June 30, 2007

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:33 PM


Einstein's Revolution, and Counterrevolution (Tom Bethell, June 2007, The American Spectator)

A BASIC POINT ABOUT EINSTEIN'S life (1879-1955) is that he became more conservative when he reached middle age; not so much politically -- he remained a man of the left to the end -- but in his scientific outlook. This was reflected above all in his prolonged and unresolved dispute with Niels Bohr and Werner Heisenberg about quantum mechanics. If you are unfamiliar with that controversy, there could be no better introduction than Isaacson's. He covers it in about 40 lucid pages, encompassing the contributions of Erwin Schroedinger and others. Most of us know little more than that Heisenberg enunciated an uncertainty principle, wherein observation affects the thing observed; to which Einstein retorted that God does not play dice. Here you will learn, painlessly, a good deal more than that.

Heisenberg insisted that an electron does not have a definite position or path until we observe it. This was a feature of the universe, he claimed, not just some deficiency in our ability to measure. In denying that there is an objective reality out there, it undermined classical physics. When Einstein objected, Heisenberg confidently replied: "I believe that indeterminism, that is, the non-validity of rigorous causality, is necessary."

On the 200th anniversary of Newton's death, in 1927, Einstein defended classical mechanics. Two decades earlier he had "toppled many of the pillars of Newton's universe, including absolute space and time," Isaacson writes. Now he was a defender of Newton, of rigorous causality and (by implication) the established order.

Einstein: "You don't seriously believe that none but observable magnitudes must go into a physical theory?"

He was confronted with his own youthful rebelliousness.

Heisenberg: "Isn't that precisely what you have done with relativity?"

"Possibly," Einstein said, "but it is nonsense all the same."

Man is a subject, not an object.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:22 AM


London Finds Linked Bombs, a Qaeda Tactic (ALAN COWELL, 6/30/07, NY Times)

Security experts said that neither the bomb materials nor the cellphone triggering device was particularly sophisticated. Nor, said Sajjan M. Gohel, a counterterrorism expert with the Asia-Pacific Foundation, did the attack “seem to be very well planned.”

But the idea of a multiple attack using car bombs — a departure from the backpack suicide attacks of the London bombings of July 2005 — raised concerns among security experts that jihadist groups linked to Al Qaeda may have imported tactics more familiar in Iraq.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:19 AM


Who killed Antioch? Womyn: The college went from liberal bastion to PC laughingstock with its sex and dating policy. (Meghan Daum, June 30, 2007, LA Times)Even though it was founded in 1852 and has a number of distinguished alumni, Antioch College, the flagship institution of a larger system called Antioch University (there are campuses in Los Angeles and Santa Barbara, among other locations) has an endowment of just $40 million. That's appallingly low — neighboring Ohio colleges Oberlin and Kenyon have endowments of $700 million and $165 million, respectively.

There's no lack of speculation as to how this happened. Many have suggested that the career choices of typical Antioch alums (think public servant or activist rather than CEO or law partner) do not lend themselves to generous contributions. Others see a more general problem with liberal philanthropy. In a podcast interview for InsideHigherEd.com, Bard College President Leon Botstein (who in the 1970s was president of the seriously far-out and short-lived Franconia College) came down hard on what he sees as a failure of liberals to support their institutions.

"One of the tragedies of the progressive liberal movement," Botstein said, "is that unlike at a conservative institution — such as Princeton or Dartmouth, where the alumni are deeply loyal and give it support and money — for liberals, higher education is not a strong enough cause. Their causes are social causes, and higher education is left for the conservatives to fund."

Whether or not contemporary Princeton or Dartmouth can fairly be characterized as conservative (though, admittedly, you have to declare a major at these places, and it can't be in roach-clip design), Botstein makes a good point. He also conjectured that Antioch, which he called "the founding college of the American progressive movement," had been "killed" by, among other things, its own liberalism.

Botstein's not totally wrong, but as members of his baby boom generation are apt to do, he equates "liberalism" and liberals with the demonstrations of the 1960s and 1970s, including a six-week campus strike in 1973 during which students firebombed buildings to protest racial inequality at the school. But it was the next iteration of liberal excess that really did the place in. To later generations, Antioch is famous for one thing: its Sexual Offense Prevention Policy.

In 1993, it suddenly became national news that Antioch required anyone engaging in sexual activity on campus to ask for and grant permission throughout every step of the encounter. Conceived by a group called Womyn of Antioch, the policy stipulated that consent could not be granted through body movements, nonverbal responses or silence. Furthermore, it stated that "consent is required each and every time there is sexual activity" and that "each new level of sexual activity requires consent." Translation: dorm room make-out sessions were being punctuated by steamy questions like, "May I kiss you now?", "May I remove your (Che Guevara) T-shirt now?" and "May I … " (you get the idea).

Admittedly, this was the early '90s, a time when many liberal arts campuses were so awash in the hysteria of political correctness that it seemed entirely possible a lamppost could commit date rape. But the attention to the Antioch policy, which got as far as a "Saturday Night Live" sketch, not only came to symbolize the infantilizing dogma of the new left, it turned an already obscure college into a laughingstock.
..there'd be no Ivies.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:21 AM


Presidential scholar confronts the president: Gives Bush letter decrying torture (Claire Cummings, June 30, 2007, Boston Globe)

Usually, the high school seniors who win the federal government's highest honor just go to the White House, pick up their Presidential Scholars medal, and get their picture taken for posterity with the president.

Mari Oye had other ideas.

In the Georgetown University dormitory the night before the big moment, the newly minted Wellesley High graduate persuaded 49 of her 140 fellow scholars to sign a letter she and a dozen others had drafted and she had just written longhand on notebook paper, calling on President Bush to reject torture and treat terrorism suspects humanely.

Before the scholars posed for a photo with Bush on Monday, she handed him the letter. He put it in his pocket and took it out after the photo shoot. Reading silently to himself, the president looked up quizzically at Oye and said, according to her, "We agree. America doesn't torture people."

The "quizzically" is perfect in that it nullifies her entire protest.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:18 AM


Democracy? Hu needs it: Ahead of its congress later this year, the Chinese Communist Party is tolerating a surprisingly wide-ranging debate about political reform (The Economist, Jun 28th 2007)

[I]n a much-publicised speech this week, [Hu Jintao] acknowledged the growing public demand for a say in politics. [...]

His speech set clear boundaries. The party's leadership must be upheld; reform must adhere to the “correct political orientation”. This means no Western-style parliamentary democracy or balance of power between the executive, legislature and judiciary. But his reference to “political participation” suggests he faces some pressure to set a clearer agenda. He said scope for participation should be expanded, but in an “orderly” way.

Even within Mr Hu's constraints, liberal intellectuals in China see room for big changes. A newspaper article published last October in the normally staid municipal party organ, Beijing Daily, launched a debate about political reform among academics and party officials that still rumbles on. Its author, Yu Keping, a leading party researcher, argued that democracy was essential for China. Study Times, one of the party's leading theoretical journals, republished the piece under the titillating headline “Democracy is a Good Thing”.

The party press does not usually harp on the merits of democracy. But Mr Yu was careful to stay within permitted boundaries. Even Mr Hu himself had said in April 2006 during a trip to America that without democracy there could be no modernisation—a slogan first taken up in China in the late 1970s by political dissidents. But “democracy” in party-speak has a quite different meaning from the one understood by dissidents and Westerners. It certainly does not mean allowing organised opposition. Mr Yu did not define his terms.

However, in February this year a liberal-leaning monthly journal, Yanhuang Chunqiu, threw caution to the winds. It published an article by Xie Tao, a retired vice-president of Beijing's Renmin University, singing the praises of Sweden's Social Democratic Party as a model for China's Communist Party. Mr Xie did not mention multiparty systems explicitly. But he scorned the party's continuing reverence for the “utopian” ideal of communism and warned that it could be destroyed like the Chinese Nationalist Party in the 1940s if it failed to reform politically.

Mr Xie's article touched a raw nerve. Party organisations in some universities arranged symposiums to attack his views. Other official newspapers, including the party's main mouthpiece, the People's Daily, criticised European-style social democracy as unsuitable for China. But the debate has not stopped.

Like Tex Antoine almost said, if liberalization is inevitable....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:11 AM


Khamenei plays for high stakes (David Blair, 28/06/2007, Daily Telegraph)

At present, Iran produces 4.3 million barrels of oil every day. This may sound impressive - but it could turn out another million if its drilling rigs and pipelines were not falling to pieces. The inescapable truth is that Iran is lamentably failing to exploit its own natural wealth.

The Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, is keenly aware of this. But he faces an acute dilemma. Recovery is only possible if Iran allows Western trade and investment. The vital oil sector will never reach full potential without Western money.

Yet while Iran pursues its nuclear programme, it will remain isolated, devoid of Western investment. It will also be vulnerable to outside pressure. In extremis, the United States and its allies could strangle Iran's economy by imposing a blockade in the Gulf and halting the flow of imported petrol.

But if Ayatollah Khamenei were to sacrifice the nuclear programme in exchange for investment, his troubles would not end.

If the ayatollahs lead the Reformation, and get credit for producing what would be a fairly easy to achieve recovery, they may preserve the Islamic Republic, just not in the form Ayatollah Khomeini and Mahmoud Ahmedinejad dreamed of.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:10 AM


Sharing the secrets of the Constitution (Roger Simon, Jun 28, 2007, Politico)

Don't you wish the U.S. Constitution was not a secret document, its contents known only to a few?

Don't you wish there were copies of it that we could distribute to schoolchildren so they could become better citizens? Or maybe we could put it up on the Web for everybody to read?

What? The Constitution is not a secret document? Schoolchildren do learn about it? And it is on the Web?

I don't think so. And I think I can prove it.

...the words don't matter--it means whatever Justice Kennedy says it does...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:13 AM


Indonesian Islam's softer hard line (Seth Mydans, June 28, 2007, International Herald Tribune)

"There is a view that Islam is on the march," said Greg Fealy, an expert on Indonesia at the Australian National University. "I don't see any evidence for that. Yes, there is a religious and cultural Islamization, in private and public. But in the political realm, there is hardly any evidence to support the view that Islam is rising."

Some analysts said the Shariah ordinances are largely a response to the social dislocations that have accompanied the economic downturn of the past decade, colored by a rise in religiosity that has little to do with radicalism.

More broadly, they said, this Islamic ferment is a product of the democratic clamor that was unleashed in 1998 when the longtime strongman Suharto was driven from power.

The lifting of restrictions on organizations of all kinds, coupled with political decentralization, has permitted local communities to formulate many of their own laws.

The changes in mood can be seen on campuses, where students who might have demonstrated for democracy a decade ago are forming Islamic associations and turning toward religion. The short skirts of the past have been replaced by head scarves.

"Democracy is like a gate that is opened to let people say what they want," said Budi, a student at the secular University of Indonesia who, like many Indonesians, uses only one name. "Having the door open wider, it was easier for us to promote Islamic values and teaching."

Nearly 90 percent of Indonesia's 235 million people call themselves Muslims. But Indonesian Islam has a history of accommodation of other beliefs and tolerance for differences.

After Muslim traders brought their religion in the 12th century, it embraced elements of the Hinduism, Buddhism and animism that flourished here. It is still characterized more by the mysticism of these roots than by the orthodoxy of Islamists.

"I don't think they're going to be liberal, but I'm vaguely optimistic that they'll be pluralist in some fashion," said Robert Hefner, an expert at Boston University on Indonesian Islam. "Indonesia has these awful political crises. But one thing that has consistently survived is this kind of sweet nationalism, not a racist nationalism - it's a multiethnic thing."

As America demonstrates, and Britain and Europe used to, a universalist religion is the only effective counter to nationalism. To precisely the degree that Indonesia becomes secular in the future it will unleash centrifugal forces.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Mariners continue to apply pressure: Seattle wins sixth in a row to move 10 games over .500 (JOHN HICKEY, 6/30/07, SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER)

There's an old adage in baseball that you haven't gotten anywhere in a season until you've gotten to 10 games over .500.

The Mariners have finally done that. Friday's 5-3 win over Toronto at Safeco Field, behind another five-out save from J.J. Putz and three big hits from Jose Guillen, leaves Seattle with a 43-33 record and a six-game winning streak.

"We're playing good," Guillen said. "But it's a long season. It's too early to say what will happen; anything can happen."

Whatever happens, Putz figures to be in the middle of it. The closer is 23-for-23 in saves after pitching Seattle out of a bases-loaded jam in the eighth, then putting the Blue Jays away in the ninth.

It'd be one thing to be riding your sketchy-armed closer this hard if you'd groomed Brandon Morrow to succeed him when he goes on the DL, but the odd usage of the rookie has him struggling just to find the plate.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


YES may join Yanks in the tank (Bob Raissman, June 29th 2007, NY Daily News)

The Yankees Entertainment & Sports Network is officially in uncharted waters. For the first time since the network debuted five years ago, the Bombers' ship is sinking.

If the losing continues, will viewers bail? And if they do, and Yankees ratings on YES plummet, will advertisers jump ship, too? And will this all lead to a revenue drop, the kind of dough that allows the Bombers to have a $200 million payroll?

In the midst of the most recent Yankees funk these questions are hardly hypothetical. Over at YES headquarters - the Chrysler Building Think Tank - the powers that be have to be pondering, for the first time, a very uncertain Yankees future.

For starters, if the team does not make the playoffs, what's going to happen next season? What the heck will team look like next season?

The future can wait. Especially when everyone in Yankeeland is choking on the present.

Having less money to squander would actually help the rebuilding process.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Outrage comes too easy for the Democrats (Derrick Z. Jackson, June 30, 2007, Boston Globe)

THURSDAY NIGHT'S debate was too easy for the Democratic presidential candidates. Before a hugely black audience at Howard University, they bashed the Supreme Court decision ending voluntary desegregation. They lambasted the Bush administration's bungling of Hurricane Katrina. Barack Obama said you can't have No Child Left Behind if you leave the money behind. The biggest cheer of the night came when Hillary Clinton said, "If AIDS were the leading cause of death between the ages of 25 and 34, there would be an outraged outcry in this country."

That is precisely the point.

Actually, the precise point is that it doesn't and why it doesn't.

June 29, 2007

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:53 PM


Bad investments: Clemens headlines list of high-priced busts of 2007 (John Donovan, June 29, 2007, Sports Illustrated)

If you saw Roger Clemens pitch against the Orioles on Wednesday, you saw him stink up the joint. He wasn't completely, absolutely, without redemption terrible -- is he ever? -- but he certainly wasn't Clemensesque, allowing four runs in six innings while striking out none. The last time the Rocket failed to strike out a batter in a start was June 14, 2000, when he left the game after one inning.

So Clemens being Zitoesque in his last start got me to thinking: Is he the worst use of megadollars in baseball this year? Is anything else even close? I mean, we knew that Clemens would have to be unbelievable to make this half-year, pro-rated $28 million crapshoot defensible. (Not that the Yankees, who manufacture their own money, are heading into foreclosure anytime soon.) Instead, the Rocket is 1-3 with a 5.32 ERA, the Yankees are 1-4 in his five appearances (he came out of the bullpen once) and the team is worse off now than it was before he signed. The Yankees are 11 games behind the Red Sox in the American League East. They were 10 1/2 back the night before Rocket's first game three weeks ago. Difference maker? The guy hasn't made a dent.

...Roger wasn't signed to make a difference on the field but on the back page of the tabloids and on NYC talk radio. Waving the white flag in April with the Mets in 1st would have been a marketing catastrophe as they head into what looks likely to be a down cycle of several years.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:42 PM


Energy plan avoids mileage changes (DAVID IVANOVICH, 6/29/07, Houston Chronicle)

House Democrats rolled out an energy package Thursday that aims to promote greater conservation and use of alternative energy sources but which steers clear of raising fuel mileage requirements for cars and trucks.

Democrats could have just kept the GOP in the majority if they wanted an energy bill that kowtows to Detroit.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:36 PM


Senators looking to pick up pieces: After overhaul bill collapses, work starts on smaller plans (MICHELLE MITTELSTADT, 6/29/07, Houston Chronicle)

[M]any Republicans now are reverting to their key priority: increased enforcement at the Southwest border and in the U.S. interior.

And Democrats, for their part, are considering offering the DREAM Act, which would grant citizenship to illegal immigrant students. And they are looking at ways to address acute labor shortages in agriculture by bringing in more foreign farm workers and placing them on a path to legal permanent residence.

"We have to have a different approach," Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, said shortly after the Senate fell 14 votes short of the 60 needed to keep the tenuous immigration deal alive. "It's clear from the vote that this bill was not the right approach."

Hutchison, who was among 37 Republicans, 15 Democrats and one independent voting to shelve the bill, is pressing for what she calls a "graduated approach."

Under her concept, Congress would first pass bills increasing border security and creating a temporary worker program to fill unmet U.S. labor needs before turning to the most controversial aspect: What to do with the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants.

Fellow Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn, who also opposed the bill, agreed. "The one thing we have a consensus on that we need to do is to secure the border and to deal with the document fraud and identity theft that makes our current system so hard to enforce," he said.

...they have to appear to do something about the border and, under that guise, the amnesty will be enacted. It's just an argument over the pace of amnesty.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:39 PM


US offers Canberra a trade fallback: AUSTRALIA could be invited to join the North American Free Trade Agreement as part of a strategy among Asia-Pacific nations to deal with the collapse of world trade talk (Geoff Elliott and Sid Marris, June 29, 2007, The Australian)

In an exclusive interview before her trip to Cairns for next week's meeting of APEC trade ministers, US trade representative Susan Schwab said alternatives to the so-called Doha round of global trade talks were being considered, with the US focusing on the Asia-Pacific region.

"You look at what's going on in the Asia-Pacific - there's so much promise, it's so exciting, and so how do you make sure you sustain that and how do you make sure it grows rather than turning in on itself," Ms Schwab told The Australian.

"I think you will see a real acceleration of bilateral and regional deals including something like a free trade agreement of the Asia-Pacific if the Doha round really disappears from the scene.

"One of the big questions with the proliferation of bilateral and regional agreements is this: is there an inclination - and if so what would it take - to knit together multiple free trade agreements? Because all of us have multiple free trade agreements. That is another issue - we would talk about it."

Asked whether that could mean including Australia in the NAFTA - the regional agreement between the US, Mexico and Canada struck under the Clinton administration - she said: "Exactly."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:36 PM


Unemployment insurance to become mandatory in 2009 ( 29th June 2007)

The Swedish government said Friday it planned to introduce a mandatory unemployment insurance for all employees from July 2009, as almost a quarter of the labour force currently has no such cover.

"The ambition is that the insurance system will be obligatory by July 1st 2009," a labour ministry advisor, Fredrik Östbom, told AFP.

The key to privatizing unemployment insurance is that you be able to fold it into your retirement account.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:31 PM


Harrry Potter VII: Defenders of secrets, unite! (Motoko Rich, June 29, 2007, International Herald Tribune)

They have waited two long years, and now they have only 24 days to go. As the diehard fans of Harry Potter count the minutes until they can get their hands on "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows," the seventh and final installment in the monumentally successful series by J. K. Rowling, they are engaging in a frenzy of speculation and rumor-mongering about what will happen to their beloved characters.

Predictions are flying across the Web and out of bookstores, where titles like "Mugglenet.com's What Will Happen in Harry Potter 7," "The End of Harry Potter?" and "The Great Snape Debate" spew theories about who will die, who will get together with whom, and who is really good or evil.

At the same time, with little more than three weeks to go before "Deathly Hallows" goes on sale at 12:01 a.m. on July 21, some people claiming to have actual knowledge of the book's plot are posting ostensible spoilers online. At one site, for instance, what appears to be a page from a manuscript appears, showing one paragraph outlined in red, suggesting that one of the most morally enigmatic characters in the series dies in the final book, with a few bars from the chorus of "Tarzan Boy" by Baltimora playing on an endless loop in the background.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:03 PM


Twins-Detroit series preview (Minneapolis Star Tribune, June 28, 2007)

Tonight offers a classic pitcher's duel. Santana is 10-3 with a 2.70 ERA for his career against Detroit. Verlander is 3-2 with a 2.90 ERA against the Twins. Since tossing a no-hitter against Milwaukee on June 12, Verlander is 2-0 with a 2.77 ERA. But he lasted only three innings in the Twins' 11-3 victory at Detroit on April 28.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:52 AM


How immigrants improve the curve: In the 'clash of civilizations,' newcomers may deserve to come out on top. (Rosa Brooks, June 29, 2007, LA Times)

[C]ontrast "our" culture with that of recent immigrants. On all too many measures, immigrants look a whole lot better.

Immigrants exhibit no shortage of pluck. It takes guts to leave your home and everything you know — even if a green card awaits. And when it comes to illegal immigrants, just getting here takes astounding courage. Illegal immigrants endure astonishing privation and risk — just for the chance to improve their lot by doing the backbreaking work so few native-born Americans have the inclination to do. While we demand McMansions, they share cramped apartments. We're up to our ears in consumer debt; they save almost every dollar to send to their less-well-off relatives.

The younger generation of illegal immigrants is particularly impressive. Each year, thousands of unaccompanied children cross into the U.S. without their parents, many literally walking here from villages in El Salvador and Guatemala. Could our sheltered and chaperoned children manage such a trip on their own?

Immigrants tend to be straight arrows too. A 2002 survey by the nonpartisan group Public Agenda found that an overwhelming majority of immigrants believe that they have a duty to "work hard and stay off welfare" and "respect people from different religious and ethnic backgrounds." A Harvard study found that immigrant students also have more positive attitudes toward education than U.S.-born young people.

And contrary to widespread perceptions, immigrants are less likely than non-immigrants to commit crimes. A study in Chicago looking specifically at Mexican immigrants found that "first-generation immigrants (those born outside the United States) … were 45% less likely to commit violence than were third-generation Americans." Harvard sociology professor Robert Sampson suggests that increased immigration may have been a factor in reduced crime rates in the 1990s.

Another study done in New York City found that immigrants looked pretty good across the board. Compared to their native-born peers, for instance, "foreign-born [adolescents] had less asthma, less obesity, fewer school days missed and less involvement in substance use, sex, delinquency and violence." On average, immigrants even live three years longer than the rest of us.

No wonder Tancredo and his supporters are terrified of immigrants!

Immigrants put us to shame. They're healthier, stronger, thriftier and braver.

Immigrants are optimistic believers in the American dream while Tancredo and company are declinists.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:46 AM


Pixar cooks up the perfect "Ratatouille" (Moira Macdonald, 6/29/07, Seattle Times)

How good, and how much fun, is "Ratatouille"? So good that when it was over, all I wanted to do was watch it again. And how rare is this experience, in this summer of bloated sequels? Rarer than, let's say, a rat who loves to cook — and a screenwriter who knows how to transform a potentially unappealing tidbit of a story (A rodent? Around food?) into a feast.

The wizards at Pixar, working with writer/director Brad Bird (they previously teamed up for the equally stellar "The Incredibles"), have once again delivered a technically impeccable film with humor and heart — and with surely France's most hygienic rat, Remy, at its center.

Voilà! A Rat for All Seasonings (A. O. SCOTT, 6/29/07, NY Times)
The moral of “Ratatouille” is delivered by a critic: a gaunt, unsmiling fellow named Anton Ego who composes his acidic notices in a coffin-shaped room and who speaks in the parched baritone of Peter O’Toole. “Not everyone can be a great artist,” Mr. Ego muses. “But a great artist can come from anywhere.”

Quite so. Written and directed by Brad Bird and displaying the usual meticulousness associated with the Pixar brand, “Ratatouille” is a nearly flawless piece of popular art, as well as one of the most persuasive portraits of an artist ever committed to film. It provides the kind of deep, transporting pleasure, at once simple and sophisticated, that movies at their best have always promised.

Its sensibility, implicit in Mr. Ego’s aphorism, is both exuberantly democratic and unabashedly elitist, defending good taste and aesthetic accomplishment not as snobbish entitlements but as universal ideals. Like “The Incredibles,” Mr. Bird’s earlier film for Pixar, “Ratatouille” celebrates the passionate, sometimes aggressive pursuit of excellence, an impulse it also exemplifies.

...so you can get away with explicit conservatism.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:39 AM


Bush claims privilege over subpoenas (TERENCE HUNT, 6/29/07, The Associated Press)

President Bush, in a constitutional showdown with Congress, claimed executive privilege Thursday and rejected demands for White House documents and testimony about the firing of U.S. attorneys. [...]

Over the years, Congress and the White House have avoided a full-blown court test about the constitutional balance of power and whether the president can refuse Congress’ demands.

Lawmakers could vote to cite witnesses for contempt and refer the matter to the local U.S. attorney to bring before a grand jury.

Since 1975, 10 senior administration officials have been cited but the disputes were all resolved before getting to court.

...is that the Executive should refuse to appear before the Judiciary as well.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:35 AM


Nigerian refugee becomes first black mayor in Ireland (SHAWN POGATCHNIK, 6/29/07, The Associated Press)

Ireland elected its first black mayor Thursday, the latest sign of how rapidly immigration is changing this once all-white nation.

Rotimi Adebari, a Nigerian who arrived in Ireland seven years ago as an asylum-seeker, was elected unopposed to lead the council of Portlaoise, a bustling commuter town west of Dublin. [...]

Little more than a decade ago, a black person in Ireland risked being gawked at, so rare was the sight of visitors from different racial backgrounds. But Ireland has absorbed more than 30,000 asylum seekers – particularly from Nigeria – since the mid-1990s, a wave attracted by Ireland’s booming economy and its relatively lax immigration rules.

These days, West African entrepreneurs run stretches of shops in urban Dublin and other Irish towns and cities, and social activists like Adebari are encouraging the newcomers to integrate into their communities.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:18 AM


Biggio shares moment with Bagwell (Alyson Footer, 6/29/07, MLB.com)

As Jeff Bagwell raced from general manager Tim Purpura's booth down to the dugout Thursday night, he felt tears well up in his eyes.

Bagwell knew what 3,000 hits meant to Craig Biggio, having witnessed most of those in person as Biggio's partner in crime on the right side of the infield. Bagwell, who took a two-day hiatus from his golfing excursion in Colorado in order to be there for the big event, couldn't wait to get to the dugout to give his longtime friend and teammate a congratulatory wave, and perhaps a quick hug.

But Biggio, already in tears after being mobbed by his teammates and engulfed by hugs and kisses from his wife and three kids, had more in mind for Bagwell at this moment. Much, much more.

Biggio has never shaken the void he's felt ever since Bagwell left the game. He's never quite gotten over Bagwell's career ending the way it did. An argument could be made that Biggio took Bagwell's retirement harder than Bagwell himself.

On Thursday, Biggio knew just how to bring closure to a chapter left unfinished.

Biggio was determined to be on the field with Bagwell, one last time, even if it was in a symbolic manner. This gesture was as much for himself as for the fans who Biggio feels never had the opportunity to say the proper goodbye to the beloved first baseman.

Never mind that Bagwell wasn't in uniform, or that his crisp blue shirt and designer jeans didn't match Biggio's Astros attire. No one -- certainly none of the 42,537 screaming fans at Minute Maid Park -- could have predicted that Biggio would pull Bagwell onto the field to share the glory of the moment.

This night was about Biggio. But Biggio knows better than anyone that his legacy is firmly tied to Bagwell.

For Biggio, it's the names, not the numbers (Jayson Stark, 6/29/07, ESPN.com)
In case you hadn't noticed, only two other men in the history of this sport ever got 3,000 hits while spending most of their career at second base -- Eddie Collins and Nap Lajoie. Which means the last time a second base legend did anything like this, Calvin Coolidge was president.

So try to digest this for a moment. Craig Biggio has gotten more hits than Rogers Hornsby, more hits than Joe Morgan, more hits than Ryne Sandberg or Robbie Alomar or Red Schoendienst.

Pretty cool names.

And it's those names -- not the numbers -- that get Craig Biggio's attention.

The numbers -- they go flying by nightly, spinning like a slot machine, impossible to comprehend or take stock of. But the names? The names are tough to ignore.

"It's not a numbers thing for me," Biggio said last summer, during a conversation about all the lists he was climbing. "Oh, certain numbers will hit you. There's no doubt about that. But to me, if you don't appreciate the clientele you start finding yourself hanging with [on those lists], you're nuts.

"I passed Babe Ruth in doubles one time. Babe Ruth. That was unbelievable to me. And I passed Carl Yastrzemski. I'll never forget that one. You know, you're just out there playing. You're not even thinking about stuff like this. And then you find yourself thrown in with all these icons of the game, and it's a great feeling. So it's not the numbers, really. It's the names."

Yeah, it's the names, all right. They're the golden names of baseball. The best there ever was.

And now Craig Biggio is one of them.

Questioning his Hall of Fame credentials--as ESPN Radio was this morning--is just moronic. Bagwell deserves it too. Together they may have been the best right side of the infield longer than any two teammates ever.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:11 AM


Supreme Court Blocks Execution of Delusional Killer (RALPH BLUMENTHAL, 6/30/07, NY Times)

Amplifying its ban against execution of the insane, a closely divided United States Supreme Court on Thursday overturned the death sentence of a delusional Texas murderer who insisted that he was being punished for preaching the Gospel.

In a rebuke to lower courts, the justices ruled 5 to 4 that the defendant, Scott Louis Panetti, had not been shown to have sufficient understanding of why he was to be put to death for gunning down his wife’s parents in 1992.

The court, acting on the last day of the 2006-7 term, declined to lay out a new standard for competency in capital cases. But it found that existing protections had not been afforded.

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy provided the swing vote, joined by the court’s liberal wing: Justices John Paul Stevens, David H. Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer.

Just as the incompetent ought not be executed for failing to exercise the self-control of which they are incapable, so does society have an obligation to re-institutionalize them for their own safety and that of others.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:02 AM


Don’t Mourn Brown v. Board of Education (JUAN WILLIAMS, 6/29/07, NY Times)

The focus of efforts to improve elementary and secondary schools shifted to magnet schools, to allowing parents the choice to move their children out of failing schools and, most recently, to vouchers and charter schools. The federal No Child Left Behind plan has many critics, but there’s no denying that it is an effective tool for forcing teachers’ unions and school administrators to take responsibility for educating poor and minority students. [...]

In 1990, after months of interviews with Justice Thurgood Marshall, who had been the lead lawyer for the N.A.A.C.P. Legal Defense Fund on the Brown case, I sat in his Supreme Court chambers with a final question. Almost 40 years later, was he satisfied with the outcome of the decision? Outside the courthouse, the failing Washington school system was hypersegregated, with more than 90 percent of its students black and Latino. Schools in the surrounding suburbs, meanwhile, were mostly white and producing some of the top students in the nation.

Had Mr. Marshall, the lawyer, made a mistake by insisting on racial integration instead of improvement in the quality of schools for black children?

His response was that seating black children next to white children in school had never been the point. It had been necessary only because all-white school boards were generously financing schools for white children while leaving black students in overcrowded, decrepit buildings with hand-me-down books and underpaid teachers. He had wanted black children to have the right to attend white schools as a point of leverage over the biased spending patterns of the segregationists who ran schools — both in the 17 states where racially separate schools were required by law and in other states where they were a matter of culture.

If black children had the right to be in schools with white children, Justice Marshall reasoned, then school board officials would have no choice but to equalize spending to protect the interests of their white children.

The tragedy of Brown was the emphasis on separation rather than equality. Had the Court simply ordered school systems to equalize the per pupil spending for black and white pupils it would have truly empowered black pupils, parents, teachers and administrators while using the racists' own defense against them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:59 AM


Don’t Cry Over rBST Milk (HENRY I. MILLER, 6/29/07, NY Times)

Bad-faith efforts by biotechnology opponents to portray rBST as untested or harmful, and to discourage its use, keep society from taking full advantage of a safe and useful product. The opponents’ limited success is keeping the price of milk unnecessarily high.

When rBST is injected into cows, their digestive systems become more efficient at converting feed to milk. It induces the average cow, which produces about eight gallons of milk each day, to make nearly a gallon more. More feed, water, barn space and grazing land are devoted to milk production, rather than other aspects of bovine metabolism, so that you get seven cows’ worth of milk from six.

This may not seem like a big deal, but when applied widely the effects are profound. For every million cows treated with rBST each year, 6.6 billion gallons of water (enough to supply 26,000 homes) are conserved, according to Monsanto, which makes rBST. With much of the nation enduring a drought and many cities in the West experiencing water shortages, this is a significant benefit.

The amount of animal feed consumed each year by those million rBST-supplemented cows is reduced by more than three billion pounds. This helps to keep the lid on corn prices, even as much of the nation’s corn harvest is diverted to producing ethanol for cars. And the amount of land required to raise the cattle and grow their food is reduced by more than 417 square miles.

At the same time, more than 5.5 million gallons of gasoline and diesel fuel (enough to power 8,800 homes) are saved, greenhouse gas emissions are lowered by 30,000 metric tons (because fewer cows means less methane produced by bovine intestinal tracts), and manure production is decreased by about 3.6 million tons, reducing the chances of runoff getting into waterways and groundwater.

Comprehensive studies by academics and government regulatory agencies around the world have found no differences in the composition of milk or meat from rBST-supplemented cows.

And consumers are apparently happy to drink milk from supplemented cows, in spite of efforts by biotechnology opponents to bamboozle milk processors and retailers into believing that consumers don’t want it. In various surveys to ascertain the factors that influence consumers’ milk purchasing decisions, the predominant considerations have been: price (80 percent to 99 percent), freshness (60 percent to 97 percent), brand loyalty (30 percent to 60 percent) and a claim of “organic” (1 percent to 4 percent). Only the “organic” claim is even remotely related to rBST supplementation. Unless prompted, the consumers surveyed didn’t mention rBST as a concern.

Some milk suppliers and food stores have increased the price of milk labeled “rBST-free,” even though it is indistinguishable from supplemented milk, and offer only this more expensive option, pre-empting consumers’ ability to choose on the basis of price.

...so we'd have milk for $2.99.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:46 AM


London police defuse bomb that could've caused 'significant damage' (AP, 6/29/07)

British police defused a bomb found in a parked car in central London on Friday, and the new government called an emergency meeting of senior security chiefs to investigate what many feared could have been a planned terror attack.

A British security official told The Associated Press that the car was packed with explosives, gas canisters and nuts and bolts and would have caused "significant damage."

He said there were similarities between the device and vehicle bombs used by insurgents in Iraq.

June 28, 2007

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:04 PM


Federal Reserve holds rates as inflation pressures 'moderate' (Stephen Foley, 29 June 2007, Independent)

The United States Federal Reserve kept interest rates on hold last night and rowed back from suggestions it could raise the rate to dampen inflation.

Its description of "moderating" inflationary pressures was new and, although the central bank said it wasn't yet convinced the trend was sustainable, the stock market took that to mean that rates will stay where they are for some months yet. US rates have now been on hold at 5.25 per cent for a year. "Readings on core inflation have improved modestly in recent months," the Fed's open markets committee said in its statement.

Hans Christian Andersen would recognize the process whereby the Fed is periodically forced to acknowledge that it's been fighting an inflation that does not exist and the rest of us pretend it's moderated.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:51 PM


Harry's and Nancy's mixed half-year (The Economist, 6/28/07)

The Democrats owe their majority in large part to war-weariness. Many of their supporters thought they would pull American troops out of Iraq. They have not. They could have done so, by refusing Mr Bush the funds to carry on fighting. But that would have shifted to the Democrats the blame for the carnage that would probably follow a sudden withdrawal.

Instead, Ms Pelosi and her Senate counterpart, Harry Reid, sent President George Bush a war budget that included a timetable for withdrawal, knowing he would veto it. Their point made, they sent him another bill, without a timetable, that will fund the war until September. The bill also included benchmarks that the Iraqi government must meet if it is to continue receiving non-military aid. It was far short of what the anti-war movement wanted, but it keeps Mr Bush on a shorter leash than he would like.

What else has the 110th Congress accomplished? Of the Democrats' campaign promises, the meatiest one so far enacted is an increase in the federal minimum wage from $5.15 to $7.25 an hour, which is widely popular and will benefit some Americans while perhaps throwing others out of work. The Democrats have also tightened up rules about lawmakers accepting gifts from lobbyists, although Ms Pelosi undermined her own anti-corruption crusade by trying unsuccessfully to place an ethically-challenged ally in the number-two job in the House.

Other pledges have been blocked, delayed or watered down.

A hike in a wage that no one recieves in exchange for GOP tax cuts is their only victory, yet it's a mixed record?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:12 PM


It's time to give the Third Way a second chance: Securing greater social justice depends on a strong economy, not the other way round (Anthony Giddens, 28 June 2007, Independent)

The long goodbye is finally over and Britain has a new Prime Minister. Tony Blair is gone. Will his distinctive political philosophy, the Third Way, disappear too?

To answer the question, we have to dispel some of the misunderstandings of what that philosophy was, and is, all about. Nothing much should be read into the term itself. The "Third Way" is a label for the need to update left-of-centre thinking in the light of the big changes sweeping through the world, especially the influence of globalisation.

The "First Way" was the traditional left: traditional social democracy, which dominated political thought and practice in the early post-war period. It was based on Keynesian economics and upon the notion that the state should replace the market in major areas of economic life. That approach foundered as the economy became more globalised and as it came to be recognised that the state is often inefficient and clumsily bureaucratic. The "Second Way" was Thatcherism, or market fundamentalism - the belief that the realm of the market should be extended as far as possible, since markets are the most rational and efficient means of allocating resources.

Thatcherism produced some important innovations and restored British economic competitiveness.

Can't blame the poor guy for wanting to cling to the illusion that he's a man of the Left, but market fundamentalism, of course, preceded socialism and Thatcher and Blair, like Clinton and Bush, represent the Third Way, the use of market mechanisms to provide the social safety net and buffer folks from the depredations of the naked market..

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:30 PM


U.S. Supreme Court votes to curb school districts' diversity plans (David Stout, June 28, 2007, NY Times)

The court voted, 5 to 4, to reject diversity plans from Seattle and Louisville, Kentucky, declaring that the districts had failed to meet "their heavy burden" of justifying "the extreme means they have chosen - discriminating among individual students based on race by relying upon racial classifications in making school assignments."

The decision Thursday, one of the most important in years on the issue of race and education, may not eliminate race as a factor in assigning students to different schools. But it will surely prompt many districts to revise programs they already have in place, or go back to the drawing boards in designing plans.

The majority's rationale relied in part on the historic 1954 decision in Brown v. Board of Education that outlawed segregation in public schools - a factor that the dissenters on the court found to be a cruel irony, and which they objected to in emotional terms.

Give the kids vouchers and let them choose their own schools.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:50 PM


MPs press Ahmadinejad to end petrol rationing (Robert Tait, June 28, 2007, Guardian Unlimited)

MPs said they would press the government to alter or even scrap the scheme after angry protesters set fire to at least a dozen petrol stations in Tehran and chanted slogans against President Ahmadinejad following Tuesday night's sudden introduction of quotas.

Banks, supermarkets and fire engines were also attacked while further disturbances were reported in other big cities, including Isfahan and Shiraz.

There were unconfirmed reports that three people were killed in the violence, which led to 80 arrests.

In a sign of official nervousness that the disturbances might spread, the government temporarily closed the country's mobile phone text-messaging network after the widespread circulation of an SMS urging protesters to gather in Tehran's landmark Valiasr Square.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:15 PM


New Senators Resist Overhaul of Immigration (CARL HULSE, 6/28/07, NY Times)

In narrowly winning her seat last year, Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri ran hard against what she saw as a flawed approach in Congress to dealing with illegal immigration. Ms. McCaskill, a Democratic newcomer, says she is not about to change her view now.

“I hope this never wears off, but I like to keep my word,” said Ms. McCaskill, part of a triad of moderate Democratic freshmen balking at the proposed immigration overhaul and complicating efforts by President Bush and Senate leaders to pass it this week.

Her compatriots in opposition are Senators Jim Webb of Virginia and Jon Tester of Montana. All three represent Republican-leaning states and are breaking with their leadership and most of their Democratic colleagues on the legislation, whose fate in the Senate could be determined on Thursday after a day of votes on amendments left the outcome up in the air on Wednesday.

Democrats can hardly act surprised that in order to win back Congress they recruited people who'd have voted against the Civil Rights bills.

Immigration Bill Prompts Some Menacing Responses (JEFF ZELENY, 6/28/07, NY Times)

The threat came in the weekend mail.

The recipient was Senator Mel Martinez, Republican of Florida, who has been a leading advocate of the proposed legislation for changing the immigration system. His offices in Washington and across Florida have received thousands of angry messages in recent weeks, but nothing as alarming as that letter he received at his home. [...]

While the majority of the telephone calls and faxes, letters and e-mail messages have been civil, aides to several senators said, the correspondence has taken a menacing tone in several cases.

Senator Richard Burr, a North Carolina Republican who is undecided on the final immigration bill, said his office received a telephone call recently that “made a threat about knowing where I lived.” Mr. Burr passed it along to the authorities. “There were enough specifics to raise some alarm bells,” he said.

Senator Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican who is one of the architects of the immigration overhaul, said he also had received threats in telephone calls and letters to his office. Mr. Graham said several other senators had told him privately that they also received similar messages.

“There’s racism in this debate,” Mr. Graham said. “Nobody likes to talk about it, but a very small percentage of people involved in this debate really have racial and bigoted remarks. The tone that we create around these debates, whether it be rhetoric in a union hall or rhetoric on talk radio, it can take people who are on the fence and push them over emotionally.”

Breaking down the Senate vote (Mark Murray, 6/28/07, NBC)
The Presidential candidates: All of the Democratic candidates voted YES. McCain, who was part of the bipartisan coalition that crafted and supported the bill, also voted YES. Brownback's initial vote was YES, but later, probably when the outcome was clear, switched to NO.

Senators up for reelection in 2008: On the Democratic side, all the blue state senators voted YES (Biden, Durbin, Kerry, Lautenberg, Levin, Reed). But those Democrats running in red or purples states voted NO (Baucus, Harkin, Landrieu, Pryor, Rockefeller).

Most of the Republican senators up for re-election this cycle voted NO (Alexander, Allard, Chambliss, Cochran, Coleman, Collins, Cornyn, Dole, Domenici, Enzi, Inhofe, McConnell, Roberts, Sessions, Smith, Stevens, Sununu, Warner). The exceptions, with YES votes, were Craig, Hagel, and Graham (who is one of the original and most vocal coalition members that wrote the bill).

Senate Leadership: The Republican leadership was split. GOP Leader McConnell, who's also up for re-election, voted NO. (He had voted YES on another procedural vote earlier this week.) McConnell was joined by Texas Sens. Hutchison and Cornyn, as well as Ensign, who's responsible for running the GOP senate campaigns this cycle. Lott and Kyl split with the leadership and voted YES.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:02 AM


Our Second Biggest Mistake in the Middle East (Alastair Crooke, 7/05/07, London Review of Books)

The origins of the Hamas action in Gaza lie in the reaction of the international community, and of Fatah, to Hamas’s overwhelming victory in the parliamentary elections of January 2006. Fatah, Yasir Arafat’s movement, saw itself as the founder of the Palestinian Authority; it believed it was the natural party of government; and it had fought a long battle with Arab neighbours to establish itself as synonymous with the PLO, and therefore, implicitly, as the ‘sole representative of the Palestinian people’. Some within Fatah were unable to come to terms with their loss of power, or to reconcile themselves to the claim that, on the basis of the election result, an Islamist party best represented the views of the Palestinian people. At this crucial juncture, the International Quartet intervened: they pressed President Abbas not to yield to Hamas, to hang onto power; and they promised to support him if he did so.

Not only was Abbas not to yield security control to the government and its Interior Ministry, as the constitution provided, but the International Quartet also demanded that he claw back powers from the new government and embody them in the presidency: financial responsibilities would be removed from the Ministry of Finance; the salaries of government officials would be paid by the president’s office; all key policy decisions would be enacted by presidential decree. The government was to be rendered powerless. As Azzam Tamimi notes in Hamas: Unwritten Chapters, the Hamas government had no police force at its disposal, and no authority over frontier crossings.

At the same time, the West imposed financial sanctions on the government and isolated it politically, insisting on conducting business and channelling funding exclusively through Abbas. In short, instead of helping Fatah through the transition and facilitating Palestinian unity – and taking advantage of a real chance to include Hamas, Islamism’s moderates, in the political process – the international community pursued an aggressive policy of internal division that established the conditions for the recent violence in Gaza. Europeans may wring their hands at what they see on their TVs, but European policy, acting in concert with the US, bears a large measure of responsibility for what has happened.

The US and some European countries, including Britain, also chose to finance, train and arm the security apparatus led by Muhammad Dahlan, whom many Palestinians suspected – rightly – was being groomed as the ‘strong man’ who would eventually assume the presidency and restore Fatah to power. The ultimate aim was to build a Fatah militia around Dahlan that could confront Hamas militarily – and win. American officials hoped in the meantime to place Fatah in a position to depose Hamas from power – in other words, to promote a soft coup d’état against the government. A strategy document prepared by one of the US-led coalition of ‘moderate’ Arab states which was circulating among Palestinians in March 2007 said that the US objective was to have Abbas dismiss the Hamas government in August. The International Quartet endorsed these plans in principle. The support the US and Europe give to Fatah is considerable and arrives by a variety of routes: through NGOs and development agencies; through Fatah reform initiatives; through youth development programmes; through information and media projects; and – most significantly – through a large programme aimed at recruiting, training, equipping and financing Fatah security cadres, Dahlan’s chief among them. In addition, every NGO contract has a clause inserted into it by USAID requiring the organisation to pledge that it ‘will not engage in activity with groups deemed as terrorists’.

In the scathing final report he wrote before resigning in May as UN Special Co-ordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Alvaro de Soto said: ‘The US clearly pushed for a confrontation between Fatah and Hamas, so much so that, a week before Mecca’ – where the two factions met in February and under the auspices of King Abdullah agreed a unity government – ‘the US envoy declared twice in an envoys’ meeting in Washington how much “I like this violence,” referring to the near civil war that was erupting in Gaza in which civilians were being regularly killed and injured, because “it means that other Palestinians are resisting Hamas.”’ It was this situation that pushed Hamas into pre-emptive action. With Fatah refusing to delegate constitutional authority over the security services, and with the build-up of the Dahlan militia, the military arm of Hamas moved to seize all the key assets associated with Dahlan and his colleagues in Gaza. Having achieved complete control, the elected government is now finally in a position to provide security in Gaza.

...sooner or later.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:45 AM


Text Messages Giving Voice to Chinese: Opponents of Chemical Factory Found Way Around Censors (Edward Cody, 6/28/07, Washington Post)

By the hundreds of thousands, the urgent text messages ricocheted around cellphones in Xiamen, warning of a catastrophe that would spoil the city's beautiful seaside environment and foul its sweet-smelling tropical breezes. [...]

The environmental activists behind the messages might have exaggerated the danger with their florid language, experts said. But their passionate opposition to the chemical plant generated an explosion of public anger that forced a halt in construction, pending further environmental impact studies by authorities in Beijing, and produced large demonstrations June 1 and 2, drawing national publicity.

The delay marked a rare instance of public opinion in China rising from the streets and compelling a change of policy by Communist Party bureaucrats. It was a dramatic illustration of the potential of technology -- particularly cellphones and the Internet -- to challenge the rigorous censorship and political controls through which the party maintains its monopoly on power over China's 1.4 billion people.

"I think this is a great precedent for China," said Zhong Xiaoyong, a Xiamen resident who, in his persona as the blogger Lian Yue, wrote extensively on efforts to stop construction of the factory.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:38 AM


Senate faces showdown on immigration: The bill's opponents succeed at deleting a provision for tamper-proof IDs. A crucial vote to end debate is expected today (Nicole Gaouette and Noam N. Levey, June 28, 2007, LA Times)

Supporters of the Senate immigration bill rebuffed all but one of the most serious challenges to the controversial legislation Wednesday, setting up a crucial vote today that could decide its fate.

In a series of votes steadily interrupted by Republicans intent on stalling the proceedings, lawmakers rejected amendments aimed at gutting two key features of the bill: one that would allow illegal immigrants to seek legal status and another that would shift the basis for future immigration away from the current emphasis on family ties.

But the most ambitious attempt to overhaul immigration laws in two decades suffered a major setback late Wednesday when lawmakers approved an amendment that the bill's backers and the administration said would undermine its effectiveness. The measure targeted the bill's work-site enforcement section, removing all provisions that required so-called "Real ID" driver's licenses — tamper-proof, secure identification that does not yet exist, but that the bill's backers consider essential to cracking down on illegal hiring.

It's not like it was going to be enforced in the first place. After all, the Right isn't goiung to pass the tax hikes that would be needed to pay for enforcement, nevermind the national service obligation required to staff it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:33 AM


Gas rationing in Iran ignites anger, unrest: Protesters burn at least 12 stations over the quota system, imposed to curb consumption of heavily subsidized fuel (Ramin Mostaghim and Borzou Daragahi, June 28, 2007, LA Times)

They have endured religious police, political repression and international isolation.

But a quota imposed Wednesday on the purchase of subsidized gasoline sent Iranians to the streets, where they set fire to at least 12 gas stations, damaged government-owned banks and department stores and shouted slogans against the president, according to Iranian news agencies and witnesses.

To curb rapidly increasing gasoline consumption, the government of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Wednesday began enforcing a rationing program that limits most motorists to 26.4 gallons a month at the subsidized price of about 42 cents per gallon.

Although Iran possesses huge reserves of crude oil and natural gas, it has too few refineries to meet the energy-hungry country's demand, forcing it to import more than $4 billion of refined petroleum a year, most of it from Europe. That dependence makes Iran vulnerable to economic sanctions from the West, which is pressuring it to halt uranium enrichment. [...]

But despite concerns voiced by supreme leader Ali Khamenei and security officials, the government revived the plan this week, putting it into effect with only two hours' notice.

While he's done much to constrain the President, it appears that to be worthy of his office the Ayatollah needs to remove him from power altogether and call new elections. That's an unfortunate departure from constitutional norms, but a nice demonstration of why republics require a monarch (or, in the Iranian case, a guardian).

When Heroes Depart (DANIEL JOHNSON, June 28, 2007, NY Sun)

Then it was off to Buckingham Palace to tender his resignation to the Queen. This was a private meeting, the last of many hundreds over the past decade. When Winston Churchill, the first of Elizabeth II's prime ministers, resigned 52 years ago, he wore a frock coat and top hat.

In his time, Mr. Blair has abolished the last vestiges of Victorian tradition. The constitutional role of the monarchy, though, is not just a tradition. It means that no prime minister, however dominant, is above the law.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:23 AM


Got discipline?: In a free-speech ruling, Justice Thomas misstates the purpose of education (Jonathan Zimmerman, June 28, 2007, LA Times)

For the last decade, I've taught a history course with that title at New York University. My students and I examine the different purposes that Americans have assigned to public schools, including:

A. to teach the great humanistic traditions of the West;

B. to develop the individual interests of the child;

C. to promote social justice;

D. to prepare efficient workers.

Over the last four centuries, Americans have struggled to balance these goals — and many others — in their schools. To Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, however, there's only one right answer:

E. to instill discipline and obedience

Public Education, Then and Now (Ben Boychuk, July 14, 2000, Precepts)
The ideals of that generation flowed directly from their learning and reading. Each and every founder raised his "public voice" to advocate universal education. From Washington and Franklin to Adams and Jefferson, every one offered his ideas about the state of education and the best ways to build an informed citizenry — from the lowliest mechanic's son to the most exalted Harvard grad.

As Jefferson wrote of his Virginia education plan in a letter to his friend George Wythe, "The tax which will be paid for the purpose of education is not more than the thousandth part of what will be paid to kings, priests and nobles who will rise up among us if we leave the people in ignorance."

Jefferson was by no means alone. George Washington called for a national university in his First Inaugural Address. John Adams asked his son in Europe to collect books and ideas for republican schools. James Madison tracked the education efforts in Kentucky and praised innovations and challenging curricula there. They agreed with Noah Webster that, "Knowledge, joined with a keen sense of liberty and a watchful Jealousy, will guard our constitutions."

Even before there was a Constitution, the young republic passed the first national education law on July 13, 1787. The Northwest Ordinance was written to govern United States territory north of the Ohio River. It read, in part: "Religion, morality, and knowledge being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged."

While the Justice's answer is not complete, all of Mr. Zimmerman's are inconsistent with the republican purposes of universal education. The point is to produce the informed and decent citizenry upon which consensual government depends to succeed. Fostering burnouts does nothing to advance that project.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:14 AM


Hypernova: Illegal Indie-Rock from Iran (Shereen Meraji, June 19, 2007, Day to Day)

In Iran, people are not allowed to listen to Western music, let alone make it.

But more than half of Iran's population is under 25 years old. So it's not surprising that young Iranians download music off the Internet, watch satellite TV and make music in a thriving underground scene.

Hypernova is an indie-rock band from Tehran influenced by groups such as The Strokes, the Arctic Monkeys and Queens of the Stone Age. Their new CD is called Who Says You Can't Rock in Iran?; they recorded it illegally in their home country.

Lead singer Raam says, "There's an element of danger involved in what we do. But the laws are so chaotic back home that they're hardly enforced. Ninety-nine out of 100 times you can get away with anything."

Their message here is as worthwhile as the tunes.

MP3: No One
MP3: Consequence

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:04 AM


A hot new television show for the summer season (Mike Duffy, 6/28/07, Detroit Free Press)

Shortly after "Burn Notice" announces its hang-loose, prime-time presence at 10 p.m. EDT Thursday on USA, Weston gets the word that he's been fired from his international gig in covert intelligence.

The pink slip in this case is called a "burn notice," therefore the odd series title.

Perplexed and rather cranky about this turn of career events, Weston gets himself back to his home town of Miami and the plush, bikini-cosmic surroundings of South Beach to begin unraveling the puzzle of his sudden dismissal from the global spying life.

...but it's getting consistently favorable reviews.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:57 AM


Accord Seen on Oversight of Journal (RICHARD PÉREZ-PEÑA, 6/28/07, NY Times)

Negotiators reached an agreement in principle yesterday on protecting the editorial independence of The Wall Street Journal, an important step toward a purchase by the News Corporation of The Journal’s owner, Dow Jones & Company, people briefed on the talks said. [...]

It is not clear how the current accord differs from the conditions laid down last week by the Bancroft family, owners of a controlling interest in Dow Jones — terms that Mr. Murdoch dismissed as unacceptable. Nor is it clear whether the family, which has veto power over any deal, would accept the changes.

The elder Bancrofts, who control most of the stock, have deep reservations about parting with a company that has been in the family since 1902 and a newspaper they revere. In particular, many of them are reluctant to sell to a company whose journalism they see as sensationalist and slanted to suit Mr. Murdoch’s business interests and right-wing politics.

...who's been protecting the paper from the Bancrofts for the past 100 years?

June 27, 2007

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:06 PM


Southwest Chili Burger (Tillamook Cheese)


Garnishes: Guacamole or sliced avocado, tomato and onion; lettuce; pickled jalapeno slices or pepperocinis.

Combine meat, cilantro, chili powder, cumin, salt and pepper in a large bowl and mix well. Form 8 equal patties, about 3/4-inch thick.

Broil, grill or pan-fry burgers until desired doneness, about 4 minutes per side for medium. Arrange cheese slices evenly over burgers during final minute of cooking time. Serve in buns with desired garnishes. Makes 8 servings.

Guacamole Mayo:

2 Avocados

4 tsp fresh lime juice

1 cup Mayo

1 tsp ground cumin


Peel and pit, avocado and mash until chunky, stir in mayo and cumin.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:01 PM


In West Bank, Hamas is hard to find but still strong (Ian Fisher, June 27, 2007, NY Times)
[I]n scores of interviews in the West Bank, with people of all political shades, one thing seems clear: Hamas activists here may be kept in check by Fatah and the Israeli Army for now, but they remain a powerful presence even in the West Bank. This may be the key fact that Israel, the United States and others will have to absorb as they bolster the West Bank as a sort of trial Palestinian state.

"If Hamas doesn't like it, Hamas can destroy it," said Fais Hamdan, 34, a stonecutter with an "Islamist" beard in this village of 6,000 near Nablus, as he sat in the restaurant with the owner nervous about giving his name. "If they want to kill any political deal, they only have to attack a settlement or another Israeli target. Don't think that Hamas is very weak in the West Bank."

The central issue, as it has been for years, remains credibility.

Hamas crushed Fatah politically last year, sweeping legislative elections in January 2006, partly because Fatah was perceived as corrupt and nonresponsive to ordinary Palestinians. That reality, even many in Fatah complain, has changed little.

Hamas also remains, on paper at least, a strong political force, with the majority of legislative seats in Parliament generally, and in control of dozens of city and town councils around the West Bank. Israel has curtailed that as best it can: Of the 74 Hamas legislators, 40 are in Israeli jails - and many of its other leaders have been arrested since the fighting in Gaza.

But even that can have a counterintuitive effect possibly helpful to Hamas: Palestinian leaders often gain their contacts and political bona fides in Israeli prison.

More broadly, though, many Palestinians seem to hold little hope that anyone - the United States, Israel, or even Arab states fearful that Hamas's Islamism could spread - will actually make good on promises of aid to the West Bank.

That perception seemed reinforced Monday, after Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of Israel met with the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, known as Abu Mazen, and made what Palestinians considered a paltry opening gesture: only a portion of the $600 million in withheld Palestinian tax money, and just 250 prisoners held in Israeli jails, among some 11,000.

"Look at the irony here," the restaurant owner said. "Abu Mazen says he rejects talks with Hamas but he sits down with Olmert. And Olmert isn't going to give him anything! Then Hamas leaders appear on TV and say: 'Fatah negotiated for 15 years with Israel and nothing happened. Israel didn't give us anything for 15 years. Why now?' "

"And people are listening," he added.
Were you an Intifadite, you couldn't throw a rock insidfe the Beltway without hitting some "expert" who thinks Palestine can be divided, which just demonstrates the Western divorce from Palestinian reality.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:55 PM


Beckham plays the Yanks at their own game (Daily Mail, 26th June 2007)

With his move to Los Angeles imminent, it seems David Beckham is keen to embrace the culture of his new home town in every possible way.

At least with the pads on he only looks like Garo Yepremian with AIDs, but without them he actually looks like a girl:

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:19 PM


The FP Memo: The Endgame in Iraq: What happens when you take a 40-year-old CIA memo on losing a war and replace the word “Vietnam” with the word “Iraq”? The result is a set of conclusions that are just as true today. (Shawn Brimley, Kurt Campbell, July/August 2007, Foreign Policy)

...to safely predict that Iraq will not be taken over by your imagined equivalent of North Vietnam, which makes the comparison asinine.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:08 PM


People power: Arab economies in a global era (Marcus Noland Howard Pack, 2007-06-27, Open Democracy)

For two generations, the economic performance of the Arab countries of the Middle East has been middling. It has been worse than east Asia, better than sub-Saharan Africa, and about the same as Latin America and south Asia. Yet while there has been no crisis in the past - indeed, on some social indicators progress has been spectacular - the region now faces an imminent challenge: how to create jobs for the large cohort of young people reaching working age. The task is immense and the stakes are high: over the next decade or so, the region may experience population growth of 150 million people - the equivalent of adding two Egypts. Rising labour-force participation by women only increases the pressure. The region is a demographic time-bomb.

The picture is not entirely bleak: underpinned by relatively high oil and gas prices, the region as a whole has exhibited both steady growth of income and employment of late. The small emirate of Dubai appears bent on establishing itself as the Singapore of the Middle East. But whether the current level of energy prices will be sustained is an open question and in any event the impact of this windfall is felt unevenly across the Arab world, where some of the most populous states are not well-endowed in oil. Measured unemployment is decreasing. There may be some rot beneath the veneer, however.

Remarkably, the net increase in employment over the past five years is accounted for entirely by women. The increase in employment opportunities for women is encouraging. But the stagnation of male employment is worrisome and in some countries - including Jordan and the oil-exporters of the Gulf - most of the newly created jobs have been filled by foreigners. This phenomenon is even more acute if one looks at private-sector employment, and there is some evidence of warehousing people in public-sector employment, particularly in the Maghreb. With a few exceptions, employment has not been growing in industries where productivity is increasing - that is, it does not appear to reflect an expansion of activity in rising dynamic sectors.

One method of rapidly creating a sustainable increase in employment is through an expansion of labor-intensive manufacturing or services exports, often in conjunction with foreign investors or local entrepreneurs integrating into global supply networks. But outside the petroleum sector, the region's track-record is inauspicious. Not just in comparison with China or India: in one recent year the Philippines generated more manufactured exports than the entire Arab world. And until the recent oil-fuelled expansion of intraregional foreign direct investment (FDI), the region typically attracted less FDI than Sweden. Even this recent surge in activity appears to be concentrated to a significant extent in so-called "non-tradable" sectors such as real-estate development that could be highly vulnerable to a downturn in the oil market or a contraction of global liquidity. The Arab world risks being left behind at precisely the moment it needs to accelerate job growth.

Wow, can they really get behinder?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:05 PM


Fudge fans offered a nutty alternative (ELIZABETH PUDWILL, 6/27/07, Houston Chronicle)


* 3 cups sugar
* 1 (5-ounce) can evaporated milk
* ¾ cup (1½ sticks) butter
* 1 (12-ounce) jar peanut butter
* 1 (7-ounce) jar marshmallow cream
* 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Grease a 9-by-13-inch pan. In a medium saucepan, bring the sugar, milk and butter to a boil. Boil for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Stir in the peanut butter, marshmallow cream and vanilla. Spread the mixture evenly in the prepared pan. Refrigerate. Cut into squares when chilled.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:38 PM


Pork reform: Stick a fork in it (Winslow T. Wheeler, June 26, 2007, Politico)

Just how open and honest the reformed process is can be seen in the new Department of Defense authorization bill that came out of the House Armed Services Committee in May. It did list 449 earmarks -- in small, unreadable print -- costing $7.6 billion, but the list was incomplete. An astute watchdog group, Taxpayers for Common Sense, found 53 additional, unlisted earmarks costing $744 million.

When the Senate Armed Services Committee reported out its different version of the bill, S. 1547, it listed 309 earmarks costing $5.6 billion. When it comes up for debate in the Senate, 200 or more amendments will be introduced. About half of those amendments will be for home-state projects that for some reason the committee did not add during its initial review process.

During the week or two the Senate will take to consider the bill, there will be debates, some of them interesting, on the great issues of the day: the war in Iraq, nuclear nonproliferation, the worn-out U.S. Army and more. Interspersed through those debates will be strange presentations by Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (Mich.) and the ranking Republican, Sen. John McCain (Ariz.). They will be reading off procedural motions, calling up amendments and passing them by "unanimous consent"; they will do this time after time, sometimes passing as many as 20 amendments in one sequence. The amendments will not be debated; they may not even be described.

There's a reason why these items will receive such little scrutiny: They are the pork amendments. The senators pressing them will have "cleared" them with Levin and McCain. Then the amendments will go through the arcane but well-oiled approval process, with utterly no debate -- all in what calls itself the "world's greatest deliberative body."

This year, there may be some new twists, none of them having the slightest thing to do with the Democrats' reforms.

Which begs the obvious question: why should they vote for such a bill in the absence of provisions for their own districts?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:34 PM


No Wafer for Rudy: Giuliani campaigns as a Catholic, but he's on the outs with God (Wayne Barrett, June 26th, 2007, Village Voice)

When Pope Benedict XVI attacked Catholic politicians in Mexico who supported abortion rights last month, Rudy Giuliani was asked for his opinion. The presidential candidate replied in the language of the church: "Issues like that are for me and my confessor. I'm a Catholic, and that's the way I resolve those issues, personally and privately."

Giuliani has invoked his Catholic heritage on Larry King; he's been described by The Washington Post as a "devout Catholic"; he's appeared on Fox News with the label "Catholic" floating on-screen; and he's handled a CNN debate question about a bishop who denounced him with a declaration unfamiliar to those who covered him as mayor. "I respect the opinion of Catholic and religious leaders of all kinds," he said. "Religion is very important to me. It's a very important part of my life."

The ex-mayor's newfound piety also includes a mantra about abortion that wasn't heard while he was in City Hall. "I hate abortion," he now says across America and, in a proposed 12-point plan, he declares that he's committed to decreasing the number of abortions. "I would encourage someone to not take that option," he says, though as a candidate for mayor he said he would pay for an abortion for his daughter. Today, he says it would be "OK to repeal" Roe v. Wade, though he hosted celebrations of its anniversary three times at City Hall. His wholesale reversal on Medicaid funding, late-term abortions, and parental consent are all part of a repackaging designed to soften not just his New York public record, but also the inconvenient details of his personal life.

Married three times, Giuliani simply isn't the Catholic candidate he claims to be. He can't have a confessor. He can't receive the sacraments of penance, the Eucharist, or marriage. While bishops disagree about whether or not a Catholic politician who supports abortion rights can receive the sacraments, there is no disagreement about the consequences of divorcing and remarrying outside the church, as Giuliani did a few years ago.

...when even the Voice has a better grasp of the basic tenets of your putative religion than you do.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:13 PM


Fuel Rationing Introduced in Oil Giant: Despite being one of the world's largest oil producers, Iran has introduced gasoline rationing. The move caused long lines at the pumps -- and rioting. (Der Spiegel, 6/27/07)

According to Raja News, a Web site closely linked to the government, nine stations were attacked in the Iranian capital. There were also reports of chants lampooning President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who came to office promising an economic upturn but has so far been unable to live up to the pledge.

There were long lines at the pumps on Tuesday night as people tried to get one last full tank of gas before the new measures kicked in. The rationing, which the government had been planning for weeks and which was originally supposed to go into effect on May 21, was only announced three hours before taking effect at midnight local time.

"Is this good timing, to announce rationing only three hours before it starts?" Ahmad Safai, one of those waiting in line, told the Associated Press. "I had no gas in my car's tank when I heard the report."

Iran is the second biggest oil exporter in OPEC, but has limited refining capacity, meaning that it has to import more than half of the gasoline consumed in the country. Until now, the government has subsidized gasoline to keep prices down, but the program has proven exorbitantly expensive in a period when the Iranian economy is struggling. The new rules mean that car owners can only buy 100 liters (26 gallons) of subsidized fuel per month -- at a cost of 1,000 rials per liter, which works out to 7 euro cents per liter or 38 US cents per gallon. Taxi drivers will be able to buy 800 liters a month.

The rationing comes amid growing dissatisfaction with Ahmadinejad's handling of the economy. Inflation is high and rising gas prices will likely only spark further price increases. A reduction in gasoline subsidies in May led to a 25 percent jump in gas prices.

...even the 12th Imam will be a capitalist.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:58 AM


Pestos make the most of fresh herbs for summer dinners (J.M. HIRSCH, 6/27/07, The Associated Press)

Pesto is a great way to make the most of fresh herbs.

Though traditional pestos generally involve basil – which is pureed with Parmesan cheese, pine nuts and garlic to make a thick sauce for pasta – just about any fresh herb works fine.

And if you’re going to swap out the herb, you might as well tinker with the other ingredients, too. Using the same basic pesto formula (4 ounces of cheese, 2 cups packed fresh herbs and ½ cup nuts or seeds), tinker with complimentary ingredients, such as parsley, walnuts and feta. Or dandelion greens, almonds and pecorino.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:05 AM

Online collection features Culinary Delights recipes (Nashua Telegraph, 6/27/07)

Today, The Telegraph launches the Culinary Delights Recipe Guide for visitors of www.nashuatelegraph.com.

The recipe guide, which can be found at www.nashuatelegraph.com/recipes, is filled with 25 years of recipes. The recipes, which have been submitted by readers over the years, are now in an online searchable database – making it easy for fans of The Telegraph’s Food section and Culinary Delights to find tasty dishes.

The recipes have been separated into 10 categories: Appetizers & Snacks, Bread, Breakfast, Desserts, Drinks, Ethnic, Main Dish, Salad, Side Dish, and Soups, Stews & Chili. Within those categories are a number of subcategories, making it even simpler to find a dish to make tonight.

The search function allows users to search by recipe name, ingredient and submitter’s name. Also, typing “winner” into the box brings up entries that were category and grand-prize winners over the years at Culinary Delights Cook-offs.

Once viewing a recipe, users have the ability to send the scrumptious recipe to a friend who would enjoy it, print out the instructions onto a 3- by 5-inch recipe card or submit a photo of their results to upload for others to see.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:56 AM


Brown ready to take reins in Britain: The brainy and somber incoming prime minister waited 13 years to lead (Kim Murphy, June 27, 2007, LA Times)

He shows up for work in famously drab ties with his nails bitten to the quick. He hates networking, and didn't marry until he was 49. He's the glowering figure often seen harrumphing on the bench behind his preternaturally poised boss, Prime Minister Tony Blair, in the House of Commons.

You might say he's the anti-Blair, in more ways than one. [...]

Brown's reluctance to delegate is legendary and stems, many say, from his characteristic impatience.

"When you get to be prime minister, you can't do everything. Therefore, you've got to trust and empower your colleagues more," a former treasury official said. "But he thinks he's smarter than they are, and he works harder than they do."

Brown has always been intellectually intimidating. "He's blind in one eye, and he reads everything. It's really terrifying what he reads. Scary," said Irwin Stelzer, a conservative at the Washington-based Hudson Institute who has known Brown for years. The two often find themselves on opposite sides of a debate.

Brown, who began as a brash and bookish young Scottish socialist, stuck closer to Labor's traditional leftist ideals than Blair and never became the smooth politician that Blair is. He eschews white tie at his annual address to the captains of British industry at the Lord Mayor's ceremonial house, a habit a Times of London columnist recently called "simply bloody rude."

The floor of the study of his weekend home in Scotland is likely to be heaped chaotically with books; at European Council meetings, where networking is everything, Brown often arrives at the last minute, reorders the agenda so the items he's interested in happen first, and catches an early plane home.

His conversation starters with friends are simple: "What are you reading?" is usually the first. Then, "Have you heard any good jokes?"

But his patience ends, many say, when the IQ at the other end of the conversation is found wanting. This is sometimes defined, those who don't get along with him believe, by whether his interlocutor sees the wisdom of his views.

Ruth Lea, an economist and 16-year treasury employee who now directs the London-based Center for Policy Studies, said she found Brown "amazingly intolerant" when she expressed disagreement with him over his program of tax credits for working families.

"He blew up. He just lost his temper with me. And then tried to bludgeon me by loudly justifying his decision," Lea said.

The beginning of wisdom as a leader is to recognize that most of the jobs are neither particularly important nor difficult. The notion that each is so vital that only you can do it and you should always leads to disaster.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:41 AM


Bong goes the court in free-speech ruling (Seattle Times, 6/27/06)

The U.S. Supreme Court needlessly chipped away at First Amendment free-speech guarantees with a ruling elevating a high-school prank to a dangerous promotion of drug use.

The 6-3 ruling miscast the case before the court as about drugs. But it was about a student's right to speech.

Children don't have rights. Parents do.

Of course, all you have to do to see the Editorialists reverse field here is ask if the kids have the right to bear arms too.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:15 AM


Kurdish Iraq focuses on investment and building (Kirk Semple, June 26, 2007, NY Times)

It is a measure of soaring Kurdish optimism that government officials here talk seriously about one day challenging Dubai as the Middle East's main transportation and business hub.

The Kurdistan Regional Government is betting that it can, investing $325 million in a modernist terminal at the Erbil International Airport to handle - officials hope - millions of passengers a year and a runway that will be big enough to handle the new double-decker Airbus A380.

"We're not saying Kurdistan is heaven," said Herish Muharam, chairman of the Kurdish government's Board of Investment. "But we're telling investors that Kurdistan can be that heaven."

As the rest of Iraq has plunged into a downward spiral, Kurdistan has enjoyed relative political stability and limited violence, in part owing to a sectarian and political homogeneity lacking elsewhere in the country.

Which, unfortunately, is the template for the rest of the country too.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:30 AM


Gore Gore Girls 'Don't Cry': Exclusive! Download this garage rock romp from the Detroit group's new album, Get the Gore. (SAMANTHA PROMISLOFF, June 26, 2007, Spin)

Bye, bye angelic girl groups of today and yesteryear -- you're on the Gore Gore Girls' turf now. Part Ramones, part Donnas, with a pinch of Pipettes-like vocals, rhythmic Ronettes verses, and a splash of sock hop clap-alongs, Gore Gore Girls are loud, proud, and don't give a damn who knows it.

Don't worry, they're named for a '70s splatter flick, not the morose Gaia worshiper.

MP3: Fox in a Box
MP3: All Grown Up
MP3: Astral Man
MP3: Up All Night
MP3: I'm Gonna Get You Yet

-Gore Gore Girls (Wikipedia)
-ARCHIVES: Gore Gore Girls (Detroit Metro Times)
-REVIEW: of Gore Gore Girls: Get the Gore (Alan Brown, PopMatters)
-REVIEW: of GORE GORE GIRLS: "Get the Gore" (Bob Strauss, LA Daily News)
-REVIEW: of Gore Gore Girls: 7x4 (GENE ARMSTRONG, Tucson Weekly)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:00 AM


The U.S. is indebted to itself (Michael K. Farr, Jun 26, 2007, Politico)

There is an unsexy but very important issue being largely ignored by the 2008 presidential candidates: foreign ownership of U.S. government debt. As America continues to operate at a deficit, and as our debt held by foreign countries increases, we lose control over our economic destiny. The successful candidate in 2008 must reduce the deficit and regain control of the economic tiller. The candidate who can successfully and simply outline a workable plan will undoubtedly win friends at the polls and on the Hill.

Foreigners currently hold about $2.2 trillion, or 44 percent, of the roughly $5 trillion in total U.S. Treasury debt held by the public. This percentage is up sharply from about 30 percent in 2000 and demonstrates just how dependent we have become on foreign central banks. We believe our increasing dependence poses systematic risks to both our economy and our security.

The notion that you should use the money you have invested at a 10% rate of return to pay off the the guys you're borrowing from at 4% is many things, but sound economics isn't one of them. The real danger to a growing world ecoomy is that we may not have sufficient debt to provide the safe harbor that is needed by 10 billion people but that only one country provides.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


God vs. Country: When Chinese scholars arrive at Cal, Christian ministers help them get settled. But church involvement may set the visitors up for trouble back home. (Lygia Navarro, June 27, 2007, East Bay Express)

While the attention may be merely a nuisance for some, others worry about repercussions for being affiliated with Christians should word spread back home — particularly if the scholars are Party members. Despite recent changes, Vala says, China still is not entirely hospitable to religion, especially when the churchgoers have ties overseas. "People could be arrested, held for ransom," he says. "If there is knowledge of an international connection, then local authorities may see this as a moneymaking opportunity. You may have torture."

It's not an entirely abstract threat. Over the last year, the Chinese and foreign press have reported that Chinese authorities beat townspeople attempting to build a church near Hangzhou, raided underground churches, sent house church leaders to reeducation labor camps, arrested Christians for walking too close to the 2008 Beijing Olympic complex — missionary groups have publicized their plans to infiltrate the games — and executed leaders of a Christian sect that the authorities deemed a cult.

Back at Chinese for Christ, Benjamin Yi thinks ahead to the summer, when the next crop of scholars will arrive. A graduate of an all-Chinese seminary in Concord, the Taiwanese minister is new to his scholars-and-students post, which has become higher-profile with the influx of scholars. With short salt-and-pepper hair, Yi, dressed carefully in khakis, striped dress shirt, and a blue windbreaker, is warm and soft-spoken. He and his wife, Meirong, sit for an interview on folding chairs in the church vestibule, where the door's stained glass tints the morning light orange.

Yi gets his list of new scholars' names from Berkeley's Chinese Students and Scholars Association — Wong was cagey when asked about his church's connection with the campus association, as was its president, Peng Li, who refused to discuss anything related to religion.

In any case, Yi says some of the newcomers will be housed with church members until they find apartments. Once they get settled, Yi and others will show them around town, and teach them how to take public transport, open a bank account, and get driver's licenses. "When a new student comes here," he says, referring to the church, "they've been hosted by some family. It's hard for them to say no."

The statement sounds brash, and his wife laughs uncomfortably as he continues: "Some of them will keep coming. Friday night fellowship is a good way to attract them — the friends, the food. Gradually they make friends, and when they have friends, they come."

In the beginning, the couple says, they take care not to be preachy. While helping scholars with day-to-day tasks, they try not to come on too strong or talk about the Bible. "We have to build a relationship," Yi notes. "We have to be trustworthy, and then they come to church. Very few of them keep coming because they're aware of the consequences. They visit one time, two times — that won't cause problems."

But the faithful are indeed under surveillance, according to the minister. "There are spies in every church, and they report back to China," Yi says matter-of-factly. "The spy will tell, 'These are the scholars that constantly attend the church.' So our church is very conscious. You don't know who the spies are." He tells of a friend who came from a house church in China to study at the Concord seminary. Shortly thereafter, the man received a phone call from a Chinese government agent, asking whether he needed help. The purpose of the call was clear, Yi says: "They're watching everything."

The ostracism scholars may face upon return to China isn't lost on Yi: "We know this probably will affect their promotion — the promotion is controlled by the government. So definitely if they are Christian, they will have trouble." However, Yi says self-protection is ultimately the scholars' responsibility. "They understand," he stresses. "They know the Party, they know it well."

He also sees adversity as part of the grand plan. "Don't you think that's God's work?" the minister asks, smiling. "They know that this would jeopardize their career. They are smart guys; they know the consequences. So why can they conquer their fear and really believe? It's not the food that attracts them. It's God's calling they cannot resist. If they don't go to church [in China], we don't blame them. We understand. In the Bible, the Christians were underground."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Coco’s fielding mighty Crisp (SEAN McADAM, 6/27/07, Providence Journal)

[T]he true measure of Crisp’s 2007 season is found in more arcane numbers, not readily available or found on a Web site. According to data compiled and maintained by one major-league club, Crisp is playing the best center field of any outfielder in the major leagues — and by a long shot.

The club, which asked not to be identified, uses a complicated metric to measure defensive play, including range and coverage. Based on its findings, tabulated monthly, Crisp is playing at a “plus-24” level in center field, meaning that through the end of May, Crisp had already recorded putouts on two dozen more players than the average center fielder.

While the data can’t be easily extrapolated for an entire season — there’s no guarantee that Crisp will finish at a plus-72, for example — he’s on pace to easily top last year’s best full-season grade, a plus-30, earned by Willie Taveras, then with Houston.

Similarly, Crisp could equal the best numbers achieved by Mike Cameron and Andruw Jones, each of whom had graded out near a plus-60 in their prime.

And he's hitting as if his finger was finally healed.

June 26, 2007

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:00 PM


Democrats spooked by rise of 'new Reagan' (Alex Spillius, 27/06/2007, Daily Telegraph)

The Democratic party is so alarmed by the prospect of competing against Fred Thompson, a Republican who portrays himself as a successor to Ronald Reagan, that it is advising campaigners how to attack the former actor and Tennessee senator.

Mr Thompson is not expected to announce his candidacy for the Republican nomination until next month, but Democratic strategists fear the combination of his conservatism, southern charm and populist style could make him a hard man to beat in 2008. Some polls have already placed him in the top two Republicans, underlining the weakness of his rivals.

The Democratic National Committee's campaign focuses on what it regards as the fallacy in Mr Thompson's portrayal of himself as an outsider ready to shake up Washington.

