January 31, 2008

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:33 PM


Blair is dead, long live Blair (Matthew Taylor, 31 January 2008, New Statesman)

Having defined himself against his predecessor, is Gordon Brown now embracing Blair's vision for public services? Matthew Taylor, one-time head of strategy at No 10, detects a conversion in all but name

Plus ça change. Just seven months on from the promise of change, change and more change, an embattled Downing Street endorses James Purnell's claim that Gordon Brown is "clearly the heir to Blair". Meanwhile, dismayed at inheritance tax cuts and the refusal to nationalise Northern Rock, the left commentariat boils with impotent rage.

...he'd eschew the default governing philosophy of the Anglosphere the past thirty years to return to the failed Second Way?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:30 PM


Obama wants summit with Muslim countries (Reuters, 1/31/08)

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama told a French magazine in an interview that if he wins office, he will hold a summit with Muslim countries to better the United States' image in the world.

"Once I'm elected, I want to organize a summit in the Muslim world, with all the heads of state, to have an honest discussion about ways to bridge the gap that grows every day between Muslims and the West," Thursday's edition of Paris Match quoted Obama as saying.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:13 PM


"We Will Be As a City upon a Hill" (Governor Ronald Reagan (R-CA), Conservative Political Action Conference, Washington, DC, January 25, 1974)

There are three men here tonight I am very proud to introduce. It was a year ago this coming February when this country had its spirits lifted as they have never been lifted in many years. This happened when planes began landing on American soil and in the Philippines, bringing back men who had lived with honor for many miserable years in North Vietnam prisons. Three of those men are here tonight, John McCain, Bill Lawrence and Ed Martin. It is an honor to be here tonight. I am proud that you asked me and I feel more than a little humble in the presence of this distinguished company.

Ronald Reagan: Conservative of the Century (Remarks to the American Conservative Union, May 26, 1999, U.S.Senator John McCain)
Thank you. It is a great privilege to accept this award on behalf of that most eloquent, visionary and steadfast apostle of freedom, President Ronald Reagan and his family.

At the time when Ronald Reagan began his presidency, there were few who shared his remarkable confidence that a new age of freedom was upon us, when the rights of man would be ascendant in many of the darkest reaches of tyranny. For most of us who fought in the twilight struggle against communism, the prospect of victory seemed a long distance off.

But Ronald Reagan didn’t see it that way. He didn’t believe in walls. That was his genius.

Seven years before that grotesque impediment to liberty—the Berlin Wall—was breached by the stronger forces of human yearning, Ronald Reagan predicted to a skeptical world the inevitable triumph of freedom.

“Let us be shy no longer,” he encouraged. “Let us go to our strength. Let us offer hope. Let us tell the world that a new age is not only possible but probable.”

Ronald Reagan was a proud Cold Warrior; proud to be an enemy of the forces he justly denounced as evil. But being an anti-Communist was never enough for him. He knew that America’s efforts to help humanity secure the blessings of liberty are what truly distinguish us from all other nations on earth. He knew it was necessary to defeat communism to protect ourselves. But he also fought communism because it threatened America’s sublime legacy to the world.

That doesn’t mean that we have to risk lives and resources needlessly, lurching ineffectually from one crisis to another. But it does mean that we should defend our interests and values when they are threatened; that strength and courage should be the qualities of our statecraft; that we should make our way in this complex and dangerous world as President Reagan did: sure of ourselves, firm in our purpose and proud of our heritage.

When I was a prisoner-of-war, the Vietnamese went to great lengths to restrict the news from home to the statements and activities of prominent opponents to the war. They wanted us to believe that America had forgotten us. They never mentioned Ronald Reagan to us, or played his speeches over the camp loudspeakers. No matter. We knew about him. New additions to our ranks told us how Governor and Mrs. Reagan were committed to our liberation and our cause.

When we came home we were eager to meet the Reagans to thank them for their concern. But more than gratitude drew us to them. We were drawn to them because they were among the few prominent Americans who did not subscribe to the then fashionable notion that America had entered her inevitable decline.

We came home to a country that had lost a war and the best sense of itself; a country beset by social and economic problems. Assassinations, riots, scandals, contempt for political, religious and educational institutions gave the appearance that we had become a dysfunctional society. Patriotism was sneered at. The military scorned. And the world anticipated the collapse of our global influence. The great, robust, missionary democracy that had given its name to the century seemed exhausted.

Ronald Reagan believed differently. He possessed an unshakable faith in America’s spirit and greatness that proved more durable than the prevailing political sentiments of the time. And his confidence was a tonic to men who had come home eager to put the war behind us and for the country to do likewise.

Our country has a long and honorable history. A lost war or any other calamity should not destroy our confidence or weaken our purpose. We were a good country before Vietnam and we are a good country after Vietnam. In all of history, you cannot find a better one. Of that, Ronald Reagan was supremely confident, and he became President to prove it.

His was a faith that shouted at tyrants to “tear down this wall.” Such faith, such patriotism requires a great deal of courage and love to profess. And I will always revere him for it.

When walls were all I had for a world, I learned about a man whose courage and love gave me hope in a desolate place. His faith honored us, as it honored all Americans, as it honored all freedom-loving people. It is good that we honor him as the conservative who played such an important role in shaping the best part of the century we now take our leave from.

On behalf of the Reagan family, I thank you for this wonderful tribute to the President. But let all of our tributes to him always find their best expression in our own fidelity to his faith, the faith that could not abide walls.

Thank you.

Some men make the history of conservatism in America, others snipe at them from the sidelines about their supposed impurities.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:47 PM


Proud to Be a Footnote (Robert Ferrigno, 1/30/08)

Canada has universal health care but not the First Amendment protection afforded US citizens. Me, I’m self-insured and paid enough for shoulder surgery last year to buy a Prius, but I’ll take the First Amendment any day. I suspect so would Mark Steyn, an incisive thinker and fearless essayist who lives in the US, but publishes a regular column in the Canadian magazine, Maclean’s. That’s where the trouble started.

On Wed, Dec 5, 2007, four Muslim students at Toronto's Osgoode Hall Law School, and the Canadian Islamic Congress (CIC), filed a complaint with the Canadian Human Rights Commission, accusing Steyn and Maclean’s of violating their "sense of dignity and self-worth”. My sense of dignity and self-worth is harmed every time I see the six-pack abs on the guy in the Bowflex ads on TV. Who do I sue? While the particular flash point for the CIC was Steyn’s article “The Future Belongs to Islam," an excerpt from his best selling book America Alone: The End of the World As We Know It, the full complaint made clear that it was Steyn’s body of work that was on trial.

I first became aware of the situation when a Canadian reader emailed me with the news that not only was Steyn being charged by the Human Rights Commission, but in the documentation against him was his very positive review of my previous novel, Prayers for the Assassin. Steyn's praise for Prayers, a book written by a “recognized Islamophobe” according to the CIC, was further evidence of his prejudice against Muslims. For the record, I am neither Islamophobic nor recognized.

It gets better--apparently views that the complaint attributes to Mr. Steyn actually come from his summation of the plot of the novel.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:36 PM


In McCain, Voters Force a Winner on the GOP (Susan Estrich, 1/31/08, Reral Clear Politics)

I have to hand it to the Republicans. They might not want the hand, but they deserve it. If things continue the way they’ve gone, they’re on the verge of nominating the candidate many of them like least and many of my friends like most as their nominee for president.

Which is to say, they’ve done the right thing, right if you care about winning, that is, not to mention the country’s best interest, as opposed to ideological purity.

...is you always end up seeming smart in the long run.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:32 PM


Iraq: Dems' Dreams Dashed?: When the Democrats took back Congress they promised a "new direction" in Iraq. What happened? (Nick Baumann, January 31, 2008, Mother Jones)

There are more American troops in Iraq today than when the Democrats assumed the majority in Congress. On Monday, the Pentagon announced that the president will ask Congress next week for another $70 billion to fund the war through his last day in office. And the administration has signaled that it may seek to enter a long-term security agreement with Iraq, which could lay the groundwork for a military commitment that extends beyond the Bush presidency. Also on Monday, Bush issued a presidential "signing statement" indicating that the White House may ignore provisions included in a recently passed defense authorization bill, among them a measure prohibiting permanent American bases in Iraq.

In July, Lee Hamilton, the former Democratic congressman and co-chair of the Iraq Study Group, predicted that "the Democrats are not going to stop the war." It's becoming increasingly clear that he was right. The Associated Press reported on Monday that Democrats are reluctant to begin debate on the $70 billion spending bill because they don't have the votes to bring the troops home. To stop the war, the Democrats could filibuster funding for the troops. But a majority of congressional Democrats have balked at resorting to this "nuclear option."

Without a legislative exit strategy, Democratic leaders in Congress still insist that Iraq remains a priority. Jim Manley, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, says, "both the Speaker and Senator Reid are committed to try to force a change in policy." But he concedes that congressional leaders remain "a bit surprised that the Republicans, especially in the Senate, stuck to the President this far." It is possible that vulnerable Republicans who are up for reelection this November will change their positions on the war. But as American casualties in Iraq have fallen in recent months, Republican pro-war rhetoric has grown more strident, not less so.

Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.), co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and a leading anti-war Democrat, said this week that despite the obvious political obstacles, the Democrats should not cease efforts to end the war. "Of course, we have to have a Democratic president if we want the troops home at all," she said. "But we cannot stop the [antiwar] drumbeat because that would be irresponsible. . .We have a responsibility, and that is to talk about this, and remind people that it's going on. They've got to know that members of Congress 'get it' and care."

It's not a big deal that the Left didn't understand Iraq, they're too self-absorbed to understand why Communism and Islamicism don't appeal to people. But it ought to embarrass them that they didn't get how their own Republic works. They can't end the war for the same reason W couldn't get SS reform.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:29 PM


Democrats in Senate short of votes for stimulus bill (David M. Herszenhorn, January 31, 2008, IHT)

Senate Democratic leaders said on Thursday that they were short of the 60 votes needed to advance their own $157 billion economic stimulus package and would have no choice but to adopt a less expensive plan approved by the House.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:20 PM


All Blue Eyed People Related to Brad Pitt (Andrew Curry, 1/31/08, Der Spiegel)

According to a new paper by a Danish researcher, blue eyes come as the result of a single mutation that occurred 10,000 years ago. Which means that all people with blue peepers have a common ancestor. [...]

The paper, published Thursday by Danish geneticist Hans Eiberg in the journal Human Genetics, links all baby blues to a single mutation that occurred 10,000 years ago.

Adaptive Plasticity in Female Mate Choice Dampens Sexual Selection on Male Ornaments in the Lark Bunting (Alexis S. Chaine and Bruce E. Lyon, Science)
Theory on the evolution of ornamental male traits by sexual selection assumes consistency in selection over time. Temporal variation in female choice could dampen sexual selection, but scant information exists on the degree to which individual female preferences are flexible. Here we show that in lark buntings sexual selection on male traits varied dramatically across years and, in some cases, exhibited reversals in the direction of selection for a single trait. We show that these shifts are probably because of flexibility in mate choice by individual females...

There's no such thing as natural selection, just aesthetics.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:06 PM


Perry to endorse McCain (Andy Merten, 1/31/08, NBC: First Read)

As he continues to rack up high-profile Republican endorsements, John McCain today told reporters that Texas Gov. Rick Perry will endorse him this afternoon.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:03 PM


Is Obama the most liberal senator? (Mark Murray, 1/31/08, NBC: First Read)

National Journal magazine is reporting that Obama was the most liberal senator of 2007, according to the vote ratings it does every year for members of Congress. Clinton, meanwhile, ranks as the 16th most-liberal senator.

Since I've been of voting age the Democrats have served up: Jimmy Carter; Walter Mondale; Mike Dukakis, Al Gore; and John Kerry. But I still don't think the GOP is so lucky that they'll give us Barack Obama this time. It would just be too easy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:58 PM


Top al-Qaeda leader reported dead (BBC, 1/31/08)

A senior al-Qaeda leader in Afghanistan, Abu Laith al-Libi, has been killed, senior Western counter-terrorism officials say.

News of Libi's death first emerged on a website used by Islamist groups.

The website, ekhlaas.org, said Libi had "fallen as a martyr", the Reuters news agency reports.

Our martyrs die publicly proclaiming the Word. Theirs die huddled in dirt shacks and caves or in the act of mass murder.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:55 PM


Jeter captains Turn 2 Foundation event (Doug Miller, 1/31/08, MLB.com)

...but you can hardly expect him to call it the E-6 FOUNDATION (with its Manos de Piedra branch in Latin America...)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:43 PM


Romney to reach into pocket, make 'significant' Feb. 5 buy (Jonathan Martin, 1/31/08, Politico)

Mitt Romney has decided to pour more of his own fortune into his presidential campaign and will go up on TV in California and other Super Tuesday states.

"Romney for President will be making a significant ad buy in California and other Feb. 5 states," spokesman Matt Rhoades said this morning.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:40 AM


French morale hits a new low (Henry Samuel, 31/01/2008, Daily Telegraph)

[T]he real reasons are to be found deep in the French psyche, according to Gerard Mermet, a sociologist who publishes a highly respected study on the national state of mind every two years.

"Collective pessimism is engraved in French culture. We are regularly found to be the most pessimistic nation in Europe", he told The Daily Telegraph.

In his work Francoscopie 2007, he suggests that France now suffers collectively form of "hypochondria" because it knowingly plays up its economic and social ills, while glossing over its strengths.

However, the gloom had reached new depths since Mr Sarkozy's election - after a bright start - because of his attempts to reduce the overbearing role of the state.

They're conditioned to feel needy and their only support is being kicked out from under them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:51 AM


Bush asserts authority to bypass defense act (Charlie Savage, January 30, 2008, Boston Globe)

President Bush this week declared that he has the power to bypass four laws, including a prohibition against using federal funds to establish permanent US military bases in Iraq, that Congress passed as part of a new defense bill.

Bush made the assertion in a signing statement that he issued late Monday after signing the National Defense Authorization Act for 2008. In the signing statement, Bush asserted that four sections of the bill unconstitutionally infringe on his powers, and so the executive branch is not bound to obey them.

"Provisions of the act . . . purport to impose requirements that could inhibit the president's ability to carry out his constitutional obligations to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, to protect national security, to supervise the executive branch, and to execute his authority as commander in chief," Bush said. "The executive branch shall construe such provisions in a manner consistent with the constitutional authority of the President." [...]

"I reject the notion in his signing statement that he can pick and choose which provisions of this law to execute," said Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California. "His job, under the Constitution, is to faithfully execute the law - every part of it - and I expect him to do just that."

Article II, Section I of the U.S. Constitution
"I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."

The ntion that the Constitution requires him to behave in an unConstitutional manner is bizarre, even from a San Franciscan.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:44 AM


Terror Leader Killed in Missile Strike?: U.S. Official Confirms Attack Was Aimed at One Particular AQ Leader (HABIBULLAH KHAN and MARTHA RADDATZ, Jan. 30, 2008, ABC News)

Pakistani intelligence sources say they believe a "high-value" al Qaeda target was killed in a missile strike yesterday in the country's tribal region bordering Afghanistan.

U.S. officials said there was no indication that the target was Osama bin Laden or his deputy Ayman al Zawahri, but one senior official told ABCNews.com the strike was aimed at one particular figure.

"We don't know whether we got him yet, we are sorting through it," the official said, indicating the intended target was a top leader of the terror group.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:40 AM


Avoiding the Competition Cost Rudy (Maggie Gallagher, 1/31/08, Real Clear Politics)

But I think Rudy made a more fundamental error for a leader: He believed his own press clippings.

He was America's Mayor, with a powerful lead in early national polls -- the only guy who could get the GOP to play deep in blue territory: New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, New Hampshire.

New Hampshire?

The first big chink in his shining armor was the strategic decision to withdraw from a serious fight for votes in New Hampshire. He tried to play this as a bold new strategy for a bold new era. And we could understand his decision to skip Iowa. But why is it America's Mayor couldn't compete in the Granite State? Things went rapidly downhill from there. For a man who loves competition, he avoided just too many chances to compete.

He never had any intention of running, he just wanted to stand on a balcony and be applauded.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:34 AM


Candidates finally see promise of Latino vote (Gebe Martinez, Jan 31, 2008, Politico)

In Florida, the state with the third-largest number of Hispanic voters, Arizona Sen. John McCain had a big Republican primary win against former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, largely by taking half of the Cuban-American vote, with only 10 percent for Romney.

Among Hispanics who are not Cuban-American, McCain won 51 percent, compared with Romney’s 21 percent.

McCain’s bipartisan plan for earned citizenship for most illegal immigrants now in the United States was not as radioactive as Romney hoped it would be, with only four out of 10 Republican voters favoring deporting illegal immigrants to their country of origin, according to Florida polling.

The real importance of John McCain or Mike Huckabee being nominated this year was that they were the two most pro-immigration candidates and the Party can ill afford to drive away a natural constituency. If Barack Obama is the Democratic nominee this could be the election that turns the Red party brown, especially since Jeb is next.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:28 AM


Endorsements bring a new head of steam: McCain, on a roll, wins the support of Giuliani and Schwarzenegger. (Mark Z. Barabak, Michael Finnegan and Evan Halper, 1/31/08, Los Angeles Times)

John McCain sought to fasten his grip on the Republican presidential nomination Wed- nesday by securing high-profile endorsements from erstwhile rival Rudolph W. Giuliani and, in a reversal of his promised neutrality, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Former New York City Mayor Giuliani, who spent months atop national polls but never finished better than third in any contest, quit the race at a Simi Valley news conference, where he hailed the Arizona senator as a friend and an "American hero."

"John McCain is the most qualified candidate to be the next commander in chief of the United States," Giuliani said, as McCain stood next to him. [...]

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney planned to focus on caucus states where he could apply his organizational prowess.

The Governor wisely recognizes he can't contend for actual votes.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:20 AM


Some Conservatives Make Last-Ditch Bid To Block McCain (JOSH GERSTEIN, January 31, 2008, NY Sun)

A popular talk radio host who has vocally opposed Mr. McCain in recent weeks, Rush Limbaugh, sounded resigned yesterday to the prospect that the Arizona senator will be the Republican nominee. "It looks like McCain's pretty far down the line now to having wrapped this up," Mr. Limbaugh said on his program.

"There's a lot of anxiety among a lot of conservatives about Senator McCain. It's simply indisputable, but there was no figure in our roster of candidates who rose up to challenge him or to galvanize conservative support. All the candidates on our side, for various reasons, are uninspiring or worse, and so, just as I predicted, the base has fractured."

When you passionately hate the most popular candidate -- only candidate on either side who has higher positive than negative ratings -- the problem is you, not him. Like the Left of the 70s, Rush and company have been co-opted by Washington and have their heads so far up the Beltway they can't see America. The view from a padded booth can't help but be omphaloskeptical.

January 30, 2008

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:15 PM


Romney Not Ready to Commit to Big TV Buys (DAVID ESPO, 1/30/08, AP)

In a major boost for John McCain, Republican presidential rival Mitt Romney signaled Wednesday he's not ready to commit to a costly campaign in the states holding primaries and caucuses next week.

How about putting the party first--for once--and dropping out?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:06 PM


Schwarzenegger to back McCain (The Associated Press, Jan 30, 2008)

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger will endorse John McCain on Thursday, giving a certain boost to the Republican presidential front-runner six days before California's high-prize primary.

The two will appear at a news conference after touring a Los Angeles-based solar energy company and the governor will make his endorsement official, his senior aides confirmed Wednesday.

Soon the Beltway Right will tell us why this is actually a bad thing for Mr. McCain.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:32 PM


McCormack: Delegate Math (John McCormack, 1/30/08, Campaign Standard)

McCain's greatest advantage lies in the states that award all of their delegates - 373 in all - to the winner of the statewide popular vote: Arizona (53), Connecticut (30), Delaware (18), Missouri (58), Montana (25), New Jersey (52), New York (101), and Utah (36).

Polls have shown McCain leading in all of these states, except Utah where Romney is up big, Delaware where Giuliani was ahead, and Montana where caucusgoers haven't been polled.

...from the folks who swore Mitt's delegate lead was important.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:12 PM


Wal-Mart cuts costs even deeper (Nate Legue, 1/29/08, BusinessRockford.com)

The world’s largest retailer will slash prices by 10 percent to 30 percent in a bid to lure shoppers amid worries about a flagging U.S. economy.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. announced Monday its plan to cut costs for groceries and other items in response to the government’s economic stimulus plan and in advance of Super Bowl weekend.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:48 PM


McCainomics Beats Reaganomics (James Pethokoukis, 1/30/08, US News)

One of the interesting tidbits from the Florida GOP exit polls concerned the economy, with 45 percent of Republican voters, according to CNN, ranking it as their most important issue. And even though Mitt "I have the economy in my DNA" Romney stressed the economy as his key issue and promoted himself as an economic expert due to his private-equity—I mean, "venture capital"—background, John McCain won those voters by 40 percent to 32 percent. (And 63 percent, BTW, described the economy as "not so good/poor.") Moreover, exactly half of voters, according to CBS, said they would prefer that the next president place "a higher priority on reducing the budget deficit than on cutting taxes." With those voters, McCain crushed Romney 40 to 27.

By the time Ronald Reagan left office he'd raised taxes so much that the issue regained its salience, then George HW Bush and Bill Clinton both hiked them more. But W has cut them every year of his presidency and never hiked them, so it's not surprising the issue doesn't resonate.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:38 PM


Fed Cuts Interest Rates by 1/2 Point (MARTIN CRUTSINGER, 1/30/08, The Associated Press)

The Federal Reserve on Wednesday cut a key interest rate for the second time in just over a week, reducing the federal funds rate by a half point. It signaled that further rate cuts were possible. [...]

Many analysts believed the Fed would quickly follow last week's aggressive move with a cut of at least a half-point at its first regular meeting of the new year. That view gained support on Wednesday hours before the Fed announcement, when the government reported that the total economy slowed to a barely discernible 0.6 percent growth rate in the final three months of last year.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:18 PM


After Appomattox (DAVID W. BLIGHT, January 30, 2008, NY Sun)

For most Americans it is all but impossible to imagine a time when murder, torture, and intimidation — terrorism — determined our own elections.

But in the election violence of 1868–1876 during Reconstruction, we can find a homegrown brand of American terrorism that forever mars America's claims as a political model for the world. We have come a long way from the success of the "Red Shirts" in using terror to overthrow Reconstruction and black political liberty in South Carolina in 1876 to the victory of Barack Obama in that state's Democratic presidential primary this month.

I don't get it. Aren't we all the more a model because we overcame exactly the sorts of violent ethnic divisions that supposedly make other states unsuitable for democracy?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:40 PM


American Teachers: What values do they hold? (Robert Slater, Winter 2008, Eduction Next)

Over the last four decades, Americans in general have grown more tolerant of homosexuality. In the 1970s, 13 percent of nonteachers said there is nothing wrong with homosexuality. By 2006, 32 percent of them felt this way. During the 1970s, 18 percent of teachers also saw nothing wrong with it. By 2006, about a third saw nothing wrong with it; there was no significant difference between the two groups. If we control for education, however, we find that in each of the four decades, teachers are from 10 to 15 percentage points less likely than other Americans with 16 or more years of schooling to see nothing wrong with homosexuality (see Figure 2).

About 60 percent of teachers and an equal proportion of other Americans say they are opposed to legalized abortion. Analysis of the survey data show class, gender, and education are all positively correlated with being in favor of legalized abortion. Americans who place themselves in the middle or upper classes, women, and the more highly educated all tend to favor abortion being legal. But teachers are about 14 percentage points more likely to oppose abortion for any reason than highly educated nonteachers—that is, they are more conservative on the issue.

American teachers tend to be more conservative than other Americans on issues of pornography as well. In 2006, 50 percent of teachers said they would make pornography illegal, while only 38 percent of nonteachers shared this view.The difference between teachers and highly educated nonteachers is even greater: only 29 percent of nonteachers would make pornography illegal.


God and religion play an important role in the lives of more than half of all Americans. In a study conducted by the European Values Study Group and World Values Survey Association, 58 percent of the U.S. population said that God was very important in their lives, a greater percentage by far than in the populations of other developed countries such as Great Britain (14 percent), France (8), Italy (33), Japan (7), Spain (17), or Germany (9).

Religion and education have always had a close relationship in the United States. The country’s first institution of higher education,Harvard College, was established in 1636 to train ministers. Many of the country’s first teachers were ministers and parsons. Even when women came to dominate the teaching field, religious values were still a priority. We should not be surprised if elementary and secondary school teachers value religion highly, perhaps even more highly than Americans in general. But do they?

According to the NORC survey data from the current decade, about 37 percent of teachers say they attend church one or more times per week,while 26 percent of other Americans say they do so. Controlling for the education of nonteachers does not affect this difference. Of those nonteachers with 16 or more years of schooling, 28 percent regularly attend church.

Looking at the data across the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s,we find that teachers are about 9 to 11 percentage points more likely than other Americans as a whole to pray one or more times per day. During the 1980s and 1990s, Americans were asked how close they felt to God. Teachers were about 8 percentage points more likely than other Americans to report feeling “extremely close” to God.

Why do teachers, by these measures, seem more religious than other Americans? Perhaps the differences are due to gender. Most teachers are women, and women are more likely than men to be frequent churchgoers and more likely to pray one or more times a day. In fact, we find teachers of both genders to be more religious than nonteachers. Female teachers are about 8 percentage points more likely to attend church frequently than female nonteachers, and male teachers are 16 percentage points more likely to attend church frequently than male nonteachers (see Figure 3). Teachers are apparently more religious than other Americans, regardless of gender or education.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:15 AM


Edwards to drop out of presidential race (NEDRA PICKLER, 1/30/08, Associated Press)

Democrat John Edwards is exiting the presidential race today, ending a scrappy underdog bid in which he steered his rivals toward progressive ideals while grappling with family hardship that roused voter's sympathies but never diverted his campaign, The Associated Press has learned.

Tuesday was a bad hair day.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:07 AM


For McCain, Momentum That May Be Hard to Stop (Dan Balz, 1/30/08, Washington Post)

Strategists noted that Romney's tenacity and ability to write a check from his personal fortune to keep his campaign going make him a formidable opponent, but the landscape appears stacked against him -- beginning with the aftershocks from Tuesday's results.

Romney will probably receive support from parts of the party's conservative base, which has never warmed to McCain and now has perhaps one final chance to stop him. But McCain will benefit from other developments in Florida.

Tuesday's primary eliminated from serious contention former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, who stunned his rivals by winning the Iowa caucuses 26 days ago, and former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, long the national front-runner until he dramatically faded over the past two months.

Giuliani is set to quit the race and endorse McCain before Wednesday's debate at the Ronald Reagan presidential library in California. Huckabee said he will remain in, and by doing so will help McCain by frustrating Romney's efforts to attract more of the conservative votes he needs to overtake the front-runner.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:05 AM


America still works: The US economy is slowing down, but the long-term trends for the country are more favourable than many think. There has also been a sharp improvement in many of America's social pathologies, such as violent crime and drug abuse (Michael Lind, February 2008, Prospect)

Anyone who reads the serious press about the condition of the US might be excused for believing that the country is headed towards a series of deep crises. This impression is exacerbated by economic slowdown and by the presidential primaries, in which candidates announce bold plans to rescue the country from disaster. But even in more normal times there are three ubiquitous myths about America that make the country seem weaker and more chaotic than it really is. The first myth, which is mainly a conservative one, is that racial and ethnic rivalries are tearing America apart. The second myth, which is mainly a liberal one, is that America will soon be overwhelmed by religious fundamentalists. The third myth, an economic one beloved of centrists, is that the retirement of the baby boomers will bankrupt the country because of runaway social security entitlement costs.

America does, of course, have many problems, such as spiralling healthcare costs and a decline in social mobility. Yet the truth is that apart from the temporary frictions caused by current immigration from Latin America, the US is more integrated than ever. Racial and cultural diversity is in long-term decline, as a result of the success of the melting pot in merging groups through assimilation and intermarriage—and many of the country's infamous social pathologies, from violent crime to teenage drug use, are also seeing improvements. Americans are far more religious than Europeans, but the "religious right" is concentrated among white southern Protestants. And there is no genuine long-term entitlement problem in the US. The US suffers from healthcare cost inflation, a problem that will be solved one way or another in the near future, long before it cripples the economy as a whole. And the long-term costs of social security, America's public pension programme, could be met by moderate benefit cuts or a moderate growth in the US government share of GDP. With a linguistically united, increasingly racially mixed supermajority and a solvent system of middle-class entitlements, the US will remain first among equals for generations to come, even in a multipolar world with several great powers. [...]

In comparison with the problem of healthcare cost inflation, the alleged crisis of social security is puny. Claims of a "crisis" revolve around two dates: 2017, when the social security surplus runs out and the programme becomes a pure pay-as-you-go system based on annual payroll taxation; and 2041, when payroll tax revenues fall short of expenditures. Even in 2041, social security will be able to pay most of its obligations. The crisis, then, is nothing more than the fact that taxes will have to be raised or benefits cut before 2041 in order to supplement a mostly sound system. (Great confusion is spread by the phrase "unfunded liabilities." The only programmes with "unfunded liabilities" are those, like social security, paid for by dedicated taxes, in this case a payroll tax. This permits calculations of future divergences between dedicated tax revenues and expenditures. The Pentagon budget is paid from general tax, so the concept is inapplicable.)

The use of dates like 2017 and 2041, moreover, gives a specious precision to claims that in fact are extremely dubious. This is underlined by the fact that the US government regularly revises the date of the alleged social security apocalypse, as it reconsiders its assumptions. The "intermediate" calculations on which current estimates are based are almost certainly unrealistic. They assume a low rate of productivity growth in the US over the next half century of 1.7 per cent. This is only slightly higher than the average of 1.5 per cent in the long period of low productivity growth from 1973 to 1995. But from 1996 to 2006, US productivity growth boomed at an annual rate of between 2 and 3 per cent in most years. Productivity growth slowed after 2004, but surged ahead in the last quarter at 6.3 per cent. Nobody knows whether the resumption of high productivity growth in the last decade was a blip or the beginning of a new pattern. The point is that if US productivity grows at a rate near the historic average of 1945-2008, the picture for the solvency of social security is much brighter. (This is not the place for a full discussion of economic prospects, but it is worth noting that US industrial output rose nearly 35 per cent in the past ten years, faster than any other G7 country.)

Moreover, what the doomsayers neglect to tell the public is that if the cap on the amount of income subject to payroll taxation were lifted, the result would be such a flood of money from high earners that the problems of social security would be solved forever. And even if payroll taxes were raised on all workers, as a result of productivity growth the average earner in 2050 may well have wages that in real terms are at least 60 per cent higher than today's.

It is possible, and in my opinion likely, that in the future congress will choose to infuse general revenues into the social security system, as an alternative to raising payroll taxes on all workers. If that is the case, then the only question is whether social security is affordable. The answer is clearly yes. The share of government at all levels as a percentage of GDP is lower than that in almost all other industrial democracies. In the US, government expenditure at all levels—federal, state and local—as a share of GDP hovers just above 30 per cent (despite spending a staggering $626bn on military-related costs in 2007, over 22 per cent of the federal budget). By comparison, the EU-25 average was 47 per cent in 2005. An additional 2 per cent of GDP can be added to social security over the next half century without altering America's position as one of the least statist economies in the world.

It's nice to see Mr. Lind is back on his meds, even if only temporarily and even if it doesn't make up for his past ravings.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:43 AM


After Romney's Barrage, McCain Stands Tall (Jonathan Weisman and Paul Kane, 1/30/08, Washington Post)

[L]ast night, the senator from Arizona emerged from that negative onslaught a survivor. In money and message, Romney threw all he could at McCain in a bruising week in Florida, but it did not prove to be enough.

"You don't want to say it doesn't get you anything because a lot of campaigns are won on negativity," said John Weaver, a longtime political adviser to McCain. "But if Romney wasn't born on third base, if he had to campaign and fundraise like everyone else, I'm sure he wouldn't be here anymore."

The Republicans' swing through Florida was a watershed. Not only was it the first big state of the presidential nomination fight, but it was also the first state that looked like the United States at large, with all its ethnic, religious and racial diversity, its economic haves and have-nots, and the sheer scale of its political universe.

The GOP could have its unifier: McCain's victory in Florida shows that he may be able to cobble together a new type of coalition. (Peter Wallsten, 1/30/08, Los Angeles Times)
The Arizona senator, long the bane of the GOP establishment, showed in Florida that he could begin cobbling together a new Republican coalition -- attracting enough support from all corners of the party base to give him a plurality in the biggest and most diverse state to vote so far in the 2008 campaign.

He took about a quarter of conservatives, secured nearly a third of evangelicals, dominated among his typical base of self-described moderates, and won easily among voters who care about authenticity, experience and electability.

In winning Florida, McCain threw off a major critique of his candidacy: He prevailed in an all-Republican primary that excluded the more moderate independents who had ensured McCain's wins in New Hampshire and South Carolina.

And in a state plagued by insurance woes, falling home prices and a rising number of foreclosures, he defeated a rival, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who had portrayed himself as the best-equipped to fix the economy.

I have to admit underestimating Mitt Romney's willingness to throw good money after bad, which kept him going this far, but it's hard to see how he can spend enough spread widely enough to stay competitive next Tuesday. So John McCain has wrapped up the nomination before the Super Bowl and the party is racing to fall inline in back of him. Ironically, it is the Democrats who will fix any lingering problems he has with the Right, as they spend the next ten months telling everyone how unacceptably conservative he is.

The Senator's victory speech last night previewed the message that will start to penetrate the miasma of conservative derangement now that he has no foes to the Right:

My friends, in one week we will have as close to a national primary as we have ever had in this country. I intend to win it, and be the nominee of our party. And I intend to do that by making it clear what I stand for. I stand for the principles and policies that first attracted me to the Republican Party when I heard, in whispered conversations and tap codes, about the then Governor of California, who stood by me and my comrades, and who was making quite a reputation for standing by his convictions no matter the changing winds of political thought and popular culture. When I left the Navy and entered public life, I enlisted as a foot soldier in the political revolution he began. And I am as proud to be a Reagan conservative today, as I was then. I trust in the courage, good sense, resourcefulness and decency of the American people, who deserve a government that trusts in their qualities as well, and doesn't abrogate to its elf the responsibilities to do for the people what the people can and want to do for themselves.

We Republicans have always known that the first responsibility of government is to keep this country safe from all enemies foreign and domestic, and the American people unburdened by the heavy hand of government that spends too much of their money on things they neither want nor need, while failing to do as well as we should the things none of us can do individually. Government must defend our nation's security wisely and effectively, because the cost of our defense is so dear to us, measured in losses so hard to bear, and in the heartbreak of so many families. Government must respect our values because they are the true source of our strength; and enforce the rule, which distinguishes successful democracies from failed societies, and is the first defense of freedom. And the judges we appoint to federal benches must understand that is their only responsibility, and leave to elected officials their responsibility to make the laws that they enforce. We believe government should do only those things we cannot do individually, to tax us no more than necessary, and spend no more than necessary, and then get out of the way of the most industrious, ingenious and optimistic people in the history of the world so that they can build an even greater country than the one they inherited.

My friends, as I said the other week in South Carolina, there is nothing in our country that is inevitable. We can overcome any challenge as long as we keep our courage, and stand by the principles that have made our party and our country great. Our party has always been successful when we have, like Ronald Reagan, stood fast by our convictions. And we have only suffered when our allegiance to our principles has not been as steadfast as it should. I intend to make my stand on those principles, and I am confident we will succeed in this contest and in the bigger one in November against anyone the Democratic Party nominates.

Most importantly, I promise you again, I will always put America -- her strength, her ideals, her future -- before every other consideration.

Despite his decades in public life and 8 years in the national spotlight, even few Republicans realize that Mr. McCain was hand-picked for Republican politics by Ronald Reagan. With the field cleared and a free media megaphone big and loud enough that he can drown out the Beltway Right, he can easily run as the Reagan Republican he is.

McCain Disproves the Doubters (ANA MARIE COX, 1/30/08, TIME)

A victory in Florida's closed primary should silence the refrain that has echoed through talk radio and conservative blogs ever since McCain started to claw his way toward the nomination: He's not a "real Republican." Says one McCain staffer: "Maybe after they see his name next to an 'R' in the general election they'll change their minds."

After his win in New Hampshire, critics proclaimed McCain too moderate to win over enough religious conservatives in South Carolina. After his victory there, critics insisted that Romney's millions, superior get-out-the-vote effort, and command of economic issues would erase the slim lead McCain had eked out in Florida. The day after Tuesday's convincing win, McCain's enemies will surely be looking for new ways to frame these same familiar complaints. But a look at the exit polls suggests that many of the assumptions that made McCain's candidacy look shaky from afar have dissolved in the heat of a competitive race.

For all of Romney's private-sector experience, McCain's almost quaint message of fiscal conservatism — he repeats the line "If only we could cut spending" to the point of parody — resonated among the many voters who were looking for answers to Florida's economic slump. Fifty percent of those who turned out Tuesday said that the economy was their most important issue, and McCain won those voters by 38% to 35%. Explains Steve Schmidt, a senior McCain adviser, "People understand the difference between a very good salesman and a commander in chief."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:29 AM


Giuliani looks to be out of the race: He is widely expected to endorse McCain after finishing a distant third in Florida. His unconventional strategy appears to have been his undoing. (Mark Z. Barabak and Louise Roug, 1/30/08, Los Angeles Times)

Giuliani became a national hero -- "America's mayor" -- after his stout-hearted performance on that day.

For a time, with seemingly little effort, he sat atop national opinion polls for the GOP presidential nod.

But Giuliani had the unfortunate effect of growing less popular the more he campaigned -- even though he managed to keep his famously combustible personality under control throughout most of the contest.

For Giuliani, a dizzying free-fall (Michael Powell and Michael Cooper, January 30, 2008, NY Times)
Rudolph Giuliani's campaign for the Republican nomination for president took impressive wing last year, as the former mayor wove the pain experienced by his city on Sept. 11, 2001, and his leadership that followed into national celebrity. Like a best-selling author, he basked in praise for his narrative and issued ominous and often-repeated warnings about the terror strike next time.

Voters seemed to embrace a man so comfortable wielding power, and his poll numbers edged higher to where he held a broad lead over his opponents last summer. Just three months ago, Anthony Carbonetti, Giuliani's affable senior policy adviser, surveyed that field and told The New York Observer: "I don't believe this can be taken from us. Now that I have that locked up, I can go do battle elsewhere."

In fact, Giuliani's campaign was about to begin a free-fall so precipitous as to be breathtaking. Giuliani finished third in the Florida primary on Tuesday night; only a few months earlier, he had talked about the state as his leaping-off point to winning the nomination.

As Giuliani ponders his political mortality, many advisers and political observers point to the hubris and strategic miscalculations that plagued his campaign. He allowed a tight coterie of New York aides, none with national political experience, to run much of his campaign.

...his leading position was never more than a function of name recognition and a neocon and liberal dominated Washington media that could care less about abortion, homosexuality and guns so assumed the flyover country doesn't really care either. There was never any chance that once actual Republican voters found out that he opposed the Party's entire social agenda he could be a viable candidate. When a candidate can not afford the political damage that will be incurred by straightforward press coverage--can't allow people to find out what his positions are--he's not a contender. The only folks who ever took him seriously were those who don't even begin to comprehend the GOP.

The End of Rudy: In the oddest of settings, Giuliani faces defeat (Byron York, 1/30/08, National Review)

When he takes to the stage, shortly after John McCain has been declared the winner, Giuliani doesn’t precisely say he is dropping out of the race. But it’s obvious to everyone, and he begins to talk about his presidential run in the past tense. “We ran a campaign that was uplifting,” Giuliani tells the crowd. “The responsibility of leadership doesn’t end with a single campaign, it goes on and you continue to fight for it.”

“I’m proud that we chose to stay positive and to run a campaign of ideas in an era of personal attacks, negative ads and cynical spin,” Giuliani adds. “You don’t always win, but you can always try to do it right, and you did.”

Those are the words of a man who is out of the race. It’s something everybody saw coming — how could they not? — but no one wants to accept. “I guess I’m praying for — for something,” a woman named Debbie, who drove in from Palm Coast, tells me. She’s originally from Seaford, Long Island and helped run Giuliani’s campaign in Flagler County. “We really don’t know until all the votes are counted,” she says, not believing her own words.

Nearby, five friends — four are ex-New Yorkers — are standing around a table drinking wine. “To Rudy,” one of them says, raising a glass. On the other side of the room, a lifelong Republican named Mary Jane shows me the two-sided sign she made to take to her polling place this morning. DO YOUR DUTY — VOTE FOR RUDY reads one side, which Mary Jane flips over to reveal the other: OMIT MITT. She has been going to Giuliani events, urging him to fix the “notch years” problem with Social Security, in which some people born between 1917 and 1921 receive slightly lower benefits then other seniors. (That includes Mary Jane, who will turn 89 in a couple of months.) I ask her if she supports Giuliani for any other reasons beyond Social Security.

“You’re not going to hate me?” she asks.

“No,” I say.

“Pro-choice,” she confides.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:24 AM


The Stupid Party and the Evil Party (Dinesh D'Souza, 1/30/08, AOL: News)

My mom, who lives in Mumbai, India, has trouble understanding American politics. Recently she asked me to give her a brief summary of what's going on.

I explained, "There are two parties in American politics. There is a stupid party and there is an evil party." [...]

I was kidding, of course, but the humor arises out of the element of truth in this description. Consider the charge of stupidity. Would the Republican Party be in the confused state it is now if Bush had appointed a vice president who was electable and actually sought the nomination?

I'm not saying Bush shouldn't have appointed Cheney the first time around. Cheney inspires irrational and paranoid loathing on the left--he's Darth Vader for the Michael Moore set--and this alone was good reason to keep him reasonably close to the Oval Office, not to mention the nuclear arsenal.

But when Bush ran for re-election, he should have sent Cheney packing. Then the GOP would have an heir apparent who would have an inside track to the nomination and who could claim up-close experience in the responsibilities of governance. If Bush had done this, he would have shown both foresight and concern about the future of the GOP.

Now let's turn to the evil party. What other term is appropriate to describe a party where Ted Kennedy's endorsement is actually counted as a positive?

It is the belief in Evil that makes conservatives--indeed, Americans--Stupid, not the doing of dumb things. Just as it is the lack of faith that makes our betters Bright, though literally unAmerican.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:15 AM


The Base is Wrong About the Gang of 14 (Richard Baehr, 1/30/08, Real Clear Politics)

When conservatives lay out their long list of apostasies committed by John McCain, one of them is always his role in the Gang of 14, the 7 Democrats and 7 Republicans in the Senate who agreed to a judicial compromise in 2005. The deal that was struck eliminated the use of the "nuclear option" by the then-GOP-controlled Senate, and also limited the Democratic minority's ability to use the filibuster to block certain judicial nominees (at the time the deal was stuck, there were no pending Supreme Court nominations, only Appellate Court nominations were being held up).

To put it plainly, the critics of the deal are flat out wrong. Conservatives should thank John McCain and the other Senators who were part of the Gang of 14 for getting three Appeals Court nominees who had been held up, Janice Rogers Brown, William Pryor, and Priscilla Owen, approved quickly and Brett Kavanaugh approved a bit later, and for Samuel Alito making it onto the Supreme Court without a filibuster blocking his way. And they should thank John McCain for preserving for the Republican Party the use of the filibuster on judicial nominations that might be made by a Democratic President beginning in 2009 or later.

,,,is an instance where John McCain was Stupid, while the rightwing talking heads betrayed stupidity.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:02 AM


Are American liberals "nice fascists"?: a review of Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left from Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning by Jonah Goldberg (Richard Bernstein, 1/30/08, NY Times)

Before anybody had heard of Mussolini (who in his early years in power was widely admired by American progressives), [Woodrow] Wilson established the first propaganda ministry, shut newspapers and magazines, encouraged vigilantes and formed dozens of boards to subordinate every aspect of life to the great cause of winning the war to end all wars.

That's a strong argument, because, after all, who would think of the moralistic and well-intentioned Wilson, whose decision to enter World War I was certainly a defensible one, a fascist? But Goldberg's point isn't to liken Wilson to Hitler. Wilson, he understands perfectly well, was entirely different than Hitler, whom he would have despised.

Goldberg's point is rather that a lot of what the American liberal culture takes as good - and he lists a lot of things, from Franklin Delano Roosevelt's Civilian Conservation Corps to Hillary Rodham Clinton's ideas about it taking a village to raise a child - bears a similarity to some of the intellectual underpinnings of fascism.

But is it true, and if it is true, does it matter? Goldberg makes a convincing case that there was indeed a lot in the early, original version of fascism, as practiced by Mussolini in the 16 years before he was more or less taken over by the Nazis, that appealed to American progressives, who saw it as an effective way to mobilize people and get things done.

Goldberg is also insightful and thought-provoking in his treatment of some modern fads, showing their admittedly benign fascist connections. The contemporary cult of organic food, he says, is built on a deep wish to return to an imagined prelapsarian earth where everything was unpolluted and organic and a natural harmony prevailed, not all that different from the vegan Hitler's romantic cult of the organic, authentic Germanic connection with the soil.

But the fact is that it's a long way from eating organic tomatoes to committing genocide, even if Goldberg is right about the overlap between the whole earth cult of today and Germanic romanticism.

Except that fascism isn't genocidal in general. Nazism was and the modern abortionists of the liberal Left are. They're also socialist, which fascists aren't as a rule--consider Franco and Pinochet. Mr. Goldberg's book may be that imprecise about the term, but it's surprising that the always thoughtful Mr. Bernstein is.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Bush's Achievements Larger Than Can Be Understood (Michael Gerson, 1/29/08, Real Clear Politics)

Proposals such as No Child Left Behind, the AIDS and malaria initiatives, and the addition of a prescription drug benefit to Medicare would simply not have come from a traditional conservative politician. They became the agenda of a Republican administration precisely because of Bush's persistent, passionate advocacy. To put it bluntly, these would not have been the priorities of a Cheney administration. [...]

Bush has received little attention or thanks for his compassionate reforms. This is less a reflection on him than on the political challenge of compassionate conservatism. The conservative movement gives the president no credit because they view all these priorities -- foreign assistance, a federal role in education, the expansion of an entitlement -- as heresies, worthy of the stake. Liberals and Democrats offer no praise because a desire to help dying Africans, minority students and low-income seniors does not fit the image of Bush's cruelty they wish to cultivate.

Compassionate conservatism is thus a cause without a constituency -- except for the large-hearted man I first met in 1999 and who, on Monday night, proposed to double global AIDS spending once again.

Which ignores not only the drop in abortions, the ban on embryonic stem cell funding, and the appointment of pro-life judges but the vouchers in NCLB, HSA's, Welfare Reform reauthorization, and the retirement reforms, all of which are integral to compassionate conservatism (the rightwing term for the Third Way). Indeed, only two bits of unfinished business remain: SS Reform, which this president will not get to achieve, and immigration amnesty, which he is not unlikely to effect via the presidential pardon power, as Jimmy Carter pardoned Vietnam deserters.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Homemade Potato Chips (Contra Costa Times, 01/30/2008)

2-3 pounds Kennebec or Russet potatoes

1 gallon peanut oil

Fine salt or seasoning blend

1. Fill a large bowl halfway with cold water. Peel the potatoes and use a mandoline to cut them into uniform slices, about 1/16-inch thick. As you slice, drop the potatoes into the water to rinse off excess starch and prevent oxidation. Add additional water to keep all the slices submerged. Soak the potato slices in the water for 30 minutes. (The slices can be stored, submerged in water, for up to a day in the refrigerator.)

2. When ready to fry, fill a large stock pot or Dutch oven a little over halfway with the oil. Heat the oil to 325 degrees if you like your chips golden, or 375 if you like them extra-brown and caramelized. Use a deep-fry or candy thermometer to monitor the temperature of the oil.

3. As the oil heats, remove a quarter of the potato slices from the water and spread them evenly on a clean tea towel to dry. Cover with an additional tea towel and blot away as much moisture as you can -- excess water will cause the oil to splatter dangerously.

4. Before you start frying, be sure to have a skimmer or slotted spoon and a tray lined with paper towels ready.

5. When the oil has reached the correct temperature, quickly and carefully drop the dry potato slices into the oil and stir gently with a skimmer to separate. As the chips cook, continue to stir them gently, flipping them over occasionally in the oil. If the chips appear to be darkening quickly, reduce the temperature. When crisp and golden, skim the chips from the oil and drain them on the paper towel-lined baking sheet. Sprinkle immediately with salt or seasoning blend.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Secrets of the Parthenon (PBS: Nova)

Watch the Program

This one-hour program is divided into five chapters. Choose any chapter below and select QuickTime or Windows Media Player to begin viewing the video.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Lawyer: Andy Pettitte will back trainer (Ronald Blum and Howard Fendrich, 1/30/08, AP)

A lawyer for Andy Pettitte's former personal trainer said Tuesday he believes the pitcher will tell Congress he discussed human growth hormone with Roger Clemens between the 2001 and 2002 seasons.

Pretty funny when the Clemens team released their own report this week showing that the only two seasons of his career that he wasn't below league average in ERA were the two right before Mr. McNamee started injecting him.

January 29, 2008

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:09 PM


Giuliani plans to endorse McCain Wednesday in California (Mark Halperin, 1/29/08, TIME: The Page)

McCain topper Rick Davis quietly negotiated the agreement.

Which explains the tone of the victory speech by Maverick.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:58 PM


McCain Defeats Romney in Florida Vote (MICHAEL M. GRYNBAUM and KIRK SEMPLE, 1/29/08, NY Times)

Senator John McCain won a closely contested Florida primary on Tuesday night, capturing the biggest delegate prize of the primary season and adding a crucial jolt of momentum to his campaign as the nominating fight expands into a national race next Tuesday.

...if Republicans didn't hate him, CFR, immigration, Mel Martinez, the NY Times....

If you heard the Senator's victory speech, it sure sounds like Rudy and Huck will be dropping out and endorsing him this week.

And, to answer a question from earlier, 20% of GOP voters said Charlie Crist's endorsement was "very important" to them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:05 PM


Top five prospects by position (Keith Law, 11/29/08, ESPN)

Right-handed pitcher

1. Joba Chamberlain, New York Yankees
2. Clay Buchholz, Boston
3. Homer Bailey, Cincinnati
4. Wade Davis, Tampa Bay
5. Rick Porcello, Detroit

Left-handed pitcher

1. Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers
2. Franklin Morales, Colorado
3. David Price, Tampa Bay
4. Jake McGee, Tampa Bay
5. Manny Parra, Milwaukee

When people complain about the dominance of the AL East a couple years from now they'll mean Tampa Bay.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:57 PM


Britain's worst year (Ananova, 1/28/08)

A new study says that 1812 was the worst year ever for Britain.

We had been at war with France for nearly 20 years which pushed taxes to record levels, while a series of disastrous harvests meant the cost of living had never been so high.

Prime Minister Spencer Perceval was shot dead in the House of Commons and America declared war on us in a dispute over trade with France.

King George III was mad and his unpopular son George, later to be George IV, ruled as regent.

And the national debt would hit over 250% of GDP by the time they'd defeated Napoleon. So how did the next two centuries work out for such the prostrate hegemon?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:57 AM


Syria arrests prominent dissident (BBC, 1/29/08)

A prominent dissident and former MP, Riad Seif, has been arrested in Syria, local human rights groups say.

He was reportedly detained for attending a meeting of supporters of democratic reform in Syria.

The arrest brings to 11 the number opposition activists detained since December, reports say.

George W. Bush will, unfortunately, be denied the Social Security reform he ran on twice, but there are still two big blows for liberty that he can strike almost single-handedly: immigration amnesty and regime change in Syria.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:29 AM


Kennedy evokes JFK legacy in endorsement of Obama (MIKE DORNING, 1/28/08, Chicago Tribune)

At the site of one of John F. Kennedy's most famous speeches, Sen. Edward Kennedy endorsed Barack Obama on Monday as a worthy heir to the martyred president and one who could restore the sense of national possibility of Camelot. [...]

With his youth, eloquence and barrier-breaking candidacy, Obama often stirs comparisons to President Kennedy.

The parallels to JFK--who fouled up the Bay of Pigs, had a disastrous 1961 summit with Khruschev, lost the Cuban Missile Crisis, and collaborated in the murder of our ally Ngo Dinh Diem--illustrate some of the reasons that Mr. Obama is unfit for the presidency. It's hard to believe he could prove quite as inept, but imagine him botching the overthrow of Baby Assad, making a fool of himself at a meeting with Ahmedinejad, ceding control over Pakistan to al Qaeda, and backing a coup against President Karzai and you get some sense of the danger. That would be a dang high price to pay for tax cuts.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:27 AM


Cleric warns of more Beirut unrest (AsharqAlawat, 29/01/2008)

The army, seeking to ease tensions with the Shiite community that has long been a strong ally, said Monday it regretted the loss of life and pledged "extreme seriousness" in an investigation into what happened.

The violence "only serves the enemies of the nation, first and foremost the Israeli enemy," said a military statement, issued after the army chief met the parliament speaker and Amal opposition leader, Nabih Berri.

Lebanon's top Shiite Muslim cleric joined the main Shiite groups, Hezbollah and Amal, in calling for an investigation into the "cold-blooded killings" and warned that matters could get out of control.

The army "must clarify as soon as possible" the events of Sunday, "so that matters will not aggravate as a result of the state of political turmoil and public discontent," Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah of Lebanon's 1.2 million Shiites said in a statement.

The fighting ignited memories of the 1975-90 civil war and came during a political fight over who will become Lebanon's next president. The clashes erupted along the war's former demarcation line between Christian and Muslim areas and near a district where the bloody conflict, which killed 150,000, began.

What nation?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:20 AM


No apologies in final State of the Union (Maura Reynolds and James Gerstenzang, January 29, 2008, Los Angeles Times)

Relaxed, confident and unapologetic, President Bush delivered his seventh and likely final State of the Union address Monday, giving a triumphal appraisal of the war in Iraq and citing a list of modest proposals that came with two barbed veto threats. [...]

He said he would veto any spending bill that does not cut the cost of earmarks in half and would order his administration to ignore future earmarks attached to legislation at the last minute. "The people's trust in their government is undermined by congressional earmarks," he chided.

Some Democrats took offense. "I found it to be very combative and confrontational," Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Colo.) said. "Right out of the box, he started off with everything he's going to veto. His whole last two years has been about stopping change and stopping progress."

Bush devoted the largest section of his speech to the Iraq war, and his tone contrasted sharply with that of a year earlier -- when he used the address to acknowledge insurgent violence was on the rise and announce a "surge" in troops.

This year, with violence waning, Bush returned to the soaring rhetoric more typical of his State of the Union speeches. "We will not rest until this enemy has been defeated," he proclaimed. "We must do the difficult work today, so that years from now people will look back and say that this generation rose to the moment, prevailed in a tough fight, and left behind a more hopeful region and a safer America."

Throughout the 53-minute address, Bush connected his themes by using the word "trust" as a rhetorical refrain to herald the conservative idea of small government.

"In all we do, we must trust in the ability of free people to make wise decisions, and empower them to improve their lives and their futures," he said.

...what they expected him to apologize for?

President Bush Delivers State of the Union (President George W. Bush, United States Capitol, Washington, D.C., 1/28/08)

Madam Speaker, Vice President Cheney, members of Congress, distinguished guests, and fellow citizens: Seven years have passed since I first stood before you at this rostrum. In that time, our country has been tested in ways none of us could have imagined. We faced hard decisions about peace and war, rising competition in the world economy, and the health and welfare of our citizens. These issues call for vigorous debate, and I think it's fair to say we've answered the call. Yet history will record that amid our differences, we acted with purpose. And together, we showed the world the power and resilience of American self-government.

All of us were sent to Washington to carry out the people's business. That is the purpose of this body. It is the meaning of our oath. It remains our charge to keep.

The actions of the 110th Congress will affect the security and prosperity of our nation long after this session has ended. In this election year, let us show our fellow Americans that we recognize our responsibilities and are determined to meet them. Let us show them that Republicans and Democrats can compete for votes and cooperate for results at the same time. (Applause.)

From expanding opportunity to protecting our country, we've made good progress. Yet we have unfinished business before us, and the American people expect us to get it done.

In the work ahead, we must be guided by the philosophy that made our nation great. As Americans, we believe in the power of individuals to determine their destiny and shape the course of history. We believe that the most reliable guide for our country is the collective wisdom of ordinary citizens. And so in all we do, we must trust in the ability of free peoples to make wise decisions, and empower them to improve their lives for their futures.

To build a prosperous future, we must trust people with their own money and empower them to grow our economy. As we meet tonight, our economy is undergoing a period of uncertainty. America has added jobs for a record 52 straight months, but jobs are now growing at a slower pace. Wages are up, but so are prices for food and gas. Exports are rising, but the housing market has declined. At kitchen tables across our country, there is a concern about our economic future.

In the long run, Americans can be confident about our economic growth. But in the short run, we can all see that that growth is slowing. So last week, my administration reached agreement with Speaker Pelosi and Republican Leader Boehner on a robust growth package that includes tax relief for individuals and families and incentives for business investment. The temptation will be to load up the bill. That would delay it or derail it, and neither option is acceptable. (Applause.) This is a good agreement that will keep our economy growing and our people working. And this Congress must pass it as soon as possible. (Applause.) And tomorrow, I will issue an executive order that directs federal agencies to ignore any future earmark that is not voted on by Congress. If these items are truly worth funding, Congress should debate them in the open and hold a public vote. (Applause.)

Our shared responsibilities extend beyond matters of taxes and spending. On housing, we must trust Americans with the responsibility of homeownership and empower them to weather turbulent times in the housing market. My administration brought together the HOPE NOW alliance, which is helping many struggling homeowners avoid foreclosure. And Congress can help even more. Tonight I ask you to pass legislation to reform Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, modernize the Federal Housing Administration, and allow state housing agencies to issue tax-free bonds to help homeowners refinance their mortgages. (Applause.) These are difficult times for many American families, and by taking these steps, we can help more of them keep their homes.

To build a future of quality health care, we must trust patients and doctors to make medical decisions and empower them with better information and better options. We share a common goal: making health care more affordable and accessible for all Americans. (Applause.) The best way to achieve that goal is by expanding consumer choice, not government control. (Applause.) So I have proposed ending the bias in the tax code against those who do not get their health insurance through their employer. This one reform would put private coverage within reach for millions, and I call on the Congress to pass it this year. (Applause.)

The Congress must also expand health savings accounts, create Association Health Plans for small businesses, promote health information technology, and confront the epidemic of junk medical lawsuits. (Applause.) With all these steps, we will help ensure that decisions about your medical care are made in the privacy of your doctor's office -- not in the halls of Congress. (Applause.)

On education, we must trust students to learn if given the chance, and empower parents to demand results from our schools. In neighborhoods across our country, there are boys and girls with dreams -- and a decent education is their only hope of achieving them.

Six years ago, we came together to pass the No Child Left Behind Act, and today no one can deny its results. Last year, fourth and eighth graders achieved the highest math scores on record. Reading scores are on the rise. African American and Hispanic students posted all-time highs. (Applause.) Now we must work together to increase accountability, add flexibility for states and districts, reduce the number of high school dropouts, provide extra help for struggling schools.

Members of Congress: The No Child Left Behind Act is a bipartisan achievement. It is succeeding. And we owe it to America's children, their parents, and their teachers to strengthen this good law. (Applause.)

We must also do more to help children when their schools do not measure up. Thanks to the D.C. Opportunity Scholarships you approved, more than 2,600 of the poorest children in our Nation's Capital have found new hope at a faith-based or other non-public school. Sadly, these schools are disappearing at an alarming rate in many of America's inner cities. So I will convene a White House summit aimed at strengthening these lifelines of learning. And to open the doors of these schools to more children, I ask you to support a new $300 million program called Pell Grants for Kids. We have seen how Pell Grants help low-income college students realize their full potential. Together, we've expanded the size and reach of these grants. Now let us apply that same spirit to help liberate poor children trapped in failing public schools. (Applause.)

On trade, we must trust American workers to compete with anyone in the world and empower them by opening up new markets overseas. Today, our economic growth increasingly depends on our ability to sell American goods and crops and services all over the world. So we're working to break down barriers to trade and investment wherever we can. We're working for a successful Doha Round of trade talks, and we must complete a good agreement this year. At the same time, we're pursuing opportunities to open up new markets by passing free trade agreements.

I thank the Congress for approving a good agreement with Peru. And now I ask you to approve agreements with Colombia and Panama and South Korea. (Applause.) Many products from these nations now enter America duty-free, yet many of our products face steep tariffs in their markets. These agreements will level the playing field. They will give us better access to nearly 100 million customers. They will support good jobs for the finest workers in the world: those whose products say "Made in the USA." (Applause.)

These agreements also promote America's strategic interests. The first agreement that will come before you is with Colombia, a friend of America that is confronting violence and terror, and fighting drug traffickers. If we fail to pass this agreement, we will embolden the purveyors of false populism in our hemisphere. So we must come together, pass this agreement, and show our neighbors in the region that democracy leads to a better life. (Applause.)

Trade brings better jobs and better choices and better prices. Yet for some Americans, trade can mean losing a job, and the federal government has a responsibility to help. (Applause.) I ask Congress to reauthorize and reform trade adjustment assistance, so we can help these displaced workers learn new skills and find new jobs. (Applause.)

To build a future of energy security, we must trust in the creative genius of American researchers and entrepreneurs and empower them to pioneer a new generation of clean energy technology. (Applause.) Our security, our prosperity, and our environment all require reducing our dependence on oil. Last year, I asked you to pass legislation to reduce oil consumption over the next decade, and you responded. Together we should take the next steps: Let us fund new technologies that can generate coal power while capturing carbon emissions. (Applause.) Let us increase the use of renewable power and emissions-free nuclear power. (Applause.) Let us continue investing in advanced battery technology and renewable fuels to power the cars and trucks of the future. (Applause.) Let us create a new international clean technology fund, which will help developing nations like India and China make greater use of clean energy sources. And let us complete an international agreement that has the potential to slow, stop, and eventually reverse the growth of greenhouse gases. (Applause.)

This agreement will be effective only if it includes commitments by every major economy and gives none a free ride. (Applause.) The United States is committed to strengthening our energy security and confronting global climate change. And the best way to meet these goals is for America to continue leading the way toward the development of cleaner and more energy-efficient technology. (Applause.)

To keep America competitive into the future, we must trust in the skill of our scientists and engineers and empower them to pursue the breakthroughs of tomorrow. Last year, Congress passed legislation supporting the American Competitiveness Initiative, but never followed through with the funding. This funding is essential to keeping our scientific edge. So I ask Congress to double federal support for critical basic research in the physical sciences and ensure America remains the most dynamic nation on Earth. (Applause.)

On matters of life and science, we must trust in the innovative spirit of medical researchers and empower them to discover new treatments while respecting moral boundaries. In November, we witnessed a landmark achievement when scientists discovered a way to reprogram adult skin cells to act like embryonic stem cells. This breakthrough has the potential to move us beyond the divisive debates of the past by extending the frontiers of medicine without the destruction of human life. (Applause.)

So we're expanding funding for this type of ethical medical research. And as we explore promising avenues of research, we must also ensure that all life is treated with the dignity it deserves. And so I call on Congress to pass legislation that bans unethical practices such as the buying, selling, patenting, or cloning of human life. (Applause.)

On matters of justice, we must trust in the wisdom of our founders and empower judges who understand that the Constitution means what it says. (Applause.) I've submitted judicial nominees who will rule by the letter of the law, not the whim of the gavel. Many of these nominees are being unfairly delayed. They are worthy of confirmation, and the Senate should give each of them a prompt up-or-down vote. (Applause.)

In communities across our land, we must trust in the good heart of the American people and empower them to serve their neighbors in need. Over the past seven years, more of our fellow citizens have discovered that the pursuit of happiness leads to the path of service. Americans have volunteered in record numbers. Charitable donations are higher than ever. Faith-based groups are bringing hope to pockets of despair, with newfound support from the federal government. And to help guarantee equal treatment of faith-based organizations when they compete for federal funds, I ask you to permanently extend Charitable Choice. (Applause.)

Tonight the armies of compassion continue the march to a new day in the Gulf Coast. America honors the strength and resilience of the people of this region. We reaffirm our pledge to help them build stronger and better than before. And tonight I'm pleased to announce that in April we will host this year's North American Summit of Canada, Mexico, and the United States in the great city of New Orleans. (Applause.)

There are two other pressing challenges that I've raised repeatedly before this body, and that this body has failed to address: entitlement spending and immigration. Every member in this chamber knows that spending on entitlement programs like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid is growing faster than we can afford. We all know the painful choices ahead if America stays on this path: massive tax increases, sudden and drastic cuts in benefits, or crippling deficits. I've laid out proposals to reform these programs. Now I ask members of Congress to offer your proposals and come up with a bipartisan solution to save these vital programs for our children and our grandchildren. (Applause.)

The other pressing challenge is immigration. America needs to secure our borders -- and with your help, my administration is taking steps to do so. We're increasing worksite enforcement, deploying fences and advanced technologies to stop illegal crossings. We've effectively ended the policy of "catch and release" at the border, and by the end of this year, we will have doubled the number of border patrol agents. Yet we also need to acknowledge that we will never fully secure our border until we create a lawful way for foreign workers to come here and support our economy. (Applause.) This will take pressure off the border and allow law enforcement to concentrate on those who mean us harm. We must also find a sensible and humane way to deal with people here illegally. Illegal immigration is complicated, but it can be resolved. And it must be resolved in a way that upholds both our laws and our highest ideals. (Applause.)

This is the business of our nation here at home. Yet building a prosperous future for our citizens also depends on confronting enemies abroad and advancing liberty in troubled regions of the world.

Our foreign policy is based on a clear premise: We trust that people, when given the chance, will choose a future of freedom and peace. In the last seven years, we have witnessed stirring moments in the history of liberty. We've seen citizens in Georgia and Ukraine stand up for their right to free and fair elections. We've seen people in Lebanon take to the streets to demand their independence. We've seen Afghans emerge from the tyranny of the Taliban and choose a new president and a new parliament. We've seen jubilant Iraqis holding up ink-stained fingers and celebrating their freedom. These images of liberty have inspired us. (Applause.)

In the past seven years, we've also seen images that have sobered us. We've watched throngs of mourners in Lebanon and Pakistan carrying the caskets of beloved leaders taken by the assassin's hand. We've seen wedding guests in blood-soaked finery staggering from a hotel in Jordan, Afghans and Iraqis blown up in mosques and markets, and trains in London and Madrid ripped apart by bombs. On a clear September day, we saw thousands of our fellow citizens taken from us in an instant. These horrific images serve as a grim reminder: The advance of liberty is opposed by terrorists and extremists -- evil men who despise freedom, despise America, and aim to subject millions to their violent rule.

Since 9/11, we have taken the fight to these terrorists and extremists. We will stay on the offense, we will keep up the pressure, and we will deliver justice to our enemies. (Applause.)

We are engaged in the defining ideological struggle of the 21st century. The terrorists oppose every principle of humanity and decency that we hold dear. Yet in this war on terror, there is one thing we and our enemies agree on: In the long run, men and women who are free to determine their own destinies will reject terror and refuse to live in tyranny. And that is why the terrorists are fighting to deny this choice to the people in Lebanon, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the Palestinian Territories. And that is why, for the security of America and the peace of the world, we are spreading the hope of freedom. (Applause.)

In Afghanistan, America, our 25 NATO allies, and 15 partner nations are helping the Afghan people defend their freedom and rebuild their country. Thanks to the courage of these military and civilian personnel, a nation that was once a safe haven for al Qaeda is now a young democracy where boys and girls are going to school, new roads and hospitals are being built, and people are looking to the future with new hope. These successes must continue, so we're adding 3,200 Marines to our forces in Afghanistan, where they will fight the terrorists and train the Afghan Army and police. Defeating the Taliban and al Qaeda is critical to our security, and I thank the Congress for supporting America's vital mission in Afghanistan. (Applause.)

In Iraq, the terrorists and extremists are fighting to deny a proud people their liberty, and fighting to establish safe havens for attacks across the world. One year ago, our enemies were succeeding in their efforts to plunge Iraq into chaos. So we reviewed our strategy and changed course. We launched a surge of American forces into Iraq. We gave our troops a new mission: Work with the Iraqi forces to protect the Iraqi people, pursue the enemy in its strongholds, and deny the terrorists sanctuary anywhere in the country.

The Iraqi people quickly realized that something dramatic had happened. Those who had worried that America was preparing to abandon them instead saw tens of thousands of American forces flowing into their country. They saw our forces moving into neighborhoods, clearing out the terrorists, and staying behind to ensure the enemy did not return. And they saw our troops, along with Provincial Reconstruction Teams that include Foreign Service officers and other skilled public servants, coming in to ensure that improved security was followed by improvements in daily life. Our military and civilians in Iraq are performing with courage and distinction, and they have the gratitude of our whole nation. (Applause.)

The Iraqis launched a surge of their own. In the fall of 2006, Sunni tribal leaders grew tired of al Qaeda's brutality and started a popular uprising called "The Anbar Awakening." Over the past year, similar movements have spread across the country. And today, the grassroots surge includes more than 80,000 Iraqi citizens who are fighting the terrorists. The government in Baghdad has stepped forward, as well -- adding more than 100,000 new Iraqi soldiers and police during the past year.

While the enemy is still dangerous and more work remains, the American and Iraqi surges have achieved results few of us could have imagined just one year ago. (Applause.) When we met last year, many said that containing the violence was impossible. A year later, high profile terrorist attacks are down, civilian deaths are down, sectarian killings are down.

When we met last year, militia extremists -- some armed and trained by Iran -- were wreaking havoc in large areas of Iraq. A year later, coalition and Iraqi forces have killed or captured hundreds of militia fighters. And Iraqis of all backgrounds increasingly realize that defeating these militia fighters is critical to the future of their country.

When we met last year, al Qaeda had sanctuaries in many areas of Iraq, and their leaders had just offered American forces safe passage out of the country. Today, it is al Qaeda that is searching for safe passage. They have been driven from many of the strongholds they once held, and over the past year, we've captured or killed thousands of extremists in Iraq, including hundreds of key al Qaeda leaders and operatives.

Last month, Osama bin Laden released a tape in which he railed against Iraqi tribal leaders who have turned on al Qaeda and admitted that coalition forces are growing stronger in Iraq. Ladies and gentlemen, some may deny the surge is working, but among the terrorists there is no doubt. Al Qaeda is on the run in Iraq, and this enemy will be defeated. (Applause.)

When we met last year, our troop levels in Iraq were on the rise. Today, because of the progress just described, we are implementing a policy of "return on success," and the surge forces we sent to Iraq are beginning to come home.

This progress is a credit to the valor of our troops and the brilliance of their commanders. This evening, I want to speak directly to our men and women on the front lines. Soldiers and sailors, airmen, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen: In the past year, you have done everything we've asked of you, and more. Our nation is grateful for your courage. We are proud of your accomplishments. And tonight in this hallowed chamber, with the American people as our witness, we make you a solemn pledge: In the fight ahead, you will have all you need to protect our nation. (Applause.) And I ask Congress to meet its responsibilities to these brave men and women by fully funding our troops. (Applause.)

Our enemies in Iraq have been hit hard. They are not yet defeated, and we can still expect tough fighting ahead. Our objective in the coming year is to sustain and build on the gains we made in 2007, while transitioning to the next phase of our strategy. American troops are shifting from leading operations, to partnering with Iraqi forces, and, eventually, to a protective overwatch mission. As part of this transition, one Army brigade combat team and one Marine Expeditionary Unit have already come home and will not be replaced. In the coming months, four additional brigades and two Marine battalions will follow suit. Taken together, this means more than 20,000 of our troops are coming home. (Applause.)

Any further drawdown of U.S. troops will be based on conditions in Iraq and the recommendations of our commanders. General Petraeus has warned that too fast a drawdown could result in the "disintegration of the Iraqi security forces, al Qaeda-Iraq regaining lost ground, [and] a marked increase in violence." Members of Congress: Having come so far and achieved so much, we must not allow this to happen. (Applause.)

In the coming year, we will work with Iraqi leaders as they build on the progress they're making toward political reconciliation. At the local level, Sunnis, Shia, and Kurds are beginning to come together to reclaim their communities and rebuild their lives. Progress in the provinces must be matched by progress in Baghdad. (Applause.) We're seeing some encouraging signs. The national government is sharing oil revenues with the provinces. The parliament recently passed both a pension law and de-Baathification reform. They're now debating a provincial powers law. The Iraqis still have a distance to travel. But after decades of dictatorship and the pain of sectarian violence, reconciliation is taking place -- and the Iraqi people are taking control of their future. (Applause.)

The mission in Iraq has been difficult and trying for our nation. But it is in the vital interest of the United States that we succeed. A free Iraq will deny al Qaeda a safe haven. A free Iraq will show millions across the Middle East that a future of liberty is possible. A free Iraq will be a friend of America, a partner in fighting terror, and a source of stability in a dangerous part of the world.

By contrast, a failed Iraq would embolden the extremists, strengthen Iran, and give terrorists a base from which to launch new attacks on our friends, our allies, and our homeland. The enemy has made its intentions clear. At a time when the momentum seemed to favor them, al Qaida's top commander in Iraq declared that they will not rest until they have attacked us here in Washington. My fellow Americans: We will not rest either. We will not rest until this enemy has been defeated. (Applause.) We must do the difficult work today, so that years from now people will look back and say that this generation rose to the moment, prevailed in a tough fight, and left behind a more hopeful region and a safer America. (Applause.)

We're also standing against the forces of extremism in the Holy Land, where we have new cause for hope. Palestinians have elected a president who recognizes that confronting terror is essential to achieving a state where his people can live in dignity and at peace with Israel. Israelis have leaders who recognize that a peaceful, democratic Palestinian state will be a source of lasting security. This month in Ramallah and Jerusalem, I assured leaders from both sides that America will do, and I will do, everything we can to help them achieve a peace agreement that defines a Palestinian state by the end of this year. The time has come for a Holy Land where a democratic Israel and a democratic Palestine live side-by-side in peace. (Applause.)

We're also standing against the forces of extremism embodied by the regime in Tehran. Iran's rulers oppress a good and talented people. And wherever freedom advances in the Middle East, it seems the Iranian regime is there to oppose it. Iran is funding and training militia groups in Iraq, supporting Hezbollah terrorists in Lebanon, and backing Hamas' efforts to undermine peace in the Holy Land. Tehran is also developing ballistic missiles of increasing range, and continues to develop its capability to enrich uranium, which could be used to create a nuclear weapon.

Our message to the people of Iran is clear: We have no quarrel with you. We respect your traditions and your history. We look forward to the day when you have your freedom. Our message to the leaders of Iran is also clear: Verifiably suspend your nuclear enrichment, so negotiations can begin. And to rejoin the community of nations, come clean about your nuclear intentions and past actions, stop your oppression at home, cease your support for terror abroad. But above all, know this: America will confront those who threaten our troops. We will stand by our allies, and we will defend our vital interests in the Persian Gulf. (Applause.)

On the home front, we will continue to take every lawful and effective measure to protect our country. This is our most solemn duty. We are grateful that there has not been another attack on our soil since 9/11. This is not for the lack of desire or effort on the part of the enemy. In the past six years, we've stopped numerous attacks, including a plot to fly a plane into the tallest building in Los Angeles and another to blow up passenger jets bound for America over the Atlantic. Dedicated men and women in our government toil day and night to stop the terrorists from carrying out their plans. These good citizens are saving American lives, and everyone in this chamber owes them our thanks. (Applause.)

