns of Bush plot to merge Canada, the U.S. and Mexico (Beth Gorham, November 21, 2006, The Canadian Press)

A U.S. legislator who backs tough anti-immigrant measures and more security at the Canada-U.S. border is warning Americans that President George W. Bush is plotting to integrate the continent.

And he says Prime Minister Stephen Harper “buys into it.”

Colorado Republican Tom Tancredo, revered by some U.S. conservatives for his efforts to staunch the flow of illegal immigrants from Mexico, said this week that Bush is a dangerous internationalist.

“He is going to do what he can to create a place where the idea of America is just that, it’s an idea. It’s not an actual place defined by borders. I mean this is where the guy is really going,” he told WorldNetDaily, a controversial conservative website.

Manifest Destiny doesn't respect artificial borders.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:53 AM


Civil war in Lebanon (Robert Fisk, 22 November 2006, Independent)

When Hizbollah captured two Israeli soldiers and killed three on 12 July, Israel bombed Lebanon for 34 days, slaughtered more than a thousand civilians and caused billions of dollars of damage. It blamed Siniora's government and Mr Bolton and his fellow American diplomats did nothing to help the hapless prime minister. President George Bush wanted Israel to destroy Hizbollah - which they totally failed to do - as a warning to his latest Middle East target, which just happens to be Hizbollah's principal supporter, Iran. So much for Lebanese democracy. Even Mr Blair, so anxious about Lebanon yesterday, saw no reason for an immediate ceasefire.

In the aftermath of the war and the failure of all Israel's war aims, Sayed Nasrallah began to boast that he had won a "divine victory" and that Siniora's government had failed. Hizbollah, of course, is also Syria's friend and no one was surprised that the anti-Syrian government came under the lash of the Shia prelate whose giant billboard posters across Lebanon suggest he is suffering the cult of personality.

Twelve days ago, all six Shia ministers left the cabinet, leaving the largest religious sect in Lebanon unrepresented in government.

Religious sect? It leaves the majority unrepresented, rather than just underepresented.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:34 AM


Republicans Clinch House Races in Ohio, New Mexico (Associated Press, November 22, 2006)

More than a week after Rep. Heather A. Wilson (R-N.M.) claimed a razor-thin election victory, her Democratic challenger conceded yesterday, saying that a recount would cost too much and that there was no guarantee it would reverse the result.

In Ohio's 2nd District, Rep. Jean Schmidt (R) also clinched reelection yesterday when additional ballot counts gave her an insurmountable edge of about 3,200 votes over Democratic challenger Victoria Wulsin. [...]

A handful of other House races remain contested:

· In North Carolina, a recount is underway in the 8th District. Rep. Robin Hayes (R) led Democrat Larry Kissell by 339 votes after the results were certified Friday night. Kissell then asked for the recount.

· In Ohio's 15th District, Rep. Deborah Pryce, a member of the House Republican leadership, led Democrat Mary Jo Kilroy by 3,717 votes yesterday amid a count of provisional ballots.

· In Florida, state officials certified Republican Vern Buchanan the winner over Democrat Christine Jennings by 369 votes, or by less than 0.02 percent of the total. Jennings challenged the result Monday, asserting that touch-screen voting machines had malfunctioned. She asked a judge to order a new election.

If Democrats couldn't take these seats this November, they've got no shot with McCain at the top of the ticket in '08.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:31 AM


Reno Joins Criticism of Anti-Terror Strategy (Dan Eggen, November 22, 2006, Washington Post)

Former attorney general Janet Reno has taken the unusual step of openly criticizing the Bush administration's anti-terrorism strategy -- joining seven other former Justice Department officials in warning that the indefinite detention of U.S. terrorism suspects could become commonplace unless the courts intervene.

Ms Reno had sense enough to kill the terrorists she went after so folks like her couldn't advocate for them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:16 AM


Elder Bush takes on Arab critics of son (Jim Krane, 11/23/06, The Associated Press)

"We do not respect your son. We do not respect what he's doing all over the world," a woman in the audience told Bush after his speech.

Bush, 82, appeared stunned as others in the audience whooped and whistled in approval.

A college student told Bush his belief that U.S. wars were aimed at opening markets for U.S. companies and said globalization was contrived for the benefit of the United States at the expense of the rest of the world.

Bush would have none of it.

"I think that's weird and it's nuts," Bush said. "To suggest that everything we do is because we're hungry for money, I think that's crazy. I think you need to go back to school."

The comments came during a question-and-answer session after Bush finished a folksy address on leadership by telling the audience how deeply hurt he feels when his presidential son is criticized.

"This son is not going to back away," Bush said, his voice quivering. "He's not going to change his view because some poll says this or some poll says that, or some heartfelt comments from the lady who feels deeply in her heart about something. You can't be president of the United States and conduct yourself if you're going to cut and run. This is going to work out in Iraq."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:13 AM


The new black power in Congress (Lynne Varner, 11/22/06, Seattle Times)

As part of the power sweep in Congress, Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., ascends to majority whip, only the second black ever to hold that post, and Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., becomes chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, the panel responsible for tax and health-care policy. Then there's Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., who will sit at the helm of the Judiciary Committee, and U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., presiding over the House Committee on Homeland Security.

You could hardly ask for a better theme with which to lure Latino voters to the GOP--and Indians, Out of India, En Masse and on the Way Up: Population Influx Vastly Outpaces Other Groups (Cecilia Kang, November 22, 2006, Washington Post)
Poonam Kapani Khosla steered her clients into the $1.3 million Chantilly model home, skipping trophy features like the Sub-Zero refrigerator. All talk was about having enough space to accommodate dozens of family members for dinners and extra bedrooms for the stream of relatives arriving from India to settle in the United States.

The real estate agent grasped the transformation occurring in the Washington region. The once-small Indian immigrant population, which for decades expanded at a slow but steady rate, has ballooned over the past decade. Immigrants from India are settling here faster than any group except Salvadorans. [...]

Backed by these growing numbers, Indians have been seeking a bigger voice in politics and business, through groups like the Indian American Leadership Initiative, which aims to put more Indian Americans into elective office, and TiE-DC, a networking club that helps connect Indian executives in the region with new businesses, funding and deals.

Hidden behind the $87,369 median income for Washington area Indian households -- higher than the median income for whites, other Asians, blacks and Hispanics, according to new Census Bureau figures -- there are some problems. Hundreds of thousands of South Asians are in this country illegally, largely by overstaying tourist or student visas, said Deepa Iyer, executive director of South Asian American Leaders of Tomorrow, a District-based advocacy group.

...maybe even Jews, Blackballed: The Congressional Black Caucus' petty politics (Conor Clarke, 11/22/06, TNR Online)
Mel Watt is, and should be, a fairly happy man. On November 7, the North Carolina representative and chair of the all-Democratic Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) witnessed election returns that will, come January, make the 43-member caucus more powerful than it has been at any point in its 37-year existence. On November 8, Watt fired off a press release that made zero effort to contain the glee. "A Brand New Day for the American People," it declared, before going on to detail the various leadership and committee spoils his caucus would reap. It was, newspapers soon agreed, a pretty impressive treasure heap: five major committee chairs, 17 subcommittee chairs, and a whip spot to boot. But it's more than just big numbers. "It's historic," says CBC spokeswoman Myra Dandridge.

Well, so was the Rubik's Cube. But historic is not the same as desirable, and the question to be asked of the CBC's rise isn't whether it's unprecedented; it's whether it will actually lead to positive change. That's a harder one to answer: On one hand, it's true that the CBC's agenda--headlined by a bread-and-butter push to close disparities in health care, education, and employment--will be good for black Americans (and, as I wrote two weeks ago, good for keeping them in the Democratic Party). Then again, except for an interest in something called "equity in foreign policy," the agenda isn't so different from the party's boilerplate populist line: Good luck finding a Pelosi Democrat who supports healthcare inequality. But more worrying is that, over the last few years, the CBC has seemed less concerned with pursuing the interests of black Americans than with protecting the interests of black congressmen.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:06 AM


Manny dangles as Sox woo Matsuzaka (SEAN McADAM, 11/22/06, Providence Journal)

[B]y paying such a huge figure up front, the Red Sox have an unlikely ally in their negotiations: the Seibu Lions, Matsuzaka's Japanese team.

If Matsuzaka doesn't agree to a contract with the Sox, the Lions must return the posting bid to the Red Sox. For a team that had hoped to realize a bid of $25-$30 million from auctioning off Matsuzaka, the Red Sox' post was beyond their wildest dreams. How interested will they be in forfeiting that?

Undoubtedly, Matsuzaka will feel pressure at home to accept the Sox' offer, especially after badgering the Lions to post him for the last two seasons. Within Japanese culture, to reject the Sox' offer and return to Seibu would be viewed as greedy and dishonorable, something Matsuzaka doesn't want to risk.

There's additional pressure on Boras, too. If he can't get a deal done for the highest profile Japanese player ever, what chance will he have of representing another in the future?

Let's assume that the Sox had budgeted a total of $80 million to secure Matsuzaka. It was wise for them to earmark the lion's share of that in the posting bid, because while the pitcher doesn't see any of that money, it accomplished three goals.

First, it guaranteed the Sox would win the bidding and gain exclusivity. Second, the majority of the outlay won't count toward the Competitive Balance Tax (luxury tax) since the post is exempt from such accounting. Finally, the Sox have created an environment where Matsuzaka will feel pressured to sign -- by everyone except Boras, that is.

Matsuzaka Madness (Christina Kahrl, 11/10/06, Baseball Prospectus)

As with any import, you might wonder whether a guy's worth it, as we've had some pretty high-profile success stories (Ichiro Suzuki, Hideki Matsui and Tadahito Iguchi, for example), and some not-so-successful cross-Pacific leaps (Tsuyoshi Shinjo, Kaz Matsui and Keiichi Yabu, among others). So, to start off with, thanks to the powers of Clay Davenport's translations, let's take a look at Matsuzaka's performance for the last four years, as well as the closest line to it in baseball (again using just the last four years):

IP NRA H/9 HR/9 BB/9 SO/9 PERA dH dR
736.1 3.37 7.5 0.6 2.5 7.4 3.41 -28 +2
765.0 3.11 7.1 0.6 2.5 7.6 3.30 -47 0

Some terminology to get out of the way: NRA is Normalized Runs Allowed, where the scale to compare a guy against is a world where an average pitcher allows 4.5 runs per nine innings. PERA is a pitcher's ERA based on his peripheral statistics-his hits, homers, walks allowed, that sort of thing, also set to where 4.50 is the baseline. The two at the end might be particularly foreign to you, but "dH" describes how many (in this case) fewer hits a pitcher allowed than you might expect, and "dR" is how many fewer runs. Although BABIP rates fluctuate for most pitchers, there's a level of quality at which it stops looking random and starts speaking to simple dominance, and this comparison indicates that Matsuzaka is one of those guys. The runs element is the sort of thing where a pitcher who induces a lot of double plays would wind up trending more negative (say, Greg Maddux), and somebody like Nolan Ryan--poor fielder, poor at holding runners, and all-time wild-pitch record-holder--does worse than your average hurler. In this instance, it says that there are no such surprises, for or against.

The first line's obviously pretty good, so it's fair to say there's data to support the suggestion that Matsuzaka can pitch in the major leagues. The question is, how well? Considering that the second line belongs to Roger Clemens 2003-2006, really well. That's why teams are bidding so much for the right to negotiate with Matsuzaka. He's not simply a really good pitcher, he's arguably the best starting pitcher on the market this winter, eclipsing Jason Schmidt and Barry Zito.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:58 AM


Bigger TV Screens, Lower Prices: Consumer-electronics manufacturers are gearing up for the holidays by cutting prices on high-def TVs. Here's a handy buyers' guide (Catherine Holahan, 11/22/06, Business Week)

'Tis the season to go high-definition, if prices for big-screen TVs are any guide. As the weather gets colder and the holidays grow near, competition among television manufacturers is heating up. A price war between makers of plasma and liquid-crystal display (LCD) TVs has pushed prices to their lowest point in years.

Yet BushRove ran on Iraq.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Wii Is the Champion: Nintendo's new console bests the PS3 and the Xbox 360. (Chris Suellentrop, Nov. 20, 2006, Slate)

In a great video game, the narrative is secondary to the game's central appeal: satisfying my desire to be an NFL quarterback, a Jedi Knight, and a martial-arts wizard (though not—yet—all at once). A good book or movie provides a vicarious experience. A good game comes much closer to being experiential—to actually approximating the real thing. The Wii, Nintendo's new console, takes gaming a giant leap forward in this journey. Like nothing else I've ever played, the Wii comes closest to achieving the grail of gaming: a home virtual-reality machine.

November 21, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:29 PM


Probabilistic Model of Range, First Basemen, 2006 (Baseball Musings, 11/20/06)

...and why your grandkids will be impressed that you saw Albert Pujols play.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:25 PM


Madame la Presidente won't make the slightest difference (Simon Heffer, 22/11/2006, Daily Telegraph)

[I]t is clear that should the people of France elect next May Ségolène Royal as their president, nothing will change. This, of course, is not the view of Mme Royal or her cohorts. One of them was so confident not just of victory, but of the manner in which it would restore the majesty of France in Europe and the world that he felt able to tell our Paris correspondent of the terms that Mme la Presidente would be dictating once installed in the Elysée Palace. For a start, he observed, Britain would have to choose between Europe and America.

Oh really? And just how, I wonder, would that choice be forced upon us? Will the French navy blockade Dover, Portsmouth and Felixstowe until either we divorce Uncle Sam or agree to complete immersion into the institutions of the Euopean Union – constitution, single currency and all? Quite. Let us dismiss such twerpishness (or, as the French put it, connerie) as merely one functionary's exuberance in the afterglow of triumph, and remind ourselves what the realities of life after a Royal victory would be. The fact is that with France in the mess it is, the last thing she – or any other new president – would have time to worry about would be foreign policy.

[T]here will be no radicalism: and, for the avoidance of doubt, M Hollande said last weekend that Mme Royal would stick to orthodox socialist policies if elected. You know the score: high taxation, vast public sector, dirigisme, total absence of meaningful economic reform, and the concomitants of high unemployment, minimal growth and sporadic social unrest. Plus ça change, plus ce sera la meme chose, as the proverb almost goes.

It's not as if they were going to Anglicize and save themselves after two hundred years.

Posted by Matt Murphy at 6:52 PM


Richards Shouts Racial Slurs at Hecklers (11/20/06, AP)

Michael Richards stunned a comedy club audience, shouting racial epithets at people who heckled him during a stand-up routine.

The 57-year-old actor-comedian, best known for playing Jerry Seinfeld's eccentric neighbor Kramer on the hit TV show "Seinfeld," was performing at the Laugh Factory in West Hollywood Friday night when he went into the verbal rampage.

A video posted on shows that the tirade apparently began after two black audience members started shouting at him that he wasn't funny.

Richards retorted: "Shut up! Fifty years ago we'd have you upside down with a f------ fork up your a--."

He then paced across the stage taunting the men for interrupting his show, peppering his speech with racial slurs and profanities.

"You can talk, you can talk, you're brave now mother------. Throw his a-- out. He's a n-----!" Richards shouts before repeating the racial epithet over and over again.

He has to get with the program and learn to shout offensive epithets that aren't racial.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:23 PM


Morneau upsets field in AL MVP race (Kelly Thesier, 11/21/06,

Despite many people expecting Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter to win the award, Morneau's breakout season earned him the honor bestowed by the Baseball Writers' Association of America.

Morneau received 15 first-place votes, eight second-place votes, three third-place votes and two fourth-place votes for a total of 320 points. Jeter, the runner-up, received 12 first-place votes, 14 second-place votes and one fourth-place vote for 306 points.

Boston's David Ortiz finished third with 193 votes, and Frank Thomas finished fourth with 174.

Joe Mauer and Pudge Rodriguez were literally the most valuable players in the AL this year. Mauer hit better and should have been MVP.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:50 PM


Jihadis and whores (Spengler, 11/20/06, Asia Times)

Wars are won by destroying the enemy's will to fight. A nation is never really beaten until it sells its women.

The French sold their women to the German occupiers in 1940, and the Germans and Japanese sold their women to the Americans after World War II. The women of the former Soviet Union are still selling themselves in huge numbers. Hundreds of thousands of female Ukrainian "tourists" entered Germany after the then-foreign minister Joschka Fischer loosened visa standards in 1999. That helps explain why Ukraine has the world's fastest rate of population decline. On a smaller scale, trafficking in Iranian women explains Iran's predicament.

To understand Iranian politics, cherchez les femmes: the fate of Iranian women sheds light on the eccentricity of President Mahmud Ahmadinejad. [...]

What is it that persuades women to employ their bodies as an instrument of commerce, rather than as a way of achieving motherhood? It is not just poverty, for poor women bear children everywhere. In the case of Iran, deracination and cultural despair impel millions of individual women to eschew motherhood. Prostitution is a form of psychic suicide; writ large, it is a manifestation of the national death-wish, the hideous recognition that the world no longer requires Ukrainians or Moldovans.

Iranians already behave like a defeated people. That is why they are so unstable, and so dangerous.

The existential question is whether we and the Iranian people themselves can get rid of Khomeinism in time or whether they've already passed the tipping point, as secular Europe did last century.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:08 PM


An Iraqi Solution, Vietnam Style (MARK MOYAR, 11/21/06, NY Times)

The United States faced a very similar crisis a half-century ago. In 1955, the pro-American government of Ngo Dinh Diem sought to disband militias that belonged to religious sects, analogous to the Shiite militias in Iraq today. A self-interested faction controlled the South Vietnamese police, much as self-interested Shiites dominate the Iraqi police. In Vietnam as in Iraq, the only strong force not beholden to the sects was the army, and the army’s leadership was not entirely loyal to the national government.

When the South Vietnamese sects defied the authority of the Saigon government in the spring of 1955, the American special ambassador, Gen. J. Lawton Collins, urged Diem to compromise with them. Efforts to suppress the sects by force, Collins warned, would alienate the Vietnamese people, unhinge the army and lead to disastrous civil warfare. This advice was based on the mistaken premise that political solutions suitable in the United States would likewise be suitable in any other country.

Diem rejected Collins’s advice, and with good reason. In South Vietnam, as in other historically authoritarian countries, if the government failed to maintain a monopoly on power, it would lose prestige among its supporters and enemies. Only a strong national government could prevent the sects and other factions from tearing the country apart. While Diem was able to gain the submission of some groups by persuasion, others remained defiant.

In April 1955, fighting broke out between the South Vietnamese National Army and one of the militias. Diem sought to capitalize on the fighting to destroy the militia, which caused Collins to advocate Diem’s removal. Other Americans predicted chaos and wanted to abandon South Vietnam altogether.

President Dwight Eisenhower, however, decided that Diem should be allowed to use the army against the militias. In Eisenhower’s view, a leader who had the smarts and the strength to prevail on his own — even if it meant he discarded American advice — would be a better and more powerful ally than one who survived by doing whatever the United States recommended.

Through political acumen and force of personality, Diem gained the full cooperation of the National Army and used it to subdue the sects. Simultaneously, he seized control of the police by replacing its leaders with nationalists loyal to him. In a culture that respected the strong man for vanquishing his enemies, Diem’s suppression of the militias gained him many new followers.

Diem went on to become a highly effective national war leader. When, in August 1963, he suppressed challenges to his authority from another religious group, he again experienced an upsurge in prestige. Some American officials and journalists, however, denounced him for what they mistakenly saw as counterproductive heavy-handedness, and the officials prodded South Vietnamese generals into overthrowing him.

The South Vietnamese government rapidly deteriorated after the coup, in which Diem was assassinated. [...]

In Iraq as in Vietnam, the leader best able to end the violence will be one who possesses a very keen understanding of the country’s politics and can judge them better than outsiders can. Mr. Maliki has shown that he does not share America’s views on how to deal with the militias and the police. Vietnam tells us that we should welcome his willingness to act on his own initiative, rather than being alarmed by it.

We can only hope that Mr. Moyar's terrific book is on W's reading list. Jim Webb jacket-blurbed it--perhaps he could apply its lessons?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:51 PM


Tom Waits for Every Man (MARK RICHARDSON, November 21, 2006, NY Sun)

With Tom Waits, it begins with the voice. Descriptions of his vocal instrument usually invoke an ear, nose, and throat doctor's nightmare: the sound of a man who has gargled drain cleaner or smoked cigarettes filled with home insulation. Mr. Waits has spent more than two decades borrowing from Louis Armstrong, Howlin' Wolf, and Captain Beefheart in equal measure, but he's put a highly personal stamp on his rough, untutored holler. He owns his sound like no other vocalist, to a degree that has been successfully tested in court (see the lawsuits he's filed against advertisers who have used a sound-alike to sing jingles).

Mr. Waits's voice began softer and comparatively nasal on quieter, jazz-influenced records such as his 1973 debut "Closing Time." It gradually developed the raw expressiveness that by the 80s had become his trademark, complimenting perfectly his ramshackle junkyard orchestra aesthetic and songs of desperate people existing on the margins.

To the fans who have made Mr. Waits an icon of uncompromising avant-rock, the quirks of his singing are like the "L" train rattling outside Elwood Blues's apartment, so omnipresent you don't even notice them. To detractors, his voice is an obstacle that obscures fine songwriting. These folks would rather hear Rod Stewart's cover of "Downtown Train" than the barking original from Mr. Waits's 1985 album "Rain Dogs." Many are in the middle, enjoying Mr. Waits as he slips into his scotchsoaked croon on gentle ballads, reaching for the stop button when he fires up the bullhorn.

For the latter crowd, Mr. Waits makes his 3-CD boxed set, "Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers & Bastards," easy.

The odd thing is that while the Stewart cover is certainly the best recording ever of a Waits' tune--including his own renditions--his own cover of Phantom 309 is his best recording, even though he's a fine songwriter.

Bard of the Boneyard: Seekers of the sublime find the familiar in new Tom Waits multi-disc release (Emily Condon, November 22, 2006, City Pages)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:35 PM


Right Rudy: Giuliani's in a good position this November. (Deroy Murdock, 11/21./06, National Review)

In a nationwide Rasmussen Reports survey of 1,050 Republicans and 203 GOP-leaning independents, 24 percent backed Giuliani while 18 percent chose Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. McCain, at 17 percent, lags behind Rice, a declared non-candidate. [...]

A Clemson University poll of South Carolina Republicans and GOP-leaners revealed Giuliani’s enormous 68 percent net-favorable rating (78 percent favorable minus 10 percent unfavorable). McCain’s equivalent figure was just 42 percent (65 favorable, less 23 percent unfavorable).

These figures don’t surprise Rasmussen.

“Giuliani has the highest net-favorable ratings of any candidate on whom we’ve been polling,” he tells me. “Giuliani’s higher than McCain and higher than Hillary Clinton. He’s even higher than Bill Clinton.”

Some argue that Giuliani’s prominence in this and other polls merely reflects his high name ID. But this notion shatters beside McCain and both Clintons — three household names. [...]

Giuliani’s message was GOP meat and potatoes.

“Republicans are united by our belief in going on offense to win the war on terror,” he wrote in a November 5 Real Clear Politics column. “Republicans stand for lower taxes; Democrats stand for higher taxes — it’s as simple as that,” he added. “The successful appointments of Justices Roberts and Alito are signs of promises kept,” Giuliani observed. “They are principled individuals who can be trusted to defend the original intent of the Constitution rather than trying to legislate their own political beliefs from the bench.” And, as Giuliani concluded, “the issues that unite us as Republicans are the same issues that unite the vast majority of Americans: a commitment to winning the war on terror; a core belief in fiscal conservatism; and a faith in individual freedom. Advancing these principles, while staying on offense, can help keep the GOP a strong majority party.”

Mr. Murdock seems a bit confused--no one's arguing that the Mayor's numbers are a function of name recognition--they're a function of folks only knowing his name and not anything else about him outside 9-11. The McCain campaign will get to fill in the blanks and every one of them is ugly for a candidate in conservative primaries. Note how Mr. Giuliani implicitly suggests he too would name anti-abortion, anti-gay rights judges? He'll have to make that vow explicit just to get his campaign started.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:17 PM


The So-Called War on Terror (New Oxford Notes, November 2006)

The NOR condemns terror, because it is objectively murder. Why can there not be nonviolent resistance? Why is there no Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., or Lech Walesa when we need them? Unfortunately, many groups have resorted to terrorism, even the Zionists when they were trying to establish the state of Israel. And the U.S. resorted to terrorism on a massive scale. The U.S. deliberately and intentionally murdered innocent civilians toward the end of World War II. At a time when Germany and Japan were essentially defeated, the U.S. firebombed Dresden and other German cities, and used nuclear weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. At that time, General Curtis LeMay said, "There are no innocent civilians," and that's what Osama says. America's hands are definitely not clean.

The moral difference isn't the most important one, it is that LeMay's terrorism worked while OBL's failed. Indeed, the failure to allow LeMay to utilize terror on the USSR was one of the great tragedies of the 20th Century, moral and strategic.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:14 PM


Rep. Frank offers business a 'grand bargain': Reduced regulations for more job benefits (Michael Kranish and Ross Kerber, November 19, 2006, Boston Globe)

Representative Barney Frank has proposed in a series of meetings with business groups a "grand bargain" with corporate America: Democrats would agree to reduce regulations and support free-trade deals in exchange for businesses agreeing to greater wage increases and job benefits for workers.

Whoever he is, corporate America should accept this deal post-haste. Who does the Congressman think will enforce it?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:36 AM

IF IT WORKS, CHANGE IT (via Kevin Whited):

Time for a Heavier Footprint: More American troops are needed to break the cycle of violence in Iraq. (Frederick W. Kagan & William Kristol, 11/27/2006, Weekly Standard)

[A]bizaid and Casey are now captive of their successes. They are rightly impressed by these improvements and hope that continuing the policy that brought them will lead to further successes. They see validation for their conviction that victory lies first, last, and always with the Iraqis. They also have an almost theological devotion to the "light footprint" theory that U.S. troop presence and visibility need to be minimized, and to the "dependency" theory that too many U.S. troops provide an excuse for Iraqis not to step up.

Abizaid and Casey haven't rethought these views even as they've been mugged by the reality that lack of security does more damage than a heavy footprint, and that failure is more of a threat to responsible Iraqi behavior than dependency. But, just as important, they underestimate the changes that have occurred in Iraq since the February bombing of the Golden Mosque in Samarra--changes that threaten to unravel the successes achieved so far. In response to the clear fact that sectarian violence is unhinging the effort to turn responsibility for security over to the Iraqis, Abizaid simply demands an acceleration of that transition. This is a recipe for disaster.

Sadly, it is the Neocons who have not rethought the reality that the Sunni refuse to be governed by Shi'ites even if outnumbered 8-2. As is the wont of intellectuals, they want to save a vision that exists in their own heads irrespective of experience on the ground.

Republic of Dreams: When the Americans arrived in Iraq, many hoped that their dreams of freedom would come true. Instead, the country has become a daily nightmare. Three Iraqi writers and translators tell their harrowing stories. (Omar Ghanim Fathi, Der Spiegel)

The U.S. Army, on the other hand, we know for sure is not an abstract entity; it is a bunch of people, every one of them different from the others. They are under very, very intense pressure. People hate them, people are attacking them, and of course this pressure can lead to many mistakes. They destroyed everything and thought they could rebuild from scratch. Maybe this could have worked if people loved Americans or understood what they were doing. But people already hated America.

America should have removed Saddam and appointed a strong government right away. It would have been another dictatorship, but a different kind. It could have imposed martial law, then done the job that the Americans were not able to do, which was to cut power away from the old system by removing those people who might become terrorists in the future.

After four to eight years, we could have had an election, and the new government could have started working on the basis of the new Constitution. Then Iraqi society could have taken baby steps down the long road to democracy and liberty. As it was, the Iraqi people, who had no experience with civilian government or democratic systems, misused these things.

Now Iraq's problems will not be solved without a long and bloody civil war. The fragments that will emerge should practice democracy by choosing their own leaders, away from the influence of the Americans - even if those leaders are terrorists.

Got to drain the pus before you stitch up the wound.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:22 AM


The more, the merrier: Cubs' willingness to shop justifies Soriano deal (Tom Verducci, November 21, 2006, Sports Illustrated)

Argue all you want that the Cubs overpaid for Alfonso Soriano (eight years, $136 million, including a full no-trade clause), but no team has had a better offseason at this early stage of the shopping season. In Soriano, Chicago signed the best available player on the market (Daisuke Matsuzaka excepted). It also signed the best manager available, Lou Piniella, added some needed pop at second base (Chicago second basemen ranked last in the league in 2006 with 57 RBI) by signing Mark DeRosa and in the second spot in the order (Chicago's No. 2 hitters ranked last with a .319 OBP), signed serviceable backup catcher Henry Blanco. The Cubs also brought back third baseman Aramis Ramirez and pitchers Kerry Wood and Wade Miller at what already are looking like bargain deals in this Owners Gone Wild winter.

The problem with Soriano is the contract, not the player. But why should that be a concern if it doesn't preclude the Cubs from other moves? And it won't. GM Jim Hendry isn't done yet. Before the winter is out he likely will have signed a starting pitcher (Gil Meche being the frontrunner for now), added a left-handed bat (Cliff Floyd being the most likely one) and signed ace Carlos Zambrano to a Roy Oswalt-styled extension. Hendry and the Tribune Company, which is exploring the sale of the team, know they won't have to worry about Soriano's value at age 39 (his last year of the contract) if the Cubs aren't any good in the short term. The money will be somebody else's problem.

"Jim's going about it the right way," one agent said. "He's been like, 'No trade? An extra year? Sure. Whatever it takes.' He's closing deals because he knows they need to win now."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:50 AM


Missionary Position: Birth control, responsibility, and the Democrats. (William Saletan, Nov. 17, 2006, Slate)

Democrats hate talking about cultural issues. Not one plank in their "Six for '06" platform addresses these issues, unless you count stem cells, where they're on the liberal side. In their otherwise-brave book, Emanuel and Reed don't bring up cultural issues till the epilogue, and what they trot out are the old Clinton favorites: welfare reform, school uniforms, and protecting kids from smut. But in one paragraph, the authors gingerly touch on an issue that really could wake people up to a new Democratic attitude: abortion.

If ever there were an issue on which Democrats looked amoral, this is it. Abortion as birth control. Culture of life. If it feels good, do it. Republicans use this kind of language to make Democrats unpalatable even to voters who don't think abortion should be outlawed. Polls show that Democrats can win these voters back. And there's no better place to rebrand yourself than on the issue where you originally got branded.

The remedy is simple: Democrats are for reducing abortion without banning it. The most effective way, short of abstinence, is through birth control. Birth control isn't about doing what feels good. It's about taking responsibility.

This is no gimmick. It's a model for a new, more responsible definition of responsibility. Conservatives have often joked, astutely, that for many liberals, social responsibility is a euphemism for personal irresponsibility. But the reverse is also true: For many conservatives, personal responsibility is a euphemism for social irresponsibility. The solution is to require responsibility on all sides. Birth control is a perfect example. Its effectiveness depends on technology, access, and use. Better technology is industry's responsibility. Better access is society's responsibility. Better use is the individual's responsibility. If everybody does his or her job, the abortion rate goes down. Way down.

Democratic politicians worry that if they target the abortion rate, they'll offend pro-choice groups. But pro-choice groups are already heading in this direction. They've always been for birth control, and they're increasingly admitting what everybody knows: The fewer abortions, the better. Last month, Planned Parenthood's new president called for an increase in Medicaid coverage of contraception, pointing out that it "would result in the prevention of nearly 500,000 unintended pregnancies and 200,000 abortions annually." Pick up the latest issue of Conscience, and you'll see the presidents of NARAL Pro-Choice America and Catholics for a Free Choice calling for abortion reduction. "The ability to create and nurture and bring into the world new people should be exercised carefully, consciously, responsibly and with awe," writes CFC's Frances Kissling. Anyone who thinks such talk of right and wrong betrays reproductive freedom is illiterate. Freedom and responsibility go hand in hand. That's how the word planned ended up in Planned Parenthood.

Actually what's Planned is, of course, a eugenic reduction in the number of babies of color, which is why access is the central concern of birth control advocates.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:48 AM


The Story Behind The Iraq Study Group: How Va. Lawmaker Pushed for Panel (Lyndsey Layton. 11/21/06, Washington Post)

"If you ordered an Erector Set and you were trying to build it before Christmas and you got stuck and someone else came along, they might just see immediately what needs to be done," [Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R-Va.) ] said. "Or if you had a health-care problem, you'd want a second opinion. It's all about fresh eyes on a target."

The result is the Iraq Study Group, led by Republican former secretary of state James A. Baker III and Democratic former congressman Lee H. Hamilton (Ind.), who was a vice chairman of the panel that investigated the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. The group has taken on greater relevance after midterm elections marked by widespread voter dissatisfaction with Iraq, and it will play a decisive role in reshaping the U.S. position on Iraq, according to lawmakers and administration officials.

Initially, the White House was cool to the idea, Wolf said. But he was able to win over Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld followed, as did national security adviser Stephen J. Hadley. "Rice's support was key," Wolf said. "But I had to have the support of everybody or there would be no way to do this." [...]

Wolf got Congress to appropriate $1 million for the project. To select the panel's members, he turned to the U.S. Institute for Peace, an independent nonpartisan organization created and funded by Congress. One of its goals is to promote stability after a conflict.

The Realist preference for stability uber alles left the Soviets in control of Eastern Europe, which was an unmitigated disaster for all concerned. The point of war is to inflict instability--trying to reimpose stability before the process has run its course only leads to the next war.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:45 AM


Pessimism Deepens In Postwar Lebanon: Debate Swirls Over Prospect of 'Iraqization' (Anthony Shadid, 11/21/06, Washington Post)

Lebanon has emerged from the 33-day war with Israel only to find itself lately in one of the most pronounced political crises it has experienced in a generation. At first glance, the issues dividing it are somewhat arcane: the legitimacy of an international tribunal to try those suspected of killing former prime minister Rafiq al-Hariri in 2005, and the representation in the cabinet for the opposition, which comprises Hezbollah, another Shiite Muslim faction and a Christian ally. But the stakes are far higher, in effect the future of the country: What groups and their patrons -- the United States, France, Syria or Iran -- will guide Lebanese politics?

There is a cinematic quality to the events, a commotion that resembles a film's opening credits: snippets of hurried conversation, incendiary news broadcasts, glimpses of politically loaded posters draped over streets, and a pessimism, deep and intransigent, that has become a national pastime.

"This is what is so tragic about it," said Fawwaz Traboulsi, a historian and professor at Lebanese American University. "We've been reduced to people who are frightened by the worst and hoping for something that might be less bad."

Let the majority rule.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:41 AM


Salty brines add sweet tenderness to turkeys (Margi Shrum, November 20, 2006, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

We cooks have roasted the turkey, grilled it, deep-fried it.

This year, I thought, let's brine it.

Brining, experts will tell you, makes a moister, more tender turkey because the imbalance between salt in the bird and in the brine pulls salt into the turkey, and the salt denatures, or breaks down, proteins. Turkeys are lean and therefore high in protein.

"The protein is sort of like a coil, and what the salt does is it opens up that coil," said Linda Kragt, technical service manager for Morton Salt. "That's the term you hear, denature. In opening up the coil, it provides more sites [in the lean turkey meat] for the water to bind, so it tends to lock in the moisture." [...]


This comes from Food Network guru Alton Brown via PG architecture critic Patricia Lowry, a foodie if there ever was one. She made her vegetable stock from scratch, which added a day to the process.

But this was so good, she said, she'll make it again. She used a fresh turkey.

* 1 (14- to 16-pound) frozen young turkey

For the brine:

* 1 cup kosher salt

* 1/2 cup light brown sugar

* 1 gallon vegetable stock

* 1 tablespoon black peppercorns

* 1/2 tablespoon allspice berries

* 1/2 tablespoon candied ginger

* 1 gallon ice water

For the aromatics:

* 1 red apple, sliced

* 1/2 onion, sliced

* 1 cinnamon stick

* 1 cup water

* 4 sprigs rosemary

* 6 leaves sage

* Canola oil

Combine all brine ingredients, except ice water, in a stockpot, and bring to a boil. Stir to dissolve solids, then remove from heat, cool to room temperature, and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled.

Early on the day of cooking (or late the night before), combine the brine and ice water in a clean 5-gallon bucket.

Place thawed turkey breast side down in brine, cover, and refrigerate for 6 hours.

Turn turkey over once, halfway through brining.

A few minutes before roasting, heat oven to 500 degrees.

Combine the apple, onion, cinnamon stick, and cup of water in a microwave-safe dish and microwave on high for 5 minutes.

Remove bird from brine and rinse inside and out with cold water. Discard brine.

Place bird on roasting rack inside a wide, low pan and pat dry with paper towels. Add steeped aromatics to cavity along with rosemary and sage.

Tuck back wings and coat whole bird liberally with canola (or other neutral) oil. Roast on lowest level of the oven at 500 degrees for 30 minutes.

Remove from oven and cover breast with double layer of aluminum foil, insert probe thermometer into thickest part of the breast and return to oven, reducing temperature to 350 degrees.

Set thermometer alarm (if available) to 161 degrees. A 14- to 16-pound bird should require a total of 2 to 21/2 hours of roasting.

Let turkey rest, loosely covered for 15 minutes before carving.

-- Food Network

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:38 AM


Democrats Plan Series of Votes on Ethics Reforms (Jonathan Weisman, November 21, 2006, Washington Post)

Despite divisions among Democrats over how far to go in revising ethics rules, House leaders plan a major rollout of an ethics reform bill early next year to demonstrate concern about an issue that helped defeat the Republicans in the midterm elections.

But they will do it with a twist: Instead of forwarding one big bill, Democrats will put together an ethics package on the House floor piece by piece, allowing incoming freshmen to take charge of high-profile issues and lengthening the time spent on the debate. The approach will ensure that each proposal -- including banning gifts, meals and travel from lobbyists as well as imposing new controls on the budget deficit -- is debated on its own and receives its own vote. That should garner far more media attention for the bill's components before a final vote on the entire package.

"This will be the most significant ethics and lobbying reform that Congress has ever voted on," promised Rep. Martin T. Meehan (D-Mass.), one of the point men on the effort.

The more time they waste on inside the Beltway trivia the better.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:34 AM


Morales opts for a pragmatic Bolivia (Financial Times)

[I]n recent months La Paz appears to have been seeking greater independence from Venezuela and this radical Latin American axis.

Mr Morales, flush with energy revenues and a sense of importance from his position in the region, has shown signs of moving closer to more moderate regimes in the region, such as Brazil and Argentina, and of reaching out to long-time foes including Chile and the US.

Nowhere is the shift clearer than in Bolivia’s crucial energy industry. At the beginning of May Mr Morales announced the nationalisation of the gas industry. That was shortly after he had signed a trade pact with Hugo Chávez, Venezuela’s president, and Cuba’s Fidel Castro.

But after months of negotiations, Bolivia opted for a more pragmatic deal with 10 foreign companies, including Petrobras of Brazil, BG of the UK, Total of France and Spain’s Repsol.

Pragmatism is just another term for accepting that the End of History won't be skipping your nation.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:30 AM


Word-a-Day (Wordsmith, 11/21/06)

subjacent (sub-JAY-suhnt) adjective

Lying under or below something.

[From Latin subjacent- (stem of subjacens), present participle of subjacere
(to underlie), from sub- (under) + jacere (to lie). Ultimately from the
Indo-European root ye- (to throw), that is also the source of jettison,
eject, project, reject, object, subject, adjective, joist, and ejaculate.]

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:28 AM


KAL orders 25 Boeing jets (Seattle Times, 11/21/06)

Korean Air Lines (KAL), South Korea's biggest carrier, ordered 15 passenger jets and 10 freighters from Boeing in the airline's largest deal. [...]

Three-quarters of its current 118 planes are Boeing aircraft. The airline last ordered aircraft in April 2005, agreeing to buy 10 Boeing 787 aircraft for delivery from 2009.

The carrier also has agreed to buy five Airbus A380s, which it will begin flying in 2010, two years later than originally planned.

No, it won't.

'Nightmare' expansion of British airports predicted (Barrie Clement, 21 November 2006, Independent)

here would have to be expansion at all major airports to meet demand in 2030 if present trends continue, according to the report from the association's Strategic Aviation Special Interest Group (SASIG). The group, which represents 60 local authorities near airports, argues that one way to meet the rising number of flights would be to resurrect the idea of a major new airport away from centres of population. The only logical site might be the Thames Estuary - an option rejected by the White Paper.

Richard Worrall, chairman of SASIG, said the official document was "in tatters" because demand had "significantly" exceeded predictions. While the Government was about to publish a review of progress measured against the White Paper, it should be "rewritten from scratch".

He added: "It is now time for those politicians who claim to have so-called green credentials to either put up or shut up.

"We accept that the UK economy and its people have much to gain from a successful aviation industry. But there is universal recognition that the aviation industry is one of the fastest growing contributors to global warming."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:19 AM


Shortage of workers imperils Yuma crops: Farmers point to lack of a guest-worker law (Daniel Gonzalez, 11/21/06, The Arizona Republic)

C.R. Waters practically lives in his pickup now that harvest season has begun for the winter vegetable capital of the United States.

As the farm manager for a major vegetable distributor, he makes sure everything from iceberg lettuce to broccoli is ready to pick at precise times throughout the season.

"This one should be ready the first week of January," Waters said one recent morning, stepping out of his pickup into a field of romaine lettuce.

So far, good weather has created ideal growing conditions, but Waters is worried that when the vegetables are ready, there won't be enough laborers to get crops to market.

Waters, president of the Yuma Fresh Vegetable Association, said it will take 30,000 seasonal workers to harvest the sea of winter vegetables grown in Yuma County, where the fruit-and-vegetable crop was valued at $745 million in 2004. The area produces 90 percent of the winter vegetables consumed in the U.S. and Canada, and 98 percent of the iceberg lettuce.

If growers can't find enough workers, some crops may go unpicked. That could hike prices at the supermarket and create substantial financial losses for farmers.

Always amusing to hear folks claim that the natives are just poised to rush in and fill these jobs if only the immigrants weren't taking them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:05 AM


The Mystery of the Disappearing Stocks: A bizarre explanation for the stock market rally. (Daniel Gross, Nov. 20, 2006, Slate)

The continuing stock rally in the face of a slowing economy and a cratering housing sector is something of a mystery, baffling economists and investors alike. But there could be a simple explanation: supply and demand.

Simply put, the supply of U.S. stocks available for individual investors, mutual funds, and index funds. Call it de-equitization. In the last few days, deals have been announced or concluded to take large publicly held companies private. HCA, the giant hospital chain, last Thursday announced the completion of its $21.2 billion leveraged buyout. The same day, Reader's Digest said it would be acquired by private equity firm Ripplewood Holdings for $2.4 billion. This morning, Equity Office Properties, the huge real estate company, struck a deal to be acquired by the Blackstone Group for $19 billion. (Throw in the value of Equity Office's debt, and it may be the biggest LBO ever.) At the same time, publicly held firms are buying back big chunks of their shares. Last Friday, Wendy's said it would spend $800 million buying 19 percent of its outstanding shares.

This year is shaping up to be a record for both leveraged buyouts and stock buybacks. According to Thomson Financial, buyouts worth $334.5 billion have been announced or completed so far this year, up from $115 billion for all of last year. According to Standard & Poor's, members of the S&P 500 Index spent $325.15 billion on their own shares in the first three quarters of 2006 and have spent more than $674 billion since Jan. 1, 2005. Between buybacks and buyouts, that's more than $1.1 trillion of stock taken out of public hands in less than two years.

Chairman Greenspan managed to stall out the US economy before the balanced federal budget and the resulting shortage of US debt became a huge problem at the turn of the century, but as the war winds down we face that danger again and it would be disastrous for the world economy to lose its only safe harbors for money.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:49 AM


Pelosi team tries to steer Democrats to the center: Wary of plans by House liberals (Rick Klein, November 21, 2006, Boston Globe)

Anxious to chart a centrist course with Democrats' new majority in Congress, incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her top deputies are busily working in private and public to rein in the liberal ambitions of some senior party heavyweights --including proposals to reinstate the military draft and end the Pentagon's ban on gays in uniform.

Pelosi has urged House Democrats, including incoming committee chairmen, to use the first weeks of next year's congressional term to focus exclusively on proposals on which the party is unified and legislative goals that are within reach, according to Pelosi allies and aides.

Yesterday, Pelosi and the incoming House majority leader, Representative Steny Hoyer, quashed talk of reinstating the draft one day after Representative Charles Rangel said he will file a bill to make that happen. Rangel, a New York Democrat, is in line to become chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, one of the most powerful posts in Congress. [...]

Pelosi has also tempered hopes of reversing the "don't ask, don't tell" policy on the service of gays and lesbians in the military, after two key Democrats -- Representatives Martin T. Meehan of Lowell and Barney Frank of Newton -- said last week that they want to repeal the policy.

Though Pelosi believes homosexuals should be able to openly serve, she has made clear that she believes Democrats have more urgent national-security priorities -- including changing course in Iraq and investigating war-related contracting.

Since there's more liberal media than conservative, the squealing of their ideologues will be even more cacophonous. Karl Rove should start poking at this and stirring up tension.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:27 AM


I busted Pollard (RON OLIVE, Nov. 20, 2006, THE JERUSALEM POST)

My desire is to have this true story published in Israel to allow readers to separate myth from facts. One such myth is how Pollard saved Israel, by giving it information regarding the threat of the Iraqi nuclear reactor. In fact, the reactor was bombed several years before Pollard spied for Israel.