According to the Politico newspaper, the committee has launched a pre-emptive strike, emailing members and branding Mr Thompson "the inside-outsider".

It's so easy for him to swat this one away it's kind of embarrassing. All he has to do is hold up his filmography, but even more effectiv would be to get a few friendly and well-liked co-stars to swear he's been working with them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:32 PM


The Big Question: Why do wealthy Americans donate so much to charity and rich Britons so little? (Andy McSmith, 27 June 2007, Independent)

The Americans, it seems, are privately more generous in giving than we are. New figures show that, last year, the US set a record for largesse, giving away the equivalent of almost the entire gross domestic product of Greece in private charitable donations that was an increase even on the bonanza of 2005, when America was moved by the plight of the victims of the Asian tsunami, the Pakistan earthquake, and Hurricane Katrina. In 2006, Americans dug into pockets and handed over 1.7 per cent of their country's economy, according to the report published yesterday by the Giving USA Foundation. In the same year, Britons gave away 0.73 per cent of the British economy, proportionately less than half as much.

It's remarkable they give as much as they do given how much more heavily they're taxed.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:05 PM


Appropriate Appropriation? (John Godfrey, 6/27/07, Wall Street Journal: Washington Wire)

Vice President Dick Cheney has been largely dismissive of congressional Democrats for years, but this time they might just hit him where it counts: the $4.4 million he’s told Congress he wants to run his White House offices in 2008.

The threat comes in response to Cheney’s claim that he’s exempt from a presidential order requiring those in the executive branch to report on how they are handling state secrets. Cheney says he’s exempt because he’s also president of the U.S. Senate and therefore not really part of the executive branch.

Cheney’s penchant for secrecy has ruffled feathers in the past, but this time an effort to retaliate is gaining momentum. “I’m going to let the money follow his legal logic,” House Democratic Caucus Chairman Rahm Emanuel (D., Ill.) said in a telephone interview Tuesday afternoon. Emanuel hopes to strip funding for Cheney’s White House offices from the annual White House spending bill when it’s debated by the House this week.

“We have decided that if the vice president is no longer a member of the executive branch, we will no longer fund the executive branch of his office,” Emanuel said. That would leave Cheney with the $2.3 million set aside in another annual spending bill for the vice president’s operations in the Senate.

That's still too much.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:56 PM


Out of Order: Are firstborns really smarter than their siblings? (Emily Bazelon, June 26, 2007, Slate)

Last year, I dismissed the relationship between birth order and intelligence, relying on such experts as University of Oklahoma psychology professor Joseph Lee Rodgers, who called the finding a "methodological illusion." While that view was not the consensus, it was far better supported than the bedeviling claim that older siblings have higher IQs. Now there's a new study from Norway, reported in two parts in Science and Intelligence, that makes the illusion seem real. According to the New York Times and the Boston Globe, and just about all the other press coverage, the Norwegian research does more than that. It settles the question: Firstborns are smarter.

I hate this idea.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:53 PM


Marx loses currency in new China: Teaching socialism is mandatory, but learning it is monotonous for today's students, who revere money more than Mao. (Mitchell Landsberg, June 26, 2007, LA Times)

IT was like watching a man try to swim up a waterfall.

Professor Tao Xiuao cracked jokes, told stories, projected a Power Point presentation on a large video screen. But his students at Beijing Foreign Studies University didn't even try to hide their boredom.

Young men spread newspapers out on their desks and pored over the sports news. A couple of students listened to iPods; others sent text messages on their cellphones. One young woman with chic red-framed glasses spent the entire two hours engrossed in "Jane Eyre," in the original English. Some drifted out of class, ate lunch and returned. Some just lay their heads on their desktops and went to sleep.

It isn't easy teaching Marxism in China these days.

"It's a big challenge," acknowledged Tao, a likable man who demonstrates remarkable patience in the face of students more interested in capitalism than "Das Kapital."

In the future, the only place that Marxism will be taught with a straight face is at the Ivies.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:50 PM


Senate resumes debate on immigration overhaul (Donna Smith, June 26, 2007, Reuters)

The U.S. Senate on Tuesday voted to revive a stalled immigration overhaul backed by President George W. Bush that would offer a path to citizenship to millions of illegal immigrants.

The Senate voted 64-35 to resume debate on the bill, which ties tough border security and workplace enforcement measures to a plan to legalize an estimated 12 million illegal immigrants and a create temporary worker program sought by business groups.

The legislation would be a significant victory for President George W. Bush in his second term in office. It faces strong opposition from many of his fellow Republicans, who call it an amnesty for people who broke U.S. laws and argue it would do little to stem the flow of illegal immigration into the United States.

...it gets. Hardly a coincidence that 64% is so close to the approval rating for the grand compromise.

Posted by Ted Welter at 8:51 AM


NPR Live Concert Series: Cat Power in Concert (November 2006, NPR.org)

Hear Cat Power in a full concert, recorded live from Washington, D.C.

...and then on to Memphis to record with some famously talented session players, she could probably do better than Cat Power's "The Greatest." But Chan Marshall actually did sober up last year, and had her own "Dusty in Memphis" moment (with Al Green's session men), and even if doesn't completely live up to its title, it's still an excellent, haunting record.

Cat Power is the stage name of Chan (pronounced "Shawn") Marshall, who has been around since the early nineties playing in a sort punk-folk style while publicly wrestling personal demons. She seems to finally have them down for the count, and last year's "The Greatest" is the result. If you like old Cowboy Junkies, recent Neko Case, and Dusty in Memphis, you should check this out:

As a side note, I have technology-related musical tip:

I spend a lot of time on my bike (that's a pedal bike), and, while music makes the miles go faster, headphones are dangerous (and, depending on your local laws, perhaps illegal). I'd like to hear the traffic and the tunes.

I've been hooking up walkmans and mp3 players up to little battery-powered speakers mounted to the bike for years--serviceable for talk radio and AM-friendly sounds (like the Apples in Stereo or most of the Motown hits). In the past, I've found that Sony made the best ones, but none I've purchased over the years sound terribly good, especially with acoustic folk, jazz, classical ( i.e. not bubblegum) music.

Last week I upgraded to some Altec Lansing portable mp3 speakers. I bought the Sansa-compatible model because I like the size and color (I don't have either an I-pod or a Sansa), but they make I-pod-dockable systems as well, and they all take standard audio input ( 3.5mm plug). And they rock--you can actually hear the bass, and get them loud enough to hear above the wind and road buzz without distorting. You can run them off 4 AA batteries or with the AC adaptor, and would be fine for the patio, garage, bedroom, or bike. They even have output for a powered subwoofer.

Note that I am not an audiophile, so your opinion of the sound may differ radically (and they weren't exactly cheap). The local Best Buy had display demos so I could test out the various makes and models, and you might want to do that before buying them online.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:47 AM


Kennedy's zeal for immigration deal alienates liberals: The Senate will hold a test vote on the bill today (JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS, 6/26/07, Associated Press)

Months of tumultuous negotiations with the White House and GOP allies have brought the Senate's liberal lion, Edward M. Kennedy, to the brink of passing a bill to legalize up to 12 million unlawful immigrants.

But his concessions to get there have alienated liberals who in the past have counted him as their strongest champion. A showdown test vote is scheduled today, and the Senate could pass — or reject — the bill by week's end.

Traditional Kennedy allies are angry at the Massachusetts senator's willingness to accept Republican-backed measures such as subjecting illegal immigrants to steep fines and trips home, separating immigrants from relatives and letting new guest workers stay only for short periods of time with little chance of citizenship.

"I think that in his heart, he's where I'm at, but he wants to see a deal move forward and he's willing to take certain steps that I might not be willing to take," said Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J.

It's a familiar spot for Kennedy, 75, whose liberal standing during his 45 years in the Senate belies his history of partnering with Republicans on major domestic agenda items.

He's done so twice before with President Bush, on the No Child Left Behind education law and on a broad Medicare prescription drug overhaul.

Labor Coalitions Divided on Immigration Overhaul (STEVEN GREENHOUSE, 6/26/07, NY Times)
Now that President Bush has rallied Republicans to try again to reshape the immigration laws, supporters of the effort have a new worry. When the bill returns to the Senate floor, probably next week, opposition from labor unions could doom the bill’s prospects by putting pressure on many Democrats to vote against it.

The threat that labor poses to the bill has gone largely unrecognized in part because three prominent unions — the service employees, the farm workers, and the hotel, restaurant and apparel workers — have backed the legislation. But that support, advocates say, has been outweighed by opposition from the A.F.L.-C.I.O. and virtually all other unions, including auto workers, Teamsters, food and commercial workers, and construction unions. [...]

Supporters of the bill say that the A.F.L.-C.I.O., in opposing the legislation, is focused on protecting the gains that its mostly middle-class members have made in pay and benefits over the decades. To the labor federation, the big worry is that the bill’s guest worker provision will pull down wages, take away jobs from Americans and exploit immigrants.

While Al Gore, John Kerry, Hillary Clinton, and Barrack Obama served decades in the Senate between them they've left not a trace of their presence. As mere party hacks they're incapable of the kinds of compromises with the opposition that produce meaningful legislation. Great legislators--Bob Dole, John McCain, Ted Kennedy--have to keep the end always in sight and not fret about the peripheral stuff. During the Bush years this has meant that Ted Kennedy handed conservatives two of their most devout wishes--school vouchers and HSAs--in exchange for some federal money. On immigration it means adding tens of millions of voters who oppose him on social issues and undercutting Big Labor just because conscience demands it. He's smart enough to grasp that none of the peripheral stuff matters, not least because he was there for the Reagan-Simpson amnesty and knows no American would fund or staff the enforcement provisions that get added to stroke the Right.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:44 AM


Chirac faces corruption inquiry (Fred Attewill and agencies, June 26, 2007, Guardian Unlimited)

Jacques Chirac is to be questioned by judges investigating alleged corruption in the Paris city government while he was mayor.

Jean Veil, the lawyer for the former French president, confirmed Mr Chirac will "very probably" be questioned before September 15 as an "assisted witness", meaning it remains possible he will face criminal charges.

The 74-year-old faces a series of potential legal problems now that he no longer enjoys presidential immunity.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:43 AM


Roberts rules the Supreme Court (Michael Doyle, 6/26/07, McClatchy Newspapers)

The Supreme Court on Monday confirmed the contours that are taking shape under Chief Justice John Roberts. [...]

While three of the five decisions Monday arrived on a 5-4 majority, they showcased what has become an ideologically conservative and business-friendly, if narrow, majority.

Since last October, in Roberts' second term as chief justice, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has claimed 11 victories and seen only two defeats on business-related cases.

"We always thought the [Chief Justice William] Rehnquist court was a good forum for business," noted Maureen Mahoney, a lawyer who has argued 18 cases before the court, "but the Roberts court is even better." [...]

Even more than in previous years, the court was skeptical of the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, considered the nation's most liberal. With Monday's decisions, the Supreme Court has reversed the 9th Circuit on 17 out of 19 opinions issued since October.

The headline in our local rag referred to the Court's "Right Wing," but a consistent majority is the body proper, no?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:38 AM


Secularist Europe Silences Pro-Lifers and Creationists (Paul Belien, June 25, 2007, Brussels Journal)

Last week, a German court sentenced a 55-year old Lutheran pastor to one year in jail for "Volksverhetzung" (incitement of the people) because he compared the killing of the unborn in contemporary Germany to the holocaust. Next week, the Council of Europe is going to vote on a resolution imposing Darwinism as Europe's official ideology. The European governments are asked to fight the expression of creationist opinions, such as young earth and intelligent design theories. According to the Council of Europe these theories are "undemocratic" and "a threat to human rights."

Without legalized abortion the number of German children would increase annually by at least 150,000 -- which is the number of legal abortions in birth dearth Germany. Pastor Johannes Lerle compared the killing of the unborn to the killing of the Jews in Auschwitz during the Second World War. On 14 June, a court in Erlangen ruled that, in doing so, the pastor had "incited the people" because his statement was a denial of the holocaust of the Jews in Nazi-Germany. Hence, Herr Lerle was sentenced to one year in jail. Earlier, he had already spent eight months in jail for calling abortionists "professional killers" -- an allegation which the court ruled to be slanderous because, according to the court, the unborn are not humans.

Other German courts convicted pro-lifers for saying that "in abortion clinics, life unworthy of living is being killed," because this terminology evoked Hitler's euthanasia program, which used the same language.

Either secular Darwinian is correct or the Holocaust was wrong, but the two are mutually exclusive.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:15 AM


Kuwata's sushi-ball has the raw material: Pirates' Japanese legend leans on ultra-slow pitch for early success (Dejan Kovacevic, 6/26/07, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

Maybe Masumi Kuwata should call it the sushi-ball.

Like the seaweed that wraps the traditional Japanese dish, the pitch rolls unpredictably and not very attractively as it approaches home plate.

Like the varieties of raw fish and rice inside, no one can guess what is coming. [...]

Whatever it is called, the pitch in question, the one Kuwata throws at a tantalizingly slow 66-68 mph, has been the buzz of an otherwise moribund road trip so far for the Pirates. And that is mostly because it is as difficult to describe as it is to hit.

"I think it's a curveball," left fielder Jason Bay said.

"Looks like a changeup to me," first baseman Adam LaRoche said.

Even Heberto Andrade, the team's bullpen catcher who sees more of it than anyone, does not have a definitive answer.

"I know it moves a lot," he said.

And the man himself?

"Maybe it's a slider," Kuwata said, grinning. "No, really, it's just a curveball. I use many pitches, and that is the one that goes the slowest."

How, then, to explain the way it dives into the dirt, as if to corkscrew a subway tunnel? Or how it can have a similar corkscrew effect on the batter?

"Maybe it's the deception," Kuwata said. "Maybe they can't see it."

More likely, observers say, the batter simply cannot adjust.

When Kuwata was in the early -- and brilliant -- stages of his 21-year career with the Yomiuri Giants in Japan, he was a flamethrower, routinely achieving 95-96 mph. He developed a versatile arsenal, as most pitchers there do, but the heat was the thing.

"I used to throw very hard, you know?" Kuwata said. "But I have had too many things happen to me, too many surgeries here and here and here ..."

He pointed to his elbow, shoulder and each of his ankles.

"Now, of course, I do not throw so hard."

His fastball seldom clocks above 86 mph, the speed of many pitchers' sliders. But, when blended with his curveball, slider, changeup and ... sushi-ball, the velocity becomes relative.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:58 AM


Inflation Looks Tamer, But For How Long?: Resilient demand and stronger growth will stoke new price pressures (Business Week, 7/02/07)

Inflation readings have taken a turn for the better, at least the ones Wall Street and the Federal Reserve care the most about. The so-called core price indexes at both the wholesale and retail levels, those that exclude the gyrations in energy and food prices, were especially tame in May, and the yearly inflation rate in each sector has edged lower this year. Will these favorable trends continue?

They always do.

June 25, 2007

Posted by Matt Murphy at 8:25 PM


Boy: Taliban recruited me to bomb troops (Jason Straziuso, Jun. 25, 2007, Associated Press)

The story of a 6-year-old Afghan boy who says he thwarted an effort by Taliban militants to trick him into being a suicide bomber provoked tears and anger at a meeting of tribal leaders. The account from Juma Gul, a dirt-caked child who collects scrap metal for money, left American soldiers dumbfounded that a youngster could be sent on such a mission. Afghan troops crowded around the boy to call him a hero.

Though the Taliban dismissed the story as propaganda, at a time when U.S. and NATO forces are under increasing criticism over civilian casualties, both Afghan tribal elders and U.S. military officers said they were convinced by his dramatic account.

Juma said that sometime last month Taliban fighters forced him to wear a vest they said would spray out flowers when he touched a button. He said they told him that when he saw American soldiers, "throw your body at them."

The militants cornered Juma in a Taliban-controlled district in southern Afghanistan's Ghazni province. Their target was an impoverished youngster being raised by an older sister — but also one who proved too street-smart for their plan.

"When they first put the vest on my body I didn't know what to think, but then I felt the bomb," Juma told The Associated Press as he ate lamb and rice after being introduced to the elders at this joint U.S.-Afghan base in Ghazni. "After I figured out it was a bomb, I went to the Afghan soldiers for help."

While Juma's story could not be independently verified, local government leaders backed his account and the U.S. and NATO military missions said they believed his story.

Abdul Rahim Deciwal, the chief administrator for Juma's village of Athul, brought the boy and an older brother, Dad Gul, to a weekend meeting between Afghan elders and U.S. Army Col. Martin P. Schweitzer.

Schweitzer called the Taliban's attempt "a cowardly act."

As Deciwal told Juma's story, 20 Afghan elders repeatedly clicked their tongues in sadness and disapproval. When the boy and his brother were brought in, several of the turban-wearing men welled up, wiping their eyes with handkerchiefs.

"If anybody has a heart, then how can you control yourself (before) these kids?" Deciwal said in broken English.

You know he's telling the truth because if the village elders wanted attention they'd just claim he spent a day at Gitmo.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:02 PM


From No 10 to the Middle East: Blair gets a new job: Support from Bush leads to role as international envoy helping Palestinians (Patrick Wintour and Ian Black, June 26, 2007, Guardian)

Tony Blair has landed a major diplomatic job as the international Middle East peace envoy, responsible for preparing the Palestinians for negotiations with Israel. His role, to be announced today, will be largely to work with the Palestinians over security, economy and governance.

Working from an office in Jerusalem, and possibly another in the West Bank, Mr Blair will become the special representative for the Middle East quartet of UN, EU, US and Russia. The announcement comes on the eve of his departure from Downing Street tomorrow and is privately welcomed by Gordon Brown.

The arrangement, which has been under preparation for weeks, is due to be agreed at a meeting of the quartet today.

Friends of Mr Blair suggest he would make it a central purpose of his mission to work to restore Palestinian unity after the armed takeover of the Gaza Strip by the Islamist movement Hamas.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:56 PM


Yes, the universe looks like a fix. But that doesn't mean that a god fixed iy: We will never explain the cosmos by taking on faith either divinity or physical laws. True meaning is to be found within nature (Paul Davies, June 26, 2007, The Guardian)

Scientists are slowly waking up to an inconvenient truth - the universe looks suspiciously like a fix. The issue concerns the very laws of nature themselves. For 40 years, physicists and cosmologists have been quietly collecting examples of all too convenient "coincidences" and special features in the underlying laws of the universe that seem to be necessary in order for life, and hence conscious beings, to exist. Change any one of them and the consequences would be lethal. Fred Hoyle, the distinguished cosmologist, once said it was as if "a super- intellect has monkeyed with physics".

To see the problem, imagine playing God with the cosmos. Before you is a designer machine that lets you tinker with the basics of physics. Twiddle this knob and you make all electrons a bit lighter, twiddle that one and you make gravity a bit stronger, and so on. It happens that you need to set thirtysomething knobs to fully describe the world about us. The crucial point is that some of those metaphorical knobs must be tuned very precisely, or the universe would be sterile.

Example: neutrons are just a tad heavier than protons. If it were the other way around, atoms couldn't exist, because all the protons in the universe would have decayed into neutrons shortly after the big bang. No protons, then no atomic nucleuses and no atoms. No atoms, no chemistry, no life. Like Baby Bear's porridge in the story of Goldilocks, the universe seems to be just right for life. So what's going on?

The intelligent design movement has inevitably seized on the Goldilocks enigma as evidence of divine providence, prompting a scientific backlash and boosting the recent spate of God-bashing bestsellers.

Mr. Davies understates Science's problem by skipping the threshhold issue: they've already lost the argument when they get to "looks."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:41 PM


Campaign Ad Limits Loosened: U.S. High Court Overview (Greg Stohr, 6/25/07, Bloomberg)

The 5-4 ruling marks a shift for the court, which in 2003 upheld the law, including a provision that restricts pre-election ads. The court today said that provision couldn't be constitutionally applied to three 2004 ads, aired by a Wisconsin anti-abortion group, that called on the U.S. Senate to hold votes on President George W. Bush's judicial nominees.

``Discussion of issues cannot be suppressed simply because the issues may also be pertinent in an election,'' Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the court. ``Where the First Amendment is implicated, the tie goes to the speaker, not the censor.''

The ruling underscores the influence of Roberts and fellow Bush appointee Samuel Alito in moving the court in a conservative direction. Roberts and Alito were joined today in the campaign ad case and two other constitutional rulings by Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Anthony Kennedy.

Core truths are always there but seldom so nakedly visible as on a day like today where you see that the Left desires limited political speech and opposes both parental control of children and joint efforts between government and religious organizations to provide social services. The first and third represent threats by civil society to the power of the State while the second retards the atomization of the family that is necessary to making people dependent upon the State. As the story correctly notes, this net diminishment of state power is inded the conservative direction.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:57 PM


Two Top California Republicans Are Aliens (JOSH GERSTEIN, June 25, 2007, NY Sun)

The California Republican Party is coming under criticism for its decision to hire political operatives who are not American citizens for two top jobs.

In March, the state party hired an Australian, Michael Kamburowski, to be its chief operating officer. He now lives in America on a so-called green card, but he was ordered deported in 2001. That order was eventually lifted, though he is now suing the Department of Homeland Security for $41 million over an episode in 2004 where he was jailed for 30 days by immigration authorities, according to court records.

Recently, the party gave the position of research and political technology director to a Canadian, Christopher Matthews. Mr. Matthews is presently in America on a special work visa for Mexican and Canadian nationals, but California GOP officials applied for and received a coveted "H1B" visa for him, a party spokesman said. The H1B program is the subject of intense lobbying by the technology industry, which has urged Congress to increase the annual allotment of 65,000 visas for skilled workers.

Tom Tancredo is sponsoring a bill in Congress to get that wetback off the sawbuck.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:44 PM


Thatcherism lives on after Tony Blair: Gordon Brown, too, is guided by the Iron Lady's spirit (Simon Jenkins, June 26, 2007, The Australian)

WHEN Tony Blair entered Downing Street in 1997, he had to decide whom first to invite to his new home. Surely it would be one of his Labour predecessors, Jim Callaghan, Michael Foot or Neil Kinnock, all itching for an invitation? No. The lucky guest was Margaret Thatcher. Round she came, and in spirit she never left.

As Blair leaves office, political historians are going to get him completely wrong. [...]

Brown proved more Thatcherite than any of his predecessors, plunging in where they had feared to tread. Thatcher had opposed rail, coal and post office privatisation. Brown not only accepted every privatisation so far undertaken but faced down Blair and insisted that the London Tube be sold on risk-free 30-year contracts to private companies. And in social policy the new Government entered realms that the Tories treated as no-go areas.

Blair's adherence to the outlook of his heroine was not confined to home affairs. He soon turned his back on seeking the heart of Europe - as she and Major had both done on taking office - in favour of the US bond. While half-hearted attempts were made by Robin Cook to clothe Blair's adventurism in ethical garb, it was essentially, if vaguely, neo-imperial. It pronounced a Western values agenda to be imposed on sovereign states at will. The politics of fear and a wildly inflated war on terror became the leitmotif of speech after speech. Told by Thatcher to "hug Washington close", Blair did so to a fault, from the mountains of Bora Bora to the streets of Fallujah and the cells of Guantanamo Bay.

Blair has been a true son of Thatcher. Essentially a presidentialist, he appealed over the heads of political and democratic institutions to the people at large. He found a shattered shell of a party and bent it to his will. His wayward treatment of policy shows a man devoid of personal ideology. He may not have been a dyed-in-the-wool Thatcherite in the sense that Brown became one under the influence of the treasury. To Blair, Thatcherism was part reality check, part opportunism. But neither he nor Brown changed the main premises of policy they found on entering office in 1997. What appeared to have worked for the Tories they made certain worked for them. I see no reason why the man who takes office as prime minister this week should seek any other way. As it says over the gates of the temple, there is no alternative.

Mush as partisans on both sides of the pond (of both parties in both cases, oddly enough) hate Bill Clinton and Tony Blair, historians will find it impossible to distinguish them from their conservative predecessors and successors.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:27 AM


Supreme Court nixes suit over faith-based plan: The 5-4 high court decision bars taxpayers from challenging initiative (AP, 6/25/07)

The Supreme Court on Monday barred ordinary taxpayers from challenging a White House initiative helping religious charities get a share of federal money.

The 5-4 decision dealt with a suit by a group of atheists and agnostics against eight Bush administration officials including the head of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives.

The taxpayers' group, the Freedom From Religion Foundation Inc., objected to government conferences in which administration officials encourage religious charities to apply for federal grants.

Student Free-Speech Rights Defined (MARK SHERMAN, 6/25/07, Associated Press)
The Supreme Court tightened limits on student speech Monday, ruling against a high school student and his 14-foot-long "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" banner.

Schools may prohibit student expression that can be interpreted as advocating drug use, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the court.

...'cause the Left is going to be hyperventilating somethin' fierce.

They lost the CFR case too. The Wall Street Journal has a cool graph on how the Court's been splitting.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:16 AM


2M for Hil after Bam Indian dis (MICHAEL McAULIFF in Washington and HELEN KENNEDY in New York, June 25th 2007, NY Daily News)

Sen. Hillary Clinton at the Indian-American fundraiser at the New York Sheraton yesterday.

After being dissed by Barack Obama, Indian-Americans gathered in what organizers called the biggest event their community ever held to hand Hillary Clinton about $2 million yesterday.

"I will work very hard to be a good steward of those contributions," Clinton told 1,200 of the nation's most prominent Indian-Americans, who flew in from all over the country and paid $1,000 to $4,600 to dine with her at the New York Sheraton.

"It is important that the relationship and partnership between India and the U.S. deepen and strengthen."

Recall that her administration had a confrontational relationship with India and that the alliance is almost entirely a creation of George W. Bush. Even the Stupid Party has to work pretty hard to squander this opportunity, though protectionism and nativism will do it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:00 AM

IT'LL ALL SCAB OVER (via Gene Brown):

In Praise of Skinned Knees and Grubby Faces (Conn Iggulden, June 24, 2007, Washington Post)

When I had a son of my own six years ago, I looked around for the sort of books that would inspire him. I was able to find some practical modern ones, but none with the spirit and verve of those old titles. I wanted a single compendium of everything I'd ever wanted to know or do as a boy, and I decided to write my own. My brother, now a theater director in Leicester, a city in the midlands of England, was the obvious choice as co-writer. I had dedicated my first book "To my brother Hal, the other member of the Black Cat Club." It was official at last. I persuaded him to come and work with me 12 hours a day for six months in a shed.

We began with everything we had done as kids, then added things we didn't want to see forgotten. History today is taught as a feeble thing, with all the adventure taken out of it. We wanted stories of courage because boys love those. We wanted stories about men like Royal Air Force fighter pilot Douglas Bader, Scott of the Antarctic, the Wright Brothers -- boys like to read about daring men, always with the question: Would I be as brave or as resourceful? I sometimes wonder why people make fun of boys going to science fiction conventions without realizing that it shows a love of stories. Does every high school offer a class on adventure tales? No -- and then we complain that boys don't read anymore.

We added sections on grammar because my brother once said, "If anyone had told me there are only nine kinds of words, I'd have damn well learned them." Boys like to see the nuts and bolts of language. Of course they can empathize and imagine, but they need the structure as well. Why should the satisfaction of getting something right be denied to those who have been educated since the '70s?

We filled our book with facts and things to do -- from hunting a rabbit to growing crystals. As adults, we know that doors have been closed to us. A boy, though, can be interested in anything.

Finally, we chose our title -- "The Dangerous Book for Boys." It's about remembering a time when danger wasn't a dirty word. It's safer to put a boy in front of a PlayStation for a while, but not in the long run. The irony of making boys' lives too safe is that later they take worse risks on their own. You only have to push a baby boy hard on a swing and see his face light up. It's not learned behavior -- he's hardwired to enjoy a little risk. Ask any man for a good memory from childhood and he'll tell you about testing his courage or getting injured. No one wants to see a child get hurt, but we really did think the bumps and scratches were badges of honor, once.

Since the book was published, I've discovered a vast group that cares about exactly the same things I do. I've heard from divorced fathers who use the book to make things with their sons instead of going out for fast food and a movie. I've received e-mails from 10-year-olds and a beautifully written letter from a man of 87.

I thought I was the only one sick of non-competitive sports days and playgrounds where it's practically impossible to hurt yourself. It turned out that the pendulum is swinging back at last. Boys are different from girls. Teaching them as though they are girls who don't wash as much leads to their failure in school, causing trouble all the way. Boys don't like group work. They do better on exams than they do in coursework, and they don't like class discussion. In history lessons, they prefer stories of Rome and of courage to projects on the suffragettes.

It's all a matter of balance. When I was a teacher, I asked my head of department why every textbook seemed to have a girl achieving her dream of being a carpenter while the boys were morons. She replied that boys had had it their own way for too long, and now it was the girls' turn. Ouch.

The problem with fighting adult gender battles in the classroom is that the children always lose.

I expected a backlash. If you put the word "boys" on something, someone will always complain. One blog even promoted the idea of removing the words "For Boys" from the cover with an Exacto knife so that people's sons wouldn't be introduced to any unpleasantly masculine notions such as duty, honor, courage and competence.

The dark side of masculinity may involve gangs and aggression, but there's another side -- self-discipline, wry humor and quiet determination. I really thought I was the only one who cared about it, but I've found many thousands who care just as much.

Our kids finished school last week and they called a local oldies statiuon to request "School's Out for Summer" (Alice Cooper) and "We Don't Need no Education" (Pink Floyd). The station manager told the seven-year old she was the youngest person they'd ever had call the oldies request line. Haven't been able to convince them to play kick-the-can yet, but they play a mean game of flashlight tag.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:54 AM


Cameron Diaz apologizes for Maoist bag (AP, 6/24/07)

Cameron Diaz apologized Sunday for wearing a bag with a political slogan that evoked painful memories in Peru.

The voice of Princess Fiona in the animated Shrek films visited the Incan city of Machu Picchu in Peru's Andes on Friday wearing an olive green bag emblazoned with a red star and the words "Serve the People" printed in Chinese, perhaps Chinese Communist leader Mao Zedong's most famous political slogan.

The bags are marketed as fashion accessories in some world capitals, but in Peru the slogan evokes memories of the Maoist Shining Path insurgency that fought the government in the 1980s and early 1990s in a bloody conflict that left nearly 70,000 people dead.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:01 AM


In Performance: John Doe: The 'X' Man Returns (Linda Wertheimer, June 23, 2007, Weekend Edition Saturday)

The legendary early-'80s band X was famous for blending the brashness of punk with the unpretentiousness of country and roots-rock. But when the group split up and bassist/songwriter John Doe went solo, his first album under his own name (1990's Meet John Doe) was a fairly straightforward collection of traditional-style country songs. It was one of many unexpected moves in Doe's ever-evolving career, which has spanned everything from X reunions (and a reunion of its side project, The Knitters) to acting.

In the past 20 years, Doe has also recorded the occasional solo album between movie roles (he has appeared in Wyatt Earp, Salvador, Great Balls of Fire and more). And, though he has incorporated some heavier rock sounds along the way, Doe remains an unpretentious roots musician at heart.

Doe just released a disc called A Year in the Wilderness, and recently sat down in the studio to play a few of his new songs. In between performances, he talks about the mythic qualities of the lonely, liberating American West, as well as the differences between song lyrics and poetry.

REVIEW: of John Doe : A Year in the Wilderness (Jennifer Kelly, 6/22/07, PopMatters)
John Doe could easily coast for the rest of his life on his history—with ground-breaking cow-punkers X and alt.country-inventing Knitters and, since the late 1990s, in a string of seven solo albums, ranging from country-flavored singer songwriter to venom-laced roadhouse punk. It’s all been good to excellent, and sometimes revelatory, and if he quit right now, he’d still be a legend. Heck, I’d give him a lifetime pass just for “Big Blue House”.

The point, though, is that John Doe doesn’t owe us anything. The fact that he’s made his best-ever solo album roughly 30 years after he started is gravy. Recorded, reportedly, in just two weeks, Doe’s seventh solo CD ranges over boot-stomping garage rockers ("Hotel Ghost") and lovely pop-leaning duets ("Golden State” with Kathleen Edwards). It showcases Cash-like murder balladry ("The Meanest Man in the World") and brings Exene Cervenka back into the fold, at least as a lyricist, in the wryly melancholy “Darling Underdog”. [...]

“Hotel Ghost” is one of a clutch of greasy rockers, a only a notch or two better than “There’s a Hole” or “Lean Out Your Window”, but still clearly the stand-out. It stands alongside an equal number of pop-country ballads, where Doe is assisted by a trio of leading ladies—Kathleen Edwards, Jill Sobule, and Aimee Mann. “The Golden State”, his duet with Kathleen Edwards is the best of these, her sweet, vibrato-touched harmonies and strong solo interludes providing a yin/yang balance that will remind you strongly of X.

Strange as it seemed when the more traditional Dave Alvin briefly joined X -- but long enough to give them their two best tunes 4th of July (one of the 5 perfect rock songs ever) and "See How We Are" [profanity alert] -- it makes perfect sense that the second half of John Doe's career has seen him become Dave Alvin.

Dave Alvin and the Blasters on what must be the revered Uncle Floyd Show:

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Yankee Notes (George King, 6/25/07, NY Post)

The White Sox have had a scout looking at Yankees’ Double-A pitchers Ian Kennedy and Joba Chamberlain. Chicago general manager Kenny Williams has vowed to make changes, and if he wants to deal Mark Buehrle or Jermaine Dye, expect the Yankees to be interested. Williams talks regularly with Brian Cashman. Dye has been out since Friday with a quad injury.

If you're a rival GM who just watched the panicky Yanks spend $26 million on the decrepit Roger Clemens and you don't extort either Phil Hughes or Jose Tabata out of them you haven't done your job.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


The place to go where no one knows your name (Wayne Drehs, 5/15/03, ESPN.com)

From the foot of his Iowa Cubs locker to the front porch of his home, former major league pitcher Rod Beck walks 159 steps. Down the hallway, through a thick blue double door, out a green door and along a flattened path of what's become dead grass.

Rod Beck's trailer, parked just behind the outfield wall, is where Iowa Cubs fans can share a beer (but not Miller Light) with the former major-league pitcher.

It's the greatest commute in baseball.

The roughly 400 feet that separate home from office, play from work, is a shorter distance than home plate is from the centerfield wall in some ballparks. And it's only possible because Beck has chosen a most unique place to call home during his comeback stint in Triple-A.

The guy known as "Shooter," the guy with the shaggy mullet, the bushy Fu Manchu and the endearing beer belly, the guy who laughs contagiously, smokes religiously and looks more like a plumber than a professional baseball player, lives behind the right field wall of Iowa's Sec Taylor Stadium. In a motor home.

"For as long as I've been around this game, there have always been guys who have strayed from the norm," said Jerry Reuss, the I-Cubs pitching coach and a veteran of 22 major league seasons. "Then there are the guys that take it to a whole new level: Jay Johnstone. Mark Fidrych. Guys like that. Living in your own personal trailer park behind center field? This qualifies him in that group. I've never seen anything like it."

June 24, 2007

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:23 PM


Stumbling Yanks Keep Taking Steps Backward (TYLER KEPNER, 6/24/07, NY Times)

There is more than half the season remaining. But if the Yankees continue to sputter and wheeze, the seventh inning of Sunday’s game might have been their last stand.

In the top of the inning, Johnny Damon, Jorge Posada and Bobby Abreu came off the bench in succession. In the bottom of the inning, Roger Clemens came on in relief. Yet the Yankees were worse off when the inning ended than when it began.

The pinch-hitting parade produced nothing, Clemens allowed a run, and three more rumbled home in the eighth inning as the Yankees made two errors. The dreary result was a 7-2 loss to the San Francisco Giants that sent the Yankees back across the country in third place, one game below .500 and 11 ½ behind Boston in the American League East.

The reality is that the best use of Roger Clemens at this pint would be as the 8th inning setup guy for Mariano Rivera. It might add a couple mph to his fastball, getting him into the low 90s, and he has fairly little value as a 5 inning starter. The Mets should do likewise with Pedro, who could have a nice second career as an Eckersley-type, but they too are unlikely to do so.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:14 AM


The delicate balance of black and brown: Population shifts are threatening to upset political understandings that have kept the lid on racial tension (Harold Meyerson, June 24, 2007, Washington Post)

[L].A.'s black and Latino political elites have tended to avoid conflict more often than not. In the 2005 mayoral election, for example, both groups largely supported the candidacy of Antonio Villaraigosa. Multiracial coalitions have been, if not the norm, at least frequent in city politics — surprisingly frequent. Generally, as once heavily black parts of the city have become plurality or majority Latino, the elites have worked together to limit the possibility of Latino candidates winning elections in districts historically represented by blacks.

So the implications of an Oropeza victory in a longtime black seat may at first glance seem stark. Historically black South L.A. is now sufficiently Latino that, in theory, black political representation could be threatened. In the 2000 Census, Millender-McDonald's district was just 25% black and 43% Latino, though many of those Latinos were not registered voters or American citizens. The Latino population also exceeds the black population in the other two L.A. congressional districts represented by African Americans (Maxine Waters and Diane Watson), though again, many of the Latinos are noncitizens.

In the zero-sum game of electoral politics, that could augur the eventual extinction of L.A.'s black political leadership, not only at the federal level but at the state, county and city levels as well. Such a move could imperil the majority center-left coalition that dominates L.A. politics, and destabilize the city more generally. And because African Americans, like the Irish a century ago, have used political power to attain public sector jobs (a logical response to the employment discrimination they've long encountered in the private sector), any reduction in political clout could also foretell a reduction in economic prospects.

So far, though, no one is playing the zero-sum game.

To Republicans' lasting detriment.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:08 AM


Galveston poised to defy geologists: The Texas city lost 8,000 people in a 1900 storm but is about to OK a development that could boost its vulnerability. (Miguel Bustillo, June 24, 2007, LA Times)

Leaders of this fast-eroding barrier island — the scene of the deadliest hurricane in American history — are about to approve nearly 4,000 new homes and two midrise hotels despite geologists' warnings that the massive development would sever a ridge that serves as the island's natural storm shield.

Galveston officials and the developer maintain that the plans are sound for the largest development in city history, and that geologists are placing too much significance on the ridge in question — if it exists at all.

Critics of the plans say that Galveston's officials are ignoring the lessons of science and history in their pursuit of new tax money — and that in considering the building plan, the officials have ignored the very geological map the city commissioned to guide development on the island.

...have enough sense to pass a law barring them from receiving FEMA money when disaster strikes?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:51 AM


For Bush, a Gift From Paris (Jim Hoagland, June 24, 2007, Washington Post)

France's new president is a hurricane of fresh air. In five weeks, Nicolas Sarkozy has fashioned a government unlike anything the French have seen in diversity and appeal across party lines. He has launched or endorsed French initiatives on Darfur, Kosovo, Lebanon and European integration. He has even appointed staff watchdogs to hold him to the sweeping campaign promises he made.

The impulse to change and to surprise extends even into French foreign policy, normally a model of continuity and obsessive self-regard. This French moment of flexibility may present an opening for the battered and fading Bush administration to steady some of its faltering policies abroad.

The Americophiliac President of France is, of course, a gift from W.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:54 AM


PBS has pretty nearly ruined the Mystery franchise -- in favor of boomer drivel like Suze Orman and Peter, Paul & Mary reunions -- but one of the rare exceptions starts a 4 episode run tonight : Foyle's War.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:16 AM


Blair tells Pope: Now I'm ready to become a Catholic (John Hooper, June 24, 2007, The Observer)

Tony Blair yesterday used his last official foreign engagement before leaving office to tell Pope Benedict he wanted to become a Roman Catholic, a Vatican source said last night.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:04 AM


Constituting EU (David Warren, 6/24/07, Real Clear Politics)

The new draft treaty, like the old, would include longer terms for president and members of the EU Council, and lay the foundations for a centralized European foreign office. It would assign new voting weights in legislative elections, and alter other voting formulae to enhance the power of France and Germany, and extend the EU's ability to interfere in the smaller states' domestic and judicial arrangements. The most frightening proposal is the one least appreciated: to create a European "charter of fundamental rights" that will accomplish the precise opposite of what it claims. It will swing the iron claw of "progressive thought" through the soft flesh of human variety, enterprise, and freedom, on an unprecedented scale.

It is time people realized that "human rights codes" are a weapon employed by the state to suppress disapproved behaviour by the individual. They cannot be wielded by the individual against the state, as independent civil and criminal courts could be. They are star chambers used, and designed to be used, to mount show trials, in which persons who fail to snap to attention when commissar issues the latest political corrections may be publicly demonized. By removing all of their victims' established legal protections -- presumption of innocence, the right to know one's accuser, to be tried by a jury of one's peers, et cetera -- they put a jackboot directly in the teeth of the tradition of human liberty descending from Magna Charta. The tribunals are created, always, by bureaucratic fiat.

Democracy is not quite dead in Europe, but getting that way. The cumbersome, incompetent, ridiculously corrupt, incredibly arrogant, and unelected Euro-bureaucracy is already in a position to dictate trans-European policies that by-pass all national legislatures. There is nothing to stop, or even slow, the metastasis of micro-managing regulations that interfere with the daily lives and customs of half-a-billion souls.

There actually is one force that can -- and likely will -- stop it: nationalism. But that'll just move Europe from the frying pan to the Reichstag fire.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:01 AM


Lynn Swann 2008? (Salena Zito, 6/24/07, Real Clear Politics)

Three summers and one failed attempt at governor later, according to a variety of inside sources Swann is contemplating another run for office, in a considerably less dramatic fashion.

Swann, who lost to Gov. Ed Rendell last year, now has an eye on Pennsylvania's 4th Congressional District.

Despite his rookie status and less-than-stellar campaign, he was the only Republican to win the 4th District in 2006 -- which is part of the reason why U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum and U.S. Rep. Melissa Hart are now referred to as "former."

If he decides to run, he would take on freshman congressman and Democrat Jason Altmire of McCandless.

As with Lamar Alexander, a lot of these guys can serve the party, and their own careers, better by lowering their sights.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:57 AM


Out of America: The US health-care system can work brilliantly, as the recent experience of our correspondent shows. But in a country where 44 million people have no medical insurance, the pressure for change is building (Rupert Cornwell, 24 June 2007, Independent)

Whisper it not to the assembled Democratic presidential candidates, and breathe not a word to Michael Moore, whose new film Sicko hits US movie screens this week. I have just had my first direct encounter with the much reviled US health-care system - and I won't hear a word said against it.

During my regular annual check-up with my GP in April, I mentioned that something was causing severe nerve pains in my leg. He recommended I see an orthopaedic surgeon (in the very same building). The appointment was a week later, and came with an on-the-spot X-ray, which revealed nothing special.

On his instructions I had an MRI scan a few days later, which revealed the problem even to my ignorant eye: a badly herniated, or "slipped", disc that was pressing against the spinal cord and causing the pain.

The specialist prescribed a week's course of steroids, but they made no difference. Surgery, he told me, was the only realistic answer. After the standard pre-op tests, he performed the operation at a very efficient, very friendly and very comfortable local hospital, where I spent a night before being discharged the next day. The whole process, from initial visit to the GP to the surgery itself, took about nine weeks.

The operation seems to have been a total success, and my entire "hospital experience", as they say here, was "very positive". Everything should be paid for by the insurance company - the consultations, the scan, the surgery, the night in hospital. If this is a lousy health-care system, I wonder, what on earth is a good one like?

...how about all the Lefties who want to re-make our health care system in the image of Canada and Britain go to those places for their own care?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:50 AM


Iran accelerates crackdown on dissent (Neil MacFarquhar, June 24, 2007, NY Times)

Iran is in the throes of one of its most ferocious crackdowns on dissent in years, analysts say. with the government focusing on labor leaders, universities, the press, women's rights advocates, a former nuclear negotiator and Iranian-Americans, three of whom have been in prison for more than six weeks.

The shift is occurring against the backdrop of an economy so stressed that although Iran is the world's second-largest oil exporter, it is on the verge of rationing gasoline. At the same time, the nuclear standoff with the West threatens to bring new sanctions.

The hard-line administration of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the analysts said, faces rising pressure for failing to deliver on promises of greater prosperity from soaring oil revenue. It has been using U.S. support for a change in government as well as a possible military attack as the pretext to hound his opposition and its sympathizers.

He's right to be panicky--his days are numbered.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:47 AM


'Chemical Ali' sentenced to death (The Associated Press, June 24, 2007)

Two decades after Iraq's military laid waste to Kurdish villages, the Iraqi High Tribunal on Sunday sentenced Ali Hassan al-Majid, known as "Chemical Ali," and two others to death for their roles in the bloody campaign against the restive ethnic minority.

Majid, a cousin of the executed former president, Saddam Hussein, was convicted of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes for ordering army and security services to use chemical weapons in an offensive said to have killed about 180,000 people during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war.

As the verdicts were read out in Baghdad, to the north about 10,000 American troops were in their sixth day Sunday of a major offensive to oust fighters of the Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia group from the city of Baquba.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:03 AM


Cool Britannia: Refreshing summer drinks from across the pond (Adam Ried, June 24, 2007, Boston Globe Magazine)



Barley water flavored with lemon is classic, though it can also be flavored with orange or other fruits. It's less sweet than typical American lemonade, and it has more body, from the barley (which, by the way, is not a strong flavor in the drink).

1/2 cup pearl barley Boiling water
2 quarts cold water
8 4-inch strips zest and 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons juice from 4 large lemons
1/2 cup honey, or more to taste
Fresh lemon slices, for garnish (optional)

Place the barley in a fine mesh strainer and pour boiling water over the grains to wash them; drain the barley well.

In a large saucepan, place the washed barley, cold water, and lemon zest. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, until the barley is almost tender and the water is infused with barley essence, about 30 minutes. Pour the liquid through a strainer into a 2-quart or larger heatproof container, add the lemon juice and honey, and stir until the honey dissolves. (To reserve the barley for another use, remove the lemon zest.) Adjust for flavor with additional honey or lemon juice, if desired. Refrigerate the lemon barley water until well chilled, at least 4 hours or up to 5 days. Serve over ice, garnished with lemon slices, if you'd like.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Young Knights: A rivalry is growing between several Massachusetts chess stars, each of whom could become a top-rated, even professional-level player. That is, if they don't lose interest once they get out of middle school. (Michael Fitzgerald, June 24, 2007, Boston Globe)

After a full day of competition, the state championship is hanging in the balance of one battle. Andrew Wang and James Lung are squared off, mano a mano – as mano as 10-year-old boys can be, anyway – renewing a budding rivalry between two of the best young players in Massachusetts. Andrew has beaten James before, and this day, each player has led his team into the final round (team chess features four players per side). But Andrew’s grip looks tenuous as their struggle stretches well into its second hour. People are clustered around this game, since the rest of the day’s matches are done. If Wang bests his rival, the Sage School in Foxborough will win the 2006 state K-6 championship, avenging a loss the year before. If James wins, his school, Lexington’s Harrington Elementary School, will again be the winner. If they draw, the title will go to a third school.

The arena, which happens to be the Natick High School cafeteria, is boisterous – for chess. Which is to say that people can be heard whispering, and at one point, Andrew distinctly hears someone say: "It’s a draw." Indeed, it looks as if neither player can win. Both boys are down to two pawns and a king, though Andrew also has a bishop. And he is sure he can find a way to win. Still, he is running out of time – tournament chess gives each player a two-hour limit, and Andrew has only five minutes remaining. But five minutes of clock time, which stops after each move, can be an eternity in chess, and so he keeps plugging away. Then he sees his edge: He can use his bishop to protect one of his pawns from James’s king and use that pawn to get his queen back. Once Andrew gets his pawn in position, James concede defeat. [...]

Andrew’s father, Frank Wang, was born in Taiwan but grew up in Montreal before immigrating to the United States in 1989. His mother, Tiffany Wang, came from Taiwan to study harp that year at the New England Conservatory. En-Kuang Lung, James’s father, arrived in 1978, while his mother, Florence Lung, came here in 1971; they are also both originally from Taiwan. The two other top rising seventh-graders in the state are Winston Huang, whose parents left Shanghai almost 30 years ago, and Zaroug Jaleel, whose parents emigrated from southern India, living in Wales before moving to the United States in 1995. The only thing these four families seem to have in common, besides roots in other countries, is the fact that they see chess as an activity that will help their children in school.

That and the fact that, right now, these four boys happen to be engaged in a fierce battle for domination. Any one of them might one day become a grandmaster – the game’s highest rank. And it could happen before they are old enough to drive to their own matches.

But, really, what value do immigrants add to the culture....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Hamas war chief reveals his plans for Gaza peace: The man now controlling Gaza City talks exclusively to Mitchell Prothero about his plans (Mitchell Prothero, June 24, 2007, The Observer)

Abu Obieda sees the fighting as a failure by the Palestinian people on both sides of the political divide. 'We are not happy,' he said. 'I am not proud to have defeated and killed the men of Fatah. This is a shame on all Palestinians because we love each other.'

The problem, he explained, was a corrupt security regime led by the Fatah security chief, Mohammed Dahlan, who had led repeated attacks, arrests and executions of Hamas members over the past decade. Despite February's formation of a unity government of the two factions, Abu Obieda knew war between the two would come. He started planning even as the leaders tried to negotiate peace.

He said Israel 'forced us to this point, but we are not ready to do it again. People need help; they need jobs, money and police. They don't need fighting between brothers.'

Despite his months of planning for such a war, Abu Obieda was surprised by the speed of the victory: 'I expected it to take one month. That is what we planned for and trained for. But then at the beginning, all the Fatah commanders escaped their compounds in ambulances and left for Egypt. They left their men to die. Who could do that?'

At one battle, for a security compound - where his men later found weapons, ammunition and food that would survive a three-month siege - he listened on a radio to Fatah fighters on nearby rooftops begging their commanders for more ammunition that never came. 'They all had left,' Abu Obieda said. 'The Fatah fighters are brave but would you fight for a commander who left you alone to die for his war?'

He confirmed that some top Fatah officials with links to Dahlan were arrested and investigated. He insisted all had been released but admitted some summary executions happened during the fighting without authorisation.

'Hamas does not do that, but during the battle some men who were very hated for killing Hamas members were executed by the family members of their victims. We have put a stop to that, for it is wrong. Now any Fatah leader can return and will be safe.'

At a Friday sermon in a Gaza City mosque, Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh called for talks between Hamas and Fatah to heal the divisions, a suggestion that has so far been rejected by Fatah's president, Mahmoud Abbas, who denounced Hamas as terrorists.

'We forgive any Fatah official who wants to return and help us improve lives in Gaza,' he said. 'But 'Alafu' [the Islamic idea of forgiveness] can only be given once. If they do not stop their activities, then there will be no mercy.'

He admitted 'Alafu' will not apply to Mohammed Dahlan, currently in the West Bank. 'He can never come back here. Everyone in Hamas is ready for Dahlan to return, and the supporters of Dahlan who do anything will be met with force.'

The backing of America, Israel, the Europeans and the Arabs doesn't change the fact that Fatah is the weak horse. It's just more wasted time and effort.

June 23, 2007

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:12 PM


Lawmaker urges condoms for border control (Richard Cowan, 6/22/07, Reuters)

A congressman is pushing a not-so-quick fix in the debate over illegal immigrants from Mexico: free contraceptives.

"A slower rate of growth of Mexico's population would improve the economy of Mexico. It would also reduce the environmental pressure on Mexico's ecosystem. But a slower rate of growth would also reduce the long-term illegal immigration pressure on America's borders," reasoned Rep. Mark Kirk, who also supports stronger border security in the short-term.

Margaret Sanger would be so proud.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:48 AM


Bush Prods Vietnamese President On Human Rights and Openness (Peter Baker, 6/23/07,
Washington Post)

President Bush pressed Vietnamese President Nguyen Minh Triet yesterday to address human rights abuses and open up his communist nation's autocratic system, during the first White House visit by a head of state from Hanoi since the countries were at war.

Bush hailed the growing trade ties between the two former enemies and the signing of a new agreement that could lead to formal free-trade talks. But as flag-waving Vietnamese American protesters demonstrated outside the White House gates, Bush used the opportunity to urge Triet to permit opposition and end crackdowns on religious minorities.

"I also made it very clear that, in order for relations to grow deeper, that it's important for our friends to have a strong commitment to human rights and freedom and democracy," Bush said with Triet at his side in the Oval Office before hosting a lunch of black sea bass and gazpacho. "I explained my strong belief that societies are enriched when people are allowed to express themselves freely or worship freely."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:18 AM


Arise Sir Salman, and goodbye Bernard, those two experts at stirring things up: It was the charmless relish he took in the incorrectness of his jokes that made them work so well ( Howard Jacobson, 23 June 2007, Independent)

So Salman Rushdie gets to meet the Queen and Bernard Manning sleeps with Christ. How variously Fate distributes her favours.

Arise, Sir Salman. It has a ring, I think. But then a bit of alliteration never did anyone any harm. At least I hope it won't on this occasion. And I am of the party that applauds the honour. You can never sufficiently reward people, is where I stand, who cause offence. I don't mean specifically offend Islam. I can see why Muslims aren't too pleased. From where they stand this is another slap in the face. So we need to find a way of depersonalising it. It's not for stirring up Muslims or their religion that we send Salman to meet the Queen. It's for stirring, full stop. It's for doing what writers are supposed to do. And in an age of monolithic fundamentalism on the one hand, and the milk-and-water aesthetics of reading groups and Oprah on the other, it's for doing what writers don't do anything like enough. It's for being an anathema. A cursed thing.

But we're going to have to be consistent about this. We can't esteem offence when it's directed at someone else, and shrink from it when it's directed at ourselves. With what hauteur we dismiss the susceptibilities of Islam, lecturing it in the virtues of Western democracy, John Stuart Mill liberalism, free speech and open minds. Yet let a person challenge what we hold dear in matters of race and gender and the jaws of our society slam shut. Faced with a writer, philosopher, teacher or comedian who doesn't think as we think, our liberal democracies turn out to be as touchy as any theocratic state. True, we don't issue death threats. But orthodoxy for orthodoxy there isn't much to choose between us.

So there was no "Arise, Sir Bernard" before he died. The educated didn't make a good job of getting Bernard Manning for all their trumpeted attachment to the freedom to offend. But a few of us spoke up for him. He wasn't my favourite comedian. I don't have a favourite comedian. Jokes don't do it for me the way other forms of comedy do. But allowing that we must have jokes, that not everybody is going to get their comic medicine from watching Curb Your Enthusiasm or reading Martin Chuzzlewit, I thought he told them consummately.

And I am not just referring to his timing, which even his detractors admired. It was the unapologetic, deliberately charmless relish he took in the incorrectness of his jokes that made them work so well. He did the anathema thing.

...is that the latter are effective. The ayatollahs made Mr. Rushdie a bestseller, even though no one actually reads his books, while the Left silenced Don Imus, even though millions of listeners awaited his next show.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:04 AM


1949: Strawberry Tapioca Flamingo (NY Times Magazine, 6/24/07)

This recipe appeared in The Times in an article by Jane Nickerson.

Today, a looser concoction of tapioca is preferred, so if you want the dessert lighter, add 1/4 cup more juice to the tapioca cooking liquid and 1/4 cup more cream to the topping. If you like a neater presentation, the strawberries may be cut into small pieces rather than crushed.

1 pound strawberries, hulled

1 cup sugar

About 2 cups pineapple juice or water

1/3 cup quick-cooking tapioca

Scant 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

½ cup heavy cream, whipped.

1. Lightly crush the strawberries. Add the sugar and let stand at least 30 minutes.

2. Set a strainer over a bowl and drain the strawberries. Set them aside. Add enough pineapple juice or water to the strawberry juice to make 3 cups total.

3. In a saucepan, mix together the juice, tapioca and salt. Bring to a full boil, stirring constantly, then remove from the heat. (The mixture will be thin. Do not overcook.)

4. Fold the drained strawberries into the tapioca mixture. Cool, stirring occasionally. The mixture will thicken as it cools.

5. When the tapioca mixture is cool, divide half among 4 coupe glasses. Chill the glasses and the remaining tapioca mixture.

6. Fold the cream into the remaining tapioca mixture, then pile lightly into the glasses. Serves 4.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:48 AM


Senate to take up tougher immigration measure (MICHELLE MITTELSTADT, 6/23/07, Houston Chronicle)

The Senate next week will consider tougher immigration enforcement measures — including mandatory jail time for foreigners who overstay their visas — to gain more conservative support for a major immigration overhaul.

These are vital victories for the Right which massively improve the bill.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:36 AM


'Saudi Arabia of renewable energy' off Scotland's coast (IAN JOHNSTON, 6/23/07, scotsman.com)

Not only could it provide endless supplies of electricity for Scotland and beyond, but spare energy could be used to convert rubbish into environmentally friendly biofuel for cars, trains and airplanes, slashing greenhouse gas emissions and ridding the country of landfill sites.

In August, the world's largest tidal-current generator will be installed on Northern Ireland's Strangford Lough and, next year, ScottishPower will start testing an underwater turbine in the Pentland Firth itself.

ScottishPower believes its system could generate up to a gigawatt (GW) of electricity - equivalent to all of Scotland's wind farms put together, or the power produced by the Hunterston B nuclear power station.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:33 AM


A watcher sees across the divide (Christopher Goffard, June 23, 2007, Los Angeles Times)

HE senses them out there in the dark, making their moves, trying to outsmart him. He's planted on a hill in the cab of his mud-splattered, jacked-up truck, a greenish 1976 Silverado with roof-mounted motion sensors, holes in the floorboard and a "Don't Tread on Me" sticker in the window. From the cab, he studies the valley below with night-vision goggles, Ruger revolver strapped to his ribs.

"I own the night, brother," says Max Kennedy, a lanky, sunburned man with a scraggly goatee and a voice like a fistful of desert gravel. In his 53 years, he says, he has driven a cab in Miami and ferried fur coats in New York, peddled marijuana and jewelry, played bass in a punk bank and marched with 1960s radicals. He has been a Gingrich Republican and a pagan, a seeker of meaning in the Kaballah and the sayings of Chairman Mao.

In his latest incarnation, he's a Minuteman staking out a small stretch of the U.S.-Mexico border in the beautiful, inhospitable mountains of southeast San Diego County. Untethered to job or family, he's one of three or four hard-core members who camp out here full time, trying to catch illegal immigrants as they cross.

But after 14 months living "in exile from the United States," he might be the most ambivalent of border warriors. His relations with other Minutemen are uneasy, his faith in the mission fraying, his sense of the migrants' desperation increasingly keen. Plus, the desert has its privations. He misses women and chicken cutlets and good conversation.

Women don't miss him and no one misses conversing.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:33 AM


Bush’s Stance on Immigration Has Roots in Midland (JIM RUTENBERG, 6/24/07, NY Times)

Late last spring, Republicans in this West Texas oil town called for a boycott of Doña Anita’s Mexican restaurant, a retaliatory step against its owner, Luz Reyes, for closing shop and showing up at a rally against proposed new penalties for illegal immigrants.

But President Bush’s three best friends here defied the boycott and went to the restaurant, Mr. Bush’s favorite when he lived here, regardless. One of them, the president’s close confidant and former commerce secretary, Donald L. Evans, told Ms. Reyes: “Luz, you didn’t do anything wrong. We love you.”

The hometown divide helps to shed light on a broader rift, as Mr. Bush and like-minded Republicans engage in an unusually contentious fight with the rest of their party in the national debate over immigration.

Mr. Bush has pursued a goal of providing citizenship for the millions of illegal immigrants with rare attacks on his conservative supporters, who have derided his approach as tantamount to amnesty. There are various political motivations for Mr. Bush to push for his plan, including the rapid growth in the nation’s Hispanic population, a voting group that he has long considered to be potentially Republican.

But the roots of Mr. Bush’s passion lie here in Midland, now heavily Hispanic, the city where Mr. Bush spent much of his childhood, and to which he returned as a young adult after spending his high school and college years in the more genteel settings of Andover and Yale.

As a boy, and later as a young, hard-drinking oilman, his friends say, Mr. Bush developed a particular empathy for the new Mexican immigrants who worked hard on farms, in oil fields and in people’s homes, and went on to raise children who built businesses and raised families of their own, without the advantages he had as the scion of a wealthy New England family.

Our fraternity used to send groups of guys to Midland/Odessa to work on geoseismic crews during our semesters off. You got payed minimum wage, but working 100 hour weeks got you a boatload of time and a half, plus there was $5 a day meal money and a $25 per diem. The last was because turnover was so high and it was thought daily cash would get folks to show up at 6am every day. They put up with us Yankees because we were as reliable as the one third of the crew that was illegals.

Not only did the latter have taxes withheld from their paychecks, but so many of the natives had DWIs and suspended licenses for other reasons that when the crew moved from town to town they ended up driving the company vehicles--the bosses having made the determination that it was better to put guys with valid Mexican licenses driving behind the wheel. Such dependence on illegals, while typical, hardly endeared them to all the Texans, but it made pretty much everyone a coyote. You covered for the guys, helped them get hotel rooms, etc.. On crews that worked close to the border and used their infrequent day off to go over to Nuevo Laredo, or wherever, it was not unheard of to sneak a few guys back and forth over the border so they could go with you.

Some of the guys had been in the states for years and were raising families, but others just wanted to make enough money to be able to open a business back home. One young guy who we became particularly friendly with dreamed of nothing but owning a cinder block business back in Mexico. He was 17 and missed his parents.

The reality a George Bush would have exprienced in Midland is so at odds with the phobias that nativists foster that it's hardly surprising he has so little patience with them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Whose Orders?: a review of THE YEARS OF EXTERMINATION: Nazi Germany and the Jews, 1939-1945 By Saul Friedländer (RICHARD J. EVANS, 6/24/07, NY Times Book Review)

These people were the victims, Friedländer argues, not of anonymous processes generated in the machinery of Nazi and SS administration, but of one man above all: Adolf Hitler. Friedländer is critical of the recent, voluminous literature, mainly by a younger generation of German historians, that attempts to depict the extermination program as the outcome of coldly rational processes of decision-making by administrators, “experts” and officials in the German-occupied areas of Eastern Europe, who decided that the Jews would have to be killed so that the limited food supplies available in the area could go to the Germans, or to make room for German settlers or Germans left homeless by Allied bombing raids.

Such arguments do not explain the manic obsessiveness with which Heinrich Himmler, the head of the SS and the man in charge of implementing the extermination program, tracked down Jews to arrest and kill, even traveling to Germany’s ally Finland to try and persuade its government to surrender that country’s tiny Jewish population, which was of no objective economic or strategic importance to Germany at all. Nor do these arguments do justice to the virulent language of hatred used by the Nazi leaders, Hitler and Goebbels in particular, when they spoke, as they did almost unceasingly, of the Jews.

Friedländer devotes a good deal of space to quoting Hitler at length, showing clearly his personal obsession with the forces of international Jewry that, in his mind, lay behind the actions of Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin. It was the Jews, he believed, who had fomented the war launched (in reality by himself) in September 1939. As the United States committed itself ever more firmly to the Allied side in the summer and fall of 1941, Hitler delivered one tirade after another against the Jewish conspiracy he thought lay behind Roosevelt’s policy. It was at this point that he escalated his persecution of the Jews first to deportation to the East and then to mass murder and total extermination.

The German defeat by the Red Army at the Battle of Stalingrad in February 1943, blamed by Hitler yet again on the Jews, raised his anti-Semitic fury to fresh heights. The Jews, he declared, were driven by their innate racial instinct to subvert civilization everywhere. “The modern peoples have no option left,” he said in May, as the genocide was reaching its height, “but to eliminate the Jews.” Millions of entirely innocent and largely unsuspecting people across Europe paid for such violent fantasies with their lives.

The notion that Hitler can be divided from his ideology of Applied Darwinism, and the Holocaust considered a pragmatic decision by bureaucrats, is bizarre to begin with.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Piece Process (NOAH FELDMAN, 6/24/07, NY Times Magazine)

In Iraq as in Israel and Palestine, three outcomes remain possible. In the first, our patience pays off, as ordinary people come to realize that continuing violence solves nothing and as new, realistic leaders emerge who reflect and encourage this sentiment. From prison, the Palestinian activist Marwan Barghouti has already tried to broker a reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah, and he might seek to do it again. If he succeeds and Israel releases him, he could negotiate a serious deal with a coalition government led by Ehud Barak, newly returned as Labor Party leader, or Ami Ayalon, the dovish ex-admiral waiting in the wings. It is certainly worth expending our diplomatic capital to encourage such a result — even if it takes time. The cost of such patience is of course much higher in the case of Iraq, where the resources expended include not just American credibility but also American lives. But our responsibility is correspondingly greater as well.

A second prospect is that violence remains at a low or medium level for years, waxing or waning as it has for two decades in Israel and Palestine and for a shorter time in Iraq. Such violence gradually saps hopes for peace by confirming the parties’ worst fears about each other. Leaders who seek peace are discredited one by one. U.S. involvement may limit the scope of Israeli retaliation to Palestinian attacks, but it can also dilute the chances for progress by teaching the Palestinians that they can fall back on U.S. cover and the Israelis that we will not press them too hard to the table. We are past masters at this sort of crisis management in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; in Iraq, however, we cannot sustain such a role indefinitely.

The third possibility is that our impatience with the failure to make progress leads us to disengage. We know from recent experience what that means for the Middle East: declining hope and growing radicalism are making Gaza look like a smaller, poorer Baghdad, to the detriment of Palestinians, Israelis and our national interest. If we disengage in Iraq too, we will probably save American lives — and risk chaos that could make the present troubles there seem minor by comparison.

Mr. Feldman is usually quite sensible, but here he doesn't even include as a possibility the most likely outcome. Just as the Shi'a will probably establish eventual sovereignty over Baghdad and the central portion of Iraq, so too will the religious Right likely prevail over the secular/socialist Fatah in Palestine.

June 22, 2007

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:56 PM


A Brazil's Gremio's fan holds up an image of Osama Bin Laden wearing the colors of Gremio prior to the Copa Libertadores final soccer game against Boca Juniors in Porto Alegre, Brazil, Wednesday, June 20, 2007. (AP Photo/Marcelo Hernandez)
He represents the whole sport, not any one team.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:56 PM


Go back and stand up to the French, Brown orders Blair: Chancellor insists prime minister resists move to drop free market clause (Ian Traynor and Patrick Wintour, June 23, 2007, The Guardian)

Gordon Brown dramatically intervened in a crucial European summit yesterday to overrule the prime minister in his last week in office and demand that Britain challenge a French move to dilute Europe's commitment to a free market.

Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, triggered a row at the Brussels meeting by watering down a pledge to maintain "free and undistorted competition" in the operation of the single European market.

Mr Brown, who was not attending the summit, intervened with Tony Blair after the prime minister assented to the French demand. He phoned Mr Blair three times in Brussels as he digested the potential impact of the Sarkozy coup. A chastened prime minister was forced to go back to the negotiating table to demand a new "protocol" to guarantee that the EU's powers to regulate cartels and anti-trust issues were not impaired.

Wow! George Bush wasted no time shifting his mind control powers to Gordon Brown, eh?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:09 PM


No Guns founder pleads not guilty to gun charges (LA Times, June 22, 2007)

The founder of an antiviolence group called No Guns pleaded not guilty Thursday to federal weapons charges.

Hector "Big Weasel" Marroquin is accused of selling an assault rifle, a machine gun, two pistols and two silencers to undercover federal agents last fall. He could face up to 50 years in prison if convicted.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:07 PM


Edwards' nonprofit kept his profile high: Center not subject to limits imposed by federal election laws (AP, 6/22/07)

When John Edwards pursued his crusade against poverty in 2005, he created a nonprofit center that allowed him to maintain a high profile, and avoid the legal scrutiny aimed at presidential candidates.

Not that Edwards was running for the White House at that point. Fresh from his loss as Democratic nominee John Kerry's running mate in 2004, he would not declare himself a candidate for president until late in 2006.

However, the nonprofit Center for Promise and Opportunity offered distinct advantages to Edwards, its honorary chairman. The center's five officers all had worked for his previous presidential campaign, for example, and it appears to have paid for his travel to New Hampshire and several delegate-rich states.

The center wasn't subject to the limits imposed by federal election laws on a presidential exploratory committee, the first major step in raising money toward a bid. Meanwhile, it may have stretched the limits of tax law, which prohibits political nonprofits from having a primary purpose of supporting or opposing candidates.

"It's possible that the 'opportunity' the center was promoting was only John Edwards' opportunity _ his opportunity to run for president," said Massie Ritsch, a spokesman for the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, a Washington-based research group that tracks money in politics.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:58 PM


By Executive Order, Crocs Aren't Chic (Robin Givhan, 6/22/07, Washington Post)

George W. Bush was photographed recently in a pair of black Crocs -- Cayman style, $29.99 -- as he was heading out from the White House to ride his bike. He wore the clunky resin clogs -- which have ventilation holes and a heel strap -- with a pair of black shorts, a white camp shirt, a baseball cap with the image of an unidentified Scottish terrier and black bike socks imprinted with the presidential seal. He had the backstraps of his Crocs flipped forward so they rested on the top of the shoes -- turning them into slides. This subtle gesture -- coupled with the subdued color -- actually made the exceedingly unattractive shoes look tolerable. [...]

Bush's decision to wear black socks with his Crocs was ill-considered. The combination makes one think of an old man on his way to the beach. Besides, the shoes were conceived for use on boats. The holes allow air to circulate and water to drain. And the non-slip bottoms offer stability. Pairing them with socks is a contradiction.

the family swears by them--they're the only shoes our ten-year old can wear without his feet stinking by the end of the day--but I haven't been able to find the cheaper knock-offs in size 13. Note the imbecility here that the President ought not wear socks with them because were he on a boat they'd get wet, even though he's nowhere near a boat? Leave it to the fashion police to favor empty posing over real comfort.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:42 PM


Senate Adopts Energy Bill Raising Mileage for Cars (EDMUND L. ANDREWS, 6/22/07, NY Times)

[S]enate Democrats also fell short of their own goals. In a victory for the oil industry, Republican lawmakers successfully blocked a crucial component of the Democratic plan that would have raised taxes on oil companies by about $32 billion and used the money on tax breaks for wind power, solar power, ethanol and other renewable fuels.

Republicans also blocked a provision of the legislation that would have required electric utilities to greatly increase the share of power they get from renewable sources of energy.

As a result, Senate Democrats had to settle for a bill that calls for a vast expansion of renewable fuels over the next decade — to 36 billion gallons a year of alternatives to gasoline — but does little to actually promote those fuels through tax breaks or other subsidies.

Forcing innovation without government picking amongst new ideas? It's practically ideal. The only way it could have been better is if, in addition to not penalizing business for artificially hiking gas prices, Congress had artificially jacked them even higher itself.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:10 PM

OUR THATCHERITE (via Kevin Whited):

Making the Bush Mistake All Over Again (Jennifer Rubin, 6/24/07, NY Observer)

The party faithful convinced themselves that he would remain true to conservative principles despite the irksome references to “compassionate conservatism”—an overt dig at the conservatism many of his supporters believed needed no modifier. [...]

Yes, President Bush cut taxes. But he also added Medicare Part D, the largest entitlement expansion in a generation, federalized K-12 education with “No Child Left Behind” and failed to veto a single spending bill. From the perspective of fiscal conservatives, this was a record worthy of, well, Al Gore or John Kerry.

Then of course there was “nation building.” During the pre-campaign tutorials and the 2000 campaign, he seemed to have mastered the notion that America doesn’t do well imposing itself on other cultures. That opposition to foreign adventures vanished after 9/11, when his administration immediately set about planning to democratize the Middle East by remaking Iraq.

And the worst insult of all, from conservatives’ viewpoint, was that the President eventually had the nerve to train his sights directly on them. As he pursued immigration—an endeavor that angered a large segment of the conservative base—the President and his surrogates began talking about his conservative critics with the same disdainful language he had previously reserved for Democrats.

According to the administration, the critics did not have the country’s interests at heart and were racist and ignorant.

She's got his obit right--tax cuts, HSAs, school vouchers, democratizing the Middle East, immigration amnesty--just the conclusion wrong. Those five items plus his pro-Life legacy, takeover of the courts, and forging of the Axis of Good (most importantly the alliance with India) will be why he's viewed as one of the few historically significant presidents twenty years from now. And all the nattering nabobs of nativism will swear they were with him every step of the way, just as they slunk back to Reagan's side when History judged him a success, rather than the failure they portrayed while he was in office.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:51 AM


Giuliani's loyalty to an accused priest: A grand jury accused Alan Placa of molestation and his diocese has suspended him, but the presidential candidate continues to employ his lifelong best friend as a consultant. (Alex Koppelman and Joe Strupp, 6/22/07, Salon)

Anyone who has followed the career of Republican presidential contender Rudy Giuliani knows the value he places on personal loyalty. Loyalty is what inspired the former mayor of New York to make Bernard Kerik, once his personal driver, the commissioner of the New York Police Department, and then a partner in his consulting firm, and then to suggest him to President Bush as a potential head of the Department of Homeland Security.

After revelations about Kerik's personal history derailed his bid for the federal post, Giuliani demonstrated that there were limits to loyalty. He has distanced himself from Kerik, who resigned from Giuliani's firm and later pleaded guilty to corruption charges. Giuliani has not, however, sought to distance himself from another, much closer friend whose personal baggage is also inconvenient, and would send most would-be presidents running.

Giuliani employs his childhood friend Monsignor Alan Placa as a consultant at Giuliani Partners despite a 2003 Suffolk County, N.Y., grand jury report that accuses Placa of sexually abusing children, as well as helping cover up the sexual abuse of children by other priests. Placa, who was part of a three-person team that handled allegations of abuse by clergy for the Diocese of Rockville Centre, is referred to as Priest F in the grand jury report.

He's pro-gay and pro-abortion so he can hardly be anti-paedophile and be consistent.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:52 AM


Coors Field Unworthy of Clemens Feat (TIM MARCHMAN, June 22, 2007, NY Sun)

The problem with watching Roger Clemens pitch these days is that he belongs to history, rather than the Yankees.

Yesterday, Clemens had his second chance to win his 350th game, and for the second time, he didn't. This was a good thing, at least in the sense that the win didn't take place in an interleague game in Colorado's ridiculous Coors Field. Such an achievement should not come in a game against a team wearing purple pinstripes.

...it's going to be a season full of good things.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:46 AM


Poland evokes war dead as EU talks get tough Ian Traynor and Patrick Wintour, June 22, 2007, The Guardian)

Under the nationalist Kaczynski brothers, prime minister and president of Poland, it seemed Poland was bent on refighting the second world war against Germany in the bunkers of Brussels. "If Poland had not had to live through the years 1939-45, Poland would be today looking at the demographics of a country of 66 million", rather than 38 million, and would warrant a much higher quota of votes in the EU, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the prime minister, told Polish radio.

Under current arrangements dating from 2000, Germany has 29 votes to Poland's 27 in EU councils. The new system,based on population sizes, will give Germany more than double the Polish vote. The Poles are demanding a new way of calculating votes that would diminish German "hegemony".

If it were a prizefight the ref would be counting the Germans out.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:18 AM


Baseball umpire answers the call
: Alfonso Marquez, the first native Mexican to become a major league baseball umpire, spreads hope with charity and actions, never forgetting his roots and helping children try to achieve their dreams. (Kevin Baxter, June 22, 2007, Los Angeles Times)

[Alfonso] Marquez was only 7 when he left the farm fields of Zacatecas, following his mother through a small hole in a chain-link fence separating Mexico from the United States.

That was 27 years ago, plenty of time for memories to fade.

Here Marquez learned English, bought a house and rose to the highest levels of his profession, spending the last eight years as a major league umpire. Last year he worked behind the plate in the World Series. This weekend, he'll work the series between the Angels and Pittsburgh at Angel Stadium.

Certainly he could be forgiven if he had forgotten.

But instead, like Santa Claus, he returns every winter bearing gifts he spends the rest of the year collecting.

"Bottom line is there's a lot of kids that are forced out on the street at 11, 12, 13," Marquez said. "A lot of them are forced to get out of school just to work. So … [I] try to get them involved in some sports."

Along the way he has also provided faith, helping two other umpires turn a six-man religious retreat into a 2,000-member Christian church in Gilbert, Ariz., and charity, founding his own nonprofit group, Fonzie's Kids, to benefit poor children in Mexico.

But perhaps the most important thing he provides, to kids on both sides of the border, is hope.

"For them to look and say, 'Hey, this is one of our people. This is one of our countrymen. And he's made it to a high level.' I would definitely say he's making a difference just as people look at him," said Barrett, also a major league umpire and a former crewmate of Marquez. "But also I think the fact is, his heart is still down there. They've embraced him because his heart's never left there."

How's he ever going to assimilate, eh?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:14 AM


Lebanon's Sunnis teetering on the fault line of conflict: The army's clashes with militants in the north and a crackdown on Islamists have left the community divided. (Raed Rafei, June 22, 2007, Los Angeles Times)

Fatah al Islam, which is holed up in the Nahr el Bared refugee camp, is a mix of fighters from other Arab countries and young Lebanese men from the area, where some Islamist groups subscribe to Al Qaeda's ideology.

"The phenomenon of Fatah al Islam is a result of the marginalization, injustice and harm that Muslims are subjected to," said Daiat Shahal, a prominent religious scholar in Tripoli. However, he said, "this war is between Sunnis and will eventually weaken the Sunnis."

Most Sunni religious leaders with ties to the government have distanced themselves from the Islamist group. And a committee of Palestinian clerics has held talks with the militants in an attempt to end the fighting, the bloodiest the nation has seen since the end of the civil war in 1990.

Under a 1969 agreement, Palestinians have been responsible for internal security in all of Lebanon's 12 refugee camps, which are home to about 400,000 people.

"We fear that if the battle continues, its effect would be detrimental on Sunnis," said Sheik Mohammed Haj, who has participated in the negotiations.

Note that neither is a civil war.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:08 AM


Hillary's tone-deaf campaign: A Celine Dion theme song? Written for Air Canada? (Rosa Brooks, June 22, 2007, LA Times)

[I]n case you missed this major national event, the winning song was "You and I," by Celine Dion.

Clinton staffers have declared the "pick our theme song" contest a resounding success. And who knows what her wacky campaign will do next? Maybe Clinton will soon have YouTube viewers select her campaign's strategy for ending Iraq's civil war or reducing greenhouse gases. If she's going to base her decisions on the lowest common denominator, Clinton could just eliminate her cadre of overcompensated consultants and pollsters and go straight to YouTube for all her policy needs.

And Celine Dion really is the lowest common denominator. If the SAT's analogies section tested politics and pop culture, even the dimmest teenager would agree that "Hillary Clinton: Politics = Celine Dion: Music." Both Clinton and Dion have enjoyed astounding career success. Both showed early talent but are now widely accused of being sellouts. Dion's interesting, edgy early songs were replaced, during her bid for superstardom, by trite and formulaic crowd pleasers; Clinton's interesting, edgy early policy positions were replaced, during her bid for elected office, by trite and formulaic crowd pleasers.

Selecting "You and I" may ultimately come to seem like a Clinton campaign blunder. For one thing, Dion's name summons up, unbidden, thoughts of other major Dion hits, such as the "Titanic" theme song and the title track from Disney's "Beauty and the Beast." Neither suggests helpful associations.