And we owe them something more: We owe them the tools they need to keep our people safe. And one of the most important tools we can give them is the ability to monitor terrorist communications. To protect America, we need to know who the terrorists are talking to, what they are saying, and what they're planning. Last year, Congress passed legislation to help us do that. Unfortunately, Congress set the legislation to expire on February the 1st. That means if you don't act by Friday, our ability to track terrorist threats would be weakened and our citizens will be in greater danger. Congress must ensure the flow of vital intelligence is not disrupted. Congress must pass liability protection for companies believed to have assisted in the efforts to defend America. We've had ample time for debate. The time to act is now. (Applause.)

Protecting our nation from the dangers of a new century requires more than good intelligence and a strong military. It also requires changing the conditions that breed resentment and allow extremists to prey on despair. So America is using its influence to build a freer, more hopeful, and more compassionate world. This is a reflection of our national interest; it is the calling of our conscience.

America opposes genocide in Sudan. (Applause.) We support freedom in countries from Cuba and Zimbabwe to Belarus and Burma. (Applause.)

America is leading the fight against global poverty, with strong education initiatives and humanitarian assistance. We've also changed the way we deliver aid by launching the Millennium Challenge Account. This program strengthens democracy, transparency, and the rule of law in developing nations, and I ask you to fully fund this important initiative. (Applause.)

America is leading the fight against global hunger. Today, more than half the world's food aid comes from the United States. And tonight, I ask Congress to support an innovative proposal to provide food assistance by purchasing crops directly from farmers in the developing world, so we can build up local agriculture and help break the cycle of famine. (Applause.)

America is leading the fight against disease. With your help, we're working to cut by half the number of malaria-related deaths in 15 African nations. And our Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief is treating 1.4 million people. We can bring healing and hope to many more. So I ask you to maintain the principles that have changed behavior and made this program a success. And I call on you to double our initial commitment to fighting HIV/AIDS by approving an additional $30 billion over the next five years. (Applause.)

America is a force for hope in the world because we are a compassionate people, and some of the most compassionate Americans are those who have stepped forward to protect us. We must keep faith with all who have risked life and limb so that we might live in freedom and peace. Over the past seven years, we've increased funding for veterans by more than 95 percent. And as we increase funding -- (applause.) And as increase funding we must also reform our veterans system to meet the needs of a new war and a new generation. (Applause.) I call on the Congress to enact the reforms recommended by Senator Bob Dole and Secretary Donna Shalala, so we can improve the system of care for our wounded warriors and help them build lives of hope and promise and dignity. (Applause.)

Our military families also sacrifice for America. They endure sleepless nights and the daily struggle of providing for children while a loved one is serving far from home. We have a responsibility to provide for them. So I ask you to join me in expanding their access to child care, creating new hiring preferences for military spouses across the federal government, and allowing our troops to transfer their unused education benefits to their spouses or children. (Applause.) Our military families serve our nation, they inspire our nation, and tonight our nation honors them. (Applause.)

The strength -- the secret of our strength, the miracle of America, is that our greatness lies not in our government, but in the spirit and determination of our people. (Applause.) When the Federal Convention met in Philadelphia in 1787, our nation was bound by the Articles of Confederation, which began with the words, "We the undersigned delegates." When Governor Morris was asked to draft a preamble to our new Constitution, he offered an important revision and opened with words that changed the course of our nation and the history of the world: "We the people."

By trusting the people, our Founders wagered that a great and noble nation could be built on the liberty that resides in the hearts of all men and women. By trusting the people, succeeding generations transformed our fragile young democracy into the most powerful nation on Earth and a beacon of hope for millions. And so long as we continue to trust the people, our nation will prosper, our liberty will be secure, and the state of our Union will remain strong. (Applause.)

So tonight, with confidence in freedom's power, and trust in the people, let us set forth to do their business. God bless America.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:17 AM


Smokers kicking habit after ban (BBC, 1/29/08)

Nearly 165,000 people in England gave up smoking with the help of the NHS last summer, when lighting up was banned in enclosed public spaces.

This is a 28% increase in the number of people successfully using the Stop Smoking Services compared to 2006.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:46 AM


Congressional Democrats scale back ambitions: After a year in the majority, and with a busy election year ahead, their goals on Iraq, healthcare, taxes and more are modest. (Noam N. Levey, 1/29/08, Los Angeles Times)

Echoing the limited agenda President Bush outlined in his State of the Union address, congressional Democrats are eyeing their second year in the majority with much-diminished expectations.

Gone are the grandiose promises of legislation to bring the troops home from Iraq, which dominated the Democratic agenda last year and nearly ground business on Capitol Hill to a halt.

Today, senior Democrats are talking of simply requiring the president to seek congressional approval for any agreement with the Iraqi government to maintain U.S. forces in the country past next year.

There is little talk of rewriting the tax code or dramatically expanding access to health insurance, and no discussion of reviving the effort to overhaul immigration laws.

It would actually make sense to mention their failure to apologize, at least to the folks who voted for them and assumed they'd do anything different than the Republican majority had.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:45 AM


Baghdad's housing boom: With violence down, home prices are up as displaced Iraqis flock back home. For many, however, the cost is too steep. (Kimi Yoshino and Caesar Ahmed, 1/28/08, Los Angeles Times)

Soaring prices. Precious few homes. Bidding wars. Sound like Southern California a few years back? Welcome to an unexpected bright spot in global housing: Baghdad.

Attracted by news of decreased violence, thousands of displaced Iraqis returning to Baghdad's safer neighborhoods are fueling a bit of a real estate frenzy.

Last year, home prices plummeted and rents dropped as Iraqis left town in search of more stability. But now, some say it's almost impossible to find a suitable place to live, with sales prices doubling in certain neighborhoods and the most affordable homes being snatched up as soon as they're on the market.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:23 AM


A Treasure Made With Math and Marble (NEIL GENZLINGER, 1/29/08, NY Times)

“Secrets of the Parthenon,” Tuesday night on PBS, is no mere how-did-they-lift-those-heavy-rocks rumination. It’s a condensed mathematics course, challenging you to keep up as it examines the principles and proportions the ancient Greeks used to erect that majestic building. You may fall by the wayside in the home stretch, which features a detailed analysis of the slight curve in the Parthenon’s columns, but you’ll still feel smarter by the program’s end.

“The Parthenon, like a statue, exemplifies a certain symmetry, a certain harmony of part to part, and of part to the whole,” explains Jeffrey M. Hurwit, an art historian at the University of Oregon. “There’s no question that the harmony of the building, which is clearly one of its most visible characteristics, is dependent upon a certain mathematical system of proportions.”

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:17 AM


No way to avoid Hamas now: Excluding the militant group won't secure peace in the Middle East. (Helena Cobban, January 29, 2008, CS Monitor)

Hamas, unlike those newly embraced networks in Iraq, is already an established, broad political movement that has proved its support in national elections. In parliamentary elections in the West Bank and Gaza in 2006, Hamas won 76 of the 132 seats.

The US had supported those elections. But, instead of embracing the newly elected Hamas leaders, Washington and Israel confined their contacts instead to the Fatah movement's Mahmoud Abbas. They have encouraged Mr. Abbas to take steps against Hamas and its supporters. Meanwhile, Israel has imprisoned elected Hamas parliamentarians and hundreds of their supporters. And in the past two years, it has tightened the economic screws on Hamas's main stronghold in Gaza several times.

We democrats ought have more faith in democracy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:15 AM


'Witch burning' causes women shelter outrage (The Local, 28 Jan 08)

A plan by a Swedish band to symbolically burn a witch on stage in the country's Eurovision heats has led to outrage from feminists.

Nordman, an ethnopop duo and regular in the Melodifestivalen competition, plans the witch-burning as part of its set in the Karlskrona heats on March 1st. In the act, a woman will play a witch being forced onto a fire and burned alive.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:12 AM


Earth Entering New Geologic Epoch? (Larry O'Hanlon, 1/29/08, Discovery News)

Human effects on the planet have reached the point where many scientists think we have entered a new geologic epoch.

We are all Designists now.

January 28, 2008

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:45 PM


NOW-NY Slams Ted (Times Uniuoon: Capitol Confidential, 1/28/08)

The National Organization for Women’s New York chapter issued a scathing reaction to Sen. Ted Kennedy’s endorsement of Barack Obama over Hillary Clinton. Actually, the word “scathing” feels inadequate here.

Read for yourself:

“Women have just experienced the ultimate betrayal. Senator Kennedy’s endorsement of Hillary Clinton’s opponent in the Democratic presidential primary campaign has really hit women hard. Women have forgiven Kennedy, stuck up for him, stood by him, hushed the fact that he was late in his support of Title IX, the ERA, the Family Leave and Medical Act to name a few. Women have buried their anger that his support for the compromises in No Child Left Behind and the Medicare bogus drug benefit brought us the passage of these flawed bills. We have thanked him for his ardent support of many civil rights bills, BUT women are always waiting in the wings.

“And now the greatest betrayal! We are repaid with his abandonment! He’s picked the new guy over us. He’s joined the list of progressive white men who can’t or won’t handle the prospect of a woman president who is Hillary Clinton (they will of course say they support a woman president, just not “this” one).

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:39 PM


NARAL President Tells Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama to Stop Abortion Fight (Steven Ertelt, January 28, 2008, LifeNews.com)

NARAL president Nancy Keenan has had enough -- not of pro-life Americans educating the public about abortion's risks and dangers but of Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama fighting each other.

Time to stop fighting each other and attack the real enemy: babies.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:39 PM


NARAL President Tells Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama to Stop Abortion Fight (Steven Ertelt, January 28, 2008, LifeNews.com)

NARAL president Nancy Keenan has had enough -- not of pro-life Americans educating the public about abortion's risks and dangers but of Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama fighting each other.

Time to stop fighting each other and attack the real enemy: babies.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:32 PM


An insider's guide to Florida's primary (Dave Barry, 1/28/08, Seattle Times)

On Tuesday, millions of Florida voters will head for the polls. Being Floridians, many of them will become confused and drive into buildings, canals, cemeteries, other Floridians, etc

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:29 PM


Lessons of 1992 (PAUL KRUGMAN, 1/28/08, NY Times)

So what are the lessons for today’s Democrats?

First, those who don’t want to nominate Hillary Clinton because they don’t want to return to the nastiness of the 1990s — a sizable group, at least in the punditocracy — are deluding themselves. Any Democrat who makes it to the White House can expect the same treatment: an unending procession of wild charges and fake scandals, dutifully given credence by major media organizations that somehow can’t bring themselves to declare the accusations unequivocally false (at least not on Page 1).

The point is that while there are valid reasons one might support Mr. Obama over Mrs. Clinton, the desire to avoid unpleasantness isn’t one of them.

Second, the policy proposals candidates run on matter.

I have colleagues who tell me that Mr. Obama’s rejection of health insurance mandates — which are an essential element of any workable plan for universal coverage — doesn’t really matter, because by the time health care reform gets through Congress it will be very different from the president’s initial proposal anyway. But this misses the lesson of the Clinton failure: if the next president doesn’t arrive with a plan that is broadly workable in outline, by the time the thing gets fixed the window of opportunity may well have passed.

One hardly expects sense from Mr. Krugman, so a column about how Senator Obama's sole selling point is hogwash and bemoaning the idea vacuum in the Democrat race defies the odds.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:29 PM


Ahmadinejad Caught Between Reformists and Hardliners (Khody Akhavi, Jan 28, 2008, IPS)

The president and his allies in the Majlis (Iranian Parliament) face opposition from prominent reformists led by former President Mohammad Khatami, as well as from conservatives who expect to challenge Ahmadinejad should the president's hardline slate fail to win votes.

Khatami's coalition brings together 21 moderate parties, including the Islamic Iranian Participation Front, Khatami's Association of Combatant Clerics, and the Executives of Construction Party (Kargozaran), founded by ex-cabinet members from the presidency of Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. [...]

Out of an initial 7,200 prospective registered candidates, some 5,000 remain in the running, according to Ali Reza Afshar, a top Interior Ministry official. That is a significant decrease from the more than 4,000 reformist candidates disqualified in 2004 by the Guardian Council, an appointed clerical body that is only answerable to Iran's actual executive power, the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. [...]

A strong showing for centrists and reformists would constitute a rejection of Ahmadinejad and his policies, which, Farhi says, have been described by critics as "expansionary, inflationary, incompetent". It would also enhance the role and stature of parliament, she said. "Everybody feels that the Seventh Majlis has been totally ineffective."

The president himself has been criticised for slowing the pace of privatisation, mismanaging the budget, and appointing incompetent bureaucrats. He has been attacked by reformists and centrists such as Rafsanjani, and must contend with conservative opponents who could exploit dissatisfaction with Ahmadinejad to seem more palatable to voters.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:16 PM


Fact Sheet: President Bush Takes Action to Prevent Wasteful Earmarks: Announces Executive Order, Pledges Veto (WhiteHouse.gov, 1/28/08)

On Tuesday, President Bush will issue an Executive Order directing Federal agencies to ignore any future earmark that is not voted on and included in a law approved by Congress. This will effectively end the common practice of concealing earmarks in so-called report language instead of placing them in the actual text of the bill. This means earmarks will be subject to votes, which will better expose them to the light of day and help constrain excessive and unjustified spending.

* The Executive Order will provide that with regard to all future appropriations laws and other legislation enacted into law, executive agencies will not commit, obligate, or expend funds on the basis of earmarks from any non-statutory source, including requests included in congressional committee reports or other congressional documents, or communications from or on behalf of Members of Congress, or any other non-statutory source, except when required by law, or when an agency itself decides that a project or other transaction has merit under statutory criteria or other merit-based decision-making.

Dick Cheney may as well sit there with a banjo in his lap tonight.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:09 PM


A GOING-AWAY GIFT FROM RUDY? (Matthew E. Berger, 1/28/08, NBC First Read)

Atop each seat in the press section of the Giuliani charter this afternoon sat a baseball -- with Rudy Giuliani’s name scribbled between the stitching.

It seemed like a going-away present from a campaign that has appeared more resigned to its fate in recent days.

...provided that you're referring to dear old Huxley.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:23 AM

OR, TO PUT IT ANOTHER WAY... (via sam):

US Household Net Worth Up 1.1% To $58.60 Tln In 3rd Qtr (Dow Jones, 12/06/07

U.S. households' total net worth rose 1.1% to $58.60 trillion in the third quarter, the Federal Reserve said Thursday. [...]

Household net worth is a measure of total assets, such as houses and pensions, minus total liabilities, such as mortgages and credit card debt.

...what entitles our children to that $50 trillion?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:42 AM


A Surprising General Election Opening for Republicans? (Stuart Rothenberg, 1/28/08, Real Clear Politics)

As this cycle began, Democrats looked united and prepared to take advantage of deep divisions in the Republicans' ranks. But the increasingly bitter and personal attacks exchanged by Sens. Barack Obama (Ill.) and Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) suddenly raise the possibility that the eventual Democratic nominee will have to heal wounds that are as deep as those in the GOP.

Could Democrats, who are unified in their dissatisfaction with George W. Bush and have been pleased with their presidential field, really become so divided that they give a surprising opening to the eventual Republican nominee? Yes.

The brilliance of Bill Clinton--and it is a terrible mistake for Republicans not to recognize said--was that he made the Democrats a party of ideology again. While the disastrous 70s and the Thatcher/Volcker/Reagan recovery put paid to the Second Way and drove a stake through the heart of the old statist/socialist ideology, his Third Way/New Democrat platform unified Democrats around the idea of beating Republicans at their own game by using free market (First Way) means to achieve Second Way ends--a fairly high level of government-mandated and/or guaranteed social security. This was, of course, not original with him but borrowed from Augusto Pinochet, New Zealand, Margaret Thatcher, Anthony Giddens, Newt Gingrich, etc., and it was subsequently co-opted by leaders across party lines throughout the Anglosphere: Tony Blair, John Howard, George W. Bush, Stephen Harper, Kevin Rudd, etc.. Unfortunately for all concerned however, it was promptly dropped by the Democrats as his term ended, to the point where even his own vice president ran against it.

And so the Party reverted to being just a coalition of special interests with entirely parochial political ends pitted in a continuing contest against one another because those ends are so often in conflict. It is always difficult to unify such amalgams of different interests, both because it's unlikely the majority--even when your party has some power--will do much for the discrete minorities and because the resentments against the other party that you whip up to keep each tribe in line inevitably end up getting turned against the other tribes in your own party.

It's easy enough to keep blacks hating on Republicans, who have frequently been at least insensitive on racial matters and Latinos angry about the GOP's racist immigration ravings and seculars, queers, Jews, pro-abortionists, etc. riled up about a party dominated by conservative Christianity, and so on and so forth. But, unless you offer them something else besides, you run the risk that the blacks will recognize that open immigration is handing political power in the cities to Hispanics, that Latinos will realize that they are the Christians and "breeders" who the atheists and Malthusians despise, that the majority religious blacks and Latinos will realize that the social program of the Party is antithetical to their own faith, etc.. The fewer ideas your party is discussing and running on -- the less what? there is to the party -- the more time people have to spend thinking about who the party is. And the truth is, the various cohorts don't have much in common and don't necessarily like each other much.

Which brings us to 2008, wherein the Democrats offer two candidates who are most noticeably tribal and idea-free. The choice of a black man or a feminist woman, occurring as it does in a policy vacuum, essentially reduces the race to a contest to see who gets to be at the top of the totem pole and whose priorities get shoved towards the bottom. Under these circumstances it was always unlikely that the Democrats were going to be the party that elected a person of color or a woman. It's far easier for the GOP, where faith and the Founding present a universal set of ideas that cut across racial, ethnic, and gender lines. But, by abandoning Clintonism, the Democrats have probably made it impossible for themselves, particularly if Republicans nominate someone like John McCain, who is not despised within their own party. He offers a viable alternative for those alienated by their eventual nominee.

The Rainbow Coalition Evaporates (Steven Malanga, 1/28/2008, City Journal)

Terry Anderson is angry. From his KRLA-AM radio perch in Los Angeles, the black talk-show host thunders, “I have gone on the streets and talked to people at random here in the black community, and they all ask me the same question: ‘Why are our politicians and leaders letting this happen?’ ” What’s got Anderson—motto: “If You Ain’t Mad, You Ain’t Payin’ Attention”—so worked up isn’t the Jena Six or nooses on Columbia University doorknobs; it’s the illegal immigrants who allegedly murdered three Newark college students last August. And when he excoriates politicians for “letting this happen,” he’s directing his fire at Congressional Black Caucus members who support open borders and amnesty for illegal aliens. “Massive illegal immigration has been devastating to my community,” Anderson, a former auto mechanic and longtime South Central Los Angeles resident, tells listeners. “Black Americans are hit the hardest.”

Though blacks have long worried that the country’s growing foreign-born population, especially its swelling rolls of illegal immigrants, harmed their economic prospects, they have also followed their political leadership in backing liberal immigration policies. Now, however, as new waves of immigration inundate historically African-American neighborhoods, black opinion is hardening against the influx. “We will not lay down and take this any longer,” says Anderson.

The Case for McCain (EDWARD GLAESER, January 28, 2008, NY Sun)
Ideally, a new Republican party would keep the best parts of the Reagan revolution — a torch for freedom that limits government at home and presses for freedom abroad — but would also embrace new constituencies left cold by Tom DeLay. The environment has become too important to leave up to the environmentalists. It is time for the Republicans to return to Theodore Roosevelt and lead in this area. The party must once again make the case that its economic policies offer the brightest future for middle income Americans. The most important tasks of the next president lie in foreign affairs. Since that is not my area of expertise, I don't know whether Mr. McCain or Mr. Giuliani or Mr. Romney would be the best president. I think that Mr. McCain would do the most to transform the G.O.P. into a party that would appeal to a broader spectrum of Americans. A recent Wall Street Journal poll suggests that while Mr. McCain would beat Senator Clinton, either Mr. Giuliani or Mr. Romney would lose by more than 15 percentage points. Mr. McCain offers the most radical break with the recent Republican past, which explains both why he is disliked by those who look backwards and why he is most likely to create a more robust G.O.P.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:19 AM


Vietnam’s Third Way poses party teaser (Long S Le, 1/29/08, Asia Times)

The question merging over the transitional economy is whether, more than 20 years after the launch of market-oriented doi moi reforms, a new generation of political leaders has the political will to bury the country’s communist past and fully embrace market economics.

How the party strikes the balance could in the coming years make or break Vietnam’s the reform experiment, claim some academics. Mancur Olson’s Power and Prosperity: Outgrowing Communist and Capitalist Dictatorships makes the theoretical point that in transitional economies there are certain reforms that governments may pursue to better promote economic growth and that certain styles of government are better able to create and enforce those reforms more consistently.

Reforms that respect and secure individual rights, according to Olson, will provide strong incentives for individuals to produce, invest and engage in mutually advantageous trade, of which society will broadly gain more from so-called rights-intensive production, the theory argues. And as one might expect, rights-respecting and strong governments are most able to successfully implement such reforms.

In today’s Vietnam, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung and his economic lieutenants must weigh whether such reforms are appropriate at this arguably still early point in the country’s economic development and, if yes, will his more market-minded administration allow the country to fully outgrow communism?

For economic development scholars who study Vietnam, the general answer is yes and an eventual yes. Several economists now argue that in today’s Vietnam, many of the reform pieces are in place, including evidence that the slow but steady government grant of more land rights has led to greater productivity and investment compared with areas that have not implemented the same reforms.
...if JFK had regime-changed the enemy in the North instead of the ally in the South?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:12 AM


Obama Gains, But Still Lags In Big States (CHRISTOPHER COOPER and AMY CHOZICK, January 28, 2008, Wall Street Journal)

[F]or all of the attention Mr. Obama has garnered since his Iowa caucus victory at the beginning of the month, Mrs. Clinton has maintained her big lead in national polls -- and in polls in the big states with delegate prizes far greater than any state that has voted so far.

Among the major Super Tuesday contests, Mrs. Clinton has wide -- in some cases double-digit -- polling leads in California, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Arizona, Missouri and Alabama. Mr. Obama leads in his home state of Illinois and in Georgia.

The demographics in many of those states also seem to play more to Mrs. Clinton's strengths, with big populations of Latinos and white women, groups that helped carry her to victory over Mr. Obama in New Hampshire and Nevada.

Mr. Obama's South Carolina win was pumped up by the 80% of the black vote he carried in a state where more than half the voters are African-American; he also received 25% of the white vote in a state not historically known for racial tolerance. On Super Tuesday, the black vote will dominate mainly in a handful of Southern states.

The sheer diversity of the states in play -- racially, regionally, geographically -- means that no candidate will have the cash or the leisure to engage in anything approaching the old-fashioned whistle-stop campaigning that has defined the races in most states so far. Mr. Obama had more than three weeks to build on his Iowa victory to chip away at Mrs. Clinton's lead in South Carolina and ultimately to overwhelm her. That will be much harder over the coming week.

All the GOP can ask is that Senator Obama win enough to stay in the race for the duration. And, while it won't happen, it's fun to imagine a brokered convention. It's been so long since we've had one that the back room dealing, rather than be recognized as perfectly healthy and normal political gamesmanship, would be found appalling and leave the losing side as apoplectic as all Democrats were in December 2000.

In open nomination, 'superdelegates' may hold key to victory (Carl Hulse, January 28, 2008, NY Times)

National party rules give special status to a select political group, including members of Congress, governors, members of the Democratic National Committee, past party officials, and former elected leaders like Presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter and their vice presidents, Al Gore and Walter Mondale.

Officially designated unpledged party leader and elected official delegates, members of this high-powered group are usually known by a catchier term: superdelegates.

If the primary season does not settle the nomination fight and it turns into a hunt for individual delegates, it is conceivable that this group of politicians and party insiders could hold the balance in awarding the nomination.

Ted and Bill will bring the cigars, you provide the conspiracy theories...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:05 AM


Obama bin lottery (Spengler, 1/29/08, Asia Times)

Senator Barak Obama's surprise landslide victory in the South Carolina primary demarcates a turning point in modern American politics. Can it be a coincidence that it occurred in the same week that financial markets showed their wildest gyrations in post-war history? Days ago, every poll indicated that economic weakness gave the edge to Senator Hillary Clinton, whom voters regarded as a superior manager. But the Democrats of South Carolina chose a miracle over a manager, for the same rational reasons that a down-and-outer spends his last dollar on the lottery.

Obama's South Carolina victory speech was the economic equivalent of a carnival snake-oil pitch. He promised to "stop giving tax breaks to rich companies and instead put the money in the pockets of struggling homeowners who can't pay their mortgages", and at the same time stop the export of American jobs overseas, while raising everyone's wages.

The crowd chanted, "Yes we can! Yes we can!" Excuse me: No, you can't. You can't keep inefficient American factories open without massive tax breaks to corporations, in the form of tariffs or otherwise. In 1992, voters rejected the same message from Ross Perot, who warned that free trade with Mexico would create a "giant sucking sound" as American jobs disappeared, and chose the free-trader Bill Clinton.

With his oft-demonstrated grasp of demographics, Spengler ought to know better than to read ideas into a primary where half the voters were black and the black candidate won. The past two Democratic nominees were rhetorically anti-trade as well, but the Party handed W fast track authority and numerous trade agreements anyway. No matter how much you whip up the Yellow Scare, folks like cheap goods.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:01 AM


Cuba burns with real estate fever on the sly (Marc Lacey, January 28, 2008, IHT)

[T]he people of Havana, it turns out, are as obsessed with real estate as, say, condo-crazy New Yorkers, and have similar dreams of more elbow room, not to mention the desire for hot water, their own toilets, and roofs that do not leak.

And although there is no Century 21 here, there is a bustling underground market in homes and apartments, which has given rise to agents (illegal ones), speculators (they are illegal, too) and scams (which range from praising a dive as a dream house to backing out of a deal at the closing and pocketing the cash).

The whole enterprise is quintessentially Cuban, socialist on its face but really a black market involving equal parts drama and dinero, sometimes as much as $50,000 or more. These days, insiders say, prices are on the rise as people try to get their hands on historic homes in anticipation of a time when private property may return to Cuba.

The speed with which Fidel becomes a mere asterisk in Cuban history will be staggering.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:56 AM


Lego's Legacy Continues to be Built (Leo Cendrowicz, 1/28/08, TIME)

The Lego company was founded in 1932 by Danish carpenter Ole Kirk Christiansen, a carpenter from Billund who had a sideline in wooden toys. He named the company after an amalgamation of the Danish phrase 'leg godt', which means "play well".

The basic eight-stud red Lego brick was first sold in Denmark in 1949. But it took a further nine years for Ole Kirk's son, Godtfred Kirk, to file the patent for the versatile "Automatic Binding Brick" with its interlocking 2x4 studs. The plastic bricks are part of a unique system: tiny tubes inside give the knobs on top of other blocks more places to grip. They hold together well but can be taken apart easily by a child. And consistency has been key: the bricks produced today have the same bumps and holes, and can still interlock with those produced back in 1958. Fifty years on and the Lego Group is the world's fifth largest toymaker in terms of sales, after Mattel, Hasbro, Bandai and MGA Entertainment.

Over the years, the Lego group has built up the brand. It developed the larger Duplo series in the 1960s for younger children who had trouble handling the original tiny Lego bricks (Duplo is still going strong too). In 1968, the company opened its first Legoland theme parks, near its Billund birthplace. Parks in Windsor, England, Carlsbad, California and Günzburg, Germany followed, each using around 50 million bricks to create replicas of monuments and landmarks such as the Eiffel Tower, Mount Rushmore, and the Sydney Opera House. Each park receives around 1.4 million visitors per year.

But over the past decade, the group has struggled to keep pace with changing toy trends: the basic plastic bricks find it particularly tough to compete with games consoles like XBox and PlayStation to attract kids' attention. After years of eroding sales, the company posted its first ever losses in 1998.

Radical remedies were needed to restore the brick's reputation. Tie-ins helped: the company's link-up with Star Wars revived the brand, and even led to its own video games: Lego Star Wars II sold 1.1 million units in its first week of release in 2006. If you can't beat 'em, join 'em it would seem.

While cruzzards must be initially appalled by the top-down nature of the Star Wars models, realistically the kids just follow the plans the first time they play with it and from then on use the pieces just as creatvely as classic Lego.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:52 AM


Fatah: Hamas must not have border role (Mark Tran, January 28, 2008, Guardian Unlimited)

Hamas must not have a role in running the border between Gaza and Egypt, the Fatah faction said today.

The demand came as Hamas Islamists helped Egyptian troops to restore order and seal the border at the town of Rafah.

As Fatah voiced concern over Hamas involvement in border security, Egyptian troops strung barbed wire across the entry point and were assisted by half a dozen uniformed Hamas members.

Hamas militants also stopped civilian cars entering Egypt from Gaza at the main Salah Eddin crossing, allowing only lorries to go through and buy products.

Taking control of the border is a nice illustration of why Hamas should be saddled with more official power.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:45 AM


Hillary's Brown Firewall (Robert D. Novak, 1/28/08, Creators.com)

Sen. Hillary Clinton is relying on the big Latino vote as her firewall to prevent losing the California Democratic primary Feb. 5, the most important of 22 states contested on Mega Tuesday. But that reliance, say both pro-Clinton and anti-Clinton Democrats, is fraught with peril for the Democratic Party's coalition by threatening to alienate its essential African-American component.

Clinton's double-digit lead in California polls over Sen. Barack Obama is misleading. Subtract a Latino voting bloc whose dependability to show up Election Day always has been shaky, and Clinton is no better than even in the state, with Obama gaining. To encourage this brown firewall, the Clinton campaign may be drifting into encouragement of brown vs. black racial conflict by condoning Latino racial hostility to the first African-American with a chance to become president.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:24 AM


McCain attracts the GOP establishment (JOHN M. BRODER, 1/27/08, New York Times)

McCain, who has delighted in sticking his thumb in the eye of mainstream Republicans throughout his political career, is now accumulating a base of support among party regulars who see him as the strongest general election candidate in the remaining Republican field. [...]

In an interview Sunday, [Florida Gov. Charlie] Crist said his endorsement was based on "trust and confidence and friendship," as well as what he said were McCain's unmatched national security credentials.

But he also said he believed McCain had the broadest appeal of the four major Republican candidates still standing and the best chance of beating the Democratic nominee in November.

The Crist endorsement came 24 hours after that of Sen. Mel Martinez of Florida, former general chairman of the Republican National Committee and a popular figure in Florida's Cuban-American community.

McCain also has won the support of a number of established party figures, including moderates such as former Sens. John Danforth of Missouri and Howard Baker of Tennessee and conservatives such as Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma and former Rep. Jack Kemp.

Better the winner you disagree with at the margins than the ideologically pure losers.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Prince Charles' Olympic-sized snub to China (Richard Spencer, 28/01/2008, Daily Telegraph)

The Prince of Wales has snubbed the Chinese government by refusing to attend the Olympic Games in Beijing this summer.

The Prince made his decision known to campaigners for a free Tibet, who had been calling on him to show solidarity with those who believe the Games risk obscuring China's human rights record. [...]

[R]ecently he has been wooed by the Chinese, and particularly their new ambassador in London, who had made it her personal mission to encourage him to go.

An American can't help but feel ashamed at having to look up at Charles to see the moral high ground.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


A Better Place: What if the Muslim armies hadn’t been stopped at the French border?: a review of David Levering Lewis’s “God’s Crucible: Islam and the Making of Europe, 570 to 1215” (Joan Acocella February 4, 2008, The New Yorker)

This book has to be understood in context, or, actually, two contexts. The first is post-colonialism, the effort on the part of scholars from the nineteen-seventies onward to correct the biases that accompanied and justified the colonization of eighty-five per cent of the earth by European powers between the sixteenth and the twentieth centuries. In that period, according to Edward Said’s 1978 “Orientalism”—the founding document of post-colonial thought—history-writing about the Near East and the Middle East was an arm of empire. Its goal was to make non-Western peoples seem uncivilized, so that European control would appear a boon. Since Said, much writing on Europe’s former colonies has been an effort to redress that injustice.

The other context in which Lewis’s book must be read is, of course, the history of terrorism, since the late nineteen-seventies, on the part of people claiming to be instructed by the Koran. When this started, most Westerners had little idea of what the Muslim world was. Harems, hookahs, carpets—that was about it. Nor, after the terrorist attacks, was it easy to catch up in any proper way, for, while there has been an outpouring of books on Islam in the past two decades, many of them were for or against it. A number of prominent intellectuals have denounced Islam. Other people have protested that the vast majority of Muslims do not support terrorism. Some historians have condemned not just the demonization of Islam but the West’s ignorance of the Muslim world—a failure now seen as political folly, not to speak of arrogance. Scholars went to their desks to testify to the glories of Islamic cultures. Salma Khadra Jayyusi, in the foreword to her magnificent anthology “The Legacy of Muslim Spain” (1992)—a collection of forty-nine essays describing not just the politics and the religion of Muslim Iberia but its cities, architecture, music, poetry, calligraphy, and cooking—calls the omission of Islam from the West’s story of civilization a “historical crime.”

Lewis’s book is part of that revision. The Muslims came to Europe, he writes, as “the forward wave of civilization that was, by comparison with that of its enemies, an organic marvel of coordinated kingdoms, cultures, and technologies in service of a politico-cultural agenda incomparably superior” to that of the primitive people they encountered there. They did Europe a favor by invading. This is not a new idea, but Lewis takes it further: he clearly regrets that the Arabs did not go on to conquer the rest of Europe. The halting of their advance was instrumental, he writes, in creating “an economically retarded, balkanized, and fratricidal Europe that . . . made virtues out of hereditary aristocracy, persecutory religious intolerance, cultural particularism, and perpetual war.” It was “one of the most significant losses in world history and certainly the most consequential since the fall of the Roman Empire.” This is a bold hypothesis.

It's just garden variety Christophobic self-loathing.

January 27, 2008

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:25 PM


Huckabee on “Late Edition” (TIME, 1/27/08)

HUCKABEE: [A] s I expressed in the debate the other night, the problem I have is that what we are really doing is borrowing about $150 billion from the Chinese, which is where this money has got to end up coming from, in the trade deficit.

We borrow from the Chinese at 3%, invest it at 10%, and are therefore so rich we can buy a lot of the trinkets they make cheaply for us. If you think that's bad -- a scam that has given us $55 trillion in household net worth -- you're too dumb to be trusted in the Oval Office.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:18 PM


McCain's one-two Florida punch (Jonathan Martin, Jan 27, 2008, Politico)

Two well-timed endorsements could make the difference for Sen. John McCain prior to Tuesday's pivotal Florida primary.

With Florida Sen. Mel Martinez and Gov. Charlie Crist throwing him their support, the Arizona senator might be able to drive local coverage in the final hours and obscure the economic message rival Mitt Romney used to dominate last week.

A victory in the Republican-only Sunshine State primary would cement McCain's status as the GOP front-runner and put him in a commanding position to wrap up his party's nomination on Super Tuesday.

Jeb on Monday would seal the deal and give us our ticket.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:13 PM


A choice that films ignore: Hollywood heroines who don't consider abortion are of a generation taking its rights for granted (Hadley Freeman, January 28, 2008, The Guardian)

At a screening I went to recently, one of the biggest laughs came when the lead character, a pregnant 16-year-old, asked for an abortion. Now let me say that, despite what the above might suggest, I liked the film. But after Waitress and Knocked Up, Juno (which received a best picture Oscar nomination last week) completes a hat-trick of American comedies in the past 12 months that present abortion as unreasonable, or even unthinkable - a telling social sign.

Each of these films presents situations where women do not consider abortion as a feasible possibility and dismiss it - as something that is portrayed in Knocked Up as the act of selfish women who don't want a swelling belly to impede their clubbing.

Babies 'feel pain before 24-week abortion limit' (Rosa Prince, 28/01/2008. Daily Telegraph)

Babies in the womb can feel pain from an early stage of development, according to research by the world's leading expert on foetal pain.

Prof Sunny Anand of the University of Arkansas will present his report into foetal pain to MPs discussing changes to abortion law on Monday night.

His research concludes that the part of a baby's brain that can feel pain develops before the legal abortion limit of 24 weeks.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:08 PM


Jones-Bedard trade in the works (Geoff Baker, 1/27/08, Seattle Times)

A major trade by the Mariners for starting pitcher Erik Bedard could happen within 24 hours after the team today pulled outfielder Adam Jones out of further winter ball action.

Jones was pulled from the Venezuelan Winter League playoffs by the Mariners and told reporters there that he is flying to Baltimore for a physical on Monday in advance of being dealt to the Orioles.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:49 PM


Faith brings Texas Rangers' Hamilton back from the brink (EVAN GRANT, 1/27/08, The Dallas Morning News)

When he finally gets home and takes off his size 16 shoes, the doorbell rings. A lab technician is waiting. Three times a week, Hamilton's past and future intersect when he urinates into a cup and waits for confirmation that tells the baseball world what he has known for 27 months: He is clean, sober and drug-free.

"I think he looks forward to the tests," Narron says. "He knows he's an addict. He knows he has to be accountable. He looks at those tests as a way to reassure people around him who had faith."

Faith. It comes up often in the story of 26-year-old Joshua Holt Hamilton. It's virtually impossible to tell his story without mentioning his Christian faith. He'd prefer you not even try.

Faith, he regularly testifies, has put him back in baseball after four years of addiction problems so ugly you can't blame his family for not wanting to relive them. But because of faith, they do – to churches, youth groups and halfway houses.

If Hamilton could shake his habit – it included downing a bottle of Crown Royal almost daily and cocaine and crack cravings so strong he burned through a $3.96 million signing bonus – and finally get to the big leagues last season, there had to be a reason.

The reason came to his wife, Katie, more than two years ago in a dream while Hamilton was serving a year-long suspension ordered by Major League Baseball for multiple failed drug tests.

"God told me he was going to give Josh baseball back, but it wasn't going to be for baseball," Katie says. "It was going to be for something much bigger. He was going to give Josh a platform to help others. He is the most beautiful choreographer. It's not by accident that all the things that have happened in our lives have happened."

On this particular January weekend, Hamilton tells the story three times: To a reporter, to an audience of 500 at Apex Baptist Church and to a rescue mission. The talks usually last about an hour. When Katie is involved, they almost always involve tears. And the crowd, whether it's one or 500, sits engrossed.

The full story can't be captured in an hour. To really understand how far Hamilton has come, it's important to understand just how far he fell.

When he was barely 15, Hamilton was already a North Carolina sports legend. He was that rarest of finds, a true five-tool player. Left-handed, he was so gifted that he occasionally played shortstop and even hoped to be a catcher. But coaches were too protective of his arm because when he pitched, he hit 95-96 mph. When he played the outfield, nobody ran on him. When he hit, everybody gasped at the power.

"I've seen some really special amateur players – Kirk Gibson and Bo Jackson – but Josh is the most talented kid I've ever seen," says Jax Robertson, special assistant to the Pittsburgh Pirates' general manager – and whose son was a teammate of Hamilton's at Athens Drive High School in Raleigh, N.C. "Every skill was above average; some were off the charts. He had instincts, athleticism, passion and compassion."

The Tampa Bay Devil Rays made Hamilton the first overall choice in the 1999 draft. He was the first high school player to be No. 1 since Alex Rodriguez in 1993.

Hamilton signed two days later. His parents left their home to be his chaperone. Together, they packed up and headed to Princeton, W.Va., in the rookie-level Appalachian League. Almost immediately, Hamilton was launching talk-of-the-town homers. Within two years, he was named the top prospect in all of the minors.

Then it crumbled.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:08 PM


For the Republicans: McCain (Chicago Tribune, January 27, 2008)

The planet's lone superpower won't again have the privilege of ignoring -- of appeasing with strong words but soft pursuit -- the sworn enemies of this nation and its friends.

One Republican candidate for president dedicated himself to American honor, American duty, long before Sept. 11, 2001. The world of 2008 is the dangerous world John McCain unknowingly spent a military and political career preparing to confront.

To hear McCain speak of honor, of duty, is to wake up the echoes of John F. Kennedy urging Americans to ask not what their country can do for them. A President McCain would engage challenges domestic and foreign with the candid conviction that doing what's right may cost us. Maybe plenty.

His unswerving commitment to victory in Iraq is the likely template.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:52 PM


Israel's Gaza policy is shredded by Hamas (Steven Erlanger, January 27, 2008, NY Times)

When Hamas blew large holes in Gaza's border with Egypt, allowing thousands of Palestinians a chance to stock up on medicines, food and consumer goods, it also blew a large hole in the Israeli policy, backed by Washington, of squeezing the population of Gaza in the hope that they would turn actively against Hamas.

As Israeli leaders pushed Egypt to close the border and fumbled for an effective response, the apparent Hamas success put Egypt into a bind and further undermined the chances that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of Israel and President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Fatah faction could succeed in negotiating a peace treaty - let alone by the time President George W. Bush leaves office.

There's no need for a deal, we can impose one unilaterally, but if we insist on a deal it has to be with the representatives of the Palestinian people, which means Hamas, not Fatah.

Israel relents on supplies to Gaza (Steven Erlanger, January 27, 2008, NY Times)

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of Israel promised the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, on Sunday that Israel would no longer disrupt the supply of food, medicine and necessary energy into the Gaza Strip and intended to prevent a "humanitarian disaster" there. Last Wednesday, the Hamas rulers of Gaza broke open the border to Egypt, allowing hundreds of thousands of Palestinians to seek the goods that Israel had restricted.

As an indication of the altered Israeli attitude, the state told the Supreme Court, which was meeting to hear a petition against Israeli efforts to cut electricity and fuel to Gaza, that industrial diesel fuel needed to run Gaza's main power station would now be supplied regularly, although in amounts that do not meet Gaza's needs for uninterrupted electricity.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:51 AM


Bush blasts Lebanon bombing, tells Syria, Iran to butt out (Associated Press , THE JERUSALEM POST Jan. 26, 2008)

"We demand that Syria, Iran and their allies end their interference in and obstruction of Lebanon's political process," the president said in a statement Saturday.

Syria has been blamed for the car bomb Friday that killed Capt. Wissam Eid, whose work included investigating the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Damascus has denied any role.

Bush did not directly blame Syria. The administration's delayed reaction to the bombing reflected sensitivity over the Syrian role in Bush's efforts to forge a peace deal between the Israelis and Palestinians before he leaves office.

Of all presidents, Mr. Bush ought understand that talk is cheap and if we aren't changing the regime it's winning.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:34 AM


'Iran-US ties not strained forever' (Press TV, 27 Jan 2008)

Speaking to reporters at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Manouchehr Mottaki remarked that he can imagine the day when Iran-US ties become normal, adding “but there will be many obstacles along the way”.

The Iranian minister reiterated that despite Tehran's disputes with Washington over its nuclear program or US allegations that Iran is backing violence in Iraq, the Islamic Republic does not want this strained relationship with the US to last forever.

There's no ally we've done more for the past few years.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:28 AM


A week after vote, Nevada outcome still puzzling (STUART SILVERSTEIN, 1/27/08, Los Angeles Times)

No one disputes that Clinton took away a majority in last weekend's precinct voting, defeating Obama, 51 percent to 45 percent. But since then, the two sides have argued about potentially crucial national convention delegates. Obama campaign officials quickly asserted that he narrowly edged Clinton in "pledged" national convention delegates, 13-12.

The claim was highlighted in initial reports of the caucuses, and a New York Times headline the next morning declared: "Obama 2nd, but Takes 1 More Delegate."

Political experts and party officials say that the Obama campaign's claim, at least in its original form, was wrong. The Democrats haven't awarded any national delegates from Nevada.

In a more general sense, the assertion had some foundation. Obama could win more national convention delegates if some assumptions prove to be on target.

All told, the flap highlighted some of the complexities of the presidential caucuses and the delegate-selection processes, complexities that can confound voters, and open the door to political gamesmanship.

What we wouldn't give for a Democratic primary vote-counting case to go to the Supreme Court and have Antonin Scalia in a 5-4 majority.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:22 AM


Giuliani's false sense of viability (Dan Balz, 1/26/08, The Washington Post)

January 26, 2008

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:07 PM


A Better Way to Deal With Downturns (Andrew A. Samwick, January 27, 2008, Washington Post)

This "stimulus bill" is really $150 billion worth of some future generation's resources appropriated to finance our own consumption. Why are we entitled to pass on this additional debt?

The imperative to do "something" is all the entitlement politicians need. In political arguments, you can't beat something with nothing. But we can learn from this experience to have a better menu of fiscal policy options the next time around. Two changes to our budget policy would go a long way toward that goal.

First, we should rule out deficit spending to finance a consumption binge. As the economy slows, the deficit will widen even without changes in fiscal policy. But an honest budget policy would be calibrated to balance the budget over a complete business cycle. Years of cyclical deficits will be offset by years of cyclical surpluses. As a corollary, we must not waive pay-as-you-go rules that require spending that increases the current deficit to be offset later, when the economy is stronger.

Friend Samwick needs to consider both the absence of any evidence that a debt the size the leading democracies have been carrying for centuries now (particularly at times of global war) is a negative--especially when you look at household net worth--and the fact that this is the second consecutive slowdown that has come after a considerable decline in the deficit. Indeed, from a purely economic perspective there's no rational argument for paying down the debt, with the low interest rate we pay on it, out of monies on which we make a higher rate of return. As an individual, would you take money out of a stock fund that makes 10% to pay off a loan you got at 3%? You might for aesthetic or moral reasons, but not for economic.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:02 PM


Berlusconi models his comeback on Blair: Controversial tycoon demands snap elections after the squabbles that brought down Prodi - and proposes a 'very British' 10-point plan (Tom Kington, January 27, 2008, Observer)

Silvio Berlusconi has put a very British stamp on his comeback campaign, promising to govern for three years, if elected, with a pragmatic rather than ideological approach modelled on Tony Blair - before handing over to an 'Italian Gordon Brown'.

'Berlusconi will propose a very simple, very pragmatic and very British eight-to-ten-point plan, similar in style to Tony Blair, whose achievements Berlusconi really admires and with whom he always had an excellent relationship,' his spokesman, Paolo Bonaiuti, told The Observer yesterday.

While the effect of Bush/Blair on the Middle East, it is just as profound in Western Europe.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:58 PM


Saddam Hussein'pretended to have weapons': Saddam Hussein deliberately allowed the world to believe he had weapons of mass destruction but did not expect the United States to stage a major invasion and overthrow him, the former Iraqi dictator told an FBI interrogator (Ben Martin, 1/27/08, Daily Telegraph)

George Piro, an FBI special agent who interrogated Saddam after his capture in December 2003, said the dictator told him he used the pretence of having the weapons to deter Iran, Iraq's long-standing rival.

"For him, it was critical that he was seen as still the strong, defiant Saddam. He thought that would prevent the Iranians from reinvading Iraq," Mr Piro told 60 Minutes, the American current affairs television programme.

But he miscalculated the response by the US-led coalition, expecting only a limited military attack, rather than a full-scale invasion. "He thought the US would retaliate with the same type of attack as we did in 1999...a four-day aerial attack," said Mr Piro.

Kim Jong Il needs to be taught the same lesson about bluffing.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:30 PM


Bill: 'My message' 99.9% positive (Mike Memoli, 1/26/08, NBC: First Read)

Another reporter asked what it said about Obama that it “took two people to beat him.” Clinton again passed. “That’s’ just bait, too. Jesse Jackson won South Carolina twice, in '84 and '88. And he ran a good campaign. Senator Obama's run a good campaign here, he’s run a good campaign everywhere.”

The reference to Jackson seemed a way to downplay today's result in a state where a majority of voters are African American.

You know, at some level you have to admire Mr. Clinton's willingness to be this tenacious in trying to help the wife who stood by him through so much. He's spending the political capital she helped him build up. But he's spending it fast and in dangerous--because racially divisive--ways.

Why Obama won (Norah O'Donnell and Adam Verdugo, 1/26/08, NBC: First Read)

First, it was a landslide among black voters. Obama received about 80% of the African American vote. The size of his vote was nearly uniform across every demographic group among blacks, as well as nearly every issue or opinion question in the poll: old, young, male, female, well educated, poorly educated -- all of them broke in pretty much the same way.

As for the white vote, Obama did not win the majority but neither did either of his two rivals. In fact, while Clinton got 36% of the white vote -- it really was pretty close to a three-way split; Edwards got 40% and Obama 24%.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:20 PM


'Breakout into Israel' ahead (Abraham Rabinovich, January 26, 2008, The Australian)

A SENIOR Hamas official warned yesterday that the next breakout from the Gaza Strip could be into Israel, with 500,000 Palestinians attempting to march towards the towns and villages from which they or their parents fled or were expelled 60 years ago.

"This is not an imaginary scenario and many Palestinians would be prepared to sacrifice their lives," said Ahmed Youssef, political adviser to Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniya.

Israeli minister Ze'ev Boim said the threat must be taken seriously in light of the successful Hamas breakout into Egyptian territory on Wednesday, adding: "We must learn from what has just happened there."

The most dangerous threat of the Palestinian leadership has always been that they'd renounce statehood and just ask for their rights as Israeli citizens. Because an undemocratic Israel would betray its own principles, Ariel Sharon sought to create--as quickly as possible--a viable Palestinian state beside an Israel where Jews would predominate over Arabs for at least several more decades. Making Palestine unlivable has been entirely counterproductive.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:00 PM


Enemies to the Right of Him: Charge of the anti-McCain brigade. (Stephen F. Hayes, 02/04/2008, Weekly Standard)

Like so many McCain critics, Limbaugh turned to former Senator Rick Santorum--"whose conservative credentials are beyond question"--as an expert witness. "I don't hardly agree with him on hardly any issues," Santorum said.

Really? Santorum's lifetime rating from the American Conservative Union is 88. John McCain's is 82.3. One would suppose there might be some overlap. The difference between a real conservative and a phony one apparently lies in those six points.

Although many others have been as critical of McCain, perhaps no one has been as hypocritical. In 2006, when Santorum was running for reelection, he asked McCain to come to Pennsylvania to campaign on his behalf. When McCain obliged, Santorum put the video on his campaign website, listing it first among "key events" of the year. That's gratitude, Santorum-style.

Other conservative politicians--or former politicians--have taken their anti-McCain arguments to absurd lengths. Take Tom DeLay, for instance, whose K Street pandering led to numerous indictments and contributed greatly to the Republican losses in 2006. The former House majority leader said, without a trace of irony in his voice, that John McCain "has done more to hurt the Republican party than any elected official I know of."

Mark Levin, a longtime confidant of both Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity who now hosts his own increasingly popular talk show, took the anti-McCain argument a step further on his show last Wednesday. "At this point, anybody who supports John McCain and claims to be a conservative, let me be blunt: You're not a conservative."

Which came as a surprise to Jack Kemp, the ardent supply-sider who was the conservative alternative to George H.W. Bush in 1988. "That's just so preposterous," said Kemp. "I don't agree with McCain on several things. He's gotten right on the economy. He's right on foreign policy. And he's right on the war on terror."

And no doubt a surprise also to Phil Gramm (lifetime ACU rating of 95), whose presidential campaign was endorsed by National Review in 1996. And to Sam Brownback, a stalwart conservative and one of the most outspoken pro-life politicians in America today. And to Tom Coburn from Oklahoma, arguably the most conservative member of the Senate.

"John McCain and I have stood side by side on many issues," Coburn said in endorsing McCain last week. The most important, he added, are "fiscal responsibility" and the "sanctity of human life."


Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:26 AM


Bill Clinton gave Reagan far more credit than Obama has (E.J. DIONNE, 1/26/08, The Washington Post)

It was a remarkable moment: A young, free-thinking presidential hopeful named Bill Clinton sat down with reporters and editors at The Washington Post in October 1991 and started saying things most Democrats wouldn't allow to pass their lips.

Ronald Reagan, Clinton said, deserved credit for winning the Cold War. He praised Reagan's "rhetoric in defense of freedom" and his role in "advancing the idea that communism could be rolled back." [...]

His apostasy was widely noticed. The Memphis Commercial Appeal praised Clinton two days later for daring to "set himself apart from the pack of contenders for the Democratic nomination by saying something nice about Ronald Reagan."

Clinton's "readiness to defy his party's prevailing Reaganphobia and admit it," the paper wrote, "is one reason he's a candidate to watch."

Having been unable to convince his wife to run on the Third Way, Mr. Clinton at least recognizes that if Senator Obama is allowed to he will win the race. Thus, he is forced to demonize his own legacy to the Democratic Party, one which their leadership has, sadly, rejected anyway.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:22 AM


A Mormon 'Terminator' (Jim Shea, 1/26/08, The Hartford Courant)

Mitt Romney is kind of like those cyborgs from the Terminator movies who can alter their appearance at will.

Seriously, if it were suddenly revealed that Romney is actually a "terminator" from the future sent back in time to kill Sarah Connor so her son would not be born, I wouldn't bat an eyelash. [...]

Romney, of course, isn't the only candidate who will do or say anything to win the nomination, but he is the most accomplished.

Except that Arnold's has a wider emotional range.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:15 AM


NBC to fly pilotless (Philadelphia Inquirer, 1/25/08)

NBC is blowing up its development process, doing away with pilots in most cases in an effort to save money.

That was the word from NBC Universal CEO Jeff Zucker on Tuesday, telling company employees that the network could save up to $50 million each year by not producing pilots.

There's a good bit on one episode of 30 Rock where the page, Kenneth, pitches a show he calls Gold Case. The winner is confronted by a gaggle of models holding up briefcases and he has to choose the one whose case is filled with gold bricks. Every contestant wins because the poor women can't even hold up the winning one. Do they really want to just trust their executives' judgment about what shows will work?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:45 AM


Stimulus Gone Bad (PAUL KRUGMAN, 1/26/08, NY Times)

House Democrats and the White House have reached an agreement on an economic stimulus plan. Unfortunately, the plan — which essentially consists of nothing but tax cuts and gives most of those tax cuts to people in fairly good financial shape — looks like a lemon.

Specifically, the Democrats appear to have buckled in the face of the Bush administration’s ideological rigidity, dropping demands for provisions that would have helped those most in need. [...]

And sending checks to people in good financial shape does little or nothing to increase overall spending. People who have good incomes, good credit and secure employment make spending decisions based on their long-term earning power rather than the size of their latest paycheck. Give such people a few hundred extra dollars, and they’ll just put it in the bank.

In fact, that appears to be what mainly happened to the tax rebates affluent Americans received during the last recession in 2001.

With a growing economy and functional full employment, it's kind of silly to talk about "those in need." This package is mainly a psychological ploy, but to the extent that it transfers money back to tax payers who will seek to lend it and drives up the deficit enough that more of the world's only secure securities become available for Chinese, Indians, etc. it can help the Fed defuse the credit crunch. The unKrugman-like "stimulus" will "work" for the same reason this time that it did last time, because the underlying economy is healthy--despite struggles in one discrete sector--and the "crisis" has been caused by artificially high rate hikes in the face of falling American borrowing, triggering a mere media hysteria.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:38 AM


Long Lines at College Gates: An application crush, driven in part by demographics, has more students bound for wait lists as schools face a tricky admissions calculus. (Susan Kinzie, 1/26/08, Washington Post)

It looks to be the year of the wait list. For many top colleges, the application process has been roiled by changes, among them a dramatic shift in financial aid, and a few influential schools have ended early admission programs. There is an unusual level of uncertainty, both for colleges and students -- as if the admissions process weren't stressful enough.

Adding to the mix is another year of historically high numbers for applications at many schools. The children of baby boomers are graduating in large numbers from high school, and their ranks will crest next year. More students than ever are going on to college -- about two-thirds of high school graduates go directly to a two- or four-year college, said David Hawkins, director of public policy and research for the National Association for College Admission Counseling.

Few stories are more false than the perennial about the embattled middle class and how hard it is to afford college, disproved by the numbers. Indeed, perhaps the biggest problem faced by the economy is that too many kids go to college for no useful purpose. They'd be better served by learning trades.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:35 AM


For Giuliani, Missed Greetings -- and Chances (Michael Leahy, 1/26/08, Washington Post)

While it's too early to write Giuliani's campaign obituary, it's not hard to see his weaknesses as a candidate. He seems constitutionally resistant to lengthy sessions of flesh-pressing and to uncontrolled campaign dialogue. He favors long, discursive speeches and generally limits questions to a handful, when he takes questions at all. Contact is across a rope line, generally -- except when he must walk across a room to an exit, where bodyguards keep the curious at bay with deftly placed forearms, if necessary.

In New Hampshire, where Giuliani led in the polls early and then collapsed by December, one of the former mayor's appearances ended when aides asked attendees to remain in their seats so he could quickly leave the building and get to his next stop.

"I couldn't figure out what he was doing," said Andrew Smith, director of the Survey Center at the University of New Hampshire, who was there. "Was there some kind of security consideration? Did he fear that some old Rotarian lady had a butter knife? That kind of thing really hurt him here."

But nothing about Giuliani's campaign style has changed much since his slide became precipitous. He still wears his dark power suits and ties, resisting crew-neck sweaters, windbreakers and fleece. He rides to most campaign stops in his motorcade, led by a black Cadillac Escalade with flashing red lights and, in Florida, trailed by a law enforcement vehicle -- the candidate nestled in a car between many others -- his security people jumping out at stops and pirouetting.

He didn't realize it was an election--he thought he was auditioning to be the head of a junta.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:31 AM


McCain’s Fiscal Mantra Becomes Less Is More (DAVID LEONHARDT, 1/26/08, NY Times)

Senator John McCain said that, if elected, he would do what other presidents had tried but failed to do: cut government spending sharply enough to reduce the budget deficit while lowering taxes at the same time. [...]

He also said that he would consider resuscitating the work of a bipartisan tax-reform commission, appointed by Mr. Bush, whose 2005 report on simplifying the tax code was largely ignored by the administration. Using the process that has been used to close military bases, Mr. McCain said he would ask Congress to vote yes or no on an entire tax-simplification program. [...]

[He has] emphasized his role in helping to cut taxes and spending as “a foot soldier in the Reagan revolution.” Noting that he also later ran the Senate Commerce Committee, Mr. McCain said in the interview that he would feel no need to select a vice president with expertise in economic policy to balance his own foreign-policy experience.

He also pointed to a recent Wall Street Journal survey of economists, many of them from Wall Street firms, which found that he was easily their top choice for president. “I don’t need any extra help,” he said.

Mr. McCain described himself as being in the mold of Theodore Roosevelt, as a “free-enterprise, capitalist, full-bore guy” who nonetheless believes that the economy depends on government institutions “that need to do their job as well.”

Mr. McCain begins the story of his economic education in 1982, when the country was in recession and he was first elected to the House.

Once in Congress, he worked with Jack F. Kemp and Phil Gramm, two conservatives who were also in the House then, and Martin Feldstein, a Harvard economist who was an aide to President Ronald Reagan, to pass tax cuts and spending restraints. Mr. McCain said that Mr. Gramm — “a guy who taught economics for 12 years at Texas A&M” and who has endorsed Mr. McCain — had been an especially important mentor.

“Those were my formative years,” Mr. McCain said. “We went from those abysmal situations when he came to office in 1981,” he said, referring to Reagan, “to a long period of economic growth and prosperity.”

Chuck Norris thinks it's a negative that Maverick is old enough to have helped lead the Reagan Revolution.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:49 AM


Gazans breach Egyptian fence again: Hamas gunmen escort a front-end loader clearing the way for a surging crowd, forcing hundreds of newly deployed guards to retreat (Richard Boudreaux and Jeffrey Fleishman, 1/26/08, Los Angeles Times)

A surging Palestinian crowd that had been pushed away from Egyptian soil cheered as a yellow front-end loader, escorted by black-clad Hamas gunmen, punched through three sections of a concrete barrier topped by chain-link fencing. [...]

It was a day of seesawing fortunes for Palestinians desperate to keep the border open to prolong a three-day shopping spree for goods made scarce by an Israeli blockade.

It ended with Hamas, the militant Islamic group that governs Gaza and advocates Israel's destruction, holding a stronger hand in its bid to gain a voice in how the border is regulated and end the territory's isolation.

It's incredible the way Israel's weak leadership--since Ariel Sharon's stroke--has ceded so much momentum to Hamas and Hezbollah with nothing to show for it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:42 AM


Attorney General Edwards? (Robert Novak, 1/26/08, Real Clear Politics)

Illinois Democrats close to Sen. Barack Obama are quietly passing the word that John Edwards will be named attorney general in an Obama administration.

Installation at the Justice Department of multimillionaire trial lawyer Edwards would please not only the union leaders supporting him for president but organized labor in general. The unions relish the prospect of an unequivocal labor partisan as the nation's top legal officer.

Way to give business a reason to defeat you.

January 25, 2008

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:29 PM


Is it time for Rudy Giuliani to leave the stage? (Toby Harnden, 26/01/2008, Daily Telegraph)

That month in 2000, when he dropped out of the race for the Senate against Clinton, was a tabloid dream. His marriage unravelled (his then second wife learned their marriage was over when Giuliani announced it in a press conference), and he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. His wife forced him out of his official mansion and he moved into an apartment with a gay couple - who would advise him in the mornings about what tie to wear - and a chihuahua called Bonnie. [...]

If it is curtains for Giuliani in Florida, where only a win can keep his ailing candidacy alive, it will mark the conclusion of a political career that gave America - and the world - an outsized character with a giant ego. To some, including himself, he was a global hero, a latter-day Winston Churchill. To others, he was a small-minded villain who seemed to have sprung from the imagination of a Niccolò Machiavelli, Mario Puzo or Tom Wolfe.

Born in an Italian-American enclave in Brooklyn in 1944, Giuliani has long displayed many of the characteristics of a Mafia don, though as a prosecutor he went after the Mob relentlessly.

Weird is a tough sell in presidential politics.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:12 PM


The derivation of their name makes it as good as their last album title.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:23 PM


Reagan and McCain (Peter J. Wallison, 1/25/2008, American Spectator)

The similarities between Reagan and McCain begin with their extraordinary attachment to principle. Reagan never altered his views about Communism, the Soviet Union or the importance of shrinking the government, and it was this quality that made him a successful president. Washington is a city where everything is negotiable. In this world, a president with actual principles has a unique attribute -- credibility. When Reagan stayed the course on tax cuts, despite high interest rates and a weak economy in 1982, he was relying on his principles. When John McCain said, in supporting the surge in Iraq, he would "rather lose an election than lose a war," he is demonstrating the same attachment to principle that animated Ronald Reagan. And this firmness will give him the same credibility in Washington that Reagan enjoyed.

A second similarity is their view of the United States and its role in the world. Reagan, as we recall, described America as a shining city on a hill. What he meant by this was that the United States is an exceptional nation -- "the last best hope of earth," in Lincoln's words. This is the foundation of an aggressive foreign policy, respectful of other nations but ultimately doing what is necessary to defeat the enemies of peace and freedom. Thus, Reagan's foreign policy -- much to the chagrin of our European allies -- was the opposite of the accommodationist approach followed by his predecessors in dealing with the Soviet Union; as he summarized it: "We win; they lose." McCain sees the United States in the same way, having served in its armed forces, borne years of torture in its behalf, fought for a stronger military, and promised to follow Osama bin Laden to "the gates of hell." He wants to defeat our next great enemy, Islamofascism, not live with it, just as Reagan refused to accept the Soviet Union as a permanent fixture on the international scene.

Reagan and McCain also share the essential characteristic of leaders -- both set their own course without reference to polls or political pressures. When Reagan fired the air traffic controllers, he made a powerful statement about the rule of law, although customary Washington politics would have dictated compromise. When he said in his first inaugural address that "Government is not the solution to our problems; government is the problem," he was putting himself in opposition to a half-century of growth in the government and its role in the economy. When McCain told a questioner at a New Hampshire town meeting that if he wants to limit free trade "I am not your candidate," or told Iowans that ethanol is not the solution to the nation's energy problems, he, like Reagan, was signaling that he will set his own course and not pander to the politics of the moment.

Of course, the Gipper also gave us the most protectionist measure since Smoot-Hawley, but, in that sense too, he showed a governing flexibility that the Senator shares.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:15 PM


A Movie That Matters: a review of Katyn a film directed by Andrzej Wajda (Anne Applebaum, 2/14/08, NY Review of Books)

Katyn, as its title suggests, tells the story of the near-simultaneous Soviet and German invasions of Poland in September 1939, and the Red Army's subsequent capture, imprisonment, and murder of some 20,000 Polish officers in the forests near the Russian village of Katyn and elsewhere, among them Wajda's father. The justification for the murder was straightforward. These were Poland's best-educated and most patriotic soldiers. Many were reservists who as civilians worked as doctors, lawyers, university lecturers, and merchants. They were the intellectual elite who could obstruct the Soviet Union's plans to absorb and "Sovietize" Poland's eastern territories. On the advice of his secret police chief, Lavrenty Beria, Stalin ordered them executed.

But the film is about more than the mass murder itself. For decades after it took place, the Katyn massacre was an absolutely forbidden topic in Poland, and therefore the source of a profound, enduring mistrust between the Poles and their Soviet conquerors. Officially, the Soviet Union blamed the murder on the Germans, who discovered one of the mass graves (there were at least three) following the Nazi invasion of Russia in 1941. Soviet prosecutors even repeated this blatant falsehood during the Nuremberg trials and it was echoed by, among others, the British government.

Unofficially, the mass execution was widely assumed to have been committed by the Soviet Union. In Poland, the very word "Katyn" thus evokes not just the murder but the many Soviet falsehoods surrounding the history of World War II and the Soviet invasion of Poland in 1939. Katyn wasn't a single wartime event, but a series of lies and distortions, told over decades, designed to disguise the reality of the Soviet postwar occupation and Poland's loss of sovereignty.

Wajda's movie, as his Polish audiences will immediately understand, is very much the story of "Katyn" in this broader sense.

In Enigma, the terrific conservative novelist Robert Harris reveals how the West made itself complicit in this lie, to its enduring shame.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:16 PM


Florida Senator to Endorse McCain (AP, 1/25/08)

Florida Sen. Mel Martinez will endorse John McCain on Friday, The Associated Press has learned, a move likely to give the Republican presidential candidate a crucial boost with the state's Cuban-Americans just days before the primary.
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The decision is a blow to Rudy Giuliani, the former New York mayor in a close fight with McCain for support of voters in the Cuban-American community — and to keep his candidacy alive.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:11 PM


Former president's role as bad cop: Hillary Clinton's campaign confident it'll reap benefits as husband attacks Obama's record (PATRICK HEALY, 1/26/08, New York Times)

Advisers to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton have concluded that Bill Clinton's aggressive politicking against Sen. Barack Obama is resonating with voters, and they intend to keep him on the campaign trail in a major role after the South Carolina primary.

It's gonna be Sista Soulja 24/7.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:05 PM


Clinton Now Looking Beyond S.C.: Focus on 4 Delegate-Rich States Is Considered Risky (Anne E. Kornblut and Shailagh Murray, 1/26/08, Washington Post)

The logic seems simple: She represents New York in the Senate, and New Jersey is next door; she was the first lady of Arkansas for a decade; and California will be the biggest prize when 22 states vote on Feb. 5. But in a system that awards delegates by congressional district, with some worth more than others, the calculation is far from straightforward, and Clinton backers fear that the setup could boost Sen. Barack Obama if he fares well in populous corners of key states.

Her strategists call it a "game of chess," part of the byzantine path to the Democratic nomination in a campaign that has pitted two strong front-runners and a determined third candidate, former senator John Edwards, in a tight battle from one contest to the next.

The approach is demanding. Clinton made a one-day cross-country round trip to visit this vital district, a heavily Hispanic area with a number of less-affluent voters who her advisers believe are likely to support her. She hopes to sweep the entire state of California, and polls have shown her doing well statewide, but it is just as critical that she pick up the five delegates that come with the Salinas area. Under the Democratic nominating rules, 70 percent of California's delegates will be awarded on a district-by-district basis; the remaining 30 percent will go to the candidate who wins statewide.

The same is true for the other big-prize states, forcing the Clinton and Obama campaigns, despite their record fundraising and an avalanche of media attention, to make carefully targeted choices about where to send the contenders and where to place ads.

The SC win tomorrow may well keep Senator Obama in this until the Convention, which is potentially deadly for the Democrats.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:25 AM


Iran reformists threaten to boycott vote: They have appealed a hard-line council's disqualification of hundreds of candidates for parliament. (Ramin Mostaghim and Borzou Daragahi, January 25, 2008, LA Times)

Rejected candidates have until Sunday to file appeals with supreme leader Ali Khamenei, who has been unsympathetic to the reformists' cause and refused to reverse disqualifications before the 2004 elections. A final list of candidates will be issued March 5.

Khamenei heads a theocratic Shiite Muslim state with elements of a democratic republic, including regular elections for parliament and the presidency. The political elite pride themselves on high voter turnout, and a boycott could harm the election's credibility. Iranian authorities have ruled out allowing international observers to monitor the election.

Iran's leadership is divided among several factions, including a hard-line conservative group around President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a so-called pragmatic faction close to former President Hashemi Rafsanjani and a moderate wing represented by ex-President Mohammad Khatami.

Iran's constitution does not recognize political parties. But authorities regulate political groups and even fund some organizations loyal to the 1979 Islamic Revolution. These groups battle one another for power and influence through the parliament, although ultimate authority rests with Khamenei, a high-ranking cleric.

The 290-seat parliament, called the Majlis, has the power to propose and pass legislation and to act as a check on the president, as it did during Khatami's eight-year rule. Ahmadinejad usually manages to muster a majority in parliament for his policies. But a reformist swell in the March vote could challenge his socially conservative domestic program and ideologically charged international policies, which many compare to those of the early years of the revolution.

The president's allies fared poorly in municipal elections in 2006, and hard-liners have sharpened their rhetoric against liberals, accusing them of being dupes of Washington. "America supports every group that operates within its interests," the conservative daily Siasat-e-Rooz said in an editorial. "Since the beginning of the Islamic Revolution, America supported the reformists and the question is, 'Why?' "

But Ahmadinejad also faces a mounting challenge from within the right.

Gholam Ali Haddad Adel, the parliament speaker, recently publicly took issue with the president in a dispute over the budget and constitution.

Actually, Ayatollah Khamenei personally intervened in 2005 and forced the councils to allow Mostafa Moin to run for president, so that there would be a Reformist alternative to the ayatollahs' chosen candidate, Hashemi Rafsanjani. Expect a similar intervention here to permit a broader selection.

But recall that Khamenei, the Reformists, and the Bush Administration all miscalculated at that earlier point. The Ayatollah didn't understand how disaffected the Reform movement was from electoral politics, how unpopular Rafsanjani remained as a result of his earlier term in office, and how assiduously hard-liners were working to put Ahmedinejad in office. The Reformists miscalculated the degree to which a boycott could prove disastrous, as the relatively moderate Rafsanjani lost to the lunatic Ahmedinejad. And the Administration miscalculated when it called for that boycott, not understanding that the election results do matter.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:51 AM


Two presidents, one idea: The “March of Freedom” From Reagan to Bush (Paul Kengor, December 2007/January 2008, Policy Review)

The Westminster address envisioned the expansion of freedom and democracy into that part of the world that needed it more than any other: Eastern Europe, the Soviet empire, “the heart of darkness,” as Reagan called it. Until there was freedom and democracy there, he said, there would be no peace.

Nor was he merely predicting such a change; he would make it the policy of his administration. He would try to reverse the Soviet hold on the region and thereby reverse the Soviet empire, reverse the Cold War, and reverse the course of history.

Such an effort, said Reagan, would constitute a “crusade for freedom.” In the 1950s, he had signed on to General Lucius Clay’s Crusade for Freedom; now he was resurrecting and spearheading it. He added, “This is precisely our mission today: to preserve freedom as well as peace. It may not be easy to see, but I believe we live now at the turning point ” — a historic crossroads.

Ronald Reagan left the presidency the third week of January 1989. By the end of that year, Solidarity candidates had swept 99 of 100 seats in a free and fair election in communist Poland, the Berlin Wall had crashed in a soon-to-be-reunified Germany, Vaclav Havel had left prison for the presidency of Czechoslovakia, and the continent ’s worst living dictator, Romania’s Nicolai Ceausescu, had been lined up against a wall by the masses and shot on Christmas Day — a day he had sought to ban. Two years later, the Soviet Union itself ceased to exist, and the Cold War was over.

Now, as a retired Reagan began what he called “the sunset of my life” in California, a sunrise of freedom set the world aglow.

During the 1970s, Reagan had often bemoaned the lack of freedom in the world, turning in his speeches to data from Freedom House marking the number of free and unfree nations. As president, he dedicated himself to improving those numbers.

By the early 1990s, we could look to the same source to demonstrate the degree of success of the “march of freedom”: In 1980 there were 56 democracies in the world; by 1990, there were 76. The numbers continued upward, hitting 91 in 1991, 99 in 1992, 108 in 1993, and 114 in 1994. Thirteen years after he’d entered the Oval Office, the number of free nations had doubled; by 1994, 60 percent of the world’s nations were democracies.

By the end of the violent twentieth century, which had seen over 50 million perish in two world wars and over 100 million murdered by communist governments, 120 of the world’s 192 nations were free. Outside of Western Europe, 90 percent of Latin American and Caribbean nations were considered democracies, along with 91 percent of Pacific Island states and 93 percent of the nations of East Central Europe and the Baltic area — i.e., the former Soviet region.

Yet there was one part of the world immune to this wave of freedom: the Middle East — the least democratic region on the planet and, perhaps not coincidentally, the most violent. A 1999-2000 survey by Freedom House (done, importantly, before September 11, 2001) found that an astonishing zero of the 16 Arab countries in the Middle East were democratic, the worst rate on the globe.

Now, against great odds, another Republican president is attempting to extend Ronald Reagan’s march of freedom to that one area on earth where it has been most resisted.

What's amusing for those old enough to recall the Cold War is that the same sorts of racialist arguments that were used then, about how Slavs/Asians/Germans/etc. were Naturally predisposed towards totalitarian government, are being recycled and applied to Arabs. More amusing still, neocons and libertarians on the Right join in the chorus, with Palestinians or whomever somehow unsuited to democratic self-governance.

It's the sort of thing Darwinists can believe -- even though they were on the opposite side last time -- but that religious conservatives have to reject utterly, which is why it was Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush who led these stages of the Crusade.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:45 AM


Primary Choices: John McCain (NY Times, 1/25/08)

Senator John McCain of Arizona is the only Republican who promises to end the George Bush style of governing from and on behalf of a small, angry fringe. With a record of working across the aisle to develop sound bipartisan legislation, he would offer a choice to a broader range of Americans than the rest of the Republican field. [...]

What about the man who stood fast on Sept. 11, when others, including President Bush, went AWOL?

That man is not running for president.

The real Mr. Giuliani, whom many New Yorkers came to know and mistrust, is a narrow, obsessively secretive, vindictive man who saw no need to limit police power. Racial polarization was as much a legacy of his tenure as the rebirth of Times Square.

Mr. Giuliani’s arrogance and bad judgment are breathtaking. When he claims fiscal prudence, we remember how he ran through surpluses without a thought to the inevitable downturn and bequeathed huge deficits to his successor. He fired Police Commissioner William Bratton, the architect of the drop in crime, because he couldn’t share the limelight. He later gave the job to Bernard Kerik, who has now been indicted on fraud and corruption charges.