Then there is the myth that Pollard provided Israel with needed and wanted terrorist information to ensure its survival. The fact is, all of Pollard's handlers told him not to provide Israel with terrorist information. Many of the secrets Pollard stole had nothing to do with the Middle East. After Pollard's arrest and guilty plea, he confessed that before he spied for Israel, he passed without authorization classified national security information to the South African government, his civilian financial advisers and to a visiting member of the Australian Royal Navy. He tried to recruit a college roommate to help him spy for Israel, informing him he could make two to three thousand dollars a month. A strong indication that ideology to support Israel was not his only reason for spying; there also was money to be made in the spy game. He was never charged for any of these crimes.

WHILE SPYING for Israel, Pollard befriended and tried to convince a CBS reporter covering the Afghanistan war against the Soviets into selling the Pakistanis a top secret (TS), sensitive compartmented information (SCI) document Pollard stole. When the reporter refused, Pollard said, "Well, we can sell it to somebody."

Pollard also confessed to passing a TS/SCI document to the Pakistani government in the hopes it would take him on as a spy. The Pakistanis rejected his offer. Pollard then became involved with numerous other foreign governments' representatives in Washington in an attempt to be a middle-man weapons broker, selling for a profit their weapon systems to Afghanistan via South Africa. Pollard admitted he was "addicted to money" stating, "It consumed him."

Pollard was never charged for these crimes.

Sure, we should have hung him, but since we didn't and it will save face for the Israelis when they release Marwan Barghouti, we should trade him.

Analysis: Missed red flags on Israeli spy (SHAUN WATERMAN, 11/13/06, UPI)

Olive's book reveals that administrative convenience and bureaucratic bungling allowed Pollard to be recruited and promoted despite being "a dreamer, a fantasist," who repeatedly exhibited behavior that should have barred him from working for any U.S. government agency.

Among the red flags that investigators missed when Pollard was being considered for a top secret clearance from the Navy was his prior rejection by the CIA, where Pollard had applied for work in 1978.

Pollard told a CIA polygraph examiner that he had used marijuana 600 times and told nine foreign nationals that he was going to work for the agency. "Not surprisingly, he didn't get the job," Olive told UPI.

But when Defense Department investigators asked the CIA if they had any record of Pollard, they were told no.

"If they had told (background investigators) that Pollard wasn't hired because of drug use, he would never have been in the history books," Olive said, adding that "It was CIA policy at the time" not to disclose the results of pre-employment polygraph tests to other U.S. agencies. He said the policy was based on a misunderstanding of federal privacy law.

Following Pollard's guilty plea, Olive says the CIA agreed to change the policy and share that kind of information during background checks.

"The agency should at least get credit for keeping him out," said one retired CIA counter-intelligence veteran.

Spy Jonathan Pollard caught on tape: Surveillance video from 1985 shows American stealing secrets for Israel (Lisa Myers, 10/11/06, NBC)
NBC News has obtained surveillance video, which for the first time, actually shows Pollard pilfering classified documents and stuffing them into a briefcase supplied by Israel.

When a co-worker walks by, Pollard reaches to close his drawer, then resumes what's he's doing.

"That tells us that he knows that he is stealing," says Olive.

Soon, the briefcase is so full Pollard has trouble closing it! But eventually he succeeds and walks out the door with some of America's most sensitive secrets.

Over 18 months, he stole an estimated 1 million documents, including sensitive intelligence about the Soviet Union and the Middle East, potentially compromising sources and methods.

"It devastated the national security of this country," says Olive.

'Pollard gave info to Pakistan, Australia' (Greer Fay Cashman, Matt Zalen, and staff, 11/12/06, THE JERUSALEM POST)
According to new evidence released by the FBI on Monday, Jonathan Pollard not only passed classified information on to Israel, but also to Pakistan and Australia.

In a presentation given by FBI agent Ronald Olive that was broadcast on Channel 10, it was also revealed that Pollard was illegally involved in arms sales to Taiwan, France, Kenya, Afghanistan, and Argentina.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:03 AM


Under Pressure, News Corp. Pulls Simpson Project (BILL CARTER and EDWARD WYATT, 11/21/06, NY Times)

Bowing to intense pressure from both outside and inside the company, the News Corporation yesterday canceled its plans to publish a book and broadcast an interview with O. J. Simpson in which he was to give an account of how he might have murdered his former wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald L. Goldman. [...]

“I and senior management agree with the American public that this was an ill-considered project,” Mr. Murdoch said. “We are sorry for any pain this has caused the families of Ron Goldman and Nicole Brown Simpson.”

November 20, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:55 PM


The Road to Democracy in the Arab World (Uriya Shavit, Autumn 2006, Azure)

There is no truth to the claim that the Arabs have never had any contact with democracy. Just the opposite is the case: Democracy has historic, if not particularly fruitful, roots in Arab societies. In fact, it is this very experience with democracy that makes their approach to it more complex and guarded than that of other cultures.

The Arab acquaintance with democracy began as far back as 1829, when Muhammad Ali, one of the founders of modern Egypt and the governor of the Ottoman district, announced the establishment of a “consultative council” (majlis al-mashwara).3 The council was based on the Islamic principle of Shura, whose standard interpretation requires a ruler to include the community in the decision-making process. Both the council’s structure and its presentation to the public demonstrated the contradictions bound up with the question of democracy in the Middle East in subsequent decades: First, between dependence on a traditional political model on the one hand, and the establishment of outwardly Western political institutions on the other; and second, in creating ostensibly representative institutions while retaining monopolistic sovereignty in the hands of the ruler. Indeed, although the council’s members were appointed and their role purely advisery, Arab intellectuals nonetheless drew a connection between the council, parliamentarianism, and Western democracy. Egypt’s official newspaper regularly compared the council to institutions such as the British parliament and the French National Assembly, and Rifaa Rafe al-Tahtawi, principal of the Egyptian school of languages and head of the government department of translations, used the word Shura to describe institutions like the U.S. Congress.4

Until the end of the eighteenth century, in fact, liberal principles enjoyed a measure of support in Arab societies, often through emphasis on the parallels between Western-style government and Shura. The turning point came after World War I, with the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire and the subsequent establishment of the Arab states. With the West’s victory, democracy ceased to be the preserve of a handful of Western nations. Now, it was a concept with universal pretensions. Middle-class Arab society felt the first stirrings of a national, liberal consciousness: Government officials, lawyers, journalists, and merchants familiar with Western political models saw in them a suitable alternative to the traditional, yet eroding, frameworks for their own identity. Moreover, these models held out the promise of liberation from foreign rule: The West’s strength, it seemed clear, lay in its political system, and adopting this system was the surest—perhaps only-means to success.

After the war, the idea of liberal democracy took firm hold in Egypt, Syria, and Iraq. In these countries, the middle classes were the driving force behind the push for a liberal constitution, even before Great Britain and France (known as the Powers) were ready to support one. The liberal viewpoint also spread to Arab territories not ruled as mandated regions, or still lacking a genuine middle class. In Kuwait, for example, then under British influence, a merchants’ organization was established in 1921 to demand that the emir institutionalize their participation in the decision-making process.5 Even Ibn Saud, the only Arab leader not under the rule of the Powers in the 1920s, was forced to order the establishment of a “residents’ council,” elected by ballot and entrusted with both legislative and executive powers, when the idea of free elections and representational government became so popular in the Arab world as to be a near condition for domestic and international legitimization of his 1924-1925 conquest of the Hijaz strip.6

During the same period, the West performed a dual function in the inculcation of liberal democracy in the Middle East. On the one hand, Britain and France acted as political mentors, helping to move Arab societies towards full independence; they aided in the establishment of a political system that would guarantee fair competition between parties, freedom of speech and inquiry, freedom of assembly, and equal rights for women and minorities. On the other hand, the Powers also sought to promote their own strategic interests and bolstered the status of political forces loyal to the West. This duality inevitably resulted in a deep mistrust of Western forms of government in the Arab world: Arabs largely perceived it as a fraud, an illusion intended to distract them while the West perpetuated its domination of the Middle East. They came to regard democracy as a synonym for the underhanded promotion of foreign interests. This is where the Gordian knot of the Arab democratic question emerged: The West was seared into Arab consciousness as a liberator that is also a conqueror, and liberal democracy as a solution that is also a problem.

The fledgling Arab democracies survived, fragile and artificial as they were, so long as the Powers remained in the region. When their Western patrons left, they quickly fell apart. Yet the failure of this political experiment did not dim the appeal of democracy as an idea. In fact, the Arab regimes that arose at the end of the 1940s from the ruins of these failed liberal enterprises presented themselves as the “true” embodiments of democracy. And indeed, they did adopt the idea that a citizenry should enjoy basic freedoms and the right to elect its government—in theory. They also theoretically adopted the belief that this concept should be institutionalized through written laws and in representative institutions whose forms were copied from the West. In practice, however, these regimes insisted that there were various ways to implement democracy, and various stops on the road leading to it.

Initially, for example, the Free Officers in Egypt and the Baath leaders in Syria claimed to be spearheading a “transitional” stage during which their societies would be freed from Western interests and gain equal economic footing with their Western counterparts. They claimed that once this stage was complete, it would be possible for the re-establishment of a “true” political democracy. Yet when this transitional period was extended indefinitely, and power remained in the hands of a small group of unelected revolutionaries for a protracted period, the regimes were quick to deflect blame. It was the fault, they insisted, of their societies’ lack of readiness, or, better yet, of their enemies in the West.7 The situation was similar in several of the more conservative Arab countries: Kuwait and Bahrain, for example, began their independence as parliamentary emirates in which the people’s representative had real legislative authority. In short order, however, their constitutions were suspended, the elected assemblies were dissolved, and opposition leaders were incarcerated. All the while, the rulers presented these steps as a temporary “freezing” of political freedoms whose goal was the revival and revitalization of “authentic” democratic life. Thus did Arab regimes declare themselves the standard-bearers of the democratic ideal, even as they insisted it was not yet possible to implement this ideal on account of the ever-present threat of instability.8

This chasm separating the democratic rhetoric and despotic reality of the Arab regimes did not go unnoticed. But demands that the situation be corrected, voiced from the early 1950s to the early 1980s, were not, for the most part, of a liberal nature. Reformists did not see in Western democracy a recipe for the improvement of a country’s political, economic, and cultural situation, since, to their mind, this recipe had already been tried and found wanting. Moreover, the West was no longer enjoying hegemony; the Communist bloc now offered a political and ideological alternative to liberalism. Thus, while the United States had replaced Britain and France as the Western power with the greatest influence in the Middle East, that influence, starting in the early 1950s, was limited by the cold war balance of power.9

The demise of the edifice of Soviet communism in the early 1990s led to a conceptual swing in Arab societies. Not only was the West restored to its post-World War I status as an unrivaled military and economic force in the Middle East, but so, too, did liberal democracy revert to what it was at the beginning of the century in the region: A form of government with universal pretensions.

The significance of these developments was not lost on many Arab intellectuals. At the end of the 1980s and beginning of the 1990s, discussions on the universality of liberal democracy proliferated in Arab countries. Some intellectuals even dared to state openly that in the post-Soviet world, Arab countries must also go the way of liberal democracies, since the fall of communism had provided definitive proof that there are no grounds for the Arab regimes’ pretense to being a link between “social democracy” (an equal social order) and “political democracy,” in the same way that there are no grounds for the pretense of delaying democratic reforms in the name of creating “true” democracy. These intellectuals insisted that the type of democracy practiced in the West is the only type worth practicing, and is furthermore a condition for becoming an advanced and free country. Despite bitter past experience, they demanded that the Western model of democracy be adopted in Arab countries, with no excuses, and without delay.10

Determined calls for democratization and liberalization following the demise of communism came not only from academic circles of independent Arab intellectuals, however. Soon, they had infiltrated into the pages of newspapers under strict government supervision. Several articles published in the Saudi paper Al-Riyadh in the summer of 1989, for example, vehemently attacked the false democracy practiced in the Arab and Third Worlds, as well as the view that liberal democracy is unique to the West. One article angrily wondered why the Arab world persists in thinking that, at best, Western democracy may be viewed from a distance, “just as one views from a distance ice-skating rinks, Big Ben, the Canadian waterfalls, voyages into space, and the lakes in Regent’s Park.”11

True, the awakening of the idea of liberalism among Arab intellectuals must be viewed in context. The number of intellectuals who spoke up in favor of adopting liberal democracy was extremely small, and they lacked the audacity to lead the struggle themselves. They believed in following the example set by the “solidarity” movements, yet none of them saw themselves as a Lech Walesa or Vaclav Havel. Thus, the debate they prompted did not lead to the establishment in any Arab country of an institutionalized movement that put the question of democracy at the top of its agenda. They were the standard-bearers, but they had no followers.

Yet, despite its weaknesses, the debate among reformist intellectuals on the question of the universality of liberal democracy posed a new challenge to the political order in the Middle East. Some of these thinkers linked the collapse of the Soviet bloc to the failure of the Arab regimes’ political rhetoric, and concluded that these regimes were destined to follow ignominiously in communism’s footsteps. Moreover, these reformist thinkers translated America’s triumphalist stance into Arab terms: Like Francis Fukuyama, they, too, asked Arabs to view liberal democracy as a system of government suitable to all of humanity, and entreated them to ignore its Western roots. And like Fukuyama, they also assumed that with the collapse of communism, the last serious ideological alternative to liberal democracy had vanished.

The re-awakening of the idea of liberalism in the Arab world was short-lived, however, for in the summer of 1990, everything changed. In August, Iraq invaded Kuwait and the United States assembled an international coalition on Saudi soil to counter Saddam Hussein’s aggression. In Hussein’s rapid defeat, the Arabs witnessed the total military superiority of the West over their region’s strongest army.

In the eyes of many Arab intellectuals-among them even those who had been calling for political reform in the Arab world-the Gulf War served as a warning of the dangers the post-Soviet future posed to their nations and culture. Not merely a confrontation between countries, but rather the beginning of a wholesale clash of two civilizations, a struggle whose true cause is the desire of the West to quash Arab power and eradicate the very possibility of the existence of an opposing force.

Arab thinking about the war, then, ran toward an anxiety that the West would once again seek to impose its interests and values on the Arab nations, just as it had done after World War I. Thus did many Arab intellectuals infer the objective of the Gulf War from its outcome: Since the war had ended in a hard blow to the Arab state with the strongest army and an enlargement of the Western military presence in the Arab state richest in oil, then that must have been its purpose from the start. Many went so far as to describe the war as a Western conspiracy whose true goal was the realization of the vision outlined by President George Bush, Sr. of a “new world order” defined as global American hegemony and the return of the Middle East to Western-imperialistic rule.12

In the months after the war, this view began to dominate debates on democratic reforms in Arab states and most Arabs rejected the possibility of adopting the Western model of democracy, or even the very idea that the West might serve as a source of political inspiration. [...]

This, then, is the situation that now confronts the Arab world: The war in Iraq and America’s liberalization initiatives have put the question of democracy at the top of the agenda. But the new Western presence also engenders fears of a revival of the days of imperialism and subjugation. Without the West’s involvement, Arab democracy is impossible, but with the West’s involvement, a massive psychological and political stumbling block to the establishment of Arab democracy is created. How is either side to escape from this impasse?

The public debate in the United States surrounding the future of Bush’s plans currently oscillates between two approaches. According to the first, the administration plays up false or temporary accomplishments and insists that the Middle East’s road to democratization is being paved-even if it does still remain a long one. The second, espoused by the war’s opponents, calls for an immediate withdrawal of Western armies from Iraq and the abandonment of all aspirations to “impose” foreign regimes and worldviews on the Arab world. Adherence to either of these views is likely to lead to the same result: The defeat of the Western project in Iraq, the repeal of hopes for liberalism in the Arab world, and a serious erosion of America’s strategic and moral standing in both the Middle East and the world at large.

Clearly, the United States must adopt a new doctrine, one that attempts to sever the connection in the Arab mind between democracy and the promotion of Western power. First, this doctrine must acknowledge the necessity of maintaining American forces on Iraqi soil, since a hasty withdrawal is liable to tip an already unstable situation toward wide-scale anarchy. Moreover, such a move will certainly be interpreted in the Arab world as proof not only of the West’s weakness, but also of the weakness of liberalism itself. Second, this doctrine should incorporate two new principles into its previously stated commitment to Iraq: One, a reduction in the contingency between potential outcomes of the democratization process in Arab societies and the condition of the American economy; and two, the universality of American standards in the field of human rights. Whereas the first principle will afford the United States more room for political maneuvering-and, in time, rid it of the suspicion prevalent in the Arab world that its true goals are imperialistic-the second principle will lend its foreign policy the credibility it currently lacks and help those Arab liberals who oppose their regime obtain the legitimacy denied to them today. Indeed, one of the main difficulties that today’s Arab freedom fighters face is the suspicion that they are lackeys of the West. So long as America continues to discriminate between liberals, advocates of the pan-Arab idea, and Islamist activists, then democratic leaders like Riyadh Seif in Syria, whose commitment to liberalism has withstood over four years of incarceration, will not gain the support of his own people.

The new doctrine will have to address the political problems related to the oil economy. American dependency on Arab oil must be reduced, and this reduction must be linked to the question of democratization. Today the United States has no exculpatory answer to the accusation that its true interest is ensuring the continued supply of oil from the Persian Gulf, and nurtures regimes that prove accommodating on this point. The United States ignores human-rights violations in the Gulf emirates while reproaching Syria for similar violations in its territory. It warns Damascus of the consequences of its involvement in terrorism, but tiptoes around the proven connection between the Wahhabi establishment and the insurgency in Iraq. So long as the West depends so heavily on Middle East oil, there will be no easy answer to the charge that America’s only priority in the region is advancing its economic interests.

Another issue the new doctrine must address is the Arab belief that democracy promotion is an excuse by the United States to remove from power rulers who are not to its liking and replace them with ones who are. In truth, this accusation cannot be dismissed as pure propaganda, since the administration went to war against Iraqi tyranny but contented itself with generalized declarations in favor of reform in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan. “What is the moral difference between Baghdad and Riyadh?” Arab intellectuals ask. When they do not receive a reasonable answer, they doubt the sincerity of the democratization initiative as a whole.

America must therefore set consistent standards for the implementation of diplomatic and commercial sanctions on Arab regimes guilty of human rights violations. Consistent standards will have the double effect of forcing Arab regimes to ease their grip on society while convincing these regimes’ opponents that they are not alone in their struggle for reform.

Whether the President realizes it or not, it will benefit his vision of the middle East greatly when he's forced to accept the division of iraq into three states.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:37 PM


MVJs: Baseball's Most Valuable Jews in 2006 (Martin Abramowitz, Chicago Jewish News)

One of the ways rabid baseball fans get through end-of-the-season withdrawal pains is by immersing themselves in player stats and award announcements.

It's time to do the same for Jewish players.

There were 13 Jewish major leaguers this season: six pitchers, two catchers, three outfielders and two infielders. None of them, alas, came close to making a serious run at any major award, but we'll remedy that situation by handing out awards for the top Jewish players. [...]

Our solution to the drought of Jewish award winners is to create our own awards. We're naming the Jewish MVP award the "Hank and Sandy," after Greenberg and Koufax, and giving it only in years when a Jewish player has indeed proved to be extremely valuable.

We actually do have a winner this year. The winner of the 2006 Hank and Sandy Most Valuable Jewish Player Award is incontestably Youkilis.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:18 PM


Ahmadinejad is no Hitler (Ray Takeyh, November 19, 2006, LA Times)

IF YOU THINK IRANIAN PRESIDENT Mahmoud Ahmadinejad makes outlandish comments, consider what Mao Tse-tung said to a visiting head of state in 1954: "If someone else can drop an atomic bomb, then I can too. The death of 10 or 20 million people is nothing to be afraid of."

Nonetheless, 15 years later, a nuclear-armed China was not only contained by the world, it opted for normalization of relations with its archenemy, the United States. Today, it is fashionable to equate Ahmadinejad with Hitler, yet the lesson of the 20th century is that rash leaders can, in fact, be deterred.

How profoundly ignorant of history does one have to be to seek to reassure folks that Ahmadinejad isn't Hitler, he's Mao? Do 100 million dead Chinese really matter that much less than 6 million Jews?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:08 PM


Open Source Science: A New Model for Innovation: Q&A with: Karim Lakhani (Martha Lagace, 11/20/06, HBS Working Knowledge)

In a perfect world, scientists share problems and work together on solutions for the good of society. In the real world, however, that's usually not the case. The main obstacles: competition for publication and intellectual property protection.

Is there a model for encouraging large-scale scientific problem solving? Yes, and it comes from an unexpected and unrelated corner of the universe: open source software development.

That's the view of Karim R. Lakhani, an assistant professor at Harvard Business School with an extensive research background in open source software communities and their innovation and product development strategies. His latest research analyzes how open source norms of transparency, permeable access, and collaboration might work with scientists.

What he and his coauthors discovered: "broadcasting" or introducing problems to outsiders yields effective solutions. Indeed, it was outsiders—those with expertise at the periphery of a problem's field—who were most likely to find answers and do so quickly.

Every bit of intelligence that the feds keep from us, for the very best of motives, places us in greater danger. Our Intelligence agencies aren't just incompetent because their interests don't jibe with the rest of the country's, but because their design guarantees ineptitude.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:54 PM


..while we had problems with the site. As near as we can tell, the comment spam difficulties that we always have were greatly exacerbated on Election Day, presumably coincidentally. The volume led to our host site asking us--well, demanding that--we move to a less trafficked (more expensive) server. Transferring everything over turned out to be a more laborious process than we initially anticipated, and there are still a few bugs to be worked out, but we should be mostly functional again.

My thanks to The Other Brother, who really earned his salary this past week--especially since it's $0--and to AOG for helping him out with some of the technical problems. Thanks to the Brothers from Other Mothers who were tragically silenced during a big news week and to readers/commenters who had problems with the Sovereignty Blog.

If you've posted for the blog in the past and don't have access, please let me know and we can set you up again. If you're having trouble commenting or with other functions of the blog, please let the O.B. or me know and we'll try to rectify the situation.

We readily recognize that it is you not us who make the site enjoyable and we deeply regret the inconvenience of the last two weeks. Hopefully the changes forced upon us will end up serving everyone well. Thanks again for your indulgence and your patronage.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:11 PM


Son Knows Best: Why Bush chose Robert Gates (Fred Barnes, 11/27/2006, Weekly Standard)

Before hiring him, Bush had to make sure Gates didn't think America's intervention in Iraq was a mistake and wasn't deeply skeptical of Bush's decision to make democracy promotion a fundamental theme of American foreign policy. With Gates, it came down to this: "The fundamental question was, was he Brent Scowcroft or not?" a Bush aide says.

In Bush 41, Scowcroft was the national security adviser, Gates his deputy. Scowcroft, a realist, is a sharp critic of both Bush's Iraq strategy and the democratic thrust of his entire foreign policy. And Scowcroft has gone public with his strong opposition in articles and interviews.

Gates was initially approached about the defense post in October by Stephen Hadley, Bush's national security adviser. The outreach was "delicate," a Bush aide says, and kept secret. Gates had at least one supporter inside Bush's circle, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. She, too, had worked for Scowcroft in the senior Bush's administration. She told the president that whenever she had sought to wean Scowcroft from a narrow realist position--such as his dismissal of Russian democratic leader Boris Yeltsin as a rube and his unyielding support for Mikhail Gorbachev--she turned to Gates for help. [...]

Two days before the election, the president summoned Gates to his ranch near Waco, Texas. It was the first time they'd talked about the Pentagon position. Bush had houseguests for the weekend to celebrate his wife's sixtieth birthday and their twenty-ninth anniversary. He left the guests to spend nearly two hours questioning Gates in his private office at the ranch. It was only the two of them. No aides participated in the meeting.

The president wanted "clarity" on Gates's views, especially on Iraq and the pursuit of democracy. He asked if Gates shared the goal of victory in Iraq and would be determined to pursue it aggressively as defense chief. He asked if Gates agreed democracy should be the aim of American foreign policy and not merely the stability of pro-American regimes, notably in the Middle East. Bush also wanted to know Gates's "philosophy" of America's role in the world, an aide says, and his take on the pitfalls America faces. "The president got good vibes," according to the Bush official.

Gates destabilized the USSR, Scowcroft tried to save it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:35 PM


A Man Out of Time: A life of poet R. S. Thomas entertains and illumines: a review of The Man Who Went into the West: The Life of R. S. Thomas, by Byron Rogers (Theodore Dalrymple, 6 November 2006, City Journal)

I am not notably frivolous, but whenever I read R. S. Thomas’s poetry, or his biography, I cannot help but reflect that, like the majority of mankind, I have spent most of my life chasing false gods. Thomas had a similar effect on others: John Betjeman, in his introduction to Thomas’s first collection of poems published by a major publisher (in 1955), said that Thomas would be remembered long after he, Betjeman, was forgotten. And Kingsley Amis, writing a year later, said of Thomas’s work that it “reduces most modern verse to footling whimsy.” These tributes bring to mind Joseph Haydn’s words to Mozart’s father, on receipt of the six string quartets that Mozart dedicated to him: “I swear before God, and as an honest man, that your son is the greatest composer known to me, either in person or by name.”

Ronald Stuart Thomas was one of the most extraordinary literary figures of the twentieth century. He was born in 1913 and died in 2000. He was an Anglican priest in remote Welsh parishes for all of his working life. He wrote in English and spoke in the accents of an upper class Englishman (which he was not by birth). While English titles of nobility impressed him, he was a strong, even fanatical, Welsh nationalist, who learned Welsh at 30 and sometimes pretended not to speak English. Though a Christian, he was by no means always charitable. He was known for his awkwardness and taciturnity; most photographs show him as formidable, bad-tempered, and apparently humorless. [...]

This biography—written by a native speaker of Welsh, who, as a student, first met Thomas in 1960, when the poet’s fame was only recent—is of precisely the right length: the reader does not have to set aside too great a proportion of his own life, or abandon all other pursuits, to read it. The author has remembered that the purpose of a biography of a poet is to illuminate his work, and this it successfully does; and because his subject is both strange and brilliant, the book is highly entertaining.

Is there any single theme that underlies Thomas’s life and work, and reconciles his contradictions? I think one can find it in an essay he wrote in 1946 for a small Welsh nationalist magazine. “Are not three-quarters of our modern ills,” he asked, “due to the fact that we have forgotten how to live . . . ?” And we have forgotten how to live because we have worshiped wealth and physical comfort, and turned our back on God. To this modern soullessness, and to modernity’s destruction of the Welsh countryside by roads and housing projects and vacationers, Thomas’s political response was Welsh nationalism, with its intense preoccupation with the past. For him, England represented modernity and therefore all that was soulless, superficial, mechanical, materialistic, vulgar, and vapid. Observation of the beauties of the natural world, particularly the landscape and bird life, was for him a spiritual exercise, a reminder that, if we would but heed it, God has given us all that we need for a fulfilled life. No one could say that he did not attempt to live by his creed.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:19 PM


You Have to Pull a Few Strings to Create These New Opera Stars (MATTHEW GUREWITSCH, 11/19/06, NY Times)

IN September the puppet in the news was the bunraku boy in Anthony Minghella’s staging of Puccini’s “Madama Butterfly” at the Metropolitan Opera. Next month comes the 12-foot Witch in Basil Twist’s production of Humperdinck’s “Hansel and Gretel” at the Houston Grand Opera. But there is more to this new world of puppet opera than puppets: masks, shape-shifting costumes (often colossal), sets that have an eerie way of coming to life.

Julie Taymor, who virtually invented the phenomenon, can think of no good name for it. “It’s called being theatrical,” she said one recent Saturday morning at her apartment near Union Square in Manhattan. “It’s called using your imagination.”

Puppets and all that goes with them have had a place in opera for centuries. But mostly they have inhabited a parallel universe, miming on miniature stages to the voices of unseen singers, live or recorded. Why use them alongside breathing singers on the stage of a regulation opera house? In telephone, e-mail and personal interviews, a half-dozen theater artists experienced with puppets offered two basic philosophies.

On one hand there are puppet-friendly directors: Mr. Minghella and William Friedkin, both primarily film directors, and Ms. Taymor. They use puppets only as needed, to place specific accents. On the other hand there are puppetry’s true believers, who conceive entire spectacles in terms of their specialty: Mr. Twist and his fellow designer and director Douglas Fitch, whose production of “Hansel and Gretel” opens at the Los Angeles Opera on Sunday, beating Mr. Twist by nearly two weeks.

Among the puppet-friendly, Ms. Taymor — best known for the stage version of the Disney musical “The Lion King” — took the hardest line. “Only when a human being in its simplest form cannot do what is suggested in the libretto should you use a mask or puppet,” she said. “Unless a piece requires it, why bother?”

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:15 PM


They come to work - and to send money home: Payday makes harrowing journey worth the risk to illegal laborers (DIANNE SOLÍS and DEBORAH TURNER / The Dallas Morning News)

On the weekends, every empty patch of field in Cactus mutates into a cancha de futbol, a soccer field where the men release the stress of the week.

A few more join their fellow countrymen at band practice at one of the two churches.

From one church building comes an ironic chorus: "No estas lejos al reino de Dios," or "You are not far from the kingdom of God." A cumbia beat provides the melodic line. As the singing stops, the singers turn from the Spanish lyrics to religious homages in Quiché, the Mayan dialect of their home state that bears the same name.

Others find their home away from home in the little Baptist church on South Drive led by Pastor Jose Rosales – himself a transplant from the Mexican state of Durango.

Back at Mr. Rosales' church, a man prepares to tune his musical instruments.

Here, the men gather for more than worship.

Mr. Cus said he finds solace in singing with a gospel group that calls itself Cristo Salva – Christ Saves. He leads the group – made up of a trumpet player, two keyboardists, an electric guitarist and another conga-tambor player like himself.

Then, he takes to the microphone and looks out over his fellow Guatemalans.

"It is an honor to say the sweet name of God," Mr. Cus said.

On this particular weekend, as the workers tend to their pain – physical and spiritual – the Ku Klux Klan marches against illegal immigration through the streets of nearby Amarillo.

"Que K? [What's KKK?]" asks Mr. Rosales when he learns of the KKK, a leader who calls himself a "grand dragon" and city police stationed with shotguns on rooftops.

They're even worth the soccer.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:44 PM


Woof! Who Really Won the Hoyer/Murtha Showdown: Remember the Blue Dog Democrats? In the new Congress, you’ll be hearing from them a lot. (James Ridgeway, November 16 , 2006, Mother Jones)

Steny Hoyer's victory as House Majority leader not only signals an embarrassing defeat for Nancy Pelosi, but underscores the importance of the conservative Blue Dog bloc in the Democratic party. [...]

If the Dems pin their hopes for a working coalition within the party on Blue Dogs, the Republican minority back bench will fiercely fight to convert them or win them as allies. In an open memorandum to House Republicans yesterday, Newt Gingrich, the former House Speaker, and organizer of the right wing during the early years of the Reagan era, urged Republicans to not "hide'' from their defeat, but instead get busy winning allies: "Our team lost. Begin to reorganize."

"From a House Republican standpoint, the center of gravity should be the 54 Blue Dog Democrats," Gingrich wrote. "If we and the Blue Dogs can find a handful of key things to work on together, we can almost certainly create a majority on the floor just as the Reagan Republicans and conservative Democrats did in 1981. Bipartisanship can be conservative and back bench rather than liberal and establishment leadership defined. What did the Blue Dogs promise to get elected? What was the nature of their coalition back home? They give us the best opportunity to create grassroots efforts to pass solid legislation. Remember, the liberals will find it very hard to write a budget acceptable to the grassroots that elected the Blue Dogs. We have real opportunities if we are creative."

Gingrich’s scenario may be going a bit too far, says Eric Wortman, a spokesman for the Blue Dog Caucus, but, "We will work with Republicans if that's the right thing to do."

If Ms Clinton were to ally herself with this group, her husband's old power base, she could make herself a viable national candidate, but at the expense of alienating the Party's activists.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:19 AM


APEC demands fresh start for trade talks (JOSEPH COLEMAN, 11/20/06, Associated Press)

Eager to set the stage for further economic growth, Pacific Rim leaders on Sunday demanded a fresh start for moribund global free-trade talks and condemned terrorism and other threats to security.

The 21-member Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum - including regional powerhouses Japan, China and the United States - also criticized North Korea for its recent atomic test, urging the reclusive regime to make "concrete and effective" steps toward nuclear disarmament.

The conference of nations comprising more than half the world's economy was also a bazaar for business deals: host Vietnam parlayed its robust growth into multimillion-dollar contracts, while the U.S. and Russia signed a pact allowing Moscow's future entry into the World Trade Organization.

A top economic priority for the forum, attended by world leaders including President Bush and Chinese President Hu Jintao, was the resurrection of the stalled Doha round of world trade talks, which collapsed in July over a U.S.-European feud on agricultural subsidies.

The leaders issued a joint declaration warning of "grave" consequences if the talks, aimed at slashing trade barriers in order to boost global growth and alleviate poverty, fail. Bush's authority to submit a deal to Congress for a simple yes-or-no vote will expire July 1.

...for the onslaught of stories about how the Democrats opposition to free trade puts us at odds with our allies and diminishes our standing in the world....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:32 AM


Muslim struggle to break stereotypes (MANUELA BADAWY, 11/20/06, REUTERS)

Muslim feminists from around the world vowed to create the first women's council to interpret the Qur'an and overcome two stereotypes about their religion: Muslims are terrorists and Islam oppresses women.

The women's council was among the most groundbreaking ideas introduced at a weekend meeting of more than 100 leaders in the fledgling Islamic feminist movement.

Many in the newly formed group, the Women's Islamic Initiative in Spirituality and Equality, said strict sharia law was not divine because it was created by men and should be changed to incorporate women's rights.

"In our societies, men hold power and they decide what Islam should mean and how we can obey that particular understanding of Islam," said Zainab Anwar, executive director of Sisters in Islam, a Malaysian organization working on women's rights within the Islamic framework.

As Ataturk said, one of the main reasons that the Islamic world has fallen behind the West is that, by its treatment of women, it's trying to compete with one hand tied.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:29 AM


Hastings, in line for key House role, comes under fire: Critics oppose the possible appointment of U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings of Miramar to chair the House Intelligence Committee. (LESLEY CLARK, 11/20/06,

After a checkered career that has seen both disgrace and redemption -- impeachment and removal as a federal judge followed by election to Congress seven times -- Rep. Alcee Hastings is poised to claim a position of considerable clout.

At 70, the Miramar Democrat may well become the next chairman of the House Intelligence Committee when Democrats take control of the U.S. House in January.

But an ever-widening chorus of critics is slamming the possibility that an expelled federal judge with millions of dollars in legal debt could be tapped to lead the committee that oversees U.S. intelligence programs.

Nothing could do the Democrats more damage headed into '08 than the exposure of their leadership to public scrutiny. President McCain is likely to carry in the biggest GOP majority in the House since the '20s.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:27 AM


Chávez rival gains momentum, still faces long odds: Venezuela's opposition presidential hopeful, Manuel Rosales, is proving a more effective candidate than expected. (STEVEN DUDLEY, 11/20/06,

At first glance, Manuel Rosales seems like a strange choice for a presidential candidate to take on the powerful and charismatic incumbent, President Hugo Chávez.

The 53-year-old Rosales dresses and talks like a cattle rancher and has traditional political roots. He's not a particularly charming man in person or on stage, and has been caught on more than one occasion fumbling his words.

But Rosales' straight talk and his gumption to face up to Chávez -- who has won the last two elections, survived a coup and a recall referendum -- seems to have won him some fans and rejuvenated a moribund opposition.

Sound like anyone?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:25 AM


New speaker backs the wrong horse (Seattle Times, 11/20/06)

NEW Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi blew it when she backed the wrong horse for House majority leader, U.S. Rep John Murtha of Pennsylvania. Appropriately, U.S. Rep. Steny Hoyer was selected instead.

There are many battles and moments ahead for Pelosi to recover from her beginner's mistake, but she has much to learn from this humbling misstep. Even if somehow it wasn't technically Pelosi's venom dating back to a 2001 leadership battle between Hoyer and her, her decision to aggressively back Murtha sure looked like childish payback.

The election results have already produced even more amusement than we hoped.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:23 AM


MIT 'air force' could help perfect unmanned craft: Lab's focus is software to better control drones for warfare, industry (Peter J. Howe, November 20, 2006, Boston Globe)

Who says battery-powered airplanes have to be outdoor toys?

Not aeronautics professor Jonathan How of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology , who along with a team of students this fall has turned an MIT lab into a first-of-its-kind US test bed for "unmanned aerial vehicles" that, with the help of computers, fly themselves.

It's undeniably fun, How admits, to get away with flying a model helicopter inside. But his team's work, sponsored by aircraft giant Boeing Co.'s Phantom Works research unit, could one day help revolutionize one of the fastest-growing sectors of the aviation industry, remote-controlled flying devices that are increasingly being used for everything from warfare and border surveillance to battling forest fires and doing seismic testing for oil deposits.

Teal Group , an aerospace and defense market-analysis firm in Fairfax, Va., recently projected that worldwide spending on unmanned aerial vehicles and related systems will represent a $55 billion worldwide market over the next 10 years. Annual spending on flying drone systems could triple, to $8.3 billion in 2016 from $2.7 billion now.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:16 AM


A New Strategy to Discourage Driving Drunk (MATTHEW L. WALD, 11/20/06, NY Times)

The threat of arrest and punishment, for decades the primary tactic against drunken drivers, is no longer working in the struggle to reduce the death toll, officials say, and they are proposing turning to technology — alcohol detection devices in every vehicle — to address the problem.

In the first phase of the plan, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, backed by a national association of state highway officials and car manufacturers, will announce here on Monday a campaign to change drunken driving laws in 49 states to require that even first offenders install a device that tests drivers and shuts down the car if it detects alcohol.

Many states already require the devices, known as ignition interlocks, for people who have been convicted several times. Last year New Mexico became the first to make them mandatory after a first offense. With that tactic and others, the state saw an 11.3 percent drop in alcohol-related fatalities last year.

They'll be like airbags and seatbelts soon.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:15 AM


Housing: The Riddle of Rates and Prices: With real estate on the skids, which matters more to potential buyers: declining mortgage rates or falling home prices? (Peter Coy, 11/17/06, Business Week)

Conflicting data this week showed that the housing market, like a bull in the ring, is wounded yet still powerful. It takes an experienced toreador to discern whether the beast will succumb to the knife or come charging back. The course it takes may hinge on which matters more to buyers: falling interest rates (a big positive) or fear of falling prices (a big negative).

For now, at least, housing construction is clearly in a localized recession. The freshest evidence came on Nov. 17 from the Census Bureau, which announced that starts on construction of single-family homes plunged 14.6% in October, to the lowest level since July, 2000. On top of that, permits fell 6.3%, to the lowest level since December, 1997, indicating that construction could dip even further in the months ahead.

But that's not the end of the story. Buyers could still save the housing market, depending on how they react to current economic conditions. Mortgage rates, after rising at the beginning of this year, have dipped in recent months, from a peak of 6.80% on average for a 30-year fixed loan in July to 6.24% last month, according to FreddieMac. There's also speculation that the Federal Reserve could cut rates in the months ahead, if inflation is under control and the economy flags.

If buyers take heart from the decline in mortgage rates and step up to buy, the backlog of unsold homes could shrink quickly—especially with the production of new homes having abruptly fallen. That would put the market back on sound footing within a few months.

With insufficient supply to meet the growing demand and interest rates having to come down to meet deflation, there's no economic theory that suggests sales can slump for long.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:10 AM


Romney seeks to force gay marriage vote: Rips lawmakers, eyes bid in SJC (Scott Allen, November 20, 2006, Boston Globe)

Governor Mitt Romney said yesterday that he would ask the Supreme Judicial Court to override the Legislature and let voters decide whether to ban same-sex marriage, telling a boisterous crowd of several thousand at a State House rally that lawmakers are violating the state constitution by refusing to act on the proposal.

Conservative and religious groups gathered a record 170,000 signatures on a petition to put the proposed ban on same-sex marriages on the 2008 ballot, but the measure also requires the support of at least 50 legislators in two consecutive sessions to qualify for a statewide referendum. On Nov. 9, legislators voted 109 to 87 to go into recess rather than vote on the gay marriage ban, all but dooming its chances of appearing on the 2008 ballot.

"The issue before us is not whether same-sex couples should marry. The issue before us today is whether 109 legislators will follow the constitution," declared Romney, promising to send the 109 lawmakers a copy of the constitution and their oath of office to underscore his frustration. "Let us not see the state, which first established constitutional democracy, become the first to abandon it."

Mr. Romney would appear to have already hired some good advisers for his '08 bid, though the base ought to hold his loss of MA against him. You owe certain things to a party you wish to lead.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:59 AM


German globe maker 'establishes' Palestine (Matt Zalen, Nov. 20, 2006, THE JERUSALEM POST)

Pro-Israel advocacy groups campaign around the globe against the use of the word Palestine, since no such country exists, but it turns out that globes being sold in Israel bear the term.

Billed as an educational toy that teaches young children geography, the widely sold "Ravensburger Puzzle Ball Classic Globe" includes both Israel and Palestine. Although the product has been on the market for more than two years, all of those contacted by The Jerusalem Post, from toy store owners to the Israeli distributor to the German manufacturer, reacted with surprise when informed of the imaginative geography.

"The first time I learned about this issue was when [the Post] told me," said Hermann Bruns, an export manager for the manufacturer in Ravensburg, Germany. He said the design for the map was bought from a Chinese company, and that Ravensburger was only responsible for repackaging it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:57 AM


Motorists face new costs for highways (Larry Copeland, 11/20/06, USA TODAY)

Frustration over traffic gridlock and inadequate gasoline-tax funds are prompting state and local governments to try alternative ways to finance road building.

Oregon is charging some motorists a road-user fee based on miles traveled instead of the state gas tax. Georgia is considering replacing its state gas tax with a 1% statewide sales tax dedicated to road and transit projects. New Jersey is looking at converting more freeways into toll roads.

Americans spend 3.7 billion hours a year stuck in traffic delays, according to the Texas Transportation Institute's study of 85 metropolitan areas. Yet road and transit projects are languishing across the country because there's not enough money to pay for them.

The 18.4-cent-per-gallon federal gas tax — which has funded major road projects since 1956 and transit projects since 1983 — was last raised in 1993 and has not kept pace with inflation.

Simple justice requires we tax them for the environmental costs too.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:47 AM


Harper hails 'frank' talk with Chinese leader
(BRIAN LAGHI, 11/20/06, Globe and Mail)

Prime Minister Stephen Harper emerged from a long-awaited and much-delayed meeting with China's President Hu Jintao yesterday, boasting that the Chinese leadership is not used to dealing with a Canadian government as forceful as his.

After a week of back-and-forth on whether the two men would get together, Mr. Harper and Mr. Hu finally caught up with each other Saturday night at the meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation forum, where the Prime Minister raised issues involving Huseyin Celil, a Canadian citizen jailed in China without access to Canadian consular officials.

"Although it was not a long discussion, [it] was a frank discussion with the President of China," Mr. Harper said yesterday at a wrap-up news conference.

"[There was] a distinct impression, if I can say it, that the Chinese are not used to that from a Canadian government."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:35 AM


Breakthrough for Iraq diplomacy (STEVEN R. HURST, November 20, 2006, Chicago Sun-Times)

Syria's foreign minister called Sunday for a timetable for the withdrawal of American forces to help end Iraq's sectarian bloodbath, in a groundbreaking diplomatic mission to Iraq that comes amid increasing calls for the U.S. to seek cooperation from Syria and Iran.

Walid Moallem, the highest level Syrian official to visit since the 2003 ouster of Saddam Hussein, denounced terrorism in Iraq even as Washington mulled its own overture to Damascus for help in ending Iraq's violence.

Syria and Iraq share a long and porous desert border and both Baghdad and Washington have accused Damascus of not doing enough to stop the flow of foreign Arab fighters. [...]

Syria broke diplomatic ties with Iraq in 1982, accusing Iraq of inciting riots by the banned Muslim Brotherhood in Syria.

The Battle within Syria: An Interview with Muslim Brotherhood Leader Ali Bayanouni (Mahan Abedin, 8/11/05, Jamestown Foundation)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:33 AM


German nurse jailed for killings (BBC, 11/20/06)

A German male nurse has been sentenced to life in prison for administering lethal injections to 28 mostly elderly patients at a hospital in Bavaria.

Stephan Letter, 28, is said to be Germany's biggest serial killer since World War II.

Half of the Democrats would campaign with him if those had just been relations he was murdering.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:31 AM


Early onside kick call worst move of Mangini's young coaching career (Ian O'Connor, 11/20/2006, USA Today)

Between his mind-numbing meetings and his mind-numbing film sessions, Eric Mangini must have found a minute or three to read his own headlines. Read them? Shoot, he probably even admired them. Mangini is human, after all, no matter how desperately he would like you to believe otherwise.

Manginius. Yes, it has a cute ring to it, especially when the Jets' coach is making Bill Belichick, football's leading mad scientist, look as dumb as the grudge he's holding against the Patriots protege who headed south in every literal and figurative way.

It had been a glorious week for Mangini, who did everything to Belichick but wipe that doomsday expression from his face. The NFL had a fresh challenger to the intellectual throne, a coach who might be smart enough to lead the Jets away from their rich tradition of dysfunction and woe.

You think Mangini didn't get caught up in his own coronation-to-be? Then go ahead and explain that onside kick he attempted Sunday to start the second half, the one that gave the Bears the same life Tom Coughlin gave them last week on this very field.

