August 31, 2008

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:05 PM


Ferraro Happy About Palin, Won't Reveal for Whom She's Voting (Jake Tapper, August 31, 2008, POLITICAL PUNCH)

Former vice presidential nominee Geraldine Ferraro told National Public Radio's Jacki Lyden that she was happy to see Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin -- who mentioned Ferraro in her remarks Friday -- on the GOP ticket.

"For 24 years I've been saying, 'It's great to be the first, but y'know, I don't want to be the only,'" Ferraro said. "And so now it is wonderful to see a woman on a national ticket." [...]

As for whom Ferraro will vote, the former congresswoman from Queens, N.Y., said, "I'm like one of you people, I'm sitting here working on my, on my decision. Y'know I'm a Democrat and I am a person who feels very strongly about issues that are facing this country so when I go into the booth I will make my decision."

And you thought the Obama camp was angry about Hillary's favorable reaction? Can't these dang women stick to the talking points?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:01 PM


Dead Heat (Mark Halperin, August 31st, 2008, The Page)

From CNN/Opinion Research Center:
Obama 49, McCain 48

...might produce some bounce. It's almost as if we're worshiping false idols...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:08 PM


Questions for Bobby Jindal: The Convert (Interview by DEBORAH SOLOMON, 8/31/08, NY Times Magazine)

Did you always want to be in politics?

It was not something I anticipated doing. I always thought I’d go to medical school. I got accepted into medical school and did not end up going.

Where were you accepted?

At Harvard.

Wow. Why would someone with so much knowledge of biology sign a bill allowing the biblical story of Creation to be taught in science class?

Ah, the self-certainty of the 13%.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:51 PM


10 Questions for Tom Wolfe (Radhika Jones, 8/31/08, TIME)

What are your feelings on the current state of fiction? Andrew Herold, JOHANNESBURG

There's so little of it now that it's pathetic, and it's pathetic all over. Writers come from master-of-fine-arts programs now. If you add up the college education of Steinbeck, Hemingway and Faulkner, you get to spring break of freshman year.

When he puts it that way it raises the question whether the death of newspapers might not also be linked to all journalists now being college educated?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:15 PM


Biden On Palin: "She's Good Looking" (MIKE MEMOLI, 8/31/08, Hotline)

Joe Biden is already conceding one thing to Sarah Palin.

"Well there's obvious differences," he joked during a roundtable discussion on the economy this afternoon. "She's good looking."

The Fighter Pilot and the Moose Hunter: McCain’s V.P. pick has electrified the base—for good reason. (Lisa Schiffren, 31 August 2008, City Journal)

[P]alin worked her way up the political ladder, rising on talent (she’s likable and a good speaker) and incremental achievement. She didn’t marry into power, and no one handed her anything. This is what conservatives say they want in female and minority candidates for high office. Further, she’s a reformer and a Washington outsider in a year when, as Republicans know, their own party is part of the problem. She represents real “change,” to adopt a word of the moment, and for Reaganites who have been waiting for the first post-Reagan conservative generation to rise to power, Palin represents “hope” as well.

Now about that woman thing: some commentators object that Palin was chosen primarily as a sop to female voters, especially disaffected Hillary Clinton supporters. Well, of course the McCain campaign wants to entice those women to vote for the Republican ticket. Putting together coalitions is how elections are won. Women happen to be 52 percent of the electorate. Ignoring them, let alone insulting them as Barack Obama is perceived to have done, is politically foolish. Some worried that McCain would pick a token woman, such as Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas—she of the long Washington tenure, liberal Republican views, and few accomplishments (though she does look the part). Instead, he surprised many by picking Palin.

Is it irresponsible to put a half-term governor in the vice presidential slot? It depends on her record. But surely for a Washington novice, the vice presidency is more appropriate than the presidency. A half-term governor has more claim to leadership and experience than does a one-third-term U.S. senator who has risen through a big-city political machine. Palin is a woman of action, moreover, who has used her political capital at every stage to fight corruption and bad policy. It’s hard to find anyone in politics who does that; pols “save” their capital instead, as Obama has done by voting “present” on numerous occasions, lest spending it cost them something somewhere down the road. Her personal profile—raising five children, hunting, fishing, and being a real NRA member—make an appealing contrast with the overly cerebral, political calculations of those who merely hold positions and whose lives have been led in the service of their résumés.

Add to all this that Palin was a brilliant choice compared with everyone else McCain was considering.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:07 PM


McCain Scores Point in PR Wars: Unveiling of VP Pick Designed to Dim Post-DNC Buzz (Michael Bush, August 29, 2008,

The biggest news the day after the Democratic National Convention wasn't Barack Obama's electrifying speech or the fact that it drew a bigger TV audience than the opening ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics. By midday today, Mr. Obama's face had been replaced on the home page of nearly every major news outlet by a seemingly unknown bespectacled woman from Alaska waving her hand while John McCain grinned in the background. [...]

[Nick Ragone, senior VP-director of client development and author of three books on presidential history] said the key to the announcement was a clever "leak that there's going to be a leak" strategy from McCain's supporters. Reportedly, the McCain camp began whispering in the ears of reporters that there was going to be a leak about Mr. McCain's selection either right before or after Mr. Obama's speech. That leak never came, but it had the pundits guessing and waiting for most of the night.

"Then this morning they leaked it in dribs and drabs about who it wasn't going to be," said Mr. Ragone. "It truly was genius; it was a double-leak strategy that really took a lot of the energy out of Obama's speech. And then, to kick it off they went with Gov. Palin, which just blew it out of the water. You have to hand it to the McCain people, they played this brilliantly."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:12 PM


Iranian Conservative Attacks President on Economy (AP, 8/31/08)

A top conservative cleric close to Iran's supreme leader criticized the economic policies of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, saying they threaten to keep Iran from its goal of becoming a regional superpower by 2025.

The remarks by Ali Akbar Nateq Nouri, published Sunday, came just a week after supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei strongly backed Ahmadinejad, praising him for "standing up" to the West and urging him to plan for a second four-year term.

But Nateq Nouri, a confidant of Khamenei, said the strong support didn't mean the president was immune from criticism. And, according to his comments at a banking conference, Iran's economy is faltering.

...doesn't grow the economy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:07 PM


Obama: Palin against equal pay (Athena Jones, 8/31/08, First Read)

At an economy town hall here Sunday afternoon, Obama said his rival's pick for vice president was against equal pay for equal work.

“We're gonna make sure that equal pay for equal work is a reality in this country,” he said. “You know, John McCain's new VP nominee seems like a very engaging person, a nice person, but I've got to say, she's opposed like John McCain is to equal pay for equal work. That doesn't make much sense to me.”

Does she make less than Governor Murkowski did?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:56 PM


Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:41 PM


Diminishing Palin: How the left will try. (Dean Barnettm, 08/31/2008, Weekly Standard)

Starting with Gerald Ford, the inside-the-beltway class and its amplifiers in the media have routinely decided that Republicans who seek national office are dullards. Literally every Republican candidate for president since 1980 has had his intellect belittled. Even Bob Dole, a candidate who had spent decades proving his remarkable mental acuity in Congress, had to face such salvos because his age had allegedly dulled his mental edge. Sound vaguely familiar?

Of course, no such scrutiny greets Democratic candidates. Barack Obama can't make it through a 30 second extemporaneous statement on his campaign bus without a profusion of "ums" and "ahs." And yet Obama's stumbling diction has yet to interest his worshippers in the press the way that George H.W. Bush's periodic wrestling matches with the English language did. For those fortunate enough to have forgotten the 1988 presidential race, Michael Dukakis's principal talking point was that he was more competent, i.e. more intelligent, than Bush.

During the 2004 campaign, the New York Times's Howell Raines wrote, "Does anyone in America doubt that Kerry has a higher IQ than (George W.) Bush? I'm sure the candidates' SATs and college transcripts would put Kerry far ahead." Of course, Raines could have done some research before making such a sweeping statement, but that wouldn't have been nearly as enjoyable. Take it from one who knows--polemicizing is much more fun and much less work than analyzing.

If Raines had bothered with research, he would have found he was wrong on all counts. Kerry's college transcript which included four D's in his freshman year at Yale was a special embarrassment given that candidate Kerry had boasted about his serious pursuit of scholarship compared to the president's frat-boy frivolities. But in Raines's defense, how could he have known that research was necessary? Everyone understood that Kerry possessed a blazing intellect while Bush was some village's missing idiot. Everyone among the self-satisfied liberal media, anyway.

The pattern continues. When Barack Obama trotted out Washington warhorse Joe Biden as his vice presidential pick, the media immediately clucked "gravitas" and "experience." Okay, we can't deny the "experience" angle, as Biden has occupied a Senate seat since Obama was 11 years old. But one would think that "gravitas" would imply a political record noteworthy for more than just its length. Guys like Sam Nunn are respected by members of both parties; during his long stay in the senate, Nunn was always serious and often correct. Until Barack Obama plucked him out of tiny Delaware, Joe Biden's principal renown was for talking too much and saying too little.

And yet the media has credulously treated Biden as a serious figure, a courtesy they did not extend him during either of his presidential runs. One can only imagine how inquisitive reporters would handle a Republican nominee for vice-president who graduated 86th in his law school class of 95 as Biden did. As for Biden's unfortunate history with plagiarism, the less said the better. [...]

So in order to bring down Palin, her malefactors on the left will have to argue a lack of "readiness," which with the thinly credentialed Obama on the other ticket can only serve as a shorthand for lack of intelligence.

One of the main reasons that Intellectuals think there's something the matter with Kansas is that in every open election --and in a number featuring an incumbent--since at least the turn of the 20th century the candidate who is viewed as most intelligent has lost.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:39 PM


Palin's good for women - and not because she is one (S.E. CUPP, August 29th 2008, NY Daily News)

For the sake of this argument, let's pretend the attractive mother of five isn't a woman, and let's call her Sam.

Sam Palin has impeccable conservative credentials. He's a reformer, he's pro-life, he's for small and effective government and he's for drilling domestically, even if it's in his own state. He supports capital punishment and opposes same-sex marriage. He shocked eco-activists looking to put polar bears on the endangered species list by revealing that in his state, the population has actually risen. He's forceful with big oil companies, but, like McCain, wants to address climate change in serious ways.

Furthermore, he's likable. He's a family man. Sam hunts. Sam fishes. He plays with his kids, one of whom has Down syndrome.

And he was elected governor of Alaska as an antidote to government corruption and fiscal irresponsibility. He's found creative ways to bring money to his state (he sold a private jet belonging to the state on eBay for $2.7 million), and made $237 million in budget cuts.

Though he's only been governor for two years, he served as a mayor and city councilman since 1992. And of the three candidates on these national tickets - McCain, Barack Obama and Joe Biden - he's the only one to actually have run anything. Sam's been successful as a businessman, a mayor and a governor. He brings youth and an everyman appeal to the ticket, he softens McCain and he appeals to the conservative base.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:34 PM


Wrestling pioneer 'Killer' Kowalski dies at 81 ( , 8/30/08)

Kowalski, a 6-foot-7, 285-pound wrestler, earned his nickname in 1954 by dropping Yukon Eric during a match in Montreal. He became famous for various moves, including a grip called the "Killer Clutch."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:04 PM


Political Realities May Pose a Test to Obama’s Appeal to Young Voters (MICHAEL FALCONE, 8/31/08, NY Times)

Ian Bowman-Henderson scraped together $300 — cashing in his high school graduation checks — to pay for a round-trip plane ticket from Cincinnati to Denver for the Democratic National Convention. But as the week wore on, he said he was not sure if the money had been well spent.

Mr. Bowman-Henderson, 19, and some other young voters who were part of the nucleus of Mr. Obama’s presidential bid said the convention process had left them marginalized as more centrist views on issues like offshore drilling took hold.

“We understand the politics of compromise and that Senator Obama has to be the president of everyone, not just the president of youth,” Mr. Bowman-Henderson said. “But we picked him because we didn’t want the same kind of politics — that’s what set him apart.”

...was just another Northern liberal hack.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:01 PM


Alaska - Chabad Rabbi: Sarah Palin a Great Friend To The Jewish Community (VIN News, 8/31/08)

In light of recent media reports attempting to connect Republican VP nominee Gov. Sarah Palin with controversial historian and Nazi sympathizer Pat Buchanan, VIN News has learned that the Alaska governor has demonstrated strong support for Alaska’s Jewish community. In particular, Gov. Palin signed a resolution in June of 2008 recognizing Israel’s 60th anniversary and the unique relationship between Alaska and the Jewish State, especially the fact that Alaska Airlines played a critical role in the rescue of 40,000 Yemenite Jews in 1948 and 1949.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:57 AM


IT AIN'T SO, JOE (Celia Cohen, 8/31/08, Delaware Grapevine)

It was an unbearable turn of events, from one of the most daring political breakthroughs in Delaware political history to unspeakable grief, and there is no reason to make the accident appear worse than it was.

While campaigning in Iowa for the Democratic presidential nomination, however, Biden did.

“Let me tell you a little story,” he was quoted as saying last Friday in the New York Times.

“I got elected when I was 29, and I got elected November the 7th. And on December 18 of that year, my wife and three kids were Christmas shopping for a Christmas tree. A tractor-trailer, a guy who allegedly – and I never pursued it – drank his lunch instead of eating his lunch, broadsided my family and killed my wife instantly, and killed my daughter instantly, and hospitalized my two sons, with what were thought to be at the time permanent, fundamental injuries.”

Except there was no drinking. There was not even speeding. The truck’s brakes checked out, as well. It was not the driver’s fault.

...that Barrack Obama chose as his running mate a man who is not just a braggadocious blowhard but a pathological liar. Is there anything about him that isn't his own invention?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:46 AM


Check out this bit, which implicitly concedes the only thing the Unicorn Rider has ever run is his presidential campaign, though, you'd think the stories of him disavowing everything the staff does might be germane to even this bogus example.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:41 AM


Kerry attacks Palin as "Cheney-esque" (Martin Kady II, 8/31/08, Politico)

Democrats have come up with a new line of attack line against John McCain's running mate Sarah Palin, saying she's another Dick Cheney.

Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) described Palin as a member of the "flat-earth caucus," who McCain picked purely to please the conservative base.

They're gonna need a bigger padlock on the Cabana.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:28 AM


Taking command - The McCain way: Fiery style was forged as a young Navy officer (Scott Helman, August 31, 2008, Boston Globe)

It was a fleeting moment, but pure McCain - loyal, combative, disdainful of protocol. And it serves as a window into his first major experiment in leadership, a 27-month stint, from 1975 to 1977, as the second in command and then commanding officer of the Navy's largest air squadron. It was here, at Cecil Field in Jacksonville, that he tested his capacity to inspire, and to build a constructive Navy career after nearly 5 1/2 years of captivity in North Vietnam.

McCain led less by dry competence than by his outsize personality and the force of his reputation. Charismatic and combustible, McCain had a leadership style that was relatively unorthodox for the Navy, but he had never been one to stay within the lines. And while he initially hoped to rise through the Navy ranks, McCain, the son and grandson of admirals, was passed over for a higher command for reasons that remain unclear. His skills would lead him down another path.

Elements of the John McCain voters know today were evident during his command of the unit, a shore-based squadron known as VA-174 that trained pilots and maintained roughly 50 A-7 Corsair II attack jets. He answered to his own code of morality and justice. He showed empathy for people's hardships and personal failings. He was warm toward Navy men and women on his good side, and could explode at those who weren't.

In many cases, his creative approach to solving problems paid dividends; but his volatile personality, and his freewheeling social life, rubbed some people the wrong way.

In the end, McCain and his superiors both seemed to conclude that his skills were better suited to a politician than a Navy admiral.'s revealing that this is more executive experience than either of the guys on the other ticket bring to the table.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:37 AM


Troop ‘Surge’ Took Place Amid Doubt and Debate (MICHAEL R. GORDON, 8/31/08, NY Times)

When President Bush speaks to the Republican convention on Monday, he is expected to tout the “surge” of forces in Iraq as one of his proudest achievements. But that decision, one of his most consequential as commander in chief, was made only after months of tumultuous debate within the administration, according to still-secret memorandums and interviews with a broad range of current and former officials.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:49 AM


Ending Tyranny: The Past and Future of an Idea (John Lewis Gaddis, American Interest)

So what might shift contemporary impressions of President Bush? I can only speak for myself here, but something I did not expect was the discovery that he reads more history and talks with more historians than any of his predecessors since at least John F. Kennedy. The President has surprised me more than once with comments on my own books soon after they’ve appeared, and I’m hardly the only historian who has had this experience. I’ve found myself improvising excuses to him, in Oval Office seminars, as to why I hadn’t read the latest book on Lincoln, or on—as Bush refers to him—the “first George W.” I’ve even assigned books to Yale students on his recommendation, with excellent results. [...]

So is there a Bush Doctrine, and if so will it meet this test of transferability? To answer this question, I’d look first for a statement delivered in a suitably august setting: Durable doctrines don’t appear as casual comments. Then I’d look for one that’s clearly labeled as a policy, not as a portrayal of adversaries or an explanation of methods for dealing with them: That’s why terms like “Axis of Evil” or “preemption” don’t constitute doctrines. Finally—especially in an historically conscious president—I would look for historical echoes.

The speech that best fits these criteria is the one President Bush delivered from the steps of the Capitol on January 20, 2005. As a student of Lincoln, he would have attached special meaning to the term “second Inaugural Address.” That was the moment to draw lessons from a past extending well beyond his own, to apply them to a current crisis, and to project them into an uncertain future. And indeed the President did announce—in a single memorable sentence—that “it is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world.” [...]

If the Bush Doctrine was meant in that sense—if ending tyranny is now to be the objective of the United States in world affairs—then this would amount to a course correction away from the 20th-century idea of promoting democracy as a solution for all the world’s problems, and back toward an older concept of seeking to liberate people so they can solve their own problems. It could be a navigational beacon for the future that reflects more accurately where we started and who we’ve been.
Making Choices

It could be—but sometimes a speech is just a speech. If Bush meant to shift the direction of American foreign policy, he and his advisers have since been remarkably quiet about it.99. The most recent authoritative expression of Administration thinking, Condoleezza Rice, “Rethinking the National Interest: American Realism for a New World”, Foreign Affairs (July/August 2008), makes democracy promotion the top foreign policy objective, while assuming that the collapse of tyrannies will follow. The President did acknowledge, however, that ending tyranny would require “the concentrated work of generations”, and in doing so he implicitly recognized that it’s not just the presidents who give them who determine the significance of presidential pronouncements. How they are remembered is at least as important, and how they are later used is even more so: It’s worth recalling that the Monroe Doctrine was dormant for decades until subsequent Administrations saw fit to revive it.1010. The standard account is still Dexter Perkins’s three-volume The Monroe Doctrine, published between 1927 and 1937.

I think that future presidents should regard Bush’s second Inaugural as signaling a shift from promoting democracy to ending tyranny, as a call for an overdue correction of course. My reasons go back to another idea Berlin developed in his 1958 essay, which is that there is no such thing as a single good thing. There are multiple good things, and it isn’t always possible to have them all at the same time.

Democracy is clearly a good thing. But so, too, is freedom from anarchy, which is why states five centuries ago—none of them as yet democracies—first began organizing themselves. So, too, is personal security, which is why, even in democracies, we allow the state to use force when necessary to maintain order. So, too, is predictability in one’s dealings with others, which is why democracies have laws enforced by judges who act independently of popular sentiment. So, too, is economic sustainability: Democracy can hardly flourish when people are hungry.

The United States, as a mature democracy, has the luxury of enjoying all of these advantages simultaneously, but this was not always so. As Zakaria points out, democracy established itself in this country only after these other safeguards had been put in place, and it took even longer for this to happen in Great Britain, the country that invented representative government. Democracy did spread widely in the 20th century, but that was only because the British and later the Americans wielded their power in such a way as to secure its prerequisites, not least by fighting and winning three world wars, two hot and one cold.

Since the Cold War ended, the United States has neglected these prerequisites. There was no clearer demonstration of this than those three Iraqi elections of 2005, in which the citizens of that country risked their lives to go out and vote. That was, in one sense, moving and reassuring, a victory for democracy, you might say. But it was, in another sense, a defeat for democracy, because people should not have to risk their lives to go out and vote. The fact that they did so reflected a failure on the part of the United States, after invading Iraq, to lay the foundations necessary to ensure democracy’s survival there. It’s as if we’d tried to rebuild one of Saddam Hussein’s palaces without first securing its footings: The façade was impressive, but the cracks soon began to appear.

Nor has this error been confined to Iraq. We seem puzzled that democracy is not taking hold to the extent that we hoped it would elsewhere in the Middle East, as well as in Russia, China, Africa, and Latin America. The democratic tide that began rising with the end of the Cold War now appears to have crested and to be receding. But was it ever likely that democracy would root itself in those parts of the world where people fear anarchy more than they do authority? Where the struggle to survive is a more urgent priority than securing the right to vote? Where the immense power of the United States gives rise to greater uneasiness than it does reassurance?

That is why I think a return to our roots is called for. Promoting democracy without its prerequisites can only breed disappointment abroad and disillusionment at home. It suggests that we think we know better than other people do what is best for them—and it too often confirms that we do not. It leaches legitimacy from our priorities.

But only tyrants are apt to defend tyranny. A focus on ending it could move us beyond distracting debates over where democracy can be transplanted and how long this might take, allowing concentration instead upon the single greatest prerequisite for democracy, which, as Franklin D. Roosevelt once reminded us, is freedom from fear. It is from this that all the other freedoms flow.

Since World War II, international law has moved toward recognizing this principle. From the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, through the Helsinki Final Act of 1975, through the emergence over the past decade of a widely acknowledged “Responsibility to Protect”, the old assumption that sovereignty shields tyranny has been discredited—whatever the practices of a few regimes like those in Sudan, Myanmar and Zimbabwe. The fact that there are so few suggests the progress already made: A global commitment to remove remaining tyrants could complete a process Americans began 232 years ago.

This, then, should be our standard: to respect the ways in which people elsewhere define their fears, not to impose our own fears upon them. That may mean working with authoritarian regimes when there is more to fear than their authoritarianism—when the trajectory is toward making democracy possible, even if it’s still a long way off. But it also requires resisting regimes—and terrorist movements—whose course lies in the opposite direction: toward making themselves the source of all fears, rather than the safeguard against them. Tyranny is being enslaved to fear, and it will be quite enough, for the next few decades at least, to secure emancipation. is vital to keep in mind that Ronald Reagan would be considered a failure if the Soviet Union still existed or had expanded. Of course, Reagan's point was it wouldn't and couldn't. What he grasped but none of the Realists did was that Communism happens not to work. In order to believe that Reagan could have failed you have to be, to some extent, a Marxist.

Similarly, W will be remembered as a success so long as the Islamic world continues its perfectly predictable evolution towards liberal democratic protestant capitalism--an evolution that was artificially arrested by post-WWI colonialism and the post WWII decision to prop up dictatorships, both of which denied people self-determination--and doesn't become Islamicist. Of course, to believe that Mr. Bush could fail you have to be, to some extent, a believer in the efficacy of Islamicism.