The Rudolph Giuliani of 2008 first shamelessly turned the horror of 9/11 into a lucrative business, with a secret client list, then exploited his city’s and the country’s nightmare to promote his presidential campaign.

The other candidates offer no better choices.

Mitt Romney’s shape-shifting rivals that of Mr. Giuliani.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:37 AM


'I'm a human pet': The Goth teenager whose fiance walks her around on a dog lead (CHRIS BROOKE, 23rd January 2008, Daily Mail)

Given that she describes herself as a human pet – and is happy to walk around on a lead – Tasha Maltby is used to odd looks and even odder remarks.

But nothing had prepared her for the reaction of the bus driver who allegedly told the self-styled Goth and her boyfriend: "We don't let freaks and dogs like you on."

Miss Maltby and her fiance Dani Graves were so angered they have complained to the bus company of being "victimised".

No decent society ought tolerate the degradation of one person by another, irrespective of consent.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:20 AM


Canada says will not attend U.N. racism conference (Reuters, 1/23/08)

Canada will not take part in a major United Nations conference on racism next year because the event is likely to descend into "regrettable anti-Semitism," a top official said on Wednesday.

Officials said they believed Canada was the first nation to announce it will not attend the conference in Durban, South Africa.

A similar meeting at the same venue in 2001 was marred when Israel and the United States walked out in protest over draft conference texts branding Israel as a racist and apartheid state -- language that was later dropped.

Welcome back to the Anglosphere!

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:22 AM


Some fear the other Clinton's behavior may hurt Democrats: Critics say the former president's forceful campaign approach -- including face-offs with reporters and criticisms of Obama -- may be just a preview. (Peter Nicholas, 1/25/08, Los Angeles Times)

While touting his wife's credentials, the former president has tried to redefine Obama as a more calculating politician than voters might suspect. And he makes plain he is nursing grievances about how the campaign has unfolded.

Talking to a TV reporter in Charleston, S.C., the other day, Clinton accused the Obama campaign of orchestrating a "hit job" on him. He did not spell out what that meant. But the comment was the latest in a series of criticisms he has lobbed at the Illinois senator.

He clearly was peeved by Obama's comments about President Reagan. In a newspaper interview last week in Nevada, Obama opined that Reagan had changed the nation's "trajectory" more than Clinton or President Nixon had.

Clinton took that as an affront. "I thought we challenged the conventional wisdom in the '90s," Clinton told reporters at a restaurant here.

Folks can hardly be expected to see Mr. Clinton's attempts to move the country--and his Party--towards Thatcherism as a challenge to the conventional wisdom.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:17 AM


BOOK REVIEW: 'The Mind of the Market' by Michael Shermer: Man's true nature meets market economics. (Lee Drutman, January 25, 2008, LA Times)

BACK in the 17th and 18th centuries, philosophers typically began political treatises with an exploration into the "state of nature," the premise being that the ideal form of governance should follow logically from mankind's true condition. But what is mankind's true nature? Good or bad? Thomas Hobbes took a famously dour view: Life is "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short," at least without the rule of a Leviathan. Jean-Jacques Rousseau, however, justified direct democracy by claiming that man is naturally compassionate, "born free, and everywhere he is in chains."

Oh, pity these thinkers! For they were writing before armies of social scientists learned to coax subjects into rooms with half-silvered mirrors and into high-tech brain-scanning machines, generating reams of data on what people are "really" like.

But would any of this have changed our dead philosophers' minds about human nature? After all, the evidence remains decidedly mixed -- at best, we are a wondrously complicated mess of contradictions and stunningly silly tendencies. And one of those silly tendencies is the "confirmation bias" -- that is, people tend to believe only the evidence that confirms what they already think.

Such is the pleasure and frustration of the new book "The Mind of the Market: Compassionate Apes, Competitive Humans, and Other Tales From Evolutionary Economics." On one hand, we have author Michael Shermer, founder and director of the Skeptics Society, captivating raconteur of all the greatest hits of behavioral, evolutionary and neuropsychology, provider of wonderful cocktail party material, like the one about 50% of an audience challenged to count the number of completed basketball passes failing to notice the gorilla walking across the crowded court. But we also have Shermer, the tendentious libertarian, doing logical back-flips unbecoming a self-proclaimed skeptic to marshal human nature's unruly contradictions into a political program of minimal government and extreme market capitalism.

One of the bitter pills that free market extremists have to swallow is the fact that the best 25 year performance in the history of capitalism is the Anglosphere 1983-2008, a period of "massive" government, high taxes, welfare statism, etc. Were they capable of scientific thinking the evidence would reveal something important to them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:48 AM


Top Lebanese Security Official, 5 Others Killed Beirut Blast (VOA News, 25 Jan 2008)

Lebanese officials say a bomb blast in a Christian suburb of Beirut has killed at least six people, including a top security official.

...is that the regime in Syria still stands.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:05 AM


Sarkozy sparks French debate over God and faith (Reuters, 1/18/08)

President Nicolas] Sarkozy, a taboo-breaker whose whirlwind love life has distracted the media for weeks, broke with traditional presidential reserve about religion to stress France's Christian roots in a speech in a Rome basilica just before Christmas.

In Riyadh on Monday, he hailed Islam as "one of the greatest and most beautiful civilisations the world has known" and described his Saudi hosts as rulers who "appeal to the basic values of Islam to combat the fundamentalism that negates them".

His praise for a kingdom that enforces and propagates a strict version of Islam, during a visit aimed at securing lucrative export contracts, was the last straw for his critics.

"This is not respect for the separation of church and state," Socialist opposition leader Francois Hollande said.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Mayor of Tehran could become a presidential contender (Alan Cowell, January 25, 2008, IHT)

[W]hile [Mohammad-Bagher Ghalibaf, the 46-year-old mayor of Tehran,] comes from the hard-line Islamic revolution tradition - he was once a senior commander of the Revolutionary Guards - he is part of an emerging group of politicians who consider President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to be harming the country's economy through his acerbic anti-Western rhetoric and isolationist policies. [...]

In the two and a half years that he has been in office, Ghalibaf has built numerous bridges and highways, fixed sidewalks and paved streets and has earned himself a reputation as someone who gets things done. As police chief, he enforced mandatory seat belts and orderly driving regulations in a city not known for either. [...]

Ghalibaf did not take issue with the description of "authoritarian modernizer." Before making an administrative decision, he said, he consults widely but, once the decision is made, "we go forward strongly." [...]

Ghalibaf said he had come to Davos to convince foreigners that "in Tehran they can find stable economic opportunities and in Tehran we have got security."

January 24, 2008

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:49 PM


Darfur's best hope: the ballot box: A regime-ousting election could help more than peacekeepers. (Nathaniel Myers, 1/25/08, CS Monitor)

As Mr. Bashir's latest provocation suggests, the problem in Darfur is one that ultimately cannot be resolved by peacekeepers. That's because its roots don't lie in local grievances or ethnic divisions – though both have fueled the fighting – but in the halls of power in Khartoum. The peacekeeping mission is urgently needed to improve immediate security, but lasting peace will come to Darfur and the rest of Sudan only when the country is led by a government genuinely committed to the cause. Remove the NCP from power and, as a senior UN official in Sudan told me recently, "the problem in Darfur is over."

In most misgoverned nations, talk of such regime change would seem little more than a pipe dream – but remarkably, improbably, there exists in Sudan today a chance of revolution through the ballot box. Under the terms of an existing but neglected peace agreement, signed in 2005 to end the 21-year civil war between the Khartoum government and southern rebels, Sudan is obligated to hold a national election by July 2009. This peace deal, known as the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), also promised the south a referendum on independence in 2011. Next year's election is essentially the last chance to stave off what will otherwise be a resounding vote for southern secession, by showing southerners that they will be allowed to compete for national power in a unified, democratic Sudan.

Why should the South or Darfur stay in such an artificial country when they are nations?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:42 PM


Israel looks to cut Gaza links (Ben Lynfield, 1/25/08, The Scotsman)

ISRAEL wants to cut its links with the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip after militants blasted open the territory's border with Egypt in defiance of an Israeli blockade.

Matan Vilnai, Israel's deputy defence minister, said yesterday that Israel wanted to wash its hands of Gaza altogether by handing over supply of electricity, water and medicine to others. An Israeli security official said Egypt should take over responsibility.
What an odd notion, that it is just for Israel to hand Palestine to Egypt.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:38 PM


Italy still 'stubbornly ungovernable' (Malcolm Moore, 24/01/2008, Daily Telegraph)

Italy was facing the prospect of its 62nd government in the 63 years since the end of the Second World War.

With economic uncertainty ahead, a stalled reform programme and a rapidly ageing population, many would agree with Romano Prodi that Italy cannot afford another change of government.

However, the country remains stubbornly ungovernable. The legacy of the past hangs heavy.

Yet four years is too long for free Iraq to get its act together?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:04 PM


Rudy vows to stay in even if loses FL (Matthew Berger, 1/24/08, NBC: First Read)

“I’m gonna continue my campaign. I have no plans to end my campaign,” Giuliani told reporters when asked whether he would continue the campaign if he did not win the Jan. 29 primary.

It's always fun to listen to folks natter on about the powerful neocons, who bet on McCain in '00 and Rudy (or Romney) in '08.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:32 PM


Palestinians Savor Open Gaza Border (Jim Teeple, 24 January 2008, VOA News)

The once impregnable border between Gaza and Egypt seems a distant memory as tens of thousands of people flood in both directions across the remnants of a huge steel wall. It was constructed by Israeli military engineers to last for decades and toppled early Wednesday.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:32 PM


A step closer to creating life out of chemical soup: Scientists replicate a bacterium's entire genome with off-the-shelf ingredients. The feat could lead to the production of medicines, industrial products and even renewable fuels. (Karen Kaplan, 1/24/08, Los Angeles Times)

Using off-the-shelf chemical compounds, scientists for the first time have constructed the entire genome of a bacterium, a key step toward their ultimate goal of creating synthetic life forms, researchers reported today.

The man-made DNA was nearly identical to the natural version on which it was based -- with minor modifications to identify it and render it harmless to people, according to the study in the journal Science.

Boy, the use of the terms "synthetic" and "natural" could hardly be less scientific there.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:02 PM


The Solution for Peace in the Middle East? (Jamie Glazov, 1/24/2008, FrontPageMagazine.com)

Frontpage Interview’s guest today is John Myhill, a linguist in the English Department at the University of Haifa. He has been living in Israel since 1995. He has a Ph.D. in linguistics from the University of Pennsylvania (1984) and has written extensively on the connection between language and nationalism. His two most recent books are Language in Jewish Society (Multilingual Matters 2004) and Language, Religion, and National Identity in Europe and the Middle East (John Benjamins 2006).

FP: You are one of the proponents of the idea that only self-determination can save the Middle East. Tell us what this concept is about and how realistic it is in terms of bringing peace to the region.

Myhill: Thanks Jamie.

The general point, and the common sense point, is that groups of people who have a lot in common in terms of how they speak and their religion should be together; groups who are radically different in these terms and can't get along with each other should be separated by borders. That's why we have peace in Europe now. How do we do this in the Middle East?

Take Iraq as an example. It needs to be divided into three states. Now. For sure keep protecting the Kurds—they want the U.S. there. Then divide up the Sunnis and Shiites into separate states. If they don’t like it, let them fight it out for exclusive control until they figure out neither side can win, and then they’ll do it themselves.

A separate state is needed for the Maronites on Mt. Lebanon. They can’t live with Muslims, it’s obvious. If someone like the Americans will just impose this militarily, no problem. If the Americans don't want to do this (probably not), support the Maronites in their efforts to revive Syriac—that’s their sacred language— as a spoken language like the Jews revived Hebrew, and the result will be a separate Maronite state in a generation or two, because everyone will recognize that they aren't Arabs and need their own state.

Sudan needs to be partitioned -- by force. Now. Get the Arabs and the non-Arabs apart. They’ve been fighting for 50 years with more than 2 million dead already.

Writing Classical Arabic—the language of the Koran—is a big big problem. It’s totally different from how people speak, it’s created this idea that there’s an 'Arab people’ stretching from the Indian Ocean to the Atlantic, it’s giving legitimization to religious fanaticism, it’s terrible. Make up standard written versions of the 6 or 7 different spoken dialects, call them different languages, Levantine, Yemenite, Egyptian, Maghrebi, Sudanese, whatever you want, just not 'Arabic.’ Each of these will be a nationality with their own written language, they’ll have their own states, they’ll stop interfering in each other’s business, and they stop following each others’ religious fanatics. That’s how people turned Latin into French, Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese—they just started writing the way they spoke. Put writing in these new languages—newspapers, essays, translations of books, everything—onto the internet, that’s where everyone’s reading and writing these days, and this trend is only going to get stronger.

People will read in these new languages and write in these new languages, because it’s much easier than Classical Arabic. After a generation or so, they’ll start to forget about this silly idea that they’re 'Arabs’—because the only reason they have for thinking that they’re Arabs is because of Classical Arabic—and they’ll want to divide up into different nationalities according to how they speak and write these new languages, like Europeans have.

Then we have the Alawites in Syria, who’ve managed to take control of the government and have to support all these radical movements so that people forget that they aren’t Muslims. Tell them they can have their own state in the homeland in northwestern Syria. The US will protect them there until the Muslims accept it. That'll stop all the trouble coming out of Syria.

To a remarkable extent we're just trying to correct the retardation we caused by foolishly intervening in WWI and then pushing for the least American of the Fourteen Points -- the transnational League of Nations -- while abandoning the ones that mattered, chiefly self-determination.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:19 AM


Starbucks Charges A Buck (Carl Gutierrez, 01.23.08, Forbes)

It’s back to Business 101 for Starbucks.

On Wednesday, shares of the latte-chain lifted 7.6%, or $1.42, to $20.09, in the wake of news that the Seattle-based company was testing offering small cups of drip coffee for $1 with free refills in its hometown, approximately 50 cents less than it normally charges.

I don't get it. A 39oz can of Shaw's or Chock-Full-0-Nuts costs $4 on sale. How big a small cup of coffee could they be selling you for $1.50?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:07 AM


Slowly, but Surely, Pyongyang Is Moving (David Albright and Jacqueline Shire, January 24, 2008, Washington Post)

There is no indication that North Korea is backing away from its commitments to disable key nuclear facilities and every reason to expect this process to unfold slowly, with North Korea taking small, incremental steps in return for corresponding steps from the United States and others in the six-party discussions.

Disablement of the five-megawatt reactor at Yongbyon slowed in part because the United States decided that unloading the irradiated fuel rods as fast as North Korea proposed could needlessly risk exposing the North Korean workers to excessive radiation. North Korea is unloading the rods and making steady progress on the other aspects of disablement at the Yongbyon site. Could it be happening faster? Probably, and North Korea would point out that promised shipments of heavy fuel oil are also slow in coming.

North Korea's nuclear declaration was to be received by Dec. 31. On Jan. 2, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said the United States was still "waiting to hear" from the North. Pyongyang responded that the United States had its declaration. After some tail-chasing, it emerged that North Korea had quietly shared an initial declaration with the United States in November. According to media reports, this declaration stated that North Korea had a separated plutonium stockpile of 30 kilograms and denied that it had a uranium enrichment program.

Does this quantity of separated plutonium make sense? Yes. In short, 30 kilograms is at the lower end of the range of plutonium that we have assessed North Korea could have separated. This estimate is based on what we know about how long its reactor operated to build up plutonium in the fuel rods and how much plutonium was chemically extracted from this fuel at the nearby reprocessing plant.

What about any enriched uranium? There is no question that North Korea has committed to providing the other nations in the six-party discussions with information about its uranium enrichment efforts and should be held to that commitment. But we should not lose sight of an uncomfortable fact -- that U.S. policymakers misread (at best) or hyped information that North Korea had a large-scale uranium enrichment program. There is ample evidence that North Korea acquired components for a centrifuge-enrichment program, but few now believe the North produced highly enriched uranium or developed its enrichment capabilities in the manner once claimed by the United States.

We've seen in the past how poorly the Right handles having a puffed-up bogeyman pulled out from over them. Recall their fury at Ronald Reagan, who recognized long before they that he'd beaten Gorbachev.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:58 AM


The War of Ideas (Joe Klein, 1/24/08, TIME)

"I think it is fair to say the Republicans were the party of ideas for a pretty long chunk of time," Barack Obama recently told a Nevada editorial board. The Senator took some notable, if not quite accurate, grief from Hillary Clinton over that: she said he was expressing support for Republican ideas (clearly, he wasn't). But what did he actually mean? People—and not just Republicans—have been calling the gop the party of ideas for nearly 30 years, since Ronald Reagan transformed the mushy, defensive conservatism of his party into a sleek ideological message celebrating individual freedom, military strength and traditional moral values. [...]

In 2008, a fresh, maybe even exciting federal response to the interlocking national economic, energy and security crises should be front and center of the debate, but none of the Democrats running for President seems to have the courage or sagacity to make the offer.

This is, of course, largely a function of the fact that they are the reactionary party and they're reacting to Reagan and Bush--and even, to a considerable extent, to Bill Clinton. Were they just to return to the successful Clinton/Blair/Rudd model they could easily present the big interlocking set of Third Way ideas they need in order to appeal to an Anglospheric electorate: personal SS accounts; universal HSAs; school vouchers; and gas consumption taxes to offset the costs.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:50 AM


Some in Party Bristle At Clintons' Attacks: Anti-Obama Ad Heightens Unity Fears (Alec MacGillis and Anne E. Kornblut, 1/24/08, Washington Post)

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's presidential campaign aired a new radio ad here Wednesday that repeated a discredited charge against Sen. Barack Obama, in what some Democrats said is part of an increasing pattern of hardball politics by her and former president Bill Clinton.

The ad takes one line from an Obama interview -- "The Republicans were the party of ideas for a pretty long chunk of time there over the last 10, 15 years" -- and juxtaposes it with GOP policies that Obama has never advocated. [...]

Earlier this week, the Obama team began a new effort to deal with what it says has been a string of misleading or untrue attacks from the Clintons over the past three weeks. His campaign has begun pushing back harder, trying to puncture the allegations more quickly -- a risky approach, because it involves questioning the credibility of the Democratic Party's most prominent figures of the past two decades, but one that Obama strategists believe they can no longer avoid.

Among the allegations against Obama are that his opposition to the war in Iraq is overstated, that he is weak on abortion rights, that his links to a nuclear energy company undermine his opposition to the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste site in Nevada and that he supports a trillion-dollar tax increase on "hardworking Americans" because he is open to raising the limit on salary taxed for Social Security.

So, since neither candidate has presented any ideas of their own, we must glean a political platform from this kerfuffle: opposition to the liberation of Iraq; unrestricted abortion; and doing nothing about Social Security. Anyone else feel like Sam Tyler?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:46 AM


Giuliani falls far, fast: His decision to abandon early-voting states looks like a 'major strategic blunder,' observers say. Even in Florida -- his campaign linchpin -- he has dropped sharply in polls. (Michael Finnegan, 1/24/08, Los Angeles Times)

With time running short, no sign of a turnaround has emerged. He has lost his front-runner's perch in California, a new Field Poll has found. Other surveys show sharp drops for Giuliani in Florida, New Jersey and New York, his home state.

All but ignored as rivals John McCain, Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee have racked up victories, the normally combative former New York mayor has taken an uncharacteristically subdued approach to recovery.

When it ran out so did he.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:25 AM


David Cameron backs John McCain in US race (Rosa Prince, 24/01/2008, Daily Telegraph)

Speaking at a dinner hosted by Barclays Capital at the World Economic Forum in Davos, the Conservative leader heaped praised on one of the Republican front-runners, John McCain. [...]

In his after-dinner speech, Mr Cameron described how Vietnam veteran Mr McCain had impressed him when he spoke at the 2006 Conservative Party Conference in Bournemouth.

The Conservative leader said: “Every generation has to fight and win the argument for free trade and open markets. Just look at the presidential election in the US.

“On both sides of the political divide, there are candidates advocating protectionist policies. There is one clear exception - and I admire him a great deal for his stance.

“Senator John McCain did my party the great honour of addressing our annual conference two years ago, and we saw then the courage and conviction that saw him go to Michigan and tell the voters directly that the old jobs weren’t coming back and that protectionism was no answer to today’s economic problems.

“He didn’t win the primary, but he certainly won a lot of respect.”

The big question is what nations they'll liberate together when they're leading their respective countries.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:18 AM


Bush and Congress close to a deal on economic stimulus plan (David M. Herszenhorn, January 24, 2008, IHT)

U.S. congressional leaders and the Bush administration were close to reaching a deal Wednesday on a $145 billion economic stimulus package as the Treasury Department crunched the numbers on components of the plan, senior House officials said. [...]

[T]he centerpiece of the plan would be a widely distributed tax rebate, perhaps totaling as much as $96.5 billion or roughly two-thirds of the total amount President George W. Bush has said was needed to help jumpstart the economy.

When the Gipper's economy hit a speed bump he hiked taxes.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:12 AM


Surprise! The Times Attacks the Messenger: Linda Greenhouse is conflicted, so obviously the problem is Ed Whelan. (Andrew C. McCarthy, 1/24/08, National Review)

[Ed Whelan, the brilliant legal analyst who heads the Ethics and Public Policy Center] determined to take a complaint to the Public Editor. At Bench Memos, he had pointed out that the Times’ heralded Supreme Court reporter, Linda Greenhouse, had a stark conflict of interest: She was reporting on crucial war-on-terror cases in which her husband, prominent D.C. attorney and Bush-administration critic Eugene Fidell, had participated as a litigant. Specifically, Fidell, whose specialty is military law, had participated in amicus briefs filed on behalf of enemy-combatant detainees — such delightful chaps as Salim Hamdan, Osama bin Laden’s former bodyguard and guy-jumah.

Though the conflict was patent, Greenhouse and the Times chose not to disclose it to readers, even though it was something about which they, and the Times, had thought carefully before staying mum. For example, in some fairly hilarious parsing after Whelan called her on it, Greenhouse insisted that Fidell had not represented a “party” in the cases. Okay … but how does that help? An amicus never formally represents a party. Amici are permitted to file briefs in aid of the court’s consideration of a case upon showing that they have a stake in the outcome — that is, unlike parties, who are not necessarily litigating by choice (Hamdan, for example, would prefer not to be at Gitmo), friends of the court choose to jump into cases and are allowed to do so because they are strongly interested.

Fidell, moreover, removed his name from the Supreme Court amicus brief his organization, the National Institute of Military Justice (lavishly funded by George Soros), filed in the more recent Boumediene case — which, as anyone familiar with Greenhouse’s always-balanced reporting can tell you, involves whether it was proper for Congress, in its “waning weeks under Republican control,” to engage in “court-stripping action … in light of the Constitution’s injunction to Congress not to suspend ‘the privilege’ of habeas corpus.” Greenhouse has acknowledged her husband struck his name precisely because he knew she was reporting on the case. Their tracks, however, were not covered: He had already signed the brief his organization filed on behalf of the same detainees in the lower court; and even in the Supreme Court, Fidell was listed in the amicus brief submitted by another entity, the Constitution Project, as one of the signatories to its “Statement on Restoring Habeas Corpus Rights Eliminated By The Military Commissions Act.”

Why was Fidell’s involvement in the cases a “patent” conflict for his wife’s reporting on them? Well, if that’s not plain enough on its face, one could rely on the generally applicable legal standard, which counsels counsel to avoid “even the appearance of impropriety.” But why resort to such arid rules when we have the New York Times itself as our compass.

The Times is ever quick to find conflicts of interest, just not in its own house. For example, one could only be astonished (which, by the Grey Lady’s standards, is saying something) when the newspaper — a plaything passed down from Sulzberger to Sulzberger — elected to fret at length about “neo[con]-nepotism” at Commentary. The magazine had announced that the highly accomplished John Podhoretz had been chosen to become its next editor: clearly a merit promotion notwithstanding that John will assume the prestigious seat his legendary father, Norman, occupied for decades.

Then there was another Times fave, Justice Antonin Scalia, who outraged the editors because he would not recuse himself from a case in which the high court considered a Bush administration task force — after all, the Justice had gone duck-hunting with [shudder] Dick Cheney. “It is an elemental principle of law,” the Times railed “that judges must not have, or even appear to have, an interest in the cases before them.” Why, “[t]he public wants judges to avoid even the suggestion of bias[.]”

...justice requires that judges be above reproach, but no one expects journalists to adhere to a code of ethics.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:40 AM


Reeauthorize FISA (KENNETH BLACKWELL, January 24, 2008, NY Sun)

Over 90% of global Internet traffic, and countless phone calls from one foreign country, say, Iran, to another foreign country, say, Afghanistan, pass through America. The question becomes whether our government can monitor such calls that involve suspected terrorists without first filling out the paperwork for a warrant. The fix did that.

But Congress only gave the fix a shelf life of several months, so it would have more time to debate the issue and revisit it later. That statutory fix is about to expire, and Congress must do something about it. The president should call for FISA reauthorization in his State of the Union, and demand that Congress swiftly comply with it.

Why ask for authorization where Congress has no authority?

January 23, 2008

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:47 PM


Romney Leads in Ill Will Among G.O.P. Candidates (MICHAEL LUO, 1/23/08, NY Times)

With so much attention recently on the sniping between Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama on the Democratic side, the almost visceral scorn directed at Mr. Romney by his rivals has been overshadowed.

“Never get into a wrestling match with a pig,” Senator John McCain said in New Hampshire this month after reporters asked him about Mr. Romney. “You both get dirty, and the pig likes it.”

Mike Huckabee’s pugilistic campaign chairman, Ed Rollins, appeared to stop just short of threatening Mr. Romney with physical violence at one point.

“What I have to do is make sure that my anger with a guy like Romney, whose teeth I want to knock out, doesn’t get in the way of my thought process,” Mr. Rollins said.

Campaign insiders and outside strategists point to several factors driving the ill will, most notably, Mr. Romney’s attacks on opponents in television commercials, the perception of him as an ideological panderer and resentment about his seemingly unlimited resources as others have struggle to raise cash. [...]

In stark contrast to Mr. Romney, Mr. McCain seems to be universally liked and respected by the other Republican contenders, even if they disagree with him.

Mr. Schnur used a schoolyard analogy to compare Mr. Romney, the ever-proper Harvard Law School and Business School graduate, to Mr. McCain, the gregarious rebel who racked up demerits and friends at the Naval Academy.

“John McCain and his friends used to beat up Mitt Romney at recess,” Mr. Schnur said.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:41 PM


Rice: Iran not a 'permanent enemy' (Press TV, 24 Jan 2008)

After weeks of anti-Iran rhetoric, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says the US does not want for Tehran to be a 'permanent enemy'.

"Iranians are a proud people with a great culture, and we respect the contributions they have made to world civilization," she said, adding that the current row over the nation's nuclear activities can be resolved via diplomacy.

"We could begin negotiations, and we could work over time to build a new, more normal relationship," she stated after demanding Iran to suspend its nuclear program which Tehran had repeatedly stressed is civilian.

"I have said that if that suspension takes place, I will meet my counterpart any time, any place, anywhere to talk about anything. I don't know how to make a stronger invitation than that," she said at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

Just go there and meet with Ahmedinejad's rivals, an ideal way to undercut him as they head into elections.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:33 PM


Obama says he bungled some Illinois votes: At least 5 times, the former state senator went on the record as having pushed the wrong button. (Peter Wallsten, 1/23/08, Los Angeles Times)

Barack Obama angered fellow Democrats in the Illinois Senate when he voted to strip millions of dollars from a child welfare office on Chicago's West Side. But Obama had a ready explanation: He goofed.

"I was not aware that I had voted no," he said that day in June 2002, asking that the record be changed to reflect that he "intended to vote yes."

That misfire was not an isolated case for the young former civil-rights attorney first elected to the state Senate in 1996. At least five times during his eight years in state office, Obama cast a vote and then said he had hit the wrong button, according to transcripts of the proceedings. [..]

[S]ome lawmakers say the unusual practice also offers a relatively painless way to placate both sides of a difficult issue. Even if a lawmaker admits an error, the actual vote stands and the official record merely shows the senator's "intent."

One wonders how he can be so lightweight and not levitate.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:19 PM


Conservative path is the best for Libs (Noel McCoy, January 21, 2008, The Australian)

IT was 2000 and up-and-coming NSW state MP John Brogden confidently declared that Liberals must match their progressive economic policies with progressive social policies.

Citing social policy examples such as multiculturalism, gay marriage and decriminalisation of drugs, Brogden proposed a program of social liberalisation that would transform the Liberal Party into what he described as "consistently liberal, not a hybrid of economic liberalism and social conservatism". It was a vision that promised to radically reform the Liberal Party and make it relevant to what he perceived was a new generation of voters who had grown up in a "modern, tolerant, progressive Australia".

Yet in the short period that intervened, the Howard government proved, almost as if deliberately, that the opposite was true. Slashing personal income tax rates, erasing $96billion of government debt, opening up the workplace to competitive market pressures and the introduction of private health care incentives are just a few examples of Howard's voracious appetite for economic reform.

But in virtually the same breath, the Howard government reaffirmed marriage as an institution between a man and a woman, pursued a "tough on drugs" strategy, rejected indigenous apologism and replaced multiculturalism with integration, among its many socially conservative projects.

John Howard summed up his approach in 2005 when he described himself as an "economic liberal and a social conservative", and rejected incompatibility between those two strands, suggesting that it was "some of the oddest pieces of political philosophy" to say that an economic liberal had to be a social libertarian. [...]

Despite an emphatic victory for Labor at the 2007 federal election and a shift in the youth vote, the success of Howard's formula has surprisingly been left intact. And Kevin Rudd knows it. After all, the media and marketing reinvention of Labor as a Howard-like conservative force was a recognition of the success of Howard's formula of blending free-market economic policy and socially mainstream values.

Which is why, for example, Rudd went as far as to slap down his party's foreign affairs spokesman on the issue of opposing the death sentence for the Bali bombers. He has also repeatedly referred to himself as an economic conservative, rejected gay marriage and made his Christian beliefs a matter of public record.

The constant and successful use of catchphrases such as "new leadership", "fresh ideas", "plan for the future" and the Kevin07 brand meant Labor was distinguishing itself not on the basis of a Left or progressive policy agenda but, rather, on personality and the impression of being more forward-looking than Howard. In many ways, Labor's 2007 campaign capitalised on the strong electoral synergy between free-market thinking and mainstream social values.

Who were the last elected leaders of America, England or Australia not to--at least rhetorically--toe that line? In America it's probably Richard Nixon (Gerald Ford having not been elected).

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:05 PM


The economics of evolution: a review of Sex, Science and Profits by Terence Kealey (Richard Davenport-Hines, 1/23/08, Daily Telegraph)

Marx declared in The Communist Manifesto that 'the bourgeoisie cannot exist without constantly revolutionising the instruments of production'. But innovation, on which all economic growth depends, is an unpredictable entity, says Terence Kealey, which can only be understood as an evolutionary phenomenon.

It is the thrust of his book that a grasp of biology and the workings of natural selection are indispensable to understanding business dynamics, technological advances, scientific research and much of what we call material progress.

Exactly backwards, of course. To grasp Darwinism you need to know that it's just economic theory applied to biology--actually, misapplied, since economics is tacitly dependent on intelligent design while Darwinism pretends not to be.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:25 PM


From now on, Romney's on the visiting team (Peter A. Brown, Jan 23, 2008, Politico)

Michigan was Romney’s birthplace, a state where his father was a former governor. Not incidentally, the state’s economy is perhaps the sickest in the country, and Romney’s message of a government bailout — although wholly inconsistent with his claims to be the real conservative in the race — had a receptive audience.

He won caucuses in Wyoming and Nevada but had little competition in either contest as the other candidates spent their time and money elsewhere. Moreover, Nevada has a substantial Mormon population, which is true of only a couple of other states. Romney is a Mormon, and his religion is thought to be a detriment in some places.

His “silver medals” in Iowa and New Hampshire came after spending countless days, and many millions of dollars, building personal relationships among voters there. That is not possible in the orgy of upcoming contests. In both states, he was leading in the polls and lost when the votes were counted.

That was especially ominous in New Hampshire, his neighboring state, where he had once held a large lead.

Although Romney’s massive personal wealth will allow him to continue running regardless of the voting results, most of the upcoming contests are not in states where he has any built-in geographic or demographic edge.

An indication of the rough road that Romney may face is his fourth-place finish in South Carolina, where he left the state in the final days before the voting to try to argue he hadn’t competed there. But the truth is he plunked down $4 million in television commercials and staff — more than any other candidate — and spent more than 20 days there campaigning.

Florida and the Feb. 5 states may not offer a friendlier environment. McCain’s superior name recognition and polls showing him to be by far the most competitive GOP candidate in November against the Democrats give him a big edge.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:22 PM


Q&A: Barack Obama: "I believe in the redemptive death and resurrection of Jesus Christ." (Interview by Sarah Pulliam and Ted Olsen | posted 1/23/2008, Christrianity Today)

You've talked about your experience walking down the aisle at Trinity United Church of Christ, and kneeling beneath the cross, having your sins redeemed, and submitting to God's will. Would you describe that as a conversion? Do you consider yourself born again?

I am a Christian, and I am a devout Christian. I believe in the redemptive death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I believe that that faith gives me a path to be cleansed of sin and have eternal life. But most importantly, I believe in the example that Jesus set by feeding the hungry and healing the sick and always prioritizing the least of these over the powerful. I didn't 'fall out in church' as they say, but there was a very strong awakening in me of the importance of these issues in my life. I didn't want to walk alone on this journey. Accepting Jesus Christ in my life has been a powerful guide for my conduct and my values and my ideals.

Thus the secular rationalist in whom the Euros think they'll find a soulmate.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:19 PM


St. Pete Times Poll: Bye-bye Rudy? (Adam C. Smith, 1/23/08, The Buzz)

It’s Mitt Romney vs. John McCain in the final stretch of Florida’s crucial Republican primary.

A new St. Petersburg Times poll shows the former Massachusetts governor and Arizona senator neck and neck among Florida Republicans, while Rudy Giuliani’s Florida-or-bust strategy has been a bust.

Among Florida voters likely to vote in Tuesday’s primary, 25 percent are backing McCain and 23 percent Romney, a statistical tie, while Giuliani and Mike Huckabee were tied for third place with 15 percent each.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:17 PM


Yankees set another payroll record (AP, January 23, 2008)

The Yankees did finish first in something last year -- spending.

While their streak of AL East titles ended at nine, the Yankees wound up with a record payroll of $218.3 million.

The World Series champion Boston Red Sox were a distant second at $155.4 million, according to information received by clubs from the commissioner's office. The Los Angeles Dodgers were third at $125.6 million, followed by the New York Mets ($120.9 million), Chicago Cubs ($115.9 million), Seattle ($114.4 million), Los Angeles Angels ($111 million), Philadelphia ($101.8 million), San Francisco ($101.5 million) and the Chicago White Sox ($100.2 million).

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:14 PM


Warming may reduce hurricanes hitting U.S. Jim Loney, 1/23/08, Reuters)

Rising ocean temperatures linked to global warming could decrease the number of hurricanes hitting the United States, according to new research released on Wednesday.

The study, published in Geophysical Research Letters, challenges recent research that suggests global warming could be contributing to an increase in the frequency and the intensity of Atlantic hurricanes.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:08 PM


The day Gaza's Berlin Wall came down (Tim Butcher, 23/01/2008, Daily Telegraph)

Cigarette cartons, overladen suitcases and oily jerry cans bobbed at shoulder height on a sea of euphoric Palestinians as Gaza enjoyed the day when its Berlin Wall came down.

For years local Palestinians have stared forlornly at the six-metre high skirt of grey concrete and corrugated steel erected by occupying Israeli forces to separate Egypt from the Gaza Strip.

But the wall was blown away in at least eight different places and through the breaches swept a tide of Palestinians, ecstatic at the sense of release from Israel's swingeing blockade.

First came the teenagers, curious to see what would happen to them on a border where, until very recently, they could expect to be shot on sight.

Then came the smugglers, aware a good turn was to be made on cigarettes bought in Egypt for £9 a carton but sold in Gaza for nearer £25.

Finally came crowds and crowds of normal Gazans, men and women, old and young, some on bicycles, a few being pushed in wheelchairs, simply enjoying the rare sensation of freedom.

There's a big difference between a security fence and a wall as a weapon.

Palestinians topple Gaza wall and cross to Egypt (Steven Erlanger and Graham Bowley , 1/23/08, IHT)

Initial reports suggested that Hamas militants had used explosives to blow a hole in the corrugated-iron border fence at Rafah. The Rafah crossing into Egypt has been shut since Hamas took over Gaza in a short war with Fatah last summer.

Witnesses reported hearing explosions early Wednesday morning, and said that Hamas then sent bulldozers to push the fence over. Some reports said Hamas militants had blown as many as 15 holes along the fence. Later television footage showed that the fence had been toppled in several sections.

People began pouring over the fence before dawn, said one witness, Fatan Hessin, 45. She had crossed into Egypt to be reunited with a childhood friend. "I am not Hamas or Fatah, but I thank Hamas for this," she said.

Arye Mekel, a spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry, said: "I think Hamas has been planning this for a long time. Maybe they thought this would be an opportune time." He was referring to the mounting international concerns over Israel's blockade.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:36 PM


U.S. Officials Rejected Key Source on '94 Bombing (Gareth Porter, 1/23/08, IPS)

The Iranian defector who was the source of Argentina's allegation that Iranian officials began planning the Jul. 18, 1994 terror bombing of a Jewish community centre at a meeting nearly a year earlier had been dismissed as unreliable by U.S. officials, according to the FBI agent who led the U.S. team assisting the investigation in 1997-98.

The FBI agent, James Bernazzani, also says Argentine investigators had no real leads on an Iranian link to the bombing when his team was in Argentina. Three top officials in the U.S. Embassy in Buenos Aires at the time -- including Ambassador James Cheek -- have confirmed the absence of evidence linking Iran to the bombing, which killed 85 people and wounded another 300.

Iran and Hezbollah have done enough that there's no need to make stuff up.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:43 PM


Fatah's Politics Make Peace Impolitic (Barry Rubin, January 21, 2008 , GLORIA)

[H]ow can Abbas, Fatah, and the PA claim to be sole representative when they don't control over half the land and people supposedly represented? How can Abbas do anything when most of Fatah is closer to Hamas than to his more moderate impulses?

His regime, then, simply cannot deliver an agreement ending the conflict. Not only cannot Fatah regain control of the Gaza Strip, it will be lucky to hold onto the West Bank.

"Fatah is now convalescing," Abbas assures colleagues, "and, God willing, you will witness that it will fare very well" in future. Yet nothing has changed in Fatah. The Arafat crowd, veteran leaders from decades of PLO intransigence, still rule. Whatever Abbas's personal views, there are few moderates among them, nor would they back their supposed leader if he actually tried to stop cross-border attacks, punish terrorism, end incitement, clamp down on internal anarchy, or make a deal with Israel.

This leadership is being challenged by the "young guard" which decries the "old guard's" corruption and suggests it has become too soft. The new generation is by no means more moderate. Its reference point is not the 1990s' peace process but the 1980s' intifada.

Many or most of the young guard prefer a deal with Hamas, rather than one with Israel, and a return to systematic armed struggle. At best, they believe a peace treaty can only come after Israel is expelled from the West Bank, a task that would take decades and if ever fulfilled would whet their ambitions for total victory.

Abbas is trapped. He can neither defeat nor make peace with Israel; neither defeat nor make a deal with Hamas in which the latter would accept Fatah's leadership. Nor can he control his own organization, end the chaos in the West Bank, or implement an economic development program. That's his Shadow. His only asset--though a considerable one--is that both the West and Israel will ignore all these problems and pretend otherwise.

By trying to avoid the inevitable -- the deal where Hamas is recognized as the popular government of a unified state of Palestine -- all sides only harm their own people and each other.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:38 AM


2007 Pats at 1985 Bears (WhatIfSports.com)

Pats 21
Bears 7

Colin Cowherd mentioned this site on ESPN radio this morning--the 2007 Pats actually beat every team ever.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:03 AM


Overseas Investors Buy Aggressively in U.S. (PETER S. GOODMAN and LOUISE STORY, January 20, 2008, NY Times)

For much of the world, the United States is now on sale at discount prices. With credit tight, unemployment growing and worries mounting about a potential recession, American business and government leaders are courting foreign money to keep the economy growing. Foreign investors are buying aggressively, taking advantage of American duress and a weak dollar to snap up what many see as bargains, while making inroads to the world’s largest market.

Last year, foreign investors poured a record $414 billion into securing stakes in American companies, factories and other properties through private deals and purchases of publicly traded stock, according to Thomson Financial, a research firm. That was up 90 percent from the previous year and more than double the average for the last decade. It amounted to more than one-fourth of all announced deals for the year, Thomson said.

During the first two weeks of this year, foreign businesses agreed to invest another $22.6 billion for stakes in American companies — more than half the value of all announced deals. If a recession now unfolds and the dollar drops further, the pace could accelerate, economists say.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:48 AM


REVIEW: 'God's Crucible: Islam and the Making of Europe, 570-1215' by David Levering Lewis (Tim Rutten, 1/23/08, Los Angeles Times)

Like many a writer and artist before him, Lewis is in thrall to an idealized Umayyad Spain, that island of comparative tolerance and intellectual freedom, undoubted prosperity and physical beauty that ornaments the medieval landscape. Even now, al-Andalus seems more poem than place, site of the Alhambra, the great Mosque of Cordova, the patio houses of Granada and home to Averroës and Maimonides. The problem is that Lewis is intent on making a general case with a society that stands as such an exception to other states of its era, whether Muslim or Christian. In fact, Umayyad Spain benefited from any number of unique factors: the extraordinary statecraft of its founder, Abd al-Rahman I, and some of his more able successors, the necessity of maintaining a balance of power in an unusually polyglot population and Spain's physical distance from contemporary centers of Muslim and Christian power.

Lewis sets out to show that the failure of what he calls "the jihad east of the Pyrenees" is "one of the most significant losses in world history." He argues that the Frankish defeat of the Islamic invaders at Poitiers in 732 and the subsequent poetic glorification of Roland's sacrifice to cover Charlemagne's retreat from his own incursion into Spain were "pivotal moments in the creation of an economically retarded, balkanized and fratricidal Europe that, by defining itself in opposition to Islam, made virtues out of hereditary aristocracy, persecutory religious intolerance, cultural particularism and perpetual war . . . 'winning' at Poitiers actually meant that the economic, scientific and cultural levels that Europeans attained in the 13th century could almost certainly have been achieved more than three centuries earlier had they been included in the Muslim world empire."

In other words, the West would be better off if it had been incorporated into an all-conquering Islamic empire in the early Middle Ages.


Still, it's fair to wonder why, if that's true, the West ended up with the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, the Industrial Revolution and the Scientific Revolution and the Islamic world got chronic underdevelopment, a pervasive religious obscurantism, Al Qaeda and the trust fund states of the Arabian peninsula?

...to envy the Moor.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:38 AM


Longtime patron may be a problem for Obama: Alleged slumlord and indicted businessman Antoin 'Tony' Rezko has long supported the Democratic presidential hopeful, who has returned related donations (Dan Morain and Tom Hamburger, 1/23/08, Los Angeles Times)

Antoin "Tony" Rezko, an entrepreneur who made a fortune in pizza parlors, Chinese restaurants and real estate, goes on trial next month on federal charges of extortion, influence peddling and conspiracy. There is no suggestion that Obama is involved in any of the alleged criminal activity. But the upcoming trial -- and details of Obama's relationship with its central figure -- could cast a shadow over his carefully cultivated image at a critical time.

In recent weeks, including during the debate, Obama sought to minimize the nature of that relationship. Among other things, he has returned $85,000 in Rezko-related campaign contributions in what a staffer calls "an abundance of caution."

A review by the Los Angeles Times shows that Rezko, a businessman long active in Chicago politics, played a deeper role in Obama's political and financial biography than the candidate has acknowledged.

You can tell just how minor a political figure Mr. Obama is, even in his home state, by what a low-rent character he sold out to. Couldn't the Democrats at least offer us a choice with enough stature that they're worth Halliburton's time and money?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:31 AM


Bush, Lawmakers Are Close to Deal on Stimulus Package (Peter Baker and Jonathan Weisman, 1/23/08, Washington Post)

Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr.] plans to open formal talks on the details of the package this morning, and Senate leaders agreed to defer to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) as chief negotiators. But officials said they were close to the framework of a roughly $145 billion plan. About two-thirds of the money would go for tax breaks for individuals, plus extended unemployment and food stamp benefits, while the other third would be for business tax breaks. Individuals would get rebates of as much as $800, and married couples as much as $1,600.

Democrats on Trail Rip Stimulus Talks With Bush (Jonathan Weisman and Michael D. Shear, 1/23/08, Washington Post)
In Washington, as anxious eyes were fixed on the stock markets, President Bush and Democratic leaders settled into a detente yesterday, cautiously moving toward agreement on an economic stimulus package.

But presidential campaign seasons are not conducive to bipartisanship, and Democratic candidates laid into Bush. Some even questioned why their congressional leaders were sitting down with the man they have made their common enemy.

When economic growth slows to 2% of GDP we get even more tax money back. Your economic crises ain't like your Old Man's.

N.B.: So much for Barack Obama being the post-partisan bridge between the parties, eh?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:25 AM


Clinton gets warm welcome from Latinos: The United Farm Workers union endorses her. One expert says Obama remains a relatively unknown entity (James Rainey, 1/23/08, Los Angeles Times)

Field Poll Director Mark DiCamillo said Clinton has consistently been well received in the Latino community. "Obama has not been able to dent her advantage," he said.

Harry Pachon, president of the Tomas Rivera Policy Institute at USC, said Obama remains an unknown quantity to many Latinos.

A Spanish-language news report from the Nevada caucuses described some voters as unclear even as to the name of Clinton's prime challenger. "They were looking for an Omega, not an Obama," Pachon said. "So his name is just not recognized yet."

Clinton has been served well by her multiple endorsements from Latino elected officials, including Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Pachon said.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:07 AM


Presidential Candidates Audio & Video Resource (Learn Out Loud)

Listen to and watch audio & video of the 2008 U.S. Presidential Candidates. Featuring podcasts, speeches, debates, interviews, and more from the major Democratic and Republican candidates running for president.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


The Fish Within Us (What is most surprising is not that we once lived in the sea, but that we are still evolving (Jeneen Interlandi, 1/19/08, NEWSWEEK)

[W]hile world headlines marveled at the idea that our own hands were somehow descended from these fish fingers, Shubin began exploring the anatomical vestiges of our previous lives. If we evolved from fish, he reasoned, our body design should look more convoluted than rational. Over the next few years, he found ample evidence to support his claim: our veins meander inefficiently, our knees give out easily under the weight of bodies they were not designed to support and our brains are clumsy upgrades from earlier models. "Turning a fish into a human is like turning a Beetle into a hot rod," Shubin says. "As a species, we are actually kind of jury-rigged." In his new book, "Your Inner Fish," Shubin explains how a range of medical conditions, from hiccups to heart disease, are the byproducts of our clunky evolution. "The extraordinary disconnect between our past and our human present means that our bodies fall apart in certain predictable ways," he says. "Our circulatory systems are a good example. They were designed for activity, but we now have the lifestyles of spuds."

The good news is that natural selection may yet correct some of those inefficiencies. A study published in the December Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences found that not only are humans still evolving, but we are doing so at a faster rate than ever before, with genes that affect our diets and brains leading the race. "If humans had always evolved this rapidly, the difference between us and chimps would be 160 times greater than it actually is," says the study's lead author, University of Utah anthropologist Henry Harpending.

The findings have turned some traditional assumptions on their heads. For decades, biologists believed that human evolution had ground to a halt about 10,000 years ago, when the dawn of agriculture and technology gave us unprecedented control over our environments and made us masters of our own destiny. But rather than slow evolution down, those advances, Harpending says, enabled humanity to hit the accelerator. With better technology, our ranks have swelled from millions to billions. This has driven us to colonize more and different regions of the globe. More people mean more mutations, and more environments mean more things to adapt to. Migration into the Northern Hemisphere, for example, has favored adaptation to cold weather and less skin pigmentation for better sunlight absorption.

...they'd believe that the Obama/Hillary fight is a perfectly natural survival struggle between different species. But, as this story about incredibly rapid evolution that produces no speciation reveals, no one believes in Darwinism anymore.

January 22, 2008

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:56 PM


Democratic alarm as candidates switch into negative attack mode: Clinton accuses Obama of desperation while Monday debate rancour goes into second day and brings campaign to low ebb (Suzanne Goldenberg, January 23, 2008, The Guardian)

Democrats, including Ted Kennedy, are concerned that the Clintons' strategy is unbecoming and risks dividing the party along racial lines.

The row moved into the dangerous territory of race when the two sides argued over the legacy of Martin Luther King. In Nevada, the Clintons accused Obama of praising Ronald Reagan, and Obama's campaigners of intimidating voters. Yesterday the row extended to Florida, with Clinton supporters accusing Obama of violating a candidates' agreement not to campaign there by airing a TV ad.

By yesterday, the threat posed by the Clintons' negative campaign was so serious that the Obama campaign launched a "truth squad" in South Carolina. "It's wrong. Everybody knows it's wrong and it's got to stop," Tom Daschle, the former Senate Democratic majority leader, told reporters. "It's going to have a huge effect, a lasting effect if it doesn't stop soon."

"It's not presidential. It's not in keeping with the image of a former president."

Clinton also faces a charge she is fleeing the field of Saturday's South Carolina primary; most of its Democratic voters are African American, a community overwhelmingly behind Obama in Nevada.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:53 PM


Asian markets rebound after Fed cut (YURI KAGEYAMA, AP)

Asian stock indexes rose sharply Wednesday, rebounding from steep losses in the previous two days after a surprise interest rate cut by the U.S. Federal Reserve.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:47 PM


Parasites Morph Ants to Look 'Berry' Tasty (Jennifer Viegas, 1/17/08, Discovery News)

To perpetuate its life cycle, a newly identified parasite morphs its ant victims to such a degree that the infected ants resemble red, ripe juicy berries that birds are more inclined to pick, according to the University of California at Berkeley.

Eggs from the parasite then pass through the unwitting birds when they defecate. Ants consume the waste, become infected, and the whole cycle starts anew.

The transformation from black ant to red berry form represents the world's first known example of fruit mimicry caused by a parasite. In this case, the victimizer is a parasitic nematode, or roundworm. [...]

"I have no explanation for it," Heydon admitted. "Parasites are simply amazing creatures. Their life cycles are astounding."

The acknowledgment that we have no explanation is the beginning of wisdom.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:44 PM


Britain in 2008: a nation in thrall to Thatcherism (Andy McSmith, 23 January 2008, Independent)

[W]hen it comes to blaming the poor for being poor, attitudes are harder now than they were in the 1980s, when Margaret Thatcher was at the peak of her influence.

The surveys, compiled from more than 3,000 interviews with a representative cross-section of society, have been conducted annually since 1983 by the National Centre for Social Research, with government backing.

21st-century attitudes


More than a quarter think poor people are poor because they are lazy or lack willpower, a view held by less than a fifth in 1986. Only 34 per cent think the Government should redistribute income, compared with 47 per cent in 1995.

...they have the gall to believe that the poor don't want to work hard?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:37 PM


Clawing Her Way Forward (STEVE DOLLAR, January 22, 2008, NY Sun)

When I lived in Atlanta, [Cat Power]'s home base for much of the 1990s, everyone was in love with her. She had a mini-cult of admirers almost from the start. The collective adoration, which would grow by international degrees during the next decade, was whetted by the incongruous gap between the singer's evident allure and her confounding diffidence. As Patterson Hood, singer for the Athens-based rock band the Drive-By Truckers, once declared in a song called "Cat Power": "You little misguided artist you / You know deep down I'll root for you." No one could have said it better.

Ms. Marshall was far from the most talented vocalist in town. And for all her enigmatic airs, which could mostly be attributed to shyness, she was scarcely the most eccentric figure on the local underground scene (the late Benjamin, drag queen/speed freak frontman for the bands Opal Foxx Quartet and Smoke, took that prize). But performance-wise, she was in a class all her own: There was no one so exasperating. No matter how smoky and mysterious Ms. Marshall's twilight grunge-folk sounded on record, the concerts sucked.

But the albums, beginning with her third release, 1996's "What Would the Community Think?," got better and better. Though she often toured alone, or with a pickup band of musician friends from Atlanta or New York, Ms. Marshall was choosier in the studio. On 1998's "Moon Pix," she initiated a rewarding partnership with the guitarist Mick Turner and drummer Jim White of New Zealand's Dirty Three, and finally became secure in her 3 a.m.-of-the-soul evocations, spectral and quavering like a country porchlight glimpsed through Spanish moss and pre-dawn mist. Her voice hovered in the same vulnerable alto range as the later-emergent Beth Orton, and the folk-based songs, with their ragged edges, were frazzled like Neil Young's. If Ms. Marshall offered a template for a generation of composerly and photogenic Starbucks-friendly singers — from Norah Jones to Feist — whose ambivalence went down smooth as a latte, she proved thornier.

She still does. Ms. Marshall's new record, "Jukebox," out today, capitalizes on the breakthrough of her radiant "The Greatest," the 2006 album that saw the singer step up to the challenge of working with a "real" band — an all-star assortment of such old-school Memphis studio masters as the guitarist Mabon "Teeny" Hodges, who co-wrote many of Al Green's hits, and drummer Steve Potts, from Booker T. & the M.G.s. The project reflected Ms. Marshall's personal obsession with the iconic aura of Memphis as a key site in the civil rights-era South and gave her the chance to mesh her formerly bare-boned songs with those lush, simmering Stax/Volt grooves.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:27 PM


Hillary v. McCain Might Just Be The Final
(Dick Morris, January 21, 2008, Rasmussen Reports)

McCain is, of course, the Republican who, apart from Rudy, would have the best chance to defeat Hillary. She can’t pull the old experience gambit on this long term Senator and his record on everything from global warming to corporate reform to campaign finance to torture to tobacco regulation to immigration reform makes it very hard for Hillary to defeat him. And, because of his appeal to Hispanics left over from his battle for the McCain-Kennedy immigration plan, he is ideally suited to take minority voters, burned by Hillary’s scorched earth policy against Obama, away from the Democrats.

It’s too early to coronate McCain or Hillary but they have clearly moved to the level of front runners as a result of their victories on Saturday.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:18 PM


Fred Thompson Quits Presidential Race (AP, 1/22/08)

"Today, I have withdrawn my candidacy for president of the United States. I hope that my country and my party have benefited from our having made this effort," Thompson said in a statement.

Thompson's fate was sealed last Saturday in the South Carolina primary, when he finished third in a state that he had said he needed to win.

Much as folks would like politics to be about people, presidential campaigns are pretty much slaves to narrative and theory. The premise of the Thompson candidacy was that he was a John McCain who wasn't in trouble with movement conservatives and would be a perfect default alternative to the two liberals--Giuliani and Romney. But, in practice, IA goes to the top pick of Evangelicals and NH, barring a genuine implosion, was going to stay loyal to Maverick and, at any rate, would not vote for a Southerner. Mr. Thompson got in the race too late to win the organization dependent IA caucuses, ceding the role of "conservative option" to Mike Huckabee. Mitt Romney foolishly tried competing in IA, which he had no chance of winning, making himself easy pickin's for senator McCain in NH, despite being a MA pol. And Rudy wisely opted not to bother running at all.

The result was that the race was down to two conservative candidates by the time it got to SC and opportunity had passed Mr. Thompson by. He deserves great credit for running such a weighty campaign in terms of ideas and proposals. But he, unfortunately, demonstrates once again that if you want to make a serious run you have to make a full-on commitment to the race years in advance. He happens to be too normal to do that. So, in effect, the qualities that would have made him a good president--mental balance, seriousness, placid temperament--left him unqualified to be the nominee of a major party. There's no shame in that and there ought to be few regrets.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:01 PM


The Case for Rudy Giuliani (Dennis Prager, 1/22/08, Real Clear Politics)

To the extent that I understand how most Republicans think, it would seem that former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani comes closer to the Republican ideal than any of the other viable Republican candidates. They are all good and decent men who would be better for America than either of the Democratic front-runners. But it is difficult to see, from a conservative- and Republican-values perspective, what major shortcoming Giuliani brings as compared to the other candidates.
Abortion Appeal: Roe has never been popular (Mark Stricherz, 1/22/08, National Review)
In the February 12, 1971 issue of Science, acclaimed sociologist Judith Blake published an article on American attitudes toward abortion, based on a decade of public-opinion surveys. Blake was the chairman of the department of Demography at UC Berkeley — an outpost for population-control specialists — and no friend to the nascent pro-life movement. Even so, Blake couldn’t deny the obvious: the vast majority of Americans opposed the repeal of state abortion laws. “If the Supreme Court became progressively involved in ruling on the constitutionality of state legislation concerning abortion,” Blake concluded, any Court decision favoring elective abortion “would not accord with the view of over 80 percent of the population.”

Blake’s findings likely did not surprise her audience. In the early 1970s, the “abortion repeal” movement was about as politically marginal as the Black Panthers or the Chicago Eight. No state had repealed its legal protections for “unborn infants” (the term George McGovern used to describe pre-natal human lives). When the Democratic Party at its 1972 convention voted on an abortion-repeal plank, the proposal failed 1,101 to 1,547. In early 1973, New York representative Bella Abzug’s legislation to nullify state anti-abortion laws had languished in Congress for eleven months, attracting no more than 20 sponsors.

It’s true that abortion liberalization laws had gained ground at the time. Four states had struck down most of their abortion restrictions, while 13 others had scrapped some of theirs. But by 1973, such reform efforts had stalled. Voters in Michigan and North Dakota in 1972 had rejected by overwhelming margins measures that would have legalized abortion up to the 20th week of pregnancy. And 33 states had not changed their laws one bit, to the consternation of Judith Blake, who said that they constituted “some of the more repressive of our pronatalist policies.”

Then on the morning of Monday, January 22, 1973, the Supreme Court announced its rulings in Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton.

Americans Describe Their Moral and Social Concerns, Including Abortion and Homosexuality (Barna Report, January 21, 2008)
Americans are troubled by a diverse palette of concerns. Three types of issues are of particular concern, perceived as "major" problems facing the country by three-quarters of the population. Those included poverty (78%), the personal debt of individual Americans (78%), and HIV/AIDS (76%).

A quartet of issues emerged as moderate concerns, including illegal immigration (60% of adults said this is a major problem facing the country), global warming (57%), abortion (50%), and the content of television and movies (45%).

Following that, homosexuality was identified as a major problem facing the nation by about one out of every three Americans. This issue was assessed with the use of two questions to determine if Americans have different degrees of concerns about "homosexual lifestyles" or the "political efforts of homosexual activists." One-third of Americans said they were significantly concerned about "activists" (35%) and the same proportion felt "lifestyles" (35%) were of major concern. In fact, out of more than sixty different subgroups reviewed, there were no differences of opinion on these two survey questions, suggesting that the two issues may be linked in Americans' minds. [...]

How do Christian voters rank these issues? The survey explored two important slices of the Christian vote: born again Christians, a group of Americans who accounted for about half of all ballots cast in the 2004 election and the smaller, more socially conservative subset of born agains, labeled as evangelical voters. Evangelicals represent about one-fifth of all born again Christians. [Note that Barna surveys do not classify a person based upon a respondent’s use of the terms "born again" or "evangelical," instead basing the classification on what a person believes about spiritual matters.

The nation's 68 million registered voters who are born again Christians were most concerned about personal indebtedness (79%), poverty (78%), and HIV/AIDS (77%) - levels similar to that of other voters. However, born again Christians emerged as distinct from other voters in relation to many other issues. They are more concerned than were non-born again adults about illegal immigration (68%), abortion (67%), the content of television and movies (60%), homosexual lifestyles (51%), and homosexual activists (49%).

The subset of evangelicals (representing about 15 million of the born again voters) displayed a significantly different view on many issues. Evangelicals' top concern - by a wide margin - was abortion (94%). This was followed by the personal debt of Americans (81%), the content of television and movies (79%), homosexual activists (75%), and gay and lesbian lifestyles (75%).

Gee, you never hear about these issues at Beltway cocktail parties....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:27 PM


Barack Obama: white America’s candidate: Desperately hoping that he will change the ‘image of the USA’, white liberals have invested more hope and energy in Obama's campaign than have black Americans. (John Browne, 1/22/08, Spiked)

Today, blacks tend to agree more with the Republicans than the Democrats over abortion, gay marriage and the death penalty, but are unlikely to vote Republican. [...]

Until the mid-1920s, blacks largely voted Republican due to the legacy of Lincoln, ‘the great emancipator’. The Depression and the subsequent New Deal of the 1930s - sponsored by the Democrat president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt - helped to reverse this trend, with huge benefits given to many poor blacks. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 accelerated this shift, especially when the Act inspired many conservative, southern Democrats (Dixiecrats) to defect to the Republicans and Barry Goldwater, one of the few Republicans who opposed the Act, won his party nomination to run for president. The effect of these events was to hand the black vote to the Democrats.

If that wasn’t enough, the Republicans’ ‘Southern Strategy’ that began in the late 1960s, created a fissure that has never been healed. As Richard Nixon explained it at the time: ‘From now on, the Republicans are never going to get more than 10 to 20 per cent of the Negro vote and they don’t need any more than that… but Republicans would be short-sighted if they weakened enforcement of the Voting Rights Act. The more Negroes who register as Democrats in the South, the sooner the Negrophobe whites will quit the Democrats and become Republicans. That’s where the votes are. Without that prodding from the blacks, the whites will backslide into their old comfortable arrangement with the local Democrats.’

The black vote is only really influential in the South, but this is also where the Republicans have the most influence; as a result, the black vote has been largely irrelevant, or at least has been until now. Southern Democrats Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter both won southern states when they ran for president, but Clinton didn’t need to win them for his victories, and Carter was a one-term anomaly from Georgia who knew his Bible. In fact, Bill Clinton largely won so much support among blacks because of his conservatism and Christian leanings. Today, black voters are closer to the Republicans than the Democrats on many social issues; Hillary knows this only too well, and hopes that Bill’s legacy will bring many of them out to support her.

Whether the Southern states come into play in November is yet to be seen, and will depend more on who the Republican candidate is than who the Democrat one is.

It’s only in the South that blacks constitute a block large enough to sway a result. And even then, they can’t do it without substantial white support. In Mississippi, 37 per cent of the population is black, the highest percentage of any state. Louisiana (33 per cent), South Carolina (30 per cent), Georgia and Maryland (29 per cent), and Alabama (27 per cent) follow. In the District of Columbia, which has no state rights, the population is 61 per cent black.

Southern black Democrats, especially women, are now torn, faced with supporting ‘one of their own’, or a candidate whose husband laid claim to the title as the ‘first black president’. Some black leaders, especially in the South, simply do not believe that white people would vote for a black man. But there is no doubt that Obama’s candidacy is generating huge interest. DeKalb county in central Atlanta, where the population is 55 per cent black, saw a 12-fold increase in voter registrations in the two days after Iowa, compared to a similar period four years ago.

It’s very often difficult to know how much political thought goes into what candidates accuse each other of. For instance, was Hillary Clinton deliberately trying to force Obama to run as a ‘black candidate’ when she inserted race into the campaign in early January? Speaking at one of the debates, she appeared to denigrate the importance of the civil rights movement when she noted that Martin Luther King’s ‘dream began to be realised when President Lyndon Johnson passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It took a president to get it done.’ Obama didn’t completely rise to the bait, aware that by siding with the black rhetoric that Sharpton and his cronies are famous for would be more likely to alienate white voters than appeal to black voters. And it’s whites and Hispanics he needs to win if he does become the Democrat nominee. Despite what some say about not relying on the black vote, it’s safe to say he can. In fact, the main concern many blacks have is that if he were to be the nominee, or even win the presidency, his biggest problem would likely be the number of people wanting to assassinate him.

In a perceptive opinion piece in the Washington Post, William Jelani Cobb said that the old civil rights leaders can see their influence, such as it is, being destroyed by Obama’s candidacy: ‘Obama is indebted, but not beholden, to the civil rights gerontocracy. A successful Obama candidacy would simultaneously represent a huge leap forward for black America and the death knell for the reign of the civil rights-era leadership - or at least the illusion of their influence.’

If Democrats are perceived to reject the Obama candidacy for racial reasons, or even just race tinged reasons, might it put more black votes in play? John McCain certainly isn't the sort of Republican who has racialist baggage.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:29 PM


At Home With El Cid (GARY GIDDINS, January 22, 2008, NY Sun)

[Samuel Bronston's] meteoric empire soared with "El Cid" and plummeted with "Fall of the Roman Empire," also directed by [Anthony] Mann, three years later. As lawyers and prosecutors investigated the company's transgressions, Bronston's epics were more often shelved than shown.

Now the Weinstein Company is scheduling DVD restorations of the films (part of its Miriam Collection), beginning this coming week with "El Cid," encouraging a re-assessment of Bronston and his work. Vindication seems likely. Bronston, who died in 1994 at 85, beaten by creditors and Alzheimer's, is difficult for film lovers to hate. As he put it, he was "insane" for movies, and by most accounts uninterested in personal wealth; he poured the money he raised into his pictures, which are often dazzling.

That's one reason people bond over "El Cid," especially if they saw it as intended, filling the massive screen of the old, resplendent, and lamented Warner Theater on 47th Street and Broadway, where it opened in December 1961. With its glorious vistas, clanking battles, luminous colors, thumping Miklos Rozsa music, and unforgettable climax, all unfolding in 70mm grandeur like a living tapestry, it was cinema as circus — an enveloping, emotional, even inspirational event. The DVD, good as it is (clean transfer, bright and stable colors, impenetrable blacks, vivid audio), can only imply that experience, like the reproduction of a Vermeer.

If RKO once gave Orson Welles "the biggest electric train set a boy ever had," Bronston gave Mann the entirety of Spain — with its castles and churches, an army, whole communities of costume-sewers, and an elastic check to cover such extras as swords made in the same foundry that served the real Cid. Mann returned the favor. In some respects, "El Cid" is the pinnacle of his career, a visionary extrapolation of characteristic themes involving heroism, violence, treachery, fragile alliances, and moral ambiguity, previously explored in genre films he made over two decades.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:51 PM


Bill Clinton sleeps through King tribute (Daily Telegraph, 22/01/2008)

A hectic schedule of campaigning for his wife’s presidential bid seems to have be taking its toll on Bill Clinton, who was caught nodding off during a speech to honour Martin Luther King.

While Hillary Clinton’s rival for the Democratic nomination, Barack Obama, gave a soaring speech at King’s Ebeneezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Mr Clinton too proved that he “had a dream”, albeit of a literal kind, at the Convent Avenue Baptist Church in Harlem.

After all, Mr. Clinton laughed his way through Ron Brown's memorial service.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:55 AM


Hillary taunts Obama (Ben Smith, 1/22/08, Politico)

"I think what we saw last night was that he’s very frustrated – Senator Obama is very frustrated," Clinton said this morning. "The events of the last 10 or so days, particularly the outcomes in New Hampshire and Nevada, have apparently convinced him to adopt a different strategy." [...]

[S]he seemed to relish the platform to go after Obama's debate performance last night.

"He has a hard time responding to questions about his record," she said. "The Republicans are not going to have any compunctions about asking anybody anything."

She's about two days away from going after his Momma.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:51 AM


Obama Gets Israel Wrong (HILLEL HALKIN, January 22, 2008, NY Sun)

Politicians are rarely spontaneous animals and can't usually afford to be, but I've rarely seen one who strikes me as more calculated or programmed than Mr. Obama. Watch his eyes when he raises his arms and lifts his voice with emotion at a dramatic moment in a speech; they remain cool and appraising, as if they were standing back from the rest of him to rate himself and his audience. You can see him assessing his effect on his listeners as he speaks. In my book, that's working a crowd, not charisma. I don't deny that it's impressive that less than 50 years after the fall of racial segregation, America seems capable of electing its first black president. (Who is, of course, half-white. It's a curious fact about liberal America that it continues to accept the old white supremacist notion that any amount of African blood in a man makes him "black" — but that's a subject for another column, too.)

This is something America can justifiably feel proud of. And indeed it does feel proud of it — to the point, one suspects, that the only racism at work in Mr. Obama's campaign is the kind that is in his favor. To ask a politically incorrect question: If the junior senator from Illinois, with two years of undistinguished service in the Senate behind him, were white, could he ever have succeeded in making himself a serious presidential contender? Who would have taken the slightest interest in him?

Mr. Obama is, as Brutus said of Cassius, a lean and hungry man. But does that qualify him to run the most powerful country on earth? [...]

All this is before one considers the sorry case of Jeremiah Wright, the pastor of Mr. Obama's congregation in the United Church of Christ who has reportedly called Jews "bloodsuckers" and who recently presented Louis Farrakhan with a "lifetime achievement" award in a gala ceremony.

A prominent Jewish communal leader from Chicago whom I talked to the other day tried to reassure me that this wasn't so serious. He can vouch for the fact, he said, that Mr. Obama has nothing against Jews or Israel.

I daresay he's probably right. But the problem, as has been observed, is not that Mr. Obama needs to be suspected of agreeing with Pastor Wright. It's that he didn't think it sufficiently important to disagree with him by getting up and leaving his church.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:49 AM


Fat people are extroverts, research shows (Graham Tibbetts, 22/01/2008, Daily Telegraph)

The popular image of fat people as figures of fun and jollity, typified for centuries by favourites of fiction such as Falstaff and Billy Bunter, is based on fact, according to scientific research.

A study of 30,000 people aged between 40 and 64 has found that extroverts tend to be overweight, while worriers are more likely to be thin.

...they're worried we'll eat them when the food supply fails.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:33 AM


U.S. Federal Reserve cuts interest rates (The Associated Press, January 22, 2008)

U.S. stock futures seesawed Tuesday after the Federal Reserve, responding to a growing financial market crisis, slashed interest rates 0.75 percentage point.

After all the endless stories about how the rest of the world--especially the EU and China--had matured enough economically that they were independent of the US economy, we still have to come to their rescue.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:23 AM


Racial politics ensnare Democratic campaign: As Clinton seems to back away from the South Carolina primary - the first in which black voters are expected to play a major role - even minor moments on the trail become charged with tension. (Peter Nicholas, 1/22/08,
Los Angeles Times)

It was to be a show of unity: The two top Democratic candidates for president were to march to a rally Monday, passing in the shadow of a Confederate flag on the statehouse grounds, to celebrate the legacy of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

But while Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama were on hand to make speeches at the rally, only Obama arrived in time to march through the streets of this Southern capital. And in a sign of how the once-cordial Democratic contest has become twisted by a debate over race, some African Americans in the audience took Clinton's absence as a snub.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:01 AM


Creative Class, Dismissed: Students take the arts' nobility as gospel until they meet a heretic named Jean-Jacques (LAURIE FENDRICH, 1/25/08, The Chronicle Review)

Tucked into the middle of Rousseau's inveighing against theater is a discussion of women that makes the remarks of Larry Summers, Harvard's former president, seem almost conciliatory. Rousseau claims that the equality of the sexes is a foolish, modern idea. The differences between the sexes are there for anyone to see, linked as they are to anatomy. Rousseau will not quarrel with nature's plumbing. Women, he argues, are not only the receivers of sexual advances, but the inherently weaker sex as well. But, he says, nature gave women a weapon to protect themselves from more powerful males: modesty.

For Rousseau, modesty is the means by which women fend off undesirable males and encourage only the ones they regard as potential mates. And once the appropriate male has been snared, Rousseau says, women employ another tool to keep their otherwise hit-and-run mates around for the long haul: love. "Love is the realm of women. It is they who necessarily give the law in it, because, according to the order of nature, resistance belongs to them, and men can conquer this resistance only at the expense of their liberty."

Rousseau turns upside down the ideas my students carry about the sexes. He seems to say that women are fit only to become dutiful, breeding Stepford wives. Most of my students are outraged when they first read this part of the Letter. During one of my seminars, students unanimously contended that modesty is imposed on women by insecure men.

As repugnant as Rousseau's precepts about women are, they're crucial to his argument about theater, and, as much as I'd like to, I can't simply sweep them under the rug. He says that going to the theater destroys female modesty and replaces it with vanity (I always bring up the irrepressible female longing for a new dress for a party). When female modesty declines, Rousseau argues, men stop loving women because they no longer trust them. Who else, the husband asks himself, is my wife preening for? Such distrust, Rousseau says, in the end obliterates love.

In class discussion, when my students invariably protest that Rousseau is an outdated chauvinist, I ask why most women in contemporary society wear makeup and most men don't, and why there isn't a store called Victor's Secret. We talk about Jane Austen's women, their trade-offs between true love and men who, however repellent, provide security, and how much of that kind of social survivalism is still practiced today. These discussions are unsettling, I admit, even to me. But whether by habit or nature, I unfailingly wear lipstick to class.

Amicable relations between the sexes require that female vanity be indulged. Amicable relations among men require that male vanity be despised.

January 21, 2008

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:47 PM


Ayatollah humiliates president over gas (Margaret Neighbour, 1/22/08, The Scotsman)

THE Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, was publicly humiliated yesterday after the country's supreme leader overruled his decision not to implement a law requiring the government to supply gas to remote villages.
The move, by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, was a blow to the president, whose popularity has been plummeting amid rising food prices and deaths due to gas cuts in the midst of a particularly harsh winter.

In response to a request by the conservative-dominated parliament, Mr Khamenei ordered him to implement a law MPs had passed to spend £500 million to supply gas to villages. Mr Ahmadinejad had refused for budgetary reasons.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:39 PM


Clinton, Obama clash at South Carolina debate (Associated Press, January 21, 2008)

Even in the superheated atmosphere of their fight for the party's nomination, the statements and exchanges between Clinton and Obama were unusually acrimonious and personal.

As Obama tried to defend his recent comments about Republican ideas and Ronald Reagan, Clinton interrupted and said she has never criticized his remarks on Reagan.

"Your husband did," said Obama, who has accused the former president of misrepresenting his record.

"I'm here. He's not," she snapped.

Obama persisted, suggesting the Clintons were both practicing the kind of political tactics that had alienated voters.

"There was a set of assertions made by Senator Clinton as well as her husband that are not factually accurate," Obama said. "I think that part of what people are looking right now is someone who is going to solve problems and not resort to the same typical politics that we've seen in Washington."

Clinton countered: "I believe your record and what you say should matter."

In the absence of ideas, they're stuck fighting over minutiae.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:44 PM


Abu Dhabi plots hydrogen future (Richard Black, 1/21/08, BBC New)

The government of Abu Dhabi has announced a $15bn (£7.5bn) initiative to develop clean energy technologies.

The Gulf state describes the five-year initiative as "the most ambitious sustainability project ever launched by a government".

Components will include the world's largest hydrogen power plant.

Electric cars are so Old Testament....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:39 PM


Rudy now trails in NY, CT (NBC's Domenico Montanaro, 1/21/08, First Read)

Giuliani has staked it all on Florida. And it better hold for him because two new polls out show him now trailing in New York and Connecticut -- places the Giuliani campaign had only a month and a half ago described as "momentum proof."

In New York, McCain now leads Giuliani 36%-24%, followed by Romney at 10% and Huckabee at 7%, according to a Siena Research Institute poll. Seventeen percent said they were undecided. What's remarkable about this is not just that Giuliani is the former mayor of New York City, but that he led McCain in the same poll on Dec. 10, 48%-15%.