And folks wonder why Americans don't trust intellectuals?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:27 AM


Hezbollah Threatens Protests to Topple Lebanese Government (Anthony Shadid, November 20, 2006, Washington Post)

In a deepening crisis that has paralyzed Lebanese politics, the leader of Hezbollah urged his well-organized followers to prepare for mass protests aimed at toppling the U.S.-backed government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora.

The order by Hasan Nasrallah, given in a speech Saturday that was broadcast Sunday, was the latest in a test of wills between Hezbollah and a government that Nasrallah dismissed as more representative of the U.S. ambassador than Siniora.

More than a simple political standoff in an always fractious country, many see the escalating struggle as perhaps the most decisive in Lebanon in a generation. It may determine which forces guide the country for years ahead: the coalition around Siniora that draws its strength from the country's Sunni Muslims, Druze and some Christians and has aligned itself with the United States and Europe, or Hezbollah's Shiite Muslim constituency, backed by Iran and Syria, and its Christian allies represented by a former Lebanese general.

We've been on the wrong side in Lebanon for even longer than we were in Iraq.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:24 AM


Out of nowhere: Romo, Gore, Rivers ... hard to believe this year's stars (Peter King, November 20, 2006, Sports Illustrated)

Weird stuff happens every year in the NFL. I'm not saying this year has any more than normal, but consider these unlikely happenings on Sunday, and where we are at the 10-game mark of the 2006 season:

• With a first-year quarterback playing, the Chargers have come back from 21- and 17-point deficits on the road to beat playoff teams in successive weeks. With Philip Rivers under center, San Diego has put up 49 points on Cincinnati and 35 on Denver and taken the mantel from Indianapolis as the game's most exhilarating offense.

• Speaking of the Colts, they lost. The sun rose this morning. Almost predictable after nine season-opening wins, especially against a physical 3-4 defensive front, which always vexes Peyton Manning. The odd thing here: Someone named Tony Romo outplayed Manning down the stretch and beat him. [...]

The Fine Fifteen

1. San Diego (8-2). This team is something special. Without Shawne Merriman and Luis Castillo (arguably their two most important defensive players) for the second straight week, the Chargers won the toughest road game on their schedule.

2. Indianapolis (9-1). Not a horrible loss. Not at all. The only thing that should bug coach Tony Dungy is that this was a physical foe, very physical, and the Colts didn't pass the test.

3. Chicago (9-1). I'm impressed with the Bears. After losing to the Dolphins in an alarm-clock kind of game, Chicago went on the road to face playoff contenders in back-to-back weeks at the Meadowlands and won both games by double digits.

4. Denver (7-3). I'll tell you what's unfair: Having the Broncos play Sunday night, then Denver having a very short week coming back to play on the road Thursday night.

5. Baltimore (8-2). Ray Lewis had blood drained from his back Thursday and wanted to play so bad against Atlanta that he urged defensive coordinator Rex Ryan to persuade coach Brian Billick to let him play. No chance, Billick said. Good news for Ravenites: Lewis has no structural damage to his back from the kneeing by Ed Reed two weeks ago, and he should be fine for the final six games.

6. Dallas (6-4). Any game that TonyRomo's in, Dallas has a chance.

7. New England (7-3). This week's sign that the Patriots are zoned in: On the two-hour flight from Green Bay to Providence Sunday evening, Tom Brady watched footage of the Bears' defense.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:21 AM


In City Symbolizing U.S. Defeat in Vietnam, Bush Stresses the Prosperous Present (DAVID E. SANGER and HELENE COOPER, 11/20/06, NY Times)

President Bush ventured into this booming, wildly capitalist commercial center of an ostensibly Communist Vietnam on Monday morning, speeding off to the stock exchange to talk with local business leaders before preparing for a quick visit to Indonesia. [...]

[H]e made an unannounced stop for dinner with Prime Minister John Howard of Australia at a trendy restaurant in a neighborhood that symbolizes the new Saigon — the name local people insist on using for a city that was renamed immediately after the Communist victory.

After dinner, Mr. Bush mounted the running board of his waiting limousine and waved to a crowd of curious, mostly younger Vietnamese who jammed the streets as news of his arrival spread. There were muted cheers.

In a trip that has focused relentlessly on the future, Mr. Bush urged China’s leader, Hu Jintao, to create “a nation of consumers and not savers, which will inure to the benefit of our manufacturers, both large and small, and our farmers, as well.” It was an echo of what Mr. Bush’s father used to urge in his visits to Japan, in hopes of closing the trade gap.

At the meetings of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Hanoi over the weekend, Mr. Bush talked about exploring new free trade arrangements for Asia — a long-sought but still distant goal — and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice used the case of Vietnam as an instructive example of economic reform.

In a speech in Hanoi, she said that “20 years ago the leaders of Vietnam took a hard look at their isolated economy, and they made a strategic choice to begin reforms.” In fact, they have turned to serious reforms only in recent years.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:14 AM


"The Germans Have to Learn How to Kill" (Konstantin von Hammerstein, Hans Hoyng, Hans-Jürgen Schlamp and Alexander Szandar, 11/20/06, Der Spiegel)

Germans were hesitant to accept rearmament in the 1950s. And since the end of the Cold War, they have only gradually become accustomed to the idea that their new role in the world will also require the periodic deployment of German soldiers abroad. Rhetorically, at least, administrations from those of former Chancellors Helmut Kohl and Gerhard Schröder to the current Merkel government have consistently pandered to their voters' aversion to all things military. And despite gradually expanding the Bundeswehr's range of operations, they have consistently avoided using the term "combat deployment." The voting public was more likely to accept phrases like "peacekeeping mission" and "stabilization force," and if the situation ever threatened to become more serious, the term "robust mandate" was always an option.

The defense ministry still refuses to recognize the 64 Bundeswehr soldiers who have lost their lives on foreign missions to date as "war dead." In addition to saving the government the cost of permanently maintaining the graves of soldiers classified as casualties of war, it enables the military to avoid using words like "war," "death" and "foreign mission" in the same context.

The camouflage has paid off. According to opinion polls, the Bundeswehr, along with the Federal Constitutional Court and the police force, have enjoyed the highest levels of public confidence of all public institutions -- possibly because many see the military essentially as an armed relief organization.

German soldiers have carried sandbags in flooded cities like Dresden, helped Serbian mothers in Kosovo and built schools in Afghanistan. They serve as everything from medics to social workers, but what they are not, at least in the public conscience, are fighters trained to kill other human beings -- and who could possibly be killed in the process. They are content to let others do the killing and dying while they travel the world as social workers dressed in military fatigues.

But now, after decades of displaying willingness to accept that Germany needed time to return to normalcy, Germany's NATO partners are becoming impatient. Their fear of a rebirth of German militarism has given way to a need for more German involvement -- and the days of German postwar pacifism could well be numbered.

The upshot is that Berlin may be entering the final phase of its return to the international stage, one in which German soldiers could soon embark on combat missions where they will shoot and be shot at. The question now is whether Germany is ready -- emotionally, politically and militarily -- for war.

Only America could turn the krauts into lousy killers.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:10 AM


Uncertified Teachers Performing Well, Study Finds (SARAH GARLAND, November 20, 2006, NY Sun)

Uncertified teachers end up performing just as well in the classroom as certified teachers and alternatively trained teachers like Teaching Fellows, a study to be released today says. [...]

"These are people who have no prior experience in teaching and they go into the lowest performing schools, and they do just as well," a Columbia University Business School professor, Jonah Rockoff, who co-authored the study, said. "Where you went to college and what your GPA was doesn't seem to tell you how good you're going to be in the classroom."

In the study, researchers at the Hoover Institution, a conservative think tank affiliated with Stanford University, used standardized test scores to measure the performance of New York City students taught by traditionally certified teachers, uncertified teachers, and teachers who enter the profession through alternative programs such as Teach for America and Teaching Fellows. They found that while alternatively certified and uncertified teachers do worse at first, they appear to improve at faster rates than traditionally certified teachers in their first years on the job. By the teachers' third year on the job, students of alternatively certified and uncertified teachers are performing just as well as those of traditionally certified teachers. [...]

The study shows that uncertified teachers, who are more likely to be minorities than the other groups, end up doing just as well as the alternatively and traditionally certified teachers. Since the Teaching Fellows program was introduced, hiring of minority teachers has dropped significantly, a trend that can be attributed to the effort to remove uncertified teachers, Mr. Rockoff said. Statistics first reported by the Amsterdam News showed that in 2001, 27% of new teachers were black, while this year only 14% were black. The percentage of new Hispanic teachers has also dropped.

The study's authors say they are not "proposing to open the floodgates into teaching" by saying certification doesn't matter. But researchers said the study results showed that school systems, instead of focusing on whether and how teachers are certified before hiring, should worry more about getting rid of teachers who perform badly during probationary periods. Currently, Mr. Rockoff said, large urban school systems like New York with dismal teacher retention rates tend to approve tenure for all teachers who decide to stay on, rarely giving out unsatisfactory ratings to teachers who perform badly. In New York City, half of all teachers — traditionally certified or not — leave after five years.

To become certified, teachers must take a series of tests, have a bachelor's degree that includes education coursework, or complete graduate level education coursework. Alternative certificate programs often allow teachers to do the coursework during their first year of teaching.

A professor at Stanford University, Susanna Loeb, who has conducted a study of teacher qualifications very similar to the Hoover study, said that certification status matters little in determining how a teacher will do in the classroom.

In fact, students would likely benefit from just getting rid of professional teachers and having Charlie Rangel allow young people to teach for several years as part of their national service obligation.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:08 AM


iSupply: PS3 Components Cost $850 (Wired, 11/17/06)

In the weeks since the PS3's worldwide launch, it's been opened up and smashed. Now it's being broken down into its component parts by iSuppli, a well-respected group of technology analysts. They've totaled up the cost of the PS3's parts and determined that the cost of each $600 box is $840. That means they're taking a bath on each 60GB console to the tune of $240 (and how's that for a mixed metaphor).

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:37 AM



Some of Rudy Giuliani's fiercest city critics are set to launch "swift boat"-type strikes to inform voters around the nation about the former mayor's behavior before 9/11, The Post has learned.

"There have already been some informal discussions by people who were very involved [in] some of the controversies during the Giuliani era," said civil-rights lawyer Norman Siegel. [...]

* Marital woes. Giuliani was once married to a cousin, Regina Peruggi, then went through a bitter divorce with wife No. 2, Donna Hanover, while publicly romancing wife No. 3, Judith Nathan.

* Living arrangements. Conservatives might be put off by Giuliani's decision to live with two gay men while estranged from his wife, Donna Hanover. [...]

* Social issues: The former mayor has leaned left on gun control, abortion rights and gay rights, views that could put him at odds with right-wingers.

His strength right now lies in no one knowing anything about him beyond 9-11.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:06 AM


The passion of the pope (TIME, November 19, 2006)

Few people saw this coming. Nobody truly expected Benedict to be a mere caretaker pope -- his sometimes ferocious 24-year tenure as the Vatican's theological enforcer and John Paul's right hand suggested anything but passivity -- but neither did church watchers expect surprises.

They generally believed that he would sustain John Paul II's conservative line on morality and church discipline and focus most of his energies on trimming the Vatican bureaucracy and battling Western culture's "moral relativism."

Although acknowledged as a brilliant conservative theologian, Benedict lacked the open-armed charisma of his predecessor. Besides, for all John Paul's magnetism, what had initially propelled him to the center of the world stage was his challenge to communism and its subsequent fall, a huge geopolitical event that the pope helped precipitate with two exhilarating visits to his beloved Polish homeland.

By contrast, what could Benedict do? Liberate Bavaria? Well, not quite. But this year he has emerged as a far more compelling and complex figure than anyone had imagined. And much of that has to do with his willingness to take on what some people feel is today's equivalent of the communist scourge -- the threat of Islamic violence.

How could they not have forseen that this Pope would be primarily dedicated to salvaging Europe from the twin threats of secularism and Islamicism from at least the moment he took the name Benedict?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:02 AM


Ruth Brown, 78; pivotal rhythm-and-blues singer symbolized perseverance (Ann Powers and Randy Lewis, November 18, 2006, LA Times)

Ruth Brown, the pioneering singer whose 1950s hits including "Teardrops From My Eyes" and "(Mama) He Treats Your Daughter Mean" helped establish both the rhythm-and-blues form and Atlantic Records as the genre's preeminent label, died Friday in a Las Vegas area hospital from complications after a heart attack and stroke earlier in the week. She was 78. [...]

Despite being one of the top-selling R&B singers of the early 1950s, Brown had to support herself and her two children through a variety of menial jobs in the 1960s and '70s, after musical tastes changed and other artists took over the charts.

"She had a hard life," longtime Atlantic Records producer Jerry Wexler said Friday. "She had to drop out for a while and work as a maid. She'd be cleaning people's houses and then hear her records on the air."

Feisty, joyful and possessing the perfect balance of sugar and salt, Brown's voice took African American pop into the rhythmically expressive, emotionally direct rhythm-and-blues era.

Her nickname, in fact, was "Miss Rhythm," though she could turn a jazz phrase or give life to a Broadway song with as much grace as she showed shimmying through R&B hits such as "Lucky Lips" or her most famous song, "(Mama) He Treats Your Daughter Mean." Her trademark squeal in that No. 1 hit brought female sauciness to the fore in pop.

"Little Richard once told me he got his squeal from Ruth Brown," said Wexler, who produced dozens of her Atlantic recordings, mostly in conjunction with label founder Ahmet Ertegun.

Later, she came to symbolize other qualities, especially perseverance in the face of hardship.

"What always hit me about Ruth was her sass and the force of her spirit," singer Bonnie Raitt said Friday. "Even though she had a girlish quality, behind it there was no kidding around…. She would sell the song, and the force of her personality was so strong — flirtatiousness mixed with vulnerability mixed with 'Don't mess with me.' "

That she struggled while the Britney's of the world topped the charts is sufficient reason to hate pop music.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Calm, satisfied customers welcome Wii system (Mike Snider, 11/20/06, USA TODAY)

Another video game system arrived to long lines at stores, but more customers went home satisfied Sunday clutching a new Nintendo Wii. [...]

The Wii is less of a technological leap than the high definition PS3 and 360, but uses a new motion-sensitive wireless controller to involve players physically and socially.

"It's unique and it's cheaper," says Rick Baghdassarian, 18, of Fairfax, Va., among about 25 lined up at a Circuit City store in McLean, Va., and one of 18 of whom got a Wii. The orderliness there was in contrast to two days earlier, when police used pepper spray to quell a PS3 crowd of 200.

"It was just ridiculous," says Baghdassarian, who waited unsuccessfully for a PS3. "Most of the people I talked to planned on selling it. The PS3 was like a business thing, and the Wii is more for gamers."

The eldest and I were in an arcade on Saturday night that had all the original vending machine versions of video games and after playing Donkey Kong and watching me get giddy over the fact they had Qix he thinks his parents grew up in the Stone Age. Meanwhile, the virtual reality stuff he liked was making me chunder.

Gamers pluck Wii shelves bare (PETER SVENSSON, 11/20/06, The Associated Press)

Nintendo's entry into the game-console wars, the Wii, went on sale Sunday and quickly sold out in many stores, despite stocks that far surpassed those of the rival PlayStation 3, which went on sale Friday. [...]

The first buyer, Isaiah Triforce Johnson, had been waiting outside for more than a week. He wore a Nintendo Power Glove, a wearable controller that came out in 1989, while shaking hands with Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aime.

Johnson said he had legally changed his name to include a reference to Nintendo's "Zelda" games.

The launch apparently went smoothly, a contrast to the launch PlayStation 3 release, which forced police to disperse rowdy crowds at some stores.

November 19, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:42 PM


Pentagon Review Sees Three Options in Iraq: More Training of Iraqi Troops a Likely Focus (Thomas E. Ricks, November 20, 2006, Washington Post)

The Pentagon's closely guarded review of how to improve the situation in Iraq has outlined three basic options: Send in more troops, shrink the force but stay longer, or pull out, according to senior defense officials.

Insiders have dubbed the options "Go Big," "Go Long" and "Go Home." The group conducting the review is likely to recommend a combination of a small, short-term increase in U.S. troops and a long-term commitment to stepped-up training and advising of Iraqi forces, the officials said.

None of the options has anything to do with Iraq.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:34 PM


Gonzalez heads to Reds as Sox angle for catcher (Nick Cafardo, November 19, 2006, Boston Globe)

While the Red Sox were losing shortstop Alex Gonzalez, who agreed to a three-year deal worth $14 million-$15 million with the Cincinnati Reds, they were close to signing 35-year-old veteran catcher Alberto Castillo to a minor league deal with the probability that he will compete for a major league backup job in spring training.

If they'd acquired him instead of Javy they'd have remained a playoff team last year.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:12 PM

PIGSKIN TRUMPS PIGMENT (via Jim in Chicago):

A Tongan War Dance Enlivens Football In Euless, Texas ( J. LYNN LUNSFORD, November 16, 2006, Wall Street Journal)

For as long as anybody can remember, the stereotypical Texas high-school football player has been the saddle-tough son of the West Texas prairie.

So imagine a recent evening when the Odessa Permian Panthers, whose historic dominance of Texas football inspired the book, movie and TV series "Friday Night Lights," looked across the field and saw the rival Trinity Trojans doing a Polynesian war dance.

At the sound of a tone blown over a large conch shell, 17-year-old senior defensive tackle Alex Kautai threw off his helmet, freeing a mane of curly black hair. He shouted several sentences in a foreign tongue and waved his arms as 93 visibly agitated teammates gathered behind him on the sidelines.

On cue, they dropped into a wide, crouching stance and began the ritual known as the haka. "Ka Mate! Ka Mate! Ka Ora!" (We're going to die! We're going to die! We're going to live!), they chanted in unison as the fans went wild. For the next 60 seconds, the players acted out an ancient battle in which a big hairy man saves the life of a Maori chieftain.

With each phrase, the players slapped their thighs, arms or chests. They stomped back and forth, symbolically thrusting and jabbing at the enemy. At the end of the dance, Mr. Kautai jumped in the air and landed on one foot, his right fist in the air and his tongue lolling out of his mouth as he sneered fiercely.

Few other high-school teams could pull off that routine without looking silly. But at Trinity, the war dance embraces the culture of a growing population of immigrants from the island kingdom of Tonga, in the southwest Pacific east of Fiji. An estimated 4,000 people of Tongan descent live in Trinity's hometown of Euless, a city of 52,900 whose boundaries include about 2,800 acres of Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport.

Tongan community leaders say that most of the Pacific Islanders were drawn to the area over the past 20 years by jobs at the airport, where many of them work as baggage handlers or service employees. For those with airline jobs, company flight privileges have made it easier for them to fly home regularly.

Most of the 24 players of Tongan descent on the Trinity football team weigh between 250 and 308 pounds and stand at least 6 feet tall. Besides that, they are quick, so the combination makes Trinity an intimidating force on any high-school field. The Tongan players helped transform Trinity into a Texas football powerhouse.

Let's see Tom Tancredo sell nativism to Texans with a winning football team.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:09 PM


Two Nations Go Fighterless (James Dunnigan, November 20, 2005, Strategy Page)

Another Pacific island nation has gotten rid of its air force. Well, sort of. New Zealand sold off its warplanes, after disbanding its fighter force in 2001. Last month, the Philippines removed from service its eight F-5 fighters. [...] Like New Zealand, the Philippines depends on its friendship with the United States for protection. American warplanes provide better protection than any jet fighters New Zealand and the Philippines could put in the air.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:03 PM


DISCUSSION: The Shia Revival: How Conflicts within Islam Will Shape the Future (Vali Nasr , Joanne J. Myers, October 18, 2006, Carnegie Council)

VALI NASR: Thank you. Good morning, first of all. It is a great pleasure to be here. Thank you, Joanne, for that kind introduction.

Everywhere we look nowadays in the news, particularly regarding Iraq, it seems we come across the terms "Shia" and "Sunni" and "sectarian violence." It seems to be the one issue that initially we did not think about in the context of the Middle East. Yet it is, as has been continuously mentioned, the defining factor for the future of Iraq, and in many ways it might become more so for the rest of the region as well.

Now, the question for a lot of policymakers, the American public, and also for a lot of people in the Middle East is: What does it mean, what is the depth of it, and how might it actually change the way things are?

In particular, it is important because in many ways the Shia-Sunni conflict is happening in Iraq, it is the epicenter of it; but it is changing many other things in the Middle East, or is converging with other things in the Middle East. It is a new conflict. Yet I would like to call it a new old conflict , because its roots go back through history. But it is a new conflict that is in many ways converging and interacting with other issues in the region.

For instance, this summer, when the Israel-Lebanon border heated up and a war broke out, it was a war that the world knew was an Arab-Israeli conflict. It had to do with the Palestinian cause. But, unbeknownst to most people, it very quickly became a Shia-Sunni conflict, when the Arab governments and a number of radical Sunni clerics on websites associated with Al Qaeda came out swinging against Hezbollah, arguing that this is a Shia power grab, and is illegitimate. One of the leading pro-Al Qaeda Sunni clerics called Hezbollah, which means the party of God, the party of Satan, and said that Hezbollah could not legitimately ware a jihad against Israel because it's a heretical organization.

The United States very quickly discovered that there was a Shia axis between Hezbollah and Iran that was now essentially deciding the direction of the Arab-Israeli conflict. So this was not just about Iraq, but it was the convergence of the newest conflict in the Middle East, which is the sectarian conflict in Iraq, with the oldest conflict in the Middle East, which is the Arab-Israeli conflict, in ways that were difficult for policymakers necessarily to comprehend or to respond to.

So the question is: What is occurring? I refer to this as "the Shia revival," because I think Iraq set in motion a major change that goes beyond the boundaries of Iraq itself. I believe that it is a consequence of two overlapping events. One is the rivalry that is coming out of Iraq between the Shias and Sunnis, which, as it becomes deeper and more violent, its reverberations are going to become louder in the region. The second is that it coincides with the rise of Iran as a major power in the region. Now, these two are interrelated, they have a lot to do with each other, and yet in many ways they are also separate. But the convergence of them means that it is a completely new Middle East in many ways—not that old conflicts have gone away, but that the rules of the game have changed, the power brokers have changed, the issues have changed, and the boundary lines within the region are changing.

Now, when Iraq happened, something symbolic happened in the Middle East, in the heartland of the Muslim world. Most people did not notice, but about half the population of the Middle East are Shias. Shias are about 10-to-15 percent of the entire Muslim world. We don't have accurate statistics because in much of the Middle East it is not convenient to have them, for ruling regimes in particular. But the estimates are that they are about 10-to-15 percent of the Muslim world, which puts them somewhere between 165-to-190 million people.

The overwhelming majority of that population lives between Pakistan and Lebanon. Iran always had been a Shia country, the largest one, with about 60 million population. Pakistan is the second-largest Shia country in the world, with about 30 million population. And, potentially, there are as many Shias in India as there are in Iraq.

But in the Arab world there are significant population centers. Iraq is a Shia-majority country. In Lebanon, the Shias are the single largest community; looking at anybody's estimate, they are from 35 percent to 45 percent of the population. Bahrain is a Shia-majority country; about 75 percent of its population are Shia. And then you have minorities of various sizes in Kuwait, in Saudi Arabia, and elsewhere.

But, regardless of where these Shias lived in the Arab world, whether they were majorities or minorities, their political and economic situation was the same, and that was that they did not have a share of power that was commensurate to their numbers.

Iraq in some ways changed this, and it changed it in a very significant country, a country that is traditionally one of the three most important Arab countries. Its seat of power, Baghdad, was the seat of the caliphate which is most associated with the suppression of Shiism. That is exactly why there are so many Shia shrines in Iraq all around Baghdad. That's where the Shia leaders died at the hands of the caliphs and were buried.

Now, this important Arab country has become Shia, as a consequence of American intervention. It is the very first Shia Arab country. In many ways, as a result of the fight against the United States from the beginning, the insurgency was as much anti-Shia as it was anti-American. They are the two sides of the same coin, because from the very beginning the perception was that one of the big sins of the United States was to facilitate transfer of power from one sect to the other.

Now, what Iraq did was that it essentially opened hope in the rest of the region, particularly among the Arab populations, about what was possible. When the most senior Iraqi ayatollah, Ayatollah Sistani, came out with a very simple mantra, "one man, one vote," the writing on the wall was very clear: "One man, one vote" benefits the Shia, because where they are a majority, as in in Iraq, that transfers power to them. Where they are a minority, they get a lot more than they had before: they get a seat at the table; they get a share of the wealth.

In most of the region, there is no panarchism, there is no single political leadership, there is no single movement. There is no Ayatollah Khomeini in the Middle East—there is no single pope, if you will, for the Shias. What is fortuitous for the Shias is that because these Shia communities all have the same problems, the same aspirations, and they have the same attitude towards power, the reaction to what happened in Iraq was somewhat similar, and that is to expect more and demand more.

There is a sort of a confidence that began to seep into Shia politics. For instance, in a country in which their political situation is particular dire, namely Saudi Arabia, they began to demand of the king far more than what they had. They are about 10-to-15 percent of the population in Saudi Arabia. They sit on top of Saudi oil, a lot of the oil workers are Shias, but their situation is somewhat like those who live in the Niger Delta in Nigeria: they don't get any of the oil income.

They had been relatively dormant and now they have gotten many concessions from the Saudi government. When the first municipal elections took place in Saudi Arabia last year, Shia voters' participation exceeded those of Sunnis by a margin of two-to-one. In Shia areas about 45 percent of the people voted. In Sunni areas across Saudi Arabia, it was about 25 percent. So it was very clear that the Shias were responding to the opportunity that Iraq had presented—not that they favored the invasion, not that they necessarily favored U.S. intervention, but it had benefited them.

A consequence of that is also evident in Iraq, where the Shias have, by and large, not engaged in insurgency; they have not turned anti-American. They are fighting, but they are not fighting against the United States. For now, they are giving the United States the benefit of the doubt.

But the other side of the equation matters also. From the very beginning in Iraq, it was clear that the Sunnis in Iraq were going to draw the line in the sand. They were not willing to give up power. There is a line in Bob Woodward's book [State of Denial] where Ambassador Blackwell was encouraged by the UN emissary to Iraq, Lakhdar Brahimi, to talk to Sunni leaders. When he talked to them and he told them that the United States would guarantee that the Sunni population would have rights and privileges in accordance to its numbers, they told Blackwell: "You don't understand. We've ruled in Iraq. We want to rule again."

I have been told by many who have talked to American and British officials and to Sunni insurgents in Amarah, that the demand number one all along was Sunni restoration in Baghdad, and that Shia rule over Iraq is simply unacceptable. There is a sort of refusal to allow this transfer of power. So whereas from the very beginning for us this was about Iraqi people and freedom, Iraqi people and dictatorship, the question for the Iraqi people was "which Iraqi people?" and "who defines freedom?" So the Shiites' definition of Iraq is very different than it is for Sunnis.

It became increasingly clear that the Sunnis, both within Iraq and also outside Iraq, do not view Iraqi Shias as legitimate spokesmen for Arab identity and Arab nationalism.

The only folks having more trouble adjusting to the reality that the Shi'a are our allies in the Middle East are the neocons.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:38 PM


Setbacks for Venezuela's Leader Embolden a Vigorous Opponent: Chávez Projected to Win Reelection, but Concern About Margin Evident (Juan Forero, 11/19/06, Washington Post)

At opposition rallies, loudspeakers on trucks blare the message "Dare to," as in dare to vote against Chávez and his party, the Fifth Republic Movement. Thousands have flooded streets for anti-government marches and rallies, a reminder of the multitudes who emerged in 2002, when the opposition movement reached its peak before its long, hard fall.

"We are united, and we are sure we're going to win," said Henry Parras, an engineer dressed in the three colors of the Venezuelan flag during a recent protest that brought tens of thousands into the streets of this gritty capital.

"There are so many people, no exaggeration," he said, waving his arms as fellow government foes blew whistles and shouted for Chávez to leave office. "Just look at it. This is the reality. Just look at it."

Disparate factions, from former guerrillas to industrialists to right-wing radicals who had once advocated a boycott of the election, have coalesced behind Manuel Rosales, a wiry pit bull of a candidate who does not mince words when calling for a change in government.

In most polls, Rosales trails Chávez by at least 20 points. Nonetheless, some polls show him with the support of more than 30 percent of the electorate, up from just 9 percent in August. Political analysts attribute the surge to Rosales's constant criticism that Chávez, in buying Argentine bonds and providing aid to Africa and El Salvador, has wasted the country's oil revenue while ignoring festering problems at home.

"We see him as a failed government," Rosales said in an interview at his headquarters in an elegant neighborhood of Caracas. "No one understands how the government is giving away Venezuela's riches, as part of a political and ideological strategy, when there are bad services, a bad health system, a bad education system, bad policies for housing construction." [...]

Polls show Venezuelans are worried about crime, unemployment and inflation, which rose to a one-year high of 15.5 percent in October, not about an invasion from the north.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:29 PM


Ségolène urges Britain to choose between Europe and America (David Rennie, 20/11/2006, Daily Telegraph)

Ségolène Royal, the Socialist candidate for the French presidency, wants Britain to choose between being a "vassal" of the United States, and embracing a French-led drive for European integration, her adviser on Europe has revealed. [...]

Britain would be asked to sign up to the new treaty, but if it rejected calls for increased protectionism, an EU foreign minister, convergence on tax rates and moves to create a European army, then France and her allies would agree a treaty among themselves, he said.

Forget America for a moment, why would Britain choose Europe over India?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:56 PM


Democrats to Push Pocketbook Issues (Amy Goldstein and Lyndsey Layton, 11/19/06, Washington Post)

Striving for a few quick legislative victories in January and longer-term goals whose details -- and viability -- are not yet certain, Democratic lawmakers want to shift the dialogue on Capitol Hill to workers' pay, college tuition, health-care costs, retirees' income and other issues that touch ordinary families.

Their success is not assured. Democrats will hold a tenuous 51 to 49 majority in the Senate, where Republicans and the Bush administration will be well-positioned to thwart their legislation, and Democrats in the House already are showing signs of division. Democrats will face a conflict, too, between the cost of some of their policies and their pledge to tighten federal spending rules. [....]

Democratic leaders have vowed to protect middle-class households from the alternative minimum tax. For now, they are planning a one-year fix. They have not decided on a permanent reform. "That's a tough one. It's easy to say, 'We are going to do away with it.' The challenge is how to pay for it," said former senator John Breaux, who co-chaired a presidential tax commission last year that estimated that eliminating the tax would cost $1 trillion over the next decade. The White House favors reforming the tax only if Congress considers other tax changes, which Democrats might not like.

The tax is one of several priorities that the Democrats have not determined specifically how to address.

While repeating the mistakes of '94 is easy, the way they used the filibuster while out of power and the failure to run on a Contract like set of specifics means they've little chance of duplicating the successes.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:48 PM


The Great Liberator (LAWRENCE H. SUMMERS, 11/19/06, NY Times)

IF John Maynard Keynes was the most influential economist of the first half of the 20th century, then Milton Friedman was the most influential economist of the second half.

Not so long ago, we were all Keynesians. (“I am a Keynesian,” Richard Nixon famously said in 1971.) Equally, any honest Democrat will admit that we are now all Friedmanites. Mr. Friedman, who died last week at 94, never held elected office but he has had more influence on economic policy as it is practiced around the world today than any other modern figure. [...]

While much of his academic work was directed at monetary policy, Mr. Friedman’s great popular contribution lay elsewhere: in convincing people of the importance of allowing free markets to operate.

All you really need to know about the Modern Age is that its greatest economist's singular achievement was to explain that Adam Smith was right 230 years ago.

Milton is dead, but we are all Friedmen now (William Rees-Mogg, 11/20/06, Times of London)

Despite the quality of his work on US monetary history, Friedman was a radical conservative rather than an originator. He defended the free-market principles of the classical school and renewed the quantity theory of money. He became the prime advocate of these ideas. They regained their earlier influence in Britain through the Institute of Economic Affairs and through journalists such as Peter Jay of The Times and Samuel Brittan, of The Financial Times. But Friedman was the intellectual leader.

In 1970 Friedmanite monetarism was a minority doctrine, regarded by most economists as cranky or obsolete. By 1975, under the pressure of world inflation, Milton Friedman had the best of the battle, and the Keynesians were in full retreat. By 1980 practical policy around the world had become monetarist. The battle was fought over the most effective remedy for inflation. Keynes had written The General Theory (1936) as an anti-deflation book; it did not deal effectively with inflation.

After 30 years of broadly monetarist policies the world now enjoys low inflation and relatively high rates of growth. So long as Keynesianism delivered the goods — which it continued to until the late 1960s — it remained orthodox; Friedmanism is now delivering the goods. So long as that continues, monetarism and free markets will remain the world orthodoxy.

All economic theories must be tested by their outcomes. Classical theory, of which the Friedmanites are a subsect, dates back to 1776 and Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations. The same year produced the US Declaration of Independence. Political and economic liberty are twins; they stand or fall together.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:44 PM


A Somber Annual Meeting for Conservative Lawyers (NEIL A. LEWIS, 11/19/06, NY Times)

No group has been more influential in sending up candidates for the federal courts; when President Bush took office in 2001, the society had recommended to him the majority of his first slate of 11 federal appeals court judges. His appointments to the Supreme Court, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., were both active in the Federalist Society and enjoyed strong support from it.

But the wheel of judicial fortune has turned. The Senate Democrats who will be seated in January will constitute a majority, and they say they are determined to block any of Mr. Bush’s judicial nominees whom they deem too conservative.

Since that might include almost all of his nominees, there was a little less jauntiness as the conservative lawyers gathered this year.

Just another interest group that ultimately stabbed itself in the back by its hysteria about the President not being a true conservative.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:55 PM

GOOD POLICY, AWFUL POLITICS (via Bryan Francoeur)::

Top Democrat: Bring back the draft (AP, 11/19/06)

Americans would have to sign up for a new military draft after turning 18 if the incoming chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee has his way.
In keeping with the Democrats' apparent decision to make every one of the mistakes Republicans made in 1994, count this as Newt's call for more orphanages.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:40 PM


Want world peace? Support free trade. (Donald J. Boudreaux, 11/20/06, CS Monitor)

During the past 30 years, Solomon Polachek, an economist at the State University of New York at Binghamton, has researched the relationship between trade and peace. In his most recent paper on the topic, he and co-author Carlos Seiglie of Rutgers University review the massive amount of research on trade, war, and peace.

They find that "the overwhelming evidence indicates that trade reduces conflict." Likewise for foreign investment. The greater the amounts that foreigners invest in the United States, or the more that Americans invest abroad, the lower is the likelihood of war between America and those countries with which it has investment relationships.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:36 PM


A brisk rise in American wages: Pay rose faster than the cost of living for the first time in years (Mark Trumbull, 11/20/06, The Christian Science Monitor)

The pay increase amounts to 4 percent on average over the past 12 months, and it comes at a very helpful time for millions of households. [...]

Equally significant, tamer energy prices mean that the "real" wage gains, after inflation, are above 3 percent for the past 12 months. That, too, hasn't happened since the 1990s, even though the economy has been expanding over the past five years.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:20 PM


How Democrats plan to beef up your 401(k) (Ross Kerber, November 19, 2006, Boston Globe)

After beating back Republican attempts to privatize Social Security, Democrats are pushing a private-sector savings idea of their own.

Democratic leaders in the House are floating plans to contribute billions of federal dollars to the individual 401(k) plans and similar accounts that corporate America has already made widely popular.

Part of a Democratic proposal known as AmeriSave could match up to the first $1,000 put into new and existing retirement accounts annually by low-income and middle-class workers, funded partly by reducing a current tax credit.

Though still in its early stages, the proposal amounts to a response to the Bush administration's efforts to divert some Social Security savings into private accounts, an idea that fell flat. [...]

[T]he Bush administration has increased funding to help the poorest save for education and housing with matching grants of federal money in "individual development accounts."

The question now is whether a bigger matching grant program could take the pressure off the Social Security system, which faces funding shortfalls.

Traditionally American retirees counted on Social Security payments coupled with private savings and company pension benefits. But lately large firms have dialed back significantly on their obligations, often by freezing pension plans or not offering them to new employees.

The hope is that private savings in tax-advantaged 401(k) plans and Individual Retirement Accounts will pull workers through. The median 401(k) account balance rose to $54,591 in 2005 from $24,371 in 1999, according to the Employee Benefit Research Institute in Washington.

The President would sign such a no-brainer faster than you can write "W," but why would Democrats pass a plan that bypasses people who don't already have individual accounts, otherwise known as "their base."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:41 PM


Democrats Split on How Far to Go With Ethics Law (DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK, 11/19/06, NY Times)

After railing for months against Congressional corruption under Republican rule, Democrats on Capitol Hill are divided on how far their proposed ethics overhaul should go. [...]

Sweeping change, however, may be a tough sell within the party. Representative John P. Murtha, Democrat of Pennsylvania, was embarrassed by disclosures last week that he had dismissed the leadership proposals with a vulgarity at a private meeting. But Mr. Murtha is hardly the only Democrat who objects to broad changes.

Senator Dianne Feinstein, the California Democrat who will oversee any proposal as the incoming chairwoman of the Rules Committee, for example, said she was opposed to an independent Congressional ethics watchdog. “If the law is clear and precise, members will follow it,” she said in an interview. “As to whether we need to create a new federal bureaucracy to enforce the rules, I would hope not.”

Other Democratic lawmakers argued that the real ethical problem was the Republicans, not the current ethics rules, and that the election had alleviated the need for additional regulations. “There is an understanding on our side that the Republicans paid a price for a lot of the abuses that evolved,” said Representative Barney Frank, Democrat of Massachusetts, alluding to earmarks. Senator Tom Harkin, an Iowa Democrat and a senior member of the Appropriations Committee, said the scandals of the current Congress were “about the K Street Project for the Republicans,” referring to the party’s initiative to put more Republicans in influential lobbying posts and build closer ties to them.

“That was incestuous from the beginning. We never had anything like that,” Mr. Harkin said of Democrats. “That is what soured the whole thing.”

Democrats, of course, have also cultivated close ties to lobbyists, who play a major role in campaign fund-raising for members of both parties. Indeed, ethical violations and house-cleaning efforts have both been bipartisan activities over the years. Congress has seesawed between public calls for changes and a reluctance to cramp incumbents’ campaign fund-raising and political power.'s pretending you'll be different.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 7:45 AM


Condom use increasing in Africa: study (CBC, November 17th, 2006)

Amid all the dire warnings about the AIDS pandemic, researchers announce some good news: Young African women report they are increasingly using condoms with their partners.

The study, published in the British journal The Lancet, analyzed data in 18 African countries from 1993 to 2001, looking at changes in the sexual behaviour of 132,800 women, 15 to 24 years old.

While abstinence rates changed little, the study found that condom use more than tripled, from 5.3 per cent in 1993 to 18.8 per cent in 2001, with a median yearly increase of 1.4 per cent.[...]

The researchers did not comment on the politically charged issue of condom distribution in AIDS control strategies. But Dr. Paul Zeitz, executive director of the Washington-based Global AIDS alliance, said the study provides evidence that the U.S. AIDS program has been misdirected.

Critics say the U.S. program has shifted emphasis from condoms toward abstinence and fidelity, especially among the young. U.S. officials say their three-pronged HIV-prevention strategy, emphasizing abstinence, fidelity and condom use, offers people the best options to protect themselves.

"The data are clear that you need all three components," said Dr. Mark Dybul, the U.S. deputy global AIDS coordinator in Washington. He said the U.S. will ship 486 million condoms worldwide this year, nearly triple the number in 2001.

As the excellent post below explores, modern liberalism has descended from an empirical challenge to ossified tradition and orthodoxy in the name of individual freedom and tolerance to an angry fundamentalist creed that is further and further removed from fact and evidence--and proud of it. Just as American success in reducing greenhouse gas emissions counts for nothing in the face of the symbolism of it’s rejection of Kyoto, so the AIDS industry keeps going to extreme lengths to pretend U.S. policy is anti-condom and based on a sniffy notion that any death from AIDS is just desserts for the immoral. The reason, of course, is that just as the climate change controversy is more about halting Western prosperity than anything to do with climate, so tranzi AIDS programmes battle any suggestion that individual sexual behaviour can and should be controlled. Preventing disease is secondary to de-linking sex and morality. Motivated partly by a collective nihilist self-hatred, partly by a deep and profound racism and partly by rote anti-Americanism, they seem to be approaching the point where they would have us believe that, even with unlimited free condoms, the AIDS virus can be transmitted mysteriously to the celibate and faithful as punishment for their dangerous religious thoughts.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 6:39 AM


Preaching Free-Market Gospel to Skeptical Africa
(Jason DeParle, New York Times, November 18th, 2006)

On a continent where socialists have often held sway, Mr. Shikwati is now a conservative phenomenon. He has published scores of articles hailing business as Africa’s salvation; offered free-market lectures on five continents; and, defying the zeitgeist of the Bono age, issued scathing attacks on foreign assistance, which he blames for Africa’s poverty. When Western countries pledged to double African aid last year, an interview with an angry Mr. Shikwati filled two pages of Der Spiegel, the German magazine.

“For God’s sake, please stop the aid!” he told the magazine.

So modest was Mr. Shikwati’s start in the policy world, he walked nine miles on muddy roads just to get Mr. Reed’s e-mail messages. Yet nine months after he started his group, Western supporters flew him to the United States, where he joined a dinner of the conservative Heritage Foundation and toasted an A-list crowd that included Edwin Meese III, the former attorney general.

The unusual collaboration between a Midwestern mentor and his African protégé can be read in contrasting lights — as a crafty effort to export Western dominance or an idealistic joining of minds in the cause of freedom. While Mr. Reed salutes his protégé as a “passionate advocate for liberty in an unlikely place,” Jeffrey D. Sachs, a Columbia University professor who is a leading aid advocate, calls Mr. Shikwati’s criticisms of foreign assistance “shockingly misguided” and “amazingly wrong.”

“This happens to be a matter of life and death for millions of people, so getting it wrong has huge consequences,” Mr. Sachs said. [...]

Critics see a sleight of hand, in which Western conservatives created a faux expert, then cite him to justify their views.

“The truly hard-hearted have been looking for a developing country ‘economist’ to sing this song for years,” said Neil Gallagher, a spokesman for the United Nations World Food Program in Rome, which feeds about three million Kenyans a year. “It justifies their meanness.”

Mr. Sachs of Columbia University said Mr. Shikwati was “part of a game” the conservative movement played to create an impression that Africans oppose foreign help. Although he agrees that some aid programs have failed, he said others had eradicated smallpox, slashed polio rates and started Asia’s green revolution, saving hundreds of millions of people from famine.

Telling a professional tranzi that Africa would be better off without them is as terrifying to them as is telling a marxist functionary that the state really is going to wither away soon.

November 18, 2006

Posted by Matt Murphy at 3:29 PM


Anybody here want to attempt guessing the score to the Ohio State-Michigan football game tomorrow? There is a free book awaiting the individual who comes closest to the combined total score without going over, and also picks the winner correctly. Those of you from Ohio or Michigan are also invited to a trash-talking gabfest in the comments section. All entries must be made by kickoff time tomorrow.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:33 AM

pROTESTANTISM (via Mike Daley):

Going to Extremes: Between Relativism and Fundamentalism (Peter l. Berger, American Interest)

For reasons that may not be immediately obvious, relativism and fundamentalism as cultural forces are closely interlinked. This is not only because one can morph and, more often than may be appreciated does morph, into the other: In every relativist there is a fundamentalist about to be born, and in every fundamentalist there is a relativist waiting to be liberated. More basically, it is because both relativism and fundamentalism are products of the same process of modernization; indeed, both are intrinsically modern phenomena, and both pose a serious challenge to any modern society that intends to be civil. Relativism is bad for civility because it precludes the moral condemnation of virtually anything at all. Fundamentalism is bad for civility because it produces irresolvable conflict with those who do not share its beliefs. And both are bad for any hope of arriving at valid normative conclusions by means of rational discourse, the relativism because there is no will to such a discourse, and fundamentalism because there is no way to it. Consequently, it is important for both political and intellectual reasons to stake out a middle ground between the two extremes. What follows is an attempt, by means of a sociological analysis, to show how the two phenomena are related. 

“Pluralism” is a less than fortunate term. The “ism” suggests an ideological position (as was intended by the American philosopher, Horace Kallen, who coined it in the 1920s to celebrate ethnic and religious diversity). I use the term here as it is now commonly used, namely to describe not an ideology but an empirical fact. “Pluralization” is more factual-sounding, but it is also more awkward. It usually makes little sense to fight common usage, so let “pluralism” stand. However, here is a more precise definition of it: Pluralism is a situation in which different ethnic or religious groups co-exist under conditions of civic peace and interact with each other socially. The latter phrase is important: There are situations in which groups live side by side peacefully, but have nothing to do with one another—the traditional Indian caste system being a good example. Such barriers to interaction prevent “cognitive contamination” (a phrase I invented in an earlier fit of terminological enthusiasm), which happens when the beliefs and values of others undermine the taken-for-granted status of one’s own. 

There is no great mystery as to why modernity generates plurality. Modernity has led to massive urbanization, with highly diverse groups thrown into intense contact with each other. Unprecedented rates of international migration and travel have had similar consequences. Mass literacy has brought knowledge of other cultures and ways of life to numerous people. And of course, such knowledge has been greatly magnified by newer information technologies: telephone, radio, movies, television and now, exponentially, the computer revolution. Everyone now talks about globalization, and the phenomenon is real enough. But it only represents a vast amplification of the modernizing process that began with the great voyages of discovery and the printing press. The information technology of the globalization era has brought the dynamics of pluralizing modernity to all but the most remote corners of the world. 

