March 31, 2008

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:18 PM


Young Tibetans question path of nonviolence: Unrest in Tibet has revealed a generational fault line that is likely to sharpen as Olympics near. (Jason Motlagh, 4/01/08, The Christian Science Monitor)

The unrest in Tibet has revealed a generational fault line within the Tibetan community – one that is likely to sharpen as the Olympics draw closer. While they affirm their respect for the Dalai Lama as a religious figure, many Tibetans say they have lost faith in his "Middle Way" of coexistence to achieve political autonomy. Impatient with the approach that has brought their cause global sympathy – and little change on the ground, young activists say they are willing to consider a much broader array of actions to press their cause.

"The middle way has been in existence for 20 years and nothing has come out of it," Tsewang Rigzin, president of the Tibetan Youth Congress, recently told reporters.

He doesn't live there and he gets social cache -- not to mention cash money -- from being a cut-rate Ghandi. You don't defeat evil regimes by bowing to them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:18 PM

50-0 FILES:

McCain making quiet play for Catholic vote: Quiet courtship part of a broader effort to win religious voters (WAYNE SLATER, March 31, 2008, The Dallas Morning News)

"If he can get Catholics and evangelicals together in a coalition, that would make him very difficult to defeat," said political scientist Mark Rozell of George Mason University.

Mr. McCain's plan to win the White House includes an appeal to Christian conservatives, long a crucial GOP voting bloc, as well as to more moderate independent voters and so-called "Reagan Democrats," many of them Catholic.

It's a formula that has worked in the past. In 2004, nearly 80 percent of white, evangelical Protestants voted for President Bush. He also got a majority of Catholics, which he failed to do four years earlier. [...]

This year, the Arizona senator won the Catholic vote in most GOP primaries, including Texas, according to exit polls. And his campaign has announced the names of 100 prominent Catholics as part of a group headed by former GOP presidential candidate Sen. Sam Brownback.

"Sen. McCain is a natural for Catholics in a lot of ways," said Rob Wasinger, who was Mr. Brownback's campaign manager. "He's pro-life and for traditional marriage. But he goes to a lot of issues that Catholics feel very strongly about, issues that reflect a deeper sense of social justice and human rights."

Meanwhile, his opponent is talking about aborting his own grandchildren.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:15 PM


Embarrassed U.S. Starts to Disown Basra Operation (Gareth Porter, Mar 31, 2008, IPS)

As it became clear last week that the "Operation Knights Assault" in Basra was in serious trouble, the George W. Bush administration began to claim in off-the-record statements to journalists that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki had launched the operation without consulting Washington.

The effort to disclaim U.S. responsibility for the operation is an indication that it was viewed as a major embarrassment just as top commander Gen. David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker are about to testify before Congress.

Behind this furious backpedaling is a major Bush administration miscalculation about Moqtada al-Sadr and the Mahdi Army, which the administration believed was no longer capable of a coordinated military operation. It is now apparent that Sadr and the Mahdi Army were holding back because they were still in the process of retraining and reorganisation, not because Sadr had given up the military option or had lost control of the Mahdi Army.

Nothing wrong with letting the Iraqis make some mistakes as they learn to stand on their own.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:51 PM


Barack Obama Would Back Daughters' Abortion, "Don't Punish Them With a Baby" (Steven Ertelt, 3/31/08,

Barack Obama is drawing gasps from pro-life advocates today over comments he made during a campaign stop in Pennsylvania over the weekend. The leading Democratic presidential candidate appeared to back a potential decision by his daughters to seek an abortion saying he wouldn't "punish" them with a baby.

Samantha Power called the wrong candidate a monster.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:17 PM


The Big Prize of Basra: Iraq had been enjoying a period of relative peace. But the spate of violence in Basra last week showed that dangerous divisions remain in the war-torn country. And everyone has their eye on the same oil-rich prize. (Bernhard Zand, 3/31/08, Der Spiegel)

On Tuesday, 30,000 Iraqi soldiers and police arrived in Basra to liberate the city from the plague of militias and looters that has kept it in a stranglehold for years. The city was to be cleansed of "evil elements" block after block, as Iraqi National Security Advisor Muwaffaq al-Rubaie announced. "Anyone who gets in our way will be dealt with quickly, decisively and without mercy," he added. But far from achieving its intended effect, the government's military posturing did not appear to intimidate the militias, at least not initially. In Basra, they danced boldly in front of the government forces' destroyed tanks. In other cities, like Hilla, Kut and Amara, they fired on police with rocket launchers, and in Baghdad they resumed their attacks on the Green Zone with rocket-propelled grenades.

McCain Says Iraqi Operation in Basra Came as Surprise (Laura Meckler, 3/31/08, WSJ: Washingtn Wire)
“Malaki decided to take on this operation without consulting the Americans,” McCain told reporters traveling with him in Meridian, Miss. “I’m surprised he’d take it on himself to go down and take charge of a military offensive. I had not anticipated that he would do it.”

Iranian general played key role in brokering Iraq cease-fire (Leila Fadel, 3/30/08, McClatchy Newspapers )
Iraqi lawmakers traveled to the Iranian holy city of Qom over the weekend to win the support of the commander of Iran's Qods brigades in persuading Shiite cleric Muqtada al Sadr to order his followers to stop military operations, members of the Iraqi parliament said.

Sadr ordered the halt on Sunday, and his Mahdi Army militia heeded the order in Baghdad, where the Iraqi government announced it would lift a 24-hour curfew starting early Monday in most parts of the capital.

Maliki tried showing his independence and ended up having to go hat in hand to the Iranians? Tough for even neocons to sell that as a win.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:02 PM


A Euro-army is fantasy land. We need our American ally (Martin Kettle, 3/29/08, The Guardian)

For years now, Nato nations have been committed to reach a minimum defence spending target of 2% of GDP. Yet 20 of them, including Canada, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain, have fallen far short. Among the six that have reached the target, the shares of four (including Britain and France) are in decline. Inevitably, that means the US carries ever more of the load and becomes ever more sceptical about taking Europe seriously.

For years also, European nations have talked about the importance of avoiding duplication in equipment and weapons. But the talk has largely remained just that. It is barmy that Europeans have four different models of tank, compared with America's one; 16 different types of armoured vehicles as against America's three; or 11 types of frigate to America's one. Once again, Europe's failure highlights the US predominance.

These are the trivial featherweights the Democrats want us to defer to?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:01 AM


Six Ways Not to Deal with Hamas: How do you stop a foe whose tolerance for pain exceeds your willingness to inflict it? (Chuck Freilich, March 2008, Foreign Policy)

Let us examine each of the alternatives in turn.

Topple Hamas

For the most part, this has been Israel’s policy. The Israeli government has pinned its hopes on its ability to weaken Hamas through economic sanctions, political isolation, and limited military strikes. So far, it has achieved the opposite. Hamas consolidated its hold on Gaza last June, then temporarily succeeded in lifting the economic siege in February, further increasing its popularity.

Some hope that a major Israeli operation designed to oust Hamas would lead to a power vacuum in which the Palestinian Authority can reestablish its rule, possibly with the assistance of an international force. It is highly unlikely, however, that Hamas can be overthrown and the prospects of the feckless, corrupt Authority restoring and maintaining its rule are minimal. More likely, today’s near-chaos would become tomorrow’s total chaos.

Destroy Hamas Militarily

Israel’s military restraint to date has not been for lack of determination, but simply because an effective, military response, at an acceptable price, has yet to be found. For Hamas, economic and military deprivation are not unacceptable punishments, but a means to fan the flames, rally support, and undermine whatever minimal prospects for peace remain. An enemy that welcomes punishment beyond those that Israel will inflict is fundamentally undeterrable. Only a very large military operation may achieve some lasting benefit against it, but even this is unlikely to produce more than a brief respite. And after disengaging from Gaza, the last thing Israel wants to do is reoccupy it. Nor can the possibility that Hezbollah and even Syria will join the fray be discounted.

Talk to Hamas

Negotiations with an organization that explicitly avows Israel’s destruction at every opportunity are anathema to many Israelis. Political and moral questions aside, what could Israel and Hamas actually talk about? Is there anything short of voluntary national suicide that would satisfy Hamas? Other than a temporary ceasefire, now under discussion, all indications point to the contrary.

The United States, Europe, and even most Arab states, moreover, strongly oppose negotiating with Hamas. To do so would prove that terrorism, not diplomacy, is the way to gain Israeli concessions. It would also gravely undermine whatever residual legitimacy Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas still enjoys.

Hamas’s repeated proposal to negotiate a long-term ceasefire may ultimately be worth exploring. But its present conditions are entirely unacceptable. If Hamas had its way, Israel would have to cease all counterterrorist operations not only in Gaza, but the West Bank, as well— the only thing that has kept Abbas in power and the rockets out of Tel Aviv.

Mr. Freilich, predictably, fails to consider the viable alternative: destroy the radical leadership in Damascus as you change the regime there, support Hamas against the PLO so it can consolidate its rule, recognize Palestine so Hamas has to govern it, and then ignore them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:55 AM


Why the Pope Has Bin Laden Running Scared (Colleen Carroll Campbell, March 27, 2008, St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

So why does Benedict infuriate bin Laden?

A glimpse of an answer came Saturday, during the Easter vigil Mass that Benedict celebrated in Rome. Among seven converts to the Catholic faith whom he baptized was a former Muslim named Magdi Allam, an Egyptian-born Italian journalist known for his outspoken criticism of Islamist extremism.

Allam has been a leading voice of moderate Islam, a staunch supporter of Israel and a fierce critic of Islamist jihadists who murder in the name of God. Death threats have forced Allam to travel with armed guards, and he expects that his Christian conversion will lead to more calls for his head. But Allam says the risk is worthwhile, and he cites Benedict's message about the compatibility of faith and reason as an inspiration for his conversion.

Predictably, Benedict's decision to personally and publicly baptize Allam was blasted by several Muslim leaders. The Vatican newspaper responded by describing the baptism as Benedict's attempt to affirm "in a gentle and clear way, religious freedom."

The message was clear, indeed. The baptism signaled Benedict's belief that religious tolerance must be a two-way street. As he proclaimed in his Regensburg speech, authentic interfaith dialogue, like authentic religious conversion, can happen only when violence is rejected as a means of persuasion and reason is embraced as a means of finding common ground.

Benedict's penchant for promoting peace with strength and telling the truth in charity has irked some Muslim leaders, but it has allowed him to make remarkable inroads with others. Earlier this month, some 10,000 Catholics attended the opening Mass of the first Catholic church ever built in the Sunni Muslim country of Qatar, where Christians have been forced to worship underground for decades. A few days later, Vatican officials confirmed that they are in talks with Saudi Arabia to open a Catholic church in that country, where Christianity remains officially illegal. And the interfaith dialogue that Benedict began with a rocky start at Regensburg has blossomed into a significant initiative that will bring 48 Muslim and Catholic scholars together at the Vatican this fall to discuss the theme, "Love of God, Love of Neighbor."

He realizes he's dialoguing from a position of strength.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:52 AM


Bobby Jindal -- Change You Can Believe In (Erick Erickson, 03/31/2008, Human Events)

The contrast between Barack Obama and Bobby Jindal could not be more stark. On the campaign trail this year, Obama serves up messages of hope and change. Last year, running for Governor of Louisiana, Jindal did the same. But Obama’s hope and change consists of platitudes. Jindal’s hope and change was premised on detailed plans and policy roadmaps to move people forward, get Louisiana on the road to recovery, and end the boom-bust economic cycles. Entering his fourth month in office, Jindal’s change has already proved to be change we can believe in.

Governor Jindal is a master of new media. To demonstrate the point, I was among a number of bloggers invited to dinner at the Governor’s Mansion last week for a mostly off the record chat. As we sat around the table, Jindal shared some of his ideas and his vision for Louisiana. To hear Jindal talk, you appreciate how rare a breed of politician he is -- a policy wonk who can relate the policies to people’s pocketbooks.

“We did a survey of business leaders before entering office and found that the top three issues for them were ethics, taxes, and workforce. That helped us build our agenda,” the Governor said. Almost immediately after his swearing in, Jindal called a special session of the Louisiana Legislature to push through an ethics reform package. Getting almost everything he wanted from the session, Louisiana went from being one of the bottom 5 states in the nation on government ethics to the top state in the nation, according to several public interest watch dog groups. (As amazing as it sounds, before this year there was no prohibition in Louisiana against state legislators doing business with the state, nor were there significant disclosure requirements for elected officials and lobbyists.)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:46 AM


Age as an Asset: McCain's Appeal To Boomers (Suzanne Fields, 3/31/08, Real Clear Politics)

John McCain's biography -- written in the fire of war when the boomers were playing with matches in the safety of an indulgent culture -- is grounded in the virtues of an earlier era when patriotism was not an empty word. He was a child during World War II, when good and evil were everywhere understood; he grew up during the Cold War when it was clear that those who did not share the values of the West could kill us all. His courage and character were formed in a family of military men, and when he graduated from the Naval Academy he went to war without flinching.

Biography, like culture, is not destiny, but it makes a difference. Can we believe the insistence of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton that pulling pell-mell out of Iraq reflects a deep understanding of the chaos and consequences of what they would leave behind? John McCain separated himself from the Democratic candidates in a speech last week emphasizing the importance of paying the wages of war today to avoid paying higher wages tomorrow. "Any president who does not regard this threat as transcending all others does not deserve to sit in the White House," he said, "for he or she does not take seriously enough the first and most basic duty a president has -- to protect the lives of the American people."

One of his strengths is his reputation as a straight shooter; for most of his critics, that reputation trumps another reputation as an unpredictable maverick. Like all pols, he occasionally plays politics; and like all successful pols, he occasionally plays politics well. His scrappiness seems to emanate from authenticity. Having matured in a wizened way, he occasionally seems an exile from a time before euphemism became the politically correct substitute for plain speech.

...even if you have to fake it. The Reverend Wright dust-up is devastating for Senator Obama precisely because it reveals the fakery.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:26 AM


Obama-church newsletter: Israel making 'ethnic bomb': Accuses 'apartheid' state of creating weapon 'that kills blacks and Arabs' (Aaron Klein, 3/25/08, WorldNetDaily)

"The Israelis were given a blank check: they could test whenever they desired and did not even have to ask permission. Both worked on an ethnic bomb that kills Blacks and Arabs."

The June 10, 2007, newsletter, which is still available at Obama's church's website, identifies Baghdadi as an Arab-American activist, writer and columnist who "acted as a Middle East advisor to the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, the founder of the Nation of Islam, as well as Minister Louis Farrakhan."

The piece is titled "An open letter to Oprah," referring to talk show giant Oprah Winfrey, who last year accepted an invitation to visit Israel offered to her by Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel. Winfrey had been a member of Obama's church but reportedly departed in 1986.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:15 AM


Junta Split May Hasten Civilian Rule (Larry Jagan, 3/31/08, IPS)

By promising to hand over power to a civilian government within two years, Burma’s top general has sparked speculation on the future of the junta that has ruled this country since a military coup in 1962. [...]

[U]nderneath this show of unity is the start of a new battle for Burma's future. This time it is not between the monks and the military, as it was last year, but between two factions in the army.In the past few months a major rift has emerged within Burma's military government over the country's political future.

At the centre of the conflict are concerns over who should control the roadmap -- Burma's plans for political change.The confrontation is now beginning to take shape -- between those who currently control Burma's government administration and the country's economic wealth, and those who now prefer to see themselves as the nation's guardians and wish to protect the country from unscrupulous officials.

The junta is no longer as cohesive and united as it was, as two major camps have clearly emerged. On one side there are the ministers and some members of the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) who have major business interests and are associated with Gen Than Shwe's brainchild, the mass community-based Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA).On the other side are the top ranking generals -- loosely grouped around the second in command, Gen. Maung Aye -- who want a professional army and see its main role as protector of the people.They have become increasingly dismayed at the corruption within government and understand that it is undermining the army's future role in the country.

But the 'real' army, as these officers under Gen Maung Aye describe themselves, is going to have to act quickly if it is to remain a force to be reckoned with.The planned referendum for May and the election in two years' time will radically change the country's political landscape.The USDA, which is organising both the referendum and the elections, will significantly increase its power and control over the country's new emerging political process.

Senior members of the army are increasingly resentful of the growing dominance of the USDA and the likely curtailment of the army's authority after the May referendum. ''It will bring an abrupt end to the army's absolute power,'' said Win Min, an Burmese independent government academic based at Chiang Mai University. Key ministers and members of the SPDC have amassed huge personal fortunes from smuggling and kickbacks. Everyone seems powerless to stop them at present, according to Burmese government sources.

''They are known as 'the Nazis' within the top ranks of the army,'' according to a Burmese businessman with close links to the military hierarchy. ''They have the money and they have their own militia.''There are many within the army who view these developments with increasing concern. There is mounting resentment and frustration amongst the junior officers in Nay Pyi Daw.

Many of the junior officers are divisional commanders in the late forties and early fifties. These are the army's ''Young Turks'', who are alarmed at the way in which the USDA is growing in influence at the expense of the army. ''They are watching their unscrupulous colleagues, hiding behind the uniform, building up massive fortunes from corruption in government and they are worried that this tarnishes the image of the army,'' said a source in Nay Pyi Daw.

In the meantime there have been no promotions within the army for nearly a year as Than Shwe has continuously postponed the quarterly SPDC meetings for fear of being ousted by a push from those commanders who oppose the power of the USDA.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:11 AM


Saddam’s Useful Idiots: Keeping up a long, ignoble tradition of the American Left. (Daniel J. Flynn, 3/30/08, National Review)

Ideological tourism, in which totalitarian powers engineer the junkets of influential leftists in exchange for positive publicity in the enemy nation, has seduced the likes of such radical heavyweights as Lincoln Steffens, W.E.B Du Bois, John Reed, and Tom Hayden.

Jack Reed is the father of the political pilgrimage. He traveled to witness the Russian Revolution on the dime of an American heiress. He later departed Soviet Russia with “Moscow Gold” — a million rubles (mostly in diamonds, actually) — and tales of utopia beyond the Urals.

“I suddenly realized that the devout Russian people no longer needed priests to pray them into heaven,” Reed, witnessing a Bolshevik funeral, wrote in Ten Days That Shook the World. “On earth they were building a kingdom more bright than any heaven had to offer, and for which it was a glory to die.” Although the author was a paid agent of Soviet Russia’s Bureau of International Revolutionary Propaganda, in 1999 a panel convened by New York University named the book one of the 20th century’s ten best works of journalism.

Reed’s inspiring book, and evangelistic fervor, motivated others to make the Hajj to the Left’s Mecca. Reed’s mentor Lincoln Steffens journeyed to Soviet Russia on his apprentice’s advice. “The revolution in Russia is to establish the Kingdom of Heaven here on earth, now,” wrote Steffens — using “Christian” as his appropriate nom de plume — “in order that Christ may come soon; and, coming, reign forever. Forever and ever, everywhere. Not over Russia alone. The revolution in Russia is not the Russian revolution. It is ‘The Revolution.’ ”

The revealing thing is that even sixty years later the Left was still lionizing these dupes, in films like Reds and defending Alger Hiss.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:06 AM


The Dems Look Vulnerable in Louisiana (RUSSELL MCCULLEY, 3/25/08, Washington Times)

However dim their congressional prospects look this election year, Republicans are at least feeling pretty good about the state of play in Louisiana. The G.O.P. swept all but two statewide offices in last fall's elections, including the governors' office, where U.S. Rep. Bobby Jindal replaced one-term Democrat Kathleen Blanco. Now Republicans have their sights set on an even bigger prize: the Senate seat currently held by Democrat Mary Landrieu.

Folks forget what a crop of freaks and geeks the Gipper carried with him in 1980 just by winning big enough.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:00 AM


Blogger outreach boosts McCain (Stephen Dinan, March 31, 2008, Washington Times)

"During the unpleasantness, whenever Senator McCain put himself in front of reporters, the question was always, 'How much did you raise today, when are you dropping out,' " said Patrick Hynes, a conservative blogger who Mr. McCain hired in 2006. "And then we'd put him on the phone with bloggers, and they'd want to talk about Iraq, and pork and chasing down al Qaeda."

For the campaign, it came down to deploying the campaign's best asset — Mr. McCain himself — in a forum where he can excel.

Mr. Hynes said the back-and-forth with bloggers took "a great deal of sting out of the criticisms" over immigration, Mr. McCain's push for campaign-finance changes and other areas where conservatives have registered their discontent with the senator, who has secured enough delegates to win the Republican Party's presidential nomination.

"It gave him a microphone when others had already left the building," said David All, one of the Republicans' Web pioneers who runs Slate and who said Mr. McCain has benefited from Mr. Hynes' ties to bloggers. "That very much symbolizes the role of bloggers: We don't have editors to report to, and there isn't a big meeting with editors every morning. What that comes down to is personal relationships."

Pretend they matter and they'll let you eat saltines in bed.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:45 AM


The Priggish View of History (AndreI Cherny, March 31, 2008, NY Sun)

Accepting the Republican nomination for president in 1988, George H.W. Bush decried those who see "America as another pleasant country on the U.N. roll call, somewhere between Albania and Zimbabwe." In doing so, he spoke to an intrinsic belief in the America's national culture that ours is a unique nation with a special role in the world, "a shining city on the hill," a chosen people among the world's states. Yet, during his son's presidency, an opposing view has taken hold among vocal commentators and academics — left, right, and center — who hold America to be just another domineering empire in the roll call of human history.

Walter MacDougall has a more insightful analysis of the competing strands of American exceptionalism that Bush and Bush represent. The elder was a sort of Promised Land type, a realist/isolationist concerned that America could be corrupted by too much contact with "lesser" nations (not that it stopped him from intervening in Kuwait, Panama, Somalia, etc., as reality always turns out differently than Reality). The younger is a Crusader State type, open to trade, immigration and democratization abroad, convinced that it is our duty to make the world more like us. The critics are right that we're a sort of domineering empire, but not "Just another" one, rather a successor to the Roman and British.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:37 AM


In California, Indian Americans Show Loyalty to Clinton (JOSH GERSTEIN, March 31, 2008, NY Sun)

Senator Clinton is proud that her ties with the Indian-American community once led to jokes that she could be elected as a senator from the Punjab in India, President Clinton told a fund-raising lunch here yesterday, according to guests.

About 200 people, many of them physicians of Indian origin, noshed on chicken tikka and other Indian specialties as they listened to Mr. Clinton argue for his wife's continued viability in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination. [...]

"First, she went there before I did when I was president and we effected a thaw in relations between the U.S. and India for the first time since President Kennedy was in office. It had been almost 40 years since we had really good relations with the Indians," Mr. Clinton told The New York Sun as he shook hands with several dozen of Dr. Dhaliwal's neighbors gathered on a cul de sac of large homes overlooking a sunny golf course. "She represents a lot of Indian Americans in New York. They like her and think she's a good senator."

The GOP should be working to lock up the political allegiance of the next Jews, a task that the Bush presidency and the Obama candidacy both make easier.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:13 AM


AN APPRECIATION: A city hangs on Vin Scully's every word (Christine Daniels, March 31, 2008, LA Times)

His voice belongs to then and now, an audio clip that carries us back to a bygone era even as it keeps us up-to-the-minute updated.

It has been there as long as big-league baseball has been in this city, actually pre-dating the Los Angeles Dodgers by several years, which was the biggest advantage the Dodgers had when they first arrived in 1958, certainly more important than any of the fading stars on the playing roster.

When Vin Scully settled in behind his microphone at the Coliseum 50 years ago, Los Angeles had the narrator it needed and the Dodgers had the pitchman they required to break the ice, to melt any pockets of resistance that might have been scattered around the Southland.

He has been at it ever since, his tenure an L.A. story unlike any other, providing a sense of permanence to a city perfectly captured by Steve Martin's line in the movie "L.A. Story": "Some of these buildings are more than 20 years old!"

But as the Dodgers crank up the celebratory machine to mark their 50th anniversary in Los Angeles, a different emotion surfaces when considering Scully's place with the Dodgers. Scully is 80 and in the last year of his contract with the club. He hasn't yet decided on his plans for after this season. For the time being, anyway, every game, every inning Scully's calls carry with them an underlying, undeniable theme for listeners: Let us enjoy them while we can.

Dodger fans get him and Charley Steiner. Not bad.

Here's his legendary call of Sandy Koufax's perfect game (Audio here):

Three times in his sensational career has Sandy Koufax walked out to the mound to pitch a fateful ninth where he turned in a no-hitter. But tonight, September the 9th, nineteen hundred and 65, he made the toughest walk of his career, I'm sure, because through eight innings he has pitched a perfect game. He has struck out 11, he has retired 24 consecutive batters, and the first man he will look at is catcher Chris Krug, big right-hand hitter, flied to second, grounded to short. Dick Tracewski is now at second base and Koufax ready and delivers: curveball for a strike.

0 and 1 the count to Chris Krug. Out on deck to pinch-hit is one of the men we mentioned earlier as a possible, Joey Amalfitano. Here's the strike 1 pitch to Krug: fastball, swung on and missed, strike 2. And you can almost taste the pressure now. Koufax lifted his cap, ran his fingers through his black hair, then pulled the cap back down, fussing at the bill. Krug must feel it too as he backs out, heaves a sigh, took off his helmet, put it back on and steps back up to the plate.

Tracewski is over to his right to fill up the middle, Kennedy is deep to guard the line. The strike 2 pitch on the way: fastball, outside, ball 1. Krug started to go after it and held up and Torborg held the ball high in the air trying to convince Vargo but Eddie said nossir. One and 2 the count to Chris Krug. It is 9:41 p.m. on September the 9th. The 1-2 pitch on the way: curveball, tapped foul off to the left of the plate.

The Dodgers defensively in this spine-tingling moment: Sandy Koufax and Jeff Torborg. The boys who will try and stop anything hit their way: Wes Parker, Dick Tracewski, Maury Wills and John Kennedy; the outfield of Lou Johnson, Willie Davis and Ron Fairly. And there's 29,000 people in the ballpark and a million butterflies. Twenty nine thousand, one hundred and thirty-nine paid.

Koufax into his windup and the 1-2 pitch: fastball, fouled back out of play. In the Dodger dugout Al Ferrara gets up and walks down near the runway, and it begins to get tough to be a teammate and sit in the dugout and have to watch. Sandy back of the rubber, now toes it. All the boys in the bullpen straining to get a better look as they look through the wire fence in left field. One and 2 the count to Chris Krug. Koufax, feet together, now to his windup and the 1-2 pitch: fastball outside, ball 2. (Crowd boos.)

A lot of people in the ballpark now are starting to see the pitches with their hearts. The pitch was outside, Torborg tried to pull it over the plate but Vargo, an experienced umpire, wouldn't go for it. Two and 2 the count to Chris Krug. Sandy reading signs, into his windup, 2-2 pitch: fastball, got him swingin'!

Sandy Koufax has struck out 12. He is two outs away from a perfect game.

Here is Joe Amalfitano to pinch-hit for Don Kessinger. Amalfitano is from Southern California, from San Pedro. He was an original bonus boy with the Giants. Joey's been around, and as we mentioned earlier, he has helped to beat the Dodgers twice, and on deck is Harvey Kuenn. Kennedy is tight to the bag at third, the fastball, a strike. 0 and 1 with one out in the ninth inning, 1 to nothing, Dodgers. Sandy reading, into his windup and the strike 1 pitch: curveball, tapped foul, 0 and 2. And Amalfitano walks away and shakes himself a little bit, and swings the bat. And Koufax with a new ball, takes a hitch at his belt and walks behind the mound.

I would think that the mound at Dodger Stadium right now is the loneliest place in the world.

Sandy fussing, looks in to get his sign, 0 and 2 to Amalfitano. The strike 2 pitch to Joe: fastball, swung on and missed, strike 3!

He is one out away from the promised land, and Harvey Kuenn is comin' up.

So Harvey Kuenn is batting for Bob Hendley. The time on the scoreboard is 9:44. The date, September the 9th, 1965, and Koufax working on veteran Harvey Kuenn. Sandy into his windup and the pitch, a fastball for a strike! He has struck out, by the way, five consecutive batters, and that's gone unnoticed. Sandy ready and the strike 1 pitch: very high, and he lost his hat. He really forced that one. That's only the second time tonight where I have had the feeling that Sandy threw instead of pitched, trying to get that little extra, and that time he tried so hard his hat fell off -- he took an extremely long stride to the plate -- and Torborg had to go up to get it.

One and 1 to Harvey Kuenn. Now he's ready: fastball, high, ball 2. You can't blame a man for pushing just a little bit now. Sandy backs off, mops his forehead, runs his left index finger along his forehead, dries it off on his left pants leg. All the while Kuenn just waiting. Now Sandy looks in. Into his windup and the 2-1 pitch to Kuenn: swung on and missed, strike 2!

It is 9:46 p.m.

Two and 2 to Harvey Kuenn, one strike away. Sandy into his windup, here's the pitch:

Swung on and missed, a perfect game!

(38 seconds of cheering.)

On the scoreboard in right field it is 9:46 p.m. in the City of the Angels, Los Angeles, California. And a crowd of 29,139 just sitting in to see the only pitcher in baseball history to hurl four no-hit, no-run games. He has done it four straight years, and now he caps it: On his fourth no-hitter he made it a perfect game. And Sandy Koufax, whose name will always remind you of strikeouts, did it with a flurry. He struck out the last six consecutive batters. So when he wrote his name in capital letters in the record books, that "K" stands out even more than the O-U-F-A-X.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:10 AM


Obama had greater role on liberal survey (KENNETH P. VOGEL, 3/31/08, Politico)

During his first run for elected office, Barack Obama played a greater role than his aides now acknowledge in crafting liberal stands on gun control, the death penalty and abortion– positions that appear at odds with the more moderate image he’s projected during his presidential campaign.

The evidence comes from an amended version of an Illinois voter group’s detailed questionnaire, filed under his name during his 1996 bid for a state Senate seat.

Late last year, in response to a Politico story about Obama’s answers to the original questionnaire, his aides said he “never saw or approved” the questionnaire.

They asserted the responses were filled out by a campaign aide who “unintentionally mischaracterize(d) his position.”

But a Politico examination determined that Obama was actually interviewed about the issues on the questionnaire by the liberal Chicago non-profit group that issued it. And it found that Obama – the day after sitting for the interview – filed an amended version of the questionnaire, which appears to contain Obama’s own handwritten notes adding to one answer.

In fairness to Mr. Obama, he couldn't have known then he'd seek wider office and so accidentally answered honestly. There would have been a certain calculation in giving answers that would preserve his electability by putting him in the American mainstream.

March 30, 2008

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:43 PM


Chinese view of Dalai Lama bodes ill for its Tibet policy (Howard W. French , 3/29/08, IHT)

The inflexibility in Beijing's position leaves Western countries with a problem. President George W. Bush and a roster of European and Asian leaders have called for Hu to open a dialogue with the Dalai Lama as a first step toward reducing tensions in Tibet. If Hu declines to do so, those leaders seem likely to face pressure from their own constituents to take stronger diplomatic or political steps against Beijing at the moment it had expected to bask in the international limelight.

Already, President Nicolas Sarkozy of France has suggested that he might consider using his presidency of the European Union this summer to organize a boycott of the opening ceremonies of the Games.

The call for some kind of Chinese-Tibetan talks continues to mount. On Friday, the Dalai Lama, speaking in India, made his most extended comments on the Tibetan violence, accusing the Chinese state-run media of trying to "sow the seeds of racial tension" there but calling for "meaningful dialogue" with Beijing about how to reduce tensions.

Speaking of the possibility that Hu might pursue diplomatic talks with Tibetan exiles, Bush said "it's in his country's interest." Standing by Bush's side, Kevin Rudd, Australia's newly elected, Chinese-speaking prime minister, who was visiting Washington, said, "It's absolutely clear that there are human rights abuses in Tibet." [...]

Robert Barnett, director of Modern Tibetan Studies at Columbia University, dismissed the Chinese contention that the protest amounted to little more than criminal riots, calling their spread through several provinces significant. "Nothing like this has happened for the last 40 years, and no Chinese leader is going to miss that," Barnett said. "They have lost the countryside, and they are going to have to work very hard to get win it back."

Nationalism at core of China's angry reaction to Tibetan protests (Jim Yardley, March 30, 2008, NY Times)
If the tough tactics have startled the outside world, the Communist Party for now seems more concerned with rallying domestic opinion by using and responding to the deep strains of nationalism in Chinese society. Playing to national pride, and national insecurities, the party has used censorship and propaganda to position itself as defender of the motherland - and block any examination of Tibetan grievances or its own performance in the crisis.

But the heavy emphasis on nationalism is not without risks. With less than five months before the opening of the Beijing Olympics, China's sharp criticism of the foreign media comes precisely when it wants to present a welcoming impression to the outside world. Instead, Chinese citizens, including many overseas, are posting thousands of angry messages on Web sites and making crank calls to some foreign media offices in Beijing. that places like Tibet are separate nations.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:39 PM


Peers to push for a U-turn on EU referendum (Toby Helm and Andrew Pierce, 31/03/2008, Daily Telegraph)

Two former chancellors are to spearhead a cross-party push to force a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty when it is debated in the House of Lords tomorrow.

Lord Lawson and Lord Lamont, who were chancellors under Margaret Thatcher and John Major respectively, are among a formidable list of peers determined to make Labour honour its election manifesto commitment.

The Bill to ratify the treaty passed through the Commons earlier this month with a Government majority of 63 - but only after a rebellion by 29 Labour MPs.

The Tories, who will table an amendment calling for a referendum, are courting rebel Liberal Democrat and Labour peers, non-aligned crossbenchers and bishops.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:34 PM


Mugabe apparently faces major defeat in Zimbabwe: The 84-year-old president looks to be bested by the leader of the main opposition -- but critics worry about vote fraud. (Robyn Dixon, 3/30/08, Los Angeles Times)

The main opposition party and independent observers said today that President Robert Mugabe was suffering a resounding defeat as election results were tallied, but no official returns were released and capital was rife with speculation that they were being rigged.

Tension was high in the capital, Harare, with police deployed on most corners as the delay in announcing results from Saturday's balloting wore on. Usually, the first official results are released within hours of the polls' closing.

There were unconfirmed reports that key ministers and Mugabe loyalists lost their seats in parliament.

In a briefing to diplomats, independent election observers said that with 66% of the vote counted, the leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, Morgan Tsvangirai, had 55% of the vote. Mugabe, 84, had 36% and ruling party defector Simba Makoni had 9%, it said.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:03 PM


Poll: Young Americans revere monogamy (UPI, March 30, 2008)

"We were completely surprised. There has been a faulty portrayal of millennials by the media -- television, films, news, blogs, everything. These people are not the self-entitled, coddled slackers they're made out to be. Misnomers and myths about them are all over the place," said Ann Mack, who directed the survey and is the official "director of trend-spotting" at J. Walter Thompson, the nation's largest advertising agency.

In addition to indicating 94 percent of millennials respect monogamy and parenthood and 84 percent revere marriage, the survey found 88 percent said they respect the U.S. Constitution, 84 percent respect the military and more than three-quarters believe in the "American dream."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:03 PM


Mugabe warns of attempted coup as Zimbabwe opposition claim victory in crucial election (BARBARA JONES, 30th March 2008, Daily Mail)

Zimbabwe's opposition said today it had won the most crucial election since independence, but President Robert Mugabe's government warned premature victory claims would be seen as an attempted coup.

Tendai Biti, secretary general of the main MDC opposition party, told diplomats and observers overnight that early results showed it was victorious. "We have won this election," he said.

Liberty's Century marches on.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:35 PM


There's a mess of baseball stuff up at the Rotisserie Blog. If your paper has a good story, please forward it or write it up yourself and we'll post it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:25 PM


Dith Pran, portrayed in 'Killing Fields,' dies (Associated Press, March 30, 2008)

The journalist whose enslavement and escape from Cambodia's murderous revolutionaries was the subject of the movie "The Killing Fields" has died.

Dith Pran's death from pancreatic cancer was confirmed Sunday by journalist Sydney Schanberg, his former colleague at The New York Times. Pran was 65.

Was ever a country served worse by a journalist than Dith Pran's was by Mr. Schanberg?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:42 AM


The audacity of rhetoric (Thomas Sowell, March 30, 2008, Washington Times)

It is painful to watch defenders of Sen. Barack Obama tying themselves into knots trying to evade the obvious. [...]

Barack Obama's own account of his life shows that he consciously sought out people on the far left fringe. In college, "I chose my friends carefully," he said in his first book, "Dreams From My Father."

These friends included "Marxist professors and structural feminists and punk rock performance poets" — in Mr. Obama's own words — as well as the "more politically active black students." He later visited a former member of the terrorist Weatherman underground, who endorsed him when he ran for state senator.

Karl Rove had the audacity to hope Democrats would nominate a hard-left Cook County hack...and they did!

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:33 AM


Another left-handed president? It's looking that way. (Gary Rotstein, 2/25/08, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The big deal here is not just Mr. Obama's orientation. Republican front-runner John McCain comes from the same, left-leaning 10 percent to 15 percent of the population. It's becoming clearer by the day -- unless every right-hander in Texas, Ohio and Pennsylvania votes for Mrs. Clinton -- that the next president will be left-handed.

The country has not been faced with such predetermination of presidential handedness since the three-way race of 1992, when George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and H. Ross Perot all favored the same side used by Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci to create great art.

Other than the first Mr. Bush and Mr. Clinton, the left-handed presidents everyone seems to agree on were James Garfield, Harry Truman and Gerald Ford. Some lists include Herbert Hoover, but he's omitted from others created by left-handed advocates, perhaps because they want no part of someone on whose watch the Great Depression began.

And then there's the case of Ronald Reagan. He wrote with his right hand, but discussion has abounded that he was switched from his natural tendencies when he was young by strict schoolteachers. It has been pointed out that he slapped Angie Dickinson with his left hand in the film "The Killers," which is what a lefty would do. (No one thinking right would ever slap Angie Dickinson at all, actually.)

So just as in politics, Mr. Reagan apparently went from left to right as his life evolved.

The Other Brother and I make for an especially odd case of handedness: I'm a righty, but hook my writing arm like a lefty, play hockey lefty and various other quirks; he's a lefty but holds the pen like a righty and plays all sports righty. Neither are likely to be president.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:31 AM


Iraqi cleric calls off militias (BBC, 3/30/08)

Iraqi Shia cleric Moqtada Sadr has ordered his fighters off the streets of Basra and other cities in an effort to end clashes with security forces.

He said in a statement that his movement wanted the Iraqi people to stop the bloodshed and maintain the nation's independence and stability.

The government, which had set a deadline to hand over weapons in return for cash, called the move "positive".

If nothing else, the exercise clarified who's in charge.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:34 AM


American Nominalism and Our Need for the Science of Theology (part 1) (Peter Augustine Lawler, 03/28/08, First Principles)

The modern world has been characterized by de-Christianization and de-Hellenization. That doesn’t mean it’s fundamentally anti-Christian or anti-Greek. We speak more of the dignity or autonomy of the human person than ever. And we certainly have more confidence in and are more dependent on the science we’ve inherited from the Greeks than ever.

Modern de-Hellenizaton has been largely animated by the desire to free the willful God and the willful human person made in his image from being distorted or annihilated by the impersonal metaphysical system of Aristotle or some other philosopher or scientist. Modern de-Christianization has been largely animated by the desire to free science from all anthropomorphic or personal distortion, to fuel real progress toward a certain understanding of the genuinely universal structure of reality—the goal of science first articulated, quite imperfectly, by the classical Greek philosophers. De-Christianization has been pursued on behalf of the free person, and de-Hellenization has been pursued on behalf of impersonal science. They have been operating simultaneously and at cross-purposes.

The truth is that our world is in some ways both more personal and more impersonal—more Christian and more Greek—than ever. The distance between our personal experiences and what we think we know through science has never been wider. Without admitting it, we’ve abandoned the true goal of science, which is to give an account of the way all things—including human beings—are. We don’t really believe we can reason about the true situation of the only being in the world—the human person—who is open to the truth about nature. We think we can know everything but the being who can know.

We really don’t deny that such a personal being exists, whatever our scientists may teach. We don’t even begin to try to lose our puny selves in some impersonal system or pantheistic reverie. Such denial is for Buddhists, with their amazing self-discipline. For now, the phrase “Western Buddhist” remains an oxymoron.

It’s particularly easy to see that we Americans see ourselves both more personally and more impersonally than ever. Virtually all sophisticated Americans claim to believe that Darwin teaches the whole truth about who or what we are. For Darwin, the particular human being only exists to serve the human species. Even our super-smart species has no enduring significance in the accidental evolutionary process. It’s true both that I’m nothing but species fodder, and that what I in particular do has less than negligible significance for our species’ future. Natural selection depends on the average, anonymous behavior of a huge number of members of any particular species. The individual and his illusory concerns about his personal significance mean nothing. Even the genes that I so dutifully spread are soon dispersed into insignificance.

The same sophisticated American who prides himself on being a whole-hog Darwinian speaks incessantly about the freedom and dignity of the individual and is proud of his or her freedom to choose. The particularly modern source of pride remains personal freedom from all authority, including the authority of God and nature. Our professed confidence in the reality of that freedom may be stronger than ever today. Even our neo-Darwinian scientists, such as Daniel Dennett, who think there’s no foundation in what we know through science for the idea of human dignity, admit it would be a disaster if they could really convince us to stop taking our dignity seriously. Certainly one piece of evidence that we’re not living in genuinely reasonable times is that most sophisticated Americans seem unable to join Dennett in recognizing the laughable contradiction in their official self-understanding as autonomous chimps.

We Americans, in fact, are so unscientific that we don’t even really try to account for what we can see with our own eyes. Culturally speaking, we’re divided into Darwin affirmers and Darwin deniers, into those who say that his theory of evolutionary natural selection can explain everything and those who say it explains nothing. Anybody should be able to see that the truth lies somewhere in between these two extremes.

The Darwin affirmers provide the best evidence we have that what Darwin teaches couldn’t possibly be completely true. They tend to think of themselves so thoroughly as autonomous individuals that often they don’t seek the natural fulfillment that comes through spreading their genes—or having kids. They’re not doing their duty to their species by generating their replacements. They’re doing everything they can not to have to be replaced, and they’re doing it in the most scientific way. They think that being itself will be extinguished if and when they die. Can Darwin really explain why healthy members of a species enjoying the most favorable environment ever would suddenly and quite consciously just decide to stop reproducing? It seems that the members of any species smart enough and curious enough to have discovered the theory of natural selection will act to make that theory untrue.

Meanwhile, our Evangelical and orthodox believers come much closer to living the way nature intends in order for our species to flourish. They pair-bond or marry, have lots of kids, raise them well, and then step aside for their natural replacements without inordinate resistance. What the Evangelicals and Mormons believe is better for our species’ future than what the neo-Darwinians believe. A neo-Darwinian genuinely concerned for our species’ future might insist that evolution not be taught in our schools. Surely our sociobiologists can’t explain why it is that those Americans who believe that, as persons made in the image of a supernatural God, their true home lies elsewhere are more at home in this world as citizens, friends, neighbors, parents, and children than are those who think their true home lies here, on this earth.

Still, our Evangelicals tend to join both those who speak of their “autonomy” and Darwinians in believing that there’s no support in nature at all for their purpose-driven lives, and that if it weren’t for the absolute truth of the Bible something like aimless or relativistic naturalism would be true. They often present the human choice as between two competing worldviews, and reason has little to say about how to make that choice. Our Evangelicals give themselves far too little credit. Their criticism of our libertarian autonomy-freaks and our Darwinians would retain plenty of force even if they lost faith in the God of the Bible.

Our libertarians, our Darwinians, and our Evangelicals all agree that there is no science of theology. Reason can’t give us any guidance on who or what God is in a way that would provide real guidance for our lives. They don’t believe that we’re hardwired, so to speak, to know the Logos who, or which, is the source of our freedom and openness to the truth about all things. Our libertarians and our Evangelicals both believe that the free person is real, but they don’t believe that there’s any support in nature for his existence. Our Darwinians, quite unrealistically, deny what anyone can see with his own eyes about personal or individual behavior. Because we all refuse to believe in the possibility of a science of theology, we all lack a way of talking reasonably about the real lives of particular human persons.

We don’t live in a particularly reasonable time, because we’re governed by a particular cultural or historical choice to limit the domain of reason over our lives. This modern self-limitation, as I’ll explain, was quite understandable. But we now know from experience that the simultaneous attempts to free faith from science or philosophy and science from faith have produced undignified, self-mutilated lives. Most fundamentally, we seem not to be courageous enough to live well with what we really know. The truth is that the modern view of reason is quite questionable. It is, thank God, far from the last word on what we can really know.

The Science of Theology: Hellenic Christianity vs. Classical Philosophy
To free us from the delusion that we have the last word on reason, we must return to the first words about the relationship between Greek philosophy, or science, and Christianity spoken during the period of Hellenic Christianity. At that time, the Greeks and the Christians agreed that we are hardwired, so to speak, as beings with minds to think about who or what God must be, and we are animated by eros or love to seek the truth about God. The idea that God is Logos is what allowed the Greeks and the Christians to use both arguments and mockery to collaborate against those religions which are obviously unreasonable and man-made. God is neither cruel nor arbitrary, and the truth about God must correspond to what we can know about ourselves and the rest of nature according to our best lights. Both the Greeks and the Christians contributed to genuine enlightenment, to the liberation of human beings from the confines of merely civil or political theology, from a world where the word of God was both used as a weapon and justified the use of weapons.

Aristotle attempted to grasp through reflection God as the object of every human desire or love. He understood God only as the object of love, as a wholly self-sufficient or unerotic or unmovable being, not as a person at all. Aristotle’s God is certainly not a “relational” God, one who cares or even knows about the existence of particular human beings. According to Aristotle, our pursuit of divine knowledge—or what God knows—becomes progressively more impersonal. The pursuit of philosophic or scientific truth requires that the particular philosopher die to himself. The Socratic drama of the pursuit of wisdom is about the particular being losing himself in his apprehension of anonymous or impersonal truth.

From this view, we approach divinity—or what is best in us—through our perception of the logos or rational causality that governs all things. We see through every anthropomorphic claim for personal intervention or personal causation that would disrupt that logos. From this liberated view, the idea of a personal God is an oxymoron. It is, in fact, a repulsive denial of the responsibility of theological science and science generally.

The Christian criticism of Aristotelian theology is that it doesn’t account for what we really know about the human person. For the Greek philosophers, the realm of human freedom, finally, is a mythical idea, one which must be rhetorically supported but for which there’s no scientific evidence. The only real freedom is the freedom of the human mind from anthropomorphic delusions about natural causation. The Christians respond that human longings and human action exhibit real evidence of personal freedom, and the person must have some real foundation in being itself. What we really do know points in the direction of the creative activity of a personal God. The personalities of God and man can’t be wholly or irredeemably unrelated. The possibility of the free and rational being open to the truth depends upon the corresponding possibility of a personal, rational science of theology.

The classical philosophers were, of course, perfectly aware that human beings are “manly,” that they need to feel important. Such self-confidence, of course, is required to make self-conscious life endurable and great human deeds possible. But according to their science, all assertions of human importance are unrealistic exaggerations, and the philosopher gently mocks without obviously undermining the aspirations of particular individuals to self-sufficiency. But for the Christians, even science depends upon the possibility of personal significance, and Christian theology criticizes both the civil theology and the natural theology of the Greeks and Romans for being unable to account for personal freedom—for the being who is not fundamentally merely part of a city or part of some necessitarian natural whole. For the Christians, not only do particular men and women need to feel important, they in fact are important. The Christians add that the unrealistic exaggerations of humans’ magnanimous pretensions need to be chastened by the truthful virtue of humility, the virtue of ineradicably relational and lovingly dependent beings.

That there is a ground for personal freedom in an otherwise seemingly necessitarian cosmos does, in some ways, offend the mind. But to understand all that exists in terms of impersonal causation suggests that Being itself is constituted by an intelligence that is incapable of comprehending itself. The being who can understand Being—the human being—seems to be a chance occurrence in a cosmos that has no particular need for and is seemingly distorted by his existence. The appearance of the human person—even the philosopher with the name Socrates—necessarily offends the human mind in some ways, but as far we know the human mind can only appear or function in a whole person. The real existence of the whole philosopher or physicist can’t be accounted for in any mathematical or necessitarian physics. So in some ways it might offend reason less to affirm an account of the precondition and ground of all being to be creative and truly conscious—or erotic and rational—thinking. The world, in the final analysis, is more love than mathematics, and the particular human person is more significant and wonderful than the stars.

The Greeks focus on the eternity, the Christians on the loving creativity, of God. For the Christians, the God who is the ultimate source of our being is animated, as we are, by logos and eros. The source of our Being is someone who can’t be reduced to mind or will or even some theoretical combination of the two. Made in his image, we personal, erotic, and knowing beings can’t be reduced to mind or will or body or even some abstract combination of the three. One aspect of the reasonableness of faith is its perception of the intrinsic link between God’s love and the whole reality of human life.

The philosophic or scientific understanding of the world in terms of impersonal necessity or eternity alone can’t account for the real existence of persons, of beings open to the truth and defined in this world by time.

Every essay by Mr. Lawler is a treat and they've a bunch and lectures at ISI.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:23 AM


Obama pastor's words spring from complex tradition: The Rev. Wright's mix of theology with race relations in America belongs to the 'prophetic' style of black preaching. Is he more outrageous than Frederick Douglass? (Manya A. Brachear, 3/30/08, Chicago Tribune)

Examining the full content of Wright's sermons and delivery style yields a far more complex message, though one that some will still find objectionable. For more than 30 years, Wright walked churchgoers every Sunday along a winding road from rage to reconciliation, employing a style that validated both.

"He's voicing a reality that those people experience six days a week," said the Rev. Dwight Hopkins, a professor at the University of Chicago Divinity School and a Trinity member. "In that sense, he's saying they're not insane."

...when black leaders tell them it isn't? Denying the insanity pof his preaching doesn't make it sane.

March 29, 2008

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:21 PM


Alley Fighters (JAMES GLANZ, 3/30/08, NY Times)

No one has ever accused Mr. Sadr of being brilliant, charismatic, or even above average in the intellectual realm. But he has one thing few of those leaders have: he never left, even in the worst years of Saddam Hussein. And that does not just give him credibility on the streets. In a country where sheer social, religious, political, historical, geographic and psychological complexities are what seem to defeat all easy solutions, Mr. Sadr is one of the few who have been here continuously, absorbing the shifting lessons of the place. He has done his homework, he has put in his time.

And he has received the kind of props that must make an alley fighter proud. Two weeks ago, when I learned of the impending assault during a trip to Basra, senior Iraqi officials said that the crackdown would be unrelenting. “Whoever gets in the way will be dealt with swiftly, decisively and with no mercy,” one of them said.

But when Iraqi forces made little progress in Mahdi-controlled neighborhoods after the offensive began on Tuesday, Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, who staked his political credibility on the operation by traveling personally to Basra to direct it, issued a curious 72-hour ultimatum to the fighters to lay down their weapons — or face consequences.

It was hard to imagine, after the start of an assault involving 30,000 troops, what more severe consequences could be. If the emptiness of the ultimatum was not enough to suggest that Mr. Maliki had left himself no way out of the alley except to back down, on Friday he said that he would offer money to anyone in Basra who turned in a weapon over the following ten days.

American forces have also found that they have little choice but to respect Mr. Sadr. After years of referring to him as little more than a thug — including a vicious battle against his fighters in Najaf in 2004 — the American military has begun referring to him as “Sayyid,” the honorific title accorded to a Muslim holy man. This is particularly true when military officials praise a loophole-riddled cease-fire that Mr. Sadr ordered last August, when he said that his militia should stop fighting but could respond in self-defense if attacked first.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:02 PM


Coliseum configuration confounding: Dodgers, Red Sox taken aback by stadium's dimensions (Tom Singer, 3/30/08,

As Dodgers and Red Sox made their slow way down the Coliseum tunnel, normally where crimson-and-gold USC Trojans mill before charging on the gridiron, the baseball players felt like they'd just stepped through Alice's looking glass.

They looked at a left-field foul pole 201 feet from home plate, foul territory down the right-field line roughly the width of Pee Wee Herman's belt, and dugouts on either side of the infield -- literally, pits shrouded by blue tents having been dug into the grass.

And no warning track.

"It's wild. I look around, and it's like someone dropped acid in my oatmeal this morning," Theo Epstein, Boston's youthful general manager, said with a smile.

Over 100,000 watch Red Sox and Dodgers (John Nadel, March 29, 2008, AP
As he walked down the Los Angeles Coliseum tunnel and glanced toward the left-field screen, Boston catcher Jason Varitek smiled and said sarcastically: "Wakie's a fly ball pitcher. That's great."
more stories like this

Then, in his best broadcast voice, he intoned: "Dodgers 85, Red Sox 81."

Esteban Loaiza, the Dodgers' starter who opposed knuckleballer Tim Wakefield in Saturday night's exhibition game, followed a few minutes later, took a look and shook his head.

"It's short, man. It's like playing a whiffle ball game," he said.

It was 3 1/2 hours before gametime -- long before fans began filling the Coliseum for the first big league baseball game at the facility since September 1961. The Dodgers said 115,300 tickets were sold, including some 25,000 for standing-room only.

It's a great spectacle....but it ain't baseball.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:45 PM


No sex, thank you ... we're Japanese (Justin McCurry, 3/20/08, The Observer)

Housewife Miyuki Yanagisawa cannot recall the last time she had sex with her husband. She is certain, though, that their physical estrangement can be measured in years, not months.

While she shares a room with the couple's two young daughters, her husband, a company employee, sleeps alone in another room, grateful for the chance to catch up on his sleep after another tortuously long day at work.

'As long as he is healthy and doing well at work, I can put up with the lack of affection,' Yanagisawa, 44 - who asked that her real name not be used - said of her decade-old marriage. 'Many other women in my age group feel the same. When couples reach a certain age they start calling each other "Mum" and "Dad" - they certainly stop using affectionate nicknames. I think that spells the beginning of the end for sex.'

Yanagisawa is not alone. According to a new report by the World Health Organisation, a quarter of married couples in Japan have not had sex in the past year. The problem worsens with age. While the study found that the 42 per cent of couples in their twenties who had lived together for fewer than five years had sex at least once a week, almost 38 per cent of married couples in their fifties have none.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:41 PM


Organic food 'no benefit to health': Eating fruit and veg is more important than whether produce is 'green', says expert (Jo Revill, March 30, 2008, Observer)

[A]ccording to [Lord Krebs, former head of the Food Standards Agency, ] there is still no reliable, peer-reviewed evidence to show that there is any clear health benefit to eating this 'green' produce.

'The organic message can sometimes be a distortion from the more important messages,' said Krebs. 'If a parent is asking, "how can I improve the health of my children?" they may think, "Oh, I can give them organic food". But that is far less important than the decision to feed them more fruit and vegetables, or the decision to give them less salt.' His concerns about the claims made for organic produce were that 'they add to the mix of confusion in people's minds about what it means to eat healthily'.

When Krebs chaired the agency, he came under pressure to validate claims that organic food was better for people - but refused to endorse the produce.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:50 PM


Nearing 50, Franco Still Going Strong in Mexican League (MURRAY CHASS, 8/30/08, NY Times)

Most people who lie about their age try to make themselves appear younger than they really are. It was suggested to Julio Franco, though, that he might have wanted to make himself appear older. He laughed, understanding the reason for the suggestion.

Franco dreamed of playing in the major leagues when he was 50. A little white lie might have enabled him to achieve his dream last season. But Franco acknowledged that he turned 49 last Aug. 23, which meant he needed to have a major league job this season.

He doesn’t have one, but he does expect to play professional baseball on his 50th birthday. In a Mexican League season that has begun, Franco is playing first base in Cancún for Tigres de Quintana Roo.

“I’m here because I believe I can continue playing ball,” Franco said in a telephone interview.

“Back in ’99,” he continued, referring to a previous season in the Mexican League, “if I had stopped playing, I wouldn’t have had eight more years in the big leagues.”

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:39 PM


A New Kind of Right (JAMES BOWMAN, March 25, 2008, NY Sun)

Jazz is the only indigenous American art form, or so we are often told. I would add the animated cartoon, though calling it "art" may create certain problems. But the country has produced another thing at least as remarkable and as unmistakably American and, with "Upstream: The Ascendance of American Conservatism", Alfred Regnery has written a history of its genesis that ought to be on the reading list of every student of American history.

What we have learned to call "conservatism" didn't exist until about 60 years ago. America's history was all liberal in Old World terms. (In fact, what we call conservatism is called "neo-liberalism" in much of the world today.) Conservatism in Europe was royalist or narrowly nationalist and ethnic, of the blood and fatherland tendency that obviously had no place to go in our multi-ethnic nation. Often, it was associated with official or quasi-official religions.

But in the 1950s, some remarkable Americans came together to create a new kind of conservatism, native and individualistic, that was based on the triple pillars of economic liberalism, anti-communism, and respect for traditional values. This politics ever since, and the dominant one over the past 40 years. No one is better placed to write its history than Mr. Regnery. He grew up in the home of one of those founders of American conservatism. His father, Henry Regnery, a textile magnate from Chicago, started a publishing house after World War II that was to release many of the seminal documents of the new conservatism, and he was present at many of its key moments.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:18 PM


New Protests Erupt in Tibetan Capital (Jill Drew, 3/29/08, Washington Post)

A melee erupted in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa on Saturday afternoon, despite the presence of hundreds of armed police who have been out in force since deadly riots rocked the city two weeks ago.

The incident occurred as a 15-member delegation of international diplomats was leaving the city after a tightly scripted two-day tour arranged by the Chinese government to show that the city was back under control. The diplomats, including officials from the U.S., Japanese and Australian embassies, apparently did not witness the event.

Although details were sketchy, reports indicated that armed police began massing shortly before 2 p.m. to check the identity papers of people in the area where the March 14 riots started, and Tibetans began running away rather than risk arrest. Security forces surrounded residential areas near the Ramoche and Jokhang temples, while several hundred Tibetans staged a rally, Radio Free Asia reported, citing unnamed witnesses in Lhasa.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:16 PM


New grads still get jobs in slow economy (Anita Weier, 3/29/2008, Capital Times)

Though the economy looks pretty fragile, job prospects for college graduates are quite strong, two UW-Madison career directors say.

"There definitely are good prospects. We were surprised at the extent companies are still hiring," said Steve Schroeder, director of the undergraduate career center at the University of Wisconsin's School of Business.

"Part of it is that the baby boomers are starting to retire. For the next 15 or 20 years, there will be more people retiring than graduates entering the market."

Even companies that are struggling continue to hire, Schroeder noted.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:59 PM


Getting Poverty Wrong: On the presidential campaign trail, it’s almost as if the 1960s never happened. (Steven Malanga, 21 March 2008, City Journal)

[B]oth candidates are largely missing the point. While they insist that strengthening labor unions or protecting homeowners from foreclosures will alleviate the hardships of the poor, the latest data from the U.S. Bureau of the Census remind us that the breakdown of the traditional two-parent, married family is a far greater contributor to poverty in America than many of the supposed shortcomings of our economy. It’s hard to imagine that America will make much more headway on reducing persistent poverty until it halts this long-term trend.

The Census Bureau’s study on the living arrangements of American children appeared in mid-February. The data show that the number of children now living in two-parent families has dipped just below the 70 percent mark for the first time since the Census began collecting data on family formation nearly 130 years ago. After peaking in the 1950s—when about 87 percent of all children lived with two parents—the traditional family went through a rapid decline beginning in the 1970s and has continued to shrink over the last three decades, though the rate of decline has slowed somewhat. As part of this sweeping change, the percentage of children living with married parents has fallen more rapidly, down more than two full percentage points, to 66.6 percent of all kids, in the last 10 years alone. Consistent with these decreases has been a sharp rise in the number of children living with single parents and with unmarried parents.

The economic impact of this breakdown has been profound. Researchers estimate that the entire rise in poverty in America since the late 1970s can be attributed to “changes in family formation,” a euphemism for the decline of families headed by two married parents. The latest Census data illustrate the problem. Only one out of ten American kids living in two-married-parent families is in poverty—and about one-third of these families are recent immigrants whose poverty is temporary. By contrast, 37 percent of children living with single mothers are impoverished.

Marriage seems to be the defining characteristic of economically successful families. With out-of-wedlock birth rates in America soaring, so that many traditional families aren’t so much breaking up as never getting started, the percentage of children living with cohabiting parents is growing. Yet these kids are three times more likely to be in poverty than the children of married parents. The data actually demonstrate that poverty rates for families headed by two unmarried parents more closely resemble the poverty rates of single-parent families than those of two-married-parent ones.

Part of this shocking difference owes to what City Journal contributing editor Kay S. Hymowitz has called the “marriage gap” in America (“Marriage and Caste,” Winter 2006). Hymowitz describes how better-educated, higher-income men and women are now more likely to delay having children until they’re married, while lower-income, less-educated men and women are more likely to cohabit and have children out of wedlock.

But even these demographic facts don’t completely explain the widely varying poverty rate between married and cohabiting parents. Studies that adjust for parents’ educational levels still find that a family headed by two unmarried parents is twice as likely to wind up in poverty as one that married parents head. Something about the marriage certificate—a sense of long-term commitment, family stability, perhaps—makes an economic difference. Research shows that married workers exhibit more job stability and make greater wage gains than cohabiting parents, a sort of “marriage wage premium,” as some economists dub it.

Such factors also help to illuminate economic disparities along racial lines in America. As the latest Census statistics illustrate, family formation differs widely by race. Nearly nine in ten Asian children, for instance, live with two parents, as do 78 percent of white kids. By contrast, 68 percent of Hispanic children and only 38 percent of black children in America reside in two-parent families. A black child living with a single mother is nearly three times more likely to live in poverty than a black child living with two parents, the Census data show, yet 50 percent more black children are living with single mothers than in two-parent married families.

Given that a significant body of research now shows that children raised in two-parent, married families do better in school, are less likely to wind up in jail, and are less likely to end up on welfare, the startling racial divide in marriage tells us that a new generation of children, especially blacks, are growing up destined to struggle academically, in the job market, and in forming their own families. And policy prescriptions like a higher minimum wage or tax credits are unlikely to help many of these kids. What they mostly need is another parent—usually a father.

Bill Clinton understood that he had to run against six decades of Democratic policy, but he was a gifted politician. Neither of this year's hopefuls are.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:54 PM


Left-right combination: Sandy Koufax- Don Drysdale tandem gave the Dodgers of the 1960s a rarity: two future Hall of Fame members in the same rotation (Steve Springer, 3/29/08, Los Angeles Times)

If ever there was a no-brainer for a manager, this appeared to be it.

Faced with a deciding seventh game of the World Series, he had his 23-game winner, a former Cy Young Award recipient, primed and ready with three days' rest.

But the manager, Walter Alston, figured he had a better option. And so too did the 23-game winner himself, Don Drysdale

On the eve of the last game of the 1965 World Series, Drysdale and catcher John Roseboro pulled Alston aside to tell him, "You've got to pitch the left-hander."

That would be Sandy Koufax.

"Drysdale was willing to give up Game 7 for the benefit of the team," recalled Jeff Torborg, the team's backup catcher at the time, from his Florida home. "Don said he would go to the bullpen and be available. That showed me what a team leader he was. These guys normally never asked out of the rotation. You couldn't peel them off the mound."

Drysdale wasn't needed that day. Koufax, on two days' rest with an aching left elbow that ultimately would end his career a year hence at age 30, would pitch a three-hit shutout in a 2-0 victory over the Minnesota Twins, striking out 10.

Koufax and Drysdale, two future Hall of Fame members, were a pair of aces who gave Alston a lot of winning hands.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:51 PM


Religious faith not helping Obama (RACHEL ZOLL, 3/28/08, AP)

Religion is supposed to be Barack Obama's strength.

Unlike many Democratic candidates before him, Obama speaks with ease about his faith. He attends Sunday worship and knows his Bible. His supporters believe he can pry some committed churchgoers away from the GOP.

But the furor over comments by his Chicago pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, broadcast again and again on TV and viewed by millions on YouTube, is tempering those hopes.

Perhaps because they have none, pundits aren't very good on the dynamics of religion in America.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:12 PM


Sweet 16 facts about Red Sox: From The Kid to Yaz, the number holds significant value (Marty Noble, 3/28/08,

In accordance with the Sweet 16 weekend, presents a Red Sox Sweet 16, including a few entries that are bittersweet.

1. Other than American League MVP Carl Yastrzemski, no player put more "possible" into the Impossible Dream of 1967 than Jim Lonborg, No. 16. With acknowledgement to Ellis Kinder, who won more games than Lonborg for the Red Sox, recognizes Lonborg as the foremost No. 16 in the history of the franchise because of his Cy Young exploits -- 22-9 record and league-leading 246 strikeouts -- in that implausibly grand run to the World Series.

2. Kinder wore No. 16 with the Sox for eight seasons, winning 86 games and, in 1949, producing a signature season comparable to Lonborg's '67. He won 23 games that year at age 35. A 24th victory at Yankee Stadium on Oct. 2, the last day of the 1949 regular season, would have put the Sox in the World Series. Kinder allowed two hits and a run in seven innings. The Yankees won, 5-3. (If Oct. 2 seems familiar, understand that the Bucky Dent Game happened on that date 29 years later.) Kinder died on Oct. 16, 1968 -- 25 years to the day before Aaron Boone's home run.

3. The big league record for successive plate appearances reaching base is 16, established by Ted Williams in September 1957 -- two singles, four home runs, nine walks and one hit by pitch.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:21 PM


Robert Fagles, translator of classics, dies (Charles McGrath, March 29, 2008, NY Times)

Robert Fagles, the renowned translator of Latin and Greek whose versions of Homer and Virgil were unlikely best-sellers and became fixtures on classroom reading lists, died Wednesday at his home in Princeton, New Jersey, where he was an emeritus professor at Princeton University. He was 74.

The cause was prostate cancer, said his wife, Lynne, to whom he had been married for 51 years.

Fagles translated Aeschylus and Sophocles, among other authors, but he is most famous for his versions of "The Iliad," published in 1990; "The Odyssey," in 1996; and "The Aeneid," which came out in 2006. All were published by Viking.

He is one of very few translators to have taken on all three of the great classical epics - something that not even Alexander Pope attempted - and all three have sold millions of copies, both in print and in audio versions narrated by Derek Jacobi, Ian McKellen and Simon Callow.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:19 PM


Four Stumps in the Water for Obama (Charles Lipson, 3/29/08, Real Clear Politics)

Videos have now surfaced of virulent race-baiting by yet another Chicago preacher with ties to Obama, the Rev. James Meeks. Obama was not a member of Meeks's church and their connection may be only a tactical alliance between prominent local figures. That's the question: how close are those ties?

Meeks is no ordinary pastor. He is an important political and religious figure in African-American Chicago. He not only leads a mammoth congregation, he is an Illinois state senator and a key player in Jesse Jackson's powerful local political organization, which is squarely behind Obama's run for the Presidency.

Meeks's sermons have called white mayors "slave masters" and denigrated moderate black politicians with the "n" word. Nor is he backing away from those slimy views. He has reiterated and defended them in recent interviews with Chicago's local news media, which smells blood in the water.

If close ties between Meeks and Obama are discovered, the problems raised by Rev. Wright will come blazing back, and the damage will be severe.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:16 PM


The Separation Summit (Mshari Al-Zaydi, 3/29/08, Asharq Alawasat)

There is no room for sweet talk – in light of the incumbent Syrian regime's attitude and its wagers. Syria is sailing against the current and in a different direction than the most prominent ships in the Arab fleet; namely, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Moreover, the rhetoric in Damascus is vastly different from that of the aforementioned states.

For this reason, the impending Damascus summit will be the summit of tragic truth. Instead of being an event to unite all Arabs, it will be one in which they will become divided. And once again, we will sweep everything under the carpet as is customary – despite the fact that the putrid smell can longer be ignored.

Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime has placed its bets on the Mullahs of Iran and its Revolutionary Guard regime and no longer speaks the same language as the Arabs or regards his interests and security matters the way in which Arabs do.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:55 AM


America and Baseball (George Will, 3/30/08, Real Clear Politics)

Today, baseball arrives in the nick of time to serve an urgent national need. It gives Americans something to think about other than superdelegates. Think instead about:

1. Who are the four players with 10 or more letters in their last names who hit 40 home runs in a season?

2. Who are the 11 players who have four or fewer letters in their last names and hit 40 home runs in a season?

3. Which two players who hit back-to-back home runs have the most combined letters in their last names?

For you who wasted the winter by not studying such stuff, the answers are below. The rest of you probably are SABRmetricians. Tim Kurkjian of ESPN (do you know that more than 10 American children have been named Espn?) recalls a convention of the Society for American Baseball Research:

"'Who from SABR might know where I can find the all-time list of pinch-hit, extra-inning grand slams?' I asked the very first man I saw at the convention. The man smiled and -- I am not making this up -- pulled the list from his breast pocket. 'I have it right here,' he said."

Would that today's subprime wizards of Wall Street had comparable mastery of the numbers important to their business. What Edmund Burke said of the study of law -- that it sharpens the mind by narrowing it -- might be true of baseball, too, but baseball people at least know what they are supposed to know. Long after he retired, Ted Williams ran into a former pitcher who said he once struck out Williams. "Slider low and away," said Williams. "Old men forget," said Shakespeare's Henry V at Agincourt. Old baseball men don't.

March 28, 2008

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:07 PM


Changing the Rules of the Games (ILAN GREENBERG, 3/29/08, NY Times)

“I don’t know about the rest of you,” said Jill Savitt, Dream for Darfur’s executive director, as she scanned the posters, “but these cartoon creatures creep me out.” Scattered on the floor around her were boxes overflowing with Dream for Darfur’s own media salvo: white T-shirts emblazoned with “Genocide Olympics?”

Savitt, a peripatetic, hyperarticulate 40-year-old human rights activist, is the mind behind a long string of organizations conducting campaigns to pressure China to change its policies by threatening to tarnish this summer’s Olympic Games. Dream for Darfur orchestrates a coalition of the believing — N.G.O.’s committed to ending the continuing violence in Sudan, but also groups concerned with government abuses inside China; Olympic athlete associations; organizations concerned about Tibet or China’s influence in Burma; and a spindly archipelago of other China-related causes. “We are happy to walk into space that’s been created by the Darfur people, because they have created something fresh,” says Mary Beth Markey, vice president for advocacy at the International Campaign for Tibet in Washington. “It’s been opportunistic for us.” But while Savitt’s many allies have adopted her strategy, Dream for Darfur still has just one goal: to convince China’s government that the Games are imperiled unless it halts its support for Sudan’s regime.

“China,” Savitt told me proudly, “is looking at the entire world calling its cherished games the ‘Genocide Olympics.’ ” Nonetheless, shaping world opinion is a tall order, especially with a staff of four; and the Olympics is not as easy a target as it might appear. Who isn’t rooting, at some level, for a successful Olympics, a precious two weeks set aside for idealism and newly minted heroes?


Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:28 PM


American caught having sex with picnic table (Ben Hazell, 28/03/2008, Daily Telegraph)

An American man is facing public indecency charges after allegedly being filmed having sex with a picnic table.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:59 PM


Obama Defends Wright on ABC's 'The View': Democratic Candidate Speaks Out on Controversial Pastor's Remarks (SUNLEN MILLER, March 27, 2008, ABC News)

"View" co-host Elisabeth Hasslebeck expressed concern that Obama's choice of pastor may show a lack of judgment.

The candidate explained, "Part of what my role in my politics is to get people who don't normally listen to each other to talk to each other, who [say] crazy things, who are offended by each other, for me to understand them and to maybe help them understand each other."

Keep digging...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:51 PM


Somalia sinks into greater chaos as Islamist insurgents gain ground (Jeffrey Gettleman, March 28, 2008, IHT)

The trouble started when government soldiers went to the market and, at gunpoint, began helping themselves to sacks of grain.

Islamist insurgents poured into the streets to defend the merchants. The government troops got hammered, taking heavy casualties and retreating all the way back to the presidential palace, supposedly the most secure place in the city. It, too, came under fire.

Mohamed Abdirizak, a top government official, crouched on a balcony at the palace, with bullets whizzing over his head. He had just given up a cushy life as a development consultant in Springfield, Virginia. His wife thought he was crazy. Sweat beaded on his forehead.

"I feel this slipping away," he said.

By its own admission, the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia is on life support.

We'll welcome the Courts return.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:49 PM


Traveler says TSA forced her to remove nipple piercings at Texas airport (Associated Press, March 28, 2008)

A Texas woman who said she was forced to remove a nipple ring with pliers in order to board an airplane called Thursday for an apology by federal security agents and a civil rights investigation.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:11 PM


Planned Parenthood Abortion Business Makes $1 Billion Profit for First Time (Steven Ertelt, March 28, 2008,

A new annual report from Planned Parenthood shows the nation's largest abortion business has made over $1 billion in profit for the first time in its history. The non-profit pro-abortion group shows the historical gain in its new annual report covering 2006-2007.

Dead babies make a fine cash crop.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:01 PM


Israel says It's Talking to Syria (AP, 3/28/08)

A Cabinet minister said Friday that Israel was trying to bring Syria back to the negotiating table eight years after talks between the two countries broke down.

The disclosure of Israeli efforts to engage Syria in negotiations comes at a time when Israeli attempts to reach a peace deal with the Palestinians are making no visible progress despite intense U.S. involvement.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:48 AM


Congratulations to Mario and Matthew who lead the Brothers Judd NCAA contest after the first weekend. Let me know what books you want and I'll send them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:40 AM


McCain's Surprise: Could GOP's Bayou Gov. Get Veepstakes Slot?: Diversity, Conservative Cred May Earn Louisiana Governor Place on Republican Ticket (NITYA VENKATARAMAN, March 28, 2008, ABC News)

Being called the next Ronald Reagan and the future of the Republican Party complete with murmurs of placement on G.O.P.'s vice presidential short list isn't bad conservative buzz to have if you're first-term Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal.

For Jindal, gubernatorial assension into the national spotlight came in October following a 53 percent victory in the Louisiana governor's race making the 36-year-old former two-term congressman the nation's first Indian-American governor.

Jindal has marked his first months in office fighting corruption and pushing ethics reform in his home state. Combined with his youth, diversity and conservative cred, ABC News consultant Matthew Dowd, said Jindal would bring a certain je ne sais quoi to the presidential bid of Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. [...]

The son of Indian immigrants, some believe Jindal, born and raised in Louisiana, gives face to a modern America. Named "Piyush" by Hindu parents, Jindal started going by "Bobby" at a young age and converted to Catholicism in his late teens. Educated at Brown and Oxford, Jindal, a Rhodes Scholar, chose a career in public service that has been marked by both state and federal government appointments.

Donna Brazile, a Democratic Party strategist whose career started in Louisiana politics, said, "Jindal on the ticket would provide McCain with inspiration, innovation and a touch of jazz. It's like seasoning in a Creole gumbo that blends the old and the new … nicely seasoned but not stale." take the first good governor they've ever had.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:30 AM


Arthur Lyons, 62; detective novelist and founder of Palm Springs Film Noir Festival (Mary Rourke, 3/28/08, Los Angeles Times)

Lyons helped launch the film festival with Craig Prater in 2001, after writing crime novels in the style of Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler for more than 25 years. His protagonist, Jacob Asch, was a cynic with a sense of integrity and a genuine concern for others.

Starting with Lyons' first novel, "The Dead Are Discreet" in 1974, he delved into California cults, rebellious youth ("Castles Burning"), pornography ("Hard Trade") and other seedbeds of criminal activity. Critics admired "the pungency of his style, the neat planning and the avoidance of hokum," according to a 1975 article about Lyons' novels in the New York Times.