In Connecticut, McCain leads 39%-16% over Giuliani with Romney at 11% in a Hartford Courant/University of Connecticut poll.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:22 PM


Accessibility Opens Doors For McCain (Howard Kurtz, 1/21/08, Washington Post)

As the JetBlue charter from Michigan touched down in South Carolina, I strolled up to John McCain's front-row seat -- none of his aides batted an eye -- and asked if he would continue to chat with reporters around the clock if he won the Republican nomination.

Most candidates, after all, grow more cautious around the media mob as the stakes get higher.

McCain said he couldn't stop, because "that destroys credibility." And besides, he said, "I enjoy it a lot. It keeps me intellectually stimulated, it keeps me thinking about issues, and it keeps me associated with a lower level of human being than I otherwise would be."

There he goes again.

McCain's ability to charm the press wasn't responsible for his big win in Saturday's South Carolina primary, but it didn't hurt.

A presidential campaign is obviously a whole different ballgame, but working on a political campaign and traveling with the candidate, I can say from personal experience that when journalists feel like they're seeing the candidacy from within it's almost an orgasmic experience for them. Just let the candidate get on the phone and turn his head to the nearby reporter and say, "Now, you can't write about this..." and you've got them...hook, line, and sinker. It's not that they won't run unfavorable stories when you deserve them, but they'll cut you slack when you don't.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:32 AM


Florida Endorsements (The Prowler, 1/21/2008, American Spectator)

Look for Sen. Mel Martinez to endorse Sen. John McCain in the coming week. Martinez notified McCain of the endorsement almost ten days ago, according to McCain insiders, and the support, which some considered a foregone conclusion, was kept quiet for the lead-up to the Florida primary at the end of the month.

"This allows Martinez to travel with John for the next week or so and seal the deal for us in Florida," says a current McCain adviser.

McCain advisers also say they expect an endorsement from Florida Gov. Charlie Crist in the coming days. "We've got it locked up," says the adviser. "It's just a matter of timing." [...]

There was a time when people expected that Jeb Bush might not endorse a candidate in this race. Now those folks are coming around to the notion that Bush might, in fact, endorse. "It's something he's thinking about," says a Jeb adviser. "But he has the luxury of not being in the thick of things. He hasn't seen this race from a distance. He's watched it with interest, and he knows just about everything that is going on. He knows the state of the campaigns, the state of the race and the thinking of the candidates. If he does endorse, it won't be on a wasted effort. It will have meaning and import."

The Jeb endorsement would decide the nomination.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:17 AM


Scientists Find Active Volcano in Antarctica (KENNETH CHANG, 1/21/08, NY Times)

Here is another factor that might be contributing to the thinning of some of the Antarctica’s glaciers: volcanoes.

In an article published Sunday on the Web site of the journal Nature Geoscience, Hugh F. J. Corr and David G. Vaughan of the British Antarctic Survey report the identification of a layer of volcanic ash and glass shards frozen within an ice sheet in western Antarctica.

If only Captain Ozone had won the 2000 election, he'd be personally leading the mission to blow up that volcano and save Gaia...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:42 AM


The Choice: The Clinton-Obama battle reveals two very different ideas of the Presidency (George Packer January 28, 2008, The New Yorker)

The alternatives facing Democratic voters have been characterized variously as a choice between experience and change, between an insider and an outsider, and between two firsts—a woman and a black man. But perhaps the most important difference between these two politicians—whose policy views, after all, are almost indistinguishable—lies in their rival conceptions of the Presidency. Obama offers himself as a catalyst by which disenchanted Americans can overcome two decades of vicious partisanship, energize our democracy, and restore faith in government. Clinton presents politics as the art of the possible, with change coming incrementally through good governance, a skill that she has honed in her career as advocate, First Lady, and senator. This is the real meaning of the remark she made during one of the New Hampshire debates: “Dr. King’s dream began to be realized when President Lyndon Johnson passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, when he was able to get through Congress something that President Kennedy was hopeful to do—the President before had not even tried—but it took a President to get it done.”

In the overheated atmosphere of a closely fought primary, this historically sound statement set off a chain reaction of accusations, declarations of offense, and media hysteria, and for a few days the Democratic Party seemed poised to descend into a self-destructive frenzy of identity politics.

...is that Ms Clinton has the history right, which makes the theory right too. While the Founding does not explicitly anticipate the two party system and specific Founders (most notably George Washington) hoped to avoid the coming of party politics, the divide between Left (the search for security, dominant among female voters) and Right (the desire for freedom, characteristic of males) is natural and eternal. Partisanship is, thus, a manifestation of an open and healthy political process and what really matters is that your constitutional architecture keep the two in tension and not permit one to become so dominant that half the population becomes truly disaffected. Our providentially well-structured system has given us 200 years (not 20) of vicious partisanship and energized democracy. Nearly all the progress we've made--with the possible exception of abolition--has been incremental and the biggest mistakes we've stumbled into (the New Deal, Great Society, Roe v. Wade) have been a function of the relatively rare periods of political imbalance.

Given this historical perspective it is evident that Ms Clinton's political program (inherited from her husband) of incremental change is profoundly American. Of course, the irony is that for all the mindless chatter about how Senator Obama can serve as some kind of apartisan talisman and bring "real" change, one of the most conspicuous facts about his campaign is that he proposes changing almost nothing as he has failed to do anything at all in the Senate. If anything, he's an even more cautious incrementalist in reality than Ms Clinton is in rhetoric. Not that either has any choice if they want to win an election in America...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:28 AM


Atlanta rethinks housing projects
: Officials are to vote on razing the remaining low-income units for more revitalization. Some express doubts. (Los Angeles Times Staff Writer, January 21, 2008)

The City Council's intervention could present an embarrassing setback for the Atlanta Housing Authority, which pioneered the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's HOPE VI program more than a decade ago. The agency has torn down more than 10,000 public housing units and plans to eliminate all of the city's public housing by 2010.

The housing authority has long maintained that warehousing the poor in vast complexes is a failed social experiment.

Yet now, with 10 nationally acclaimed mixed-income projects under its belt, the agency faces the prospect of lengthy public forums with worried Atlanta residents, and legal disputes about how much authority the City Council has over the razing of public housing.

Though there is little doubt that the sites of Atlanta's former projects have undergone dramatic revitalization -- property values have gone up and crime rates have gone down -- the issue is that few former public-housing residents actually live there.

So far, about 17% of Atlanta's former public-housing residents have returned to the mixed-income communities, which are funded primarily by private investors. The vast majority are scattered across the region and use Section 8 housing vouchers to help pay their rent.

For Atlanta housing officials, this is a measure of success: The strategy of the program is to fight the "cycle of poverty" by breaking the concentration of poverty, said spokesman Rick White. Profoundly poor, unemployed public-housing tenants can improve their lives, the theory goes, if they are given the means to live in better neighborhoods.

During the first phase of the program, former housing-project residents were given the right to return to the mixed- income communities.

The majority of residents chose to take the vouchers, White said.

Dang them...you try to do something nice for people and they use their freedom any old whichway....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:21 AM


Iran Leader Backs Parliament in Dispute with Ahmadinejad (AFP, 1/21/08)

Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has backed parliament in a dispute with hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who had objected to several measures adopted by MPs, the ISNA news agency said on Monday.

Ahmadinejad had criticised parliament, which is dominated by fellow conservatives, for overturning his decision to dissolve several institutions -- including the Monetary and Credit Council, a key financial policy maker -- as well as his abolition of summer time in Iran.

"Laws adopted through the process defined by the constitution must be respected by all organs," Khamenei said in a letter to parliament speaker Gholam Ali Hadad Adel.

...to imagine them "fellow conservatives" to Ahmedinejad, whose election was a loss for Ayatollah Khamenei and the conservatives.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:16 AM


Mike Huckabee: McCain-lover, Mitt-killer (Jonathan Martin, Jan 21, 2008, Politico)

The former Arkansas governor threw air kisses on primary night to winner John McCain, praising him for “running a civil and a good and a decent campaign.”

He also signaled clearly that he is staying in the race, despite losing three straight states. Exit polls in South Carolina indicated — as they had in the previous three contests — that Huckabee did virtually nil with voters beyond his base of conservative evangelicals, raising doubts that he has a plausible path to the GOP nomination.

But as long as Huckabee is campaigning vigorously, he is likely to draw a sizable bloc of social conservatives—and deny former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney the direct one-on-one contest he is hoping for against McCain.

Huckabee did not mention Romney in his concession statement Saturday. But Huckabee and his aides have barely disguised their disdain for Romney, whose chameleon-like stance on issues and free-spending negative ad campaign have made him the most unpopular candidate among his GOP rivals.

...he did stick to the anti-human policies that made him unnominatable in the GOP, unlike Mitt, whose transparently false conversions made him unnominatable.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:09 AM


India launches Israeli satellite (BBC, 1/21/08)

India has successfully launched an Israeli spy satellite into orbit, officials at the Sriharikota space station in southern India say.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:03 AM


Brown skips key EU treaty Commons debate (Toby Helm, 21/01/2008, Daily Telegraph)

Gordon Brown faced a barrage of criticism today for being out of the country at the start of the most important Commons debate on Europe for more than 15 years.

The Prime Minister was accused by Opposition parties of “running scared” ahead of what is certain to be a tempestuous opening of Parliament’s efforts to ratify the Lisbon Treaty.

Tonight up to 30 Labour MPs are expected to stage an embarrassing revolt against the Prime Minister by backing cross-party calls for a referendum.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:49 AM


The Passion to be Americans (Thomas C. Reeves, 1/21/08, HNN)

While leftists rail against the United States for allegedly being racist, imperialist, capitalist, Christian, homophobic, and worse, people from all across the world urgently desire to come here, many wishing to become American citizens. Everyone knows about the daredevil and sometimes fatal efforts that take place every day on the Mexican border. We may have as many as 20 or 30 million illegal immigrants from a single country. Now comes a story from India about the “Visa God” and the passion of educated Indians to arrive on our shores legally.

Hyderabad, a city of 7 million, is a fast growing center of technology. Microsoft, Dell, and similar companies are on hand, and thousands of educated young people are eager to be recruited by these giant Western corporations. This had led to a cultural shift in which many young locals are now wearing jeans and T-shirts and hanging out in local malls and coffee shops, looking as closely as possible like their much-envied counterparts in America. The obstacle preventing their immigration is the difficulty in obtaining the employer-sponsored “H-1B” visas. Only some 65,000 are granted annually, and in the past fiscal year there were more than 65,000 applications in a single day.

A local Hindu priest decided to exploit the frustration. His once quiet Chilkur Balaji temple invites people to pray to Lord Balaji, one of the local incarnations of the Hindu Lord Vishnu, calling him “the Visa God.” Through prayer and the ritual of walking around the temple eleven times, the head priest assures people that they will obtain a visa from the United States. It has worked for some, and the temple is now drawing 100,000 visitors a week.

Every immigrant should be required to have a visa and there should be no limit on the number of visas issued. You can cull the merely racist from the law-and-order types on the immigration issue by whether they agree with that rule or not.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:31 AM


Sympathizers Seek Answers from al-Qaeda (AP, 1/21/08)

Sympathizers submitted hundreds of questions to al-Qaeda deputy leader Ayman al-Zawahri's "on-line interview" before a recent deadline. Among them: Why hasn't al-Qaeda attacked the U.S. again, why isn't it attacking the Israelis and when will it be more active in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Syria?

So far, there have been no answers. [...]

One thing is clear from the questions: Self-proclaimed al-Qaeda supporters are as much in the dark about the terror network's operations and intentions as Western analysts and intelligence agencies.

Some of those posting questions sound worried: Does al-Qaeda have a long-term strategy?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:28 AM


Lawsuit, not movie, is based on Sammy Davis Jr.'s books: Widow sues ex-business partners who claim rights to star's life story (ERIC TORBENSON, 1/20/08, The Dallas Morning News

Altovise Davis, Mr. Davis' widow, has sued two former business partners in federal court here, accusing them of muscling in on negotiations and falsely claiming rights to Mr. Davis' life story. The suit contends that the two fraudulently enticed Mrs. Davis to sign away some of her rights to her husband's estate and have mismanaged its affairs, allowing Mr. Davis' memory to fade from popular culture.

Joining Mrs. Davis in the suit is Dallas-based Boyar Investments LLC, whose owners, Judy and Burt Boyar, co-wrote the autobiographies Yes I Can and Why Me? with Mr. Davis.

An unnamed Hollywood studio wants to base a Sammy Davis Jr. movie at least partially on the books. Talks with the Boyars, Mrs. Davis and the studio were near completion last March until Barrett LaRoda and Anthony Francis intervened, according to the suit.

Mr. LaRoda and Mr. Francis created Sammy Davis Jr. Enterprises Inc. in 2004. Mrs. Davis agreed to transfer her intellectual property rights to the new company in exchange for a third of the company's shares. The suit contends that the men mismanaged the company, didn't keep records and failed to include her in the company's affairs.

At the heart of the matter is whether the company has any rights to the books co-written by the Boyars. Mrs. Davis' suit says they do not, and hence shouldn't be part of any movie negotiations.

The lawsuit says the two demanded fees and executive producer credits and brought the movie talks to a halt, all without discussing the issues with Mrs. Davis.

Spent the weekend with The Other Brother and we realized that BrothersJudd.com is now ten years old. One of the best things about doing book reviews has been the opportunity to correspond with various authors, many of whom have become friends (at least of the Internet variety). Among them, Burt Boyar has to by my favorite. Sammy Davis, Jr was unquestionably a more complicated man than his public persona, but it would be a shame if some studio just exploited his life for sensational effect rather than Mr. Boyar and associates getting to tell his story as a true labor of love.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:12 AM


Quiet Decline: The good news about abortion that hasn’t made news. (Michael J. New, 1/21/08, National Review)

Pro-lifers have been very quietly receiving some good news in recent years. On Thursday, the Alan Guttmacher Institute released data indicating that the number of abortions has fallen by 25 percent since 1990. These findings are very consistent with data that was released this past November by the Centers for Disease Control. Overall the number of abortions has fallen 13 out of the past 14 years, including every year of the George W. Bush administration. Furthermore, there is a growing body of social-science evidence indicating that legal restrictions on abortion are playing a key role in these declines. [...]

[T]here exists plenty of good evidence that changes in the legal status of abortion have a real impact on the incidence of abortion. U.S. history should give supporters of abortion rights pause. Between 1973, the year of the Roe v. Wade decision, and 1980, the number of abortions performed in the United States more than doubled. Furthermore, there is also evidence that this liberalization of abortion policy had a significant impact on sexual mores. The years following Roe v. Wade saw significant increases in both sexual activity and the number of conceptions.

Articles that have appeared in peer reviewed academic journals provide further evidence that legally restricting abortion results in reductions in abortion rates and ratios. A 2004 study that appeared in The Journal of Law and Economics analyzed how changes in abortion policies in post-communist Eastern Europe affected the incidence of abortion. This study was particularly interesting because after the demise of communism, some Eastern European countries liberalized their abortion laws, while others enacted restrictions on abortion. At any rate, the authors concluded that modest restrictions on abortion reduced abortion rates by around 25 percent.

Furthermore, a study that was published in The New England Journal of Medicine in 2006 found that a Texas parental-involvement law led to statistically significant reductions in the number of abortions performed on minors (both in and out of state) and a slight, but statistically significant increase in the teen birthrate. Finally, my own Heritage Foundation research on state level pro-life legislation which utilizes data from both the Alan Guttmacher Institute and the Centers for Disease Control provides evidence that informed consent laws, public-funding restrictions, and parental-involvement laws are all correlated with reductions in the incidence of abortion.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:05 AM


The science wins, finally (The Ottawa Citizen, January 21, 2008)

It's good to question "expert" opinion, but when credible researchers produce study after study on a specific topic, each coming to the same conclusion, a steadfast refusal to accept that conclusion becomes more than healthy skepticism. It becomes denial.

Such is the case with those who refuse to accept no link exists between vaccines and autism.

...the last 13% would abandon Darwinism.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:03 AM


Rallying to McCain (Robert Novak, 1/20/08, Real Clear Politics)

Sen. John McCain's win over Mike Huckabee in South Carolina was no landslide, but it stands as by far the most important win in his quest for the presidency. It means that McCain by any measurement is the front-runner for the Republican nomination. He leads in Florida's Jan. 29 primary, and a victory there would send him into what is virtually a national primary on Feb. 5 threatening to wipe out his competition. [...]

[M]cCain has not entirely abandoned "straight talk" in seeking Republican anointment. I asked him Saturday whether he knew of any instance of an economic stimulus such as Bush's proposed $800-per-taxpayer handout actually averting a recession. He said that he did not and that the proposal bothered him.

That kind of answer by McCain has annoyed Republican grandees for years, but it also is what sets him apart from other politicians. It brought to South Carolina last week such endorsers as Sen. Tom Coburn, who maddens his Republican colleagues with his campaign against pork, and Sen. Joe Lieberman, who defied the Democratic Party's orthodoxy on Iraq. Even the GOP elders seem ready to grit their teeth and go along with McCain.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Obama sets record straight on his religion: Presidential candidate battles misconception that he's a Muslim (AP, 1/21/08)

Barack Obama is stepping up his effort to correct the misconception that he's a Muslim now that the presidential campaign has hit the Bible Belt.

At a rally to kick off a weeklong campaign for the South Carolina primary, Obama tried to set the record straight from an attack circulating widely on the Internet that is designed to play into prejudices against Muslims and fears of terrorism.

"I've been to the same church _ the same Christian church _ for almost 20 years," Obama said, stressing the word Christian and drawing cheers from the faithful in reply. "I was sworn in with my hand on the family Bible. Whenever I'm in the United States Senate, I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America. So if you get some silly e-mail ... send it back to whoever sent it and tell them this is all crazy. Educate."

He's who the seculars think will be more like them?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Israel Is Set to Promote the Use of Electric Cars (STEVEN ERLANGER, 1/21/08, NY Times)

On Monday, the Israeli government will announce its support for a broad effort to promote the use of electric cars, embracing a joint venture between an American-Israeli entrepreneur and Renault and its partner, Nissan Motor Company.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, with the active support of President Shimon Peres, intends to make Israel a laboratory to test the practicality of an environmentally clean electric car. The state will offer tax incentives to purchasers, and the new company, with a $200 million investment to start, will begin construction of facilities to recharge the cars and replace empty batteries quickly.

January 20, 2008

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:04 PM


Saudi Arabia to lift ban on women drivers (Damien McElroy, 21/01/2008, Daily Telegraph)

Saudi Arabia is to lift its ban on women drivers in an attempt to stem a rising suffragette-style movement in the deeply conservative state.

Government officials have confirmed the landmark decision and plan to issue a decree by the end of the year.

The move is designed to forestall campaigns for greater freedom by women, which have recently included protesters driving cars through the Islamic state in defiance of a threat of detention and loss of livelihoods.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:28 PM


Undefeated Patriots Are Tested Before Overcoming Chargers (Ben Walker, 1/20/08, The Associated Press)

Perfection comes down to one game now. Despite a shaky Tom Brady, the New England Patriots were still too much for the banged-up San Diego Chargers in the AFC championship game Sunday, pulling out a 21-12 victory that sent them back to the Super Bowl for the fourth time in seven seasons.

"I think there will be a time to sit back and reflect," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. "We'll certainly enjoy this for a few days."

Brady made several stunningly poor throws that fluttered in the chilly wind, Randy Moss was a non-factor for the second straight game and the highest-scoring team in NFL history sputtered all afternoon. Instead, the Patriots (18-0) relied on Laurence Maroney's spins, cuts and helmet-rattling runs.

It might have been an interesting game a few years ago, when LT was still a quality NFL back.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:10 PM


Suzanne Pleshette, sexy star of 'Bob Newhart Show,' dies at 70 (Dennis McLellan, 1/20/08, Los Angeles Times)

Suzanne Pleshette, the dark-haired, smoky-voiced actress who played Bob Newhart's confident and sexy wife, Emily Hartley, for six years on the popular 1970s sitcom "The Bob Newhart Show," has died. She was 70. [...]

Pleshette retired from acting after marrying her second husband, wealthy businessman Tom Gallagher, in 1968. She told TV Guide in 1972 that after she'd been hanging around the house for six months, "my loving husband said, 'You're getting to be awfully boring. Go back to work.' "

After trying to figure out how she could return to work without having to get up at 5 a.m. or go out of town for weeks on movie locations, she recalled, "I said to myself, 'What can you do best?' 'Talk,' I said. 'So what better than the talk shows on TV?' I said. I picked up the phone and asked my agent to try to book me with Johnny Carson."

She made a couple of dozen appearances on the Carson show over the next few years, including one with fellow guest Newhart -- a show seen by writers David Davis and Lorenzo Music, the creatorsof the upcoming Newhart show.

"Suzanne started talking, and I looked at Lorenzo and Lorenzo looked at me," Davis told TV Guide. "There she was, just what we were looking for.

"She was revealing her own frailties, talking freely about being over 30. She was bubble-headed but smart, loving toward her husband but relentless about his imperfections. We were trying to get away from the standard TV wife, and we knew that whoever we picked would have to be offbeat enough and strong enough to carry the show along with Newhart. We didn't dream Suzanne would accept the part."

Pleshette told the magazine that "Bob is just like my husband, Tommy, letting me go bumbling and stumbling through life. And the way it's written, the part is me. There's the stream of non sequiturs by which I live. There are fights. I'm allowed to be demonstrative. But the core of the marriage is good."

Off-camera, Pleshette was known for being what an Orlando Sentinel reporter once described as "an earthy dame, an Auntie Mame who isn't afraid to tell a dirty story." Or, as TV Guide put it in 1972: "Her conversations -- mostly meandering monologues -- are sprinkled with aphorisms, anecdotes, salty opinions and X-rated expletives."

She enjoyed talking so much that during the making of "The Geisha Boy," Lewis took to calling her "Big Mouth."

Newhart, according to the TV Guide article, "was finding himself outtalked by Suzanne on the set about 12 to 1 but professed to be unperturbed by the phenomenon."

"I don't tangle," Newhart said, "with any lady who didn't give Johnny a chance to exercise his mouth -- even to sneer -- for 10 whole minutes."

Although Newhart got a new TV wife, played by Mary Frann, for his 1982-90 situation comedy "Newhart," Pleshette had the last laugh -- making a memorable surprise guest appearance as Newhart's previous TV wife, Emily, at the end of the series' final episode.

That last made her immortal.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:14 AM


After Linking New Strain of Staph to Gay Men, University Scrambles to Clarify (JESSE McKINLEY, 1/19/08, NY Times)

On Monday, a team of researchers led by doctors from the University of California at San Francisco announced that gay men were “many times more likely than others” to acquire a new strain of drug-resistant staphylococcus, a nasty, fast-spreading and potential lethal bacteria known as MRSA USA300. [...]

The report also inadvertently offered ammunition for many antigay groups, including the conservative Concerned Women for America, which issued a release on Wednesday citing the “sexual deviancy” of gay men as leading to AIDS, syphilis and gonorrhea.

“The medical community has known for years that homosexual conduct, especially among males, creates a breeding ground for often deadly disease,” the release read.

Another group, Americans for Truth About Homosexuality, also cited the report as a way of proving that “homosexual behavior is unhealthy.”

“Why aren’t all schoolchildren being taught that there are special health risks associated with homosexual behavior and that they should ‘just say no’ to homosexuality?” read a released posted on the group’s Web site.

National gay rights groups were quick to label such talk as “hysteria,” even as researchers as the university scrambled to clarify their findings. On Friday, it issued an apology, saying their release had “contained some information that could be interpreted as misleading.”

“We deplore negative targeting of specific populations in association with MRSA infections or other public health concerns,” it concluded. Dr. Henry Chambers, one of the report’s authors and a professor of medicine at the university, said he was surprised by how the report had been spun.

“I think we were looking at this from a scientific point of view and not projecting any political impact,” he said. “We were focusing on the data.”

The scientific method is death on political correctness.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:10 AM


Clinton and Obama begin what appears to be a protracted battle (Jeff Zeleny and Jennifer Steinhauer, January 20, 2008, IHT)

[T]he Democratic contest already appears to be turning into a long-term fight for delegates between Clinton and Obama.

The results in Nevada had encouraging signs for Clinton. She did well among women and Hispanics, two constituencies she is counting on as the campaign heads toward a coast-to-coast showdown in 22 states on Feb. 5.

The battle was most fiercely fought in Las Vegas, particularly at the casinos that hosted some of the caucuses. This provided an odd tableau for a nominating contest: women in black-sequined cocktail dresses and neatly pressed maid uniforms, and men coming off their shifts in the bar and wearing sunglasses indoors as they voted.

The GOP could hardly be better positioned for the Fall, what with tax rebates and Fed cuts juicing the economy, the most popular pol in the party already wrapping up the nomination before the Super Bowl, and the Democratic nomination deteriorating into a race and sex war.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:42 AM


Change may be brewing in Cuba: Analysts see signs of modest political and economic reform in the 18 months since Fidel Castro temporarily stepped down. (Carol J. Williams, 1/20/08, Los Angeles Times)

Cubans waited hours in line for tickets, packed Havana's cinemas and watched with rapt attention as "The Lives of Others," a chilling account of East German secret-police repression of communism's doubters, arrived in the Cuban capital last month.

Was the debut of the Academy Award-winning film two years after its release another signal that Cuba's Communist leaders are open to reform? Or was the cinematic snapshot of life two decades ago and half a world away more reflective of their confidence that Cubans wouldn't see themselves in the picture?

Analysts of the secretive Cuban power structure see signs of modest political and economic change emerging on the island in the 18 months since an ailing Fidel Castro temporarily ceded power to his brother Raul and retreated to pen his thoughts and memoirs.

Raul Castro has urged young Cubans to expose government shortcomings in providing adequate food, transportation and housing.

No one who intended to maintain a totalitarian regime could allow that movie to be seen.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:15 AM


This Time, McCain Defused Conservative Attacks (Juliet Eilperin and Jonathan Weisman, 1/20/08, Washington Post)

From Rush Limbaugh to Tom DeLay, voices that once held sway over the Republican rank and file unloaded on John McCain over the last week, trying to use a conservative electorate in South Carolina to derail the Arizona senator's quest for the Republican nomination.

But though McCain failed to persuade many of the old Republican power brokers, he wrapped up the Republican establishment where it counted most, South Carolina. His win Saturday underscored how different McCain's campaign has been this year compared with eight years ago, when a similar conservative assault effectively ended his campaign here and handed his party's presidential nomination to George W. Bush.

"I think the people of South Carolina are getting to know John McCain now, a little more than they know those folks anymore," longtime McCain aide Mark Salter said Saturday night of the senator's old nemeses.

McCain's South Carolina victory may have set him on course (LIZ SIDOTI, 1/20/08, Associated Press)
John McCain claimed a sweet South Carolina victory that eluded him in 2000 — and, if history is a guide, may have set himself on course to become the GOP presidential nominee.

No Republican since 1980 has won the party's nod without a triumph in the first-in-the-South primary.

From inside the Blogosphere and the Beltway, the ease with which John McCain is winning the nomination is inexplicable--after all he doesn't kowtow to the Establishment Right. For the rest of America it's inevitable--he's the most popular conservative in the country, in large part because he won't dance to their tune.

Florida becomes showdown state for GOP: It's a microcosm of the party: part northern, part Southern and part evangelical (Doyle McManus, 1/20/08, Los Angeles Times)

South Carolina was an important test for McCain because its Republican electorate is dominated by Southern social conservatives, the voters who derailed his presidential campaign in 2000.

An exit poll of primary voters showed that McCain didn't win a majority among conservative or evangelical Christian voters this time, either -- but he won just enough of their votes to deny victory to former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who failed to unify social conservatives behind his cause.

"Huckabee is one of the big losers here," Republican strategist Eddie Mahe said. "He's a long way from his last victory." Huckabee won the campaign's initial test, the Iowa caucuses, on Jan. 3, but he has won none of the five contests since.

The exit poll found that Huckabee won a little more than 40% of voters who described themselves as evangelical Christians -- but that meant that more than half of all evangelical voters went to other candidates, including about one-fourth for Mc- Cain.

"If you can hold Huckabee to 40% of the evangelical vote, you've got him beat," Republican pollster Neil Newhouse said. "He was not only unable to expand beyond his evangelical base, he was unable to coalesce the evangelicals."

McCain can now claim that he has won hotly contested primaries in the campaign's most conservative Southern state, South Carolina, and its most moderate Northern state, New Hampshire -- a useful argument in a party that is searching for a candidate capable of unifying its fragmented parts. That puts McCain "in the strongest position of any candidate at this point to win the nomination," Reed said.

The Exit Polls: Why McCain won S.C. (David Paul Kuhn, Jan 20, 2008, Politico)
[M]cCain could not have won the South’s first presidential contest without making significant inroads with conservative Christians, a group he stood at odds with eight years ago.

Exit polling conducted by a consortium of news organizations found that in measure after measure, Mike Huckabee won social conservatives by roughly a 10-point margin: weekly church attendees, those who think abortion should be illegal, and those who believe religious beliefs matter in a candidate a “great deal” or “somewhat.” But for the former Baptist preacher that margin proved too small to win Saturday’s primary.

McCain’s victory was built upon one bloc after another. For the 46 percent of voters who based their ballot on personal qualities, McCain won them by 17 points over Huckabee. In comparison, though 52 percent of voters said issues mattered most, Huckabee only won them by eight points.

McCain narrowly won those who believed the economy mattered most (four in ten voters) as well as those who said terrorism (14 percent of voters). Huckabee edged him out among those who said the same for illegal immigration, a quarter of voters. But McCain won those who said Iraq mattered most, 16 percent of voters, by an unambiguous margin — 27 points.

McCain’s wide, double-digit leads on questions on Iraq or with those who felt experience was the most important quality in a candidate were crucial to his victory.

No less critical was that, while McCain split self-identified Republicans with Huckabee, he won independents by 17 points over the former Arkansas governor.

Fred and Michigan Leave Huck Hurting (MICHAEL SCHERER, 1/20/08, TIME)
However magical his victory in Iowa, Mike Huckabee's campaign staff knew that their dance towards the Republican nomination had to be a two-step. Without wins in Iowa and South Carolina, the two early voting states teeming with evangelical voters, trouble would loom.

On Saturday, trouble arrived — along with bad weather, the surging campaign of John McCain and the unexpectedly fierce attacks of also-ran Fred Thompson. As the results poured in, it became clear to Huckabee's senior advisors that Thompson had made significant inroads in the conservative northern part of the state, where Huckabee needed big numbers to fend off McCain's moderate support along the coast. "We needed bigger margins out of Greenville and Spartanburg, and the difference was Fred," said Huckabee's campaign manager, Chip Saltsman, after his candidate conceded. "He wasn't running a race for him. He was attacking Mike Huckabee for the last two weeks."

South Carolina: McCain's Happier State (David Broder, 1/20/08, Real Clear Politics)
[Lindsey] Graham said the real difference this year is that "we've had eight years to get to know John" and to reflect, perhaps, on the decision the state made in rejecting him for Bush the last time around.

To encourage that reconsideration, the McCain campaign surrounded the candidate with people who symbolically reinforced the message that McCain is a mainstream, Reagan-era Republican.

He came to Columbia flanked by two icons of the conservative movement -- Tom Coburn, the physician-senator from Oklahoma, and Jack Kemp, the former congressman from New York.

Coburn is a hero to two types of Republicans -- those for whom abortion is an abomination and those who view wasteful federal spending as almost as serious a moral failing. He has built an uncompromising reputation on both subjects. When Coburn testifies that he regards McCain not just as an ally but as a model, it challenges the notion that McCain is an unreliable maverick.

As for Kemp, no one has a longer history of championing supply-side economics, with its persistent belief that lower tax rates spur economic growth, than the old quarterback and one-time secretary of housing and urban development.

McCain is better known for fighting earmarks and other forms of "nonessential" spending, and famously opposed Bush's first round of tax cuts because they did not call for similar spending reductions. But Kemp told the voters here that McCain wants an overhaul of the whole tax system, "and I will work with him" -- adding to reporters that he also admires the senator's insistence on a "humane" approach to the issue of immigration.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:49 AM


The Growing Aversion to Abortion (Steve Chapman, 1/20/08, Real Clear Politics)

In 2003, Gallup found, one of every three kids from age 13 to 17 said abortion should be illegal in all circumstances. More revealing yet is that 72 percent said abortion is "morally wrong."

By now, pro-life groups know that outlawing most abortions is not a plausible aspiration. So they have adopted a two-pronged strategy. The first is to regulate it more closely -- with parental notification laws, informed consent requirements and a ban on partial-birth abortion. The second is to educate Americans with an eye toward changing "hearts and minds." In both, they have had considerable success.

Even those who insist Americans are solidly in favor of legal abortion implicitly acknowledge the widespread distaste. That's why the Democratic Party's 2004 platform omitted any mention of the issue, and why politicians who support abortion rights cloak them in euphemisms like "the right to choose."

But some abortion rights supporters admit reservations. It was a landmark moment in 1995 when the pro-choice author Naomi Wolf, writing in The New Republic magazine, declared that "the death of a fetus is a real death." She went on: "By refusing to look at abortion within a moral framework, we lose the millions of Americans who want to support abortion as a legal right but still need to condemn it as a moral iniquity."

The report on abortion rates from the Guttmacher Institute suggests that the evolution of attitudes has transformed behavior. Since 1990, the number of abortions has dropped from 1.61 million to 1.21 million. The abortion rate among women of childbearing age has declined by 29 percent.

Those changes could be the result of other factors, such as more use of contraception: If fewer women get pregnant, fewer will resort to abortion. But the shift is equally marked among women who do get pregnant. In 1990, 30.4 percent of pregnancies ended in abortion. Last year, the figure was 22.4 percent.

28 years ago, when Ronald Reagan was in John McCain's position, the best and the brightest were convinced that his stridently pro-life politics were disqualifying for the presidency.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:17 AM


A Revolution Not Televised (Eben Harrell, 1/17/08, TIME)

The factor motivating the Chief Pleas grudging change was not the democratic fervor of the islanders, but pressure from European institutions such as the Court of Human Rights. After protracted debate, it had decided last year to add more elected seats to the legislature, but defiantly insisted that a certain number would still be reserved for landowners.

In a dramatic intervention last week, the British Lord Chancellor Jack Straw sent a letter to Sark demanding it move to full democracy, calling the proposed compromise "not in any way consistent with modern democratic principles." Although strictly independent, Sark is a dependent of the English monarchy, and its laws therefore require approval by the British government.

A recent poll suggests the ordinary folk of Sark — farmers, mostly — will not be celebrating Wednesday's vote: Only 56 per cent of Sarkese backed a move to full democracy, and many did so more in recognition of its inevitability than because of deeply-held beliefs.

Just declare independence and tell the statists to get stuffed.

January 19, 2008

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:27 PM


Huck camp: Blame Fred (NBC’s Domenico Montanaro, 1/19/08, First Read)

It’s clear who Huckabee camp is blaming for its squeaker of a loss in South Carolina: Fred Thompson.

After Huckabee’s gracious concession speech -- in which he had nothing but kind words for John McCain who he said showed great “civility” -- former SC Gov. David Beasley, a Huckabee surrogate, railed against Thompson.

“Fred hurt us in South Carolina,” Beasley began. “He had one goal and one goal only -- to distort Mike Huckabee’s record so John McCain could pull it out. No ifs, ands or buts about it…."

Welcome to the majors, rook.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:35 PM


McCain Wins South Carolina Primary (MICHAEL M. GRYNBAUM and MICHAEL LUO, 1/19/08, NY Times)

Instead, according to exit polls, Mr. McCain gained enough support from a mostly conservative voting base -- and siphoned enough votes away from the evangelical bloc -- to best his rival.

With 83 percent of the precincts reporting, Mr. McCain, of Arizona, was leading with 33 percent of the vote, just ahead of Mr. Huckabee’s 29 percent.

Former Gov. Mitt Romney, who coasted to an easy victory earlier on Saturday in the Nevada caucuses, was vying for third place with Fred Thompson, the former senator of Tennessee.

Having won by carrying exactly the sorts of folks who the inside the Beltway Right thinks hate him, Maverick is undeniable at this point. The free media he gets will suck all the oxygen out of the other campaigns and the Fred Thompson endorsement will be useful.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:33 PM


Nevada tussle signals rancor for Dems (Ben Smith, Jan 19, 2008, Politico)

The vote was also a devastating crash for former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, who had won substantial portions of the vote in Iowa and New Hampshire, but was headed toward winning less than 4 percent of the delegates in Nevada.

The vote also reflected the key demographic realities that are coming to define the primary contest, according to early exit polls and observations. Exit polls showed 65 percent of Hispanic voters supported Clinton, while 83 percent of the state’s smaller number of African American voters largely backed Obama.

That’s a trend that is likely to favor Obama in the next contest, on Jan. 26, in heavily African American South Carolina and in some large states, like New York. But it could bode well for Clinton in other upcoming states with large Hispanic populations, notably California.

The most pro-immigrant Republican vs. a black nominee is pretty much what Karl Rove dreams about.

Mormons Give Romney Big Vote in Nevada (AP, 1/19/08)

About a quarter of Nevada GOP voters were Mormon, and virtually all of them preferred Mitt Romney. Overall, about half of Romney's Nevada votes came from Mormons. Among non-Mormons, he had a slight lead over Ron Paul.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:33 PM


Pick Patriots score: Win a gift certificate (Bill Burt, 1/19/08, Eagle Tribune)

This week’s winner will also win a $50 gift certificate to The Loft Restaurant (if you are local) or the restaurant of your choice if you are not.

I predict the Patriots, 31-13.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:25 AM


Democratic Vistas: a review of THE SPIRIT OF DEMOCRACY: The Struggle to Build Free Societies Throughout the World By Larry Diamond (JANINE DI GIOVANNI, 1/20/08, NY Times Book Review)

“By the mid-1990s,” he writes, “it had become clear to me, as it had to many of my colleagues involved in the global struggle for democracy, that if some three-fifths of the world’s states (many of them poor and non-Western) could become democracies, there was no intrinsic reason why the rest of the world could not do as well.” He even throws countries like China and Iran into this equation.

Diamond can be optimistic because he compares the present, with all of its setbacks, to 1974, when he was a student leader during the protests against the Vietnam War. In those days, he reminds us, democracy was not the way of the world. “Barely a quarter of independent states chose their governments through competitive, free and fair elections.” [...]

“The Spirit of Democracy” asks whether democracy is something that can exist only in rich and educated countries, those with a strong middle class. Do all people actually want democracy, or do some — the Chinese perhaps — believe that a form of authoritarianism is the best way to run a country?

To answer this question, Diamond examines the forces that contribute to democracy, from the internal influences that give rise to civil societies to the impact of peaceful outside pressures like diplomatic persuasion or, in some cases, economic sanctions. He highlights the work of the National Endowment for Democracy, founded in 1983 to promote democracy abroad, and the democratic assistance it successfully provided to Poland and Nicaragua. [...]

Oil is a major part of the story of Russia’s democratic retreat, as it is for many other nations. None of the 23 countries whose economies are dominated by what Diamond calls “the exceptional curse of oil” are democracies. From Algeria to Venezuela, he chillingly reminds us, “all of the oil-rich countries of the world remained under or returned to authoritarian rule after 1974 and the third wave of democratization.” When oil revenues surge, he writes, democracy declines.

Diamond’s book is not for everyone. It’s overloaded with comparative statistics, World Bank data and ratings from Freedom House. Reading it takes true commitment. But it offers well-grounded support to anyone who has questioned the long-held theory of Seymour Martin Lipset that the richer the country, the greater the chances of sustaining democracy.

Third world countries are not destined to lurch from dictator to dictator, Diamond insists. Even places like Burundi and Sierra Leone, he points out, became democracies after the brutality and violence of bloody civil wars (although they are vulnerable to risk). Democracy may be a luxury, but it isn’t a question of wealth. It all comes down to the energy and commitment of people. Indeed, the message of Diamond’s book is summed up by its dedication to three icons of democracy: Gandhi, Vaclav Havel and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

Diamond makes the hopeful prediction that even “countries like Iran and China, which now seem so immune to the global democratic trend, stand a very good chance of becoming democratic in the next two to three decades.”

“And if China can democratize,” Diamond asks, “why not the entire world?”

...is about you, not about them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:18 AM


John McCain king of campaign comedians (Tim Shipman and Philip Sherwell, 19/01/2008, Daily Telegraph)

He is a grizzled war hero who tells it to the voters straight.

But beneath the gruff exterior and the cold hard facts, John McCain has developed a sideline in stand-up comedy.

In what many of the candidates regularly proclaim the most important and most serious election in decades, candidates are engaged not just in a war of words, but a battle of bon mots.

Mr McCain, head to head for the South Carolina primary last night with Baptist preacher Mike Huckabee, was happy to enter a battle of the one-liners with the man who had previously been hailed as the best campaign comedian. [...]

On the Democrat side, the contest has been largely a sombre affair.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:06 AM


Young and Impatient in India: Workers raised in an age of economic optimism want it all, and they want it now (Davos Special Report, 1/17/08, Business Week)

[I]ndia is becoming a proving ground for managing the global workforce, with companies developing new schemes to keep the younger generation engaged. The likes of MindTree Consulting, Infosys, and IBM (IBM) have revamped their orientation programs to better engage young people, tapped men and women under 30 to serve on management committees, and launched mini-MBA programs for eager young managers. "India is going to be a lab for lessons that we'll apply to other countries," says Lyndon Rego, manager of innovation at the Center for Creative Leadership in Greensboro, N.C., which develops leadership training programs in emerging markets.

The challenge for companies is to address both the desires and frustrations of the younger generation. These become abundantly evident in the cafés and bars of Bangalore. As the city has developed into India's Silicon Valley, it also has become the country's bar-hopping capital. "We need capitalism with a human face," says P.B. Devaiah, a 20-year-old industrial engineering major at a local college. Sitting with friends at Java City, a crowded coffee shop, he complains that much of the programming in India is the equivalent of sweatshop labor, where new hires are expected to spend as much as 12 hours a day writing code. "We're being used as machines," Devaiah says.

When the conversation turns to social issues, India's young people are likely to erupt in grousing about arranged marriage, the caste system, and interactions with Westerners—all of which should concern employers. Caste attitudes, for instance, clash with merit-based corporate values, and young techies sometimes feel they're treated poorly by American and European clients. "We're not Martians. We're human beings," says a young woman engineer at a Bangalore tech firm.

One of the biggest concerns is the changing role of women. The tech industry was once almost exclusively male, but by last year about 35% of employees were women. Nasscom, the software industry trade group, says that will rise to 45% by 2010. The rise of women in tech has taken companies by surprise, and they're scrambling to react. At software and research outfit MindTree, for instance, 40% of new hires last fall were female, compared with just 23% of the company's overall workforce of 5,500. And these young women tend to be more outspoken than their male counterparts.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:01 AM


New 'Metric Martyr' puts faith in trial by jury (Nick Allen, 19/01/2008, Daily Telegraph)

A woman who is being prosecuted for selling vegetables by the pound branded the case against her "disgusting" yesterday as she made her first appearance in court.

Janet Devers, Britain's latest "metric martyr", vowed to continue trading at the stall set up by her mother at the height of the Blitz in 1940.

The 63-year-old made a brief appearance at Thames Magistrates' Court in London where she elected to be tried at a Crown Court in front of a jury, in the first prosecution of its kind for six years.

After the hearing she said: "I am much happier about having a jury trial because you won't get 12 people on a jury who will find me guilty. It's in the hands of the public and I hope they all support me."

An American DA couldn't even afford the political stain of such an anti-human prosecution.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:59 AM


'Great Escape' war veteran dies (BBC, 1/19/08)

A World War II veteran who took part in the prison camp breakout immortalised in the film The Great Escape has died.

Jimmy James, of Ludlow, Shropshire, died on Friday after being admitted to the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital. [...]

Mr James took part in 13 escape attempts from prisoner camps during the war and witnessed a number of horrific acts of brutality, Mr Tuck said.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:55 AM


Mormons come to help immigrants (GIGI LEHMAN, 1/19/08, MiamiHerald.com)

One of the churches most known for missionary activity, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is evangelizing Haitians and native Spanish speakers without Mormon missionaries ever leaving the United States.

The LDS church has 150 missionaries in South Florida, many of whom work with immigrant groups, said Noel Reynolds, president of the church's Florida Fort Lauderdale Mission. ''One group teaches Haitians; one group teaches Spanish speakers; another does Portuguese for Brazilians,'' Reynolds said.

...but that he's not Mormon enough. Just as he was pro-abortion when it was convenient, he's now anti-immigrant when it's politically expedient, though both positions are unChristian.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:43 AM


GOP Race Is Close in S.C.: Huckabee and McCain Lead; Winner Will Receive Critical Boost (Dan Balz and Juliet Eilperin, 1/19/08, Washington Post)

Sen. John McCain and former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee dueled on the final day of campaigning before Saturday's South Carolina presidential primary, with each of the front-runners seeking to avoid a costly defeat that could set back his hopes of winning the Republican nomination.

The last round of polls showed McCain (Ariz.), with support from South Carolina's large veteran population, holding a narrow lead in the state that handed him the most painful defeat of his 2000 campaign. Huckabee is counting on strong turnout from a large bloc of Christian conservatives to help him overtake the senator in the first Southern primary of the year.

The three races to watch are McCain/Huckabee--where you'd think the most reliable voting block is with the latter--Thompson/Romney--who are both done if they finish 3/4--and Giuliani/Stassen.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:41 AM


Bush plan could put $800 in your pocket: Economic boost drawing support from both sides of aisle in Congress (PETER BAKER and NEIL IRWIN, 1/19/08, Washington Post)

President Bush called Friday for a $145 billion stimulus package centered on tax breaks for consumers and businesses to rejuvenate the lagging U.S. economy, a move that drew unusual bipartisan praise on Capitol Hill but failed to boost confidence on Wall Street.

The broad principles that Bush outlined opened a path to an agreement with congressional Democrats that could come as early next week and put up to $800 in each taxpayer's pocket by spring, according to both sides.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:24 AM


Anglers hook 100-year-old monster fish weighing over 35 stone (Daily Mail, 18th January 2008)

Two British anglers waded waist deep into a river to land a 100-year-old monster fish weighing over 35 stone - after battling with it for over an hour.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:08 AM


Strings afire: Burning Hell’s uke juke (Tim Perlich, 1/18/08, Now)

Glockenspiel may be the new cowbell, but Burning Hell main man Mathias Kom is determined to make 2008 the year of the ukulele.

Ridiculous? Preposterous? That’s what I said before hearing Stephin Merritt plinka-plinking on his mini-axe while singing a jingle for a Volvo commercial. So now that some of the groundwork has been laid by Merritt and other ukulele hipsters like Guelph's Barmitzvah Brothers and the People of Canada, the Burning Hell’s just-released Happy Birthday (weewerk) disc is ready to take advantage of the instrument’s covert creep back into the mainstream. [...]

Admittedly, the red-headed stepchild of the guitar family comes with a load of novelty baggage, and Korn isn’t going to undo the decades of damage done to the compact chordophone's credibility with one 13-track CD, however exquisitely produced and tastefully mixed by Andy Magoffin. However, it may cause some people to reconsider their opinion of the much-maligned four-stringed device originally developed in Hawaii during the 1880s.

“People always trash Tiny Tim, especially ukulele players, because right up until he died he couldn’t play the instrument very well. But an album called Girl (Rounder) that he did with Brave Combo in 1996 is amazing. The covers of the Beatles’ Girl and Led Zeppelin’s Stairway To Heaven are, like, wow! His voice on those songs is incredible.”

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:05 AM


The evolution of Darwin's bad influence: a review of Darwin Day in America: How Our Politics and Culture Have Been Dehumanized in the Name of Science by John G. West (Bruce Ramsey, 1/18/08, The Seattle Times)

John G. West, who disbelieves in Darwinism, has written a book on its bad cultural consequences, from eugenics to permissive sex education. West's opponents will not read it, because he is a fellow of the Discovery Institute, the Seattle think tank that has championed Intelligent Design. And that is too bad, because even those who believe in Darwin's theory of evolution, as I do, can concede that some things done in its name have been less than pleasing.

It is dangerous to think that a new idea conquers all. West recounts how the believers in Darwinism colonized the fields of criminal justice, social welfare, psychology, economics and the management of personnel and of human reproduction.

In criminal justice, Darwinism put new clothes on the old idea of determinism — that free will is an illusion, that man is a "meat machine" determined by genes or environment. If the will is an empty vessel, the criminal has no responsibility. (But then, neither does the prosecutor.)

West recalls how an early I-couldn't-help-it plea was presented to the courts in the case of Leopold and Loeb, two upper-crust teenagers who, for the hell of it, murdered a 14-year-old boy. They hired Clarence Darrow, who argued famously that the bad influences on them made them do it.

That was in 1924. Eugenics — the application of animal breeding to humans — was also big back then. In 1927, the state of Virginia's program of sterilization reached the Supreme Court. Considering whether the state should be allowed to cut the tubes of Carrie Buck because she was "feebleminded," Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes said it could, famously declaring, "Three generations of imbeciles is enough."

Mr. West has set himself too easy a task. The real challenge would be to try and write a book (or even a pamphlet) about any benefit that an ideology that exists only to justify such pathologies might have brought. As Philip S. Skell pointed out in The Scientist, Darwinism doesn't even contribute anything useful in the field of biology.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:04 AM


Strict rules mark schools: Pupils' workloads are heavy at L.A. charter sites that have drawn a billionaire's support (Jason Song, 1/18/08, Los Angeles Times)

The tough, corporate approach has brought early results. Academy of Opportunity students' test stores have risen dramatically, and philanthropist Eli Broad is betting that the formula will be successful at other sites. He donated $12 million Thursday to fund four more KIPP schools in the city.

In KIPP and Aspire, another charter group that he funded this week, Broad believes he has found proven formulas. The two teachers who founded KIPP opened their first school in Houston in 1994 and another in the South Bronx in New York City a year later. In 2000, Doris and Don Fisher, co-founders of the Gap retail chain, learned of the school on "60 Minutes" and have since given the organization more than $50 million.

KIPP has 57 campuses across the country, including two in Los Angeles. Charters are independently run, publicly funded campuses that are free from many state and local dictates.

Every activity is an opportunity for success or failure at KIPP, even a fire drill.

When the alarm sounded earlier this week, the KIPP students lined up quickly and stood facing Principal Ian Guidera. The 340 "KIPPsters" were so quiet that birds could be heard chirping in a tree across the street.

"Minute, 23 seconds," Guidera said finally. "That's awesome."

The students remained still until Guidera said, "About face," and they turned in unison to go back to class.

Not everyone is sold on the KIPP system. Critics say the test scores aren't surprising, given the high level of parental involvement. The school costs nothing to attend, but before their children enroll, parents must sign a document promising to take them to school, check their homework and meet with teachers.

"It's not a model for urban schools; it's a model for families in urban areas with parents who are supportive and want more for their children," said Gary Miron, a professor at Western Michigan University who studies charter schools.

And they don't deserve a model?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:00 AM


'Many militants die' in Pakistan (BBC, 1/18/08)

Pakistani forces have killed up to 90 militants in separate battles in the South Waziristan region close to the Afghan border, the military has said.

Army spokesman Maj-Gen Athar Abbas said that in one incident government forces attacked a large number of militants who were about to attack a fort.

...what matters is that the Pakistanis fight at all.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:18 AM


Future Shock: Reds Top 11 Prospects (Kevin Goldstein, 1/18/08, Baseball Prospectus)

Five-Star Prospects

1. Jay Bruce, CF
2. Homer Bailey, RHP
3. Joey Votto, 1B/OF

Four-Star Prospects

4. Johnny Cueto, RHP

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:01 AM


Twilight of the Nation-State: European transnationalism is a utopian dream, Pierre Manent warns: a review of Democracy Without Nations? The Fate of Self-Government in Europe, by Pierre Manent, translated by Paul Seaton (Bruce S. Thornton, 18 January 2008, City Journal)

The European Union’s grand project rests on the belief that nationalism is passé, indeed pernicious. Fascism’s mystic nationalism proved, on this view, that the nation-state impedes the spread of human rights, tolerance, and the rational adjudication of disputes—all essential to global peace. The nation-state should therefore give way to organizations like the E.U.: a transnational, secular institution that can bring about peace and prosperity by practicing what French intellectual Chantal Delsol calls “techno-politics”—a rational approach superior to the atavistic passions and superstitions that fired nationalism. But as the political philosopher Pierre Manent argues in a provocative new book, the European project, at least in its current form, represents a serious threat to democratic freedom. “If our nation suddenly disappeared and its bonds were dispersed,” Manent observes, “each of us immediately would become a stranger, a monster, to himself.”

A professor at the Centre des Recherches Politiques Raymond Aron, Manent has written extensively on democracy, nationalism, and liberalism. Democracy Without Nations comprises an earlier essay of the same name; a long monograph, La raison des nations, that appeared in France in 2006; and a lecture, “What Is a Nation?” Together with translator Paul Seaton’s overview of Manent’s writings, they make an excellent introduction to the work of an important thinker, whose ideas help us understand the temptations of the E.U.’s utopian dream—and its dangers.

What troubles Manent is “the erosion—perhaps the dismantling—of the political form that for so many centuries has sheltered the endeavors of European man. I refer to the nation.” He begins by examining the present European scene, dominated by a “passion for resemblance,” which he describes as a demand that we see others as ourselves and ignore cultural differences, national ones above all. Europeans also increasingly regard their nations’ pasts as “made up of collective crimes and unjustifiable restraints.” With the past demonized and current differences ignored, legitimacy comes to reside only in a kind of “human generality.”

Yet modern democracy first arose through nation-states, Manent reminds us. These political forms united particular peoples into “communion,” binding past, present, and future. Now, though, “this unifying principle of our lives has lost its connective force,” the national communion dissolving into “predemocratic” associations lacking the democratic nation’s power to assimilate disparate groups and values. Asks Manent: “What human association, old or new, will be able to bring consent and communion together in a viable way?”

Abandoning democratic nationhood puts at risk the individual rights, equality, and freedom that the nation-state made possible in the first place.

It is, of course, the point of transnationalism to do away with those pesky liberties so that elites can impose their will. And, while nationalism is, indeed, pernicious, it is also an inevitable pathology of secular Darwinism, so will be the opposing pathology which prevents the transnational project from coming to fruition.

January 18, 2008

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:59 PM


Tomorrow (Friday, January 18th) You Can Help Us Raise $50,000!

Through the Causes Giving Challenge, the Case Foundation is donating $1,000 EVERY 24 hours to the nonprofits and causes featured on Facebook that attract the highest number of donors for that day. Case wants to promote philanthropy on the Internet, and so the focus of this promotion is not the amount of money raised, but rather how many different people we get to donate to our cause. Ultimately the cause that gains the most donors will receive a $50,000 grant from the Case Foundation.


1) There are 35 million American families with children ages 9-17 at risk of abusing drugs and alcohol.

2) Almost all parents have moments when they realize they need to help their kids deal with the risks of drugs and alcohol. They want to learn from experts and from other parents’ experiences. But most parents don’t know where to turn. That’s why The Partnership for a Drug-Free America is teaming up with top scientists and committed parents to create truly helpful, user-friendly resources on the internet.

3) We've started with the “Time To Talk” campaign -- now online at timetotalk.org -- where parents can find useful tools and tips to have conversations with their kids about drugs and alcohol. Plus there's a lot more to come both @ drugfree.org and @ timetotalk.org.


1. Please support the cause by making a Facebook account (if you do not have one already). Visit the Partnership’s Causes page at http://apps.facebook.com/causes/view_cause/49817 and click to “Join.”

2. Tomorrow, January 18, please make your contribution, (starting as little as $ 10 and up) through the “Donate” button from 3 pm EST through 3 pm EST January 19. Don’t donate now! You have to wait until the 18th!

3. The cause that day which generates the most number of donors will win the January 18th challenge and $1,000. Then on February 1st, the nonprofit that has successfully reached out to the most donors out of all the challenges will receive a $50,000 grant.

With your help and with promotional help from our friends in the media, we have a good chance to win the challenge. Please give us a hand. Thanks a lot !

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:54 PM


Ton of live snakes found on plane in Vietnam (Thomas Bell, 18/01/2008, Daily Telegraph)

Vietnamese customs officials have discovered a ton of live snakes on a plane.

The illegal cargo - on board a Thai Air flight from Bangkok - was hidden inside 60 ice boxes marked "fresh fish".

Thus the Timezone Rule.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:53 AM


Gorecki honoured by Cardiff University Michal Kubicki, Polskie Radio

The famous Polish composer Henryk Mikolaj Gorecki has been awarded an Honorary Fellowship by Cardiff University. [...]

In the early 1990s he became world famous thanks to the huge commercial success of his Third Symphony which sold over a million copies, and rose high in the pop charts and was used on film soundtracks.

Distinctions and honours from all over the world followed, including honorary doctorates from the Catholic University in Washington, the University of the State of Michigan in Ann Arbor and the University of British Columbia in Montreal. The latest distinction is an Honorary Fellowship from the University of Cardiff in the U.K.

‘The University gives fellowships to people of high distinction in the arts, sciences and in public life,’ says Professor Adrian Thomas of the University’s School of Music. ‘We wanted for some time to recognize Henryk Mikołaj Górecki, not least because of his close connection that our University has with Polish music and Central European music. My own connection with Górecki goes back more than 30 years. As was said in the citation, the University can think of nobody more fitting and worthy of such an honorary fellowship as Górecki in his 75th year.’

-INTERVIEW: How Gorecki makes his music – an exclusive interview (Norman Lebrecht / February 28, 2007, La Scena Musicale)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:45 AM


Can't get enough of Disney's 'Musical' a review of High School Musical: The Music in You (Sunday at 8 p.m.) (Diane Werts, 1/18/08, Newsday)

When two Texas high schools join forces to go for the gold, some kids cash in, and some get tin. Reality intrudes even as one girl gushes, "If I could, like, go into another universe, and, like, live in High School Musical, I would."

Spending a half-hour with these students as they soar and crash, find themselves and lose track again, doesn't seem nearly enough. Even in the hands of Academy Award-winning filmmaker Barbara Kopple (Harlan County USA, American Dream), The Music in You feels like it's just starting to take off when it ends.

The kids have barely introduced themselves: Alexandria the dreamer, Brad the broody rock-and-roller, Lindsay the gifted diva, Curtis the cocky jock ("I bet my heart's shaped like a football"). We get only fleeting glimpses of them at their jobs, at their homes, on the football field or jamming with a band. And Kopple's camera has been intimate enough to make us yearn for more.

But the time we do get is rich indeed, and varied enough that any young viewer can find a piece of him- or herself here.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:31 AM


Staples of Soul (VALERIE GLADSTONE, January 18, 2008, NY Sun)

Two musical giants, the gospel singer Mavis Staples and the guitarist and producer Ry Cooder, had only met once before working together last year. But their unusual recording session produced the electrifying "We'll Never Turn Back," one of the most memorable collections of Ms. Staples's 50-year career. [...]

Eagerly relating the story behind the new recording, she said, "Let's go back to 1994, when Pops won a Grammy for 'Father, Father,' which Ry produced. After the ceremony, he comes up to me and says, 'Your father taught me everything I know.' I'm surprised, so I ask Pops when he gave Ry lessons. He said that he didn't. Ry had just been studying him on his own. So time passes, and I'm planning to make a new record, and my manager tells me Ry wants to produce it. 'Oh Lord, you have to be kidding,' I say, 'I couldn't ask for anything more.'"

It's pretty hard to shake up Ms. Staples, who entertained Martin Luther King and presidents Kennedy, Carter, and Clinton, performed in films and television shows, and spent at least one night in jail after a protest march. But Mr. Cooder, who recently introduced America to Cuban music with "Buena Vista Social Club," managed to do just that with his recording methods. His first move during their initial conversation in Chicago was to ask for her late father's amplifier so he could plug in his guitar.

"Then, I knew we were going to be all right," Ms. Staples said. "First we talked about doing some 18th-century songs, but I suggested we should be more up to date, like what we sang during the civil rights marches — 'Eyes on the Prize,' and '99 and a Half Won't Do.' A lot of things are no better now than they were then, after all. Look at Katrina. Letting people die in that stadium. Things still aren't fixed. That's why I wrote 'Mine Own Eyes,' about the racism I've seen in my long life. I thought we'd rehearse the day before, as everyone usually does. But no. He didn't want to rehearse."

She paused a long while before continuing, to emphasize just how extraordinary the experience was for her.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:25 AM


How I fell for a sexist, racist, reactionary cad (Christopher Hitchens, January 19, 2008, The Australian)

LOOKING back over the nearly 40 years since I first found myself immersed in a Flashman story, perhaps the single most striking thing about the experience is the date.

It somehow didn't seem to "fit'', amid all the feverish enthusiasms of the late 1960s, that one should be so thoroughly absorbed by the doings of a racist-sexist-imperialist-you-name-it military officer. I can remember the mingled shock and glee with which my radical friend Andrew Cockburn and I discovered, over a steaming curry that was another colonial legacy, that we had both recently fallen for the same author and character. I have met that look, of the confirmed addict and fellow-sufferer, many times since.

Maybe it was partly the period that explained the fatuity by which a dozen British publishers greeted George MacDonald Fraser with rejection slips. But he eventually found a home with Herbert Jenkins, the independent house that had already earned itself immortality by bringing out P.G. Wodehouse.

And there is charm in the fact that Wodehouse himself, who seldom commented on other writers, said, "If ever there was a time when I felt that `watcher-of-the-skies-when-a-new-planet' stuff, it was when I read the first Flashman.'' [...]

Of Fraser's robust Toryism there can be no doubt. He described the British Empire as "the greatest thing that ever happened to an undeserving world''...

No one is PC in private and Mr. Hitchens can barely manage it in public these days.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:07 AM


Colombia's military toughens up: U.S. aid has helped the once-outmatched force gain strength and retake territory. But the change has been marked by rights abuses and security breaches (Chris Kraul, 1/18/08, Los Angeles Times)

Seven years and $4.35 billion since the advent of a massive U.S. aid program, the Colombian military has been transformed from an outmatched "garrison force" that had yielded huge swaths of terrain to leftist guerrillas, to an aggressive force that has won back territory.

The transformation, however, has had a dark side. Soldiers and police officers have committed rising numbers of human rights abuses, even as U.S. training intensifies, rights groups charge. During the five-year period that ended in June 2006, extrajudicial killings increased by more than 50% over the previous five years, according to figures compiled by human rights groups. [...]

But even critics don't dispute that the military has become a more professional and capable fighting force. And that's quite a turnaround for an institution that a decade ago was dismissed by Colombian and U.S. observers as no match for the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.

One U.S. Embassy official once referred to the armed forces as "the Apple Dumpling Gang," after the Walt Disney movie starring Don Knotts as a bumbling outlaw.

In the late 1990s, the army was best known for its disasters. Half a dozen bases, mostly in southern jungle and border states, were overrun by the FARC, resulting in the killing or kidnapping of hundreds of soldiers. The names of the bases, such as Patascoy, Las Delicias and El Billar, became emblematic of the military's ineptitude.

When President Alvaro Uribe took office in 2002, rebels had encircled the capital, Bogota, and the military seemed impotent to do anything about it. His predecessor, Andres Pastrana, had ceded a Switzerland-size chunk of Colombian jungle to the FARC in the vain hope the move would lead to a peace agreement.

Now the military seems to have the upper hand, say analysts at the Pentagon's Southern Command headquarters in Miami.

In a recent interview, Santos said the military had "fundamentally been transformed. . . . Before, the Colombian army was only on the defense. Now it's totally on the offense and gaining great prestige."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:00 AM


Late to the Game: A frontrunner goes to the back (David Freddoso, 1/18/08, National Review)

Republicans have now held three major primary contests — Iowa, New Hampshire, and Michigan. And the proud Giuliani has now finished twice behind Texas Rep. Ron Paul, the man he once accused of blaming America for “inviting the attack of 9/11.” He even trails Paul in delegates to this fall’s convention — and the way things are going, he may never catch up. This week, he squeaked out a victory over “uncommitted” and Duncan Hunter. His performance was so bad in Michigan that almost nothing useful can be gleaned about it from the exit polling. [...]

South Carolina will not smile upon Rudy Saturday, even though he led there in late November. Once again, he will be fortunate to defeat Paul and secure a fifth-place finish. Even his Florida firewall is falling apart, with John McCain besting him in the last three polls and a rebounding Romney ready to nibble away at his support as well.

To add insult to injury, Rudy’s “sure thing” in New Jersey is no longer so sure. A Monmouth University poll shows that since September, he has traded a 32-point lead in the Garden State for a four-point deficit against John McCain. And a Survey USA poll now puts him just three points ahead of McCain in his home state of New York.

If he does not win in Nevada — where the latest poll showed him poised to compete — Rudy may have no reason to stay in the race any longer.

What in the world happened to Mayor Giuliani?

Like Mario Cuomo, who he resembles in so many ways, Mr. Giuliani wants to feel wanted, not to run for president.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:38 AM


Bizarro Goldwater?: McCain can win. (Wynton C. Hall, 1/18/08, National Review)

Consider the following: Even as Mitt Romney claimed his home state of Michigan this week, John McCain finished a competitive second in a state where 68 percent of primary voters were “mainstream Republicans” rather than the independent and moderate voters who typically form McCain’s base of support. Of the Democrats who voted in the Republican primary, 41 percent supported McCain. To some observers, McCain’s attractiveness to independents and Democrats is evidence of his weak conservative credentials. This is curious logic. Few of them would concede that Ronald Reagan’s support from “Reagan Democrats” in his 1980 and 1984 landslide victories made the Gipper less of a conservative.

In New Hampshire, as expected, McCain did well among independent voters — but he did much better than expected among mainstream Republicans. And that suggests that Republicans know instinctually what is likely true: that John McCain’s maverick pose as the GOP’s ideological eye-gouger will make him all but impervious to charges by Democrats of representing a de facto third term for the unpopular President Bush.

More than that, McCain’s war-hero status and role as legislative champion of the hugely successful “surge” in Iraq will contrast sharply with Senators Clinton and Obama’s slender and dovish foreign-policy resumes. And in presidential campaign communication, candidate “contrast” reigns supreme.

The looming question among GOP insiders is whether conservatives will begrudgingly come home to McCain. And here, too, the prospects are far from gloomy. Fiscal conservatives — like the influential Club for Growth — are more likely to have former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee in their crosshairs, while McCain’s decades-long fight against wasteful spending, secretive earmarks, and expansive government redounds to his electoral favor. McCain’s track record on fiscal restraint makes him hard to tag as a big-government compassionate conservative.

A closer look at John McCain’s voting record reveals more reasons for optimism. The American Conservative Union gives McCain a lifetime rating of 83 (former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich boasts a 90 rating). And although not a “man-the-barricades” pro-lifer, McCain advocates the overturning of Roe v. Wade, calls abortion “a human tragedy,” and lived out his support for adoption when he and his second wife, Cindy, adopted their daughter Bridget, a former orphan from Bangladesh.

Pro-Life, Pro-McCain: A candidate with an unmatchable record on life issues. (Gerard V. Bradley, 1/18/08, National Review)

McCain is not the only pro-life candidate in the Republican field. There are — and were — others. Kansas Senator Sam Brownback is rightly regarded as a champion of the unborn. He was no doubt the first choice of many ardent pro-life Republicans. But Brownback gave up his campaign for the Republican nomination months ago. Now he is backing McCain.

Of the remaining pro-life Republicans, none can match McCain’s record of opposing abortion. He has served in Congress for 24 years, and cast a lot of votes on abortion legislation during that time. His record is not merely exemplary — it is perfect. McCain’s votes on abortion really could not be better. A campaign advertisement in South Carolina says of John McCain: “Pro-life. Not just recently. Always. Never wavering.” The ad is true.

It is no criticism of any other pro-life candidate to say that McCain’s track record makes him the best of a small number of good choices. Mike Huckabee is a good man and solidly pro-life. I personally do not doubt the sincerity or depth of Mitt Romney’s present commitment to the unborn. But experience matters. Being battle-hardened in defense of life is a real plus. Twenty-four years of service at the national level — almost all of them in the Senate — make a big difference when we are talking about the next President, compared to candidates who have been small-state governors. There is no need to speculate or to rely upon promises or take matters on faith when it comes to McCain and abortion. He has demonstrated himself to be the best pro-life choice.

One of the most entertaining things about politics on the Internet--provided that you aren't an ideologue of either stripe--is the way the Daily Kos types and the anyone-but-McCain types think they're different from each other. From outside the bubble, fanatics of either ilk appear awfully similar.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:07 AM


India could yet play the 'China' hand (M D Nalapat, 1/19/08, Asia Times)

The possibility of India joining with the United States and Japan in hostilities against China would necessitate a distraction in the concentration of China's military on the Taiwan Strait. Moreover, India's naval and other assets could take over several maritime commitments of the United States in the Indian Ocean, thus freeing a much larger force for the Chinese theater. There is also the value of a close strategic link with another country of a billion-plus people, one that is, moreover, a democracy that hosts more than 220 million people who speak the English language.

Will India pull a "China" on Beijing and garner geopolitical benefits by offering itself as a counterweight against China, in much the same way as China secured gains for itself by professing to serve as a counterweight to the Soviet Union? Should India become a US ally, the strategic situation for China would worsen not simply in Asia but across other continents as well, for India too has a large footprint, reaching across most parts of Africa and Asia, as well as selected countries in South America.

Such a pairing of the world's two largest democracies seemed an unlikely prospect until the advent of President George W Bush.

...but W deserves credit for recognizing a natural alliance rather than creating one.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:56 AM

Former chess champion Bobby Fischer has died at 64 (Associated Press, January 18, 2008)

Bobby Fischer, the reclusive American chess master who became a Cold War icon when he dethroned the Soviet Union's Boris Spassky as world champion in 1972, has died. He was 64.

Fischer died Thursday in a Reykjavik hospital, his spokesman, Gardar Sverrisson, said. There was no immediate word on the cause of death.

Born in Chicago and raised in Brooklyn, Robert James Fischer was a U.S. chess champion at 14 and a grand master at 15. He beat Spassky in a series of games in Reykjavik to claim America's first world chess championship in more than a century.

The event had tremendous symbolic importance, pitting the intensely individualistic young American against a product of the grim and soulless Soviet Union. [...]

But Fischer's reputation as a chess genius soon was eclipsed by his idiosyncrasies. He lost his world title in 1975 after refusing to defend it against Anatoly Karpov. He dropped out of competitive chess and largely out of view, emerging occasionally to make erratic and often anti-Semitic comments, although his mother was Jewish.

"The tragedy is that he left this world too early, and his extravagant life and scandalous statements did not contribute to the popularity of chess," Kasparov told The Associated Press.

Chess champion Bobby Fischer dies (David Batty, January 18, 2008, Guardian Unlimited)
Fischer, who grew up in Brooklyn, New York, gained fame in his teens for his chess-playing ability. At 14, he became the youngest player ever to win the US championship; at 15, he became the youngest international grandmaster in history. He won the US championship eight times in eight attempts.

He gained international fame in 1972 when he beat the Soviet Union's Boris Spassky in what was dubbed as the "match of the century" to become the first US chess champion for a century.

The match between the eccentric and highly individualistic American and Spassky, backed by the mighty Soviet chess establishment, captured the public imagination and became a huge news story.

But his reputation as a chess genius, with a ferocious attacking style, was eclipsed, in the eyes of many, by his idiosyncrasies.

He refused to defend his title in 1975 when the World Chess Federation (FIDE) did not accept all his conditions for a title defence, so he forfeited the title to another Soviet, Anatoly Karpov.

Fischer then fell into obscurity before resurfacing to play an exhibition rematch against Spassky in 1992 on the resort island of Sveti Stefan off Montenegro.

Fischer won, but the game was played in violation of international sanctions imposed on Slobodan Milosevic, then president of Yugoslavia.

Fischer became a wanted man, but managed to evade authorities for 12 years until July 16 2004 when he was arrested and later detained in Japan. On March 22 2005, he was freed and granted Icelandic citizenship. He lived in Iceland until his death.


"bobby fischer"
(Brothers Judd Blog)


    -Match of the

    -Bobby Fischer (Wikipedia)

    -Boris Spassky (Wikipedia)

    -World Chess
Championship 1972 Fischer - Spassky Title Match
(Mark Weeks)

(Compiled by kevin86, chessgames.com)

    -Fischer-Spassky: The 1972
World Chess Championship
(Jon Edwards)

vs. Spassky match, 1972: World Championship Match
(Chess Club)

    -ESSAY: The chess match of the century (Dave Edmonds, 8/09/02, BBC)

    -ESSAY: Fischer's Price: Chess may have been the only thing that kept the champion in touch with reality. (GARRY KASPAROV, July 19, 2004 , Opinion Journal)

    -ESSAY: The 30th
anniversary of the 1972 World Championship match in Reykjavik between
Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky
(Ian Rogers, May 26, 2002, Canberra

    -ESSAY: A study of Bobby Fischer, Boris Spassky, the 1972 FIDE Chess Title Match, and their correlation (www.courseworkbank.co.uk)

Cold war chess
: The rise and fall of chess in the 20th century was
intimately linked with the cold war and the Soviet Union's giant
investment in the game. But deprived of the atmosphere of menace that
characterised that era, chess has dissipated much of the capital it
built up over more than a century (Daniel Johnson, June 2005, Prospect uk)

Spassky asks Bush to go easy on Fischer
(The Associated Press, Aug.
12, 2004)

    -ESSAY: Searching
for Bobby Fischer's Platonic Form
(Kenneth Silber, 04/06/2004, Tech
Central Station)

    -ESSAY: The
man who saved Fischer-Spassky
(Chess Base, 13.05.2003)

Trifkovic, December 18, 2004, Chronicles)

    -Cultural Revolutions (Srdja Trifkovic, September 2004, Chronicles)

    -ESSAY: Bobby Fischer: Demise of a chess legend (Robert Plummer, 3/24/05, BBC News)

    -ESSAY: Bobby Fischer's strangest endgame: Arguably the greatest chess player of all time (and one of the weirdest human beings) is detained in Japan, wanted by the U.S. Will he escape an ignominious fool's mate? (Rene Chun, July 24, 2004, Salon)

    -ESSAY: The Hounding of a Chess Legend (Richard Wall, Lew Rockwell)

with David Edmonds and John Eidinow
: authors of Bobby Fischer Goes
to War: How the Soviets Lost the Most Extraordinary Chess Match of All
Time (Harper Collins)

    -INTERVIEW: with David Edmonds and John Eidinow (Amanda Smith, 8/05/04, Book Talk)

    -REVIEW: of
Bobby Fischer Goes to War: How the Soviets Lost the Most Extraordinary
Chess Match of All Time by David Edmonds and John Eidinow
McAlpin, CS Monitor)

of Bobby Fischer Goes to War

of Bobby Fischer Goes to War
(Janet Maslin, NY Times)

    -REVIEW: of Bobby Fischer Goes to War (Tim Wall, Moscow Times)

    -REVIEW: of Bobby Fischger Goes to War (Paul Gleason, Yale Review of Books)

of Bobby Fischer Goes to War< /a> (Mark Weeks, chess.about.com)

Of Bobby Fischer Goes to War
(David Surratt, Chessville)

    -REVIEW: of Bobby Fischer Goes to War (Seamus Sweeney, Nth Position)

    -REVIEW: of Bobby Fischer Goes to War (JAMES NEAL WEBB, Book Page)

of NO REGRETS: FISCHER-SPASSKY 1992 MATCH By Yasser Seirawan and George
(Jeremy Silman)

of OBBY FISCHER: THE WANDERING KING by Hans Bohm and Kees Jongkind

(Randy Bauer)

of Searching for Bobby Fischer The World of Chess, Observed by the
Father of a Child Prodigy By Fred Waitzkin
Lehmann-Haupt, NY Times)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:52 AM


Man who gave Hula Hoop to the world dies (Sam Jones, January 18, 2008, Guardian)

The man who unleashed the Hula Hoop and the Frisbee on the world has died. Richard Knerr, co-founder of the Wham-O toy company, died on Monday at the age of 82. His wife, Dorothy, told the Los Angeles Times that he had suffered a stroke and died in hospital.

