October 31, 2007

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:47 PM


‘Breathtaking’ US sweetener on deal (K.P. NAYAR, 10/31/07, Telegraph)

President George W. Bush’s pointman for nuclear negotiations with Delhi has added a sweetener to the deal that the BJP may find difficult to turn down.

In a breathtaking departure, Nicholas Burns, the US under-secretary of state for political affairs, has held out the possibility that America may not end civilian nuclear cooperation with India even if Delhi tests another atomic bomb in the future.

“It would be up to the American President at that time,” Burns told National Public Radio (NPR) in an interview about the fate of the nuclear deal.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:52 PM


'In long term, India matters more to US than Pakistan' (Rediff, October 31, 2007)

The United States has said that broad-based partnerships between America and India are critical and more important as compared to Pakistan, as New Delhi is growing as a potential power with global influence.

The US-India strategic potential is very, very profound," deputy assistant secretary of Defence for South and South East Asia James Clad told online journalists and bloggers during a conference call from the Pentagon.

While Pakistan continues to search for Osama bin Laden and help wage the global war on terrorism, Clad explained, the US-Indian relationship is more important in the long run.

"India simply must, as a long-term consideration, matter more for us than Pakistan," Clad has been quoted as saying in the American Forces Press Services.

In fact, one of the reasons India matters is if we have to do Pakistan.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:46 PM


Alexander Feklisov, Who Ran Red Atom Spies, Is Dead at 93 (RON RADOSH, October 31, 2007, NY Sun)

Alexander Feklisov, who died Friday at 93, was the spymaster who oversaw Julius Rosenberg and Klaus Fuchs as they stole secrets that helped the Soviet Union develop nuclear weapons during the Cold War. [...]

Decades later, in 1997, he went public with the full story. The reason, he made clear, was that he wanted Julius Rosenberg to be regarded as a hero for his valiant effort on behalf of the Soviet Union's great anti-fascist cause. Rosenberg, he wrote, was an "unreconstructed idealist," a "partisan" who "did not want to betray his Russian comrades."

In working for the Soviets, Feklisov wrote, Rosenberg "helped the USSR fight the Nazis" so he could "build a peaceful future for his children." He did not explain how Rosenberg, who enlisted as an agent during the years of the Nazi-Soviet Pact, was doing his service because of his opposition to fascism. He was a hero because Rosenberg "brought our common victory closer to becoming reality."

Feklisov's account provided missing links about the extent of the damage done by the Rosenberg spy network. He testified about the major successes. The most important piece of information that the Rosenberg gave the Soviets was an actual proximity fuse detonator. The fuse allows a shell to explode at a short distance from an airborne target, guaranteeing a direct hit. It also corrects the path of an explosive charge toward a plane, a precursor of missile homing devices. The Soviets used one to shoot down Major Francis Gary Powers's U–2 plane in 1960, thereby derailing the Eisenhower-Khrushchev summit.

Other members of the ring, Joel Barr, Al Sarant and William Perl, provided equally important data such as the SCR584, a device that determines the speed and trajectory of V–2 rockets, that was part of some 600 pages of texts and drawing photographed by the ring members in one evening. Perl, a scientist working for NACA, the predecessor of NASA, gave Feklisov advanced aeronautical data about high-performance military jet aircraft. Through this material, the Soviets build the MIG fighter jets used against the Americans in the Korean War.

Feklisov also provided more information about Ethel Rosenberg's brother, David Greenglass, who had given Julius Rosenberg a sketch of the A-bomb that he had obtained working at Los Alamos during the war. He also provided evidence that co-defendant Morton Sobell was another spy who gave Feklisov major military data. Mr. Sobell has continued to deny that he spied.

Witch hunts find witches.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:37 PM


Medical Trials Ignore this Placebo Effect (Ben Harder, October 30, 2007, US News)

[I]f people who are taking the placebo know they are taking the placebo, then there may not be a placebo effect. And if people who are taking the real drug know they're not taking the placebo, they may get an extra psychosomatic boost—a sort of super-placebo effect—from the knowledge that doctors are expecting them to do better than the poor chumps getting the fake medicine. Either way, comparing the two groups at the end of the study could lead researchers to make over-optimistic conclusions about how well a drug works against an underlying physiological condition.

This might happen more often than medical investigators would like to think.

And because they rarely account for the possibility when they design studies, investigators would have no way of knowing which of their conclusions are fatally flawed.

Here's the paragraph (from page 12 of the Oct. 16 issue of Neurology Today, a publication mailed to members of the American Academy of Neurology) that prodded me to think harder about the subject:

"At six months, there was significant improvement in fatigue for the patients treated with antibiotics compared to the placebo. The study authors noted that enough patients receiving antibiotic treatment correctly guessed they were in that group to conclude that this finding might be due to 'unblinding' and a placebo effect."

Hmm. In other words, antibiotics may have produced no true, biological benefit in this trial (which was treating people who had a chronic condition known as post-Lyme syndrome) and only appeared to improve symptoms because patients figured out that they were getting real medicine and unknowingly fooled themselves into thinking they felt better. Sure enough, the medicated patients did no better than placebo-treated patients on two other study measures, including one that measured immunit-related molecules in cerebrospinal fluid.

What's interesting to me is that very few medical investigators do what the authors of this study did: ask their patients whether they think they're getting the real drug or the placebo. And even fewer do any sort of rigorous statistical analysis to rule out the possibility that patients who've figured out which group they're in either improve or don't, according to whether they "should" be improving. At the same time, I'm told, "blinded" investigators (those who during a trial aren't privy to which patients are getting placebo) often discuss their guesses with each other about which patients are getting placebo.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:34 PM


Giuliani Still Working at Firm He Promised to Leave (John Solomon, 10/30/07, Washington Post)

Ten months into his presidential bid, Rudolph W. Giuliani continues to work part time at the security consulting firm he promised to leave this past spring to focus on his pursuit of the Republican nomination.

Giuliani's continuing involvement with a firm catering to corporate clients makes him unique among Republican contenders. It also complicates the task of separating his firm's assets from his campaign spending.

...he's not going to run.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:24 PM


The Long Boom: An Amazing Economic Expansion Turns 25 (James Pethokoukis, October 31, 2007, US News)

If the toxic cocktail of a mortgage meltdown, a credit crunch, and surging oil prices should sicken the American economy enough to cause a recession—an actual shrinkage of our gross domestic product—it would be a pretty uncommon experience for many Americans. Over the past 25 years, the United States has enjoyed a marvelous stretch of almost uninterrupted economic growth.

In fact, November marks a wonderful double anniversary. The current six-year economic expansion dates from November of 2001, while the long economic boom dates from November 1982. (Both dates come from the National Bureau of Economic Research, which defines a recession as a "significant decline in economic activity spread across the economy, lasting more than a few months, normally visible in real GDP, real income, employment, industrial production, and wholesale-retail sales.")

Consider this: Since 1982, according to the NBER, the economy has suffered two recessions—in 1990-91 and in 2001—for a total of 16 months. By contrast, in the previous 25 years, the economy suffered six economic downturns for a painful total of 67 months. Even worse, the 1973-75 and 1981-82 recessions were two of the nastiest of the 20th century. Is it any wonder that the stock market basically went nowhere from 1966 to 1982, with such big hurdles to overcome? The Dow Jones industrial average hovered right around 1000 for more than a decade and a half. But since August 1982, when it bottomed at 776, the Dow has risen almost 1,700 percent. That ascent reflects an economy that has nearly tripled from $5.2 trillion in 1982, adjusted for inflation, to $13.9 trillion today.

Indeed, the folks who officially date these things concede that when they finally amass all the data--which takes decades--neither of those slowdowns will qualify as recessions. So it's 25 uninterrupted years since Volcker and Reagan slew the inflation beast, broke Labor, and initiated the globalization epoch.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:38 PM


Howard opponent in green disarray (BBC, 10/31/07)

Kevin Rudd says he will not ratify an agreement that does not include China and India, apparently contradicting his party's environment spokesman. [...]

Mr Rudd has promised to sign Kyoto if he wins November's election.

The government's refusal to do so has been deeply unpopular and a damaging issue for Mr Howard in the election campaign.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:12 PM


The Global Competitiveness Report 2007-2008 (World Economic Forum)

The United States tops the overall ranking in The Global Competitiveness Report 2007-2008. Switzerland is in second position followed by Denmark, Sweden, Germany, Finland and Singapore, respectively.

The rankings are calculated from both publicly available data and the Executive Opinion Survey, a comprehensive annual survey conducted by the World Economic Forum together with its network of Partner Institutes (leading research institutes and business organizations) in the countries covered by the Report. This year, over 11,000 business leaders were polled in a record 131 countries.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:58 AM

Rudy of the Good Book?: Neocon war problem. (David Klinghoffer, 10/31/07, National Review)

Who’s right? The Jewish “neoconservatives,” who make up more than half of Giuliani’s foreign-policy advisory team (Norman Podhoretz, Daniel Pipes, Michael Rubin, Martin Kramer, and David Frum)? Or Christians, like Family Research Council president Tony Perkins, who would not rule out supporting a third party candidate if Giuliani gets the nomination?

To adjudicate the dispute, I propose an appeal to the part of the Bible on whose authority Jews (like myself) and Christians agree: namely, the Hebrew Scriptures. The Hebrew prophets have a political vision and it is not neoconservative. No one should know this better than the venerable neoconservative elder statesman, Norman Podhoretz.

Some neoconservatives who support Giuliani do so in spite of their clearly pro-life views on abortion. But they must feel that his position on “Islamofascism” (as Podhoretz in his current book calls the threat of Islamic radicalism) outweighs any opposition over classic culture war questions. The neocons, in other words, emphasize foreign over domestic policy.

Not so for a substantial portion of the Christian conservatives who gathered at the Family Research Council’s Values Voter Summit, in Washington, D.C. this month. They emphasize the suite of pre-9/11 culture war issues, abortion above all. Whatever else there may be to say in favor of Giuliani’s willingness to take the anti-terror offensive to Iran’s doorstep, these Christian conservatives would emphasize the domestic over the foreign.

To judge from his excellent 2002 book The Prophets, Podhoretz takes the Bible deeply to heart. A radio host who’s also Jewish told me that after a warm and stimulating broadcast interview with Podhoretz, the older man spontaneously blessed him with the ancient Hebrew priestly blessing, given by Jewish parents to their children on the Sabbath eve (Numbers 6:23-27). When I heard that story, I got choked up.

It’s relevant to ask, then, if Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel would shelve moral questions like abortion, in order to pursue an aggressive defense against Islamic enemies.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:08 AM


U.S. Economy Grows at Faster Than Expected Rate (Howard Schneider, October 31, 2007, Washington Post)

U.S. economic growth accelerated between July and September as increases in exports and consumer spending overcame the continuing downturn in real estate and turmoil in the mortgage industry.

The economy grew at a 3.9 percent annual rate during those three months, the fastest pace since early 2006 and a surprise to analysts who had predicted that a sluggish housing market would take a larger toll on growth.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:21 AM


REVIEW: of The Battle of Britain: The Myth and the Reality (2000) by Richard J. Overy (BrothersJudd.com, 7/17/04)

The myth of the Battle of Britain goes something like this: in the Summer of 1940, Hitler having rolled over the rest of Western Europe, the British though undermanned and outgunned unified in unprecedented fashion and overcame staggering odds to fend off a German air campaign which had it been successful would surely have been followed by an unstoppable invasion. In this very short but sufficiently thorough book, Richard Overy pretty much demolishes each facet of this myth, but notes that the reality that remains was still important, maybe even decisive to the outcome of the war.

It may be easiest to see the shortcomings of the mythic version by going backwards. To begin with, Hitler seems to have been quite cautious, even reticent, about the prospect of actually invading Britain. His various services--Navy, Army, etc.--were dubious about the chances of succeeding and no one appears to have thought it even worth considering the attempt unless the airwar rendered the British air force completely ineffective. The collective reluctance makes good sense considering that even if the air campaign had succeeded the Brits still had a superior navy and would have been defending their home soil with a not inconsiderable army. Think of it this way: folks continually portray D-Day as a moment of high drama, which could have gone either way. But by then it was the combined forces of Britain and America, attacking occupied territory with a potentially co-operative populace, defended by a Germany that was taking a beating in the USSR, and so on and so forth. The odds against a German version of D-Day would have had to have been astronomically higher, if not prohibitive.

Meanwhile, it's all a moot point because there was never much likelihood of the Nazis winning the air war. Britain was more than a match in both men and material. It had innovative technology like radar. The Germans had to fly to Britain just to begin the fight, while the Brits were right there waiting for them. Everything favored the British.

Lastly though, the nation wasn't particularly unified, with many folks more than willing to consider a negotiated peace. To some considerable extent this was a function of the very mythmaking involved in the Battle. Had people understood how slim Germany's chances were of ever invading and holding the British isles morale probably would have been better. But as Mr. Overy says, the Germans genuinely did underestimate British strength while the Brits truly did overestimate the Germans. In these circumstances people were understandably worried.

Ultimately, the myth mattered because American opinion shifted behind Britain as the tiny underdog courageously fought the mighty Nazi war machine. Bombing of civilians--though carried out by both sides and not, at that point in the war, designed to terrorize the citizenry--won Britain further sympathy, not least because American radio networks were there reporting on it. And, of course, even when you have the advantage in warfare it's still possible to botch it. The Brits didn't. The Battle of Britain should be a source of pride, even if it wasn't as perilous as the myth requires. Mr. Overy makes the case for all this in a straightforward, nonpolemical, and eminently readable fashion.

If all nations require myths, imagine how much more ferocious the need for them in democracies, where the every act of the nation is the action of the people as a whole.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:45 AM


Democrats Must Turn Right to Win: Both John Edwards and Barack Obama want to move the Democrats to the left. But that's a sure way to lose the election. Many voters may live their lives on the left, but their hopes and dreams are well to the right. (Gabor Steingart, 10/31/07, Der Spiegel)

Voters happen to be harder to reach than most people think, and that's because they all live in two different places at the same time.

Their first place of residence is real life. There are no mysteries here: the unemployed person is unemployed, a student is a student, the blue-collar worker wears a blue collar, and the businessman is a businessman. This is the realm where the politician knows exactly how much his potential voters make and how much they spend. For the politician, the lives of voters in this first world are like an open book.

Behind the door of the second place of residence, on the other hand, is an inaccessible place built of hopes and dreams. This is where we enter the realm of the possible, and this is where everyone is what he wants to be. In this second world, people dream of a better education and of climbing the social ladder, of more money and greater happiness. It's a place where opportunities outnumber duties.

This second world is the perfect place for a politician to meet up with his voters. It's the only place where he can deliver his most important commodity -- the promise of a better life -- to the men and women of the electorate. It is here that people are actually waiting for someone to finally show up with a slice of a better future.

But, as it happens, we know a lot less about this second world where voters live. One thing, though, is clear: This second world may not be terribly far from the first but, in political terms, it can be found to the right of it. The unemployed person wants to be a worker again; the worker dreams of being promoted to foreman; the foreman wants a better-paying office job; and the white-collar workers wonders whether he wouldn't be happier as an executive.

This is why voters aren't just interested in their own tax bracket but also in the tax brackets of those richer than them. This is why higher estate taxes are so unpopular not because they actually affect the voter, but because they could affect the voter. The voter doesn't want to see the person he aspires to be punished or treated poorly. What it comes down to is that most voters live their lives on the left side of the political spectrum, while their dreams lie to the right of their reality.

In short, elections are not won at the center, as is so often claimed, but slightly to the right of center. In Germany, the conservatives have won 10 of the 16 parliamentary elections in the country's postwar history. In the United States, the Republicans have won seven of the last 10 presidential elections. In the US, the Republicans are simply better at promising a brighter future, as former President Ronald Reagan showed with his simplest of pledges: "It's morning in America."

What the Democrats and their presidential candidates are saying about their country these days has little to do with optimism and visions of the future. Some of their favorite words are: poverty, inequality, health insurance and tax increases. The old battle within the left is back, and it's being fought on three issues: Who does more for the military? John Edwards says: Edwards. Who has the better concept for expanding social welfare? Barack Obama says: Obama. Who has the guts to more heavily tax the rich and the super-rich? Both of them say: I do.

Once you grasp this eternal tension between freedom and security and --here's where it gets difficult for ideologues -- acknowledge the legitimacy of both impulses, not just the one you personally feel more strongly, the genius of the Third Way becomes apparent. All it seeks to do (in practice) is to provide the social security that post-Depression democracy requires but to do so by means that maximize individual control. It uses coercive means to achieve liberating ends.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:36 AM


Pumpkin gingerbread (Lisa Yockelson, October 31, 2007, Boston Globe)


Butter (for the pan)
Flour (for the pan)
3 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt, preferably fine sea salt
1 tablespoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1 1/4 cups coarsely chopped pecans, lightly toasted and cooled
3/4 cup chopped crystallized ginger
1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
4 eggs
2 tablespoons unsulphured molasses
1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 can (15 ounces) plain, solid-pack 100 percent pumpkin

1. Set the oven at 350 degrees. Have on hand a 10-inch tube pan. Brush it with butter. Line the bottom with a circle of waxed paper cut to fit it and butter the paper. Dust the pan with flour, tapping out the excess. Set aside.

2. In a bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice.

3. In a small bowl, toss the pecans and ginger with 1 tablespoon of the flour mixture.

4. In an electric mixer, cream the unsalted butter on medium-high speed for 3 minutes. Reduce the speed to medium and beat in the granulated sugar in 2 additions, beating for 1 minute after each addition. Add the light brown sugar and beat for 1 minute more. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Blend in the molasses and vanilla.

5. With the mixer set on low speed, blend in the pumpkin until combined. The mixture will look slightly curdled at this point. That's OK.

6. On low speed, add the flour mixture in 3 additions. Scrape down the bowl often with a rubber spatula. Remove the bowl from the mixer stand. With a large spoon, stir in the pecan mixture. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan. Smooth the top with a rubber spatula.

7. Bake the cake for 1 hour, or until set and a toothpick inserted into the center is clean or has a few moist crumbs attached when withdrawn. The cake will pull away slightly from the sides of the pan.

8. Set the cake on a rack to cool for 15 minutes. Place a cooling rack on top, carefully invert the cake, lift away the pan, discard the waxed paper, then invert the cake to sit right side up on the rack. Leave to cool completely. The cake may be made a day in advance up to this point. Store in an airtight keeper.


1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1. In a small bowl, whisk the confectioners' sugar and ginger.

2. Sift the sugar mixture through a small strainer onto the cake. Use a serrated knife to cut the cake into slices.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:18 AM


Israel mulls citizenship changes (BBC, 10/31/07)

Israel's interior minister has called for reforming the law that grants Jews around the world Israeli citizenship.

Meir Sheetrit said citizenship should be earned by a strong commitment to Israel and not granted automatically.

He was addressing the governors of the Jewish Agency, which is responsible for promoting Jewish immigration to Israel.

He said funds should go towards helping deprived immigrant communities already in Israel rather absorbing more "lost tribes" living in Africa and Asia.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:43 AM


Ellsbury scores with fans at 'Steal a Taco' promotion (Diedtra Henderson, October 31, 2007, Boston Globe)

Forget those pitchers who came at Red Sox fielder Jacoby Ellsbury with inside heat.

Yesterday, fervent fans came at him with even more: hats, T-shirts, posters, and even taco-stained wrappers and disposable cups. [...]

Inside the restaurant on the campus of Boston University, Ellsbury gave high fives on his way to the counter to order a free taco that he slathered with "fire" sauce. The fast-food crew of eight workers, who had dispensed 500 free tacos in the first hour of the three-hour promotion, paused to snag autographs and photos with Ellsbury.

As he munched on his taco, women crowded inside the restaurant swooned.

October 30, 2007

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:27 PM


North Korean Crew Overpowers Hijackers Off Somali Coast (Nick Wadhams, 30 October 2007, VOA News)

Gunmen who seized a North Korean ship late Monday off the coast of Somalia were overpowered by the crew hours later. As Nick Wadhams reports from Nairobi, the hijacking was the latest incident in what has become an increasingly lucrative business for pirates prowling the waters of the lawless country.

The East African Seafarers' Assistance Program says the hijackers seized the vessel late Monday with two dozen sailors aboard. It said the crew managed to overpower its attackers Tuesday.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:24 PM


Senior US Democratic lawmaker offends Dutch counterparts with historical remarks (The Associated Press, October 27, 2007)

Dutch lawmakers who visited the Guantanamo Bay military prison this week said they were offended by a testy exchange in Washington with a senior congressional Democrat.

The lawmakers said that Tom Lantos, chairman of the House of Representatives' Foreign Affairs Committee, told them that "Europe was not as outraged by Auschwitz as by Guantanamo Bay."

Heck, they aren't outraged by their own ongoing Nazi practices.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:17 PM


U.S. troop losses plunge in Iraq: Combat fatalities could be as low as 23 for October, a level not seen since 2006. Iraqi losses also fall. (Gordon Lubold, October 31, 2007, The Christian Science Monitor)

US troop losses in Iraq have plummeted in the past few months to levels not seen since early 2006 – an encouraging sign, say analysts and defense officials, that the US strategy is working, at least for now.

American defense officials cite recent weapons finds, disruption of bombmaking cells, and the 2007 "surge" of US forces as contributing to a dramatic improvement in security in many parts of Iraq, cutting casualties among both Iraqi civilians and US troops.

...it's going to take an awful long time.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:14 PM


John Howard back in Australian election fight (Nick Squires, 31/10/2007, Daily Telegraph)

John Howard, the Australian prime minister, is in his best position to win next month's general election since his younger opponent, Kevin Rudd, was elected leader of the Labour Party last December, a poll showed yesterday. [...]

The opposition Labour Party's 16-point lead over the coalition government was down to eight points after its support fell four to 54 per cent. The government is up four to 46 per cent, according to the Newspoll survey.

Posted by Matt Murphy at 5:29 PM


Half full? Half empty? French see nothing in the glass at all (Adam Sage, 10/31/07, Times Online)

The French – descendants of the Gauls, who thought the sky would fall on their heads – are among the most gloomy, distrustful and pessimistic people in Europe, according to an official study.

They may live in le beau pays, home to stunning scenery, historic architecture and some of the finest gastronomy invented by mankind but they foresee catastrophe at every turn.

The study of national moods across Europe, commissioned by François Fillon, the French Prime Minister, illustrates the dark – and largely irrational – side of the Gallic soul. [...]

The gulf between the hard facts and the subjective vision of the French was highlighted by the United Nations Development Index, which rates countries on the basis of literacy, life expectancy, education and standard of living. This placed France above the EU average and fractionally ahead of Britain.

But when asked in a second survey to evaluate their standard of living, only 16 per cent of the French said that they were very satisfied – the lowest of any Western European country. The figure in Britain was 40 per cent. [...]

“The French are most fearful and complain the most although the country is not doing too badly,” said Julien Damon, head of the department of social affairs at the Centre for Strategic Analysis. [...]

Mr Damon said that this was compounded by the disappearance of the old French social model “founded in 1945 on the basis of full employment and a family cell where monsieur works and madame stays at home to look after the children”.

Worse, the high taxes and generous benefits that accompanied this model had proved to be a disadvantage in today’s economy, he added.

On the positive side, it is fun watching the political debate over this question match the French themselves against Paul Krugman and the folks who brought you glowing articles about the 1930s Soviet Union.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:43 PM


Illegal Alien Foe Tancredo Says 'Pass The Tacos' (Christie Findlay, Oct 30, 2007, Campaigns and Elections)

Illegal immigrants may be the reason Rep. Tom Tancredo is running for president, but there’s one place he always runs during campaign breaks: Mexican restaurants. [...]

Tancredo, who just announced he won’t seek a sixth term in Congress, is known for a finely-honed sense of irony about his one-issue candidacy.

When his Iowa chairman, full-time farmer Bill Salier, recently mentioned he needed help with the harvest, Tancredo quickly offered a suggestion.

“He told me, ‘You should go to Des Moines and get some illegals,’” Salier said, laughing. “He knew how funny that was.”

After all, that's where he got the drywallers for his home renovation...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:30 PM


M. Cabrera to Yankees? It's possible (CLARK SPENCER, 10/30/07, MiamiHerald.com)

The vacancy at third base for the New York Yankees could pave the path for trade discussions with the Marlins involving third baseman Miguel Cabrera, who is gradually pricing himself out of Florida's moderate budget. [...]

If the Marlins trade Cabrera, the asking price will be steep. They would almost certainly demand top, young prospects in return for an All-Star hitter on a Hall of Fame career trajectory. One possible trade piece could be Melky Cabrera, the Yankees 23-year-old center fielder.

But the Marlins would likely want pitching help thrown into any trade involving Miguel Cabrera, who has averaged 31 home runs, 116 RBI and a .327 batting average over the past three seasons.

Bad as it is to trade Melky and Phil Hughes, putting Miguel at 3b would require going with five lefthanded starters, because no groundball to the left side would ever be fielded between him and Jeter. Plus, you can't sit him and Joba on the same side of the plane or it will just keep doing barrel rolls...

Posted by Matt Murphy at 4:18 PM


Until proven innocent (Thomas Sowell, 10/11/07, Creators Syndicate)

Some of the most depressing e-mails received over the past year and a half have been those that asked why I was worrying myself about three rich white guys at Duke University.

Neither those three students accused of rape nor the District Attorney who accused them are the ultimate issue.

Such levels of corruption in the law itself would make the American standard of living impossible. A steady diet of the racial polarization that Nifong promoted would make it only a matter of time before we would see in America the kind of violence seen between Sunnis and Shiites in Baghdad. [...]

"Until Proven Innocent" is the title of a devastating new book by Stuart Taylor and K.C. Johnson about the rape charges against the Duke lacrosse players -- and about so many in the media and academia who treated them as guilty until they were proven innocent.

Even those of us who followed the case from the beginning will learn a lot more about what went on, both on the surface and behind the scenes, from this outstanding book.

More important, we will learn some chilling facts about how deep the moral dry rot goes in some of the fundamental institutions of this nation that we depend on, including its leading universities and its leading media.

I recently read the book and it is terrific. It is not only a genuine pageturner but also a probing dissection of the rush-to-judgment mentality from the early days of the case, and it asks questions that challenge conventional thinking of both left and right alike. Also, if you know someone who enjoys watching the press and academia get righteously roasted for their misdeeds, this book would make an awesome Christmas present.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:11 PM


Owner true blue for purple (Jim Armstrong, 10/29/07, The Denver Post)

No one was more excited about the Rockies' magical run than their owner, Charlie Monfort. In fact, maybe he got a little too excited.

Monfort insisted after Game 4 of the World Series that the Rockies are a better team than the Boston Red Sox, a team that outscored them 29-10 in a four-game Series sweep.

"These guys did amazing things," Monfort said. "I think this team is a better team than Boston. It would have been nice to have another two, three, four days. We'll wake up tomorrow and go, 'There's no baseball game to go to,' but what a deal they did. It's an amazing thing they accomplished just to get here."

They were amazing, all right. But better than the Red Sox?

"I think so," said Monfort. "How did we win 21 out of 22? We got the breaks. And I think they got the breaks. Are they a better team? I don't think so. You give us 10 games against them, we'll beat them six."

The Rockies are a fine young team and in a weak NL they could certainly make a few more World Series the next few years. If they played the Devil Rays 162 times next year they wouldn't get to 80 wins.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:08 PM


Obama Hangs Hat On Social Security (John P. Gregg, 10/30/07, Valley News)

As part of his ramped-up effort to highlight his differences with Hillary Clinton, U.S. Sen. Barack Obama yesterday faulted the Democratic front-runner for dodging specifics about how she would address the long-term solvency of the Social Security system.

“It's important that we have a serious conversation and people put their ideas on the table so that voters know how we're going to move forward,” Obama said in a phone interview with the Valley News. “In the last debate, she specifically avoided providing any suggestions in terms of how she would approach the problem. I think that is what we have seen out of Washington for a lot of years now, a refusal to have a serious conversation about what is needed.

“We're not going to solve the big problems that we face in this country, whether it's Social Security or global warming or how we're approaching energy policy, unless we have a frank conversation with the American people,” he added.

At a Dartmouth College debate last month, several Democrats, including Obama, voiced support for raising the cap on income subject to Social Security taxes beyond the current $97,500 to bring more revenue into the Social Security trust fund. [...]

Obama yesterday expanded on his answer at Dartmouth, saying he might exempt some income over $97,500 from the Social Security payroll tax so as not to harm middle-class households, a plan similar to one voiced by Democratic rival John Edwards.

Asked by how much he would raise the cap, Obama said, “I think a lot of that depends on what the actuaries for the Social Security Trust Fund indicate is necessary. One of the things I think is worth exploring is having a gap in the cap, so that it may be you don't raise the cap for those dollars immediately after $97,500, but you start applying the payroll tax after, say, $250,000.”

While Obama was pressing Clinton to be more specific, he also sidestepped one key issue -- whether he believes upper-income workers who might see more of their income subject to Social Security taxes should, in turn, get that money back in increased benefits once they retire.

No wonder Hillary is manhandling these featherweights.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:16 AM


Our Battle of Britain heroes couldn't shoot straight, claims historian (MATTHEW HICKLEY, 30th October 2007, Daily Mail)

Their skill and bravery in winning the Battle of Britain is legendary.

But many of the RAF's Spitfire and Hurricane pilots were actually so short on training they were unable to shoot straight, a historian has claimed.

Dr Anthony Cumming, writing in the latest edition of BBC History Magazine, says the pilots' role in the nation's "finest hour" was a myth deliberately built up by the Air Ministry to help its own battle for more resources.

Seems a bit late in the day to be realizing the fight was unloseable and the Nazis no threat to Britain.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:13 AM


Zogby: Majority Favor Strikes on Iran (Newsmax, October 29, 2007)

A majority of likely voters - 52 percent - would support a U.S. military strike to prevent Iran from building a nuclear weapon, and 53 percent believe it is likely that the U.S. will be involved in a military strike against Iran before the next presidential election, a new Zogby America telephone poll shows.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:10 AM


Harper Lee honoured by George W Bush (Iain Gray, 30/10/2007, Daily Telegraph)

George W Bush has announced that Harper Lee, the author of To Kill a Mockingbird, is to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honour that can be bestowed upon a civilian.

The medal, established in 1963, is awarded for an "especially meritorious contribution" to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, or for their accomplishments in the areas of culture or "other significant public or private endeavours." [...]

Other recipients of this year’s Presidential Medal of Freedom are:

Oscar Elias Biscet: Cuban anti-abortion and pro-democracy activist

Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf: President of Liberia

Gary Becker: Nobel Prize-winning economist

Francis Collins: Director of the National Human Genome Research Institute

Benjamin Hooks: Civil rights leader

Henry Hyde: former House Foreign Affairs committee chairman

Brian Lamb: Visionary television executive

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:42 AM


‘Monster’ Spending Bills (Susan Davis, 10/30/07, Wall Street Journal: Washington Wire)

There is an advocacy group for pretty much everything in Washington, and Readthebill.org is no exception. The group’s singular mission is to advocate that members of Congress read the annual spending bills before they pass them into law. In particular, Readthebill.org is targeting the now common practice of rolling the bills into massive “omnibus” spending measures, in a 50-page report being released this morning entitled “Monsters in Congress: How Republicans and Democrats allowed 13 inherently unreadable omnibus appropriations bills to devour deliberative democracy.”

The group states that they aren’t advocating on the substance of the spending bills, but that those 13 bills were so massive, and brought to the floor for passage with so little time for consideration, that they make for bad process.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:23 AM


Is Dumbledore Gay? Depends on Definitions of ‘Is’ and ‘Gay’ (EDWARD ROTHSTEIN, October 29, 2007, NY Times)

[I]t is possible that Ms. Rowling may be mistaken about her own character. She may have invented Hogwarts and all the wizards within it, she may have created the most influential fantasy books since J. R. R. Tolkien, and she may have woven her spell over thousands of pages and seven novels, but there seems to be no compelling reason within the books for her after-the-fact assertion. Of course it would not be inconsistent for Dumbledore to be gay, but the books’ accounts certainly don’t make it necessary. The question is distracting, which is why it never really emerges in the books themselves. Ms. Rowling may think of Dumbledore as gay, but there is no reason why anyone else should.

Yes, of course, Dumbledore acknowledges that at the bleakest moment of his life, when he was still a teenager and feeling “trapped and wasted,” the appearance of a charismatic friend “inflamed me” and lured him into fantastical dreams of power and influence. “Two clever, arrogant boys with a shared obsession,” he recalls, resulted in “two months of insanity.” But his regrets lasted a lifetime.

What was that insanity? If it was primarily a matter of sexual attraction or sexual identity, it makes Dumbledore’s reaction less plausible. He felt there were profound betrayals latent in his behavior and his ideas during that period: He resented his troubled siblings; he took on an inflated idea of his own importance; he thought wizards superior to Muggles. These attitudes had tragic consequences that ultimately transformed his views of virtue and power and altered his ambitions. Gayness is irrelevant.

As for his later celibacy, it has the echo of a larger renunciation and a greater devotion. That is, after all, what the fantasy genre is all about. The master wizard is not a sexual being; he has shelved personal cares and embraced a higher mission. And if he indulges in sex, it marks his downfall, as it did, so legend tells us, with Merlin, the tradition’s first wizard, who is seduced by one of the Lady of the Lake’s minions.

In books marred by the failure of evil to act as any sort of attractant for the heroes, the revelation that homosexuality is the evil that Dumbledore fought against is noteworthy.

As for authors not understanding or controlling their own characters, in what was basically the first novel, Don Quixote, the first novelist, Cervantes, had to watch as the reading public turned the Don into someone quite different than he intended even as he was writing, so that the conclusion ofd the story undercuts the entire satirical intent:

Ah, sir, may God forgive you for the damage you've done to the whole rest of the world, in trying to cure the wittiest lunatic ever seen! Don't you see, my dear sir, that whatever utility there might be in curing him, it could never match the pleasure he gives with his madness? But I suspect that, despite all your cleverness, sir, you cannot possibly cure a man so far gone in madness, and, if charity did not restrain me, I would say that Don Quijote ought never to be rendered sane, because if he were he would lose, not only his witticisms, but those of Sancho Panza, his squire, any one of which has the power to turn melancholy into happiness.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:10 AM


Taco Bell gives away free tacos on Tuesday (Seattle PI, 10/30/07)

In case you're on the prowl for some free food today, Taco Bell is the place. Thanks to Jacoby Ellsbury's stolen base during the World Series last week, Taco Bell's "Steal a Base, Steal a Taco" promotion takes place Tuesday between 2 and 5 p.m. at participating restaurants.

All you have to do is show up at a Taco Bell and ask for your free Crunchy Seasoned Beef Taco.

You're going to like being part of Red Sox Nation.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:03 AM


Tories open 8-point lead after election blunder (Andrew Grice, 30 October 2007, Independent)

The Conservatives have opened an eight-point lead over Labour following Gordon Brown's decision to call off a general election, according to the latest monthly poll for The Independent.

The ComRes survey shows a remarkable turnaround since last month, when Labour enjoyed a three-point lead on the eve of the party conference season. Now the Tories are on 41 per cent (up seven percentage points since last month), Labour on 33 per cent (down four points), the Liberal Democrats on 16 per cent (up one point) and others on 10 per cent (down four points).

If repeated at a general election, the figures would give David Cameron an overall majority of two seats.

So he's falling because of calling off the election he called off because he was falling?

Meanwhile, elsewhere in the paper they acknowledge what's actually causing the fall, EU treaty is a constitution, says Giscard d'Estaing (Ben Russell, 30 October 2007, Independent)

Gordon Brown faces a renewed row over Europe after a declaration by the former French president Valéry Giscard d'Estaing that key parts of the European constitution remain "practically unchanged" in the new EU Reform Treaty.

Conservatives repeated their call for a referendum on the treaty after M. Giscard d'Estaing, one of the architects of the EU constitution that floundered after referendums in France and the Netherlands, said that the central proposals of the rejected document had been retained in the new treaty, agreed earlier this month by European leaders meeting in Lisbon. Writing in The Independent, M. Giscard D'Estaing said: "The proposed institutional reforms, the only ones which mattered to the drafting convention, are all to be found in the Treaty of Lisbon. They have merely been ordered differently and split up between previous treaties."

The English and the Scots don't even want to share a state but the British elites are trying to force them into one with the French and Germans?

The national indifference: England and Scotland are becoming foreign lands - thanks chiefly to ignorance on the south (Julian Glover, October 30, 2007, The Guardian)

Let me take you on a journey to a foreign land, though it shares a Queen and a prime minister. It is not far from home, if you come from England, and offers none of the immediate telltales of international travel, no ostentatious signs of difference. This land has red Royal Mail vans and Ordnance Survey maps. BBC Radio 2 brings Terry Wogan. Cars measure their speed in miles per hour and beer comes in pints.

But this land - which is Scotland - is becoming foreign to England. The three centuries-old union still stands strong in its institutions, but the joint cultural understanding that made the UK something more than a political arrangement is falling away. Two nations now talk of different things, discuss different people, and fear different threats.

Some of this pulling apart is political, and has to do with devolution. To talk politics in Scotland is for the ignorant English visitor to enter a conversation as remote as the Australian election - half-familiar, but distant. The common points of reference - people, parties, characters - that fuel English understanding of Westminster are absent.

October 29, 2007

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:51 PM


Palestinian census carries sobering subtext for Israelis: An expected spike in population could loom large in future negotiations with Israel. (Joshua Mitnick, 10/30/07, The Christian Science Monitor)

In the decade since the inaugural Palestinian census of West Bank and Gaza residents, the politics of numbers has inspired support among Israelis to withdraw from most of the Palestinian territories. But since that last census, the trepidation among Israeli Jews to return the country to its narrow borders prior to the 1967 Six Day War has been trumped by fears of a "demographic problem": Israelis may one day wake up to find themselves a minority in control of a Palestinian Arab majority. [...]

The Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS) counted 2.6 million West Bankers and Gazans in 1997. Mr. Della Pergola expects the number to have grown to about 3.4 million. And even though Israel's population is 7.1 million, approximately one-fifth are Arab citizens and residents who identify as Palestinians. With a fertility rate that outstrips Jewish Israelis, Palestinians are expected to draw even in the not so distant future.

...that preventing Palestine from developing a normal economy is keeping the birthrate high.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:48 PM


Key tribal leader on verge of deserting Taliban (Tom Coghlan, 29/10/2007, Daily Telegraph)

An Afghan tribal leader is in talks to defect from the Taliban and take thousands of armed tribesmen with him to fight alongside British forces in southern Afghanistan.

The Daily Telegraph has learned that the Afghan government hopes to seal the deal this week with Mullah Abdul Salaam and his Alizai tribe, which has been fighting alongside the Taliban in Helmand province.

Diplomats confirmed yesterday that Mullah Salaam was expected to change sides within days. He is a former Taliban corps commander and governor of Herat province under the government that fell in 2001.

Military sources said British forces in the province are "observing with interest" the potential deal in north Helmand, which echoes the efforts of US commanders in Iraq's western province to split Sunni tribal leaders from their al-Qa'eda allies.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:37 PM


The Globalization Index 2007: The world may not be flat for everyone, everywhere, but there's no turning back the clock on globalization. For the seventh year, FOREIGN POLICY partners with A.T. Kearney to measure countries on their economic, personal, technological, and political integration. Find out who's climbing the ranks, and who's sliding down. (AT Kearney, November/December 2007, Foreign Policy)

For the fourth time in seven years, Singapore tops the list as the most globalized country in the world. But there was plenty of movement in the rest of the top 20. Many of the countries that previously ranked high fell off because of stiff competition from newcomers to the index. The top new addition was Hong Kong, which debuted in second place and distinguished itself with the highest scores in both the economic and the personal contact dimensions. The Netherlands made its way back into the top three for the first time since 2001, mostly due to the merger of the Royal Dutch Petroleum Company and Britain’s Shell Transport and Trading Company. Worth about $100 billion, the deal helped to increase foreign direct investment outflows for the Netherlands by more than 590 percent over the previous year. Meanwhile, the United States slipped four places in the overall rankings to end up at seventh. Although U.S. trade grew by 12 percent, foreign investment shrank by more than 60 percent, mostly due to the effects of the 2004 American Jobs Creation Act, which granted tax incentives for hiring domestically. Clearly, the forces of globalization can turn on a dime.

If there is one big factor that many of the most globalized countries have in common, it's their size: They're tiny. Eight of the index's top 10 countries have land areas smaller than the U.S. state of Indiana; and seven have fewer than 8 million citizens. Canada and the United States are the only large countries that consistently rank in the top 10.

So, why do small countries rank so high? Because, when you're a flyweight, globalizing is a matter of necessity. Countries such as Singapore and the Netherlands lack natural resources. Countries like Denmark and Ireland can't rely on their limited domestic markets the way the United States can. To be globally competitive, these countries have no choice but to open up and attract trade and foreign investment--even if they're famously aloof Switzerland.

Indeed, economic integration is where these top-performing, tiny countries flex their muscle. All eight rank in the top 11 on the economic dimension of globalization, which incorporates trade and foreign direct investment. Hong Kong and Singapore, the top two performers in this category, leave other economies in the dust. Additionally, the World Bank placed all the high-ranking, small countries except Jordan in the top 25 out of 175 economies in ease of doing business. Jordan, though, ranks first on the index's measure of political engagement, due to its participation in treaties and U.N. peacekeeping missions.

And if you're living in a small country, reaching out beyond your country's borders may be the only way to find new opportunities. Not surprisingly, six of this year's tiny globalizers also ranked in the top 10 on the personal dimension of globalization, which measures international phone calls, travel, and remittances. People in small countries boosted their countries' rankings by chatting it up on the phone, or in the case of Jordan, by sending large sums of money home. It all goes to show that mini can be mighty.

...but the one big one among them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:27 PM

IF YOU PACIFY WAZIRISTAN... (via Luciferous):

Pakistan plans all-out war on militants (Syed Saleem Shahzad, 10/19/07, Asia Times)

An all-out battle for control of Pakistan's restive North and South Waziristan is about to commence between the Pakistani military and the Taliban and al-Qaeda adherents who have made these tribal areas their own.

According to a top Pakistani security official who spoke to Asia Times Online on condition of anonymity, the goal this time is to pacify the Waziristans once and for all. All previous military operations - usually spurred by intelligence provided by the Western coalition - have had limited objectives, aimed at specific bases or sanctuaries or blocking the cross-border movement of guerrillas. Now the military is going for broke to break the back of the Taliban and a-Qaeda in Pakistan and reclaim the entire area.

...there is a Pakistan.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:38 PM



Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:36 PM


Gendercide at Apocalyptic Levels - Experts (Zofeen Ebrahim, 10/29/07, IPS)

Experts at the 4th Asia Pacific Conference on Reproductive and Sexual Health and Rights are painting an apocalyptical vision of the Asian region where 163 million women are ‘missing’ and the sex ratio continues to decline as a result of easy access to modern gender selection techniques.

China tops the list of countries with a skewed sex ratio at birth (SRB) with just 100 females for every 120 males. India follows going by the country’s 2001 census, which revealed that the SRB had fallen to 108 males per 100 females.

Experts worry that unless action is taken, Nepal and Vietnam may soon have skewed SRBs. Countries like Pakistan and Bangladesh are already beginning to follow Asia’s largest countries with people resorting to medical technology to do away with the girl child at the foetal stage.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:34 PM


Promotional rebate has Sox fans sitting pretty (The Associated Press, October 29, 2007)

When Marty Rodweller uses a $2,000 windfall to either remodel her bathroom or take a trip to Ireland next spring, she'll be thanking the Boston Red Sox.

The 53-year-old academic counselor from Danvers, Mass., is among several thousand Red Sox fans who are cashing in on a promotion run by a furniture store that offered full rebates if Boston won the World Series. [...]

The four-store Jordan's Furniture chain promised free sofas, chairs, dining tables and beds to customers who bought between March 7 and April 16 if the Red Sox won the championship. About 30,000 orders were taken during the promotion.

CEO Eliot Tatelman hasn't disclosed how much the rebates would total, but he won't have to pay it all. He bought an insurance policy to cover the losses.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:47 PM


Layered Tortilla Casserole with Guacamole (Dallas Morning News, October 29, 2007)

1 (4-ounce) jar tomato salsa (divided use)

8 flour tortillas (divided use)

2 (16-ounce) cans refried beans

1 cup shredded soy Monterey Jack cheese (divided use)

1 ripe avocado (see note)

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 350 F. Spread a thin layer of salsa in a lightly oiled shallow baking dish. Arrange 4 of the tortillas on top, overlapping as needed.

In a bowl, combine refried beans with 1 cup salsa, stirring to blend well.

Spread bean and salsa mixture over tortillas and top with 1/2 cup shredded cheese. Arrange remaining 4 tortillas over cheese and top with layer of salsa. Sprinkle remaining 1/2 cup cheese on top. Cover and bake until hot, about 30 minutes.

To make the guacamole, halve and pit the avocado, and spoon the flesh into a bowl. Mash the avocado with the lime juice and salt and pepper to taste.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:44 PM


Source: Girardi expected to accept Yankees' offer (ESPN.com news services, October 29, 2007)

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman told Don Mattingly and Tony Pena that they will not be getting the job. [...]

Mattingly will not accept a position on the Yankees coaching staff, Marchand and ESPN The Magazine's Buster Olney are reporting.

"Don was extremely disappointed that he wasn't the organization's choice to fill the manager's vacancy," Mattingly's agent, Ray Schulte, said in a statement.

what he did to Anibal Sanchez and Josh Johnson?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:42 PM


Iraqi troops free eight kidnapped tribal chiefs (AFP, 10/29/07)

Iraqi troops on Monday rescued eight of 11 kidnapped tribal leaders after a gunbattle with their captors, defence ministry spokesman Mohammed al-Askari told AFP.

"We have rescued eight of the hostages and are working to free the others. We killed four of the kidnappers," Askari said.

The 11 tribal leaders from the restive province of Diyala were kidnapped on Sunday from northern Baghdad's Al-Shaab neighbourhood after a meeting with a top official from Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's office.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:39 PM


Braves trade Renteria to Detroit (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 10/30/07)

The Braves have traded shortstop Edgar Renteria to the Detroit Tigers for two prospects, centerfielder Gorkys Hernandez and right-handed pitcher Jair Jurrjens.

Obviously a win-now trade for the Tigers, but Renteria looked so lost in the AL they may still have overpaid.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:16 AM


The Science Education Myth: Forget the conventional wisdom. U.S. schools are turning out more capable science and engineering grads than the job market can support (Vivek Wadhwa, 10/26/07, Business Week)

Political leaders, tech executives, and academics often claim that the U.S. is falling behind in math and science education. They cite poor test results, declining international rankings, and decreasing enrollment in the hard sciences. They urge us to improve our education system and to graduate more engineers and scientists to keep pace with countries such as India and China.

Yet a new report by the Urban Institute, a nonpartisan think tank, tells a different story. The report disproves many confident pronouncements about the alleged weaknesses and failures of the U.S. education system. This data will certainly be examined by both sides in the debate over highly skilled workers and immigration. The argument by Microsoft (MSFT), Google (GOOG), Intel (INTC), and others is that there are not enough tech workers in the U.S.

The authors of the report, the Urban Institute's Hal Salzman and Georgetown University professor Lindsay Lowell, show that math, science, and reading test scores at the primary and secondary level have increased over the past two decades, and U.S. students are now close to the top of international rankings. Perhaps just as surprising, the report finds that our education system actually produces more science and engineering graduates than the market demands.

As is so often the case, the political system has processed, but the intellectuals have not, the truth of the matter. That's why we don't have school choice or any other major educational reforms. Most students, particularly middle and upper-middle class white ones, get quite a good education. Vouchers are, thus, a welfare program, which would move poorer--many of them minority--students from the few failing schools into the predominantly white successful schools. White parents and their representatives aren't interested in changing the racial mix of their kids' schools, risking the potential negative effects on schools that are already serving them well, nor paying the taxes to run the experiment. Education in America is just succeeding too well for politically powerful middle class to want to mess with it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:01 AM


Putting British interests first sounds so radical (Iain Martin, 10/29/07, Daily Telegraph)

[F]or surprisingly long stretches of our post-war history there was broad consensus about how we should deal with the single largest menace of the age, the Soviet Union. Labour Right-wingers shared the Atlanticist outlook of mainstream Conservatives until that unofficial pact was shattered by the lunacy of the Left in the 1980s.

Since the West's victory in 1990, the British have lacked a shared world view or sense of what the limits of our capabilities are. It helps explain why many of us were attracted to the simplicity of the Blair doctrine after September 11. [...]

If [David] Cameron, who voted for the war despite some doubts, talks of replacing Blair's "liberal interventionism" with liberal conservatism. Western values and interests need to be defended but we should be much less starry-eyed and evangelical than Blair. A national interest test should be applied before we act abroad, he said — and if this sounds anything like a departure, it only shows how we lost sight of that basic truth under Blair.

The complexities of human nature make Cameron sceptical of "grand utopian schemes" to remake the world. His is a call for a new realism.

Everyone recognizes that America doesn't do realism, but Mr. Martin is kidding himself if he thinks England does. Were it Realist it would have had sense enough to stay out of WWI, WWII and the Cold War, none of which served its national interest.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:51 AM


The Even-Keel Economy: Today sharp shocks in one sector, like housing, don't necessarily lead to broader downturns

It's the economic heavyweight fight to watch. In one corner: the slumping but still powerful housing market, where new starts have dropped by almost 50% with no bottom in sight.

Its opponent: the global phenomenon known to economists as the Great Moderation. In the U.S., and across much of the world, the ups and downs of output, inflation, and employment have become far less pronounced since the mid-1980s. Recessions have been fewer and milder.

For now, the Great Moderation is winning, since the housing contraction has not turned into a full-blown downturn. This good news, if sustained, implies that different sectors have become less tightly linked. Moreover, it implies that the traditional way of thinking about recessions may be outmoded. Rather than broad-based declines in economic activity, these days we are more likely to get "micro-recessions"--sharp downturns concentrated in one or two economic sectors.

The term "Great Moderation" is relatively new, dating to a 2002 paper by economists James H. Stock of Harvard and Mark W. Watson of Princeton. Since then, researchers have come up with plenty of potential explanations for the decline in economic fluctuations, including better monetary policy, improved inventory controls, the rise of globalization, and more flexible financial markets. It's still not clear which factor is the most important, though more economists are placing greater weight on improvements in the finance sector, which enable consumers and businesses to keep borrowing and spending even in tough times.

But no matter what the cause, the effect is that bad economic news now comes like a tornado rather than a hurricane. There's still devastation, but it's in a much narrower band. "We've had a lot of big shocks, and they seem to be having less of an effect," says Stock.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:25 AM


Porter Wagoner, country music star, dies at 80 (The Associated Press, October 28, 2007)

Porter Wagoner, the rhinestone-clad Grand Ole Opry star who helped launch the career of Dolly Parton by hiring her as his duet partner, has died. He was 80.

Wagoner, who had survived an abdominal aneurysm in 2006, was hospitalized again this month 2007 and his publicist disclosed he had lung cancer. He died Sunday at 8:25 p.m. CDT (0125 GMT Monday) in a Nashville hospice, a spokeswoman for the Grand Ole Opry said.

Country singer and Opry member Dierks Bentley visited Wagoner in the hospice over the weekend and said Wagoner led them in prayer, thanking God for his friends, his family and the Grand Ole Opry.

"The loss of Porter is a great loss for the Grand Ole Opry and for country music, and personally it is a great loss of a friend I was really just getting to know," Bentley said. "I feel blessed for the time I had with him."

Forgotten Music Star Makes Comeback (JOHN GEROME, 8/09/07, Associated Press)

Porter Wagoner looks right at home in the marble lobby of Manhattan's Roosevelt Hotel. He wears a dark Western suit and tie and holds a shiny black cane. The glare from the crystal chandelier reflects off his eyeglasses as he tilts his head back, trying to remember the last time he played Madison Square Garden.

Sometime in the '70s ... one of those package tours ... Little Jimmie Dickens and Faron Young were there ... some others he can't recall ...

Back then, "The Thin Man from West Plains" was still the grand showman of country music with his rhinestone suits and pompadour hair. He had a TV show and dozens of hits on his own and with a pretty young blonde named Dolly Parton.

All that faded with time, and so did Wagoner. He checked into a psychiatric hospital for exhaustion, his show went off the air, he was dropped from his record label and dismissed as a relic. Last summer he nearly died.

Except for his standing gig on the Grand Ole Opry, he was mostly forgotten.


"I was thinking while on stage last night, 'This is the biggest, most well-known arena in the country, and here I am performing at it,'" he says the morning after a show with the White Stripes.

A rhinestone cowboy at home on the stage: A new album proves that at 79, old-school country legend Porter Wagoner still has the sparkle he had in his heyday (James Reed, June 3, 2007, Boston Globe)
When the stage lights fix on Porter Wagoner , you almost have to look away. There's just too much sparkle, from the country patriarch's diamond-encrusted belt and boots to the hot-pink dress shirt tucked underneath the Nudie suit bejeweled with glimmering wagon wheels. His famous golden pompadour is now stark silver.

But at 79, Wagoner is still the resplendent rhinestone cowboy everyone expects him to be, the godfather of country bling who probably doesn't know what that means.

With the subway rattling the floor beneath him, Wagoner looks a little out of place at Joe's Pub. It's late March, a few months before the release of his new album, "Wagonmaster," which comes out Tuesday. Wagoner, a fixture at the Grand Ole Opry, has sold out the cozy venue for his first New York City performance in at least two decades.

After yet another round of applause and cheers, Wagoner surveys the mixed crowd and seems disbelieving but also relieved.

"I'm so glad my granddaughter is here in the audience tonight," he finally says. "I've been telling her for years that I'm popular as hell."

Afterward, Wagoner is backstage holding a meet-and-greet, and the first person eager to shake his hand is Laura Cantrell , a neo-country singer who was born in Nashville but lives in New York. She looks awestruck, all wide eyes, and perhaps unintentionally greeting him in slow motion: "Hello . . . Porter . . . Wagoner."

The next morning in his hotel room, Wagoner still can't get over that night.

"Man, I couldn't believe the crowd was so quiet and knew the songs," he says. "I've never played for a better audience in my life. And here we are in New York City."

Porter Wagoner has been like this for most of his 60-year career: exceedingly humble and nearly oblivious to just how influential and helpful he has been to generations of country and rock musicians.

Under sequins, Porter Wagoner is a rebel
: His improbable return to Nashville at 79 after a dire health setback wasn't enough. Look who's found the indie crowd (Randy Lewis, March 25, 2007, LA Times)
PORTER WAGONER strides calmly to the microphone set center stage on the wood plank floor of the Grand Ole Opry here, pretty much the same way he has most every week since he was invited into country music's royal chamber 50 years ago.

As usual, he's dressed to thrill on this recent Friday night, in a royal-blue western suit embroidered with wagon wheels and rose blooms, all sparkling with sequins. The tips of the collar on his pale lavender shirt look to have been dipped in gleaming gold, and a dazzling sapphire-colored, triangular cut-glass neckpiece hides the top button. At his waist, a gold and silver National Wild Turkey Federation belt buckle big enough to catch radio waves from Jupiter.

Best of all, his boots. If, as they say in Texas, God is a cowboy, surely Wagoner this night has his boots, a dazzling gold pair with turquoise-colored cactus figures carved in, the toes and bootheels caked in jewels as if he'd stomped through a stable full of rhinestone horses.

At 79, Wagoner is the star most closely identified with the Opry -- the living and, thanks to a little emergency surgery last summer, still breathing personification of Nashville country tradition.

"This is my second weekend back," Wagoner says in his no-hurry-folks Missouri drawl backstage a few minutes before going on. He's referring to his seven-month layoff from the Opry after suffering a near-fatal aortic aneurysm last July. "It's so wonderful just to get out of the house. I didn't realize what being cooped up does.... I was so ready to come back to work."

Despite the old-time numbers he and mountain music patriarch Ralph Stanley sing for the Opry audience -- they form a duo that's collectively older than the Civil War -- Wagoner's sights these days are set resolutely forward. He's got a new album coming in June, "Wagonmaster," his first secular studio album in seven years, produced by longtime fan and fellow musician Marty Stuart. It's reductive country and honky-tonk that's likely to give Wagoner some late-in-the-game career-appreciation props the way Rick Rubin's albums with Johnny Cash (Stuart's onetime boss) did.

Wagoner's album isn't as consistently stark, it just shares the vision of classic country music sung the old-school way: staring straight into the heart of human darkness. [...]

His always-ready-to-work ethic has helped keep him as long and lean at 79 as when he was 29. The big difference, besides a fuller face and the usual wrinkles and creases of age, is the hair. The flattop he wore into the '50s, and which morphed in the '60s into his signature blond pompadour, has given way to a meticulously groomed silver cotton candy-like 'do.

Despite his astonishing tenure at the Opry, which will celebrate his half-century there with a May 19 all-star show, Wagoner never made it into country's top echelon of artists with the likes of Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, George Jones or Dolly Parton.

Parton, in fact, launched her career after Wagoner hired her in 1967 and featured her every week on "The Porter Wagoner Show," the first nationally syndicated country music TV series, one that ran for two decades and is reruns today on the RFD cable channel.

The team of Wagoner and Parton is second in the annals of country duet partners only to George Jones and Tammy Wynette. Their relationship rose to similar musical heights and sank to personal lows after her career skyrocketed in the '70s, taking her right past him and into the top rank of country stardom, at the same time his was falling back to Earth.

It was the stuff of a great country song, especially when the mentor sued his former prot-g- in 1979, feeling slighted and underappreciated once she got a taste of fame and fortune. Parton, meanwhile, felt stifled and exploited by the man who also served as her manager and shared in royalties of the songs she wrote, including "Coat of Many Colors" and "I Will Always Love You," a send-off that some have suggested was written with Wagoner in mind.

They settled the suit -- he got to record with her again at the peak of her pop-crossover success in the early-'80s; she regained ownership of her song catalog, one of the strongest in country music. And despite a period of bitterness, they returned to cordial relations as the years rolled by.

In recent years, Wagoner, who always held the respect of mainstream fans, has won over a lot of today's country cognoscenti for the plain-spoken credibility he typically brought to tightly crafted narratives full of melodramatic, hyper-emotional plot twists.

He's also won points for his maverick sensibility, no more evident than when he funked up the Opry in 1979 after persuading James Brown to play there.

Like the films of Quentin Tarantino and David Lynch, his songs explore the extremes to which characters are often pushed, challenging those who take them in to ponder how far from reality they really are. Yet there's no question how many light years separate Wagoner's brand of country from today's soccer-mom music by the likes of Rascal Flatts.

In "The Cold Hard Facts of Life," a Bill Anderson song that Wagoner took to No. 2 in 1967, a hapless fellow returns a day early from a business trip to find his wife with another man. After confronting the two with a knife -- the tragic denouement is assumed rather than detailed -- he dispassionately sings, "I guess I'll go to hell or I'll rot here in this cell/But who taught who the cold hard facts of life?"

In 1971 he sang of life in "The Rubber Room," a song he wrote about losing one's grasp on sanity, a theme that also crops up on the new album with "Committed to Parkview," a sobering look at life in a mental institution that Johnny Cash wrote in the '70s, at least in part with Wagoner in mind because both singers had spent time in the Nashville hospital by that name. Wagoner was admitted in 1965 for exhaustion because of his extensive touring schedule.

'60s country star Porter Wagoner is a Renaissance man: : He always has been a flashy entertainer, though his music has had its macabre moments. (Brian Mansfield, 3/24/07 USA TODAY)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:13 AM


LOST at Sea: The Law of the Sea Treaty threatens American sovereignty (John Fonte, 10/29/07, National Review)

The Bush administration and the leaders of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee are pushing ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS or LOST). The U.N. convention established a transnational institution, the International Seabed Authority, to regulate maritime activities for over 70 percent of the earth’s surface. [...]

Let us examine the details. Under UNCLOS, disputes between the United States and other parties are settled by “mandatory” (i.e., forced) arbitration. The final decisions are made either by a permanent International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea in Hamburg or by an ad-hoc court. The Hamburg tribunal consists of 21 judges chosen by member nations, many of them unfriendly to the United States. An ad-hoc court would consist of five judges, two chosen by the U.S., two chosen by the other party. The crucial fifth judge is chosen either by the secretary general of the United Nations or the Hamburg tribunal. The decisions are “final” and “binding” with no appeal.

International-law professor Jeremy Rabkin points out that when the Cambodian communists seized the USS Mayaguez in Cambodian waters in 1975, President Ford responded with military force to rescue American sailors and free the ship. He notes this type of action would be problematic under UNCLOS. For example, if a treaty signatory (e.g., China, Burma) seized a U.S. ship in its home waters, under the terms of Law of the Sea Treaty, the U.S. could not free her sailors by force, but would have to submit to mandatory arbitration by the Hamburg tribunal or an ad-hoc court, where the U.S. could very likely lose the case. In any event, vital decisions over American security and American lives would not be made by Americans, but by foreign judges, many of them unsympathetic to American interests (coming as they often do from third-world regimes or EU legal elites).

Supporters argue that member states can claim an exemption from binding arbitration for “military activities.” In addition, they point out that the U.S. will attach a special “understandings” to the treaty stating that any interpretation of what constitutes “military activities” will be “defined by the United States.”

The free trade regime, despite its being transnationalist, is fundamentally a project of conservatives, who understand the usefulness of binding other nations to rules that serve our purposes even if it means sacrificing some sovereignty in a discrete area. Obtaining a universal law of the sea serves similarly useful ends and, most importantly, while we would use it as a pretext for war against an enemy who violated it, no one could enforce it against us.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:08 AM


Row Over Nuclear Negotiator's Firing Worsens (Kimia Sanati, Oct 29, 2007, IPS)

Criticism has been steadily building up against President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s apparent move to harden Iran’s position on its nuclear standoff with the West by removing moderate chief nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani, and replacing him with his handpicked loyalist Saeed Jalili.

On Sunday, in a move considered bold in Iranian politics, a group of 23 members of parliament said, in a letter addressed to Ahmadinejad, that ‘’in the circumstances when the nation is facing most sensitive times, a change of the top nuclear negotiator is not in line with the national interests and the good of the system.’’

"It was necessary for the President to act with more tolerance and thought," said the statement as quoted by the Fars news agency. According to Fars, 22 of the signatories were reformists and were joined by one conservative. [...]

Criticism had also surfaced in the media and among officials about the timing of the change. And foreign policy advisor to supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamanei, Ali Akbar Velayati, went on record to say that Larijani should not have quit.

"It was definitely better if this had not happened in the important and sensitive situation when the nuclear issue is on the table," Velayati, was quoted as saying by the semi-official news agency ISNA.

Forcing the contradictions betters the situation.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:23 AM


Democrats want Iran stance on record (Anne Flaherty, 10/29/07, Associated Press)

Still reeling from the fallout of authorizing the Iraq war five years ago, congressional Democrats are determined to put themselves early on record as opposing military action in Iran.

In recent days, many Democrats have gone to great lengths to denounce President Bush's strategy on Iran, including his decision to label Tehran's Quds military force as a terrorist group and his statement that a nuclear-armed Iran could lead to "World War III."

Democrats also are jumping on Bush's latest war spending request as proof that the White House is considering air strikes on Iran's underground uranium enrichment facilities.

You'd think the bright party would notice that even normally unreliable nations, like France and Germany, find Iran scary enough that they're taking a hard line.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:28 AM


This time, Red Sox bulldozed their way to title (Jayson Stark, October 28, 2007, ESPN.com)

It's never an easy thing to comprehend when the universe changes before your eyes.

You're never sure why. You're never sure how. And normally, you're never sure when.

But if anyone asks, you can tell them you saw it all unfold on the last Sunday night in October, in a scenic Colorado ballpark nestled between the mountain peaks.

You didn't just see the Boston Red Sox win the World Series. You didn't just see the Red Sox sweep the World Series. You saw something bigger, something deeper, something historic.

This wasn't 2004. That's ancient history now. This wasn't 86 years of torment and misery, curses and ghosts, being washed away by events taking place on a baseball field. This was different. Very different. Couldn't have been more different.

This is a franchise that has turned life as we used to know it upside down. This is no longer a team defined by all the years it didn't win. This is a team carving a whole new niche in the sporting universe.

Make no mistake. The Red Sox now are one of baseball's powerhouse franchises. And what they just did -- in this World Series, in this October and especially in the past week and a half -- made that 100 percent official.

The 2004 team featured Manny, Ortiz, Damon & Varitek right at the prime of their careers, while this team has none such. What it does have though is a group of six pitchers 27-and-under, all of whose rights the team controls, who could be dominant over a four or five year stretch. And it would not be the least bit surprising to see Theo Epstein go out and add one more starter, especially with a guy like Johann Santana being dangled. They've also put in place a scouting department/farm system that is producing major league contributors and they've got a Nation that buys into their longterm philosophy about not paying guys big money into their later 30s, even if they are Hub heroes. Everyone would love to have Mike Lowell back for a couple more years--as they'd have liked Damon and Pedro for a couple more--but they recognize that a four year deal would be a mistake.

The combination of pitching talent in place, a front office with a coherent and effective operating plan, and a fan base that's bought into not just the current players but the entire system makes for an archetypal winning franchise.

Red Sox are masters of baseball's universe (Gene Wojciechowski, 10/29/07, ESPN.com

"The Red Sox can have their Nation. The Yankees have the universe."
-- Hank Steinbrenner, New York Yankees senior vice president

Not anymore, they don't.

For the second time in four years, the Boston Red Sox are World Series champions and the indisputable rulers of the baseball universe as we know it. They are the Roman Empire of the postseason, having won eight World Series games in a row. Hail, Tito.

That the Yankees' Steinbrenner says otherwise is one-third arrogance, one-third ignorance and one-third stupidity. Then again, that sort of self-infatuation helps explain why the Yankees haven't played in a World Series since 2003 and haven't hoisted the sterling silver Commissioner's Trophy above their heads since 2000.

Didn't anybody from the House of Steinbrenner (George and sons Hank and executive vice president Hal) see what the Red Sox just did to the Colorado Rockies? Four games, four wins. They could have played a best-of-17 series, and the Red Sox still would have swept.

This was the Europeans vs. USA in the Ryder Cup, New England Patriots vs. anybody, chocolate eclairs vs. Britney. Less than two weeks ago, the Red Sox were a loss away from playoff elimination. Now, they reek of champagne again.

The most revealing thing is how distant they were from elimination when down 3-1.

October 28, 2007

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:52 PM


New England beats Washington 52-7 to stay unbeaten (Howard Ulman, October 28, 2007, AP)

Tom Brady and the peerless Patriots keep getting better.


The quarterback was merely magnificent Sunday, throwing for three touchdowns and running for two more as New England crushed the Washington Redskins 52-7 in an easy tuneup for its battle of unbeatens at Indianapolis.

Linebacker Mike Vrabel was a force on both sides of the ball in the biggest rout in a season filled with them. He caught a touchdown pass and forced three fumbles by quarterback Jason Campbell that led to 17 points.

The first half of the season is over. Bring on the Super Bowl champs.

The second-string QB came in and scored and the third-string QB didn't just play special teams but was in on at least one tackle.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:27 PM


Thompson alone tackles entitlements: Former senator is the only Republican who gets heated about entitlement spending (Linda Feldmann, 10/29/07, The Christian Science Monitor)

Already, those three programs make up 40 percent of the federal budget. If reforms are not enacted, Social Security will eventually go bust; in 40 years, on the current path, the two medical programs alone could equal the size of today's entire federal budget according to the US Government Accountability Office.

Experts tend to agree on the projections, but is it a crisis? In the hyperpartisan atmosphere of the 2008 presidential campaign, the topic of entitlement programs is also a matter of dispute between parties. Former Sen. Fred Thompson (R) of Tennessee, the most impassioned candidate on entitlement spending, suggests that it's the nation's most important domestic problem – and, alone among the top-tier Republican candidates, is willing to take the risky step of discussing cuts in benefits. Most Republicans stick with the safer position of saying what they won't do – raise taxes – or proposing a new commission to study the problem. The Democratic candidates call entitlement spending a long-term challenge, and assert that there's plenty of time to work out a solution. They tend not to bring up the subject on the stump, but when asked, they repeat their opposition to the "privatization of Social Security," a refrain from the days of President Bush's ill-fated effort to make private accounts a part of the program.

Fred Thompson will be at the New Hampshire Statehouse, in Concord, to launch his campaign, tomorrow (Monday) at 2:15.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:17 AM


Poll: Thompson, Clinton widen their leads in Georgia (Larry Peterson, October 25, 2007, Savannah Now)

Presidential hopeful Fred Thompson has soared to a nearly 2-to-1 lead over his closest Republican rival in the latest statewide poll.

In survey results announced Wednesday by Strategic Vision, the former U.S. senator from Tennessee led Rudy Giuliani, 39 percent to 20 percent.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:10 AM


In Arabia, a glimmer of hope (Michael Goodwin, October 28th 2007, NY Daily News)

As role models go, a female African peace activist is hardly standard fare in the Persian Gulf. But a revolution in this oil-rich Arab nation has begun, one waged with the help of imported soft power from around the globe. If the rest of the Arab world follows, and if America takes yes for an answer, peace might have a chance.

This tiny country of 4 million, 75% of whom are foreign workers, has long been friendly with America. We have air bases here, and Emirates' troops took part in the 1991 war to oust Saddam Hussein from Kuwait.

But something new and dramatic is happening - a movement to embrace Western educational ideals. Scientific standards, liberal arts and even critical thinking are now openly praised. American-style philanthropy is taking hold. First Lady Laura Bush got a red-carpet welcome on her trip to promote breast cancer awareness. The Louvre and Guggenheim are building museums. New York University is building a campus, and the New York Academy of Sciences signed cooperation deals with the government.

That such striking initiatives are coming from a Sunni Muslim theocracy, even a moderate one, is something I didn't believe until I got here. [...]

Sheik Nahayan Mabarak Al Nahayan, head of the fledgling college system and the force behind the conference, concedes that the Emirates must learn from the West. Upgrading educational standards and opportunities, especially for women, tops his goals.

So his invitation list included many Jewish Americans and professional women. The sheik, dressed in flowing robes and headdress, posed for photographs for the local media standing with Western women, including my wife, Jennifer Raab, the president of Hunter College. In this authoritarian system, symbols are values, and he was signaling that his country should adopt some of the West's. For his efforts, the sheikh has been called a "mosque burner" by Islamist critics.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:05 AM



Statistics in reports about faraway places can blunt the reality of what those numbers mean. But when it is a bomb in a road you are about to drive on, it takes on a whole new cast, as I found yet again when I spent most of May in Anbar Province.

I visited a former labor camp nicknamed “Coolie Village," or what remained of it, after a truck bomb locals attributed to al Qaeda had flattened it. Not surprisingly, the anger and frustration in response to this mass murder helped the villagers overcome their fear of the thugs who had taken hold of their community.

In mid-May, 2007, the Iraqi Army and Police had conducted a “Combined Medical Exercise" in the village of Falahat, and Iraqi doctors saw about 200 villagers. Two days later, the Iraqi Police opened an outpost at the old Falahat train station. That was just about the same time I was driving out to stay with a small team of Marines who were assigned as “MiTT 8" (Military Training Team 8.)

The men of MiTT 8 were living with their Iraqi protégées in filthy shipping containers on a highway. Several months ago they were attacked by a car bomb. But at about 9 a.m., while I was traveling to their location with Marines in a Humvee, some Falahat villagers went to the new police station to report the presence of a culprit they knew was placing bombs on the road.

It happened that quickly.

Within mere days of opening the station, people spoke up. The Iraqi Police (some of whom freely admitted to having been recent insurgents) called the tip into the Iraqi Army living with the Marines of MiTT 8. Our Humvee pulled up to the small MiTT 8 compound, where we met Staff Sergeant Rakene Lee, who was dressed for combat, and who was to take the Humvees and lead the mission to the suspected bomb site. The Iraqi Army was already blocking the road.

The patrol I was with had nearly run into an IED, except for a tip from Iraqis in another village, making what could have been my last dispatch.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:41 AM


Bush's dangerous liaisons (Francois Furstenberg, October 28, 2007, IHT)

Though it has been a topic of much attention in recent years, the origin of the term "terrorist" has gone largely unnoticed by politicians and pundits alike. The word was an invention of the French Revolution, and it referred not to those who hated freedom, nor to non-state actors, nor of course to "Islamofascism."

A terroriste was, in its original meaning, a Jacobin leader who ruled France during la Terreur.

...it's entirely unexceptionable to note that Islamicism is just the final iteration of the rationalisms we've been fighting throughout the Long War.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:27 AM


The Wedding Present (JONATHAN TREW, 10/28/07, Scotland on Sunday)

THE Wedding Present were not the first indie band but they may be the definitive one. Led by the usually morose-looking David Gedge, they were heroes on the student union circuit from the mid-Eighties to the early Nineties. Pairing rapid-fire guitar riffs with Gedge's mournful lyrics about love affairs gone wrong, the Wedding Present's tinny tracks sparked many a moshpit in their day and were responsible for vast quantities of snakebite being spilled in discos up and down the land.

They are back on tour to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the release of their first album, George Best. By promising to play the entire album from beginning to finish at each gig, they have managed to tempt a significant proportion of their original fanbase off their suburban sofas and back into gigland. It's terrifying proof of the havoc that the passage of time can wreak.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:22 AM


The Special Relationship Tries to Swim the Channel (DAN BILEFSKY, 10/28/07, NY Times)

In recent weeks, in fact, it has seemed as if a mirror has inverted the two sides of the English Channel: France has cast itself as America’s new best friend while Britain, America’s special buddy, behaves like an embarrassed relation.

Many in Europe have watched with bemusement as Mr. Sarkozy’s Socialist foreign minister, Bernard Kouchner, has entertained the possibility of war against Iran and Mr. Sarkozy talks of France rejoining NATO’s military command structure after an absence of 40 years. Meanwhile, his tax-cutting finance minister, Christine Lagarde, quotes Tocqueville’s “Democracy in America” and admonishes the French to “stop thinking so much,” work harder, earn more and get rich.

And things could get chummier next month, when Mr. Sarkozy is to go with President Bush to George Washington’s mansion, Mount Vernon — a reminder that France helped Americans break their original bonds with England.

At the point where the Pope is a Tocquevillian, even the French could figure out the Anglo-American model has prevailed.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:13 AM


Bright Scientists, Dim Notions (GEORGE JOHNSON, 10/28/07, NY Times)

Iconoclasts at heart, the best scientists are faced with an occupational hazard: having left their mark on one small patch of ground, they are tempted to stir up trouble elsewhere.

“With my own advancing years, I’m mindful of the three different ways scientists can grow old,” Martin Rees, the Astronomer Royal of the United Kingdom and president of the Royal Society, wrote in an e-mail message. The first two choices are either to become an administrator or to content yourself with doing science that will probably be mediocre. (“In contrast to composers,” Dr. Rees observed, “there are few scientists whose last works are their greatest.”) The third choice is to strike off half-cocked into unfamiliar territory — and quickly get in over your head. “All too many examples of this!” he lamented.

Creationists still gleefully pounce on a quote from the Cambridge University astrophysicist Fred Hoyle, who late in his career compared the likelihood of a living cell arising through evolution to “a tornado sweeping through a junkyard” and assembling a Boeing 747. This caricature of the evolutionary process led to the coinage of the term Hoyle’s Fallacy. Dr. Hoyle also promoted the notion that epidemics are caused by viruses hitchhiking on the tails of comets.

Sometimes the wandering from one’s home turf extends all the way to the paranormal. In 2001, when officials of the Royal Mail, the British postal service, issued a package of stamps commemorating the centenary of the Nobel Prize, they sought the counsel of Brian Josephson, who shared the prize for physics in 1973 for his superconductivity research. Physicists across Britain recoiled when an official pamphlet accompanying the stamps predicted that quantum mechanics might lead to an understanding of mental telepathy.

“Perhaps we should have checked that,” a spokeswoman for the Royal Mail told Nature at the time. “But if he has won a Nobel Prize for his work, that should give him some credibility.”

With science treading right to the bleeding edge of the knowable, maybe the Royal Mail can be forgiven for mistaking pseudoscience for the real thing. In an article in The Observer of London, David Deutsch, a quantum theorist at Oxford University, dismissed Dr. Josephson’s speculations as “utter rubbish.” Dr. Deutsch is known for proposing the existence of a multiplicity of parallel universes.

Thereby demonstrating that the ideas for which they're feted are indistinguishable from the ones for which they're reviled.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:06 AM


Tories call for Scottish MPs to lose right to vote on English matters (Daily Mail, 28th October 2007)

David Cameron is being urged to back a radical plan to strip Scottish MPs of the right to vote on English matters at Westminster, it was disclosed today.