The truth of the matter is that British generals and American Presidents get credit for winning the various battles of the Long War even though none of them were losable: the trick is just to be there at the right time and to declare that you intend to win. History takes care of the rest.

The Final Days (PETER BAKER, 8/31/08, NY Times Magazine)

George Bush does not want anyone feeling bad for him. Hates the idea, in fact. Why should anyone feel bad for him? He knew what he was getting into, and he is doing what he thinks is right. But as he enters the twilight of his presidency, he finds it both a liberating and a deeply frustrating time.

With the war in Iraq finally going better, the dark cloud that dominated the White House for the past few years has lifted. The overnight reports Bush finds on his Oval Office desk each morning now list fewer casualties in Iraq, easing a burden friends say has weighed on him. It now looks as if the surge, one of the riskiest presidential decisions in a generation, has been vindicated. And Bush seems to be making progress getting North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons while winning a string of Congressional battles that would under other circumstances be seen as legacy victories — a bipartisan deal on wiretapping, war financing without strings, expansion of his global AIDS program.

As a result, friends say that Bush, who just turned 62, has been looser lately, more relaxed, more willing to joke around and even do a little dance for the cameras from time to time. He sees the end and has been thinking about life after the White House back down at the ranch and a in new home in Dallas. “You can hear his Texas accent creeping back into his voice, rather than the I’m-the-president, no-accent kind of voice,” observed an old friend from Texas.

Yet there are no valedictory days for Bush. For years, he got no credit for a long-running economic recovery, in part because of popular anger over Iraq. Now, it seems, he gets no credit for the improvements in Iraq because of deep discontent over the tattered economy. Housing and energy crises have only deepened public disaffection. While Iraq stabilizes, Afghanistan seems to be unraveling. Russia has been rampaging through its neighbor Georgia, undeterred by Bush’s consternation. As John Weaver told me, “They look better on Iraq, but they look worse on everything else.” So many onetime loyalists have turned on the president that when the former White House press secretary Scott McClellan came out with his break-with-the-boss book in May, Bush sighed and told an aide to find a way to forgive him or risk being consumed with anger.

The General’s Dilemma: David Petraeus, the pressures of politics, and the road out of Iraq. (Steve Coll September 8, 2008 , The New Yorker)
General Petraeus commands the war from a lakeside palace built by Saddam Hussein in 1992. Modular office cubicles now fill its five dozen marble-floored bedrooms. The General occupies a high-ceilinged room furnished with a mahogany desk and conference table, video screens, flags, and wall-mounted maps. (He also maintains a smaller office at the U.S. Embassy in the International Zone, formerly known as the Green Zone, in central Baghdad.) When I visited him in late July, Petraeus seemed reflective, open, and at times even wistful about the approaching end of his third Iraq tour.

The challenges of civil-military relations that he must manage these days are considerably less intense than they were a year ago, principally owing to the decline of violence in Iraq under his command. Iraq today is a far from stable or normal country: about two million refugees remain outside its borders; nearly three million remain displaced within the country; and car bombs periodically kill and maim civilians. Yet it is a much more peaceful place than it was last summer. The number of daily attacks recorded by the U.S. military has fallen from a peak of about a hundred and eighty in June, 2007, to about twenty in early August of this year. Violent deaths of Iraqi civilians, while difficult to measure, have also dropped steeply, although the figure remains high: about five hundred per month, at a conservative estimate. Fatalities among U.S. military personnel have declined from a hundred and twenty-six in May, 2007, to just thirteen this past July, the lowest total of any month since the war began, in March, 2003.

The surge was designed to change Iraqi politics by providing the security needed to induce a national reconciliation; this has not occurred, although there has been progress of a tentative nature. In the United States, however, the surge has had more obvious political effects. The Iraq war is no longer the most important issue on the minds of voters (the economy is), and election-year debate about the war, formerly an argument about strategic failure, now must also account for provisional successes.

Indeed, because of the reductions in Iraq’s violence, General Petraeus has been cast in the Presidential campaign’s emerging narrative as a sort of Mesopotamian oracle, one that must be consulted or honored by the two remaining candidates. In July, Senator Barack Obama went to Iraq and saw the General; he was rewarded, courtesy of Petraeus’s energetic press aides, with an iconic photograph, printed in many dozens of newspapers, which showed the Senator aboard a command helicopter, smiling confidently at the General’s side. A few weeks later, Senator John McCain, while speaking at a nationally televised forum hosted by the evangelist Rick Warren, invoked Petraeus as one of the three wisest people he knew; McCain called the General “one of the great military leaders in American history.” Afterward, on the campaign trail, the Republican Senator attacked Obama for not being as staunch an acolyte of Petraeus as McCain has been.

Within the Army itself, as the field commander who has presided over the only sustained drop in Iraq’s death toll since the war began, Petraeus has become the most influential general of his era. Recently, the Army Secretary asked him to chair a panel to select about two per cent of the Army’s full colonels for promotion to brigadier or one-star general; through this assignment, Petraeus helped to identify the men and women who will lead the institution for the next decade or more. The National Defense Strategy paper issued by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates this summer bears the imprint of Petraeus’s ideas about military doctrine, particularly his belief that the Army must organize itself to be as competent at stabilizing impoverished countries as it is at high-intensity combat. Beginning in mid-September, as the leader of CENTCOM—Central Command—the General will oversee all U.S. military forces between Pakistan and Egypt and attempt to apply lessons from his Iraq campaign to the intensifying war in Afghanistan.

Petraeus’s influence has spread within the Pentagon even as some military officers continue to debate exactly why violence in Iraq has declined, how the role of the surge should be interpreted, and how its strategic costs should be assessed. This internal discourse is not widely publicized; it takes place in privately circulated white papers and in specialty periodicals such as Small Wars Journal. One of its provocateurs is Colonel Gian Gentile, a historian at West Point, who has served two tours in Iraq, most recently in 2006, as a cavalry squadron commander in Baghdad; he argues that Petraeus’s command has had only a marginal effect on events, and that the recent fall-off in violence has been due mostly to local causes, such as a decision by Sunni tribes to turn against Al Qaeda, which began before the added deployments. “If we convince ourselves that it was the surge that was the primary cause for the lowering of violence, that may convince us that we can tackle another problem like Iraq in the future and have the same results,” Gentile told me. “It pushes us into a sort of dogmatic view of ourselves.”

Gentile’s view represents a minority dissent within the Army, but it reflects the persistence of debate about the war’s implications among the military professionals who have borne its burdens. The surge is a particularly complex subject; the term is not easy to define, because the scope of Petraeus’s command has encompassed much more than the deployment of additional American combat troops, as ordered by Bush. These days, when “the surge” is employed as a shorthand label, it is usually intended to refer also to the application of new battlefield tactics by Petraeus and his commanders, and to the political work carried out by the General and Ambassador Ryan Crocker during 2007 and 2008. (Crocker arrived in Iraq shortly after Petraeus, in early 2007, and they have worked together closely.) By that broader definition, many independent analysts and, by now, many Democrats, including Obama, credit Petraeus and the surge for the relative quiet in Iraq. The General’s command has certainly benefitted from unplanned events—the turn by Sunni tribes, above all. And yet “it was Petraeus who had the wit to seize on that and exploit it,” Toby Dodge, a British political scientist who has occasionally advised the General, said.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:42 AM


Obama Amid the Pillars Of an Ancient Culture (Philip Kennicott, 8/31/08, Washington Post)

Is race involved in the criticism of Obama's "temple"? Perhaps.

Consider an academic debate that roiled classical studies in the 1980s and '90s. This was the "Black Athena" controversy, which centered on claims of Martin Bernal -- a professor of ancient Eastern Mediterranean cultures -- that Greek culture was essentially cribbed from Afro-Asiatic roots. Bernal's book is not held in high repute today, but it fostered an important debate about the role of racism in classical studies.

The vitriol of the discussion also demonstrated the extent to which "classical" culture is equated with "white" culture, even on the most superficial level: white temples, white statues, white marble. Which turns out, of course, to be an illusion of history. Greek temples and statues were routinely painted with vibrant colors.

Efforts to use race against Obama often have centered on a stark juxtaposition of architectural ideas with Obama's blackness: One cartoon circulating on the Internet shows Obama painting the White House black; the controversial July 21 New Yorker cartoon in which he appeared as a terrorist inside the White House, rendered the Oval Office with precise neoclassical details: an arched alcove, molding and wainscoting.

The debate, then, isn't about arrogance, or Greek gods, or hubris. It's about whether Obama can lay claim to an architecture, and a culture, that is perceived as both our collective inheritance, yet is also deeply coded as European and white.

Whereas our analysis of the Unicorn Rider in the temple was a joke, this one's apparently serious. Of course, if the GOP released an image of Barrack Obama in an obviously ancient Greek setting Mr. Kennicott would claim it was homophobic.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:59 AM


White House: Bush Unlikely to Attend GOP Convention Due to Hurricane Gustav (Fox News, August 31, 2008)

The White House says it is unlikely that President Bush will attend the Republican National Convention on Monday as scheduled because of concerns about Hurricane Gustav. better believe he'll take advantage of the opportunity not to give Democrats ammo at the convention.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:43 AM


Vice in Go-Go Boots? (MAUREEN DOWD, 8/31/08, NY Times)

It’s easy to see where this movie is going. It begins, of course, with a cute, cool unknown from Alaska who has never even been on “Meet the Press” triumphing over a cute, cool unknowable from Hawaii who has been on “Meet the Press” a lot.

Americans, suspicious that the Obamas have benefited from affirmative action without being properly grateful, and skeptical that Michelle really likes “The Brady Bunch” and “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” reject the 47-year-old black contender as too uppity and untested.

Instead, they embrace 72-year-old John McCain and 44-year-old Sarah Palin, whose average age is 58, a mere two years older than the average age of the Obama-Biden ticket.

...she does sound a tad bitter that she's going to have to go full-on Cougar to get anyone to notice her instead of the vp at the next White House Correspondents Dinner.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:28 AM


So the Left appears to have settled on three rumors about Sarah Palin, but I have to confess I don't even understand how any of them are supposed to hurt her or help Obama:

(1) that the Palin's married eight months before the birth of their first child.

Okay, wouldn't the point be that they got married and had the kid?

(2) that Trig Palin isn't her child, but her daughter's.

Suppose that this were true, wouldn't people just find Ms Palin even more remarkable for not just having her daughter bring the child to term but then raising him herself? Contrast that to Barrack Obama's expressed wish to help kill such a "mistake".

(3) that Trig is Ms Palin's son but his Down Syndrome was caused by how hard she works.

There you go, that'll go over great with working women, huh?

Why not go after the one genuine scandal, that she wanted the psycho who threatened to kill family members and tasered her nephew fired frm the State Troopers?, Long-Standing Feud in Alaska Embroils Palin (James V. Grimaldi and Kimberly Kindy, 8/31/08, Washington Post)

The trouble between Wooten and the governor's sister broke into the open after an alleged incident in February 2005. Palin told an internal affairs investigator that she overheard on a speakerphone Wooten arguing with her sister and threatening to kill their father. Fearful for her family members' lives, Palin said she drove to her sister's house and watched the argument through a window.

"Wooten's words were, 'I will kill him. He'll eat a [expletive] lead bullet, I'll shoot him,' if our father got the attorney to help Molly," Palin said in an e-mail she wrote in August 2005 to the chief of the state police. "I heard this death threat, my 16-year-old son heard it (Track Palin), Molly heard it, as did their small children. Wooten spoke with his Trooper gun on his hip in an extremely intimidating fashion, leaving no doubt he is serious about taking someone's life who disagrees with him."

According to the e-mail, the alleged argument occurred after Palin's sister, who uses her previous married name of Molly McCann, questioned Wooten about her husband attending a trooper-sponsored event in January with another woman. There is no record of police charging Wooten for the alleged threat. Through his attorney, Wooten declined to comment for this article.

On the day that the governor's younger sister filed for divorce -- April 11, 2005 -- Palin's father, Chuck Heath, a retired teacher then in his late 60s, called state police to file a complaint about Wooten. He handed the phone to his daughter Molly, who told state police that her husband had threatened her father's life and had drunk beer while driving his police vehicle home. Later, she told police that Wooten had shot a "cow moose" without a license and Tasered his 10-year-old stepson.

A month later, Sarah Palin, then chairing the state oil and gas commission, was interviewed by a state police investigator about the argument. She told investigators that when she arrived at the house she could see Wooten "waving his arms." She said she thought, "He is gonna blow it." She said she left for a meeting without calling police.

On Aug. 10, 2005, Palin sent an angry, three-page e-mail to Col. Julia Grimes, head of the state police. "My concern is that the public's faith in the Troopers will continue to diminish as more residents express concerns regarding the apparent lack of action towards a Trooper whom is described by many as 'a ticking time bomb' and a 'loose cannon.' "

Palin noted, "Wooten is my brother-in-law, but this information is forwarded to you objectively," and asked Grimes to treat the information objectively.

Keeping Wooten on the police force, Palin wrote, "would lead a rational person to believe there is a problem inside the organization."

She characterized Wooten as a hard-drinking bully who held himself above the law and threatened her family.

The Palin Breakout (Hugh Hewitt, 8/31/08, Townhall)

Scan the lefty blogs and you will see furious, even unhinged, attacks on Governor Palin.

-Choice of Sarah Palin energizes California delegates: 'She's a hero for us,' says one, as they arrive in Minnesota for the Republican National Convention. (Dan Morain, 8/31/.08, Los Angeles Times)
[O]n Friday, [Mike Spence, head of the California Republican Assembly] was in the hotel banquet room with the Council on National Policy, the influential group of religious and other conservatives, when Palin's selection was announced. Like others there, he stood and applauded. "This energizes disaffected Republicans," Spence said. "This is exactly the message of change that was needed."

California's Republican Party long has been split into conservative and moderate factions. Moderates tended to embrace McCain. Conservatives were critical. Whether the state's most conservative Republicans would fall in line behind McCain had been in doubt. Not now, though, with Palin on his ticket.

Several delegates cited Palin's decision to have a baby, 4-month-old Trig, knowing he had Down syndrome.

"We have a lot of pro-life rhetoric," said delegate Tom Bordonaro, the San Luis Obispo County assessor. "She has been there and made the choice. She made the choice for life."

Delegate Miryam Mora, 26, will be voting for the first time in November, having gained citizenship a few months ago. Mora grew up in El Monte, the daughter of migrant farm and garment workers, and was the first in her family to graduate from college.

She is taking leave from her job to volunteer full-time for McCain. When McCain selected Palin, Mora became more certain that she had made the right choice in supporting the Republican ticket. "I'm so amazed by her story," she said, noting that Palin is a mother of five, was involved in the PTA and "took on her party" by running against Gov. Frank Murkowski.

Her decision to have Trig affected Mora too: "She was faced with a decision of having an abortion, and she decided she was going to be there for him. . . . It shows a lot about her character."

The Left is objecting to her choice of life where Obama would have opted for death.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:23 AM


Why John McCain's beauty queen running mate has a grizzly bear on her office wall (Caroline Graham, 31st August 2008, Daily Mail)

They are not the accoutrements normally associated with an American vice-presidential candidate. First, there is the snarling grizzly bear skin draped over the sofa in her Anchorage office.

Then there is the large stuffed Alaskan king crab on the coffee table, a bizarre trophy that is one of her proudest possessions.

But former beauty queen Sarah Palin, who will become America’s first female vice-president if the Republicans win November’s election, is hardly your typical politician.[...]

Last December, Sarah posed for Vogue magazine but Sally said: ‘I didn’t really like the pictures. They had her in fur. She looked too glamorous. The Sarah I know is the girl in sweatpants, her baby in her arms.

‘Sarah doesn’t really wear make-up. She’s much more at home with a gun than a mascara wand.’

...than former Vice President Teddy Roosevelt:

Palin electrifies conservative base (JONATHAN MARTIN | 8/31/08, Politico)

The selection of Sarah Palin as John McCain’s running mate has electrified conservative activists, providing a boost of energy to the GOP nominee-in-waiting from a key constituency that had been previously had been lukewarm – at best – about him.

By tapping the anti-abortion and pro-gun Alaska governor just ahead of his convention, which is set to start here Monday, McCain hasn’t just won approval from a skeptical Republican base – he’s ignited a wave of elation and emotion that has led some grassroots activists to weep with joy.

Serious questions remain about McCain’s pick – exactly how much he knows about her and her positions, past and present, on key issues. But for the worker bee core of the party that is essential to any Republican victory there are no doubts.

In fairness to Senators Obama and Biden, we wept at that vp selection too.

Palin Made an Impression From the Start: Fellow Maverick Survived McCain's Thorough Vetting Process, Aides Say (Dan Balz and Robert Barnes, 8/31/08, Washington Post)

Their first encounter was last February at the National Governors Association meeting in Washington. Sarah Palin was one of several governors who met privately with Sen. John McCain, by then well on his way to capturing the Republican presidential nomination, and her directness and knowledge were impressive.

Later that day, at a largely social gathering organized by his campaign, McCain spent 15 minutes in private conversation with the first-term Alaska governor. "I remember him talking about her when he came back," a McCain adviser said. "He said she was an impressive woman. He liked her."

But few people outside McCain's inner circle were privy to just how much of an impression Palin had made that day.

In the months of speculation over whom McCain would pick as his vice presidential running mate, Palin's name occasionally surfaced but rarely as a serious choice. But by the time she arrived in Arizona last Wednesday to meet first with two top McCain advisers and then the next day with the candidate and his wife, Cindy, the job was hers to lose.

McCain's VP pick stirs excitement, bafflement among women (Lisa Wangsness, August 31, 2008, Boston Globe)
At the Minnesota State Fairgrounds in St. Paul, which will host the Republican National Convention this week, women in this critical swing state expressed a range of first impressions. There was genuine excitement that a woman could become vice president. There was bafflement that McCain picked someone with so little experience to join his ticket, even anger from those who viewed the choice as clumsy tokenism.

But two things were clear: The 44-year-old Palin intrigued them as much as any vice presidential pick could have, and few know enough about Palin to have a real opinion.

-Palin Pick Makes Everyone Happy (Reid Wilson, 8/31/08, Real Clear Politics)
[B]y picking Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, a little-known fiscal and social conservative just two years into her first term, John McCain executed that rare political feat: He made everybody happy.

Reactions from Republicans across the spectrum were not just positive, they were downright ecstatic. Movement conservatives and professional strategists frequently find themselves disagreeing on what is best politically, but Palin is one of the rare points of agreement.

-Sarah Palin -- Dream Girl (Debra Saunders, 8/31/08, Real Clear Politics)

For weeks, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has been the Republican whom conservatives barely dared to hope could become John McCain's pick as his running mate. [...]

Is she short on experience? Yes. Voters will have to watch her performance on the campaign trail to judge how she responds to high-stakes politics and the international arena.

That said, as a governor, Palin she has more experience running a government than Obama, who began serving his first term in the U.S. Senate in 2005. And unlike Obama, Palin has shown herself willing to challenge her jaded ethical policies within her party. That's change.

As McCain said Friday, Palin is "exactly who this country needs" to help him confront "the same old Washington politics of me first and country second."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:20 AM


Prose watch: Obama acceptance speech (VICTORIA MCGRANE & HARRY SIEGEL | 8/30/08, Politico)

Here’s Politico’s past-due look at those points in Obama's speech where the poetry and prose diverge on closer examination. Of course, McCain will be coming in for the same treatment shortly. [...]

Health care

Now is the time to finally keep the promise of affordable, accessible health care for every single American. If you have health care, my plan will lower your premiums. If you don't, you'll be able to get the same kind of coverage that members of Congress give themselves. And as someone who watched my mother argue with insurance companies while she lay in bed dying of cancer, I will make certain those companies stop discriminating against those who are sick and need care the most.

Now is the time to help families with paid sick days and better family leave, because nobody in America should have to choose between keeping their jobs and caring for a sick child or ailing parent.

The space here, as was revisited ad nauseam during the primary, is between “affordable [and] accessible” and “universal.”

The Tax Policy Center, a nonpartisan joint venture of the Urban Institute and the Brookings Institution, estimates that Obama’s plan would reduce the uninsured by 18 million in 2009 and 34 million in 2018, which would still leave 34 million Americans without coverage.

The Obama campaign says the plan will save a typical American family up to $2,500 a year and will cost $50 billion to $65 billion a year (about $200 per American) once it’s up and running. The Tax Policy Institute estimates his plan will cost $1.6 trillion over 10 years — while stressing that’s their best guess based on what is, after all, campaign poetry, not governing prose.

His campaign says that he can cover the up-front costs of implementing his plan with the new federal funds that would come in by allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire, and it also says that costs would be reduced through the administrative savings in the health care system it would create. (Solid rule of thumb: “New administrative efficiencies” offered by candidates amount to “number a staffer half-guessed, then multiplied by three.”) [...]

Paying for it all

Now, many of these plans will cost money, which is why I've laid out how I'll pay for every dime — by closing corporate loopholes and tax havens that don't help America grow. But I will also go through the federal budget, line by line, eliminating programs that no longer work and making the ones we do need work better and cost less — because we cannot meet 21st-century challenges with a 20th-century bureaucracy.

As with almost all politicians, the how-I’ll-pay-for-it bit is understandably less verbose than the what-I’ll-buy-you list.

Even so, this is a particularly pain-free promise for a politician who otherwise likes to stress that “this won’t be easy."

According to an Aug. 28 report by the Tax Policy Center, “Both John McCain and Barack Obama have proposed tax plans that would substantially increase the national debt over the next 10 years.”

And while ending corporate loopholes and tax havens has long been a popular proposal on Capitol Hill, it has remained something politicians can promise to end precisely because it's not ended so easily. Not only do the groups that benefit from the tax code fight against changing it, but when it does change, there’s invariably a new loophole to fit through.

And, business groups would add, changing laws to increase revenue amounts to a business tax hike by another name.

Finally, two other notable omissions: His speech made no mention of his call to eliminate tax breaks for oil and gas companies or to create a new windfall profits tax for them.

This was the speech where the Unicorn Rider was finally going to spell out in detail what his airy rhetoric means in concrete policy terms, so let's read the speech as if it were a legislative/governing agenda and see what the change is he's talking about, Sen. Barack Obama Addresses Denver National Convention at Invesco Field (August 28, 2008)

So -- so let me -- let me spell out exactly what that change would mean if I am president. [...]

I'll eliminate capital gains taxes for the small businesses and start-ups that will create the high-wage, high-tech jobs of tomorrow.

I will -- listen now -- I will cut taxes -- cut taxes -- for 95 percent of all working families, because, in an economy like this, the last thing we should do is raise taxes on the middle class.

Outstanding! George W. Bush has cut taxes every year of his presidency, it'd be nice to continue the trend. Further complexifying an already Byzantine tax code is unfortunate--you'd probably save those businesses more by simplification than by cuts--but we take what we can get. We're a bit confused though, because Mr. Obama is a sitting Senator and if he just submitted the bill to do this the GOP would happily help him pass it. What's he waiting for?