"Castles Burning," set in Palm Springs, was made into a television movie renamed "Slow Burn," starring Eric Roberts as Asch, in 1986.

As the host of the annual film noir festival, Lyons wore "gangster" suits and fedoras that encouraged audiences to dress up like gun molls and mob hit men.

"I try to make it a happening," Lyons said of the festival in a 2003 interview with the Desert Sun newspaper.

The schedule included three days of movies and interviews with Old Hollywood actors, including Rhonda Fleming, and writers, among them Mickey Spillane.

Photography exhibits, displays of vintage cars and a temporary "noir" bookstore rounded out the program.

The festival was held most years at the Camelot Theatres in Palm Springs, with a screening schedule heavy on lesser-known B crime movies from the '40s and '50s.

..the modern masters, like Loren D. Estleman, Jonathan Valin, Michael Z. Lewin, Mr. Lyons, and a few others have been writing terrific noir mysteries.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:24 AM


Raul Castro: Cubans can have cell phones (WILL WEISSERT, 3/28/08, Associated Press)

President Raul Castro's government said Friday it is allowing cell phones for ordinary Cubans, a luxury previously reserved for those who worked for foreign firms or held key posts with the communist-run state.

It was the first official announcement of the lifting of a major restriction under the 76-year-old Castro, and marked the kind of small freedom many on the island have been hoping he would embrace since succeeding his older brother Fidel as president last month.

Lift the embargo and swamp them with goods, visitors, information, etc.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:21 AM


Jitters over Syria's Kurdish clashes (Sami Moubayed, 3/29/08, Asia Times)

Clashes took place last week in the Kurdish district of Qamishly, northeastern Syria, between Syrian security and Kurds celebrating their Nawrooz new year. Three Kurds were killed, enraging both Masoud al-Barazani, the president of Iraqi Kurdistan (a former ally of Syria) and Iraqi President Jalal Talabani.

This might explain why Talabani will not be heading his country's delegation to the upcoming Arab summit in Damascus this weekend. Barazani said, "We strongly condemn the killing of the innocent people in Qamishly. These people were just celebrating the beginning of their new year and had committed no crime," calling on the Syrians to launch an investigation into the event.

Security forces had tried to disperse a gathering of 200 people, who had lit candles and a bonfire, celebrating a holiday that is not recognized by the government. Syria has been governed by martial law since 1963, meaning no such gathering can take place without prior approval. The Kurds knew that, but went ahead with their festival, almost looking for trouble.

Syrian authorities claimed the police initially tried to disperse the demonstrators peacefully. When that failed, they resorted to force. Before that, young demonstrators had burned tires and thrown stones at riot police, enflaming the situation. A similar demonstration took place on the same day in the Turkish city of Diyarbakir, attended by about a million Kurds. They, too, lit bonfires and Turkish planes hovered nearby, but did not disperse the demonstrators. In other parts of Turkey, however, the Nawrooz new year was banned - just as it had been for as long as anybody could remember - by Turkish authorities, in Hakkari, Urfa and Siirt.

Leaving the Ba'ath regime in place in Syria undermines everything else we say we believe about the Middle East.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:14 AM


Who are you, Barack Obama? (Danny Ayalon, Jan. 23, 2008, THE JERUSALEM POST)

In contrast to Obama, the other candidates in the electoral field from both parties are long-time public servants for whom every deed - and misdeed - has been repeatedly explored and dissected for the public eye. Mr. Obama is the only major candidate who has been able to ride out his campaign as the guy who came from almost nowhere, thus unencumbered by the need to defend any old policies or past decisions.

From our perspective, as international spectators for whom Israeli and global security must be of foremost interest, while observing the American elections we should look at the Obama candidacy with some degree of concern as we hope to answer that all-important question, "Who really is this man, and what policies will he impose?" [...]

Since early on in his campaign he has said that he would meet with the President of Iran - but we are left in the dark as to what agenda he would pursue on this issue. With the exception of promoting American divestment from Iran, an idea he adopted during a meeting with Bibi Netanyahu, Obama has largely avoided highlighting what specific demands he would make of Ahmadinijad and any timetables he would establish for the Iranians to dismantle their nuclear program. The threat of Islamic terrorism and the expanding scourge of fanaticism are also concepts which have been addressed by Obama in only the most ambiguous of terms.

As far as Israel is concerned, Obama has yet to suggest specific measures he would enact regarding the Jewish State's Qualitative Military Edge that allows us to defend ourselves against our current and future enemies. Given the increasingly tense security environment Israel is confronting on all sides, now is not the time for American leaders to shy away from such fundamental questions.

The four years ahead are far too critical for global security to place the presidency of the United States in the hands of a leader whose campaign is leaving us with more questions than answers.

The Senator had a nice long skate as a cypher before the ways in which he diverges from most Americans personally came to the fore. Eventually the campaign gets to the point where his divergence on political issues becomes the story.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:10 AM


Palestinians fear two-tier road system (Ethan Bronner, March 28, 2008, NY Times)

Ali Abu Safia, mayor of this Palestinian village, steers his car up one potholed road, then another, finding each exit blocked by huge concrete chunks placed there by the Israeli Army. On a sleek highway 100 yards away, Israeli cars whiz by.

"They took our land to build this road, and now we can't even use it," Abu Safia says bitterly, pointing to the highway with one hand as he drives with the other. "Israel says it is because of security. But it's politics."

The object of Abu Safia's contempt — Highway 443, a major access road to Jerusalem — has taken on special significance in the grinding Israeli-Palestinian conflict. For the first time, the Supreme Court, albeit in an interim decision, has accepted the idea of separate roads for Palestinians in the occupied areas.

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel told the Supreme Court that what was happening on the highway could be the onset of legal apartheid in the West Bank — a charge that makes many Israelis recoil.

...but its system eventually separated it not just from American popular opinion but from the will of its own people.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:07 AM


In Wal-Mart We Trust: Who did the most to help victims of Hurricane Katrina? According to a new study, it was the company everyone loves to hate (Colby Cosh, March 28, 2008, National Post)

Shortly before Hurricane Katrina made landfall on the U.S. Gulf Coast on the morning of Aug. 29, 2005, the chief executive officer of Wal-Mart, Lee Scott, gathered his subordinates and ordered a memorandum sent to every single regional and store manager in the imperiled area. His words were not especially exalted, but they ought to be mounted and framed on the wall of every chain retailer -- and remembered as American business's answer to the pre-battle oratory of George S. Patton or Henry V.

"A lot of you are going to have to make decisions above your level," was Scott's message to his people. "Make the best decision that you can with the information that's available to you at the time, and above all, do the right thing."

This extraordinary delegation of authority -- essentially promising unlimited support for the decision-making of employees who were earning, in many cases, less than $100,000 a year -- saved countless lives in the ensuing chaos. The results are recounted in a new paper on the disaster written by Steven Horwitz, an Austrian-school economist at St. Lawrence University in New York. [...]

This benevolent improvisation contradicts everything we have been taught about Wal-Mart by labour unions and the "small-is-beautiful" left.

March 27, 2008

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:32 PM


The joys of parenthood : Why conservatives are happier than liberals: a review of Gross National Happiness by Arthur Brooks (Lexington, 3/27/08, The Economist)

It is a subtle and engaging distillation of oceans of data. When researchers ask parents what they enjoy, it turns out that they prefer almost anything to looking after their children. Eating, shopping, exercising, cooking, praying and watching television were all rated more pleasurable than watching the brats, even if they don't bite. As Mr Brooks puts it: “There are many things in a parent's life that bring great joy. For example, spending time away from [one's] children.”

Despite this, American parents are much more likely to be happy than non-parents. This is for two reasons, argues Mr Brooks, an economist at Syracuse University. Even if children are irksome now, they lend meaning to life in the long term. And the kind of people who are happy are also more likely to have children. Which leads on to Mr Brooks's most controversial finding: in America, conservatives are happier than liberals.

Several books have been written about happiness in recent years. Some have tried to discern which nations are the happiest. Many more purport to offer a foolproof guide to self-fulfilment. Others wonder if the obsessive pursuit of happiness is itself making people miserable. Mr Brooks offers something different. He writes only about Americans, thus avoiding the pitfalls of trying to figure out, for example, whether Japanese people mean the same thing as Danes when they say they are happy. And he writes intriguingly about the politics of happiness.

In 2004 Americans who called themselves “conservative” or “very conservative” were nearly twice as likely to tell pollsters they were “very happy” as those who considered themselves “liberal” or “very liberal” (44% versus 25%). One might think this was because liberals were made wretched by George Bush. But the data show that American conservatives have been consistently happier than liberals for at least 35 years.

This is not because they are richer; they are not. Mr Brooks thinks three factors are important. Conservatives are twice as likely as liberals to be married and twice as likely to attend church every week. Married, religious people are more likely than secular singles to be happy. They are also more likely to have children, which makes Mr Brooks confident that the next generation will be at least as happy as the current one.

When religious and political differences are combined, the results are striking. Secular liberals are as likely to say they are “not too happy” as to say they are very happy (22% to 22%). Religious conservatives are ten times more likely to report being very happy than not too happy (50% to 5%). Religious liberals are about as happy as secular conservatives.

Why should this be so? Mr Brooks proposes that whatever their respective merits, the conservative world view is more conducive to happiness than the liberal one (in the American sense of both words). American conservatives tend to believe that if you work hard and play by the rules, you can succeed. This makes them more optimistic than liberals, more likely to feel in control of their lives and therefore happier. American liberals, at their most pessimistic, stress the injustice of the economic system, the crushing impersonal forces that keep the little guy down and what David Mamet, a playwright, recently summed up as the belief that “everything is always wrong”.

Not that anyone minds that they don't have kids.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:24 PM


When Barack Voted No: There is a new attack on Obama's reproductive choice record. But this time it's coming from the right. (Dana Goldstein, March 27, 2008, American Prospect)

Gobs of ink have been spilled over Barack Obama's "present" votes on choice issues during his time in the Illinois State Senate. Yes, Obama voted "present" instead of "no" on seven bills that would have limited women's reproductive rights. And yes, Planned Parenthood of Illinois has defended Obama, saying he was acting out a rehearsed strategy for preserving pro-choice seats in the legislature. But while the Democratic campaigns and women's organizations quibbled over which 100 percent pro-choice Senator, Obama or Hillary Clinton, would be the better president for reproductive health, many choice advocates missed what was percolating under the radar: The beginnings of a conservative smear campaign against Obama's very real history of support for reproductive freedom.

The anti-choice anti-Obama strategy is based on Obama's clear "no" votes on the "Illinois Born Alive Infant Protection Act," or BAIPA. Leading anti-choice blogger Jill Stanek, who testified in the Illinois state Senate on behalf of the bill, has played a key role in disseminating this anti-Obama argument in the right-wing blogosphere. Taking the bait, former presidential candidate Sen. Sam Brownback, in a fundraising email to supporters of his political action committee last month, excoriated Obama for opposing BAIPA. And in a Feb. 26 editorial, the National Catholic Register fumed, "Obama wouldn't even protect children born alive by mistake during abortion attempts." [...]

It is to Barack Obama's credit that, as an Illinois state senator, he voted against BAIPA twice, and then, as chairman of the Health and Human Services Committee in 2003, prevented it from advancing to the floor.

...and suddenly you realize Kansas was listening too....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:14 PM


GOP Looks to 'McCain Democrats' (DAVID PAUL KUHN, 3/27/08, Politico)

According to data provided by the Gallup Organization at Politico’s request, in a hypothetical contest between McCain and Obama, McCain wins 17 percent of Democrats and those leaning Democratic, while Obama wins 10 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaners.

In a potential contest with Clinton, McCain wins 14 percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaners while Clinton wins 8 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaners.

By way of comparison, exit polls in 2004 reported that George W. Bush won 11 percent of Democrats and John F. Kerry won 6 percent of Republicans.

The new analysis, calculated from a compilation of Gallup’s daily polls between March 7 and 22, seems to indicate that there are more “McCain Democrats” than the much-ballyhooed “Obama Republicans” — or “Obamacans,” as they are sometimes referred to.

People still have precious little idea who Mr. Obama is, but the press and the GOP will be only too happy to fill in the blank.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:08 PM


Riding the tiger: a review of Muqtada: Muqtada al-Sadr, the Shia Revival, and the Struggle for Iraq By Patrick Cockburn (The Economist, 3/27/08)

Mr Cockburn argues that the Americans have consistently underestimated the Sadrist phenomenon, sometimes with fateful consequences. Paul Bremer, America's former viceroy in Baghdad, loathed Mr Sadr and managed to prompt a fierce Shia backlash by shutting down one of his newspapers. Mr Cockburn believes there is evidence the Americans later tried to kill him after the second of his two revolts against them in 2004.

Mr Sadr is certainly militantly anti-American. But if he were no more than that—merely the Shia equivalent of the Sunni insurgents of al-Qaeda—he would be a good deal less interesting. The book's plausible central thesis is that the young cleric has learnt from his mistakes. After twice confronting American power in futile rebellion, he decided to enter the very political process he had previously derided. His movement took part in the elections of 2005, winning the biggest block—32 seats—in the 275-member parliament and gaining control of a number of ministries (including health) which greatly enhanced its power of patronage.

Recent events are putting his thesis to the test. The young cleric remains an ambiguous figure: nominally part of the political process, yet frequently at odds with it. Mr Cockburn does not gloss over the brutalities of the Sadrist militia, the Mahdi Army. In February 2006 Sunni extremists blew up the famous golden dome of the Askariya shrine, a revered Shia holy place in Samarra. The Mahdi Army responded with savage reprisal attacks which served to push the country into civil war. The ceasefire Mr Sadr declared last summer helped subdue sectarian violence and earned him unwonted compliments from American generals. But now, as the Shia power struggle turns ugly, this ceasefire is in danger of collapse.

It was easy for the military to kid themselves into thinking they'd led the Surge.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:03 PM


A malaise hits Italian academiaElisabetta Povoledo, March 27, 2008, IHT)

After five years at the Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona, where she is about to receive a PhD in economics, Ines Buono is ready to come home.

She wants to teach and pursue her scholarly interests, which include tracking the possible impact of Turkey's entry into the European Union, but Italy's stagnant academic job market offers meager prospects to the 30-year old researcher.

Run by a select cadre of aging academics, ivory towers in Italy are as well defended as Fort Knox, but without the gold.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:11 AM


Eight healthy reasons to drink beer (Allison Van Dusen, March 21, 2008,

Looking for a good excuse to tip back a beer?

A decade's worth of health research shows that regular, moderate beer intake--one to two 12 ounce glasses per day for men and one for women--can be good for you, especially if you're facing some of the most common diseases related to aging. have a drinking problem.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:08 AM


Church wins battle over embryo Bill (Andrew Porter, 26/03/2008, Daily Telegraph)

Edward Heath once asked "Who governs Britain?" Some Labour MPs are now asking themselves the same question.

Some are arguing the Catholic Church seems to hold inordinate sway following Gordon Brown's climbdown over granting a free vote over the morally contentious clauses in the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill.

The Prime Minister has spent weeks telling MPs the Bill will not be granted a free, conscience vote. He warned it was a Government Bill, a key plank of Labour's legislative programme and therefore Labour MPs and ministers would not be allowed to vote against it.

In the face of a fierce Easter onslaught by significant figures in the Catholic Church, Mr Brown has been forced to think again.

Catholic Labour MPs who have concerns on three controversial clauses will now be able to vote against, a major shift and a significant victory for the Catholic lobby.

Thank you, Polish plumbers.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:51 AM


Crying monks disrupt China's Tibet media tour (Richard Spencer, 27/03/2008, DAILY TELEGRAPH)

In extraordinary scenes, monks from the Jokhang Temple, the spiritual heart of Tibetan Buddhism and among the most controlled places in the country, broke down in tears in front of reporters and government minders.

"Tibet is not free! Tibet is not free!" shouted one, as he beat his chest with his fists.

"We want the Dalai Lama to return to Tibet, we want to be free," said another.

Others gesticulated wildly as they crowded round a camera, talking in both Tibetan and Mandarin.

"They want us to crush the Dalai Lama and that is not right," they said.

The tour was arranged by the Chinese foreign ministry to show its it had restored order following protests across the country and violent rioting in Lhasa.

But what if the Potemkin villagers won't pretend?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:09 AM


Urban issues get short shrift (CARRIE BUDOFF BROWN, 3/26/08, Politico)

At the outset of the Democratic primary campaign, advocates for urban America had high hopes for a substantive discussion about the issues confronting the cities.

Between Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, who represents New York City, and Sen. Barack Obama, a former community organizer who hails from Chicago—not to mention Rep. Dennis Kucinich, a former Cleveland mayor—urban policy experts and mayors expected a vigorous debate about the cities, the kind of conversation that hasn’t occurred in recent presidential elections.

But as the nomination fight shifts to Pennsylvania, home to the sixth-largest city in the country, they are still waiting. [...]

[I]t underscores a broad shift in voting patterns from the 1960s and 70s. Back then, the Democratic and Republican platforms went on at great length about urban issues. Now that more voters live in suburbs and exurbs—and since big cities have become almost monolithically Democratic—the more competitive and vote-rich areas miles outside urban cores reap the lion’s share of attention from candidates.

...why Democrats try to ignore their constituency groups.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:03 AM


Obamas Donated Less Than 1% of Their 2000-2004 Income (Ryan J. Donmoyer and Julianna Goldman, 3/25/08, Bloomberg)

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama and his wife Michelle gave $10,772 of the $1.2 million they earned from 2000 through 2004 to charities, or less than 1 percent, according to tax returns for those years released today by his campaign.

The Obamas increased the amount they gave to charity when their income rose in 2005 and 2006 after the Illinois senator published a bestselling book. The $137,622 they gave over those two years amounted to more than 5 percent of their $2.6 million income. [...]

In 1998, then-Vice President Al Gore was criticized for donating only $353 to charity in 1997 despite earning $197,729. [...]

The Obamas made their church, Trinity United Church of Christ, one of the biggest beneficiaries of their philanthropy, donating $27,500.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:53 AM


Sadr's Defensive Strategy (John Robb, 3/26/08, Global Guerillas)

The Iraqi government's militias (Army/police) are on the offensive in Basra, in an attempt to regain control of oil exports from the Mahdi army. In contrast to previous engagements with the Mahdi army, this fight is going to more interesting. A leaner and more efficient Mahdi army has learned from Hezbollah's success in southern Lebanon that a carefully planned defensive strategy in combination with a strategic timer (a series of actions that inflict visible strategic damage to the opponent) can rapidly dissolve the political will of a weak adversary (Maliki certainly fits that description). In addition to the defense of Mahdi army neighborhoods and efforts to interdict the supplies of Iraqi army/police forces operating in Basra, here's what will be done on the strategic side...

The Surge was made possible in the first instance by the Mahdi Army convincing the Sunni that the Shi'a weren't going to be oppressed again. It has succeeded because it served Shi'a purposes. But there comes a point where it turns against the Shi'a and/or in favor of the Sunni and then it fails.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:51 AM


Egg McMuffin inventor Herb Peterson dies at 89 (Associated Press, March 26, 2008)

He began his career with McDonald's as vice president of the company's advertising firm, D'Arcy Advertising, in Chicago. He wrote McDonald's first national advertising slogan, "Where Quality Starts Fresh Every Day."

Peterson eventually became a franchisee and was currently co-owner and operator of six McDonald's restaurants in Santa Barbara and Goleta, Fraker said.

Peterson created the Egg McMuffin as a way to introduce breakfast to McDonald's, Fraker said.

"Peterson was very partial to eggs Benedict," Fraker said, and worked on creating something similar.

The egg sandwich consisted of an egg that had been formed in a Teflon circle with the yolk broken, topped with a slice of cheese and grilled Canadian bacon. It was served open-faced on a toasted and buttered English muffin.,

The Egg McMuffin made its debut at a restaurant in Santa Barbara that Peterson co-owned with his son, David Peterson.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:49 AM

50-0 FILES:

GOP hopeful won't 'abandon' California (Joseph Curl, March 27, 2008, Washington Times)

Sen. John McCain, winding up a three-day fundraising blitz up and down the California coast, has declared he will make a serious run for one of the nation's most liberal states, which hasn't gone for a Republican presidential candidate in 20 years.

"I think we can make a play for California. It seems silly to abandon such a big state," he said last month during a barbecue at his Cornville, Ariz., home. "We're going to campaign in a lot of states the Republicans haven't campaigned in for a while."

Given the number of Latino and Asian voters he'd be crazy not to go for the win.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:46 AM


West's Tibet 'bias' galls many in China: The coverage, only the latest bad publicity, is making people feel their huge Olympic effort is unappreciated. (Mark Magnier, 3/27/08, Los Angeles Times)

When China seven years ago won the right to hold this summer's Olympics, the nation erupted in joy, confident it would finally receive the accolades it deserved as an emerging global power after a century of isolation and humiliation.

In recent months, however, China has battled criticism of its food and toy safety, been hit with director Steven Spielberg's high-profile withdrawal as Olympic advisor over its Darfur policy, weathered athlete complaints about pollution and faced global criticism over its crackdown against the Tibet uprising.

Add it up and some Chinese are feeling under siege. Few nations have spent more effort to showcase their country than China has in organizing what are shaping up to be the most expensive Olympic Games in history. Spending is estimated at $40 billion, including related infrastructure projects such as a new airport terminal, subway system and even sewage systems.

"Chinese have given so much to the Olympics, but we're criticized so harshly by foreigners," said Hu Xijin, editor in chief of Global Times.

...who agree with the PRC that the Olympics are more important than oppression.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:41 AM


Move to boost Indonesia defence ties: THE Rudd Government will move for even closer defence ties with Indonesia, says Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon. (The Australian, March 27, 2008)

Mr Fitzgibbon said a meeting with his Indonesian counterpart, Dr Juwono Sudarsono, for the first time in Canberra today provided a timely opportunity to advance defence engagement and cooperation.

It followed the recent ratification of the Australia-Indonesia Lombok Treaty on security co-operation.

"Australia and Indonesia have a confident and maturing defence relationship, based on a foundation of mutual respect and trust," Mr Fitzgibbon said in a statement.

"We would like to deepen and expand on matters affecting our common security interests such as terrorism, regional security and piracy."

Even the foreign policy establishment has begun to realize how important the ties W has developed with India are, but it'll take them years to realize Indonesia is part of the Axis of Good too.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:24 AM


Cool in any Language (Eric Neel, Sports Illustrated)

I expected him to be cool. I'd heard the supremely self-possessed Derek Jeter call him "Mr. Torre," as if kneeling at the feet of an ancient elder, and I'd had Dodgers broadcaster Charlie Steiner tell me, with just the slightest hint of exaggeration, that Torre "is like Neo in 'The Matrix,'" a man capable of moving objects in space with a supernatural flick of the wrist. But what I hadn't quite anticipated is the way Torre's calm confidence seems to radiate, seems available to those around him, like a campfire at which they might warm their hands. Some of that comes from winning four World Series rings; he's quick to say his success buys him time and goodwill with people. But some of it is just this: When you're with Joe Torre, you get the feeling -- though, as a student of postmodern culture and a working writer in the world of sports journalism, I know such things are impossible -- that he might actually be for real.

The Dodgers are taking a team photo against a smog-blue sky at the Badaling section of The Great Wall of China. Tourists, most of them Chinese, pass by on their way up a staircase to a nearby watch tower, rubbernecking the mysterious men wearing crisp white jerseys. A small woman with crab apple cheeks tugs at my sleeve: "Please? These are American basketball men?" After team photographer Jon SooHoo gets a dozen or so shots, the players disperse with their own cameras, posing for each other in the Wall's stone archways.

Torre, hands in his pockets, hunched against a swirling canyon wind, pulls his wool cap snug and stands alone. For an instant. Three young Chinese men in American jeans, one with a white bandana tied around his head, quickly surround him, cell phone cameras poised. "Mr. Joe Torre! Mr. Joe Torre!" Torre smiles as two of them position themselves, one to his left and one to his right, while Mr. Bandana aims his phone. Torre wraps one arm behind each fan, gently pulling them both in closer for a better shot.

I'd seen him make this move before. At Torre's first news conference in Los Angeles, back in November, he stood on an ad hoc stage in center field at Dodger Stadium with team owner Frank McCourt and general manager Ned Colletti. As photographers moved toward the stage for the first shots of the new era in Dodger baseball, the new kid in town looked like the gracious host, easing McCourt and Colletti in tight for their close-up, affectionately squeezing each man at the shoulder. "When you're with Joe, even if you're just getting to know him, even if you're meeting him for the first time," McCourt says, "you feel like you're with an old friend."

A husband-and-wife team from Tennessee, both decked out in Volunteer-orange sweatshirts and hats, swoop in on Torre as he's heading for the stairs down the Great Wall. More smiles and pictures. More familiar embraces. "Joe Torre at the Great Wall of China. Joe Torre. I can't believe it," the woman says afterward, shaking her head. "Forget the rest of the trip. I just had my picture taken with Joe Torre. We can go home right now."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:15 AM


Pro-life outrage as hundreds of children survive after being born within the legal abortion time (GWYNETH REES and DUNCAN ROBERTSON, 27th March 2008, Daily Mail)

Hundreds of children are surviving after being born within the legal abortion time limit, official figures reveal.

Data from the Department of Health shows that 909 children were born between 22 and 24 weeks of pregnancy during 2005.

Of those, 250 survived for at least a year.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:06 AM


Why Obama Faces an Uphill Battle (Steven Stark, 3/26/08, Real Clear Politics)

There's one other worrisome, though not ironclad, precedent possibly standing in Obama's way. Though the polls are all over the lot at this point, according to the Real Clear Politics average, Obama currently trails John McCain by only a point or two. That's a margin that easily could be eliminated, and, unto itself, would seem to be no great cause for concern. But history suggests otherwise.

At this point in the election cycle -- before any fear of the unknown has set in -- challengers are often running much better against their incumbent-party opponents. In 1988, Michael Dukakis had about a 10-point lead over George Bush (the senior and then-vice-president), only to lose by around eight -- an 18-point swing.

Ditto in 2000. George Bush (the younger) had about a similar 10-point lead over Al Gore at this stage, only to see the lead shrink to nothing by Election Day.

In fact, that's been the usual pattern.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Iraq paid for lawmakers' pre-war trip, indictment says (Reuters, March 27, 2008)

An Iraqi American who helped organize a controversial U.S. congressional trip to Baghdad in 2002 was charged Wednesday with working for ousted Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's government, which paid for the visit, the Justice Department said.

The indictment against Muthanna Hanooti said Iraq's foreign intelligence service funneled $34,000 through the Islamic charity Life for Relief and Development to pay delegation expenses.

It said Hanooti had been a lobbyist and public relations coordinator for the charity, based in Southfield, Mich.

The indictment did not name the three lawmakers who took the trip in September-October 2002, less than six months before the U.S.-led invasion.

But during the time in question, Democratic Reps. Mike Thompson of St. Helena, Jim McDermott of Washington and David E. Bonior of Michigan, who all were opposed to war against Iraq, took a highly publicized trip to the country.

...that such people aren't merely useful idiots but were bought.

March 26, 2008

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:09 PM


Blue Chip Chocolate Chip Cookies (CCT Staff, 03/26/2008, Contra Costa Times)

½ cup granulated sugar

½ cup firmly packed light brown sugar

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cold, cut into ½-inch pieces

1 large egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

½ teaspoon baking soda

1¼ cups all-purpose flour

¼ teaspoon salt

1½ cups semisweet chocolate chips

1 cup walnuts or pecans, toasted and chopped

1. Adjust the oven rack to the top third of the oven and preheat to 300 degrees. Line 3 baking sheets with parchment paper.

2. Beat the sugars and butter together until smooth. Mix in the egg, vanilla and baking soda. Stir together the flour and salt, then mix them into the batter. Mix in the chocolate chips and nuts.

3. Scoop the cookie dough into 2-tablespoon balls and place 8 balls, spaced 4 inches apart, on each of the baking sheets. Bake for 18 minutes, or until pale golden brown. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack. Store at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:57 PM


The Right Choice?: The conservative case for Barack Obama (Andrew J. Bacevich, 3/24/08, American Conservative)

So why consider Obama? For one reason only: because this liberal Democrat has promised to end the U.S. combat role in Iraq.

The paleocons were only ever interventionist once--during the Cold War--and you have to suspect that was only because so many of the victims of Communism were white/European. They object to every Judeo-Christian aspect of the GOP so they probably should be in the secular party.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:40 PM


Polls Show Obama Damaged by Reverend Wright (Michael Barone, 3/25/08, US News)

Before the Wright revelations, Rasmussen in its nightly tracking showed Obama ahead of Clinton nationally 48 percent to 41 percent, a statistically significant 7 percentage point lead. On March 18, the day of Obama's Philadelphia speech, that was reduced to a 45 percent to 44 percent lead. The most recent results, reported March 24, showed Clinton ahead 46 percent to 44 percent. In other words, over two weeks, Obama was down 4 percentage points, Clinton up 5 percentage points—major movement, given the usually glacially show movement in Rasmussen numbers.

The negatives up over 50% are the real indicator of Senator Obama's trouble.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:35 PM


McCain outlines his foreign policy goals in L.A. speech: If elected president, the Arizona senator says he would push to create a league of democracies. He also maintains his support for the Iraq war, and criticizes Iran and Russia (Maeve Reston, 3/26/08, Los Angeles Times)

In a broad-ranging foreign policy speech, Sen. John McCain pledged today that, if elected, his administration's foreign policy would be based on cooperation with U.S. allies and he called for a league of democracies that could build "an enduring peace."

In remarks to the Los Angeles World Affairs Council, McCain cautioned that America's power and influence "does not mean we can do whatever we want whenever we want," and said U.S. leaders should not "assume we have all the wisdom and knowledge necessary to succeed."

"We need to listen to the views and respect the collective will of our democratic allies," McCain said before an audience of several hundred people in the ballroom of the Westin Bonaventure Hotel. "When we believe international action is necessary, whether military, economic or diplomatic, we will try to persuade our friends that we are right. But we, in return, must be willing to be persuaded by them."

...until you have to actually go to war and the "allies" turn out to be generally useless.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:23 PM


Judicial Watch: Obama ‘intended to leave no paper trail’ (Klaus Marre, 03/26/08, The Hill)

In a statement, Fitton noted that his group has sought access to Obama’s records as a state senator and questioned whether the presidential candidate has been forthcoming with regard to what happened to those documents.

He said that “nobody knows where they are, if they exist at all” and claimed that “Obama’s story keeps changing.”

However, the Obama campaign said the senator’s records are available.

“All of Sen. Obama’s correspondence with state agencies and records of requests Obama made to them on behalf of his constituents are available to the public and have been accessed by our opponents and members of the news media,” said Obama spokesman Ben LaBolt. “Illinois State senators have limited staff – Obama did not have a scheduler – and so no detailed record exists of all of his daily activities in Springfield.”

The Senator has done so little, it's unsurprising he's left no trace evidence.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:39 PM

Richard Widmark, 93; actor played both heavies and heroes (Associated Press March 26, 2008)

After a career in radio drama and theater, [Richard] Widmark moved to films as Tommy Udo, who delighted in pushing an old lady in a wheelchair to her death down a flight of stairs in the 1947 thriller "Kiss of Death." The performance won him an Academy Award nomination as supporting actor; it was his only mention for an Oscar.

"That damned laugh of mine!" he told a reporter in 1961. "For two years after that picture, you couldn't get me to smile. I played the part the way I did because the script struck me as funny and the part I played made me laugh. The guy was such a ridiculous beast." [...]

Richard Widmark was born Dec. 26, 1914, in Sunrise, Minn., where his father ran a general store, then became a traveling salesman. The family moved around before settling in Princeton, Ill.

"Like most small-town boys, I had the urge to get to the big city and make a name for myself," he recalled in a 1954 interview. "I was a movie nut from the age of 3, but I don't recall having any interest in acting," he said.

But at Lake Forest College, he became a protege of the drama teacher and met his future wife, drama student Ora Jean Hazlewood.

In later years, Widmark appeared sparingly in films and TV. He explained to Parade magazine in 1987: "I've discovered in my dotage that I now find the whole moviemaking process irritating. I don't have the patience anymore. I've got a few more years to live, and I don't want to spend them sitting around a movie set for 12 hours to do two minutes of film."

When he wasn't working, he and his wife lived on a horse ranch in Hidden Valley, Calif., or on a farm in Connecticut. Their daughter Ann became the wife of baseball immortal Sandy Koufax.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:25 PM


Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:17 AM


Jeers and loathing at tribunal: Critics in gallery challenge human rights bureacracy (Joseph Brean, 3/26/08, National Post)

For people who consider the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal a kangaroo court, the supporters of Marc Lemire in his defence against a hate-speech charge were surprisingly respectful of protocol yesterday, as they packed a gallery to see the landmark cross-examination of the investigator behind the case.

Mindful of the police presence, everyone rose when directed and no one heckled, although old men muttered their dissent. A thick-necked young Lemire associate with a buzz-cut kept cracking his neck and gnawing the chapped skin on his thumb, but was otherwise quiet and still as he doodled and took notes. Even the old guy with the knife in his pocket smiled as he removed it for the Tribunal guards at the hearing room door.

All in all, the monitor from the Canadian Jewish Congress had plenty to monitor, from Canada's most famous online racists and the legal team that defended Holocaust-denier Ernst Zundel, down to the conservative Maclean's columnist Mark Steyn, dapper with a red pocket puff, who at the breaks signed autographs for admirers.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:15 AM


Hold the Hysteria (For Now) (Robert J. Samuelson, March 26, 2008, Washington Post)

A recession is a noticeable period of declining output. Since World War II, there have been 10. On average, they've lasted 10 months, involved a peak monthly unemployment rate of 7.6 percent and resulted in a decline in economic output (gross domestic product) of 1.8 percent, reports Mark Zandi of Moody's If the two worst recessions (those of 1981-82 and 1973-75, with peak unemployment of 10.8 percent and 9 percent) are excluded, the average peak jobless rate is about 7 percent.

No one doubts that the economy has slowed. Many economists think a recession has already started. Zandi is one. He forecasts peak unemployment of 6.1 percent (present unemployment: 4.8 percent) and a GDP drop of 0.4 percent. If that happens, the recession of 2008 would actually be milder than the average postwar recession and milder than the past two, those of 1990-91 and 2001.

Broadly speaking, the story is similar for stocks. So far, their weakness is unexceptional. A standard definition of a "bear market" is a drop of 20 percent or more. Last week, the market was at times close to that. Declines would have to get much worse to qualify as momentous. Since 1936, there have been 11 bear markets as measured by the Standard & Poor's index of 500 stocks, says Howard Silverblatt of S&P. On average, they've lasted 20 months and involved a decline of 34 percent. One was 60 percent (1937-42) and two were nearly 50 percent (1973-74 and 2000-02, the last being the "tech bubble").

Some causes of the present hysteria are familiar: media hype; political finger-pointing, which is always given to exaggeration; and whining from Wall Street types. But there's another large cause: disagreement over whether the economy is highly unstable or whether business cycles are mostly self-correcting.

"This argument is as old as economics," says economic historian Barry Eichengreen of the University of California at Berkeley.

One could almost wish for the power to drop all the folks whingeing about current conditions into 1974, so that they can see what a crappy economy is really like.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:11 AM


Another Voice: Reading the speeches of McCain and Obama has made me ashamed of our political class and its craven soundbites (Matthew Parris, 26th March 2008, The Spectator)

[I]t was ponderous, overlong and often dull. Nor did the speech say anything surprising or new. There was nothing there worth remembering for future reference, or quoting to you now, two years later, nor any passage that seemed worth noting down. This was a speech cluttered with heavy furniture.

But it was his. You knew that at once. It had a certain old-fashioned style and respect for language that I admire. And it turned me into a convinced admirer of the Senator that I shall always now be. I finished reading, certain that an honourable and honest man was behind the writing, certain of his strength of mind and will, and certain of his almost abrasive sense of right and wrong.

I suppose the qualities that came through most were an uncompromising nature, and a certain thrilling carelessness whether or not he was keeping his reader with him. There were quaint, somewhat antique turns of speech that any Alastair Campbell would have removed at once; long, convoluted sentences with precarious dependent clauses; and an almost solemnly scholarly tone that reminded me of my dear, self-educated, bookish grandfather. Without being able to say how, I gained from it the strongest sense of a stiff-necked integrity that seemed both refreshing and different, and wholly admirable.

One of the ways that integrity came through, I remember noting, was in a stubborn if subliminal reluctance to overstate his case for the sake of effect; he never picked the easy, vulgar word. And (though I know McCain’s reputation for impatience and sudden anger) an essential intellectual modesty came through: this speaker did not believe and so would not pretend that politics was easy or obvious; that every question had a clear answer; or that his opponents were wicked or stupid. I feel I learnt more about McCain in that quiet 20 minutes with his text in my hotel bedroom than I have since from months of reading news reports and commentaries.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:07 AM


How Bad is it For Obama in Pennsylvania? (G. Terry Madonna and Michael Young, 3/26/08, Real Clear Politics)

Just how bad is documented by some key findings from a series of polls, including the Franklin and Marshal College Poll, all released recently. Almost none of the results bode well for Obama. Across the board Clinton is winning and winning big. She has decisively stopped Obama's earlier momentum in Pennsylvania--and seems set for a romp.

Statewide among Democrats, Clinton holds a lead that ranges from 16 to 26 points. The Real Clear Politics consensus estimate is roughly 16 points. She is winning every major region of the state except Philadelphia, while Obama has actually slipped slightly with blacks and more substantially with younger voters--two demographics that are critical backstops for him in the contest. He has also lost support with other key constituencies including white males and evangelicals. [...]

Appeal among Key Groups of Likely Voters: Clinton leads among women (57% to 29%), whites (57% to 29%), ages 55 and older (55% to 29%), union member households (67% to 26%), and Born Again Christians (45% to 38%). She also leads among Catholics (26 points) and Protestants (23 points). Obama has the clear edge only among non-whites (76% to 12%). Obama and Clinton are tied or virtually tied (within sampling error) among younger, college-educated, and male voters. (Source: Franklin & Marshall College Poll)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:02 AM


Nancy Reagan endorses McCain (AP, 3/26/08)

"I'm very pleased and honored to have the opportunity again to be with Mrs. Reagan and to receive her endorsement for the nomination of my party and for president of the United States," McCain said in a five- minute appearance with the former first lady in the driveway of her gated home. "President Reagan and Mrs. Reagan remain an inspiration to all of us, as an example of honorable and courageous service to the nation."

In turn, she said only, "Ronnie and I always waited until everything was decided and then we endorsed. Well, obviously, this is the nominee of the party."

In a written statement issued earlier in the day, she called McCain a good friend for more than 30 years.

"My husband and I first came to know him as a returning Vietnam War POW, and were impressed by the courage he had shown through his terrible ordeal. I believe John's record and experience have prepared him well to be our next president," she said.

She and McCain met privately in the Reagan home before they emerged, arm in arm, through the front door to meet reporters.

Her eventual support was expected, and she became the latest top Republican to fall in line behind McCain. The two have long been close.

...that the Reagan's relationship with John McCain and his fellow POWs is one of the keys to understanding Iran/contra. Ronald Reagan became very emotionally invested in their plight and seemed to take that of the Beirut hostages just as much to heart.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:58 AM


If McCain vs. Obama, 28% of Clinton Backers Go for McCain: If McCain vs. Clinton, 19% of Obama backers go for McCain (Frank Newport, 3/26/08, Gallup)

A sizable proportion of Democrats would vote for John McCain next November if he is matched against the candidate they do not support for the Democratic nomination. This is particularly true for Hillary Clinton supporters, more than a quarter of whom currently say they would vote for McCain if Barack Obama is the Democratic nominee. [...]

[O]nly 59% of Democratic voters who support Clinton say they would vote for Obama against McCain, while 28% say they would vote for the Republican McCain. This suggests that some Clinton supporters are so strongly opposed to Obama (or so loyal to Clinton) that they would go so far as to vote for the "other" party's candidate next November if Obama is the Democratic nominee.

Pretty funny to watch Rush Limbaugh and company play hard to get with a guy who doesn't need them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:45 AM


U.S.-China relations questioned after mistaken shipment of missile fuses (The Associated Press, March 26, 2008)

The U.S. military's mistaken delivery to Taiwan of electrical fuses for an intercontinental ballistic missile is raising questions over U.S. relations with China and has triggered a broad investigation into the security of Pentagon weapons.

The shipment did not include nuclear materials, but the error is particularly sensitive because China vehemently opposes U.S. arms sales to Taiwan.

Nothing like giving the toothless dragon's cage a good hard rattle.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:39 AM


The radicalisation of Tibetan youth (B Raman, March 26, 2008, rediff)

The worldwide demonstrations of Tibetans of all ages against China and the uprisings in Greater Tibet since March 10, 2008, have come as the culmination of a long debate in Dharamsala and among Tibetan refugees all over the world, including India, over the wisdom of His Holiness the Dalai Lama's continued adherence to his Middle Path policy.

By Middle Path, he meant autonomy not independence and a non-violent struggle to achieve that objective. By autonomy, he meant on the Hong Kong model of one country, two systems; and not the present Chinese model of total integration and Han colonisation in the name of autonomy.

He was seeking a dialogue with the Chinese leadership in the hope of thereby making his Middle Path a reality. [...]

Many thinking Tibetans, Tibetan supporters and China-watchers have now come to honestly conclude that the Chinese have no intention to conduct negotiations. They are only biding time for the Dalai Lama to pass away and in the meantime evade international pressure and condemnation by indulging in periodical delegation diplomacy. It is vitally important that we Tibetans should not fall prey to their devious ploys. Another important matter to be taken into consideration is the so-called Chinese White Paper of May 2007.

With the finality of the tone and tenor of that document, all our hopes for a negotiated settlement on the lines of the One-Nation-Two-Systems theory of Hong Kong and Macao or a genuine autonomy have been dashed irrevocably. The only choice given to the Tibetans is to accept the arrangement under the Tibet Autonomous Region as the best one and return. This, surely, is not the answer to the Middle Path!

Dalai Lama's threat shakes Buddhism
: If he quit as political leader but still headed the faith, it would go against his religion's centuries-old tenet of church-state unity (Ching-Ching Ni, 3/26/08, Los Angeles Times)
"He would resign as the political leader and head of state, but not as the Dalai Lama. He will always be the Dalai Lama," said Tenzin Taklha, a top aide.

That would suggest breaking from Tibetan Buddhism's centuries-old tradition of church and state as one and, more important, would open the possibility that a Dalai Lama could choose his own successor.

"These institutions are made by people; the rules can change from time to time," said Lee Feigon, author of the book "Demystifying Tibet: Unlocking the Secrets of the Land of the Snows." "If he were to resign in frustration, it will create worldwide sympathy for him. If he could choose his own successor, he would be around to help train him and give him legitimacy. Even the threat of doing it should give the Chinese government pause."

...but his inability to distinguish between the effectiveness of non-violence in the Anglosphere, where the government is decent, and in a totalitarian state, where it's evil, has been a disaster for his people.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:26 AM


Nicolas Sarkozy calls for 'Franco-British brotherhood' as state visit begins (David Byers, 3/26/08, Times of London)

President Nicolas Sarkozy called for the start of a new "Franco-British brotherhood" today, as he spoke in gushing praise of the UK's accomplishments at the start of his first state visit to Britain.

The French President said it was time to move on the cross-Channel relationship from the strategic cooperation enshrined in the Entente Cordiale to become one of genuine closeness and "hand in glove" warmth.

The French President's moves come after years of gradual decline in Franco-British relations under the leadership of Jacques Chirac, who focused overwhelmingly on building a close relationship with Germany. Relations between France, Britain and the United States reached their lowest point for decades in 2003, when Mr Chirac openly opposed and derided the Iraq War.

However Mr Sarkozy has made no secret of his pro-American leanings and has vowed to realign French foreign policy.

Nicolas Sarkozy calls for closer friendship with Britain (Duncan Hooper, 26/03/2008, Daily Telegraph)
Nicolas Sarkozy wants to move on from 'cordial' relations with Britain

"It has been long enough now that we have not been at war, that we are not wrangling," he said.

"Perhaps we can move from being cordial to being friendly - that's my first message.

"My second message is that this friendship shouldn't simply be a matter of principle. I want (it) fleshed out by concrete projects on the economy, immigration, security, defence."

Instead everyone just keeps electing more pro-Anglospheric leaders.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:22 AM


In Obama's New Message, Some Foes See Old Liberalism (Alec MacGillis, 3/26/08, Washington Post)

[A]s Obama heads into the final presidential primaries, Sen. John McCain and other Republicans have already started to brand him a standard-order left-winger, "a down-the-line liberal," as McCain strategist Charles R. Black Jr. put it, in a long line of Democratic White House hopefuls.

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's campaign has also started slapping the L-word on Obama, warning that his appeal among moderate voters will diminish as they become more aware of liberal positions he took in the past, such as calling for single-payer health care and an end to the U.S. embargo against Cuba. "The evidence is that the more [voters] have been learning about him, the more his coalition has been shrinking," Clinton strategist Mark Penn said.

The double-barreled attack has presented Democratic voters with some persistent questions about Obama: Just how liberal is he? And even if he truly is a new kind of candidate, can he avoid being pigeonholed with an old label under sustained assault?

Despite being rated the most liberal senator in 2007 by the National Journal, Obama has sought to confound easy categorization.

...and assume he couldn't keep a straight face while he typed that last sentence any more than you can keep one reading it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:19 AM


NH again named "Most Livable State" (AP, 3/26/08)

For the fifth year in a row, a national ranking lists New Hampshire as the "Most Livable State" in the country.

The ranking, by CQ Press, is based on 44 factors, including income, crime rates, business taxes, employment, environment and education.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:17 AM


Taliban Again Threaten Spring Offensive (AP, 26/03/2008)

The Taliban says it will use new techniques and draw on years of fighting experience to again increase attacks in Afghanistan this spring.

...for giving us such inept enemies.

March 25, 2008

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:57 PM


The Long Defeat (DAVID BROOKS, 3/25/08, NY Times)

Let’s take a look at what she’s going to put her party through for the sake of that 5 percent chance: The Democratic Party is probably going to have to endure another three months of daily sniping. For another three months, we’ll have the Carvilles likening the Obamaites to Judas and former generals accusing Clintonites of McCarthyism. For three months, we’ll have the daily round of résumé padding and sulfurous conference calls. We’ll have campaign aides blurting “blue dress” and only-because-he’s-black references as they let slip their private contempt.

For three more months (maybe more!) the campaign will proceed along in its Verdun-like pattern. There will be a steady rifle fire of character assassination from the underlings, interrupted by the occasional firestorm of artillery when the contest touches upon race, gender or patriotism. The policy debates between the two have been long exhausted, so the only way to get the public really engaged is by poking some raw national wound.

For the sake of that 5 percent, this will be the sourest spring. About a fifth of Clinton and Obama supporters now say they wouldn’t vote for the other candidate in the general election. Meanwhile, on the other side, voters get an unobstructed view of the Republican nominee. John McCain’s approval ratings have soared 11 points. He is now viewed positively by 67 percent of Americans. A month ago, McCain was losing to Obama among independents by double digits in a general election matchup. Now McCain has a lead among this group.

For three more months, Clinton is likely to hurt Obama even more against McCain, without hurting him against herself. And all this is happening so she can preserve that 5 percent chance.

When you step back and think about it, she is amazing. She possesses the audacity of hopelessness.

Why does she go on like this? Does Clinton privately believe that Obama is so incompetent that only she can deliver the policies they both support?

Why would a judgment that he's both unelectable and unlikely to succeed if elected so far beyond the Pale?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:50 PM


French leader considers Olympic boycott (ANGELA DOLAND, 3/25/08, Associated Press)

French President Nicolas Sarkozy said Tuesday that he cannot rule out the possibility he might boycott the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics if China continues its crackdown in Tibet.

An official from France's state television company said the broadcaster would likely boycott the games if coverage was censored, and the European Union, United States, Australia and Canada urged China to show restraint as it tries to quell continuing unrest in its Tibetan areas.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:38 PM


Matthew Cohen linked to a very cool contest over at the Roto Blog.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:54 PM


Clinton: Wright 'would not have been my pastor' (Mike Wereschagin and David M. Brown, 3/25/08, Pittsburgh TRIBUNE-REVIEW)

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, in a wide-ranging interview today with Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reporters and editors, said she would have left her church if her pastor made the sort of inflammatory remarks Sen. Barack Obama's former pastor made.

"He would not have been my pastor," Clinton said. "You don't choose your family, but you choose what church you want to attend."

Obama's lead in national polls has slipped since clips of the retired Rev. Jeremiah Wright began being played on national news programs. The uproar prompted Obama to give a wide-ranging speech on race in America a week ago. The Clinton campaign has refrained from getting involved in the controversy, but Clinton herself, responding to a question, denounced what she said was "hate speech."

"You know, I spoke out against Don Imus (who was fired from his radio and television shows after making racially insensitive remarks), saying that hate speech was unacceptable in any setting, and I believe that," Clinton said. "I just think you have to speak out against that. You certainly have to do that, if not explicitly, then implicitly by getting up and moving."

You can see how nicely this sets up for Maverick. When he gets asked the Reverend Wright question at the debates he ducks his head, scrapes his feet, and resignedly says: "Well, you know my friend Senator Clinton said that she'd have left a church where the pastor said such things and I'd like to think that I would have too."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:43 PM

GOOD NEWS IS NO NEWS (via Bryan Francoeur):

The War Endures, but Where’s the Media? (RICHARD PÉREZ-PEÑA, 3/24/08, NY Times)

Media attention on Iraq began to wane after the first months of fighting, but as recently as the middle of last year, it was still the most-covered topic. Since then, Iraq coverage by major American news sources has plummeted, to about one-fifth of what it was last summer, according to the Project for Excellence in Journalism.

The drop in coverage parallels — and may be explained by — a decline in public interest. Surveys by the Pew Research Center show that more than 50 percent of Americans said they followed events in Iraq “very closely” in the months just before and after the war began, but that slid to an average of 40 percent in 2006, and has been running below 30 percent since last fall.

Let's all put our thinking hats on and try to solve the great mystery of why the press lost interest right around then?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:40 PM


Idaho Turns to Chess as Education Strategy (DYLAN LOEB McCLAIN, 3/20/08, NY Times)

Once a week, Deborah McCoy, a third-grade teacher in Donnelly, Idaho, unpacks chessboards and pieces and spends an hour teaching her 20 students how to play the game.

Mrs. McCoy does not do this because she is passionate about chess; she barely knew how to play before this school year. But she began teaching it as part of an unusual pilot program under way in more than 100 second- and third-grade classrooms across Idaho.

On Thursday, state officials will announce in Boise that the program will be extended in the fall to all second and third graders — making Idaho the first state to offer a statewide chess curriculum.

The state’s $1.5 billion education budget, passed two weeks ago, includes up to $60,000 to finance the instruction. Tom Luna, the state’s superintendent of education, said participation by teachers would be voluntary, but if reaction to the pilot program is any measure, interest will be great.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:58 AM


Trading Insults (Howard Kurtz, 3/25/08, Washington Post)

The Democratic campaign, it seems to me, is increasingly about itself.

We hear little about health care, immigration and Iraq (where the 4,000th American has died, generating a round of stories from news organizations that have been playing down the war). Instead, we hear about Samantha Power, Geraldine Ferraro, Jeremiah Wright, Tony McPeak; James Carville calling Bill Richardson a Judas and Obama backer Gordon Fischer, the former Iowa Democratic chairman, saying Bill Clinton was leaving "a stain on his legacy much worse, much deeper, than the one on Monica's blue dress."


When you're too far Left of the electorate to be able to afford the political damage discussing the issues would inflict, what do you have left but personalities?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:29 AM


Boycott Beijing: The Olympics are the perfect place for a protest. (Anne Applebaum, March 24, 2008, Slate)

Look a bit closer, in fact, and none of those statements holds up.

A boycott doesn't solve anything. Well, doesn't it? Some boycotts do help solve some things. The boycott of South African athletes from international competitions was probably the single most effective weapon the international community ever deployed against the apartheid state. ("They didn't mind about the business sanctions," a South African friend once told me, "but they minded—they really, really minded—about the cricket.") The boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympics helped undermine Soviet propaganda about the invasion of Afghanistan and unify the Western world against it. I don't know for certain, but I'm guessing that from the Soviet perspective, the Soviet bloc boycott of the Los Angeles Olympics four years later was successful, too. Presumably, it was intended to solidify Soviet elite opposition to the United States in the Reagan years, and presumably, it helped.

The Olympics are a force for good. Not always! For those who don't remember, let me remind you that the 1936 Olympics, held in Nazi Germany, were an astonishing propaganda coup for Hitler. It's true that the star performance of Jesse Owens, the great black American track-and-field star, did shoot some holes in the Nazi theory of Aryan racial superiority. But Hitler still got what he wanted out of the games. With the help of American newspapers such as the New York Times, which opined that the games put Germany "back in the family of nations again," he convinced many Germans, and many foreigners, to accept Nazism as "normal." The Nuremburg laws were in force, German troops had marched into the Rhineland, Dachau was full of prisoners, but the world cheered athletes in Berlin. As a result, many people, both in and out of Germany, reckoned that everything was just fine, and Hitler could be tolerated a bit longer.

The Olympic Games are not the place for demonstrations. Aren't they? Actually, the Olympics seem an ideal place for demonstrations. Not only is the world's press there with cameras running, the modern Olympics were set up with a political purpose: to promote international peace by encouraging healthy competition between nations. Hence the emphasis on national teams instead of individual competitors; hence the opening and closing ceremonies—since copied by other sporting events—as well as the national flags and national anthems.

Actually, it was the failure of anyone to even notice the Soviet boycott of the LA Games that first showed what a spent force they were. Similarly, were the Chinese to hold a revenge boycott in 2012 no one would care.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:20 AM


Native son tells Americans to move beyond race: But Obama's unique position makes him vulnerable to becoming a victim (George Packer, 3/24/08, The New Yorker)

The first time that Barack Obama met the Reverend Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr., at Trinity United Church of Christ, on the South Side of Chicago, in the late nineteen-eighties, the young community organizer tried to make a point about the growing importance of class division in America. As Obama described the exchange in his autobiography, “Dreams from My Father,” Wright wasn’t having any of it: “These miseducated brothers, like that sociologist at the University of Chicago, talking about ‘the declining significance of race.’ Now, what country is he living in?”

The deluded black scholar in question was William Julius Wilson, whose 1978 book of that title analyzed the economic forces affecting black Americans and advocated universal remedies over race-specific ones. Wright, a proponent of black liberation theology, dismissed every remark about class from Obama with a categorical racial answer, and Obama allowed the topic to drop. As we all now know, he also joined Wright’s church.

Blind Faith: The statements of clergymen like Jeremiah Wright aren't controversial and incendiary; they're wicked and stupid. (Christopher Hitchens, March 24, 2008, Slate)
It's been more than a month since I began warning Sen. Barack Obama that he would become answerable for his revolting choice of a family priest. But never mind that; the astonishing thing is that it's at least 11 months since he himself has known precisely the same thing. "If Barack gets past the primary," said the Rev. Jeremiah Wright to the New York Times in April of last year, "he might have to publicly distance himself from me. I said it to Barack personally, and he said yeah, that might have to happen." Pause just for a moment, if only to admire the sheer calculating self-confidence of this. Sen. Obama has long known perfectly well, in other words, that he'd one day have to put some daylight between himself and a bigmouth Farrakhan fan. But he felt he needed his South Side Chicago "base" in the meantime. So he coldly decided to double-cross that bridge when he came to it. And now we are all supposed to marvel at the silky success of the maneuver.

...but if that's what he came up with after a year of thought, it's even more embarrassing.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:07 AM


Conservatives' Hate-Based Campaign Against Obama: The right-wing smear campaign against Barack Obama has already begun. Conservatives intend, as they have so many times before, to appeal to Americans' ugliest prejudices and most craven fears. (Paul Waldman, March 25, 2008, American Prospect)

When the controversy over Obama's former pastor Jeremiah Wright reached critical mass last week, it was the political equivalent of the green flag at a NASCAR race. The conservative strategists and talkers had been slowly circling the track, feet itchy on the accelerator, just waiting for the signal to floor it. But now, as The Politico reported in a story titled "GOP sees Rev. Wright as path to victory," the Republican strategists know exactly what must be done, starting with famed ad man Alex Castellanos:

"All the sudden you've got two dots, and two dots make a line," said Castellanos. "You start getting some sense of who he is, and it's not the Obama you thought. He's not the Tiger Woods of politics."

As Castellanos knows well, these kinds of attacks have their greatest power when they tap into pre-existing archetypes voters already carry with them, and the deeper they reside in our lizard brains the better

If that's an attack, nevermind a vicious one, then the Democrats really don't belong at the grownups table.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:00 AM


Obama's record in Senate light on his campaign issuesMARGARET TALEV AND DAVID LIGHTMAN, 3/25/08, Miami Herald)

Barack Obama says if he were president, he'd take politically courageous stands while forging the consensus needed to enact universal healthcare, immigration revisions, global warming legislation and a withdrawal from Iraq.

His three-year record in the Senate, however, offers little evidence that he can do what he's promising. His party was in the minority for his first two years, and in the third he began campaigning for president and missed lots of time on Capitol Hill. He was absent from or only partly involved in some key bipartisan efforts to head off stalemates on judicial nominations, immigration and Iraq war policy.

''He is asking us to believe he can do something he has yet to do,'' said Michael Fauntroy, an assistant professor of public policy at George Mason University. [...]

National Journal, a respected research publication, rated him the most liberal-voting senator of 2007. Hillary Clinton ranked 16th. The public policy magazine found Obama's votes the 10th most liberal in 2006 and the 16th most liberal in 2005.

The only meaningful difference between him and John Kerry is that the latter had done nothing for longer.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:06 AM


A FARC Fan's Notes (Wall Street Journal, March 25, 2008)

A hard drive recovered from the computer of a killed Colombian guerrilla has offered more insights into the opposition of House Democrats to the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement.

A military strike three weeks ago killed Raúl Reyes, No. 2 in command of the FARC, Colombia's most notorious terrorist group. The Reyes hard drive reveals an ardent effort to do business directly with the FARC by Congressman James McGovern (D., Mass.), a leading opponent of the free-trade deal. Mr. McGovern has been working with an American go-between, who has been offering the rebels help in undermining Colombia's elected and popular government.

Not that the Democrats are generally free traders, but we oughtn't underestimate the degree to which Colombia is being held hostage to their bitterness over losing the Latin American phase of the Cold War.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:58 AM


Come on Down to South Park and Watch the Shows Online (Chris Albrecht, March 24, 2008 , NewTeeVee)

The web just got a whole lot funnier as the guys behind South Park have made every episode of their hit show available for free online. That’s right — every. episode. (Take that Hulu, and your five weeks’ worth of shows window). South Park Digital Studios will house everything South Park including all the episodes (not embeddable — boo!), 3,000 video clips (embeddable — yay!) and spearhead other digital initiatives.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:49 AM


My Morning Download 3/24/08 - The Punch Brothers (WXPN, 3/24/08)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:47 AM


The Democrats' anti-momentum: The '08 race has revealed the weird science of the Democratic primary system -- and the true problem with the long Obama-Clinton battle. (Walter Shapiro, Mar. 24, 2008, Salon)

Sixteen years ago, the last time the Democrats won back the White House, fewer than half the delegates had been selected by the end of March, with big-state primaries in New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio and California still on the docket. This campaign year the Democrats are already down to seeds and stems with 82 percent of the delegates having been chosen by March 11. This simple arithmetical fact -- combined with the scheduling of the 2008 Democratic Convention six weeks later than in 1992 -- is what gives such an air of unreality to the final installments of the Barack Obama-Hillary Clinton soap opera.

With the chances to rerun the outlaw Michigan and Florida primaries now at the vanishing point, it may be time to inquire about a do-over for the rest of America. This is not an argument for Clinton, who otherwise probably has too far to go and too few remaining primaries to get there. But after a week punctuated by Obama's right-stuff response to wrong-way Rev. Jeremiah Wright and Clinton's document dump of today-tea-was-served White House schedules, Democrats are being barraged with new information about the candidates long after most of them have made a binding decision on a nominee. It is akin to being given a subscription to Consumer Reports the day after you bought a new car.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:06 AM


Obama: Not a Crackpot Church (NewsMax, March 24, 2008)

Presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama defended his association with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, telling a Philadelphia radio audience Monday that "this is not a crackpot church."

Obama was interviewed by popular Philadelphia WPHT radio host Michael Smerconish last Friday. The taped interview aired on Smerconish's morning show.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:03 AM


Younger leadership for Taliban in Afghanistan (Daily Telegraph, 24/03/2008)

The Taliban leadership in southern Afghanistan is passing into the hands of younger, more extreme insurgents as the relentless targeting of traditional commanders by British forces takes its toll.

In a week spent in Helmand province, The Daily Telegraph has found widespread evidence that special forces operations are degrading the Taliban's leadership and its ability to co-ordinate operations.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:56 AM


Crunch Mythology (Ken Fisher, 03.24.08, Forbes)

If you believe the popular economic myths of the day, you think there's a credit squeeze--less total credit available. This is nonsense. There's indeed less credit available to poor risks, individual and corporate. But that just means there's more for the good borrowers. Blue-chip companies are flush with capital and borrowing power. This is bullish, both for the economy and for stocks, especially stocks of big companies.

Fact: The largest firms have much more credit access in all forms than they did 12 months ago. These are the very firms that can spend it the most and the fastest.

Fact: Total corporate borrowing--that is, total U.S. corporate debt issuance--was higher in 2007 than in 2006. In January 2008 U.S. corporate borrowing was $101 billion, up slightly from the same month a year ago. The majority of this debt was of investment grade, meaning that it was rated BBB or better; within this segment the borrowings were up 12% from a year ago. Some credit crunch!

If there were a squeeze, interest rates would be shooting up. They aren't. [...]

Where do we get all these myths about crises and collapses? From pontificators. The sort of folks who frequent Davos.

...just how much cash corporations have on hand? We have too much savings.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:13 AM


Analysts expect China security to get tighter: The Tibetan violence was a jolt to officials, and they'll seek to quash the risk of other unrest ahead of the Olympics, experts say (Mark Magnier, 3/25/08, Los Angeles Times)

As it prepares to hold the Olympics in August, China is on edge and isn't likely to take any chances. Two weeks of unrest in its ethnic Tibetan region has further shaken the confidence of a government already nervous about criticism over its human rights record.

Analysts say they expect beefed-up surveillance in coming months of Chinese groups deemed troublemakers, including democracy advocates, religious groups and those who petition the government for justice. They also expect more intense vetting of inbound tourists, more scrutiny of Chinese sports crowds, more ID checks almost everywhere and heightened Internet and media controls as the Games approach.

Tibetan unrest "is going to have a very significant impact," said Tai Ming Cheung, a professor at UC San Diego. "You can see from their reaction, they're already fairly paranoid about security, and they're basically going to cut back further on any type of risk."

March 24, 2008

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:49 PM


Chinese intellectuals condemn Tibet crackdown (Howard W. French, March 24, 2008, IHT)

A group of prominent Chinese intellectuals has circulated a petition urging the government to stop what it calls a "one-sided" propaganda campaign on Tibet and initiate dialogue with the Dalai Lama.

The petition, signed by more than two dozen writers, journalists and scholars, contains 12 recommendations. Taken together, they represent a sharp break from the government's response to the wave of demonstrations that swept Tibetan areas of the country in recent weeks.

Most of the signers are Han Chinese, China's dominant ethnic group.

Their petition accused the government of "fanning racial hatred" in China by blaming ethnic Tibetans for the violence and seeking to inflame passions among the Han to support the crackdown.

If the Olympics were being held in Zimbabwe ... (Andrew Bartlett, 25 March 2008, Online Opinion)
The Chinese government’s oppression and suppression of its own people extends to much more than its actions in Tibet. There are more executions carried out in China than every other country combined, with the organs of executed people sometimes used in transplants. The use of torture and forced labour - often after seriously flawed judicial processes - is also well documented. Constraints on freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of belief and freedom of information are severe. Human rights and pro-democracy activists, Uighurs and especially Falun Gong practitioners are subjected to serious persecution.

I fully recognise that boycotting the Beijing Olympics will not stop all the human rights abuses of the Chinese government. I know that a boycott is a blunt and very imperfect instrument and is in many ways extremely unfair on athletes who have often made enormous personal sacrifices. I also recognise the view expressed by the Dalai Lama not supporting a boycott of the Games and suggesting it would unfairly affect ordinary Chinese citizens who do not engage in human rights abuse. But I can’t stop thinking that the Beijing Olympics presents a very rare opportunity for the people of the world to send a message that is so strong that even an enormously powerful government like the Chinese regime will be unable to ignore it or dismiss it. I am sure most Chinese people would choose freedom and human rights over the Olympic Games.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:43 PM


Lamb leg thrown at football match (Johnny Caldwell, 3/24/08, BBC News)

An animal welfare charity has condemned an incident in which a lamb's leg was thrown onto the pitch during trouble at a football game at the weekend.

The leg was one of several missiles thrown after a match between Ballymena United and Distillery on Saturday.

A USPCA spokesman said it "demonstrated general disregard for animal welfare".

...that it deserved to be forced to go to a soccer game?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:33 PM


The Politically Incorrect Deer Hunter, Thirty Years Later: excerpted from God, Man & Hollywood: Politically Incorrect Cinema from The Birth of a Nation to The Passion of the Christ (Mark Royden Winchell, 03/24/08, First Principles)

When Michael Cimino’s The Deer Hunter was released in 1978, critics didn’t know what to make of it. This was an undeniably powerful film by an aesthetically ambitious director. (His only previous directorial credit, for the Clint Eastwood vehicle Thunderbolt and Lightfoot four years earlier, had prepared no one for this emotionally overpowering movie.) Amid the praise—five Academy Awards, including the ones for best picture and best director—were reservations about certain narrative implausibilities and a suspicion that the film dissented from the view of the Vietnam War widely held in Hollywood. Some of the more discerning reviewers realized from the start that questions about the literal probability of the plot were beside the point because The Deer Hunter was not meant to be a conventionally realistic movie but should actually be viewed in symbolic terms.

The more virulent attacks on the film’s political orthodoxy stemmed from its failure to depict the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong as morally superior to America’s fighting men. (Jane Fonda denounced the picture as racist, even though she admitted to not having seen it.) Accepting the Academy Award for his blatantly procommunist documentary Hearts and Minds in 1974, the producer Bert Schneider had said, “It is ironic that we’re here at a time just before Vietnam is about to be liberated,” and then proceeded to read a statement by the Viet Cong. Cimino’s position seemed to be considerably more nuanced.

It may well be that The Deer Hunter is not staking out a position on the Vietnam War so much as using the war as a means for developing an older and broader theme in American culture.Like so many Westerns, Cimino’s film is about the conflict between the heroism of the individual and the demands of the community. With the frontier effectively settled by the end of the nineteenth century, this conflict has had to manifest itself in places other than the cow towns and prairies of a bygone era. In a sense, Vietnam can be seen as a new Wild West, where men test their courage. The real home for an American, however, is not over there but right here. For many Vietnam veterans, coming home involved a particularly difficult reintegration into society. Thus, Cimino has found a contemporary way of telling an old story.

It's a mark of how degraded the Hollywood culture had become in the 70s that we weren't sure at first that the characters were supposed to mean it when they sang God Bless America at the end.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:26 PM


Luckiest Man in the Race (Fred Barnes, 3/24/08, The Weekly Standard)

For McCain, the best may be yet to come. If Clinton manages a come-from-behind victory over Obama, that could produce the dream election for McCain, one in which the Democratic party fails to unify behind its presidential candidate. Given the eagerness of Democrats to capture the White House after eight Bush years, that may seem farfetched. It's not. It's a real possibility.

What if Obama prevails? He'll have been weakened by having had the "kitchen sink" thrown at him by the Clinton forces. With no significant ideological differences between Clinton and Obama, they've focused on his personal shortcomings: inexperience, habit of saying one thing while believing the opposite, unimpressive Senate record, lack of appeal to white working class and Hispanic voters.

The Clinton attacks have begun to transform the popular image of Obama from that of an inspirational leader above the grubby fray of party politics to that of a normal politician. This should largely spare McCain from criticizing Obama on personal grounds and free him to concentrate on Obama's leftwing political views.

Three scenarios are possible in the Democratic race.

Suppose that you fell asleep in 1999 and woke in January 2009 to be told that the GOP's Southwestern conservative candidate had defeated the Democrat's Northeastern liberal. Would you think any luck was required to achieve the result? this has been a thoroughly predictable race and seems set to remain that way.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:18 PM


Expelled Expels Darwinist (Josh Hurst, 03/24/08, Christianity Today)

Expelled—the Ben Stein-hosted documentary about Intelligent Design, coming to theaters in April—continues to cause a commotion and make headlines, including late last week when a biology professor was barred from a Minneapolis screening, even though he plays a big role in the film.

PZ Myers, an associate professor of biology at the University of Minnesota-Morris and a prominent atheist, told the St. Paul Pioneer Press that he was asked to leave the building even though he had legitimately signed up for the event.

Myers was one of several big names—including noted Darwinism proponent Richard Dawkins—in town for an atheist convention who tried to attend the screening. Myers was apparently the only one barred from the theater; Dawkins attended, and even got involved in the Q&A with one of the film's producers after the screening.

Mark Mathis, a producer of the film who attended the screening, told The New York Times that he allowed Dawkins to attend because "he has handled himself fairly honorably, he is a guest in our country and I had to presume he had flown a long way to see the film."

...there's no such thing as bad publicity.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:15 PM


Sluggish Reptile Breaks Speedy Evolution Record (Jennifer Viegas, 3/24/08, Discovery News)

One of the world's most laid-back animals, the tuatara, may be the fastest evolving creature on Earth, according to a paper in this month's Trends in Genetics.

The lizard-like reptile's DNA changes naturally at a rate faster than has been observed in any other animal: 1.56 changes per nucleotide (DNA subunit) every million years.

The finding is particularly surprising in light of the fact that the tuatara, endemic to New Zealand, hasn't changed much physically since its ancestors hung out with dinosaurs 225 million years ago.

This isn't parody either.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:12 PM


A Vote of Allegiance?: In the Obama-Clinton Battle, Race & Gender Pose Two Great Divides for Black Women (DeNeen L. Brown, 3/24/08, Washington Post)

The "isms" have once again been pitted against each other. Sexism or racism -- which ism is deepest? All things being equal, should a woman or a black man be lifted to the presidency? Which "first" is the imperative first?

The problem for the Democrats is that anyone who doesn't see the presidency as a spoil isn't going to be much interested in this battle of PC guilts.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:09 PM


Israel Strengthens Hamas Some More (Peter Hirschberg, 3/24/08, IPS)

If Israeli leaders had hoped that their blockade of Gaza and the military's early March incursion into the coastal strip might undermine support for the leadership of the Islamic Hamas movement in power there, then they will have been disappointed with the findings of a recent opinion poll.

The survey results will also have bolstered the view in Israel, already being expressed by some politicians, that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is not the man with whom Israel should be negotiating.

If new Palestinian presidential elections were held now, the poll indicated, Gaza-based Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh would get 47 percent of the vote, while Abbas, who heads the rival and more moderate Fatah movement, would get 46 percent.

The swing toward Haniyeh has been dramatic: the last poll by the West Bank-based Palestinian Centre for Policy and Survey Research, which was conducted in December, gave Haniyeh 37 percent and Abbas 56 percent.

Hamas can deliver security and the PLO can't, so if Israel were doing this on purpose it would make sense. There's little evidence though that its post-Sharon leadership gets it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:04 PM


Truly No. 1: Why the Ladies' Detective agency has renewed my faith in television (MAX HASTINGS, 25th March 2008, Daily Mail)

One of the most delightful offerings to appear on our television screens over Easter, indeed for many a long day, was Anthony Minghella's BBC1 film of Alexander McCall Smith's bestseller, The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency.

It concerns one of the more unexpected heroines of modern fiction, a wildly overweight African woman named Precious Ramotswe.

And at every turn of Sunday night's story - as she confronted wrongdoers amid the glorious landscape of Botswana - one braced oneself for TV's usual climaxes of torture, mayhem or mere commonplace massacre.

But nothing like that happened. The baddies were put to flight or sent to jail, harmony was restored and everybody celebrated with a sing-song.

The critics hated it. One called it "twee, quaint, shallow, possibly patronising . . . saccharine gloop . . . set in an African country where smiley, happy people, cardboard cut-out characters, go about their business with good humour, hard work, morality and diligence. . . It has no passion, no depth, no edge, no nothing".

But this, it seems to me, says much more about our ghastly current cinematic expectations than about the Ladies' Detective Agency.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:39 PM


The Obama Doctrine: Barack Obama is offering the most sweeping liberal foreign-policy critique we've heard from a serious presidential contender in decades. But will voters buy it? (Spencer Ackerman, March 24, 2008, American Prospect)

[O]bama's advisers argue, national security depends in large part on dignity promotion. Without it, the U.S. will never be able to destroy al-Qaeda. Extremists will forever be able to demagogue conditions of misery, making continued U.S. involvement in asymmetric warfare an increasingly counterproductive exercise -- because killing one terrorist creates five more in his place. "It's about attacking pools of potential terrorism around the globe," Gration says. "Look at Africa, with 900 million people, half of whom are under 18. I'm concerned that unless you start creating jobs and livelihoods we will have real big problems on our hands in ten to fifteen years."

Obama sees this as more than a global charity program; it is the anvil against which he can bring down the hammer on al-Qaeda. "He took many of the [counterinsurgency] principles -- the paradoxes, like how sometimes you're less secure the more force is used -- and looked at it from a more strategic perspective," Sewall says. "His policies deal with root causes but do not misconstrue root causes as a simple fix. He recognizes that you need to pursue a parallel anti-terrorism [course] in its traditional form along with this transformed approach to foreign policy." Not for nothing has Obama received private advice or public support from experts like former Clinton and Bush counterterrorism advisers Richard Clarke and Rand Beers, and John Brennan, the first chief of the National Counterterrorism Center. [...]

In his focus on the importance of dignity in our policy toward the developing world, Obama sounds quite a bit like John F. Kennedy, who knitted together an argument for engagement with the "non-aligned" world and began the tradition of development assistance as a foreign-policy goal. However, Kennedy's basic foreign policy continued along the Cold War lines that had been laid down during the Truman administration.

Democratic presidential candidates since Kennedy have either downplayed foreign policy or simply argued for more competence in its execution, with two major exceptions: George McGovern in 1972 and Jimmy Carter in 1976. In the popular imagination, based on the "Come home, America" line from his nomination acceptance speech, McGovern pivoted from a striking critique of the immorality of the Vietnam War to an indictment of U.S. involvement abroad. But McGovern purposefully left this broad criticism out of most of his campaign. "I concentrated on Vietnam," McGovern says in a phone interview, "because I thought it would be difficult to sell a comprehensive rewriting of American foreign policy." Carter is a more ambiguous case. In the wake of Watergate, he made a full-spectrum argument against the Washington establishment. Rethinking foreign policy was a part of that, and his aide Hamilton Jordan remarked, "If, after the inauguration, you find Cy Vance as secretary of state and Zbigniew Brzezinski as head of national security, then I would say we failed." Both men, of course, received precisely those posts.

Obama is doing something braver with foreign policy than McGovern or Carter. Much, of course, could go wrong.

Sorry, I'd have liked to have excerpted the part that explains exactly how the proto-pabulumatic term "dignity" would be turned into actual policies in an Obama administration, but this essay is as content free as the candidate's campaign. At most we're left with the comparison to JFK, who may have had the worst foreign policy record of any president, nearly all of his blunders a function of his inexperience and callowness.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:27 PM


Speech row rocks multi-ethnic Canada (Henri Astier, 3/24/08, BBC News)

The Canadian equivalent of Denmark's cartoonists, or the Netherlands' Ayaan Hirsi Ali, is the outspoken conservative columnist Mark Steyn.