In any case, "You and I" is not exactly in its first run as a theme song. It has already been used by Air Canada. Not just "used": Air Canada commissioned the song, and the airline's advertising consultant wrote the lyrics. (Art at its purest, it ain't.) This isn't the first time a presidential campaign has relied on a song that's basically an advertising jingle, but I think it's the first time a campaign has relied on someone else's advertising jingle.

That the "someone else" is a foreign country's national airline doesn't help. The Canadian-born Dion released "You and I" at an Air Canada event in October 2004. "Wearing a stylish new Air Canada uniform," an Air Canada news release gushed, Dion sang with "a chorus of Air Canada employees," telling the admiring crowd, "[It's] an honor … to promote Air Canada and this great country around the world…. We are all ambassadors for Canada." Oy.

...she'd have chosen "We Care a Lot" by Faith No More and engaged in some salutary self-mockery.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:43 AM


Neoconned!: How Blair took New Labour for a ride: In this brilliant new essay, Britain's leading philosopher argues that Tony Blair owes more to the free-wheeling imperialists of the American right wing than Labour tradition. John Gray explains how George Bush helped shape Blair's decade in office, how religious conviction emboldened him to send troops into battle - and why the truth became a casualty of war (John Gray, 22 June 2007, Independent)

Neo-conservatism is not the most recent variety of conservatism. It is a new type of politics that can emerge at any point on the political spectrum. In Britain, neo-conservatism's political vehicle was not the Conservative Party but the new party that Blair created when he seized the Labour leadership.

The single most important fact in Blair's rise to power was Thatcher's new settlement. Both in economic and political terms it was an established fact, but while this was an index of Thatcher's achievement it was also a source of weakness for the Conservatives.

Thatcher often declared that she aimed to destroy socialism in Britain. She never paused to consider what would be the effect on her party if she succeeded. For much of the 20th century the Conservatives acted as a brake on collectivism. The Conservative Party existed to oppose not just socialism but also - and more relevantly - any further advance towards social democracy. By dismantling the Labour settlement, Thatcher removed the chief reason for the existence of the Conservative Party. Without a clearly defined enemy it lacked an identity. Labour had never been a doctrinaire socialist party - as Harold Wilson remarked, it had always owed more to Methodism than to Marx - but by identifying New Labour with the market, Blair was able to deprive the Conservatives of the threat that had defined them for generations. As a result they were mired in confusion for nearly a decade.

While Blair's embrace of neo-liberal economic policies was a strategic decision, it soon acquired an ideological rationale. More conventional in his thinking about domestic issues than most politicians, and having an even shorter historical memory, Blair embraced without question the neo-liberal belief that only one economic system can deliver prosperity in a late modern context. Modernisation became the Blairite mantra, and for Blair it meant something precise: the reorganisation of society around the imperatives of the free market.

When he was still in opposition, Blair curried support from disillusioned Conservatives by representing himself as a One Nation Tory - a progressive conservative who accepted the central role of the market but also understood the importance of social cohesion. Once in power it was clear Blair came not to bury Thatcher but to continue her work.

Blair's One Nation Toryism was like his fabled Third Way, a political marketing tool. The Third Way originated in Bill Clinton's practice of "triangulation" - a tactic invented in the mid-1990s by Clinton's adviser Dick Morris, which involved Clinton setting himself up as a more pragmatic alternative to both parties in Congress. Adopting the same tactic, Blair attacked his own party as much as the Conservatives. His successful campaign to remove Clause Four (which mandated common ownership of the means of production) from the Labour constitution in 1995 was a symbolic act rather than a policy shift. At the same time it was a marker for larger challenges to Labour's social-democratic inheritance. Blair carried on the agenda of privatisation that had developed from Thatcher's original programme into core areas of the state such as sections of the justice system and prison service, and inserted market mechanisms into the NHS and the schooling system.

In these respects Blair did no more than consolidate Thatcherism, but he did not change British society in the way Thatcher did. His chief impact has been on his own party. New Labour was constructed to bury the past and in this, if in nothing else, it succeeded. It began as a coup masterminded by a handful of people - Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, Peter Mandelson, Alastair Campbell, Philip Gould and others - who aimed to rebuild the party as an instrument for securing power.

New Labour was a purpose-built construction with few links to the political tradition that preceded it.

Note the incoherence in Mr. Gray's essay that is caused by recognizing, but not being able to accept, that Clinton and Blair are the heirs of Thatcher and W . In fact, Blair and Clinton were tightly tied to the preceding political tradition of their countries, just not of their parties. Thatcherism/ThirdWay has so completely transformed the Anglosphere that there's rather little difference among the governing parties of Australia, Canada, America and England.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:34 AM


Who'll Have Courage to Call for Gas Taxes as Energy Answer? (Mort Kondracke, 6/22/07, Real Clear Politics)

A hefty hike in gas taxes -- better yet, in taxes on all carbon-based fuels -- will accomplish far more than mandates and subsidies for what everyone claims to want: “energy independence” and “clean energy.” [...]

Sensible though the idea is -- and despite evidence that $3 per gallon gas already is causing Americans to move from SUVs to hybrids -- gas and carbon taxes have not even been broached in the current energy debate in Congress.

Nor is President Bush or any candidate for his job advocating them, though all say they support freeing the United States from dependency on foreign oil and improving the environment.

It certainly would take courage. The instant reaction of voters to any tax increase is “no.” The last poll I could find on the subject, a New York Times/CBS poll in 2006, showed that 85 percent of voters opposed a gas tax hike.

And yet, 55 percent said they’d support such an increase if it reduced U.S. dependence on foreign oil, and 59 percent said they’d support it if it resulted in less consumption or eased the threat of global warming.

Which leaves out the most important reason for a consumption tax on carbons: offsetting it with reductions in taxes on income.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:58 AM


Research Finds Firstborns Gain the Higher I.Q. (BENEDICT CAREY, 6/22/07, NY Times)

The eldest children in families tend to develop higher I.Q.’s than their siblings, researchers are reporting today, in a large study that could settle more than a half-century of scientific debate about the relationship between I.Q. and birth order.

The average difference in I.Q. was slight — three points higher in the eldest child than in the closest sibling — but significant, the researchers said. And they said the results made it clear that it was due to family dynamics, not to biological factors like prenatal environment.

Researchers have long had evidence that firstborns tended to be more dutiful and cautious than their siblings, and some previous studies found significant I.Q. differences. But critics said those reports were not conclusive, because they did not take into account the vast differences in upbringing among families.

Bigger feet too.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:21 AM

AN EMOTION, NOT A THOUGHT (via Kevin Whited):

Immigration: Emotion trumps logic (David Hill, June 20, 2007, The Hill)

On the other side, emotion is overflowing its banks and the levee is threatening to break at any moment. Just check out the blogs, turn on talk radio or glance at your local letters-to-the-editor column if you don’t believe it. The ferocity of this emotion threatens to undermine the rational solution that reformers seek. Even though hard-core opponents — by the most generous of estimates — comprise no more than one-third of the electorate, their hyper-emotional response to the issue frightens leaders who are on the fence. Rather than looking at polls and concluding that reform is possible, the fence-straddlers are scared away by the passion of opponents that call or write their offices daily.

I have read several analyses in recent days bemoaning that this Congress is not handling immigration like one of its predecessors handled the touchy issue of welfare reform. This analogy doesn’t work because in that situation the welfare reformers had emotion on their side. The grassroots crowd that now blocks any talk of immigration reform was in that era a “hair on fire” mob clamoring for quick, comprehensive action by Capitol Hill.

Of course, the reason Welfare Reform was so easy--and why Bill Clinton chose it as a signature issue in the first place--was because it was perceived as being particularly targeted at blacks.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Putting all the eggs in Fatah basket (Kaveh L Afrasiabi, 6/23/07, Asia Times)

With the dust of Hamas' triumphant counter-coup in the Gaza Strip yet to settle, Israel and the United States have wasted little time on a counter-strategy, of supporting the rival Fatah organization in West Bank and trying to isolate Hamas economically and diplomatically. This they are doing by rallying the "moderate Arab" support for Fatah and, in Israel's case, by preparing for a full invasion of Gaza.

Yet none of these amount to a prudent response, and the best option would appear to be to let Hamas try its chances at ruling Gaza while various interlocutors in the Arab and Islamic world work on rebuilding the broken bridges between the two dominant Palestinian organizations.

Even the staunchly pro-Israel Washington Post has recognized the pitfalls of the Israel-US response, editorializing: "The most dangerous illusion to emerge from the US-Israeli discussions is the idea that Hamas can be isolated in Gaza while Mr [Palestinian President Mahmud] Abbas is built up in the West Bank."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Israel and Palestine pushed closer together (Con Coughlin 22/06/2007, Daily Telegraph)

One of the more remarkable features of the past few days has been the almost indecent haste with which the key Quartet players - America and the EU - have rushed to restore ties with the newly formed government of Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas. Suddenly everyone - the Israelis, the Americans, Britain, Brussels - wants to talk to the Palestinians and give them support.

Millions of dollars worth of aid, which had previously been denied, is flooding into the West Bank in an attempt to revive the Palestinian economy and thereby shore up support for Mr Abbas's government. Next week Israel and the Palestinian Authority will attempt to kick-start the negotiating process when they attend a hastily arranged regional summit in Egypt.

Indeed, the more one looks at these rapidly unfolding developments, the more one is struck by how convenient Hamas's Gazan putsch has been for all those with a genuine interest in reviving some form of dialogue between Israel and the Palestinians.

As the bitter power struggle between the rival Hamas and Fatah wings of the Palestinian government escalated over the past month, it was generally accepted that Israel was more sympathetic to the Fatah-dominated security apparatus run by Mohammed Dahlan, Mr Abbas's chief security adviser.

But the fact that Israeli gunboats were deployed off the Gazan coast, ready to evacuate key Fatah officials when it became clear they were no match for Hamas's Iranian-trained and equipped fighters, suggests that the Israeli military had a profound understanding of the likely outcome of a fight provoked by Fatah in the first place.

And even if the violence resulted in the summary execution of several leading Fatah commanders by their Hamas captors, Hamas's exclusion from the political process could be regarded as a major bonus both for Israel and the more moderate Palestinians.

What makes the Poles so remarkable is that they still like us despite our doing things like this to them repeatedly.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


The National Play Nation's Capital (NPR.org, June 20, 2007, All Songs Considered)

The National make thoughtful, mostly melancholy rock in the spirit of Joy Division or Leonard Cohen, with singer Matt Berninger's warm baritone voice set against deftly orchestrated instrumentation that's as epic as it is intimate. Hear the group recorded live in concert from Washington, D.C.'s 9:30 Club.

You can get an MP3 of the show here.

Suddenly, The National finds a whole new world of fans (Jonathan Perry, June 22, 2007, The Boston Globe)

Alligators are hard to ignore. In the case of the National, a quintet comprising two sets of brothers and a college friend who moved from Cincinnati to Brooklyn to play bitterly bemused, soul-ravaged songs about dreams and failure, an album named for that carnivorous reptile is what got the group noticed -- finally -- after six years of sulking in the shadows.

The National is one of the hottest bands on the road right now, having sold out just about every show it's played. Its new album, "Boxer," was leaked to fans over the Internet well before its official May release date -- a sure sign of digital-age rock stardom -- and has been getting rave reviews. As of this week, the disc remains in the Top 20 on Billboard's independent albums chart.

Hard to believe that this is the same group that only two years ago was playing to indifferent audiences in all but empty rooms. In a sense, the success of the National's current tour -- which returns to the Middle East tonight for the second of a pair of, yes, sold-out shows -- has as much to do with a long-delayed reaction to its 2005 disc, "Alligator," as it does a reception for the equally terrific "Boxer." The National represents the inverse of the typical pop universe, where gratification is often instant and fleeting: a late-blooming band of 30-somethings that continues to blossom and grow its audience.

Let's backtrack: "An underground band that has a loyal but small following" is what National frontman Matt Berninger once imagined his band's fate to be, after it made a pair of superb but scarcely heard albums for a small French imprint. But the darkly decadent murk and tug of the National's sound, bejeweled with Berninger's sybaritic baritone and rueful reflections on anxiety, desire, and regret, did catch the ear of the New York indie label Beggars Banquet . It scooped up the band, gave it creative carte blanche, and released "Alligator" without having heard one note of the work beforehand.

June 21, 2007

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:35 PM


After 30 years as a closet Catholic, Blair finally puts faith before politics (Stephen Bates, June 22, 2007, The Guardian)

His spiritual awakening goes back at least 30 years, to his time as an undergraduate at Oxford, but due to political considerations Tony Blair's conversion to Catholicism has been a long time coming.

He has been attending Catholic mass, often with his family but also occasionally alone, since long before he became prime minister. His wife, Cherie, is a lifelong and practising Catholic, and in accordance with church rules their children have been brought up as Catholics and were sent to church schools.

More than 10 years ago Mr Blair was slipping into Westminster cathedral and occasionally taking communion, until the late Cardinal Basil Hume told him to stop because it was causing comment as he was not a Catholic - an injunction that bemused him at the time.

Since then he has regularly attended services conducted by Canon Timothy Russ, parish priest of the Immaculate Heart of Mary at Great Missenden, the nearest Catholic church to Chequers.

He is also known to have had discussions with priests such as Father Timothy Radcliffe, former head of the worldwide Dominican order, now at Oxford, and with Father Michael Seed, who has shephered a number of high-profile figures, including Ann Widdecome and, allegedly, Alan Clark, towards conversion. Fr Seed, an engaging if indiscreet figure, has claimed to have paid regular backdoor visits to Downing Street to talk religion, if not necessarily to advise the prime minister.

His Vatican ties make him an even more appropriate choice for Middle Easty envoy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:29 PM


US predicts regime change in Zimbabwe as hyperinflation destroys the economy (Andrew Meldrum, June 22, 2007, The Guardian)

Zimbabwe's inflation will rocket to 1.5m% before the end of the year, the US ambassador to Harare predicted yesterday, forecasting massive disruption and instability that will drive President Robert Mugabe from office.

In a telephone interview with the Guardian, Christopher Dell said prices were going up twice a day, sapping popular confidence in a government which is now "committing regime change on itself".

"I believe inflation will hit 1.5m% by the end of 2007, if not before," Mr Dell said. "I know that sounds stratospheric but, looking at the way things are going, I believe it is a modest forecast."

Sure, we owed Liberia a special debt, but Zimbabwens deserve our help too.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:53 PM


High court has been good for business: A dozen rulings in the last year have been a boon to corporations by making it harder to sue them or limiting lawsuit damages. (David G. Savage, June 21, 2007, LA Times)

The Bush administration and corporate lobbyists long have sought sweeping "tort reform" to limit lawsuits and massive jury awards — without much success. But in the last year, they quietly have been winning much of what they've wanted on a case-by-case basis in the Supreme Court.

With a week to go in their term, the justices have handed down a dozen rulings that sharply limit the damages that can be won in lawsuits or make it harder to sue corporations.

"The Roberts court is even better for business" than the court led for two decades by the late Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, said Washington attorney Maureen E. Mahoney, who is a longtime friend of Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and a former clerk for Rehnquist. "There is unquestionably a greater number of business cases before the court, and [the justices] are quite willing to limit damage remedies."

Precedents Begin to Fall for Roberts Court (LINDA GREENHOUSE, 6/21/07, NY Times)
No Supreme Court nominee could be confirmed these days without paying homage to the judicial doctrine of “stare decisis,” Latin for “to stand by things decided.” Yet experienced listeners have learned to take these professions of devotion to precedent “cum grano salis,” Latin for “with a grain of salt.”

Both Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. assured their Senate questioners at their confirmation hearings that they, too, respected precedent. So why were they on the majority side of a 5-to-4 decision last week declaring that a 45-year-old doctrine excusing people whose “unique circumstances” prevented them from meeting court filing deadlines was now “illegitimate”?

,,,is a return to stare decisis.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:45 PM


MISSING IN ACTION: Giuliani quit Iraq panel after missed meetings - but he had time for fundraising (CRAIG GORDON, 6/19/07, Newsday)

Rudolph Giuliani's membership on an elite Iraq study panel came to an abrupt end last spring after he failed to show up for a single official meeting of the group, causing the panel's top Republican to give him a stark choice: either attend the meetings or quit, several sources said.

Giuliani left the Iraq Study Group last May after just two months, walking away from a chance to make up for his lack of foreign policy credentials on the top issue in the 2008 race, the Iraq war.

He cited "previous time commitments" in a letter explaining his decision to quit, and a look at his schedule suggests why - the sessions at times conflicted with Giuliani's lucrative speaking tour that garnered him $11.4 million in 14 months.

Giuliani failed to show up for a pair of two-day sessions that occurred during his tenure, the sources said - and both times, they conflicted with paid public appearances shown on his recent financial disclosure. Giuliani quit the group during his busiest stretch in 2006, when he gave 20 speeches in a single month that brought in $1.7 million.

On one day the panel gathered in Washington - May 18, 2006 - Giuliani delivered a $100,000 speech on leadership at an Atlanta business awards breakfast. Later that day, he attended a $100-a-ticket Atlanta political fundraiser for conservative ally Ralph Reed, whom Giuliani hoped would provide a major boost to his presidential campaign.

The month before, Giuliani skipped the session to give the April 12 keynote speech at an economic conference in South Korea for $200,000, his financial disclosure shows.

9-11 is all the Mayor has going for him, take that away and he's a bald Chris Dodd.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:16 AM


Nader ponders run, calls Clinton 'coward' (Roger Simon, June 21, 2007, Politico)

Ralph Nader says he is seriously considering running for president in 2008 because he foresees another Tweedledum-Tweedledee election that offers little real choice to voters.

"You know the two parties are still converging -- they don't even debate the military budget anymore," Nader said in a 30-minute interview. "I really think there needs to be more competition from outside the two parties." [...]

Nader would have little or no chance of winning the presidency should he run, but he doesn't need to win to affect the outcome: Many Democrats still blame Nader for draining enough votes away from Al Gore in Florida in 2000 to elect George W. Bush.

If Al Gore is even mildly serious about anything he's said lately, he owes it to the planet and the species to run under the Nader/Green banner.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:04 AM

THE ALLY KILLER (via Gene Brown):

Getting It Right: David Halberstam and the media's ethos of irresponsibility. (JAMES BOWMAN, June 20, 2007, Opinion Journal)

Halberstam's old employer, the New York Times, took the occasion of his death to run a piece by Dexter Filkins, who writes for the paper from Iraq, comparing now with then. "During four years of war in Iraq, American reporters on the ground in Baghdad have often found themselves coming under criticism remarkably similar to that which Mr. Halberstam endured: those journalists in Baghdad, so said the Bush administration and its supporters, only reported the bad news. They were dupes of the insurgents. They were cowardly and unpatriotic." Small wonder then that, before he died, Halberstam himself "did not hesitate to compare America's predicament in Iraq to its defeat in Vietnam. And he was not afraid to admit that his views on Iraq had been influenced by his experience in the earlier war. 'I just never thought it was going to work at all,' Mr. Halberstam said of Iraq during a public appearance in New York in January." Yet neither Halberstam nor Mr. Filkins mentions one crucial difference between Vietnam and Iraq. In Vietnam, the enemy was militarily formidable even without any assistance from the media. In Iraq, the enemy is militarily weak and can hope to win only by exploiting the media's negativity--and the continuing romance of their role in Vietnam--to make the war seem unwinnable. The role of fearless truth-teller is no longer available, if it ever was. Like it or not, the media are already involved in the action and must pick a side.

After noting how, since Halberstam, it has become part of the romance of being a reporter to question the bona fides of America's leaders, Ambassador Holbrooke added: "But everything depended on David getting it right, and he did." This strikes me as being equally revealing. "Getting it right" is of course an admirable ambition for a journalist, but it is an exercise that has little in common with what generals and politicians must do, which is to lead others through situations of mortal peril with appallingly incomplete and inaccurate information to guide them. Getting it wrong is a given. That's what the romance of the Halberstamian example has made journalists--and not only journalists!--forget when they try to apply his lesson from Vietnam to the Iraq war. For the man who must act and not just observe, the only question that matters is how quickly he can recognize and recover from his mistakes and how strong is his will to keep fighting in spite of them and the inevitable setbacks they cause. On the first of these tests, the Bush administration has done rather badly, I think; on the second it has done rather well. But part of the reason for its failures has been that the mind of the media remains obsessed with the question only of its prescience--as if "getting it right" were the only thing that mattered and getting it wrong a fatal disqualification for leadership.

The problem, of course, is that Mr. Halberstam and company got it profoundly wrong, with deadly consequences for millions. The murder of Ngo Dinh Diem that he helped to provoke is one of the few truly black marks on our foreign affairs escutcheon.

Top Iraqi Officials Growing Restless (Joshua Partlow and Robin Wright, 6/21/07, Washington Post)

Iraqi Vice President Adel Abdul Mahdi, a senior Shiite politician often mentioned as a potential prime minister, tendered his resignation last week in a move that reflects deepening frustration inside the Iraqi government with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

If it were up to David Halberstam and his ilk we'd have Maliki murdered.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:03 AM


Bush vetoes stem-cell bill, urges other research (Los Angeles Times, 6/21/07)

President Bush vetoed legislation Wednesday that would have allowed the use of federal funds to support embryonic stem-cell research, the second consecutive year he has blocked such a bill. [...]

"Destroying human life in the hopes of saving human life is not ethical, and it is not the only option before us," said Bush, who issued an executive order to the National Institutes of Health asking scientists to pursue research on stem cells that "are derived without creating a human embryo for research purposes or destroying, discarding, or subjecting to harm a human embryo or fetus." [...]

The stem-cell bill passed both houses of Congress with strong majorities, but a veto override would require a two-thirds vote in each chamber. The Senate appears to be one vote shy, and the House is about 35 votes short.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:53 AM


2,300 schools face 'No Child' overhaul (NANCY ZUCKERBROD, 6/20/07, AP)

The scarlet letter in education these days is an "R." It stands for restructuring — the purgatory that schools are pushed into if they fail to meet testing goals for six straight years under the No Child Left Behind law.

Nationwide, about 2,300 schools are either in restructuring or are a year away and planning for such drastic action as firing the principal and moving many of the teachers, according to a database provided to The Associated Press by the Education Department. Those schools are being warily eyed by educators elsewhere as the law's consequences begin to hit home. [...]

Test scores for students with disabilities, for immigrants, poor children and minorities must be separated out under the law. But if one group fails to hit testing benchmarks at a school — like last year at Long Branch — the whole school gets a failing grade. [...]

It was around 2 p.m, shortly before the school day was to end, and a time when elementary-age students might typically be playing tag, working on craft projects or just easing into the end of the academic day.

But at Arrowhead, a school in the restructuring planning stage, math worksheets were on the desks, kids were sounding out vowels and special-ed teachers were working with small groups of children.

Superintendent Deasy acknowledges the atmosphere at Arrowhead is more intense than at schools that aren't facing restructuring. He said lessons at schools missing testing goals have to be very targeted, and he says there often isn't time for electives and free play like at other schools.

Critics of the law complain about such constraints. But Deasy said Arrowhead's test scores are heading in the right direction, precisely because students are on task and teachers are talking about instruction rather than cafeteria menus or bus schedules.

Said Principal Anthony: "There's a new level of urgency about the work we have to do for students."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:37 AM


2 key CEOs give Patrick a fund-raiser (Frank Phillips, June 21, 2007, Boston Globe)

Governor Deval Patrick picked up about $25,000 in political donations this week at a fund-raiser thrown by the chief executive officers of two highly regulated companies whose financial standings and profits could be affected by decisions pending before the new administration. [...]

While not uncommon during previous administrations, Patrick's use of two heavily regulated industry giants to raise political funds stands in sharp contrast to his campaign promise to change the way business is conducted on Beacon Hill and to free politics from special interests.<>/blockquote>

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:37 AM


Kibbutz Is Haven for Fleeing Sudanese (BEN HUBBARD, 6/12/07, Associated Press )

Five years after he fled his razed Darfur village, and after jail spells in three countries, Ibrahim has found refuge in an unlikely place: a kibbutz in Israel.

The 24-year-old Muslim is one of about 440 Sudanese refugees working in Israeli hotels and on farms while the government seeks to place them in a third country.

Most have fled southern Sudan, where a 22-year conflict left 2.5 million people dead. Others, like Ibrahim, are from Darfur, where a rebellion has cost more than 200,000 civilian lives and made 2.5 million people homeless.

Ibrahim, 24, paused while weeding an avocado orchard on this kibbutz, or communal farm, in northern Israel and told his story. The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees barred publication of his surname to protect his relatives in Darfur.

He said he fled five years ago to Khartoum, Sudan's capital, where the government imprisoned him for allegedly conspiring against it. After his release, he bribed his way into neighboring Egypt, and was arrested in Cairo. Once free again, he fled eastward with five others who paid a Bedouin to smuggle them into Israel. They feared police would shoot them.

"Then, thank God, we entered Israel and they welcomed us," he said. [...]

After a year in Israeli prisons, Ibrahim was moved in March to Yad Hannah, a kibbutz of 300 people which has taken in 36 Sudanese. They earn about $37 a day for farm work and shop and cook for themselves, but are still considered prisoners and cannot leave without written permission.

Ibrahim said he still feels isolated, because he speaks only Arabic and can't communicate with his kibbutz employers. But he does feel safe.

"Israel is nice," he said. "No one will hit you in the street or yell at you. I had to come all this way before I could find someone to treat me this way."

Kobi Danzon, who manages Yad Hannah's Sudanese, said the newcomers spent their first paychecks on cell phones to talk with Sudanese friends in Israel and overseas.

Over the years, the Palestinian uprising has deprived Israel of a source of cheap Arab labor, and migrants from Third World countries have flocked here to replace them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:29 AM


The Magic Kingdom’s Wild New Ride: Everywhere you look, it seems, the Middle East is in flames. Yet, almost unnoticed by outside observers, the most conservative country in the region has embarked on a historic journey of reform. (Jean-François Seznec, Afshin Molavi, June 2007, Foreign Policy)

Last week, a senior official in one of the world’s wealthiest states suggested that one third of all government jobs should go to women.

Switzerland? Denmark? France?

Wrong, the country is Saudi Arabia, and the senior official is Sultan bin Abdulaziz, the crown prince. In a state that has embraced the most misogynous readings of the Koran and a society that remains deeply patriarchal, Prince Sultan’s statement was truly revolutionary.

As Sultan’s older brother, King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, visits Spain, Poland, and France this week, it may not be obvious that Saudi Arabia is undergoing a substantive transformation, but it is. Although the Kingdom’s diplomatic exploits capture the headlines—its efforts to counter Iranian influence in the Arab world, support for peace in Lebanon, and the Saudi-sponsored Arab League peace initiative to name just a few—its domestic changes are likely to be more far-reaching, durable, and consequential.

The Saudi monarch is pushing forward a surprisingly reformist domestic agenda, but his task is delicate. Five key actors will determine how this drama plays out: The 20 or so senior princes (including the king), the civil service, the merchant class, younger princes, and the religious establishment. King Abdullah can win this fight, but he can’t do it alone. By seeing Saudi Arabia as more than just a place to sell arms, buy oil, or fight terror, Europe and the United States can tilt the balance of power toward more reformist elements and marginalize the forces of religious reaction. The stakes couldn’t be higher: King Abdullah is battling not just stubborn conservatives and parts of his own family who are resistant to change, but Saudi history itself. [...]

Perhaps most illustrative of King Abdullah’s vision is the new university to be opened in his name. It will focus on science and technology. It will have coeducational classes (another small revolution). And it won’t be in the hands of the Salafists: A separate curriculum is being planned to ensure that the remaining holdouts in the education ministry don’t scuttle things. What’s more, a mood of dialogue has taken hold: the King Abdulaziz National Dialogue Center, named after King Abdullah’s father, brings together leading figures in public life—including the Shiites, who make up 10 to 15 percent of the Kingdom’s population and are despised by the Salafists—to debate pressing issues of the day. And technological advances are breaking down social barriers: Bluetooth-enabled mobile phones have become an essential item for the young Saudi who wants to meet members of the opposite sex. And the religious police, the fearsome mutawain, have been reined in.

Reformation led by a monarch is the ideal. George missed a vital opportunity to side with the American people against Parliament and we're still paying for it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:20 AM


It's Not Enough to Be 'Wanted': Illegitimacy has risen despite--indeed, because of--legal abortion. (JOHN R. LOTT JR., June 19, 2007, Opinion Journal)

Many academic studies have shown that legalized abortion, by encouraging premarital sex, increased the number of unplanned births, even outweighing the reduction in unplanned births due to abortion. In the United States from the early 1970s, when abortion was liberalized, through the late 1980s, there was a tremendous increase in the rate of out-of-wedlock births, rising from an average of 5% of all births in 1965-69 to more than 16% two decades later (1985-1989). For blacks, the numbers soared from 35% to 62%. While not all of this rise can be attributed to liberalized abortion rules, it was nevertheless a key contributing factor.

The ugly reality is that had white elites realized that legalized abortion would lead to the disposal of black babies they'd not have embraced the issue.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:05 AM


The Global Savings Glut and Its Consequences (Swaminathan S. Anklesaria Aiyar, 6/4/2007, American Spectator)

The world is experiencing an unprecedented glut of savings, driving down real interest rates. It is a good time to borrow rather than lend, and to buy equities rather than bonds. This has implications for central banks, corporations and individual investors.

China is investing $3 billion, a tiny fraction of its $1.2 trillion of reserves, in Blackstone, a U.S. private equity company. More such equity investments will surely follow. India, OPEC members, and other developing countries with large foreign exchange reserves should emulate China's strategy.

Foreign exchange reserves are typically invested in bonds of G-7 countries, above all in U.S. Treasury bonds. Former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers estimates that developing countries are holding more than $2 trillion of reserves in excess of their needs to combat currency volatility. [...]

Several developing countries are running large current account surpluses (representing an excess of savings over investment). So they are accumulating surplus dollars. China has the biggest surplus of $1.2 trillion, but other developing countries put together have accumulated almost as much. And oil exporters are accumulating reserves at the rate of $300 billion per year.

Rapid growth leads to high savings rates: people save a large fraction of additional income. In India, GDP growth has accelerated from 6% to 9%, lifting the savings rate from 23% a decade ago to 33% today. China's savings rate is a dizzy 55%. Not even the investment boom in Asia can absorb these huge savings, which are therefore put into U.S. bonds.

When a poor country buys U.S. bonds, it is in effect lending to the USA. It is paradoxical for the poor to lend to the rich, especially at depressed interest rates.

...then lend us back the money with which we buy them at low interest rates while we put our own money into higher yielding investments.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Tannhauser Rides Again: 1565: Muslims battle Christians in the bloody Siege of Malta: a review of The Religion by Tim Willocks (N.D. Wilson, May/June 2007, Books & Culture)

That fateful decline, according to many, began at the siege of Malta in 1565, the bloody setting for Tim Willocks' The Religion. With Islam once again on an international up-swing, with the West at war, and with imaginations primed for the medieval by The Da Vinci Code and assorted knock-offs, Willocks is almost assured of an international bestseller. On top of that, he's working with nothing short of a fantastic setting. The siege of Malta is as unbelievable as it was important. A small Mediterranean rock became a crossroads in history as the struggle between Suleiman the Magnificent and the antiquated Knights of St. John the Baptist decided the Future of Europe (or at least played a role worthy of rescue from the forgettery).

In 1565, Luther had been dead for twenty years and the Reformation had taken root. Queen Elizabeth (heresiarch) ruled England. As the Sultan mustered his forces in Constantinople, Shakespeare turned one. The Spanish Inquisition was nearly one hundred, and the Templars had long ago been wiped out in France.

Willocks has plenty to work with on every level: social, political, and religious. [...]

The Knights of St. John are fortifying Malta in preparation for the Turkish assault, and they've heard of Matthias. Knowing his experience, they resolve to recruit him despite the fact that he no longer adheres to the faith of his fathers or his one-time captors.

Two women, Countess Carla La Penautier and her attendant Amparo, have been trying to reach Malta in order to search for the son taken from the Countess at birth. The Knights, who had denied their previous requests for passage, decide to use the women to convince Tannhauser to come. And so the plot really begins. Tannhauser and his English friend Bors arrive on Malta with the two women, just ahead of the enormous Turkish fleet.

The siege of Malta began in the third week of May with the arrival of one of the largest armadas assembled in that age. It wouldn't end until the ninth of September. The Knights of St. John were commanded by Jean La Vallette, a military mind tactically well ahead of his time. More than seventy years old and white-bearded, both feared and respected, he was said to match the most rabid Muslims in fanaticism. The knights called themselves "The Religion" (one of those resonant details that get under a novelist's skin, becoming the germ of a book). They originated as hospitallers in Jerusalem and had so distinguished themselves in the First Crusade that they received their own military charter from the Church. Eventually driven out of Jerusalem, they took possession of Rhodes. There they became sea-faring knights, pirates to every Muslim, who called them "the Hounds of Hell." Provoked, Suleiman sacked Rhodes in 1522. La Vallette was present and learned much from the defeat.

The Knights struggled to find a new home. They were sovereign unto themselves, wealthy nobles accountable to no government. This made them of questionable value in the early modern world. Why would anyone endow them with land without certain allegiance in return? But eventually they acquired Malta and immediately began fortification. It wasn't long before their galleys were once again strangling Turkish trade, and La Vallette knew what they were provoking.

The size of the sultan's force varies from account to account. But in every version, it is enormous: hundreds of ships and tens of thousands of trained fighting men. The Knights held multiple fortifications with a total of nine thousand men, primarily Maltese commoners.

Willocks truly and meticulously captures the progression and feel of such a horrific siege. Before taking up The Religion, I decided to read a small—and excellent—military history (The Great Siege: Malta 1565, by Ernle Bradford), from which it's clear that Willocks has managed to seamlessly weave his plot through the timeline of actual events, vividly enfleshing what such action must have looked and felt like to a defender in this strange conflict: a war with castles, galleys, armor, long-rifle snipers, trenches, cavalry, heavy artillery, and early flame-throwers. He also effectively humanizes both sides of the conflict, sending Tannhauser out into the Turkish ranks, putting faces and fears on the attackers as well as the attacked.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Palestinian fantasy vs. reality (Augustus Richard Norton, June 21, 2007, Boston Globe)

IN JANUARY 2006, Hamas won the Palestinian legislative elections. President George W. Bush had insisted on holding elections on schedule, against the advice of key regional allies. While US officials described the polling as "fair and secure," the Bush administration demonstrated that it loves democracy only so long as our friends win.

In this case, it was hardly "our friends" who won, but Hamas. With the United States in the lead and plenty of arm twisting, the European Union, the UN secretary general, and Russia insisted that Hamas recognize Israel, embrace Oslo, and renounce violence.

The United States was intent to see the Hamas government fail. Not only did it work assiduously to block international funding, but it poured arms and money into militias controlled by the discredited nationalist forces that had lost the election. To add to the pressure, Israel refused to transfer tax revenues paid by Palestinians to the new government.

A prime beneficiary of US largesse has been Muhammad Dahlan and his Preventive Security Force, which was decisively defeated last week by Hamas. Dahlan, who is about as popular in Gaza as Ahmed Chelabi is in Iraq, is Washington's man.

The path from 2006 might have led in a different, more constructive direction if the Bush administration were not so captured by an illusory black and white approach to Hamas and similar Islamist groups.

As important as it is for democratizers not to fall into the trap of thinking democracy is an end in itself, they have to recognize it is the best means to the end. Failure to use it on Islamic parties is short-sighted.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Mets Drop Their Sixth Series in a Row (Associated Press, June 21, 2007)

Torii Hunter hit a two-run homer and Scott Baker pitched five effective innings to help the Minnesota Twins beat the Mets 6–2 last night.

Joe Mauer also drove in two runs for Minnesota, which won two of three in its first series at Shea Stadium since 2002. Johan Santana tossed a four-hitter in the Twins' 9-0 victory Tuesday night and Baker allowed two runs and seven hits in the finale.

Carlos Beltran went 3-for-4 and singled in a run for the foundering Mets, who have lost 13 of 16. New York has dropped six straight series since it took two of three games against San Francisco from May 29–31.

...to waste a team that's built to win now. Keep Carlos Gomez and Joe Smith, but trade some of the guys in the minors, including Lastings Milledge.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


We Don’t Need No Stinking Baseball (BRYAN CURTIS, 6/03/07, NY Times Play)

The man most responsible is, of course, Daniel Okrent, a writer, editor and former public editor of The New York Times and, despite those vocations, one of the saner guys you’ll ever meet. In 1980, Okrent and 10 friends founded Rotisserie League Baseball, a game that allowed amateur general managers to draft a team of major league regulars and compete in eight statistical categories. (The categories have, of course, caused all sorts of controversy among statheads.) At season’s end, all but a few players — the so-called “keepers” — were released back into the pool for the next year’s draft, so that fantasy delivered what baseball never really did: a fresh start. Several of Rotisserie’s founding partners were media people, and during the 1981 players’ strike, sportswriters in desperate need of material began spreading the gospel of fantasy baseball. Okrent became a kind of yogi to the fantasy set. One afternoon, he spotted a mysterious stranger tailing him in the concourse at Yankee Stadium. “He followed me right into the restroom,” Okrent told me recently. “And then he started telling me about his team, about the trade he didn’t make.”

He was a prophet, that discombobulated stranger. Because what Okrent and his comrades could not foresee was how their creation would smack up against the zeitgeist like a Roger Clemens fastball thwacking a batter’s helmet. Fantasy baseball took hold just as baseball was entering a particularly gloomy period: two labor stoppages and a canceled World Series; rumors of juiced balls and steroids; a competitive imbalance between the large- and small-market teams; a continuous slippage in popularity versus professional football; and frequent intrusions by pariahs like Pete Rose, Marge Schott and Barry Bonds. Being a fan meant opening the morning newspaper to the latest bad news, a dreary buffet that The New Yorker’s Roger Angell once compared to “a dog’s breakfast.”

Had it appeared in happier times, fantasy baseball might have been mere entertainment like Strat-O-Matic Baseball. But over three decades, it has evolved to become a kind of psychological alternative to baseball, a full-fledged fantasy realm. In fantasy baseball, no one is held hostage by the whims and follies of the Lords of Baseball, as the sportswriter Dick Young used to call them, or the indiscretions of the players. You have the feeling of Steinbrenner-like control over the lineups, the rules, even the personnel of the league. If the pose of baseball fans has long been the helpless crouch, the alternate universe of fantasy baseball offers fans an illusory sense of empowerment.

Indeed, part of what makes fantasy so pleasurable is that it has taken the reptilian behavior of the owners and the commissioner and transferred it to the fan. If knucklehead owners like the Florida Marlins’ Jeffrey Loria want to offload key players every season, then the fantasy owner will do them one better, shedding all but a few keepers. If Major League Baseball maintains a caste system between the rich and poor teams, then fantasy players will simply pluck the best players from both. Bud Selig’s rueful ignorance of the human growth hormone coursing through the game is exceeded only by the fantasy player’s. In fantasy baseball, even Barry Bonds becomes an uncomplicated slugger, because in fantasy there is no such thing as a tainted record.

But what you see in the fantasy class is not blissful ignorance so much as a new hardheadedness, a sense that baseball is something to manipulate rather than be manipulated by. In 2004, Donald Levy, an intrepid sociologist at West Virginia Wesleyan College, went spelunking into the subconscious of nearly 1,200 fantasy baseball players. He found that they resembled the BlackBerry warriors in the box seats: 98 percent male, 94 percent white and 69 percent college-educated, with an average income of $90,000 per year. “The people in the fantasy world have been fighting this perception that they’re some geek in their parents’ basement still wearing a Little League uniform,” Levy told me. “This isn’t true. The most ardent fantasy participant is a professional.” These white-collar types, Levy said, preferred the label “owners,” to signify the control they had come to enjoy over the game.

Fantasy owners who packed their lineups with beloved favorites (I love you, Manny!) were deemed ineffectual, even effeminate. “A poor fantasy owner will be described in gendered terms,” Levy said. “He played like a woman, he let his emotions control him. He allowed his inner fan to make the decisions.”

...it's easy to make him your [prison-wife].

June 20, 2007

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:00 PM


'Thump' it up: On their infectious new disc, the White Stripes make merry in the musical junkyard (Joan Anderman, June 17, 2007, Boston Globe)

For somebody who micromanages his band's image down to the color scheme, Jack White comes off as one of the least packaged rock stars of his generation. Maybe you don't even think of him as a rock star. In many ways the singer, songwriter, and guitarist smacks of a pasty scholar or an eccentric mastermind. White doesn't exude much sex appeal. He isn't behaving badly, nor has he set out to save the world. The man seems genuinely immune to the demands of the marketplace, the cultivation of a fan base, and the rule that says artists are as worthy as their last new idea.

At 31, White is content to simply go about the business of channeling his blues obsession into artful, minimalist rock songs to play with his ex-wife, Meg White, the drummer in their band, the White Stripes. The duo's sixth album, "Icky Thump," comes out on Tuesday, and it's fantastic. Of course the previous five were pretty great, too. But something's different, and it's not just that the band has kissed goodbye the far-flung doodling of 2005's "Get Behind Me Satan." One imagines that Jack's yearlong excursion with pop-flavored side project the Raconteurs, his move from Detroit to Nashville, and the drama of starting a family (with model Karen Elson) have combined to inspire fresh zeal -- and the biggest, nerviest, best-natured record the White Stripes have made.

The AT&T Blueroom is webcasting a White Stripes show this week (June 20, 2007, 8pm PST) and you can listen to an older show at NPR or cop some MP3s at the Hype Machine.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:25 PM


Harry Potter 'hacker' posts plot on internet (Nigel Reynolds, 21/06/2007, Daily Telegraph)

A computer hacker claims to have discovered the greatest literary mystery of the decade - how J K Rowling ends her Harry Potter epic and which two characters die in the seventh and final book.

The hacker, calling himself "Gabriel", posted a message on a well-known hackers' site in the early hours of Tuesday, claiming that he had discovered the ending to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, which is published on July 21, on the computer of an employee of Bloomsbury, Rowling's publishers.

In less than perfect English, he gives a detailed summary of the alleged ending and names two central characters who have appeared in the series since the beginning 10 years ago.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:18 PM


The Boston Red Sox's Sultan of Statistical Analysis (DAN ACKMAN, June 20, 2007, Wall Street Journal)

Since Mr. James was hired by Red Sox owner John Henry in 2002, the team has yet to win the division. It did, however, win the World Series in 2004, beating the Yankees in seven games to win the pennant. A year earlier, the Sox lost to the Yankees in seven games. Two years later they had fallen to third place in the American League East.

What accounts for this year's dominance? "We think we have a good organization, and we thought we had a good organization last August when we couldn't win a game to save our soul," Mr. James says. With "Moneyball," Mr. James's style of analysis has become associated with relatively poor teams. The Red Sox, however, are one of the richest.

"There is a certain backwardness to it, yes," he concedes. But he adds that Boston is "committed to the challenge to figuring out the best way to do things. Nobody in the organization is traditional."

That would include Mr. James, who started writing his Abstracts while working as a night watchman at a pork-and-beans factory in Lawrence, Kan. Even as his fame grew as a writer, Mr. James says he never imagined working in baseball management. Unlike Theo Epstein, who interned for major-league clubs in college and was hired as the Red Sox general manager at age 28, Mr. James says he was never the type to put together a résumé and go find a job. Even today he allows that "there are very good reasons why Theo is the GM and I am not."

Now age 57, Mr. James says he does better working in an organization than he suspected. Still, even after moving to Boston two years ago, he spends a lot of time alone. "A lot of my friends think that I don't like people. The reality is I do like people -- I just need time to myself to work. So I tend to turn off my cellphone," he says.

With the success of the Athletics and of "Moneyball," baseball analysts like Mr. James were given more credit for helping teams draft and trade players more intelligently. In 2006, Time magazine named Mr. James one of the 100 most influential people in the world. Inexplicably, Time dropped him from this year's list even as the Red Sox moved from third place to first. Go figure.

Mr. James is known for claiming that some statistics (such as runs batted in) are less important than was commonly believed, while others (like on-base percentage) are more important. Both are now conventional wisdom. Is there some wrongheadedness still in vogue? "I do have an answer, but I can't tell you what it is. . . . I do think we know at least some small things that not everybody in the world knows."

Even if the analytical tools he helped create are now widely employed, Mr. James says that just as some teams stay richer, others can stay smarter. "In reality, knowledge is a very dynamic universe -- and what is most valuable is not the body of knowledge, but the leading edge of it."

Mr. James does allow that "when a team has resources, there is a powerful tendency to solve problems by spending money. It is less attractive to experiment." The Yankees' recent signing of pitcher Roger Clemens for $28 million a season is "probably" an illustration of the idea, he says.

It seems possible that one of the things the Jamesian sort of analyses has done is to buy good GMs some leeway and some time for moves that make analytical sense to work themselves out even when the results aren't showing up on the ballfield yet. Just a few instances from the Sox: fans weren't upset when Pedro Martinez and Johnny Damon were low-balled, because it was understood that while they were still performing at a high level there was little likelihood they would be even midway through their next contracts; likewise, players like Kevin Youkilis, Dustin Pedroia, Coco Crisp, JD Drew, etc., are allowed to struggle for awhile because fans believe that they'll eventually trend toward where the numbers say they should. This could also be why midseason firesales only garner one or two prospects these days, rather than a bunch. Fans just know better who the next generation of good players is, so you have an easier time selling them on a deal when you dump a big salary. You no longer have to empty the farm system to get a Von Hayes.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:56 PM


Blair may become Middle East envoy, reports claim (Matthew Tempest, June 20, 2007, Guardian Unlimited)

Downing Street tonight refused to comment on mounting speculation that Tony Blair would be offered the job of envoy to the Middle East after stepping down from power next week.

Al-Jazeera was tonight quoting sources claiming that top-level US officials had been in talks with Mr Blair about representing the so-called Quartet - the US, EU, Russia and UN - in the stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

Good preparation for becoming Secretary of State.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:13 AM


Browns narrowing law officers’ options (Nashua Telegraph, Jun. 20, 2007)

How long will federal law officials play Mr. Nice Guy and continue to wait for convicted tax evaders Ed and Elaine Brown to turn themselves in?

Anyone knowing the answer to that question hasn’t stepped forward to say so. Meanwhile, the Browns continue to bask in the spotlight, vowing that they won’t be taken alive.

And it’s all about money. Specifically, their refusal to pay federal income taxes on some $1.9 million they earned between 1996 and 2003. Now their resistance threatens to cost them everything.

As the Browns continue their defiant talk, it becomes clearer that they live in a fantasy world of their making. They stand tall only in their own mind. [...]

Steve Monier, a former police chief who is now U.S. marshal for New Hampshire, has been trying to coax the Browns to surrender.

This has been going on for weeks to no avail. He’s even allowing the Browns to receive visits, including one from Randy Weaver, a survivor of the Ruby Ridge massacre.

Rare in life to get a second chance at a guy like that.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:10 AM


Clash Nears in the Senate on Legislation Helping Unions Organize (STEVEN GREENHOUSE, 6/20/07, NY Times)

Senate Democratic leaders moved Tuesday to force a vote on organized labor’s top legislative priority, a bill that would make it far easier to organize workers. But Republican leaders vowed to kill the measure, voicing confidence that they could defeat a motion cutting off debate and bringing it to a vote this week. [...]

Business groups have mounted a big fight against the bill, with one organization, the Center for Union Facts, spending $500,000 on newspaper and broadcast advertisements this week alone.

Though the bill has cleared the House, passage there was on a vote of only 241 to 185, far from veto-proof. And with Senate Democrats and the chamber’s two independents holding just 51 seats, well short of the 60 votes needed to cut off debate, Republicans and their business allies are predicting that that they can prevent even an up-or-down vote on the measure.

The Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada, filed a petition Tuesday night for a vote later in the week to prevent Republicans from blocking consideration of the bill. But Randel K. Johnson, a vice president of the United States Chamber of Commerce, said: “The cloture petition will not succeed, and the bill will be pulled. That will be the end of that for two years.”

Can't be bad for GOP fundrasing to make business peer into the Democratic abyss.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:52 AM


Some Texans Say Border Fence Will Sever Routine (RALPH BLUMENTHAL, 6/20/07, NY Times)

Antonio N. Zavaleta, a vice president and professor of anthropology at the University of Texas branch in Brownsville, saw a slight problem in the route of a border fence that federal officials displayed at a community meeting earlier this month.

“Part of our university,” Dr. Zavaleta said, “would be on the Mexican side of the fence.”

What about traffic between classes, he wondered. “Would the students need to show a passport?”

He was not the only one who was startled. Local leaders throughout South Texas have been voicing puzzlement and alarm at the implications of the barrier, which Congress has authorized the Department of Homeland Security to construct along 370 miles of the United States-Mexico border, including 153 miles in Texas, by December 2008.

Don't they realize that Tom Tancredo knows what's good for them?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:42 AM


Allez-y, Sarkozy (GEORGES de MENIL, June 20, 2007, NY Sun)

It is now clear that the French government will follow Mr. Sarkozy's presidential program to the letter. The program's flagship measure is the wholesale exemption of overtime hours from social security and income taxes. Many economists and some foreign observers are puzzled by the emphasis Mr. Sarkozy has placed on this expensive provision. Indeed, it might appear disproportionate to give higher priority to encouraging overtime than to stimulating employment.

But France is not a normal country. For 10 years, it has struggled with the costs of a mandatory 35-hour week — a ceiling that is now so embedded in the legislation regulating working hours that simple abrogation would lead to chaos. The alternative, a targeted tax holiday, constitutes a welcome break with the culture of "time off," and an encouragement to those who, as Mr. Sarkozy's campaign slogan put it, want to "work more in order to earn more."

The program's other measures are a series of tax cuts for the middle class, entrepreneurs, and the wealthy, which, though expensive, constitute a similarly welcome break with France's tradition of punitive taxation.

However, none of these measures goes to the heart of France's structural problems. The Gordian knot paralyzing initiative and blocking employment consists in the maze of regulations that stifle the labor market. French companies live under the constant threat of a surprise visit from the labor inspector to determine compliance with a thick book of arcane measures. Worse yet, the knowledge that some law or regulation covers every aspect of employment poisons the workplace and discourages attempts to resolve problems pragmatically. When both parties to a dispute know that they are likely to end in a labor court, neither has an incentive to compromise.

The law's most onerous provisions are those regulating the terms of employment contracts, for they condemn employers who decide to close a plant to a marathon of legal proceedings of uncertain duration and unpredictable outcome. This not only hampers restructuring, but also makes firms hesitant to hire and inhibits innovation.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:37 AM


Bush Weighs Reaching Out To ‘Brothers' (ELI LAKE, June 20, 2007, NY Sun)

The Bush administration is quietly weighing the prospect of reaching out to the party that founded modern political Islam, the Muslim Brotherhood.

Still in its early stages and below the radar, the current American deliberations and diplomacy with the organization, known in Arabic as Ikhwan, take on new significance in light of Hamas's successful coup in Gaza last week. The Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood is widely reported to have helped create Hamas in 1982. [...]

These developments, in light of Hamas's control of Gaza, suggest that President Bush — who has been careful to distinguish the war on terror from a war on Islam — has done more than any of his predecessors to accept the movement fighting for the merger of mosque and state in the Middle East.

Should Mr. Bush ask his diplomats to forge new channels to the Muslim Brotherhood it would also be a recognition of the gains their parties have made in elections in the last three years. In Egypt, Iraq, and the Palestinian territories, Islamist parties trounced their secular rivals. In part this was because these parties offered an uncorrupt alternative to the more secular parties in power, but some advocates inside the administration also say it reflects a tangible momentum for parties that seek to create Islamic republics. One State Department official yesterday said, "Our policy has to change from more democracy, fewer headscarves."

Had they recognized this sooner they might have prevented a lot of the current mess in Palestine and avoided the Ahmedinejad debacle for Iranians - cutting the deal offered under Khatami -- but it's a big enough change that it's hardly surprising that the bureaucracy would make it slowly.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:17 AM


West chooses Fatah, but Palestinians don't: They prefer Hamas, which represents an alternative to Fatah's acceptance of the Israeli occupation. (Saree Makdisi, June 20, 2007, LA Times)

IN THE WEST, there's a huge sense of relief. The Hamas-led government that has been causing everyone so much trouble has been isolated in Gaza, and a new government has been appointed in the West Bank by the "moderate," peace-loving Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas.

So why then do Palestinians not share in the relief? Well, for one thing, the old government had been democratically elected; now it has been dismissed out of hand by presidential fiat. There's also the fact that the new prime minister appointed by Abbas — Salam Fayyad — has the support of the West, but his election list won only 2% of the votes in the same election that swept Hamas to victory. Fayyad and Abbas have the support of Israel, but it is no secret that they lack the backing of their own people.

There is a reason the people threw out Abbas' Fatah party in last year's election. Palestinians see the leading Fatah politicians as unimaginative, self-serving and corrupt, satisfied with the emoluments of power.

...by sending payola? It's funny to hear the folks who insist Iraq oughtn't be broken up into its natural constituent parts argue that Palestine ought to be artificially divided.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:54 AM


Football violence leads to 130 arrests (The Local, 20th June 2007)

Nearly 130 football supporters were arrested during the Stockholm derby match between arch-rivals Hammarby and Djurgården on Tuesday evening. Some 110 supporters were kept in cells overnight, suspected of rioting and vandalism.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:44 AM


Capitalism with Special Chinese Characteristics: The runaway train of China’s economy is a special case of what economists label “Dutch Disease” (Gustav Ranis, 19 June 2007, YaleGlobal)

The basic cause of these anomalies in a country that continues to call itself communist – and is currently engaged in an effort to enhance “social harmony” in the context of 10-percent-plus growth rates – is a particular type of Dutch Disease. The economic ailment acquired its name from the1960s natural-gas boom in the Netherlands and is generally defined as the impact of a raw-material export spurt, possibly along with related foreign-capital inflows, on strengthening the exchange rate.

Such an appreciation of the currency implies a shift away from labor-intensive export sectors that are becoming less competitive internationally and toward domestic non-traded goods, also enhancing inflationary pressures.

China has thus far resisted letting its exchange rate appreciate much – despite international pressure – and instead continues to accumulate foreign-exchange reserves resulting from her mounting trade surpluses. As a consequence, China has managed to postpone most of the negative impact of the garden-variety “Dutch Disease.”

But another version of that disease could be more relevant in China’s case, one defined as the massive inflow of foreign exchange, from whatever source, adversely affecting decision-making throughout the body politic. The Chinese version of this phenomenon results from the continuing large-scale export surpluses caused by massive labor-intensive exports, associated with the maintenance of an undervalued exchange rate, and accompanied by large-scale foreign direct investment flows as well as some speculative portfolio capital. As labor surpluses in the coastal provinces are gradually exhausted, these “vent for surplus” activities move into the interior, continuing to fuel the overall investment boom.

China’s cumulative export surpluses since the late 1980s have amounted to $386 billion and inflows of FDI to $994 billion. With foreign-exchange reserves well above the $1 trillion mark, the Chinese government finds itself unable to cool down the boom – investments currently still run at 40 percent of GDP – all of which has led to lower levels of efficiency, i.e., falling rates of return and rising industrial capital-output ratios.

With saving rates nearing 50 percent and consumption continuing to lag as families worry about the need to finance their own health care and pensions down the road, we witness Beijing’s inability to rein in local governments’ continuing investment binges.

Households have two choices: put their money into government banks which continue to lend to local bodies – regardless of what the central government’s monetary and fiscal authorities have to say on the subject – or chase stocks or real estate in highly volatile asset markets.

In other words, this version of Dutch Disease is not caused by a natural-resource bonanza but massive labor-intensive exports plus large-scale capital imports, which affect not the exchange rate but the decision-making process. With enough resources around to buy off any and all stakeholders, incentives to push for reforms or pressure for care in lending and rational decision-making are reduced. Foreign investors remain anxious to maintain a competitive foothold in a market that continues to promise large future returns, and domestic financial institutions at the center are not sufficiently mature to impose their will on local bodies. No one feels obliged to blow the whistle as long as the bonanza lasts.

Properly understood, cheap labor is just another commodity, making this a classic case of the Dutch Disease. The important thing is that rudimentary assembly work is the only ingredient that China adds to the economic equation, making the labor little different than a raw material.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:32 AM


Bloomberg quits GOP, stirs buzz: Move heightens speculation on White House run (Scott Helman, June 20, 2007, Boston Globe)
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of New York officially left the Republican Party yesterday and changed his voter registration to "unaffiliated," further stoking speculation that he will enter the already crowded 2008 presidential race as an independent.

Bloomberg, a longtime Democrat who switched to the GOP to run for mayor in 2001, insisted the move had nothing to do with preparing for a presidential campaign. But his sudden announcement, together with his recent travels and criticism of partisan politics in Washington, will only fuel theories that he has his eye on the White House. [...]

His positions on social issues -- he supports abortion rights and gun control -- made him a Republican anomaly.
Actually, they're what made him not a Republican in national politics.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:26 AM


Bernard Manning and the tragedy of comedy: Sour. Self-pitying. Cowardly. These are the defining characteristics of the stand-up comedian, argues Alexei Sayle. How else can we explain the misanthropic tendencies of performers like Bernard Manning? ( Alexei Sayle, 20 June 2007, Independent)

It's an odd thing, stand-up comedy. You go to some bar or theatre or club you would never normally visit, sit with strangers, and watch another stranger try to make you laugh. One minute you're going about your business. The next you're falling about.

Being a punter at a stand-up gig is nothing like going to a rock concert, or a violin recital, or a play, all of which can drag any and every type of emotion from us. Comedy is alone in focusing on one physiological reaction: laughs.

But how do stand-ups make us laugh? Dylan Moran, a comedian who spends more time thinking about these matters than most, has a theory. "If someone has just come back from holiday," he explains, "and they show you some photographs, and say it was all wonderful, and that the sun wasn't too hot, you're bored out of your mind. Nothing could be more boring than other people's happiness. But if they tell you the hotel was crap, how the toilets leaked, how they all got sick - it's a wonderful story. Something bad will have happened to you in the past, but it didn't happen this time. It happened to them. And you can enjoy it."

Or, as Mel Brooks once said: "Tragedy is when I cut my finger. Comedy is when you walk into an open sewer and die." For whatever reason - our maliciousness; our latent survival instincts; our terror of death - the misfortune of others is fecund comedic material. For this reason, most stand-up is licensed schadenfreude.

Wouldn't know the guy from Adam's off aunt, but the obits have been hysterical, forcing folks to admit that he was funny but that, personally, they found his political correctness appalling....

June 19, 2007

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:21 PM


Account Balance: Hamas's victory actually presents an opportunity for Israel. (Gadi Taub, 6/19/07, TNR Online)

For the second time in less than two years, Hamas may be experiencing too much success for its own good. Hamas did well as an opposition group, maintaining the purity of its extreme positions while steering clear of political accountability. Hamas leaders were well aware of this and avoided taking part in government for a long time.

Their decision, therefore, to run for the Palestinian Authority elections last year and evolve into an institutionalized opposition party was not taken lightly. Then came the sweeping success which took it by surprise. Not only did Hamas become an official party, it found itself heading the government. This put Hamas in a paradoxical situation. On the one hand it remained faithful to its ideology and continued its refusal to abide by the terms to which Israel and the Quartet insisted: acknowledging Israel's right to exist, accepting the agreements the PLO signed with Israel, and renouncing terrorism. But, on the other hand, its sweeping electoral victory made it accountable in the eyes of its own people for whatever consequence this uncompromising stance would bring.

The solution to this conundrum was to form a coalition government with Fatah, in which Fatah stood for compromise, Hamas for extremism. Fatah was supposed to relieve international and Israeli pressure, and Hamas to somehow continue the Holy War. But what worked under Yassir Arafat, when Hamas was given much leeway as an underground organization, became more difficult to manage with Hamas heading a government. The result was a series of short-term, fragile ceasefires, which periodically broke down, along with a steady deterioration in the well-being of Gaza's citizens. The coalition government actually put Hamas and Fatah on a collision course. It was an unworkable partnership: Hamas didn't let Fatah deliver on its promises to Israel, and Fatah couldn't restrain Hamas's attacks. Policy--if that is the word for it--was not so much a compromise between the two as it was a random median of two mutually exclusive strategies. It was only a matter of time until clashes between the two factions turned into civil war.

That civil war has now given Hamas its second too-spectacular success. It did not simply subdue Fatah in Gaza, it annihilated it. But, as a result, Hamas is now being pushed into the position of full accountability.

The basic insight is correct: the responsibility of governing is fatal to Hamas as a terror organization and will render it a normal political party. But it doesn't have full responsibility until there's a unified nation of Palestine.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:03 PM


US Congress set to battle over gas-price 'gouging': The Senate and House make a controversial move to control alleged profiteering. (Peter Grier, 6/20/07, The Christian Science Monitor)

Many Democrats think price gouging should be a federal crime. They've included a provision in the energy bill that would make it illegal to reap "excessive" profits at the pump in times of a national energy emergency.
...you'd think even they could grasp that the more gouging the less gas will be consumed. If anything, they should be adding to the gouge via taxes. It's hard to avoid the conclusion that they're just reacting to the fact that W and Dick Cheney come from the oil biz.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:09 AM


'West Bank First': It Won't Work (Robert Malley and Aaron David Miller, June 19, 2007, Washington Post)

Having embraced one illusion -- that it could help isolate and defeat Hamas -- the Bush administration is dangerously close to embracing another: Gaza is dead, long live the West Bank. This approach appears compelling. Flood the West Bank with money, boost Fatah security forces and create a meaningful negotiating process. The Palestinian people, drawn to a recovering West Bank and repelled by the nightmare of an impoverished Gaza, will rally around the more pragmatic of the Palestinians.

The theory is a few years late and several steps removed from reality. If the United States wanted to help President Mahmoud Abbas, the time to do so was in 2005, when he won office in a landslide, emerged as the Palestinians' uncontested leader and was in a position to sell difficult compromises to his people. Today, Abbas is challenged by far more Palestinians and is far less capable of securing a consensus on any important decision.

But the more fundamental problem with this theory is its lack of grounding. It is premised on the notion that Fatah controls the West Bank. Yet the West Bank is not Gaza in reverse. Unlike in Gaza, Israel's West Bank presence is overwhelming and, unlike Hamas, Fatah has ceased to exist as an ideologically or organizationally coherent movement.

Fiddling around with Fatah is just another way of delaying the inevitable, a nation of Palestine led by democratically elected Islamic parties.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:34 AM


Memo on Hillary stupid and caustic: Obama (Indian Express, June 19, 2007)

Facing flak over his campaign's paper criticising his party rival Hillary Clinton's links with Indian-Americans, Democratic presidential hopeful Barak Obama has blamed lower-level officials in his team for the document and described it as "stupid and caustic". [...]

The memo, which was passed on friendly political correspondents to quote from it without attribution to the campaign, had implied that Clintons haves raised tens of thousands of dollars from American Indians and that is why they are supporting outsourcing without caring for lost American jobs.

The paper also picked up a remark of Hillary Clinton to imply that her investments in India made her fit to fight elections in India. It was referring to the remark made by Hillary Clinton to an Indian-American audience in March that "I can certainly run for the Senate seat in Punjab and win easily."

A GOP that can't exploit the racial divides in the Democratic Party doesn't deserve to win elections.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:05 AM


Who Needs David Caruso? (BRENDAN BERNHARD, June 19, 2007, NY Sun)

Critics seem almost obliged to go gaga about how good Kyra Sedgwick is at playing a whip-smart police chief and CIA-trained interrogator who can detect a lie before it's even left a suspect's mouth.

But what I really like about TNT's "The Closer" is not its plots or climactic interrogation scenes, riveting as these often are, but the quirky-sexy Ms. Sedgwick herself — the way she's always running rings around her hapless male boss, Assistant Police Chief Will Pope (J.K. Simmons), for instance, not to mention her principal rival, Commander Taylor (Robert Gossett). Or how she manages to cajole, boss, charm, and befuddle all the men under her command into doing whatever she wants them to do, not excluding (by and large) her maximally patient boyfriend, FBI agent Fritz Howard (Jon Tenney). [...]

There were also two subplots, both of which were like dessert in comparison with the main course. The first involved departmental budget cuts, leading to the worrying possibility that the oldest member of Brenda's squad, the crusty-but-endearing Detective Lieutenant Provenza (G.W. Bailey), might have to retire, but the main point was that it allowed us to enjoy watching Brenda flout every order Pope gave her by spending even more of the department's money than she usually does.

My favorite moment in the episode was when Pope, insisting that Brenda go ahead with the budget cuts, said, "Consider, just for a moment, a universe in which you work for me, and in which what I need is important too." Nice try. Brenda is not what you'd call a team player, a phrase she'd probably regard as a euphemism for agreeing to go along with the prevailing mediocrity in a given group. Her idea of team play is to do her best for the team by doing her best as an individual. There's a lot to be said for that approach, but it's amazing how many people can't quite wrap it around their team-playing skulls.

The second subplot was about Brenda's ongoing battle with boyfriend Fritz, who wants them to get a bigger house so that he can finally move his stuff out of the garage. "Don't you realize I'm working on an extremely important murder case?" Brenda asked him plaintively after he reminded her that this was the weekend they'd agreed to go house hunting together. "You're always working on an ‘extremely important' murder case," Fritz replied sarcastically, treating her to a marvelously level staredown. Somehow, Fritz manages to cater to practically all of Brenda's whims while combining understated machismo with the forbearance of a yogi.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:52 AM


'Signing Statements' Study Finds Administration Has Ignored Laws (Jonathan Weisman, 6/18/07, Washington Post)

For the first time, the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office -- Congress's investigative arm -- tried to ascertain whether the administration has made good on such declarations of presidential power. In appropriations acts for fiscal 2006, GAO investigators found 160 separate provisions that Bush had objected to in signing statements. They then chose 19 to follow.

Of those 19 provisions, six -- nearly a third -- were not carried out according to law. Ten were executed by the executive branch. On three others, conditions did not require an executive branch response.

The instances of noncompliance were not as dramatic as some of the signing statements that have caused the most stir, such as Bush's suggestion that he was not bound by a ban on torture in U.S. military detention facilities. But congressional aides said they were significant.

For example, Congress directed U.S. Customs and Border Protection to relocate its checkpoints around Tucson every seven days to improve efforts to combat illegal immigration. But the agency took the law as an "advisory provision" that was "not always consistent with CBP's mission requirements." Instead, the agency periodically shut down its checkpoints for short periods of time, believing that would comply with congressional demands.

Frustrated by the Pentagon's broad budget submissions for the "global war on terrorism," Congress demanded in its 2006 military spending law that the Defense Department break down its 2007 budget request to show the detailed costs of global military operations, such as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The department ignored the order. While the Pentagon did break out the costs of operations in the Balkans and at Guantanamo Bay, it did not detail expenditures in other operations.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency also ignored Congress's demand that it submit an expenditure plan for housing assistance and alternatives to the approaches that failed after Hurricane Katrina. FEMA told the GAO that it does not normally produce such plans.

In all those instances, presidential signing statements had asserted that congressional demands were encroaching on Bush's prerogatives to control executive branch employees as he sees fit and to receive effective services from his employees. White House spokesman Tony Fratto said Congress should not be surprised that the administration carried out the recommendations of the signing statements, although he cautioned that he could not know whether the agencies took action because of the statements.

"The signing statements assert the president's understanding of how the law should be executed, pursuant to his understanding of the Constitution, and that's the way we deal with them," Fratto said.

But Democratic lawmakers jumped on what they see as the actions of an imperial presidency with little respect for the law or the legislative branch.

"The administration is thumbing its nose at the law," said House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.), who requested the GAO study and legal opinion along with Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.).

"This GAO opinion underscores the fact that the Bush White House is constantly grabbing for more power, seeking to drive the people's branch of government to the sidelines," Byrd said in a joint statement with Conyers.

The Executive ought to detail how it spends the money the Legislative provides, but ought not submit to micromanagement of its functions.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:02 AM


Sen. Reid fast-tracks revived immigration bill: Proposal boosts funding by $4.4 billion for border security and workplace enforcement, a Bush-backed provision (Maura Reynolds, June 19, 2007, LA Times)

The new version cleans up the legislation, which had been altered so much in the last year that it had become legislatively unwieldy. It includes a provision, agreed to in principle last week by Senate leaders with the support of President Bush, that would boost funding for border security and workplace enforcement by $4.4 billion.

"Republican obstructionists are going to have a very simple decision to make later on this week," said Jim Manley, Reid's staff director. "Are they going to stand for efforts to provide increased funding for border security along with comprehensive immigration reform? Or are they going to continue to block one of the top priorities of the president?"

The proposal announced Monday will incorporate the substance of about two dozen amendments adopted when the Senate debated the bill for two weeks this year. The core of the legislation has become known as the "grand bargain." Under the plan, opponents agreed to provide many illegal immigrants now in the United States a path to citizenship in return for a restructuring of the immigration system to give greater weight to education and job skills, rather than family ties. [...]

To curb opponents' chances of blocking the bill, Reid used a Senate procedure known as Rule 14 to reintroduce and bring the measure immediately to the floor for debate without going through a committee.

Aides said the majority leader was also considering introducing the last two dozen or so amendments in a block, using a controversial maneuver to prevent others from being offered.

"This is a very heavy-handed tactic by the leader that is cutting a large number of senators out of the process, and there is nothing we can do to stop it," complained a senior aide to one of the bill's GOP opponents, who spoke on condition of anonymity in order to speak freely about inter-party disputes.

June 18, 2007

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:26 PM


EU reform chaos as Blair and Brown disagree (Toby Helm and Bruno Waterfield, 19/06/2007, Daily Telegraph)

The bitter row over government tactics flared after Geoff Hoon, the Europe minister, said at the weekend that a referendum may be needed if EU leaders insist on a deal that is unsatisfactory to Britain.

He received strong support from Mr Brown's camp, which saw the threat of a referendum - which ministers believe would be lost - as a good negotiating ploy to focus the minds of other EU leaders to accept Britain's demands.

Both Downing Street and officials representing Margaret Beckett, the Foreign Secretary, reacted furiously, believing Mr Hoon was suggesting that Mr Blair and Mrs Beckett may meekly sell out British interests in a cowardly late-night deal at the summit.

For all his myriad good qualities, Tony Blair's worst is certainly his transnationalism. It's entirely typical of the breed to be terrified of letting voters have a voice on the matter.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:26 PM


Internal report attacks BBC's liberal consensus (Owen Gibson, June 19, 2007, The Guardian)

The BBC yesterday published a 12-point plan designed to puncture what critics have called a tendency to liberal "groupthink" and guard against its schedules becoming hijacked by single-issue campaigners. [...]

The report said that while there was no evidence of conscious bias at the BBC, "individuals exercise on occasion a largely unconscious self-censorship out of a misguided attempt to be 'correct' in their thinking".

The point of groupthink is that membership in the former precludes the latter.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:21 PM


The Americans Have Landed: A few years ago, with little fanfare, the United States opened a base in the horn of Africa to kill or capture Al Qaeda fighters. By 2012, the Pentagon will have two dozen such forts. The story of Africa Command, the American military's new frontier outpost. (Thomas P.M. Barnett, July 2007, Esquire)

Ethiopia's Meles regime, which American Central Command officers describe as "xenophobic to the core," was going into Somalia last December whether the Americans approved or not. The recently installed Somali Council of Islamic Courts, with its loose talk of getting back another star point in its flag (otherwise known as Ethiopia's Ogaden region), simply had to go. As it happened, the Americans, who had been quietly training the Ethiopian troops for years, did approve.

In fact, Centcom was very eager for the operation. Most press leaks made it sound like our main targets were a trio of Al Qaeda senior operatives responsible for bombing American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania a decade ago. But the real story is one of pure opportunism, according to a knowledgeable source within the headquarters: "There were three thousand foreign fighters in there. Honestly, nobody had any idea just how many there really were. But we wanted to get them all."

When the invading Ethiopians quickly enjoyed unexpected success, Centcom's plan became elegantly simple: Let the blitzkrieging Ethiopian army drive the CIC, along with its foreign fighters and Al Qaeda operatives, south out of Mogadishu and toward the Kenyan border, where Kenyan troops would help trap them on the coast. "We begged the Kenyans to get to the border as fast as possible," the Centcom source says, "because the targets were so confused, they were running around like chickens with their heads cut off."

Once boxed in by the sea and the Kenyans, the killing zone was set and America's first AC-130 gunship went wheels-up on January 7 from that secret Ethiopian airstrip. After each strike, anybody left alive was to be wiped out by successive waves of Ethiopian commandos and Task Force 88, operating out of Manda Bay. The plan was to rinse and repeat "until no more bad guys," as one officer put it.

"We could have solved all of East Africa in less than eight weeks," says the Centcom source, who was involved in the planning. Central Command was extremely wary of being portrayed in the media as Ethiopia's puppet master. In fact, its senior leaders wanted to keep America's participation entirely secret. The goal was for Ethiopia to get all the credit, further bolstering America's controversial but burgeoning military ties with Meles Zenawi's increasingly authoritarian regime. Proud Kenya, still visibly nervous from the 1998 embassy bombing, would have been happy with a very quiet thank-you.

It was a good plan. And it was leaked to the press almost as soon as it started.

Those involved in the Central Command operation suspected two sources: 1) somebody in the Office of the Secretary of Defense who couldn't wait to trumpet their success to bitter personal rivals in the State Department, or 2) a dime dropper from our embassy in Kenya who simply couldn't stand the notion that the Pentagon had once again suckered State into a secret war.

The first New York Times piece in early January broke the story of the initial AC-130 bombardment, incorrectly identifying a U.S. military base in Djibouti as the launching point. That leak just let the cat out of the bag, tipping off the main target, a senior CIC leader named Aden Hashi Ayro, who, according to Centcom intelligence, had been completely fooled up to that point, thinking the Ethiopians had somehow gotten the jump on him. Ayro survived his injuries, and he's now back in action in Mogadishu and, by all accounts, mad as hell at both the Ethiopians and the Americans.

...doesn't make the military any less a government bureaucracy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:19 PM


Fred Thompson seeks Thatcher's blessing (Mike Allen, Jun 18, 2007, Politico)

Fred Thompson, the actor and former Tennessee senator who is expected to announce next month he is running for president, flew to London on Monday to meet Margaret Thatcher and deliver a foreign policy speech, his advisers tell The Politico.

Thompson's advisers aim to use the London events to bolster his foreign policy credentials and elevate him above the increasingly contentious fray of the GOP race.

On Wednesday, he will pose for photos with Thatcher, which his advisers hope will enhance his support among devotees of former President Ronald Reagan.

He's already got Reagan's sense of theater.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:54 PM


Frame Work (Dennis Ross, 6/18/07, TNR Online)

The United States should work with all the other donors to the Palestinians, and especially the Saudis and the Gulf states, to invest in those younger Fatah members who are prepared to organize themselves at the grassroots level and re-brand Fatah as a clean organization responsive to the needs of the Palestinian public. This is where the social, economic, and political competition will be won with Hamas, if it is to be won, particularly in the West Bank where Fatah still has the upper hand.

Secretary Rice's focus, unfortunately, is elsewhere. To be fair, her interest in a political horizon is at least partly shaped by her assessment that Fatah can be most helped by showing that there is a political way to end Israeli occupation and that Fatah can deliver it while Hamas cannot. She has a point. If the Palestinian public believes that Fatah offers a pathway to achieving their national aspirations and Hamas does not, Fatah would have an advantage. But when Fatah is perceived as corrupt and non-responsive to the public and unable to improve the day-to-day realities, the Palestinian public also tends to question whether Fatah is capable of delivering anything. A political horizon that is disconnected from the current realities that Palestinians are experiencing will lack credibility.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:38 PM


To Avoid Conflicts, Clintons Liquidate Holdings (PATRICK HEALY, 6/15/07, NY Times)

The disclosure forms have new details about Mr. Clinton’s investments and advisory role with funds in the Yucaipa Companies, a privately held California equity firm controlled by Ron Burkle, one of Mr. Clinton’s best friends and one of Mrs. Clinton’s top fund-raisers.

Mr. Clinton has assets of $100,001 to $250,000 in one Yucaipa investment, Garrard Worldwide Holdings Inc., a retail jeweler with a flagship store in London. He has an additional $15,001 to $50,000 in Brazilian Renewable Energy Company Ltd., which produces sugar-cane-based ethanol in Brazil.

Mr. Clinton also has $15,001 to $50,000 in Easy Bill Ltd., an India-based company that works on electronic transactions and business services for Indians.

Shortly after the Clinton campaign released the financial information, the campaign of Senator Barack Obama, the Illinois Democrat, circulated to news organizations — on what it demanded be a not-for-attribution-basis — a scathing analysis. It called Mrs. Clinton “Hillary Clinton (D-Punjab)” in its headline. The document referred to the investment in India and Mrs. Clinton’s fund-raising efforts among Indian-Americans. The analysis also highlighted the acceptance by Mr. Clinton of $300,000 in speech fees from Cisco, a company the Obama campaign said has moved American jobs to India.

A copy of the document was obtained by Mrs. Clinton’s campaign, which provided it to The New York Times. The Clinton campaign has long been frustrated by the effort by Mr. Obama to present his campaign as above the kind of attack politics that Mr. Obama and his aides say has led to widespread disillusionment with politics by many Americans.

Asked about the document, Bill Burton, a spokesman for Mr. Obama, said: “We did give reporters a series of comments she made on the record and other things that are publicly available to anyone who has access to the Internet. I don’t see why anyone would take umbrage with that.”

Asked why the Obama campaign had initially insisted that it not be connected to the document, Mr. Burton replied, “I’m going to leave my comment at that.”

There's nothing wrong with a pol dumping opposition research with the press...unless he's running around pretending he's not a typical pol....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:32 AM


Democrats Press Plan to Channel Billions in Oil Subsidies to Renewable Fuels (EDMUND L. ANDREWS, 6/18/07, NY Times)

Senate Democrats are seeking a major reversal of energy tax policies that would take billions of dollars in tax breaks and other benefits from the oil industry to underwrite renewable fuels.

The tax increases would reverse incentives passed as recently as three years ago to increase domestic exploration and production of oil and gas. The change reflects a shift from the Republican focus on expanding oil production to the Democratic concern about reducing global warming.

...if they were serious about reducing gasoline consumption they'd tax consumers more heavily.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:24 AM


A Democrat in '08! But not that one: Polls show voters support the party, but individual candidates -- particularly Clinton -- are another story. (Michael Finnegan, June 17, 2007, LA Times)

It is a paradox of the 2008 presidential race. By a wide margin, several polls show, voters want a Democrat to win — yet when offered head-to-head contests of leading announced candidates, many switch allegiance to the Republican.

...that it has been almost fifty years since a non-incumbent Democrat won the presidency who wasn't a white Southern evangelical male governor?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:32 AM


Five to Four (Jeffrey Toobin, June 25, 2007, The New Yorker)

Moving with great swiftness, by the stately standards of the Court, Roberts, Alito, and their allies have already made progress on that agenda. In Alito’s first major opinion as a justice, earlier this year, he sharply restricted the ability of victims of employment discrimination to file lawsuits. The Court said that plaintiffs in such cases must bring their suits within a hundred and eighty days of, say, an unfair raise. But, because it generally takes employees longer than that to establish that they have been cheated, the effect of the ruling will be to foreclose many lawsuits. In a similar vein, the Court upheld a death sentence in Washington by lessening the scrutiny applied to jury selection in such cases. Last week, the justices rejected an appeal by a prisoner who had filed his case before a deadline set by a federal district judge. Because the judge had misread the law and given the prisoner too much time—three extra days—the Court said that the case had to be thrown out.