And for the sake of our economy, our security, and the future of our planet, I will set a clear goal as president: In 10 years, we will finally end our dependence on oil from the Middle East. [...]

As president, as president, I will tap our natural gas reserves, invest in clean coal technology, and find ways to safely harness nuclear power. I'll help our auto companies re-tool, so that the fuel-efficient cars of the future are built right here in America.

I'll make it easier for the American people to afford these new cars.

OBAMA: And I'll invest $150 billion over the next decade in affordable, renewable sources of energy -- wind power, and solar power, and the next generation of biofuels -- an investment that will lead to new industries and 5 million new jobs that pay well and can't be outsourced.

Excellent. You can hardly ask for better than a Democrat who's willing to build so many nuclear plants that we stop importing oil. Unfortunately, he's picked the worst way to innovate, having the feds pick and choose new technologies, rather than just using gas taxes to create an incentive for open innovation. And helping people buy cars seems not just a dubious way to reduce energy consumption but an awfully big corporate subsidy.

I'll invest in early childhood education. I'll recruit an army of new teachers, and pay them higher salaries, and give them more support. And in exchange, I'll ask for higher standards and more accountability.
W hasn't really left him any choice on this one, has he? NCLB has been so successful that standards and accountability are here to stay.
And we will keep our promise to every young American: If you commit to serving your community or our country, we will make sure you can afford a college education.
The reason college is so expensive is that it's one of the most heavily subsidized industries in America, so tossing more federal money at schools seems counterproductive, particularly given the fact that the sheer numbers of people attending college already demonstrates that it is, if anything, too affordable. But National Service is a nice enough idea and if you have to use college money as an inducement and aren't willing to just make it compulsory so be it. Charlie Rangel may have something to say about that though.
Now -- now is the time to finally keep the promise of affordable, accessible health care for every single American.

If you have health care -- if you have health care, my plan will lower your premiums. If you don't, you'll be able to get the same kind of coverage that members of Congress give themselves.

And -- and as someone who watched my mother argue with insurance companies while she lay in bed dying of cancer, I will make certain those companies stop discriminating against those who are sick and need care the most.

Let's take Paul Krugman's word for it that Mr. Obama's health plan costs about $4400 per newly insured person and grant Democrats the benefit of the doubt that people without coverage both need it and can't afford it. That much money would buy them catastrophic health and fund an HSA which would allow them to acquire wealth even as it provided a health care safety net. That would seem preferable to just transferring money from taxpayers to insurance companies and a health care industry that's already consuming more and more of our GDP. Giving folks an incentive to save their money rather than waste it on bogus tests -- as well as gving providers an incentive to lower the costs of such tests -- would even help reduce the nation's medical bill.

Now is the time to help families with paid sick days and better family leave, because nobody in America should have to choose between keeping their job and caring for a sick child or an ailing parent.
Why not? We know the Democrats are the materialist party but do they really consider jobs and human relationships coequal? It seems especially odd to be making it more burdensome--both in regulatory and monetary terms--to employee people at a time when even countries like France are trying to make it less so because they've crippled their own economies.
Now is the time to change our bankruptcy laws, so that your pensions are protected ahead of CEO bonuses, and the time to protect Social Security for future generations.
Not much by way of specifics there, but it seems fair to ask both why the CEO's pension should be protected but not his bonus and why a Social Security program that was designed eight decades ago should be preserved as is. Isn't Mr. Obama supposed to be the candidate of change? How about just applying the market principles that are now universally accepted in order to make SS into a modern program?
And now is the time to keep the promise of equal pay for an equal day's work, because I want my daughters to have the exact same opportunities as your sons.
A certain absence of specifics there too. Equal pay is easy enough to define but what makes work "equal"? And notice the switch he pulls there, changing from equality of compensation to equality of opportunity? What job is it that his daughter isn't allowed to do but your son is?
Now, many of these plans will cost money, which is why I've laid out how I'll pay for every dime: by closing corporate loopholes and tax havens that don't help America grow.
No matter Mr. Obama's reputation for naivete, let's give him the benefit of the doubt and assume that this absurd claim is a function of cynicism rather than a genuine belief that there are hundreds of billions of dollars a year just waiting to fall into his lap by closing a few loopholes. Not that it really matters which taxes he raises to get this money--we all end up paying for it sooner or later as the corporations pass the increased costs on to us. Making the vtaxes less direct just makes them less efficient.
But I will also go through the federal budget line by line, eliminating programs that no longer work and making the ones we do need work better and cost less, because we cannot meet 21st-century challenges with a 20th-century bureaucracy.
The Court already ruled the line-item veto unconstitutional, so maybe he means he'll amend said document or appoint judges who read it differently?

As commander-in-chief, I will never hesitate to defend this nation, but I will only send our troops into harm's way with a clear mission and a sacred commitment to give them the equipment they need in battle and the care and benefits they deserve when they come home.

I will end this war in Iraq responsibly and finish the fight against Al Qaida and the Taliban in Afghanistan. I will rebuild our military to meet future conflicts, but I will also renew the tough, direct diplomacy that can prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons and curb Russian aggression.

W, Maverick, and General Petraeus haven't left him much choice as regards Iraq: how would he continue a war that's already won and winding down?

And we know diplomacy alone doesn't either stop nuclear proliferation or aggression. His suggestion that it does can't help but call his judgment into question.

We may not agree on abortion, but surely we can agree on reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies in this country.
One of the signal achievements of the past couple of decades has been driving down the number of abortions, to the point where there are now fewer than at any time since 1974, when Roe was still a shiny new toy that held out the promise of bringing eugenics to the ghetto and ridding us of the poor. But given Senator Obama's stated desire to abort his own grandchildren if his daughters don't want them, his rhetoric about reducing "unwanted pregnancies" seems a summons back to the culture of death.
The -- the reality of gun ownership may be different for hunters in rural Ohio than they are for those plagued by gang violence in Cleveland, but don't tell me we can't uphold the Second Amendment while keeping AK-47s out of the hands of criminals.
We'll set aside for now the curious implication that blacks in the inner city have different rights that rural whites, and just note that he favors gun control of some sort or another.
I know there are differences on same-sex marriage, but surely we can agree that our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters deserve to visit the person they love in a hospital and to live lives free of discrimination.
Why? If people should be free to make some aberrant choices with their lives (though presumably even Mr. Obama would place limits on how far they can deviate from the norms) why oughtn't we be free to treat them differently on the basis of those decisions? No one much cares if you go and visit your partner at St. Joseph's Hospital, but why should St. Joseph's Church have to employ you regardless of your immorality?
You know, passions may fly on immigration, but I don't know anyone who benefits when a mother is separated from her infant child or an employer undercuts American wages by hiring illegal workers.
Which is it? Do we want to bring families together so long as one of them makes it here or do we want to ban them from employment? Are we welcoming, or forbidding to the next generation of Americans? The latter, with its suggestion that we should maintain their illegal status is unworthy of someone who wishes to lead the country. Fortunately, he's not serious. Either he or President McCain will pass amnesty early in their term unless W beats them to the punch by executive fiat.

What we have here is a rather mixed bag. On a number of issues he'd be W's third term (or Clinton's 5th), but on several big ones he's an extremely retrograde figure, taking us back to the 70s, rather than ahead. It's almost as if Democrats don't live in the world where IRA's and 401k's and Welfare-to-work and HSA's and housing vouchers and school vouchers have changed the way we think about how best to provide people with a safety net. It's as if they're the last ones to hear about the End of History.

This is also apparent in the way Mr. Obama failed to mention the broader project of liberalizing the Middle East, Asia and Africa and his silence about the wide alliance of democratic allies with which we work to contain and transform those states which have been laggard. Of course, the Democratic mantra is that W has shredded our alliances, but the reality is just the opposite. Not only have such disparate places as Mongolia, India, Indonesia, and Colombia been knit into an Axis of Good, but we have entirely new relationships with places we helped liberate--like Liberia, Haiti, and Southern Sudan-- with places that are reforming under American pressure, Libya--and with a whole series of states that have elected pro-American governments, often replacing anti-American ones: France, Germany, India, Colombia, Mexico, Canada, Brazil, South Korea, and on and on. One hardly expected Mr. Obama to have much to say about foreign policy, but a more historically aware leader might have noted the opportunity that's being handed to him to bring about change in our few remaining and increasingly isolated and nervous foes: Burma, Iran, Syria, North Korea, Venezuela, Cuba. Some acknowledgment that he at least understands the geo-political situation that he could inherit would have been welcome.

Despite the Clinton years, the Democrats seem to be stuck to some considerable degree in the 1970s and this speech would have been better given at the 1972 convention. Back then we really were isolated because of a war, faced unfriendly governments even in the West, had genuine economic problems we weren't facing up to, thought ever more permissiveness was the path to human happiness, and believed that only socialistic institutions could provide us the type of welfare net that the Depression had scared us into thinking we required. In 1970s America it was not irrational to believe that democratic capitalism had failed or was failing and that we were faced with decline.

But, seemingly unnoticed by the party that gathered in Denver, quite a bit has happened since then. New Zealand, Chile, and Margaret Thatcher's England innovated Third Way programs that bring market forces to bear on social programs. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Pope John Paul II, the Moral Majority, MADD, Ronald Reagan, and others reversed the slide into decadence and reminded us that moral choices matter. And the Cold War turned out not to be a twilight struggle, but just one more discrete battle in the Long War that has seen the Anglo-American/Judeo-Christian model trump all comers, Islamicism being just the latest failed alternative. Where though is the evidence that the Democratic Party has evolved along with the rest of us? Where the New Democrat reforms to SS, health care, education and housing? Where the recognition that individuals have responsibilities not just "rights"? Where the celebration of our values and their continuing victory over great evils, like those represented by Charles Taylor, Castro, the Kims, Saddam, and Osama?

We've just been through three decades of reasonably rapid change as globalization has worked to force other countries to become more like us in political and economic terms while making our economy more interconnected with and dependent on others. These changes have been almost uniformly healthy--giving us a more peaceful and affluent nation and world--but they, understandably, scare folks. This global extension of freedom is, by its very nature, destabilizing, not just toppling regimes abroad but businesses, industries, institutions at home and radically rearranging demographics, human relations, and power distributions. As always in politics, we are arrived at the basic question: do people now want more security, even if it means less freedom, greater isolation, and a reduction in our aspirations? Mind you, this is not as open and shut a case as it often appears to conservatives. We need to understand that for many on the Left and the far Right there is something to be said for withdrawing from the world and focusing on the self. After all, just because the last time we went through a bout of protectionism, isolationism, and nativism it triggered the Great Depression and WWII doesn't mean that the same would happen this time. Or, at any rate, we can convince ourselves that things would be different this time around. But that does seem to be the kind of change that Senator Obama is talking about, a reaction to the change of the Reagan/Clinton/Bush era and a retreat into the more secure world of the Second Way, where our own government is the solution to all of our problems and who cares about anyone else anyway. You can see why some find this kind of dependency on the state to be comforting, but it's strange to consider it idealism and it's awfully hard to reconcile with what we've traditionally considered the American Experiment. In that sense at least, Mr. Obama offers a deeply unAmerican vision of the future.

John F. McCain (Peter Ferrara 08.29.08, Forbes)

On taxes, America suffers from the second-highest corporate tax rate in the industrialized world. American corporations face a 35% federal tax rate, averaging 40% with state income taxes. In contrast, the average corporate tax rate in the European Union has been slashed from 38% in 1996 to 24% today. Ireland has a corporate tax rate of 12.5%, which has caused per capita income to soar from the second lowest in the E.U. 20 years ago to the second highest today. Corporate tax rates in India and China are lower as well.

How are American corporations supposed to compete? How are they supposed to provide good jobs at good wages while paying tax rates that are two-thirds higher than their competitors, and more? [...]

Barack Obama, by contrast, seems to have proposed tax-rate increases for just about every federal tax. He proposes to increase the top two individual tax rates. He would increase the capital gains tax rate by 33%. Ditto that for the tax rate on dividends. He has proposed Social Security payroll tax increases of 16% to 32% for families making over $250,000 a year (that would have a minor effect on the long-term Social Security deficit while arbitrarily punishing these families with effective negative real rates of return from Social Security). Mr. Obama's health plan would also impose a new payroll tax on employers. He would reinstitute the "death tax" (estate tax) with a top rate of 45%. He has also proposed several increases in corporate taxes, including a "windfall profits" tax on oil. Nothing Obama said in his speech Thursday night changed these troublesome proposals.

Mr. Obama's protectionist trade policies would also result in higher tariffs.

Changes in Politics (Thomas Sowell, 8/29/08, Real Clear Politics)
Despite the incessantly repeated mantra of "change," Barack Obama's politics is as old as the New Deal and he is behind the curve when it comes to today's economy.

Senator Obama's statement that "our economy is in turmoil" is standard stuff on the left and in the mainstream media, which has been dying to use the word "recession."

Not only has the economic slowdown failed to reach the definition of a recession, the most recent data show the U.S. economy growing at a rate exceeding 3 percent-- a rate that many European economies would die for, despite our being constantly urged to imitate those countries whose end results are not as good as ours.

Barack Obama's "change" is a recycling of the kinds of policies and rhetoric of the New Deal that prolonged the Great Depression of the 1930s far beyond the duration of any depression before or since.

These are the same kinds of liberal policies that led to double-digit inflation, double-digit interest rates and rising unemployment during the Carter administration. These are "back to the future" changes to economic disasters that need repeating.

Make no mistake, the political rhetoric of FDR was great. For those who admire political rhetoric, as so many of Barack Obama's supporters seem to, FDR was tops. For those who go by actual results, FDR's track record was abysmal.

-DNC Filled With the Same Faces & Ideas (David Broder, 8/30/08, Real Clear Politics)
The Democrats had themselves a successful convention -- at the price of appearing quite conventional. [...]

No one is likely to argue that the speech here "changed politics in America." His jibes at John McCain and George Bush were standard-issue Democratic fare and his recital of a long list of domestic promises could have been delivered by any Democratic nominee from Walter Mondale to John Kerry.

There was no theme music to the speech and really no phrase or sentence that is likely to linger in the memory of any listener. The thing I never expected did in fact occur: Al Gore, the famously wooden former vice president, gave a more lively and convincing speech than Obama did.

-Obamanomics? Oh boy. (Colby Cosh, 8/31/08, National Post)
About three-quarters of the way through Sen. Barack Obama's Thursday speech accepting the Democratic nomination, he started reciting a list of political problems that he believes can be magically solved by appealing to Americans' "sense of higher purpose"—which, as it turns out, translates to "making a trite statement of principle and then running away from the actual issue as fast as possible." A sample: "We may not agree on abortion, but surely we can agree on reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies in this country." Real profound, Senator, but the actual problem is that (loosely speaking) about half the people explicitly favour reducing unwanted pregnancies by permitting abortion, and about half explicitly don't.

Stating the fact that everyone's in favour of fewer unwanted pregnancies, ceteris paribus, does less than nothing to help. Should a woman running a gauntlet of protesters outside an abortion clinic tell them "Surely, ladies and gentlemen, we can agree on reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies in this country, and if you'll excuse me I'm about to go reduce them by precisely 1.0"?

I was so head-clutchingly irritated by the evasiveness of Obama's "higher purpose" litany that it took me a little while to notice that the last item was not only an appeal to the stupid, but stupid in itself.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:11 AM


You have been invited to join orrinj's Private Group in Yahoo! Sports Fantasy Premier League.

In order to join the group, just go to the game front page and click on the "Sign Up" button to create a team. After completing registration, or if you already have a team, click the "Create or Join Group" button and follow the path to join an existing private group. Then, when prompted, enter the following information...

Group ID#: 20397
Password: ericjulia

Given that both Brothers are beating Jim in Chicago (now Binghamton) the answer is: not hard. But we need some more folks to join so poor Jim can pull ahead of someone...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


No one had both, but if you got one send us your address and we'll send a book.


August 30, 2008

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:24 PM


Obama: 'I feel confident about my choice' (Ben Smith, 8/31/08, Politico)

Asked at a press conference Saturday night to respond to McCain's argument that Palin has more executive experience than the Democratic ticket, Obama and Biden laughed. [...][

"I feel confident about my choice."

The office that Barrack Obama is seeking is President of the United States, which is described as follows:

United States Constitution: Article II

Section 1. The executive power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America.

So, when we arrive at the question of whether he has sufficient relevant experience to quiet our doubts we would simply ask: of what institutions, corporations, organizations, polities, etc. has he been the chief executive, the ultimate decision-making authority?

Our answer is: The Harvard Law Review, if we choose to count it as significant.

The truth of the matter is that many Senators are lifelong legislators, rather than past executives, and that's why we rarely elect them president. Not to mention that the legislators we have elected (and those who were primarily creatures of the legislature--like LBJ, despite his vp experience) have been such disasters. The sole exception may be Abraham Lincoln, but they aren't growing the Great Emancipator on trees.

The best presidents have been men with experience as governors (with a couple generals thrown in): Washington, Polk, FDR, Ike, Reagan, Clinton, and W, for example.

There are, in the Senate today, a few former governors who would certainly be considered to have the requisite experience, temperament and judgment to be good presidents: Evan Bayh & Lamar Alexander come to mind most readily.

It just so happens that Barrack Obama and Joe Biden are not two of those so qualified and that John McCain's main exercise of executive authority came in the military, where he was, of course, subordinate to others.

Indeed, if we look at the two tickets and ask which of the 4 persons thereon is most qualified the unavoidable answer is the Governor of Alaska, and former mayor, Sarah Palin.

There are plenty of reasons to favor or disfavor each of these four people--their politics, their personality, their values, etc.--but if the sole criteria by which we were judging them was their Constitutional qualification, then it is obviously the executive who is best suited to be Executive.

Palin Has Long Experience: Dealing With Big Oil in Home State (RUSSELL GOLD, August 30, 2008, Wall Street Journal)

As the politics of energy engulf the presidential contest, Sen. John McCain has picked as his running mate a politician with firsthand experience of the industry and its tactics.

Since becoming Alaska's governor in 2006, Sarah Palin has pushed oil companies to move faster with projects to expand oil and gas production. She is widely credited with reviving a long-stalled effort to build a natural-gas pipeline from Alaska's Prudhoe Bay energy fields to the Lower 48 states.

In a state that is dependent for its operating revenue on taxes and energy royalties paid by oil companies, she has negotiated with the state's big producers, Exxon Mobil Corp., BP PLC and ConocoPhillips.

"Sarah Palin is pro-development and is supportive of oil and gas development in an environmentally conscious way, but she is very tough on the companies. She doesn't think that when the state of Alaska leases oil and gas to big oil, it means big oil gets to call all the shots," says Drue Pearce, an appointee of President George W. Bush who directs the Office of the Federal Coordinator for Alaska Natural Gas Transportation Projects.

Palin Fought for Reform in Alaska (FRED BARNES, August 30, 2008, Wall Street Journal)
She has no experience in foreign or national-security policy -- unlike Joe Biden, the veteran Democrat she'll face in the nationally televised vice presidential debate in October. But she's an expert on one of this year's biggest issues -- energy.

Because Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama has relatively little experience in national affairs, the bar has been lowered this year for national candidates. This helps Mrs. Palin. As a governor, she has more executive experience than Mr. Obama. [...]

Mrs. Palin is no feminist. Instead, she appeals to almost every conceivable grouping of conservatives. She's pro-life on abortion, pro-gun (she hunts), pro-drilling for oil (including in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge), and is as hawkish about cutting government spending as Mr. McCain himself. She's also an evangelical Christian.

A rule of thumb in politics is that you win more votes by energizing your base than by persuading undecided voters. Mr. McCain's strength is wooing undecided independents, moderates and soft Democrats. He's weaker with conservatives. He often seems inclined to ignore them. Now he has a running mate who can take up the slack.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:53 PM


Hidden Depths: The scion of a family of warriors, John McCain seems easy to venerate—or caricature. But he is more complex than you may think. (Jon Meacham, 8/30/08, NEWSWEEK)

[M]cCain is not a neo-Victorian, or a neo-Eisenhower. In ways difficult to discern but central to understanding him, he is a very modern figure who is at once heroic and ironic, stoic and sometimes short-tempered, ambitious and rebellious. John McCain is no sun-belt Cincinnatus. He is an eager, cold-eyed politician who has sought the White House for a decade, compromised and reversed himself and believes he is an actor in a grand, unfolding saga. He is also more comfortable with shades of gray than he appears—a sense of nuance rooted, it seems, in an early life in which he at once revered his father and felt sorry for him. McCain has long lived with complexity, and Democrats who try to dismiss him as stubborn or Republicans who venerate him as unflinching miss a crucial truth about the man: he is an adept political juggler, as he has always been an adept emotional one.

Early on, he had to be. It was the only way to make sense of a great and glaring contradiction at the center of his universe: his father—strong, honorable, noble—was also an alcoholic, a binge drinker who, under the influence, became what McCain calls "a totally different person." Adm. Jack McCain was not to be mindlessly celebrated or mindlessly condemned. He was a man of parts, of strengths and weaknesses, and his son learned to take the occasional bad with the usual good.

Presidents tend to come from one of two kinds of families. There is either no father at all (Andrew Jackson, Gerald Ford, Bill Clinton) or a dominant one (the Adamses, the Kennedys, the Bushes). Barack Obama belongs to the first category, the son of a man he met only once. McCain embodies the second. He was clearly driven to live up to the example of his grandfather and his father, heroes and leaders of men, but McCain's dad was not what he seemed.

The McCain story is both obvious and murky. The title of McCain's first book—"Faith of My Fathers"—sums up the obvious part. He grew up in the shadows of, and on the shoulders of, noble ancestors who had long proved their virtue in life and their virtuosity in war. During an interview aboard his campaign plane en route from Orlando to Atlanta in August, I asked McCain about the influence his father had on him. He had been gone a lot, McCain replied, but "my mom, who really idolized my dad, had the effect on us of kind of idolizing him."

Then, in a quiet, steady voice, McCain told me: "Yet at the same time I became aware, I think when I was either in my very earliest teens or even before that, that my father had a struggle with alcohol. And I watched him fight and fight this sickness … So I not only idolized him but I also understood that he had flaws like all of us, and probably his greatest was his struggle against alcoholism, which made him a very religious man. He prayed every night on his knees; he was very religious, because he saw hell combating [alcoholism, a struggle that] he knew he could not successfully win by himself."

I asked the obvious next question: did you ever worry about your own risk for alcoholism? McCain's answer was quick and clear: "No," he said. "You know, I never did. Because I just didn't have the inclination. I could tell early on. I of course went to happy hour. I of course had drinks with my squadron mates, et cetera. But I never felt any particular appetite for alcohol, nor did I …" He pauses for the briefest of beats, then says: "Oh, I'm sure there were times in my squadron life when I overindulged, but almost never. I just didn't. I'm sure the example of my father may have had some kind of effect."