Knerr founded Wham-O with his childhood friend Arthur "Spud" Melin in 1948. The pair made sporting goods such as catapults, boomerangs and crossbows, before branching out into less harmful territory with products such as the Superball, the Slip 'n' Slide water slide, and Silly String.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:48 AM


Ad: 'Hillary Clinton does not respect our people' (Ben Smith, 1/17/08, Politico)

The radio ad aired by one of Obama's labor allies re-injects ethnicity into the Democratic primary contest in sharp terms.

"Hillary Clinton does not respect our people," the ad says in Spanish (original and Clinton campaign translation after the jump), referring to the lawsuit that failed today to shut down special caucus sites on Las Vegas' strip. "Hillary Clinton is shameless."

"Sen. Obama is defending our right to vote. Sen. Obama wants our votes. He respects our votes, our community, and our people. Sen. Obama’s campaign slogan is 'Si Se Puede.' Vote for a president who respects us, and who respects our right to vote," the ad says, according to a transcript provided by the Clinton campaign and confirmed in part by a union official.

...she can't be a victim of racist attacks, can she?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:45 AM


Bad teeth - the new British disease (Alice Thomson, 18/01/2008, Daily Telegraph)

In Britain today, you can stuff yourself on deep-fried Mars Bars, drink 20 pints a night, inject yourself with heroin, smoke 60 cigarettes a day or decide to change your sex - and the NHS has an obligation to treat you. You might go on a waiting list, but it will do its best to cure your lung cancer, patch up your nose after a drunken brawl or give you a hip replacement. It doesn't charge for operations or beds; it may even throw in some half-edible food.

Young woman undergoing dental treatment
Seven and a half million Britons have failed to gain access to an NHS dentist in the past two years

But if you have bad teeth, forget it. You may be rolling on the bathroom floor in agony with an abscess, your gums may be riddled with disease, or people may recoil at the sight of your fangs as you walk down the street, but the NHS doesn't have to help you.

It is now virtually impossible for many people to find an NHS dentist, and if they do manage to squeeze on to a list, they could still be charged 80 per cent of the cost of treatment - unless they are a child, pregnant or on benefits.

Was there really a time when the Brits weren't snaggle-toothed?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:38 AM


Obama's Reagan Comparison Sparks Debate (Shailagh Murray, 1/17/08, The Trail)

They've argued health care, free trade, immigration reform. Yucca Mountain? Been there, done that. But here's a debate no one saw coming in the Democratic primary: the legacy of Ronald Reagan.

Sen. Barack Obama opened the door when he said the following in an interview with the Reno Gazette-Journal:

I don't want to present myself as some sort of singular figure. I think part of what's different are the times...I think Ronald Reagan changed the trajectory of America in a way that Richard Nixon did not and in a way that Bill Clinton did not. He put us on a fundamentally different path because the country was ready for it. I think they felt like with all the excesses of the 1960s and 1970s and government had grown and grown but there wasn't much sense of accountability in terms of how it was operating. I think people, he just tapped into what people were already feeling, which was we want clarity we want optimism, we want a return to that sense of dynamism and entrepreneurship that had been missing.

Ronald REAGAN? The Democrats' mortal enemy, that smiling, supposedly simple-minded actor who expanded the Republican party by wooing all those white, working-class voters?

The Senator demonstrates precious little understanding of The Gipper--who sowed for twenty years the fields he was eventually able to reap and campaigned on the changes he would make rather than trivia like race--but also an acute awareness that he has to broaden his appeal beyond wealthy white people if he's going to win the nomination.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:31 AM


Milton Wolff, 92, Dies; Anti-Franco Leader (DOUGLAS MARTIN, 1/17/08, NY Times)

Milton Wolff, the last commander of the American volunteers who fought against Franco in the Spanish Civil War and the longtime commander of the Veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, died Monday in Berkeley, Calif. He was 92. [...]

At first a young Communist rabble-rouser on soapboxes in New York City, Mr. Wolff was wielding a machine gun in Spain by the time he was 21. By 22, he was the ninth commander of what is commonly called the Lincoln Brigade; four of his predecessors had been killed, four wounded; none now survive, the archives confirm.

Mr. Wolff found himself holding together the remnants of North American volunteers on a counteroffensive that moved across the Ebro River to the violent Hill 666 in the Sierra Pandols. It was a last gasp by foreign troops supporting the elected leftist government of Spain against the revolt led by Gen. Francisco Franco. The Americans soon left Spain; Madrid fell in March 1939, and the war was over.

While Mr. Wolff was in Spain, he became a friend of Ernest Hemingway, who served him his first glass of Scotch; Hemingway was in Spain as a reporter and wrote fiction about the conflict as well. Later, in a pamphlet issued when sculptures of the fighters were unveiled, he called Mr. Wolff “as brave and as good a soldier as any that commanded battalions at Gettysburg.”

After the exhausted volunteers arrived in New York aboard the ocean liner Paris on Dec. 15, 1938, it was Mr. Wolff who laid a wreath outside the railing of Madison Square Park, kept out of the park for want of a permit.

Mr. Wolff never stopped defying authority. He helped lead the fight against United States support of Franco’s government and battled fiercely for civil rights and against the Vietnam War. He even offered the services of the aging veterans of the Lincoln Brigade to the North Vietnamese leader, Ho Chi Minh, who declined them.

Imagine reading the Black Book of Communism and realizing you'd cheered on nearly every death therein?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:39 AM

Clyde Otis, 83, Executive and Songwriter, Dies (PETER KEEPNEWS, 1/18/08, NY Times)

Born in rural Mississippi in 1924, Mr. Otis did not become seriously involved in music until he met the songwriter Bobby Troup, best known for “Route 66,” when both men served in the Marines during World War II. Inspired by Mr. Troup, he began writing songs when he moved to New York after his discharge, with limited success. After several years of struggle, he finally hit the charts in 1956 when Nat King Cole’s recording of his song “That’s All There Is to That” reached the Billboard Top 20.

In 1958 Mr. Otis joined Mercury Records as director of artists and repertory, an unusually high-profile position for an African-American in the mainstream music business at the time.

At Mercury, where he produced records and was responsible for signing acts, he forged an enduring partnership with the singer Brook Benton. He produced more than a dozen hits for Benton, also writing or collaborating on most of them, beginning with “It’s Just a Matter of Time,” which he and Benton wrote together. He also produced and helped write Benton’s two Top 10 duets with Dinah Washington, “Baby (You’ve Got What It Takes)” and “A Rockin’ Good Way (to Mess Around and Fall in Love),” both released in 1960. His many other Mercury hits included Washington’s “What a Diff’rence a Day Makes” and Sarah Vaughan’s “Broken-Hearted Melody.”

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


A fresh look at terrorism's roots: a review of Leaderless Jihad by Marc Sageman (David Isenberg, 1/19/08, Asia Times)

What if all the platitudes and cliches about why people turn to terror, such as George W Bush administration claims that global Islamic terrorists hate democracy and freedom, are based on myths and sound bites, signifying nothing? What if most of the terror experts are guilty of the same sin that the intelligence agencies were accused of in regard to the reason the US invaded Iraq, ie, cherry picking the evidence?

If that is the problem then the answer is this book.

Marc Sageman is a University of Pennsylvania professor of psychiatry and ethnopolitical conflict, and a former Foreign Service Officer who worked closely with Islamic fundamentalists during the Afghan-Soviet war in the 1980s and gained an intimate understanding of their networks. His 2004 book Understanding Terror Networks gave the first social explanation of the global wave of activity.

Now, in his new book, Leaderless Jihad, we have a book that chooses to boldly go where few books on terrorism have gone before; namely to use scientific method to study terrorism.

In so doing he chooses not to focus on individuals and their backgrounds, or "root" (micro and macro approaches respectively) causes, to explain how the Muslims who carried out the September 11, 2001, attacks and those like them are radicalized to become terrorists. Sageman takes the common sense view that you can't defeat an enemy until you know them and understand what drives them. Instead, by using ordinary social science methods he studies how people in groups influence each other to become terrorists.

By building his own evidence-based, independently checked database of over 500 terrorists he has been able to see what various members of al-Qaeda had in common. He finds that are "part of a violent Islamist born-again social movement".

And this social movement, similar to the Russian anarchists of the late 19th century, is actually motivated by idealism. Sageman's data show that they are generally idealistic young people seeking glory fighting for justice and fairness.

This runs counter to the Bush administration counter-terrorist strategy, which is framed in terms of promoting democracy and freedom; a concept that that is readily grasped by the American domestic audience.

But these are not terms with which Middle Eastern Muslims identify. To them democracy means leaders who win elections with almost 100% of the vote. And if a Salafi Islamist party does win an election, as was the case with the Islamic Salvation Front in Algeria in 1992 or Hamas in the Gaza Strip in 2006, the election results are canceled or the world shuns the victor.

Thus, those who eventually become terrorists see Western-style democracy as a harmful "domination of man over man", undermining their theocratic utopia (Salaf). In their view that was the only time world history that a fair and just community existed. The Salafis, like other religious fundamentalists, see the Muslim decline over the past centuries as evidence that they have strayed from the righteous path.

Among Sageman's most useful points is his description of al-Qaeda both as a social movement and an ideology. The most important thing the United States can do, in countering global Islamic terrorism, is to avoid the mistakes of the early Cold War era when policymakers assumed that communism was one global monolithic movement.

While the comparison to Communism is apt (and Nazism ought be included), the mistake of the early Cold War was to tolerate the existence of any Communist regime when we had it in our power to nip the whole thing in the bud. It's wise to avoid that mistake this time. The Base, therefore, has no base.

January 17, 2008

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:50 PM


McCain no longer a maverick in S.C. (David Paul Kuhn, Jan 17, 2008, Politico)

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, one of the few prominent South Carolina pols to back John McCain in 2000, was struck by how many of those attending a McCain fundraiser last Friday night stood with George W. Bush eight years ago.

Hierarchy doesn't require overthinking.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:47 PM

YOU BUY YOURSELF A MAC (via Bryan Francoeur):

'Mac People' More Open, Liberal Than PC Users?: Do Apple's Macintosh users lean more to the artsy and hip end of the personality spectrum than PC users. A new study seems to confirm that. (Elizabeth Montalbano, January 17, 2008, IDG News Service)

People who prefer Apple's Macintosh computers over PCs have long been considered to be on the artsy, hip end of the personality spectrum -- and now a study proves that "Mac people" indeed are more liberal and open-minded than average folks.

According to Mindset Media, people who purchase Macs fall into what the branding company calls the "Openness 5" personality category -- which means they are more liberal, less modest and more assured of their own superiority than the population at large. Mindset Media helps companies with strong brands develop ads targeted to people based on personality traits or people's "mindsets," and does research to that effect.

The Man makes you use a PC.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:53 PM


Desecrating Darwin's Cathedral (Dinesh D'Souza, 1/17/08, AOL News)

Here you can see more of my Cal Tech debate with atheist Michael Shermer. I want you to make up your own mind about the debate, so I'm not going to try to settle arguments here that were fully aired in the Beckman auditorium on December 9. One point I did make was that the new atheists--people like Richard Dawkins--who use science to promote atheism are in fact an embarrassment to science. They are abusing science for ideological ends. Although I was in a generally hostile crowd, my comment drew a spontaneous and surprising burst of applause.

Why? Part of the answer can be found in a remarkable article in the current issue of Skeptic magazine. Note that the magazine is published by none other than my debate adversary, Michael Shermer. Authored by David Sloan Wilson, the article is subtitled, "Why Richard Dawkins is Wrong About Religion." Wilson is the author of several books including the acclaimed study Darwin's Cathedral in which he examines the evolutionary basis for religion.

Wilson begins, "Richard Dawkins and I share much in common. We are both biologists by training who have written widely about evolutionary theory." Moreover, "We are both atheists in our personal convictions." Then Wilson gets to his point. "When Dawkins' The God Delusion was published, I naturally assumed he was basing his critique of religion on the scientific study of religion from an evolutionary perspective. I regret to report otherwise. He has not done any original work on the subject and he has not fairly represented the work of his colleagues." Rather, Dawkins has subjected his atheist readers to "sleights of hand." He has produced a "diatribe against religion" that is "deeply misinformed." Indeed he is "just another angry atheist trading on his reputation as an evolutionst and spokesperson for science to vent his personal opinions about religion."

...beyond angry venting at God? Oh, and perpetrating frauds in a desperate attempt to save their ideology from the rigors of the scientific method.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:44 PM


Junta Achieves Food Shortages Amidst Plenty (Marwaan Macan-Markar, Jan 17, 2008, IPS)

The World Food Programme (WFP) plans to feed 1.6 million people living in remote, rural areas over a three-year period, beginning this year. [...]

According to the WFP, a steady supply of rice will feature in the basket of food due to the minorities living in, among other places, the Kachin State, in north-eastern Burma, near the Chinese border. The other items include pulses, vegetable oil, salt and high-protein blended food.

But such a U.N. intervention comes despite Burma, also called Myanmar, being a substantial producer of rice. ‘’Myanmar produces large amounts of rice, much of it grown in the central delta region,’’ Paul Risley, spokesman for the WFP’s Asia office in Bangkok, said in an interview. ‘’All the rice for our programmes is domestically purchased.’’

Yet what has come in the way of the home-grown grain getting to the needy is a vast network of security checkpoints set up by the military and, in some areas, by ethnic militias. Such roadblocks have forced the movement of food by local traders to a trickle, at times. Clearance to move food in trucks from one state to another requires the approval of the military’s local area commander, for which bribes have become mandatory.

Even the country’s majority Burmans are not immune to these military-imposed hurdles, consequently increasing the number of people enduring food shortages. The WFP estimates that in all nearly five million people, just under 10 percent of the country’s 54 million population, suffer from food insecurity. The impact of the restrictions on transporting food and the poverty rates has resulted in nearly 36 percent of children under five years being underweight and malnourished, according to some studies.

Resources are unlimited, we just distribute them badly sometimes.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:41 PM


Gates: Iran poses no threat to US (Press TV, 17 Jan 2008)

US Defense Secretary Robert Gates has dismissed previous allegations of Islamic Republic posing a military threat to the United States.

In a Thursday Interview with the US National Public Radio (NPR), Gates said Iran certainly does not pose a direct military threat to the United States in the final year of the Bush administration.

If America restricted its wars to only actual threats we'd have fought no one but Indians.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:34 PM


The Scottish Obama: The link between British and American politics is less obvious than it looks (Bagehot, Jan 17th 2008, The Economist)

[P]ost-war American and British politics have indeed tended to mirror each other. Bill Clinton and Tony Blair; Reagan and Margaret Thatcher; before them, Eisenhower and Macmillan, and JFK and Wilson: the two countries' political cycles have often overlapped, and like-minded leaders (albeit less schmaltzy in Britain) have coincided. There is a longstanding transatlantic trade in tactics and policy ideas, and in consultants, pollsters and other political mountebanks. Mr Brown and his fellow New Labourites are known to have studied Mr Clinton's victorious 1992 campaign; but the phenomenon goes back at least to the influence of Nixon's 1968 advertising on the Tories. (It is not exclusively west-to-east: witness the Tory-influenced Republican attacks on Mr Clinton in 1992, and, maybe, the speech his wife made on a John Major-esque soapbox in New Hampshire.)

But the relationship is not—as some comment implies—a causal one. Mr Clinton's rise did not cause Mr Blair's; Mrs Thatcher's election did not determine Reagan's. Rather, both sets of leaders emerged from political circumstances (the cold war and its end, economic turbulence) that were themselves similar. Quite apart from the doubtful idea that in Britain posh is the new black, the main reason the latest analogies don't work is that, socially and politically, Britain and America have diverged.

To simplify, Britain has not had George Bush.

You have to be awfully parochial to imagine significant differences between Bill Clinton, W, John Howard, Stephen Harper, Kevin Rudd, Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and David Cameron.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:30 PM


Exploding population (Gunnar Heinsohn, January 17, 2008, IHT)

As in so many other African countries, Kenya's exploding violence can be traced to an exploding population that often goes unnoted by local and international media alike.

In only 80 years, Kenya's population has jumped from 2.9 million to 37 million. Had America grown at the same rate since 1928, when it had 120 million people, it would now have 1.56 billion citizens.

Kenya belongs to a group of some 40 countries that have extremely high population growth - rates of increase that I call "demographic armament." In a typical nation of this group, every 1,000 males aged 40 to 44 are succeeded by at least 2,500 boys aged 0 to 4. In Kenya there are 4,190 such boys.

By contrast, America meets the criteria of "demographic neutrality," in which 1,000 men aged 40 to 44 are followed by 900 to 1,400 boys aged 0 to 4 (in the United States, the figure is 977 boys). Britain, with just 677 boys between 0 and 4 replacing every 1,000 males 40 to 44, is in the category of "demographic capitulation." Germany, with just 474 boys following every 1,000 men, provides the most prominent example of "demographic suicide" (fewer than 650 boys replacing 1,000 men).

Between 1950 and 1985, Kenya's total fertility rate (children per woman's lifetime) hovered around eight. In 2007, each Kenyan woman still gave birth to an average of 5 children (compared to 2 in the United States and 1.6 in Britain), and there were 40 newborn babies for every 10 deaths (the corresponding figures for the U.S. is 14 births for every 8 deaths; for Britain, it's 10 for 10).

As a result, Kenyan men have a median age of 18 years (compared to 35 in the United States, 39 in Britain), and 42 percent of Kenyan males are under 15 (U.S.: 20 percent, Britain: 17 percent).

And because of higher living standards, these younger Kenyans are much more vital and ambitious than their predecessors.

Thus Kenya provides a textbook example of domestic violence that is driven by what I call a "youth bulge" - a period of rapid demographic growth in which 30 to 40 percent of all males are aged 15 to 29.

Yet the pundits will all express shock when China explodes in a killing frenzy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:26 PM


Blair for president?: With French support (The Economist, 1/17/08)

IT TAKES a lot for an Englishman to speak French in public. Yet Tony Blair, who has made a habit of it, did it again on January 12th, delivering a speech in praise of reform and European unity to members of France's centre-right ruling party—all in respectable French. Commentators argued that only one prize could explain why the former British prime minister (and nominally centre-left politician) put himself through the ordeal. At the meeting, President Nicolas Sarkozy came close to giving explicit backing to Mr Blair to become the European Union's first full-time president.

Pretty typical that they require for the leader a guy who couldn't even lead his own country into the Union.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:21 PM


On the side of the law in Gaza, women gain a place (Taghreed El-Khodary, January 17, 2008, IHT)

The policemen of Hamas now have company: Since the Islamic group took over here last June it has been recruiting policewomen as well.

Since mid-August, 60 women have been accepted into the force. Unlike policemen, the women have not played any role resisting the latest Israeli incursions, instead working mostly on gender-sensitive cases of drugs and prostitution and helping out at police headquarters and the central jail.

Restoring internal security to the lawless Gaza Strip was one of the main challenges for Hamas after taking over the area following a violent struggle with Fatah. The policewomen are one way Hamas has tried to fill the security gap.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:39 PM


McCain Parries a Reprise of 2000 Smear Tactics (ELISABETH BUMILLER, 1/17/08, NY Times)

Volunteers making telephone calls for Senator John McCain in South Carolina last weekend noticed something odd: Four people contacted said in remarkably similar language that they opposed Mr. McCain for president because of his 1980 divorce from his first wife, Carol, who raised the couple’s three children while Mr. McCain was a prisoner of war in Vietnam.

By Tuesday afternoon, a group calling itself Vietnam Veterans Against McCain had sent out a crude flier accusing the candidate of selling out fellow P.O.W.’s to save himself.

By Tuesday evening, a group called Common Sense Issues, which supports Mike Huckabee, had begun making what it said were a million automated calls to households in South Carolina telling voters, according to one of the calls, that Mr. McCain “has voted to use unborn babies in medical research.” (The campaign of Mr. Huckabee, a former governor of Arkansas, said it had no connection to the group and had asked it to stop the calls.)

Mr. McCain quickly fired back, but he has seen this movie before. In the 2000 South Carolina primary, one of the most notorious smear campaigns in recent American politics peddled distortions and lies about him, among them that Mr. McCain’s current wife, Cindy, was a drug addict and that the couple’s daughter Bridget, adopted from Mother Teresa’s orphanage in Bangladesh, was a black child Mr. McCain had fathered out of wedlock.

All that misplaced anger at W....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:30 PM


Class, Not Race, Divides the Democrats (Marie Cocco, 1/17/08, Real Clear Politics)

The deepest division in the Democratic primary campaign until now has not been between blacks and whites, though we are likely to see stark evidence of that in the upcoming South Carolina primary. A fault line already is visible between upper-income, educated whites and those with lower incomes and less education. The upscale voters have gone with Obama, the downscale with Clinton. [...]

In the 1970s and '80s, many working- and middle-class white Democrats voted for Republicans, in part because of racial politics, but also because they resented their own party's drift toward what they perceived as domination by a white elite. To put it crudely, the beer drinkers distrusted the wine drinkers as people who, at best, didn't understand their everyday concerns or, at worst, looked down on them as racist. Clinton's presidency for a time seemed to heal the rift. Yet even after President Bush had lost favor among many middle- and working-class voters, Republicans were able to tap this vein with attacks on 2004 Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry as a windsurfer who "looks French."

If the fissure opens wide now, Democrats seriously diminish their chances for winning in the fall. And the roots of defeat will lie partly in the rancor that Clinton and Obama stirred up themselves.

In his book, Why the Democrats are Blue, Mark Strycherz does a masterful job of describing how the transition from a party of the working class to one of intellectuals and elites was perpetrated in the late 60s/early 70s. It's no coincidence that the only elections the Democrats have won since were when they nominated white Southern Evangelicals who ran against the party.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:13 PM


Racing against the Mullahs (Maik Grossekathöfer, 1/17/08, Der Spiegel)

Zohreh Vatankhah steps into the elevator on the fifth floor, takes it down to the ground floor, turns right and walks through a heavy steel door into the garage where her 2006 Toyota Corolla is parked. But this isn't your ordinary Toyota. It's a dented affair in pink, complete with a roll bar and bucket seats. She snaps on the seat belt, turns the ignition key and the engine roars to life, causing the hood to tremble like the membrane on a bass speaker. Not exactly the kind of car that would pass inspection for driving on the roads in most Western countries.

Then she puts the pedal to the metal and her pink car shoots out of the garage, tires screeching. The janitor sweeping the courtyard stares after her, his mouth agape. Vatankhah inserts Christina Aguilera's latest album into the cassette player and drums her fingers to the beat on the steering wheel. She drives toward the bazaar in downtown Tehran, crosses a bridge and passes graffiti instructing passersby to "Destroy Israel" and a poster of a burning American flag.

Five minutes later Vatankhah is stuck in a traffic jam -- nothing short of torture for a person who loves driving as much as she does. Speed is her profession. Vatankhah is a professional racecar driver. In Iran, of all places -- where the profession is not only dominated by men, but also practically owned by them. [...]

Vatankhah is the embodiment of sin for Iran's religious fundamentalists and radical mullahs, but for the country's urban youth she is a vision. She reflects the kind of country the children of Iran's upper and middle classes want to be living in: modern and self-confident, embracing life and cosmopolitan.

In Iran, a country where women and men sit in separate sections on buses, trains and subways, how has a woman like Vatankhah managed to pull off this feat -- competing against men in rallies? "Ask Laleh," she says.

Securing an appointment with Laleh Seddigh is no easy feat. She doesn't respond to e-mails, sometimes doesn't answer her phone for days and doesn't return calls.

Nevertheless, she does appear promptly, as agreed, at 11 a.m. at the Hotel Esteklal, which she has suggested as a place to meet. Seddigh, 30, is an icon of feminism and without a doubt the country's most controversial female athlete. When she walks into the lobby, conversations stop for a moment. She is surprisingly short. Her skin looks artificially stretched, her nose almost too perfectly straight and her cheekbones unusually high. Other than the hands, the face is the only part of the body that women are not required to keep covered, and having cosmetic surgery is a form of silent protest. She wears a leopard skin-patterned silk scarf draped loosely over the back of her head, a blue turtleneck sweater under a brown coat and a Rolex watch. She extends her hand in greeting, a taboo in a country where women are only permitted to shake hands with men who are members of their family. But Seddigh isn't interested in taboos. She has a strong handshake.

She is a pioneer in Iran, the first female athlete to have competed against a man in the 25 years since Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini established the theocracy. It was in 2004, during a long-distance race in Tehran. "I broke a taboo. I'm proud of it. Why should Iranian women be weak? I don't know," she says in fluent English. "Our Prophet Mohammed never claimed that women should be locked up at home and doomed to watch the children while the man enjoys himself outside. On the contrary: He wanted men to encourage their wives and daughters to develop their personalities to the fullest. To be a successful country, we need strong women."

A wrong sentence can mean prison or a whipping in Iran, and yet Seddigh is not afraid to speak her mind. She is clearly fond of pushing the envelope.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:17 PM


Huckabee's Task: Going National On a Shoestring (LAURA MECKLER, January 17, 2008, Wall Street Journal)

Mike Huckabee, written off as a long shot for much of the presidential campaign, emerged as one of the leaders of the Republican pack when he won the Iowa caucuses. But like the dog that finally caught the car, the Huckabee campaign is having to figure out how to deal with challenges it never prepared for.

The Iowa winner campaigned in South Carolina yesterday for the first Southern primary, this Saturday. He has gotten this far on his communication skills and appeal to evangelicals. Now he must broaden his support as his tiny organization evolves from a start-up to one competing at the highest level of U.S. politics.

The demands of logistics, policy, press and fund raising are swamping a campaign powered by an inner circle with little experience. Thin policy positions, an unorganized press operation and a lack of long-term planning have all posed problems.

The strains hampered Mr. Huckabee in Michigan on Tuesday, where he finished a distant third to Mitt Romney and John McCain. The former Arkansas governor and Baptist minister is counting on fellow Southern conservative Christians to give him a win in South Carolina. But after that comes a Feb. 5 vote in 21 states. Mr. Huckabee has no staff or offices in any of them except his headquarters in Little Rock.

A campaign that's a chaotic mess is no bar to the Democratic nomination, but it's deadly in the grown-up party.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:18 AM


Sarkozy Uses French Clout as His Own Slips (ELAINE SCIOLINO, 1/18/08, NY Times)

In Saudi Arabia the day before, Mr. Sarkozy infused a speech with more than a dozen references to God, a very un-French thing to do, because France prides itself on its strict separation of church and state.

Praising Saudi Arabia for its strong religious base, Mr. Sarkozy referred to God, “who does not enslave man, but liberates him, God who is the rampart against unbridled pride and the folly of men.”

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:37 AM


Abortions down 25% from peak: But a study says more women are choosing medication, rather than surgery, to end pregnancies. (Stephanie Simon, 1/17/08, Los Angeles Times)

A comprehensive study of abortion in America underscores a striking change in the landscape, with ever-fewer pregnant women choosing abortion and those who do increasingly opting to avoid surgical clinics.

The number of abortions has plunged to 1.2 million a year, down 25% since peaking in 1990, according to a report released today -- days before the 35th anniversary of Roe vs. Wade, the Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion.

In the early 1980s, nearly 1 in 3 pregnant women chose abortion. The most recent data show that proportion is closer to 1 in 5.

"That's a significant drop, and it's encouraging," said Randall K. O'Bannon, director of education and research for the antiabortion group National Right to Life.

Only look at our declining social pathologies and you can understand why the Europeans hate us. We're the only culture with a future (effectively, the only culture, period).

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:25 AM


Anti-war groups retreat (Ryan Grim, Jan 17, 2008, Politico)

After a series of legislative defeats in 2007 that saw the year end with more U.S. troops in Iraq than when it began, a coalition of anti-war groups is backing away from its multimillion-dollar drive to cut funding for the war and force Congress to pass timelines for bringing U.S. troops home.

In recognition of hard political reality, the groups instead will lower their sights and push for legislation to prevent President Bush from entering into a long-term agreement with the Iraqi government that could keep significant numbers of troops in Iraq for years to come.

...just soap-on-a-rope.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:17 AM


Smitten by the Stars and Stripes (Tara Hamilton-Miller, 17 January 2008, New Statesman)

There is huge excitement in the party about the US elections. Many Conservatives secretly consider America to be the only other power worth bothering about, and the present political circus is only fuelling that.

When he was Conservative party leader, Michael Howard fell out with the White House after criticising Tony Blair's handling of the Iraq War. Offending George Bush and his senior aides left the party's relationship with the United States in a delicate state. After that there was a long and rather frozen period. There has, however, been a thaw.

For years, the shadow defence secretary, Liam Fox, discreetly worked hard to maintain good cross-Atlantic links. Other shadow cabinet members with strong ties are George Osborne (who secured Senator John McCain's visit to the 2006 party conference) and William Hague, although frequent-flyer Liam should take most of the credit.

"The departure of Blair and his replacement by Brown has made an impact," says a strategist. "It's now easier for us. Part of the reason they were so cold with Howard was that they had such a good relationship with Blair. If they had little use for Howard before, after the ill-timed war comment he was totally sidelined."

Brown's relationship with the US is not considered as strong, so the Tories have been courting furiously.

...they'd run on an Anglospheric Trade Union and against the EU.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:06 AM


St. Reagan: Idealizing ideological purity (Victor Davis Hanson, 1/17/08, National Review)

[R]onald Reagan has been beatified into some sort of saint, as if he were above the petty lapses and contradictions of today’s candidates. The result is that conservatives are losing sight of Reagan the man while placing unrealistic requirements of perfection on his would-be successors.

They have forgotten that Reagan — facing spiraling deficits, sinking poll ratings and a hostile Congress — reluctantly signed legislation raising payroll, income, and gasoline taxes, some of them among the largest in our history. He promised to limit government and eliminate the Departments of Education and Energy. Instead, when faced with congressional and popular opposition, he relented and even grew government by adding a secretary of veteran affairs to the Cabinet.

Two of his Supreme Court appointments, Sandra Day O’Connor and Anthony Kennedy, were far more liberal than George W. Bush’s selections, the diehard constructionists, John Roberts and Samuel Alito.

Reagan’s 1986 comprehensive immigration bill turned out to be the most liberal amnesty for illegal aliens in our nation’s history, and set the stage for the present problem of 12 million aliens here unlawfully. [...]

In foreign affairs, Reagan was not always sober and judicious. He shocked Cold Warriors by advocating complete nuclear disarmament at his Reykjavik summit with Michel Gorbachev.

In the middle of Lebanon’s civil war, he first put American troops into a crossfire. Then, when 241 marines were blown up, he withdrew them. That about-face, and the failure to retaliate in serious fashion, helped to embolden Hezbollah’s anti-American terrorism for decades.

The Iran-Contra scandal exploded when a few rogue administration officials sold state-of-the-art missiles under the table to Iran’s terrorist-sponsoring theocracy, and prompted opposition talk of impeachment. [...]

When a candidate today says, “Reagan would have done this or that,” he apparently has a poor memory of what Reagan — the often lonely, flesh-and-blood conservative in the 1980s — was forced to do to get elected, govern, and be re-elected. While in office, he proved more often the pragmatic leader than the purist knight slaying ideological dragons on the campaign trail.

Which leaves out his rescue of SS in its most Second Way form when he had an opportunity to force real change.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:03 AM


India eyes missile defence system from US firm (PTI, January 17, 2008)

Barely a month after carrying out successful tests of Interceptor missiles, India is in talks with a leading American aerospace firm to apparently seek collaboration to develop a robust ballistic missile defence (BMD) system.

"We are still in touch with Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) officials," Dennis D Cavin, vice-president, International Air and Missile Defence Strategic Initiatives (IAMDSI) of Lockheed Martin said.

The IAMDSI is developing the PAC-III anti-missile system for the US.

US experts said New Delhi could be looking for Washington's help and that of other nations in developing crucial sub-systems for the BMD.

When the shooting starts in Pakistan we need to know they're covered.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:11 AM


Romney skips S.C., bets on Nevada (Jonathan Martin and Lisa Lerer, Jan 17, 2008, Politico)

Just a day after his big win in Michigan, Mitt Romney ceded South Carolina to his rivals.

A devastating demonstration of weakness.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:38 AM


Democratic pebble in Vietnam's shoe (Shawn W Crispin, 1/18/08, Asia Times)

Viet Tan's origins somewhat controversially stem from the National United Front for the Liberation of Vietnam (NUFLV), a group established by exiled Vietnamese in 1980 which aimed to topple the Communist Party-led government through a popular uprising, which to date has notably failed to materialize. Two years later, Viet Tan grew out of this movement along the Thai, Cambodian and Lao borders, advocating peaceful political change through underground activities.

The Vietnamese government has frequently accused the NUFLV of funneling arms and fomenting armed struggle inside Vietnam - charges one current Viet Tan member characterizes as a "misunderstanding" and "misperception". In 2004, Viet Tan surfaced for the first time as a public organization in Berlin, Germany, symbolically where Soviet-led communism fell, and formally announced the dissolution of the NUFLV.

Those familiar with Viet Tan's history say that the 2004 announcement and the party's recommitment to non-violent struggle was at least partially influenced by the September 11, 2001 terror attacks on the US and Washington's subsequent recategorization of several armed resistance groups as terrorist organizations.

A competing interpretation points to the generational change inside the party, where the first generation of political refugees who initiated Viet Tan are slowly being replaced by a new generation of Western-educated professionals who are more willing to seek a political accommodation with the Communist Party with the implementation of democratic reforms. [...]

[V]iet Tan has developed strong connections on Capitol Hill. US officials have in recent years dangled economic carrots to persuade Vietnam's Communist Party government to undertake democratic reforms, including allowing for greater religious freedoms. Last May, Viet Tan chairman Do Hoang Diem was called on by the US National Security Council to a meeting in the Oval Office with President George W Bush to discuss Vietnam's rights situation.

Bush later publicly criticized the country's rights record when Vietnam's President Nguyen Minh Triet visited Washington. Despite such moral support, Viet Tan is clearly fighting an uphill battle, complicated by the fact the movement is managed mainly from overseas by people the Vietnamese authorities consider foreign nationals.

Despite its authoritarian and repressive ways, the Communist Party's self-appointed mandate will nonetheless remain strong as long as the economy continues its breakneck expansion, including last year's 8.5% GDP growth rate. In many rural areas, particularly in northern Vietnam, the Communist Party is still popular, particularly among the older generation who lived through the war and still views the three million strong political party as a national liberator.

Moreover, the government continues to implement World Bank and United Nations Development Program advised economic reforms and recently took onboard a certain civil society call for more participation in government planning approvals. Compared to Cambodia and China, where corrupt government officials have with impunity seized lands occupied by poor peasants, Vietnamese authorities have shown more sensitivity towards its aggrieved farmers, addressing land-grabbing complaints on a case-by-case basis. That would seem to indicate that certain upward pressures are impacting on the Communist Party's decision-making, a realization Viet Tan has made and is now trying to capitalize on through calls for more clean governance, social justice and political freedoms.

While it would be best if the country Reformed from within, it's wise to continue to apply pressure from without.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:50 AM


Allies Irked by Reported Gates Comments (PAUL AMES, 1/16/08, Associated Press)

Some of America's closest NATO allies reacted with surprise and disbelief Wednesday to reported comments from U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates suggesting that their troops fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan are not up to the job.

The Dutch Defense Ministry summoned the U.S. ambassador for an explanation of a Los Angeles Times article that said Gates suggested soldiers from Canada, Britain and the Netherlands did not know how to fight a guerrilla insurgency.

In Washington, Gates' spokesman Geoff Morrell said the secretary had ``read the article and is disturbed by what he read.''

Morrell did not challenge the accuracy of the quotes in the story, but said he thought it left the wrong impression - that Gates had singled out a particular country.

Thereby raising the non-denial denial to an art form.

January 16, 2008

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:00 PM


War rages, but Congress moves on (Martin Kady II, Jan 16, 2008, Politico)

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee has no Iraq hearings scheduled, while the House Foreign Affairs Committee is focusing on Pakistan.

The Senate Armed Services Committee also has yet to schedule any Iraq-related hearings, although Secretary of Defense Robert Gates is tentatively scheduled to appear on Feb. 6.

The Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which focused on Iraq contracting fraud last year, has moved on to steroids in baseball as its high-profile cause.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:53 PM


Obama's spiritual mentor: Powerhouse Chicago preacher draws attention, and plenty of controversy (Michael Hill, January 16, 2008 , Baltimore Sun)

As in the past, Obama did not completely denounce Wright. The candidate's 1995 book Dreams From My Father depicts Obama's decision to join Trinity United as a fundamental step in affirming his identity as an African-American. Obama's mother was white, he was raised in large part by her parents and he spent much of his youth in Indonesia with his mother's second husband. He only met his father, a Kenyan, once.

Obama took the title of his more recent book, The Audacity of Hope, from the first sermon he heard preached by Wright, whom Obama met while working in Chicago as a community organizer.

In Dreams from My Father, Obama wrote of his reaction on hearing that sermon in 1988: "In that single note - hope! - I heard something else: At the foot of that cross, inside the thousands of churches across the city, I imagined the stories of ordinary black people merging with the stories of David and Goliath, Moses and the Pharaoh, the Christians in the Lion's Den, Ezekiel's field of dry bones. Those stories became our story, my story; the blood that had spilled was our blood, the tears our tears; until this black church on this bright day seemed once more a vessel carrying the story of a people into future generations and into a larger world."

Dwight Hopkins, a professor in the divinity school at the University of Chicago who is a member of Trinity United, was not surprised by Wright's comments about the Clinton administration on Sunday.

Bill Clinton, he said, may have been from the South and appointed blacks to his Cabinet and opened an office later in Harlem, "but if you really look at the policies he backed, many were worse for blacks than those of the pre-civil rights days."

Hopkins pointed to Clinton's welfare reform policies and the criticism of activist Randall Robinson of Clinton policies toward black Caribbean countries such as Haiti.

If black nationalism were a winning platform Bill would have run on it. He ran against it and won twice.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:45 PM


Dawn of a new season (AP, 1/16/08)

Red Sox fans will have to get up early to watch the World Series champions start their title defense.

The major league season opener against the Oakland Athletics in Tokyo will start at 6:07 a.m. ET on March 25, the Red Sox said Wednesday. The teams also play the following day.

Ahead of opening day, the Red Sox play the Central League's Hanshin Tigers at Tokyo Dome on March 22 (11:07 p.m. EDT March 21) and the Yomiuri Giants on March 23 (6:07 a.m.).

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:34 PM


Broiled topping takes oatmeal cake over the top (Dallas Morning News, January 15, 2008)

1 cup old-fashioned oatmeal

1 ½ cups boiling water

1 cup brown sugar

½ cup shortening

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 cup white sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

1 ½ cups flour

Icing (recipe follows)

Pour boiling water over the oatmeal; set aside to cool.

Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease and flour a 9x13-inch cake pan.

Combine brown sugar, shortening, cinnamon, white sugar, eggs, baking soda, salt and flour. Mix well; stir in soaked oatmeal and any water that hasn't been absorbed. Pour into prepared pan and bake 40 minutes.

While cake bakes, prepare icing. Pour icing over hot cake and place under the broiler for about 3 minutes, until icing starts to brown slightly. Makes 24 servings.

Icing: Melt 9 tablespoons softened butter and 1 cup brown sugar in a medium saucepan over low heat. Add 1 (7-ounce) can flaked coconut, 1 teaspoon vanilla, 1/2 cup evaporated milk and 1/2 cup chopped pecans.

Church of the Visitation, Westphalia, TX

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:25 PM


Kosovo’s Declaration of Dependence: Hashim Thaci, one-time guerrilla turned PM of Kosovo, has promised to break away from Serbia. It's independence, Jim, but not as we know it. (David Chandler, 1/15/08, Spiked)

At the formal level of legal sovereignty there has been substantial disagreement over recognising Kosovo’s independence from Serbia. States opposing recognition - EU members such as Cyprus or Security Council member Russia – have been primarily concerned over the legal principles held to be at stake and the state-based international order they uphold. The same goes for outspoken opponents of Kosovo’s independence in the US, such as Lawrence Eagleburger.

However, to see the issue of Kosovo’s independence solely in terms of traditional international relations questions of state sovereignty and the framework of international law would be to miss the dynamics of the Kosovo declaration, which has been driven by the need to change international institutional structures for managing the province rather than by conflicts over control of the territory.

In practice, Kosovo has effectively been independent from Serbia since the end of the Kosovo war in 1999, when the UN administration of the province was established under Security Council resolution 1244.

Under the traditional definition, effective sovereignty is sovereignty. Under the Anglo-American redefinition, any people who consider themselves a sovereign state are one. Given that Kosovo is effectively sovereign and Kosovars consider themselves not to be Serbian, it is sovereign in both traditional and modern terms.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:13 PM


Why are clowns scary?: Children are frightened by clown-themed decor in hospitals, a survey suggests. How did the smiley circus entertainers become a horror staple? (Finlo Rohrer, 1/15/08, BBC News Magazine)

[I]t probably comes as no surprise to horror fans that a University of Sheffield study of 250 children for a report on hospital design suggests the children find clown motifs "frightening and unknowable". [...]

British horror writer Ramsey Campbell says the recurring theme in popular culture of the scary clown goes back at least as far as silent move star Lon Chaney Sr, who identified the spooky potential when he reportedly said: "There is nothing laughable about a clown in the moonlight."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:09 PM


Are presidential wins written in the stars? (Peter A. Brown, Jan 16, 2008, Politico)

Now, it goes without saying that there are vast differences between Obama’s candidacy and that of the Rev. Jesse Jackson in the 1980s. Yet there is a lesson from those days that is worth remembering: Jackson did best in heavily white states and those with very large black populations — the northern tier of the country and the Deep South. But in the rest of the United States, his support was weaker.

That was, of course, a result of the very real tensions that existed between the races in many states, especially where African-Americans represented roughly 15 percent, the same amount they represented at the national level.

In other words, Jackson did best in states such as Vermont, Oregon and Wisconsin because there was little white backlash from voters. Or, in places where blacks were such a large part of the electorate — Alabama, South Carolina, Louisiana — that they themselves constitute a big chunk of the Democratic primary voters.

If this pattern holds for Obama, he may face problems in states such as Florida, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Texas. Those are states with large numbers of convention delegates and where the black population is not large enough to make him a winner but sizable enough that there are significant racial tensions.

We can see signs of this in a new Quinnipiac University poll of Florida, where Obama, despite his Iowa win and strong showing in New Hampshire, still trails Clinton 52 percent to 31 percent, or the new CNN national poll, in which he trails her 49 percent to 36 percent.

Clinton, on the other hand, is likely to retain her demographic edge as we move through the primaries. That’s because the proportion of the Democratic electorate that is female is likely to be more than the 55 percent it has been so far.

...campaigns are rather predictable and the actual candidates and their strategies are nearly meaningless.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:05 PM


Jewish voters lean toward Hillary Clinton (Ben Smith, Jan 16, 2008, Politico)

Eight years ago, in her first campaign for the Senate, Hillary Rodham Clinton was scrambling to put out fires with a troublesome local minority: Jewish voters.

Now, she’s emerged as the candidate with the bulk of establishment Jewish support as the presidential campaign moves to Nevada, home to Las Vegas and the fastest-growing Jewish community in the country.

Judaism and Zionism weren't enough to make them vote Republican, but an Obama nomination would be.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:27 PM


Basking in the flavors of Rioja (Robin Mather Jenkins, January 16, 2008, Chicago Tribune)

Rioja-style chicken [...]

1 tablespoon olive oil

5 cloves garlic, sliced

2 red bell peppers, trimmed, thinly sliced

1 yellow onion, chopped

4 ounces thinly sliced Spanish chorizo sausage, see note, cut into quarters

8 chicken thighs, skinned

1 cup each: dry white wine, orange juice or 2 cups orange juice

1 bay leaf

1/2 cup pitted prunes

1/4 cup whole pimiento-stuffed green olives

2 tablespoons fresh thyme, minced, or 2 teaspoons dried

1 tablespoon grated fresh orange zest

2 cups frozen peas

1. If using a slow cooker, heat the olive oil in a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic, bell peppers and onion; cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables soften, about 3 minutes. Transfer to slow cooker. If using a Dutch oven, heat the olive oil in the Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add garlic, bell peppers and onions; cooking, stirring occasionally, until vegetables soften, about 3 minutes.

2. Add sausage to Dutch oven; add chicken, wine, orange juice, bay leaf, prunes, olives, thyme and orange zest; cover. Heat to a boil over medium-high heat, cover with aluminum foil and lid. Reduce heat to low; cook 7 hours. (If using a slow cooker, cook on high 1 hour. Reduce heat to low; cook 7 hours.) Just before serving, add the frozen peas; cook until peas are tender, about 5 minutes.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:20 PM


‘Dr. No’ Says Yes for McCain (Susan Davis, 1/16/08, WSJ: Washington Wire)

Oklahoma Republican Sen. Tom Coburn endorsed Sen. John McCain today, giving the Arizona senator his 12th endorsement from his senatorial colleagues — the most of any Republican running for president. Appearing with McCain in Greenville, S.C., this morning Coburn said he endorsed McCain because of his record as a budget hawk and his record on opposing abortion rights. “Since I came to Congress in 1995, I have met one true reformer — John McCain,” Coburn said in a statement. “He has the unique blend of character, guts, and experience needed to transform Washington from the inside out. He is beholden to no special interest. He is guided by strong conservative principles, and committed to doing what he believes is right without concern for political consequence.”

Coburn is widely respected in fiscal conservative circles for his efforts to curb federal spending and a penchant for bucking Senate tradition and opposing the earmarks, or special projects, tucked into spending bills by his colleagues. Our colleague Sarah Lueck wrote in December about how Coburn, nicknamed “Dr. No,” specializes in stopping stuff.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:39 PM


U.S. experiences baby boomlet in 2006: Almost 4.3 million births are reported, the most in 45 years. Hispanics accounted for nearly 25% of the increase. (Associated Press, January 16, 2008)

Bucking the trend in many other wealthy industrialized nations, the United States seems to be experiencing a baby boomlet, reporting the largest number of children born in 45 years.

The nearly 4.3 million births in 2006 were mostly due to a bigger population, especially a growing number of Latinos. That group accounted for nearly one-quarter of all U.S. births. But non-Latino white women and other racial and ethnic groups were having more babies too. [...]

And experts say Americans, especially those in middle America, view children more favorably than people in many other Westernized countries.

"Americans like children. We are the only people who respond to prosperity by saying, 'Let's have another kid,' " said Nan Marie Astone, associate professor of population, family and reproductive health at Johns Hopkins University.

This is what the Brights mean by something being the matter with Kansas.

Religion, European secular identities, and European integration (José Casanova, 7/29/07, Eurozine)

The progressive, though highly uneven, secularization of Europe is an undeniable social fact. An increasing majority of the European population has ceased to participate in traditional religious practices, at least on a regular basis, while still maintaining relatively high levels of private individual religious beliefs. In this respect, one should perhaps talk of the unchurching of the European population and of religious individualization, rather than of secularization. Grace Davie has characterized this general European situation as "believing without belonging".[2] At the same time, however, large numbers of Europeans even in the most secular countries still identify themselves as "Christian," pointing to an implicit, diffused, and submerged Christian cultural identity. In this sense, Danièle Hervieu-Léger is also correct when she offers the reverse characterization of the European situation as "belonging without believing."[3] "Secular" and "Christian" cultural identities are intertwined in complex and rarely verbalized modes among most Europeans.

The most interesting issue sociologically is not the fact of progressive religious decline among the European population, but the fact that this decline is interpreted through the lenses of the secularization paradigm and is therefore accompanied by a "secularist" self-understanding that interprets the decline as "normal" and "progressive", that is, as a quasi-normative consequence of being a "modern" and "enlightened" European. It is this "secular" identity shared by European elites and ordinary people alike, that paradoxically turns "religion" and the barely submerged Christian European identity into a thorny and perplexing issue when it comes to delimiting the external geographic boundaries and to defining the internal cultural identity of a European Union in the process of being constituted. [...]

Can the European Union welcome and integrate the immigrant "other"? Comparative perspectives from the American experience of immigration

Throughout the modern era, western European societies have been immigrant-sending countries, indeed the primary immigrant-sending region in the world. During the colonial phase, European colonists and colonizers, missionaries, entrepreneurs, and colonial administrators settled all corners of the globe. During the age of industrialization, from the 1800s to the 1920s, it is estimated that ca. 85 million Europeans emigrated to the Americas, to Southern Africa, to Australia and Oceania, 60 per cent of them to the United States alone. In the last decades, however, the migration flows have reversed and many western European societies have instead become centres of global immigration. A comparison with the United States, the paradigmatic immigrant society (despite the fact that from the late 1920s to the late 1960s it also became a society relatively closed to immigration), reveals some characteristic differences in the contemporary western European experience of immigration. Although the proportion of foreign immigrants in many European countries (United Kingdom, France, Holland, West Germany before reunification), at approximately 10 percent is similar to the proportion of foreign born in the United States, most of these countries still have difficulty viewing themselves as permanent immigrant societies or viewing the native second generation as nationals, irrespective of their legal status. But it is in the different ways in which they try to accommodate and regulate immigrant religions, particularly Islam, that European societies distinguish themselves not only from the United States but also from one another. European societies have markedly different institutional and legal structures regarding religious associations, very diverse policies of state recognition, of state regulation, and of state aid to religious groups, as well as diverse norms concerning when and where one may publicly express religious beliefs and practices.

In their dealing with immigrant religions, European countries, like the United States, tend to replicate their particular model of separation of church and state and the patterns of regulation of their own religious minorities. France's etatist secularist model and the political culture of laïcité require the strict privatization of religion, eliminating religion from any public forum, while at the same time pressuring religious groups to organize themselves into a single centralized church-like institutional structure that can be regulated by and serve as interlocutor to the state, following the traditional model of the concordat with the Catholic Church. Great Britain, by contrast, while maintaining the established Church of England, allows greater freedom of religious associations which deal directly with local authorities and school boards to press for changes in religious education, diet, etc, with little direct appeal to the central government. Germany, following the multi-establishment model, has tried to organize a quasi-official Islamic institution, at times in conjunction with parallel strivings on the part of the Turkish state to regulate its diaspora. But the internal divisions among immigrants from Turkey and the public expression and mobilization of competing identities (secular and Muslim, Alevi, and Kurd) in the German democratic context have undermined any project of institutionalization from above. Holland, following its traditional pattern of pillarization, seemed, until very recently at least, bent on establishing a state-regulated but self-organized separate Muslim pillar. Lately, however, even liberal tolerant Holland is expressing second thoughts and seems ready to pass more restrictive legislation setting clear limits to the kinds of un-European, un-modern norms and habits it is ready to tolerate.

If one looks at the European Union as a whole, however, there are two fundamental differences with the situation in the United States. In the first place, in Europe immigration and Islam are almost synonymous. The overwhelming majority of immigrants in most European countries, the UK being the main exception, are Muslims and the overwhelming majority of western European Muslims are immigrants. This identification appears even more pronounced in those cases when the majority of Muslim immigrants tend to come predominantly from a single region of origin, e.g., Turkey in the case of Germany, the Ma'ghreb in the case of France. This entails a superimposition of different dimensions of "otherness" that exacerbates issues of boundaries, accommodation and incorporation. The immigrant, the religious, the racial, and the socio-economic disprivileged "other" all tend to coincide.

In the United States, by contrast, Muslims constitute at most 10 percent of all new immigrants, a figure that is actually likely to decrease given the strict restrictions to Arab and Muslim immigration imposed after September 11 by the increasingly repressive American security state. Since the US Census Bureau, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, and other government agencies are not allowed to gather information on religion, there are no reliable estimates on the number of Muslims in the United States.[6] Available estimates range widely between 2,8 million and 8 million. Moreover, it is estimated that from 30 to 42 percent of all Muslims in the United States are African-American converts to Islam, making more difficult the characterization of Islam as a foreign, un-American religion. Furthermore, the Muslim immigrant communities in the United Sates are extremely diverse in terms of geographic region of origin from all over the Muslim world, in terms of discursive Islamic traditions, and in terms of socio-economic characteristics. As a result, the dynamics of interaction with other Muslim immigrants, with African-American Muslims, with non-Muslim immigrants from the same regions of origin, and with their immediate American hosts, depending upon socio-economic characteristics and residential patterns, are much more complex and diverse than anything one finds in Europe.

The second main difference has to do with the role of religion and religious group identities in public life and in the organization of civil society. Internal differences notwithstanding, western European societies are deeply secular societies, shaped by the hegemonic knowledge regime of secularism. As liberal democratic societies they tolerate and respect individual religious freedom. But due to the pressure towards the privatization of religion, which among European societies has become a taken-for-granted characteristic of the self-definition of a modern secular society, those societies have a much greater difficulty in recognizing some legitimate role for religion in public life and in the organization and mobilization of collective group identities. Muslim organized collective identities and their public representations become a source of anxiety not only because of their religious otherness as a non-Christian and non-European religion, but more importantly because of their religiousness itself as the other of European secularity. In this context, the temptation to identify Islam and fundamentalism becomes the more pronounced. Islam, by definition, becomes the other of Western secular modernity. Therefore, the problems posed by the incorporation of Muslim immigrants become consciously or unconsciously associated with seemingly related and vexatious issues concerning the role of religion in the public sphere, which European societies assumed they had already solved according to the liberal secular norm of privatization of religion.

By contrast, Americans are demonstrably more religious than the Europeans and therefore there is a certain pressure for immigrants to conform to American religious norms.[7] It is generally the case that immigrants in America tend to be more religious than they were in their home countries. But even more significantly, today as in the past religion and public religious denominational identities play an important role in the process of incorporation of the new immigrants. The thesis of Will Herberg concerning the old European immigrant, that "not only was he expected to retain his old religion, as he was not expected to retain his old language or nationality, but such was the shape of America that it was largely in and through religion that he, or rather his children and grandchildren, found an identifiable place in American life," is still operative with the new immigrants.[8] The thesis implies that collective religious identities have been one of the primary ways of structuring internal societal pluralism in American history.

One should add as a corrective to the thesis that not religion alone, as Herberg's study would seem to imply, and not race alone, as contemporary immigration studies tend to imply, but religion and race and their complex entanglements have served to structure the American experience of immigrant incorporation, indeed are the keys to "American exceptionalism". Today, once again, we are witnessing various types of collision and collusion between religious identity formation and racial identity formation, processes that are likely to have significant repercussions for the present and future organization of American multiculturalism. Religion and race are becoming, once again, the two critical markers identifying the new immigrants either as assimilable or as suspiciously "alien".

Due to the corrosive logic of racialization, so pervasive in American society, the dynamics of religious identity formation assume a double positive form in the process of immigrant incorporation. Given the institutionalized acceptance of religious pluralism, the affirmation of religious identities is enhanced among the new immigrants. This positive affirmation is reinforced moreover by what appears to be a common defensive reaction by most immigrant groups against ascribed racialization, particularly against the stigma of racial darkness. In this respect, religious and racial self-identifications and ascriptions represent alternative ways of organizing American multiculturalism. One of the obvious advantages of religious pluralism over racial pluralism is that, under proper constitutional institutionalization, it is more reconcilable with principled equality and non-hierachic diversity, and therefore with genuine multiculturalism.

American society is entering a new phase. The traditional model of assimilation, turning European nationals into American "ethnics", can no longer serve as a model of assimilation now that immigration is literally world-wide. America is bound to become "the first new global society" made up of all world religions and civilizations, at a time when religious civilizational identities are regaining prominence on the global stage. At the very same moment that political scientists like Samuel Huntington are announcing the impending clash of civilizations in global politics, a new experiment in intercivilizational encounters and accommodation between all the world religions is taking place at home.[9] American religious pluralism is expanding and incorporating all the world religions in the same way as it previously incorporated the religions of the old immigrants. A complex process of mutual accommodation is taking place. Like Catholicism and Judaism before, other world religions, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism are being "Americanized" and in the process they are transforming American religion, while the religious diasporas in America are simultaneously serving as catalysts for the transformation of the old religions in their civilizational homes, in the same way as American Catholicism had an impact upon the transformation of world Catholicism and American Judaism has transformed world Judaism.

This process of institutionalization of expanding religious pluralism is facilitated by the dual clause of the First Amendment which guarantees the "no establishment" of religion at the state level, and therefore the strict separation of church and state and the genuine neutrality of the secular state, as well as the "free exercise" of religion in civil society, that includes strict restrictions on state intervention and on the administrative regulation of the religious field. It is this combination of a rigidly secular state and the constitutionally protected free exercise of religion in society that distinguishes the American institutional context from the European one. In Europe one finds on the one extreme the case of France, where a secularist state not only restricts and regulates the exercise of religion in society but actually imposes upon society its republican ideology of laïcité, and on the other the case of England, where an established state church is compatible with a wide toleration of religious minorities and a relatively unregulated free exercise of religion in society.

As liberal democratic systems, all European societies respect the private exercise of religion, including Islam, as an individual human right. It is the public and collective free exercise of Islam as an immigrant religion that most European societies find difficult to tolerate precisely on the grounds that Islam is perceived as an "un-European" religion. The stated rationales for considering Islam "un-European" vary significantly across Europe and among social and political groups. For the anti-immigrant, xenophobic, nationalist Right, represented by Le Pen's discourse in France and by Jörg Haider in Austria, the message is straightforward. Islam is unwelcome and un-assimilable simply because it is a "foreign" immigrant religion. Such a nativist and usually racist attitude can be differentiated clearly from the conservative "Catholic" position, paradigmatically expressed by the Cardinal of Bologna when he declared that Italy should welcome immigrants of all races and regions of the world, but should particularly select Catholic immigrants in order to preserve the Catholic identity of the country.

Liberal secular Europeans tend to look askance at such blatant expressions of racist bigotry and religious intolerance. But when it comes to Islam, secular Europeans tend to reveal the limits and prejudices of modern secularist toleration. One is not likely to hear among liberal politicians and secular intellectuals explicitly xenophobic or anti-religious statements. The politically correct formulation tends to run along such lines as "we welcome each and all immigrants irrespective of race or religion as long as they are willing to respect and accept our modern liberal secular European norms". The explicit articulation of those norms may vary from country to country. The controversies over the Muslim veil in so many European societies and the overwhelming support among the French citizenry, including apparently a majority of French Muslims, for the recently passed restrictive legislation prohibiting the wearing of Muslim veils and other ostensibly religious symbols in public schools, as "a threat to national cohesion", may be an extreme example of illiberal secularism. But in fact one sees similar trends of restrictive legislation directed at immigrant Muslims in liberal Holland, precisely in the name of protecting its liberal tolerant traditions from the threat of illiberal, fundamentalist, patriarchal customs reproduced and transmitted to the younger generation by Muslim immigrants.

Revealingly enough, Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin, in his address to the French legislature defending the banning of ostensibly religious symbols in public schools made reference in the same breath to France as "the old land of Christianity" and to the inviolable principle of laïcité, exhorting Islam to adapt itself to the principle of secularism as all other religions of France have done before. "For the most recently arrived, I'm speaking here of Islam, secularism is a chance, the chance to be a religion of France."[10] The Islamic veil and other religious signs are justifiably banned from public schools, he added, because "they are taking on a political meaning", while according to the secularist principle of privatization of religion, "religion cannot be a political project". Time will tell whether the restrictive legislation will have the intended effect of stopping the spread of "radical Islam" or whether it is likely to bring forth the opposite result of radicalizing further an already alienated and maladjusted immigrant community.

The positive rationale one hears among liberals in support of such illiberal restriction of the free exercise of religion is usually put in terms of the desirable enforced emancipation of young girls, if necessary against their expressed will, from gender discrimination and from patriarchal control. This was the discourse on which the assassinated liberal politician Pim Fortuyn built his electorally successful anti-immigrant platform in liberal Holland, a campaign which is now bearing fruit in new restrictive legislation. While conservative religious people are expected to tolerate behaviour they may consider morally abhorrent such as homosexuality, liberal secular Europeans are openly stating that European societies ought not to tolerate religious behaviour or cultural customs that are morally abhorrent in so far as they are contrary to modern liberal secular European norms. What makes the intolerant tyranny of the secular liberal majority justifiable in principle is not just the democratic principle of majority rule, but rather the secularist teleological assumption built into theories of modernization that one set of norms is reactionary, fundamentalist, and anti-modern, while the other set is progressive, liberal, and modern.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:33 PM


Obama blocked own 'top Senate achievement' (Kenneth P. Vogel, Jan 16, 2008, Politico)

Barack Obama boasted at Tuesday's Democratic presidential debate that, thanks to his work in the Senate, the public can find out which special interest lobbyists are raising money for candidates.

In fact, the public cannot — also as a result of Obama's work in the Senate.

He led a partisan confirmation battle that crippled the agency charged with implementing the new law requiring candidates to disclose lobbyists who collect big checks for candidates — a process known as “bundling.”

So, as it stands now, the public can't find out which lobbyists are bundling contributions to which candidates, as Obama claimed, and it likely won’t be able to until well after the presidential nominations are decided.

Even if the occasional lobbyist or candidate volunteered such information, it wouldn’t be publicly available through the Federal Election Commission, as envisioned by the law, which Obama has cited during the campaign as a top legislative achievement.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:38 PM


Five myths of anti-immigration talk (ANDRES OPPENHEIMER, 1/13/08, MiamiHerald.com)

• Myth No. 1: ''We are only against illegal immigration. Undocumented immigrants should get in line for visas.'' That's deceptive because you can't demand that people get into line when, for the most part, there is no line to get into.

While the U.S. labor market is demanding 1.5 million mostly low-skilled immigrants a year -- and will demand many more in coming years, as the U.S. population becomes increasingly educated -- the current immigration system allows into the U.S. an average of one million legal immigrants a year, and most of them are already here. [...]

On top of that, most anti-immigration groups want to reduce legal immigration. The Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), a favorite of radio and cable television Hispanic immigrant-bashing news shows, wants to reduce legal immigration from the current 1 million a year to about 300,000, with a 20-year cooling-off period.

• Myth No. 3: ''We are a nation of laws, and the law says you have to enter the country legally.'' Yes, but we are also a nation of immigrants. And, by the way, nearly half of all undocumented immigrants enter the country legally, and overstay their visas. [...]

• Myth No. 5: Those of us who criticize anti-immigration groups are ''amnesty'' and ''open borders'' supporters. Baloney. I, for one, support both border protection and an earned path to legalization for millions of undocumented workers who pay taxes and are willing to learn English.

My conclusion: Let's call things by their names, and agree that most opponents of a comprehensive immigration package are anti-immigration.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:02 AM


Panamania: For lovers of infrastructure and free-flowing trade, like AMITY SHLAES, there’s no place like Panama. (Amity Shlaes, Jan/Feb 2008, The American)

There is action tourism—the helicopter to the snowcap. There is ecotour­ism—the tortoise of the Galápagos. And there is nostalgia tourism—the trip to Pointe du Hoc. Then there is infrastructure tourism—at least in my family. We like to inspect big structures and think about what they tell us about the geography and poli­tics around them.

Nor are my relatives the only infra-tourists. In the age of motherboards and satellites, seeing a canal lock up close gives you the satisfying sense that you know how things work. Infra-tourism allows you a break from politics or history—it’s refreshing to think of the Suez in terms of cargo and water displacement instead of the 1956 conflict. Yet eventually infra­structure leads you to the politics and history in an interesting way.

Recently, I had the good luck to visit the Suez of our own hemisphere: the Panama Canal. Panama, the coun­try, seems hopeful these days.

While George HW Bush's interventions in Iraq and Somalia were failures, he did get Panama right.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:51 AM


Ekpyrotic cosmology resurfaces (Physics World, 1/15/08)

In ekpyrotic cosmology — which was proposed in 2001 by physicists Paul Steinhardt, Justin Khoury, Neil Turok and Burt Ovrut — there is no beginning of time. Instead, our visible universe exists on one of two four-dimensional “branes” floating in a five-dimensional space. These two branes are locked in an endless oscillatory motion in which they creep together, “bounce” through each other, withdraw and then creep together again (see animation: Branes collide). At each bounce, which is like a fresh Big Bang, ripples in the branes collide and liberate energy at different places to produce the initial density perturbations. And because energy conservation would favour a flat brane, the theory explains why our visible universe is flat too. “It’s like the antichrist to inflation,” says Khoury.

Past critics of ekpyrotic cosmology, however, have highlighted two particular problems. First, every bounce would be a point of infinite temperature and pressure known as a singularity, which is impossible to describe using conventional physics. Second, it was not clear that the density perturbations would be present on all length scales, as observations of the primordial radiation left over from the Big Bang — that is, the cosmic microwave background — indicate they should be.

Third: put down the crack pipe and embrace your ignorance.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:21 AM

ONE NICE THING ABOUT A PLACEBO... (via The Other Brother):

Drug Approved. Is Disease Real? (ALEX BERENSON, 1/15/08, NY Times)

For patient advocacy groups and doctors who specialize in fibromyalgia, the Lyrica approval is a milestone. They say they hope Lyrica and two other drugs that may be approved this year will legitimize fibromyalgia, just as Prozac brought depression into the mainstream.

But other doctors — including the one who wrote the 1990 paper that defined fibromyalgia but who has since changed his mind — say that the disease does not exist and that Lyrica and the other drugs will be taken by millions of people who do not need them.

As diagnosed, fibromyalgia primarily affects middle-aged women and is characterized by chronic, widespread pain of unknown origin.

...imaginary cures are especially effective on imaginary ills. Just getting someone to play along suffices.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:06 AM


Democrats to look at tax cuts, rebates (S.A. Miller and Sean Lengell, January 16, 2008, Washington Times)

House Democratic leaders yesterday said they were open to an economic-stimulus package with tax cuts for small businesses and rebate checks to U.S. consumers that are not "paid for" with tax increases, moves likely to win Republican support.

One of the big things that separates W from Ronald Reagan is that not only will he have cut taxes every year of his presidency but he'll never have raised them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:47 AM


Minneapolis bridge part designed too thin
: The error in the fallen I-35W span was present from the start, federal officials say. The inquiry isn't over. (P.J. Huffstutter, 1/15/08, Los Angeles Times)

Federal investigators announced Tuesday that a "serious design error" was a key factor behind last summer's deadly collapse of a Minnesota bridge, but also said that the mistake would not likely have been discovered during routine state inspections.

National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Mark V. Rosenker said the Interstate 35W bridge had been built with gusset plates -- the steel parts that connect the girders, which support the bridge -- that were too thin to hold up the bridge with increased traffic and additional weight of infrastructure improvements.

...are we really supposed to believe that W can control the weather but he didn't collapse the bridge?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:12 AM


Militants overrun military base in Pakistan (Associated Press, January 16, 2008)

Up to 25 troops were missing and feared dead after Islamic militants armed with rockets overran a remote military outpost close to the Afghan border, the military said today. It claimed 40 attackers were killed in the fight.

"About 200 militants charged the fort from four sides" late Tuesday, said army spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas. "They broke through the fort's wall with rockets," he said.

"Fifteen of the troops in the base escaped and they have reached Jandola while 25 others have scattered and there is no news how many of them were martyred or fled," he said.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:06 AM


Kaman recalls frustrations of childhood: The Clippers' center started taking medication at 21/2 years old for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. He found out in July the diagnosis was wrong. 'I can't take back time. I wish I could.' (Jonathan Abrams, 1/15/08, Los Angeles Times)

Pamela Kaman can recount all the times she struggled with her son, Clippers center Chris Kaman, to get him to take his medication while he was growing up.

It was a hassle. Chris Kaman was an intelligent, but rambunctious, youth.

"There was constant uproar with him," Pamela Kaman said. "You couldn't do normal things. You couldn't go to the movies as a family. It would always turn into a big thing."

Chris Kaman was diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder at 2 1/2 and began taking Ritalin and Adderall soon after and through high school.

Kaman, who had trouble remembering plays and concentrating on the court in college and in the pros, disclosed Sunday that he was misdiagnosed.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:34 AM


Self-Vexation (Mamoun Fandy, Ph.D., 1/16/08, Asharq Alawsat)

A geographically-connected Palestinian state, this is the latest occurrence that promises a real breakthrough in what George Bush said in his visit to the Palestinian territories.

Bush's visit to the Palestinian Presidency in Ramallah is the US recognition at the highest level of the newly-born Palestinian State. It is a de facto recognition (a recognition of a fait accompli) and not a de jure one (a legal recognition). A cohesive Palestinian State that links Gaza to the West Bank has been one of the Palestinian demands in these thorny negotiations. If Palestinian Authority [PA] President Mahmud Abbas himself is optimistic about Bush's visit, are we going to be more Palestinian than him?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:06 AM


Twins want more: Experts agree Sox’ talent better, split on two offers (Michael Silverman, January 15, 2008, www.bostonherald.com)

[John Manuel, co-editor in chief of Baseball America] prefers the Red Sox’ offer topped by lefty Jon Lester [stats] and center fielder Coco Crisp because he thinks Lester can be a middle-of-the-rotation starter and that the other offer features the Sox selling “high” with outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury. Each offer includes infielder Jed Lowrie and right-hander Justin Masterson.

“If they thought Jed Lowrie (.393 combined on-base percentage in Double A and Triple A last year) could be a major league shortstop, the Twins have to make that deal,” Manuel said. “The Twins are holding out for more offense. I don’t know what the midpoint is between Jed Lowrie and (Mets untradeable shortstop) Jose Reyes, but that would get this deal done. None of these offers fit the Twins’ needs.”

Jim Callis, executive editor of Baseball America, said that even if the Yankees were to include right-hander Ian Kennedy in their offer or the Mets were to include hitting phenom Fernando Martinez, neither team’s package would be better than the Lester-Crisp package (Callis’ first choice) or the Ellsbury (No. 2 for Callis) offer.

“The Red Sox are in the best position to offer blue-chip players as well as depth,” Callis said. “And, the Red Sox are under less pressure to make something happen because they need Santana less because they have fewer holes.”

The Yankees shouldn’t be dismissed because their offer is led by Hughes, a pitcher who Callis and Manuel agree is the single-best talent being discussed. Melky Cabrera is no better than an average major league outfielder, according to Callis and Manuel, and right-handed sinkerballer Jeff Marquez projects no higher than a No. 3-4 starter. Callis said Kennedy has “fringy” stuff; Manuel said he and scouts question if Kennedy has one above-average major league pitch. The two do not believe that Kennedy’s inclusion in a Yankees deal should be a difference-maker for the Twins.

Without Martinez, a 19-year-old left-handed hitting outfielder who jumped from rookie level to Double A last season, the Mets’ deal is too young for the Twins to gamble on, unless they were feeling lucky.

“If the Twins wanted to roll the dice, the Mets’ offer (with Martinez) could be the best deal,” Callis said.

...and you know the Mets are the ones who really need to make a deal. Why not also send them older lunchmeat--Juan Rincon, Nick Punto, etc.--for guys like Joe Smith, Ruben Gotay, etc., and get younger and cheaper at other spots too?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:59 AM


Stance on dress code stains Ahmadinejad (Kimia Sanati, 1/16/08, Asia Times)

Since the early 1990s pressure has been relaxed gradually and by the end of the reformist Mohammad Khatami's second term of presidency in 2005, the dresses and headscarves were still there but had become shorter and smaller.

But hardliners accused Khatami of having encouraged moral corruption in the society by advocating social tolerance, and on a few occasions demonstrated against him wearing shrouds as a sign of being ready to die in the battle against immorality.

Since the police started implementing their plan in April, they have frequently been criticized for being too strict in dealing with women with inadequate hijab and even with young men whose hairstyle or clothing is regarded as 'copied from degenerate Western fashions'. Hardliners have, on the other hand, cheered them on.

Police harshness has on many occasions gone as far as using physical violence against individuals on the streets. In a number of cases this has caused clashes between citizens and police.

When a famous talkshow host on the state-run television confronted the Tehran police chief with stories of violence on the streets after an early crackdown in the spring, he was sacked and his show was cancelled.

"The government denial of any involvement in the police action against what the religious establishment calls bad hijab and immorality can have no other reason than an attempt to improve the already very troubled image of the government, particularly among the young voters," an observer in Tehran told IPS.

"Seventy percent of the country's population is under the age of 30 and they are the ones who are affected the most by the police crackdown. In other places, like in universities, vigilantes are putting the same kind of pressure on them, not only by controlling the way they dress but also by keeping men and women as separate as they can to safeguard their own kind of morality," he said.

"Two and half years since his election to presidency Ahmadinejad's government has clearly failed to improve people's lives the way he promised. Rationing of gasoline that was introduced a few months back and inflation that his government has not been able to control have also spoiled the government's image among many of the voters outside the normal 20% of voters loyal to the hardline establishment," he added.

"Even inside the hardline establishment many have turned against him because of the man's refusal to let other players participate in his games. Naturally, with all these woes the government will not want to have to take the blame for the police's overzealousness in dealing with hijab," the observer said.

Parliamentary elections will be held March 14. The existing parliament has a hardline and conservative majority that basically supports the government. But even they have on several occasions impeded the president by not approving government bills or the president's candidates for ministers.

"Ahmadinejad urgently needs to get his supporters into the parliament. Reformists have been very active recently. Former president Khatami who is not running himself has been travelling around the country on behalf of the reformists and has been warmly welcomed in many places. There seems to be a rather serious possibility that reformists, at least more moderate ones, may make a comeback if candidates' disqualification by the Guardian Council doesn't prevent that," an analyst in Tehran told IPS.

Having underestimated Ahmedinejad last time, look for the Guardians to use the disqualification process against him instead of the Reformers this time.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:52 AM


Israel kills Islamic Jihad leader (BBC, 1/16/08)

Walid Obeidi was killed during an exchange of fire in the village of Qabatiya, near the northern town of Jenin, officials and witnesses said.

Islamic Jihad is a small radical group that has launched most of the rocket fire directed at Israel from Gaza in the past two years.

January 15, 2008

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:10 PM


Romney, McCain Battle In Michigan (Chris Cillizza, 1/15/08, washingtonpost)

Romney, the son of a former Michigan governor, is counting on a strong showing to keep his campaign afloat after losses in Iowa and New Hampshire. He has vowed to spend billions to bail out the ailing auto industry if elected president. McCain, who won the Michigan primary in 2000 during an unsuccessful bid for the White House, hopes to win again in Michigan with strong support from independents and Democrats taking part in the open primary.

However, early exit polling suggests that fewer Democrats and independents were taking part in the Republican primary than did eight years ago, according to ABC News polling director Gary Langer, which would be good news for Romney if that finding holds up. Less than 10 percent of voters in Michigan's GOP race are Democrats while more than two-thirds are self-identifying Republicans, according to ABC News. Among that group, roughly half call themselves conservatives.