Most notoriously, the Court, for the first time in its history, upheld a categorical ban on an abortion procedure.

In a country where 70%+ of the citizenry opposes partial birth abortion, it seems safe to say that the ruling is notorious only in the sorts of circles that Mr. Toobin travels in. It's a real shame that Tina Brown and Daviod Remnick have been allowed to take a once great general interest magazine and turn it into just another political rag, but no coincidence that it has been drained of humor.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:25 AM


Sour and in Decline (Suzanne Fields, 6/18/07, Real Clear Politics)

In "The Last Days of Europe: Epitaph for an Old Continent," Walter Laqueur describes how Europe's promise after World War II, its amazing recovery through the Marshall Plan, led to the belief that its "soft power" would become a unifying force and give birth to common institutions. "The recovery was not just economic," he writes. "Not only were European living standards higher than ever before, but also welfare states were established, providing essential health and other services and free education. No one any longer had to fear disease, old age and unemployment." Europe was not Utopia, but Europeans believed in their future.

The optimism did not last long. Those who wrought the miracle were Europeans -- Frenchmen, Italians, Spaniards, Portuguese and Yugoslavs. The immigrants drawn here by the miracle, numbering in the millions, came from the Middle East and Africa. They didn't want to return to their countries of origin, nor did they want to adjust to the customs of their adopted homeland. Assimilation was something to avoid. Attitudes didn't change with the following generation. While unassimilated immigrant birthrates soar, the Europeans soon failed even to replace themselves.

Demography accelerates intellectual and economic decline, and the "quality of life" founders. The economy fails to sustain the growth that once inspired robust confidence. Unemployment rises along with government payments to the unemployed. Students stay in college for as long as they can find a reason for not getting a job; the student population grows to 10 times the size in earlier generations. Welfare and medical costs soar. The ambitious individualism of American capitalism is scorned as a model. The Europeans love their 35-hour workweek and their five-week vacations, and there's no recognition of the hard fact that making money to pay for the good life requires skill, ambition and competition.

It is presumably just a function of race that folks can recognize that the welfare state made inner city blacks dependent on government to their detriment, not least by atomizing their society, but have been resistant to the fact that the Marshall Plan just helped do exactly the same thing to white Europe.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:12 AM


The people of Palestine must finally be allowed to determine their own fate: The drivers of violence in Gaza are clearly external. When all Palestinians can vote for sovereign rule, peace will be within reach (Karma Nabulsi, June 18, 2007, The Guardian)

How did we get here? The institutions created in occupied Palestine in the 1990s were shaped to bring us to this very point of collapse. The Palestinian Authority, created through negotiations between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organisation in 1993, was not meant to last more than five years - just until the institutions of an independent state were built. Instead, its capacities were frozen and it was co-opted into performing the role of a security agency for the Israelis, who were still occupying Palestine by military force, and serving as a disbursement agency for the US and EU's funding of that occupation. The PA had not attained a single one of the freedoms it was meant to provide, including the most important one, the political liberty of a self-determining sovereign body.

Why did we get here? Once the exact nature of its purpose emerged, the Palestinians began to resist this form of external control. Israel then invaded the West Bank cities again and put President Yasser Arafat's compound under a two-year siege, which ended with his death. Under those conditions of siege the international "reform" process created a new institution of a prime minister's office and attempted to unify the security apparatus under it, rather than that of the president, whom they could no longer control. Mahmoud Abbas was the first prime minister, and the Israeli- and US-backed Fatah strongman, Mohammed Dahlan, was appointed head of security. After the death of Arafat, Abbas was nominated to the leadership of the PLO, and directly elected as the president of the PA.

Arafat had followed the strategy of all successful liberation movements: a combination of resistance and negotiation until the conclusion of a comprehensive peace treaty. Abbas's strategy was of an entirely different order: no resistance in any form and a complete reliance on the good faith of the Israelis. After a year of achieving nothing - indeed Ariel Sharon refused to negotiate with him and Israeli colonisation was intensified - the Palestinian people's support for this humiliating policy of submission wore thin. Hamas, polling about 20% in previous years, suddenly won 43% of the vote in 2006.

This popular reaction was a response to the failure of Abbas's strategy as much as the failure of Fatah to present any plausible national programme whatsoever. The Palestinians thus sought representation that would at least reflect their condition of occupation and dispossession. Although the elections were recognised as free and fair, the US and Britain immediately took the lead in applying sanctions against the Hamas government, denying aid - which was only needed in the first place because the occupation had destroyed the economy - and refusing to deal with it until it accepted what had become, under these new circumstances, impossible "conditions".

The US administration continued to treat Fatah as if it had won the election rather than lost it - funding, arming, and directly encouraging agents within it to reverse the outcome of that democratic election by force.

Much nonsense here wrapped around a core truth: to exactly the extent that Fatah has become the chosen vehicle of the West for dealing with Palestine it has been delegitimized among Palestinians. Thus, the current American/European/Israeli scramble to save Fatah just makes it less and less viable as a political party and essentially places those who support Fatah in a position of opposing democracy. This is, of course, exactly the position that George W. Bush recognized after 9-11 had done so much damage in the Middle East. It's unfortunate to fall back into the same rut.

Palestine between delusion and destruction (Rami G. Khouri, 6/16/07, Daily Star)

Even in Abbas' moment of utter failure and complete humiliation - his presidential compound occupied, his guards dispersed, his government non-existent, his orders meaningless, his people sanctioned and starved - this quintessential Arab moderate found himself being defined in public by the US secretary of state primarily in terms of his willingness to negotiate peace with Israel. Nevertheless, Abbas soldiers on, somewhat heroic and moving at one level, but overall a tragic and hapless figure whose ineptitude is matched by his irrelevance - except in the eyes of the US government that uses him as a prop for its diplomatic games in Palestine. Even the Israelis long ago gave up on Abbas and his sclerotic Fatah movement, which has spawned the same sort of local militias and militant gangs that plague many other dysfunctional Arab countries.

The first lesson of this Palestinian catastrophe involves the Palestinians themselves, who must endure a fate that reflects the quality of their own leadership. Fatah dominated the Palestinian national movement since its inception over 40 years ago and forged a unified national movement, with realistic diplomatic goals later based on a two-state solution that garnered great international support. All this was systematically wasted and negated in the past decade. Gaza looks like the ravaged Somali capital, Mogadishu, because its political turmoil is slowly mirroring the Somali legacy of a disintegrating state replaced by feuding warlords.

Hamas shares some of the blame for this also, but much less than Fatah, because Hamas has only shared power for just over a year, and then only barely because of the international financial boycott. We don't know if Hamas will do a better job than Fatah, because it has not had the time to prove itself. Perhaps we will find out in the months ahead.

June 17, 2007

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:20 PM


Election cements control by Sarkozy (Elaine Sciolino, June 17, 2007, NY Times)

[T]he election was the first time in 29 years that a governing party has retained its majority in the lower house of parliament.

The victory by the "blue wave," as the political power of the right has been called, gives Sarkozy a mandate to push through his ambitious program to cut taxes, reinvigorate the economy, strip some labor protections, slash unemployment, impose curbs on immigration and make France more competitive globally.

In his one month since assuming office, Sarkozy has proved he intends to be both a nonstop and an unstoppable president. At home, he has shown signs of wanting to expand the power of the presidency, usurping some of the functions that traditionally have been carried out by the prime minister.

He has ordered a special summer session of the new Parliament (when much of the country is on vacation and not inclined to protest in the streets) to immediately consider his first set of bills on taxes, labor rules, universities, immigration and crime.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:51 AM


Bluegrass For The Masses: The Road Reveals The Faces Of The Packway Handle Band (David Eduardo, May 23, 2007, Flagpole)

A quick survey of those in attendance and we find a rather conservative collection of personalities. Given the choice, they may have passed on the chance to see Packway perform at The Mission or Legion Field, or honestly any place that wasn’t as simultaneously historic and sterile as The Crimson Moon. These are God-fearing folks, which begs another question: with an album like 2005’s (Sinner) You Better Get Ready, which features a slew of inspirational gospel tunes, can it be presumed (or perhaps, to a lesser degree, argued) the group represents the old guard of players performing on the less than secular tip?

Not so fast, flat-picker. While there's no question where Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder is on Sundays, there are plenty of questions and dashes of mystery, intrigue and progressive thinking in this Packway camp. Again, thankfully so.

Without belittling the merits of faith and piety, Packway performs with tongues that are firmly yet playfully placed in cheek. Listen to their earnest and exalting interpretation of that sophomore album’s title track and then seek out the delightful “Satan’s in Outer Space,” and you’ll understand and agree immediately - it doesn’t matter how you feel about something if you can aggrandize it with such skilled (yet humble) aplomb.

If they aren’t exactly jamgrass, grungegrass or old-guard traditionalists, then where, as is our journalistic duty, can we pigeonhole them? How's the following if/then statement: If you like Chatham County Line and/or The Avett Brothers, then you should catch this perpetually touring five-piece for a trad-absurdist experience delivered from exceptionally seasoned youths.

(Sinner) You Better Get Ready

Download "Wade In The Water" (mp3)
from "(Sinner) You Better Get Ready"
by The Packway Handle Band
Busboat Music

More On This Album

They've got a bunch of other free music up at their site, including a live cover of the Louvin Brothers Great Atomic Power . Plus you can find complete live shows free at the Internet Archive and at the Athens Music Foundation Podcast

-OFFICIAL BAND SITE: The Packway Handle Band
-MYSPACE: The Packway Handle Band
-Wikipedia: The Packway Handle Band

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:35 AM


The lowdown on new seasons for popular TV (Florangela Davila, 6/17/07, Seattle Times)

The small screen's sweet 'n' sly Deputy Police Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson returns for a third season of "The Closer" (9 p.m. Mondays on TNT). And anybody who's been a fan knows Kyra Sedgwick, who plays the crafty police interrogator, applauded loudly when she (deservedly) nabbed the Golden Globe earlier this year.

But let's hope this new season finally delves into the Brenda Leigh-and-Fritz relationship. I mean, how patient and accommodating can this guy (Jon Tenney) possibly be?

Friend Mike Daley got us hooked, but the point of the show is her interrogations and the way she breaks suspects. Almost as good is the ineraction amongst her team and the way she navigates departmental politics. It would be a tragedy to make it a mere soap opera.

N.B.: Starting at 1AM tonight they're running a marathon of all the prior episodes--set your Tivo

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:27 AM


The Wrong Way to Challenge China (Jim Hoagland, June 17, 2007, Washington Post)

Some countries host the Olympics as a coming out on the world stage. Economically resurgent Japan used the Tokyo Games of 1964 in such a way. So did South Korea in 1988. China as usual is different. The Middle Kingdom will host the 2008 Olympics to bring the world onto the Chinese stage.

For the ruling Communist Party, all that matters is how the Games and the international prestige they can bring to their organizers will play with China's 1.3 billion people. Other nations should keep that difference in mind as they figure out how to deal with China in the run-up to the August 2008 Games. It is not an easy call.

Why? If the point of the Games is to bring prestige to the regime then if you oppose the regime you obviously seek to deny it same and bring it humiliation instead.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:05 AM


Richard Rorty’s legacy (Roger Scruton, 2007-06-12, OpenDemocracy)

Rorty began his career as an exponent of the analytical philosophy which was, and to a great extent remains, the principal school in the Anglophone academy. His early papers on subjectivity, consciousness and the first-person case were rightly admired and, in the small way which is the way of real advances, were taken up and added to by other writers. At a certain point, however, Rorty suffered a conversion experience, rebelling against analytical philosophy not, primarily, because of its finicky irrelevancies, but because of its entirely erroneous vision - as Rorty saw it - of the nature of human thinking, and of the relation between thought and the world.

The result was Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature (1979), a schizophrenic book, the first half of which repackaged Rorty's work as an analytic philosopher of mind, the second half of which argued that there is no such thing as an analytic philosophy of mind, since philosophy does not hold a mirror up to nature, but moves forward with the logic of history, constantly seeking new conceptions for which there is no standard outside philosophy itself. His painstaking refutation of the Cartesian theory of the mind in his early papers was thereby eclipsed by a far from painstaking dismissal of Descartes and all who thought like him. Such thinkers, according to Rorty, make the mistake of believing that a God's eye perspective on the world is attainable and that it is the task of philosophy to ascend to it.

Rorty tried to make sense of his new position by espousing a version of "pragmatism" - the school associated with CS Peirce, William James and John Dewey, which holds that the concept of truth is to be understood through that of utility. Pragmatism is controversial, but its more recent followers have, on the whole, managed to avoid its more paradoxical implications - such as that the core doctrines of feminism must be true since it is useful (at least in an American university) to assent to them, but that they must certainly be false, given the disaster that would come from espousing them in rural Iran.

It is uncertain to what extent Rorty succeeded in escaping that kind of paradox. For, unlike fellow pragmatists like CI Lewis or WV Quine, he adopted pragmatism as a revisionary theory, one that changes the aspect of the world, and opens the way to moral, social and political possibilities that have been blocked by the rigid truth-directedness of traditional philosophical thought. In a series of papers, therefore, Rorty experimented with highly politicised applications of the pragmatist idea, arguing that "pragmatists view truth as... what is good for us to believe. So they do not need an account of a relation between beliefs and objects called ‘correspondence', nor an account of human cognitive abilities which ensures that our species is capable of entering into that relation. They see the gap between truth and justification not as something to be bridged, but simply as the gap between the actual good and the possible better. From a pragmatist point of view, to say that what is rational for us now to believe may not be true, is simply to say that somebody may come up with a better idea..." (Objectivity, Relativism and Truth, 1991).

That quotation would prompt a quick response from any philosopher suspicious of the pragmatist tendency, namely: "When is one idea better than another? When it is more useful? Or when it is more true? Are we not going round in a circle here?"

Though he gets compared to the continental philosophers, Rorty was squarely in the Anglospheric tradition in his admission that Rationalism has no basis in reason. What made him a man of the Left, rather than the Right, was his insistence that he then arrived at his modus vivendi by the operation of Reason anyway, in the form of Pragmatism, when what he really meant was that he arrived there via aesthetics and, as he conceded, it was the aesthetic of Judeo-Christianity. This set of concessions, peculiar to the Anglo-American Left, leaves folks in the peculiar position of denying the efficacy of Reason because it is internally incoherent and inconsistent and falling back upon Faith, but then making their own faith incoherent and inconsistent by denying its basis. This operation has rendered our Left far less dangerous than that of the Continent and unendingly amusing.

-TRIBUTE: End Point: Richard Rorty's blasé liberalism. (Damon Linker, 6/12/07, New Republic)

Richard Rorty, who died last Friday at the age of 75, was arguably the most influential American philosopher of the past 30 years. That is not to say, however, that he significantly influenced the ideas and intellectual habits of American professors of philosophy. On the contrary, Rorty, who taught comparative literature at Stanford University during the final decade of his life, was treated as a pariah by professional philosophers. And who could blame them? Rorty's notoriety derived in large part from his claim that philosophy as it is practiced by professional philosophers--as the pursuit of timeless truth about the objective world--is futile. No one likes to be told that he has devoted his life and career to an illusion, least of all a philosopher devoted to dispelling the illusions of others.

But skepticism about Rorty's skepticism was not merely the product of professional pride. For anyone familiar with the drama of continental European (and especially German) philosophy during the past two centuries, Rorty's thought appeared to be profoundly derivative. Rorty recapitulated the ideas of numerous philosophers, including Nietzsche, Heidegger, Wittgenstein, and Derrida--all of whom believed that the effort to acquire absolute knowledge of the whole of reality had reached an endpoint in our time.

The philosophers (or rather, the anti-philosophers) in this tradition also tended to treat the terminus of philosophy as an epochal event. Nietzsche and Heidegger, in particular, believed that the demise of philosophy signaled the immanent collapse of the intellectual and cultural foundations of Western civilization, which they heralded with a mixture of dread and elation. The West, they insisted, was on the brink of a millennial shift to a new dispensation beyond Judeo-Christianity, beyond modernity, beyond rationality, beyond science, beyond good and evil. It was impossible to anticipate precisely what this new world would look like. All we could know is that it would differ as profoundly from what came before as the rationalistic world of Plato and Aristotle differed from the pre-philosophic world of Homeric myth.

Here Rorty broke decisively with his continental-European precursors. Dismissing their eschatological hopes with shrug of the shoulders, Rorty insisted that the Western philosophical tradition terminates not in the advent of a radically new world but rather in a world precisely like our own. Once human beings give up their quest to find a foundation for their political views in nature, reason, or theology--the quest for capital-T Truth--they will finally begin to value whatever is useful, whatever works, whatever enables them to live in a state of equality, tolerance, and peace. In other words, the end of philosophy culminates in the universal affirmation of pragmatic American liberalism.

-TRIBUTE: The patriot: Richard Rorty was a philosopher who hated philosophy -- and a lefty who loved his country (Todd Gitlin, June 17, 2007, Boston Globe)
Rorty was also, in the words of the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, "an anti-philosopher's philosopher." [...]

He outraged many philosophers, too, when he declared, not always gently, that it was a waste of time to ask the old questions about how we know what we think we know. They thought he contradicted himself, betraying his early rigor.

Here, he stood squarely in the heretical line of his great 19th and 20th century predecessors, Friedrich Nietzsche and Ludwig Wittgenstein, but with a decidedly American accent and earthiness. He was, like them, a corrupter of youth and age alike, giving many intellectuals (myself included) a swift kick out of our dogmatic slumbers. In his ability to win the respect of those he provoked, he heeded Blake's edict: "Opposition is true Friendship." On hearing of his death, a former student at the University of Virginia went online to comment: "He was so accessible and stimulating, it almost felt like we were at a university."

His personal grace and generosity did nothing to weaken his influence. In the '90s and afterward, Rorty did more than anyone else in the academy to articulate a liberal and social-democratic politics that was at once passionate, intellectually respectable, and unimpressed by radical gestures. Though an early importer of theorists like Jacques Derrida and Martin Heidegger, he chopped his way out from the underbrush of what came to be called Theory (with a very capital T) by rendering unto politics what politics was due -- straightforwardness.

Talk about a straight-talk express: In "Achieving Our Country," Rorty savaged the academic left for letting its rancor and fanciness get the better of it. "We now have, among many American students and teachers, a spectatorial, disgusted, mocking Left rather than a Left which dreams of achieving our country," he wrote there.

By "achieving our country" -- a phrase from James Baldwin -- he meant fulfilling its small-d democratic potential by reviving a "reformist left," exemplified in the New Deal. Though he favored most of what the Sixties' New Left accomplished, he lashed out at its late, frequent, and tragic anti-American revels. Veterans of that era who remained unreconstructed thought he was too harsh; others, like this writer, thought he was dead on.

"Achieving Our Country" was well-received by writers on the liberal and social-democratic left who had wearied of academic smugness, jargon, and marginality. The political historian Alan Ryan lauded it in The New York Times Book Review for affirming "that national pride is the political equivalent of individual self-respect. Without it, nothing can be achieved." No matter that unreconstructed partisans of the cultural left sneered at Rorty for insufficient anticapitalism -- it went with the territory.

But Rorty's version of a national pride that refuses to turn a blind eye to America's sins also outraged conservatives. His attempt to reconnect the American left with the romance of two great small-d democrats -- Walt Whitman, the chronicler of American energies, and John Dewey, the philosopher of public conversation -- did not impress George Will, who devoted a Newsweek column to trashing "Achieving Our Country" ("a remarkably bad book" that "radiates contempt for the country"). In The Weekly Standard, David Brooks called some of Rorty's predictions "loopy, paranoid, idiotic," but his main complaint was that the very risible Rorty was a spotlight hog: "if you strip away Rorty's grand declarations about the death of God and Truth and get down to the type of public personality that Rorty calls for, he begins to appear instead as the Norman Rockwell for the intellectual bourgeoisie."

-TRIBUTE: Richard Rorty: What made him a crucial American philosopher? (Stephen Metcalf, June 15, 2007, Slate)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:00 AM


Tories back vote on independence (EDDIE BARNES, 6/17/07, Scotland on Sunday)

A REFERENDUM on Scottish independence could be held as early as next year after a dramatic move by Conservative leaders to support the historic poll.

The party's vice-chairman has publicly backed a referendum as soon as possible to "clear the air" over Scotland's constitutional future.

Several Tory MSPs are backing the move, claiming the poll - which is likely to reject independence three to one - would "shoot the Nationalists' fox".

Conservative supporters of the plan believe it is essential to kill off the independence issue to reassure businesses and potential investors that Scotland has a stable future, while also giving them a chance to set the "positive case" for the Union.

The funny thing is if the English had a referendum they'd dump Scotland.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:56 AM


Hamas wakes up to grim reality (ANNETTE YOUNG , 6/17/07, Scotland on Sunday)

"I still haven't yet been outside my building in the last week. None of my family has," said Professor Naji Shurab, a lecturer in political science at Al Azhar University. "All we did is sit in front of the television trying to work out what was going on as we heard gunfire outside.

"While Hamas has the ability to keep the gangs in control, that is not the problem. It's whether they will be able to ensure the hospitals have enough supplies, people have food and that salaries are being paid.

"And are they going to talk to the Israelis about reopening the border crossings to get aid in and also ensure that water and electricity is still supplied to Gaza?"

The worst thing you can do to such a movement is force it to govern a democracy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:44 AM


VALENCIENNES (1793) BY CORP'L TULLIDGE: see "The Trumpet-Major" IN MEMORY OF S. C. (PENSIONER). DIED 184- (Thomas Hardy, Wessex Poems)

We trenched, we trumpeted and drummed,
And from our mortars tons of iron hummed
Ath'art the ditch, the month we bombed
The Town o' Valencieen.

'Twas in the June o' Ninety-dree
(The Duke o' Yark our then Commander been)
The German Legion, Guards, and we
Laid siege to Valencieen.

This was the first time in the war
That French and English spilled each other's gore;
--Few dreamt how far would roll the roar
Begun at Valencieen!

'Twas said that we'd no business there
A-topperen the French for disagreen
However, that's not my affair -
We were at Valencieen.

Such snocks and slats, since war began
Never knew raw recruit or veteran:
Stone-deaf therence went many a man
Who served at Valencieen.

Into the streets, ath'art the sky,
A hundred thousand balls and bombs were fleen;
And harmless townsfolk fell to die
Each hour at Valencieen!

And, sweaten wi' the bombardiers,
A shell was slent to shards anighst my ears:
--'Twas nigh the end of hopes and fears
For me at Valencieen!

They bore my wownded frame to camp,
And shut my gapen skull, and washed en clean,
And jined en wi' a zilver clamp
Thik night at Valencieen.

"We've fetched en back to quick from dead;
But never more on earth while rose is red
Will drum rouse Corpel!" Doctor said
O' me at Valencieen.

'Twer true. No voice o' friend or foe
Can reach me now, or any liven been;
And little have I power to know
Since then at Valencieen!

I never hear the zummer hums
O' bees; and don' know when the cuckoo comes;
But night and day I hear the bombs
We threw at Valencieen . . .

As for the Duke o' Yark in war,
There be some volk whose judgment o' en is mean;
But this I say--a was not far
From great at Valencieen.

O' wild wet nights, when all seems sad,
My wownds come back, as though new wownds I'd had;
But yet--at times I'm sort o' glad
I fout at Valencieen.

Well: Heaven wi' its jasper halls
Is now the on'y Town I care to be in . . .
Good Lord, if Nick should bomb the walls
As we did Valencieen!

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:17 AM


Backlash on bipolar diagnoses in children: MGH psychiatrist's work stirs debate (Scott Allen, June 17, 2007, Boston Globe)

No one has done more to convince Americans that even small children can suffer the dangerous mood swings of bipolar disorder than Dr. Joseph Biederman of Massachusetts General Hospital. [...]

But the death in December of a 4-year-old Hull girl from an overdose of drugs prescribed to treat bipolar disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder has triggered a growing backlash against Biederman and his followers. Rebecca Riley's parents have been charged with deliberately giving the child overdoses of Clonidine, a medication sometimes used to calm aggressive children. Still, many wondered why a girl so young was being treated in the first place with Clonidine and two other psychiatric drugs, including one not approved for children's use. Riley's psychiatrist has said she was influenced by the work of Biederman and his protege, Dr. Janet Wozniak. [...]

Part of the criticism of Biederman speaks to a deeper issue in psychiatry: the extensive financial ties between the drug industry and researchers. Biederman has received research funding from 15 drug companies and serves as a paid speaker or adviser to seven of them, including Eli Lilly & Co. and Janssen Pharmaceuticals, which make the multi billion-dollar antipsychotic drugs Zyprexa and Risperdal, respectively. Though not much money was earmarked for bipolar research, critics say the resources help him advance his aggressive drug treatment philosophy.

Numerous psychiatrists say Riley's overdose suggests that bipolar disorder is becoming a psychiatric fad, leaving thousands of children on risky medications based on symptoms such as chronic irritability and aggressiveness that could have other causes.

You know the old saying: Spare the Ritalin, spoil the parent's peace and quiet...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:59 AM


It's Fatah from over (ADAM NICHOLS, 6/17/07, NY DAILY NEWS)

Yesterday, Abbas angrily rejected proposals from the Arab League for talks with Hamas.

An aide said he wouldn't negotiate with "killers."

Hey, he stole the Israeli talking points!

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:49 AM


The divided states of Palestine (Bernard Wasserstein, 17 June 2007, Independent)

Suddenly there are two Palestines: a Hamas-ruled Gaza and a Fatah-controlled West Bank. It seemed to happen overnight but the roots of this division extend back far into Palestinian history. In the inter-war period, when Palestine was ruled by Britain under a League of Nations mandate, the Arab elite was divided into rival coalitions of notable families.

One, headed by Hajj Amin al-Husayni, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, was traditionalist Muslim in outlook, suspicious of modernisation and Western values, and militantly hostile to Zionism and British imperialism. The mufti developed a countrywide network of power based on his control of Muslim religious institutions and trusts. He accused the Jews of designs on Muslim holy places. His followers rioted at the Western Wall in Jerusalem in 1929 and rose in revolt in 1936. Even with massive troop reinforcements and brutal repression, it took the British three years to bring the rebels to heel.

A second coalition was headed by the mufti's chief rival, Ragheb Bey Nashashibi, for long the mayor of Jerusalem. He was a more pliable character who got on better with the British and the Zionists. Whereas the mufti wore old-fashioned robes and the traditional headgear of the hajji (pilgrim to Mecca), Ragheb Bey always appeared in a smart business suit. He and his supporters were widely (and in many cases correctly) suspected of being financially beholden to the Zionists. Pro-mufti newspapers accused Nashashibi and his supporters of being "pack animals of imperialism". During the revolt the mufti's men resorted to bullyboy tactics, assassinations and intimidation to cow their rivals.

After the Israeli victory in the 1948 war, what remained of Arab Palestine was divided into two disconnected fragments. In the Egyptian-occupied Gaza strip the mufti set up a short-lived "All-Palestine Government" which drew support mainly from the refugees who had flooded in from elsewhere in Palestine. Meanwhile, what became known as the West Bank was annexed by King Abdullah of Transjordan who installed Ragheb Bey and many of his supporters in positions of authority.

It seems incredibly unlikely that the nationalist fury can be put back in its box and any significant portion of the Palestinians convinced to accept a secular accomodationist regime for long.

Fundamentalists threaten Israel from all sides (Con Coughlin, 15/06/2007, Daily Telegraph)

Ordinary Palestinians, it is true, in both Gaza and the West Bank, are suffering hardship. But this is not because of a lack of funds entering the Palestinian territories: it is because successive Palestinian administrations have made no effort to distribute the resources available equably among the population.

Hamas, on the other hand, sees economic deprivation as a form of political oppression. The World Bank reported that donors contributed about £375 million to the Palestinian territories in 2006, twice the amount they received in 2005. But since taking power, Hamas ensures any funds are spent on Islamic causes and its 6,000-strong militia, leaving the majority to fend for themselves.

The bonus for Hamas is that, by forcing the majority of Palestinians to exist in dire poverty, it succeeds in attracting widespread sympathy from international do-gooders who do not understand the sadistic economic manipulation that is taking place.

Not surprisingly, many Palestinians who were previously agnostic about their Muslim heritage have found themselves embracing the Hamas cause, more out of economic necessity than religious obligation.

Hizbollah - another Iranian-funded militia - used similar tactics to establish its power base in southern Lebanon during the 1980s. Hizbollah, of course, has now become a dominant force in Lebanese politics.

Hamas is trying to replicate Hizbollah's success in Gaza, not a pleasing prospect for Israel, which now faces the threat of having two Iranian-backed, Islamic fundamentalist organisations dedicated to its destruction camped on its northern and southern borders. It is not a thought that will help Israelis sleep easy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:36 AM


Blair knew US had no post-war plan for Iraq (Nicholas Watt, June 17, 2007, The Observer)

Condoleezza Rice, then Bush's national security adviser, confirms that the President offered Blair a way out. Bush told Blair: 'Perhaps there's some other way that Britain can be involved.' Blair replied: 'No, I'm with you.'

The Brits in particular have tended to portray George Bush as indebted to Tony Blair for his support in the WoT. But the opposite is the case. The President had little interest in getting a new UN resolution for finishing the Iraq War, but allowed Mr. Blair and Colin Powell to pursue one for their own political and emotional reasons. That was the point at which they settled upon using WMD as the selling point for other nations and ended up causing the war party so much later trouble. There have been prior accounts of the fact that when the President realized how much difficulty Mr. Blair was having getting his own party to support the war he told him the Brits needn't join the fight. Of course, this storyline--of a self-sufficient W and a weak Blair and Powell--doesn't play well with critics of the President so it only tends to surface every once in awhile.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:31 AM


Once a victim, always a victim, child study shows (Jonathan Owen, 17 June 2007, Independent)

Children who suffer assaults or other crimes are likely to become serial victims, according to new research, with 59 per cent becoming victims once more within the next year. The study, which tracked 1,500 children between the ages of two and 17 for two years, found that exposure to one type of crime increases the risk of becoming a victim of all others.

Children who had suffered sexual abuse were seven times more likely to be attacked again within the next year compared to those who had not been sexually abused.

The results indicate that children who are victims become less able to protect themselves, according to Professor David Finkelhor, the lead author of the study and director of the Crimes Against Children Research Centre at the University of New Hampshire.

"Some of the kids are affected psychologically by the victimisation," he said. "They get depressed, discouraged, feel powerless and have symptoms that cloud their thinking and their judgment."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:11 AM


Playing catch with dad (Joe Capozzi, 6/17/07, Palm Beach Post)

Dad's knuckles were bloody from working construction all day, but little James Shields never noticed. He just knew his father was home...

Time to play catch.

"He was beat down, tired, and all I wanted to do was play catch,'' said Shields, a pitcher for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

"I had two older brothers, so when they were always playing together, I got left out. But I used to play catch with my dad all the time. No matter how tired he was, he always played catch with me. That was one of the best things - just to grab my glove and ball and go play catch with my pops.''

There are bigger thrills in baseball, but the first for most players, no matter the level, is the time-honored ritual of playing catch with dad.

It's a special moment immortalized in two of the best baseball-themed movies of all time - Field of Dreams and The Natural. A moment remembered for its simplicity and meaning.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:02 AM


China's growth pushed up by the grassroots (John Garnaut, June 15, Sydney Morning Herald)

Judging by the renewed egalitarian rhetoric of its leaders, the contrast between China's gaudy urban billionaires and its struggling rural poor is no longer just a political embarrassment. It is a problem of regime survival. President Hu Jintao and the Prime Minister, Wen Jiabao, have responded by banning rapacious local government taxes in rural areas and opening their wallets for huge spending on infrastructure, health and education. But even in this country of impossible ideological contradictions there is one solution they have not been talking about: democracy.

First, a primer on grassroots democracy, Chinese-style. Deng Xiaoping replaced Chairman Mao's disastrous communes with village management committees in the early 1980s. In 1987 he also began to introduce village elections. By the start of this millennium, grassroots democracy had spread to cover almost all Chinese villages. It was a remarkable development, and largely ignored by the West.

Candidates can stand if they are nominated by 10 or more local villagers. The core elected committee consists of a chairman, vice-chairman and accountant. Their terms are for three years. The system is far from perfect, as democratically elected committees can be challenged by parallel party committees, hijacked by local entrepreneurs or overridden by higher tiers of government. The obvious limitations of village democracy make its power all the more surprising.

Two Chinese economists, Shen Yan and Yao Yang, have analysed official household income data and their own retrospective surveys for 48 villages from 1986 to 2002. The data enabled the authors to control for China's enormous geographic disparities and the fact that incomes have been generally rising steeply. They discovered that the advent of village elections caused a sharp reduction in measured income inequality against a country-wide tide running fast the other way.

Do you end up with an egalitarianism of the impoverished or an income gap amongst the universally affluent, as in America?

June 16, 2007

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:12 PM


China to probe brickyard slavery: The number of people rescued from forced labor in police raids surpasses 500 as scandals continue to plague the government. (Ching-Ching Ni, June 16, 2007, LA Times)

He was a culinary student looking for his first job, and when a stranger offered him restaurant work he eagerly accepted. But the 20-year-old was taken instead to a rural brick kiln where he toiled as a slave with little food, no pay and regular beatings that nearly killed him.

Yet Zhang Yinlei is among the lucky.

He was one of at least 548 workers rescued so far in a crackdown on brick factories in north-central China, where abducted men and children as young as 8 had been sold into slavery for $65 a head. Most of them were freed this week in raids at thousands of kilns in two provinces.

The case has so scandalized China that state media announced Friday that President Hu Jintao had personally ordered a prompt investigation.

Child labor and harsh working conditions used to be the stuff of propaganda movies used by the Chinese Communists to discredit capitalist societies. Today they are a fact of life in a country driven by its own pursuit of wealth, often at the expense of the poor.

Reports of Forced Labor Unsettle China (HOWARD W. FRENCH, 6/16/07, NY Times)
As the stories spread across China this week, played prominently in newspaper headlines and on the Internet, a manhunt was announced midweek for Heng Tinghan, the foreman of one of the kilns, where 31 enslaved workers were recently rescued.

Mr. Su said his children were brought to the factory around midnight of the day they vanished. Once there, they were told they would have to make bricks. “You will start working in the morning, so get some sleep, and don’t lose your bowls, or you will have to pay for them,” he said the children were told. “They also charged them 50 renminbi for a blanket.” That is equivalent to about $6.50.

Mr. Su managed to recover his children after only a matter of days at the kiln, but many other parents have been less fortunate, losing contact with children for months or years. As stories of forced labor at the brick kilns have spread, hundreds of parents have petitioned local authorities to help them find their children and crack down on the kilns.

In some cases, according to Chinese news media reports, parents have also come together to try to rescue their children, placing little stock in the local authorities, who are sometimes in collusion with the operators of the kilns. Other reports have said that local authorities, including labor inspectors, have taken children from freshly closed kilns and resold them to other factories.

The director of the legal department of the Shanxi Province Worker’s Union said it was hard to monitor the kilns because of their location in isolated areas.

“Those factories are located in very remote places and most them are illegal entities, without any legal registration, so it is very hard for people outside to know what is going on there,” said the union official, Zhang Xiaosuo. “We are now doing a province-wide investigation into them, both the legal and illegal ones, to look into labor issues there.”

Liu Cheng, a professor of labor law at Shanghai Normal University, had a different explanation. “My first reaction is that this seems like a typical example of a government-business alliance,” Mr. Liu said. “Forced labor and child labor in China are illegal, but some local governments don’t care too much.”

Zhang Xiaoying, 37, whose 15-year-old son disappeared in January, said she had visited over 100 brick factories during a handful of visits to Shanxi Province in search of him.

“You just could not believe what you saw,” Ms. Zhang said in a telephone interview on Thursday. “Some of the kids working at these places were at most 14 or 15 years old.”

The local police, she said, were unwilling to help. Outside one factory, she said, they even demanded bribes.

“We finally got into that place, and I saw people hauling carts of bricks with great difficulty,” Ms. Zhang said. “Some of them were very small, and the ropes they pulled left tracks of blood on their shoulders and backs. Others were making bricks, standing by the machines.

“They had to move the bricks from the belt very quickly, because they were hot and heavy and they could easily get burned or hurt by the machines.”

...why students who go overseas don't return?

Posted by Matt Murphy at 6:39 PM


Looters raid Arafat's home, steal his Nobel Peace Prize (Khaled Abu Toameh, June 16, 2007, Jerusalem Post)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:14 PM


ITV recaptures Frost with £3m handcuffs (PAUL REVOIR,15th June 2007, Daily Mail)

Sir David Jason has signed a £3million three-year "golden handcuffs" deal with ITV which will see him return in A Touch of Frost.

Despite suggestions that he would never again play Detective Jack Frost, the 67-year-old star has agreed to reprise the role for two more episodes.

It's not like there's such a surplus of good television that we can afford to have him alive and not playing his best role.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:49 PM

WEBCAST: Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival 2007 (Manchester TN)

Old Crow Medicine Show 12:45pm - 1:45pm (Central Times)
Spearhead 1:45pm - 2:15pm
Regina Spektor 2:15pm - 3:30pm
The Black Keys 3:30pm - 4:15pm
Damien Rice 4:15pm - 5:45pm
Ben Harper & the Innocent Criminals 5:45pm - 7:45pm
The Hold Steady 7:45pm - 8:15pm
Mago: Billy Martin & John Medeski 8:15pm - 9:45pm
String Cheese Incident 10:15pm - 11:30pm

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:24 AM


New mood from new citizens: Latino immigrants in South Florida who have traditionally registered with the GOP have felt alienated by the party, critics say. (Peter Wallsten, June 16, 2007, LA Times)

Surveys show that among Latino voters — a bloc Bush had hoped to woo into the Republican camp — negative views about the party are growing amid a bitter debate over immigration policy.

Republicans in Congress have led the fight against a controversial Senate bill that would provide a pathway for millions of illegal immigrants to eventually become citizens. All but one of the GOP's leading White House hopefuls oppose the measure.

Many Latino leaders, including Republicans, have said the tone of some critics in attacking the bill has been culturally insensitive. They say that has alienated some Latinos from the GOP.

How this eventually plays out at the voting booth remains hard to predict, and that is especially the case concerning newly naturalized Latinos. Even if they register to vote, it is uncertain how many of these new citizens would actually turn out on election day.

And although 2006 election results showed a steep drop off in Latino support for Republicans, polls suggest that there is little, if any, growing enthusiasm for Democrats.

Still, at least on Thursday in Miami Beach, even the occasional new citizen who said he or she had registered as a Republican expressed concern about the tenor of the immigration debate.

Priscilla Girasol, 36, a mother from Brazil who lives in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., said she liked Bush because of his Christian faith and the compassion he expressed for the immigrant experience. But she said she could not forget the words of one GOP presidential candidate, Rep. Tom Tancredo of Colorado.

Tancredo, a vocal critic of illegal immigration, late last year called Miami a "Third World country."

"It's a shame," Girasol said. "I'm sure in his life somebody from another country did something for him."

Heck, he had illegals working on his house, even if attacking them cost his party the House.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:22 AM


Iran Curtails Freedom In Throwback to 1979: Repression Seen as Cultural Revolution (Robin Wright, 6/16/07, Washington Post)

The widespread purges and arrests are expected to have an impact on parliamentary elections next year and the presidential contest in 2009, either discouraging or preventing reformers from running against the current crop of hard-liners who dominate all branches of government, Iranian and U.S. analysts say. The elections are one of several motives behind the crackdowns, they add.

Public signs of discontent -- such as students booing President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on a campus last December, teacher protests in March over low wages and workers demonstrating on May Day -- are also behind the detentions, according to Iranian sources.

"The current crackdown is a way to instill fear in the population in order to discourage them from future political agitation as the economic situation begins to deteriorate," said Karim Sadjadpour of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. "You're going to think twice about taking to the streets to protest the hike in gasoline prices if you know the regime's paramilitary forces have been on a head-cracking spree the last few weeks."

Despite promises to use Iran's oil revenue to aid the poor, Ahmadinejad's economic policies have backfired, triggering 20 percent inflation over the past year, increased poverty and a 25 percent rise in the price of gas last month. More than 50 of the country's leading economists wrote an open letter to Ahmadinejad this week warning that he is ignoring basic economics and endangering the country's future.

Universities have been particularly hard hit by faculty purges and student detentions since late last year, according to Iranian analysts and international human rights groups. Professors still on campus have been warned by Iran's intelligence ministry about developing relationships with their foreign counterparts, who may try to recruit them as spies.

"Ahmadinejad has repeatedly stated his goal of purging Iranian society of secular thought. This is taking shape as a cultural revolution, particularly on university campuses, where persecution and prosecution of students and faculty are intensifying with each passing day," said Hadi Ghaemi, the Iran analyst for Human Rights Watch.

In recent weeks, the government has also tried to dissolve student unions and replace them with allies from the Basij -- a young, volunteer paramilitary body, human rights groups say. Between April 30 and June 6, eight student leaders involved in the elections at Amirkabir University -- where Ahmadinejad was reportedly jeered as students set his pictures on fire -- have been jailed in Evin Prison.

...is not long for power.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:19 AM

DUNGEONS & DUFFERS (via The Mother Judd):

Games seek to bring seniors to their feet: Nintendo marketing the Wii in retirement communities (Robbie Brown, June 16, 2007, Boston Globe)

At age 81, George Mason donated his golf clubs to charity, retiring forever from the links or so he thought.

"I'd had a heart attack, and I didn't envision myself on a golf course ever again," he said.

But the other day, Mason, now 84, stepped to the tee and clobbered a 200-yard drive onto the fairway of a Par 4.

Don't look for him on the Senior PGA tour quite yet. Mason's triumphant return to golfing occurred on a video game.

Last week, his retirement community, Linden Ponds in Hingham , wired a Nintendo Wii to the 68-inch television in its lobby. Since then, the residents, whose average age is 77, have been golfing, bowling, boxing, and playing tennis and baseball on the video-game system, which lets players simulate the physical movement of real sports.

In senior citizens like Mason, Nintendo sees a new target demographic: the elderly gamer. The video-game maker provided the $250 Wii system for free to Linden Ponds and more than a dozen other retirement communities across the nation. Nintendo hopes these seniors will convince their friends that video games aren't just for kids.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:36 AM


An Also-Ran in the GOP Polls, Ron Paul Is Huge on the Web (Jose Antonio Vargas, 6/16/07, Washington Post)

On Technorati, which offers a real-time glimpse of the blogosphere, the most frequently searched term this week was "YouTube."

Then comes "Ron Paul."

The presence of the obscure Republican congressman from Texas on a list that includes terms such as "Sopranos," "Paris Hilton" and "iPhone" is a sign of the online buzz building around the long-shot Republican presidential hopeful -- even as mainstream political pundits have written him off.

Rep. Ron Paul is more popular on Facebook than Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). He's got more friends on MySpace than former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney. His MeetUp groups, with 11,924 members in 279 cities, are the biggest in the Republican field. And his official YouTube videos, including clips of his three debate appearances, have been viewed nearly 1.1 million times -- more than those of any other candidate, Republican or Democrat, except Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.). [...]

But while many Democrats have welcomed the young and fresh-faced Obama, who's trailing Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) in most public opinion polls, Paul is barely making a dent in the Republican polls.

Republican strategists point out that libertarians, who make up a small but vocal portion of the Republican base, intrinsically gravitate toward the Web's anything-goes, leave-me-alone nature.

One can almost pity the various marginal factions of the Right that sit in their Internet echo chambers and think everyone must agree with them. But in real life you just don't meet folks who had to be fitted with mouthguards because Kelo made them grind their teeth so much.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:07 AM


The US Army Band (Pershing's Own) has a wicked cool website that includes a 24/7 audio stream

Liberty For All Volume 2

Download "Shenandoah" (mp3)
from "Liberty For All Volume 2"
by US Army Band

    More On This Album

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:49 AM


    How To ... Make tasty potato chips (SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER, 6/15/07)


    Serves: 8

    3 tablespoons olive oil

    4 cloves garlic, finely chopped

    Two 5 1/2-ounce bags potato chips

    3/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

    Grated zest of 1 lemon

    Preheat oven to 350 F.

    In a small saucepan over low heat, warm the olive oil and garlic for 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and let stand 10 minutes.

    Pour the potato chips into a large serving bowl. Drizzle the chips with the oil and toss to coat evenly. Transfer the chips to a baking sheet and bake for 7 minutes.

    Return the chips to the bowl. Add the parsley and lemon zest and toss to coat. Serve warm.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:44 AM


    Obama criticizes absentee fathers in black community (ASSOCIATED PRESS, 6/14/07)

    Two days before Father's Day, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama presented a plan Friday for lifting up poor families that included searing criticism of fathers who abandon their responsibilities to raise children.

    "There are a lot of men out there who need to stop acting like boys; who need to realize that responsibility does not end at conception; who need to know that what makes you a man is not the ability to have a child but the courage to raise a child," Obama said. [...]

    "Too many black men simply cannot afford to raise a family — and too many have made the sad choice not to," Obama said. "A fatherless household takes its toll. Children who grow up without a father ... are five times more likely to live in poverty and nine times more likely to drop out of school."

    Obama's criticism of absent fathers in the black community reprises a theme he has touched on as a senator, first in a Father's Day talk at a South Side Chicago church two years ago. He also introduced related legislation with Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Ind., and briefly addressed the subject in a speech he made on a new direction for the civil rights movement in Selma, Ala.

    Obama's remarks Friday illustrate the unusual opportunities he is afforded as an African-American candidate to address sensitive racial issues; few white presidential candidates would present such blunt criticism, particularly running in a Democratic primary.

    Still, they are not without risk. Bill Cosby provoked charges of elitism and exposed simmering class resentments among African-Americans when he made comments in 2004 sharply criticizing the behavior and values of some poor black people.

    ...in Tom-Tom than in Mau-Mau.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:41 AM


    Homeland Security bill passes House, but veto likely (ANDREW TAYLOR, 6/14/07, Associated Press)

    The House Friday passed a $37.4 billion budget bill for the Department of Homeland Security, but minority Republicans rallied enough votes to uphold a promised veto by President Bush.

    The Homeland Security bill passed by a 268-150 vote. The measure exceeds Bush's request for the department by $2.1 billion, thus drawing a veto threat from the White House. The administration has vowed to keep spending passed by Congress this year to limits proposed in Bush's February budget.

    The Homeland Security bill is the first of the 12 annual spending bills to pass the House and only did so after Democrats yielded Thursday to GOP protests on the handling of lawmakers' pet projects.

    June 15, 2007

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:34 PM


    Paris Air Show No Party for Airbus: Plagued by problems and delays, the A350 widebody is trailing its more fuel-efficient rival, Boeing's Dreamliner (Carol Matlack, 6/15/07, Business Week)

    The A350 saga underscores that Airbus has been, in many ways, paralyzed for the past two years. Delivery of its A380 megaplane, originally scheduled for early 2006, is almost two years behind schedule because of wiring problems caused by mismatched design software. The delay plunged Airbus $750 million into the red last year and is expected to wipe out more than $6 billion in projected profits through 2010, denying the company a key source of financing to develop the A350.

    Multiple redesigns of the A350 have already pushed its planned launch to at least 2013, five years after the 787 is expected to enter service. And the A350 has few major customers apart from Qatar, which had ordered an earlier version of the plane and recently announced it would buy 80 of the revamped model, known as the XWB. Boeing (BA), meanwhile, has mopped up 582 orders for the Dreamliner, giving it a huge advantage over Airbus in widebody planes, the industry's most lucrative sector.

    Yet the financial hit from the A380 is only one reason for the A350's painfully slow takeoff. Airlines are worried that the plane, which Airbus says will have an aluminum frame covered with composite carbon-fiber panels, still can't match the efficiency of the all-composite 787. Airbus says they're wrong, and that more airlines will order the A350 once they see detailed specs.

    But at least one big customer appears to have walked: Steven Udvar-Hazy, chairman of aircraft-leasing group International Lease Finance Corp. (AIG), the world's single largest aircraft buyer. He has repeatedly criticized the A350's design, and ILFC is set to place a major Dreamliner order during the Paris show, according to people familiar with the situation. "This air show will be brutally hard for Airbus," says Doug McVitie, an aerospace analyst in Dinan, France.

    Why doesn't Airbus just respond with an all-composite A350? For one thing, the Europeans are several years behind Boeing in research and development on composite materials.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:11 PM


    China blasts Bush tribute to victims of communism (Reuters, 6/13/07)

    Communist-ruled China has blasted U.S. President George Bush for attending the founding of a memorial to victims of communism, accusing Washington of "cold war" thinking and provoking ideological confrontation.

    Bush attended the dedication of the Victims of Communism Memorial in Washington on Tuesday, naming China among the regimes he blamed for the deaths of about 100 million innocent people. [...]

    China, which remains under communist rule even as it embraces booming capitalist investment, shot back late on Wednesday with a statement that did not name Bush but made its anger clear.

    They understand snubs.

    President Bush Attends Dedication of Victims of Communism Memorial (George W. Bush, Washington, D.C., 6/12/07)

    Thank you all for coming. Please be seated. Dr. Edwards, thanks for your kind words. Congressman Lantos -- no better friend to freedom, by the way; Congressman Rohrabacher, the same. Members of the Czech and Hungarian parliaments; ambassadors; distinguished guests; and more importantly, the survivors of Communist oppression, I'm honored to join you on this historic day. (Applause.)

    And here in the company of men and women who resisted evil and helped bring down an empire, I proudly accept the Victims of Communism Memorial on behalf of the American people. (Applause.)

    The 20th century will be remembered as the deadliest century in human history. And the record of this brutal era is commemorated in memorials across this city. Yet, until now, our Nation's Capital had no monument to the victims of imperial Communism, an ideology that took the lives of an estimated 100 million innocent men, women and children. So it's fitting that we gather to remember those who perished at Communism's hands, and dedicate this memorial that will enshrine their suffering and sacrifice in the conscience of the world.

    Building this memorial took more than a decade of effort, and its presence in our capital is a testament to the passion and determination of two distinguished Americans: Lev Dobriansky, whose daughter Paula is here -- (applause) -- give your dad our best. And Dr. Lee Edwards. (Applause.) They faced setbacks and challenges along the way, yet they never gave up, because in their hearts, they heard the voices of the fallen crying out: "Remember us."

    These voices cry out to all, and they're legion. The sheer numbers of those killed in Communism's name are staggering, so large that a precise count is impossible. According to the best scholarly estimate, Communism took the lives of tens of millions of people in China and the Soviet Union, and millions more in North Korea, Cambodia, Africa, Afghanistan, Vietnam, Eastern Europe, and other parts of the globe.

    Behind these numbers are human stories of individuals with families and dreams whose lives were cut short by men in pursuit of totalitarian power. Some of Communism's victims are well-known. They include a Swedish diplomat named Raoul Wallenberg, who saved 100,000 Jews from the Nazis, only to be arrested on Stalin's orders and sent to Moscow's Lubyanka Prison, where he disappeared without a trace. They include a Polish priest named Father Popieluszko, who made his Warsaw church a sanctuary for the Solidarity underground, and was kidnaped, and beaten, and drowned in the Vitsula by the secret police.

    The sacrifices of these individuals haunt history -- and behind them are millions more who were killed in anonymity by Communism's brutal hand. They include innocent Ukrainians starved to death in Stalin's Great Famine; or Russians killed in Stalin's purges; Lithuanians and Latvians and Estonians loaded onto cattle cars and deported to Arctic death camps of Soviet Communism. They include Chinese killed in the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution; Cambodians slain in Pol Pot's Killing Fields; East Germans shot attempting to scale the Berlin Wall in order to make it to freedom; Poles massacred in the Katyn Forest; and Ethiopians slaughtered in the "Red Terror"; Miskito Indians murdered by Nicaragua's Sandinista dictatorship; and Cuban balseros who drowned escaping tyranny. We'll never know the names of all who perished, but at this sacred place, Communism's unknown victims will be consecrated to history and remembered forever.

    We dedicate this memorial because we have an obligation to those who died, to acknowledge their lives and honor their memory. The Czech writer Milan Kundera once described the struggle against Communism as "the struggle of memory against forgetting." Communist regimes did more than take their victims' lives; they sought to steal their humanity and erase their memory. With this memorial, we restore their humanity and we reclaim their memory. With this memorial, we say of Communism's innocent and anonymous victims, these men and women lived and they shall not be forgotten. (Applause.)

    We dedicate this memorial because we have an obligation to future generations to record the crimes of the 20th century and ensure they're never repeated. In this hallowed place we recall the great lessons of the Cold War: that freedom is precious and cannot be taken for granted; that evil is real and must be confronted; and that given the chance, men commanded by harsh and hateful ideologies will commit unspeakable crimes and take the lives of millions.

    It's important that we recall these lessons because the evil and hatred that inspired the death of tens of millions of people in the 20th century is still at work in the world. We saw its face on September the 11th, 2001. Like the Communists, the terrorists and radicals who attacked our nation are followers of a murderous ideology that despises freedom, crushes all dissent, has expansionist ambitions and pursues totalitarian aims. Like the Communists, our new enemies believe the innocent can be murdered to serve a radical vision. Like the Communists, our new enemies are dismissive of free peoples, claiming that those of us who live in liberty are weak and lack the resolve to defend our free way of life. And like the Communists, the followers of violent Islamic radicalism are doomed to fail. (Applause.) By remaining steadfast in freedom's cause, we will ensure that a future American President does not have to stand in a place like this and dedicate a memorial to the millions killed by the radicals and extremists of the 21st century.

    We can have confidence in the power of freedom because we've seen freedom overcome tyranny and terror before. Dr. Edwards said President Reagan went to Berlin. He was clear in his statement. He said, "tear down the wall," and two years later the wall fell. And millions across Central and Eastern Europe were liberated from unspeakable oppression. It's appropriate that on the anniversary of that speech, that we dedicate a monument that reflects our confidence in freedom's power.

    The men and women who designed this memorial could have chosen an image of repression for this space, a replica of the wall that once divided Berlin, or the frozen barracks of the Gulag, or a killing field littered with skulls. Instead, they chose an image of hope -- a woman holding a lamp of liberty. She reminds us of the victims of Communism, and also of the power that overcame Communism.

    Like our Statue of Liberty, she reminds us that the flame for freedom burns in every human heart, and that it is a light that cannot be extinguished by the brutality of terrorists or tyrants. And she reminds us that when an ideology kills tens of millions of people, and still ends up being vanquished, it is contending with a power greater than death. (Applause.) She reminds us that freedom is the gift of our Creator, freedom is the birthright of all humanity, and in the end, freedom will prevail. (Applause.)

    I thank each of you who made this memorial possible for your service in freedom's cause. I thank you for your devotion to the memory of those who lost their lives to Communist terror. May the victims of Communism rest in peace. May those who continue to suffer under Communism find their freedom. And may the God who gave us liberty bless this great memorial and all who come to visit her.

    God bless.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:46 PM


    Classic Mini Cooper: This 1964 Mini Cooper 1275S Works Rally is the forerunner of todays modern, BMW-owned Mini (Paul Frost, 6/15/07, Business Week)

    In 1956, the Suez Crisis caused the folks at Austin to invite Alec Issigonis (later Sir Alec) to design a new car to combat what they saw as looming fuel rationing. When he had finished, the engine was the only part of the car that was not completely new. The compact four-seater famously mounted the enlarged A30 engine transversely, driving the front wheels through a four-speed box located in the sump. Independent all-round hydrolastic suspension used ingenious rubber blocks in compression.

    The first prototypes ran in October 1957 and the car was launched in August 1959 with several thousand being pre-built for dealer stock. While the Morris version was called the Mini Minor, the Austin was known as the Se7en, but the name never caught on and soon they were all known as Minis.

    The top speed of the first 33-hp models was 70 mph, and the Mini's excellent handling soon attracted tuning specialists. With BMC's agreement, race builder John Cooper produced the first Mini Cooper in 1961. The engine was 997 cc tuned to produce 65 hp, and with twin SU carbs, top speed rose to 85 mph. The Mini began its rally career in 1962. In 1963 the Cooper S with 1,071 cc was quickly followed by the 1,275 cc, which delivered 75 hp and 100 mph. From 1964 to 1967, the Mini was almost unbeatable and would have won the Monte Carlo Rally three times in a row, save for a last-minute rules change. Production of the Mini Cooper continued to 1967 and 44,859 were made. BMC built the Mini Cooper S until 1971, by which time 191,242 had been made.

    If you've ever seen the original Italian Job the cars are very nearly the stars of the movie, which isn't bad despite a literal cliff-hanger ending that's only redeemed by the cool title song that plays over the credits. There are suddenly tons of them up here. They seem to be replacing the Subaru, which we used to be rotten with. Consumer Reports gave them a glowing write-up and said they're even excellent in the snow.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:44 PM


    Dow nears trading high on inflation data (TIM PARADIS, 6/15/07, AP)

    Wall Street barreled higher again Friday after the week's most anticipated economic reading indicated that inflation excluding the price of gas remained tepid last month, easing some concerns that have jolted stock and bond markets in recent sessions.

    The Dow Jones industrial average — which has surged more than 340 points over the last three days, the biggest three-day point gain since November 2004 — is now less than 40 points below its record close reached on June 4.

    Friday's consumer price index showed prices rose at the fastest pace in 20 months in May as the cost of gas jumped. However, the core CPI, which excludes often volatile food and energy prices, rose a lower-than-expected 0.1 percent. The figure, which the inflation-wary Federal Reserve watches closely, was below the 0.2 percent increase Wall Street expected.

    How do you maintain that sense of suprise for 25 years?

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:05 PM


    The Land Was Ours Before We Were the Land's (BENJAMIN LYTAL, June 15, 2007, NY Sun)

    A history of America concerning its land, gained in war and diplomacy, would not in itself be a remarkable thing. Andro Linklater has written a history of America that looks at land from a slightly different angle — that of real estate. [...]

    A brisk trade in real estate brought revenue to the states and, with the first general U.S. territories, to the federal government, but it meant something more than money to the founding fathers. Thomas Jefferson, famously a champion of small farmers, specifically cherished the Saxon idea of alodial law. Alodial law maintains that the man who works a piece of land holds it outright. Jefferson believed this idea had been subverted by the Norman system of monarchical ownership. And Mr. Linklater finds ample evidence of squatter's rights in American history. A frontiersman made his claim, and eagerly awaited the arrival of organized American jurisdiction.

    Indeed, Mr. Linklater's history is one of increasing federal power. A territory had to meet federal standards before it could be admitted as a state, and so the interior became more loyal to federal power than the original 13 colonies. [...]

    The delicacy of law — in the form of a treaty or a deed — is Mr. Linklater's real subject here, though the book goes out of its way to make a larger, and more grandiose claim, about the importance of boundaries at all turning points in our history. Mr. Linklater moves jerkily between the travails of Andrew Ellicott and the more interesting theoretical work defining private property, as pursued by Jefferson or Lincoln.

    What emerges, throughout, is the importance of an executive authority that can guarantee ownership. "What made the settlement of the West such an iconic experience was precisely that it took place under the umbrella of the American government," Mr. Linklater writes. That umbrella is unique, Mr. Linklater argues, noting that it was also the American government that became the global register of Internet addresses, as they were claimed, in a rush, in the last decade.

    Interesting that his previous book, Measuring America, too ends up being about American uniqueness, there in the form of our resistance to the metric system. Interesting too that these uniqueness likely flow from the same source, the democratic nature of the culture. This not only gives executive authority a particular legitimacy but denies same to external authorities with all the more force than in cultures inured to yield to dicey authority anyway.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:33 PM



    I have a theory: Omar Minaya had a bad offseason.

    Now that does not fit the theory of the moment, and we in the media do not come off the theory of the moment easily. The storyline this season has gone something like this: Omar Minaya, genius; Brian Cashman, fool. And while Cashman is far from absolved for concepts such as Kei Igawa, major league pitcher, a case can be made that Minaya’s offseason was no better and, perhaps, was worse, unless of course you are doing Sports Illustrated cover stories.

    Minaya has escaped wrath, in part, because he is such a pleasant guy. However, more important to Mets Nation, his 2006 work was the kind epic poems are written about, or 10,000-word stories in sports magazines. Everything he touched thrived.

    He acquired John Maine, Orlando Hernandez, Oliver Perez and Guillermo Mota for little and got a lot in return. He plucked Endy Chavez from obscurity, and Chavez became a cult hero. He said Jose Valentin could play and he could, and so could Paul Lo Duca and Darren Oliver. His biggest acquisition, Carlos Delgado, played to near MVP caliber.

    “As a GM, you always hope to have a year like I did in ’06,” Minaya said by phone yesterday. “But it doesn’t always work out that way.”

    No, it doesn’t. Aside from Damion Easley and Jorge Sosa, Minaya’s last offseason is more something to C than something to see. He made three trades and, to date, lost each. He obsessed on finding a top-of-the-rotation starter and could not land one. He signed older, brittle players (Hernandez, Jose Valentin, Moises Alou), who have turned out to be brittle. And in three years at $10.8 million for Scott Schoeneweis, Minaya forged one of the worst free-agent signs of the offseason.

    “I think it is legitimate to ask questions about our offseason,” Minaya said.

    Sox stone cold (Gordon Edes, June 15, 2007, Boston Globe)
    [T]he gloves have come off at Fenway Park, where a sellout crowd of 36,939 did not let last night's 7-1 Red Sox loss to the Colorado Rockies pass without comment.

    The object of the fans' disaffection was not Josh Beckett, who lost for the first time this season and gave up two home runs, including a grand slam by Garrett Atkins, in five innings. It was J.D. Drew, whose slow start at the plate was tolerated while the Sox were winning. With the Sox having lost 8 of 13 games in June, and the Yankees reeling off nine wins in a row, Drew no longer is getting a free pass around here. He was singled out for some booing that was much louder than the periodic murmurs of displeasure he'd heard before last night.

    "Pretty rough crowd tonight, wasn't it?" batting coach Dave Magadan noted dryly after the Sox, who were 1 for 13 with runners in scoring position, were held to two runs or fewer for the seventh time in the last nine games.

    Of course, the nice thing about having a dominant pitching staff--which the Red Sox do and the Mets conspicuously don't--is that your slump leaves you with the best record in baseball.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:53 AM


    Democrats look beyond Clintonomics (Financial Times, 6/15/07)

    After almost seven years of George W. Bush's presidency, the Democrats have departed from many of the economic nostrums held during the great economic boom of the 1990s presided over by Bill Clinton.

    Then, the Democratic party's priority was to reduce America's fiscal deficit to free up capital for higher investment by the private sector. Mr Clinton was also aggressive in shrinking the size of government, and opened up foreign markets through the North America Free Trade Agreement and the Uruguay Round, which led to the creation of the World Trade Organisation. The role of unions barely featured.

    Today, even the economic architects of the Clinton years, Robert Rubin and Lawrence Summers, who were successive Treasury secretaries, question much of the 1990s agenda... [...]

    On trade, most candidates are more sceptical than Mr Summers and Mr Rubin of whether new deals would be desirable – or even possible. This week, Mrs Clinton rejected the forthcoming trade deal with South Korea: "It will hurt the US car industry, increase our trade deficit, cost us good middle-class jobs and make America less competitive," she said.

    Although all the candidates reject overt protectionism, the underlying assumptions have altered. "It is highly doubtful whether a Democratic president would be able to push Nafta through today," says Matt Bennett, of Third Way, a centrist Democratic think- tank. "We are living in a different world from the 1990s."

    It's not particularly surprising than the candidates for the nomination would kowtow to the Second Way activists, but it is odd that legitimate economists would.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:52 AM


    Lost in Translation: Updating and downgrading Nancy Drew. (Thomas Hibbs, National Review)

    Where is Walden Media when you need it? Well, not making the latest Nancy Drew film, a Warner Bros. production starring Emma Roberts, best known as the niece of Julia Roberts and for her role in the Nickelodeon series Unfabulous. On its own terms, the film is reasonably entertaining. It contains some genuinely funny scenes and moments of suspense, and Nancy is presented, in the end, as an admirable and virtuous heroine. But the problem here is one of translation. Unlike the successful Walden Media productions that have taken cherished books such as Holes, Narnia, and Charlotte’s Web and made the literature come to life, this film version of Nancy Drew has nothing literary about it, nothing to communicate the experience of entering even a modestly rich imaginative universe.

    Of course, there have been many Nancy Drew book series (and films and TV series), with later installments making Nancy younger or older or more hip. Even the original book series, issued under the pen name Carolyn Keene, was in fact written by a number of authors. But the original books were by far the best and it would be a worthy undertaking for some ambitious producer to try to bring those books, that Nancy, to life again.

    ...didn't her "aunt" play Frank Hardy on the tv series?

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:47 AM


    Is the Foreclosure Crisis Real?: Activity is on the rise nationwide, but only a handful of states are responsible and delinquency rates are down (Maya Roney, 6/14/07, Business Week)

    Know anyone dealing with foreclosure right now? You may—if you live in the Midwest, or in overheated real estate markets like California, Florida, Nevada, and Arizona. The rest of you are probably wondering what all the fuss is about.

    Here's something to confuse you further: On Thursday, June 14, the Mortgage Bankers Assn. announced that the delinquency rate for mortgage loans on residential properties fell 11 basis points in the first quarter of 2007, to 4.84%, from 4.95% in the fourth quarter of 2006.

    Sure, but just because none of the fathers in our neighborhood are on street corners selling apples doesn't mean this isn't a second Great Depression.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:41 AM


    Vacancy appointments defy voters (David Mark, Jun 14, 2007, Politico)

    Less than a century ago U.S. senators were often chosen through backroom dealing, political favors and patronage schemes. Industrial tycoons, railroad barons and other fat cats were thought to have bought Senate influence by pressuring state legislators, who had a constitutional mandate to choose their federal counterparts.

    Outrage over this arrangement led Congress to pass the 17th Amendment in 1912, giving people the right to choose their senators.

    [I]n the Equality State, Democratic Gov. Dave Freudenthal has considerably less latitude than other chief executives in appointing an interim senator. Under state law, Thomas’ successor will be chosen in large part by the Wyoming Republican Party Central Committee. On Tuesday, that 71-member body – made up of state committeemen from each county – is scheduled to forward three names to Freudenthal, who then picks one to go to the U.S. Senate.

    Utah is the only other state in which party committees choose potential Senate appointees. Alaska, Arizona and Hawaii require the governor to fill vacancies with a person affiliated with the same political party as the previous senator.

    Like all the reforms of the Progressive Era, the 17th was a mistake.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:44 AM


    Takeover by Hamas Illustrates Failure of Bush's Mideast Vision (Glenn Kessler, June 15, 2007, Washington Post)

    Five years ago this month, President Bush stood in the Rose Garden and laid out a vision for the Middle East that included Israel and a state called Palestine living together in peace. "I call on the Palestinian people to elect new leaders, leaders not compromised by terror," the president declared.

    The takeover this week of the Gaza Strip by the Hamas militant group dedicated to the elimination of Israel demonstrates how much that vision has failed to materialize, in part because of actions taken by the administration. The United States championed Israel's departure from the Gaza Strip as a first step toward peace and then pressed both Israelis and Palestinians to schedule legislative elections, which Hamas unexpectedly won. Now Hamas is the unchallenged power in Gaza.

    After his reelection in 2004, Bush said he would use his "political capital" to help create a Palestinian state by the end of his second term. In his final 18 months as president, he faces the prospect of a shattered Palestinian Authority, a radical Islamic state on Israel's border and increasingly dwindling options to turn the tide against Hamas and create a functioning Palestinian state.

    Palestinian statehood hopes in peril: Factional clashes could turn Gaza and West Bank into ministates ruled by Hamas and Fatah (Ken Ellingwood, June 15, 2007, LA Times)
    It is possible that the two Palestinian factions can find a way to govern together after the fighting, which Hamas characterizes as an effort to weed out troublemakers intent on toppling the government it heads rather than as a bid to eradicate Fatah. A Hamas triumph could bring a halt to the chaos that has made Gazans miserable for months.

    The crisis has forced Palestinians to face how far apart the West Bank and Gaza really are, though separated by just 20 miles of Israeli territory at the narrowest point. Israeli restrictions prevent most Palestinians from traveling between the two areas. Palestinian legislators gather via video link because Hamas lawmakers are prevented from traveling across Israel.

    "We already see the separation taking place on the ground," said Samir Said, 55, a grocer in Ramallah. "This is really bad for the Palestinian cause. We can see the Palestinian state vanishing."

    Gaza, by far the poorer and more pious of the two areas, is Hamas' stronghold, though Fatah had long dominated the established security forces there. The West Bank, especially urban Ramallah, is more liberal-minded. The secular Fatah is the dominant political force, though Hamas enjoys support in some of the bigger towns, such as Hebron and Nablus.

    Gaza bears the conservative markings of its years under Egyptian control before its capture by Israel during the 1967 Middle East War, while the West Bank has deep ties with Jordan, said Ali Jarbawi, a political scientist at Birzeit University near Ramallah.

    "There is almost total separation," Jarbawi said.

    The distinctions have been evident during the current fighting, with Hamas showing the might of its militias in Gaza and Fatah hitting back in the West Bank, where the Islamist movement is weaker.

    A lasting split between the West Bank and Gaza could force Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, of Fatah, to consider whether to talk to the Israelis about peace steps limited to the West Bank, such as terms under which Israel would withdraw from isolated settlements, but short of establishing a Palestinian state, said Yossi Alpher, an Israeli analyst.

    "Will Abu Mazen be willing to talk to us about the West Bank alone?" Alpher asked, using Abbas' nickname. "If he is, this could open up some possibilities."

    The political crisis has propelled a debate among Palestinian intellectuals over whether Palestinians might be better served by dumping the trappings of the 1993 Oslo peace agreement, which created the enfeebled Palestinian Authority, and leaving themselves under Israeli occupation without their own government.

    This would, in effect, swap the two-state solution for a one-state vision in which Arabs might someday achieve a demographic majority in the region that includes Israel, the West Bank and Gaza. The idea has gained momentum since the power-sharing agreement reached in February between Hamas and Fatah failed to get the international community to end its ban on aid to the Hamas-led government.

    "One cannot exclude such a possibility: that this is the end of the two-state solution," said Yitzhak Reiter, a fellow at Hebrew University's Harry S. Truman Institute for the Advancement of Peace in Jerusalem.

    The vision was mostly clear, the President just failed to comprehend that Hamas is going to govern the eventual nation of Palestine and was unprepared to deal with that fact when they won. The joint American, Israeli, Fatah attempt to thwart Hamas has had predictably bad results for all concerned.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:03 AM


    Double Standard Seen Among Terror Critics (HEATHER ROBINSON, June 15, 2007, NY Sun)

    Jessica Stern's lecture and those of other participants sought to promote "new thinking against violent extremism and radicalization," according to papers circulated at the conference by the EastWest Institute, a think tank hosting the event in Manhattan.

    Dr. Stern opened her remarks by saying that, while it may be true there is presently more violence being committed in the name of Islam than in the name of other religions, "all three major monotheistic religions have produced violence."

    She then drew a parallel between what she characterized as violence in the name of Islam and violence in the name of Judaism and Christianity, as well as in official responses to such violence on the part of leaders of all three faiths.

    "I've heard a lot of bashing of Muslim clerics for not stepping up to the plate and condemning extremist violence," she said. "But Catholic priests are not stepping up to condemn those who kill abortion doctors…[and] rabbis are not condemning the violent settlers' movement."

    Given 45 million dead Americans, why aren't abortionists the violent extremists?

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


    Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM

    HOMANS LEAGUE (via Mike Daley)

    Watermelon Slim: The breakout star of the blues (CHRIS HERRINGTON, 5/10/07, Memphis Flyer)

    Does anyone in modern pop music have a more intriguing biography than Bill "Watermelon Slim" Homans? Homans, the privileged son of a liberal attorney and Freedom Rider, went to a liberal arts college (Middlebury) and eventually earned degrees from the University of Oregon (undergrad) and University of Oklahoma (grad). On the other hand, Homans ditched school and fought in Vietnam and has spent much of the past 30 years working blue-collar jobs such as truck driver, sawmill worker, and watermelon farmer (thus his performing moniker), only recently becoming a full-time musician.

    The musician thing has worked out. Watermelon Slim became a blues-circuit regular only a few years ago, but this week he's leading the nominations at the Blues Music Awards, which will be held Thursday, May 10th, at the Cook Convention Center. Slim's six nominations put him on a level previously reserved for artists such as B.B. King and Robert Cray and come only two years after being a "Best New Artist Debut" nominee.

    If The Wheel Man, the new album from Slim and his pointedly named backing band The Workers, is any indication, look for something like a repeat performance at next year's BMAs, because in an increasingly niche-oriented genre, this robust, rousing record demands a bigger audience. Like Jimmie Rodgers, another working-class hero, Slim is a blues-loving white guy who blends country into his sound. The generally stomping electric blues on The Wheel Man is almost totally devoid of blues-bar-band clichés, with echoes of field hollers and jump blues thrown into the mix. And Slim proves to be a sharp songwriter: "Drinking & Driving" ("You better pull over baby instead of drinking and driving me away") is one of those songs you can't believe hasn't already been written.

    The Wheel Man

    Download "I've Got News" (mp3)
    from "The Wheel Man"
    by Watermelon Slim
    Northern Blues

    More On This Album

    -OFFICIAL BAND SITE: Watermelon Slim & the Workers
    -WIKIPEDIA: Watermelon Slim
    -MYSPACE: Watermelon Slim
    -YOU TUBE: Watermelon Slim
    -REVIEW: Watermelon Slim and the Workers: Wheel Man (TED DROZDOWSKI, April 10, 2007, The Phoenix)

    The Wheel Man

    Download "The Wheel Man" (mp3)
    from "The Wheel Man"
    by Watermelon Slim
    Northern Blues

    The Wheel Man

    Download "Black Water" (mp3)
    from "The Wheel Man"
    by Watermelon Slim
    Northern Blues

    June 14, 2007

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:38 PM


    Iran To Privatise State Telecoms Firm - TV (Reuters

    Iran will privatise the government-owned telecommunications company by the end of the year, the country's state television reported on Thursday, although past sales of state assets have drawn limited interest.

    Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's highest authority, urged the government and officials in February to speed up moves to cut the state's economic role in the latest bid to revive a struggling privatisation programme.

    Persian Ghosts (CHRIS TOENSING, July 2, 2007, The Nation)

    There is no doubt, as well, that Sunni-Shiite tensions across the region are higher than at any time since the Islamic Revolution in Iran--and perhaps before. One obvious reason is the Iraq War, with its empowerment of self-consciously Shiite religious parties in Baghdad, many of whose leaders whiled away their long exile in Iran before tailing US tanks back to the Tigris, thus pushing the hot buttons of Sunni Arab governments and the street at the same time. Another is the corresponding rise of Iran, much of whose hard-line leadership harbors the original revolutionary aspiration to lead the Islamic world, not least in its quest for the nuclear fuel cycle. But does something else lie beneath it all?

    Vali Nasr, a professor at the Naval Postgraduate School, has an affirmative reply. The success of his bestselling and increasingly influential book The Shia Revival has earned him multiple invitations to testify before Congress, a place on the program of a June 2006 Council on Foreign Relations symposium on the "Emerging Shia Crescent," easy access to op-ed pages and even a profile in the Wall Street Journal. According to the Journal, evangelical leader Richard Land, a rally captain of Bush's electoral base, stopped Nasr after a Washington briefing to tell him, "That was the most coherent, in-depth and incisive discussion of the religious situation in the Middle East that I've heard in any setting." Added penitent neoconservative Francis Fukuyama: "The problem with the current Middle East debate is it's completely stuck. Nobody knows what to do. Vali Nasr offers a plausible alternative that may gain traction."

    That alternative consists of a diagnosis of the region's ills and a prognosis for US grand strategy. The malady is what Nasr calls the "age-old scourge" of the Sunni-Shiite conflict within Islam--or, more precisely, the thousand-year oppression of Shiites by Sunnis, manifested at both the official and popular levels. Throughout history, most Muslim rulers, including the overseers of the powerful Umayyad, Abbasid, Ottoman and Mughal empires, have been Sunni. One formidable Shiite dynasty of the past, the Fatimid, was eventually vanquished by Sunnis, while another, the Safavid, spent most of its existence battling the Sunni states on its frontiers. (A third, the Zaydi imamate in Yemen, was isolated from the Muslim heartland.) The Shiite clergy in Sunni-dominated lands holed up in the mountains of southern Lebanon and in the shrine cities of Najaf and Karbala, desert towns that were fairly remote until they were linked to the Euphrates by canals in the nineteenth century. There the clerics mostly refrained from becoming involved in affairs of state, awaiting the appearance of the Prophet Muhammad's descendant, the Mahdi, who they believed would unify Muslims under righteous religious and political authority once more. Nevertheless, since the sack of Abbasid Baghdad by invading Mongols in 1258, allegedly facilitated by a Shiite vizier named Ibn Alqami, the scribes of Sunni courts have tainted Shiites with the odor of perfidy. Medieval Sunni writers also spun the apocryphal tale that a Jew named Abdallah ibn Saba first advanced the notion of the Shiite imamate with his insistence that Ali, assassinated in 661, would one day return triumphant. Nasr relates a few examples of how this state hostility filtered into the minds of the Sunni masses. In Lebanon, Shiites are said to have tails; in Saudi Arabia, Shiites are held to discourage potential dinner guests by expectorating in the soup pot.

    Today, Sunnis outnumber Shiites roughly nine to one, and most majority-Muslim states, while nominally secular, are Sunni-identified. A great virtue of Nasr's book is to illuminate how Sunnis' majority status has subtly distorted the way Westerners talk and think about historical and political trends in the Middle East and South Asia. Many Western travelers to the Ottoman Empire absorbed the prejudices of Cairo and Istanbul, where Shiites were seen, at best, as a curiosity, practitioners of strange, impassioned rituals that contrasted markedly with the austere Islam of the urban Sunni elites. It was not until 1959 that the rector of the al-Azhar mosque/university, the most prestigious center of Sunni religious learning, issued a fatwa recognizing mainstream Shiite jurisprudence as a fifth school of Islamic law alongside the four Sunni traditions. In the United States, from the 1979-81 Iranian hostage crisis until quite recently, one could see the residue of old stereotypes attached to Shiites in the use of the word "Shiite" as a synonym for "fanatical" and even in such unfortunate popular slang as "holy Shiite." What persists, as Nasr shows, is the tendency to conflate Islam and Sunnism. The "Islamization" that has swept countries in the Arab world and South Asia since the 1970s is really the spread of Salafi strains of Sunnism, by which Muslims are enjoined to emulate the practices of Muhammad's original followers--a category that, in many Salafi minds, excludes the Shiites by definition. Where there are sizable Shiite minorities, as in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, "Islamization" has had a sharp sectarian edge.