In a 2006 article he used demographics to suggest that the West would succumb to Muslim domination.

The piece, entitled "The future belongs to Islam" and published by the Toronto magazine Maclean's, argued that Europe was "too enfeebled to resist its remorseless transformation into Eurabia".

Mr Steyn summarised the presumed global advantage of militant Islam with a stark equation: "Youth + Will = Disaster for whoever gets in your way."

To some, he had crossed the line between vigorous polemic and Islamophia.

The notion that Muslims should be feared by virtue of their numbers and purported militancy is "quite inflammatory", says Toronto law student Khurrum Awan.

The future belongs to Islam: The Muslim world has youth, numbers and global ambitions. The West is growing old and enfeebled, and lacks the will to rebuff those who would supplant it. It's the end of the world as we've known it. An excerpt from 'America Alone'. (MARK STEYN., Oct 20, 2006, Maclean's)
[T]he salient feature of Europe, Canada, Japan and Russia is that they're running out of babies. What's happening in the developed world is one of the fastest demographic evolutions in history: most of us have seen a gazillion heartwarming ethnic comedies -- My Big Fat Greek Wedding and its ilk -- in which some uptight WASPy type starts dating a gal from a vast loving fecund Mediterranean family, so abundantly endowed with sisters and cousins and uncles that you can barely get in the room. It is, in fact, the inversion of the truth. Greece has a fertility rate hovering just below 1.3 births per couple, which is what demographers call the point of "lowest-low" fertility from which no human society has ever recovered. And Greece's fertility is the healthiest in Mediterranean Europe: Italy has a fertility rate of 1.2, Spain 1.1. Insofar as any citizens of the developed world have "big" families these days, it's the anglo democracies: America's fertility rate is 2.1, New Zealand a little below. Hollywood should be making My Big Fat Uptight Protestant Wedding in which some sad Greek only child marries into a big heartwarming New Zealand family where the spouse actually has a sibling.

As I say, this isn't a projection: it's happening now. There's no need to extrapolate, and if you do it gets a little freaky, but, just for fun, here goes: by 2050, 60 per cent of Italians will have no brothers, no sisters, no cousins, no aunts, no uncles. The big Italian family, with papa pouring the vino and mama spooning out the pasta down an endless table of grandparents and nieces and nephews, will be gone, no more, dead as the dinosaurs. As Noel Coward once remarked in another context, "Funiculi, funicula, funic yourself." By mid-century, Italians will have no choice in the matter.

Experts talk about root causes. But demography is the most basic root of all. A people that won't multiply can't go forth or go anywhere. Those who do will shape the age we live in.

Demographic decline and the unsustainability of the social democratic state are closely related. In America, politicians upset about the federal deficit like to complain that we're piling up debts our children and grandchildren will have to pay off. But in Europe the unaffordable entitlements are in even worse shape: there are no kids or grandkids to stick it to.

You might formulate it like this:

Age + Welfare = Disaster for you;

Youth + Will = Disaster for whoever gets in your way.

By "will," I mean the metaphorical spine of a culture.

...that simple factual statements are indeed inflammatory, because the subvert the conventional wisdom so thoroughly. Confront the Brights with the fact that their lack of a culture is suicidal and you can't expect them to take it well.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:37 PM


Slouching Toward Denver: The Democratic death march. (Noam Scheiber, 4/09/08, The New Republic)

If McCain winds up facing Obama, he'll enjoy yet another advantage: a nominee weakened by attacks from a fellow Democrat. "Clinton hit a raw nerve several weeks ago when she said she had thirty-something years of experience, McCain had twenty- to thirty-something years, and Barack Obama had a speech," says Representative Artur Davis, an Obama supporter. The suggestion that Obama isn't ready to be commander-in-chief is "unusually corrosive," Davis complains. Indeed, when I asked various Republican and neutral Democratic operatives to name the most damaging twist in the primaries, most cited this same critique. "It's very good messaging--that he's not fit to be commander-in-chief," crowed one Republican strategist. "When you get the Democrats saying it, that's kind of the nuke in the whole thing." One of his Democratic counterparts was even more blunt: "It's one thing for John McCain to say [Obama's] not as muscular. It's another thing to have a girl saying it. It has some influence on swing voters."

Of course, if Obama's the nominee, he's unlikely to win a national security debate against McCain, with or without Hillary's broadsides. Obama's best bet is to focus the discussion specifically on Iraq. On the other hand, debating national security credentials during the primaries invariably alters the general-election landscape. You can now count on seeing another "3 a.m." ad sometime this fall--not to mention a "3 a.m." debate question from Tim Russert, and a shadowy, "3 a.m."-obsessed 527 group. ("Insomniac Prank-Callers For Truth"?) "I do believe the winner of the 3 a.m. ad is John McCain," says Kevin Madden, a former aide to Mitt Romney. "It's like an NCAA bracket. She may get the play-in game [against Obama], but she'd lose that in the championship game."

And there will surely be more body blows to come. Ad hominem attacks are an almost necessary feature of an unusually long campaign in which policy differences are minimal. At a certain point, there's just no other way to get traction against your opponent. That's one reason Pelosi has informally spoken with colleagues about stepping in if the tone abruptly deteriorates. But there's a catch-22 involved here: Party elders won't forcefully intervene unless an attack does serious damage. But, by then, the damage will have already been done.

Worse, any missile that hits its target would also destroy the person who launched it. Given the delegate math, Hillary's only path to the nomination, barring a meltdown by Obama, is to destroy his electability. But harsh attacks on Obama will inevitably discourage African Americans from voting in the fall, and Hillary can't beat McCain without strong black turnout in places like Cleveland, Detroit, and Philadelphia. Conversely, any attack on Hillary that alienated moderate Republican women could cripple Obama's chances.

Opinion journalists have a time-honored technique for dealing with news they don't like: Keep making phone calls. In my case, this yielded a depressingly meager haul. The most optimistic scenario I could plausibly construct didn't end the campaign until the second week in May. To make it happen, Obama would have to overtake Hillary among superdelegates--a key psychological barrier. He'd have to limit his margin of defeat in Pennsylvania to ten points, then hold serve two weeks later in North Carolina and Indiana, a pair of states he's slightly favored to win. At that point, Hillary would face nearly impossible odds of overtaking him in the delegate race.

Unfortunately for anyone who wants the race to end soon, there are several problems with this scenario. For one thing, even if all this comes to pass, Hillary would still have to bow out voluntarily--an unlikely twist in any event, but highly implausible if the limbo states of Florida and Michigan still offer her hope. Meanwhile, any one of the aforementioned steps could easily fall through. Polls currently show Obama trailing by double digits in Pennsylvania; the good Reverend Wright could make that tough to change. And, though Obama now leads in North Carolina and Indiana, his advantage is either small or, in the latter case, based on a single, flimsy poll. As for superdelegates, as of this writing, the last two out of the closet opted for Hillary.

Sadly, Democrats seem unwilling to learn anything from the mess they've gotten themselves into by running a campaign devoid of ideas and based solely on identity.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:31 PM


Dozens of Jewish Super-Delegates May Hold Key to Democratic Race (Jennifer Siegel, Mar 20, 2008, The Forward)

According to a new survey conducted by the Forward, a disproportionately large share of the Democratic party’s super-delegates are Jewish. Many of them have declared their support for Hillary Clinton, accounting for more than 15% of her current backers. [...]

In the current presidential primary, the support of Jewish party insiders is particularly critical for Clinton, who won contests in New York, New Jersey and California and has pledged support from a preponderance of Jewish super-delegates in the Golden State and the Northeast — including nearly a dozen in her home state of New York.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:36 PM


Top-Five Movies Adapted From Books (Libertas, 3/24/08)

Reader Jerry came up with this top-five idea. And it’s a good one. However, I’m going to add the qualifier that you must have also read the book.

Here are a few that are better movies than books:

Fever Pitch (Nick Hornsby)

Breaker Morant (The Breaker by Kit Denton)

Spartacus (Howard Fast)

The Godfather (Mario Puzo)

The Bourne Books (Robert Ludlum)

The Mighty Quinn (Finding Maubee by Albert H. Z. Carr)

Meanwhile, the two most disappointing adaptations of all time would have to be The Power of One and Tai-Pan.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:27 PM


Obama collapse in final contests may be Clinton's best hope (Adam Nagourney, March 24, 2008, NY Times)

Clinton's best hope now is that Obama, as a candidate, suffers a political collapse akin to what has happened to the subprime mortgage market, a view shared by aides in both campaigns.

How could that happen? First of all, Clinton not only has to win Pennsylvania on April 22; she has to swamp Obama there.

And she has to go on and post a convincing win against Obama in Indiana, a state where the two appear evenly matched. Results like that would serve to underscore concerns among some Democrats that came after Clinton beat Obama in Ohio, suggesting he was having trouble getting blue-collar white voters into his column. That is one constituency that aides to McCain see very much in play this fall.

Along the same lines, Clinton would get some wind if she trounces Obama in the June 3 contest in Puerto Rico. Obama has had trouble with Clinton in competing for Latino voters. And that has been duly noted by McCain's aides who said they are beginning to see a general election upside - among Hispanic voters in a contest against Obama - to the problems that McCain's support of immigration legislation caused him in the primaries.

Except that they're a party of special interest groups, not of ideas and they can't afford to alienate two of those groups--blacks and upper middle class white seculars--on the way into an election.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:24 PM


Oil price drops again (Bloomberg News, March 24, 2008)

Oil is likely to slide further this spring as slowing economic growth encourages traders to exit commodity markets, Goldman Sachs said in a report Thursday. A government report on Wednesday showed that U.S. fuel demand in the four previous weeks was down 3.2 percent from a year earlier.

"We can look forward to a continuation of the commodity downtrend we saw last week," said Eric Wittenauer, an energy analyst at Wachovia Securities in St. Louis, Missouri. "The economic slowdown and concern about demand are pushing prices lower."

Crude oil for May delivery fell 31 cents to $101.53 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Futures prices rose to $111.80 a barrel on March 17, the highest since trading began in 1983. Oil is up 63 percent from a year ago.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:22 AM


McPeak on Display (Robert M. Goldberg, 3/24/2008, AMERICAN SPECTATOR)

In recent years McPeak has echoed the Mearsheimer-Walt view that American Middle East policy is being controlled by Jews at the expense of America's interests in the region. In a 2003 interview with the Oregonian, McPeak complained of that the "lack of playbook for getting Israelis and Palestinians together at...something other than a peace process....We need to get it fixed and only we have the authority with both sides to move them towards that. Everybody knows that."

The interviewer asked McPeak: "So where's the problem? State? White House?"

McPeak replied: "New York City. Miami. We have a large vote -- vote, here in favor of Israel. And no politician wants to run against it."

Translation (as if it's needed): Jews -- who put Israel over every American interest -- control America's policy on the Middle East. And McPeak has the audacity to accuse Bill Clinton of McCarthyism.

McPeak also claims that a combination of Jews and Christian Zionists are manipulating U.S. policy in Iraq in dangerous and radical ways: "Let's say that one of your abiding concerns is the security of Israel as opposed to a purely American self-interest, then it would make sense to build a dozen or so bases in Iraq. Let's say you are a born-again Christian and you think that Armageddon and the rapture are about to happen any minute and what you want to do is retrace steps you think are laid out in Revelations, then it makes sense. So there are a number of scenarios here that could lead you in this direction. This is radical...."

McPeak also noted: "The secret of the neoconservative movement is that it's not conservative, it's radical. Guys like me, who are conservatives, are upset about these neocons calling themselves conservative when they're so radical."

Guys like McPeak are upset because they think Jews have too much influence.

They dislike the GOP's Christian base just as much.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:04 AM


Home sales rose, prices fell in February (MARTIN CRUTSINGER, 3/24/08, AP)

After falling for six straight months, sales of existing homes posted an unexpected increase in February which may have reflected more aggressive price cutting by sellers in some parts of the country, a real estate trade group reported.

The National Association of Realtors said that sales of existing homes rose by 2.9 percent in February to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.03 million units. It was the biggest increase in a year and caught economists by surprise. They had been expecting a small decline.

Nevermind the country's current pace of population growth, both nominees this fall will be at least as much in favor of open immigration as W. Once you legalize the ones who are here--making them legal home buyers--and let them bring their whole families in, the housing shortage will be even more severe.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:25 AM


Mush allows US to strike Qaeda targets in Pak: Report (PTI, March 24, 2008)

The Musharraf regime has given tacit approval to attacks by pilot-less United States planes on Al Qaeda targets along Pakistan's restive border area. The strikes have been stepped up as officials fear that the new civilian government will be hostile to such an offensive.

Since January, missiles reportedly fired from Central Investigative Agency operated Predator drones have hit at least three suspected hideouts of Islamic militants, including a strike on March 16 in Toog village in South Waziristan that left 20 dead.

The Newsweek, quoting US officials and Pakistani sources, said the recent wave of Predator attacks are at least partly the result of understandings the US officials reached with Musharraf and other top Pakistanis, giving Washington virtually unrestricted authority to hit targets in the border areas.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:03 AM


Both Obama And Clinton Embellish Their Roles (Shailagh Murray and Jonathan Weisman, 3/24/08, Washington Post)

After weeks of arduous negotiations, on April 6, 2006, a bipartisan group of senators burst out of the "President's Room," just off the Senate chamber, with a deal on new immigration policy.

As the half-dozen senators -- including John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) -- headed to announce their plan, they met Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), who made a request common when Capitol Hill news conferences are in the offing: "Hey, guys, can I come along?" And when Obama went before the microphones, he was generous with his list of senators to congratulate -- a list that included himself.

"I want to cite Lindsey Graham, Sam Brownback, Mel Martinez, Ken Salazar, myself, Dick Durbin, Joe Lieberman . . . who've actually had to wake up early to try to hammer this stuff out," he said.

To Senate staff members, who had been arriving for 7 a.m. negotiating sessions for weeks, it was a galling moment.

...not that the Unifier managed to pass the legislation.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:48 AM


An alliance that helps McCain -- and her: The presumptive GOP nominee stands to benefit from EBay CEO Meg Whitman's fundraising skills and ties to Silicon Valley. She is sizing up a run for California governor in 2010 (Maeve Reston, 3/24/08, Los Angeles Times)

As John McCain begins a three-day swing today through California -- one of the newest members of his campaign team, outgoing EBay Chief Executive Meg Whitman, may draw much of the attention.

Whitman, a 51-year-old billionaire, according to Forbes magazine, is said to be considering a run for California governor in 2010 after getting her first taste of politics on the finance team of ex-presidential candidate Mitt Romney, a former colleague at the consulting firm Bain & Co.

Whitman was coy about her own political aspirations in an interview Friday about her new role as national co-chairwoman of McCain's presidential campaign.

The initial speculation began after she met some "very influential and senior Republicans" and big donors while raising money for Romney, and some of those Republican heavyweights said, " 'You should think about this,' " she recalled.

March 23, 2008

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:58 PM


If Cameron isn't careful, Brown will outflank him on education reform (Fraser Nelson, 3/23/08, The Spectator)

The Spectator recently ran a letter from Lord Adonis saying the Swedish schools revolution which I said David Cameron would bring to Britain was in fact being delivered under Labour. Huh, I thought, keep telling yourself that - if it makes this whole Brown thing better for you. But today I picked up my local newspaper to find a striking splash: two City Academies run by Kunskapsskolan, the Swedish company I interviewed for my cover piece, are coming to my borough.

Things move quickly. Just last month Per Ledin, the head of Kunskapsskolan, was in his office asking me: “City Academies? What kind of a beast are those?” Now he’s saying “I’ll take two, please”. Under the new Brown system, the “sponsor” doesn’t have to stump up the £2m cash so it’s an easily-arranged, basic management contract. Weirdly, Labour doesn’t mind companies making a profit from managing schools – just as long as someone else is making a loss from owning them. Kunskapsskolan is putting its toe in the market.

So if Cameron ever gets around to selling what I regard as the best policy he has (he remains unconvinced there is much political capital in it), then Labour has a ready response. Swedish schools, mate? Catch up. We’re already there. It wouldn’t surprise me if as Cameron umms and aahs, Labour starts to use this schools policy as an election weapon.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:50 PM


It's the end of Britain as we know it: The Lisbon Treaty spells the end of a sovereign Britain. (Stephen Webbe, March 24, 2008, CS Monitor)

This winter, 27 nations of the European Union (EU) signed the Treaty of Lisbon. You may think, "Innocuous enough," as Portuguese-inspired visions of the Tagus River and chicken piri-piri swirl before your eyes.

But for England (Britain, actually) the Treaty of Lisbon isn't that appetizing. That's because, if ratified, it will become the decisive act in this creation of a federal European superstate with its capital in Brussels. Britain would become a province and its "Mother of Parliaments," a regional assembly. And that's no small humiliation for a country that gave the world English and saved Western civilization in the Battle of Britain in 1940.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:46 PM


Lieberman is McCain's bipartisan wingman (JONATHAN MARTIN | 3/23/08, Politico)

Wherever John McCain goes these days, it seems, Joseph I. Lieberman is there.

When McCain needed a quick reminder in Jordan last week on how to characterize Islamic radicals in Iraq receiving aid from Iran, Lieberman was there to whisper into his colleague’s ear. A day later in Israel, the Connecticut senator proved equally helpful, stepping in to help McCain clarify the meaning of the Jewish holiday of Purim.

Whether wearing yarmulkes together amid the throngs at Jerusalem’s Wailing Wall, meeting reporters outside 10 Downing Street in London or sporting matching suit-and-sweater combos at a snowy New Hampshire town hall meeting, the two have been nearly inseparable since Lieberman endorsed McCain last December.

As McCain hopes to wage a campaign that appeals to an independent-minded electorate exasperated by the Bush administration and the political status quo, Lieberman, a former Democratic vice presidential nominee, has become something of a symbolic character witness meant to testify to the Arizonan’s bipartisan approach.

It's also a calculated ploy to peel off Jewish voters, who Maverick is not unlikely to carry in the Fall. After all, black/Jewish tensions were just as central to the drift of neocons into the GOP as was Israel.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:29 PM


Obama's promise of a new majority, and the question it prompts (Robin Toner, March 23, 2008, NY Times)

It is a promise that convinced 67 percent of all registered voters in the last New York Times/CBS News Poll, in late February, that Obama "would be the kind of president who would be able to unify the country" - far more than those who identified his Democratic rival, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, or the presumptive Republican nominee, Senator John McCain, that way.

But this promise leads, inevitably, to a question: Can such a majority be built and led by Obama, whose voting record was, by one ranking, the most liberal in the Senate last year?

Also, and more immediately, if Obama wins the Democratic nomination, how will his promise of a new and less polarized type of politics fare against the Republican attacks that since the 1980s have portrayed Democrats as far out of step with the country's values? [...]

Obama's rise has been built in part on the idea that he represents a break with the established identities that have defined many of the nation's divisions. To many, he embodies a promise to bridge black and white, old and young, rich and poor - and Democrats, Republicans and independents.

Even so, Obama does not come to the campaign with a reputation as one of the accommodating bridge-builders in the Senate. His voting record, albeit short, is to the left; the National Journal declared it the most liberal of 2007. Congressional Quarterly said he voted with his party 97 percent of the time on party-line votes that year.

Obama has been endorsed by advocacy groups like that are anathema to Republicans on Capitol Hill. And some of his strongest supporters are activists at the "net-roots" who have clamored for less accommodation across party lines. [...]

"Nobody's yet taken him on as a liberal," said Andrew Kohut, who leads the Pew Research Center. "But McCain will."

So far, Republicans give every indication of planning to portray Obama as a big-government liberal out of touch with American values and unprepared to be commander in chief.

"When you're rated by National Journal as to the left of Ted Kennedy and Bernie Sanders, that's going to be difficult to explain," said Danny Diaz , a spokesman for the Republican National Committee.

He's in the middle of the most divisive Democratic primary since his pal Ted Kennedy kamikazied Jimmy Carter and having to try and deny that he belongs to a crackpot church. But he's going to unify the country? Pull the other one.

Democrats' bickering boosts McCain (Donald Lambro, March 23, 2008, Washington Times)

The increasingly nasty campaign between Democratic Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton is hurting them among independent and swing voters in key battleground states, and in the process is making Sen. John McCain the more appealing candidate, according to election pollsters. [...]

"It's been a bad couple of weeks for the Democrats, with Obama and Hillary continuing to snipe at each other, beginning the process of a thousand cuts," said independent election pollster John Zogby.

"For Obama, it's his problems with the white vote, which we saw in Ohio, and problems with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright story, and that's reflected in the national polls, when a month ago, Obama was leading McCain by 6 or 7 points and this month is down by six. That's a big swing," Mr. Zogby told The Washington Times on Friday.

"At the same time, Clinton was down by five or six points last month, and by my polls, she's still down about the same," he said.

"Both Democrats are experiencing a problem, at least for the moment, among independents, moderates and swing voters. It's pretty safe to say they can't win in November unless they get those groups back," the pollster said.

Wright's Gift to the Right (Clarence Page, 3/23/08, Real Clear Politics)
[W]ill the address reach beyond Obama's base? Considering how few people were likely to take the time to hear or read Obama's speech, I was reminded of the famous story about another Illinoisian, two-time Democratic presidential candidate Adlai Stevenson. When a woman exclaimed to the former Illinois governor that "Every thinking American is voting for you," he responded, "That's not enough, madam, I need a majority."

So does Obama. That majority became harder for him to achieve after Wright's roar hit the airwaves and the web.

A Fox News poll released two days after Obama's Big Speech indicated that most Americans do not believe Obama shares the controversial views of his spiritual mentor, but 35 percent said their relationship raised doubts about the senator.

Among Democrats surveyed, 26 percent said the relationship raised doubts about Obama, while 66 percent said it did not.

And when polls ask whether Obama should leave the church even now, the answers come back with a racial divide that eerily resembles reactions to the "not guilty" verdict O. J. Simpson's murder trial. Most whites think Obama should leave, while most blacks think he should stay loyal to the minister who Obama says led him to Jesus and presided at his wedding.

It will take more than one great speech for Obama to reassure some Democrats (Albert R. Hunt, 3/23/08, Bloomberg News)
That will depend on the reaction of white America, especially so-called Reagan Democrats. These are the white, largely ethnic, middle-class families, once reliable Democrats, who on cultural and values grounds switched to the Republican candidate Ronald Reagan in 1980 and have been swing voters ever since.

When these folks hear that a candidate's own minister has spewed anti-American, racial diatribes, it deeply disturbs them. Even before the Wright story broke, Governor Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania, a Hillary Clinton supporter, suggested that race would cost Obama about 5 percentage points in that state's primary next month.

For Obama to reassure these people that his values and his experiences aren't different from theirs will take more than one great speech.

The irony here is that whatever Wright's failings, there is nothing - nothing - in Obama's adult life to even remotely link him to racially divisive sentiments.

Then who's the Reverend Wright? The notion that the choice of his cult isn't a racially divisive act by the Senator is bizarre.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:26 PM


Al Copeland, flamboyant founder of Popeyes fried chicken chain, dies at 64 (The Associated Press, March 23, 2008)

After growing up in New Orleans, Copeland sold his car at age 18 for enough money to open his own one-man doughnut shop. He went on to spend 10 modestly successful years in the doughnut business.

The opening of a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant in New Orleans in 1966, however, caught Copeland's eye. Inspired by KFC's success, Copeland in 1971 used his doughnut profits to open a restaurant, Chicken on the Run. ("So fast you get your chicken before you get your change.")

After six months, Chicken on the Run was still losing money. In a last-ditch effort, Copeland chose a spicier Louisiana Cajun-style recipe and reopened the restaurant under the name Popeyes Mighty Good Fried Chicken, after Popeye Doyle, Gene Hackman's character in the film "The French Connection." The chain that grew from the one restaurant became Popeyes Famous Fried Chicken.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:08 PM


Supreme Court Inc. (JEFFREY ROSEN, 3/16/08, NY Times Magazine)

After the election of Bill Clinton, for example, the chamber endorsed Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who in addition to her pioneering achievements as the head of the women’s rights project at the A.C.L.U. had specialized, as a law professor, in the procedural rules in complex civil cases and was comfortable with the finer points of business litigation. The chamber was especially enthusiastic about Clinton’s second nominee, Stephen Breyer, who made his name building a bipartisan consensus for airline deregulation as a special counsel on the judiciary committee; and who, as a Harvard Law professor, advocated an influential and moderate view on antitrust enforcement.

During Breyer’s confirmation hearings his sharpest critic was Ralph Nader, who testified that his pro-business rulings were “extraordinarily one-sided.” Another critic, Senator Howard Metzenbaum of Ohio, said that the fact that the chamber was the first organization to endorse Breyer indicated that “large corporations are very pleased with this nomination” and “the fact that Ralph Nader is opposed to it indicated that the average American has a reason to have some concern.” The chamber’s imprimatur helped reassure Republicans about Breyer, and he was confirmed with a vote of 87 to 9. “Frankly, we didn’t feel like we had anyone on the court since Justice Powell who truly understood business issues,” Conrad told me. “Justice Breyer came close to that.”

The Breyer and Ginsburg nominations also came at a time when liberal as well as conservative judges and academics were gravitating in increasing numbers to an economic approach to the law, originally developed at the University of Chicago. The law-and-economics movement sought to evaluate the efficiency of legal rules based on their costs and benefits for society as a whole. Although originally conservative in its orientation, the movement also attracted prominent moderate and liberal scholars and judges like Breyer, who before his nomination wrote two books on regulation, arguing that government health-and-safety spending is distorted by sensational media reports of disasters that affect relatively few citizens.

Since joining the Supreme Court, Breyer has also been an intellectual leader in antitrust and patent disputes, which often pit business against business, rather than business against consumers. In those cases, many liberal scholars sympathetic to economic analysis have applauded the court for favoring competition rather than existing competitors, innovation rather than particular innovators. “The court deserves credit for trying to rationalize a totally irrational patent system, benefiting smaller new competitors rather than existing big ones,” says Lawrence Lessig, an intellectual-property scholar at Stanford.

Clinton’s nominations of Ginsburg and Breyer may have been welcomed by the chamber, but with the election of George W. Bush, the chamber faced a dilemma. Ever since the Reagan administration, there had been a divide on the right wing of the court between pragmatic free-market conservatives, who tended to favor business interests, and ideological states-rights conservatives. In some business cases, these two strands of conservatism diverged, leading the most staunch states-rights conservatives on the court, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, to rule against business interests. Scalia and Thomas were reluctant to second-guess large punitive-damage verdicts by state juries, for example, or to hold that federally regulated cigarette manufacturers could not be sued in state court. As a result, under Conrad’s leadership, the chamber began a vigorous campaign to urge the Bush administration to appoint pro-business conservatives.

When it came time to replace Chief Justice William Rehnquist and Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, the candidate most enthusiastically supported by states-rights conservatives, Judge Michael Luttig, had a record on the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit that some corporate interests feared might make him unpredictable in business cases. (“One of my constant refrains is that being conservative doesn’t necessarily mean being pro-business,” Conrad told me.) The chamber and other business groups enthusiastically supported John Roberts, who had been hired by the chamber to write briefs in two Supreme Court cases in 2001 and 2002. At the time of Roberts’s nomination, Thomas Goldstein, a prominent Supreme Court litigator, described him as “the go-to lawyer for the business community,” adding “of all the candidates, he is the one they knew best.” When Roberts was nominated, business groups lobbied senators as part of the campaign for his confirmation.

The business community was also enthusiastic about Samuel Alito, whose 15-year record as an appellate judge showed a consistent skepticism of claims against large corporations. Ted Frank of the American Enterprise Institute predicted at the time of the nomination that if Alito replaced O’Connor, he and Roberts would bring about a rise in business cases before the Supreme Court. Frank’s prediction was soon vindicated.

“There wasn’t a great deal of interest in classic business cases in the last few years of the Rehnquist Court,” Carter Phillips, a partner at Sidley Austin and a leading Supreme Court business advocate, told me. In 2004, Judge Richard Posner, a founder of the law-and-economics movement, argued that the Rehnquist Court’s emphasis on headline-grabbing constitutional cases had politicized it, and called on the court to hear more business cases. The Roberts court has unambiguously answered the call. As Phillips told me, Roberts “is more interested in those issues and understands them better than his predecessor did.”

From a historical perspective it won't be possible to differentiate Bill Clinton from the Republican presidents before and after.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:30 AM


A Healthy Easter With Pear Gingerbread (JIM ROMANOFF, 3/09/07, The Associated Press)


For the gingerbread:

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted

3/4 cup whole-wheat pastry flour

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons ground ginger

1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 large egg

1/3 cup sugar

1/3 cup molasses

1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce

1/4 cup canola oil

1/3 cup plain low-fat yogurt

1/4 cup packed light brown sugar

1/4 cup chopped walnuts

3 pears, peeled, cored and thinly sliced lengthwise

Preheat oven to 350 F. Brush a 10-inch cast-iron skillet or 8-by-8-inch glass baking dish with the melted butter.

In a medium bowl whisk together both flours, the ginger, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, use an electric mixer to beat the egg, sugar and molasses for 3 minutes. Add applesauce and oil, and beat until blended. Fold in flour mixture and yogurt. Set aside.

Press the brown sugar evenly over the bottom of the prepared skillet. Sprinkle with nuts. Arrange pear slices in circles over nuts. Pour the batter over the pears.

Bake 35 to 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Loosen edges of the cake with knife, then invert it onto platter.

(Recipe from the March issue of Vegetarian Times magazine)

[originally posted: 3/14/07]

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:00 AM


Public anger warning over embryo Bill (Melissa Kite, 23/03/2008, Daily Telegraph)

Gordon Brown was warned by a former senior cabinet minister last night that he risks public scorn if he does not offer Labour MPs a free vote on controversial new embryo research laws.

Stephen Byers, a leading Blairite, said the public would “look on in disbelief” if the Prime Minister persisted with his current strategy of forcing MPs to vote in favour of the creation of human-animal hybrids.

Mr Byers’ intervention comes after two Roman Catholic cabinet ministers, believed to be Ruth Kelly, the Transport Secretary, and Paul Murphy, the Welsh Secretary, privately threatened to resign if a free vote is not given on parts of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill, due before MPs next month.

The Government is braced for further criticism today when the Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor signals that Catholic MPs should vote against the legislation.

12 ministers 'to quit' over embryo bill (Jenny Percival and Eddie Barnes, 3/23/08, The Scotsman)
Senior Labour sources claim the Prime Minister faces a catastrophic rebellion over the Government-backed bill, which would allow the creation of part-human, part-animal embryos for research.

A U-turn by Brown would represent the biggest humiliation to his leadership since he came to power as Labour leader and PM in June last year.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:55 AM


Musharraf Praises Dawn of Democracy for Pakistan: Pakistan's president says his country, is ushering in a new era of democracy following years of his autocratic rule. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Islamabad that Pervez Musharraf, in his Pakistan Day address, also credited his regime with paving the way for the return to civilian government. (Steve Herman
23 March 2008, VOA News)

In his address at the national stadium in the capital Sunday, Mr. Musharraf hailed a "new real era of democracy" for Pakistan.

While making reference to the incoming civilian government resulting from democratic elections he permitted this year, the president also defended his nine years of strong-armed rule as a journey "toward democracy and development."

Holding elections and abiding by them is what makes some authoritarians democrats.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Climate facts to warm to (Christopher Pearson, March 22, 2008, The Australian)

It was a remarkable interview involving the co-host of Counterpoint, Michael Duffy and Jennifer Marohasy, a biologist and senior fellow of Melbourne-based think tank the Institute of Public Affairs. Anyone in public life who takes a position on the greenhouse gas hypothesis will ignore it at their peril.

Duffy asked Marohasy: "Is the Earth stillwarming?"

She replied: "No, actually, there has been cooling, if you take 1998 as your point of reference. If you take 2002 as your point of reference, then temperatures have plateaued. This is certainly not what you'd expect if carbon dioxide is driving temperature because carbon dioxide levels have been increasing but temperatures have actually been coming down over the last 10 years."

Duffy: "Is this a matter of any controversy?"

Marohasy: "Actually, no. The head of the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) has actually acknowledged it. He talks about the apparent plateau in temperatures so far this century. So he recognises that in this century, over the past eight years, temperatures have plateaued ... This is not what you'd expect, as I said, because if carbon dioxide is driving temperature then you'd expect that, given carbon dioxide levels have been continuing to increase, temperatures should be going up ... So (it's) very unexpected, not something that's being discussed. It should be being discussed, though, because it's very significant."

Duffy: "It's not only that it's not discussed. We never hear it, do we? Whenever there's any sort of weather event that can be linked into the global warming orthodoxy, it's put on the front page. But a fact like that, which is that global warming stopped a decade ago, is virtually never reported, which is extraordinary."

...then we're not as significant as their ideology requires.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


The greatest reward lies not in 'religion' but in acceptance of faith. (Bruce Barber. 3/3/03, Online Opinion)
The word "religion" originally meant something positive as "that which binds". If it still means this, that bind seems now increasingly to be read as a negative.

Sixty years ago a European theologian, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, whose whole intellectual life was spent wrestling with the ambiguities of religion, wrote from his Nazi prison cell how in Western societies the time of religion was coming to an end. What did he mean?

Well, he meant by religion those fundamentally human activities attempting to reach the beyond: the postulate of a deity, in order to get help and protection if so wanted. Bonhoeffer identified four characteristics of this religious activity.

First, religion as inwardness. This could take the form of ascetism, or it could be an abandoning of the world for the inward journey.

Second, metaphysics. The transcendence that is sought for the completion necessary for this world - God as the superstructure for being, which inescapably leads into thinking in two realms and the understanding that "reality" - the natural - must be completed by the supernatural.

Third, that thinking which regards religion as a province of life, a sector of the whole, that is interesting and socially and psychologically valuable. God as a problem solver, a gap filler, a fulfiller of human needs. Is this the Christian God, dwelling in a dark and ever-smaller province, driven out from one department after another in dreadful secularisation?

Fourth, the concept of the god of the machine at the end of the Greek tragedies. Wheeled in to provide answers, solutions, protection and help, religion might be likened to a spiritual chemist shop.

So much for the analysis, what of the alternative?

Bonhoeffer's response was a call to non-religious interpretation of the Bible, which fundamentally meant a call to follow Jesus in his way of discipleship, whereby the four distinguishing marks of religion become anachronistic.

In place of the lonely individual, intent on the inward journey, Jesus is revealed as the man for others. Gregarious from the start, the only time he is alone is in his death, the awfulness of which is an enforced loneliness and forsakenness without any way of a transcendent escape. Thus for Jesus, if we might adopt the marvellous imagery of Dennis Potter, God is not the bandage, God is the wound. But remember, the hand that inflicts the wound also holds the cure. So the meaning of the resurrection of Jesus is the establishing, now not of a localised but of a universal presence which opens up the whole of life as the sphere of human worship of God.

Mr. Bonhoeffer expressed all this in a poem:

Men go to God when they are sore bestead,
Pray to him for succour, for his peace, for bread,
For mercy for them sick, sinning or dead:
All men do so, Christian and unbelieving.
Men go to God when he is sore bestead,
Find him poor and scorned, without shelter or bread,
Whelmed under weight of the wicked, the weak, the dead:
Christians stand by God in his hour of grieving.
God goeth to every man when sore bestead,
Feedeth body and spirit with his bread,
For Christians, heathens alike he hangeth dead:
And both alike forgiving.

In a letter of July 18, 1944, he offered his own analysis of the ideas he was trying to develop in these verses:
The poem about Christians and Unbelievers embodies an idea you will recognize: 'Christians range themselves with God in his suffering; that is what distinguishes them from the heathen.' As Jesus asked in Gethsemane, 'Could ye not watch with me one hour?' That is the exact opposite of what the religious man expects from God. Man is challenged to participate in the sufferings of God at the hands of a godless world.

He must therefore plunge himself into the life of a godless world, without attempting to gloss over its ungodliness with a veneer of religion or trying to transfigure it. He must live a 'worldly' life and so participate in the suffering of God. He may live a worldly life as one emancipated from all false religions and obligations. To be a Christian does not mean to be religious in a particular way, to cultivate some particular form of asceticism (as a sinner, a penitent or a saint), but to be a man. It is not some religious act which makes a Christian what he is, but participation in the suffering of God in the life of the world.

Regardless of one's beliefs, this seems a powerful message, that we can not merely withdraw into ourselves, as liberal democracy and the accompanying welfare state encourage us to do, but must instead participate in the lives of our fellow men. The danger inherent in religion is when it becomes too particular, narrowing us down to gropups or even into ourselves and potential rewards in the beyond. But there seems no reliable substitute to religion for getting us to widen our concerns to universals and to one another. Such are the ambiguities. [Originally posted: March 16, 2003]

March 22, 2008

Posted by Peter Burnet at 11:47 PM


Pick Seen as Sign of Contradiction (Ian Fisher, Not-the New-York-Times)

CAESAREA PHILIPPI (20 Kislev). Yesterday's surprise announcement that doctrinal hardliner Jesus of Nazareth had been anointed "messiah" provoked mixed reactions in the diverse and sometimes fractious Israelite community, ranging from cautious disappointment to frank despair.

"I see it as a missed opportunity," said Herodias Schneidkopf, a Galilean incest-rights activist. "Many of us were hoping for someone more open to leadership roles for women and more appreciative of our experience. I don't feel valued."

Respected archpriest Caiaphas Bar Nun agreed. "Above all, the messiah should be a good listener. How can we as a faith community keep credibility among the youth of today if we cling to every jot and tittle of an outmoded social code while thousands die of leprosy and hunger? Today's highly educated Judahite community isn't satisfied with the old answers. I'm afraid it's a missed opportunity."

Even some members of the Messiah''s personal entourage expressed misgivings. The Rev. J.E. "Dimples" Iscariot, S.J., a media consultant, did not hide his regret. "A missed opportunity, I'm afraid. We in the Society of Judas traditionally enjoy a special relationship to the messiah, but we'll find this choice very hard to explain to gays and lesbians--I mean, of course, to gomorrhaists and sodomitesses--as well as to the divorced and the marginalized. Why just the other day I saw 300 denarii, which might have been used to help find a cure for leprosy, squandered on wholly unnecessary ritual excesses."

Fighting the spread of leprosy is a vexed issue among contemporary Palestinians. Most polls show Israelites widely ignore official teachings on ethical matters, preferring to follow their own conscience. Some see Jesus' moral conservatism as a rigidity that leads to disfigurement and death in at-risk populations--and that may ultimately doom his movement to irrelevance.

"Yesterday's unction was an opportunity missed," insisted real-estate broker Sapphira Glass. "Today's young professionals don't find their own experience reflected in a one-size-fits-all morality that limits options and encodes patriarchal bias. I mean, sacrificing one's newborns to Moloch is a tragic but often necessary choice, and many of us find the language of apostasy alienating and judgmental." [NYT copyeditor''s note: Need some quote from supporter----J.L.]

"It all comes down to power," countered maverick theologian Fr. Richard Maccabeus, retired professor of applied autology, who pointed out that the successful candidate had almost no pastoral experience. "What we''re seeing is a right-wing restorationist fantasy in its death throes. Intelligent Israelites aren't buying. We want to be heard. We want someone who speaks not with authority but like us academics--I mean, of course, like the scribes and the pharisees. One can only call it a missed opportunity."

The Procurator of Judea was unavailable for comment.

[Originally posted: September 21, 2005]

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:19 PM


The search for God within reason (Michael Gerson, March 21, 2008, Minneapolis Star-Tribune)

In a flood of bestsellers by skeptics and atheists charging a nonexistent God with crimes against humanity, Timothy Keller stands out as an effective counterpoint and as a defender of the faith. His new book, "The Reason for God," makes a tight, accessible case for reasoned religious belief. [...]

A centerpiece argument of Keller's response might be called the myth of secular neutrality. "Skeptics argue that they have the intellectual high ground," he says, "but they are really making assumptions as well." An absolute doubt -- claiming that all truth is culturally conditioned -- can work only if it exempts itself from doubt and assumes the cultural superiority of rationalism. Raging against evil and suffering in the world assumes a moral standard of good and evil that naturalism cannot provide. Keller argues that the main criticisms of religion require "blind faith" of their own, and he urges people to begin by doubting their doubts.

But while Keller argues that all worldviews contain assumptions of faith, reason is not futile. It may not provide proof, but it does provide clues. The fundamental regularities of the universe that improbably favor life; the artistic beauty that reaches beyond materialism; the sense of love and duty that seems so much more than evolutionary instinct -- Keller argues that only theism explains our lived experience and deepest desires: "God is the only thing that makes sense of what we love."

At the center of his book is an interesting case study: human rights. Some skeptics argue that the universe is an empty, impersonal void -- that life has no meaning or value beyond its material makeup -- and yet they try to maintain the importance of human dignity as if still living in a world of meaning and justice. "If morality is relative," Keller asks, "why isn't social justice as well?" Why isn't the rule of the strong -- the clear teaching of nature -- just as valid as a belief in the rights of the weak? A materialist, Keller argues, can only respond with sentiment.

Given that the core insight of Anglo-American philosophy is that there is no reasoned basis for belief in reason, we might better call this a case for reasonable belief. It's important to recognize though that a valueless universe is precisely the attraction of atheism.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:06 PM


McCain's pastor a sharp contrast to Obama's (Ed Stoddard, 3/22/08, Reuters)

John McCain's Phoenix pastor, Dan Yeary, is a folksy patriotic Southern Baptist who opposes abortion and believes homosexuality to be a biblical sin, but says Christians have an obligation to love such sinners.

That puts Yeary, who heads the church attended for the past 15 years by the Republican presidential candidate firmly in the U.S. Southern Baptist mainstream, and in line with the Republican Party.

He offers a sharp contrast to Democratic contender Barack Obama's former preacher Jeremiah Wright, who has stirred controversy with his fiery comments on race and America. [...]

Yeary, pastor for the 7,000-member North Phoenix Baptist Church, professes little interest in politics and prefers to focus on preaching and spiritual guidance. But McCain's affiliation with Yeary will do him no harm in wooing support from the key Republican base of evangelical Christians.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:55 PM


Kosovo, Taiwan, Tibet rattle China (Wen Liao, Mar 23, 2008, Taipei Times)

Why is China behaving as it is in Tibet? What makes Tibet so important to the government in Beijing? At the heart of the matter is the fact that nothing worries China's rulers more than when the country's unity is called into question. And nothing makes them more anxious than their fear that a regional dispute might, if not brought to an end quickly, steamroll into national disintegration.

Kosovo's recent declaration of independence sharpened the Chinese government's anxieties over the protests in Tibet. Although supporters of Kosovo's independence argue that it sets no international precedent, China's rulers fear otherwise. Moreover, Taiwan's presidential election has further ratcheted up the tension for China's government.

It may sound strange to the outside world that China, which has known nothing but economic success for three decades, should feel its unity to be so fragile. But China's history, both ancient and modern, suggests that there is nothing permanent or stable about the country's current unity.

There's no question of the current China remaining whole, only the matter of how big the rump state will be when all the sorting is done.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:16 PM


McCain Gains from Clinton-Obama Feud: Campaign Sniping Has More Democrats Saying They'll Vote McCain If Their Candidate Loses (JOHN COCHRAN, March 22, 2008, ABC News)

Polls now show words from both camps are causing serious damage. An increasing number of Clinton supporters say they would not vote for Obama in November and vice versa.

According to a new Franklin & Marshall College poll of Pennsylvania voters, only 53 percent of Clinton backers say they'll vote for Obama should he become the nominee. Nineteen percent say they'll vote for McCain and 13 percent say they won't vote, the poll found.

The poll said that 60 percent of Obama backers said they would go for Clinton should she win the nomination, with 20 percent opting for McCain, and 3 percent saying they wouldn't vote at all.

That's what ABC News found in talking to voters on the street.

"I think I'd have to vote for McCain," Laura Courson, New York woman who supports Clinton told ABC News, when asked what she would do if her candidate were not the Democrats' nominee.

"I'd have a hard time voting for Hillary Clinton in this election ... I might go for a third party candidate," said Kevin Mills, a Los Angeles man who supports Obama.

The Right needs him more then he needs them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:50 PM


Even at Megastores, Hagglers Find No Price Is Set in Stone (MATT RICHTEL, 3/23/08, NY Times)

Shoppers are discovering an upside to the down economy. They are getting price breaks by reviving an age-old retail strategy: haggling.

A bargaining culture once confined largely to car showrooms and jewelry stores is taking root in major stores like Best Buy, Circuit City and Home Depot, as well as mom-and-pop operations.

Savvy consumers, empowered by the Internet and encouraged by a slowing economy, are finding that they can dicker on prices, not just on clearance items or big-ticket products like televisions but also on lower-cost goods like cameras, audio speakers, couches, rugs and even clothing.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:44 PM


Barack Obama--Mentored by an anti-American, anti-Zionist Black Separatist (Edwin Black, March 17th 2008, The Cutting Edge)

In the end it was not the lies about his religion, but the truth about his religion that may have irrevocably splattered the image of Barack Obama. [...]

It is pivotal to understand that Obama’s potentially insurmountable problem is not about his mere membership in Pastor Wright’s Trinity Church, an affiliate of the nationally diverse United Church of Christ. Obama’s problem is the deep-vein mentoring with Pastor Wright himself. Obama was not just sitting in the pews for twenty years. The two men were and are tight--very tight.

It was Wright’s charismatic "in your face" African-American activism that first brought unaffiliated, young twenty-something Chicago neighborhood organizer Obama into the Trinity Church as a practicing Christian in the eighties. Obama became a regular attendee and took Wright’s inspiration with him when away. While at Harvard studying law, Obama morally tutored himself with tapes of Wright’s fiery lectures.

Wright was a moving force in Obama’s family as well. Pastor Wright married Obama to his wife, Michelle, and baptized their two children. The Pastor’s provocative sermon, "The Audacity of Hope," gave Obama the title for his bestselling book of the same name. Obama even huddled with his Pastor for spiritual guidance just before announcing his presidential bid. Wright was given a prominent advisory role in the campaign. Wright is more than an arms-length acquaintance. The Pastor is precisely the mentor and close personal advisor Obama has long declared him to be.

Wright explains, "When the Black radical liberals want support, they come to the Black church because they know we have the numbers. We pack the buses. Fifty buses with 50 people. For example, the Black church sent hundreds of men to the Million Man March."

It seems too late for Obama to distance himself or condemn the recently broadcast bigotry of Wright. The real question is how a man described by many as a leading anti-American, anti-Israel, anti-white agitator became Obama’s closest mentor for two decades?

"morally tutored"?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:38 PM



The next day, the business was voting on platform resolutions. McGovern operatives begged the women’s and gay liberationists to drop their demand for floor votes on their planks to moderate the Democrats’ image for TV. These operatives ruefully discovered that political purists could also act like ward bosses, extracting their own pounds of flesh. The gays reminded them of how McGovern would not have won the coveted spot at the top of the California primary ballot if it weren’t for a last-minute signature drive in the gay bars of the Castro by the Alice B. Toklas Memorial Democratic Club. “We do not come to you pleading for your understanding or pleading for your tolerance,” San Francisco delegate Jim Foster pronounced during his ten minutes. “We come to you affirming our pride in our lifestyle, affirming validity to seek and maintain meaningful emotional relationships, and affirming our right to participate in the life of this country on an equal basis with every citizen.”

The TV lights made his light-colored linen jacket with its patchwork of thick lines look particularly garish. Then delegate Kathleen Wilch of Ohio went to the podium on behalf of McGovern. She asked delegates to vote against the gay rights plank: It would “commit the Democratic Party to seek repeal of all laws involving the protection of children from sexual approaches by adults” and force “repeal of all laws relating to prostitution, pandering, pimping”—and “commit this party to repeal many laws designed to protect the young, the innocent, and the weak.”

McGovern’s convention rejected gay rights in a landslide. Be that as it may, one week later, George Meany officially announced the AFL-CIO wouldn’t be endorsing a presidential candidate that year. At a steelworkers’ convention in September, he explained why: The “Democratic Party has been taken over by people named Jack who look like Jills and smell like johns.”

Then, the acrimonious battle over the abortion plank: “In matters relating to human reproduction each person’s right to privacy, freedom of choice, and individual conscience should be fully respected, consistent with relevant Supreme Court decisions.”

A “pro-choice” woman took the podium: “The freedom of all people to control their own fertility must be an essential human health right. . . . For the first time, 57 percent of all Americans believe abortion should be a decision between a woman and her physician.”

Then a “right-to-life” man spoke on “the slaughter of the most innocent whose right to live is not mentioned in the minority report.”

Then Shirley MacLaine spoke her piece in favor of her candidate’s position: equivocation. The subject should be “kept out of the political process,” she said, though delegates should “vote their conscience.” Some 250 McGovern floor whips raced once more up and down the aisles to defeat the plank, insisting Humphrey and Wallace supporters were conspiring to saddle McGovern with the “extremism” label to deny him the nomination. The plank lost by 472 votes. “Sisters vs. Sisters,” headlined the Washington Post the next morning: “Gloria Steinem’s usually controlled monotone quivered as she wept in rage, verbally attacked Gary Hart, and called McGovern strategists ‘bastards.’” The paper also quoted a pro-choice Humphrey supporter: “I resent the McGovern people who say he is so pure. One of the reasons so many women supported him six months ago was because they thought he was liberal on abortion.”

The New Politics reformers had fantasized a pure politics, a politics of unyielding principle—an antipolitics. But in the real world, politics without equivocation or compromise is impossible. Thus an unintended consequence for the would-be antipolitician. Announcing one’s inflexibility sabotages him in advance. Every time he makes a political decision, he looks like a sellout. The reformers fantasized an open politics, in which all points of view had time to be heard. That meant that the Tuesday session adjourned eleven hours after it began, at 6:15 am—a fortunate thing, coolheaded Democratic strategists decided, terrified over what this all looked like on TV.

• • • • •

On nomination day, Humphrey officially announced his withdrawal. George McGovern, whose campaign had once been such a long shot the network camera crews called his campaign bus the “morgue patrol,” would be the Democrats’ nominee for president.

Just as in 1968, McGovern was nominated by Connecticut senator Abe Ribicoff. During lulls in the roll call, the band played the theme from the rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar. He was put over the top by one of Dick Daley’s friends, who even announced that his delegation was endorsing the latest liberal crusade: boycotting lettuce in solidarity with Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers. McGovern’s tally was 1,864.95 to slightly over 1,000 for everyone else combined. The regulars fell into line. That was what regulars did. “There are two reasons that we are going to win this election,” boomed Oklahoma’s Carl Albert, the man who had done Mayor Daley’s bidding at the podium in 1968 in Chicago. “One is—George McGovern! The other is—Richard Nixon!”

The contenders dutifully stood hands raised together as the balloons dropped: Muskie, Chisholm, Scoop Jackson, Humphrey, who was flashing peace signs. But the 250 McGovern floor managers weren’t able to whip up the traditional resolution to make the nomination unanimous—something even Barry Goldwater had been able to manage. Too much water under the bridge for that. One hippie’s sign during the celebratory demonstration read simply mcgovern sucks! Another, a black man’s, said don’t vote ’72!

George McGovern was learning what a mess of pottage a presidential nomination could be when your defining trait was supposed to be your purity.

It's a significant problem for the Left that they're so immature they fall prey to this sort of messianism. One benefit of the GOP's natural tendency towards hierarchy is that when you always nominate the next in line you've no delusions that he isn't a pol.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:47 PM


Pope to baptize one of Italy's most prominent Muslims at Easter vigil service (The Associated Press, March 22, 2008)

The Vatican says Italy's most prominent Muslim commentator is converting to Catholicism by being baptized by the pope at an Easter vigil.

Magdi Allam is the deputy editor of the Corriere della Sera newspaper and writes often on Muslim and Arab affairs. He was born in Egypt and has long spoken out against extremism and in favor of tolerance.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 PM


Post ‘Post-Racial Candidate’: Things get out-of-his-tree flown-the-coop nuts on the campaign trail. (Mark Steyn, 3/22/08, National Review)

Unlike Bill Clinton, whose legions of “spiritual advisers” at the height of his Monica troubles outnumbered the U.S. diplomatic corps, Senator Obama has had just one spiritual adviser his entire adult life: the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, two-decade pastor to the president presumptive. The Reverend Wright believes that AIDs was created by the government of the United States — and not as a cure for the common cold that went tragically awry and had to be covered up by Karl Rove, but for the explicit purpose of killing millions of its own citizens. The government has never come clean about this, but the Reverend Wright knows the truth. “The government lied,” he told his flock, “about inventing the HIV virus as a means of genocide against people of color. The government lied.”

Does he really believe this? If so, he’s crazy, and no sane person would sit through his gibberish, certainly not for 20 years.

Or is he just saying it? In which case, he’s profoundly wicked. If you understand that AIDs is spread by sexual promiscuity and drug use, you’ll know that it’s within your power to protect yourself from the disease. If you’re told that it’s just whitey’s latest cunning plot to stick it to you, well, hey, it’s out of your hands, nothing to do with you or your behavior.

...Democrats have spent a quarter century lying to people about how AIDs is acquired. It hardly seems fair to single out the Rev.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:18 AM


Upscale Latinos find a home: Once known for its Quaker past and links to Richard Nixon, Whittier is coming to symbolize a new set of aspirations. (Hector Becerra, 3/22/08, Los Angeles Times)

Decades before the couple bought the 12,500-square-foot home, back when it was still the old Reilly estate, Whittier's most famous resident, Richard Nixon, attended social events in some of these rooms. When it was built in 1927, the mansion represented everything Whittier aspired to. John B. Reilly was a powerful local Republican, an oilman who years later helped Nixon make his first run for political office. When he became president, Nixon provided one of Reilly's daughters with a Cabinet position.

Now the Reilly estate has become the Zapanta estate, and it stands as a monument to a new set of aspirations.

The Zapantas are fourth-generation Mexican Americans from East Los Angeles, part of a wave of doctors and lawyers, small-business owners and school administrators who are remaking Whittier into a center of upper-middle- class and upper-class Latino life in Southern California.

Like Reilly years before, the Zapantas host political events at the spacious mansion. But their preferred candidates are Latino Democrats. They have held two fundraisers for Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and one for former presidential candidate Bill Richardson, governor of New Mexico. Once a year, they offer tours of their vast collection of Mexican art.

The last U.S. census counted Whittier's population at 83,838. Latinos constituted 23% of Whittier residents in 1980; they were 56% as of 2000 and that number is presumed to be more than 60% by now.

The city's neighborhoods reflect a range of economic levels, with working-class and middle-class residents tending to live in the flatlands and the affluent higher in the hills.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:14 AM


Colombia's Rebels Face Possibility of Implosion: Chief Threat Not Deaths, but Desertion (Juan Forero, 3/22/08, Washington Post)

The slaying this month of Manuel Jesús Muñoz, a member of the ruling directorate of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, was a dramatic signal that a rebel group known for its resilience is engulfed in an internal crisis that could lead to its implosion after four decades of armed struggle.

In a country where most people cannot remember a time of peace, Colombians are for the first time raising the possibility that a guerrilla group once thought invincible could be forced into peace negotiations or even defeated militarily.

Weakened by infiltrators and facing constant combat and aerial bombardment, the insurgency is losing members in record numbers. The FARC, as the group is known, lost 1,583 fighters in combat last year, its columns are plagued by command-and-control problems, and popular support is evaporating, the government of President Álvaro Uribe says.

Since 2000, the Uribe administration has received $5 billion in U.S. aid, mostly for military and anti-drug programs -- more than any other government outside the Middle East.

Here's a way Senator Obama could genuinely distance himself from both the radicalism of his Church and the Sandinista nostalgia of many in his party--he could come out against the Marxist remnants in Latin America and in favor of our allies.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:10 AM


When "a Custodian of Freedom" is the Perpetrator of Ethnic Cleansing (Dr. Bouthaina Shaaban, 3/22/08, Asharq Alawasat)

Only few weeks after the apology of Kevin Rudd, the newly elected Prime Minister of Australia, to the Aborigines, the indigenous inhabitants of Australia, he was party to a motion in Parliament describing Israel as a "robust democracy" and a "custodian of freedom" in a region abounding in autocracies and theocracies!

Opposition Liberal party leader Brendan Nelson said that in a region "characterized more by theocracies and autocracies, Israel is the custodian of the most powerful of human emotions – that is hopeful belief in the freedom of man, freedom of speech, freedom of religion and freedom of assembly ".

All this was expressed in the aftermath of Israeli Killing of over 130 Palestinians in Gaza, 39 of them were children, and 12 women and the rest were young men in their twenties aspiring to live in peace and dignity on their own land. The question that came to mind upon reading the disappointing news of the motion in the Australian Parliament was whether Kevin Rudd and his colleagues want to wait for 200 years to apologize from the Palestinians as they apologized from the aborigines, but only when it becomes too late and almost of no value to a people and culture who have been almost completely destroyed.

...that if the Aborigines could do anything concrete with the apology they'd have gotten one? If Mr. Rudd were serious about his regrets he'd "give it back" in the words of Midnight Oil. Ain't gonna happen.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:04 AM


Will Wright Damage Obama's Millennial Support? (Michael Barone, 3/22/08, Real Clear Politics)

In a brilliantly well-timed new book, "Millennial Makeover: MySpace, YouTube and the Future of American Politics," Democratic Party veteran Morley Winograd and media researcher Michael Hais explain how this generation, with the highest percentages of blacks, Latinos and Asians in American history, doesn't care much for racial divisions and relies for news and advice on networks of friends and peers.

A newspaper story on Obama's pastor is not going to affect their view of him -- they don't read newspapers except when a friend emails a link to a newspaper Website. A YouTube video is another thing. The Wright videos -- angry when Obama is soothing, racially divisive when Obama is inclusive, anti-American when Obama proclaims a new generation's version of patriotism -- are something else.

You can see in the national polls over the week before Obama's March 18 speech a decline in his favorable ratings, and a decline in his showing against John McCain and Hillary Clinton. The hypothesis forms that he has been losing to some extent the support and to a more important extent the enthusiasm of Millennial voters. [...]

Readers of Obama's gracefully written autobiography, "Dreams of My Father," have been surprised to find that it is the story of a young man who wants to embrace rather than transcend his blackness. Joining Wright's church was part of that embrace.

And observers of Obama's political career will note that joining that church gave Obama political connections in the all-black South Side that he lacked as guy who arrived in Chicago from Columbia and Harvard Law, and gravitated to the mostly white university community in Hyde Park. The 76 percent black state Senate seat he won in 1996 (after getting his opponents' names removed from the ballot) included Hyde Park, but most of its voters were on the all-black South Side.

So is Obama a transcendent leader or just another politician? Millennials who have fervently believed he is the first may, after watching Wright on YouTube, wonder whether they have been wrong.

...when the entire premise of his campaign is his race?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:26 AM

50-0 FILES:

Who'd be McCain's vice president?: Everyone's watching as the Republican decides -- a conservative, or someone with broader appeal? (Maeve Reston, 3/22/08, Los Angeles Times)

Several charismatic governors with close ties to McCain are getting attention as well: Charlie Crist of Florida, Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota and South Carolina's Sanford.

Reed predicted Crist is likely to be "on McCain's short list of three or four." With approval ratings topping 70%, he "would about put a nail in it for the general election" by helping McCain win Florida, Reed said.

Crist, 51, styled himself as "the people's governor" after winning a tough-on-crime reputation in the Florida Legislature and serving as the state's attorney general and education commissioner. His last-minute endorsement is widely credited with helping McCain win the Florida primary.

"He's got the credentials in a lot of key policy areas," said Susan MacManus, a political science professor at the University of South Florida. Crist, she said, is a fiscal conservative who is "very populist, people-oriented, kind of a sunny personality -- it's probably a nice complement to McCain."

But, MacManus noted, he is viewed with suspicion in some conservative circles in Florida because of his views on abortion and his support for civil unions and for the expansion of stem cell research. Crist ran campaign ads in 2006 casting himself as "pro-life"; several Florida newspapers have reported that he does not support overturning Roe vs. Wade. His spokeswoman did not return e-mails seeking clarification on this position.

Pawlenty, 47, is an early McCain supporter who won the Minnesota governorship in 2002, after saying that the Republican Party should represent "Sam's Club, not just the country club." His unassuming demeanor -- he likes to play in pickup hockey games as he travels around the state -- and commitment to fiscal restraint have led to strong approval ratings.

University of Minnesota political science professor Lawrence Jacobs said Pawlenty was "one of the most capable politicians for presenting himself as reasonable and likable." He won accolades in his party by taking a no-tax pledge when he ran in 2002 (though he did not repeat the pledge last cycle) and has vetoed a number of popular bills, including a recent transportation bill because of his opposition to tax hikes, Jacobs said.

"He's battling the Legislature and yet his approval ratings are pretty strong," Jacobs said.

Pawlenty will host the Republican convention in the Twin Cities later this year, but Jacobs and others have questioned whether the governor would be able to deliver Minnesota for McCain in November.

Even if he can't deliver it, that he forces the Democrats to play defense there and in WI just adds to the forces arrayed against them.

March 21, 2008

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:24 PM


Obama aide: Bill Clinton like McCarthy (MATT APUZZO, 3/21/08, Associated Press)

"I think it would be a great thing if we had an election year where you had two people who loved this country and were devoted to the interest of this country," Clinton said. "And people could actually ask themselves who is right on these issues, instead of all this other stuff that always seems to intrude itself on our politics."

[Merrill "Tony" McPeak, a former chief of staff of the Air Force and currently a co-chair of Obama's presidential campaign] learned of the remarks while at an Obama rally in Salem, Ore. Afterward, he called Clinton's statement horrible and compared it to McCarthy, the Republican senator from Wisconsin who held hearings on suspected Communist sympathizers in the 1950s.

"It sounds more like McCarthy," McPeak said. "I grew up, I was going to college when Joe McCarthy was accusing good Americans of being traitors, so I've had enough of it."

Obama camp: Clinton has ‘history of misleading voters’ (Sam Youngman, 03/21/08, The Hill)
The Obama campaign used the recently released Clinton White House schedules to argue that the New York senator has not been forthcoming about her role in the passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement, while the former first lady’s camp accused Obama of hypocrisy on the NAFTA issue.

Phil Singer, a Clinton spokesman, countered that Obama displayed “a lot of chutzpah” by saying that Clinton was not honest about her role in NAFTA in the mid-1990s after accounts surfaced earlier this month that a senior Obama adviser had told Canadian officials that the Illinois senator’s tough talk on the controversial trade agreement was just political posturing.

At the same time, Bill Burton, an Obama spokesman, cited polling data in a morning memo, suggesting that voters do not view Clinton as an honest politician but that they do view presumptive Republican nominee Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) as relatively trustworthy.

“Honesty is a crucial metric in this race because the Democratic nominee is going to be running against John McCain, who is viewed by voters as one of the most trustworthy politicians in America,” Burton wrote.

Senator Obama is promising to unite the country but he's dividing his own party?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:23 PM


WOULD YOU LET THIS MAN INTERVIEW YOU?: If the answer is yes, you might wind up feeling like the defendant at a murder trial. The man is Howard Cosell, a nasal-voiced ex-lawyer who is quick to let you know he is the best sportscaster around (Myron Cope, 3/13/67, Sports Illustrated)

"You've got to treat Howard the way he treats you," says Columnist Dick Young of the New York Daily News. "You've got to throw his flamboyant junk back in his face. He asks better questions than the other radio and TV interviewers, but he hokes up his questions so that actually they sound better than they are. 'Now, truthfully'—it's always 'truthfully,' as if it's a question the guy on the other end has been ducking—'people insist that you'—people don't say it, they insist it—'that you cannot take a punch, Muhammad Ali. Now, truthfully, can you take a punch?' " The Cosell manner, observes Larry Merchant of the New York Post, manages "to make the world of fun and games sound like the Nuremberg trials."

Meanwhile, brimming with editorial comment, Cosell has gone after Casey Stengel and George Weiss, the New York Giants and NCAA football, Floyd Patterson and the sporting press, and all varieties of commissioners and leagues. Though ABC's New York radio outlet carries the Jets' games, he campaigned vigorously last fall against Jet Coach Weeb Ewbank, whom he dismisses as "passé." In short, Cosell has traveled a course hardly calculated to take him to the goal that practically all sportscasters covet: a play-by-play assignment. He could not care less. "I'm a personality," he specifies. "With rare exceptions, they don't make them that way in the sports business anymore."

Weeb got the last laugh there, eh?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:24 PM


Unseen Hands on My Game (Rick Reilly, 8/17/87, Sports Illustrated)

How shall I put this? right in front of me, right in front of my disbelieving eyes, on a dark staircase, in an ancient castle, maybe half a dozen fire snorts from the Loch Ness Monster itself, in the remote reaches of Scotland, there was—and I can just tell you're not going to go for this—an apparition...a ghost...a person of the undead persuasion...a ceased-to-be individual AWOL from the grave...a poltergeist on the wrong side of the television set...a soul with a serious case of unrest. I swear on my first communion medal that this is true.

And, right away, do you know what went through my head? What went through my head was, Well, they told me Royal Dornoch is a haunting place, but this is ridiculous.

I suppose this needs some explaining. I mean that the people who told me to come to Dornoch had called it haunting, as in unforgettably beautiful, which it was—and is. But I didn't know they also meant haunting, as in a certain real estate listing in Amityville haunting. Haunting, as in Kathy, the maid on the fourth floor at the Dornoch Castle Hotel, where I was staying and where I was now, once feeling somebody tugging on the back of her sweater and then turning around to find nobody there. Haunting, as in a certain Andrew MacCormack unexpectedly checking in at the hotel one night, which was a mite strange, considering that Andy had been hanged for stealing sheep 150 years before. Not only that, but while playing one day at the Royal Dornoch Golf Club—which was the reason I had gone there in the first place—I five-putted the 4th green, and I'm quite sure mine weren't the only hands on the putter, if you get my drift.

Then again—and this tells you a lot about Dornoch—I thought, for the privilege of playing legendary Dornoch, perhaps some things have to be endured, and sharing my lodgings with a few frequent fliers from the 19th century was one of them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:20 PM


BLUE-COLLAR COACH IN A BUTTON-DOWN LEAGUE: Pete Carril looks dumpy, smokes stogies and hangs around a seedy bar, but with a 190-81 basketball record at Princeton, he does not need an Ivy image (Kent Hannon, 1/02/78, Sports Illustrated)

Billy Omeltchenko tells the story best, although any of his teammates seated around a table at The Pub, Princeton's on-campus watering hole, could relate a similar encounter. This one took place several years ago when Omeltchenko, now a starting guard on the Princeton basketball team, was a senior at Great Neck (N.Y.) North High School and was being recruited by a few colleges in the East.

"One night I was told that Pete Carril, the Princeton coach, would be in the stands to watch me play," Omeltchenko recalls. "During the game I noticed this bald little man lying down on the bleachers with his head propped up on one elbow. He looked like a bum. He was wearing gray corduroys with suspenders and Hush Puppies with white socks, and he was sucking on a cigar butt that was maybe an inch long. After the game, my coach came by my locker and said, 'Billy, I want you to meet Coach Carril.' And it was him, the guy in the bleachers! I mean, he looked like Columbo. I didn't see how he could be from Princeton. He said, 'Nice to see ya, nice to see ya,' and then spent the next 20 minutes tearing my game apart. I couldn't get over him. He was wonderful. So here I am at Princeton, paying $6,500 a year to play basketball for him."

Omeltchenko's recruiting tale describes the predicament that Pete Carril finds himself in while trying to foster winning basketball at a rich man's school. It also hints at how he has gone about assembling such successful teams as his present group, which is attempting to make the Tigers the stingiest defensive team in the nation for the third season in a row and which will be aiming for Princeton's third straight Ivy League championship when conference play begins this week.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:32 PM


The Clinton myth (Jim VandeHei and Mike Allen, March 21, 2008, Politico)

One big fact has largely been lost in the recent coverage of the Democratic presidential race: Hillary Rodham Clinton has virtually no chance of winning.

Her own campaign acknowledges there is no way that she will finish ahead in pledged delegates. That means the only way she wins is if Democratic superdelegates are ready to risk a backlash of historic proportions from the party’s most reliable constituency.

Unless Clinton is able to at least win the primary popular vote — which also would take nothing less than an electoral miracle — and use that achievement to pressure superdelegates, she has only one scenario for victory. An African-American opponent and his backers would be told that, even though he won the contest with voters, the prize is going to someone else.

People who think that scenario is even remotely likely are living on another planet.

That the Democrats are marching towards the inevitable nomination of the unelectable Senator Obama while she's poised to thrash him in PA just makes this all the more enjoyable.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:25 PM


Obama's church pushes controversial doctrines (Margaret Talev, 3/20/08 McClatchy Newspapers)

Jesus is black. Merging Marxism with Christian Gospel may show the way to a better tomorrow. The white church in America is the Antichrist because it supported slavery and segregation.

Those are some of the more provocative doctrines that animate the theology at the core of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, Barack Obama's church. [...]

Wright, who hasn't been giving interviews since the controversy broke, told conservative TV talk-show host Sean Hannity last year that Trinity's black value system also had parallels to the liberation theology of laypeople in Nicaragua three decades ago. There, liberation theology became associated with Marxist revolution and the Sandinistas, and split the Roman Catholic Church. [...]

[James Cone, who founded the modern black liberation theology movement] stands by his message, and sometimes Obama echoes it.

Consider this passage: "Hope is the expectation of that which is not. It is the belief that the impossible is possible, the 'not yet' is coming in history."

Those words sound as if they were pulled from Obama's latest campaign speech. Instead, they're from a memoir Cone wrote in the 1980s. In it, Cone said blacks shouldn't limit their hope to what the Republican and Democratic parties stand for. Then he posited a thought that voters are unlikely to hear from Obama:

"Together, black religion and Marxist philosophy may show us the way to build a completely new society."

...can you prove the Senator was there on any of the Sundays that the core message of the cult was enunciated?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:39 PM


A WHOLE TEAM TOUCHED BY STARDUST: Led by marvelous Bill Bradley, Princeton routed the East's best and swept on to the finals of the national basketball championship in Portland where, still the underdog, it faces Michigan and then, hopefully, UCLA (Frank Deford, March 22, 1965, Sports Illustrated)

Never has a group of poor little rich boys been so popular as the Princeton basketball team that won the Eastern Regional title of the NCAA tournament last Saturday. Princeton has not been such a national threat since Aaron Burr, class of 1772, very nearly set up his own empire in the Middle West. But there the Tigers were in College Park, Md., beating North Carolina State 66-48 and absolutely ruining Providence, the fourth-ranked team in the nation, 109-69.

Bill Bradley was magnificent. He made 14 of 20 shots, all 13 of his free throws—41 points—and he had nine assists and 10 rebounds. "I'll just tell them that he's the greatest that ever lived," said Tom Jorgenson, who was scouting for Michigan, "because they won't believe anything else I tell them." (Michigan won its regional title and will meet Princeton on Friday in Portland for the eastern championship. It is the first time in 21 years that an Ivy League team has gone so far in the NCAAs, and no Ivy team has ever won. Defending champion UCLA and Wichita will also meet Friday for the western title. The grand final is Saturday.)

Suddenly the adoration of Bradley has spread to embrace the whole Princeton team, and the Tigers are the darlings of college basketball. In New York even Notre Dame's famous subway alumni were, temporarily, diverting their allegiance to Princeton. The normally blasé Princeton student body showed up 1,000 strong to welcome the team back to the campus.

And it was the whole team that everyone was cheering. It was the whole Princeton team that shot 68.3% against Providence (while Bradley shot 70%) and 72.7% in the second half. In one stretch the Tigers went 12 minutes without missing a shot—14 straight from the floor and the free-throw line. They outrebounded the Friars, they outdefensed them, outran them when that was the game and patiently destroyed the strong Providence combination defense when things slowed down. By his presence Bradley makes all of this possible, because the opposition must concentrate on him, but never before had his teammates been so skillful at capitalizing on this advantage.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:48 AM


Depressed women crave 'sexual intimacy' (Bonnie Malkin, 21/03/2008, Daily Telegraph)

Depressed women have more sex than those who are happier because intercourse makes them feel secure, a study claims.

Women suffering from mild to moderate depression have a third more sex, regardless of whether they are in a relationship or not, according to the survey of more than 100 Australians.

They also have more sexually liberated attitudes, a bigger variety of sexual experiences and, if single, are more likely to partake in casual sex.

...shouldn't we be telling them how fat they look in that dress?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:44 AM


All three presidential candidates had passport files breached (SacBee, March 21, 2008)

State Department employees inappropriately examined the passport files of Democratic Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton and Republican candidate Sen. John McCain, a security breach that forced Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to apologize to Obama.

...did you think they were doing real work?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:31 AM


Paterson: Campaign 'Might Have' Paid for Hotel Tryst (Robin Shulman, 3/21/08, Washington Post)

In the latest revelation of a series of gubernatorial sex scandals, Gov. David A. Paterson has admitted he might have billed a hotel tryst with his lover to his campaign, listing the expenditure as "constituent services."

The New York Daily News reported today that Paterson occasionally used campaign funds to cover personal expenses and misreported the purpose of that spending. The newspaper said he generally reimbursed the campaign for those charges.

But Paterson acknowledged in an interview with the Daily News that he might not have reimbursed at least one payment.

The Daily News also found that in 2002, Paterson's campaign paid $500 for "professional services" to Lila Kirton, 49, a high-ranking state employee with whom Paterson had an extramarital affair.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:26 AM


Reverend Who?: With Obama in West Virginia. (Byron York, 3/21/08, National Review)

“We need change, that’s what I believe in,” a young woman named Melissa tells me.

“What about all the stuff with his pastor?” I ask.

“The what?”

“You know — the news about the controversial things his pastor said.”

“I haven’t heard much about it,” Melissa says. “That’s not a good question for me.”

“I don’t know much about it,” says a young man named Nick. “I’ve just been hearing about it from people who aren’t supporters, so I don’t have any idea.”

Others seem to have stronger opinions. “I don’t think everybody who goes to one church has the exact same views as everyone else who goes to that church,” a young man named Paul tells me. “He doesn’t have any control over what his former pastor said.”

By the way, I ask, what was your reaction when you saw those video clips of Rev. Wright’s sermons?

“I didn’t see what he said,” Paul answers. “What did he say?”

It might seem farfetched to the media types who are consumed by Wright-gate, but perhaps Obama’s hope in West Virginia, which has its primary on May 13 and will award 39 Democratic delegates, lies in the possibility that a lot of voters simply haven’t heard of all the fuss about Rev. Wright.

Most people still know nothing about Senator Obama himself, why would they know anything about his pastor?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:21 AM


'Stale' bin Laden Tape Have Some Experts Questioning Strategy Behind the Message (AP, March 20, 2008)

A newly released Usama bin Laden audiotape labeled 'stale' by some terror experts has raised questions about whether his seemingly outdated message is really a strategy.

On the tape, released late Wednesday, bin Laden accuses Pope Benedict XVI of helping wage a "new Crusade" against Islam and warns of a "severe" reaction from Muslims to the publication of cartoons in Europe depicting the Prophet Muhammad.

Some analysts on Thursday were focusing less on what was said in the message than what wasn't. They said the apparent lack of references to events after 2006, such as the reprinting of controversial cartoons, which caused widespread rioting when they were first published by a Danish newspaper in 2005, and the absence of talk about the Iraq war indicate that bin Laden's message could have been recorded months, even years, ago. Bin Laden also made no mention of a soon-to-be released anti-Islam film, "Fitna," by Dutch lawmaker Geert Wilders.