According to a report in The Observer, the scheme is designed to address the perceived growing constitutional imbalance which has grown up since devolution to Scotland and Wales.

How is it possible that the elites of the English parties can watch this unfold and still believe that the future lies in European Union?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:59 AM


Good Or Bad, An Amazing Ride For Lugo (Martin Fennelly, October 28, 2007, The Tampa Tribune)

Julio Lugo delivered, on the field and in the clubhouse, until the Rays decided they couldn't pay him what he wanted in the market.

It wasn't the wrong call.

But it worked out pretty well for Lugo, too.

''I'll tell you why,'' Lugo's friend and Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz said. ''It's because he's strong.''

Last season, when the Rays traded him, Lugo went to Los Angeles, where he never fit in, and then to Boston as a free agent, for four years at $36 million. A lot more went with it. There was the spotlight.

And when you're hitting .197 on July 12, the spotlight can be brutal.

''The boos,'' Lugo said. ''That was the low point.''

He added, ''It's different here. Everybody knows what you do every day. You go 0-for-4 or make an error, it follows you into the next day. You get a boo in the stands, you get a boo in the paper the next day.

''But that's what you want, you want to be on the stage. In Tampa, I could go 0-for-4 and go home and nobody seemed to remember. Here in Boston they remember. That can be bad, but when it's good, it's very good.''

He hit .197 in the 80 games before the All-Star break. But he hit .280 after the break and his defense picked up. Aside from that dropped pop in the ALCS with Cleveland, he has been mostly on in the postseason.

It's October, a land far away from all the boos. Julio Lugo is hitting .400 through three games of the World Series, with four hits and three walks.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:53 AM


Youkilis a professional sitter, too (Jackie MacMullan, October 28, 2007, Boston Globe)

He has been asked to put his bat, his glove, and his ego on the shelf.

Kevin Youkilis was the designated sitter last night for Game 3 of the World Series, and it was the most difficult role he has assumed in his 3 1/2 seasons with the Red Sox.

Imagine completing an entire major league season without committing an error. Then, imagine hitting .500 in the American League Championship Series against Cleveland, including delivering multiple clutch hits.

Consider the fact you are batting .396 in the postseason, and have done absolutely everything your manager and teammates could possibly ask of you - including controlling your sometimes mercurial temper.

So you are two games away from celebrating your second World Series championship in four years, except you were not a pivotal part of 2004, because you were just a kid along for the ride, soaking up the moment so that when your time came, you'd be ready.

Your time has come. You are ready.

But you have to take a seat.

What the benching of Kevin Youkilis and Coco Crisp and, more significantly, the grace with which they accepted it, demonstrates is the inestimable value to the Sox of Terry Francona, who is, quite correctly, criticized for his game management.

We've reached an odd point in sports where the competing demands placed on managers/coaches--game management, talent evaluation, handling a team of multimillionaire stars, and dealing with saturation media--are such different skills that there is almost no one who does all of them well. As it happens, because of the daily nature of baseball and the fact that you may end up playing 180 games, you can get away with being weak at the first skill as long as you're strong in the others. Whereas, in football, you can get away with being bad at the last, so long as you excel at the others (a point, it just so happens, that the Patriots coach illustrates).

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:51 AM


U.S. forces to turn over security in Karbala (The Associated Press, October 28, 2007)

U.S. forces will turn over security to Iraqi authorities in the southern Shiite province of Karbala on Monday, the American commander for the area said, despite fighting between rival militia factions that has killed dozens.

Karbala will become the eighth of Iraq's 18 provinces to revert to Iraqi control...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:28 AM


Boston has built for now and the future (Ken Rosenthal, 10/28/07, FOXSports.com)

The Red Sox, on the verge of winning their second World Series title in four years, might be just getting started.

Consider which players were the biggest contributors Saturday night in the Sox's 10-5 victory over the Rockies in Game 3: Jacoby Ellsbury, rookie. Dustin Pedroia, rookie. Daisuke Matsuzaka, rookie. Hideki Okajima, rookie.

Yes, Matsuzaka and Okajima are experienced pitchers from Japan, but the Sox will control each for the next five seasons.

During that time, the team easily could win another World Series. Or more.

Do Sox fans still miss Pedro Martinez, Johnny Damon and Derek Lowe? Most of the team's core veterans are signed long-term. And the farm system is spitting out stars.

The rotation the next few years--Beckett, Dice-K, Lester, Buchholz--can be a real strength. The bullpen--Papelbon, Delcarmen, Okajima--can control the 8th and 9th. The need remains--as it has been for at least two years--an upgrade and heir at catcher.

We won't know what we've got 'til BoSox title is long gone (Gregg Doyel, Oct. 28, 2007, CBSSports.com)

For example, center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury looks like a future star. Hell, he looks like a present star. He hit .353 this season, was 9-for-9 on steals and played perfectly in the field, but he did all of that in just 116 at-bats. That's a small sample size. Then again, as the sample size grows, so does his production. He had four hits Saturday and keyed Boston's six-run third inning by becoming the second player in World Series history with two doubles in the same frame.

If Ellsbury becomes a perennial All-Star -- and that's a realistic projection -- we're going to look back and marvel at that 2007 Boston team that had David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez and Mike Lowell and Kevin Youkilis and Jason Varitek and Jacoby Ellsbury.

And don't forget Dustin Pedroia. He hit .317 this season, scored 86 runs, was an above-average fielder and still got overlooked nationally. He's been seen as a complementary piece, but what if he's more than that? Second basemen who hit well over .300 and are super in the field aren't pieces. They're All-Stars. This kid just turned 24. So did Ellsbury. On Saturday they became the first rookies in World Series history to hit 1-2 in the order, and they were so intimidated that they combined for seven hits, four RBI and three runs. If both turn out to be great players, how will history remember this 2007 Boston team?

We already know how good the established players are. Ramirez is a future Hall of Famer. Ortiz could join him in Cooperstown. Varitek and Lowell aren't in that caliber, but both have won a Gold Glove for defense and a Silver Slugger for offense. Youkilis is spackle on offense, spectacular on defense and special in the clubhouse.

Ace pitcher Josh Beckett won 20 games this season and has added four more wins in the postseason to enhance his reputation as his generation's Jack Morris or even Bob Gibson. Curt Schilling isn't what he was in his prime, but he's still a big-time money pitcher. Jonathan Papelbon is the best closer in baseball, and he's only 26.

But what of Jon Lester? He'll start Game 4 on Sunday after beating lymphoma and posting an 11-2 career record in two shortened regular seasons. He was once regarded so highly that Boston's development people couldn't decide who was better, Lester or Papelbon -- and that, Francona says, "is a pretty awesome comparison. ... You're looking at a young, sturdy left-hander with a real clean delivery that we think can be a good starter for a long time."

October 27, 2007

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:44 PM


Our friends Kevin Whited & Alex Whitlock have a new blog, Ten Second News, the premise of which we're very much in agreement with. They'll gather and post stories that they think you might find interesting and offer comments sufficient to say why that's so, instead of assuming that you'll find their every stray thought or incident from their personal lives fascinating. This model--as a kind of intelligent news aggregator--has always struck us as the proper role for all but a very few bloggers.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:39 PM


US says 80 Taliban killed in battle (JASON STRAZIUSO, 10/28/07, Associated Press)

U.S.-led coalition forces killed about 80 Taliban fighters during a six-hour battle outside a Taliban-controlled town in southern Afghanistan on Saturday, the latest in a series of increasingly bloody engagements in the region, officials said.

But they're more likely to run out of blood.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:06 PM


Bullying is exaggerated, says childhood expert (Anushka Asthana, October 28, 2007, The Observer)

The level of playground bullying is being exaggerated and children must learn to cope with name-calling and teasing to help them develop resilience, a childhood expert says.

In a book to be published tomorrow, Tim Gill, a former government adviser who led a major review into children's play, argues that mollycoddling children by labelling 'unpleasant behaviour' as bullying is stopping them from building the skills they need to protect themselves. 'I have spoken to teachers and educational psychologists who say that parents and children are labelling as bullying what are actually minor fallings-out,' said Gill, the former director of the then Children's Play Council, who is currently advising the Conservative Party's childhood review.

'Children are not always nice to each other, but people are not always nice to each other. The world is not like that. One of the things in danger of being lost is children spending time with other children out of sight of adults; growing a sense of consequence for their actions without someone leaping in,' he told The Observer

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:35 PM


Arthur Kornberg, 89; Nobel laureate was the first to synthesize DNA (Daily Telegraph, October 28, 2007)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:33 PM


Living here makes no sense… but that's LA (Rob Long, 28/10/2007, Daily Telegraph)

The key, of course, is to rebuild. It makes no rational sense to live in a place so dangerously unstable, just as it makes no rational sense to work in a business where fortunes are made and lost at the whim of a focus group. But for those of us who work here you adjust to each disaster. When the canyons burn, you spend a few nights at Shutters, head back home, and start again. When ABC passes, you call up CBS.

...if we stop covering their losses.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:30 PM


Sources: Yankees expected to make record-setting offer to A-Rod (Buster Olney, 10/27/07, ESPN The Magazine)

The New York Yankees have asked to meet with third baseman Alex Rodriguez, and if and when they get that meeting, league sources indicate the team is prepared to make him an offer that will exceed, in average salary, the $27 million per year that he is scheduled to make over the next three seasons -- and A-Rod would be in line to set yet another salary benchmark.

The offer could be for something in the range of five years -- beyond the three years Rodriguez is already under contract for, from 2008-10 -- and perhaps $30 million a year. The highest per-workday salary earned to date is the $28 million Roger Clemens received, in prorated salary, for a little less than four months of work this season.

And how'd giving an elderly player that much work out for them?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:16 PM


You say potato... (CLAIRE MACDONALD, 10/27/07, The Scotsman)


2 tablespoons olive oil
2 onions, skinned and very thinly sliced
3oz butter
2 fat cloves of garlic, skinned and crushed, using the flat blade of a large knife
1/2 teaspoon salt
about 15 grinds of the peppermill
a grating of nutmeg
3lb [...] potatoes, peeled and very thinly sliced - this is best done on a mandolin
3oz [...] finely grated Parmesan - leave this out if you are following a low-fat diet

Thoroughly brush out with melted butter [...] an 8in [...] springform cake tin. Line the base with a disc of baking parchment. Heat the olive oil and fry the thinly sliced onions over moderate heat until they are completely soft, about five minutes. Take the pan off the heat and cool. You can do this in advance by several hours if it is more convenient.

Put the butter into a small saucepan with the crushed garlic, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Over moderate heat, melt the butter. Put a layer of the thinly sliced potatoes over the base of the cake tin. Brush with the seasoned, melted butter and add another layer. From time to time as you build up the stack, add a layer of fried onions, and the grated Parmesan if you are including it. End with a layer of potatoes, brush with the remaining butter, cover with a disc of baking parchment and bake in a hot oven, 200C/400F/Gas Mark 6, for one hour. After this time, stick a knife right down to the base to be sure the potato cake is cooked - it should feel soft. Then take the disc of baking parchment off the potato cake and return it to the oven for 10 minutes to brown the surface.

When cooked, leave the potato cake in its tin until you are ready to serve. Then unclip the springform tin and slip the cake onto a serving plate. If possible, pull out the lining disc of baking parchment as you do this, but if that proves difficult, remove the paper beneath each slice as you cut the cake into wedges to serve.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:40 AM


Edwards Offers Savings Plan (CHRISTINE HAUSER, 10/27/07, NY Times)

Former Senator John Edwards proposed yesterday that rules governing retirement savings be revised by creating new 401(k)-type accounts that employees could carry from job to job, and that the government match workers’ contributions to the accounts, dollar for dollar, up to $500 a year.

Under his plan, workers would also have the option upon retirement to convert their savings to annuities that are sponsored by the government and administered at low fee.

Mr. Edwards has outlined some of these provisions before, including his proposal for the $500 government match, through tax credits, to what he calls Get Ahead Accounts. The match would be intended to benefit middle-class employees, though the Edwards campaign has not specified an income cap.

Were the GOP smarter they'd bring these proposals before Congress and make Democrats vote on them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:27 AM


Is the EU Really a Free Market?: Dismantling government protectionism may not be practical. Germany's VW law is one example, but Europe also has to think about even greater dangers from outside (Detlef Drewes and Michael Kroger, 10/26/07, Business Week)

Ten years ago, the European Commission ordered its member states to dismantle their government interests in private corporations -- like VW -- and report back to Brussels. The idea has always been to create a free-trade zone within the Union; but the largest members of the European Union haven't exactly complied.

Tuesday's ruling by the European Court of Justice to end Germany's VW law will help the Commission tilt at windmills like "golden shares" or "multiple voting rights" and other newish tricks that help governments protect privatized national enterprises from foreign takeover.

But regulators in Brussels, by the end of 2005, still had an internal list of 141 firms that were protected by European governments through special rights. In fact Charlie McCreevy, the Irishman responsible for enforcing European market laws at the EU Commission, has noticed a steadily decreasing tendency among member states to root out protectionism.

Secular, nativist, isolationist and protectionist and they wonder that they're in decline?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:14 AM


Clutch on the field, beloved off it, either way, Ortiz shines: Teammates like marveling at mix of talent, affability (Joe Mahoney, 10/27/07, Rocky Mountain News)

It took a matter of days for Mike Lowell to realize the magnitude of David Ortiz in Boston, the utter adoration Red Sox fans have for the player they have come to revere as "Big Papi."

"The first week I was with the Red Sox, we went to a Celtics game," said Lowell, who was acquired Nov. 24, 2005, in a trade with Florida, "and it was the world coming to an end when they saw David Ortiz. The parking lot guy. The restaurant guy. The attendant that let us in. And he's nice and cordial and that's what people love about him." [...]

Knuckleballer Tim Wakefield has been there the entire time. He saw Ortiz arrive in 2003 as a free agent after not being tendered a contract by the Minnesota Twins when he became eligible for arbitration. At the time, Ortiz was trying to find his footing in the majors.

"When we first got him from Minnesota, he wasn't 'Big Papi,' " Wakefield said.

"I've seen him evolve into this iconic, lovable teddy bear because of his personality. Not only has he delivered on the field, he's one of the best teammates I've ever met.

"I've played with superstars that they're on their own. He treats himself the way the 25th man on the roster would be - not any better than anybody else." [...]

ESPN analyst Peter Gammons, a native of the Boston area and former longtime Red Sox beat writer for The Boston Globe, said he worked out last winter at the same gym as Ortiz across the street from Fenway Park.

Gammons said he saw a woman approach Ortiz one day with a booklet filled with designs for a clothing line she ran, her hope being Ortiz might invest in her venture.

Most players would automatically refuse to let a conversation like this get started or quickly say it would be something for their agent to evaluate.

Gammons said Ortiz did the latter but not before spending 10 minutes with the woman, looking at all her drawings and telling her how good they are.

When that story was related to Ortiz on Friday in the Red Sox clubhouse, he smiled and said, "That's how it is. You got to keep it that way."

Ortiz and his wife, Tiffany, a teacher from Appleton, Wis., whom he met while playing with the low Single-A Midwest League team there in 1996, and their three children split the offseason between the Dominican Republic, where Ortiz was born, and the Boston area, where he has become very involved in charitable and community causes.

Hence, it's not like Ortiz finishes the season, then leaves Boston and shows up with the Red Sox the next February in Fort Myers, Fla., for spring training.

"He's kind of a larger-than-life guy," Lowell said. "He's 6-4. He's black. He's 240 (pounds). And that's not a knock, but he's a very noticeable guy," Lowell said.

"In Boston all the time, I get, 'Man, you look exactly like the third baseman for the Red Sox.' I say, 'Thank you very much. I take that as a compliment.' David don't ever get, 'You look exactly like David Ortiz.' You see David, you know it's him. There's no mistaking."

He's the favorite player of just about every little kid in New England because of that seeming like a teddy bear bit, but Seth Mnookin's book shows how hilariously profane he is in the locker room, which is a big reason why sportswriters and players love him.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:00 AM


Drew has gone from fans' target to a hit (Amalie Benjamin, October 27, 2007, Boston Globe)

"I know the way people see J.D., where he's very stoic and passionless, he doesn't really show a lot of emotion," said Red Sox hitting coach Dave Magadan. "J.D.'s got a lot of emotion. He's got a lot of passion. He doesn't wear it on his sleeve like a lot of guys, but he cares about what he's doing out there. He doesn't let too many people see the emotion.

"I saw the look on his face when he went down into the tunnel after he hit that grand slam; he was shaking. He was so excited. It was like a piano was off his back. It made the whole season worthwhile for me, just seeing that."

A season like the one Drew has had in his first year in Boston would not be easy for anyone to endure. He might hide it, but arriving in a new city and hitting .270 with 11 home runs (boosted, actually, by a late-season surge) is bound to engender some hard feelings from the fans. [...]

Yet of late, things have turned for Drew. Because of something he noticed about his stance about six weeks ago, Drew turned in a much more Drew-like September. Over the final three weeks of the regular season, he hit .393 with a .500 on-base percentage and a 1.221 OPS (on-base plus slugging).

And that was only a prelude to his October.

Nothing can prepare you for the transition from the NL to the AL (East in particular). Recall that at this time last year the ignorant were nattering about Josh Beckett being a bust.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:57 AM


A Dearth of Taxes? (John Tamny, 10/26/07, Real Clear Politics)

In truth, tax collections in the U.S. tend to follow our nation's GDP pretty closely irrespective of the tax rate. As Discovery Institute senior fellow Bret Swanson recently wrote, there is a "remarkable tendency for Federal revenues to hover around 18% of GDP (and for personal income tax revenue to gather between 7.5 and 9% of GDP), no matter if tax rates are high or low."

What this means is that if we grow the overall economic pie, we expand the taxable base. Sure enough, the reductions in top marginal rates that began in 1981 helped U.S. GDP to grow sixfold over the last twenty-five years and as a result, federal revenues have hit record levels nearly every year since.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:50 AM


What Became of the Realist?: A close observer traces the rise and fall of Condi Rice's star: THE CONFIDANTE: Condoleezza Rice and the Creation of The Bush Legacy By Glenn Kessler (Rich Lowry, October 28, 2007, Washington Post)

Long a foreign policy "realist," Rice wrote an article for Foreign Affairs in 2000 calling for clear-eyed pursuit of the national interest. "To be sure, there is nothing wrong with doing something that benefits all humanity," she wrote, "but that is, in a sense, a second-order effect."

After Sept. 11, 2001, however, Rice bought fully into Bush's freedom agenda. Kessler engages in some unconvincing psychologizing to explain her transformation, suggesting she had reached into her deep, Calvinist faith in a moment of crisis. But the terror attack alone seems sufficient cause to explain her change. It convinced her, as she likes to say, that the United States had pursued stability in the Middle East at the expense of democracy, and achieved neither.

She didn't even need to reach very deep. Her faith is central to her being, which is why she disappointed the Left so badly. It makes her she's an idealist not a Realist, not black enough and not a lesbian.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:33 AM


Traits of Fenway, Coors Factor In to Fall Classic (All Things Considered, October 26, 2007)

During this World Series, baseball games are being played in two very different stadiums. Fenway Park in Boston is nearly a century old, while Coors Field in Denver opened in 1995.

Nate Silver, executive vice president of the Baseball Prospectus Web site, talks with Melissa Block about those differences and how they might affect the series.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:29 AM


Neocons Embrace Islamic Terror Group (Danny Postel, October 27, 2007, Common Sense)

The U.S. State Department officially considers the Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK) a Foreign Terrorist Organization. While those honors date back to 1994, they've been renewed during the Bush years. Indeed in 2003 Foggy Bottom went further, including the National Council of Resistance of Iran -- an MEK alias -- under the terrorist designation. (The MEK is also known as the People's Mujahedeen.) [...]

Here you have virtually everything the Right claims to oppose all rolled into one: Islamism, Marxism, terrorism, and Saddam. Naturally, then, neoconservatives would utterly deplore the MEK and everything it stands for, right? The MEK would in fact make an ideal target for Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week and Terrorism Awareness efforts, no?

Well, no. At least one of the carnival's acts, it turns out, is rather fond of the Islamo-Stalinist-terrorist cult group, and has repeatedly argued for the removal of the MEK from the State Department's list of terrorist groups and indeed urged the U.S. government to embrace it. Daniel Pipes, who will be speaking at Tufts on October 24th as part of the Horowitz high jinks, has made the MEK a recurring theme in his writings going back several years: here, here, and here.

Pipes has also gone to bat for the MEK right in the pages of Horowitz's house organ.

But Pipes is far from alone on the Right in championing the MEK. He co-authored the first piece linked to above with Patrick Clawson of the right-wing Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Right-wing commentator Max Boot has argued not merely for the removal of the MEK from the terrorist list but for funding and unleashing it to do battle with Iranian forces -- this while casually acknowledging that it is a "political cult."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:07 AM


The amazing reunion of 'guinea-pig' twins split at birth 35 years ago (DUNCAN ROBERTSON, 27th October 2007, Daily Mail)

Identical twin sisters who were separated at birth have been reunited after 35 years.

But more incredibly, Paula Bernstein and Elyse Schein were astonished to discover they had been part of a bizarre social experiment.

Researchers had kept them apart with different adoptive families to investigate theories over 'nature and nurture'. [...]

Paula said: 'They neglected to tell them [the adoptive parents] the key element of the study, which is that it was about child development among twins raised in different homes. Nature intended for us to be raised together, so I think it was a crime we were separated.'

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:38 AM


Red Sox Turn Green: Fenway may be the oldest ballpark in Major League Baseball. But it's receiving a very modern makeover (Ted Smalley Bowen, 10/26/07, Business Week)

In architectural terms, the 2007 World Series pits the Red Sox’s venerable 1912 Fenway Park against the Colorado Rockies’ 1995-vintage Coors Field in Denver—old bricks v. new bricks. Fenway is the oldest ballpark in Major League Baseball, but it’s receiving a makeover informed by the latest thinking on sustainability.

The Red Sox are planning to add photovoltaic panels and make additional green improvements with advice from the Natural Resources Defense Council. Although there is not yet a standardized way of greening a stadium, the Sox join a host of other ball clubs pursuing LEED-inspired, or LEED-aspiring projects including the Washington Nationals, Minnesota Twins, New York Yankees, and New York Mets. The NRDC is consulting with many of these teams, as well as Major League officials and NBA and NHL franchises.

“It’s enlightened self-interest (for sports teams),” says Mark Rosentraub, a sports economist and dean of the Cleveland State University School of Urban Affairs. “It’s a prudent response to the high cost of energy and there’s PR value, since everything they do is much more visible.”

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Q & A: IQs rise, but are children really smarter?: An expert says scores are higher because more people view the world through scientific spectacles (Denise Gellene, October 27, 2007, Los Angeles Times)

James R. Flynn, an emeritus professor of political science at the University of Otaga in New Zealand, discovered two decades ago that IQ test scores were steadily rising in the developed world despite failing schools and stagnant standardized test scores -- a phenomenon called the "Flynn effect." During a recent visit to UCLA, Flynn talked about the conundrum, which is the subject of his new book, "What Is Intelligence?"

So why are their IQs higher than those of their parents and grandparents?

The people who invented IQ tests saw the world through scientific spectacles. They were interested in logical reasoning. But generations ago people were very utilitarian. If you asked a person in 1900 what a dog and rabbit had in common, they would say you could use a dog to hunt rabbits. Today you would say they both are mammals. That is shorthand for a lot of insight. That may seem trivial, but classifying the world is prerequisite to understanding it scientifically.

You are referring to the portion of the IQ test that measures the ability to determine similarities?

Yes. And if you say "Mammals," you get two points, and if you say "Dogs hunt rabbits," you get none. The score on this portion of the test has gone up 24 points in America since 1947.

Do you think there is something wrong with the way IQ is assessed?

The people who designed the test thought they were measuring intelligence, but they were actually measuring a mix of intelligence and a way of looking at the world. They looked at the world through scientific spectacles, and it took a long time for the average person to slowly take on that perspective.

Poor James Watson. Note that when he referred to the lower IQs of Africans all he was saying was that they are different from him and the group of people like him. Were Darwinism true and life just a struggle between like groups, then it would be a truism that one ought to "do something about" those who are unlike, else the struggle might be lost. After all, the sole measure of inferiority and superiority in Darwinism is survival. If your group survives and the other doesn't then you're superior. His whole statement wouldn't have caused such a fuss if it hadn't revealed the hidden truths of the cult.

October 26, 2007

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:29 PM


Big Papi at first, Youkilis to bench as Red Sox deal with NL rules (AP, 10/26/07)

David Ortiz will play first base for Boston when the World Series resumes Saturday night, and Kevin Youkilis will be benched as the Red Sox adjust to life without a designated hitter.

Mike Lowell will remain at third for the Red Sox, who have a 2-0 Series lead against the Colorado Rockies.

You could really rest them for one game apiece and it wouldn't make a lick of difference which alignment you had. The more interesting decision is to play Manny in LF for three games in Colorado where he could be a horror show.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:27 PM


Cameras cut deaths on danger road by half (MATT DICKINSON, 10/27/07, The Scotsman)

Deaths and serious injuries on the A77 in Ayrshire have fallen by half since the devices were introduced.

The camera system was installed along the largely coastal road, between Ayr and Girvan, in August 2005.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:25 PM


'Ain't no stopping us now,' SNP leader taunts Brown (HAMISH MACDONELL, 10/27/07, scotsman.com)

ALEX Salmond taunted Gordon Brown yesterday, telling the Prime Minister he was powerless to stop the Scottish Government driving towards independence.

The First Minister hit out at what he claimed was obstructionism and a clear financial squeeze being imposed by the UK government on Scotland.

And, to loud applause at the SNP conference in Aviemore, he declared: "They are not going to stop us, Scotland is moving forward."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:09 PM


Student beats 'Chariots of Fire' record (Sophie Borland, 27/10/2007, Daily Telegraph)

To succeed, competitors must run 367 metres (423 yards) round Trinity College's Great Court in the 43.6 seconds it takes for the college's clock to strike 12.

Until now this had only been achieved by two people, both Olympic gold medallists — Lord Burghley in 1927 and Sebastian Coe, whose 1988 attempt has since been discounted.

Last Saturday, Sam Dobin, 19, from Herne Island, Kent, who is reading economics at Trinity, completed the course in 42.77 secs, 0.83 secs faster than Burghley.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:25 PM


Bush The Big Spender? Check Again (Investor's Business Daily, October 25, 2007)

In the first six years of his term, including the Office of Management and Budget's most current estimate for 2007, Bush spent, on average, 20% of GDP.

Was that a lot? Not really. As the chart shows, it puts him in the middle of the presidential pack. Since Johnson took office in late 1963, spending as a share of GDP has averaged 20.4%. And, ironically, spending under LBJ was the lowest.

So rather than a "record" spender, as some claim, Bush is actually below average. Indeed, he's within statistical spitting distance of President Clinton, who on average spent 19.6% of GDP.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:59 PM


Putin: US risking new Cuban missile crisis (Damien McElroy and Adrian Blomfield, 26/10/2007, Daily Telegraph)

President Vladimir Putin has declared that American plans for a missile shield in Europe pose as grave a challenge to Moscow as the Cuban missile crisis did in the 1960s.

...they're still completely vulnerable. Too bad JFK was so craven.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:42 PM


Senate Battle Over FEC Nominee May Hamper Agency's Ability to Act (Matthew Mosk, 10/26/07, Washington Post)

With no resolution in sight to a partisan stalemate over one of President Bush's nominees to the Federal Election Commission, campaign finance experts said yesterday that there is a real prospect the commission could start the 2008 election year without enough members to take any official action.

That's one way to get our republic back.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:08 AM


Al-Jazeera 'on crusaders' side' over bin Laden (David Blair, 26/10/2007, Daily Telegraph)

Al-Jazeera, the controversial Arab satellite channel, has been denounced for siding with the "crusaders" after it broadcast a message from Osama bin Laden that made him appear unusually humble.

In his latest missive, bin Laden admitted that al-Qa'eda's organisation in Iraq had made mistakes and called for unity among Muslims.

"Some of you have been lax in one duty, which is to unite your ranks," said bin Laden, in a taped message.

"I advise myself, Muslims in general and brothers in al-Qa'eda everywhere to avoid extremism in men and groups."

You'd think the Mossad could afford a more realistic beard for the guy playing OBL.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:02 AM


Computer games are 'good' for kids say experts (Daily Mail, 26th October 2007)

Experts are now telling us computer games are good for kids.

A study has found children who play computer games before school achieve better grades than those who don't.

In a pilot scheme run by one school in Dundee, pupils showed "dramatic" improvements in the classroom after gaming for 20 minutes before lessons.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:43 AM


Marines declare war on garbage: With Ramadi now quiet, troops turn to waste collection as a way to win the hearts and minds of Iraqis. (Tina Susman, 10/26/07, Los Angeles Times)

Now, instead of worrying about roadside bombs, they worry about puddles.

"That's a new one!" Falk said as he walked down Ramadi's main drag. Water gurgled from beneath the sand. The tiny ripples were a sign of a leaking underground pipe, and Falk made a note to alert the city's sewage manager about it.

Maj. Rory Quinn, the unit's executive officer, said that every little improvement helped keep Ramadi free of bombings.

"I've got to fix sewers today to buy three more days without one. You're constantly buying yourself three or four days to prevent another Iraqi from wanting to go out and kill Americans."

It doesn't take long to see that the desire for clean streets and pleasant surroundings has overtaken security concerns in Ramadi, where the population has declined by 100,000 residents since the war began four years ago.

Much of the city remains blighted by crumbling buildings and bullet-scarred facades, but there are rebuilt schools, offices, and businesses painted in bright colors, such as raspberry and lime green. A pedestrian walkway erected over the city's main street is robin's-egg blue.

Early each morning, young men and boys in the main market are paid to sweep debris out of alleys lined with stalls selling a wide variety of goods.

Cleanup is a topic of conversation between U.S. troops and local leaders as they gather at sheiks' villas to chat over French cigarettes, Cuban cigars and hot tea. It is the focus of meetings convened at U.S. military posts. It is the first thing shopkeeper Ibrahim Jassim Ahmed mentions when asked whether he has any complaints.

"The biggest problem is that trash right there," he said, pointing at an empty lot about 25 feet from the door of his tiny food store, where waste was strewn like soiled confetti. "It should be taken away to another area."

Two large trash containers sat on the edge of the field. Both were empty, pointing up one of the battles facing the U.S. and Iraqi officials trying to beautify Ramadi: getting people to use garbage cans.

The issue was the source of lively debate that evening when some local leaders met with Marines in the Jamaya neighborhood.

"What can I do for you?" asked Lt. Jordan Reese, the unit's designated trash guru, as he leaned forward and looked into the creased face of Karim Arak, a Ramadi city councilman.

"I need Dumpsters," Arak replied.

"We just ordered 400," Reese said.

"It's not enough," Arak replied. He wanted at least 1,500.

Reese counseled patience. "Four hundred is just the first step. It's not going to happen overnight, but we're trying to get as many out there as possible," he said.

Conversation shifted to the logic of spending money on containers that people might not use.

Someone suggested making posters showing people putting trash into containers. Someone else recommended asking imams to broadcast "no littering" messages. The city's director general of trash, Akram Mirshed Mahane, joked that an Iraqi police officer should be posted next to each bin to shoot litterbugs.

The issue goes beyond litter, though. This city produces more than the garden variety of city waste. It is a combination of rubble from the war and of garbage that went uncollected for years. Some of it flew away on desert winds, but most of it ended up mixed with the region's silken sand and in canals.

The Marines are hoping that a landfill on the city's southeastern edge becomes an organized city dump. For now, it is a tangle of crushed car parts, plastic bottles, paper and tons of unrecognizable muck heaped in mounds.

"This is the fight -- sewage, water and trash," Lt. James Colvin said as he showed the landfill to a visitor. "I was a poor math major in college. I come here and they tell me: 'OK, fix the sewage system!' " said Colvin, remembering how shocked he was to return to Ramadi and find that he could walk down streets that he once dreaded crossing in an armored vehicle. "But there's no enemy to hunt down now, so this is our line of attack."

We eagerly await the New Republic series on the atrocities committed against dumpsters...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:34 AM


Official cites drug misuse in death, not 9/11 toxins (Amy Westfeldt, 10/26/07, Associated Press)

The city's medical examiner concluded that the misuse of pills, not the dust of ground zero, caused the lung disease that killed a man who became an example of post-Sept. 11 illness, the examiner's spokeswoman confirmed yesterday.

Chief Medical Examiner Charles Hirsch concluded that James Zadroga, a retired police detective, got the lung disease that killed him by injecting ground-up pills into his bloodstream, leaving traces of the pills in lung tissue, spokeswoman Ellen Borakove said. [...]

A New Jersey medical examiner had ruled last year that Zadroga died from inhaling toxic ground zero dust, but the family asked Hirsch for a second opinion - and a ruling that would add Zadroga to the official Sept. 11 victims' list.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:25 AM


Colombia kills rebel commander accused of leading attacks on U.S.-owned oil pipeline (The Associated Press, October 25, 2007)

A senior rebel commander, accused of leading attacks on a U.S.-owned oil pipeline and terrorizing residents along Colombia's Caribbean coast, was killed in combat, the defense minister said Thursday.

Gustavo Rueda, head of the 37th Front of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, was killed Wednesday night in the isolated Montes de Maria mountain range, defense minister Juan Manuel Santos said.

At least 18 other guerrillas were killed and four more captured during the fighting, which capped more than six months of intelligence work, Santos said. There were no reports of military casualties.

And he doesn't even get the 72 virgins.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:02 AM


Battle at Pakistan Cleric’s Stronghold (ISMAIL KHAN, 10/26/07, NY Times)

Pakistani security forces exchanged heavy gunfire with militants at the sprawling seminary of an increasingly powerful extremist cleric in the troubled North-West Frontier Province today, according to regional police officials.

The fighting was in the same region where a bomb attack on Thursday killed 17 members of a civil armed guard and 3 civilians.

The cleric, Maulana Fazlullah, is also known as Maulana Radio for his illegal radio broadcasts urging Taliban-style Islamic law. The provincial government deployed 2,500 troops to the area, known as Swat, two days ago, to join army forces trying to quell the rise of extremism the cleric has fostered. He is believed to have gone underground since the troops arrived.

October 25, 2007

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:43 PM


Obama Fails To Quell Row Over an Anti-Gay Singer (NICHOLAS WAPSHOTT, October 26, 2007, NY Sun)

A frantic effort by Senator Obama to defuse a row over the appearance of a homophobic gospel singer at a fund-raising concert appears only to have made matters worse.

Mr. Obama's presidential campaign hurriedly added to the concert program yesterday an openly gay white minister, the Reverend Andy Sidden, to counteract the bad publicity generated by its decision to invite the Reverend Donnie McClurkin, a gospel singer who has described homosexuality as a "curse," to headline a fund-raising event on Sunday in Columbia, S.C.

The incident reflects the need for Democratic candidates to juggle the often conflicting demands of their supporters.

..all of it bad. Poor guy's in way over his head.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:03 PM


Kevin Rudd's earwax snack hits YouTube (Graeme Baker, 26/10/2007, Daily Telegraph)

The man tipped to be the next prime minister of Australia has been caught on camera eating his ear wax in parliament.

The footage has already been viewed by more than 200,000 people on the YouTube website, and some analysts claim that it could even damage Kevin Rudd's opinion poll lead ahead of next month's general election.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:58 PM


Providence trails only Boston in TV ratings for Game One (KEVIN McNAMARA, 10/25/07, Providence Journal)

In Boston, the game drew a 50.4 rating and a 70 share, meaning 70 percent of all TV's on were tuned to the game.

Providence was the second-highest market with a 40.5 rating and 72 share. That was ahead of Denver (35.8/51).

Fox’s Coverage Of World Series Has Taco Filling (RICHARD SANDOMIR, 10/25/07, NY Times)

Game 1 of the World Series was won by the Red Sox.

But it belonged to Taco Bell, which is not related to Cool Papa, Buddy or Gus. [...]

[A]mazingly, after Ortiz’s flyout, Fox cut to Coco Crisp and Royce Clayton (combined 2007 salary: $5.3 million) in the Red Sox’ dugout for 40 seconds of taped, unprompted(?), cheerful chit-chat about how to get those free tacos. “Shameless, but very funny,” McCarver said.

Royce Clayton was the best thing about the telecast.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:38 PM


Music plays part in Fenway's tradition (Alyson Footer, 10/25/07, MLB.com)

"Sweet Caroline" is far from the only musical tradition at Fenway Park. When the Red Sox win, Kaiser's crew plays three songs -- "Tessie" by the Dropkick Murphys, "Dirty Water" by The Standells and "Joy to the World" by Three Dog Night.

Why "Dirty Water"?

"It's all about the Charles River and Boston," Kaiser said. "'Love that dirty water, Boston, you're my home.'"

The club's attachment to "Tessie" is a bit more complicated. It's become arguably the most famous of all of the Red Sox's good luck charms, especially as the season progresses toward the playoffs.

First, a little background information. The broadway tune "Tessie" was originally used as a rally song during the 1903 World Series. Boston was losing that year to the Pirates in the best-of-nine series, 3-1, and a group of self-proclaimed baseball fanatics called the Royal Rooters attempted to rally their team with every song that came to mind.

Ultimately, "Tessie" proved to be the most irritating to the Pirates, and with that knowledge, the Rooters stuck exclusively with that one tune. Boston went on to win Games 5, 6, 7 and 8 to win the series.

The Royal Rooters stopped singing in 1918, the last time the Red Sox won a World Series for the next 86 years. Fast forward to 2004. "Tessie" made a musical reappearance, and perhaps not so coincidentally, the Red Sox also won the World Series.

This time, the local band Dropkick Murphys remade the song, with the help of Red Sox players Johnny Damon, Bronson Arroyo and Lenny DiNardo, and Red Sox vice president of public affairs Charles Steinberg. Boston Herald sportswriter Jeff Horrigan co-wrote the new lyrics with the Murphys.

During the '04 season, the Murphys were invited to sing "Tessie" live at Fenway Park. Incredibly, the Red Sox are 5-0 with four final at-bat wins when the band appears.

Don't think the Red Sox brass isn't aware of the Dropkick Murphys' magic. With the Red Sox seeking their second American League pennant in three years this season, they invited the band to perform their famous song prior to Game 7 of the AL Championship Series.

Once the Red Sox secured the win, chaos ensued. Closer Jonathan Papelbon broke out in an Irish dance and gathered members of the Murphys, who were already on the field. Papelbon was dancing to the band's song, "I'm Shipping Up To Boston," a frantic Irish punk tune.

Being identified with Neil Diamond (other than the fitting last name) is humiliating, but the Murphys are great.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:36 PM


Steal a base, steal a taco.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:34 PM


In Sanctioning Iran, U.S. Plays Its ‘Unilateralism’ Card (HELENE COOPER, 10/25/07, NY Times)(

[A]fter 18 months in which the administration has touted the virtues of collective action against Iran by the United States and its allies, the sanctions are a major turn toward unilateralism.

The shift represents a tacit acknowledgment that the diplomatic strategy pressed most vigorously by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has been ineffective, and it prompted fresh criticism on Thursday from Russia: “Why make the situation worse, bring it to a dead end, threaten sanctions or even military action?” President Vladimir V. Putin asked, in a report by Agence France-Presse.

The administration clearly hopes to enlist allies around the world in its new, tougher stance — in part because the United States, having maintained its own stiff sanctions against Iran since the Islamic revolution in 1979, does not have much leverage left itself.

The administration hopes its influence can turn Iran into a political and economic pariah from which more foreign institutions will shy away.

The sanctions will “provide a powerful deterrent to every international bank and company that thinks of doing business with the Iranian government,” Ms. Rice said.

Yet officials acknowledged that past attempts to enlist allies in limiting their business ties to Iran have come up short.

...that America would stop being a serious country just because others aren't?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:26 PM


What Comes Next (Yuval Levin & Peter Wehner, October 17, 2007, New York Sun)

If 25 years ago you had asked an American conservative to name the preeminent domestic policy challenges of the day, you probably would have gotten back, along with a general worry about cultural decline, some combination of welfare, taxes, and crime.

Few conservatives today would name any of these three as the foremost problems, and even on the cultural front they could point to some advances. This is due, in large part, to a series of conservative successes that have transformed American politics and made conservative theories of economics, law enforcement, and welfare the accepted wisdom. Success has not been complete in any of these areas, of course, but the struggle over first principles, over which way to go in general, has been won.

Today the left -- which for decades fought vigorously on all three fronts -- offers scant opposition on any of them. No leading Democrats are arguing that we undo conservative achievements on welfare and crime. And even on taxes, which liberals want to increase, no Democrats are arguing that we return to the days when the top rate of taxation was 70%.

But what now? On what issues can conservative principles point to popular reforms today? The most prominent domestic policy concerns of the day would seem, at first glance, to favor the left. Health care, income inequality, and the environment, among other issues, have long been identified with American liberals, and conservatives have been uncomfortable taking them up.

But the notion that the left owns these issues is not a fact inherent in the problems themselves; rather, it is a failure of conservative imagination. In fact, it is precisely these kinds of issues that should now be front and center on the conservative agenda, not only because the public cares about them, but also because the left is far more vulnerable on them than it seems. Conservatives should fight precisely on what is perceived to be liberal turf, as they have done successfully before.

Welfare reform -- the most successful social policy innovation in generations -- offers a powerful model. For decades welfare was the quintessential liberal issue, and while conservatives offered serious reasons for concern and opposition, they did not offer enough in the way of concrete reforms.

But when conservatives finally turned their attention to reforming the welfare system -- applying basic conservative premises about the centrality of the family, the power of economic incentives, and the value of self reliance -- they took control of the issue and eventually enacted a sweeping and dramatically successful reform. Democrats had been right to focus on welfare, but their approach was disastrous. Republicans were wrong to ignore it, but once they took it on and offered an alternative, they won.

Something of a similar dynamic now presents itself on a range of other issues.

They ought to be embarrassed not to realize that the President was passing things like HSAs while they slept.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:56 PM


When Rudy goes waterboarding : The former mayor says "liberal newspapers" have exaggerated the technique's brutality. Perhaps he should try it himself. (Joe Conason, 10/25/07, Salon)

...do the "pro-choice" need to experience being aborted?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:37 PM


King Tries to Grow Modern Ideas in Desert, Free of Saudi Taboos (THANASSIS CAMBANIS, 10/25/07, NY Times)

On a marshy peninsula 50 miles from this Red Sea port, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia is staking $12.5 billion on a gargantuan bid to catch up with the West in science and technology.

Between an oil refinery and the sea, the monarch is building from scratch a graduate research institution that will have one of the 10 largest endowments in the world, worth more than $10 billion.

Its planners say men and women will study side by side in an enclave walled off from the rest of Saudi society, the country’s notorious religious police will be barred and all religious and ethnic groups will be welcome in a push for academic freedom and international collaboration sure to test the kingdom’s cultural and religious limits.

This undertaking is directly at odds with the kingdom’s religious establishment, which severely limits women’s rights and rejects coeducation and robust liberal inquiry as unthinkable.

For the new institution, the king has cut his own education ministry out the loop, hiring the state-owned oil giant Saudi Aramco to build the campus, create its curriculum and attract foreigners.

Recognizing what needs to be done to the culture is the important aspect.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:25 PM


Former Spy's Memoir Contains a Paradox (NICHOLAS WAPSHOTT, October 25, 2007, NY Sun)

"The frequent fights, seething accusations, hurtful words, and entrenched bitterness pushed us both to the brink," Ms. Plame writes. And she is talking about her fights with her husband, not Karl Rove.

"Joe is a formidable opponent in any circumstance, and I felt I was always on the losing side, unable to make my case coherently because so much emotion was involved and so much at stake personally. When communication nearly halted entirely, it became obvious that our marriage was in deep trouble. We retreated further into our shells and each began to contemplate life without the other."

Ms. Plame found herself pinned in a shooting match between the White House and the CIA, led by the flawed George Tenet at the time, after her husband reported from Niger on whether Iraq had been trying to buy yellowcake.

Whether Ms. Plame, an agency expert on weapons of mass destruction, was responsible for his going to Niger is one of the key mysteries in the whole affair. So did she send him? It depends upon which page you read. Page 168: "I neither suggested Joe nor recommended him." Yet on page 109, "a mid-level reports officer" said to her, "What about talking to Joe about it? … The reports officer and I walked over to the office of the [redacted] Chief to discuss our available plans of action. Bob, our boss, listened carefully and then suggested we put together a meeting with Joe and the appropriate Agency and State officers."

And on page 186, Ms. Plame explains she wrote an e-mail that read: "My husband has good relations with both the [Niger] 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."

When this e-mail came to light, in a Senate Intelligence Committee report, the high-strung Mr. Wilson once again launched into a temper tantrum. "Midway through the silent meal, Joe abruptly got up, dumped his unfinished plate in the sink, and left the room in a wordless rage. ... Despite my best efforts to explain the innocence of the e-mail, Joe was too upset to listen. He just glared at me."

You'd be upset too if you were revealed as a mere tool of your wife's trade.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:19 PM


School Reform That Can Work: Entrepreneurial ventures hold great promise for improving American education (Frederick M. Hess and Thomas Gift, October 25, 2007, The American)

Steve Pines of the Education Industry Association reports that over 26,000 educational ventures are up and running in the United States. Many operate in established niches such as tutoring or textbook sales; other now-familiar operations such as the Knowledge Is Power Program and Teach For America either run schools or recruit teachers; and many others are tackling issues of instructional literacy, professional development, and information technology. To get a better sense of what these ventures are accomplishing, it’s worth taking a brief look at three: Blackboard, SMARTHINKING, and New Leaders for New Schools. The point is not to hail these particular efforts but rather to illustrate what is possible when smart, creative thinkers are given space to experiment with new ideas.

Blackboard, a for-profit firm, was founded in 1997 by Michael Chasen and Matthew Pittinsky. It has become the world’s leading provider of educational software, applications, and services. Its signature technology, the Blackboard Learning System, is a computer-based learning program that provides virtual access to classroom activities such as homework assignments, labs, and tests. With the click of a mouse, students can obtain academic feedback, communicate with their teachers, and collaborate with peers.

Now used by over 12 million students in 46 states, Blackboard has been integrated into the curriculum by some of the nation’s most tech-savvy schools, including nine of the top ten high schools as ranked by Newsweek. The New York Times has referred to Blackboard as a “disruptive technology … with the power to change how established institutions operate.” The Washington Post has called it “a high-tech star … that is doing more to change the way teaching and learning is done in America than any policies of the federal government.”

...recognize that their ideas aren't competitive.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:08 PM


’55 ‘Origin of Life’ Paper Is Retracted (CORNELIA DEAN, 10/25/07, NY Times)

In January 1955, Homer Jacobson, a chemistry professor at Brooklyn College, published a paper called “Information, Reproduction and the Origin of Life” in American Scientist, the journal of Sigma Xi, the scientific honor society.

In it, Dr. Jacobson speculated on the chemical qualities of earth in Hadean time, billions of years ago when the planet was beginning to cool down to the point where, as Dr. Jacobson put it, “one could imagine a few hardy compounds could survive.”

Nobody paid much attention to the paper at the time, he said in a telephone interview from his home in Tarrytown, N.Y. But today it is winning Dr. Jacobson acclaim that he does not want — from creationists who cite it as proof that life could not have emerged on earth without divine intervention.

So after 52 years, he has retracted it.

Remove all the papers that accidentally undermine randomness and science libraries will fit in a bookmobile.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:55 PM


Immigration Raids Hurt Farmers: Farmers say an immigration crackdown is causing workers to flee and crippling operations. Now they're urging reform (Moira Herbst, 10/25/07, Business Week)

Maureen Torrey, an 11th-generation farmer in the rural town of Elba, N.Y., has been losing sleep. Just as rows of cabbage and winter squash stand ready for harvest on her 11,000 acre farm, she can't find enough workers to bring in the crops. She needs about 350 workers and is 70 short of that number. "I wake up at 3:30 in the morning and my mind doesn't shut off," she says.

The problem, she says, is fear. Torrey Farms, a 14-crop vegetable farm located an hour east of Buffalo, has been raided twice since last October, when she says immigration officials kicked in the doors of workers' housing and apprehended 34. In August, officials arrested seven workers and 14 more fled the area. Amid continued talk of a federal crackdown on undocumented immigrants, she's afraid still more of her workforce will flee to less hostile terrain. With a population of about 9,000, the town of Elba, "Onion Capital of the World" to locals, may not have the manpower to replace them. [...]

[W]hile the new rule has yet to take effect, its impact is already being felt by farmers like Torrey. An estimated three-quarters of agricultural workers in the U.S. are undocumented, and growers are starting to feel the paralyzing effects of losing their workforce. They say that unless the government implements workable reforms, the future of the U.S. as a food-producing nation is in jeopardy.

On the bright side, destroying their farms will reduce the bite of the death tax!

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:38 PM


A country at war (Ziauddin Sardar, 25 October 2007, New Statesman)

Pakistan is about to descend even deeper into violence and chaos, as the front-line state in the war on terror prepares for an all-out offensive on the jihadi militants entrenched in Waziristan, the country's lawless northern province. In what amounts to total war on the Taliban and al-Qaeda, President Musharraf is planning to bring the whole region under military control. This is a high-risk strategy, as the consequences of failure could be devastating for Pakistan. They could even lead to the break-up of the country.

Behind the headlines, the state's contradictions and tensions are being tested to the limit.

What would be the point of preserving an artificial state built opn tensions and contradictions?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:21 PM


Edwards's Bid for Favor Of Hunters Draws Fire (JOSH GERSTEIN, October 25, 2007, NY Sun)

A new attempt by a Democratic presidential hopeful, John Edwards, to cozy up to hunters is coming under fire from the National Rifle Association and conservation groups.

Traveling in Iowa yesterday, Mr. Edwards unveiled a "Hunting and Fishing Bill of Rights and Responsibilities" that calls for giving hunters more access to federal lands, including, in some cases, national parks.

"This is part of who I am and part of what I will stand for as president," Mr. Edwards told voters in Glenwood, Iowa, according to the Associated Press. He said he hunted while growing up in rural North Carolina and still fishes occasionally.

His political career is so tied up in being a metrosexual that it's fair to say that he's the most feminine candidate on the Democratic side. So it's not just a question of who's going to buy this but who are they even trying to sell to? He can't get male votes.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:17 PM


Al Qaeda reveals signs of weakness: The US ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker, said Thursday that Al Qaeda is 'simply gone' from some areas. (Dan Murphy, 10/26/07, The Christian Science Monitor

Across the Arab world, where Al Qaeda had sought to build influence and bases of operation on the back of widespread anger against the US over its war in Iraq and the broader war on terrorism, the movement is now showing signs that it is stalled, if not in retreat.

Experts say Al Qaeda's failures have largely come down to its brutal methods, which have turned off large numbers of Arabs. They say that Muslims from Iraq to Egypt may want their countries to adhere to strict Islamic law, but not at the price of suicide bombings.

Retreat? Doesn't that concept imply they'd achieved something at some point?

Osama bin Laden's growing anxiety: He's struggling to direct fewer and fewer followers. (Fawaz A. Gerges, 10/26/07, CS Monitor)

In yet another sign of trouble for Al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden publicly conceded that his like-minded militants in Iraq "made mistakes." In an audiotape broadcast by Al Jazeera this week, he sounds deeply anxious about the survival of Al Qaeda in Iraq – a group that is largely independent of his own organization but adheres to a similar ideology. Al Qaeda's top leader appealed to Sunni Arab tribes and other armed Iraqi Sunni groups to stop fighting Al Qaeda members and unite against the real enemy – the US-led coalition.

Al Qaeda in Iraq faces growing indignation from fellow Sunni Iraqis fed up with its indiscriminate killing of civilians and its Taliban-like religious laws. In the past year, Sunni tribes and fighters have risen against Al Qaeda's branch in Iraq and, working jointly with US troops, killed and expelled scores of its militants from their neighborhoods, particularly from Anbar Province. Besieged both internally and externally, Al Qaeda in Iraq struggles to survive and absorb these catastrophic military setbacks.

It wouldn't be any less of a struggle if he were alive.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:58 PM


Libya seals peace deal for Chad (BBC, 10/25/07)

Four Chadian rebel groups have sealed a peace agreement with the government, three weeks after negotiating the preliminary deal.

Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi hosted the talks alongside the presidents of Chad and Sudan.

...they want into the Axis of Good.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:54 PM


Tory bounce endures, shows Telegraph poll (Andrew Porter, 25/10/2007, Daily Telegraph)

A dramatic turnaround in Conservative party fortunes is confirmed in an exclusive Daily Telegraph poll which shows their revival has been sustained.

David Cameron's personal poll ratings have also doubled in the past month, while Gordon Brown's have dived.

It is the first concrete sign that the Tory tax plans and Mr Brown's decision to call off the election has transformed the political landscape.

The Daily Telegraph YouGov survey shows the Tories on 41 per cent, a rise of nine from last month. Labour has dropped five points to 38.

There is also more gloom for the leaderless Liberal Democrats who have fallen from 15 per cent to just 11.

Mr. Brown demonstrates a catastrophic failure to understand how similar English politics is to American. He's governing the way Bill Clinton did in his first two years, instead of the way W did.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:45 PM


National, State Polls Show Support for Pro-Abortion Rudy Giuliani Dropping (Steven Ertelt, October 25, 2007, LifeNews.com)

Rudy Giuliani continues to drop in national and state polls following a seminal survey issued just two weeks ago by the Des Moines Register. That poll was the first to show Giuliani's campaign hurting as more Republicans recognize his pro-abortion view and newer polls show his numbers continuing to drop.

A new Rasmussen Reports daily presidential tracking poll showed the lowest numbers for Giuliani of any recent surveys.

Giuliani is now supported by just 21% of likely GOP voters while Fred Thompson is the top choice for 19%. Another seventeen percent are undecided while John McCain has the backing of 14 percent and Mitt Romney enjoys the support of 12 percent.

Hard to believe he can stay ahead of even Mitt Romney once Republicans start paying attention.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:54 PM


Iranian regime reaching point of no return (Damien McElroy, 25/10/2007, Daily Telegraph)

America has after all pinpointed the IRG, and specifically its Quds Force, as the main instrument of Iran's support for terrorists in Iraq and Lebanon.

In a broader sense, it adds to the pressure Washington has successfully placed on Iran as the country defies the world by pursuing atomic research that looks suspiciously like an attempt to develop a nuclear bomb.

By deploying a handful of aircraft carriers around the Islamic Republic, America has made plain its military resolve. By successfully holding an international coalition together at the United Nations, Ms Rice's diplomats have impelled the UN into censuring the regime.

The narrow target ought to make it easy to convince average Iranians that it's not the Republic as a whole we have a quarrel with.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:20 PM


Mary Ann Glendon, New US Ambassador to the Holy See? (Catholic Online, 10/25/07)

It looks as though the well-known lawyer and pro-life feminist Mary Ann Glendon may become the newest U.S. ambassador to the Vatican.

According to reports by ANSA in Italian, sources inside the Bush administration are saying that it is very likely that “President George W. Bush would appoint Mary Ann Glendon as the new US Ambassador to the Holy See."

Raising her profile makes her an even better choice for the Court should the President need to try and get someone through as Election '08 nears. It'd be fun to watch the newly religious Democratic party oppose her as outside the mainstream.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:13 PM


Brezhnev tried to buoy Nixon during Watergate scandal, documents show (The Associated Press, October 25, 2007)

As the Watergate scandal enveloped President Richard Nixon, he was buoyed by a secret message of moral support from Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev, according to newly released State Department documents.

Brezhnev told the U.S. president he knew he would not "crack under the pressure."

Little did they know that presidents Ford and Carter would be so Nixonian.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:07 PM


New Maritime Strategy to Focus on 'Soft Power' (Ann Scott Tyson, 10/17/07, Washington Post)

The new approach marks a stark departure from the last U.S. maritime strategy, conceived by the Navy in the 1980s, which focused heavily on offensive operations against the Soviet Union. "This isn't just a strategy about putting ordnance on a target or sinking someone else's fleet," said a senior Navy official, who like some others spoke on condition of anonymity.

"Soft power, the humanitarian and economic efforts, have been elevated to the same level as high-end naval warfare," said another Navy official, who like others spoke on condition of anonymity because the strategy had not been officially unveiled.

The 16-page document was developed over two years and outlines six imperatives. These include the traditional missions of concentrating major combat forces in the Persian Gulf, Indian Ocean and Western Pacific to deter or fight potential conflicts. Protecting vital sea lanes represents a growing priority, it said, as seaborne trade has more than quadrupled over the last four decades and now accounts for 90 percent of all international commerce and two-thirds of global petroleum trade.

In addition, the strategy calls for dispersing smaller maritime teams to carry out humanitarian missions as well as to counter terrorism, weapons proliferation, piracy and other illicit maritime activities -- partly to contain threats before they can reach the United States. These teams, which would integrate Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard forces, would deploy to areas such as Africa and the Western Hemisphere to promote closer cooperation with maritime forces in other nations.

"The global system and network and commerce could not function without the free flow on the world's oceans," Roughead said at the symposium. "But we all know . . . the disruptions that can occur, whether it's piracy, smuggling of people, of drugs, of weapons, terrorism -- all of that disrupts maritime security."

Roughead also spoke of "a movement toward . . . proactive humanitarian assistance in the deployment of our hospital ships to South America, Southeast Asia" and Africa.

To implement the strategy, sailors, Marines and Coast Guard personnel would be dispatched on a wide variety of ships as "force packages" able to conduct security missions, serve as mobile training teams or perform humanitarian, legal or reconstruction work.

Just because navies are a waste of money doesn't mean ours will go quietly.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:51 PM


Baghdad Diarist Was On Guard When Questioned by Editors (Howard Kurtz, 10/25/07, Washington Post)

Beauchamp stood his ground even after Editor Franklin Foer told him "that if you're not able to talk about this and able to stand by your story, I'm not sure we'll be able to stand by it. . . . You wouldn't have much credibility left in the public eye. . . . You basically made a vow to us that what you were publishing was the truth." Foer added that Beauchamp's wife, Elspeth Reeve, then a New Republic reporter, had said "that it's the most important thing in the world for her that you say that you didn't recant."

Beauchamp replied that she was a journalist and he was a soldier.

Despite the contentious conversation, Foer continued to defend the article days later. He did so again yesterday, reiterating that other soldiers whom the magazine would not identify had confirmed the allegations.

Hard to conclude other than that Mr. Foer needs the stories about soldiers' behavior to be right for his own emotional or ideological reasons.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:37 PM


All systems go: A powerful way of studying biology looks set for take-off (The Economist, 10/25/07)

[T]he beating heart was no simple video. It was, instead, the output of a stupendously complex computer model of a heart, developed over more than 40 years. This model is an example of “systems biology”, an approach that represents a significant shift both in the way biologists think about their field and in how they go about investigating it.

A central tenet of most scientific endeavour is the notion of reductionism—the idea that things can best be understood by reducing them to their smallest components. This turns out to be immensely useful in physics and chemistry, because the smallest components coming from a particle accelerator or a test tube behave individually in predictable ways.

In biology, though, the idea has its limits. The Human Genome Project, for example, was a triumph of reductionism. But merely listing genes does not explain how they collaborate to build and run an organism. Nor do isolated cells or biological molecules give full insight into the causes and development of diseases that ravage whole organs or organisms. A complete understanding of biological processes means putting the bits back together again—and that is what systems biologists are trying to do, by using the results of a zillion analytical experiments to build software models that behave like parts of living organisms.

Note the interesting but unsupportable assertion.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:32 PM


Southwick confirmed to 5th Circuit (S.A. Miller, October 25, 2007, Washington Times)

The Senate yesterday confirmed the long-stalled nomination of Leslie H. Southwick to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, overcoming Democratic criticism that the Mississippi judge's past rulings were potentially racist and homophobic.

In a rare gesture of bipartisanship for the chamber this session, 12 Democrats helped the nomination clear a procedural 60-vote hurdle to reach final consideration.

It won final passage by a vote of 59-38 with support from 49 Republicans, nine Democrats and one independent.

...Bob Bork would be Chief Justice today.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:20 PM


Baseball whomps debate in TV ratings (Foon Rhee, 10/23/07, Boston Globe)

Fox News Channel reported this morning that the Republican debate Sunday night drew about 2.5 million viewers, including nearly 800,000 in the 25-54 age group.

But Game 7 of the American League championship series between the Red Sox and Cleveland Indians drew about 19 million viewers to Fox. The two events overlapped for about the first hour of the game, which was the highest-rated game since Game 7 of the 2004 ALCS between the Sox and Yankees.

It's a good bet that those numbers were even more skewed in Red Sox Nation, despite the presence of former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney on the debate stage.

Supposedly, 87% of the tvs in Boston were tuned to the game.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:14 AM


Recovering From Injury, Returning to TV, Speaking for the Wounded (JACQUES STEINBERG, 10/25/07, NY Times)

In the summer of 2006, as Israeli and Hezbollah forces in Lebanon were clashing, Bob Woodruff desperately wished to fly there to report for ABC News. Never mind that it had been less than six months since a roadside explosion in Iraq pocked his brain with shrapnel and other debris, almost killing him.

“I couldn’t even remember the word ‘Lebanon,’” Mr. Woodruff, 46, said in an interview this week in his office at ABC News, reflecting on the months after he emerged from a 36-day, medically induced coma. “I couldn’t remember the names ‘Israel’ and ‘Hezbollah.’”

Now, though, Mr. Woodruff has recovered to the point that he has returned to work full time as a correspondent for ABC News on its various programs, including “World News” and “Nightline.” In recent weeks viewers have seen him reporting from Syria (on his search for the interpreter who helped save his life in Iraq), as well as from Sioux Falls, S.D. (on the rehabilitation of Senator Tim Johnson, himself recovering from a brain hemorrhage), and Bethesda, Md. (on troops who suffered brain and other injuries as traumatic as his own). In the spring he was in Cuba; two weeks ago he was in Angola for an ABC documentary about Chinese influence around the world that will be broadcast next year.

While he is not yet comfortable reporting live — he still struggles to find the right word at times, or he substitutes one (like syllable) when he means another (synonym) — he has traveled an unimaginable distance from those dark, early days last year, when he would look at a picture of scissors and be unable to say what it was. He is also playing pickup soccer again on weekends, much to his wife’s regret.

“You can see why I think every day, now, is a free day,” he said, his voice soft but firm.

...half the press can't tell Hamas from Hezbollah.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:00 AM


Beckett is the new Schilling (Sam Donnellon, 10/25/07, Philly.com)

"We've got the best pitcher on the planet going for us tonight," Curt Schilling said before last night's Game 1 of the World Series.

At another time, in this and other places, that would have read as a boast. Once, and not that long ago, Curt Schilling was the guy Josh Beckett was last night, an entry in the win column of the postseason ledger before a pitch was thrown. But the guy who takes the mound tonight does so in a cloud of doubt and uncertainty, his diminished fastball forcing him to tap heavily into the knowledge and guile accrued during his 20 seasons.

"His preparation has always been off the charts," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said before last night's 13-1 laugher, and there seemed a twinge of hope in his voice. "That has never changed or wavered. If anything it's probably gotten better."

The notion that there's such a thing as a clutch player or a choker seems pretty absurd, but last night illustrated once again how physical skills can make one appear clutch while choking. Josh Beckett could basically only throw one of his pitches for a strike last night, but it happened to be his fastball. It's already a dominating pitch, but if we assume that he was overthrowing his others because of the excitement of the moment and then accept that he was "overthrowing" the fastball too, then we see that all that his "choking" did was exacerbate the dominance.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:35 AM


Between Here and There: How Attached Are Latino Immigrants to Their Native Country? (Roger Waldinger, University of California, Los Angeles, 10/25/07, Pew Hispanic Center)

Most Latino immigrants maintain some kind of connection to their native country by sending remittances, traveling back or telephoning relatives, but the extent of their attachment varies considerably. Only one-in-ten (9%) do all three of these so-called transnational activities; these immigrants can be considered highly attached to their home country. A much larger minority (28%) of foreign-born Latinos is involved in none of these activities and can be considered to have a low level of engagement with the country of origin. Most Latino immigrants (63%) show moderate attachment to their home country; they engage in one or two of these activities.

Latino immigrants who have been in the U.S. for decades and those who arrived as children are less connected than those who arrived more recently or migrated as adults. There are also significant differences by country of origin, with Colombians and Dominicans maintaining more active connections than Mexicans, and with Cubans having the least contact.

Whether Latino immigrants maintain active, moderate or limited connections is an important marker of their attitudes toward the U.S., their native country and their own lives as migrants. Those with the highest levels of engagement have deeper attachments to their country of origin than immigrants whose connections are less robust. They also have more favorable views of their native country in comparisons with the U.S. Nonetheless, a clear majority of even these immigrants see their future in the U.S. rather than in the countries from which they come.

October 24, 2007

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:26 PM


Pump up your pecan pie (LAURA H. EHRET, 10/24/07, The Dallas Morning News)


2/3 cup sugar

1/3 cup butter, soft

1 cup dark corn syrup

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 large eggs

1/2 cup toasted coconut

1 1/2 cups toasted chopped pecans

1 (9-inch) unbaked pie shell

Preheat oven to 375 F. In a medium bowl beat sugar, butter, corn syrup, salt and eggs with a wire whip until well blended. Stir in coconut and pecans. Pour mixture into prepared pie shell and bake for 40 to 50 minutes. Center will be soft set. Makes 8 servings.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:39 PM


Sharp decline in U.S. troop deaths in Iraq: Officials cite U.S. ‘surge,’ civilian assistance as reasons for decrease (AP, 10/23/07)

The commander of the battle zone — Lt. Col. Val Keaveny, 3rd Battalion, 509th Infantry (Airborne) — said his unit has lost only one soldier in the past four months despite intensified operations against both Shiite and Sunni extremists, including powerful al-Qaida in Iraq cells.

Keaveny attributes the startling decline to a decrease in attacks by militants who are being rounded up in big numbers on information provided by the citizen force — which has literally doubled the number of eyes and ears available to the military.

The efforts to recruit local partners began taking shape earlier this year in the western province of Anbar, which had become the virtual heartland for Sunni insurgents and al-Qaida bands. The early successes in Anbar — coming alongside a boost of 30,000 U.S. forces into the Baghdad area — led to similar alliances in other parts of Iraq.

“People are fed up with fear, intimidation and being brutalized. Once they hit that tipping point, they’re fed up, they come to realized we truly do provide them better hope for the future. What we’re seeing now is the beginning of a snowball,” said Keaveny, whose forces operate out of Forward Operating Base Kalsu, about 35 miles south of Baghdad. [...]

Sunni Sheik Emad Ghurtani is among those helping.

“Honestly, I’m not going to hide this from you,” Ghurtani told Lynch as the two stood talking at a newly established tribal check point near Haswa, a village just north of the Kalsu base.

“There is some al-Qaida here in this area. But, God willing, we will get rid of them. ... The citizens are coming out. They’re not afraid any more,” the tall and handsome tribal leader said. Three scruffy young men watched, AK-47s slung over their shoulders, in the sandbag bunker at the check point.

Lynch, hatless on the balmy autumn day, answered in staccato sentences.

“What we really need is information. You know where al-Qaida is. You know who they are. You have to tell us. We can use all our capabilities to take out the enemy. But you have to tell us where they are, because you know. You’ve got our total support.”

The sheik, who made Lynch promise to return for lunch one day, responded with striking eloquence.

“Because of what the American forces have accomplished, instead of us moving step by step we’re going to start running toward the enemy ... Instead of walking, we’re going to start running now. We just need the weapons and ammunition,” Ghurtani said.

The Greatest Story Never Told: Military progress in Iraq goes unnoticed by the press. (Dean Barnett, 10/23/2007, Weekly Standard)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:15 PM


Score 1 for the Investor Class (James Pethokoukis, 10/23/07, US News)

My guy Dan Clifton over at Strategas Research tells me that new pension regulations issued yesterday by the Department of Labor will significantly alter the way Americans save for retirement by providing new incentives for workers to participate in a 401(k). The regulations will also increase the amount of equity and bond exposure and gradually reduce the use of traditional defined benefit plans.

...is denying people the initial one.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:11 PM


Israeli seeks Hamas participation (BBC, 10/24/07)

An Israeli minister has called on his government to suspend a boycott of Hamas and invite the group to an upcoming Middle East conference.

Minister without portfolio Ami Ayalon said any invitation would be conditional on Hamas pledging to accept agreements reached at the summit. [...]

"Such a call by Israel would cause Hamas to crumble because of the internal struggles taking place within the group," Mr Ayalon told Israeli army radio.

If people were capable of grasping that simple truth, the US and Israel would have recognized Palestinian statehood when Hamas won the election.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:23 PM


Actually, Iran is not so tough (Martin van Creveld, October 24, 2007, International Herald Tribune)

Judging by its behavior, Iran's leadership is in a panic. It has good reason to be. Over a month has passed since Israel successfully attacked an alleged Syrian nuclear installation, proving that the Russian built anti-aircraft defenses, which Iran too has bought, are vulnerable.

Behind Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert stands George W. Bush. Four years ago, Bush took on Iran's neighbor to the west and demolished it to the point where it may never rise again. Both men have repeatedly signaled their determination to prevent Iran from going nuclear, using force if necessary. They may very well carry out their threats.

Should they do so, Iran will have little to put in their way. Though rich in oil, Iran is a third-world country with a population of 70 million and a per capita income of $2,440.

Madness as method (Maureen Dowd, October 24, 2007, NY Times)
President Nixon and Henry Kissinger liked to use madness as a method. In 1969, Nixon told Kissinger to caution the Soviet ambassador that Nixon was "out of control" on Indochina, and could do something drastic.

Three months earlier, as Anthony Summers wrote in "The Arrogance of Power: The Secret World of Richard Nixon," "Kissinger had sent that very same message by proxy when he instructed Len Garment, about to leave on a trip to Moscow, to give the Soviets 'the impression that Nixon is somewhat "crazy" - immensely intelligent, well organized and experienced to be sure, but at moments of stress or personal challenge unpredictable and capable of the bloodiest brutality.' Garment carried out the mission, telling a senior Brezhnev adviser that Nixon was 'a dramatically disjointed personality more than a little paranoid when necessary, a cold-hearted butcher.' " All of which, his aides later reflected, was kind of true.

Cheney seems to enjoy giving the impression that he is loony enough to pull off an attack on Iran before leaving office - even if he has to do it alone, like Slim Pickens riding the bomb down in "Dr. Strangelove" to the sentimental tune of "We'll Meet Again."

Fortunately W and Dick Cheney are serious men and recognize their foe's weakness. Had Nixon and Kissinger been likewise the Cold War would have ended 30 years earlier.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:11 PM


Tumultuous Britain: For more than a century, Americans have seen Britain as tired and broken. But some of them now think that the old dynamism and iconoclasm has returned. If Britain really is back, it will be another test for the special relationship (Walter Russell Mead, November 2007, Prospect)

The special relationship is based largely on the family firm, and as it happens the family business is spectacularly successful. For roughly three centuries now, the English-speaking peoples have been more or less continuously organising, managing, expanding and defending a global system of power, finance, culture and trade. Up until the second world war, the British branch of the family held the majority of shares and furnished the firm's leadership; since then, the American branch has taken the lead, but the firm, though periodically updating and revising its methods and objectives, still bears the imprint of the British founders. For better or worse, the family business is the dominant force in international life today, and is set to remain the foundation of world order for some time to come.

So it is not so much a matter of Britain having a special relationship with the US; rather, it has a special relationship with the international capitalist order. And the world system today preserves most of the features of the British system that existed before the second world war: a liberal, maritime international order that promotes the free flow of capital and goods and the development of liberal economic and political institutions and values. However much the British may object to particular US policies and priorities, the overall direction in which America seeks to lead the world is the direction in which most Britons more or less hope it will go. Both British and American leaders can and do make mistakes about how best to develop and defend this world system, but the health of that system has been the chief concern of British foreign policy since the 18th century.

The close similarity between the British and American world orders does not just influence the two countries towards international policies that are usually broadly compatible; it also gives Britain a unique role in the world order. This is most clearly seen in the close relations between London and New York, the twin financial centres of the world. The financial genius of Britain has been one of the driving forces that created the world we live in; Americans share that genius and, like the British, seek to make the world a safer and more profitable place in which increasingly sophisticated financial markets can operate on a progressively more global scale.

Acheson's crack about Britain's fallen empire and missing role was made at a time when Britain had, temporarily, lost sight of the sources of its own prosperity and power. The crash of the international system during the great depression and the second world war, combined with the forced liquidation of Britain's overseas investments during and after the war, left the world less hospitable to British enterprise. Combined with the unhappy results of Britain's flirtation with socialism and the profound disorientation which many Britons felt as the empire melted away, Britain seemed doomed to decline.

Today, led by a revived financial and service economy that is both connected to and dependent on the integrated global economy, Britain is back. Twenty-five years ago, smug French and German voices read Britain stern lectures; today they seek to match its success. Britain's voice counts for more today in Europe than at any time in the last half century; across Africa and the middle east, Britain, for better or worse, is seen once again as a significant and rising power.

Higher fertility, immigration and longer lives fuelling Britain's population rise (John Carvel, October 24, 2007, Guardian)

Britain's population is set to increase by more than 10 million over the next quarter century - about 4 million more than the previous official estimate published only two years ago, government statisticians said yesterday.

The Office for National Statistics advised politicians and civil servants to prepare for the fastest population growth since the postwar baby boom in the 1950s. They said an unprecedented combination of high fertility, rising life expectancy and increasing immigration would swell the population from 60 million this year to 65 million by 2016 and 71 million by 2031.

Guy Goodwin, the office's head of demography, said the impact on England would be equivalent to adding the entire population of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to the English total. It would require a massive reappraisal of long-term plans for housebuilding, transport, education and the health service.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:32 AM


Big Papi mojo: The 2004 ALCS, Game 5, bottom of the 14th (An excerpt from Feeding the Monster by Seth Mnookin)

In the bottom of the 14th, Yankees pitcher Esteban Loaiza came out for his fourth inning of work. A bust during the regular season, Loaiza had been unhittable in this game, with a devastating sinker falling off one side of the plate and a wicked cut fastball collapsing on the other. His last three innings of work may have been the best pitched innings of the series thus far. Since entering the game in the 11th with runners on first and second and one out, he’d allowed just one walk. Now, Loaiza struck out Mark Bellhorn to begin the inning, and a pair of walks sandwiched around another strikeout put Johnny Damon on second base and Manny Ramirez on first with two outs. David Ortiz was due up at the plate. A base hit would likely win the game.

As Ortiz walked to the plate, he spit into his batting gloves and then smashed his hands together. As he dug into the batter’s box, he tried to drown out the serenading cries of “PAPI, PAPI,” to ignore the adulatory signs that freckled the Fenway stands. “You want to shut everything down,” he later told Globe’s Chris Snow. “After you shut down all the noise and everything around you, that’s when your concentration comes. That’s when you focus on what you want to do.”

Ortiz is often described as a hitting genius, as if his talent is purely God given. He’s more comfortable than many Latin players talking with and teasing reporters, but English is not his first language, and he often plays the part of the friendly jokester. But Ortiz works on his hitting as much as anyone in baseball. While his teammates are in the field, Ortiz often retreats to the Red Sox’s clubhouse to study his previous at-bats against that night’s pitcher. Ortiz had been preparing for Loaiza ever since he’d taken the mound. “I wasn’t trying to go too crazy with him,” Ortiz said later. Because of Loaiza’s pitches’ late movement, Ortiz said, he “just wanted to stay on the ball longer.”

Loaiza’s first pitch looked hittable, and Ortiz took a monstrous cut, but at the last moment the ball dove down and away, and Ortiz missed. Strike one. A ball and a foul made it 1-2. The Yankees were one strike away from sending the game, which had already taken longer than any postseason game in baseball history, into the 15th inning. The fourth pitch was outside but not by enough for Ortiz to take, and he punched it foul. He hit the next pitch deep enough to be a home run, but it hooked foul into the right field stands. Loaiza followed with another ball, bringing the count even, to 2-2. Ortiz stepped out of the batter’s box.

As Ortiz and Loaiza battled, Fenway was in a complete frenzy. A group of young men just behind home plate had been pounding on the dividing wall that separated the field from the stands since the eighth inning. Down the third base line, ESPN’s Peter Gammons stood, poised by the entrance to the field, as he waited for the game to end so he could run out and collect a few quick on-camera quotes. He’d been standing there for a couple of hours already, ever since the bottom of the eighth, when the Yankees looked as if they were about to put away the game, and the series. Gammons, who’d seen the Red Sox beat the Cincinnati Reds in extra innings in the Sixth Game of the 1975 World Series, couldn’t seem to erase the grin from his face. “Unbelievable,” he occasionally murmured, shaking his head.