His father's example made him devoted but wary, romantic yet skeptical, obsessed with strength but understanding of weakness. He saw the man he most wanted to be like at the worst of moments. Where the father failed, the son would strive to succeed. And so, restless and relentless, John Sidney McCain III has fought a lifelong campaign to live up to the legacy of his family, redeem its largely unknown faults and add his own honorable chapter to the story—a story that begins in the distant past, in the warrior class of Europe.

The McCains are an ancient tribe. One branch of the family traces its lineage to Charlemagne. In the New World, McCains have served in America's armed forces since the Revolutionary War. They fought for the Confederacy in the Civil War, chased Pancho Villa with Pershing and made their greatest marks in the epic clashes of the 20th century, from World War I to Vietnam. (And now, in the 21st, two McCain sons are in uniform. One will graduate from Annapolis next year, and another, a Marine, recently returned from Iraq.) McCain's father was a member of the Society of the Cincinnati, an elite group of descendants of Washington's officers that is headquartered at the elegant Anderson House on Massachusetts Avenue in Washington (Pauline and Albert Gore raised their son next door at the old Fairfax Hotel). "His evident pride in claiming such distinguished ancestry gave me the sense not only that I had a claim on my country's history, but that it would fall to me to represent the family when the history of my generation was recorded," McCain wrote. His grandfather had stood with MacArthur aboard the Missouri as the Japanese surrendered; his father, a submariner, won the Silver Star.

This history hung heavy on the young McCain; the legacy was at once thrilling and daunting. His grandfather was Annapolis class of 1906, and rose to be an admiral; his father was class of 1931, and did the same. His father fell in love with his mother, Roberta Wright, the daughter of a successful oil wildcatter who, having moved from Oklahoma to Los Angeles, retired at 40 to raise his twin daughters. Roberta met Jack McCain when she was a freshman at the University of Southern California and he was serving aboard the USS Oklahoma, then home-ported at Long Beach. Roberta's mother, Myrtle, was opposed to the match, but her father, Archibald Wright, did not object when Roberta told him she was eloping to Tijuana with the young naval officer. There, joined by McCain's father, the two were married in 1933 in a bar called Caesar's—the origin, Roberta likes to note, of the Caesar salad. Beautiful, adventurous, wealthy and game for the itinerant life of a Navy family, Mrs. McCain (now 96) was determined that her three children (Sandy, born 1934; John III, born 1936, and Joe, born 1942) would grow up with an appreciation of their father's service. "My mother did a good job of keeping him alive for us—your father this, your father that," McCain told me. "She was very good at reminding us of him and of his example." A loving woman, she was also skilled in the arts of stoicism and strength in the face of adversity. She kept things together, and things going, no matter how difficult the moment—and difficult moments were a constant fact of life for a Navy family. "The relationship of a sailor and his children is, in large part, a metaphysical one," McCain once wrote. "We see much less of our fathers than do other children. Our fathers are often at sea, in peace and war. Our mothers run our households, pay the bills, and manage most of our upbringing … It is no surprise then that the personalities of children who have grown up in the Navy often resemble those of their mothers more than those of their fathers."

And yet, McCain noted, "our fathers, perhaps because of and not in spite of their long absences, can be a huge presence in our lives. You are taught to consider their absence not as a deprivation, but as an honor. By your father's calling, you are born into an exclusive, noble tradition. Its standards require your father to dutifully serve a cause greater than his self-interest, and everyone around you, your mother, other relatives, and the whole Navy world, drafts you to the cause as well."

Born in the Panama Canal Zone, John III was a part of this world from the very beginning, a world that, for all its sense of tradition and palpable example of duty, was also oddly transitory. His rootlessness made him restless, curious and somewhat emotionally guarded. Looking back years later, McCain wrote: "All my life I had been rootless, part of a tradition that compensated me in other ways for the hometown it denied me. But without a connection to one place, one safe harbor where I could rest without care, I had lived my life on the move, never entirely at ease … The landscape and characters passed too rapidly to form the attachments of common love that quicken your heart when age and infirmity have slowed your walk and deprived your restlessness of its familiar expressions."

As a child he found—and now, as a man, he still finds— comfort and order in books and poems about love and war. A voracious reader (and rereader), McCain has long used literature as a refuge and an inspiration. Distant trumpets are not so distant to him. The epigraph of his second book is taken from Thucydides' funeral oration of Pericles: "Fix your eyes on the greatness of Athens as you have it before you day by day, fall in love with her, and when you feel her great, remember that this greatness was won by men with courage, with knowledge of their duty, and with a sense of honor in action." He loves James Fenimore Cooper, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Somerset Maugham, Wouk (even the more obscure ones, like "Youngblood Hawke" and "Don't Stop the Carnival")—and, above all, Ernest Hemingway's "For Whom the Bell Tolls," which he first read, entranced, after picking it up by accident in his father's study when he was 12.

Books helped him smooth the rough edges of a combative disposition. As a small child he would, if angry, hold his breath until he passed out; his parents had to plunge him in cold water to rouse him. Later, though he adored his grandfather and his father, at some level he resented the inevitability of his own naval career.

The Navy—always, always the Navy. On Christmas mornings, once the family had opened presents around the tree, Jack McCain would excuse himself, walk upstairs, put on his uniform and go to the office. He adored his wife and his children, but admitted that he loved his father above all others. John McCain believes that if his father had been asked to describe his family relationships, Jack McCain would have said, "I'm the son of an admiral and the father of a captain."

Educated at Episcopal High School in Alexandria, Va., and then at the Naval Academy (a place, McCain said, "I belonged at but dreaded"), John McCain found outlets for the ambivalence he felt about having a preordained future. He was a scamp and a cut-up who was highly skilled at amassing demerits at both institutions. (He liked to slip into Washington from Alexandria to the bars and what he called "the burlesque houses" on Ninth Street NW.) Once, when he feared he was close to failing out of Annapolis, he wrote off for information about how to join the French Foreign Legion. On discovering that there was a nine-year service requirement, McCain decided the Navy was not so bad after all.

There is a kind of egotism in McCain—he loves attention, always has, and takes glee in confounding the expectations of the institutions of which he is a part. Hence the misbehavior at Episcopal and at Annapolis. And in a way, his choice of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his vice presidential running mate fits his lifetime pattern of merrily challenging the conventions of the cultures he loves, from the military to Congress to presidential politics.

For all his antics and ambivalence, though, he has always had a strong sense of honor, especially in his relationships with comrades in arms.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:43 PM


Palin on issues (David Hulen, 8/30/08, Anchorage Daily News)

Lots of people are scrambling to learn more about Palin. Among the questions we've been getting are request for her positions on this national issue and that national issue. The fact is that Palin, as governor, hasn't had to develop or present positions on a lot of national issues.

Here's a candidate survey we published in October 2006, shortly before the election. We sent out written questions to candidates, and they returned responses.

Sarah Palin


Web site:

Age: 42

Spouse: Todd Palin

Children: Track, Bristol, Willow and Piper

Occupation: Commercial fisherman, volunteer coach/manager

Education: Wasilla High School, 1982 graduate; University of Idaho, B.S. degree, journalism, 1987

Employment history: Media; utility; full-time mayor/administrator, 1996-2002; and commercial fisherman

Military service: None

Previous public offices held (include dates) and offices run for: Former mayor of Wasilla, Wasilla City Council, president of Alaska Conference of Mayors, Alaska Municipal League, Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission, former chair of Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, 2002 candidate for lieutenant governor

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:37 PM


Obama vs. Baldilocks: A blogger's African dad came here on the same airlift as Obama's dad. All similarities end there (Max Taves, August 21, 2008, LA Weekly)

Los Angeles blogger Juliette Ochieng has a lot in common with the man who might be the next president, Barack Obama. A lot.

Both were born to Kenyan fathers of the same tribe (the Luo) from the same province (Nyanza), and both of their fathers came as boys to America aboard the same airplane. Growing up, neither Ochieng nor Obama knew their fathers, who both abandoned their American mothers and left their American-born children behind. Both of their fathers returned to Africa in the early 1960s and became friends, bonding at Kenyan bars over their favorite drink — Scotch. Both Ochieng's and Obama's mothers contracted ovarian cancer. (Hers survived it; his did not). Both Ochieng and Obama were born in the U.S. in August 1961 — only weeks apart.

But for someone with parallel beginnings, Juliette Akinyi Ochieng is quite different: Evangelical Christian. Working class. Military veteran. Pro-life. Conservative Republican.

Ochieng went to Los Angeles City College, not Harvard. Although she was born in Chicago — Obama's political birthplace — she lives in South-Central Los Angeles, where she grew up. And since 2003, she has written a blog,, better known as Baldilocks, a reference to her fashionably close-shaven head. Her soft speech belies her harsh yet thoughtful commentaries on black politics and national security from a conservative perspective.

Last month, she penned an essay for her site and for Republican-oriented, bemoaning blacks' loyalty to the Democrats. Last week, as Russian tanks rolled through Georgia, Ochieng, who worked for years as an Air Force Intelligence cryptologist-linguist specializing in Russian and German, mused about that conflict.

"She was very shaped by her experiences in the military," says fellow blogger Patrick Frey, the deputy district attorney who founded "She has very strong opinions, and she's a very religious person. She's very warm and hospitable."

Recent visitors to her site cannot miss her new mission: Making good on a promise to a Kenyan school named in honor of Barack Obama.

It's a promise, she says, that Barack Obama broke.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:24 PM


Zogby Poll: Equilibrium in the POTUS Race! (Zogby International, 8/30/08)

Republican John McCain's surprise announcement Friday of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate - some 16 hours after Democrat Barack Obama's historic speech accepting his party’s presidential nomination - has possibly stunted any Obama convention bump, the latest Zogby Interactive flash poll of the race shows.

The latest nationwide survey, begun Friday afternoon after the McCain announcement of Palin as running mate and completed mid-afternoon today, shows McCain/Palin at 47%, compared to 45% support for Obama/Biden.

I suppose we should give the Unicorn Rider some credit for having the courage to pick a running mate who didn't help him at all and then giving an acceptance speech that was so specific as to what he'd do that it didn't even produce a dead cat bounce. So, kudos, also-ran.

Let Palin Be Palin: Why the left is scared to death of McCain's running mate (William Kristol, 09/08/2008, Weekly Standard)

A spectre is haunting the liberal elites of New York and Washington--the spectre of a young, attractive, unapologetic conservatism, rising out of the American countryside, free of the taint (fair or unfair) of the Bush administration and the recent Republican Congress, able to invigorate a McCain administration and to govern beyond it.

That spectre has a name--Sarah Palin, the 44-year-old governor of Alaska chosen by John McCain on Friday to be his running mate. There she is: a working woman who's a proud wife and mother; a traditionalist in important matters who's broken through all kinds of barriers; a reformer who's a Republican; a challenger of a corrupt good-old-boy establishment who's a conservative; a successful woman whose life is unapologetically grounded in religious belief; a lady who's a leader.

So what we will see in the next days and weeks--what we have already seen in the hours after her nomination--is an effort by all the powers of the old liberalism, both in the Democratic party and the mainstream media, to exorcise this spectre. They will ridicule her and patronize her. They will distort her words and caricature her biography. They will appeal, sometimes explicitly, to anti-small town and anti-religious prejudice. All of this will be in the cause of trying to prevent the American people from arriving at their own judgment of Sarah Palin.

That's why Palin's spectacular performance in her introduction in Dayton was so important. Her remarks were cogent and compelling. Her presentation of herself was shrewd and savvy. I heard from many who watched Palin--many of them not predisposed to support her--about how moved they were by her remarks, her composure, and her story.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:15 PM


McCain’s Mrs. Right : Gov. Sarah Palin came out of nowhere to win the John McCain veep sweepstakes. Well, not quite nowhere. (Evan Thomas and Karen Breslau, Aug 30, 2008, Newsweek)

Sarah Palin posed for a photo spread in Vogue, but that's about as far as the glamour goes. She piles her hair up in a librarian's bun and wears what she calls "schoolmarm" glasses (one blogger compared her to "Tina Fey's sexier sister"). She was at one time a beauty queen, Miss Wasilla 1984, in her hometown, population: 7,000 or so. "We were really surprised when she wanted to do it," her father, Chuck, told the Vogue reporter. "That wasn't her thing." Basketball and hunting were more like it. Palin regretted the whole beauty pageant experience. "They made us line up in bathing suits and turn our backs so the male judges could look at our butts. I couldn't believe it!" she told Vogue.

She tried being a sportscaster for a while, but ended up as a politician, or rather an anti-politician. She seemed to love to take on the good ole boys, to get in the face of the state's Republican political establishment and Big Oil, the two dominant forces in Alaska, at least until Palin came along. She smiles a lot and has a thick skin, laughing off reporters who write about her black go-go boots or leering bloggers, like the Washington, D.C.-based Wonkette, which dubbed her "the hottest governor in all 50 states." She is fearless and natural, and it's no wonder she charmed a fierce contrarian like John McCain. "He saw a lot of himself in her," says campaign manager Rick Davis. Whether she can help or hurt his candidacy is another question. She is not just the first Republican woman to run for vice president. She is about as far from conventional notions of a safe, reassuring No. 2 type as can be imagined.

Palin is an American original. She calls herself a "hockey mom" and manages to juggle the lives of her five children (the last, born with Down syndrome, is less than 5 months old) while running the state of Alaska and routinely antagonizing the powers that be. Last fall a NEWSWEEK reporter visited her office in Anchorage. The governor's office overlooks the sparkling Cook Inlet, ringed by mountains, except right smack in the view is a skyscraper adorned with the name CONOCO PHILLIPS in giant letters, a reminder of the prominence of Big Oil in the state capital. The throw rug on her couch is the skin of a grizzly bear shot by her father, a retired teacher turned "nuisance-control specialist" (varmint hunter for hire) whose pickup truck bears the sticker VEGETARIAN—OLD INDIAN WORD FOR "BAD HUNTER." (Palin herself is a lifetime member of the National Rifle Association; for years, she or her husband caught all the fish or shot all the meat that her family eats.) As she spoke to the reporter, she juggled two BlackBerrys and a cell phone, with one always buzzing. She seemed unfazed, indeed to be having fun. As strands of hair fell from her librarian's bun she deftly executed an intricate "don't drop the BlackBerry while fixing the bobby pin" maneuver, several times.

One of Palin's first acts as governor was to sell the governor's jet on eBay.

Campaigns Shift as McCain Choice Alters the Race (ADAM NAGOURNEY, JIM RUTENBERG and JEFF ZELENY, 8/30/08, NY Times)
A day after Mr. McCain announced his decision, catching almost everyone but his inner circle by surprise, both sides were trying to gauge the risks and opportunities of having a young, relatively inexperienced, socially conservative woman on the Republican ticket.

The Obama campaign and the Democratic Party had prepared advertisements and lines of attack directed at the two men who had been most prominently mentioned as vice-presidential possibilities for Mr. McCain — former Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts and Gov. Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota — but had not considered Ms. Palin a likely enough choice to do the same for her. A new advertisement linking President Bush to Mr. McCain was quickly put together, but it contained only a fleeting mention of Ms. Palin.

That tentativeness reflected what Mr. Obama’s advisers said was their struggle to figure out how to challenge the credentials and the ideology of a woman whose candidacy could be embraced by many women as a historic milestone. Once formally nominated at the Republican convention in Minneapolis-St. Paul this week, Ms. Palin, who was elected governor two years ago, will be the second woman chosen by a major party as a vice-presidential candidate.

Mr. Obama’s campaign does not plan to go directly after Ms. Palin in the days ahead. Instead, it is planning to increase its attacks on Mr. McCain for his opposition to pay equity legislation and abortion rights — two issues of paramount concern to many women — as it tries to head off his effort to use Ms. Palin to draw Democratic and independent women who had supported Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton. [...]

James C. Dobson, the influential conservative Christian leader who said in the primaries that he could never vote for Mr. McCain, said the selection of Ms. Palin had won him over. If he went into the voting booth today, Mr. Dobson told the talk radio host Dennis Prager on Friday, “I would pull that lever.”

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:28 PM


McCain May Curtail, Suspend Convention Due to Gustav (Mark Halperin, August 30th, 2008, The Page)

The GOP candidate tells Fox News that the convention may be trimmed, altered or even suspended for a day or two due to the storm.

A one day convention with short speeches from the ticket is the beau ideal. If the Democratic Convention had been one day it wouldn't have harmed the Unicorn Rider so much.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:21 PM


Why CIA Veterans Are Scared of McCain: Four years ago, the candidate called the CIA a "rogue organization"; now he's advised by a former Chalabi promoter and Agency basher. No wonder the spooks are spooked. (Laura Rozen, August 29, 2008, Mother Jones)

Tall, broad-shouldered, mustached, Michael Kostiw looks like the former oilman and CIA case officer in Africa he once was. Now, as Republican staff director for Sen. John McCain on the powerful Senate Armed Services Committee, Kostiw, 61, is probably the closest top former CIA official to the Republican presidential candidate, and is discussed as a possible candidate for a senior intelligence position should McCain win the presidency. But his relationship with his former Agency is complex. Standing in his large office in the Senate Russell building on a quiet day during August congressional recess, Kostiw shows off a pair of wooden statuettes that were given to him by an African nation's ambassador—and longtime top official in his country's government—to Washington. The envoy, Kostiw says, is an old contact that he proposed trying to recruit two decades ago when he was a CIA case officer in the country. But his Agency boss at the time waved him off the recruitment, saying, "That guy isn't going anywhere."

It's a small but telling anecdote in an almost two-hour conversation with a man whose career trajectory from CIA Soviet East Europe division operations officer to Texaco oilman to cochair of the International Republican Institute to top Porter Goss and McCain Senate aide may signal what a McCain presidency would mean for the intelligence community—and why many from the CIA are quietly worried about a McCain presidency. The Bush years have been brutal for the CIA, which was pilloried for getting Iraq intelligence wrong while accused of downplaying and withholding intelligence from the White House that would have justified military action. Many current and former US spies expect a McCain administration guided by neoconservatives to treat them with hostility and mistrust. They also say McCain would likely weaken the CIA by giving broad new spying authorities to the Pentagon, which CIA officials believe is more amenable to giving policymakers the intelligence they want, while being subject to less congressional oversight.

These critics point especially to the McCain campaign's top national security adviser Randy Scheunemann—who ran a front group promoting war with Iraq and the fabrications of controversial Iraqi exile politician Ahmad Chalabi, the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, and who has lobbied for aggressive NATO expansion. Scheunemann's record, they argue, encapsulates everything wrong with the past eight years of Bush leadership on intelligence issues, from a penchant for foreign policy freelancing and secret contacts with unreliable fabricators, to neoconservatives' disdain for the perceived bureaucratic timidity of the CIA and State Department, to their avowed hostility for diplomacy with adversaries. If McCain wins, "the military has won," says one former senior CIA officer. "We will no longer have a civilian intelligence arm. Yes, we will have analysts. But we won't have any real civilian intelligence capability."

Such is the sorry history of the CIA that we've never had any capability, just the agency. Maverick should tear down the building and salt the earth.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:00 PM


Palin Selection Already Paying Dividends to McCain (Elizabeth Holmes, 8/30/0-8, WSJ: Washington Wire)

Regardless of the banter about his choice, John McCain selection of Sarah Palin has already proved profitable. The McCain campaign raised $4 million Friday with the announcement of the Alaska governor joining the GOP ticket. [...]

The McCain campaign is already burning through money because campaign-finance laws, which McCain must abide by in exchange for federal funding, require them to empty their primary coffers before the end of the month. “We have three days to spend it!” one senior aide said Friday night, elated by that day’s haul.

Random Observations--Mainly about Our Sarah (Peter Augustine Lawler, 8/30/08, No Left Turns)
5. It’s impossible to overemphasize how happy the various kinds of social conservatives are here at the convention about the choice. I won’t name names, but I’m including famous professors at leading institutions. Many of them have never really liked or trusted McCain. Strangely enough, they trust her. And they now trust him more.

6. Biden--whom I’m on record as admiring--must be miserable. He can’t attack her, and he better not be condescending toward her. He better not say something "inappropriate" about Sarah or her family. His record on such matters is not encouraging.

Can you believe Maverick picked a woman just because she'd thrill his party?

McCain unveils a secret weapon for culture wars (Father Raymond J. De Souza, 8/30/08, National Post)

Yet for all that novelty, Palin’s selection indicates that this election will be in large part about the culture wars, with abortion at the centre.

Governor Palin is pro-life, as is Senator McCain. Their political positions are dramatized in their own families. John and Cindy McCain adopted a sick Bangladeshi baby in 1991; now 17, Bridget McCain started life in an orphanage run by Mother Teresa’s Sisters. Cindy McCain met her on a trip to Bangladesh, and her heart was moved to take her back to Arizona for medical care, and eventual adoption.

Governor Palin and her husband have five children. The youngest, Trig, was born this past April. He has Down syndrome. Like most cases now, he was so diagnosed in utero. Unlike most such babies, he is still alive. Pre-natal diagnosis of Down syndrome is normally a death sentence. Abortion usually follows within days. The Palins chose life for Trig.

“I’m looking at him right now, and I see perfection,” Palin said. “Yeah, he has an extra chromosome. I keep thinking, in our world, what is normal and what is perfect?”

In the combustible world of American abortion politics, there are very finely-calculated degrees of difference. For example, while both Obama and Biden are pro-choice, their positions are not the same. Obama is in favour of federal funding for abortion and permitting partial-birth abortion. Biden is against both. As the most extreme pro-abortion candidate for president ever, Obama voted against the “born alive” act in Illinois, which mandates medical care for babies which survive attempted abortions. Even Hillary Clinton, along with Joseph Biden, supported the federal “born alive” act. In fact, the latter passed unanimously.

The Palin selection indicates that the McCain campaign wishes to sharpen this contrast.

Sarah Palin: Queen of YouTube (Belinda Luscombe, 8/30/08, TIME)

She has a sense of humor — and of opportunity. Here she gives late-night comedian and resident alien Craig Ferguson honorary citizenship of Alaska and shamelessly promotes her state, even asking him to visit and "partake of rich, succulent wild Alaskan salmon." In response, Ferguson calls her a "naughty librarian."

Reading Sarah Palin (LAURA FITZPATRICK, 8/29/08, TIME)
Palin's writing doesn't give much insight into her conservative policy positions, but it does put on display some of the other, personal qualities that make her an appealing choice for McCain. She has written repeatedly criticizing other state politicians' possible ethical transgressions, targeting both Republicans and Democrats in her calls for reform. She sprinkles her pieces with quotes from Plato, Henry Kissinger, and her state's constitution, but also uses expressions like "doggone it" and praises Alaskans for their work ethic and love of freedom and community — a possible asset in a campaign that has focused on questions of elitism and being in touch with voters. [...]

Perhaps even more important than the issues, the op-eds hint at what Palin's campaign style will be like between now and November. Palin — a former co-captain of a state champion girls basketball team, a self-styled "hockey mom" and a distance runner — writes that she relishes the competition that is key in both the sports arena and the political one. "Competition defines and refines a person," she says. "It really is nothing to be afraid of." During her 2006 run for governor, she pledged transparency and praised "clean campaigns that stick to the issues — and stick to the truth."