"The tape seems to be very generic," Neil Livingstone, a terrorism analyst, told FOX News. "It's rambling, it doesn't really have focus and it refers to this old issue that is rather stale right now — of the cartoons that were first published by a Danish newspaper and then published in other European cities.

It'd be helpful if someone turned in his head for the reward money before I go fill up the Suburban. Gas stations will be having half price sales.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:19 AM


U.S. congressional leader condemns crackdown in Tibet (The Associated Press, March 21, 2008)

House speaker Nancy Pelosi called on the world Friday to denounce China's crackdown of anti-government protests in Tibet, calling the crisis "a challenge to the conscience of the world."

Pelosi, one of the fiercest Congressional critics of China, was greeted by cheering Tibetans as she arrived to meet the Dalai Lama. She is the first major official to visit the leader of Tibet's exile community since peaceful protests turned violent last week in the Chinese-ruled region.

"If freedom loving people throughout the world do not speak out against China's oppression in China and Tibet, we have lost all moral authority to speak on behalf of human rights anywhere in the world," Pelosi said before a crowd of thousands of Tibetans, including monks and schoolchildren.

"The situation in Tibet is a challenge to the conscience of the world," she said.

No one is wrong about every issue.

March 20, 2008

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:00 PM


1858 by Bruce Chadwick (Source Books)

Highly recommended–a gripping narrative of the critical year of 1858 and the nation's slide toward disunion and war. Chadwick is especially adept at retelling the intense emotions of this critical time, particularly especially in recounting abolitionist opposition to the Fugitive Slave Act and Jefferson Davis's passionate defense of this institution. For readers seeking to understand how individuals are agents of historical change will find Chadwick's account of the failed leadership of President James Buchanan, especially compelling."

-G. Kurt Piehler, author of “Remembering War the American Way” and Associate Professor of History, The University of Tennessee

1858 explores the events and personalities of the year that would send the America’s North and South on a collision course culminating in the slaughter of 630,000 of the nation’s young men, a greater number than died in any other American conflict. The record of that year is told in seven separate stories, each participant, though unaware, is linked to the oncoming tragedy by the central, though ineffective, figure of that time, the man in the White House, President James Buchanan.

The seven figures who suddenly leap onto history’s stage and shape the great moments to come are: Jefferson Davis, who lived a life out of a Romantic novel, and who almost died from herpes simplex of the eye; the disgruntled Col. Robert E. Lee, who had to decide whether he would stay in the military or return to Virginia to run his family’s plantation; William Tecumseh Sherman, one of the great Union generals, who had been reduced to running a roadside food stand in Kansas; the uprising of eight abolitionists in Oberlin, Ohio, who freed a slave apprehended by slave catchers, and set off a fiery debate across America; a dramatic speech by New York Senator William Seward in Rochester, which foreshadowed the civil war and which seemed to solidify his hold on the 1860 Republican Presidential nomination; John Brown’s raid on a plantation in Missouri, where he freed several slaves, and marched them eleven hundred miles to Canada, to be followed a year later by his catastrophic attack on Harper’s Ferry; and finally, Illinois Senator Steven Douglas’ seven historic debates with little-known Abraham Lincoln in the Illinois Senate race, that would help bring the ambitious and determined Lincoln to the Presidency of the United States.

As these stories unfold, the reader learns how the country reluctantly stumbled towards that moment in April 1861 when the Southern army opened fire on Fort Sumter.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:50 PM


Two Questions for Senator Obama (Lanny Davis, 3/20/08, Real Clear Politics)

These two questions are:

1. If a white minister preached sermons to his congregation and had used the "N" word and used rhetoric and words similar to members of the KKK, would you support a Democratic presidential candidate who decided to continue to be a member of that congregation?

2. Would you support that candidate if, after knowing of or hearing those sermons, he or she still appointed that minister to serve on his or her "Religious Advisory Committee" of his or her presidential campaign?

...while Lanny Davis generally seems like a rather decent person, he did remain personally and politically loyal to President Clinton even as he was exposed as a sexual predator who had tried subverting justice in the Paula Jones case. The Reverend Wright's speech appears to often be vile, but there's no evidence that he assaulted anyone nor broke the law.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:42 PM


Robert Mugabe grip on power rocked by surging opposition (Jan Raath, 3/21/08, Times of London)

With elections only eight days away, President Mugabe looks like being overwhelmed by a wave of support for the opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai as the 84-year-old leader's grip on power falters.

Mr Tsvangirai's formidable backing in Zimbabwe's urban areas has been consolidated since the election campaign began five weeks ago and now, after a series of forays into the poverty-stricken rural areas where the ruling Zanu (PF) party has hitherto held control, it is clear that Mr Mugabe has a fight on his hands there, too.

On Wednesday Mr Tsvangirai pushed into Mashonaland West, Mr Mugabe's home province, to draw mostly large crowds of exultant peasants responding to his chant of chinja! - Shona for change - in a region where until very recently it would have been almost impossible for his faction of the Movement for Democratic Change to campaign.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:39 PM


Chain of Command
: The Abu Ghraib scandal's leadership lattice (Mother Jones, March 20, 2008)

The accompanying chart and text argues against the very notion that commands were given or that there was leadership. They demonstrate pretty convincingly that it was just a case of abusive behavior by insufficiently supervised underlings.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:37 PM


Retailers slash prices to boost Easter sales (Daily Telegraph, 21/03/2008)

Retailers are slashing prices in an attempt to beat the credit crunch, offering "unprecedented" Easter bargains.

Clothes, furniture and household and electrical goods will be cut by as much as 50 per cent.

Marks & Spencer is offering 30 per cent off furniture, while Matalan is offering 50 per cent off a range of clothes and household goods.

An estimated £8 billion worth of sales are at stake in the week up to Easter Monday, according to the British Retail Consortium.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:54 PM


Sunni militia strike could derail US strategy against al-Qaida (Maggie O'Kane and Ian Black, March 21 2008, Guardian)

The success of the US "surge" strategy in Iraq may be under threat as Sunni militia employed by the US to fight al-Qaida are warning of a national strike because they are not being paid regularly.

Leading members of the 80,000-strong Sahwa, or awakening, councils have said they will stop fighting unless payment of their $10 a day (£5) wage is resumed. The fighters are accusing the US military of using them to clear al-Qaida militants from dangerous areas and then abandoning them.

Did they really think we were going to leave our allies, the Shi'a majority and the independent Kurds, to face a well-organized and well-armed Sunni opposition?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:50 PM

50-0 FILES:

New Polls Show A Shifting US Presidential Race (Jim Malone, 20 March 2008, VOA News)

Some good news for Hillary Clinton in her battle with Barack Obama for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination.

The latest Gallup poll has Clinton pulling ahead of Obama by a margin of 49 to 42 percent.

But there was also good news for the presumed Republican presidential nominee, Senator John McCain. The latest Reuters-Zogby poll shows McCain beating Obama by a margin of 46 to 40 percent, and defeating Clinton by a margin of 48 to 40 percent.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:40 PM


Do Americans Care About Big Brother? (MASSIMO CALABRESI, 3/14/08, TIME)

Pity America's poor civil libertarians. In recent weeks, the papers have been full of stories about the warehousing of information on Americans by the National Security Agency, the interception of financial information by the CIA, the stripping of authority from a civilian intelligence oversight board by the White House, and the compilation of suspicious activity reports from banks by the Treasury Department. On Thursday, Justice Department Inspector General Glenn Fine released a report documenting continuing misuse of Patriot Act powers by the FBI. And to judge from the reaction in the country, nobody cares.

A quick tally of the record of civil liberties erosion in the United States since 9/11 suggests that the majority of Americans are ready to trade diminished privacy, and protection from search and seizure, in exchange for the promise of increased protection of their physical security. Polling consistently supports that conclusion, and Congress has largely behaved accordingly, granting increased leeway to law enforcement and the intelligence community to spy and collect data on Americans. Even when the White House, the FBI or the intelligence agencies have acted outside of laws protecting those rights — such as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act — the public has by and large shrugged and, through their elected representatives, suggested changing the laws to accommodate activities that may be in breach of them.

Civil libertarians are in a state of despair.

The Republic works too well for sane people to fear our government and whatever the "civil liberties" that these folks feel we've lost, it has had too little impact in our every day lives for us to even notice them--with the exception of taking your shoes off at the airport, which is done only for psychological reasons and involves no rights violation.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:37 PM


Gordon Brown turns into Neville Chamberlain (Andrew Gimson, 18/03/2008, Daily Telegraph)

The mantle of Neville Chamberlain has descended with alarming speed on Gordon Brown.

The clinching detail was provided by Mr Brown himself, during his report on the European summit in Brussels, when he observed that "not to support the treaty will leave the Czechoslovakian people isolated".

Since Czechoslovakia ceased to exist 15 years ago, one imagines its people have been feeling isolated for quite some time.

Robert Goodwill (C, Scarborough and Whitby) reminded the House of Chamberlain's hapless reference to "that faraway country of which we know little", which appears also to be the present Prime Minister's conception of Czechoslovakia, indignantly though he insisted he had made "absolutely clear I was talking about the Czech Republic".

The slip means nothing in itself, but opens a train of thought which will be deeply unwelcome to Mr Brown.

For it suggests that like Chamberlain, he is a Treasury technocrat who has reached 10 Downing Street with little knowledge of foreign affairs, and with no gift for reading the intentions of the foreigners with whom he feels compelled to remain on friendly terms.

As with Chamberlain, Mr Brown's foreign policy consists of doing what the Establishment tells him.

No establishment is wrong about more than the foreign policy one.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:32 PM


'Believers are happier than atheists' (Jonathan Petre, 18/03/2008, Daily Telegraph)

People who believe in God are happier than agnostics or atheists, researchers claimed yesterday.

A report found that religious people were better able to cope with disappointments such as unemployment or divorce than non-believers.

Moreover, they become even happier the more they pray and go to church, claims the study by Prof Andrew Clark and Dr Orsolya Lelkes.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:29 PM


Richard I slept with French king 'but not gay' (Nicole Martin, 18/03/2008, Daily Telegraph)

For 60 years academics have puzzled over the sexual orientation of Richard the Lionheart.

Theories that the English king was homosexual were first suggested in 1948, stemming from a night he spent in the same bed as Philip II, king of France.

But Prof John Gillingham, a former history professor at the London School of Economics, told the Radio Times: "The idea wasn't even mooted until 1948 and it stems from an official record announcing that, as a symbol of unity between the two countries, the kings of France and England had slept the night in the same bed.

"It was an accepted political act, nothing sexual about it; just two politicians literally getting into bed together, a bit like a modern-day photo opportunity."

And if they were on the down low, the frog was certainly the catcher.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:27 PM


The forgotten war: Five years on, the impact of the Iraq war on Britain has been remarkably slight (Bagehot, Mar 19th 2008, The Economist)

A MILLION people marched in London. A million dinner parties were wrecked by violent rows. It was the most divisive issue Britain had known in decades, infinitely more controversial than it was at the time in America. Five years ago 46,000 British servicemen helped to overthrow Saddam Hussein; 4,100 soldiers are still in Iraq. Considering how schismatic the war felt then, and how badly it has gone since, it has made eerily little difference to Britain.'s easy to forget how cheap, bloodless, and easy this war has been.

War-ravaged Iraq city 'alive again': Fallouja has been rebuilt since the 2004 battles. Stores again are doing a brisk business, and the population is nearly back up to 300,000. (Tony Perry, March 21, 2008, LA Times)

The one-lane bridge over the Euphrates River where a mob hung the charred bodies of slain Americans four years ago is now a focal point in the revitalization of this war-ravaged city.

The Iraqi government and the U.S. plan to widen the pedestrian pathways on either side of the bridge so shoppers can stream into Fallouja's western neighborhood and buy food, clothing and other goods from stores that again line the streets of a city once given up for dead.

The comeback of Fallouja, the site of two major battles between Marines and insurgents in 2004, surprises even the most optimistic U.S. planners.

"It continues to outpace all expectations," said Navy Capt. John Dal Sant, part of a State Department-funded effort called the Provincial Reconstruction Team for Fallouja.

City Council leader Sheik Hamed Ahmed said that he was pleased with the city's progress but that he needed more generators for his neighborhood. Ahmed's three predecessors were assassinated by insurgents, but he has refused to back down.

"Fallouja is alive again," he said.

Restaurants, bakeries, photo shops, tire stores, Internet cafes, a body-building studio and other businesses line the avenues and side streets. BMWs share lanes with donkey carts on congested thoroughfares.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:59 PM


Whitewashing the Second Amendment: As the Supreme Court reviews a historic gun-rights case, lost is the Second Amendment's controversial history—when it wasn't a bulwark against tyranny but a way of enforcing it." (Stephanie Mencimer, 3/20/08, Mother Jones)

Last week at an American Constitution Society briefing on the Heller case, NAACP Legal Defense Fund president John Payton explained the ugly history behind the gun lobby's favorite amendment. "That the Second Amendment was the last bulwark against the tyranny of the federal government is false," he said. Instead, the "well-regulated militias" cited in the Constitution almost certainly referred to state militias that were used to suppress slave insurrections. Payton explained that the founders added the Second Amendment in part to reassure southern states, such as Virginia, that the federal government wouldn’t use its new power to disarm state militias as a backdoor way of abolishing slavery.

This is pretty well-documented history, thanks to the work of Roger Williams School of Law professor Carl T. Bogus. In a 1998 law-review article based on a close analysis of James Madison’s original writings, Bogus explained the South’s obsession with militias during the ratification fights over the Constitution. “The militia remained the principal means of protecting the social order and preserving white control over an enormous black population,” Bogus writes. “Anything that might weaken this system presented the gravest of threats.” He goes on to document how anti-Federalists Patrick Henry and George Mason used the fear of slave rebellions as a way of drumming up opposition to the Constitution and how Madison eventually deployed the promise of the Second Amendment to placate Virginians and win their support for ratification.

An inalienable right (Carl T. Bogus, March 18, 2008 , Washington Times)
Why guarantee a right to keep and bear arms within the government-regulated militia? The Constitution placed the militia under joint control of the federal and state governments. Previously, militia had been exclusively under state control. Southern anti-Federalists complained that the Constitution gave Congress the sole authority to arm the militia. Suppose, they asked, Congress did not do so, whether deliberately or from neglect? This raised two fears. One was that Congress would increasingly rely on a standing army, which made some nervous. The other was that without armed militia, the South would be vulnerable to slave revolts. Collective rights advocates believe the Second Amendment was written to ensure that the militia could always be armed, if not by Congress then by the states or the people themselves. [...]

To traditional conservatives, the idea that people should be armed to go to war with their own government is anathema. The father of traditional conservatism, Edmund Burke, railed against the French Revolution, in which the people took up arms against the government. Burke knew that once the rule of law was overthrown, tyranny writ large would be the people themselves. Long before the guillotine had chopped off a single head, Burke foresaw the chaos and blood, and nearly a decade before Napoleon's coup d'etat, he predicted that a charismatic military despot would rise to power. Traditional conservatives (and most liberals) believe the bulwarks against tyranny are constitutional democracy, separation of powers, an independent judiciary, freedom of speech and press — in short, not guns but the Constitution.

Do we place our faith in law or guns? (Carl T. Bogus, 12/04/07, Providence Journal)
To understand what’s at stake, it helps to consider the differences between the American and French revolutions. Notwithstanding the oxymoronic sound of it, America’s break with England was a conservative revolution. Americans did not seek to radically alter their society. They were not fundamentally suspicious of government; they believed government was necessary to secure liberty. Nor were they even opposed to the British form of government, though they devised ways to improve upon it. They believed England’s government failed them because they were unrepresented in Parliament.

Americans undertook a revolution to preserve more than to destroy. Even though they went to war to secure independence, Americans never lost faith in ordered liberty. By contrast, as historian William Doyle puts it: “The initial impulse of the French Revolution was destructive. The revolutionaries wanted to abolish . . . the old or former order, the ancien rÉgime.” French revolutionaries sought liberty through violence — and came to romanticize violence. Some 16,000 were guillotined or otherwise executed during the Terror; another 150,000 died in factional fighting. [...]

In 1786, Shays Rebellion broke out in western Massachusetts. Complaining that the government had become tyrannical because courts were permitting creditors to seize their property to satisfy delinquent debts, a thousand small farmers and shop owners — armed with muskets — closed the courts and began to threaten the state government. Thomas Jefferson, then ambassador to France on the eve of the French Revolution, was momentarily swept away. In a letter to Madison, Jefferson remarked that “a little rebellion now and then is a good thing.”

Madison would have none of it. In his reply, Madison called Shays Rebellion “treason.” Massachusetts Gov. John Hancock raised an army to crush the rebellion. His action was endorsed not only by Madison but by Samuel Adams, John Jay, George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and John Marshall.

In the Whiskey Rebellion of 1794, backcountry farmers in Pennsylvania and Kentucky threatened tax collectors and otherwise used intimidation to obstruct collection of a federal tax on whiskey. They carried muskets and marched as militia under banners proclaiming “Liberty and Equality” and other slogans of the French Revolution. Washington said allowing such conduct would bring an “end to our Constitution & laws,” and he personally led 12,000 troops to extinguish the rebellion.

The Constitution is more than a legal document; it is the scripture of American political theology. The interpretation of the Second Amendment is about more than the government’s authority to regulate guns. It involves whether we choose to place our ultimate faith in constitutional structure or in guns.

...if the men gathered to dispose of the feeble Articles and adopt the stronger Constitution, in the wake of armed rebellions, included in same a provision that made it impossible for a militia to disarm a rabble.

-The Most Mysterious Right: a review of Out of Range by Mark V. Tushnet (Cass R. Sunstein, November 12, 2007, New Republic)

Suppose that we are "textualists," in the sense that we believe that the Constitution must be construed in accordance with the natural meaning of its words. Honest textualists will have to agree that the Second Amendment is ambiguous, and that it could plausibly be interpreted in different ways. Stare at the words all you like, and you will hardly be able to be certain about which interpretation to choose. The legal scholar William Van Alstyne got it exactly right: "no provision in the Constitution causes one to stumble quite so much on a first reading, or second, or third reading."

Many textualists are also originalists, in the sense that they believe that the meaning of the text is settled by the original understanding of those who ratified it. Originalists would want to ascertain what the meaning of the Second Amendment was in the latter part of the eighteenth century. Was it understood to create individual rights or not? If it was understood to create individual rights, what are the permissible limits on those rights? Originalists would find the central interpretive issue easy if, at the time of ratification, everyone understood the Second Amendment to create an individual right to have guns. The issue would be equally easy if the words "well regulated militia" were understood as a qualification of the right, and if the Second Amendment were universally understood, in its context, to be an effort not to protect private gun owners but to immunize state militias from federal abolition. Originalists would also be interested in seeing if some other interpretation not immediately obvious to modern readers turned out to be the dominant one at the time. [...]

But to explore the original understanding of the Second Amendment is to enter an altogether different nation, whose central preoccupations were not at all like our own. In the founding era, many people were fearful of a standing army, and that fear was closely entangled with their support for the right to keep and bear arms. Indeed, it was the anti-Federalists-- skeptics about the proposed Constitution-- who were most insistent on the importance of the right to bear arms as a way of protecting state militias and thus checking the national government.

Some of those who wrote and endorsed the Constitution were highly ambivalent about those militias, and favored instead a national force, even a standing army. Charles Pinckney of South Carolina went so far as to say that he had little "faith in the militia." The Constitution itself represented a compromise between national and state control, and the document's advocates argued that the anti-Federalists were needlessly worried. In an important passage in The Federalist Papers, Madison argued that the fear of a standing army was baseless, on the ground that any such army would be badly outnumbered by "a militia amounting to near half a million of citizens with arms in their hands, officered by men chosen from among themselves, fighting for their common liberties, and united and conducted by governments possessing their affections and confidence." This passage is difficult to understand today. It is extremely hard to think our way back into a world in which standing armies seem a major threat to liberty and in which state militias are an indispensable safeguard.

Of course we have a National Guard, and states continue to authorize militias. About half of the states even maintain militias. But contemporary state militias are marginal institutions. (Do you know anyone who is in one? Do you know if your state has one?) No one thinks of them as important safeguards against the United States Army. In his impressive and illuminating book A Well- Regulated Militia: The Founding Fathers and the Origins of Gun Control in America, the historian Saul Cornell urges that if we really want to be faithful to the original understanding, we would have to recreate "the world of the minuteman," a "nightmare" in which states would require all Americans "to receive firearms training" and "to purchase their own military-style assault weapons."

To appreciate the centrality of state militias to the Second Amendment, consider an early draft of the amendment written by Madison: "A well regulated militia, composed of the body of the people, being the best security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed; but no person religiously scrupulous shall be compelled to bear arms." And to see just how radically the nation has changed, pause over this question: if contemporary Americans were writing a new constitution, would any sane person suggest this language? Sure, we could imagine a proposed "right to keep and bear arms," but what are the rest of the words doing? Madison's draft is unmistakably focused on the military; without that focus, it would be senseless to follow the "right to keep and bear arms" with an exemption for those with religious scruples. If the ratified Second Amendment is substantively identical to Madison's draft, its core function might be (as suggested by Jack Rakove) merely to affirm "the essential proposition--or commonplace--that liberty fared better when republican polities relied upon a militia of citizen-soldiers for their defense, rather than risk the dire consequences of sustaining a permanent military establishment." Thus in the debate in the House of Representatives over what became the Second Amendment, Elbridge Gerry asked, "What, sir, is the use of a militia? It is to prevent the establishment of a standing army, the bane of liberty."

Saul Cornell concludes that the "original understanding of the Second Amendment was neither an individual right of self-defense nor a collective right of the states, but rather a civic right that guaranteed that citizens would be able to keep and bear those arms needed to meet their obligation to participate in a well-regulated militia." And indeed, the very distinction between an "individual right" and a "collective right" seems foreign to the goals of those who ratified the Second Amendment. One of their central purposes was to declare a civic right that would also be part of a civic responsibility, founded in republican goals and connecting the role of citizen with the role of soldier. The anti-Federalists lost the key arguments, but they did think that the Second Amendment ensured that states could resist the national government, and this checking function did play a role in the founding debates.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:53 PM


Saudis to retrain 40,000 clerics (Magdi Abdlehadi, 3/21/08, BBC)

Saudi Arabia is to retrain its 40,000 prayer leaders - also known as imams - in an effort to counter militant Islam.

Details of the plan were revealed in the influential Saudi newspaper Al- Sharq al-Awsat.

The plan is part of a wider programme launched by the Saudi monarch a few years ago to encourage moderation and tolerance in Saudi society.

The Sa'uds need to commit as much time, money, and effort to destroying Wahhabism as they did creating and spreading it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:42 PM


Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:26 PM



An attractive Olympic gold-medalist says she had a close personal relationship with Gov. Paterson earlier this year - during which time she recorded a series of secret telephone conversations with him.

Track-and-field athlete Diane Dixon, of Brooklyn, also told The Post that she had received a private message yesterday morning from Paterson, asking if she was speaking with the media.

Dixon, 43, said Paterson, 53, was "mostly responsible" for getting her a badly needed job earlier this month with the city Department of Education in Crown Heights' District 17.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:21 PM


Obama Talks More About 'Typical White Person' Grandmother (Jake Tapper, March 20, 2008, ABC News: Political Punch)

In an interview with sports radio 610 WIP in Philly early this morning, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, said "the point I was making was not that my grandmother harbors any racial animosity. She doesn't. But she is a typical white person, who, if she sees somebody on the street that she doesn't know, well there's a reaction that's in our experiences that won't go away and can sometimes come out in the wrong way."

We're perfectly willing to concede that if she crosses the street when she sees strangers because she thinks they're agents of the government who want to inject her with AIDs in order to exterminate white people then she is just like his pastor.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:00 PM


Milkie Way Malt (Bon Appetit magazine)

2 1/2 cups vanilla bean ice cream

1/3 cup whole milk

1 tablespoon malted milk powder

1 tablespoon milk chocolate chips

1 tablespoon caramel sauce

Chocolate syrup

Malted milk balls, coarsely crushed

Put two 8-ounce glasses in freezer to chill. Combine first four ingredients and caramel sauce in blender; process on high until smooth, about 30 seconds. Squirt chocolate syrup and caramel sauce into both glasses; split milk mixture between glasses. Top with malted milk balls.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:53 PM


Whatever Happened to Moqtada? (DAN SENOR and ROMAN MARTINEZ, March 20, 2008, Wall Street Journal)

The principal reason for Sadr's ability to augment his power during these years was the absence of security in Baghdad. This vacuum left the Shiite community completely vulnerable to an unrelenting wave of terror attacks from the Sunni insurgency and al Qaeda. With the U.S. Government's failure to engage in serious counterinsurgency and make it a priority to provide basic safety for Iraqi civilians, Sadr and his Mahdi militia moved quickly to fill the void.

As one Sadrist militant told the International Crisis Group last year: "The Mahdi Army's effort to conquer neighborhoods is highly sophisticated. It presents itself as protector of Shiites and recruits local residents to assist in this task. In so doing, it gains support from people who possess considerable information -- on where the Sunnis and Shiites are, on who backs and who opposes the Sadrists and so forth." By the end of 2006, U.S. military officials had concluded that sectarian violence by Shiite militants had surpassed al Qaeda and the insurgency as the principal threat to Iraqi stability.

In retrospect, that assessment marked the high point of Sadr's influence. While his empire had expanded, it had generated its own resentments. Ordinary citizens chafed at the harsh version of Islamic law imposed by Sadr's lieutenants, not to mention the corruption and brutality of functionaries manning checkpoints and patrolling the streets. Sadr's hold on the broader Shiite community was actually quite tenuous, cemented chiefly by fear of the insurgency and al Qaeda.

In 2007, the U.S. military shifted approach, putting in place for the first time a comprehensive counterinsurgency strategy backed by a surge of troops to support it. The new strategy paid large dividends against al Qaeda and Sunni insurgents, as attacks dropped to 2005 levels and Iraqi deaths due to ethno-sectarian violence declined 90% from June 2007 to March 2008. As Sunni attacks against Shiite civilians declined, so did the rationale for Sadr's authority.

As the International Crisis Group concluded, one "net effect" of the surge "was to leave the Sadrist movement increasingly exposed, more and more criticized and divided, and subject to arrest."

Other factors also contributed to Sadr's marginalization. But the increased security provided by more U.S. forces was essential in removing an underlying rationale for the Sadrist movement. Newsweek's 2006 profile had predicted that "the longer the American occupation lasts, the less popular America gets -- and the more popular Sadr and his ilk become." But as a recent ABC News poll of Iraqis makes clear, Shiite support for local militias has plummeted over the past year. The full implementation of the surge helped weaken Sadr, not make him more popular.

While his ability to provide the Shi'a with security when we weren't may well have kept Baghdad from collapsing entirely, just as important was the retaliation against the Ba'athists which served notice that the Sunni were never going to retake control of the Shi'a they despised.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:49 PM


No Surrender (FOUAD AJAMI, March 19, 2008, Wall Street Journal)

In Iraq, America was surrounded by enemies who were sure from the start that the great foreign power was destined to fail. They could not be given the satisfaction of a hasty American retreat. The stakes had grown: We were under the gaze of populations with a keen eye for the weakness of strangers. It was apt and proper that the leader who launched this war did not give up on it.

Speaking in Nashville, Tenn., to the convention of National Religious Broadcasters on March 11, President Bush defended, yet again, the war in Iraq: "The decision to remove Saddam Hussein was the right decision early in my presidency; it is the right decision at this point in my presidency; and it will forever be the right decision."

Mr. Bush made freedom in Arab-Islamic lands his cause. He rejected laments that Arabs do not possess a freedom gene, and that they are fated to tyranny. "The liberty we value is not ours alone," he told this Nashville convention. "Freedom is not America's gift to the world; it is God's gift to all humanity."

This has been Mr. Bush's wager ever since the hunt for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq ran aground, and the war and its sacrifices had to be defended and fortified. Grant Mr. Bush his due: He upheld his belief that liberty can stick on Iraqi and Arab soil, in the face of great doubts and misgivings.

...if you're reshaping the Future.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:45 PM


Obama blew it: What the candidate should have said about race (Michael Meyers, March 20, 2008, LA Times)

[I]'d say that considering the nation's undivided attention to this all-important speech, which gave him an unrivaled opportunity to lift us out of racial and racist thinking, Obama blew it.

I waited in vain for our hybrid presidential candidate to speak the simple truth that there is no such thing as "race," that we all belong to the same race -- the human race. I waited for him to mesmerize us with a singular and focused appeal to hold all candidates to the same standards no matter their race or their sex or their age. But instead Obama gave us a full measure of racial rhetoric about how some of us with an "untrained ear" -- meaning whites and Asians and Latinos -- don't understand and can't relate to the so-called black experience.

Well, I am black, and I can't relate to a "black experience" that shields and explains old-style black ministers who rant and rave about supposed racial differences and about how America ought to be damned. [...]

I expected Obama, who up to now had been steering a perfect course away from the racial boxes of the past, to challenge racial labels and so-called black experiences. We're all mixed up, and if we haven't yet been by the process of miscegenation, trans-racial adoptions and interracial marriage, we sure ought to get used to how things will be in short order.

That would have been the forward-looking message of a visionary candidate. But Obama erred by looking backward -- as far back as slavery. What does slavery have to do with the price of milk at the grocery store?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:41 PM


Geraldine Ferraro resents being lumped in with the Rev. Wright in Obama speech (Gene Maddaus, 03/19/2008, Daily Breeze)

Former vice presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro said today that she objected to the comparison Sen. Barack Obama drew between her and his former pastor in his speech on race relations Tuesday. [...]

"To equate what I said with what this racist bigot has said from the pulpit is unbelievable," Ferraro said today.

...Senator Obama can't mau-mau folks into believing that we're all Reverend Wrights.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:32 PM


A Nagging Wright Question (Michael Crowley, March 20, 2008, New Republic: The Stump)

There's one thing about the Jeremiah Wright controversy that keeps nagging at me: This crazy shibboleth promoted by Wright that the US government "lied about inventing the HIV virus as a means of genocide against people of color."

Of all the outrageous statements we've heard from Wright, this one is in a special category. Some of Wright's other outbursts are simply offensive name calling ("US of KKK-A," "God Damn America"). Others may shock middle America but are common on the left, and at least arguable, (US foreign policy invited the 9/11 attacks, rich racist whites run America, Hiroshima was a moral abomination).

But this AIDS thing is something different. First of all, it is not an opinion: It is a demonstrable falsehood. Not only that, it promotes a wildly conspiratorial wordview, one extremely corrosive to black America. It instills African-Americans with a belief that whites aren't just prejudiced, but trying to eliminate them. I can understand blacks grievances about, say, the war on drugs. But how could any black kid who thinks the white establishment is propagating genocide want to succeed in (white) American society? How could he ever trust any white person he meets? And what are the consequences of that for both races?

Even stranger, why do you need to believe in the dubious conspiracy when Family Planning/abortion was adopted for openly eugenic reasons? Of course. those are things Democrats continue to advocate, along with decriminalization of the drugs that wreaked such havoc in black communities, maintaining public housing warehouses, opposing welfare reform, etc. An honest look at whose policies are detrimental to black America would require a repudiation of Barack Obama from the pulpit.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:39 AM


Gold and oil lure rattled investors, despite risks (Diana B. Henriques, 3/20/08, IHT)

Oil and metals prices fell sharply Thursday during Asian market hours on concern that a U.S. recession would reduce demand for raw materials. Oil fell below $100 a barrel to $99.59, well below a record $111.80 earlier in the week. Gold fell to $904.65 a troy ounce, down from a recent record of more than $1,000. Copper also lost ground.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:07 AM


Race tightening in Taiwan (Keith Bradsher, March 20, 2008, IHT)

China's suppression of protests in Tibet and missteps by the opposition Nationalist Party have created a close race in Taiwan's presidential election on Saturday, as a seemingly insuperable lead for the Nationalist candidate, Ma Ying-jeou, has narrowed considerably, politicians and political analysts said.

A narrow victory for Ma would give him a weaker mandate for his goal of pursuing closer economic relations with mainland China. An actual defeat for Ma, now a possibility although not yet the most likely outcome, would be a serious setback for Beijing officials, who have cultivated relations with the Nationalist Party, or Kuomintang, over the past four years.

Mainland Chinese officials loathe Taiwan's current president, Chen Shui-bian, and his party, the Democratic Progressive Party, for pursuing greater political separation from the mainland.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:34 AM


Will the Answer Outlive Questions?: Obama's Speech Driven by Necessity (Dan Balz, 3/20/08, Washington Post)

Obama said that the politically easy thing would be to hope that the firestorm triggered by video excerpts from Wright's sermons would somehow fade away. Instead, he said, the Wright controversy provided the pretext for -- even demanded! -- a more honest confrontation of the racial divisions that persist and a more open-minded understanding by whites and blacks of why bitterness and anger exist on each side of that divide.

Obama obviously knew better than to pretend that the ugly controversy would somehow disappear. Wright, in fact, had created the most serious crisis Obama has faced in this campaign, and no amount of wishing would change that fact. The candidate rightly understood the threat to his candidacy and immediately told his advisers that he wanted to deliver a major speech on the subject. By enlarging the discussion, he hoped to defuse what was most dangerous to his political aspirations: his long association with a prominent figure who has said things that many Americans -- white and black -- find repulsive.

Democratic strategists see the dangers ahead for Obama. While not lethal to his hopes of winning the Democratic nomination or the presidency, they say, the damage could be lasting. "This has tarnished Obama's image, though certainly not in a fatal way, and we will see it used by the GOP repeatedly if he is the nominee," one strategist said in an e-mail on Wednesday. "At the end of the day, I believe whoever the Democratic nominee is will win, but those who think that, if Obama is the nominee, he won't have Clinton-like negatives by Election Day are naive. This whole episode underlines that point." [...]

What cannot be known at this point is how the episode is resonating around the country among independents or those who were once called Reagan Democrats. Has Obama reached them in a way that inspires their confidence that he is perhaps uniquely equipped not just to start a conversation but to lead the country to a new, if still imperfect, place in racial relations? Or has he simply raised doubts among them about who he is?

Consider only what he accused Reagan Democrats of:
[T]hese resentments aren't always expressed in polite company. But they have helped shape the political landscape for at least a generation. Anger over welfare and affirmative action helped forge the Reagan Coalition.

You voted for Reagan because of racial resentment. Vote for me, you racists.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:29 AM


Clinton Facing Narrower Path to Nomination (ADAM NAGOURNEY, 3/20/08, NY Times)

Despite Mrs. Clinton’s last-minute trip to Michigan on Wednesday, Democrats there signaled that they are unlikely to hold a new primary. That apparently dashed Mrs. Clinton’s hopes of a new showdown in a state she feels she could win, and it left the state’s delegates in limbo.

The inaction in Michigan followed a similar collapse of her effort to seek another matchup with Mr. Obama in Florida, where, as in Michigan, she won an earlier primary held in violation of party rules.

Without new votes in Florida and Michigan, it will be that much more difficult for Mrs. Clinton to achieve a majority in the total popular vote in the primary season, narrow Mr. Obama’s lead among pledged delegates or build a new wave of momentum.

If Senator Obama's poll numbers keep deteriorating the Democratic Convention could be like the GOP's in 1976, when the whole hall realized they'd nominated the wrong guy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:23 AM


Sarkozy rebuked: The French president is treating his local-election setback as a call for more and faster reform. Not all voters see it that way (The Economist, 3/19/08)

Mr Fillon insisted this week that the government would step up its reforms in response to the election. The message, he told voters, was that “you have invited us to put even more force into our policy of change.” There are plans for two new laws in the coming months: one to make it easier to shed workers and loosen the labour market, another to stiffen competition and cut red tape for entrepreneurs. In addition, the government is due to review its structure of social charges, as well as its public-pension rules.

Mr Fillon may be right that many voters are impatient for more and deeper reforms. Certainly, this is the case for the professionals who voted for the centre-right last year and now feel disappointed. In the long run, such changes should boost economic growth as well.

But it is less clear that the French in general want change. If anything, they are looking for more protection and higher pay, not for easier firing rules or more competition. Already interest-groups from taxi-drivers to retailers are fighting deregulation. The test in the months ahead will be whether Mr Sarkozy can resist making crowd-pleasing gestures in hopes of propping up his short-term popularity and instead recover the reformist reflexes that marked his early months in office.

...always throw the long ball.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:19 AM


Clinton doubles lead in Pennsylvania (DAVID PAUL KUHN, 3/20/08, Politico)

Clinton now leads Barack Obama 51 to 35 percent among likely Democratic primary voters, according to the Franklin and Marshall College Poll. In February, the same poll found that Clinton was ahead by half that margin, 44 to 37 percent.

The Franklin and Marshall survey comes on the heels of a poll by Quinnipiac University released Tuesday. It also showed Clinton doubling her lead, with 53 to 41 percent over Obama this week, up from 49 to 43 percent in late February. [...]

Another survey of likely Democratic primary voters on March 15 and 16, by Public Policy Polling, showed Clinton with a 56 to 30 percent lead over Obama.

John McCain will win PA.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:36 AM


British actor Paul Scofield dies at 86 (he Associated Press, March 20, 2008)

Scofield made few films even after the Oscar for his 1966 portrayal of Tudor statesman Sir Thomas More. He was a stage actor by inclination and by his gifts -- a dramatic, craggy face and an unforgettable voice that was likened to a Rolls Royce starting up or the rumbling sound of low organ pipes.

Even his greatest screen role was a follow up to a play -- the London stage production of "A Man for All Seasons," in which he starred for nine months. Scofield also turned in a performance in the 1961 New York production that won him extraordinary reviews and a Tony Award.

"With a kind of weary magnificence, Scofield sinks himself into the part, studiously underplays it, and somehow displays the inner mind of a man destined for sainthood," Time magazine's said.

Actor Richard Burton, once regarded as the natural heir to Laurence Olivier and John Gielgud at the summit of British theater, said it was Scofield who deserved that place. "Of the 10 greatest moments in the theater, eight are Scofield's," he said.

Scofield was an unusual star -- a family man who lived almost his entire life within a few miles of his birthplace in southern England and hurried home after work to his wife and children. He didn't seek the spotlight, gave interviews sparingly, and at times seemed to need coaxing to venture out, even onto the stage he loved.

-OBIT: Paul Scofield, Oscar-winning actor, dies (Nigel Reynolds, 20/03/2008, Daily Telegraph)

In 2004, a poll of actors of the Royal Shakespeare Company, including Ian McKellen, Donald Sinden, Janet Suzman and Anthony Sher, acclaimed his performance as King Lear as the greatest Shakespearean performance ever.

On at least two occasions occasions he refused a knighthood, though he finally agreed to become a Companion of Honour in 2001.

He died peacefully yesterday in a hospital near his home in Sussex, his agent Rosalind Chatto said.

He had been suffering from leukemia.

He married the actress Joy Parker in 1943 and the couple had two children, Martin, who became a lecturer in 19th century English literature at kent University, and Sarah.

The highlights of his theatrical career included the stage version of A Man for All Seasons, the title role in Ben Jonson’s Volpone at the National Theatre in 1977, and playing Antonio Salieri in the original production in 1979 of Peter Shaffer’s Amadeus.

-OBIT: Paul Scofield, Oscar-winning actor, dies (Martina Smit, 20/03/2008, Daily Telegraph)
-OBIT: Oscar-winning actor Scofield dies (BBC, 3/20/08)
-OBIT: Paul Scofield, Oscar-winning actor, has died (Fran Yeoman, 3/20/08, Times of London)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:16 AM


Politics and you … (Joe Posnanski, March 20th, 2008, Curiously long posts)

A few years ago — well, I can tell you, it was 12 years ago — I read a story in Esquire or GQ or one of those magazines by one of my writing heroes Richard Ben Cramer about Bob Dole. This was before I read RBC’s brilliant “What it Takes,” his book about the 1988 Presidential Candidates and what it takes to become president — more, what it takes to even WANT to become president.

Anyway, at the time I didn’t know much about Bob Dole — this was before I moved to Kansas City — and I was not especially open to knowing more. I always kind of just felt like he was a grumpy old guy who would stop you on the street and lecture you about wearing your baseball cap backward. I’m sure I only read the story because I was on a plane, and perhaps because I was intrigued by Richard Ben, who had written a very interesting and offbeat piece in Sports Illustrated about Baltimore.

Anyway, I started reading it, and I found something odd. I found that I really liked Bob Dole. This had nothing to do with the presidential race or his political history or anything else. I liked HIM. I liked his life story. I liked the way he dedicated his life to this country. I liked that he had (has) convictions, and while he wasn’t perfect, while he had made his mistakes, that didn’t make me like him less. It actually made me like him MORE. Because he kept coming back. He survived German machine gun fire. He survived the turbulent 60s, when he was at various times despised by the conservatives and moderates alike. He referred to himself in the third person, but didn’t seem to mean anything by it. I really liked the guy. I admired him in a way that goes beyond politics.

You really ought to read Mr. Posnanski if you're at all interested in sports and every American should read What it Takes.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:12 AM


Obama's Speech Applauded -- By Republican Foes (JAKE TAPPER, March 19, 2008, ABC News)

"He didn't explain why he continued to attend a church whose minister has a long history of divisive and hate-filled rhetoric, when the fundamental message of Obama's campaign is unity and bring us together," said Republican pollster Whit Ayres.

Republicans say they will combine Wright's anti-American rhetoric with other moments such as Obama's removal of his American flag pin because he felt it had become a substitute for true patriotism, or his not covering his heart during the national anthem last summer.

Other incidents, such as Obama's accepting money from a member of the Weathermen Underground or Michelle Obama's statement about feeling proud of the United States "for the first time in her adult life" because of her husband's campaign, may also be revisited.

His attempt to delegitimize thirty years of conservatism makes his beliefs about race more of an issue, not less.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:06 AM


Facebook throws down online chat challenge (Kevin Allison, March 20, 2008, Financial Times)

Facebook plans to launch a new service that will enable the social network website's 60m users to chat with each other online.

The service, which is expected to roll out sometime in the next few weeks, represents Facebook's latest challege to AOL, Microsoft and other makers of popular instant messaging programmes.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:33 AM


Parents should learn maths with their children (Graeme Paton, 20/03/2008, Daily Telegraph)

Parents should join in children's mathematics lessons to improve their own numeracy skills, a Government-backed report says.

They should learn the same methods as their sons and daughters so they can help them with homework, it claims.

If you didn't learn it when you were a kid, with adults telling you how vital it is, why would you learn it twenty years later when you've never had to use it?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:20 AM


Only a couple hours left and we've got stacks of books just waiting to be given away....

How To Avoid Embarrassment in Bracket Pool (JOHN HOLLINGER, March 19, 2008, NY Sun)

Let me guess … you walked into work this week innocently enough, and then, out of the blue, Bob from finance asked you to join the NCAA tournament pool and promised it would be loads of fun.

Now you're staring at this 64-team grid, and you don't want to embarrass yourself and look like a buffoon in front of your co-workers.

Don't worry, I'm here to help. Today we'll review some of the basic rules that lead to a good tournament bracket.

By a "good" bracket, I don't necessarily mean "successful" — because of the tournament's single-elimination format, random flukes can and do mess things up, which is why the person who knows the least about basketball often ends up winning the office pool. The idea, instead, is to give yourself a chance to win. Remember, if 50 people enter the pool, you only have a 2% chance of winning. Even if my genius quintuples your odds, you'll still only win once a decade. Don't say you weren't warned.

Here's another word to the wise, please do join our NCAA pool,,
and the Brothers Judd group, but if Chris Rohlfs challenges you to a game of Scrabulous, duck him. He's treating me like W does Harry Reid....

And our friends at FSB just donated another book, a sci-fi -- for the libertarians -- Jeanette Winterson's Stone Gods, filled with steamin' hot robot sex :

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:10 AM


Obama Lied About My Dad (Michael Reagan, 3/20/08,

What was not expected was Barack H. Obama’s use of a litany of America’s past racist offenses to justify not only Wright’s blatant hatred of white America but his suggestion that it was a sentiment shared by most African Americans. And that is simply not true.

Nor was it true, as Obama charged, that the Reagan coalition was created out of white resentment for affirmative action or forced busing.

He charged that “anger over welfare and affirmative action helped forge the Reagan coalition. Politicians routinely exploited fears of crime… talk show hosts and conservative commentators built entire careers unmasking bogus claims of racism while dismissing legitimate discussions of racial injustice and inequality as mere political correctness or reverse racism.”

Poppycock! These are not only outright falsehoods, but echoes of what Obama learned at the feet of Jeremiah Wright and now preaches as his own beliefs. He learned his lessons well.

When he suggested that my father’s coalition was based on anger over affirmative action and welfare he was peddling a blatant falsehood as egregious in its falsity as Wright’s charge that whites created AIDS to wipe out the black population.

Everything Obama said was directed at suggesting that while Rev. Wright should not have used such inflammatory language, he was somehow justified because of America’s white racism.

...race just isn't important enough to move the election meter significantly, as witness the failure of immigration as an issue for Mitt Romney and company. Opposing affirmative action and Welfare obviously didn't hurt the Gipper, but they were pretty trivial as compared to the economy and the Cold War.

March 19, 2008

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:29 PM


Sarkozy hopes talks with Brown will cement Anglo-French alliance to steer EU policy (Julian Borger, March 20 2008, Guardian)

The French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, hopes to cement an Anglo-French axis to generate a new "critical mass" driving EU foreign and security policy when he makes a state visit to Britain next week, officials said yesterday. Sarkozy, who has frosty relations with Germany's chancellor, Angela Merkel, believes France now has more in common with Britain and the US. He is keen to use the two-day visit to hasten an EU realignment before Paris begins its six-month presidency in July.

"He sees the US, the UK and France as the three centres of freedom in the world," one French official said. "There is not the same kind of feeling about Germany ... in Europe now it is France and Britain that can provide the critical mass."

Until Sarkozy's election postwar French policy had been built on the assumption that the Franco-German relationship was at the heart of the European project.'s a worthwile aspiration for France to want to switch to the side of freedom, but it has a two century track record on the opposing side to make up for.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:18 PM


The first four episodes of fine new show New Amsterdam are available at Fancast and at Fox. The protagonist was a Dutch soldier on Manhattan Island who stopped a massacre of natives. They saved his life...forever. Or at least until he meets "the one," the great love of his life. There are a lot of nice touches--he's been to just about every college at some point, calls his dog "38," knows the punchline to every joke, and so on. But there are serious themes too, among them the centrality of dying to being human.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:04 PM


They don't get much cooler: Why Obama is the perfect McLuhan proxy (Robert Fulford, 3/18/08, National Post)

[Marshall McLuhan] divided players in the public arena into two categories, hot and cool. Hot personalities are single-minded, obsessive, devoted to their policies. They have hard-edged, sharply defined public styles. Those characteristics, McLuhan argued, make them wrong for TV, which favours the cool.

TV flatters a personal style that's open-ended, loose, unpredictable, perhaps slightly inscrutable -- like Obama. Television makes people want to participate, so the wise politician avoids excessive detail and leaves blank spaces for viewers to fill in. Pierre Trudeau, who always retained a certain mystery and was elected by a country that had no idea what he believed, was the ideal McLuhanesque politician, though he might have occasionally gone too far.

McLuhan freely offered advice to his friend Trudeau. The last time was in 1979, when he was briefly opposition leader. After he appeared in Parliament wearing a beard, McLuhan wrote to say it "cooled your image many degrees!" It made Trudeau more mysterious and surprising. But McLuhan suggested that this might not be what Trudeau needed at that particular moment. For whatever reason, Trudeau shaved off the beard.

In the current American campaign there's no doubt where McLuhan would put Hillary Clinton: In his terms she's hot, much too hot. She puts people off by her certainty and her insistence on experience. Her body language screams stiffness, defensiveness, emotional coldness. She fills all the space with data and shuts out the audience. Even her language ("traditional Democratic value") seems old-fashioned. When she appears with Obama, she looks out of place. (She's better on the political blogs because bloggers are usually wonks who love policy details. Obama doesn't do as well among them as he does on TV.)

McLuhan said, "Politics offers yesterday's answers to today's questions." That's more or less the basis of Obama's campaign. He knows politicians bore and exasperate voters and that he needs to separate himself from standard politicians and their irksome bickering. Clinton seems to think voters are unreasonable if they react with annoyance to her intelligent, well-intentioned platform. Perhaps they are unfair but that's not Obama's problem.

His self-chosen job is to project a public persona that people can enthusiastically embrace -- as opposed to the grudging, limited acceptance Clinton's supporters give her.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:54 PM


Obama Web Site Still Carries New Black Panther Party Endorsement (, March 19, 2008)

The New Black Panthers, who inherited their name from the Black Panther Party of the 1960s, has a page on the Obama campaign’s public forums that says it is backing Obama because he “represents ‘positive change’ for all of America. Obama will stir the ‘Melting Pot’ into a better ‘Molten America,’” the group says.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:48 PM


Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:04 PM


A Convergence Of Civilizations: (ADAM KIRSCH, March 19, 2008, NY Sun)

"It seems unlikely that the long struggle between East and West is going to end very soon," he writes on the book's last page. "The battle lines drawn during the Persian Wars more than twenty-three centuries ago are still, in the selfsame corner of the world, very much where they were then." It is the kind of call to arms we might expect from a politician or a polemicist. Coming from a historian, it is surprising, because it seems to negate the first principles of history, which are contingency and change. If Americans are Athenians and Muslims are Persians, then nothing that has happened since the Battle of Marathon really matters; history is not a process, still less a progress, but an eternal deadlock.

The odd thing is that Mr. Pagden's book, simply because it traverses so much time and space, effectively undermines its own thesis. Take the Persian Wars, the first act in the clash of civilizations, in which a grand Eastern despotism, ruled by the Achaemenid monarchs Darius and Xerxes, tried to snuff out the small but resilient democracy of Athens. It is certainly true that, had the Greeks lost the battles of Marathon and Salamis, the course of European history would have been different. Mr. Pagden quotes J.S. Mill's verdict that Marathon was "a more important event in English history" than the Battle of Hastings, when the Normans conquered England itself.

Yet the closer one looks at this history, the more ambiguous it becomes. Athens may have been a democracy in the early fifth century B.C.E., but it had not been one a hundred years before, and it wouldn't be one a hundred years later. The foundational works of Greek political thought, Plato's "Republic" and Aristotle's "Politics," were antidemocratic in tendency. On the other hand, the culture of the Ionian Greek cities that were under Persian rule was hardly stifled by Eastern despotism: The origins of philosophy lay with Ionian Greeks like Heraclitus and Anaximander. All this suggests that, had Persia extended its overlordship to the west coast of the Aegean, much that we prize in Greek culture would still have existed, though in different form. Certainly the fate of democracy as a political system could not have been permanently decided by just two battles.

If even today we remember Persia as an effeminate despotism, the first incarnation of an eternally menacing East, it is largely because of the way this image was perpetuated by later writers. It is thanks to Herodotus, Mr. Pagden shows, that the Persian Wars became a morality play about the superiority of Greek isonomia, or equality before the law, to Persian absolutism. Yet conveniently, two centuries later on, when Alexander the Great reversed Xerxes's campaign — leading a Greek empire on an aggressive campaign into Asia — the stigma of despotism did not attach to him. On the contrary, as Mr. Pagden writes, what looked like monolithic imperialism in the Persians was, in Alexander, an enlightened vision of a world state: "[H]e introduced into Greece, and subsequently into the whole of Europe, an ambition for universalism that would determine the future of the continent." According to one 20th century historian Mr. Pagden quotes, the League of Nations itself could be traced back to Alexander's example.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:13 PM


'I see fire in the eyes of the Tibetans' (Vicky Nanjappa, March 19, 2008, Rediff)

Nawang Sithar left his motherland, Tibet, and came to India as a refugee in 1960, a year after the March 10, 1959 apprising. The 70-year-old has witnessed three major protests by Tibetans -- first in 1959, then 1987 and the present day uprising in Lhasa. According to him, the ongoing protest could be the most effective and the toughest.

Sithar, who spoke with the help of a translator, told [...]

The current battle is going to be the toughest and I see fire in the eyes of the Tibetans, as they are determined to make their point. I know China is more prepared this time and from what I hear and read, I also realise that they are more stubborn than before.

I personally feel that China cannot afford any embarrassment this time, considering the fact that the Olympics is round the corner. The more they subdue us, the more embarrassed they are going to be.

Since the Olympics is round the corner, I personally feel that China may give in a bit if not fully. However, it all depends on the youth of Tibet and also the manner in which men in power handle the issue. We have only hope and determination left and cannot rely on man power as we have become a minority in Tibet also.

Although there are indications that protests will go on till the Olympics, I feel that the heat should be on. We have gone quiet in the past and this has worked well for the Chinese.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:08 PM


Welcome to the right, Mr. Mamet: The dramatist's conversion to conservatism is good for him and for the right. (Andrew Klavan, March 19, 2008, LA Times)

So now Mamet has grasped the nettle. He will come to find out just how small-minded, exclusionary and intellectually corrupt many on the left can be. Colleagues may abandon him; theater critics will contrive to ignore and attack him; his dependable audience may turn away.

But he will also discover a right wing he never knew. He will discover thinkers who seek historical and moral truth as if it really mattered, and writers who defend liberty as if it were what in fact it is: the prerequisite of full humanity. Rather than the low and tiresome obsession of the left with the color of people's skins, he will find people who embrace a philosophical colorblindness. He will meet women of intelligence and competence who -- mirabile dictu -- don't despise men and manliness but openly admire them. Yes, he will find that a gathering of right-wingers is less welcoming to gay people than the left is, but he will also watch something astounding unfold. Unlike liberals, rightists, after a period of open discussion and thought, will actually admit when they're wrong and change their minds. This anti-gay prejudice will fall -- it's falling now.

The big question is whether the good men and women of the right will realize what a gift they have been given in Mamet. Will they turn out for his plays and embrace their excellence? His is a hard language of four-letter words and scorching insights. Will rightists, despite their commitment to good behavior and values, remember that art is an examination of the world as it is, not as we would have it be?

The right has gained an artist.

...we gained the man.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:50 PM


'I was seen as an object, not a person': Lap-dancing clubs are advertised as exclusive, glamorous entertainment for 'gentlemen'. As a former dancer tells Rachel Bell, the reality for the women who work in them is both degrading and dangerous (Rachel Bell, March 19, 2008, Guardian)

Lap-dancing reinforced all Elena's negative beliefs about herself and about men. "The men just see you as an object, not a person, and whether you are equally engaged in their desire is irrelevant. Increasingly, you learn to despise the men because of the way they perceive you. Lap-dancing is about creating a situation whereby the men feel they are doing you a favour - that's the way the game is set up, so all the power is with the customer."

What was the first hint that stripping for money wouldn't get men to take you seriously?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:23 PM


Obama’s Evasions (The Editors, 3/19/08, Nationalk Review)

[N]ot many of us have heard our religious leaders ask the congregation to pray for God to “damn America.” So Obama then tried to draw a distinction between Wright’s videotaped rants and his typical preaching (which could merely “be considered controversial”). Those rants, he said, “expressed a profoundly distorted view of this country — a view that sees white racism as endemic, and that elevates what is wrong with America above all that we know is right with America; a view that sees the conflicts in the Middle East as rooted primarily in the actions of stalwart allies like Israel, instead of emanating from the perverse and hateful ideologies of radical Islam.”

But that distorted view of the country is at the heart of Wright’s “black-liberation theology”; it is one of the foundations of his ministry. For Obama to pretend his videotaped statements were an aberration is a dishonest evasion.

That was not the only slippery portion of the speech. Obama repeatedly compared Rev. Wright to Geraldine Ferraro, who recently made an essentially true but poorly formulated remark about how Obama’s race has helped his candidacy. For that, she is the moral equivalent of a man who preached that the 9/11 attacks were “chickens coming home to roost”? We would have thought Obama was above this.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:33 PM


A Speech That Fell Short (Michael Gerson, March 19, 2008, Washington Post)

Barack Obama has run a campaign based on a simple premise: that words of unity and hope matter to America. Now he has been forced by his charismatic, angry pastor to argue that words of hatred and division don't really matter as much as we thought. [...]

Take an issue that Obama did not specifically confront yesterday. In a 2003 sermon, Wright claimed, "The government lied about inventing the HIV virus as a means of genocide against people of color."

This accusation does not make Wright, as Obama would have it, an "occasionally fierce critic of American domestic and foreign policy." It makes Wright a dangerous man. He has casually accused America of one of the most monstrous crimes in history, perpetrated by a conspiracy of medical Mengeles. If Wright believes what he said, he should urge the overthrow of the U.S. government, which he views as guilty of unspeakable evil. If I believed Wright were correct, I would join him in that cause.

But Wright's accusation is batty, reflecting a sputtering, incoherent hatred for America. And his pastoral teaching may put lives at risk because the virus that causes AIDS spreads more readily in an atmosphere of denial, quack science and conspiracy theories.

Obama's speech implied that these toxic views are somehow parallel to the stereotyping of black men by Obama's grandmother, which Obama said made him "cringe" -- both are the foibles of family. But while Grandma may have had some issues to work through, Wright is accusing the American government of trying to kill every member of a race. There is a difference.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:56 AM


Birth Control a review of Fatal Misconception by Matthew Connelly (REIHAN SALAM, March 19, 2008, NY Sun)

Outside of India, few remember Sanjay Gandhi, Indira Gandhi's ne'er-do-well son. Yet as Matthew Connelly recounts in "Fatal Misconception" (Belknap Press, 544 pages, $34.95), his global history of the population control movement, Sanjay played a crucial role in one of the vilest episodes in the history of independent India, namely the sterilization of millions of Indians. In 1976, he initiated a campaign to cleanse Delhi of slums, bulldozing entire neighborhoods, most of them old and densely populated, and then had his cronies tell the displaced that they'd only be given new homes if they agreed to have vasectomies or tubectomies. The campaign spread to the countryside, where zealous officials engaged in coordinated attacks that resembled pogroms — but rather than target the members of a single ethnic group, they sterilized every poor man they could. Sterilization camps were filled to the brim with members of India's most despised groups, namely Muslims and Hindus drawn from so-called low castes. It's impossible to disentangle how much sterilization was straightforwardly coercive — i.e., forced at gunpoint — and how much was "incentivized" through slightly subtler threats — i.e., we will deny you the means to your livelihood.

This is the kind of behavior one would expect from a con man or a gangster, but this particular gangster had an army of civil servants and police at his beck and call. And not only Indian support: For all Sanjay's nationalist bluster, this was a crime the country could not commit alone — a campaign this sophisticated and sweeping required expertise and investment from abroad. Sanjay's effort to cleanse India of what one Indian official called "people pollution" was backed by powerful international nonprofits dedicated to the cause of "family planning." The World Bank, appallingly enough, pressed India to sharply increase its sterilization efforts; after an exhaustive look at India's comprehensive program to curb population growth, Robert McNamara, then president of the organization, essentially cheered Sanjay on.

But Mr. McNamara was not alone, or even particularly unusual in his support of forced sterilization; he was just one in a long line of Western mandarins who embraced the cause of population control. Gunnar and Alva Myrdal, the celebrated Swedish sociologists, embraced in the 1930s a supposedly benign version that aimed to improve the eugenic quality of the Swedish volk, and which promoted compulsory sterilization. American birth control pioneer Margaret Sanger, a central figure in "Fatal Misconception," also called for sterilization aimed at combating "dysgenic qualities of body and mind" years after the Nazi death camps. To be sure, there were also figures such as UN population bureaucrat Frank Notestein, who championed modernization and female literacy as a more effective means of reducing population growth in the developing world. But the overall impression is of a population control movement defined by arrogance, and by a firm belief that the best of humanity risked being drowned out by the dregs.

Like those Darwinian textbooks (courtesy of Brother Cohen) teach: "Biology not only tells us about animals and plants, but also shows us the laws we must follow in our lives, and steels our wills to live and fight according to these laws."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:00 AM


Even experts can't grasp this crisis (David Leonhardt, March 19, 2008, NY Times)

Raise your hand if you don't quite understand this whole financial crisis.

It has been going on for seven months now, and many people probably feel as if they should understand it. But they don't, not really. The part about the housing crash seems simple enough. With banks whispering sweet encouragement, people bought homes they couldn't afford, and now they are falling behind on their mortgages.

But the overwhelming majority of homeowners are still doing just fine. So how is it that a mess concentrated in one part of the mortgage business — subprime loans — has frozen the credit markets, sent stock markets gyrating, caused the collapse of Bear Stearns, left the economy on the brink of the worst recession in a generation and forced the Federal Reserve to take its boldest action since the Depression?

I'm here to urge you not to feel sheepish. This may not be entirely comforting, but your confusion is shared by many people who are in the middle of the crisis.

...and it's easy enough to write the Just So Story. In recent years you've had the Fed crank interest rates despite people having no expectation of inflation in the future. You've had oil prices go up to absurd heights on the basis of speculation, rather than supply. You've had media hysteria about housing prices, the debt, entitlements, etc.

It would be perfectly reasonable, under such circumstances, to keep your extra money in low risk savings accounts until matters shake out a little. You've still got your house. You're still buying stocks in your 401k or IRA or whatever. But you're being cautious with your own cash and the business you work for is being cautious with its cash. All that caution may be decelerating the velocity of money enough to create some genuine problems. In effect, folks could be having a fairly rational response to what are basically emotional issues. The Fed's difficult task is to try to break the psychological barrier that's built up in order to get the flow going again.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:54 AM


Mikhail Gorbachev admits he is a Christian (Malcolm Moore, 19/03/2008, Daily Telegraph)

Mikhail Gorbachev, the last Communist leader of the Soviet Union, has acknowledged his Christian faith for the first time, paying a surprise visit to pray at the tomb of St Francis of Assisi. [...]

Mr Gorbachev's surprise visit confirmed decades of rumours that, although he was forced to publicly pronounce himself an atheist, he was in fact a Christian, and casts a meeting with Pope John Paul II in 1989 in a new light.

Mr Gorbachev, 77, was baptised into the Russian Orthodox Church and his parents were Christians.

In addition, the parents of his wife Raisa were deeply religious and were killed during the Second World War for having religious icons in their home.

Ronald Reagan, the former United States president, allegedly told his close aides on a number of occasions that he felt his opponent during the Cold War was a "closet believer".

Note that the headline writer went with "admits," not "acknowledges."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:48 AM


More hummus, please (Renée Enna, March 19, 2008, Chicago Tribune)

Hummus, that Middle Eastern spread starring chickpeas, oil, and sometimes tahini (sesame seed paste), isn't hard to make but it's even easier to buy. The number of brands is increasing and so are the flavors. Maybe that's no surprise. Hummus (also spelled hommos) is healthful and delicious (as a sandwich spread or veggie dip, for starters) and low in fat and calories; few brands in our tasting exceeded 25 calories per tablespoon. [...]

The winner, Oasis Mediterranean Cuisine, was purchased at Whole Foods Market. Tasters loved its flavor, texture and authenticity; it also had the fewest calories per tablespoon (14). It was followed by two familiar supermarket brands: Athenos placed a close-behind second, Tribe finished third.

Here are the winners, with tasters' remarks.

1. Oasis Mediterranean Cuisine (7.5 points. 16 ounces, $4.39; 27 cents per ounce): "Nice tart kick that mellows out." "Nice chunky texture." "Tastes like canned chickpeas."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:17 AM


GOP sees Rev. Wright as pathway to victory (Jonathan Martin, March 19, 2008, Politico)

[T]he video trove has convinced some that, after months of praying for Hillary Clinton and the automatic enmity which she arouses, that they may actually have easier prey.

“For the first time, some Republicans are rethinking Hillary as their first choice,” said Alex Castellanos, a veteran media consultant who recently worked for Mitt Romney’s campaign.

Even Obama’s much-lauded Tuesday speech, which detailed his relationship with his church and focused on the issue of racial reconciliation, failed to shake the notion that Republicans had been given a rare political gift.

“It was a speech written to mau-mau the New York Times editorial board, the network production people and the media into submission. Beautifully calibrated but deeply dishonest,” said GOP media consultant Rick Wilson, who crafted the 2002 ad tying then-Sen. Max Cleland to Osama bin Laden. “Not good enough.”

The Democrats gave us a gift and we didn't get them anything?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:39 AM


Debate Intensifies on Boycott of Beijing Olympics Over Tibet Crackdown (VOA News, 18 March 2008)

A proposal to boycott the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics has gained support following reports of China's response to Tibetan protests. [...]

Earlier Tuesday, president of the European Parliament Hans-Gert Poettering encouraged political leaders to consider boycotting the opening ceremonies if the violence in Tibet continues.

An international media rights group, Reporters Without Borders, also is urging political officials to boycott the ceremony. The Paris-based group accused China of breaking the promises it made when it was chosen to host the Summer Games.

In Washington, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Thomas Christensen told lawmakers the United States is not threatening a boycott. The official said the Olympics are an opportunity for China to show progress on human rights and other matters.

This one's a gimme for John McCain. Humiliating China not only accords with the global crusade but would serve him well with Evangelicals.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:01 AM


Obama's faith in the reasoning abilities of the American public (Glenn Greenwald, March 18, 2008, Salon)

I haven't written about the Obama speech yet (video here) because I spent much of the day reading the instantaneous reactions of virtually everyone else, and because the issues raised by the speech are complex and my views about it are somewhat ambiguous. Personally, I found the speech riveting, provocative, insightful, thoughtful and courageous -- courageous because it eschewed almost completely all cliches, pandering and condescension, the first time I can recall a political figure of any significance doing so when addressing a controversial matter.

There were numerous manipulative tactics which the average cynical political strategist would have urged him to employ, and none of those were found in his speech.

...we don't Reason too well, but our reading comprehension doesn't suck. Leave us consider just two of the more cynical and manipulative parts of the speech.

First, on a personal level, there's his equating his grandmother with the Reverend Wright, whose views he's theoretically there to condemn:

I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community. I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother -- a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe.

Nevermind whether an honest fear, once confessed, and a couple of stereotypes are equivalent to preaching hatred from a pulpit, note the subtexts. For one, Mr. Obama summoned his own whiteness in this speech, as an implicit assurance that he can't then be prejudiced against white people. Second, by lowering the bar of what defines racism so far that it includes even his grandmothers rather trivial comments, he makes everyone into a preacher of hate.

But, as if that weren't enough, he then dismisses the last thirty years of conservative government as just a racist spasm:

Like the anger within the black community, these [white] resentments aren't always expressed in polite company. But they have helped shape the political landscape for at least a generation. Anger over welfare and affirmative action helped forge the Reagan Coalition. Politicians routinely exploited fears of crime for their own electoral ends. Talk show hosts and conservative commentators built entire careers unmasking bogus claims of racism while dismissing legitimate discussions of racial injustice and inequality as mere political correctness or reverse racism.

This isn't just your usual partisan twaddle nor even the typical race-baiting that the Left tends to resort to, but an attempt to delegitimize conservatism altogether.

This was a deeply ugly speech and just because it was delivered well by an attractive face ought not to excuse the vile content.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:23 AM


Ready for Obama ... (JOHN McWHORTER, March 19, 2008, NY Sun)

I have written that it is part of the essence of the modern black American identity to be a victor in private but a victim in public. There is a sense that while initiative is important, blacks still have to display more of it than whites, and that this isn't fair.

Someone who feels this way can have done well and even be comfortable around white people. However, that sense that black America still labors under a general injustice can express itself in taking a certain pleasure in listening to someone like Jeremiah Wright.

They hear a stirring articulation of rebellion, listenable according to a sense that fealty to one's race entails at least a gestural nod to sticking a finger in whitey's eye now and then. The tone, the music of the statements is more vivid than the content. Sermons like this are Sunday morning's version of gangsta rap.

This, then, is why, as Mr. Obama said in his speech yesterday, he could no more disown Reverend Wright than disown black people in general. So, why did the Obamas not find another church after finding out that Reverend Wright had some tart things to say about "the Man"? Because they weren't listening to them as logic, but as atmosphere.

To the Obamas, attending to such rhetoric may even have felt like a gesture of solidarity with less fortunate blacks. Commentators reading this as evidence that the Obamas are conniving to get at the reigns of a nation they loathe are missing that in black America, to an extent that is easy to miss if one has not lived it, race trumps class.

This confusion of gesture with conviction also has thrown people on Michelle Obama's comment about not having been proud of her country until her husband's embrace by the public. Not too long ago everybody went wild over David Brooks's "Bobos in Paradise," about affluent couples managing their mutual funds and fighting to get their kids into top schools while indulging in anti-Establishment statements in decor, dress style, and political opinions.

Spot-on anthropology, all agreed. Then why the sputtering over an affluent, educated woman indicting America as a land of injustice?

It is certainly a fair point that the injustice spluttering sounds just as stupid coming from John Edwards and Hillary Clinton or any other Democrat decrying how tough things are in the most just, most affluent society in human history.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:17 AM


U.S. may relent on Hamas role in talks (Helene Cooper, March 19, 2008, NY Times)

After ruling out talks with Hamas, the militant Islamist group, the Bush administration is using Egypt as an intermediary to open a channel between Israel and representatives of the group, in what some diplomats say could be a softening of the American stance.

While administration officials still say they do not plan to deal directly with Hamas, the United States has given tacit support to an attempt by Egyptian officials to mediate a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas, which controls Gaza.

...but it always catches up.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:10 AM


Paul slighted by the 'neoconservative' GOP (Ralph Z. Hallow, March 19, 2008, Washington Times)

Ron Paul says the legions of newcomers his presidential campaign brought to the Republican Party are getting the cold shoulder from John McCain and from the party.

The Texas congressman says neither he nor his supporters have heard from Mr. McCain or Republican National Committee Chairman Mike Duncan since March 4, when the Arizona senator accumulated enough delegates to clinch the party's presidential nomination.

"I don't think they want them," Mr. Paul told The Washington Times, adding that indifference doesn't surprise him because the party's establishment has deserted traditional conservative principles for big government and foreign intervention.

Amoral isolationists are better suited to the Democratic Party, as its Latino and black Christians are natural Republicans.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:06 AM


Rate cut aims to push fearful investors to take risks: The Fed's intent is to coax money from low-yielding accounts back into stocks (Tom Petruno and David Colker, 3/19/08, Los Angeles Times)

With its latest steep interest rate cut, the nation's central bank is trying again to prod skittish investors and lenders out of their protective crouch.

As the housing market has crumbled and stock prices have slumped, many individuals and institutions have been hoarding trillions of dollars in safe, short-term accounts such as money market mutual funds and bank savings certificates.

But the Federal Reserve just made those accounts far less attractive. By cutting its benchmark short-term rate to 2.25% from 3%, the Fed ensured that many cautious savers soon will be earning less than 2% -- the lowest since 2005.

"Two percent is not going to make anyone very happy," said Brian Gendreau, a market strategist at ING Investment Management in New York.

...but never more wrong than when it holds that we save too little.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:46 AM


A blow against Beijing's security: The revolt by ethnic Tibetans revealed a police apparatus that, despite its size and liberty to act, was caught unawares (Mark Magnier, 3/19/08, Los Angeles Times)

A question the Chinese Communist Party will no doubt be asking itself for years to come is how its vast security apparatus could stumble so badly to allow the situation in ethnically Tibetan regions of China to get so out of control.

Although the budgets and staffing levels of China's police and intelligence agencies are a state secret, it's clear they are among the largest in the world, with roots that penetrate deep into neighborhoods, companies and even monasteries.

Yet a ground-level view I received of the unrest and crackdown at Xiahe in Gansu province last week offered a look at how flat-footed the vaunted security machine could be, at least here, despite its size, budget and ability to act without warrants or other democratic niceties. When the first signs of unrest hit Friday, the police were caught unaware. They rallied later that day but apparently underestimated the people's willingness to protect the monks. Having put out a small skirmish, the police seemed taken by surprise the next day when the protesters came back far stronger. And many of the police tactics appeared to inflame passions rather than calm the situation.

...a massive communist bureaucracy would fall prey to it's own rhetoric about there being no problems and then prove ineffective in dealing with them?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:33 AM


How 'gay' became children's insult of choice (Denise Winterman, 3/19/08, BBC News Magazine)

The word "gay" is now the most frequently used term of abuse in schools, says a report. How did it get to be so prevalent and why do children use homophobic insults to get at each other?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:26 AM


The Sox are leaving for Japan and another baseball season is finally here. Aware that not everyone will be as enthused by that as we are, I set up a separate baseball blog a while ago, but kept it pretty low key and mostly just used it as a personal archives of stories I liked and/or needed to do prep work for Rotisserie leagues. But if a couple of folks would consider becoming contributors--you Yankee, Cub, Mariner, etc. fans -- and keeping an eye out for stories, stats, reviews, etc., maybe we could do something more with it? If you're interested let me know.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:12 AM


Wright Bound: Obama’s speech (Thomas Sowell, 3/19/08, National Review)

Like the Soviet show trials during their 1930s purges, Obama’s speech was not supposed to convince critics but to reassure supporters and fellow-travelers, in order to keep the “useful idiots” useful.

Best-selling author Shelby Steele’s recent book on Barack Obama (A Bound Man) has valuable insights into both the man and the circumstances facing many other blacks — especially those who were never part of the black ghetto culture but who feel a need to identify with it for either personal, political or financial reasons.

Like religious converts who become more Catholic than the pope, such people often become blacker-than-thou. For whatever reason, Barack Obama chose a black extremist church decades ago — even though there was no shortage of very different churches, both black and white — in Chicago.

Some say that he was trying to earn credibility on the ghetto streets, to facilitate his work as a community activist or for his political career. We may never know why.

But now that Barack Obama is running for a presidential nomination, he is doing so on a radically different basis, as a post-racial candidate uniquely prepared to bring us all together.

Yet the past continues to follow him, despite his attempts to bury it and the mainstream media’s attempts to ignore it or apologize for it.

...if Senator Obama's thinking weren't so centered upon race, might he have chosen a church that would be acceptable to white voters when he one day ran for statewide or national office rather than a black nationalist church more suitable to being a leading politician of just one cohort in Cook County or the state of Illinois? There'd be some irony in his current ambitions being done in by his past racial positioning.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:04 AM


Politically Correct: Why Great (and Not So Great) Minds Think Alike: A new study shows how people get inside one anothers' heads (Nikhil Swaminathan, 3/19/08, Scientific American)

Have you ever wondered why you seem to understand some people—even if you know relatively little about them? It turns out there may be a biological reason why it's easier to walk a mile in some people's shoes but not in others'. Researchers report in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA that brain scans suggest people project their own values and feelings onto others if there is even the slightest evidence that the pair have something in common.

Scientists from Harvard University and the University of Aberdeen in Scotland say the reason is that nerve cells, which fire during self-evaluation, also swing into action when people are asked to predict how another person might feel—if, that is, they believe the person would act similarly to them. If, however, they are convinced their peers are not of a same mind, so to speak, those neurons remain inactive.

They say the new finding paves the way for research on how stereotypes may grow from the tiniest seeds into major misconceptions.

"It might help explain why people who learn some small piece of information about some other person," says study co-author Adrianna Jenkins, a psychology graduate student at Harvard, "may have difficulty communicating with that person on a variety of topics."'re kidding yourself.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:33 AM


Why Spitzer was Bushwhacked (F William Engdahl, 3/20/08, Asia Times)

The spectacular and bizarre release of secret FBI wiretap data to the New York Times exposing the tryst of New York State governor Eliot Spitzer, the now-infamous client "No 9", with an upmarket call-girl had relatively little to do with the George W Bush administration’s pursuit of high moral standards for public servants. Spitzer was likely the target of a White House and Wall Street dirty tricks operation to silence one of the most dangerous and vocal critics of their handling of the current financial market crisis.