Pluralism relativizes. It does so both institutionally and in the consciousness of individuals. This relativization is obviously enhanced when the state does not try to impose uniformity of beliefs and values by means of coercion. However, as the fate of modern totalitarian regimes illustrates, even when the state makes this attempt, it is very difficult to block out every form of cognitive contamination. There is now a veritable market of worldviews and moralities. Every functioning society requires a certain degree of normative consensus, lest it fall apart: no society can tolerate a pluralism of norms concerning intra-community violence—say, “I believe in my right to shoot anyone who takes my parking space.” But within these limits a wide diversity is possible. The American idiom contains the revealing phrase “religious preference”—a market term if ever there was one. But there are also moral, lifestyle, ethnic and even sexual preferences (and an accompanying cottage industry of counselors and therapists assisting consumers in selecting the preferences that are presumably right for them). 

The institutional consequences of pluralism are most clearly evident in the case of religion. Whether they like it or not, and no matter whether this accords with their theological self-understanding, all churches become voluntary associations in post-traditional societies. Their lay members become consumers of the services provided by the clergy and, in the process, become more assertive. American Catholic writers have described this process as “Protestantization.” The term is misleading if it refers to some doctrinal adumbration of Protestantism, but it accurately describes how the social organization of Catholicism has come to resemble the voluntary character of Protestant “denominations” in America. 

But the same move from taken-for-granted allegiance to freely chosen participation creates voluntary “denominations” in areas other than religion. People voluntarily adhere to this or that moral belief system (that is what the American “culture war” is about), this or that lifestyle (the cult of “wellness” has all the markings of a church), ethnic self-identification (Michael Novak shrewdly proposed years ago that ethnicity has become a matter of choice in America), and even sexual identity
 (thus many feminists have embraced the notion that gender—tellingly a term derived from the arbitrary realm of grammar—is a “social construction”). In this sense (and in this sense only)—to paraphrase Richard Nixon on Keynes—we are all Protestants now!

But pluralism also has profound consequences for individual life. As ever-wider areas of life lose their taken-for-granted norms, the individual must reflect upon and make choices among the alternatives that have become available. Indeed, modernization can be described as a gigantic shift in the human condition from one of fate to one of choice. In recent social philosophy this shift has been elegantly described by Arnold Gehlen in his two key categories of “de-institutionalization” and “subjectivization.” De-institutionalization refers to the process wherein traditional institutional programs for individual behavior are fragmented—where previously there was one taken-for-granted program for, say, raising children, there now are competing schools of childhood education. Subjectivization refers to the process wherein institutions lose their alleged objective status so that the individual is thrown back upon himself in constructing his own “patchwork” of meanings and norms.

The net effect of this transformation can be summed up as follows: Certainty becomes much harder to achieve. This means that even if the same traditional beliefs and values continue to be affirmed, the manner of affirmation has changed. Put simply, the what of belief may not change, but the how does. For many people, at least at an early stage of the process, this change is experienced as a great liberation—as indeed it is. But especially after a while, it may be experienced as a burden from which one wants to be freed. There ensues an often desperate quest for certainty, and where there is a demand, someone will proffer a supply. This is where the fundamentalists come in.

Then there is the issue of moral relativism, again a philosophical problem that cannot be developed here. It can be formulated with great erudition, but in the end it comes down to the philosopher saying to the cannibal: “You believe it is right to cook people and eat them. I don’t. Let us agree to disagree.” It seems to me that there is an important difference between this issue and the one about scientific objectivity. Science can never give us certainty, it only provides probabilities, and it must always be open to the possibility that its hypotheses may be falsified. But there are moral judgments that, even if one understands that they are contingent on one’s position in time and space, attain a high degree of certainty. Slavery and torture are good examples of this. I am not prepared to say that my moral condemnation of torture is a matter of taste or that it is a mere hypothesis. I am certain that torture is a totally unacceptable moral evil. And any argument to the effect that I would have a different view if, say, I lived as a magistrate in Tudor England will not move me from this conviction. Moral judgments come out of specific perceptions of the human condition formed in the course of specific historical developments, but this genesis does not explain away their validity. Einstein would not have come upon the theory of relativity if he had lived as a peasant in ancient Egypt, but this obvious observation does not invalidate the theory. Einstein’s scientific insights are not the same as his moral beliefs, but neither can be validated or invalidated by pointing out their social and historical context.

There are moral certainties that withstand relativization. There is the episode concerning General Napier who conquered the region of Sind for the British Raj in India. Upon establishing control over this area, he did what the British usually did in their empire—he left local customs pretty much as they were, except for a very few that he deemed totally unacceptable. Among these was suttee—the burning alive of widows. A delegation of Brahmin priests came to see him and said: “You cannot ban suttee. It is an ancient tradition of our people.” Napier replied: “We British also have our ancient traditions. When men burn a woman alive, we hang them. Let us each follow our traditions.” It seems that Napier was not plagued by moral relativism.

What's missing all too often in advocacy of pluralism and toleration is the recognition that protestantism has a predicate, that so long as all men feel themselves bound by the laws of God, it needn't matter over much how they worship Him. This is the deep truth in Ike's often humorously cited remark that, “[O]ur form of government has no sense unless it is founded in a deeply felt religious faith, and I don’t care what it is."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:30 AM


What Global Economic Slowdown?: France and Japan may have hit some rough patches, but the global economy still looks plenty solid heading into 2007 (Peter Coy, 11/13/06, Business Week)

Why is the global economy still looking solid? The drop in oil prices, from the high $70s last summer to around $60 a barrel now, is a big factor. Another crucial factor is sound management of the economy by the world's central banks. The Federal Reserve and its counterparts kept inflation in check even when oil prices were shooting up, so they don't need to take drastic action to chill their economies in order to avoid runaway prices.

Strange that folks who study economics would believe that bureaucrats have controlled inflation. The reality is that nothing a few individuals can do can stop the global deflation that accompanies freer societies.

November 17, 2006

Posted by Peter Burnet at 7:59 PM


Real men don't go home at 7pm (Jereemy Clarkson, The Sunday Times, November, 12th, 2006)

Cherie’s message was clear. Men should spend quality time with their family no matter how many wars they’ve inadvertently started and no matter how many constables are knocking on the door wanting to know about cash for ermine.

I’m sorry but I don’t understand. If you were an Iron Age man and you came home from a hunting expedition empty-handed because you wanted to play with your children, you’d starve. If you were a penguin and you came back from a fishing trip with nothing but snow in your flippers, your baby would die and the following year Mrs Penguin would find a new mate.

This is the problem. I am designed to kill foxes, bend every woman I meet over the nearest piece of furniture and give her a damn good seeing-to.

But in an evolutionary nanosecond, it’s all changed. After several million years of programming we’ve been told that what women really want is a husband who leaves his colleagues in the lurch at 7pm and comes home to make a delicious quiche.

That’s like telling your faithful family toaster after a lifetime spent making toast that you want it to become a washing machine. And it’s not just a bunch of baggy-breasted feminists making the point either. It’s every single girl from the age of puberty to the menopause.

Funny how we think it is just great that women learned to earn big paychecks and sign onto that new-fangled guilt free sex in little more than one generation but that, when it comes to cleaning toilets, we men are prisoners in a Darwinian time-warp.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 7:40 PM


MoD agrees £375,000 for post-trauma stress (Michael Evans, The Times, November 17th, 2006)

A soldier has been awarded £375,000 after becoming the first member of the Armed Forces successfully to sue the Ministry of Defence for suffering post-traumatic stress while serving in Iraq.

The soldier, who has not been identified, is one of three members of the Army who have been suing the MoD over an incident in April 2003, when an anti-tank rocket blew up while being test-fired in southern Iraq. The other cases have yet to be settled.

The MoD said it had accepted liability in the first case because the weapon system, a LAW 90 anti-tank rocket, had clearly been defective.

Four soldiers were involved in test-firing when the barrel ignited. One soldier lost an arm and has been granted substantial compensation.

The three others were not physically injured but all put forward claims that they had suffered post-traumatic stress after witnessing the grievous wounds to their comrade.

Wouldn't it be crazy to volunteer to fight for the West these days without both an international lawyer and tort lawyer on retainer?

Posted by Peter Burnet at 7:26 PM


Maggots set to clean up (The Times, November 14th, 2006)

Maggots have for some time been recognised as useful in the treatment of wounds. The problem is, they carry a strong “yuck factor”.

But Nursing Times (Nov 7) reports on research which could result in the little chaps playing a more central role in wound healing.

The research found that using maggots rather than special dressings to treat pressure ulcers saves cash. Used on 10 per cent to 20 per cent of infected wounds, maggots could save the NHS up to £30 million a year.

This is one reason we social conservatives are always careful to pretend we have no principled objection to progress.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 2:09 PM


Kyoto is dead, long live Kyoto (Matthew Warren, The Australian, November 17th, 2006)

The International Energy Agency in Paris predicts that by 2030 more than half of all new emissions will come from the developing world. A smarter, post-2012 new Kyoto therefore must formulate some way of addressing and curbing these emissions. However, the question of lowering developing country emissions has proved to be the most sensitive subject at the Nairobi conference.

The existing Kyoto framework provides an iron-clad cage that excludes developing countries from any regime that would limit or price their emissions. Instead, all reductions by developing countries are voluntary and conditional on the transfer of resources from developed countries through a growing number of pseudo-development programs such as the clean development mechanism, which permits industrialised countries to generate carbon credits by investing in projects that reduce emissions in developing countries.

Developing countries argue, with some moral justification, that the present emissions are the result, which makes them the developed world's problem.

Unsurprisingly, the Group of 77 developing countries has been furiously protecting this cage, blocking or isolating anything at the Nairobi negotiations that comes anywhere near capping or limiting their emissions.

A supposedly mandatory review of the terms of the Kyoto Protocol that might have provided one avenue to discuss a broader framework has not proceeded because the G-77 simply said no.

The two-day informal dialogue keenly promoted by the Australian delegation as a non-binding but exploratory global discussion looking for new ideas and solutions to a post-Kyoto framework was isolated by the head of the Chinese delegation, Jiang Weixin. "This dialogue ... is neither a negotiation process nor an attempt to set up emission reduction limitation targets for the developing countries," he told the joint high level session of world environment ministers. That's a diplomatic way of saying don't even think about it.

It seems impossible to find anyone who has confidence an international treaty would have much effect on future climate, but this is a pseudo-scientific tranzi cult on the rise and speaking the truth may cost conservatives power in some countries.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 1:01 PM


Bush sees hope for Iraq in Vietnam (Suzanne Goldenberg, The Guardian, November 17th,2006)

Posted by Peter Burnet at 12:55 PM


UFC champion Hughes takes swipe at Canada over foreign policy(Neil Davidson, The Globe and Mail, November 17th, 2006)

UFC welterweight champion Matt Hughes took a swipe north of the border Thursday, moving out of his mixed martial arts comfort zone to criticize Canada's foreign policy and Canadians' hearts.

The fighting farmer from Hillsboro, Ill., who is preparing for a title defence Saturday night against Montreal's Georges St. Pierre at Arco Arena in the main event of UFC 65: Bad Intentions, was asked at a news conference Thursday about some of his past comments about Canada.

Prior to the first Hughes-St. Pierre fight in October 2004, Hughes said "Who wants to lose to a Canadian in a street fight?" St. Pierre has alleged more slurs prior to this bout.

Hughes was asked by a Canadian reporter Thursday if such comments were mere pre-fight hype and whether he wanted to clarify his attitude towards those north of the border.

"Well, if you look back at history, I don't think Canada's had big wars or anything like that. They're not a violent country, can we say that? Would you agree?" the 170-pound champion asked the reporter.

Told Canada had done its bit, Hughes responded: "You've done your bit. Well I'm from America and I think we're fighters, as a country. Look where we're at, we're all over. That's what I was talking about."

Word has it an enraged St. Pierre is hellbent on revenge and is demanding expedited mediation.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 6:10 AM


Leave Christmas alone, say Muslims
(Jonathan Petre, The Telegraph, November 16th, 2006)

Muslim leaders joined their Christian counterparts yesterday to launch a powerful attack on politicians and town halls that play down Christmas.

They warned that attempts to remove religion from the festival were fuelling Right-wing extremism.

A number of town halls have tried to excise references to Christianity from Christmas, in one case by renaming their municipal celebrations "Winterval".

They have often justified their actions by saying Britain is now a multi-faith society and they are anxious to avoid offending minority groups.

But the Muslim leaders said they honoured Christmas and that local authorities were playing into the hands of extremists who were able to blame Muslim communities for undermining Britain's Christian culture.

The unprecedented broadside was delivered by the Christian Muslim Forum, which was launched this year by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, with the support of Tony Blair.

The forum's reaction reflects growing anger among Christians and other faiths about the efforts of secularists to push religion to the margins of public life.

More: Christians pre-empt secularists in Christmas light fight

But to some in the Church, the annual row over Christmas masks a far more sinister development.

To judge by some of the language they employ, they suspect that a conspiracy of militant atheists is using the smoke-screen of the multi-faith society in a fiendish plot to oust all religion from the nation.

It is a convenient view, but does it stand up to scrutiny? Given the decline in churchgoing, is it not natural that Christianity will lose some of the footholds it has historically taken for granted in national life?

That is true, but political correctness drives more than religion out of the public sphere - it also begins to purge British culture and history. Millions who are not religious are nevertheless deeply affectionate towards Christianity, not least because of the central role it has played in the nation’s past. At a time of uncertainty, people find great comfort in familiar symbols, and I would not be surprised if churches and carol services are fuller than ever this Christmas.

But could these examples of municipal and bureaucratic political correctness gone mad be no more than isolated incidents rather than a more widespread shift in society as a whole? I used to think so until I spotted a diary item suggesting that Rupert Murdoch’s Sky Television, hardly a bastion of hand-wringing liberalism, had changed the name of its annual Christmas knees-up this year to the “winter party” to avoid offending staff.

I telephoned to check whether this was true, and was assured by a spokesman that it was. “This is very common nowadays,” he explained. “I have an invitation here from another well-known private company inviting me to its festive celebrations.” I felt a shiver go up my spine, and it wasn’t the cold.

Christmas is no time for innovation--I remember being upset at age forty-five when my mother changed the vegetables--so as the sky darkens and the first frosts appear, we look forward once again to Christmas trees, Christmas parties and Christmas greetings being attacked by secularists in the name of tolerance and religious pluralism, followed by the traditional letters to the editor from Jewish and Muslim leaders asking why we have become so anal.

Posted by Stephen Judd at 5:38 AM


Sorry abut the recent outage here! Movable Type, the software we use to run the blog, was causing issues on our shared server, so we had to shut it down. We moved over to a new server, but then had issues getting Movable Type up and running there. It's working now, and I'll be trying to improve the performance/responsiveness over the next few weeks.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:26 AM

BULLY BOEING (via David Hill)

US files new complaint over Airbus aid (The Telegraph, 11/16/2006, David Litterick)

The US government is set to reopen the legal battle over state aid for aircraft makers with a new complaint to the World Trade Organisation over the help European states provide to Airbus.

The complaint seems a deliberate attempt to deal Airbus a new blow as the company attempts to recover from problems relating to its A380 superjumbo.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:57 AM


How Terrible Is It? (Max Rodenbeck, 11/30/06, NY Review of Books)

To whoever wants to listen, several new books offer detailed and persuasive explanations of what has gone wrong in America's counterterror policy, why it went wrong, and how it may be put right.

One of the best is by Louise Richardson, a Harvard professor who not only has been teaching about terrorism for a decade, but brings the experience of an Irish childhood, including youthful enthusiasm for the IRA, to understanding the phenomenon. As she explains, she had always thought it wise for academics to stay out of politics. The sheer boneheadedness of Washington's incumbents, who have ignored decades of accumulated wisdom on her subject, prompted her to write a belated primer.

The result is a book that reads like an all-encompassing crash course in terrorism: its history, what motivates it, and the most effective ways of treating it. Her analysis is clear, thorough, illuminating, and provocative. The lesson, as it unfolds, is quietly, authoritatively excoriating about the policies this administration has pursued. Indeed, one would like to see the entire US national security establishment frog-marched into Richardson's Terrorism 101.

Here are a dozen of her basic points:

1. Terrorism is anything but new. Violence by nonstate actors against civilians to achieve political aims has been going on for a long, long time. The biblical Zealots known as the Sicarii used it against the Romans, as well as against fellow Jews, in the vain hope of provoking the Imperium to so extreme a response that they would foment a mass uprising. Following the failed 1848 revolutions in Europe, the German radical Karl Heinzen published a tract, simply titled Murder, which advocated selective homicide as a spark to general revolt. Various groups soon put such ideas into practice. The Clerkenwell bombing of 1867, carried out by the Fenians, an Irish nationalist group, prompted a surge of hysteria in London reminiscent of the response provoked by September 11.

So, in later decades, did the wave of anarchist terrorism that swept Europe and the United States. Revolutionaries assassinated seven heads of state between 1881 and 1914. Paris suffered bomb attacks no fewer than eleven times between 1892 and 1894. In the 1930s and 1940s of the last century, Menachem Begin's Irgun organization slaughtered scores of Palestinian civilians and British soldiers. The Israeli leader went on to share a Nobel Peace Prize.

2. Terrorism is obviously a threat, and the deliberate killing of innocent civilians an outrage, but it is not a very big threat. As John Mueller points out in Overblown, his sadly funny, far less patient account of America's response to September 11, the probability of an American being killed by terrorists is about the same as of being felled by an allergic reaction to peanuts. Six times more Americans are killed every year by drunk drivers than died in the World Trade Center. (And more Americans have now died in Iraq and Afghan-istan.) Excepting a few particularly bad years, the annual number of deaths from terrorism worldwide since the late 1960s, when the State Department started record-keeping, is only about the same as the number of Americans who drown every year in bathtubs.

3. The danger from terrorist use of so-called weapons of mass destruction is not as large as scaremongers profess. Known chemical weapons do not, in fact, cause much wider damage than conventional weapons, and in addition they are difficult to use. The Japanese religious cult Aum Shinrikyo (Aum is Japanese for Supreme Truth), which had excellent technicians and facilities and plenty of money to brew lethal potions, discovered this when it tried to poison the Tokyo subway with sarin gas in 1995. Biological weapons are potentially more deadly, but also hard to make and to diffuse. As for nuclear weapons, there is no evidence that any terrorist group has ever come close to acquiring them. Placing all these dangers in a single category of threat is misleading, and greatly exaggerates the overall threat posed by terrorist groups around the world.

4. Many terrorists are not madmen. The choice to use terror can be quite rational and calculated. In his memoirs, Nelson Mandela recalls that the African National Congress debated what method to use to confront apartheid. Terrorism was considered, but scrapped, mercifully, in favor of sabotage attacks, for fear of alienating potential supporters. The IRA was murderous, but found that planting bombs and then warning of their presence was just as effective as setting them off in crowds. This tactic had the advantage of avoiding some of the "collateral damage" of bad publicity. Other terrorists, such as those linked with al-Qaeda, unfortunately, like bad publicity as much as good.

5. Groups that commit terrorism, in many cases, believe they are acting defensively, using the most effective means at their disposal. Their justifications can be self-serving and morally repugnant, but are often carefully elaborated. Some terrorists rely on the complicity of the people around them, and so must work to persuade them of their rectitude. Others operate in inhospitable environments, and aim more to shock and provoke. It is, Richardson emphasizes, important to distinguish these differing approaches, since they suggest different remedies.

6. Suicide attacks can also represent a rational policy choice. They are cheap. They can be a means of access to difficult targets. They are effective in frightening people, and in advertising the seriousness and devotion of those who undertake them. Typical suicide "martyrs" are not loners or misfits; in their will to die for a cause, they tend to be sustained by the strong solidarity of a close group of collaborators. They are often motivated by personal humiliation at the hands of those they wish to hurt, or they wish to take revenge for the killings of family members or comrades. Suicide attacks are not new, either. They were used, for example, since the nineteenth century by the Muslim Moros guerrillas against both Spanish and US invaders of the Philippines. Before Iraq, their most intensive use in modern times was not in the Middle East but in Sri Lanka, where, since 1987, Tamil rebels have killed hundreds of government soldiers in scores of suicide operations, often carried out by women.

7. There is no special link between Islam and terrorism. Most major religions have produced some form of terrorism, and many terrorist groups have professed atheism. If there is a particular tenacity in Islamist forms of terrorism today, this is a product not of Islamic scripture but of the current historical circumstance that many Muslims live in places of intense political conflict. Contemporary Islamist movements that resort to terrorism are, however, often strengthened in their appeal by the fact that they want to link a faith-based activism, intended to "transform" society, with ethnic and nationalist causes. Most other terrorist groups have not combined their intentions in this way. For instance, the IRA does not have "transformational" aims, as Richardson puts it, but rather territorial ones.

8. Electoral democracy does not prevent terrorism, which has flourished in many democracies, typically being used by groups representing minorities who believe the logic of majority rule excludes them. The Basque separatist group ETA and Greece's November 17th urban guerrillas started under dictatorships, but continued their attacks following transitions to democracy in both countries.

9. Democratic principles are no impediment to prosecuting terrorists. On the contrary they are, Richardson asserts, "among the strongest weapons in our arsenal." Pointedly, she recalls that during the Revolutionary War, George Washington, although incensed by Britain's policy of incarcerating American revolutionaries on grisly prison ships, where twice as many perished as on the battlefield, gave strict orders for the humane treatment of British captives.

10. Military action is sometimes necessary to combat terrorism, but it is often not the best way to do so. When Israel withdrew from southern Lebanon in 2000, after a twenty-two-year occupation, it left behind a far stronger and more determined adversary in Hezbollah than it had started with. The Peruvian army spent twenty years in an ugly, scorched-earth campaign against Sendero Luminoso guerrillas, during which nearly 70,000 people were killed. The group was defeated and disbanded after a change in tactics when a seventy-man police team took just six months, using incisive analysis and good intelligence, to capture its leader. In the cases where brute military action has succeeded, as in Uruguay and Argentina in the 1970s and 1980s, it was at the cost of democracy and human rights.

11. Armies, in fact, often create more problems than they solve. When Britain sent its army into Northern Ireland in 1969 in response to the Troubles, it took just two years for the majority of Catholics, who were at first relieved by their presence, to turn against them. The turnaround for the US in Iraq was far shorter. During the seven months between September 2003 and April 2004, as Charles Peña reminds us in Winning the Un-War, the proportion of Iraqis saying that attacks on foreign troops were somewhat or fully justified leapt from 8 percent to 61 percent. This was exactly the period when a sudden surge in attacks on US forces, following the initial post-invasion calm, prompted vigorous counterinsurgency measures. That is all the time it took, it seems, for Iraqis to decide they did not like being searched, beaten up, shot at, jailed, and humiliated by American troops, whatever the reasons given. Recent polls show some 61 percent of Iraqis still approve of attacking the Americans, and 78 percent believe the US presence is "provoking more conflict than it is preventing."

12. To address the issues terrorists say they are fighting for cannot automatically be dismissed as appeasement. Britain did not succeed in disarming the IRA by ignoring its de-mands but by engaging them, and by altering the situation in Northern Ireland that had created the IRA's perception of a threat to its goals. In fact, the conversion of terrorist groups in-to peaceful political movements has often occurred because their rationale for violence has ceased to exist, or because they came to feel that resort to terrorist tactics would limit their room for political maneuver.

One particularly important point of Richardson's is that few terrorist groups have ever succeeded in achieving their stated primary aim, whether to foment a revolution or to "liberate" a territory. In fact, most of them do not really expect to do so, and are extremely vague about what they would do if they actually succeeded. Osama bin Laden has said next to nothing about what sort of society he would actually like to create, just as Marx never described in any detail what his communist utopia would look like. This may explain why the terrorist groups that have taken power have sometimes produced such incompetent rule —as was the case with Yasser Arafat.

Because terrorists tend to be aspirational rather than practical, their practices typically amount to what Ms. Richardson calls a search for the three R's of terrorism: revenge, renown, and reaction. As she puts it, "the point of terrorism is not to defeat the enemy but to send a message." This simple insight is important, because it suggests ways of dealing with terrorism: you must blunt the impulse for revenge, try to limit the terrorists' renown, and refrain from reacting in ways that either broaden the terrorists' appeal or encourage further terrorism by showing how effective their tactics are.

Richardson's three R's go a long way toward explaining why American policy has become so disastrously askew. As she notes, an act such as September 11 itself achieves the first of her three R's, revenge. So spectacularly destructive an attack also gains much of the second objective, renown. But the Bush administration's massive and misdirected overreaction has handed al-Qaeda a far greater reward than it ever dreamed of winning.

"The declaration of a global war on terrorism," says Richardson bluntly, "has been a terrible mistake and is doomed to failure." In declaring such a war, she says, the Bush administration chose to mirror its adversary:

Americans opted to accept al-Qaeda's language of cosmic warfare at face value and respond accordingly, rather than respond to al-Qaeda based on an objective assessment of its resources and capabilities.

In essence, America's actions radically upgraded Osama bin Laden's organization from a ragtag network of plotters to a great enemy worthy of a superpower's undivided attention. Even as it successfully shattered the group's core through the invasion of Afghanistan, America empowered al-Qaeda politically by its loud triumphalism, whose very excess encouraged others to try the same terror tactics.

This analysis suffers from one fatal mistake that's especially peculiar in those who seek to explain Terrorism; it fails to consider our response through the lens of terrorism. That is to say, we need to strip away the pejorative connotations and consider the history of American warfare as a particularly consistent and successful use of terrorism to achieve our own liberal ends. Even setting aside the obvious revenge for 9-11 in our destruction of al Qaeda, look at the way we removed both the Taliban and Saddam from power in reaction to that event. Likewise revealing is to consider the dozen points (or at least those that aren't truisms) as if the terrorists under consideration were us:

(2) No, terrorism by radicals isn't much of a threat to us, while we are a lethal threat to them. America absorbed 9-11 fairly easily. For OBL, the Taliban, and Saddam it was the end of the line. And whether by bombing, sanctions, or more traditional warfare we've been perfectly happy to terrorize Middle Eastern populations and leaders into behaving as we require them to, which is why Libya gave up its nuclear program, the Palestinians held real elections and are now moving towards peace with Israel, and the PLO, Hamas, Hezbollah, the Muslim Brotherhood, etc. are so rapidly evolving into mere political parties.

(3) Their prospective WMD isn't a threat. Our very real WMD means that no terrorist can ever take control of a state so long as we're willing to use it or they have cause to fear that we will. We can literally terrorize them out of ascension to power.

(6) Our use of terrorism--as in fire-bombings, use of nuclear weapons, remote cruise missile and Predator attacks, irrespective of collateral damage--is likewise rational. While there's a perfectly sound argument against Hiroshima and Nagasaki, there was nothing irrational about targeting Japanese civilians in order to make their nation surrender. And while it would have been better to take the Cold War hot and use those same terrifying weapons on the USSR, we ultimately settled instead into a balance of terror that was backed up by volumes of study in things like game theory and rational choice doctrine. Our repeated successes in war are testimony to the rationality of using terror as a weapon of state.

(7-12) It doesn't matter what the terrorists want in any particular case, the simple reality of America's existence is that we have inexorably forced liberalization and democratization on unwilling parties for a couple centuries. And we've been willing to use far more lethal and terrifying means of coercion than any piddling terrorists have. Asking folks who perpetrated Sherman's march to the sea on their own countrymen to back off and allow totalitarian regimes to do whatever they want is an exercise in futility.

If the three "R's" for non-state actors are revenge, renown, and reaction, the three R's for states ought to be thought of as revenge, reason and results. Until folks stop attacking us, stop giving us other reasons to regime change them, or History ceases to move in exactly the direction that our policies are intended to push it, there's little reason to believe that America will abandon the Long War for more than brief respites.

MORE (via Kevin Whited):

DOWNFALL: How Donald Rumsfeld reformed the Army and lost Iraq. (PETER J. BOYER, 2006-11-20, The New Yorker)

As a pro-defense Republican, Bush would have the political capital to bring about genuine, even historic, change. During the campaign, he had vowed to give his Secretary of Defense “a broad mandate to challenge the status quo and envision a new architecture of American defense for decades to come,” and he had chosen Rumsfeld because he believed that he would be more willing and better able than the other candidates to pursue his agenda. The contents and scope of that agenda were not yet known, but Rumsfeld made it clear that his approach to the military was very much hands-on.

Among those gathered at the River Parade Field for the Rumsfeld ceremony was an elderly man with a pleasant, grandfatherly aspect, who, amid the political celebrities and military brass, might have been taken for someone who had strayed from a Pentagon tour group. But within the national-security priesthood Andrew Marshall was something of a legend. He headed a unit called the Office of Net Assessment (he was its first and only director), which had evolved over the years into a sort of in-house Pentagon think tank. That made him the resident deep thinker, and what Marshall, who was in his late seventies, had been thinking about for every President since Richard Nixon (and for two decades before that at the Rand Corporation) was how America could prevail in the next big war.

Marshall’s professional life had paralleled the full sweep of the Cold War. He was admired as a boldly original theorist; in the forty-year strategic chess match between East and West, it sometimes seemed as if Marshall were playing a three-dimensional game. Marshall was among the very few who understood the Soviet vulnerability, and it was largely Marshall who imagined the strategy for exploiting it—the Reagan-era conceit of a winnable nuclear war, based on technologies (such as the unproved missile-defense shield) and levels of expenditure that the Soviets could not hope to match.

Marshall fell out of favor under the Clinton Administration, which saw less call for an esoteric Cold War strategist. But he had already turned his focus on something that he believed was of immense and pressing importance. It was a new way of thinking about the military, an idea with vast implications for every aspect of American defense, from the nation’s weaponry to its global posture, because it would radically change the way America waged war—indeed, it could alter the very nature of war. It was called the Revolution in Military Affairs.

This revolution had begun to unfold in the Cold War’s last stages. In the post-Vietnam nineteen-seventies, the Soviet-led forces of the Warsaw Pact conducted a steady, massive buildup of heavy forces—tanks and mechanized infantry—along the western edge of East Germany and Czechoslovakia. Twenty thousand battle tanks, mostly Soviet, faced west; on the other side, NATO fielded a force of only seven thousand tanks. In the event of a conventional Soviet attack, NATO forces would be forced to wage a fighting retreat until reinforcements arrived, mostly from the United States. One option for countering the Soviet advantage was the deployment of “tactical” nuclear weapons to Europe. Tactical nukes posed obvious political and strategic problems—the NATO allies did not welcome the prospect of even limited nuclear war in Europe, and there was always the chance of escalation into full-blown nuclear conflict.

But the Americans were also working on a non-nuclear weapons system that would change the equation. The top-secret Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency was funding a program called Assault Breaker, which was designed to strike far behind enemy lines, disrupting or destroying follow-on forces, gaining time and cover for the Western alliance to launch a counter-offensive. Assault Breaker was meant to compress the process of locating a target and launching a strike into a synchronized target-and-fire action taking just minutes. DARPA equipped an Air Force plane with an advanced radar system and onboard computers that worked out the target’s coördinates and transmitted them to an Army missile base, which fired rockets toward the target area. In a test of Assault Breaker at the White Sands Missile Range, in New Mexico, the system hit five out of five targets.

In the early nineteen-eighties, Marshall and his colleagues began to notice in their reading of Soviet military literature that the Russians were writing about this new American weaponry with increasing alarm. The Soviets assumed that deployment of Assault Breaker was imminent, and that this American advance represented the dawn of a new military epoch—what the Soviet analysts referred to as a “military-technical revolution.” (The Americans weren’t nearly as attuned to the implications of their own developments. Assault Breaker was not close to deployment; in fact, the Air Force and the Army were disinclined to coöperate, and the joint program eventually died.) Marshall began to analyze this idea, and, after months of study, his office concluded that the Russians had got it right. The Red Army’s Chief of Staff, Marshal Nikolai V. Ogarkov, had recognized that advances such as those tested by the Americans would give conventional weapons many of the strengths of nuclear weapons, without the apocalyptic effects. Implicit in Ogarkov’s insight was the idea that a key breakthrough in technology (for example, microprocessing) could suddenly reconfigure the battle-field—in this case, with accuracy so precise that, Ogarkov wrote, conventional warfare took on “qualitatively new and incomparably more destructive forms than before.”

Marshall was struck by this idea, and, throughout the eighties, he assigned teams of analysts to search for historical instances of such advances. (“What’s amazing,” Marshall told me, “is how much we know, it turns out, about the chariot revolution back in 1700 B.C.”) The example he found most compelling was that of Europe in the years between the twentieth century’s two World Wars. After the Pyrrhic victory of the First World War, France built the finest Army in the world, and an imposing defensive complex of forts, bunkers, and tunnels—the Maginot Line—along its border with Germany. A defeated Germany, on the other hand, had to overcome the constraints of the Treaty of Versailles (forbidding Germany warplanes, tanks, submarines, or heavy guns, and outlawing its general-officer staff) to build Hitler’s Wehrmacht. Yet, in the late spring of 1940, Germany invaded France and won a French surrender in less than six weeks. The stunning German victory was produced by a battlefield innovation, blitzkrieg, that married two relatively new technologies—radio and the internal-combustion engine—to facilitate a tactic of rapid, coördinated movement. The Germans had designed their new panzer divisions to suit this doctrine, and their impact was decisive. The German forces bypassed the Maginot Line, attacked directly through the Ardennes Forest, and dashed to the French rear, sowing chaos en route and forcing a quick surrender.

To Marshall and his associates, the lessons were clear. The side that recognized and exploited such advances gained not just an edge in warfare but an overwhelming advantage; for the side that missed the chance, the consequences could be fatal.

With the impending demise of the Soviet Union, the U.S. was entering a new interwar period. Marshall had no doubt that some new competitor would emerge to challenge the United States, and it struck him as exactly the moment to prepare for the next big war. The U.S. led the world in microchip technology, and the information age promised a dazzling range of military applications, such as advanced sensors, satellite imagery, robotics, and laser systems. The danger would not arise in Europe, Marshall believed, but in Asia—most likely China. The conflict would not be a prolonged ground war, involving massed formations of infantry and tank divisions; rather, there would be long-range precision strikes by “smart” missiles. If there was infantry in the fight at all, it would be in small, specialized units. Marshall supposed, too, that in the global economy these technologies would be available to all. This made it imperative that the U.S. push conflicts to distant battlefields, if possible, and to reduce (or eliminate) such easy American targets as overseas airbases and huge aircraft-carrier battle groups.

In July, 1992, during the race between George H. W. Bush and Clinton, Marshall gave the Pentagon’s senior leaders a formal assessment reflecting his conclusions about the Revolution in Military Affairs. Marshall preferred that term to the Russians’ “military-technical revolution,” because he believed that technology only partly accounted for such bursts of progress. The other critical element was a military’s adoption of entirely new operational concepts, organizational structures, and doctrines. For instance, the French and British had radios, tanks, and airplanes in 1940, but Germany put them to novel use. Marshall wrote that new ideas had to be tested, even if most of them failed. Perhaps most important, the Pentagon needed to stop depending exclusively on the big-ticket weapons that devoured defense dollars and perpetuated the status quo.

Marshall’s assessment came just as the national-security establishment was trying to define America’s posture in a world without a Soviet counterweight. Some, including the first President Bush, Brent Scowcroft, his national-security adviser, and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Colin Powell, were avowed “realists,” who believed that America’s role was to be part of a new world order, with the emphasis on order. But others believed that the U.S. should embrace and, if possible, enhance its position as the world’s sole superpower. Bush’s Secretary of Defense, Dick Cheney, was inclined to this view, as was his top policy official, Paul Wolfowitz, who argued emphatically that the United States should strengthen its military superiority so that potential rivals would have no hope of catching up. Marshall’s Revolution in Military Affairs offered a means to achieve that goal, and both Cheney and Wolfowitz became converts.

There were also converts within the uniformed military, including a few in the senior ranks, but the services were generally skeptical about the R.M.A., as it was now being called. Some of the resistance, particularly in the Army, reflected the belief that Marshall’s vision of long-distance precision strikes ignored the gritty reality of actual war, with soldiers on the ground. Had President George H. W. Bush won another term, he might have been willing to impose upon the military the upheaval that a revolution in military affairs implied. But the last thing the Army was inclined to do while facing cutbacks under the Clinton Administration was tinker with its revered divisional structure, and the Navy was no less inclined to reduce the number of its aircraft-carrier battle groups. Clinton’s last Secretary of Defense, William S. Cohen, had tried to get the Army to transform itself into a lighter, more expeditionary force. But Cohen, a Republican, was frustrated from the start. “I was coming into a Democratic Administration, and that had its own dynamic,” Cohen recalled. “I must say that President Clinton gave me total authority, so it wasn’t a question coming from him. But just dealing with the issue—how do you push transformation in a Democratic Administration? Is this something that’s weakening the military? The perception on the Hill would be ‘Here they go cutting back on the military powers of the Army.’ ”

Still, Marshall continued to promote his revolution. Using his budget at the Office of Net Assessment, he financed his own futuristic war games. The Revolution in Military Affairs thrived in think tanks and seminars.

As Marshall watched Rumsfeld’s official welcoming ceremony, he was hopeful that the revolution’s moment had arrived. During the Presidential campaign, George W. Bush had promised to build a new American military for the twenty-first century. In a speech at the Citadel in 1999, Bush had said that as President he would instruct his Defense Secretary to conduct a “comprehensive review” of the military, to question everything from its force structure and strategy to its acquisition process. He promised not just to make “marginal improvements” but “to replace existing programs with new technologies and strategies, to use this window of opportunity to skip a generation of technology.” That speech was instantly recognized, by those with a trained ear, as the language of the Revolution in Military Affairs.

Marshall had known Rumsfeld over the years, and he liked him. Shortly after Rumsfeld’s induction, the new Secretary arranged to have lunch with Marshall—not, as Marshall had expected, in Rumsfeld’s private office but in the “Sec Def Mess,” a nearby dining room where the guests seldom went unnoticed. “Oh, I think it was very clear,” Richard Perle, a former Reagan defense official and a close adviser to Rumsfeld, recalled. “It went all over the building that Andy was back. It was like Deng Xiaoping’s return.” The President had pledged to conduct a comprehensive review, identifying probable American adversaries, and when and where the next wars would likely occur. Rumsfeld asked Marshall if he would like to take something like that on. Marshall said he could put a team together right away. The Pentagon’s traditional review process, the Quadrennial Defense Review, was just getting under way, and wouldn’t be finished for another nine months. Hundreds of uniformed staff officers from all the services had spent tens of thousands of man-hours trying to answer essentially those questions. This review tended to be an exercise in justifying the budgets, force size, and programs that the military services wanted to protect. Rumsfeld evidently intended to circumvent that process. He told Marshall that he’d like to have the first draft of his strategic review in six weeks. “We delivered on that,” Marshall recalled.

Word of Marshall’s new assignment rang through the Pentagon like a distress signal, which may have been part of Rumsfeld’s plan. Rumsfeld had in mind for the military, and for the Pentagon itself, an agenda of radical reform. He called it “transformation,” and the return of Andrew Marshall meant that it would be guided by the principles of the Revolution in Military Affairs. Rumsfeld intended to remake the American military into a lighter, more agile, more readily useful force that would be able to leverage new technology to project lethal power over great distances.

Marshall would have been the first to say that technology and the Revolution in Military Affairs had very little application to certain kinds of conflict, such as a counter-insurgency fight against some indigenous guerrilla force. But that was the sort of war that no one—on the new Bush national-security team, or certainly in the American military—had any intention of ever fighting. That would be a war like Vietnam.

When war came, with the invasion of Afghanistan, in late 2001, Rumsfeld had only the barest beginnings of a transformed military, but he had a fully formed philosophy that dictated how America would fight. In Afghanistan, it meant routing the Taliban with small bands of American Special Forces and coördinating long-distance air strikes and Afghan ground troops. For the subsequent invasion of Iraq, in March, 2003, the Rumsfeld vision meant getting to Baghdad and toppling Saddam Hussein’s regime as quickly and with as small a force as prudence permitted. Many professional military men strenuously disagreed with Rumsfeld’s war plan, but, fresh from the validating triumph in Afghanistan, he prevailed. [...]

The circle of defense advisers that had most ardently advocated the Iraqi invasion, including Richard Perle and Newt Gingrich, had imagined a strategy that wouldn’t require a lasting American presence in postwar Iraq. The plan depended on the recruitment and training of “free Iraqis” to participate in the combat phase of the operation, and the imposition of a provisional government, run mostly by Iraqi exiles, after the war. Something like that had worked in Afghanistan, and, the reasoning went, the approach stood an even better chance of working in Iraq; Iraqi exiles had been planning for such an eventuality for more than a decade. But the program to train Iraqi fighters produced fewer than a hundred recruits; it also ignored the reality that prominent exiles like Ahmad Chalabi had less credibility, and less of an indigenous base, than those whom the U.S. had relied on in Afghanistan. The Defense Department’s plan to set up a provisional Iraqi government was abandoned after a bitter interagency argument within the Bush Administration that lasted until the very eve of the war. The State Department and the Central Intelligence Agency refused to endorse the imposition of a provisional government composed of Iraqi exiles, arguing that it would not be seen as legitimate. In the end, Rumsfeld surrendered on the point—to the lasting distress of the hawks nearest him. “I think he made a serious mistake,” Perle, a member of Rumsfeld’s advisory Defense Policy Board, recalled. “I think he underestimated the importance of getting those matters right.”

President Bush, with Rumsfeld’s approval, ultimately decided that postwar Iraq would be governed by an American-led Coalition Provisional Authority, to be headed by a veteran diplomat, L. Paul Bremer. With that appointment, and the implicit personal authority conveyed therein, came a critical, and not entirely intended, shift in American postwar policy. Bremer became the American proconsul in Iraq, technically reporting to Rumsfeld’s Defense Department but exercising a degree of authority that came to surprise even Rumsfeld. Bremer began his tenure, in May, 2003, by issuing a series of edicts that included the disbanding of the Iraqi Army and the removal of senior Baath Party members from government jobs. (Bremer said that he was acting on instructions from the Pentagon.) The edicts signalled that Baathists would have no place in the new Iraq, but they also crippled the bureaucracy and eliminated the most important instrument of Iraqi unity and a crucial tool in establishing order. In effect, half a million men, many with guns, were sent into the streets.

These moves had a decisive impact on the coalition’s response to the widening insurgency. A huge instant bureaucracy was set up inside the walls of Saddam’s former Republican Palace, where Americans laboriously laid plans for undertakings ranging from the design of a new Iraqi flag to the restructuring of the Iraqi monetary system. Meanwhile, no coherent, unified plan to fight the insurgency emerged, which rendered such plans increasingly abstract. “It was Alice in Wonderland,” recalled Gary Anderson, a defense specialist who was dispatched to Iraq by Paul Wolfowitz to help set up an Iraqi civil-defense corps. “It was surreal. I mean, I was so depressed the second time we went there, to see the lack of progress and the continuing confusion. The lack of coherence. You’d get two separate briefs, two separate cuts on the same subject, from the military and from the civilians.”

To Wolfowitz and others who had advocated the quickest possible turnover of authority to Iraqis, the C.P.A. was a maddening obstacle to the ever-dwindling hope of replicating the Afghanistan success.

The irony, of course, is that Rumsfeld failed to follow his own doctrine when he made that shift to occupation. Fortunately, the take-away is obvious: topple regimes by any means necessary--and we have quite some means--don't fight insurgents hand-to-hand. And we're very skeptical that the neo-cons understood this, rather than being cheerleaders for staying and nation-building, as witness. Rumsfeld's self-inflicted wounds: The outgoing defense secretary was too focused on transforming the military, and failed to plan for achieving political goals in Iraq. (Frederick W. Kagan, November 12, 2006, LA Times)
Belief in the value of technology and the need for light, swift ground forces pervaded the senior military leadership in the 1990s. Then-Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric Shinseki had launched an ambitious program to "lighten" the Army and equip it with advanced precision weapons. Shinseki certainly warned that more troops would be needed to secure Iraq in the wake of major combat operations. But Gen. Tommy Franks, the commander who developed and executed the actual war plan, wanted fewer. Many officers opposed the "light footprint" approach with which Rumsfeld tackled the problem of the Iraqi insurgency — but not Gen. John Abizaid, who took over from Franks right after the end of major combat operations. A secretary of Defense who encouraged discussion and dissent would have perhaps anticipated more of the flaws in the policies he was proposing. Still, the strategy that has led to disaster in Iraq belonged to the commanders at least as much as to Rumsfeld. Scapegoating him in isolation will prevent us from learning the essential lessons of our recent failures.

For the problem with Rumsfeld was not his flawed managerial style, but his flawed understanding of war. Early in his term, he became captive of an idea. He would transform the U.S. military in accord with the most advanced theories of the 1990s to prepare it for the challenges of the future. He was not alone in his captivity. As a candidate, President Bush announced the same program in 1999 — long before anyone thought Don Rumsfeld would return as secretary of Defense. The program, quite simply, was to rely on information technology to permit American forces to locate, identify, track and destroy any target on the face of the Earth from thousands of miles away. Ideally, ground forces would not be necessary in future wars. If they were, it would be in small numbers, widely dispersed, moving rapidly and engaging in little close combat. This vision defined U.S. military theory throughout the 1990s, and it has gone deep into our military culture. Rumsfeld's advent hastened and solidified its triumph, but his departure will not lead instantly to its collapse.