-Palin Power (Jonathan Martin, 8/30/08, Politico)
My mention below of just how juiced many in the grass roots of the GOP are about Palin has only brought forth more stories and anecdotes of what this pick means.

Here is one from an Ohio source I know to be reliable:

Speaking about GOP grass roots on fire, here in Cuyahoga County we have four victory centers, and in mine alone in the all-important city of Parma, I had 47 calls between 12:30 and 2 p.m. yesterday, all asking how they could volunteer and how they could get a yard sign, a ton of independent women

The RNC, clearly hoping to push this angle, has also sent over an internal memo from Political Director Rich Beeson with their own examples. This one, from Waukesah County, Wisc., stands out.

-INTERVIEW: New Palin interview ( Kyle Hopkins, 8/30/08, Anchorage Daily News)
I got a brief chance to talk to Gov. Sarah Palin on the phone today from Pennsylvania, where she has a rally in a couple hours.

Here's the recording.

McCain Gets $7 Million Bounce from Palin Pick (Matthew Mosk, 8/30/08, The Trail)
Sen. John McCain has taken in $7 million in contributions since announcing Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate, a top campaign aide said today.

The money bounce may owe to Palin's appeal with conservative donors, many of whom said privately they had planned on sitting out the campaign this year.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:54 PM


The hostess with the moosest (Mark Steyn, 8/30/08, National Review)

[G]overnor Palin is not merely, as Jay describes her, "all-American", but hyper-American. What other country in the developed world produces beauty queens who hunt caribou and serve up a terrific moose stew? As an immigrant, I'm not saying I came to the United States purely to meet chicks like that, but it was certainly high on my list of priorities. And for the gun-totin' Miss Wasilla then to go on to become Governor while having five kids makes it an even more uniquely American story. Next to her resume, a guy who's done nothing but serve in the phony-baloney job of "community organizer" and write multiple autobiographies looks like just another creepily self-absorbed lifelong member of the full-time political class that infests every advanced democracy.

Second, it can't be in Senator Obama's interest for the punditocracy to spends its time arguing about whether the Republicans' vice-presidential pick is "even more" inexperienced than the Democrats' presidential one.

Third, real people don't define "experience" as appearing on unwatched Sunday-morning talk shows every week for 35 years and having been around long enough to have got both the War on Terror and the Cold War wrong. (On the first point, at the Gun Owners of New Hampshire dinner in the 2000 campaign, I remember Orrin Hatch telling me sadly that he was stunned to discover how few Granite State voters knew who he was.) Sarah Palin and Barack Obama are more or less the same age, but Governor Palin has run a state and a town and a commercial fishing operation, whereas (to reprise a famous line on the Rev Jackson) Senator Obama ain't run nothin' but his mouth. She's done the stuff he's merely a poseur about.

The whole hunting, snow-mobiling vibe definitely works in places like this.

But, as Mr. Steyn intimates, here's all you have to know about how Beltway-bound the Obama campaign is: they think Joe Biden is well known.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:16 PM


Obama vs. his staff (KENNETH P. VOGEL, 8/30/08, Politico)

Obama disavowed his campaign’s first response, telling journalists that “I think that, uh, you know, campaigns start getting these, uh, hair triggers and, uh, the statement that Joe and I put out reflects our sentiments,” he said.

Obama disavowed his campaign’s first response, telling journalists that “I think that, uh, you know, campaigns start getting these, uh, hair triggers and, uh, the statement that Joe and I put out reflects our sentiments,” he said.

Earlier in the same availability, however, he told reporters that John McCain “wants to take the country in the wrong direction. I'm assuming Gov. Palin agrees with him and his policies” — echoing Burton’s claim that “that's not the change we need, it's just more of the same.”

The latest disavowal of his staff’s comments on his behalf or in his name continues a tactic Obama employed repeatedly during his contentious battle with Hillary Rodham Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination.

When confronted about a campaign memo during the primary criticizing Clinton’s ties to India that referred to her as “D-Punjab,” Obama called it “a screw-up on the part of our research team” and said “it was stupid and caustic.”

And when the late Tim Russert asked Obama at a Las Vegas debate about his campaign’s efforts to push the storyline that Team Clinton was stoking racial tensions, Obama said “our supporters, our staff, get overzealous. They start saying things that I would not say.”

He carries being reactionary a tad too far when he avoids W's "fault" of being overly loyal to his staff.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:11 PM


Hillary Rah-Rahs Palin (August 30, 2008, ABC News: Political Punch)

I think it would be fair to say that the Obama campaign wishes Sen. Hillary Clinton's statement on Gov. Palin were harsher.

"We should all be proud of Governor Sarah Palin's historic nomination, and I congratulate her and Senator McCain," Clinton said. "While their policies would take America in the wrong direction, Governor Palin will add an important new voice to the debate."

Here, Barry, let me just give that a twist...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:07 AM


The Democrats and Latin America (MARCELA SANCHEZ, 8/30/08, THE WASHINGTON POST)

For months, Barack Obama's disconnect with Latin America has left many officials and observers in the region wondering what a Democratic administration would mean for future relations. Now the search for an answer continues with Obama's choice of a running mate.

Sen. Joe Biden was picked not just for his appeal to working-class white voters, but also for his reputation as a foreign policy expert. But those hoping that Biden's presence on the ticket would beef up the inexperienced Obama in Latin America might be disappointed.

During his 35 years in the U.S. Senate, the last 10 in leadership positions on the Foreign Relations Committee, Biden has participated in just four congressional trips south of the border, two to Colombia and two to Mexico. Biden's experience and interests are elsewhere – Europe and the Middle East, particularly Iraq. He has almost a “blank slate” on Latin America, as Peter Hakim, president of the Washington-based Inter-American Dialogue, put it.

The Unicorn Rider and his vp pick are nowhere more conventional than in their Atlanticism. Asia, Africa, and Latin America better hope Maverick wins and continues the attention they got--for the first time ever--under W.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:03 AM


Joe Biden's deep (but mythical) blue-collar roots (Steve Chapman, August 31, 2008, Chicago Tribune)

Joe Biden once got in trouble for plagiarizing a speech and inflating his academic record. So it will not surprise you to find that his famous working-class background turns out to be mythical. But it may surprise you to learn that Biden isn't the one who has trouble with the facts. [...]

[T]he legend of Joe Biden, born in a welding shop, dies hard with political reporters, who find it easier to romanticize a gritty, hardscrabble childhood than a conventionally comfortable one.

The facts are there for anyone who wants to look at them. When Joe Biden Sr. died in 2002, his obituary in the News-Journal of Wilmington reported that when he married in 1941, "he was working as a sales representative for Amoco Oil Co. in Harrisburg."

It went on, "Biden also was an executive in a Boston-based company that supplied waterproof sealant for U.S. merchant marine ships built during World War II. After the war, he co-owned an airport and crop-dusting service on Long Island." Upon moving his family to Delaware, the News-Journal said, Biden "worked in the state first as a sales manager for auto dealerships and later in real-estate condominium sales."

Executive, co-owner and manager? Those titles identify the jobholder as solidly middle class, if not better. They fall in the category of white-collar occupations, not blue-collar.

Biden's first ad: "Scranton" (Ben Smith, 8/30/08, Politico)
The campaign will run the ad, which ties Biden's biography to Obama's and stresses the Delaware senator’s Scranton roots in northeast Pennsylvania.
Not that you ever expect Senator Biden to tell the truth, but starting out lying seems excessive even by his low standards.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:01 AM


A Prolific Pair (Kevin Vance, August 29, 2008, Weekly Standard)

With Gov. Palin's five chlidren and McCain's seven, the presumptive GOP nominees have more offspring than any major-party ticket since 1920.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:26 AM


In Israel, A Clash Over Who Is a Jew: Ultra-Orthodox Contest Conversions (Griff Witte, 8/30/08, Washington Post)

Yael converted to Judaism in 1992, and for the next 15 years she lived in Israel, celebrating the major holidays and teaching her children about the Jewish faith.

But when she and her husband sought a divorce last year, she said, the ultra-Orthodox rabbis in charge of the process had some questions. Among them: Did Yael observe the Sabbath? Did she obey the prohibition on sex during and after menstruation?

Dissatisfied with the answers, the rabbis nullified her conversion. Yael did not need a divorce, they ruled, because she had never been married. She had never been married because she had never been Jewish. And because she had never been Jewish, her children were not, either.

"I was in shock. I couldn't believe it," said Yael, 43, who would allow only her Hebrew name to be published out of privacy concerns. Blond, blue-eyed and athletic-looking, Yael is baffled by the ordeal. "My kids grew up Jewish," she said. "They don't know anything else."

Yael's personal trauma has become a cause for Israeli soul-searching over what it means to be Jewish, a term that carries both religious and ethnic dimensions.

Which is why the Arabs can just wait and Palestine will fall into their laps--the secular don't have kids and the Orthodox insist only their own kids are Jews. There's a recipe for oblivion.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:02 AM


Makeover Model for McCain (David Ignatius, August 31, 2008, Washington Post)

Let's assume that John McCain is not crazy and that he wants to show America he will steer a different course in foreign policy than George Bush's while remaining faithful to his party's values and traditions. How does he do that? How can he present himself as both a change agent and a force of continuity? [...]

The real model for McCain is what Sarkozy did after he took office in May 2007. While asserting that he was maintaining the fundamentals of French policy, he changed many of the visible signs. Sarkozy stopped feuding with the United States, he moved to bring France back fully into the NATO alliance and he altered the pro-Arab tilt of French policy in the Middle East.

In making these changes, Sarkozy assaulted (ever so stealthily) the legacy of received wisdom about foreign policy known as "Gaullism." That approach tended to define French interests in reaction (and often, in opposition) to those of the United States. This arrogant style was costly, and Sarkozy decided to get rid of it. His France was going to be a team player again.

By changing the software, Sarkozy was able to mobilize French diplomacy for what has proved to be a remarkable turnaround over the past year.

Mr. Ignatius is normally a sensible, if overly orthodox, columnist but this makes so little sense that if you read it enough times your ears may start to bleed. The great change that Nicholas Sarkozy brought to France was to reorient it from continental Europe towards Anglo-America, to the point where he made it clear he wanted to replace Tony Blair as W's lapdog. Mind you, it's not just that Sarko decided that France should stand with the good guys on geopolitical matters, rather than play footsie with the evil regimes as is its historic wont, but he's also launched an assault on France's archetypal Second Way model.

Yet, Mr. Ignatius thinks that emulating Mr. Sarkozy will tend to distance Maverick from W? Whahappen?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:51 AM


Obama loses spotlight to new rival (CARRIE BUDOFF BROWN | 8/29/08, Politico)

Just 12 hours after delivering a historic acceptance speech, Barack Obama was no longer the story.

The Democratic nominee and his running mate, Joe Biden, left Denver on Friday for a three-day bus tour of battleground states, pressing populist themes as they rolled through struggling western Pennsylvania but finding themselves overshadowed by the newly minted Republican ticket.

John McCain’s surprise choice of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his vice presidential nominee reshaped the first post-convention day for the Democratic Party, robbing its candidates of the full media spotlight.

Obama ad: Despite Palin, McCain isn't change agent (JIM KUHNHENN, 8/30/08, Associated Press)
Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama begins airing an ad Saturday that responds to rival John McCain's selection of a running mate, carefully avoiding any direct criticism of Sarah Palin, the Alaska governor whom McCain chose for the GOP ticket.

When the McCain campaign went so hard after the Unicorn Rider for dissing Hillary a couple of us were talking and said how Maverick really needed to pick a woman running mate to fit the narrative. But, no one actually thought he was that smart politically. You knew that's what Bush/Rove would have done, but John McCain, for all his charms, has never displayed real tactical or strategic chops until just recently. Maybe this old dog can learn new tricks.

At any rate, your opponents already obliterated their own argument when they have to say: "Yes, she's a huge change, no, he isn't a candidate of change"


A valentine to evangelical base (Joseph Williams, August 30, 2008, Boston Globe)

"She's somebody I've been watching since her name started floating" as a potential vice presidential candidate, said David Domke, a political science professor at the University of Washington in Seattle. "She is wildly popular in Alaska. She's pro-life and conservative. That plays well" with GOP conservatives. "She is a kind of valentine to the evangelical base of the party."

She is opposed to abortion except to save the life of the mother. When she learned that her infant son would be born with Down's Syndrome, she said she never considered ending the pregnancy. When Trig was born in April, she penned a note to loved ones in the voice of "Trig's creator, Your Heavenly Father," rejecting sympathy for her son.

According to an October 2006 profile in the Anchorage Daily News, Palin opposes stem cell research, physician-assisted suicide, and state health benefits for same-sex partners.

Earlier this year, she told the newspaper that schools should not fear teaching creationism alongside evolution. "Teach both. You know, don't be afraid of information. . . . Healthy debate is so important and it's so valuable in our schools. I am a proponent of teaching both. And you know, I say this too as a daughter of a science teacher."

McCain choice impacts energy debate (H. JOSEF HEBERT, 8/30/08, AP)
If Democrats hoped to paint Republican John McCain a pawn of Big Oil, their task has become a bit more complicated with the selection of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate.

While an ardent advocate for more drilling - off Alaska, off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts and in the off-limits Arctic National Wildlife Refuge - Palin also has shown she's not shy about confronting the likes of Exxon Mobil, BP and ConocoPhillips.

As the presidential campaign moves into high gear in the coming weeks, McCain and Democratic nominee Barack Obama will duel over two overriding energy issues: whether to expand offshore oil drilling into areas long off-limits and whether to impose new taxes on the biggest, wealthiest oil companies enjoying tens of billions of dollars in windfall profits.

Palin, a popular governor in a state that for decades has been closely tied to oil, may be a political novice, but she is anything but a newcomer when it comes to these two issues. And her emergence as McCain's No. 2 and possibly the country's next vice president, could shift the campaign's energy debate.

Husband of veep choice is snowmobile racer (RACHEL D'ORO. 8/30/08, Associated Press)
[T]odd Mitchell Palin can claim accomplishments beyond his marriage to Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the surprise running mate of Republican presidential hopeful John McCain.

Todd Palin is a veteran oil-field worker and commercial fisherman affectionately dubbed Alaska's "first dude." He's a man who took college courses but does not have a degree, yet can hold his own in sophisticated circles, even hosting a reception for five former Alaska first ladies earlier this month.

A father of five, he's also a four-time winner of the world's longest snowmobile race, billed as the most grueling. It's a sport the 43-year-old lifelong Alaskan is so passionate about that he's continued to compete even after his wife took office in December 2006.

In this year's 2,000-mile Tesoro Iron Dog contest, Palin and racing partner Scott Davis were trying to defend their 2007 championship when Palin broke his arm in a crash. It was 400 miles from the finish line, but he refused to quit, coming in fourth, cheered on by the parka-clad governor waving a checkered flag.

With Pick, McCain Reclaims His Maverick Image (Dan Balz, 8/30/08, Washington Post)
John McCain's advisers predicted weeks ago that the presumptive Republican nominee would use his national convention week to try to recapture his image as a maverick reformer and shake up the presidential race. He did just that Friday with his surprise choice of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his vice presidential running mate.

McCain's selection of the nationally untested Palin is the most unlikely choice of a running mate since George H.W. Bush tapped then-Sen. Dan Quayle in 1988, a move as risky as it was bold. The decision brings the senator from Arizona immediate dividends with his base and eventually, perhaps, with swing voters. But it comes at potentially significant cost to his effort to discredit Democratic nominee Barack Obama as unprepared for the presidency.

The choice of Palin, the first woman named to a Republican presidential ticket, adds another chapter to a campaign that, mostly on the Democratic side, has been about breaking down racial and gender barriers in America. McCain's hope is that, with Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) now on the sidelines, Palin can help close a sizable gap with Obama among female voters that threatens to block his path to the White House.

We don't get it: what has Obama ever governed? Or Biden? (Or Maverick for that matter?) In what sense is she not the most experienced of the 4?
A Tenacious Reformer's Swift Rise (Amy Goldstein and Michael D. Shear, 8/30/08, Washington Post)
A decade later, the nickname resurfaced when she was a 28-year-old political novice on the Wasilla City Council. She turned on a veteran council member who had coaxed her to run for office, blocking a bill that would have steered business to his garbage-hauling firm.

The moniker was revived once again in 2003, when Alaska's governor, whom she would later unseat, appointed her to a state oil-and-gas commission. As a brand-new member, she challenged the ethics of the panel's leader, the chairman of state's Republican Party, forcing him ultimately to resign.

Since long before she became Alaska's youngest -- and first female -- governor 20 months ago, Sarah Louise Heath Palin has been making her mark as an unlikely upstart. Yesterday, she did it again, accepting Sen. John McCain's surprise offer to be his running mate.

Palin, a 44-year-old mother of five who hunts caribou and was once a beauty queen, rose to the statehouse by challenging the corruption that has become endemic in Alaska, even if it meant taking on the Republican establishment there, including the former governor and the state's congressional delegation.

Although her résumé does not fit the mold of most vice presidential nominees, her acts of dissidence appear to have endeared her to McCain, who regards himself as an independent-minded Republican. Her evangelical Christian faith -- she believes in creationism and is adamantly opposed to abortion -- may help him court skeptical social conservatives. And the fact that her eldest son joined the Army and is leaving soon for Iraq reinforces McCain's own military heroism.

McCain's VP choice reassures evangelicals (ERIC GORSKI, 8/30/08, AP)
John McCain's running mate was raised in a Pentecostal church, has called herself "as pro-life as any candidate can be" and already has energized conservative religious leaders who worried the Arizona senator would choose an abortion rights supporter.

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin is "straight out of veep central casting," said Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religion Liberties Commission. Land said he urged the McCain camp to consider the political unknown.

Gary Bauer, one of McCain's most enthusiastic evangelical supporters, called it a "grand slam home run" that is "guaranteed to energize values voters." [...]

Not only does Palin oppose abortion as a matter of policy, but she chose to give birth to her youngest child, a son, after a prenatal exam indicated Down syndrome. Studies show that about nine in 10 pregnant women who are given a Down syndrome diagnosis have chosen to have an abortion.

"That will resonate in a big way," said Quin Monson, a Brigham Young University professor who studies religion and politics.

Focus on the Family founder James Dobson, who initially said he could not vote for McCain but has since opened the door to an endorsement, called Palin "an outstanding choice that should be extremely reassuring to the conservative base" of the GOP. Dobson added that the ticket "gives us confidence he will keep his pledges to voters regarding the kinds of justices he would nominate to the Supreme Court."

"It's an absolutely brilliant choice," said Mathew Staver, dean of Liberty University School of Law. "This will absolutely energize McCain's campaign and energize conservatives."

Social conservative is beloved in Alaska (STEVE QUINN AND CALVIN WOODWARD, 8/30/08, Miami Herald)
She brings a strong anti-abortion stance to the ticket and opposes gay marriage -- constitutionally banned in Alaska before her time -- but exercised a veto that essentially granted benefits to gay state employees and their partners.

''She stands up for what's right, and she doesn't let anyone tell her to sit down.'' McCain said in introducing her to an Ohio rally. ``She's exactly who I need.''

Said Palin: ``I didn't get into government to do the safe and easy things. A ship in harbor is safe, but that's not why the ship is built.''

Whereas the Unicorn Rider's entire acceptance speech was a plea to return the American ship of state to harbor and mothball it.
Palin No Pushover on Pipeline Project: The Alaska governor and McCain running mate championed a natural gas pipeline deal that replaced a proposal she had called a giveaway to Big Oil (Christopher Palmeri, 8/30/08, Business Week)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:29 AM

USEFUL IDIOTS (via Greg Hlatky):

An American adventurer's death in El Salvador: Joe Sanderson traveled the world for years until his death amid leftist rebels fighting El Salvador's U.S.-backed military regime. More than 25 years later, a diary he kept reveals details about his life. (Héctor Tobar, 8/23/08, Los Angeles Times)

Joe Sanderson is one of two Americans known to have fought and died with the guerrillas of the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front, the leftist rebels whose war against El Salvador's U.S.-backed military junta was one of the last conflicts of the Cold War. [...]

He had joined an army made up mostly of peasants, college students and union activists -- along with a smattering of foreigners recruited by the international solidarity movement that supported the rebels' cause against a military government associated with right-wing death squads.

"It seems strange to call the M-1 I'm using La Virgencita [the Little Virgin]," Sanderson wrote in his diary after a crazed firefight in which he and enemy soldiers shouted insults at each other in Spanish. "Polished stock, definitely a beauty . . . at least as guns go."

Sanderson's nom de guerre among his companions was "Lucas." He often worked alongside Carlos Consalvi, alias "Santiago," a Venezuelan-born activist who ran the rebels' clandestine radio station, Radio Venceremos. Consalvi rescued the diary and has it in the collection of the San Salvador museum he founded to preserve the rebels' history.

"Lucas was a good friend, a person who lifted our spirits with his optimism," Consalvi said recently. "The American government spent millions of dollars fighting us. But we had one American on our side." [...]

"He was the intellectual and idealist in the family, and was more like my father," said Steve, now 68. "I was the more practical and conservative one and more like our mother."

Steve graduated from college and became an accountant, like his mother, Virginia Coleman. Joe studied theology at Hanover College in Indiana, but dropped out his senior year. Then he hit the road.

In the years that followed, Joe filled Urbana mailboxes with postcards and envelopes emblazoned with colorful stamps: a gray parrot from Nigeria, a zooming jet from the Republiek van Suid-Afrika, a mosque from Jordan.

Steve says the arrival of a letter from Joe was an occasion usually celebrated with a family dinner. "My mother would call and say, 'Come on over, we got a letter from Joe.' "

After the meal, the family would listen to Coleman read Joe's letters. His words brought exotic locales into their living room: the Khyber Pass into Afghanistan, the dun plains of Iraq, the waters of Lake Victoria in Uganda.

In 1969, Joe reached Nigeria, then in the midst of civil war. He got a job administering vaccines to babies in refugee camps. The job was grim, but Sanderson's letters home described his duties and the war with his usual sardonic humor. "The Red Cross," he wrote in one, "is desperate for workers to hit the bush and drink gin, contract malaria and get shot at for breakfast."

He also journeyed to the 38th Parallel separating the Koreas, founded a "hippie hospital" in the Bolivian mountain town of Sorata and posed as a journalist covering the Vietnam War.

When he returned home to the U.S. periodically, he painted flagpoles and church steeples -- the hazardous work allowed him to raise cash for his travels.

His mother tried to get him to settle down and pursue a career.

"When your kid is 19 and he's a wandering hippie, that's OK," Steve said. "But when your kid is 30, or 40, and he's still a wandering hippie, you realize that's what he's going to be." [...]

At 5-foot-11, with blue eyes and sandy hair, he stood out. In an army made up mostly of teenagers and 20-year-olds, he was a wise viejo, or old man.