A useful rule of thumb in evaluating spectacular scandals around prominent public figures is to ask who might want to eliminate that person.

The hooker made a few hundred thousand dollars and the blind guy gets to be governor. Maybe they cooked it up together at the Days Inn?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:18 AM


In U.S. Politics, Party Rule Flips Like Clockwork (Devin Powell, 3/13/08, Discovery News)

A team of three researchers looked at every election since 1854 and tallied the percentage of seats in the House and Senate won by each party.

To find patterns in this data, Samuel Merrill III, a mathematician at Wilkes University in Wilkes-Barre, Penn., borrowed a tool from astronomers: spectral analysis, a statistical method usually used to find repeating cycles in sunspots.

The tool uncovered a rhythm hidden within the Congressional election data, published in the February issue of the American Political Science Review. Every 12 to 15 years, party dominance seemed to swing from the Democrats the Republicans (or vice versa).

To explain this wobble in voter allegiance, Bernard Grofman, a professor of political science at University of California in Irvine, searched for spring-like forces that might cause such a steady oscillation.

Previous research has shown that voters like familiar faces; incumbent candidates typically pull constituents toward their party of choice. But voters also drift away over time, put off by the failed policies of those in power, wanting change.

...first we hamstring them, then we get mad at them for not doing much.

March 18, 2008

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:43 PM


Dusting Off the Archive for the Web (RICHARD PÉREZ-PEÑA, 3/17/08, NY Times)

Sports Illustrated, which faces fierce daily, even hourly, competition with ESPN, Yahoo Sports and others, has something its main rivals do not: a 53-year trove of articles and photos, most of it from an era when the magazine dominated the field of long-form sports writing and color sports photography.

On Thursday, the magazine will introduce the Vault, a free site within that contains all the words Sports Illustrated has ever published and many of the images, along with video and other material, in a searchable database. already draws more than six million unique visitors each month, according to Nielsen Online (publications insist that the true numbers are much higher than Nielsen’s ratings), and executives of the magazine predict the Vault could add five million monthly readers.

“The real hidden value of this is what it does for search,” said John Squires, executive vice president of Time Inc., the Time Warner subsidiary that publishes Sports Illustrated. The move quadruples the site’s volume, he said. “We’ll have to work our way up the search algorithms over time, but eventually, someone searches Johnny Unitas, and is going to pop up.”

Well, we know what we'll post first: William Nack on Secretariat.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:15 PM


An Elegant Farce: Obama’s ‘conversation’ about moral equivalence. (Victor Davis Hanson, 3/18/098, National Review)

The message? Some of us are never quite responsible for what we say. And Obama has no responsibility to explain the inexplicable of how he closely tied himself to someone of such repugnant and racist views. We will never hear “It’s time for Rev. Wright and me to part our separate ways, and here’s why.”

Instead, the entire Wright controversy evolved due to America’s failure to understand the Wright’s past and the present status of race. No doubt, the next time some public figure utters a racist comment — and it will happen — we will then expect to hear about context that explains and excuses such an apparent hurtful outburst.

Obama is right about one thing: We are losing yet another opportunity to talk honestly about race, to hold all Americans to the same standards of public ethics and morality, and to emphasize that no one gets a pass peddling vulgar racism, or enabling it by failing to disassociate himself from its source — not Rev. Wright, not even the eloquent, but now vapid, Barack Obama.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:46 PM


Obama heard controversial comments (POLITICO STAFF | 3/18/08)

Contrary to his earlier suggestion, Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) acknowledged in his speech Tuesday that he had heard “controversial” remarks by the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

“Did I know him to be an occasionally fierce critic of American domestic and foreign policy?” Obama said. “Of course. Did I ever hear him make remarks that could be considered controversial while I sat in church? Yes. Did I strongly disagree with many of his political views? Absolutely — just as I’m sure many of you have heard remarks from your pastors, priests or rabbis with which you strongly disagreed.”

Obama did not specify which statements.

Our pastor said innumerable things we disagreed with, but he's our father. I don't recall him attacking America or any of its ethnic groups nor Israel in his sermons.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:41 PM


France raises idea of boycotting Olympics ceremony over Tibet (Katrin Bennhold, March 18, 2008, IHT)

Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner of France said Tuesday that the European Union should consider punishing China's crackdown in Tibet with a boycott of the opening ceremony of this summer's Olympic Games in Beijing.

His comments followed an appeal by the press advocacy group Reporters Without Borders to governments across the world to shun the highly symbolic ceremony during which the Olympic flame is lighted.

European leaders have been conspicuously quiet since protesters and the Chinese police first clashed in the Tibetan capital, Lhasa, a week ago.

Boycotting all the ceremonial stuff but letting the athletes compete in the events they've trained for is an option worth considering.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:12 PM


U.S. Supreme Court seems poised to strike down D.C. handgun ban: Several justices indicate they believe the 2nd Amendment of the Constitution protects individual rights (David G. Savage, 3/18/08, Los Angeles Times)

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, who is the swing vote in close cases, said he believed the 2nd Amendment did more than bolster the state militia. "In my view, there is a general right to bear arms" that goes beyond serving in the militia, Kennedy said. [...]

Justice Antonin Scalia, like Kennedy, described the 2nd Amendment as protecting individual guns. Justice Clarence Thomas is likely to join with them. And Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. said they believed the city council in Washington, D.C., went too far by prohibiting homeowners from having handguns.

"Why is that a reasonable regulation?" Roberts asked the lawyer defending the city's law.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:10 AM


Going Up for Second: Gun rights@SCOTUS. (John R. Lott Jr., 3/18/08, National Review)

If courts made their decisions based on public opinion, the case that the U.S. Supreme Court will hear today on the District of Columbia’s handgun ban would seem to be easy to decide. The polls and the sheer number of those filing amicus briefs support an individual right to owning guns. Yet, the Justice Department’s brief, while technically also supporting an individual right, has made this debate much more complicated and, for the first time in American history, even compelled a vice president to file his own brief.

A Gallup poll in February found that 73 percent of Americans believe that Second Amendment protects an individual right. On top of that, 305 members of Congress, 31 states, and the Department of Justice all make the same claim. Support is bipartisan. On the other side, only a minority of Democrats — 18 members of congress and attorney generals from five states — signed briefs arguing that it isn’t an individual right.

Even among presidential candidates, Hillary Clinton, John McCain, and Barack Obama all reach the conclusion that there is an individual right to owning guns. Prominent liberal Democratic legal academics such as Akhil Amar, Sanford Levinson, and Laurence Tribe have reached similar conclusions.

Perhaps all this is not surprising given that the Second Amendment is part of the Bill of Rights, and everyplace else in the Constitution that discusses “the right of the individual” the Supreme Court has consistently interpreted this phrase to mean precisely what it seems to mean, that an individual right, not the right of the government, is protected.

While an absolutist reading of any of the Amendments makes no sense as a matter of textual construction, it makes even less as regards the one amendment that is most rigidly qualified and which explicitly incorporates governmental concerns. Tempting as it is for "conservatives" to lop off half the 2nd, so that it reads just "the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed," that is, of course, preceded by a quite specific rationale for any such right and a qualifier (or two), "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State...."

Gun rights activists can make a coherent argument that since the rest of the Bill of Rights is read so overbroadly and out of context the Second deserves to be also. They can also make the argument, as above, that the Constitution means whatever a majority in a poll and a few academics and pols say it does. These are the sorts of arguments that living constitution folks make all the team, because they don't much care for the actual text. But as a purely political matter you can see why the Right would choose to join the parade rather than stand on principle.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:44 AM


Obama's Speech on Race & Religion: Barack Obama Addresses Race & Religion in Wake of Controversy (Barack Obama, March 18, 2008)

The following remarks were provided to ABC News by the campaign of Senator Barack Obama, D-Ill., and are as prepared for delivery. The speech, entitled "A More Perfect Union", was given by Obama on March 18, 2008, at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, Pennslyvania. [...]

[A] similar anger exists within segments of the white community. Most working- and middle-class white Americans don't feel that they have been particularly privileged by their race. Their experience is the immigrant experience  as far as they're concerned, no one's handed them anything, they've built it from scratch. They've worked hard all their lives, many times only to see their jobs shipped overseas or their pension dumped after a lifetime of labor. They are anxious about their futures, and feel their dreams slipping away; in an era of stagnant wages and global competition, opportunity comes to be seen as a zero sum game, in which your dreams come at my expense. So when they are told to bus their children to a school across town; when they hear that an African American is getting an advantage in landing a good job or a spot in a good college because of an injustice that they themselves never committed; when they're told that their fears about crime in urban neighborhoods are somehow prejudiced, resentment builds over time.

Like the anger within the black community, these resentments aren't always expressed in polite company. But they have helped shape the political landscape for at least a generation. Anger over welfare and affirmative action helped forge the Reagan Coalition. Politicians routinely exploited fears of crime for their own electoral ends. Talk show hosts and conservative commentators built entire careers unmasking bogus claims of racism while dismissing legitimate discussions of racial injustice and inequality as mere political correctness or reverse racism.

Just as black anger often proved counterproductive, so have these white resentments distracted attention from the real culprits of the middle class squeeze  a corporate culture rife with inside dealing, questionable accounting practices, and short-term greed; a Washington dominated by lobbyists and special interests; economic policies that favor the few over the many. And yet, to wish away the resentments of white Americans, to label them as misguided or even racist, without recognizing they are grounded in legitimate concerns  this too widens the racial divide, and blocks the path to understanding.

This is where we are right now. It's a racial stalemate we've been stuck in for years.

You really have to be obsessed by race to imagine that it played more then a very peripheral role in the election of Ronald Reagan and the return to dominance of the GOP over the past forty years. But then, Mr. Obama's church affiliation suggests that he is, in fact, so obsessed. Bad as that is, even worse is to assume that everyone is likewise deranged. Little as the Left may like the fact, race isn't much of a concern in Americans everyday lives. So to tell us that the black nationalist views of his church parallel our own views -- whether as whites or Republicans or both -- is just offensive.

On Defensive, Obama Plans Talk on Race (JODI KANTOR and JEFF ZELENY, 3/18/08, NY Times)

Some associates advised him against giving the speech. “Race is now officially on the table. It’s not going away after this,” a senior aide, speaking on condition of anonymity, recalled one adviser saying.

The episode has left Mr. Obama tending to a firestorm fed by matters no less combustible than faith, patriotism and race. It could help Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton’s campaign advance its argument that Mr. Obama is “unvetted,” and that he is less electable than Mrs. Clinton come fall. In interviews, Republican strategists mapped out how Mr. Obama’s association with Mr. Wright could be used against him in a general election.

By addressing head-on such sensitive topics, his speech, aides and other Democrats said, could be a pivotal moment for Mr. Obama, who, for all of his electoral victories and copious news coverage, is still known only in the broadest terms by many Americans.

“This isn’t red and blue America,” said Donna Brazile, a Democratic consultant, referring to the address that catapulted Mr. Obama to prominence at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. “This is black and white America.”

“And when you really have a serious conversation about race, people clear the room,” said Ms. Brazile, who as the manager of Al Gore’s bid for the White House in 2000 was the first black woman to run a major presidential campaign.

Mr. Obama is particularly vulnerable because voters are still getting to know him, said Democratic and Republican strategists — and a few voters as well. The Wright affair “makes me question other things. What else do we not know?” asked Karen Norton, 58, a computer saleswoman in North Carolina and a Republican who said that, until now, she had been stirred by Mr. Obama’s message of national reconciliation.

Mr. Wright’s statements, said strategists, threaten his greatest strength, his reputation as a unifying, uplifting figure, capable of moving the country past old labels and divisions.

“The problem is the complete contradiction between the message of the Obama campaign and the message of the minister who’s been his close friend and confidant for 20 years,” said Whit Ayres, a Republican consultant unaffiliated with any campaign.

Mr. Obama has also pitched himself as a candidate who can attract religious voters back to the Democratic Party, one who speaks the language of the Bible fluently and testifies about what he says is the impact of Christianity on his own life.

“What better way to try to undercut the way he integrates faith and political vision than to say we should all be secretly afraid of his church?” said Jim Wallis, a left-leaning evangelical who has had longstanding relationships with both Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton, and who says that Mr. Wright has been unfairly caricatured in recent portrayals.

In strategic terms, Mr. Wright’s statements are tricky for the Obama campaign to address. The more the candidate denounces the minister’s words, the more voters may question why Mr. Obama attached himself to Mr. Wright in the first place and stuck with him for so long, not only attending his church but naming a book after one of his sermons.

Because of his own emphasis on powerful oratory, said Todd Harris, a Republican strategist, Mr. Obama cannot dismiss Mr. Wright’s words as mere rhetoric.

“At the core of the campaign is the fact that words matter,” said Mr. Harris, who is not now affiliated with any campaign. “Central to the idea of his candidacy is the idea that a speech can change the world. You can’t have a campaign that has that notion at its core and then point to other people’s words and say, those don’t really matter.”

Asked how Republicans might use the Wright matter in the general election, Mr. Harris cited several incidents that could be used to question Mr. Obama’s patriotism. “Negative ads are built on negative patterns,” he said.

He pointed to Mr. Obama’s decision to stop wearing an American flag lapel pin and the statement that his wife made about being proud of her country for the first time in her lifetime. (Mr. Obama has called the lapel pin an empty symbol of patriotism, and Mrs. Obama has said she was quoted out of context).

Five weeks before the Pennsylvania primary, Mr. Obama had hoped to be refining his strategy to win over the support of white male voters — a demographic that began to slip away in his Ohio defeat. Instead he is facing his second straight week of negative news coverage. In a television interview with PBS on Monday, Mr. Obama called his pastor’s remarks “stupid” and conceded, “it has been a distraction from the core message of our campaign.”

Obama Walks Arrogance Line (RON FOURNIER, 3/18/08, AP)
[T]here's a line smart politicians don't cross — somewhere between "I'm qualified to be president" and "I'm born to be president." Wherever it lies, Barack Obama better watch his step.

He's bordering on arrogance.

The dictionary defines the word as an "offensive display of superiority or self-importance; overbearing pride." Obama may not be offensive or overbearing, but he can be a bit too cocky for his own good.

The freshman senator told reporters in July that he would overcome Hillary Rodham Clinton's lead in the polls because "to know me is to love me."

A few months later, he said, "Every place is Barack Obama country once Barack Obama's been there."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:54 AM


Oscar-winning director Minghella dies (Ben Child and agencies, March 18, 2008,

Anthony Minghella, the Oscar-winning director of The English Patient, has died at the age of 54, his agent said today.

The cause of death has not yet been released.

Minghella won the best director Academy award in 1997, the year in which the film won nine Oscars. He was also nominated for the best adapted screenwriting award in 2000 for The Talented Mr Ripley.

The film-maker recently completed work on the Botswana-set comedy, The No 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, which he directed after co-writing with Four Weddings and a Funeral scribe Richard Curtis. An adaptation of the Alexander McCall Smith novel, it had been due to premiere on BBC1 on Easter Monday.

Unfortunately, his exquisite films were peopled by unsympathetic characters -- Talented Mr. Ripley; Cold Mountain; The English Patient -- but we look forward to Ladies Detective Agency, which marks a return to British TV mystery for him. He also did three episodes of the great Inspector Morse series, including the first: The Dead of Jericho; Deceived by Flight, and Driven to Distraction. Colin Dexter, author of the books, has spoken of how the show improved on the Morse/Lewis relationship, which is what makes it an enduring achievement.

-OBIT: Anthony Minghella, 1954 - 2008 (GreenCine)
-OBIT: Agent says 'English Patient' director Anthony Minghella has died (The Associated Press, March 18, 2008)
-OBIT: Anthony Minghella, Oscar winner, dies at 54 (Richard Alleyne, 18/03/2008, Daily Telegraph)
-OBIT: Tributes paid to Anthony Minghella, dead at 54 (Daily Telegraph, 18/03/2008)
-OBIT: English Patient director Anthony Minghella dies at 54 (Daily Mail, 3/18/08)

He suffered a brain hemorrhage early this morning at Charing Cross Hospital in London, where he had undergone a routine operation on his neck, a spokesman said.

-OBIT: Director Minghella dies aged 54 (BBC News, 3/18/08)
-OBIT:Film director Anthony Minghella has died, aged 54 (Times Online , 3/18/08)
-ARCHIVES: Anthony Minghella (The Guardian)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:27 AM


Poll shows Palestinians now favor Hamas over Fatah: The militant group, which opposes peace talks and Israel, has reversed a two-year decline in popularity (Richard Boudreaux, 3/18/08, Los Angeles Times)

During three months of foundering peace talks overshadowed by violence, the U.S.-backed Palestinian leadership in the West Bank has lost popular support and is now viewed as less legitimate than the Islamist government of rival group Hamas in the Gaza Strip, according to a poll released Monday.

The survey is the latest sign that the Bush administration's effort to shore up secular Palestinian leaders and isolate Hamas is failing. That effort, part of a strategy to stabilize the Middle East through an Israeli-Palestinian peace accord, includes diplomatic support and promises of economic aid to the West Bank.

Polling data collected in the West Bank and Gaza this month show that Hamas, which rejects peace talks and continues to fight Israel, has gained sharply in popularity since December, reversing a two-year decline.

The poll was conducted by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, an independent think tank the administration has cited in the past to make the case that its strategy in the region is working.

If you don't let Hamas run a state of Palestine why would Palestinians hold them responsible for its problems?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:30 AM


McCain’s 67% Favorable Rating His Highest in Eight Years (Frank Newport, 3/18/08, Gallup)

John McCain's 67% favorable rating is the highest of any of the three major candidates running for president, and ties for his highest in Gallup polling history. [...]

McCain gets an extraordinarily high 52% favorable from Democrats and independents who lean Democratic, while Obama gets a 39% favorable rating from Republicans and Republican leaners. Clinton, on the other hand, receives only a 20% favorable rating from Republicans and Republican leaners.

McCain is also helped by the fact that he receives an 87% favorable rating from Republicans, higher than the 80% and 79% that Clinton and Obama, respectively, currently receive from Democrats.

One of the big questions going forward is how the Beltway Right can get back in his good graces, now that he's conclusively shown that he represents the base, not they.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:16 AM


No Postmodern Road to the White House: Obama's attempt to right Wright (Peter Wehner, 3/18/08, National Review)

More fundamentally, Obama should not, in attempting to explain the appeal of black liberation theology to African Americans, embrace the postmodern view that truth is relative and all that matters are the “narrative identities” we create for ourselves. What matters are not facts but our own personal and social history, according to this postmodern view, and we can all create our own reality.

Of course our experiences shape how we perceive reality. We all have cultural biases and social upbringings that influence how we interpret history and our own lives. None of us is in a perfect position to judge truth claims. But that is quite different from believing that we should give up the effort all together, that truth is relative, that no one has the authority to define right and wrong, and that each of our truth claims are equally valid.

Can we really expect him to disavow the premise of the modern secular Left (and far Right)? After all, if truth isn't relative you can't advocate infanticide, abortion, bioengineering, homosexuality, racialism, "assisted suicide", etc.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:56 AM


China and India: Oh to be different (Pallavi Aiyar , 3/19/08, Asia Times)

[W]hile much has changed, China's response to the events in Tibet is also indicative of how much remains unchanged. The official response to the protests in Lhasa and elsewhere, the most serious in two decades, do not indicate the discovery by Beijing of "Olympic-new" savvy ways of crisis control. Instead, the Chinese people and the world have only been subjected to the same old tired responses officialdom resorts to given any sign of discontentment among the Tibetan population.

This is a response that essentially amounts to a denial of any fundamental problem. The elements are familiar: a scapegoating and vilification of the Dalai Lama, a refusal to grant any legitimacy to Tibetan disaffection and an insistence on the myth of elemental "harmony" among all "Chinese" people, including Tibetans.

This denial of legitimate differences is ultimately the greatest difference between China and Asia's other major rising power, India.

Indians who visit Chinese cities are invariably awestruck by the infrastructure. They look at the silken-smooth multi-lane highways with barely concealed envy, no doubt comparing them to the pot-holed clumps of tar more familiar as roads back home. They marvel at the relatively orderly flow of traffic on the broad avenues, unobstructed by stray cows. They remark on the absence of slums and beggars on the streets.

China has not only built cities that are almost impossibly modern from an Indian point of view, it has also provided jobs and opportunities for upward mobility for millions of migrant workers from the countryside.

China's economic achievement over the past 30-odd years has in fact been unparalleled historically. However, a point usually unrecognized by Indians impressed by China's glitter is the fact that so is India's political feat.

China's southern neighbor's democracy is almost unique among post-colonial states not simply for its existence but its existence against all odds in a country held together not by geography, language or ethnicity but by an idea.

A nation is necessarily racialist (usually downnright racist). Only a country can be multiethnic/multiconfessional.

March 17, 2008

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:29 PM


Gov. Paterson admits to sex with other woman for years (Juan Gonzalez, March 17th 2008, NY Daily News)

The thunderous applause was still ringing in his ears when the state's new governor, David Paterson, told the Daily News that he and his wife had extramarital affairs.

In a stunning revelation, both Paterson, 53, and his wife, Michelle, 46, acknowledged in a joint interview they each had intimate relationships with others during a rocky period in their marriage several years ago.

In the course of several interviews in the past few days, Paterson said he maintained a relationship for two or three years with "a woman other than my wife," beginning in 1999.

As part of that relationship, Paterson said, he and the other woman sometimes stayed at an upper West Side hotel — the Days Inn at Broadway and W. 94th St.

Shouldn't it be "Hours"?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:12 PM


Why Obama can't escape his minister (JAMES KIRCHICK, 3/17/08, New Republic)

On Thursday, ABC News finally got a hold of what surely dozens of news outlets had been looking for: videos of Wright’s sermons. The results are not pretty. Wright doesn’t just epitomize the racial victimization that Obama supposedly transcends; his vision of America is an extreme, racialized version of John Edwards’s already ridiculously overwrought “Two Americas” schtick.

He says that the United States is responsible for spreading drugs in the inner cities and that it invented the AIDS virus, shopworn and dangerous conspiracy theories regrettably popular amongst poor, urban blacks. He says that the September 11th terrorist attacks were an instance of America’s “chickens coming home to roost” and that the United States supports “state terrorism” against the Palestinian Arabs.

Obama immediately went on the defensive, granting interviews to several television networks and issuing a statement to the Huffington Post. Conveniently, he denied sharing any beliefs espoused by his preacher that might upset the average American.

Earlier this month, Obama had preemptively assured a Jewish group that Wright is like a cantankerous “old uncle says things I don't always agree with.” This would be an apt analogy were it not for the minor genealogical inconvenience that bars one from choosing his uncles.

This, ultimately, is the ineluctable fact of the Wright controversy. Obama chose Wright to be his spiritual mentor. He chose Wright to marry him and to baptize his children. He chose one of Wright’s sermons as the title for his bestselling book, The Audacity of Hope.

He chose Wright to deliver the invocation at the announcement of his presidential candidacy last year, only to scotch the decision after advisors warned that such a prominent display of the radical pastor was politically risky. For Obama to claim today that his pastor’s obscene views come as a shock is not only unbelievable but disingenuous.

Given the way the campaign has tried to pitch him, as a new Messiah, the disingenuous bit is almost as deadly as the underlying race war stuff.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:17 PM


The NCAA brackets are posted at Facebook, so you can make your picks and the Scrabulous and Chess matches are going hot and heavy. We also set up a Brothers Judd group, which we'd be honored to have folks join.

You can also play against John McCain at his Website

-Win Your Office Pool: Thou shalt win with these Ten Commandments of bracketology (Greg Presto, 3/17/08, Men's Health)
-2008 NCAA Tournament (JONAH KERI, March 17, 2008, NY Sun)
-Selection Committee Again Leaves Fans Scratching Their Heads (JOHN HOLLINGER, March 17, 2008, NY Sun)

It's called the Ratings Percentage Index, or RPI for short, and as usual it resulted in a few head-scratching decisions when Selection Sunday came for the NCAA men's basketball Tournament — most notably the decision to take flawed teams like St. Joseph's, Villanova, and Kentucky ahead of Arizona State, Ohio State and Virginia Tech.

To see why, we need to understand the big picture. The RPI is a poor measurement of a basketball team's quality for two reasons. First, it makes no distinction between a two-point loss to a great team (as in Virginia Tech's ACC Tournament loss to North Carolina this weekend, which likely cost the Hokies a bid) or a blowout defeat (as in Villanova's 19-point shellacking at the hands of Georgetown in the Big East quarterfinals).

Second, and more importantly, it isn't even good at what it's designed to do. The NCAA is loathe to consider victory margin for one very good reason — it encourages teams to run up the score against weak opponents. Since a lot of college basketball games are mismatches talent-wise, this can make for some very poor sportsmanship at the very least.

The way RPI works, though, is to simply take a team's winning percentage and multiply it by its opponents winning percentage. This effectively means that playing a team like North Carolina will improve your RPI, even if you lose, while playing a team like Oregon State will make it worse, even if you win.

The kind folks at Picador just donated a couple of the Reykjavik thrillers by Arnaldur Indridason that we'll be giving away as prizes.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:54 PM


Behind Closed Doors, Democrats Seek Answers (JOHN HARWOOD, 3/17/08, NY Times)

The public phase of the Democratic presidential race will now pause, briefly, for a back-to-the-future experiment in back-room deal-making.

It’s an unusual turn for the self-styled party of the people, which four decades ago began to throw open the doors of its nomination process to rank-and-file voters. [...]

What no one anticipated was that the nomination race would go on long enough that the exclusion of the two states mattered. So some Rules Committee members who voted to strip Michigan and Florida of their delegates want to give both states another chance.

“They should do them both over,” said Elaine C. Kamarck, a lecturer at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard and a former aide to Vice President Al Gore.

Do-overs could help Ms. Kamarck’s favored candidate, Mrs. Clinton, who trails in the delegate race and needs more victories. But Ms. Kamarck would not abide the alternative advanced by Clinton forces, to simply count delegates based on the discredited balloting which had Mrs. Clinton ahead in Michigan and Florida. “They won’t be seated,” she said.

Yet the complications of staging new contests, which under party rules must take place by June 10, are daunting even to the most experienced Democratic professionals. Proposals for mail-in balloting, “firehouse” caucuses and full primaries — at costs of up to $30 million — have all faced procedural and political objections.

“I’m worried about the integrity of the process,” said Donna Brazile, who, like Ms. Kamarck, is a member of the party’s Rules Committee. “There are so many technical, legal, political challenges. Everything we do will face an enormous test of fairness.”

The integrity of a process where the DNC decided some elections wouldn't count, no one know who has how many delegates and a set of unelected super-delegates are perched where they can intervene if they don't like what the voters decided?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:44 PM


More Election Troubles in Florida, but That Doesn’t Bother the Governor (ABBY GOODNOUGH, 3/17/08, NY Times)

What does Gov. Charlie Crist, the staunchly sunny (and tan) chief executive of Florida, think about the national attention his state’s latest ugly election dispute has drawn?

“It’s good,” Mr. Crist said in an interview last week. “We’re trying to make sure that a huge bloc of Florida voters are not disenfranchised, and I think that’s always a good thing.” [...]

Mr. Crist’s recent pleas for the Democratic National Committee to seat Florida’s delegates at the nominating convention this summer — a right lost after the state Democratic Party broke national rules by holding the primary before Feb. 5 — undoubtedly help his image as a benevolent centrist.

But Mr. Crist, a career politician 15 months into his first term as governor, may well have other motives. right where you get to do the right thing for others and it's good for you personally. Enfranchising his citizens while detonating the Democratic national party is as sweet as it gets.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:27 PM


OIL: Price Bubble Could Burst in Medium Term (Humberto Márquez, 3/17/08, IPS)

While oil prices recently soared to a record 111 dollars a barrel, fuelled by the weak U.S. dollar, analysts warn that the bubble will not last forever, and may burst in the medium term.

"We are seeing an oil-stock market bubble," Elie Habalián, an expert in petroleum economics, told IPS. "In the last two months, prices have gone from around 90 to 110 dollars a barrel -- a rise that far outstripped the devaluation of the dollar, which in the same period went from 1.46 to 1.56 against the euro."

The bubble "at some point will burst, ushering in a drastic fall in prices in the medium or long term, and if OPEC feeds the bubble, it is creating a knife that could cut its own throat," said Habalián, a former representative of Venezuela at OPEC (Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries).

Why? "If you are in a government (in an oil-producing country) and you are cashing billions of dollars every day you may not be able to see beyond your nose. You are very happy with the money you receive each day and don't realise the price you will pay for this will be later on," Saudi Sheikh Ahmed Zaki Yamani, head of the London-based Centre for Global Energy Studies (CGES), said in a recent conference in Madrid.

Shave a buck off the cost of a gallon of gas in a week and even the angst of 9-11 may finally be left behind us.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:26 PM


The NCAA brackets come out on Sunday evening and we've got a bunch of books to give away, including the new novel, Sins of the Assassin, by friend Robert Ferrigno and Tony Horwitz's travelogue, A Voyage Long and Strange, courtesy of FSB Associates.

We'd like to try running the contest through Facebook and the ProTrade/SI Bracket Challenge this year. If you're already a member of Facebook just send a friend request to either Brother and we'll add you (we've applied to have added as a group also]. If there are strong objections to being sucked into such a trendy destination, let us know and we'll set up the CBS Sportsline pool too.

-EXCERPT: Chapter One of Sins of the Assassin by Robert Ferrigno
-INTERVIEW: One nation, under Allah: an interview with Robert Ferrigno (Orrin C. Judd, March 20, 2006, Enter Stage Right)
-REVIEW:One nation, under Allah : Robert Ferrigno might have played it safe, sticking to his California crime noir genre. Instead, he invented a whole narrative tapestry out of a future Islamic Republic of America, and the first two novels in the series are terrific (Arthur Chrenkoff, Pajamas Media)

Prayers was a creative risk for Ferrigno. Everyone had told him he was crazy to abandon the greener pastures of the contemporary West Coast crime novel for a politically incorrect dystopia, yet Prayers turned out to be the biggest best-seller of his career, widely acclaimed and translated, winning him a whole new cohort of fans. I guess the reading audience was ready, after all, for a thriller set in not too distant future where Islam dominates the globe, and the United States is no more, either as a superpower or even one nation, riven by a cold civil war between the Islamic Republic of America and the recalcitrant Bible Belt.

In Prayers we have first met Rakkim Epps, an ex-member of Fedayeen, the elite special ops force serving the President of the Islamic Republic, now a lapsed Muslim living in the unsavory underbelly of Seattle, the rain-soaked, depilated capital of the Republic. The book follows his quest to find the woman he loves, after she has suddenly gone missing in mysterious circumstances, but it progressively also turns out to be a quest to discover the truth behind the so-called Zionist Betrayal, the simultaneous nuclear terrorist attack on New York, Washington and Mecca. Supposedly staged by the Mossad, this outrage was the major catalyst for the transformation of the world as we know it into the Prayers world of 2040, where the Super Bowl at the Khomeini Stadium opens with public prayers, ruined Disneyland provides sordid haunt for prostitutes, while the Christian South seems to only produce narcotics, Coca-Cola and an assortment of petty warlords. We had fought the war on terror and the bad guys won, but their victory was won as much in the hearts and minds of millions as on the battlefields, which gives Ferrigno’s dystopia a more nuanced and disturbing quality.

Constructing a whole new reality that is believable, internally consistent and interesting is a task that many a writer has failed recently (The Resurrection Day and Romanitas spring to mind), but Ferrigno manages to carry it off as effortlessly as if he were still writing about the ever-familiar contemporary Southern California of his earlier novels. The world he has created is utterly convincing, a superb blend of the familiar and the surreal that avid blog readers and keen followers of contemporary events will in particular find mesmerizing. But what Ferrigno brings to the table is not just rich imagination, but also his trademark writing style; poignant, atmospheric, sharp as the blade of a Fedayeen knife. On his blog, Ferrigno writes that “while writing a novel, the author is a god. Me, I’m often a vengeful god.” Somehow, I can’t shake the thought that if the Almighty had written the Old Testament himself, rather than just dictating it, it would read just like a Ferrigno novel.

-REVIEW: of Sins of the Assassin ( David Forsmark,
Most readers of this column know the Canadian Human Rights Commission is persecuting [Mark] Steyn, a noted columnist and blogger. What's not so well known is that the complaint filed against Steyn points out he gave a good review to Ferrigno's novel, supposedly a "known Islamophobic book." In doing so, it is alleged, Steyn violated the complainants' "sense of dignity and self-worth."

This concerns me, as my first positive review of a novel for Frontpage after joining up in January 2006 was a rave review of Prayers, a darkly satiric and suspenseful actioner about a future in which most of America is governed as an Islamic republic after a terrorist nuclear attack and a brutal civil war.

Now, I'm about to become a repeat offender by reporting that Sins of the Assassin, Ferrigno's sequel to Prayers, is just as much fun, every bit as thought-provoking -- and potentially inflammatory -- as the first book in his planned trilogy.

-INTERVIEW: Four questions for Robert Ferrigno (Jeff Baker, March 03, 2008, The Oregonian)
Robert Ferrigno had a nice career going. He'd written eight crime novels set in Southern California that were lively, tough and funny. They got good reviews, readers loved them, and he made a nice living. Everything was great, until 9/11 happened and Ferrigno asked himself a simple question: What would happen if the terrorists won?

That question led to other questions. What would a Muslim America look like? How would it happen? How would it sustain itself? Ferrigno tried to answer the questions the way he knows best -- in the context of a thriller -- and found himself writing a planned trilogy that will take up five years of his life. The first book, "Prayers for the Assassin," came out two years ago. Its successor is "Sins of the Assassin."

Q: I heard your previous publisher dropped you when you turned in "Prayers for the Assassin."

A: In a heartbeat. And my agent was totally against it. She told me it was career suicide, and it turned out to be, in many ways, my most successful book. For the publisher, it was all about branding. I'd created a brand, and this didn't fit into it. I understand that kind of thinking, but I'm not interested in the logic of it. I lost some foreign sales. It wasn't published in Germany or Italy, where all my other books had been published, because of fear of defamation of religion suits, but it was published in places where I'd never been published before. The first big foreign sale was Turkey, then Russia, Taiwan, China.

-AUDIO INTERVIEW: Robert Ferrigno (John J. Miller, National Review: Between the Covers)
-INTERVIEW: Robert Ferrigno (Ali Karim, Shots)
Robert, congratulations on winning the Gumshoe 2007 for best Thriller for Prayers for the Assassin, how does it feel?

It's very enjoyable, particularly in light of the high calibre of the other authors nominated. I wish instead of actually naming a "winner", the nominees could just get together for dinner and drinks.

So tell us a little how you came upon this unusual story that would transform to become this ground-breaking novel?

I started it shortly after 9-11, when everyone was torqued and angry and certain that victory was easy. I started wondering, as author's with rather bleak points of view are wont, what would happen if the West lost? This was actually a radical position to take, the US having the greatest and most sophisticated war capability on the planet. So I tried to imagine how it could happen, and that led me to the belief that while we couldn't be defeated militarily, we could lose on a very different battlefield. We could lose because of an internal weakness, a failure of vision, a failure to see beyond the next television show, the next launch of some crap product designed to make our lives shiny and bright and fun fun fun. In a generation-long struggle, don't count on technology to win the war, it's going to take tenacity and strong belief. Most of us in the West have very short-term event horizons. Muslims fight to the death over theological differences that happened over a thousand years ago. Americans can't remember who won the Academy Award for Best Picture last year.

So that was the impetus, the potential for losing the war and the effect losing would have. I also wanted to write about a protagonist who has lost his faith and feels the loss acutely. A tough guy that has to continue on, making it up as he goes along, choosing right from wrong without any guidance other than his own morality. I had always wanted to write about this kind of character, and it's kind of ironic that when I finally did it, the faith he had lost was Islam.

-REVIEW: of Sins of the Assassin (Anthony Rainone, January Magazine)
While Book One was perhaps more politically jarring than Sins of the Assassin, given the closer proximity its publication had to America’s involvement in Iraq and the backdrop of September 11, 2001, Book Two has moved past the uniqueness of an American Islamic state, and it focuses instead on the republic’s sheer survival. And its survival is in doubt, no doubt about that. Having been flushed out of the Nevada Free State, the Muslim Old One is ensconced on a luxury cruise liner at sea, but his reach is long and deadly. His goal of controlling the Islamic Republic still burns hotly, and he has a diabolical plan in the works. Meanwhile, President Kingsley is negotiating with the Aztlan (Mexican) Empire to sell its government more land in the southwest for ready and desperately needed cash. What comes across in Book Two is that the republic doesn’t seem so extraordinary -- it wages covert operations, it has economic woes and it is extremely vulnerable to outside threats. The bravado and derring-do of Rakkim and Sarah gives the reader hope, but it will be interesting to see whether the republic can sustain its insularity, or perhaps have to make significant compromises to outside interests, such as to Colonel Smitts and his Catholic constituency.

Sins of the Assassin deftly mixes politics, religion and science-fiction elements into a pulsating thriller. Although the story line never gets bogged down, the repartee between Rakkim and computer genius Leo tends to become mildly distracting, and lush character expositions slow the tempo. Still, there isn’t a single moment when the reader is not entertained and engrossed in this new novel. Protagonist Rakkim Epps is being transformed before the reader’s eyes. He is not sure what is right or wrong anymore: he finds so-called enemies in the Bible Belt to be more friendly and interesting, than those in Islamic America care to recognize. He is increasingly unnerved by his deadly skills and begins to question what he’s asked to do on behalf of his government. And the Old One will not stop until he has killed Rakkim and Sarah and taken full control of Islamic America.

-REVIEW: of Sins of the Assassin (Joe Hartlaub, Bookreporter)
SINS OF THE ASSASSIN contains violence, unrelenting and uncompromising, unbridled erotica (I’m still waiting for my eyeballs to come completely unsteamed) and memorable characters you will never forget. Most significantly, however, it is set in a world in which Ferrigno has seemingly accounted for every element, every nuance; a world that is so different from yet so very close to our own, simply without the official and acknowledged boundaries. Frightening, exhilarating and eminently readable from beginning to end, this is a book for all seasons.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:21 PM


Tibet -- China's Gaza Strip (Jürgen Kremb, 3/17/08, Der Spiegel)

The promise that Beijing will uphold human rights in the run-up to the Olympic Games has now gone out the window.

Even before the Olympic torch passes through the streets of Lhasa and is carried up Mount Everest later this spring, Chinese judges will likely have already handed down the first death sentences to demonstrators.

For the planners of the Olympic Games and for China's politicians, who would have liked to have basked in the glory of a clean and apolitical Games, their worst nightmares have come true.

Pointing the finger of blame now helps nobody. Instead, it is time to confront reality. The fact remains that the Tibetan conflict is a political problem. Beijing and the Tibetan government in exile in Dharamsala, India are paying the price of wasting 20 years, when they could have worked towards a serious and peaceful solution.

The last time this happened was in the 1980s. At the time the Dalai Lama, with Chinese approval, sent three delegations to Tibet. Each of the groups, who were led by the Dalai Lama's relatives, exile politicians and high-ranking Buddhist dignitaries, led to tumult in the region.

People broke down in tears. They reported unspeakable suffering and terrible human rights abuses during the 1966-1976 Cultural Revolution. They spoke of genocide and the destruction of Buddhist culture. According to various estimates, up to 1.2 million Tibetans have died due to the Chinese occupation and various political campaigns since the Dalai Lama fled his homeland in March 1959.

Beijing was shocked by the outpouring of grief and has avoided any dialogue since then.

China and its minorities (Philip Bowring, March 17, 2008, IHT)
Non-Han minorities may comprise only 9 percent of China's population, but as the violence in Tibet and simmering resentment in Xinjiang indicate, the problem is one that Beijing is unable to resolve. [...]

There are three reasons for the Communist leadership's inability to address the issue other than by repression. First, given that Beijing's first priority is government centralization, the official designation of any "autonomous region" in China is a façade.

Second, there is the innate belief in the superiority of the Han race, a notion historically reflected in China's attitudes to all its neighbors as well as toward the non-Han minorities within its borders.

Third, the three regions with significant minority populations that are actual or potential trouble spots are all frontier areas that Beijing regards as strategically important. the Han. Oh, those Olympic ideals....

China: It's Not Just Tibet: Unrest in Tibet and Xinjiang illustrates the failure of Beijing's attempt to drive development in its western regions (Dexter Roberts , 3/17/08, Business Week)

Over the last week, Beijing has announced it foiled a plot by Uighur Muslims from Xinjiang, in China's far west, to disrupt the upcoming Games, as well as an attempted terrorist act by a 19-year-old Uighur woman on a Chinese airline. And security forces have suppressed protests by Tibetans chafing under Chinese rule in Lhasa, turning a favored destination for world travelers into a sullen, occupied city. "It is really bad here. I shouldn't tell you anymore," says a 39-year-old Chinese resident of Lhasa. [...]

[I]ncomes in largely rural western China continue to lag the rest of the country. That has helped fan ethnic resentment aimed at the millions of Han Chinese who have migrated into the region and have taken skilled, higher-paying jobs building the new roads, airports, and power stations. Chinese typically also operate most of the smaller entrepreneurial urban businesses, including restaurants and small shops. So while overall rural incomes of $583 are less than one-third of urban ones, in the west (where city-country populations tend to split, with the Chinese urban and the minorities rural) it is more extreme. Tibet's rural income is $393, or about one-quarter that of urban incomes, while in Xinjiang it is only slightly higher, at $444. "The urban-rural income gap in the west is already worse than that for the whole country. And it keeps getting bigger," says Zhang.

Meanwhile, some of the biggest infrastructure projects seem to do little for local people, and often even exacerbate tensions. Case in point: the $4 billion Qinghai-to-Tibet Railway that opened less than two years ago and has brought a new flood of Chinese immigrants to Tibet to compete with locals for scarce jobs. In Xinjiang, a 4,000km-long multibillion-dollar pipeline takes gas from the Muslim region to coastal cities such as Shanghai.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:10 PM


Obama's war position could be his weakness (John Vinocur, March 17, 2008, IHT)

On Friday, an NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll reported that about 35 percent of Americans believed that it was McCain who had the right approach to the war - not giving up and not leaving Iraq to Al Qaeda and chaos - compared with 30 percent for Hillary Rodham Clinton and 27 percent for Obama. [...]

So where does all this point? To the proposition that Obama is in the process of losing some of the effect of what he once obviously thought were his wonder-weapons.

The double warhead: First, the charmed innocence of being demonstrably opposed to the war from before the get-go - a kind of one-man freedom from original sin - while 70 percent of his countrymen (including great numbers of Democrats) had approved George W. Bush's handling of Iraq the night attacks on Baghdad began five years ago, on March 20, 2003.

Then, there is the certainty of announcing a specific time frame for a troop withdrawal. If Obama is elected, it's over by the end of next year. By this stroke, consider Baghdad free for vacation travel by Easter 2010.

But the legitimacy and touch-of-the-prophet routine no longer functions magically for Obama at a time when rage and contrition about the war have diminished from their 2006 congressional election level.

...and the rage and what's left of his candidacy?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:28 PM


Is it just me, or do these kids look like they'd turn their parents in to the Stasi for using plastic shopping bags?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:23 PM


Zogby: McCain Best for '3 A.M.' Crisis (Newsmax, March 17, 2008)

[W]hile the ad was designed to boost the Clinton candidacy, likely voters nationwide say they would feel more secure having Republican John McCain answering the call of a crisis, a new Zogby International telephone poll shows.

Given the choice between Clinton and McCain, 55% preferred McCain while 37% would want Clinton to answer the phone, while 9% said they were unsure. [...]

Between McCain and Obama, 56% favored McCain while 35% preferred Obama, with 10% saying they couldnt make up their mind on the question.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:32 PM


Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:00 PM



I am a graduate student in Political Science at Stony Brook University.

I'm am working on a project researching online political discourse
during political campaigns. Any results I find will likely be presented
at national and international political science conferences and
hopefully published in national political science journals. In addition, I plan to use this data as part of my dissertation.

I have created a survey designed to examine who visits political blogs
and how blog readers think about the 2008 election and respond to online political discussions. All survey responses will be completely
confidential, and all identifying information will be stripped by the
survey collection software.

The link to the survey is:

Previous versions of this survey have been posted on a few blogs, and
both liberal and conservative readers seemed to really enjoy taking it.
It takes about 10 to 15 minutes to complete. I desperately need
conservative responses to the survey, as liberal responses currently
outnumber conservatives about 2 to 1. [...]

Many thanks and best regards,
Lilliana Mason
Stony Brook University
Department of Political Science

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:09 PM


What piece of Hollywood history would you most like to own? (Daily Telegraph, 3/17/08)

A Star Trek phaser, a man-sized extraterrestrial from Aliens and Austin Powers’ orange suit will be auctioned in California later this month..

The sale, which features 1,000 lots, including film props and publicity material, is expected to raise millions of pounds. A rare poster advertising the 1933 film of King Kong is expected to go for over £123,000.

What piece of Hollywood history would you most like to own?

The figures Boo Radley carved, Daniel Dravot's Masonic charm, and the copy of Tom Sawyer that Clarence gave George.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:43 PM


Court to hear Florida delegate suit (Aaron Gould Sheinin, 03/14/08, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Atlanta could become the center of the political storm on Monday when a federal appeals panel hears a lawsuit that seeks to force the Democratic National Committee to seat all of Florida's delegates at the party's national convention in August.

The suit was filed in August in Tampa on behalf of Floridian Victor DiMaio. It claims the DNC violated his constitutional rights when it stripped Florida's Democratic Party of all 210 of its delegates to the convention as punishment for holding its Jan. 29 presidential primary earlier than DNC rules allow.

The suit was rejected at the district court level in Tampa, but the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta has agreed to hear the case.

One step closer to Antonin Scalia selecting the Democratic nominee...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:32 PM


Security Gains Reverse Iraq's Spiral Though Serious Problems Remain: ABC News/BBC/NHK/ARD National Survey of Iraq (Gary Langer, 3/17/08, ABC News)

Fifty-five percent of Iraqis say things in their own lives are going well, well up from 39 percent as recently as August. More, 62 percent, rate local security positively, up 19 points. And the number who expect conditions nationally to improve in the year ahead has doubled, to 46 percent in this new national poll by ABC News, the BBC, ARD German TV and the Japanese broadcaster NHK. [...]

Economic improvement complements the security gains. Fifty-seven percent rate their household finances positively, a 20-point jump, again steepest in Baghdad (especially its Sadr City area) and Anbar. The availability of basic consumer goods has soared even more sharply; 65 percent rate it positively, up by 26 points since August to its highest in polls dating to early 2004. And family incomes are up by 26 percent, about $80 a month.

This poll, marking the fifth anniversary of the start of the Iraq war on March 19, 2003, is the fifth in Iraq by ABC News and other media partners. It consists of face-to-face interviews with a random national sample of more than 2,200 Iraqi adults.

Poll suggests Iraqis 'optimistic' (BBC, 3/17/08)
More than 50% of Iraqis think their lives are good, more than at any time in the last three years, a survey says.

The poll for the BBC, ABC, ARD and NHK of more than 2,000 people also suggests that a majority believe that security in their area has improved since 2007. [...]

While 55% of all Iraqis believe that their lives are good, only 33% of Sunnis are happy with their lives, compared with 62% of Shias and 73% of Kurds.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:48 PM


Beijing's dread of dissent (John Lee | March 18, 2008, The Australian)

Don't be fooled by the glamour of Shanghai or the magnificence of Beijing. There are large swaths of disunity and disorder in the country.

For example, China claims 23 provinces, five autonomous regions, four municipalities, and two special administrative regions: Hong Kong and Macau. Of these, Taiwan remains recalcitrant and is effectively a separate state. Many of the Uighurs in the western province of Xinjiang want out.

Residents in Hong Kong want guarantees that Beijing will not dismantle the rights they enjoyed under British rule. And traditional Tibetans, fearful of a complete Han Chinese takeover and the suppression of their culture and religion, want more and more autonomy.

Furthermore, there is widespread disorder even in provinces that pose no challenge to Beijing's right to rule. In 2006, the latest available figures, there were 87,000 officially recorded instances of unrest, which is defined as those involving 15 or more people.

These protests are overwhelmingly spontaneous and arise from the frustration of the one billion or so "have-nots": with the hardship in their lives, against illegal taxes and land grabs by corrupt officials, against job losses and so on.

Although these protests rarely call for the overthrow of the regime, they do express profound dissatisfaction with local officials.

This brings us back to Tibet.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:37 PM


Many voting for Clinton to boost GOP (Scott Helman, March 17, 2008, Boston Globe)

For a party that loves to hate the Clintons, Republican voters have cast an awful lot of ballots lately for Senator Hillary Clinton: About 100,000 GOP loyalists voted for her in Ohio, 119,000 in Texas, and about 38,000 in Mississippi, exit polls show.

A sudden change of heart? Hardly.

Since Senator John McCain effectively sewed up the GOP nomination last month, Republicans have begun participating in Democratic primaries specifically to vote for Clinton, a tactic that some voters and local Republican activists think will help their party in November. With every delegate important in the tight Democratic race, this trend could help shape the outcome if it continues in the remaining Democratic primaries open to all voters.

...while Obama is the easier to defeat, the longer it goes the more damage she does to him, keeping Maverick's hands clean.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:30 AM


Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:26 AM


Johnson has 12-point lead in mayoral race, poll shows (Andrew Sparrow, Hélène Mulholland and agencies, 3/17/08,

Boris Johnson has opened up a 12-point lead over Ken Livingstone in the race to become mayor of London, according to an opinion poll published today.

The survey for the London Evening Standard says that 49% of voters would use their first-preference votes to back Johnson, the Conservative candidate, while only 37% would vote to give Labour's Livingstone a third term in office.

Johnson is also ahead of Livingstone on second-preference votes, according to the YouGov figures, suggesting that the mayor would struggle to make up the gap by collecting the votes redistributed from other candidates.

Pity the poor British Left, WFB at least had the decency to lose honorably when he ran for mayor of NYC.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:54 AM


The peculiar theology of black liberation (Spengler , 3/18/08, Asia Times)

Senator Barack Obama is not a Muslim, contrary to invidious rumors. But he belongs to a Christian church whose doctrine casts Jesus Christ as a "black messiah" and blacks as "the chosen people". At best, this is a radically different kind of Christianity than most Americans acknowledge; at worst it is an ethnocentric heresy.

What played out last week on America's television screens was a clash of two irreconcilable cultures, the posture of "black liberation theology" and the mainstream American understanding of Christianity. Obama, who presented himself as a unifying figure, now seems rather the living embodiment of the clash. [...]

Since Christianity taught the concept of divine election to the Gentiles, every recalcitrant tribe in Christendom has rebelled against Christian universalism, insisting that it is the "Chosen People" of God - French, English, Russian, Germans and even (through the peculiar doctrine of Mormonism) certain Americans. America remains the only really Christian country in the industrial world, precisely because it transcends ethnicity. One finds ethnocentricity only in odd corners of its religious life; one of these is African-American.'s an interesting possibility that this election could turn on one of the biggest issues of human history, Christian Universalism vs. tribalism. Not only is the former quintessentially American, and the latter secular and European, but the divide between the two explains why Senator Obama is so attractive to the Brights, blacks, and David Duke but repellent to Hispanics, Jews, etc..

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:41 AM


A Century of "Liberal Fascism": a review of Jonah Goldberg, Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, From Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning (Edward B. Driscoll, Jr., New Individualist)

That so little of this history is remembered, Goldberg argues, is the result of two things. First, since the left has a remarkably firm grip on academia, they tend to write history--and write it in a way that’s favorable to their side of history. Second, the left tends to have a remarkably short collective memory. While most conservatives and libertarians can name those movements’ founders (such as Hayek, Buckley, and Rand), the typical modern leftist tends not to remember his intellectual forefathers nearly as well. Or as liberal journalist and Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne Jr. wrote in his 2004 book Stand Up, Fight Back, “Liberals and Democrats tend not to view themselves as the inheritors of a grand tradition. Almost on principle, they are suspicious of such traditions, of too much theorizing, of linking themselves too much to the past.”

The result is that the intertwining of Marxism, Progressivism, and Fascism in the first decades of the twentieth century--the theme of Liberal Fascism--has been virtually forgotten among the modern left. Which is why it is now routine for conservatives (including whichever Republican happens to hold the highest national office at the time, whether it’s Ronald Reagan, Newt Gingrich, or George W. Bush) to be demonized by the left as a Nazi, and for the Nazis--and fascism in general--to be widely described by the left, and much of the culture at large, as rightwing movements.

Of course, it was the Soviets of the 1920s who first began to describe fascism as being on the right. As a more populist strain of totalitarianism, it was, arguably, to the right of communism, which ultimately killed tens of millions more people during the twentieth century. But the collectivist nature of fascism is far, far to the left of American conservatism and especially American libertarianism. To paraphrase a remark by Charles Krauthammer shortly after the 2006 midterm elections: Americans play politics within the middle of the football field; since 1789, Europeans have confined themselves mostly to the forty yards on the left side of the field. This helps to explain why, when the wall dividing Berlin fell in 1989, the same region embraced a corporatist, nanny-state European Union only a few years later.

Goldberg does yeoman’s work researching and documenting material that the American left had consigned to the memory hole since 1945.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:38 AM


Human rights make for strange bedfellows (Michael Ross, 3/17/08, National Post)

In Israel, Jews who emigrate from other countries are regarded with a degree of disdain by the nation's native-born establishment. The attitude is rooted in envy: Jews growing up in Israel have to endure such hardships as mandatory military service, while their Diaspora counterparts enjoy a life free of Hamas missiles and suicide bombers. Unlike Israelis, Jews living in such safe countries as Canada have the luxury of concerning themselves with negligible problems like neo-Nazi material on the Internet.

This perception recently has been reinforced, in my mind at least, by the Canadian Jewish Congress' attempts to justify the censorship powers of our human rights commissions. [...]

In their human-rights complaints against Ezra Levant and Mark Steyn, Muslim groups claimed that the articles the authors had written and published incited "Islamophobia." Yet these same complainants had done worse. One had claimed previously that Israel treats Palestinians worse than Jews in the Holocaust. Another claimed that all Israelis (read: Jewish Israelis) over the age of 18 are legitimate targets for terrorist groups. If that kind of discourse doesn't expose Jews to hate and contempt, I'm not sure what does exactly. In fact, Levant himself has been subject to a disgusting anti-Semitic internet hate campaign launched by certain elements (we'll call them "youths," in keeping with the euphemism used to describe those who burn cars in France) within Alberta's Muslim community.

Yet in such instances, the legal advisors of the CJC and Bnai B'rith both have little to say. It's easier to go after some ignorant neo-Nazi with a bad haircut than trample on the sensibilities of media-savvy Muslim radicals.

Mr. Steyn could have moved to Israel instead of NH...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:35 AM


Wine is worse for brain than beer, scientists reveal in blow for women drinkers (VANESSA ALLEN, 17th March 2008, Daily Mail)

Drinking wine damages the brain more than beer or spirits, scientists claim.

They say it particularly affects the hippocampus, the part of the brain associated with memory and spatial awareness, and one of the first areas to be affected by Alzheimer's disease. [...]

The findings will come as a particular blow to middle-class drinkers – many of whom drink wine for its supposed health benefits.

Women, who tend to drink more wine than beer, are also more likely to be affected.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:28 AM


Chinese troops parade handcuffed Tibetan prisoners in trucks (Jane Macartney, 3/17/08, Times of London)

The Chinese army drove through the streets of Lhasa today parading dozens of Tibetan prisoners in handcuffs, their heads bowed, as troops stepped up their hunt for the rioters in house-to-house searches.

As the midnight deadline approached for rioters to surrender, four trucks in convoy made a slow progress along main roads, with about 40 people, mostly young Tibetan men and women, standing with their wrists handcuffed behind their backs, witnesses said.

A soldier stood behind each prisoner, a hand on the back of their neck to ensure their heads were bowed.

Tibet protests spread in China: The government deploys thousands of troops. The Dalai Lama's office says it has learned of 80 deaths in the region. (Barbara Demick, 3/17/08, Los Angeles Times)
Defying a massive deployment of Chinese security forces, ethnic Tibetan protesters unfurled the banned Tibetan flag and burned a police station Sunday as the violence that by some reports has claimed 80 lives spread into Sichuan province and other parts of western China. [...]

The uprising presents the most serious challenge in years, if not decades, to China's iron grip over its restive minority population. It comes at the most inconvenient time, with human rights activists already calling for a boycott of the 2008 Summer Olympics, due to open here Aug. 8. In what now seems an absurd proposition, China had planned to route the Olympic torch through Tibet to underscore that the nation's minorities live in one "harmonious society."

The absurd proposition is returning the Olympics to another such regime, making the West once again handmaidens to evil.

In Tibet, China dishonours Olympic spirit (March 17, 2008, Rediff)

What had to happen happened! As in 1959, 1987 or again in 1989, riots have erupted in Lhasa and other provinces of Tibet. The repression (and it is only a beginning) is said to be ferocious. But compared to the previous uprisings, this time the background is different: China is hosting the Summer Olympics, an event dedicated to world peace.

I am not sure if there is a Chinese translation of the universally known saying 'There is no free meal', but Beijing should have thought about it before bidding to host the 2008 Games. You can't have the glory of hosting the Games without having to pay the price for not following the basic spirit of the event. The Olympics are more than a commercial venture, they are a celebration of the highest values that mankind can manifest.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:58 AM


Stunning putt earns Woods victory (BBC, 3/17/08)

Tiger Woods holed a remarkable 24-foot putt at the 18th to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill as he continued his six-month winning streak.

The world number one arrived at the final hole level with Bart Bryant on nine-under-par but sunk a birdie to clinch his seventh successive win.

...the players should all surround Tiger at the first tee box, raise their drivers, and say: "We who are about to die salute you!"

March 16, 2008

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:14 PM


Iran elections leave parliamentary power split (David Blair, 17/03/2008, Daily Telegraph)

The balance of power inside Iran grew more volatile when supporters and critics of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won roughly equal representation in parliament.

Hardliners will dominate the new "Majlis", but the House will probably be split down the middle over Mr Ahmadinejad's fitness to rule.

With 190 of the 290 seats declared, Mr Ahmadinejad's supporters had taken 67. His conservative critics, who blame him for Iran's economic troubles, won 46, while his opponents among Iran's liberal reformers - roughly 90 per cent of whose candidates were prevented from running - took 30 seats.

What a waste--the Reformers could have buried, instead of just neutered, him.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:55 PM


Clinton lashes Obama's 'assault' as McCain visits Iraq (AFP, 3/16/08)

Hillary Clinton's White House campaign lashed out Sunday after a report said rival Barack Obama was preparing a "full assault" on her after unloading some embarrassments to his own campaign.

The feuding over the report in the Democrat's hometown newspaper, the Chicago Tribune, came as Republican nominee-elect John McCain polished his national security credentials on a surprise trip to Iraq.

"It is disappointing that a campaign that began by promising a politics of hope has come to this, that it is signalling and revelling in attacks on Senator Clinton's character," her communications director Howard Wolfson said.

Nevermind answering the hotline, would you want either of them at the adults' table at Thanksgiving?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:47 PM


McGreevey aide says he had sexual trysts with ex-governor, wife (Judith Lucas and John P. Martin, March 16, 2008, The Star-Ledger)

A former aide to James E. McGreevey said today that he had three-way sexual trysts with the former governor and his wife before he took office, challenging Dina Matos McGreevey's assertion that she was naive about her husband's sexual exploits.

The aide, Theodore Pedersen, said he and the couple even had a nickname for the weekly romps, from 1999 to 2001, that typically began with dinner at T.G.I. Friday's and ended with a threesome at McGreevey's condo in Woodbridge.

They called them "Friday Night Specials," according to Pedersen.

Pedersen described the encounters during an interview with The Star-Ledger. He said he wanted to refute the innocent image that Matos McGreevey has projected - both during the couple's ongoing divorce battle and in interviews she gave after New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer resigned last week in a sex scandal. He said he was also incensed by her portrayal of herself as an unsuspecting wife in her book: "Silent Partner: A Memoir of My Marriage."

New Jersey is like Hell but sans warmth and the smell is worse than brimstone.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:08 PM


The Wit & Wisdom of Barack Obama: Some of it may sound familiar (Andrew Ferguson, 03/24/2008, Weekly Standard)

There's still room for whimsy at the New Yorker magazine, I don't care what you've heard. Just the other day two of the New Yorker's bloggers (now there's a phrase to send Harold Ross spinning) were chewing over the widely noted eloquence of Barack Obama. They were struck by "Obama's wonderful line," as one of them described it, to the effect that "We are the ones we've been waiting for." Obama uses it as one of his signature refrains. Some of his followers even turned it into a music video.

So one thing led to another, as it does on blogs, and before long the bloggers began wondering, as they do at the New Yorker, what the phrase would sound like in French.

"You couldn't say it in French," blogged one of the bloggers.

"Are you sure about the French?" the other blogger blogged back. "Mine isn't good enough to know if 'C'est nous qui nous avons attendu' or 'Ceux qui nous attendons, c'est nous' would sound French to a French ear, or if it just would sound stupid." Oui, blogged the first blogger. It would sound très stupid. "My ear/memory tells me that it would be too weird to say, since I think there's a we/us thing that doesn't work."

Eventually a French journalist was consulted. He ruled summarily that, translated into French, "the Barack Obama sentence [le sentence de la Barack Obama] sounds weird to me."

So there you have it: You can't really say "We are the ones we've
been waiting for" in French. The matter was closed. The bloggers moved on. Good times indeed.

But wait. There was something tantalizingly incomplete about this brief discussion of whether the sentence sounds weird in French: What was missing was an acknowledgement of how weird the sentence sounds in English. What, after all, does "We are the ones we've been waiting for" mean, precisely? My hunch is that the sentence is one of those things that no one will admit to being confused by, like the movies of Godard or the tenor-sax solos of John Coltrane, lest your peers think you're a loser or a moron. Certainly Obama fans won't admit how obscure the sentence is--though several have claimed that it's lifted from a prophecy of the Tribal Elders of the Hopi Indians. Hopi prophecies are famously obscure.

But this is just wishful thinking. The origins of the phrase aren't nearly so glamorous or exotic. Two years ago, before Obama even said he wanted to be president, the left-wing-radical-feminist-lesbian novelist Alice Walker published a book of essays and called it We are the Ones We've Been Waiting For. Believe me: If the line had come from the Tribal Elders of the Hopi nation, Alice Walker would have been more than happy to say so. Instead she said it came from a poem published in 1980 by the left-wing-radical-feminist-bisexual poet June Jordan.

The Audacity of Hopi?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:06 PM


Obama and the Minister (RONALD KESSLER, March 14, 2008, Wall Street Journal)

Hearing Mr. Wright's venomous and paranoid denunciations of this country, the vast majority of Americans would walk out. Instead, Mr. Obama and his wife Michelle have presumably sat through numerous similar sermons by Mr. Wright.

Indeed, Mr. Obama has described Mr. Wright as his "sounding board" during the two decades he has known him. Mr. Obama has said he found religion through the minister in the 1980s. He joined the church in 1991 and walked down the aisle in a formal commitment of faith.

The title of Mr. Obama's bestseller "The Audacity of Hope" comes from one of Wright's sermons. Mr. Wright is one of the first people Mr. Obama thanked after his election to the Senate in 2004. Mr. Obama consulted Mr. Wright before deciding to run for president. He prayed privately with Mr. Wright before announcing his candidacy last year.

Mr. Obama obviously would not choose to belong to Mr. Wright's church and seek his advice unless he agreed with at least some of his views. In light of Mr. Wright's perspective, Michelle Obama's comment that she feels proud of America for the first time in her adult life makes perfect sense.

Much as most of us would appreciate the symbolism of a black man ascending to the presidency, what we have in Barack Obama is a politician whose closeness to Mr. Wright underscores his radical record.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:26 PM


Gun control should be a hot topic among U.S. presidential aspirants (Albert R. Hunt, March 16, 2008, Bloomberg News)

This Tuesday is a rare one in the United States, without a presidential primary. The political fireworks instead will be at the Supreme Court, which will hear a case on whether the government can limit firearms.

In a country racked by gun violence, this should be a hot topic among presidential aspirants. It isn't.

The Democratic candidates, Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and Barack Obama of Illinois, and, less surprisingly, the likely Republican nominee, Senator John McCain of Arizona, are ducking the issue. There is minimal attention to guns on any of their Web sites.

Every reputable poll shows most Americans believe in limits on gun use.

Most of the passion on the issue, however, is with the powerful gun lobby and its adherents.

Clinton and Obama believe that taking a dive on guns will make it easier to cut into Republican strength in Southern, Western and rural areas.

Boy, the Left is intent on turning their Convention into Masada, huh?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:56 AM


The Deep Blue Divide: For months, Democrats were just thrilled with their choices. Now they can't even stand to sit together. (Julia Baird, Mar 24, 2008, NEWSWEEK)

For the past five years, a group of friends, mostly military wives or retired government workers, have been meeting for lunch at an Italian restaurant called Amici's in a strip mall in Stafford, Va. All Democrats, they don't come just for the wood-fired pizza or $8.99 lunch buffet. They come to talk about their beloved party. But lately, the air has chilled in the Tuscan-themed room.

At the lunch after Clinton's loss in Virginia, Alicia Knight, 49, a Hillary supporter, came in late. The only spare chair was between two Obama supporters, both old friends of Knight's. "I was so angry, I didn't want to sit between them, so I sat by myself at another table," she says. "It's become like the cold war: in order to maintain the relationship, you don't talk to each other." Recently, the Clinton and Obama groups began lunching separately. "We couldn't take the bashing, the smirkiness of the Obama fans," says Linda Berkoff, 63.

It's unclear exactly when the primaries stopped being a joyous occasion for the Democrats. But as the weeks have ground on, the intensity between Democrats who disagree has calcified, the vitriol grown fiercer.

You can't have amicable political disagreements when you have no sense of humor, which liberals, by definition, don't.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:17 AM


Iran's young women find private path to freedom: A headscarf pushed back to show off a new haircut, a tight jacket worn over traditional dress, expensive make-up ... the challenge to the hardline clerics is taking place in bars and cafes, not in the polling booth, as the youth of Tehran push the boundaries of self-expression (Peter Beaumont, 3/16/08, The Observer)

The rules of the coffee houses - in comparison with the street - reflect the fundamental division in Iran. It is not the divide between the 'Reforms' and the 'Principalists' of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who competed for Iran's parliamentary elections on Friday. For many of the young, including Mehdi and Shareh, those elections represented an increasingly irrelevant distinction in a clerical system they feel is stacked in favour of itself. Instead, the division is between what Iranians do and say in private, or in places where they feel comfortable, and how they are forced to behave in public.

The inevitable tension between the two is defining the boundaries of the country's culture wars. For it is here, rather than in the polling booths, that Iran's most crucial competition is taking place - over the limits of what is acceptable self-expression. It is the struggle to push the boundaries of freedom in Iran.

In Tehran, it is visible in the girls who wear their scarves pushed far back on their heads, hair springing free, faces heavily made up or tight jackets worn over their knee-length mantles in a challenge to the system.

Even those attempting to push the boundaries insist that, despite the image of Iran in the West as virtually a totalitarian regime, Iranians enjoy more freedoms than they are credited with. Two of those are Sohrab Mahdavi, editor of the online, and his friend Ramin Sadighi, a musician and director of a record label, who are involved in a project to bring more music into public places.

'The crucial thing to understand about Iran,' said Mahdavi, 'is that we do have freedoms. The important issue is the separation between public and private space in Iranian life. Since the revolution, public space has been tightly controlled [by the clerical authorities], so people have created their own "public spaces" in private. A consequence is that what is acceptable in private is now constantly in the process of trying to nibble away at the controlled public arena.'

'And you have to bear in mind,' said Sadighi, 'how youthful the population is here. They are the fruits of the system in many respects. But they are going in an opposite direction to it. There is no social movement that is represented by them - and I think that is probably a good thing for the future of Iran - but what is happening is that people have joined together to form small colonies of interest.'

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:58 AM


Why US is the great democracy (David Burchell, March 17, 2008, The Australian)

A FEW years ago I joined some colleagues on an academic conference jaunt to a large private university in the American northeast. The approved conference itinerary was to take us directly from our swish Chicago hotel to the campus gates, in the hygienic manner of the modern business traveller.

For reasons too complicated to retell, on the return trip we found ourselves becalmed in a village in the backwaters of rural Indiana, in the old American heartland. The streets we strolled down were lined with wooden bungalows, and there was a flagstaff with the Stars and Stripes in every other front yard. We ate in rural diners by the highway with orange-tinted windows, stained wooden cubicles and waitresses with chequered aprons.

Much like Columbus, we had voyaged in search of streets paved with gold, and instead we had accidentally discovered America.

It's a pity more Australian observers don't discover heartland America in this fashion, especially in this historic election year. Because we have more to learn from the rambunctious drama of American democracy than we are prepared to admit. [...]

ast week in New Republic magazine a young Texan journalist gave a worm's-eye view of his experiences in the Precinct 426 caucus in the city of East Austin. It reads like a chapter out of Tocqueville, suitably updated and digitised.

There are more than 8000 precinct conventions in Texas. They will elect some few dozen of the 4000 delegates at the Democratic National Convention in August. They are, in other words, the merest tip of the electoral iceberg.

Yet this year, when the Precinct 426 chair arrived with her sheaf of manila folders, more than 250 people were lined up outside the doors of the local elementary school. Most had never caucused before; some were old enough that they remembered voting for John F.Kennedy.

But there they all were, white, black and Hispanic, college-educated and high-school graduates alike, forming lines and making impromptu, hesitant speeches.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:55 AM


Czechs at centre-stage as EU troublemaker, US ally (DPA, 3/15/08)

By securing a separate US visa deal in Washington, the eurosceptic Czech government showed the 27-member EU's fragile unity and undermined the bloc's efforts to negotiate common travel rules with Washington.

In effect, the Czechs gave up on Brussels after repeatedly asking the European Commission, the EU executive, to lobby the US to abolish visa requirements for US-friendly EU newcomers in the former Soviet bloc.

"The Czechs have have become a US guinea pig in Europe that indicates how far it is possible to go," said political scientist Jiri Pehe, who heads New York University's branch in Prague.

Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek signed the visa deal in Washingon last month, pledging in return to help US efforts to track airline passengers. Estonia and Latvia followed Wednesday with US visa deals of their own.

EU officials in Brussels were infuriated.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:16 AM


McCain makes surprise trip to Baghdad (Bradley Brooks, March 16, 2008, AP)

Sen. John McCain, the Republican Party's presumptive nominee for president who has linked his political future to U.S. success in Iraq, was in Baghdad today for meetings with Iraqi and U.S. diplomatic and military officials, a U.S. government official said.

Ah, the benefits of a hierarchical party.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:10 AM


McCain is a good friend to the unborn (Robert P. George, 3/16/08, Philadelphia Inquirer)

[M]cCain's pro-life record as a whole is very strong. It is not the record of a politician hostile to the pro-life cause or generally unreliable on pro-life issues. He may have been led astray on stem-cell research - but he did co-sponsor Sen. Sam Brownback's bill prohibiting the creation of embryos by cloning for purposes of research in which they are killed. Contrast his position with those of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Both bitterly oppose the Brownback cloning ban and support the funding of embryo-destroying human cloning with taxpayer dollars. [...]

The next president will name several hundred federal judges, probably including two or more Supreme Court justices. Sen. McCain has pledged to nominate judges who will faithfully interpret the Constitution, not legislate from the bench, and he has made clear that he thinks Justices Roberts and Alito are good models. Sens. Clinton or Obama, by contrast, would be certain - I repeat, certain - to nominate judges and justices who reject this view of the judge's role, and who are deeply committed to maintaining the regime of judicially mandated abortion on demand.

Moreover, McCain would uphold, and Clinton or Obama would overturn, crucial pro-life policies enacted by Republican Congresses or sustained by President Bush in recent years. For instance, the so-called Mexico City policy, first put in place by President Reagan to make sure taxpayer funds are not be used to promote or pay for abortions, would be preserved by a President McCain, but would be immediately reversed by a President Clinton or Obama. Bill Clinton overturned the policy during his first week in office; President Bush reinstated it. This is a clear point of difference, with many tiny human lives hanging in the balance.

Similarly, some key pro-life provisions in each year's federal budget would be in grave danger if a Democratic president and Congress were producing the budget: Amendments prohibiting the use of federal dollars to fund abortion (the Hyde amendment), to support international organizations involved in coercive abortion programs (the Kemp-Kasten amendment), to discriminate against health professionals who refuse to perform abortions (the Hyde-Weldon amendment), to fund abortions through the federal employee insurance program (the Smith amendment), to issue patents on human embryos (the Weldon amendment), and other crucial provisions will all be in peril if John McCain is defeated. Every pro-life citizen needs to think about that in considering what to do on Election Day.

And there is more. A Clinton or Obama administration would lead a jihad against the key pro-life legislative achievements of the last decade, including the partial-birth abortion ban, the Born Alive Infant Protection Act (which forbids the heinous practice of killing or failing to administer life-saving care to babies who survive attempted abortions and are born alive), and the Unborn Victims of Violence Act. McCain supported all these initiatives and would work to protect them from a hostile Democratic Congress.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:06 AM


McCain's mixed signals on foreign policy: The presumed Republican presidential nominee has taken diverse positions over his 25 years in Congress, from pragmatic to hawkish. Supporters wonder what he'd do in office (Paul Richter, 3/16/08, Los Angeles Times)

From his father, an admiral who served in World War II, he inherited the view that the United States must take care to preserve its image of strength and greatness, not backing down in the face of lesser opponents.

At the same time, McCain's beliefs have been colored by his time as a Navy aviator, when he and his buddies became convinced that civilian leaders in Washington were dangerously mishandling the Vietnam War. Even while he wants to extend American authority, McCain as a lawmaker has regularly bucked the Republican establishment.

The Lebanon vote was an example. In 1983, McCain voted against a bill to extend Reagan's deployment of U.S. troops there. Reagan wanted more time to strengthen the fragile Lebanese government, but McCain worried that the American force was too small and that U.S. interests did not justify the risk.

In a similar vein, when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990, McCain initially wanted to limit the response to an air war.

"To start putting American troops into that kind of meat grinder I just don't think is a viable option," McCain said in a televised interview at the time. But he quickly changed his view, voting five months later to join an international effort to push Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait.

Three years later, after 18 U.S. servicemen were killed in an ambush in Mogadishu, Somalia, McCain decided that it was time to force a withdrawal of the troops, and he introduced an amendment to cut off funds. He wrote later that he regretted the step as an encroachment on the president's power and "as a retreat in the face of aggression from an inferior foe."

In 1993, McCain opposed the U.S. military intervention in Haiti. Like then- President Clinton, he initially was reluctant to intervene in Bosnia in 1993 and 1994. After the Dayton Peace Accords in 1995, McCain supported the administration's plan to send U.S. peacekeepers into the region, with some reservations.

Growing bolder in his advocacy of U.S. deployments, McCain in 1999 favored American use of force -- even ground troops -- to halt the "ethnic cleansing" of ethnic Albanians in the Yugoslavian province of Kosovo.

McCain was moving closer to the muscular interventionism advanced by analysts like William Kristol and Robert Kagan, friends and advisors who are generally considered neoconservatives. McCain began giving greater emphasis to the idea that the United States needed to assert itself abroad to promote its values, not just narrower national interests.

"He clearly was moving closer to the neocons," said Simes of the Nixon Center. By the time the 2000 election campaign got underway "they were already quite enthusiastic about him."

Yet throughout, McCain continued to keep close ties among old-school realists, including former Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger, former National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft, and former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage. They thought he was on their side too.