    Both Nasr and Yitzhak Nakash, a professor of Middle East history who has published a similar but more tightly focused study of Shiite politics, Reaching for Power, lay out historical reasons Iraq has become an arena for open Sunni-Shiite conflict. From the sixteenth to the eighteenth century, Iraq was a literal and figurative battlefield between the Sunni Ottomans and their bitter rivals the Safavids, whose empire was based in Iran. Since the Safavid Empire and its successor Qajar dynasty were Shiite states, the Ottomans worried constantly that Shiites in the water-rich Iraqi breadbasket would be a fifth column in Iranian service. As Nakash details in his earlier book, The Shi'is of Iraq (1994), the Sublime Porte's concerns became particularly acute in the mid-1800s, when they began to receive (accurate) reports of large-scale conversion of Iraq's Sunni nomads to Shiism as they settled in the river valleys. In a series of ineffectual countermeasures, the Ottomans dispatched Sunni clerical missionaries, ordered Sunni clerics to denounce Shiites as rawafid (those who reject true Islam), banned public observance of Shiite rituals and even prohibited the distribution of Korans printed in Iran. As historian Karen Kern documents in the latest Arab Studies Journal, in 1874 the sultan also outlawed marriages between Ottoman women and Iranian men, fearing that the (presumably Sunni) women would convert to Shiism and that their Shiite offspring would grow up to be Benedict Arnolds in the Sixth Army, tasked with securing the far eastern frontier.

    If the sultan's trepidation sounds familiar, that is because Saddam Hussein, like his Baathist and Arab nationalist predecessors in the Iraqi presidency, also suspected the Shiite conscripts in his army of disloyalty. In the 1970s, during Iraqi disputes with the Shah, thousands of Shiites were expelled from Iraq because of their "Persian" ancestry. As Nakash recounts, the closely tied accusations of Persianness and sectarianism dogged Iraqi Shiites under successive postmonarchy regimes, despite the fervent embrace by Shiite clerics and lay intellectuals of Arab nationalism or a specifically Iraqi nationalism rooted in the cross-sectarian resistance to British colonialism during the 1920 revolt. Shiites flocked to Communism and Baathism as well, in order to be considered full members of the polity. So sensitive were Shiites to the charge of sectarianism that the writer Hani al-Fukayki bequeathed his late father's personal library to a state ministry instead of a Shiite institution that needed the books more.

    Yet the innuendo from the regimes and their mouthpieces did not abate. Postmonarchy Iraq, indeed, offers the clearest examples of state sectarianism masquerading as secular, even progressive, Arab nationalism. The turn to an explicitly Shiite politics by followers of Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr in Najaf--as with disciples of (the distantly related) Musa al-Sadr in Lebanon--is an indictment of Arabism's failure to accept Shiites on equal terms. Nakash makes this point well; so do Nasr and Fouad Ajami, who go further in hailing the assertion of Shiite identity as a welcome development.

    The question, however, is whether a "Shiite revival"--and the backlash it has aroused among Sunni rulers--is the best way to understand the reconfiguration of power and the violent conflagrations in the Islamic world today, as Nasr and (albeit less polemically) Nakash both argue. Recent events in Iraq would seem to lend support to this view. The prevailing thumbnail history of the Iraqi civil war goes something like this: Shiite Arabs are the majority in Iraq, very possibly 60 percent of the population, though there is no recent census upon which to rely. Having chafed for centuries under the oppressive yoke of Sunni Arabs, of whom Saddam Hussein was only the most brutal, Shiite Arabs have now empowered Shiite religious parties to rule Iraq in uneasy tandem with Kurds, who were also battered by Sunni Arab-dominated regimes. The Sunni Arabs resent the loss of their power, and hence they are attacking the new Iraqi government and the US soldiers who back it. After restraining themselves for years, Shiite militias--some allied with the Iraqi government and some inside it--are striking back.

    As predicted by Nasr, the rise of the Shiites in Iraq is also sending shock waves through the palaces of neighboring capitals and eliciting strong anti-Shiite sentiments from Salafi clerics. In Jordan, where nearly half of the Iraqis fleeing the Baghdad inferno have taken refuge, the regime has warned that the Iraqi Shiites will constitute the core of a "Shiite crescent"--make that a "Shiite full moon"--that could eclipse the Sunni US satellites in Amman, Cairo and Riyadh. Salafi religious scholars from Kuwait and Saudi Arabia have repeatedly excused armed attacks on "Shiite heretics," including terror bombings claimed by the likes of the late Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, with reference to "the sons of al-Alqami"--implying that in 2003 Shiites left the gates of Baghdad open to foreign invaders just as the medieval slur said they did in 1258. A week after a meeting between Iraqi Sunni leaders and clerics from nearby countries, one of the Saudi Arabian participants, Sheikh Abd al-Rahman al-Barrak, spat out a fatwa describing Shiism as "the evil among the sects of the Muslim community--a sect founded by a Jew" and castigating its adherents as infidels. Not surprisingly, thus far there has been no royal condemnation of this ruling fusing anti-Shiite and anti-Semitic themes. The House of Saud, its "Islamic legitimacy" dependent on the imprimatur of the Wahhabi clerical establishment, routinely ignores comparably bilious statements aimed at the kingdom's 2 million Shiites.

    But it is always ill-advised to draw a straight line, even by implication, between communal animosities past and present. There is, first of all, a fundamental problem of evidence. The recorded fretting of the Abbasids, Ottomans and Saddam Hussein about Shiites proves that these rulers were wary of threats to their power, but it does not prove that social relations between the sects have always teetered on the edge of violence. There is at least as much reason to believe otherwise. Karen Kern's findings, for instance, provide circumstantial evidence that cross-sectarian marriage was common enough in the nineteenth century that the Ottomans thought it worth banning. The first clause of the 1874 law read, "Marriages between Ottoman and Iranian citizens, as in olden times, are strongly prohibited."

    Here the Ottomans sought to justify their divisive policy with an appeal to the past. But as Kern writes, prior to 1874 there is no record of an edict forbidding Sunni-Shiite intermarriage. To the contrary, lawyers later prevailed upon Istanbul to rescind the ban because their research in Islamic jurisprudence had found so many explicit writs of approval for such unions. Sunnis and Shiites, especially in Baghdad and other cities, are heavily intermarried today, though the phenomenon is fading as war rages. It is also noteworthy that Col. Abdul Karim Qasim, the first Iraqi prime minister after the fall of the monarchy in 1958, remains a deeply popular figure in Iraq despite decades of Baathist despoliation of his memory and legacy. Born to a Sunni Arab father and a Shiite Kurdish mother, Qasim preached Iraqi nationalism mixed with a kind of cultural Arabism and allied himself with the Iraqi Communist Party, whose near annihilation by the Baathists is a vital (but untold by Nasr) part of the story of how many Iraqi Shiites turned to Islamism and Shiite identity. After the destruction of the left, as in Egypt and elsewhere, the one place where dissidents could organize safely was the mosque, where the authorities still hesitated to enter. Sadr City, the sprawling neighborhood in northeast Baghdad where fighters in Muqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army make their homes, and which the deposed regime knew as Saddam City, was the locus of the colonel's social base. Many residents still insist on calling the area by its Qasim-era name, Madinat al-Thawra--a pointed simultaneous rejection of both Saddam and Sadr. Finally, the great majority of Arab Iraqis today--including 65 percent of Shiites and 100 percent of Sunnis--want Iraq to remain governed by a single state and emphatically do not support the militias that are perpetrating sectarian cleansing. This preference was poignantly illustrated in late April, when Iraqis of all backgrounds expressed vehement objections as the US Army erected walls around violence-plagued neighborhoods of the capital and then called them "gated communities."

    These facts suggest that the Sunni-Shiite split, while deadly and deepening, has not overwhelmed the ideal of a nonsectarian Iraqi nationalism and, crucially, that one should not assume the parties and militias claiming to represent Sunnis and Shiites are necessarily executing the communal will. They also suggest that the murderous intensity of Iraq's sectarian conflict is a product of contemporary history--most important, of the power vacuum created by the US occupation, which made Iraqis desperate to seek protection from co-religionists with guns. Much as many Americans might like to imagine that Iraq's strife is timeless, whether they are seeking absolution for backing Bush's war or a politically painless way to back withdrawal, it cannot be understood without considering the choices the United States made during its direct misrule of Iraq. Those choices have been reviewed many times in these pages, but historians may finger one as the tipping point: US colonial overlord L. Paul Bremer's 2003 decision to allocate seats on the Iraqi Governing Council according to sectarian and ethnic affiliation. Even Hamid Musa, head of the remnants of the Iraqi Communist Party, was given a seat because he is a Shiite. Top jobs in Iyad Allawi's interim government were doled out in the same way, turning ministries into communal party fiefdoms and entrenching a Lebanese confessional system in the "new Iraq."

    Nasr cannot be held responsible for the fact that some readers have gravitated to his thesis to soothe bad consciences about the invasion and occupation. Yet The Shia Revival--and here is where the prognosis comes in--engages in no small amount of special pleading. In retort to US officials who, since the hostage crisis and the 1983 Marine barracks bombing in Beirut, have seen Shiites as the bad Muslims and Sunnis as not so bad, he clearly wants his readers simply to invert the mental equation.

    This agenda comes through in passages like this: "The Shias' historical experience is akin to those of Jews and Christians in that it is a millennium-long tale of martyrdom, persecution and suffering. Sunnis, by contrast, are imbued with a sense that immediate worldly success should be theirs." Several times in the text, Nasr compares Shiites to Catholics, Orthodox Jews and Hindus--people the cosmopolitan West is familiar with--in tacit distinction to the alien Sunnis. And the diffusion of Salafi ideas wrongly described as Islamization? By Nasr's lights, that is "Sunnification." There is also transparent legerdemain in his insinuation that Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani intervened to insure that every third candidate on the "Shiite list" in the January 2005 Iraqi elections was a woman. In fact, women were accorded such prominence on every electoral slate because of a quota requirement in the Transitional Administrative Law crafted in 2004--and Iraqi women's rights activists deserve all the credit.

    The goal of Nasr's book is to persuade Washington to downgrade its alliances with Sunni Arab regimes and forge friendlier ties with the rising Shiites of the Middle East. Indeed, he believes Washington will have to pursue this course, "if for no better reason than that the Shia live on top of some of the richest oil fields in the region," in Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait and, of course, Iran. As a result, he defies classification in the usual schemas of contemporary Middle East policy debates. Like Ajami and some Bush Administration hawks, he wants the United States to stop pressuring Iraqi Shiite religious parties to seek reconciliation with Sunni Arabs. In its extreme form, this policy orientation is expressed as the "80 percent solution," of which some in Vice President Dick Cheney's office are reportedly enamored, whereby the United States would accompany the condominium of the Shiite religious parties and the Kurds in a Sherman-style march through the so-called Sunni Triangle. Yet Nasr is a staunch realist regarding Hezbollah and Iran, and--writing with Iran scholar Ray Takeyh--he took to the New York Times op-ed page recently to advocate precisely the "policy of engagement" with Tehran that is anathema to neoconservatives and Cheneyite cold warriors. Like Takeyh, and indeed most Iran specialists in the West, Nasr is no fan of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and the clerical regime, which he accuses of making "overweening claims about religious authority over political decisions." (Nasr's distinctive twist on this conventional view of Khomeini, in keeping with the theme of the book, is to decry "his agenda of subtly steering Shiism closer to Sunnism.") Sistani, with his image of traditionalist aversion to the direct exercise of temporal power, is Nasr's model ayatollah.

    On the other hand, Nasr unequivocally locates the origins of the Shiite revival in the Islamic Revolution, and he is proud of the modernizing accomplishments of the Islamic Republic. How can a moderate Muslim minority that the United States should befriend have emerged from this quintessentially radical event? Nasr is unclear on this point, but his implied argument is that the radical tone of Khomeinism--voiced today by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad--retains purchase among Shiites only because of long mutual enmity between Iran and the West. If the West, and especially the United States, would forgive Tehran its transgressions in the fervor of revolution and deal in good faith with the pragmatists in the clerical hierarchy, the likes of Ahmadinejad would eventually lose their cachet.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:36 PM


    Tentative agreement reached on immigration: Key senators come to terms on plan to revive stalled bill (AP, 6/14/07)

    Under the legislation as drafted, money for border enforcement would be collected gradually as illegal immigrants pay the fines and fees needed to achieve legal status. The letter asked Bush to secure the border before other elements of the immigration measure go into effect, and the president agreed in his remarks to the Associated Builders and Contractors.

    "One common concern is whether the government will provide the resources to meet the goals in the bill. They say, `It's fine to talk about it, are you actually going to do something?'" he said.

    "To answer these concerns I support an amendment that will provide $4.4 billion in immediate additional funding for securing our borders and enforcing our laws at the work site," he said.

    "By matching our benchmarks with these critical funds, we're going to show the American people that the promises in this bill will be kept."

    Two Republican supporters of the legislation, Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Jon Kyl of Arizona, had previously proposed advanced funding.

    "The moment the presidential signing pen meets the paper these funds will be available," Graham said in a statement welcoming Bush's remarks.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:02 PM


    Keeping China's best and brightest at home (Kent Ewing, 6/15/07, Asia Times)

    As Western countries worry over China's rise on the international stage, they hold a key advantage in the competition for power and influence: many of China's best and brightest go abroad for a university education, enjoy their lives in the West, and never return home to share their knowledge and expertise with the motherland.

    A recent study by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), the nation's top think-tank, shows that China is losing more first-rate minds to the West than any other country in the world. The phenomenon amounts to a new form of colonialism in which Western countries exploit intellectual talent rather than raw materials.

    So empire not only means going there to run their countries but letting their citizens come here to enjoy the type of lives we were trying to bring them in the first place? Is the intent to rob "imperialist" of all pejorative connotations?

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:58 PM


    Hamas consolidates hold on Gaza (Isabel Kershner and Steven Erlanger, June 14, 2007, NY Times)

    Hamas came close to completing its conquest of the Gaza Strip on Thursday, taking over the pro-Fatah military intelligence headquarters in Gaza and, more significantly, the Preventive Security compound in the city, long one of the most potent and hated symbols to Hamas of the Fatah ancien régime.

    Ancien regime? It's not even a nation yet. Fatah was just the more powerful band of thugs...briefly.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:36 PM


    Romance versus reality: Iran's populist president is finding it hard to stay popular (The Economist, Jun 14th 2007)

    MAHMOUD AHMADINEJAD won presidential office promising to give Iran's oil money back to the people. But he is finding the demands of populism hard to reconcile with economic reality. His government has recently been wobbling over implementing two of its biggest economic decisions: to bring in petrol rationing and to cut interest rates. [...]

    The government has also made a hash of monetary policy. Mr Ahmadinejad has called for a cut in interest rates to 12%. Lending rates are capped at 14% for state banks and 17% for private banks. The money and credit council, which is meant to set rates, said in April that they should not be cut this year because of high inflation and the risk of hurting private banks.

    Long-term cuts are meant to help create jobs by encouraging investment in business. But with high inflation and the threat of more UN sanctions hanging over Iran's economy, most borrowers are likely to pump cash into the booming property market instead. Even if Mr Ahmadinejad decides not to insist on the cut, his intervention has further worried businessmen who think his indifference to the plight of private banks shows he is hostile to private enterprise as a whole. This week, in an unusually bold move, 50 economists castigated the president for what they deemed to be his dismal economic policies.

    For obvious reasons we'd all like to think that the Long War has been a desperate twilight struggle in which only Western heroism has preserved us from existential peril, but the reality is a bit different and can best be expressed as follows: crazy dudes don't govern good.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:48 PM


    Supreme Court rules against public employee unions (David G. Savage, June 14, 2007, LA Times)

    In a setback for unions that represent public employees, the Supreme Court ruled today that states could bar them from using forced dues for political purposes unless individual employees gave their explicit approval.

    "Unions have no constitutional entitlement to the fees of nonmember employees," Justice Antonin Scalia said.

    The 9-0 decision overturned the Washington Supreme Court, which said the state's largest teachers' union had a right to use all dues money for lobbying and politics except when individual dissidents objected in writing.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:55 PM


    Somalis yearn for Islamic rulers to return and tame the warlords (Steve Bloomfield, 15 June 2007, Independent)

    Local people, from teen-agers to elders, now talk of the brief period of rule by the Islamic Courts in wistful tones. For the first time in a generation, there was a level of security in the district that few had believed was possible. The various clan-based militias which terrorised the region, setting up checkpoints and settling disputes with guns, buried their arms.

    Before the Courts' arrival, there had been nine roadblocks along the route from Marere to Kismaayo, a port town roughly 100 miles away. Controlled by individual militia groups, they demanded money from everyone who passed. Under the Courts, the roadblocks disappeared.

    The effect was immediate. The price of food in Marere fell as traders travelling from Kismaayo no longer had to factor in the cost of roadblocks. The cost of travelling between Marere and Kismaayo also fell - from 100,000 shillings to just 30,000. One commodity increased in price: cigarettes. The Courts banned smoking, along with the chewing of khat, a mild narcotic popular throughout Somalia. The price of a packet of cigarettes rose from 6,000 shillings to 20,000. But strict conservative policies like this began to erode much of the UIC's popular support in Mogadishu.

    With the demise of the Courts, the militias have dug up their weapons and the checkpoints and insecurity have returned. A vehicle belonging to Médicins Sans Frontières (MSF) was shot at two weeks ago. MSF, which runs a hospital and feeding centre in Marere, was forced to evacuate its small team of expatriate staff.

    "If the Islamic Courts came back, not just this area but the whole of Somalia will be safer," said Mohammed Abdullahi Gure, chairman of Marere elders' committee. "People used to fear the Islamic Courts. The government does not have the holy Koran so they do not fear them." The UIC's presence in Marere district was limited, but effective, Mr Gure said. A commander was appointed, based in the village of Gududey. He had just one technical - the souped-up 4x4s armed with machine guns - and a handful of soldiers, but few were prepared to risk committing a crime.

    "There wasn't a militia man who would move with guns," said Mr Gure. "They feared because they were told the Islamic Courts forces would have the Holy Koran as their guide." Without the sharia law which the UIC imposed, Mr Gure and his committee of elders are unable to keep the peace. There is no system of justice in Marere. The men who shot at MSF were forced to write a letter apologising for their actions but they continue to live freely in the community.

    The weak transitional government is now entering its sixth month based in Mogadishu but it is still struggling to assert its authority, reliant on the support of Ethiopian troops. In an Ethiopian-led offensive in April, up to 400,000 people fled the capital as the government attempted to pacify an insurgency.

    For all the things it's done right, the Administration's inability to differentiate among Islamic parties and work with some of them instead of against all of them is taking a toll.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:12 PM


    Lantos Raps Former European Leaders (HARRY DUNPHY, 6/13/07, Associated Press)

    "I am so glad that the era of Jacques Chirac and Chancellor Schroeder in Germany is now gone," Lantos said to applause.

    He said when the United States asked Schroeder to support its decision to go to war in Iraq "he told us where to go."

    "I referred to him as a political prostitute, now that he's taking big checks from (Russian President Vladimir) Putin. But the sex workers in my district objected, so I will no longer use that phrase," Lantos said. [...]

    He said under the successors of Schroeder and Chirac, Angela Merkel in Germany and Nicolas Sarkozy in France, relations with the United States "will take a very positive turn"

    ...to speak that honestly while he was in Syria, one of the enemies we haven't regime-changed yet.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:40 AM


    Women lawyers force big rights gains in Uganda: This spring, a small group of lawyers helped overturn laws that gave men more rights than women. (Alexis Okeowo, 6/14/07, The Christian Science Monitor)

    There are hundreds of groups in Africa advocating women's rights. But few, if any, have been as effective in alleviating the injustices suffered by women as this small group of lawyers in Uganda.

    In April, the Uganda Association of Women Lawyers (FIDA-U) achieved its most significant legal success to date when the nation's Constitutional Court overturned key parts of the adultery law – which allowed married men, but not women, to have an affair. It also scrapped parts of the Succession Act, which gave more rights to husbands than wives when a spouse dies. But more important for many of the lawyers here is the ability to improve the individual lives of the women they advise.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:15 AM


    Cornish militants rise again - and this time they're targeting celebrity chefs (Steven Morris, June 14, 2007, The Guardian)

    [B]ehind the scenes at Cornwall's two most famous eateries, Rick Stein's Seafood Restaurant in Padstow and Jamie Oliver's Fifteen in Newquay, security was being stepped up after Cornish extremists claimed they were planning to target two of the country's most famous chefs.

    A group calling itself the Cornish National Liberation Army (CNLA) threatened to burn down one of Stein's businesses in Padstow and declared the cars of his customers legitimate targets.

    The group said Fifteen - a restaurant set up by Oliver to help disadvantaged Cornish youngsters find a career in catering - was also in its sights, and branded the chef an "incomer" who was hurting local people by driving up house prices and living costs.

    CNLA, which claimed to include members of the An Gof organisation - militants suspected of a series of attacks in the 1980s, including an explosion at a courthouse in St Austell, added it would target anyone who flew the flag of St George, which they called "imperialistic and tainted".

    Ah, the inexorable logic of the nation...

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:35 AM


    Airbus Faces Wide Gap in A350 Orders (DANIEL MICHAELS and J. LYNN LUNSFORD, 6/14/07, WAll Street Journal)

    With the Paris Air Show less than a week away, Airbus has so far been unable to lure crucial customers to its proposed A350 jetliner despite making sweeping changes to the plane a year ago, giving rival Boeing Co. a major opportunity to cement its market dominance for the next decade.

    Airbus had hoped to shore up its credibility with customers before the industry's most closely watched trade show of the year. Five years behind Boeing in developing a new midsize long-haul jetliner, Airbus has booked only 13 firm orders for the A350, compared with nearly 600 for Boeing's 787 Dreamliner.

    The European plane maker must move quickly. Customers are racing to secure delivery spots in the Dreamliner order book, making it difficult for Airbus to catch up. In recent weeks, Airbus has offered steep discounts and other incentives for A350, said one airline and others familiar with the matter.

    After all, it's a welfare program, not a company.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:19 AM


    Security Is Focus of Revised Effort on Immigration (ROBERT PEAR, 6/14/07, NY Times)

    The White House and senators from both parties mapped out possible changes in a comprehensive immigration bill on Wednesday, so they could better portray it as a way to bolster national security rather than to grant amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants.

    The changes would include a guarantee of several billion dollars for tougher border security and law enforcement and would allow the government to take more time before granting work permits to illegal immigrants who seek legal status. [...]

    Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez, who was haggling with senators over possible amendments, said: “This is a national security bill. We are fixing a national security problem.”

    Mr. Gutierrez said the bill would eliminate a threat to national security that arises because “we have millions of people working in our country, and we don’t know who they are.”

    Despite the proposed changes and the effort to promote the bill as part of the war on terrorism, the provision that has generated the most criticism from conservative Republicans — a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants — remains.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:06 AM


    Democrats fear that the focus on the war has blurred (Jeff Zeleny, 6/13/07, , NY Times)

    Democrats argue that it is high time for the party to turn its attention to domestic issues — energy legislation, immigration overhaul and lobbying reform — to allay concerns that Democrats have not achieved enough significant accomplishments during the first six months of their majority. But other Democrats are demanding a return to the Iraq debate, which Reid has now pledged to do this month.

    The proposals will not be new. Rather, Democrats intend to reprise at least four ideas when the Senate considers the Defense Department policy bill: a measure to reverse the authorization for the Iraq war, set a deadline for troop withdrawal, block money for major combat operations after March 31, 2008, and increase readiness requirements for troops to be sent back to Iraq. "On Iraq," Reid said, "we're going to hold the president's feet to the fire."

    Democratic congressional leaders have been stung by the decline in congressional job approval ratings.

    A Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg nationwide telephone poll released this week found that 27 percent of Americans approve of the way Congress is handling its job, while 65 percent disapprove. And 29 percent of the more than 1,100 poll respondents, all registered voters, said Democrats were working to change how government is run, compared to 63 percent who said Democrats are governing in a business-as-usual manner. The margin of error was plus or minus four percentage points.

    Pelosi said it had been difficult to convince some Democrats that despite their majority, they are limited in how they can change the president's Iraq policy.

    They believed their own press clippings last November when the fact is the midterm was almost completely inconsequential.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:01 AM


    Taxation take is helping Howard battlers: NEW figures have shaken the widely held contention that the Howard Government is lavishing middle Australia with welfare while the genuinely needy go without. (David Uren, June 14, 2007, The Australian)

    The tax and welfare systems are redistributing income from high- to low-income earners, who receive the lion's share of government assistance, new Australian Bureau of Statistics figures show.

    The average household receives more in government services than it pays in tax, with corporate taxes redistributed across the community.

    According to the figures, only 40 per cent of households actually pay any net tax, after the value of all government benefits is counted. [...]

    The ABS figures will make it harder for John Howard's opponents to criticise his administration of tax and welfare in the lead-up to the federal election, due to be held within months.

    The only reasonable solution to thius problem is to deny the franchise to those who receive more from government coffers than they pay in. If you choose to be a dependent you should not be treated as independent.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:57 AM


    May's Signs of Strength: A stronger-than-expected surge in retail sales and a spike in import prices will keep things tricky for the Fed (Michael Englund and Rick MacDonald, 6/14/07, Business Week)

    Retail sales rebounded a solid 1.4% in May. This followed an upwardly revised 0.1% decrease in April from a 0.2% fall initially. The ex-auto component rose 1.3% following a revised 0.1% increase in April (flat previously). Strength was broad-based, but rising gas prices continued to provide a boost, with gas station sales up 3.8%. A 2.7% rebound in clothing sales also boosted spending. Building materials climbed 2.1%, and food and beverage sales were up 0.3%.

    The May sales data were certainly strong, though the auto and building material gains won't translate to the consumption figures in the GDP accounts. And the 2% second-quarter real (i.e., adjusted for inflation) consumption gain we project is still quite respectable, given the outsized consumption increases over the prior two quarters of 4.4% in the first quarter and 4.2% in the 2006 fourth quarter. Those prior gains left the strongest two-quarter combo since the middle two quarters of 2003.

    The moderation in real spending growth in the second quarter must be seen as a temporary hit from the gasoline price surge, with continued strength in nominal spending. This strength in sales over the last half-year is the primary driver for the end to the inventory downdraft at the start of the second quarter, which explains the likely stronger growth path for GDP in the second quarter and beyond. We will continue to assume an upward adjustment in the first-quarter GDP gain to 0.9% from 0.6%, with the boost from net exports and inventories, alongside a downward construction revision.

    ...else how would economists look so continually surprised at America's uninterrupted economic growth over the last quarter century.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:48 AM


    Is Kim Jong so ill he needs surgery? (Sergei Soukhorukov, 10/06/2007, Daily Telegraph)

    Kim Jong Il, North Korea's reclusive leader, has been so unwell that he could not walk more than 30 yards without a rest, western governments have been told.

    Diplomats in the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, are increasingly convinced that the 65-year-old dictator needs heart surgery to restore his apparently flagging health. He has had to be accompanied by an assistant carrying a chair so that, wherever he goes, he can sit and catch his breath.

    Speculation about the state of Kim's health was heightened when a team of six doctors from the German Heart Institute in Berlin flew to Pyongyang, the North Korean capital, for eight days last month.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:38 AM


    Hey, skeptics: These M's may be something special (Larry Stone, 6/14/07, Seattle Times)

    If you've been watching lately, you've seen the signs. The improbable comebacks. The unexpected heroes. The crazy victories that bring to mind Jack Buck's famous call: "I don't believe what I just saw."

    The initial temptation, of course, is to fight it, to believe it's all just an aberration, the surge before the storm. Cynicism is the natural off-shoot of three losing seasons, and skepticism its identical twin. Besides, have you seen those starters?

    But the longer the M's hitters keep bashing, and the more the bullpen keeps escaping, and the tighter the AL West becomes, a belief is solidifying — within the clubhouse, anyway, where it matters most — that something is happening here.

    What it is ain't exactly clear, not yet, but its byproduct is confidence, even entitlement. In sports, that's a good thing.

    "Now we're starting to get a little swagger, and it's a good swagger," bench coach John McLaren said before the game.

    "It's something where we feel good about ourselves. We play the game hard. We make some mistakes right now that could hurt us, and we need to correct those mistakes. We're talking about it, working at it.

    "We have some intensity. We pull for each other, we laugh for each other, we pick each other up. That's the sign of a good team when you do that."

    McLaren was a coach under Lou Piniella on the 1990 championship Reds team and on all his great Mariners teams, so he knows the feeling of a team finding its place in the baseball cosmos. He sees all the signs.

    "It's a great feeling when guys pick up the slack when they're not really the big boys, so to speak," he said. "All those late wins, you get the confidence, like we're never out of it. We still got a chance.

    "Teams in the past we've had around here, the good teams, we had that atmosphere. We had that attitude. And it rubs off on everybody."

    Jarrod Washburn has seen it before, too, with the 2002 Angels, who started 6-14 and ended with a World Series trophy. He sees a Mariners' team starting to believe in itself. He knows the feeling is not universal. Not yet.

    If only they can get King Felix rolling again....

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:26 AM


    Assimilation Starts with Inclusion (Steve Chapman, 6/14/07, Real Clear Politics)

    Towns that pass measures against illegal immigrants portray the laws as a way to combat crime. In reality, the belief that this group is prone to felonious habits is largely unfounded. Crime rates plummeted in the 1990s even as illegal immigration surged, and Harvard sociologist Robert Sampson has documented that "living in a neighborhood of concentrated immigration is directly associated with lower violence."

    The evidence is surprising but clear: Foreign-born Hispanics are far less likely to end up in prison than native-born whites. They also have low divorce rates.

    As for learning English, the truth is also more appealing than the myth. Many of the people who have immigrated here don't speak the language well, if at all. But that's a transient phenomenon with a time-tested treatment: reproduction.

    Surveys indicate that the majority of U.S.-born children of Latino immigrants mainly speak English, and by the third generation, 96 percent prefer English. What happened with past immigrant groups is also happening with this one.

    Education is a mixed picture. Some 42 percent of Hispanics in this country never finished high school. But many immigrants dropped out before even coming here, and others do so once they arrive. Fortunately, their children and grandchildren do far better, with high school completion rates rising to 89 percent by the third generation.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:42 AM


    Cheers—and Loathing—at the Metropolitan Opera: Which will win out: glorious triumphs or trendy travesties? (Heather Mac Donald, 14 June 2007, City Journal)

    The Metropolitan Opera’s 2006–07 season ended with a telling contrast. Broadway director Jack O’Brien’s setting of Puccini’s Il Trittico—which airs on PBS tonight, in what will truly be must-see TV—stayed faithful to the music and to the composer’s dramatic intentions, creating an evening of overpowering theatrical intensity. Choreographer Mark Morris’s rendering of Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice, on the other hand, ignored the stylistic mandates in the score and produced a pedestrian, sometimes silly, visual spectacle that rarely matched the music’s greatness. The Met’s aesthetic future depends on which production style prevails.

    Puccini’s Il Trittico (“The Triptych”) is a collection of three short one-act operas; it makes a strong case for limiting every opera to a single act, if the results would match Puccini’s accomplishment here. Each one-hour opera is a marvel of compression and dramatic tension. Every note expresses an emotion; every emotion drives the plots to their inexorable conclusions. Various hypotheses have been offered about what unifies the three stories—the presence of death, for example, or a connection to Dante’s Divine Comedy (the third opera, Gianni Schicchi, derives from a few lines in the Inferno); no theory is particularly persuasive. The musical tie is clearer: a dark wind blows through all three operas, rising from their complex and sophisticated harmonies. The best course, given the remarkable musical outcome, is simply to be grateful that Puccini set himself the formal challenge of composing three short one-acts.

    GREAT PERFORMANCES AT THE MET: "Il Trittico" (Premieres on June 16, 2007 on PBS)
    Composer: Giacomo Puccini

    Librettist: Giuseppe Adami, adapted from the play "La Houppelande" by Didier Gold

    Production: Jack O'Brien

    Conductor: James Levine

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


    Anti-Syrian Lawmaker Killed in Beirut Blast (Anthony Shadid, 6/14/07, Washington Post)

    The killing of Walid Eido, 65, further tested the fragility of a Lebanese government mired in a months-long confrontation with its opposition, a protracted battle with Islamic militants in a Palestinian refugee camp and a deepening crisis over the selection of a new president this fall. Weeks of morbid anticipation had preceded Wednesday's bombing, with traffic sparse in Beirut's streets after sunset and many residents opting to stay home at night.

    Almost immediately after the explosion, figures from across the political spectrum here denounced the bombing. The Shiite Muslim movement Hezbollah, the opposition's leading faction, said the attack was "targeting Lebanon and its stability."

    As in the past, anti-Syrian lawmakers cast the assassination as another episode in their confrontation with Damascus, saying Syrian authorities were trying to deprive the Lebanese parliament of its anti-Syrian majority through methodical killings.

    "We're all targeted," said lawmaker Jawad Boulos. "It's no coincidence these people are being assassinated."

    If Nancy Pelosi is going to travel to Damascus and tug her forelock, the Administration is going to discuss Iraq with the Ba'athists, the Israelis are going to sue for peace, and we're all going to turn a blind eye to the way Assad shelters the radical leaders of Hamas, then why shouldn't the Syrians keep doing what they've always done? If we don't regime change Syria we oughtn't be considered serious about Lebanon or Palestine.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


    Evolution Analysis of Large-Scale Software Systems Using Design Structure Matrices and Design Rule Theory (Matthew J. LaMantia, Yuanfang Cai, Alan D. MacCormack, and John Rusnak, June 2007, HBS: Working Knowledge)

    Executive Summary:

    Designers have long recognized the value of modularity. But because design principles are informal, successful application depends on the designers' intuition and experience. Intuition and experience, however, do not prevent a company such as Microsoft from constantly grappling with unanticipated challenges and delays in bringing software to market. Clearly, designers need a formal theory and models of modularity and software evolution that capture the essence of important but informal design principles and offer ways to describe, predict, and resolve issues. This paper evaluates the applicability of model and theory to real-world, large-scale software designs by studying the evolution of two complex software platforms through the lens of design structure matrices (DSMs) and the design rule theory advanced by Kim Clark and Carliss Baldwin. Key concepts include:

    * Important software modularity principles have remained informal.
    * DSM models reveal a key characteristic of modular architectures: The design rules must be explicitly defined so that otherwise dependent modules can be decoupled. Each independent module can then be replaced with a better version.
    * DSM modeling and the design rule theory of Clark and Baldwin have the potential to formally account for how design rules create options in the form of independent modules and how they enable independent substitution.
    * DSM modeling and design rule theory are general enough to model decisions other than those encoded in source code.

    Designers have long recognized the value of modularity. But because design principles are informal, successful application depends on the designers' intuition and experience. Intuition and experience, however, do not prevent a company such as Microsoft from constantly grappling with unanticipated challenges and delays in bringing software to market. Clearly, designers need a formal theory and models of modularity and software evolution that capture the essence of important but informal design principles and offer ways to describe, predict, and resolve issues. This paper evaluates the applicability of model and theory to real-world, large-scale software designs by studying the evolution of two complex software platforms through the lens of design structure matrices (DSMs) and the design rule theory advanced by Kim Clark and Carliss Baldwin.

    * E-mail the Editor
    * E-mail the Editor

    About Faculty in this Article:

    HBS Faculty Member Alan MacCormack

    Alan MacCormack is an associate professor in the Technology and Operations Management unit at Harvard Business School.

    * More Working Knowledge from Alan MacCormack
    * Alan MacCormack - Faculty Research Page


    Designers often seek modular architectures to better accommodate expected changes and to enable parallel development. However, we lack a formal theory and model of modularity and software evolution, which can be used for description, prediction, and prescription. According to Baldwin and Clark's theory, modular architectures add value to system designs by creating options to improve the system by substituting or experimenting on individual modules. In this paper, we evaluate their theory by looking at the design evolution of two software product platforms through the modeling lens of design structure matrices (DSMs) and design rule theory. Our analysis shows that DSM models and options theory can explain how real-world modularization activities in one case allowed for different rates of evolution in different software modules and in another case conferred distinct strategic advantages on a firm (by permitting substitution of an at-risk software module without substantial change to the rest of the system). The experiment supports our hypothesis that these formal models and theory can account for important aspects of software design evolution in large-scale systems.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


    Guarneri Quartet to Retire in 2009 (Kevin Shihoten, 11 Jun 2007, PlaybillArts)

    The Guarneri String Quartet announced today its plans to retire in 2009. After 45 years of performing, the group's members — Arnold Steinhardt and John Dalley (violins), Michael Tree (viola) and Peter Wiley (cello) — feel that it's time to leave the stage.

    Said the quartet in a press release, "This has not only been a long journey, but a deeply satisfying one as well. What could be better than performing the inspired string quartet repertoire, traveling the world, and meeting wonderful people along the way!"

    Founded in 1964 at the Marlboro Music Festival, the quartet is noted for its stellar interpretations of repertoire ranging from 18th- and 19th-century standards to Bartók, Stravinsky and Walton.

    They've played Saint Paul Sunday several times and you can listen online:
    Guarneri String Quartet performs Mozart, Ravel, Dvořák (Saint Paul Sunday, October 29, 2006)
    On the heels of their 40th anniversary, the Guarneri String Quartet returns to Saint Paul Sunday with music by Mozart, Dvořák and Ravel — works that reveal the heart and soul of this revered ensemble as movingly today as they did when it first performed them. Each composer's distinct voice shines, but refracted through a sound and mastery wholly the Guarneri's own. After more than four decades, both remain undimmed.

    Guarneri String Quartet: Four by Forty (ST Paul Sunday, 1/25/04)
    Now celebrating its 40th anniversary, the Guarneri String Quartet is among the most revered and enduring ensembles of its kind in the world. It makes a warmly awaited return visit this week to perform Zoltán Kodály's songful and incisive second string quartet, two haunting movements of Robert Schumann's third quartet, and some variations by the "Spanish Mozart"—Juan Crisostomo Arriaga—who earned the moniker for the brilliance of his too-brief career. As it has for four decades, the Guarneri lends a peerless radiance to every note and phrase.

    Guarneri String Quartet (Saint Paul Sunday, 2/03/02)

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


    Justice Dept. Reshapes Its Civil Rights Mission (NEIL A. LEWIS, 6/14/07, NY Times)

    In recent years, the Bush administration has recast the federal government’s role in civil rights by aggressively pursuing religion-oriented cases while significantly diminishing its involvement in the traditional area of race.

    Paralleling concerns of many conservative groups, the Justice Department has successfully argued in a number of cases that government agencies, employers or private organizations have improperly suppressed religious expression in situations that the Constitution’s drafters did not mean to restrict.

    The shift at the Justice Department has significantly altered the government’s civil rights mission, said Brian K. Landsberg, a law professor at the University of the Pacific and a former Justice Department lawyer under both Republican and Democratic administrations.

    “Not until recently has anyone in the department considered religious discrimination such a high priority,” Professor Landsberg said. “No one had ever considered it to be of the same magnitude as race or national origin.”

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


    The Pipettes: Bananarama, the B-52's, and Phil Spector haunt the band's full-length debut, We Are the Pipettes. (Michael Alan Goldberg, 6/13/07, Seattle Weekly)

    After recruiting Rosay, Rebecca Stephens (aka Becki Pipette), and three guys who would join Monster Bobby in the all-male backing section dubbed the Cassettes (and later Gwenno Saunders, who replaced Julia Pipette in 2005), the septet began cranking out a string of campy singles indebted to the sounds of those aforementioned groups, as well as the recording techniques of producers Phil Spector and Joe Meek. The songs are dense, reverb-heavy, insanely catchy compositions merging punchy strings and horns with rockabilly/surf guitars, piano plinks, organs, and, of course, all those heavenly, girlish vocal melodies and "oooooh sha la la la" harmonies.

    On the Pipettes' 2006 full-length U.K. debut, We Are the Pipettes—slated for U.S. release in August—there are nods to other eras as well. Vocally, there are echoes of Bananarama and even the Spice Girls (their cheerleader chants also fall somewhere between Toni Basil and riot grrrl), and the song "Dirty Minds" crosses Maxine Nightingale's "Right Back Where We Started From" with the B-52's "Roam."

    Lyrically, the Pipettes typically steer clear of the submissive approach associated with the original girl groups, frequently opting for bawdy sentiments and righteous kiss-offs: "I don't love you, I don't need you/If you think that this is cruel/Then you should see what my friends do," the trio gleefully sneers in "One Night Stand."

    "We're definitely not interested in being some pastiche of the girl groups from the '50s and '60s," Rosay states. "We're just using those ideas as a springboard, and to do something different, you know, as opposed to this sort of standardized rock 'n' roll canon that everyone is born knowing, and this unquestionable reverence you have to have for all of these bands."

    To that end, the group has promulgated an attention-grabbing manifesto, boldly stating that the Beatles "ruined everything"...

    Here's a live show courtesy of Waves & Wires: The Pipettes 2007-06-12, Popscene @ Rickshaw Stop, SF, CA
    or watch a live show on the Fab Channel: -The Pipettes,/a> (Paradiso, 11/20/06)

    -OFFICIAL BAND SITE: The Pipettes
    -MYSPACE: The Pipettes
    -MP3S: Pipettes (Hype Machine)
    -WIKIPEDIA: THe Pipettes
    -LIVE: The Pipettes perform in the Current studio (Mark Wheat, June 8, 2007, Minnesota Public Radio)
    -The Pipettes doll up pop in polka dots (Sam Prestianni , J. Poet , and Tony Ware, June 6, 2007 , SF Weekly)

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


    D-Fence! (David Gassko, June 14, 2007, Hardball Times)

    For a long time, offense got more recognition than defense because while it is pretty easy to evaluate how many runs a player has contributed at the plate, it takes loads of careful data gathering to build a good fielding system. Luckily, we at The Hardball Times have been buying Baseball Info Solutions zone rating data; 2004 through 2006 numbers are up on the site already and daily 2007 updates soon will be.

    Anyways, we just received our first batch of Zone Rating data, and rather than wait for the stats to go up on the site, I decided to immediately share them all with you. I have massaged them a little bit to make the numbers more intuitive; all ratings will be denominated in runs above or below average. We’ll take a look at the top-and-bottom three players at each position (except catcher and pitcher) thus far in 2007. Remember, two months of data does not a reliable sample size make. [...]


    Adam Everett +15
    Tony Pena +13
    Troy Tulowitzki +11
    Derek Jeter -14
    Jimmy Rollins -13
    Hanley Ramirez -12

    Some things just never change: Adam Everett is at the top, Derek Jeter at the bottom, just like it has been for the past many years. As much as something in the baseball world can be a travesty, the fact that Jeter has multiple Gold Gloves and Everett has none is an absolute outrage.

    Why waste this opportunity to move him to CF?

    June 13, 2007

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:03 PM


    Hamas takes upper hand in Gaza struggle (Rory McCarthy in Jerusalem and Ian Black, June 13, 2007, Guardian Unlimited)

    Hamas fighters launched another wave of fierce attacks today plunging the Gaza strip closer towards civil war in what appeared to be a carefully coordinated effort to seize control on the streets.

    Gunmen from Hamas and its rival faction, Fatah, fought heavy battles in the north and south of the strip, with the Islamist movement repeatedly winning the upper hand.

    ...the sooner our own government and Israel's reckon with them instead of nursing the delusion that a corrupt secular Marxist party will be the choice of the Palestinian people.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:51 PM


    If you haven't seen this map yet...:

    ...it's well wrth checking out.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:46 AM


    Large majority supports path to citizenship: A poll finds 63% of all respondents, and 65% of Republicans, back the controversial measure. (Janet Hook, June 13, 2007, LA Times)

    A strong majority of Americans — including nearly two-thirds of Republicans — favor allowing illegal immigrants to become citizens if they pay fines, learn English and meet other requirements, a new Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll has found.

    That is a striking show of support for a primary element of an immigration overhaul bill that has stalled in the Senate amid conservative opposition.

    Only 23% of adults surveyed opposed allowing undocumented immigrants to gain legal status. That finding bolsters the view, shared by President Bush, that the bill's opponents represent a vocal minority whereas most people are more welcoming toward illegal immigrants.

    ...but the Internet affords them an echo chamber to cluster in. In our 5 years of blogging we've found that there are four kinds of people who--like paranoid schizophrenics in the movies--act pretty crazy if you challenge their delusions: nativists, Darwinists (though those 2 generally overlap considerably), soccer fans, and those who think Eric and Julia Roberts are two different people.

    NB: Oops, make that five--forgot Airbus enthusiasts.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:06 AM


    Nature's Economy: Economics and the natural sciences: a review of Nature: An Economic History by Geerat J. Vermeij and The Natural Origins of Economics by Margaret Schabas (Andrew P. Morriss, Books & Culture)

    What do you think of when you think of economics? Supply and demand curves crossing? Constrained optimization problems? Is economics just a science (or black art) dealing with the money supply, comparative advantage, and inflation? Over the past fifty years, there have been a number of bold efforts at pushing the frontiers of economic analysis past such obviously "economic" issues. Gary Becker won the Nobel Prize for applying economic analysis to issues ranging from marriage to discrimination, and several economists, including Lawrence Iannaconne at George Mason University, have profitably deployed economics to study religion.

    Even these bold steps outside of the traditional subject matter of economics left a great deal of the world outside economists' domain. No longer. Geerat Vermeij, a geologist, has taken economic reasoning even further, arguing in Nature: An Economic History that economists and natural scientists are asking the same kinds of questions in their seemingly disparate fields. He contends that "common principles underlie all these diverse fields, and that these principles imply broadly predictable patterns of change through time, patterns with interesting implications for our future." Margaret Schabas, a philosopher with an economics degree, makes the case in The Natural Origins of Economics that economics once had strong connections to the natural sciences, connections that she thinks the discipline should revive. These are provocative assertions worth considering in detail.

    Vermeij defines an economy to be "a system of living, self-interested, interacting beings or entities that compete for locally scarce resources." With this broad definition, much of the natural world falls into a system of natural economies.

    How could it be othewrwise when biology simply copied its paradigm from capitalism?

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:02 AM


    More Clues in the Legend (or Is It Fact?) of Romulus (JOHN NOBLE WILFORD, 6/12/07, NY Times)

    The story of Romulus and Remus is almost as old as Rome. The orphan twins were suckled by a she-wolf in a cave on the banks of the Tiber. Romulus grew up to found Rome in 753 B. C.

    Historians have long since dismissed the story as a charming legend. The 19th-century historian Theodor Mommsen said: “The founding of the city in the strict sense, such as the legend assumes, is of course to be reckoned out of the question: Rome was not built in a day.”

    Yet the legend is as imperishable as Mommsen’s skeptical verdict, and it has been invigorated by recent archaeological finds.

    This year, Italian archaeologists reported discovering the long-lost cave under the Palatine Hill that ancient Romans held sacred as the place where the twins were nursed. The grown brothers fought over leadership of the new city, the story goes, and Romulus killed Remus and became the first king.

    The cave was no surprise to Andrea Carandini, a historian and an archaeologist at the University of Rome, who has said, “The tale of the birth of Rome is part myth and part historical truth.”

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:58 AM


    Venezuelans giving birth in S. Fla. to obtain citizenship for their children (Tal Abbady, June 12, 2007, South Florida Sun-Sentinel)

    Veronica Pita recently traveled from Venezuela to South Florida just to give birth to her son and guarantee that he grows up a U.S. citizen.

    Worried that President Hugo Chavez may claim guardianship rights over children, dozens of Venezuelan women have traveled to South Florida in recent months to give birth, local doctors say.

    The women generally arrive on tourist visas when they are seven months pregnant and return home six weeks after delivery.

    Most say they think their children's U.S. citizenship will exempt them from future Venezuelan government measures. Others say they want their children to enjoy the benefits of U.S. citizenship should the family eventually move here.

    Are we sure they're not just trying to avoid Cindy Sheehan?

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:47 AM


    Warm summer night calls for a cool cake (ELIZABETH PUDWILL, 6/12/07, Houston Chronicle)


    * For the syrup:
    * ½ cup sugar
    * ¾ cup fresh lemon juice
    * For the cake:
    * ¾ cup (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
    * 1 cup sugar
    * 1½ teaspoons lemon zest
    * 2 large eggs
    * 1¾ cups self-rising flour
    * Cool Whip or freshly whipped cream
    * 3 cups berries

    Make the syrup: Combine the sugar and lemon juice in a small pot. Cook on stove top for a few minutes over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar dissolves. Let cool while you prepare and bake the cake.

    Make the cake: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter or spray an 8-inch-square baking pan. Beat the butter until smooth with an electric mixer. Add the sugar and lemon zest, and beat until fluffy. Beat in 1 egg, then half the flour; repeat. Pour the batter into prepared baking pan.

    Bake the cake until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, about 25 minutes.

    Using a slender wooden skewer, poke holes all over the top of cake. Spoon the syrup over cake in several additions, allowing it to be absorbed each time. Cool cake completely. It can be made a day ahead and stored at room temperature.

    Serve with whipped cream and berries.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:12 AM


    'Greatly Exaggerated' Income-Gap Claims (David Wessel, 6/12/07, WSJ: Washington Wire)

    An economist long allied with centrist Democrats is challenging the now-conventional wisdom among many Democrats that American middle-class workers aren’t getting their fair share of the prosperity generated by rising productivity. Income inequality, he says, is overstated, and the conventional wisdom might discourage Democrats from pursuing policies that promote productivity improvements that are crucial to improving the fortunes of the vast American middle class. [...]

    In his 16-page essay, Rose challenges the interpretation of government data used by other scholars to make the case that recent productivity gains have gone mainly to the best-off Americans. Rose writes that “much of the difference in productivity growth and median income growth can be explained largely by demographic change” — the increase in single-person households, especially” — and rising nonwage benefits.

    Democrats real argument is with the disintegration of marriage, which they fostered.

    Fair to Middling in the Middle Class (Steven Pearlstein, May 30, 2007, Washington Post)

    Rose is not your standard-issue conservative market apologist -- far from it. He left medical school to get his PhD in economics, then alternated between teaching and community organizing. He served on the Democratic staff of the Joint Economic Committee and in the economics shop of the Clinton Labor Department. Along the way, he's worked for a couple of think tanks and blue-ribbon commissions.

    Back in 1978, Rose and a colleague decided to try to reduce the existing economic topography into a single chart, which they called "Social Stratification in the United States." The resulting illustration was an ingenious synthesis of data on income, wealth, employment and family structure that was meant to highlight what was then a growing and largely unrecognized economic divide. With economists like Barry Bluestone and Bennett Harrison, in fact, Rose was something of a pioneer in the inequality debate.

    But while the latest update, recently published by New Press, surely doesn't gloss over the gap between whites and blacks, skilled and unskilled, married and singles, it also challenges the sky-is-falling rhetoric of the Democratic left.

    For example, it is often reported that the median household income in the United States is $44,500. Of course, that takes in households of varying size, from singles to the Brady Bunch. It also includes households headed by workers in the prime of their working years (29 to 59), as well as those just beginning or ending their careers, when earnings tend to be lower. So, to get a truer picture of economic well-being, Rose adjusts the data for household size and excludes those headed by people younger than 29 or older than 59. And when he does, it turns out that the median income for the "typical American family" jumps to $63,000, which in most parts of the country buys a pretty comfortable middle-class lifestyle.

    This doesn't mean the middle class isn't shrinking. In fact, from 1979 to 2004, Rose calculates, the percentage of households in the "middle class" category -- those with incomes of $30,000 to $90,000 -- fell to 39 from 47 percent. But it would be hard to describe that as bad news when the proportion of well-off households -- those with incomes of more than $90,000 -- rose by nearly nine percentage points. During the same time frame, the percentage of households that were poor or near-poor remained about the same.

    One of the favorite liberal story lines is that the only way middle class families have been able to maintain their standard of living is by forcing mom to work more hours. But that, too, turns out to be an exaggeration. By looking just at married couples at various points in the income ladder, Rose found that for all but the poorest households, inflation-adjusted income was higher in 2004 than in 1979 even after factoring out any increase in spousal work hours.

    It is also a myth that the Great American Jobs Machine is producing mostly lousy, low-paying service jobs. Rose simplifies the government data by putting all jobs in three categories: "elite" jobs, encompassing managers and professionals; "good jobs," such as those held by supervisors, skilled blue-collar workers, craft workers, police, firefighters and clerical workers; and "less skilled" jobs, such as those held by unskilled machine operators, laborers, sales clerks and waiters. Looking at it that way, it turns out that the number of lousy, low-skilled jobs has been on a long, steady decline since 1979, while the number of "elite" jobs has been growing steadily. The number of "good" jobs has declined marginally as skilled office work has replaced skilled factory work.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:21 AM


    Close Cover Before Striking: a review of The Dangerous Book for Boys by Conn and Hal Iggulden (STEFAN BECK, June 13, 2007, NY Sun)

    "The Dangerous Book for Boys", by the British brothers Conn and Hal Iggulden, is a big red textbook of facts and figures, diagrams and blueprints, games and projects, and history and advice, meant to encourage curiosity, self-reliance, and fearlessness in the male of the species. (Slap a brown grocery-bag dust jacket on the cover and you can read the brilliant thing undetected in math class or on the Metro-North Railroad.) [...]

    If this book ought to worry anyone, it's lazy teachers, cynical marketing executives, drug-pushing psychiatrists, and anyone else who takes advantage of children and the popular nonsense about their fragility and incompetence. The only negative reviews on Amazon.com whine about glaring omissions or that the contents aren't dangerous enough. They're on the right track, but they miss the point: A taste of what's cool and challenging is all that kids need to strike out on their own bruised, scraped, sometimes concussed journeys of discovery.

    That belief is what makes the Igguldens two wild and subversive guys. They've bequeathed our country a textbook for boys who hope to become men, whereas the present system produces boys who can only hope to become older, fatter, more dependent boys. The Igguldens detail the rules of soccer (along with stickball and rugby), but in their section on word origins they also give the etymology and definition of "hooligan," not to mention "quisling," "thug," and "assassin."

    And "chivalry." The book is a deeply moral one, which recognizes that just because boys will be boys doesn't mean they have to be stupid or malicious ones. It's never too early to memorize useful Latin phrases or Shakespeare quotations or poems by Kipling and Shelley. Of "Ozymandias," they write, in their lapidary textbook style, "This poem was written as a commentary on human arrogance." Your average elementary school teacher would have complained that the vocabulary is too difficult, or the verse lacking in relevance, which means it isn't about drugs or teen pregnancy. The Igguldens, like most boys, know better.

    ...the art design is so enchanting you can't help wanting it.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:34 AM


    Skillet Scramble is a manly treat for Dad on his special day (Hsiao-Ching Chou, 6/12/07, Seattle Post-Intelligencer)

    There are some dishes that lack the kind of heartiness associated with the archetypal, manly man dad. So, if you don't want to serve an eggy "pie" on the day to celebrate fathers, consider the skillet scramble instead.

    A skillet scramble resembles a quiche in the sense that you're cooking eggs and other ingredients in a pan. The difference is that a quiche colors within the lines, whereas a skillet scramble doesn't ask for directions. [...]


    # 2 tablespoons butter
    # 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
    # 2 medium Yukon gold potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch dice (about 2 cups diced)
    # Salt and pepper to taste
    # 1/2 red onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
    # 1 yellow or red bell pepper, cut into thin strips
    # 1/2 cup sliced crimini or white button mushrooms
    # 2 andouille sausages (or your favorite sausage), sliced into coins about 1/3-inch thick
    # 8 large eggs, lightly beaten
    # 1 cup grated cheddar cheese
    # Chopped chives for garnish, optional

    In a skillet, heat 2 tablespoons butter and 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat. When the butter-oil mixture is heated, add the potatoes carefully to prevent spattering. Spread the diced potatoes in the skillet in one layer, if possible. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

    Lower the heat to medium and let the potatoes cook for about 10 minutes, making sure they brown but don't burn. When browned, turn the potatoes and continue to cook for another 10 minutes or so. Check for doneness by tasting a piece. Scoop the potatoes into a bowl and set aside.

    In the same skillet over medium heat, add the sliced sausage to render. When cooked about 3/4 of the way through -- be careful not to overcook, which will dry out the meat -- remove the sausage from the pan and add to the potatoes. With a wad of paper towel, dab away all but about 1 to 2 tablespoons of the sausage grease.

    Add the onions, bell peppers and mushrooms to saute over medium-high heat. The vegetables are done when they have softened, about 5 to 7 minutes. Turn off the heat, but leave the pan on the burner. Add the potatoes and sausages and stir to combine. Keep warm.

    In another skillet, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium or medium-high heat. Add the beaten egg and cheddar cheese. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook until preferred doneness, gently stirring to create larger curds. It should take 3 to 5 minutes.

    To serve in the skillet, keep the eggs in the pan. Pile the vegetable-sausage mixture in the center of the eggs. Garnish with chives, if using. Serve while hot.

    ...you'll serve him a steak with that.

    Give Dad a hearty, meaty pancake (J.M. HIRSCH, 6/12/07, The Associated Press)


    (Start to finish: 30 minutes)

    2 medium sweet Italian turkey sausages (precooked), each cut into chunks
    1 apple, peeled and cored
    1¼ cups all-purpose or white whole-wheat flour
    1 tablespoon sugar
    2 teaspoons baking powder
    ¼ teaspoon salt
    1 cup milk
    1 egg
    2 tablespoons canola (or vegetable) oil
    Cooking spray

    Place a heat-proof plate or platter in the oven. Preheat oven to 200 degrees.

    Place the sausages and apple in a food processor, and pulse until coarsely ground. Transfer to a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Saute until the sausage is lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside.

    In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

    In another medium bowl or glass measuring cup, whisk together the milk, egg and oil. Add the milk mixture to the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. The batter should be mostly smooth.

    Add the sausage and apple mixture to the batter and mix until evenly distributed through the batter.

    Rinse and dry the skillet, then lightly coat it with cooking spray. Return the skillet to the burner over medium heat. When the skillet is hot (a drop of water should immediately sizzle away), spoon about ¼ cup of batter into the skillet for each pancake. Make 2 or 3 pancakes at a time.

    When the edges of the pancakes show bubbles, use a spatula to flip and cook another 1 to 2 minutes, or until lightly browned on both sides. Transfer the finished pancakes to the platter in the oven and repeat with remaining ingredients. Add a light coat of cooking spray to the pan between batches.

    Serve pancakes with warm maple syrup.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:26 AM


    Boeing to score big 787 order in Paris: Major Airbus customer to take up to 50 planes (JAMES WALLACE, 6/12/07, SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER)

    In what will be seen by many in the industry as a stinging rebuke for Airbus and its planned A350 jetliner, its biggest customer is expected to place an order for as many as 50 of The Boeing Co.'s 787 Dreamliners at next week's Paris Air Show, an industry source confirmed Tuesday night. [...]

    Airbus has been widely expected to use the air show in Paris to gain traction for the A350 XWB (extra wide body). So far it has only a dozen or so firm orders for the plane that it needs to challenge Boeing's hot-selling 787, which has nearly 600 firm orders.

    ILFC is the biggest Airbus customer, but Steve Udvar-Hazy, its founder and chief executive, told the Seattle P-I last week at an industry conference in Vancouver, B.C., that he has not been given enough details about the A350 to decide whether he wants the plane.

    Instead, Hazy will order more 787s, the industry source said. ILFC ordered 22 787s in November 2005.

    Of course, if ILFC were to be nationalized it would order the Airbus instead.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:58 AM


    China Pushes Public To Mind Its Manners: Curbing Bad Habits Is Pre-Olympic Goal (Maureen Fan, 6/13/07, Washington Post)

    China cares enormously about how it is perceived by the rest of the world, and the Games have put a spotlight on this country's ancient ideas of shame and superiority, as well as the traditional Chinese concept of not "losing face."

    In recent months, officials from the Communist Party have launched campaigns aimed at stamping out practices that, while common in China, might be seen as downright unseemly by outsiders: spitting, cutting in line, swearing and littering.

    The preparations are a demonstration of how much emphasis Chinese leaders are putting on protocol, but also of the degree to which they consider individual behavior a reflection of the nation at large. The stakes are high. For a century, Chinese have tried to overcome foreign domination and isolation to regain what they see as their country's rightful status as a world leader. For many, August 2008 is their opportunity.

    "We want to prove we are making progress," said Sha Lianxiang, a professor of social psychology at Renmin University in Beijing. "On the one hand, we are developing and making progress now, while on the other, we still have lots of problems. How to step out of these problems? We need to consider how people look at us. It's a mirror for us. In a globalized world, we want to be as good as others. We care about other people's reaction."

    When MacDonald's opened its first restaurant in Moscow one of the networks did a story on how there were huge lines to get in even though few people could afford the food. Supposedly they just wanted to experience a place that they could get into that was well stocked and where the employees were polite.

    The degree of national pride that the PRC has invested in the Games makes them a ripe target for boycott.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:04 AM


    The demonizing of illegal immigrants (Jeff Jacoby, June 13, 2007, Boston Globe)

    Kindergarten students, wrote Iowa Representative Steve King, are taught to line up at snack time and patiently wait their turn. A child who cuts in front of the others is promptly reprimanded and sent to the back of the line. "If not, the entire classroom erupts with charges of 'That's not fair!"' Making the line-cutter wait until all the other children have gotten their snacks teaches "the entire class . . . that good behavior is rewarded and bad behavior is punished." King's conclusion: "The Senate amnesty proposal amounts to letting every line-cutter walk away with his cupcake."

    Given the rancor with which so much of the immigration debate is conducted, there's a winsome appeal to this "kindergarten" comparison.

    But winsome or not, King's analogy fails. Illegal immigrants don't steal across the Mexican border because they lack the patience to wait their turn in line. They do it because there is no line for them to wait in. [...]

    For most illegal immigrants, a legal option simply doesn't exist. Under current law, a young Mexican or Salvadoran who wants to improve his life by moving to America and working hard at a useful job generally has just two options: (a) Enter illegally, or (b) stay out forever. Several hundred thousand a year choose option (a).

    Remove the numerical quotas that were imposed during America's disgraceful eugenic period and let them come through a regular and streamlined process. That removes the legality canard and satisfies two thirds of Americans.

    June 12, 2007

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:22 PM

    12ERNOMICS ISN'T WORKING (via Luciferous):

    Economists attack Iran policies (Frances Harrison, /12/07, BBC News)

    Fifty-seven Iranian economists have launched a scathing attack on President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

    They have accused his government of ignoring the basics of economics.

    The university professors say mismanagement is inflicting a huge cost on the economy, the brunt of which will be borne by people with modest means. [...]

    Inflation is said to be at unprecedented levels and that is visible in the shops where many housewives can no longer afford meat or fruit.

    Mr Ahmadinejad's frequent trips to the provinces are criticised too - for promoting questionable projects not based on scientific, social or economic principles.

    And the economists add that Iran's worsening international relations are imposing a huge cost on its economy which the next generation will pay for.

    They say the new officials in government need to understand that economics has rules.

    There's a reason Ayatollah Khamenei has sought to elect reformers to the presidency, even if he's still afraid to turn them loose.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:53 PM


    The Art of Deception: Johan Santana throws the trickiest pitch in baseball. Does he have a third Cy Young up his sleeve? (G.R. Anderson Jr., 6/12/07, City Pages)

    Baseball is a game of secrecy, and pitching, more than any other position, relies on deception.

    Yet Santana's status as one of the game's best players ensures his place in the spotlight. This season, the 28-year-old left-hander is featured in two team commercials. One even plays on his fabled change-up—Santana repeatedly accelerates and brakes an SUV on his way to the ballpark, while passenger and relief pitcher Joe Nathan grows carsick. It may be the first time a specific pitch has been used to promote the prospects of an entire team. But it is, arguably, the best pitch in baseball.

    It's not just the home crowd that's rooting for him. Two years ago, when the American League Twins were playing the National League Los Angeles Dodgers in L.A., the line of autograph hounds stretched more than 100 yards.

    This was after Santana won the 2004 Cy Young award, the first Venezuelan to do so. Not long after, Sports Illustrated called him "the world's best pitcher." After Santana won another Cy Young last year, a reporter for The Sporting News declared that Santana "is so much better than any pitcher in the A.L. you can write his name on the award for the next five years."

    In a statistics-obsessed sport, Santana's numbers best those of any other left-hander in 50 years—better than Koufax, Carlton, or Vida Blue. Aaron Gleeman, who runs a respected sabermetrics website, puts it in perspective in an email: "Santana has a .706 career winning percentage. That leads all active pitchers (ahead of Pedro Martinez) and ranks second in baseball history behind only Spud Chandler (who pitched for the Yankees 60 years ago)."

    Even Santana's rivals speak admiringly of his arm. C.C. Sabathia, the Cleveland Indians star pitcher—and one of Santana's competitors for the Cy Young award this year—isn't afraid to bow down. "He's the top," Sabathia says. Present company excluded? "No, he's better," Sabathia confesses, a rare moment of real humility from a professional athlete.

    That's heady praise for a player who five years ago was an unknown commodity. Raised in a remote town in the Andes Mountains, Santana was plucked from obscurity. But through what Twins general manager Terry Ryan calls "coachability," Santana transformed himself into one of baseball's best pitchers.

    Teammates and fans call him "Yo-Yo," not only a play on his first name, but also an apt description of his pitching arsenal: Sometimes it seems as if he has the ball on a string, manipulating its flight long after it has left his hand. He's unhittable because he's unknowable, and that's just the way he likes it.

    There was a great bit on Baseball Prospectus the other day, Johan Santana (Joe Sheehan)
    Earlier Monday, there was a box in the upper right of the MLB page with a picture of Johan Santana and the following copy: “…Santana picked up his fifth loss of the season…Sunday. Can he turn things around like he has in years past?”

    The point, expanded upon in Diamond Daily in a Web companion to “Baseball Tonight,” made it seem as if Santana was struggling like his fellow Venezuelan on the North Side of Chicago. While Santana has a win-loss record of 6-5, a look at virtually any other number is in stat line shows quite clearly that he doesn’t have anything to turn around. Santana’s ERA of 3.30 is 13th in the AL, he leads the league in strikeouts and he is in the top ten in a number of categories. Santana is fifth in the AL in VORP for pitchers, ninth in SNLVAR. Hell, if you’re so into wins and losses, notice that he’s fifth in the league in wins.

    Johan Santana isn’t struggling by any rational, reasonable standard. He isn’t struggling by most irrational standards. He’s been one of the seven or eight best starters in the league, the ace of his team’s rotation. He’s yet to be removed in the middle of an inning. He’s yet to allow a stolen base. Those five “losses”? He averaged 6 2/3 innings with an ERA of 4.09 and a K/BB of 38/9. That’s in his losses. Santana’s flyball rate is up this year, and his home-run rate with it, which is the primary reason why his ERA is 3.30 and not much lower. That’s the only nick in his record, and it’s left him as “only” one of the top pitchers in the league.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:38 PM


    Sudan's legendary Islamist takes a moderate view: Hassan al-Turabi invited Osama bin Laden to stay in Sudan in the 1990s. Now he pushes for reform. (Scott Baldauf, 6/13/07, The Christian Science Monitor)

    [I]magine the shock many Sudanese felt when the nation's top Islamic scholar, Hassan al-Turabi, publicly stated in 2006 that Muslim women didn't need to cover their hair with a veil. Or when he advocated the use of traditional music and dance for Islamic worship. Or when he encouraged the people of Darfur to oppose the government of President Omar al-Bashir. [...]

    "[Turabi's] one of the most influential men in Sudan today," says Khalid al-Tijani, editor of the independent Khartoum weekly newspaper, Elaff. "He is also a religious leader, with so many ideas about the role of women, about democracy, and so he has influence outside Sudan as well. He's one of the great thinkers of Islam today."

    Mr. Baldauf regains his footing after opening by inanely comparing al-Turabi to Jerry Falwell.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:05 PM


    Reagan's famous line nearly clipped from Berlin speech (Robert Stacy McCain, 6/11/07, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

    [T]he speech's most famous phrase nearly didn't make it into the final draft.

    [Peter] Robinson, then a 31-year-old in his first full-time job, had been inspired by an earlier visit to West Berlin. There, he met with a group of residents, including Ingeborg Elz, who spoke bitterly of Mr. Gorbachev's promises of "glasnost," or openness, and "perestroika," or reform.

    "If this man Gorbachev is serious with his talk of glasnost and perestroika, he can prove it," Mrs. Elz told Mr. Robinson. "He can get rid of this wall."

    As he recalled in his 2003 book, "How Ronald Reagan Changed My Life," Mr. Robinson decided to include that demand in the Berlin speech Mr. Reagan was due to deliver in June. The president liked the idea. The State Department and the NSC, however, disapproved.

    Among those who urged Mr. Robinson to omit "tear down this wall" from the speech were Secretary of State George Schultz, White House Chief of Staff Howard Baker, and Colin L. Powell, who was deputy national security adviser at the time.

    Realists prefer the security of walls to the more onerous chore of dealing with free peoples.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:15 PM


    Europe’s Christian Comeback: Alarmist pundits prophesize that a secular Europe risks being overcome by its fast-growing Muslim population. Yet for all we hear about Islam, Europe remains a stronger Christian fortress than people realize. (Philip Jenkins, June 2007, Foreign Policy)

    [T]he rapid decline in the continent’s church attendance over the past 40 years may have done Europe a favor. It has freed churches of trying to operate as national entities that attempt to serve all members of society. Today, no church stands a realistic chance of incorporating everyone. Smaller, more focused bodies, however, can be more passionate, enthusiastic, and rigorously committed to personal holiness. To use a scientific analogy, when a star collapses, it becomes a white dwarf—smaller in size than it once was, but burning much more intensely. Across Europe, white-dwarf faith communities are growing within the remnants of the old mass church.

    Perhaps nowhere is this more true than within European Catholicism, where new religious currents have become a potent force. Examples include movements such as the Focolare, the Emmanuel Community, and the Neocatechumenate Way, all of which are committed to a re-evangelization of Europe. These movements use charismatic styles of worship and devotion that would seem more at home in an American Pentecostal church, but at the same time they are thoroughly Catholic. Though most of these movements originated in Spain and Italy, they have subsequently spread throughout Europe and across the Catholic world. Their influence over the younger clergy and lay leaders who will shape the church in the next generation is surprisingly strong.

    Similar trends are at work within the Protestant churches of Northern and Western Europe. The most active sections of the Church of England today are the evangelical and charismatic parishes that have, in effect, become megachurches in their own right. [...]

    Alongside these older Christian communities are hugely energetic immigrant congregations. [...]

    Ironically, after centuries of rebelling against religious authority, the coming of Islam is also reviving political issues most thought extinct in Europe, including debates about the limits of freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and the right to proselytize. And in all these areas, controversies that originate in a Muslim context inexorably expand or limit the rights of Christians, too. If Muslim preachers who denounce gays must be silenced, then so must charismatic Christians. At the same time, any laws that limit blasphemous assaults on the image of Mohammed must take account of the sensibilities of those who venerate Jesus.

    The result has been a rediscovery of the continent’s Christian roots, even among those who have long disregarded it, and a renewed sense of European cultural Christianity. Jürgen Habermas, a veteran leftist German philosopher stunned his admirers not long ago by proclaiming, “Christianity, and nothing else, is the ultimate foundation of liberty, conscience, human rights, and democracy, the benchmarks of Western civilization. To this day, we have no other options [than Christianity]. We continue to nourish ourselves from this source. Everything else is postmodern chatter.” Europe may be confronting the dilemmas of a truly multifaith society, but with Christianity poised for a comeback, it is hardly on the verge of becoming an Islamic colony.

    It's an interesting possibility, that the disestablishment that the Founders baked into our Republic may have occured accidentally--and obviously later--in Europe, largely as a function of the damage that being a mammoth state institution caused. Certainly Pope Benedict, who appreciates the genius of the Founding as no other Holy Father before him, believes that these mustard seeds will thrive.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:48 PM


    One-Fifth of an American: How much is an immigrant's life worth, exactly? (Steven E. Landsburg, June 12, 2007, Slate)

    How do you justify a border fence? Why is it OK to consign millions of unskilled Mexicans to lives of desperate poverty? I'm told it's because Americans should care more about their countrymen than about a bunch of foreigners. OK, but how much more? Surely there's some limit; virtually nobody thinks, for example, that Americans should be allowed to hunt Mexicans for sport. So, exactly how much are you willing to hurt a foreigner to help an American? Is a foreigner's well-being worth three-quarters as much as an American's, or half as much, or one-quarter as much? [...]

    Let's do the math: When we admit an unskilled Mexican immigrant, his wage typically rises from about $2 an hour to $9 an hour—call it a $7-per-hour gain. To justify keeping him out, we'll have to weigh that gain against the harm he does to Americans.

    Right away, our calculation runs into a problem, because on balance immigrants don't harm Americans; virtually all economists agree that immigration makes us richer, not poorer. Every immigrant is a potential trading partner, a potential employee, and a potential customer. He bids down wages, but that's a two-edged sword: It's bad for his fellow workers, but it's good for employers and good for consumers.

    In the very short run, most of the gains go to employers, and a substantial fraction of those gains probably go to people named Walton. In the somewhat longer run, all that excess profit gets competed away and shows up in the form of lower prices for consumer goods. At that point, even the workers who took pay cuts can come out ahead: If your wage falls by 10 percent while prices fall by 20 percent, you're a winner.

    But let's ignore all that.

    It's entertaining the way anti-immigration libertarians have to ignore their own economics -- admirably laid out here -- in order to justify their positions. However, they're certainly right to feel that their libertinism threatened by the prospect of 100 million new citizens of faith.

    A Brief History of Economic Time (STEVEN LANDSBURG, June 9, 2007, Wall Street Journal)

    Modern humans first emerged about 100,000 years ago. For the next 99,800 years or so, nothing happened. Well, not quite nothing. There were wars, political intrigue, the invention of agriculture -- but none of that stuff had much effect on the quality of people's lives. Almost everyone lived on the modern equivalent of $400 to $600 a year, just above the subsistence level. True, there were always tiny aristocracies who lived far better, but numerically they were quite insignificant.

    Then -- just a couple of hundred years ago, maybe 10 generations -- people started getting richer. And richer and richer still. Per capita income, at least in the West, began to grow at the unprecedented rate of about three quarters of a percent per year. A couple of decades later, the same thing was happening around the world.

    Then it got even better. By the 20th century, per capita real incomes, that is, incomes adjusted for inflation, were growing at 1.5% per year, on average, and for the past half century they've been growing at about 2.3%. If you're earning a modest middle-class income of $50,000 a year, and if you expect your children, 25 years from now, to occupy that same modest rung on the economic ladder, then with a 2.3% growth rate, they'll be earning the inflation-adjusted equivalent of $89,000 a year. Their children, another 25 years down the line, will earn $158,000 a year.

    Against a backdrop like that, the temporary ups and downs of the business cycle seem fantastically minor. In the 1930s, we had a Great Depression, when income levels fell back to where they had been 20 years earlier. For a few years, people had to live the way their parents had always lived, and they found it almost intolerable. The underlying expectation -- that the present is supposed to be better than the past -- is a new phenomenon in history. No 18th-century politician would have asked "Are you better off than you were four years ago?" because it never would have occurred to anyone that they ought to be better off than they were four years ago.

    Rising income is only part of the story. One hundred years ago the average American workweek was over 60 hours; today it's under 35. One hundred years ago 6% of manufacturing workers took vacations; today it's over 90%. One hundred years ago the average housekeeper spent 12 hours a day on laundry, cooking, cleaning and sewing; today it's about three hours.

    As far as the quality of the goods we buy, try picking up an electronics catalogue from, oh, say, 2001 and ask yourself whether there's anything there you'd want to buy.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:53 PM


    Planned Parenthood: On closer inspection, China's draconian population policy is surprisingly familiar: a review of Governing China's Population: From Leninist to Neoliberal Biopolitics by Susan Greenhalgh and Edwin A. Winckler and China's Longest Campaign: Birth Planning in the People's Republic, 1949-2005 by Tyrene White (Ross Douthat, June 2007, Books & Culture)

    Spend an afternoon leafing through The Black Book of Communism, the most exhaustive accounting of death-by-Marxism to date, and you'll encounter nearly every Communist crime known to history—not only the main events, the gulags and famines and killing fields, but lesser atrocities like the NKVD's terror campaign in 1930s Spain and the depredations of Ethiopia's Mengistu regime. What you won't find, though, is more than a passing mention of one of the most recent Communist assaults on human dignity and human life: China's decades-long campaign to bring its rate of population growth to heel, whatever the human cost.

    Near the end of Governing China's Population: From Leninist to Neoliberal Biopolitics—one of two new academic histories of population control under the Middle Kingdom's Marxist Dynasty—Susan Greenhalgh and Edwin A. Winckler note the omission of China's one-child policy from the usual litany of Communism's crimes, and wonder about the reason for it. Perhaps, they suggest, there just wasn't enough killing involved—abortions aside, of course. Unlike the Great Leap Forward, say, "whose trauma can be measured in lives lost," the human suffering associated with coercive population control is hard to quantify. You can count corpses, but how do you tally up "the trauma experienced by millions of peasants being coercively sterilized as though they were 'pigs being spayed?'"

    This seems like a reasonable answer, but both the Greenhalgh-Winckler study and Tyrene White's China's Longest Campaign: Birth Planning in the People's Republic, 1949-2005 hint at another, more troubling explanation as well. However horrifying forced abortions and compulsory sterilization may be to the sensitivities of the liberal West, such policies aren't as intimately connected to Communist ideology as was, say, the ruinous collectivization of agriculture under Mao and Stalin, or the mass murder of supposed bourgeois sympathizers under Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge. The one-child campaign's means were totalitarian, certainly, but they weren't designed to midwife a Marxist utopia; instead, the campaign took its cues from a characteristically Western idea of progress, in which rising standards of living are the only proper benchmarks of a society's success. Whereas other Communist crimes were committed in the hopes of burying the West, Beijing embarked on its brutal one-child campaign in the hopes of emulating us.

    The most troubling explanation is that even most anti-Communists just aren't much bothered by these murders and so don't count them.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:39 PM


    Federal Deficit Sharply Lower (Martin Crutsinger, 6/12/07, AP)

    The federal deficit is running sharply lower through the first eight months of this budget year as growth in revenues continues to outpace the growth in spending.

    The Treasury Department said that the deficit through May totaled $148.5 billion, down 34.6 percent from the same period a year ago. [...]

    Revenue gains are up 8 percent while outlays are up at a slower pace of 2.5 percent, compared to the same period a year ago. Growth in spending has been slower this year in part because of the absence of last year's huge outlays for hurricane relief.

    The increase in revenues has been supported by continued strength in corporate profits and low unemployment, which has helped to push individual income taxes higher.

    Better cut taxes before the deficit gets dangerously low again. The global economy depends on our debt.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:00 PM


    Approval of Congress lowest in a decade
    : Only about a quarter of Americans approve of how it's doing its job, a poll shows; most see 'business as usual. (Noam N. Levey, June 12, 2007, LA Times)

    Fueled by disappointment at the pace of change since Democrats assumed the majority on Capitol Hill, public approval of Congress has fallen to its lowest level in more than a decade, according to a new Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll.

    Just 27% of Americans now approve of the way Congress is doing its job, the poll found, down from 36% in January, when Democrats assumed control of the House and the Senate. [...]

    House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco), the first woman to hold that position, has also failed to impress many Americans. Only 36% approve of the way she is handling the job, the poll found.

    Maverick won't have much trouble bringing a new congressional majority in with him, at least in the House.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:54 PM


    11 GOP senators write Bush (Ken Strickland, 6/12/07, First Thing: NBC)

    Georgia Sens. Johnny Isakson and Saxby Chambliss are asking the president to send Congress an emergency supplemental spending bill to fund border security. They write that "the message from a majority of Georgians is that they have no trust that the United States Government will enforce the laws contained in this new legislation and secure the border first." They say the Administration's "lack of credibility" gives merit to skeptics.