Veterans of his rebel column still recount stories of his wartime deeds. They remember him as a "metaphysical" philosopher and raconteur who loved the works of Ernest Hemingway.

"He'd wear jeans and a beige shirt, and a red bandanna . . . but never a uniform, because he wasn't a military-type guy," said "Eduardo," a Mexico City surgeon who staffed a rebel hospital and asked that his real name not be printed. The two men talked for hours about religion and flying.

Several of the skills Sanderson had mastered as an Illinois youth turned out to be quite handy to the guerrillas.

"I always wanted Lucas next to me, because he was an excellent shot," said Jose Ismael Romero, then a 25-year-old rebel leader known as "Comandante Bracamontes."

Once, Sanderson challenged the comandante to a shooting contest -- and won.

Unbeknownst to his comrades, Sanderson had taken and passed a National Rifle Assn. marksmanship test in Illinois. Jorge Melendez, a.k.a. "Comandante Jonas," a rebel commander Joe refers to as "the Whale" in his diary, remembers a long discussion with Sanderson over the rebels' poor shooting skills.

"Look, hombre," he remembers Sanderson telling him. "The M-16 is a good weapon, a very versatile weapon. The problem is that the comrades don't know how to use the M-16. You have to teach them how to use it properly."

So, our local rag reran this one, and we were wondering who would find it cute that this guy fought with communist terrorists, when Mr. Hlatky sent this one, The expatriate: Around the time of the Chinese Revolution in 1949, a small crowd of foreign sympathisers came to help build the Maoist dream. Sixty years later, one of them is still there. Michael Donohue, 8/14/08, The National)
Almost six decades later, Shapiro is still here – a robust 92-year-old Chinese citizen with white hair, a strong handshake, and an exceptionally well-preserved Brooklyn accent. Part of a wave of westerners who settled in Beijing in the early Mao years to sign up for the “socialist experiment,” Shapiro is one of a tiny few who lasted long enough to experience the entire, ongoing era of Communist rule – and to see China stage an Olympic opening ceremony last Friday night that gave almost no acknowledgement to Mao’s legacy.

Shapiro has spent much of his life trying to explain his adopted home to the West, first by translating Chinese literature into English, then by writing books of his own. In 1963, he traded his US passport for a Chinese one. Twenty years later he became a member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, a prestigious body that makes recommendations to the Party leadership. He is not the only foreign-born member of the CPPCC, but he is the only one to have had a bar mitzvah (which took place when Calvin Coolidge was the American president).

On a Friday afternoon earlier this summer, Shapiro sat at a small table in his modest, neatly kept bungalow a minute’s walk from Qianhai Lake – in one of the oldest and best-preserved neighborhoods in Beijing – and talked about his past. [...]

A couple of hundred other foreigners shared Shapiro’s sentiments. Some had fought for the Communists in Spain. A few were fleeing the Red Scare in the United States. Several had already spent years in China, hoping for revolution. In the 1950s they united behind the Maoist task of ending selfishness, eliminating class difference and eradicating bourgeois ideology from the world.

China gave them official “foreign expert” status and a comfortable place to live, usually in the Friendship Hotel on the outskirts of Beijing. [...]

“Certainly some good came of the ‘cultural revolution.’ The turmoil bubbled a lot of scum to the surface – class enemies, sycophants, opportunists, cowards. At the same time the honest, the courageous, the dedicated showed their colours in overwhelming numbers. For millions of young people who never experienced exploitation in the old society, it proved graphically what class struggle was all about.”

How quaint....

August 29, 2008

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:16 PM


Lion's Head Stew (Miami Herald, 8/29/08)

• 2 teaspoons minced ginger

• teaspoon sugar

• ½ teaspoon salt

• 1 tablespoon cornstarch

• ¾ teaspoon soy sauce

• 1 teaspoon dry sherry

• 1 tablespoon egg white

• ½ teaspoon sesame oil

• 10 ounces ground turkey

• 2 green onions, minced, white and light green portion only

• Cornstarch for coating meatballs

• Canola oil or vegetable oil for frying

• 1 teaspoon cornstarch

• 1 teaspoon soy sauce

• 1 teaspoon water

• 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger

• 12 ounces baby bok choy, halved lengthwise, thoroughly washed, drained well; see cook's notes

• 3 cups chicken broth

• Optional for serving: cooked rice

In medium-large bowl, combine first 8 ingredients, stir to combine. Add turkey and green onions. Gently mix with clean hands. Gently form into 1 ¼-inch balls (mixture will be loose); you will have about 8 meatballs.

In large, deep skillet, heat 1-inch oil on medium-high heat. Roll meatballs in cornstarch, lightly coating entire surface. Brown meatballs on all sides. They should be very well browned and a little crusty. Drain on paper towels.

In small bowl, combine 1 teaspoon cornstarch, 1 teaspoon soy sauce and 1 teaspoon water; set aside.

In wok or large deep skillet, heat 2 tablespoons oil on high heat. Add 1 tablespoon minced ginger and bok choy; stir-fry for about 30 seconds. Cautiously add broth. Bring to simmer. Add meatballs and lower heat to medium; gently simmer about 10 to 12 minutes. Stir in reserved cornstarch mixture and simmer until mixture thickens ever so slightly. If serving with rice, put a small scoop of cooked rice in the bottom of 4 bowls. Divide meatballs between the bowls and top with soup and vegetables.

Finally got to see Jar City and at one point Erlender picks up a sheep's head on the way home which he proceeds to eat in one of the more disturbing scenes ever committed to celluloid.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:14 PM


Obama The Orthodox (Michael Gerson, August 30, 2008, Washington Post)

In substance, Barack Obama's convention speech could easily have been given by Al Gore or John Kerry -- and, in various forms, was given by Kerry and Gore. It was all in there: the lunchbox economic populism -- based on the assumption that most Americans are filling their lunchboxes with scraps from Dumpsters. The attacks on corporations, millionaires and other sinister job creators. The touching faith in the power of diplomacy.

This is not to say that these themes are ineffective -- both Gore and Kerry almost became president with them. And these nominees did not possess even half of Obama's political skills.

In tone, Obama's big speech was small, partisan, often defensive and occasionally snide. "I've got news for you, John McCain," he exclaimed. "We all put our country first." It was a pattern for the night: I'm not weak -- you are the one who hasn't killed bin Laden with your bare hands. I'm not inexperienced -- you are the one who is old and out of touch. None of this assault was made with grace or wit.

And some of the attacks were simply unfair. Is it really credible to blame McCain for a tripling of oil imports during his time as senator? What does it mean that McCain "won't even follow [bin Laden] to the cave where he lives" -- that McCain is cowardly? that he knows where bin Laden hides, and won't tell the rest of us? that he doesn't believe in fighting al-Qaeda?

In craft, Obama's speech was aggressively unexceptional, as if he set out to be unmemorable.

The Obama campaign has become so reactionary that in order to dodge the celebrity appellation he went for boring.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:12 PM

Testa's Italian Gazpacho Soup (Miami Herald, 8/29/08)

• ¼ cup olive oil

• ¼ cup lemon juice

• 1 (10-ounce) can beef broth

• 1 (46-ounce) can tomato juice

• ¾ of a medium onion, finely chopped

• 6 ripe medium tomatoes, finely diced

• 3 celery ribs, finely diced

• 1 (14-ounce) can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed

• 1 (14-ounce) can white beans, drained and rinsed

• 4 ounces (raw weight) orzo pasta, cooked and drained

• 1 tablespoon minced fresh oregano

• 1 tablespoon minced fresh basil

• 1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce

• 1 tablespoon salt

• 1 teaspoon pepper

• Garlic to taste

Combine all ingredients in a large glass bowl. Cover and refrigerate overnight before serving.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:10 PM


• 1/3 cup old-fashioned uncooked oats

• ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

• 1 tablespoon light brown sugar, honey or maple syrup

• 2 tablespoons raisins

• 1 tablespoon toasted, chopped walnuts (optional)

Place the oats and 2/3 cup water in a microwave-safe cereal bowl that has a capacity of at least 2 cups. Microwave, uncovered, on high, until the oatmeal is thick and almost all of the water is absorbed, 1 ½ to 2 ½ minutes depending on the power of your microwave. Remove the bowl and stir in the cinnamon. Let the oatmeal stand until all the water is absorbed, 30 seconds to 1 minute.

Sprinkle the brown sugar, raisins and walnuts evenly over the oatmeal.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:51 PM


Obama Distances Self From Campaign Spox Attack on Palin (Jake Tapper, August 29, 2008, ABC News: Political Punch)

Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., was just now asked about the conflicting statements from his campaign on Sen. John McCain's, R-Ariz., pick of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate -- first, an attack by a spokesman, then a congratulatory statement by Obama and running mate Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del.

"I think that, you know, campaigns start getting these hair triggers," Obama said at Pennsylvania Biodiesel Inc. in Monaca, Pa.

Obama Campaign Attacks, And Backtracks, on Palin (Elizabeth Holmes, 8/29/08, WSJ: Washington Wire)
Even before John McCain and Sarah Palin took the stage to make the Republican presidential ticket official, Barack Obama’s campaign slammed the choice of the young Alaska governor.

“Today, John McCain put the former mayor of a town of 9,000 with zero foreign policy experience a heartbeat away from the presidency,” Bill Burton, Obama campaign spokesman said in a statement that hit reporters inboxes at 11:47 a.m. EDT. [...]

[T]he damage was done. The McCain campaign was taken aback by the punch thrown by Obama’s staff. The night before McCain aired an ad congratulating Obama on becoming his party’s nominee. “It is pretty audacious for the Obama campaign to say that Governor Palin is not qualified to be vice president,” said McCain Communications Director Jill Hazelbaker. “She has a record of accomplishment that Senator Obama simply cannot match….Senator Obama has spent his time in office running for President.”

The Democrats spent the rest of the day dialing back and offering kind words instead of criticism.

The Palin Gamble (Tim Fernholz | August 29, 2008, American Prospect)
John McCain's selection of Sarah Palin is a gimmick, a desperation pick. It's a last-ditch attempt for McCain to be a maverick again and recapture his reformist credentials. Despite her image, Palin has ethics problems of her own, and she and McCain share George W. Bush's conservative politics. Worst of all, though, her lack of experience raises serious concerns about her basic fitness for office, and McCain's willingness to put his campaign before the good of the country.

Palin does bring a few advantages to McCain's campaign. She reinforces McCain's standing with his conservative base.

All they left out is that she's an uppity bitch who doesn't know her place and only the Stupids would vote for a young woman governor.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:51 PM


The Palin Stunner (Chris Cillizza, 8/29/08,

John McCain's selection of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin to be his vice presidential running mate is a stunning surprise almost certain to recalibrate the race heading into the fall election.

The McCain campaign had make little secret of the fact that they wanted to pick a woman as the Arizona senator's running mate, believing that the rift caused by the protracted primary between Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton gave them an opportunity to pick up scads of disgruntled women. [...]

In choosing Palin, McCain also doubles down on the maverick argument; Palin is the face of reform in the Republican party nationally and is clearly not of Washington -- a key element of her biography given how negative voter sentiment toward the nation's capital is currently.

Palin is also strongly pro-life and well liked by conservatives of all stripes, and her selection will be greeted with a huge sign of relief among those within the Republican base who feared that McCain might pick a pro-choice candidate like Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) or former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge.

...consider that their lines of attack thus far are that the Governor is unqualified, which not only undercuts their own ticket but is sure to infuriate women and that the choice of Ms Palin represents a pander to the Right, which undercuts decades of Leftwing rigamarole about how conservatives hate women.

Her first appearance with Maverick had two especially impressive features: first her nods to Democrats like John Glenn and Geraldine Ferraro; and, second, her refutation of the Unicorn Rider's reactionary acceptance speech when she said a ship in harbor is safe, but that's not the purpose for which it was built.

Moreover, while Senator Obama talks about change but dodges townhalls, picks a Washington insider as his vp, and gives George McGovern's acceptance speech, Maverick comes out of the blocks with a woman vp from as far outside the Beltway as you can get.

-Stand By Your Woman (Karlyn Bowman 08.29.08, Forbes)

First, John McCain has changed the political conversation. If commentators waxed ecstatic about Obama last night, they will have to move on now. The Obama convention story is yesterday's news. A fresh face like Palin's and a photogenic family will dominate the headlines this weekend as the news coverage moves to Minneapolis.

And those headlines will generate GOP enthusiasm, a second factor that will be important in the fall. All spring and summer, the Democrats have been more enthusiastic about their nominee than the Republicans about theirs. Their excitement was palpable in Denver. The Palin pick will revive the Republicans and rally the conservative base that's been lukewarm about the top of the ticket. Republicans have a reason to be motivated, and they will go into their convention and into the election with a new energy.

In mid-August, Gallup looked at the gender gap among whites and found that McCain had a 20-point lead among non-Hispanic white men, but tied Obama among white females. A woman on the Republican ticket could move some women into the Republican column.

Third, the biography is boffo in political terms. Not only hers, but her husband's. Palin is a young governor with five children, one of whom is serving in the military. She is married to her high school sweetheart. She coached the basketball team. She comes across as one of us. Her husband is a card-carrying union member and outdoorsman.

Palin tough target for Obama to hit (Lisa Lerer and Tim Grieve, August 29, 2008, Politico)
John McCain’s selection of Sarah Palin as his running mate presents the Obama-Biden campaign with an unwelcome and unexpected challenge: How do you go after a 44-year-old mother of five without once alienating the female voters you’ve just spent the last week trying to win back?

The answer so far: Not very well.

Minutes after the McCain campaign confirmed that Palin would be the Republican’s VP pick, Obama spokesman Bill Burton dismissed the Alasaka governor as a lightweight.

McCain, he said, had put "the former mayor of a town of 9,000 with zero foreign policy experience a heartbeat away from the presidency."

Almost immediately, the campaign seemed to reconsider its tough-guy approach.

Conservative Activists Praise Palin as McCain’s VP Pick (Susan Davis, 8/29/08, WSJ: Washington Wire)
John McCain’s selection of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate was praised by social and fiscal conservative activists today as a vice presidential candidate that will energize the conservative base, and perhaps appeal to Hillary Clinton supporters who have not warmed to Democratic nominee Barack Obama.

“This is the strongest pro-life team with the strongest pro-life platform in the history of the Republican Party,” said Ken Blackwell, chairman of the Coalition for a Conservative Majority. Palin, 44 years old, gave birth to a son in April with Down Syndrome, a factor that abortion opponents said gives her credibility and contrasts her against Democratic vice presidential candidate Joe Biden who supports abortion rights. Both candidates are Catholic.

Palin, a lifetime member of the National Rifle Association, is also popular among gun rights activists. Sandra Froman, who sits on the NRA Board of Directors, touted Palin as an “outstanding” selection and that gun rights activists would be “energized” with her on the ticket. McCain has a mixed record with the NRA, having supported policies they oppose, such as closing the so-called gun show loophole.

Transcript: TIME's interview with Sarah Palin (Jay Newton-Small, 8/29/08, TIME)
Time's Jay Newton Small interviewed Alaska Governor Sarah Palin by phone on Aug. 14, less than two weeks before her surprise selection as John McCain's running mate. [...]

What, on a real practical level here, the GOP has got to do, though, between now and the election, is to convince Americans that it is our energy policy that is best for our nation and the nation's future, that if we are to become energy independent and if we are to become a more secure nation then we had better start supplying our very, very hungry markets across the nation with American supplies of energy. And up here in Alaska we're sitting on billions of barrels of oil. We're sitting on hundreds of trillions of cubic feet of natural gas onshore and offshore. And it seems to be only the Republicans who understand that companies should be competing for the right to tap those resources, and get that energy source flowing into these hungry markets so that we will be less reliant on foreign sources of energy. In a volatile world, relying on foreign regimes that are not friendly to Americans, asking them to ramp up resource production for our benefit, that's nonsensical.

The GOP agenda to ramp up domestic supplies of energy is the only way that we are going to become energy independent, the only way that we are going to become a more secure nation. And I say this, of course, knowing the situation we are in right now — at war, not knowing what the plan is to ever end the war we are engaged in, understanding that Americans are seeking solutions and are seeking resolution in this war effort. So energy supplies and being able to produce and supply domestically is going to be a big part of that. And the GOP agenda is the right agenda in that respect, but the GOP is going to have to prove to Americans in following weeks that we can safely, responsibly and ethically develop these resources. That, of course, has been a problem for the GOP. And a problem up here in Alaska. We have state lawmakers serving time in prison right now... other lawmakers whom the FBI is probing right now... because they have been found, some, to be corrupt in oil and gas issues, having taken bribes. That does not bode well for the GOP. And that's gotta change.

What has been your crowning achievement in office so far?

We have protected our state sovereignty by taking on the big oil industry interests, making sure that there is not going to be any undue influence on the oil industry, that our state administration and our state lawmakers will be making the decisions we will be making... based on sound, solid, unbiased information, not being corrupted by, in the case that I'm speaking of now,[an] oil service company's undue influence that has corrupted some lawmakers. We have set in place ethics laws, overseeing agencies and offices to make sure that never happens again in Alaska. So that's something we're very proud of. And we have allowed measures to be put in place now where we can prove very, very sound and strict oversight of oil and gas development so that we can prove to the rest of the nation that we are ready, willing and we are able to safely develop our resources. So that Alaska can be contributers, we can be producers, so we don't have to be takers from federal government. but can be supplying the rest of the U.S. with American resources finally.

Gov. Sarah Palin: Midnight runs and caribou dinners: Coming Saturday Sept. 6 in the debut issue of WSJ. Magazine, a conversation with Gov. Sarah Palin about her unusual workout and fitness routine. Preview excerpt (JEN MURPHY, August 29, 2008 , WSJ Magazine)

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:13 PM


McCain Chooses Palin as Running Mate (MICHAEL COOPER and MITCHELL L. BLUMENTHAL, 8/30/08, NY Times)

In a surprise move, Senator John McCain announced here Friday that he had chosen Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska as his running mate, shaking up the political world at a time when his campaign has been trying to attract women, especially disaffected supporters of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton.

“I’m very happy today to spend my birthday with you, and to make a historic announcement in Dayton,” said Mr. McCain, who turned 72 on Friday, explaining that he had been looking for the running mate who can “best help me shake up Washington.”

In choosing Ms. Palin — a 44-year-old social conservative and mother of five who has been governor for less than two years — the McCain campaign reached far outside the Washington Beltway during an election in which the Democratic presidential nominee, Senator Barack, is running on a platform of change.

If he learns nothing else from W, let's hope it's this: always throw the deep ball.

This isn't just a great call in terms of the appeal to disaffected women voters and the pro-life movement but the contrast to Joe Biden at the VP debate will be devastating. The contrast of the cool young executive to the hot-headed Beltway hack is delicious.

Democrats appear to have settled on two lines of attack: (1) she's too inexperienced--that'll go over well with women who were told experience didn't matter when it was Obama vs. Hillary; and (2) she's not well known--based on the mistaken belief that because everyone inside the Beltway knew Joe Biden he was a national figure.

And Along Came Palin (David N. Bass, 8/29/2008, American Spectator)

[W]hile media pundits write the evangelical movement's obituary, political reality shows that the Christian right is far from dead, and that social issues are and will remain a major component of conservative governance.

The proof: John McCain's announcement on Friday that Alaska Governor Sarah Palin will be his running mate. The news came after weeks of GOP insiders floating names like Joe Lieberman and Tom Ridge as potentials to fill out the ticket. Instead of these pro-abortion alternatives, McCain picked a reliable pro-lifer.

It was a calculated blow against Obama, who has been courting evangelicals for months in hopes of carving off a few votes for himself. The Christian right, in general, hasn't trusted McCain. The choice of Palin assuages some of that concern. It also might pry away some disgruntled women who had supported Hillary — an unmistakable jab on McCain's part considering Obama has been vying to swipe a few evangelical voters.

Some will argue that Palin's pro-life views don't matter because, if elected, her post as vice president would have little policy-making power. That would be true with an ordinary candidate on the ticket's top slot, but the likelihood of McCain seeking a second term at the age of 76 is slight. If McCain wins, his veep pick would be the presumptive Republican nominee in 2012 and the standard-bearer for the party.

The choice of Palin is also evidence that McCain needs to give more than lip service to evangelical voters. That's smart, because, effectively mobilized, they have the power to give him the presidency. And the reality is that social issues are high on the hierarchy of importance for a good portion of the American electorate.

The headlines over the last two weeks prove it. Even leading up to the Democrat's convention, the Obama campaign had to play defense on the issue evangelicals care about most, and one of the defining social issues of our time: abortion.

Obama's bungling of the question of when human life begins at Rick Warren's forum on August 16 was the start.

-Sarah Palin a risky VP choice for John McCain: She should appeal to conservatives and to women. But she's light on experience - the same criticism McCain has leveled at Barack Obama. And her unfamiliarity could haunt the GOP campaign. (Michael Finnegan, 8/29/08, Los Angeles Times)
John McCain's choice of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate poses high risks for the Republican presidential hopeful.

She carries potential to strengthen his tepid support among conservatives. Republicans hope that Palin might also help McCain broaden his appeal to women, including a portion of those who voted for Hillary Rodham Clinton in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination.

But McCain's gamble on Palin threatens to undercut one of his key arguments against Obama, namely that the first-term senator from Illinois is too inexperienced to be commander in chief. Palin has been governor of Alaska, one of the nation's least populated states, for less than two years. Before that, she was mayor of Wasilla, a town with fewer than 9,000 residents.

Here's the revealing thing: if he picked her when she was mayor she'd still have had more executive experience than the entire Democrat ticket.

How Palin Came to the Top of the List (Jan Crawford Greenburg, 8/29/08, ABC News: Political Radar)

It wasn't until Sunday night that John McCain, after meeting with his four top advisers, finally decided he could not tap independent Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut to be his running mate. One adviser, tasked with taking the temperature of the conservative base, had strongly made the case to McCain that it would be a disaster for the party and that the base would revolt. McCain concluded he could not go that route.

The next day, McCain studied the three men at the top of his shortlist: Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge. All had different strengths and negatives, but McCain was not satisfied. None of them had what McCain believed he needed to do -- and would have done -- with Lieberman.

McCain wanted to shake up the ticket.

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's name was in the mix as an unconventional choice for months, but she had not been considered a front-runner. So, over the next few days, with McCain continuing to believe he needed someone who had more of a maverick streak than his other choices, lawyers reviewed her vetting information. They kept their activities from even some in McCain's most senior inner circle.

The story behind the Palin surprise (JONATHAN MARTIN | 8/29/08, Politico)
John McCain today announced a running mate whom he met only six months ago and whom he spoke with just once on the phone about the position before offering it in person earlier this week.

McCain’s first encounter with Sarah Palin came at a Washington meeting of the National Governors Association in February, according to a campaign-provided reconstruction of how the little-known Alaska governor was thrust into the national spotlight. The two discussed the position by phone on Sunday before McCain invited her and her husband to Arizona to formally make the offer. McCain, joined by his wife, Cindy, did just that yesterday morning at their home near Sedona, Ariz.