In 2002, when debate erupted over war with Iraq, McCain seemed to strengthen his identity as a neoconservative. He agreed with administration officials that Saddam Hussein was trying to restart his nuclear weapons program, and he urged the United States to give more money to controversial financier Ahmad Chalabi of the Iraqi National Congress and other Iraqi exiles. He predicted that regime change in Iraq could catalyze sweeping democratic change in the region.

McCain has staked out a more hawkish position on Iran than the Bush administration, saying that "the only thing worse than military action against Iran is a nuclear-armed Iran." opposing a deployment of American forces but then thinking it has to succeed once it occurs.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:36 AM


Missile Strike Kills 16 Near Pakistan-Afghanistan Border (VOA News, 16 March 2008)

The attack took place Sunday in the restive tribal area of South Waziristan, where Pakistani troops have been battling militants linked to al-Qaida and the Taliban.

The source of the missile strike is not clear.

To whom?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:20 AM


Rezko role bigger than admitted (KENNETH P. VOGEL | 3/14/08, Politico)

Obama's acknowledgment that Rezko raised as much as $250,000 for earlier campaigns, initially made in an interview with The Chicago Tribune and confirmed later to Politico, came after a year-and-a-half-long trickle of admissions about Rezko’s fundraising role and more than a month after Obama’s aides contended that they had identified and jettisoned all Rezko-linked cash. It also came as Rezko’s trial on corruption charges, underway in Chicago, brought increased scrutiny of Obama’s ties to the real estate developer, fast-food magnate and political insider.

Days ago, Politico asked the campaign for a detailed list of the $157,835 in Rezko-linked contributions it said it had donated to charity.

The campaign attributed only $85,185 of that to a list of specific donations from Rezko and 16 associates, declining to attribute the rest because it told Politico it didn’t want to subject other contributors “to any suspicion of wrongdoing or embarrassment.”

Story behind the story: Obama's pastor (MIKE ALLEN | 3/15/08, Politico)
[I]t revived conservative chatter about Obama’s patriotism that has been fueled by rumors he does not put his hand on his heart for the Pledge of Allegiance (false) and stopped wearing a flag lapel pin (true).

Wright has been the minister to Obama for more than 20 years and gave him the title of his second best-seller, “The Audacity of Hope.” Wright married Obama and his wife, Michelle, and baptized their two daughters.

Wright is pastor of Chicago’s Trinity United Church of Christ, which on its website calls itself “Unashamedly Black and Unapologetically Christian,” and lists “a non-negotiable commitment to Africa” as part of its “10-point Vision.”

The minister’s controversial history has been written about countless times throughout the campaign. Wright has ties to the Rev. Louis Farrakhan, the black supremacist leader of the Nation of Islam — a fact that has been noted in more than 100 news stories just in the past few months, according to the Nexis database of news coverage.

Opponents of Obama have constantly pushed reporters to write about the minister, which these critics considered a ticking time bomb for his campaign.

On Feb. 20, after a fiery guest sermon by Wright in Little Rock, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette ran an article that said: “On Tuesday, Wright criticized the U.S. invasion of Iraq and likened the insurgents to the Israelites under Babylonian rule.”

Obama claims Iowa gains (Ben Smith, 3/16/08, Politico)
Iowa's county conventions were today, and they were expected to be the site of a scramble for supporters of Edwards and other candidates who left the race.

I've been getting e-mails all day from Iowans at conventions who say that the bulk of these free agents have broken Obama's way, and in a conference call with reporters, Obama campaign manager David Plouffe said that Obama has gained at least five national delegates.

With three of the state's 45 delegates still unallocated, he said, Obama stands at 21, Clinton at 14. On caucus day, the numbers were Obama 16, Clinton 15.

Google Reader just happened to present these three stories consecutively.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:10 AM


Dalai Lama condemns 'cultural genocide' in Tibet (David Eimer in Beijing, Gethin Chamberlain and agencies, 16/03/2008, Daily Telegraph)

He called for an international investigation into China's crackdown on demonstrators in Tibet, which witnesses said had left more than 100 people dead.

"Some respected international organisation can find out what the situation is in Tibet and what is the cause," he told reporters in Dharmsala, the town in northern India where Tibet's government-in-exile is based.

"Whether the (Chinese) government there admits or not, there is a problem. There is an ancient cultural heritage that is facing serious danger.

"Whether intentionally or unintentionally, some kind of cultural genocide is taking place."

Fears of another Tiananmen as Tibet explodes in hatred: The Olympics, just months away, will not stop Beijing cracking down on riots that may have left more than 30 dead (James Miles of The Economist in Lhasa and Michael Sheridan in Hong Kong, 3/16/08, Times of London)
The rioters appeared impervious to increasingly shrill calls for order issued by the Tibet autonomous regional government, which set a deadline of midnight on Monday for them to surrender.

By yesterday afternoon, China still had not regained control of the centre of Lhasa and as world attention focused on its reaction to the uprising, its leaders, gathered for a self-congratulatory meeting in Beijing, faced the “Tiananmen dilemma” – whether to use overwhelming force.

China is conscious that with the 2008 Olympics just five months away it could face a new public relations disaster on a par with the Tiananmen Square massacre, in which hundreds died when the party sent in tanks to crush pro-democracy protests in 1989.

If we think of George W. Bush as having corrected the mistakes of his father--experienced vp, annual tax cuts with no increases, removing Saddam from power, no Souters, etc.--then we have a here the opportunity for him to correct GHWB's inaction at the time of Tiananmen. At a minimum we should demand withdrawal of Chinese forces from Tibet and recognition of statehood for Tibet and Taiwan as well as a referendum in Hong Kong.

March 15, 2008

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:00 PM


Obama and Wright (Michael Crowley, 3/15/08, New Republic: The Stump)

Jeremiah Wright's 2003 "War on Iraq IQ Test" underscores that the now-infamous Wright clips playing on television were neither isolated outbursts nor mere efforts at being "provocative," as Obama described the post-9/11 tirade to the New York Times last April. (People didn't much note this at the time because a) the Times didn't directly quote from the sermon and b) seeing/hearing the rhetorical power--and anger--of Wright's rhetoric takes it to a different and jarringly visceral level.) It's also clear that the question of whether Obama was present for those particular sermons now in the news isn't really the issue. Wright's oft-iterated political worldview, which apparently includes the belief that the US created AIDS to keep the Third World in poverty, should be quite apparent to anyone who knows him as well as Obama does.

Where does this leave us? There are two separate issues here. One is political, and that one's not too ambiguous: This is really bad news for Obama, both in the primary and if he makes it to the general. He's worked successfully to escape the image of the "angry black man," and here he is linked to that image in the most emotionally searing way.

The second issue is how we should feel, normatively, about the fact that Obama maintained ties with Wright, even after presumably realizing that he held views Obama now calls deplorable.

Like a dupe if you bought into the hype.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:06 PM


The atheist delusion: 'Opposition to religion occupies the high ground, intellectually and morally,' wrote Martin Amis recently. Over the past few years, leading writers and thinkers have published bestselling tracts against God. John Gray on why the 'secular fundamentalists' have got it all wrong (John Gray, March 15, 2008, Guardian)

The US is no more secular today than it was 150 years ago, when De Tocqueville was amazed and baffled by its all-pervading religiosity. The secular era was in any case partly illusory. The mass political movements of the 20th century were vehicles for myths inherited from religion, and it is no accident that religion is reviving now that these movements have collapsed. The current hostility to religion is a reaction against this turnabout. Secularisation is in retreat, and the result is the appearance of an evangelical type of atheism not seen since Victorian times.

As in the past, this is a type of atheism that mirrors the faith it rejects. Philip Pullman's Northern Lights - a subtly allusive, multilayered allegory, recently adapted into a Hollywood blockbuster, The Golden Compass - is a good example. Pullman's parable concerns far more than the dangers of authoritarianism. The issues it raises are essentially religious, and it is deeply indebted to the faith it attacks. Pullman has stated that his atheism was formed in the Anglican tradition, and there are many echoes of Milton and Blake in his work. His largest debt to this tradition is the notion of free will. The central thread of the story is the assertion of free will against faith. The young heroine Lyra Belacqua sets out to thwart the Magisterium - Pullman's metaphor for Christianity - because it aims to deprive humans of their ability to choose their own course in life, which she believes would destroy what is most human in them. But the idea of free will that informs liberal notions of personal autonomy is biblical in origin (think of the Genesis story). The belief that exercising free will is part of being human is a legacy of faith, and like most varieties of atheism today, Pullman's is a derivative of Christianity.

Zealous atheism renews some of the worst features of Christianity and Islam. Just as much as these religions, it is a project of universal conversion. Evangelical atheists never doubt that human life can be transformed if everyone accepts their view of things, and they are certain that one way of living - their own, suitably embellished - is right for everybody. To be sure, atheism need not be a missionary creed of this kind. It is entirely reasonable to have no religious beliefs, and yet be friendly to religion. It is a funny sort of humanism that condemns an impulse that is peculiarly human. Yet that is what evangelical atheists do when they demonise religion.

The bigger problem is that it has none of the positive features, is, in fact, little more than an escape from morality into the self as the ultimate good. But then, what else can be expected of ideologies that are naught but reactions against God?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:03 PM


McCain Beats Obama, Clinton With Nader Running, Poll Shows (Alison Vekshin, Mar 15, 2008, Bloomberg)

Republican presidential candidate John McCain would defeat either of his Democratic rivals Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama in a general election contest that includes activist and author Ralph Nader, a new poll said.

McCain, an Arizona senator, would receive 45 percent of the vote compared with 39 percent for Clinton, a New York senator, and 6 percent for Nader. McCain would get 44 percent to 39 percent for Obama, an Illinois senator, and 5 percent for Nader, according to polling results released today by Zogby International.

In each matchup 11 percent were undecided, with McCain leading because of an advantage among independent voters, the poll found. Zogby polled 1,001 likely voters by telephone from March 13 to March 14. The survey has a margin of error of 3 percentage points.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:49 PM


Wright: 'U.S. of KKKA' knew about Pearl Harbor: Preacher tells black-on-black criminals they're fighting wrong enemy in video (WorldNetDaily, 3/15/08)

Newly released video of Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Democrat presidential contender Sen. Barack Obama's controversial pastor, shows the preacher telling his congregation the United States knew of the attack on Pearl Harbor before the Japanese struck, the U.S. would plant weapons of mass destruction in Iraq "just like the LAPD," and those committing black-on-black crime are "fighting the wrong enemy."

The series of clips, taken from hours of sermons, was broadcast on Fox News' Hannity & Colmes program last night.

Just What Did Obama Know About Wright's Past Sermons? (Jake Tapper, March 15, 2008, ABC News: Political Punch)
[A]ccording to a New York Times story from a year ago, the Obama campaign dis-invited Wright from delivering a public invocation at Obama's candidacy announcement.

“Fifteen minutes before Shabbos I get a call from Barack,” Wright told the Times. “One of his members had talked him into uninviting me."

In a phone call with Wright, Obama cited a Rolling Stone story, “The Radical Roots of Barack Obama," (the name of which has curiously been changed on the RS website) and told him, according to Wright, “You can get kind of rough in the sermons, so what we’ve decided is that it’s best for you not to be out there in public.”

That story included the following passage: "The Trinity United Church of Christ, the church that Barack Obama attends in Chicago, is at once vast and unprepossessing, a big structure a couple of blocks from the projects, in the long open sore of a ghetto on the city's far South Side. The church is a leftover vision from the Sixties of what a black nationalist future might look like. There's the testifying fervor of the black church, the Afrocentric Bible readings, even the odd dashiki. And there is the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, a sprawling, profane bear of a preacher, a kind of black ministerial institution, with his own radio shows and guest preaching gigs across the country. Wright takes the pulpit here one Sunday and solemnly, sonorously declares that he will recite 10 essential facts about the United States. 'Fact number one: We've got more black men in prison than there are in college,' he intones. 'Fact number two: Racism is how this country was founded and how this country is still run!' There is thumping applause; Wright has a cadence and power that make Obama sound like John Kerry. Now the reverend begins to preach. 'We are deeply involved in the importing of drugs, the exporting of guns and the training of professional KILLERS. ... We believe in white supremacy and black inferiority and believe it more than we believe in God. ... We conducted radiation experiments on our own people. ... We care nothing about human life if the ends justify the means!" The crowd whoops and amens as Wright builds to his climax: 'And. And. And! GAWD! Has GOT! To be SICK! OF THIS S***!'"

This was more than a year ago.

Thank Karl this stuff didn't gain traction until he'd secured the nomination.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:22 PM


In Britain, creationist theory is evolving: Groups that oppose Darwin are making headway in schools. (Gregory Katz, March 15, 2008, AP)

After the Sunday service in Westminster Chapel, where worshipers were exhorted to wage "the culture war" in the World War II spirit of Sir Winston Churchill, cabbie James McLean delivered his verdict on Charles Darwin's theory of evolution.

"Evolution is a lie, and it's being taught in schools as fact, and it's leading our kids in the wrong direction," said McLean, chatting outside the chapel. "But now people like Ken Ham are tearing evolution to pieces."

Ken Ham is the founder of Answers in Genesis, a Kentucky-based organization that is part of an ambitious effort to bring creationist theory to Britain and the rest of Europe. McLean is one of a growing number of evangelicals embracing that message -- that the true history of the Earth is told in the Bible, not Darwin's "The Origin of Species."

Europeans have long viewed the conflict between evolutionists and creationists as primarily an American phenomenon, but it has recently jumped the Atlantic with skirmishes in Italy, Germany, Poland and, notably, Britain, where Darwin was born and where he published his 1859 classic. [...]

All this activity has lifted spirits at the Westminster Chapel, a 165-year-old evangelical church that is not affiliated with nearby Westminster Abbey, where Darwin is buried.

In the chapel, the Rev. Greg Haslam tells 150 believers that they are in a conflict with secularism that can only be won if they heed Churchill's exhortation and never give up.

"The first thing you have to do is realize we are in a war, and identify the enemy, and learn how to defeat the enemy," he said [...]

Terry Sanderson, president of Britain's National Secular Society, a group founded in 1866 to limit the influence of religious leaders, said that the groups advocating a literal interpretation of the Bible are making headway.

"Creationism is creeping into the schools," he said. "There is a constant pressure to get these ideas into the schools."

If it's unsurprising that only about 13% of Americans believe in Darwinism--the Founding, after all, being premised on Creationism--it's rather more revealing that less than half of Britain believes in evolution theory, despite the natural nationalistic pride in the notions of a native son that made them so susceptible to the Piltdown and peppered moth hoaxes.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:07 PM


World raps China over crackdown (Gulf Daily News, 3/16/08)

Taiwan led sweeping world condemnation yesterday of China's brutal crackdown on protesters in Tibet and accused Beijing of trying to gloss over its rights record with Olympic sheen.

The arm-flexing has caused newspapers around the world to start talking about a possible boycott of the upcoming Olympic Games in Beijing.

Australia, the US and Europe urged the Chinese authorities to find a peaceful outcome, while Taiwan, which China claims as its own, condemned Beijing for launching a crackdown.

Ronald Reagan not only supported the 19809 boycott of the Moscow Olympics but used the threat of boycott or withdrawal of the '88 Games entirely as a weapon to get South Korea to democratize, which it did. The PRC handed us the sword, let's use it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:01 PM


Tories gain 16-point lead over Labour (Jonathan Milne, 3/16/08, The Sunday Times)

THE Tories have opened up a 16-point lead over Labour, their biggest in more than 20 years, a poll for this weekend’s Sunday Times has found.

YouGov put the Conservatives on 43%, compared with 27% for Labour and just 16% for Nick Clegg’s Liberal Democrats. Gordon Brown has now taken Labour to its lowest poll rating since 1983, when Michael Foot was the party’s leader.

If the results were repeated at a general election, Cameron would lead his party to a Commons majority of around 120.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:39 PM


Obama opens up on Rezko, and it's almost believable (John Kass, March 16, 2008, Chicago Tribune)

I wanted to believe Obama, and almost did.

Afterward, we joked about smoking cigarettes together after the election—and promised not to tell our wives, since we've both quit.

If he is elected, he can smoke whenever, like a grown-up, even in the Oval Office, and I'd even lie to Congress about his smoking, just as long as President Obama keeps his mouth shut about me.

Later, when the people from other floors weren't hanging in the halls like Bono groupies at a U2 concert, I was left alone with a problem: Obama asks us to believe he can swim in the sewers of Illinois politics without catching a cold. He tells us that Rezko helped him scope out his dream house, yet Obama never thought he'd get a call from Tony saying his back was itchy.

"No," Obama said. "Because I had known him for a long time, and so I would have assumed I would have seen a pattern [of Rezko asking for favors] over the course of 15 years."

I'm too old to believe in fairy tales.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:10 PM


Jindal 'bats a thousand' at session
Private tuition break among bills to pass
(Ed Anderson
and Robert Travis Scott, 3/15/08,

The state Legislature on Friday wrapped up its second special session during the 2-month-old administration of Gov. Bobby Jindal by completing a full sweep of the governor's proposed package of business tax cuts and $1.1 billion in surplus spending priorities.

Jindal and his legislative allies won all the initiatives they set out to accomplish during the six-day session, including a controversial bill to grant a partial tax deduction for private school tuition.

Flanked by many members of his supporting team of lawmakers at an evening news conference, the governor framed the results as a positive statement on Louisiana's national image.

"This group should be proud of batting a thousand," Jindal said. "The country's watching us . . . we know they'll like what they see." [...]

House and Senate members struck a historic compromise Friday on a bill to create a state income tax deduction for 50 percent of the tuition paid for private school education, up to $5,000 per student. Home schooling parents also will get a deduction.

The deduction is a rare form of support for private school parents, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. [...]

The spending for the session included projects that Jindal targeted as keystones to long-term economic development programs. Those included $50 million for the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, money to help prepare for a so-called cyber-command center that the Air Force is considering in the Shreveport area and a major infusion of cash into several of the state's ports, including in New Orleans.

The Legislature acceded to the wishes of Jindal by breaking the state spending cap by $1 billion and allocating $1 billion in one-time new money to highway, port and hurricane protection needs.

Senators voted 39-0 for the $1 billion in new spending and voted 30-8 to authorize the spending by increasing the spending limit from $11 billion to $12 billion. The House unanimously went along with minor Senate changes in House Bill 46, the supplemental spending bill, by Rep. Jim Fannin, D-Jonesboro, and sent it to Jindal for his signature.

The $1 billion surplus is left over from a revenue surplus in 2006-07.

The spending plan calls for about $530 million for highway construction and repair; $300 million for levee work and coastal restoration that can be used to match federal dollars; $60 million to pay toward a potential $10 billion-plus shortfall in the state's retirement systems; and more than $24 million for the Port of New Orleans' expansion of the Napoleon Avenue container terminal.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:57 AM


What happened to the revolution?: Vietnam is getting rich. For Tom Hayden and other 1960s-era Marxists, that's bad news (Robert Fulford, 3/15/08, National Post)

Why aren't the Vietnamese more grateful to Tom Hayden? Recently, he returned for the first time in 36 years to the country that he and his then-wife Jane Fonda tried to save from American domination in the Vietnam war. The trip disappointed him. As he writes in the March 10 issue of The Nation, Vietnam has turned capitalist. [...]

An article such as Mamet's probably won't shake the faith of many liberals. Tom Hayden, for instance, stands firmly by his prejudices. Not even Vietnam can shake him. Its economy grows swiftly and so does its per capita GDP. It's a single-party state, still using the name Communist Party, and it has economic freedom without the other kinds of liberty. During his trip, a leading Vietnamese novelist told him, "Some Americans may sympathize with communism, but I lived under it and couldn't stand it." The novelist has a son making millions travelling for a high-tech corporation.

Is it possible, Hayden asks himself, that Marxism and nationalism won the war but capitalism and nationalism won the peace? Are "the supposedly scientific models of history long embraced by the left being replaced with a kind of chaos theory of unpredictability? Is this all that was ever possible?" [...]

"Far be it from me," says Hayden. "to question the desire of the Vietnamese to share our globalized consumer culture like everyone else." But of course that's precisely what he wants to do, and does. He made his trip, he writes, because "I wanted to understand the long-term lessons." Considered in that light, his journey was a failure.

Not least because, like all such liberal sight-seeing trips, it ends with him returning to the bosom of the consumer culture he supposedly disapproves of.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:50 AM


Clinton-Obama War Creates Serious Tensions at DailyKos (Jake Tapper, March 15, 2008, ABC News: Political Punch)

This is how ugly things have gotten between supporters of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama -- Clinton supporters are staging what they call a "strike" at the influential liberal website DailyKos.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:27 AM


Reformers Make Gains in Iran Vote (NAZILA FATHI, 3/15/08, NY Times)

With about half of the races for Parliament decided Saturday, more than 30 reformers appear to have won seats although most of their most prominent members had been barred from running by the country’s conservative establishment. [...]

Analysts expect the new Parliament, including some conservatives, to challenge Mr. Ahmadinejad’s economic policies, especially with presidential elections scheduled for 2009. His policies, including a heavy reliance on oil revenue, are widely blamed for a jump in inflation to nearly 18 percent.

“The most important change in the new Parliament would be its efforts to bring Mr. Ahmadinejad’s economic policies under control,” said Saeed Leylaz, a political analyst in Tehran.

It's a shame to misplay a strong hand...again.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:01 AM


The story behind the story: Obama's pastor (Mike Allen, Mar 15, 2008, Politico)

Politicians know a troublesome story has “broken through” the Eastern media echo chamber when Jay Leno is laughing at them. [...]

The story had burst onto the radar screen of average Americans with as much velocity as any other story during the 2008 campaign.

Political reporters and editors were inundated with e-mails from red-state friends and relatives wanting to know why the brouhaha wasn’t getting more instant and constant coverage from every news outlet.

To reporters who had followed the campaign, it was an old, oft-written story. But this time it had video of Wright saying things like “U.S. of K.K.K.A.,” available on YouTube and played endlessly by cable news channels.

A key part of Obama’s case is electability — the notion that he can heal the nation’s red-blue divide by appealing to Republicans, or “Obamacans,” as he gleefully calls these crossover supporters.

And key to that was keeping America completely ignorant about the Senator's politics, substituting instead the post-partisan pabulum, an exercise the media was only too happy to connive in. But a candidate who can't afford public discussion of his background and views isn't capable of withstanding the long haul of a presidential election. Sooner or later -- and sooner if you're doing well -- stories break into public consciousness. As the story above suggests, those "Obamacans" and various cohorts of Democrats who aren't filled with self-loathing aren't going to enjoy finally being exposed to the real Obama.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:17 AM


Uncle Jeremiah: Barack Obama and his cookie-cutter race huckster. (Mark Steyn, 3/15/08, National Review)

The Reverend Wright is like “an old uncle who says things I don’t always agree with.” So did he agree with goofy old Uncle Jeremiah on September 16th 2001? That Sunday morning, Uncle told his congregation that the United States brought the death and destruction of 9/11 on itself. “We nuked far more than the thousands in New York and the Pentagon, and we never batted an eye,” said the Reverend Wright. “We have supported state terrorism against the Palestinians and black South Africans, and now we are indignant because the stuff we have done overseas is now brought right back to our own front yards.”

Is that one of those “things I don’t always agree with”? Well, Senator Obama isn’t saying, responding merely that he wasn’t in church that morning. Okay, fair enough, but what would he have done had he happened to have shown up on September 16th? Cried “Shame on you!” and stormed out? Or, if that’s a little dramatic, whispered to Michelle that he didn’t want their daughters hearing this kind of drivel while rescue workers were still sifting through the rubble and risen from his pew in a dignified manner and led his family to the exit? Or would he have just sat there with an inscrutable look on his face as those around him nodded?

All Senator Obama will say is that “I don’t think my church is actually particularly controversial.” And in that he may be correct. There are many preachers who would be happy to tell their congregations “God damn America.” But Barack Obama is not supposed to be the candidate of the America-damners: He’s not the Reverend Al Sharpton or the Reverend Jesse Jackson or the rest of the racial-grievance mongers. Obama is meant to be the man who transcends the divisions of race, the candidate who doesn’t damn America but “heals” it — if you believe, as many Democrats do, that America needs healing.

Yet since his early twenties he’s sat week after week listening to the ravings of just another cookie-cutter race huckster.

What is Barack Obama for? It’s not his “policies,” such as they are. Rather, Senator Obama embodies an idea: He’s a symbol of redemption and renewal, and a lot of other airy-fairy abstractions that don’t boil down to much except making upscale white liberals feel good about themselves and get even more of a frisson out of white liberal guilt than they usually do. I assume that’s what Geraldine Ferraro was getting at when she said Obama wouldn’t be where he was today (i.e., leading the race for the Democratic nomination) if he was white. For her infelicity, the first woman on a presidential ticket got bounced from the Clinton campaign and denounced by MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann for her “insidious racism” indistinguishable from “the vocabulary of David Duke.”

Oh, for cryin’ out loud. Enjoyable as it is to watch previously expert wielders of identity-politics hand-grenades blow their own fingers off, if Geraldine Ferraro’s an “insidious racist,” who isn’t?

Ah, that's the beauty of it: only "minorities" aren't racist.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:36 AM


Resurrection Is Often Misunderstood by Christians and Jews (PETER STEINFELS, 3/15/08, NY Times)

[B]oth books converge in challenging several widespread notions. Resurrection, they maintain, does not simply mean going to heaven or life after death.

Resurrection is not a belief that divides an other-worldly Christianity from a this-worldly Judaism.

Nor is resurrection something that refers only — or even primarily — to the individual’s survival after death.

Instead, both books emphasize that in classic Jewish and Christian teachings, resurrection refers to a collective resurrection of people and renewal of all creation at the end of time.

Resurrection was linked to the expectation of judgment and a final triumph of justice. This was the idea of resurrection that had evolved as Jews returned from exile and struggled under foreign domination in the period before Jesus. It was this idea of resurrection that Christians had in mind when they declared that what occurred on Easter was the “first fruits” of what was to come.

If there is a key to the convergence among these authors, it lies, first of all, in their insistence on the bodily and communal character of resurrection, a view that has long competed with a Hellenistic philosophical and especially Platonic dualism, in which an individual disembodied intellect or spirit could be saved from its corruptible and corrupting body.

Even as great a Jewish sage as Maimonides seemed to be tempted in this direction, and Bishop Wright sees the legacy of this dualism in the storehouse of Christian images, from Dante to classic hymns, in which souls shorn of bodies find their final destiny in a heavenly region quite elsewhere than on earth.

This Hellenistic dualism had earlier reached its apogee in Gnosticism, which almost always taught the incompatibility of spirit and matter and sought salvation in the shucking off of the material body. Professor Madigan, Professor Levenson and Bishop Wright view the anti-Gnostic stances of early church fathers and rabbinic sages alike as a proper defense of their traditions’ core beliefs and not, as recently argued, a tactic in religious power politics.

Unlike Gnosticism, Judaism and Christianity, in different ways, held to the goodness of creation and the flawed nature of humans. This equips both traditions, in these writers’ opinions, to avoid the illusion that humans can build a perfect world on their own while yet instilling in humans the confidence that the good they do will finally be affirmed and completed by the God of Resurrection.

One unfortunate aspect of the triumph of Christianity was the way Judaism become so reactionary that it largely ditched core beliefs that it associated with Christians. One odd manifestation of this was that while America was founded on the Biblical insight about human nature, Israel was founded on the illusion. Only with the rise of Likud did it become more realistic, by which we mean Lapsarian.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:33 AM


Emonomics: PREDICTABLY IRRATIONAL: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions. By Dan Ariely (DAVID BERREBY, 3/16/08, NY Times Book Review)

To see how arousal alters sexual attitudes, for example, Ariely and his colleagues asked young men to answer a questionnaire — then asked them to answer it again, only this time while indulging in Internet pornography on a laptop wrapped in Saran Wrap. (In that state, their answers to questions about sexual tastes,, violence and condom use were far less respectable.) To study the power of suggestion, Ariely’s team zapped volunteers with a little painful electricity, then offered fake pain pills costing either 10 cents or $2.50 (all reduced the pain, but the more expensive ones had a far greater effect). To see how social situations affect honesty, they created tests that made it easy to cheat, then looked at what happened if they reminded people right before the test of a moral rule. (It turned out that being reminded of any moral code — the Ten Commandments, the non-existent “M.I.T. honor system” — caused cheating to plummet.)

These sorts of rigorous but goofy-sounding experiments lend themselves to a genial, gee-whiz style, with which Ariely moves comfortably from the lab to broad social questions to his own life (why did he buy that Audi instead of a sensible minivan?). He is good-tempered company — if he mentions you in this book, you are going to be called “brilliant,” “fantastic” or “delightful” — and crystal clear about all he describes. But “Predictably Irrational” is a far more revolutionary book than its unthreatening manner lets on. It’s a concise summary of why today’s social science increasingly treats the markets-know-best model as a fairy tale.

At the heart of the market approach to understanding people is a set of assumptions. First, you are a coherent and unitary self. Second, you can be sure of what this self of yours wants and needs, and can predict what it will do. Third, you get some information about yourself from your body — objective facts about hunger, thirst, pain and pleasure that help guide your decisions. Standard economics, as Ariely writes, assumes that all of us, equipped with this sort of self, “know all the pertinent information about our decisions” and “we can calculate the value of the different options we face.” We are, for important decisions, rational, and that’s what makes markets so effective at finding value and allocating work. To borrow from H. L. Mencken, the market approach presumes that “the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.”

What the past few decades of work in psychology, sociology and economics has shown, as Ariely describes, is that all three of these assumptions are false. Yes, you have a rational self, but it’s not your only one, nor is it often in charge. A more accurate picture is that there are a bunch of different versions of you, who come to the fore under different conditions. We aren’t cool calculators of self-interest who sometimes go crazy; we’re crazies who are, under special circumstances, sometimes rational.

And libertarians wonder why everyone laughs at them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:26 AM


The Wrong War: MARCHING TOWARD HELL: America and Islam After Iraq By Michael Scheuer (DAVID RIEFF, 3/16/08, NY Times Book Review)

Unfortunately, Scheuer’s new book, “Marching Toward Hell,” grandiloquently and somewhat misleadingly subtitled “America and Islam After Iraq,” has all the weaknesses of his earlier works with almost none of their strengths. Scheuer appears to be frustrated by the fact that his analysis was not adopted by the Bush administration. Instead of thinking that this was due to honest disagreements or to legitimate policy constraints, Scheuer believes that darker forces are at play — stupidity at best, but possibly even treason, a charge Scheuer stops just short of making against the neoconservatives on a number of occasions.

“I argued in both books,” he writes, “that there was no inherent reason why U.S. presidents and others in the American governing elite could honestly misunderstand the motivations of our Islamist enemies and the centrality of U.S. foreign policy to that motivation and to mobilizing support for the Islamists in the modern world.”

From that entirely defensible contention Scheuer makes the astonishing leap to the view that America was betrayed by virtually the entire American policy elite — from the neoconservatives (who, he believes, are more loyal to Israel than to the United States) to George Soros, from the Bush administration and Senator John McCain to the 9/11 Commission, not to mention the Rev. Franklin Graham and Hillary Clinton. And yet that is Scheuer’s claim — one he fails to back up, let alone demonstrate conclusively. At times, he seems apprehensive about the effect his jeremiad may have on his readers. “I am the first to admit,” he concedes, “that this book is eclectic, impressionistic and at times idiosyncratic.”

If only that were its only problems. But in his anger and scorn, Scheuer takes his readers on a breathless ride across what for him is an apocalyptic landscape peopled by venal bureaucrats, craven politicians (Bill Clinton the one-world pseudo-European; George W. Bush the inept conventional thinker), closet Zionists and liberal internationalists (Clinton again, but also Amnesty International and other humanitarian organizations). Only the courageous if routinely traduced men and women of the intelligence services and the military, and a few courageous, lonely voices like himself, are still carrying on the good fight. These frontline warriors may have scored tactical victories, but for Scheuer the result of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has been a continuing strategic disaster.

The reason that America is losing and losing badly, Scheuer insists, is the internationalism, Wilsonianism, one-worldism — Scheuer uses all these terms as epithets — that have infected the policy elite. For him, the interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan were inspired by the missionary urge to undertake democracy-building, not the cold pursuit of American interests, which pursuit Scheuer, seemingly deaf to its historical echoes, calls in one of his concluding chapters “America First.”

You can tell he worked in Intelligence because he has this backwards--if you were only going to do one or the other, fight a few whackos in caves or liberalize the Arab world, it's pretty clear which yields more long term benefits to America, not to mention to the Arabs.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:22 AM


Iran's bad behavior blamed on Bush (Rowan Scarborough, March 15, 2008, Washington Times)

Sen. Barack Obama's most senior military adviser says President Bush is to blame for Iran's bad behavior.

The assessment from an interview with retired Air Force Gen. Merrill McPeak provides a glimpse into how an Obama administration would deal with Iran.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has called repeatedly for the destruction of Israel, is pursuing nuclear weapons in the opinion of some national security experts, and his Revolutionary Guard is training Iraqis to kill American military personnel in Iraq.

This is of a piece with the Left's conviction that al Qaeda attacks are our own fault. The refusal to acknowledge that others have free will is one of their least appealing pathologies.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:17 AM


What’s the Real Racial Divide? (MATT BAI, 3/16/08, NY Times Magazine)

Obama, fueled by overwhelming African-American support, has trounced Clinton in most big cities, while Clinton has pounded him in outlying areas. In Ohio, for instance, Obama won only the four largest urban areas in the state, while Clinton took 70 percent of the vote in smaller cities and towns; if you took only a passing glance at the electoral maps of states like Ohio, Missouri and Texas, you would think you were looking at one of those stark red-and-blue maps from recent general elections, with Obama cast as the Democrat and Clinton as the Republican. And yet, oddly, it is Obama who has emerged as the preferred candidate of sparsely populated rural states that are thought to be more conservative, and it is Clinton who has taken the larger, industrialized states. (Obama did carry his home state, Illinois, and neighboring Missouri, but he won the latter by only a single percentage point.) To put this simply, Obama wins in major urban areas but can’t seem to win in urbanized states, while Clinton wins in rural communities but consistently loses in rural states. Why?

One relevant fact, as many Clinton supporters have pointed out, is that rural states often hold caucuses rather than primaries, which require the kind of local organizing at which Obama’s team excels. It might also be that the economic downturn has had a more traumatic effect in bigger states, making the voters there responsive to Clinton’s more pragmatic message. It is also possible, however, that the disparity between Obama’s performance in urban primaries and rural caucuses tells us something larger — and counterintuitive — about race in America.

The assumption has always been that a black candidate should perform worse among white voters in states with less racial diversity because those voters are supposedly less enlightened. In fact, the reverse has been true for Obama: in the overwhelmingly white states of Wisconsin and Vermont, for instance, he carried 54 and 60 percent of the white voters respectively, according to exit polls, while in New Jersey he won 31 percent and in Tennessee he won 26 percent. As some bloggers have shrewdly pointed out, Obama does best in areas that have either a large concentration of African-American voters or hardly any at all, but he struggles in places where the population is decidedly mixed.

What this suggests, perhaps, is that living in close proximity to other races — sharing industries and schools and sports arenas — actually makes Americans less sanguine about racial harmony rather than more so. The growing counties an hour’s drive from Cleveland and St. Louis are filled with white voters whose parents fled the industrial cities of their youth before a wave of African-Americans and for whom social friction and economic competition, especially in an age of declining opportunity, are as much a part of daily life as traffic and mortgage payments. As Erica Goode wrote in these pages last year, Robert Putnam and other sociologists have, in fact, found that people living in more diverse areas evince less trust for others — no matter what their race. Maybe it shouldn’t surprise us that while white Democrats in rural states are apparently willing to accept the notion of a racially transcendent candidate, those living in the shadow of postindustrial atrophy seem to have a harder time detaching from enduring stereotypes, and they may be less optimistic that the country as a whole would actually elect a black candidate.

We won't know until the GOP fields a major black candidate, but it seems likely that Senator Obama could have avoided this had he run on ideas instead of on black empowerment. When he made it an election about identity he made race the central factor in the equation.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:10 AM


Why Shariah? (NOAH FELDMAN, 3/16/08, NY Times Magazine)

One reason for the divergence between Western and Muslim views of Shariah is that we are not all using the word to mean the same thing. Although it is commonplace to use the word “Shariah” and the phrase “Islamic law” interchangeably, this prosaic English translation does not capture the full set of associations that the term “Shariah” conjures for the believer. Shariah, properly understood, is not just a set of legal rules. To believing Muslims, it is something deeper and higher, infused with moral and metaphysical purpose. At its core, Shariah represents the idea that all human beings — and all human governments — are subject to justice under the law.

In fact, “Shariah” is not the word traditionally used in Arabic to refer to the processes of Islamic legal reasoning or the rulings produced through it: that word is fiqh, meaning something like Islamic jurisprudence. The word “Shariah” connotes a connection to the divine, a set of unchanging beliefs and principles that order life in accordance with God’s will. Westerners typically imagine that Shariah advocates simply want to use the Koran as their legal code. But the reality is much more complicated. Islamist politicians tend to be very vague about exactly what it would mean for Shariah to be the source for the law of the land — and with good reason, because just adopting such a principle would not determine how the legal system would actually operate.

Shariah is best understood as a kind of higher law, albeit one that includes some specific, worldly commands. All Muslims would agree, for example, that it prohibits lending money at interest — though not investments in which risks and returns are shared; and the ban on Muslims drinking alcohol is an example of an unequivocal ritual prohibition, even for liberal interpreters of the faith. Some rules associated with Shariah are undoubtedly old-fashioned and harsh. Men and women are treated unequally, for example, by making it hard for women to initiate divorce without forfeiting alimony. The prohibition on sodomy, though historically often unenforced, makes recognition of same-sex relationships difficult to contemplate. But Shariah also prohibits bribery or special favors in court. It demands equal treatment for rich and poor. It condemns the vigilante-style honor killings that still occur in some Middle Eastern countries. And it protects everyone’s property — including women’s — from being taken from them. Unlike in Iran, where wearing a head scarf is legally mandated and enforced by special religious police, the Islamist view in most other Muslim countries is that the head scarf is one way of implementing the religious duty to dress modestly — a desirable social norm, not an enforceable legal rule. And mandating capital punishment for apostasy is not on the agenda of most elected Islamists. For many Muslims today, living in corrupt autocracies, the call for Shariah is not a call for sexism, obscurantism or savage punishment but for an Islamic version of what the West considers its most prized principle of political justice: the rule of law.

Dutch to legalise gay sex in public park (Bruno Waterfield, 13/03/2008, Daily Telegraph)
Dutch council officials will permit gay sex in public areas but fine dog owners who let their pets off the leash in Amsterdam's Vondelpark.

The reality is that many European nations will be better places under sharia than they are under secularism.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:59 AM


Wanna bet Jays finish third in East? (Dave Perkins, 3/15/08, Toronto Star)

The way the Red Sox and Yankees and their fans are obsessed only about each other is old news to the Blue Jay faithful.

For several years now, the Blue Jays have been treated as an afterthought. However, near-constant dismissal may not be a bad thing, because if this team ever jumps up to the post-season, it will have come in under the radar.

That said, Las Vegas has established the Jays at their usual pecking order in the pre-season under/over victory totals, namely third in the American League East and sixth overall in the AL.

Anticipated win total for the Blue Jays is 85 1/2 for the 2008 season and, as always in matters of gambling, if a number seems incorrect to you, don't bet more than you want to win.

Boston (94 1/2) and New York (93 1/2) occupy the top two spots. Other AL teams with higher numbers are Detroit (93), Anaheim (92 1/2) and Cleveland (89 1/2).

Any team that can run out Roy Halladay, AJ Burnett and Dustin McGowan a hundred games a year is not to be taken lightly. But the injury to Casey Janssen and the rehab of BJ Ryan leave them with a weak bullpen. Ands while Aaron Hill is an emerging star ar 2b, they'd need a monster comeback from Vernon Wells and a significant step forward by Alex Rios before their offense was legit. Experience may be enough to keep them ahead of the up-and-coming Rays for one more year, but don't bet on it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:46 AM


Infighting Risks Democrats Key Voting Blocs (David Shribman, 3/15/08, Real Clear Politics)

Here are the five groups at risk as the Democrats hurtle toward their rendezvous with destiny, or with disaster, or at least with decision:

Female voters. They have turned out in droves, with great enthusiasm, mostly for Mrs. Clinton. Many of them have been inspired by the Clinton campaign, seeing it as a vehicle for the realization of a dream they never dared have. If a bunch of men in the cyberspace equivalent of a smoke-filled room figure out a way to deliver the nomination to another man, the wounds will not heal swiftly, if at all.

Black voters. Re-read the last paragraph, substitute the words "Mr. Obama" and "whites," leave the rest alone, and you'll get the idea. Blacks have been the most reliably Democratic voting group in the party coalition for more than a generation. Republicans since 1988 have been talking about a way to lure blacks back into the party of Abraham Lincoln. The Democratic Party without black voters is a party without prospects for victory.

Young voters. By now you know the drill; see the previous two items. Young people have been inspired out of their political torpor. If their candidate (in most cases Mr. Obama, in some cases Mrs. Clinton) is seen as having been robbed of a prize he or she earned, the alienation of this generation could last for a generation. That is bad for the Democrats, and it is worse for the country. This is a serious risk.

Michigan. Once the great auto state, still a great labor state, now a classic rust-belt state, Michigan has voted Democratic in the last four elections. No calculus of Democratic general-election strategies leaves out Michigan and its 17 electoral votes. Somehow the party is going to have to figure out how to seat Michigan's delegates at the Denver convention after a rogue primary in which Mr. Obama's name did not even appear on the ballot.

Florida. This state settled the 2000 election, although everything about the episode was unsettling and still is. Now Florida's delegates are in the same position as Michigan's, and the Democrats are struggling over how to proceed. What to do? A do-over primary? A mail ballot? And who will pay for whatever it is? Unresolved questions, all. But both parties covet Florida, and the Democrats can't afford to let the Republicans pluck it as a freebie. There's no easy solution here, though it is easy to say that the status quo cannot continue.

And Latinos, Jews, Northern Catholics, and Asians if they nominate Senator Obama.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:40 AM


Hard-liners pull ahead in Iran vote, but Ahmadinejad critics show strength (AP, 3/15/08)

Hard-liners allied with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad pulled ahead in Iran's parliamentary elections, according to partial results early Saturday, but the president's critics were making a strong showing that could unsettle his domination of the legislature.

In particular, conservatives who have grown disillusioned with the fiery Ahmadinejad appeared to be gaining ground. If such moderate conservatives do well, it could lead to greater friction between the parliament and Ahmadinejad.

Conservative critics say Ahmadinejad has fumbled efforts to fix the economy of this oil-rich nation, hit by high inflation and unemployment and fuel shortages. They blame his fiery manner for worsening the standoff with the West, bringing on U.N. sanctions over Iran's nuclear program.

In the 115 of parliament's 290 seats decided so far, pro-Ahmadinejad hard-liners won 42 seats and reformists 16, according to results announced by state television and the official news agency IRNA and reports from local officials speaking to The Associated Press.

A slate of conservative critics of Ahmadinejad seized 28 seats so far, according to the results. Another 29 winners were independents whose political leanings were not immediately known.

Reformists were hoping to at least form an effective minority bloc, larger than their approximately 40 seats in the outgoing parliament.

Conservative rift exposed in Iranian elections: As Iranians select a new parliament, some hard-liners question President Ahmadinejad's populism and blame his economic policies for rising inflation and unemployment. (Jeffrey Fleishman, 3/15/08, Los Angeles Times)
The campaign leading to the election revealed a split among political conservatives over the Iranian president. Ahmadinejad's supporters, including some ruling Shiite Muslim clerics, praise his defiance of the West and his tremendous appeal in the provinces. But others, such as former chief nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani, fault the president for what they regard as his overheated rhetoric toward the international community and for the country's continuing financial problems despite the surge in oil prices.

Larijani resigned his nuclear post in October after complaining that Ahmadinejad's statements often undercut his talks with Western officials on Iran's nuclear program. Larijani's campaign against Ahmadinejad, however, is mainly concentrated on domestic financial issues; hard-liners are unified on most policies, including relations with Washington.

"The criticism of Ahmadinejad among the hard-liners started months ago, and this election is a portrait of that," said Nader Karimijori, a political analyst and editor at a conservative newspaper. "They accuse him of economically mismanaging the country. What's happening now is that the divide among the hard-liners will be more visible."

Many reformists appeared dispirited, expecting a consolidation of power by hard-liners, although some predicted that reformists might win as many as 80 seats. The hundreds of reformists removed from balloting lists were accused of, among other things, not upholding the ideals of the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

"There might be an iota of change," Mullah Fazel Mibodi, a reformist supporter, said by telephone from Qom. "But the motivation for me to go out and vote was zero."

Another demonstration of how boycotting the voting hurts the reform effort and serves the extremists.

Iran's call to vote ignored by millions (David Blair, 15/03/2008, Daily Telegraph)

Iran's Supreme Leader cast his vote in parliamentary elections yesterday and, in his solemn and severe dark robes, told his compatriots that taking part was their "national and religious duty".

Yet millions of Iranians appeared to be registering a silent protest against the regime by ignoring Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's plea.

Polling stations across Tehran were quiet, orderly and only sparsely attended. One virtually empty polling station in a mosque on Dowlat Street pointedly declined to say how many people had voted by 3pm. "You are not allowed to know that," said the official in charge.

It's harder to steer voters than he yet understands.

March 14, 2008

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:05 PM


Colombia to pay reward to rebel who shot commander (Reuters, 3/14/08)

Colombia will pay a reward to a FARC guerrilla who shot dead his commander and cut off the man's hand to prove his identity in a case that sparked debate over a program to compensate informants, authorities said on Friday.

Pablo Montoya, alias Rojas, killed Ivan Rios, one of the FARC's top seven secretariat commanders, and turned himself in to soldiers in what the government described as a serious blow to Latin America's oldest rebel insurgency.

Handing out rewards...

Good one!

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:55 PM


Obama reveals Rezko played a bigger fundraising role (David Jackson, March 14, 2008, Chicago Tribune)

Indicted Chicago businessman Antoin "Tony" Rezko was a more significant fundraiser for presidential candidate Barack Obama's earlier political campaigns than previously known. Rezko raised as much as $250,000 for the first three offices Obama sought, the senator told the Tribune on Friday.

Obama also said for the first time that his private real estate transactions with Rezko were not simply mistakes of judgement because Rezko was under grand jury investigation at the time of their 2005 and 2006 dealings.

There's no particular shame in being a Cook County hack who's reduced to dumping bad news at the bottom of the news cycle, unless, that is, you're pretending to be something different.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:01 PM


Senior aide to bin Laden in U.S. hands (Sara A. Carter, March 14, 2008, Washington Times)

A senior al Qaeda operative who worked to procure chemicals to attack U.S. troops in Afghanistan and who helped Osama bin Laden escape from U.S. forces at Tora Bora in 2001 was handed over to Pentagon officials this week by the CIA.

U.S. counterterrorism officials categorized the capture of Afghan national Muhammad Rahim as "very significant" in the war on terror and illustrative of significant gains made against terrorist groups in recent months. [...]

Rahim, who is proficient in several languages and familiar with the border areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan, was a courier for al Qaeda with high-level contacts in many of the terrorist cells throughout the region.

His ties to bin Laden include delivering personal messages for the terrorist leader and others.

Oh, okay, he was, Officials Say C.I.A. Kept Qaeda Suspect in Secret Detention (MARK MAZZETTI, 3/14/08, NY Times)
The Central Intelligence Agency secretly detained a suspected member of Al Qaeda for at least six months beginning last summer as part of a program in which C.I.A. officers have been authorized by President Bush to use harsh interrogation techniques, American officials said Friday.

The suspect, Muhammad Rahim, is the first Qaeda prisoner in nearly a year who intelligence officials have acknowledged has been in C.I.A. detention.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:58 AM


Explaining the Democrats' two-state delegate debacle: Now that the race between Clinton and Obama has tightened, questions abound on what to do with the key states and their disqualified delegates. (Michael Muskal, 3/14/08, Los Angeles Times)

If everyone knew the results wouldn't count, why is there a dispute?

There are two reasons, both political. The first involves arithmetic.

Obama is more than 100 delegate votes ahead of Clinton, according to the Associated Press, though there are other counts with different numbers. With fewer than a dozen contests remaining, it is unclear if Clinton can catch Obama since they have been running neck-and-neck and delegates are awarded on a proportional basis. Strong showings in Florida and Michigan would help Clinton close the gap.

The second reason is that the Democratic nominee will need to win in Michigan and especially in Florida in November. Preventing the states from having a role in picking the nominee could hurt in the general election.

Howard Dean--the gift that keeps on giving.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:51 AM


Senators can't lop off those earmarks: They reject a one-year ban on slipping money for district projects into legislation. (Richard Simon, 3/14/08, Los Angeles Times)

Senators soundly rejected a one-year moratorium backed by the presidential hopefuls -- Republican John McCain and Democrats Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton -- even though it put senators from both parties at odds with their presidential contenders.

The vote -- 29 in favor of the proposal, 71 opposed -- again demonstrated the enduring popularity of earmarks, even though they have figured prominently in recent congressional scandals, including one that landed former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham of Rancho Santa Fe in prison.

Just in case anyone continued under the delusion that the midterm had anything to do with pork or scandal.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:17 AM


Halabja@20: Saddam Hussein’s horrific 1988 genocide of the Kurds is still having repercussions. (Carter Andress, 3/14/08, National Review)

This weekend marks the 20th anniversary of Saddam Hussein’s massacre of an estimated 5,000 Kurds in the Iraqi town of Halabja. The March 16, 1988 attack, using a lethal air-delivered mixture of mustard gas and nerve agent, killed virtually every man, woman, and child in the town. The destruction of Halabja initiated a campaign of mass murder that Saddam named Al Anfal — “the Spoils of War,” from a passage in the Koran. It was the high-water mark of his regime’s genocide against the Kurds.

This campaign, carefully planned and executed, resulted in the deaths of over 150,000 Kurds — women and children included, and in fact specifically targeted. Entire regions of Kurdistan were depopulated, and more than 1,000 villages disappeared from the map of Iraq. Hundreds of thousands more Kurds fled in terror to become refugees within the borders of their historical enemies, Iran and Turkey.

This ethnic cleansing of Kurds, while part of Saddam’s “Arabization” project, also had its pragmatic side: The Kurds were predominant in the oil-rich and strategically important areas of northern Iraq, and oil money could help their separatist movement. Perhaps for this reason, Saddam began his assault on the Kurds in 1979, as soon as he became president of Iraq. But he was no means the only guilty party. The entire Iraqi leadership, as well as tens of thousands of Iraqi army personnel and security forces, were culpable in these sickening crimes against humanity that continued until Saddam was removed from power.

One of the great peculiarities of the Samantha Power kerfuffle was that even though her reputation is based on a supposed opposition to genocide, she was working for Senator Obama, who says he'd have left the genocidal Saddam in place, rather than Ms Clinton, who helped remove him and stop the holocaust. It seems fair to ask whether such folk are not only opposed to the genocides we don't intervene in, their isolationism trumping morality. In which case, who's monstrous?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:12 AM


Tehran challenger reaches out to the West (Martin Fletcher, 3/14/08, Times of London)

A prominent Iranian politician has used an interview with The Times to signal that many conservatives are unhappy with President Ahmadinejad's confrontational attitude to the West and that they favour greater dialogue.

In a rare interview with a Western newspaper Muhammad Baqer Qalibaf, the Mayor of Tehran and the former Iranian police chief, spoke of the emergence of a political “third movement” in his country that lay somewhere between Mr Ahmadinejad's hardliners and the reformists.

Mr Qalibaf, 46, was speaking on the eve of parliamentary elections today in which “pragmatic” conservatives identified with himself and Ali Larijani, Iran's former nuclear negotiator, are competing against conservatives loyal to Mr Ahmadinejad.

Mr Qalibaf was defeated by Mr Ahmadinejad in the 2005 presidential election, but if his “pragmatic” conservatives do well today analysts expect him to challenge the increasingly unpopular President again in next year's presidential contest.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:08 AM


Bonfire of the Democrats (Rich Lowry, 3/14/08, Real Clear Politics)

The Democrats are famous for forming circular firing squads. But apparently the real gunplay doesn’t begin until every member of the firing squad thinks he or she has been the victim of racism or sexism. Then, the smell of gun smoke is mingled with self-pitying and overwrought accusations of race or gender bias.

Ferraro had to quit her role on the finance committee in the Clinton campaign for stating the obvious, that Barack Obama wouldn’t be in a leading position in the race if he “were a white man.” Clearly, his campaign is “making history” because he’s an African-American. White senators have run for, and even won, the presidency before. Indeed, a bevy of them briefly challenged Obama in this campaign, before dropping away under the weight of their own un-historic dullness.

The unhinged trajectory of the Democratic race became clear when Bill Clinton got himself accused of racism well before he did any verifiable race-baiting. In New Hampshire, he called the notion that Obama had consistently opposed the Iraq war “a fairy tale,” a race-neutral charge that black Democrats nonetheless declared offensive.

You mean he wasn't gay-bashing?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:57 AM


Iran Elections: Limited but Interesting (Amir Taheri, 3/14/08, Asharq Alawsat)

Iranians are invited to go to the polls today to elect the next Islamic Consultative Assembly, the ersatz parliament set up by Ayatollah Khomeini in 1980.

At stake are 290 seats contested by almost 3000 candidates. (The exact number is unclear because almost 1100 out of 4470 'approved candidates' withdrew at the last minute.)

The most hotly discussed topic, however, is the size of the turnout.

A raft of political groupings, from monarchists to socialists, and passing by liberals and nationalists, has called for the boycott of an exercise they describe as "fraudulent".

The boycott call has found an echo with sections of the "loyal opposition" inside the Khomeinist establishment.

It resonates with many Iranians disillusioned with the failure of the Majlis to act as an effective interface between the people and those in power.

Battle of the conservatives (Sami Moubayed, 3/15/08, Asia Times)
With elections taking place in Iran on Friday, the popular joke among Iranians says: Mahmud Ahmadinejad and Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani (current and former conservative presidents) are in an airplane over Tehran. Ahmadinejad says, "I am going to throw down $100, and let 10 Iranian citizens get them and pray for me." Rafsanjani, who is richer by far, replies, "I am going to throw out $1,000, and let 100 citizens pray for me." Provoked by the bravado of both men, the pilot mumbles, "I am going to throw both of you out, and let 65 million Iranians pray for me."

It is no wonder that Iranians are not enthusiastic about voting for the 28th parliamentary elections. Instead of heading to the ballots, they are shopping for the Iranian New Year (the March 20 holiday of Nowruz). The reasons vary, including lack of inspiring candidates, along with lessons learned - the hard way - being that the Iranian Parliament (Majlis) cannot deliver real change in Iranian society.

Most Iranians are young - 70% of them are below the age of 25, born after the Islamic revolution of 1979. Slogans about preserving or exporting the revolution are no longer attractive. Typical politicized college freshmen, for example, who are usually the catalysts for voter turnout on election day, were born in 1989 or 1990, 10 years after the revolution.

These young people are searching for ways to combat the 20% unemployment rate in Iran and 22% inflation.

Reformists Face Uphill Battle in Iranian Elections: In a flurry of hymns for martyrs, recitations from the Koran and all kinds of sweets, more than 4,000 candidates are campaigning for 290 seats in Iran's parliament. The reformist opposition is doing its utmost to prevail, but Ahmadinejad loyalists will win the election on Friday. (Dieter Bednarz)
The Karroubi list is called "National Trust." There are no parties, in the stricter sense, in the Islamic Republic. In Tehran alone, 30 candidates, including a few women, hope that this alliance will help them win seats in the parliament. The leader of the movement isn't interested in running for a seat, but his wife Fatme is. She stands on the stage, completed veiled in black, with only her oval face visible, the garb of the strictly devout woman in Iran. She tells the audience that she has "turned prisons into hospitals," and that she intends to fight for the rights of women. Naturally, she says, she has her husband to thank for many things -- a comment that gets her enthusiastic applause. But whether it will be enough to win her a seat in parliament is doubtful.

The competition is stiff, with more than 4,000 candidates running for the 290 seats in the Majlis. Most of the candidates belong to one of three major movements. In the conservative camp, the candidates who are "true to principles" and support President Ahmadinejad are campaigning against those who are "critically true to principles" and support former Iranian chief nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani and Tehran Mayor Mohammed Ghalibaf. This right wing faces off against a large, loose coalition of 21 groups of reformers and conservative pragmatists. They back candidates like former President Mohammed Khatami and political dinosaurs like Karroubi.

At least the campaign seems to have revitalized Karroubi. In a hoarse but powerful voice, and using sparse but decisive gestures, Karroubi talks about his years with the "Great Imam" Khomeini, as if his former close relationship with the revolutionary leader were enough to get the candidates on his list voted into office on Friday.

Karroubi hardly takes any political position at all, instead limiting himself to repeated appeals to vote for a "strong parliament." "We must all go out and vote," Karroubi tells his audience. His speech is a far cry from settling scores with the Ahmadinejad government. Like many candidates of the wing more likely to be critical of the regime, leading candidate Karroubi ultimately comes across as bland, toothless and helpless. There is something tragic about the event, and not just because of the speeches commemorating Iran's martyrs.

The reformist and pragmatic wing has already suffered serious setbacks in the candidate selection process. Because the Interior Ministry and the Council of Guardians, a sort of Iranian constitutional court, refused to approve a third of all applicants as candidates, the conservatives are running unopposed in some districts in the country. "The mass exclusion clearly shows that the election organizers want to keep the ruling group in power," says Sayed Madani. His group, the National Religious Alliance, is boycotting the election, calling it "unfair."

Because many frustrated supporters of reform candidates stayed at home in the last parliamentary election, the well-organized conservatives were able to capture the majority in the parliament. In the capital, which is in fact a stronghold for the reformers, voter turnout in the last election was about 30 percent. Political observers doubt that men like Karroubi and Khatami will manage to turn out their supporters in significantly larger numbers this time.

No one ever reformed their society by not voting, but it will ultimately require both the U.S. and Ayatollah Khamenei encouraging reformers to participate again to resume Iran's Reformation.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:47 AM


3.14 and the rest: It's Pi Day, a celebration of the mathematical ratio that man has been trying to unlock for millennia. But why are we driven to find the answers behind it? (David Blatner, 3/14/08, BBC Magazine)

As we're all taught at school, pi represents the number you get when you divide the distance around a circle (its circumference) by the distance across (the diameter).

With just a string and a ruler you can quickly measure that pi must be just over three-and-an-eighth (3.125). With more precise measurements, you may be able to narrow it down to 3.14.

However, if you ask a typical maths nerd, you'll get an earful of pi - 3.14159265 and so on. A surprising number of students have memorised 50 or even 100 digits after the decimal point.

The rough ratio of pi 3.14 gives us the date for Pi Day. March 14, or 3/14 in American dating style, makes sense for a celebration of this famous constant.

A perfect excuse to watch Darren Aronofsky's great Pi.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:42 AM

50-0 FILES:

Maverick wants to paint blue states red (Jonathan Martin, Mar 13, 2008, Politico)

Conversations with McCain backers and other Republican operatives, most of whom insisted on anonymity, reflect a party intent on altering the red state/blue state paradigm.

“2004 was defined by 2000,” a senior McCain aide said, assessing the mostly static state-by-state strategy pursued by President Bush’s two campaigns. “We’re just in a very different situation, and that has given us the freedom to look at the map a lot more broadly.”

Though still very early in the planning stages, McCain aides have begun eyeing between 20 and 25 states that could be competitive, a list that includes some places that are anything but rock-ribbed conservative. Next month, they’ll make this case symbolically by sending the candidate on a different-kind-of-Republican tour into places where party members typically don’t tread.

By virtue of his maverick brand, nontraditional stances on key issues and his Western roots, McCain may be able to compete in states that were far out of reach for Bush and that have otherwise been trending away from Republicans. This potential, say McCain strategists and other Republicans, could amount to the GOP’s ace in the hole in an otherwise dismal political climate.

“It puts a whole new set of states in play for us,” Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.) said of McCain’s candidacy.

If the super-delegates were to shaft Senator Obama then D.C. could even be in play....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:34 AM


Sox Tend To Hedge Their Bets Better Than Yankees (TIM MARCHMAN, March 14, 2008, NY Sun)

The seemingly minor move actually points up why the Red Sox have the edge in the American League East right now. This has less to do with talent than philosophy. Boston does have some peculiar quirks, like their absolute insistence on punting 150 at bats every year on a reserve catcher who can't hit. These quirks generally, though, make sense within a larger framework. Mirabelli caught with Boston for so long not because he couldn't hit, but because he could catch Tim Wakefield's knuckleball. Cash will make the team, because the team is sure he can do so as well. Prioritizing knuckleball-catching in a reserve to the point where you'll tolerate pitcher-level hitting makes a certain kind of sense. By contrast, the Yankees' quirks, such as prioritizing glove work at first to the point where they've gone years without a first baseman who can hit, tend to make less sense. Their quirks are more like organizational neuroses. [...]

The Yankees tend to make big, risky bets, like the decision to bank this year on rookie pitchers. It fits the structure of the team, which has always focused on running out the best star talent available and filling the gaps around the edges as needed. The top-level talent in the Bronx is, and has been for several years, a bit better than that in Boston. Problems come in at the edges, when the team ends up relying at times on the likes of Wil Nieves and Aaron Small.

Conversely, Boston tends to hedge its bets. Beckett, felled by a sore back, is expected to skip at least the Red Sox's upcoming trip to Japan, where they'll open the season. (Spending a day in a plane is good for no back, let alone a strained one.) Schilling will open the year on the 60-day disabled list and could conceivably miss the year. Still, even with both their World Series MVPs down, the team presents a credible rotation.

Daisuke Matsuzaka, who with improved consistency could win a Cy Young in his second year in America, is a perfectly respectable top starter. Wakefield, as usual, will be good for innings and the odd unhittable stretch. And while he's a potential disaster in the making, Bartolo Colon could also be one of the year's great bargains, and he is certainly worth taking a risk on as a reclamation project. Past those two, the Sox have lefty Jon Lester, 24, who might do a plausible Andy Pettitte impression for a few years if he can cut his walk rate by 10%, and Clay Buchholz, 23, who has a breaking pitch every bit as cartoonish as Joba Chamberlain's, a fastball as good, and a major league no-hitter under his belt. Assuming minimal competence on Colon's part, this rotation doesn't stack up all that unfavorably to the Yankees'.

One would though like to see the Sox use one of their fungibles--Coco, Jacoby, or a pitcher--to acquire a premiere young catcher. As desperate as Texas is for pitching and the Cubs for a centerfielder you'd think they could pry away one (or more) of the Rangers good young backstops.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:28 AM


Gunfire erupts in Tibetan capital as protesters clash with Chinese police (Jane Macartney, 3/14/08, Times of London)

Gunfire erupted in the Tibetan capital, Lhasa, today as monks and Tibetans rioted in the heart of the city and hospitals reported at least nine people had been wounded in street fighting.

A large market was in flames and several police cars were also burning as angry crowds protested in the narrow streets of the old city, witnesses said.

The surge of violence follows four days of demonstrations by lamas from monasteries around the Tibetan capital who have been demanding greater freedom of religion before the Olympic Games as well as independence for the deeply Buddhist Himalayan region and the return of the exiled Dalai Lama.

The most serious display of anti-Chinese violence in nearly two decades escalated at around 11am when monks from the seventh century Ramoche monastery tried to stage a demonstration.

We could at least pretend not to have known the true nature of the Third Reich when we gave them the stamp of Olympic approval. We've no excuse as regards the PRC.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:08 AM


Obama's budget vote could come back to bite him (Stephen Dinan, March 14, 2008, Washington Post)

Republicans yesterday forced Sen. Barack Obama to vote against what they labeled his own $1.4 trillion spending plan, cobbled together from his presidential campaign promises — one of a series of budget votes that will provide political fodder for the rest of the election year.'ve taken that post-partisan shtick a tad too far.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:06 AM


Morocco's Berbers Reclaim Their Language and Their Indigenous Culture (Emma Schwartz, March 13, 2008, US News)

From the day Omar Boutmouzzar began teaching more than two decades ago, he could address students only in a language other than his own. A Moroccan Berber, Boutmouzzar was barred by law from using his native tongue—the one spoken by the country's sizable indigenous population—inside the classroom.

But the 46-year-old teacher doesn't have to hold his tongue any longer. Once banned in schools across Morocco, his language, Tamazight, is making a comeback as the result of an initiative by King Mohammed VI to integrate the country's widely spoken language, and its speakers, into the education system. The shift is part of a larger push toward pluralism and openness by the 44-year-old ruler who, since taking power in 1999, has moved away from some of the heavy-handed tactics of his father. He has liberalized laws affecting women (such as on divorce), forged stronger economic ties with the West, and created a commission to examine past human-rights violations.

Tamazight is another aspect of this trend. Teaching began in 2003, and by last year nearly 300,000 students—native Arabic speakers as well as Tamazight speakers—were enrolled in Tamazight courses, according to the Ministry of Education. The payoff has been broader: The official support for Tamazight has helped fuel a larger revival of Berber culture and life in the kingdom, where the country's native people have long been shunned, and sometimes imprisoned, for public expressions of their heritage. Now, summer arts festivals are common-place, Tamazight newspapers are thriving, and a long-blocked translation of the Koran into Tamazight finally made it into print. "It's a symbol of tolerance," says Ahmed Boukouss, director of the national institution for the teaching of Tamazight, known by its French acronym IRCAM.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:03 AM


Smaller Class Sizes May Not Help (Eddy Ramírez, March 13, 2008, US News)

Putting fewer children in classrooms has long been a popular option for schools trying to narrow the achievement gap for struggling students. But a new study suggests that smaller class sizes may not level the playing field.

The study, published in the March issue of the Elementary School Journal, shows that small classes benefit high-achieving kids more than low-performing students. In fact, the achievement gap between the two groups in kindergarten and first grade is larger in small classes than in regular classes, says Spyros Konstantopoulos, assistant professor of learning sciences at Northwestern University and author of the study.

Kids used to get adequate educations in oneroom schoolhouses.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:13 AM


Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton Join Senate Against Parental Involvement on Abortion (Steven Ertelt, March 13, 2008,

Led by votes from pro-abortion Democratic presidential candidates Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, the Senate rejected a measure on Thursday night that would have promoted parental involvement when it comes to a minor teenager girl who is considering an abortion.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:06 AM


Electoral slap at Sarkozy less than forceful: French voters turned left in the first round of local elections, but most say they didn't have it out for the controversial leader. (Geraldine Baum and Achrene Sicakyuz, 3/14/08, Los Angeles Times)

If last weekend's first round of local elections was supposed to serve as a slap at President Nicolas Sarkozy and his center-right government, it didn't deliver quite the sting that had been predicted by his opponents.

French voters swung left -- to the Socialist opposition, which won 48% of the overall vote in 36,000 city and village council contests. Sarkozy's Union for a Popular Movement, or UMP, won 40%, and the rest went to centrists and other parties.

But polls showed that only one of five voters surveyed said they used their ballot Sunday to rebuke Sarkozy's 10-month-old administration, which has been troubled by a flagging economy and questions about the president's personal conduct. And in more evidence that his government still has credibility, 14 of 23 ministers and deputy ministers running for local office were elected in the first round.

If they haven't given up on Reform give them some.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Al-Qaeda steps up its battle in Pakistan (Syed Saleem Shahzad, 3/15/08, Asia Times)

Al-Qaeda masterminded the deadly suicide attacks in Lahore this week at the offices of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), Asia Times Online has learned. The attacks are part of al-Qaeda's broader plan to undermine recent Pakistan-United States joint efforts to eradicate al-Qaeda's growing influence in Pakistan society.

Two massive car bombs ripped through the regional headquarters of the FIA and an office of an advertising agency in Lahore on Tuesday, killing at least 30 people, including 16 FIA officials, and injuring more than 200.

However, according to Asia Times Online's investigations, the real target, an undercover office of the Special Investigation Authority (SIA), was missed as the suicide attacker hit the advertising agency.

The SIA is a joint initiative of US and Pakistani planners set up to eliminate the strong roots of radicalization in Punjab province which could easily be transformed into very strong al-Qaeda connections. The SIA will remain a target in Lahore as well as other parts of Punjab, including Multan. least AQ might get them to fight back.

March 13, 2008

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:36 PM


Individualism (Wilfred M. McClay, 03/13/08, First Principles)

[A]lthough “individualism” is a relatively new term in Western intellectual and religious history, it has a long and distinguished pedigree, informed by rich antecedents and fertile anticipations. Belief in the dignity and worth of the individual person has always been a distinguishing mark, and a principal mainstay, of what we call Western civilization, the defense of which has become an increasingly central element in what now goes by the name of conservatism.

Elements of that belief can be detected as far back as classical antiquity, particularly in the Greek discovery of philosophy as a distinctive form of free rational inquiry, and in the Greco-Roman stress upon the need for virtuous individual citizens to sustain a healthy republican political order. Other elements appeared later, particularly in the intensely self-directed moral discipline of Epicureanism and Stoicism. Even more importantly, the traditions and institutions arising out of biblical monotheism, whether Jewish or Christian, placed heavy emphasis upon the infinite value, personal agency, and moral accountability of the individual person. That emphasis reached a pinnacle of sorts in Western Christianity, which incorporated the divergent legacies of Athens and Jerusalem into a single universalized faith.

None of these expressions of belief in the individual were quite the same as modern individualism, however, for the freedom the premodern individual enjoyed, particularly since the advent of Christianity, was always constrained. It was constrained by belief in the existence of an objective moral order not to be violated with impunity by antinomian rebels and enthusiasts. And it was constrained by belief in the inherent frailty of human nature, which indicated that virtue cannot be produced in social isolation. Although almost all influential Western thinkers before the dawn of modernity had conceded the importance of the individual, none used the term “individualism” to express that belief.

Instead, “individualism” first arose in the discourse of opposition to the French Revolution. The nineteenth-century French writer Joseph de Maistre used the word to describe what he found horrifying about the revolution: its overturning of established social hierarchies and dissolution of traditional social bonds in favor of an atomizing doctrine of individual natural rights that freed each individual to be his or her own moral arbiter. For Maistre, individualism was not an affirmation of dignity, but a nightmare of moral anarchy, a nightmare that he rendered in startlingly vivid terms.

What's especially important to recognize is that this individualism then gave rise to secular European statism, the atomized population being easier to control once dependent on the state.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:46 PM


Liebe Europäer (George Weigel, February 28, 2008, Wall Street Journal Europe)

In a recent article in Die Zeit, former West German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt confessed that he wants to "love America again." He listed 10 conditions for a lovers' reconciliation, each reflective of the political, environmental, economic, secularist and multicultural shibboleths of the contemporary European left. Herr Schmidt's romantic yearnings may be requited in the event that Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama is the next president of the United States. Other Americans, however, think that the real issue is this: How can we respect Europe again?

Let me suggest the ways.

Americans hold atheists in such low regard that polling suggests the only more potent disqualifier for a presidential candidate would be if they were a Scientologist. We won't respect Europe again until the mustard seed blooms or it becomes Islamic (Musims too outpoll atheists).

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:43 PM


Cuba removes restrictions on sale of computers and DVD players (Reuters, March 13, 2008)

Cuba has authorized the unrestricted sale of computers and DVD and video players in the first sign that President Raúl Castro is moving to improve Cubans' access to consumer goods.

An internal government memo seen by Reuters on Thursday said the appliances could go on sale immediately, although air conditioners would not be available until next year and toasters not until 2010 because of limited power supplies.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:34 PM


Alienated in the U.S.A.: An unguarded comment from Michelle Obama speaks volumes about race and assimilation in modern America. (Evan Thomas, 3/13/08, Newsweek)

Princeton in the early 1980s had been accepting blacks in significant numbers for less than two decades of its more than two-century history (none before World War II). Black students tended to self-segregate, as they did and still do on many campuses. Although, as she notes in the thesis, the university strongly encourages integration, there is still a fair amount of self-segregation at Princeton (where I teach a journalism course). Black students in Michelle's time embraced a "consciousness" attributable to "the injustices and oppressions suffered by this race of people which are not comparable to the experiences of any other race of people through this country's history," she writes.

For her thesis, Michelle surveyed 400 black Princeton alumni (about a fourth of whom responded). She writes that she was surprised—and clearly disappointed—to find that as these alums entered the wider world, in which they overwhelmingly reported great upward social mobility, they ceased to identify primarily with the black community.

Of course, the same happened to her when she entered the real world. Indeed, she somewhat reluctantly anticipates her fate in her thesis. She says that her sense of alienation while at Princeton sharpened her goal to "utilize my resources to benefit the Black community. At the same time, however, it is conceivable that my four years of exposure has instilled within me certain conservative values. For example, as I enter my final year in Princeton, I find myself striving for many of the same goals as my White classmates—acceptance to a prestigious graduate or professional school or a high paying position in a successful corporation. Thus, my goals after Princeton are not as clear as before."

Michelle Obama is by now so well assimilated that she can wear a dress and pearls that are photocopies of the clothes and jewels worn by Jackie Kennedy—and pull it off with grace and panache. At the same time, no one should doubt her blackness (or her husband's, as she has made clear more than once). She has found a way to thrive in any world that she wants. But it is perhaps unsurprising that, for an unguarded moment on the campaign trail, she reflected the alienation she felt at being a lonely working-class black woman at a rich white man's school long ago.

Color us surprised that at a moment of maximum acceptance she would have needed to have her guard up to avoid revealing such core resentment. What would she be like at a bad moment?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:37 PM


Obama Fatigue: The dangers of an elite celebrity candidacy. (Yuval Levin, March 8, 2008, National Review)

America's cultural elites are easily swept up in fashionable new idealisms, especially those that confirm their existing predilections and demand no serious personal sacrifice. But the culture of cool is also powerfully allergic to forthright displays of devotion and fervor. Its most powerful weapon is sarcasm, and the kind of piety on display in the Obama movement seems to beg for sarcastic deflation. Can we doubt that a South Park episode concluding in the handing out of Kool-Aid at an Obama rally is forthcoming?

Can Jon Stewart's Daily Show put up with statements like Halle Barry's above for long before letting loose a massive assault on the whole endeavor? How long can a politician go around saying "we are the ones we've been waiting for" before a sharp and memorable punch line leaves him with a nasty lasting bruise? And how will Obama's young followers respond when forced to choose between the movement to change the world and the snide knowing chuckle?

The frantic pace of our cultural trends means Obama is running a very serious risk of making his most ardent supporters tired of him very quickly. A nasty turn in his press coverage in just the past week offers Obama an ominous preview of how that could feel. This may not be his fault, but it is certainly his problem.

Meanwhile, one crucial Democratic constituency may be tired of the show already. The elitist drift of Obama's campaign inevitably weakens his appeal among blue-collar voters. And in this regard, it is more than the messianic excesses on the stump, but Obama's style and personal history that could bring him lasting trouble. Throughout the Democratic primary season, we have witnessed a significant divide between highly educated white-collar voters and less educated blue-collar voters -- a pattern powerfully evident in this week's results in Ohio. Obama's performance with black voters has masked some of this, but if you examine the white vote in state after state, you find that Barack Obama is the Ph.D.'s candidate, and Hillary Clinton the working stiff's candidate.

This is not entirely shocking of course. Obama -- a son of two Ph.D.s, married to a J.D., and possessed of one himself -- is, apart from his race, the epitome of the contemporary American upper class.