Ortiz knew a walk would load the bases, and with Doug Mientkiewicz on deck, he also knew the Yankees would much prefer to pitch to the light-hitting defensive specialist than to the man whose postseason highlight reel seemed to grow with each passing day. At this point, the difference between men on first and second and men on every base was negligible: with two outs, the lead runner would be off on contact in either case, and a base hit would likely win the game regardless of whether Damon was on second or third. Even with two strikes, Ortiz knew Loaiza wasn’t going to give him anything on the fat part of the plate, and the way Loaiza was pitching, he could keep on painting the corners forever. Ortiz dug in, determined to foul off as many pitches as it took until there was one he could handle.

And so Ortiz fouled off the seventh pitch of the at bat, and then the eighth and the ninth. As he stepped out of the batter’s box again, he examined his bat before seizing it by the barrel and smacking it, handle first, into the ground to make sure one of Loaiza’s cutters hadn’t splintered it. Satisfied, he tucked it under his arm, spat into his gloves once more, smacked his hands together again, and settled back in to hit. And on the tenth pitch of David Ortiz’s seventh plate appearance of the night, Loaiza threw a cut fastball in on his hands. Ortiz, no longer swinging for the fences, fisted the ball over Derek Jeter’s head, where it fell in front of center fielder Bernie Williams. On national television, commentator Joe Buck exclaimed, “Damon coming to the plate, he can keep on running to New York. Game 6, tomorrow night!” As Loaiza walked dejectedly off the mound he spit out his gum and took a swat at it with his glove. This had been the best he’d pitched all year, and still Ortiz had beaten him.

It was Ortiz’s second walk-off hit of the series and his third of the postseason; no other player in history had hit more than two in his entire career. Afterwards, Theo Epstein said, “It might be the greatest game ever played. I’d like to hear other nominations…. That might have been one of the greatest at-bats to end the greatest game ever played.” Pedro Martinez, who’d made headlines in September after referring to the Yankees as “my daddy” after a tough loss to New York, said simply, “The Yankees need to think about who’s their Big Papi.”

We who live twixt "Athens and Sparta" have the good fortune to have two excellent recent chronicles of our respective teams that explain the rise of the one (largely because of Theo Epstein & Bill James) and the demise of the other (thanks to the loss of Gene Michael):

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:48 AM


Apple Pecan Scones (Contra Costa Times, 10/24/2007)

4 cups all-purpose flour

2/3 cup granulated sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2 cup cold, unsalted butter, cut into chunks

2 eggs, beaten, divided use

11/2 cups whipping cream

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 baking apple, finely chopped

1/4 cup chopped pecans

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat.

2. In a mixer bowl fitted with paddle attachment, beat flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg on low speed until blended, for 2 minutes. With mixer running, gradually drop in bits of butter, mixing until it resembles coarse crumbs.

3. Set 1 tablespoon of the beaten egg aside. Whisk together remaining egg, cream and vanilla. Pour over dry ingredients and using a fork, stir until dough starts to bind together.

4. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead in apple pieces and pecans. Continue to knead dough until it holds together, about 6 times. Shape into a ball and pat into a 10-inch circle. Place on prepared baking sheet.

5. Using pizza cutter or sharp knife, cut into 18 wedges. Do not separate wedges. Brush top with reserved egg. Bake in preheated oven until light brown, 18 to 22 minutes. Serve warm.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:02 AM

ROX OF AGES (via The Mother Judd):

Rockies Place Their Faith in God, and One Another (BEN SHPIGEL, 10/23/07, NY Times)

The role of religion within the Rockies’ organization first entered the public sphere in May 2006, when an article published in USA Today described the organization as adhering to a “Christian-based code of conduct” and the clubhouse as a place where Bibles were read and men’s magazines, like Maxim or Playboy, were banned.

The article included interviews with several players and front office members, but team players and officials interviewed this week said it unfairly implied that the Rockies were intent on constructing a roster consisting in large part of players with a strong Christian faith. Asked how his own Christian faith affected his decision-making, General Manager Dan O’Dowd acknowledged it came into play, but not in a religious way. He said it guided him to find players with integrity and strong moral values, regardless of their religious preference.

“Do we like players with character? There is absolutely no doubt about that,” O’Dowd said during a recent interview in his Coors Field office. “If people want to interpret character as a religious-based issue because it appears many times in the Bible, that’s their decision. I believe that character is an innate part of developing an organization, and to me, it is nothing more than doing the right thing at the right time when nobody’s looking. Nothing more complicated than that.

“You don’t have to be a Christian to make that decision.”

Even if the Rockies are not consciously doing it, reliever Matt Herges, playing for his seventh organization, said the team had the highest concentration of devout Christians he had seen during his nine major league seasons.

Every Sunday, about 10 people gather for chapel, according to reliever Jeremy Affeldt, and Tuesday afternoon Bible study sessions usually attract seven or eight players. Affeldt said players discussed life and their families as well as scripture.

“Certain guys attend chapel, certain guys don’t,” outfielder Cory Sullivan said. “I don’t think that’s any different from how it is in any other major league clubhouse. Nothing’s shoved down your throats.”

On the whole, players were relaxed in speaking about their religious convictions but said that faith was not a requirement for peer approval. The Rockies, who will face the Red Sox in the World Series beginning Wednesday, care more about whether a teammate plays hard, is unselfish and treats everyone with respect.

The Rockies' Starting 8.5 (Mark Allen Haverty, 10/24/07, Sports Grumblings)

The rotations for both teams have been set, with the Rockies going with Jeff Francis for Game One, as we said Monday, followed by Ubaldo Jimenez in Game Two, Josh Fogg in Game Three, and the returning Aaron Cook in Game Four. We had discussed that possibility previously, as Cook had been declared done for the season only when the Rockies thought the season would end when September did. Cook was the only starting pitcher for the Rockies to pick up a loss in the three game series with the Red Sox back in June, but he had pitched brilliantly, holding the Red Sox to two runs in 7 2/3 innings. Cook replaces Franklin Morales, who failed to pitch more than four innings in either of his two postseason starts and who has only eight regular season major league starts under his belt. Morales will move to the bullpen for the World Series.

Defense Rocks!: How Colorado's fielding wizardry will change baseball forever. (Eriq Gardner, Oct. 24, 2007, Slate)
Baseball is usually seen as a clash between pitchers and hitters—a test of wills between the guy on the mound and the slugger at the plate. The defense, on the other hand, is praised and scorned in extreme circumstances, glimpsed only in the final few moments on Baseball Tonight, and all but ignored when sportswriters call upon team management to find nirvana by signing Johan Santana or Alex Rodriguez. But if there's ever a time to focus on the guys with gloves, it's the 2007 World Series. This year's Colorado Rockies are perhaps the greatest defensive team in baseball history. It's even possible that their defensive prowess will change the way the game is played and the way teams are constructed.

In 2003, Michael Lewis' Moneyball showed how Oakland Athletics General Manager Billy Beane used statistics to find undervalued players. Back then, these were typically guys like Scott Hatteberg who drew walks to keep innings going. By the time Lewis published the book, the secret was out and the art of plate discipline was no longer undervalued. Beane and other smart GMs around baseball had already moved on to the next great statistical frontier: defense.

If there was ever a World Series that was destined to revolutionize baseball and get teams to build around defense it was Brewers vs. Cardinals in 1982. The result: 25 years of teams aping Harvey's Wallbangers. It's about Robin Yount, not Ozzie Smith.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:58 AM


Specialists identify Israeli target as possible nuclear site: Syrian structure called similar to N. Korea reactor (Robin Wright and Joby Warrick, October 24, 2007, Washington Post)

Independent specialists have pinpointed what they believe to be the Euphrates River site in Syria that was bombed by Israel last month, and satellite imagery of the area shows buildings under construction roughly similar in design to a North Korean reactor capable of producing nuclear material for one bomb a year, the specialists say.

Photographs of the site taken before the secret Sept. 6 airstrike depict an isolated compound that includes a tall, boxy structure similar to the type of building used to house a gas-graphite reactor. They also show what could have been a pumping station used to supply cooling water for a reactor, say specialists David Albright and Paul Brannan of the Institute for Science and International Security, or ISIS.

US and international experts and officials familiar with the site, who were shown the photographs yesterday, said there was a strong and credible possibility that they depict the remote compound that was attacked. Israeli officials and the White House declined to comment.

It seems only fair that after removing Saddam for an imaginary nuclear program we remove Assad for a genuine one.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:54 AM


Bush to call for support to aid Cuba after Castro (Ben Feller, October 24, 2007, Associated Press)

President Bush, seizing on Fidel Castro's fading health as a chance for rare change, will ask other nations today to help Cuba become a free society one day by committing money and political capital to the cause. [...]

Bush will propose at least three initiatives: the creation of an international "freedom fund" to help Cuba's potential rebuilding of its country one day; a US licensing of private groups to provide Internet access to Cuban students; and an invitation to Cuban youth to join a scholarship program.

The latter two offerings help the Bush administration underscore the kind of real-life limitations that Cubans now face - from blocked Internet access to restricted information about their leaders to denial of legal protections. The international fund is to speed up societal transformation.

The fruit doesn't hang any lower.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:39 AM


Do Stronger Japan-India Ties Herald an Asian Alliance of Democracies? (Jason Miks, 23 Oct 2007, World Politics Review)

Hiroshi Hirabayashi, president of the Japan-India Association and Japan's ambassador to India between 1998 and 2002, says relations between the two nations have been steadily improving since then-Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori became the first Japanese prime minister in 10 years to visit India when he did so in August 2000. "Japan's relations really started to warm up with the visit of Mr. Mori. Along with the visit of Mr Clinton [also in 2000], we saw a change of mood after the sanctions imposed after India's nuclear test [in 1998]."

Hirose agrees the thaw in U.S.-India relations influenced Japan's own relationship with India. "The U.S.-India relationship has improved, and this made Japan realize how important India was," she says. "It was through American eyes that things got better."

The relationship continued to prosper under former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, including with the announcement of the "Eight-fold Initiative for Strengthening the Japan-India Global Partnership," and flourished under his successor, Shinzo Abe, with Singh and Abe announcing their desire for a "strategic and global partnership" during the former's visit to Tokyo in December last year. Abe followed this up with a visit to Delhi in August, calling for the two nations to become "perfect partners."

Much of the attention during the Abe-Singh meetings inevitably focused on the two countries' growing economic ties, and the two leaders issued a joint communique following their August meeting in which they pledged by 2010 to triple bilateral trade. Indeed Abe was accompanied on his visit by almost 200 business leaders, including Japan Business Federation Chairman Fujio Mitarai.

Bilateral trade between Japan and India hit $8.6 billion in 2006, jumping from $4 billion in 2002, while Japan's net flow of foreign direct investment to India rose from $125 million in 2003 to $515 million in 2006.

However, these numbers still lag those of India's other big trading partners, with bilateral trade between India and the United States, for example, hitting $32 billion in 2006.

It still strikes us that the integration of India into the Anglosphere is the most underreported story of the 21st Century and the Bush presidency.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:25 AM


Kids are up for watching Sox (Stan Grossfeld, October 24, 2007, Boston Globe)

Sleep researcher Amy Wolfson, an associate professor of psychology at Holy Cross, said sleep deprivation isn't good at any age. But it is an especially tough call for parents to decide whether to let their kids stay up for the World Series.

"It puts parents in a difficult situation because the kids have all the goodies, the T-shirts, and the hats, and they've been following the Red Sox since April and this is all incredibly exciting," she said. "When there is a special event, to let a kid stay up is such a difficult question. Are they being a bad parent? No, but be aware of the consequences. It's just going to be awful the next day. I worry what teachers are going to accomplish the next day in school. Probably nothing."

Wolfson said kids between the ages of 10 and 17 are recommended to get 9.2 hours of sleep per night.

"The reality is that a younger child in elementary school is going to have trouble staying up," she said.

Wolfson urges parents to "catch the moment" when a child looks tired and find clever ways to get them into bed. "Like tape the game and let them watch it later."

We needn't expect them ever to return to pine for the days when you got to sit for the last couple hours of the school day with your transistor radio on and the little ear piece screwed in, then rushed home at the bell to catch the last couple innings on tv. (Wax off)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:20 AM


The Eugenics Temptation (Michael Gerson, October 24, 2007, Washington Post)

James Watson, the Nobel Prize-winning scientist who helped discover the structure of DNA in 1953, recently pronounced the entire population of Africa genetically inferior when it comes to intelligence. And while he hopes that everyone is equal, "people who have to deal with black employees find this not true."

Watson's colleagues at the Federation of American Scientists found his comments "racist, vicious and unsupported by science" -- all true. But they could not have found those views surprising. In 2003, Watson spoke in favor of genetic selection to eliminate ugly women: "People say it would be terrible if we made all girls pretty. I think it would be great." In 2000, he suggested that people with darker skin have stronger libidos. In 1997, Watson contended that parents should be allowed to abort fetuses they found to be gay: "If you could find the gene which determines sexuality and a woman decides she doesn't want a homosexual child, well, let her." In the same interview, he said, "We already accept that most couples don't want a Down child. You would have to be crazy to say you wanted one, because that child has no future."

When it comes to the parents of disabled children, Watson has somehow confused "loving" and "courageous" with "crazy" -- the sign of a heart clearly inferior to the gentle hearts of children with Down syndrome. And most of us have met women who don't look like models and gay people who prefer being alive to the preferences of their parents.

"If you really are stupid," Watson once contended, "I would call that a disease." What is the name for the disease of a missing conscience?


If life is just a struggle amongst species and the biological imperative makes you favor the success of your own in that struggle then to be a Darwinist is to be a eugenicist.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Thompson stirs rivals with immigration plan (Michael Levenson, October 24, 2007, Boston Globe)

Highlighting what he believes are key vulnerabilities for his main rivals, Thompson called for stripping federal funds from cities and states that do not report illegal immigrants and criticized Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney for allowing so-called sanctuary cities in New York and Massachusetts.

The first principle of Thompson's plan is "No Amnesty," a clear shot at another rival, Senator John McCain of Arizona, who joined President Bush in trying unsuccessfully to push through a sweeping immigration overhaul bill that would have created a guest worker program and provided a path to possible citizenship for the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants in the country. [...]

Party officials in key primary states said yesterday that the candidate who can win voters' trust on immigration could make significant gains. Polls indicate that Republicans care more than Democrats about the issue and support a harder line against illegal immigrants. [...]

The former Tennessee senator's plan also calls for stronger laws forcing employers to verify that workers are not illegal immigrants, for a more rigorous system to track who is coming in and out of the country, and for increased prosecution of smugglers who bring illegal immigrants across the Mexican border. [...]

McCain and Giuliani criticized Thompson, saying he did not show leadership on illegal immigration during the eight years he was in the US Senate, ending in 2003.

"Where was Fred Thompson when he had the chance to tackle illegal immigration and fix a broken system?" asked Katie Levinson, a Giuliani spokeswoman.

The only saving grace is that even as they fight over the issue none of the top tier guys are serious about. All would sign an amnesty.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


With the Red Sox victories comes a loss of angst (Brian McGrory, October 24, 2007, Boston Globe)

We're rolling sevens everywhere. The perennial bridesmaid is now the odds-on favorite - two-to-one against Colorado, according to the Vegas line. Phones are ringing. Far-flung friends and family members are calling - tell us what it's like, fill us in on the excitement, don't spare a single detail of the city's singular swagger.

So shouldn't it feel better than it does?

The first order of business is to admit it to ourselves: 2004 was more meaningful. Back then, and in the 86 years that preceded it, we knew who we were. We were hapless, though never hopeless. We were the ones that always had something to overcome - a curse, a seemingly in surmountable deficit, a little-brother syndrome.

In the end, until that fabled October, we usually lost, but that was OK. In defeat, we had identity. We got to be the luckless loser. A team, its city, and indeed, an entire national following, thrived on it.

Tom Menino was sitting in his City Hall office yesterday saying what needed to be said. "This is different. In 2004, we never had a taste." He paused, then added, "When you think about Boston, 1 in 3 Bostonians is 20 to 34 years old. You and I know what it's like to lose. They don't."

Which means they don't know about our angst. It was our blanket, our source of comfort, our common bond. If angst were a natural resource, we could have had factories packaging it up 24 hours a day and shipping it to every part of the world.

As it was, we claimed all the angst for ourselves, though the good people of Chicago seemed to have their own supply. Red Sox fans could always blame our misfortunes on New York's payroll, Boston's mismanagement, free agents' unwillingness to come here. It gave us our status as perennial underdogs, the lovable spectacle. We wore that suit, frayed as it sometimes seemed, very comfortably.

Without it, what have we become?


October 23, 2007

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:13 PM


Giuliani Is Asked His Conservative Views (AP, Oct. 23, 2007)

Republican Rudy Giuliani declined to tell a voter on Tuesday where he agrees and disagrees with conservative members of his party, saying it's about more than "just an ideology."

The former New York City mayor, who has made conservative Republicans nervous with some of his more liberal views — his support of abortion rights and gun control, for example — was asked pointedly at a town-hall-style meeting to outline where his views align with conservatives.

Giuliani chuckled, took a deep breath and then told the questioner it was up to him to figure that out.

Wouldn't we rather he admit his Leftism by his silence than lie about being conservative?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:52 PM


Democracy in Sierra Leone: Still recovering from civil war, but looking forward. (Benjamin Alsdurf, September/October, Books & Culture)

These 2007 presidential and parliamentary elections were the first since U.N. peacekeepers left in 2002, following the country's 10-year civil war. The current president, Tejan Kabbah, won the last election with over 70 percent of the vote, having been widely credited for bringing the country to peace. Now five years later, Sierra Leone is in charge of its own election and the international community has been closely watching the outcome. With a population of five million, this country—roughly the size of South Carolina—is situated on Africa's west coast and boasts massive natural resources, including both large mineral deposits and fertile land. It also has the dubious distinction of ranking next to last in the UNDP's human development index.

Voters openly expressed their dissatisfaction with the current state of affairs. For some this meant that Solomon Berewa, "Solo B", the current ruling party's candidate, should be given a chance to finish the work that his Sierra Leonean Peoples Party (SLPP) started when peace was established in 2002. In one of the most interesting developments in the lead-up to the election, Charles Margai, frustrated at losing his bid to be the SLPP's presidential candidate, split off to form a third major party, The People's Movement for Democratic Change (PMDC). With that move, Margai upended what had been a historical rivalry between the SLPP and the All People's Congress (APC). The Mende-dominated SLPP has long controlled the southern and eastern parts of the country, whereas the Temne-dominated APC has fared better in the north and west. Margai's penchant for vitriolic speeches against the ruling SLPP made him the firebrand of the election and a clear favorite of younger SLPP supporters disenchanted with their party's performance.

The APC, which controlled the country for most of its first 30 years of independence, emerged as the front-runner in the first round of elections. Its candidate, Ernest Bai Koroma, once described to me as "a soft-spoken technocrat," succeeded in rallying enough of the APC faithful along with a percentage of disgruntled voters to come out ahead. Constitutionally, to win the first round of voting, a candidate must secure 55% of the vote, and Koroma's 44% was not enough to avoid a runoff election. [...]

In the end yet another twist seems to have determined the result of the election. In 477 polling stations, turnout exceeded the number of registered voters, and the NEC decided that all ballots cast at those stations should be thrown out. Ironically, these stations were in predominantly SLPP areas. Forces that may have been trying to help the SLPP ended up doing their party a great disservice. The outcome of what was predicted to be an extremely close race was 54% for Ernest Bai Koroma and 45% for Solomon Berewa. Many of the polling stations that would have given a majority of their votes to "Solo B" were among those disqualified.

This election was trying for Sierra Leone, with much commerce and many day-to-day activities suspended during the election period. After months of hearing from two candidates who did their best to polarize the electorate, the country now must focus on moving forward. After the election, representatives from both parties spoke with pride and hopefulness about their country. Despite a few hiccups along the way, it seems fitting to congratulate "Salone" on a job well done.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:46 PM


Five Easy Ways to Go Organic (Tara Parker-Pope, 10/23/07, NY Times: Well)

4. Ketchup: For some families, ketchup accounts for a large part of the household vegetable intake. About 75 percent of tomato consumption is in the form of processed tomatoes, including juice, tomato paste and ketchup. Notably, recent research has shown organic ketchup has about double the antioxidants of conventional ketchup.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:36 PM


Colts-Patriots tilt shaping as battle of Good vs. Evil (Gregg Easterbrook, October 23, 2007, ESPN)

Patriots at Colts on Nov. 4 is shaping up to be one of the most attractive and exciting NFL regular-season games ever staged. The pairing is fabulous; the teams are the league's best; and there is a chance both will take the field undefeated. Plus, Patriots at Colts has a powerful, compelling narrative. Namely -- Good vs. Evil.

The fact that I don't even need to tell you which team represents Good and which stands for Evil says a lot about how low New England has sunk. You knew instantly which was which, didn't you?

Argument for the Indianapolis Colts as paladins who carry the banner of that which is beneficent: Sportsmanship, honesty, modesty, devotion to community, embrace of traditional small-town life, belief in higher power, even love of laughter. The Colts are the defending champions, so they obviously play well on the field. Yet after winning the Super Bowl, they have remained humble and appealing. Through prior years of postseason frustration, they never complained or pointed the finger outside their team. Their players are active in community affairs and don't carp about being assigned to a nonglamorous Farm Belt city with an antiquated stadium. Their coach, Tony Dungy, smiles in public and answers honestly whatever he is asked: He never yells at players or grimaces at bad plays and, when defeated, doesn't act as though it's the end of the world. Although religious, Dungy said on the night he won the Super Bowl that God doesn't care about football games, which shows perspective. The team's star, Peyton Manning, stands for love of family, constantly appearing in public with his brothers, father and mother. Manning is happily married and a major donor to a children's hospital. Manning spends a lot of time at children's camps and events, and he constantly makes fun of himself. Ladies and gentlemen, representing Good, the Indianapolis Colts.

Argument for the New England Patriots as scoundrels in the service of that which is baleful: Dishonesty, cheating, arrogance, hubris, endless complaining even in success. The Patriots have three Super Bowl rings, but that jewelry is tarnished by their cheating scandal. They run up the score to humiliate opponents -- more on that below -- thus mocking sportsmanship. Their coach snaps and snarls in public, seeming to feel contempt for the American public that has brought him wealth and celebrity. Victory seems to give Bill Belichick no joy, and defeat throws him into fury. Belichick and the rest of the top of the Patriots' organization continue to refuse to answer questions about what was in the cheating tapes -- and generally, you refuse to answer questions if you have something to hide. The team has three Super Bowl triumphs, yet its players regularly whine about not being revered enough. The team's star, Tom Brady, is a smirking sybarite who dates actresses and supermodels but whose public charity appearances are infrequent. That constant smirk on Brady's face reminds one of Dick Cheney; people who smirk are fairly broadcasting the message, "I'm hiding something." The Patriots seem especially creepy at this point because we still don't know whether they have told the full truth about the cheating scandal -- or even whether they really have stopped cheating. They say they have, but their word is not exactly gold at this juncture. Ladies and gentlemen, representing Evil, the New England Patriots.

In the Good vs. Evil narrative of the Colts and Pats, running up the score is a telling factor: It reveals a team's sportsmanship or lack of same, and whether a team shows sportsmanship in public might offer insights into its character in private. New England is scoring so many points the Patriots offense looks like cherries and oranges spinning on a slot machine. The Flying Elvii stand plus-159 in net points, by far the best scoring margin in the NFL. This is supposed to be impressive. But I think it's creepy, and New England's creepy on-field behavior is only underscoring the seediness of the Beli-Cheat scandal.

...who can make more effective use of this emerging narrative than Bill Belichik? The only real danger for such a dominant team is complacency, which he can combat by getting his guys to play to shut up the critics and stoking a foxhole mentality.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:50 PM


Redstate.com bans new Ron Paul supporters (Ryan Grim, Oct 23, 2007, Politico)

The ubiquitous and web-savvy supporters of Ron Paul now have one less forum in which to vent their rage.

The influential conservative blog Redstate.com placed a ban last night on all Paul commentary from readers who are recent arrivals to the blog.

Paul's followers are angry that the Libertarian congressman can’t seem to get traction in national polls as he bids for the Republican presidential nomination.

Paul — a representative from Texas who ran for president in 1988 on the Libertarian Party ticket — remains mired in the low single digits.

One often gets the sense that the main freedom libertarians desire is to act like louts.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:42 PM


Rockies add Cook to World Series roster, will start Game 4 (AP, 10/23/07)

Aaron Cook was added Tuesday to the Colorado Rockies' roster for the World Series, and he'll start Game 4 at home against Boston.

Cook, who was the Rockies' opening-day starter, hasn't pitched in a major league game since Aug. 10 because of a strained muscle in his side. [...]

With Cook, who was 8-7 with a 4.12 ERA, rookie Franklin Morales goes to the bullpen, giving manager Clint Hurdle a third left-handed reliever to go with Jeremy Affeldt and Brian Fuentes.

So, despite the fact that the Sox have struggled for several years against hard-throwing lefties--including flailing helplessly at Scott Kazmir, who Morales resembles somewhat--the Rox will start a Wang/Carmona/Westbrook clone who hasn't pitched in two months and will be insanely overthrowing his sinker in Mile High? And this gains them what? The chance to Tony La Russa Big Papi three times instead of just two? Might it not be germane that if you have the opportunity to use three different match-ups against him it will mean the Sox have already scored about 15 runs?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:15 PM


Song of the Day: 'Take These Thoughts,' Drenched in Harmony (Stephen Thompson, October 23, 2007, NPR.org)

For all its lilting mandolin lines and rich vocal interplay (Chris and Thomas are nothing if not born to sing simultaneously), there's an unnerving underbelly to "Take These Thoughts," from the opening line ("And all I want is all that you possess") to the chilling last. The overall effect is as agreeably soothing as iced tea on a front porch in the summertime — with a slice of lemon to offset all that sweetness, of course.

BAND SITE: ChrisandThomas.com
-INDIE911: Chris & Thomas
-Chris and Thomas: Drenched in Harmony (David Dye, August 6, 2007, World Café)
-Chris and Thomas (Morning Becomes Eclectic, JUN 22, 2007)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:59 PM


Broccoli may outperform sunblock (Rick Weiss, 10/23/07, The Washington Post)

George H.W. Bush: Call your dermatologist.

New research suggests broccoli, the vegetable that the former president famously demonized as inedible, can prevent the damage from ultraviolet light that often leads to skin cancer. And as Bush would surely appreciate, he would not even have to eat it.

In tests on people and hairless mice, a green smear of broccoli-sprout extract blocked the potentially cancer-causing damage usually inflicted by sunlight and showed potential advantages over sunscreens.

...looking like J'onn J'onzz.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:53 PM


Ahmadinejad deals with aftershocks of nuclear negotiator's dismissal (The Associated Press, October 23, 2007)

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad cut short a two-day visit to Armenia on Tuesday, officials there said, as he faced growing unhappiness back home over the resignation of Iran's top nuclear negotiator.

The sudden replacement of Ali Larijani fueled increasing complaints - even from conservatives who were once Ahmadinejad's supporters - that the president was mismanaging Iran's most vital issues, particularly its confrontation with the West over the nuclear program. [...]

In a sign the displeasure may reach high levels in Iran's clerical establishment, a foreign policy adviser to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's supreme leader, complained about the change, which took place just ahead of a meeting Tuesday with the European Union.

"It was definitely better if this did not happen in the important and sensitive situation when the nuclear issue is on the table," the adviser, a former foreign minister, Ali Akbar Velayati, was quoted as saying by the semi-official news agency, ISNA.

Iran divided by nuclear policy power struggle (David Blair, 23/10/2007, Daily Telegraph)
Ali Larijani's resignation as Iran's nuclear negotiator on Saturday revealed a crucial political rift. Observers believe that at its heart is a power struggle between President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

The president is trying to wrest at least partial control of nuclear policy from Mr Khamenei. If Mr Ahmadinejad succeeds, this would probably dash any hope of compromise with the West.

Even if Mr Khamenei reasserts his control — a more likely outcome — the power struggle will gravely complicate Iran's foreign policy.

...is how poorly Westerners understood what was going on, interpreting an obvious power struggle as, instead, the adoption of a hard-line by Ayatollah Khamenei.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:45 PM



The new counterinsurgency approach - namely, to take territory from al Qaeda, hold it, secure it and empower tribal sheiks to work together and rebuild their communities - finally provides an effective "counteroffensive" to the chief tactics of al Qaeda militants and Shiite death squads.

America's enemies in Iraq, radical insurgents living and fighting among the general public, understand that they can't continue their fight without capitulation from ordinary Iraqis. Finally, after almost four years, the U.S. military understands this as well.

Whereas we used to emphasize overwhelming firepower (even when I was there in 2006), we now emphasize firepower as a last resort. Whereas we used to rush to the scene after the violence occurs, we're now there to repel it or deter it altogether.

This commitment - up and down the chain of command - has made a major impact on the tit-for-tat death toll that was threatening to tear the country apart. Sectarian violence has been severely curtailed.

Since last December, sectarian deaths throughout Iraq have dropped over 50 percent; overall attacks against civilians are down 50 percent. In Baghdad - the focal point of Petraeus' strategy - sectarian deaths are down almost 80 percent in 10 months and large al Qaeda-style truck and suicide bombings have dropped over 50 percent.

Moreover, ordinary Iraqis are providing far more tips and other information. We now get some 23,000 tips a month, four to five times the level of a year before. This measure - which directly correlates to the trust and support of the population - is promising.

These are significant and consequential numbers and indicate real successes in stomping out the civil war. But it's not just numbers that make the case that the civil war is ending. Look, too, at what the new strategy lets commanders do in their now-daily discussions with ordinary Iraqis.

Petraeus reports that foreign (non-Iraqi) recruits conduct over 80 percent of al Qaeda's attacks; and therefore, by refocusing local tribal leaders on this fact, American commanders are making a convincing argument to the sheiks: Why launch an indiscriminate reprisal against another sect, ratcheting up the level of violence, when you can simply tell us and Iraqi security forces where the foreign insurgents are and we'll go get them? The numbers say that's exactly what's happening.

Despite our natural desire to feel like we're in control of events, it was inevitable that Iraqis, even their fellow Sunni, would tire of the jihadists and the fact that the exhaustion there coincided with the change in policy that our own exhaustion brought about may obscure how little we had to do with the change.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:41 PM


Bush trade agenda getting help from an unlikely ally: Hugo Chávez (Steven R. Weisman, October 23, 2007, NY Times)

The Bush administration has an unlikely new ally in its international trade agenda: Hugo Chávez, the Venezuelan president, who a habit of denouncing U.S. influence in Latin America.

President George W. Bush - facing opposition to proposed trade accords with Peru, Panama and Colombia from labor unions, advocacy groups and most Democrats - has unleashed an intensive campaign to win approval for these deals, arguing that they would strengthen capitalism and democracy and weaken Chávez in a volatile region.

The campaign includes trips to Colombia with Democratic and Republican lawmakers by Commerce Secretary Carlos Guttierez and Susan Schwab, the administration's top trade envoy, and a separate push by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice emphasizing security interests in Latin America.

At least with some Democrats, a few of whom have traveled to Colombia with Bush officials, the arguments are persuasive.

On trade W combines the best of Reagan and Clinton, not just initiating the talks but securing the agreements.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:35 PM


The Sox' Starting Nine (Mark Allen Haverty, October 23, 2007, Playoff Grumblings)

Manny Ramirez continued to pad his Hall of Fame résumé with his postseason performance this year. Like Ortiz, Ramirez was on base more in the ALDS than he was not, with a .615 OBP after going 3-for-8 with two home runs, four RBI, and five walks. In the ALCS, he was on base almost as often, with a .563 OBP, with nine hits, two homes, ten RBI, five runs, and nine walks in 22 at-bats. Ramirez put up almost identical numbers on the road and at home, with ten points more in batting average in Fenway and with the same number of home runs at home and on the road.

Fifth is Mike Lowell, who has only raised his free agent dollar value with his performance this postseason, hitting .333 in both the ALDS and ALCS, with a home run and 11 RBI in the ten games. Lowell has become an extreme Fenway hitter, with a batting average .100 points higher in the Fens, as he hit .373 with 14 home runs and 73 RBI in 77 home games; by comparison, Lowell hit just .273 with seven homers and 47 RBI in 76 road games, which is rather pedestrian really. Maybe he hurt his free agent value this year, rather than helped – any team seriously looking at his numbers will see how much Fenway helped.

Sixth is J.D. Drew, who already has the big money but is now trying to justify that he was worth it. Drew has been huge when needed most, hitting .342 with four RBI, 18 RBI, 17 runs scored, and two stolen bases in the month of September over 76 at-bats, making him a huge reason why the Sox held on to win the best record in the league. Add in that he walked more times than he struck out in September, giving him an OBP of .454, and you had him doing a darned good Manny impression. Drew did struggle in the ALDS, but he rebounded in the ALCS, with nine hits in 25 at-bats, including the grand slam that everyone is still talking about, and six total at-bats. There are still plenty of Drew haters in New England, but he is winning them over, one hit at a time.

Recall that it took Josh Beckett a full season to adjust to the superior brand of baseball in the AL.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:19 AM


Shhh...My Child Is Sleeping (in My Bed, Um, With Me) (TARA PARKER-POPE, 10/23/07, NY Times)

In most of the world, sleeping next to your child is a necessity: families of limited means live in cramped quarters. But in the affluent West, the practice is widely frowned on, not just by grandparents and friends, but by the medical community at large.

Still, it is far more common than many people think. Nearly 13 percent of parents in the United States slept with their infants in 2000, up from 5.5 percent in 1993, according to a report last month in the journal Infant and Child Development. Countless children start the night in their own beds, only to wake up a few hours later and pad into their parents’ bedrooms, crawling into the bed or curling up nearby on the floor.

Ask parents if they sleep with their kids, and most will say no. But there is evidence that the prevalence of bed sharing is far greater than reported. Many parents are “closet co-sleepers,” fearful of disapproval if anyone finds out, notes James J. McKenna, professor of anthropology and director of the Mother-Baby Behavioral Sleep Laboratory at the University of Notre Dame.

“They’re tired of being censured or criticized,” Dr. McKenna said. “It’s not just that their babies are being judged negatively for not being a good baby compared to the baby who sleeps by himself, but they’re being judged badly for having these babies and being needy.”

In fact, research shows that parents often talk about their children’s sleep habits in terms of where the child starts off the night or where the child is supposed to sleep — not necessarily where the child usually ends up sleeping.

In a series of studies in Britain, scientists interviewed parents about their children’s sleep habits, but also used infrared cameras to monitor the parents’ bedroom. The children often spent part of the night in the adults’ bed, but in about half those cases, the parents did not reveal that unless they were specifically asked. As a result, many experts say most of the data in the United States vastly understates how common the practice really is.

I'm just happy if the dang kids leave any room in the bed when they climb in.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:07 AM


UN Envoy 'Encouraged' By Indian Stance on Burma: The U.N. special envoy to Burma says he will return to the military-run state earlier than planned. Ibrahim Gambari made the announcement after "encouraging" talks with Indian government leaders about the Burmese government's violent crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators. (VOA's Steve Herman, 10/23/07)

Without providing details, Gambari said he considers this week's meetings with Indian leaders, including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, a success.

"I am encouraged by the undertaking which they have given to do everything possible to support in concrete terms the good official role of the secretary-general and use their influence to encourage the authorities in Myanmar to continue their cooperation and to deliver tangible result," Gambari said.

Gambari says he will return to Burma early next month, sooner than had been expected.

You don't get to be non-aligned once you join the Anglosphere.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:06 AM


Hybrid Music From a Hybrid Ensemble (NATE CHINEN, 10/23/07, NY Times)

"La Leyenda del Cañaveral," the long-form composition he unveiled on Wednesday night at Zankel Hall, concerns itself with the movement of slaves from Africa to the Caribbean, and the resulting hybrid culture; the title means "The Legend of the Cane Plantation." As performed by Mr. Sánchez with a sextet, it was potent and impressive, though perhaps not always in the ways intended.

The suitelike piece, which had its premiere in Mr. Sánchez's native Puerto Rico this spring, extends a theme he originally tapped for his album "Melaza," released on Columbia in 2000. What prompted him to pick it up again was a poem of the same name written by one of his sisters, Margarita Sánchez de León. "The cadence of the poem was really strong," he said from the stage, adding that he had used that cadence as a guide.

This sounded promising, but when the Puerto Rican rapper SieteNueve joined the ensemble to recite "Melaza," at the beginning and end of the suite, he came across as an interloper. The poem's text — a terse incantation, arresting and entirely unsubtle — served essentially the same purpose as the melodic head in a bebop tune.

Whatever shortcomings this indicated were redeemed by the music.

As Charlie Parker's work with string sections and much of Miles Davis demonstrates, in jazz, subtraction would often be addition.

Jazz is backbone of David Sánchez's African rhythm (Ed Morales, October 14, 2007, Newsday)

Ever since he was part of Dizzy Gillespie's United Nations Orchestra, Puerto Rican saxophonist David Sánchez has dedicated much effort to tracing the influences of African music on jazz. In 2000, Sánchez released "Melaza (Molasses)," a meditation on the cultural legacy of African sugar-cane workers in Puerto Rico. His sister, Margarita Sánchez de León, subsequently wrote a poem of the same title, which in turn has inspired Sánchez's latest work, "La Leyenda del Cañaveral," premiering at Carnegie Hall's Zankel Hall (212-247-7800) Wednesday.

Commissioned by Chamber Music America, "La Leyenda del Cañaveral" draws inspiration from Sánchez's recent investigations into the music of Tanzania as well as the Baca Forest people of Cameroon. "I thought since Margarita was inspired by 'Melaza,' what if I forget about that album and just follow the cadence of her poem to do something new," said Sánchez in a phone interview. "The piece is in three motifs, three sections. Originally it was supposed to be for two horns, but since I've been using guitar in my quartet, I replaced the second horn with a guitar."

Sánchez allows that the "backbone" of this new work is jazz, but what he does in the composition process is to reinterpret these African music forms through jazz conventions.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:07 AM


Mongolia, US Sign Developmental Aid Agreement: Mongolia and the United States have signed an agreement providing Ulaanbaatar with $285 million worth of developmental aid. In an interview with Senior Correspondent André de Nesnera, Mongolian President Nambaryn Enkhbayar talks about the accord and his country's political and economic development. (VOA News, 10/23/07)

"We have a multi-party system and we have a parliament very actively working and the government very actively working," said President Enkhbayar. "NGOs [non-governmental organizations] and newspapers and television channels expressing their views on the work we are doing as elected representatives of the people. So there are strong democratic institutions." [...]

While his country is moving forward democratically, President Enkhbayar says it needs help in another area.

"In terms of economic achievements we still need better results - still unemployment and poverty is a main concern for the government of Mongolia, so we have to focus now more on economic development issues," said Nambaryn Enkhbayar.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:55 AM


Rwanda aims to become Africa's high-tech hub: The African country aims to turn itself into the 'Singapore of Africa.' (Scott Baldauf, October 17, 2007, The Christian Science Monitor)

Sometime in the next two years, nearly every school in Rwanda – from distant mountain villages to swelling urban areas – will be hooked up to the Internet. And it won't be some crummy dial-up service. It will be high-speed broadband, carried by fiber-optic cables.

The fact that Rwanda is closing in on this goal without having the massive oil wealth of Angola or Sudan, the diamonds of Congo or South Africa, or even the copper of nearby Zambia is a testimony to the power of imagination. And Rwanda imagines that one day, it will be the information technology center of Africa.

Of an Africa that will have replaced China as the world's assembly plant.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:45 AM


Winning the Catholic Vote (SETH GITELL, October 23, 2007, NY Sun)

In an election where most of the attention has been on the Evangelical vote, the group that could help determine the result in the general contest is American Catholics.

Many American Catholics reside in the industrial heartland's swing states, such as Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin. They could make the difference for November 2008. In 2000, Vice President Gore barely edged out President Bush for the backing of Catholic voters. In 2004, President Bush beat Senator Kerry for the Catholic vote by 52 to 47.

Usually the question of the Catholic vote comes into consideration in the spring, once the primary season is over. This year is different. A major issue among the Republican candidates is electability. The focus is on which candidate will be the most likely to defeat the Democratic nominee.

...but Maverick ran especially well against W where the Catholic vote mattered most.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:06 AM


Low inflation figures limit retirees, investors (Mike Causey, October 23, 2007, Washington Times)

The low inflation rate is having a major impact on both federal retirees and working feds who max out their 401(k) investments. [...]

• In January, federal and military retirees and people who receive Social Security benefits will get a 2.3 percent cost-of-living adjustment. That's the lowest COLA in years for the huge group of retirees whose benefits are linked to inflation.

Of course, the benefit ought not have an inflation escalator and that number overstates actual inflation by about a point.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


'There was no Armenian genocide': The Turkish Embassy's Orhan Tung responds to the Armenian ambassador on the question of the 1915 genocide (Orhan Tung, 23 October 2007, New Statesman)

There is a legitimate historical controversy concerning the interpretation of the events in question and most of the scholars who have propounded a contra genocide viewpoint are of the highest calibre and repute, including Bernard Lewis, Stanford Shaw, David Fromkin, Justin McCarthy, Guenther Lewy, Norman Stone, Kamuran Gürün, Michael Gunter, Gilles Veinstein, Andrew Mango, Roderic Davidson, J.C. Hurwitz, William Batkay, Edward J. Erickson and Steven Katz.

This is by no means an exhaustive list. A good number of well-respected scholars recognize the deportation decision in 1915, taken under World War I conditions, as a security measure to stop the Armenians from co-operating with the foreign forces invading Anatolia.

On the legal aspect, the elements of the genocide crime are strictly defined and codified by the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Genocide, adopted by the General Assembly on 9 December 1948. However, Armenians, claiming that "the evidence is so overwhelming", so far have failed to submit even one credible evidence of genocide.

It has little to do with Armenians and much to do with Islamophobia.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


A boom that depends on migrant workers (Celestine Bohlen, 10/23/07, Bloomberg News)

Slapping a coat of paint on the pedestal of a bust of Lenin in a provincial Russian town may not be much of a job, but Kuram, 49, says it beats making the equivalent of $16 a month back home in Uzbekistan.

"If things were better there, I wouldn't be here," said the tractor driver, at work in Khotkovo, 60 kilometers, or about 40 miles, northeast of Moscow. He declined to give his last name for fear of running afoul of the Russian immigration authorities.

Russia's booming economy is luring more and more people like Kuram, who are willing to take jobs its own citizens can't or won't do. The country's increasingly capitalistic society is creating greater wealth and aspirations, forcing Russia to confront a problem more familiar in the West: integrating foreign workers who often face discrimination and harassment.

Not to worry, with its plunging birthrates and declining life expectancies, the foreigners will be able to harass and discriminate against the natives soon enough.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Why the Indians lost to the Red Sox (Ryan Richards, October 23, 2007, Hardball Times)

Although the Indians got unexpected help from some of their supporting cast, the poor performances from players expected to carry the team, especially Fausto Carmona, Travis Hafner, and Rafael Perez, allowed the Red Sox to first extend and finally win the ALCS. The 2007 campaign should be counted as a success especially given where the Indians were a year ago, but blowing a 3-1 series lead against any team, even one as good as the Red Sox, is a disappointing coda to an otherwise promising season.

A couple of things stood out in the series:

(1) You noticed it most in the respective performances of Beckett and Carmona, but it was illustrated best in Game 7: in a "big game" you want to start a fastball pitcher, not a sinkerballer, because while the former's overthrowing just makes his heater more dominant and provides greater separation from his offspeed stuff, overthrowing the sinker flattens it out.

(2) While Grady Sizemore and Victor Martinez are premier hitters, no one else in the Indians' lineup is hard to handle.

(3) This may have been the first 7 game series in any sport where there was near universal recognition that the team that was up 3-1 had its back to the wall.

October 22, 2007

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:45 PM


Fred Thompson and the value of 'easy does it': Many politicians are workaholics. Smart leaders take time off to reflect (Ralph Keyes, October 23, 2007, CS Monitor)

Pundits and Democrats are making the same mistake with Fred Thompson that they did with Ronald Reagan and Dwight Eisenhower: underestimating him because he's not a workaholic. Mr. Reagan liked to joke that "They say hard work never killed anyone, but I figure, why take the chance?" Reagan also once observed of himself, "I've really been burning the midday oil." The same could be said of Mr. Thompson. To detractors, this is clear evidence of his limitations. It isn't.

Any wise manager knows that long hours are not synonymous with added productivity. It could be the other way around. Working too hard usually indicates that an executive is disorganized, can't manage time, and has problems delegating authority. That person stays up late and brings work home on weekends because he has to. But working overtime is hardly the same as working effectively. Typically, it's just the opposite.

Every active president was a bad one: TR, Wilson, FDR, LBJ, Nixon & Carter.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:43 PM


Worried Bin Laden Urges Iraq Insurgents to 'Unite' (Brian Ross and Rehab El-Buri, 10/22/07, ABC: The Blotter)

Showing apparent signs of concern over events in Iraq, al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden urged insurgents to "unite your lines into one" in an audiotape played on al Jazeera Monday. [...]

Bin Laden's message comes at a time when U.S. strategy to split Iraqi insurgent groups from al Qaeda units appears to be working.

"It's always good news when they are divided," said Richard Clarke, the former White House counterterrorism adviser, now an ABC News consultant. "It's reflective that U.S. tactics are having some success."

Posted by Glenn Dryfoos at 9:59 AM


Benny Carter Centennial: Jazz Master’s Signature, Written in Sax and Brass (BEN RATLIFF, 10/22/07, NY Times)

It was fitting then that no single musician ran away with Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Friday night concert at Rose Theater, based around Carter’s music, this year’s season-opening program. (Carter was born in 1907, and this is his centennial year.) If there was a star, it was a whole bloc within a band: the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra’s saxophone section, playing the tightly harmonized passages that were among Carter’s signatures.

Carter’s arrangement of “All of Me,” from 1940, is a good example. After an introduction, it began with the four saxophonists playing two choruses of harmonized lockstep, running a rewritten version of the melody through the chords, and it had everything an individual solo can have: melodic shape, hesitation, easy swing, double-timing, open space. The same thing happened again, at the same level of execution, in “I Can’t Escape From You.” It was demanding music, beautifully coordinated.

I went on Friday night (they repeated it Saturday), and it was a great show.

Ratliff is right that the group highlight of the evening were the harmonized sax passages in “All of Me” and “I Can’t Escape from You.” But the solo highlight was Ted Nash’s interpretation on flute of Carter’s haunting “People Time.”

Ratliff is also right about the séance feeling. I went to the rehearsal on Wednesday, and while the band was playing I had the feeling that Benny was going to walk in the room at any moment. I spoke to some of the musicians after the concert who knew Benny, and they also commented that they felt like he was in the room.

Lincoln Center Gets Carter (WILL FRIEDWALD, October 22, 2007, NY Sun)

It won't do to describe Benny Carter as a multi-instrumentalist. Even though he may have been the only major jazzman who was equally fluent on saxophone and trumpet, everything he did outside the realm of the saxophone was, if not exactly superfluous, then certainly secondary. You could take away everything else he ever did (and it was plenty), and the equation of his greatness, both as a player and an orchestrator, remains unchanged.

In fact, I'm almost peeved that the central image of Carter (1907-2003) in his placement in the Nesuhi Ertegun Hall of Fame at Jazz at Lincoln Center is of the subject playing trumpet (it must have something to do with a pro-brass bias on the part of JALC's artistic director, Wynton Marsalis). Yet JALC has more than made up for this questionable decision, first by electing the native of Harlem to its Hall of Fame and second by honoring him with an excellent concert on Friday and Saturday.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:37 AM


A tough weekend for Mitt? (Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, Domenico Montanaro, and Julia Steers, 10/22/07, NBC: First Read)

Judging by the number of Thompson vs. Giuliani storylines after last night’s debate, Thompson might be judged the ultimate winner; he seemed much more comfortable than at the CNBC/MSNBC/WSJ debate earlier this month. The GOP primary seems to be a fight between Rudy and those who want to be the anti-Rudy. So as far as the anti-Rudy debate went last night, Thompson topped Romney and Huckabee. And therefore, that arguably makes Romney, by process of elimination, the loser.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:43 AM


One strike, Iran could be out (Niall Ferguson, October 22, 2007, LA Times)

True, after all that has gone wrong in Iraq, Americans are scarcely eager for another preventive war to stop another rogue regime from owning yet more weapons of mass destruction that don't currently exist. It's easy to imagine the international uproar that would ensue in the event of U.S. air strikes. It's also easy to imagine the havoc that might be wreaked by Iranian-sponsored terrorists in Iraq by way of retaliation. So it's very tempting to hope for a purely diplomatic solution.

Yet the reality is that the chances of such an outcome are dwindling fast, precisely because other permanent members of the U.N. Security Council are ruling out the use of force -- and without the threat of force, diplomacy seldom works. Six days ago, Russian President Vladimir V. Putin went to Iran for an amicable meeting with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Putin says he sees "no evidence" that Iran is trying to build nuclear weapons. On his return to Moscow, he explicitly repudiated what he called "a policy of threats, various sanctions or power politics."

The new British prime minister, Gordon Brown, also seems less likely to support American preemption than his predecessor was in the case of Iraq. That leaves China, which remains an enigma on the Iranian question, and France, whose hawkish new president finds himself distracted by the worst kind of domestic crisis: a divorce.

By contrast, Washington's most reliable ally in the Middle East, Israel, recently demonstrated the ease with which a modern air force can destroy a suspected nuclear facility. Not only was last month's attack on a site in northeastern Syria carried out without Israeli losses, there was no retaliation on the part of Damascus. Memo from Ehud Olmert to George W. Bush: You can do this, and do it with impunity.

The big question of 2007 therefore remains: Will he do it?

The salient fact about Israel's bombing of Iraq and Syria is that it occupied neither state.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:28 AM


Republicans trade blows at fiery debate (Jonathan Martin, Oct 22, 2007, Politico)

After two weeks of sparring from afar, the top GOP presidential candidates took their attacks up close Sunday, using the first round of their debate here to question one another’s conservative credentials. [...]

Thompson, showing a degree of passion unseen in his first debate appearance two weeks ago, offered perhaps the toughest charges of the night.

He blasted Giuliani on abortion, immigration, gun control, taxes and the former New York mayor’s support for Democratic Gov. Mario Cuomo's reelection bid in 1994.

“So I simply disagree with him those issues,” said the former Tennessee senator. “And he sides with Hillary Clinton on each of those issues I just mentioned.”

The first most people hear of what the Mayor actually believes in is when his opponents mention it. And then they realize he isn't one of them.

Romney: Beliefs won't influence my presidency (Eric Pfeiffer, October 22, 2007, Washington Times)

Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney said yesterday that he fully accepts the teachings of his Mormon religion but that as president he would not take dictates from the leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

So why don't we dig up Madeleine Murray O'Hair and nominate her?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:39 AM


Vast Designs: How America came of age (Jill Lepore, 10/29/07, The New Yorker)

Howe’s book is the most recent installment in the prestigious Oxford History of the United States. This would not be worth mentioning except that the book that was initially commissioned to cover this period, Charles Sellers’s “The Market Revolution: Jacksonian America, 1815-1846,” was rejected by the series editor, the late, distinguished historian C. Vann Woodward, and it is Sellers against whom Howe argues, if with a kind of gentlemanly diffidence. (Oxford did publish Sellers’s book, in 1991, just not as part of the series.) Sellers, a historian at Berkeley, claimed that the greatest transformation of the first half of the nineteenth century—indeed, the defining event in American and even in world history—was no mere transformation but a revolution, from an agrarian to a capitalist society. “Establishing capitalist hegemony over economy, politics, and culture, the market revolution created ourselves and most of the world we know,” Sellers wrote.

Sellers’s energetic, brilliant, and strident book may not have reached readers outside the academy—perhaps Woodward anticipated this—but among scholars it enjoyed a huge influence, not least because “The Market Revolution” was published just after many of the nation’s best historians had written essays sounding urgent calls for synthesis in American historical writing. During the nineteen-sixties and seventies, historians had produced longer and longer monographs on smaller and smaller subjects. A decade in the life of a town. A year in the life of a family. Dazzling studies, many of them, but pieces of a puzzle that no one had been able to put together. “The great proliferation of historical writing has served not to illuminate the central themes of Western history but to obscure them,” Bernard Bailyn complained, in 1981, in his presidential address to the American Historical Association. There followed similar, heartfelt laments by Eric Foner (“History in Crisis”), Herbert G. Gutman (“The Missing Synthesis”), and Thomas Bender (“Making History Whole Again”). Sellers’s paradigm seemed to offer an answer; he had dumped all the pieces out of the box, and put them together, joining decades of meticulous empirical research about Western farmers, Eastern bankers, Southern slaves, artisans, immigrants, politicians, everyone.

Before the market revolution: Americans grew food and made things for themselves or to barter with neighbors; they were humble but happy, rallying around “enduring human values of family, trust, cooperation, love, and equality.” After: they grew food and made things to sell, for cash, to cold, unfeeling, and distant markets; they were frantic, alienated, untrusting, competitive, repressed, and lonely. “Inherent and ongoing contradictions between capitalist market relations and human needs” plagued the nation, as Sellers had it, and plague us still. For leading the anti-market struggle against the “business class” and attacking paper money and credit, Andrew Jackson served as Sellers’s hero, especially for having vetoed, in 1832, the charter for the Second Bank of the United States. But Old Hickory, and democracy, proved no match for the tyrannical business minority of bankers, merchants, and strivers, whose capitalist machinations made the poor poorer; the middle-class smug, pious, and bourgeois; and the rich richer. As Thoreau put it, “A few are riding, but the rest are run over.”

The literary scholar Perry Miller once said that “Walden” is “a manifesto of Yankee cussedness.” Sure, but, even if high-school sophomores forced to wade through “Walden” miss it, Thoreau can be very, very funny. “I have thought that Walden Pond would be a good place for business,” he wrote, mischievously. “It is a good port.” His experiment was, of course, not a business but an anti-business; he paid attention to what things cost because he tried never to buy anything. Instead, he bartered, and lived on twenty-seven cents a week. At his most entrepreneurial, he planted a field of beans, and realized a profit of eight dollars and seventy-one and a half cents. “I was determined to know beans,” he writes in a particularly beautiful and elegiac chapter called “The Bean-Field.” He worked, for cash, only six weeks of the year, and spent the rest of his time reading, writing, hoeing beans, picking huckleberries, and listening to bullfrogs trumping, hawks screaming, and whip-poor-wills singing vespers. “Mr. Thoreau is thus at war with the political economy of the age,” one reviewer commented, after “Walden” was published, in 1854. But Thoreau wasn’t so much battling the market revolution as dodging it, “not to live in this restless, nervous, bustling, trivial Nineteenth Century, but to stand or sit thoughtfully while it goes by.”

What Thoreau tried to escape, historians studying his America have found in every sparrow’s fall. Sellers’s was the thesis that launched a thousand dissertations; evidence of the market revolution seemed to be everywhere; it seemed to explain everything. In “The Market Revolution Ate My Homework,” a thoughtful essay published in Reviews in American History in 1997, the historian Daniel Feller observed that “a monograph that presupposes a market revolution will certainly discover one.” His caution went unheard.

So it is a rare and refreshing kind of heresy that Daniel Walker Howe, who studied briefly under Sellers at Berkeley in the nineteen-sixties, and who is best known for his 1979 book, “The Political Culture of the American Whigs,” refuses to use the term “market revolution” in his grand synthesis. (Signalling his quarrel with the other recent sweeping interpretation of this period, Sean Wilentz’s pro-Jackson “The Rise of American Democracy,” Howe dedicates his book to the memory of John Quincy Adams, Jackson’s political nemesis, and avoids using the phrase “Jacksonian America,” on the ground that “Jackson was a controversial figure and his political movement bitterly divided the American people.”) Howe has three objections to Sellers’s thesis. First, the market revolution, if it happened at all, happened earlier, in the eighteenth century. Second, it wasn’t the tragedy that Sellers makes it out to be, because “most American family farmers welcomed the chance to buy and sell in larger markets,” and they were right to, since selling their crops made their lives better. Stuff was cheaper: a mattress that cost fifty dollars in 1815 (which meant that almost no one owned one) cost five in 1848 (and everyone slept better). Finally, the revolution that really mattered was the “communications revolution”: the invention of the telegraph, the expansion of the postal system, improvements in printing technology, and the growth of the newspaper, magazine, and book-publishing industries.

Howe offered an early version of his critique of Sellers at a conference held in London in 1994, in which he demurred, “What if people really were benefitting in certain ways from the expansion of the market and its culture? What if they espoused middle-class tastes or evangelical religion or (even) Whig politics for rational and defensible reasons? What if the market was not an actor (as Sellers makes it) but a resource, an instrumentality, something created by human beings as a means to their ends?”

One of the more hilarious mistakes the Darwinists make is to insist that economies, languages, etc., are not products of intelligent beings, though they have to do this in order to defend their core ideology.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:31 AM


We're Not in 2006 Anymore (Michael Barone, 10/21/07, Real Clear Politics)

Things are not working out as Democratic congressional leaders expected. For the first eight months of this year, they struggled to find some way to shut down the American military effort in Iraq.

They took it for granted that we were stuck in a quagmire in Iraq, with continuous high casualties and very little to show for them. They pressed hard to get the Republican votes they needed to block a filibuster in the Senate and were cheered when some Republicans, like John Warner, seemed to lean their way. They worked hard over the August recess to pressure Republican House members to break ranks and vote with them.

But the Republicans mostly held fast. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell skillfully parried their thrusts in the Senate. House Minority Leader John Boehner persuaded most House Republicans to hang on. Then, over the summer, the news out of Iraq started to get better. [...]

Democrats are coming face to face with the fact that there's a war on -- and that Americans prefer success to failure. If the choice is between stalemate and withdrawal, as it seemed to be in November 2006, they may favor withdrawal; but if the choice is between victory and withdrawal, they don't want to quit -- or to undermine the effort.

Note the, unfortunately accurate, implication that if they could vote conscience the Democrats would choose failure.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:11 AM


The secret agenda of Stephen Colbert: In two years, he's turned a 'Daily Show' spinoff into a wacky sitcom (JAIME J. WEINMAN, October 22, 2007, Macleans)

The Colbert Report has no regular supporting cast at all; like the Fox News and MSNBC shows it's parodying, it's a one-man operation. Except for interviews, the regular segments have Colbert alone at his desk, playing the perpetually enraged pontificator. Reviewing the show's premiere, Brian Lowry of Variety pointed out that "the more confining format makes it more difficult to regularly generate laughs."

Instead, the show has managed to generate two years' worth of good ratings for Comedy Central in the U.S. and CTV in Canada. A sign of its success is its current run of tie-ins and promotions: this week sees the release of Colbert's book, I Am America (and So Can You!), written entirely in character, while the show just announced the elevation of head writer Allison Silverman to the rank of executive producer. Silverman told the radio podcast "The Sound of Young America" that the show appealed to her because it's "about news, and satirical, but also with somewhat of a sketch element that's character-based." It's the character element that has taken over and made the show successful -- even to the point of crowding out the satire.

The early episodes of The Colbert Report introduced some ongoing topics for Colbert to obsess over, such as his fear of bears (he usually identifies them as "the No. 1 threat to America!"). But as the series has gone on, it's come to depend so heavily on storylines and character traits that they've basically taken over (except for the satirical "The Word" segment, which fills only three minutes of each show). When Colbert made a joke about marketing his sperm for artificial insemination -- "Stephen Colbert's Formula 401" -- it would have been a one-time throwaway joke on any other show. But it's become a long-running story, with Colbert hawking his "premium man-seed" at every opportunity, even cutting away from guest Garrison Keillor for a singing commercial for the product ("I can't believe I was interrupted by a semen commercial," said Keillor). Another segment, "Cheating Death With Dr. Stephen T. Colbert," has turned into a story about the dangerous drugs being pushed by Colbert's fictitious sponsor "Prescott Pharmaceuticals." Colbert's 2006 Emmy loss to Barry Manilow inspired a running gag in which the host shakes his fist in the air and screams the crooner's name; Manilow recently appeared as a disembodied head and consoled Colbert on losing the 2007 award to Tony Bennett. As with a character on The Office or 30 Rock, you can construct a biography for Colbert's character based on the information given on the show.

Because it's the character who has the life.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:36 AM


Dice-K shows his worth, wins Game 7: In biggest game of year, righty helps Sox reach Fall Classic (Jordan Bastian, 10/22/07, MLB.com)

It was Daisuke Matsuzaka's redemption song. The Red Sox starter watched his team climb back into the American League Championship Series against the Indians, providing him with the chance to move beyond his recent woes and push Boston back to baseball's promised land.

So with Boston's season on the line on Sunday night, Matsuzaka took the mound at Fenway Park in a decisive Game 7. It was Dice-K's time to show his worth and help the Red Sox reach the World Series for the second time in the past four seasons. In those tasks, Matsuzaka did not fall short.

"I felt very lucky that this start came along and belonged to me," said Matsuzaka, following Boston's 11-2 romp over Cleveland. "But I also felt that with the momentum we had going into the game, there was no way we were going to lose."

...when the best big game pitcher in the world is your third starter, you're in pretty good shape.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:03 AM


Dalai Lama Grabs Spotlight From China's Leaders (William Pesek, 10/22/07, Bloomberg)

Hu Jintao can't be happy. Just as 2,200 Communist Party delegates gathered in Beijing to grant him another five years as Chinese president, the Dalai Lama grabbed the global spotlight.

Whether by coincidence or design, the U.S. Congress gave Tibet's spiritual leader its highest civilian award the same week China hosted its National Congress. President George W. Bush defied Chinese protests to become the first sitting U.S. president to appear in public with the Dalai Lama.

China was not amused, particularly with Bush urging it to welcome back to Tibet the Nobel Prize winner who's lived in exile since 1959. Officials in Beijing said U.S. support for what they see as the Dalai Lama's ``splittist'' mission could have ``an extremely serious impact'' on U.S.-China relations.

Someone has to tell the Emperor there is no China.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:03 AM


German Spy Brokered Deal between Israel and Hezbollah: Arch-enemies Israel and Hezbollah came together last week for a landmark prisoner exchange that has raised hopes that two Israeli soldiers captured in July 2006 may be released. The deal was brokered by a German intelligence officer known as "Mr. Hezbollah." (Christoph Schult and Holger Stark, 10/22/07, Der Spiegel)

The exchange is a possible new beginning between the two sworn enemies. For the first time since the end of last summer's war, there is movement on one of the key fronts of the Middle East conflict. The solution of the prisoner problem is considered a precondition for any further de-escalation that might eventually lead to a peace treaty between Israel and Lebanon.

Both sides praised the deal as soon as it was concluded. Shiite militia leader Hassan Nasrallah spoke of having "advanced positively" in the negotiations between Israel and Hezbollah, while Olmert commended the "balanced" nature of the exchange.

It's a measure of modest success that both sides could celebrate as a victory. Olmert, under immense domestic political pressure, was able to present himself to the public as an effective negotiator. And Nasrallah could demonstrate his goodwill to the world, helping Hezbollah avoid the international isolation threatened by UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which was intended to resolve the Israel-Lebanon conflict. The deal is also important for the United Nations, proving as it does that the world body is still able to effectively mediate international crises. The episode is even garnering kudos for Germany's BND foreign intelligence agency, as it was one of Berlin's spooks who was responsible for piecing the deal together.

Peace with Hezbollah, not Lebanon.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:01 AM


Free Songs: Vampire Weekend (Sean Moeller , 22 October 2007, Daytrotter)

The band of four came to Rock Island at the very end of that experience, playing one final show in Chicago and then backtracking to us for a session and a show in our small pizza parlour (Huckleberry’s for those who are sticklers for all of the details) and then red-eyed it back to New York to catch flights two days later. The session was spectacular – all of the evidence in that is following. The show, played before about 50 people who’d never heard one word about the band prior to the night, was much more than that. It was full of so much intangible magic that it felt absolutely impossible. The guys were all smiles as they broke into it. They were all smiles during and huge, gaping smiles after an encore was demanded and they wound up bagging a second taco pizza from the management while they were signing the T-shirts of youngsters and the elderly. It was a dance party that they even recounted for NME a few weeks back. Something as truly memorable as this night doesn’t come along very often. Thank heaven for blue moons.

October 21, 2007

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:24 PM


Brady gets 6 more TD passes and Patriots stay unbeaten by defeating winless Dolphins 49-28 (Steven Wine, 10/21/07, AP)

Tom Brady emerged from the locker room Sunday wearing a suit and tie complemented by a pocket scarf, his stylish look marred only by a few small drink stains on his coat.

So he's not perfect.

But he and the New England Patriots are awfully good.

Flawless at the start and off the bench, Brady threw a team-record six touchdown passes to help the unbeaten Patriots rout the winless Miami Dolphins 49-28.

With his team comfortably ahead, Brady came out early in the fourth quarter, then re-entered and threw for New England's final score. His TD total exceeded his career high of five, set last week against Dallas.

With no disrespect intended to Mr. Brady, two of those td's were catchers that only Randy Moss, in the entire NFL receiving corps, could have made. One, I kid you not, he caught in the crook of his elbow.

Moss seems to get it: Plan wasn't fancy, but he makes it work (Mike Reiss, October 22, 2007, Boston Globe)

Yesterday, it was Moss, and in a big way.

His 35- and 50-yard touchdown catches in the second quarter were remarkable plays, in part because they looked like they were drawn up at the bus stop. It was nothing fancy, nothing that came from a page deep in the Patriots' playbook to set him free.

Instead, it was about Moss running down the field and quarterback Tom Brady lobbing up offerings that, in his own words, simply gave Moss a chance to make a play in the end zone.

On the first, Moss had safety Cameron Worrell draped over him, with some late defensive help arriving after he made the catch. On the second, it was Worrell and Renaldo Hill attached to both hips.

Each time, Moss positioned his body to shield the defenders, then treated the football like the Frisbee to which Stallworth referred. On the second catch - which came on a third-and-18 play - Moss made it with one hand, securing it close to his body.

Great plays by Moss? Bad plays by the defense?

Some will see it both ways, but there is no question which side the quarterback is on.

"I can't take credit for Randy's touchdown catches," Brady said. "That's all Randy Moss."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:18 PM


Iran's new hardline nuclear envoy causes jitters in West (Anne Penketh, 22 October 2007, Independent)

The shock resignation of Iran's chief nuclear negotiator has cast a shadow of uncertainty over the country's future co-operation with UN inspectors, heightening the risk of US military strikes.

Iran sought to reassure the West yesterday that Tehran's policy over negotiations with Western powers attempting to curb its nuclear programme would not change after the replacement of Ali Larijani with a reputedly hardline deputy foreign minister, Saeed Jalili.

Mr Jalili is more closely associated with the radical Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad than Mr Larijani, who had been a rival of Mr Ahmadinejad in the last presidential elections.

Influence over nuclear policy shifting from Ayatollah Khamenei to President Ahmedinejad would make an American attack more likely and justified.

Which would explain this, Iran's leaders in nuclear policy row (David Blair, 22/10/2007, Daily Telegraph)

A power struggle within Iran's regime over the nuclear programme came to the surface yesterday when Teheran announced that Ali Larijani, the former national security chief, will join talks in Rome despite his resignation.

Mr Larijani, who stepped down as secretary of the Supreme National Security Council and chief negotiator on nuclear issues on Saturday, will still meet Javier Solana, the European Union's foreign policy representative, in Italy tomorrow.

Mr Larijani will travel with his successor, Saeed Jalili, a key ally of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who previously served as deputy foreign minister.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:39 PM


Global Warming Delusions: The popular imagination has been captured by beliefs that have little scientific basis. (DANIEL B. BOTKIN, October 21, 2007, Opinion Journal)

Global warming doesn't matter except to the extent that it will affect life--ours and that of all living things on Earth. And contrary to the latest news, the evidence that global warming will have serious effects on life is thin. Most evidence suggests the contrary.

Case in point: This year's United Nations report on climate change and other documents say that 20% to 30% of plant and animal species will be threatened with extinction in this century due to global warming--a truly terrifying thought. Yet, during the past 2.5 million years, a period that scientists now know experienced climatic changes as rapid and as warm as modern climatological models suggest will happen to us, almost none of the millions of species on Earth went extinct. The exceptions were about 20 species of large mammals (the famous megafauna of the last ice age--saber-tooth tigers, hairy mammoths and the like), which went extinct about 10,000 to 5,000 years ago at the end of the last ice age, and many dominant trees and shrubs of northwestern Europe. But elsewhere, including North America, few plant species went extinct, and few mammals.

We're also warned that tropical diseases are going to spread, and that we can expect malaria and encephalitis epidemics. But scientific papers by Prof. Sarah Randolph of Oxford University show that temperature changes do not correlate well with changes in the distribution or frequency of these diseases; warming has not broadened their distribution and is highly unlikely to do so in the future, global warming or not.

The key point here is that living things respond to many factors in addition to temperature and rainfall. In most cases, however, climate-modeling-based forecasts look primarily at temperature alone, or temperature and precipitation only. You might ask, "Isn't this enough to forecast changes in the distribution of species?" Ask a mockingbird. The New York Times recently published an answer to a query about why mockingbirds were becoming common in Manhattan. The expert answer was: food--an exotic plant species that mockingbirds like to eat had spread to New York City. It was this, not temperature or rainfall, the expert said, that caused the change in mockingbird geography.

There's no such thing as extinction, just genotypecide.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:23 AM


Line-Item Foolishness (George Will, 10/21/07, Real Clear Politics)

Mitt Romney is an intelligent man who sometimes seems eager to find bushel baskets under which to hide his light. Romney faults Rudy Giuliani for opposing the presidential line-item veto. But Giuliani doesn't, unfortunately.

A thimble will probably suffice.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:10 AM


Son of Indian immigrants is elected governor of La.: Post-Katrina ire aids Republican (Adam Nossiter, October 21, 2007, New York Times News Service)

Bobby Jindal, a conservative Republican congressman from the New Orleans suburbs and the son of immigrants from India, was elected Louisiana's governor yesterday, inheriting a state suffering well before Hurricane Katrina left lingering scars two years ago.

Jindal, 36, defeated three challengers in an open primary, becoming this state's first nonwhite governor since a Reconstruction-era figure briefly held the office 130 years ago. [...]

Yet Jindal, with his decisive victory yesterday, appears to have overcome a significant racial hurdle that blocked him in 2003, according to analysts: race-based opposition in the deeply conservative northern and eastern parishes of Louisiana that once supported the Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke.

The Jeb/Jindal ticket immediately becomes the most powerful in american politics.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:49 AM


AP: Sexual Misconduct Plagues US Schools (MARTHA IRVINE and ROBERT TANNER, October 21, 2007, AP)

Lindsey's case is just a small example of a widespread problem in American schools: sexual misconduct by the very teachers who are supposed to be nurturing the nation's children.

Students in America's schools are groped. They're raped. They're pursued, seduced and think they're in love.

An Associated Press investigation found more than 2,500 cases over five years in which educators were punished for actions from bizarre to sadistic.

Its enemies have been eager to portray the recent Church sex abuse scandals as revealing something about the priesthood or celibacy or whatever, when the simple fact is that deviants seek jobs that give them access to children. Where the Church was blameworthy was in turning a blind eye to deviance or even embracing it.

October 20, 2007

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:01 PM


Help! One of my puppets is missing, says T-bird 1: Gerry Anderson appeals for help to find Dick Spanner, missing in action (Jonathan Owen, 21 October 2007, Independent)

Calling International Rescue – one of our puppets is missing. A nationwide appeal was launched yesterday by Gerry Anderson, the creator of Thunderbirds, to find one of his favourite creations. Lady Penelope, Parker and Captain Scarlet are safe and sound, but the producer is determined to find one of his proudest achievements – private detective Dick Spanner.

"I know the whereabouts of everything [else], but Dick Spanner defeats me, although I know he's out there somewhere. If The Independent on Sunday's readers could help track him down for me I would be very happy indeed," the veteran producer said last night.

Missing for 20 years, Dick Spanner was the solo star of a low-budget animation series, using cardboard sets, that has developed a cult following. Mr Anderson said finding the puppet would "make his year".

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:04 PM


Yankees’ Expectations Are Felt in Boston (WILLIAM C. RHODEN, 10/21/07, NY Times)

The door is open for the Red Sox, with a rich baseball tradition and a high payroll, to replace the Yankees as the team the nation loves to hate. The question is whether the Red Sox, after years of being the object of sympathy and even pity, can adjust to being despised.

With the Yankees’ empire in decline, the implications for Boston are significant and perhaps terrifying. The Red Sox could sign Alex Rodriguez, and he and pitcher Josh Beckett could be anchors of a Boston dynasty.

The possibility is there for the spending: no more just missing the brass ring, but rather grabbing that ring season after season. But does Red Sox Nation really want to do this?

Vince Lombardi’s exhortation that winning is the only thing, in retrospect, has caused unimaginable heartache and blues. It sounds good but is probably antithetic to inner peace.

Look around. The pursuit of winning has tempted some of us to break rules, bend moral fiber, take performance-enhancing drugs and jettison a manager who failed to lead his team past the first playoff round for three consecutive years.

The question I’d ask Boston fans is whether they really want to see their team do this. Do they want a franchise whose ethos is that winning titles is the only thing?

For years, there was a sympathetic fascination with the Red Sox and their hapless pursuit of their first championship since 1918. They were the frustrated coyote in pursuit of the roadrunner Yankees. In 2004, the coyote finally caught the roadrunner, conquered the challenge and won the World Series. Someone asked Francona about expectations in New York and in Boston.“Theo and I have talked about this a lot lately,” he said, referring to Theo Epstein, the Red Sox’ general manager.

“Because of the money that’s spent and all the passion that’s been — I’ve only been here four years. I know it started before I got here, but things have gotten a little bit skewed around here, and sometimes the big fight for me, and I’m sure Theo is involved in that, too, is not losing sight of what’s important, what’s meaningful to you.”

This really is the year they became the Yankees. No one thinks of
them as lovable underdogs anymore and they win so cold-bloodedly
there's no drama and little joy. Down 3-1 there was no sense of
despair. You'd have thought they were leading the series. And if
they don't win it all everyone will claim it was a failed season, which is foolish.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:18 PM


A-Rod may leave Yankees: Scott Boras, the agent for star baseball player Alex Rodriguez, says turmoil surrounding search for new manager may keep him from staying in New York. (Chris Isidore, October 20 2007, CNNMoney.com)

Scott Boras, the agent for star New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez, told CNNMoney.com Saturday that the current uncertainty surrounding the team, including its managerial opening, will make it difficult for his client to sign with the Yankees by the deadline given by team management. [...]

In addition to the managerial change, George Steinbrenner, the dominating owner who has called the shots for the team since he bought it in 1973, is reported to be in ill health. The team has acknowledged he is bringing his sons Hal and Harold into the decision making process.

Boras says all this will make it difficult for Rodriguez to reach an agreement with the Yankees by the deadline. Boras also suggested Rodriguez would want to see if the teams' other free agents -- catcher Jorge Posada, reliever Mariano Rivera and starting pitcher Andy Pettitte are returning to the team, along with outfielder Bobby Abreu, for whom the Yankees hold an option on whether to bring him back or let him be a free agent.

"Without Pettitte, Rivera and Posada, it's not the same team," Boras said. "He's held accountable for being on a playoff team and winning in the playoffs."

Boras didn't seem concerned over the Yankees' statement that it would not enter a bidding war for Rodriguez if he decides to opt out of the contract in the next few weeks.

A-Rod: A bargain at $300 million ( Chris Isidore, October 20 2007, CNNMoney.com)
Vince Gennaro, a consultant to numerous major league teams and the author of "Diamonds and Dollars," a book about the economics of baseball, has done an analysis that suggests A-Rod could produce $48 million per year in revenue and asset appreciation for the Yankees, allowing the team to pay him $34 million in salary, along with a 40 percent luxury tax, and still break even.

Gennaro's estimate includes an extra $3 million a year benefit to the YES Network, the regional sports network of which the Yankees own 36 percent, along with a $9 million a year in the estimated increased value of that stake.

CNNMoney.com sister publication FORTUNE has reported that the Yankees are looking at a possible sale of the team's ownership interest in YES, and that it could fetch $3.5 billion for the entire network. So re-signing A-Rod could be important for the Yankees in order to maximize the network's value.