    Another letter signed by nine GOP senators, including some vocal opponents of the comprehensive plan, calls on Bush to enforce existing border security laws "regardless of whether the Senate passes the immigration reform bill." Describing border security as "vital," the group says it's "the best way to restore trust with the American people and facilitate future improvements of our immigration policy."

    That letter is signed by Sens. DeMint, Coburn, Enzi, Vitter, Inhofe, Bunning, Grassley, Ensign, and Sessions. Combined with the letter from Isakson and Chambliss, the "border security-first" opinion of represents more than 20% of the Senate GOP caucus.

    Even the Trojans didn't demand the Horse.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:08 PM


    The Soul Singer in the Shadows: She was Miles Davis' second wife with a killer set of pipes and attitude to spare. For the first time in decades, Betty Davis talks about walking away from the business. (Litsa Dremousis, 5/31/2007, Esquire)

    If you listen for it, it's there. The faint hint of a growl, like a Bengal tiger rising from a nap. "It doesn't matter," she says when asked if she prefers to be called "Betty" or "Ms. Davis" and the voice is unmistakably that of the legendary funk songstress, the woman who roared "I said if I'm in luck/ I just might get picked up" at the start of her self-titled debut, Betty Davis, thirty-four years ago.

    Light in the Attic Records has just re-issued Davis' first two discs, Betty Davis and 1974's They Say I'm Different, Molotov cocktails of sticky sex and unchained rhythmic propulsion. To support the re-releases, she agrees to what is only her seventh interview in the past three decades, conducted by phone from her home in Pittsburgh. She is engaged but reticent, politely and frequently answering questions with the fewest words possible. When asked if her epoch-defining years sometimes feel as if they happened to someone else, her reply is a single snare drum kick with zero elaboration: "Yes." [...]

    She was the twenty-three years old when she became Miles Davis' second wife and part-time muse, introducing the iconic trumpeter and composer to her close friends, Jimi Hendrix and Sly Stone. Betty wasn't merely arm candy, however -- she was a musician in her own right, a fact that likely added to the mercurial nature of her marriage to Miles, which ended after a year. "The focus on my personal makes me a bit uncomfortable sometimes," Davis says. "It doesn't really matter to me in that degree." Which is fitting for a woman who wrote and arranged all her songs and turned down collaborating with Eric Clapton, reportedly because she found his work too staid. [...]

    Today, Davis is lauded as a visionary, albeit one few people under the age of thirty can remember by name. Her legacy lives on. Ice Cube, Talib Kweil, and Ludacris have sampled her tracks and Lenny Kravitz and Skin just covered "Anti-Love Song" off Betty Davis.

    Here's her own version:

    Betty Davis

    Download "Anti Love Song" (mp3)
    from "Betty Davis"
    by Betty Davis
    Light In The Attic

    More On This Album

    Betty Davis Is Back, Thanks to Seattle's Light in the Attic: Reviving the records of the long-lost soul diva may be the label's most artful move. (Brian J Barr, 5/02/07, Seattle Weekly)

    She's onstage wearing a negligee. Silver, dangly jewelry sparkles on her wrists and rests over the slope of her clavicle. Her long, mocha legs are wrapped tight in seductive hosiery. These legs are truly a sight: strong and lean and sultry. They burn. Their length is accentuated by a pair of ridiculously high-heeled, space-age go-go boots. To top it all off, her hair is poofed out in an afro the size of a small planet.

    Men can't take their eyes off of her; she reminds them of their insignificance. Women can't either; she floods them with confidence. She's strutting about the stage, pirouetting and spreading those legs so far apart, you think she'll split in two. Splash her with water, and steam would no doubt rise up.

    Then she sings: "I said if I'm in luck/I just might get picked up!" She's not pleading for a date. No, this lyric is a challenge: Who'll be man enough to take her home? The all-male band behind her is funky—pure psychedelic soul funk—and Betty, always the entertainer, has made them appear shirtless and oiled onstage. Smoking as they are, however, they just fade into the background. That wild woman dancing around is stealing the show.

    "I said I'm crazy/I'm wild!"

    No kidding.

    That was Betty Davis in 1974, onstage at New York City's Bottom Line. She was the embodiment of funk music and a true sex symbol, the forerunner to Madonna, Joi, Erykah Badu, Lauryn Hill, and Macy Gray. The list goes on to include the less obvious, such as electro shockstar Peaches and Jennifer Herrema of Royal Trux. She has also been sampled by the likes of Ice Cube and Talib Kweli.

    "Betty Davis is the funk," says poet and rapper Saul Williams.

    Embraceable You: Funk's first feminist Betty Davis resurfaces. (Dan Nishimoto, 18 May 2007, Pop Matters)
    In 1973, Betty made contact with Just Sunshine, an upstart label based in the Bay Area, and secured resources to record an album. In spite of the fact that she was not a professional musician in the conventional sense (she had only studied music through her peers and had a couple recording sessions under her belt), she convinced her then paramour Michael Carabello to reach out to the Bay’s finest to assemble a band for her debut. Carabello acquiesced production duties to his friend and Sly and the Family Stone drummer Greg Errico, who assembled the group. The result snowballed into a who’s who of international-level stars. Errico already had an ongoing jam session with former band-mate and Graham Central Station leader Larry Graham and Santana and future Journey guitarist Neal Schon, so the three formed the core of Betty’s band. Asking around further, Errico (a novice producer, mind you) secured a “mind-bottling” support cast, including keyboardist Merl Saunders, the Tower of Power horn section, the Pointer Sisters, and Sylvester. Though the personnel vary from track to track, Davis holds the album together with a peerless performance.

    Betty Davis’ self-titled debut is funk like no other. Its closest musical relation is Sly Stone’s early ‘70s molasses—deliberate, moist, and bizarre in substance—but where he often buries his voice within the arrangement, Betty kicks the mic stand over and demands your attention. Though her vocal technique is admittedly lacking (in the words of Graham Central Station member and album back-up vocalist Patrice Banks, “She couldn’t sing"), she carries the album in two ways. The first is through sheer performance. As her band rumbles and thumps out funk-rawk, she coos lines like, “I know you could have me climbin’ walls / So, that’s why I don’t want to love you” on the anthemic “Anti-Love Song.” On the Graham Central Station-style slapper “Come Take Me,” she channels throatzilla and rip-roars over the track. Seemingly raw and spontaneous, Betty’s ownership of the material reveal her to be calculating and confident. This leadership makes the music, as the band alone would only appeal to musicians and appreciators of genre-busting jams; with Betty, the music becomes a slow cooker of unbridled lust that teases and passes each beat, and flicks and licks each chord.

    As if this isn’t enough, Betty takes the music over the top with her explosively unapologetic songs. Titles like “Your Man, My Man” and “You Won’t See Me in the Morning” lack subtlety about subject matter, but swagger with a confidence and bravado previously exclusive to men. Betty frequently reverses gender roles and expectations to demonstrate control and strength that could even knock Tura Satana off her feet. In this sense, “If I’m In Luck I Might Get Picked Up” and “Game is My Middle Name” unconsciously seize the spirit of second wave feminism by equalizing depictions of an independent woman.

    Betty wasted no time and followed up her debut with the aptly titled They Say I’m Different the following year. The album is equally noteworthy for her increased command as she took over the producer’s reins. In a bold move, she assembles a completely new band of unknown musicians; a handful of stars still stop by to assist, including Buddy Miles on guitar and Headhunters drummer Mike Clark, but their roles are mostly cameos. The new group reproduces the first album’s sound competently, albeit with more of a blues turn. However, the band is once again the backdrop to Betty’s writing, which becomes more personal. In a rare glimpse of her non-stage personality, Betty embraces her upbringing on the autobiographical title track, and pays homage to her heroes ("Leadbelly, Sonny Terry, Brownie McGhee, Son House… and Bessie Smith!") to make sense of her identity. She also displays a growing ability to connect her struggles with those of her peers, artistic and otherwise, such as her defense of a prostitute’s dignity on “Don’t Call Her No Tramp”—“You can call her… an elegant hustler, but don’t you call her no tramp.” Betty still exhibits little subtlety or restraint, as “Shoo-B-Doop and Cop Him” continues the first album’s outlandish sexual antics, and “He Was a Big Freak” describes Jimi Hendrix’ purported fascination with sadomasochism ("I used to get him off with a turquoise chain!"). However, her sophomore release demonstrates her songwriting versatility and extends the promise of her debut.

    -REVIEW: Betty Davis: Betty Davis (John Ballon, All About Jazz)
    While their marriage only lasted a year (1968-1969), Betty's impact on the immortal jazz trumpeter was tremendous. Her cutting-edge musical tastes and incomparable sense of style were too much for Miles to resist. A self-righteous 23-year old model, Betty conquered the man twice her age with a potent mixture of youth, beauty, and sex. Within a year, she had completely remade Miles in her own youthful image. As she poured herself into him, his playing grew younger, his outlook fresh. She ripped through his closets, tossing out the elegant suits he had worn for years. This was the late '60s, revolution was in the air, and suits were the uniforms of the Establishment. The time had come to get hip, and Betty pointed the way, introducing Miles to the musical and material gods of revolutionary style: Jimi Hendrix and Sly Stone.

    Anyone with half a grip on the past knows that Miles expereiced far more than a wardrobe makeover during his tumultuous Betty year. Deeply influenced by the cosmic rock guitar of Hendrix and the experimental funk of Sly Stone, Miles turned mad genius and unleashed the electrified musical Frankenstein known as Bitches Brew. This monster he created would sadly run amok as fusion lost its soul and became an F word. But for a brief moment during these still glowing days of late '60s Eden, Betty ruled as the mentor-muse for the original man and his music. There are even rumors about an unreleased album of songs that Betty wrote and recorded with Miles and his band.

    Betty was fire, and while Miles welcomed the sparks, he knew better than to stay too close for too long. In his autobiography he wrote: “Betty was too young and wild for the things I expected from a woman...Betty was a free spirit, she was raunchy and all that kind of shit.” Rumor holds that Miles broke things off because he suspected that his wife was tangled up in a torrid affair with Jimi Hendrix, an infidelity that she has flatly denied to this day. Miles self-preserved, giving up his good thing in the end.

    It might have been enough if the story ended there, but it certainly did not. As Betty's lyrics attest, she was not a tragic woman beholden to any man. This was a woman with the strength of a Black Panther, a woman in total control, a predatory feline fully aware of the power that her beauty and sexuality gave her over men. On her self-titled 1973 debut album, she declares war on love in her raunchy funk masterpiece, “Anti Love Song.” In sharp lines probably directed at her ex-husband, she sings: “No I don't want to love you / 'Cause I know how you are / Sure you say you're right on and you're righteous / But with me I know you'd be right off / Cause you know I could posess your body / You know I could make you crawl / And just as hard as I'd fall for you, boy / You know you'd fall for me harder / That's why I don't want to love you.” Belted out in a ferocious over the top style, “Anti Love Song” is the classic bad girl anthem.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:42 AM


    A Mexican Revolution (Mary O'Grady, 6/12/07, Hacer)

    Mexican tycoon Carlos Slim recently moved up to second place from third on the list of the world's wealthiest individuals. With Bill Gates giving away so much of what he has earned, it is now likely that Mr. Slim -- the owner of Telefonos de Mexico -- will one day advance to first place.

    Yet no matter how good his numbers look, there will always be an asterisk next to the Slim name in the record books. I call it the Barry Bonds problem. Even if Mr. Bonds breaks Hank Aaron's home-run record, he will never be regarded as an equal to Mr. Aaron because most baseball fans don't think he competed on a level playing field. Mr. Slim faces a similar legacy problem when compared with creative entrepreneurs like Mr. Gates. The software billionaire made his fortune as an innovator who added value to his customers' lives. Mr. Slim got rich largely by maximizing his opportunities in an environment where he enjoyed monopoly privileges, snowballing wealth and a commensurate amount of political influence.

    Mr. Slim is only the most famous of the Mexicans who have made a killing by way of monopoly privilege.

    Which makes him identical to Bill Gates.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:39 AM


    AL-QAIDA VERSUS THE ISLAMIC ARMY: Insurgents in Iraq Turn on Each Other: The Sunni insurgency in Iraq is splitting, with loyalists to the old Baathist regime now fighting al-Qaida-backed Islamists. Could it be a turning point in the country's civil war? (Bernhard Zand, 6/12/07, Der Spiegel)

    There are two very different opinions about what happened. "One of our men was going around in the city painting over enemy graffiti," is the al-Qaida version of events. "The Islamic Army shot him and that started the battle."

    The Islamic Army tells a different story. "We went to the Maluki mosque to take al-Qaida to task," they say. "It is no longer acceptable what these people are doing to our Sunni neighborhoods: They're ghost towns where nobody can live. That's why it came to a fight."

    The battle in Amiriyah, currently Baghdad's most dangerous district, lasted two days. Afterwards, the dead littered the streets and even the last inhabitants of the Maluki mosque had fled. No one counted the actual number of casualties, since the Iraqi police, army and US military no longer come to this part of Amiriyah. Here terror, insurgency, murder and violence are left to fester undisturbed.

    Still, the carnage in Amiriyah is a cause of hope for some. Until recently, the Iraqi branch of the global terrorist network al-Qaida had good ties to the Islamic Army, a homegrown radical Sunni outfit taking part in the country's insurgency. The two groups used to congratulate each other on their respective Web sites whenever they managed to blow up a US Humvee or a group of Iraqi police recruits.

    But that has all changed. Now the two sides are locked in a bitter battle in the cities and villages of Iraq's so-called Sunni Triangle west of Baghdad. Instead of offering mutual congratulations, they use the Internet as a platform to condemn each other over the battle for the Maluki mosque.

    Al-Qaida now calls the members of the Islamic Army "dogs," while they in return warn the al-Qaida leadership to prepare for Qiyamah -- the Last Judgment -- and the wrath of Allah.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:32 AM


    REFEREE KNOCKED OUT IN MASS BRAWL: Local Football Match Ends in Hospital (Der Spiegel , 6/12/07)

    In the 85th minute, with Mahndorf leading 3-1, two opposing players had an altercation on the pitch and the referee sent both of them off with red cards, Bremen police said.

    Once they had got to the sideline they started fighting again, with the Mardin player punching his opponent in the face. The referee saw what had happened, ran over and told them he would be making a note of the incident.

    At this point the Mardin coach, 30, stormed on the pitch and knocked the red card and notebook out of the referee's hand.

    "In the ensuing tumult the 37-year-old referee was punched in the face and fell to the ground. While he was lying on the floor he was kicked in the neck several times, with the coach apparently taking part in the kicking," the police said.

    The coach was hauled away by his own players and broke his shoulder in the process. He had to be taken to hospital.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:32 AM


    DIPLOMATIC OFFENSIVE AGAINST A WARSAW VETO: Poland Blocking New EU Treaty (der Spiegel, 6/12/07)

    The twin Polish leaders, President Lech and Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski, are threatening to use Warsaw's veto unless other EU leaders agree to discuss their proposals for a new voting system within the 27-member bloc. [...]

    Poland is opposed to the new qualified majority voting system, arguing that it favors big countries like Germany. The system calls for a double majority representing at least 55 percent of the EU member states and at least 65 percent of the EU population. Even though the system gives Poland relatively generous voting rights -- 27 votes compared to Germany's 29 -- it would rather see votes calculated based on a country's inhabitants in relation to its surface area, the so-called "square root system." Prime Minister Kaczynski has even said it is a system "worth dying for."

    In Berlin and other European capitals there is increased resentment about this obstinacy. And there are now growing suspicions among EU officials that the Poles could be deliberately blocking a solution to the treaty problems under Germany's leadership.

    Haven't The Federalist Papers been translated into Euro?

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:13 AM


    ‘Momblocked’ mothers feel edged out by dads: Caregivers can clash when stay-at-home fathers step up their game (Victoria Clayton, June 11, 2007, MSNBC)

    Two months after giving birth to her daughter, Jen McClure-Metz received a phenomenal job offer. If she wanted to become a producer on a hit television show, she’d have to start in a month.

    McClure-Metz and her husband talked it over and made the same decision many families are making: Dad would stay home full time and take care of their daughter.

    “While I never thought that I would end up staying home with Sarah, I knew that I was fully capable of doing so,” says Brian Metz, McClure-Metz’s husband.

    But almost four years into it, McClure-Metz began to feel her husband was maybe too capable. He had become more competent and assertive in the child-care arena and it showed in small ways. Metz took over when his wife struggled with the car seat, or put the kibosh on plans when he thought their daughter needed down time.

    “Basically, he was the parent in charge and I often felt trumped,” says McClure-Metz.

    More and more dads like Metz have become so confident in taking care of the kids that moms can feel edged out, or "momblocked."

    What guy hasn't figured out that the key to comity in a marriage is that she's always right?

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:05 AM


    Upward Trajectory (EDWARD GLAESER, June 12, 2007, NY Sun)

    Mayor Bloomberg is making a spectacular exit from office, spending his well-earned political capital to give the city a much-needed congestion charge. Mayor Giuliani's ended his term as gloriously "America's Mayor" shepherding his city, and his country, through the horrors of 9/11. New York's mayors didn't always leave office so well.

    Seventy-five years ago, Mayor Walker resigned and fled to Europe to avoid removal and possible criminal investigation because of his penchant for accepting large gifts. In 1950, Mayor O'Dwyer resigned to become Ambassador to Mexico in the midst of a police corruption scandal. In the 1970s, Mayors Lindsay and Beame left office with little glory, as their free spending created financial chaos.

    The evolution of New York's mayors from Walker to Lindsay to Bloomberg represents an upward trajectory, where honesty replaced corruption and competence replaced ideology. Many forces drove New York to elect better mayors, but the most important factor was that the mobility of firms and people made the costs of bad government painfully obvious.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:21 AM


    Time for Pete Seeger To Repent (RON RADOSH, June 12, 2007, NY Sun)

    The film's most egregious moment comes when it tells us that Mr. Seeger joined the Communist Party in 1939, and drifted out of it a decade later. It relates how in 1941 he joined the first folk music group, the Almanac Singers, which sang for the labor movement and the CIO. Next the film mentions that Mr. Seeger entered the Army during World War II, another sign of his patriotism.

    Nowhere does this documentary describe the Almanac Singers' very first album, "Songs for John Doe." As readers of this newspaper know, in August 1939 Hitler and Stalin signed a pact and became allies. Overnight the communists took a 180-degree turn and became advocates of peace, arguing that Nazi Germany, which the USSR had opposed before 1939, was a benign power, and that the only threat to the world came from imperial Britain and FDR's America, which was on the verge of fascism. Those who wanted to intervene against Hitler were servants of Republic Steel and the oil cartels.

    In the "John Doe" album, Mr. Seeger accused FDR of being a warmongering fascist working for J.P. Morgan. He sang, "I hate war, and so does Eleanor, and we won't be safe till everybody's dead." Another song, to the tune of "Cripple Creek" and the sound of Mr. Seeger's galloping banjo, said, "Franklin D., Franklin D., You ain't a-gonna send us across the sea," and "Wendell Willkie and Franklin D., both agree on killing me."

    The film does not tell us what happened in 1941, when — two months after "John Doe" was released — Hitler broke his pact with Stalin and invaded the Soviet Union. As good communists, Mr. Seeger and his Almanac comrades withdrew the album from circulation, and asked those who had bought copies to return them. A little later, the Almanacs released a new album, with Mr. Seeger singing "Dear Mr. President," in which he acknowledges they didn't always agree in the past, but now says he is going to "turn in his banjo for something that makes more noise," i.e., a machine gun. As he says in the film, we had to put aside causes like unionism and civil rights to unite against Hitler.

    For years, Mr. Seeger used to sing a song with a Yiddish group called "Hey Zhankoye," which helped spread the fiction that Stalin's USSR freed the Russian Jews by establishing Jewish collective farms in the Crimea. Singing such a song at the same time as Stalin was planning the obliteration of Soviet Jewry was disgraceful. It is now decades later. Why doesn't Mr. Seeger talk about this and offer an apology?

    According to the film, one of Mr. Seeger's greatest accomplishments was his tour with third-party Presidential candidate Henry A. Wallace in 1948. Viewers are told only that Wallace was a peace candidate opposed to the America-created Cold War, and that he was falsely accused of being a communist. Nowhere do we learn that Wallace's campaign was in fact a Communist Party-run affair, and that had he been elected, Wallace announced he was going to appoint men to his Cabinet who we now know were bona fide Soviet agents. Instead, we are asked to assume that every position taken by the old pro-Soviet left wing has been proved correct.

    A few good tunes for nursery school kids don't make up for being an agent of a murderous enemy power.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:36 AM


    Fish-eating men face increased stroke risk (The Local, 12th June 2007)

    Men who consume large quantities of fish run an increased risk of stroke, a new study has found.

    The team of Swedish researchers behind the study were surprised by the results, which have just been published in the British Journal of Nutrition.

    Fish are sport, not food.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:57 AM


    Bush touts freedom as he ends European trip: President aims to fight terrorism with "freedom agenda" (Chicago Tribune, 6/12/07)

    Facing waves of those who adore him and those who spurn him, President Bush has completed a weeklong trek across Eastern Europe with a nod to allies in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, casting those conflicts as part of a global quest for freedom.

    From the Balkans to the Baltic states over the last few years, Bush has pressed an argument for liberty as the antidote to terrorism, articulating a "freedom agenda" for the U.S. and its allies. And as he passed through Prague in the Czech Republic during this trip, meeting with dissidents from around the world, Bush depicted himself as the "dissident president.

    "We share values, and we believe in freedom," Bush said Monday, standing alongside Bulgarian President Georgi Parvanov in a nation that held its first democratic elections in 1991. "We have accepted our obligations to defend society from extremists and terrorists — and it's hard work," he said.

    A Reaganesque trip, but as the Gipper's final big one was to deliver such a message in Moscow, so ought W's last one be to states not yet fully Reformed.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:51 AM


    Immigration Political Dynamics (Bruce Bartlett, 6/12/07, Real Clear Politics)

    The immigration bill may be dead for now, but the political forces behind it have not gone away. Those will continue to impact both major political parties for many years to come.

    The basic force is that Hispanics are increasing as a share of the population. According to the latest data from the Census Bureau, there were 44.3 million Hispanics in the United States as of July 1, 2006, constituting 14.8 percent of the population. And they are the fastest-growing ethnic group, accounting for about half the growth of population during the previous year -- 1.4 million out of a total increase of 2.9 million.

    It is extremely unlikely that the number of Hispanics or their percentage of the population will decline anytime in the near future. Even if the 12 million illegals among them are not granted amnesty, the likelihood of mass deportation is virtually nonexistent. Like it or not, they are here to stay -- and all we are really negotiating is the terms.

    Once one accepts that this country will have a large and expanding Hispanic population for many years to come, one has to consider the political implications.

    Let's go out on a limb and assume that treating them like enemies isn't an effective political strategy.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


    The Pope and I: A Debate With Jesus Is Joined By Benedict XVI (Jacob Neusner, Jun 01, 2007, The Forward)

    I made up an imaginary conversation with Jesus and wound up debating the real-life Bishop of Rome, the pope.

    In my 1993 book “A Rabbi Talks With Jesus,” I imagined being present at the Sermon on the Mount, when Jesus taught Torah like Moses on Sinai. I explained why, for good and substantial reasons based in the Torah, I would not have followed Jesus but would have remained true to God’s teaching to Moses. Much to my surprise, Pope Benedict XVI, in his new book “Jesus of Nazareth,” devotes much of his chapter on the Sermon on the Mount to discussing my book.

    “More than other interpretations known to me, this respectful and frank dispute between a believing Jew and Jesus, the son of Abraham, has opened my eyes to the greatness of Jesus’ words and to the choice that the gospel places before us,” the pope writes.

    I certainly didn’t envision this sort of a reception when I began writing “A Rabbi Talks With Jesus.” I wrote that book to shed some light on why, while Christians believe in Jesus Christ and the good news of his rule in the kingdom of Heaven, Jews believe in the Torah of Moses and form on earth and in their own flesh God’s kingdom of priests and the holy people. And that belief requires faithful Jews to enter a dissent at the teachings of Jesus, on the grounds that those teachings at important points contradict the Torah.

    Where Jesus diverges from the revelation by God to Moses at Mount Sinai that is the Torah, he is wrong, and Moses is right.

    The idea that Moses knew better than God is a tough one to sell.

    My argument with the pope (Jacob Neusner , 6/11/07, Chiesa)

    For a long time, Jews have praised Jesus as a rabbi, a Jew like us really; but to Christian faith in Jesus Christ, that affirmation is monumentally irrelevant. And for their part, Christians have praised Judaism as the religion from which Jesus came, and to us, that is hardly a vivid compliment.

    We have avoided meeting head-on the points of substantial difference between us, not only in response to the person and claims of Jesus, but especially, in addressing his teachings.

    He claimed to reform and to improve: "You have heard it said... but I say..." We maintain, and I argued in my book, that the Torah was and is perfect and beyond improvement, and the Judaism built upon the Torah and the Prophets and Writings, the originally-oral parts of the Torah written down in the Mishna, Talmud, and Midrash – that Judaism was and remains God's will for humanity.

    By that criterion I propose to set forth a Jewish dissent from some important teachings of Jesus. It is a gesture of respect for Christians and honor for their faith. For we can argue only if we take one another seriously. But we can enter into dialogue only if we honor both ourselves and the other. In my imaginary disputation I treat Jesus with respect, but I also mean to argue with him about things he says.

    What's at stake here? If I succeed in creating a vivid portrait of the dispute, Christians see the choices Jesus made and will find renewal for their faith in Jesus Christ – but also respect Judaism.

    I underscore the choices both Judaism and Christianity confront in the shared Scriptures. Christians will understand Christianity when they acknowledge the choices it has made, and so too Jews, Judaism.

    I mean to explain to Christians why I believe in Judaism, and that ought to help Christians identify the critical convictions that bring them to church every Sunday.

    Jews will strengthen their commitment to the Torah of Moses – but also respect Christianity. I want Jews to understand why Judaism demands assent – "the All-Merciful seeks the heart," "the Torah was given only to purify the human heart." Both Jews and Christians should find in "A Rabbi Talks with Jesus" the reason to affirm, because each party will locate there the very points on which the difference between Judaism and Christianity rests.

    What makes me so certain of that outcome? Because I believe, when each side understands in the same way the issues that divide the two, and both with solid reason affirm their respective truths, then all may love and worship God in peace – knowing that it really is the one and the same God whom together they serve – in difference. So it is a religious book about religious difference: an argument about God.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


    With an agenda of hope, Iraqi media mogul funds the arts: Publisher Fakhri Karim is using his influence and wealth to fuel a cultural revival in Iraq. (Sam Dagher, 6/11/07, The Christian Science Monitor)

    [Fakhri Karim, owner of the Baghdad-based Al-Mada newspaper, a Shiite Kurd] has been using his own money, plus the backing of Messrs. Talabani and Barzani, to change the mood of Iraqis through cultural and educational events to demonstrate that there is still hope despite the daily bloodshed.

    He says that he wants to prove to the current political elite that the polarization of Iraqis – and their embrace of hard-line Islamic movements – is only a temporary self-protection phenomenon following the immense void left in the wake Saddam Hussein's regime.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


    Bad News in Bronx: Red Sox May Be Underachieving (TIM MARCHMAN, June 12, 2007, NY Sun)

    Their leadoff man is hitting .213 with a .278 OBA, their center fielder is hitting .224 with a .281 OBA, and their $70 million right fielder is hitting .244 with four home runs. Their cleanup hitter is tied for 67th in the major leagues in home runs with eight. How did the Red Sox end up with a 9.5 game lead on the Yankees?

    The easy, and as it happens, correct answer is that the Yankees took some hits early in the season, while Boston turned out to have a better pitching staff than anyone had given them credit for. Certainly, Boston pitching has been one of the biggest stories of the season so far — after correcting for park effects, the 3.92 runs a game they're allowing is vastly better than any team in the league. Josh Beckett's long-awaited emergence as a fullblown ace, Hideki Okajima's stunning first two months as a set-up man, and the refusal of Curt Schilling and Tim Wakefield to pitch like 40-year-olds deserve a great deal of credit for Boston's 40-22 record, the best in baseball. Still, something seems amiss when a team can watch a third of its lineup play as badly as Julio Lugo, Coco Crisp, and J.D. Drew and still run up a divisional lead nearly twice as big as any other in the game. Are the Sox due for a crash?

    Unhappily for Yankees fans, probably not. If anything, the Red Sox are probably more likely to play better than they have over the rest of the season than they are to suddenly collapse. The problem is that while a few Sox players are having genuinely awful campaigns, the players hitting better than could have been expected aren't punching that much above their weight. If everyone just starts to hit as they usually do, the Sox offense will actually improve.

    Even more remarkable is that David Ortiz's overall numbers obscure how little use he's been to the team so far. Red Sox fans have been spoiled by just how clutch he's been the past few years, but that's over-corrected to the point where he has almost no important hits thus far this season and even just went three weeks without a homerun.

    Beating the Patsies Is a Good Place To Start (STEVEN GOLDMAN, June 12, 2007, NY Sun)

    The traditional formula for winning a pennant is that you need to stomp the bad teams, win a majority of your games against the average ones, and try to break even against the best. The two victims of the Yankees' six-game winning streak, the Pirates and the White Sox, despite each having some strengths in the starting pitching department, fall into the category of teams that clubs with realistic aspirations of winning must beat, especially one playing as far from behind as the Yankees.

    The inarguable good news is that the streak, combined with some recent choppy play on the part of the Tigers and Red Sox, has put the Yankees back in a position where the postseason isn't just a fantasy on the part of pinstriped front office types hoping to keep their jobs for another season. While the 9.5-game gap separating New York from Boston is still unlikely to be surmounted, the Yankees remain very much alive in the wild card race, where they trail the Tigers by just 5.5 games. With 101 contests left to play, including eight with Detroit (as well as three games apiece with Oakland and Seattle, the other wild card contenders in front of them), the Yankees will have ample opportunity to bid for a spot in October's circus.

    If those games are to mean anything, the Yankees will have to beat up better teams than the two refugees from the Central divisions they clobbered last week. The Yankees were able to survive shaky or abbreviated outings from their starting pitchers because they were facing teams with very light offenses and bullpens that rank among the worst in baseball.

    It had to be particularly alarming that their $26 million pitcher gamed the system to get the Pirates 5th starter and even then could only go 6 shaky innings. You'd assume Wang & Rivera will improve a bit, but no one else on the pitching staff is likely to be better over the course of the season than they have been thus far. And they've been mostly rancid.

    Rumsfeld Numbers, AL (Jim Baker, 6/12/07, Baseball Prospectus)

    Last time out, we discussed the Rumsfeld Number, the percentage of a team's plate appearances handled by players who are below replacement level. [...]

    Tigers (4.2) [...]

    Yankees (10.2) [...]

    Mariners (14.0) [...]

    Athletics (21.4) [...]

    Indians (22.4) [...]

    Angels (23.4), Devil Rays (25.3), Red Sox (25.8), Blue Jays (27.0) and Rangers (28.0): The median Rumsfeld Number in the American League is 25.6, so these are the teams that are closest to being typical. Among them we see an abject failure, a mediocrity, an entity on the make, and two division leaders. The Red Sox are thriving in spite of the 489 PA given to Crisp and Julio Lugo. One could look at Boston and offer the theory that if you're going to score the fourth-most runs in the league while having a league-average Rumsfeld Number, it's probably best to accumulate the majority of its mass at up-the-middle positions.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


    The Loneliness and Shame of the Abortion Patient (Carole Joffe and Kate Cosby, May 26, 2007, AlterNet)

    "I think that people should be held accountable for their actions and a lot of times it's the convenience of the situation that makes it easy ... to get an abortion and if I wasn't the person that I was, I mean this would be real easy for me, just real simple. ..."

    Jessie is a 23 year old woman, the mother of two children, having her third abortion. Her comments are drawn from a small interview study (16 women interviewed thus far) we are conducting to understand the impact of state-imposed regulations on women having abortions in two highly regulated states. In our talks with Jessie and other women, we uncovered a striking sense of isolation among many abortion patients. Rather than expressing solidarity with others experiencing unwanted pregnancies, nearly all our respondents took pains to distinguish themselves as different from other women getting abortions.

    Though there were some expressions of sympathy, we also heard disparaging remarks about women who were too careless about contraception and were obtaining abortions too "easily." "I am a Christian," one woman said, "I am not doing this casually" -- with the clear suggestion that others in the waiting room were not so thoughtful or moral. Perhaps the starkest example of isolation came in one woman's response to the question of whether she would "ever consider being part of a group that supports people who get abortions?" Her answer was an emphatic "no!" As she put it, "I wouldn't support them [other abortion recipients] because ... it [might become] a habit for everyone." The speaker is a 20 year old mother of one, who was about to have her second abortion.

    The situation we describe is very different from the one that existed in the United States in the 1970s, around the time of legalization of abortion. Then, many women seeking abortions felt part of a larger movement. "Second wave" feminism was flourishing and women's health issues were a central focus of the movement. People still had fresh memories of when abortion was illegal and thousands of women died and many more were injured from unsafe abortions. Rather than being ashamed, many abortion patients of the pre- Roe v Wade era recall feeling entitled to having this once dangerous procedure done in a professional and women-centered setting.

    Once they get past the phase where abortion is the ultimate demonstration of their new power, women are likely to be opponents of abortion.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


    Did Valerie Plame Wilson Tell the Truth?: A senator’s investigation suggests the answer is no. (Byron York, 5/25/07, National Review)

    In her testimony before the House, Mrs. Wilson said flatly, “I did not recommend him. I did not suggest him.” She told the House committee that a 2004 Senate report, which concluded that she had indeed suggested her husband for the trip, was simply wrong. In particular, Mrs. Wilson pointed to a February 12, 2002, memo she had written, which the Senate said showed that she had suggested her husband for the trip, and claimed that the Senate had taken the memo “out of context” to “make it seem as though I had suggested or recommended him.”

    The 2004 Senate report to which Mrs. Wilson referred had quoted a brief excerpt from her memo. In the new report, Sen. Bond publishes the whole thing, and it seems to indicate clearly that Mrs. Wilson suggested her husband for the trip. The memo was occasioned by a February 5, 2002 CIA intelligence report about Niger, Iraq, and uranium. The report had been circulating in the intelligence community for a week by February 12, and Mrs. Wilson headlined her memo, “Iraq-related Nuclear Report Makes a Splash.”

    The report forwarded below has prompted me to send this on to you and request your comments and opinion. Briefly, it seems that Niger has signed a contract with Iraq to sell them uranium. The IC [Intelligence Community] is getting spun up about this for obvious reasons. The embassy in Niamey has taken the position that this report can’t be true — they have such cozy relations with the GON [Government of Niger] that they would know if something like this transpired.

    So where do I fit in? As you may recall, [redacted] of CP/[office 2] recently approached my husband to possibly use his contacts in Niger to investigate [a separate Niger matter]. After many fits and starts, [redacted] finally advised that the station wished to pursue this with liaison. My husband is willing to help, if it makes sense, but no problem if not. End of story.

    Now, with this report, it is clear that the IC is still wondering what is going on… my husband has good relations with both the PM and the former minister of mines, not to mention lots of French contacts, both of whom could possibly shed light on this sort of activity. To be frank with you, I was somewhat embarrassed by the agency’s sloppy work last go-round, and I am hesitant to suggest anything again. However, [my husband] may be in a position to assist. Therefore, request your thoughts on what, if anything, to pursue here. Thank you for your time on this.

    In addition to showing Mrs. Wilson suggesting her husband for the trip, the memo also sheds light on the timeline of events leading up to Joseph Wilson’s trip to Niger. The conventional wisdom has always been that Mrs. Wilson suggested her husband’s name in response to an inquiry from Vice President Dick Cheney about the Iraq Niger uranium story. But we learned during the trial of Cheney’s former top aide, Lewis Libby, that the vice president was briefed about the Iraq uranium matter on February 13, 2002. Mrs. Wilson’s memo was written on February 12, which seems to show that Ambassador Wilson’s trip was in the works before the vice president asked his question.

    Hardly surprising that they wanted to control the raw intelligence so they could could control the spin on the end product.

    June 11, 2007

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:31 PM


    McConnell offers hope Senate will revive immigration bill (BRUCE SCHREINER, 6/11/07, AP)

    Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell offered hope Monday for reviving a stalled immigration bill, saying the status quo is “indefensible” while being responsible for creating a “de facto amnesty” for millions of illegal immigrants.

    The Kentucky Republican said he thought his Senate Democratic counterpart, Majority Leader Harry Reid, “gave up on the bill too soon” after lengthy Senate debate. McConnell said there’s a “good chance” the Senate will take up the legislation again.

    In a conference call with Kentucky reporters, McConnell said the fundamental question is whether the status quo is better than the proposed overhaul.

    The anti-immigrationists can hardly turn around and argue in favor of the status quo.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:26 PM


    Patients Who Would Choose Assisted Suicide Would Do So Not Because of Pain, but Depression/Fear of Being a Burden (John Jalsevac, June 11, 2007, LifeSiteNews.com)

    According to a recent study that interviewed 379 Canadian patients who were receiving palliative care for cancer between 2001 and 2003, over half of those patients (62.8%) believed that assisted suicide should be legalized.

    But of the 238 participants in the study who argued that assisted suicide should be legal, only 22 (5.8%) said they would actually exercise the option right away if it were legal, and over half of those 22 said they would do so, not because of heightened levels of pain associated with their illness, but because they felt they were a burden to their family or the health care system.

    The study, entitled “Desire for euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide in palliative cancer care” was published in the most recent issue of Health Psychology, a journal of the APA.

    Dr. Keith Wilson, the lead researcher on the study, commented to the Canadian Press on the issue of the 22 patients who said they would have chosen assisted suicide were it legal.

    “It turns out for those 22 people we’re talking about, the issues were much more complicated than pain,” said Dr. Wilson. “They didn’t tend to have any more pain than the people who didn’t want assisted suicide. But they did tend to feel sicker, they did tend to feel weaker. They were more likely to be depressed, and they felt that they had become a burden to others.”

    Feelings that the Death Lobby quite intentionally exacerbates by doing things like turning Michael Schiavo and Jack Kevorkian into heroes and dehumanizing their victims.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:11 PM


    The Arab defeat (Hazem Saghieh, 2007-06-11, Open Democracy)

    Better that we, Arabs and Muslims, should surrender than continue as we are.

    Japan's experience in the aftermath of the second world war offers an example of unusual courage. In the first place, the country had two atomic bombs dropped on it, and then General MacArthur imposed a new constitution which shook Japan's traditional way of life to its very foundations. The reaction of Japanese society was to concede defeat unequivocally, recognising that as the losers they must pay the price for their loss. But the Japanese elite went one step further, arguing that Japan should actually "embrace defeat", reconciling itself to its loss and learning from the occupying power that had vanquished it. For it had to be possible to learn from the causes of America's strength, without necessarily accepting the justice of its cause. And the loser in a conflict as complex and protracted as the second world war surely had much to learn.

    The lessons the Japanese took from their defeat enabled them to become a global economic power. How different are the conclusions the Arabs have drawn from their own losses. Not one of four Arab-Israeli wars - of 1948, 1967, 1973 or 1982 - was sufficient to convince the Arabs that they had been defeated; nor was even the course of events which led ultimately to the destruction of Iraq, to the jeopardy in which Lebanon finds itself, to the growing tide of fanaticism, to the bland acceptance of bloodshed, to the curtailment of women's freedoms and to widespread economic, academic and institutional decline. None of this has been enough to force an admission of defeat from us or a change in our intellectual mood.

    We find ourselves in this bitter predicament largely because we keep trying to overstretch a period that is over.

    The question is really just the pace of the embrace. While Yeltsin was able to force one upon the USSR with some rapidity, the French are only just now accepting their defeat, two hundred years after the fact.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:28 PM


    Can the “American dream” belong also to the world? (Richard Rorty, 2007-06-10, Open Democracy)

    The thought that America is a place where values and institutions are being nurtured that could eventually transform the world crystallised in the middle of the 19th century. Those were the days of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Walt Whitman. These two men played an important role in the formation of the American Dream. Whitman’s Democratic Vistas is the ancestor of Henry Luce’s musings on the American Century.

    When he wrote that “(the) Americans of all nations at any time upon the earth have probably the fullest poetical nature”, Whitman meant that Americans were more inclined than most to dream of a better world - a world at peace, in which social justice was reconciled with individual freedom. He encouraged them to believe that their country would help bring that world into existence. Whitman and Luce both hoped that the American dream would become (in your words) “the world’s dream”.

    That dream has been kept alive by all those American intellectuals and politicians who have tried to convince their fellow-citizens that the important thing about their country is not that it is rich and powerful, but rather that its history embodies (again in your words) “a persistent faith in the values of democratic individualism as the indispensable guardians of personal dignity and individual opportunity”. These men and women established a tradition of idealistic internationalism. Ever since Whitman’s day, they have struggled both against the imperialists, who wanted to use American wealth and power to establish a global hegemony, and also against the isolationists, who wanted the United States to mind its own business and not meddle in world affairs.

    The hidden agenda of the internationalists (one that they still cannot put forward explicitly, for fear of a chauvinist reaction from the voters) is to bring into existence what Tennyson called “The Parliament of Man, the Federation of the World”. They want to do for the almost two hundred sovereign nation-states what the American Founding Fathers did for the thirteen original American colonies.

    The internationalists dream of a world government that will bind Iranians, Chinese, Germans, Brazilians and Americans together in a single political community. For they think that only such a government, able to deploy an international police force, can ensure world peace. They share the hopes of Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and Harry Truman (who always carried those lines from Tennyson in his wallet). These American presidents all took for granted, as had Emerson and Whitman, that it is America’s destiny to bring peace and justice to the world.

    Because the imperialists have recently wrenched control of American foreign policy from the internationalists, it has become more difficult for non-Americans to remember that the US is a country of idealistic dreamers as well as of chauvinist militarists. [...]

    Even if the internationalists should regain control, however, it may be too late in the day for their dreams to be realised. For even if the Americans did elect a president willing to dilute United States sovereignty by signing binding international agreements, it still might be impossible to persuade Russia and China, and the growing list of lesser nuclear powers, to go along.

    ...it's worth noting the really basic absurdities here. In the first place, we have the hilarious notion that those who believe in liberating the peoples of the world from tyrants are imperialists, while those who would impose a centralized world government on them are not. Then we have the bizarre formulation that those who would use a transnational state and police force to impose our values are idealists, while those who believe that the liberated peoples will freely choose to organize their own countries around our universalist values are chauvinists. Even from the beyond he's pegging the nonsense meter here.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:11 PM


    Belgian PM quits after poll defeat (Raf Casert, 12 June 2007, Associated Press)

    Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt resigned yesterday after the collapse of his liberal-socialist government in weekend elections, opening the way for the surging Christian Democrats to broker a new coalition, and possibly a reform of the constitution.

    As often, the parliamentary polls laid bare the differences between the 6 million Dutch-speakers from northern Flanders and the 4.5 francophones from southern Wallonia and the capital.

    The Christian Democrats of election winner Yves Leterme dominated Flanders and the liberals of Didier Reynders reigned over francophone areas.

    As of Monday, the big national debate centered on this: pressured by nationalist alliances and right-wing opposition parties, Leterme wants more autonomy for Flanders and sees a revision of Belgium's constitution as the only way.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:56 PM


    Nurturing your HSA fund (DAVID EDMAN, 6/11/07, Chicago Sun Times)

    More than 4.5 million Americans own Health Savings Accounts -- triple the number of just two years ago.

    Now that you have an HSA, here are seven tips to maximize your success with it.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:34 PM


    Iraqi Refugees Push Syria Toward Breaking Point (Yochi J. Dreazen, 6/11/07, Wall Street Journal: Washington Wire)

    A new report paints a dire picture of the impact Iraq’s refugee crisis is having on neighbors like Syria.

    iraqIraq’s civil war has set off the biggest Mideast refugee crisis since 1948, with hundreds of thousands of Iraqis fleeing the country every month for the relative safety of neighboring countries like Syria. Now, a new report finds evidence that Syria is beginning to break under the strain.

    The new study by the Brookings Institution-University of Bern Project found that at least 1.2 million Iraqis have fled to Syria, though many Syrians believe the number is actually much higher. More than 80% of the Iraqis have clustered in the Damascus area, mostly living in mixed neighborhoods, the study found.

    The flood of Iraqi refugees is exacting a steep economic toll, the report found. The cash-strapped Syrian government last year spent at least $54 million paying for food and tuition for the Iraqi refugees, according to the report. Ordinary Syrians are also feeling the pinch.

    The lesson of the late Cold War: better to be the one pushing on the dominos than the ones trying to hold them up.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:31 PM


    Japan's elderly are urged to work (Chris Hogg, 6/11/07, BBC News)

    Japan's government says the nation has to work harder to encourage elderly people to remain in the workforce.

    They need to see them as a resource not a burden - invaluable manpower instead of people who just need support and care.

    In a White Paper published on Friday, the government says the transformation to an ageing society is unprecedented.

    In 50 years time, more than two-fifths of the population will be over 65, twice the current figure. [...]

    The government plans specific measures to try to ease the hardship caused by such demographic challenges.

    These include promoting employment among the elderly and helping people in their 50s to shape post-retirement life plans.

    Good luck trying to get your most politically powerful cohort to carry their own load.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:19 PM


    The Airborne Toxic Event: “just drinking and dancing and screaming and practicing...” ALIE WARD, March 7, 2007, LA Weekly)

    WHO: Absurdly rich with talent, this Los Feliz five-piece is composed of hyperliterate front man Mikel Jolet, resident spaz/drummer Daren Taylor, bassist and “tone Nazi” Noah Harmon, keyboardist/classically trained violinist Anna Bulbrook, and on guitars and keys, Steven Chen, who’s also working on his first novel.

    SOUNDS LIKE... : Having earned comparisons to Modest Mouse, the Smiths and the Cure, Airborne Toxic Event delivers choruses so adhesive and memorable (as on radio favorite “Does This Mean You’re Moving On?”) that you’ll discover yourself humming them like a well-worn cassette from college. Drums demand foot-stomping participation, viola is laced between indulgent guitar hooks, and the lyrics, labored over for months and crooned dryly by Jolet, are just wry and chagrined enough to tickle your nerd bone. [...]

    SOMETHING ABOUT THAT VOICE: Jolet’s baritone could compete with some of the best in Britpop, but a discerning ear may recognize the singer’s speaking voice from occasional contributions as an essayist on NPR.

    Two perfect pop minutes.

    -MYSPACE: The Airborne Toxic Event

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 PM


    Immigration Attitudes Survey

    Increasingly, Americans are turning to the web for news about politics. This is a survey about online news coverage of the immigration issue. We are interested in your thoughts on this important political controversy. If you decide to participate in our survey, you will start off by answering a few questions about yourself and your political attitudes. Then you will watch a short news clip of an immigration story. After the clip, we will ask you some questions about your position on immigration policy. In total, the survey should take about 15 minutes to complete. The survey is completely anonymous and you can skip any questions you do not wish to answer.

    Click here to take the survey:


    Please feel free to contact Chris Weber ( [send email to crweber@notes.cc.sunysb.edu via gmail] crweber@notes.cc.sunysb.edu) or Mary-Kate Lizotte ( [send email to mklizotte@yahoo.com via gmail] mklizotte@yahoo.com) at Stony Brook University with any questions or concerns. Thanks for your help!

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:50 AM


    The Freedom Connection: How the U.S. uses trade agreements to promote democracy (Susan Ariel Aaronson, June 11, 2007, American)

    From the very start of his administration George W. Bush has posited a direct link between trade and democracy. As early as February 2001, in his first address to Congress, he claimed that “free trade brings greater political and personal freedom.”

    Though Bush has been a particularly enthusiastic advocate of this view, the connection is nothing new, and it is not merely abstract. Policymakers have long recognized that they can use trade agreements as a tool for encouraging democratization. For over 60 years, the U.S. government has included provisions in multilateral and bilateral trade agreements that require trade partners to encourage transparency, protect due process rights, and promote citizen participation in policymaking.

    Anecdotal evidence and preliminary studies indicate that such provisions may be effective at encouraging improved governance and greater political participation. [...]

    Scholars are trying to investigate the relationship between WTO membership with quantitative tools. Political scientist Mary Comerford Cooper used Freedom House Data (www.freedomhouse.org) to examine the effects of membership in the GATT/WTO over time. She found a relationship between WTO membership and democratization, but could not determine whether democratic states were more likely to join the GATT/WTO or whether WTO membership makes countries more likely to become or remain democratic. In my own review of the this relationship, I found that if we exclude the 24 high income long democratic OECD countries, a growing percentage of GATT/WTO members are free and democratic, The percentage of WTO members increased from from 19% in 1986 (GATT) to 42% in 2005 (WTO) With my colleague Jamie Zimmerman, I also compared political participation scores over time with length of GATT/WTO membership, using the CIRI Human Rights Data Set developed by David Cingranelli and David Richards (ciri.binghamton.edu) Again, excluding the 24 high-income OECD countries, the data indicates that the longer a country belongs to the GATT/WTO, the higher its political participation scores. Between 87 and 92 percent of countries that had been members for over 11 years had high political participation scores, compared to just 72% of those that joined after 1995.

    More empirical research is needed before scholars will be able to say for sure whether trade agreements have directly led to greater democratization. It’s possible that there are outside factors at work, or that the causality is reversed (i.e., the more democratic states become, the more they want to join and remain in the WTO). But it seems likely that once citizens learn to influence their governments on trade issues, they will also want their voices heard on other aspects of public policy. The evidence suggests that ever so gradually over time, habits of due process and political participation encouraged by WTO rules and procedures may spill over to other aspects of the polity.

    Their opposition to free trade is just one manifestation of the Democrats' lack of faith in the Anglo-American way.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:33 AM


    The Company You Keep: In search of anti-Hispanic hostility (Linda Chavez, 6/11/07, National Review)

    In 1991, William F. Buckley Jr. wrote a seminal piece for National Review entitled “In Search of Anti-Semitism,” which grappled with defining when mere difference of opinion on a policy issue — in this instance, U.S. Middle East policy — veers off toward ugly bigotry. It was a stunning essay and had significant moral reverberation throughout the conservative movement, as Joseph Sobran and Patrick Buchanan were the chief specimens he put under the microscope to determine when words — and the uses to which they are put — cross the line into anti-Semitism. And that is the question I think conservatives must deal with now in the nexus between the inflamed passions on immigration and our attitudes towards Hispanics in general and Hispanic immigrants in particular. When do some critics of illegal immigration — or, in certain cases, those who want to restrict legal immigration as well — employ arguments whose predictable result, if not deliberate intent, is to promote anti-Hispanic bigotry? In his 40,000-word examination, Buckley concluded that he found it “impossible to defend Pat Buchanan against the charge that what he did and said during the period under examination amounted to anti-Semitism, whatever it was that drove him to say and do it: most probably, an iconoclastic temperament.” Here I want to try to describe the danger of anti-Hispanic bias as I see it, at greater length than my original, syndicated column (which is limited to 600-700 words); and, I hope, with more sensitivity to the raw emotions on this issue. [...]

    First, Americans are the most tolerant people in the world; those same surveys I used to describe racial/ethnic attitudes bear this out. A 1991 Times Mirror Center for the People and the Press poll, for example, shows that Americans are the most tolerant of those measured, with 13 percent disliking blacks, while the British came in second, with 21 percent disliking the Irish. And among Americans, whites appear to be more tolerant than other groups as well. But Hispanics (in those few surveys that include specific data) are quite similar to whites in their attitudes toward other groups. In a study of racial attitudes of American youth, by the liberal People for the American Way, Hispanics were even more likely than whites (59 to 54 percent) to say that from their experience “people of different races and ethnic groups tend to feel pretty comfortable dealing with each other.” And they are more likely than whites (55 to 46 percent) to say that “most of the people who suffer from poverty haven’t really tried hard enough to improve their own situation,” a particularly interesting finding given overall poverty rates among Hispanics, which are high, 22 percent.

    Second, opposing the Senate bill, which is now in limbo — or indeed opposing higher levels of immigration — does not equate with being a racist, a nativist, or a xenophobe as many have interpreted my remarks to imply. I, too, have some problems with the legislation — which I’ve voiced publicly and privately to the White House. Granted, most of my problems have to do with the fact that I don’t want to see us go the way of Europe by inviting “guest workers” who will never become Americans; I would rather increase the number of permanent residents we admit and then aggressively work to assimilate them. Promoting assimilation has been the foundation of my entire public career, going back some 30 years now, even before I became a Republican or started to think of myself as a conservative.

    And one can certainly be concerned about illegal immigration — as I am — without being a racist, nativist, or xenophobe. It is worth noting, however, that illegal immigration peaked in 2000 and is down now by about one third. The greatest increase in illegal immigration was from 1995 to 2000, when only two percent of Americans listed immigration as important in the Harris poll each year, which asked: “What do you think are the two most important issues for the government to address?” Something happened since then to cause immigration to become the single biggest domestic issue out there. Some have suggested it was 9/11 that brought the turnaround. Terrorism may explain anxiety about border security — I certainly share the fear that porous borders make it easy for terrorists and drug dealers, as well as gardeners and construction workers, to sneak in. But fear of terrorism doesn’t entirely explain why illegal immigration has become such a hot-button issue, even in the face of declining numbers of illegal aliens entering the country. (Many of us on the side of comprehensive reform argue that the best and most effective way to reduce illegal immigration is to allow workers to come legally, temporarily, or as permanent residents, so that we might focus our limited resources on intercepting jihadists and criminals.) If the actual numbers aren’t driving the issue, what is? I believe that the constant drumbeat on immigration — driven by talk radio, cable news, the Internet, and direct mail — has played a major role in raising anxiety on the issue. And some of the rhetoric has been irresponsible, to say the least.

    Third, words do matter — or why all the fuss about my accusing some people of disliking Mexicans? I didn’t, by the way, suggest that, even among the less than ten percent of the population who fit this category, most want to string up Mexicans — only that they wish Mexicans would go back where they came from, including, apparently, those like me whose families have been here for centuries. And while National Review Online contributors have been quite outspoken in their condemnation of my words — with Ramesh Ponnuru going so far as to suggest I must be publicly shunned — there have been no similar recriminations against others whose intemperate remarks make mine look mild by comparison. And I’m not just talking about the yahoos who, in response to my column, posted comments on Townhall.com calling Mexicans “pigs,” and Latino girls “baby factories” who “fornicate like animals with no regard for the welfare of the child,” or who “don’t want spanish speaking little retards befouling our great country.” Some of what is being said that most concerns me is written right here on NRO by its contributors.

    Let’s start with John Derbyshire...

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:20 AM


    Immigration deal called 'alive and well': Supporters, including Bush, hope to get the faltering compromise bill back on the Senate floor this week. (Peter Spiegel, June 11, 2007, LA Times)

    The White House is poised to begin a last-ditch effort this week to resurrect the compromise immigration bill that was pulled off the Senate floor Thursday, with administration officials insisting another two days of debate could ensure passage of the contentious legislation.

    Calling the measure "alive and well," the administration blamed the Democratic Senate leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, for prematurely abandoning efforts to get the bill passed, and said President Bush would go to Capitol Hill on Tuesday to lobby for the legislation.

    "Rather than doing finger-pointing, if Harry Reid is committed to this — and this is an historic bill dealing with a problem that a lot of people think has to be solved, and it's got to be solved in a smart way — why not go ahead and set aside those two days for debate?" White House spokesman Tony Snow said on "Fox News Sunday." "I think you're going to find the Republicans and Democrats are willing to do it."

    Reid decided to end the Senate's consideration of the bill Thursday evening after a vote to cut off debate failed by 15 votes. [...]

    The White House's stance puts Bush in an unusual position, joining Democratic Sen. Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, the Senate's most prominent liberal and one of the compromise's leading backers, in pressuring Reid to give the Senate more time for considering the bill.

    When has W ever been reluctant to use Ted Kennedy to get what he wants?

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:15 AM


    Health Costs Push Companies to Set Targets for Workers (TIM RACE, 6/10/07, NY Times)

    A recent national survey found many similar examples of such medical supervision by corporate America. “Employers are realizing that a good health care strategy includes health benefits and programs that incentivize employees to manage their own health,” Larry Boress, chief executive of the Midwest Business Group on Health, the nonprofit group that conducted the survey, said in a news release.

    This approach represents a shift in thinking about how to get employees to be more responsible for their health care. A few years ago, the vogue term in employee-benefits circles was “consumer-directed health care.” At its most generous, the phrase means that employers help pay for employee health savings accounts, where the money can grow in anticipation of medical needs.

    The question for the Left is why we, as a society, should not be that generous with the poor for whom we provide health coverage. They can't give the honest answer.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:03 AM


    Evolution and dissent (David K. DeWolf, June 11, 2007, Boston Globe)

    You might think that a public high school is a poor venue for controversies in science. But even in higher education political and ideological agendas are threatening academic freedom. For example, Guillermo Gonzalez, a talented astronomer at Iowa State University, was recently denied tenure. Gonzalez has published 68 scientific papers, more than three times the number normally expected for tenure in his department. His college textbook on astronomy was published by Cambridge University Press. His work has been featured in top scientific journals, including a cover story in Scientific American.

    But in 2004 Gonzalez co authored a book, "The Privileged Planet: How Our Place in the Cosmos is Designed for Discovery," which made the case for attributing the life-sustaining features of our planet to something other than random chance. This was too much for some colleagues at ISU. A petition was circulated by a religious studies professor and signed by 120 colleagues, affirming their rejection of "all attempts to represent intelligent design as a scientific endeavor."

    Some may have the illusion that science is devoid of politics. But whether we debate the efficacy of a pharmaceutical drug, the risks of electromagnetic radiation, or the potential benefit of embryonic stem cells, financial and ideological agendas are not easily set aside. As bad as political correctness may be in the humanities and social sciences, we should be particularly alarmed by a threat to the right to dissent from the "mainstream" when it comes to scientific knowledge, often a critical component of our public policy.

    In a culture where only 13% claim to believe in Darwinism, it's sort of odd to refer to the skeptics as the dissenters, even if Academia is the last redoubt of the credulous.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:57 AM


    In N.H. town, a cultural widening: Bethlehem residents, stores responding to influx of Jews (Sarah Schweitzer, June 11, 2007, Boston Globe)

    Kosher history was made in this North Country town as clerks at the Bethlehem Village Store recently moved aside boxes of Luvs diapers and cases of Budweiser to make way for Manischewitz matzo meal, borscht, gefilte fish, potato pancake mix, and Tam-Tam crackers.

    "The store is recognizing that there are other people who exist," said Harold Friedman , 76, a Bethlehem selectman and resident of six years, by way of Long Island. "It's wonderful."

    Brookline, it is not. But Bethlehem, population 2,300, has become an unusual rural scene. Jews from across the country have taken up residence in and around this faded resort town, lured in part by the area's rugged beauty, but especially by the proximity to members of a common faith.

    Jewish culture, far more prevalent in urban and suburban settings, now threads through this outlying town, which has a lone blinking traffic light and grassy knolls where elegant hotels once stood on Main Street. The recent influx has propelled an ongoing tutorial for long time residents in the ways of synagogues and Jewish burial and the rules of kosher food.

    The scenes unfold everywhere. Bethlehem's Colonial Theater this summer will host a Jewish film festival. The town's five-member Board of Selectmen includes two Jewish members. The non denominational synagogue, a former Episcopal church, is now open year-round for regular services, a Hebrew school, and bar and bat mitzvahs. [...]

    Specialists in Jewish-American life say that Jews have transformed other onetime seasonal spots, such as Sharon, Mass., into permanent homes. But Bethlehem is remarkable because of its setting. New Hampshire was the last state to grant Jews and other non-Christians the right to hold elective office, in 1877, and has long held the reputation of being unfriendly to outsiders, with its homogenous population and conservative political bent, said Jonathan Sarna , a Brandeis University professor of American Jewish history.

    In recent years, New Hampshire has grown in population and become more diverse. Still, the state now counts just 9,970 Jews, or .8 percent of the population; Massachusetts, by contrast, counts 275,030 Jews, or 4.3 percent of the population, according to 2006 estimates by the American Jewish Year Book. [...]

    Their presence marks a renaissance of Jewish activity. Jews began flocking in summertime to Bethlehem in 1916, seeking relief from hay fever in the town's high altitude. At the time, many of the region's grand hotels barred Jews, but they were welcomed at the Altamonte Hotel, which had been bought by businessman Isidor Lusher . By 1956, more than a dozen hotels in Bethlehem catered to the summer Jewish trade, according to "Images of America Bethlehem," published by Arcadia Publishing.

    "They were communities in and of themselves," said Linda Herrman , a Bethlehem resident who recently moved from Florida. Her father owned the Sinclair Hotel, which signaled its friendliness to Jews with a notation of "Dietary Laws" on its stationery, meaning that the hotel was kosher. "There was not a lot of contact with the rest of Bethlehem," she said.

    In the 1960s and '70s, the Jewish hotels were shuttered as allergy sufferers sought solace in medication and as hotels elsewhere removed rules precluding Jews. Jews sold homes, and attendance at the Bethlehem Hebrew Congregation fell.

    Rebirth of the Jewish community came in the late 1990s, with the burgeoning group of year-round residents. Some are retirees who visited during summers of their youth; others are small-business owners and telecommuters freed from city life by the Internet.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:02 AM


    The Hitchens brothers: Anatomy of a row: Christopher and Peter Hitchens are two of Britain's most famous scribes, but they appear to agree on nothing. After their latest public spat, James Macintyre, who has known both brothers for many years, dissects their very odd relationship (James Macintyre, 11 June 2007, Independent)

    That the pair in question are bitterly divided brothers only served to raise the temperature last week when Mail on Sunday columnist Peter Hitchens went on the attack in a review of his elder sibling Christopher's new anti-religion book, God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything .

    "People sometimes ask how two brothers, born less than three years apart, should have come to such different conclusions," wrote Peter, adding enigmatically: "To which I'd answer that I'm not sure they're as different as they look, and that it's not over yet."

    Other than an acknowledgment that, "[Like] everything Christopher writes, it is often elegant, frequently witty and never stupid or boring" , Peter's review was damning, and even questioned whether Christopher truly believed his own assertion that there isn't a God.

    Peter, 55, confirms to me that he was implying in his review that Christopher, 58, was closer to religious belief than he had ever accepted.

    Indeed, it's a last gasp attempt to talk himself out of the faith that has been creeping up on him.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:01 AM


    'Bouliganisme' hits rural France (John Lichfield, 11 June 2007, Independent)

    The image of "boules", or pétanque, as a peaceable game for old men in berets has been shattered by an outbreak of "bouliganisme" in rural France.

    One local pétanque federation, in Nièvre, western Burgundy, has been forced to suspend competitive matches after brawls and acts of vandalism on the boules piste or pitch.

    Incidents have included assaults with the heavy metal boules themselves and vicious exchanges of words, and blows, after one team has tried to chambrer, or wind up, another.

    Some players blame a minority of travelling people, or Gypsies, who are fond of boules. Others say the problem is much wider than that, and has been fuelled by drink and betting.

    Hervé Basset, editor of Boulisme magazine, said: "There has always been a certain amount of winding up of opponents. Now, it is not funny any more. There are provocative remarks, threats. We have gone from jests to punches."

    ...to blame the Jews....

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


    China’s Failure to Beat Illiteracy: China has vowed to beat illiteracy and claimed victory, but experts say the truth is more troubling. (Sarah Schafer, 6/18/07, Newsweek International)

    China has pledged time and again to wipe out illiteracy, which makes the story of Zhou Jihan quite awkward. Not because she has yet to master her Chinese characters, but because there are still many millions of Chinese struggling like her to learn to read and write as adults. That's a shame Beijing would prefer you did not read about.

    Zhou, now 36, grew up in a poor family in a remote village in western China. Because even the local primary school charged high fees, Zhou's parents made what the whole family considered an easy choice: Zhou's brothers went to school, and she and her sisters stayed home to work on the farm. "I never went to school once in my childhood," said Zhou. "We followed the tradition of paying more attention to the boys of the family than to the girls." She's proud to have memorized more than 1, 000 Chinese characters, but must learn 500 more to be considered literate. But Chinese authorities had promised more than painstaking progress.

    In 2000, the Chinese government announced that it would wipe out illiteracy among adults as well as ensure free nine-year compulsory education for children by 2005. In 2002, state media reported great strides: the illiterate share of the population had fallen from 22.3 percent in 1992 to just 8.7 percent. That was the last time Beijing released official figures on illiteracy. But in April, the state-run English-language China Daily announced that illiteracy had returned to "haunt" the country. The article quoted a top education official, Gao Xue-qui, saying at a conference that the number of illiterate Chinese had grown by more than 30 million from 2000 to 2005, creating a "worrying" situation.

    They can't even spell superpower, nevermin

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


    OBIT: Richard Rorty (Daily Telegraph, 11/06/2007)

    The central plank of Rorty's thinking was laid out in his most influential book, Contingency, Irony and Solidarity (1989), though his scepticism about epistemology (questions about what we know) and external truth had caused a stir when they were first raised in Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature 10 years earlier.

    Rorty distinguished between the "metaphysician" - which in his description included all those absorbed by the questions of traditional philosophy - and the "ironist", his preferred philosophical hero.

    (Or, rather, heroine, for he adopted the now-fashionable academic practice of using "she" as a neuter pronoun when writing of ironists. A metaphysician remained "he", however, perhaps to emphasise his wrongness.)

    The two positions were separated by their "final vocabulary", words such as "true"; "right"; "good" and "beautiful" (and, at a lower level, terms such as "professional standards"; "decency"; "kindness"; "Christ"; "England"; "creative"; "the Revolution" and so on) which were as far as people could go in using language to justify their beliefs, actions and ambitions.

    Ironists are distinguished from metaphysicians, in Rorty's view, by their distrust of such vocabularies, because they are aware of completing vocabularies, and by the fact that the existence of the vocabulary does nothing to shore up such doubts.

    In addition, the ironist does not believe that her vocabulary is better than anyone else's, nor that it corresponds to any external truth.

    Ironists are thus those for whom nothing has an intrinsic nature, a real essence, and for whom the history and naming of a term are descriptive; metaphysicians are those who attempt to use common sense and philosophical tools, such as the Socratic method, to take the question "What is the intrinsic nature of (eg, justice, science, knowledge, Being, faith, morality, philosophy)?" at face value.

    Metaphysicians divide libraries according to disciplines, assigning Pythagoras, Plato, Goethe, Kant, Darwin and Freud to mathematics, literature, science, philosophy and so on. Ironists see them as divided according to traditions, and are distrustful of genres.

    Naturally, this went down badly with philosophers in the rigorous Anglo-American analytic tradition, and even some in the Continental schools.

    Equally naturally, it was tremendously popular among social scientists, English Literature departments, film-makers, architects and all those who distrusted unifying theories.

    Rorty's arguments began to be regarded as one of the central intellectual pillars for postmodernism, a doctrine sceptical of doctrines, which dismissed the possibility and desirability of intellectual pillars; The Fontana Postmodernism Reader simply called him "America's most eminent philosopher".

    Mr. Rorty, like many an Anglospheric philosopher and unlike the continentals, was sufficiently honest that he undermined his own theories, not least when he admitted that he and other avowed atheists were "freeloading" on Judeo-Christianity, since Rationalism has proved itself utterly incapable of deriving morality in the absence of God.

    How Richard Rorty Found Religion (Jason Boffetti, May 2004, First Things).

    Rorty says that he now agrees with his sometime critic, Michael Sandel, who wrote in Democracy’s Discontents that it may never be possible to separate morality and religion entirely...

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


    The demise of salsa has been greatly exaggerated (JORDAN LEVIN, 6/01/07, Miami Herald)

    Down in the crowd, 46-year-old Manny Rosales is dancing with 9-month-old grandson Aramis, both their round faces beaming with delight. ''Reggaeton is nice,'' says Rosales. ``But salsa is the music of Hispanics.''

    ''It's your roots, it's where you come from,'' says Aramis' mother, Arlene Lollazao, 26. ``Salsa is something in your blood.''

    Recent conventional wisdom had held that salsa's time had passed, its vitality sapped by commercial formula, its popularity usurped by other Caribbean styles, and, most recently, its street cred and younger audiences stolen by reggaeton.

    But the classic Latin dance music is proving surprisingly resilient.

    In New York, the genre's birthplace, classic salsa has been making a comeback with increasingly popular salsa nights at several clubs and a cadre of fine musicians sworn to old school musical values, led by the Grammy winning Spanish Harlem Orchestra. [...]

    The cultural bottom is where salsa started in the 1970s, as Latino musicians from poor New York neighborhoods mixed Cuban dance rhythms and big band orchestration with American urban energy and musical styles.

    Artists like Willie Colon, Ruben Blades, Hector Lavoe and a host of other musicians on the independent Fania label invented supremely danceable music that spoke to a new American Latino subculture. And since so many of its musicians were New York Puerto Ricans, it also became a much loved style on their home island.

    But the 1980s saw the rise of what was dubbed ''salsa romantica,'' where the experimentation, street stories and sharp musicianship of the original innovators gave way to pretty boy frontmen singing formulaic, radio-friendly romantic songs. In the mid- to late 1990s, salsa came back with a new generation of young, powerful singers, notably Marc Anthony and Victor Manuelle, and a vibrant club dance scene. That, too, lost its energy and settled into formula and imitators, making way for the rise of bachata, and, most recently, reggaeton.

    So when Spanish Harlem Orchestra, with veteran session musicians playing classic, old school salsa, beat out longtime commercial stars Anthony, Manuelle and Santa Rosa in 2004 to win the Grammy for Best Salsa Album, it stunned the Latin music world. There are raves for their recently released third CD, United We Swing, with mostly original songs boasting classic salsa style, ferocious musicianship, sophisticated arrangements and exuberant danceability.

    ''We came along at the right time,'' says Omar Hernandez, the group's musical director and founder. ``The music had kind of lost its way for the last 15 years. People forgot about the essence of this music.

    ``It became formulaic, and the industry was driven by the commercial aspect. They wanted everybody to sound the same. That's a shame because our music is a lot more than that -- the development of New York City at the time [salsa was created] was unique, it lent itself to the way the music and culture developed that we took for granted. We realize now it was a special time.''

    Spanish Harlem Orchestra's recreation of music from that special time is wowing audiences from Prague to Memphis -- it will play Miami's Gusman Center for the Performing Arts Sept. 22. Its audiences are largely either non-Latinos or older Hispanics longing for the salsa of their youth.

    Although salsa's longevity has helped make it popular worldwide -- there are major artists from Colombia and Venezuela, salsa dance scenes in Los Angeles, Europe and Asia -- the musical culture of the '70s that gave rise to salsa has changed.

    The economics and restrictions of today's commercial music world are unfriendly to a style that requires lots of musicians and thrives on unpredictable, live, dance-driven energy. The very things that make the genre great also make it difficult for it to reach the mainstream in its most genuine form.

    And for music that was radically experimental when it was created, salsa today has become fairly conservative: If it's not structured a certain way, with certain elements, purists don't consider it salsa.

    Courtesy of the folks at IODA Promonet, we can offer you a download of the tune Sacala Bailar from the new album.

    United We Swing

    Download "Sacala Bailar" (mp3)
    from "United We Swing"
    by Spanish Harlem Orchestra
    Six Degrees Travel Series

    More On This Album

    -BAND SITE: Spanish Harlem Orchestra
    -MYSPACE: Spanish Harlem Orchestra

    June 10, 2007

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:05 PM


    What Al Wishes Abe Said (Andrew Ferguson, June 10, 2007, Washington Post)

    You can't really blame Al Gore for not using footnotes in his new book, "The Assault on Reason." It's a sprawling, untidy blast of indignation, and annotating it with footnotes would be like trying to slip rubber bands around a puddle of quicksilver. Still, I'd love to know where he found the scary quote from Abraham Lincoln that he uses on page 88.

    In a chapter entitled "The Politics of Wealth," Gore argues that the ancient threat to democracy posed by rich people run amok has finally been realized under the man who beat him in the 2000 presidential race. Even Lincoln, Gore says, saw the age of Bush coming in 1864: "I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country. As a result of the war, corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed."

    The quote is a favorite of liberal bloggers, which is probably how Gore came across it. And as a description of how many on the left see the country seven years into their Bush nightmare, it's pretty much perfect.

    Too perfect, in fact. If you're familiar with Lincoln's distinctive way of expressing himself, you'll hear the false notes the passage strikes. For one thing, Lincoln just wasn't the "trembling" kind -- or if he was, he kept his trembling to himself. Words such as "enthroned" and "aggregated" are a bit too fancy for his plain, unclotted prose, and the phrase "money power" suggests a conspiratorial turn of mind that would have been foreign to him. Indeed, these words don't show up anywhere else in "The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln" (which, thanks to Gore's Internet, are now searchable at http://quod.lib.umich.edu/l/lincoln/).

    Moreover, the point of the passage is very un-Lincolnian. A corporate lawyer whose long and cunning labor on behalf of the railroads earned him a comfortable income, Lincoln was a vigorous champion of market capitalism, even when it drifted (as it tends to do) toward large concentrations of wealth. Many of his administration's signal initiatives -- the transcontinental railroad, for example -- amounted to what liberals today would condemn as "corporate welfare." Lots of speculators got rich under Lincoln, as Gore notes. As Gore does not note, Lincoln seemed not to have minded.

    Unless, of course, Gore's quote from a trembling Abe was evidence of his real thinking.

    It isn't, though. It's a fake.

    Writing in 1999 in the Abraham Lincoln Association's newsletter, the great Lincoln historian Thomas F. Schwartz traced the bogus passage to the 1880s, about 20 years after Lincoln's death. One theory is that it first appeared in a pamphlet advertising patent medicines. Opponents of Gilded Age capitalism -- Gore's forerunners -- found the quote so useful that Lincoln's former White House secretaries felt compelled to launch a campaign "denouncing the forgery," Schwartz said. Robert Todd Lincoln, who was the president's only surviving son and himself a wealthy railroad lawyer, called it "an impudent invention" that ascribed to his father views that the former president would never have held.

    "I discovered what I think is the true and only source of this supposed quotation," Robert wrote in an unpublished letter, probably tongue-in-cheek. "It originated, I think, at what is called a Spiritualist Séance in a country town in Iowa, a number of years ago, as being a communication by President Lincoln through what is called a Medium."

    ..to claim the mantle of Reason's Defender in America, the country most hostile to it.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:47 PM

    ...AND REDDER...:

    Sarkozy's party heading for landslide victory (Henry Samuel, 11/06/2007, Daily Telegraph)

    Nicolas Sarkozy's centre-Right UMP was heading for a landslide victory in the first round of French legislative elections yesterday, giving the president the parliamentary muscle he needs to drive through ambitious reforms in the coming months.

    Exit polls suggested that the Union for a Popular Movement, which Mr Sarkozy led until being elected president last month, was set to unfurl a "blue wave" of around 385-420 out of 577 seats in the National Assembly - one of its biggest majorities in recent years. It currently has 359 seats.

    This will be the first time since 1978 that an outgoing parliament has retained a majority in France.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:56 PM


    'I had a dream vision': John Tavener tells Charlotte Higgins how his life-changing encounter with an Apache medicine man led him to write a piece praising Allah for the Prince of Wales (Charlotte Higgins, June 11, 2007, The Guardian)

    The next big moment for Tavener is the premiere of a large-scale piece for chorus and orchestra. It has been commissioned by the Prince of Wales, with whom he became friends more than a decade ago "because we share views on the importance of all religious traditions". Again, what you will make of this one depends on your point of view. It's called The Beautiful Names, and it's a setting of the 99 names for Allah from the Qur'an. It's going to be performed in the Roman Catholic Westminster Cathedral next week, then a few days later in Istanbul. Tavener is Greek Orthodox, to which he converted years ago after a Presbyterian upbringing. [...]

    When he starts talking about his music being written through divine agency and having visions brought on by chatting to Apache medicine men and what a bad idea the Enlightenment was, part of you wants to snort with derision. The other part realises that, however batty it all sounds, he means it, and it's real for him. If a sense of conviction is a defence these days (and according to Tony Blair, it is), then at least you can say of Tavener: it's not phoney.

    In recent years he has begun to broaden his spiritual horizons, he tells me over tea in the garden. "The path I follow is still an Orthodox path," he says. "You have to follow a path, otherwise it becomes a little bit new-age, a bit of this, a bit of that ... But I suppose I had a dream vision after a visit from an Apache Indian medicine man. Many people when they've met American Indians have very strong dreams afterwards. I had a kind of vision from the Sufi Frithjof Schuon, who was a believer in the inner transcendent unity of all religions. And he seemed to be giving me permission, in a way, to work musically within other traditions. It wasn't that the Christian thing was failing me in any way, but rather that it enriched it by going into other things, particularly Hinduism and Sufism."

    He is planning a choral piece called The Flood of Beauty, a setting of a 9th-century Sanskrit poem that "shows God in the feminine aspect, as beauty". There's also the premiere in Zurich this year of a Mass for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. In his note on the piece, he writes: "I have used Latin, Sanskrit, Arabic, Aramaic, Greek, American Indian, German and Italian to express something of the divine effulgence of the feminine that the Mother of God has revealed to my soul."

    One of the dedicatees of the work is Pope Benedict. Tavener is an admirer, then? "Sort of, because he's a traditionalist, and I think that's very important. Part of the senility of religion, I seriously believe, is Vatican Two [an Ecumenical Council of the Vatican which held sessions between 1962-65]. It was the third betrayal of Christ. Where they started throwing out Latin and all the best music ... I think it was a downward path for the Catholic church. It was trying to modernise religion. They are eternal truths and if you try to modernise it, it just becomes ridiculous."

    The Enlightenment, and the art associated with it, is just as bad: "In his late quartets, Beethoven introduces an element that shouldn't be there, that should be left for meditation, though I love them. I can see that through them came Wagner and Mahler and Schoenberg and Berg. And then came Tracey Emin. And I can see it all as one downward path."

    Wisdom begins with the recognition that it's all downhill beginning with Beethoven.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:26 PM


    China raises tension in India dispute (Jo Johnson and Richard McGregor, June 10 2007, Financial Times)

    India’s strengthening ties with the US are the cause of China’s increasingly aggressive position over the disputed India-China border in the eastern Himalayas, according to security affairs analysts in both countries. [...]

    Analysts say China’s blunt assertion of claims to an area more than twice the size of Taiwan is inconsistent with “political parameters” for a potential settlement agreed in 2005 and could contaminate other areas of the relationship.

    “This is the elephant in the room,” says Uday Bhaskar, defence analyst. “The Indians had taken the political parameters as Chinese acceptance of the status quo. But China is now sending out very different signals. We’ll have to see how far they push it.”

    The US is trying hard to improve bilateral relations with India. At the centre of its effort is a nuclear energy co-operation agreement that promises to end 30 years of sanctions against a country now seen as a potential counterbalance to China.

    Analysts anticipate a gradual Americanisation of the Indian military, which is expected to import hardware and software worth $30bn in the next five years, according to the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India.