At its root, this "transformation program" is not a program for war at all. War is the use of force to achieve a political purpose, against a thinking enemy and involving human populations. Political aims cannot normally be achieved simply by destroying targets. But the transformation that enthusiasts of the 1990s focused too narrowly on destroyed the enemy's military with small, lean and efficient forces. This captivated Rumsfeld, becoming his passion. He meant it to be his legacy. It was the fatal flaw in this vision that led, in part, to the debacle in Iraq.

These guys, presumably because they're so anti-Shi'a, have too little faith in the people we liberated.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:41 AM


Pecan Pie (From Food Network Kitchens)

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cold butter (1 stick), diced
1 large egg, lightly beaten
Flour, for rolling the dough

5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
2 cups chopped toasted pecans
1 to 2 tablespoons bourbon
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3 eggs, lightly beaten

Make the dough by hand: In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, and salt. Using your fingers, work the butter into the dry ingredients until it resembles yellow cornmeal mixed with bean-sized bits of butter. (If the flour/butter mixture gets warm, refrigerate it for 10 minutes before proceeding.) Add the egg and stir the dough together with a fork or by hand in the bowl. If the dough is dry, sprinkle up to a tablespoon more of cold water over the mixture.

Alternatively, make the dough in a food processor. With the machine fitted with the metal blade, pulse the flour, sugar, and salt until combined. Add the butter and pulse until it resembles yellow cornmeal mixed with bean-sized bits of butter, about 10 times. Add the egg and pulse 1 to 2 times; don't let the dough form into a ball in the machine. (If the dough is very dry add up to a tablespoon more of cold water.) Remove the bowl from the machine, remove the blade, and bring the dough together by hand.

Form the dough into a disk, wrap with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled, at least 1 hour.

On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough with a rolling pin into a 12-inch circle about 1/8-inch thick. Transfer the dough to a 9-inch pie pan and trim the edges, leaving about an extra inch hanging over the edge. Tuck the overhanging dough underneath itself to form a thick edge that is even with the rim. Flute the edge as desired. Freeze the pie shell for 30 minutes.

Set separate racks in the center and lower third of oven and preheat to 400 degrees F. Put a piece of parchment paper or foil over the pie shell and fill with dried beans or pie weights. Bake on a baking sheet on the center rack until the dough is set, about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and lift sides of the parchment paper to remove the beans. Continue baking until the pie shell is lightly golden brown, about 10 more minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F.

While the crust is baking make the filling: In medium saucepan, combine the butter, brown sugar, corn syrup, and salt. Bring to a boil over medium heat, and stirring constantly, continue to boil for 1 minute. Remove from the heat and stir in the nuts, bourbon, and the vanilla. Set the mixture aside to cool slightly, about 5 minutes. (If the crust has cooled, return it to the oven for 5 minutes to warm through.) Whisk the beaten eggs into the filling until smooth. Put the pie shell on a sheet pan and pour the filling into the hot crust.

Bake on the lower oven rack until the edges are set but the center is still slightly loose, about 40 to 45 minutes. (If the edges get very dark, cover them with aluminum foil half way during baking.) Cool on a rack. Serve slightly warm or room temperature.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:31 AM


APPRECIATION: La Regle de Jeu (The Rules of the Game) Directed by Jean Renoir (ARMOND WHITE, 11/01/06, NY Press)

Jean Renoir’s 1939 Rules of the Game, in revival at Film Forum, was never a popular foreign film but always a critics’ favorite. Anyone who cares about movies needs to see it to recognize exactly why it stands the test of time. It comes down to the famous line: “The horrible thing in this life is that everyone has their reasons.” But Renoir didn’t argue for moral relativism (the excuse people gave to dismissing a film as great as Spielberg’s Munich). The rejoinder, “And I’m all for their free expression,” is equally important. It is the acceptance of people’s diverse, strange, idiosyncratic, humane, even hurtful reasons that made Rules of the Game a prime example of film art.

Today, so few filmmakers follow Renoir’s dictum that it’s a question whether Rules of the Game rules anymore. In a do-as-you-please culture, filmmakers and critics can excuse promoting inhumanity and even artistic slovenliness (like Borat). Does the fact that Rules of the Game has been restored in a significantly re-worked print that improves on Criterion’s 2003 DVD version matter anymore? In a year when both Martin Scorsese and Michael Mann manipulate imagery and audience response toward the delectation of cruelty, Renoir’s fascination with manners and heartbreak, social corruption and disappointment might seem wack.

Actually, the key to appreciating Rules of the Game is that the only three characters who still believe in the rules are somewhat beyond the Pale of polite French society -- the nouveau riche Jew, the lowly gamekeeper, and the mercurial aviator -- which is why france was doomed. Grand Illusion is a much better film.

Eve of Destruction: Jean Renoir's masterpiece of French society on the brink (Leslie Camhi, October 31st, 2006, Village Voice)

"What is natural, these days?" a lady dressing for the evening asks her maid, who finds Madame's violet lipstick a bit too artificial. The year is 1939, the place Paris, after the Munich Conference's false promises of peace and on the eve of Hitler's deadly march across Europe. The lady's observation, tossed off in the first few minutes of The Rules of the Game, is like so much else in Jean Renoir's masterpiece, at once frivolous and poignant—a melancholy lament for a world gone awry, delivered in a tone so light you might think you had missed it.

The Rules of the Game follows the amorous exploits of a group of aristocrats invited to a hunting party at a French château. Their hectic intrigues find an uncanny echo in the affairs of their servants, upstairs and downstairs comically crossing paths on the way to a tragic conclusion. The film's dazzlingly labyrinthine script never mentions the coming war, yet its menace permeates a milieu that seems to have lost all moral compass, and where the ideal of happiness had been sacrificed to one of mere amusement. [...]

The Rules of the Game provoked something like a riot at its Parisian premiere. Never mind that the anti-Semitic and xenophobic press had a field day with Dalio's Jewishness and Gregor's thick Austrian accent. "People who commit suicide do not care to do it in front of witnesses," Renoir said of the French response to his film, which, beneath its frothy veneer, showed their society going down the drain.

Bringing Down a House of Commons (BRUCE BENNETT, November 3, 2006, NY Sun)
It's been more than 50 years since Jean Renoir's "The Rules of the Game"was shouted off the screen at its 1939 Paris premiere. "Rules" bombed miserably in first release and again in a re-cut version. But after World War II, the film began to win more and more converts.

"The awful thing about life," says Octave, a character in "Rules" played by the director himself, "is everyone has their reasons."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:25 AM


American Exceptionalism (James Q. Wilson, September 2006, The American Spectator)

Recall that American democracy contains some strikingly undemocratic features, such as an Electoral College, two senators for each state regardless of state populations, and an independent judiciary.

America differs from other democratic nations in many ways, some material and some mental. It has a more rapidly growing economy than most of Europe and deeper sense of patriotism than almost any other country with popular rule. A recent survey of 91,000 people in 50 nations, conducted by the Pew Research Center and reported on by Andrew Kohut and Bruce Stokes, outlines our political culture and shows how different it is from that in most other democracies.

Americans identify more strongly with their own country than do people in many affluent democracies. While 71 percent of Americans say they are "very proud" to be in America, only 38 percent of the French and 21 percent of the Germans and the Japanese say they are proud to live in their countries. And Americans are much more committed to individualism than are people elsewhere. Only one-third of Americans, but two-thirds of Germans and Italians, think that success in life is determined by forces outside their own control. This message is one that Americans wish to transmit to their children: 60 percent say that children should be taught the value of hard work, but only one-third of the British and Italians and one-fifth of the Germans agree. Over half of all Americans think that economic competition is good because it stimulates people to work hard and develop new ideas; only one-third of French and Spanish people agree. Americans would like their views to spread throughout the world: over three-fourths said this was a good idea, compared to only one-fourth of the people in France, Germany, and Italy and one-third of those in Great Britain.

In 1835 Alexis de Tocqueville discussed American exceptionalism in Democracy in America, and he is still correct. There was then and there continues now to be in this country a remarkable commitment to liberty, egalitarianism, individualism, and laissez-faire values. He gave three explanations for this state of affairs: We came to occupy a vast, largely empty, and isolated continent; we have benefited from a legal system that involves federalism and an independent judiciary; and we have embraced certain "habits of the heart" that were profoundly shaped by our religious tradition. Of these, Tocqueville rightly said that our customs were more important than our laws and our laws more important than our geography. What is remarkable today is that a vast nation of around 300 million people still share views once held by a few million crowded along the Eastern seaboard.

The Constitution
Our constitutional system is, I think, even more important than it was to Tocqueville's mind. He wrote about federalism, local township government, and an independent judiciary but neglected the system of separated powers and the checks and balances each branch imposes on the other two. Federalism, he correctly understood, keeps government close to the people, but the separate branches of the national government, each of which shares power with the others, impede the rate of change in ways that make it both difficult to adopt new policies and hard to change old ones.

America was slow to adopt welfare programs, social security, unemployment insurance, and government-supported health care, while Europe adopted these policies rapidly. We have kept our tax rate lower than it is in most of Europe. The central difference is not that Europeans are either smarter or dumber than we, but that a parliamentary system permits temporary popular majorities to make bold changes rather quickly, whereas a presidential system with a powerful, independent, and internally divided Congress requires that big changes undergo lengthy debates and substantive accommodations. On occasion America does act like a parliamentary system, as it did under Franklin Roosevelt during the Great Depression and under Lyndon Johnson when he commanded extraordinary majorities in both houses of Congress.

The system a country uses to elect its rulers also makes a difference. In a recent study, political scientists Torben Iversen and David Soskice have shown that, among 17 large democracies, those that elect their legislators using proportional representation (PR) are three times more likely than those electing them by majority vote to have leftist governments that redistribute income from rich to poor.

Australia, Canada, Japan, Great Britain, and the United States (among others) have majoritarian systems, while Austria, Germany, Italy, and Sweden (among others) have PR systems. Under a PR system, several parties will compete, while in majoritarian systems, only two parties usually contest elections. If there are several parties, middle-class voters will support programs that tax the rich and benefit them, knowing that they can change their voting habits if a government wishes to tax them more. But if there are only two major parties, middle-class voters will worry that voting for leftist parties will mean more taxes for them, and so they will be inclined to support right-wing parties. [...]

Tocqueville ascribed our political culture in large part to our religious heritage. Our settlers who escaped religious persecution at home brought with them a form of Christian worship that was both "democratic and republican." To be sure, some Americans in 1835 and many more today "profess Christian dogma... because they are afraid of not looking like they believe them." But for most people, religion is a reality, not a dodge. Tocqueville understood that, contrary to the prediction of European philosophers, freedom and enlightenment would not extinguish religious zeal. On the contrary: here freedom largely explains our persistent religiosity.

That is because a nation that never had an established church and did not grant money or privileges to existing churches left religion in the hands of spiritual entrepreneurs. These people were sometimes domestic missionaries and sometimes local citizens eager to create and govern a religious organization. Protestant churches had to compete in a spiritual marketplace, with many new churches emerging every year, people changing their affiliations frequently, and a few mega-churches emerging under the guidance of the most successful ministers. The system of natural liberty that Adam Smith said would benefit the economy has also aided religion.

As a result, nearly half of all Americans attend churches or synagogues weekly compared to 4 percent of the English, 5 percent of the French, and comparably low levels in most of Western Europe. Some may suspect that our religiosity is sustained by recent immigrants, especially those from Latin America. But that is only part of the story. Churches grew in membership between 1776 and 1850, long before Irish and Italian immigrants arrived in any number. When German immigrants arrived toward the end of the 19th century, they behaved like Germans still in their homeland: most were nonobservant Lutherans. But by the time they had become third generation Americans, they acquired the church commitments of America generally and went to church frequently. And the Mormon church has grown rapidly without, at least in America, emphasizing immigrant recruitment.

In most of Europe, by contrast, religion was allied with politics so that over the centuries European secularists, as one scholar has noted, "hounded Christians as political enemies rather than as religious adversaries." As a result, European churches that are still under government influence in much of Europe long after these nations had become secular create a political failure. As Tocqueville put it, "religion increases its power over some and loses the hope of reigning over all."

Religion in America has helped train citizens on self-government by giving them independent congregations to manage even in places that when first settled had no civil government. The struggle between religious faiths has at times been acute, as with Protestant attacks on the Roman Catholic Church in the 19th and early 20th centuries. But this rivalry was suppressed by the courts, weakened by the slow realization that Catholics here were Americans first and Catholics second, and by the election of a Catholic president in 1960. As with the economy, so with religion: markets generate mutual understanding far better than monopolies.

Religion has powerfully affected American politics: Its leaders were at the forefront of efforts to abolish slavery and still struggle over war, abortion, and gay rights. Indeed, among white voters in the 2004 presidential election, religious differences explained a larger fraction of their votes than did their age, sex, income, or education. At the extremes, religion can lead to violence, as when some radical fundamentalists bombed abortion clinics or radical secularists sustained the Weather Underground. But for most people, religion has a moderate impact despite the fervent rhetoric directed at it by several contributors to the New York Times.

Religion in America explains a host of worthwhile traits. As Arthur Brooks shows in the new book, Who Really Cares, people who are religious are more likely to live in two-parent families, achieve upward economic mobility, resist the lures of drugs and crime, and overcome health problems. Religious people are more likely to give to charity, including secular ones, than are non-religious people, and they are more likely to donate blood, give food or money to homeless persons, and to return excessive change mistakenly given to them by a cashier.

Religion, of course, cannot be the sole guide to a useful democracy. People who believe that their faith justifies their desire to dominate other people or to destroy the infidels are on a crash course toward social destruction. Iran is an example. And a country in which a secular autocrat has imposed Draconian rule as a way of curbing the excesses of religion has created an alternative no better than the one he suppressed. Iraq under Saddam Hussein is an example.

Religion requires constitutional boundaries to limit the radical demands of a few. But constitutional government without religion may, as the examples cited earlier in this suggest, give to people no sense of common destiny nor any faith in the transcendent value of their principles. [...]

Some Americans are skeptical that democracy can be exported, especially to the Middle East. These countries lack what we had: a successful war against a colonial power, wise statesmen who drafted our Constitution, and a political culture that will sustain democratic authority and protect human freedom. But most nations that have become democracies lack some or all of these traits: There was no revolutionary war, few wise statesmen, and no democratic political culture in France, Germany, Italy, and Japan. England, the nation that became democratic a few decades after the United States was created, did have many helpful precursors: no feudalism, many independent farmers who owned their own land, and an early experience with an independent judiciary. England's former colonies -- not only America, but Australia, Canada, India, and New Zealand -- became the leading democracies of the world.

But other countries have become democratic despite internal terrorism (France), domestic autocracy (Germany), a weak political culture (Japan), a lack of territorial integrity (Italy), and a Muslim population (Turkey and increasingly Indonesia). The fact that not all democracies (in fact, almost none) will look like ours and that radicalism and despotism will make democratic progress painfully slow in many countries are not arguments against encouraging the spread of democracy; they are only arguments against hoping that our system can be exported intact and that we will see democracy in the most resistant nations in our (or our children's) lifetimes. Though American democracy got off to a good start in 1789, we had to fight a bloody civil war before much more progress could be made.

But we have left a legacy that many people wish to emulate. When people in Lebanon, Jordan, Morocco, and Indonesia are asked whether Western-style democracy can work in their countries, the overwhelming majority say "yes."

Mr. Wilson is, of course, quite wrong about egalitarianism being important in America--we believe in moral equality instead. But he's absolutely right to note that it is the undemocratic aspects of the Republic and our stubborn religiosity that most separate us from other democracies.

November 16, 2006

Posted by Peter Burnet at 7:57 PM


New Hypothesis Says Allure of Human Eyes Has Evolutionary Advantage (Ker Than, Fox News, November 8th, 2006)

Humans are also the only primates for whom the outline of the eye and the position of the iris are clearly visible. In addition, our eyes are more horizontally elongated and disproportionately large for our body size compared to most apes. Gorillas, for example, have massive bodies but relatively small eyes.

The cooperative eye hypothesis explains these differences as traits that evolved to help facilitate communication and cooperation between members of a social group. As one important example, human mothers and infants are heavily reliant on eye contact during their interactions. One study found that human infants look at the face and eyes of their caregiver twice as long on average compared with other apes.

Other ideas have also been proposed to explain why humans have such visible eyes. For example, white sclera might signal good health and therefore help signal to others our potential as a mate.

Or, as one other recent study suggested, visible eyes might be important for promoting cooperative and altruistic behavior in individuals that benefit the group. The study, conducted by Haley and Daniel Fessler, also at UCLA, found that people were more generous and donated more money if they felt they were being watched——even if the watchful eyes were just drawings resembling eyes on a computer screen.

Wouldn’t it be something to hear a modern evolutionary biologist suggest humans evolved superior eyes in order to better stalk one another and aim weapons?

Posted by Matt Murphy at 7:50 PM


Milton Friedman, a Leading Economist, Dies at 94 (Holcomb F. Nobel, 11/16/06, New York Times)

Milton Friedman, the grandmaster of conservative economic theory in the postwar era and a prime force in the movement of nations toward lesser government and greater reliance on free markets and individual responsibility, died today. He was 94 years old.

A spokesman for the Milton and Rose D. Friedman Foundation confirmed his death.

Conservative and liberal colleagues alike viewed Mr. Friedman as one of the 20th century’s leading economic scholars, on a par with giants like John Maynard Keynes, Joseph A. Schumpeter and Paul Samuelson.

Flying the flag of economic conservatism, Mr. Friedman led the postwar challenge to the hallowed theories of Lord Keynes, the British economist who maintained that governments had a duty to help capitalistic economies through periods of recession and to prevent boom times from exploding into high inflation.

In Professor Friedman’s view, government had the opposite obligation: to keep its hands off the economy, to let the free market do its work. He was a spiritual heir to Adam Smith, the 18th-century founder of the science of economics and proponent of laissez-faire: that government governs best which governs least. [...]

As the end of the century approached, Professor Friedman said events had made his views seem only more valid than when he had first formed them. One event was the fall of socialism and Communism, which the economist Friedrich A. Hayek had predicted in 1944 in “Road to Serfdom.” In an introduction to the 50th-anniversary edition of the book, Professor Friedman wrote that it was now clear that “progress could be achieved only in an order in which government activity is limited primarily to establishing the framework with which individuals are free to pursue their own objectives.”

“The free market is the only mechanism that has ever been discovered for achieving participatory democracy,” he said.

Not only was Professor Friedman a genius, and a likeable genius at that, but one of his greatest assets was that readers never felt like they too had to be geniuses in order to understand him. All that was required was the kind of common sense that makes one note, for example, that the human traffic between the tyrannical Soviet bloc and the free world was basically all in one direction. Once a person grasps that, figuring out the implications is easy.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 7:49 PM


Don't hang Saddam (Christopher Hitchens, National Post, November 7th, 2006)

The case for carrying out the sentence of death, or for not protesting if it is carried out, is the following: Saddam Hussein has been tried under Iraqi law as it stood when he was dictator and has been sentenced according to that law. It is not for anyone else to tell Iraqi courts and judges what to do or to suggest retrospective changes in the system. He had the day in court that was denied to his victims, and the sentence should stand, even if the Iraqi parliament should later decide to abolish capital punishment.

There is another argument that has nothing to do with law. It concerns the bizarre word closure. A better word might be catharsis. After 1945, for example, it would have seemed grotesque that millions of Jews and Poles and Russians and Gypsies should be dead and their murderers still alive and able to give interviews and write memoirs. The hanging of the principal Nazi criminals was more an act of hygiene than of law, as well as an absolute assurance to their surviving victims (and to their remaining sympathizers) that there could be no second act. One's humanity, here, is partly enlisted for once in favour of the death penalty. Nuremberg pressed the last breath out of the putrescent body of fascism, and it allowed others to breathe more freely at the same time. Iraq is a country absolutely febrile with rumor and paranoia: I never cease to be amazed at the way in which people's expressions still change into a flicker of fear when the name of their sadistic former boss is even so much as mentioned.

Millions of people will not even start to relax until they are absolutely sure that the great werewolf will not come back. In this sense, you could argue that hanging the chief butcher and torturer would be an act of mass emancipation. But this still seems to me to be more like an exorcism than an execution -- a concession to superstition and primitive emotion. And we have enough of both in today's Iraq.

One strong objection to all executions is that they involve the destruction of evidence. Once the accused has been removed from the scene, he cannot shed any more light on the crime, investigation of which often has to be reopened. The trial of Saddam Hussein, like those of Pinochet and Milosevic, ought to have been the occasion for the assembling of a huge and conclusive archive of evidence, which would stand for all time as a monument to justice and an insurance against later "revisionism."

There are good principled arguments against capital punishment, but if Mr. Hitchens believes in them, why does he not just say so? Why, having articulated the case for hanging Saddam with such compelling flair, does he then descend into tranzi drivel about how Iraqis should continue to live in terror so we can all “learn” from wallowing endlessly in the details of the murders of their families?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:03 PM

IN THE STRANGE LAND (via Tom Morin):

The Stranger in Crawford: a review of Jacqueline Lévi-Valensi, ed., Camus at Combat: Writing, 1944–1947 Arthur Goldhammer, trans. (Michael Mcdonald, Nov/Dec 2006, The American Interest)

The Bush Administration as a “messianic” force imposing its version of democracy willy-nilly on the rest of the world; the Bush Administration as hostile to dissent both at home (the Patriot Act) and to the criticism and advice it receives abroad; the Bush Administration as seeking to promote its brand of justice while at the same time condoning torture (Abu Ghraib). Carroll’s generic warnings seem too close to the specific complaints repeatedly raised against this Administration to be coincidental. Accordingly, one is apt to leave his essay thinking that if Camus were alive and writing today, he would be alternating columns with Andrew Cockburn and Katha Pollitt in The Nation. Put another way, Carroll’s introduction will do much to reinforce the notion that Bush has so little in common with Camus that it is a travesty for him even to have picked up a copy of The Stranger.

Carroll deserves our gratitude for helping to place Camus at Combat before the American reading public, but his own anti-Bush reflexes seem to have prevented him from seeing what Camus understood about some of the same problems Bush has had to face or—heaven forefend!—how alike the two men might actually be. Yes, I know one is prone to scoff, but then there is this from Camus’ most recent biographer, Olivier Todd, who has written that Camus was “a man of gut feelings and intuitions more than a careful reasoner.” Sound like any other “gut reasoner” we know? Then there are the more substantive similarities that a careful reading reveals, all five of which are striking.

First, Camus and Bush are similar in speaking of pre- and post-mentalities. Camus spoke of pre- and post-1940 Occupation mentality, arguing that there was to be no return to the corrupt politics and distorted views of the past that had compromised French life. Bush speaks of pre- and post-9/11 mentalities and likewise warns against a return to reactive thinking.

Second, Camus and Bush similarly believe that the times call for clear moral guidelines: “Tout ce qui n’est pas avec nous est contre nous”, Camus announced in one Combat editorial. “You are either with us or you are with the terrorists”, Bush stated in the days after 9/11. Camus then proceeded to gloss this point better than Bush ever has (Presidential speechwriters please take note): “These are moments when everything becomes clear, when every action constitutes a commitment, when every choice has its price, when nothing is neutral anymore. It is the time of morality, that is, a time when language becomes clear and it is possible to throw it back in the realists’ face.”

Third, Camus was against “political realism”, calling it “a degrading thing.” “Those whom we called leaders”, he wrote, “invented names for this abdication of responsibility. They called it ‘nonintervention’ one day and ‘political realism’ the next. Compared with such imperious language, what could a poor little word like honor count for.” Bush, too, is in principle against the old-style political realism that allowed the United States to continue to ally itself with regimes harboring terrorists, and with observers who maintain that the stability of Middle Eastern dictatorships is a good thing.

Fourth, Camus could be equally as succinct on dissenters as Bush or Vice President Dick Cheney: “It is obvious that words have value and need to be weighed carefully”, Camus editorialized on one occasion, adding: “The Resistance is telling you that we are now at a stage where every word counts, where every word is a commitment.”

And fifth, Camus’ sense of solidarity with oppressed peoples living under tyrannies eerily evokes statements in Bush’s inaugural and State of the Union speeches. “Today we know that the nations of the world share a common destiny”, Camus declared. “We will never achieve victory as long as the cause of freedom continues to be crushed in long-suffering Spain.”

Carroll also overstates the extent to which Camus embraced nonviolence in the postwar period when he writes, “The ultimate limit that Camus will impose on political involvement, the ‘no’ that always [will] be uttered, is the refusal to accept the murder of innocent civilians as a legitimate means to any end.” There is no doubt that Camus had a basic repugnance toward killing and violence, but that repugnance did not prevent him from taking up arms when forced to do so. Moreover, fairly considered, Camus rejected the legitimation of violence (which is one reason why Dwight Macdonald, who embraced pacifism in the 1940s, thought that collaboration with Camus on his journal Politics might be problematic).

Carroll also paints a misleading picture of Camus when he says that he “in fact considered all the ideologies struggling for dominance in the postwar period to be potentially deadly, with each of them in its own way contributing to the creation of a state of terror and the depreciation of life.” Arthur Koestler, a close friend of Camus, once remarked that people like himself who opposed totalitarian ideologies were “fighting a total lie in the name of a half-truth.” Camus himself was even less equivocal: “We know that the cause of the American people is also our cause and will continue to be so as long as freedom is interfered with anywhere in the world.”

One key difference is that, unlike the President and most Americans, Camus sadly lacked the courage of one of his core convictions, Master and Pupil (Robert Royal, July/August 2003, Crisis):
Grenier oversaw Camus's thesis on "Christian Metaphysics and Neoplatonism," a subject that attracted master and pupil alike for its intrinsic interest--a comparison of two high points of the human spirit, one Christian, one pagan--but also because it was a subject that had engaged a great ancient predecessor in the region, St. Augustine. Both were open to a larger horizon than was typical among contemporary intellectuals. Or as Camus was to formulate it later, Grenier "prevented me from being a humanist in the sense that it is understood today--I mean a man blinded by narrow certainties." Contrary to almost the whole of modern French thought, Camus believed that it was better to be "a good bourgeois than a bad intellectual or a mediocre writer," and he and Grenier strove to avoid the vanity and self-deception endemic to French intellectuals.

Both had intermittent attractions to Christianity, especially Catholicism, because, as Grenier put it, it reflected the principle that there is "no truth for man that is not incarnated." And Grenier could be merciless toward what he believed was a "dilettantism of despair" among many French intellectuals. But they were also put off by the harsh tone of many people in the French Church at the time, which seemed particularly offensive because of the Church's historical failings, as they saw it. Camus confesses at one point: "Catholic thought always seems bittersweet to me. It seduces me then offends me. Undoubtedly, I lack what is essential." That may be true, but it is also a sad commentary on Catholic history in France that these two good men, flawed and perhaps blinded as they may have been by certain modern intellectual currents, felt such ambivalence. The sense of guilt (personal and universal) in the later Camus is so palpable and profound that many people believe that had he not died at age 47, he would have eventually become a Christian. It's a pious wish, but I have always thought it ignored certain invincible circumstances. These letters have not changed my mind.

There's an interesting echo of Camus's dilemma in the recent Without Roots, where an Italian atheist, Marcello Pera, argues that Europe's moral relativism is destroying it and must be replaced by a return to Christian morality, but is unable to take the step of believing himself. This inability to recognize that the aesthetic reason for faith trumps the counterarguments of Reason makes tragic figures of such decent men.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:58 PM


How to survive a plane crash (ANDREW CHUNG, 11/05/06, TORONTO STAR

[T]he fear of a plane crash is so pervasive because most people think it means certain death. The reality is just the opposite: the majority of people involved in aviation accidents survive.

In what is the most comprehensive research to date on the topic, the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board studied 568 U.S. commercial air carrier accidents from 1983 to 2000 and found that just 12.5 per cent of these accidents had any fatalities at all. And that out of 53,487 passengers on these fatal flights, 51,207 survived. That's almost 96 per cent.

Even in the most serious of those fatal accidents, over 50 per cent of passengers survived. Catastrophic events in which everyone dies are exceedingly rare, the study says.

Though Canadian data from this country's Transportation Safety Board have not been compiled and analyzed in the same way, a look at the available statistics points to a similar conclusion. Between 1989 and 2004, 273 airliners and commuter aircraft were involved in accidents, resulting in 371 passenger and crew deaths. To put that in context, Canadians took more than 87 million flights in 2004 alone.

"The bottom line is it's extremely safe," says Marc-Antoine Plourde, an Air Canada pilot and president of DePlour Research and Training Centre in Montreal, which helps people conquer their fear of flying.

"We explain to people that it's not a fear that is justified given the level of safety. There are 500 to 1,000 deaths attributable to commercial aviation crashes every year, with close to 2 billion passengers flying. With 40,000 deaths in the streets alone in the U.S., and we're not scared of driving, you can see it's psychological."

Todd Curtis, a former Boeing airline safety analyst and accident investigator, says it's easy to get that impression when the media typically cover accidents with major death counts, such as last week's crash in Nigeria in which 96 died and nine survived, but ignore those with few problems.

Of course, your odds of surviving a plane crash very much depend on how much control the pilot is able to exert before impact, Curtis explains. If it's out of control, there's little hope.

"If it's high-speed, nose-to-ground, the ball game's over," he says. "Usually where there are survivors there is some sort of controllability to it."

The NTSB study says improvements in fire retardancy, aircraft configuration, floor lighting, seat and exit design, and evacuation procedures are reflected in the large number of crash survivors. It also says that, armed with the knowledge that survival rates are very high, passengers might do more to improve their own chances of getting out alive.

For Diezyn, this is simply good common sense. "There is a risk," Diezyn says. "You have to be ready for what could happen. It's like going biking without a helmet. It's a bad decision."

Of course, if the aviation industry cared about safety they'd just reverse the seats so you face the back of the plane, which is the single improvement that would save the most fliers. Eventually cars will be configured that way, including the driver's seat.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:39 PM


From ancient Persia to the digital age, people have sat across from each other and said, "It's your move.": a review of THE IMMORTAL GAME: A History of Chess By David Shenk (Michael Dirda, October 29, 2006, Washington Post)

Chess may or may not be the most intellectual of all games, but it is certainly the most romantic. Say the word "chess," and the images start to flicker through our minds: black-cowled Death hunched over a chessboard with the crusader in Ingmar Bergman's "The Seventh Seal"; Alice adventuring through the Looking Glass; the thin-lipped grandmaster Kronsteen planning the destruction of James Bond in "From Russia with Love." Some lucky readers will remember Beth Harmon, the abused young girl who discovers her lonely destiny in Walter Tevis's superb novel The Queen's Gambit ; others will recall the darker fate of Luzhin in Nabokov's The Defense . Then there's the legendary Paul Morphy -- the Edgar Allan Poe of chess -- who dazzled the world in his early 20s before sinking down into delusion and paranoia. More recently, 1997 headlines announced the defeat of a human world champion, Garry Kasparov, by the implacable machine-intelligence of the computer known as Deep Blue.

David Shenk recognizes all this romance, though The Immortal Game tends to emphasize chess's actual history and development. For most of us, Shenk's book possesses an almost inestimable advantage over the many other publications about chess: It isn't entirely made up of page after page of little chessboards, decorated with knights, pawns and bishops in seemingly random patterns, followed by arcane notations such as "N-QB3!!" In fact, you can be an utter novice, just a simple wood-pusher, and enjoy the author's engaging prose, honest self-deprecation (he's a lousy player) and the charm of his personal connection with the game: Shenk's great-great-grandfather was Samuel Rosenthal, once the champion of France.

Shenk, who has also written on health and aging, relates the history of chess from its origins in India and Persia to the development of the modern super-computers that now regularly surpass the skill of grand masters. In between, he traces the game in Arab culture and its refinement during the Middle Ages in Europe, discusses such influential figures as Benjamin Franklin (probably colonial America's strongest player) and Franklin's French contemporary François-André Danican Philidor, who first recognized the power of massed pawns. Shenk tells lots of good stories and anecdotes. Napoleon and Marx both adored chess without being very good at it; Marcel Duchamp gave up art ("Nude Descending a Staircase") to spend all his time thinking about openings and gambits; the Viennese expert Rudolf Spielmann (the perfect name!) famously advised that one should aim to "play the opening like a book, the middle game like a magician, and the endgame like a machine."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:46 AM


How to be funny: Why are comedians such good liars? How hard do they work on their jokes? And how important is... timing? Jimmy Carr and Lucy Greeves explain the rules (Edited extracts from 'The Naked Jape', by Jimmy Carr and Lucy Greeves, Daily Telegraph)

They all laughed when I said I wanted to be a comedian. They're not laughing now.
-Bob Monkhouse

This Monkhouse gag is funny but, of course, it's much better heard than read. On paper, a joke is a pale and inadequate one-dimensional version of itself. In fact, a joke scarcely exists until someone has told it and someone else has laughed.

The who, where, when, what and why of a joke's telling can be more significant that its topic, and no single theory - from Freud's notion of the joke as a release of suppressed sexual neurosis to Schopenhauer's definition of humour as a reaction to incongruity - can explain how jokes work.

Even comedy's greats seem stuck for a proper analysis. When John Cleese tired of questions about where he got his jokes from, he resorted to, 'I buy them from a little man in Swindon.' The truth is much more prosaic. Jokes are about 10 per cent inspiration and 90 per cent whittling and crafting - much of it in front of an audience.

Jerry Seinfeld talks of the comedian's 'third eye', through which he views life with ironic detachment. However, irony and detachment are not enough. Joke writing and performing is a craft, and while an all-encompassing theory of humour may elude us, it is possible to identify some of the basics in the building of a successful joke.

Set-up, punchline, laugh?

A cowboy walks into a bar and orders a whisky. As the barman's pouring it the cowboy looks about him. 'Where is everybody?' he says. 'Gone to the hanging,' says the barman. 'Hanging?' says the cowboy.

'Who they hanging?'

'Brownpaper Pete,' replies the barman.

'Brownpaper Pete? Why do they call him that?'

'Well,' says the barman. 'His hat's made of brown paper, his shirt's made of brown paper, his jacket's made of brown paper and his trousers are made of brown paper.' 'Really?' says the cowboy. 'What they hanging him for?'


Many jokes, like this one, are written backwards, with the punchline sorted out first. However, the punchline - the destination without which a joke loses its way - is so potent a force that even on its own, with little or no narrative set-up, it can make us laugh. Witness the hugely popular sketch comedy of The Fast Show and Little Britain, in which characters get laughs from catchphrases that function just like punchlines to the situational jokes.

This is also how an 'in-joke' works among a group of friends. Life itself provides the set-up, and a word or two, sometimes just a knowing look between two people who are in on the joke, provides the punchline.

November 10, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:24 AM


Neo-Nazis rampage through German city (Times Online, 11/10/06)

Sixteen people were arrested after neo-Nazis, some shouting "Sieg Heil", rampaged through a Germany city and destroyed wreaths placed to mark the anniversary of the 1938 Nazi pogrom against the Jews.

Police in the eastern city of Frankfurt on Oder said the group had launched an attack last night, shortly after a memorial service by community and Jewish leaders at a monument where a synagogue once stood.

The neo-Nazis trampled floral wreaths placed at a memorial stone to the synagogue in the city on the Polish border. The synagogue was destroyed 68 years ago in the Nazis’ Kristallnacht, or "Night of Broken Glass". [...]

The federal government has called a rise in anti-Semitic violence worrying. Police said last month attacks by far-right groups rose 20 percent in the first eight months of 2006.

November 7, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:27 AM


Time for our Midterm Election Prediction Contest:

(1) What well the House split be after this election, it's about 232-203 now:

(2) What will the Senate split be after this election, currently it's 55-45 (let's consider the I's with the party whose leadership they vote for):

(3) Pick one incumbent Governor who will fail to win re-election:

Election Eve 2006: THE FINAL PREDICTIONS (Larry J. Sabato and David Wasserman, 11/06/06, U.Va. Center for Politics)

THE SENATE: +6 Dems = 51D, 49R [...]

THE HOUSE: +29 Dems = 232D, 203R [...]


President Bush Job Approval (Rasmussen Reports, November 6, 2006)
On the day before Election Day, 45% of Americans approve of the way that George W. Bush is performing his role as President. This is the President's highest approval rating in a little over a month. [...]

The Rasmussen Reports Senate Balance of Power Summary remains tied with 48 seats in the Republican column, 48 for the Democrats, and four Toss-Ups

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:50 AM


Parties continue to press on as clock winds down (Bill Nichols, 11/07/06, USA TODAY)

Candidates made final appeals and party tacticians worked to boost voter turnout Monday as Americans prepared for potentially critical midterm elections.

Tuesday's results will decide the fate of all 435 House seats, 33 Senate seats and governorships in 36 states and set the tone and agenda for the final two years of President Bush's second term.

The key question: whether Democrats can take advantage of national dissatisfaction with Bush and the war in Iraq to win the 15 seats they need to control the House of Representatives and six seats they need to take the Senate.

All too many people will vote today with a mad on, when it should instead be a joyous occasion. After all, we are about to elect the 110th Congress of the United States of America, a representative legislature that has served without interruption for longer than any other in the history of human affairs. If it sometimes seems less an august body than an Augean stable, it has nonetheless served us remarkably well, regardless of which party was in power and irrespective of peace, war, plenty or poverty. Sure, each of us imagines that if we had absolute personal power we could make it run more efficiently and accomplish greater things, but each of us would run it differently and seek to do different things, which is why we have it in the first place. That's why, while there's never a bad time, this is an especially good time to recall the words of Eric Hoffer, that most American of creatures, a longshoreman who's one of the few significant philosophers of the 20th century:
Free men are aware of the imperfection inherent in human affairs, and they are willing to fight and die for that which is not perfect. They know that basic human problems can have no final solutions, that our freedom, justice, equality, etc. are far from absolute, and that the good life is compounded of half measures, compromises, lesser evils, and gropings toward the perfect. The rejection of approximations and the insistence on absolutes are the manifestation of a nihilism that loathes freedom, tolerance, and equity.

So, when you head over to your local school or wherever you happen to vote, don't just trudge dutifully past the gaggle of folks with signs and the candidates hoping to shake your hand or the pollster begging you to answer a few questions. Soak it all in and enjoy it.

Election Day is one big pageant and you are just as much a part of it as every single one of your fellow citizens. Today should be as fun as your favorite holiday, with that same touch of solemnity for leavening. Feel a bit sorry for the folks who voted by mail, who won't get to take their full part in the civil ceremony. Pity the folks who choose not to vote at all, who do not even grasp the great gift our forbears have handed us. And shed a discrete tear for the many in other lands who either don't get to choose their leaders or whose choices make the blood run cold.

You will naturally prefer your candidate, Mr. Smith, to his opponent, Mr. Jones, but in just about every other country on Earth, in nearly every other year of human existence, government by 500 Mr. Joneses would be the best that nation had ever experienced. Despite working on two losing campaigns, the one election that I recall least fondly was 1992. We were living in Chicago and, despite my vote, Bill Clinton carried Illinois, Carol Mosely-Braun was elected to the Senate, and Dan Rostenkowski was returned to the House. But, you know what, the Republic didn't skip a beat. The simple truth, which both parties would rather we lose track of at election time, is that America has, and has generally had, a broad enough consensus on the things that matter that whoever wins today is unlikely to mess things up too badly and whoever wins isn't going to rock the ship of state overmuch. And, best of all, in just two years we get to do it all over again....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:48 AM


"Good, steady progress" on 787 as Boeing works to lighten up (Dominic Gates, 11/07/06, Seattle Times)

Boeing's 787 is on schedule. Early practice production is going smoothly. A plan to take off extra weight is in place. And the new jet's boost to airline operating economics will be significantly better than originally projected.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 6:39 AM


Extra set of fins could link dolphins to land (Hiroko Tabuchi, Associated Press, November 6th, 2006)

Japanese researchers said Sunday that a bottlenose dolphin captured last month has an extra set of fins that could be the remains of hind legs, a discovery that may provide further evidence that ocean-dwelling mammals once lived on land.

Fishermen captured the four-finned dolphin alive off the coast of Wakayama prefecture (state) in western Japan on Oct. 28, and alerted the nearby Taiji Whaling Museum, according to museum director Katsuki Hayashi.

Fossil remains show dolphins and whales were four-footed land animals about 50 million years ago and share the same common ancestor as hippos and deer. Scientists believe they later transitioned to an aquatic lifestyle and their hind limbs disappeared.[...]

“I believe the fins may be remains from the time when dolphins' ancient ancestors lived on land ... this is an unprecedented discovery,” Seiji Osumi, an adviser at Tokyo's Institute of Cetacean Research, said at a news conference televised Sunday.[...]

A freak mutation may have caused the ancient trait to reassert itself, Mr. Osumi said. The dolphin will be kept at the Taiji museum to undergo X-ray and DNA tests, according to Hayashi.

We don't begrudge Darwinists their belief in miracles, but we draw the line at any resurgence of Japanese ancestor worship.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:02 AM


Immigration Seen as Likely Test For 110th Congress (JOSH GERSTEIN, November 7, 2006, NY Sun)

Today's election, widely billed as a referendum on the war in Iraq, is likely to produce a more significant change of course for America's immigration policy than for the fighting in the Middle East, according to analysts from both political parties.

Despite the anti-war cries from Democrats and the dire warnings from Republicans about the consequences of retreat, the incoming Congress may lack the will to force an American withdrawal from Iraq. Wary of being seen as abandoning the troops, Democratic leaders have already ruled out blocking further funding for the conflict.

"We're not going to do that," the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Rep. Rahm Emanuel of Illinois, said in a conference call with reporters yesterday. [...]

If opinion polls prove correct and a Democratic House of Representatives is elected today, an easier area of agreement with the White House will be immigration. Mr. Bush favors an "earned legalization" program for immigrants working in this country illegally. In May, the Senate voted, 62-36, in favor of legislation in line with the White House's plan, but the Republican-controlled House dismissed the legalization approach. Some Republican lawmakers said Mr. Bush's plan amounted to amnesty for illegal aliens.

"Immigration is the one major proposal where the president might have a chance of getting success, because the Democrats have been more receptive than the Republicans," a Brookings Institution fellow in governance studies, Stephen Hess, said.

It hardly gets sweeter than the anti-Bush activism of the Darwinian Right causing immigration amnesty to pass.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Gore backs Cardin; pastors endorse Steele (Jon Ward and S.A. Miller, November 7, 2006, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

For up-to-the-minute results, news, and analysis, make your home for election night.

Former Vice President Al Gore campaigned yesterday with Maryland's Democratic candidates for the U.S. Senate and governor -- Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin and Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley, respectively -- closing out the party's effort to hold off strong Republican campaigns.

Meanwhile, Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele crisscrossed the state on a nonstop bus tour and received last-minute endorsements for his U.S. Senate campaign from the pastors of two Prince George's County's black megachurches. And Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. campaigned for re-election in Baltimore County, ending the day with a rally in his hometown of Arbutus.

The Democrats can not be both the party of Gaia-worshiping wealthy white folk and of God-fearing blacks and Hispanics.

November 6, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:17 PM


Future generations will hear far more about God and politics (Michael Burleigh, 07/11/2006, Daily Telegraph)

There is something encouragingly American about Theos, provided one associates US Christians with its many distinguished public intellectuals, like Richard John Neuhaus or George Weigel, rather than the literalists of dread imaginings. [...]

[I]n a brilliant exposition of Theos's remit, entitled Doing God, Nick Spencer indicates that the very notion of a separate public sphere, or what we call civil society, is an indirect offspring of Christian rejection of imperial theocracy, and that Christians have much still to contribute to their own legacy.

Indeed, whether for demographic reasons, which over the long term favour religious believers, or, because of the creeping withdrawal of the state from social provision, future generations will hear a lot more about God and politics.

Spencer makes short work of many arguments routinely used to excise religion from the public sphere, a goal that is utterly ahistorical in a country where the Sovereign is head of the Established Church and daily prayers are said in Parliament.

By dealing in moral absolutes or through focus on the transcendental, religious people allegedly tend to be intolerant, indifferent to the merely temporal, or drag societies into sectarianism.

All of these arguments could be applied to secular ideological fanaticisms – notably liberalism, fascism and communism – and neglect the work done by Churches to bring about peace and reconciliation in even the most vicious conflicts.

These range from Britain's strife-ridden "multi-cultural" cities to secret Italian Catholic mediation between the military regime and Islamic Salvation Front in Algeria. Being smart, Spencer suggests that religious believers should adjust their language to a pluralistic audience.

On the positive side, Spencer makes a powerfully "secular" case for deeper Christian involvement in politics, beyond the overblown irrelevance of whether Ruth Kelly belongs to Opus Dei or whether George W.

Bush and Tony Blair pray together. "Secular" changes are things we scarcely perceive and can do little to alter, like the ineluctable march of the one- or two-child family, liquor stills and satellite porn among Iran's middle-class Shia.

In Britain, Spencer argues that the withdrawal of the state from welfare provision will reveal a "long-hidden shore of civil society, in which religious groups in general, and the Churches in particular, have and are playing a significant role".

There are some 22,000 religious charities in this country, not to speak of parish or chapel-based voluntary work.

Whereas bureaucratised welfare is invariably decoupled from altruism, and manages to demoralise and infantilise its "clients", by their nature, religious charities encourage self-reflection and responsibility, provided the mission is not neutered in return for local or government funding.

In passages that will annoy those credulous toward material progress – measured by possessions – Spencer draws on economist Richard Layard's work on how wealth does not guarantee happiness to make the case that firm religious faith and marriage are two of the major indicators of individual and social health and happiness.