The Sox will pay him $300 million in a heartbeat just because of what he does for NESN. The issue in this contract isn't money--he can't get what he's worth--but how many years he insists on.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:52 PM


Bleakonomics: a review of THE SHOCK DOCTRINE: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism By Naomi Klein (JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ, NY Times Book Review)

There are no accidents in the world as seen by Naomi Klein. The destruction of New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina expelled many poor black residents and allowed most of the city’s public schools to be replaced by privately run charter schools. The torture and killings under Gen. Augusto Pinochet in Chile and during Argentina’s military dictatorship were a way of breaking down resistance to the free market. The instability in Poland and Russia after the collapse of Communism and in Bolivia after the hyperinflation of the 1980s allowed the governments there to foist unpopular economic “shock therapy” on a resistant population. And then there is “Washington’s game plan for Iraq”: “Shock and terrorize the entire country, deliberately ruin its infrastructure, do nothing while its culture and history are ransacked, then make it all O.K. with an unlimited supply of cheap household appliances and imported junk food,” not to mention a strong stock market and private sector.

Note that because she is a rationalist/socialist she thinks that all those good effects must mean that the causes were planned. Conservatives/capitalists, recognizing that the world doesn't work that way, realize they were merely fortuitous events that we made the best of.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:43 PM


How Green Is My Garden? (THOMAS C. COOPER, 10/20/07, NY Times)

IF the government wants to reduce its dependency on imported oil and, in the words of the Department of Energy, “foster the domestic biomass industry,” it has only to stop by my backyard with a pickup. The place is an unlikely but active biomass production center — especially at this season with countless autumn leaves eddying in every nook and cranny — and I’ll happily donate my production to the cause. [...]

The entire Northeast is similarly an expanding store of biomass that could provide self-sustaining, local energy on a considerable scale. In its agricultural heyday 150 years ago, our region was only 20 percent forested. Today it is 75 percent wooded, a dense, largely uninterrupted forest created by natural regeneration. A similar surplus exists across much of the country.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:40 PM


Ellsbury in the lineup (Kevin Thomas, 10/20/07, Clearing the Bases)

Jacoby Ellsbury has replaced Coco Crisp in the lineup tonight. Trot Nixon is back in the Indians order.

Here are the lineups:

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:49 PM


The new totalitarians: Burma and the rebirth of a terrible idea (Joshua Kurlantzick, September 30, 2007, Boston Globe)

Burma's transformation bucks the global trend away from such tightly repressive societies. For years, totalitarianism loomed as the West's mortal enemy, a terrifying force that drove the massive purges of Stalinist Russia, the bizarre personality cult of Albania, and the wholesale eradication of intellectuals in Maoist China.

But in the years since the Cold War, totalitarianism has appeared to be in wide retreat. With the advent of mobile phones, satellite television, and cheap, fast Internet access, it has become nearly impossible for any government to totally isolate its people from the world, or to dominate their private lives.

In Laos, where the Communist government once created a personality cult around its revolutionary founder, city-dwellers can watch news reports about their country on television from Thailand. In China, the Communist Party continues to stamp out organized dissent but no longer tracks ordinary citizens' every movement, and many people can afford to buy homes and give themselves a degree of domestic privacy. Even in North Korea, which spent decades walling itself off, cheap cellphones smuggled across the border from China have created some tiny cracks in Kim Jong-Il's regime.

But in Burma, the junta has headed in the opposite direction. Last week's protests most immediately speak to the sufferings of the average Burmese, but they also send an important signal at a moment when a handful of governments - including Zimbabwe and Venezuela - are showing fresh signs of totalitarian rule, building personality cults and infiltrating their citizens' private lives. As it quickly becomes a central topic for the UN and the Bush administration, Burma will prove a test of whether these repressive regimes have any future at all.

...and predict that, with its GDP per capita of $1800 (neighboring Thailand is, by comparison, at $9200), the Burma model isn't going to catch on.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:10 AM


The Day of Battle:" | Courage, carnage and obsession: a review of The Day of Battle: The War in Sicily and Italy, 1943-1944 by Rick Atkinson (Thomas Peelem, Contra Costa Times)

Patton's ego seems tame compared to that of Gen. Mark Clark, commander of the American Fifth Army in Italy. Atkinson paints Clark as so obsessed with capturing Rome himself that he pondered turning his own guns on the British if he thought they would enter the city ahead of him.

At the heart of "The Day of Battle," though, is the foot soldier, the men pinned down at Anzio, the troops sent relentlessly into fortified German lines. The Italian campaign was the battlefront that most resembled the battles of World War I, armies flinging themselves at each other again and again over the same ground.

Atkinson juxtaposes the fighting for inches with the grave realities of Allied war-making politics and how much blood was spilled because of clashing egos. He also explores many of the war's darkest secrets, from its largest incident of fratricide (Allied gunners in Sicily opening up on their own planes and paratroopers), to the disastrous results when a ship containing a cargo of mustard gas is bombed in an Italian harbor, to the atrocities committed on both sides.

His deeper exploration is whether the war in Italy needed to be fought at all. It was, history proved, of little strategic importance. But it was, Atkinson concludes, necessary for Stalin's appeasement and diverting German resources from the preparation of defenses for the invasion of France.

Or what? Stalin would have let Hitler take the USSR just to teach us a lesson? Tragic how appeasement is always an excuse for itself.

The book though is terrific, not just for what it reveals about the "Good War" but for what that reveals about our current "Bad War." Let us set aside, for now, the fundamental mistake of appeasing Stalin and trying to help the Soviets win and assume for the moment that this phase of the war was entirely justified and truly necessary. Consider that just in the initial hours and days of the invasion of Sicily you get not only that friendly fire incident--with an official count of 410 killed but an additional 1400 paratroopers unaccounted for--and several intentional massacres of prisoners, which were covered up not just to prevent Allied embarrassment but in order to possibly protect our own men from reprisals should they be captured. Add the general incompetence in areas from strategy to logistics and the rivalry between commanders of different nations as well as between services and between peers within each service and you begin to see how comparatively flawless the Iraq campaign has been, as well as how much more seriously the government and the press took winning said war, rather than exposing every mistake to be picked over in public and seized upon by the enemy. Note: I'm not actually suggesting that no mistakes have been made in the Iraq War, but that we lack all historical perspective either when we consider them in their worst light and look back at WWII in an absurdly glowing, near sacred, light.

Like all the best histories, Mr. Atkinson's book tells us as much about our own times as it does about the past and what it tells us is pretty unflattering about both.

-BOOK SITE: Day of Battle
-REVIEW: of Day of Battle (Robert Killebrew, Washington Post)
-EXCERPT: Land of the Cyclops (Rick Atkinson, The Day of Battle, Thanks to FSB Associates)

Few Sicilian towns claimed greater antiquity than Gela, where the center of the American assault was to fall. Founded on a limestone hillock by Greek colonists from Rhodes and Crete in 688 b.c., Gela had since endured the usual Mediterranean calamities, including betrayal, pillage, and, in 311 b.c., the butchery of five thousand citizens by a rival warlord. The ruins of sanctuaries and shrines dotted the modern town of 32,000, along with tombs ranging in vintage from Bronze Age to Hellenistic and Byzantine. The fecund “Geloan fields,” as Virgil called them in The Aeneid, grew oleanders, palms, and Saracen olives. Aeschylus, the father of Attic drama, had spent his last years in Gela writing about fate, revenge, and love gone bad in the Oresteia; legend held that the playwright had been killed here when an eagle dropped a tortoise on his bald skull.

Patton planned a different sort of airborne attack by his invasion vanguard. On the night of July 9–10, more than three thousand paratroopers in four battalions were to parachute onto several vital road junctions outside Gela to forestall Axis counterattacks against the 1st Division landing beaches. Leading this assault was the dashing Colonel James Maurice Gavin, who at thirty-six was on his way to becoming the Army’s youngest major general since the Civil War. Born in Brooklyn to Irish immigrants and orphaned as a child, Gavin had been raised hardscrabble by foster parents in the Pennsylvania coalfields. Leaving school after the eighth grade, he worked as a barber’s helper, shoe clerk, and filling station manager before joining the Army at seventeen. He wangled an appointment to West Point, where his cadetship was undistinguished. As a young officer he washed out of flight school; a superior’s evaluation as recently as 1941 concluded, “This officer does not seem peculiarly fitted to be a paratrooper.” Ascetic and fearless, with a “magnetism for attractive women,” Jim Gavin was in fact born to go to the sound of the guns. “He could jump higher, shout louder, spit farther, and fight harder than any man I ever saw,” one subordinate said.

His 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, part of the 82nd Airborne Division, had staged in central Tunisia. Gavin harbored private misgivings about the Sicilian mission -- “many lives will be lost in a few hours,” he wrote -- and with good reason. The 82nd had received only roughly a third as much training time as some other U.S. divisions. The amateurish Allied parachute operations in North Africa had been marred by misfortune and miscalculation. No large-scale night combat jump had ever been attempted, and so many injuries had plagued the division in Tunisia -- including fifty-three broken legs and ankles during a single daylight jump in early June -- that training was curtailed. Much of the husky planning had been done by officers who had no airborne expertise and whose notions were suffused with fantasy. Transport pilots had little experience at night navigation, but to avoid flying over trigger-happy gunners in the Allied fleets, the planes, staying low to evade Axis radar, would have to make three dogleg turns over open water in the dark. Airborne units had yet to figure out how to drop a load heavier than three hundred pounds, much less a howitzer or a jeep. An experimental “para-mule” broke three legs; after putting the creature out of its misery, paratroopers used the carcass for bayonet practice. Still, the ranks “generally agreed that training proficiency had reached the stage where the mission was ‘in the bag,’” wrote one AAF officer, who later acknowledged “possible overoptimism.”

At about the time that Hewitt’s fleet neared Malta, Gavin and his men had clambered aboard 226 C-47 Dakotas near Kairouan. Faces blackened with burnt cork, each soldier wore a U.S. flag on the right sleeve and a white cloth knotted on the left as a nighttime recognition signal. Days earlier an 82nd Airborne platoon had circulated through the 1st Division to familiarize ground soldiers with the baggy trousers and loose smock worn by paratroopers. Parachutes occupied the C-47s’ seats; the sixteen troopers in each stick sat on the fuselage floor, practicing the invasion challenge and password: george/marshall. Dysentery tormented the regiment, and men struggled with their gear and Mae Wests to squat over honeypots placed around the aircraft bays. Medics distributed Benzedrine to the officers, morphine syrettes to everyone.

As the first planes began to taxi -- churning up dust clouds so thick that some pilots had to take off by instrument -- a weatherman appeared at Gavin’s aircraft to affirm Commander Steere’s prediction of lingering high winds aloft. “Colonel Gavin, is Colonel Gavin here? I was told to tell you that the wind is going to be thirty-five miles an hour, west to east,” he said. “They thought you’d want to know.” Fifteen was considered the maximum velocity for safe jumping. Another messenger staggered up with an enormous barracks bag stuffed with prisoner-of-war tags. “You’re supposed to put one on every prisoner you capture,” he told Gavin. An hour after takeoff, a staff officer heaved the bag into the sea.

Copyright © 2007 Rick Atkinson from the book The Day of Battle by Rick Atkinson Published by Henry Holt and Company; October 2007;$35.00US; 978-0-8050-6289-2

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:47 AM


Support for workers on strike wanes in France (Jamey Keaten, October 20, 2007, Associated Press)

Support for striking transport workers faltered yesterday, with some unions returning to work on the second day of a protest against government plans to scrap some retirement benefits and commuters grumbling about delays and crowded platforms.

More trains, buses, and subways were running yesterday than on the first strike day, and polls indicated only limited public support for the strikes.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:41 AM


'Values voters' flock to Thompson (David Paul Kuhn, Oct 20, 2007, Politico)

Fred Thompson may have failed to impress Beltway insiders when he finally launched his run for the White House last month, but he is winning over a critical segment of the Republican coalition, new polling suggests.

Conservative Christians favor Thompson by a 10-point margin over his closest rival, Rudy Giuliani.

It’s a sharp reversal for Giuliani. [...]

[W]eekly Republican churchgoers back Thompson by a margin of 29 percent to 19 percent for Giuliani — roughly tying John McCain.

Rudy was just this cycle's Howard Dean--the supposed front-running candidate who couldn't withstand public scrutiny. After you clear that fella out of the way the party returns to the more orthodox choices. In '04 that meant the Democrats went Northeastern liberal. The GOP will choose a conservative Southerner, most likely John McCain, but Fred Thompson is the other possibility.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:32 AM


Malefactors of Megawealth: THE CONSCIENCE OF A LIBERAL By Paul Krugman (DAVID M. KENNEDY, NY Times Book Review)

Paul Krugman is a justly renowned professor of economics and international affairs at Princeton University. His abundant accolades include the John Bates Clark Medal, awarded biannually to an outstanding economist under the age of 40 — a distinction said to be predictive of, and perhaps even more prestigious than, receipt of the Nobel in economic science. His twice-weekly column in The New York Times routinely and authoritatively demystifies complex economic arcana.

And yet maybe Krugman is not really an economist — at least not according to the definition offered more than a century ago by Francis Amasa Walker, the first president of the American Economic Association, who wrote that laissez-faire “was not made the test of economic orthodoxy, merely. It was used to decide whether a man were an economist at all.”

The economics professors here just consider him to be a divisible man. His economics writings are pretty conventional capitalism, which they'd have to be in order to be taken seriously in the profession. His politics views are conventional liberalism/socialism, which they have to be in order to be published by the Times. As Robert Rubin showed, if you give such a guy an economics job even in the political sphere he 's indistinguishable from an Eisenhower Republican. The Lefty rhetoric just makes you welcome at cocktail parties in Manhattan.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:29 AM


JK Rowling reveals Dumbledore is gay (Bonnie Malkin, 20/10/2007, Daily Telegraph)

After reading briefly from the final book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the author told an audience in New York that the wizard Albus Dumbledore, head of Hogwarts school, is gay.

Speaking at Carnegie Hall on Friday night, Rowling confirmed what some fans had always suspected - that she "always thought Dumbledore was gay".

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:52 AM


Giuliani primary strategy is risky (Joseph Curl, October 20, 2007, Washington Times)

Republican presidential contender Rudolph W. Giuliani is counting on surviving the four early primary states and then implementing a national primary strategy that starts in Florida and explodes across the country, from New York to California, campaign analysts and consultants say.

While Iowa and New Hampshire are almost always the bellwether contests, and often the kingmakers, the former New York City mayor is "turning upside down the laws of political gravity," one strategist said.

"It looks like they're going to try to survive early, and he's got 16 million bucks in the bank, more than anybody else but [Mitt] Romney, and they'll try to roll through this thing, get to the big states on January 29 and Super Tuesday," said Scott Reed, a former Bob Dole campaign strategist who is not working for any presidential campaign this year.

"If he survives that long, then we get into these megastates, where he has high name ID, very high favorables, states where people have not dug down and seen that he's a liberal Republican, and he may have a better chance," Mr. Reed said.

The inability to contest any state where people know what your views are would appear to be revealing.

October 19, 2007

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:31 PM


Monument to Che Guevara destroyed by Venezuelans (ETHAN MCNERN, 10/20/07, The Scotsman)

A GROUP of Venezuelans shattered a glass monument to Cuban hero Che Guevara built by the government of leftist President Hugo Chavez, an area mayor told state TV yesterday. [...]

Local media said a group identifying itself as the Patriotic Command of the Plateau took responsibility for ruining the 8ft glass monument inscribed with a message to honour the icon of Cuba's 1959 revolution.

"We do not want a monument to Che, he is not an example for our children," said a note left at the scene of the monument shattered by six gunshots, according to El Universal newspaper.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:47 PM


J K Rowling: 'Christianity inspired Harry Potter' (20/10/2007, Daily Telegraph)

The pope may have condemned the Harry Potter books, but J K Rowling has now revealed that Christianity has been one of her major inspirations.

Breaking her silence on the much-debated question as to whether religious themes permeate her books, Rowling confirmed that they echoed her personal struggle with faith.

Speaking in America this week, she was open about the Christian allegories in her latest book Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. [...]

"To me, the religious parallels have always been obvious," Rowling said. "But I never wanted to talk too openly about it because I thought it might show people who just wanted the story where we were going."

Only in America....

Posted by Matt Murphy at 6:40 PM


Limbaugh Letter Fetches $2.1 Million on eBay (10/19/07, Fox News)

Rush Limbaugh appears to have the Midas touch.

The conservative radio talk-show host turned an inflammatory letter written by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and signed by 41 of his fellow Democrats into a more than $4.2 million gold mine for the kids of Marines and law enforcement personnel killed in the line of duty, all courtesy of eBay.

The Eugene B. Casey foundation Betty Casey coughed up more than $2.1 million to be the sole owner of the letter sent to the radio host's boss demanding that Limbaugh be reprimanded for a "phony soldier" comment he made on air. Limbaugh has pledged to match whatever was paid for the letter.

Limbaugh described Betty Casey, a trustee of the foundation, as a loyal listener to his show.

“She gives significant sums to hospitals, hospices, colleges and private schools,” Limbaugh said during his radio show Friday afternoon, just after the eBay auction ended. “Betty has been a listener to my program since its inception, and we can't thank her enough for her support. This was kind of the last straw for her, what Harry Reid did here.”

The letter, sent by Reid and signed by his Democratic colleagues, was delivered Oct. 2 to Mark P. Mays, president of Clear Channel, the parent company of the conservative talk show host’s radio broadcast.

In exchange for the $2.1 million, the Maryland-based Eugene B. Casey Foundation, will receive the letter, the Halliburton briefcase in which the letter is secured 24 hours a day, a letter of thanks from Limbaugh and a picture of him announcing the auction at a speech in Philadelphia last week.

The Halliburton briefcase is such a great touch -- the only thing to top it would be printing Mr. Limbaugh's thank-you letter on Diebold Corporation stationery.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:49 PM

Neiman's popovers: Try them yourself (JOYCE SÁENZ HARRIS, 10/18/07, The Dallas Morning News)

If there's a semi-sacred rite of culinary passage for Dallas gourmets, it may be this: going to the downtown Neiman Marcus for lunch at the Zodiac, and starting with Neiman's famous popovers, preferably daubed with strawberry butter. [...]


3 ½ cups milk

4 cups all-purpose flour

1 ½ teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

6 large eggs, at room temperature

Place milk in bowl and microwave on High (100 percent power) for 2 minutes, or until warm to the touch.

Sift flour, salt and baking powder together in large mixing bowl. Crack eggs into work bowl of electric mixer fitted with whisk, and beat on medium speed for about 3 minutes, until foamy and pale in color. Turn down mixer to low and add warm milk.

Gradually add flour mixture and beat on medium speed for about 2 minutes. Turn machine off and let batter rest for 1 hour at room temperature.

Preheat oven to 450 F.

Spray popover tin generously with nonstick spray. Fill popover cups almost to the top with batter and place popover tin on cookie sheet. Transfer to oven and bake for 15 minutes. Turn down oven temperature to 375 F and bake for 30 to 35 minutes longer, until popovers are deep golden brown outside and airy inside.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:14 PM


Schilling an Elimination Master, Too (Jim Baker, 10/19/07, Baseball Prospectus)

As you know, Curt Schilling is the Red Sox scheduled pitcher for Game Six of the ALCS. With that start comes the opportunity to become a true elimination master and join Whitey Ford as the only other man with three superior elimination starts (Schilling, Bob Turley, Josh Beckett, Danny Jackson and Dave Stewart all have two each). [...]

While working on today’s piece on pitchers who have excelled in elimination games, I compiled a list of every starting pitcher who managed a Game Score of 67 or better while pitching for a team on the brink of eradication. While I didn’t give Curt Schilling a special entry of his own, I probably should have.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:02 PM


Pelosi Makes Political Misstep in Reversal on Armenian Genocide (Laura Litvan and Nicholas Johnston, 10/19/07, Bloomberg)

The two meetings House Speaker Nancy Pelosi attended before a vote on a resolution labeling the massacre of Armenians in Ottoman Turkey a genocide foreshadowed the biggest political misstep of her speakership.

In the hours before a House panel approved the resolution Oct. 10, Pelosi was told in a tense meeting with Turkey's ambassador that the vote would endanger his country's alliance with the U.S. She had a warmer session with an Armenian cleric and representatives of Armenian-Americans, who have a large presence in her home state of California. In both, she made clear she intended to bring the resolution to a full House vote.

Since then, Pelosi, 67, has been in retreat. [...]

The turnaround is the first major failure for Pelosi, who has successfully muscled through the agenda she set out when she became leader of the Democratic majority in January.

Whahappen? They traded the GOP tax cuts to get the minimum wage hike and have lost on every single other issue.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:31 PM


Decoding the Enigmatic Republic of Iran (Khody Akhavi, 10/18/07, IPS)

Without losing sight of the brutality of the Islamic Republic and its authoritarian tendencies, Slavin presents a multifaceted Iranian point of view, skillfully weaving the statements of high-level Iranian diplomats with the hopes and fears of everyday Iranian people, trapped in the axis of religion, politics and national pride.

Slavin describes Iran's unique system of government as "a square dance", in which the highly factionalised clerical circle, with strongly conflicting views on foreign and domestic policies, competes for the Supreme Leader's favour.

"Depending on the issue, the leader draws one group or person into the centre of the circle, then switches to another in a kind of political do-si-do. No figure is banished for good so long as it remains loyal to the leader and the system; all in the circle have the chance to influence government decisions," writes Slavin. "The dance can be slow and awkward and the steps can change in unpredictable ways."

In 1997, the unpredictable dance brought the reformist movement, spearheaded by President Mohammad Khatami, to the centre of the circle and into the crosshairs of the clerical establishment. Khatami's ability to mobilise Iran's young voting constituency yielded 70 percent of the eligible voting public, of which 80 percent flocked to the polls to cast their vote. During the mild-mannered cleric's tenure, Iranians flirted with press freedoms, eased restrictions of the hypermoral space, and engaged in contentious political elections.

However, with the ascendance of Ahmadinejad, a "man of the people" who promised to fight corruption and put Iran's oil wealth on the tables of normal Iranians, the last two years have witnessed dramatic reversals in the political gains made by Khatami. And Slavin dedicates an entire chapter of her book to the blacksmith's son who became Iran's president, portraying the leader as a critic of the very establishment from which he emerged.

One of the current president's childhood friend's, Majid Karimi, told Slavin that Ahmadinejad "was a bookish overachiever who was so conscientious that he used to do homework in between pickup soccer games." He didn't drink, smoke or chase girls, was a diligent student who scored well on the state university entrance exam. But the president has also come under attack domestically for his bewildering rhetoric and mismanagement of Iran's economy.

Saeed Laylaz, a former deputy minister under Khatami, tells Slavin that the new chief executive "behaves like a rebel, not a president. Is it his job to say that Adolf Hitler was a clean guy? Is the Holocaust a real problem for the Iranian people? ...He will collapse this country in the long term."

Hard to figure why Westerners have trouble with such an obvious dynamic--Ahmedinejad does not act like the president because he did not and does not have the support of the Supreme Leader and, thus, is a rebel.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:40 PM


The High Seas' Man of War: a review of COCHRANE: The Real Master and Commander By David Cordingly (Ken Ringle, Washington Post)

Though far from humble about his creative talents, novelist Patrick O'Brian always stressed that the real-life Royal Navy exploits on which he based his 20-book Aubrey/Maturin saga far outstripped anything he could imagine. He also noted repeatedly that his swashbuckling scourge of the Napoleonic navy, "Lucky Jack" Aubrey, was grounded in the life and adventures of a genuine naval hero named Thomas Cochrane, about whom too little is remembered today.

Now comes British writer and historian David Cordingly, a former curator at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, to bring us up to date on Cochrane. If his biography is not quite a banquet for the reader, it is still most intriguing and satisfying fare. Within his nearly 85 years, Cochrane packed enough drama and history to shame both Horatio Nelson and Sir Francis Drake.

Not only was he an audaciously brave, sword-waving warrior, boarding hundreds of enemy ships amid cannon smoke and wreaking assorted havoc with shoreside raiding parties and ship-stealing "cutting out" expeditions, he was also a reformist gadfly in Parliament, a tireless tinkerer and inventor of everything from poison gas and tunneling techniques to electrical insulation, an author and pamphleteer, a pioneering advocate of both rocket bombardment and a steam-powered navy, and, just for good measure, a major on-the-scene player in the liberation of Chile and Peru from the Spanish, Brazil from the Portuguese and Greece from the Turks. He was the perfect romantic hero for the romantic age. Wrote Lord Byron: "There is no man I envy so much as Lord Cochrane."

O'Brian fans will find great satisfaction in smoking out similarities and differences between Cochrane and Aubrey.

We've previously mentioned that the Aubrey/Maturin novels are especially good iPod fare, since one of their greatest charms--that they are written as if the reader were present early in the 18th century and thoroughly familiar with the vocabulary of the sea--can also make them slow reading at times. Not only are the readings--by Patrick Tull--excellent in their own right, but since he doesn't slow down to puzzle out terms you don't either. You just have to follow along from the context. You may miss a bit here and there, but, in exchange, you don't get bogged down.

But this Summer I was listening to Desolation Island and Aubrey and Maturin spend so much time on land and set out on such a mundane voyage--transporting folks to Australia--that it started to become a concern that the narrative was just too slow to even walk to. Then, all of a sudden, the Dutch ship Waakzaamheid attacks when they're in the far south and seas are running so high that it quickly becomes clear that one or the other ship must perish with all hands, since conditions preclude capture. Here the pace was so quick and the sense of dread
so palpable--Jack Aubrey is genuinely outraged by the murderous nature of the attack, which is all out of proportion with his more English understanding of the niceties of war--that the listener/reader can hardly slow down as the action unfolds. This scene is so terrifying it puts the shark attacks in Jaws and the shower scene in Psycho near to shame. Thanks to Aubrey's horror at his action, the Dutch captain -- though we never meet him -- seems as cold-blooded as Bruce or as homicidally crazy as Norman. It's extraordinary story-telling.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:31 PM


As the Poles Get Richer, Fewer Seek British Jobs (JULIA WERDIGIER, 10/19/07, NY Times)

[B]ritain may soon face a novel immigration problem. As Poland’s economy has improved this year, immigration has slowed, which economists say could cause labor shortages in British industries.

When Poland and nine other new members, most of them former Communist countries, were admitted to the European Union, many West Europeans feared an influx of cheap labor. In May 2005 in France, opponents of a new European constitution used the labor threat — personified by an archetypal “Polish plumber” who would steal French jobs — to help defeat the proposed constitution in a national referendum.

But Britain, along with Ireland and Sweden, welcomed workers from the new European Union members — partly because they took physically demanding, minimum-wage jobs that many native-born Britons snubbed and partly because a wide range of industries in this country were suffering labor shortages.

Today, the reputation of Polish construction workers, nannies and caregivers is so high that other East Europeans sometimes say they are Polish to increase their chances of being hired. At Strathaird Salmon, a fish farm in Scotland, more than a third of the employees are from Poland.

Immigration opponents were correct on one point: on average, Poles earn £7.30 ($14.93) an hour, compared with £11.10 ($22.70) an hour for Britons, according to a report by the Institute for Public Policy Research, a British institute.

In some regions, Britons worry that immigrants are pushing up housing costs and crime rates. The Polish influx was much larger than the government anticipated and unlike most previous waves of migrants — from South Asia and the Caribbean, for instance — the Poles did not restrict themselves to the cities.

Some settled in remote towns of East Anglia and the Midlands, areas with little experience in immigration, where there have been some complaints of school overcrowding and a lack of personnel able to teach children whose native language is not English.

But a decline in Polish immigrants could be a bigger problem than a surplus. “People still come,” said Ania Heasley, who arrived from Poland 16 years ago and now runs a recruitment agency, “though with less hurrah and enthusiasm because they have realized the cost of living here is higher than they thought and if you don’t speak English you will only get a low-paid job.”

In addition to a better economic climate in Poland, Britain is also something of a victim of its Polish immigrants’ success. Many who started in low-skilled jobs have improved their English and moved up the career ladder. Many Poles now reject lower-paying jobs, or team up with trade unions to ask for better pay and benefits.

This could present problems for British employers, which have relied on immigrants to fill certain unappealing jobs. The National Farmers’ Union warned last month, for instance, that there are few alternatives to immigration if Britain is to prevent a labor shortage that could damage agriculture.

...but they aren't about to fix your plumbing.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:21 PM


The ventriloquist: It is striking the extent to which Bin Laden, celebrity terrorist of the MTV era, speaks through Western dummies rather than in his own voice (Faisal Devji, September 2007, spiked review of books)

As a celebrity, of course, bin Laden is part of the West he criticises, remaining firmly inside it despite all attempts to play up his foreign provenance or exotic beliefs. And of this insider’s role, bin Laden himself is fully aware, not least because his attacks on America in particular are given voice in this videotape through the lips of dissenting figures like Noam Chomsky and Michael Scheuer. While not himself a socialist or a liberal, in other words, bin Laden adopts the anti-capitalist stance of such people to voice his opposition to the West. His own critique of the Occident is therefore an immanent or internal one, but more than that it is a form of ventriloquism in which the prince of terrorists speaks through one or more dummies rather than in his own name.

In itself, this adoption of readymade positions is not strange, marking in fact the language of most politicians in Europe and America, but in the case of bin Laden it illustrates additionally the fact that he possesses no position outside the world of his enemies.

It is because he speaks through a disparate set of dummies without occupying a position of his own that bin Laden can be said to turn internal or immanent critique into a form of terrorism, since all he does is to deploy one kind of argument against another in a battle which none is meant to survive. It is a form of rhetorical suicide bombing in which the Muslim critic is destroyed alongside his infidel enemy, given that the Islamic element in bin Laden’s argumentation serves as a false externality, a merely decorative covering for Marxism, Third Worldism and God knows what else. [...]

By contrast, the way in which the West engages al-Qaeda is strikingly different, with bin Laden invariably seen as being irredeemably alien, rarely if ever addressed by his enemies, and usually described as sharing nothing at all with them. And yet what could be more familiar to political life in the West than the spectacle of a leader being fed bits of information and summaries of important books by his research assistants, the very procedures that allow bin Laden to quote Noam Chomsky or assail capitalism?

However, the fragmentation of a position that is truly external to the world of his foes results not only in the fragmentation of bin Laden’s critique, but in the dissolution, as well, of any alternative worldview he might hold. In addition to lacking a unified ideology or even a utopia, therefore, al-Qaeda ends up promoting a perverse and paradoxical moral pluralism instead.

Indeed perverse, hardly paradoxical. Given that all the isms are mere reactions to the End of History, by those who don't like its values, how could Islamicism/Islamo-Fascism/Salafism/bin Ladenism (or whatever you want to call it) be external to History?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:38 PM


Sarkozy and Brown push Blair for EU presidency (Dan Bilefsky, October 19, 2007, NY Times)

Maybe we should start calling them British fries and British toast....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:43 PM


How to Understand Islam (Malise Ruthven, 11/08/07, NY Review of Books)

As Kelsay explains, "statements by al-Qa'ida are best understood as attempts to legitimate or justify a course of action in the terms associated with Islamic jurisprudence." He usefully terms this discourse "Shari'a reasoning."

The word sharia, usually translated as "law," refers to the "path" or "way" governing the modes of behavior by which Muslims are enjoined to seek salvation. The way may be known to God, but for human beings it is not predetermined. A famous hadith (tradition) of Muhammad states that differences of opinion between the learned is a blessing. Sharia reasoning is therefore "an open practice." In Islam's classical era, up until the tenth century, scholars exercised ijtihad—independent reasoning—in order to reach an understanding of the divine law. Ijtihad shares the same Arabic root as the more familiar jihad, meaning "effort" or "struggle," the word that is sometimes translated as "holy war." Ijtihad is in effect the intellectual struggle to discover what the law ought to be. As Kelsay remarks, the legal scholars trained in its sources and methodologies will seek to achieve a balance between the rulings of their predecessors and independent judgments reflecting the idea that "changing circumstances require fresh wisdom." The Sharia is not so much a body of law but a field of discourse or platform for legal reasoning. Recently, it has become an arena for intellectual combat.

It is therefore open to question whether the hijackers and the terrorists automatically put themselves beyond the bounds of Islam by killing innocents, as statements by Bush, Blair, and dozens of Muslim leaders and scholars suggest. With no churches or formally constituted religious authorities to police the boundaries of Islam, the only universally accepted orthodoxy is the Sharia itself. But the Sharia is more of an ideal than a formally constituted body of law. While interpreting the law was once the province of the trained clerical class of ulama, any consensus governing its correct interpretation has broken down under pressure of regional conflicts and the influence of religious autodidacts whose vision of Islam was formed outside the received scholarly tradition.

None of the three most influential theorists behind Sunni militancy, Abu'l Ala Maududi (1903–1979), Hasan al-Banna (1906–1949), and Sayyid Qutb, (1906–1966), received a traditional religious training. Yet both they and the authors of the landmark texts examined by Kelsay in his admirably lucid book (including the Charter of Hamas, which calls for the destruction of Israel, and bin Laden's 1998 Declaration) claim the mantle of the Sharia, as did the terrorists responsible for the atrocities in New York, Madrid, and London.

Like it or not, these terrorist campaigns were inspired by the example of the Prophet's struggle—his "just war"—against the Quraysh, the pagan tribesmen of Mecca. In the context of the original conflict between the early Muslims and the Meccans, the sources, including the Koran and the narratives of Muhammad's life, suggest that "fighting is an appropriate means by which Muslims should seek to secure the right to order life according to divine directives." In militant readings of the Sharia, the historical precedents are not so much interpreted as applied. For ultra-radicals such as bin Laden's deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri there is, as Kelsay observes, "little room for a sustained process of discerning divine guidance" along the lines enjoined by traditional scholars. An even more striking absence is evident in the criticisms of militant readings advanced by official Islamic authorities, including the widely respected Sheikh al-Azhar, head of the mosque-university in Cairo and once the single most important voice in Sunni Islam. While questioning the methods of the militants on grounds of practical ethics—will the "actions taken in the service of justice yield more harm than good?"—their criticisms usually fall short of challenging them on the grounds of political legitimacy. Conservative Muslim critics of militancy

do not in fact dissent from the militant judgment that current political arrangements [in most Muslim majority states] are illegitimate.... In its broad outlines, the militant vision articulated by al-Zawahiri is also the vision of his critics.

The core of this consensus—shared by traditionally trained scholars and more populist leaders such as al-Banna, founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, and Maududi, his South Asian counterpart, is the belief that the abolition of the caliphate by Kemal Atatürk in Turkey in 1924 must not mean the end of Islamic government. In this vision, which is also shared by Shia jurists such as the late Ayatollah Khomeini, parliaments and elections are only acceptable within the frame of Islamic supremacy. They "cannot compromise on Muslim leadership," Kelsay writes. Full-blown democracy, where the Muslim voice might simply be one among many, implying a degree of moral equivalence between Islam and other perspectives, would be "dangerous, not only for the standing of the Muslim community, but for the moral life of humankind."

In the majority Sunni tradition this sense of supremacy was sanctified as much by history as by theology. In the first instance, the truth of Islam was vindicated on the field of battle. As Hans Küng acknowledges in Islam: Past, Present and Future—his 767-page overview of the Islamic faith and history, seen from the perspective of a liberal Christian theologian—Islam is above all a "religion of victory." Muslims of many persuasions—not just the self-styled jihadists—defend the truth claims of their religion by resorting to what might be called the argument from manifest success.

Which is why it is not enough for us just to winning the WoT, we really need to be taunting the jihadists about their failure.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:52 AM


Randall Robinson on Haiti's Tortured Past, Troubling Present: a review of AN UNBROKEN AGONY: Haiti, From Revolution to the Kidnapping of a President By Randall Robinson ( Theola Labbé, Washington Post)

[R]obinson is most appalled at the way Aristide and his wife (he resigned from the priesthood in 1994) were removed from the country in 2004. By far the most gripping and enlightening sections of the book are ones in which Robinson, relying on interviews with Aristide's helicopter pilot, Frantz Gabriel, describes how U.S. troops whisked Aristide out of the country. Gabriel arrived at the president's house at 3:30 a.m. on Feb. 29, after getting a call from security guard who sensed that something strange was happening and told him to come. When he got there, he found the president alone, but soon U.S. officials pulled into the driveway. One walked into the living room and told Aristide, "I'm the one that has to announce to you that you've got to go."

The Aristides were driven to the airport in a convoy of 10 white Suburbans; they boarded a plane and, after some uncertainty as to where they would be taken, were flown to the Central African Republic. Robinson spoke to Aristide nearly daily after the forced exit and traveled to Africa along with Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) to find out what had happened.

In recounting these events, Robinson often takes on a crusading tone, using words such as "abduction" and "kidnapping" to describe Aristide's departure. These are more than opinions to Robinson; they are his truth, but with his urgent tone, he risks alienating the kind of reader he may want to edify, someone ignorant of Haiti's unusual history as a rebel slave colony.

To the contrary, it's an action that Americans are insufficiently proud of and for which, like Liberia, W gets far too little credit. Haiti has a dishearteningly long way to go but all of the recent good news is directly attributable to this unsung American intervention.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:51 AM


John Edwards's Docudrama: The Anatomy of Innuendo (Daily Intelligencer, 10/11/07, New York)

One of the wonderful things about the Internet is that rumors and scandal take on a life of their own. No one even needs to report anything! Once a story is out there, it's fair game for everyone else to repeat it, often under the guise of media analysis. The story starts at the bottom of the food chain of credibility. Bloggers and tabloid outlets egg each other incrementally on, until eventually more serious outlets pick it up.

We may be about to leave the early stages of such a cycle with the growing scrutiny into the professional relationship between John Edwards and a woman named Rielle Hunter, a.k.a. Lisa Druck, who produced films for his One America prepresidential campaign. Ann Coulter is even involved! The following timeline details the anatomy of an innuendo, including a few steps into the perhaps inevitable future.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:22 AM


An Enduring Peace Built on Freedom (John McCain, 10/16/07, Real Clear Politics)

American leadership has helped build a world that is more secure, more prosperous, and freer than ever before. Our unique form of leadership -- the antithesis of empire -- gives us moral credibility, which is more powerful than any show of arms. We are rich in people and resources but richer still in ideals and vision -- and the means to realize them. Yet today much of the world has come to challenge our actions and doubt our intentions. Polls indicate that the United States is more unpopular now than at any time in history and increasingly viewed as pursuing its narrow self-interest. The people who hold these views are wrong. We are a special nation, the closest thing to a "shining city on a hill" ever to have existed. But it is incumbent on us to restore our mantle as a global leader, reestablish our moral credibility, and rebuild those damaged relationships that once brought so much good to so many places.

As president, I will seek the widest possible circle of allies through the League of Democracies, NATO, the UN, and the Organization of American States. During President Ronald Reagan's deployment of intermediate-range nuclear missiles and President George H. W. Bush's Gulf War, the United States was joined by vast coalitions despite considerable opposition to American policies among foreign publics. These alliances came about because America had carefully cultivated relationships and shared values with its friends abroad. Working multilaterally can be a frustrating experience, but approaching problems with allies works far better than facing problems alone.

Almost two centuries ago, James Madison declared that "the great struggle of the Epoch" was "between liberty and despotism." Many thought that this struggle ended with the Cold War, but it did not. It has taken on new guises, such as Islamist terrorists using our technological advances for their murderous designs and resurgent autocrats reminiscent of the nineteenth century. International terrorists capable of inflicting mass destruction are a new phenomenon. But what they seek and what they stand for are as old as time. They are part of a worldwide political, economic, and philosophical struggle between the future and the past, progress and reaction, liberty and despotism. Our security, our prosperity, and our democratic way of life depend on the outcome of that struggle.

Thomas Jefferson argued that America was the "solitary republic of the world, the only monument of human rights, and the sole depository of the sacred fire of freedom and self-government, from hence it is to be lighted up in other regions of the earth, if other regions of the earth shall ever become susceptible of its benign influence." Since that time two centuries ago when the United States was the "solitary republic of the world," more people than ever before have come under the "benign influence" of liberty. The protection and promotion of the democratic ideal, at home and abroad, will be the surest source of security and peace for the century that lies before us. The next U.S. president must be ready to lead, ready to show America and the world that this country's best days are yet to come, and ready to establish an enduring peace based on freedom that can safeguard American security for the rest of the twenty-first century. I am ready.

Since we're here now we'd like to believe this an especially trying time and a unique moment in our history, but the reality is it's just the end of the Epoch and all that remains is some tidying up.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:21 AM


Mullen: U.S. can strike Iran (Bill Gertz, October 19, 2007, Washington Times)

U.S. military forces are capable of conducting operations against Iran if called on to bomb nuclear facilities or other targets, the new Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said yesterday.

"From a military standpoint, there is more than enough reserve to respond if that, in fact, is what the national leadership wanted to do, and so I don't think we're too stretched in that regard," Adm. Michael Mullen told reporters when asked if current operations had worn out U.S. forces.

Those who don't wish to interdict Iran's nuclear program make the same mistake as those who didn't want to decapitate the Soviet regime, confusing a discrete and easily accomplished mission with a pointless invasion, occupation and rebuilding effort. The task under discussion requires precious little in the way of resources.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:10 AM


'After This Attack, There Won't Be Any Election Campaign': Who was behind the violent attack on Pakistan's opposition leader, Benazir Bhutto? In an interview with SPIEGEL ONLINE, writer Ahmed Rashid makes accusations against government security forces and analyzes the possible effects on elections. (Alexander Schwabe, 10/19/07, Der Spiegel)

Rashid: [...] [T]here is speculation that the attack was not carried out by Islamists, but by certain groups within the regime who don't want Bhutto in the country. The leaders of Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party are accusing the government and the intelligence services of not having done enough to prevent the attack.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Do you agree with them?

Rashid: I really wonder why the government didn't do more in terms of providing security during Bhutto's return. The fact is that the security forces' presence was very small.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: It's been reported that 20,000 men were deployed to protect Bhutto.

Rashid: The decisive factor is that the majority of the security forces came from the provinces and not from national units. Everybody knows that the forces from the provinces are led by an opponent of Bhutto's People's Party. [...]

SPIEGEL ONLINE: What does the attack mean for the country's further development? Will democratic organizations be bombed out of the country?

Rashid: I don't think so. Naturally people are shocked right now. But they'll want to have an election, because they want democracy. They want an end to military rule.

Interview conducted by Alexander Schwabe

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:00 AM


Majority of Afghans want foreign troops to stay and fight (ALAN FREEMAN, October 19, 2007, Globe and Mail)

A strong majority of Afghans approve of the presence of NATO-led troops in their country, including from Canada, and want the foreign soldiers to remain to fight the Taliban and support reconstruction efforts.

In a poll of Afghans conducted by Environics Research on behalf of The Globe and Mail, the CBC and La Presse, respondents expressed optimism about the future, strong support for the government of President Hamid Karzai and appreciation for the work being done by NATO countries in improving security. [...]

According to the survey, conducted between Sept. 17 and 24 with a sample of 1,578 men and women, 60 per cent said the presence of foreigners in the country was a good thing. Only 16 per cent said it was a bad thing, while 22 per cent said it was equally good and bad.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:13 AM


Jindal maintaining lead up to Louisiana primary (Robert Buckman, October 19, 2007, Washington Times)

Rep. Bobby Jindal holds a commanding lead heading into tomorrow's gubernatorial primary, but it is not clear whether he can avoid a runoff election.

A poll released last week by Southeastern Louisiana University showed the two-term Republican congressman leading the race with 46 percent of the vote. But a candidate must get 50 percent of the vote to avoid a runoff election Nov. 17.

You have to anticipate some considerable Wilder Effect here.

An Improbable Favorite Emerges in Cajun Country (ADAM NOSSITER, 10/19/07, NY Times)

An Oxford-educated son of immigrants from India is virtually certain to become the leading candidate for Louisiana’s next governor in Saturday’s primary election. It would be an unlikely choice for a state that usually picks its leaders from deep in the rural hinterlands and has not had a nonwhite chief executive since Reconstruction.

But peculiar circumstances have combined to make Representative Bobby Jindal, a conservative two-term Republican, the overwhelming favorite. Analysts predict Mr. Jindal, 36, could get more than 50 percent of the vote in the open primary, thus avoiding a November runoff and becoming the nation’s first Indian-American governor. If he fails to win a majority, he would face the next-highest vote getter in the runoff.

Louisiana Democrats are demoralized, caught between the perception of post-hurricane incompetence surrounding their standard bearer, Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, who is not running for re-election, and corruption allegations against senior elected officials like William J. Jefferson, the congressman from New Orleans.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:02 AM


Gordon Brown to defend EU Treaty deal (Bruno Waterfield and Toby Helm, 19/10/2007, Daily Telegraph)

Mr Brown joined other European leaders at a Lisbon summit to crack open the champagne to toast a new EU blueprint that, he hopes, the Government can force through parliament without giving in to the clamour for a popular vote. [...]

But Conservative leader David Cameron has responded by accusing the Government of breaking its promise and treating people "like fools".

He told BBC Breakfast that the "red lines" insisted upon by Mr Brown were "complete red herrings".

"They have signed a constitution that transfers, that gets rid of, our right to say no, our veto, in 60 areas," he said.

"They've created a permanent EU president, a permanent foreign minister, a diplomatic service. This is a really significant transfer of power from Britain to Brussels."

And so we see why Labour kept him out of power for as long as they could.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:02 AM


A Local Peace Accord: Cause for Hope? (DARRIN MORTENSON, 10/19/07, TIME)

On Thursday, 32 tribal sheiks from the region — mostly Sunni, but including some Shiites — signed a ground-breaking accord pledging to work together to curb extremism and to shake the sectarian violence that has rent the region since the U.S. forces invaded the country in 2003. The rare gathering at Baghdad's al Rashid Hotel, in the heart of the Green Zone, was the culmination of months of delicate negotiations and a welcome breakthrough for U.S. troops who've been fighting and dying there for the past 14 months. "You know the saying: that all politics is local. Well you really see that playing out here. This is the capstone of the first phase of tribal reconciliation in the region," said Col. Mike Kershaw, the commander of the 2nd Brigade, 10th Mountain Division, the Fort Drum, New York-based unit which has worked among some 400,000 mostly Sunni Iraqis in the southern portion of Baghdad Province since last year. "Am I saying the war's over? No way. But I am saying that this is an opportunity that we didn't have before."

The political district of Mahmudiyah lies just south of metropolitan Baghdad and includes the violent urban centers of Yusifiyah, Latifiyah and Mahmudiyah. It shares a rough and tumble neighborhood with Anbar to the west and Babil to the south. A mixed region of Shi'a and Sunni, city and country, the mostly agricultural region suffers all the sectarian, economic and political woes of the capital. While the region's Sunni and Shi'ite tribes battled each other for land and primacy, they found a common enemy in the U.S. troops stationed there. But that situation changed about four months ago.

"You look at the graph [of attacks] after about April and it just falls. It's a free fall," said Maj. Austin Miller, head of the U.S. Army's civil affairs mission in the Mahmudiyah district. Military leaders credit the recent lull in violence to Sunni tribal leaders who earlier this year turned on al-Qaeda in Iraq in response to its excesses. It dovetails with a movement that began a year ago in neighboring Anbar Province to the west and has since spread out from there along tribal lines.

The strength of tribal ties is a long term problem, though a short term help.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:17 AM


Afghanistan Faced with Severe Housing Shortage (Anuj Chopra, 18 Oct 2007, World Politics Review)

Six years after the invasion, ask ordinary Afghans the biggest challenge they face, and their answer isn't likely to be the Taliban. It is, in fact, to find a roof over their heads.

Kabul is in particular need, because of the destruction of nearly 70,000 houses in almost thirty years of war. And a steady inflow of returnees has further exacerbated the problem. With a population of 800,000 before the U.S.-led invasion in 2001, Kabul is now home to over four million, many of them refugees that have returned home since the fall of the Taliban. It is estimated that as much as half of Kabul's population lives in squatter settlements.

The city is sinking under the weight of its own citizens. Kabul 's most urgent urban planning issues are linked to its rapid population growth.

The situation is the same in other larger cities as well -- like Jalalabad, Mazar-e-Sharif and Kandahar. According to U.N. estimates, from 2000 to 2015 the national population is expected to increase by 14 million to a total of about 37 million; more than half of this growth will be in urban areas.

So far, foreign firms have invested $4.5 billion in rebuilding Afghanistan, but very little of it has gone into housing construction, according to Omar Zakhilwal, the director of the Afghanistan Investment support Agency (AISA) in Kabul.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:05 AM


Romney Calls United Nations a 'Failure' (JIM DAVENPORT, 10/19/07, AP)

"The United Nations has been an extraordinary failure of late," Romney said in response to a question at a pancake house along the coast of early voting South Carolina. "We should withdraw from the United Nations Human Rights Council."

Actually, the United States doesn't have a seat on the human rights council, which it has been boycotting.

October 18, 2007

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:18 PM


China's surplus of sons: A geopolitical time bomb (Michael Fragoso, October 19, 2007, CS Monitor)

The unintended consequences of this government policy are staggering. The proportion of male births to female births (the "sex ratio") is not merely unusual, but alarming. Worldwide, there are already 100 million girls "missing" due to sex-selective abortion and female infanticide, according to the English medical journal The Lancet. Fifty million of these girls are thought to be from China. In many provinces, the sex ratio at birth is between 120 to 130 boys for every 100 girls; the natural number is about 104. What will happen in future decades when these boys grow up and look for wives? [...]

Another serious threat is to regional stability and, by extension, international security. As Valerie Hudson and Andrea den Boer recently wrote in their prize-winning work on demography and security, "Bare Branches," surplus male populations in a region often result in violence – through banditry, rioting, or militarization. The 6 to 5 male-female ratio in China means there are a lot of men who will not be able to start families. If history is any guide, they will either find less savory things to occupy their time, or find women through equally unsavory means.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:54 PM


REVIEW: of Reading Legitimation Crisis in Iran, by Danny Postel (Farzin Vahdat, Summer 2007, Logos Journal)

The core reasons for the American and western leftists’ being reluctant to embrace the cause of Iranians who are trying to bring about change in their country lies somewhere else. The essential reason for this reluctance is that American progressives are used to advocate those causes that are fighting the Empire and their local lackeys. The Left in the US has developed what Postel calls a “tunnel vision” that deems only the political and social movements that are fighting right wing oppressors who are supported by the United States, worthy of embracing—such as those in Central America in the 1980s. The Iranian dissidents are fighting a government that is a “sworn enemy” of the Empire.

What is more, the oppositional forces in Iran, are not couching their opposition in discourses such as Marxism, post-structuralism, post-colonialism, subaltern studies and different mixtures of these. The Iranian progressive forces have by and large adopted western liberal-democratic discourse and its past and contemporary gurus to advance their cause. These are very significant issues that have prevented the western progressive forces, if not opposing Iranians seeking change in their country, at least being aloof to them and their fierce struggle in recent years. For the far left in the west, liberalism is a tool of imperialism and embodiment of Eurocentrism. Why should they support a cause that utilizes a discourse that they deem to be at the core of what they are struggling against? The Iranian reformists are then the friends of my enemy, and therefore, if not my enemy, they are not my friend either.

Pretty good, but he missed a key element--they're Shi'ites. Why would the Left support the struggle of people of faith? After all, they're still moping about our removal of the secular Saddam and liberation of Iraq's Shi'ites from a totalitarian nightmare and vocally hoping the new state fails.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:46 PM


Romney's Achilles' Heel: Can Mitt convince voters he believes anything? (John Dickerson, Oct. 18, 2007, Slate)

Mitt Romney has often undermined himself during the presidential campaign. Even as he has asserted that he is anti-abortion, he has been dogged by video clips and statements from his 1994 Senate and 2002 gubernatorial campaigns, in which he robustly defended a woman's right to have an abortion. On several other subjects there also seem to be two stories: gun control (for/against); gays (their champion/not so much); and even Ronald Reagan himself (distance/hug). The individual changes of position have caused minor irritation for him. The cumulative effect of them all is the big problem. Taken together, they suggest, as a nonaffiliated veteran of Republican politics put it, "that he has no core." [...]

[A]sk voters about Romney's flip-flops, and they speak out loud. In a recent Des Moines Register poll, likely caucus attendees listed Romney's multiple positions as his biggest liability—on par with Rudy Giuliani's pro-choice stance on abortion. In a Pew Center poll, only 12 percent of respondents thought of Mitt Romney when the word honest was presented to them, the lowest of the four major Republican candidates. A Washington Post/ABC News poll showed that only 13 percent of Republicans find Mitt Romney honest and trustworthy, also the lowest of the four major Republican candidates. A CNN/Opinion Research poll found that 15 percent of adults found Mitt Romney to be the most honest—again, the bottom of the field.

Like all of the big questions that dog the candidates, this problem has been with Romney for a while—even before the presidential race. "He's not pro-choice or anti-choice," said Senate opponent Ted Kennedy in 1994. "He's multiple choice." Romney hasn't been able to dispense with questions about his constancy, and the concerns are only becoming more relevant as Republicans fight over which candidate is a more genuine conservative.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:31 PM


James Watson: Master of the scientific gaffe (Michael Marshall, 10/18/07, New Scientist)

London's Science Museum has cancelled a sell-out talk by James Watson this Friday. It follows his remarks in an interview with the Sunday Times, in which he suggested that black people are less intelligent than white people. He was quoted as saying that he was "inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa" because "all our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours – whereas all the testing says not really". He went on to say that his hope is that everyone is equal, but that "people who have to deal with black employees find this not true". [...]

He has previously argued that stupidity is a disease that should be cured, and that "it would be great" if women were genetically engineered to be pretty.

Just as population controllers never think they're one of the one's who are excess, so do eugenicists never think they're one of the ones who are defective.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:57 PM


A green light to oust Al Qaeda: Bhutto's return to Pakistan signals a democratic alliance to attack the terrorist camps (CS Monitor, October 19, 2007)

Ms. Bhutto's return from eight years of exile came as the Pakistani Army began a new offensive in the largely lawless Waziristan provinces along the border with Afghanistan. The timing was not coincidental.

Such an aggressive operation indicates new confidence that an alliance between the popular Bhutto and Pakistan's president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, can better stand up to domestic Islamic political foes who support Al Qaeda and the Taliban.

...let democrats do it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:52 PM


House Speaker Now Unsure if Armenian Genocide Motion Will Reach a Vote (CARL HULSE, 10/18/07, NY Times)

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Wednesday that she was reconsidering her pledge to force a vote on a resolution condemning as genocide the mass killing of Armenians starting in 1915, as President Bush intensified his push to derail the legislation.

It's: "Uncle."

House fails to muster SCHIP veto override (Martin Kady II, Oct 18, 2007 , Politico)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:47 PM


Howard gets back in fight (Matthew Denholm, October 19, 2007, The Australian)

JOHN Howard is close to holding the vital marginal seat of Braddon in Tasmania and has halved the gap to Labor across the nation.

A Newspoll survey exclusive to The Australian shows the Coalition defying the national drift to Labor in Braddon, complicating Kevin Rudd's bid to win the 16 seats he needs forvictory.

And a Galaxy poll published in The Daily Telegraph newspaper today shows Labor's nationwide lead over the Coalition on a two-party preferred basis halving from 12 to six points.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:21 PM


Intelligent design: A theory of an intelligently guided invisible hand wins the Nobel prize (The Economist, 10/18/07)

The word “mechanism” refers to the institutions and the rules of the game that govern our economic activities, which can range from a Ministry of Planning in a command economy to the internal organisation of a company to trading in a market.

Leonid Hurwicz, Eric Maskin and Roger Myerson won their third-shares of the $1.5m prize for shaping a branch of economics that has had a broad impact, both in academia, in subjects such as incentive theory, game theory and the political science of institutions, and in the real world. It affects everything from utility regulation and auctions to structuring the pay of company executives and the design of elections. Mr Hurwicz must be especially delighted as, aged 90, he is the oldest ever Nobel winner, and may have thought his chance had gone. He worked long ago with one previous winner, Kenneth Arrow, and was the graduate adviser to another, Daniel McFadden. One of his most influential papers was published when he was 55, about the same age his co-winners are now, which proves, if nothing else, that making big intellectual breakthroughs is not exclusively a young person's game.

Mechanism-design theory aims to give the invisible hand a helping hand, in particular by focusing on how to minimise the economic cost of “asymmetric information”—the problem of dealing with someone who knows more than you do. Trading efficiently under asymmetric information is hard, for how do you decide what price to offer someone for something—a product, say, or their labour—if you do not know at what price they would sell it? On the one hand, you may not offer enough to get them to deliver the product or work, or at least do so adequately; on the other, you may overpay, wasting resources that might have been better used elsewhere.

Mr Hurwicz took up economics at a time when debate was raging about the relative merits of central planning and the market mechanism. While agreeing with the great libertarian, Friedrich von Hayek, that the dispersion of information was at the heart of the failure of planning, Mr Hurwicz saw that it went deeper than that. He observed that there was a lack of incentive for people to share their information with the government truthfully. Moreover, although the market mechanism was far less afflicted than central planning by such incentive problems, it was by no means immune from them.

His big idea was “incentive compatibility”. The way to get as close as possible to the most efficient economic outcome is to design mechanisms in which everybody does best for themselves by sharing truthfully whatever private information they have that is asked for. Even this cannot guarantee an optimal outcome, Mr Hurwicz showed, because the existence of any private information precludes the economist's holy grail, known as Pareto efficiency, even if everyone's incentives are compatible. But it will get closer to it than if incentives are incompatible (ie, when some people can do better by not sharing information or lying). Pareto efficiency means that no one can be made better off without someone becoming worse off. Mechanism design has “incentive efficiency”: given compatible incentives, no one can do better without someone doing worse.

When Darwin applied economic theory to biology he just imported the intelligently designed mechanisms without understanding what he was doing.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:27 PM


An Anglosphere Future (Christopher Hitchens, 10/18/2007, City Journal)

[P]roperly circumscribed, the idea of an “Anglosphere” can constitute something meaningful. We should not commit the mistake of “thinking with the blood,” as D. H. Lawrence once put it, however, but instead emphasize a certain shared tradition, capacious enough to include a variety of peoples and ethnicities and expressed in a language—perhaps here I do betray a bias—uniquely hostile to euphemisms for tyranny. In his postwar essay “Towards European Unity,” George Orwell raised the possibility that the ideas of democracy and liberty might face extinction in a world polarized between superpowers but that they also might hope to survive in some form in “the English-speaking parts of it.” English is, of course, the language of the English and American revolutions, whose ideas and values continue to live after those of more recent revolutions have been discredited and died.

Consider in this light one of Nelson Mandela’s first acts as elected president of South Africa: applying to rejoin the British Commonwealth, from which South Africa had found itself expelled in the 1960s (by a British Tory government, incidentally) because of its odious racism. Many people forget that the Soweto revolt in the 1980s, which ultimately spelled apartheid’s downfall, exploded after the Nationalist regime made the medium of school instruction exclusively Afrikaans, banning the classroom use of English, along with Xhosa and Zulu.

More recently, in July 2005, Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh came to Oxford University to receive an honorary degree and delivered a speech, not uncontroversial in India itself, in which he observed that many of India’s splendors as a rising twenty-first-century superpower—from railroads to democracy to a law-bound civil service—were the result of its connection with England. “If there is one phenomenon on which the sun cannot set,” Singh observed, “it is the world of the English-speaking peoples, in which the people of Indian origin are the single largest component.” He added that the English language was a key element in the flourishing of India’s high-tech sector. Few would have wanted to point this out, but it was Karl Marx who argued that India might benefit in this way from being colonized by England and not (and he spelled out the alternatives) Russia or Persia or Turkey.

We owe the term “Anglosphere” in large part to the historian and poet Robert Conquest, who this summer celebrated his 90th year of invincible common sense and courage in the fight against totalitarian thinking. In an appendix to his marvelous 2005 book The Dragons of Expectation: Reality and Delusion in the Course of History, he offers a detailed proposal for a broad Anglosphere alliance among the United States, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the Pacific Islands, and the Caribbean, with the multiethnic English-speaking island of Bermuda as the enterprise’s headquarters. Though he unfortunately does not include India, he does find it “perfectly conceivable that other countries particularly close to our condition might also accede—for example Norway and Gambia, in each of which English is widely understood and in each of which the political and civic structure is close to that of the rest of the states.” Quixotic as all this may sound, it probably understates the growing influence of English as a world language—the language of business and the Internet and air-traffic control, as well as of literature (or of literatures, given the emergence, first predicted by Orwell, of a distinct English written by Indians).

The shape of the world since September 11 has, in fact, shown the outline of such an alliance in practice. Everybody knows of Tony Blair’s solidarity with the United States, but when the chips were down, Australian forces also went to Iraq. Attacked domestically for being “all the way with the USA,” Australian prime minister John Howard made the imperishable observation that in times of crisis, there wasn’t much point in being 75 percent a friend. Howard won reelection in 2004. Even in relatively neutralist Canada, an openly pro-U.S. government headed by Stephen Harper was elected in 2006, surprising pundits who predicted that a tide of anti-Americanism made such an outcome impossible.

Howard’s statement has a great deal of history behind it. Roberts defines that history as an intimate alliance that defeated German Wilhelmine imperialism in 1918, the Nazi-Fascist Axis in 1945, and international Communism in 1989. This long arc of cooperation means that a young officer in, say, a Scottish regiment has a good chance of having two or even three ancestors who fought in the same trenches as did Americans and New Zealanders. No military force evolved by NATO, let alone the European Union, can hope to begin with such a natural commonality, the lack of which was painfully evident in Europe’s post-1989 Balkan bungling (from which a largely Anglo-American initiative had to rescue it).

The world now faces a challenge from a barbarism that is no less menacing than its three predecessors—and may even be more so. And in this new struggle, a post-9/11 America came—not a moment too soon—to appreciate the vital fact that India had been fighting bin-Ladenism (and had been its target) far longer than we had. That fact alone should have mandated a change of alignment away from the chronically unreliable Pakistani regime that had used the Taliban as its colonial proxy in Afghanistan. But it helped that India was also a polyethnic secular democracy with a largely English-speaking military, political, and commercial leadership. We’re only in the earliest stages of this new relationship, which so far depends largely on a nuclear agreement with New Delhi, and with the exception of Silicon Valley, the U.S. does not yet boast a politically active Indian population. But the future of American-Indian relations is crucial to our struggle against jihadism, as well as to our management of the balance of power with China.

In considering the future of the broader Anglosphere tradition, especially in the context of anti-jihadism, it may help to contrast it with the available alternatives. As a supranational body, the United Nations has obviously passed the point of diminishing returns. Inaugurated as an Anglo-American “coalition of the willing” against Hitler and his allies, the UN—in its failure to confront the genocides in Bosnia, Rwanda, and Darfur and in its abject refusal to enforce its own resolutions in the case of Iraq—is a prisoner of the “unilateralism” of France, Russia, and, to a lesser extent, China. NATO may have been somewhat serviceable in Kosovo (the first engagement in which it ever actually fought as an alliance), but it has performed raggedly in Afghanistan. The European Union has worked as an economic solvent on redundant dictatorships in Spain, Portugal, and Greece, and also on old irredentist squabbles in Ireland, Cyprus, and Eastern Europe. But it is about to reach, if it has not already, a membership saturation point that will disable any effective decision-making capacity. A glaring example of this disability is the EU’s utter failure to compose a viable constitution. Roberts correctly notes that “along with over two centuries of amendments the entire (readable and easily intelligible) U.S. Constitution can be printed out onto twelve pages of A4-sized paper; the (unreadable and impenetrably complicated) proposed European Constitution ran to 265.” (Roberts doesn’t mention the lucidity and brevity of the British constitution, perhaps because the motherland of the English-speaking peoples has absentmindedly failed to evolve one in written form, and thus will, on the demise of the present queen, have as head of state a strange middle-aged man with a soft spot for Islam and bizarre taste in wives.)

But the temptation to construe the Anglosphere too narrowly persists. Another recent book, The Anglosphere Challenge, by James C. Bennett, expresses astonishment at the low price that the British establishment has put on its old Commonwealth and Dominion ties, and some hostility to the way in which European connections now take precedence. But viewed historically, it is surely neither surprising nor alarming that the British decided to reverse Winston Churchill’s greatest mistake—abstaining from original membership in the European common market—and to associate more closely with the neighboring landmass. As Roberts himself concedes, Britain now enjoys a unique Atlanticist partnership along with full and energetic participation in the councils of the European Union.

As always with Mr. Hitchens, there's broad sense here punctuated by nonsensical particulars, when his residual Leftist muscles spasm. And it's seriously marred by his failure to acknowledge the central tradition of the Anglosphere, which is, of course, the Judeo-Christianity that gave rise to its democractic/capitalist/protestantism. Even the English of the English-speaking world is basically a function of the King James Bible.

Meanwhile, the multiculturalism that he claims should be defended elsewhere in the essay is nothing more than an attack on the very culture of the Anglosphere as is the transnationalism of the EU, which is why the European constitution can't be presented to English-speaking people without being rejected.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:24 PM


Torre Turns Down Yankees Offer (Tyler Kepner, 10/18/07, NY Times)

The Yankees offered Manager Joe Torre a one-year deal with a base salary of $5 million and the chance to make another $3 million in performance bonuses. But after 12-years and 12 postseason appearances (including four World Series titles), Torre turned it down.

Smart way to force him out and keep him from doing any more damage to the youngsters.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:04 PM


The vital statistics of Asterix: Albert Uderzo has been charming children for almost 50 years with his comic book creation, Asterix the Gaul. Despite the death of its co-creator 30 years ago, the character still dominates his life (Mario Cacciottolo, 10/18/07, BBC Magazine)

The cartoon books of the Gaulish hero and his friends, who live in a village surrounded by invading Romans kept out thanks to a magic potion which gives tremendous strength, have been massively popular since first appearing in 1959.

Inside the Uderzo residence, in the exclusive Neuilly-sur-Seine district of Paris, the artist enters his studio slowly, with the use of a single crutch - his right knee has suddenly swollen up and he had to visit hospital earlier that day.

Although obviously in some discomfort, he refuses to make a fuss.

His office/studio is exactly how one hopes it would be - bright and sunny, stuffed full of figures of Asterix, his friend Obelix and their friends and foes, with models of miniature Gaulish villages, artistic materials and the walls smothered with original artwork.

There are also two desks, to which Mr Uderzo points in turn. "That one is where I work, that one is where I do my taxes."

Asterix, the village of Gauls with their chieftain Vitalstatistix and the "crazy" Romans surrounding them, were created by Mr Uderzo. Since the death of his writing partner, Rene Goscinny, 30 years ago next month, he has taken on the words as well.

Mr Uderzo's office is filled with working materials and memorabilia
Some 325 million copies of the 33 Asterix albums have been sold, with translations into languages as diverse as Urdu, Arabic and even Latin.

Anyone know why the movies haven't been released here? They're big budget flicks with Gerard Depardieu, who's got at least some star power.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:48 AM


The talking cure: a review of Why Are the Arabs Not Free? by Moustapha Safouan (Samir El-Youssef, 18 October 2007, New Statesman)

The disparity between written and spoken Arabic is so great that talking to an audience is often a discouraging test for Arab writers. To use the vernacular, one would probably have to avoid sophisticated arguments and deep thoughts. But to talk in standard (written) language is to risk sounding pompous and rhetorical - and, worst of all, to fail to reach those who have had no school education. Given the high level of illiteracy in the Arab world, this means losing the attention of a great proportion of the public.

The dilemma is particularly daunting for those of us bilingual Arab writers who, through writing in English or French, have become used to the idea of written and spoken language being the same. The Franco-Egyptian writer Moustapha Safouan's solution to the problem is a call for writers to abandon standard Arabic and use the spoken dialects instead. Safouan claims that writing in rarefied standard Arabic is a major cause of the absence of freedom and democracy in the Arab world. He calls this the "politics of writing" - written language is the privilege of the elite, the educated few who are faithfully in the service of their paymasters: the despotic Arab rulers and their political regimes.

Where's King James when you need him?

MORE (via Mike Daley):
Mother Tongue: A review of Inventing English: A Portable History of the Language, by Seth Lerer (Joseph Tartakovsky, Fall 2007, Claremont Review of Books)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:44 AM


Rudy in Iowa: Is he or isn't he? (Jonathan Martin, Oct 18, 2007, Politico)

Giuliani’s entire strategy, as made plain by candidate and campaign alike, is based on performing well in the large states that will hold their primaries after the traditional early contests.

Indeed, the tear-sheet next to the main entrance of the former New York mayor’s Manhattan campaign headquarters counts down the days to Feb. 5, the day of “Tsunami Tuesday,” not Jan. 3, the day Iowa Republicans decreed this week as their caucus date.

The attention lavished on the later, larger states is underscored by Giuliani’s travel calendar. He touched down in this Mississippi River town Wednesday as part of a three-stop swing. But that was his first real campaign visit to Iowa in over two months and it came after a two-week period in which he had visited every other state holding a January contest (some more than once).

“Iowans expect to see their governor and their presidential candidates up close and personal,” said former Republican Gov. Terry Branstad. Having visited each of the state’s 99 counties every one of the 16 years he served as governor, he would know.

Asked about how many more visits Giuliani would make in the 78 days before the caucuses, a senior campaign aide said it would be “more than in the last six weeks but perhaps still fewer than other candidates.”

The notion that you can lose IA, NH and SC and remain a viable candidate is at least ahistorical, if not lunatic.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:41 AM


Bush, Liberian President Meet at White House (VOA News, 18 October 2007)

President Bush has met at the White House with Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

Speaking with reporters after their talks Thursday, Mr. Bush praised Mrs. Sirleaf's efforts to rebuild her country's education system following more than a decade of civil war. [...]

This was the third time Mr. Bush has met with Mrs. Sirleaf at the White House since her inauguration in January 2006. He has praised the Liberian president for overseeing a relatively smooth transition to democracy in Liberia.

Note that you seldom hear the Left complain about this unilateral regime change.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:21 AM


British actress Kerr dies at 86 (BBC, 10/18/07)

British actress Deborah Kerr, known to millions for her roles in The King And I, Black Narcissus and From Here To Eternity, has died at the age of 86. [...]

Her first major screen role came in 1941's Major Barbara, while her last came in 1985's The Assam Garden.

Between them she appeared alongside such Hollywood icons as Burt Lancaster, Cary Grant and Robert Mitchum.

Notable British films include The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, in which she played three roles, and Black Narcissus, which saw as a nun in the Himalayas.

She remains best known, however, for her torrid sex scene with Lancaster in From Here to Eternity and for dancing with Yul Brynner in The King and I.

Finally got to see Colonel Blimp once Netflix got it in and it's every bit as good as folks say. And, of course, she's in Quo Vadis?, which someone really needs to remake.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:52 AM


Lessons From the '87 Crash (Robert J. Samuelson, October 10, 2007, Washington Post)

The stock market crash of 1987 was horrifying even to Americans who weren't shareholders. On Oct. 19, the Dow Jones industrial average dropped 508 points, which was 22.6 percent and nearly twice the largest one-day decline during the 1929 crash. A comparable free fall today would be almost 3,200 points. Twenty years later, the crash of 1987 has changed the way we think. It has stripped us of the illusion that financial panics are a thing of the past. They remain a clear and present danger for the economy.

Actually, it didn't even change the way most of us think even as it was happening, nevermind now that it's either forgotten or remembered as proving what we thought then: buy on the dips. It was only computers and brights who panicked, Small Stockholders Again Refuse to Panic (DAVID BARBOZA, 8/06/88):
Jean Taranto isn't the kind who frets over a gyrating stock market. Prices go up and down, sometimes violently, but the American economy appears to be as strong as ever, she says. All that is to say that the stock market selloff Tuesday, which saw the Dow Jones industrial average plunge 299.43 points, is just one of the things investors must get used to.

''It's nothing to get desperate about,'' said Ms. Taranto, a Brooklyn teacher. ''The news people are making it sound like a catastrophe. But I have a lot of telephone stocks, and my stocks did O.K.''

That attitude, one of staying the course -- investing for the long term and remaining loyal to one of the greatest bull markets in history -- has time and again guided investors through the bumps and bruises of Wall Street trading in the 1990's. [...]

And in interviews with smaller investors around the country, many of whom have weathered sharp declines, the attitude is: the market will come back. ''I'm going to stay the course,'' said Daniel Saltzberg, 75, a retail clothing consultant. ''This market has to go up to at least 10,000. The economy is great. And where else will capital go?''

Mr. Saltzberg and others point to events last summer. A sharp market downturn began in August with a currency crisis in Southeast Asia, punishing stock prices, and this set the stage for the fierce selloff on Oct. 27, when the Dow Jones industrial average dropped 554 points, or 7.2 percent, in one day. (The market slowly recovered, and went on to gain more than 30 percent in less than a year.) [...]

Still, the knowledge that stock prices can go through violent swings, and still move higher from year to year, may be comforting investors who believe they can ride out the latest downturn. ''I'm not that concerned,'' said Theodore Garner, 48, a financial auditor in Portland, Ore. ''I've been in the market for 10 or 12 years, and I'm not going to take money out for another 10 years; so it doesn't bother me much. The gains from the mid-1980's have grown so much that it doesn't matter if the Dow slips back down to 7,000.''

Mr. Garner is not alone. A nationwide poll released Monday said it would take an ''unprecedented market drop'' of about 1,000 points in a single day to fully shake the confidence of small investors. [...]

''I still think the psychology of the small and medium investor is buy on the dips,'' said Jeremy J. Siegel, a professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and author of ''Stocks for the Long Run.''

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:41 AM


Giuliani's Conservative Support Tenuous (ALAN FRAM, 10/18/07, AP)

[A] close look suggests his support from the GOP's potent right wing is less than meets the eye, according to recent Associated Press-Ipsos polls.

Conservatives, evangelical and born-again voters, and strongly loyal Republicans who back Giuliani tend to be less conservative, less religiously active and less supportive of President Bush than those favoring Fred Thompson, Giuliani's chief rival so far, the surveys show.

That leaves Giuliani, the Republican front-runner, with a tenuous hold on the most intensely conservative voters long considered his party's core.

Giuliani and Thompson are each backed by about one-fifth of conservatives, with an equal share undecided and the rest spread among other candidates. Thompson has a slight edge over Giuliani — with undecideds close by — among right-leaning voters like Southerners, strongly loyal Republicans and people who attend religious services at least weekly.

With state primaries and caucuses less than three months away, this lack of conservative consensus creates an opportunity for Thompson and others to Giuliani's right.

Despite high name recognition and one moment for which he's justly celebrated, the Mayor most closely resembles Howard Dean, whose campaign imploded as soon as people paid attention.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:07 AM


Toothless laws are no match for China graft (Catherine Jiang, 10/19/07, Asia Times)

A Hong Kong-based American businessman who asked to remain anonymous but who represents a large Western multimedia company in Asia, including China and Hong Kong, said he believes China is serious about dealing with corruption, but not "100% serious".

"China does things that will get media headlines and coverage, but they are at the stage of making examples of a few, hoping that others will follow and be honest, but they are not seriously digging deep and going after everyone," he said. "That's partly because there are still people in relatively high and untouchable positions who are corrupt."

He cited DVD piracy as a major example. "One example - many of the plants that illegally manufacture pirate DVDs are thought to be owned in whole or in part by high ranking officers of the Chinese military," he said.

"China is not entirely serious about protection of intellectual property because they figure that piracy provides employment," he said. "But they are getting more serious now because they are seeing the impacts on Chinese citizens who are also trying to develop new technology and suffering from piracy.

We've had such protections for so long that some have forgotten that not protecting ideas stifles innovation.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:47 AM


McCain Is Back (JOE KLEIN, 10/17/07, TIME)

There is only one American politician who sounds like this: "With my usual suicidal, masochistic tendencies, I spoke at the Detroit Economic Club last week and supported increased fuel-efficiency standards." Yes, yes, it's John McCain, rising from the crypt, but not as a zombie. The foolishly conventional Republican McCain of last year was the zombie. No, this is the funny, free-range McCain reincarnated, the independent who dares speak to an environmental forum in New Hampshire, touting his green credentials, actually supporting a return to the Kyoto global-warming negotiations, which is anathema to most Republicans. That guy—the interesting one—is back.

Ronald Reagan and W both had to lose actual primaries/caucuses before they could pretend to be underdogs. Maverick benefits from folks still not understanding the dynamics of the GOP nomination process.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:35 AM


House GOP derails spy measure: The vote on the bill, which seeks to expand court oversight of U.S. operations, is delayed until at least next week. (Associated Press, October 18, 2007)

The House's Democratic leaders pulled the bill after discovering that Republicans planned to offer a motion that politically vulnerable Democrats would have a hard time voting against.

The amendment would have said that nothing in the bill could limit surveillance of Osama bin Laden and terrorist organizations. While Democrats say their bill already provides that authority, voting against the amendment could make it seem as though a member of Congress were against spying on Al Qaeda.

Republicans sought to play down the amendment's role in causing the bill to be pulled. Rep. Peter Hoekstra of Michigan, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, said the bill was losing moderate Democratic votes because it was fundamentally flawed.