The exit polling also found that the economy was the most important issue for Republicans in Michigan, well ahead of the war in Iraq and immigration.

At a campaign stop in Grand Rapids this morning, Romney declared: "We're going to do it today."

It would only buy him another week, but if there's anywhere--other than Utah--that Mitt Romney can win it's here. A loss would be dispositive.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:50 PM


Enforcing Islamic Dress Code May Cost Votes (Kimia Sanati, 1/15/08, IPS)

When the government of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad uncharacteristically denounced the country’s police force for strictly enforcing Islamic dress code (hijab) it was attributed to fears of losing popularity ahead of parliamentary elections in March.

In an article published in the ‘Iran’ newspaper, the official mouthpiece, government spokesman Gholam Hossein Elham criticised the police force and said the president and his cabinet were not to be held responsible for their overzealousness in dealing with hijab violators.

In his weekly press conference, the spokesman also accused the chief commander of the police, who happens to be Ahmadinejad’s brother-in-law, of not having presented the government with comprehensive plans on the issue.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:09 PM


The Rezko Connection: Obama's Achilles Heel?: Obama's Connection With an Accused Political Fixer Raises Questions (BRIAN ROSS and RHONDA SCHWARTZ, Jan. 10, 2008, ABC News)

In sharp contrast to his tough talk about ethics reform in government, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., approached a well-known Illinois political fixer under active federal investigation, Antoin "Tony" Rezko, for "advice" as he sought to find a way to buy a house shortly after being elected to the United States Senate.

The parcel included an adjacent lot which Obama told the Chicago Tribune he could not afford because "it was already a stretch to buy the house."

On the same day Obama closed on his house, Rezko's wife bought the adjacent empty lot, meeting the condition of the seller who wanted to sell both properties at the same time.

Rezko had been widely reported to be under investigation by the U.S. attorney and the FBI at the time Obama contacted him and has since been indicted on corruption charges by a federal grand jury in a case that prosecutors say involves bribes, kickbacks and "efforts to illegally obtain millions of dollars."

This week, a federal judge in Chicago ordered the Rezko trial to begin Feb. 25.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:26 PM


The Cruise Indoctrination Video Scientology Tried To Suppress (Gawker, 1/15/08)

You have to watch this video. It shows Tom Cruise, with all the wide-eyed fervor that he brings to the promotion of a movie, making the argument for Scientology, the bizarre 20th-century religion. Making the argument is an understatement. The Hollywood actor, star of movies such as Mission Impossible, is a complete fanatic. "When you're a Scientologist, and you drive by an accident, you know you have to do something about it, because you know you're the only one who can really help... We are the way to happiness. We can bring peace and unite cultures." There's much much more. Let me put it this way: if Tom Cruise jumping on Oprah's couch was an 8 on the scale of scary, this is a 10.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:57 PM


Attack on U.S. Embassy car kills 3 near Beirut (Nada Bakri, January 15, 2008, IHT)

A bomb evidently meant to destroy a U.S. Embassy car exploded as the vehicle passed by Tuesday, narrowly missing the car but wounding its Lebanese driver and a fellow passenger and killing at least three civilians traveling in the car behind, according to local reports, aid workers at the scene and State Department officials in Washington.

Any response less than changing the regime in Syria is craven.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:53 PM


The Death Of The Stalinist Left In Palestine (Randa Abu Naeem, 15 January, 2008, Countercurrents.org)

To understand the reasons behind the rapid deterioration of the Palestinian Left, especially following Hamas’ June 2007 take-over of the Gaza Strip, one needs to scrutinize the verbalized positions of its’ leaders. Interviews and media statements made by Abdul Rahim Malouh, Deputy Secretary General of the PFLP, following his release from Israeli prisons, indicates that the PFLP has chosen to support the right-wing within Fatah. Amazingly, this is also the position of the DFLP and the People’s Party, in spite of the pro-American agenda spouted and supported by Mahmoud Abbas and his cabal within Fatah.

The U-turn taken by the Palestinian Left should not come as a surprise since it has historically expressed an undemocratic world-view, both in general and in relation to its’ Palestinian agenda in particular. This lack of democracy is, of course, the outcome of its Stalinist ideological orientation. As a result of this dominant orientation, both the People’s Party (which has recognized Israel since its inception) and the DFLP (which made the proposal that led to the interim solution later accepted by the PLO), could not accept the results of the January 2006 Palestinian elections. These elections, in fact, are the only non ethno-religious elections in the entire Middle East to date.

...where the Stalinist Left meets the "Trotskyite" Right.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:29 PM


The race card has been dealt (Roger Simon, January 15, 2008, Politico)

Hillary Clinton needs to draw black votes away from Obama, not just in places like South Carolina, where about 50 percent of the Democratic primary voters are black, but also in several states that hold contests on Feb. 5 and have significant numbers of minority voters.

In a larger sense, however, Clinton has to fight the notion, which Obama used successfully in Iowa, that a vote for him is an act of personal and national redemption.

“This is a defining moment,” Obama says in his stump speeches. “We are one nation, we are one people, and our time for change has come.”

And then he says: “There are folks all over the planet watching what we are doing.”

Translation: By voting for Barack Obama, you can prove to yourself, the nation and the world that you are not racist and that America has become a better place, a place decent enough to elect a black person to the presidency.

To the Clinton campaign, this is grossly unfair. When it is accused of playing the race card, it says Obama plays the race card every day.

No, not Brian Williams, Tim Russert and company, but 30 Rock. If you want to understand the Obama phenomenon you can do no better than look at him through Tina Fey's delightfully honest--and, therefore, politically incorrect--eyes.

The Wife and I have just gotten around to watching the first season--it took her a year to explain to me that it's a different show than that 60 Sunset Strip thing. Anyway, in back-to-back episodes Ms Fey ends up dating a black guy because she's afraid people will think she's a racist even if she breaks up with him because he's an empty suit, a guilt that he happily exploits. In the next, after attending an AA meeting to hear a prospective boyfriend discuss himself openly, she confesses things about herself, including the fact that while she's going to spend the next year going around telling everyone she's voting for Obama, "there's a 90% chance that when I get in the booth I'll vote for John McCain."

In running a quite intentionally idea-less campaign, Senator Obama is offering folks no other reason to vote for him except his being black and challenging his opponents to address that without getting themselves afoul of the PC media and punditocracy. It's an especially effective-- and cynical--ploy in the primaries, where alienating black voters matters. (Any Republican is going to get the 7% that W got in the general.) He's exactly like that character in 30 Rock trying to extort a romance. But he, and his party, run the risk that behind the PDA lies a private loathing that will only be revealed on Election Day. Guilt can't be the basis of a healthy relationship, with another individual or with the electorate.

Minority Reports: After New Hampshire, a hint of racial politics. (Ryan Lizza, January 21, 2008, The New Yorker)

Of all the worrisome trends that reappeared for Obama in New Hampshire, the most vexing may be the potential impact of race. Pollsters are trying to determine whether he experienced the so-called “Bradley effect.” In 1982, when the African-American mayor of Los Angeles, Tom Bradley, ran for governor, the final polls showed him with an average lead of eight points over his white Republican rival, George Deukmejian. And yet Deukmejian won, by a point. A similar phenomenon occurred in Virginia in 1989, when L. Douglas Wilder ran for governor against a white opponent, Marshall Coleman. He appeared to be leading by ten points but won by less than one. In both cases, white voters were more willing to tell pollsters that they supported the black candidate than they were to actually vote for him.

Did Obama experience a similar fate in New Hampshire? The evidence is murky, but his campaign believes the question is important enough to warrant study. When I asked a senior Obama adviser whether the Bradley effect was a possible explanation for the gap between the final poll numbers, which showed Obama leading by an average of eight points, and the ultimate outcome, he replied, “Definitely.” He added, “If so, then the question is: what’s different between Iowa and New Hampshire? It could be that the socially acceptable thing in front of your neighbor at a caucus could be different than what you do in a secret ballot. Obviously, that’s something we’re going to be trying to figure out as we go forward, primarily through polling. I know people are working on ways of asking questions about getting at people’s attitudes about race. We’re working on this.”

Since most voters won’t admit to having any racial bias, Obama’s campaign will have to be more creative with the questions they ask.

There's a very simple question you can ask to gauge the racial character of the race: what are three policy changes Senator Obama has said he will pursue if elected?

Recall that eight years ago, if you'd asked the same question about W (the eventual winner), it would have been easy for people to answer: cut taxes, test kids in school, privatize Social Security, and give government money to religious charitable organizations, just to name a few of the big ones.

But ask yourself--and most readers here follow politics to some considerable degree--what are Obama's issues? What does he want to change? What would be the point of his presidency?

Isn't the sole purpose of his candidacy to afford America an opportunity to vote for a black guy for no other reason than that he's black?

How is Hillary Clinton supposed to run against that without race entering the discussion?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:29 AM



Mayor Giuliani's Florida firewall may be melting away. A new poll from Quinnipiac University finds him falling out of the lead in the state where he has banked on resurrecting his presidential campaign. The poll shows Senator McCain of Arizona with 22%, Mr. Giuliani with 20%, and Michael Huckabee and Mitt Romney with 19%. Because the margin of error is plus or minus six percentage points, the race is a statistical four-way tie. Other surveys in recent days also show Mr. Giuliani trailing Mr. McCain by one or two points in the state. The former mayor got more bad news from California, where a CNN/Los Angeles Times/Politico poll showed him losing to Mr. McCain by six points in a key February 5 state where he had held a comfortable lead all last year.

...is it should probably be established outside of your own compound.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:52 AM


Can Rivers run through it?: Knee has QB's status up in air (Mike Reiss, January 15, 2008, Boston Globe)

Chargers running back LaDainian Tomlinson, who hyperextended his left knee in the second quarter of Sunday's victory over the Colts and did not return, said yesterday an MRI revealed no further damage. Tomlinson thinks he'll play against the Patriots in the AFC Championship game.

The news on quarterback Philip Rivers, on the other hand, was a bit less decisive.

Rivers sprained a ligament in his right knee during the third quarter and was replaced by Billy Volek for the remainder of the game.

Chargers coach Norv Turner likened Rivers's situation to that of tight end Antonio Gates, who did not practice last week because of a dislocated toe but played against the Colts.

The playoffs have taught and confirmed a number of lessons. Here are five. Feel free to add your own:

(1) Jacksonville is the second best team in the NFL.

(2) Peyton Manning won't win you a big game.

(3) LT had a nice run the past few years, but he may well have hit his sell by date.

(4) Any owner who prefers "the player" to Bill Parcells doesn't understand his product.

(5) The Pats may or may not be the best team in NFL history, but Tom Brady is certainly the best QB.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:32 AM


GOP rivals reverse roles (Joseph Curl, January 15, 2008, )

John McCain and Mike Huckabee traded places yesterday, with the war-hawk senator preaching Judeo-Christian values and the ordained Southern Baptist minister talking bullets and bombs at an armored-vehicle plant.

"We can't leave people behind. That's not America," Mr. McCain said about laid-off workers in an impassioned speech to students and teachers at a Christian high school here. "We're a Judeo-Christian values nation. We're not going to leave these people behind."

They're just two sides of the same coin.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:14 AM


The higher the price, the more we like it: Researchers use wine tasting to show how marketing tactics can trick the brain to find more enjoyment in costlier products. (Denise Gellene, 1/15/08, Los Angeles Times)

When it comes to wine tasting, pleasure is in the price.

Using brain scanners to monitor the minds of wine drinkers, scientists found that people given two identical red wines got more pleasure from tasting the one they were told cost more.

Here's all you have to know about wine: the French take pride in it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:37 AM


Iran spars with its enemy within (Chris Zambelis, 1/16/08, Asia Times)
Issues of dissent and rebellion among Iran's elaborate patchwork of ethnic and sectarian minority communities are receiving increasing international scrutiny. Many advocacy organizations representing Iranian minorities accuse Tehran of operating a policy of cultural subjugation aimed at erasing identities distinct from Iran's dominant Persian culture and Shi'ite brand of Islam.

In some cases, these grievances have led to unrest and bloodshed. The latest round of violence between ethnic Baloch nationalists led by Jundallah (Soldiers of God) and Iranian security forces in the province of Sistan-Balochistan is indicative of this wider trend in Iranian society. [...]

The Baloch national question has been a source of simmering tensions for decades. Iran's approximately 1 to 4 million-strong Baloch community inhabits the southeastern province of Sistan-Balochistan. This desolate and underdeveloped region is one of Iran's poorest provinces. Unlike most Iranians, the Baloch are predominantly Sunni Muslims. Violent crackdowns and repression by security services in the economically backward province have engendered deep-seated animosity toward the Shi'ite Islamist regime among the fiercely independent and proud Baloch people.

Iranian Baloch identify with their kin in neighboring Pakistan's southwestern province of Balochistan - home to the region's largest Baloch population at approximately 4 to 8 million - and the smaller Baloch community in southern Afghanistan. The Pakistani Baloch are engaged in their own long-running struggle for greater rights and independence through a violent insurgency against Islamabad. The sum of these circumstances imbues the Baloch national consciousness with a sense of historic persecution at the hands of imperial powers that left the Baloch nation divided and without a state of its own. Baloch nationalists see the unification of their people in an independent "Greater Balochistan" as a historical right. The plight of Iranian Balochistan, referred to as "West Balochistan" by Baloch nationalists, is a pillar of the wider Baloch nationalist cause.

January 14, 2008

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:49 PM


Romney photo-op was with staffer's mom (Kenneth P. Vogel, Jan 14, 2008, Politico)

A well-publicized weekend photo-op for Mitt Romney turns out to have been missing a piece of information that might have undermined its credibility: the unemployed single mom at the center of the event was the mother of a Romney staffer.

Local and national media outlets, including Politico.com, reported that Romney was the picture of empathy as he sat at the Marshall, Mich. kitchen table of 51-year-old Elizabeth Sachs, a single mother of two who lost her job as a retail manager – as well as her health insurance – and is running out of money as she tries to sell her house to move to Florida.

What wasn’t reported – and what the Romney campaign did not reveal at the time – was that one of Sachs’ sons, Steve Sachs, is a paid employee of Romney’s campaign, organizing five counties in Michigan.

He gives off that William Hurt in Broadcast News vibe.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:44 PM


McCain faces little incoming fire (Jonathan Martin, Jan 14, 2008, Politico)

His opponents aren’t going after him. There isn’t a single third-party group hammering him in broadcast TV or radio ads. Even anti-tax advocate Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform, a longtime adversary, is taking it easy on John McCain this time around.

In short, McCain is getting a free pass, and it’s beginning to show. In campaign events across western Michigan, voters are once again being reminded of the qualities of character that have made him an admired figure on the national political scene, without the distraction of ads designed to muddy that image.

Asked why she likes McCain, Tina Wolfis of Kalamazoo pointed to “his honesty, his straight-forwardness.”

Other voters, Republicans all, cited similar qualities. [...]

McCain’s support appears less tied to any one particular issue than to his well-cultivated, straight-talking persona — one that is unsullied this year as opponents such as Mike Huckabee, Rudy Giuliani and Fred Thompson express their own admiration or friendship for McCain rather than a desire to defeat him. And the lack of negative messaging has led to widespread unfamiliarity with McCain’s position on illegal immigration. Mitt Romney, for his part, is broadcasting only spots about his own record here after seeing what a barrage of negative ads got him in the first two states.

The Republican candidates aren’t the only ones treating McCain with kid gloves. Norquist, who helped spearhead third-party anti-McCain efforts in 2000, has overseen just a single round of little-noticed phone calls into New Hampshire urging voters to call both McCain and Thompson and urge them to sign the no-tax-increase pledge. He said his group has no plans to do any further calls.Norquist’s approach this year is indicative that McCain is in a stronger position this time around. By Norquist’s reckoning, he has come around on some key issues, while others don’t have the resonance they once did.

“In 2000, we criticized McCain’s call for campaign finance reform,” Norquist noted in an e-mail message. “The whole movement was concerned with that issue — the NRA, Right to Life, Right to Work, American Conservative Union, most business groups.

“Today, McCain is calling for continuing the Bush tax cuts — that is leading with a $2 trillion tax cut,” Norquist added.

That's how a hierarchical party works.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:28 PM


An Obama-Farrakhan Connection? (Richard Cohen, 1/14/08, Real Clear Politics)

Barack Obama is a member of Chicago's Trinity United Church of Christ. Its minister, and Obama's spiritual adviser, is the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr. In 1982, the church launched Trumpet Newsmagazine, with Wright's daughters now serving as publisher and executive editor. Every year, the magazine makes awards in various categories. Last year, it gave the Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr. Trumpeter Award to a man it said "truly epitomized greatness." That man is Louis Farrakhan.

Maybe for Wright and some others, Farrakhan "epitomized greatness." For most Americans, though, Farrakhan epitomizes racism, particularly in the form of anti-Semitism. Over the years, he has compiled an awesome record of offensive statements, even denigrating the Holocaust by falsely attributing it to Jewish cooperation with Hitler -- "They helped him get the Third Reich on the road." His history is a rancid stew of lies.

Heck, the Senator himself says he'd meet with Holocaust deniers like Mahmoud Ahmedinejad.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:59 PM


Jam sandwich bait traps deer on roads (Steven Morris, January 15, 2008, The Guardian)

Robin Hood would not have approved. When he poached deer in Sherwood Forest he relied on his trusty longbow. But a gang of modern-day poachers is apparently using a less precise and perhaps less noble method - bread and jam traps.

Police in Dorset yesterday confirmed that they had received reports of poachers placing jam sandwiches on a road near Tolpuddle.

Be a man--use a salt lick.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:46 PM


Bush's Mideast visit: Of faith, blogging and tourism (Steven Lee Myers, January 14, 2008, IHT)

As he traveled from Israel to the Gulf and, on Monday, to Saudi Arabia, keeper of Islam's holy sites, Bush repeatedly evoked monotheistic faith, arguing that it served as the foundation for freedom, justice and representative government.

"A great new era is unfolding before us," Bush said in a speech Sunday in an opulent hotel in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates. "This new era is founded on the equality of all people before God. This new era is being built with the understanding that power is a trust that must be exercised with the consent of the governed - and deliver equal justice under the law."

Bush's brand of Christianity has unquestionably shaped his unswerving support for Israel, a support that is shared by many American evangelical Christians. But in Bethlehem, after touring the Church of the Nativity built atop the biblical birthplace of Jesus, he found in his faith the theological foundation for the creation of a Palestinian state.

"Someday I hope that as a result of a formation of a Palestinian state there won't be walls and checkpoints, that people will be able to move freely in a democratic state," he said, having witnessed himself Israel's security barriers and checkpoints. "That's the vision, greatly inspired by my belief that there is an Almighty, and a gift of that Almighty to each man, woman and child on the face of the Earth is freedom."

...is that the media and pundits are troubled by the basic ideas upon which the Republic is Founded.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:43 PM


Race Spells Trouble for the Dems (Michael Duffy, 1/14/08, TIME)

Far-fetched as it would have seemed a month ago, the seeds of self-destruction are being planted in the war of coded words about race between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. The bickering has exploded in the space of a week into Topic A in the Democratic race, supplanting for the moment the war and the economy and health care — and shows no sign of a quick resolution.

So yes, are the Democrats about to screw it up yet again?

Both campaigns are stoking this fire — and worrying at the same time about what this could do to them in the fall. They ought to be concerned: Keep this up and neither candidate may be able to marshal the votes from the various corners of the Democratic coalition that he or she will need in the fall. As pollster Andrew Kohut has noted, a party which found that it had at least two candidates who were seen as widely "acceptable" to its various factions just a few weeks ago could soon find that happy consensus has evaporated.

...those groups will always be at odds with each other.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:40 PM


Obama, Clinton Continue to Spar Over Abortion Records (Susan Davis, 1/14/08, WSJ.com: Washington Wire)

Two Democratic presidential candidates with 100% pro-choice voting records should have little to argue about on the issue of abortion rights, but in the increasingly combative nature between the campaigns of Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, no charge is going unanswered.

The debate, now more than a week old, was sparked by a New Hampshire mailer sent by the Clinton campaign in the days before the state’s Jan. 8 primary that attacked Obama’s abortion rights record for voting “present” when he was in the Illinois legislature on seven abortion bills. Clinton defeated Obama in the primary 39%-37%.

Obama’s campaign responded by blanketing New Hampshire voters with robo-calls defending his record on abortion rights. Today the Obama campaign held a conference call with reporters to further defend his record, even though there have been no further ads on the issue.

...in a field, at dawn, with a pregnant woman and two pairs of forceps.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:37 PM


Clinton, McCain lead among California voters (Cathleen Decker, 1/14/08, Los Angeles Times)

Hillary Rodham Clinton holds a commanding lead over Barack Obama in California as the Democratic presidential contest heads toward the Feb. 5 primary, a new statewide poll has found. John McCain's resurgent campaign claimed a slim lead among Republicans, with a trio of candidates competing to challenge him. [...]

Among likely voters, Arizona Sen. McCain was ahead at 20%, with Mitt Romney at 16%, Rudolph W. Giuliani at 14% and Mike Huckabee at 13%. The results for all four were within the poll's margin of error.

Men were more strongly in McCain's corner; women split between McCain and former Arkansas Gov. Huckabee, with former Massachusetts Gov. Romney close behind.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:40 AM


The 'crisis' of U.S. education (Walt Gardner, 1/14/08, IHT)

[The] test score thesis failed to pass muster when Japan's economy tanked in 1990, while the U.S. economy in 1991 entered the longest period of economic prosperity in its history. If America's mediocre public schools were the culprit, then where did all the entrepreneurial talent come from during this era? And why did the vaunted Japanese educational system play an insignificant role in stemming the country's recession?

In fact, Japan's economy to this day is still lethargic and an increasing concern, according to a front-page story in The Wall Street Journal of Jan. 7. Yet its schools continue to be considered among the best in the world, even as fewer big companies now hire workers full-time upon graduation.

Singapore's Education Minister understood the difference between test scores and future success. In an interview last year in Newsweek, he said: "We both have meritocracies. America's is a talent meritocracy; ours is an exam meritocracy. There are some parts of the intellect that we are not able to test well - like creativity, a sense of adventure, ambition. Most of all, America has a culture of learning that challenges conventional wisdom, even if it means challenging authority."

Despite the disconnect between educational quality and economic health, the matter curiously draws little media attention. When criticisms of American schools are made, they are played up. But when rebuttals follow, they are played down.

In the final analysis, the only thing that has significantly changed in the gloomy scenario is the actors. In 1958, the villain was Russia. In 1990, it was Japan. In 2008, it is India and China.

One of the best aspects of Matthew Brzezinski's recent Sputnik book is that it shows how hysterical the reaction was to the vastly inferior USSR. Fear of a rising China just adds the racial element.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:43 AM

50-0 FILES:

Election 2008: McCain vs. Clinton and Obama (Rasmussen Reports, January 13, 2008)

A Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds John McCain leading Hillary Clinton nationally by double digits. The survey, conducted on the two nights following New Hampshire’s Primary, shows McCain attracting 49% of the vote nationwide while Clinton earns 38%.

Among Republican voters, McCain leads 86% to 6%. However, among Democrats, Clinton’s lead is a slightly less dominant 74% to 18%. McCain leads by twenty-one points among unaffiliated voters.

This is the third straight poll showing McCain ahead of Clinton. In December, the Arizona Senator led by six points. In November, he held a narrow two-point edge.

A separate national telephone survey, conducted just before New Hampshire voted, shows McCain leading Obama 46% to 43%. That’s little changed since a December poll showing McCain with a two point advantage.

Those surveys find Mike Huckabee leading Clinton 45% to 42% while Obama leads Huckabee 45% to 43%.

The question isn't even whether Maverick would return the House to the GOP but whether he could also keep the Senate at 50-50 (the election rotation there works against the GOP in '08).

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:57 AM


In a Time of Posturing, Didion Dared 'Slouching' (JONATHAN YARDLEY, December 27, 2007, Washington Post)

Precisely why her essays were pressed upon me I do not recall, but I was impressed. There were 20 of them in all, the focus being primarily on California, the author's native state, but also on her own interior landscape and, in virtually all of them, the conviction that, as she put it in the title essay, "the center was not holding." Didion appeared to have been touched by the feminist movement that was gaining currency at the time, but she showed not a scintilla of doctrinal rigidity or orthodoxy. She was a clear-eyed observer who declined to be roped in by fads, publicists or anyone else's expectations. She found the '60s interesting, occasionally amusing, occasionally scary, and she was always a tough sell:

"Joan Baez was a personality before she was entirely a person, and, like anyone to whom that happens, she is in a sense the hapless victim of what others have seen in her, written about her, wanted her to be and not be. The roles assigned to her are various, but variations on a single theme. She is the Madonna of the disaffected. She is the pawn of the protest movement. She is the unhappy analysand. She is the singer who would not train her voice, the rebel who drives the Jaguar too fast, the Rima who hides with the birds and the deer. Above all, she is the girl who 'feels' things, who has hung on to the freshness and pain of adolescence, the girl ever wounded, ever young. Now, at an age when the wounds begin to heal whether one wants them to or not, Joan Baez rarely leaves the Carmel Valley."

What I thought when I read that nearly four decades ago was, in a word: Wow. Not merely does that paragraph deftly (yet not wholly unsympathetically) skewer Baez, for whose singing and persona I have not an iota of affection, but it tells us much more: what happens to people when they become "personalities" before they are ready for that, and what uses we make of them to our own ends. Like so many other paragraphs in "Slouching Towards Bethlehem," it transcends its immediate time and subject; all of these essays can be read with as much pleasure and profit as when they were first published, even if memories of Baez and, say, Haight-Ashbury already have faded.

Reading "Slouching Towards Bethlehem" started me off on what has been a long on-and-off love affair with Didion's work.

Actually, what's most striking about Ms Didion's work is how good the early stuff was--Slouching and the White Album--and how bad the later, as she became just the sort of trend-sucker she'd previously warned against. Thus, where you'd think someone so smart might have learned something from opposing Ronald Reagan's war on Marxism in Latin America in the '80s, she instead opposes liberalizing the Middle East too. It's a rare enough life arc, but she went from an interesting young conservative to a depressingly orthodox liberal as she aged.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:54 AM


The Early Bird Gets the Bad Grade (NANCY KALISH, 1/14/08, NY Times)

[E]ach morning, few of the country’s 17 million high school students are awake enough to get much out of their first class, particularly if it starts before 8 a.m. Sure, many of them stayed up too late the night before, but not because they wanted to.

Research shows that teenagers’ body clocks are set to a schedule that is different from that of younger children or adults. This prevents adolescents from dropping off until around 11 p.m., when they produce the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin, and waking up much before 8 a.m. when their bodies stop producing melatonin. The result is that the first class of the morning is often a waste, with as many as 28 percent of students falling asleep, according to a National Sleep Foundation poll. Some are so sleepy they don’t even show up, contributing to failure and dropout rates.

Many of our presidential candidates have been relatively silent on how they plan to save our troubled education system. For those still searching for a policy that might have a positive impact, here’s an idea: stop focusing on testing and instead support changing the hours of the school day, starting it later for teenagers and ending it later for all children.

Indeed, no one does well when they’re sleep-deprived, but insufficient sleep among children has been linked to obesity and to learning issues like attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder. You’d think this would spur educators to take action, and a handful have.

The Education system is about parents, not their kids.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:52 AM


Costs 'lower' for privatised power (Imre Salusinszky, January 15, 2008, The Australian)

VICTORIAN consumers are paying less for electricity now than in the days when the stategovernment owned and ran thepower industry, undermining claims by unions in NSW that privatisation means higher prices.

A new report by Victoria's utilities regulator shows power costs for some small businesses have fallen by more than 20 per cent since former premier Jeff Kennett sold off the industry in the mid-1990s.

The NSW Labor Government has seized on the report as it battles unions over its planned electricity sell-off in NSW.

Chalk up another one for Adam Smith.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:07 AM


Britain has to build 2million new homes - just to cope with growing number of immigrants (Daily Mail, 14th January 2008)

Almost 2million new homes will have to be built just to cope with the immigrant influx, peers will be told tomorrow.

It means 263 houses must be constructed every day for almost 20 years – the equivalent of five cities the size of Birmingham during the next 18 years.

Four in ten of all new homes will go to new migrants, a report by Migrationwatch UK claims.

Given the housing shortages facing the Anglosphere, prices have barely begun their long run-up. Consider the incipient demand in the U.S. when either Congress passes an immigration bill or George Bush issues a blanket amnesty for "illegals."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:02 AM


Brooklyn Dodgers great Podres dies (The Associated Press, January 14, 2008)

The left-hander was a four-time All-Star and the first most valuable player in World Series history. He became a hero to every baseball fan in Brooklyn when the Dodgers ended decades of frustration by beating the Yankees to win the World Series.

It was the first time a team had won a best-of-seven World Series after losing the first two games, and it was Brooklyn's only World Series victory. The Dodgers moved to Los Angeles after the 1957 season.

The Dodgers lost the first two games of at Yankee Stadium, then the Dodgers won the third 8-3 at Ebbets Field. Podres, going the distance on his 23rd birthday, scattered seven hits.

In the climactic seventh game, at Yankee Stadium, Podres shut out New York 2-0 on eight hits, relying on his fastball and a deceptive changeup.

As the story goes, Podres told his teammates to get him just one run and the Dodgers would win Game 7. They got him two, and the franchise celebrated its first and only championship while playing in Brooklyn.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:57 AM


Monk's words stir the spirit of Myanmar's resistance: Cloaked in allegory and drawing on history, his lectures give Buddhists hope after a bloody crackdown by generals. (Paul Watson, 1/14/08, Los Angeles Times)

In one of his most talked-about lectures, Buddhist monk Ashin Nyanissara tells the legend of a king who ruled more than 2,500 years ago. The king believed that spitting on a hermit brought him good fortune.

At first, it worked like a charm, but before long his realm was annihilated under a rain of fire, spears and knives.

Today's audiences easily find the hidden message: The assault by Myanmar's military government on monks leading protests last fall looks like a modern version of the ancient monarch's abuse. And they hope the ruling generals will suffer the same fate. [...]

The stern-faced Nyanissara, a 70-year-old monk in owlish glasses and a maroon robe, is able to stare down generals with chests full of medals by stepping carefully through the minefield that makes free speech lethal here.

Shielding himself with allegory, he crisscrosses the country giving lectures that draw on history and legend to remind people that rotten regimes have fallen before. As the generals try to crush the last remnants of resistance, he is cautiously keeping the fire alive.

But he knows it isn't the first time in 45 years of military rule that the government has attacked monks who challenged its absolute authority. In at least four previous crackdowns, dating back to 1965, the military rounded up thousands of monks, killing some, defrocking others, while closing monasteries and seizing property.

Each time, the brutal repression outraged many people, but in the end they felt powerless to do anything about it, the crises passed, and the generals continued to oppress with an iron fist.

It's the nature of any government's leaders to "strongly test their political power. They don't want to lose it," he said in a recent interview at the International Buddhist Academy, which he founded in this riverside town whose forested hills the faithful believe Buddha walked on his path to enlightenment.

"But in any faith, when politics and religion come into competition, religious leaders always defeat anything. Religion is the leader. Jesus Christ was killed, but which was more powerful? Religion or politics?"


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:12 AM


Clinton adviser accused of DWI (The Associated Press, January 14. 2008)

A senior adviser to Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton was arrested and charged with aggravated drunken driving a day before the New Hampshire primary.

The Nashua police say Sidney Blumenthal, a longtime friend and adviser to Bill and Hillary Clinton, was arrested early last Monday morning after an officer pulled over a car traveling 70 mph in a 30-mph zone.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:04 AM


Tigers' deep rotation has questions: With the addition of Willis, Tigers feel good about starters but know there are no guarantees. (Lynn Henning, 1/14/08, The Detroit News)

Kenny Rogers. Justin Verlander. Jeremy Bonderman. Nate Robertson. Dontrelle Willis.

Five names represent five stepping stones to any playoff or world championship ideas the Tigers might hold in 2008, at least in the empirical view of baseball's analysts and historians. [...]

The Tigers' questions are somewhat concise:

• Can the 43-year-old Rogers, who had surgery in 2007 and saw his starts dwindle from 33 in 2006 to 11 last season, pitch regularly and productively?

• Will there be any lingering arm problems for Bonderman, who was neither healthy nor effective during the second half of last season?

• Will another of the team's three left-handed starters, Robertson, pitch with his old endurance (he was on the disabled list for part of last season with a tired arm) and with the power that at age 30 could, and perhaps should, present him with his best chance to become a significant winner?

• Will the new man in the rotation, Willis, shake off a mushy 2007 season that saw his ERA inflate to 5.17 (from 3.87 in 2006)?

Given the number of top minor league arms they've dealt this off-season, they really need a couple youngsters to get major league-ready fast just to plug the pending injury holes.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:01 AM


30 die in fighting on Pakistan border (Allegra Stratton and agencies, January 14, 2008, Guardian Unlimited)

Twenty-three suspected militant fighters and seven soldiers have died in fighting on the Pakistan border with Afghanistan.

The militants ambushed a military convoy in the Mohmand tribal region in north-western Pakistan at 7.30am (2.30am GMT), according to a statement by Major General Waheed Arshad, the army's most senior spokesman. [...]

The people of the Mohmand follow pre-Islamic tribal laws and there have so far been few reports of clashes in the province.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:19 AM


A School-Vouchers Democrat (Bill Steigerwald, 1/14/08, FrontPageMagazine.com)

One of several things Democrat John O. Norquist became famous for during his four terms as mayor of Milwaukee was his enthusiastic implementation of a school-voucher system for his city. The popularity of the school-choice program, which started in 1991 with 1,500 students and now serves more than 12,000 of the city's roughly 110,000 students, has helped to reverse Milwaukee’s population decline, Norquist says. It has lured new residents to the city of 602,000 and it has kept many families from leaving for the suburbs when their kids hit school age. Norquist is currently the president of the Congress for the New Urbanism in Chicago, where he was Thursday, January 10, when I spoke with him by telephone. [...]

Q: How does the voucher system in Milwaukee work?

A: With school choice there are all kinds of options under Milwaukee’s system. You’ve got the public schools. Regardless of race, you can send your kids to schools in the suburbs and still live in the city. You can send your kids to a voucher-supported private school, to a chartered private school. There are all kinds of options. Milwaukee’s become a place with a variety of choices. The perception is that there are enough positive choices that you don’t automatically decide to leave the city when you have school-age kids.

Q: How much money do students get in their voucher?

A: They get about the same as the state school-aid amount -- roughly about $8,000.

It is the prospect of inner city black kids moving into suburban white schools that prevents a universal voucher program.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:15 AM


Israel, Palestinian Officials Launch Negotiations on Final Peace Deal (VOA News, 14 January 2008)

Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and former Palestinian prime minister Ahmed Qureia opened the talks Monday at a hotel in Jerusalem. An Israeli official described the session as "preparatory".

The two sides are expected to discuss the most intractable disputes of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including the status of Jerusalem, Palestinian refugees and the borders of a Palestinian state.

President Bush said on a visit to Israel and the West Bank last week that he expects an Israeli-Palestinian peace treaty to be signed by the time he leaves office in January 2009.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Artistic rebels and psychological explorers in music, art and literature: a review of MODERNISM: The Lure of Heresy From Baudelaire to Beckett and Beyond By Peter Gay (Michael Dirda, December 23, 2007, Washington Post)

What is modernism? For Gay, the modernists shared two defining attributes: "first, the lure of heresy that impelled their actions as they confronted conventional sensibilities; and, second, a commitment to a principled self-scrutiny." In other words, the modernists were artistic rebels and psychological explorers: They broke with established or conventional forms and they probed deeply into their inner selves. Their work explodes with a libidinal, swashbuckling energy, unbounded by the constraints of 19th-century realism. The resulting novels and paintings and ballets shocked genteel sensibilities not only by making art new, but often by making it ugly, noisy and rude. In this, the modernists would argue, they were reflecting the character of the industrial age.

The most delicious irony of Modernism is that while it claimed to make a daring challenge the security of the bourgeoisie, it is itself merely a function of the insecurity of the intellectuals.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Bush's Letter to his "Dear Enemies" (Tariq Alhomayed, 1/14/08, Asharq Al-Awsat)

This is a man who is on the verge of changing the course of Arab-American relations and strategic alliances following the bloody events of September 11. Today we see him visiting allies and prominent figures in the Arab world as a friend and ally.

This visit is testimony to a shift in Washington that cannot be ignored by Bush's successor in the White House ¬¬¬¬– whether Republican or Democrat, especially with regards to the outcome of the peace process in terms of success or failure. Suffice it to mention that foreign policy is strongly present in the US elections, not only in relation to Iraqi affairs but also with regards to what Iran and Syria are undertaking in the region.

Much has changed in seven years; we witnessed the invasion of two states; one Arab and the other Islamic. It's enough to mention all that has transpired in Iraq, which has been experiencing changes that reflect the shift in Washington; the most prominent of which is the support of the al Sahwa (Awakening) councils.

But is Bush capable of achieving peace? And why has he been so hospitably received during his visit?

With regards to the peace process, the situation is different today from what it was during Bill Clinton's term since reluctance and mistrust exist both on an Arab level and on an international one as well.

Today there is Arab, Islamic and international support and consensus to revive the peace process which has been reawakened by the Arab [Peace] Initiative. Bush is the first American president to call for a Palestinian state.

As for the warm reception that Bush received, the president is obliged to send a letter to both Syria and Iran saying, "Dear enemies, thanks to you; the threat that you pose over the region has led to warm hospitality!"

What Iran has done and is still doing in terms of widening the Palestinian chasm, disrupting stability in Iraq, continuing its occupation of the islands that belong to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), threatening the Gulf's security and interfering in internal Arab affairs through its support of Hezbollah, supporting Syria's position which threatens Lebanon's stability and its disruption in Iraq – makes Arab states keen to forge an alliance with the US, and Europe as well.

In their next presidential election the Iranians have a golden opportunity to heal the breach. It's just up to Ayatollah Khamenei to seize that opportunity.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Maybe the war to end all wars -- at least in Europe -- has already been fought: a review of WHERE HAVE ALL THE SOLDIERS GONE?: The Transformation of Modern Europe By James J. Sheehan (Jonathan Yardley, January 13, 2008, Washington Post)

A strong case can be made that the salient fact about Western Europe today is not that it has overcome centuries of bitter animosity to reach near-unification or that it is moving steadily toward bringing Eastern Europe into its embrace, but that for more than six decades it has been at peace. In the first half of the 20th century it was torn nearly to extinction by the two most calamitous wars the world has known; in the second half of that century, and seven years into this one, it has known no major wars at all. Even Eastern Europe, where uprisings in client states were brutally suppressed by the Soviet Union and where the Balkans remain a source of tension and violence, is in a state of tranquility that seems likely to be extended as the legacy of Soviet rule gradually fades away and as ethnic rivalries are brought under control.

This is nothing less than extraordinary. The whole history of Europe up to 1945 is one of perennial warfare interrupted sporadically by periods of uneasy peace. Between 1914 and 1918, Europe fought what millions of people devoutly prayed would be the war to end all wars, yet the peace settlement was so badly bungled that two decades later Europe was at it again, in a second world conflict that far surpassed the horrors of the first. When one considers the condition of Europe in 1945 -- much of the continent reduced to rubble, Germany despised, distrusted and divided, tensions in the Cold War inexorably rising -- the one safe prediction at the time would seem to have been that more wars lay on the horizon.

Not merely did no new wars take place, but in the view of James J. Sheehan none is likely to take place in the future.

The Population Implosion: How will global aging change our future? (Phillip Longman, 2/01/04, New America Foundation)
[P]opulation growth is a major source of economic growth. More people create more demand for the products capitalists sell, and more supply of the labor capitalists buy. Economists may be able to construct models of how economies could grow amidst a shrinking population, but in the real world it has never happened.

New businesses flock to areas where the population is increasing, such as the Sun Belt, and avoid or leave areas where population is falling. Across the Great Plains of the United States, for example, where fewer people now live than in the 1920s, thousands of small towns are caught in a vicious cycle of depopulation, as younger workers and local business flee in search of economic opportunity, leaving behind shuttered storefronts, empty schools, and understaffed nursing homes. Drought and falling commodity prices may in this instance have set the cycle in motion, but once depopulation begins, new investment soon vanishes. Indeed, capitalism has never flourished except when accompanied by population growth, and is now languishing in those parts of the world (Japan, Europe, the Great Plains of the United States), where population has become stagnant.

A nation's gross domestic product (GDP) is literally the sum of its labor force times average output per worker. Thus, a decline in the number of workers implies a decline in an economy's growth potential. When the size of the workforce is falling, economic growth occurs, if at all, only through compensating increases in productivity. The European Commission, for example, projects that Europe's potential economic growth rate over the next 50 years will fall by 40 percent due to the shrinking size of the European work force. Italy expects its working-age populations to plunge by 41 percent by 2050, meaning that output per worker will have to increase by at least that amount just to keep Italy's rate of economic growth from falling below zero. With a shrinking labor supply, Europe's future economic growth will depend entirely on getting more out of each remaining worker (many of them unskilled, recently arrived immigrants) even as it has to tax workers at higher and higher rates to pay for old age pensions and health care.

Meanwhile, abundant evidence also suggests that these very population trends work to depress the rate of technological and organizational innovation. Cross-country comparisons imply, for example, that after the proportion of elders increases in a society beyond a certain point, the level of entrepreneurship and inventiveness decreases. In 2002, Babson College and the London School of Business released their latest index of entrepreneurial activity by country. It shows that there is a distinct correlation between countries with a high ratio of workers-to-retirees and countries with a high degree of entrepreneurship, and that conversely, in countries in which a large share of the population is retired, the amount of new business formation is low. So, for example, among the most entrepreneurial countries on earth are India and China, where (at least for now) there are roughly five people of working age for every person of retirement age. Meanwhile, Japan and France are among the least entrepreneurial countries on earth and have among the lowest ratio of workers-to-retirees.

There are many possible reasons for this correlation. One, of course, may be that aging workers and investors tend to be less flexible and more risk averse. Both common sense and a vast literature in finance and psychology support the claim that as we approach retirement age, we become more reluctant to take risks with our careers and nest eggs. It is not surprising, therefore, that aging countries such as Japan, Italy, and France are marked by exceptionally low rates of job turnover, and by exceptionally conservative use of capital.

Because prudence required that older investors take less risks with their investments, we can also expect that as populations age, investor preference will shift toward safe bonds and bank deposits and away from speculative stocks and venture funds. As populations age further, we can expect an ever-higher share of citizens to be cashing out their investments and spending down their savings. Neither of these trends is consistent with a future marked by high levels of high-risk investment in new technology. Instead, many observers believe that population aging will eventually cause steep and destabilizing drops in stock and real estate prices.

Also to be considered are the huge public deficits projected to be run by major industrialized countries over the next several decades. Because of the mounting costs of pensions and health care, government-financed research and development expenditures as well as educational spending will likely be under increasing budgetary pressure. Moreover, massive government borrowing could easily crowd out financial capital that would otherwise be available to the private sector for investment in new technology. Even after assuming a rebound in fertility rate levels, a massive increase in the percentage of women in the labor force, and large cuts in future pension benefits, the European Commission recently calculated that population aging in Europe will lead to an increase in public spending of between 3 and 7 percentage points of GDP in most member states by 2050. To finance the cost of aging, Germany would have to increase its public indebtedness by as much as 384 percent while the French national debt would rise to more than three times the country's entire annual economic output. Population aging gives Japan an even gloomier long-term financial outlook.

From an objective viewpoint, it is apparent that American post-War policy was premised on getting the Europeans to commit suicide rather than murder each other and force us to intervene periodically.

January 13, 2008

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:08 PM


'New Scots' from Poland doing us proud (BRIAN FERGUSON, 1/14/08, The Scotsman)

FROM delis to building services, bars and churches, their influence is hard to miss.

In the three years since EU movement restrictions were relaxed, at least 60,000 Poles have settled in Scotland.

But while some immigrant communities remain isolated from their new homes, Poles it seems, have integrated themselves into British life with remarkable ease.

Indeed a survey yesterday revealed Polish migrants have settled so well that they may well be more "British" than many British people, scoring higher in the Home Office's Life in the UK test than any other nationality.

They now provide such a boost to the workforce that business leaders admit to worrying what modern-day Scotland would do without them.

A Scottish Pole is a Scotsman. A French Pole is a Pole.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:19 PM


McCain ‘Too Busy’ to Answer Romney’s Jabs (Elisabeth Bumiller, 1/13/08, NY Times: The Caucus)

Senator John McCain drew large crowds in three appearances in Michigan on Sunday, when he rebuffed attempts to be drawn into a tit-for-tat political war of words with Mitt Romney.

“I’m not in the business of comparing myself to Governor Romney,” Mr. McCain insisted to reporters on his campaign bus, the “Straight Talk Express.”

“I don’t pay attention to the positions of other candidates, except during the debates. I’m too busy focusing on my 16, 18-hour days and trying to get the support of the voters. I’m not going out and saying, ‘Oh, what does Duncan Hunter feel about this issue?’ I’m not going to do that. Life’s too short.’”

At this point, Mr. McCain's main concern is his Cabinet.

McCain Moves Into Lead; Obama Gains on Clinton: Giuliani Falls to 4th in National Poll (Dan Balz and Jon Cohen, 1/14/08, Washington Post)

The big gains by McCain (Ariz.), which come after his victory in the New Hampshire primary, mark the first time he has topped the Republican field in a Post-ABC News national survey. His rise mirrors a dramatic tumble for former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, who led most national polls throughout 2007.

Giuliani, who finished well back in both Iowa and New Hampshire, ranks fourth in the new poll at 15 percent. McCain, meanwhile, has more than double the support he had a month ago and now stands at 28 percent among likely GOP voters. Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, who scored a big victory in the Iowa caucuses, and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, the runner-up in both early contests, sit just above Giuliani, at 20 and 19 percent, respectively. [...]

By a 2 to 1 margin over Giuliani, McCain is seen as the candidate with the best experience to be president. He also tops the field on electability and leadership for the first time.

Voters' long search for a GOP standard-bearer appears somewhat clearer than it was a month ago. Twenty-seven percent said McCain best reflects core Republican values, a nine-point increase from a month ago, putting him slightly ahead of a pack that still has five GOP candidates scoring in the double digits on this measure.

Conservatives remain split in their choice of candidate, with 25 percent supporting McCain, 23 percent Huckabee, 17 percent Romney and 16 percent Giuliani. McCain, never the darling of the right, has a wide lead among moderates and liberals. Three in 10 white evangelical Protestants support Huckabee, but 25 percent now back McCain, up from 12 percent over the past month.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:17 PM


Revealed: Detective Gene Hunt's new car for Life on Mars spin-off (Daily Mail, 13th January 2008)

It was one of the hottest cars of the Eighties. The Audi Quattro was like a Ford Capri with testosterone and it is about to star in the new spin-off to TV drama Life On Mars.

This is the first official picture of politically incorrect detective Gene Hunt's new car in Ashes To Ashes. [...]

His macho character is paired with sexy, intelligent female cop DCI Alex Drake (Keeley Hawes), a time traveller from the 21st Century.

Single mother Drake is kidnapped with her daughter in 2008 but, while attempting to escape, she has an accident and ends up in 1981 - the year of the Royal Wedding, the Brixton riots and leg-warmers.

She uses Cracker-style psychological profiling to catch crooks, making Gene suspicious. But he is drawn to her and doesn't know why.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:14 PM


Nick Clegg shifts to Right (Patrick Hennessy, 13/01/2008, Daily Telegraph)

Private companies and charities should play a bigger role in running schools and hospitals, Nick Clegg, the new Liberal Democrat leader, said yesterday.

In his first big speech as leader, Mr Clegg placed his party firmly behind reform of public services - a stance many Left-leaning activists will be uncomfortable with.

In another pitch for Tory votes, he also made clear he would not demand higher taxes. He called for schools to be freed from excessive interference by government, while demanding guaranteed hospital treatment for patients, who should be treated free in the private sector if the NHS could not provide treatment within a defined period.

One feature of the End of History is that the Anglosphere basically doesn't have any leftwing parties anymore.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:02 PM


Clinton, Obama point fingers over race (Christina Bellantoni, January 13, 2008, Washington Times)

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton said today there was "not one shred of truth" to accusations she belittled Martin Luther King's legacy, and suggested Sen. Barack Obama is the one pushing race as an issue in the Democratic presidential primaries.

Are they trying to hasten Helter Skelter?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:12 AM


Author's Icelandic characters reveal selves slowly (Jo Ellen Heil, January 13, 2008, Ventura County Star)

Icelandic author Arnaldur Indridason is one of the more intriguing writers I've discovered recently. His mystery novels are placed in Iceland as firmly as Donna Leon's excellent "Inspector Brunetti" series is set in Venice.

Most of Indridason's books, which include "Jar City" (2005), "Silence of the Grave" (2006) and "Voices" (2007), take place in the capital city of Reykjavik. His characters, particularly detective Erlendur Sveinsson and his troubled daughter, Eva Lind, are complex and reveal more of themselves in each book, inviting readers to speculate on past motivations and future actions. Along the way, Indridason explores such controversial issues as child prodigies, human organ harvesting and drug abuse.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:07 AM


Two U.S. enemies excel at bumbling: Chavez, Ahmadinejad are dangerous, but both have suffered setbacks. (Mark Bowden, 1/13/08, Philadelphia Inquirer)

The Iranian president is the inadvertent (but predictable) victim of the recent U.S. National Intelligence Estimate, which found that the country's secret nuclear-weapons program had been suspended in 2003.

There is a wonderful lesson in this. The estimate contradicted the Bush administration's warlike rhetoric about Iran. This no doubt caused some red faces in the White House, which had been selling a wholly different story, but it had the additional and inadvertent effect of pulling the plug on Ahmadinejad, whose game for the last four years has been provoking the United States in order to raise his stature at home.

It worked like a judo move. The sudden and unexpected removal of pressure from our side caused Ahmadinejad to fall on his face. He has found himself without The Great Satan as a foil for his rhetorical nonsense. My hopeful guess is that Iran's leadership will tilt back in a more moderate direction in coming years, and Ahmadinejad will go back to making trouble with his Revolutionary Guards.

There is a persistently juvenile quality to him and the guards that dates all the way back to the seizure of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in 1979, an act that has done more to damage Iran's standing in the world than any in modern history. The deadly game of chicken with the U.S. Navy in the Strait of Hormuz on Jan. 6 was more of the same. Ahmadinejad and his ilk are dangerous, but mostly to themselves and Iran, a fact that at long last may be dawning on even the mullahs in charge.

When your enemy is paddling toward falls, just wave.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:27 AM


Tamale Potpie (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, January 13, 2008

For the filling

* 1 tablespoon corn or canola oil
* 1 cup coarsely chopped onion
* 1 cup coarsely chopped green bell pepper
* 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
* 1 pound lean ground pork
* 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
* 3 tablespoons chili powder
* 1/4 teaspoon salt or to taste
* 14 1/2-ounce can tomatoes in their own juice
* For the topping
* 1 cup cornmeal
* 1/4 teaspoon salt
* 3/4 cup chicken broth
* 1 large egg
* 1 tablespoon corn or canola oil
* Optional garnishes
* 1 cup sour cream for serving
* 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro for serving

Position a rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Have ready a 9-by-2-inch baking dish or glass pie dish.

Make the filling: In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat for 1 minute. Add the onion, bell pepper and garlic and cook until the vegetables soften, about 10 minutes, stirring often. Add the ground pork and cook, stirring with a fork to break up any clumps, until it is no longer pink. Drain fat. Stir in the cumin, chili powder and salt. Add tomatoes in their juice, stirring with a fork to break them up into pieces about 3/4 inch in size. Cook, uncovered, on low heat for 5 minutes, stirring often. Spoon the filling into the baking dish and let it cool for about 15 minutes.

Prepare the topping: In a medium bowl, use a large spoon to stir the cornmeal and salt together. In a small bowl, stir the chicken broth, egg and oil together. Pour the liquid over the cornmeal and stir just until it is evenly moistened and forms a thin, pourable batter. Pour the topping over the filling in the baking dish, spreading it evenly.

Bake until the topping is lightly browned and feels firm, and the filling is gently bubbling, about 35 minutes. Use a sharp knife to cut the potpie into wedges and serve, with sour cream and cilantro, if desired.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:05 AM


Crucial Cold War secret (Paul Kengor, January 13, 2008, Washington Times)

It was 25 years ago, on Jan. 17, 1983, that the blueprint for American victory in the Cold War was quietly formalized by President Ronald Reagan. It came with the roar of winter, by the name of NSDD-75, probably the most important foreign-policy document by the Reagan administration, institutionalizing the president's intention to undermine the Soviet communist empire. [...]

Tamely titled, "U.S. Relations with the U.S.S.R.," the opening to NSDD-75 established two core "U.S. tasks:" First, "To contain and over time reverse Soviet expansionism ... . This will remain the primary focus of U.S. policy toward the U.S.S.R." And, second, "To promote, within the narrow limits available to us, the process of change in the Soviet Union toward a more pluralistic political and economic system in which the power of the privileged ruling elite is gradually reduced."

Mr. Pipes fought for this language, insisting the document articulate the central aim of reforming the Soviet Union. "The State Department vehemently objected to that," recalls Mr. Pipes today. "They saw it as meddling in Soviet internal affairs, as dangerous and futile in any event. We persisted and we got that in."

Destabilization, it's what we do.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:58 AM


The world's first trainspotter (Tom Geoghegan, 1/09/08, BBC News Magazine)

As the National Railway Museum in York opens a new £4m visitor centre, it claims a 14-year-old in 1825 as the world's first trainspotter.

Long before Clapham Junction, anoraks and binoculars, trainspotting was born in the North East.

For a 14-year-old boy, the sight of the world's first steam-hauled passenger train in 1825 was a revelation.

John Backhouse, a Quaker from County Durham, wrote to his sisters in London a month after seeing the opening of the Stockton to Darlington railway.

His neatly-written letter includes an illustration of the train, complete with annotations to point out the locomotive steam engine at the front, the freight wagons, the passenger coach and the flags.

Failing to find enough words to describe the exciting new phenomenon, he drew the steam-hauled train that caught his imagination so intensely.

It was a very grand sight to see such a mass of people moving on the road from Stockton to Darlington, 600 people were said to be in, on and about the wagons and coaches! And the engine drew not less that 90 tons!!!!!

There was an excellent dinner prepared at Stockton for the railway gentry. I could tell you a great many more particulars but suppose that you are tired of it by this time.

The letter is a key item in the National Collection housed in the National Railway Museum's new interactive archive and research centre called Search Engine.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:55 AM


Battle of the beardless (Tom Chatfield, January 10, 2008, Prospect: First Drafts)

Among the centenaries few are likely to celebrate in 2008, one of the most unlikely is that of facial hair and the US Presidency. Yet it is now exactly 100 years since America last voted for a leader with any kind of facial hair. That honour falls to the Republican William Howard Taft, who—along with his luxuriant moustache—was in 1908 elected as the 27th President. It was not to last: in 1912, he was crushed by the clean-shaven Democrat Woodrow Wilson. Indeed, so far and fast had the ‘tache fallen from fashion that Taft also became the last President to be beaten into third place by a third party candidate, winning only two out of 48 states.

Incidentally, Taft is also the heaviest man ever to have been president (at over 300 pounds), as well as the last president to keep a cow on the White House lawn.

No fat bearded presidents, no peace!

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:49 AM


Differences that count in Clinton and Obama (Albert R. Hunt, January 13, 2008, Bloomberg News)

Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, while agreeing on most major issues, still offer Democrats a choice, not an echo.

You'd be justified in thinking that what might follow Mr. Hunt's pronouncement would be some discussion of their different political visions for America, rather than just the atmospherics of their age, gender, etc. You'd be wrong.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:39 AM


Myth of China's new middle class (Rowan Callick, January 14, 2008, The Australian)

MANY people looking from outside at China's development, especially in this pivotal Olympic year, are searching for a floor of familiarity. They want to be able to find the middle class in China's contemporary social change, David Goodman says in his own chapter of The New Rich in China: Future Rulers, Present Lives, which he edited recently and is to be issued soon. [...]

But Goodman insists China's "new rich categories of entrepreneurs are less the new middle class than a future central part of the ruling class". They are quite unlike the 19th-century European bourgeoisie in the extent to which they have emerged from and retain close relationships with the established political system.

For this is not China's first wave of modernisation, as often presumed by those who believe Deng Xiaoping conjured this remarkable industrial machine from an imploded peasant nation.

Goodman points out that in the Republican era (after 1912) there were sustained attempts at modernisation in various parts of China under both warlord rule and colonial influence.

Much of this economic activity was externally owned or sourced, so parts of the economy were considerably better integrated into the world economy by the early 1920s than they would be again until the 1980s.

The establishment of the People's Republic of China in 1949 then underwent renewed and sustained modernisation and industrialisation.

And managerial and professional jobs multiplied, so that during the 1950s the people who filled them became "the backbone middle classes" of the new party-state in China.

Many in these classes were purged during the Cultural Revolution of 1966-76, but as they and their families were then restored, "so, too, middle-class reputations rose again".

Some of this group transformed themselves into new-style entrepreneurs during the 1980s, especially as opportunities loomed large to gain from their privileged access to assets.

And what of the entrepreneurs who have emerged more recently?

Goodman highlights "the close associational links between the new entrepreneurs and the party-state; they are neither independent of nor excluded from the political establishment, which on the contrary seeks actively to incorporate them if there is no pre-existing relationship".

This was the chief innovation of Jiang Zemin, who retired as leader five years ago.

He opened the doors for capitalists to join the party.

Many observers wrongly interpreted this as meaning they would take over the party. Instead, of course, the situation is the reverse.

Goodman says the reallocation of state assets over the past couple of decades "sometimes left less than clear distinctions between ownership and management".

In Hangzhou, an entrepreneur was asked if the state assets he controlled had been paid for.

The response was clear: "There's no need. These were previously the assets of all the people, and we are the people."

Goodman believes that even the massive income differentials now being officially conceded (the Asian Development Bank describing China as having one of the biggest wealth gaps in the world today) are understated because of the extent to which business people in China, who tend to be incorporated in the party-state apparatus, enjoy "cost-less (to them personally) access to resources and effectively subsidised income not available to others".

The pattern of economic development in the People's Republic fits more closely that of Germany, Japan and Russia during the late 19th century than that of Britain or the US, he says.

"In those countries, the state played a central role in industrialisation, as opposed to the laissez-faire capitalism of the earlier European experience based on the protection of the individual outside the state."

All three of which not only ended up too enfeebled by their own misdevelopment to contest with us successfully but are now dying even more quickly than the other secular states of the West.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:32 AM


Intraparty Tactics Questioned (Washington Post, January 13, 2008)

The e-mail, echoing a mailing by the Clinton campaign, criticized Obama for voting "present," instead of "yes" or "no," on several abortion-related bills while he was in the Illinois Senate. The e-mail was signed by a who's who of the state's Democratic establishment, dominated by women who supported Clinton in the primary.

Obama supporters say the accusation, first laid out nearly a year ago, is unfair, noting that Democrats in the Illinois Senate often voted "present" on controversial legislation, not to duck issues, but as a tactical response to Republican efforts to force them into unpopular votes that could be used against them.

....he just lacks the courage of his putative convictions. Rare to see a political career so dependent on no one finding out about the person's politics.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:31 AM


Up to 50 insurgents dead as rebels storm Pakistan base (IHT, January 13, 2008)

Islamic militants attempted to attack a Pakistani military base close to the Afghan border, sparking fighting that killed between 40 and 50 insurgents, while pro-government tribesman shot and killed two Uzbek extremists, officials said Sunday.

The clashes were some of the bloodiest in weeks in the lawless region - a militant stronghold where several top Taliban and Al Qaeda leaders, including Osama bin Laden, are thought be hiding.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:27 AM


Bush to Reach Out to Iranians from Across the Gulf (AFP, 1/13/08)

US President George W. Bush arrived in the United Arab Emirates on Sunday for a visit in which he was set to reach out to ordinary Iranians across the Gulf in a new swipe at the Tehran government.

Bush was to deliver a keynote speech in the Emirati capital Abu Dhabi telling Iranians, for whom the UAE is their main trading partner, that there is a better alternative to the current regime, his spokeswoman Dana Perino told reporters.

"When he speaks to different people in the region, he will again speak to the Iranians themselves and tell them that there is a better future for them, a better way to live than what their current government is providing for them," Perino said.

...but he should be making the speech at a university in Iran.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:23 AM


Cameron pledge on EU treaty poll (BBC, 1/13/08)

The Tories would hold a referendum on the EU treaty, if they won power before it was ratified by all EU states.

Party leader David Cameron said even if Parliament ratified the treaty, a Tory government would hold a referendum.

He admitted it would be difficult if all 27 states ratified it without a referendum, but said he would not be happy to let "matters rest there".

Since we still believe in the consent of the governed.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:19 AM


Bush: Iraq force reduction is on track: The president, speaking at a U.S. base in Kuwait, says at least 20,000 troops will be brought home by July -- unless commanders want to slow the drawdown (James Gerstenzang, 1/13/08, Los Angeles Times)

President Bush said Saturday that the United States was on track to bring home at least 20,000 troops from Iraq by summer, but he emphasized that he was willing to halt the drawdown "in order to make sure we succeed." [...]

Speaking to about 3,000 U.S. troops who had gathered in the open on a chilly morning, Bush delivered a seven-minute pep talk, saying, "There is no doubt in my mind that we will succeed."

He told the cheering troops that when the history of the early 21st century is written, "the final page will say: 'Victory was achieved by the United States of America for the good of the world.' "

Administration officials have spoken for several weeks about their goal of reducing troop levels by five brigades by July, from a high of 20. That would bring the number of U.S. troops in Iraq below 140,000, from the 158,000 in the country at the end of December. There were about 130,000 U.S. troops in Iraq a year ago when Bush announced he was sending more.

Bush told reporters that, about the reductions, he had told Petraeus, "If you want to slow her down, fine; it's up to you."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:15 AM


Bobby Jindal set to take oath as Louisiana governor (PTI, January 13, 2008)

Indian-American Piyush Bobby Jindal is set to become the youngest governor of Louisiana after his inauguration on Monday at a grand ceremony.

The 36-year-old Oxford-educated Jindal's inaugural ceremony begins on the state Capitol on Monday and will feature live music, a 19-cannon salute and fighter jet flyover.

He will be the first person of Indian-origin to hold the governor's post, symbolising the growing clout of the Indian American community in the US political arena. He will also be the first non-White governor in the country since a Reconstruction era figure held the job briefly 130 years ago.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:11 AM


Patriots ride Brady into AFC title game (Christopher L. Gasper, January 12, 2008, Boston Globe)

The Jaguars had the game plan and followed it with almost flawless precision. Jacksonville limited big plays, took Randy Moss out of the game, and put together long scoring drives.

But almost doesn't get it done against the Patriots because for the 17th straight time this season they found a way to win.

This time, it was a patient and precise Tom Brady picking Jacksonville apart, an inspired Laurence Maroney, who had the first 100-yard rushing game of his playoff career (22 carries, 122 yards), running through them, and a fired-up Patriots defense that contained Maurice Jones-Drew and Fred Taylor.

Actually, it was Jack Del Rio who contained Jones-Drew, for which all of New England thanks him.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:09 AM


Empanada De Lomo (Bread Pie with Pork and Chorizo) (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, January 13, 2008)

For the filling

* 1/2 cup olive oil
* 1 yellow onion, finely chopped
* 2 cloves garlic, minced
* Salt
* 1 pound boneless pork loin or pork tenderloin, cut into narrow strips
* 2 chorizos, about 14 pound each, finely chopped
* 1 tablespoon sweet paprika
* Empanada dough (recipe follows)
* 2 tablespoons tomato sauce

In a saute pan, heat half of the oil over high heat. Add the onion and garlic and saute for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Decrease the heat to medium, season with salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes, or unil the onion is soft and tender and lightly caramelized. Transfer the onion mixture to a bowl to cool.

Return the saute pan to high heat, and add the remaining oil. Add the pork loin and chorizo and saute for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Decrease the heat to medium, sprinkle with the paprika and continue to cook the meats, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes or until tender. Transfer to the bowl holding the onion, stir to combine and let cool completely. (The filling should never be hot or have too much liquid when you spread it on the dough, or it will make the crust soggy.)
For the dough

* Empanada dough
* 2 teaspoons active dry yeast
* 12 cup milk, heated to lukewarm
* 1 egg
* 12 teaspoon sugar
* 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
* 212 cups all-purpose flour
* Oil or lard for preparing the pan

Dissolve yeast in the lukewarm milk in a small bowl, and let stand for about 5 minutes, or until foamy. In a large bowl, whisk together the yeast mixture, egg, sugar, salt and butter. Add half the flour, and mix with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon until completely incorporated. Add the rest of the flour a little at a time, mixing with the spatula until the dough becomes too difficult to work. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead until smooth and elastic but not sticky, about 10 minutes.

Place the dough in a large bowl, cover with a damp kitchen towel, and let rise at room temperature for 112 hours, or until about doubled in size.

Punch down the dough and divide into 2 portions, one slightly larger than the other. Using the rolling pin, roll out the larger portion into a sheet about 14-inch thick and about the same size as the baking sheet.

To assemble pie:

Using your fingers, gently press the dough evenly over the bottom and all the way up the sides of an oiled 10-by-15 inch baking pan. Pierce the dough with fork tines in several places to prevent bubbles from forming. Spread the meat mixture evenly over the crust and top evenly with tomato sauce. Roll out the top crust and carefully cover the filling, pressing the top and bottom edges together to form a rim. Trim any excess dough, and pierce the top several times with a fork to allow steam to escape during baking.

Brush top with beaten egg and bake in a 450-degree oven for 30 minutes, or until nicely browned. Remove from oven and let cool in the pan on a rack. Serve warm or at room temperature, cut into squares.

January 12, 2008

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:46 PM


John McCain clearly the best in GOP primary (The State editorial board's GOP presidential primary endorsement, 1/12/08)

Clearly, the best Republican candidate to lead our nation at this time is U.S. Sen. John McCain of Arizona. He has the necessary experience, not just in time served, but in the quality of understanding he exhibits across the board.

The value of his experience is multiplied by his integrity and independence. He is a slave to no ideology or faction. Not only will he work with anyone who wants to do the right thing anytime, he is usually the driving force at the head of coalitions to get the job done — from the Gang of 14 that broke Senate gridlock and paved the way for the confirmation of conservative judges to his principled leadership on campaign finance reform. He knew the political risk he took leading the quest for a comprehensive solution to illegal immigration, but he believed securing our borders was too important a priority not to try.

He is deeply respected by his colleagues in both parties, despite the fact that, as he jokes, he has never sought the “Miss Congeniality” title. No one is as likely as he to fight, expose and defeat waste, fraud or corruption.

Experience, certainly. Integrity, even more so. But John McCain’s most conspicuous virtue is courage. He is a brave and tough man who unlike some candidates has no need to bluster, but is able to speak with humility and generosity to those with whom he disagrees. A McCain presidency would do much to restore confidence in American leadership, at home and abroad.

There is of course the extraordinary physical and moral courage that he displayed as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, where he withstood nightmarish torture for years rather than let his country or his comrades down. But he also possesses the kind of political fortitude that keeps him from giving up on any worthwhile quest. He evinces a wisdom born in pain, a confidence earned in many battles. When others despair, John McCain knows he has seen worse, and keeps striding forward.

For much of the past year, his candidacy was dismissed, his support depleted, his coffers empty. He kept on, and gradually won the doubters back to his cause.

More to the point, consider the wisdom and courage he has displayed with regard to our nation’s struggle in Iraq. For four years, he was nearly alone in his insistent criticism of the Bush administration for sending too few troops to quell the violence. When the president finally adopted the McCain approach a year ago, the senator lent Gen. David Petraeus his unwavering support at a time when so many in both major parties either thought he was wrong, or simply lacked the courage to stand with him. He was right all along.

John McCain has shown more clearly than anyone on the American political scene today that he loves his country, and would never mislead or dishonor it. He is almost unique in his determination to do what is right, whatever the cost. And he usually has a clear vision of what’s right.

So it is that we confidently and enthusiastically endorse John McCain for the Republican nomination for president of the United States.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:39 PM


Sorry, Barack, You’ve lost Iraq: Bush's efforts to negotiate a long-term U.S-Iraq pact may remove troops as an '08 election issue for Obama, Clinton. (Michael Hirsh, 1/12/08, Newsweek)

In remarks to the traveling press, delivered from the Third Army operation command center here, Bush said that negotiations were about to begin on a long-term strategic partnership with the Iraqi government modeled on the accords the United States has with Kuwait and many other countries. Crocker, who flew in from Baghdad with Petraeus to meet with the president, elaborated: "We're putting our team together now, making preparations in Washington," he told reporters. "The Iraqis are doing the same. And in the few weeks ahead, we would expect to get together to start this negotiating process." The target date for concluding the agreement is July, says Gen. Doug Lute, Bush's Iraq coordinator in the White House--in other words, just in time for the Democratic and Republican national conventions.

Most significant of all, the new partnership deal with Iraq, including a status of forces agreement that would then replace the existing Security Council mandate authorizing the presence of the U.S.-led multinational forces in Iraq, will become a sworn obligation for the next president. It will become just another piece of the complex global security framework involving a hundred or so countries with which Washington now has bilateral defense or security cooperation agreements. Last month, Sen. Hillary Clinton urged Bush not to commit to any such agreement without congressional approval. The president said nothing about that on Saturday, but Lute said last fall that the Iraqi agreement would not likely rise to the level of a formal treaty requiring Senate ratification. Even so, it would be difficult if not impossible for future presidents to unilaterally breach such a pact.

As the most significant president since FDR, it should come as no surprise that George W. Bush will have such a profound effect on his successors--far greater than Ronald Reagan's--not just in terms of the Reformation he's set in motion in the Middle East and the enlargement of the Anglosphere, but in regards to free trade, taxes, entitlement reform, etc..

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:27 AM


Pick Pats-Jags score (Bill Burt, 1/12/08, Eagle Tribune)

Personally, I think this is the Pats one dangerous opponent this season. I went Pats 27, Jax 21.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:09 AM


Emotion Without Thought in New Hampshire (Judith Warner, 1/12/08, NY Times: Domestic Disturbances)

On the morning after the New Hampshire primary, CNN’s John Roberts interviewed Marianne Pernold Young, the woman whose coffee shop question — “How do you do it? How do you keep upbeat and so wonderful?” — is largely credited with setting into motion Hillary Clinton’s surprise victory on Tuesday.

“When you asked her the question, what were you looking for?” Roberts asked the middle-aged freelance photographer from Portsmouth, N.H. “Because when [Hillary] talked to me . . . right after you had asked her the question,” he continued, “she said she was so genuinely taken aback and touched by the fact that someone cared about her. Is that the angle that you were coming at the question from?”

“No,” Young said.

There was an awkward millisecond of silence as the genial host let this sink in. “I was asking her as a friend,” Young went on. “As a woman to woman I wanted to know how she does it.”

In other words, the question about how Hillary “does it” had nothing to do with Hillary at all.

It was all about Marianne.

Like libertarianism, liberalism is an ideology of the self.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:07 AM


Iran's urge to dominate makes it vulnerable (David Blair, 12/01/2008, Daily Telegraph)

[T]eheran's elite also want to guarantee the regime's survival. Preserving the Islamic government forged by the Revolution of 1979 is the prime concern of the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Building a nuclear weapon might allow Iran to achieve both goals. An Iran armed with nuclear missiles could dominate the Middle East and ensure that America would never impose "regime change".

Yet the process of acquiring a weapon makes Iran extremely vulnerable. Thanks to its nuclear programme, Teheran is incurring economic sanctions, isolation and the risk of an American attack.

Moreover, Arab countries are cooperating with Washington to contain Iran. This is the unspoken theme of Mr Bush's tour of the Gulf states.

A senior British official said the costs of the nuclear programme were apparent to some in the ruling elite. "There is a real debate going on within the regime," he said. "There is one scenario where people think it's not worth the candle."

Some experts believe Iran has not taken a final, strategic decision to acquire a nuclear weapon. Efraim Halevy, who was director of Mossad between 1998 and 2002, said: "There is not a consensus in Iran that they need this thing."

He added that "behind Iran's tough talk" lies an "ingrained sense of fear" caused by the regime's isolation and the weakness of the economy. Mr Halevy believes that Iran's leadership may decide that "their own self interest is not to do this".

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:02 AM


Syria Rebuilds on Site Destroyed by Israeli Bombs (WILLIAM J. BROAD, 1/12/08, NY Times)

The puzzling site in Syria that Israeli jets bombed in September grew more curious on Friday with the release of a satellite photograph showing new construction there that resembles the site’s former main building.

Bomb it again. Do so publicly. And announce that we don't recognize the legitimacy of the regime and, therefore, feel free to intervene with impunity.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:51 AM


Pakistan's al Qaeda alarms Pentagon (Sara A. Carter, January 12, 2008, Washington Times)

The Pentagon is "extremely concerned" about the emergence of al Qaeda in Pakistan, Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said yesterday. [...]

Adm. Mullen added, however, that "Pakistan is a sovereign country and certainly it's really up to ... President Musharraf and certainly his advisers and his military to address that problem directly."

Pakistan's large tribal region, situated along the border with Afghanistan, has long been a serious concern for U.S. intelligence officials who suspect al Qaeda is establishing training camps in the region and recruiting fighters from as far away as Europe and Africa.

...if you don't exercise political control over a territory. These are, by law, free fire zones and we could hardly ask for a better outcome than that the enemy cluster in them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:48 AM


Plate Tectonics: Earth's Lucky Geology (Larry O'Hanlon, 1/12/08, Discovery News)

Four decades after the rise of the great, unifying theory of plate tectonics, geologists are still scratching their heads over a lot of the details.

Unanswered, for instance, are basic questions like how the shifting and colliding of plates got started, what keeps plates moving, why other planets in our solar system lack plate tectonics, and how important all the geological turmoil might be to the evolution of life.

If only Galileo were around so we could burn him at the stake.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:44 AM


Bush and Congress seen pushing for stimulus plan (Steven R. Weisman and David M. Herszenhorn, January 12, 2008, NY Times)

The Bush administration and congressional leaders, increasingly concerned about a possible recession, are moving closer to agreeing that an economic stimulus package is needed soon, Washington officials said Friday.

A Republican familiar with the administration's thinking said Bush would present ideas to stimulate the economy, most likely in the form of tax relief, in his State of the Union message on Jan. 28. Bush will not decide on the details until he returns from the Middle East next week.

Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill are also suggesting that they might be able to put aside longstanding partisan differences and work on a stimulus measure, lawmakers and aides said Friday.