Nominating a fad in the Winter to run in the Fall would certainly seem a dubious strategy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:51 AM


Obama's Constitution: The rhetoric and the reality. (M. Edward Whelan III, March 13, 2008, Weekly Standard)

[I]n setting forth the sort of judges he would appoint, Obama has explicitly declared: "We need somebody who's got the heart, the empathy, to recognize what it's like to be a young teenage mom, the empathy to understand what it's like to be poor or African-American or gay or disabled or old--and that's the criterion by which I'll be selecting my judges." So much for the judicial virtue of dispassion. So much for a craft of judging that is distinct from politics. [...]

Obama's constitutional activism is particularly evident on the touchstone issue of Roe v. Wade. Obama calls abortion "one of the most fundamental rights we possess" and promises to "make preserving women's rights under Roe v. Wade a priority as president." He has harshly criticized the Court's 2007 ruling that the federal partial-birth abortion act (which was supported by broad bipartisan majorities in Congress, including abortion supporters like Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Patrick Leahy) is constitutionally permissible. [...]

Obama finds himself compelled "to side with Justice Breyer's view of the Constitution--that it is not a static but rather a living document, and must be read in the context of an ever-changing world." But no one disputes that the Constitution "must be read," and applied, "in the context of an ever-changing world." The central question of the last several decades is, rather, whether it is legitimate for judges to alter the Constitution's meaning willy-nilly--in particular, whether judges have unconstrained authority to invent new constitutional rights to suit their views of what changing times require.

A man who feels himself unbound by the plain meaning of the Constitution is manifestly unfit for the job of upholding it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:14 AM


GOP amendment aimed at mocking Obama (Martin Kady II , 3/13/08, Politico)

While senators gravely speak about the nation's fiscal health all day during the Senate budget debate, they're not above making purely political points aimed at embarrassing one another.

To wit: Sen. Wayne Allard, a Republican from Colorado, has crafted a massive budget amendment that claims to fund every policy proposed by Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) on the presidential campaign trail. Allard's amendment _ doomed to fail by a significant margin _ includes $1.4 trillion in spending over five years by proposing Obama's universal health care program ($65 billion a year), expanding the Army ($6.6 billion a year) and eliminating income taxes on lower income seniors ($10 billion a year).

It's even post-partisan.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:25 AM


Record gas prices push energy spending to near 1980s levels (Steve Hargreaves, 3/11/08,

Adjusted for inflation, gasoline at $3.227 a gallon, according to AAA, is still about 18 cents below its peak of $3.405, set in March 1981, according to the Energy Information Administration. And Americans are spending about 6% of their total disposable income on energy, down from about 8% in 1982.

But prices are higher then they have been at any time in recent memory. In 2002, when many people may have bought a vehicle they are still driving today, Americans spent just 4% of their income on energy. Gas prices, adjusted into 2008 dollars, were at a near all-time low of around $1.30 a gallon.

"It really hasn't reached a level it did in 1982, but it's approaching it," said Kay Smith, an economist at EIA. "It's becoming a burden."

Moreover, Americans haven't spent this much of their income on energy since 1986.

The problem is it's still too cheap to drive down consumption, which we could have rectified with higher gas taxes.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:12 AM


Panel Proposes Streamlining Math (TAMAR LEWIN, 3/13/08, NY Times)

American students’ math achievement is “at a mediocre level” compared with that of their peers worldwide, according to a new report by a federal panel. The panel said that math curriculums from preschool to eighth grade should be streamlined to focus on key skills — the handling of whole numbers and fractions, and certain aspects of geometry and measurement — to prepare students to learn algebra. [...]

Closely tracking an influential 2006 report by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, the panel said that the math curriculum should include fewer topics, and then spend enough time on each of them to make it is learned in depth and need not be revisited in later grades. This is how top-performing nations approach the curriculum.

Less is more, particularly for extraneous subjects like math and science.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:09 AM


Dave Stevens, 52; artist created 'Rocketeer' comic (Valerie J. Nelson, 3/13/08, Los Angeles Times)

In 1981, Stevens was working as a commercial illustrator when a friend asked him to contribute a story to another comic book. His "throwaway idea," as he called it, was a succinct ode to 1930s-style, pulp-fiction adventures and movie serials.

The comic -- in which a stunt pilot battles evil after finding a rocket-powered backpack -- became a cult success. A decade later it was made into the live-action Disney movie "The Rocketeer" with Billy Campbell as the title character.

In trying to explain the comic's popularity, author Harlan Ellison wrote in the introduction to the 1985 graphic novel "The Rocketeer": The comics "are hip-deep in the right kind of nostalgia . . . adventure and affection, melded in just the right way. . . . "

Disney was attracted to the story because it had "a clear heroic structure . . . an innocent guy stumbles on something and ends up saving the world . . . and it was a world we hadn't seen before," David Hoberman, then president of Touchstone and Walt Disney Pictures, told The Times in 1991.

The Art Deco look that defined "The Rocketeer" had preoccupied Stevens since childhood. He grew up saving photos of old planes, trains and buildings -- streamlined designs that were "so much more charming than the world I found around me," he told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer in 1991.

Stevens served as a producer on the film, giving input on architectural details. He also designed the helmet that the Rocketeer wears in the movie.

Writing in The Times in 2003, Geoff Boucher called "The Rocketeer" comic "sexy, irreverent and snappy" and said the movie "had an Indiana Jones-like bonhomie."

The comic's square-jawed hero, Cliff Secord, bore more than a passing resemblance to the soft-spoken Stevens. The female love interest, a lingerie model, was drawn as a tribute to pin-up Page.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:03 AM


Five Cuban soccer players are believed to have defected (Grahame L. Jones, 3/13/08, Los Angeles Times)

Five players from Cuba's team that tied the U.S., 1-1, Tuesday night in a qualifying game for the Beijing Olympics have disappeared from the Tampa, Fla., hotel where the squad was staying and are believed to have defected.

Refugees who don't throw like girls are preferable, but, welcome home.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:44 AM


Bush Signals Intent to Force Vote in Congress This Year on Colombian Trade Deal (STEVEN R. WEISMAN, 3/12/08, NY Times)

The Bush administration signaled Wednesday that it would defy the wishes of Congressional Democrats and force a vote this year on a free trade agreement with Colombia, hinting that it would try to gain support for the pact by stoking fears of anti-American sentiment in the region.

“The Colombia agreement is pivotal to America’s national security and economic interests right now, and it is too important to be held up by politics,” President Bush told an audience of Hispanic business leaders here. “There needs to be a vote on Colombia this year.”

By itself, the Colombia pact would not have a major impact on trade, but it has become one of the administration’s international economic priorities, along with other deals with Panama and South Korea.

Such trade pacts can be useful to the GOP in pitting Hispanics against Labor and sundering the Democrat coalition.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:42 AM


Obama's Pastor: God Damn America, U.S. to Blame for 9/11 (BRIAN ROSS and REHAB EL-BURI, March 13, 2008, ABC News)

Sen. Barack Obama's pastor says blacks should not sing "God Bless America" but "God damn America."

The Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Obama's pastor for the last 20 years at the Trinity United Church of Christ on Chicago's south side, has a long history of what even Obama's campaign aides concede is "inflammatory rhetoric," including the assertion that the United States brought on the 9/11 attacks with its own "terrorism."

In a campaign appearance earlier this month, Sen. Obama said, "I don't think my church is actually particularly controversial." He said Rev. Wright "is like an old uncle who says things I don't always agree with," telling a Jewish group that everyone has someone like that in their family.

His family ain't like ours.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:37 AM


The Fascination With Isolation: In real-life experiments, mental collapse comes quickly (Michael Mechanic, March 14, 2008, Mother Jones)

When the late Donald O. Hebb, a psychologist at Montreal's McGill University, secured a grant from the Canadian Defence Research Board in 1951 to study how sensory isolation affects the human mind, he found that depriving a person of stimulation can break him in days.

Peter Milner, then Hebb's graduate student and now a professor emeritus at McGill, was working on another project at the time but remembers seeing the sensory-deprivation rooms and watching subjects in frosted-white goggles being led to the bathroom. His mentor had offered male graduate students $20 a day—excellent pay for the '50s—to stay in small chambers with little more than a bed. In addition to the goggles, they wore gloves and cardboard tubes over the arms to limit their sense of touch. A U-shaped pillow and the hum of an air conditioner masked outside noises. "According to his theory, the brain would deteriorate if it didn't have a continuous stream of sensory input," Milner says.

Despite adequate sleep and meals and bathroom breaks, the majority of the young men lasted no more than a few days in isolation, and none more than a week. "Most of the subjects had planned to think about their work: Some intended to review their studies, some to plan term papers, and one thought he would organize a lecture he had to deliver," wrote Woodburn Heron, one of Hebb's collaborators, in "The Pathology of Boredom," a 1957 Scientific American article describing the experiment. "Nearly all of them reported that the most striking thing about the experience was that they were unable to think clearly about anything for any length of time and that their thought processes seemed to be affected in other ways."

A series of tests showed that the volunteers' mental faculties were, in fact, temporarily impaired. The students proved uncharacteristically responsive to arguments that supernatural phenomena, including ghosts and poltergeists, were real. They performed poorly on tests involving simple arithmetic, word associations, and pattern recognition. They also experienced extreme restlessness, childish emotional responses, and vivid hallucinations. "The subjects had little control over the content" of their visions, Heron wrote. "One man could see nothing but dogs, another nothing but eyeglasses of various types, and so on." Nor were these hallucinations merely visual: One volunteer repeatedly heard a music box playing, another a full choir to accompany his vision of a sun rising over a church. "One," Heron wrote, "had a feeling of being hit in the arm by pellets fired from a miniature rocket ship he saw; another reaching out to touch a doorknob in his vision felt an electric shock."

...if imprisonment is itself torture then why ban a clean and effective interrogation technique like waterboarding?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:23 AM


What I Couldn't Teach Spitzer at Harvard Law (Susan Estrich, 3/13/08, Real Clear Politics)

I met Eliot Spitzer during his first semester in law school, my first year teaching criminal law at Harvard. He was smart and ambitious, which certainly didn't set him apart from the rest of his classmates at Harvard. What did, and what brought him to my door, was that he was interested in a career in politics.

I myself was fresh from four years in Washington, the last two working in the Kennedy and Carter campaigns, and while I was barely four years older than my students, I had already learned some important lessons about how Democrats lose. So I had advice for Eliot. Go be a prosecutor, I told him. Democrats need to prove what side they're on when it comes to crime.

The side holding up the number board while the mugshot is taken?

Seriously though, is it any wonder that the law has been reduced to politicized gamesmanship rather than an attempt to render justice when Harvard profs are telling their students that being a DA is a political stepping stone?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:50 AM



[N]either technological change nor globalization can explain the fact that socialist economies did not merely lag the West: they actually went into decline, and then collapse. Why couldn't they at least hold on to what they had?

I don't think anyone really knows the answer, but let me make a conjecture: the basic problem was not technical, but moral. Communism failed as an economic system because people stopped believing in it, not the other way around.

A market system, of course, works whether people believe in it or not. You may dislike capitalism, even feel that as a system it will eventually fail, yet do your job well because your family needs the money you earn. Capitalism can run, even flourish, in a society of selfish cynics. But a non-market economy cannot. The personal incentives for workers to do their jobs well, for managers to make good decisions, are simply too weak. In the later years of the Soviet Union, workers knew that they would be paid regardless of how hard they tried; managers knew that promotions would depend more on political connections than on performance; and nobody was offered rewards large enough to justify taking unpopular positions or any sort of serious risk. (There can't have been more than a few dozen people in the Soviet Union - all of them politicians - who had the kind of lavish life style enjoyed by tens of thousands of successful entrepreneurs and executives in the United States). So why did the system ever work? Because people believed in it. I don't mean that people went singing to their jobs, praising the motherland. I do mean that they did not take as much advantage of the system as they might have (and did, in the system's later years). And I also mean that because people in authority believed in the system, they were willing to impose brutal punishments on those who did try to take advantage. (Stalin used to shoot unsuccessful generals).

We see this kind of thing all the time, in microcosm. The market does not require people to believe in it; but the centrally planned economies that live inside a market economy, known as corporations, do. Everybody knows that financial incentives alone are not enough to make a company succeed; it must also build morale, a sense of mission, which makes people work at least somewhat for the good of the company rather than think only of what is good for them. Luckily, under capitalism an individual company can fail without taking the whole society down with it - or it can be reformed without a bloody revolution.

Why did people stop believing in socialism? Part of the answer is simply the passage of time: you can't expect revolutionary fervor to last for 70 years. But perhaps also the unexpected resurgence of capitalism played a role. By the 1980s Russia's elite was all too aware that the country, instead of overtaking the capitalist nations, was slipping behind - that Russia was failing to take advantage of new technology, that if anyone was challenging the West it was the rising nations of Asia. Communism lost any claim to the mandate of history well before it actually fell apart, and perhaps that is why it fell apart.

In the end, then, capitalism triumphed because it is a system that is robust to cynicism, that assumes that each man is out for himself. For much of the past century and a half men have dreamed of something better, of an economy that drew on man's better nature. But dreams, it turns out, can't keep a system going over the long term; selfishness can.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:35 AM


Racial issue bubbles up again for U.S. Democrats (Patrick Healy and Jeff Zeleny, March 13, 2008, NY Times)

Clinton's advisers said Wednesday that they were concerned about her standing among blacks, once a core constituency for her and her husband, but that they also believed that black support for Obama was a foregone conclusion at this point.

They said they were wrestling with ways to make inroads with blacks in Pennsylvania, which holds the next primary, on April 22.

Clinton's reluctance to sideline Ferraro, who made her comments last week to The Daily Breeze in Torrance, California, left the specter of race hanging over the Democratic contest.

That decision drew a sharp rebuke on Wednesday from the Rev. Al Sharpton, the black political leader in New York and a former presidential candidate, who questioned whether Clinton's campaign was keeping the issue alive as a way to win white votes in Pennsylvania.

In addition to Ferraro's remark, Sharpton cited Clinton's decision not to fire her top ally in Pennsylvania, Governor Edward Rendell, for saying in February that some white voters there were "probably not ready to vote for an African-American candidate."

"When you hear the lack of total denunciation of Ferraro, when you hear Rendell saying there are whites who will never vote for a black, one has to wonder if the Clinton campaign has a Pennsylvania strategy to appeal to voters on race," Sharpton said in an interview. "I would hope Mrs. Clinton would make it clear that she is not doing that."

When she's getting only a Republican-size portion of the black vote, what's the downside to her--just in terms of electoral politics--of trying to maximize her white support? That's the ugly can of worms that their identity politics opens up. To their credit, Republican presidential candidates of the past several decades have eschewed such tribalism even though they've lost the black vote by the same sorts of margins. That's the difference that their quintessentially American/Judeo-Christian universalism makes.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:31 AM


Paterson's Own History (HENRY STERN, March 13, 2008, NY Sun)

The chances are that Mr. Paterson will do better than expected. First, he will not arouse the personal animosity that Mr. Spitzer was so quick to engender both by his language and by his obvious contempt for the lesser mortals around him. Second, after the disputatious year 2007, legislators will want to settle down and show that they can get along with each other. While it is too early to predict an Era of Good Feeling, such as how President Madison's administration was characterized, state officials will try to avoid public controversies, at least for a while. There is an unexpected opportunity for a second honeymoon. Still, the real David Paterson is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma, as Winston Churchill once described the Soviet Union. He was not a lifelong resident of Harlem but was born in Brooklyn, where his parents lived, on May 20, 1954. Later they moved to Hempstead and his father became a partner in a high-powered law firm in Mineola. [...]

He is legally blind, although he has limited sight out of one eye, a condition he has had since birth. Mr. Paterson has an excellent memory, and gives compelling speeches on substantive issues. His achievements, despite his disability, are inspiring, and he will be a role model for many others with similar issues. [...]

No one speaks ill of David Paterson, and in my own limited experience with him, he has been kind and thoughtful. I really like him. He is not cavalier in dealing with people of lesser importance. People respect him. Years ago, he proposed that police officers be permitted only to shoot to wound, not to kill, but withdrew that notion in the face of public disapproval. He is pro-choice and supports gay marriage. His positions are what one might expect from a liberal Democrat from the Upper West Side and Harlem.

Now, for the first time, Mr. Paterson will have to confront budget issues, choose among priorities, and disappoint people who do not get what they want.

Mr. Paterson describes himself as someone who doesn't like saying "no" to anybody. That's not really a qualification for public office.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:29 AM


Bush's faith-based initiative defies criticism, director says (Jon Ward, March 13, 2008, Washington Times)

President Bush's director of faith-based initiatives said yesterday that the time for second-guessing the program has passed and that critics who say it blurs the separation of church and state are "alarmist," during an interview with reporters and editors at The Washington Times.

" 'Can a religious charity provide a social service?' is no longer a question. The question is 'How?' " said Jay Hein, director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives (FBCI).

Mr. Hein also said he is confident that the next president will continue the office, which was created by Mr. Bush during his second week as president.

"All the candidates seem to be speaking favorably about faith-based programs," he said. "There doesn't seem to be any push for change."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:38 AM


McCain, GOP May Have Cause for Hope: Latest Poll Helps Detail Reasons the Democrats Remain Deadlocked (JACKIE CALMES, March 13, 2008, Walkl Street Journal)

Illinois Sen. Obama edges Sen. McCain by 47% to 44%, while Sen. Clinton, of New York, beats the Republican by a near-identical 47% to 45%. The poll, which surveyed 1,012 registered voters March 7-10, has a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points.

Chief among the strengths of the Republican nominee-in-waiting is his experience with national-security issues, as a naval aviator and longtime senator. "Americans can visualize John McCain behind the desk in the Oval Office," said Mr. Hart. "The difficulty is where his policies are, and is he going to take the country where it wants to head."

Of 10 attributes measured in the poll, Sen. McCain scored highest for "being knowledgeable and experienced enough to handle the presidency." Nearly two-thirds of voters agreed -- up 12 points from December, when both parties' nominating races were getting under way. His next-highest ratings, from 61%, were for strong leadership and for readiness to be commander in chief.

Voters gave Sen. McCain the lowest marks on whether he shared their positions on issues (31% said he does), for being inspirational (22%) and for being likely to produce change in Washington (20%). Yet Sen. McCain evokes positive responses among voters generally -- by 47% to 27% they say they have a favorable view of him, with the rest mostly neutral. Those with positive feelings include seven out of 10 conservative voters who otherwise say they are unhappy with Sen. McCain as the nominee. Fewer than half of Democrats have unfavorable views.

In the first Journal/NBC poll since Sen. McCain clinched the nomination, a 52% majority of Republicans say they would have preferred another nominee -- a gauge of how much bridge-building the reputed party maverick must do to unite his party. But both pollsters caution against reading too much into that finding. Other findings show even dissatisfied Republicans would vote overwhelmingly for Sen. McCain against either Democrat. a poll of registered voters, they need to be way ahead of the Republican nominee to have a chance in the Fall.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:34 AM


The Roe v. Wade of Gun Rights (Ken Blackwell, March 13, 2008, Townhall)

The two red-hot issues fused by the District of Columbia v. Heller case -- guns and judges -- are two of the most divisive in American politics.

D.C. v. Heller could become one of the most important cases in American history, with profound political and policy implications.

The case will directly affect 90 million American gun owners. Whether they have a constitutional right to own guns immediately makes their ownership either a protected right or merely a privilege that the government can restrict at will. Either way everyone else in our society is indirectly affected.

Gun bans fall particularly heavily on women, minorities, the elderly, and the disabled who own guns for self defense purposes. Though stereotypical gun owners are white adult males in the prime of life, the reality is that these are the people who need guns the least. Most people are more likely to be a victim of violent crime, and thus have a greater need for a tool that neutralizes any would-be criminal’s greater size, strength, or speed.

The short-term political impact of Heller might turn the 2008 presidential election. Either Senators Clinton or Obama would the most anti-gun Democrat nominee in American history. The Second Amendment is a pivotal issue in a half-dozen swing states, and other swing states have smaller gun votes, but gun owners could easily tip those states in a close election.

Heller will heat up twice during the presidential campaign, first when the case is argued in March and second when the Court hands down its decision, most likely in June.

The Court will affirm the Constitution, but would benefit the GOP if it didn't.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:22 AM


Your brain on placebos (The Ottawa Citizen, March 13, 2008)

A recent study in The Journal of American Medicine found that the effects of placebos vary according to price. Study participants received mild shocks before and after taking a fake pain reliever. Half were informed the pills cost $2.50 each. The other half were led to believe a dose cost 10 cents.

Not surprisingly, members of both groups claimed to have experienced considerable pain relief after taking the pills. However, 85 per cent of the participants who thought they had taken an expensive drug reported positive results, compared to only 61 per cent of those who believed they had received a cheaper product.

The lead researcher claims that our bodies secrete fewer natural pain relievers when we take a discounted drug because we perceive it as being less effective. Our brains, it seems, have expensive tastes.

This might explain why so many people insist that their doctors prescribe only brand-name medications when equally effective but less expensive generic drugs are available. If people actually respond better to pricier medication, it's understandable why they request it. However, the actual versus perceived benefits are difficult to measure, and the only party guaranteed to benefit when someone pays too much for a drug is the company that makes it.

People associate cost with quality in areas other than medicine, too. An American liberal arts school called Ursinus College decided in 2000 to take action against declining enrollment. The college's trustees had a theory: potential students were staying away because they perceived similar schools with higher tuitions to be better.

So the school raised tuition by almost 18 per cent. Within four years, first-year enrollment increased by more than a third.

...he could have snagged a $20 hooker down by the Holland Tunnel--she'd have been just as good as the high cost one and saved him the investigation.

March 12, 2008

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:43 PM


Oil Price Bubble?: Supply is up, demand is down, yet the price is soaring. Here's why. (Ronald Bailey, March 12, 2008, Reason)

[G]asoline inventories are at their highest since March, 1993, notes Tim Evans, an energy futures analyst at Citigroup's Futures Perspective. World oil production was up 2.5 percent in the first quarter of 2008 over the same period in 2007 while world oil consumption rose by just 2 percent. In fact, world production is projected to be 3.3 percent higher in the second quarter and 4.1 percent higher in the third quarter than the same periods a year ago. On the other hand, world demand is projected to rise by just 1.6 percent over the next six months.

In fact, demand is falling in some countries. According to economist John Kemp at the commodities firm Sempra Metals, the U.S. consumed 4 percent less petroleum in January 2008 than it did the year before. Evans agrees, noting that the U.S. demand for petroleum products began falling off last July. Interestingly, this drop in U.S. oil consumption began before crude prices turned vertical and before we began to see weakness in the broader economy. Even China's thirst for oil is abating somewhat. Its demand for oil, which once rose at 10 percent per year, has now dropped to 6 percent per year. In addition, world surplus oil production capacity has gone from a very tight 1.5 million barrels per day a couple of years ago to more than 3 million barrels today, says petroleum economist Michael Lynch.

So supply is up; relative demand is down and yet, the price of oil is soaring. What's going on? Last week, Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson blamed a third of the recent run up in oil prices on the weak dollar, another third on geopolitical uncertainty, and the rest on market speculation. that they're always just bubbles.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:37 PM


The beginning of the end for the Obama campaign (John Carlson, 3/12/08, The Seattle Times)

Barack Obama has generated more excitement this year than any presidential contender in at least a generation. Having seen nothing like him in their lives, young people have signed up in droves. Older Democrats say the last candidate who connected with them this way was Bobby Kennedy in '68. Women faint at his rallies. That wouldn't happen at a John McCain or Hillary Clinton event unless it was held in 110-degree heat.

But excitement is closely tied to momentum and the Obama campaign is losing both. The affection for him is genuine, but it's less a long-term romance than a crush. And everyone knows that crushes either crash or fade. Ask an Obama supporter about the senator's greatest political accomplishment and the reaction is often the same: a crinkled eyebrow, an awkward acknowledgment that they can't think of anything, but he still inspires them because he represents "change" and "hope."

OK. But soaring, uplifting sermons promising "hope" and "change" eventually run dry unless they're connected to clear ideas and a coherent agenda. Martin Luther King's "I have a Dream" speech was about ending segregation in the pursuit of racial equality in every aspect of life. He was speaking truth to power for a clear purpose.

But, Obama's words aren't a bridge to ideas and opinions, they're substitutes for them. He calls for common ground, but the senator actually has a more liberal voting record than Hillary Clinton and is much more ideological and partisan in the Senate than McCain.

Obama's losses in both Texas and Ohio underscore why time is not on his side. These were the first primaries that didn't follow on the heels of another with another contest immediately following. Instead voters were able to sit back for three full weeks, listen to the debates, watch how the candidates and their spouses talked to different audiences in different parts of the state, hear their advertising and take their time digesting this information and discussing it with others at home, work and the barber shop.

When they did that, Obama began to fade. Like a hit record that's been on the charts for a while, they still smile when it plays but they're getting used to hearing it. In Ohio, a must-win state for the Democrats in November, people began to tire of it. Isn't there a "B" side?

Cresting in March is generally a bad idea in a presidential election.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:51 PM


Support for war effort highest since 2006 (David Paul Kuhn, Mar 12, 2008, Politico)

American public support for the military effort in Iraq has reached a high point unseen since the summer of 2006, a development that promises to reshape the political landscape.

According to late February polling conducted by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, 53 percent of Americans — a slim majority — now believe “the U.S. will ultimately succeed in achieving its goals” in Iraq. That figure is up from 42 percent in September 2007.

The percentage of those who believe the war in Iraq is going “very well” or “fairly well” is also up, from 30 percent in February 2007 to 48 percent today.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:09 PM


Mutual Contempt: The long history of the McCain-Obama grudge (Michael Crowley, 3/26/08, New Republic)

In February 2006, Washington was reeling from a wave of corruption scandals. Indictments had come down on Republican superlobbyist Jack Abramoff, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, and Republican Representative Duke Cunningham. Congress polices itself as willingly as a child cleans his room, but the scandals had jolted both parties into action. Democrats saw ethics reform as a partisan issue that could help win back the House and Senate that November. Republicans, meanwhile, battled furiously to cast corruption as a nonpartisan story about the culture of Washington, not just their party.

At the center of this frenzy were McCain and Obama. McCain had held months of committee hearings about the Abramoff scandal, which he capped with an ethics reform bill cracking down on congressional travel at lobbyists' expense, discounted trips on corporate jets, and his overriding pet obsession, earmark spending.

Obama, meanwhile, had been tapped by then-Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid as the Democrats' point man on ethics reform. Still several months from signaling a run for president, Obama was a perfect reform messenger--a Washington newcomer sullied by few past transactions with lobbyists. He had also co-sponsored a strong reform measure with Mr. Ethics himself, Democrat Russ Feingold of Wisconsin. Obama had also led a lobbying reform push in the Illinois state legislature about a decade earlier (for which he was "literally hooted and catcalled" by colleagues, as one recently told The New York Times).

Senate Republicans had little genuine interest in clamping down on their Gucci-loafered friends. But they also knew feigning concern before the voters was a must. Democrats weren't interested in teaming up, rejecting overtures from Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and instead holding their own rally for reform at the Library of Congress. So Frist chose his colleague Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania to develop an alternative bill that Republicans could tout. Santorum assembled a group of senators from both parties, among them John McCain. Though personally disliked by many of his GOP colleagues, McCain offered a gold seal of reform credibility thanks to his past battles on campaign finance and pork barrel spending.

On February 1, McCain invited Obama to a meeting of Santorum's working group. Obama accepted, explaining in a press conference that day that he would let the Republicans there know that "I am prepared to work across the aisle and make some things happen." That evening, he joined several other attendees--including Republicans Trent Lott, Susan Collins, David Vitter, and Johnny Isakson, and Democrats Mark Pryor and Joe Lieberman--in Santorum's office. Munching on grapes and other finger food, the senators and their aides had what one participant described as a long and substantive discussion of arcane ethics issues, such as what exact price constitutes a proper reimbursement for travel on a corporate jet. One Democratic aide who attended another meeting with Obama on this subject calls him completely fluent in the topic and better informed than virtually all of his colleagues. But Santorum found Obama off-putting: After showing up late and receiving a "syrupy" welcome from McCain, Santorum says, Obama began preaching down to his colleagues. "He went on and on about how ethical his life is and how he does things more ethically than everybody and on and on and on," Santorum says. "And, when we tried to come back to substance, we heard more about how he does things. Which is all really interesting but not particularly productive in terms of trying to find common ground to get things done." (Though Santorum has obvious partisan reasons to bad-mouth Obama, his response suggests there could be limits to a President Obama's ability to charm D.C. Republicans.)

A day after attending the confab, Obama sent McCain a letter thanking him for the invitation but also indicating that he preferred a reform bill championed by Harry Reid and other Democratic leaders, which had no Republican sponsors.

McCain went ballistic. "I would like to apologize to you for assuming that your private assurances to me regarding your desire to cooperate in our efforts to negotiate bipartisan lobbying reform legislation were sincere," he wrote back in a letter. McCain said Democratic leaders were simply using ethics as a political club in the fall elections, and he hinted that Obama had decided to carry Reid's water rather than negotiate a bipartisan bill. "I understand how important the opportunity to lead your party's effort to exploit this issue must seem to a freshman Senator, and I hold no hard feelings over your earlier disingenuousness. Again, I have been around long enough to appreciate that in politics the public interest isn't always a priority for every one of us."

In McCainland, the episode had revealed Obama as a mere Democratic partisan masquerading as a bridge-builder. "There was all this chest-pounding about how he was going to reach across the aisle and work in a bipartisan manner to solve all America's problems," says former longtime McCain adviser John Weaver. "And up comes an issue which seems perfectly suited for him, and he met Senator McCain, who has correctly long been the champion of this ... [and] he decided for whatever reason he was going to take the more partisan position."

"It was evident to me from day one that Obama's instructions were to make sure this doesn't happen," Santorum adds. "I'm not blaming Obama here--he was Harry Reid's surrogate."

McCain had a point. Obama seemed to have chosen his party's interests over the bipartisan approach to reform he had touted--an interpretation conceded to me by another pro-reform Democrat close to the process.

To be fair, it's not a certainty, should Senator Obama ever get around to trying to pass any legislation about anything on his own, that Maverick would be helpful, though we're unlikely ever to know.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:55 PM


McCain More Hawkish Than Bush on Russia, China, Iraq (Hans Nichols, 3/12/08, Bloomberg)

John McCain is at least as determined as George W. Bush to stay the course in Iraq and more confrontational than the president on foreign policy issues ranging from Russia and China to North Korea.

The perception that McCain is less bellicose than the administration is belied by his own positions. He's skeptical about Bush's plan to provide nuclear fuel to North Korea. He has signaled he would be tougher on China. And he called Russia's elections ``rigged'' even as Bush said he wanted a ``close'' relationship with the president-elect.

``On Russia and China, he is clearly more hawkish than Bush,'' said Ken Weinstein, chief executive officer of the Hudson Institute, a research group in Washington. be able to sit back and let the press and the Left make the case for your conservatism.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:51 PM


A Clear Voice in Babylon: William F. Buckley Jr., "The Unmaking of a Mayor" (George N. Crocker, Summer 1967, First Principles)

If anyone ever wrote a whole book about his election as mayor of a city, the precedent has escaped this reviewer’s attention. A fortiori, he knows of no one who ever devoted 335 pages to chronicling for posterity, as William F. Buckley Jr. has done, the campaign in which he ran for mayor and lost. Buckley not only lost; he came in third.

This comment is in no way intended to deplore Buckley’s extraordinary venture into politics as a candidate in the 1965 mayoralty election in New York City, or to disparage the book he has written about it. There are many things about Buckley which are without precedent; this has been known to friends and foes ever since he emerged with honors from college in 1950 and proceeded to write that devastating critique of liberal establishmentarianism in the academic world, Cod And Man At Yale-a work which did not devastate Yale University, but did devastate any illusion that the prevailing orthodoxy which so repelled the student Buckley in the academic milieu would go without an articulate, brave, and heavily-armored challenger in the years ahead. And friends and foes do all concede that among the rare concatenation of personal qualities which have made Buckley a natural leader-if not the leader-of the young, intellectual conservatives of this country, a preference €or the well-trod, easy path is not among them.

The Unmaking of a Mayor is only incidentally an autobiographical record of an episode in a man’s career. More broadly, it is a highly perceptive diagnosis of a moral and intellectual malaise that afflicts party politics and the electoral process today, most acutely in the cities. New York City is politically eccentric, no doubt; but even so, this book, more incisively as well as more entertainingly than any other, helps one to break away from the shadowland of demagogy in which the subjects of urban poverty and blight and discomfort are now bogged down.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:06 PM


Detroit mayor pressured to resign (Andrea Billups, March 12, 2008, Washington Times)

Embattled Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick continues to fight back against a growing chorus calling for his resignation by using race as an issue and blaming the media for his mounting legal and political problems.

Mr. Kilpatrick, giving the annual State of the City speech last night, used the last portion of his message to stray from prepared remarks and angrily bemoan a “lynch-mob mentality” that he said has attacked him and his family and is fueled by racial hatred.

The mayor is under investigation for lying in sworn testimony about an affair with his chief of staff in a police whistleblower trial as well as for a secret $8.4 settlement he brokered without the city council"s knowledge. Mr. Kilpatrick, who in 2001 at age 31 became Detroit"s youngest mayor, blamed the media for his ongoing woes and invoked the “n” word, saying he had been called that name more now than at any time in his life.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:58 PM


Bush Bashes Clinton (and Obama) (Peter Baker, 3/12/08, Washington Post: The Trail)

President Bush waded further into the presidential race today, slamming Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama for "empty, hollow political rhetoric" on trade and warning that they would make "a reckless mistake" by retreating from agreements to lower barriers with other countries.

Although he did not name Clinton or Obama, he left little doubt who he was talking about, at one point even mocking Clinton's promise to take a "timeout" from free trade agreements if she becomes president. "You know, some have called for a 'timeout' from trade," he told the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce shortly after Clinton addressed the group. "I guess that's probably popular with the focus group. You know, they toss out the word 'timeout' from trade -- it's got this kind of catchy little title to it. In the 21st century, a timeout from trade would be a timeout from growth, a timeout from jobs and a timeout from good results."

Oh, no, wait, nevermind...Bill Clinton was pro-trade, like W.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:54 PM


Even huge tumour can't secure care in Ontario: Woman must cover cost of U.S. surgery (LISA PRIEST, 3/11/08, Globe and Mail)

Inside Sylvia de Vries lurked an enormous tumour and fluid totalling 18 kilograms. But not even that massive weight gain and a diagnosis of ovarian cancer could assure her timely treatment in Canada.

Fighting for her life, the Windsor woman headed to the United States. In Pontiac, Mich., a surgeon excised the tumour - 35 centimetres at its longest - along with her ovaries, appendix, fallopian tubes, uterus and cervix. In addition, 13 litres of fluid were drained during that October, 2006, operation.

And there was little time to spare: Had she waited two weeks, she would have faced potential multiorgan failure, rendering her unstable for surgery, according to a letter from Michael L. Hicks, who performed the four-hour operation at St. Joseph Mercy Oakland.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:48 PM


The Fall of Admiral George B. McFallon: contradicting the president in public, Admiral Fallon exceeded his authority--and was right to step down (Mackubin Thomas Owens, 03/12/2008, Weekly Standard)

On March 11, Fallon, commander of U.S. Central Command (USCENTCOM)--a regional combatant command that includes Iraq and Iran-stepped down from his post, offering as his reason the public "misperception" that he had disagreed with the Bush administration over policy in the Middle East, especially with regard to Iran. In a letter to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Fallon wrote that "The current embarrassing situation and public perception of differences between my views and administration policy and the distraction this causes from the mission make this the right thing to do."

The proximate cause of Fallon's departure was an article by Thomas Barnett in the April issue of Esquire. Entitled "The Man Between War and Peace," the piece begins: "As head of U.S. Central Command, Admiral William 'Fox' Fallon is in charge of American military strategy for the most troubled parts of the world. Now, as the White House has been escalating the war of words with Iran, and seeming ever more determined to strike militarily before the end of this presidency, the admiral has urged restraint and diplomacy. Who will prevail, the president or the admiral?"

Barnett's rather fawning profile of Fallon portrays the latter as "brazenly challenging" President Bush on Iran, pushing back "against what he saw as an ill-advised action." While reasonable people can disagree over the wisdom of the Bush administration's policy regarding Iraq, the really troubling aspect of this article is that it reveals the extent to which a combatant commander had taken it on himself to develop and disseminate policy independently of the president. This flies in the face of the American practice of civil-military relations, going back to the American Revolution.

It's a minor flap but with a significant angle -- given how unserious the Democrats are about national security, could either of them stand up to such an insubordinate underling?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:44 PM


Venezuelans taking circuitous route to get dollars (Simon Romero, March 12, 2008, IHT)

Stroll down Columbustraat. Enter the smoke-filled lobby of the San Marco Hotel Casino. Proceed up one flight of stairs to the front desk. Dial room 106. Bring a credit card issued in Venezuela.

In a desperate quest to get their hands on American dollars, Venezuelans are flocking to this island in the Netherlands Antilles to take part in this elaborate backroom scheme and dozens of others like it to get around currency controls imposed by the government of President Hugo Chávez.

"These Venezuelans come here to get their dollars, and we're happy to help them out," said Ronald Veenstra, 36, owner of a bar across from the San Marco Hotel, the Supreme Real, while mixing a mojito. "I've never poured more drinks for any one group in my entire life."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:40 PM

P[ersians] W[ith] A[tittudes]:

Iranian Rap Music Bedevils the Authorities: Rough-edged underground musicians connect with the disaffected, under-30 crowd (Anuj Chopra. March 12, 2008, US News)

With the introduction of satellite television in Iran in the early 1990s—also illegal—and the popularity of American artists like 2Pac and Eminem, hip-hop music found an explosive following among the Iranian youth. Eventually the young Iranians turned to creating this genre of music in Farsi.

Rappers mimic American rap artists in Farsi, indulge in obscene lyrics (mostly unprintable American slang), and often use female voices as leads or background voices—all jarring symbols of western decadence in the eyes of Iranian authorities who blame such music for luring the youth away from Islamic culture. Mohammad Dashtgoli, a Culture Ministry official, was recently quoted in the Iranian press as saying that rap is not inherently objectionable. "But due to the use of obscene words," he said, "rap has been categorized as illegal."

Still, a variety of rap musicians has emerged in Iran in the past few years. Zedbazi, for instance, introduced gangsta rap with its song "Mehmooni" (or "In the Club"). The most famous rapper, Soroush Lashkari, who styles himself with the screen name Hich Kas (or "Nobody") is popular as the "father of Persian rap."

And despite the prohibition on women singing in public, female rappers also dot the Iranian music landscape. The first of the female hip-hop and rap artists was Salome, who lives in Tehran and focuses on social issues like prostitution and the miseries of the war in Iraq. Mana, another female rapper from Tehran, is famous for "Rebellion," a song about poverty and runaway girls in Iran.

Given the restrictions, CDs of rappers are sold illegally or passed from hand to hand, copied with little regard to copyrights. However, Iranian rappers also get their music out to the global Iranian community through websites like and . Rappers have also invaded YouTube.

Fight the powers that be.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:28 PM



n the bottom of the first inning, Yankees pitcher Heath Phillips hit Rays batter Evan Longoria with a pitch, and Phillips was immediately ejected by home plate umpire Chad Fairchild.

In the top of the second, Shelley Duncan attempted to leg out a double, and sure enough, there was a play at second base. Duncan slid high into Akinori Iwamura, cleats up, and was called out. But following the slide, Tampa Bay right fielder Jonny Gomes raced in and shoved Duncan.

That set things off, and there was a huge scrum on the infield with both teams, with Zimmer actually walking onto the field eventually. There appeared to be some pushing and shoving before the teams walked off. As they walked off, someone on Tampa Bay was yelling at the Yankees' side, though it's unclear who that was or who specifically his target was.

The Yankees better get used to having the Rays run over them. It's going to happen for the next decade.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:13 AM


Kevorkian Plans Congressional Run (AP, 3/12/08)

Assisted suicide advocate Jack Kevorkian says he plans to run for Congress.

Kevorkian is on parole since his release from prison last year after serving the minimum of a term for second-degree murder in one man's death. [...]

"We need some honesty and sincerity instead of corrupt government in Washington," Kevorkian said a candidate who's open about being pro-death.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:08 AM


Tight US immigration forces outsourcing: Bill Gates (AFP, Mar 12, 2008)

US high-tech companies are being forced to outsource more jobs overseas because of outdated restrictions on immigration, Microsoft chairman Bill Gates told Congress Wednesday.

Gates, echoing a longstanding complaint from the technology sector, told a congressional panel that the US immigration system "makes attracting and retaining high-skilled immigrants exceptionally challenging for US firms."

"Congress's failure to pass high-skilled immigration reform has exacerbated an already grave situation," Gates said in remarks prepared for delivery to a hearing of the House of Representatives Science and Technology Committee.

"As a result, many US firms, including Microsoft, have been forced to locate staff in countries that welcome skilled foreign workers to do work that could otherwise have been done in the United States, if it were not for our counterproductive immigration policies."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:03 AM


Al-Qaida's Fading Victory: The Madrid Precedent (Austin Bay, 3/12/08, Real Clear Politics)

Al-Qaida needed a Madrid Precedent. The "9-11 Precedent" hadn't worked as planned. Rather than perishing like a fire-struck Sodom or becoming "quagmired" in Afghanistan like the lurching Soviet military, the United States responded aggressively and creatively, and with an unexpected agility.

Moreover, America had chosen not merely to topple al-Qaida's Taliban allies, but had made the bold decision to go to "the heart of the matter" and wage a war for the terms of modernity in the center of the politically dysfunctional Arab Muslim Middle East.

Don't think that al-Qaida's leaders didn't know that stroke -- establishing a democracy in Iraq -- represented a fatal threat to the terrorist organization.

Al-Qaida's dark genius had been to connect the Muslim world's angry, humiliated and isolated young men with a utopian fantasy preaching the virtue of violence. That utopian fantasy sought to explain and then redress roughly 800 years of Muslim decline. The rage energizing al-Qaida's ideological cadres certainly predated the post-Desert Storm presence of American troops in Saudi Arabia.

In February 2004, al-Qaida's "emir in Iraq," Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, bluntly noted he faced defeat. Islamist radicals were "failing to enlist support" and had "been unable to scare the Americans into leaving." Once the Iraqis established their own democracy, Zarqawi opined, al-Qaida was lost. Moreover, a predominantly Arab Muslim democracy offered the Muslim world an alternative to al-Qaida's liturgy of embedded grievance. Zarqawi's solution to looming failure was to murder Iraqi Shias and ignite a "sectarian war."

Politically inducing the withdrawal of coalition troops from Iraq was another route to thwarting Iraqi democracy.

Zapatero, a man steeped in the European left's liturgical anti-Americanism, came through for the bin Ladenites.

...has been their inability to duplicate the attack elsewhere in the West, nevermind the withdrawal. It suggests a really startling operational weakness on the part of al Qaeda.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:59 AM


John McCain runs for George Bush's third term: Based on his policies and the company he keeps, this year's Republican presidential candidate sounds a lot like the guy who ran in 2000 and 2004 (Juan Cole, 3/12/08, Salon)

The most important thing about the endorsements proffered to John McCain by George W. Bush and evangelist John Hagee last week was McCain's reaction to them. The freshly minted Republican nominee for president, who has had harsh words in the past for both Bush's policies and evangelical "agents of intolerance," meekly accepted their support. He knows he cannot win in November if the evangelicals and pro-war conservatives stay home. How far will McCain go in presenting himself as Son of Bush in order to energize his party's base? To date, based on his willingness to embrace the Bush agenda and to associate with religious extremists, the answer seems to be pretty far indeed.

When John McCain went to the White House last week, President Bush seemed to be offering him an out. Bush "welcomed" McCain as "the Republican nominee" in his official statement, but didn't initially use the word "endorse." It was McCain who leapt for the e-word. "Well, I'm very honored and humbled," said McCain, "to have the opportunity to receive the endorsement of the President of the United States, a man who I have great admiration, respect and affection [for]."

McCain's strategists, meanwhile, are said to be privately plotting how best to deploy the deeply unpopular Bush, perhaps by quietly sending him to host fundraisers deep inside red states where he would not risk alienating the general population from McCain. But McCain is hewing so faithfully to Bush's legacy he may need no help from the man himself in alienating the population.

From a proper historical perspective that would be Bill Clinton's 5th term, rather than W's 3rd.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:56 AM


Study: Americans Are Getting More Sleep Than Previously Thought (RICK WEISS, March 12, 2008, Washington Post)

Their report, "Not so Deprived: Sleep in America, 1965-2005," scheduled for release by the university today, finds that Americans on average got 59 hours of sleep a week in 2005, the latest year for which precise statistics are available. That is three hours more than in 2000.

The new numbers contrast significantly with the 2008 "Sleep in America" poll, the oft-quoted survey conducted annually by the Washington-based National Sleep Foundation, which advocates for better diagnosis and treatment of sleep problems. Released last week, that survey concluded that Americans get an average of only 48 hours of sleep a week.

The difference, experts said, reflects the two groups' methodologies. The Sleep Foundation survey asks Americans to estimate how much sleep they typically get. By contrast, the Maryland analysis draws upon detailed "time-use" data collected by the U.S. Census Bureau for the Department of Labor Statistics. In that approach, individuals must account for every minute of the previous day.

"This gives us a much better picture of where the time goes than when people just make an estimate," Mr. Robinson said.

...the patient is lying.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:51 AM


Hamas Leader Sets Terms for Ceasefire With Israel (VOA News, 12 March 2008)

The leader of the Islamic militant group Hamas has laid out conditions for a ceasefire with Israel.

Ismail Haniyeh said in a speech Wednesday in the Gaza Strip that Israel must stop carrying out raids and assassinations in the territory. He also said Israel must reopen Gaza's borders, which have been sealed since Hamas seized control of Gaza in June.

Haniyeh said a ceasefire must be "reciprocal, simultaneous and comprehensive."

How does Ehud Olmert still have a job?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:43 AM


The Fed's Historic Innovation: With a $200 billion plan to ease the credit crunch, a 21st century economy is getting the 21st century monetary policy it requires (Michael Mandel , 3/12/08, Business Week)

Over the past 25 years, Wall Street wizards have moved away from plain-vanilla equity and debt, and constructed a staggering array of derivatives and other new forms of financial instruments. But while these instruments have been highly beneficial for growth, economists and policymakers have repeatedly worried about a major financial crisis triggered by out-of-control derivatives.

The long-feared crisis is now upon us—and the Fed, led by Chairman Ben Bernanke, is responding with a wave of new policy instruments. First came the Term Auction Facility, introduced in December, which allowed the Fed to better pump out money to banks without cutting interest rates. That was good, but it wasn't enough.

The Term Securities Lending Facility (TSLF)—announced Mar. 11—is a more powerful and more precise tool for addressing the dislocations in the credit market. It is aimed at the heart of the current problems: mortgage-backed securities. The problem is that nobody knows what these complicated securities are really worth, so they are clogging up bank balance sheets and impeding the normal flow of credit. Without getting into technical details, the TSLF elegantly sidesteps the problem—the big banks can use these securities as collateral, and borrow Treasuries from the Fed.

The intended result: more lending and borrowing, as nature intended.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:38 AM

Irish soda bread, traditional and not (Jim Coleman and Candace Hagan, 3/12/08, PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS)

Traditional brown soda bread [...]

2 cups whole-wheat flour

2 cups white pastry or cake flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon coarse salt

2 tablespoons butter

1 3/4 cups buttermilk

1. Heat oven to 425 degrees. Combine the flours, baking soda and salt in a large bowl; cut in the butter until the flour is crumbly. Add the buttermilk, a little at a time, to form a sticky dough.

2. Place dough on floured surface; lightly knead into a large ball. Shape into a round, flat shape in a buttered, floured cake pan. Cut an "X" in the top of the dough. Cover the pan with foil; bake 30 minutes. Remove foil; bake until lightly browned, about 15 minutes.

3. Cover the bread with a tea towel; lightly sprinkle water on the towel. Let cool.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:15 AM


Drug Firms Woo Democrats, Helping Defeat Their Bills (Jeffrey H. Birnbaum, 3/12/08, Washington Post)

The pharmaceutical industry, long an ally of Republicans, has increasingly worked itself into the good graces of the Democratic Party and by doing so has helped block the Democrats' top prescription-drug initiatives.

In the year since they took over on Capitol Hill, Democratic leaders have been unable to pass either a bill allowing reimportation of drugs from Canada or a measure requiring negotiation of drug prices under Medicare. Neither is likely to reach the president's desk this year. Lawmakers on both sides of these issues say the primary reason is the influence, now redirected, of the drug lobby.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:10 AM


Iranians: They're Just Like Us!: A nation of millions under thirty loves the same things we do, but that doesn't mean traveling there is any easier (Trish Schuh, Esquire)

All this could have been smoothed over with a bit of a "baksheesh" (bribe) a colleague hinted. The big corporate news agencies pay around $60,000 dollars for a visa, not counting press agency fees, hotel commissions etc. (In a hotel, restaurant, or store the quoted price is often doubled when dealing with foreigners). "You should have brought some sort of a slush fund," he sniffed.

Such bureaucratic mismanagement and corruption is commonplace in the region. In Iran it is a far bigger obstacle to U.S. business people than any reputed anti-American sentiment.

In fact, Iran is the only genuinely pro-American country in the Middle East. OK, so one person in a taxi launched into an anti-American tirade, angrily castigating me for being an American. But it turned out he was from Canada.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:05 AM


House sustains waterboarding veto (Sean Lengell, March 12, 2008, Washington Times)

The measure to override the veto was defeated by a vote of 225-188, falling about 50 votes short of the two-thirds majority needed to pass. Five Republicans voted to overturn President Bush's veto, while three Democrats voted to sustain it.

"This bill is just the latest example of the complete and utter failure of this Democratic leadership in the House to give the intelligence community the tools that it needs to protect the American people and our allies from radical jihadists," said Rep. Peter Hoekstra of Michigan, the ranking Republican on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

...then why do Democrats keep putting themselves on this rack?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:05 AM


Ethnic dispute tears al Qaeda, Hayden says (Bill Gertz, March 12, 2008, Washington Times)

Internal divisions between Saudi and Egyptian leaders of al Qaeda are producing "fissures" within the terrorist group and a possible battle over who will succeed Osama bin Laden, CIA Director Michael V. Hayden said yesterday. [...]

Bin Laden is now an "iconic" figure hiding in the remote border region between Pakistan and Afghanistan, Mr. Hayden said in a wide-ranging interview with editors and reporters of The Washington Times.

"And frankly, then, we think there has been an awful lot of jockeying" among possible successors, Mr. Hayden said.

"Keep in mind, he's a Saudi. An awful lot of that leadership is Egyptian. If the Saudi dies, who becomes the next guy may be quite a contentious matter," he said.

"And there are fissures in al Qaeda because of this dominance of Egyptians inside the senior leadership, where you have a Saudi at the top," Mr. Hayden said during a meeting at CIA headquarters in McLean. "You can only imagine what then happens if he goes and then who comes in."

How weak their ideology is that it's trumped by tribe.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:01 AM


The Democrats, Wrestling To Negotiate An Endgame (Kevin Merida, 3/12/08, Washington Post)

To make it plain: The Democrats are stuck in their own mud. They have no scripted ending to this titanic battle, no scenario ready for wide embrace. Or any embrace. Or even a handshake. On one level, the historic competition between Obama and Clinton has energized the party, boosted primary turnouts, spawned legions of new voters and campaign volunteers. But on the let's-get-real level, Democrats have problems even a blind man can see. Their primaries and caucuses have revealed labor splits, racial and ethnic splits, gender splits, age and class splits, and a rivalry that is getting nastier by the day.

"It's a train wreck," says John Edgell, a Democratic operative not involved in either campaign. "Either way, you're going to tick off half the base."

The judges waiting in the wings are 796 party insiders unaffectionately known as superdelegates. "There's no way that superdelegates will not decide it," says Edgell, who has been meticulously tracking superdelegate endorsements and compiling them on a spreadsheet. As of yesterday, his count was 269 for Clinton, 220 for Obama. [Overall, Obama leads Clinton in total delegates, 1,585 to 1,473, according to the Associated Press.]

We are now in the strange season of Democratic pretense -- pretend that everything will work out smoothly even though you suspect that everything won't. "The Democratic Party is going to have gum on its shoes that it can't get off," says Edgell, a former veteran congressional staffer.

Mud? Gum? Seems like they're deep in something else....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:50 AM


The Demographic Winter and the Barren Left (Steven W. Mosher, March 12, 2008, First Things)

The Nation, a hard left publication of secular bent, is no friend of faith, life, or family. Still, I was expecting to be more amused than outraged by the lead article in the March issue, profiling the work of the Population Research Institute (PRI) and several other groups collectively concerned about falling fertility rates worldwide. The piece opens with the eye-catching line: “Steve Mosher is telling me about wolves returning to the streets of European towns . . . [during] the Black Death.”

Nothing calumnious here. I did, over a lengthy lunch at a sunny Main Street café in Front Royal, Virginia, say this very thing—and much more—to the author, radical feminist Kathryn Joyce. In the context of falling birth rates in Europe, I told her a cautionary tale about Europe’s earlier demographic collapse—the one that was caused by the bubonic plague in the Middle Ages—that left the continent in a century-long depression. If the demographic winter that now holds Europe in its grip continues, I concluded, then not only its people but also its economies may be expected to wither and die as they did centuries earlier. Much of the rest of the world seems set to follow, I told her. I have been a demographic bore for some time now, and the conversation was chockablock with numbers, statistics, and fertility rates.

Ms. Joyce did a good impersonation of listening, but her article is almost devoid of demographics.

Looking at the numbers would force them to acknowledge the problem, so they don't. How many analyses have you read of the Israel/Palestine war or the Japanese malaise or the "rising threat" of Russia or China or U.S. housing prices that give demographics the attention they deserve?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:42 AM


Estonia, Latvia Sign Visa-Waiver Deals with US (Der Spiegel, 3/12/08)

Impatient at the slow pace of European Union negotiations, two Baltic states are setting up their own deals with the US to provide visa-free travel for their citizens, despite protests from Brussels.

Estonia signed a bilateral visa-waiver deal with the US on Wednesday morning, with Latvia due to follow suit later on Wednesday.

Most of the EU's 27 members have visa-waiver deals with the US, allowing their citizens to enter the country for short visits without visas. However all but one of the 12 states that joined the EU in 2004 and 2007, most of which are in Eastern Europe, have no such deals. Neither does Greece, which has been an EU member since 1981.

Some of the new EU states, impatient at the slow pace of EU-US negotiations on the issue, have pressed on with their own bilateral deals. The Czech Republic already reached its own visa-waiver agreement with the US in February in return for increased cooperation on air security and Hungary is expected to reach a similar agreement later in March.

The move by the Eastern European states is creating tension with the European Commission, which wants to be the single negotiator with the US on visa-waiver deals. The Commission, which has already tried to put pressure on the US to give citizens of all EU states visa-free travel, feels bilateral deals infringe on its authority over visa and border policy. It is also worried that such deals might allow the US to pressure individual countries to give US authorities additional data on air passengers on top of that stipulated in an existing US-EU agreement.

The Eurocrats hate it when they act like nations.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:39 AM


Guinness in a can can be as good as tap (William Brand, 03/12/2008, Contra Costa Times)

ROBERT GAUSTAD, proprietor of Bobby G's Pizzeria in downtown Berkeley, carefully pours a tablespoon of cold water into a shallow depression on a tiny platform. Gaustad opens a special can of Guinness Stout, pours it into a pint glass, places the glass onto the water-filled depression , then hits a button. Silently, the Guinness starts to foam and churn and swirl. In seconds, a creamy tan head, precisely one-half-inch high, appears on top of the inky, dark beer.

The taste is exactly the same as a pint drawn from a keg pushed by the traditional Guinness mix of 75 percent nitrogen, 25 percent CO2. It's still world-class Guinness Stout (HHHHH), 121 calories, only 4.2 percent alcohol by volume (your basic Bud's 5 percent, 180 calories). Draught Guinness is made for the U.S. market at the original St. James Gate Brewery in Dublin, Ireland, taken over by Sir Arthur Guinness in 1759 "" and it's our Beer of the Week.

Welcome to Guinness of the 21st century. "We call it the 'Surger,'" Guinness brewmaster Fergal Murray explains. He was in San Francisco at the start of a national tour for Guinness, culminating on St. Patrick's Day in Chicago for that city's annual parade.

The Surger's not exactly rocket science, but it's close.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:32 AM


NBC/Fox Video Site Hulu Open to Public (Lifehacker, 3/12/08)

It's been hyped, dissed, and privately tested for five months, but now you can check out Hulu, a streaming video site created by NBC Universal and News Corp., for yourself. The site features a few (generally financially under-performing) full-length movies, including The Big Lebowski, The Usual Suspects, and Sideways, and a good number of clips and full episodes of shows like Family Guy, The Office, Babylon 5, and even the (dearly) departed likes of Arrested Development.

Just the fact that they offer Master and Commander makes it worthwhile.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:19 AM


Beijing rebuffs Olympics critics (BBC, 3/12/08)

China's foreign minister has strongly criticised "anti-China forces" he says are determined to politicise this year's Beijing Olympics.

Yang Jiechi said individuals and groups were trying to tarnish China's image.

Using the Olympics as a means of humiliating them is the only thing that would redeem the vile original decision to let them host.

Olympians air a gripe about Beijing: Fearing the pollution, some will train offshore and may wear masks; others talk of skipping all or part of the Summer Games (Barbara Demick, 3/12/08, Los Angeles Times)

Matt Reed was 1,500 meters into the last segment of the triathlon when he found himself gasping for oxygen. His legs were still pounding away at the pavement, his body pumped up after cruising through the swimming and cycling contests, but his lungs were shutting down.

The 32-year-old triathlete from Boulder, Colo., blames air pollution for triggering his asthma attack during the September track meet.

If he returns to Beijing for the Olympics, he says, he will wear a mask except while competing. And he'll try to avoid showing up here until the second week of the Games, when the triathlon is held, even though that would mean missing the Aug. 8 opening ceremonies.

An increasing number of athletes are threatening to skip part or all of the Olympics because they believe the air is unsafe.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:55 AM


Obama Win Defined By Race (MICHAEL DUFFY, 3/12/08, TIME)

Broken down, the Mississippi vote had an unmistakable racial descant — and unmistakable limits for Obama. Exit polls revealed once again an emerging racial divide that has opened in the Democratic party between whites who tend by healthy margins to favor Clinton and blacks who overwhelmingly favor Obama. African Americans comprised nearly half of the Democratic vote in Mississippi — and 90% of those voters, according to exit polls, pulled the lever for Obama, his strongest showing yet among African Americans. But Obama did poorly among whites, winning only 30%, according to exit polls. While this split was visible in Alabama and the border state of Tennessee earlier this year, it was visible in Ohio's primary last week, too.

Mississippi is one of the most reliably Republican states in presidential elections. Only a Democrat who could win 35 to 40% of the white vote, while holding onto a lopsided percentage of blacks, could put the state in play in a head to head match with a Republican in the fall. Obama's 30% showing in the primary against Clinton falls short of that target.

Nonetheless, the win extends Obama's lead over Clinton in delegates by a net seven or eight delegates — a small number overall but important nonetheless. Hard as it is for a candidate to build a lead in a primary system ruled by a system of proportional allocation, it is even harder to catch up once you fall behind.

Democrats seek to strengthen grip on blue-collar workers: Labor groups fear that both of their flashy presidential candidates could lose support of so-called 'Reagan Democrats' to McCain. (Janet Hook and Tom Hamburger, 3/12/08, Los Angeles Times)
It is all part of a preemptive effort to stem battleground-state defections by union households and other working-class voters known as Reagan Democrats -- swing voters who have been courted by both parties ever since they tipped the balance for Ronald Reagan in the 1980 presidential election.

"That vote is up for grabs," said David Bonior, campaign manager for John Edwards' failed Democratic presidential bid. "We will have to work incredibly hard," he said, to blunt McCain's potential appeal to working-class voters, which is based on his status as a war hero and his reputation as a political moderate.

The AFL-CIO became concerned after polls and focus groups found considerable willingness among union members to consider supporting McCain, regardless of which Democrat won the nomination.

Republicans have signaled that they have the Reagan Democrats at the top of their target list. Ken Mehlman, a former GOP national chairman who is informally advising McCain, said the campaign's blue-collar outreach would attract Reagan Democrats for the same reason the former president did: McCain is seen as frank, a good leader, strong on defense and opposed to tax increases.

Some analysts say the threat of defections to McCain will be particularly acute if Barack Obama is the Democratic nominee. In many of this year's caucuses and primaries, Obama has lost working-class white voters to rival Hillary Rodham Clinton. Holding on to those voters in swing states such as Ohio and Pennsylvania will be one key to the party's efforts in November against McCain, the presumed GOP nominee.

"The Obama campaign has not been very successful in connecting with middle-aged, older, white working-class voters," said Geoffrey Garin, a Democratic pollster who has done work for the AFL-CIO and is not affiliated with any candidate. "It is very important for them to understand why that is so because those are the kinds of voters who have been swing voters in the last two general elections."

Democratic voters have shown fairly consistent demographic patterns during the primary-season balloting: Clinton's strongest support has come from a coalition of lower-income and older voters, while Obama in most states has been strongest among blacks, upscale voters and the young.

A test of the party's effort to secure blue-collar workers will come April 22 with the Pennsylvania primary. On Tuesday, Obama won the Mississippi contest 61% to Clinton's 37%.

Looking toward the general election, labor strategists were alarmed by polls and focus groups of undecided union members that showed McCain doing well in match-ups with either Democratic candidate, said Karen Ackerman, political director of the AFL-CIO.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:52 AM


McCain would be best for the US and India ( Vijay Dandapani, 3/12/08, Rediff)

For India, it is not entirely clear which of the two Democrats running for President will be better. Senator Clinton, steeped in Democratic politics, is a protectionist just like Senator Obama; the difference is in the close ties she has with India, as well as with the Diaspora in America.

Senator Obama has his share of Indian supporters in the US, but he is not as vested in the process as Senator Clinton is, and should the US economy continue to skid, he is more likely to be part of hasty and retrograde economic measures that are detrimental both to India and the US.

Senator McCain, on the other hand, has been a consistent advocate of free trade. If he merely persists with the Bush administration's stance towards India, arguably the most pro-Indian of any administration since 1947, he would inarguably be the best for both countries.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:45 AM


Still batting around those 'Abstract' ideas (Gordon Edes, March 12, 2008, Boston Globe)

Bill James can, and will, tell you lots of things about baseball that you don't know. That it doesn't pay, for example, for the Tampa Bay Rays to shift their defense against David Ortiz so that it looks like "a town meeting in right field." That Yankees superstar Alex Rodriguez hit just one ground-ball single through the right side all last season. Or that the White Sox had the worst record in the major leagues (13-44) in games in which they didn't hit a home run.

He'll tell you Brad Hawpe of the Rockies was the majors' best clutch hitter last season, that Matt Cain of the Giants may have been the game's unluckiest pitcher, and that Vladimir Guerrero of the Angels, the king of the bad-ball hitters, swung at 604 pitches out of the strike zone last season, almost double the number of nonstrikes he swung at in 2005.

But ask James what impact he has had on the Red Sox, and he'll answer with a riddle.

"The things Jason Varitek does other than to hit are very difficult to measure," James said. "The impact of the things that I do are like seven generations further removed from the field than the things Jason does. It's like taking a bucket of water from the sea and asking, 'What was the impact of this bucket of water?' "

March 11, 2008

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:32 PM


Why I Am No Longer a 'Brain-Dead Liberal': An election-season essay (David Mamet, March 11th, 2008, Village Voice)

As a child of the '60s, I accepted as an article of faith that government is corrupt, that business is exploitative, and that people are generally good at heart.

These cherished precepts had, over the years, become ingrained as increasingly impracticable prejudices. Why do I say impracticable? Because although I still held these beliefs, I no longer applied them in my life. How do I know? My wife informed me. We were riding along and listening to NPR. I felt my facial muscles tightening, and the words beginning to form in my mind: Shut the fuck up. "?" she prompted. And her terse, elegant summation, as always, awakened me to a deeper truth: I had been listening to NPR and reading various organs of national opinion for years, wonder and rage contending for pride of place. Further: I found I had been—rather charmingly, I thought—referring to myself for years as "a brain-dead liberal," and to NPR as "National Palestinian Radio."

This is, to me, the synthesis of this worldview with which I now found myself disenchanted: that everything is always wrong.

But in my life, a brief review revealed, everything was not always wrong, and neither was nor is always wrong in the community in which I live, or in my country. Further, it was not always wrong in previous communities in which I lived, and among the various and mobile classes of which I was at various times a part.

And, I wondered, how could I have spent decades thinking that I thought everything was always wrong at the same time that I thought I thought that people were basically good at heart? Which was it? I began to question what I actually thought and found that I do not think that people are basically good at heart; indeed, that view of human nature has both prompted and informed my writing for the last 40 years. I think that people, in circumstances of stress, can behave like swine, and that this, indeed, is not only a fit subject, but the only subject, of drama.

I'd observed that lust, greed, envy, sloth, and their pals are giving the world a good run for its money, but that nonetheless, people in general seem to get from day to day; and that we in the United States get from day to day under rather wonderful and privileged circumstances—that we are not and never have been the villains that some of the world and some of our citizens make us out to be, but that we are a confection of normal (greedy, lustful, duplicitous, corrupt, inspired—in short, human) individuals living under a spectacularly effective compact called the Constitution, and lucky to get it.

For the Constitution, rather than suggesting that all behave in a godlike manner, recognizes that, to the contrary, people are swine and will take any opportunity to subvert any agreement in order to pursue what they consider to be their proper interests.

To that end, the Constitution separates the power of the state into those three branches which are for most of us (I include myself) the only thing we remember from 12 years of schooling.

The Constitution, written by men with some experience of actual government, assumes that the chief executive will work to be king, the Parliament will scheme to sell off the silverware, and the judiciary will consider itself Olympian and do everything it can to much improve (destroy) the work of the other two branches. So the Constitution pits them against each other, in the attempt not to achieve stasis, but rather to allow for the constant corrections necessary to prevent one branch from getting too much power for too long.

Rather brilliant. For, in the abstract, we may envision an Olympian perfection of perfect beings in Washington doing the business of their employers, the people, but any of us who has ever been at a zoning meeting with our property at stake is aware of the urge to cut through all the pernicious bulls[***] and go straight to firearms.

And I began to question my hatred for "the Corporations"—the hatred of which, I found, was but the flip side of my hunger for those goods and services they provide and without which we could not live.

And I began to question my distrust of the "Bad, Bad Military" of my youth, which, I saw, was then and is now made up of those men and women who actually risk their lives to protect the rest of us from a very hostile world. Is the military always right? No. Neither is government, nor are the corporations—they are just different signposts for the particular amalgamation of our country into separate working groups, if you will. Are these groups infallible, free from the possibility of mismanagement, corruption, or crime? No, and neither are you or I. So, taking the tragic view, the question was not "Is everything perfect?" but "How could it be better, at what cost, and according to whose definition?" Put into which form, things appeared to me to be unfolding pretty well.

Do I speak as a member of the "privileged class"? If you will—but classes in the United States are mobile, not static, which is the Marxist view. That is: Immigrants came and continue to come here penniless and can (and do) become rich; the nerd makes a trillion dollars; the single mother, penniless and ignorant of English, sends her two sons to college (my grandmother). On the other hand, the rich and the children of the rich can go belly-up; the hegemony of the railroads is appropriated by the airlines, that of the networks by the Internet; and the individual may and probably will change status more than once within his lifetime.

What about the role of government? Well, in the abstract, coming from my time and background, I thought it was a rather good thing, but tallying up the ledger in those things which affect me and in those things I observe, I am hard-pressed to see an instance where the intervention of the government led to much beyond sorrow.

But if the government is not to intervene, how will we, mere human beings, work it all out?

I wondered and read, and it occurred to me that I knew the answer, and here it is: We just seem to. How do I know? From experience. I referred to my own—take away the director from the staged play and what do you get? Usually a diminution of strife, a shorter rehearsal period, and a better production.

The director, generally, does not cause strife, but his or her presence impels the actors to direct (and manufacture) claims designed to appeal to Authority—that is, to set aside the original goal (staging a play for the audience) and indulge in politics, the purpose of which may be to gain status and influence outside the ostensible goal of the endeavor.

Strand unacquainted bus travelers in the middle of the night, and what do you get? A lot of bad drama, and a shake-and-bake Mayflower Compact. Each, instantly, adds what he or she can to the solution. Why? Each wants, and in fact needs, to contribute—to throw into the pot what gifts each has in order to achieve the overall goal, as well as status in the new-formed community. And so they work it out.

See also that most magnificent of schools, the jury system, where, again, each brings nothing into the room save his or her own prejudices, and, through the course of deliberation, comes not to a perfect solution, but a solution acceptable to the community—a solution the community can live with.

Prior to the midterm elections, my rabbi was taking a lot of flack. The congregation is exclusively liberal, he is a self-described independent (read "conservative"), and he was driving the flock wild. Why? Because a) he never discussed politics; and b) he taught that the quality of political discourse must be addressed first—that Jewish law teaches that it is incumbent upon each person to hear the other fellow out.

And so I, like many of the liberal congregation, began, teeth grinding, to attempt to do so. And in doing so, I recognized that I held those two views of America (politics, government, corporations, the military). One was of a state where everything was magically wrong and must be immediately corrected at any cost; and the other—the world in which I actually functioned day to day—was made up of people, most of whom were reasonably trying to maximize their comfort by getting along with each other (in the workplace, the marketplace, the jury room, on the freeway, even at the school-board meeting).

And I realized that the time had come for me to avow my participation in that America in which I chose to live, and that that country was not a schoolroom teaching values, but a marketplace.

"Aha," you will say, and you are right. I began reading not only the economics of Thomas Sowell (our greatest contemporary philosopher) but Milton Friedman, Paul Johnson, and Shelby Steele, and a host of conservative writers, and found that I agreed with them: a free-market understanding of the world meshes more perfectly with my experience than that idealistic vision I called liberalism.

He's about one firing synapse away from realizing that his entire oeuvre is comedies.

Think of it this way, here we are 20 years later and he's just know having the same realization about human nature that Lindsay Crouse's character did in House of Games. Did he not get his own plays?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:27 PM


Ferraro defends controversial comments on Barack Obama (Gene Maddaus, 03/11/2008, LA Daily Breeze)

In a follow-up interview today, Ferraro said her company had been deluged with vicious e-mail messages accusing her of racism.

But far from backing off from her initial remark, Ferraro defended it and elaborated on it.

"Any time anybody does anything that in any way pulls this campaign down and says let's address reality and the problems we're facing in this world, you're accused of being racist, so you have to shut up," Ferraro said. "Racism works in two different directions. I really think they're attacking me because I'm white. How's that?" [...]

Ferraro said she was not trying to diminish Obama's candidacy, and acknowledged up front that she would not have been the vice presidential nominee in 1984 if she had been a man.

But she also echoed remarks of feminist leaders like Gloria Steinem, who argued in the New York Times that Obama would not have succeeded if he were a woman because gender is "the most restricting force in American life."

"Sexism is a bigger problem," Ferraro argued. "It's OK to be sexist in some people's minds. It's not OK to be racist."

Genius! I'll see your "racist" and raise you a "sexist." Hopefully, we approach the apogee of political correctness at which these people will be rendered silent lest anyone anywhere ever be offended.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:17 PM


Suck it up and slurp : It's only polite, no matter what you've learned (REBEKAH DENN, 3/11/08, Seattle P-I)

Your mother was wrong, and so were the etiquette handbooks. Do slurp your soup. Please!

At least, slurp when eating ramen soup at Boom Noodle, where staffers have imported so many aspects of the staple Japanese lunch -- except for the noisy, fast, vigorous way it's meant to be eaten.

They have even planted slurping friends in the restaurant to "make lots of noise and let people know it's completely acceptable," said executive chef Jonathan Hunt, who toured Japan to absorb the flavors and styles of the food before Boom (1121 East Pike St.) opened in January. Owners Steve Rosen and James Allard (also of Blue C Sushi) produced "slurp goggles" as a gag gift to encourage open season on the spraying that takes place when noodles and broth fly.

But it's hard for an American audience to overcome early training in table manners, even knowing that in many Asian cultures slurping is considered the practical, preferred, even polite way to eat the ubiquitous soup.

In Japan, ramen is "like soul food, like a street food," said Boom head chef Satoru Sugitani, a native of Tokyo. More ramen shops crowd together on the average corner there than coffee shops compete on Seattle streets. Sugitani's mother makes it daily at home.

"All the people love noodles," he said, more so than the sushi or tempura or other foods typically seen here as "Japanese."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:20 PM


Even John Rawls found an acorn once in awhile.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:00 PM


Eliot Spitzer's bank turned him in to the IRS (ROBERT E. KESSLER, March 11, 2008, Newsday)

Gov. Eliot Spitzer ended up as the subject of an investigation into a prostitution ring because his bank branch in Manhattan turned him in to the Internal Revenue Service as someone who might be engaged in suspicious currency transactions, according to sources familiar with the investigation.

After the governor transferred $10,000 by breaking it into smaller amounts, he then called the bank asking that his name be removed from the transactions, the sources said.

Agents of the IRS Criminal Investigation Division initially started a probe fearing that the governor was the victim of some sort of blackmail scheme or because he was being victimized by an impostor, the sources said.


Gov. Eliot Spitzer has been soliciting high-priced hookers for at least six years and possibly for more than a decade, sources tell The Post.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:52 PM


Senior security official confirms lull agreement with Hamas: Now it's official: Despite Olmert's denials, defense official confirms agreement between Hamas, Israel worked out via Egyptian mediation; Israel to refrain from massive Gaza attacks in exchange for end to rocket fire (Israel News, 3/11/08)

Violence in Gaza to end, for now: Despite earlier denials by top officials in Jerusalem, a senior defense official has confirmed Tuesday that an agreement on a lull in Gaza Strip fighting has been worked out.

In a conversation with French news agency AFP, the security official said that an agreement that would see an end to Israeli military operations in the Strip in exchange for an end to rocket attacks on Israel has been finalized via Egyptian mediation efforts.

According to the defense source, who asked to remain anonymous, Egypt played an active role in reaching the agreement in the aims of bringing about a truce that would see the Israeli "siege" on Gaza lifted.

Israel just keeps incurring these self-inflicted wounds in exchange for the momentary meaningless pleasure of attacking Palestine.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:43 PM


Liberals' McCain Problem (E. J. Dionne, 3/11/08, Real Clear Politics)

Liberals who have sung the praises of John McCain in the past confront a fascinating test of consistency, integrity and political commitment now that McCain is the virtually certain Republican nominee.

It could be an amusing moment. I should know, since I'm one of them.

The Left exists only to amuse the rest of us.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:30 PM



tintinnabulate (tin-ti-NAB-yuh-layt) verb intr.

To ring; to tinkle.

[From Latin tintinnabulum (bell), from tintinnare (to jingle).]

Is there an American schoolkid who doesn't learn tintinnabulation when they're studying Edgar Allen Poe?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:25 PM


Pace of Change Too Slow to Keep Entrepreneurs in France (JOHN TAGLIABUE, 3/11/08, NY Times)

Four years ago, Caroline Sivilia, a Parisian who worked for the ad agency Publicis Groupe, left France to start a magazine for French people living in London.

“I was young, I wanted to create, I came with nothing, no English,” said Ms. Sivilia, 34.

Now, she employs eight people and a team of freelancers and her magazine, London Macadam, is available at 300 distribution points in London and 50 in Paris. She is among the legions of entrepreneurial refugees who have survived and thrived in England even as France’s president, Nicolas Sarkozy, has been pushing forward a pro-capitalist agenda.

Ms. Sivilia says she would consider returning to France but probably not as a business owner.