By picking somebody he and most Americans barely know — an out-of-the-blue decision that sent shock waves of disbelief through the political world and still has jaws agape — McCain has taken a considerable gamble. [...]

Palin, say some GOP strategists, brings considerable strengths to the ticket: She’s from just about as far from the Beltway as possible, ran and won as a reformer in a state that was aching for one, is acceptable to the party’s right wing, and has a fascinating-yet-familiar life story of success and achievement that embodies the American Dream.

“It reinforces in real time McCain’s greatest brand: reform,” said Mary Matalin. “And it epitomizes ‘shares your values.’”

“I feel a tingle up my spine,” she crowed, praising the McCain campaign’s secret-keeping and boffo execution here today.

And then there are Palin’s two most visible traits.

“We’re a party that desperately needs women and desperately needs young people,” noted Ed Rollins, a longtime Republican consultant. And the 44-year-old Palin brings both of those qualities.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:07 PM


Of him, America knows so little (CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, August 29, 2008, THE WASHINGTON POST)

Barack Obama is an immensely talented man whose talents have been largely devoted to crafting, and chronicling, his own life. Not things. Not ideas. Not institutions. But himself.

Nothing wrong or even terribly odd about that, except that he is laying claim to the job of crafting the coming history of the United States. A leap of such audacity is odd. The air of unease at the Democratic convention this week was not just a result of the Clinton psychodrama. The deeper anxiety was that the party was nominating a man of many gifts but precious few accomplishments – bearing even fewer witnesses.

It's odd how much this moment resembles the end of The Candidate. Except that I caddied for Don Porter and he was a cheap [#@%&*], whereas Ms Clinton seems a nice enough lady.

Posted by Stephen Judd at 11:14 AM


McCain picks Alaska Gov. Palin as running mate (August 29, 2008 | CNN)

Press release

Via The Mother Judd: John McCain, here is your vice president (May 21, 2008 | Nat Hentoff | Jewish World Review )

Sarah Palin - Wikipedia

Comment away!

August 28, 2008

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:41 PM


Obama Camp on Pawlenty: Bring It On (ABC News: Political Radar, August 28, 2008)

The Obama campaign signaled a willingness on Thursday to go after Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, R-Minn., for the 2007 Minneapolis bridge collapse...

Faulty Design Led to Minnesota Bridge Collapse, Inquiry Finds (MATTHEW L. WALD, 1/28/08, NY Times)
Investigators said Monday that the Interstate 35W bridge in Minneapolis, which collapsed into the Mississippi River on Aug. 1, killing 13, came down because of a flaw in its design.

The designers had specified a metal plate that was too thin to serve as a junction of several girders, investigators say.

The bridge was designed in the 1960s and lasted 40 years. But like most other bridges, it gradually gained weight during that period, as workers installed concrete structures to separate eastbound and westbound lanes and made other changes, adding strain to the weak spot. At the time of the collapse, crews had brought tons of equipment and material onto the deck for a repair job. [...]

“This is not a bridge-inspection thing,” said one investigator, “It’s calculating loads and looking at designs.” The investigator spoke on condition of anonymity in order to discuss the investigators’ findings before the announcement Tuesday.

-Minnesota: Governor: Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) (Almanac of American Politics)
-Extreme Makeover: Tim Pawlenty's proletarian chic. (Noam Scheiber, June 25, 2008, The New Republic)

As it happens, it was Pawlenty--the son of a truck driver from the blue-collar enclave of South St. Paul--who first coined the Sam's Club phrase back in 2001. At the time, Pawlenty found himself in a fight for the gubernatorial nomination with a millionaire political novice named Brian Sullivan. Sullivan had spent a minor fortune touting himself as the embodiment of conservative purity. Pawlenty's response was to paint Sullivan as an economic elitist. He wondered if Sullivan might reinforce "the stereotype of the Republican Party ... that we're all a bunch of wealthy snobs" and urged the party to reach out to member's of "Sam's Club, not just the country club." That Pawlenty not only won the nomination, but went on to win two terms as governor of a Democratic state, has, not surprisingly, turned heads in Washington. Even Ted Kennedy has pronounced him "one of the most persuasive Republicans I've ever heard."

-Tooting the Horn of Pawlenty: Meet the first Sam's Club Republican. (Matthew Continetti, 05/07/2007, Weekly Standard)
It was back in 2002 that Pawlenty first said the GOP needed "to be the party of Sam's Club, not just the country club." Back then his embrace of his state and regional populist tradition was a curiosity, a political epiphenomenon lost in a national sea of regnant Bush Republicanism. Today Bush Republicanism is on its way out. The most successful GOP governors--Arnold Schwarzenegger in California, Rick Perry in Texas, Charlie Crist in Florida, and former governor Mitt Romney in Massachusetts--like their conservatism à la carte. They emphasize certain conservative policies--low taxes most of all--but dismiss others. Meanwhile, in Washington policy circles, wonks and flacks are busy sketching out an alternative Republican agenda that combines social conservatism with an active government tailoring economic policies to help working families. Pawlenty's slogan--"The party of Sam's Club"--is the working title on a forthcoming book from Doubleday by WEEKLY STANDARD contributors Ross Douthat and Reihan Salam.

Behind all this new thinking lies a political reality. Independents are moving rapidly away from the Republican party. According to the National Exit Poll, Republicans lost independent voters by a staggering 18 points in 2006. A recent Pew survey reveals Democrats have a 15-point advantage over Republicans when voters are asked the party with which they identify.

Nowhere is the Democratic advantage more clear than with voters 18 to 29 years old. Voting patterns among this cohort shape the political environment for years to come. In the 1984 presidential election, 18- to 29-year-olds voted 40 percent Democratic and 59 percent Republican. In the 1986 congressional election, 18- to 29-year-olds were pretty much split down the middle, voting 51 percent Democratic and 49 percent Republican. One could argue such voting patterns helped set the stage for conservative governance.

After more than a decade of mirroring general electoral trends, however, the youth vote has veered left. In 2004, 18- to 29-year-olds went Democratic 54 percent to 45 percent. In the 2006 congressional elections, these voters went Democratic 60 percent to 38 percent, making them one of the most Democratic groups in the country--voting for the donkey at about the same levels as union members. If this youthful cohort continues to vote in similar ways as it grows older, the GOP is in serious trouble.

It is out of such a climate that politicians like Tim Pawlenty emerge.

At first the South St. Paul native wanted to be a dentist. He would be walking down the street and see the local teeth-cleaner--Dr. Vogel--driving his Buick Riviera, parking it in a reserved spot, and would think, Wow! This is awesome. To practice dentistry--to make money as a professional--was to enhance one's status. It was also a way to transcend difficult circumstances. Pawlenty's mother died when he was 16. His father was a truck driver who lost his job not long after her passing. Pawlenty was his family's first college graduate. He went to the University of Minnesota.

"I went to college pre-dentistry and got into organic and inorganic chemistry," he says. "And back then you had to get pretty close to a straight-A average to get into dental school, and I think I got a B- or something in either organic or inorganic chemistry, and I was discouraged and going through--you know--pretty much soul-searching as a 19- or 20-year-old kid, and I went to see a career counselor at the U--who happened to be some graduate student who I'm sure they gave a stipend to be a career counselor in their free time--and it was, you know, this zen-like thing in his office, and he said, 'What do you love to do, you know? What's your passion? What do you like to do, what books do you read on vacation?'

" . . . Long story short, I just told him I like current events, I like history, public policy. And he said, 'Well, go into something you love and do well, and whatever you love is what you'll do well in.' So that propelled me to go start taking some political science classes."

Pawlenty worked with the College Republicans and switched his major to political science. It wasn't long before he realized he probably wouldn't be able to find a job with a bachelor's in poli-sci: Holy cow, I'm going to be unemployed! I'm going to be selling hot dogs on a street corner over here if I don't get a graduate degree. So he went to law school--"Not because I had some innate love of the law. . . . I wanted to get a degree and wanted to get a job." He interned with a local state senator, practiced law, and was elected to the state house in 1992.

It's impossible to review Pawlenty's career in politics without mentioning Republican Norm Coleman, now the senior senator from Minnesota. Time after time Coleman's political decisions directly affected Pawlenty's electoral fortunes. "Norm Coleman is a very gifted senator and wonderful senator and a friend, he was a pretty well-known Minnesota political figure because he had been [the Democratic] mayor of St. Paul, dynamic, well-connected, well-financed," Pawlenty says. It all started when Pawlenty wanted to run for governor in 1998 but the decks were cleared for Mayor Coleman, who had switched parties and had an institutional advantage. Pawlenty deferred to Coleman, who went on to lose to Reform party candidate Jesse "The Body/The Mind" Ventura in a close race.

In 1999 Pawlenty was elected majority leader of the Minnesota House of Representatives. The Republicans had a one-vote majority, the Democrats held the senate, and Ventura was governor. Pawlenty was young and untested. "His colleagues saw something in him," says Minneapolis attorney Scott Johnson, one of the Powerline bloggers. "Tim held that majority together, which is so hard to do."

Johnson recalls meeting Pawlenty in 2000, at a lunch with some Republican lawyer friends. "I couldn't believe what a talented guy he was," Johnson says. "There's nobody he can't talk to. He's impossible to dislike. And that's such a rare commodity on the Republican side."

Pawlenty was thinking of running for the U.S. Senate against Democrat Paul Wellstone, who was up for reelection in 2002. Coleman was planning to run for governor once again. But the White House thought Coleman would be a stronger Senate candidate than Pawlenty. Coleman decided to follow advice from Washington and move into the Senate race. Pawlenty started receiving phone calls from national Republicans urging him to step aside for Coleman--again. "For a number of days leading up to that there was a whole series of calls saying, 'Look, nobody knows who you are, you don't have any money,'" Pawlenty says, breaking out into a hiccupy laugh. "'Norm's going to get the endorsement, and you're just chasing the wind.'" Pawlenty didn't know what to do. Then one day a call came from Dick Cheney telling him to move aside. "That was kind of the icing on the cake."

Pawlenty won a contested Republican gubernatorial primary and scraped by in the general election, winning 44 percent of the vote. It was a close election in a Republican year, both nationally and in Minnesota. Coleman won the Senate seat (he ran ahead of Pawlenty, taking 50 percent of the vote), and Republicans increased their majority in the state house.

Pawlenty's first task on assuming office was to confront the state's $4.2 billion budget deficit. The newly elected governor had promised to erase the deficit without raising taxes. He did so. And he kept busy. He signed a law requiring a waiting period for abortions and another allowing permit-holders to carry concealed firearms. He threw out the state's lax education requirements and passed new, tougher standards. He won passage of a drug reimportation bill. He poured resources into alternative energy--one of his favorite subjects and proudest accomplishments. He talks with rare interest about biodiesel and cellulosic ethanol and wind power. "Under my watch we've doubled the proposed requirements for ethanol in gasoline here," he says. "We implemented the first in the nation biodiesel requirement in our diesel fuel, 2 percent soy oil. We're one of the nation's leaders in wind energy production. And it's largely part of some tax credits we put into law on my watch as governor."

The second half of his first term had its disappointments. Democrats gained in statewide elections in 2004 and the state confronted another budget crunch. In 2005 the state was on the edge of a government shutdown. Then it leapt off the edge. "And those were very difficult negotiations," Pawlenty says.

The shutdown lasted eight days. "That was very difficult, very contentious," Pawlenty goes on. "And the decision to do that, stare down, was tough. We ended up getting it resolved, making some compromises. Looking over the abyss into a government shutdown--that was a challenge." Pawlenty vetoed some Democratic tax bills, but agreed to raise the state cigarette tax. This lost him some friends on the right.

Not enough to prevent his reelection, however. Pawlenty is beginning his second term eager to strengthen his education reforms, pour more money into alternative energy subsidies, and try to recover what was lost of his antitax reputation by combating the state Democratic majority's efforts to raise taxes.

-Minn. governor rides his rapport with McCain: Speculation increasing on Pawlenty as VP pick (Michael Kranish, July 28, 2008, Boston Globe)
As Senator John McCain campaigned across New Hampshire early this year, one of his favorite traveling buddies was his longtime friend, Governor Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota.

McCain told voters that Pawlenty reminded him of a joke about two men in prison: One inmate turned to another and said, the food was better in prison "when you were governor."

Some politicians might resent being compared to a convict, but Pawlenty, no matter how many times he heard the joke, laughed appreciatively. And, no matter how many times he introduced McCain, Pawlenty lavished praise on the Arizona Republican as if it were his only chance.

The rapport between the two men, evident throughout long days on the campaign trail, now is being cited as one of the main reasons that Pawlenty has risen in speculation as McCain's possible running mate.

While much of the recent buzz has surrounded former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, his bitter primary fight with McCain and the lack of a personal relationship could hurt Romney's chances.

If McCain is looking for a close friend whose loyalty is beyond question, Pawlenty could be his vice presidential pick, political observers said. Pawlenty might also help McCain win Minnesota, where a recent poll showed the race is statistically tied.

-Pawlenty Looks to National Stage (MONICA DAVEY, 8/08/08, NY Times)
[T]hose who have followed his political rise here say Mr. Pawlenty’s personal story — his direct, everyman appeal to ordinary people — is among his most powerful attributes.

Long before the polls began suggesting that Republicans could face trouble in November, Mr. Pawlenty, now in his second term, was urging his party to become “the party of Sam’s Club,” not just the country club.

“We need everybody — to grow the party and to move forward,” Mr. Pawlenty explained in a recent interview. “One of the most powerful reasons people go to Sam’s Club or Target or Costco is they want value, and Republicans are well suited to be the party that says, ‘We’re going to have a limited but also effective government.’ ”

Mr. Pawlenty can talk about such things from experience. He now lives in the well-off suburb of Eagan, but holds blue-collar credentials. He grew up in South St. Paul, then a working-class town where life revolved around the stockyards, where his father drove a truck, where he played hockey, where his mother died of cancer when he was still a teenager, and where he went on to become the first in his family to graduate from college.

For Mr. McCain, whose campaign would not comment about the vice-presidential selection process, Mr. Pawlenty might be appealing on other fronts. At 47, tall and runner-thin, Mr. Pawlenty is the same age as Senator Barack Obama, the presumed Democratic presidential nominee. He also carries qualifications important to many conservatives: opposition to tax increases, longtime attendance at a church with a pastor who leads the National Association of Evangelicals and a mostly consistent conservatism on social issues.

-Pawlenty Is As Good As It Gets (Lisa Schiffren, 8/16/08, National Review)
-Losing the mullet, angling for veep: Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty has a shot at being John McCain's No. 2 -- and it's not just because of the snazzy new haircut. (Mike Madden, Jul. 03, 2008, Salon)
What has Republicans buzzing about Pawlenty, though, isn't so much his hairstyle as his political style. He's won election twice in a key battleground state that the GOP has long dreamed of taking back at the presidential level, and that will host the Republican convention in September. He's young enough to balance out McCain's age, but experienced enough after two terms in office to claim he's been tested. Social conservatives like him; his pastor, the Rev. Leith Anderson, heads the National Association of Evangelicals. And week in and week out, as one of the McCain campaign's most visible surrogates on cable news, Pawlenty is proving he has no trouble delivering sharp lines against Barack Obama with a smile. (Like other potential McCain running mates, Pawlenty has issued bland denials that he's seeking the job, always leaving plenty of wiggle room in case he's asked.)

"I think Barack Obama's book 'The Audacity of Hope' perhaps should be retitled 'The Audacity of Hypocrisy,'" Pawlenty said Sunday on ABC's "This Week With George Stephanopoulos." He followed up later with a dig at Obama and Hillary Clinton's joint event in New Hampshire: "They shouldn't have had the meeting in Unity, N.H.; they should have had it in Political Expediency, N.H., if there is such a community." The attacks look harsh written out, but they flowed by smoothly in Pawlenty's laid-back Minnesota tone. On TV, he comes across as easygoing and natural, even when he's sticking the dagger in an opponent. Even Democrats in Minnesota credit him for being personable and friendly (though they say that doesn't make him any easier to work with in the statehouse).

Pawlenty's blue-collar roots also look attractive to many Republican strategists. His father drove a truck in the Twin Cities for years. Pawlenty was the first person in his family to go to college. He says he's a "Sam's Club Republican," not a country club Republican, although he has hewed toward conservative economic policies since he was first elected in 2002.

"He's been a conservative governor in a fairly liberal state, and managed to maintain his popularity pretty well doing it," said former Minnesota Rep. Vin Weber, now a D.C. power broker who's staying neutral in the vice-presidential sweepstakes because he's also close with Rob Portman, another contender, and backed yet another, Mitt Romney, in the GOP primary. Weber said Pawlenty has a "Reaganesque appeal" to Republicans who know him.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:36 PM


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:13 PM


Why Doesn’t Plagiarism Matter? (Jonathan Beecher Field, 8/26/08, Inside Higher Ed)

Remembering this sense of exhilaration I sensed in seeing a new field of political possibilities makes the sense of betrayal I feel today even more powerful. By choosing Joe Biden as his running mate, Barack Obama has insulted academics — students and teachers alike — a constituency that was significant in bringing him the nomination of his party. Especially in a year that has seen two prominent political careers hamstrung by sex scandals, and in an era where choosing vice presidential candidates seems to be foremost an exercise in avoiding skeletons in the closet, it’s surprising that Biden’s record of plagiarism did not disqualify him from Obama’s consideration. [...]

To a degree, appropriating Kinnock for a stump speech is an understandable offense. There is not the presumption of original and unique authorship in the words that come out of a politician’s mouth. Just ask Peggy Noonan. However, the phrasing of Biden’s speech, prefaced Kinnock’s sentiments with language that indicated that these were his thoughts. This incident suggests the same kind of troubling indifference to the truth that has been a hallmark of the current administration, but on its own, perhaps not worthy of ending a political career.

The incident in law school is more concerning, at least from the perspective of any educator. The kind of wholesale plagiarism Biden evidently committed, copying chunks of a law review article into a paper with his name on it, suggests an inclination toward the kind of malfeasance present in the Kinnock incident. In every class I teach, I spend time talking about citation, and why it is so important for scholarship. As part of this conversation, I emphasize that acknowledging sources is a condition of membership in the community of scholars: if scholars do not acknowledge sources, they do not belong in this community. By way of illustration, I have sometimes shared the Emory University report on the conduct of former history professor Michael Bellesiles, who undermined a provocative and compelling argument about gun ownership in early America with gross violations of scholarly norms for citation. The report demonstrated serious concerns about his scholarshop and led to his resignation. If Bellesiles had chosen a less contentious subject, he would not have had legions of NRA supporters going through his footnotes, and he might well still hold his tenured position at a prestigious university. However, he presented his research in sloppy and dishonest fashion, and he lost his job.

The point of sharing this report is to establish that citation is not a question of memorizing MLA, APA, or Chicago styles — whimsical shibboleths involving italics and parentheses — but that citation is the foundation of honest scholarship. [...]

Biden’s dishonesty matters to me in two ways. It suggests something of Biden’s character, indeed, in a realm more relevant to doing his job than was John Edwards’s philandering to his. The other reason is selfish. Now that Barack Obama has deemed a plagiarist worthy of the vice-presidency, it becomes more difficult for me to make the case in the classroom that plagiarism matters. More broadly speaking, Obama’s choice has made it harder for me, and for my colleagues across the United States, to defend the principles that form the foundation of scholarship.

...was to smack down academics. Instead he just seems not to have cared about Senator Biden's character.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:01 PM


McCain makes decision on running mate (LIZ SIDOTI, 8/28/08, AP)

Republican presidential candidate John McCain decided on a running mate early Thursday, and one top prospect, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, abruptly canceled numerous public appearances.

The Arizona senator will appear with his No. 2 at an Ohio rally on Friday, aides said, though they provided no details on McCain's pick.

Without explanation, Pawlenty called off an Associated Press interview at the last minute, as well as other media interviews in Denver, site of the Democratic National Convention.

Even setting aside morality, it's a simple matter of math, Poll: John McCain Would Lose 10 Percentage Points With Pro-Abortion VP (Steven Ertelt, August 28, 2008,
A new ABC News poll finds presidential candidate John McCain would lose as much as 20 percent of his support should he select a pro-abortion running mate. With such a decision adding him the backing of just 10 percent of voters, McCain would suffer a net loss of 10 percent.

The poll underscores the importance for pro-life voters and most Republicans of picking a pro-life running mate such as Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:59 PM


To Chairman Dean and my great friend Dick Durbin; and to all my fellow citizens of this great nation;

With profound gratitude and great humility, I accept your nomination for the presidency of the United States.

Let me express my thanks to the historic slate of candidates who accompanied me on this journey, and especially the one who traveled the farthest — a champion for working Americans and an inspiration to my daughters and to yours, Hillary Rodham Clinton. To President Clinton, who last night made the case for change as only he can make it; to Ted Kennedy, who embodies the spirit of service; and to the next vice president of the United States, Joe Biden, I thank you. I am grateful to finish this journey with one of the finest statesmen of our time, a man at ease with everyone from world leaders to the conductors on the Amtrak train he still takes home every night

To the love of my life, our next first lady, Michelle Obama, and to Sasha and Malia — I love you so much, and I’m so proud of all of you.

Four years ago, I stood before you and told you my story — of the brief union between a young man from Kenya and a young woman from Kansas who weren’t well-off or well-known, but shared a belief that in America, their son could achieve whatever he put his mind to.

It is that promise that has always set this country apart — that through hard work and sacrifice, each of us can pursue our individual dreams but still come together as one American family, to ensure that the next generation can pursue their dreams as well.

That’s why I stand here tonight. Because for 232 years, at each moment when that promise was in jeopardy, ordinary men and women — students and soldiers, farmers and teachers, nurses and janitors — found the courage to keep it alive.

We meet at one of those defining moments — a moment when our nation is at war, our economy is in turmoil, and the American promise has been threatened once more.

Tonight, more Americans are out of work and more are working harder for less. More of you have lost your homes and even more are watching your home values plummet. More of you have cars you can’t afford to drive, credit card bills you can’t afford to pay, and tuition that’s beyond your reach.

These challenges are not all of government’s making. But the failure to respond is a direct result of a broken politics in Washington and the failed policies of George W. Bush.

America, we are better than these last eight years. We are a better country than this.

This country is more decent than one where a woman in Ohio, on the brink of retirement, finds herself one illness away from disaster after a lifetime of hard work.

This country is more generous than one where a man in Indiana has to pack up the equipment he’s worked on for 20 years and watch it shipped off to China, and then chokes up as he explains how he felt like a failure when he went home to tell his family the news.

We are more compassionate than a government that lets veterans sleep on our streets and families slide into poverty; that sits on its hands while a major American city drowns before our eyes.

Tonight, I say to the American people, to Democrats and Republicans and independents across this great land — enough! This moment — this election — is our chance to keep, in the 21st century, the American promise alive. Because next week, in Minnesota, the same party that brought you two terms of George Bush and Dick Cheney will ask this country for a third. And we are here because we love this country too much to let the next four years look like the last eight. On Nov. 4, we must stand up and say: “Eight is enough.”