Nothing like getting a tax cut every year of his presidency without ever--unlike RWR--raising them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:40 AM


Minority Reports: After New Hampshire, a hint of racial politics (Ryan Lizza, January 21, 2008, The New Yorker)
The brief interregnum between the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary may be remembered as a time when it appeared that the magical qualities ascribed to Barack Obama included an ability to suspend all the ordinary rules of politics. Everything about Obama’s Iowa triumph seemed to defy history and shred doubts about his candidacy, including his relative lack of Washington experience. Relying on college kids to win a race normally controlled by geriatrics was thought to be tactical folly. Obama, though, won a majority of voters under thirty, who, according to the Obama campaign, made up nine per cent of the Iowa electorate in 2004 and climbed to twenty-two per cent this year. It was also a tenet of conventional wisdom that Hillary Clinton had a tight grip on female voters, and yet Obama beat her by five points among women. Following in the path of Gary Hart, Bill Bradley, and Howard Dean, Obama was typed as the candidate of Starbucks liberals (latte having long ago replaced Chardonnay in the iconography of the pundits), someone with little working-class appeal who could never break out of the demographic borders of the young and well educated. But, remarkably, in Iowa he fought Hillary Clinton to a draw among union households and bested John Edwards and Clinton among Independents and Republicans. Furthermore, the results in Iowa seemed to affirm the idea that Obama’s exotic Kansan-Kenyan ancestry was not a liability but an asset, a visual reminder of the kind of transformation he preaches.
....I thought Hart, Bradley, & Dean were white.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:33 AM


Bush on a spiritual journey in Israel
: President takes time during the visit to commemorate the Holocaust and reflect on where Jesus preached. (James Gerstenzang, 1/12/08, Los Angeles Times)

President Bush speaks freely about the importance of religion in his life. He also has made it clear that he does not favor playing the tourist.

On Friday, the spiritual side won out.

After two days of meetings with Israeli and Palestinian leaders, Bush took the day to focus on the horrors of the past -- as well as the joy delivered by his religion, brought to life during a walk through remnants of its earliest days.

On a five-hour emotional excursion, the president visited Yad Vashem, Israel's memorial to the 6 million victims of the Holocaust. Then, walking where Jesus is said to have tended his ministry, he stood on the shores of the Sea of Galilee in northern Israel, nearly within sight of Lebanon and Syria.

As the day went on, his countenance lifted from grim and teary to a cheery demeanor that brought peels of giggles from a group of nuns.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:24 AM


Trail of risky investments in China: As many as 1 million people lost money farming ants for a health products company; critics say the bugs were bait for a pyramid scheme. (Mark Magnier, 1/12/08, Los Angeles Times)

The illiterate farmer has hardly slept for weeks, and when he does he has nightmares. His breathing is irregular; his brow heavy.

The source of his anxiety? A tower of cardboard boxes in the next room.

Filled with ants.

After more than four decades of backbreaking work tilling the soil, Li Fanghai, 62, and his wife had managed to save $11,000, which they invested in ant farming.

These ants were far more than uninvited picnic guests, the couple were told. When ground into a powder, they become an aphrodisiac, a kidney purifier and general cure-all, the Yilishen Tianxi Group declared. The ants would earn them a 30% annual return.

In reality, critics say, the ants apparently were little more than the bait for a vast pyramid scheme. Over an eight-year period, the company recruited as many as 1 million would-be ant farmers, collecting about $1.2 billion. In mid-December, it filed for bankruptcy.

The story of Yilishen illustrates the get-rich-now mentality here, the constant search for a new angle by those struggling to make a go of it with the communist economy having all but given way to private enterprise, and the frequent collusion of government officials in shady dealings.

...to not understand why American debt is so attractive to the Chinese and vital to the world economy?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:05 AM


A Combative Thompson Sways Voters (PAUL VITELLO, 1/12/08, NY Times)

Whether this was a new Fred Thompson, or just a sign of mirage-inducing campaign fatigue among voters, many people attending Mr. Thompson’s campaign rallies here on the day after the debate reported having similar revelations.

Mr. Thompson, who remarked Friday that he had “always been laid back — laid back when I became a U.S. prosecutor at 28, laid back when I became staff counsel to the Watergate committee at 30, laid back when I ran and won election twice to the United States Senate” — was clearly more combative on Thursday night than he had been in past debates.

He attacked former Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani of New York, accusing him of stealing his tax plan, tagged Senator John McCain of Arizona as soft on illegal immigration and jabbed repeatedly at former Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas for taking what he called “liberal” positions. Mr. Thompson scored one of the more crowd-pleasing remarks of the evening when he said about a recent encounter between a Navy ship and several Iranian speedboats: “I think one more step and they would have been introduced to those virgins they’re looking forward to seeing.”

In an official statement, a campaign spokesman, Todd Harris, said Mr. Thompson’s performance showed that he was the only candidate that voters in the Jan. 19 primary here should trust “to be a strong, consistent conservative.”

Mr. Thompson has made all the same points during campaign events throughout the state, aides said. But many voters who flocked to his rallies on Friday had never heard him make them until they heard him in the latest debate on the Fox News Channel.

Jim Sickles, a retired corrections officer; Natalie Bankowski, an office manager; and Maryanne Gasper, who said she was “a waitress, with two other jobs,” were among a dozen people randomly interviewed who said they had been undecided or leaning toward other Republican candidates — mainly Mr. Huckabee — until Thursday night.

In person, Mr. Thompson, who is a television and movie actor in his life outside politics, conveys a message that perfectly matches the medium of his slow, well-paced, deep-baritone voice: He says the problems facing the next president “cannot be fixed overnight,” and admonishes voters not to believe candidates who say they can.

At some events, he prefers to talk sitting down rather than standing up, and has a habit of rocking on the back legs of his chair. In answer to questions, he tends to give long, discursive answers that start with “let’s go back to where this all started.”

In matters of foreign policy, economic policy and military affairs, he usually ends up with an endorsement of the way things have turned out. In answer to questions about Social Security, social programs and morality, he most often draws the conclusion that things need to change.

With a well-worn face atop an angular, 6-foot-4 frame, he looks like the smartest man in town holding forth at the county courthouse.

When I worked on the NJ Gubernatorial in 1985 the candidate had just three issues he talked about constantly: reducing property taxes, reducing auto insurance rates, and getting the long-delayed clean-up of the state's Superfund sites going. He talked about the same issues at every event and every single radio and tv ad mentioned some combo of the three, but only the three. When people would ask him, the campaign manager and/or the media team why that was and why they just ran the same ads over and over again they'd patiently explain that at the point where you think you've heard the message hundreds of times--because you're paying attention to the process--normal folks have barely noticed it once or twice.

One premise of Fred's candidacy was that with his tv profile folks would "know" who he was and he'd be able to generate free media pretty easily. That turned out not to be so true. But, even if it had, he needed to have a very few consistent points that he just hammered home constantly--the textbook example being W's 2000 campaign. The days of a discursive front porch campaign are long gone.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:00 AM


Economic boost gives hope to Iraqis (BBC, 1/12/08)

Buoyant property prices might be one result, just as the jumping, bustling shopping streets in central Baghdad are another - often so packed that you have to jostle your way through, past clothes stalls, shops of electronic gadgets and trolleys brimming with bright, fresh fruit.

Some of those oranges, bananas, apricots and apples find their way into the window display of the MeshMesha fruit juice and pastry bar run by Ahmed Sabah and his extended family.

Young nephews and cousins, dressed in smart, orange, sports shirts with the MeshMesha logo - which actually means Apricot - blend delicious drinks of fresh fruit for a steady stream of customers - Sunni, Shia, Kurds, Christians.

No-one seems to care as they sit at minimalist tables watching the world go by.

"When it's safe outside, of course business is better," said Ahmed.

"I have four branches - one we've had to close because it was in a violent neighbourhood, but once the war is over we can spread the chain throughout Iraq."

The MeshMesha chain supports five families that between them are raising 25 children still at school and it employs a couple of dozen of its youngsters in the fruit juice bars.

Return of the ATM?

Without work and a sense of the future, many young men head off to join a militia.

"Your money," I asked. "Do you keep it in cash, put it in the bank? How does that work?"

"In a bank," said Ahmed. "And we exchange some into US dollars."

One of Iraq's biggest private banks has a luxuriously designed office above the Baghdad Stock Exchange and I asked a senior executive how business was now compared to those glory days of the 1980s that Naimah, the estate agent, had spoken about.

"People didn't trust the banks, then," said the financier Mohammed Issa.

His accent was East Coast American and he wore a brown suit with a brightly coloured open-necked shirt.

He would have a panoramic view across Baghdad except the window was blocked by glass cabinets with ornamental displays - again to shield against a bomb attack.

"We had, maybe 4,000 clients under Saddam. Now we have 50,000," he explained.

"We've just set up Internet banking so our customers don't have to risk getting bombed by going to a branch.". He paused for a moment. "Yes, once the war's over, we'll have our ATM machines throughout the country."

[Y]ou wanted to organize the country so that we should all/
stick together and make a little money.

-William Carlos Williams, Paterson

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:55 AM


Giuliani is feeling the squeeze: Some staffers forgo their pay as the GOP presidential hopeful bets heavily on a victory in Florida. (Louise Roug, Dan Morain and Stuart Silverstein, 1/12/08, Los Angeles Times)

Rudolph W. Giuliani, once the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination, said Friday that some of his staffers had started forgoing their salaries to ease the strain on the campaign's budget.

Giuliani told reporters at an appearance in Florida that the aides volunteered to defer their pay "to stretch the dollars even further." The former New York mayor has $7 million in hand to spend in upcoming primaries -- enough, his campaign said, to compete through the crucial Super Tuesday contests in more than 20 states, including California, Feb. 5.

Still, many political observers said the news signaled a surprising cash squeeze in a campaign that was thought to be managing its finances well. It also underscored Giuliani's sharp decline in recent weeks from front-runner to struggling contender, they said, while renewing questions about the wisdom of his decision to essentially take a pass on the earliest contests. The candidate has staked his prospects on winning in Florida on Jan. 29.

The parties are no different than the country, two options suffice. Since he couldn't compete in NH the Mayor was never going to be the moderate option.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:53 AM


Women vs. Oprah (Robert Novak, 1/12/08, Real Clear Politics)

The absence of Oprah Winfrey from the frantic four last days of the New Hampshire primary campaign after her heavy schedule in Iowa backing Sen. Barack Obama may be traced to heavy, unaccustomed post-Iowa abuse of the popular entertainment superstar by women.

Winfrey did not publicize it, but her Website was swamped with complaints after she went to Iowa. The principal complaint was that she betrayed women by not supporting Sen. Hillary Clinton.

You'd think Ms Winfrey would have a better grip on who her audience is.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


What polls are saying: McCain leapfrogs, Clinton maintains (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, 1/12/08)

Nearly half of Republicans said they think McCain will get the GOP nomination, swamping the others... [...]

The CNN-Opinion Research Corp. poll was taken Jan. 9-10 and involved phone interviews with 1,033 adults. The overall margin of sampling error was plus or minus 3 percentage points.

• Democrats: Clinton, 49 percent; Obama, 36 percent; John Edwards, 12 percent.
• Republicans: McCain, 34 percent; Mike Huckabee, 21 percent; Giuliani, 18 percent; Mitt Romney, 14 percent; Fred Thompson, 6 percent; Ron Paul, 5 percent.

The most Democratic Democrat and the most Republican Republican.

January 11, 2008

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:38 PM


Racial tensions roil Democratic race (Ben Smith, Jan 11, 2008, Politico)

The comments, which ranged from the New York senator appearing to diminish the role of Martin Luther King Jr. in the civil rights movement — an aide later said she misspoke — to Bill Clinton dismissing Sen. Barack Obama’s image in the media as a “fairy tale” — generated outrage on black radio, black blogs and cable television. And now they've drawn the attention of prominent African-American politicians.

“A cross-section of voters are alarmed at the tenor of some of these statements,” said Obama spokeswoman Candice Tolliver, who said that Clinton would have to decide whether she owed anyone an apology.

“There’s a groundswell of reaction to these comments — and not just these latest comments but really a pattern, or a series of comments that we’ve heard for several months,” she said. “Folks are beginning to wonder: Is this really an isolated situation, or is there something bigger behind all of this?”

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:28 PM


The Day the Americans Sunk Khomeini's Navy (Amir Taheri, 11 January 2008, Asharq Alawsat)

Had the IRGC not run away we might have had a repeat of what happened on 18 April 1987.

On that day, a group of IRGC speedboats actually fired on a US warship, triggering a naval duel that lasted more than 12 hours.

At the end of the day, the IRGC had lost most of its navy, a loss from which it did not recover until the mid-1990s. The Americans also did "collateral damage" worth $1.2 billion to Iran's offshore oil installations.

No one knows how many IRGC men died. However, thanks to their better equipment, superior firepower and training, the Americans sustained few losses.

The duel had come in the context of Tehran's campaign to stop the flow of Kuwaiti oil through the Strait by firing on tankers flying the Kuwaiti flag. Asked for help by Kuwait, the US had put the tankers under American flag. But even that had not stopped the IRGC's quixotic campaign.

Significantly, the Americans took extra care not to destroy Iran's regular navy which they had helped build in the1970s. With one or exceptions, the Iranian regular navy stayed on the sidelines as the IRGC took a beating.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:07 PM


Gender takes center stage in Democratic primaries (Jodi Kantor, January 10, 2008, IHT)

If the race was not about gender already, it certainly is now.

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton has been running for president for nearly a year. But in the past week, women in Iowa mostly rejected her, a few days before women in New Hampshire embraced her. All over the United States, viewers scrutinized television coverage for signs of male chauvinism in the race and many said they found dismaying examples.

Even Democratic women with no intention of voting for Clinton found themselves drawn into the debate and shaken by what briefly seemed like a humiliating end to the most promising female candidacy in American history.

And so a party which (theoretically) opposes racism and sexism finds itself with one candidate whose platform is that he's black and one who's platform is that she's female. At least Bill Richardson was honorable enough to drop out rather than play the ethnic card.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:04 PM


Kucinich Seeks NH Dem Vote Recount (STEPHEN FROTHINGHAM, 1/10/08, AP)

Democrat Dennis Kucinich, who won less than 2 percent of the vote in the New Hampshire primary, said Thursday he wants a recount to ensure that all ballots in his party's contest were counted. The Ohio congressman cited "serious and credible reports, allegations and rumors" about the integrity of Tuesday results.

Deputy Secretary of State David Scanlan said Kucinich is entitled to a statewide recount. But, under New Hampshire law, Kucinich will have to pay for it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:59 PM


U.S. and Germany to recognize Kosovo independence, diplomats say (Dan Bilefsky, January 10, 2008, IHT)

The United States and Germany have agreed to recognize Kosovo and get the rest of Europe to follow suit after the province declares independence following the Serbian elections next month, according to senior European Union diplomats close to negotiations over the future of Kosovo.

America determines who is a sovereign.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:52 PM


John McCain’s Sweet Spot: Will it last? (Rich Lowry, 1/11/08, National Review)

Ever since Huckabee won Iowa, everything has lined up perfectly in this process for John McCain. It must be the lucky nickel. There were only four days between Iowa and New Hampshire, not enough time for Romney to recover there and not enough time for conservative talk radio, which is really kicking in now against McCain, to have any real effect. One moment McCain was the war hero whose campaign had imploded and no one thought about, except to say nice things about him during the debates; the next moment he was back on top in New Hampshire. The timing was perfect.

Then, on to Michigan. McCain now is taking more fire from the Right, but McCain has a base in Michigan and independents and Democrats can vote for him (is that why he went out of his way to mention global warming tonight?). He’s going to be hard to stop there and his main rival in Michigan, Romney, was stomped on by everyone in the New Hampshire debates. Thanks, guys!

After that: South Carolina. Let’s assume that McCain wins Michigan. Who is going to stop him in South Carolina? I assume it’s not going to happen by inertia. He’s going to have momentum and he’s already pretty strong in South Carolina. Someone’s going to have to affirmatively try to deny him victory, and there are only two guys to do it: Mike Huckabee and Fred Thompson.

The hierarchical party always nominates the next in line. After he ran a good race in '00 only the President's brother could challenge Maverick for that honor.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:31 AM


Exchanges in Latest Debate Highlight a New Dynamic in the Republican Field (MICHAEL COOPER and MICHAEL LUO, 1/12/08, NY Times)

[I]t was Mr. Thompson’s performance, in which he shook off the laid-back style that has defined his candidacy, that provided some of the liveliest moments of the debate in Myrtle Beach, S.C..

“This is a battle for the heart and soul of the Republican Party and its future,” said Mr. Thompson, who has staked his run on a strong showing in South Carolina. The primary there is Jan. 19.

“On the one hand,” he said, “you have the Reagan revolution, you have the Reagan coalition of limited government and strong national security. And the other hand, you have the direction that Governor Huckabee would take us in. He would be a Christian leader, but he would also bring about liberal economic policies, liberal foreign policies.”

Mr. Thompson then lit into Mr. Huckabee, the former Baptist preacher and Arkansas governor who won the Iowa caucus, for wanting to close the prison at Guantánamo Bay, for supporting what he called “taxpayer-funded programs for illegals” and for wanting to sign a law restricting smoking.

“That’s not the model of the Reagan coalition, that’s the model of the Democratic Party,” he said.

Fred can no longer win the nomination, but he can help John McCain by competing for Huckabee voters.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:26 AM


Snow delights residents of Baghdad (Elizabeth Stewart, January 11, 2008, Guardian Unlimited)

Snow fell on Baghdad today for the first time in living memory, delighting residents who declared it an omen of peace. [...]

Murtadha Fadhil, who works for the traffic police, huddled under a balcony to keep dry, and declared the snow "a new sign of the new Iraq".

He said the phenomenon was a sign of hope and purity. "We hope Iraqis will purify their hearts and politicians will work for the prosperity of all Iraqis," he said.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:14 AM


Bush Says U.S. Should Have Bombed Auschwitz (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, 1/12/08)

Bush was visibly moved as he toured the site, said Yad Vashem's chairman, Avner Shalev.

''Twice, I saw tears well up in his eyes,'' Shalev said.

At one point, Bush viewed aerial photos of the Auschwitz camp taken during the war by U.S. forces and called Rice over to discuss why the American government had decided against bombing the site, Shalev said.

The Allies had detailed reports about Auschwitz during the war from Polish partisans and escaped prisoners. But they chose not to bomb the camp, the rail lines leading to it, or any of the other Nazi death camps, preferring instead to focus all resources on the broader military effort, a decision that became the subject of intense controversy years later.

Between 1.1 million and 1.5 million people were killed at the camp.

''We should have bombed it,'' Bush said, according to Shalev.

In the memorial's visitors' book, the president wrote simply, ''God bless Israel, George Bush.''

The memorial was closed to the public and under heavy guard Friday, with armed soldiers standing on top of some of the site's monuments and a police helicopter and surveillance blimp hovering in the air overhead.

''I was most impressed that people in the face of horror and evil would not forsake their God. In the face of unspeakable crimes against humanity, brave souls -- young and old -- stood strong for what they believe,'' Bush said.

''I wish as many people as possible would come to this place. It is a sobering reminder that evil exists, and a call that when evil exists we must resist it,'' he said.

It was Bush's second visit to the Holocaust memorial, a regular stop on the visits of foreign dignitaries. His first was in 1998, as governor of Texas. The last U.S. president to visit was Bill Clinton in 1994.

Imagine, a president who cries for others and for his country's failures.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:08 AM


Jaguars, Patriots set to slug it out in divisional playoff game (Howard Ulman, 1/11/08, AP)

In the other corner, the young, upset-minded Jaguars coached by former hard-hitting linebacker Jack Del Rio.

"I think he's really built this team into the same way he played the game," Jacksonville quarterback David Garrard said, "physical, smash-mouth." [...]

They have 325-pound nose tackle Vince Wilfork, a lightweight compared with Jaguars defensive tackles John Henderson, a 335-pounder who was sidelined for last Saturday's 31-29 playoff win at Pittsburgh, and Grady Jackson, his 345-pound backup.

"It's a good challenge," Patriots right tackle Nick Kaczur said. "Offensive linemen definitely like to stand up physically against other people."

Throw in the 245-pound Garrard and three wide receivers who are 6-foot-4 or taller and the Jaguars have the size advantage.

"Their whole team is like that. They draft them that way," Belichick said. "Henderson ... Grady Jackson, you're not going to find them much bigger than them."

And they keep coming at you.

A two-star rating: Jones-Drew, Taylor stand out in film session (Michael Vega, January 11, 2008, Boston Globe)
The sobering reality seemed to jump off the screen.

During their videotape study of the Jaguars' vaunted rushing attack, the Patriots defense was impressed by what they saw of Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew. With each chunk of yardage Taylor and Jones-Drew churned out, it became apparent there was only one way the Patriots could prevent getting plowed asunder tomorrow night at Gillette Stadium. [...]

"I think this is the biggest challenge of the year in terms of facing running backs that are at the top of their games and two running backs who can score any time they touch the ball," said linebacker Tedy Bruschi. "You saw the play out of the backfield to Jones-Drew last week [in a 31-29 wild-card victory at Pittsburgh]. It was just an easy swing pass and he took it all the way to the house [giving the Jaguars a 21-7 lead]. His [96-yard] kickoff return [set up Taylor's 1-yard score that tied it, 7-7]. Taylor, all the breakout runs he's had, he finishes them in the end zone.

"They're not really a 3, 4, 5 yards and a cloud of dust-type team. If they get in the open field they're going to be going all the way."

Tom Brady is the only opposing player in the NFL you'd less like to see holding the football than Maurice Jones-Drew.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:02 AM


Obama the European: Cry (for) the beloved country (Mona Charen, 1/11/07, National Review)

Clinton cannot lay claim to the leftmost edge of the Democratic party’s base on foreign policy. Her vote to approve the Iraq War settled that. Many of the liberal foreign policy gurus of the Democratic party (Anthony Lake, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Ted Sorensen) have signed on with Barack Obama, and as I write, Sen. John Kerry has endorsed him as well. But if Clinton extends that extemporaneous patriotic burble into a theme of her campaign, she might find a way to checkmate her rival.

When Obama campaigns, he often sounds as if he’s running for president of the world. He has offered that, “The security of the American people is inextricably linked to the security of all people.” He’s a great fan of international agreements, international institutions and “dialogue.” He has said that if he wins the presidency, he looks forward to “going to the United Nations and saying ‘America’s back!’”

As a domestic matter, he treads very lightly on the whole “first African-American president” line because he doesn’t need to mention it. It’s an aura around his head. But in international relations, he does play the identity politics card.

“I think,” he mused to New York Times reporter James Traub, “that if I am the face of American foreign policy and American power . . . if you can tell people ‘We have a president in the White House who still has a grandmother living in a hut on the shores of Lake Victoria and has a sister who’s half-Indonesian, married to a Chinese-Canadian,’ then they’re going to think that he may have a better sense of what’s going on in our lives and in our country. And they’d be right.” [...]

Clinton and Obama have already clashed on the question of talking with Hugo Chavez, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and Kim Jong-Il. Obama feels strongly that President Bush’s failure to meet these leaders face to face was a “disgrace.”

...is if you brought along Count von Stauffenberg.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:58 AM


Japan Approves Bill on Afghan War Mission (NORIMITSU ONISHI, 1/11/08, The American)

The Japanese government rammed through a special law Friday authorizing its navy to resume a refueling mission in the Indian Ocean as part of the American-led war in Afghanistan.

In an extremely rare parliamentary move, Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda’s governing Liberal Democratic Party used its two-thirds majority in the Japanese Parliament’s lower house to override a rejection of the law by the opposition-controlled upper house. The last time a government did this was in 1951.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:51 AM


X-File Economists Gone Wild: The truth about inflation is out there. Who are you going to believe? (Jerry Bowyer, 1/11/08, National Review)

This “inflation lies” thing has gone viral, and now it’s pretty much anywhere unfiltered comments about economics can be posted on the Internet. It’s traveled quickly, but that’s no surprise: Ron Paul supporters are out in droves, and they can post on all sorts of topics since they’re already cruising the side streets of the information superhighway.

But the problems with this theory are as legion as its carriers.

For starters, how does one get so many people to lie about inflation at the same time? Gathering inflation stats is personnel-intensive stuff. I’ve met some of these price-gatherers, and there are a lot of them. They check prices all around the country, and they report to people who report to other people, and the data set is built from the bottom-up. There’s no guy in Washington who gets a call from a mysterious price-underestimating stranger (let’s call him Deep Discount) and then takes out a pen and attempts to make a 9 look like an 8.

And just how is this price secret being kept? Washington in the Bush era isn’t exactly a hostile environment for whistle-blowers. If you can make a remotely plausible claim that you tried to “speak truth to power” and power didn’t listen, you’re practically guaranteed a book deal and a roll-out on 60 Minutes. Don’t you think that would appeal to any of the hundreds of bureaucrats who toil in the CPI salt mines?

The X-File Economists also skip over the fact that multiple inflation measures are in operation today. Along with the department that measures CPI, there are departments for things like implicit-price deflators and PCE (personal consumption expenditure) deflators. Are all these folks in on the lie, too? Not even Karl Rove could exercise this kind of political control.

The $2,500 Car: Exactly a century after Henry Ford introduced the Model T, Tata Motors of India has launched a new people’s car. Is another revolution ahead? (Ralph Kinney Bennett, 1/11/08, The American)
The automotive world is abuzz about what might be the next Model T Ford or Volkswagen Beetle—an entry-level sedan to be built in India by Tata Motors Ltd. for about $2,500. [...]

Many have said Tata’s goal is impossible. The so-called “One Lakh” (equaling 100,000 rupees) car is a four-door compact sedan with a small luggage compartment under the front hood and a rear engine producing 33 horsepower. It will be a base model by all means, but it will not be one of those go-kart or jitney-like vehicles so com­mon throughout India and Southeast Asia. “It is not a car with plastic curtains or no roof—it’s a real car,” Ratan Tata, chairman of Tata Motors and the dreamer behind the One Lakh, assured Forbes magazine.

Two thousand five hundred dollars? For a new car? Adjusting prices to 2007 U.S. dollars, Ford’s Model T would have cost just under $20,000 and the Volkswagen Beetle just over $11,000 when they were introduced.

Sure, the new Model T costs a seventh of what the original did, but I spent $60 on a tank of gas yesterday, so THERE MUST BE INFLATION!

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Stem cells created without destroying embryos: A government official says the technique would make such research eligible for federal funding (Karen Kaplan, 1/11/08, Los Angeles Times)

Scientists reported Thursday that for the first time they have made human embryonic stem cells without destroying embryos, a development that the government's top stem cell official said would make the controversial research eligible for federal funding.

Story Landis, who chairs the National Institute of Health's stem cell task force, said that with certain safeguards, the new method appeared to comply with federal restrictions that have largely cut scientists off from the $28 billion the government spends on medical research each year.

Federal law prohibits the National Institutes of Health from paying for experiments that place human embryos at risk of injury or death, and spending on human embryonic stem cell research is restricted to projects involving a handful of cell lines that were created before August 2001.

January 10, 2008

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:42 PM


Meet TV's new Inspector Morse … he's grumpy, a big drinker and, oh yes, he's Swedish (TIM CORNWELL, 1/11/08, The Scotsman)

STEP aside, Rebus and Morse. The actor Kenneth Branagh, perennial darling of the English stage, is bringing a grumpy, diabetic, hard-drinking Swedish detective to the small screen.

BBC Scotland's drama department will oversee production of a £6 million TV series based on the best-selling Inspector Wallander novels by Sweden's Henning Mankell.

Branagh, dubbed a leading "luvvie" of the British acting world, first found fame in 1989 as a Shakespearean actor in his film of Henry V.

He said: "Wallander is a wonderfully complex and compelling character and I am excited to be playing this fascinatingly flawed, but deeply human detective."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:34 PM


Occupation of Palestinian land must end, Bush tells Israel (Donald Macintyre, 11 January 2008, Independent)

President George Bush last night called for Israel to end what he unequivocally called its "occupation" of territory seized in 1967 and proposed "compensation" as a means of solving the issue of Palestinian refugees.

As his first presidential three day visit to Israel and the West Bank neared its end, the US President went his furthest yet in publicly promoting what he had bullishly predicted would be a "signed peace treaty" between Israel and the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas "by the time I leave in office" in January 2009.

Mr Bush's – for him – unusual choice of the word occupation, a term still widely disliked on the Israeli right, came after a day on which he had sought after a meeting here with Mr Abbas to show he understood Palestinians' frustration at hundreds of Israeli checkpoints and closures in the occupied West Bank. He also warned Israel of its obligations to negotiate a "contiguous" independent Palestinian state, adding: "Swiss cheese isn't going to work when it comes to the outline of a state."

Bush calls for end to Israeli occupation (Rory McCarthy, January 11, 2008, The Guardian)
"The point of departure for permanent status negotiations to realise this vision seems clear: there should be an end to the occupation that began in 1967," he said.

He insisted it would be possible to reach a peace agreement within a year. The future borders of a Palestinian state, he said, would "require mutually agreed adjustments to the armistice lines of 1949 to reflect current realities".

The armistice lines mark where the boundary stood on the eve of the six-day war in 1967 before Israel captured East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza. His phrase "current realities" suggests he favours Israel keeping some of the settlement blocs in the West Bank, in line with a letter he sent to the former Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon three years ago.

...that he demand you live up to your own ideals.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:22 PM


Obituary: Sir Edmund Hillary, the unassuming beekeeper who conquered Mount Everest (NICK McDERMOTT, DANIEL BATES and BEN CLERKIN, 11th January 2008, Daily Mail)

Sir Edmund Hillary, the first man to scale mount Everest, has died in his native New Zealand aged 88.

The unassuming adventurer will be forever remembered as the first man to climb the world's highest mountain, which many had thought impregnable.

More than 30 previous expeditions had failed to conquer Everest's 29,028ft peak, with many lives lost in the attempt.

-The TIME 100: Hillary/Norgay

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:21 PM


From father to son, Arab despotism may have merit (Shlomo Ben-Ami, January 09, 2008, Daily Star)

The problem of succession in the secular Arab republics highlights their predicament in the transition to a post-revolutionary phase, for succession in regimes failing to build strong institutions always risks triggering a systemic crisis. While the decision by some to favor dynastic succession may be democratically lacking, it is not entirely devoid of merit. Arguably, it is a choice for economic modernization, for an end to the politics of conflict, and for positive political change down the road.

Years of Western-backed repressive authoritarianism nipped in the bud any potential growth of a liberal alternative to incumbent Arab regimes, and turned any abrupt move to free elections into a dangerous exercise in Islamic democracy. A democracy that produces governments led by Hamas, Hizbullah, or the Muslim Brotherhood is inevitably bound to be anti-Western and opposed to a US-inspired "peace process" with Israel.

But only briefly, then the same democratic forces that brought them to power will force them to Westernize further in order to raise living standards. Meanwhile, hereditary successions in Syria and Egypt just postpone the day when Islamists take over democratically, they don't avoid it. Seif al-Islam in Libya looks like the exception--a dictatorship version of the merely monarchical Mohamed of Morocco--who may liberalize fast enough to avoid a period where a party more extreme than we would prefer gets to govern.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:19 PM


The $1.4 Trillion Question: The Chinese are subsidizing the American way of life. Are we playing them for suckers—or are they playing us? (James Fallows, Jan/Feb 2008, The Atlantic)

Through the quarter-century in which China has been opening to world trade, Chinese leaders have deliberately held down living standards for their own people and propped them up in the United States. This is the real meaning of the vast trade surplus—$1.4 trillion and counting, going up by about $1 billion per day—that the Chinese government has mostly parked in U.S. Treasury notes. In effect, every person in the (rich) United States has over the past 10 years or so borrowed about $4,000 from someone in the (poor) People’s Republic of China. Like so many imbalances in economics, this one can’t go on indefinitely, and therefore won’t. But the way it ends—suddenly versus gradually, for predictable reasons versus during a panic—will make an enormous difference to the U.S. and Chinese economies over the next few years, to say nothing of bystanders in Europe and elsewhere.

Any economist will say that Americans have been living better than they should—which is by definition the case when a nation’s total consumption is greater than its total production, as America’s now is. Economists will also point out that, despite the glitter of China’s big cities and the rise of its billionaire class, China’s people have been living far worse than they could. That’s what it means when a nation consumes only half of what it produces, as China does.

Neither government likes to draw attention to this arrangement, because it has been so convenient on both sides.

Nice to see that Mr. Fallows has finally moved on. 25 years ago he was droning on about how unhealthy our relationship with Japan was and how it spelled impending doom.

But he still doesn't get it. The Chinese have an unstable society so a guaranteed return from loans to America, the worlds most stable, is awfully attractive. Meanwhile, Americans reap a far higher rate of return--one of the main benefits of that greater development--which has given us our extraordinary household net worth. Consumer goods are a sideshow that folks like Mr. Fallows can never see past.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:14 PM


Iran's Provocation (WALTER RUSSELL MEAD, January 10, 2008, Wall Street Journal)

Two centuries of experience have created a broad consensus in the U.S. that the freedom of the seas cannot be compromised or abandoned.

The link between global freedom of the seas and foreign policy has been a driving force in modern world history. Like Britain before us, the U.S. is a commercial power whose economic interests have led it to play a unique global role in the interests of making the world hospitable to its investments and trade. The Pax Britannica and the Pax Americana have both rested on sea power, and any country that challenges America's ability to secure vital sea lanes risks the full weight of U.S. military power.

The Straits of Hormuz, site of the weekend provocation, are exceptionally sensitive. The ability of the U.S. to protect the free flow of oil through these waters is absolutely vital to the global economy. Any U.S. military response to a challenge there would be swift and overwhelming -- perhaps far greater than the Iranians expect.

The danger of war between the U.S. and Iran over free passage in the Straits is very real. Iranian authorities may not fully understand the political and military consequences of such raids. The commanders of the maritime forces of the Revolutionary Guard, by all accounts less professional than the commanders of Iran's regular navy, may be operating without central authority, and may have underestimated the likelihood and the scale of the probable U.S. response. Believing that retaliation would be minor and half-hearted, they may even be seeking a limited confrontation with the U.S. for domestic political reasons.

Last weekend, the Iranians fled before shots were fired. Good for them. If Iran wants a large-scale military conflict with a U.S. that is angry, aroused and united, endangering American naval vessels in the Straits of Hormuz is the right way to get one.

What's most significant here is the triviality of the threat. Long gone are the days when several world powers had serious navies and needed them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:37 PM


They’re Playing My Song. Time to Work Out. (STEVEN KURUTZ, 1/10/08, NY Times)

The playlist fixation has a scientific basis: Studies have shown that listening to music during exercise can improve results, both in terms of being a motivator (people exercise longer and more vigorously to music) and as a distraction from negatives like fatigue. But are certain songs more effective than others?

Generally speaking there is a science to choosing an effective exercise soundtrack, said Dr. Costas Karageorghis, an associate professor of sport psychology at Brunel University in England, who has studied the effects of music on physical performance for 20 years. Dr. Karageorghis created the Brunel Music Rating Inventory, a questionnaire that is used to rate the motivational qualities of music in the context of sport and exercise. For nearly a decade, he has been administering the questionnaire to panels representing different demographics, who listen to 90 seconds of a song and rate its motivational qualities for various physical activities.

One of the most important elements, Dr. Karageorghis found, is a song’s tempo, which should be between 120 and 140 beats-per-minute, or B.P.M. That pace coincides with the range of most commercial dance music, and many rock songs are near that range, which leads people to develop “an aesthetic appreciation for that tempo,” he said. It also roughly corresponds to the average person’s heart rate during a routine workout — say, 20 minutes on an elliptical trainer by a person who is more casual exerciser than fitness warrior.

...listen to books interesting enough that you don't feel like you're completely wasting your time.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:19 PM


Giuliani's Shock-and-Awe Tax Plan (James Pethokoukis, 1/10/08, US News)

[R]udy Giuliani's $6 trillion tax plan...would be the largest tax cut in the history of the American republic. Actually, of any republic—ours, Rome's, Greece's. Just huge:

$6.3 trillion over 10 years.

Make permanent the Bush tax cuts NOW...not in 2010

Permanently index AMT and then eliminate it when practical (no timetable).

Get rid of the Death Tax

Lower cap gains and dividend rate to 10% and index to inflation.

Lower corp rate from 35% to 25%.

Trio of tax free savings accounts—Roth style—available to ALL income classes.

* Retirement account ($5000 year/single, $10k year/couple, draw only at retirement)
* General account (same limits, available at any time for any reason)
* Lifetime skills account (only for education, job training, $1000 year/single)

Tax simplification strategy—one page tax return

Three rates—10% (40k), 15% (150k), and 30% (150k+). [...]

This plan would be huge. It would be 4% of GDP. By comparison, [the George W. Bush] tax cut was 1.3% of GDP. Reagan's was 1.9% of GDP.

...it's not a bad idea to drown them out with a nuclear blast.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:17 PM


Michigan Next, G.O.P. Rivals Turn to the Economy (MARC SANTORA and ADAM NAGOURNEY, 1/10/08, NY Times)

Mr. Romney told an audience of more than 200 at Grand Valley State University in Grand Rapids that Michigan’s economic woes were personal to him and said the state’s prospects were tied up with the nation’s.

He talked at length about his roots in the state, where he was born and reared, drawing applause when he recalled his father, George, who was governor of Michigan. He went on to recall campaigning as a teenager for his father, whose slogan was about getting Michigan “on the move again.”

“We’re going to make sure this state gets on the move again,” Mr. Romney said. “I care about Michigan. For me, it’s personal. It’s personal for me because it’s where I was born and raised.”

Earlier in the day, after hearing from a voter who recalled his father, Mr. Romney choked up momentarily, according to a pool reporter who was present.

You're a Romney, not a Muskie.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:13 PM


A tax even the Right might like: With so many smart conservatives speaking out in favour of carbon taxes, it's strange that the Harper Conservatives won't discuss the idea. (The Ottawa Citizen, January 09, 2008)

The pro-business C.D. Howe Institute, in the name of economic growth, calls for green-oriented taxes to replace taxes that penalize productivity, as income and corporate-profit taxes currently do. The Canadian Council of Chief Executives says that making our economy sustainable requires putting a price on pollution, including greenhouse gases.

The Financial Times of Britain and The Economist advocate a carbon tax, as does Harvard economist (and former top George W. Bush adviser) Gregory Mankiw, on the grounds that such a tax would be a relatively transparent pro-environment measure and no harder to administer than a sales tax.

David Frum, an important conservative theorist and a former speechwriter for Mr. Bush, calls for a tax on fuels that underwrite repressive and unpredictable regimes such as Saudi Arabia's and Iran's. "[I]t would look exactly like the carbon tax advocated by global warming crusaders," he wrote last week in a piece for the American Enterprise Institute -- a piece in which he called upon sensible conservatives to take control of the environmental agenda from tree-hugging radicals peddling visions of apocalypse.<
A consumption tax that the Right can get the Left to help pass -- and sell to women as showing that conservatives care about the environment--is too good an opportunity to pass up, just couple it with reductions on income taxation. Tax what you don't want, not what you do.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:08 PM


South Carolina Primary Will Be a 'Turning Point,' Huckabee Says (Perry Bacon Jr. and Juliet Eilperin, 1/10/08, Washington Post)

[S]outh Carolina will probably be critical for Huckabee and former senator Fred D. Thompson (Tenn.), who have staked their candidacies on appealing to Southern voters. After finishing third in Iowa, Thompson skipped New Hampshire and came to South Carolina on Tuesday to start a statewide bus tour. Both campaigns are devoting much of their limited budgets for television advertising and ground operation here.

"No modern Republican has ever won the presidency without winning South Carolina," said Bob Wickers, a Huckabee adviser. "That's how important this state is to us."

Bill Lacy, Thompson's campaign manager, called the South Carolina primary "the decisive contest in the opening of the 2008 campaign." The state may be the last hope for a Thompson candidacy that has not been able to deliver on its hype.

The candidates will be appealing to a state party made up of powerful and distinct constituencies, including veterans who live in the southern part of the state, social conservatives in the north and an increasing number of Northern transplants who have relatively liberal views on social issues, such as abortion.

McCain, in particular, is focusing on veterans. In his first stop here Wednesday after campaigning in Michigan for most of the day, the senator held a rally at the Citadel, a military school in Charleston. Riding the momentum of his come-from-behind win in New Hampshire, his campaign is hoping that the backing of key establishment figures, including state Attorney General Henry McMaster and Maj. Gen. Stanhope S. Spears, head of the state's National Guard, will help push him to victory.

"We've got the fuel to run a campaign in South Carolina," said Rick Davis, McCain's campaign manager. "You can't go there and set that up overnight, as some are trying to do."

It wouldn't be surprising to find out later that Fred stayed in for SC at Senator McCain's request.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:55 AM


Richardson dropping of Democratic presidential race (NEDRA PICKLER, 1/10/08, Associated Press)

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson is shelving his campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination after back-to-back fourth-place finishes in the first two contests in Iowa and New Hampshire.

Setting aside the skirt-chasing question, he is the ideal VP choice for both Hillary and Obama (or for McCain, when you get right down to it). He has the executive experience and foreign policy chops that senators lack, is reasonably moderate, and has the Hispanic thing going on.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:44 AM


Romney may give up on South Carolina (Jonathan Martin, Jan 10, 2008, Politico)

Mitt Romney is going off the air in South Carolina, at least through next week’s Michigan primary. And he may not contest the Palmetto State at all.

Candidates who have to write off the South don't win the GOP nomination.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:40 AM


Kerry endorsing Obama for president (Associated Press, January 10, 2008)

Barack Obama is being endorsed by fellow Sen. John Kerry, the Democrats' 2004 presidential nominee who lost to George W. Bush that year and gave up his own plans for a 2008 run a year ago.

Presumably Teresa is jealous of Hillary.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:47 AM


The Coming Attack on Barack (Joe Conason, 1/10/08, Real Clear Politics)

Next will come questions about the Chicago church he attends, whose eccentric pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, is a close friend and spiritual adviser to the Obama family. In an article published on the Newsmax website just days ago, Wright is depicted as a raving black nationalist and a proud associate of Louis Farrakhan. He is prone to polarizing remarks about a wide range of topics, from Jews and Israel to the disappearance of Natalee Holloway.

Thankfully, there were no SAT questions asking you to differentiate between raving and being "polarizing" where Jews are concerned.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:38 AM


Saudi Girls Gone Wild (Mona Eltahawy 01.09.08, Forbes)

Girls of Riyadh is no literary masterpiece, but it is written in the language of the younger generation--"webese," if you will. The book takes the form of weekly e-mails, which the narrator sends out to a list. Each post details the latest in the lives of its four protagonists. In addition to its clever nod to e-mail, the book makes reference to mobile phones and text messaging--all of which are widely used by young people in Saudi Arabia.

For the old guard, the articulation of young women's desires and frustrations wasn't the only shocking thing about Girls of Riyadh. It also let them in on just how many barriers to communication the Internet has removed. One of the characters sends and receives regular text messages from the man she is in love with, and another conducts an online relationship complete with Internet dating subterfuge--she uses a fake photograph for her profile.

As Saudi citizens become bolder, their government is trying to figure out how to let the younger generation have its say without releasing social forces so volatile they would turn society on its ear. In the city of Jeddah, the municipal government first tried to put a stop to graffiti artists, then changed course and put up designated graffiti walls.

As for Girls of Riyadh, authorities eventually lifted the ban on in-country publication. Andrew Hammond, author of Popular Culture in the Arab World, believes the novel is largely responsible for a "genuine independent flowering" in Saudi literature. "It has led to a sudden jump in the country's literary output, and half of the novelists are women."

One of those women used the pen name Siba al-Harz to write The Others, an account of "enforced" lesbianism resulting from the strict segregation of the sexes and guilt among young women in Saudi society. Considered more literary than Girls of Riyadh, it employs a sophisticated use of classical Arabic, and its publisher--the same one that published Alsanea's book--calls it one of the best books by young Saudi women writers today.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:28 AM


Lack of Policy Detail Raises Doubts About Obama (Mort Kondracke, 1/09/08, Real Clear Politics)

Welling tears may have helped "humanize" Clinton, especially with women voters, but I think she also made a dent with her updated version of Walter Mondale's 1984 taunt of his "new ideas" challenger, Sen. Gary Hart (D-Colo.): "Where's the beef?"

Obama delivers thrilling speeches about "hope" and "change" and ending the poisonous partisanship that consumes Washington.

His crowds love the message, as do I. But they seem to cheer him most when he refers to what can be done if the partisanship ends -- 47 million people can get health insurance, the planet can be saved from global warming, teachers will be better rewarded, youngsters will have early-childhood education, etc.

But it's a litany of objectives pretty much devoid of details. And Obama rarely engages in question-and-answer sessions with voters to give them a chance to draw him out -- or him, to show how thoughtful he is.

Right now, he's a national Rorschach test, with voters reading into him their fondest hopes for what America can do and be.

When you try to run as an ink blot your opponents get to describe you to the voters.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:20 AM


New U.S. president won't fulfill all Europe's desires (Judy Dempsey, January 10, 2008, IHT)

Certainly the attacks of Sept. 11 and the invasion of Iraq transformed the United States and the trans-Atlantic relationship. But change was already taking place after the end of the Cold War nearly 20 years ago. On Bill Clinton's watch, the United States swung back and forth between multilateralism and isolationism, while at the same time asking the Europeans to carry more of the burden in defense and peacekeeping.

Clinton did not venture into the Middle East to bring his stature to bear on negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians until his second term. His administration refused to submit the UN Kyoto Protocol on climate change for ratification and did not support the new International Criminal Court. But Clinton's charm and persuasion helped to shield America from criticism.

The Bush administration continued these policies, using a much blunter tone. It unilaterally withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty it signed with the former Soviet Union in 1972, which forbade the testing and deployment of a ballistic missile defense system. It signed a pact with India, supporting its nuclear weapons program, which further undermined the nuclear nonproliferation treaty. Yet when President Vladimir Putin of Russia suspended participation in the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe last month, there was an outcry by the United States and the Europeans. They cast Putin as a potential spoiler of the post-Cold War order, ignoring what Washington had done earlier. So far, neither Republican nor Democrat candidates have suggested returning to the ABM treaty.

Then there is NATO, which Clinton had reservations about. In 1999, he cajoled the military alliance into bombing Serb targets in order to stop the ethnic cleansing of Kosovar Albanians. But NATO's European allies were hard-pressed to provide even basic logistics.

The alliance was further downgraded after Sept. 11. When the former secretary general of NATO, George Robertson, pushed through a declaration under Article Five of the NATO treaty, which commits member countries to defend an ally that has been attacked, Bush turned down the offer. The Pentagon did not want any interference by a multilateral alliance. That decision dented NATO's pride. Small wonder that NATO European allies, led by France and Germany, stopped the alliance from supporting the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

It is a misnomer to call Chirac and Schroeder allies--they were objectively pro-Saddam and anti-American. Not coincidentally, their people dispatched them and replaced them with more Anglospheric leaders who will get to follow President McCain into Iran.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:12 AM


America's great game: The US and Britain claim defeating the Taliban is part of a "good war" against al-Qaeda. Yet there is evidence the 2001 invasion was planned before 9/11 (John Pilger, 10 January 2008, New Statesman)

The reason the United States gave for invading Afghanistan in October 2001 was "to destroy the infrastructure of al-Qaeda, the perpetrators of 9/11". The women of Rawa say this is false. In a rare statement on 4 December that went unreported in Britain, they said: "By experience, [we have found] that the US does not want to defeat the Taliban and al-Qaeda, because then they will have no excuse to stay in Afghanistan and work towards the realisation of their economic, political and strategic interests in the region."

The truth about the "good war" is to be found in compelling evidence that the 2001 invasion, widely supported in the west as a justifiable response to the 11 September attacks, was actually planned two months prior to 9/11...

Someone will have to explain this. Yes, George W. Bush was likely to regime change Afghanistan and Iraq irrespective of 9-11, because the Taliban and Ba'ath are intolerable and the people of these countries deserve the opportunity to live in capitalist protestant democracies. Why isn't that good?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:35 AM


As leaders move Indonesia forward, a repudiation of Suharto (Seth Mydans, January 10, 2008, IHT)

From one of the most centralized and controlled countries in the world, it has transformed itself into one of the most decentralized, free, open and self-regulating.

From a brutal and corrupt regime under the heel of the military, it has become the standard bearer of democracy in Southeast Asia. It stands out for its political liberalism at a time when coups and coup attempts have discredited the region's two exemplars of democracy, Thailand and the Philippines.

"Indonesia represents a good-news story in the region and in the world," said Ralph Boyce, a former United States ambassador to Indonesia during the post-Suharto period.

It will devolve into its constituent parts over time, but has an opportunity to do so in orderly fashion.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:27 AM


Clinton, Obama sharpen their rhetoric
: The leading Democrats and their backers may be done with gentility. (Doyle McManus and Peter Nicholas, 1/10/08, Los Angeles Times)

On the way to her win in New Hampshire, Hillary Rodham Clinton and her husband criticized Barack Obama for spouting "poetry" and "fairy tales."

The day after, Obama said he was ready to use sharp words to counter attacks.

"I come from Chicago politics. We're accustomed to rough-and-tumble," the Illinois senator said Wednesday in one of many television interviews. "We have to make sure that we take it to them just like they take it to us."

It didn't take long for the first volley, though it did not come from Obama but from an ally.

Citing a key moment at the end of the New Hampshire campaign, Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) said Clinton had choked up when someone asked about her hair, "not in response to other issues. . . . Her appearance brought her to tears, but not Hurricane Katrina."

Hillary's negatives are so high, and permanently so, that she has nothing to lose and the nomination to gain by going after Senator Obama. Given the utter absence of any ideas in his campaign and how little people know about him, such attacks will be particularly effective. In fact, she gets a multiplier effect because when he responds it will have a greater impact than usual on his own negatives because he's such a cypher.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:33 AM


For U.S., The Goal Is Now 'Iraqi Solutions': Approach Acknowledges Benchmarks Aren't Met (Thomas E. Ricks and Karen DeYoung, 1/10/08, Washington Post)

In the year since President Bush announced he was changing course in Iraq with a troop "surge" and a new strategy, U.S. military and diplomatic officials have begun their own quiet policy shift. After countless unsuccessful efforts to push Iraqis toward various political, economic and security goals, they have decided to let the Iraqis figure some things out themselves.

From Gen. David H. Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker to Army privates and aid workers, officials are expressing their willingness to stand back and help Iraqis develop their own answers. "We try to come up with Iraqi solutions for Iraqi problems," said Stephen Fakan, the leader of a provincial reconstruction team with U.S. troops in Fallujah.

In many cases -- particularly on the political front -- Iraqi solutions bear little resemblance to the ambitious goals for 2007 that Bush laid out in his speech to the nation last Jan. 10.

Self-governance...what a concept....

January 9, 2008

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:24 PM


Border fence cases seem headed to court (SUZANNE GAMBOA, 1/09/08, Associated Press)

The government is readying 102 court cases against landowners in Arizona, California and Texas for blocking efforts to select sites for a fence along the Mexican border, a Homeland Security Department official said Wednesday.

With the lawsuits expected soon, the legal action would mark an escalation in the clash between the government and the property owners.

Property shmoperty...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:19 PM


Justices Question Validity of Voter I.D. Case (LINDA GREENHOUSE, 1/09/08, NY Times)

The tenor of the argument suggested, however, that rather than simply decide the case in favor of the state, a majority of five justices will go further and rule that the challenge to the statute, the strictest voter-identification law in the country, was improperly brought in the first place. Such a ruling could make it much more difficult to challenge any new state election regulations before they go into effect.

The Indiana Democratic Party and the American Civil Liberties Union challenged the 2005 law before it took effect, seeking a declaration that it was unconstitutional “on its face” and could not be enforced against anyone, not even the majority of Indiana voters who could easily produce the required photo I.D.

This sort of approach, known as a “facial challenge,” is the standard way of attacking election regulations, from the poll taxes that the Supreme Court struck down in the 1960’s to more recent redistricting and ballot-access cases.

But the Roberts court has displayed deep skepticism toward such challenges, most notably in the abortion area, on the ground that they require courts to step outside a limited role of resolving concrete disputes brought by parties with actual injuries.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:59 PM


The break-up of the union now appears inevitable: With nationalism on the rise in every corner, 2008 will see the UK stretched to breaking point. (Iain Macwhirter, January 10, 2008, The Guardian)

Who could have forecast 12 months ago that Britain would be starting 2008 with nationalist parties in power, or sharing it, in all three devolved administrations? Last year was supposed to have been a celebration of the 300th anniversary of the Act of Union. In fact it was about dismantling it: the SNP is now running Holyrood; Plaid Cymru is in coalition with Labour in Cardiff; and the nationalist Sinn Féin shares power with the DUP in Stormont. It is the unionist nightmare come true: a separatist clean sweep.

Anyone who was paying attention.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:53 PM


Evolutionists at war over altruism's origins (Steve Connor, 10 January 2008, Independent)

An intellectual war of words has broken out between two of the world's leading evolutionists. Oxford University's Richard Dawkins and Harvard's Edward Wilson have gone head to head over the evolution of altruism in the animal kingdom, and whether it can have come about as a result of something called group selection.

The subject matter of their dispute is social insects, particularly ants, which display a supreme form of altruism in that sterile workers lay down their lives for the benefit of their fertile colleagues in the colony.

Conventional Darwinian theory could not really explain why one individual should sacrifice its own life, and its precious genes, for the benefit of another individual, unless it could be viewed in terms of group selection, when individuals do it for the benefit of the colony or the species.

But nearly half a century ago, scientists punched intellectual holes in the theory of group selection and pointed instead to something called kin selection, when altruism in social communities evolves as a result of one individual being closely related to a member of the same colony.

Neither of which explain it either, not tell us how many genes fit on the head of a pin?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:11 PM


Time for a graceful Romney exit (Holly Robichaud, 1/09/08, Boston Herald)

Last night Mitt Romney tried to spin his loss as a silver medal. The better analogy is that he was disqualified last night.

The fact of the matter is that Massachusetts officials win in New Hampshire. They don’t lose. When Clinton first ran for President, he was the comeback kid for placing second to Tsongas. It would have been a significant victory if McCain had placed second, but he placed first. For McCain this is a mega victory and a mega loss for Romney.

There was no reason for Romney to lose in New Hampshire. He had the Massachusetts advantage. He owns a second home in the granite state. And he significantly out spent all of his opponents. Therefore, you must conclude that not only did Iowa voters completely reject Romney, but so did New Hampshire voters. There is no excuse for this loss. There is no credible spin for this spanking.

We'll give him the benefit of the doubt, for now, and assume he's only staying in for MI in a nod to his dad.

The All-Too-Resistible Romney: He has everything going for him but voters. (Fred Barnes, 01/14/2008, Weekly Standard)
There's a painful truth about Romney's candidacy: Republicans in general and conservatives in particular are resisting him in droves. This was first suggested in poll after poll that found Romney stuck in the high 20s. And it was confirmed by his dismal showing in the Iowa caucuses, in which he captured only a sliver of the conservative vote and roughly a quarter of the Republican vote overall.

Here's the profile of a Romney voter in Iowa: upper middle class, urban, someone who thinks a candidate's religion shouldn't matter. That's a pretty narrow constituency, and not only in Iowa. To win the Republican nomination, Romney has to reach well beyond that core.

The voters he needs are the ones Mike Huckabee, the guitar-strumming Baptist preacher from Arkansas, grabbed to win in Iowa. And they're the same ones who earlier rallied behind Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. Their profile: lower middle class, rural, evangelical Christian.

Romney won't attract them by generating excitement--for the simple reason that he's incapable of generating excitement. His speeches are solid and forward-looking and serious and strike all the conservative notes. They qualify as thoughtful, and they stir a polite form of enthusiasm. But excitement? No. He'll have to leave that to others.

Nor is Romney in a position to artfully change his positions on issues. He moved to the right on social issues--abortion, stem cells, marriage, guns--before entering the Republican race.
He was born to be Secretary of Transportation or Commerce.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:09 PM


Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:05 PM


Hizballah to Bush: "Come on Over!" (ANDREW LEE BUTTERS, 1/09/08, TIME)

Lebanon isn't a scheduled stop on the President's weeklong trip, but when rumors began circulating that Bush might make a surprise visit as a sign of support for the besieged American-backed government here, Hizbllah planners went into overdrive. "Hizballah leaves nothing to chance," one of the group's commanders told TIME. "Bush is a coward he will never dare to visit Lebanon, but if he did it, we are ready to put him under tight siege." And they mean this in a nice way.

Hizballah and other opposition groups have already reserved buses to move hundreds of thousands of demonstrators on short notice to follow the President wherever he goes, the commander said, if Bush should choose to appear. They have organized security teams to prevent the crowds from getting out of hand, or from being infiltrated by any Al Qaeda-type groups that might try to assassinate the President.

Go, insist on speaking to Nasrallah, and recognize the sovereign state of Hezbollahstan--then let's see him try to refuse it. Baby Assad might drop dead right then and save us some effort.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:45 PM


Mitt not re-upping his S.C. and Fla. TV time (Jonathan Martin, 1/09/08, Politico)

Mitt Romney hasn't extended his television presence into next week in South Carolina and Florida, an aide confirms.

Romney has been on TV for months in both, owning the airwaves long before his GOP rivals purchased their first spots.

But his multimillion-dollar investment in the two key states that may ultimately decide the GOP nominee has not paid off as he continues to lag behind rivals there.

And that's all she wrote....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:23 PM


CPM hugs capitalism, allies shrug it off (January 09, 2008)

The Communist Party of India (Marxist) contention that capitalism was the only way to industrialise West Bengal has made Left Front partners aghast.

"The CPI(M) is speaking the language of Manmohan Singh. The unabashed advocacy of capitalism by Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee cannot be the political position of the Marxist Leninist party," Manoj Bhattacharjee, a central committee member of the RSP, a Left Front constituent, said.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:17 PM


FairTax's Plausible Solution (DIANA FURCHTGOTT-ROTH, January 9, 2008, NY Sun)

Although Congress might not be ready for this drastic step, a move from taxing income to taxing consumption would be highly desirable. [...]

Many objections have been made to the FairTax. A professor of economics and law at the University of Michigan, James Hines, jokes that America doesn't have consumption taxes because Democrats think that they hurt poor people and Republicans think that they make raising revenue too easy, thereby encouraging spending. America will only get them, he wrote, when Republicans realize that they hurt the poor and Democrats see that it's easy to use them for raising revenue.

Some say it's impossible for Congress to give up income taxes, that Congress would just tack a new federal sales tax on top of existing taxes. But it's certainly within Congress's power to eliminate income taxes, which were instituted only in 1913, and if the congressional spending beast gets a new source of revenue, it might be willing to make the change.

State legislators aren't going back to their constituents and telling them they refuse to repeal the income tax.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:12 PM


What Hope for real Change in America?: With slogans promising Hope, Belief and Change, there is a surge of excitement around the US presidential primaries. But can anybody tell us what the Obama-Clinton contest is about? (Mick Hume, 1/09/08, Spiked)

[I] cannot quite join in with all the hype about this being the most exciting US election in decades. Because the nagging question remains, what are they voting for? ‘Change’ is the slogan of all candidates - reflecting the widespread recognition of the state of decay of politics in America.

But what sort of change do they mean, and what choices are on offer to the electorate? That, after all, is supposed to be the point of a democratic election.

Search high and low for the candidates’ clear political positions and principles, and if you find any do let the rest of the world know - because the candidates themselves seem unwilling to do so. There is less serious debate about substantive issues, less of a clear clash of competing visions of the future than ever before. Every line between them seems blurred, apart from their contrasting images in the photo wars - Clinton with her ex-president husband and his ageing advisers, Obama with his young family.

In fact, behind all of the whipped-up excitement about the close race and the titanic clash, it is possible to see that, in real political terms, this is shaping up to be the dullest US electoral contest in living memory.

The old labels left and right, which we know are pretty much redundant now when applied to mainstream politics in the UK or Europe, look frankly ridiculous when commentators try to pin them on Obama or a Republican candidate like John McCain.

With the Third Way working throughout the Anglosphere--to the point where we're headed towards a fourth decade of uninterrupted economic growth, unprecedented global liberalization, and declining social pathologies--why would a major party propose significant changes? Modern elections are and should be about who is most willing to continue on the Way. In America this time that would involve some privatization/personalization of Social Security and universalized health savings accounts. Whichever party stakes out that ground soonest will win.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:02 PM


The Lebanon Red Line (David Makovsky, 1/09/08, Haaretz)

The common view is that the Bush administration does not want Israel to hold talks with Syria because Damascus is on the "waiting list of the 'axis of evil.'" To be sure, the U.S. has no love lost for Syria due to terrorism, but as Annapolis indicated, the U.S. knew when it was advantageous to invite Syria to a peace conference. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice believes Syrian participation in Annapolis could reduce terrorism.

Rather, the Bush administration's anger with Syria is most pronounced over Lebanon, an issue which has become more acute as Syria continues to block the naming of a new Lebanese president. Of all the reasons Bush cited at his last press conference in late December when he stated, "my patience ran out on President Assad a long time ago," the longest explanation focused on Syria's efforts to destabilize Lebanon.

What is not appreciated in Israel is that the Bush administration deems the very fragile Lebanese sovereignty as one of the great successes of its Middle East policy.

Booting Syria out was a good thing, but Hezbollahstan is essentially a sovereifgn nation of its own, so until the state is officially divided it won't be a Bush success nor a complete loss for Syria. And until the regime is changed in Syria the President's Middle East policy won't be successful. He has to ignore the Israeli desire for "stability." It is a disservice to Syrians, Kurds, Lebanese, Palestinians and Iraqis as well as our own ideals.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:46 AM


FEC Reduced to Offering Advice: Without a Quorum, Rulings on Campaigns Are Nonbinding (Matthew Mosk, January 9, 2008, Washington Post)

Down to two members and unable to muster a quorum, the Federal Election Commission has decided to offer advice instead of binding decisions on questions from political campaigns.

This week, organizations with pending requests for decisions from the six-member FEC on campaign matters received phone calls from agency staffers letting them know not to expect formal rulings anytime soon.

First ever four-way split (Andy Merten and Domenico Montanaro, 1/08/08, NBC First Read)
In the modern primary era, this is the first four-way split in Iowa and New Hampshire in the Republican and Democratic races. In other words, there is no precedent for what's taken place in this election -- not in the generation since Iowa and New Hampshire have mattered together. Since 1976, when there have been winners in all four states, there has never been four different candidates who have won these two states.

So, not only is the absence of the FEC not having a negative impact on the vibrancy of the democracy, one can't help notice that the big money corporate interest candidates--Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani--have already been eliminated from consideration and all the trial lawyer money and union support in the world couldn't make John Edwards more than a well-coiffed afterthought.

Why Feb. 5 looks super to Clinton: Her core supporters will have a major say on the most important day of the primary season. (Peter Wallsten, 1/09/08, Los Angeles Times)

Strip away the independents who made up about four in 10 participants in Tuesday's Democratic primary, thanks to the state's open-balloting rules, and Clinton outpaced Obama among registered Democrats 45% to 34%, according to an exit poll conducted for a media consortium.

Moreover, she beat the Illinois senator among women -- a crucial group for her and one that she lost in last week's Iowa caucuses -- and among lower-income households and older voters. [...]

If her advantage among Democrats holds true in the flurry of primaries set for Feb. 5 -- when core Democrats are expected to be more dominant -- Clinton could regain the traction that seemed lost when last week's defeat in Iowa ended her yearlong reign as the Democratic front-runner.

Only registered Democrats can take part in a number of the Feb. 5 contests that are expected to decide the nomination. Non-Democrats are not welcome, for example, in voting in Connecticut, Arizona and in Clinton's home state of New York, potential strongholds for Clinton that each control more nomination delegates than the relative handful from Iowa, New Hampshire and other earlier states.

Another major prize that day is California, where unaffiliated voters will be permitted to participate in the Democratic primary. But some strategists believe California's Latino voters could boost Clinton, who is more popular in that group than Obama.

Retooled Campaign and Loyal Voters Add Up (MICHAEL POWELL, 1/09/08, NY Times)
The unexpected closeness of the vote also suggested the depth of support for Mrs. Clinton, particularly among older and working-class voters. At her headquarters at the university here, many supporters spoke of rooting for one Clinton or another for a decade and a half.

“I haven’t stopped rooting for her a very long time,” Mary Maggette of Nashua said. “I wasn’t going to leave her in a time of trouble.”

Caroline Florom, 38; her husband, Vaughn Tamzarian, 48; and their five children — the youngest in a double-wide stroller — arrived next, after voting.

The most dramatic moment of their day was at 8 a.m., when they decided whom they were going to vote for.

“We went to hear both of them speak this weekend, and we stayed up until 3 a.m. last night listening to their speeches again on C-Span,” Ms. Florom said of Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama. “We like them both.

“But in the end, she was the one bringing up the real issues about the middle class like college loans. His speeches felt like pep rallies.”

Can Hillary Cry Her Way Back to the White House? (Maureen Dowd, 1/09/08, Der Spiegel)
When I walked into the office Monday, people were clustering around a computer to watch what they thought they would never see: Hillary Clinton with the unmistakable look of tears in her eyes.

A woman gazing at the screen was grimacing, saying it was bad. Three guys watched it over and over, drawn to the "humanized" Hillary. One reporter who covers security issues cringed. "We are at war," he said. "Is this how she'll talk to Kim Jong-il?"

Another reporter joked: "That crying really seemed genuine. I'll bet she spent hours thinking about it beforehand." He added dryly: "Crying doesn't usually work in campaigns. Only in relationships."

Bill Clinton was known for biting his lip, but here was Hillary doing the Muskie. Certainly it was impressive that she could choke up and stay on message.

Crying is the message--look at who she's trying to appeal to.

McCain: The Man Who Came Back From the Dead: Scenes from an unlikely victory celebration in New Hampshire. (Byron York, 1/09/08, National Review)

Back in 2006, in the worst days of the Iraq war, John McCain used to talk about keeping a “steady strain.” It’s an old Navy term McCain uses a lot, and it refers to keeping the right level of tension on lines tying one ship to another, to prevent abrupt motions that could sever the lines and lead to disaster. Applying the idea to Iraq, McCain would tell nervous war supporters that it was important not to get too excited when something went well in the war, or too depressed when things went badly.

Last summer, McCain found himself giving the same advice to supporters of his own campaign, which nearly died from the twin crises of out-of-control spending and McCain’s hugely unpopular stance on illegal immigration. “In the Navy, we often talk of the need to keep a ‘steady strain’ on the lines between ships, to avoid a sudden jerk or movement that could easily snap the line,” McCain told supporters in a fundraising email last June. “In campaign life, we ride the high crests and sail through low troughs…It is through those experiences that I know we must keep the ‘steady strain.’“ [...]

[B]y the end of the night it was clear that McCain’s victory over rival Mitt Romney was nearly across-the-board. According to the Fox News exit poll, among voters who cited the war in Iraq as the most important issue facing the country, McCain beat Romney 45 percent to 27 percent. Among those who said terrorism is most important, McCain beat Romney 42 percent to 24 percent. Among those who said the economy is most important, McCain beat Romney 39 percent to 22 percent. Only those who said illegal immigration is the most important issue preferred Romney, who beat McCain in that category 53 percent to 20 percent.

And when Fox asked voters which of the candidates is most qualified to be commander-in-chief — the bottom-line issue for many Republicans — McCain beat Romney handily, 43 percent to 28 percent.

N.H. opens path to nomination for McCain (Jonathan Martin and John F. Harris, Jan 8, 2008, Politico)
The hope among McCain operatives is that the New Hampshire victory will lead to an infusion of badly needed contributions. His fate also depends on the conservative establishment, often hostile to the Arizona senator and his maverick crusades, now rallying around his argument that he is the most electable Republican in the general election.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s campaign, meanwhile, is on life support after distant second-place finishes in Iowa and New Hampshire — both states where he had invested heavily in time and money.

Michigan could well represent a last stand for Romney, who grew up in the state and whose father served there as governor. But his prospects are hardly sunny, given that McCain won Michigan in 2000.

With no Democratic race to speak of in Michigan, the open GOP primary will likely attract droves of independent voters who historically have been drawn to McCain.

After that, the GOP race now appears likely to hang on the outcome of two key Southern primaries. South Carolina, which proved to be McCain’s undoing in his 2000 contest against George W. Bush, and newcomer Florida will play outsized roles.

Former Tennesse senator Fred Thompson, after lagging in Iowa and doing nothing in New Hampshire, has staked his entire candidacy on South Carolina. He announced Tuesday that he's moving staff and every penny of his diminished warchest there. If he loses there, he has nowhere obvious to go.

Likewise, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabeee, after coming in third in New Hampshire, will be looking for a chance to prove that his Iowa victory was not a field-of-dreams aberration. If the former Baptist preacher can't succeed in Baptist-heavy South Carolina with other candidates splitting the vote, he likely can't do any better in demographically more diverse Florida.

Time to do the right thing Fred. The theory of the Thompson campaign was that he was the new McCain and the conservative alternative to Rudy and Mitt. But McCain is the new McCain and the race is down to two conservatives.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:58 AM


My Morning Download: Vampire Weekend (XPN, 1/9/08)

The New York based Vampire Weekend - this month's Artist To Watch - don't make music that sounds anything like the images that their name conjours up. The hotly buzzed Columbia U grads and indie-rock band owe more to Afro-pop and Peter Gabriel and Paul Simon's Graceland than they do to Pavement of The Shins but sound good next to either.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:51 AM


Brown welfare advisor embarrases PM by endorsing Cameron's tough proposals (JAMES CHAPMAN, 9th January 2008, Daily Mail)

David Cameron's radical "tough love" benefit reforms were dramatically endorsed last night - by Gordon Brown's chief welfare adviser.

David Freud praised the Tory leader's commitment to bring in private firms and charities to run draconian back-to-work schemes and pay by results.

He said the measures could bring "huge gains" and save as much as £10billion a year within a decade.

The policies are the same, it's just a matter of who enunciates them first.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:42 AM


Hillary Clinton's Firewall: Will Barack Obama's anemic standing among Latinos be his undoing? (John B. Judis, December 18, 2007, New Republic)

Hillary Clinton was once thought to have had the Democratic nomination sewn up, but if current polls are any indication, she could conceivably lose not only the Iowa caucus, but also the primaries in New Hampshire and South Carolina. Since these states became the major test of presidential aspirations, no Democrat or Republican has ever gotten the nomination after losing all three. But even if she fails to win any of those three critical early states, Hillary Clinton still has a chance. That's because of her strength among Hispanic voters.
Hillary Clinton on the campaign trail.Credit: Getty Images
View Larger Image View Larger Image
Hillary Clinton on the campaign trail.

Hispanics will play a negligible role in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina, but they will be a major factor in the Nevada caucus on January 19 and in the primaries in New Mexico, Arizona, California, Colorado, New Jersey, and New York on February 5. Those states together account for 1025 delegates; only 141 are at stake in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina. And if the contest is at that point between Clinton and Senator Barack Obama, then Clinton's edge over Obama among Hispanics, as seen in opinion polls, could prove decisive.

In a poll from the Pew Hispanic Center released earlier this month, Clinton led among Latino Democrats with 59 percent, compared to 15 percent for Obama and four percent for John Edwards. In polls taken last week in California, Florida, Illinois, New York, and Texas by ImpreMedia, the largest Hispanic news company in the United States, Clinton led Obama by an astounding average of 55 to six percent among Hispanic Democrats. Edwards got only 1.8 percent. Of course, even with this kind of support from Hispanics, Clinton could still lose those primaries, but it certainly gives her an edge.

To have a prayer against John McCain, Barack Obama would have to pick Bill Richardson or another Latino as his running mate. Otherwise, Hispanics will vote against him and for the Hispanic-friendly Maverick, especially if the latter picked Jeb.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:31 AM


The Record, the Broadcast and the Nazis: An Archivist's Discovery Rewrites History (Maggie Master, Fall 2007, Catholic University of America Magazine)

The record had a thick, deep scratch around its aluminum circumference, but that wasn’t the first thing Patrick Cullom noticed. It had been sent to CUA’s archives from Nugent Hall back in the `90s, packed in a sagging cardboard box that didn’t look much different from other boxes that found their way to the archives from the back of some closet or basement storeroom. The box contained antiquated record albums just like the one Cullom held in his hand, discs that needed to be sorted and filed, or tossed.

As the university’s first-ever audiovisual archivist, Cullom had in 2003 begun the gargantuan task of sifting through and sorting 750,000 photos and a century’s worth of records, tape recordings and newspaper clippings. Which explains why, more than a year into his job, Cullom was only just now surveying this particular box and this particular recording.

He had found plenty of records like this one, records that hadn’t been played in 70 years — records that couldn’t be played, not without paying big bucks to a specialist who could transfer their contents to a digital format. And so he might have simply reshelved this one with others like it, if something hadn’t caught his eye. Visible through a hole cut out of the dust jacket was a handwritten label on the center of the record: “Catholic Protest Against Nazis — Nov. 16, 1938.”

Cullom was no World War II expert, but he knew enough about the conflict to realize that there was something curious about the date on the label. 1938 — a year before Germany’s invasion of Poland sparked World War II, and a full three years before the United States would enter the war. The date was much earlier than he would have expected for a stateside protest. So Cullom took a second look. [...]

When the CUA archivists finally got the recording back from an audio restoration company, it was in the form of an MP3, an audio encoding format. Even restored, the recording carried the trademark crackle and static of a 1930s radio broadcast. The announcer spoke in the mellifluous baritone of the radio personalities of that age. He explained what the listening audience was about to hear: a live national broadcast from the CUA campus, carried by both the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) and the National Broadcasting Company (NBC), featuring several prominent members of the clergy and a well-known former governor, patched in from their respective locations across the country. The announcer then introduced Rev. Maurice S. Sheehy, head of the university’s Department of Religious Education, who was the broadcast’s organizer. His voice, though grave, possessed the theatrical quality of a moving Sunday sermon.

“The world is witnessing a great tragedy in Europe today,” Father Sheehy began, “and after sober, calm reflection, various groups and leaders of the Catholic Church have sought permission to raise their voices, not in mad hysteria, but in firm indignation against the atrocities visited upon the Jews in Germany…”

In constructing a timeline of the Holocaust, most scholars place Kristallnacht — Nov. 9, 1938 — at its start. “The night of broken glass.” On a raw night in late autumn, thousands of Jewish homes, shops and synagogues were ransacked throughout Germany in large-scale Nazi-orchestrated rioting that would continue for two days. Some Jews were beaten to death that night, and more than 30,000 Jewish men were rounded up for concentration camps.

CUA’s 27-minute broadcast went over the nation’s airwaves just six days after the violence abated, on Nov. 16, 1938. In a pre-Internet, pre-television era, the speed with which these geographically scattered members of the Catholic Church responded was impressive.

Catholic University was not simply a venue for the event. The university’s chief executive, Monsignor Joseph M. Corrigan (later elevated to bishop), was featured in the broadcast along with three of the school’s then current or former trustees: Archbishop John J. Mitty of San Francisco, Bishop Peter L. Ireton of Richmond, Va., and former governor of New York Al Smith, who in 1928 had been the first Catholic to run for president of the United States as a major-party nominee. Bishop John M. Gannon of Erie, Pa., also spoke on the broadcast.

Why these particular men were chosen for the broadcast is a question the archivists are still investigating, but they speculate that the group’s members were chosen not only for their prominence within the Church and Catholic University, but also for their prior radio experience and vocal opposition to anti-Semitism. Smith — the only lay voice on the broadcast — was a savvy choice: He was, thanks to his presidential bid, a household name.

The purpose of this program, Father Sheehy said in his opening address, was to appeal to Christian political leaders in Germany to stop the persecution of the Jews. But it is clear the broadcast was also meant to inspire prayers for the beleaguered Jews and to denounce what Monsignor Corrigan called “a persecution hardly if ever equaled since earlier blood-lusting paganism martyred Christians for their faith in God.” [...]