The Anglosphere is so unlike the rest of the West. Imagine the French discussing whether the State ought to recede so that the churches can resume their rightful role in dealing with social pathologies?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:02 PM


Senate Takeover Bid on ‘the Edge’ of Success, Says Schumer (Marie Horrigan, 11/06/06, NY Times)

[S]chumer credited the party’s success at making a serious run at a Senate takeover to its success at “nationalizing” the elections — focusing on the collapsed job approval ratings for President Bush and the Republican-controlled Congress — and parrying the Republicans’ efforts to turn voters’ attention to more parochial state-level issues.

Republicans have stood by the motto that all elections are local, seeking to loosen their identification with a president whose popularity has plunged, a chaotic and ultraviolent situation in Iraq, and a spate of scandals involving Republican lawmakers.

But Schumer told reporters, “We had always hoped” the election would be a referendum on the war in Iraq, adding, “And it is.”

That, he said, was a devastating turn of events for Republicans. “When the election is a referendum on change, George Bush and his rubber-stamp Congress lose,” he said.

In fact, if the Democrats fail to take both chambers, and the House by a wide margin, it will be precisely because they managed to nationalize the election and make it about reversing a time when gas has fallen to $2, the Dow is at record levels, the Fed has stopped cutting and unemployment is at a historic low. They're just lucky that Bush/Rove still think the election is about the WoT, not people's pocketbooks, or the GOP would stand to add seats.

For Democrats, Even a Gain May Feel Like a Failure (ADAM NAGOURNEY, 11/07/06, NY Times)

For a combination of reasons — increasingly bullish prognostications by independent handicappers, galloping optimism by Democratic leaders and bloggers, and polls that promise a Democratic blowout — expectations for the party have soared into the stratosphere. Democrats are widely expected to take the House, and by a significant margin, and perhaps the Senate as well, while capturing a majority of governorships and legislatures. [...]

Some Democrats worry that those forecasts, accurate or not, may be setting the stage for a demoralizing election night, and one with lasting ramifications, sapping the party’s spirit and energy heading into the 2008 presidential election cycle.

“Two years ago, winning 14 seats in the House would have been a pipe dream,” said Matt Bennett, a founder of Third Way, a moderate Democratic organization. Now, Mr. Bennett said, failure to win the House, even by one seat, would send Democrats diving under their beds (not to mention what it might do to all the pundits).

“It would be crushing,” he said. “It would be extremely difficult.”

Mr. Cook put it more succinctly. “I think you’d see a Jim Jones situation — it would be a mass suicide,” he said.

On election eve, the rough consensus among officials in both parties was that the Democrats would win the House but come just short of capturing the six seats they needed in the Senate.

The Democrats Are Coming! (Right?) (Howard Kurtz, November 6, 2006, Washington Post)
Mark Halperin, ABC's political director, says all the data suggest a good year for Democrats. "I don't think there's anything wrong with reporting the reality of what's going on," he says. Most revealing, he says, are "Republican sources who say, 'We're going to lose a lot of seats and, if nothing changes, we will lose the House and maybe the Senate.' "

Conservative commentators and radio hosts usually provide a cheering section for Republicans, but a striking number say the GOP should be punished this year for straying from conservative principles. Some, like Christopher Buckley and Jonah Goldberg, have said the Republicans deserve to lose the House. Glenn Reynolds of says the GOP seems to have a "bizarre death wish." George Will calls it "disgusting" that the White House refuses to acknowledge the depth of the fiasco in Iraq. Andrew Sullivan says he feels "betrayed" by the administration's botching of the war and the use of torture against terror suspects. Others have complained about overspending and the mishandling of the Foley debacle.

The press has treated all this as a leading indicator that the Republican base is downcast and disillusioned.

You can't even feel sorry for the MSM if they're going to listen to a bunch of ax-grinding insiders instead of reporting on the base out there in America.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:10 PM


Jews and Muslims unite against homosexuals (Tim Butcher, 07/11/2006, Daily Telegraph)

Jews and Muslims in Jerusalem have found common ground in their fierce opposition to a gay rights rally due to be held in the city this week.

Leaders from both faiths have united to denounce the parade, which has prompted nights of street protest by ultra-orthodox Jews, who regard homosexuality as an "abomination", and death threats against those taking part. [...]

The issue of the parade is generating more media coverage than the Israeli military incursion into Gaza, which has left more than 50 Palestinians dead.

The city's Islamic leadership is opposed to the parade, with Tayseer Tamimi, the head of the Palestinian supreme council of Sharia litigation, leading Muslim opposition. "This march tries to destroy the moral and spiritual values for youths," he said. "All religions discredit gays because it is against the decent human nature created by God."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:20 PM


Evans-Novak Political Report (Robert Novak, Week of November 6, 2006, Human Events)

Posted Nov 06, 2006
November 6, 2006
Washington, DC
Special Edition

To: Our Readers

Democrats are set to gain 19 House seats, two Senate seats, and five governorships in tomorrow's elections. It is a sign of Republicans' sorry state that, at this point, this is actually a very favorable outlook for them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:44 PM


'Known Al Qaeda Terrorist' Nabbed in Khost (, 06/11/2006)

US Forces captured a 'known Al Qaeda terrorist' along with five other men, including Saudi and Pakistani nationals, according to a statement released by the Coalition today. The identities of those seized in the Khost City raid have been withheld pending the sensitive nature of the operation

He died at Tora Bora, so this is just a flunky, but how much fun would it be to watch the Left if the White House announced they'd caught OBL tonight?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:38 PM


If Republicans defy the polls and pundits ...: A 'pre-nalysis' of a better-than-expected showing (Howard Fineman, 11/06/06, MSNBC)

What's a card-carrying member of the MSM to do if he wakes up one morning and realizes that in a conservative Judeo-Christian country with gas around $2, unemployment at 4.4% and the stock market at new record levels, there isn't much reason to expect a throw-out-the-bums tidal wave? Well, if you're Mr. Fineman you cite a bunch of completely trivial recent factoids (North Korea returning to 6 party talks?) and accuse Republicans of racism. And he wonders why Americans think the media is the enemy?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:28 PM


The Democracy Corps poll for November 2-5 (PDF) from James Carville, Bob Shrum, and Stan Greenberg has the generic ballot at 49D-45R.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:38 PM


Saddam: a tribute (David Cox, November 6, 2006, The Guardian)

Living under tyranny may not be ideal, but it is not impossible. In the Soviet Union, life took on a character of its own, in which the human spirit managed to flourish in spite of the political constraints. The literature generated in those conditions can still inspire us. Today, many former Soviet citizens feel no more free under the yoke of global capitalism than they did before, and some would like to see the return of Stalinism. The people of China seem in no rush to jettison a regime that holds out the prospect of prosperity at the expense only of liberty.

Even in Britain, our supposed attachment to our supposed freedom turns out to be tenuous. We seem content to toss aside ancient liberties in the face of a dubious war on terror, and we live, cheerily enough, under a regime of surveillance that the KGB might have envied.

Saddam offered his people a harsh deal. Yet, their lives were at risk only if they chose to challenge his authority. Now, they die because of the sect to which they happen to belong. Soon, their country may fall prey to a savage civil war. If that happens, the Iranians will doubtless intervene, along, perhaps, with Turkey and Israel. No one can predict where that might lead, but the outcome is unlikely to be positive for peace, prosperity, justice or, indeed, human rights.

If Saddam were still in power, he would have stopped this happening. Iraq's dissidents would have paid a price, but the rest of us would be a lot better off. As he goes to meet the hangman, the world has cause to rue his demise.

Some folks are so terrified by freedom they'd prefer total security even under a genocidal long, that is, as they're safe in the Anglosphere and calling for "others" to forsake freedom.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:42 AM


Muslim: ‘Republicans are liberators' (Nicole Frey, November 5, 2006, Vail Daily News)

“Republicans are feeling guilty about what’s going on in the world, but we are liberators,” said Muhammad Ali Hasan. “Right now, there’s nothing more important than for the Republicans to hold on to all three houses of government. If you’re a Republican today, you’re a hero.”

With Republicans in power, Hasan, 26, said the relationship between America and Muslim nations will improve, Iraq will be stabilized and democracy and freedom will flourish in the Middle East.

Hasan and his family hosted a lecture in their Beaver Creek home last week to share their knowledge and opinions with the Eagle County Republican Women and their guests about the upcoming election and foreign affairs. As Muslim-Americans, Hasan and his mother, Pakistani-born Seeme, who founded Muslims for America, brought firsthand knowledge to the table about Islam, the Middle East and their relationship with the United States.

As with every meeting of the Republican women’s group, things got started with the Pledge of Allegiance and a prayer — a Christian prayer. But the Hasans took it in stride, saying Muslims and Christians pray to the same God.

“When Osama says infidels, he’s talking about me and Mom, too,” Ali Hasan said.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:34 AM


THAT AWFUL PEW POLL (Noam Scheiber, 11/05/06, TNR: The Plank)

John Judis and I have been e-mailing about the alarming Pew poll that came out today. It reflects the same trends captured by that earlier Washington Post/ABC poll, except that the trends are, gulp, even more pronounced. Worse, the folks at Pew have graciously posted their cross-tabs, which makes it nearly impossible to rationalize the lousy results. As John points out, the fact that Democrats' 15-point advantage among white women last month has turned into a 2-point disadvantage today is incredibly ominous. Unfortunately, it's not quite as ominous as the erosion in the Democrats' advantage among Northeasterners: from 26 points to 9.

Too bad there isn't a good American word for Schaudenfreude.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:46 AM


New Telemarketing Ploy Steers Voters on Republican Path: A group pushing to win votes for Republicans describes its system as the most ambitious political use ever of
automated calling. (CHRISTOPHER DREW, 11/06/06, NY Times)

An automated voice at the other end of the telephone line asks whether you believe that judges who “push homosexual marriage and create new rights like abortion and sodomy” should be controlled. If your reply is “yes,” the voice lets you know that the Democratic candidate in the Senate race in Montana, Jon Tester, is not your man.

In Maryland, a similar question-and-answer sequence suggests that only the Republican Senate candidate would keep the words “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance. In Tennessee, another paints the Democrat as wanting to give foreign terrorists “the same legal rights and privileges” as Americans.

Using a telemarketing tactic that is best known for steering consumers to buy products, the organizers of the political telephone calls say they have reached hundreds of thousands of homes in five states over the last several weeks in a push to win votes for Republicans. Democrats say the calls present a distorted picture.

The Ohio-based conservatives behind the new campaign, who include current and former Procter & Gamble managers, say the automated system can reach vast numbers of people at a fraction of the cost of traditional volunteer phone banks and is the most ambitious political use of the telemarketing technology ever undertaken.

A party that has to keep its positions hidden from the public is in a fair bit of trouble.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:16 AM


Progressives Poised to Take Control of the Democratic Party (David Sirota, November 6, 2006, In These Times)

For the better part of 20 years, Democratic divisions have seethed under America's political surface, with only the rare contested presidential primary providing a release valve. Any number of self-defeating pathologies emanating from inside the Democratic Party have worked to raise the temperature: From President Bill Clinton's embrace of corporate-written trade deals that crushed the party's working-class base to congressional Democrats' complicity in the Iraq War and rejection of the growing anti-war movement, Democratic Party elites have gotten used to kicking the party base in the face.

The situation is ready to explode. What the late Paul Wellstone called the "Democratic wing of the Democratic Party" is growing feisty. And progressives are increasingly in a position to flex their muscles thanks to a convergence of factors: the rise of Internet fundraising, the ascendancy of blog and vlog (video blog) media and the crushing economic forces that are radicalizing previously apolitical middle-class constituencies. These developments have exposed the Democratic establishment to the same kind of pressure that conservative grassroots activists have exerted on the Republican Party to great electoral success.

Nowhere was this changing dynamic more on display than in Connecticut's recent Democratic senatorial primary and its aftermath. Businessman Ned Lamont -- a first-time statewide candidate -- toppled 18-year incumbent Sen. Joe Lieberman after running a campaign against Lieberman's support for the Iraq War, Social Security privatization and lobbyist-written trade deals that have decimated the Nutmeg State's manufacturing economy.

And when the crackup comes -- the key effects of which will be to drive socially conservative minorities and free-market wealthy whites into the GOP -- the whole Democratic Party will come to resemble the Lamont campaign, ideologically pure, but futile.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:09 AM


Greens see red over nuclear power which may leave Labour in the cold (HAMISH MACDONELL, 11/06/06, The Scotsman)

The Scottish Green Party decided at its conference in Edinburgh to make nuclear power a "red line" issue - a non-negotiable part of the Green agenda.

The party also agreed a policy of co-operation and negotiation for the post-election period, which could mean the party becomes a partner in an Executive coalition or remains on the outside, giving its support to the Executive in return for agreement on key policies.

This sort of "confidence and supply" approach has been tried successfully by parties around the world and the Greens believe they could make it work in Scotland.

Under such an agreement, the Greens would support the coalition's choice for first minister and keep the Executive in power by voting against no-confidence motions and approving the budget.

In return, the Greens would demand the delivery of certain "red line" issues. The only one to be agreed so far is no more nuclear power stations, but others are likely to be ratified by the party ahead of the election.

Richard Rhodes was on NPR's Studio 360 just yesterday explaining how half of all the nuclear plants in the US are burning nuclear material from decommissioned Soviet warheads, making it one of the only government programs in history that pays for itself, not to mention that it disposes of an environmental threat and replaces burning coal and gasoline and whatever.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:05 AM


Craig slays critics as 007 (Reuters, November 6, 2006)

"It's a terrific debut," wrote the Daily Telegraph's Sinclair McKay, summing up a weekend of praise from British newspapers eager to get their reviews out early.

"From the very start, he steps with full assuredness into Sean Connery's old handmade shoes."

The Times' Wendy Ide appears to take a swipe at some of Craig's five predecessors in the role by concluding her review: "His main asset quickly becomes evident. He can act".

Ide also points out that Bond had met his match in other, younger screen spies Jason Bourne and Jack Bauer, who "share Bond's initials but little else".

Casino Royale takes viewers back to the beginning of Bond's life as a spy, allowing director Martin Campbell to introduce character changes most have welcomed.

"This Bond is far more vulnerable than his predecessors," said David Edwards in British tabloid the Daily Mirror. "Not only does he have his heart broken, he also winds up almost dead after a beating."

Several reviewers noted one joke that deliberately breaks a Bond tradition. When asked if he wants his vodka martini shaken or stirred, Craig replies: "Do I look like I give a damn?"

Casino Royale is described as darker and more raw than previous films in the series and less reliant on the gadgets that have helped Bond out of countless scrapes.

It comes as a real shock if you read the books only after seeing a few movies just how vulnerable Ian Fleming made the character.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:54 AM


This was a guilty verdict on America as well (Robert Fisk, 06 November 2006, Independent)

So America's one-time ally has been sentenced to death for war crimes he committed when he was Washington's best friend in the Arab world. America knew all about his atrocities and even supplied the gas - along with the British, of course - yet there we were yesterday declaring it to be, in the White House's words, another "great day for Iraq". That's what Tony Blair announced when Saddam Hussein was pulled from his hole in the ground on 13 December 2003. And now we're going to string him up, and it's another great day.

Of course, it couldn't happen to a better man. Nor a worse. It couldn't be a more just verdict - nor a more hypocritical one. It's difficult to think of a more suitable monster for the gallows, preferably dispatched by his executioner, the equally monstrous hangman of Abu Ghraib prison, Abu Widad, who would strike his victims on the head with an axe if they dared to condemn the leader of the Iraqi Socialist Baath Party before he hanged them. But Abu Widad was himself hanged at Abu Ghraib in 1985 after accepting a bribe to put a reprieved prisoner to death instead of the condemned man. But we can't mention Abu Ghraib these days because we have followed Saddam's trail of shame into the very same institution. And so by hanging this awful man, we hope - don't we? - to look better than him, to remind Iraqis that life is better now than it was under Saddam.

Mr. Fisk, as always misses the point: the difference that matters is that we're going to hang Saddam for what he did. We obviously look better than his corpse.

Saddam's trial a challenge from the start (Jim Michaels, 11/06/06, USA TODAY)

The trial faced daunting challenges. The streets of Baghdad have grown more violent. Defense attorneys were targeted outside the courtroom, and judges struggled to maintain order inside. Iraqis had no modern tradition of an independent judiciary, but insisted on holding the trial within their borders.

Despite this, some legal experts say the tribunal managed to conduct a reasonably fair trial. Dozens of witnesses were heard, and more than 1,000 pages of evidence were entered into the record.

"I don't think it was a miscarriage of justice," said Michael Scharf, a professor at Case Western Reserve University law school in Cleveland who helped train the judges.

Nothing better becomes the Left than their insistence that Saddam isn't receiving justice.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:39 AM


Doing Just Fine After All (DIANA FURCHTGOTT-ROTH, November 6, 2006, NY Sun)

We are creating jobs faster than we know how to count them. But here's the real mystery — with such strong employment numbers, why the dissatisfaction with the economy? [...]

Much of the angst comes from appearances of worsening inequality and limited economic mobility. The Financial Times ran articles on two successive days last week entitled "Anxious Middle: Why Ordinary Americans Have Missed Out on the Benefits of Growth" and "Politicians Must Focus on Middle America."

But these well-intentioned concerns belie the evidence. Friday's job data showed that over the past year real earnings have increased by 2.4%. Another measure of compensation, hourly compensation in the non-farm business section, has risen by over 3% after inflation over the past year. Benefits such as health insurance, vacations, and pensions are rising and form a larger share of compensation.

Friday's numbers showed gains by minorities, not just last month, but over the past year. Unemployment rates for African-Americans fell to 8.6% last month from 9.1% in October 2005 , and unemployment rates for Hispanics reached their lowest level ever, declining from 5.9% to 4.7% a year earlier. Now, only 16% of the unemployed have been out of work for 27 weeks or more, compared with 19% a year ago.

The least-educated have made substantial gains. The unemployment rate for adults without a high school diploma was 5.8%, down from 7.1% this time last year. The unemployment rate for adults with only a high school diploma declined to 4.1% last month from 4.8% in October 2005.

The middle class is declining because over the past 25 years more families have moved to upper income brackets. It's true that in 2004, the latest year Census data are available, only 21% of families earned between $50,000 and $75,000 (in 2004 dollars), compared to 25% in 1979.

But the disappearing families have moved up, not down, so we now have more families in higher-income brackets and fewer in lower-income brackets. This is cause for self-congratulation, not angst. In 2004, 34% of families earned $75,000 and above, compared with 21% of families in 1979, adjusted for inflation. And 46% of families earned less than $50,000 in 2004, compared with 54% of families in 1979.

American family incomes are even better off than they appear because the size of the American family is declining, so family incomes support fewer people. Families averaged 3.29 people in 1979 and 3.13 people in 2004, due to divorce, later marriage, and fewer children.

Those who suggest that inequality has increased are looking at incomes before tax and transfer payments. Once taxes are subtracted from the incomes of top earners and transfer payments such as food stamps, housing vouchers, and child credits are added to lower-income earners, the distribution of income looks a lot more equal, according to Alan Reynolds in his new book "Income and Wealth."

A better guide to well-being is levels of spending, because spending includes tax payments and transfers. The lowest fifth of the population is spending 11% more in real terms now than 20 years ago; the middle fifth is spending 10% more; and the top fifth is spending 19% more. Although the top fifth is doing better than the rest, all are better off than before.

Friday's employment numbers show that all Americans are making gains in the current expansion. This is due not to government programs, but to employers' need for workers. This report cannot fix Iraq's problems, but it should put economic dissatisfaction on hold.

The premise of the French model is that you'd rather not have your 10% if it means someone else got more. Of the Anglo-American, that so long as you -- and your kids -- have an equal shot at the more, you'll gladly take the 10%. Democrats campaign on the French model, the GOP on the Anglo-American, and then the Left wonders why it can't connect with Americans.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:19 AM


Life Term (Amy Sullivan, 11.06.06, New Republic)

In September 2005, Bill Ritter, a Democratic candidate for governor of Colorado, stood in a Denver living room, surrounded by almost 60 angry, crying women. His host, Beth Strickland, was the wife of Tom Strickland--the two-time Democratic Senate candidate--and the pro-choice women she had invited to this unusual campaign event spilled out of the living room and into adjoining rooms and hallways. But the force of their emotion was directed solely at Ritter, who stood at the far end of the room in front of a piano. "Don't restrict women's right to choose," the women begged. "Why do you allow exceptions for rape or incest but not when a fetus has severe abnormalities?" others demanded. One woman looked at Ritter with tears in her eyes and asked him why he didn't trust women to make their own choices. [...]

Facing the group of women in Beth Strickland's living room, all of whom wanted him to tell them he wouldn't restrict a woman's right to choose, Ritter had two options. He could take the Cuomo/Kerry approach and allow that, while he opposed abortion personally, that position wouldn't influence his views as governor. Or he could stand firm, explain what he believed, and hope they respected him for it. The first option would be tempting for anyone in Ritter's situation. And it was a familiar straddle--most Catholic Democrats who had been elected in the '80s and '90s opted for some version of the position. But it carried political risks as well. In order to win the governorship, Ritter would need to capture the exurbs that went to both Bush and Democrat Ken Salazar in 2004. Voters in counties like Larimer and Arapahoe have little patience for clever positioning. What they likely heard in Kerry's convoluted abortion explanation was that he wanted credit for being opposed to abortion, but he wasn't so Catholic that it meant anything to him.

The meeting with Ritter, several participants said, was the most uncomfortably candid political gathering they'd ever attended. From the start, the questions were aggressive and emotional. Even so, Ritter still went with the second course: "I told them I could not commit to any of the hypotheticals they were presenting because of my opposition to abortion." But he gave it two important twists. The first was that he made a clear distinction to the gathering of women between being pro-life and pro-life. He would have no agenda to change the current law regarding abortion as governor. He would overturn an executive order issued by Republican Governor Bill Owens disqualifying women's health clinics from getting state funding for teen pregnancy prevention programs if they also provided abortions. And he would sign legislation allowing emergency contraception, a bill that Owens had vetoed. It was an approach that no self-respecting pro-life Republican could afford to take.

The second twist would be more important for the voters outside Strickland's house. Ritter took the traditional Catholic Democratic line and improved upon it, essentially saying, "I am personally opposed to abortion, and I intend to use my position to lower the abortion rate." By reducing abortion rates through prevention, not restriction or criminalization, Ritter promised to let his faith inform his politics without imposing his beliefs on citizens. And it gave him credibility when he said of his faith, "You don't check it at the door of the governor's office." [...]

[Ritter] won over supporters by convincing them that it was possible to be pro-life without wanting the Democratic Party to change its stance on Roe v. Wade.

This is such complete gobbledygook that you have to assume neither Ms Sullivan nor Mr. ritter intend anyone to take them seriously. You can't accept the Democratic stance in support of Roe, which allows for abortion on demand, and against any legislative restrictions, and call yourself anti-abortion.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 6:18 AM


Obstetricians call for debate on ethics of euthanasia for very sick babies (Sarah Boseley, The Guardian, November 6th, 2006)

Doctors involved in childbirth are calling for an open discussion about the ethics of euthanasia for the sickest of newborn babies. The option to end the suffering of a severely damaged newborn baby - who might have been aborted if the parents had known earlier the extent of its disabilities and potential suffering - should be discussed, says the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists in its evidence to an inquiry by the Nuffield Council on Bioethics, which examines ethical issues raised by new developments.

The college says the Nuffield's working group should "think more radically about non-resuscitation, withdrawal of treatment decisions, the best-interests test and active euthanasia as they are means of widening the management options available to the sickest of newborns".

The inquiry is looking into "the ethics of prolonging life in foetuses and the newborn". Euthanasia was not originally on the agenda, because of its illegality. But the RCOG submission has persuaded the inquiry to broaden its investigation, although any recommendation favouring euthanasia for newborns is highly unlikely before a change in the law.

The college ethics committee tells the inquiry it feels euthanasia "has to be covered and debated for completion and consistency's sake ... if life-shortening and deliberate interventions to kill infants were available, they might have an impact on obstetric decision making, even preventing some late abortions, as some parents would be more confident about continuing a pregnancy and taking a risk on outcome." It points out that a pregnant woman who discovers at 28 weeks that her baby has a serious abnormality can have an abortion. Parents of a baby born at 24 weeks with the same abnormality have no such option.

Wow, we knew the death lobby was creative, but this is the first time we’ve heard the argument that infanticide could be a good way to bring down the abortion rate.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:16 AM


The real deal: Manning and Co. look ready to take the next step (Peter King, November 6, 2006, Sports Illustrated)

3. John Madden was absolutely right midway through the second half when he wondered, incredulously, why the Patriots were running all this trick horsecrap instead of just pounding away at a bad run defense. New England ran it well -- 33 times for 148 yards -- and maybe it wasn't as good as they thought at 4.5 yards a clip, but it was still plenty good to keep the chains moving and limit.

4. Sometimes Bill Belichick outsmarts himself. Very rarely, but this was one of the nights.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 5:59 AM


Saddam's fate divides Right from smug (Janet Daley, The Telegraph, November 6th, 2006)

What the Kerry gaffe did was to make clear the gap that now exists in American politics between the great mass of American popular opinion – for whom soldiers, especially when they are risking their lives in battle, are heroic figures – and the liberal elite for whom military action is a dirty, downmarket game.

So when exactly did snobbery become the province of the Left? In Britain and in the United States, it used to be axiomatic that the wealthy, privileged de haut en bas voices belonged to those on the Right of centre. They may have been paternalistic and charitable (at least as a social hobby) but they were comfortable with their superiority and unencumbered by any sense that their advantages were unjust.

Now all the condescension – all the snide hauteur about common folk and their vulgar prejudices – comes from the Left-liberal corner. It is the views of the common man – caricatured as the politics of the trailer park in the US, and of white-van man in Britain – that are the object of contempt in right-thinking (which is to say, Left-thinking), socially enlightened circles. This mentality reaches a kind of apotheosis in the attitudes of the BBC, where its assumptions are almost entirely unquestioned.[...]

The change must have come in the 1960s, I suppose, when moral outrage became the common currency of political life, and a general licence was issued to every educated person to detest openly all those who did not subscribe to the unimpeachable world view that was handed down at university.

November 5, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:36 PM


It's Almost Zero Hour: What's really at stake in Tuesday's elections (Jonathan Alter, 11/03/06, Newsweek)

The argument that the war on terror is at stake is a crock. Even if you accept Bush's dubious premise that Iraq is the "central front" in that global conflict, the Iraq war would not be abruptly defunded by a Democratic Congress. Bush would reach for his veto pen, just as he would veto most of the Fright Night spending bills we're being warned about. Left-wing Democrats would make plenty of noise but little headway, checked by the White House or the Republican Senate.

On the other hand, should the GOP maintain control of both houses—should Karl Rove's confidence turn out to be justified—the Democrats would be all but finished as a political party. With expectations upended, validation of the status quo would be immediately taken as a mandate by the White House to reject all bipartisanship on Iraq and return to the president's radical-right agenda, including, as Bush indicated last week, privatizing Social Security. Even without major legislation, a GOP victory would worsen the damage the GOP's House leadership has already done to the institution of Congress and to the U.S. Constitution.

This sounds overwrought, but it's not.

The Republic just survived close to seventy years of Democratic control of Congress, perhaps it's not as fragile as the Left fears.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:32 PM


Cambodia's National Animal Never Existed, Scientists Say (Nicholas Bakalar, November 3, 2006, National Geographic News)

The national animal of Cambodia probably never really existed, a team of researchers says, at least in the scientific sense.

Since 1960 the Southeast Asian nation has claimed the kouprey—an ox with spectacular crescent-shaped horns and a dewlap under its chin—as its national symbol.

But after conducting genetic tests, a team of researchers from Chicago's Northwestern University has concluded that the animal was most probably not a unique species at all.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:30 PM


Extra anus kills four-legged chick (YVONNE TAHANA, 25 October 2006, Waikato Times)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:07 PM


What would the Democrats do? (SUNLEN MILLER, Nov. 2, 2006, ABC News)

What would the Democrats do if they take control of Congress? Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., offered his predictions to Sam Donaldson and Mark Halperin on ABC News Now's "Politics Live." [...]

Rangel reiterated his feeling that the military draft should be reinstated. "I truly believe that if we had a draft system, we would never have our men and women in Iraq. Everyone wants to fight with someone else's children."

Strange that the MSM talked alot about the draft in '04, when the GOP said it had no intention of reinstating it, but is silent about a leading Democrat's plans to bring it back.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:48 PM


Hate a building? Ask the Tories to knock it down: Cameron allies plan to 'X-list' urban eyesores (Ned Temko, November 5, 2006, The Observer)

It's called X-listing - the idea, popularised by a Channel 4 TV series, of not just preserving cherished buildings but demolishing hated ones. Now, if a Conservative think-tank gets its way, a future David Cameron government will ask the public to help name and shame hundreds of eyesores as a way of reinvigorating Britain's cities.

The man behind the proposal for architectural guerrilla warfare, James O'Shaughnessy of the Policy Exchange, admitted yesterday that safeguards will have to be built into the system. Ugliness is, after all, in the eye of the beholder.

O'Shaughnessy's own top candidate for 'knocking down in a second' would be the Trellick Tower, looming over the A40 in west London. In his view, it's a 'brutalist residential monster'. However, he accepts that dozens of moneyed young professionals seem to disagree. A two-bedroom Trellick flat now goes for nearly £300,000. Other, more likely, candidates for the O'Shaughnessy 'X-list' include Cumbernauld town centre, recently voted the worst in Britain, and Battersea Power Station

The irony is that the World Trade Center would have headed any such list.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:33 PM


Polls: Dems' lead shrinking, but still strong (Susan Page, 11/5/2006, USA TODAY)

A national USA TODAY/Gallup Poll finds remarkable parallels between the congressional elections Tuesday and the watershed elections in 1994 that swept Republicans into control of the House and Senate. [...]

"Based on history, a 7-point lead among likely voters still suggest Democrats will take enough votes to win a majority of seats in the House," says Frank Newport, editor-in-chief of the Gallup Poll. What gives some analysts pause, however, is the sophisticated redistricting over the past decade that has made most congressional districts less competitive.

it's an interesting tack that Ms Page takes in her analysis given that USA Today ran the following when they did the poll less than a month ago, Poll: Dems gain big lead (Jill Lawrence, 10/10/06, USA TODAY)
A Capitol Hill sex scandal has reinforced public doubts about Republican leadership and pushed Democrats to a huge lead in the race for control of Congress four weeks before Election Day, the latest USA TODAY/Gallup Poll shows.

Democrats had a 23-point lead over Republicans in every group of people questioned — likely voters, registered voters and adults — on which party's House candidate would get their vote.

The "Democrat lead still strong" theme seems an odd choice.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:29 PM


Mfume son joins Steele to rally Baltimore voters (S.A. Miller and Jon Ward, 11/05/06, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

"He's about change," Michael Mfume, a 36-year-old film and music video producer, said of Mr. Steele. "He's not the standard politician."

Michael Mfume joined Mr. Steele, a Republican, to wave at passing cars in the city's distressed Park Heights neighborhood. Baltimore is "the sleeper" in the Senate race, which in recent weeks focused on black voters in Prince George's County, an aide to Mr. Steele said.

The alliance with the younger Mr. Mfume was another indication that Mr. Steele -- the first black person elected statewide in Maryland -- has the capacity to win over black voters, who account for a third of the Maryland electorate and traditionally support Democrats.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:07 PM


US joblessness ebbs to rare historical low: It hasn't been so low since the dotcom heyday. But it may also portend an interest-rate hike (Ron Scherer and Ben Arnoldy, 11/06/06, The Christian Science Monitor)

[The nation's unemployment rate sank as low as 4.4 percent] in 2001, when dotcom entrepreneurs were still writing checks that didn't bounce. Jobs were also plentiful in the early 1970s, when the nation was at war in Vietnam. Ditto for 1957, when the economy had fewer women, teenagers, and minorities in the workplace.

Now, add October 2006 to the list.

In the last major economic report before Tuesday's showdown at the ballot box, the Labor Department says the unemployment rate is now at that level, down from 4.6 percent in September. It is a piece of good news for an embattled president and suggests the economy is stronger than many recent estimates.

Remind us again why Democrats will be able to turn out voters who want to reverse the Bush economy?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:35 PM


Let us suppose for a moment an eventuality that seems terribly unlikely--suppose that both the House and Senate were to end up pretty evenly divided on Tuesday, but with the chance for Democrats to form majorities in both chambers.

Consider the moderate Democrats -- especially from the South, West and MidWest -- who would be faced with the knowledge that the only significant vote they would cast in the coming term would be for (or against) their own leaders. Recall that the only two votes of any electoral significance to be cast by members of Congress in recent decades were the democratic House members in favor of the Assault Weapons Bill and Senate Democrats in favor of the Clinton tax hike. Because the votes on these two measures were so close, they enabled Republicans in 1994 to run against every Democrat who voted for them as the single reason that they passed, with predictably disastrous results for those members.

Consider too that for Democrats to not score a landslide victory on Tuesday -- in the most favorable climate (or so they think) other than the post-JFK-assassination, post-Watergate and post-Bush-taxhike cycles of the past fifty years -- would mean that every seat that changed hands that night was likely to swing back to the GOP at the first opportunity and that for those who would be up in '08 they'd face the prospect of McCain vs. Hillary at the top of the ticket acting as an automatic drag on their chances for re-election.

Could a Heath Shuler, for example, really afford to be the vote that made Nancy Pelosi the Speaker of the House and put guys like Henry Waxman, Charlie Rangel, John Conyers, Alcee Hastings, etc. in chairmen's seats? Could the folks who are up in the Senate -- Baucus (MT), Johnson (SD), Landrieu (LA), & Pryor (AR), to name only the most vulnerable -- afford to be the vote that handed committee chairs to Ted Kennedy and company? Is Tim Johnson that eager to follow Tom Daschle into the twilight? And what conceivable interest could Joe Lieberman have in caucusing with a near powerless Democratic majority for two years when he could instead caucus with a permanent GOP majority?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:02 PM


The Difference Two Years Made (Editorial, 11/05/06, NY Times)

On Tuesday, when this page runs the list of people it has endorsed for election, we will include no Republican Congressional candidates for the first time in our memory.

Gosh, who'da dreamt they were in the bag for the Democrats?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:58 PM


Republicans Cut Democratic Lead in Campaign's Final Days (Pew Research, November 5, 2006)

A nationwide Pew Research Center survey finds voting intentions shifting in the direction of Republican congressional candidates in the final days of the 2006 midterm campaign. The new survey finds a growing percentage of likely voters saying they will vote for GOP candidates. However, the Democrats still hold a 48% to 40% lead among registered voters, and a modest lead of 47%-43% among likely voters.

The narrowing of the Democratic lead raises questions about whether the party will win a large enough share of the popular vote to recapture control of the House of Representatives.

You can't buy foilwrap strong enough to contain the skull explosions the Left would suffer if the Democrats fail to at least take the House.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:15 PM


For unions, a Supreme test of fairness (Bob Williams, 11/06/06, CS Monitor)

[O]n March 16, the Washington State Supreme Court turned the Constitution on its head and ruled that the WEA can use nonmember teachers' dues for political activity without getting permission from the individual teachers.

Incredibly, the unions have argued they have no "fiduciary duty" to the teachers they represent. In other words, once the union bosses take dues from their teachers, they think that their hard-earned money can be used for whatever the union pleases.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:07 PM


The Rumor About John Paul Stevens (Sean Rushton, Nov 04, 2006, Human Events)

For the past several weeks, there has been a rumor circulating among high-level officials in Washington, D.C., that a member of the U.S. Supreme Court has received grave medical news and will announce his or her retirement by year’s end. While such rumors are not unusual in the nation’s capital, this one comes from credible sources. Additionally, a less credible but still noteworthy post last week at the liberal Democratic Underground blog says, “Send your good vibes to Justice Stevens. I just got off the phone with a friend of his family and right now he is very ill and at 86 years old that is not good.”

Normally, this news might be too ghoulish to repeat publicly. Nevertheless, with the election just days away, it is news that should be considered. It points out what could be a once-in-a-lifetime chance for the 20-year movement to recast the court with a constitutionalist majority. It would be a cruel twist indeed for conservatives to “teach Republicans a lesson” next Tuesday, only to be taught a lesson themselves within months when new Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D.-Vt.) leads a Democratic majority against the most important Supreme Court nominee in decades. Conservatives whose mantra is “no more Souters” should bear in mind Robert Bork’s fate after the Senate changed from Republican to Democratic hands in 1986.

...just to see the wingnut Right's reaction to self-inflicted immigration amnesty and Associate Justice Albert Gonzales.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:06 PM


Election season is bad time for slip of the quip (MARK STEYN, 11/05/06, Chicago Sun-Times)

My face time with John Kerry has been brief but choice. In 2003, I was at a campaign event in New Hampshire chatting with two old coots in plaid. The senator approached and stopped in front of us. The etiquette in primary season is that the candidate defers to the cranky Granite Stater's churlish indifference to status and initiates the conversation: "Hi, I'm John Kerry. Good to see ya. Cold enough for ya? How 'bout them Sox?" Etc. Instead, Kerry just stood there nose to nose, staring at us with an inscrutable semi-glare on his face. After an eternity, an aide stepped out from behind him and said, "The senator needs you to move."

"Well, why couldn't he have said that?" muttered one of the old coots. Why indeed?

Right now the Democratic Party needs the senator to move. Preferably to the South Sandwich Islands, until Tuesday evening, or better still, early 2009.

He won't, of course. A vain thin-skinned condescending blueblood with no sense of his own ridiculousness, Senator Nuancy Boy is secure in little else except his belief in his indispensability.

MORE (via Qiao Yang):
Democrats Assessing Damage Done by Kerry (Susannah Meadows, 11/05/06, Newsweek)

Chuck Schumer got right to the point. On Thursday afternoon, the New York Senator, who’s leading the Democrats’ efforts to win back the Senate, called John Kerry and let him have it. The Massachussetts Senator’s supposed “botched joke” about the president's handling of Iraq had become a feast for Republicans—sucking up tons of airtime and knocking Democrats off message in the crucial remaining days before the midterm election. Kerry’s attempts to fight back, by calling the Republicans “stuffed suits” and “right wing nutjobs,” was only prolonging the story and making things worse. Apologize now, Schumer told him, according to a high-ranking party official who didn’t want to be named talking about a private conversation. (A source close to Kerry said the exchange was cordial.)

Just the day before, Kerry had been all swagger as he took swipes at President Bush in a speech to a crowd of Democrats. But Kerry, never known for his verbal agility, or his sense of humor, mangled what was supposed to be a biting laugh line aimed at the president’s handling of the Iraq mess. “If you … do your homework, you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. If you don’t, you get stuck in Iraq.” Nervous laughs from the audience. It sounded for all the world like Kerry had just called U.S. soldiers stupid.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:46 PM


Principled Immigration (Mary Ann Glendon, June/July 2006, First Things)

Opinion leaders in the aging societies of Europe and the United States have generally avoided mentioning the relation between the birth dearth and the need for immigration. Consequently, there has been little discussion of what should be obvious: An affluent society that, for whatever reason, does not welcome babies is going to have to learn to welcome immigrants if it hopes to maintain its economic vigor and its commitments to the health and welfare of its population. The issue is not who will do jobs that Americans don’t want. The issue is who will fill the ranks of a labor force that the retiring generation failed to replenish.

Meeting the challenge of the declining ratio between active workers and retirees will require many sorts of adaptations, but replacement migration will have to play a part in crafting effective responses. The good news is that America enjoys several advantages over Europe. To begin with, the United States has a fertility rate of 2.08 babies per woman, while in the European Union the estimated 2005 fertility rate was 1.47, well below the replacement figure of 2.1. More, the United States has a long history of successful experience in absorbing large numbers of new citizens from many parts of the world. (While the absolute number of new immigrants is currently the highest in United States history, it is proportionately less than in previous eras of large-scale immigration.)

A third advantage worth mentioning is that, while there is enormous diversity among the inhabitants of the American hemisphere, most migrants to the United States share certain important beliefs with most of the country’s present inhabitants. Not least of these, in the case of Latin America, are religious in nature. According to a 2005 poll of the United States and nine of its closest allies where people were asked how important a role religion plays in their lives, Mexico and the United States came out on top, with 86 percent of Mexican and 84 percent of American respondents saying religion was important to them. European countries, by contrast, are understandably anxious about what will happen to the functioning of their democracies if sizeable groups of immigrants do not come to embrace the core concepts in which those regimes are grounded.

So why isn’t the United States glad about Latin American immigration? Part of the answer is the economic cost of large-scale immigration. American wage earners often fear that migrants will drive down wages and take the jobs that remain. This fear is sometimes exaggerated, but it is not unfounded: The consensus among labor economists is that immigration has somewhat reduced the earnings of less-educated, low-wage workers. Many Americans are also concerned about the costs that illegal immigration imposes on taxpayers, with its strain on schools and social services, particularly in the border states. The desire to protect the national security of the United States, especially after the trauma of September 11, has played a role as well.

There are also some in the United States who want to close the door to newcomers simply because they are outsiders. Over the course of the twentieth century, that attitude seemed to be fading away, but in recent years sleeping nativist sentiments have been irresponsibly inflamed by anti-immigration groups. A few years ago, I wrote of the financial and ideological connections among extremist anti-immigration groups, radical environmentalists, and aggressive population controllers. What unites that loose coalition in what I called an “iron triangle of exclusion” is their common conviction that border controls and abortion are major defenses against an expanding, threatening, welfare-consuming, and nonwhite underclass. (I never suspected when I wrote those lines that they would cost me a half-year’s salary. But on the basis of a promised grant from a foundation whose causes included environmental protection, I had taken an unpaid leave from Harvard. Shortly after my article was published, the foundation reneged on its promise. It turned out that their idea of protecting the environment included keeping out immigrants and keeping poor people from having children.)

There is nothing for the Republican Party in catering to this anti-human clan.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:38 PM


Foundation's small-schools experiment has yet to yield big results (Linda Shaw, 11/05/06, Seattle Times)

Tyee High School essentially ceased to exist last year.

Its building still stands a few blocks east of Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, but three new, smaller schools now share its old space, each with its own principal, its own classes, its own theme. The three still cheer for one, combined football team — sports is the one place the old Tyee remains. But each school will probably have its own graduation this spring.

Tyee, however, is one of the few Washington high schools to come close to what the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation first envisioned when it started giving grants to help big schools carve themselves into smaller units — ideally, with no more than 400 students.

The experiment — an attempt to downsize the American high school — has proven less successful than hoped.

The changes were often so divisive — and the academic results so mixed — that the Gates Foundation has stopped always pushing small as a first step in improving big high schools.

The point of smaller classes never was to improve the education of the kids, just to hire more teachers.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:04 AM


Bollywood emigrates in blockbuster style: Indian crime flick storms Western box offices (BRUCE DEMARA, 11/05/06, Toronto Star)

Add strong production values, a modernist score and sensibility and you've got an idea of what to expect with Don, the latest Bollywood blockbuster to come to a GTA theatre near you.

Don, starring Indian heartthrob Shahrukh Khan, is a remake of a 1978 classic and is the latest in a series of Indian films to have rocked the North American box office in 2006. Where Bollywood films once played on one or two screens around Toronto, Don opened on eight — including theatres in the giant chains Cineplex and AMC — a larger rollout than Helen Mirren's successful and much-discussed The Queen. [...]

Two other films, Krrish and Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna (alias Never Say Goodbye) similarly had strong North American openings earlier this year. UTV is expecting the imminent arrival of Rang De Basanti — which Dhar fully expects to score nominations at the Oscars, Golden Globes and BAFTAs (the U.K. Oscars) — to also bring in strong numbers.

Part of the reason Indian cinema is getting attention is a result of the greater sophistication and improved production values throughout the industry, Dhar said.

"Indian cinema is going through a resurgence in terms of bigness and the feel of the movies. If you see Don, you can compare it to any Hollywood movie. There's a lot of stereotyping ... with Indian cinema. (But) it's moved beyond those song-and-dance sequences," he added.

In fact, Don (screening with subtitles) has several such numbers, filled with energy and colour. The title character is a crime lord who is resourceful and ruthless, handsome and charming, an anti-hero who deserves to be loathed — yet somehow retains his appeal.

The film's plot, filled with murder, treachery, secret identities, an unlikely doppelganger and surprising plot twists, is equally as likeable. It also has a truly international flavour, moving from Paris to Malaysia with a brief segue to India.

They retain the ambition that Hollywood has largely lost.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:45 AM


Washington Post-ABC News Poll (The Washington Post, Nov. 5, 2006)

Emotionally it's best to assume a debacle for the GOP on Tuesday, but if the President's approval rating is anything like 43% and the split on even the generic ballot is in the vicinity of 51-45 we still don't quite get how the Democrats gin up the turnout they'll need for a landslide.

Poll: GOP could keep Senate (STEVEN THOMMA, 11/05/06, McClatchy Newspapers)

Republican Senate candidates have bounced back in two largely overlooked states, strengthening their party's chance to retain control of the U.S. Senate in Tuesday's elections, according to an exclusive series of McClatchy Newspapers-MSNBC polls.

Twelve new state-by-state polls show a surprise shift in the political battleground to the north as Republican incumbents clawed their way back in two states frequently written off as lost to them - Montana and Rhode Island. [...]

And in Tennessee, a closely watched Senate battleground considered a toss-up until now, Republican Bob Corker has opened up a 50-38 percent lead over Democrat U.S. Rep. Harold Ford Jr. The campaign is for the Republican-held seat being vacated by retiring Sen. Bill Frist.

All 12 state polls have a margin of error of plus or minus four percentage points. They were taken between Oct. 31 and Nov. 3.