Passage of the Republican amendment would have sent the bill immediately back to committee, effectively killing it. Key Democrats believed they were short of the votes needed to defeat the move.

"Our proposal gives Democrats a very simple choice: They can allow our intelligence officials to conduct surveillance on likes of Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda or prohibit them from doing so and jeopardize our national security," House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) said in a statement.

The Democratic bill had faced opposition from the left as well. The American Civil Liberties Union has been waging a campaign against it, arguing it should require individual court orders every time an American's communications are intercepted.

Some liberal Democrats shared those concerns, and "Republicans took advantage of a tenuous situation," said Caroline Fredrickson, ACLU's Washington legislative director.

Took advantage of the Democrats sharing the ACLU's anti-spying position.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:30 AM


Mastermind of '80s gas attacks on Kurds is taken to a gallows site (Andrew E. Kramer, October 18, 2007, NY Times)

The man known as Chemical Ali for ordering poison gas attacks against the Kurds in the 1980s has been flown by helicopter from a United States base to a site near a prison gallows in Baghdad, an Iraqi police official said Wednesday, suggesting that his execution was imminent.

The prisoner, Ali Hassan al-Majid, a cousin of Saddam Hussein, was sentenced on June 24 to death for his role in the Anfal — or "spoils of war" — campaign that killed as many as 180,000 Kurds.

...think we should have left him in power.

October 17, 2007

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:14 PM


Manny, Sox unfazed by pressure: Slugger says team is confident despite trailing, 3-1, in ALCS (Ian Browne, 10/17/07, MLB.com)

How is Manny Ramirez holding up amid the pressure of his Red Sox trailing, 3-1, to the Indians in the American League Championship Series?

So well that Ramirez held a rare briefing with the media in which he let his guard down and gave reporters a sense of the carefree personality that his teammates are privy to on a daily basis.

It was a vintage seven minutes of Manny being Manny. It was almost as if Ramirez was saying, "Pressure? What pressure?"

"We're confident every day," said Ramirez. "It doesn't matter how things go for you. We're not going to give up. We're just going to go and play the game, like I've said, and move on. If it doesn't happen, so who cares? There's always next year. It's not like the end of the world or something. Why should we panic?"

What's to be nervous about? All they need is three good starts from three of the best big game starters in baseball.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:07 PM


The 'American' rebooting France (Roger Cohen, October 17, 2007, IHT)

Not only is Christine Lagarde, France's finance minister, ready to forsake her native tongue, she is, she says, "happier doing this in English" - and with that, right off the bat, she declares in ringing Anglo-Saxon: "We are trying to change the psyche of the French people in relation to work."

A hopeless task, some might say. Deep in the Gallic soul resides the notion that work is exploitation, a ruse concocted by American robber barons, best regulated and minimized and offset by hours of idleness. The demise of the Soviet Union left France leading the counter-capitalist school.

But Lagarde, 51, tall and striking, is not known as "the American" for nothing. Think of her as the face of a new France ditching its Cold-War hangover. The sobriquet reflects her linguistic skills, her background as a high-flying executive for the Baker & McKenzie law firm, and her Chicago-cultivated candor.

In an interview, Lagarde says that more than two decades at a U.S. corporation taught her: "The more hours you worked, the more hours you billed, the more profit you could generate for yourself and your firm. That was the mantra."

The equivalent mantra in the French bureaucracy might be: The fewer hours you work, the more vacation you take, the more time you have to grumble about the state of the universe, and the smarter you feel, especially compared to workaholic dingbats across the Atlantic with no time for boules.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:30 PM


Armenian story has another side (Norman Stone, October 16, 2007, Chicago Tribune)

In 1914, when World War I began in earnest, Armenians living in what is now Turkey attempted to set up a national state. Armenians revolted against the Ottoman government, began what we would now call "ethnic cleansing" of the local Turks. Their effort failed and caused the government to deport most Armenians from the area of the revolt for security reasons. Their sufferings en route are well-known. [...]

There are many other arguments against a supposed genocide of the Armenians. Their leader was offered a post in the Turkish Cabinet in 1914, and turned it down. When the deportations were under way, the populations of the big cities were exempted -- Istanbul, Izmir, Aleppo, where there were huge concentrations of Armenians. There were indeed well-documented and horrible massacres of the deportee columns, and the Turks themselves tried more than 1,300 men for these crimes in 1916, convicted many and executed several. None of this squares with genocide, as we classically understand it. Finally, it is just not true that historians as a whole support the genocide thesis. The people who know the background and the language (Ottoman Turkish is terribly difficult) are divided, and those who do not accept the genocide thesis are weightier. The Armenian lobby contends that these independent and highly esteemed historians are simply "Ottomanists" -- a ridiculously arrogant dismissal.

...once you stake out victim status, few will question your arrogance.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:46 PM


Listen to Adam Smith: inheritance tax is good: Inheritance tax is one levy that makes good economic sense (Irwin Stelzer, 17th October 2007, Spectator)

Which brings us to the final objection to this forgiveness of taxes on inheritance, which in the end is no different from any other income the beneficiary might receive — except that it is not earned by the sweat of his brow or the whirring of his brain. The tax cuts could have been better concentrated on lowering the marginal tax rate faced by all earners. Reduce taxes on the pay for that extra work, and you will get more of it; reduce taxes on the profits from risk-taking, and entrepreneurs will take more chances and create more jobs. Reduce the taxes on recipients of inheritances, on the other hand, and they will work less and be less likely to start up new businesses. Worse still, and perhaps most important, to abandon the laudable goal of trying to make opportunity more equal for all in order to favour the beneficiaries of perhaps the 6 per cent of estates that pay inheritance taxes is a terrible policy trade-off.

At least to an economist, whose policy role should be to tell politicians the cost of their decisions, and then leave it to them to decide whether a policy is worth its cost. Inheritance taxes make good economic sense, but against the economic advantages must be set the limitation they impose on the freedom of people to dispose of their lawfully earned wealth as they see fit.

In my view, that reduction in freedom — the cost of retaining inheritance taxes — is outweighed by the benefits: the economic advantages, especially when compared with other taxes, and their contribution to the drive for greater equality of opportunity. Which makes it too bad that politics trumped economics, since the result is neither greater overall fairness, nor the increased stimulus to economic growth that alternative tax cuts would provide.

Messrs Darling and Osborne would do all of us a favour if they would whip out their undoubtedly dog-eared copies of The Wealth of Nations. To meet the criteria of ‘evident justice and utility’, Adam Smith supported a tax on wealth inherited by children ‘who have got families of their own, and are supported by funds separate and independent of their father’.

Luckily, no thought is required. It suffices that the Right opposes the tax for the Left to seem "conservative" by saying, "us too."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:31 PM


Parallel universes exist - study (Breitbart, Sep 23, 2007)

Parallel universes really do exist, according to a mathematical discovery by Oxford scientists described by one expert as "one of the most important developments in the history of science". [...]

According to quantum mechanics, nothing at the subatomic scale can really be said to exist until it is observed. Until then, particles occupy nebulous "superposition" states, in which they can have simultaneous "up" and "down" spins, or appear to be in different places at the same time.

Observation appears to "nail down" a particular state of reality, in the same way as a spinning coin can only be said to be in a "heads" or "tails" state once it is caught. [...]

The Oxford team, led by Dr David Deutsch, showed mathematically that the bush-like branching structure created by the universe splitting into parallel versions of itself can explain the probabilistic nature of quantum outcomes.

...no matter how high you stack the bologna it's still just a pile of lunchmeat.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:06 PM


The Iraqi Genocide (Paul Craig Roberts, 17 October, 2007, Countercurrents.org)

Why has not the Turkish parliament given tit for tat and passed a resolution condemning the Iraqi Genocide?

As a result of Bush's invasion of Iraq, more than one million Iraqis have died, and several millions are displaced persons. The Iraqi death toll and the millions of uprooted Iraqis match the Armenian deaths and deportations. If one is a genocide, so is the other.

It is true that most of the Iraqi deaths have resulted from Iraqis killing one another. But it was Bush's destruction of the secular Iraqi state that unleashed the sectarian strife.

Moreover, American troops in Iraq have killed more civilians than insurgents. The US military in Iraq has fallen for every bit of disinformation fed to it by Al Qaeda personnel posing as "informants" and by Sunnis setting up Shi'ites and Shi'ites setting up Sunnis. As a result, American bombs and missiles have blown up weddings, funerals, kids playing soccer, and people shopping in bazaars and sleeping in their homes.

Not to be outdone, Bush's private Waffen SS known as Blackwater Security has taken to gunning Iraqi civilians down in the streets. How do Blackwater and Custer Battles killers escape the "unlawful combatant" designation?

One can only marvel at the insouciance of the US Congress to the current Iraqi Genocide while condemning Turkey for one that happened 90 years ago.

Because, we're like Nazis, dontcha know?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:55 AM


McKinney registers in Calif., where some want to nominate her (AP, October 17, 2007)

Former congresswoman Cynthia McKinney has registered to vote in California, where some want her to run for president as a Green Party candidate. [...]

The fact that McKinney's name remains on the ballot has given supporters hope, said John Morton, a California Green Party delegate.

"She's got us all guessing, but she hasn't removed her name, and that's a good sign. I talked to her last week and she said she's very interested but not ready to make an announcement."

One would like to think that Al Gore, no matter how misguided, is serious when he talks about how central his environmental concerns ought to be to American politics. But if he's willing to stand back and let her speak for the movement, how seriously can we take him?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:42 AM


Eastern Europe Might Never Catch Up: Because of brain drain and shrinking populations, formerly communist states may never close the economic gap with their Western Europe counterparts (Jochen Luypaert, 10/17/07, Business Week)

Central and Eastern Europe states are in danger of never catching up with Western Europe, as the long term economic growth potential in the region is undermined by a widening human capital gap with the west of the continent, a report has warned.

The report -- called the European Human Capital Index -- ranked eastern EU members and candidates on their ability to develop and sustain their human capital, and was released by the Brussels-based Lisbon Council think tank on Monday (15 October).

Since the collapse of communism, economic growth in the former communist states is far above growth seen elsewhere on the continent, narrowing the difference in economic wealth between the two halves of the continent.

But researchers now fear that a continuation of this performance is unlikely, unless certain problems are urgently addressed.

"The entire study shows a closing of the gap in the last 15 years, but now it could widen again," Peer Ederer, the lead author of the study warned during the report's presentation. [...]

"The demographic outlook is [also] not good," he added. "In Eastern Europe, you can find the lowest birth rates, basically in each of these countries. (...) Combine the demographic data with the brain-drain that continues to happen, and you have a very bleak picture."

But the antihumanists always assure us that the road to a bright future is paved with falling populations....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:24 AM


Iran jails its conscience (Pepe Escobar, 10/18/07, Asia Times)

A man is being kept in solitary confinement in cell number 209 of sinister Evin prison in Tehran. His crime: he's Iran's top human rights activist. [...]

Before he was sent to prison [Emadeddin] Baghi wrote a letter to the head of the Iranian judiciary, Ayatollah Mahmoud Shahroudi, detailing at length how he has been harassed by the system even before the rise of Iran's reformists, starting in the mid-1990s. [...]

At the end of his letter he asks the head of the judiciary what kind of rights protection the Islamic Republic is offering its citizens. That's the key point of his political position: if human rights violations are essentially government violations, only the government system can prevent them.

Baghi's immensely politeness masks an iron will. Asia Times Online interviewed him in Tehran in the summer of 2005 (see The humanist reformer). He has published 21 books, collections of articles and translations (seven either banned before publication or confiscated later). His NGO - which relies on the volunteer work of the best Iranian human rights lawyers - is not only concerned with improving dismal prison conditions in Iran but protecting the rights of all prisoners, not only political prisoners.

That Baghi's work can so irk the upper echelons of the Islamic Republic speaks volumes about a system that thrives on internal fear. It also spells out how much the Iran is in dire need of a new public relations strategy. Just when it may soon be on the receiving end of a devastating, preemptive war, and badly in need of international support, sending your best-known human rights activist to jail is not exactly a brilliant move.

Yup, it's just a PR problem. You bet....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:17 AM


Turkey into Iraq? Easier said than done (Hilmi Toros, 10/17/07, Asia Times)

Turkey is taking final steps toward a military foray into the Iraqi quagmire. It is a move favored by the public and the military, but opposed by major powers - and Iraq.

An entry is laden with pitfalls. And exit after that, more so. [...]

The United States, the European Union and Russia have advised Turkey against unilateral military action. The Iraqi government has said any Turkish incursion would infringe on its territorial integrity.

...they can probably win without our help, but won't have to.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:09 AM


World buys US, China buys world (Abid Aslam, 10/17/07, Asia Times)

Foreign investment in the United States grew by 74% to US$175.4 billion in 2006, almost twice the global growth rate of 38 %, the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) said in its 2007 World Investment Report. [...]

Last year's total was the highest since 2000, when the amount of foreign corporate money flowing into all countries peaked just above $1.4 trillion before technology stocks began to tumble. Terrorist attacks in the United States the following year added to a worldwide slowdown.

China saw its inflows fall for the first time in seven years to $69.5 billion from $72.4 billion in 2005, UNCTAD said.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:35 AM


Election Scorecard: Where the election stands today. (Mark Blumenthal and Charles Franklin, Oct. 17, 2007, Slate)

Welcome to Slate's all-you-can-eat polling feature, Election Scorecard. Compiled from data crunched by our partners at Pollster.com, the scorecard delivers the numbers you need to know about every presidential primary and caucus. No more trying to make sense of 10 different polls from 10 different news organizations. Pollster.com analyzes all the surveys from the primary states and boils them down into a single number for easy consumption. Graphs track how the numbers for the top four candidates in each state have changed over time, showing which candidates are surging and which are lagging. State-by-state breakdowns allow for easy comparisons of candidate performance in the states that matter most and show how many delegates are at stake for each party. It performs the same number-crunching on nationwide polls as well.

You can see the contours of the scenario that may well play out here. The showings of Fred Thompson and Mike Huckabee in IA suggest the enduring strength of Christian conservatives in the unique caucuses. A state where the Reverend Pat Robertson managed to do well is ripe for upsetting the front-runners. That would throw NH into turmoil and with Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani splitting the North Eastern neighbor constituency -- MA politicians always win NH -- you could get another shocking win for Senator McCain. That would make SC a two person race: Fred Thompson, who's leading, vs. John McCain, who learned from his mistakes there last time.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:13 AM


Scarcity Amid Abundance (Darío Montero, Oct 16, 2007, IPS)

Hunger in this region today is not a problem of a lack of food, but of inadequate purchasing power among the poor.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) estimates that Brazil has enough food to provide up to 2,960 kilocalories a day per person, above the recommended 1,900 kilocalories.

The same is true of Argentina, once known as the world’s breadbasket, and Uruguay next door, which exports a large part of the meat and dairy products and nearly all of the rice it produces, while domestic prices of those products are currently high for workers.

On the other hand, "poverty and extreme poverty take on a culture of their own, and it takes years, and specific policies, to fix those problems," Luis Álvarez, with Uruguay’s National Food Institute (INDA), told IPS.

"What we have to tackle is the transformation of the culture, that has generated the crisis and structural inequality," he argued.

Commodities are never scarce, just maldistributed.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:10 AM


In Shift, 40% of Immigrants Move Directly to Suburbs (SAM ROBERTS, 10/17/07, NY Times)

About 4 in 10 immigrants are moving directly from abroad to the nation’s suburbs, which are growing increasingly diverse, according to census figures released yesterday. [...]

“For blacks, especially, it mimics the 50s-style suburban movement, most pronounced for married couples with children, owners and the upwardly mobile,” said William H. Frey, a Brookings Institution demographer.

Dr. Frey’s analysis of mobility patterns found that while Hispanic and Asian immigrants were more likely to settle first in the nation’s cities, “after they get settled, they follow the train to the suburbs.”

...the sooner the nativists shut up.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:26 AM


Imus in Talks With Channel That Has Long Rural Reach (JACQUES STEINBERG, 10/17/07, NY Times)

Don Imus, expected to announce soon that he will begin broadcasting on WABC radio in New York City in December, is in serious discussions with an unlikely partner to simulcast his radio show on television. It is RFD-TV, a satellite and cable channel aimed primarily at farming and other rural communities. [...]

For Mr. Imus, whose previous show on CBS Radio was seen nationally on MSNBC, RFD (which stands for rural free delivery) would offer a lower profile. Mr. Imus used to share a cable network with hosts like Keith Olbermann and Chris Matthews; at RFD-TV his show would be a marquee lead-in to others with titles like “Cattlemen to Cattlemen” (a 30-minute newsmagazine about the cattle industry) and “Horse Babies” (an eight-week mini-series).

Over Labor Day weekend RFD broadcast a one-hour documentary about Mr. Imus’s ranch in New Mexico, where he regularly plays host to children with cancer and other illnesses. If Mr. Imus were to sign with RFD-TV, he would be seen in New York, Los Angeles and other big cities (with the notable exception of Des Moines) only by viewers with satellite service, including from Dish and DirecTV.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:20 AM


Support Wanes in House for Genocide Vote (CARL HULSE, 10/16/07, NY Times)

Worried about antagonizing Turkish leaders, House members from both parties have begun to withdraw their support from a resolution backed by the Democratic leadership that would condemn as genocide the mass killings of Armenians nearly a century ago.

Almost a dozen lawmakers had shifted against the measure in a 24-hour period ending Tuesday night, accelerating a sudden exodus that has cast deep doubt over the measure’s prospects.

...you can't even sustain an Islamophobic self-righteous hate for two minutes.

October 16, 2007

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:17 PM

ENDING HISTORY (via Mike Daley):

Divine Authority: a review of The Law of God: The Philosophical History of an Idea by Remi Brague (Benjamin Balint, Oct/Nov 2007, Policy Review)

One moral of the story, as he sees it, is that we are more Christian than we had supposed. This is so, to begin with, because of that faith’s influence on the other monotheisms:

Events that had their epicenter in the Christian world produced upheavals in Muslim societies and Jewish communities, and thinkers who were Christian in origin furnished the conceptual framework within which Judaism and Islam had to reformulate their thinking about the law.

But the West owes an even more direct debt. Brague argued in his book Eccentric Culture (2002) that Christianity comprises neither a third element in European culture nor a synthesis of Athens and Jerusalem, but “the common structure of our relationship to both sources.” It conditions the very way Europe relates to the past: “Christianity is not an element among others in European culture, but its very form, the form that enables it to remain open to whatever can come from the outside and enrich the hoard of its experiences with the human and the divine.”

In his latest book, Brague contends that in three respects, modern societies are made possible only by the Christian experience of a divinity without law. First, Christianity gave us natural law. Starting with Augustine in the fifth century, and with increasing clarity in the early Middle Ages, Christians developed the idea of a unity of divine and natural law: an eternal law against which one can measure temporal laws and in which one can discern not God’s will, but His nature.

Second, Christianity conferred on us the very idea of a sovereign state. In fact, Brague argues, the church was a state in the modern sense of the term before there were states. “The church of the Gregorian Reform is the first institution in history that willed and understood itself to be a state,” he writes. The notion of sovereignty did not originate with kings, only to be appropriated by popes, but instead “arose to express the power of the pope before it prompted, in response, an extension to the power of kings.”

Third, Christianity furnished a powerful justification for democracy. Here Brague cites the fifteenth-century philosopher and Roman Catholic cardinal Nicholas of Cusa: “There is in the people a divine seed by virtue of their common birth and equal natural right of all men so that all authority — which comes from God as does man himself — is recognized as divine when it arises from the common consent of the subjects.” Brague concludes from this and other sources that “the model for modern democracy and its electoral procedures was not so much Athens, where choices depended on drawing lots, but the medieval church.”

The history of modernity is little more than various folks kicking, futilely, against that experience.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:13 PM


The Great Partition: The Making of India and Pakistan: A new book maps the partition of the Indian subcontinent and evocatively captures what it meant for the millions swept up in the tide of violence, migration, and the ensuing loss and confusion. (Neha Inamdar, October 16 , 2007, Mother Jones)

In August 1947, Great Britain relinquished its grip on 1.8 million square miles of the Indian subcontinent. For 400 million newly independent Indians, the twilight of British rule was both liberating and painful: British and Indian politicians had decreed the creation of India and a new nation, Pakistan, based on the notion that Hindus and Muslims were fundamentally incompatible. The result was the division of the subcontinent into two rivals and the largest transfer of population in history. What came to be known as "partition" forced an estimated 15 million people to leave their homes and left as many as 1 million dead.

In The Great Partition: The Making of India and Pakistan, Yasmin Khan, a politics lecturer at the University of London, powerfully captures how this decision affected the lives of ordinary people. Across India and Pakistan, religious cleansing forced people to migrate to the other side. Khan relates one eyewitness account in which a group of Punjabi Muslims who had resisted pressure to go to Pakistan were removed by the military. But many Indians believed that partition would be a temporary measure. Some buried their jewels near their ancestral homes, expecting to return to them once the violence died down. Ultimately, many refugees ended up losing not only their homes and property but loved ones as well. When Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, who had supported partition, visited a squalid refugee camp, an anguished young man slapped his face and yelled, "Give my mother back to me! Bring my sisters to me!" Fikr Taunsvi, a writer in Lahore, witnessed a washerman's baby progressively sicken from hunger because local shops and hospitals were inaccessible due to communal tensions and a curfew. Angrily, he remarked that politicians should ask "great brains like Jawaharlal Nehru" to put themselves in this illiterate washerman’s shoes and imagine the real effects of partition; once they understood this, he wrote, then they could "request the British to give you freedom" and "demand Pakistan and Hindustan."

Presumably the Left thinks India would have been better off under Saddam than liberated?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:46 PM


The 5-minute Interview: Gerry Anderson, TV programme producer (Jane Crowley, 17 October 2007, Independent)

Responsible for the creation of the hit series 'Thunderbirds', Gerry Anderson, 78, has been in the broadcasting business since the mid-1950s. His company Century 21 Productions, originally known as A P Films, is most famous for making children's television shows using puppets and stop-motion animation. Other projects include 'Captain Scarlet', 'Stingray' and 'Joe 90'. A DVD version of 'Dick Spanner' is out this week [...]

A common misperception of me is...

That I liked making puppet films. I never wanted to work with puppets and in effort to get out of it I tried to make them better and better so that the directors would say: "Why is this man wasting his talent with puppets? We should give him some live action to do." But what they actually said was "Isn't he good at these puppet shows?" So I ended up doing more.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:43 PM


Migrants in Britain - the official verdict (Richard Ford, 10/17/07, Times of London)

Migrants are more reliable and harder working than British-born workers and are boosting economic output by £6 billion a year, according to a government study published yesterday.

Immigrants have a better work ethic than the British and are willing to work longer hours with less time off sick. Weekly mean earnings of migrants are also £60 higher than their UK counterparts.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:37 PM


Foreign investment in Japan negative in 2006 (Kyodo News, 10/17/07)

Foreign direct investment inflows to Japan turned negative in 2006 for the first time since 1989, affected by divestments by large transnational companies, including Vodafone Group PLC, according to a U.N. development agency.

The sluggish result was in contrast to a surge in FDI inflows to other advanced economies amid an increasing number of cross-border mergers and acquisitions, as well as a steady uptrend in other part of Asia, including China, the U.N. Conference on Trade and Development said in its annual report to be released Wednesday.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:27 PM


George Bush ignores China over Dalai Lama (Alex Spillius and Richard Spencer, 17/10/2007, Daily Telegraph)

President George W Bush will have his first public meeting with the Dalai Lama in Washington today, despite protests from China.

The Tibetan spiritual leader and Mr Bush met in private yesterday, but today the Dalai Lama will be given the Congressional Gold Medal in the president's presence.

The Capitol Hill ceremony will act as a powerful symbol of support as China seeks to end dissent among his followers.

"China has solemnly demanded the United States cancel the above-mentioned and extremely wrongful arrangement," said Yang Jiechi, the Chinese foreign minister.

When we used to play kick-the-can in our neighborhood we somehow got in the habit of using a rubber ball with handles on it--they were called Red Eyes--instead of a tin can. It belonged to one of the more immature kids and whenever he was "it" he'd cry, pick up the ball, and scream: "I'm taking my Red Eye and going home!" Someone want to hand Mr. Jiechi his Red Eye?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:23 PM


Stretching before you exercise may be 'a waste of time (DAVID DERBYSHIRE, 17th October 2007, Daily Mail)

The elaborate limbering up routines favoured by many athletes and gym-goers do little to prevent muscle aches and stiffness, researchers found.

Stretching muscles after exercise may be equally pointless, they say.

The findings, published today in a respected medical journal, are likely to prove fiercely contentious as fitness experts have long advised that stretching is vital to increase flexibility, improve performance and reduce the risk of injury.

It's always humbling to read a biography or journal of some 18th/19th century figure who'd routinely go out and walk 10 or twenty miles in a day. Somehow they managed without whining about their hammies....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:59 PM


The Dean Wing of the Republican Party (Debra Saunders, 10/16/07, Real Clear Politics)

It's pretty clear that Mitt Romney made a big mistake over the weekend when he told voters that he speaks for "the Republican wing of the Republican Party." Romney handed rivals Rudy Giuliani and John McCain the opportunity to remind GOP primary voters about the Old Romney, who was pro-abortion rights and courted gay voters when he ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate, then successfully for governor of Massachusetts. That's the Romney, who while debating Sen. Ted Kennedy in 1994, proclaimed: "I was an independent during the time of Reagan-Bush. I'm not trying to return to Reagan-Bush."

Of course the Romney sound bite backfired -- it borrowed a page from the failed strategy of Howard "Democratic wing of the Democratic Party" Dean.

Team Romney does not concede that it erred.

Of course, the Romney campaign is also running the anti-GOP ad in NH that cost him ten points in the polls.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:36 PM


Nature, not man, is to blame, Gore critic insists (Steve Lyttle, 10/13/07, McClatchy Newspapers)

"We'll look back on all of this in 10 or 15 years and realize how foolish it was," [William Gray, a pioneer in the science of seasonal hurricane forecasts] said.

He cited statistics, showing there were 101 hurricanes from 1900-1949, in a period of cooler global temperatures, compared to 83 from 1957-2006, when the Earth warmed.

"The human impact on the atmosphere is simply too small to have a major effect on global temperatures," Gray said.

"It bothers me that my fellow scientists are not speaking out against something they know is wrong," he said. "But they also know that they'd never get any grants if they spoke out. I don't care about grants."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:00 PM


In defence of hypocrisy (Martin O'Neill, 16 October 2007, New Statesman)

The theft of good ideas in politics isn’t particularly objectionable, as long as the ideas are good. After all, it would be strange if any particular party had a complete monopoly on imaginative policy ideas, or on legislative proposals that meshed deeply with the hopes and aspirations of the electorate.

Refusing to co-opt the best ideas of the opposition would involve a sort of puritanical intellectual preciousness, that prized ideological non-contamination above the virtues of enacting the best possible political programme.

My suggestion is that theft and insincerity are not always the sign of political vice, but can, on the contrary, be signs of considerable virtue. Given this, it is rather odd quite how powerful the charge of political hypocrisy can seem.

Everyone knows that politicians won’t always tell the truth, or at least won’t tell the full truth, and that there are things that they may do which they will not themselves be in full agreement.

And everyone knows that everyone knows this. Given that everyone knows that everyone knows this, accusations of insincerity or hypocrisy – or of being a “phoney”, to use the term with which David Cameron baited Gordon Brown at last week’s Prime Minister’s Questions – can themselves be the very epitome of hypocrisy.

For such charges of hypocrisy or phoniness can carry with them the suggestion that the accuser is himself above these sorts of failings, or denies the need for himself or others to operate within the world of political accommodation and compromise, with its attendant rejection of pristine political sincerity.

Nor ought this analysis be limited to politics. As a general matter, people who act offended at hypocrisy are not merely raging at the humanity of their opponents but implicitly claiming to be sinless themselves, and, therefore, not just inhuman but greater than divine.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:57 PM


Tibetans dream of autonomy (Ross Terrill, October 17, 2007, The Australian)

[T]he People's Republic of China remains a semi-empire. A tense atmosphere marks Tibet and other huge areas that historically were not Chinese.

Beijing's thumb on proud and deeply religious Tibet is anachronistic after the fall of the world's other great multinational empire, the Soviet Union, in 1991, and an unprecedented global wave of democratisation. Yet Tibet, drastically different from China in values and lifestyle, is taking material strides.

Beijing says Tibet's gross domestic product grew at a rate of 12 per cent a year between 2001 and 2005; in 2006 the figure reached 13.4 per cent. Tourist revenue has soared: the mountain civilisation received 2.5 million tourists last year, up 40 per cent over 2005.

Tibet is getting efficient transport to Beijing for the first time, as well as to northwest China, the southeast province of Yunnan that abuts Burma and South Asia.

Will the roads, pipelines, railways, new towns and hotels modernise and internationalise Tibet to the satisfaction of Tibetans as well as the Chinese? Or will they more intricately knit a complaining Tibet into China, its Buddhist monks becoming Beijing-supervised tourist guides, its vibrant temples reborn as paying museums?

Recently Beijing has got tougher with Tibet's Buddhist leader, the Dalai Lama, who proclaims from his base in India that Tibet is a separate civilisation.

...by the PRC's recognition that they have to swamp the Tibetans demographically to have any hope of subsuming the nation.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:51 PM


Top spender Romney could soon run short: Has less available than rival Giuliani (Michael Levenson, October 16, 2007, Boston Globe)

Mitt Romney has spent nearly twice as much this year as Rudy Giuliani in the Republican presidential race, but remains locked in tight battles in Iowa and New Hampshire, and has less cash available than his rival as they enter the crucial stretch before balloting begins in January.

As a result, Romney faces the prospect of having to devote more time to raising money or reaching even further into his own fortune to keep pace, a situation he once said was "akin to a nightmare."

The problem for Mitt and the Mayor is they'll be running out of money just as folks start paying attention and the free media reveals to most people, for the first time, what each man's record is.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:48 PM


Olmert Defends Deal With Hezbollah (STEVEN ERLANGER, 10/16/07, NY Times)

Defending the government’s decision to make a minor deal with the Hezbollah militia in southern Lebanon, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of Israel said today that Israel’s enemies were engaging in “an ugly and cynical trade in emotions” and that the release of two captured Israeli soldiers was not imminent.

Speaking in Ashdod, Mr. Olmert said that the swap of a captured Hezbollah fighter and two dead comrades for the body of an Israeli citizen who had drowned two years ago in a swimming accident had been part of the United Nations-moderated talks to return two Israeli soldiers captured at the start of last summer’s war.

When two parties sit down to negotiate one side has already won.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:44 PM


Citizenship via Grandparents: Israeli Parents Make Use Of U.S. Clause That Lets Kids Become Americans (MIRIAM JORDAN, October 16, 2007, Wall Street Journal)

A swelling number of Israelis are flying to the U.S., armed with tattered U.S. high school diplomas and faded marriage certificates, to try to tap into an obscure clause in U.S. immigration law that enables some grandparents to pass citizenship to their grandchildren.

For decades, U.S. citizenship could only be transmitted to a child by a parent. But 1994's section 322 of immigration law has provided another way in, and Israelis are taking advantage of it.

"I am not quite sure how this group of people caught onto this section of law, but they all seem to know about it," says Michelle Tolbert, an officer in the Chicago branch of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the agency that processes applications.

Being born in the U.S. or having U.S. citizenship doesn't automatically qualify parents to pass on citizenship to their children born overseas. A parent must have lived in the U.S. for five years after the age of 14 to transmit citizenship to a child. The clause allows U.S.-citizen grandparents who satisfy this requirement to pass on citizenship to children whose parents didn't live in the U.S. long enough.

In the first nine months of the 2006-2007 fiscal year, which began Oct. 1, 2006, the U.S. immigration agency processed nearly 4,000 applications for citizenship through grandparents, compared with about 2,000 for all of fiscal 2003-2004. Parents of any nationality can avail themselves of the law, but Israelis comprise 90% of those taking advantage of it, Ms. Tolbert estimates.

Some of those Israelis are seeking to give their descendants a safe haven from Mideast strife. "The world keeps changing," says Amy Katz, who recently flew to Chicago with her toddler and 3-month-old daughters to secure U.S. citizenship for them. "There could be a horrible war. There could be no Israel one day."

Judaism will hardly be the only culture to survive only in America.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:36 PM


TV on or off, family meals are found to be healthier ones (Tara Parker-Pope, October 16, 2007, NY Times)

Families who watched television at dinner ate just about as healthfully as families who dined without it. The biggest factor wasn't whether the television was on or off, but whether the family was eating the meal together. [...]

The research, published this month in The Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, is the latest testament to the power of the family meal. While many parents worry about what their kids are eating - vegetables versus junk - a voluminous body of research suggests that the best strategy for improving a child's diet is simply putting food on the table and sitting down together to eat it.

The importance of the family meal has been shown mainly in studies from the University of Minnesota, Harvard and Rutgers that have looked at the family eating habits of nearly 40,000 middle-school students and teenagers. The research has shown that those who regularly have meals with their parents eat more fruits, vegetables and calcium-rich foods, ingest more vitamins and nutrients and consume less junk food. Some of the research has shown that kids who regularly sit down to a family meal are at lower risk for behaviors like smoking and drug and alcohol use.

...on what kind of people need studies to tell them basic human truths.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:32 PM


Spanish premier rejects Basque leader's plan for referendum on region's future (The Associated Press, October 16, 2007)

The Spanish premier, faced with a resurgence of separatist violence, was adamant in rejecting a proposed referendum on the future of the restive Basque country in talks with the region's president Tuesday.

"The Basque regional president must not call any type of a referendum," Socialist Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero told reporters after meeting Basque leader Juan Jose Ibarretxe.

"Any type of referendum or so-called consultation of the people can only be authorized by the government," Zapatero said. "What can't be done won't be done."

But in a separate news conference, Ibarretxe insisted on carrying out his plan to consult Basque people about the region's future relationship with Spain in a referendum Oct. 25, 2008.

Regimes that live in fear of democracy don't last long.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:19 PM


Long-Term Internet Tax Ban Trumped (Adrianne Kroepsch, 10/15/07, Congressional Quarterly)

House leaders are using a looming deadline and procedural heavy-handedness to thwart the will of nearly 240 House members who support a permanent ban on Internet-access taxes, some supporters of the ban say.

Democratic leaders have scheduled a vote Tuesday on a bill (HR 3678) that would extend for four years the existing ban on taxing Internet access, which is scheduled to expire Nov. 1.

Although supporters of making the tax ban permanent almost certainly would have enough votes to amend the bill more to their liking, it is scheduled for consideration under suspension of the rules, a procedure that bars amendments and is usually reserved for less controversial legislation.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:42 AM


Armenian crime amnesia? (Bruce Fein, October 16, 2007, Washington Times)

A historically supportable resolution would have condemned massacres against Armenians with the same vigor, as it should have condemned massacres by Armenians against the innocent Muslim populations of the crumbling Ottoman Empire.

Capt. Emory Niles and Arthur Sutherland, on an official 1919 U.S. mission to eastern Anatolia, reported: "In the entire region from Bitlis through Van to Bayezit, we were informed that the damage and destruction had been done by the Armenians, who, after the Russians retired, remained in occupation of the country and who, when the Turkish army advanced, destroyed everything belonging to the Musulmans. Moreover, the Armenians are accused of having committed murder, rape, arson and horrible atrocities of every description upon the Musulman population. At first, we were most incredulous of these stories, but we finally came to believe them, since the testimony was absolutely unanimous and was corroborated by material evidence. For instance, the only quarters left at all intact in the cities of Bitlis and Van are Armenian quarters ... while the Musulman quarters were completely destroyed."

Niles and Sutherland were fortified by American and German missionaries on the spot in Van. American Clarence Ussher reported that Armenians put the Turkish men "to death," and, for days, "They burned and murdered." A German missionary recalled that, "The memory of these entirely helpless Turkish women, defeated and at the mercy of the [Armenians] belongs to the saddest recollections from that time."

A March 23, 1920, letter of Col. Charles Furlong, an Army intelligence officer and U.S. Delegate to the Paris Peace Conference, to President Woodrow Wilson elaborated: "We hear much, both truth and gross exaggeration of Turkish massacres of Armenians, but little or nothing of the Armenian massacres of Turks. ... The recent so-called Marash massacres [of Armenians] have not been substantiated. In fact, in the minds of many who are familiar with the situation, there is a grave question whether it was not the Turk who suffered at the hands of the Armenian and French armed contingents which were known to be occupying that city and vicinity. ... Our opportunity to gain the esteem and respect of the Muslim world ... will depend much on whether America hears Turkey's untrammeled voice and evidence which she has never succeeded in placing before the Court of Nations."

The United States neglected Col. Furlong's admonition in 1920, and again last Wednesday. Nothing seems to have changed from those days, when Christian lives were more precious than the lives of the "infidels."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:02 AM


The geopolitical stakes of 'Saffron Revolution' (F William Engdahl, 10/16/07, Asia Times)

The tragedy of Myanmar, whose land area is about the size of George W Bush's Texas, is that its population is being used as a human stage prop in a drama scripted in Washington by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), the George Soros Open Society Institute, Freedom House and Gene Sharp's Albert Einstein Institution, a US intelligence asset used to spark "non-violent" regime change around the world on behalf of the US strategic agenda.

Myanmar's "Saffron Revolution", like the Ukraine "Orange Revolution" or the Georgia "Rose Revolution" and the various color revolutions instigated in recent years against strategic states surrounding Russia, is a well-orchestrated exercise in Washington-run regime change, down to the details of "hit-and-run" protests with "swarming" mobs of monks in saffron, Internet blogs, mobile SMS links between protest groups, well-organized protest cells which disperse and re-form. CNN made the blunder during a September broadcast of mentioning the active presence of the NED behind the protests in Myanmar.

In fact the US State Department admits to supporting the activities of the NED in Myanmar. The NED is a US government-funded "private" entity whose activities are designed to support US foreign policy objectives, doing today what the CIA did during the Cold War. As well, the NED funds Soros' Open Society Institute in fostering regime change in Myanmar. In an October 30, 2003 press release the State Department admitted, "The United States also supports organizations such as the National Endowment for Democracy, the Open Society Institute and Internews, working inside and outside the region on a broad range of democracy promotion activities." It all sounds very self-effacing and noble of the State Department. Is it though?

In reality the US State Department has recruited and trained key opposition leaders from numerous anti-government organizations in Myanmar. It has poured the relatively huge sum (for Myanmar) of more than $2.5 million annually into NED activities in promoting regime change in Myanmar since at least 2003. The US regime change effort, its Saffron Revolution, is being largely run, according to informed reports, out of the US Consulate General in bordering Chaing Mai, Thailand. There activists are recruited and trained, in some cases directly in the US, before being sent back to organize inside Myanmar. The US's NED admits to funding key opposition media including the New Era Journal, Irrawaddy and the Democratic Voice of Burma radio.

The concert-master of the tactics of Saffron monk-led non-violence regime change is Gene Sharp, founder of the deceptively-named Albert Einstein Institution in Cambridge, Massachusetts, a group funded by an arm of the NED to foster US-friendly regime change in key spots around the world. Sharp's institute has been active in Myanmar since 1989, just after the regime massacred some 3,000 protestors to silence the opposition. CIA special operative and former US military attache in Rangoon, Col Robert Helvey, an expert in clandestine operations, introduced Sharp to Myanmar in 1989 to train the opposition there in non-violent strategy. Interestingly, Sharp was also in China two weeks before the dramatic events at Tiananmen Square.

Who knew you could take that many crazy pills and still type?

Japan turns economic screw on Burma (Ian MacKinnon, October 16, 2007, Guardian Unlimited)

Burma's military regime came under further economic pressure today after Japan halted aid for a multimillion-pound humanitarian project in protest at the bloody suppression of last month's pro-democracy protests.

The cut in grants by one of the Asian regions most influential players followed the EU's decision to toughen sanctions, and signals from the US that it will shortly stiffen its measures against the junta's leadership.

Japan, once Burma's largest aid donor, said it had decided to cut funding in response to international outrage over the crackdown. It hoped the move would encourage the regime to change course and move towards democracy.

The macarthurbots always do our evil bidding....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:49 AM


Al Qaeda suspects killed, US says: 30 held in Iraq, military declares (Christian Berthelsen and Julian Barnes, October 16, 2007, Los Angeles Times)

The US military announced yesterday that it had killed three suspected terrorists with ties to Al Qaeda in Iraq and captured 30 more in a series of operations in central and northern Iraq between Saturday and early yesterday. [...]

On Saturday, US forces killed the three suspected terrorists in an air strike on two boats southwest of Samarra, about 60 miles north of Baghdad. The US launched the attack after a man under surveillance boarded a boat and later rendezvoused with a second craft, and people aboard began transferring weapons and equipment, military officials said. Ground forces later discovered a weapons cache at a site connected to one of the men aboard.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:42 AM


Chuck Last Night?: It's 24 meets The O.C. (Troy Patterson, Oct. 16, 2007, Slate)

Chuck (NBC, Mondays at 8 p.m. ET) stands, not disagreeably, as a hybrid of spy spoof and romantic comedy—a homeland-security action caper. The credits list McG (the embarrassingly named director of the Charlie's Angels flicks) as one of the executive producers, so let's warily praise him for the escapist fizz of Chuck's action sequences. While we're at it, let us suppose that co-creator Josh Schwartz, previously responsible for the generation-defining froth of The O.C., brought his talent for young-adult melodrama to bear in making Chuck feisty and zeitgeist-y. Their new show has both the nerve to link up twentysomething malaise and 21st-century terror-angst and the good nature to make the proposition look endearing.

October 15, 2007

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:17 PM


Libya returns property to ex-queen (Agence France-Presse, October 16, 2007)

LIBYA has returned to ex-queen Fatma Cherif a mansion in Tripoli confiscated in 1969 when Muammar Gaddafi overthrew her late husband, king Idris Senussi, an official from the Gaddafi Foundation said.

The move is the latest in a quickening reform program championed by Mr Gaddafi's son, Seif al-Islam, who heads the Gaddafi Foundation, aimed at reversing the land confiscations championed by the regime in the years after the overthrow of the Western-backed monarchy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:09 PM


House Republicans Likely to Uphold Veto (DAVID ESPO, 10/15/07, The Associated Press)

Shrugging off a barrage of political attacks, House Republicans are on track to hand President Bush a victory this week by upholding his veto of legislation expanding children's health coverage.

To understand why, consider Utah, where Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch is an outspoken supporter of the measure _ and the state's two GOP House members oppose it. [...]

[R]ep. Chris Cannon said that while he agrees with Hatch on one point, they part company on another. "This is a profoundly moral issue," he said in an interview. "But that doesn't mean the government should do it. Government isn't very good at doing some things, mostly because of rigidity."

The situation fairly cries out for a NCLB/Medicare type compromise, where the GOP gives up the money that Democrats want but it gets used on Ownership Society provisions as the GOP prefers. Sadly, Harry Reid is no Ted Kennedy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:18 PM


Why Politicized Science is Dangerous (Michael Crichton, Excerpted from State of Fear)

Imagine that there is a new scientific theory that warns of an impending crisis, and points to a way out.

This theory quickly draws support from leading scientists, politicians and celebrities around the world. Research is funded by distinguished philanthropies, and carried out at prestigious universities. The crisis is reported frequently in the media. The science is taught in college and high school classrooms.

I don't mean global warming. I'm talking about another theory, which rose to prominence a century ago.

Its supporters included Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, and Winston Churchill. It was approved by Supreme Court justices Oliver Wendell Holmes and Louis Brandeis, who ruled in its favor. The famous names who supported it included Alexander Graham Bell, inventor of the telephone; activist Margaret Sanger; botanist Luther Burbank; Leland Stanford, founder of Stanford University; the novelist H. G. Wells; the playwright George Bernard Shaw; and hundreds of others. Nobel Prize winners gave support. Research was backed by the Carnegie and Rockefeller Foundations. The Cold Springs Harbor Institute was built to carry out this research, but important work was also done at Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Stanford and Johns Hopkins. Legislation to address the crisis was passed in states from New York to California.

These efforts had the support of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Medical Association, and the National Research Council. It was said that if Jesus were alive, he would have supported this effort.

All in all, the research, legislation and molding of public opinion surrounding the theory went on for almost half a century. Those who opposed the theory were shouted down and called reactionary, blind to reality, or just plain ignorant. But in hindsight, what is surprising is that so few people objected.

Today, we know that this famous theory that gained so much support was actually pseudoscience. The crisis it claimed was nonexistent. And the actions taken in the name of theory were morally and criminally wrong. Ultimately, they led to the deaths of millions of people.

The theory was eugenics, and its history is so dreadful --- and, to those who were caught up in it, so embarrassing --- that it is now rarely discussed. But it is a story that should be well know to every citizen, so that its horrors are not repeated.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:24 PM


Chance for Peace address (President Dwight D. Eisenhower, April 16, 1953, American Society of Newspaper Editors)
Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.

This world in arms in not spending money alone.

It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.

The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities.

It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population.

It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals.

It is some 50 miles of concrete highway.

We pay for a single fighter with a half million bushels of wheat.

We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people.

This, I repeat, is the best way of life to be found on the road the world has been taking.

This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.

I'm about half-way through Derek Leebaert's maddening book, The Fifty-Year Wound: How America's Cold War Victory Has Shaped Our World , just out in paperback. It's nowhere near harsh enough, but delineates the myriad ways in which the Cold War damaged, and continues to damage, America. Sadly, only two presidents during that time understood both the weakness of the Soviet Union and the self-destructive nature of our containment policy--Eisenhower and Reagan. It's well understood that Ronald Reagan hated communism, but what's seldom recognized is that he found the status quo of the Cold War, with its threat of mutual annihilation, intolerable in itself. Conservatives like to think that what made him a revolutionary was his determination to defeat the Soviet Union. But for him the outcome was a given. What he cared about most was ending the confrontation. Victory would take care of itself.

Similarly, in this most underrated speech of the Cold War era, Dwight Eisenhower expressed his outrage at the costs of a war that he knew to be a waste, because he knew that the Soviets were not a realistic threat to the U.S... The bitter irony is that this was in some ways a situation of his own making, because he failed to provoke a war with the Soviets in 1944. But there was still plenty of time when he became president to avoid the worst effects of the disastrous course that Truman had set us on. When Eisenhower gave this speech the Soviet Union still had not deployed nuclear weapons and we could have wiped out its communist government in one fell swoop. Or we could have let the cup of containment pass us by and returned to a standard American policy of unilateralism, isolation, and only ad hoc alliances. Either course would have been preferable to another forty years of hanging from the cross.

-ETEXT: The Long Telegram (George Kennan, Moscow, 22 February 1946)
Part 5. [Practical Deductions from Standpoint of US Policy]

In summary, we have here a political force committed fanatically to the belief that with US there can be no permanent modus vivendi, that it is desirable and necessary that the internal harmony of our society be disrupted, our traditional way of life be destroyed, the international authority of our state be broken, if Soviet power is to be secure. This political force has complete power of disposition over energies of one of world’s greatest peoples and resources of world’s richest national territory, and is borne along by deep and powerful currents of Russian nationalism. In addition, it has an elaborate and far-flung apparatus for exertion of its influence in other countries, an apparatus of amazing flexibility and versatility, managed by people whose experience and skill in underground methods are presumably without parallel in history. Finally, it is seemingly inaccessible to considerations of reality in its basic reactions. For it, the vast fund of objective fact about human society is not, as with us, the measure against which outlook is constantly being tested and re-formed, but a grab bag from which individual items are selected arbitrarily and tendenciously to bolster an outlook already preconceived. This is admittedly not a pleasant picture. Problem of how to cope with this force [is] undoubtedly greatest task our diplomacy has ever faced and probably greatest it will ever have to face. It should be point of departure from which our political general staff work at present juncture should proceed. It should be approached with same thoroughness and care as solution of major strategic problem in war and, if necessary, with no smaller outlay in planning effort. I cannot attempt to suggest all answers here. But I would like to record my conviction that problem is within our power to solve--and that without recourse to any general military conflict. And in support of this conviction there are certain observations for a more encouraging nature I should like to make.

(1) Soviet power, unlike that of Hitlerite Germany, is neither schematic nor adventuristic. It does not work by fixed plans. It does not take
unnecessary risks. Impervious to logic of reason, and it is highly sensitive to logic of force. For this reason it can easily withdraw--and usually does--when strong resistance is encountered at any point. Thus, if the adversary has sufficient force and makes clear his readiness to use it, he rarely has to do so. If situations are properly handled there need be no prestige-engaging showdowns.

(2) Gauged against Western world as a whole, Soviets are still by far the weaker force. Thus, their success will really depend on degree of cohesion, firmness and vigor which Western world can muster. And this is factor which it is within our power to influence.

(3) Success of Soviet system, as form of internal power, is not yet finally proven. It has yet to be demonstrated that it can survive supreme test of successive transfer of power from one individual or group to another. Lenin’s death was first such transfer, and its effects wracked Soviet state for 15 years. After Stalin’s death or retirement will be second. But even this will not be final test. Soviet internal system will now be subjected, by virtue of recent territorial expansions, to series of additional strains which once proved severe tax on Tsardom. We here are convinced that never since termination of civil war have mass of Russian people been emotionally farther removed from doctrines of Communist Party than they are today. In Russia, party has now become a great and--for the moment--highly successful apparatus of dictatorial administration, but it has ceased to be a source of emotional inspiration. Thus, internal soundness and permanence of movement need not yet be regarded as assured.

(4) All Soviet propaganda beyond Soviet security sphere is basically negative and destructive. It should therefore be relatively easy to combat it by any intelligent and really constructive program.

For these reasons I think we may approach calmly and with good heart problem of how to deal with Russia. As to how this approach should be made, I only wish to advance, by way of conclusion, following comments:

(1) Our first step must be to apprehend, and recognize for what it is, the nature of the movement with which we are dealing. We must study it with same courage, detachment, objectivity, and same determination not to be emotionally provoked or unseated by it, with which doctor studies unruly and unreasonable individual.

(2) We must see that our public is educated to realities of Russian situation. I cannot overemphasize importance of this. Press cannot do this alone. It must be done mainly by Government, which is necessarily more experienced and better informed on practical problems involved. In this we need not be deterred by [ugliness?] of picture. I am convinced that there would be far less hysterical anti-Sovietism in our country today if realities of this situation were better understood by our people. There is nothing as dangerous or as terrifying as the unknown. It may also be argued that to reveal more information on our difficulties with Russia would reflect unfavorably on Russian-American relations. I feel that if there is any real risk here involved, it is one which we should have courage to face, and sooner the better. But I cannot see what we would be risking. Our stake in this country, even coming on heels of tremendous demonstrations of our friendship for Russian people, is remarkably small. We have here no investments to guard, no actual trade to lose, virtually no citizens to protect, few cultural contacts to preserve. Our only stake likes in what we hope rather than what we have; and I am convinced we have better chance of realizing those hopes if our public is enlightened and if our dealings with Russians are placed entirely on realistic and matter-of-fact basis.

(3) Much depends on health and vigor of our own society. World communism is like malignant parasite which feeds only on diseased tissue. This is point at which domestic and foreign policies meet. Every courageous and incisive measure to solve internal problems of our own society, to improve self-confidence, discipline, morale and community spirit of our own people, is a diplomatic victory over Moscow worth a thousand diplomatic notes and joint communiqués. If we cannot abandon fatalism and indifference in face of deficiencies of our own society, Moscow will profit--Moscow cannot help profiting by them in its foreign policies.

(4) We must formulate and put forward for other nations a much more positive and constructive picture of sort of world we would like to see than we have put forward in past. It is not enough to urge people to develop political processes similar to our own. Many foreign peoples, in Europe at least, are tired and frightened by experiences of past, and are less interested in abstract freedom than in security. They are seeking guidance rather than responsibilities. We should be better able than Russians to give them this. And, unless we do, Russians certainly will.

(5) Finally we must have courage and self-confidence to cling to our own methods and conceptions of human society. After all, the greatest danger that can befall us in coping with this problem of Soviet communism is that we shall allow ourselves to become like those with whom we are coping.
(originally posted 6/18/03)
Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:15 AM


Al-Qaeda In Iraq Reported Crippled: Many Officials, However, Warn Of Its Resilience (Thomas E. Ricks and Karen DeYoung, 10/15/07, Washington Post)

There is widespread agreement that AQI has suffered major blows over the past three months. Among the indicators cited is a sharp drop in suicide bombings, the group's signature attack, from more than 60 in January to around 30 a month since July. Captures and interrogations of AQI leaders over the summer had what a senior military intelligence official called a "cascade effect," leading to other killings and captures. The flow of foreign fighters through Syria into Iraq has also diminished, although officials are unsure of the reason and are concerned that the broader al-Qaeda network may be diverting new recruits to Afghanistan and elsewhere.

The deployment of more U.S. and Iraqi forces into AQI strongholds in Anbar province and the Baghdad area, as well as the recruitment of Sunni tribal fighters to combat AQI operatives in those locations, has helped to deprive the militants of a secure base of operations, U.S. military officials said. "They are less and less coordinated, more and more fragmented," Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, the second-ranking U.S. commander in Iraq, said recently. Describing frayed support structures and supply lines, Odierno estimated that the group's capabilities have been "degraded" by 60 to 70 percent since the beginning of the year.

Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, head of the Joint Special Operations Command's operations in Iraq, is the chief promoter of a victory declaration and believes that AQI has been all but eliminated, the military intelligence official said. But Adm. William J. Fallon, the chief of U.S. Central Command, which oversees Iraq and the rest of the Middle East, is urging restraint, the official said. The military intelligence official, like others interviewed for this report, spoke on the condition of anonymity about Iraq assessments and strategy.

Senior U.S. commanders on the ground, including Gen. David H. Petraeus, the head of U.S. forces in Iraq, have long complained that Central Command, along with the CIA, is too negative in its analyses. On this issue, however, Petraeus agrees with Fallon, the military intelligence official said.

For each assessment of progress against AQI, there is a cautionary note that comes from long and often painful experience. Despite the increased killings and captures of AQI members, Odierno said, "it only takes three people" to construct and detonate a suicide car bomb that can "kill thousands." The goal, he said, is to make each attack less effective and lengthen the periods between them.

Right now, said another U.S. official, who declined even to be identified by the agency he works for, the data are "insufficient and difficult to measure."

"AQI is definitely taking some hits," the official said. "There is definite progress, and that is undeniable good news. But what we don't know is how long it will last . . . and whether it's sustainable. . . . They have withstood withering pressure for a long period of time." Three months, he said, is not long enough to consider a trend sustainable.

AQI is a good lens through which to see how feeble a threat this last ism is--at their healthiest all they could do was blow things up. They could never establish political control of a significant portion of territory. Consider how different this is than the various Marxist groups of the 20th century.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:58 AM


BJP must step in and save N-deal (C Uday Bhaskar, October 15, 2007, Rediff)

If this deal is either inordinately delayed thereby subjecting it to 'slow death', or rejected for reasons that are more ideological and anti-American, it will be a grave setback for India's long term strategic interests in the 21st century. The central feature of the July 2005 agreement is not about nuclear energy or nuclear weapons -- it is about removing the nuclear commerce and related technological denial regimes placed on India since 1974. The extension is that the removal of these US-led fetters will enable India to deal with the external world in a more equitable manner -- a freedom it currently does not have. India's sovereignty -- that was shrunk in May 1974 at US initiative -- will gradually be restored.

Thus failure or inordinate delay in taking forward the deal, by way of engaging with the Internation Atomic Energy Agency and the Nuclear Suppliers Group will actually result in keeping India's sovereignty shrunk and eroded -- the very objective that the Left parties are claiming to advance!

The best case scenario in the current political impasse is for the A B Vajpayee-L K Advani combine to step in and arrive at a grand consensus with the government over the deal. It may be recalled that the rapprochement with the US began post May 1998 with the National Democratic Alliance in power and both the principal political parties � the BJP and the Congress -- are agreed in wanting to have a closer relationship with the US and, more importantly, to get over the estrangement with Washington related to the nuclear issue.

Irrespective of whether the general elections are held now due to the Left withdrawing support to the Congress, or in 2009 as per schedule, whoever occupies the Indian prime minister's chair (in all probability a BJP or Congress leader leading a fragile coalition) will have to deal with the occupant of the White House.

And the most undesirable exigency for the bilateral India-US relationship would be a return to the bitter tenor of the Clinton years -- when the US was determined to 'roll-back, cap and eliminate' India's nascent strategic nuclear profile. And if the nuclear deal is scuttled, then the possibility that the US will revert to its earlier anti-India posture on nuclear matters is almost certain.

Interaction with Washington's strategic community suggests that there is muted glee among US non-proliferation zealots who are grateful that what they could not achieve in the US Congress -- aborting the July 2005 agreement -- has been given to them on a platter by one section of the Indian legislature. They are equally determined that once this moment of Bush radicalism passes -- and a Democrat occupies the White House -- it will be back to business as usual with India -- meaning that pressure will mount to bring India back into the nuclear corral.

...Indian Communists, the American Left, Chicoms and Pakistan--the winners in Indian-American estrangement.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:49 AM


Olmert signals readiness to share control of Jerusalem (The Associated Press, October 15, 2007)

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert raised questions about Israel's control of Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem in a speech Monday, the first time he has openly signaled readiness to share the city with the Palestinians.

Sovereignty over Jerusalem is at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Israel claims all of the city as its capital, including east Jerusalem, which it captured from Jordan in the 1967 Mideast war. The Palestinians want the eastern sector — home to key Jewish, Muslim and Christian holy sites — for the capital of a future independent state.

On Monday, Olmert said Israel's control of some Arab parts of the city might not be necessary.

The longer Israel waits to declare statehood the more it gives up.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:46 AM


Thompson Says He's the Real Conservative (LIZ SIDOTI, 10/15/07, AP)

Republican presidential contender Fred Thompson swipes at GOP rival Rudy Giuliani in a speech he plans to give Monday night on the former New York mayor's home turf.

"Some think the way to beat the Democrats in November is to be more like them. I could not disagree more," the one-time Tennessee senator says in remarks he is to deliver before the Conservative Party of New York.

"I believe that conservatives beat liberals only when we challenge their outdated positions, not embrace them. This is not a time for philosophical flexibility, it is a time to stand up for what we believe in," Thompson adds.

Mitt and the Mayor are unlikely to survive the emerging focus on their past politics.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:37 AM


McCain is bouncing back (Lee Bandy, Oct 15, 2007, The State)

Today, amazingly, the campaign of the U.S. senator from Arizona is very much alive.


McCain was helped by progress in Iraq and a strong showing in a recent New Hampshire debate.

Also, the John McCain of old is back, saying what he means and letting the chips fall where they may. He is much more comfortable campaigning as an insurgent than as an insider.

McCain returned to South Carolina — drawing large crowds — with his unique brand of straight talk coupled with unwavering conviction for causes he believes are in the nation’s best interest.

“What we are seeing is a genuine John McCain on the stump,” said U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a longtime McCain supporter. [...]

McCain has adopted a two-state strategy. He said he must win New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary and then head to South Carolina, the first contest conducted in a red state.

McCain is clinging to the top tier of GOP candidates — including former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former U.S. Sen. Fred Thompson of Tennessee — in the race for their party’s nomination.

But there is still time for him to win, Graham said.

“These candidates have long ways to go,” Graham said. “John McCain is back.”

The GOP always nominates the next in line, which is why Maverick lost last time but remains the favorite to win this.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:34 AM


Patriots easily pass the test against the Cowboys (Judy Battista, October 15, 2007, IHT)

Patriots receiver Donte' Stallworth gave a little wave to the crowd at Texas Stadium as he scored New England's fifth touchdown of the day, but he might as well have been saying see you later to most of the NFL

With their 48-27 victory over the previously undefeated Dallas Cowboys, the Patriots cemented what had become clear in the first month of the season: they and the Colts are in a class by themselves and everybody else is playing catch-up. The Patriots (6-0) and Colts (5-0, with a bye this week) are the only undefeated teams remaining in the NFL and their Nov. 4 game in Indianapolis figures to give early shape to the American Football Conference playoff race. With this victory, the Patriots already have a five-game lead in the AFC East. At this rate, they might be able to clinch the division before the Thanksgiving leftovers are gone.

This game was by far the most difficult for the Patriots, even though quarterback Tom Brady tied a career high with five touchdown passes, two of them to Randy Moss and two to Wes Welker. But the Patriots also trailed in the second half for the first time all season, needing a 17-point fourth quarter to bury the Cowboys.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:52 AM


Influence will live on after PM's gone (Phillip Adams, October 16, 2007, The Australian)

[E]ven in the event of the predicted Labor landslide, Howard is triumphant. He has changed this nation irrevocably, caused damage beyond repair. And he'll be replaced by a Labor government of impeccably conservative credentials.

You see the same phenomenon in the US. Yes, the Democrats surprised themselves in the mid-terms last November. But any analysis of the modest victory shows it was driven by a new style of Democrat. Not a pectoral-thumping liberal but a cautious, conservative and (frequently) emphatically Christian Democrat. Iffy on abortion, hostile to gun control, ready to soft-pedal on withdrawal from Iraq.

Although the Democrats may claim control of the Senate and Congress, their performance has been woeful. And their leading candidates in the race for the White House fall over themselves being tediously moderate.

The US is sick to death of George W. Bush, just as the Brits were of Tony Blair and we are of Howard. But this is not leading to a rampaging era of reform. Rather, it's a time for political overcaution, for fiddling at the margins. This in itself is not new. Thatcherism didn't end with Margaret Thatcher or with the defeat of the Conservatives by New Labour.

Blair accepted, far too readily, that history had moved on, that Labour had to keep its distance from the Left and the trade unions, that privatisation was a fact of life, that an era of right-wing radicalism had remade Britain and much of the wider world. Nor did Bill Clinton repudiate Reaganism. Rather than drive a stake through its cold heart, he warmed it a little.

And never forget that the transformation of Australia, the privatisations and deregulation, began with Bob Hawke and Paul Keating in the 1980s. The so-called Third Way is as much their invention as anyone's: letting capital off the leash while reining in the unions predated Howard by many years. Blair and Clinton watched Hawke and Keating with fascination.

We live in the Anglosphere that Augusto Pinochet and Margaret Thatcher bequeathed us. Whichever party is more closely identified with the Third Way--though folks prefer to dress it up in different names--will win the elections in Australia, Canada, England and America.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:10 AM


Lebanese Malaise (NIBRAS KAZIMI, October 15, 2007, NY Sun)

The March 14 coalition, which brings together most of Lebanon's Sunnis and Druze, as well as a significant portion of the country's Christians, and is generically labeled as anti-Syrian, holds on to a slight majority in parliament and would like to see one of its own as president.

The position is to be filled by a Maronite Christian according to an unwritten understanding between Lebanon's primary sects that goes back to the early days of the republic. The March 14 coalition wants its candidate to safeguard the United Nations' mandated investigation and tribunal into the assassination of former Prime Minister Hariri.

The opposition, speaking for most of the country's Shiites and claiming to speak for most of the Maronites, wants its own candidate to safeguard Hezbollah's weaponry. They are stigmatized as pro-Syrian. One of the opposition's main leaders is the former general and interim president, Michel Aoun. He makes a somewhat convincing case for his own candidacy by claiming the mantle of Maronite representation — he earned the most direct votes from this community in the 2005 elections.

A new president would have the wherewithal to pick a new head for the Lebanese Army and a new head of military intelligence. This could potentially disrupt the security arrangement that still is in place from the time when the Syrians ran the show in Beirut. Hezbollah is comfortable with the current arrangement, but is fearful that all this may change at the stroke of a pen. Yet the March 14 coalition cannot go on living with Hezbollah's menace and military prowess, which could be unleashed at any moment to take over the state.

They oughtn't live with it--they ought to live in separate states.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:14 AM


McCain, the happy warrior on the trail: Candidate at ease, even amid criticism (Ethan Wilensky-Lanford, Oct 15, 2007, Concord Monitor)

During his opening statement at a town meeting in Hopkinton yesterday, Sen. John McCain was interrupted early. It came just after he criticized a newspaper advertisement by the liberal group Moveon.org that had dubbed General David Petraeus "General Betray-us."

"You cannot condemn freedom of speech, I'm sorry," said Ken Roos, a union activist from the State Employees' Association of New Hampshire, who stood in the back of a crowded room, wearing a union T-shirt and holding a sign that read "Support Our Troops, End the War."

McCain did not immediately answer Roos, saying there would be a time for questions and answers and "occasional insults" at the end of his talk, to which Roos smiled.

McCain has survived retail politics in the New Hampshire primary before, having won the Republican contest here in 2000. Yesterday, he called that primary the "best time in his life" at another perennial stop on the campaign trail, Robie's Country Store in Hooksett. At several stops in the state yesterday, McCain seemed at ease, comfortable jousting with questioners and joking with his hosts.

At Robie's, he hung up a tiny framed newspaper advertisement from early in the store's history.
"Do you still sell lard?" he asked. "How times have changed."

He told the crowd that he was happy to respond to questions. Nobody had any, so he asked one of his own. Could his daughter Meghan identify a cribbage board? No, it turned out, she could not.

Having fun running is half the battle.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:07 AM


Are your kids better off with no inheritance?: Giving your money away may be best for society, and your family (JOHN INTINI, October 15, 2007, Macleans)

A recent survey revealed that most millionaires and billionaires plan to leave their children at least 75 per cent of their fortunes. In fact, about US$30 trillion will be silver-spooned to rich kids in the U.S. between 2002 and 2052. In Canada, $1.2 trillion will move from one generation to the next between now and about 2030. But should it? As one study of 3,250 successful families indicates, the transition of wealth between generations fails -- the family splits up, fortunes are lost -- about 70 per cent of the time. [...]

Those who have earned their fortunes, say experts, understand they're not doing their kids any favours by putting them in a position where they won't have to work and instead shop or socialize -- "or," says Ricker, "overdose on drugs because they're so bored and so self-disgusted." "Even if people think their kids are pretty good, they worry about their grandkids," says Rod Zeeb, an attorney and co-author of Beating the Midas Curse. No one wants to be responsible for creating the next Paris Hilton.

Or one of the stars of Born Rich, the 2003 documentary directed by Jamie Johnson, heir to the Johnson & Johnson fortune. The film, which featured Ivanka Trump, S.I. Newhouse IV and Georgianna Bloomberg, among others, provides a glimpse of the lives of the world's richest kids. Some struggle with insecurity, and the constant fear of disinheritance, not to mention a strange sense of entitlement -- at one point, Juliet Hartford, A&P supermarket heiress, jokes that she'll give all her money to the homeless ("no, I'm kidding"). It's enough to make one question the whole idea of inheritance.

This is actually a notion with some pedigree. Most of us don't see anything wrong with giving our children a start in life -- a comfortable home, an education -- or leaving them a little money. But hereditary privilege has long had its critics. Adam Smith, the father of capitalism, believed social privilege should be earned. "Every generation," he wrote in The Wealth of Nations, "has an equal right to the earth and to all that it possesses." And Thomas Jefferson raised the question of whether such privileges should be banned altogether, for much the same reason (an idea some might have revived in light of Leona Helmsley's recent bequest of $12 million to her beloved white Maltese, Trouble).

Most people, of course, wouldn't disavow inheritance in their own lives. Chuck Collins did. A member of what Buffett describes as the "lucky sperm club," the great-grandson of the German meat-packing millionaire Oscar Mayer wanted no part of his family's fortune. He feared it would be a barrier to his future success. So at 26, he gave every penny of his US$500,000 share to charity. "When you're in your 20s you don't want your life defined by something that happened three generations earlier," says Collins. "I've seen friends inherit money and have it be, as Andrew Carnegie said, a curse. They couldn't figure out what their own calling was."

In Collins's case, issues relating to inheritance have become his life's work. As executive director of the Fair Economy Action Fund, Collins leads the effort to preserve the estate tax in the U.S. He even wrote a book with William Gates Sr. (Bill's dad), Wealth and Our Commonwealth: Why America Should Tax Accumulated Fortunes. Now 47, with an 11-year-old daughter, he says he's often asked by friends if he regrets not keeping the money for her sake. He doesn't. He estimates his fortune would be worth about US$6 million today, but Collins, who grew up in a "bubble of privilege," doesn't think he could better provide for his daughter if he had more money.

Peter Munk's view that wealth shouldn't be hoarded by the generations who didn't earn it was shaped in large part by his working-class upbringing. "In Europe every generation had to start again -- unless you were a British aristocrat," says Munk. "That added the most important ingredient that I used for my success, which is self-confidence." He adds that he has "very little sympathy for all those extra crutches you need in life."

So when Anthony, Munk's eldest son, wanted to work in Alberta's high-paying oil fields one summer during university, his father, who could have easily bought him any car that he wanted, told his twentysomething son to hitchhike (Anthony did). He is now a managing director at Onex Corp. All of the Munk siblings have found success independent of their dad's fortune. "Imagine how distorted that would be if I were to leave $50 million to each," says their father. And though Munk jokes that he doesn't "know what they say behind my back," his kids fully support their father's charitable efforts; since launching his foundation in 1992, Munk has given tens of millions to worthy causes.

Experts say it helps that, like Buffett and Gates, he set out the ground rules for his kids early on. "Otherwise, they're lottery winners," says Zeeb. The key is starting conversations about money when they're young. That way nobody is surprised by what they get -- or don't. Increasingly, the wealthiest families are setting up foundations, not unlike Buffett's and the Gates', which allow them to be altruistic but also provide a sense of meaning and direction for their kids. "Philanthropy is a great training ground for preparing the next generation," says Ricker. "It keeps the family together and does good things." Not to mention, she adds, "it's now sexy to give your money away."

...doesn't mean we oughtn't prevent what is in republican theory a malignant policy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


The Emperor Has No New Clothes, Hard Times For Hu's New Deal (Xiao Qiang, 2007-10-14, China Digital Times)

Chinese politics after the death of Deng Xiaoping are intriguingly similar to those of the KMT after Chiang Ching-kuo. The first-generation successors to the strongman, Lee Teng-hui and Jiang Zemin, were accused of the "chaotic rule of turncoats", whereas their successors in the next generation, Ma Ying-jeou and Hu Jintao, whose political loyalty and moral standards were acknowledged, came in for criticism as "showy but useless." Clearly, this was closely connected with the "party world" of both the KMT and CPC encountering unprecedented crises of legitimacy. These would inevitably bring the ruling party serious crises of trust and morality. The inability to distinguish loyalty from treachery was the basis of Lee Teng-hui's and Jiang Zemin's problems. We now have a chance to see a different problem arising from legitimacy crisis in the "party world"—one of people who have no problems of political loyalty and personal integrity, but who are unable to accumulate sufficient political strength and political resources. This is what underlies the problems facing Ma Ying-jeou and Hu Jintao.

Lack of sufficient political power and resources was the reason Hu was forced to share more power and risks with the princelings. Hu never thought highly of the princelings, but, faced with rapid development of major crises, particularly the imminent crisis of Taiwan independence, he had no choice. Otherwise, he not only incurred too much risk for himself, but also unacceptable levels of risk for the power strata.

What does the 17th National Party Congress imply for the Hu-Wen New Deal formed after the 16th CPC National Congress? The governing principles of Jiang Zemin and Zhu Rongji's can be summed up as "give official power its head, but juice up the economy." Hu became aware of the harm and tremendous danger brought about by this approach, and so the essence of the "Hu-Wen New Deal" of the past five years was "stabilizing the economy to improve the people's livelihood." However, the practice proved that for every yuan increase in welfare Hu and Wen gave the poor, the money the bureaucrats placed in their own vaults increased by 10 yuan, or even more. Hence if official power is not controlled, it will be difficult for Hu and Wen's New Deal to show results in improving the people's livelihood. And what's worse is that the serious crisis of China highly unfair distribution of wealth will be impossible to resolve.

The key to the success of their New Deal lies therefore in whether they can contain official power , and change from "stabilizing the economy to improve the people's livelihood" to "restraining official power to improve the people's livelihood".

Can Hu and Wen manage such a New Deal after the 17th National Party Congress? The power game around the Congress shows that it will be difficult. The most likely development is that they will place "improving the people's livelihood" before "stabilizing the economy." It now appears that Hu Jintao, having come to power as a lame duck at the 16th National Party Congress, is likely also to step down as one at the 18th. In all this there have been historical forces which have lain beyond his control. However, while Hu is unlikely to preside over a "renaissance" of the CPC regime, he has still has not completely lost the chance to leave a name in history. It depends on how he fends for himself.

This is an expectation that has been quietly building up done in recent years among those who liked to dream about serving the emperor. Faced with the reality of a Hu Jintao who can rule only by endlessly issuing slogans, these spin-doctors were still trying to convince people that that Hu's absurd and empty initiatives, such as the "education for maintaining progressiveness," were not only a last resort, but strategically profound. Hu Jintao's inscrutable personal style may have helped him win the favorable expectations of some people, including foreigners, but time and circumstances finally led to more and more doubts about the emperor's new clothes. When the 17the National Party Congress confirms that Hu's heir-apparent Li Keqiang, had actually been replaced by Xi Jinping, still more people will realize that the emperor is in fact naked.

For a country with such massive social problems to devolve into aimless kleptocracy can't help but end disastrously.

China, beware: The country's rulers care too much for their own welfare, and too little about the rural peasants (The Economist, Oct 11th 2007)

Another way in which Mr Hu and his comrades could help the peasants would be to divert some of the double-digit annual increases in defence spending to help the estimated 40% of China's villages that have no access to running water. The trouble is that China's military build-up has become the measure of the party's commitment to another nationalist cause that it has stoked in an effort to bolster its tattered credentials: the eventual recovery, by persuasive hook or military crook, of the island of Taiwan, which China claims as its own.

So far the combination of this appeal to nationalism and the pursuit of economic growth at almost any price has helped the party maintain its grip. But just as China's periodic shrill threats to Taiwan threaten the stability of the wider region, so the plight and growing anger of China's peasantry are a harbinger of potential trouble ahead at home.

It is trouble that China's Communist Party is increasingly ill-prepared to deal with. For all Mr Hu's rhetoric about greater internal democracy, the party is too fearful for its own survival to open itself up to a genuine clash of ideas. Although a few brave voices have called for that (see article), there has been no open debate in the run-up to the congress about how to address any of China's pressing rural problems. To add to their burdens, China's peasants are saddled with a ruling party that is too worried about its own survival to spend more than a little lip-service on theirs.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Pre-emptive caution: The case of Syria (David E. Sanger, October 15, 2007, NY Times)

This time it was the Israelis who invoked Bush's doctrine, determining that what they believed was a nascent Syrian effort to build a nuclear reactor could not be tolerated.

In a curious role reversal, some of Bush's own top advisers were urging restraint before Israel bombed the site on Sept. 6, raising questions about whether the threat was too murky and too distant to warrant military action. Those are precisely the kinds of questions Bush's critics say should have been raised about Iraq.

It may be months or years before all the mysteries surrounding the attack on Syria become clear. The silence of the Middle Eastern countries that would normally condemn an Israeli attack suggested that they, too, were worried about what was happening in the Syrian desert. Then there is the question of whether, and how, North Korea may have been involved, since the reactor project seemed similar to the one Kim Jong-il's government had designed to generate plutonium for a small but potent nuclear arsenal.

What has become clear is that the risks of taking pre-emptive action now look a lot greater to Bush than they did in 2003, when he declared that Iraq's efforts to build weapons of mass destruction — weapons that famously turned out not to exist — justified military action. In the Syrian case he has steadfastly refused to say anything. In the case of Iran, which has defied the United Nations for a year while it builds a nuclear infrastructure that Washington believes is designed to give it the ability to make bomb fuel, Bush publicly insists there is still plenty of time for diplomacy.

Michael Green, a former director for Asia at the National Security Council and now a professor at Georgetown University, suggested that Bush was acutely conscious that he had 15 months left, little time for accomplishments that could counterbalance Iraq. Israel's pre-emptive strike, he said, "could get in the way of his two biggest projects — getting on a path to stabilizing the Middle East, and getting North Korea to give up its weapons."

By contrast, Green said, the Israelis are thinking five or 10 years ahead. They saw a chance to thwart the Syrians and to fire a warning shot that the Iranians could not fail to notice.

"If you are Israel and you are looking at this, the value of striking Syria is that it sends a signal, including to the Iranians," Green said. "This follows the Chinese proverb that sometimes you have to kill the chicken to scare the monkey."

The case the President made for war with Iraq was actually more legalistic and had quite little to do with its nuclear ambitions, but Syria must be regime changed for many of the same reasons, even if it isn't violating as many UN resolutions.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


The Most Important Moment in American History By Thomas Fleming

At noon on December 23, 1783, General George Washington walked to the state house in Annapolis, Md, where the Continental Congress was meeting. Congress had fled from Philadelphia earlier in the year when a few hundred soldiers demanding long overdue pay had surrounded Independence Hall. The solons had wandered first to the village of Princeton, New Jersey and then to this state capital on Chesapeake Bay. Their dolorous lack of courage and their total bankruptcy had made the so-called lawmakers the laughing stock of America and Europe. [...]