[F]uture generations will learn of the Holocaust in their classrooms, learn of the systematic brutality and the death camps. It is a grim but necessary journey that many pupils before them have traveled. But thanks to the CUA archivists, many will now have the opportunity to learn of the early outpouring of solidarity that flowed from American Catholics to their German Jewish brothers and sisters — a welcome addition to the pages of history.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:29 AM


Laggard Laos turns the economic corner (Bertil Lintner, 1/10/08, Asia Times)

The Lao economy has grown by more than 7% for the past two years, driven by foreign investment in the development of the hydroelectric power industry, fast expanding gold and copper mining activity, and a rapidly growing tourism industry. Since 2001, the Lao economy has grown at an average annual rate of 6.5%. Official development assistance and aid still contribute largely to the national budget, but merchandise trade is increasing as a driver of growth, up from 45.8% of GDP in 2005 to nearly 61% in 2006, according to World Bank statistics.

Growing garment, horticultural and timber sectors have improved Laos' economic performance and helped to narrow external debt. The signs of increased economic activity are visibly apparent in Vientiane, where formerly pot-holed, dusty streets are now clean, paved and full of traffic. New shops sell imported consumer wares, new motorcycles and cars zoom through once sleepy streets, and the city boasts a bevy of Internet cafes frequented not only by foreign tourists and aid workers but locals as well.

Another measure of rising prosperity: the number of mobile phones in the country grew to 638,200 in 2006 from a mere 29,500 in 2001, one of the fastest expansions in the region over the same period. The percentage of the population in Laos with mobile phones, still lower than in neighboring Vietnam, is notably higher than in nearby Cambodia, which likewise is experiencing an unprecedented economic boom, and considerably higher than in impoverished Myanmar and East Timor.

The Lao government has in fits and starts promoted the transition from subsistence agriculture towards a more trade- and investment-driven economy. Although the communist government maintains socialist rhetoric and vestiges of the old central planning regime, for all practical sakes and purposes Laos is now in the main a market economy.

You can delay the End of History, but not avoid it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:25 AM


The broad principles of American presidential campaigns aren't especially hard to figure out. Except under extraordinary circumstances--like when one party is held responsible for a ghastly Depression--the two major political parties hold the allegiance of roughly similar percentages of the population. This is especially the case since women's suffrage, with men generally supporting the GOP (the freedom party) and women the Democrats (the security party). So to win a national election you want to position yourself to be able to appeal to those who don't strongly affiliate with either party and those who only loosely affiliate. As a rule, you can count on your own party supporting you, almost regardless of what you say and do, so long as you can get the nomination in the first place. Thus, the ideal presidential campaign is one that can get through the primaries without having to identify the candidate too strongly with the party's partisan political positions.

In 1992, you had Bill Clinton being able to actually run against a Democratic Party that was so shaken up by 12 years of Reagan/Bush that it was willing to be whipped by its own nominee. In 2000, George W. Bush tried to run against the GOP to some extent, but after losing NH was forced back to the Right and cost (or nearly cost) himself the general election, especially in the otherwise winnable Catholic Rust Belt. Meanwhile, Al Gore, who should have been able to win just by casting himself as the conservative Southern heir to Bill Clinton, instead jagged so far Left in fending off Bill Bradley that he couldn't even hold his home state.

Here, in 2008, both Democrats -- smartly, we ought add -- tried running general election campaigns instead of primary campaigns. Hillary, just as a function of who she was married to, is a sufficiently partisan figure that she needs to really tone back her natural political positions just to make herself a mildly palatable option in the general. Given the featherweight opposition she faced, it was certainly worth attempting to sneak through the primary season as a moderate. Likewise, with the early win in IA and strong poll numbers in NH, no one can blame Barrack Obama for trying to avoid saying anything specific on any issue. The ink blot strategy was his best option for retaining an opportunity to appeal broadly in the Fall.

But Hillary's victory last night--and even more so the constituencies that handed it to her--have in all likelihood tossed both campaign's
game plans into the dumpster. This is about to turn into a race about who is the "real Democrat" and who can get the base of the party to pull the lever for them. That means they'll be running hard for the votes of the most dependent cohorts in the electorate--single women, the elderly, the inner city poor, etc.--and the most fanatically liberal--the anti-war, anti-business, pro-abortion, etc.. In many states, the race will essentially boil down to the black vote and the margins within that vote. While it is expected, by the press, that Senator Obama has a big advantage there just because of his race, Hillary is more closely identified with the issues that move these votes, has strong support from black leaders, and has her husband's historically good relationship with black voters going for her. If this vote does turn out to be competitive and the race devolves into a fight over this battleground it could be disastrous for the eventual nominees chances in November. Recall that Bill Clinton ran against black America in ways large and small--advocating Welfare Reform and Sista Souljahing Jesse Jackson--secure in the knowledge that he'd win black votes in the general anyway while giving himself cover with white voters (recall the several neocons--like William Safire--who publicly announced they'd vote for him). Pandering to the black vote could be especially problematic this time around with Latinos having become a larger demographic and a GOP nominee -- either John McCain or Mike Huckabee -- who is not off-putting to Hispanics.

Republicans could hardly have asked for better results coming out of the Granite State.

Women voters held the key to Clinton's resurgence (CRAIG GORDON, 1/09/08, Newsday)

Women voters — whose support for Obama helped fuel his surprising Iowa win — were solidly back in Hillary Rodham Clinton's column Tuesday night, giving nearly half their vote in the Democratic primary here to the former first lady.

Registered Democrats too rallied overwhelmingly behind Clinton, who went into Tuesday night with four polls showing her with a double-digit deficit to Obama, whose message of "change" Clinton and other candidates scrambled to match.

In the end, partisan and personal loyalty to Clinton were able to swamp a wave of independent support for Obama, who pulled many independent voters into the Democratic race here on the power of his appeal to political and racial unity.

Six in 10 independent voters here chose to vote in the Democratic contest, and roughly 4 in 10 of those picked Obama. But it wasn't enough to overtake a figure even many Democrats regard with a mix of admiration and skepticism — particularly when older voters also jammed polling places to back Clinton.

Clinton, Obama split black voters: Houston leaders reflect conflicting candidate loyalties (BENNETT ROTH and RICHARD S. DUNHAM, 1/08/08, Houston Chronicle)
The differences between Jackson Lee and Green reflect a split among African-American leaders across the country — and rank-and-file voters themselves — about the choice facing the Democratic Party.

Black voters, particularly women, greatly admire the New York senator and her husband, former President Bill Clinton. But they are torn between affection for the Clinton family and an opportunity to make history by electing Obama.

Even some prominent African-American families are divided. The Rev. Jesse Jackson, a two-time presidential candidate, says he'll vote for Obama. But his wife Jackie, supports Clinton.

Sherry Bebitch Jeffe, a political science analyst at the University of Southern California, points to "a pull between ethnic identity and gender identity" among black women looking at presidential choices.

N.Y. Black Caucus Standing by Clinton (NY Sun, January 9, 2008)
New York's black congressional representatives, all of whom have endorsed Senator Clinton for president, are standing pat in their choice, reaffirming their loyalty before the results of Mrs. Clinton's victory in New Hampshire were in last night.

Women go to Clinton; McCain wins independents (David Paul Kuhn, Jan 9, 2008, Politico)
Win by Clinton could affect Senate race here (R.G. RATCLIFFE, 1/09/08, Houston Chronicle)
The ability of the Democratic U.S. Senate nominee to raise national party money for the general election campaign in Texas may be hindered if Hillary Rodham Clinton is the party's presidential nominee, one-time senatorial candidate Mikal Watts said Tuesday.

"If Hillary is the nominee, that will have an effect on whether the national Democrats will play in Texas," Watts said.

Democratic women surged behind Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and revived the candidacy of the country’s first viable female presidential candidate.

Sen. John McCain owes his victory as much to the Republican faithful as to independents.

Thus New Hampshire women and Republicans interrupted the Iowa momentum of Sen. Barack Obama and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:25 AM


All together now, US troops stand firm (Brian M Downing, 1/10/08, Asia Times)

At the outset of the war in Iraq, if told that an insurgency lasting over four years was in store, most Americans would have predicted serious trouble with cohesion and manpower in the military. Such views would be expected from opponents of the war, yet similar concerns would have come from cautious analysts, in and out of uniform.

Today, when veterans of the Vietnam War discuss the present wars (the subject arises naturally and quickly), many express puzzlement over continued high cohesion among our troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. Perhaps expectations are based more on memories of Vietnam than on a comparative look at cohesion in war.

Except that if you'd been told on 9/12 that liberating 20+ million Iraqis would cost less than 4,000 US servicemen killed and that there'd be no subsequent terrorist attacks on American soil you might even have expected that there'd still be political unity, nevermind military.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:02 AM


Bush of Arabia: This U.S. president is the most consequential the Middle East has ever seen. (FOUAD AJAMI, January 8, 2008, Opinion Journal)

The reform of Arabia is not a courtesy owed an American leader on a quick passage, and one worried about the turmoil in the oil markets at that. It is an imperative of the realm, something owed Arabia's young people clamoring for a more "normal" world. The brave bloggers, and the women and young professionals of the realm, have taken up the cause of reform. What American power owes them is the message given them over the last few years--that they don't dwell alone.

True to the promise, and to the integrity, of his campaign against terror, Mr. Bush will not lay a wreath at the burial place of Yasser Arafat in Ramallah. This is as it should be. Little more than five years ago, Mr. Bush held out to the Palestinians the promise of statehood, and of American support for that goal, but he made that support contingent on a Palestinian break with the cult of violence. He would not grant Arafat any of the indulgence that Bill Clinton had given him for eight long years. It was the morally and strategically correct call.

The cult of the gun had wrecked the political life of the Palestinians. They desperately needed an accommodation with Israel, but voted, in early 2006, for Hamas.

The promise of Palestinian statehood still stood, but the force, and the ambition, of Mr. Bush's project in Iraq, and the concern over Iran's bid for power, had shifted the balance of things in the Arab world toward the Persian Gulf, and away from the Palestinians. The Palestinians had been reduced to their proper scale in the Arab constellation. It was then, and when the American position in Iraq had been repaired, that Mr. Bush picked up the question of Palestine again, perhaps as a courtesy to his secretary of state.

The Annapolis Conference should be seen in that light: There was some authority to spare. It is to Mr. Bush's singular credit that he was the first American president to recognize that Palestine was not the central concern of the Arabs, or the principal source of the political maladies.

The realists have always doubted this Bush campaign for freedom in Arab and Muslim lands. It was like ploughing the sea, they insisted. Natan Sharansky may be right that in battling for that freedom, Mr. Bush was a man alone, even within the councils of his own administration.

He had taken up the cause of Lebanon. The Cedar Revolution that erupted in 2005 was a child of his campaign for freedom. A Syrian dominion built methodically over three decades was abandoned in a hurry, so worried were the Syrians that American power might target their regime as well. In the intervening three years, Lebanon and its fractious ways were to test America's patience, with the Syrians doing their best to return Lebanon to its old captivity.

But for all the debilitating ways of Lebanon's sectarianism, Mr. Bush was right to back democracy. For decades, politically conscious Arabs had lamented America's tolerance for the ways of Arab autocracy, its resigned acceptance that such are the ways of "the East." There would come their way, in the Bush decade, an American leader willing to bet on their freedom. [...]

Suffice it for them that George W. Bush was at the helm of the dominant imperial power when the world of Islam and of the Arabs was in the wind, played upon by ruinous temptations, and when the regimes in the saddle were ducking for cover, and the broad middle classes in the Arab world were in the grip of historical denial of what their radical children had wrought. His was the gift of moral and political clarity.

Before he leaves office it is imperative to moral and political clarity that the President change the regime in Syria--the rest is pretty much on track.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:26 AM


Voter turnout sets primary record (STEPHEN FROTHINGHAM, 1/09/08, The Associated Press)

With ballots from 12 percent of voting precincts still to be counted, about 453,000 residents had cast votes, breaking the previous primary turnout record of 396,385 ballots cast in 2000.

State officials predicted that when all ballots were counted, the total would surpass 500,000.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:17 AM


Apple to cut iTunes prices in Britain (Eric Pfanner, January 9, 2008, IHT)

Apple said Wednesday that it had agreed to cut the prices on its iTunes digital music store in Britain to align them with those in Continental Europe, settling an antitrust case brought by European regulators.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:09 AM


Iraq's unknown economy (Michael O'Hanlon, January 6, 2008, Washington Times)

After meeting again recently with some of our top economic aid and reconstruction experts on Iraq, I have concluded they continue to do remarkable things at considerable personal risk and hardship in Iraq. Hospitals and electricity plants are being built, transportation infrastructure improved, water and waste treatment plants constructed. But the other striking, and lamentable, fact about our economic efforts in Iraq is that for the most part we don't have the foggiest idea how well they are working. That has to change.

To be fair, some things are known. Inflation is within reasonable bounds. Oil revenues are up quite a bit due to the price of petroleum, even if production has increased only very gradually. Due largely to the improved security environment, electricity production and distribution finally took a substantial step forward in 2007, for the first time since the 2003 invasion. Without even counting the informal electricity sector, which has itself grown, official numbers have increased 10 percent to 20 percent. Cell phone ownership and usage have gone through the roof; national port capacity has increased substantially; the Internet is making real inroads.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Obama vs. McCain Would Be Clean Contest of Idealists (Mort Kondracke, 1/08/08, Real Clear Politics)

The victories of Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) in Iowa represent the triumph of freshness, hope, honesty and optimism over calculation, plasticity, the past and anger.

There's every reason to think that the same impulses will prevail in New Hampshire, producing another victory for Obama and one for Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who - if we're lucky - could end up their respective party nominees.

Obama vs. McCain could produce an epic battle of new vs. old, liberal vs. conservative, dove vs. hawk. But it could be a clean battle between principled contestants, either of whom could unite the country when it's over.

You hear a fair amount of this sort of twaddle when folks discuss Senator Obama, but all you have to ask yourself is: assuming two nominees run a friendly and non-partisan race would Democrats unite with a Republican president to extend the mission in Iraq and privatize Social Security or would Republicans unite with a Democratic president to nationalize health care, raise taxes, and make abortion more accessible?

This notion that ideas don't matter, personalities do, is asinine. Let us accept the idea, held by many partisans, that George W. Bush is the most partisan Republican and Ted Kennedy the most partisan Democrat in America. Yet they worked together to pass NCLB with vouchers and a prescription bill with HSAs. What has Barack Obama ever passed into law?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Study Finds Vaccine Preservative Is Not Linked to Risks of Autism (AP, 1/08/08)

Autism cases in California continued to climb even after a mercury-based vaccine preservative that some people blame for the neurological disorder was removed from routine childhood shots, a study has found.

Researchers from the State Public Health Department found that the autism rate in children rose continuously in the study period from 1995 to 2007. The preservative, thimerosal, has not been used in childhood vaccines since 2001, except for some flu shots.

Doctors said that the latest study added to the evidence against a link between thimerosal exposure and the risk of autism and that it should reassure parents that vaccinations do not cause autism. If there was a risk, the doctors said, autism rates should have dropped from 2004 to 2007.

Sadly, you'd be hard put to find a group of people less likely to accept scientific evidence than those who believe in this myth.

January 8, 2008

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:36 PM


Edwards Vows to Press on Despite Loss (SCOTT LINDLAW, 1/08/08, AP)

Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards took his third-place New Hampshire finish in stride on Tuesday, pledging to carry his battle forward despite difficult odds. "I am in this race until the convention," he told supporters. [...]

"Two races down, 48 states left to go," Edwards said.

..."I intend to be the nominee of my party."

Hatred isn't a winning platform in American politics and he's offering nothing but.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:17 PM


The Clinton-Obama gender divide (Domenico Montanaro, 1/08/08, NBC: First Read)

There is a real gender divide in this race. Obama leads among men, 42%-30%, and by a similar margin, Clinton leads among women, 47%-34%. This is a real difference from Iowa, where Obama actually BEAT Clinton among women.

He also defeated her in Iowa by wide margins among independents and young voters. Tonight, Obama leads among Independents (43%-31%) again, but not by the whopping margin he led by in Iowa. And he’s trailing among Democrats significantly (45%-34%).

It's a female party--you'd better carry women.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:10 PM


McCain and Clinton Win in NH In Remarkable Comebacks (Chris Cillizza, 1/08/08, washingtonpost.com )

The tightness of the race between Clinton and Obama stunned many political insiders including even some within the campaign of the New York Senator.

A series of public opinion polls released in the run-up to today's primary showed Obama with a lead of 10 percentage points or more over Clinton.

State election officials predicted a record turnout of 500,000, as warm temperatures and extraordinary interest in the campaign drove voters to the polls. But independent voters, who were widely seen as the not-so-secret weapons of Obama and McCain, do not appear to make up any greater proportion of Granite State voters than they did in 2000 when both parties held contested presidential primaries, according to early exit polling.

As in last week's Iowa caucuses, Democrats are citing "change" as the most important trait in selecting their candidate, while Republicans chose leadership and personal qualities narrowly over specific issue stances in picking their candidate.

Unlike Iowa, however, early exit polling suggests that the Democratic electorate is neither considerably younger nor populated with more first-time primary voters than it was four years ago.

...would the black guy be the candidate of the elites and the white woman the candidate of the working class base.

Worth noting that just as Hillary won because she carried the core Democrats, so too did John McCain win among Republicans, not just independents.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:33 PM


The AP called the race for Hillary, which gives both parties two person races going forward.

The exit data I heard suggests that she won because Democrats--women (especially single women); older folk; the poor; etc.--voted for her by wide margins.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:00 PM


Supposedly the Obama people think they can win because of the Hanover vote, but he's behind by enough right now that if almost every vote in town went to him he wouldn't catch up. Maybe some other towns they're counting on aren't in either.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:41 PM


McCain defeats Romney in New Hampshire vote (Jeff Zeleny and John M. Broder, January 9, 2008, NY Times)

HANOVER, New Hampshire: [...] The Democrats were locked in a close contest between Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton. John Edwards, the Democrats' 2004 vice presidential nominee, was a distant third. But in the actual count, Clinton was leading Obama by several percentage points with 15 percent of the precincts counted.

Reflecting the intense statewide interest in the contest in both parties, turnout approached record levels and New Hampshire's independent voters most likely were the ones who decided both parties' races. Obama and McCain won the votes of independents by large margins over their closest competitors, Clinton and Romney, according to exit polls.

Roughly four in 10 voters who participated in each primary identified themselves as independents.

Secretary of State Bill Gardner forecast a record turnout, which one state official described as "absolutely huge."

One technical point that flatlanders may not get--these aren't necessarily Independents in the sense you think of them. We have a category called "Undeclared" and you can go to the polling place for the primary, declare the party who's ballot you want and then undeclare yourself again on the way out. So I saw one of my buddies when I was voting and wanted to chat on the way out but he was in a long line to Undeclare. I sidled over and barked: "You waffler!," which didn't go over well with the rest of the folks on line.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:37 PM


Rudy shuts off TVs (Matthew E. Berger, 1/08/08, NBC First Read)

Just as the news reports were going to announce the results at 8 o'clock, the two televisions at the sides of the Giuliani campaign rally were turned off, and big RUDY images replaced them.

Shut off the lights, it's over.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:39 PM


You have to enjoy the irony that Hillary's early lead comes because the cities here report more quickly than the hinterlands and Obama is expected to do better in more rural areas.

She really needs to appear early to get positive headlines tomorrow, win or lose.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:12 PM


John McCain was just projected the winner in NH.

One of the main lessons that the McCain "comeback" teaches--once again--is that while some conservatives feel strongly about immigration they don't think deeply and, so, as soon as the stories are off the front page they forget the issue, unlike things such as taxes, abortion, etc..

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:53 PM


Bush Assails Iran for Naval Confrontation (DAVID STOUT and SHERYL GAY STOLBERG, 1/08/08, NY Times)

The president commented in the White House Rose Garden, not long after a visit with President Abdullah Gul of Turkey, whose country he praised as a friend as well as “a great strategic partner.”

“I view Turkey as a bridge between Europe and the Islamic world, a constructive bridge,” Mr. Bush said as he and Mr. Gul stood in the Rose Garden in the April-like weather. President Bush said Turkey sets “a fantastic example” of democracy co-existing with Islam.

Mr. Bush reiterated the support of the United States for Turkey’s admission to the European Union (“I strongly believe that Europe will benefit with Turkey as a member”) and made no mention of recent tensions between Washington and Ankara.

He said he and Mr. Gul, who has been in Washington before as Turkish foreign minister but never as president, had a good visit in the Oval Office, exchanging views on a range of Middle East issues. The White House said beforehand that events in Pakistan and Afghanistan as well as across the Middle East were on the agenda.

“All in all, we’ve had a very constructive conversation,” Mr. Bush said. “That’s what you’d expect when two friends are in the room together.”

Mr. Gul, speaking through an interpreter, pledged that his country and the United States would “continue to work together to ensure that peace, stability and prosperity continue to grow around the world.”

So, how big would the pins in the map have to be before the striped pants set figured out the four-confessional encircling alliance the President has erected while they were whining about how french and German socialists don't like us?

India signals strong defence cooperation with Israel (Times of India, 6 Jan 2008)

Ways to explore possibilities of furthering Indo-Israel defence cooperation are expected to figure in talks Indian Navy Chief Admiral Sureesh Mehta will have with top defence officials of the Jewish state during his four-day visit which began in Jerusalem on Sunday.

Mehta, who is the Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee, will also be meeting Israel's Defence Minister Ehud Barak tomorrow, besides Israel Defence Forces (IDF) Chief of Staff, Gabi Ashkenazi, director general of the defence ministry, Pinchas Buchris, and heads of different branches of the IDF.

"The meetings will explore possibilities of further cooperation and review ongoing exchanges between the two sides," defence sources here said, adding they "attach a lot of significance to ties with India".

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:55 PM


NH Voters Come Out in Large Numbers (CALVIN WOODWARD and PHILIP ELLIOTT, 1/08/08, AP)

Weather was spring-like and participation brisk, although it remained to be seen whether New Hampshire would match the record-busting turnout of the Iowa caucuses won by Obama and Republican Mike Huckabee only five days earlier. Republicans, their national race for the nomination tangled, watched a New Hampshire contest unfold between McCain and Romney at the top of their field, polls indicating McCain had an edge but no clear-cut advantage. [...]

At Brookside Congregational Church in Manchester, 50 voters lined up before dawn and people waited in their cars for a parking space after doors opened. When Huckabee passed fellow GOP candidate Rudy Giuliani outside, Huckabee jokingly asked the former New York mayor for his vote. "We get along beautifully on the trail," Huckabee said.

A Baptist minister campaigning outside the church where folks are voting and people wonder why Europeans are so appalled by America?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:46 PM


China 'plans to send troops into North Korea' (Richard Spencer, 08/01/2008, Daily Telegraph)

China is planning to send troops into North Korea to restore order and secure its nuclear arsenal in the event of the regime’s collapse.

According to a new report, Beijing would send in the People’s Liberation Army if it felt threatened by a rapid breakdown in Kim Jong-il’s rule over the country.

China would seek to win the backing of the United Nations first, but would be prepared to act unilaterally if necessary.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:20 PM


Angry White Man: The bigoted past of Ron Paul (James Kirchick, January 08, 2008, New Republic)

To understand Paul's philosophy, the best place to start is probably the Ludwig von Mises Institute, a libertarian think tank based in Auburn, Alabama. The institute is named for a libertarian Austrian economist, but it was founded by a man named Lew Rockwell, who also served as Paul's congressional chief of staff from 1978 to 1982. Paul has had a long and prominent association with the institute, teaching at its seminars and serving as a "distinguished counselor." The institute has also published his books.

The politics of the organization are complicated--its philosophy derives largely from the work of the late Murray Rothbard, a Bronx-born son of Jewish immigrants from Poland and a self-described "anarcho-capitalist" who viewed the state as nothing more than "a criminal gang"--but one aspect of the institute's worldview stands out as particularly disturbing: its attachment to the Confederacy. Thomas E. Woods Jr., a member of the institute's senior faculty, is a founder of the League of the South, a secessionist group, and the author of The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History, a pro-Confederate, revisionist tract published in 2004. Paul enthusiastically blurbed Woods's book, saying that it "heroically rescues real history from the politically correct memory hole." Thomas DiLorenzo, another senior faculty member and author of The Real Lincoln: A New Look at Abraham Lincoln, His Agenda, and an Unnecessary War, refers to the Civil War as the "War for Southern Independence" and attacks "Lincoln cultists"; Paul endorsed the book on MSNBC last month in a debate over whether the Civil War was necessary (Paul thinks it was not). In April 1995, the institute hosted a conference on secession at which Paul spoke; previewing the event, Rockwell wrote to supporters, "We'll explore what causes [secession] and how to promote it." Paul's newsletters have themselves repeatedly expressed sympathy for the general concept of secession. In 1992, for instance, the Survival Report argued that "the right of secession should be ingrained in a free society" and that "there is nothing wrong with loosely banding together small units of government. With the disintegration of the Soviet Union, we too should consider it."

The people surrounding the von Mises Institute--including Paul--may describe themselves as libertarians, but they are nothing like the urbane libertarians who staff the Cato Institute or the libertines at Reason magazine. Instead, they represent a strain of right-wing libertarianism that views the Civil War as a catastrophic turning point in American history--the moment when a tyrannical federal government established its supremacy over the states. As one prominent Washington libertarian told me, "There are too many libertarians in this country ... who, because they are attracted to the great books of Mises, ... find their way to the Mises Institute and then are told that a defense of the Confederacy is part of libertarian thought."

Paul's alliance with neo-Confederates helps explain the views his newsletters have long espoused on race. Take, for instance, a special issue of the Ron Paul Political Report, published in June 1992, dedicated to explaining the Los Angeles riots of that year. "Order was only restored in L.A. when it came time for the blacks to pick up their welfare checks three days after rioting began," read one typical passage. According to the newsletter, the looting was a natural byproduct of government indulging the black community with "'civil rights,' quotas, mandated hiring preferences, set-asides for government contracts, gerrymandered voting districts, black bureaucracies, black mayors, black curricula in schools, black tv shows, black tv anchors, hate crime laws, and public humiliation for anyone who dares question the black agenda." It also denounced "the media" for believing that "America's number one need is an unlimited white checking account for underclass blacks." To be fair, the newsletter did praise Asian merchants in Los Angeles, but only because they had the gumption to resist political correctness and fight back. Koreans were "the only people to act like real Americans," it explained, "mainly because they have not yet been assimilated into our rotten liberal culture, which admonishes whites faced by raging blacks to lie back and think of England."

This "Special Issue on Racial Terrorism" was hardly the first time one of Paul's publications had raised these topics. As early as December 1989, a section of his Investment Letter, titled "What To Expect for the 1990s," predicted that "Racial Violence Will Fill Our Cities" because "mostly black welfare recipients will feel justified in stealing from mostly white 'haves.'" Two months later, a newsletter warned of "The Coming Race War," and, in November 1990, an item advised readers, "If you live in a major city, and can leave, do so. If not, but you can have a rural retreat, for investment and refuge, buy it." In June 1991, an entry on racial disturbances in Washington, DC's Adams Morgan neighborhood was titled, "Animals Take Over the D.C. Zoo." "This is only the first skirmish in the race war of the 1990s," the newsletter predicted. In an October 1992 item about urban crime, the newsletter's author--presumably Paul--wrote, "I've urged everyone in my family to know how to use a gun in self defense. For the animals are coming." That same year, a newsletter described the aftermath of a basketball game in which "blacks poured into the streets of Chicago in celebration. How to celebrate? How else? They broke the windows of stores to loot." The newsletter inveighed against liberals who "want to keep white America from taking action against black crime and welfare," adding, "Jury verdicts, basketball games, and even music are enough to set off black rage, it seems."

Such views on race also inflected the newsletters' commentary on foreign affairs. South Africa's transition to multiracial democracy was portrayed as a "destruction of civilization" that was "the most tragic [to] ever occur on that continent, at least below the Sahara"; and, in March 1994, a month before Nelson Mandela was elected president, one item warned of an impending "South African Holocaust."

Martin Luther King Jr. earned special ire from Paul's newsletters, which attacked the civil rights leader frequently, often to justify opposition to the federal holiday named after him. ("What an infamy Ronald Reagan approved it!" one newsletter complained in 1990. "We can thank him for our annual Hate Whitey Day.") In the early 1990s, a newsletter attacked the "X-Rated Martin Luther King" as a "world-class philanderer who beat up his paramours," "seduced underage girls and boys," and "made a pass at" fellow civil rights leader Ralph Abernathy. One newsletter ridiculed black activists who wanted to rename New York City after King, suggesting that "Welfaria," "Zooville," "Rapetown," "Dirtburg," and "Lazyopolis" were better alternatives. The same year, King was described as "a comsymp, if not an actual party member, and the man who replaced the evil of forced segregation with the evil of forced integration."

While bashing King, the newsletters had kind words for the former Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, David Duke. In a passage titled "The Duke's Victory," a newsletter celebrated Duke's 44 percent showing in the 1990 Louisiana Republican Senate primary. "Duke lost the election," it said, "but he scared the blazes out of the Establishment." In 1991, a newsletter asked, "Is David Duke's new prominence, despite his losing the gubernatorial election, good for anti-big government forces?" The conclusion was that "our priority should be to take the anti-government, anti-tax, anti-crime, anti-welfare loafers, anti-race privilege, anti-foreign meddling message of Duke, and enclose it in a more consistent package of freedom." Duke is now returning the favor, telling me that, while he will not formally endorse any candidate, he has made information about Ron Paul available on his website.

A philosophy that is so entirely dependent on love of the self can't help but be plagued by hatred of the other.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:58 PM


Big Brains, Small Impact: 20 years ago, the author chided his peers for their academic insularity. They roared in outrage. Of course, no one heard them. (RUSSELL JACOBY, 1/11/08, The Chronicle Review)

Twenty years ago, I published The Last Intellectuals: American Culture in the Age of Academe, which put into circulation the term "public intellectual." I offered a generational explanation for what I saw as the eclipse of younger intellectuals. Why in 1987 had the same intellectuals dominated for more than 20 years, with few new faces among them? Why was it that the Daniel Bells or Gore Vidals or Kenneth Galbraiths seemed to lack successors? Professionalization and academization appeared to be the reason. Younger intellectuals were retreating into specialized and cloistered environments.

Earlier 20th-century thinkers like Lewis Mumford and Edmund Wilson kept the university and its apparatus at arm's length. Indeed, they often disdained it. They oriented themselves toward an educated public, and, as a result, they developed a straightforward prose and gained a nonprofessional audience. As his reputation grew, Wilson printed up a postcard that he sent to those who requested his services. On it he checked the appropriate box: Edmund Wilson does not write articles or books on order; he does not write forewords or introductions, does not give interviews or appear on television, and does not participate in symposia.

Later intellectual generations, including, paradoxically, the rebellious 60s cohort, do give interviews; do write articles on demand; and most evidently do participate in symposia. They grew up in a much-expanded campus universe and never left its safety. Younger intellectuals became professors who geared their work toward their colleagues and specialized journals. If this generation — my generation! — advanced into postmodernism, post-Marxism, and postcolonialism, where the Daniel Bells and Lewis Mumfords never trod, it did so by surrendering a public profile. It neither wanted to nor, after a while, could write accessible prose. The new thinkers became academic — not public — intellectuals, with little purchase outside professional circles. While a book by Edmund Wilson could be read with pleasure by an educated citizen, a volume by an academic luminary such as Homi K. Bhabha or Fredric Jameson would give him or her a headache. [...]

Perhaps beyond the stage lights, a new group of younger intellectuals has taken shape. That is what one of my angrier critics, the New York-based freelancer Rick Perlstein claims. "A well-stroked three-wood aimed out my Brooklyn window could easily hit half a dozen" bright, talented, gutsy public intellectuals, he claims. But who are they? He doesn't say.

Even during their heyday, intellectuals recognized that Americans held them in contempt, and that was before the bill came due for several decades of rule by intellectuals. Given the spectacular success of the return to governance by the Stupid thirty years ago, it's little wonder that no one even knows who the new intellectuals are, nor cares.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:44 PM


Hamas and Islamic Millenarianism: What the West Doesn't Recognize (Paul Landau, 08 Jan 2008, World Politics Review)

One of the most essential -- and most little-known -- aspects of contemporary Islamism is the role of eschatological or millenarian beliefs within it. This millenarian dimension of Islam has often been minimized by commentators, sometimes for polemical reasons: Christianity is presented as the only religion that is oriented toward the beyond, whereas Islam is supposed to be characterized by strictly this-worldly preoccupations.

This forgotten dimension of the Islamist phenomenon is key to understanding the current resurgence of a triumphalist Islam, since it cuts across all the divisions within the Muslim world: between Sunnism and Shiism, between traditional Islam and contemporary Islamism. As the French historian Pierre Lory explained in a recent lecture at the Sorbonne, "Eschatology represents one of the fundamental traits of the Muslim religion. The imminence of the end of time and of the final judgment is one of the oldest and most constant Quranic themes and is found throughout the sacred text of Islam." Inasmuch as Muhammad is the last prophet (bearing the "seal of prophecy"), his advent inaugurates the last period of universal history: i.e. the eschatological period.

In his collection of Hadith titled "The Major Signs of the End of the World from the Prophet to the Return of Jesus," Abdallah al-Hajjaj cites a saying of the prophet, who, raising his hand, is supposed to have affirmed that his mission and the final hour were as close as his middle and index fingers. This belief in the imminence of the end of time is a fundamental aspect of the contemporary Islamic reawakening, in both its peaceful and belligerent forms.

It is sometimes suggested that only the Shia version of Islam assigns importance to eschatological considerations, and it is true that the motif of the return of the hidden Imam, the central element of Shia belief, lends itself especially easily to millenarian interpretations. Since Iran's Islamic Revolution in 1979, millenarian aspirations have been at the center of developments in the Shia Muslim world. The belief in the imminence of the Final Judgment helps to explain both the suicidal forms of behavior that proliferated during the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s and the current attitude of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

But eschatology is equally a part of Sunni Islam and it has played a central role in the development of Islamist movements of Sunni inspiration. All the various components of contemporary Islamism -- from the Muslim Brotherhood to Hamas to the nebulous al-Qaida network -- share the hope of seeing the Islamic caliphate reestablished and consider the "renewal of Islam" to be the manifest sign of the truth of the prophecies concerning the final victory of Islam and its propagation throughout the world.

Mr. Landau would appear to have suffered a threshold failure of comprehension. The Sunni concept he describes is similar to the utopianism of all the isms--communism, nazism, libertarianism, socialism, etc.--with its belief that men can perfect the world themselves. It is only Shi'a millenarianism, which requires the return of a messianic figure, that is similar to Judeo-Christianity. Given that such millenarianism is central to the Founding this is a pretty significant error.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:33 PM


McCain and Obama (DAVID BROOKS, 1/08/08, NY Times)

Obama emphasizes the connections between people, the networks and the webs of influence. These sorts of links are invisible to some of his rivals, but Obama is a communitarian. He believes you can only make profound political changes if you first change the spirit of the community. In his speeches, he says that if one person stands up, then another will stand up and another and another and you’ll get a nation standing up.

The key word in any Obama speech is “you.” Other politicians talk about what they will do if elected. Obama talks about what you can do if you join together. Like a community organizer on a national scale, he is trying to move people beyond their cynicism, make them believe in themselves, mobilize their common energies.

His weakness is that he never breaks from his own group. In policy terms, he is an orthodox liberal. He never tells audiences anything that might make them uncomfortable. In the Senate, he didn’t join the Gang of 14, which created a bipartisan consensus on judges, because it would have meant deviating from liberal orthodoxy and coming to the center.

How do you build a trans-partisan coalition when every single policy you propose is reliably on the left?

Of course, Mr. Obama isn't trying to build a governing coalition, just an electoral one, so he never mentions what it is he'd seek to do as president. As soon as he gets down to specifics--or the Republicans start outlining those specifics for him--the coalition collapses. Also, his failure to ever pass a significant piece of legislation--which stands in stark contrast to Senator McCain--would seem to be devastating to the theory of his candidacy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:24 PM


Gossage elected to Hall of Fame (AP, 1/08/08)

Jim Rice was passed over yet again, getting 392 votes (72.2 percent), up from 346 (63.5 percent) last year and 16 short of the 75 percent needed. He will appear on the writers' ballot for the 15th and final time next year, when career steals leader Rickey Henderson will be among the newcomers.

Andre Dawson was third at 358 (65.9 percent), followed by Bert Blyleven at 336 (61.9 percent).

You'd go Dawson, Blyleven, Rice, Gossage.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:55 PM


Just went and voted. It's about 50 here, sun shining, and snow melting. The polling place--Hanover High School--was as packed as I've ever seen it, including Election Day 2000. I don't know the numbers, but wouldn't be surprised if Senators Obama and McCain get the highest raw vote totals in their respective parties' histories for contested NH primaries.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:07 PM


Way Down in The Hole: HBO's The Wire Digs Deep Into Baltimore's Underground For a Soundtrack Album (Al Shipley, City Paper)

Blake Leyh has worked as The Wire's music director for all of the series' five seasons, incorporating a minimal, diegetic score into the acclaimed urban drama. But it wasn't until a couple of years ago, while assembling the fourth season, that Leyh let Baltimore itself seep into the background music. And much of that local flavor, from hip-hop to jazz to club music, made its way onto The Wire: And All the Pieces Matter--Five Years of Music From the Wire (Nonesuch), the show's soon to be released official soundtrack.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:24 PM


Why did Venezuela surrender to Chávez? (CARLOS ALBERTO MONTANER, 2/08/08, www.firmaspress.com)

Beginning in 1958, and for the following four decades, a miracle occurred. Venezuelans managed to peacefully change their leaders every five years, resorting to reasonably honest elections in which two parties -- the Social Democrats and the Christian Democrats -- took turns in power.

In addition, in that period, the population -- half rural, half urban at the start of the democratic stage -- grew from seven million to 23 million people, of whom 86 percent in later years lived in cities generally supplied with electricity, telephone service, drinking water, sewage, paved streets, schools, sports arenas and medical assistance.

In 1999, when President Hugo Chávez began to govern, 87 of every 100 homes had color television, and the number of telephones per capita was greater than in Brazil or Mexico. At the same time, illiteracy affected only 9 percent of the population, public and private universities proliferated, millions of children attended school, and life expectancy was 73 years.

At that moment, ample middle-class sectors existed in the country, and Caracas, full of impressive buildings, had the finest contemporary art museum in all of Latin America. The institution, founded by Sofía Imber, hosted remarkable exhibits by fine artists of international rank.

There were major problems, naturally, but one indicator demonstrated Venezuela's relative success: Very few Venezuelans emigrated. At the same time, hundreds of thousands of Colombians, Spaniards, Portuguese and Italians moved to that land in search of the opportunities they could not find in their respective countries, or -- as happened with the Cubans, Chileans and Argentines -- in search of the freedom that did not exist in their tyrannized countries.

Today, unhappily, the sign of the exodus has turned around.

One of the things President Bush has to answer to History for is not forcing the coup through to a finish in 2002.

Chávez's U-turn on socialism: Economic advisor to the Venezuelan vice-presidency, Stephanie Blankenburg, on what could be Chávez's fight for survival (Stephanie Blankenburg 08 January 2008, New Statesman)

He had decided to abandon his socialist agenda “for now” in order to form stronger alliances with the country’s middle classes, its private sector and the national bourgeoisie instead.

To dispel any doubts about his seriousness in adopting this new political course, he replaced vice-president, Dr Jorge Rodríguez – the public face of his campaign for “21st century socialism” in Venezuela – with Ramón Carrizales, a military officer and technocrat, known for his good relationships with the country’s business sector.

Perhaps more significantly still, Chávez had already signed an end-of-the year amnesty for imprisoned perpetrators of a right-wing coup attempt against him in 2002.

Two days later, on his Sunday TV show “Aló Presidente” (Hallo, President), Chávez presented his fully reshuffled new cabinet and set out to explain the rationale for his action. His socialist project had been defeated, because the country had not been ready for such a radical approach.

The only democratic response was to acknowledge defeat and to adopt a more gradual and inclusive way forward. Apart from broadening alliances to bring private business and the middle classes back into the fold, this would also mean a more careful focus on mass education and communal self-organisation. Socialism had not been abandoned, but postponed, although, by the sound of things, for quite some time to come.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:19 PM


McCain and Romney: The Warrior and the To-Do List: The candidates make their last pitch in New Hampshire. (Byron York, 1/08/08, National Review)

Underlying Romney’s presentation was a reality that the several hundred supporters at the Elks Lodge didn’t see: the Romney campaign is divided. Those divisions have been present for quite a while but, as always happens when things go wrong, have intensified after Romney’s defeat in Iowa. The simple version of the conflict is that some Romney advisers had always seen his campaign as a super-competent, outside-the-ways-of-Washington appeal. Early in 2007, when the Republican frontrunner was John McCain, the Romney plan of attack on McCain was to portray him as a Washington insider, too old, tired, and deeply ingrained in the capital to be an effective president. But then, last summer, McCain’s campaign imploded and illegal immigration became a hot issue. Romney’s campaign took other turns, and the outsider stuff was left behind. Now, with McCain back, and with the example of Barack Obama’s success in Iowa, Romney has returned, very late in the game, to the old idea. If he had campaigned on that theme all along, he wouldn’t face accusations of desperation and opportunism today.

Twenty miles away, in the lovely town center of Exeter, John McCain’s Straight Talk Express — just one bus, instead of the normal two, because one had broken down earlier in the day — pulled up in front of the Town Hall. A few hundred people were waiting; it wasn’t a huge crowd, but it was a good turnout for an outdoor event, probably made bigger by the very mild temperatures.

Standing on the steps of Town Hall, McCain concentrated on just two issues: the war on terror and federal spending — numbers 1(a) and 4 from Romney’s to-do list. He went on at some length about the threat from al Qaeda, both in Iraq and around the world, and vowed again, as he had in an over-caffeinated moment at the first Republican debate in California many months ago, “My friends, I will get Osama bin Laden if I have to follow him to the gates of hell, and I will bring him to justice.” McCain also brought up the case of Adam Gadahn, the American who joined al-Qaeda and tore up his passport in a newly-released propaganda tape. “Someday, I’ll make that young man regret that he tore up his American passport,” McCain said, to great applause. You got the idea that McCain wouldn’t mind doing it personally.

“Please don’t forget this,” McCain continued. “If you forget everything I say to you tonight, al Qaeda’s on the run, [but] they’re not defeated. I know these brave young Americans are succeeding, and I know over time the Iraqi military will take over more of their responsibilities, and our men and women who are serving in Iraq will come home, but they’ll come with honor and not in defeat. Not in defeat!” The crowd cheered and cheered.

McCain turned to a few remarks about federal spending, vowing to veto pork-barrel projects. But unlike Romney, on this last night of the campaign he had no new pitch, nothing new to say, choosing to stick to the two issues that, even with the intensity of the illegal immigration question, are the ones most Republicans think are most important.

...and you can't help but appear opportunistic and desperate when you change your mind on everything from abortion to immigration just to make yourself palatable politically.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:11 PM


US wants Pakistan to bite the bullet (Syed Saleem Shahzad, 1/09/08, Asia Times)

[W]hile Pakistan wants to remain on side with the US, and the West, by taking appropriate action against militancy, this carries with it the grave danger of exacerbating the situation, and opening up the country to further terror.

A senior Pakistani security official elaborated for Asia Times Online, "We have actually been thrown into a deep quagmire where we are not left with many options. The CIA's presence in Pakistan has made it impossible for Pakistan to handle the Taliban problem independently and through dialogue. On the other hand, there is no military solution on the horizon against the Taliban and another [Pakistani army] operation against militants would cause more than serious repercussions."

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity as his job does not allow him to speak on the record, continued, "Now we are at a crossroad and we feel threatened that if this problem escalates it may give Western powers and their regional allies a chance to justify an attack on Pakistan's nuclear arsenal. Therefore, we are walking a tightrope where, on the one hand our strategic ties with the West are at risk if we don't adhere to their demands, but on the other hand our own internal security is at risk.

"Nevertheless," he added, "nations do take steps on a priority basis for their internal security."

The minimum required of Pakistan is that it exercise sovereignty over the Tribal Areas and surrender its nukes.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:42 AM


Boy glues himself to bed to avoid school (Associated Press, January 8, 2008)

A 10-year-old Mexican boy was so determined not to return to school after the Christmas holiday that he glued his hand to his bed.

Sandra Palacios spent nearly two hours on Monday morning trying to free her son Diego's hand with water, oil and nail polish remover before calling the authorities in the northern city of Monterrey, said police chief Jorge Camacho.

"I didn't want to go to school because vacation was so much fun," Reforma newspaper quoted the boy as saying.

One of the saddest days of the Brothers' lives was when our local school's teacher strike ended and we had to go back to the salt mines.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:12 AM


Hillary's Moment (Howard Kurtz, 1/08/08, Washington Post)

My reaction was thus: Hillary Clinton might have done better to let the voters see this side of her months ago, rather than the steely front she keeps up most of the time. The calculation, undoubtedly, was that a woman--a potential commander-in-chief--can't be perceived as weak. But the alternative was that she is seen as a tightly organized policy wonk running against a man who embodies inspiration, both through his rhetoric and his life story.

Think about Bill Clinton. He could ramble on about Medicare reform with the best of them, but he would bite the lower lip, feel voters' pain and otherwise connect on an emotional level.

Hillary Clinton isn't built that way. That's why her friends keep telling us she's funnier in person than she is in public, and so on. But yesterday, in that diner, she gave us a glimpse of the real person. I'm sure she'll be criticized for that. But not by me.

Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush teared up at the pain of others. Ms Clinton teared up at her own. Thereby lies the entire tale.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:41 AM


Europe’s Philosophy of Failure (Stefan Theil, January/February 2008, Foreign Policy)

Millions of children are being raised on prejudice and disinformation. Educated in schools that teach a skewed ideology, they are exposed to a dogma that runs counter to core beliefs shared by many other Western countries. They study from textbooks filled with a doctrine of dissent, which they learn to recite as they prepare to attend many of the better universities in the world. Extracting these children from the jaws of bias could mean the difference between world prosperity and menacing global rifts. And doing so will not be easy. But not because these children are found in the madrasas of Pakistan or the state-controlled schools of Saudi Arabia. They are not. Rather, they live in two of the world’s great democracies—France and Germany.

What a country teaches its young people reflects its bedrock national beliefs. Schools hand down a society’s historical narrative to the next generation. There has been a great deal of debate over the ways in which this historical ideology is passed on—over Japanese textbooks that downplay the Nanjing Massacre, Palestinian textbooks that feature maps without Israel, and new Russian guidelines that require teachers to portray Stalinism more favorably. Yet there has been almost no analysis of how countries teach economics, even though the subject is equally crucial in shaping the collective identity that drives foreign and domestic policies.

Just as schools teach a historical narrative, they also pass on “truths” about capitalism, the welfare state, and other economic principles that a society considers self-evident. In both France and Germany, for instance, schools have helped ingrain a serious aversion to capitalism. In one 2005 poll, just 36 percent of French citizens said they supported the free-enterprise system, the only one of 22 countries polled that showed minority support for this cornerstone of global commerce. In Germany, meanwhile, support for socialist ideals is running at all-time highs—47 percent in 2007 versus 36 percent in 1991.

It’s tempting to dismiss these attitudes as being little more than punch lines to cocktail party jokes. But their impact is sadly and seriously self-destructive. In Germany, unemployment is finally falling after years at Depression-era levels, thanks in no small part to welfare reforms that in 2005 pressured Germans on the public dole to take up jobs. Yet there is near consensus among Germans that, despite this happy outcome, tinkering with the welfare state went far beyond what is permissible.

Brother Cohen is fond of pointing out that if you simply look at America's interest in post-war Europe as being to guarantee that they'd no longer bother us and we'd never again have to intervene in a war there, then all its various pathologies and our encouragement of them must be seen as successes from a purely parochial point of view.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:26 AM


Same Old Story: History repeats itself in the Democrats' narrative. (Mark Stricherz, 1/08/08, National Review)

After the midwestern Democrat won the Iowa caucus, liberals were aglow. Turnout at the Democratic party’s caucus had shattered the previous mark, almost doubling the totals four years earlier; better still, more Democrats had caucused than Republicans. While it was unclear whether the winner of the Iowa caucus would earn the party’s nomination, it was clear that a Democrat would capture the White House. After all, Democrats had taken back control of Congress in the midterms; and Republicans couldn’t possibly hold the presidency for three straight elections, a feat not achieved since the Democrats, with The Champ at the top of the ticket, did it in 1940. Truly, a new era — a new Democratic era! — had arrived.

The year was not 2008, but rather 1988. We know what happened in November of that year: the Democratic party’s presidential nominee lost. And liberals were left to recriminate and ponder over what had gone wrong, not only in this presidential election but in four of the previous six elections.

Of course, the political situation in 2008 differs from that of 1988. Senator Barack Obama is a more likable, impressive, and even moderate candidate than Representative Richard Gephardt, the victor of the 1988 Iowa caucus (let alone the eventual Democratic nominee that year, Governor Michael Dukakis). And the Republican Party is weaker today than in 1988; the GOP of 1988 was not dragged down by an unpopular war, had not angered the party’s fiscal conservatives, and did not need to fret over the health care issue.

Spoken like someone who was too young to be paying attention to politics in '88. Ronald Reagan was nearly impeached for his unpopular war; the Right turned on him for his deficit spending, which doubled the national debt as a percentage of GDP; and in the '86 midterm the GOP had sunk to 45 seats in the Senate and an 81 seat deficit in the House.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:24 AM


WHERE IS WAZIRISTAN?: A Look at the Candidates' Foreign Policy Positions: It is commonly believed in Europe that anyone would be more competent that George W. Bush when it comes to foreign policy. But with Clinton tough on Iran and most of the Republicans willing to follow Bush off the foreign policy cliff, that could be a pipe dream. (John C. Hulsman, 1/08/08, Der Spiegel)


Hillary Clinton is easily the most hawkish on Iran of the major Democratic candidates. The senator from New York would first delight Europeans with her emphasis that America ought to negotiate unconditionally and directly with Tehran, and the sooner the better. Berlin, Paris, and London would also be pleased that she has consistently placed the emphasis on sanctions as the tool of choice in confronting the mullahs. She has also approvingly cited the Libyan and North Korean examples, pointing out that sanctions likely helped convince those regimes to back down from the nuclear brink.

But the cheering on the continent would stop there. For Senator Clinton makes it quite clear that she "will do everything in her power to prevent Iran from having a nuclear weapon." In other words, force remains squarely on the table. Clinton is ready to give multilateralism and sanctions -- those icons of conventional European thinking on diplomacy -- a real try. But if they fail, her position is not all that different from that of George W. Bush.

Barack Obama [:] Generally and uniquely, Obama calls for America to negotiate without preconditions with everyone, seeing this as the only way to solve international problems. Furthermore, to the delight of European elites, Obama thinks these negotiations should take place within existing multilateral institutions. Indeed, he is by far the firmest adherent to this centerpiece of European thought.

Americans, though, tend to be far more impressed by results (or the lack of them) than by process, and Obama is far from clear on what happens should well-meaning negotiations with Iran fail, nor does he elucidate what happens if endless conferences fail to yield results in other areas. In other words, he is unclear, in a way Senator Clinton is not, on the role power plays in foreign policy formulation. As always, Obama's rhetoric is intriguing, but his ideas have yet to be fully formed.

Both Ms Clinton and Mr. Obama are so inexperienced and perceived as so weak on foreign policy that they'd be forced to overreact in any "crisis" just to try and gain some street cred.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:13 AM


Obama Is 'Intangible, Elastic, Hollow' (Der Spiegel, 1/08/08)

Center-left Süddeutsche Zeitung writes: [...]

"Barack Obama ... would be a greater risk for the Democrats in the actual presidential election campaign -- against a Republican warhorse like John McCain, for example. Anyone who reads Obama's speeches, analyzes his political resumé, who studies his public appearances from the first minute to the last will acknowledge that he has great political talent."

"But the candidate is nevertheless unsettling because he remains strangely intangible, elastic and hollow. When Obama suffered a slump in popularity in the autumn, there was a reason: You can't grab hold of the man. But now he is enchanting the public with a canned speech that offers everything apart from the most important thing: political substance. That may be tactically clever, but one would prefer to hand one of the most important jobs in the democratic world to someone who does more than just spread feelgood sentiment, who has a few more scars, whose career was built on measurable decisions and who doesn't primarily tap into an outlook on life."

Here's an idea to consider: it may be that the Democrats' failure to reconcile themselves to Clintonism--the Third Way--requires them to nominate a hollow man. They don't like the ones who truly are New Democrats and know they can't afford to nominate true believers in the Second Way. So the best option is someone thoroughly insubstantial.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:08 AM


Bush, Democrats both support tax cuts -- but what kind?: The president seeks to extend existing reductions. His adversaries want relief for the middle class. (Maura Reynolds and P.J. Huffstutter, January 8, 2008, LA Times)

As signals of a weakening economy grow louder, the Bush administration and congressional Democrats are considering new measures, including a fresh round of tax cuts, designed to stave off recession.

But while both sides of Washington's policy debate appear to favor some kind of tax-cut package to spur economic growth, there is little sign that they are near agreement on what kind of cuts should go to whom.

It's amusing to hear presidential candidates talk about change when the governing consensus--not just here, but across the Anglosphere--has become so narrow.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:53 AM


Weighing In on Inflation (CAROLINE BAUM, January 8, 2008, NY Sun)

With the tremors from the residential real estate market working their way first through the financial system and then into other areas of the economy, the Fed's "inflation problem" won't exist for very long. Something's gotta give.

"Japan is a perfect example of what asset price deflation can do for you," Mr. Kasriel said.

For the last decade, consumer prices in Japan have fallen at an average rate of 0.2%. Rock-bottom interest rates — the Bank of Japan's benchmark rate has been below 1% for 12 years — have done nothing to alleviate the modest deflation, or decline in the price level.

Hard to believe, but Japan's double asset bubble — in real estate and stock prices — burst in 1989. And it still can't dig out from under.

The slowdown in economic growth and inflation isn't necessarily contemporaneous. Inflation is a lagging indicator, generally peaking after the economy enters recession, according to Mr. Kasriel.

A fire can't burn without tinder; inflation can't smolder when the Fed is creating the raw material at a snail's pace. The monetary base, which consists of bank reserves and currency, is growing at an anemic 1.1% rate. In inflation-adjusted terms, the base is contracting.

All the talk about the Fed's inflation problem doesn't seem to have registered with the market where expectations are weighed. The spread between nominal and inflation-indexed bonds, a proxy for expected inflation, has been falling.

The yield on the 10-year inflation-indexed Treasury fell to 1.54% last week. A year ago, the yield was 2.4%.

This is a real yield. The holder is compensated separately for inflation.

Posted by Matt Murphy at 3:50 AM


* J. Schweitzer for his stellar 20-12 record in the bowl game pool and his #1 ranking, and...

* Rich for outsmarting the rest of us with his LSU-Ohio State pick.

Please see the comments section, send me an email and I'll get your prize sent out.

Thank you everyone for playing! Eight months until kickoff...

January 7, 2008

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:31 PM


Economists who make the recession call: An arcane body called the National Bureau of Economic Research is in charge of deciding when America is officially in recession. Its time may have come (Stephen Foley, 08 January 2008, Independent)

Will there be a recession in the US? Right now, everyone seems to have an opinion, everyone is furiously debating the question.But only one organisation will have the answer. That organisation is the National Bureau of Economic Research.

Whereas in the UK, the Treasury can flex Gordon Brown's 10-year-old golden rules by redefining the beginning and end of the business cycle at will, the dusty-sounding but uber-influential NBER has been arbiter of the US business cycle for nigh on 90 years. Only when the NBER raises its red flag will the US officially be in a recession; only when its green flag goes up can we be sure we are once again in the clear. [...]

It takes the NBER several months to determine exactly when a recession begins and ends. November 2001, the last time the organisation proclaimed a recession, was the same month that it turned out to have ended. The organisation is particularly wary of false starts and false dawns, saying it waits to be sure all its measures of economic activity complement each other. "A recession involves a substantial decline in output and employment," it says. "In the past six recessions, industrial production fell by an average of 4.6 per cent and employment by 1.1 per cent. The bureau waits until the data show whether or not a decline is large enough to qualify as a recession before declaring that a turning point in the economy is a true peak marking the onset of a recession."

Indeed, not only will 2001 end up not having been a recession but 1991 won't have been one either.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:27 PM


Little New Hampshire Could Hold Big Significance for Both Parties (Dan Balz, 1/07/08, Washington Post)

The Republican race appears more competitive on primary eve, but the Democratic contest holds the greater significance, if only because of what it may say about the future of the couple that gave the party consecutive White House terms for the first time since Franklin D. Roosevelt's presidency.

Top Clinton campaign officials and alarmed allies are braced for a defeat on Tuesday. Five days is not enough, they have argued, to slow and reverse the momentum Obama has developed in Iowa. What they are looking to do is hold down his margin in New Hampshire and then try to restart the race on Wednesday, hoping to stay alive until Feb. 5, when many of the biggest states in the nation will hold primaries.

"Whatever happens tomorrow, we're going on," Clinton told CBS's Harry Smith on Monday morning. "And we're going to keep going until the end of the process on February 5th. But I've always felt that this is going to be a very tough, hard-fought election, and I'm ready for that."

But like Penn's Saturday memo, that may be more wish than reality. By Wednesday, it may be too late. By then, Obama's campaign may have inflicted enough damage on the woman-who-was-once-inevitable that no amount of readjusting, recalibrating and rearranging will give her the wherewithal to overcome two big losses in the first contests of the 2008 nomination battle.

The New York Post headline on Monday morning read "Panic." Asked by Smith, "Is your campaign in panic?," Clinton replied, "Well I'm not."

People close to the New York senator said she has been clear-eyed about the challenge since arriving here early Friday -- and determined to turn things around. But her team is far less confident. Loyalists describe a campaign that failed to provide Clinton with a new core message or focus after Iowa.

She spent Friday in one mode: reiterating in slightly sharper language her Iowa message that the key issue is who is ready to be president. By Saturday she began to toughen that message. By Sunday she was making even stronger arguments against Obama and by Monday morning she was in all-out contrast mode.

If she can't take down a featherweight like Obama--as George W. Bush took out the, at least, middleweight McCain in '00--then why should she be president?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:23 PM


Kenyan leader and opponent to meet (Jeffrey Gettleman, January 8, 2008, IHT)

For the first time since Kenya exploded into election-related violence that has killed more than 400 people, the president and the top opposition leader have agreed to meet, both sides said Monday.

Mwai Kibaki, the president who won re-election last week after a deeply flawed vote count, invited Raila Odinga, the top opposition leader who said he was cheated out of victory, to talks on Friday; Odinga indicated that he would go, if certain conditions were met.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:18 PM


The Old Warhorse (Victor Davis Hanson, 1/07/08, Tribune News Services)

First, in a campaign year of crass political reinventions, McCain does not flip-flop. Instead, he seems to enjoy telling people what they don't want to hear. Apparently, at his age, and after what he went through in Vietnam, there is no reason to begin trimming the truth now.

To those more liberal, McCain insists that the surge is working and we will secure Iraq — only to explain to conservatives why we can't, either practically or morally, deport all 11 million illegal aliens. He seems more opposed to pork barrel and deficit spending than doctrinaire conservatives.

Second, McCain has the most diverse experience of any of the candidates in either party. Sens. Obama and Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., may bicker over whether being first lady or growing up in Indonesia constitutes the better foreign-policy background. But no one would question McCain's far greater breadth of service: carrier aviator, combat pilot, wounded veteran, tortured while a prisoner of war for five and a half years, U.S. congressman and senator for a combined quarter-century, 2000 presidential candidate. And the list only goes on.

Third, we are still in a war on several fronts — as we were reminded recently by the assassination, likely by al Qaeda, of pro-American Pakistani Benazir Bhutto. Many of the other inexperienced candidates fumbled in their initial reactions to Bhutto's murder.

Obama ludicrously associated her death with the Iraq war. Huckabee, in Jimmy Carter fashion, apologized to Pakistan for the assassination — although he did not explain why. Former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson demanded that Gen. Musharraf step down — as if we can snap our fingers and choose nuclear Pakistan's leaders.

McCain in contrast kept his cool. He candidly admitted that the tragic loss of Bhutto was a setback to American democratic objectives, while reminding us that a nuclear Islamist Pakistan is unstable and doesn't present America with any good choices. In this war, having a veteran fighter and savvy old statesman as commander-in-chief makes a lot of sense.

Posted by Matt Murphy at 9:04 PM


To enter our contest, please guess the score of tomorrow night's national championship football game between LSU and Ohio State, and make sure to let us know who wins. Post your guess in the comments section below, plus any trash talk that may come to mind. Have fun!

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:29 PM


NH Weather Balmy, Record Turnout Expected (AP, 1/07/08)

A few days ago, temperatures fought to get above zero as candidates fought for votes in New Hampshire, but Old Man Winter is giving the state a break, with temperatures predicted to soar into the 50s as voters prepared to turn out in potential record numbers.

"It's a traditional part of winter, when you get your January thaw, then it turns cold again and breaks your heart," said National Weather Service meteorologist Art Lester.

Just last week, campaigners and candidates were bundled head to foot, walking gingerly on icy sidewalks and driving on snow-covered roads.

John McCain and Bill Clinton were both in town today and the place was packed.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:16 PM

NO WONDER THE RIGHT HATED HIM... (via Bryan Francouer):

THIS DAY IN HISTORY: January 6, 1983 (History Channel)

On this day in 1983, President Ronald Reagan gave the green light to one of his pet proposals, a gas tax hike designed to raise funds for the nation's roads and bridges. That the bill made it to the Oval Office was something of a minor miracle, as the nationÝs legislators spent a good part of the fall embroiled in a nasty partisan debate over the relative merits of the tax hike.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:27 PM


Bill to Paul supporters: 'You’re nuts' (Mike Memoli, 1/07/08, NBC: First Read)

Clinton stopped outside a bakery, offered some remarks, and took questions. As he was answering one on Iraq, one of the Paul backers interrupted and shouted that the Sept. 11 attacks were an inside job, and that the U.S. didn’t need to be in Iraq and Afghanistan.

When he dropped an F-bomb, the crowd booed. Clinton, who had tried to talk over the man, gave up.

"You wanna know what I think?” Clinton said. “You guys who think 9/11 was an inside job are crazy as hell. My wife was the senator from New York when that happened. I was down at Ground Zero. I saw the victims' families. You're nuts."

The Paleocon Dilemma…: The Ron Paul campaign illustrates the choices facing the antiwar Right. (W. James Antle III, 1/18/08, American Conservative)

Ron Paul isn’t just running for president. The antiwar 10-term congressman from Texas hopes that as titular head of the Republican Party, he can nudge the Right in a less interventionist direction, both at home and abroad. In fact, reviving an older, less reflexively hawkish conservatism may even be a more important motivation for Paul’s long-shot campaign than actually capturing the GOP nomination.

There’s just one problem: the movement Paul is trying to lead, or at least influence, is filled with people who think he is some kind of crazed left-wing radical. The popular conservative website RedState.com has effectively banned Paul supporters from signing up as commenters and promoting their candidate, partly on the grounds that such people are liberal Democrats merely pretending to be Republicans. FreeRepublic.com founder Jim Robinson, whose website was once more open to constitutionalists than Republican boosters, asserted that “Paul equals Hillary on the War.” National Review senior editor Richard Brookhiser has opined that Paul backers are “wicked idiots.”

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:22 PM


The New New Mitt: New Hampshire voters know Romney's record better than most. That could spell trouble (KIMBERLEY A. STRASSEL, January 7, 2008, Opinion Journal)

Mr. Romney had an opportunity at the beginning of this race to present himself as the ideas candidate. In contrast to his superstar rivals (Mr. McCain, Rudy Giuliani), Mr. Romney was a blank slate for most Americans, and might have used his personal fortune to build an image of a creative outsider, a fresh problem-solver determined to invigorate Republican principles.

Instead, Mr. Romney has presented himself as the person least objectionable to all the different branches of the Republican coalition. His many attack ads have reinforced this blandness, tearing down his competitors, but doing little to distinguish Mr. Romney or his policies. All of this misread the public desire for something different, and has now left him vulnerable here to Mr. McCain's image as the maverick who can "change" Washington by bridging its partisan divide.

And so now comes the Romney Reinvention, which has brought with it a new peril, given his reputation as a flip-flopper. It's especially problematic in a state like New Hampshire, where voters witnessed Mr. Romney's tenure as governor of nearby Massachusetts, and are better able than most to mark differences between then and now.

Politics holds no greater danger than when your opponents get to fill in your blanks, as Barack Obama seems likely to find out in the general--since Hillary has failed to do it in the primaries.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:20 PM


President Saakashvili says Georgia is on way to democracy (The Associated Press, January 7, 2008)

Mikheil Saakashvili says he knows his country needs to make changes. But he argued Monday that the election that returned him to Georgia's presidency for a second term showed that the former Soviet republic was on the road to becoming a European democracy.

"I believe there are many aspects that need to be criticized," Saakashvili said in an interview. "This is still a country in transition, this is still not a full-fledged, very well-formed, crystallized society. We still have lots of things to do. But I think we are on the right track and this election has just proved that."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:36 PM


What’s Left for Government to Do?: Outsourcing champion STEPHEN GOLDSMITH examines the question of whether governments really have ‘inherent’ or ‘core’ functions. (Stephen Goldsmith, January/February 2008 Issue, The American)

Functions such as law enforcement and public safety are typically considered inherently govern­mental. But as the mayor of Indianapolis for two terms (1992–1999), I outsourced the operation not only of a jail but also of an airport and a utility—with good results. It was hard not to be amused, as the GAO panel debated the definition of an inher­ently governmental function, by the fact that the federal building we were meeting in was under the protection of a private security firm. Even if we could agree on core government functions that had to be walled off from contractors, we would be left with a thorny question: what happens when government turns out not to be very good at inher­ently governmental work?

At the state level, several governors and legis­latures are not getting hung up on philosophical questions and are instead rushing to try private-sec­tor solutions to pernicious public-service problems. Officials do so at significant political risk, but the potential for success—and for breaking with age-old failures—seem worth the gamble. In 2004, Mayor Richard Daley secured a $1.8 billion deal to lease the operation of the 7.8-mile elevated toll road known as the Chicago Skyway to a private consortium for 99 years. Two years later, Indiana made a deal with the same consortium: a 75-year lease for $3.8 billion to operate the Indiana Toll Road. Other states have outsourced the operation of toll roads and bridges, and more are consider­ing it. Privatizing state lotteries is also under discussion.

But leasing out toll roads and lotteries is relatively simple; some states are showing much bigger ambitions. Texas has attempted to outsource the way that welfare eligibility is determined, for instance, and Florida has privatized its human-resources operations. Neither venture has found much success, but they offer lessons that might help officials elsewhere as they attempt their own innovations. Certainly, the efforts in Texas and Florida are an indication of how today’s public-private partnerships differ significantly from those of recent decades. No longer limited to ownership of a public asset, privatization initia­tives nowadays are increasingly adventurous. Businesses and government are clearly ready to consider tackling complex policy problems using modern technology and the creative spark of pri­vate enterprise.

Perhaps no state or local effort in the last several years better represents the future of privatization than the welfare-eligibil­ity modernization project launched last year in Indiana.

...this election would be Richard Daley vs. Mitch Daniels.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:29 PM


On Parenting: Reassuring Autism Findings: New evidence exonerates vaccines, while super-early intervention sparks interest (Nancy Shute, January 7, 2008, The American)

The best evidence to date that vaccines are not responsible is published today in the Archives of General Psychiatry. Researchers with the California Department of Public Health found that the number of new cases of autism reported in California has risen consistently for children born from 1989 through 2003, which includes the period when thimerosal was phased out. Studies in other countries, including one from Canada published in 2007, have also exonerated vaccines and thimerosal.

"This study is very important for public health," says Eric Fombonne, an autism researcher who heads the department of psychiatry at Montreal Children's Hospital. He hopes the new evidence will encourage all parents to get their children vaccinated, and persuade parents of children with autism to shun chelation and other untested treatments. "When you have a disorder that is so complex, that affects humans at their core nature, people want explanations," says Fombonne, who is optimistic that research now underway on linking genes with autism will provide them. "I think the situation will change dramatically in the next few years, as we discover more genes."

Such discoveries won't help children who are already struggling with the disorder. But one recent bright spot in treatment is evidence that the earlier children get behavioral interventions designed to teach language skills, thinking, and social interaction, the better they seem to do through life. Scientists are now trying to push the limits of that theory, targeting even tiny babies, as young as 6 months, who are too young to be diagnosed with autism.

"Early intervention leads to more positive outcomes," says Annette Estes, a research assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences and behavioral sciences at the University of Washington. Unpublished work by Estes and her colleagues has found improvements in children who are given intervention at as young as 18 months. The idea is that since small children's brains grow in response to their environment, babies destined to develop autism can develop new neuronal pathways to work around their brain deficits.

This month, Estes started recruiting 200 families with newborns in the Seattle area who have an older child with autism. Those babies have a much higher risk of developing the disorder than kids in the general population: about 1 in 20, compared with about 1 in 150. Half of the parents will be trained to work with their babies using a program called "Promoting First Relationships," which was designed to improve the social environment for normal children in high-stress situations like homeless shelters.

Gosh, you mean if you pay attention to socializing young kids normally most become normally socialized?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:20 PM


Charlie Wilson's War (James Bowman, 1/7/2008, American Spectator)

It may at first seem surprising that Charlie Wilson's War, written by Aaron Sorkin ("The West Wing") and directed by Mike Nichols, is being slotted into the media's narrative about the box-office failure of a number of recent movies about the Iraq war. After all, this film is set decades ago and concerns itself with a completely different war, the one occasioned by the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. No matter. According to the New York Times, "A mere whiff of more depressing headlines out of the Middle East may be enough to drive some people home to watch a DVD of the Yule log." That, in its view, is what happened to such movies as Lions for Lambs and Rendition. Yet if Charlie Wilson's War is successful, they've got an explanation for that too. It will show that "You can make a movie that is relevant and intelligent -- and palatable to a mass audience -- if its political pills are sugar-coated."

In other words, what doomed Lions for Lambs and Rendition was too much truth, not enough sugar-coating. Such a belief is itself a sugar-coating of the unpalatable truth that, in spite of Hollywood's best efforts, American audiences still like to see movies in which American forces are the good guys and they defeat America's enemies, who are the bad guys. By that measure, Charlie Wilson's War should do well.

...to have lived long enough that folks have become so silly as to suggest that defeating Communism wasn't worth some additional instability in a never stable region of the world. On the other, it happened so quickly that you can be fairly young and still remember that Afghanistan/western Pakistan was once a bloodbath when it was just a sideshow in the Long War and is now nowhere near bloody enough when it is the main event in the coda to that War. Charlie Wilson and company helped liberate hundreds of millions of people. When we finish off al Qaeda it will just remove an irritant. The prize was well worth the price.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:11 PM


GOP Outsider Ron Paul Dogs Giuliani in N.H. Race (RUSSELL BERMAN, January 7, 2008, NY Sun)

The big question facing Mayor Giuliani heading into tomorrow's primary here is not so much whether he will win, but whether he can finish ahead of Rep. Ron Paul.

Mr. Paul, the stridently anti-war Texas congressman, nearly tripled Mr. Giuliani's vote total in Iowa and is running neck-and-neck with him in New Hampshire, with each hovering around the 10% mark in the polls.

For Mr. Giuliani, the undercard bout with Mr. Paul is the starkest sign yet of how far his star has fallen in recent months.

There just aren't enough amoral votes in the GOP for two.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:06 PM


In Musharraf’s Shadow, a New Hope for Pakistan Rises (DAVID ROHDE and CARLOTTA GALL, 1/07/08, NY Times)

Over the last several months, a little-known, enigmatic Pakistani general has quietly raised hopes among American officials that he could emerge as a new force for stability in Pakistan, according to current and former government officials. But it remains too early to determine whether he can play a decisive role in the country.

In late November, the general, Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, took command of Pakistan’s army when the country’s longtime military ruler, Pervez Musharraf, resigned as army chief and became a civilian president. At that time, General Kayani, a protégé of Mr. Musharraf’s, became one of Pakistan’s most powerful officials.

The Pakistani Army has dominated the country for decades and the army chief wields enormous influence. Over time, as General Kayani gains firmer control of the army, he is likely to become even more powerful than Mr. Musharraf himself.

“Gradually, General Kayani will be the boss,” said Talat Masood, a Pakistani political analyst and retired general. “The real control of the army will be with Kayani.”

What does purging the military/intelligene services and the Tribal regions of Islamicists have to do with stability?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:39 PM


McCain's Promise
: It is cruel to compare the senator to most of his Republican competitors. (Dorothy Rabinowitz, January 7, 2008, Opinion Journal)

In the midst of all the gloomy prognostications that John McCain was as good as gone, one encountered person after unexpected person--people, that is, who don't vote Republican--who announced themselves McCain enthusiasts. They are an old story, these Americans who discovered Mr. McCain in 2000, but it is a story with new meaning today.

All those New York editors sitting in publishing houses, those teachers and publicists and medical professionals, remained solid McCainites. Whatever their political views, whatever shift in their opinions, they seemed, those I knew, to have lost none of their feeling for this candidate. For all his politically incorrect positions--his support of the war, and George Bush--or perhaps because of them, this core army of his admirers remains as certain as they ever were, if not more, that he's the man to lead the nation.

In the primary campaign of 2000, people stood for hours in the freezing cold. In upstate towns they waited for Mr. McCain, home-made signs in their hands, their messages so brief, so charged with the emotions of the men and women holding them--"AMERICAN HERO"--it took your breath away to see it. The transportation for the candidate and reporters traveling with him had been named, only half-mischievously, the Straight Talk Express.

Now, these hard years later, the meaning of that name takes on larger dimensions, and the straight talk in question--about the war, about his support for the president, his stand on immigration, all so costly to him, and so unhesitatingly given--has also been the making of him. It is this, first of all, that people recognize in him.

Almost as in the old days, he's begun to get plenty of respect from the media. Though the word "old" keeps showing up in regular, not always innocent and invariably hammy tributes--as when his name is attached to terms like "the old warrior" or simply "old soldier." There's indeed something suitable in the word as regards Mr. McCain, but it is nothing having to do with his age.

That ingrained pride of his that forbids pandering for political gain--that would be shamed by lying about his deeply held views--is what is old about him. Old in the sense that honor of this kind is sufficiently rare, now, that it's a subject of wonderment to people when they find it in someone, as they have in John McCain.

The rarity of such standards--the lack of consciousness, even, among political contenders, that limitless pandering might actually be wrong, and say something damning about the character and judgment of the candidate--has never seemed more evident than in the current primary race. Who can forget Mitt Romney listening in seeming amazement, a few weeks ago, as Tim Russert pressed him to explain certain extraordinary (if politically convenient) turnabout stands he'd taken on gay marriage, the right to life and other hot social issues?

A model of self-assurance, Mr. Romney expressed his astonishment at the questions, at the idea that a man couldn't develop new positions. And what kind of a leader, he wanted to know, would he be if he never