    Any pretext will do, but enemy nations can't be allowed nuclear arsenals.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:53 PM


    AOL: Spinner has a great Podcast called The Interface, which recently featured live performances of tunes from what is likely the best album of 2007, Boxer, from The National (AOL: Spinner, The Interface)

    Mistaken for Strangers is especially good:

    You can also grab MP3s of their White Sessions on Radio France.

    And here they are doing a fine cover of The Clash's Clampdown

    MYSPACE: The National

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:29 PM


    Israelis ask what they have gained since Six-Day War (Steven Erlanger, June 9, 2007, NY Times)

    [A]s Israel marks 40 years after an extraordinary victory, there is far less exultation than questioning about the war's impact on the country, and grave doubts about the future. There is a debate about what kind of country Israel is, about the impact those 40 years of development, immigration, war, settlement and occupation have had on the dreams of those who chose to make their lives here. And there is a widespread feeling that both left and right are out of answers. [...]

    "What everyone feels, no matter their politics or their understanding of the 1967 war, is a deep disappointment in themselves," said Yossi Klein Halevi, an Israeli writer and analyst on the center right. "As a people, we haven't carried on this story with the gravitas it deserves. We've been flippant. There's a sense that all of us have abrogated responsibility for the Jewish story that brought us here."

    It is true, he said, that the early Zionists talked of building a "normal country." But "they meant a nation externally normalized and internally exceptional."

    "Sometimes it feels we've done the reverse," he said. "We didn't want this to be one more mundane country with a mundane morality."

    Of all people, one might have expected the Jews to avoid the cancer of nationalism. But, as Eric Hoffer noted: "The manner in which a mass movement starts...can also have an effect on the duration and mode of termination of the active phase of the movement." It may be that a founding so wrapped up in ethnic identity was destined to forfeit a grounding in ideas.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:19 PM


    Former Stalinists Go Bonkers for Bush (John McKinnon, 6/10/07, Wall Street Journal: Washington Wire)

    Albania, once the most Stalinist country in Eastern Europe, has a new hero these days: President Bush. Making the first visit of a sitting U.S. president to the tiny Balkan country, Bush received a gushing welcome from its center-right Prime Minister, Sali Berisha, and later was mobbed by thousands of ordinary Albanians at an event celebrating U.S. assistance for the fledgling democracy.

    On the trip into town from the Tirana airport on Sunday morning, official-looking billboards and banners alternately proclaimed “President Bush Making History in Albania,” and “Proud to be Partners.” At the city’s pyramid-shaped cultural center — built as a monument to Albania’s isolationist dictator, the late Enver Hoxha – a giant picture of the U.S. president now covered much of the façade. The arrival ceremony included a 21-gun salute that flashed and reverberated from a hillside above the capital.

    At a joint appearance in a baking hot courtyard, Berisha, a former cardiologist, hailed Bush as “the greatest and most distinguished guest we have ever had in all times,” and the U.S. as “the greatest and the most precious friend of Albanian nation,” as translated. If all the praise was a little over the top — as Bush’s sheepish grin suggested – it’s also true that the U.S. has long been a big supporter of the Maryland-sized country that shook itself free in 1912, after hundreds of years of domination by the Ottoman empire.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:40 AM


    Can D.C. Schools Be Fixed?: After decades of reforms, three out of four students fall below math standards. More money is spent running the schools than on teaching. And urgent repair jobs take more than a year . . . (Dan Keating and V. Dion Haynes, 6/10/07, Washington Post)

    As Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) prepares this week to become the first Washington mayor with direct control of the schools, his team promises a clean slate and a rapid turnaround. Yet a detailed assessment of the state of the school system, based on extensive public records, suggests that the challenge is enormous: The system is among the highest-spending and worst-performing in the nation. [...]

    · The District spends $12,979 per pupil each year, ranking it third-highest among the 100 largest districts in the nation.

    Spend more money.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:36 AM


    Tear Down That Myth (JAMES MANN, 6/10/07, NY Times)

    In the historical disputes over Ronald Reagan and his presidency, the Berlin Wall speech lies at the center. In the ensuing years, two fundamentally different perspectives have emerged. In one, the speech was the event that led to the end of the cold war. In the other, the speech was mere showmanship, without substance.

    Both perspectives are wrong. Neither deals adequately with the underlying significance of the speech, which encapsulated Mr. Reagan’s successful but complex approach to dealing with the Soviet Union. [...]

    In the months leading up to his speech, Mr. Reagan had been under attack in the United States for having been beguiled by Mr. Gorbachev. Conservatives were particularly outraged. In September 1986, after the K.G.B. had seized Nicholas Daniloff, a journalist for U.S. News & World Report, in retaliation for the arrest of a Soviet agent in the United States, Mr. Reagan hadn’t taken a hard line, but had instead negotiated an exchange.

    Later that fall, hawks in the national-security establishment were upset that at the Reykjavik summit meeting, Mr. Reagan had talked about the possibility of abolishing nuclear weapons.

    And these events were merely prologue: there was considerably more business Mr. Reagan was seeking to conduct with the Soviets — business that he knew would be deeply unpopular with many conservatives. By the spring of 1987, he was well into quiet negotiations for two more summit meetings with the Soviet leader in Washington and Moscow. His administration was moving toward a landmark arms-control agreement with the Soviet Union — a treaty on intermediate-range nuclear forces, which would have to be ratified by the Senate. The idea of such a treaty was beginning to attract considerable opposition in Washington.

    The Berlin Wall speech, then, offered cover for Mr. Reagan’s diplomacy. It was an anti-Communist speech that helped preserve support for a conservative president seeking to upgrade American relations with the Soviet Union. In political terms, it was the prerequisite for the president’s subsequent negotiations. These efforts, in turn, created the vastly more relaxed climate in which the Soviets sat on their hands when the wall came down.

    ...than a conservative who actually gets elected. The preference for ineffectual intellectual purity over governance is the source of conservative derangement syndrome. It's helpful to be reminded that all the same folks who think W has betrayed them felt the same way about Reagan when he was president.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:21 AM


    Fewer peaches, fewer workers in Georgia: Frost killed nearly 80% of the state's crop. One town faces a summer without its annual influx of Latino laborers. (Jenny Jarvie, June 10, 2007, LA Times)

    [I]n Fort Valley, the county seat of Peach County, few of the 8,000 residents got to know these Latino workers. Many came here every summer for the last nine years but made few connections: They lived on government-approved camps, did not own cars and spoke little English.

    Still, their absence is felt.

    "I used to look forward to Friday nights" when school buses brought hundreds of farm workers to Food Depot, said manager Allen Buchanan. After jostling in a produce aisle, they lined up to hand their hard-earned dollar bills to a row of cashiers.

    A few buses still come, but the store is making about $25,000 a week less than it expected.

    "Take away 500 workers and it has a huge impact on a town of 8,000 people," said James Khoury, 58, owner of Khoury's Fine Clothing and chairman of the Peach County Board of Commissioners. "People say they send all their money back home, but they have to eat and they have to buy clothes."

    The tiny taco stands, bakeries and ice cream stores that cater mostly to Latinos — 4% of the town's year-round population — are especially feeling the pinch.

    Perhaps no one is more disheartened than Eudoxia Garcia, 40, who two months ago fulfilled her longtime dream of opening Panaderia, a bakery in a tiny brick building on Main Street.

    Garcia figured her sweet concoctions would be something everyone would enjoy, but with the drastic drop in the number of temporary Mexican workers, she has not sold many pineapple empanadas or strawberry yoyos. Already, she has cut the price of a bag of 11 pastries from $8 to $6 and plans to introduce American-style products such as cheesecake and cupcakes.

    "People keep telling me not to close," she said with a wan smile. "I'm trying to stay positive."

    Emma Barragan, who runs a taco stand at Lane Packing Co., has seen her weekly earnings plummet from about $400 to $90. At 12:15 on a recent weekday, just two men waited for lunch outside her bright-orange concrete shack festooned with Budweiser and Miller Lite signs.

    The freeze caused $258 million in damage to Georgia crops, with a $28.1-million loss of peaches. It was not the most damaging freeze — Georgia farms lost almost all their peaches in 1955 — but it is the first involving H-2 guest workers.

    Georgia's peach industry took off after the Civil War, when the emancipation of slaves caused farmers to diversify and rely less on cotton. For much of the last century, young African Americans picked peaches while young whites worked in the packing sheds.

    But now the region's economy has diversified, and workers from Mexico are counted on to do those jobs.

    It's the sort of dying economy the nativists prefer.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:55 AM

    S. B. D. :

    Maverick Hits Back on Immigration (Ruben Navarrette, 6/09/07, Real Clear Politics)

    Sen. John] McCain is correct about the need for comprehensive immigration reform as opposed to what's behind door No. 2: the "faith-based" enforcement-only approach of building walls, hoping illegal immigrants self-deport and calling it a day. Congress did something similar with immigration reform in 19[8]6, and -- as Sen. Sam Brownback noted in last week's presidential debate -- all we have to show for it is a population of illegal immigrants nearly twice as large now as it was then. [...]

    McCain zeroed in on one of his most vocal critics, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. On immigration, as on other hot-button issues, Romney has held nearly as many positions as there are days in the week. Recently, McCain told the Miami Chamber of Commerce that voters should come down hard on candidates who find it easier to criticize the solutions of others than to offer solutions of their own. While the Arizonan didn't mention Romney by name, the McCain campaign made clear it was Romney the senator was criticizing.

    "To want the office so badly that you would intentionally make our country's problems worse might prove you can read a poll or take a cheap shot, but it hardly demonstrates presidential leadership," McCain told the group.

    "Pandering for votes on this issue, while offering no solution to the problem, amounts to doing nothing. And doing nothing is silent amnesty."

    Remember that phrase. Silent amnesty.

    The political imperative--which they've helped create--to end the silent amnesty is the petard upon which the nativists will be hoist, because any measure that attempts to ameliorate the situation is just a Trojan Horse for amnesty, as the Reagan reform was.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:51 AM


    Democrats' Prosperity Problem (George Will, 6/09/07, Real Clear Politics)

    Early in George W. Bush's presidency, liberal critics said: The economy is not growing. Which was true. He inherited the debris of the 1990s' irrational exuberances. A brief (eight months) and mild (the mildest since World War II) recession began in March 2001, before any of his policies were implemented. It ended in November 2001.

    In 2002, when his tax cuts kicked in and the economy began 65 months -- so far -- of uninterrupted growth, critics said: But it is a "jobless recovery." When the unemployment rate steadily declined -- today it is 4.5 percent; time was, 6 percent was considered full employment -- critics said: Well, all right, the economy is growing and creating jobs and wealth, but the wealth is not being distributed in accordance with the laws of God or Nature or liberalism or something. [...]

    In the 102 quarters since Ronald Reagan's tax cuts went into effect more than 25 years ago, there have been 96 quarters of growth. Since the Bush tax cuts and the current expansion began, the economy's growth has averaged 3 percent per quarter, and more than 8 million jobs have been created. The deficit as a percentage of gross domestic product is below the post-World War II average.

    Democrats, economic hypochondriacs all, see economic sickness. They should get on with legislating their cure. [...]

    Democrats need not confine themselves to their ritual tropes about how "the middle class is under assault" (Clinton again). They control Congress; they can act. The unemployed John Edwards, who has the luxury of irresponsibility, challenges Democrats to repeal the Bush tax cuts they disapprove of rather than wait for them to expire.

    Democrats cannot end the war (actually, they can but won't), but they can send their tax agenda to the president and dare him to veto it. They can, but they won't. Do you wonder why?

    Give him a reactionary Democratic Party to react against.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:36 AM


    U.S.: Is The Housing Recession Starting To Recede?: The drag on economic growth is easing, and home demand is firming up (James C. Cooper, 6/11/07, Business Week)

    It's still way too early to celebrate, but more and more signs suggest the housing recession is starting to ease its grip on the economy. That doesn't mean the slump will be quick to disappear, but beginning this quarter it looks as if housing's subtraction from overall economic growth will be considerably smaller than it has been, perhaps the smallest since the downturn began a year ago. [...]

    The Standard & Poor's (MHP )/Case-Shiller index for March shows house prices falling 1.4% from a year ago, with prices down in 13 of the 20 cities the index tracks. Economists like this index because it represents a constant mix of repeat sales of the same homes, and it attempts to control for quality improvements. Still, consider that prices are up 29.2% over the past three years and 64.3% over the past five years.

    We've been reduced to pretend recessions.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:32 AM


    eBay-nomics: Modern economists have assumed that people in auctions behave rationally. Then came eBay. (Christopher Shea, June 10, 2007, Boston Globe)

    In Rome, they called it , or "bidder's heat." If you got swept up in the passion of an auction and paid way too much for something, you could plead a form of temporary insanity, and the judges might step in and let you off the hook (and get you your money back).

    Good luck finding that kind of help the next time you overbid on that used iPod on eBay. You bid for it, you pressed the button, you bought it.

    The Romans knew something that modern economists lost sight of at some point: Auctions lead people to do weird things. For a long time, economists have explored and even reveled in the supposed purity of auctions, viewing them as uncannily efficient means of moving goods into the hands of people who value them the most.

    In fact, studying auctions has long been a fertile subfield within economics. The late economist William Vickrey won a Nobel in economic science, in part for his work in auctions. A 1961 paper of Vickrey's detailed the elegance of so-called sealed-bid, second-price auctions, in which the winner pays the price submitted by the second-place bidder. (Among other advantages, such auctions reduce the likelihood that a bidder will overpay for an item.) This spring, Harvard's Susan Athey, who helped British Columbia design timber auctions crucial to its economy, won the John Bates Clark Medal, given to the most accomplished economist under 40.

    Now, however, economists and other social scientists are as likely to be interested in the quirks and inefficiencies of auctions -- and the irrationality of bidders -- as in their elegance. And since eBay, the hugely successful online auction site, offers a mountain of data about sellers and bidders every day, its glazed-eyed devotees are the guinea pigs for this new wave of research.

    ...that capitalism is false to the exact extent it relies on Rationalism.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:01 AM


    The Neoconservative Persuasion: What it was, and what it is. (Irving Kristol, 08/25/2003, Weekly Standard)

    [O]f course, there is foreign policy, the area of American politics where neoconservatism has recently been the focus of media attention. This is surprising since there is no set of neoconservative beliefs concerning foreign policy, only a set of attitudes derived from historical experience. (The favorite neoconservative text on foreign affairs, thanks to professors Leo Strauss of Chicago and Donald Kagan of Yale, is Thucydides on the Peloponnesian War.) These attitudes can be summarized in the following "theses" (as a Marxist would say): First, patriotism is a natural and healthy sentiment and should be encouraged by both private and public institutions. Precisely because we are a nation of immigrants, this is a powerful American sentiment. Second, world government is a terrible idea since it can lead to world tyranny. International institutions that point to an ultimate world government should be regarded with the deepest suspicion. Third, statesmen should, above all, have the ability to distinguish friends from enemies. This is not as easy as it sounds, as the history of the Cold War revealed. The number of intelligent men who could not count the Soviet Union as an enemy, even though this was its own self-definition, was absolutely astonishing.

    Finally, for a great power, the "national interest" is not a geographical term, except for fairly prosaic matters like trade and environmental regulation. A smaller nation might appropriately feel that its national interest begins and ends at its borders, so that its foreign policy is almost always in a defensive mode. A larger nation has more extensive interests. And large nations, whose identity is ideological, like the Soviet Union of yesteryear and the United States of today, inevitably have ideological interests in addition to more material concerns. Barring extraordinary events, the United States will always feel obliged to defend, if possible, a democratic nation under attack from nondemocratic forces, external or internal. That is why it was in our national interest to come to the defense of France and Britain in World War II. That is why we feel it necessary to defend Israel today, when its survival is threatened. No complicated geopolitical calculations of national interest are necessary.

    Tales of the Neocons (Richard Perle, Liel Lebovitz, June 28, 2004, The Jerusalem Report)
    [P]erhaps the biggest problem with the neocons is not who they are or are not, but what they are: While the term "neocon" is widely used today, it is not at all clear that it refers to a coherent movement. Indeed, two of the most prominent founders of neoconservatism say the term is obsolete, as irrelevant after the collapse of the Soviet Union - the Evil Empire that the original neocons sought to combat - as the term "abolitionist" became after the end of slavery.

    Neoconservatism was founded in the late 1960s by a group of mostly Jewish intellectuals, such as Irving Kristol, Norman Podhoretz and Nathan Glazer, all of whom were still positioned on the relatively liberal end of the political spectrum, yet were becoming increasingly wary of the shifting nature of the American Left. The New Left, was advocating policies they found repugnant to their sense of liberal egalitarianism: affirmative action, with its emphasis on identity politics, the multicultural ethos that was replacing their universalist approach, and the growing animosity toward Israel in the wake of the 1967 war. Foremost, however, the original neocons defined themselves as opposed to any policy of detente toward the Soviet Union, pursuing instead a hard-line approach based on a belief in the moral superiority of the Untied States over its Communist nemesis. The neocons were a breed different in both style and sensibilities from traditional conservatives. Where traditionalists often favored isolationism, the neocons often supported military engagement to further America's causes.

    Also, on the domestic front, the neocons were reshuffling the old political categories by setting a new agenda of priorities that was not identical to the old ways of defining left and right in the United States: focusing on topics such as affirmative action and education was all the movement needed to attract a hodgepodge of convictions. [...]

    Why were so many of the original neocons Jewish? There are, according to Glazer, a professor of sociology at Harvard University, two plausible explanations. First, he says, "Jews are disproportionately represented among the intellectual elites where these ideas developed." The second, more specific, argument has to do with the domestic agenda of the original neocons. A key cause, says Glazer, was opposition to affirmative action. "That involved an issue of Jewish interest, because if you think of the beginnings of affirmative action, the early 70s, to emphasize minority appointments in colleges meant that the opportunities for Jewish academics would be reduced."

    It is not a criticism to say that the neoconservatives were/are social liberals who were at odds with the Democratic party over discrete issues that particiularly impacted fellow Jews: the treatment of Jews in the USSR; the existential threat to Israel; and affirmative action. On these three specific matters they found that their allies were almost all Republicans--with Scoop Jackson, and occasionally, at least rhetorically, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, being the most notable exceptions.

    Events are in the Saddle and They Ride the Neocons (BrothersJudd, 2002)

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


    Study to focus on U.S. internment of Germans: Probe will look into World War II camps set up for 'enemy aliens' (FREDERIC J. FROMMER, 6/09/07, Associated Press)

    In 1943, 17-year-old Eberhard Fuhr was taken out of his high school classroom in Cincinnati, arrested by FBI agents and sent off to an internment camp for "enemy aliens" in Texas, where he spent the next 4 1/2 years with his family.

    Thousands of Germans experienced a similar fate. They were detained in far fewer numbers in this country than Japanese.

    The stories of the Germans have gotten little attention so far, but the Senate took a step toward changing that last week, voting to look into the treatment of Germans and other Europeans in the U.S. during World War II. [...]

    According to retired history professor Stephen Fox, who has written a book about the FBI roundup of German-Americans during World War II, roughly 3,000 Italians and 11,000 Germans were detained in the U.S., including some German Jews.

    ...seems pretty enlightened for FDR.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


    Democrats, NRA make deal on new gun rules (JONATHAN WEISMAN, 6/09/07, Washington Post)

    Senior Democrats have reached agreement with the National Rifle Association on what could be the first federal gun-control legislation since 1994, a measure to significantly strengthen the national system that checks the backgrounds of gun buyers. [...]

    To sign on to the deal, the powerful gun lobby won significant concessions from Democratic negotiators. Individuals with minor infractions in their pasts could petition their states to have their names removed from the federal database, and about 83,000 military veterans, put into the system by the Department of Veterans Affairs in 2000 for alleged mental health reasons, would have a chance to clean their records.

    The federal government would be permanently barred from charging gun buyers or sellers a fee for their background checks. In addition, faulty records such as duplicative names or expunged convictions would have to be scrubbed from the database.

    You know the Democratic leadership has lost control of the congressional party when the response to a gun incident is to pass legislation for the NRA.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


    Former Taiwan President Lee Says Island `Independent' (Hiroshi Suzuki, June 9, 2007, Bloomberg)

    Taiwan is an independent nation and should strive to free itself from China's influence, former President Lee Teng-hui said on the last day of a trip to Japan.

    ``Taiwan has been independent, and the Taiwanese people have the clear belief that it is theirs,'' Lee, 84, told reporters in Tokyo today. ``Taiwan should start walking toward a new direction of freedom and democracy, or else remain forever within China's fluctuating political influence.''

    Japan's government distanced itself from Lee's 11-day trip to avoid angering China, which considers Taiwan its own territory and was infuriated by Lee's emphasis on Taiwan's sovereignty during his 12 years in office. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuhisa Shiozaki earlier this week said Lee came to Japan ``as a private citizen'' unrelated to any government relationship.

    China's government was ``very dissatisfied'' with Lee's trip, Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu told reporters in Beijing on June 7.

    One salutary step we could take vis-a-vis China is to officially repudiate the one-China policy and fully recognize the independence of one of our best allies.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


    Conservatives Worry About Court Vacancies (Robert Barnes and Michael Abramowitz, 6/10/07, Washington Post )

    A White House failure to move quickly to fill judicial openings around the country is fueling concern among conservative allies that President Bush may miss an opportunity to use his final months in office to continue putting his stamp on the federal judiciary.

    Bush enjoyed great success in installing conservative jurists in his six years in office, from district court judges to his two nominees to the Supreme Court, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr.

    But in the closing months of his administration, Bush faces what University of North Carolina law professor Michael J. Gerhardt calls the "double whammy" of a Senate controlled by Democrats on one hand, and senators of his own party determined to play a greater role in judicial selections on the other.

    ...before they turned on the GOP Congress.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


    Mental illness and the price of 'free will': Are laws protecting the right to refuse psychiatric treatment doing more harm than good? (Susan Partovi, June 10, 2007, LA times)

    THE PHONE RANG at 3 a.m. "Dr. Partovi," the person on the line said, "I'm calling to let you know that William expired this morning."

    I'd first met William about six months earlier in May 2006 at the Venice Family Clinic after his release from a hospital where he was treated for congestive heart failure. I still remember his loud, childlike voice: "No, no … I'm not going to the hospital!" he shrieked when I told him that I wanted to refer him to Harbor-UCLA's cardiology clinic.

    William — I'm calling him that because medical privacy rules don't allow me to use his real name — was 61. Six feet tall with gray hair, he dressed in T-shirts and pants that were a little too big. He lived alone in an apartment in Brentwood and had a sister in Canada and a niece in New Jersey.

    Three years earlier, he'd had a heart attack and a stroke, and he now suffered from dementia, likely as a result of the stroke. It was quickly obvious to me that William could not take care of himself anymore. He spoke like a whining toddler. He was very stubborn, and his judgment was extremely limited. "My memory's not good," he'd huff if he couldn't answer a question.

    But one's inability to care for oneself is not a criterion to receive involuntary treatment for the mentally impaired. And for many mentally impaired people without family nearby to rely on for housing, food and help in managing their medical care, the result can be disastrous.

    A recent study of adults with serious mental illness who were treated in eight states' public hospitals and clinics found that they died, on average, at age 51 — 25 years younger than the average American. The study's lead author, Dr. Joseph Parks, director of psychiatric services for the Missouri Department of Mental Health, said that about three out of five died of preventable diseases.

    William's heart failure was very treatable, but only if he would take his medications appropriately.

    Freedom has always been understood to impose obligations. Remove them and freedom is lethal.

    June 9, 2007

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:43 PM


    Chinese Mirrors (RICK PERLSTEIN, June 25, 2007, The Nation)

    China has become rather like Israel: No matter the party, no matter the leader, certain de rigueur formulas must be uttered. Mann strips the hustle bare: "Every single American president since Nixon has, in one way or another, either ignored or quietly given up on the issue of Chinese democracy." Since this abandonment has been hemmed around by strenuous presidential representations that democracy is precisely what American policy toward China is all about, this has required some fancy ideological footwork. Mann lays out the steps. He says that the apostle of human rights, President Carter, made the second breakthrough, after Nixon's: He came up with the rationalization that whatever the abuses evident in the 1970s, the situation was much better than it had been during the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s. Ronald Reagan, President during Deng Xiaoping's first moves toward market liberalization, was able via that patented Reagan magic to explain away China's Leninist state with a verbal wave of the hand: He referred to the People's Republic as "so-called Communist China." "Mr. Deng, keep up this wall!"

    The first President Bush was presented with an irritant: that inconvenient 1989 massacre, the same year citizens staged democracy demonstrations in East Germany, where, on the orders of a weak and intimidated Kremlin, the army stepped aside. Incredibly, this became the excuse to downplay Tiananmen: The cold war was over. What was the point of undue hostility? Bush 41 promptly announced a "comprehensive policy of engagement," making it the United States' priority to restore the $2 billion in interest-free loans the World Bank had withheld from China in punishment. It was Clinton who "managed to turn black into white and white into black--to persuade Americans that it was somehow politically progressive and intellectually sophisticated to accept Chinese repression and uncouth or unenlightened to attempt to combat it." He revoked his own executive order on trade sanctions, written to honor his campaign promise of "an America that will not coddle dictators, from Baghdad to Beijing." "Why bother to protest a crackdown or urge China to allow political opposition," Mann archly concludes, "if you know that democracy's coming anyway by the inexorable laws of history?"

    James Mann is now best known as the author of Rise of the Vulcans: The History of Bush's War Cabinet (2004), but he was also the Los Angeles Times's Beijing bureau chief from 1984 to 1987, and he is the author of Beijing Jeep: A Case Study of Western Business in China (1989), an account of an early attempt to establish a joint manufacturing deal in China, and About Face: A History of America's Curious Relationship With China, From Nixon to Clinton (2000). He's a China watcher. More crucially, he's a China-watcher watcher. Watching the China watchers, we watch ourselves.

    America's image of China changes with whiplash speed. What never changes is the sort of people propounding the images: the Kristofs, the Clintons, the Sandy Bergers; before them, the Alsops, the Trumans, the Dulleses; and back behind them, men whose names are unfamiliar to us but whose sociological and psychological profiles are the same--mandarins of American power, unshakable in their confidence that the natural and transparent truth about China just happens to coincide with America's interests at any given time and to the well-being of the about-to-be-uplifted Chinese masses.

    Billionaire-by-marriage Thomas Friedman, naturally, makes an early appearance in The China Fantasy. "China's going to have a free press," he wrote in The Lexus and the Olive Tree, arguing from dialectical inevitability: "Globalization will drive it." Half right: China now has an active financial press. Newspapers that publish freely on politics, however, are shut down--at which point, jabs Mann, the Friedmans of the world seem "to vanish from public view." Same thing, he says, with "initiatives for rule of law": They "have made some progress when it comes to business disputes." Regarding other disputes, however, it's commissars all the way down. "The result could well be a Chinese legal system that offers special protection for foreign investors but not ordinary Chinese individuals."

    What a bastard this James Mann is. The Carter Center in Atlanta has praised China's system of village elections; he says it's been suckered. "You can run for office in a single village on your own without any organizational support by going door-to-door, because everybody knows everybody else. However, once you try to have an election that covers three villages, you need an organization"--a political party, which is illegal. "In fact, one might even say that allowing village elections helps to strengthen the rule of the Chinese Communist Party, by giving outsiders the appearance that democracy is spreading across China when in fact the party remains as much in political control as it was before."

    What easy marks these American mandarins are. China knows it can count on them to swat down critics via a standard lexicon of abuse: They are "China bashers" possessed of a "cold war mentality." The China watchers are also absurdly deferential: "If we reflexively treat the Chinese as a threat, we will answer our own question: They will become a threat," says Newsweek contributing editor Robert Samuelson. "If you treat China as an enemy," says Harvard China hand Joseph Nye, "it will become an enemy."

    Economists, those not busy lionizing America's favorite new source of dirt-cheap labor, might recognize this as a perverse set of incentives that hastens undesirable outcomes. "Pick a dictator anywhere on the globe," Mann writes, and you'll find Chinese backing. The Chinese gave Robert Mugabe an honorary degree--and "new surveillance equipment to crack down on Internet traffic and block dissident radio signals." The military regime in Burma has enjoyed consistent backing, as have Uzbek President Islam Karimov (the "body boiler"), the genocidal government of Sudan, even the coup against Mikhail Gorbachev in 1991. Don't raise a fuss: "Any tension between America and China is inherently bad," Mann paraphrases the China watchers, "and is the responsibility of the United States. However, if the confrontation involves intellectual property rights or other U.S. commercial interests, then it is China's fault and is a legitimate issue that must be addressed immediately."

    Though it may be that they are not suckers at all: They enjoy a handsome quid pro quo. First Kissinger, then Brent Scowcroft, Madeleine Albright, William Cohen and Sandy Berger--all have set up lucrative China consultancies. So have "ordinary working-level civil servants." Mann singles out Kenneth Lieberthal of the University of Michigan, a former Clinton NSC aide who pontificates wisely against China bashers ("Those who raise alarms focus too much on the problems of success and too little on the problems of failure" is a recent extrusion) without disclosing his employ at Sandy Berger's consulting firm.

    Oceania has not always been at peace with East Asia. Back when we were at war, the inevitabilities were reversed. The Chinese, President Eisenhower wrote in his diary in 1955, were "completely reckless, arrogant...completely indifferent as to human losses." "We are going to have to fight the Chinese anyway in 2, 3, 5, or 10 years," advised Kennedy hand Chester Bowles six years later, "and it is just a question of where, when and how."

    The liberal of the species is never more hawkish than in regard to a war he assumes we won't fight. If the President were tomorrow to start laying the groundwork for changing the regime tham Friend Perlstein pretends to find so objectionable, his would be one of the loudest denouncing voices.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:12 PM


    Blair 'may become a Catholic deacon': Visit to Vatican to see the Pope as last trip before quitting No10 'is highly significant' (JONATHAN OLIVER and MARTIN DELGADO, 9th June 2007, Daily Mail)

    Tony Blair has discussed becoming a Roman Catholic deacon when he quits office.

    The revelation comes as he prepares to meet the Pope amid speculation that he will use the audience in the Vatican to announce his conversion.

    In his last foreign engagement, just days before he leaves Downing Street for the final time, the Prime Minister will visit Pope Benedict XVI in what officials say will be a "highly significant" personal mission.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:06 PM


    The gentlemen's club for the rich and famous that worships a 1980s Page 3 girl (SHARON CHURCHER in New York and ALAN RIMMER in London, 9th June 2007, Daily Mail)

    A former British topless model has become the extraordinary obsession of members of America’s most illustrious and secretive men's club, which is trying to track her down in time for its 100th anniversary party next month.

    The Bohemian Grove Club holds an annual summer camp at which members, who include Henry Kissinger, former President George Bush Senior, Clint Eastwood and Bob Weir, founder member of Sixties rock band the Grateful Dead, debate world politics, perform weird mock Druid ceremonies – and, it turns out, ogle a poster of a blonde in a thong. [...]

    Sian said: "I'm flattered to be in the hearts and minds of such important people but my modelling career is in the past now. And, since they are so secretive, how do I know if this will be a nice gentlemen’s dinner or men leaping around doing weird and distasteful things in a forest?"

    The £5,000-a-year club's strict code bans its 2,300 members from discussing its activities but, speaking on condition of anonymity, the 25 members leading the hunt for Sian assured us that their intentions were honourable.

    One of them, a California financier, said: "The poster hangs on the outside wall of a cabin in an area of the camp called Skidoo and has become rather famous throughout the club because of the artistic photography and the beauty of the subject.

    "This summer will be the 100th anniversary, so we thought a black-tie dinner honouring her would be a nice thing to do.

    "We would like to read out a message from her, maybe something along the lines of Miss Adey-Jones saying, "I am glad I could improve on your ambience."

    "And we'd like a current snapshot, which we'll show alongside the poster. We just want to do something nice for a woman who has meant so much to us."

    Though the poster has been displayed at the camp for 27 years, the members had no idea of Sian's identity and asked California internet expert Raymond Lopez to help.

    He said: "Someone thought she was the former British model Caroline Cossey, who was a Bond girl in For Your Eyes Only.

    That would have been fascinating because Caroline is a transsexual who was born a boy but when I found her in Atlanta, where she now lives, she said, "I hate to disappoint you but it's Sian Adey-Jones."

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:26 PM


    Robinson Cano Redux (Marc Normandin, 6/09/07, Baseball Prospectus)

    In 2006, Cano should have hit roughly .298/.321/.481, which is still a quality offensive season, but not anything like his actual line. His .363 BABIP was to blame for this, but given his line drive rate of 19.9% you get the adjusted line above. Looking into his numbers a little deeper, we find that his hit percentage on groundballs jumped considerably in 2006 (30.4%), and has dropped back down to 2005 levels this year (24.7% for ‘05, 23.1% for 2007). Basically, his groundballs had eyes, and they’ve lost them this season, much like in 2005. This accounts for the drop in production from 2006, but what about the drop from 2005’s numbers? After all, he’s hitting just .268/.308/.420 in 2007.

    Cano has not been unlucky with his BABIP so far; his .315 figure is above the league average and 33 points higher than you would expect given his low 16.2% line drive rate. He has hits on 85.7% of his liners this season, 13% higher than last year. This accounts for the high BABIP, even with the low line drive rate. [...]

    Regardless of adjustment, I’m of the mind that Cano is a .290/.320/.475 type hitter as he currently stands. He may develop further and improve his game–he’s still just 24 years old–but as previously stated, it will be improvements from his 2005 line, and not the anomaly of 2006.

    A very nearly .800 OPS is fine for a 2b, but combined with his inconsistent defense it means you look for a replacement.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:12 AM


    Ruling Likely to Spur Convictions in Capital Cases (ADAM LIPTAK, 6/09/07, NY Times)

    A decision by the Supreme Court on Monday that made it easier for prosecutors to exclude people who express reservations about the death penalty from capital juries will make the panels whiter and more conviction-prone, experts in law and psychology said this week.

    The jurors who remain after people with moral objections to imposing the death penalty are weeded out, studies uniformly show, are significantly more likely to vote to find defendants guilty than jurors as a whole.

    Always amusing when the citizenry of the Puritan Nation complains about how harsh shar'ia is.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:27 AM


    The End of Politics (Mark Lilla, 06.17.03, New Republic)

    Somewhere in his writings Leo Strauss remarks that the Jewish problem is the political problem in nuce. This pregnant remark was meant to invite two sorts of reflections. One, the most obvious, concerns the historical fate of world Jewry, from the biblical age down through the Diaspora and the establishment of the state of Israel. The other, less obvious, concerns the light that Judaism as a social fact sheds on our understanding of politics more generally. Here Strauss had in mind what he called the "theological-political problem," which he saw as the unavoidable tension between political authority and divine revelation. But the Jewish problem is significant in a third sense, too. For how nations or civilizations cope with the existence of the Jews can, at certain historical junctures, reveal political pathologies whose causes have little or nothing to do with Judaism as such. There are periods when the acuteness of the Jewish problem is a symptom of a deeper malaise in political life and political ideas.

    There is little doubt that contemporary Europe is passing through such a moment. It is not the first. Throughout Europe's history there have been periods in which a crisis in political ideas had important consequences for Jews in their relations with other Europeans. The anti-Semitic persecutions of the Middle Ages, which had many sources, also coincided with a disturbance in European thinking about the relation between ecclesiastical power and secular power, between the City of God and the City of Man. The emancipation of the Jews in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries coincided with the epochal shift from absolutism to theories of republicanism and democracy. And the rejection of those Enlightenment political concepts in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in the name of nationalist, racialist, and anti-modern ideals portended events that will shape Jewish consciousness for all time.

    Today Europeans find themselves living in what historians call a "saddle period." One distinct age has passed, that of the Cold War, and an obscure new one has begun. Looking back on the era just ended, one fact is especially striking about the intellectual life of Western Europe, or "old Europe": the omnipresence of political ideologies and passions, and the relative absence of serious political thought, understood as disciplined and impartial reflection about distinctly political experience. There were exceptions to this intellectual collapse, and they are widely recognized and revered today: Isaiah Berlin and Michael Oakeshott in Britain, Raymond Aron in France, Norberto Bobbio in Italy, and perhaps a few others. But due to the overwhelming attraction of Marxism and structuralism in all their variants, the influence of these thinkers on wider intellectual discussions was actually quite limited in this period. What was paradoxical about those schools was that they encouraged political engagement while at the same time absorbing all thinking about political experience into amorphous discussions of larger historical, economic, or linguistic forces. The result was that political action intensified as political thought atrophied.

    Viewed in retrospect, the intellectual flight from political thought in Europe now appears as a reaction to, and a means of coping with, the unique conditions of the Cold War. After the disasters of the first half of the twentieth century, Western European politics were put on ice--or at least some of the essential questions were. Economies were reorganized, constitutions rewritten, parliaments and parties reconstituted, social mores revised. But the most fundamental issue for all modern nation-states--the issue of sovereignty--could not be addressed, because neither the European community as a whole nor Western European countries individually were fully sovereign. The concept of "sovereignty" has been given many, even incompatible, meanings over the centuries, but at its core is the notion of autonomy, which in political terms means the capacity to defend oneself and, when necessary, to decide to wage war. In this respect European nations were not sovereign during the Cold War. There were good reasons why that was so, and why for decades Western European thinkers were relieved not to have to think about such matters, and the United States and NATO were relieved to do their thinking for them. It was a prudent arrangement, but in the end it had unhealthy intellectual consequences.

    Those consequences have been on public display in two related spheres since 1989. The most important is Continental thinking about the European Union. In the early postwar decades, there was some inspiring talk about a "United States of Europe," but as the decades wore on, the concept of "Europe" came to have little meaning beyond economic cooperation. Over the past decade, though, we have witnessed an extremely uncritical embrace of the idea of Europe among Western European intellectuals generally, and its invocation as a kind of charm against the most difficult political questions facing the Continent today. There are many reasons for this, and they differ country by country. In formerly fascist countries--Germany, Italy, Spain--the idea of the nation-state remains in ill repute, while the blissfully undefined notion of "Europe" inspires pacific, post-political hopes. In France, the idea of Europe is generally seen not as a substitute for the nation but as a tool for constraining German might on the Continent and American influence from across the Atlantic. And for intellectuals in the smaller countries, belonging to "Europe" means the hope of escaping cultural obscurity.

    What Europe means as a distinctly political entity remains a mystery to all involved. The wisest European commentators worry about this. They are concerned about what is called the "democratic deficit" in the European institutions of Brussels and Strasbourg. They also wonder how widely the community can be extended, not only in economic terms but, as in the case of Turkey, also in cultural ones. Yet serious reflection about the nature of European sovereignty and its relation to national sovereignty is rare these days, except among academic specialists. And so natural concerns about the future of the nation, and the public debate about it, have been left to xenophobes and chauvinists, of whom there are more than a few in every European country.

    It is nothing less than extraordinary that the idea of the nation-state as the locus of political action and political reflection fell so quickly and so silently into oblivion among Western European thinkers in our time. The great exception that proves the rule is France, where passionate appeals to the Gaullist tradition of national autonomy have run up against equally passionate appeals to European and international cooperation, leading to the kind of diplomatic incoherence that was recently put on display at the United Nations. There are some understandable reasons for this development, too. After all, one of the important lessons that Europeans have drawn from their twentieth-century history is that nationalism is always a danger, and that it can infect and eventually destroy liberal democracy. [...]

    It is against the backdrop of this intellectual crisis of sovereignty that the contemporary "Jewish question" in Europe must be seen. For centuries that question was, broadly speaking, one of inclusion: what sorts of people could be citizens and under what conditions, whether religion mattered, whether differences could be tolerated. This form of the problem still exists in Europe, though today Muslims are more likely to be the object of prejudice and violence than Jews are. The battle for toleration as an idea has largely been won; the challenges now are to put it into practice and to understand its limits within each national context.

    It is not the idea of tolerance that is in crisis in Europe today, it is the idea of the nation-state, and the related concepts of sovereignty and the use of force. And these ideas have also affected European intellectual attitudes toward world Jewry, and specifically toward Israel. Here there is an extraordinary paradox that deserves to be savored. For centuries Jews were the stateless people and suffered at the hands of Europeans who were deeply rooted in their own nations. The early Zionists, from Hess to Herzl, drew a very simple lesson from this experience: that Jews could not live safely or decently until they had their own state. Those who claim today that the state of Israel is the brainchild of nineteenth-century European thought are not wrong; this is hardly a secret. But the point is often made with sinister intent, as if to suggest that Israel and the Zionist enterprise more generally represent some kind of political atavism that enlightened Europeans should spurn. Once upon a time, the Jews were mocked for not having a nation-state. Now they are criticized for having one.

    And not just any nation-state, but one whose founding is still fresh in living memory. All political foundings, without exception, are morally ambiguous enterprises, and Israel has not escaped these ambiguities. Two kinds of fools and bigots refuse to see this: those who deny or explain away the Palestinian suffering caused by Israel's founding, and those who treat that suffering as the unprecedented consequence of a uniquely sinister ideology. The moral balance-sheet of Israel's founding, which is still being composed, must be compared to those of other nations at their conception, not to the behavior of other nations after their existence was secured. And it is no secret that Israel must still defend itself against nations and peoples who have not reconciled themselves to its existence--an old, but now forgotten, European practice. Many Western European intellectuals, including those whose toleration and even affection for Jews cannot be questioned, find all this incomprehensible. The reason is not anti-Semitism nor even anti-Zionism in the usual sense. It is that Israel is, and is proud to be, a nationstate--the nation-state of the Jews. And that is profoundly embarrassing to post-national Europe.

    Consider the issue from the perspective of a young European who might have grown up in the postwar world. From his first day of school he would have been taught the following lesson about twentieth-century history: that all its disasters can be traced to nationalism, militarism, and racism. He might even have learned that Jews were the main victims of these political pathologies, and would have developed a certain sympathy for their plight. But as he grew up he would have begun to learn about contemporary Israel, mainly in light of the conflict with the Palestinians, and his views would probably have begun to change. From his own history he would have concluded that nations are suspect entities, that the distinction they make between insider and outsider is immoral, and that military force is to be forsworn. He would then have likely concluded that contemporary Israel violates all these maxims: it is proudly independent, it distinguishes between Jew and non-Jew, it defends itself without apology. The charges that Zionism is racism, or that Israel is behaving like the Nazis in the occupied territories, undoubtedly have roots in anti-Semitism; but frustration with the very existence of Israel and the way it handles its challenges has a more proximate cause in European intellectual life. That cause is the crisis in the European idea of a nation-state.

    There's one important caveat here: Americans are so supportive of Israel precisely because we think of them as a country like ours -- and, therefore, a logical member of the Anglosphere -- rather than a nation, like the continental Europe states.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:12 AM

    IS IT SEIF?:

    US firm purchases Tamoil for €4bn: Colony Capital, the Los Angeles-based private equity firm, fights off the rival Carlyle Group in the race for the Libyan oil refiner (Steve Hawkes and agencies, 6/06/07, Times Online)

    An American private equity group led by the billionaire Thomas Barrack has won the €4 billion (£2.6 billion) auction for Tamoil, the Libyan oil refiner run by the son of Colonel Gaddafi.

    The Los Angeles-based Colony Capital fought off competition from its US private equity rival Carlyle Group and Repsol, the Spanish oil group, for the business.

    The Libyan Government will retain a 35 per cent stake.

    Libya, the country with the biggest oil reserves in Africa, decided to sell Tamoil two years ago when Seif al-Islam, Colonel Gaddafi’s son, said that managing the firm was “a burden”.

    Ideally the king should be a reformer, but a sufficiently influential prince'll do.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:08 AM


    Amendments fight decks immigration bill (Janet Hook and Nicole Gaouette, 6/09/07, Los Angeles Times)

    On Friday, Bush urged three key Republican lawmakers in private phone calls to fight for the bill and today will deliver his radio address on the issue, deploring the divisions it has created and asking Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., "to act quickly to bring this bill back to the Senate floor for a vote."

    Speaking less than 24 hours after the bill's demise, Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl, the lead Republican supporter, said Friday that the group had "already begun the process of figuring out how to get this back together and concluded within the next few weeks." His Democratic counterpart, Massachusetts Sen. Edward Kennedy, insisted, "We are not giving up, we are not giving in."

    A disagreement over how many amendments to the legislation should be considered brought the bill down, but Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., said the lawmakers already have settled on a "finite list which will come forward."

    The key to p[assing the amnesty--the sole purpose of the bill--will be to pretend that the next version is a victory for the opponents, who have to come up with an alternative both because business demands it and because they've created a hysteria about border security. None of the amendments matter. They won't be enforced anyway.

    Here's an archetype of those you can easily hornswoggle, Enforcement before amnesty (David Frum, June 9, 2007, LA Times)

    THE SHELVING of the Senate's Kyl-Kennedy immigration bill opens a chance for real reform — reform that respects the wishes and protects the interests of a large majority of the American people.

    Talk of Resurrecting Immigration Bill Begins as Autopsy Goes On (Shailagh Murray and Jonathan Weisman, 6/09/07, Washington Post)
    Reid's motives have been a question mark from day one. Spokesman Jim Manley said his boss was prepared to support the immigration bill on final passage. But advocates had their doubts, given Reid's determination to limit debate, and the green light he gave to one of the bill's Democratic critics to twice offer an amendment to end a guest-worker program after five years. Supporters of the immigration bill viewed the measure, which passed on the second try, as a poison pill. [...]

    The bill's architects believed they were on track for passage, certainly by early next week.

    But Reid continued to insist that debate be cut off by Thursday, with a final vote on Friday night.

    Then, late Wednesday, he allowed a second vote on sunsetting the guest-worker program. The measure, offered by Sen. Byron L. Dorgan (D-N.D.), had previously failed by a single vote, but Dorgan was given a second chance just before midnight. This time, with the help of conservatives opponents -- who were seeking to kill the bill by any means -- Dorgan obtained a one-vote win.

    Reid bristled when he was asked why he gave Dorgan a second chance. "This is a killer amendment? After five years, you'll take a look at how the program is working? I can't fathom why this is a bad amendment," he said.

    Not until midday Thursday did it dawn on both sides that Reid was serious about finishing quickly. Across the Capitol, leaders of the House's Congressional Hispanic Caucus were wrapping up their presentation on immigration reform when an aide broke in with the news that the Senate leader would seek a second vote to end debate.

    Rep. Joe Baca (D-Calif.), the caucus chairman, and Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez (Ill.), the chief Democratic author of a major House immigration bill, dashed over to the Senate. But Reid did not see them until 6:30 p.m. Gutierrez implored him not to pull the bill from the Senate floor. To the millions of illegal immigrants in this country, it was "a matter of life and death," he said.

    But Reid made it clear his mind was made. "His demeanor was, how should I say, decided on," Gutierrez said reluctantly. "That's all I'm going to say about it."

    Harry knows how they'll vote once their citizens.
    The accent is on sports: ESPN Deportes is going after the Spanish-language fan, a market that has shown the biggest growth in the country. And it's not only soccer that provides the attraction. (Larry Stewart, June 9, 2007, LA Times)
    Not long ago, Lucas Bongarra, a former college soccer player and now coach, was watching ESPN2 when a promo came on for ESPN Deportes.

    He switched. And stayed.

    "I now can watch 'SportsCenter' in Spanish," said an almost jubilant Bongarra, 30, who grew up in Buenos Aires and now lives in West Hollywood. "It's the same format as the 'SportsCenter' on ESPN, only it's in Spanish."

    He doesn't deny that he is hooked. And yet, on Sundays at noon, Bongarra is also watching Argentine soccer on Fox Sports en Español (FSE) , or has been sure to TiVo it.

    This kind of enthusiasm is why Spanish-language coverage is the fastest-growing segment of sports broadcasting, with ratings to prove it.

    And nowhere is that dynamic more in play than in Los Angeles, the nation's No. 1 market for Latino viewers.

    nd because business is a more important GOP constituency than the Know-Nothings, this golden goose will not be killed.
    Why restrict immigration at all?: The Constitution and the laws of economics compel us to welcome all immigrants. (Becky Akers and Donald J. Boudreaux, 6/09/07, CS Monitor)
    The Constitution does not authorize the federal government to control immigration. Nor does it say anything about illegal aliens. We looked for a clause with directions for ranking immigrants on a points system – another feature of the Senate's reform bill – but we couldn't find one.

    Sadly, lawmakers have repeatedly interpreted this silence as license for ill-conceived legislation. Congress began barring entry to the nation in 1875 with prostitutes and convicts. Soon, all sorts of people fell short of congressional glory: ex-convicts in 1882, along with Chinese citizens, lunatics, and idiots. Paupers, polygamists, and people suffering from infectious diseases or insanity made the list in 1891, while the illiterate were banned in 1917.

    The biggest spur to antiforeigner fervor is always the same: natives fear that newcomers will swipe their jobs. Take, for example, the 1889 Supreme Court case challenging the Chinese Exclusion Act. The Court upheld the exclusion because the Chinese had competed "with our artisans and mechanics, as well as our laborers in the field.... [Californians wanted] prompt action ... to restrict their immigration."

    Ah, the Left's convenient conversion to originalism.... We should, of course, have limits on immigration based on ideology and morality, just no numerical limitations.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:02 AM


    Sunni militia joins GIs to fight al-Qaida (Joshua Partlow, 6/09/07, The Washington Post)

    In an attempt to drive out al-Qaida in Iraq, American soldiers in a Baghdad neighborhood have allied themselves with dozens of Sunni militiamen who call themselves the Baghdad Patriots -- a group that the Americans believe includes insurgents who have attacked them in the past.

    The Americans have granted these gunmen the power of arrest, allowed the Iraqi army to supply them with ammunition and fought alongside them in chaotic street battles.

    "This is a defining moment for us," said Lt. Col. Dale Kuehl, who commands the 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, attached to the 1st Infantry Division.

    But aligning Americans with fighters whose long-term agenda remains unclear -- with regard to either Americans or the Shiite-led government -- contradicts repeated declarations by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki that no groups other than Iraqi and U.S. security forces are allowed to bear arms. And some American soldiers worry that standing up a Sunni militia could have dire consequences if the group turns on its U.S. partners.

    "We have made a deal with the devil," said an intelligence officer in the battalion.

    Nothing obliges us to honor the deal either. Use it as an opportunity to identify who the enemy is and then whack them after you get their help dealing with the Qaedists. If we'd done the same to the Soviets we'd have won WWII.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:44 AM


    Between Jerusalem and Athens, a Muslim 'third way' (Dalia Mogahed, June 07, 2007, Lebanon Daily Star)

    One of the foremost experts on what he refers to as Islamic democracy, Noah Feldman, explains in his book "After Jihad: America and the Struggle for Islamic Democracy" how the Western paradigm has focused on two diametrically opposed models of government, each tracing its origin to one of two ancient cities: Jerusalem, the birthplace of Christianity, and Athens, the birthplace of democracy.

    In broad strokes, Jerusalem represents a model in which religion is dominant, there is no separation between church and state, and is characterized by near-absolute rule by an emperor who is also the head of the church. Athens, in contrast, represents reason, where religion is strictly "privatized," the god of science is dominant, and the people have a direct say in who is to lead them.

    Western history is characterized by a dynamic tension between these two cities. This leads to the assumption that if a society's conception of an ideal government does not fit neatly into the secular Athens model, it must of necessity be opting for the Jerusalem model. In this binary paradigm, no third choice exists.

    However, Feldman asserts, Islam's political history originates in another city altogether, Medina, the place of origin for both Islam's spiritual and democratic tradition. A recent Gallup survey shows that while there is a great deal of diversity among Muslim nations, some salient themes emerge which fly in the face of conventional wisdom. One of these findings is Muslims' widespread support for Sharia - Islamic religious principles that are widely seen as governing all aspects of life, from the mundane to the complex.

    Often assumed in the West to be an oppressive corpus of law supported by only a small handful of fanatics (and especially detested by women), the incorporation of Sharia as one source of legislation enjoys the support of a majority in the eight Muslim-majority nations surveyed. Perhaps more surprising is the general absence of any large difference between men and women regarding their support for the incorporation of Sharia into governance. The only outlier is Turkey, where 57 percent say that Sharia should not be a source of legislation.

    But how is Sharia understood by the majority of Muslims? Does its inclusion mean a rejection of democratic values and a call for the absolute rule of an infallible clergy? The findings suggest that this is not the case. The vast majority of those surveyed, in addition to expressing their admiration for political freedom in the West, say they support freedoms of speech, religion and assembly, as well as a woman's right to vote, drive and work outside the home. Indeed, majorities in every nation surveyed except for Saudi Arabia (where the number is 40 percent) also believe it appropriate for women to serve at the highest levels of government in their nation's Cabinet and National Council. In addition, a mean of 60 percent say they would want religious leaders to play no direct role in drafting a country's constitution (and even among those who take the contrary view, most would want clerics limited to an advisory function).

    One need only read Mr. Feldman's book, Divided by God: America's Church-State Problem--and What We Should Do About It, to see that the city that matter is the one on a Hill, and that the peculiar Anglospheric genius lies in erecting an Athenian system upon a Jerusalemic foundation. Islam will need to do likewise.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:31 AM


    The sound of success, on the Web: BSO, other orchestras go online to reach new audiences and save on costs (Geoff Edgers, June 9, 2007, Boston Globe)

    The future of the Boston Symphony Orchestra may be upstairs at Symphony Hall, in a cramped room with a crumbling ceiling. That's where a crew of scruffy 20-something technicians filmed the first episode of the BSO's soon-to-launch Internet video program.

    Working joysticks, they manipulated six cameras to record a May 18 Boston Pops concert, which will be posted on bso.org in August. Planning to broadcast concerts from the Pops, the BSO, and Tanglewood, the BSO is the first symphony in the country to launch such free online programming. With a subscriber base whose average age is 51, the BSO hopes the new videos will reach a younger crowd. [...]

    "This is about not losing money," said Deborah Card, president of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, which started its own music label this year. "This is about image, presence, and awareness."

    In addition to video programming, the BSO is about to join the ranks of symphonies releasing CDs on their own labels and is considering making them available for download on its website. Mark Volpe, the BSO's managing director, said two discs recorded under music director James Levine will appear this year.

    The BSO is also using the video-sharing site YouTube for the first time in its POPSearch talent contest, which culminates in a guest-starring spot at the Pops' July 4 concert on the Esplanade. Of this year's 238 POPSearch contestants, 112 submitted auditions through YouTube, and 43,505 votes were cast online in the first three weeks.

    In another local example, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum launched a twice-a-week podcast last September featuring concerts recorded over the years in its Tapestry Room. The free podcasts have been downloaded more than 130,000 times, rising into the iTunes Top 40.

    "These young people, they're not going to go into the concert hall, not quite yet," said Scott Nickrenz, Gardner Museum music director. "But I'm positive, once they hear this music -- this is good music -- they are going to start loading it onto their iPods and then take the next step, entering the music hall."

    All of these institutions should have huge back catalogues of music that they're never going to sell much of, so why not get it out there on the web for free, get folks listening, and recreate your market?

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:24 AM


    Burning issues, picante answers (EYDER PERALTA, 6/04/07, Houston Chronicle)

    Gustavo Arellano sat down for a pupusa at a Salvadoran joint on the southwest side. He wore a short-sleeved button-front shirt, horn-rimmed glasses and Chuck Taylor sneakers befitting his calm, academic demeanor.

    The 28-year-old California journalist, whose biting ¡Ask a Mexican! column attacks such hot-button issues as immigration, racism and sexism with humor and unrestrained ferocity, is hardly the imposing Chicano you might expect.

    "I disappoint everyone," he explained while in town recently to promote his collection of columns and essays. "Even today, when I went to MEGA 101, I walk in, first thing (disc jockey Bo Corona) says is, 'You're not as tall as I thought you were gonna be.' "

    Yet Arellano has become a flashpoint in the current immigration debate, not only for his columns but also for his multitude of TV appearances. Some say he's a liberal commie, while others cringe at his flip approach to touchy issues.

    "I like to antagonize both sides," he said. "I don't want everyone to love me or hate me."

    Take this column, for example:

    Dear Mexican,

    Why don't Mexicans have enough gratitude for America to learn to speak English? Are they too stupid? Too lazy? ...


    Dear Gabacho,

    The United States government shares your concerns, Took Four Years. Its Dillingham Commission released a 42-volume study on the waves of immigrants that concluded, "The new immigration as a class is far less intelligent than the old. ... Generally speaking they are actuated in coming by different ideals, for the old immigration came to be a part of the country, while the new, in a large measure, comes with the intention of profiting, in a pecuniary way, by the superior advantages of the new world and then returning to the old country." Sound familiar? That's because the Dillingham report appeared in 1911, and the inassimilable masses at the time were eastern and northern Europeans. The Dillingham Commission proves that the time-honored conservative anecdote that earlier generations of immigrants walked off the boats, chopped down their multisyllabic surnames and learned English immediately is (nonsense). American racism is a carousel and here we are again.

    Rationalist ideologies are almost too easy as targets.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:16 AM


    Party politics: Communism destroyed millions of lives, but its critics are now branded "neocons". Why has the left's poisoned love affair with it endured? (Robert Service, 07 June 2007, New Statesman)

    Communism, like nuclear fuel, has a long afterlife. In country after country across Europe - from Russia to Albania - it has been discredited for its record in power. No government in Africa or the Americas subscribes to it except the Castro regime in Cuba. In Asia, the communist flag is waved in Vietnam and China without anyone denying that the economic future lies with capitalism; only North Korea stands by the basic precepts of Marxism-Leninism.

    What happened in the October 1917 revolution in Russia was an ideological bank robbery. Its leaders were nothing if not daring. Lenin and his party took over a state and then declared that no other kind of socialism was worthy of the name. They instituted a red terror. They seized hold of an entire economy, persecuted all religious faith, imposed a one-ideology media and treated society as a resource to be mobilised on their whim. These are historical facts that no communist in the 1920s sought to deny. Quite the opposite: the facts were advertised by the Communist International as the only way to do away with "bourgeois rule" and induce the birth of true socialism.

    A minority of socialists around the world accepted this case, formed communist parties and joined the Communist International. None of these parties, except for the Mongolian one, stood a serious chance of coming to power until after the Second World War. Geopolitics changed after 1945. The Yugoslav communists had won supremacy in wartime. The Soviet army, being the occupying force elsewhere in eastern Europe, imposed a communist state order east of the river Elbe. In 1949, China experienced a communist military and political take-over. Ten years later, Cuba went the same way.

    In doing the research for my book Comrades: A World History of Communism, I tried to find whether there was a basic pattern to the regimes that resulted. The conclusion was a stark one. In all cases of durable state communism, there was some approximation to the Soviet "model". A single party kept itself in power without concern for electoral mandate. A nomenklatura system of personnel appointment was introduced. Religion was harassed. National traditions were emasculated. The rule of law was flouted. The political police was ubiquitous and ruthless; labour camps were established. Foreign travel permits were made hard to come by. Radio and TV broadcasts from abroad were banned. A prim public culture was installed.

    This was the pattern despite the many national differences. Popular music in Cuba remained lively and beautiful even though its exponents could not take themselves and their instruments to other countries. In Poland, the Catholic Church was allowed to function in the open. In China, there was some pride - except during the cultural revolution of the late 1960s - in those emperors who had governed a unified nation.

    The new communist states, like the Soviet Union before them, undoubtedly engineered rapid industrial growth. The exception was Cambodia under Pol Pot, who emptied the towns of their entire populations. The same states fostered programmes of mass education. They also facilitated the promotion of people who had previously suffered from negative social discrimination. Reading and numeracy flourished. While capitalist economies failed to solve the problems of unemployment, everyone could find work under communism and had access to free health care and cheap housing.

    All this I mentioned repeatedly in my book, but it was not quite what one reviewer, the Guardian's Seumas Milne, wanted. He denied that I stated that communist leaders unleashed a drive towards industrial and cultural modernisation. Next, he alleged that I followed a "neoconservative" agenda. He also maintained that the so-called "revisionist" school of Soviet history was not getting a fair wind in the western media.

    His Stalinoid form and content of argument involved deliberate misrepresentation. It would seem that Milne and his like consider it fair game to denounce anybody who comes to a considered anti-communist standpoint as a neocon. This is a shoddy way to handle a serious political discussion. If this farrago had not come from the editor of the comment pages of one of our national newspapers, it would not be worth bothering about. What is more, Milne is typical of a more general trend that retains a nostalgia for communism, and it is a trend that ought to be repudiated.

    ...then the folks on the Left have to accept that they wasted the entire 20th Century (or at least the portion each of them was around for). Rare is the person who can accept having been that wrong.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:09 AM


    THE FRESHMAN FIFTEEN: Which House Members Will Carry their Weight in '08? (Isaac Wood and Larry J. Sabato, 6/07/07, U.Va. Center for Politics)

    This month, the Crystal Ball has compiled an endangered species list of sorts: members of the House of Representatives who have their work cut out for them if they seek political survival beyond 2008. At this point, we can sort the vulnerable into two stacks: the "Freshman Fifteen" and the "Scandalous Six." We'll keep you in suspense by saving the latter for next week.

    First up, we're taking a look at congressional newcomers (One Republican and 14 Democrats) who were freshly elected to the House last November and have yet to entrench themselves fully in Washington. Several of them--such as Jerry McNerney of California and Tim Mahoney of Florida--won in districts that would have easily stayed in GOP hands save for the fact that scandal-plagued incumbents mortally wounded themselves. Those unique circumstances won't be present in 2008, so these kinds of districts are natural pickup opportunities for the other side.

    The strong anti-GOP waves we witnessed in 2006 may be somewhat tempered by the time of the next slate of elections. So it follows that several freshman Democrats in districts that are essentially toss-ups--or even normally favor Republicans--could be in grave danger if political winds shift. Still, keep this in mind: in 1976, just two of the 76 Democratic freshmen (3 percent) were defeated in the first election after the anti-Nixon Democratic wave in 1974. In 1996, two years after the Republican wave of 1994, 12 of the 73 Republican freshmen (16 percent) when down in defeat. In 2008, there will be a more modest number of Democratic freshmen standing for reelection (42 in total), but how many, if any, will they lose once the final votes are counted next November? Will it be one or two seats (á la 1976), six or seven seats (á la 1996) or some larger total unmatched in recent history?

    Note what's distinctive about 1976 and 1996? Democrats nominated two evangelical white Southern governors. With either a woman, a black, or both at the top of the ticket, Democrats could easily get wiped out in such seats.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:04 AM


    Europeans' flight from Europe (Paul Belie, June 6, 2007, Washington Times)

    Last year more than 155,000 Germans emigrated from their native country. Since 2004 the number of ethnic Germans who leave each year is greater than the number of immigrants moving in. While the emigrants are highly motivated and well educated, "those coming in are mostly poor, untrained and hardly educated," says Stephanie Wahl of the German Institute for Economics.

    In a survey conducted in 2005 among German university students, 52 percent said they would rather leave their native country than remain there. By "voting with their feet," young, educated Germans affirm that Germany has no future to offer them and their children. [...]

    Americans who think that the European welfare state is the model to follow would do well to ponder the question why, if Europe is so wonderful, Europeans are fleeing from it. European welfare systems are redistribution mechanisms, taking money from skilled and educated Europeans in order to give it to nonskilled newcomers from the Third World.

    Gunnar Heinsohn, a German sociologist at the University of Bremen, warns European governments that they are mistaken if they assume that qualified young ethnic Europeans will stay in Europe. "The really qualified are leaving," Mr. Heinsohn says. "The only truly loyal towards France and Germany are those who are living off the welfare system, because there is no other place in the world that offers to pay for them... It is no wonder that young, hardworking people in France and Germany choose to emigrate," he explains. "It is not just that they have to support their own aging population. If we take 100 20-year-olds [in France or Germany], then the 70 [indigenous] Frenchmen and Germans also have to support 30 immigrants of their own age and their offspring. This creates dejection in the local population, particularly in France, Germany and the Netherlands. So they run away."

    On Monday Francois Fillon, the new French prime minister, said that "Europe is not Eldorado," emphasizing that his government intends to curb immigration by those who only seek welfare benefits. "Europe is hospitable, France is an immigration country and will continue to be so, but it will only accept foreigners prepared to integrate," he stressed. Europe cannot afford to be "Eldorado" for foreigners any longer, because it has stopped being "home" for thousands of its own educated children, now eagerly looking for opportunities to move to America, Canada, Australia or New Zealand -- white European nations outside Europe.

    While the fertility rate in France is 1.9 children per woman, two out of every five newborns in France are children of Arab or African immigrants. In Germany (fertility rate 1.37) 35 percent of all newborns have a non-German background.

    Because the European states are mere nations they ought to impose immigration limits, but it's aleady to late.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:55 AM


    The Tortured Lives of Interrogators: Veterans of Iraq, N. Ireland and Mideast Share Stark Memories (Laura Blumenfeld, 6/04/07, Washington Post)

    [I]nterrogators for countries that pride themselves on adhering to the rule of law, such as Britain, the United States and Israel, operate in a moral war zone. They are on the front lines in fighting terrorism, crucial for intelligence-gathering. Yet they use methods that conflict with their societies' values.

    The border between coercion and torture is often in dispute, and the U.S. government is debating it now. The Bush administration is nearing completion of a new executive order setting secret rules for CIA interrogation that may ban waterboarding, a practice that simulates drowning. Last September, President Bush endorsed an "alternative set of procedures," which he described as "tough," for questioning high-level detainees. And in Iraq last month, Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top U.S. commander, warned troops that the military does not sanction "torture or other expedient methods to obtain information."

    The world of the interrogator is largely closed. But three interrogators allowed a rare peek into their lives -- an American rookie who served with the 202nd Military Intelligence Battalion and two veteran interrogators from Britain and Israel. The veterans, whose wartime experiences stretch back decades, are more practiced at finding moral balance. They use denial, humor, indignation. Even so, these older men grapple with their own fears -- and with a clash of values.

    That clash, said Darius Rejali, a political scientist who has studied torture and democracy, can torment interrogators: "Nothing is more toxic than guilt, which is typical with democratic interrogators. Nazis, on the other hand, don't have these problems." [...]

    Driving along winding, stony roads, past goats and grapevines, James had this advice for Lagouranis in Chicago: "You've got to get up and get on with it -- that's what we did."

    James had had no training, but the 18-hour days that made his neck ache taught him what he needed: good rapport, good intelligence, great fear. "Yes, a bloke would get a cuff in the ear or he might brace against the wall. Yes, they had sleep deprivation," he said. "But we did not torture."

    Once, IRA leader Brendan Hughes claimed that James had cocked a gun to his head. James does not deny it. "You fight fire with fire," he said, the memory igniting his blue eyes.

    He noted that the sectarian killings dropped off: "If it's going to save lives, you're entitled to use whatever means you can." How do you fight bad guys and stay good? "You don't. You can't."

    The only interrogation James regrets was of Patrick McGee, under arrest for IRA activity. McGee did not crack, which meant he would go free. As McGee walked out, "he just stared at you," James recalled. "Evil was hanging out of him." James spat in his face. "He never even blinked. It was not satisfying, it was humiliating. I lost my cool."

    James stopped his car at the edge of the ocean. According to Greek mythology, a god frolicked on this beach. Vacationers drank iced coffee and oiled the air with coconut lotion. But James seemed to be somewhere else, cloudy and turbulent, in his head.

    "My friend once saw a guy planting a bomb," he said. He laughed. "My friend tied a rope around the guy's ankle, and made him defuse it. Now t hat's how to deal with a ticking bomb." [...]

    "You have to play by different rules," the Israeli interrogator told an American visitor. "The terrorists want to use your own system to destroy you. What your president is doing is right."

    The Israeli, who spoke on condition that he be identified by his code name, Sheriff, recently retired as chief of interrogations for Shin Bet, Israel's security service, which is responsible for questioning Palestinian terrorism suspects. The former head of the service, Avi Dichter, and the former chief terrorism prosecutor, Dvorah Chen, called Sheriff "the best."

    "To persuade someone to confess feels better than beating him up," Sheriff said. "It's a mental orgasm."

    Sheriff is short and chubby, with thin, reddish skin that turns yellow in the folds when he furrows his brow. He keeps an electric razor in his car so he can shave his head while driving. He wears a cap from the Kentucky Department of Homeland Security.

    "Interrogation is a beautiful world," Sheriff said. When Sheriff's 2-year-old was sick and his wife couldn't be at home, he brought the toddler to work and laid him in an interrogation room, on a mattress on the floor: "I put the phone next to the baby and said, 'When you want Daddy, push this button.' "

    Another interrogator walked in and exclaimed, "My suspect shrank!"

    For Sheriff, interrogation was more psychological than physical. He used flattery on Palestinians who put bombs under playground benches: "You say, 'Hey! Wow! How did you connect these wires? Did you manufacture this explosive? This is good!' "

    He played good cop, and bad: "One day I was good. Next day I was bad. The prisoner said, 'Yesterday you were good. What happened today?' I told him we were short on manpower."

    Sheriff hugged his suspects, he said, poured them tea and kissed their cheeks. As his former boss, Dichter, put it: "You try to become friends with someone who murdered a baby. That's your job. It's the most difficult feeling." When he came home, Sheriff said, his wife would make him change. "You could smell the guy on your shirt."

    But when the pressure mounted for intelligence, Sheriff said, the best method was "a very little violence." Enough to scare people but not so much that they'd collapse. Agents tried it on themselves. "Not torture."

    Sometimes a prisoner would accuse Sheriff of torture. He tried to shift the moral burden by blaming the prisoner: "I would tell him this: 'I'm sorry. We prefer it the nice way. You leave us no choice.' "

    ...isn't Ms Blumenfeld's implication here that the Israeli and the Brit are Nazis?

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:35 AM


    Waiting ends, winning begins: Bailey gets long-ball support for 1st big-league 'W' (JOHN FAY, 6/09/07, ENQUIRER.COM)

    If Homer Bailey is what the Reds think he is, there will be many more nights like this - when the games mean a lot more than they have recently.

    But for one night, Bailey gave the city a bad case of Baseball Fever. [...]

    The crowd, just short of a sellout, cheered everything Bailey did - from his first pitch to his last.

    Bailey struck out Grady Sizemore on a 93 mph fastball to start the game. After Casey Blake grounded out, Travis Hafner singled. Victor Martinez doubled to left. Adam Dunn let the ball go by him, so Norris Hopper could field it. Hopper missed the cutoff man, allowing Hafner to score easily.

    Phillips tied the game in the Reds' first with his 11th homer.

    Bailey walked Dellucci to start the second but then retired six straight.

    Bailey ran into more trouble in the fourth. Martinez singled and Trot Nixon doubled to start the inning. Dellucci got a run in with a sacrifice fly to center, but the Reds threw out Nixon trying to go to third.

    Conine's two-run homer in the fourth gave Bailey a 3-2 lead.

    It was an adventure, but he held it.

    Sizemore singled to lead off the fifth. An out later, Hafner walked. Martinez sent a scare through the crowd with a drive that put Hopper's back against the wall in center. Bailey walked Nixon on four pitches, pushing his pitch count to 109.

    Dellucci was going to be Bailey's last batter - for good or ill.

    "He deserved every opportunity in the world to get out of that inning. And he did," Narron said.

    Bailey was in uncharted territory. His pitch count was higher than they allow in the minors and he was facing a difficult lineup.

    "The only thing that kid has left to show is: How deep can he go? How many pitches can he throw?" Weathers said. "We baby these guys in the minor leagues. There's an unknown there.

    "I think he'll tell you it was nice throwing 115 pitches."

    Okay, so you own or run the Reds and Homer Bailey looks to be the most valuable asset you've had since maybe the Big Red Machine. You've already let Jerry Narron chew up the arms of Aaron Harand and Bronson Arroyo. Last night, for no apparent reason, he leaves the kid out there to throw the most pitches of any start in his pro career. Is filling the seatsw every 5th night for 4 months really worth squandering yor prize's career?

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:01 AM


    U.S. may soon free 5 Iranians: Releasing the men held in Iraq on suspicion of aiding rebels would help smooth ties and might help win release of four U.S. citizens in Iran (Paul Richter and Alexandra Zavis, June 9, 2007, LA Times)

    Five Iranians imprisoned by U.S. forces in Iraq since January will probably be released in the next few weeks, according to some U.S. and Iraqi officials, a development that could help ease months of escalating conflict between Washington and Tehran.

    The Iranians, who were seized on suspicion of spying during a raid in Irbil, in northern Iraq, are up for a six-month review of their cases at the end of June, the officials said.

    The officials emphasized that no decision had been made, but said the review offered an opportunity to resolve an issue that has been a point of contention between the Bush administration and the regime in Tehran, and also a source of tension with U.S. allies in the Iraqi government.

    The Iranians' release would make it more likely that the recently started U.S.-Iranian dialogue on Iraq would continue. It could also encourage Iran to release four Iranian Americans, who hold citizenship in both countries, being held in Tehran on allegations of spying, Middle East experts said.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM

    HE'S MORE WALLACE TO HER NIXON (via Gene Brown):

    Stone: Al Gore Following Nixon Path (Newsmax, 6/08/07)

    Gore, [Roger] Stone said, "is a giant compared to the Democrats who are running for president. His popularity is at an all-time high; he has turned out to be right as far as his party is concerned about the two major issues of the day — the war, where he's been the most articulate critic, and global warming, which is his signature issue that he was in the wilderness on and now everyone thinks it's true."

    Stone doubted that there is "enough room in this race for both Vice President Gore and Barack Obama." He said, "Gore is the real anti-war candidate — right on the war from the beginning and with the stature to end the war. Barack Obama would kind of suction-off anti-war votes, and I'm not sure Gore can afford that. But he can afford to watch and see how Obama develops his opinions. If it looks like he can't take Hillary, there's only one person alive who can beat her for the nomination and that's Al Gore."

    Nothing would be better for Ms Clinton than to be able to differentiate herself from an Al Gore to her Left and thus appear more of a centrist. The more like her husband she runs the better her chances.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


    Migrants push birth rate to highest in decades (Nicole Martin 09/06/2007, Daily Telegraph)

    The birth rate has soared to a 26-year high because of a surge in immigration, experts said yesterday.

    Their comments followed figures from the Office of National Statistics which showed that women had an average of 1.87 children last year compared with 1.8 children in 2005 and 1.63 in 2001. [...]

    Statistics also revealed that 146,944 children were born last year to mothers who did not come from Britain. In 1998 the total was 86,345. Babies born to mothers from overseas accounted for 21.9 per cent of all births last year, up from 20.8 per cent the year before.

    Prof Danny Dorling, an expert in human geography at Sheffield University, said immigration had pushed the figures up.

    Even that doesn't get them to replacement rate.

    Muhammad is No 2 in boy's names (Helen Nugent and Nadia Menuhin, 6/09/07, Times of London)

    Muhammad is now second only to Jack as the most popular name for baby boys in Britain and is likely to rise to No 1 by next year, a study by The Times has found. The name, if all 14 different spellings are included, was shared by 5,991 newborn boys last year, beating Thomas into third place, followed by Joshua and Oliver.

    Scholars said that the name’s rise up the league table was driven partly by the growing number of young Muslims having families, coupled with the desire to name their child in honour of the Prophet.

    June 8, 2007

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:09 PM


    40.5% of population to be seniors by '55: report (Japan Times, 6/09/07)

    Elderly people are expected to make up 40.5 percent of Japan's population by 2055 if current trends continue, according to a government report released Friday.

    According to the 2007 White Paper on Aging Society, Japan is likely to become an "unprecedented" aging society when the portion of the population aged 65 or older almost doubles in 2055 from the 20.1 percent recorded in 2005.

    In addition, each elderly person will be supported by only 1.3 working people in 2055, compared with 3.3 people in 2005.

    Which begs the question of why those young people would stay and work to support the idle but entitled elderly

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:00 PM


    French center-right looks set for solid majority in Parliament (Katrin Bennhold, June 8, 2007, International Herald Tribune)

    President Nicolas Sarkozy's center-right camp appears assured of winning a majority in parliamentary elections on Sunday and on June 17. Barring a political earthquake, the only question is how big that majority will be and what he will do with it.

    Since Sarkozy became president last month, opinion polls have given his Union for a Popular Movement party between 360 and 430 seats in the 577-seat National Assembly.

    "The choice is between a blue wave or a blue tsunami," said Stéphane Rozès, head of political research at the CSA polling institute, referring to the Popular Movement's traditional color.

    Gonna have to reverse the color scheme if they want to join the Anglosphere.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:43 PM


    Bush’s Choice for Surgeon Gen. Said Homosexual Practices “Unnatural and Unhealthy” (Gudrun Schultz, June 8, 2007, LifeSiteNews.com)

    A doctor tapped by President George Bush for the position of Surgeon General has been attacked by homosexual activist groups for saying homosexual activity is unnatural and unhealthy.

    Dr. James W. Holsinger Jr. wrote a paper in 1991 entitled “The Pathophysiology of Male Homosexuality” for a United Methodist Church committee that was studying homosexuality. The article was an overview of peer-reviewed scientific studies showing the many diseases and physical damage that frequently accompanies homosexual activity. In the paper Holsinger stated that engaging in homosexuality was physically dangerous as well as unnatural behavior.

    Pointing out the naturally complimentary structure of male and female genitalia, Dr. Holsinger said homosexual sex goes against the natural function of the body and can result in serious injury.

    “When the complementarity of the sexes is breached, injuries and diseases may occur,” Holsinger wrote. “From the perspective of pathology and path physiology, the varied sexual practices of homosexual men have resulted in a diverse and expanded concept of sexually transmitted disease and associated trauma.”

    Acceptance of homosexuality is dependent on ignoring even the most basic truths.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:32 PM


    Germany may open up labour market (Bertrand Benoit in Berlin and Sarah Laitner in Brussels, June 4 2007, Financial Times)

    Germany may make it easier for foreigners to get work permits amid an exodus of academics, mounting staff shortages and pressure from Brussels to open up its labour market.

    Demographic trends and an expected rise in the need for qualified workers “could make fresh, targeted measures to open up the labour market necessary”, the interior ministry said in a letter to parliament obtained by the FT. [...]

    Figures published on Thursday by the Federal Statistical Office showed more Germans left the country last year than returned – the second net loss in a row. They left in larger numbers than at any time since 1991.

    Although this was offset by a net inflow of foreigners, the number of migrants continued a downward trend. Because of low birth rates, the statistical office expects a population fall from 82m today to 69m-74m by 2050.

    “This is not a short-term development,” Ms Laurischk told the FT. “Something deeper is happening, which we must address quickly.”

    Morgenthau won.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:22 PM


    G-8 joins Bush in compromise on global warming: Germany's Merkel leads others in agreeing to a looser stance toward meeting emissions limits sought by Europeans. (James Gerstenzang, 6/08/07, Times)

    Leaders of the largest industrial nations agreed here Thursday to a compromise on efforts to combat global warming that had been sought by President Bush.

    Participants in the Group of 8 summit, led by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, yielded to Bush's insistence that although new talks were necessary to deal with climate change, the summit must not order specific steps and targets to reduce the greenhouse gases widely blamed for rising temperatures. Bush has sought goals rather than mandatory steps.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:22 PM


    No place to call home (The Economist, Jun 7th 2007)

    IN A narrow alleyway in Liguanzhuang village, residents idle away a hot afternoon near a stinking rubbish dump, worrying about when the bulldozers will come. To prepare for the Olympic Games next year, Beijing's authorities are removing such eyesores. Old villages surrounded by the expanding city are being demolished. With them goes cheap housing, vital to the city's huge pool of migrant workers. China does not like to admit it has slums. But it does, and it will find it needs them.