Congress had failed to keep its word– failed miserably. Instead of gratitude, they had heaped abuse on the officers, accusing them of wanting to become “leeches” living off the labor of their patriotic fellow citizens. Yet here was General Washington, bowing to the politicians who had callously dismissed the men who had won the eight year struggle with England.

How did Washington do it? To an uncanny degree, he combined realism about politics and human nature with an ability to see beyond the moment, to retain a vision of what the United States of America could become, if it found political leaders with courage and integrity.

The General drew his speech out of his coat pocket and unfolded it with hands that trembled with emotion. "Mr. President," he began in a low strained voice. "The great events on which my resignation depended having at length taken place (the peace treaty with England) I now have the honor of offering my sincere congratulations to Congress and of presenting myself before them to surrender into their hands the trust committed to me, and to claim the indulgence of retiring from the service of my country."

Washington’s former aide de camp, Colonel James McHenry, was sitting as a delegate from Maryland. McHenry recalled that at this point, Washington's voice "faultered and sunk...[and] the whole house felt his agitation." But he recovered his composure and "proceeded...in the most penetrating manner."

"Happy in the confirmation of our independence and sovereignty, and pleased with the opportunity afforded the United States of becoming a respectable nation, I resign with satisfaction the appointment I accepted with diffidence." Washington thanked the country and the army for its support. He added that he hoped Congress would do something to acknowledge the "distinguished merits" of "the gentlemen who have been attached to my person during the war" -- his aides.

This reference to the officers that were also personal friends, members of his military “family,” ignited some of the painful emotions Washington had felt when he predicted that that Congress’s failure to keep its promise to pay all the officers would embitter every moment of his future life. The feelings were still so intense, he had to grip the speech with both hands to keep it steady. He continued: "I consider it an indispensable duty to close this last solemn act of my official life by commending the interests of our dearest country to the protection of Almighty God and those who have the superintendence of them, to his holy keeping."

For a long moment, Washington could not say another word. Tears streamed down his cheeks. These words touched a vein of religious faith in his inmost soul, born of battlefield experiences that had convinced him of the existence of a caring God. This faith now included the belief that the birth of the American nation was part of God’s plan. But it did not stifle the doubt and anger and frustration with which he had wrestled in recent months. The tears bore witness to his inner anguish – and his continuing hope.

General Washington drew from his coat a parchment copy of his appointment as commander in chief, dated June 15, 1775 -- eight and one half years ago. "Having now finished the work assigned me, I retire from the great theater of action and bidding farewell to this august body under whom I have long acted, I here offer my commission and take leave of all the employments of public life." Stepping forward, Washington handed the document to President Mifflin.

This was -- is -- the most important moment in American history. The man who could have dispersed a feckless Congress and obtained for himself and his officers riches worthy of their courage was renouncing absolute power to become a private citizen. He was putting himself at the mercy of politicians over whom he had no control and in whom he had little confidence. This visible incontrovertible act did more to affirm America's faith in the government of the people than a thousand declarations by legislatures and treatises by philosophers.

October 14, 2007

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:07 PM


Voter Confronts McCain on Immigration (HOLLY RAMER, 10/14/07, Associated Press)

``Do the people in Washington - the politicians and the lobbyists and the rich people writing the checks - do they understand the amount of anger the average European Christian, native-born American feels when they see their country turning into a multicultural chaos Tower of Babel?'' [a man who spoke up at the Hopkinton Town Hall] said.

McCain started to answer, only to be interrupted by his questioner accusing him of supporting amnesty for illegal immigrants. Finally, McCain repeated his promise - ``I think for the 15th time'' - that he would secure the borders to stop illegal immigration before attempting anything else.

He also strongly objected to the man's argument about the nation's future and the impact of legal immigration.

``I believe the greatest strength of America is the lady who holds her lamp behind the golden door that says send me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses,'' he said, referring to the Statue of Liberty. ``And I am grateful to live in a nation that has been enriched by people coming to our nation from around the world.

``I will do everything in my power to secure the borders, but I love this nation and I love the people who have come from around the world,'' he said to loud applause.

The nativists aren't usually that honest about their derangement.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:56 PM


Cameron: 'PM betraying voters over referendum' (Andrew Grice, 15 October 2007, Independent)

Gordon Brown is under mounting pressure over Europe as he prepares to attend his first European Union summit as Prime Minister this week.

David Cameron warned Mr Brown that he would betray the voters' trust unless he promised a referendum on a new EU treaty, due to be agreed by EU leaders in Lisbon on Thursday and Friday.

A senior Labour MP warned that the special opt-outs won by Britain could prove worthless, while the European Commission said they would hamper the fight against terrorism.

There's no worse political sin than forcing your opponent to take the winning side of an issue.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:56 PM


Better Numbers: The evidence of a drop in violence in Iraq is becoming hard to dispute (Washington Post, October 14, 2007)

A congressional study and several news stories in September questioned reports by the U.S. military that casualties were down. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), challenging the testimony of Gen. David H. Petraeus, asserted that "civilian deaths have risen" during this year's surge of American forces.

A month later, there isn't much room for such debate, at least about the latest figures. In September, Iraqi civilian deaths were down 52 percent from August and 77 percent from September 2006, according to the Web site icasualties.org. The Iraqi Health Ministry and the Associated Press reported similar results. U.S. soldiers killed in action numbered 43 -- down 43 percent from August and 64 percent from May, which had the highest monthly figure so far this year. The American combat death total was the lowest since July 2006 and was one of the five lowest monthly counts since the insurgency in Iraq took off in April 2004.

During the first 12 days of October the death rates of Iraqis and Americans fell still further.

...by succeeding.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:14 PM


NASCAR Flap Raises Caution Flag for Dems (MIKE BAKER, 10/14/07, Associated Press)

It got the GOP's engines revving - a Democratic official suggesting staffers get immunized for several diseases before heading south from Washington and into the Red State wilds of NASCAR country to conduct research at a pair of races. [...]

In an e-mail, a staffer who works for committee chairman Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., noted an "unusual need for whomever attending to be vaccinated against hepatitis A and B," as well as "the more normal things - tetanus, diphtheria, and of course, seasonal influenza."

The note didn't explain why the committee saw such concern. It didn't mention NASCAR or the races at the tracks at all. But the implication was enough to draw a snarky complaint from Republican Rep. Robin Hayes, whose district includes Lowe's Motor Speedway.

"I have never heard of immunizations for domestic travel, and ... I feel compelled to ask why the heck the committee feels that immunizations are needed to travel to my hometown," wrote Hayes.

Thompson responded to Hayes that such immunizations are "are recommended for public safety professionals working in areas such as hospitals, holding areas and similar locations." But the staffers were only scheduled to visit a few health care facilities - not work at them.

"What do they know about NASCAR that we don't?" said Dr. David Weber, a professor of medicine and public health at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Weber said everyone should be up to date on standard vaccinations, he but saw no need for special vaccinations to visit a health care facility or a NASCAR event. Debbie Crane, a spokeswoman for the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, said such shots are recommended for "general health" for all adults - but not for any specific circumstance.

"The very idea of immunization is laughable," said Lowe's Motor Speedway President Humpy Wheeler. "It's like taping your ankles to go to the mailbox."

...if Al Gore not only taped his ankles but wore a helmet around the house?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:03 PM


McCain unloads on Romney (Jonathan Martin, 10/14/07, Politico)

In the toughest language used yet by any GOP candidate about another, John McCain today launched a frontal assault on Mitt Romney, using the start of a speech to New Hampshire Republicans to describe the former governor as a political fraud. For the Arizona senator, the remarks amount to an unburdening of months of pent-up contempt for a candidate that he, and his staff, view as illegitimate. [...]

McCain's decision to go public with his barely concealed disdain was prompted by a speech Romney gave yesterday to Nevada Republicans. Seeking to set himself apart from the social moderation of Rudy Giuliani, Romney borrowed a turn of phrase from Howard Dean, saying that "he speaks for the Republican wing of the Republican Party."

Unwilling to let a candidate who once portrayed himself as an apolitical moderate to now cast himself as a holier-than-thou Republican, McCain struck back hard.

"As we all know, when he ran for office in Massachusetts, being a Republican wasn't much of a priority for him,' McCain said of Romney. "In fact, when he ran against Ted Kennedy, he said he didn't want to return to the days of Reagan-Bush."

"I always thought Ronald Reagan was a real Republican."

But McCain wasn't done. Dipping into his campaign's trove of opposition research, the maverick senator alluded to Romney's contribution of $250 to former New Hampshire Democratic Rep. Dick Swett in 1992 and the former governor's backing of Massachusetts senator and Democratic presidential hopeful Paul Tsongas in the Bay State's 1992 primary. Additionally, McCain cited Romney's refusal to support the Contract for America in his 1994 Senate bid and his "embracing the Democratic position on many major issues of the day."

"I don't think he was speaking for Republicans," McCain said of Romney after each of his digs.

"So you'll understand why I'm a little perplexed when Mitt Romney now suggests that he's a better Republican than me, or that he speaks for the Republican wing of the Republican Party."

With Mitt and the Mayor splitting the vote to the Left and with the Right coming back to Maverick, the Senator is poised to stage almost as big an upset here as last time.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:48 PM


SCHIP dispute leaves Pelosi cornered (Lisa Lerer, Oct 14, 2007, Politico)

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) vowed no compromise on the $35 billion State Children’s Health Insurance Program. “No lower level than 10 million children,” she said on Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.” “I wish the president had signed the bill. We’ll try very hard to override it.”

But Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said concessions are inevitable. “She is going to compromise, there’s no choice. We are not going to walk away and leave these young people from low-income families uninsured,” McConnell said also on ABC.

“This is going to be like a pebble in the ocean,” he predicted, “a short-term controversy, a big partisan struggle, and then it’s going to be over.”

Earlier on “Fox News Sunday,” House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) said that Republicans would sustain the veto when the issue returns to the House floor.

...or she's starting to like being mitchslapped as much as Harry Reid apparently does.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:41 PM


Looks like I may be the town chairman for the Thompson '08 campaign and have started putting together a corresponding website. Please forward any news items you notice and join us if you're a local.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:59 AM


Blairite ministers turn on Brown as poll reveals Tory lead over Labour (JONATHAN OLIVER and JASON LEWIS, 14th October 2007, Daily Mail)

In a further setback to Mr Brown, senior Labour sources say that Mr Blair believes his successor has made the same mistake as former US Vice-President Al Gore, who lost to George Bush in the 2000 Presidential election after disowning his old boss Bill Clinton. [...]

'He was delighted that he started out so well but feels he has lost his way.

'Tony believes Gordon has gone much too far in trying to distance himself from New Labour's ten years in office. It is where Al Gore went wrong and is playing into the Tories' hands.'

Mr Blair's view is shared by US-born pollster Mark Penn, who has advised Hillary Clinton and Mr Blair and has also been consulted by Mr Brown. Mr Penn said that by disowning Mr Blair, Mr Brown had fallen into the same trap as Mr Gore.

Mr Blair's damning verdict on the Prime Minister comes as a new BPIX opinion poll for The Mail on Sunday shows the Tories racing into a four-point lead over Labour.

The whole EU kerfuffle is a glaring example.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:53 AM


The Ideologues Have It (Mark Steyn, 10/14/07, National Review)

Peter Robinson, a Reagan speechwriter in the last years of the Cold War, posed an interesting question on “The Corner” the other day. He noted that on February 22, 1946, a mere six months after the end of the Second World War, George Kennan, a U.S. diplomat in Moscow, sent his famous 5,000-word telegram that laid out the stakes of the Cold War and the nature of the enemy, and that that “Long Telegram” in essence shaped the way America thought about the conflict all the way up to the fall of the Berlin Wall four decades later. And what Mr. Robinson wondered was this: “Here we are today, more than six years after 9/11. Does anyone believe a new ‘Long Telegram’ has yet been written? And accepted throughout the senior levels of the government?”

Answer: No. Because, if it had, you’d hear it echoed in public — just as the Long Telegram provided the underpinning of the Truman Doctrine a year later. Kennan himself had differences with Truman and successive presidents over what he regarded as their misinterpretation, but, granted all that, most of what turned up over the next 40 years — the Cuban missile crisis, the Vietnam war, Soviet subversion in Africa, and Europe, Grenada, and Afghanistan — is consistent with the conflict as laid out by one relatively minor State Department functionary decades earlier.

Why can’t we do that today? [...]

[M]embers of the transnational jet set want to hear this. They’re convinced that economic and technological factors shape the world all but exclusively, and that the sexy buzz words — “globalization”, “networking” — cure all ills. You may recall the famous Golden Arches thesis promulgated by the New York Times’s Thomas Friedman — that countries with McDonald’s franchises don’t go to war with each other. Tell it to the Serbs. When the Iron Curtain fell, Yugoslavia was, economically, the best-positioned of the recovering Communist states. But, given the choice between expanding the already booming vacation resorts of the Dalmatian coast for their eager Anglo-German tourist clientele or reducing Croatia and Bosnia and Kosovo to rubble over ethno-linguistic differences no outsider can even discern (“Serbo-Croat”?), Yugoslavia opted for the latter.

As I wrote in my book, the most successful example of globalization is not Starbucks or McDonald’s but Wahhabism, an obscure backwater variant of Islam practiced by a few Bedouin deadbeats that Saudi oil wealth has now exported to every corner of the earth — to Waziristan, Indonesia, the Caucasus, the Balkans, Amsterdam, Stockholm, Toronto, Portland, Dearborn, and Falls Church.

We yield to no one in our high regard for Mr. Steyn, but this isn't just profoundly wrong, but the citation of the Long Telegram in particular is an argument against his own position on the WoT.

The most successful example of globalization, as Kennan argued that it would be, was the largely passive victory of America over the USSR. If we just bring Kennan up to date--or look to Francis Fukuyama who universalized his analysis in The End of History--we would recognize that Islamicism is extraordinarily unlikely to overcome its own internal contradictions and that if we just remain steadfast in advocating our own system for long enough it will collapse upon itself.

Unfortunately for the hundreds of millions of victims of Communism, our willingness to follow the Kennan model meant that the Cold War lasted for decades, during which we stood by as tens of millions were murdered and the rest lived in near slavery. To the extent that Kennan was responsible for our not settling Soviet hash in the late 40s, he (and we) enabled the repression and mass murder of a significant portion of the human population for a disturbingly extended period of time. The cost of his accuracy was catastrophic to them and morally disabling to us. Four decades of compromising with evil led directly to the spiritual malaise that even Jimmy Carter could diagnose and lament -- though, having bought into the Kennanesque status quo, he was incapable of snapping us out of it.

It seems safe to say that Mr. Steyn would not counsel that we just mellow out and recognize that Islamicism is likewise doomed in the long run and, therefore, all we have to do is sit back and wait for it to, likewise, die off. However, this is the course of action that Kennan recommends to us -- as witness Mr. Fukuyama's more militarily isolationist stance towards the Islamic world -- and it is quite consistent with what Mr. Friedman and others propound.

On the other hand, the Bush Doctrine has put us on a footing where we will not tolerate the rise or continuance of any Salafist state and where we pursue even the rather feeble outfits that wish to establish one. The underlying premise is that no one ought to have to pay the fifty year butcher's bill to run another experiment in misgovernment, despite the fact that we know it would be destined to fail.

Today we live by the Short Telegram: no terrorist states.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:22 AM


I Am an Op-Ed Columnist (And So Can You!) (STEPHEN COLBERT, 10/14/07, NY Times)

Surprised to see my byline here, aren’t you? I would be too, if I read The New York Times. But I don’t. So I’ll just have to take your word that this was published. Frankly, I prefer emoticons to the written word, and if you disagree :(

I’d like to thank Maureen Dowd for permitting/begging me to write her column today. As I type this, she’s watching from an overstuffed divan, petting her prize Abyssinian and sipping a Dirty Cosmotinijito. Which reminds me: Before I get started, I have to take care of one other bit of business:

Bad things are happening in countries you shouldn’t have to think about. It’s all George Bush’s fault, the vice president is Satan, and God is gay.

There. Now I’ve written Frank Rich’s column too.

Here's a funny review of Mr. Colbert's book, where it doesn't actually matter whether the reviewer gets the joke or not, because Colbert himself doesn't: Colbert's topics of truthiness range far: The satirist's unfocused rantings are full of hyperbole, bluster and verve. (David Cotner, October 13, 2007, LA Times)
Colbert holds forth on sports, the family, old people, animals, higher education, sex and homosexuals. Clearly it was an epic 72 hours over which he stressed and obsessed over these touchstones of the modern American experience; although this cursory overview of what's on Colbert's mind indicates as much focus as a headless chicken, his passion for denouncing the evil in America -- and how he's right to condemn everyone for destroying his dreams -- is stauncher than staunch.

He rails against "Pat the Bunny," details his first job writing the police blotter for the Dorchester County Pennysaver in South Carolina, takes a cue from the Chinese by proposing construction of a 2,000-mile wall at the U.S. border to keep out immigrants and thanks Chevron (with Techron) for sponsoring his chapter on sports. He thinks that our God is an awesome God not only because he reigns from Heaven above but also because cats can walk on water too. In Colbert's world, all deities from Anubis to Zeus evolved into Jesus -- including Caveman Jesus.

Flowcharts to determine gayness, a sexual compatibility quiz in which respondents must match themselves to the right troika of Supreme Court member/tree/dessert topping -- these many extensions of his self-aggrandized folderol reach out like a squid's tentacles across a sea of Stephen Colbert. With tiny red rejoinders -- a cross between a Greek chorus of common sense and Sergio Aragonés' "Mad Marginals" cartoons -- cavorting in the margins, he builds a Winchester Cathedral of pomp and circumstance. Or, at the very least, a Winchester Mystery House of relentless banging away at evil liberal ghosts.

Colbert is that annoying whine that appears in the ear at inopportune times, just when one wishes for peace and quiet the most (11:30 p.m./10:30 Central) -- and with this latest broadside in the war against sin and people not like himself, he proves that he is to journalism what Jack Chick tracts are to theology: damning hyperbole, scathing bluster of the most evangelical sort, and infinitely more "YAAAAH!" than the competition.

And, right on cue, Frank Rich chimes in with today's obligatory Nazi reference, The ‘Good Germans’ Among Us (FRANK RICH, 10/14/07, NY Times)

Our humanity has been compromised by those who use Gestapo tactics in our war. The longer we stand idly by while they do so, the more we resemble those “good Germans” who professed ignorance of their own Gestapo.

Oughtn't he at least refer to "good Americans," who stood by while FDR rounded up the Nisei?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:15 AM


Name dispute or ethnic misdeeds? (Metodija A. Koloski, October 14, 2007, Washington Times)

[G]reece denies the right of the Republic of Macedonia to call itself by that name. In doing so, Greece disregards the United Nations Charter's admonition that all people have the right to self-determination. Greece's stated basis for this "dispute" is that the Republic of Macedonia supposedly harbors "territorial ambitions" toward northern Greece. The Greek government also claims Macedonia misappropriates "Greek history."

The Republic of Macedonia amended its constitution to unequivocally disclaim any "territorial ambitions," and it changed national symbols to remove "Greek" connections. But Greek government intransigence persists.

The real reason for the "dispute" is that, since Greece forcibly took possession of a large part of historical Macedonia following the Balkan Wars of 1912-13, it has denied the existence of the Macedonian people and ruthlessly pursued a policy of forced assimilation. These actions constitute genocide under the 1948 Genocide Convention (to which Greece is bound).

Macedonia just isn't as sexy an issue as Armenia.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:12 AM


Sparsely populated valley a haven of Afghan prosperity (John Ward Anderson, 10/14/07, Washington Post)

Slashed across the side of a rugged mountain like the sign of Zorro, the Z Road started as a simple $59,000 US project to put a radio tower atop a small peak in the Hindu Kush, so people in the remote Panjshir Valley could for the first time pick up commercial radio from Kabul, about 60 miles away.

After road crews conquered the mountain's 270-foot face last November, other forces took over. By the new year, private companies had extended the road to the next hilltop, two-thirds of a mile away and 640 feet higher, for a bank of cellphone towers.

Then came another half-mile extension to the next peak for a television tower, then plans for a wind farm, and, last month, a series of switchbacks down the far side of the range to give villages in the next valley their first road to the outside.

This is the way reconstruction in Afghanistan was supposed to be. A little bit of US pump priming, combined with profit motive and human need, would be harnessed by a grateful, liberated population to transform their lives and country. In the process, the people would become loyal allies in the fight against terror.

It hasn't always worked that way. Afghanistan is besieged by a growing insurgency that is shifting US money and manpower from reconstruction to security, undermining vital road, electricity, school, and other projects that are designed to extend the authority of the national government and win hearts and minds.

But in Afghanistan's famed Panjshir Valley - a remote, sparsely populated mountain region that is almost entirely ethnic Tajik - an unprecedented synergy among the local government, the people, and US soldiers has helped spark a development boom that is modernizing and transforming the valley, which became Afghanistan's 34th province three years ago. Underpinning it all is an unusual sense of calm that has come with the people's success in keeping the Taliban at bay.

Tangling With the Taliban: More American soldiers are pushing into high-threat areas. (MATTHEW KAMINSKI, October 14, 2007, Opinion Journal)

[T]his is a frustrating game of hide-and-seek where the enemy is hard to spot--is that goat herder also an al Qaeda lookout?--and the insurgency leadership a jumble of names and allegiances. Southeast of Kabul, seasoned Arab, Uzbek and Chechen foreigners command Afghans, referring to them sometimes as "sheep," according to Command Sgt. Maj. Richard Weik. Further north, men loyal to Jalaluddin Haqqani, a powerful jihadist who joined up with the Taliban, are in the lead, brazenly kidnapping and harassing villagers and manning roadblocks not far from Kabul.

Gen. Craddock separates the Taliban--estimated between 5,000 and 20,000 strong--into "day fighters," who take up arms for money, and "a hard-core extremist leadership [that] will never change." What fuels the rising violence in Afghanistan may be as much indigence and tribal feuding as al Qaeda ideology. Hamid Karzai's government pushes economic development and reaches out to so-called Taliban moderates--with little to show for it. And the supply of fighters, foreign and Afghan, won't dry up as long as western Pakistan provides the kind of safe haven that America pledged to destroy after 9/11.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:05 AM


Von Trapp family singer dies, aged 91 (Megan Levy and agencies, 14/10/2007, Daily Telegraph)

Born in 1915 in Zell am See, Austria, [Werner] von Trapp was the fourth child and second son of Captain Georg von Trapp and his first wife, Agathe Whitehead.

During the 1930s, he studied cello and played several other instruments.

He sang tenor with his family's choir, The Trapp Family Singers, who won great acclaim throughout Europe after their debut in 1935.

In 1938, Mr von Trapp and his family escaped from Nazi-occupied Austria. After they arrived in New York, the family became popular with concert audiences. The family eventually settled in Vermont.

During World War II, von Trapp served in Europe with the US Army. After the war, Mr von Trapp returned to his family's farm in Stowe and resumed touring with the family choir.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Guns take pride of place in US family values: Despite the spiralling rise in the daily number of shootings in the US, its arms culture has a firmer grip than ever (Paul Harris, October 14, 2007, The Observer)

Despite the fact groups such as the National Rifle Association (NRA) consistently claim they are being victimised, there have probably never been so many guns or gun-owners in America - although no one can be sure, as no one keeps a reliable account. One federal study estimated there were 215 million guns, with about half of all US households owning one. Such a staggering number makes America's gun culture thoroughly mainstream.

An average of almost eight people aged under 19 are shot dead in America every day. In 2005 there were more than 14,000 gun murders in the US - with 400 of the victims children. There are 16,000 suicides by firearm and 650 fatal accidents in an average year. Since the killing of John F Kennedy in 1963, more Americans have died by American gunfire than perished on foreign battlefields in the whole of the 20th century.

Studies show that having a gun at home makes it six times more likely that an abused woman will be murdered. A gun in a US home is 22 times more likely to be used in an accidental shooting, a murder or a suicide than in self-defence against an attack. Yet despite those figures US gun culture is not retreating. It is growing. Take Katz's case in Oregon. She brought her cause to court under a state law that gives licensed gun-owners the right to bring a firearm to work: her school is her workplace. Such a debate would have been unthinkable a few decades ago. Now it is the battleground. 'Who would have thought a few years ago, we would even be having this conversation? But this won't stop here,' said Professor Brian Anse Patrick of the University of Toledo in Ohio. Needless to say, last week the judge sided with Katz and she won the first round of her case.

It is a nation awash with guns, from the suburbs to the inner cities and from the Midwest's farms to Manhattan's mansions. Gun-owning groups have been so successful in their cause that it no longer even seems strange to many Americans that Katz should want to go into an English class armed. 'They have made what was once unthinkable thinkable,' said Patrick, a liberal academic. He should know. He owns a gun himself. Even the US critics of gun culture are armed.

Because limiting rights is seldom about taking away mine, but rather taking away yours.

October 13, 2007

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:04 PM


Iraqi civilian death toll plunges (The Press Association, Oct 13, 2007)

The civilian death toll in Iraq fell to its lowest level in recent memory on Saturday.

Only four people were killed or found dead nationwide, according to reports in the capital Baghdad compiled from police, morgue officials and witnesses. [...]

The daily number of civilians killed, not including those on days when there were massive casualties from car bombs, had climbed above 100 at the end of last year and the beginning of the year.

The day's decline in deaths was in line with a sharp drop in September of both Iraqi civilian and US military fatalities.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:40 PM


No Need for a Warrant, You’re an Immigrant (JULIA PRESTON, 10/14/07, NY Times)

This parallel course for noncitizens is not new. But it has come into fuller view as the enforcement drive has swept up record numbers of illegal immigrants, also reaching legal immigrants and citizens. In answer, a barrage of lawsuits is challenging both the laws and their enforcers.

“Buried within the proud history of our nation of immigrants, shrouded but always present, there exists a distinct system,” wrote Daniel Kanstroom, a law professor at Boston College, in his book “Deportation Nation: Outsiders in American History,” which traces the history of the immigration code. To begin with, he writes, the Constitution does not specifically address the government’s power to control immigration. This is “not a small problem for a nation of immigrants,” he notes.

Immigration law remains founded on the notion that immigrants are not full members of American society until they become citizens, writes Professor Kanstroom, who is also a practicing immigration lawyer. The reduced protections in modern-day law were shaped by some of the darker episodes of the 20th century, he writes, including the prosecution of immigrant dissidents, like the Australian union leader Harry Bridges, in the 1930s; and the mass roundups of Mexican workers in the 1950s.

Arising from that landscape, the courts that handle immigration cases are part of the Justice Department, not the judiciary. Even immigrants who have lived here legally for many years, lawyers said, can run afoul of the immigration laws with minor infractions or misdemeanors. A late filing of visa renewal papers or a shoplifting citation can quickly spiral into an order for the ultimate penalty: deportation. Immigrants who fight the orders have more limited bail rights than American criminals and can spend years behind bars while their cases inch through the overburdened court system.

...but the editors think that foreign al Qaedists are covered by the Constitution?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:22 PM


Labour big guns set to turn on Gordon Brown (Patrick Hennessy, 14/10/2007, Sunday Telegraph)

A trio of disgruntled supporters of Tony Blair are preparing a campaign of attacks on Gordon Brown's premiership and his "lack of vision", it can be disclosed.

Charles Clarke, Stephen Byers and Alan Milburn have signalled that they are ready to launch a series of challenges against his policies. [...]

Friends claim the trio, all strong allies of the former prime minister, have been approached by other Labour MPs in the wake of a series of political setbacks for Mr Brown, including his decision to call off a planned general election and his mauling from David Cameron last week in the Commons.

Their public interventions will enrage Mr Brown as they will, in effect, reopen the "TB-GB" battles between supporters of Mr Blair and Mr Brown which scarred the former prime minister's 10 years in office.

The American Right couldn't do much when Reagan and W "betrayed conservatism," but in a parliamentary system the disgruntled on your own side can bring not just the leader down but the party government as well.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:02 PM


How EU treaty is viewed elsewhere (Sunday Telegraph, 14/10/2007)

Capital punishment is an issue dear to many Polish hearts, with polls showing 60 per cent in favour, and the country's prime minister, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, spoke up for it again yesterday when he visited the Olewnik family as part of his campaign to win re-election next Sunday.

It demonstrates the scale of the problem facing European leaders intent on homogenising the disparate parts of an ever-expanding European Union.

Poland is a largely Catholic and conservative country and the death penalty is just one of a range of issues on which its citizens are out of step with Brussels, from abortion to subsidies for its shipyards.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:50 PM


Lessing's joined-up utopianism makes her a natural to join the dynamite authors' brigade (STUART KELLY, 10/14/07, Scotland on Sunday)

[R]ecent appointments have been criticised for a certain ideological bias. Orhan Pamuk, the Turkish writer who has spoken out against the Armenian genocide, and the dissident Chinese writer Gao Xingjian were both considered flagrantly political choices. Much the same was said about Pinter, who opposed the Iraq war. This is singularly unfair to Pamuk, one of the most ingenious novelists writing today.

But the prize has always had a political dimension, ever since the old dynamite inventor Alfred Nobel decreed the winner must be "of an idealistic tendency". In earlier years, this manifested itself as a love for worthy, "epic" treatments. Selma Lagerlöf was awarded it for her "lofty idealism, vivid imagination and spiritual perception", Wladyslaw Reymont for his "great national epic, The Peasants". Sartre, Bellow, Steinbeck and Grass follow the pattern, while Zola, Tolstoy and Ibsen were excluded because of the pessimistic bent of their writing.

Lessing fits perfectly. As A S Byatt sagely observed this week, Lessing has always been a joiner, signing up for feminism, socialism, Jung, R D Laing, and frequently writing a work inspired by zeal, then one retracting the enthusiasm. There is a strain of utopianist fervour in her novels, perfectly in keeping with the Nobel aesthetic. Her citation calls her "epicist of the female experience".

Perhaps this is the key to why there has not been a Scottish laureate. McIlvanney, Kelman, Spark and Gray may have many differences, but their works have an underlying scepticism about humanity's capacity to change for the better.

Significantly, while none of the authors are Scottish, all of th economy Nobelists are...essentially.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:45 PM


Tribal revolt pushes Pakistan to brink (SAEED SHAH, 10/14/07, Scotland on Sunday)

A full-scale insurrection is taking hold in Waziristan, the most restive part of the tribal region which lies on the border with Afghanistan. It is an uprising not by a few foreign Taliban or al-Qaeda fighters, but the local population.

"Tomorrow they may declare the Islamic emirate of Waziristan," said Talat Masood, a retired general. "This is the greatest challenge since 1971 [when East Pakistan broke away to become Bangladesh]."

Last week, the tribal belt erupted into a full scale conflict between militants and Pakistani forces, claiming 250 lives.

In a massive escalation of the confrontation, Pakistani jets bombed civilian areas around the town of Mir Ali, in North Waziristan, where rebels were thought to be hiding. According to a local member of parliament, Maulana Nek Zaman, 55 civilians were killed.

"We know it because we buried them," Zaman said last week.

There are limits to what we can do to a portion of an ally's population that's bothering us. There are none on what we can do to an enemy state.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:40 PM


Gordon Brown feels squeeze over Europe (Gethin Chamberlain, Patrick Hennessy and Justin Stares, 14/10/2007, Daily Telegraph)

[H]e faces a triple threat from a resurgent Conservative Party, MPs on his own side and voters.

More and more Labour backbenchers are now speaking out openly to demand a public vote, while David Cameron returns to the debate today in an article for The Sunday Telegraph in which he accuses the Prime Minister of a betrayal of "trust and democracy".

The Conservative leader adds: "Gordon Brown has calculated that he can bamboozle the British people with his Euro-spin and thereby avoid the condemnation he deserves for breaking his manifesto promise. I think he's misjudged the mood of the country."

Tories take biggest poll lead for 15 years (NICHOLAS CHRISTIAN, 10/14/07, Scotland on Sunday)
DAVID Cameron's Tories have their biggest poll lead over Labour for 15 years as a new survey put them seven points ahead of Labour.

An ICM survey for the Sunday Telegraph suggests that Cameron is now in a position to secure a Commons majority in a general election.

We await news of the surge in the West, as John Howard calls a November election.

Poll signals a Liberal Democrats collapse (John Curtice, 13/10/2007, Sunday Telegraph)

At 14 per cent, the Liberal Democrats' rating is lower than in any ICM poll since the 2001 election. Nearly one in four of those who say they voted for the party at the last election have now switched to the Conservatives. It seems Sir Menzies is being eclipsed by Mr Cameron.

A Liberal Democrat collapse makes it significantly easier for Mr Cameron to win a majority at the next election. The more seats he can pick up from the Lib Dems, the fewer he needs to capture from Labour - and thus the smaller the lead over Labour he needs.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:07 PM


Analysts find Israel struck a nuclear project inside Syria (David E. Sanger and Mark Mazzetti, October 13, 2007, NY Times)

Israel's air attack on Syria last month was directed against a site that Israeli and American intelligence analysts judged was a partly constructed nuclear reactor, apparently modeled on one North Korea has used to create its stockpile of nuclear weapons fuel, according to American and foreign officials with access to the intelligence reports.

The description of the target addresses one of the central mysteries surrounding the Sept. 6 attack, and suggests that Israel carried out the raid to demonstrate its determination to snuff out even a nascent nuclear project in a neighboring state. The Bush administration was divided at the time about the wisdom of Israel's strike, American officials said, and some senior policymakers still regard the attack as premature.

It's never too early to neuter a dictator.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:59 PM


State lives by taxing dumb folks (MARK LENNON, October 11. 2007, Concord Monitor)

Some call it "The New Hampshire Advantage." Some call it "The New Hampshire Way." The realistic call it "Tax the Poor Dumb People."

This year state lawmakers needed tens of millions of dollars. Where did they find it? Cigarettes! They raised the tax on smokes by 28 cents. Who buys cigarettes? Not you and me. Poor dumb people!

The best thing is, we can say that the tax will encourage people to quit, knowing that they won't, because they're not only poor and dumb, they're addicted. And get this, our tax is still lower than the one in Maine, Massachusetts and Vermont, so their poor dumb people will keep coming here to buy smokes.

Stroke of genius!

People with disposable income to squander on cigarettes and lottery tickets are, by definition, not poor. They are dumb.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:45 PM


New China Hierarchy May Limit President’s Power ( JOSEPH KAHN, October 13, 2007, NY Times)

After intensive bargaining, China’s Communist Party has approved a new leadership lineup that denies President Hu Jintao the decisive consolidation of power that his supporters hoped would allow him to govern more assertively in his final five-year term as China’s top leader.

The party’s Central Committee agreed to elevate four senior officials to the ruling Politburo Standing Committee, but only one of them, Li Keqiang, the party secretary of Liaoning Province, clearly owed his rise in the hierarchy to Mr. Hu’s patronage, people told about the results of a Central Committee meeting said Friday.

Xi Jinping, the party boss of Shanghai, is also expected to join the Standing Committee. He would outrank Mr. Li and become the most likely successor to Mr. Hu as party chief, head of state and top military official in 2012, the people said.

Mr. Xi, whose father was a senior party official under Mao, is viewed as a compromise choice, acceptable to Mr. Hu but also to his now-retired predecessor as top leader, Jiang Zemin, who party officials say exercised broad sway over the reshuffling.

Will China's next leader be its Gorbachev?: The country's top political figures gather this week to choose a new President. Their decision will affect us all (Will Hutton, October 14, 2007, The Observer)
They are choosing the fifth generation of Communist party leaders after the 1949 revolution. These are no longer leaders legitimised by revolution or who have the same sense of communist mission. They are managers and administrators who want to make the system work. In the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev's readiness to question communism was intertwined with his membership of the Soviet Union's fifth generation of leaders. He did not champion perestroika and glasnost alone; much of the nomenklatura had decided that the Soviet economic and social model was dysfunctional, corrupt and endemically inefficient and had to change.

Will one of Hu Jintao's two 'Lis', as the frontrunners to succeed him, Li Keqiang and Li Yuanchao, are popularly known, feel the same way as they walk out in front of the cameras in the Great Hall of the People on Friday? Will one prove to be China's Gorbachev?

The 2,200 or so handpicked delegates are pulled in two directions. They are beneficiaries of enormous and rampant corruption; Minxin Pei, director of the China programme at Washington's Carnegie Institute, calculates that 10 per cent of the value of all land and investment deals is set aside to grease Communist party officials' hands. Corrupt payments stand at $86bn every year - and they are rising. Pei says this poses a lethal threat to the system because of growing popular revulsion; he is right and the leadership agrees with him. Doubtless Hu will speak out against corruption this week, yet again.

The trouble is that, despite his rhetoric, only three in 100 corrupt officials is caught, largely because the anti-corruption campaigns are run by officials who themselves are corrupt. Worse, nobody believes in the underlying moral purpose of communism; old habits, including the imperial system of concubinage, are returning with a vengeance. And this is generating a contrary pull. A growing proportion of the Chinese nomenklatura - like the Soviet Union's before them - knows that the system, for all its successes, is running out of time.

Four generations of imbecility is enough?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:06 AM


Almost one worker in four is a migrant (Ben Leapman, 14/10/2007, Sunday Telegraph)

Britain has become a magnet for workers from almost every continent, with migrants now making up one in four of the workforce in parts of the country.

The impact of these new communities is measured for the first time today by figures showing the favoured destinations for each nationality, from Brazilians in Bournemouth to Nigerians in Aberdeen.

In London, American and French migrant workers flock to well-heeled Kensington and Chelsea, while Pakistanis and Bangladeshis choose the deprived east London boroughs of Tower Hamlets and Newham. Prime location for South Koreans is Kingston upon Thames, in the south-west suburbs.

Since 2004, a record 1.8 million foreign workers have come to Britain.

All the workers are non-native.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:39 AM


The quintessence of Americanism

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:28 AM


Iraqi official: Civilian deaths a cost of war: Says Al Qaeda strategy led to Sunni fatalities (Kim Gamel, 10/13/07, Associated Press)

The comments by government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh appeared to be tacit approval of Thursday's raid northwest of Baghdad. They suggested the Iraqi government holds the American military to a different standard when it comes to assaults against suspected Sunni insurgents. [...]

Yesterday, Dabbagh said the area targeted by American forces was a known base for insurgents, whom he accused of hiding among civilians.

"The issue of 15 civilian victims is a sorrowful matter, but confronting Al Qaeda is an essential and vital issue," he said in a telephone interview. "They shouldn't have any place among the civilians."

"We are in a war against those diabolical and wicked groups; therefore during military operations there might be innocents killed," he added. "The victims are an unavoidable matter in fighting Al Qaeda."

...is that this all apparently comes as news to Ms Gamel.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:21 AM


Employers 'turning to new immigrant wave' (The Scotsman, 10/13/07)

A NEW wave of foreign workers in the UK are taking over jobs from previous immigrants who have settled in, according to new research.

Evidence has emerged that some employers are recruiting new arrivals instead of those who have integrated.

Their kids will want to build a wall.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:45 AM


Tories lunge toward majority turf, poll says (Norma Greenaway, October 13, 2007, CanWest News Service)

The federal Conservatives have surged to 40 per cent in the popularity sweepstakes, opening a 12-point lead over the Liberals and moving within sight of majority government, a new national poll says.

The poll, conducted by Ipsos-Reid exclusively for CanWest News Service and Global National, also says that almost seven in 10 respondents believe Canada is "moving in the right track these days," and that almost half (49 per cent) identified with the sentiment that "Stephen Harper has done a good job and deserves re-election" as prime minister.

"These are the best numbers the Tories have had in years," Darrell Bricker, president of the polling firm, said Friday. At 40 per cent, the Conservatives were up four points from the last Ipsos-Reid poll in August, and were right on the "magic number" needed to think about forming a majority government, he said.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:45 AM


Taveras helps Rox to 2-0 NLCS edge (Thomas Harding, 10/13/07, MLB.com)

[Center fielder Willy] Taveras can relax after making two plays Friday night that helped the Rockies beat the Diamondbacks, 3-2, in 11 innings in Game 2 at Chase Field in front of 48,219. The Rockies, who before late in the regular season had never won more than nine games in a row in their 15-year history, have won 19 of their last 20.

Taveras' diving catch of a Tony Clark line drive with two out in the seventh preserved a one-run lead. Taveras forced in the winning run by drawing a four-pitch walk from losing pitcher Jose Valverde with the bases loaded in the 11th. [...]

The Rockies have won eight straight overall and have become the first NL team to win their first five games in a postseason since the Wild Card was instituted in 1995. They have also secured the first two in the best-of-7 NLCS. They teams play three straight at Coors Field starting Sunday night at 6:30.

October 12, 2007

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:36 PM


A-Rod by the dozen?: Boras hints at 12-year contract for superstar slugger (John Heyman,12, 2007, Sports Illustrated)

The real A-Rod negotiations haven't begun yet, and the rhetoric has already hit fever-pitch levels. GM Brian Cashman predicts these talks will include "a lot of noise and drama'' before they are completed. We're looking forward to it.

The give-and-take already is eye-opening, and speculation within the sport about what A-Rod's final take will be is rising, now often ranging in the $250-to-$300 million range. Considering the 12-year hint, the total asking price is expected to easily exceed $300 million. Superagent Boras appears to have a perfect storm of positive factors, from A-Rod's monster season (.314, 54 home runs, 156 RBIs) to an incredibly weak free-agent class to baseball's big economic leap.

Boras offered multiple reasons why A-Rod's value is unparalleled in a lengthy interview with SI.com on Thursday, so lengthy he may have trouble keeping his famed free-agent player book to one volume. If you want, Boras can also condense his argument into three letters: I, P and N. Which stands for iconic (A-Rod is an icon now, a step up from when he signed his $252-million Rangers deal), performance (that speaks for itself) and network (he significantly raises the price of ad sales and value of a network).

The Yankees have hit home run after home run on the business front, and that doesn't hurt A-Rod, either. Boras said, flatteringly, "The Yankees are very well run.'' The Yankees' attendance is up from 3.5 million to 4.3 million since acquiring A-Rod, the ratings at their YES Network are up and the value of YES is up from close to $1 billion to an estimated $3 billion. Boras estimates that A-Rod increases revenues by $20-30 million, and appreciation goes well above and beyond that.

"The evidence is very clear. This is one of the rare players who literally pays for himself,'' Boras concluded. "The Yankees can't afford not to keep A-Rod.''

If you want him to be a productive player into his 40s you'd better put another $100 million into detection-proof performance enhancing drugs.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:50 PM


At least 95,000 new homes needed each year - just for migrants (JAMES SLACK, 13th October 2007, Daily Mail)

At least 95,000 houses will have to be built every year until 2020 to cope with the record influx of immigrants - an increase of 30 per cent on the latest Government estimate.

The official research by the House of Commons Library is the equivalent of 260 new homes every day.

It follows an admission by Whitehall statisticians that they have badly underestimated the number of migrants pouring into the country.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:27 AM


Gore, U.N. Body Win Nobel Peace Prize (Howard Schneider and Debbi Wilgoren, October 12, 2007, Washington Post)

Former Vice President Al Gore Jr. was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize today, along with a United Nations panel that monitors climate change, for their work educating the world about global warming and advocating for political action to control it.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee characterized Gore as "the single individual who has done most" to convince world governments and leaders that climate change is real, is caused by human activity, and poses a grave threat.

He has a solemn duty to Gaia to run for president of the United States.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:13 AM


Archers podcast launched (Chris Tryhorn, October 12, 2007, MediaGuardian.co.uk)

Archers fans will be able to listen to Radio 4's popular rural soap on the move, now that the BBC has launched a daily podcast of the show.

From Sunday, The Archers will be available to download as a podcast, enabling fans to transfer it to an MP3 player and listen to it at their convenience.

The popular Radio 4 programme is already available on demand on the BBC website, where it receives a million "listen again" requests a month.

The Archers joins more than 120 titles in the BBC's podcasting service, which already includes a host of Radio 4 programmes such as Today, Broadcasting House, You and Yours, Woman's Hour and Front Row.

If only you had a dollar for every time a character in a British mystery referenced listening to The Archers....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:09 AM


Three Gorges Dam could be environmental disaster (Richard Spencer, 11/10/2007, Daily Telegraph)

China plans to relocate 4m people from the hillsides around the Three Gorges Dam, the world's largest, in an unprecedented effort to stave off an environmental disaster.

The huge project will take between 10-15 years to complete, but was necessary as the area's "ecological safety" was at risk, according to senior officials.

The announcement comes in the wake of increasingly panicked reports of the environmental effects of the £13bn dam, one of the world's most ambitious infrastructure projects, whose first stage opened in 2003.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Game delayed by unruly crowd (John Powers, October 12, 2007, Boston Globe)

Rockies manager Clint Hurdle pulled his team off the field in the bottom off the seventh inning last night during the National Leaguie Championship Series at Chase Field.

"We get tired of having water bottles thrown on the field" Hurdle said. "That's all. It's just there comes a point in time where you need to make a point that enough's enough."

Angry fans threw water bottles and other debris onto the field following a disputed call. The game was delayed for about eight minutes.

Luckily it's all senior citizens in Arizona so the throws were pretty feeble, though Dan Rostenkowski would have had PTSD.

Webb falls flat against Rockies ... once again (Jayson Stark, October 11, 2007, ESPN)

hursday night in the desert, it was Brandon Webb's turn to get squashed by the Colorado Rockies' runaway steamroller.

He was the only man on earth who had beaten this team over the last 26 days and 18 games. But if you thought that meant Webb had some kind of magical secret to shutting off the Rockies' engine, uh, think again. If anything, it's the other way around. (More on that in a minute.)

So down went Webb and the Diamondbacks, 5-1, on Thursday night, in Game 1 of the National League Championship Series. If you're streak-watching at home, that makes the Rockies just the second National League team in the last 30 years to rip off an 18-1 blitz at any point in any year.

The other was the 1986 Mets. They started their streak in their sixth game of the season, on the way to 108 wins and a World Series parade that started at Bill Buckner's house.

The Rockies, on the other hand, kicked off their streak on Sept. 16, at a time when they figured the only way they would still be playing now was if they went undefeated. So they then proceeded to darned near go undefeated -- tumbling only at the hands of Webb, on Sept. 28.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Why the Indians will beat the Red Sox (Ryan Richards, October 12, 2007, Hardball Times)

Next up for the Cleveland Indians is the Boston Red Sox, a team that mirrors themselves: a stellar pitching staff, and a good offense. There are subtle differences between the rosters of both teams (which I’ll explore later), but nothing that really jumps out. I think this ALCS will come down to the individual performances of the players, and not any big talent advantage. The most interesting matchups occur between Boston’s and Cleveland’s top two starters:

Game 1

Boston's ace is Josh Beckett, one of the front runners for this year's Cy Young award. Beckett rebounded from a disastrous 2006 season, slicing his walks, increasing strikeouts, and halving his home runs allowed. This is the guy Boston thought they were getting from Florida after the 2005 season. In his ALDS start, he shut down the Angels, pitching a complete game four-hitter.

Cleveland counters with its own Cy Young candidate, C.C. Sabathia. C.C.'s been building towards this season for a couple years now, getting better with control while at the same time missing more bats. This season is the culmination of that process; he made 34 starts, averaging seven innings per appearance. He threw 241 innings this season, and lead the league in strikeout-to-walk ratio (5.65). So it was very surprising when Sabathia barely got through five innings in his ALDS start against the Yankees. He walked six, and had to throw 114 pitches just to qualify for a victory. Sabathia's wildness may have had to do with a small strike zone, but Boston's lineup drew the most walks in the AL this season, so he'll have to throw more and better strikes to stick around longer than his last start.

Game 2

The Red Sox started Daisuke Matsuzaka in Game 2 of the ALDS, but for the Championship Series opted for Curt Schilling instead. Curt's not a power pitcher any longer, but he's successfully made the transition to finesse artist without too much trouble. He's been especially good in September, allowing nine runs in his four starts (3.16 ERA). He also had little trouble with the Angels, shutting them out over seven innings in the ALDS clincher.

Facing Schilling is Fausto Carmona, who allowed the Yankees just one run and three hits in nine innings of work. He may have the best pitch in baseball right now: a mid-90s sinker that moves drastically down and in to right handed hitters. Carmona is also a Cy Young candidate, and just missed winning the ERA title.

The above matchups are critical to the Indians’ success; offensive production won’t come as easily to the Indians in this series, and I like Boston’s back of the rotation better than Cleveland’s. So Sabathia and Carmona need to have good performances to keep the series within reach.

If they can get four starts out of those two the Tribe can certainly win.

October 11, 2007

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:02 PM


This was the week that Labour's leaders left social democracy for dead: Brown's capitulation to the Tory agenda and refusal to make the case for equality has shipwrecked his party (Polly Toynbee, October 12, 2007, The Guardian)

This was more than a horrible humiliation for the prime minister. This was the week that social democracy ebbed away in England. Those words had already slipped from Labour's lexicon, never spoken by its leaders in public, rarely spoken outside the privacy of Fabian meetings and Celtic parliaments.

In 1994 Tony Blair and Gordon Brown purged socialism when they forged the New Labour project: Clause Four was indeed an archaic nonsense. This week Brown and Darling all but killed off social democracy too. We now have a centrist government in Europe's most unequal country. Our government stands somewhat to the right of Angela Merkel's coalition in Germany, to the right of economic policy in France, where Nicolas Sarkozy has absorbed social democrats. Fusion politics, like fusion music and food, is one description of this strange death of the centre-left.

Odd to tick off the other states that have moved Right but think it "strange" your own has.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:14 PM


Zionism's Bleak Present (Daniel Pipes, 10/11/07, FrontPageMagazine.com)

Let's suppose, however, that the country muddles through these many problems. That leaves it face to face with its ultimate challenge: a Jewish population increasingly disenchanted with, even embarrassed by, the country's founding ideology, Zionism, the Jewish national movement.

As developed by Theodor Herzl (1860-1904) and other theoreticians, Zionism's call for a sovereign Jewish state fit the political context and mood of its time. If Chinese, Arabs, and Irish sought to establish a national state, why not Jews?

Indeed, especially Jews, for through nearly two millennia they had paid the greatest price of any people for their political weakness, having been expelled, victimized, persecuted and mass murdered as none other. Zionism offered an escape to this tragic history by standing tall and taking up the sword.

From its inception, Zionism had its share of Jewish opponents, ranging from the Haredim (Ultra-Orthodox) to nostalgic Iraqis to reform rabbis, But, until recently, these were marginal elements. Now, due to high birth rates, the once-tiny Haredi community constitutes 22 percent of Israel's current first-grade class; add to this the roughly equivalent number of Arab first-graders and a sea-change in Israeli politics can be expected about 2025.

Worse for Israel, Jewish nationalism has lost the near-automatic support it once had among secular Jews, many of whom find this nineteenth-century ideology out of date.

It hardly need be pointed out that secular Jewish Zionism is racism.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:54 PM


Death and taxes (Lisa Mitchell, 10/10/07, BBC News)

The hottest political potato of the day is inheritance tax, with the Tories and Labour keen to cut death duties. But for 2,000 years, it's been used to redistribute wealth.

Invented by Emperor Augustus to raise funds for soldiers' pensions, inheritance tax has been used by the West to redistribute wealth ever since. It is one of the most ancient and widely adopted state levies on the individual.

The rule of Augustus - or Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus - as the first leader of the Roman Empire ushered in an era of relative peace and he needed cash to pension off the soldiers back from subduing the natives.

Like its modern day successors, Augustus's tax was revenue raising and hit only those with an estate worth over 100,000 sestertii. Unlike today's system in the UK, it did not apply to those who were next of kin. With varying tweaks, it's a system which has been accepted by societies over the millennia.

But in the past week, controversy over this well-worn formula may have caused a swing to the opposition in 83 marginal seats, prompting the prime minister to cancel his plans for a snap election.

This tax, which affects only 6% of dead people's estates and raises a relatively small amount of total taxation (£3bn), has become a political battleground.

Not only is the historic inheritance tax consist with republicanism--preventing the concentration of wealth/power in certain families--but, since the dead have no rights, it can hardly be argued that said are being violated. Dispose of your wealth during your life.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:50 PM


On optimism: The Tories have seized what may be the most precious commodity in British politics (Bagehot, Oct 11th 2007, The Economist)

The Tories have become the country's optimists.

David Cameron, their leader, said he was one in his optimistically unscripted conference speech in Blackpool. “I am by nature an optimist,” he proclaimed. He went some way towards proving it with an optimistically high estimation of the electorate's maturity. In the face of retrograde Labour efforts to portray his party as a cabal of moronic toffs, Mr Cameron confessed his posh background and expensive education. He talked idealistically if vaguely about re-enfranchising non-voters, rather than simply co-opting the floating ones.

The most important aspect of Mr Cameron's avowed optimism, however, was his emphasis on a related abstract noun: aspiration. The Tory proposals to cut the taxes paid by first-time homebuyers, and to raise to £1m ($2m) the threshold at which inheritance tax is levied, were of piddling significance in fiscal terms. The inheritance-tax idea—which seems to have been popular enough to derail the election for which Gordon Brown was preparing—would benefit only a small proportion of families, as Labour energetically pointed out before proposing a version of it. But that is precisely what is optimistic about it.

A widespread view of Britons has it that, compared with ambitious Americans—who generally elect the presidential candidate offering the rosiest view of them and their future—they are timid and melancholic. The strategic intuition behind the Tory tax ideas is that this caricature is mistaken, or at least mistaken enough for Mr Cameron to win an election by challenging it.

Meanwhile, the GOP candidates are competing to see who can be most pessimistic about their own Party, even though the more optimistic (and, not coincidentally, less "bright") candidate has won every open American presidential election of the modern era.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:40 PM


The tongue twisters: In the last of our series on civil liberties, we look at the difficulty of reconciling traditional freedoms of expression with the new demands of national security (The Economist, Oct 11th 2007)

Thanks to its constitution, and especially the first amendment, the United States gives greater protection to freedom of expression than any other country. Free expression generally trumps libel, prejudicial comment about pending court cases, and so-called “hate speech”. Even so, claims Peter Osnos, senior fellow at the Century Foundation, a New York-based think-tank, since September 2001 the Bush administration's attempts “to intimidate and punish the media, or at least to manipulate and mislead it, represents one of the most concerted assaults on the first amendment since it was written.”

Under American law, government documents may be classified only to protect national security. Presidents have at times no doubt stretched the definition, but George Bush has gone further than any. Partly as a result of an executive order of 2003, the number of documents being stamped secret or classified has almost quadrupled—from 5.8m under Bill Clinton in 1996 to more than 20m last year, according to figures released by the Information Security Oversight Office (part of America's national archives). Peter Galison, a Harvard professor, reckons that “the classified universe...is certainly not smaller and very probably much larger than [the] unclassified one.” If true, more is kept hidden than revealed.

Government secrecy should be minimized because it is counterproductive as regards the ends of government (like security), not because it makes the media's job harder. It's kind of bizarre that the press insists that the role of the media must be adversarial, on the one hand, but, on the other, wants their supposed adversary to do all the heavy lifting for them. Meanwhile, in order to vindicate the republican concern for checks and balances and separation of powers, libel law should be brought back into favor so that individuals may have some recourse against the disproportionately powerful modern media.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:34 PM


Law of God versus law of man: A tantalising reform of the Saudi judicial system is under way (The Economist, 10/11/07)

[E]ven the most reform-resistant Saudis have long bemoaned the capriciousness of their courts. In theory, the Koran is held to be the Saudi constitution, and Islamic sharia its law. In practice, a patchwork of royal decrees frames the way the monarchy functions. A few ministerial committees regulate important commercial disputes, but it is a body of some 700 clerics, chosen by each other from a pool of Wahhabi scholars, that defines sharia as they see it, and chooses how to apply it. Its rulings are often harsh, including beheading for the crime of witchcraft, but sometimes also lenient, as in cases of rape or wife-beating. Sometimes it is slow, leaving thousands of abandoned women unable to secure a divorce.

This is why a recently announced overhaul of the legal system has been greeted with general relief. When the new rules go into effect, the country will have three tiers of courts, instead of the current two. Instead of applying their understanding of sharia to any case brought before them, judges will now preside over courts specialising in criminal, commercial, labour or family issues. The judiciary council that used to act as the highest court and was controlled by the most reactionary clerics in the kingdom, has been relegated to administration. A new ten-man Supreme Court will be filled mostly with royal appointees, presumably of a more diverse pedigree. The changes will be sweetened with an extra $2 billion in state funding for the judiciary.

They'd be wise to avoid the mistake the West made and allow the monarchy to retain a veto over Supreme Court decisions.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:30 PM


Berlin and Vienna Stand Against the West: European Divisions on the Iranian Bomb (Matthias Küntzel, 11 Oct 2007, World Politics Review)

The policy sketched out by Sarkozy is in fact the only non-military option available. If there is any world power that is in a position to force a change in Iranian policy without the use of military force, then it is the European Union. The United States is not in a position to do so, since the United States already has no trade relations with Iran. China, Japan and Russia are not in a position to do so, because Iran can live without their trade. Only Europe is indispensable for the Mullah regime. Forty percent of all Iranian imports come from the EU. Twenty-five percent of all Iranian exports flow to the EU. Whereas for Japan and China, Iran is principally an energy supplier, the investments and imports that keep the Iranian economy itself working come principally from Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Austria, and France. Germany was and remains Iran's number one trading partner. The former Director of the German-Iranian Chamber of Commerce in Tehran, Michael Tockuss, drew attention to Germany's importance for Iran when he noted, in an interview with the German magazine Focus, that "around two-thirds of Iranian industry is essentially equipped with plant and machinery of German manufacture. The Iranians are thoroughly dependent upon German replacement parts and suppliers."

"Thoroughly dependent": the potential efficacy of economic sanctions could hardly be made more obvious. A study undertaken in late 2006 by the Iranian parliament confirmed the obvious: without European replacement parts and products the Iranian economy would be paralyzed in a matter of months. [...]

Whereas France, Great Britain, and the United States want to use tough sanctions in order to prevent Iran's enrichment of uranium to an industrial grade, Germany, Austria, and Russia are prepared now to accept Iran's nuclear facilities as long as they are placed under the supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). They have thus effectively shelved the strategy hitherto pursued by the U.N. Security Council, which aimed at stopping Iran from acquiring the potential bomb factories, not merely at monitoring them. At the end of June, the Iranian regime gladly took up this counter-proposal, as proffered to it by IAEA Director General Mohammad El Baradei: Iran agreed to negotiations with the IAEA on the modalities of proposed controls so long as the U.N. Security Council refrained from passing any new sanctions resolution. The real aims of the agreement can be made out already in the title of the relevant IAEA document 711 (dated Aug. 27): "Understandings of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the IAEA on the Modalities of Resolution of the Outstanding Issues." The spirit of complicity animating its European champions, moreover, was well-expressed by Caspar Einem, the foreign policy spokesperson of the Austrian Social Democratic Party, when he recently observed (link in German) that "it has to be taken into account that Iranian claims that they do not intend to build an atom bomb could be meant seriously."

Tehran can be highly satisfied with the deal.

C'mon, given their guilt complex, all you'd have to do is pretend that the Germans support Iran because they don't mind the prospect of Israel being nuked and the Krauts would fold in a heartbeat.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:01 PM


Gore beats Obama... (Ben Smith, 11/11/07, Politico)

On Intrade, where bettors are giving him a 13.8 percent chance of winning the Democratic nomination, to Obama's 11.5 percent.

A Gore bid for the Democratic nomination would be a Godsend for Hillary, establishing her bona fides as an electoral heavyweight and moving her to the Center-Right in the public view. A Gore candidacy for a third party or as an independent would mean she'd have no shot at winning the presidency.

N.B.--Rumor has it he's canceled a couple appearances for a sudden trip to Europe....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:07 PM


The Borowski Ultimatum: The Indians are four wins away from the World Series. Do they have the guts to dump their closer? (Chris Park, Oct. 11, 2007, Slate)

Clubs can reduce their risk of crushing bullpen failures by stockpiling young or undervalued arms and relying on whoever happens to be hot that year. Of course, this tack requires some fortitude. Leaving the late innings to a bunch of no-names almost dares the fans and local media to read you the riot act the instant something goes wrong.

The Red Sox, Indians, Diamondbacks, and Rockies have boldly and rightly chanced that public criticism. Arizona traded its two highest-paid relievers before the 2007 season, relying on Valverde—who earned a demotion to AAA in 2006 but figured to regress positively to his mean this year—and a mix of young, inexpensive relievers. Not only did the remade bullpen perform well, but castoffs Jorge Julio and Luis Vizcaino struggled with their new clubs. Julio, in fact, almost cost Colorado a playoff berth. On a happier note, the Rockies courageously installed an unproven pitcher, Manny Corpas, in the closer role at midseason, notwithstanding that the incumbent, Brian Fuentes, earned his third straight All-Star selection shortly before struggling in late June. And while baseball writers continue to obsess over Boston's aborted conversion of closer Jon Papelbon to the starting rotation, the Red Sox showed greater foresight in entrusting crucial innings to talented but obscure relievers (Manny Delcarmen, Javier Lopez, Hideki Okajima) at the expense of struggling, high-priced veterans (Joel Pineiro and J.C. Romero, both cast off in midseason).

Cleveland's bullpen, though, might be at once baseball's best and most anonymous. Rafael Betancourt's strikeouts exceeded his combined hits, runs, home runs, and walks allowed. Rookies Rafael Perez and Jensen Lewis pitched almost as well. The team's relief corps is just one of the Indians' many performance-evaluation successes. This is not surprising, given that Cleveland is the apple of the industry's eye. Led by general manager Mark Shapiro and a front office with an impressive academic and baseball pedigree, the Indians are widely—and at times explicitly—considered the best available model for success among small- to mid-market clubs. That they astutely signed young stars like Grady Sizemore, Victor Martinez, and Travis Hafner to affordable long-term contracts gives hope to every team that's lagging far behind the Yankees and Red Sox in payroll.

The Indians, however esteemed, are also the League Championship Series club most likely to be second-guessed if the bullpen fails this month. No other team will be scrutinized for using the wrong closer—Papelbon, Valverde, and Corpas have dominated for virtually the entire season. But Borowski, despite leading the American League in saves, is arguably no better than the Indians' third- or fourth-best reliever. His aforementioned 5.07 ERA is by far the worst in major league history among 40-save relievers.

Joe Borowski illustrates nearly all of the basic truths about closing: (1) saves are just a function of save opportunities--nearly any pitcher who's having a decent year could get you 30 if you gave him the chances; (2) however, most pitchers --especially middle relievers--aren't consistently decent from year to year; so, (3) the guys who get 400 chances over the course of their careers are the ones who are most consistent year in and year out and they tend to be pretty good pitchers. The lesson is that while you don't need a big time closer in any given year, if you have one you can save yourself the trouble of finding that season's (or month's) hot hand. Borowski isn't particularly good and he's having an off year even within that limit, so go with the hotter hand. Of course, Terry Francona refuses to accept that Manny Delcarmen is his best set-up guy right now, so the Sox are as likely to blow games in the 8th as the Indians are in the 9th...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:52 AM


Turning October logic on its head (Jayson Stark, 10/11/07, ESPN.com)

Think about the three fundamental rules of October as we used to know them:

* The team with the most postseason experience usually wins.
* The manager with the most postseason experience usually wins.
* The team with the biggest payroll usually wins.

That's what we always told ourselves, right? Well, if all of that was etched in the October law book, then the Rockies and Diamondbacks are under arrest. They've broken every rule in that book. [...]

Five years ago, Bud Selig and his favorite labor negotiators practically had us brainwashed to believe that size of payroll determined the outcome of every postseason series.

He can thank the Oakland A's for finding a thousand different ways to lose a series, just to make that premise possible. But if it worked then, it's safe to say it doesn't work anymore.

The Diamondbacks have a $52 million payroll. They just beat a Cubs team with a $99.9 million payroll.

The Rockies have a $54 million payroll. They just knocked off a Phillies team with a $90 million payroll.

And over in the AL, the Indians have a $62 million payroll. That's about $160 million lower than the payroll of that Yankees team they just wiped out.

So money still talks in baseball. But three of the eight lowest-salaried teams in baseball weren't listening last week. And it isn't the first time, either. Over the last six postseasons, the team with the higher budget club has won only nine of 24 Division Series. So if that's a trend, it's the best news to hit this sport in years.

"In this postseason, payroll hasn't been a big factor," O'Dowd said. "But to sustain that success, it will always be a factor."

Balancing payroll and winning is, clearly, the flip side to this tale. To keep winning teams together, it takes more than talent. It also requires lots of check-writing. So clubs with $50 million payrolls one year often turn into teams with $70 million payrolls the next.

But that doesn't mean this October was a fluke, either. It reflects a momentous new trend in the industry:

Don't buy your own. Grow your own.

Did anyone who follows baseball ever believe his three rules? There's just one rule we're aware of: the hottest pitching staff generally wins.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:54 AM


Iran figure lambastes Ahmadinejad: Ex-negotiator says foreign, economic policies are failing (Ali Akbar Dareini, October 11, 2007, Associated Press)

Iran's former chief nuclear negotiator delivered an unusually sharp rebuke to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's policies yesterday, saying they are turning more nations against Iran and failing to fix the struggling economy. [...]

"On the international stage, we are under threat more than any other time," [Hasan] Rowhani said. "The country's diplomacy will be successful if it doesn't allow the enemy to win the backing of other countries against us. Unfortunately, the number of our enemies are increasing. Up to yesterday, Britain stood by the US, but now France has joined the United States more closely."

Rowhani had spoken little in public since he was removed as nuclear negotiator, a stint during which he helped seal a deal with the European Union under which Iran suspended uranium enrichment as a gesture to the West. After he was replaced, Iran resumed those activities and has pushed ahead with them despite UN sanctions and resolutions demanding a halt.

He indirectly criticized Ahmadinejad's frequent statements dismissing the effect of UN sanctions on Iran, saying "the economic impact is felt in the life of the people."

Turning to Iran's economic struggles, Rowhani said that despite high prices for Iran's oil, "we don't see a healthy and dynamic economy."

"If we had an accurate and comprehensive plan, most of the country's problems could have been resolvable," he said.

Rowhani said important policy decisions were being made by only a few people. "The views and opinions of others must be sought, too," he said.

And Ayatollah Khamenei replaced him with Larijani because the latter is more pragmatic?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:49 AM


A Changing Iraq: Newfound optimism. (Victor Davis Hanson, 10/11/07, National Review)

Why the change?

Officers offered a number of theories. The surge of American troops, and Gen. David Petraeus’s risky tactics of going after the terrorists within their enclaves, have put al Qaeda on the run. Likewise, in the past four years, the U.S. military has killed thousands of these terrorists and depleted their ranks.

Sunnis — angry over their loss of power to the historically discriminated-against Shiites — discovered their al Qaeda allies to be worse than their Shiite rivals. We forget that jihadists drew in not merely religious fanatics but also repulsive common criminals and psychopaths who extort, butcher, and mutilate innocents.

Iraqis of all tribes and sects are also growing tired of the nihilistic violence that is squandering the opportunity for something better than Saddam’s rule. The astronomical spike in oil prices has resulted in windfall profits of billions of dollars for the Iraqi government — and with it the realization that Iraq could someday become a wealthy advanced state.

Iraqis told me that their widely held fear that Americans are going to leave soon has galvanized Sunnis to finally step up to secure their country or face even worse chaos in our absence.

The result is that ordinary Iraqis are increasingly willing to participate in local government and civil defense. Such popular engagement from the bottom up offers more hope than the old 2003 idea that a democratically elected government could simply mandate reform top down from their enclaves in the Green Zone.

So we are at yet another turning point in the constantly changing saga of Iraq.

Provided that we do start leaving and force them to stand on their own.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:42 AM


Means Test Sought for Medicare Drug Plan (Jonathan Weisman, 10/05/07, Washington Post)

The Bush administration is advancing a proposal to levy higher premiums and deductibles on upper-income seniors enrolled in Medicare's new prescription drug benefit, raising fees on beneficiaries with incomes over about $80,000 a year, administration officials said yesterday. [...]

[Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.)], who chairs the campaign committee responsible for electing Republicans to the Senate, is undaunted, vowing to add means testing to any Medicare measure that comes before the chamber.

"Working couples with incomes over $160,000 should not be subsidized by retired firefighters or schoolteachers," he said. "They should pay more of their share."

Already, the section of Medicare that pays for outpatient care, including doctors' fees, imposes some means testing. Single seniors with incomes exceeding $82,000 and couples with incomes above $164,000 pay higher premiums on a sliding scale as their wealth rises. Those thresholds rise each year with inflation.

The original Bush proposal would have frozen those thresholds at $82,000 and $164,000, so more seniors would have been affected by means testing over time. The same thresholds would have applied to the new prescription drug benefit.

According to the White House budget office, the proposal would have saved more than $10 billion over five years: $7.1 billion from the physicians' portion of Medicare and $3.2 billion from the drug coverage. The higher fees would have hit only the richest 4.3 percent of seniors enrolled in the drug program, Ensign said.

The new plan is likely to maintain inflation adjustments, Ensign said. But the senator was adamant that means testing be added to the drug benefit, and he said he has secured a strong White House commitment. The Finance Committee, of which he is a member, will probably take up legislation within weeks to stave off the scheduled cuts to physician reimbursements under Medicare. And Ensign said Democrats and Republicans will be looking for ways to pay for such efforts.

"I will be looking constantly for ways to put this before the Senate," he vowed yesterday.

The proposal will have the support of some budget hawks from both parties, who say a response to the looming crisis in entitlements must come before the heart of the baby boom begins drawing Medicare and Social Security benefits.

"Means testing is going to be a necessary part of all our entitlement programs," said Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.), who is seeking a new commission to tackle the issue. "We simply cannot afford the promises we've made."

Ron Pollack of the liberal advocacy group Families USA said an income-based surcharge could make sense, as long as the thresholds rise with inflation, the government does more to help the poor obtain coverage, and no one is excluded from the program.

"As long as this doesn't have an exodus of the wealthy from the program, we think having premiums established based on ability to pay makes sense," Pollack said.

Nothing is particularly wrong with the suggestion that more affluent seniors should pay more, said Scott Lilly, a budget analyst at the liberal Center for American Progress.

But politically, he added, the deal hinges on a betrayal of the coalition that Republicans painstakingly assembled to pass the prescription drug law in 2003. AARP's endorsement was particularly pivotal in securing its narrow passage, and it may never have happened had means testing been included, Lilly said.

The genius of the Ownership Society is that once you get universal savings programs--personalized SS, HSAs, baby bonds, personalized unemployment insurance, etc.--the application of a means test to receive the ultimate government benefit will bar virtually everyone. By being generous from birth you get to be stingy at death, instead of the far more costly and statist vice versa.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:36 AM


European Governments Battle the Continent's Birth Dearth (Handan T. Satiroglu, 11 Oct 2007, World Politics Review)

For almost a generation, wealthy and well-fed Europe has been bringing forth too few children to replenish its graying population for the coming decades. Save Ireland, and possibly amorous France, birthrates have dipped far below the replacement level of 2.1, giving the old continent an overall average of 1.5 births per woman -- rates that make North American women look like fertility goddesses at 2.08 apiece.

Even in Mediterranean countries such as Italy, Spain, and Greece, which at one time exemplified the Biblical tradition of fruitful families, and which stood for the defense of rigid religious values, childlessness is fast gaining acceptance. So much so, that Spain, for instance, is expected to shed 10 million of its inhabitants by 2050 -- despite the current influx of immigrants who tend to have more babies than the natives.

Demographers starkly warn that a steady decline in numbers lies ahead for many European countries. In Italy, the working-age population is poised to shrivel by 35 percent by 2050. The United Nations estimates Germany's population will dwindle to 75 million from a robust 81 million in the next two decades, while Hungary and Poland will trim their populations by 25 percent and 15 percent respectively.

As nations have started to feel the demographic slip, European politicians have begun to scratch their collective heads over how best to tackle the issue. Fearful of a future in which economies collapse, social ties weaken, and the elderly can no longer be sustained by paltry working-age populations, governments are doing whatever they can to encourage couples to have more children. Almost all nations -- in one way or another -- are beefing up "baby bonuses," and there is even talk of taxing those who have chosen to abstain from the biological imperative of procreation.

Yet they still believe in that Biology?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:26 AM


World's future hinges on peace between faiths, Islamic scholars tell Pope (Martin Hodgson, October 11, 2007, Guardian Unlimited)

More than 130 prominent Islamic scholars have written to Christian leaders around the world, calling for greater understanding between the two religions and warning that the world's future may depend on peaceful relations between Muslims and Christians.

Pope Benedict XVI and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, have been sent copies of the document, which focuses on the shared beliefs of the religions, such as the worship of one god, and the requirement to live in peace with one's neighbours.

The letter says: "Muslims and Christians together make up well over half of the world's population. Without peace and justice between these two religious communities, there can be no meaningful peace in the world. The future of the world depends on peace between Muslims and Christians."

The 29-page document argues that the basis for this understanding can be found in the religions' common principles: "Love of the One God, and love of the neighbour."

Supporting their argument with quotations from both the Bible and the Koran, the signatories say that Mohammed was told the same truths that had already been revealed to previous Christian and Jewish prophets, including Jesus.

All the Reformation consists of is reducing Islam to those shared truths, which is why Shi'ism--which already has more commonalities with Judaism/Christianity than Sunni Islam--has been the primary beneficiary so far.

October 10, 2007

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:25 PM


Verbs have a 'half-life,' researchers find
: They discover that irregular verbs change in a predictable manner -- just like genes and living organisms. (Denise Gellene, October 11, 2007, Los Angeles Times)

Tracing the evolution of English verbs over 1,200 years -- from the Old English of "Beowulf" to the modern English of "The Princess Diaries" -- researchers have found that the majority of irregular verbs have gone the way of Grendel, felled by the linguistic equivalent of natural selection.

The irregular verbs, governed by confusing and antiquated rules, came under evolutionary pressure to obey the modern "-ed" rule of regular verb conjugation, according to a report today in the journal Nature.

That the English language has undergone dramatic change over a millennium will come as no surprise to generations of high school students who have struggled to decipher "Beowulf," which dates from the 9th century, or Chaucer's "The Canterbury Tales," written about 1200.

Linguists have constructed elaborate "family trees" showing how language has morphed over time, but have been unable to detect the principle governing such changes.

The researchers, led by Martin A. Nowak, an evolutionary theorist at Harvard University, discovered that irregular verbs evolve in a predictable manner -- just like genes and living organisms. Analyzing databases containing millions of words, Nowak and colleagues showed that the patterns of change depended on how often irregular verb forms were used.

Infrequently used irregular verbs were quickest to evolve. For instance, "holp," the past tense of "help," became the modern "helped." Similarly, "chode" became "chided" and "swole" became "swelled." [...]

Coauthor and Harvard graduate student Jean-Baptiste Michel said irregular verbs were like fossils that could reveal how linguistic rules -- and perhaps cultural rules -- were born and then died.The research brings the field of linguistics, which inspired Charles Darwin as he pondered biological evolution, full circle, said W. Tecumseh Fitch of the University of St. Andrews in Britain, who wrote a commentary accompanying the report. [...]

If the trend toward "regularization" continues -- and researchers believe it will -- just 83 of the 177 irregular verbs studied will remain in the year 2500.

Some irregular verbs are so embedded in everyday language that they will never regularize, researchers said. Although less than 3% of modern verbs are irregular, the 10 most common verbs (be, have, do, go, say, can, will, see, take, get) are irregular, researchers said. They calculated the half-lives of "be" and "have" at 38,800 years, making them the least mutable of the irregular verbs.

Which irregular verb will next take an -ed? Researchers predict it will be "wed," which, they say, is already being replaced in some contexts by "wedded."

"Now is your last chance to be a newly wed," researchers wrote. "The married couples of the future can only hope for 'wedded' bliss."

Just as nothing speciates, they just remain verbs.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:21 PM


Pakistan army lashes out in Waziristan, toll rises (Haji Mujtaba, Oct 10, 2007, Reuters)

Over the past few months soldiers and paramilitary troops have been targeted by suicide bombers, blown up by roadside bombs, kidnapped and had their throats slit.

Militants in South Waziristan humiliated the army by taking captive about 250 soldiers in late August. More than 25 were released later, but this week three were killed, and there were threats of more killings unless the army acceded to demands.

Morale has suffered among security forces stationed in Waziristan.

Sick of being on the receiving end, the Pakistan army lashed back last weekend, unleashing fighter jets, helicopter gunships, artillery and ground troops on militants.

The recovery of comrades' decapitated, charred corpses fuelled anger in the army, according to a senior intelligence officer.