If Republicans hold those three key states, they are likely to retain power in the Senate, even if they lose other battleground states such as Missouri and Virginia, where the new polls show they've lost the edge narrowly to Democrats.

Most of the 12 states polled by Mason-Dixon Polling and Research Inc. - eight for McClatchy-MSNBC, four for other media clients of Mason-Dixon - remain too close to call.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:38 AM


Where Plan A left Ahmad Chalabi (Dexter Filkins, 11/03/06, The New York Times)

For Ahmad Chalabi, Iraq is an abstraction again. Once again, his native country is a faraway land ruled by somebody else, a place where other people die. It's a place to be discussed, rued, plotted over, from a parlor on an expensive Western street. Iraq's new leaders, the men who excluded Chalabi from the government they formed this spring, still call for advice - several times a day, Chalabi says. He is here in London, his longtime home in exile, temporarily, he says, taking his first vacation in five years. At lunch at a nearby restaurant an hour before, he ordered the sea bass wrapped in a banana leaf. He walks the streets unattended by armed guards.

But the interlude, Chalabi says, is just that, a passing thing. His doubters will come back to him; they always have. As ever, he wears a jester's smile, wide and blank, a mask that has carried him through crises of the first world and the third. Still, a touch of bitterness can creep into Chalabi's voice, a hint that he has concluded that his time has come and gone. Indeed, even for a man as vain and resilient as Chalabi, his present predicament stands too large to go unacknowledged. Once Iraq's anointed leader - anointed by the Americans - Chalabi, at age 62, is without a job, spurned by the very colleagues whose ascension he engineered. His benefactors in the White House and in the Pentagon, who once gobbled up whatever half-baked intelligence Chalabi offered, now regard him as undependable and - worse - safely ignored. Chalabi's life work, an Iraq liberated from Saddam Hussein, a modern and democratic Iraq, is spiraling toward disintegration. Indeed, for many in the West, Chalabi has become the personification of all that has gone wrong in Iraq: the lies, the arrogance, the occupation as disaster.

"The real culprit in all this is Wolfowitz," Chalabi says, referring to his erstwhile backer, the former deputy secretary of defense, Paul Wolfowitz. "They chickened out. The Pentagon guys chickened out."

Chalabi still considers Wolfowitz a friend, so he proceeds carefully. America's big mistake, Chalabi maintains, was in failing to step out of the way after Hussein's downfall and let the Iraqis take charge. The Iraqis, not the Americans, should have been allowed to take over immediately - the people who knew the country, who spoke the language and, most important, who could take responsibility for the chaos that was unfolding in the streets. An Iraqi government could have acted harshly, even brutally, to regain control of the place, and the Iraqis would have been without a foreigner to blame. They would have appreciated the firm hand. There would have been no guerrilla insurgency or, if there was, a small one that the new Iraqi government could have ferreted out and crushed on its own. An Iraqi leadership would have brought Moktada al-Sadr, the populist cleric, into the government and house-trained him. The Americans, in all likelihood, could have gone home. They certainly would have been home by now.

"We would have taken hold of the country," Chalabi says. "We would have revitalized the civil service immediately. We would have been able to put together a military force and an intelligence service. There would have been no insurgency. We would have had electricity. The Americans screwed it up."

Chalabi's notion - that an Iraqi government, as opposed to an American one, could have saved the great experiment - has become one of the arguments put forth by the war's proponents in the just-beginning debate over who lost Iraq. At best, it's improbable: Chalabi is essentially arguing that a handful of Iraqi exiles, some of whom had not lived in the country in decades, could have put together a government and quelled the chaos that quickly engulfed the country after Hussein's regime collapsed. They could have done this, presumably, without an army (which most wanted to dissolve) and without a police force (which was riddled with Baathists).

In fact, the Americans considered the idea and dismissed it.

The key would obviously have been to ask Ayatollah Sistani -- before the war, or immediately on its successful conclusion -- to let us know which leaders who stayed behind in Iraq needed to be named to a transitional government in order for him and other Shi'ite religious leaders to accept it as legitimate and for that new government to arm and utilize militias like Sadr's.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:00 AM


U.S. pastor says guilty of sexual immorality (Reuters, 11/05/06)

Disgraced U.S. evangelist Ted Haggard, a vocal opponent of gay marriage, said on Sunday that he was guilty of "sexual immorality" and that he had long battled with a "repulsive" side of his life.

"I am guilty of sexual immorality, I am a deceiver and a liar. There is a part of my life that is so repulsive and dark and I've been warring against it my entire adult life", Haggard said in a letter that was read to his New Life Church in Colorado Springs by a church overseer.

He'd only be a hypocrite if he denied the evil and then still claimed to be a Christian.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:09 AM


Black ministers with clout back Ehrlich (S.A. Miller and Jon Ward, November 5, 2006, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. received the endorsement yesterday of a half-dozen black ministers who could sway Democratic voters in the battlegrounds of Prince George's County and Baltimore to cross party lines in the election Tuesday.

Mr. Ehrlich, a Republican, stood on a street corner in South Baltimore surrounded by the ministers and touted his record of reaching out to minorities and implementing policies for urban voters, including programs for drug treatment instead of prison time.

"This is an agenda for people regardless of color," he said. "This is white and black and Hispanic and Republican and Democratic. We are changing Maryland for the better."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:03 AM


One dead, four lives ruined: the true cost of war in Iraq (ARTHUR MACMILLAN, 11/05/06, Scotland on Sunday)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:58 AM


Hussein Sentenced to Hang for Crimes Against Iraqis: Thousands Take to Street in Tikrit in Defiance of Curfew (John Ward Anderson And Ellen Knickmeyer, November 5, 2006, Washington Post)

Former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein was found guilty by a special tribunal Sunday of crimes against humanity for the torture and execution of more than 100 people from a small town north of Baghdad 24 years ago. He was sentenced to death by hanging. [...]

Celebratory gunfire rang out over Baghdad as jubilant Iraqis expressed their happiness with the outcome by racing to rooftops, front yards and windows to fire into the air. National television showed smiling Iraqis dancing in the streets of cities around the country, including in the Sadr City neighborhood of Baghdad, which technically was under an all-day curfew.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 8:52 AM


Christians ask if force is needed to protect their religious values (Jonathan Wynne-Jones, Sunday Telegraph, November 5th, 2006)

A leading church group which represents more than a million Christians has raised the prospect of civil unrest and even "violent revolution" to protect religious freedoms.

In a startling warning to the Government, senior church and political figures have backed a report advocating force to protest against policies that are "unbiblical" and "inimical to the Christian faith".

The menacing language of the report, which Lord Mawhinney, the Tory peer, Andy Reed, the Labour MP, and the Rt Rev Peter Forster, the Bishop of Chester, helped to produce, echoes comments made by Muslim fanatics.{...]

The report from the Evangelical Alliance says "violent revolution" should be regarded as a viable response if government legislation encroaches further on basic religious rights. The church is urged to come to a consensus that "at some point there is not only the right but the duty to disobey the state".

The report, entitled "Faith and Nation", comes amid growing concern that people are being prevented from expressing their faith, including BA's recent decision that an employee could not wear a crucifix.

Before we all do the right thing and disassociate ourselves from this, is it sinful to delay a bit in order to savour the frissons of worry and doubt on all those secular bureaucratic faces?

Posted by Peter Burnet at 8:15 AM


Pupils put off science, peers say (BBC, November 5th, 2006)

Pupils in England find science A-levels too difficult and other subjects more "funky", a House of Lords report says. [...]

One factor was simply fashion - with new options such as psychology, media studies and photography, which one witness to the committee said young people called "funky subjects".

For example, 50,000 students took psychology A-level in 2005, "significantly more than sat physics or chemistry".

A more serious and fundamental problem was that traditional science subjects and maths were regarded as more difficult.

Not only that, there was evidence they actually were harder, the peers said.

It’s no surprise that funkiness trumps rigour in our postmodern age, but surely there is more going on than that. Excuse the self-reference, but our twelve-year old has just started a new school that is academically accelerated and teaches all subjects in French, which means the kids are being challenged as if, in the words of one father, “the Jesuits just got a hold of them”. Unsurprisingly in these early months, he asks frequently for help with his heavy homework load. I’ve noticed that his science lessons (especially in biology and geography) seem to consist almost entirely of mastering endless technical or abstract definitions that, however comprehensible individually, add up to a propaganda exercise to instill an altered consciousness in which the concrete, the real and the familiar have been completely banished and the world is all abstract theory expressed in multi-syllabic mumbo-jumbo. I predict that by June he will be either a frothing eco-freak haranguing me nonstop on how I am personally destroying the biosphere because my parasitism is replacing natural commensalism and mutualism, or bored out of his ever-loving mind and resolved to avoid science for the rest of his days.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 7:09 AM


Young, gifted and ours, thank God (Janice Turner, The Times, November 4th, 2006)

Underlying the Institute of Public Policy (IPP) report on the pure rubbishness of our youth was the all- pervasive British self-hate that our culture, our family life, even our climate (which mostly discourages inter-generational mixing in public spaces) is inherently and catastrophically inferior. Hell-in-a-handcart pessimism has long dominated the Daily Mail Right. But the terrible-teen conclusions of the IPP — a “progressive” think-tank — comes two months after the liberal childcare experts insisted that we are toxifying our younger children into chronic depression.

But in neither case are we given a proper historical perspective, hard evidence that our offspring truly are worse than we were. Because without it, all you are left with is the timeless grey-head-shaking lament: “The youth of today . . .”

Should we really wring our hands that only 66 per cent of British teens eat with their families compared with 93 per cent of Italians? Wasn’t it ever thus? In common with my friends, I had tea at 4pm on a Hostess trolley in front of Blue Peter my whole childhood long, my father eating later after work. Britain is not, and has never been, a fuss-pot foodie culture: we refuel and get on with our daily lives, rather than sit around for hours comparing cannoli recipes. And much as I enjoy our family meals (three a week at most) a grand daily repast would be a burden and an ordeal.

And like it or not, we prefer alcohol to food, drunken hilarity to dainty tapas-nibbling. Stupid, youthful, public debauchery has been the British release valve of every social class for generations: from this year’s bridge-jumping Oxford May-ballers way back to my Doncaster peers throwing up snakebite behind the youth club disco. Binge-drinking does not signify a decline in British culture. It is our culture, a national rite of passage. Cautioning restraint and crossing our fingers is all we can do through our children’s danger years.

Then there is the report’s supposedly shocking finding that about half of British boys spend four evenings a week with friends rather than family, compared with 17 per cent of French boys. Isn’t hanging with your mates the whole point of being young? The Toxic Childhood brigade berate us for keeping kids indoors, becoming obese in front of video games. Now we are damned for allowing them out.

Besides, socialising with your children post-8pm is OK for the duration of a Spanish holiday. But are we really supposed to entertain them every night? Having children who are still pre-teens, I am dreading the loss of those few precious wine-drinking adult hours after bedtime to what the report calls “structured interaction”.

You have to hand it to the Brits. Nobody does decline as well as they do. What other country would respond to a crisis in public drinking by opening the pubs 24/7? Who else would celebrate the social dislocation resulting from destruction of an incredibly rich and beautiful religious heritage by lapping up a bestseller on the evils of religion? And who else could turn mob violence at sporting events into a rigorous academic discipline dedicated to finding out exactly why we’re all to blame?

The spirit of American ingenuity lies in refusing to believe there is any problem that can’t be solved. The British counterpart seems to hold there is no problem they can’t define right out of existence.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 6:20 AM


Save the planet: tax the poor back onto their bicycles (Simon Jenkins, The Sunday Times, November 5th, 2006)

Environmental news is fashioned to scare people witless. I recall reporting a conference of “top scientists” in the 1970s from which I extracted a spine-chilling threat of a new ice age. Particulates in the atmosphere were blotting out the sun. The Earth’s surface was cooling, tundra advancing and ever more pollution going aloft in the effort to keep us warm, thus accelerating “global dimming”. We were all going to freeze.

The latest environmental blast runs counter to this but the millenarian fervour is the same. If climate change and marine catastrophe are, as Blair claims, the biggest threat to mankind, surely the obligation to confront it is his. The coal burning, petrol consuming and fishing industries must be treated as enemies not just of the nation but of the planet. Yet Blair treats the global warmers with nine indulgent years of reduced petrol taxes and subsidised transport infrastructure. He worships at the altar of hypermobility.

By using the metaphor of an ecological “time bomb”, scientists may engage Blair’s passing attention but they risk longer-term ridicule and neglect. There is no point in walking the nation to the top of a mountain and promising hell fire and damnation if the only proof is a sunny day and a retreating glacier. While the threat of terrorism may be grossly overstated, it is at least recognisable. Climate change is a stew of statistics, trends, equations, qualifications, distant dates and vast sums of money. A stage army of ghouls, mini-Einsteins and e-babies traipse the conference circuit “hyping the issue” until it becomes a long, shrill scream of doom. [...]

Those of us who greeted this new apocalypse with scepticism cannot sensibly ignore it. But I wonder if those with their heads in the sand are not many of the same environmentalists who raised the hue and cry in the first place. If life on Earth really faces a moment of danger, it requires joined-up thought. It means urgent investment in nuclear power, a global curb on mobility, holidays at home, wrapping up warm, living in denser cities and a halt to rural colonisation. It means farm protectionism. It means keeping open local schools and hospitals, leaving roads to congest and curbing airports. Planning must become carbon obsessed.

Income taxes will not achieve this, only taxes targeted against high carbon expenditures, above all on movement. Travelling, especially flying, must be regarded as a luxury whose cost to the planet must be transferred to the individual. This concept of “re-localising” human settlement is still in the wilder realms of idealism. But like other fringe ideas it will have to move into the mainstream. There is no point in denying what this means.

Mobility will again become the privilege of the rich.

It’s not too early to start drafting those briefs on the constitutionality of the State Line Rule.

November 4, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:58 PM


Liberal Blogger Taken Into Custody (MATTHEW BARAKAT, 11/04/09, Associated Press)

A liberal blogger who was manhandled by supporters of Sen. George Allen this week was handcuffed by authorities and escorted from another rally Saturday after an Allen backer claimed the man pushed him to the ground.

Mike Stark told The Associated Press that sheriff's deputies detained and released him. He was not charged.

"I'll own this town," Stark, a first-year University of Virginia law student, was overheard telling sheriff's deputies as he was led away from the rally at Shenandoah Valley Regional Airport.

Similarly, our 9-year old threatened to sue a kid who hit him with a stick.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:47 PM


Chile's Driving Force: Once imprisoned by Pinochet, the new Socialist president Michelle Bachelet wants to spread the wealth initiated by the dictator's wrenching economic policies (Jonathan Kandell, November 2006, Smithsonian)

[P]inochet's despotic but economically successful legacy remains troublingly ambiguous to many Chileans. Led by young, free-market policy makers, Pinochet privatized everything from mines to factories to social security. He welcomed foreign investment and lifted trade barriers, forcing Chilean businesses to compete with imports or close down. The reforms were wrenching. At one time, a third of the labor force was unemployed. But since the mid-1980s, the economy has averaged almost 6 percent annual growth, raising per capita income for the 16 million Chileans to more than $7,000—making them among the most prosperous people in South America—and creating a thriving middle class. Today, only 18.7 percent of the population lives below the poverty line, compared, for example, with 38.7 percent in Brazil and 62.4 percent in Bolivia. At this pace, Chile, within a generation, will become Latin America's most prosperous nation.

Neighboring countries, many of which embrace populist, left-wing economic policies, tend to resent Chile's growing prosperity, rooted as it is in the policies put in place by the region's most notorious dictator. "We can't go around rubbing our neo-capitalism in the faces of other Latin Americans," says Raul Sohr, a Chilean novelist and leading center-left political commentator. "Bachelet certainly won't do that."

At home, however, neo-capitalism has taken root. The democratically elected governments that have succeeded Pinochet in Chile have barely tinkered with the economic model he ushered in. "Voters figure that the same economic policies will continue no matter who gets elected," says former economics minister Sergio de Castro, 76, who forged many of the Pinochet-era reforms. "So, if the left wants to appropriate the model we created, well that's just fine."

There's nothing ambiguous about accepting the legacy of peace and prosperity he gave you. It's just selfish not to share what works with your blighted neighbors.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:41 PM


Saddam told he should die by the rope like a common criminal (Colin Freeman and Aqeel Hussein, 05/11/2006, Sunday Telegraph)

The former Iraqi dictator, who is expected to be given the death sentence today when a verdict is delivered in his first war crimes trial, has been demanding execution by the gun rather than the rope, on the basis that he was head of the country's armed forces.

But the Iraqi war crimes court in Baghdad has dismissed his request, noting that Saddam failed the entry exam for the Iraqi military academy and only became field marshal by appointing himself when president.

Its ruling is in line with legal conventions from Saddam's own time in power: Iraqi courts allowed a quick death by firing squad for those who showed remorse, but required the rope for those who they felt deserved to suffer.

Throughout the year-long proceedings, Saddam has shown no contrition, defiantly telling a closing session of the trial: "This case is not worth the urine of an Iraqi child."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:36 PM


Obama on Rezko deal: It was a mistake (DAVE MCKINNEY AND CHRIS FUSCO, 11/04/06, Chicago Sun-Times)

In June 2005, Obama and Rezko purchased adjoining parcels in Kenwood. The state’s junior senator paid $1.65 million for a Georgian revival mansion, while Rezko paid $625,000 for the adjacent, undeveloped lot. Both closed on their properties on the same day.

Last January, aiming to increase the size of his sideyard, Obama paid Rezko $104,500 for a strip of his land.

The transaction occurred at a time when it was widely known Tony Rezko was under investigation by U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald and as other Illinois politicians befriended by Rezko distanced themselves from him.

In the Sun-Times interview, Obama acknowledged approaching Rezko about the two properties being up for sale and that Rezko developed an immediate interest. Obama did not explain why he reached out to Rezko given the developer’s growing problems.

Last month, Rezko was indicted for his role in an alleged pay-to-play scheme designed to fatten Gov. Blagojevich’s political fund. Rezko also was accused of bilking a creditor.

Didn't Abramoff have any land to sell?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:49 PM


Measure to notify parents of minors' abortion edges ahead (Barbara Feder Ostrov, 11/04/06, San Jose Mercury News)

Just as they did with a nearly identical measure last year, Californians until recently were expected to narrowly shoot down Proposition 85, a ballot measure requiring parental notification of a minor's abortion.

But days before Tuesday's election, the tide may be turning in the measure's favor, with a Field Poll released Thursday showing potential voters supporting it by a 3 percent margin. [...]

Planned Parenthood affiliates, Hollywood types and Silicon Valley moguls are pouring last-minute money into the No on 85 campaign, raising nearly $350,000 in three days last week. In contrast, the largely anti-abortion supporters of Proposition 85 raised $82,000 in the same period. [...]

The measure has largely been financed by San Diego newspaper publisher James Holman and winemaker and former legislator Don Sebastiani. Better-funded opponents, led by Planned Parenthood, include mainstream health groups such as the California Medical Association and the California Primary Care Association.

That'd make some heads explode.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:39 PM


Lieberman gets boost from ministers< (Mary E. O'Leary, 11/04/06, New Haven Register)

U.S. Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, D-Conn., reiterated his support for faith-based initiatives Thursday as he spoke outside the Second Star of Jacob Christian Church in New Haven and accepted the endorsement of a statewide group of Latino ministers. [...]

Lieberman, who interspersed his press conference with Biblical quotes in Hebrew and Spanish, said it was difficult in campaigns to talk about the relationship of church and state, but said America has found the right balance between the two. "I think anyone who tries to separate faith and God from America is trying to do something unusual. It is the source of our strength, even as we respect the diversity of ways people approach God," he told the group.

For those reasons, Lieberman said, he tries "to find constitutionally-based ways for the government to support faith-based initiatives."

Hernandez said the ministers were impressed by Lieberman’s immigration proposals and his stance against gay marriage, but mainly his experience.

"We do not have the luxury of allowing an unknown novice to remove an experienced person who currently occupies such a vital position," he said.

Hernandez said the group also believes the country can’t afford to "cut and run" in Iraq.

Note the issues that Orthodox Jews and Latinos can agree on.

US Jews, reconsider support for left: Jews must be constantly on guard to oppose anti-Semitism wherever is rears its ugly head, even in places where we least expect to see it (Rabbi Levi Brackman, 11.03.06, YNet)

In an attempt to explain why most Jewish Americans are liberal and vote Democrat, a friend of mine sent me Philip Roth’s award-winning book entitled The Plot Against America (2004). [...]

If indeed this book is representative of Jewish–American fears about the Republican Party in 2006, I am rather perplexed. [...]

Traditionally the terms right and left, used in the political sense, referred to different political philosophies in which the left defended the interests of the working class and the right defended and looked out for the interests of the wealthy and the aristocrats. According to this definition, Judaism is very much a left-wing religion.

However, most agree that this characterization no longer adequately defines the modern-day difference between right and left. The fact is that many who claim to have a right-wing ideology will champion the cause of the minorities and many self-proclaimed left-wingers will trample upon them.

In fact, the German Nazis considered themselves socialists and the Soviets held extreme left-wing ideologies but this did not stop the Nazis from killing Jews, gays and gypsies or the Soviets from killing and enslaving their working classes.

During the Holocaust, left-wing President Roosevelt himself could have done more to help the plight of European Jews but for political considerations decided not to.

Portnoy's Complaint explains their ideology better.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:38 PM


2006 American League Gold Glove Winners - As I see it (Chris Dial, 10/22/06, baseball Think Factory)

Defensive data has been and is being refined pretty well these days. With more and more play-by-play data making it to the mainstream, all of us are stretching the boundaries of what we require from black-box analysts. With the exception of some park factors, we are discovering that Zone Rating provides a pretty good picture of defense. Taking the zone rating and accounting for league averages, based on tens of thousands of defensive innings played, we can closely assess the number of runs saved by a defensive players as compared to his peers.

To be sure, even this data could be refined to account for parks better - Fenway's Green Monster is a tremendous issue - and handedness of batters - NOT handedness of pitchers - to tune the picture a bit better, but the data you will read will be very close to any refined data. Very close. The basic methodology for this work is here.

I have tweaked this for chances per inning from the original data, so the chances assumed here may be slightly higher/lower, but if you did the same work from the referenced article, you'd find your results would be within a run or two of what I post. And really, the most important thing I do here is provide you with the tools to evaluate defense on your own, without me doing the math. Please note, after this article, I will post some others' work that even refines what I have done, with a comparison to what I have done.

A few thoughts occur:

(C) Tony Pena even managed to turn Jorge Posada into an excellent defensive catcher. Meanwhile, regardless of which catcher (of three) the Sox get from the Angels for Manny, he should start over Varitek.

(1B) Jim Leyland's decision to not play Chris Shelton at all in the post season (or even have him on the team) is inexplicable.

(3B) If anything, we've understated how good Brandon Inge.

(SS) Playing Derek Jeter at ss is like starting Kevin Mitchell, except you sacrifice power.

(LF) Manny should never don leather again--unless he has a chance to be a congressional page.

(CF) Are Vernon Wells and Grady Sizemore the most underrated players in baseball?

(RF) Be nice to see Alex Rios stay healthy for the whole year in '07.

Overall, you can't help noticing how awful the Yankee defense is at almost every position, which makes a wretched pitching staff even worse. Note, in particular, the contrast with the Tigers.

2006 National League Gold Gloves - As I see it (Chris Dial, 10/29/06, baseball Think Factory)

(C) Notice that the World Series matched the two best catchers in either league?

(1B) It's a good thing Prince is going to hit 50 a couple of years.

(2B) Kind of silly to hear folks argue that Biggio isn't a Hall of Famer.

(3B) Why play Cabrera at 3b?

(ss) Hanley is much worse than even we said.

(LF) Bobby Cox, nevermind the Royals, couldn't find room for Matt Diaz to play? And Alfonso Soriano's found a home.

(CF) The bottom two make one feel awfully old.

(RF) Jeff Francoeur isn't a ballplayer you win with

Posted by Peter Burnet at 3:14 PM


Six Arab states join rush to go nuclear (Richard Beeston, The Times, November 4th, 2006)

The spectre of a nuclear race in the Middle East was raised yesterday when six Arab states announced that they were embarking on programmes to master atomic technology.

The move, which follows the failure by the West to curb Iran’s controversial nuclear programme, could see a rapid spread of nuclear reactors in one of the world’s most unstable regions, stretching from the Gulf to the Levant and into North Africa.

The countries involved were named by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) as Algeria, Egypt, Morocco and Saudi Arabia. Tunisia and the UAE have also shown interest.

All want to build civilian nuclear energy programmes, as they are permitted to under international law. But the sudden rush to nuclear power has raised suspicions that the real intention is to acquire nuclear technology which could be used for the first Arab atomic bomb.

With Europe and the UN leading the fight against nuclear proliferation, even Guinea-Bissau may have them soon.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:37 PM


Hawks deal death from above: Squirrels are paying a high price for saying nuts to red-tailed hunters at Queen's Park The high-flying birds of prey draw some admiring fans as they patrol the skies (ROB FERGUSON, 11/04/06, Toronto Star)

Sometimes there's no safe place to hide when you're under attack at the Legislature.

Politicians have learned this over decades — often the hard way — as rivals and reporters circle in for the, um, kill.

But the lesson has truly been a matter of life and death for the rapidly dwindling squirrel population at Queen's Park, thanks to a family of red-tailed hawks nesting atop the Legislature's west wing since last spring.

"They're doing a job on them," says one staffer who regularly watches the Queen's Park air show. It features dramatic high-speed, fly-by snatches of the bushy-tailed rodents and mid-air takedowns of birds, leaving a poof of feathers fluttering gently to earth.

"As you can see, there are no pigeons here," he adds, gesturing upward.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:55 AM


Here's an editorial that's been posted at, Kerry's Remark: Right either way (Seattle Post-Intelligencer Editorial Board, 11/03/06)

"Education" Kerry said "-- if you make the most of it and 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."

Was Kerry making fun of the president, or warning students against the pitfalls awaiting the undereducated in general?

It doesn't matter. Kerry was right either way.

Leave it to Captain Decisive to try and say that he was both misunderstood and right as misunderstood.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:39 AM


Lieberman disappointed with Dodd's support of Lamont (AP, Nov. 3, 2006)

Senator Joe Lieberman says his independent re-election bid has created some bruised feelings with his colleague and friend, Senator Christopher Dodd. [...]

Many Democrats like Dodd who backed Lieberman in the primary have now endorsed Lamont.

Dodd has campaigned with Lamont and has appeared in a TV ad.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:24 AM


Poll: Burns, Tester in dead heat (CHARLES S. JOHNSON, 11/04/06, Billings Gazette)

After months of campaigning and millions of dollars of advertising, it all comes down to this: Republican Sen. Conrad Burns and Democratic challenger Jon Tester are running dead even, a new Gazette State Poll shows.

A telephone poll of 625 registered and likely Montana voters shows each man favored by 47 percent of respondents. Five percent of the voters are undecided, while Libertar-ian Stan Jones was the pick of 1 percent.

Conrad Burns, Survivor?: GOP control of the Senate is hanging by a thread, and the thread may be Conrad Burns. (Byron York, 11/03/06, National Review)
On Thursday, Burns got the biggest help of all, when President Bush visited Billings, drawing a big, enthusiastic crowd. The president got a lot of applause when he emphasized — pretty late in the game for some GOP strategists — the issue of federal judges and what would happen to the confirmation process should Democrats win control of the Senate. “I want you to hear this loud and clear,” Bush told the crowd. “If the Democrats controlled the Senate, John Roberts would not be the chief justice today. He’d still be waiting for the Democrats to give him a hearing for his seat on the Court of Appeals. If the people of Montana want good judges, judges who will not legislate from the bench, judges like John Roberts and Sam Alito, you vote for Conrad Burns for the United States Senate.” That’s the kind of message that works well in Montana.

To say that Burns supporters were grateful for the Bush visit would be an understatement. There’s been a lot of talk this year about states where GOP candidates might not benefit from a presidential visit. Montana isn’t one of them. Burns has also benefited from appearances by Vice President Dick Cheney, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, and other Senate colleagues Mike Crapo, John Thune, Larry Craig, Ted Stevens, Pat Roberts, and others.

Tester hasn’t had that sort of high-profile, come-to-Montana support from top Democrats. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid hasn’t been there in a long time. John Kerry hasn’t been around. Nor have stars like Barack Obama. It’s true that Obama did attend a fundraiser for Tester last week — one that raised about $300,000 — but it was held in San Francisco, not Montana, and Tester traveled to the home of Susie Tompkins Buell, a major donor to liberal causes, to attend. Tester has also received money from Democratic senators like Barbara Boxer and Democratic wannabe senator Al Franken. He has also collected a lot of small donations from so-called “netroots” activists; he is a particular favorite of the Berkeley-based DailyKos website.

All that has created an opening for Burns to criticize Tester, with some merit, as the darling of out-of-state liberals who want to support his candidacy but don’t want to hurt it by actually showing up in Montana. “His friends are too liberal for Montana,” says Klindt. “Why won’t he bring Ted Kennedy to Montana? We’d love to see Ted Kennedy. What about John Kerry?”

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:13 AM


Le Pen plots surprise after poll boost: The far-Right leader is benefiting from ghetto violence in the race for the presidency (Charles Bremner, 11/04/06, Times of London)

A repeat of the 2002 first-round result is unlikely because of the domination of two reform-minded favourites in their early fifties — Ségolène Royal, of the Socialists, and Nicolas Sarkozy, the leader of the centre-right Union for a Popular Movement. Each is trying to appear tough on law and order and immigration — M Le Pen’ s recruiting ground.

The shine is fading from both candidates in the face of opposition from party rivals and M Le Pen is predicting that “Sargolène and Ségozy”, as he mockingly calls the duo, will fall before the final round, which will take place next May.

As in 2002, the Socialist candidate may be weakened by a fragmented field from the far Left, but M Le Pen’s biggest hope is that M Sarkozy stumbles. The Interior Minister has made inroads into the Le Pen electorate with his harsh rhetoric on illegal immigration and violence. President Chirac is indirectly helping M Le Pen by waging an underground campaign to undermine M Sarkozy, whom he loathes. He is encouraging Dominique de Villepin, the Prime Minister, and Michèle Alliot-Marie, the Defence Minister, to run against M Sarkozy. Both have indicated that they plan to do so.

As usual, the pariah status of M Le Pen has kept him out of the media, while polls have shown his popularity rising. “I am like Zorro,” he said. “Everyone knows that I am there but no one sees me.”

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:44 AM


For U.S. and Top Iraqi, Animosity Is Mutual (JOHN F. BURNS, 11/04/06, NY Times)

With American pressures focusing on the need for political concessions to the minority Sunnis by the majority Shiites — the principal victims of Saddam Hussein’s repression, and, since his overthrow, the main targets for Sunni insurgent bombings — the prime minister cannot afford to be seen to be at America’s beck and call.

Still, the differences between the new Shiite rulers and the Americans are real and growing. And the paradox of their animosity is that the primary beneficiary of the rift is likely to be their common enemy, the Sunni insurgents. Their aim has been to recapture the power the Sunnis lost with Mr. Hussein’s overthrow — and to repeat the experience of the 1920s, when Shiites squandered their last opportunity to wrest power and handed the Sunnis an opening to another 80 years of domination.

The bitterness between the Shiite leaders and the Americans reflects widely divergent views of the government’s responsibilities. The Americans want Mr. Maliki to lead in forging a “national compact,” healing bitter splits between Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds over the division of political and economic power.

The timeline that Zalmay Khalilzad, the American ambassador, set out last week — prompting an acerbic protest from Mr. Maliki — foresaw framework agreements over coming months. Central issues include disbanding the militias that have been responsible for a wave of sectarian killing, the future division of oil revenues, and a new approach to the Baathists, who were the bedrock of the Hussein government, that will strike a fairer balance between holding the worst accountable for their crimes and offering others rehabilitation.

But Mr. Maliki is not well cast for the role of national conciliator, and has shown a growing tendency to revert to type as a stalwart of a Shiite religious party, the Islamic Dawa Party, which had thousands of its followers killed under Mr. Hussein.

Like most other current Shiite leaders, Mr. Maliki spent decades in exile, and lost family members in Mr. Hussein’s gulag. By nature, he is withdrawn and, American officials say, lacks the natural ease, and perhaps the will, to reach out to politicians from other communities, especially Sunnis.

The Americans say that a self-reinforcing dynamic is at play, with the growing sectarian violence between Sunnis and Shiites, responsible for thousands of deaths this year in Baghdad and surrounding areas, causing politicians from both groups to pull back from the vision of a shared life.

Instead, positions have hardened. In the case of Mr. Maliki, who heads what is nominally a “national unity” cabinet, this has meant an increasing tendency to act as the steward of Shiite interests, sometimes so obtrusively that Sunnis, and to a lesser extent Kurds, have accused him of blatant sectarianism.

The issue of greatest concern to the Americans — and to Sunnis — has been Mr. Maliki’s resistance to American pressure for a crackdown on the Mahdi Army, the Shiite militia that the Americans say has been in the forefront of death squad attacks on Sunnis. The Shiite cleric who leads the militia, Moktada al-Sadr, controls the largest Shiite bloc in Parliament and backed Mr. Maliki in the contest among Shiite groups to name the new prime minister.

Another Shiite militia, the Badr Organization, is controlled by Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, leader of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, who is both a powerful rival to Mr. Maliki in Shiite religious politics and another mainstay of the government.

So for Mr. Maliki, American demands for action to disband the militias have revealed in their sharpest form the tensions between his role as national leader and as steward of Shiite interests. Compounding his dilemma, public opinion among Shiites, particularly in Sadr City, the Mahdi Army’s main stronghold, has coalesced around the militiamen, who are seen by many as the only effective protection against Sunni insurgents who have killed thousands of Shiites with their bombings of marketplaces, mosques, weddings, funerals and other public gatherings.

The failure of American troops to stop these bombings is a source of anger among Shiites, who have woven conspiracy theories that depict the Americans as silent partners for the Sunnis. And the rancor finds a favorite target in Mr. Khalilzad, who has become a figure of contempt among some senior Shiites in the government for his efforts to draw the Sunnis into the circle of power in Baghdad. It has become common among Shiite officials to say that the envoy harbors an unease toward Shiites engendered by growing up in a Sunni family in Afghanistan that distrusted Hazaras, Shiite descendants of Genghis Khan.

For months, Mr. Maliki has argued against forcible moves to disband the militias, urging a political solution and pointing to cases in which Mr. Sadr himself has approved, or at least not opposed, raids on death squad leaders whom he has described as renegades from the mainforce Mahdi Army. Publicly, the Americans have backed the prime minister; privately, they say the country cannot wait while sectarian killing rages unabated. The result has been an uneasy, and at times volatile, compromise.

So as Mr. Maliki successfully stands up to an America that is still pushing for an unworkable and perhaps even undesirable solution that mainly benefits the Sunni, it is the Shi'ites who stand to gain. Victory for the Sunni insurgents can only come if America prevails, which would give them the power they can't win at the ballot box.

Neo Culpa: As Iraq slips further into chaos, the war's neoconservative boosters have turned sharply on the Bush administration, charging that their grand designs have been undermined by White House incompetence. In a series of exclusive interviews, Richard Perle, Kenneth Adelman, David Frum, and others play the blame game with shocking frankness. Target No. 1: the president himself. (David Rose, November 3, 2006, Vanity Fair)

I spend the better part of two weeks in conversations with some of the most respected voices among the neoconservative elite. What I discover is that none of them is optimistic. All of them have regrets, not only about what has happened but also, in many cases, about the roles they played. Their dismay extends beyond the tactical issues of whether America did right or wrong, to the underlying question of whether exporting democracy is something America knows how to do.

Neocons are just upset because they've finally figured out that the WoT is empowering the Shi'a--the war in Lebanon was their awakening.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:33 AM


G.O.P. Turns to the Economy as Campaign Issue (DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK and ANNE E. KORNBLUT, 11/04/06, NY Times)

Republicans seized on a drop in the unemployment rate to assert on Friday that tax cuts were invigorating the economy, highlighting just four days before the election an issue that party strategists are counting on to offset bad news about the war.

The Labor Department announced Friday morning that the unemployment rate had fallen to 4.4 percent in October — down from 4.6 percent in September and the lowest rate since May 2001, when it was 4.3 percent.

Within hours, President Bush mocked Democrats for predicting that the administration’s tax and spending policies would wreck the economy.

“If the Democrats’ election predictions are as good as their economic predictions, we’re going to have a good day on November the seventh,” Mr. Bush said, drawing a long cheer from a crowd in Joplin, Mo., where he was campaigning for Senator Jim Talent, who is in a close race.

“The facts are in,” Mr. Bush said at another campaign stop on Friday. “The tax cuts have led to a strong and growing economy, and this morning, we got more proof of that.”

This White House has never figured out how to advertise its excellent economic record and that seems to be hurting for the first time that matters in this mid-term. The president's own low approval ratings don't mean much but the fact that voters aren't crediting him and the congressional GOP for creating the confditions that have extended the economic boom is what's acting as a drag in the election.

Bush mocks Democrats' 'lack of plan' (Joseph Curl, 11/04/06, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

President Bush yesterday said Republicans nationwide are running on a strong record of accomplishment as he ridiculed Democrats seeking to take control of the House and Senate, asking: "What's your plan?" [...]

The president has honed his campaign rally speech into a laundry list of Republican successes and dire warnings about a Democratic majority, but yesterday he added a new twist when he painted Democrats as dangerously unfit to battle terrorism and win the war in Iraq.

"Oh, some of the leading Democrats in Washington argue we should pull out right now. Then you got other voices saying we should withdraw on a specific date, even though the job hasn't been completed. You actually had a member of the House recommend moving troops to an island 5,000 miles away as part of their plan. Nineteen House Democrats introduced legislation that would cut off funds for our troops in Iraq," he said.

"The Democrats have taken a calculated gamble. They believe that the only way they can win this election is to criticize us and offer no specific plan of their own," the president said.

Peter Welch (D, VT) is running for Bernie Sanders's open seat with an ad campaign saying he's the only one in the race with a plan for Iraq. All the ads lack is the plan.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:28 AM


Hussein Verdict Near After Trial With 'Serious Shortcomings' (Ellen Knickmeyer, 11/04/06, Washington Post)

"It was quite a messy trial, as the whole world knows," said Michael P. Scharf, a professor of international law at Case Western Reserve University who advised Iraqi officials during the trial. But "all the arguments about a fair trial are pretty much moot if the evidence is not in question," he added.

The saddest sacks on the Left are those who can't accept that and argue that "fairness" makes any moral difference.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:24 AM


Airbus reportedly intending to up spending on new A350 (Bloomberg News, 11/04/06)

Airbus plans to increase spending on a proposed long-range jet made of lightweight carbon by 20 percent to $12 billion, said two people with direct knowledge of the proposal.

A new design for the A350 plane will be presented to Airbus parent company European Aeronautic, Defence & Space on Tuesday, said the sources, who declined to be identified before an announcement.

The A350 is Airbus' sixth attempt to create a competitor for Boeing's 787, which has won 402 orders.

"They really don't have a choice about doing it, if they want to be competitive with Boeing over the long term," said Phil Finnegan, an analyst at Teal Group, a consulting company in Fairfax, Va.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:15 AM


How Democrats Can Win Without the South (Thomas Schaller, November 4, 2006, In These Times)

The 1920 elections were a Democratic disaster. Dissatisfaction with Woodrow Wilson created an electoral avalanche that would be nearly impossible in today's era of highly gerrymandered districts and overwhelming incumbent advantages. Republicans picked up 10 new senators and 62 representatives, giving the GOP 61 of 98 Senate seats and a whopping House majority with 302 seats. The resulting 67th Congress mirrored the regional alignment of the two parties, with no Republican senators and just a handful of House members coming from the 11 states of the former Confederacy. Despite their chokehold on the South, the Democrats were a regionally confined party that found little support elsewhere in the country.

It was an era in American politics when presidential and congressional results aligned regionally in ways that have been decidedly misaligned since the collapse of the New Deal in the late '60s.

But regionalized partisanship is beginning to emerge anew. Republicans won every southern state in the past two presidential elections and now have 18 of the region's 22 senators and two-thirds of its House seats. In 2004, despite Bush's two-and-a-half-point defeat of John Kerry, outside the South the Democrats actually gained congressional seats in both chambers. That's right: If the five House seats produced by the re-redistricting of Texas orchestrated by former majority leader Tom DeLay and the five Senate pickups made possible by those southern Democratic retirements are held aside, the Democrats won the 2004 congressional elections.

Four-D Democrats

Today, the Democrats cannot swing enough seats in the near or medium term to invert the electoral maps of the late 19th and early 20th centuries--that is, to confine Republicans solely to their new, southern dominion. Nor would they want to: Democrats will never be shut out of the South the way Republicans once were because there will always be a certain number of districts in the South where African Americans and Hispanics make up the majority. What Democrats can do, however, is accelerate the regional transformation already underway in the quadrant of the northeastern and midwestern states formed by connecting Dover, New Hampshire, and Dover, Delaware, to the east, with Des Moines, Iowa, and Duluth, Minnesota, to the west.

Call it the "Four-D Rectangle."

What Mr. Schaller proposes here is that Democrats make a last stand in the most European portion of the country, one that with its corresponding industrial and population decline will likely be taken over by immigrants -- Latinos in our case rather than Muslims in the European -- which will cause it to swing back to the Right over time but will cost it congressional seats and electoral votes in the meantime. The reality is that Democrats need to invest all their energy in finding twenty-one states where they can hold both Senate seats so they can filibuster the most significant least until the GOP changes the Senate rules.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:06 AM


Haggard, Foley and GOP Preach Against the Vices They Can't Shake (Nathaniel Frank, November 4, 2006,

The Republican Party appears to be chock full of people who make a life of preaching against the very vices they can't shake. Why?

One hardly looks to the Left for deep moral understanding or theological insight, but you'd think they'd grasp that the essence of Judeo-Christianity is that men are sinners no matter their good intentions. What separates the religious from the secular is not behavior itself so much as the knowledge that behavior like that of Foley, Haggard, etc., is evil.

November 3, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:52 PM


Hispanic Voters More Interested in Abortion Issues Than Other Voters (Steven Ertelt, November 3, 2006,

Some 64 percent of Hispanics said abortion was very important while 40 percent of non-Hispanic voters said abortion was important, a difference of 24 percent.

That's important because the poll also showed 20 percent of Hispanic voters are still undecided on key Congressional races compared to just 13 percent of white voters.

Raimundo Rojas, the Hispanic outreach coordinator for the National Right to Life Committee, told that the poll validates what pro-life advocates have been saying for years about reaching out to Hispanic voters.

"Pro-life organizations and political organizations that have a pro-life message need to really work in the Hispanic community," he explained.

"As is evidenced by these polls, if Latinos are aware of the life issues they will, for the most part, vote on the side of life," Rojas told "Building the culture of life is not just a catch-phrase for Hispanics, it already is a way of life for us, but it needs to be nurtured in our communities."

Hispanics don't belong in the secular party and libertarians don't belong in the religious one.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:48 PM


McCain is star of Proposition 107 TV commercials (Dan Nowicki, 11/02/2006, Arizona Republic)

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., a likely 2008 presidential aspirant, is starring in two new television spots for Proposition 107, a proposed state constitutional amendment that would ensure that same-sex marriages or civil unions are never legal in Arizona and ban governments, such as cities or towns or universities, from providing benefits to unmarried domestic partners.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:46 PM


The Acorn Indictments: A union-backed outfit faces charges of election fraud. (Opinion Journal, November 3, 2006)

So, less than a week before the midterm elections, four workers from Acorn, the liberal activist group that has registered millions of voters, have been indicted by a federal grand jury for submitting false voter registration forms to the Kansas City, Missouri, election board. But hey, who needs voter ID laws?

We wish this were an aberration, but allegations of fraud have tainted Acorn voter drives across the country. Acorn workers have been convicted in Wisconsin and Colorado, and investigations are still under way in Ohio, Tennessee and Pennsylvania.

The good news for anyone who cares about voter integrity is that the Justice Department finally seems poised to connect these dots instead of dismissing such revelations as the work of a few yahoos. After the federal indictments were handed up in Kansas City this week, the U.S. Attorney's office said in a statement that "This national investigation is very much ongoing."

Let's hope so. Acorn officials bill themselves as nonpartisan community organizers merely interested in giving a voice to minorities and the poor. In reality, Acorn is a union-backed, multimillion-dollar outfit that uses intimidation and other tactics to push for higher minimum wage mandates and to trash Wal-Mart and other non-union companies.

Yet they wonder why the VRWC feels it necessary to secretly control the voting machine code?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:20 PM


This One Goes to Thirteen: Falling oil prices, a halt in interest-rate hikes, and a wave of hedge-fund buying sent the Dow above 12,000. Now they’ll take it higher. (James J. Cramer , 11/06/06, New York)

To understand why this rally has staying power, you need to get beyond the obvious negatives, at least to Wall Street, of a potential Democratic sweep in Congress, a constant worry of terrorism, and a president paralyzed by the morass in Iraq. First, just four months ago, traders were petrified that gasoline at $3.25 would go to $4.25 and that the economy could be crushed by it. Consumers had vanished from stores and restaurants; car sales plummeted. A recession seemed to be just months away. At the same time, the slowdown in housing became an outright stoppage, with home sales plummeting and inventories climbing to levels not seen in fifteen years. With that glut so visible, those still holding on to the belief that property could trump stocks finally gave up the real-estate dream, and the Federal Reserve, determined not to be the cause of a recession, put its relentless increase in interest rates on hold at last.