“I’d do like the English,” she says with a laugh. “I’d buy a house in the south of France. But while I’m in my entrepreneurial phase, I want to be here.”

Such views add to the uphill battle that Mr. Sarkozy faces as he struggles to transform the economic soul of France. Sarkonomics, as the news media have called Mr. Sarkozy’s brand of economic changes, has yet to meet expectations.

...and expect to fix it all overnight?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:11 PM


Malvin Wald, Creator of ‘Naked City,’ Dies at 90 (DENNIS HEVESI, 3/11/08, NY Times)

Malvin Wald, who conceived and was a co-writer of the gritty 1948 crime film “The Naked City,” a prototype for modern police dramas, including the popular television show of the same name, died on Thursday in Sherman Oaks, Calif. He was 90 and lived in Sherman Oaks. [...]

“No one had done a film where the real hero was a hard-working police detective, like the ones I knew in Brooklyn,” Mr. Wald told The Hollywood Reporter last year. “We knew we were making a new genre that became the police procedural.”

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:03 PM


Member of Iranian Parliament maintains his criticism of President Ahmadinejad (Nazila Fathi, March 11, 2008, IHT)

During the Iranian presidential election campaign in 2005, Mohammad Khoshchehreh was one of the biggest boosters in Parliament of the candidacy of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Khoshchehreh, an economist and urban planner, appeared frequently in public on behalf of Ahmadinejad, criticizing the economic performance of his main opponent, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a former president. [...]

Khoshchehreh began expressing his concerns about the president as early as October 2005, three months after Ahmadinejad took office.

"The three principles of dignity, wisdom and expediency are mere slogans on the country's foreign policy agenda," the English language newspaper Iran Daily quoted him as saying, criticizing the way the president was approaching foreign policy.

Last year, he said in an interview with the press agency ISNA that he worried that the perception among many Iranians that Ahmadinejad had failed as president would make people disappointed with religion. He said this was because Ahmadinejad had said his government would be based on religious values.

"The failure of the government would make the system pay the price," he said, "and society will move toward secularism."

In the recent interview, he expressed concern about Ahmadinejad's confrontational approach to foreign policy. "This approach might have results in the short term, but it is not proper foreign policy," he said.

Analysts view Khoshchehreh as part of the new class of politicians who have grown more moderate because of the need to deal with the realities of governing as members of Parliament.

"These people are faced with people's increasing demands," said Hamidreza Jalaipour, a sociologist and a former reformist politician. "Mr. Khoshchehreh is educated and he realizes that he has to be practical. He does not chant populist slogans."

There it is in a nutshell: Twelverism won't grow the economy and, therefore, threatens the Republic.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:56 PM


Obama, Clinton Join McCain Vs. Earmarks (ANDREW TAYLOR, 3/11/08, AP)

Democrats Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton on Monday joined Republican presidential candidate John McCain and a small band of GOP senators in making a run this week against the billions of dollars in home-state pet projects Congress funds each year.

And so we see again the division of labor, John McCain leads on issues and the two Democrats follow. Maybe they could answer that 3am phone and then hand it to Maverick to deal with the problem.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:53 PM


Aides say they expect Spitzer to resign (Danny Hakim and William K. Rashbaum, March 11, 2008, NY Times)

Top aides to Governor Eliot Spitzer said Tuesday morning that they expect the governor to resign his office, although the timing of the resignation remains uncertain.

Lieutenant Governor David Paterson and his staff have begun laying the groundwork for him to take over as governor and are reaching out to members of the Legislature, the aides said.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:44 AM


Clinton backer Geraldine Ferraro sparks new Obama race storm (Tim Reid, 3/11/08, Times of London)

Geraldine Ferraro, the Democrats' 1984 vice-presidential nominee and an ardent supporter of Hillary Clinton, has triggered the latest campaign firestorm by saying Barack Obama has been successful only because he is a black man.

"If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position," Ms Ferraro told the political website. She added: "And if he was a woman (of any colour) he would not be in this position. He happens to be very lucky to be who he is. And the country is caught up in the concept."

Welcome to Clash of the Quota Hires, huh?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:28 AM


The Meaning of Life: a review of Embryo by Robert P. George and Christopher Tollefsen (CHRISTOPHER WILLCOX, March 10, 2008, NY Sun)

[T]he gulf between the scientists and the rest of us appears wider than ever, and, judging from the impassioned arguments put forward by Robert P. George and Christopher Tollefsen in "Embryo" (Doubleday, 256 pages, $23.95), what is at stake is the very definition of life itself.

This book is likely to make a lot of people crazy: It is a radical, even audacious, assault on the emerging technologies that would harvest living human embryos for medical research purposes. It is absolutist in its claim that human life begins at fertilization, when the male and female gamete, each bearing 23 complementary chromosomes, combine to create the single-cell zygote that will implant itself in the uterus and, in due course, become a man or woman. The argument's implications, not only for embryonic research but for abortion and some forms of contraception, are obvious: If it's human, you shouldn't kill it. That the argument relies on no sectarian religious tenet will only further aggravate those who disagree — it is much easier, these days, to dismiss religious scruple than scientific fact and logic.

Facts are notoriously stubborn things, and the facts about fetal development have been on a collision course with "settled" law for quite some time. It was no great effort to dismiss the notion of humanity in the womb when there were no sonograms to show expectant parents the fingers and the toes, and it wasn't all that long ago when people thought "the quickening" movement in the womb was the beginning of life. Now we can see for ourselves the continuum that is human gestation. Even Hollywood has figured this one out, dribbling out a series of recent hits that imply abortion is far more morally dangerous than its treatment in earlier movies would imply.

What sets this book apart is its detailed analysis, and its compelling refutation of the arguments for treating embryos as nothing more than a mass of cells suitable for research purposes. Mr. George, a professor of jurisprudence at Princeton, and Mr. Tollefsen, the director of the graduate department of philosophy at the University of South Carolina, begin with a careful examination of the science of embryology, which clearly shows that once fertilization occurs the new life created has "a single, unified and self-integrated biological system and a developmental trajectory." In short, like a fetus, an infant, a child, and an adolescent, the embryo only needs a supportive environment to become an adult human being.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:15 AM


The Pious Infidel (Steven Waldman, March 11, 2008, First Things)

Jefferson seemed to believe in a God who was still present in, and intervened in, the lives of men and nations. After having read Jefferson attack so many of the legs of religion, it might seem jarring to now read his regular invocations of God as a personal force in life—sometimes in terms so direct and literal, they surpass those of today’s politicians.

In his first inaugural address, he declared that we should be “acknowledging and adoring an overruling Providence, which by all its dispensations proves that it delights in the happiness of man here and his greater happiness hereafter.” In his first message to Congress, in 1801, he thanked the “beneficent Being” who instilled in thee warring politicians a (temporary) “spirit of conciliation and forgiveness.”

In his second message, he credited the “smiles of Providence” for economic prosperity, peace abroad, and even good relations with the Indians. He never stopped asserting the importance of separating church and state, but he did this in the context of repeated public pronouncements about the powerful role of an intervening God in the fate of America. These two somewhat contradictory themes came together most directly in his second inaugural address. In the first part of the speech, he defended his practice of not issuing days of fasting or thanksgiving proclamations. But toward the end, he said that to avoid making the mistakes to which he, as a human, was prone, “I shall need, too, the favor of that Being in whose hands we are, who led our fathers, as Israel of old, from their native land and planted them in a country flowing with all the necessaries and comforts of life.”

Some look at Jefferson’s public pronouncements and sense cynicism. Recall his comment about “cooking up” an effective prayer proclamation to rally lethargic Americans. Perhaps he was just being a pol, using the language he thought would most appeal to his audience. But the evidence is stronger that Jefferson genuinely believed in a personal God and a spirit life. For one thing, he went much further in his pronouncements than he needed to, attributing a wide range of events and policies to God’s “smiles.” More important, his private letters reflected a similar view about the nature of God. In a letter to Eliza Trist, he declared that “it is not easy to reconcile ourselves to the many useless miseries to which Providence seems to expose us. But his justice affords a prospect that we shall all be made even some day.” In 1763, he wrote John Page that if we hope to fortify ourselves from misfortunes, “The only method of doing this is to assume a perfect resignation to the Divine will, to consider whatever does happen, must happen.” In 1801, he commended “your endeavors to the Being, in whose hand we are.” When Napoleon was defeated, he wrote to a friend: “It proves that we have a god in heaven. That he is just, and not careless of what passes in the world.”

How could this ultra-rationalist—a believer in science and reason—so fully embrace a supernatural God watching over our lives? This is another case in which today’s activists and scholars, by applying the standards and definitions of our time, misunderstand the ideas of a Founding Father. Remember: In this era before Charles Darwin: most of the Enlightenment leaders were not arguing against the existence of God. On the contrary, they argued that the laws of science actually proved the existence of God, if one knew how to look at it the right way.

Jefferson believed that our spiritual journeys must be led by reason, not faith. that faith is reasonable, Reason isn't.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:01 AM


Obama's self-portrait (Mona Charen, March 11, 2008, Washington Times)

Barack Obama's words are often attractive but oddly concealing. His speeches are all balm and mood. It's all very well to seek, as Mr. Obama claims, to transcend old categories, to reject the "old politics." But then what? This graceful rhetorician leaves you wondering: Who is he really? What does he want for himself and for his country?

Poor Ms Charen, if you don't get that what he wants for America is himself, you'll never be inducted into the cult.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:56 AM


UCLA experts don't buy recession: In a contrarian view, the Anderson Forecast focuses on strength in industry and spending. (Peter Y. Hong, 3/11/08, Los Angeles Times)

Brushing aside conventional wisdom, UCLA economists say California and the nation will survive the housing slump and job losses without plunging into recession -- although it will still be miserable for many Americans.

"We are holding firm: no recession this time," UCLA Anderson Forecast Director Edward Leamer said in a report being released today.

Industrial production growth remains strong, the quarterly report notes, and consumer spending on big-ticket items such as refrigerators is expected to keep climbing -- albeit by just 0.3% this year, from 5% at the end of 2007.

Housing remains the big drag on the economy, UCLA analysts say. But they say the rising tide of foreclosures is related more to falling prices and escalating interest rates than to job losses, which triggered previous spikes in foreclosures.

...the exact same factors that made the last cohort of borrowers bad credit risks makes it easy for them to just walk away from the bad loans.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:54 AM


Man found dead with arrow in his chest (Molly Hennessy-Fiske, 3/11/08, Los Angeles Times)

A Lancaster man was found dead this morning at an intersection with an arrow through his chest.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:44 AM


The Red Phone in Black and White (Orlando Patterson, 3/11/08, Der Spiegel)

I have spent my life studying the pictures and symbols of racism and slavery, and when I saw the Clinton ad’s central image -- innocent sleeping children and a mother in the middle of the night at risk of mortal danger -- it brought to my mind scenes from the past. I couldn’t help but think of D. W. Griffith’s “Birth of a Nation,” the racist movie epic that helped revive the Ku Klux Klan, with its portrayal of black men lurking in the bushes around white society. The danger implicit in the phone ad -- as I see it -- is that the person answering the phone might be a black man, someone who could not be trusted to protect us from this threat.

The ad could easily have removed its racist sub-message by including images of a black child, mother or father -- or by stating that the danger was external terrorism. Instead, the child on whom the camera first focuses is blond. Two other sleeping children, presumably in another bed, are not blond, but they are dimly lighted, leaving them ambiguous. Still it is obvious that they are not black -- both, in fact, seem vaguely Latino.

Finally, Hillary Clinton appears, wearing a business suit at 3 a.m., answering the phone. The message: our loved ones are in grave danger and only Mrs. Clinton can save them. An Obama presidency would be dangerous -- and not just because of his lack of experience. In my reading, the ad, in the insidious language of symbolism, says that Mr. Obama is himself the danger, the outsider within.

Sweet! Our first obligatory Klanswoman reference. How long until they have her just about driving the pickup in Jasper, TX like they did W?

Too bad Bernard Kettlewell isn't around to warn Mr. Patterson that if you spend your life looking for something you find it, even if it doesn't exist.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:29 AM


Our Stand Against Castro's Cuba (VACLAV HAVEL, March 11, 2008, Project Syndicate)

We believe that the former communist Central and Eastern European countries are in a unique position to support the democracy movements in Cuba based on the similarities of their histories and experiences. Our intentions in pushing for democratization are based on friendship and cooperation, good will, and an understanding of the needs, expectations, and hopes of Cuban people.

We, the undersigned, believe that the E.U., as one of the driving forces in international politics, needs to speak out in unison against governments oppressing their own citizens. The E.U. should denounce human rights violations in Cuba and call for the immediate release of all prisoners of conscience. The ministers of foreign affairs from all E.U. member states should send a demarche on March 18 to their Cuban counterpart demanding their release as well.

The actions taken or not taken by the Cuban government should be used as a benchmark when the European Council reviews the E.U.'s Common Position on Cuba in June. Lastly, the E.U. should continue actively supporting peaceful democratic movements and civil society organizations in Cuba by taking advantage of the intrinsic knowledge some of its member states have about making a transition to democracy.

Five years ago the dream of several former Soviet satellites being members of the E.U. was becoming a reality. Dissidents and those committed to the spread of democracy had made this possible. The time has come for us to repay that debt by helping those in Cuba, whose dreams have already been deferred for too long.

Mr. Havel is a former president of the Czech Republic. Other authors of this article are: Ferenc Köszeg, Hungarian Helsinki Committee; Rexhep Meidani, former president of Albania; Vytautas Landsbergis, Lithuanian MEP and former president; Milan Kucan, former president of Slovenia; Mart Laar, former prime minister of Estonia; Kim Campbell, former prime minister of Canada; André Glucksmann, philosopher; José Ribeiro e Castro, Portuguese MEP; Edward McMillan-Scott, British member of the European Parliament; and Leszek Balcerowicz, former president of the Bank of Poland. All are European based members of the International Committee for Democracy in Cuba.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:25 AM


Modern Slavery in Rural China (S. JAMES SNYDER, March 11, 2008, NY Sun)

Of all the recent movies to tackle the terrifying issue of human trafficking (including the crude and manipulative "Trade" and the eerily calm and cynical "Holly"), none has evoked the anxiety, despair, or sheer outrage to be found in "Blind Mountain," which opens tomorrow at Film Forum. The film's explosive climax drew spontaneous emotional outbursts from audiences during its premiere at last year's Cannes Film Festival, and it came as no surprise when reports surfaced that Chinese officials forced the director, Li Yang, to make several last-minute changes to the film, which, on the eve of the Beijing Olympics, paints a less-than-encouraging portrait of the nation.

Set in the early 1990s, "Blind Mountain" unfolds so quickly and with such brutal assuredness that we never question the authenticity of the predicament into which young Bai Xuemei (Huang Lu) is tossed. Xuemei is a bright and penniless college graduate in need of a job. Unable to find work in the city, Xuemei is ecstatic when a young woman around her age tells her about a possible position selling medical supplies to citizens living in the country's northern mountain region.

As the two women set out with an older man in a business suit, there's something euphoric in Xuemei's eyes, the palpable excitement of a young woman on an adventure to a paycheck. Better still, her colleagues tell her that these rural laborers seem eager to make a purchase. Xuemei laughs and takes a sip of water. She awakes hours later on a bed, clutching her stomach. In mere seconds she has surmised the betrayal: Her co-workers are nowhere to be found, her money and I.D. have been stolen, and a gangly and grimy middle-age local named Degui (Yang Youan) informs her that she isn't going anywhere — he's paid $7,000 for her to be his wife.

It's a shocking turn of events to be sure, but what's most unsettling about "Blind Mountain" is not that a man would want to buy himself a young sex slave, but that his family and his community would be so complicit in the crime.

Evil regimes succeed, in part, by making everyone complicit in their crimes, as we will be if we help them celebrate.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:13 AM


How the Democrats Could Lose (Richard Cohen, 3/11/08, Real Clear Politics)

In my 2007 column, I compared this presidential campaign to that of 1972, when George McGovern lost 49 states to Richard Nixon. The parallels are in some ways obvious -- the Vietnam War and the war in Iraq, above all. What I could not have foreseen a year ago was how much more obvious the parallels would become. Back in '72, the Democratic Party was split between doves and hawks, reformers and stogie smokers -- even men and women. The result was a national convention that was boisterous, unruly and ugly to look at. It might, however, look like a tea party compared to what could happen in Denver this August.

While it's fun watching the Left and the media slowly realize that this years's presidential isn't an automatic win for them, it more closely resembles 1988 in that regard. Recall that then too you had a Republican president limping home with the outcome of his global crusade uncertain and his administration mired in scandal. The GOP though went ahead and nominated the next in line, his vp, who could hardly have been more closely tied to the various "failures," like the massive budget deficits and who was distrusted by the far Right and Evangelicals. Meanwhile, Democrats nominated a post-ideological technocrat and paired him with a woman [IDIOT ALERT: As Ali points out, Geraldine was, of course, on the losing Northern liberal ticket of '84, not '88] , for what they saw as an unloseable general election.

Of course, once the campaign started it became obvious that no matter how you dressed them up, the Democrats' ticket was just two Northern liberals. America hasn't elected such a creature since the Depression. Assuming that we will do so this year never made much sense, but Democratic politics is about emotions, not thought.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:28 AM


Poll: Most Americans don't read political blogs (Ellen Wulfhorst, 3/10/08, Reuters)

Only 22 percent of people responding to the poll said they read blogs regularly, meaning several times a month or more, according to the survey conducted by Harris Interactive. [...]

Despite the attention blogs can get, the poll said 56 percent of Americans say they never read blogs that discuss politics. Another 23 percent read them several times a year, the survey showed.

While blogs are largely considered the realm of young people who are most Internet-savvy, only 19 percent of people ages 18 to 31, and 17 percent of those ages 32 to 43, regularly read a political blog, the poll said.

The generation most likely to read such blogs are those age 63 or older, 26 percent of whom said they do so. Also, 23 percent of those ages 44 to 62 read them, the poll said.

Roughly an even number -- 22 percent of Republicans and 20 percent of Democrats -- regularly read blogs, while 26 percent of independents do the same, the poll showed.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Democracy on the dragon's doorstep (Cindy Sui , 3/12/08, Asia Times)

At some level or another, mainland Chinese people are increasingly exposed to democracy through Taiwan's presidential election on March 22. The important race, which could possibly write a new chapter in cross-strait relations, makes them keen to learn more about the island, which has been ruled separately since the end of a Chinese civil war in 1949.

Subconsciously or intentionally - and whether the Chinese government likes it or not - mainland residents are also learning about Taiwan's political system, which is the the only real democratic system in greater China, including Hong Kong and Macau.

And despite the biased coverage in Chinese media, most viewers know one thing - it's a real election, which means people get to elect the person they like.

During the 2000 presidential election in Taiwan, Chinese people posted comments on Internet chat rooms praising the election process. Some Chinese applauded the Kuomintang (MT) for stepping down gracefully after losing the election, wondering how long it would take the Chinese Communist Party to do that.

It's no different this year. While state-controlled TV and newspapers report sanitized versions of campaigning with little substance about the debates going on, Internet-savvy white collar workers and others circumvent blockades set up by China's Internet police and gain access to uncensored news. And those who work in hotels or live in luxury apartments have access to satellite TV channels not allowed elsewhere.

"Taiwan's political system has something the mainland can learn from, such as greater freedom of speech, the encouragement of expressions of various viewpoints, transparency, an impartial official merit system, and a strict system to monitor official performance, etc," said Hunter Li, who works for a high-tech multinational company in Beijing.

March 10, 2008

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:02 PM


Discovery Challenges Finding of a Separate Human Species (JOHN NOBLE WILFORD, 3/10/08, NY Times)

More bones of unusually small-bodied people who lived long ago have been found on another Pacific island, and some scientists say this calls into question claims that the first such specimens, from Indonesia, represent a separate human species.

In a report released Monday, Lee Berger, a paleoanthropologist at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, described finding the skulls and bones of at least 25 individuals in two caves in Palau, in the Western Caroline Islands of Micronesia. The people apparently lived there 1,400 to 3,000 years ago. [...]

Writing in the online journal PloS One,, Dr. Berger and colleagues from Duke and Rutgers University said the Palau specimens were modern humans about four feet tall, possibly dwarfs. They shared characteristics with the Flores specimens, but probably had larger, almost normal-size modern braincases.

The scientists said the one complete braincase and other fragments indicated a brain size “possibly at the very low end or below that typically observed in modern, small-bodied humans.”

“Based on the evidence from Palau,” Dr. Berger’s team concluded, “we hypothesize that reduction in the size of the face and chin, large dental size and other features noted here may in some cases be correlates of extreme body size reduction in H. sapiens.”

The Palau samples, the scientists continued, support “at least the possibility that the Flores hominids are simply an island adapted population of H. sapiens, perhaps with some individuals expressing congenital abnormalities.”

...their breeding isolation alone would make them a "species."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:48 PM


Sources: Spitzer Resignation Expected (CBS, 3/11/08)

Gov. Eliot Spitzer was not expected to continue as governor and may resign as soon as Monday night, sources told CBS 2 shortly after it was reported that he was linked to a prostitution ring.

Reliable sources initially told CBS 2 Political Reporter Marcia Kramer that Lt. Gov. David Paterson could be handed the job as early as Monday night, though other sources say the process could take up to 48 hours.

Probe into call girl ring started at IRS (LARRY NEUMEISTER, 3/10/08, Associated Press)

The federal investigation into a high-end prostitution ring linked to Gov. Eliot Spitzer apparently began last year as a financial probe by the Internal Revenue Service.

The investigation into the Emperors Club VIP gathered more than 5,000 telephone calls and text messages, and more than 6,000 e-mails, along with bank records, travel and hotel records and surveillance.

But it was unclear whether Spitzer was a target from the start or whether agents came across his name by accident while amassing evidence.

Conversations were recorded about someone identified as "Client 9," including that a prostitute identified as "Kristen" should take a train from New York to Washington for a tryst on the night of Feb. 13, according to an affidavit.

At the Mayflower, Client 9's Sinking Ship (Dana Milbank
Tuesday, March 11, 2008, Washington Post)
The woman accused of running a prostitution ring allegedly patronized by Eliot Spitzer told one of her call girls that the New York governor had been known to "ask you to do things that, like, you might not think were safe."

But whatever Spitzer -- or, in the language of a federal court filing, "Client-9" -- did with a petite brunette nicknamed "Kristen" on the eve of Valentine's Day last month at Washington's Mayflower Hotel, it probably wasn't as monstrous as what he asked his wife to do yesterday.

In the grand tradition of Larry Craig, David Vitter and Jim McGreevey, Spitzer dragged his partner of 21 years before the television cameras at his offices in New York to announce that he was "disappointed" in himself for unspecified sins.

Silda Wall Spitzer looked like a victim of food poisoning as she stood by her man's side. She cast her eyes downward at the 183-word statement while he read it. She raised her glance only briefly, when the governor admitted he had "acted in a way that violates my obligation to my family," when he offered an apology "to the public, whom I promised better," and again when he pledged to "dedicate some time to regain the trust of my family."

The silent Mrs. Spitzer -- Harvard law school graduate, corporate lawyer, nonprofit founder and mother of the governor's three daughters -- then led Client 9 away from the lectern.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:51 PM


What We Know About Client 9 (New York Magazine, 3/10/08)

• He refused to use a "traditional wire transfer" to pay the organization but arranged for an Emperor's Club girl to take Amtrak down to Washington for a visit.

• Client 9 seems to have used the service before. [...]

• Client 9 was willing to pay "extra" for "better" services. "Kristen" was a pretty brunette, petite, five-foot-five and 105 pounds.

• The fee ended up being $4,300, with the "extras."

• "Kirsten" did not think Client 9 was difficult, but he might have asked her to do things ("basic things") that "you might not think were safe."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:21 PM


Mysterious pits shed light on forgotten witches of the West (Simon de Bruxelles, 3/11/08, Times of London)

Evidence of pagan rituals involving swans and other birds in the Cornish countryside in the 17th century has been uncovered by archaeologists.

Since 2003, 35 pits at the site in a valley near Truro have been excavated containing swan pelts, dead magpies, unhatched eggs, quartz pebbles, human hair, fingernails and part of an iron cauldron.

The finds have been dated to the 1640s, a period of turmoil in England when Cromwellian Puritans destroyed any links to pre-Christian pagan England. It was also a period when witchcraft attracted the death sentence.

Just because magic (or Communism) doesn't work doesn't mean there aren't witches who need burning.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:00 PM


'Compass' spins foreign frenzy (ADAM DAWTREY, 3/10/08, Variety)

After its strong start in Japan last week, "The Golden Compass" is on course to make box office history as the first film to gross $300 million in foreign while failing to reach $100 million in North America. [...]

Forte notes, "We probably underperformed in the U.S., and we performed according to expectations outside the U.S. Why? It's so hard to tell."

Let's all put on our thinking caps and try to figure out why a story alleging that the beliefs of 80% of Americans are an evil conspiracy failed...again.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:22 PM


Spitzer Is Linked to Prostitution Ring (DANNY HAKIM and WILLIAM K. RASHBAUM, 3/10/08, NY Times)

Gov. Eliot Spitzer has been caught on a federal wiretap arranging to meet with a high-priced prostitute at a Washington hotel last month, according to a person briefed on the federal investigation.

The wiretap recording, made during an investigation of a prostitution ring called Emperors Club VIP, captured a man identified as Client 9 on a telephone call confirming plans to have a woman travel from New York to Washington, where he had reserved a room. The person briefed on the case identified Mr. Spitzer as Client 9.

The governor learned that he had been implicated in the prostitution probe when a federal official contacted his staff last Friday, according to the person briefed on the case.

The governor informed his top aides Sunday night and this morning of his involvement. He canceled his public events today and scheduled an announcement for this afternoon after inquiries from the Times.

What's the point of being powerful if you don't use it to get your nookie for free?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:31 PM


Obama: 'If I am not ready, why do you think I would be such a great vice president?' (Ben Smith, 3/10/08, Politico)

My colleague Carrie Budoff Brown e-mails from Columbus, Miss., with Obama's response to the Clintons' flotation of the notion that he could be her veep: scorn. [....]

“I don’t understand. If I am not ready, why do you think I would be such a great vice president?” Obama asked the crowd, which gave him a standing ovation during his defense. “I don’t understand.”

We forget how ahistorical it was of W to choose a VP who was actually qualified to be president. If she respected him she'd say she wanted him for a real job, like chief-of-staff.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:05 PM


Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:41 PM


Emptying Ourselves of What We Think We Know (Anthony Esolen, 03/10/08, excerpted from Ironies of Faith: The Laughter at the Heart of Christian Literature)

Until fairly recently, most writers on irony have defined it as speech that means something other than (or opposite to) what is literally said. The problem with this definition is that it is at once too narrow, too broad, and beside the point. Liars mean other than what they say, but the lie is not in itself ironic; and you may, with irony, mean exactly what you say, but in a way that your audience (or perhaps a putative audience, more foolish than those who are actually listening to you) will not understand. The definition is beside the point, since moments of dramatic irony, or what some have called “irony of event,” may not involve speech at all, but only strange turns of fate.

Contemporary literary theorists have attempted to distill the essence of irony, that which underlies both the winking assertions of ignorance made by Socrates, and concatenations of events that seem (but only seem) to suggest design, or that demolish any sense of design. Irony, they assert, is a universal solvent: no theology or epistemology can contain it. It dissolves—it “deconstructs”—every assertion of absolute truth.

The trouble with this view of irony now prevalent in the academy is that it enshrines one sort of ironic statement or event and ignores the rest. Worse, the kind of irony it enshrines is destructive, and the first thing it destroys is irony. If there is no objective truth—if irony must undermine and destabilize—then, once we have noticed the fact, there is no more point for irony, just as it makes no sense for the skeptic to embark on a quest for knowledge, when there is no knowledge to be had. How, after all, does one then proceed, by irony, to undermine the “truth” that every truth can be undermined? If all speech is inherently slippery, why trouble oneself with the subtleties of irony? Why pour oil on a sheet of ice?

But in fact, irony commonly is used to exalt rather than undermine. It can stun us with wonder and raise our eyes to behold a truth we had missed. All kinds of unsuspected truths, particularly those combined in paradoxes, await our attention, but we are too dulled by habit to notice. Then irony—verbal or dramatic—awakes us. Consider:

1. A bystander watches as a professor, holding forth to his suffering companion on the epistemological subtleties of irony, steps dangerously near a banana peel.

2. In King Lear, Gloucester tries to refuse the help of his son Edgar, whom he cannot see and does not know: “I have no way and therefore want no eyes; / I stumbled when I saw.” (4.1. 18–19)

3. In II Henry IV (and apparently in real life, too) the usurper King Henry, who had wanted to atone for his sin by fighting in the Crusades, removes to die in a room called “Jerusalem,” noting that it had been foretold to him that he would die in Jerusalem. (4.5. 236–40)

4. St. Paul sings a hymn of Christ’s Atonement:

Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Phil. 2:5–11)

5. In Molière’s comedy Tartuffe, the jealous husband Orgon squirms under the table where his wife Elmire has put him, listening as his protégé Tartuffe, the one man he is amazingly not suspicious of, attempts to seduce her. (4.5)

What do the cases have in common? The first verges upon slapstick; the second involves a lesson learned in an unusual way; the third hinges upon a play on words; the fourth is a theological reversal of expectations; the fifth is a piece of staged ignorance. Each involves a problem of knowing. The irony lies in a stark clash between what a character thinks he knows and what he really knows. This clash is staged to let the reader or the audience in on the secret. We are, then, not merely watching ignorance, but ignorance unaware of itself and about to learn better, or at least about to teach by way of its own incorrigibility. The irony reveals, with a kind of electric shock, order where randomness was expected, or complexity and subtlety where simplicity was expected.

Each case involves a staged clash of incompatible levels of knowledge:

1. The professor thinks he knows a lot about the subtlest things, but misses the humble and material banana at his feet. The bystander probably knows a great deal less about irony, but he does see the hazard and, if he possesses either a profound moral sensibility or none at all, will stand back to enjoy the tumble. The apparent intellectual hierarchy belies a richer order: the great intellect is not so wise. He “deserves” to slip, falling victim to the very thing, irony, about which he declaims so proudly. Had he known less about it, he might have looked to the sidewalk in time.

2. Only after Gloucester loses his eyes does he “see” how rashly and unjustly he has treated his son Edgar. The irony, a reversal of expectations accompanied by a deepening knowledge, is richly theological as well. For there is an order at work, bringing about Gloucester’s sight through blindness, and his reconciliation with his son through suffering. The man before him is that wronged son, whom he has seen in disguise and taken for one Tom-a-Bedlam, the “poor, bare, forked animal” that “unaccommodated man” is (King Lear, 3.4. 105–6). Now it is the wronged Gloucester reduced to misery who requires assistance from Mad Tom. Gloucester does not yet understand what his “way” is, why he has been blinded and what he must suffer still. He says he has no way, yet his meeting with Edgar shows that a way has been designed for him nonetheless. He will walk towards a final, terrible resignation to his punishment and reconciliation with his son. And Edgar will be his eyes—his spiritual guide—along this way.

3. We “know” that Henry might have died in any room or might have died falling from a horse on a holiday hunt. He had hoped to die in the Holy Land, and when he learns the name of the room, he finally sees the design and resigns himself to its justice. For us, that death feels right—better than if he had died a-crusading, better than if he had been hanged at the Tower of London. The usurper should not be granted a martyr’s death; better that he should be disappointed by his hope to expiate the crime. The place of his death reveals a more subtle order than either he or we had expected.

4. The chasm between human expectations and divine will has never been sung more powerfully. The prophet cries, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord” (Isa., 55:8), but here Saint Paul fleshes out that cry with specifics that seem impossible to hold simultaneously. If Christ is equal with God, why should he, or how can he, empty himself, making himself of no reputation? How can God become obedient to God, obedient unto the shameful death on a cross? How can submission exalt? For Christ is not exalted despite his humility, but in it and through it. For the believer, then, Paul’s hymn reveals complexities in the notions of equality and hierarchy: because Christ was the Son of God, he set aside that equality, and in his obedience he is set above all things in heaven, on earth, and under the earth. He is equal to the Father because he obeys.

5. This brilliant stage business shows dramatic irony at its purest. Of this double-plot no one, not even the audience, can see everything. Elmire knows she is chaste, but as she leads Tartuffe on, to prove to her husband under the table what a fool he has been to trust the charlatan, she must worry lest her trick backfire and Tartuffe ravish her before Orgon manages to get out from under there. For she cannot see him, and cannot be sure that he will come to his senses even when he hears Tartuffe making love to her. Meanwhile Orgon can only fry in imagination: he hears but cannot see the couple, and must restrain his wrath and jealousy long enough to let Tartuffe hang himself for certain. The audience, too, can see Tartuffe and Elmire, and so they know what Orgon must learn; but they cannot see Orgon, and must guess, from his awkward and frantic movements under the table, what must be going through his mind. Finally, there is Tartuffe, master trickster, steeped in ignorance, believing himself so clever yet missing so obvious a trick—for I do not think Orgon can remain as still as a churchmouse!

It is, then, not the unexpectedness of a thing that produces irony—a violin flung at a man’s head is unexpected, but not ironic—nor is it ignorance that produces irony—after all, if he saw the violin he would duck. Irony arises, rather, from the ignorance of unseen or unexpected order (or, as it may happen, disorder), from the failure to note subtleties, or from seeing subtleties that are not there, especially when the ignorance and the failure are highlighted before observers in a better position to see the truth. That is the sort of thing we feel as ironic. A violin flung at a man’s head is not ironic. A man missing a sharp as he tries to hum the Kreutzer sonata is not ironic. The same man botching Beethoven as the violin sails his way—now that is ironic.

It is delicious that where the intellectuals insist that irony stands in opposition to universal truth it instead relies upon ignorance of the natural order of things.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:31 AM


Sharpton threatens lawsuit over FL, MI (Domenico Montanaro, 3/10/08, NBC First Read)

Al Sharpton is in Florida and said he is prepared to sue if Florida and Michigan’s delegates are seated as is. He said there are people who didn’t vote because they knew their vote wouldn’t count and “there must be a formula to factor” them in. [...]

Sharpton instead called for a re-do of the voting in both states. “There must be a way that people can exercise their right to vote who did not vote.”

Called it “absurd” that Michigan where uncommitted was on the ballot, would get their delegates seated as is.

”If they try to seat as is,” Sharpton said, he and the National Action Network are prepared to file suit.

He may not be cellmate material, but couldn't you just kiss him? If he gets this to Antonin Scalia I hereby promise to get a Reverend Al tattoo.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:17 AM


Competition and free trade key to prosperity: THE Swedish economy has often been compared with a bumblebee, whose ability to fly can only be explained by its ignorance of aerodynamics and physics. Proponents of the Swedish model claim Sweden is proof that, counter to conventional wisdom, big government and economic growth can peacefully coexist. (Maria Rankka, March 11, 2008, The Australian)

Though there certainly are positive as well as negative lessons to be learned from Sweden, one should be wary of those who claim causal relationships between Sweden's welfare state and its historic economic achievements. The parts of the welfare state that work the best today are the parts that have been reformed, where competition and private alternatives are allowed.

School vouchers, for example, were introduced more than 15 years ago in Sweden. This reform has allowed children to choose a privately run school if they want to, paid for by taxes. Recent research shows not only that independent schools produce the best results but that school choice andthe existence of independent schools has improved overall efficiency and effectiveness in the entire school system.

American documentary filmmaker Michael Moore praises the Swedish healthcare system in his movie Sicko. But he is worried that the new Swedish Government will destroy this paragon of public health funding, as he sees it, by letting in private alternatives. In fact, Sweden has had private alternatives within the healthcare system for 15 to 20 years. That is no big deal for Swedes, at least not as long as the private alternatives don't constitute too large a share of the market. The debate is on the financial side. Should people be empowered to buy private insurance?

There is also a debate whether big emergency hospitals should be allowed to be run privately (still with funding from the government) and if private hospitals should be allowed to make a profit. Hardly anyone other than Moore is totally against privately run health care.

Yet he's the guest of honor at Democrat Conventions?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:10 AM


Counterterrorism Priorities Are Proving Wasteful (Bjorn Lomborg and Todd Sandler, 3/10/08, Real Clear Politics)

Recently, Copenhagen Consensus, whose purpose is to weigh the costs and benefits of different solutions to the world's biggest problems, commissioned new research into the merits of different methods of combating terrorism. The results are surprising and troubling.

Global annual spending on homeland security measures has increased by about $70 billion since 2001. Unsurprisingly, this initially translated into a 34 percent drop in transnational terrorist attacks. What is surprising is that there have been 67 more deaths, on average, each year. The rise in the death toll is caused by terrorists responding rationally to the higher risks imposed by greater security measures. They have shifted to attacks that create more carnage to increase the impact of fewer attacks.

Increased counterterrorism measures simply transfer terrorists' attention elsewhere. Installing metal detectors in airports in 1973 decreased skyjackings but increased kidnappings; fortifying American embassies reduced the number of attacks on embassies but increased the number of assassinations of diplomats. Since counterterrorism measures were increased in Europe, the United States and Canada, there has been a clear shift in attacks against US interests to the Middle East and Asia.

Spending ever-more money making targets "harder" is actually a poor choice. Increasing defensive measures worldwide by 25 percent would cost at least $75 billion over five years. Terrorists will inevitably shift to softer targets. In the extremely unlikely scenario that attacks dropped by 25 percent, the world would save about $22 billion. Even then, the costs are three times higher than the benefits.

...just about providing psychological comfort.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:03 AM


The Democrats' nightmare: Expect the battle between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama to become even more hellish (The Economist, 3/06/08)

REMEMBER hanging chads, butterfly ballots, dodgy voting-machines and an election mired in the Florida swamps? Something similar to the 2000 knife-edge election has now befallen the Democratic Party, thanks to a contest that is likely to get increasingly nasty, and quite possibly litigious. And Florida is again in the thick of it. [...]

Mrs Clinton's only hope is to persuade the 796 “superdelegates” (members of Congress, senior party officials and other bigwigs) to reverse the elected delegate outcome—and push her over the 2,025 target.

This is where everything could turn ugly (and it is hardly pleasant at the moment). Mrs Clinton will need to present the superdelegates with an excuse to overturn the verdict of all those caucuses and primaries. It is still possible that she could win the popular vote, especially if she triumphs in Pennsylvania: that would help her case enormously. She will also no doubt point out that she has won in all of America's biggest states, bar Illinois and Georgia, as well as several swing states, including Ohio. But Mr Obama will have powerful arguments of his own, such as his appeal to independents and his victory in Virginia. So the chances are that Mrs Clinton sooner or later will resort to a somewhat legal approach: asking the superdelegate-judges in effect to dismiss the verdict of the first trial on the basis that the procedure was unfair.

Al Gore's chickens are coming home to roost.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:37 AM


The war behind the insults: The real enemy is the FARC guerrilla group and its Venezuelan supporter, not Colombia (The Economist, 3/06/08)

Its root cause is the FARC, a guerrilla army founded in the 1960s whose anachronistic Marxist language conceals its degeneration into a predatory mafia of kidnappers and drug traffickers.

...though, arguably, an improvement.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:04 AM


In Iran, fashion as protest (Farangis Najibullah, 3/11/08, Asia Times)

Tehran is full of trendy boutiques and shops offering Western-style clothes, including skimpy tops and figure-hugging trousers - even though such items are forbidden. Ali M says many well-known firms, such as Christian Dior or Armani, have branches in Iran where they sell their cosmetics. However, they don't directly sell clothes, which instead are often specially ordered through private shops.

Apparently, nothing can discourage Iranians from trying to dress fashionably - not the restrictive laws, not the morality police, not even exorbitant prices for designer labels.

According to Ali M, those "who cannot afford to pay $600 for a pair of designer shoes, can easily find an exact replica of the designer label for $60. The same goes for dresses, tops, and coats".

In interviews, some Iranian women say they lead double lives when it comes to clothes and fashion. One Tehran woman admits: "We get dressed modestly for work, but privately we follow our hearts' desires - opting, for instance, for sleeveless tops, plunging necklines, and short trousers."

Iraj Jamsheedi, an Iranian independent journalist, says many Iranians, especially urbanites, are increasingly frustrated with authorities meddling in their private lives. "Many people ignore the rules as much as they can, simply to protest this and other social restrictions," Jamsheedi says.

"Official decrees have failed to change people's dress sense. In many instances, the dress restrictions have had the opposite effect - people's clothes have become more [liberal] than before. It is a sign that people are resisting these decrees."

The ayatollahs lost the Revolution, but they can salvage the Republic. That's the difficult dance step Ayatollah Khamenei is so far stumbling over.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:59 AM


‘Mad Men’, Gene Hunt and Other Men (David Herman, March 10, 2008, Prospect Blog)

What do ‘Mad Men’ and ‘Life on Mars’/'Ashes to Ashes’ have in common? They are both among the best TV dramas in the last decade. And they both use the past to find a way of talking about men today. [...]

Move forward to Manchester 1973 and the BBC’s cop drama with a twist, ‘Life on Mars’. At first glance, you might have thought that the smart, politically correct Sam Tyler would be the hero in every sense, juxtaposed with the unreconstructed policemen from 1970s Manchester with their Stone Age attitudes. of course, it turned out otherwise. Sam Tyler was just annoying with his ‘I told you so’, Guardian whining. It was Gene Hunt (superbly played by Philip Glenister) , who caught viewers’ imaginations. with his cheery political incorrectness.

What made it perhaps the most television program ever broadcast -- even aside from being a two year long anti-euthanasia polemic with an integral anti-abortion episode -- is that the series ultimately turned not on the question of whether Sam would live but whether Hunt should. In the context of European political correctness in particular, Sam's spectacularly enacted decision to return to the '70s was extraordinarily radical.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:41 AM


US can fast exit from bad times (Edward J Lincoln , 3/11/08, Asia Times)

The recent US experience of mounting bad loans, unemployment, a housing bubble that has burst, and a financial bubble, is reminiscent of Japan in the 1990s. Is the US repeating Japan's mistakes as it tries to extricate itself from the mess? Not so, according to Edward J Lincoln, of New York University Stern School of Business. The following is an edited transcript of his address on the issue to the Carnegie Council's New Leaders Program. [...]

Now, for those of you who are not economists, the normal presumption in economics is that there is an inverse relationship between financial return and risk. You can have low return/low risk - that's your savings account in the bank; it's guaranteed by the government up to a certain amount of savings deposit. Or you can have high return and high risk - that means that over a long period of time, say 20 years, you ought to anticipate that in fact you'll get a pretty high return, but along the way you are going to have years in which you are going to get hit with big losses.

Well, what seems to happen in these kinds of financial bubbles is that people who probably learned this stuff when they were going through business school or PhD programs in economics, seemed to think: "I've invented something new. I can get 20% returns and there is no risk." That is always a mistake. [...]

At the present time, again, we have cut interest rates very quickly. It should bolster the economy. And frankly, this time around we've got enough upward price pressure that I don't think deflation is really an issue for this economy. In fact, if anything, there is a potential issue of stagflation, which we had back in the 1970s, where you've got the economy slowing down but you've still got inflation higher than you want, in both cases driven by commodity prices, the price of oil going up.

The next difference is the scale of the problem. In Japan, I told you the stock market had tripled in value in five years and then lost all of those gains so it went back down again. We're talking about a drop in the stock market of 70% from its peak at the end of 1989.

In the United States, we've had the Dow Jones Industrial Average double in 10 years. Substantial, but it's not like tripling in five years. And on the down-side - of course, none of us know exactly what the future brings, but my guess is we're talking about maybe a correction of 20%, not 70%.

In the real estate market in Japan, we also had a tripling of urban real estate prices in the space of six years and a drop of 70% over the next decade. In the United States, in contrast, according to one price index for urban real estate, we've had a price increase of 80% in five years. That's less than a doubling. And on the down-side, I'd be surprised if we've had an overall correction of more than 20-25%.

And I don't think it is going to last very long. We've had occasional downturns - maybe not nationwide, but certainly in particular markets like New York. It tends to shake out in a couple of years and then turns back up.

On the real estate side, part of the difference may be simply in both economic growth and in population growth. In terms of economic growth, we're growing at 3.0-3.5% a year, on average, over long periods of time. Japan is now down to probably 1.0-2.0% a year. As you grow, you have more demand for office buildings and things like that. That demand growth is stronger in the United States, and should be stronger over the next decade in the United States, than in Japan.

And similarly with population. We still have a growing population. Japan does not. Japan now has a shrinking population. It is shrinking particularly rapidly at the younger end of the demographic chain, and that means that we are going to see fewer and fewer and fewer new households looking for a place to live. So the longer-term prospects are, I think, for a fairly quick recovery in real estate prices - or at least a turn back up, if not a total recovery - in the United States.

What meaningful comparison can you make between a secular society with a declining population and a religious one that is set to grow its population by 66% over the next half century?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:37 AM


Trials and tribulations: Barack Obama's ties to Tony Rezko come back to haunt him (The Economist, 3/06/08)

New interest in Mr Rezko means new interest in Mr Obama's ties to him. The developer was a supporter of Mr Obama from his earliest days in politics. (The senator has now given to charity some $150,000 in donations linked to Mr Rezko.) But Hillary Clinton's claim in January that Mr Obama had represented the “slum landlord” was incorrect. Mr Obama did only a few hours of work for non-profits working with him. He also denies giving Mr Rezko any favours. In 1998 Mr Obama wrote letters to support one of Mr Rezko's projects, a home for the elderly, but his campaign insists he would have backed the plan anyway.

More problematic is a favour Mr Obama accepted. Mr Rezko helped him buy his home in Chicago in 2005. The seller would close the deal on Mr Obama's house only if the adjacent empty lot was sold on the same day. In June 2005 Mr Obama bought his home for $1.65m, $300,000 less than the asking price, and Mr Rezko's wife bought the adjacent lot. (The sellers say that $1.65m was the best offer they received.) Mr Obama later bought a small strip of land from Mrs Rezko.

Mr Obama concedes that the deal was a “boneheaded” error. Hungry adversaries may find it the meatiest one available. By 2005 Mr Rezko was widely rumoured to be under federal investigation. Mr Obama's association with him shows a lapse in judgment—problematic for a man whose campaign rests on the claim that judgment matters more than experience.

It's times like these when it would be helpful to have done something--anything--in the Senate.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:34 AM


Wanted: Einstein Jr: Something seems wrong with the laws of physics. Spacecraft are not behaving in the way that they should (The Economist, 3/06/08)

Modern instruments have shown a departure from his predictions, too. In 1990 mission controllers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, which operates America's unmanned interplanetary space probes, noticed something odd happen to a Jupiter-bound craft, called Galileo. As it was flung around the Earth in what is known as a slingshot manoeuvre (designed to speed it on its way to the outer solar system), Galileo picked up more velocity than expected. Not much. Four millimetres a second, to be precise. But well within the range that can reliably be detected.

Once might be happenstance. But this strange extra acceleration was seen subsequently with two other craft. That, as Goldfinger would have put it, looks like enemy action. So a team from JPL has got together to analyse all of the slingshot manoeuvres that have been carried out over the years, to see if they really do involve a small but systematic extra boost. The answer is that they do.

Altogether, John Anderson and his colleagues analysed six slingshots involving five different spacecraft. Their paper on the matter is about to be published in Physical Review Letters. Crucially for the idea that there really is a systematic flaw in the laws of physics as they are understood today, their data can be described by a simple formula. It is therefore possible to predict what should happen on future occasions.

That is what Dr Anderson and his team have now done. They have worked out the exact amount of extra speed that should be observed when they analyse the data from a slingshot last November, which involved a craft called Rosetta. If their prediction is correct, it will confirm that the phenomenon is real and that their formula is capturing its essence. Although the cause would remain unknown, a likely explanation is that something in the laws of gravity needs radical revision.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:27 AM


Our Best Sex Advice: For 20 years Marriage Partnership has offered real, biblical, practical insight for bedroom issues. Here are 20 of the best. (Marriage Partnership, Spring 2008, Christianity Today)

What's Okay?

In marriage a couple may do anything in their sexual play that meets five specific criteria: (1) It's just the two of you. (2) You allow mutual respect and agreement to guide your choices of sexual play. (3) It causes no pain physically, emotionally, or spiritually. (4) You keep the focus on your relationship. When having sexual release becomes an addiction driven to levels of compulsive behavior, replacing the connection to your spouse with various stimuli that are essentially fantasy based, you rob your marriage of the most crucial part of intimacy—the blend of relational and sexual connectedness. (5) It doesn't always take the place of genital union.

—Louis and Melissa McBurney, Spring 2001

...all run afoul of #2 & 3.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:23 AM


Cities on the edge of chaos: It is one of the most seismic changes the world has ever seen. Across the globe there is an unstoppable march to the cities, powered by new economic realities. But what kind of lives are we creating? And will citizens - and cities - cope with the fierce pressures of this new urban age? Deyan Sudjic, director of the Design Museum and author of a major new report, asks if the city of the future will be a vision of hell or a force for civilised living? (Deyan Sudjic, March 9, 2008, Observer)

The world is changing faster now than ever before. The dispossessed, and the ambitious are flooding into cities swollen out of all recognition. Poor cities are struggling to cope. Rich cities are reconfiguring themselves at breakneck speed. China has created an industrial power house from what were fishing villages in the 1970s. Lagos and Dhaka attract a thousand new arrivals every day. In Britain, central London's population has started to grow again after 50 years of decline.

We have more big cities now than at any time in our history. In 1900, only 16 had a population of one million; now it's more than 400. Not only are there more of them, they are larger than ever. In 1851, London had two million people. It was the largest city in the world by a long way, twice the size of Paris, its nearest rival.

That version of London would seem like a village now. By the official definition, London has getting on for eight million people, but in practical terms, it's a city of 18 million, straggling most of the way from Ipswich to Bournemouth in an unforgiving tide of business parks and designer outlets, gated housing and logistics depots. There might be fields between them, but they are linked in a single transport system and a single economy. Those villages in Suffolk that are close enough to a railway station to deliver you to Liverpool Street in under 90 minutes are effectively as much a part of London as Croydon or Ealing and they have the house prices to prove it. The other big conurbations - from Birmingham to Manchester and Glasgow, names for cities that spread far beyond the bounds of political city limits - can be understood in the same way.

Having invented the modern city, Britain promptly reeled back in horror at what it had done. To William Morris and John Ruskin, or the Salvation Army exploring the cholera-ridden back alleys of London's East End, the city was a hideous tumour sucking the life out of the countryside and creating in its place a vast, polluted landscape of squalor, disease and crime. In their eyes, the city was a place to be feared, controlled and, if possible, eliminated.

In William Blake's bitterly ironic words, Jerusalem had been overwhelmed by dark, satanic mills. Morris dreamt of a London abandoned by its population in favour of communal country life, leaving behind a dung heap in Parliament Square and empty streets enlivened by fluttering, worthless banknotes.

Which is why America suburbanizes rather than urbanizes.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:19 AM


The Luckiest Man (Jennifer Rubin, 3/10/2008, American Spectator)

Barack Obama also lent credence to Clinton's point that maybe foreign policy leadership does require experience when his advisers were caught assuring foreigners that their boss does not really mean all that wacky stuff about reneging on NAFTA and bugging out of Iraq when things are improving.

Obama's efforts to shoo away the offenders did not settle the underlying dilemma -- is he being disingenuous with voters or does he not have command over his advisers? Suddenly there did seem to be a stature gap between him and Clinton, who can at least keep her advisers from publicly undermining her policy pronouncements.

McCain got the soundbite equivalent of "I voted for the $87 million before I voted against it" when Obama adviser Susan Rice said of the Democratic contenders, "They're both not ready to have that 3 a.m. phone call." Clinton pitched in as well, repeatedly saying that both she and McCain have a lifetime of experience but Obama...maybe not so much.

These events reinforced the reason for McCain's candidacy: he is unmatched in foreign policy acumen and experience. Clinton will make half the argument on a daily basis, lambasting Obama as a neophyte. Obama will make the other half, pointing out that Clinton is scarcely better prepared.

Maybe the RNC should just buy ad time in the remaining Democrat primary races and run both their comments about each other.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:16 AM


McCain vs. The Addicts (Robert Novak, 3/10/08, Real Clear Politics)

The congressional Republican establishment's charade, pretending to crack down on spending earmarks while actually preserving their uncontrolled addiction to pork, faces embarrassment this week when the Democratic-designed budget is brought to the Senate floor. The party's presidential nominee-presumptive, Sen. John McCain, is an uncompromising pork buster with no use for the evasions by Republican addicts on Capitol Hill.

Sen. Jim DeMint, a first-term reform Republican from South Carolina, will propose a no-loopholes one-year moratorium on earmarks as a budget amendment. McCain has announced his support for the DeMint amendment and will co-sponsor it. DeMint wants to coordinate McCain's visits from the campaign trail to the Senate floor so the candidate can be there to speak for and vote for the moratorium.

The irony could hardly be greater. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, an ardent earmarker, is smart enough politically to realize how unpopular the practice is with the Republican base. Consequently, McConnell combines anti-earmark rhetoric with evasive tactics to save pork. But McCain, surely not the presidential candidate that McConnell wanted, is leading his party with a pledge to veto any bill containing earmarks.

The only conservative thing about Senator McCain is his record.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:16 AM


Secularization Falsified (Peter L. Berger, February 2008, First Things)

Looked at globally, there are two particularly powerful religious explosions—resurgent Islam and dynamic evangelical Protestantism. Passionate Islamic movements are on the rise throughout the Muslim world, from the Atlantic Ocean to the China Sea, and in the Muslim diaspora in the West. The rise of evangelical Protestantism has been less noticed by intellectuals, the media, and the general public in Western countries, partly because nowhere is it associated with violence and partly because it more directly challenges the assumptions of established elite opinion: David Martin, a leading British sociologist of religion, has called it a “revolution that was not supposed to happen.” Yet it has spread more rapidly and over a larger geographical area than resurgent Islam. What is more, the Islamic growth has occurred mostly in populations that were already Muslim—a revitalization rather than a conversion. By contrast, evangelical Protestantism has been penetrating parts of the world in which this form of religion was hitherto unknown. And it has done so by means of mass conversions.

By far the most numerous and dynamic segment of what I am calling this evangelical diffusion has been Pentecostalism. It began almost exactly one hundred years ago in a number of locations in the United States, as small groups of people began to speak in tongues and experience miraculous healing. From its beginning, Pentecostalism was actively proselytizing, mostly in America (though there were early outposts abroad—even, curiously enough, in Sweden). But the big Pentecostal explosion began in the 1950s, especially in the developing countries, and it has been intensifying ever since. The boundaries of Pentecostalism are somewhat vague: It is a multidimensional phenomenon, with explicitly Pentecostal denominations, local Pentecostal congregations with no denominational affiliations, and Pentecostal-like eruptions within mainline Protestant and Catholic churches. If one subsumes these groups under the general heading of charismatics, there are four hundred million of them, according to a recent study by the Pew Research Center.

Religious dynamism is not confined to Islam and Pentecostalism. The Catholic Church, in trouble in Europe, has been doing well in the Global South. There is a revival of the Orthodox Church in Russia. Orthodox Judaism has been rapidly growing in America and in Israel. Both Hinduism and Buddhism have experienced revivals, and the latter has had some successes in proselytizing in America and Europe.

Simply put: Modernity is not characterized by the absence of God but by the presence of many gods—with two exceptions to this picture of a furiously religious world. One is geographical: Western and Central Europe. The causes and present shape of what one may call Eurosecularity constitute one of the most interesting problems in the sociology of contemporary religion. The other exception is perhaps even more relevant to the question of secularization, for it is constituted by an international cultural elite, essentially a globalization of the Enlightened intelligentsia of Europe. It is everywhere a minority of the population—but a very influential one.

Secularism thus finds itself in a global context of dynamic religiosity, which means that it faces some serious challenges. We might distinguish three versions of secularism.

First, the term may refer to accepting the consequences for religion of the institutional differentiation that is a crucial feature of modernity. Social activities that were undertaken in premodern societies within a unified institutional context are now dispersed among several institutions.

The education of children, for example, used to occur within the family or tribe, but it is now handled by specialized institutions. Educational personnel, who used to be family members with no special training, must now be specially trained to undertake their task in teacher-training institutions, which in turn spout further institutions, such as state certification agencies and teachers’ unions.

Religion has gone through a comparable process of differentiation—what used to be an activity of the entire community is now organized in specialized institutions. The Christian Church, long before the advent of modernity, provided a prototype of religious specialization—the realm of Caesar separated from that of God. What modernity does is to make the differentiation much more ample and ­diffused.

One path for this development is the denominational system typical of American religion, with a plurality of separate religious institutions available on a free market. The American case makes clear that secularism, as an ideology that accepts the institutional specialization of religion, need not imply an antireligious animus. This moderate attitude toward religion is then expressed in a moderate understanding of the separation of church and state. The state is not hostile to ­religion but draws back from direct involvement in religious matters and recognizes the autonomy of ­religious institutions.

The second type of secularism, however, is characterized precisely by antireligious animus, at least as far as the public role of religion is concerned. The French understanding of the state originated in the anti-Christian animus of the continental Enlightenment and was politically established by the French Revolution.

This second type of secularism, with religion considered a strictly private matter, can be relatively benign, as it is in contemporary France. Religious symbols or actions are rigorously barred from political life, but privatized religion is protected by law.

The third type of secularism is anything but benign, as in the practice of the Soviet Union and other communist regimes. But what characterizes both the benign and the malevolent versions of laïcité is that religion is evicted from public life and confined to private space. There have been tendencies in America toward a French version of secularism, located in such groups as the American Civil Liberties Union or Americans United for the Separation of Church and State. What may be called the ACLU viewpoint is pithily captured in an old Jewish joke: A man tries to enter a synagogue during the High Holidays. The usher stops the man and says that only people with reserved seats may enter. “But it is a matter of life and death,” says the man. “I must speak to Mr. Shapiro—his wife has been taken to the hospital.” “All right,” says the usher, “you can go in. But don’t let me catch you praying.” The punch line accurately describes the ACLU’s position on any provision of public services (from school buses to medical facilities) to faith-based institutions.

All typologies oversimplify social reality, but it is useful to think here of a spectrum of secularisms: There is the moderate version, typified by the traditional American view of church-state separation. Then there is the more radical version, typified by French laïcité and more recently by the ACLU, in which religion is both confined to the private sphere and protected by legally enforced freedom of religion. And then there is, as in the Soviet case, a secularism that privatizes religion and seeks to repress it. Its adherents can be as fanatical as any religious fundamentalists.

To some considerable degree, American pre-eminence in the Modern World is explained by our avoidance of the Enlightenment.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:10 AM

I, I, I, ME, ME, ME:

Groundhog Die: a review of Blood & Rage: a Cultural History of Terrorism (Michael Burleigh Christopher Orlet, 3/10/2008, American Spectator)

It was like that scene from Groundhog Day, you know, that one scene played over and over again? After each terrorist attack, whether in New York, London or Madrid, President George W. Bush would go before the nation and declare that the perpetrators of these "cowardly acts" were "cowards." For our chief executive that pretty well summed up matters. The terrorists were cowards who committed cowardly acts out of a sense of cowardice.

Naturally many liberals disagreed. "We have been the cowards lobbing cruise missiles from 2,000 miles away," said Bill Maher, host of Politically Incorrect. "That's cowardly. Staying in the airplane when it hits the building, say what you want about it, it's not cowardly."

In his new cultural history of modern terror, Michael Burleigh finds terrorists distinguished not by cowardice, but by several recurring, and similarly offensive traits, most notably resentment and narcissism, a willingness to place abstract and unrealistic political goals before basic human decency, and a dim understanding of the forces -- whether economic, cultural, or religious -- they seek to destroy.

What's interesting to note is that Mr. Maher's comments are, likewise,
a function of resentment and narcissism, that strange need of the rationalists to believe that they dictate the actions of others.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:45 AM


Competition Solves Health Care (TOM COBURN, March 10, 2008, NY Sun)

Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama have spelled out, in very clear terms, their desire to see government takeover of our health care system. Senator McCain, on the other hand, wants to use market forces to empower individuals with freedom and choice. The outcome of this debate will impact not only the health of millions of Americans but the long-term viability of our republic. [...]

The American people know that innovation, choice, and competition work because they see these forces work every day. Consumers expect that the market will produce better, safer, and more efficient cars at a reasonable price. Consumers expect the market will make electronics faster and cheaper, and so on. History has confirmed this fact time and time again. In 1908, Henry Ford made a car for $850. Eight years later he produced the same car for $360. Today, we see that prices for plasma and LCD TVs have dropped by about 50% in the past two years.

A market-based system that would unleash the power of innovation and competition in health care is within reach. A key reform would involve transferring health care tax benefits to individuals rather than employers. Mr. McCain's plan would do that by providing every American with a tax credit of $2,500 per individual ($5,000 per family) to buy their own insurance plan. Switzerland, hardly a bastion of conservatism, has used a similar individual-based model where costs are 50% less than in America with better outcomes.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:33 AM


The case against Obama (Gary L. Bauer and Tom Rose, March 10, 2008, Washington Times)

As the likelihood increases that Barack Obama will be the Democratic nominee for president, it is high time Republicans start thinking about what type of campaign to run against him. The race is on.

Quite. But, for form's sake and to assist governing once he wins, Maverick must run on ideas instead.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:09 AM


Back to the Future with Zapatero: It was a bitter campaign full of recriminations. But Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Zapatero emerged victorious on Sunday. Still, despite gaining seats in the parliament, he has a difficult road ahead. (Manuel Meyer, 3/10/08, Der Spiegel)

Against all expectations, the Socialists were able to notch up a historic election victory in Catalonia, which is Spain's strongest region economically. The party will now have 25 members seated in the regional parliament in Barcelona.

The victory came at the expense of the radical-nationalist Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC), an on-again, off-again coalition partner in the Catalonia regional government. The party has made life difficult for the Catalonia Socialists (PSC) with its constant demands for greater autonomy from Spain. The concessions PSC made to the regionalists often went too far for Zapatero's taste. Nevertheless, and to the Socialists' surprise, it did just as little damage to the party's image as the constant power outages and chaotic train service. ERC lost a total of five seats in the national parliament in Madrid -- and with only three members of parliament now, it will hardly be able to demand the kind of concession in exchange for support as it did in the past.

The moderate Catalan nationalist party Convergencia I Unio (CIU), which picked up an additional mandate, bringing its total number to 11, could become much more interesting to the Catalonia Socialists as a coalition partner.

Zapatero's courageous policies of decentralization have clearly paid off. The subject of deep hostility from the conservative opposition, who accused him of gambling away "Spanish unity," Zapatero allowed his party friends in Barcelona to create a new regional statute for Catalonia that not only provided the region with greater autonomy from Madrid, but also defined it for the first time as a "nation."

March 9, 2008

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:10 PM


From the Right, He Looks Too Blue (L. Brent Bozell, March 9, 2008, Washington Post)

For 20 years, the moderate establishment of the Republican Party has told conservatives to sit down, shut up and do as we're told. History shows that sometimes we bite the bullet. But not always. I absolutely guarantee that this year we cannot be taken for granted. This is a movement fed up with betrayals, and they've come one after the other.

Think back to 1988. Plenty of qualified conservatives -- Pete du Pont, Rep. Jack Kemp and Sen. Paul Laxalt, Pat Robertson (for evangelicals, anyway) -- were prepared to succeed President Ronald Reagan, but the GOP establishment, along with the professional political class, rallied around Vice President George H.W. Bush, an unthinkable proposition for conservatives just eight years earlier. After a listless campaign start, Bush finally energized the conservative base with his "No new taxes!" pledge at the Republican National Convention in New Orleans. We carried him to victory that November.

Within two years, he'd broken his promise and delivered one of the largest tax increases in history. His 1991 nomination of Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court, which pleased conservatives, had been preemptively neutralized by his selection of the liberal David H. Souter in 1990. After brilliantly executing the 1991 Persian Gulf War, he squandered a 91 percent approval rating. He did nothing to advance the conservative cause. He did not cut taxes. He did not rein in federal spending and regulation. He did nothing for social and cultural issues.

By 1992, we who had dined at the table of Ronald Reagan had been banished to the GOP kitchen.

Heck, think back to 1980. The guy conservatives helped elect that year passed record tax increases, set deficit spending records, appointed Sandra Day O'Connor, fled from Lebanon, negotiated with Iran and the USSR, saved Social Security instead of reforming it, not only kept the Education Dept he'd promised to abolish but added another cabinet department, passed the biggest immigration amnesty in history.... Reagan kept them at the kitchen table--they just thought they were guests of honor.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:53 PM


Who would the GOP rather face?: John McCain's strategists look on with amazement, and a little glee, as Hillary Clinton tries to make a comeback against Barack Obama. (Mike Madden, Mar. 10, 2008, Salon)

[R]epublicans already have a pretty clear road map for how to run against Hillary. (It's not as if it would be the first time she's been their nemesis.) Surveys and focus groups the RNC commissioned earlier in the year indicate voters think Clinton "will say or do anything to get elected" and that she'll raise their taxes. "Americans know Senator Clinton, and they know that they can't trust her," RNC spokesman Alex Conant said. Attacks might not even need to dredge up all the old battles of her husband's administration -- though, as the "socialized medicine" refrain that crept back into Republican talking points this year shows, the GOP does like to tie old lines into new ones. And a McCain-Clinton contest would pretty much end all the worries at McCain's Alexandria, Va., headquarters about how to unite Republicans behind him; just sending out an e-mail with "Hillary Clinton" in the subject line could probably raise him a few million bucks.

Which is why some Republicans sounded almost wistful as Obama won state after state in February. Deprived of one of their favorite punching bags of all time, they had to move on to another target, one who wasn't already familiar to many voters. The easy shots at Clinton would have to be shelved. "The political reality was, why would Republicans bother attacking her?" one GOP strategist said.

McCain's aides say now they don't know which one they'd rather face. "McCain and I have never been sure of that," Black said. "We've talked about it and looked at it, and we're not sure who's easier or that either of them is easier." So like most of the rest of the country (except, of course, Mississippians, Pennsylvanians and the residents of the other seven states and two U.S. possessions yet to vote), they're just watching. "There's nothing we can really do about it," Salter said. "To the extent we're paying attention to the dynamic, it's just giving us information that we need for our schedule -- how much time do we have to go out there and reintroduce McCain to the country and start doing policy speeches while those two are banging away at each other?"

The RNC, meanwhile, will handle the nastier end of things -- making sure that voters have at least some negative associations in their minds with whoever emerges with the Democratic nomination, whenever the race ends. But there, too, strategists seem content for now to let Clinton do their dirty work on Obama, or vice versa; why get in the way when your opponents' aides are calling each other monsters or saying they aren't ready to handle an international crisis?

From the GOP perspective, the race has taken an even weirder turn lately, with Obama lumping McCain and Clinton together in his speech Tuesday night after losing Texas and Ohio, calling them both opponents of his hope for change. Not to be outdone, Clinton implied Thursday that McCain was more qualified to be commander in chief than Obama.

One hopes that turn of phrase was intentional, because it expresses such deep contempt for the Obama candidacy. If accidental, it's even funnier.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:40 PM


At the forest’s edge (Anthony Daniels, March 2008, New Criterion)

In his essay, The Empire of the Ugly, the great Belgian Sinologist and literary essayist Simon Leys recounts the story of how, writing one day in a café, a small incident gave him an insight into the real nature of philistinism.

A radio was playing in the background, a mixture of banal and miscellaneous chatter and equally banal popular music. No one in the café paid any attention to this stream of tepid drivel until suddenly, unexpectedly and inexplicably, the first bars of Mozart’s clarinet quintet were played. “Mozart,” Leys says, “took possession of our little space with a serene authority, transforming the café into an antechamber of Paradise.”

The other people in the café, who until then were chatting, playing cards, or reading the newspaper, were not deaf to the radio after all. The music silenced them, they looked at each other, disconcerted. “Their disarray lasted only a few seconds: to the relief of all, one of them stood up, changed the radio station and re-established the flow of noise that was more familiar and comforting, which everyone could then properly ignore.”

Here is the conclusion that Leys draws:

At that moment, I was struck by an obvious fact that has never left me since: that the real philistines are not those people incapable of recognizing beauty—they recognize it only too well, with a flair as infallible as that of the subtlest aesthete, but only to pounce on it and smother it before it can take root in their universal empire of ugliness.

Thus philistinism is a positive, and not merely a negative, force: something that Leys was well-placed to recognize, having been almost alone among western Sinologists in pointing out the militant and vicious philistinism of Mao’s Cultural Revolution.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:11 PM


Americans poorer than a year ago (Rex Nutting, 3/06/08, MarketWatch)

The net worth of U.S. households fell by $533 billion, or a 3.6% annual rate, in the fourth quarter of 2007, the first time total wealth has fallen since late 2002, the Fed said.

For all of 2007, household net worth rose 3.4% to $57.7 trillion, the slowest growth in five years.

Yeah, we're paupers....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:30 PM


Unmanned drones controlled from the U.S. to drop bombs on Taliban for first time (MATTHEW HICKLEY, 9th March 2008, Daily Mail)

Britain's armed forces are sending pilotless "robot" strike aircraft into battle for the first time, allowing controllers sitting at a computer outside Las Vegas to drop guided bombs on the Taliban in Afghanistan.

The "Reaper" unmanned aerial vehicle marks a major watershed for the Royal Air Force and has been rushed into service after senior defence chiefs identified it as a vital weapon in the fight against Taliban insurgents.

Analysts believe that armed drones such as the £10million Reaper are the beginning of the end for human bomber and fighter pilots, and that increasingly sophisticated UAVs represent the future of aerial warfare.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:49 PM


The World Has Plenty of Oil (NANSEN G. SALERI, March 4, 2008, Wall Street Journal)

When will peak oil arrive? This widely accepted tipping point -- 50% of ultimately recoverable resources consumed -- is largely a tribute to King Hubbert, a distinguished Shell geologist who predicted the peak oil point for the U.S. lower 48 states. While his timing was very good (he forecast 1968 versus 1970 in fact), he underestimated peak daily production (9.5 million barrels actual versus eight million estimated).

But modern extraction methods will undoubtedly stretch Hubbert's "50% assumption," which was based on Sputnik-era technologies. Even a modest shift -- to 55% of recoverable resources consumed -- will delay the onset by 20-25 years.

Where do reasonable assumptions surrounding peak oil lead us? My view, subjective and imprecise, points to a period between 2045 and 2067 as the most likely outcome.

Cambridge Energy Associates forecasts the global daily liquids production to rise to 115 million barrels by 2017 versus 86 million at present. Instead of a sharp peak per Hubbert's model, an undulating, multi-decade long plateau production era sets in -- i.e., no sudden-death ending.

The world is not running out of oil anytime soon. A gradual transitioning on the global scale away from a fossil-based energy system may in fact happen during the 21st century. The root causes, however, will most likely have less to do with lack of supplies and far more with superior alternatives. The overused observation that "the Stone Age did not end due to a lack of stones" may in fact find its match.

The solutions to global energy needs require an intelligent integration of environmental, geopolitical and technical perspectives each with its own subsets of complexity. On one of these -- the oil supply component -- the news is positive. Sufficient liquid crude supplies do exist to sustain production rates at or near 100 million barrels per day almost to the end of this century.

Series of blunders turned the plastic bag into global villain (Alexi Mostrous , 3/08/08, Times of London)
They “don’t figure” in the majority of cases where animals die from marine debris, said David Laist, the author of a seminal 1997 study on the subject. Most deaths were caused when creatures became caught up in waste produce. “Plastic bags don’t figure in entanglement,” he said. “The main culprits are fishing gear, ropes, lines and strapping bands. Most mammals are too big to get caught up in a plastic bag.”

He added: “The impact of bags on whales, dolphins, porpoises and seals ranges from nil for most species to very minor for perhaps a few species.For birds, plastic bags are not a problem either.”

The central claim of campaigners is that the bags kill more than 100,000 marine mammals and one million seabirds every year. However, this figure is based on a misinterpretation of a 1987 Canadian study in Newfoundland, which found that, between 1981 and 1984, more than 100,000 marine mammals, including birds, were killed by discarded nets. The Canadian study did not mention plastic bags.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:42 PM


A high-rise that's raising blood pressure (LISA GRAY, 3/04/08, Houston Chronicle)

The high-rise would change the neighborhood socially, too. It's not that poorer residents would replace richer ones, or that the neighborhood has never hosted apartments: The Ashby high-rise would replace Maryland Manor, a modest low-rise complex whose denizens include Rice grad students. The high-rise would almost certainly command higher rents.

The social change would come with the building itself. Last year, Architectural Science Review published a survey of studies about the social and psychological effects that tall buildings have on their occupants. University of Victoria psychology professor Robert Gifford examined studies conducted over the past 50 years; he found little good to say about skyscrapers.

When researchers control for demographic and other quality-of-life factors, he wrote, most people found high-rises less satisfactory than other housing forms. Social relations were more impersonal in a high-rise, and high-rise occupants were less likely to engage in "helping behavior." They were also more likely to suffer crime.

In dry academic language, Gifford depicts a pointy-toothed skyscraper-monster.

Gifford didn't mention a study by Edward Glaeser of Harvard and Bruce Sacerdote of Dartmouth — probably because they're in economics, and he was examining the softer social sciences. For a paper they published in 2000, Glaeser and Sacerdote looked at high-rises' effects on political participation and crime.

On the phone, Sacerdote explains that high-rise people tend not to be as connected to their communities as people who live in houses or low-rise apartments. People who live in high-rises don't have to deal with irritations like sewer problems or road construction, he says; their building manager does that for them.

So it's not surprising that high-rise people are less likely to join a neighborhood association or become involved in local politics. Examining survey data, Sacerdote and Glaeser found that high-rise people were almost exactly as likely as house people to vote in a national election — but 17 percent less likely to vote in a local one. They're less likely to feel that a city is theirs.

To study high-rises' effects on crime, Glaeser and Sacerdote harvested data from the FBI's Uniform Crime Reports and controlled for factors including city size, victim's income, victim's race, victim's age and whether the high-rise was part of a public housing project. They found that, all other things being equal, living in a high-rise had no effect on the likelihood that you'd suffer a crime inside your home.

But the crime numbers showed a big difference outside, on the street. Living in a high-rise made you far more likely to be a victim of auto theft or robbery.

Such buildings have been useful to statists who prefer the population to be atomized and dependent on the bureaucracy rather than on each other.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:36 PM


Missing: The 'Right' Babies (KATHRYN JOYCE, March 3, 2008, The Nation)

Steve Mosher is telling me about wolves returning to the streets of European towns. Not as part of some Vermont-model wildlife-recovery scenario but as emblems of a harsh comeuppance mankind is due--they're stalking out of the forests like an ancient judgment, coming to claim mankind's ceded land. We're sitting in a sunny Main Street cafe in Front Royal, Virginia--a beautifying ex-industrial town in the Shenandoah Valley that, as the far edge of DC's suburban sprawl, is lately home to a surprising number of conservative Christian ministries. Mosher, president of the Catholic anticontraception lobbyist group Population Research Institute (PRI), describes his grim vision of Europe's future: fields will lie fallow and economies will wither. A great depression will sink over the continent as it undergoes "a decline that Europe hasn't experienced since the Black Death." The comeuppance has a name, one being fervently hawked among a group of Christian-right "profamily" activists hoping to spark a movement in secular Europe. It's called the "demographic winter," a more austere brand of apocalypse than doomsayers normally trade in, evoking not a nuclear inferno but a quiet and cold blanket of snow in which, they charge, "Western Civilization" is laying itself down to die.

How so? Europe is failing to produce enough babies--the right babies--to replace its old and dying. It's "the baby bust," "the birth dearth," "the graying of the