"It was too much, We couldn't take it any more," he said. "That's why air power is now being used against them."

Hitherto, the army had exercised more restraint because it did not want to be seen as fighting its own people -- an accusation that is already sapping morale.

They're not fighting Pakistanis.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:18 PM


Hamas ready for talks with rival (BBC, 10/10/07)

The Palestinian Islamist movement, Hamas, has said it has agreed to hold reconciliation talks with the rival Fatah group of President Mahmoud Abbas.

Hamas leader Ismail Haniya suggested it might be willing to relinquish control of Gaza, which it seized from Fatah in June, in a statement on its website.

Mr Haniya said his group's control of the coastal territory was "temporary". [...]

"Any future Palestinian state should include all occupied territories of the West Bank and Gaza," [Ahmed Yousef] added. "This is going to be the future Palestinian state, so there is no intention for anybody to have a state in Gaza."

Mr. Abbas is the medium through which Israel will create a Hamas-led unified Palestine.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:15 PM


House panel OKs Armenian genocide resolution (Tabassum Zakaria and Susan Cornwell, October 10, 2007, Reuters)

A U.S. House committee approved on Wednesday a resolution calling the 1915 massacres of Armenians genocide, brushing aside White House warnings that it would do "great harm" to ties with NATO ally Turkey, a key supporter in the Iraq war.

The House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee approved the resolution 27-21. It now goes to the House floor, where Democratic leaders say there will be a vote by mid-November. There is a companion bill in the Senate, but both measures are strictly symbolic, and do not require the president's signature.

...passed a resolution condemning our similar suppression of the Confederate rebellion as a genocide?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:12 PM


Are Private Schools Really Better? (JOHN CLOUD, 10/10/07, TIME)

[I] was intrigued to read of a well-designed study released today by the Center on Education Policy that challenges decades of research on the advantages of private schools. "Contrary to popular belief, we can find no evidence that private schools actually increase student performance," said Jack Jennings, the center's president and a former staffer in the Democratic-controlled House, in a press release. "Instead, it appears that private schools simply have higher percentages of students who would perform well in any environment based on their previous performance and background."

The study suggests vouchers for private schools are unnecessary because — once you control for socioeconomic status — students at private schools aren't performing any better than those at public schools. The study says that it is "the kinds of economic and resource advantages their parents can give [students]" — as well as the level of parental involvement in their kids' education —that determines success or failure in high school. That's a message the teachers� unions and Democrats in general love: The problem isn't in the schools; it's with social inequality.

Except that's not exactly what the data shows. It's true that controlling for socioeconomic status (SES) eliminates most of the public-school/private-school differences in achievement-test scores in math, reading, science and history. But even after you control for SES, Catholic schools run by holy orders (not those overseen by the local bishop) turned out to perform better than other schools studied. True, as the study says, there are only a small number of religious-order schools. But the data suggests that the type of school a kid attends does affect how well he will do — and that we could learn something from how holy orders run their schools. The Center on Education Policy, however, is an advocacy group for public schools, so it didn't look into why holy-order schools are succeeding where others fail.

Don't you love it when the Left strikes a blow for anti-egalitarianism?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:07 PM


Iraq insurgency: al-Qa'eda returns home: Damien McElroy spent a week in the heart of the insurgency in Anbar province in Iraq. In the third of five exclusive reports, he describes how al-Qa'eda loyalists are returning home. (Damien McElroy, 10/10/2007, Daily Telegraph)

A unique tribal reconciliation process is allowing repentant former al-Qa'eda loyalists to return to homes and families free from the threat of arrest by coalition forces.

The voluntary scheme has gained the backing of American commanders but is being run by local chieftains to rehabilitate sons of the region who no longer follow the path of violence.

Al-Qaim, a district in the far west of Anbar province, has reported dramatic gains against al-Qa'eda cells in the area but now faces a dilemma over the return of ex-residents who had joined the ranks of radical Islamic fighters after the American invasion in 2003.
Children in Anbar province
Refugee Iraqi children at the beach side resort of Habbinya in the Anbar province

In the fight against al-Qa'eda which has raged since last year, hundreds of residents of the region were forced out by fighting but have since signalled a wish to go home.

Sheikh Kurdi Rafi al-Shurayji, who as factor for the paramount sheikh acts as a chief representative of the tribes in the area, revealed a formal system had been established to rehabilitate ex-residents that renounced al-Qa'eda.

"Many of our people want to come back to their families," he said. "If they are young, they can't get married or get a job outside their own people. The older ones who worked with al-Qa'eda want to get back to resume their lives."

Sheikh Kurdi has forged a deal with the American coalition that gives US commanders a supervisory role in the rehabilitation process.

An applicant's first point of contact is his own sheikh, who must agree to sponsor his plea and vouch that he will not resume insurgent activity.

"We conduct background checks on the individuals to ensure that they do not have Iraqi blood on their hands," said Sheikh Kurdi. "If they are clean we ask them to reveal all they know about insurgent activity. In this way we have found weapons caches and even discovered unknown cells."

Posted by Matt Murphy at 3:23 PM


Boy, 6, tries to drive to Applebees: Hungry kid grabs car keys, booster seat, makes it about 75 feet in reverse (10/10/07, Associated Press)

A 6-year-old boy was hungry and decided he'd go to Applebees. So he grabbed the car keys, took his booster seat from the back seat of his grandmother's car and placed it in the driver's seat, then made a go of driving himself to the restaurant Tuesday.

He made it about 75 feet. Unable to take the car out of reverse, he crossed the street and ran into a transformer and communication box, knocking out electricity and phone service to dozens of townhomes.

Nobody was injured and the boy, whose name was not released, got out of his car and told his grandmother what happened.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:54 PM


Pomegranate panoply: A newfound fame: Glorious fruit spawns a host of imitators (REBEKAH DENN, 10/10/07, Seattle P-I)

For all but a few products, we'd recommend satisfying true pomegranate cravings either by buying the actual fruit (available in stores through January), buying the seeds that some grocery stores now sell in the fresh produce department or experimenting with pomegranate molasses, a tangy syrup made from reduced pomegranate juice, long used in Middle Eastern cooking.

Here's a sampling of our picks and pans, scored on a scale from 1 (low) to 10 (high).

Pom Wonderful pomegranate juice

$4.49/16-ounce bottle

Overall taste: 10

Pomegranate taste: 10

The Pom Wonderful company is credited with sparking the current craze over the fruit, with its clever marketing and funding for research. Its own product, refreshingly, is the real deal: The refrigerated fertility goddess of a bottle contains 100 percent pomegranate juice. It's reminiscent of pure cranberry juice in strength, but, unlike cranberry, it's sweet enough on its own to prompt a person to guzzle a big glass. If you love the flavor but dislike the crunchy seeds or the mess of seeding a pomegranate, this is a great chance to get taste sans hassle. Bonus: It can be used in recipes that call for pomegranate juice. We had similar huzzahs for Pom Wonderful's black tea sweetened with pomegranate juice, ($2.86/16 ounces); its natural taste makes it our new choice for store-bought iced tea, and we'll actually reuse the glass.

Yogi Tea green tea pomegranate

$4.69/box of 16 bags

Overall taste: 7

Pomegranate taste: 5

The tea bags, flavored by pomegranate juice powder and flavor, hold a sharp, lively smell, while the brewed tea itself has a fruity taste with an astringent bite. Greek Gods [...]

Hansen's Natural green tea pomegranate soda

$1.19/16-ounce can Overall taste: 7

Pomegranate taste: 7

The 16-ounce can contains no actual juice; the pomegranate comes entirely from "natural flavors" and extract. The first ingredient is carbonated water; the second is glucose-fructose syrup. We weren't expecting much. To our surprise, though, the soda hit the right marks -- refreshing, light and with a surprisingly authentic flavor. The green tea people have more to complain about with this one than we do.

Haagen-Dazs Reserve pomegranate and dark chocolate ice cream bars

$4.99/box of three

Overall taste: 8

Pomegranate taste: 5

It's hard to go wrong combining decent chocolate, decent ice cream and fruit. The taste is reasonably pomegranate-like, but also a bit floral. Haagen-Dazs uses elderberry juice, rather than the familiar fruits most other products use for blending.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:52 PM


Recipe raises the bar on homemade cake (ELIZABETH PUDWILL, 10/10 2007, Houston Chronicle)


* 8 ounces Hershey's Milk Chocolate bars, broken into pieces
* ¼ cup (4 tablespoons) butter
* 21/3 cups all-purpose flour
* 2 cups packed light-brown sugar
* 2 teaspoons baking soda
* 1 teaspoon salt
* 2 eggs
* ½ cup sour cream
* 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
* Hershey's Icing (recipe follows)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 13-by-9-inch pan. Combine chocolate pieces, butter and 12/3 cups boiling water in medium bowl; stir until chocolate and butter are melted. Combine flour, sugar, baking soda and salt in large mixing bowl. Gradually add chocolate mixture, beating until thoroughly blended. Blend in eggs, sour cream and vanilla; beat 1 minute on medium speed.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool completely. Frost with Hershey's Icing.

Hershey's icing:

* 4 ounces Hershey's Milk Chocolate bar, broken into pieces
* ½ cup (1 stick) butter
* 1 pound confectioners' sugar, sifted
* ½ cup Hershey's syrup
* 2 to 3 tablespoons milk

Melt the chocolate-bar pieces in the top of a double boiler or, very carefully, in the microwave. Cream the butter and confectioners sugar in a large mixing bowl. Blend in the chocolate syrup. Add the melted chocolate to the icing. Add the milk as needed, beating to achieve spreading consistency.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:01 AM


NLCS: Forget luck, Rockies will win with hits (David Pinto, 10/10/07, Sporting News)

The lesson I take away from the Diamondbacks' defeat of the Cubs is a corollary to the the famous statement, "Good pitching beats good hitting." It doesn't stop bad hitting. That statement grew out of play in the Thirteenth Floor Strat-O-Matic league during college and was meant as a joke. As I actually started to research baseball, I discovered there are circumstances when, indeed, good pitching doesn't stop bad hitting. Low batting average teams with high power can pull that off, and that's what we saw in the Cubs-Diamondbacks series. Arizona hit .266 in the series, the lowest batting average of the four winners. But they slugged .532, the highest of all the teams playing in the LDS. Eleven of their 25 hits went for extra bases. They didn't hit often, but their hits did damage.

That was true in the regular season, as well. Isolated power measures the difference between slugging percentage and batting average. The higher the number, the more bases gained per hit. More important, a high number indicates the ability to move base runners a long distance (first to home, for example). Despite the Diamondbacks' low ranks in batting average and slugging average, they finished fifth among NL teams in isolated power. They hit for quality, not quantity.

Can the Rockies' pitchers contain that kind of offense? They did in the first-round matchup against Philadelphia. The Phillies were a more extreme power team than the Diamondbacks, ranking second in isolated power among NL teams. The Rockies worked on the batting average side of the equation, reducing the Phillies' batting average so low (.172) that there just weren't enough runners on base for the power to make a big difference. That should be easier against a team that does a poor job of getting on base like the Diamondbacks, and in fact the Diamondbacks only posted an isolated power of .138 against the Rockies this season.

Unlike the Cubs, the Diamondbacks are now facing one of the top offenses in the National League. During the regular season, however, Arizona held Colorado to 4.8 runs, half a run less than Colorado normally scores. The Diamondbacks accomplished this by limiting the Rockies' power, holding them to a .404 slugging percentage. Colorado's ability to hit and get on base wasn't affected. That leaves us with a series pitting Arizona's power vs. the Rockies filling up the bases. Both are good ways to score, power having the advantage of striking quickly.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:41 AM


A match made in October (Luke Pyenson, October 10, 2007, Boston Globe)

Cider doughnuts are a well-known accompaniment to apple cider, but nobody knows exactly when and why the two were first eaten together. According to the "King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion," recipes for beignets, a kind of high-class fried dough, came here from France and Holland during Colonial times. Autumn was the time for fall butchering, and so it was the only season when there was enough fat available to fry things. As a result, doughnuts became an autumnal treat in the Northeast. In many homes, "cake" doughnuts - made with baking powder or baking soda instead of yeast - would be fried in fat rendered after the slaughter. This coincided with the season for apple cider production, and the two seemed to be a natural pairing. Whether someone spilled cider into the doughnut mix accidentally or purposely wasn't recorded. But there is actually apple cider in the batter for cider donuts. In fact, it's often the main liquid.

"That's what makes them so yummy!" says Honey-Pot Hill Orchards co-owner Julie Martin Sullivan. The Stow orchard uses its own cider in the batter, which is a secret recipe. The doughnuts are about one-third the size of regular doughnuts and come plain or covered in cinnamon sugar. Half-dozen bags come with three of each, but be careful. Their size makes it dangerously easy to unknowingly consume several. Outside they're crispy and inside they're dense; they're best right out of the fryolator and washed down with, or even dipped into, Honey-Pot Hill's apple cider, which is for sale in individual-serving cartons.

"Sometimes on the weekends the demand is full force and there's a bit of a wait," says Martin Sullivan. But don't worry, "We keep making them."

Rich Rounds Of Cider, No Less (Kara Newman, 10/06/04, The Washington Post)
Apple Cider Doughnuts

Makes 18 doughnuts

and doughnut holes

These apple cider doughnuts -- dense, richly spiced and with a faint taste of buttermilk -- are adapted from a recipe by pastry chef Lauren Dawson from Hearth restaurant in New York City's East Village. Hearth serves the doughnuts with applesauce and whipped cream.

For the doughnuts:

1 cup apple cider

3 1/2 cups flour, plus additional for the work surface

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

4 tablespoons butter, at room temperature

1 cup granulated sugar

2 eggs

1/2 cup buttermilk (low-fat or nonfat work fine)

Vegetable oil for frying

For the glaze:

1 cup confectioners' sugar

2 tablespoons apple cider

For the doughnuts: In a saucepan over medium or medium-low heat, gently reduce the apple cider to about 1/4 cup, 20 to 30 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, in a bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and soda, cinnamon, salt and nutmeg. Set aside.

Using an electric mixer on medium speed (with the paddle attachment, if using a standing mixer) beat the butter and granulated sugar until the mixture is smooth. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, and continue to beat until the eggs are completely incorporated. Use a spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl occasionally. Reduce the speed to low and gradually add the reduced apple cider and the buttermilk, mixing just until combined. Add the flour mixture and continue to mix just until the dough comes together.

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment or wax paper and sprinkle them generously with flour. Turn the dough onto 1 of the sheets and sprinkle the top with flour. Flatten the dough with your hands until it is about 1/2 inch thick. Use more flour if the dough is still wet. Transfer the dough to the freezer until it is slightly hardened, about 20 minutes. Pull the dough out of the freezer. Using a 3-inch doughnut cutter, cut out doughnut shapes. Place the cut doughnuts and doughnut holes onto the second sheet pan. Refrigerate the doughnuts for 20 to 30 minutes. (You may re-roll the scraps of dough, refrigerate them briefly and cut additional doughnuts from the dough.)

Add enough oil to a deep-sided pan to measure a depth of about 3 inches. Attach a candy thermometer to the side of the pan and heat over medium heat until the oil reaches 350 degrees. Have ready a plate lined with several thicknesses of paper towels.

For the glaze: While the cut doughnut shapes are in the refrigerator, make the glaze by whisking together the confectioners' sugar and the cider until the mixture is smooth. Set aside.

To fry and assemble: Carefully add a few doughnuts to the oil, being careful not to crowd the pan, and fry until golden brown, about 60 seconds. Turn the doughnuts over and fry until the other side is golden, 30 to 60 seconds. Drain on paper towels after the doughnuts are fried. Dip the top of the warm doughnuts into the glaze and serve immediately.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:35 AM


The road to Yorktown: Fusiliers: Eight Years with the Redcoats in America by Mark Urban (James Delingpole, 10/10/07, The Spectator)

The American War of Independence is one of my least favourite periods and I expect it’s the same for a lot of Englishmen. For a start, the wrong side lost. Also, it’s fiendishly complicated, what with all the Whigs, Tories, Loyalists, Patriots, Frenchmen, Indians, Militia, Virginians, Marylanders, Light Bobs, Fusiliers and Continentals biffing one another in a confusing melee. And there is the lurking suspicion that, as Michael Rose has recently argued, it has depressing things to tell us about the US’s (and her allies’) current involvement in Iraq. [...]

Many of the received ideas one has about the period, Urban reveals, are little more than early American propaganda. The widespread belief among British soldiers, for example, that all the colonials were expert sharpshooters was almost completely erroneous. The line about the British being merciless (‘Tarleton’s quarter’) is unfair: the Americans committed many more war crimes. Nor is it true that the British infantry were too hidebound by tradition to adapt to meet the colonials’ cunning new guerrilla tactics.

In fact, Urban shows, British combat techniques began evolving from the moment they were found wanting during that long and terrifying march — sniped at all the way — from Concord to Bunker Hill. Slow, steady, close-ranked European-style drill methods were at least partly replaced by a much more fluid type of fighting, using specialist light infantrymen who could move faster and made better use of cover, and lots more bayonet charges.

The most astonishing thing to emerge from the book, for this ignorant reader at any rate, is how incredibly small-scale the whole business was. This was the war that gave birth to the most powerful nation on earth and brought our own empire to its knees. Yet it mostly comprised skirmishes scarcely larger and total troop numbers not much greater than the ones now in Iraq and Afghanistan. Go figure.

Except that we won both.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:26 AM


Triumph of the clerks: a review of The Discovery of France by Graham Robb (Jonathan Sumption, 10/10/07, The Spectator)

The French nation is the creation of the state to a degree which is unique among European nations. It owes its existence to imperial notions of central authority preached to an indifferent population by the servants of the medieval monarchy and transmitted intact through generations of public servants. The revolutionaries, bent on eliminating older and more intimate loyalties and on mobilising the full resources of the country for war, imposed a rapid and forcible programme of integration and bureaucratic centralisation to which the population did not take easily. Nineteenth-century historians, like Michelet and Lavisse, added the great national myths and that sense of historical destiny which is peculiarly French. Roads, railways and broadcasters have done the rest. In spite of a growing interest in local history, dialects and folklore, modern France has become a remarkably homogeneous society.

Graham Robb claims to have discovered an older and more variegated France still living beneath the uniform exterior. Readers who know the country will be sceptical about that. But what he has actually written is something far more interesting, namely the story of how these ancient differences were gradually extinguished in the name of enlightenment and national unity.

Meanwhile, the bureaucrats can't even impose metrics on the Anglosphere.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:06 AM


A Portrait of Europe's Aging Population: EU residents over age 65 outnumber those under 14, a Spanish study says, as the bloc's young population has fallen 21% in 25 years (Elitsa Vucheva, 10/09/07, Business Week)

There are currently more elderly people than children living in the EU, as Europe's young population has decreased by 21 percent - or 23 million -- in 25 years, 10 percent of which in the last ten years alone.

Only 16.2 percent of today's EU population is less than 14 years old, while one sixth (16.6 percent) is 65 years or more. In addition one out of every 25 EU citizens is over 80 years old.

Italy has the least young people (14.2%) and one out of every five Italians is more than 65 years old. At the other end of the scale, Ireland has the most youngsters (20.7%), according to a recently-released report by the Institute for Family Policies based in Spain.

However, the decrease in numbers has been greatest in Spain, where the young population has diminished by 44% in the 1990 to 2005 period.

Despite these figures, the EU population has grown by 8.2% over the last 27 years, now reaching almost 500 million.

This paradox can mostly be explained by an ever increasing number of immigrants coming to the EU. Last year alone, 75% of the population growth was the result of immigration flows, says the report.

Bickering Belgians Find a Point of Unity in Toughening Borders (DAN BILEFSKY, 10/09/07, NY Times)
[S]igns of a breakthrough in the talks emerged Tuesday morning when the Christian Democrats and Liberals temporarily put aside their differences and agreed on a tough new approach to asylum policy and economic migration.

Political analysts stressed that the crisis was far from over with the important issue of how to grant more autonomy to Flanders and Wallonia still hanging in the balance. They underlined, however, that the deal illustrated how immigration had become a unifying issue in the country.

“A toughening stance on immigration has overtaken politics in Belgium and made immigration a swing issue, and we are seeing this across Europe,” said Pierre Blaise, secretary general of Crisp, a sociopolitical research organization in Brussels.

Note the irony that we're trying to break tribalism in the pre-Judeo-Christian Middle East even as post-Judeo-Christian Europe reverts to it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:58 AM


From Washington to war in Waziristan (Syed Saleem Shahzad, 10/11/07, Asia Times)

A dramatic sequence of events in Pakistan has grabbed global attention, but few have so far connected the dots between the hurried issuance of a National Reconciliation Ordinance on October 5 and the savage fighting that is currently raging in the North Waziristan tribal area. [...]

While last week's political machinations were under way in Pakistan, the US was providing intelligence to Islamabad about a massive regrouping of the Taliban in the Pakistani tribal areas in preparation for a big campaign against NATO forces in southeast Afghanistan. The US feared that a disruption of the political dialogue would mean a hiatus in Pakistan’s political transition, and delay military operations against the thousands of Taliban and al-Qaeda forces gathering in North Waziristan before launching attacks on the Afghan provinces of Khost, Paktia, Paktika, Gardez and Ghazni, and then Kabul with unending waves of suicide missions. If the Taliban were allowed to hatch their plans unmolested during a political vacuum in Islamabad, Washington believed the Taliban would seize the upper hand in Afghanistan.

That was the situation when a representative of the US spoke to Bhutto and noted her minimum demand for a political deal: “At least a signed letter by General Pervez Musharraf which would document his promises against my demands.” US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice then spoke to Musharraf by telephone, and immediately thereafter, Musharraf’s legal team promulgated the National Reconciliation Ordinance.

Waziristan is the dot.

Al-Qaeda has built safe haven in Pak tribal areas: US (Sridhar Krishnaswami, October 10, 2007, Rediff)

Al-Qaeda has regenerated a 'safe haven' in Pakistan's tribal area, the latest United States policy document has stated. A top American official has also blamed the failure of a peace agreement in the Afghan border area for the terror network regaining its strength there.

Since the 9/11 attacks, the US-led war on terror has deprived al-Qaeda of its safe haven in Afghanistan, said the new 'National Strategy for Homeland Security.

"But the group has protected its top leadership, replenished operational lieutenants, and regenerated a safe haven in Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas --core capabilities that will help facilitate another attack on the homeland," the White House document said.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:12 AM


Conservatives & the Democracy Agenda (Michael Gerson, 10/10/07, Real Clear Politics)

In the backlash against President Bush's democracy agenda, conservatives are increasingly taking the lead. It is inherently difficult for liberals to argue against the expansion of social and political liberalism in oppressive parts of the world -- though, in a fever of Bush hatred, they try their best. It is easier for traditional conservatives to be skeptical of this grand project, given their history of opposing all grand projects of radical change. [...]

The unavoidable problem is this: Without moral absolutes, there is no way to determine which traditions are worth preserving and which should be overturned. Conservatism assumes and depends on an objective measure of right and wrong that skepticism cannot provide. Without a firm moral conviction that independence is superior to servitude, that freedom is superior to slavery, that the weak deserve special care and protection, the habit of conservatism is radically incomplete. In the absence of elevating ideals, it can become pessimistic and unambitious -- a morally indifferent preference for the status quo.

History does teach that reform is easier to start than finish well. But history also teaches that some organic social arrangements are rotten and wormy; that it is not utopian to rescue a human life from oppression, it is justice; that events without reference to universal ideals of freedom and human rights can become a hell of permanent, unchallenged slavery. It is not a coincidence that the great movements of conscience have generally come, not from skeptical traditionalists, but from men and women of faith and conviction who taught that loving your neighbor is inconsistent with enslaving them; who rescued children from the nightmare factories of the industrial revolution; who asserted that the long tradition of racial segregation created 10,000 petty tyrants; and who believed that the Declaration of Independence is actually true, for us and for all.

Traditionalism can save moralists from a foolish utopianism. But a moral vision is equally necessary to save traditional conservatism from its worst instincts.

It's fascinating to listen to "traditional conservatives" try to differentiate their own "grand project of radical change"--the Cold War--from the ones they oppose--chiefly Wilson's & W's. It hardly seems coincidental that the USSR oppressed white Europeans.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:10 AM


D-Backs still waiting for fever pitch (JJ Hensley, 10/09/07, The Arizona Republic)

On Monday, though, more than 12,000 seats were still available for both Games 1 and 2 at Chase Field. The series begins Thursday.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:03 AM


U.S. affects a strong silence on its weak currency (Edmund L. Andrews, October 10, 2007, IHT)

[Treasury secretary, Henry Paulson Jr.] has repeatedly expressed satisfaction that American exports have climbed by about 15 percent in the last year, a trend that has been helped by the weaker dollar.

Analysts see little mystery in the American position: at the moment, a weaker dollar offers more benefits than a stronger one. The cheaper dollar offers a lift to American exporters by making their products competitive in many parts of the world. And while a weak dollar usually makes imports expensive, import prices have so far climbed less than other currencies' values because foreign producers have kept prices low to preserve market share in the United States.

"Implicitly, Paulson and the Federal Reserve are happy with a gradual fall in the value of the dollar," said Nouriel Roubini, an economist at New York University. "They'll never say they favor a weak dollar, but the benefits to the U.S. in terms of competitiveness are significant."

Though Paulson has primary responsibility for American exchange rate policy, Federal Reserve officials have also made it clear that they are not worried about imminent inflationary dangers from a weaker dollar.

The Fed chairman, Ben Bernanke, recently told a congressional hearing that the dollar's value remains strong in other ways. "The value of the currency can also be expressed in terms of what it can buy in domestic goods — the domestic inflation rate," Bernanke said in response to questions about the dollar from Representative Ron Paul, Republican of Texas and a long-shot candidate for the Republican presidential nomination. Noting that inflation remains low, Bernanke suggested that the dollar's weakness was not a source of concern to the Fed.

Democratic lawmakers, who have been quick to attack the Bush administration about most other economic policies, have said almost nothing about the currency's decline.

To at least some European officials, worried that the soaring value of the euro will hurt European exports, the American silence has been thunderous.

That the falling dollar has accompanied deflation would prompt re-examination of some economic assumptions were they not ideological.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:00 AM


Canada, India may ink nuclear agreement (Rediff, October 10, 2007)

Canada and India are optimistic about reaching a deal that could open the door for the Canadian industry to export nuclear reactors to New Delhi for the first time in over three decades, media reports said in Toronto on Wednesday.

Canada severed its nuclear ties with India in 1974 after New Delhi detonated a weapon using material from a Canadian reactor. But Canada renewed its civilian nuclear trade with India two years ago.

The move comes on the heels of a nuclear agreement signed between India and the United States, the Montreal Gazette reported.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:11 AM


Commons assault rattles Gordon Brown (David Hughes, 10/10/2007, Daily Telegraph)

Mr Cameron's raw aggression clearly took the Prime Minister by surprise.

The Tory Leader went for the jugular in his very first intervention, focusing on Mr Brown's "credibility gap" and insisting that the electorate can no longer believe a word he says.

With withering scorn, Mr Cameron recalled Mr Brown's claim on Monday that he would have called off an autumn election even if he had been ahead in the polls.

He was the first Prime Minister in history, said the Tory leader, "to flunk an election because he thought he would win it".

Did he realise, Mr Cameron demanded, "what a phoney he looks".

The Tory benches loved it. Mr Brown glowered.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Brothel Sponsors Italian Soccer Team (Der Spiegel, 10/10/07)

The Italian fourth-division soccer team Trento Calcio 1921 has stepped into the reddish spotlight for having a sponsorship deal with an Austrian brothel.

The team, which is based in Trento in northern Italy, displayed the company Casa Bianca at the top of its list of sponsors, which also include local restaurants and an electrical goods retailer, on its official Web site. However visitors who clicked on Casa Bianca's innocuous white rose icon found themselves taken to a Web site for a brothel.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


US envoy urges Burma 'transition' (BBC, 10/10/07)

Burma's ruling generals need to prepare for a transition of power involving opposition activists and international mediators, the US envoy to the UN says.

Zalmay Khalilzad called on the military regime to begin talks with detained pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

He was speaking as the UN debated a statement "strongly deploring" the recent crackdown on peaceful protests.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Hizbollah and the Lebanese Crisis (International Crisis Group, 10 October 2007 )

Looking back over the past ten months, Lebanese can feel somewhat relieved. The massive demonstrations in December 2006, followed by a general strike and clashes between pro- and anti-government forces with strong sectarian overtones, as well as a series of assassinations and car bombs, brought the nation perilously close to breakdown. State institutions are virtually paralysed; the government barely governs; the economic crisis is deepening; mediation efforts have failed; political murders continue; and militias, anticipating possible renewed conflict, are rearming. Still, fearful of the consequences of their own actions, leaders of virtually every shade took a welcome step back.

An important explanation lies in Hizbollah’s realisation that its efforts to bring down the government carried dangerous consequences. Facing calls for its disarmament and denunciations of its (allegedly foreign-inspired) adventurism in triggering the July 2006 war, the movement concluded that the government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora and its backers were hostile actors intent on cutting it down to size and further aligning Lebanon with the West. As a result, it carried the fight squarely on the domestic scene, removing Shiite ministers, taking to the streets and pushing for the government’s ouster. This resort to street politics was risky and ultimately self-defeating. At almost every social level, Shiite support for Hizbollah has solidified, a result of both the movement’s longstanding efforts to consolidate its hold over the community and a highly polarised post-war environment. Former Shiite adversaries are, for the time being, silencing their differences, viewing the movement’s weapons as their best defence in an environment where Shiites feel besieged from both within and without.

But while the movement demonstrated its mobilisation capacity and enjoyed support from an important segment of the Christian community, its use of an essentially Shiite base to bring down a Sunni-dominated government reinforced sectarian loyalties. Sunnis and many Christians were alarmed at Hizbollah’s might and ability unilaterally to trigger a devastating confrontation; they increasingly saw it as a Shiite not national movement and as advancing an Iranian or Syrian not Lebanese agenda. In short, while the movement sought to highlight the conflict’s political stakes, the street battles quickly morphed into confessional ones, forcing Hizbollah into a sectarian straitjacket and threatening to distract it from its primary objectives.

Hizbollah faces other dilemmas. Deployment of the army and of a reinforced United Nations (UN) force at the Israeli border have significantly reduced its military margin of manoeuvre. The movement’s Shiite social base also is exhausted and war-weary, a result of Israel’s intensive campaign. Sectarian tensions restrict Shiites’ capacity to take refuge among other communities in the event of renewed confrontation with Israel. Hizbollah thus has been forced into a defensive mode, prepared for conflict but far from eager for it.

Hizbollah appears to be in search of a solution that defuses sectarian tensions and reflects its new military posture. Its discomfort presents an opportunity to make some progress on the question of its armed status. Of course, Hizbollah will not compromise at any price. Its priorities are clear: to maintain its weapons and protect Lebanon as well as the Middle East from Israeli and U.S. influence through a so-called axis of refusal that includes Iran, Syria and Hamas. Should it feel the need, it likely would perpetuate Lebanon’s political paralysis, even at the cost of further alienating non-Shiites; mobilise its constituents, even at the risk of reducing itself ever more to a sectarian movement; and protect Syrian or Iranian interests, even at the expense of its national reputation.

Lebanese parties and their foreign allies should seek a package deal on a domestic arrangement that, while postponing the question of Hizbollah’s weapons, restricts their usage – in other words, that neither resolves nor ignores the problem. The elements of the deal will be neither easy to negotiate nor a panacea, and they will provide at best a temporary reprieve. Without fundamental political reform, Lebanon’s political system – based on power sharing between sectarian factions – inevitably will encourage cyclic crises, governmental deadlock, unaccountability and sectarianism.

The fundamental reform is obvious enough--rather than divide power along confessional lines within an artificial state just divide it into natural confessional states.

October 9, 2007

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:02 PM


TV chef Nigella dishes up some saucy revelations (The Scotsman, 10/10/07)

TV COOK Nigella Lawson has posed in a dress made of silver foil for a men's magazine.

And in the accompanying interview she discussed everything from her lust for Chelsea footballers John Terry and Frank Lampard to the pros and cons of covering your lover in chocolate and the time she went to bed in nothing but stockings and high heels.

Lawson, the wife of multi-millionaire art patron Charles Saatchi and currently appearing in BBC2 series Nigella Express, recently said she wanted to move away from her "blow-up sex doll" image.

No one voluntarily moves away from higher ratings.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:46 PM


Silent Minds: What scanning techniques are revealing about vegetative patients. (Jerome Groopman, October 15, 2007, The New Yorker)

Ten years ago, Adrian Owen, a young British neuroscientist, was working at a brain-imaging center at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, at the University of Cambridge. He had recently returned from the Montreal Neurological Institute, where he used advanced scanning technology to map areas of the brain, including those involved in recognizing human faces, and he was eager to continue his research. The imaging center was next to the hospital’s neurological intensive-care unit, and Owen heard about a patient there named Kate Bainbridge, a twenty-six-year-old schoolteacher who had become comatose after a flulike illness, and was eventually diagnosed as being in what neurologists call a vegetative state. Owen decided to scan Bainbridge’s brain. “We were looking for interesting patients to study,” he told me. “She was the first vegetative patient I came across.”

For four months, Bainbridge had not spoken or responded to her family or her doctors, although her eyes were often open and roving. (A person in a coma appears to be asleep and is unaware of even painful stimulation; a person in a vegetative state has periods of wakefulness but shows no awareness of her environment and does not make purposeful movements.) Owen placed Bainbridge in a PET scanner, a machine that records changes in metabolism and blood flow in the brain, and, on a screen in front of her, projected photographs of faces belonging to members of her family, as well as digitally distorted images, in which the faces were unrecognizable. Whenever pictures of Bainbridge’s family flashed on the screen, an area of her brain called the fusiform gyrus, which neuroscientists had identified as playing a central role in face recognition, lit up on the scan. “We were stunned,” Owen told me. “The fusiform-gyrus activation in her brain was not simply similar to normal; it was exactly the same as normal volunteers’.” [...]

For decades, doctors assumed that patients who have been diagnosed as vegetative lack any capacity for conscious thought. Most are previously healthy people who suffered a traumatic brain injury, or oxygen deprivation after a heart attack or stroke, and have been regarded more or less as zombies: patients whose bodies continue to function—sometimes for decades—but whose minds are incapable of willed activity. (The term “vegetative” was proposed in 1972, by Bryan Jennett, a neurosurgeon, and Fred Plum, a neurologist, who chose it based on a definition in the O.E.D: “an organic body capable of growth and development but devoid of sensation and thought.”) In the occasional newspaper stories about someone who suddenly recovered consciousness after spending years in a vegetative state, the event was invariably described as a medically inexplicable “miracle.” The Mohonk Report, a paper prepared by a group of experts in brain injury and presented to Congress last year, cited estimates suggesting that there are approximately thirty-five thousand Americans in a vegetative state and another two hundred and eighty thousand in a minimally conscious state—a less severe condition, in which patients show erratic evidence of deliberate behavior, such as responding to a simple command or focussing on a person or an object for a sustained period. Because insurers typically won’t pay for rehabilitation, on the assumption that such patients are unlikely to improve, most are given little in the way of therapy. “These people with brain trauma are out of our view,” Joseph Fins, an internist and medical ethicist at Weill Cornell Medical College, in Manhattan, and a member of the Mohonk group, told me. “We ignore them, and we sequester them in places where we can’t see them, usually in nursing homes.”

According to several American and British studies completed in the late nineties, patients suffering from what is known as “disorders of consciousness” are misdiagnosed between fifteen and forty-three per cent of the time. Physicians, who have traditionally relied on bedside evaluations to make diagnoses, sometimes misinterpret patients’ behavior, mistaking smiling, grunting, grimacing, crying, or moaning as evidence of consciousness. A neuroscientist showed me a video on the Internet of Terri Schiavo, the Florida woman who spent fifteen years in what most doctors agree was a vegetative state—tests revealed almost no activity in her cortex—and whose death, in 2005, provoked fierce debate over the rights of severely brain-damaged patients. (Schiavo died after the Supreme Court rejected her parents’ appeal of a judge’s decision approving her husband’s request that her feeding tube be removed. An autopsy showed extensive brain damage.) In the video, a man’s voice can be heard praising Schiavo for opening her eyes in response to his instructions, and the neuroscientist told me that he was impressed until he muted the sound. “With the sound off, it is clear that her movements are random,” the neuroscientist said. “But, with the voice-over, it is easy to make a misdiagnosis.” (The prognosis for patients such as Schiavo, who suffered brain damage owing to oxygen deprivation following cardiac arrest, is much worse than for those who suffer brain damage as the result of a head injury.)

Doctors can also miss signs of consciousness in vegetative patients, according to the British and American studies. Ten months after Owen and his colleagues completed the tennis experiment with the vegetative woman, she was brought back to the imaging center and placed in an MRI machine. “We were absolutely dismayed, because we scanned her and there was nothing,” Owen recalled. The team tested the woman again the next day. This time, in response to a command to play tennis, her brain showed normal activity in the regions that mediate arm movements. Owen now repeats scans for each patient, conducting them twice a day for three days. Patients with brain injuries have “seriously impaired attention capabilities and their levels of general arousal are likely to be shot,” he said. Recent research by Owen and other neuroscientists may eventually help make diagnoses more accurate, but it is not yet clear how the new brain-scan data will affect the medical understanding of consciousness. As Owen put it, “The thought of coma, vegetative state, and other disorders of consciousness troubles us all, because it awakens the old terror of being buried alive. Can any of these patients think, feel, or understand those around them? And, if so, what does this tell us about the nature of consciousness itself?”

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:41 PM


MLB cash cow breaking away : Selig envisions surpassing NFL with huge influx of new revenue (Phil Rogers, October 7, 2007, Chicago Sports)

"I probably shouldn't say this," one highly placed MLB executive said last week. "There was a time when I wouldn't even think it. But I think we're going to see a time in the future, the near future, when we are going to pass the NFL in producing revenue."

That thought would have seemed preposterous a decade ago. But Commissioner Bud Selig didn't laugh when the possibility was presented during a discussion.

"By any measure you want to look at, our sport is more popular now than it has ever been," Selig said. "The country really is baseball-crazy today, no question."

The 30 major-league franchises combined to draw 79.5 million fans, averaging 32,785 per game. The overall attendance increased 4.5 percent over the record 2006 totals. Local, cable and network ratings are also on the rise.

"The sport is exploding," Selig said.

When your team tells you they missed the playoffs because they're too poor to compete, they're playing you for dupes.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:13 PM


Flip S-CHIP to a tax benefit: Using tax credits to extend healthcare for poor children could set a consensus for reform. (CS Monitor, October 10, 2007)

Congress can both reach children whose parents earn more than twice the poverty level and preserve employer-based insurance. To do so, it can make money available directly to poor families, enabling them to pay for healthcare providers of their choice for their children, or pay their share of employer-based insurance.

The money can come as a tax credit for poor, working families or outright cash for families who don't earn enough to pay taxes. Such a step was recommended earlier this year by a wide coalition of groups ranging from the US Chamber of Commerce to the American Medical Association. The credit would be indexed to rising healthcare costs and based on different costs by region.

Such an idea should become the basis for a compromise between Mr. Bush and Congress, assuming his veto is upheld in the House, as expected. It could form the kernel for a wider consensus on ways to meet the needs of an estimated 46 million people who currently don't have health insurance while keeping the market-based healthcare system.

The Ownership Society is just begging to be created here.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:02 PM


Neocons Converge Around Giuliani Campaign (Michael Hirsh, 10/15/07, Newsweek)

Neocons can't help but slink around Washington, D.C. The Iraq War has given the neoconservatives—who favor the assertive use of American power abroad to spread American values—something of a bad name, and several of the Republican candidates seem less than eager to hire them as advisers. But Rudy Giuliani apparently never got that memo. One of the top foreign-policy consultants to the leading GOP candidate is Norman Podhoretz, a founding father of the neocon movement.

Podhoretz is in favor of bombing Iran because of the country's unwillingness to suspend its uranium-enrichment program. He also believes America is engaged in a "world war" with "Islamofascism" and that Giuliani is the only man who can win it. "I decided to join Giuliani's team because his view of the war—what I call World War IV—is very close to my own," Podhoretz tells NEWSWEEK. (World War III, in his view, was the cold war.) "And also because he has the qualities of a wartime leader, including a fighting spirit and a determination to win."

Giuliani clearly hopes this image, born of his heroic performance on 9/11, can carry him to the GOP nomination and to the White House. But is he really the candidate who will "keep Americans safer" if his primary tactic is to go "on offense" in the "long war," as he often puts it in his campaign stump speech? Critics will say that the neocons already tried that—in Iraq. Still, what's left of the neocon movement does seem to be converging around the Giuliani campaign, to some degree, because he embraces their common themes: a willingness to use military power, a tendency to group all radical Islamist groups together as a common enemy, strong support for Israel and an aggressive posture toward Iran. "He's positioning himself as the neo-neocon," jokes Richard Holbrooke, a top foreign-policy adviser to Hillary Clinton.

The Beltway obsession with neocon plots to run the world misses the point that they feel comfortable with the Mayor because he's so far out of the conservative mainstream on social issues. As with John McCain last time, their support is a sign of his weakness.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:00 PM


Belgium: Europe's canary in a coal mine?: The country's identity crisis doesn't bode well for the EU's non-nationalist experiment (Jonah Goldberg, October 9, 2007, LA Times)

Primarily split between Dutch-speaking Flemings and French-speaking Walloons, Belgium was formed as a constitutional monarchy where the non-French speakers were mostly treated as second-class citizens. Even today, 177 years later, there are no national figures or national political parties. Each party represents its own ethnic, linguistic or regional enclave. But, although the Flemish majority is somewhat more prosperous, the Walloons have a perceived stranglehold on Belgian politics. One is tempted to joke that it's an Iraq with better weather and waffles.

But it isn't a mini-Iraq, and not just because they're not killing one another. It's more like a mini-European Union. In fact, that's the one thing everyone can agree on.

No country is more invested in the EU experiment than Belgium, whose capital, Brussels, is also the capital of the EU. If Belgium falls to sectarianism, what does that say about prospects for making Europe into a super-Belgium?

It says that nationalism is a more powerful solvent than transnationalism is an adhesive.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:44 PM


Poll: Harper Tories extend lead on Grits (THE CANADIAN PRESS, 10/09/07)

A new poll suggests the federal Conservatives have put some distance between themselves and the sagging Liberal party.

The Canadian Press Harris-Decima survey indicates a seven-percentage-point spread between Prime Minister Stephen Harper's governing Tories and Stephane Dion's opposition Grits.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:42 PM


Fed Minutes Spark Late Rally, Record Close (Reuters, October 09, 2007)

The Dow and S&P 500 jumped to close at records on Tuesday after minutes from the Federal Reserve's last meeting showed inflation expectations were contained, leaving open the question of whether another rate cut is near.

The Dow Jones industrial average climbed 120.80 points, or 0.86 percent, to end at 14,164.53 -- a record. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index nded up 12.57 points, or 0.81 percent, at a record 1,565.15. The Nasdaq Composite Index finished up 16.54 points, or 0.59 percent, at 2,803.91.

During the session, the Dow reached an intraday record high of 14,166.97 and the S&P hit and all-time high of 1,565.26. The Nasdaq climbed to 2,806.41, its highest level since January 2001.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:11 PM


Rodriguez says he hasn't decided if he'll leave Yankees; agent has plan in mind (Andrew Marchand, 10/09/07, ESPN.com)

If Alex Rodriguez opts out of his contract with the Yankees -- and as of Monday night's loss to Cleveland, it's still a big if because Rodriguez wasn't giving any hints and said he hasn't even thought about it -- his agent Scott Boras will prepare one of his trademark free agent books based on the premise that Rodriguez is the most valuable player in baseball history.

After the World Series, Rodriguez has 10 days to opt out of the final three years and $81 million of his contract. The Yankees would like to extend him before he hits the market because Texas is still paying more than $20 million of Rodriguez's contract. [...]

It's nearly impossible to quantify the relationship an individual player has to a regional sports network. The ratings for YES -- the Yankees-owned regional sports network in the greater New York area -- have climbed with Rodriguez on the team.

According to numbers provided by YES, ratings in 2003, the year prior to Rodriguez's arrival, were 3.2 for the season. In 2004 and 2005 -- Rodriguez' first two seasons -- the ratings jumped to 4.6 and 4.5 respectively.

In 2006, YES ratings dipped to 4.3, but this season the numbers peaked at 4.7. There are countless factors for these ratings, including having marquee players. Rodriguez, of course, is not the only star on the Yankees.

Most estimates say that if YES were sold it would be worth more than a billion dollars.

Boras thinks that Rodriguez's pursuit of the home run record will make him even more valuable on TV. He also says that by playing until he's 45, Rodriguez would also end up passing Pete Rose, who has baseball's all-time hits record of 4,256.

Rodriguez currently has 518 home runs and 2,250 hits.

"The thing about Alex is he has a chance to play 12 more years and break the all-time hit record," Boras said. "It is a record that he could break. You only have to go and map out that if Alex Rodriguez were to play until he is 45 and he averaged 35 home runs he would have over 1,000 homers. It is a unique platform where he is at at such a young age. The projections are rather mind-boggling when you consider the fact even if he performed at a level that is 15 percent below what he is performing at now, he still would lift many of these records just by the mere fact that he has played this long."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:39 PM


Leak Severed a Link to Al-Qaeda's Secrets: Firm Says Administration's Handling of Video Ruined Its Spying Efforts (Joby Warrick, 10/09/07, Washington Post)

A small private intelligence company that monitors Islamic terrorist groups obtained a new Osama bin Laden video ahead of its official release last month, and around 10 a.m. on Sept. 7, it notified the Bush administration of its secret acquisition. It gave two senior officials access on the condition that the officials not reveal they had it until the al-Qaeda release.

Within 20 minutes, a range of intelligence agencies had begun downloading it from the company's Web site. By midafternoon that day, the video and a transcript of its audio track had been leaked from within the Bush administration to cable television news and broadcast worldwide.

The founder of the company, the SITE Intelligence Group, says this premature disclosure tipped al-Qaeda to a security breach and destroyed a years-long surveillance operation that the company has used to intercept and pass along secret messages, videos and advance warnings of suicide bombings from the terrorist group's communications network.

"Techniques that took years to develop are now ineffective and worthless," said Rita Katz, the firm's 44-year-old founder, who has garnered wide attention by publicizing statements and videos from extremist chat rooms and Web sites, while attracting controversy over the secrecy of SITE's methodology. Her firm provides intelligence about terrorist groups to a wide range of paying clients, including private firms and military and intelligence agencies from the United States and several other countries.

The precise source of the leak remains unknown. Government officials declined to be interviewed about the circumstances on the record, but they did not challenge Katz's version of events. They also said the incident had no effect on U.S. intelligence-gathering efforts and did not diminish the government's ability to anticipate attacks.

"U.S. intelligence-gathering"? Isn't the noteworthy thing here that the intelligence was obtained by the private sector and then passed on?

Qaeda Goes Dark After a U.S. Slip: Enemy Vanishes From Its Web Sites (ELI LAKE, October 9, 2007, NY Sun)

One intelligence officer who requested anonymity said in an interview last week that the intelligence community watched in real time the shutdown of the Obelisk system. America's Obelisk watchers even saw the order to shut down the system delivered from Qaeda's internal security to a team of technical workers in Malaysia. That was the last internal message America's intelligence community saw. "We saw the whole thing shut down because of this leak," the official said. "We lost an important keyhole into the enemy."

By Friday evening, one of the key sets of sites in the Obelisk network, the Ekhlaas forum, was back on line. The Ekhlaas forum is a password-protected message board used by Qaeda for recruitment, propaganda dissemination, and as one of the entrance ways into Obelisk for those operatives whose user names are granted permission. Many of the other Obelisk sites are now offline and presumably moved to new secret locations on the World Wide Web.

The founder of a Web site known as clandestineradio.com, Nick Grace, tracked the shutdown of Qaeda's Obelisk system in real time. "It was both unprecedented and chilling from the perspective of a Web techie. The discipline and coordination to take the entire system down involving multiple Web servers, hundreds of user names and passwords, is an astounding feat, especially that it was done within minutes," Mr. Grace said yesterday.

The head of the SITE Intelligence Group, an organization that monitors Jihadi Web sites and provides information to subscribers, Rita Katz, said she personally provided the video on September 7 to the deputy director of the National Counterterrorism Center, Michael Leiter.

Ms. Katz yesterday said, "We shared a copy of the transcript and the video with the U.S. government, to Michael Leiter, with the request specifically that it was important to keep the subject secret. Then the video was leaked out. An investigation into who downloaded the video from our server indicated that several computers with IP addresses were registered to government agencies."

Yesterday a spokesman for the National Counterterrorism Center, Carl Kropf, denied the accusation that it was responsible for the leak. "That's just absolutely wrong. The allegation and the accusation that we did that is unfounded," he said. The spokesman for the director of national intelligence, Ross Feinstein, yesterday also denied the leak allegation. "The intelligence community and the ODNI senior leadership did not leak this video to the media," he said.

Ms. Katz said, "The government leak damaged our investigation into Al Qaeda's network. Techniques and sources that took years to develop became ineffective. As a result of the leak Al Qaeda changed their methods." Ms. Katz said she also lost potential revenue.

A former counterterrorism official, Roger Cressey, said, "If any of this was leaked for any reasons, especially political, that is just unconscionable." Mr. Cressey added that the work that was lost by burrowing into Qaeda's Internet system was far more valuable than any benefit that was gained by short-circuiting Osama bin Laden's video to the public.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:35 PM


John Henry dies at age 32 (GLENYE CAIN OAKFORD, 10/08/07, DAILY RACING FORM)

“The mighty heart of the great John Henry has, at long last, yielded to time,“ said John Nicholson, the Kentucky Horse Park executive director. “The racing industry has lost a legend, but, more significantly, many people have lost a personal hero. John Henry’s true legacy was written in people’s hearts far more indelibly than his superlative racing career could ever reflect.

“John Henry was a testament to the fact that a horse’s value is far greater than the sum of his pedigree, conformation, sales price, and race record. Winston Churchill said that the outside of a horse is good for the inside of a man, but I would add that horses like John Henry prove that the inside of a horse is even better for the inside of man.”

John Henry was foaled March 9, 1975, in Kentucky, the result of a mating between Ole Bob Bowers and the Double Jay mare Once Double. Lehmann’s Golden Chance Farm bred the horse, little knowing the status he would achieve. Famously bad-tempered, John Henry sold as a yearling for just $1,100 in 1976. He was sent back to auction a year later, where he brought $2,200, but his new buyer, Harold Snowden Jr., found it necessary to geld him soon afterward in an effort to control the horse’s temperament.

Snowden was the first of several owners for John Henry. Snowden sold him to a Louisiana-based partnership for whom John Henry won his first stakes race, the Lafayette Futurity at Evangeline Downs, but the group traded him back to Snowden. Snowden then sold John Henry to Sam Rubin, who raced him in partnership with his wife, Dorothy, in the colors of their Dotsam Stable.

John Henry went on to become one of the greatest champions of the modern era, amassing 39 wins from 83 career starts and retiring in 1985 with a then record $6,591,860 in earnings. His victories included 16 Grade 1 races, including the 1984 Arlington Million and Turf Classic, the 1983 Hollywood Turf Cup, the 1981 Jockey Club Gold Cup, two Santa Anita Handicaps (1981 and 1982), two Oak Tree Invitationals (1981 and 1982), two Hollywood Invitationals (1980 and 1981), and two San Luis Rey Stakes (1980 and 1981).

John Henry was voted champion grass horse in 1980, ’81, ’83, and ’84; champion older horse in 1981; and Horse of the Year in 1981 and 1984.

He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1990.

Why are there no more great horses?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:30 PM


Clinton to propose universal 401K plan (Domenico Montanaro, 10/09/07, NBC’s Athena Jones)

Clinton will lay out a proposal to provide a universal 401K plan for everyone, at a speech today in Webster City, Iowa. Her staff is calling it the second-biggest policy rollout of the campaign in terms of cost and the number of people it would cover.

Under the plan, everyone would have access to a 401K and would be able to get matching funds from the government. It is part of Clinton's effort to increase retirement security by promoting savings and investment. Clinton's policy advisors will explain the plan in detail after the speech.

Like Tony Blair, she sees the GOP leaving room to its Thatcherian Right and she's hitting the gap. She's becoming a credible choice.

Clinton Outlines Retirement Proposal (JACKIE CALMES, October 9, 2007, Wall Street Journal)

Income taxes would be deferred until withdrawal for savings up to $5,000 a year. As with IRAs, early withdrawals would incur taxes and a penalty, except for what the campaign called "major life investments," such as college, a first home and retirement. But unlike IRAs, Ms. Clinton's plan would allow savers to withdraw up to 15% if unemployed for a long time, or to borrow from their savings under limited circumstances.

Savers could open diversified investment accounts at any private institution. Employers with direct-deposit arrangements would allow American Retirement Account savers to designate some earnings to go straight to their accounts, under the plan; employers without them would qualify for small tax breaks to establish direct-deposit operations.

For low-income Americans who benefit from means-tested government programs -- such as Medicaid and food stamps -- their savings wouldn't be counted as assets for purposes of determining their eligibility. Studies have shown that the asset-limits for government programs have been a major disincentive for poor workers to save money.

Individual account retirement plans, such as 401(k) plans and individual retirement accounts, or IRAs, represent an increasing share of Americans' retirement savings, the nonpartisan Employee Benefit Research Institute says. As of 2006, about $7.5 trillion in assets were held in IRAs and private-sector defined contribution plans such as 401(k)s, up from about $4.8 trillion in 2000.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:24 PM


NL Teams Can't Touch the Talent of the AL (TIM MARCHMAN, October 9, 2007, NY Sun)

There is probably one baseball fan, hidden safely away in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains of Colorado, who truly believes that everything — other than the right to play in an exhibition series — is at stake in the upcoming National League Championship Series between the Colorado Rockies and the Arizona Diamondbacks. I salute that fan's stubbornness. The rest of us, though, should admit the truth: Until the senior circuit can offer a champion that is clearly better than the seventh-best team in the American League, the World Series will be something of a joke.

The AL could have literally fielded a stronger slate of playoff teams from among its second- and third-place finishers than the NL actually did. The scale of the AL's superiority to the NL may be routinely overstated — the Boston Red Sox reportedly think that, on a team level, the difference is 10 wins per season, which seems implausibly high. But there is no doubt that the AL features a higher level of play right now. No team in the NL won more than 90 games. Does anyone believe that the 88-win Detroit Tigers and Seattle Mariners wouldn't have managed more than that against weaker competition? The Toronto Blue Jays won 83 while playing 36 games against the Yankees and Red Sox. How many would they have won playing in the NL East? Even the AL's eighth-best team, the 79–83 Minnesota Twins, was arguably stronger than the NL's weakest playoff team, the Chicago Cubs, who went 85–77 while playing in baseball's worst division.

Nothing could better demonstrate the sad state of the NL than the presence of the Rockies and Diamondbacks in the league championship series.

The Rockies were already fielding a pretty good set of position players (excepting CF), but if Jeff Franchise, Ubaldo Jimenez and Franklin Morales are as good as they've looked and Jason Hirsch comes back healthy, plus you have Corpas/Fuentes in the bullpen, they're a legitimate team, probably the best in the NL

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:20 PM


Heavy Fighting Reported in Pakistan (CARLOTTA GALL, 10/09/07, NY Times)

In some of the heaviest fighting seen in Pakistan’s northwestern tribal areas bordering Afghanistan, Pakistani fighter jets bombed villages for the third day today as the authorities battled pro-Taliban militants.

Soldiers, civilians and militants have all suffered casualties in the fighting in the region of North Waziristan, but the reported figures have so far been impossible to verify.

Pakistan’s chief military spokesman, Maj. Gen. Waheed Arshad, said that at least 45 Pakistani soldiers have been killed since the first ambush on Saturday, and a further 20 wounded. Another 50 soldiers, who went missing on Monday, were able to re-establish contact today, he said.

The state of the bodies of 31 soldiers that had been retrieved by local elders — some of the bodies were decapitated, some burned — had led the military to resort to aerial bombardment of the militants’ holdouts, according to a military official who asked not to be named.

...but the reality is that if Pakistani loses force them to deal more seriously with the problem that's a good thing.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:52 AM


Israel's rising right wing: Together, an enigmatic billionaire and a resurgent Bibi Netanyahu could put Israel on the war path. (Gregory Levey, Oct. 09, 2007, Salon)

[O]ver the past several years Arcadi Gaydamak, an enigmatic Russian-Israeli billionaire, has managed to become a widely influential figure in Israel. And he is now at the center of a right-wing political alliance -- featuring Israeli über-hawk Benjamin "Bibi" Netanyahu -- that could dramatically influence the country's direction. If the rising alliance takes power in the next election, it could push Israel toward military confrontations with Iran, Syria or Hezbollah, while extinguishing any remaining flickers of hope in Israel's peace camp regarding the Palestinians.

Gaydamak has recently been consolidating his influence as a power broker in Israeli politics. He has used his wealth to gain popularity through social and business initiatives, while deftly exploiting the widespread perception of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's government as corrupt and incompetent, particularly during last year's disastrous war in Lebanon. With his financial capital and cunning political tactics, Gaydamak is like a cross between George Soros and Karl Rove, with a streak of Russian oligarchy at his core.

In a country full of colorful political characters, he may be the most colorful. Gaydamak is wanted in France for illegal arms dealing. He is alleged to have ties, through his former arms-dealing partner, to Halliburton and to corporations that donated to President George W. Bush's 2000 campaign. He has Russian, Israeli, French and Canadian citizenship, as well as a diplomatic passport from Angola, on which he reportedly travels in order to avoid arrest. He owns a Jerusalem soccer team with a notoriously racist, anti-Arab fan base. And he is said to be planning a run for mayor of Jerusalem.

But it is in Israeli national politics where Gaydamak may now be a powerful -- and, some say, dangerous -- force. Along with his new Social Justice Party, formed in July, Gaydamak has allied himself with Benjamin Netanyahu, the Likud Party leader and former prime minister. To this alliance Gaydamak brings his rapidly increasing popularity, especially among Israel's influential Russian population, a growing grass-roots political network, and billions of dollars. Netanyahu brings his credibility as a former prime minister, hawkish bona fides, and resurgent popularity both inside Israel and across the Atlantic, where he enjoys strong support among Washington war hawks and many delegates of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the powerful pro-Israel lobbying group.

The goal of this emerging alliance is to make Netanyahu prime minister once again, which would give Gaydamak direct access to the uppermost echelons of Israeli power. Not only does the alliance have the potential to unseat the centrist leadership governing Israel and replace it with one much further to the right -- precisely at a time when Israel may be on the brink of war with Iran -- but some observers believe it poses a threat to Israeli democracy itself.

Demographics is the greater threat to Israeli democracy and they oughtn't assume that America will stick by them if they abandon it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:49 AM


Pudge will return to Tigers in 2008 (Tom Gage, 10/09/07, The Detroit News)

It was a big decision, but it didn't take that long to reach, after all.

The Detroit Tigers are bringing catcher Pudge Rodriguez back for the 2008 season.

The decision came down to whether the Tigers would pick up the $13 million option on Rodriguez's contract for 2008, or buy him out for $3 million.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:36 AM


Stop your sobbing: Doomsayers like Al Gore and Jared Diamond aren't doing the environment much good. To save the earth, we need to stop blaming and start celebrating ourselves. (Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger, Oct. 09, 2007, Salon)

Eco-tragedies are premised on the notion that humankind's survival depends on understanding that ecological crises are a consequence of human intrusions on Nature, and that humans must let go of their consumer, religious, and ideological fantasies and recognize where their true self-interest lies.

Grounded in a tradition of eco-tragedy begun by Carson and motivated by the lack of progress on the ecological crisis, environmental writers have produced a flood of high-profile books that take the tragic narrative of humankind's fall from Nature to new heights: Sir Martin Rees's 2003 "Our Final Hour," Richard Posner's 2004 "Catastrophe," Paul and Anne Ehrlich's 2004 "One with Nineveh," James Kunstler's 2005 "The Long Emergency," James Lovelock's 2006 "The Revenge of Gaia," and Al Gore's 2006 "An Inconvenient Truth," to name just a few.

For the most part, these environmentalist cautionary tales have had the opposite of their intended effect, provoking fatalism, conservatism, and survivalism among readers and the lay public, not the rational embrace of environmental policies. Constantly surprised and angered when people fail to behave as environmentalists would like them to, environment writers complain that the public is irrational, in denial, or just plain foolish. They presume that the failure of the public to heed their warnings says something meaningful about human nature itself, attributing humanity's disregard for Nature to desires like the lust for power and concluding that, in the end, we are all little more than reactive apes, insufficiently evolved to take the long view and understand the complexity and interconnectedness of the natural systems on which we depend.

Kunstler begins "The Long Emergency" by quoting Carl Jung as saying, "People cannot stand too much reality." In fact, it was T.S. Eliot, not Jung, who said "Humankind cannot bear very much reality." But the attitude of such doomsayers recalls something Jung actually did say: "If one does not understand a person, one tends to regard him as a fool."

Environmental tales of tragedy begin with Nature in harmony and almost always end in a quasi-authoritarian politics. Eco-tragic narratives diagnose human desire, aspiration, and striving to overcome the constraints of our world as illnesses to be cured or sins to be punished. They aim to short-circuit democratic values by establishing Nature as it is understood and interpreted by scientists as the ultimate authority that human societies must obey. And they insist that humanity's future is a zero-sum proposition -- that there is only so much prosperity, material comfort, and modernity to go around. The story told by these eco-tragedies is not that humankind cannot stand too much reality but rather that Nature cannot stand too much humanity.

Indeed, it is the Malthusians who can't stand the reality that we just keep adding people by the billion and prosper rather than descend into an atavistic struggle for survival.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:19 AM


Iran with the Bomb, or Bomb Iran: The Need for Regime Change
(Michael A. Ledeen, October 9th, 2007, Britannica Blog)

Given the bloody history of the last century, any prudent leader must assume that the Iranians will use their weapons of mass destruction once they are perfected, which is why French President Sarkozy and Foreign Minister Kouchner have both said that the West must prepare itself to choose between “Iran with the bomb” and “bombing Iran.”

And yet there is a third option, one which Kouchner has long embraced: support for democratic forces against the tyrannical regime. Everything we know about Iran documents widespread hatred for the regime, and a willingness to fight to change it. No one in the West has yet supported Iranian democratic organizations, which range from teachers and students to workers and even senior Ayatollahs. It is reminiscent of the Cold War, when most pundits and intellectuals believed it impossible to bring down the Soviet Empire by political means. Yet it was accomplished, with a fraction of the popular support for revolution than that in Iran today.

I have therefore advocated open calls for regime change in Iran, combined with aggressive support for those Iranians who wish to be free. This campaign would range from radio broadcasts (especially conversations with participants in successful non-violent revolutions in other countries), to working with trade unions to build a strike fund for Iranian workers, to providing communications tools (cell phones, satellite phones, phone cards, servers, laptops and anti-blocking software) to the dissidents.

Britannica Blog is hosting a weeklong forum on whether to bomb Iran.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:51 AM


Understanding the Israeli Attack on Syria: We now know a little about what happened, but it'll be a long time before we know what it means (Shmuel Rosner, Oct. 9, 2007, Slate)

The achievement of the Sept. 6 operation should not be taken lightly: Someone detected a North Korean delivery of nuclear-related material to Syria. The storage site was mapped. The required number of hits and bombs was carefully calculated. The anti-aircraft-missile batteries were smartly circumvented. This is all quite remarkable. But it also underscores the fact that while we can detect the movements and the physical actions of North Korea and Syria, there are still a lot of things we don't understand about the intentions and the plans of these regimes.

We know what we know about the target and the attack. But, as Jim Hoagland asked in Sunday's Washington Post, was the delivery of materiel and knowledge from North Korea to Syria "[a] last gasp of North Korean international banditry before going straight on nuclear nonproliferation? A continuing confidence by Pyongyang that it can say one thing in public and do another covertly? Or simply the serendipity of one branch of a secretive government going about its skullduggery while others go a different way?"

These are all questions the United States should be asking before it completes a deal with Pyongyang. And similar questions can be asked about Syria: Was acquiring this component of the so-called "Syrian nuclear program" a bold move to build up Syrian force and use it for nefarious purposes or a cry for attention and a plea for negotiations? Is it Assad's way of showing that he will use whatever means are in his power to preserve Syria's influence in Lebanon and pressure Israel into returning the Golan Heights? Or was it a desperate last-ditch effort to preserve his declining regime?

There are only two ways to make peace where there's such an intelligence gap: Take the best possible guess, or wait for time to pass and the chips to fall.

Given that we want the NorKs--and the Israelis the Syrians--to sign and observe the terms of imminent agreements, using missiles to let them know how little they can get away with seems like a sensible tactic.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:46 AM


Activists create online fundraiser for GOP (Eric Pfeiffer, October 9, 2007, Washington Times)

A pair of tech-savvy Republican activists have started a new online, interactive fundraising tool that they say will help energize the conservative grass roots and further close the gap with their more high-profile "netroots" liberal counterparts.

Slatecard.com, which opened to the public yesterday, aims to be a clearinghouse for Republican presidential and congressional candidates who want to reach grass-roots voters who haven't normally been included in traditional media outreach efforts, such as direct mail or large-scale fundraising events.

"Not everyone can, or wants, to go to the traditional chicken-dinner fundraiser," said Slatecard.com co-founder David All. "This lets Republican candidates hear directly from their supporters, whether they're giving $5 or thousands of dollars."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:43 AM


Black voters eyed for new values party (Ralph Z. Hallow, October 9, 2007, Washington Times)

Black traditional-values voters, credited with making up the margin that re-elected President Bush in 2004, would be prime targets to join a pro-life third-party protest movement, some on the religious right say.

"If a third-party candidate were running on a moral-values platform, a significant number of religious African-Americans could be attracted to this party," Bishop Harry Jackson said.

"As black conservative leaders, we would not be opposed to a third party that brings us together with our fellow Christians," said Bishop Jackson, chief pastor of a 3,000-member conservative black congregation in Beltsville. "Our interests are the same, but the parties have worked hard to keep us apart."

Here too we see the Jeb-shaped hole in the national party.

How To Win (ELI LAKE, October 9, 2007, NY Sun)

Rudolph Giuliani has an evangelical problem.

He is strong on national defense. He is strong on taxes. He appears to be electable. Well, it's just that the 9/11 mayor thinks that, at least in some circumstances, abortion should be legal and doesn't want to outlaw man-on-man marriage. He's a New Yorker running inside an anti-New York party.

Hence Reverend James Dobson on September 30 in Salt Lake City met with some 45 like-minded social conservatives to discuss the prospect of supporting a third-party alternative if Mr. Giuliani wins the Republican nomination. Can you blame them? Back in April, Mr. Giuliani told CNN's Dana Bash that he would still favor federal subsidy for abortion, so long as it was legal.

To understand how what is probably the largest plurality within the Republican party feels about that, replace the word "abortion" in that last sentence with "infanticide." Like slavery for the abolitionists or women's voting for the suffragists, there is no compromise for all of those Americans who became political activists to protect the life of the unborn.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:32 AM


Migrants 'have better work ethic' (BBC, 10/09/07)

The food giant Sainsbury's says recent immigrants have a better work ethic than their native counterparts.

In a submission to a House of Lords committee examining the effects of increased migration, the supermarket praised their "superior" attitude.

Harder-working eastern Europeans were even having a positive influence on British workers, the company added.

That last bit's hard to believe.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:28 AM


Yanks' loss may mean end of an era (Ken Rosenthal, 10/08/07, FOXSports.com)

The roll call, a boisterous Yankee Stadium tradition, took on an entirely different form Monday night after the Yankees were eliminated by the Indians.

Instead of fans in the right-field bleachers chanting the names of the Yankees' regulars, reporters moved through a grim, quiet clubhouse, assessing those who might never wear pinstripes again.

Strange as it might sound, the Indians' 6-4 victory in Game 4 of the Division Series might have been the last postseason game ever played at Yankee Stadium, which will close after next season.

The transition could be that significant, that severe.

Bronx burns with questions: Latest failure casts Torre's future in doubt (Nick Cafardo, October 9, 2007, Boston Globe)
The Yankees have become one of the great mysteries of modern sports. All of that talent. All of those resources. And nothing to show. When was the last time they won a meaningful October game? 2003, Game 7 of the ALCS (the Grady Little-Pedro Martínez game) is probably your answer.

Consider their 2004 ALCS meltdown against the Red Sox - up, 3-0, only to lose the next four games in one of history's biggest chokes. Add the 2005 Division Series loss to the Angels. Then there was last year's miserable offensive performance against the Tigers in the Division Series. The latest failure was bowing to the Cleveland Indians in four games in this year's ALDS, sealed with last night's 6-4 loss in their home ballpark.

Add it up and you have a team that has put its fan base, its owner, and itself through a little bit too much pain.

The problem for the Yankees--besides th fact that they have no position player on the roster or in the high minors who will be starting three years from now--is that Arod certainly won't come back to face the Stadium crowds & NYC media and George is going to fire Torre, so Brian Cashman will be hard-pressed to let the elder free agents walk away, as he should. So you re-sign a fading Mariano Rivera for too many years, ditto Posada, and then have to find a starting 3b and 1b and somewhere to hide the gloves of their current ss, 2b, lf & cf. Whoever takes over, be it Don Mattingly or whoever else, faces an unenviable task. It would not be the least bit surprising if George's hometown team--the Tampa Rays--has a better record than the team he owns over the next five years.

Why the Yankees lost to the Indians (Larry Mahnken, October 09, 2007, Hardball Times)

Derek Jeter: .176/.176/.176, 3 H, 0 XBH, 0 R, 0 RBI, 0 BB, 3 GIDP

The Teflon Yankee has had awful postseason series’ before, but always seemed to redeem himself with a great series later on, or a big play in the bad series. Sometimes he did neither, but escaped blame for no other reason than his past successes.

It’s hard to see how Jeter can escape blame in this one.

He was a non-factor in games one and two, and despite a couple of singles early in game four, he may have sealed the team’s fate by killing a 1st-and-3rd one-out rally with a double play in the sixth. To be fair, Jeter has been hurt down the stretch, but even a hurt Jeter should do better than three singles, zero walks and three GIDPs.

Hideki Matsui: .182/.438/.182, 2 H, 0 XBH, 0 RBI

The five walks and four runs scored mask Matsui’s utter failure to be a useful hitter this series. Two singles and no RBIs were all he could muster, which was especially bad considering that he started the series as A-Rod’s protection.

Matsui can be a dangerous hitter at times, but he’s a mediocre fielder at best, and a terrible burden on the lineup when he’s slumping.

October 8, 2007

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:11 PM


U.S. Democrats seem ready to extend wiretap powers (Eric Lichtblau and Carl Hulse, October 8, 2007, NY Times)

Two months after insisting that they would roll back broad eavesdropping powers won by the Bush administration, Democrats in Congress appear ready to make concessions that could extend some crucial powers given to the National Security Agency.

Administration officials say they are confident they will win approval of the broadened authority that they secured temporarily in August as Congress rushed toward recess. Some Democratic officials concede that they may not come up with enough votes to stop approval.

Chuck Wepner looked better after a fight than Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi do after 9 months in "power".

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:06 PM


Byrd's uplifting outing clinches ALDS (Anthony Castrovince, 10/08/07, MLB.com)

It took all of three pitches for the Indians to prove they were in no mood to head back to Cleveland for a Game 5. That third pitch came out of the hand of Chien-Ming Wang, connected with the bat of Grady Sizemore and went sailing over the right-center-field wall for a leadoff home run.

The Tribe had clearly come to play.

Wang's troubles continued that inning when Travis Hafner singled and Jhonny Peralta drove him in with a base hit to center. And when the Tribe loaded the bases off Wang in the second on a controversial hit by pitch awarded to Kelly Shoppach, Yankees manager Joe Torre, who had elected to start Wang on three days' rest, had seen enough. He made the call to veteran Mike Mussina.

Mussina quelled the waters a bit when he got Sizemore to ground into a double play, but a run still came across on the play to make it 3-0. And that lead was bumped to 4-0 when Asdrubal Cabrera shortened his swing in a two-strike count and lifted an RBI single to shallow left.

Firing Torre is the easy way out. The reality is they knew last year their pitching staff stunk and they did nothing to improve it. Joe threw the guys they gave him and they just aren't playoff quality.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:44 PM

ATLAS TUGGED (via Brother Murphy):

Alan Shrugged: ...And Washington fell to its knees: a review of The Age of Turbulence : Adventures in a New World by Alan Greenspan (Andrew Ferguson, 10/08/2007, Weekly Standard)

I recalled an odd moment from a biography of Ayn Rand, the radical libertarian philosopher to whom Greenspan was devoted earlier in his career.

"Do you think Alan might basically be a social climber?" Rand once asked a mutual acquaintance.

It wasn't a rhetorical question, apparently. This was in the late 1950s. By then, Rand had published her two thick, preposterous novels, The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, and stood poised on the brink of international stardom. Her creepy philosophy of Objectivism, placing the self at the center of the moral universe, was being enthusiastically embraced, as it still is, by tens of thousands of pimply teenage boys in the dreamy moments between fits of social insecurity and furious bouts of masturbation. As her cultish fame spread, Rand wanted to keep tabs on her most intimate acolytes. Of these Greenspan was the most promising and, by all appearances, the most normal. Which worried her. [...]

He is an expert in having it both ways, ducking in and out of controversies, kibitzing about matters on which he had no responsibility (taxes and spending, for example, which are controlled by elected officials) and then taking offense when elected officials dared to kibitz about the interest rates he and his colleagues controlled. The habit of evasion has continued with the release of this book. Greenspan gave an advance peek at its contents to Bob Woodward, who wrote a front-page curtain-raiser story in the Washington Post. The news in the book, Woodward wrote--undoubtedly with Greenspan's acquiescence--was Greenspan's criticism of the Bush administration and the Republican Congress.

"My biggest frustration," Greenspan writes of George W. Bush, "remained the president's unwillingness to wield his veto against out-of-control spending." As for Republican congressional leaders, they were "readily inclined to loosen the federal purse strings any time it might help add a few more seats to the Republican majority." Their insistence on cutting taxes showed the same heedlessness. The result, Green-span says, was not only unconscionable federal deficits but also his own disillusionment with his party. As a lifelong Republican, he's ashamed.

It should go without saying that Greenspan is not the first Republican to criticize the overspending of the last several Republican Congresses. Lots of Republicans have done it--really, you could look it up. But even they acknowledge, as Greenspan does not, that more than irresponsible spending and tax cuts have contributed to the deficit. We've seen, among other things, two wars; a very, very big hurricane; and a massive deployment of resources against terrorism. Bush officials responded to the Woodward story by noting that Greenspan, as Fed chairman, had testified in favor of the tax cuts. And Bush himself pointed out that today's budget deficit, at 1.5 percent of GDP, is quite low relative to the 30-year average.

Confronted with this fact-based analysis, Greenspan switched the terms of debate. "The president's numbers are correct," he told Fox News. "The issue is really not the short term .  .  . but what the potential is for the budget deficit when the Baby Boomers retire." That's not true: The complaints that Woodward splashed on the front page of the Post, and which launched Greenspan's book into bestsellerdom, were precisely about the "short term." Yet Greenspan slides in and out, bobs and weaves, keeping his reputation for integrity intact.

In the Washington that Greenspan inhabits, some kinds of evasiveness are preferable to others; it helps if you're criticizing out-of-favor Republican greasebags and an unpopular Republican president.

The press is to him as he was to her.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:35 PM


Reforms 'improve teachers' lives' (BBC, 10/08/07)

Schools have used workload reforms to improve teachers' lives but not necessarily to improve education, the inspectorate Ofsted has said.

Ofsted said the deal between government and unions was meant to raise standards as well as to reduce workloads.

It said schools in England had tended to treat the improvement to teachers' work/life balance and the greater use of support staff as ends in themselves.

The unions work for the teachers, not the kids.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:51 PM


In India’s Coalition Math, Marxists’ Power Is Magnified (SOMINI SENGUPTA, 10/09/07, NY Times)

India’s electoral math makes it impossible for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s coalition government, which is led by the Congress Party, to govern without the backing of its Communist allies, principally Mr. Karat’s party. And so, if Mr. Karat carried out his veiled threats to withdraw support, the government could not continue, and fresh elections would have to be called before its five-year term expires in 2009.

In a vague bit of saber rattling, Mr. Karat has threatened “serious consequences” if Mr. Singh’s government advances its negotiations on its nuclear deal with the United States. He sees it as a part of a strategic alliance with the United States, intended to increase American weight in Asia — and he wants none of it.