With the Fed on hold and housing losing all luster as an investment, the unthinkable occurred: Oil dropped almost $20, and gasoline fell by more than a quarter. Consumers flooded everything from Wendy’s and Red Lobster to JCPenney and Nordstrom, and on Wall Street that translated to “upside surprises” against lowered earnings estimates. No one cares about how earnings forecasts get beat—even if they’re reduced by fleeting factors like a cessation in rate hikes or gasoline declines. The better-than-expected earnings quickly fueled higher stock prices. When you consider that of the 30 industrials in the Dow Jones, only one, ExxonMobil, gains from higher oil prices and 29 gain from lower ones, you can see why the move had oomph. And when you consider that almost no Dow stocks get hurt by lower housing sales but all benefit from the declining interest rates that a slowdown in housing causes, you know the oomph’s going to be turbocharged.

All that good news wouldn’t have mattered if stocks were expensive. But we’ve seen years of pretty decent earnings for companies without much of an uptick in stocks. That’s because 29 of the 30 stocks in the Dow have had buybacks, some of them huge (and some ongoing). Only General Motors hasn’t had one (and that’s the only Dow stock that actually needs cash). The rest just throw off scads of the stuff. These buybacks are literally shrinking the supply of stock out there dramatically. When the buyers came in, courtesy of the declines in oil and housing and the flattening of interest rates, there wasn’t enough stock to go around, forcing buyers to move stocks up to get them. The companies that had bought back the most, Hewlett-Packard, Coca-Cola, AT&T, IBM, and Microsoft, have been responsible for much of the gain we’ve had.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:49 AM


Unemployment Rate Falls, Payrolls Grow (Jeannine Aversa, 11/03/06, AP)

The unemployment rate dropped to a five-year low of 4.4 percent in October as employers added 92,000 new jobs -- flashing a picture of a strong labor market as the midterm elections draw near.

The latest report, released Friday by the Labor Department, showed that the civilian unemployment rate fell 0.2 percentage point from 4.6 percent in September. It marked the third month in a row that the politically prominent jobless rate declined.

The tally of new jobs added to the economy in October fell short of economists expectations for an increase of around 125,000 positions, however. Nonetheless, job gains in both August and September turned out to be much stronger than previously estimated -- and that took a lot of the sting out of October's less-than-expected payroll performance.

Voter sentiment as demonstrated in polls seems so disconnected from rality that we're prepared for any result on Tuesday, including landslides either way, but it remains difficult to understand how Democrats can generate a large turnout to protest this economy. The only way the GOP can lose badly is if the base is pouting as much as the pundits.

U.S. Employment Report Prompts Some Economists to Change Tune (Wall Street Journal, November 3, 2006)

The U.S. added 92,000 jobs to nonfarm payrolls in October but prior months were revised sharply higher. The revisions, coupled with a drop in the unemployment rate to a five-and-a-half-year low of 4.4%, prompted some economists to change their tune on the economy -- and interest rates. Read a handful of economists' reactions.

Posted by Stephen Judd at 10:08 AM


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Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:12 AM


U.S. Web Archive Is Said to Reveal a Nuclear Primer (WILLIAM J. BROAD, 11/03/06, NY Times)

Last March, the federal government set up a Web site to make public a vast archive of Iraqi documents captured during the war. The Bush administration did so under pressure from Congressional Republicans who had said they hoped to “leverage the Internet” to find new evidence of the prewar dangers posed by Saddam Hussein. [...]

The Web site, “Operation Iraqi Freedom Document Portal,” was a constantly expanding portrait of prewar Iraq. Its many thousands of documents included everything from a collection of religious and nationalistic poetry to instructions for the repair of parachutes to handwritten notes from Mr. Hussein’s intelligence service. It became a popular quarry for a legion of bloggers, translators and amateur historians.

Among the dozens of documents in English were Iraqi reports written in the 1990s and in 2002 for United Nations inspectors in charge of making sure Iraq had abandoned its unconventional arms programs after the Persian Gulf war. Experts say that at the time, Mr. Hussein’s scientists were on the verge of building an atom bomb, as little as a year away.

European diplomats said this week that some of those nuclear documents on the Web site were identical to the ones presented to the United Nations Security Council in late 2002, as America got ready to invade Iraq.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:09 AM


British believe Bush is more dangerous than Kim Jong-il (Julian Glover, November 3, 2006, Guardian)

America is now seen as a threat to world peace by its closest neighbours and allies, according to an international survey of public opinion published today that reveals just how far the country's reputation has fallen among former supporters since the invasion of Iraq.

Carried out as US voters prepare to go to the polls next week in an election dominated by the war, the research also shows that British voters see George Bush as a greater danger to world peace than either the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-il, or the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Of course we are. It's entirely plausible that the President would topple Kim Jong-il at any moment and bomb Iran if it starts developing a nuclear weapon. Meanwhile, they can do nothing to harm us.

U.S. speeds attack plans for North Korea (Bill Gertz, November 3, 2006, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

The Pentagon has stepped up planning for attacks against North Korea's nuclear program and is bolstering nuclear forces in Asia, said defense officials familiar with the highly secret process.

The officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the accelerated military planning includes detailed programs for striking a North Korean plutonium-reprocessing facility at Yongbyon with special operations commando raids or strikes with Tomahawk cruise missiles or other precision-guided weapons.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:59 AM


Manning, Brady Collide in AFC Grudge Match (AARON SCHATZ, November 3, 2006, NY Sun)

(Sunday, 8:15 p.m.)

The Patriots had beaten Indianapolis six straight times, but last year the undefeated Colts marched into Foxboro on the first Monday night of November and finally got the Belichick/Brady monkey off their back.

One year later, the undefeated Colts march into Foxboro once again, this time on the first Sunday night of November. Perhaps last year's win gave the Colts renewed confidence, but that monkey is still in Foxboro, waiting to reattach itself.

Football is a game that is decided by the specific matchups of player against player and strategy against strategy. One cannot simply rank the teams 1–32 and say that a higher-ranked team should beat the one ranked lower. No matter how strong these two teams are at any given time, the matchups strongly favor the Patriots, because of how each quarterback contends with the opposing defensive scheme.

The Indianapolis offense excels in part because of Peyton Manning's ability to read the defense before the snap and adjust the offense accordingly. But Manning historically has trouble adjusting against 3–4 defensive schemes, where the identity of the pass-rushers is far less clear. The problem goes far beyond the Patriots: San Diego handed Indianapolis its first loss of the 2005 regular season, and Pittsburgh knocked the Colts out of the playoffs. In both games, the linebackers in a 3–4 scheme completely overwhelmed the Indianapolis offensive line. The Colts even have a habit of playing close games against inferior teams that play a 3–4 defense (Browns, Jets).

Tom Brady, meanwhile, has an excellent record against Indianapolis and other teams which play "Tampa-2" zone coverage. On Monday night, he moved the Patriots down the field over and over, consistently finding his receivers in holes between Minnesota defenders. Buffalo now plays this scheme, and Brady has beaten them twice this year. Last year, the Patriots dispatched the team that gave this defense its name, the Buccaneers, by the score of 28–0. Even last year, the Colts stopped the Patriot running game but couldn't stop Brady: He was 22-for-33 with 265 yards, three touchdowns, and no interceptions in the loss.

This year, of course, the Colts won't be stopping the New England running game.

You might be inclined to say that playing outdooers in New England -- we had snow here yesterday -- favors Brady over Manning, except that Brady is 10-0 in domes plus two Super Bowl rings.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:55 AM


Kenny Rogers Wins 5th Overall Gold Glove (RONALD BLUM, November 3, 2006, The Associated Press)

After all those errors in the World Series, a Detroit Tigers pitcher won a Gold Glove. Kenny Rogers, whose smudged left hand created a lot of suspicion during the World Series, won his fourth straight Gold Glove on Thursday and fifth overall.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:51 AM


How to Eliminate the Poor (New Oxford Notes, October 2006, Oxford Review)

A story on (May 13) was titled: "Roe Attorney: Use Abortion to 'Eliminate Poor' -- In Unearthed Letter Urged President-Elect Clinton to 'Reform' Country." Ron Weddington, who argued along with his wife, Sarah Weddington, in favor of Roe v. Wade in front of the Supreme Court, said in an unearthed letter to President-elect Bill Clinton: "I don't think you are going to go very far in reforming the country until we have a better educated, healthier, wealthier population.... Start immediately to eliminate the barely educated, unhealthy and poor segment of our country [through abortion].... There, I've said it. It's what we all know is true, but we only whisper it, because as liberals who believe in individual rights, we view any program which might treat the disadvantaged differently as discriminatory, mean-spirited Republican." But Ron Weddington favors "persuasion rather than coercion." But what if persuasion doesn't work?

According to the story, "Weddington then argued that with 30 million abortions up to that point since Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973, America is a much better place."

Which is why the Darwinist Right is pro-abortion too.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:46 AM


Wal-Mart warns of holiday price wars (Anne D'Innocenzio, 11/03/06, The Associated Press)

Get ready for the midnight sales specials, 60-percent-off discounts on holiday toys and racks of marked-down merchandise.

The holiday season is always about price wars. But retailers are bracing for what could be the most brutal holiday season in recent years after Wal-Mart announced Thursday a disappointing October sales report and a bleaker outlook for this month.

Along with its bad news, the world's largest retailer had a warning: It will use price as a weapon as it competes for consumer dollars this holiday season.

Shoppers will be the beneficiaries...

But, wait, aren't we supposed to be pitying the poor, put-upon middle class, whose every bill is higher than the one before?

Posted by Peter Burnet at 5:56 AM


N.Y. hopefuls talk universal health care (Patrick White, Globe and Mail, November 3rd, 2006)

In the United States, as in Canada, the politics of universal health care are not for the faint of heart.

Twelve years ago, a plucky first lady with a promising public-service career ahead nearly abandoned politics after her plan for universal health care was trounced in a partisan battle that led to the Republicans taking Congress.

In decades previous, a Canadian-style health system proved even beyond the reach of iron-willed presidents Lyndon Johnson and Harry Truman.

But with the Democrats on the brink of huge gains in Tuesday's midterm elections, several candidates in New York State have felt sufficiently emboldened to speak in favour of a policy that still haunts their party's past.[...]

The public will certainly exists. In a poll conducted by Pace University this week, 48 per cent of respondents favoured a single-payer national health-care plan, essentially an endorsement of the Canadian system. Just 35 per cent endorsed a Massachusetts-style system.

That's surprising considering horror stories circulating in the United States about rationing and people dying on waiting lists in Canada.

"We hear the horror stories about Canada here, some are true, some are not," Ms. Landy (Physicians for a National Health Care Program --ed) said. "But we prefer Canada's horror stories to ours."

That’s about as inspiring as a Jimmy Carter fireside chat. Oh well, forewarned is forearmed.

November 2, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:01 PM


'Saviour' breathes new life into flagging campaigns (Toby Harnden, 03/11/2006, Daily Telegraph)

[T]o embattled Republican candidates, Dick Cheney, possibly the most influential figure ever to occupy the post of vice-president, is a potential saviour and his arrival is greeted by party colleagues like that of the Cavalry appearing to save the day.

Although he is usually depicted in the press as nasty, sinister or, occasionally, sheer evil, in the eyes of the conservatives he is a shining star in the political firmament.

At 65, Mr Cheney is unencumbered by any need to secure a broad appeal because he has vowed never to run for office again. He is being used by the White House to deliver its toughest messages with an abrasiveness that stops just the right side of decency.

And then it's out for a big steak and a few belts--no wonder he loves his job.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:34 PM

WE'RE MUZZLED, THEY SHRIEKED (via David Hill, The Bronx):

Scientists Say White House Muzzled Them (JOHN HEILPRIN, Nov. 2, 2006, Associated Press)

Two federal agencies are investigating whether the Bush administration tried to block government scientists from speaking freely about global warming and censor their research, a senator said Wednesday.

Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., said he was informed that the inspectors general for the Commerce Department and NASA had begun "coordinated, sweeping investigations of the Bush administration's censorship and suppression" of federal research into global warming. [...]

He said the investigations "will uncover internal documents and agency correspondence that may expose widespread misconduct." He added, "Taxpayers do not fund scientific research so the Bush White House can alter it."

Government scientists are employees of the executive branch and they're paid to do what they're told.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:31 PM


U.S. Recession Warnings Grow Louder; Some Say It's Just Noise (Vince Golle and Carlos Torres, 11/02/06, Bloomberg)

Warnings of a U.S. recession are growing louder. Some economists say it's just noise.

David Rosenberg, Merrill Lynch & Co.'s New York-based chief North American economist yesterday said the economy is ``on a knife's edge,'' ... [...]

Don't bet on it, say economists Steve Wieting at Citigroup Global Markets Inc. and John Shin at Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. A rout in real estate and auto production cutbacks are delivering a one-two punch to an economy that grew earlier this year at the fastest pace since 2003. Optimists say sustained spending by consumers and businesses will ensure the five-year- old expansion stays intact.

You can hardly blame economists who pine for a recession, particularly since any of them who graduated in the past twenty-four years have never gotten to experience one in their adult lives. After all, who'd want to be a volcanologist if no mountain ever blew its top?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:39 PM


Obama fuzzy on fence that Tony built (John Kass, November 2, 2006, Chicago Tribune)

The story, by investigative reporters Ray Gibson and David Jackson, ran in Wednesday's Tribune.

It is about Obama's real estate relationship with political inside man and fundraiser Antoin "Tony" Rezko, recently indicted in one of the scandals that plague Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich. [...]

The Tribune story serves notice to all the national columnists, editorial writers and political reporters who've been genuflecting before their Obama icons. He might not walk on water after all.

So they should stop with the gooey public relations and start reporting before Obamaniacs seed Iowa's presidential cornfields this spring.

Obama isn't a bad fellow. I like him. He knows he's being used by some Democrats who see him as a pretty black candidate first rather than a man and as some empty vessel without a record into which they pour their ambition. There's racism in that, although they can't see it and probably never will.

They see Obama as some horse to ride into the 2008 presidential elections, a horse that's not named Hillary.

But Obama felt comfortable lecturing Africans and Republicans about corruption, while privately dancing with Tony Rezko. That's what will hurt him.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:08 AM


NATO Behind The Attack On Madrasa? (Syed Saleem Shahzad, 02 November, 2006, Asia Times Online)

The air attack on Monday in which up to 80 suspected militants were killed at a religious school in the Pakistani tribal area of Bajour marks the first successful operation after a tripartite meeting in Kabul on August 24 of representatives of Afghanistan, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and Pakistan. And it won't be the last.

It was agreed at that meeting that NATO forces operating in Afghanistan would be allowed to conduct hot-pursuit operations across the border into Pakistan.

Although Pakistani officials claim that Monday's operation was conducted by the Pakistani military, Asia Times Online contacts in the area are convinced that foreign forces were also involved, including US unmanned Hellfire Predator aircraft. NATO and the US have only acknowledged that they provided intelligence on the possible presence of Taliban and al-Qaeda figures at the madrassa that was attacked, which was known to be pro-Taliban.

After Monday's operation, intelligence sources say that Pakistan will further facilitate NATO in the strategic back yard of Pakistan in an attempt to bolster the struggling NATO forces in Afghanistan in their battle with the Taliban.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:01 AM


Iraq Set To Condemn Saddam, as U.S. Vote Nears (ELI LAKE, November 2, 2006, NY Sun)

Two days before Americans vote in congressional midterm elections, a court in Baghdad could deliver a boost to President Bush's party — a guilty verdict and even a death sentence for Saddam Hussein.

On November 5, the Iraqi High Tribunal is scheduled to deliver a verdict against the deposed Iraqi dictator and his co-defendants for their role in the 1985 murder of 148 Shiite Arabs in the town of Dujail. The decision would mark the Iraqi court's first verdict against Saddam after more than two years of proceedings, three changes in chief judges, and the murder of four defense lawyers.

The decision could dominate the November 5 and 6 news cycles before the November 7 midterm elections in America, where the Iraq war has become a political loser for Republican candidates at the state and federal levels.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:59 AM


Rivals for U.N. Council Seat Reach Deal to Back Panama (Associated Press, November 2, 2006)

Guatemala and Venezuela agreed Wednesday to withdraw from the race for a seat on the U.N. Security Council and support Panama as a consensus candidate, Ecuador's U.N. ambassador said.

With the backing of the two countries, Panama's election to a two-year term on the Security Council is virtually certain.

There's a good lesson there for the Venezuelans: they too can have the seat once we've regime changed them as we did Panama.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:55 AM


Abandoning the See-Saw of Centrism (Sally Kohn, November 2, 2006, AlterNet)

If you listen closely this election season, you can hear the sound of Democratic candidates scraping their bottoms in a hasty rush toward the center. But the reasoning is unclear. In a political climate where once-preposterous, archconservative ideas are now the status quo, shifting the political center of balance to the middle would only aid that Right-wing tilt. As the center of politics is masqueraded as the new left, the right becomes the new center.

If Democrats seem generally allergic to articulating moral convictions and standing up for what they believe, election season exacerbates this condition.

The problem is that their convictions are amoral and they're running in a moralist society, which is why they have to keep their ideology so carefully hidden in order to be competitive.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:36 AM


Blair's Syrian peace initiative fails to impress (Ewen MacAskill, November 2, 2006, Guardian)

The governments of Israel and the US responded coolly yesterday to Tony Blair's secret diplomatic initiative to urge Syria to restart Middle East peace talks. Mr Blair, who has pledged to devote the remainder of his premiership to tackling the region's conflict, sent his senior envoy, Sir Nigel Sheinwald, to meet the Syrian president in Damascus on Monday.

Shimon Peres, Israel's deputy prime minister, said in London: "I wouldn't like to make any remarks about British movements [but] I'm sceptical, not because of Britain but because of the Syrians."

What would be the point of negotiating with a regime that can't win an election?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:29 AM


Bush may find an ally on immigration (Stephen Dinan, November 2, 2006, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

Spending aside, Congress still faces the four major immigration questions that it punted on this year -- how to secure the border, how to boost workplace enforcement, whether to create a new program for future foreign workers in addition to the existing work programs that hundreds of thousands of people already use; and what to do about the estimated 12 million to 20 million illegal aliens now in the country.

Mr. Bush, joined by almost all Democrats and some Republicans, wants action on all of those issues, and the Senate passed such a bill this year.

But House Republicans insist that the government must prove it can control the borders and enforce the laws before considering a new worker program, and many Republicans oppose legalization of illegal aliens altogether, arguing that it is amnesty for lawbreakers.

If Republicans retain control of Congress, that impasse is likely to remain, said Frank Sharry, executive director of the National Immigration Forum, which supports a path to citizenship.

"It has stalemate written all over it -- stalemate plus [passage of] appropriations, which I don't think would satisfy either group of partisans," he said.

But if Democrats win the 15 seats they need to snatch control of the House, the odds for a deal improve somewhat.

"If the House stays Republican, chances of a comprehensive bill being enacted in the next Congress are less than 10 percent. And if the House is taken by the Democrats, chances of a comprehensive bill passing in the next Congress are about 50-50," Mr. Sharry said.

He figures there are probably 160 to 175 House Democrats willing to vote for comprehensive reform, meaning between 45 and 60 Republicans would have to join them to reach a comfortable margin for passage.

Less depends on which party controls the Senate, because a bipartisan consensus appears to exist for some sort of broad bill.

Given that Democrats will never allow tax code or SS Reform to pass, the final two portions of the Bush legacy that are achievable are immigration amnesty/regularization/expansion (which will create even more new citizens than Reagan's did) and a Court appointment or two, that would give conservatives enough votes to really start chipping away at the Warren/Brennan/Burger mess. Losing the House but keeping the Senate would give him a good shot at both.

Still yearning to be free (Audrey Singer and David Jackson, 11/02/06, The Seattle Times)

From 1983 to 2004, the Seattle region ranked No. 5 nationally in the resettlement of refugees, behind the big immigrant gateways of New York, Los Angeles and Orange County in California, and Chicago. However, Seattle's total foreign-born ranking is only 23rd, as refugees there comprise much more of the immigrant population than most other places around the country.

The region's refugee population is probably more important to the growth of the region than in other places. And it has been growing over the past 20 years.

Of the some 50,000 refugees resettled in Seattle over that period, fully one-third are from Southeast Asia — including Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos — and 42 percent come from the remnants of the USSR.

Other sizable populations come from the former Yugoslavia, Somalia and Ethiopia. [...]

Like other foreign-born migrants, Seattle's refugees have been quickly plugging into the economic life of the region, from the bustling International District downtown to the polyglot scene that is the Crossroads Mall in Bellevue.

Seattle's healthy local labor market has helped foster their adjustment as many refugees have found foothold jobs in hotels, restaurants, shops, health services, food production and preparation. Perhaps not long term, but these jobs are key steps on the road to economic independence and upward mobility. In any event, they are a far cry from the situations refugees left behind.

Local service agencies and assistance organizations, religious and ethnically based, play a strong role in the resettlement process.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:24 AM


Winning Small (BRIAN MANN, 11/02/06, NY Times)

Majorities in Congress aren’t formed by the national zeitgeist, as Mr. Rove cheerfully points out. They are built one race at a time. And in dozens of close contests this fall, the outcome will be determined largely by one often-overlooked minority group: the mostly white and mostly conservative voters who live in America’s small towns.

Residents of rural areas make up only a fifth of the country’s population. That’s a little less than African-Americans and Hispanics combined. But unlike voters in those minority groups, small-town whites are often kingmakers in national politics.

In 2004, they voted for George W. Bush by nearly a 20-point margin. Newspapers ran headlines that baffled their urban readers: “Rural Values Proved Pivotal,” “Conservatives in Rural Ohio Big Key in Bush Victory,” and “G.O.P. Won With Accent on Rural and Traditional.”

This year, those same right-leaning small towns make up a major voting bloc in a half-dozen make-or-break Senate races, like those in Missouri, Montana, Tennessee and Virginia. They also dominate battleground House districts throughout the country, from Idaho to northern New York. If rural America embraces Republicans with the same fervor it did two years ago, Democrats will almost certainly be denied a majority in the Senate and may fall short in the House.

In part, the electoral importance of small towns reflects a profound rural bias hardwired into our political system. The Constitution grants two Senate seats to each state regardless of its population. As a consequence, a majority of senators are elected by voters in 26 sparsely settled states that together contain less than 18 percent of the country’s population.

Mr. Mann's own book on rural America suggests why the GOP will never lose the filibuster electorally.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:07 AM


The Tight End's Evolution to Necessity From Novelty (ALLEN BARRA, November 2, 2006, NY Sun)

You don't even see the position listed on NFL rosters in the late 1950s. Many teams back then were still using a third running back and occasionally putting him out in some kind of slotback position to catch short passes or to block on end runs. Steve Sabol of NFL Films probably offers the best explanation for the lack of answers to the question of the game's first tight end: "It's like asking ‘Which was the first brontosaurus?' Something like that doesn't just appear, it evolves."

If so, the evolutionary process took an X-Men-like leap forward when Vince Lombardi joined Green Bay in 1959. Or, rather, when he finally worked out some kinks in the Packers system in 1961, his first championship year, and found the proper position in his lineup for a 6-foot-3, 240-pound former Michigan receiver named Ron Kramer. Kramer caught 28 passes in 1957 in his first season with the Packers and was listed on the roster as "left end." But he was a tad too slow for the NFL, and so, for the next two years he was mostly left out. Perceiving that Kramer was a superb blocker and that his receiving talents would be wasted on the interior line, Lombardi, in effect, created a new position for him, lining him up opposite the Packers' left offensive tackle — not always on the left, but usually. Since his quarterbacks were right-handed and rolled to their right, Kramer would be rolling with them, sweeping under the pass coverage. From 1961 through 1964, he became their secret weapon.

It wasn't a pass-happy era, and the Packers threw much less than most NFL teams. But when they threw to Kramer, they got spectacular bang for their buck. In his four seasons as a starter for Green Bay before a contract dispute landed him in Detroit, Kramer caught 138 passes for an eye-opening 16 yards a catch. To illustrate just how impressive that is, consider that the Packers' most prolific wide receiver over that period, the great Boyd Dowler, averaged 15.7. The difference between throwing to Kramer and throwing to Dowler is the difference between throwing to any great tight end versus any great wideout: With the wideout, you generally put the ball downfield and risk an interception, whereas with the tight end, you usually have to make little more than a short, quick pop over the middle as he breaks off the line.

Kramer's first year as a starter in 1961 was also the rookie season for a sensational tight end from the University of Pittsburgh, Mike Ditka, who caught 56 passes, averaged 192 yards a catch, and scored 12 touchdowns for the Bears — though purists argue that Ditka wasn't primarily a tight end, as he did little blocking that year and most of the time lined up in the slot between the offensive line and the wide out. Ditka, of course, went on to the Hall of Fame, as did the league's next great tight end, John Mackey, who broke in with the Colts in 1963. The three created the prototypes for modern NFL tight ends, the guy who could both block and catch with equal facility.

Tight end remains practically the only position in pro football that demands multiple skills: If you aren't a good blocker and good receiver, you don't play. Actually, it demands three skills if you count the ability to both run and pass block.

Which is why one of the two players of the past forty years who was capable of starring at every position on both sides of the ball was a tight end: Kellen Winslow.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:04 AM


Two Unbeatens Battle for Big East Supremacy (RUSSELL LEVINE, November 2, 2006, NY Sun)

(Tonight, 7:30 p.m., ESPN)

The Big East was thought to be all but finished as a power conference after losing Boston College, Miami, and Virginia Tech to the ACC. There was genuine debate as to whether the league deserved to keep its BCS bid, an argument that was settled by West Virginia when it beat Georgia as a heavy underdog in the Sugar Bowl last season.

Ten months after that game, three of the nation's six remaining unbeaten teams reside in the conference. Better yet, tonight's tilt in Louisville is the first meeting between any of the three, setting up a series of late-season showcase games.

Rutgers, whose 8–0 record is a much bigger surprise than the success of the other two, faces the Cardinals in another nationally televised game next Thursday and plays the Mountaineers on December 2.

But the importance of those games won't be determined until tonight's contest, which will stand as the most significant game of the season until Ohio State plays Michigan in two weeks.

Meanwhile, BC is easily the best team in the ACC.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 6:45 AM


Strong women in a man's world (Maureen Waller, The Times, November 2nd, 2006)

“The English like queens,” the grandmother of the future Queen Victoria commented cheerfully on receiving news of her birth. It was not an accolade that was lightly earned. Like latter-day career women aiming for the boardroom, our queens regnant have had to work hard to overcome the drawbacks of their sex. In almost 1,000 years since the Norman Conquest there have been only six — Mary I and Elizabeth I, Mary II and Anne, Victoria and Elizabeth II — yet they have almost always been synonymous with success.

When Victoria came to the throne in 1837 the reputation of the monarchy was at a record low. The accession of an 18-year-old queen — young, feminine, decorative and eager to please — was greeted with relief after the reigns of the three previous kings, George III, George IV and William IV, described respectively as “a lunatic, a profligate and a buffoon”.

Victoria’s sex was very much to her advantage. At a time when women had no political voice, she appeared less politically threatening to the opponents of monarchy, and more amenable to constitutional control in the eyes of those who supported a limited monarchy. After her marriage, her carefully contrived domestic image as devoted wife and mother of a large family belied the fact that she was highly active politically, constantly interfering in ministerial decisions and stretching constitutional boundaries almost to breaking point.

During her 64-year reign, the political power of the Crown declined as the franchise expanded, but thanks to her, its prestige and moral influence increased: she left the monarchy vastly stronger than she found it. Longevity helped. By the end of her reign, few people remembered the beginning, or the peaks and dips in her popularity, when republicanism would rear its head. In spite of her apotheosis as Queen-Empress of the greatest empire the world has ever seen, at the time of her Golden Jubilee, Victoria did not expect the monarchy to survive her for long. How surprised and delighted she would have been that her great-great granddaughter Elizabeth II, through her untiring devotion to duty, has steered it safely into the 21st century.

C’mon, admit it. Who would you be more inclined to fight for, Bill or Hillary? ("None of the above" is not an acceptable answer)

Posted by Peter Burnet at 6:13 AM


Red wine increases life expectancy: study (Sharon Kirkey, National Post, November 1st, 2006)

Now here’s something to drink to — red wine can help you live longer.

Researchers have discovered that a compound in red wine called resveratrol caused lab mice to live longer. Not only that, the mice also experienced a reversal in genes associated with heart disease, diabetes and other weight-related maladies.

The study was conducted by researchers at the Harvard Medical School and the U.S. National Institute of Aging.

This may be seen as good news by liberals, but our fear is that many conservative traditionalists will take a good hard look at the current state of society and decide to switch to white.

November 1, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:35 PM


William Styron, a Leading Novelist, Dies at 81 (CHRISTOPHER LEHMANN-HAUPT, 11/01/06, NY Times)

William Styron, the novelist from the American South whose explorations of difficult historical and moral questions earned him a place among the leading literary figures of the post-World War II generation, died today in Martha’s Vineyard, Mass., where he had a home. He was 81. [...]

His peers included James Jones, Gore Vidal and Norman Mailer. [...]

For Mr. Styron, success came early. He was 26 when “Lie Down in Darkness,” his first novel, was published, in 1951. It was a brooding, lyrical meditation on a young Southern girl’s suicide, as viewed during her funeral by various members of her family and their friends. In the narrative, language played as important a role as characterization, and the debt to Faulkner in general and “The Sound and the Fury” in particular was obvious. A majority of reviewers praised the novel for its power and melodiousness — although a few complained of its morbidity and its characters’ lack of moral stature — and the book established Mr. Styron as a writer to be watched. [...]

The reaction to “The Confessions of Nat Turner” was at first enthusiastic. Reviewers were sympathetic to Mr. Styron’s right to inhabit his subject’s mind, to speak in a version of Nat Turner’s voice and to weave a fiction around the few facts known about the uprising. George Steiner, in The New Yorker, called the book “a fiction of complex relationship, of the relationship between a present-day white man of deep Southern roots and the Negro in today’s whirlwind.”

The book sold well all over the world, and it won the 1968 Pulitzer Prize for fiction and the 1970 William Dean Howells Medal of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

But as the social turmoil of 1968 mounted, a negative reaction set in. Influential black readers in particular began to question the novel’s merits, and Hollywood, reacting to the furor, decided against making a movie version. In August, some of the angrier criticisms were published in a book edited by the African history scholar John Henrik Clarke entitled “William Styron’s Nat Turner: Ten Black Writers Respond.”

Mr. Styron was accused of having misunderstood black language, religion and psychology, and of having produced a “whitened appropriation of our history.” In the furious debate that followed, several admirers of “Nat Turner” recanted, and the question was raised whether white people could even understand black history — a position that to some seemed racist in itself.

Embittered, Mr. Styron withdrew from the debate and gradually moved on to his next project, “Sophie’s Choice,” a novel about a fictional Polish Catholic woman, Sophie Zawistowska, who struggles to survive the aftermath of her wartime internment in Auschwitz.

Once again Mr. Styron read extensively, beginning with Olga Lengyel’s memoir of her family’s internment in Auschwitz, “Five Chimneys,” which had haunted him since he first became aware of it decades earlier. Hannah Arendt’s “Eichmann in Jerusalem” suggested the central plot development. After reading the memoirs of Rudolf Höss, the actual commandant of Auschwitz, Mr. Styron made him a character in the novel.

Working slowly and deliberately, Mr. Styron evolved a complex narrative voice in the novel, more Southern and garrulous than any he had used before. This voice ranged so widely that Mr. Styron was able all at once to answer the critics of “Nat Turner” and to document his extensive reading of Holocaust literature while distancing himself ironically from a youthful, somewhat callow version of himself, a central character who somehow mixes up his revelation of Sophie’s tragedy with the comic rite of his own sexual initiation.

Once again, Mr. Styron achieved commercial success and won prizes. “Sophie’s Choice” rose to the top of The Times Book Review’s best-seller list, won the 1980 American Book Award for fiction and was made into a successful movie, starring Meryl Streep and Kevin Kline, and an opera by the English composer Nicholas Maw. And once again, Mr. Styron’s project aroused controversy.

The initial reviews were mixed. Some critics seemed to find the complexity of the narrative troubling. But in time, critics focused on two particular objections. One was that the Holocaust so surpassed moral comprehension that it could not be written about at all; the only appropriate response was silence. The other was that even though non-Jews had also been victims of the death camps, for Mr. Styron to write about one of them, a Polish Catholic, was to diminish the true horror of the event, whose primary purpose, these critics pointed out, was the destruction of European Jewry.

It is obviously nothing more than politically correct silliness to suggest that an author can't write empathetically about any ethnicity, gender, religious group, etc., other than his own, but it would seem a legitimate critique of Mr. Styron's oeuvre that he just wrote as whoever was trendy at the moment--first he was Faulkner, then black, then a Holocaust victim -- and his memoir of alcohol abuse and depression suggested a guy who didn't much like himself.

It's also worth noting that even if you expand that rather pitiful Postwar peer group to include Saul Bellow and Philip Roth, they only wrote one great American novel between--James Jones's From Here to Eternity.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:24 PM


Kerry is not as smart as he thinks (Toby Harnden, 02/11/2006, Daily Telegraph)

The first time I met Senator John Forbes Kerry was shortly before 9/11, when I was sitting in the office of a Republican member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee talking to a young staffer about European defence.

Suddenly, the Massachusetts senator strode into the room and plonked himself, hands on hips, between us. Then he just stood there, clearly expecting us to jump up because he had graced us with his hallowed presence.

He turned his back on me and I studied his perfectly arranged thatch – this was a man who has spent some time on coiffing his hair that morning (or maybe he had someone to do it for him) – as he barked questions and demands at the astonished aide.

Many people in Washington have similar DYKWIA – Don't You Know Who I Am? – anecdotes about Kerry that reveal his narcissistic conceit that it is all about him, all the time. This trait is the key to the kerfuffle over Kerry's comment at a California rally that: "Education, if you make the most of it, you study hard, 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 words were clumsy and, yes, an insult to American troops. I have no doubt that he didn't mean to say that US soldiers in Iraq are dumb cannon fodder but that's what came out. He was trying to say that Bush was stupid (though the Texan's grade-point average at Yale was higher than that of Kerry) – a jibe that plays well in Europe but not in much of Middle America.

It would have been a minor blip in the final week of the campaign if he had apologised immediately and unequivocally and got the hell off the airwaves.

Funny thing is, he thinks he's so smart yet has so little political sense.

True to form, Kerry blames others for gaffe (Joe Fitzgerald, November 1, 2006, Boston Herald)

The most amazing thing about John Kerry is that anyone with half a brain would still take him half as seriously as he obviously takes himself.

If he’s not putting his foot in his mouth, he’s attempting to extract it, as he is again this morning, trying to blame everyone but himself for his outrageous defamation of America’s fighting forces, slurring them as unproficient, shallow-minded cannon fodder.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:19 PM

DARWINISM FOR DUMMIES (via David Hill, The Bronx):

There's a clip here from South Park that may offend folks who aren't from Enumclaw, but is pretty dang funny otherwise.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:37 PM


In Lamont Race, Bitter Democrats Do Pre-Mortems: Lieberman Seems to Hug Big Lead in Connecticut; Ned Speaks in Past Tense; Lefties Blame Wolfson; Brazile: Bloggers ‘Give You Wind But Not Sail’ (Jason Horowitz, 11/6/2006, NY Observer)

Down more than a dozen points in the polls, Mr. Lamont has practically become a self-financed candidate, pouring $12.7 million of his own money into his campaign to compensate for lackluster fund-raising. He is sorely missing the grassroots fervor and national attention he enjoyed early on, when he was the darling of the blogosphere and the bellwether of Democratic politics. Mr. Lamont is making a last-ditch effort to refocus his message on Iraq and regain his prior momentum, but it seems to be too little, too late.

Democratic strategists and consultants, some of them sympathetic to the campaign, are already talking about it in the past tense.

“I think it was possible for Lamont to pull it off,” said Bob Shrum, a veteran political analyst. “There were moments right after the primary where it was basically a tied race.”

The apparent end of the much-ballyhooed Lamont phenomenon is causing a great deal of soul-searching and recrimination in all corners of the Democratic Party.

You could almost feel sorry for the guy, if only he had enough personal insight to realize that the left just used him try and teach Joe Lieberman a lesson.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:03 PM


Area lawmen back Wilder's warrant plan: 'Minor offenders may find it easier to turn themselves in at a church location' (DAVID RESS, 11/01/06, Richmond TIMES-DISPATCH)

Getting fugitives to stop running isn't easy. Getting them to church might not be as hard -- even if it is to surrender, local law-enforcement officials say.

That's why they say they like the approach Richmond Mayor L. Douglas Wilder is floating to help people with outstanding arrest warrants take the difficult first step of turning themselves in.

The idea is for judges, prosecutors and defense lawyers to set up shop in church, promising fast action for people who are ready to face their punishment.

The incentives go beyond the shorter sentences that people who turn themselves in usually receive. A key advantage of the approach is that it means no months-long wait in a crowded jail before going to a hearing.

Wait'll the ACLU gets ahold of that.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:50 PM


Iraqi prime minister asserts independence, gains stature: Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki ordered the dismantling of US checkpoints in Bagdhad, prompting boasts from Shiite militants. (Scott Peterson, 11/02/06, The Christian Science Monitor)

Shiites from the crowded Baghdad district of Sadr City are reveling in what they deem their "victory" over American forces after Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki on Tuesday ordered the dismantling of US and Iraqi checkpoints surrounding the area. [...]

US forces have rubbed increasingly against Sadr's militia in recent months, with friction turning to gunfights at times. And the Mahdi Army, while winning kudos among many Shiites for defending them against Sunni insurgent attack, is also believed to be behind some sectarian killings that are leaving more than 2,500 Iraqis dead each month.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:41 PM


Southwest slashes fares again (SUZANNE MARTA, November 1, 2006, The Dallas Morning News)

Last month, Southwest ignited the fare fight, shortly after a new federal law took effect allowing long-distance service from Dallas Love Field, which is Southwest’s home airport. The carrier offered introductory fares to 25 new destinations for $99 each way. [...]

Among cities that Southwest will serve with its $79 fare are Tampa, Fla., Philadelphia, Salt Lake City and Seattle. A $69 fare applies to Chicago, Albuquerque and Louisville, Ky. El Paso will be reachable for $59, New Orleans, Kansas City and St. Louis for $49, and Austin, Houston and Little Rock, Ark., for $39. Tickets must be purchased at least 14 days in advance.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:29 PM


Gonna have to say just this to the cameras.

A Statement from John Kerry (

As a combat veteran, I want to make it clear to anyone in uniform and to their loved ones: my poorly stated joke at a rally was not about, and never intended to refer to any troop.

I sincerely regret that my words were misinterpreted to wrongly imply anything negative about those in uniform, and I personally apologize to any service member, family member, or American who was offended.

It is clear the Republican Party would rather talk about anything but their failed security policy. I don’t want my verbal slip to be a diversion from the real issues. I will continue to fight for a change of course to provide real security for our country, and a winning strategy for our troops.

They can't seriously think a press release will do the trick--the beast demands a sound bite.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:08 PM


Trans Texas Corridor Will Inject Billions Into State’s Economy, Study Says (KWTX, October 30, 2006)

The multi-billion-dollar Trans Texas Corridor will pump billions of dollars into the state’s economy and will create millions of jobs according to a new study by Waco-based economist Ray Perryman.

In “Moving Into Prosperity: The Potential Impact of the Trans-Texas Corridor on Business Activity in Texas,” Perryman says the project will make the state’s economy more competitive.

“Because the TTC enhances efficiency, improves logistics, and reduces transportation time and costs, it increases the ability of companies within the region to expand intrastate trade and operations, and, thus, increase market size and market share on a global basis,” Perryman said.

The report estimates the economic impact over 25-years of the Interstate 35 leg of the project at $1.4 trillion.

Pretty funny to hear the nativists argue that the downside of the route is that it will improve the flow of labor and goods.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:27 PM


The Unrealist: What lessons from Vietnam is the foreign policy guru teaching Bush? (Rick Perlstein, 11.01.06, New Republic)

For all its mind-blowing details of administration ineptitude, Bob Woodward's third installment in his Bush at War trilogy hardly tells you much that you didn't already know. Of course George W. Bush lacks intellectual curiosity. Of course Donald Rumsfeld is a villain for the ages. But there's one particular revelation in the book that stands out for its plain weirdness: Henry Kissinger's presence in the Oval Office. According to Woodward, Bush treats Kissinger "almost like a member of the family," free to visit as he pleases.

It's strange to see him welcomed like a wise old uncle, because an entire generation of conservatives consider Kissinger an incarnation of Beelzebub. And that's a sentiment you would imagine the current administration feels even more deeply. "Kissingerian realism," after all, is the exact opposite of President Bush's "freedom agenda." It eschews gauzy sentimentalities like "freedom" in favor of global equilibrium and stability. [...]

To begin unraveling the true meaning of Kissinger's advice to the White House, we have to go back to August 3, 1972. On that date, President Nixon repeated to the good doctor, his national security adviser, what he'd been saying in private since 1966: America's war aim (standing up a pro-American and anti-Communist South Vietnamese government in Saigon) was a fantasy. "South Vietnam probably can never even survive anyway," the president sighed. But a presidential election was coming up. He had long before promised he was removing the U.S. presence, more-or-less victoriously (though "victory" was a word Nixon, by then, wisely avoided; instead, he called it "peace with honor").

It was Kissinger, who had been shuttling back and forth to Paris for peace negotiations with the enemy, who named the dilemma: "We've got to find some formula that holds the thing together a year or two, after which--after a year, Mr. President, Vietnam will be a backwater. If we settle it, say, this October, by January '74, no one will give a damn." [...]

[I]n the passages Woodward attributes to Kissinger in State of Denial, you can see how he insinuated himself: with a masterful understanding of Bush's psychology. The passages that leap out are the ones that serve to salve an imperiled sense of presidential masculinity in the face of failure: "For Kissinger, the overriding lesson of Vietnam is to stick it out"; "Even entertaining the idea of withdrawing any troops could create momentum for an exit that was less than victory"; "Kissinger claimed that the United States had essentially won the war in 1972, only to lose it because of weakened resolve"--the weakened resolve of others.

At least, that's what the book reports Kissinger told Bush.

The "others" were, of course, congressional Democrats led by Ted Kennedy, who yanked the rug out from under an embattled ally. You don't have to be as bright as Dr. Kissinger to figure out that the senator from MA would love to relive that moment. The difference this time is that there is no North Vietnam. Iraq isn't actually losable.

Friend Perlstein views the good Doctor with all the skepticism he earned over his checkered career, but it hardly seems surprising that he'd have shucked off the Realism that proved so disastrously wrong-headed in the Cold War and adopted instead the American idealism of Ronald Reagan, which succeeded so spectacularly. Presumably Dr. Kissinger supported the war on Iraq precisely because it was certain to be so destabilizing in a region where the status quo was so rotten. He may not be quite the Unrealist that the President is -- he's not an Evangelical after all -- but he may well have evolved towards Unrealism as a result of his own experiences.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:23 PM


A TNR Online Debate: Should Iraq Be Partitioned? (Peter W. Galbraith & Reuel Marc Gerecht, 11.01.06, New Republic)

Wednesday, November 1

Dear Reuel,

Thanks for doing this debate with me. I'll get right to it: The case for the partition of Iraq is straightforward. Iraq has already broken up, and partition simply reflects that reality. The Iraqis themselves endorsed this outcome when they voted overwhelmingly for a constitution that creates virtually independent regions and a powerless central government. Opponents of partition need to explain how they would get Iraq's Kurds to accept a state they hate and how they would end the civil war between Shia and Sunni Arabs. And, while critics observe that partition does not solve the problem of Baghdad and other mixed areas, they need to explain how an alternative approach might end the horrific sectarian killing that is taking place in these areas.

Heck, we'd like to hear them explain why troops shouldn't be deployed to Scotland to prevent the devolution of Britain along ethnic lines.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:31 PM


Hezbollah Confirms Indirect Talks with Israel (Der Spiegel, 11/01/06)

Arch-enemies Israel and Hezbollah are not known for their propensity for sitting down at the negotiating table together. So it comes as something of a surprise that they are finally talking to each other about a possible prisoner swap -- even if they are doing it through a third party.

The revelation that the two parties are holding negotiations about a possible exchange of prisoners came from Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah Tuesday. "We have reached the stage of exchanging ideas or more accurately conditions," said Nasrallah, speaking on Hezbollah's own TV station al-Manar.

Nasrallah said the talks were being brokered by a UN envoy but gave no further details. Israel has so far made no comment. The statement by Nasrallah was the first proof that such talks are actually taking place. "The delegate appointed by the UN secretary-general is conducting this mission and is meeting a Hezbollah delegation and also on the other side Israelis concerned with this file," the militant leader said.

Is any non-neocon really surprised that Israel acknowledges Hezbollah to head a state?

Siniora warns against Hezbollah ultimatum (UPI, 11/01/06)

Prime Minister Fouad Siniora warned against pushing Lebanon to the abyss after Hezbollah has threatened to force his Cabinet's collapse by street protests.

"Taking matter to the verge of the abyss is not in the interests of anyone," Siniora said Wednesday, stressing that "we will resort to dialogue and consultations."

"Let no party think that it can be a winner because it is in nobody's interest for the country to collapse or become a struggle scene... Also, no party should try to push the other to a wall by saying 'either you take a certain decision or else...,'" Siniora added.

He stressed that Lebanon is passing through a very critical and sensitive phase that necessitates "patience, not tensions."

Hezbollah Secretary-General Seyed Hassan Nasrallah served a seven-day ultimatum to Siniora's government to resign and allow the formation of a national unity admin