    In the past two years or so, cities across China have announced plans to “transform” these “villages within cities”. Because of the Olympics in August 2008, Beijing faces a particularly tight deadline. The aim is to “renovate” (ie, usually, flatten) 171 urban villages by the end of this year. Between 2005, when the campaign was launched, and the end of last year, 114 of them were thus transformed. [...]

    Breaking the usual taboo, Qiu Baoxing, a deputy minister of construction, admitted in a magazine article in May that many villages within cities had become “Chinese-style slums”.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:04 AM


    Olmert 'offers Golan Heights in peace deal' (Rory McCarthy, June 8, 2007, Guardian Unlimited

    In return, Israel wants Syria to end its support for Iran, Hizbullah and armed Palestinian groups. A number of Palestinian groups have leaders based in Damascus, including notably Khaled Meshal, head of the Hamas political bureau.

    According to the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper, Mr Olmert spoke by for an hour by telephone to George Bush on April 24 and told him he wanted to restart talks with the Syrians. Previously, the US administration has been opposed to such contact because of its criticisms of Syria's role in the Iraq insurgency and support for Hizbullah.

    Mr Olmert then sent a secret message to the Syrians through German and Turkish officials, the newspaper said. "I would like to hear from you whether, in exchange for an Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights, Syria would be willing to fulfill its part: To gradually dissolve its alliances with Iran, Hizbullah and the Palestinian terror organizations, and to stop financing and encouraging terror," the paper quoted Mr Olmert as saying.

    This one was baked in when the military determined several years ago that the Golan wasn't integral to defending the nation from Syria.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:21 AM


    Putin Offers to Join Missile Shield Effort: G-8 Leaders Back Bush Plan on Emissions (Michael A. Fletcher, 6/08/07, Washington Post)

    After days of escalating rhetoric about missile defense, Russian President Vladimir Putin made a surprise offer to President Bush on Thursday, proposing that Russia join with the United States and some of its European allies to operate a shield intended against missile threats from Iran.

    Meeting with Bush during the summit of the Group of Eight industrialized nations, Putin suggested that a Soviet-era radar installation that Russia operates in the Caspian Sea country of Azerbaijan could feed real-time data into the planned system.

    Bush afterward described Putin's offer as "interesting" -- the United States has been pressing Russia to take part in such a system since the 1990s. Both presidents said Russian and U.S. military and diplomatic officials would meet to discuss the idea further.

    Putin's gesture came as leaders from European countries and Japan backed down from proposals that the summit endorse specific cuts in greenhouse gas emissions. They embraced Bush's proposal to instead put in motion a process toward unspecified "substantial cuts" in emissions that scientists blame for global warming.

    Okay, we're just too far into the Bush era for these guys to still be surprised that his intransigence forces others to adjust to him.

    Bush a Shrewd Diplomat on Global Warming (Kimberley Strassel, 6/08/07, Real Clear Politics)

    Just call him George W. Bush, star international diplomat. Don't snicker, don't spit out your coffee. Instead, read over the final document on climate change released yesterday by the Group of Eight. [...]

    Don't expect anyone to admit it. When Mr. Bush unveiled his new climate framework last week, calling on the world's powers to reduce greenhouse emissions, it was portrayed as a capitulation. He'd removed the last "obstacle" to world unity on this issue, and seen the error of his ways. At this week's Democratic presidential debate, every candidate vowed to fix the damage Mr. Bush had done to America's international reputation, his Kyoto failure the obvious example.

    There's been a capitulation on global warming, but it hasn't happened in the Oval Office. The Kyoto cheerleaders at the United Nations and the European Union are realizing their government-run experiment in climate control is a mess, one that's incidentally failed to reduce carbon emissions. They've also understood that if they want the biggest players on board--the U.S., China, India--they need an approach that balances economic growth with feel-good environmentalism. Yesterday's G-8 agreement acknowledged those realities and tolled Kyoto's death knell. Mr. Bush, 1; sanctimonious greens, 0.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:51 AM


    Immigrants are a resource - not a burden: The purchasing power of immigrants is rising, yet immigrants are still wrongly portrayed as a drain on resources. Hardly surprising therefore that the xenophobic socialists in the Sweden Democrats are winning votes (Billy McCormac, 6/08/07, The Local)

    Southern Sweden has seen a sharp increase in immigration in recent years. More precisely, 28,000 people immigrated to the region between 2001 and 2005, accounting for roughly 85 percent of overall population growth. In fact, Statistics Sweden has forecast that immigrants will account for 90 percent of total population growth up to 2020. Racist thugs and political miscreants depict immigrants as a threat to and a strain on Swedish society. Don’t believe it.

    As author Philippe Legrain argues in his latest book, Immigrants: Your Country Needs Them, immigration generally coincides with economic expansion rather than contraction. The United States, for instance, witnessed stunning economic growth between 1870 and 1920 following the arrival of tens of millions Europeans. More, a recent study of fifteen European countries found that a one percent increase in population by way of immigration resulted in economic growth of up to 1.5 percent.

    Yet immigration is seldom portrayed as positive or enriching. Sweden’s immigration narrative is at times menacing, stressing its perceived societal burdens such as high joblessness, crime, government handouts and cramped living conditions. Unsurprisingly, this influx has come to be viewed with grave concern in some quarters. And while the relative success of the Sweden Democrats – a blatantly xenophobic socialist party – in the 2006 general elections signaled a particularly unsavory political development, it was scarcely shocking given the timbre of the public conversation.

    But let’s leave the ravings of the fever swamp socialist xenophobes to one side.

    Hardly a coincidence that the nativist legislation of the 20s--on immigration and trade--was followed by prolonged economic retardation.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:12 AM


    It's time to end the vilification of Israel: Forty years ago, Israel's victory in the Six Day War was greeted in the West with widespread relief. So how come she's now the most shunned nation in the world - fair game for boycotts and vilification? History has been subtly rewritten (Howard Jacobson, 08 June 2007, Independent)

    Heigh-ho, it's boycott time again. Just as surely as young men's fancies turn seasonably to love, and folk long to go on pilgrimages, so do the Zionophobic zealots of our universities start on hearing the boiling of their blood and decide to have another go at ostracising their fellow academics in Israel. This year it's the turn of the newly merged Universities and Colleges Union (UCU) to pass a resolution to proceed to a boycott of Israeli scholars. Not yet a done deal but as good as. A boycott in waiting. The three think-alike monkeys of academe cover their faces in excited anticipation: see no dissent, hear no dissent, speak no dissent.

    By its nature a boycott is not a precise instrument, so no distinction is drawn between Israeli academics who actively support their government, those who speak vociferously against it, or those who just go quietly about their biomedical researches. "Passivity or neutrality is unacceptable," the resolution says. All are guilty by association with the heinous ideology of their country, that is to say, guilty by simple virtue of being Israelis.

    I do not say "by simple virtue of being Jews". The last thing today's boycotters want, having learnt from their last failed attempt, is to pass for anti-Semites, and the last thing I want, when they tell me they are not anti-Semitic, is to contradict them. There is almost an obligation on Jews to be reassuring. No, no, of course it is not anti-Semitic to be a critic of Israel. Please be as critical as you like. But it is a false syllogism which goes Criticism of Israel is not anti-Semitic; I am a critic of Israel; therefore I am not an anti-Semite. Zealotry acquaints us with strange bedfellows, and in their loathing of Israel some without a grain of anti-Semitism in their bodies lie down with others who are composed of almost nothing else.

    Kind of like being non-racist but anti-illegal-immigrant.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:09 AM


    Bush meets China's exiled Uighur leader (AFP, 6/06/07)

    President George W. Bush met the exiled leader of China's Uighur Muslims on Tuesday, US Uighurs said, as he accused Beijing of jailing her sons in retaliation against her human rights campaign. [...]

    Before the meeting, Bush highlighted Kadeer as the symbol of struggle for the 10 million mostly Muslim Uighurs, the largest ethnic group in China's Xinjiang region.

    "Another dissident I will meet with here is Rebiya Kadeer of China, whose sons have been jailed in what we believe is an act of retaliation for her human rights activities," Bush said in his speech at the Prague conference.

    "The talent of men and women like Rebiya is the greatest resource of their nations -- far more valuable than the weapons of their army or oil under the ground," he said.

    Except their nation isn't China.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:07 AM


    Olympic video risk rating was 'off the scale' (Daily Mail, 7th June 2007)

    Experts claim the risk of seizures caused by the video for the London Olympics logo was "off the scale" and may have set a record for the highest number of TV-induced epileptic fits in the UK.

    Tests on the 2012 logo’s promotional video, which has also been blamed for causing migraines and nausea, showed that 126 frames of the film broke anti-epilepsy guidelines.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:05 AM


    Victims of Forced Abortion in China Can Seek Asylum in United States (Steven Ertelt, June 7, 2007, LifeNews.com)

    A federal appeals court ruled on Wednesday that women who are victims of forced abortions in China, under that nation's one-child family planing policy, can seek asylum in the United States. The decision comes after a rash of dozens of forced abortions in southwestern China that led to massive protests.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:26 AM


    A concession or a convenience? (Patrick Wintour, June 8, 2007, The Guardian)

    The G8 is not collectively committed to a single target. Angela Merkel, the German chancellor has failed in securing a statement that global warming needs to be kept below 2C. No mechanisms exist for the indicative goal to be implemented. Each country remains sovereign in deciding how it will tackle carbon emissions, and there is only the promise of further discussions hosted by President Bush in the autumn. [...]

    Mr Blair last month sought to persuade Mr Bush he could be part of a global deal to cut carbon emissions against a background of changing political mood in the US on global warming. Mr Bush's concern was the fear of jobs going east if the US became enmeshed in carbon reduction obligations that did not apply to India or China. Mr Blair argued the US could take the helm and form a new framework on cutting emissions within the next 18 months so a clear successor to the UN's Kyoto agreement could be formed before it expires in 2012.

    In his speech ahead of the G8, President Bush made his move, committing to the principle of a stabilisation goal, without setting a date or a figure. He said there should be national, interim targets. He suggested the process should be conducted by the G8 plus seven.

    Was he trying to circumvent the UN process and why was he not willing to commit the US to a specific target for cutting emissions? The Europeans have pressed the US to calm fears that the UN was being bypassed. That is achieved in the communique and in briefings by US officials. At his final bilateral with Mr Blair at today, Mr Bush moved on an indicative goal. It will support a communique backing substantial cuts in carbon emissions and accept they could be in the order of 50% by 2050, as long as China and India agree to be involved.

    The President understands that the point of such exercises is the agreement iself, not any theoretical results, so you can give your opponents nothing, but so long as you sign something they feel like something has been done.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:07 AM


    India and Japan: Congruence, at last (Anirudh Suri, 6/09/07, Speaking Freely: Asia Times Online)

    Japan has sought partners in Asia, other than the US, to limit Chinese influence, if not to contain China. Building on Koizumi's January 2002 proposal for a new Asian regionalism based on the promotion of market economics and democratic values, Abe has envisaged an "Arc of Freedom and Prosperity" in essence made up of democratic nations that line the outer rim of the Eurasian continent.

    This has necessitated a strong focus on India, evident from its prominent featuring in Japan's recent diplomatic overtures and initiatives in Asia. It is clear that Japan and India are likely to become closely tied partners in coming years based on common values and strategic interests and as a useful complement to Japan's traditional strategic reliance on relations with the US.

    Domestic developments within India have followed a similar path of attempting to shed old shibboleths. Emboldened by its rapid and sustained economic-growth story, and a new strategic partnership with the most powerful country in the world, the United States, India has shed its foreign-policy shackles of non-alignment and is slowly seeking to develop interests-based friendships and partnerships with the major powers of the world.

    Japan then becomes a suitable partner for several reasons. First, an economic partnership and enhanced trade and investment ties with the second-largest economy has to be an essential component of India's economic strategy. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has repeatedly emphasized that economic ties must be the bedrock of India's relationship with all the major powers in the world, including Japan.

    Second, India wants to integrate itself with the rest of Asia, and as it "looks east", it has realized that it needs partners within Asia that will take up its cause. Japan has been more than happy to play that role. Without Japan's initiative and the manifestations of the China-Japan rivalry, it is possible that India would not have been invited to participate in the East Asian Summit. For India, therefore, its relations with Japan are crucial in its quest for greater economic integration with the Asia-Pacific region.

    Third, India is wary of a China that is striking strategic partnerships with its neighbors, including Pakistan and Bangladesh. A strong tie-up with Japan enables India to play China's own game in its back yard. India also shares Japanese (and US) concerns about China as a regional hegemon in Asia, and believes that a stronger partnership between the democratic nations of Asia will exert a moderating influence over a rising China and ensure a multipolar Asia.

    Finally, India's strategic partnership with the US envisages India as a key partner in regional issues, and it is only appropriate that India and Japan, as partners of the US in Asia, develop a strong relationship.

    In a legacy that doesn't want for achievements, this is likely W's greatest.

    The growing India-Brazil axis (Sudha Ramachandran, 6/09/07, Asia Times)

    While their shared ambitions of getting permanent seats on the United Nations Security Council brought India and Brazil together, their common aspirations of becoming global powerhouses has contributed to the two countries joining hands to energize their economies. This was the unambiguous statement that come out of Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva's three-day visit to India. [...]

    Geographically, Brazil is 2.6 times as big as India. Its per capita income is five times that of India. It is rich in natural resources. The two countries are continents apart and culturally different. Yet they are drawn to each other because they have much to gain from cooperating economically.

    More important, India and Brazil have found that as emerging giants of Asia and Latin America, they have similar aspirations and are having to contend with similar obstacles in realizing their ambitions. They have realized that they are in a better position to tackle the challenges by pitching together their skills and resources.

    They are working together in a range of multilateral forums, including the World Trade Organization, to ensure that their voices are heard.

    As part of the group of four countries bidding for permanent seats in the Security Council, India and Brazil (the other two are Germany and Japan) have pooled their diplomatic resources. Their joint effort has failed to bear fruit yet, and the bid has been put on the back burner for now. However, the shared ambition of sitting at the UN's high table remains very much alive.

    Not only does Germany not warrant a seat but the European states other than Britain should be punted. And India should get the Asia seat.

    June 7, 2007

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:01 PM


    He Came, He Saw, He Humbled (DANIEL JOHNSON, June 7, 2007, NY Sun)

    He came, he saw, he humbled himself. Never before has the president of America gone out of his way to pay tribute to a gathering of dissidents. The most powerful man on earth acknowledged that these otherwise powerless individuals from five continents possess what he rightly called "an even greater power — the power of conscience."

    What had brought President Bush to make this pilgrimage to Prague, en route to the G-8 summit? The answer echoed through the noble vision outlined in his speech — a speech that several seasoned observers of presidential oratory who attended the conference judged to be among the best that Mr. Bush has ever given.

    This man, beset by his foes and abandoned by friends, still cares passionately about the love of liberty that inspires men and women to extraordinary self-sacrifice, even if the vision he set out in his second inaugural speech is as far from reality as ever. At one point, he made a wry reference to his own isolation, both among the leaders of the free world, and even within his own administration. Former chairman of the defense policy board advisory committee to George W. Bush, Richard Perle, had earlier reminded us that the president was "coming here to meet with his fellow dissidents." "If standing up for liberty makes me a dissident," Mr. Bush said, "I wear that title with pride."

    To his Left they don't think Muslims can live in a republic of liberty and to his Right they think the Mexicans will ruin ours. He, like Ronald Reagan before him, has the high ground.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:44 PM

    THE BIG THREE WAY (via Luciferous):

    How Labor Could Fix Detroit: GM, Ford, and Chrysler could create a workers' health-care fund in a cost-saving move—and the UAW may well go along (David Welch, Business Week)

    Detroit is at a crossroads. The Big Three carmakers and the United Auto Workers can bargain this summer for a new, four-year labor deal that gives the 100-year-old U.S. auto business a shot at being competitive, or they can walk away with an incremental deal that ensures years more of struggle until one of the companies goes under.

    The word is that this time around, the UAW has some willingness to negotiate some real changes. [...]

    Here's how it would work. GM, Ford, and Chrysler would each give the union billions in cash, stock, and convertible debt equal to 60% to 80% of total health-care liabilities. Depending on the deal, this could be either a one-time payment or amortized over time. Since the Big Three collectively have roughly $100 billion in health-care liabilities, they would collectively have to set up a fund with at least $60 billion.

    In GM's case, the company would give the union at least $36 billion to start the fund, 60% of the $60 billion health-care liability.

    The union must then manage the fund and invest the proceeds to offset health-care inflation and grow the assets so that workers and retirees have guaranteed medical benefits. But the UAW would evade the risk that its workers might lose medical benefits should one of the companies end up in bankruptcy court. [...]

    The Big Three may also ask for a 401(k)-style retirement plan, called defined contribution, for new hires. The concept of new hires may seem like a joke in Detroit, but even after taking out 34,500 workers with buyouts, GM has another 16,000 who are eligible to retire. The company may be hiring as its older workforce continues to have more attrition. Says McAlinden: "If GM doesn't get a defined contribution plan, they won't hire new people and they will move production offshore."

    HSAs and 401ks or bust. At which point the Democratic Party, which is basically an extension of Labor, would have a tough time arguing that defined contribution welfare programs are unacceptable.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:41 AM


    House to vote on bill easing stem cell restrictions (CNN, 6/07/07)

    The 213-204 vote against the cloning bill fell far short of the two-thirds majority needed under a special procedure that limits debate and does not allow amendments. The parties accused each other of using the legislation to score political points before a Thursday vote to send a stem cell bill to the White House that President Bush says he will veto.

    Only 14 of 196 voting Republicans supported it. Among Democrats, 190 of the 221 voting were for it. [...]

    "Are we willing to make the human embryo the lab rat of the 21st century?" asked Rep. David Weldon, R-Florida.

    It's pretty impressive the way the President refuses to let such bitter fights get in the way of his bipartisan outreach effort, for instance, feel;ing it unfair that the Democratic Congressional leadership is greeted with silence while he gets introduced with the fanfare of Hail to the Chief, he ordered that they too be introduced with a theme song.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:17 AM


    'Chicken killing day' (Virginia Phillips, 6/07/07, Pittsburgh Gazette)

    Mildred's Daughters Farm has laying hens that produce eggs for its community-supported agriculture subscribers. Barb also had peeps for children to observe. The peeps matured, some into roosters.

    Barb noted a few "barebacks" among her layers, a sign that they'd been mounted so enthusiastically they'd lost plumage. The roosters' hanky-panky with the hens caused problems with the eggs. Fertilized eggs have red blood spots in the yolk; this is the fetal chick, which people do not like to see. (Hens without roosters lay unfertilized eggs, the kind we normally eat.). Something drastic and permanent had to happen to the roosters.

    Randa was off baby-sitting grandchildren in Maui, so Barb was on her own. A daughter of rural Pennsylvania, she reviewed her options. Ax? Hers was not sharp enough. Shoot them? "Not in the city, and I'm not that good an aim."

    Wring their necks? Not easy to contemplate, harder to do. But she steeled herself, and after a strenuous effort she had one limp bird lying on the ground.

    Then the rooster got back up. She finished the job with hammer blows to the head. The whole thing made her ill. She figured it was retribution.

    She posted a request for "help with chicken processing" on a sustainable farming forum. She got no advice, only mockery for using the euphemistic word, "processing."

    In February at the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture conference in State College, she said to Sandra, "I really need to learn how to do this."

    Thus "chicken killing day" got its name.

    Our hostess proposed to teach us the way she'd learned -- actually, taught herself from poultry books. In her view, it's the quickest, least painful method for bird and executioner.

    "Why don't you come, too," Sandra had said to me and Susan Barclay.

    Susan and I were at the PASA conference representing Slow Food Pittsburgh, a sustainable food advocacy group that sponsors the Farmers@firehouse mostly organic farm market in the Strip. We recruit local meat and poultry producers for the market and for Slow Food's Laptop Butchershop, an e-mail-ordering program connecting people with producers of organic or carefully raised protein.

    I didn't reflect. I knew I needed this experience. Susan signed on too but, when killing day came, was sidelined by flu.

    There were jokes about Haitian voodoo rites. If this sounds like neopagan sisterhood, consider that four of the group are organic farmers. Two have day jobs working with life and death in hospitals.

    We'd all read journalist Michael Pollan's best-seller "The Omnivore's Dilemma," the tale of food's journey to our plates. The author, who'd never hunted or killed anything before in his life, graphically details shooting and dressing a wild boar for a meal.

    To have read this episode is to be struck by how distanced we are from the animals we eat, particularly from their deaths.

    For me death was particularly remote. I've never watched a life ebb. Humans dear to me died alone in hospitals; dying pets were "euthanized," out of my sight.

    The second part: I eat lots of meat (including chicken, but I try to buy local, or at least the kind that is hormone- and antibiotic-free). I work on projects encouraging others to eat meat. I therefore must support taking the lives of food animals. Mustn't I? I realized that I needed to be at the killing, needed to have taken the life, to know. Most important, I trusted these women ... and trusted our motives.

    "When you think of the chickens, probably thousands, we've been associated with," Randa mused, "chicken every week, broth, soup..."

    The June issue of Gourmet's "A View to Kill" explores the life and death of "the industrial chicken." NPR's Daniel Zwerdling reports that Americans eat nine billion chickens a year, almost 10 times the number they consumed in 1950. Such numbers require megafarms and giant processing plants. Grisly reporting of the way the "industrial chicken" dies -- grabbed, crated, dumped, yanked upside down, shackled, rendered unconscious (not always) and decapitated (not always) by a whirling blade, before landing in a scalding bath -- raises the author's question: Is there a better way for the birds to meet their end?

    The Norwegians think they have a solution. Birds, handled gently and still "nestled in their crates," are essentially killed in a gas chamber. The method is called Controlled Atmosphere Killing. Vets allege chickens thus dispatched die unconscious and without pain. Petitioned by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, one restaurant giant, Burger King, has announced it will favor suppliers adopting the procedure. Leading animal researchers, including noted scientist Temple Grandin, say the gas system is the "most stress-free, humane method of killing poultry yet developed."

    Do they use Zyklon-B?

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:15 AM

    YEAH, BUT...:

    Icy Island Warms to Climate Change (Doug Struck, June 7, 2007, Washington Post)

    The biggest island in the world is a wind-raked place, gripped by ice over four-fifths of its land, prowled by polar bears, its coastlines choked by drifting icebergs and sea ice. Many of its 56,000 people, who live on the fringes of its giant ice cap, see the effects of global warming -- and cheer it on.

    "It's good for me," said Ernst Lund, a lanky young man who is one of 51 farmers raising sheep on the southern tip of Greenland. His animals scramble over the cold granite hills of a dramatic fiord, his farm isolated from the nearest town by a long boat ride threading past drifting mounds of ice, followed by a jolting truck trip along seven miles of gravel road.

    "I can keep the sheep out two weeks longer to feed in hills in the autumn. And I can grow more hay. The sheep get fatter," he said.

    ...Al Gore doesn't live in Greenland.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:06 AM

    BY WHICH...:

    Discovery may make stem-cell ethics fight irrelevant (Rick Weiss, 6/07/07, The Washington Post)

    ...they mean resolve it in favor of the ethical.

    June 6, 2007

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:55 PM

    AUDIO: Ronald Reagan at Point du Hoc (6/06/84)

    AUDIO: FDR D-Day Prayer (6/06/44) (via Mike Daley)

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:05 PM


    Lala.com's Make-or-Break Move: The startup has a lot on the line with its plan to sell music for the iPod circumventing Apple's vaunted iTunes (Peter Burrows, 6/06/07, Business Week)

    It doesn't take long to figure out what makes Bill Nguyen tick. The high-energy entrepreneur got rich creating a string of corporate software vendors, but he's only now following his real dream: running a music company.

    His startup is called La La Media (don't call him CEO; nobody in the company has titles), and when he talks about it, he sprinkles the discussion with references to new bands only your kids have heard of, drops names of famous rockers he counts as friends, and reminisces about what music meant to him as a poor kid in Houston.

    Nguyen really gets going when he arrives at the health of the music business. "Too many people are really questioning whether they want to buy music anymore," he says. "But it's so much more fun to listen to music than to read about what Paris Hilton did in jail this week," says the boyish 36-year-old, sitting with one leg tucked beneath him on a chair in La La's study hall-like offices in Palo Alto, Calif.

    Nguyen's company is going for broke on a bet it can recapture consumers' hearts. On June 4, La La turned on a new online service that lets people with an Internet connection listen to all the music on its Web site, Lala.com, and pay only if they want to download a given album to their iPod digital music player. It's an audacious wager that will require La La to shell out a whopping $140 million to buy the rights to songs from major record companies and hundreds of indie labels—an especially risky maneuver for a 23-person company that has $9 million in the bank. "We're betting the company on this," says Nguyen.

    I've been trading at La La for awhile now and it's a great, inexpensive way to get cds. Haven't really had much chance to use the player yet, but it uploaded all the stuff from iTunes rather smoothly.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:02 PM


    Ordinary cells can be reprogrammed to mirror stem cells, studies find (Karen Kaplan, June 6, 2007, LA Times)

    Scientists have succeeded in reprogramming ordinary cells from the tips of mouse tails and rewinding their developmental clocks so they are virtually indistinguishable from embryonic stem cells, according to studies released today.

    If the discovery applies to human cells -- and researchers are optimistic that it will -- it would offer a straightforward method for creating a limitless supply of cell lines tailor-made for patients without any ethical strings attached.

    Not that this will make any difference to folks like Ron Reagan and Rudy Giuliani, for whom the point is the unsanctty of life, not the medicinal aspects of the question.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:57 PM


    Bush dashes Blair hopes of breakthrough on climate change deal (Andrew Grice, 07 June 2007, Independent)

    Tony Blair has prepared the ground for a tactical retreat over climate change after George Bush rejected demands by Britain and Germany for him to commit to a specific target for cutting global carbon emissions.

    At their last meeting before he stands down on 27 June, Mr Blair will meet the US President at breakfast today in the margins of the G8 summit in Heiligendamm, Germany, to press the case for a 50 per cent cut in emissions from 1990 levels by 2050.

    But there are growing expectations that the US will agree only to a summit declaration backing a "substantial reduction" in emissions without including a specific figure.

    In a setback to Mr Blair's hopes of securing a major breakthrough on climate change before he leaves office, James Connaughton, the head of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, said the US was "not prepared" to back the 50 per cent reduction proposed by Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor and summit host.

    ...that George Bush is indebted to Tony Blair because the PM did the right thing vis a vis Iraq. Indeed, if anything, it is Mr. Blair who owes the debt, since the President allowed him and Colin Powell to go the UN route and make the WMD pitch, neither of which interested W.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:41 PM


    Giuliani will skip August straw poll (THOMAS BEAUMONT, June 6, 2007, DES MOINES REGISTER)

    The recognition that you can't compete in a vote among Republicans is a healthy first step towards bowing out.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:07 PM


    Who is Bernard Kouchner?: Postmodern Politician (Paul Berman, 6/06/07, TNR Online)

    Kouchner's mission in East Asia was meant to save lives, and yet the mission could easily be interpreted as an intervention into the affairs of a sovereign state, the People's Republic of Vietnam. The Boat People were citizens of the People's Republic, and the People's Republic had by no means granted permission to Kouchner or to anyone else to go trolling in the sea for the purpose of rescuing the enemies of the People's Republic. By what right, in the name of what international accord, could Kouchner go ahead with such a mission? He invoked a higher right, but, to be sure, scoundrels on the wrong side of the law always invoke a higher right. In France, a number of people on the left--not the new-style humanitarians but the old-school traditionalists--saw in Kouchner's mission a graver problem, too. This expedition of his may have been humanitarian, whether or not it was legal. But was this expedition, judged by left-wing standards, "progressive"?

    Everybody on the left acknowledged the scale of suffering in the Third World, and in Indochina, especially. But the orthodox left clung to a fairly specific interpretation of these sufferings and their origin, and, according to this interpretation, the ultimate blame rested on Western imperialism: the imperialism of the United States, especially. And if imperialism was the problem, what was the solution? Anti-imperialism. And who were the leaders of the anti-imperialist cause in Indochina? These leaders were the Communist parties, like it or not, and this remained the case even if, in one country or another, the Communists behaved a little brutally.

    If anyone had conducted a poll of world opinion in 1979 (an impossible thing to do, but I am speculating), the orthodox left-wing interpretation of misery in Indochina would very likely have enjoyed the support of a large majority of people, outside of the United States and the Soviet bloc and perhaps a few other places. Certainly an overwhelming majority of the world's intellectuals would have defended the Communist liberation movements of Indochina, and would have done so with a real vehemence. To anyone who harbored those ideas, the notion of rushing to the rescue of Communism's enemies in Vietnam could only have seemed blatantly and unmistakably reactionary--a retrograde humanitarianism that might succeed in rescuing a few people but was also bound to inflict a political blow on Indochina's best hope for progress in the future, namely, the Communists. In France, some people on the left were already listening to the New Philosophers, and these people lined up with Kouchner and his humanitarian missions, and it was fairly astonishing that Sartre, in the final chapters of his life, chose to be among them.

    But a much larger number of intellectuals and journalists, together with the left wing of the Socialist Party in France, not to mention the Communist Party, wanted nothing to do with retrograde humanitarianism and foreign interventions into the internal life of Communist Vietnam. These people, the traditional leftists, wanted to know where this sort of intervention was going to end. This was a reasonable question. For if Kouchner was doing a good thing by sailing the seas of East Asia in a rented ship with six doctors (followed by a few other ships, after a while), why stop there? Why not launch rescue missions on a much larger scale, with more than a rented boat? The debate on this theme arose in France, but it spread right away to the United States and aroused a lot of polemical energy, too.

    The exact manner in which this particular French debate migrated to America was something that no one could have predicted, except by noting that, in the history of ideas, nothing is predictable. The crucial role was played by Joan Baez, the singer. There was a lyricism of the nineteen-thirties and forties left, and Joan Baez was, all by herself, the lyricism of the nineteen-sixties left. She lifted her voice, and hearts pounded, and this was true not just in the United States. In the seventies, at the height of her success, the vagaries of life led her to France, where she spent a lot of time, and in France, too, she had her fans. One of those people happened to be Debray, who has described in his memoirs the pleasure he derived one day from listening to Baez serenade the elderly heroine of the Spanish Civil War, La Pasionaria, the mythic Communist orator--one revolutionary woman serenading another, across the generations.

    Apart from singing, though, Baez also did some listening (as she has described in her own book, And a Voice to Sing With, back in 1987). She followed the French debate over Communism, Marxism, New Philosophy, Indochina, and all the rest. She gazed at the scenes of boat people flailing about in the South China Sea. She was horrified. And, in 1979, she wrote a letter to the Vietnamese Communists, apologizing for America's actions in the Vietnam War--yet also requesting an improvement in human rights. That was a novel thing to do, for someone with a golden history in the American peace movement. She wrote a second letter, a little sharper, requesting improvements once again. This time, she asked some of her comrades from the American left to sign, and a number of people did--Nat Hentoff, I. F. Stone, Allen Ginsberg, and quite a few others, the independent souls.

    And now, at last, the debate broke out in the American left, on the far left and among the liberals, both. A great many people looked at Joan Baez's protest and were beside themselves with indignation. A condemnation of the human rights situation in Communist Indochina--by Americans? By the very people whose armed forces had wreaked so much damage on Indochina? The orthodox militants of the American left took out a full-page ad in the New York Times to express their righteous wrath. Dave Dellinger, the Christian pacifist, condemned her--Dellinger, the single most influential organizer of the American antiwar movement at its height, in the late nineteen-sixties and early seventies. From Dellinger's perspective, Baez's letter to the Communist leaders was genuinely ominous--a step toward a new imperialism. And perhaps something in this argument was not entirely absurd. In 1979, Jimmy Carter was in the third year of his presidency, and he was groping to come up with a new kind of foreign policy, something different from the policies of the Nixon administration that had preceded him.

    Carter had already taken a few steps in this direction. It was Carter who seized on the concept of human rights and elevated it into one of the main concerns of American foreign policy. He established a new bureau in the State Department, and he put the bureau under the responsibility of an officer grandiosely called the assistant secretary of state for human rights and humanitarian affairs. And, with this bureau up and running, the Carter administration and its assistant secretary took to banging the table on behalf of human rights and humanitarian issues all over the world--not just in the Soviet bloc but in Latin America, too, and even in countries whose kleptocrats and dictators might have expected a bit more gratitude from the fickle United States. This sort of human-rights crusading aroused a good deal of anxiety on the conservative right, among the old-fashioned "realists," the old Nixon hands, who figured that Carter was undermining some of America's more reliable friends around the world. (And, to be sure, the reliable friends began to tumble from their thrones: the dictator Anastasio Somoza in Nicaragua, the shah of Iran . . . ) And the policy proved upsetting to quite a few people on the orthodox left, as well. Chomsky published his political magnum opus in 1979, The Political Economy of Human Rights, in two volumes (written with Edward S. Herman), expressly for the purpose of unmasking human rights as a cruel hypocrisy in the service of imperial rapacity.

    Carter's foreign policy, in short, attracted enemies on every side--which ought to have made clear, at least, that he was up to something new. And then, like everyone else, Carter watched in horror as masses of Vietnamese fled into the sea; and he examined his own moral conscience, and I suppose that he glanced at the state of American public opinion, too, where he would have seen the debate over Joan Baez and her protests. He ordered the Sixth Fleet into action. The American navy went about scooping up the boat people. This was not like Bernard Kouchner sailing around with half a dozen kindly doctors. And, with Carter's order to the fleet, the whole quandary of a human-rights policy and of humanitarian action in the modern world, the enormous tangle of unresolvable questions about foreign interventions and their justification and purposes and consequences--all this, our modern predicament, floated majestically into view.

    To everyone all over the world who had spent the previous fifteen years laboring to get the American military out of Southeast Asia, in the keen belief that Western imperialism and especially the United States posed the greatest of all dangers to poor people everywhere--to everyone who still clung to that august and deeply felt opinion, the spectacle of America's navy trolling the seas in order to rescue the enemies of Vietnamese Communism was bound to seem profoundly repulsive. But did U.S. imperialism really pose the greatest of dangers? Mightn't the Communists pose a danger of their own--as demonstrated all too obviously by the flight of thousands of unhappy Vietnamese into the sea? Maybe the power of the United States, with its navy and everything else, was a force that could be harnessed to good purposes, as well as to bad ones--depending on circumstances, and on the choices of the people in power, and on the demands of democratic opinion. Maybe the strength of the strong was not, by definition, a crime against the weak. Maybe power was a tool that, decently employed, could do a world of good for the most oppressed of the oppressed, just as, in the past, the power of the big Western countries had all too systematically done worlds of harm. Maybe Western strength and imperialist oppression did not have to be synonymous.

    This was the new possibility in the field of human rights and humanitarian action, the grand-scale alternative view of world politics that had merely been hinted at by the tiny cadres of Doctors Without Borders and Kouchner's new Doctors of the World and a few other people--the Che-like adventurers with their medical bags and their non-Che-like ideas. If a rented ship from France was a good idea, the Sixth Fleet was a better idea. This logic was undeniable. At least, Kouchner seemed to think so. People with power, Kouchner began to say, had a right to intervene in other societies, under certain conditions--a right, in spite of the sacred mandates of international law and the inviolability of borders. There was a right to intervene on humanitarian grounds, and to do so "without borders." More than a right--there was, in Kouchner's word, a "duty." A moral duty to use power to rescue the vulnerable. A duty to use this power wherever people were in desperate need. A duty for wealthy and powerful countries not to stand by, fat and happy, while the rest of the world went to hell. Or, to put this entire argument the other way, the supremely oppressed had a right to be rescued, no matter what the theorists of anti-imperialism or the defenders of the inviolability of borders might say.

    None of this was entirely unprecedented in the history of ideas. The ancient left-wing principle that used to go under the name of internationalism showed no concern at all for the integrity of duly constituted states. "Workers of the world" meant workers without borders. But whether Kouchner's new theory of humanitarian intervention had remained faithful to this left-wing provenance or had evolved into something new, perhaps an idea beyond any of the conventional ideologies, neither left-wing nor right-wing nor any-wing--this was a murky question. Kouchner sometimes wondered about this. Were left-wing motives the best of all motives that anyone could have?

    Leave us set aside for the nonce the question of whether it is Left or Right, the simple reality is that for all our fretting about the transnational threat to sovereignty, it is rather we (mostly the Anglosphere, but those who ally themselves with us as well) who are the genuine threat. Indeed, it is fair to say that we have added a normative component to sovereignty which requires those claiming sovereign power over a state to govern in conformity with our liberal democratic standards or be considered inherent;ly illegitimate and subject to regime change at our whim.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:58 AM


    WE LOVE ELLA! A TRIBUTE TO THE FIRST LADY OF SONG (PBS, premieres on June 6, 2007 on PBS)

    Dubbed "the First Lady of Song," Ella Fitzgerald consistently ranked among the most popular female jazz singers in the United States for more than half a century. In her lifetime, she won 13 Grammy Awards® and sold more than 40 million albums. With her unmistakable, dexterous voice, she sang sultry ballads and swinging pop standards with matchless jazz musicianship. She regularly collaborated with all the greats of American popular music from the mid-20th century, from Duke Ellington, Count Basie, and Nat King Cole to Frank Sinatra, Dizzy Gillespie, and Benny Goodman. With April 25, 2007 marking what would have been Fitzgerald's 90th birthday, various tributes are under way, including the release of a commemorative stamp by the U.S. Postal Service. From USC's Galen Center, GREAT PERFORMANCES joins the celebration with an all-star tribute to Fitzgerald's enduring legacy in American song, featuring Patti Austin, Natalie Cole, George Duke, Jon Faddis, Quincy Jones, Dave Koz, Ledisi, Monica Mancini, James Moody, Ruben Studdard, Take 6, Nancy Wilson, Stevie Wonder, Lizz Wright, and Wynonna.

    Other tributes to the singer include the release of two new CDs: WE ALL LOVE ELLA: CELEBRATING THE FIRST LADY OF SONG, which offers renditions of her well-known hits by today's leading pop, jazz, blues, and R&B artists, many of whom appear in the evening's program, and LOVE LETTERS FROM ELLA, a never-before-heard collection of songs featuring Ella and some of her favorite collaborators, including Count Basie, Joe Pass, and André Previn. Learn more about Ella's remarkable career, which began in the mid-1930s when she was discovered at an amateur talent contest held at the Apollo Theater in Harlem, in the biography. Find out which of her memorable songs are part of this special in the song list.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:37 AM

    RIDDLE US THIS... (via Luciferous):

    462,000 DEATHS CAUSED BY NHS (Natalie Walker, 6/06/07, Daily Record)

    POOR NHS treatment has led to almost half a million Scots dying in the last 30 years, a new study has revealed.

    Doctors at Glasgow University found that between 1974 and 2003, a total of 462,000 people died in Scotland as a result of health service failings

    It means Scotland has one of the highest avoidable death rates in western Europe.

    So, if the Left insists that 4,000 deaths is reason to get out of Iraq, why does it want to get into National Health with a death rate 100 times higher?

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:51 AM


    A Degradation of the Intellect (ADAM KIRSCH, June 6, 2007, NY Sun)

    When a man as distinguished as Patrice Higonnet — professor of history at Harvard, a leading scholar of France and the French Revolution — writes a book as bad as "Attendant Cruelties" (Other Press, 378 pages, $25.95), it is more than a shame, it is a symptom. What drove Mr. Higonnet to range so far from his professional pasture as to write this brief history of America? It was not any great expertise in the subject; the bulk of the book is a sketchy and conventional chronicle, assembled from secondary sources, and containing no facts or interpretations that will surprise any reader who paid attention in his or her 11th-grade U.S. History class. It was not any deep historical insight; for Mr. Higonnet's method is not to explain our history so much as to assign grades to its leading actors, depending on how well they suit his present-minded criteria of "inclusion" and "exclusion," enlightened "patriotism" and iniquitous "nationalism."

    No, the reason why "Attendant Cruelties" got written is much simpler: It is Mr. Higonnet's overpowering hatred of President Bush. How, Mr. Higonnet keeps asking, did the country in which he has lived for decades — the country that he admires as "open-minded, welcoming, at the forefront of nearly everything, and, in so many ways, the freest country in the world" — twice elect as president a man whom he regards as evil incarnate? This is not an exaggeration. In the course of his book, Mr. Higonnet compares the president not just to Hitler — "We can understand him better if we understand what came before him. ... Hitler was a madman, but even he did not become chancellor of the German Reich just because he was a madman" — but also to Stalin: "What Stalinism was to utopian communism, Bushism is to the American creed."

    With the illogicality of malice, Mr. Higonnet characterizes Mr. Bush as simultaneously incompetent and omnipotent, feckless and relentless, the bully of his advisers and the dupe of his advisers. Reckoning the sum of these contradictions tells us nothing about Mr. Bush or about America, but it tells us a great deal about the passionate, self-delighting, deeply irresponsible hatred that now prevails even among the most prestigious and best educated precincts of the Left. It is a book that Mr. Higonnet's sympathizers will read with vigorous nods, and everyone else will read with despairing shakes of the head.

    Imagine how the poor guy feels now that France has elected a W wannabe?

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:35 AM


    Faith in Yankee Mystique Behind Bad Predictions (TIM MARCHMAN, June 6, 2007, NY Sun)

    Easy as it is right now to kick the Yankees, there's someone else who deserves a boot in the ribs — this columnist. [...]

    March 30 was an early date of shame for me, as I claimed in The New York Sun's season preview that "the Yankees should be, by far, the best team in baseball this year." Why? Among other reasons, I pointed out that at worst Mike Mussina, who currently has a 6.25 ERA, would be a league average pitcher; that Mariano Rivera, currently at 5.03, would do what he's done every year for a decade; that Johnny Damon would put up another solid year on his way to a possible Hall of Fame plaque; that Bobby Abreu, he of the .322 slugging average, would be an excellent hitter, and that Jason Giambi would be as good as Manny Ramirez. I actually got the last one right — there's not a hair's worth of difference between the way Giambi was hitting before he went down with a foot injury and the way the famed manchild is hitting for the Red Sox — but all the other predictions were way off. [...]

    In proclaiming the Yankees a great baseball power, I ignored the fact that an old team will often be less than the sum of its parts, because having a lot of old players increases your odds that some of them will prove less reliable than they have in the past. Score one for Father Time, and one against both me and the Yanks.

    While March 30 was moderately bad, April 30 was truly a cruel day. Making like the unfortunate former Iraqi Minister of Information, I claimed to be "highly impressed overall by the way the Yankees have played" and denounced the fretting of nervous Yankees fans as a "ridiculous spectacle," pointing out that while the Yankees ended the month 6.5 games out of first place, they'd done as badly in 2005 and nearly as badly in 2004 and still managed to win the division both years. I also implied that the Yanks looked on course for 98 wins.

    What was wrong with this? Two things. First, in resisting panic, I probably descended into mere contrarianism. It's one thing to say a team has played well given a lot of injuries, another to say that you're "highly impressed" by a team with a losing record. Second, I succumbed to the logical fallacy that because the Yankees had done something unlikely in the past, they were likely to do so again. If anything, you'd figure that in 2005 the Yankees used their get out of jail free card, and that with an older, wearier team, this year's club would finally take the fall they'd avoided in the past.

    All of this, I would hope, is nothing that would land me in the stocks. Claiming, as I did May 7, that signing Roger Clemens gave the Yankees "an advantage over the Red Sox roughly comparable to the Sox's lead in the standings" due to the difference between Clemens and the chumps he will eventually replace might be stock worthy, a triumph of mathematics over common sense — but at least Mike and the Mad Dog aren't playing that one 40 times a day.

    If there's a lesson here, it's probably just that the fabled Yankee mystique and aura really do hold some power. If you look at the common thread between my big errors, it comes down to assuming that the players, and the team as a whole, would do this year more or less what they've done in the past.

    Give a Yankee fan a hug and tell him you understand that he's not to blame for the nonsense he's spewing.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:28 AM


    Democrats Hope to Expand Rights at Guantánamo (JEFF ZELENY, 6/06/07, NY Times)

    A day after two military judges ruled against the Bush administration’s system for trying terrorism detainees, Democrats seized on the rulings on Tuesday as evidence that Congress should restore the right of those held at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, to challenge their detentions.

    Senator Harry Reid, the Nevada Democrat who is the majority leader, said he would be willing to bring such legislation to the floor. The Senate Judiciary Committee is preparing to approve such a plan on Thursday.

    One day we'll find out where Karl Rove put the real Harry Reid when he substituted the animatronic version who serves GOP ends.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:23 AM


    WORD OF THE DAY: pickle park (Double-Tongued Dictionary, 6/06/07)

    n. a public area, such as a park or roadside rest stop, where sexual liaisons between men are said to take place; in trucking, any roadside rest area.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:19 AM


    China may ban Catholics from 2008 Olympics (Independent Catholic News, 6/01/07)

    China's Ministry of Public Security has issued a directive listing 43 categories of 'unwanteds' who are to be investigated and may be barred from the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the Falun Dafa Information Centre reports.

    The banned groups will include members of religious groups not sanctioned by the state, including the underground Catholic and other Christian churches; "key individuals in ideological fields," "counter-revolutionary" figures, the Dalai Lama and all affiliates, "individuals who instigate discontentment toward the Chinese Communist Party through the Internet," and certain types of "handicapped" persons.

    Members of the indigenous religious group Falun Gong would be barred, as would "family members of deceased persons" killed in "riots" -- a euphemism for events such as the Tiananmen Massacre -- and Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang province, which the regime brands "national separatists."

    Foreign athletes, members of the media, Olympic staff members, referees, sponsors, dignitaries, and the International Olympic Committee itself, will all be investigated, to determine whether they fall into any of the 43 categories.

    Where's Jimmy Carter when we need him?

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:06 AM


    'Progressive' politics not so progressive (Neil Reynolds, 6/06/07, The Globe and Mail)

    At the bottom, the poorest group recorded 80-per-cent higher earnings. Adjusted for inflation, these families - the poorest 20 per cent of families with children in the United States - achieved by far the highest percentage earnings gains.

    And these poor families mostly increased their incomes the old-fashioned way - by working more.

    In 1991, these families had income of $12,400 (U.S.) a year. They collected $6,100 from "earned income" - wages; $4,000 in cash payments from various welfare programs; and $2,000 from such sources as gifts, inheritances and interest income. They collected another $300 in "earned-income" tax credits, a federal rewards program that compensates people who lose welfare payments when they work longer hours, earn more wages and no longer qualify for welfare.

    By 2005, these families had income of $16,800, an increase of 35 per cent. They collected $11,000 from wages, an increase of 80 per cent, and received $700 in cash welfare payments, a decline of 82.5 per cent. They collected $2,700 from other sources - and, reflecting the movement from welfare to wages, $2,400 as earned-income tax credits. Now they earned almost twice as much in wages and got only half as much income from the government.

    The U.S. Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the federal research agency that produces independent economic analysis for the Senate and the House of Representatives, published these conclusions last month in a report that dispels some of the popular mythology of worsening economic inequality in the U.S. - mythology now emerging as demagogic fodder for the 2008 presidential election campaign.

    Writing last week in The Washington Post - "The Rise of the Bottom Fifth" - Brookings Institution economist Ron Haskins called this return to work by poor families with children "the biggest success in American social policy in decades." The CBO numbers, he said, should make Republicans proud: "Low-income families with children increased their work effort, many of them in response to the 1996 welfare reform law that was designed to have exactly this effect."

    "These families not only increased their earnings but also slashed their dependency on cash welfare," he said. "In 1991, more than 30 per cent of their income came from cash welfare payments. By 2005, it was 4 per cent. Earnings up, welfare down - that's the definition of reducing welfare dependency." [..]

    The "progressive" philosophy now concedes that free markets can work - but only when governments do the thinking for them. It requires a pessimistic doomsday sensibility. Checking over this baggage, Washington labour economist Stephen Rose warns liberal Democrats that they must stop exaggerating the extent of poverty. "It is an occupational hazard of people with big hearts," he says, "to overestimate the share of the population living in economic distress." Not to mention demagogues. Class-warfare politics survives on the preservation of the underclass.

    In a report written for the Progressive Policy Institute, Mr. Rose argues that progressives keep trying to win national elections in the U.S. with fewer and fewer core supporters. "How else are we to explain the Reagan Democrats," he asks, "who have flummoxed the Democratic Party for two-and-a-half decades?"

    From his own statistical analysis of economic classes in the U.S., Mr. Rose calculates that progressive politics can appeal to 23 per cent of the population. Now, with the rise of the bottom fifth, the core constituency of "progressive" politics looks to be shrinking yet again.

    ...is that it neither can nor is meant to provide any progress for the poor because the Left can only count on their votes if they're dependent on the State.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:50 AM


    Viva El Guapo: Garces still fan favorite as he tries to return to majors (Joe Lemire, June 5, 2007, Sports Illustrated)

    Sweet Caroline is belted in the middle of the eighth inning as New England's favorite rotund reliever warms in the bullpen. Geographically, Rich Garces is only 45 miles away from Fenway Park, but on this night, as he stretches down the right-field foul line of Holman Stadium, it's apparent that he's also five years removed from his unique stardom with the Red Sox.

    The adoring crowds at Fenway used to exalt El Guapo, as Garces is affectionately known, with standing ovations any time he entered a game. His gregarious disposition, expansive waist line and quixotic nickname made him a cult hero; his fleeting brilliance as a setup man made him a Boston icon.

    Attempting a comeback to professional baseball this spring with the independent league Nashua Pride, Garces is still an attraction, as evidenced by the Hispanic/Latino Night and poster giveaway held in his honor last week and the forthcoming El Guapo Bobble Belly doll promotion scheduled for July 26. He hasn't thrown a big-league pitch since 2002, but Sox fans still instantly recognize him.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:48 AM


    Nagin joins the usual suspects as possible successors to Jefferson (Aaron Blake, June 06, 2007, The Hill)

    Many of the same names who challenged Rep. William Jefferson (D-La.) in the 2006 midterm elections are expected to run for his seat again should he resign or be forced from Congress in the coming months, with the possible notable additions of New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin (D) and Jefferson’s daughter. [...]

    The hottest name in local political circles, however, is Nagin, who narrowly won reelection to his current post in the months after Hurricane Katrina. Recent polls show Nagin’s popularity at just over 30 percent, but he would bring a sizeable campaign fund and name recognition to the race.

    The buzz in recent days has been that Nagin would run for governor, as Democrats do not have a competitive opponent for the Republican nominee, Rep. Bobby Jindal (La.), this year. But observers say Nagin long has eyed Washington, and they see the House as a better fit for him than a long-shot gubernatorial candidacy against the popular Jindal.

    “He saw getting reelected mayor of New Orleans as a kind of vindication — it was like saying, ‘It wasn’t your fault, Ray,’” a political science professor at the University of Louisiana-Lafayette, Pearson Cross, said. “He would immediately, I think, be the favorite for that seat.”

    In a statement, Nagin spokesman Ceeon Quiett did not address a possible congressional run, instead focusing on Nagin’s work as mayor to rebuild the city.

    “Rumors and speculation of any kind detract from this mission of recovery,” Quiett said. “It is important that we all work together for the recovery of this great city and region.”

    How many blacks do you have to drown before they riot against you and the party that kept them in ghetto poverty below sea level?

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:09 AM


    Lightning but No Thunder: In New Hampshire Republicans debate for a third time. (John Dickerson, June 6, 2007, Slate)

    Rudy Giuliani faces many challenges as a presidential candidate. After the third Republican presidential debate, he has another: God apparently doesn't approve. As the mayor tried to explain his position on abortion, lightning struck outside the debate hall, knocking out his audio. He'd been asked about the Catholic bishop of Rhode Island, who said the mayor's pro-choice stance made him like Pontius Pilate. When audio returned, Giuliani tried again and lightning crackled another time. When you are a member of a party that believes that God plays a role in human events, this might be a sign to stay in the private sector. Ed Muskie's campaign tanked in 1972 when he appeared to cry in public. What happens when you're a candidate who draws the ire of the Almighty? Giuliani smiled and made a joke. McCain and Romney, who stood on either side of him, backed away quickly in mock fear, as if avoiding the coming brimstone.

    Those guys really ought to make the sign of the cross whenever the Mayor tries to justify his pro-death politics.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:49 AM


    The Wrong Side of the Immigration Story (Jonah Goldberg, 6/06/07, National Review)

    Philosophically and politically, I am on the side of every pro-immigration movement of the last two centuries. We’re a better country because of previous waves of immigrants.

    But since the 1980s, the debate has changed. Whereas in the past the debate was about what our policy should be, today the argument is really about whether we should have a policy at all. Because if you don’t care about enforcing existing immigration laws, you’re really saying that you’re not in favor of having any immigration laws at all. It is difficult to think of another sphere of public policy in which liberals would be nearly so cavalier about lawbreaking.

    The most important immigration policy is to enforce the policy, whatever it is.

    It is the "But," of course, that gives away the game. "I'm in favor of all the waves of immigration it's too late to stop--especially the one that brought my family here against the wishes of the nativists--but this one is completely different...." But, since his heart's essentially in the right place, Mr. Goldberg ends up conceding the triviality of his objection when he says "enforce the policy, whatever it is." Our puritanism and fair play make us persnickety about the failure of illegal immigrants to follow all the technicalities, though we have no coherent objection to their coming here. The correct policy then is to have unlimited (as to numbers) immigration but to regularize it so that the millions can both follow the rules and come. At that point conservatives could advocate sensible limits (as to ideology and the like).

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:42 AM


    This Is Compassion (The Editors, 6/06/07, National Review)

    “Compassionate conservatism” has been justly maligned, but it may yet leave one lasting and worthy legacy.

    That would be the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), begun in 2003, which George W. Bush asked Congress last week to extend for another five years. Funding for AIDS prevention and treatment has seen a spectacular rise under PEPFAR. While spending on global AIDS relief hovered just short of $1 billion annually during Bill Clinton’s last years in office, the Bush administration has tripled that amount, spending an average of $3 billion per year since PEPFAR began. Under the proposal announced last Wednesday, that figure would double to $6 billion per year from 2008 to 2012. This is, as the president noted Wednesday, “unprecedented — the largest commitment by any nation to combat a single disease in human history.”

    Very rarely does a government program produce such momentous results: 1.1 million HIV-positive Africans have received treatment, and many of them have been saved from a horrible death not widely seen in America since the early ’90s. And, more important for the long run, prevention programs are working. Africa’s rate of HIV infection peaked around 2000, and is now decreasing more quickly than ever before.

    PEPFAR signaled, and its second iteration amplifies, the United States’ emergence under the Bush administration as the global leader in the fight against the spread of HIV/AIDS.

    While the AIDs initiative is certainly worthy, it is, of course, just one of a series of signal achievements for compassionate conservatism, that you'd have to be a conservative to be so Stupid as not to recognize, starting with the HSA revolution.

    Scores Up Since 'No Child' Was Signed (Amit R. Paley, June 6, 2007, Washington Post)

    The nation's students have performed significantly better on state reading and math tests since President Bush signed his landmark education initiative into law five years ago, according to a major independent study released yesterday. [...]

    The report, which experts called the most comprehensive analysis of test data from all 50 states since 2002, concluded that the achievement gap between black and white students is shrinking in many states and that the pace of student gains increased after the law was enacted. The findings were particularly significant because of their source: the nonpartisan Center on Education Policy, which in recent years has issued several reports that have found fault with aspects of the law's implementation.

    Jack Jennings, president of the District-based center and a former Democratic congressional aide, said a decade of school improvement efforts at local, state and national levels has contributed to achievement gains.

    "No Child Left Behind, though, is clearly part of the mix of reforms whose fruit we are now seeing," he said.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:36 AM


    Ethics of the Snitch (Clarence Page, 6/06/07, Real Clear Politics)

    Can snitching be ethical? The question has troubled me ever since I was a little-bitty boy. I ratted out my neighborhood friend Andrew. He had brazenly filched a couple of cookies out of his nice mother's cookie jar after she had told us not to. When I snitched, Drew was ticked off at me. But his mom let him off the hook. She even gave each of us a cookie. Years later, sadly, Andrew would go to prison on much more serious charges. I would pursue a career in journalism. As the twig is bent, so grows the tree.

    What a diabolically stupid question. In fact, it is the failure to snitch that is unethical, because only evildoers need to keep their actions secret.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:59 AM


    McCain Sets Self Apart in Debate (Dan Balz and Michael D. Shear, 6/06/07, Washington Post)

    McCain stood his ground as Giuliani, Romney and virtually all the other candidates criticized the bill. Calling immigration reform a national security issue, McCain said that inaction represents "de facto amnesty" for the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants in the country.

    Challenging his rivals to offer a better solution that could pass Congress, McCain defended the bill as the best compromise on an issue that has deeply divided the Republican Party. "It's our job to do the hard things," he said, "not the easy things."

    At one point, Rep. Tom Tancredo (Colo.) called for suspending most legal immigration, which drew rebukes from many on stage. McCain called the idea "beyond my realm of thinking" and said that the United States must remain a beacon for the rest of the world. "And the lady that holds her lamp beside the golden door is still the ideal and the dream," he added.

    Always helpful when the leader of the Know-Nothings makes it clear that it's not actually about legality.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:55 AM


    Man lunges at Pope in Vatican (VINCE SOODIN, June 06, 2007, The Sun)

    A MAN tried to jump into Pope Benedict XVI’s popemobile today.

    The cap-wearing man lunged at the Pope in St Peter’s Square during his general audience before he was wrestled to the ground by security officers.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:50 AM

    WHAT WMD?:

    Cool it, it's not a Cold War: Washington and Moscow might trade insults, but today's Russia doesn't come close to the old Soviet Union's superpower status. (Rajan Menon, June 6, 2007, LA Times)

    Like the Peloponnesian War between Athens and Sparta in the 5th century BC, the Cold War was an ideological contest between two superpowers with dramatically different blueprints for the world. That epic struggle is history. Today's tiffs between Russia and the United States are minor by contrast. If both sides have the will and skill, they can set things right by taking some deep breaths and switching from rhetoric to diplomacy.

    Putin's government may reject American-style democracy, but it offers no systematic alternative with global, even regional, appeal. The now-defunct Soviet Union was wedded to supplanting capitalism, but today's Kremlin surely is not. Although Putin has increased state control over the energy sector, Russia's elite hardly reject market principles, let alone capitalism, which has made many of them plutocrats. And Moscow wants to join the World Trade Organization, for goodness sake.

    The Cold War was also a contest of raw power. With its gargantuan budget, the Soviet military machine was a formidable foe. But now, Russia's defense expenditures come to only about 8% of America's; in dollar terms, the Pentagon spends almost three-fourths the value of Russia's yearly GNP. Much of Russia's arsenal is aging and shopworn; its conscripts are demoralized, poorly paid and ill-equipped.

    Russia can bully weak neighbors, but unlike the Red Army, its military does not menace Europe and it lacks a global reach. Recent increases in its defense spending and the testing of a new ICBM should not obscure these weaknesses.

    It's the gap between Russia's self-image (it sees itself as a great power) and reality (it is a regional power at best, and could soon be overtaken by India and China) that explains the anger emanating from the Kremlin. Russian leaders feel "dissed" by the United States, and with anti-American nationalism pervasive in Russia nowadays, Putin's tough talk plays well at home.

    Still, predictions of a new Cold War are political hyperventilation.

    Except that the USSR wasn't a superpower in military terms either. That was just faulty intelligence from the CIA and political hyperventilating. We could have done them at any time we chose to.

    Posted by Bryan Francoeur at 6:42 AM


    India uses 'mooing' ringtones to catch leopards (Reuters, 6/05/07)

    Forest guards in western India are using cell phones with ringtones of cows mooing, goats bleating and roosters crowing to attract leopards that have wandered into human settlements, officials said on Monday.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


    Don't Overlook This One (OTTO PENZLER, June 6, 2007, NY Sun)

    Is there a character in contemporary crime fiction whose exploits are anticipated more eagerly by sophisticated readers than Hieronymus Bosch, the principled, caring, and competent cop in Michael Connelly's outstanding series?

    Equal parts Philip Marlowe, Lew Archer, and "Dirty" Harry Callahan, with some of the author's own personality thrown in, Harry Bosch has already ensconced himself in the pantheon of the greatest fictional detectives of all time.

    While many of us have our idiosyncratic favorites, and while some authors produce one or two excellent novels with an ongoing character, I can think of only a handful of crime fighters whose adventures are as consistently compelling as Bosch — and none better.

    The first is especially good, but it's nice that he's still going strong.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


    Prospects: Buchholz and Slowey (Nate Stephens, 6/05/07, Rotoworld)

    Clay Buchholz – RHP Red Sox – [...]

    Despite his prospect stardom, Buchholz hasn't had a typical career path before being drafted. The right-hander went undrafted out of high school, and then played briefly as a position player for McNeese State. He transferred to Angelina Junior College in Texas, and suddenly everything clicked. Buchholz used his athleticism to dominate both on the mound and at the plate while playing the outfield. Big league clubs were impressed enough to start looking at Buchholz as early as the late first round in the 2005 draft. The Red Sox eventually took the plunge, snagging Buchholz with the 42nd pick.

    Assigned to Lowell of the New York-Penn League after signing, Buchholz has about an effective debut as could have been expected. He showed both control and plus stuff on the mound, and ended up posting a 2.61 ERA and 45/9 K/BB ratio in 41 innings of work. The Red Sox had to be exceptionally pleased. Buchholz had little experience pitching for someone who was already in his age 20 season, and his performance on the mound was nearly flawless. He didn't get buy just on stuff, but hit his spots and showed a better approach than expected.

    Promoted to Single-A Greenville to start the 2006 campaign, Buchholz continued to dominate. The 6'3', 200-pound right-hander recorded a 2.62 ERA, striking out 117 and walking just 29 batters in 103 innings of work. The club wasn't letting Buchholz pitch deep into games, but his velocity was actually getting stronger in the fifth inning and he pitched better the second time around lineups. Add in how athletic Buchholz was, and it seemed extremely likely that he would continue pitching well late in games when given the chance. A late season promotion to High-A Wilmington also went well, with Buchholz hitting 97 on the radar gun late in the season and striking out 24 in 16 innings.

    Moved up to Double-A Portland to start this season, Buchholz hasn't disappointed. His 1.70 ERA is good for second in the league, and his 80 strikeouts in 58 1/3 innings rank first. He's also walked just 13 batters and allowed Eastern League hitters to compile just a .182 batting average. He's pitched deeper into games, averaging almost six innings per start after rarely appearing in the sixth inning during 2006. In short, he's been flat out dominant.

    Buchholz's fastball is a plus pitch, sitting from 91-94 most of the time and getting dialed up to 96 or 97 when needed. However, Buchholz prefers to get ahead in the count with his fastball, and then retire batters with his arsenal of quality breaking pitches. His curveball is excellent and can be thrown for strikes or as a chase pitch. Buchholz's slider is also a quality offering, and his two types of changeups serve as a way to keep hitters even more off-balance. Add his great command, clean injury history, and athletic frame to a deep and impressive arsenal, and you have the makings of a future ace. Some people might hesitate to call Buchholz a future ace given that he's 22 and in Double-A, but his unique career path means he shouldn't be discounted much due to age.

    Given how he's pitched, it won't be long before Buchholz is moved up to Triple-A. If he continues to dominate after the promotion, the big club could very well come calling in the second half. Working against Buchholz is that the team probably won't want him to jump from the 119 innings he threw last year to anywhere near 200. He'll amass near that many innings if called up in August or September, so the club could hold off barring a total breakdown in their big league starters. That means he's a much better bet for 2008, and his combination of talent and major league-readiness will make Buchholz a very popular pick next spring. Those in keeper leagues should consider him a Top 20 talent.

    Meanwhile, by rushing Phil Hughes the Yankees have lost him for the year.

    June 5, 2007

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:20 PM


    Iran: Past the Paranoia: At once theocratic, secular, hostile, and modern, Iran is not America’s natural enemy. (Peter Hitchens, 6/04/07, American Conservative)

    The Iranian state is...famous among its own people for being very bad at delivering grand projects. Tehran’s new Khomeini Airport has just opened after 30 years under construction. A supposedly ultra-modern TV and telecommunications tower stands unfinished on the capital’s skyline after 20 years of work. Several cities, promised metro-rail systems years ago, have yet to see a single train run. Tehran’s metro, sorely needed in that traffic-strangled megalopolis, is operating a few lines, but they opened years late, and there are far too few of them.

    Many Iranians privately fear that their government’s clumsy fumblings with the atom will subject them to a Persian Chernobyl long before it endangers anyone else. In any case, if you wish to become frantic about Islamic bombs, then there is surely a better case for worrying about Pakistan, which already possesses such a bomb along with the missiles to hurl it about the region. Yet Pakistan, mysteriously, is our friend and ally, despite being a lawless military tyranny and the only country on earth to have an army unit specifically trained to mount putsches against its (rarely) elected governments.

    In any event, it is idle and wrong to see Iran as part of an undifferentiated Muslim world. It is astonishingly distinct from its Arab neighbors and, come to that, from its interesting non-identical twin, Turkey. While Turkey is an Islamic state kept secular (so far) by a covert army dictatorship, Iran is a secular state kept Islamic by an overt clerical despotism. Iranians, as they will swiftly point out to you, are mostly non-Arabs. Nor are they, apart from an important but small minority, Turks. And their espousal of the Shia rather than the Sunni branch of the faith cuts them off, whether they like it or not, from most of the rest of Islam. This divide is far more important than most of us realize. We are aware of it mainly because of the Shia majority in Iraq and the influence that Iran can exercise through them. But what I did not properly appreciate before visiting Iran is that Shia Islam is for all practical purposes a separate religion. I had, on a visit to Iraq, been lucky enough to visit the Shia shrine cities of Najaf and Kerbala but only in search of opinion on the Anglo-American occupation. I had noticed that the mosques were interestingly different from the Sunni ones I had seen in Jordan, Egypt, Jerusalem, and England but had made little of it.

    In the great Shia pilgrimage city of Mashhad, on the old Silk Road to China, I understood for the first time that this was something utterly apart, as separate from Sunni practice as a Sicilian Roman Catholic might be from a Scotch Calvinist. I have never felt so close to understanding the passionate pre-Reformation world of medieval Europe, its relics and devotees, its enormous, thronged, and gilded shrines. Passing through ever more ornate courtyards decorated with lovely blue-tiled recesses and overlooked by a dome apparently made of solid gold, I was able to look into the glittering center of the shrine of Imam Reza, one of the sad heroes of this tragic faith. All Shia martyrs were the victims of political, temporal defeat, some slain in unfair battle, others—like Reza—foully murdered by conspiratorial enemies. They are still mourned, as if these events had happened yesterday rather than more than a thousand years ago. The Twelfth Imam is thought to have disappeared from the world of men, only to reappear at an unknown date to restore the rule of peace and justice. [...]

    The separation, whatever its reasons and origins, helps to reinforce a strong feeling that Iran is trapped in the middle of a world to which it does not really belong. Wander through Tehran, or any other Iranian city, at the delightful evening hour always pleasing in any Middle Eastern capital, soon after evening prayers have been called, when the sweet and cake shops are preparing for business and the lights are warm and bright. You will quickly notice that it is not—as it would be elsewhere—an all-male street scene. Women are walking about quite freely, and not in that hunched, submissive posture so common in the Arab lands. They are, especially in the more middle-class areas, consciously subverting the ridiculous dress codes imposed on them by the mullahs. The veil is plainly imposed, not willingly worn as it increasingly is by Arab women on the luxury shopping streets of London.

    Clothes intended to be shapeless have been carefully nipped in and adapted to emphasize the waist, contrary to regulations. Headscarves are placed so far back on the head that they are barely there at all. Heels are high, and many walk and stand like Parisians. Every so often, squads of morality police still descend on the streets to try to enforce compulsory modesty. But the battle is undoubtedly lost. And that is important because it symbolizes the way in which the regime has failed to hold the hearts of the people in so many other ways as well.

    A sort of public opinion does exist in Iran. Despite a still fearsome formal repressive apparatus, which swiftly and disgustingly punishes formal open dissent in newspapers or in street demonstrations, private conversation is quite unregulated, deeply irreverent, and totally fearless. Even in poor South Tehran, where the Islamic enthusiasts have more influence, I was told an unprintably rude joke about the Ayatollah Khomeini that suggested the old man was not very clever.

    This private dissent has an interesting effect, a sort of passive resistance expressed by a lack of enthusiasm. The authorities have drawn back from the strict application of sharia punishments except in cities where the middle class is weak and the regime’s more fanatical supporters remain strong. In Mashhad, I was assured, public executions had become rare because they were unpopular, and people would not go to watch them unless the condemned man had committed some especially heinous and bloody crime. In private homes and in public places, the men and women to whom I spoke expressed dissenting opinions with amazing, sometimes alarming freedom. I had to ask myself from time to time whether I was in a tyranny at all.

    What were those opinions? As in any proper country, they varied. I had dinner with a group of professionals, male and female, the women voluntarily veiled, where almost all said they had voted for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for president. The women, especially the younger ones, dominated the conversation. Would they vote the same way now? Hardly any would. They had done so, in any case, in the hope of change that they had not gotten. Many now found him embarrassing and disliked his aggressive talk.

    In the great square at Esfahan, I talked to a group of teenage girls about to graduate from high school—one strictly veiled, one less so, one whose scarf was subversively far back on her head. They all thought war was coming, all believed that the U.S. was not a truly free country and that Iranians and Muslims were persecuted and mistreated there. These opinions arose from state-sponsored ignorance and were fanned by our own militant hostility. The students were not in themselves hostile to the West—like almost all Iranians, they yearned to live there. They were personally friendly and open to me. But they warned that an attack on Iran would drive them closer to their government. And this was not just their view. I heard the same from many far more liberal-minded and skeptical. Before the Iraq War, many such people were all but wishing for an American invasion to free them from the ayatollahs. But having seen what American liberation has done for Iraq and Afghanistan, they have turned away from any such thoughts.

    The Islamic leadership knows this and is glad of the threats and grumbling coming from Washington. Once it was able to use the great national trauma of the war with Iraq to unite the nation around its leadership, much as the Kremlin used the war against Hitler to give itself legitimacy. Now memories of that war are growing weaker among Iran’s incredibly youthful population, and something else is needed to bind the state and the people. The mullahs also wish to close the gap between Shia and Sunni so as to make a united front against the Great Satan. They are using the crudest tactics to achieve this. While ordinary Iranian Shia are coldly welcomed in Sunni lands, Mahmoud Ahamadinejad is the hero of every Muslim cabdriver from Morocco to Malaysia because of his disreputable Holocaust denial. During Friday prayers, I heard a mullah urge reconciliation between Shia and Sunni, claiming that the wicked, slippery English had been trying to split the two branches of the religion for centuries.

    Now, while we should be glad that a civil society is being reborn and that Iran’s alliance with the rest of the Muslim world is shaky, we should not be too optimistic or expect that we can return to the days when the shah was the embarrassingly loyal friend of the West. In the end, his devotion to Washington was one of the things that finished him off.

    There is more than one Iran, and even the passionately Islamic version should not be dismissed with scorn or distaste, though some of it remains baffling or repellent to us. One of the most articulate and intelligent people I met was a young schoolteacher, the mother of a young child. It was clear that her relationship with her husband was that of an equal. Yet as we discussed propaganda in the classroom, I was greatly struck by her extraordinary, medieval, night-black robes, so intensely somber that they darkened the well-lit room in which we sat and so emphatically, ferociously modest that they represented an unspoken, passionate argument against secular modernity and all its works. Much less persuasive or sympathetic was the bearded, taciturn man in an Esfahan ironmonger’s shop close to that lovely city’s tourist arcades of carpets, beaten copper, and spices. This man’s wares were not so picturesque. Displayed on his shelves were the sharp, gray zanjeer chains employed by Shia zealots to lash themselves bloody during the fierce, miserable festival of Ashura. This marks the great defeat of Shia arms at Kerbala more than 1,300 years ago. Also on display were other, heavier chains with an equally disturbing but secular purpose. These are used as weapons and threats by the Basiji, a sort of pro-government Islamic militia that is deployed to intimidate any public expression of opposition, much as similar “people’s militias” were used by Warsaw Pact states to ensure the Communist Party’s rule went unchallenged.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:09 PM


    The Daughter just had her chorus recital, at which they sang Paddy Works on the Railway, which in a few years will be Pedro Works on Tom Tancredo's Basement, and kids will be just as bewildered at why people were anti-Mexican as why they were anti-Irish.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:50 PM


    Freedom's Just Another Word: Bush's deluded speech to the world's oppressed. (Fred Kaplan, June 5, 2007, Slate)

    For those who have detected a "return to realism" in recent American foreign policy, President George W. Bush went to Prague today to say it isn't so.

    Speaking at a conference of democratic activists from around the world, Bush renewed his call for "the end of tyranny," proclaimed that countries on the "path to freedom … will find a loyal partner in the United States," and said to those suffering under tyranny, "We will never excuse your oppressors, and we will always stand for your freedom."

    The speech was, by Bush's description, a reprise of the "freedom agenda" laid out in his Second Inaugural Address of January 2005—but without the slightest acknowledgement of the catastrophic failures and retreats that have taken place (nor of the conceptual fallacies that have been so clearly exposed) in the two and a half years since.

    Can't you just see a President Kaplain, in 1941, telling Eastern Europe to forget about democracy because the Nazis and Communists hadn't been defeated yet?

    President Bush Visits Prague, Czech Republic, Discusses Freedom (George W. Bush, Large Hall Czernin Palace, Prague, Czech Republic, 6/05/07)

    President Ilves, Foreign Minister Schwarzenberg, distinguished guests: Laura and I are pleased to be back in Prague, and we appreciate the gracious welcome in this historic hall. Tomorrow I attend the G-8 Summit, where I will meet with the leaders of the world's most powerful economies. This afternoon, I stand with men and women who represent an even greater power -- the power of human conscience.

    \In this room are dissidents and democratic activists from 17 countries on five continents. You follow different traditions, you practice different faiths, and you face different challenges. But you are united by an unwavering conviction: that freedom is the non-negotiable right of every man, woman, and child, and that the path to lasting peace in our world is liberty. (Applause.)

    This conference was conceived by three of the great advocates for freedom in our time: Jose Maria Aznar, Vaclav Havel, and Natan Sharansky. I thank them for the invitation to address this inspiring assembly, and for showing the world that an individual with moral clarity and courage can change the course of history.

    It is fitting that we meet in the Czech Republic -- a nation at the heart of Europe, and of the struggle for freedom on this continent. Nine decades ago, Tomas Masaryk proclaimed Czechoslovakia's independence based on the "ideals of modern democracy." That democracy was interrupted, first by the Nazis and then by the communists, who seized power in a shameful coup that left the Foreign Minister dead in the courtyard of this palace.

    Through the long darkness of Soviet occupation, the true face of this nation was never in doubt. The world saw it in the reforms of the Prague Spring and the principled demands of Charter 77. Those efforts were met with tanks and truncheons and arrests by secret police. But the violent would not have the final word. In 1989, thousands gathered in Wenceslas Square to call for their freedom. Theaters like the Magic Lantern became headquarters for dissidents. Workers left their factories to support a strike. And within weeks, the regime crumbled. Vaclav Havel went from prisoner of state to head of state. And the people of Czechoslovakia brought down the Iron Curtain with a Velvet Revolution.

    Across Europe, similar scenes were unfolding. In Poland, a movement that began in a single shipyard freed people across a nation. In Hungary, mourners gathered at Heroes Square to bury a slain reformer -- and bury their communist regime, too. In East Germany, families came together for prayer meetings -- and found the strength to tear down a wall. Soon, activists emerged from the attics and church basements to reclaim the streets of Bulgaria, and Romania, and Albania, and Latvia, and Lithuania, and Estonia. The Warsaw Pact was dissolved peacefully in this very room. And after seven decades of oppression, the Soviet Union ceased to exist.

    Behind these astonishing achievements was the triumph of freedom in the battle of ideas. The communists had an imperial ideology that claimed to know the directions of history. But in the end, it was overpowered by ordinary people who wanted to live their lives, and worship their God, and speak the truth to their children. The communists had the harsh rule of Brezhnev, and Honecker, and Ceausescu. But in the end, it was no match for the vision of Walesa and Havel, the defiance of Sakharov and Sharansky, the resolve of Reagan and Thatcher, and fearless witness of John Paul. From this experience, a clear lesson has emerged: Freedom can be resisted, and freedom can be delayed, but freedom cannot be denied.

    In the years since liberation, Central and Eastern European nations have navigated the difficult transition to democracy. Leaders made the tough reforms needed to enter NATO and the European Union. Citizens claimed their freedom in the Balkans and beyond. And now, after centuries of war and suffering, the continent of Europe is at last in peace.

    With this new era have come new threats to freedom. In dark and repressive corners of the world, whole generations grew up with no voice in their government and no hope in their future. This life of oppression bred deep resentment. And for many, resentment boiled over into radicalism and extremism and violence. The world saw the result on September the 11th, 2001, when terrorists based in Afghanistan sent 19 suicidal men to murder nearly 3,000 innocent people in the United States.

    For some, this attack called for a narrow response. In truth, 9/11 was evidence of a much broader danger -- an international movement of violent Islamic extremists that threatens free people everywhere. The extremists' ambition is to build a totalitarian empire that spans all current and former Muslim lands, including parts of Europe. Their strategy to achieve that goal is to frighten the world into surrender through a ruthless campaign of terrorist murder.

    To confront this enemy, America and our allies have taken the offensive with the full range of our military, intelligence, and law enforcement capabilities. Yet this battle is more than a military conflict. Like the Cold War, it's an ideological struggle between two fundamentally different visions of humanity. On one side are the extremists, who promise paradise, but deliver a life of public beatings and repression of women and suicide bombings. On the other side are huge numbers of moderate men and women -- including millions in the Muslim world -- who believe that every human life has dignity and value that no power on Earth can take away.

    The most powerful weapon in the struggle against extremism is not bullets or bombs -- it is the universal appeal of freedom. Freedom is the design of our Maker, and the longing of every soul. Freedom is the best way to unleash the creativity and economic potential of a nation. Freedom is the only ordering of a society that leads to justice. And human freedom is the only way to achieve human rights.

    Expanding freedom is more than a moral imperative -- it is the only realistic way to protect our people in the long run. Years ago, Andrei Sakharov warned that a country that does not respect the rights of its own people will not respond to the rights of its neighbors. History proves him right. Governments accountable to their people do not attack each other. Democracies address problems through the political process, instead of blaming outside scapegoats. Young people who can disagree openly with their leaders are less likely to adopt violent ideologies. And nations that commit to freedom for their people will not support extremists -- they will join in defeating them.

    For all these reasons, the United States is committed to the advance of freedom and democracy as the great alternatives to repression and radicalism. (Applause.) And we have a historic objective in view. In my second inaugural address, I pledged America to the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world. Some have said that qualifies me as a "dissident president." If standing for liberty in the world makes me a dissident, I wear that title with pride. (Applause.)

    America pursues our freedom agenda in many ways -- some vocal and visible, others quiet and hidden from view. Ending tyranny requires support for the forces of conscience that undermine repressive societies from within.