“We don’t want to be another Japan,” Mr. Karat said. “It’s not in our interest.”

The nuclear accord, initiated by the Bush administration, approved provisionally by the United States Congress and described as a centerpiece of a new relationship between the countries, would allow India to buy nuclear technology to generate energy. It would require India to negotiate separate agreements with the International Atomic Energy Agency and the 45-member Nuclear Suppliers Group.

The Congress Party seems to be rolling up its sleeves for a battle. The fourth-generation scion of the Gandhi-Nehru dynasty, Rahul Gandhi, was recently elevated to one of 11 general secretaries of the party. His mother, Sonia Gandhi, the party chairwoman, said Sunday that those who opposed the deal were “enemies” of progress.

"Enemies of progress"? They're enemies of India. The Chicoms don't like Indian nukes or an India-America alliance, so the Indian communists don't. The math is pretty easy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:49 PM


Georgia becomes an unlikely U.S. ally in Iraq (Andrew E. Kramer, October 8, 2007, IHT)

[I]t is hardly fear of Iran that is impelling the Georgians to contribute so significantly to the war, even as other nations pull out. As the United States is searching for allies, so is Georgia, a country that aspires to NATO membership as a security guarantee against a resurgent, oil-enriched Russia.

"As soldiers here, we help the American soldiers," Corporal Georgi Zedguidze said, peering out past the sun-scorched checkpoint he was guarding at a bridge over the Tigris River. "Then America as a country will help our country."

The United States supports Georgian membership in NATO, but neither government has formally linked Georgia's deployment in Iraq with this aspiration.

What's unlikely about this alliance?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:30 PM


The Guards run the show in Iran: They have a hand in the nuclear program, attacks in Iraq, and politics. (Abbas William Samii, October 5, 2007, CS Monitor)

The corps' unconventional warfare function is performed by its Quds Force. This entity is involved with the insurgency in Iraq, and in 2002 the US accused it of fighting in Afghanistan. The corps was instrumental in the creation of Hizbullah in Lebanon in the 1980s, and its personnel were in Bosnia in the 1990s.

What has changed about the corps is its political role. It now has the characteristics of what political scientists call a praetorian force, wherein higher-ranking officers participate in political affairs, sometimes at the behest of civil authorities. Praetorians also reveal a mistrust of civilian leaders.

They should be the target of any military strike, not just the nuclear program.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:38 PM


HSAs offer a good way to pay for care (Jeanie Wyatt, 10/07/2007, San Antonio Express-News)

The growth in the use of HSAs has been dramatic. These accounts first came into use in January 2004 as part of the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement and Modernization Act of 2003 signed into law by President Bush.

According to the fact sheet from the U.S. Department of the Treasury, America's Health Insurance Providers (AHIP) reported that there were 438,000 individuals covered in November 2004 by HSA-type insurance. Additionally, IRS data for the 2004 tax year indicated that 113,000 tax returns reported income tax deductions for HSAs.

By December 2005, the number of individuals covered under these plans had mushroomed to 3.2 million. The breakdown was fascinating:

Thirty-one percent were previously uninsured individuals buying health insurance on their own; 33 percent were employed by small businesses that previously had not offered any health-care coverage to their employees. Nearly 50 percent of these HSA accounts were for people age 40 or older. Finally, 42 percent of these accounts were for individuals and families with incomes below $50,000 who are buying HSA-type insurance policies — those with high deductibles — on their own.

There is more than $1 billion invested in HSAs, accumulated in just three short years!

These are funds that forever escape income taxes so long as they are used to pay for qualified health-care expenses. You get to choose how and when the money is spent and you don't lose it at the end of the year, like in the more common Flexible Spending Accounts offered by many employers.

By 2010, the Treasury Department is predicting that there will be 14 million HSA policies covering 25 million to 30 million people, with greater growth even more likely as time goes on. With all the talk of health-care reform in the news, this is an existing option that you need to know more about.

Take all the kids the Democrats want to cover with SCHIP and put them in taxpayer-funded HSAs.

S-chip of Fools: Republicans can't play defense on health care. (Fred Barnes, 10/15/2007, Weekly Standard)

Rahm Emanuel, the chief intimidator for House Democrats, didn't go for subtlety. Republicans who oppose expansion of the S-chip program will be denying "10 million American children their health care," he told Major Garrett of Fox News. Chuck Schumer, his counterpart in the Senate, took the sorrowful approach. "We're all hurt as a country when a child is not covered by health care and goes to school sick," he said. In vetoing the S-chip bill, President Bush "sided with [the] tobacco industry instead of America's children." That blast came from the nice folks at the American Cancer Society, who favor the 61-cent hike in the cigarette tax that would pay for the S-chip increase.

It isn't going to be pleasant for Republicans who believe the new S-chip legislation is bad policy. But there's a way to resist the measure and neutralize the Democratic demagoguery without suffering too much political heartburn. It consists of three steps. First, you go negative and criticize the bill as "welfare for the middle class," which it is. Second, you go positive and offer an alternative. Third, you go big picture and show how an expanded S-chip program is inconsistent with the kind of health care system most Americans want.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:26 AM


Iran president faces rare protest (BBC, 10/08/07)

A rare anti-government demonstration has been held in the Iranian capital during a speech at Tehran University by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. [...]

Student leaders had challenged Mr Ahmadinejad to meet them after he spoke at Columbia University in the US of the freedoms enjoyed by Iranian students.

The BBC's Jon Leyne in Tehran says all gates to the university were locked and journalists were prevented from entering.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:24 AM


Nuclear Power Primed for Comeback: Demand, Subsidies Spur U.S. Utilities (Steven Mufson, October 8, 2007, Washington Post)

Two decades ago, after Duke Energy abandoned its partly built nuclear power reactors here, the site was sold and turned into a movie set. Director James Cameron used it to film "The Abyss," a 1989 movie about civilian divers who encounter aliens while trying to rescue a stricken nuclear submarine. Cameron filled the unused nuclear containment building with water and hauled a section of an oil rig, a tiny submarine and fiberglass rocks inside to make convincing underwater scenes.

Now there's a new twist in the plot: The nuclear power industry is trying to come back from its own abyss. With natural gas prices volatile and people anxious about climate change, the nuclear power industry is touting its technology as a way to meet the nation's growing energy needs without emitting more greenhouse gases. Over the next two years, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission expects applications to build as many as 32 new nuclear reactors.

Duke Energy could be among them. It reacquired the Cherokee County site and has been tearing down old buildings so it can ask the NRC to let it start all over again.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:22 AM


Iraq insurgency: People rise against al-Qa'eda (Damien McElroy, 08/10/2007, Daily Telegraph)

A transformation has swept western Iraq that allows Marines to walk through areas that a year ago were judged lost to radical Islam control and hear nothing more aggressive than a late-night game of pool.

Behind the shutters the Sunni Muslim residents of the province are enjoying the dividends of driving out al-Qa'eda fighters who had imposed an oppressive Taliban-style regime.

The popular uprising against al-Qa'eda by residents of Anbar Province turned former enemies into American allies earlier this year. The result was a dramatic restoration of stability across Iraq's Sunni heartland. Husaybah bears the scars of the "terrorist" years - 2004 and 2005 - when al-Qa'eda and its local allies controlled the town.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:20 AM


Israel May OK Division of Jerusalem (AP, 10/08/07)

Senior Israeli officials expressed support Monday for the transfer of Arab parts of Jerusalem to Palestinian control, offering a concession on one of the most contentious issues in the Mideast conflict.

It's been inevitable since they recognized eventual Palestinian statehood at Oslo. Just get it over with.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:33 AM


Fear of giving offence is killing our culture (Minette Marrin, 10/07/07, Times of London)

For at least 20 years there was a debilitating fog of moral relativism in the air, a miasma of guilty self-loathing, to the point when some natives persuaded themselves that although all other cultures were equal, ours alone was less equal than others, or might at least be offensive, and should be suppressed. Even the phrase “host culture” was considered unacceptable.

We have moved on since then, supposedly, and surprisingly suddenly. Many prominent multiculturalists, including the Commission for Racial Equality itself, have recently performed swift U-turns and the bien-pensant orthodoxy now is that multiculturalism has been a divisive failure. Integration is the new big thing.

The host culture is no longer to be demonised, but to be accepted and respected. Even manipulative politicians, such as Gordon Brown, now realise that saying so will do them no harm these days. It might seem, superficially, that the Victoria Climbié report and the massacre of 7/7 in London, among other shocks, have brought us back at last to our cultural senses and our cultural self-respect.

Not entirely so, unfortunately. There are still signs that many people are in the grip of the old orthodoxy; its hold on public institutions and the public mind seems to be remarkably persistent. A week ago The Sunday Times reported that some Muslim workers in Sainsbury’s are refusing to check out purchases of alcohol on the debatable ground that it’s against their religion. Whenever the sinful stuff is presented by a customer at the till, the Muslim expects an infidel colleague to hurry over and sully his or her hands with the transaction instead.

This is preposterous and a depressing sign of the times. But the painful truth is it would be just as preposterous to blame the Sainsbury’s Muslims. For years now ethnic minorities have been encouraged to insist on their cultural differences and on their human right to have these differences respected and actively promoted. It is hardly surprising that they have responded by doing so. It is those who have encouraged them who are to blame.

As a threshold matter, one has to grasp that the point of multiculturalism was never to respect other peoples' cultures, but to debase our own.

October 7, 2007

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:34 PM


Anthropology: the great divide (Kate Riley, 10/07/07, Seattle Times)

The rift in academia broadly breaks down between the scientists whose work relies more on calipers, data and tables, and those whose work relies more on relationships with modern Native Americans.

As Audie Huber, a lead expert on the Kennewick Man case for the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla, ruefully noted: "If you want to study dead Indians, you have to work with living ones."

The tensions are exacerbated by the dark history of anthropology — past horrific propensities, including 19th-century governmental orders to collect Native American remains. There are also the erroneous efforts of some scientists more than a century ago to use skull dimensions to suggest racial superiority — a movement Boas himself famously worked to counter.

At the extremes, one school of thought insinuates dark, possibly racist intentions of scientists under sway of their Eurocentric biases, linear thinking and arrogance in their dealings with modern tribes. The other school is dismissive of the slaves to political correctness and their warm and fuzzy research — or, as one physical anthropologist smirked to another: "What do you think? Are cultural anthropologists scientists?"

Not even Condoleezza Rice, now the U.S. secretary of state, could surmount this divide as it manifested at Stanford a decade ago. Then the university's provost, Rice was faced with a huge breach in the anthropology department.

On one side were cultural and social anthropologists, generally humanists interested in interpreting living cultures. On the other side were anthropologists who used more traditional scientific methods to study the role of human evolution in culture.

Troubled by the bitter feuding, Rice installed her vice provost temporarily in charge of the department. Visiting teams of prominent anthropologists arrived to counsel the two factions but to no avail.

By 1998, Rice reluctantly approved divorce papers. Stanford now has two anthropology departments — the more data-driven Department of Anthropological Sciences and the more relationship-driven Department of Cultural and Social Anthropology.

...but you ought to at least add a little science to the ideology.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:28 PM


Switzerland reeling as radicals create havoc at rightwing political rally (Ian Traynor, October 8, 2007, Guardian)

The Swiss capital of Berne was turned into a battle zone at the weekend when leftwing radicals seized control of the main square outside parliament, routing the main far-right political party two weeks before a general election and catching the Swiss police off guard.

Dozens of protesters were arrested and around two dozen people injured, mostly police officers, as police deployed tear gas, water cannon, and rubber bullets to try to regain control from gangs of highly organised, masked people who turned the small and normally sleepy capital of Switzerland into a scene of devastation.

The clashes on Saturday and the revulsion triggered among mainstream Swiss by the unusual street violence are likely to play into the hands of Christoph Blocher, the tough-talking populist and millionaire industrialist who leads the Swiss People's Party (SVP), the far-right movement tipped to win the elections later this month following a campaign denounced as overtly racist by a United Nations watchdog.

Where was Horst Wessel when they needed him?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:51 PM


SPICED PUMPKIN BREAD (Seattle P-I, 10/07/07)

Flour-infused cooking spray

3 cups sugar

1 cup vegetable oil

3 large eggs

16-ounce can solid pack pumpkin

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon ground cloves

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon nutmeg

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Lightly coat two standard loaf pans with flour-infused cooking spray.

In a large bowl, combine the sugar and oil and beat to blend. Add the eggs and pumpkin and mix well. Set aside.

Over a second large bowl, sift together the flour, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, salt and baking powder. Add to the pumpkin mixture in two batches, mixing well between them. Mix in walnuts, if desired.

Divide batter equally between the prepared pans. Bake until a tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 1 hour 10 minutes.

Transfer to racks and cool 10 minutes in the pans. Using sharp knife, cut around edge of loaves. Turn loaves out onto racks and cool completely.

-- Recipe from Epicurious.com and Bon Appetit magazine

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:58 PM


As Brother Dryfoos pointed out the other night, sight unseen, you'd be unlikely to correctly guess the respective races of Howie Kendrick and Reggie Willits.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:54 PM


In New Hampshire, the GOP Race Gets Tighter (Michael D. Shearm, 10/07/07, Washington Post)

For months, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney has owned this state. A next-door neighbor with a vacation home here, Romney has had a double-digit lead over his fellow Republicans in the nation's first primary state, a hallmark of his highly disciplined campaign for the presidency.

Now, that lead has all but evaporated. The latest polls show him running neck-and-neck with former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, who has beefed up his campaign staff and flooded the state with direct mail to make up for his infrequent visits. And a revived Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), the darling of New Hampshire in 2000, in nipping at both of their heels.

Romney's drop, which has come despite him spending millions of dollars on television commercials here and years building a ground operation, has turned the Granite State into a tossup three months before the voting takes place.

Duh? It's hardly coincidental that running an anti-GOP ad has pancaked his lead. Meanwhile, as he and the Mayor go at each other over who's more liberal it just makes Maverick look better and better.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:50 PM


U.S. lets in more immigrants for farms: The administration is quietly relaxing visa regulations because farmworkers are in critically short supply (Nicole Gaouette, October 7, 2007, Los Angeles Times)

With a nationwide farmworker shortage threatening to leave unharvested fruits and vegetables rotting in fields, the Bush administration has begun quietly rewriting federal regulations to eliminate barriers that restrict how foreign laborers can legally be brought into the country.

The effort, urgently underway at the departments of Homeland Security, State and Labor, is meant to rescue farm owners caught in a vise between a complex process to hire legal guest workers and stepped-up enforcement that has reduced the number of illegal planters, pickers and middle managers crossing the border.

"It is important for the farm sector to have access to labor to stay competitive," said White House spokesman Scott Stanzel. "As the southern border has tightened, some producers have a more difficult time finding a workforce, and that is a factor of what is going on today."

The push to speedily rewrite the regulations is also the Bush administration's attempt to step into a breach left when Congress did not pass an immigration overhaul in June that might have helped American farms. Almost three-quarters of farmworkers are thought to be illegal immigrants.

...you can import wogs by the millions.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:37 PM


Your Brain's Not So Bright: In picking stocks, your money-grubbing mind plays tricks on you (Emily Brandon, October 5, 2007, US News)

Investors' choices often make no logical sense but perfect emotional sense, argues financial journalist Jason Zweig in his new book, Your Money & Your Brain: How the New Science of Neuroeconomics Can Help Make You Rich.

Why do our brains respond so powerfully to money?

Money taps into the most ancient and powerful emotions that the human brain can experience, and because of that I think a lot of people, when they are making financial decisions, really feel they are thinking and deliberating. What they don't realize a lot of the time is they are really deciding with their emotion.

I don't care what the studies say, I just know those fluorescent bulbs burn out faster in my house!

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:32 PM


The Inconvenient Science of Racial DNA Profiling (Melba Newsome, 10.05.07, Wired)

On July 16, 2002, a survey crew from the Department of Transportation found Pam Kinamore's nude, decomposing body in the area along the banks of the Mississippi known as Whiskey Bay, just west of Baton Rouge. The police tested the DNA and quickly realized that they were dealing with a serial killer: the same man who had killed two other white, middle-class women in the area.

The FBI, Louisiana State Police, Baton Rouge Police Department and sheriff's departments soon began a massive search. Based on an FBI profile and a confident eyewitness, the Multi-Agency Homicide Task Force futilely upended South Louisiana in search of a young white man who drove a white pick-up truck. They interrogated possible suspects, knocked on hundreds of doors, held frequent press conferences and sorted through thousands of tips.

In late December, after a fourth murder, police set up a dragnet to obtain DNA from some 1200 white men. Authorities spent months and more than a million dollars running those samples against the killer's. Still nothing.

In early March, 2003, investigators turned to Tony Frudakis, a molecular biologist who said he could determine the killer's race by analyzing his DNA. They were unsure about the science, so, before giving him the go-ahead, the task force sent Frudakis DNA swabs taken from 20 people whose race they knew and asked him to determine their races through blind testing. He nailed every single one.

Still, when they gathered in the Baton Rouge police department for a conference call with Frudakis in mid-March, they were not prepared to hear or accept his conclusions about the killer.

"Your guy has substantial African ancestry," said Frudakis. "He could be Afro-Caribbean or African American but there is no chance that this is a Caucasian. No chance at all."

There was a prolonged, stunned silence, followed by a flurry of questions looking for doubt but Frudakis had none. Would he bet his life on this, they wanted to know? Absolutely. In fact, he was certain that the Baton Rouge serial killer was 85 percent Sub-Saharan African and 15 percent native American.

"This means we're going to turn our investigation in an entirely different direction," Frudakis recalls someone saying. "Are you comfortable with that?"

"Yes. I recommend you do that," he said. And now, rather than later since, in the time it took Frudakis to analyze the sample, the killer had claimed his fifth victim. The task force followed Frudakis' advice and, two months later, the killer was in custody.

While it is entirely fitting that Darwinists are so ashamed of the role of their ideology in the Holocaust that they're largely silent about human ethnicity, the idea that they can tell types of moths and finches apart by variations in the DNA but not humans is obviously silly.

Posted by Matt Murphy at 12:58 PM


Stanford brings USC's 35-game home win streak to end (AP, 10/7/07)

In what's been the year of the upset in college football, Stanford's stunner just might top them all.

Tavita Pritchard threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to Mark Bradford on fourth-and-goal with 49 seconds remaining Saturday night, giving the 41-point underdog Cardinal a 24-23 victory over No. 2 Southern California.

A leaping Bradford caught the ball over cornerback Mozique McCurtis in the corner of the end zone, leaving the crowd of 85,125 at the Los Angeles Coliseum in stunned silence. Bo McNally's interception thwarted USC's final chance.

In a season that started with Appalachian State's improbable victory over Michigan at the Big House, and a week after half the top 10 went down, the Cardinal are now the upset kings -- at least for now. The way things have been going, that could change next week.

Making his first career start, Pritchard had to convert on fourth-and-20 four plays before the winning TD, and because he couldn't hear his coach calling in the play, he was on his own.

"I think it was similar if I heard him right," Pritchard said. "I saw the coverage I wanted and Sherm came through."

Sherm is Richard Sherman, who caught the critical fourth-and-20 pass over the middle before being leveled at the 9 -- just past the first-down marker.

Here's a question for the sports historians: Has there ever been an underdog of approximately 40 points who went into an opposing team's stadium and won? And, given the events of the past month, here a question for the rest of us: Just what the heck is going on?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:47 AM


'The braid' is crowning glory for the Ukranian politician Yulia Tymoshenko (Clifford J. Levy, October 7, 2007, International Herald Tribune)

[T]he braid is not just a fashion statement. It is a calculated political tool with significant cultural resonance, one that has helped turn her into more than a candidate. To her supporters at least, she is regarded as a kind of Lady Liberty.

A braid is a traditional Ukrainian hairstyle, and by adopting it, Tymoshenko, 46, and the former prime minister, has been able to underline her nationalist credentials, drawing a contrast with her main opponents, who are more closely linked to the onetime overlord, Russia.

Wrapped up in Tymoshenko's nationalism are religious overtones. She has often tried to capitalize on the revival of the church in Ukraine, and the braid echoes the halos found in representations of Orthodox Christian icons. Imagine the effect at political rallies, where she often calls for moments of prayer.

The success of her look can be seen in one of her strongholds, central Ukraine. In a tiny village home last week, an elderly woman named Praskovya Teplyuk posted a photo of Tymoshenko next to that of a traditional Orthodox icon. Teplyuk seemed to regard both with equal fervor.

What did she think of the other candidates? "They are all gangsters," Teplyuk said.

Tymoshenko has tried to play up that view with her other signature look, white clothing, which is intended to show her purity in the face of what she has called a corrupt political and business culture. (Her rivals are quick to point out that Tymoshenko was once an energy oligarch in Ukraine.)

Tymoshenko's hair color has varied over the years, from dark to blond, but lately, she seems to be keeping it almost as light as her clothing.

Tymoshenko's advisers acknowledge that using a hairstyle as a campaign symbol could trivialize her. But they say that she is such an electrifying leader and speaker that no Ukrainian would consider her a hollow candidate.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:42 AM


Scotland a factor in Gordon Brown's decision (Daily Telegraph, 07/10/2007)

Voters turning against him in the key English marginals may well have persuaded Gordon Brown to abandon his plans for a snap election, but another factor preying on his mind would have been Alex Salmond and the Scottish National Party.

With Salmond's SNP around, Mr Brown couldn't necessarily guarantee that Central Scotland would stick with Labour to hold on to Middle England.

Gordon is no Tony.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:39 AM


A Decent Outcome for Iraq (Fouad Ajami, October 5, 2007, US News)

Peace has not come to the streets of Baghdad, but the center holds. Our very American "benchmarks" for measuring the progress of Iraq can't capture the reality of that land. There is no "oil law," it is true, but the oil bounty is being shared equitably across the regions. The Iraqi government, through a relentless insurgency, maintains and meets a payroll for 3.4 million of its citizens. And in the provinces, there is a scramble for budgets and economic projects. "A year ago, we could not give money to the provincial governors; they could not use it. Now they are in competition for funds, and economic life stirs," Deputy Prime Minister Barham Saleh, who oversees the service sector of the government, said to me.

We ask of the Iraqis "national reconciliation" and bemoan their inability to offer it in ways we can recognize, but a broad, subtle national accord is settling upon the land. The Kurds want (and have) their autonomy but have no eagerness to break out on their own to face alone the schemes of the Iranians, the Turks, and the Syrians. The Shiites have prevailed in the war for Baghdad; primacy in the government is increasingly theirs. The Sunni Arabs know that they have lost their war against this new Iraq, that the bet they placed on al Qaeda and neighboring Sunni Arab nations has been lost.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:36 AM


Democracy Rally in Hong Kong (Reuters, 10/07/07)

Thousands of people in Hong Kong took part in a democracy march and a world-record breaking attempt using umbrellas, calling for a faster pace of democratic reforms and direct elections in 2012.

Gathered in a large park, around 5,000 people hoisted yellow umbrellas to form a massive yellow "2012" which is the date the pro-democracy camp wants direct elections to be realized.

"Fighting for democracy means you have to fight for democracy. Democracy is not going to fall from the sky," said legislator Ronny Tong, a chief organizer of Sunday's "Umbrella" rally, which he hopes will gain an entry in the Guinness Book of World Records.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:13 AM


I was lobbied by the 'Israel lobby': A dispatch from inside the soft sell (Elaine McArdle, October 7, 2007, Boston Globe)

Among AIPAC's many lobbying activities - it has a 200-person staff and an annual budget of $47 million - are the well-known tours it organizes to Israel three or four times a year, not just for journalists but for politicians, too. This summer, it hosted 40 US congressmen from both parties. And although mainstream news organizations still bar their staff reporters from taking paid junkets, others aren't shy at all. Recent tours have included staff from "The Daily Show" and reporters from Spanish and African-American media. "There's hardly a journalist left in D.C. who hasn't taken this trip," one AIPAC representative told us, with only some sense of overstatement.

AIPAC is far from alone in providing high-end tours to those whose favor it courts. Political junkets have been a staple of Washington lobbying for years. And free media trips, once unheard of, are now flourishing. Last year, a friend accepted an all-expenses-paid trip from the city of Hamburg, Germany, to cover a music festival; another friend is going to the Philippines later this month. Other nations and tourist bureaus offer the same.

I've never written about foreign policy, and despite Mearsheimer and Walt's book, I don't have any reason to think of AIPAC as different than any other lobbying group. Still, after a friend gave them my name and the invitation came, I struggled over whether to accept such a lavish gift from an organization with something to sell. I consulted with other journalists, most of whom asked only one question: How could they get on the next AIPAC trip?

I decided to use the junket as an immersion tutorial on the Middle East, the kind of trip I had neither the contacts nor financial resources to arrange for myself. My goal was to become much better informed without being swayed by a particular viewpoint. If AIPAC tried to strong-arm its agenda, I wasn't worried. I was an experienced journalist: the harder someone pushes, the more skeptical I am.

With more than 100,000 members, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, formed in the 1950s, is one of the most powerful special interest groups in the United States, able to quickly muster passionate grass-roots supporters to put pressure on politicians. Washington insiders count it as one of the best-organized and successful lobbying groups today, and other special interest groups use it as a model.

AIPAC organizes junkets to Israel through its educational wing, the American Israel Education Foundation. The goal is to show influential people the real-world situation that American policy is addressing in the Middle East and let them see "a wide diversity of opinions with their own eyes," says AIPAC spokesman Josh Block.

Our weeklong tour would cost AIPAC around $5,000 per person, including six nights in first-class hotels, Block told me. AIPAC was asking nothing of us in return. No one in our group - mainly freelance writers like me, with little experience in foreign policy - had assignments to write about Israel.

And there was no hard sell in sight.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:03 AM


Local teams really put the loss in Los Angeles: Saturday was a dark, embarrassing, throw-away day for our local football factories. (T.J. Simers, October 7, 2007, LA Times)

YOU TAKE the current crop of young men playing football for Stanford and Notre Dame, and maybe Fortune 500 companies and the Arena League will eventually benefit, but what a dark, embarrassing, throw-away day for our local football factories.

Appalachian Whatever might beat Michigan, but we had both of our high-expectation powerhouses getting rolled by two of this planet's worst teams on the same night within miles of each other.

USC and UCLA have been eliminated before the Angels, so the Los Angeles Kings may now be our most dependable outfit.

This might have been the worst day in Southern California football history, Notre Dame and UCLA fans together in the same stadium celebrating a Trojans loss and then an hour later the Bruins doing something no other team in the nation could do -- make a winner out of the Irish.

...is a good day in America.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:29 AM


Lights out! Rockies roar into NLCS (Arnie Stapleton, 10/07/07, AP)

Lights out! The blackout at Coors Field was caused by a cranky computer. Blame the Philadelphia Phillies' power outage on rookie Ubaldo Jimenez and a Colorado bullpen that's been untouchable for three weeks.

The Rockies roared into the NL championship series Saturday night, completing a three-game playoff sweep by beating Philadelphia 2-1 on pinch-hitter Jeff Baker's tiebreaking single with two outs in the eighth inning.

Colorado's 17th win in 18 games was fueled by Jimenez, the hard-throwing 23-year-old who allowed one run and three hits over 6 1-3 innings during a pitchers' duel at Coors Field, of all places. Then, those reliable Rockies relievers silenced Philadelphia's dangerous bats for the third straight game.

"We're winning with our bats, our gloves and our arms," Rockies MVP hopeful Matt Holliday said. "We're winning with both youth and experience, with power and little punches. That's a good brand of baseball to be playing."

Euphoria sweeps over Coors Field (Sara Burnett, 10/07/07, Rocky Mountain News)
People who never have met throw their arms around each other. Camera phones are out and the dancing begins — Celebration, then Let's Go Crazy.

"I can't think of a better place in the world to be right now," says Brandon Howard, a 30-year-old fan from Thornton after grabbing his friend, Danny Sachs, in a tight bearhug in the concourse along the third base line.

"For not being a baseball town, this feels like a baseball town to me," Sachs says.

Moyer again at his best in big spot: Though Phillies are eliminated, veteran stellar in huge spot (Joe Frisaro, 10/07/07, MLB.com)
In his heart of hearts, Jamie Moyer truly felt the Phillies were a big break away from turning the tables on the Rockies in the National League Division Series.

"I honestly believe it would have taken one inning for us, one at-bat, one sequence for us to turn this thing around," Moyer said. "Really, coming into this ballpark tonight, I believed if we won tonight, we had a good chance to win the series."

Unfortunately for the Phillies, the momentum-changing moment never arrived. But the 44-year-old veteran pitcher certainly did his part in attempting to get his team rolling.

The curse continues: Arizona sweeps Chicago to start 99th long winter (Associated Press, 10/07/07)
A sweet sweep for the Arizona Diamondbacks. Another cry of "Wait 'Til Next Year" from the crestfallen Chicago Cubs.

Chris Young homered on the game's first pitch, Livan Hernandez wriggled out of several serious jams and Arizona beat the Cubs 5-1 on Saturday night to complete a three-game sweep of their first-round playoff series.

Short on stars and attention — but not pitching and defense — the young Diamondbacks are headed to the NL Championship Series for the second time in the franchise's 10-year history. The previous time they made it this far they went all the way, beating the New York Yankees in the 2001 World Series.

"Probably shocked a lot of people, but this team's been doing it all year," Eric Byrnes said.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:50 AM


A No-Frills Label Sings to the Rafters (ANNE MIDGETTE, 10/07/07, NY Times)

WHEN Naxos started issuing recordings in the late 1980s, the releases seemed to trumpet their budget-label status with a no-frills design: the CDs, with their chunky type, white ground and small picture at the bottom, are distinctly unbeautiful. No great cover art, no big-name artists: it was all about the music.

The music has won. Naxos has by now upgraded the design of some marquee releases, like the Brahms symphony cycle conducted by Marin Alsop. More important, it has shown an uncanny ability to sell tens of thousands of its old, clunky-looking CDs, many by unknown artists and of increasingly offbeat repertory, like violin concertos by the Chevalier de Saint-Georges or Samuel Barber. (Each has sold more than 50,000 copies to date.) And this in a market traditionally centered on superstar musicians, and in a climate in which many classical releases are lucky to have sales in the hundreds.

Bucking conventional wisdom has made Naxos not only a successful classical record label, but also, within the last few years, a profitable one.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:42 AM


Life in a Cage: Baby Sleeps, Mom Cooks, Dad Bats (LEE JENKINS, 7/01/07, NY Times)

When Amber Willits is cooking dinner — crack! — or putting the baby to bed — crack! — or trying to get a little sleep herself — crack! — she has to wonder why she ever agreed to live in a batting cage.

“I may have thought that a few times,” she acknowledged. “But I never said it.”

Baseball wives are an understanding breed. They endure 12-day trips and meals at midnight, and move their families from minor league towns like Yakima, Wash., to Pulaski, W.Va.

But Amber Willits, the wife of Angels outfielder Reggie Willits, has taken hardball devotion to a new level. For the past three years, she has made a home, raised a son and helped develop a .300 hitter — all in an indoor batting cage.

The Wife wouldn't let me put in a cage for our kids.

October 6, 2007

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:25 AM


Haiti's Rebuilding Shifts to Education: Thousands of Haitian schools reopened for the new school year last month, thanks in part to the support of the United States and other international donors. As Haiti's government works to recover from years of instability, foreign aid remains a key source of backing for its struggling education system. VOA's Brian Wagner recently traveled to Port-au-Prince, and has this report. (Bran Wagner, 10/06/07, Voice of America)

In addition to supporting security efforts, the United States, United Nations and other foreign partners have been trying to help rebuild Haiti's education system.

Over the past three years, the United States has given $24 million to education efforts in Haiti, to train teachers, develop programs and buy supplies. At a recent ceremony in the capital, officials from the U.S. Agency for International Development presented a check for $8 million for new textbooks and other materials for the new school year.

Haiti's Education Minister Gabriel Bien-Aime welcomed the U.S. support to help expand the Haitian government's role in education.

He says the money will help schools overcome some of the difficulties, as the government tries to provide books, uniforms and other materials to students.

Overall U.S. aid to Haiti since 2004 has totaled more than $600 million. Another key source of funds is from Haitians living abroad, who, last year, sent back more than $1.6 billion, according to the Inter-American Development Bank.

Remittances help many students pay for their education, like 10th grade student Fania Joseph, whose father lives and works in Florida. She says she is sad that her father lives far away, but the money he sends home helps to send her to a better school.

One of the big points the nativists miss is that their policies would dry up such remittances and the consequences that would follow.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:51 AM

BUSY WORK (via The Mother Judd):

Spreading Homework Out So Even Parents Have Some (TINA KELLEY, 10/04/07, NY Times)

The parents of Damion Frye’s ninth-grade students are spending their evenings this fall doing something they thought they had left behind long ago: homework.

So far, Mr. Frye, an English teacher at Montclair High School, has asked the parents to read and comment on a Franz Kafka story, Section 1 of Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself” and a speech given by Robert F. Kennedy in 1968. Their newest assignment is a poem by Saul Williams, a poet, musician and rapper who lives in Los Angeles. The ninth graders complete their assignments during class; the parents are supposed to write their responses on a blog Mr. Frye started online.

If the parents do not comply, Mr. Frye tells them, their child’s grade may suffer — a threat on which he has made good only once in the three years he has been making such assignments.

The point, he said, is to keep parents involved in their children’s ’ education well into high school. Studies have shown that parental involvement improves the quality of the education a student receives, but teenagers seldom invite that involvement. So, Mr. Frye said, he decided to help out.

“Parents complain about never getting to see their kids’ work,” he said. “Now they have to.”

Only parents ought to be given homework since it does nothing for the students and would get the adults to stop demanding it.

Forget Homework: It's a waste of time for elementary-school students. (Emily Bazelon, Sept. 14, 2006, Slate)

Over the last decade, Japanese schools have been scrapping homework while American elementary schools have been assigning more of it. What gives—aren't they supposed to be the model achievers while we're the slackers? No doubt our eagerness to shed the slacker mantle has helped feed the American homework maw. But it may be the Japanese, once again, who know what they're doing.

Such is my conclusion after reading three new books on the subject: The Case Against Homework by Sara Bennett and Nancy Kalish; The Homework Myth by Alfie Kohn; and the third edition of The Battle Over Homework by Duke psychology professor Harris Cooper. If you already despise homework, Bennett and Kalish provide advice on how to plead with teachers and schools for mercy. If you're agnostic, as I was, Kohn is the meatier read. Kohn is the author of several rebellious books about education, and he exposes the lack of evidence for many of the standard arguments in favor of homework: that it boosts achievement, that it inculcates good study habits, that it teaches kids to take the initiative, that it's better than video games or whatever else kids do in their free time.

Cooper is one of Kohn's main foils and a leading scholar on the subject, so I picked up his book expecting to find a convincing counterargument defending homework. I didn't. Cooper's research shows that, much of the time, take-home assignments in elementary school are an act of faith. No one really knows whether all those math sheets and spelling drills add up to anything. If there's little or no evidence that younger students benefit from homework, why assign it at all? Or, to adopt Kohn's less extreme position in The Homework Myth, why make homework the rule rather than the rare and thought-through exception?

In The Battle Over Homework, Cooper has crunched the numbers on dozens of studies of homework for students of all ages. Looking across all the studies is supposed to offer a fairly accurate picture even though the science behind some of them is sketchy. For elementary-school students, Cooper found that "the average correlation between time spent on homework and achievement … hovered around zero." In Kohn's book, he highlights a 1998 study that Cooper and his colleagues did with second- through 12th-graders. For younger students, the amount of homework completed had no effect on test scores and bore a negative relationship to grades.

As Homework Grows, So Do Arguments Against It (Valerie Strauss, September 12, 2006, Washington Post)
The nation's best-known researcher on homework has taken a new look at the subject, and here is what Duke University professor Harris Cooper has to say:

Elementary school students get no academic benefit from homework -- except reading and some basic skills practice -- and yet schools require more than ever.

High school students studying until dawn probably are wasting their time because there is no academic benefit after two hours a night; for middle-schoolers, 1 1/2 hours.

And what's perhaps more important, he said, is that most teachers get little or no training on how to create homework assignments that advance learning.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:41 AM


New loyalties give Baghdad reprieve (BBC, 10/06/07)

Car and truck bomb attacks on civilians have not stopped but the number has fallen significantly since the start of the surge and of the Baghdad security plan earlier this year.

Those explosions were nearly always the work of an unholy alliance of al-Qaeda in Iraq and former Saddam Hussein Baath Party loyalists who had lost their jobs and their entire livelihoods in the indiscriminate de-Baathification process that took place after the invasion.

But many of those Saddam loyalists who used to shoot and bomb Americans are now fighting alongside US troops against al Qaeda.

One of the sheikhs co-operating with the Americans, Abu Risha, was assassinated in an al-Qaeda bomb attack in September.

President Bush paid tribute to him as a brave man.

American troops helped the Iraqi armed forces guard mourners at his funeral in Ramadi in Anbar province, the district west of Baghdad that was once routinely described as "the heartland of the insurgency".

Ramadi sheiks unfazed by slaying: The Sunni tribal leaders say the attack that killed a friend won't affect their alliance with U.S. and Iraqi forces battling insurgents. (Tina Susman, 10/06/07, Los Angeles Times)
For a man with a death threat stored in his phone, [Sheik Raad Sabah] Alwani seemed remarkably unworried. His friend Sheik Abdul Sattar Rishawi was slain Sept. 13, the first day of Ramadan for Iraq's Sunnis, in a blast for which the militant group Al Qaeda in Iraq claimed responsibility. Another close friend, police Lt. Col. Salam Mohammed Abbas, died Feb. 14 when a bomb sent a chunk of metal slicing through his skull.

Like his slain friends, Alwani is a prominent member of a movement started last year to ally tribal leaders with U.S. and Iraqi forces against the Sunni insurgent group Al Qaeda in Iraq.

But Alwani and other sheiks say the slayings of Abbas and Rishawi, who headed the pro-U.S. Anbar Salvation Council, were lucky hits by militants struggling to reclaim an area that has abandoned the insurgency.

"These people, they cannot affect the battle against terrorists," Alwani said of the killers.

The assertion appears to be holding up for the time being, at least in Ramadi and its surrounding areas. The region remains calm under a blanket of Iraqi police, who are impossible to miss in their cobalt blue, button-down shirts. Many of the officers say they feel safe enough to work without body armor. [...]

Sheik Awad Jedie Albu Quod lost his brother, who was slain as he sat on the front stoop of the family home. Militants drove by and shot him, Albu Quod said as he chain-smoked Gauloise cigarettes one recent evening after iftar, the breaking of the daylong Ramadan fast.

He said these tragedies, along with shared anger over Rishawi's death, had backfired on the insurgents, who had hoped to stoke violence by killing the high-profile sheik who had met with President Bush 10 days before his death.

"They thought when they killed Sattar, security would collapse, but now it is better than before," Albu Quod said.

Tribal leaders, police and Iraqi civilians have been galvanized to be more vigilant, he said. "We lost just one Sattar. We now have 1,000 Sattars."

Madrid remains the only effective action the Salafists have ever taken, a damning indictment of Spain.

Iraq Shia leaders sign truce deal (BBC, 10/06/07)

Two of Iraq's most influential Shia leaders have signed a deal to try to end violence between their groups.

Radical cleric Moqtada Sadr and Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, head of the Supreme Islamic Council of Iraq, have been locked in a bitter dispute for months.

The leaders have agreed to try to end further bloodshed, foster a spirit of good will and form joint committees throughout the country.

Jefferson and Adams couldn't reconcile until after their competing regimes had run their courses.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:19 AM


Edison's Dimming Bulbs: How Wal-Mart and the government are killing the incandescent light bulb. (Daniel Gross, Oct. 6, 2007, Slate)

Compact fluorescent bulbs cost more than regular incandescent bulbs. But according to the U.S. Department of Energy, they last up to 10 times longer, use about one-fourth the energy, and produce 90 percent less heat. Over its life span of four and a half years, a CFL more than repays its higher cost in energy savings: $62.95 per light bulb. Oh, and they're good for the planet, since they produce fewer emissions. But while they've grown in popularity, CFLs have yet to emerge as a household staple, in part because consumers can't see beyond the shock of the sticker price to the long-term savings. "When you buy a compact fluorescent bulb at the cash register, you experience the higher cost vividly and all at once," says Robert Frank, a Cornell economist and author of The Economic Naturalist. "But when your electric bill goes down as a result, the savings are not as evident." Consumers routinely make such short-term economically irrational decisions.

As it aims to vanquish Thomas Edison's filament bulb—and save the Earth—the CFL is running into the brick wall of human nature. But the CFL is getting a lift from two of the globe's most powerful forces: image-conscious Western governments and Wal-Mart.

...rational economic behavior sometimes has to be forced upon folks.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:54 AM


Why Brown bottled it: Six point Tory lead in the marginals (Fraser Nelson, 10/06/07, The Spectator: Coffee House)

Why did Gordon Brown call off the election? The News of the World, where I am a columnist, tells us tomorrow. It is the only newspaper to have polled in the marginal seats (a horribly expensive process) and the results exposes the type of information which Brown has been chewing over. The results are devastating. There is a six-point Tory lead in the marginals – yes, a six point Tory lead: 44% to 38%. It suggests that, if Brown did go, he’d lose his majority. Labour would still be the biggest party, with 306 seats to the 246 for the Tories.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:35 AM


(Getty Images Photo / Jim Rogash)

Manny of the hour: With a walkoff homer in ninth, Ramírez picks perfect time to power Red Sox past Angels (Gordon Edes, October 6, 2007, Boston Globe)

They were sitting down to asagohan (breakfast) in Tokyo when this one began, and lining up for last call in the Back Bay when it ended.

But from sea (of Japan) to shining sea (Atlantic), the man who will be remembered most for this morning turned into night turned into morning again is Manny Ramírez.

At 12:44 a.m., 34 minutes after the last train was supposed to stop running in Kenmore Square, Ramírez stood transfixed at home plate, his arms raised overhead, watching as his ninth-inning home run, on a night as warm and clear as an Angel's teardrop, disappeared over the Green Monster and into the mists of Red Sox history.

"My train doesn't stop," said Ramírez, who at long last stole Big Papi's signature line - a walkoff home run, his first in a Boston uniform - to give the Sox a 6-3 win over the Los Angeles Angels and a commanding two games to none lead in their best-of-five Division Series.

That was a moment that MLB thought should be on TV at one in the morning, instead of when kids were still watching? Well, at least it was a Friday night....

Red Sox get help from 'anti-Bartman' (AP, 10/06/07)

As fan interference goes, Danny Vinik is more Jeffrey Maier than Steve Bartman.

Vinik reached over the temporary photographers' box in front of the stands and kept Los Angeles Angels catcher Jeff Mathis from catching Manny Ramirez's foul pop on Friday night. He did not reach into the field of play, making it a legal move.

Ramirez stayed at the plate and drew a walk to load the bases before Mike Lowell's sacrifice fly tied it at 3.

"Everybody was giving me high-fives," Vinik told a crowd of about 20 reporters who interviewed him under the stands near the entrance to the Red Sox clubhouse. One of the well-wishers was horror-meister Stephen King, sitting behind him and one seat over.

The 17-year-old fan said he got 15-20 calls on his cell phone, and while he was talking to reporters other fans congratulated him, saying, "That's the kid. Way to go. Nice play."

One man called him "The anti-Bartman" and gave him a high-five.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:03 AM


In Search of Ahmadinejad (Barry Rubin, 10/01/07, Global Research in International Affairs)

Ahmadinejad is a demagogue on a lot of issues for three distinct reasons:

First, he is trying to use his radical stance—extremist even on the already extreme Iranian political spectrum—to gain control of the country. As head of a faction and due to personal ambition he is trying to displace other groups. Supreme Guide Ali Khamenei remains the single most powerful person in Iran and Ahmadinejad real rival within the country.

Second, Ahmadinejad is pursuing the Iranian Islamist revolution’s long-term goal—but one not always given top priority by the regime—of spreading Islamist revolution throughout the region and emerging as the most powerful force in the Middle East. In terms of promoting Iran’s primacy, there is an inherent nationalist as well as Islamist element in his policy.

Third, Ahmadinejad seems to be a true believer in the Iranian Islamist ideology which sees international politics as a struggle between the true followers of the deity and the allies of Satan.

Ahmadinejad’s goals, then, are his control over Iran, Iran’s control over the Persian Gulf area (especially Iraq), Israel’s destruction, Iranian leadership over the Middle East, the expulsion of Western (and especially American) influence from the region, and even world domination, in roughly that order.

He won't even get to succeed at the first one because he scares both Ayatollah Khamenei and Iranian voters.

Khatami to lead Iranian opposition in elections, says brother (Deutsche Presse-Agentur, Oct 6, 2007)

Former Iranian president Mohammad Khatami will lead the opposition coalition in next the country's March parliamentary elections, the cleric's brother told the Fars news agency on Saturday. [...]

The new coalition is unofficially led by former presidents Khatami and Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani and gained an initial victory in last December's Experts Assembly, imposing Ahmadinejad a first setback since his presidency in 2005.

The parliamentary elections, scheduled for March 14, 2008, will this time also have international impacts due to the global crisis over Iran's controversial nuclear programmes.

A victory by the reformist would not only affect Iran's domestic and foreign policies but eventually also prepare ground to replace Ahmadinejad in the 2009 presidential elections.

'A Way Out' for Iran (David Ignatius, October 7, 2007, Washington Post)
If you read the liberal blogosphere, and even the stately New Yorker magazine, you get the impression that the Bush administration is itching to drop a bomb on Iran. But talking with senior administration officials this week, I hear a different line:

They worry about Iranian actions, and they are disappointed that diplomatic overtures to Iran so far have resulted in little progress. They believe that Washington and Tehran remain on a collision course over Iran's nuclear program and its destabilizing activities in Iraq. But senior officials say they are seeking to avoid military conflict.

The administration wants Iran to make a strategic shift -- by changing its nuclear policy so that it doesn't have the potential to make weapons, stopping its support for terrorism and working with the United States to stabilize Iraq. Officials continue to believe that the regime is capable of such a shift, despite its internal divisions. But they have concluded that Iran won't bargain unless it feels more pressure -- from tougher economic sanctions and from credible threats of military power.

The bottom line, officials say, is that the United States must avoid a future situation in which its only options are to accept a nuclear Iran or go to war.

All they have to do is say Uncle (Napoleon).

-Persian Gulf: Insights into Iran can be gleaned from these masterly works. (MICHAEL LEDEEN, October 6, 2007, Opinion Journal)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:50 AM


Crackdown Could Haunt Myanmar Junta (DENIS D. GRAY, 10/06/07, AP)

"The crackdown by the military against the monks may be a major element in the destruction of the very military unity they seek. Many may be profoundly disturbed by the actions of their colleagues," says David Steinberg of Georgetown University, an author of several books on Myanmar.

The beating and mass arrests of the monks, who led mass pro-democracy demonstrations last month across the country, struck at the junta's greatest fear - that factions within its ranks may side with those seeking change.

And that side showed unexpected strength. The world was caught by surprise at the determined, organized and wide-ranging opposition that sprang up in the last two months.

Drawn in by graphic images of the crackdown, governments around the world responded with unprecedented condemnation, some sanctions and calls for neighboring China and India, major trading partners of Myanmar, to use their leverage on the junta.

Given the past record, however, neither outside pressure nor possible talks between the junta and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi are likely to have significant effect on the intransigent leaders.

But the military, in trying to woo a hostile people, has constantly trumpeted an image as Buddhism's protector, building new pagodas, repairing monasteries and offering alms to monks.

"Buddhism has been a critical element in this legitimacy process. But all of a sudden you have delegitimization of a lot of that effort," Steinberg said.

If they're serious about winning they need to absorb more violence, which is the key to successful non-violence.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


The old Schell game a review of Jonathan Schell's The Seventh Decade: The New Shape of Nuclear Danger (Victor Davis Hanson, New Criterion)

The war in Iraq looms large in the narrative as morally reprehensible and a strategic blunder. But such castigation immediately must prompt contortions. If the world is to disarm, what are we to do with fanatics like Saddam Hussein and Muammar al-Qaddafi, who were seeking nuclear technology and have a history of violent war-making, both conventional and terrorist-inspired?

Schell downplays the fact that both of their programs are now gone (Qaddafi purportedly confessed to Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi of his fears of ending up like Saddam). Curiously, Schell also warns how close Saddam was to bomb-making while simultaneously damning the Bush administration for removing him on false pretenses.

So how odd to be told that Saddam did not propose a threat that justified his removal—only to deprecate the efficacy of the 1981 Israeli bombing of the Iraqi reactor at Osirak on the grounds that “after the attack, they [the Iraqis] turned to uranium enrichment, a quicker path to the bomb.” And odder still to learn that “having once put together most of the know-how for building the bomb, Iraq could one day call on its scientists to do so again.”

The biggest change in the nuclear world over the past three decades is that the states, other than us, that have bombs are even less capable of delivering them than the USSR was.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Three Gorges: A River Runs Through It, for Better or Worse (Mary Beth Sheridan, 10/07/07, Washington Post)

The Three Gorges Dam is aimed at satisfying that appetite for energy. When finished, it will generate 20 times as much electricity as the Hoover Dam, offsetting some of the need for the smelly, polluting coal. Chinese authorities also hope it will help control deadly floods on the world's third-longest river.

After lunch, we boarded a bus to view the concrete behemoth. The dam is typically described in superlatives: It's one of the biggest public works projects in history, longer than the Brooklyn Bridge and higher than the Washington Monument.

But when we finally reached it, we must have looked a little underwhelmed.

"Maybe it's a little different from your mind?" fretted our Chinese guide, Stephen.

Perhaps it was the smog. But the dam looked like -- a big dam.

If the dam's appearance wasn't as dramatic as we'd expected, though, its impact is huge. As our guides explained, the government is relocating almost 1.3 million people from towns submerged by the rising waters. Red signs on the riverbanks mark 175 meters (574 feet), the depth of the reservoir when the project is finished.

Along the Yangtze, clusters of sterile white apartment buildings are rising for the displaced. Traditional market towns have vanished. At one point, we glided by a graceful old wooden temple at the river's edge.

"In 2009, that will be underwater," the guide said.

It was difficult to get a sense of the human cost of such forced dislocation. Our Chinese guides shrugged it off, saying only the elderly objected. They insisted that younger residents were happy to be part of China's boom and welcomed their bigger, government-built apartments, with plumbing and access to supermarkets.

"They have wide houses," explained Annie, a 23-year-old guide in a bomber jacket emblazoned with "London" who led us through some Luray-like caverns near the riverside city of Fengdu.

"They have a new future -- and a new TV."

Deirdre Chetham, author of "Before the Deluge: The Disappearing World of the Yangtze's Three Gorges," said many young people in the cities and large towns did indeed welcome the move. Though the old towns had architecturally interesting old quarters, they also were filled with crowded, Soviet-style concrete apartment buildings from the 1950s and '60s.

"It was very exciting to get a new apartment, pick a new stove, pick out wallpaper -- for those for whom it went well," Chetham said. But for rural families, the move was more traumatic.

"They lost the land they had tilled for generations," she said. "Large numbers of people were moved as far as 1,200 miles away."

Our guides' sanguine attitude was perhaps not surprising; they were all Communist Party "team members." They also cheerfully dismissed environmental concerns about the river, assuring us that endangered fish and birds were bouncing back. Asked about the gauzy air at the dam, Stephen emphasized: "Moisture! Not pollution."

Yet even the guides had to acknowledge the yawning gaps between Communist propaganda and the vibrant, Western-obsessed country we were observing.

One day a guide pointed to satellite dishes sprouting from a few farmers' houses. The government didn't allow them in urban areas, she explained, since residents might "learn the reality about the Chinese people" from English-language TV -- and rise up.

Another of the "team members" was asked about China's economic system.

"Only the government thinks we are socialist," he confessed.
East Meets East

The East King offered a glimpse of the increasingly capitalist China.

The four-story ship could hold 192 passengers, all in outside cabins with large windows, TVs, comfortable beds and decent-size bathrooms. Its spa offered foot rubs and "aromatic rose massages," and the bar served Australian wines. Onboard activities included a dumpling-cooking class and the inevitable karaoke. Crew members were unfailingly polite.

Food was plentiful. A breakfast buffet featured offerings from toast and eggs to Chinese noodles; dinner brought a procession of Chinese dishes, such as steamed buns with ground pork, chicken in lemon sauce, sweet-and-sour fish, and a variety of vegetables (including a spectacular dish of radishes in orange sauce).

There were occasional lapses. At lunch, the chefs did their best imitation of American food, which is how I came to be served a nice chicken cordon bleu -- slathered with tartar sauce.

But the ships have come a long way from the days when rats shared the cabins. And in recent years, the Chinese have done some cleanup on the Yangtze. Though it's still polluted, I spotted none of the river-borne trash common in the past. (And not a single floating body, which my Beijing-based friend Ed had sworn was standard.)

That's not to say the cruise is as dramatic as it once was. Chetham, who has been visiting the Yangtze for more than 20 years, said the scenery still resembled an old Chinese painting, but "it's as though the bottom was cut off." Among the 40 passengers on our cruise -- Americans, Canadians, Europeans and a few Chinese -- were some San Francisco residents who recalled the cliffs soaring higher when they'd visited pre-dam. Even one of the shipboard guides admitted sadly, "So many beautiful sceneries have been flooded away."

October 5, 2007

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:33 PM


In Game 2 Infestation, Bugs Claim Spotlight (JOE LAPOINTE, 10/06/07, NY Times)

In an 11-inning game that lasted 4 hours 23 minutes and ended in a 2-1 victory for the Indians against the Yankees, Ryan Garko of Cleveland had one favorite moment of consequence involving poise and concentration.

It came in the ninth inning, when Indians pitcher Fausto Carmona took the mound amid the swarm of bugs that had seemed to rattle Joba Chamberlain in the previous inning, when he surrendered a 1-0 lead by allowing a run to score on a wild pitch.

Chamberlain repeatedly asked for time out to chase away the bugs. A similar group of insects surrounded Carmona a few minutes later on the same mound. But he reacted differently. “Fausto didn’t flinch,” Garko said. “He didn’t step off once.”

With Chamberlain, Garko said, “You’d have thought there were lightning bolts.”

Talkin' smack to the fat kid, ouch!

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:26 PM


Christian Split in Lebanon Raises Specter of Civil War (THANASSIS CAMBANIS, 10/05/07, NY Times)

With the Islamist group Hezbollah having brought Lebanese politics to a standstill, the country’s once-dominant Christian community feels under siege and has begun re-establishing militias, training in the hills and stockpiling weapons.

Many Lebanese say another civil war — like the 15-year one that started in 1975 — is imminent and that the most dangerous flash points are within the divided Christian community.

Christian youth are signing up for militant factions in the greatest numbers since the end of the civil war, spray painting nationalist symbols on walls and tattooing them on their skin, and proclaiming their willingness to fight in a new civil war — in particular, against fellow Christians.

“When the war begins, I’ll be the first one in it,” said Fadil Abbas, 30, flexing his biceps in Shadow Tattoo as an artist etched a cross onto his shoulder. “I want everyone to know I am a Christian and I am ready to fight.”

The struggle is over who gets to be the next president, a post reserved for a Christian under Lebanon’s Constitution, and which must be filled by the end of November. But the larger question — one that is prompting rival Christian factions to threaten war — is whether Lebanese Christians must accept their minority status and get along with the Muslim majority (the choice of the popular Gen. Michel Aoun) or whether Christians should insist on special privileges no matter what their share of the population (the position of veteran civil war factions like the Phalange and the Lebanese Forces).

Kind of like Saddam thought the Sunni should run Iraq.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:41 PM


Spirit Chaser (DAVID YAFFE, October 22, 2007, The Nation)

Critics being critics, we found ourselves milling around the Carnegie Hall bar after the first set to debate what it all meant. How was Sonny's tone? Were the melodic ideas sufficiently developed? How could the music possibly live up to the mountain of expectations? For twenty minutes, he had half a century of jazz to live up to. As we were looking to Sonny for some sort of deliverance, I was reminded of his reply, in last month's Vanity Fair Proust Questionnaire, when he was asked what living person he most admired: "Maybe my plumber."

By the time the second set began, Rollins was back with the electric bass, the congas, the amplification. It was a reckoning of Sonny past, present and, still, the future. The rest of us catalogue and live by our memories and box sets, our iPods, our fetishized versions of our past selves, but Sonny, who hates listening to his own recordings, lives in the perpetual present, good, bad or indifferent. It was a retrospective event for a jazz titan who avoids nostalgia. He pumped his fist in the air and, to the strains of "Don't Stop the Carnival," assured us that he would be seeing us again, perhaps not in another fifty years but maybe in another twenty.

Rollins had taken the stage at Carnegie Hall a little over a month after the death of Max Roach on August 16, and as we were marveling at the musical splendors of fifty years ago, we could also remember Roach blazing a calypso beat under Rollins on "St. Thomas" in 1956 or telepathically matching Rollins's phrases pulse by pulse, riding the cymbals of the musical civil rights essay "Freedom Suite" in 1958 (which Roach would follow, in 1960, with We Insist!: Freedom Now Suite). Roach's support on Saxophone Colossus's "Moritat" was steady swing, with propulsive drum rolls between the choruses; when Haynes traded fours with Rollins on the same tune, the dialogue was looser, almost coy.

I talked to Rollins on the phone a week before the gig, and he told me that, although he was a Nation subscriber, he would try not to hold it against the magazine if it said something nice about him--self-criticism is integral to his work ethic--and that as far as he was concerned, Roach, along with Coltrane and Miles and so many departed compatriots and loved ones, were still with him. All he had to do, he said, was summon their memory and they were right next to him on the bandstand. Time present and time past are both perhaps present in time future.

At Carnegie Hall, Rollins gave us a twenty-minute exploration of time past, but he is as fixated on time future as ever, in search of a musical ideal that no one has heard yet. When I asked him about the context of the performance--and whether he would want to perform in new settings, perhaps with a symphony orchestra--he replied, "What did that cat say? The medium is the message?" But for Rollins, Marshall McLuhan's maxim should be reversed: the medium is not the message. It's something that can't be measured in an all-star reunion; whoever is onstage with him, he alone is the one who brings it with him when everything is right. After the performance, 57th Street beckoned with digital distractions unfathomable the first time Rollins played Carnegie Hall. He is still looking ahead to the next gig. As he told me when I first interviewed him a dozen years ago, "I practice all the time, and I'll be there when the spirit comes."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:52 PM


Obama talks arugula - again - in Iowa (John McCormick, 10/05/07, Chicago Tribune: The Swamp)

"All the national press, they said, 'Oh, look at Obama. He's talking about arugula in Iowa. People in Iowa don't know what arugula is,'" he said. "People in Iowa know what arugula is. They may not eat it, but you know what it is."

Well, maybe.

A highly unscientific survey of three Iowans who listened to Obama's speech suggested at least some in the crowd were a little confused by the leafy green.

"I've heard of it, but I don't know what it is," said Richard Newton, a laborer and volunteer firefighter from Independence. "But I understood what he was talking about."

Kay Hoffman, a hospital clinic assistant from nearby Aurora, Iowa, said she had never heard of it before, suspecting it might have something to do with Obama's Hawaiian upbringing.

"I don't know what it is," she said. "Maybe it's a Hawaiian thing."

Is the arugala refrain just in case there's someone in the crowd who thinks he isn't an effete elite?

Posted by Matt Murphy at 3:16 PM


CSU newspaper editor keeps job, admonished for profanity (Erika Gonzalez, 10/5/07, Rocky Mountain News)

J. David McSwane, the editor who caused an uproar for allowing the F-word to run in Colorado State University's student newspaper, will keep his job, a student-run governing board ruled Thursday night.

Instead of dismissing McSwane from his duties as editor-in-chief of The Rocky Mountain Collegian, CSU's Board of Student Communications decided to admonish him for publishing a profane editorial referring to President Bush.

The punishment was one of the least severe the board could impose. The only lesser penalty was to dismiss the allegations against McSwane.

The decision came after a four-hour, closed-door hearing of the board, which includes three faculty members and six students. CSU College Republicans and others had called for McSwane's firing for publishing the Sept. 21 editorial, which simply read: "Taser this . . . F--- Bush, with the expletive spelled out. The editorial was written in response to an incident at the University of Florida, where a student was shocked with a Taser during a forum featuring U.S. Sen. John Kerry. [...]

While the editorial was credited to the entire Collegian editorial board, McSwane was held responsible because of his position with the paper. He has said that he approved the piece after hours of debate.

"We did not do this to capture headlines," McSwane said last week. "We did this to spark a discussion about free speech."

Huh? Did he think he was going to spark a controversy minus any headlines? He got the "discussion" he was looking for, he just doesn't like the consequences.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:55 PM


Bellow's remarks on race haunt legacy in Hyde Park (Azam Ahmed and Ron Grossman, October 5, 2007, Chicago Tribune)

In a city whose streets commemorate fascist pilots and other controversial figures, it should have been a rubber-stamped request: a street, a statue, maybe a school named in honor of Saul Bellow, one of America's greatest writers and a Chicago literary icon.

The request, made several months ago to Mayor Richard Daley's office by Bellow's longtime friend and University of Chicago colleague Richard Stern, was sent along to Ald. Toni Preckwinkle (4th.)

The request was promptly denied, Stern said. [...]

It isn't the first time that Bellow's thoughts on race got him into trouble.

In an interview with the New York Times Magazine in 1988, Bellow was quoted as having said: "Who is the Tolstoy of the Zulus? The Proust of the Papuans? I'd be glad to read them," a remark that earned him accusations of insensitivity, elitism and racism.

It's revealing that no one ever answers the question, they just attack him.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:24 AM


FOX News Poll: Nearly 1 in 5 Democrats Say World Will Be Better Off if U.S. Loses War (Dana Blanton, 10/04/07, FOX News)

Nearly one out of every five Democrats thinks the world will be better off if America loses the war in Iraq, according to the FOX News Opinion Dynamics Poll released Thursday.

The percentage of Democrats (19 percent) who believe that is nearly four times the number of Republicans (5 percent) who gave the same answer. Seven percent of independents said the world would be better off if the U.S. lost the war.

Raising the obvious question: does the Left hate Iraqis as much as they did the Vietnamese?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:33 AM


Resonance Is a Glass Act for a Heroine on the Edge (ANTHONY TOMMASINI, 10/05/07, NY Times)

[T]he Met is honoring Donizetti’s original conception of several crucial scenes by using the glass harmonica (also called glass armonica) in the orchestra. The company has incorporated the glass harmonica into the score before, but never to this extent.

Wanting a delicate, otherworldly instrument to entwine melodic lines around Lucia’s vocal ones during her revealing arias and mad scene, Donizetti composed a part for the instrument, which was invented by Benjamin Franklin in 1763. Inspired by the whistling, high-pitched sound produced by rubbing a wet finger along the rim of a drinking glass, Franklin attached glasses of graded sizes (to produce graded pitches) concentrically to a spindle; they are rotated sideways in a box filled partly with water. By rubbing fingers on the rims of the glasses as they spin, a performer can play tunes and runs.

But shortly before the premiere of “Lucia” in Naples in 1835, Donizetti rewrote the glass harmonica part for flute. What probably happened is related by Philip Gossett, an expert on 19th-century Italian opera, whose book “Divas and Scholars: Performing Italian Opera” (University of Chicago Press, 2006) is as authoritative an examination of the era as we are likely to get. Mr. Gossett reports that the glass harmonica player at the theater in Naples was embroiled in a contractual dispute with company officials, and Donizetti was probably advised to steer clear of the guy. So the composer’s final score indicates that the part should be played by solo flute.

The Met chose to go with Donizetti’s initial inspiration. The glass harmonica is played by Cecilia Brauer, a pianist who has played celesta, a kind of small piano with chimes, with the Met orchestra for more than 30 years. It took her a long while to figure out how to play the glass harmonica, she said in a recent phone conversation.

“I used to play the Tchaikovsky concerto on the piano!” Ms. Brauer said. “But when I could finally play ‘Yankee Doodle’ on the glass harmonica, I was so happy.” She explained that the sound produced is dramatically affected by the hardness or softness of the water the glasses spin in, and even by the temperature of the player’s fingers.

“I dip my fingers in ice water to keep them cool,” she said. But she loves the haunting tenderness of the glass harmonica, which is slightly amplified to be heard at the Met.

You can play one yourself here

-Glass Harmonica (American Experience: Ben Franklin)
-Glass Armonica (William Zeitler)
-ARCHIVES: MP3s of William Zeitler on Glass Harmonica
-Second Time Around: Invented by Ben Franklin but lost to history, the glass armonica has been resurrected by modern musicians (Catherine Clarke Fox, February 01, 2007, Smithsonian.com)
-Thomas Bloch: Glass Harmonica
-Glass Armonica (Alisa Nakashian-Holsberg)
-Michael Pollak; Glass, Wet Fingers and a Mysterious Disappearance (MICHAEL POLLAK , 12/12/01, NY Times)
-The Glass Harmonica: Stairway to Madness (WFMU: Beware of the Blog, 6/28/05)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:04 AM


Marriage still the best way to play happy, healthy families, says study (Polly Curtis, October 5, 2007, The Guardian)

Children whose parents live together but are not married get worse results at school, leave education earlier and have a higher risk of developing a serious illness, according to an analysis of six years of government data on family life.

The figures show that a third of today's teenagers are destined to cohabit rather than marry, compared with one in 10 of their grandparents. The number of cohabiting couples has increased by 65% in a decade, with a more gradual rise in the number of single-parent families. By 2014, married couples could account for less than half of British families.

The analysis, published yesterday by the Office for National Statistics, says marriage is associated with better health, particularly for men. [...]

Children are also more likely to develop long-term illnesses if they live in non-traditional family groups. Teenagers whose parents are married and those who live with just their mother are more likely to stay in education past the age of 17 than those of cohabiting parents.

Of children who live with their married parents, 69% of boys and 78% of girls were still in education at the age of 17, compared with 59% of boys and 69% of girls who live with their mother - both higher than the proportion for cohabiting parents.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:32 AM


Clear-Eyed Optimists: The world is getting better, though no one likes to hear it. (STEPHEN MOORE, October 5, 2007 , Opinion Journal)

[W]orld-wide illiteracy rates have fallen by half since 1970 and now stand at an all-time low of 18%. More people live in free countries than ever before. The average human being today will live 50% longer in 2025 than one born in 1955.

To what do we owe this improvement? Capitalism, according to the U.N. Free trade is rightly recognized as the engine of global prosperity in recent years. In 1981, 40% of the world's population lived on less than $1 a day. Now that percentage is only 25%, adjusted for inflation. And at current rates of growth, "world poverty will be cut in half between 2000 and 2015"--which is arguably one of the greatest triumphs in human history. Trade and technology are closing the global "digital divide," and the report notes hopefully that soon laptop computers will cost $100 and almost every schoolchild will be a mouse click away from the Internet (and, regrettably, those interminable computer games).

It also turns out that the Malthusians (who worried that we would overpopulate the planet) got the story wrong. Human beings aren't reproducing like Norwegian field mice. Demographers now say that in the second half of this century, the human population will stabilize and then fall. If we use the same absurd extrapolation techniques demographers used in the 1970s, Japan, with its current low birth rate, will have only a few thousand citizens left in 300 years.

I take special pleasure in reciting all of this global betterment because my first professional job was working with the "doom-slaying" economist Julian Simon. Starting 30 years ago, Simon (who died in 1998) told anyone who would listen--which wasn't many people--that the faddish declinism of that era was bunk. He called the "Global 2000" report "globaloney." Armed with an arsenal of factual missiles, he showed that life on Earth was getting better, and that the combination of free markets and human ingenuity was the recipe for solving environmental and economic problems. Mr. Ehrlich, in response, said Simon proved that the one thing the world isn't running out of "is lunatics."

Mr. Ehrlich, whose every prediction turned out wrong, won a MacArthur Foundation "genius award"; Simon, who got the story right, never won so much as a McDonald's hamburger. But now who looks like the lunatic? This latest survey of the planet is certainly sweet vindication of Simon and others, like Herman Kahn, who in the 1970s dared challenge the "settled science." (Are you listening, global-warming alarmists?)

It's also a time of unprecedented world peace, as one would expect of a hyperpower era in which that power is as benign as America.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:46 AM


Forward to Cracks in the Foundation: Leadership Schisms in al-Qa’ida from 1989-2006 (LTC Joseph H. Felter, Ph.D, Director, Combating Terrorism Center)

The near-term goals of al-Qa’ida today are well known: force the US to withdraw from the Middle East and establish Islamic states in the region. Its general strategy is similarly well known: provoke the US into committing ground forces to the region, thereby exhausting its will to remain. But these goals and strategy have evolved over time and are as much a product of circumstances and al-Qa’ida infighting as they are of deliberate planning.

Drawing on newly-declassified al-Qa’ida internal communications from the Defense Department’s Harmony Database, Vahid Brown and his colleagues at the Combating Terrorism Center (CTC) have chronicled the emergence of two factions in al-Qa’ida: the planners and the propagandists. Each employed different strategies to achieve their common overarching goals. The first faction was committed to building an effective guerrilla organization and attacking the West in ways similar to other irregular military organizations engaged in asymmetric conflict. In contrast, the second faction wanted to establish al-Qa’ida as a global brand, a battle standard that could inspire and unify groups around the world engaged in violent Islamist resistance.

US policy toward al-Qa’ida after 9/11 placed a premium on diminishing the capabilities of the first faction. Thus, US-led efforts have achieved notable success capturing and killing al-Qa’ida’s leaders and operatives, crippling its organizational structure, and degrading its ability to coordinate terrorist attacks worldwide. As this report points out, however, al-Qa’ida’s real strength has never been as a guerrilla fighting force; rather its strength comes from its ability to transform the local concerns of Islamist activists into what this report describes as “a unifying vision of apocalyptic inter-civilizational conflict”. Because these capabilities and their proponents are still in place, al-Qa`ida continues to achieve success.

Effective counterterrorism must better address these capabilities. The tools and prescriptions needed to do so will fall largely outside the realm of the military options that have done so well against the first faction. Eroding al-Qa’ida’s brand appeal—reducing its share of the ideological marketplace —will require innovative and multi-lateral approaches with the US hand rarely seen or suspected. Furthermore, greater efforts have to be made to degrade its media distribution organs. Finally, aggressive targeting of al-Qa’ida’s senior leaders must continue and will complement efforts to limit its brand appeal. As this report articulates, Usama Bin Ladin and Ayman al-Zawahiri are the incarnation of al-Qa’ida’s brand and each new image of them only serves to reinforce the brand’s invincibility. Thus, capturing or killing these iconic senior al-Qa’ida leaders will undermine al-Qa’ida’s emblematic appeal and help delegitimize the extremist ideology they are selling to the Muslim world.

...when folks are laughing at the guy in the fake beard you use in your videos?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:44 AM


More doctors in Texas after malpractice caps (Ralph Blumenthal, October 5, 2007, NY Times)

In Texas, it can be a long wait for a doctor: up to six months.

That is not for an appointment. That is the time it can take the Texas Medical Board to process applications to practice.

Four years after Texas voters approved a constitutional amendment limiting awards in medical malpractice lawsuits, doctors are responding as supporters predicted, arriving from all parts of the country to swell the ranks of specialists at Texas hospitals and bring professional health care to some long-underserved rural areas.

The influx, raising the state's abysmally low ranking in physicians per capita, has flooded the medical board's offices in Austin with applications for licenses, close to 2,500 at last count.

"It was hard to believe at first; we thought it was a spike," said Dr. Donald Patrick, executive director of the medical board and a neurosurgeon and lawyer. But Patrick said the trend — licenses up 18 percent since 2003, when the damage caps were enacted — has held, with an even sharper jump of 30 percent in the last fiscal year, compared with the year before.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:38 AM


US employment outlook brightens (BBC, 11/05/07)

The US created more jobs last month than expected while revised figures showed the labour market was stronger in August than first thought.

The US Labor Department said the economy added 110,000 new jobs in September, higher than the 100,000 figure predicted by economists.

And rather than shedding 4,000 jobs in August as initially estimated, 89,000 new jobs were actually created.

Jobs data is seen as a key indicator of the health of the US economy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:46 AM


India holds key in NATO's world view (M K Bhadrakumar, 10/06/07, Asia Times)

NATO's future role in the Indian Ocean forms part of a well-thought Western strategy. NATO's naval mission to the Indian Ocean in September coincided with another major initiative by Washington. The newly created Africa Command (AFRICOM) of the US military, reflecting the long-term strategic value of Africa, is poised to begin its initial operations in October.

The newly appointed AFRICOM commander, General William E "Kip" Ward, has stressed the "need for close coordination" with NATO. Indeed, since July 2005, NATO has provided air transport for peacekeeping forces in Darfur. But Ward anticipates a deeper and vastly expanded NATO involvement in Africa.

He said last week, "AFRICOM could assist NATO efforts on the African continent by ensuring close coordination of US contributions and capabilities to NATO operations and training. NATO is uniquely suited to allow AFRICOM access to European interests and capabilities and experience on the African continent ... AFRICOM can provide logistical support to NATO, professional military training and engagement in conjunction with and other security operation and outreach efforts."

AFRICOM's "command tasks" are profound. As a senior US official put it, they are not about "searching for militants in lawless or ungoverned areas" or about "chasing terrorists around Africa"; rather, they include among other things "conducting region-wide security operations" and "if necessary, conducting military operations".

Significantly, on September 20, Washington pressed ahead with a resolution in the United Nations Security Council on Afghanistan with a new element - the US-led coalition's Operation Enduring Freedom maritime interception component.

Russia pointed out that such a blanket provision giving the right of maritime interception did not appear in any of the previous Security Council resolutions on Afghanistan or any conflict situation for that matter. Russia sought clarification, and proposed that instead of blanket permission, the resolution should "reflect the imperative observance of international law and national legislation in carrying out any actions involving interception of ships in the Indian Ocean's waters". However, Russian concerns were ignored and the US pressed for a vote.

The new provision effectively gives the US-led coalition in Afghanistan the right to intercept and board vessels suspected of carrying arms or reinforcements for terror groups that operate in the Pakistan-Afghanistan border areas. It serves the purpose of legitimizing NATO's future maritime activities in the Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea - an ominous development against the background of the US's standoff with Iran.

At the same time, NATO's Mediterranean Dialogue (1995) and the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative or ICI (2004) have already brought the alliance from the eastern Mediterranean to the Persian Gulf region.

To counterbalance this Axis of Good the PRC has its partnerships with North Korea and Myanmar and al Qaeda has no state sponsors.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:38 AM


The value of free (Julian Joyce, 10/05/07, BBC Magazine)

Artists and companies are queuing up to hand out free CDs, DVDs and books. But with so much stuff being given away, is culture becoming devalued?

Prince has done it. Most of the national newspapers seem to do it every day.

Give stuff away for free, that is. And not just any old thing. Quality stuff you'd pay good money for in a shop.

The latest cultural philanthropists are Radiohead, who will release their next album as a digital download. In an unusual move for a major band, fans are being allowed to pay what they like. Even bids as low as a single penny - plus a 45p transaction fee - are accepted.

Other popular artists - like Prince and the Charlatans - are giving away their albums.

Outside the music industry, rival media groups are slugging it out for a share of the growing free newspaper market. Londoners can avail themselves of a free weekly sport magazine and the latest venture in this vein is a free men's magazine, distributed nationally to commuters.

Items being given away is the result of changing economics. The stratospheric rise in internet advertising as well as old-media phenomena like newspaper circulation battles, means "content" is increasingly seen as a tool to be used in a battle to obtain money for other things rather than just as an object for sale.

Finally figured out how to use bit torrents a couple months ago and among the many neat things I've found are BBC Radio productions of various mysteries, like Inspector Morse.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:25 AM


Anatomy of a Fabulous Fed Flip-Flop: Bernanke’s major-league monetary makeover changes everything. (Larry Kudlow, 10/05/07, National Review)

Using the Freedom of Information Act, Ken Thomas, researcher and lecturer at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton school, was able to get Bernanke’s calendar of phone calls and meetings at the time the flip-flop occurred. He found that a day after the Fed’s August 7 decision to keep rates steady and maintain a focus on inflation worries, Bernanke received a phone call from Citigroup’s Robert Rubin, the Wall Street powerhouse and former Clinton Treasury secretary. Thomas does not know the content of the Rubin call, but subsequent calls and events suggest that Bernanke rapidly changed his mind on August 8 and 9, after which he began steering the Fed towards a series of massive money additions to the banking system.

According to the Bernanke logs, a 5 p.m. Rubin call on August 8 was followed by a 7:30 a.m. next-day breakfast with Bush Treasury man Henry Paulson and an 11 a.m. meeting with legendary mortgage expert Lou Ranieri. (It was Ranieri who pioneered mortgage-backed securitizations, the very bonds that were collapsing as a result