Now let there be no doubt. The Republican nominee, John McCain, has worn the uniform of our country with bravery and distinction, and for that we owe him our gratitude and respect. And next week, we’ll also hear about those occasions when he’s broken with his party as evidence that he can deliver the change that we need.

But the record’s clear: John McCain has voted with George Bush 90 percent of the time. Sen. McCain likes to talk about judgment, but really, what does it say about your judgment when you think George Bush has been right more than 90 percent of the time? I don’t know about you, but I’m not ready to take a 10 percent chance on change.

The truth is, on issue after issue that would make a difference in your lives — on health care and education and the economy — Sen. McCain has been anything but independent. He said that our economy has made “great progress” under this president. He said that the fundamentals of the economy are strong. And when one of his chief advisers — the man who wrote his economic plan — was talking about the anxiety Americans are feeling, he said that we were just suffering from a “mental recession,” and that we’ve become, and I quote, “a nation of whiners.”

A nation of whiners? Tell that to the proud autoworkers at a Michigan plant who, after they found out it was closing, kept showing up every day and working as hard as ever, because they knew there were people who counted on the brakes that they made. Tell that to the military families who shoulder their burdens silently as they watch their loved ones leave for their third or fourth or fifth tour of duty. These are not whiners. They work hard and give back and keep going without complaint. These are the Americans that I know.

Now, I don’t believe that Sen. McCain doesn’t care what’s going on in the lives of Americans. I just think he doesn’t know. Why else would he define middle class as someone making under $5 million a year? How else could he propose hundreds of billions in tax breaks for big corporations and oil companies but not one penny of tax relief to more than 100 million Americans? How else could he offer a health care plan that would actually tax people’s benefits, or an education plan that would do nothing to help families pay for college, or a plan that would privatize Social Security and gamble your retirement?

It’s not because John McCain doesn’t care. It’s because John McCain doesn’t get it.

For over two decades, he’s subscribed to that old, discredited Republican philosophy — give more and more to those with the most and hope that prosperity trickles down to everyone else. In Washington, they call this the Ownership Society, but what it really means is you’re on your own. Out of work? Tough luck. No health care? The market will fix it. Born into poverty? Pull yourself up by your own bootstraps — even if you don’t have boots. You’re on your own.

Well, it’s time for them to own their failure. It’s time for us to change America.

You see, we Democrats have a very different measure of what constitutes progress in this country.

We measure progress by how many people can find a job that pays the mortgage; whether you can put a little extra money away at the end of each month so you can someday watch your child receive her college diploma. We measure progress in the 23 million new jobs that were created when Bill Clinton was president — when the average American family saw its income go up $7,500 instead of down $2,000 like it has under George Bush.

We measure the strength of our economy not by the number of billionaires we have or the profits of the Fortune 500, but by whether someone with a good idea can take a risk and start a new business, or whether the waitress who lives on tips can take a day off to look after a sick kid without losing her job — an economy that honors the dignity of work.

The fundamentals we use to measure economic strength are whether we are living up to that fundamental promise that has made this country great — a promise that is the only reason I am standing here tonight.

Because in the faces of those young veterans who come back from Iraq and Afghanistan, I see my grandfather, who signed up after Pearl Harbor, marched in Patton’s Army, and was rewarded by a grateful nation with the chance to go to college on the GI Bill.

In the face of that young student who sleeps just three hours before working the night shift, I think about my mom, who raised my sister and me on her own while she worked and earned her degree; who once turned to food stamps but was still able to send us to the best schools in the country with the help of student loans and scholarships.

When I listen to another worker tell me that his factory has shut down, I remember all those men and women on the South Side of Chicago who I stood by and fought for two decades ago after the local steel plant closed.

And when I hear a woman talk about the difficulties of starting her own business, I think about my grandmother, who worked her way up from the secretarial pool to middle management, despite years of being passed over for promotions because she was a woman. She’s the one who taught me about hard work. She’s the one who put off buying a new car or a new dress for herself so that I could have a better life. She poured everything she had into me. And although she can no longer travel, I know that she’s watching tonight, and that tonight is her night as well.

I don’t know what kind of lives John McCain thinks that celebrities lead, but this has been mine. These are my heroes. Theirs are the stories that shaped me. And it is on their behalf that I intend to win this election and keep our promise alive as president of the United States.

What is that promise?

It’s a promise that says each of us has the freedom to make of our own lives what we will, but that we also have the obligation to treat each other with dignity and respect.

It’s a promise that says the market should reward drive and innovation and generate growth, but that businesses should live up to their responsibilities to create American jobs, look out for American workers and play by the rules of the road.

Ours is a promise that says government cannot solve all our problems, but what it should do is that which we cannot do for ourselves — protect us from harm and provide every child a decent education; keep our water clean and our toys safe; invest in new schools and new roads and new science and technology.

Our government should work for us, not against us. It should help us, not hurt us. It should ensure opportunity not just for those with the most money and influence, but for every American who’s willing to work.

That’s the promise of America — the idea that we are responsible for ourselves, but that we also rise or fall as one nation; the fundamental belief that I am my brother’s keeper, I am my sister’s keeper.

That’s the promise we need to keep. That’s the change we need right now. So let me spell out exactly what that change would mean if I am president.

Change means a tax code that doesn’t reward the lobbyists who wrote it, but the American workers and small businesses who deserve it.

Unlike John McCain, I will stop giving tax breaks to corporations that ship jobs overseas, and I will start giving them to companies that create good jobs right here in America.

I will eliminate capital gains taxes for the small businesses and the start-ups that will create the high-wage, high-tech jobs of tomorrow.

I will cut taxes — cut taxes — for 95 percent of all working families. Because in an economy like this, the last thing we should do is raise taxes on the middle class.

And for the sake of our economy, our security, and the future of our planet, I will set a clear goal as president: in 10 years, we will finally end our dependence on oil from the Middle East.

Washington’s been talking about our oil addiction for the last 30 years, and John McCain has been there for 26 of them. In that time, he’s said no to higher fuel-efficiency standards for cars, no to investments in renewable energy, no to renewable fuels. And today, we import triple the amount of oil as the day that Sen. McCain took office.

Now is the time to end this addiction, and to understand that drilling is a stopgap measure, not a long-term solution. Not even close.

As president, I will tap our natural gas reserves, invest in clean coal technology, and find ways to safely harness nuclear power. I’ll help our auto companies retool, so that the fuel-efficient cars of the future are built right here in America. I’ll make it easier for the American people to afford these new cars. And I’ll invest $150 billion over the next decade in affordable, renewable sources of energy — wind power and solar power and the next generation of biofuels; an investment that will lead to new industries and 5 million new jobs that pay well and can’t ever be outsourced.

America, now is not the time for small plans.

Now is the time to finally meet our moral obligation to provide every child a world-class education, because it will take nothing less to compete in the global economy. Michelle and I are only here tonight because we were given a chance at an education. And I will not settle for an America where some kids don’t have that chance. I’ll invest in early childhood education. I’ll recruit an army of new teachers, and pay them higher salaries and give them more support. And in exchange, I’ll ask for higher standards and more accountability. And we will keep our promise to every young American: If you commit to serving your community or your country, we will make sure you can afford a college education.

Now is the time to finally keep the promise of affordable, accessible health care for every single American. If you have health care, my plan will lower your premiums. If you don’t, you’ll be able to get the same kind of coverage that members of Congress give themselves. And as someone who watched my mother argue with insurance companies while she lay in bed dying of cancer, I will make certain those companies stop discriminating against those who are sick and need care the most.

Now is the time to help families with paid sick days and better family leave, because nobody in America should have to choose between keeping their jobs and caring for a sick child or ailing parent.

Now is the time to change our bankruptcy laws, so that your pensions are protected ahead of CEO bonuses; and the time to protect Social Security for future generations.

And now is the time to keep the promise of equal pay for an equal day’s work, because I want my daughters to have exactly the same opportunities as your sons.

Now, many of these plans will cost money, which is why I’ve laid out how I’ll pay for every dime — by closing corporate loopholes and tax havens that don’t help America grow. But I will also go through the federal budget, line by line, eliminating programs that no longer work and making the ones we do need work better and cost less — because we cannot meet 21st century challenges with a 20th century bureaucracy.

And Democrats, we must also admit that fulfilling America’s promise will require more than just money. It will require a renewed sense of responsibility from each of us to recover what John F. Kennedy called our “intellectual and moral strength.” Yes, government must lead on energy independence, but each of us must do our part to make our homes and businesses more efficient. Yes, we must provide more ladders to success for young men who fall into lives of crime and despair. But we must also admit that programs alone can’t replace parents; that government can’t turn off the television and make a child do her homework; that fathers must take more responsibility for providing the love and guidance their children need.

Individual responsibility and mutual responsibility — that’s the essence of America’s promise.

And just as we keep our keep our promise to the next generation here at home, so must we keep America’s promise abroad. If John McCain wants to have a debate about who has the temperament, and judgment, to serve as the next commander in chief, that’s a debate I’m ready to have.

For while Sen. McCain was turning his sights to Iraq just days after 9/11, I stood up and opposed this war, knowing that it would distract us from the real threats we face. When John McCain said we could just “muddle through” in Afghanistan, I argued for more resources and more troops to finish the fight against the terrorists who actually attacked us on 9/11, and made clear that we must take out Osama bin Laden and his lieutenants if we have them in our sights. John McCain likes to say that he’ll follow bin Laden to the Gates of Hell — but he won’t even go to the cave where he lives.

And today, as my call for a time frame to remove our troops from Iraq has been echoed by the Iraqi government and even the Bush administration, even after we learned that Iraq has a $79 billion surplus while we’re wallowing in deficits, John McCain stands alone in his stubborn refusal to end a misguided war.

That’s not the judgment we need. That won’t keep America safe. We need a president who can face the threats of the future, not keep grasping at the ideas of the past.

You don’t defeat a terrorist network that operates in 80 countries by occupying Iraq. You don’t protect Israel and deter Iran just by talking tough in Washington. You can’t truly stand up for Georgia when you’ve strained our oldest alliances. If John McCain wants to follow George Bush with more tough talk and bad strategy, that is his choice — but it is not the change we need.

We are the party of Roosevelt. We are the party of Kennedy. So don’t tell me that Democrats won’t defend this country. Don’t tell me that Democrats won’t keep us safe. The Bush-McCain foreign policy has squandered the legacy that generations of Americans — Democrats and Republicans — have built, and we are here to restore that legacy.

As commander in chief, I will never hesitate to defend this nation, but I will only send our troops into harm’s way with a clear mission and a sacred commitment to give them the equipment they need in battle and the care and benefits they deserve when they come home.

I will end this war in Iraq responsibly, and finish the fight against Al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan. I will rebuild our military to meet future conflicts. But I will also renew the tough, direct diplomacy that can prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons and curb Russian aggression. I will build new partnerships to defeat the threats of the 21st century: terrorism and nuclear proliferation; poverty and genocide; climate change and disease. And I will restore our moral standing, so that America is once again that last, best hope for all who are called to the cause of freedom, who long for lives of peace, and who yearn for a better future.

These are the policies I will pursue. And in the weeks ahead, I look forward to debating them with John McCain.

But what I will not do is suggest that the senator takes his positions for political purposes. Because one of the things that we have to change in our politics is the idea that people cannot disagree without challenging each other’s character and patriotism.

The times are too serious, the stakes are too high for this same partisan playbook. So let us agree that patriotism has no party. I love this country, and so do you, and so does John McCain. The men and women who serve in our battlefields may be Democrats and Republicans and independents, but they have fought together and bled together and some died together under the same proud flag. They have not served a Red America or a Blue America — they have served the United States of America.

So I’ve got news for you, John McCain. We all put our country first.

America, our work will not be easy. The challenges we face require tough choices, and Democrats as well as Republicans will need to cast off the worn-out ideas and politics of the past. For part of what has been lost these past eight years can’t just be measured by lost wages or bigger trade deficits. What has also been lost is our sense of common purpose — our sense of higher purpose. And that’s what we have to restore.

We may not agree on abortion, but surely we can agree on reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies in this country. The reality of gun ownership may be different for hunters in rural Ohio than for those plagued by gang violence in Cleveland, but don’t tell me we can’t uphold the Second Amendment while keeping AK-47s out of the hands of criminals. I know there are differences on same-sex marriage, but surely we can agree that our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters deserve to visit the person they love in the hospital and to live lives free of discrimination. Passions fly on immigration, but I don’t know anyone who benefits when a mother is separated from her infant child or an employer undercuts American wages by hiring illegal workers. This, too, is part of America’s promise — the promise of a democracy where we can find the strength and grace to bridge divides and unite in common effort.

I know there are those who dismiss such beliefs as happy talk. They claim that our insistence on something larger, something firmer and more honest in our public life is just a Trojan horse for higher taxes and the abandonment of traditional values. And that’s to be expected. Because if you don’t have any fresh ideas, then you use stale tactics to scare the voters. If you don’t have a record to run on, then you paint your opponent as someone people should run from.

You make a big election about small things.

And you know what — it’s worked before. Because it feeds into the cynicism we all have about government. When Washington doesn’t work, all its promises seem empty. If your hopes have been dashed again and again, then it’s best to stop hoping, and settle for what you already know.

I get it. I realize that I am not the likeliest candidate for this office. I don’t fit the typical pedigree, and I haven’t spent my career in the halls of Washington.

But I stand before you tonight because all across America something is stirring. What the naysayers don’t understand is that this election has never been about me. It’s been about you.

For 18 long months, you have stood up, one by one, and said "enough" to the politics of the past. You understand that in this election, the greatest risk we can take is to try the same old politics with the same old players and expect a different result. You have shown what history teaches us — that at defining moments like this one, the change we need doesn’t come from Washington. Change comes to Washington. Change happens because the American people demand it — because they rise up and insist on new ideas and new leadership, a new politics for a new time.

America, this is one of those moments.

I believe that as hard as it will be, the change we need is coming. Because I’ve seen it. Because I’ve lived it. I’ve seen it in Illinois, when we provided health care to more children and moved more families from welfare to work. I’ve seen it in Washington, when we worked across party lines to open up government and hold lobbyists more accountable, to give better care for our veterans and keep nuclear weapons out of terrorist hands.

And I’ve seen it in this campaign. In the young people who voted for the first time, and in those who got involved again after a very long time. In the Republicans who never thought they’d pick up a Democratic ballot, but did. I’ve seen it in the workers who would rather cut their hours back a day than see their friends lose their jobs, in the soldiers who re-enlist after losing a limb, in the good neighbors who take a stranger in when a hurricane strikes and the floodwaters rise.

This country of ours has more wealth than any nation, but that’s not what makes us rich. We have the most powerful military on Earth, but that’s not what makes us strong. Our universities and our culture are the envy of the world, but that’s not what keeps the world coming to our shores.

Instead, it is that American spirit — that American promise — that pushes us forward even when the path is uncertain; that binds us together in spite of our differences; that makes us fix our eye not on what is seen, but what is unseen, that better place around the bend.

That promise is our greatest inheritance. It’s a promise I make to my daughters when I tuck them in at night, and a promise that you make to yours — a promise that has led immigrants to cross oceans and pioneers to travel west; a promise that led workers to picket lines, and women to reach for the ballot.

And it is that promise that 45 years ago today, brought Americans from every corner of this land to stand together on a Mall in Washington, before Lincoln’s Memorial, and hear a young preacher from Georgia speak of his dream.

The men and women who gathered there could’ve heard many things. They could’ve heard words of anger and discord. They could’ve been told to succumb to the fear and frustration of so many dreams deferred.

But what the people heard instead — people of every creed and color, from every walk of life — is that in America, our destiny is inextricably linked. That together, our dreams can be one.

“We cannot walk alone,” the preacher cried. “And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back.”

America, we cannot turn back. Not with so much work to be done. Not with so many children to educate, and so many veterans to care for. Not with an economy to fix and cities to rebuild and farms to save. Not with so many families to protect and so many lives to mend. America, we cannot turn back. We cannot walk alone. At this moment, in this election, we must pledge once more to march into the future. Let us keep that promise — that American promise — and in the words of Scripture hold firmly, without wavering, to the hope that we confess.

Thank you, God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.

The notion that the American Dream is at risk or that the next generation faces a difficult time realizing it is drastically at odds with reality:
Second-Quarter GDP Surprises (Tony Crescenzi, 8/28/08, The Small Business Standard)
The U.S. economy expanded more quickly than expected in the second quarter, growing at a 3.3% pace instead of the 1.9% pace projected in the advance estimate for the quarter released a month ago. Forecasters expected a reading of 2.7%.

The bulk of the surprise was in the inventory data, which subtracted 1.4 percentage points from the headline figure (GDP would otherwise have grown at a 4.7% pace, if not for a drop in inventory investment), instead of the 1.9 percentage points reported in the advance estimate. Obviously, with inventories down and not up during the quarter, the upward revision to inventory investment poses no problems for the economy.

A second factor in the upward revision was a sharp upward revision to net exports, which added 3.1 percentage points to GDP instead of the 2.4% reported in the advance estimate. The increase was roughly as expected. The enormous gain was the most since 1980 and the fourth largest of the past 50 years.

Durable goods post strong increases in July, June (Associated Press, August 27, 2008)
Orders for big-ticket manufactured goods turned in a second consecutive strong monthly performance in July, a far bigger-than-expected gain led by a huge jump in demand for commercial aircraft.

The Commerce Department said today that orders for durable goods rose 1.3 percent last month, far above the slight 0.1 percent increase economists had been expecting.

The July increase matched a 1.3 percent rise in June, which was revised up from an earlier reading of 0.8 percent. Both months turned in the strongest gains since a 4.1 percent surge last December.

Economists had been expecting a far weaker showing in July reflecting their views that the manufacturing sector is being battered by the slowdown facing the overall economy. Instead, the report showed surprising strength in a number of areas.

Scores Stable as More Minorities Take SAT (Maria Glod and Michael Alison Chandler, 8/27/08, Washington Post)
SAT performance held steady for 2008 high school graduates even as participation rose among minority students and those who are part of the first generation in their families to go to college, the College Board reported yesterday. [...]

Nationwide, the number of students taking the SAT surpassed 1.5 million for the first time, up 8 percent from five years ago and almost 30 percent over the past decade. Forty percent of test-takers were minority students, up from 39 percent last year, and 36 percent were among a group described as first-generation collegegoers, up from 35 percent.

College Board officials considered the boost in participation evidence that the high school students who aspire to a college degree are growing more ethnically and economically diverse.

Number of Americans without health insurance falls (Lisa Girion, 8/27/08, Los Angeles Times)
In all, the number of people without health insurance dropped last year to 45.7 million, from 47 million in 2006, according to the bureau's annual report on income, poverty and health insurance. That's a drop to 15.3% of Americans from 15.8%.

Census: Income rose, middle class grew in 2007: But child poverty also rose, according to the new report. (Ron Scherer, 8/27/08, The Christian Science Monitor)
The standard of living rose and the middle class grew while the number of wealthy actually shrank somewhat compared to 2006. At the same time, the official poverty rate was basically unchanged. And the number of Americans without health coverage fell for the first time during the Bush administration.

Those are some of the conclusions from the US Census Bureau's annual survey, a report that gives scholars a longer view of the nation's economic health.

"It's a good solid report," says Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's

Glimmers of good news in US housing reports (The Associated Press, August 26, 2008)
While no one is ready to call the bottom of the worst housing collapse in decades, there were glimmers this week that the severity is waning.

The decline in home prices is starting to ease and in some cities values are starting to rise again. Existing home sales rose slightly from June to July, and the glut of newly built homes on the market fell to a five month low last month.

"The bottom of the housing downturn is coming into view," said Moody's Chief Economist Mark Zandi.

Aug. consumer outlook up more than expected (Associated Press, 8/27/08)
Americans felt better about the economy in August, as a barometer of sentiment posted the biggest boost in two years amid falling gas prices. [...]

The Conference Board, a private research group, said Tuesday that its consumer confidence index rose to 56.9, up from a revised 51.9 in July. That's the largest gain since August 2006 and is ahead of the 53 expected by economists surveyed by Thomson/IFR.

U.S. Reports Drop in Homeless Population
(RACHEL L. SWARNS, 7/29/08, NY Times)
The number of chronically homeless people living in the nation’s streets and shelters has dropped by about 30 percent — to 123,833 from 175,914 — between 2005 and 2007, Bush administration officials said on Tuesday. [...]

Dennis Culhane, a professor of social policy at the University of Pennsylvania and an author of this year’s report, acknowledged that “there are a lot of people in tough housing situations who don’t get counted.” He said the government needed a standard measure and asked communities to count people living in shelters and on the street.

He described the decline in chronic homelessness as “pretty remarkable.”

Mr. Culhane said that Congress and the Bush administration had pushed local communities to focus on finding solutions for the chronically homeless, who accounted for about half of the people living in the nation’s shelters in 2000. HUD has financed the development of between 10,000 and 12,000 new units of supported housing targeted for that population every year over the past four years, he said.

“It affirms the very significant change in policy shift that took place” over the last six years, said Mr. Culhane, who studies homelessness trends and policy, referring to the decline in the numbers of chronically homeless. “We’re moving in the right direction, without a doubt.”

Farewell to world peace?: The Georgian conflict ended 1,716 days of no war between nations. But trends favor peace (Charles Kurzman and Neil A. Englehart, August 29, 2008, CS Monitor)
[Y]ou may not have noticed that the world was at peace. But ever since India and Pakistan signed a cease-fire in November 2003, there have been no wars between governments. That's 1,716 straight days of world peace. Russia's invasion ended the streak on Aug. 8.

The previous record had been just over 600 days, from the end of the second Taiwan Straits crisis in 1958 to border skirmishes between Ethiopia and Somalia in 1960.

Survey Says: People Are Happier: The 2008 World Values Survey found that freedom of choice and tolerance—and not simply wealth—have lots to do with a rise in happiness (Matt Mabe, 8/21/08, Business Week)
Happiness hunters have done it again. They've used an army of pollsters and a mountain of data to uncover the world's happiest countries. But this year, there are some unexpected winners—for unexpected reasons.

The World Values Survey, which has compiled data from 350,000 people in 97 countries since 1981, found Denmark to be home to the planet's most contented citizens (again) with Zimbabwe as the most miserable (again). Classic Scandinavian front-runners like Sweden and Finland were nudged out of the top 10 by Puerto Rico and Colombia. El Salvador placed a surprising 11th, beating out Malta and Luxembourg. Further down the list came the U.S., ranked in 16th place.

Directed by University of Michigan political scientist Ronald Inglehart and administered from Stockholm, the survey found that freedom of choice, gender equality, and increased tolerance are responsible for a considerable rise in overall world happiness. The results shatter the more simplistic and traditionally accepted notion that wealth is the determining factor, says Inglehart. [...]

This year, the analysts were shocked by their findings. Reported happiness had actually risen in 40 countries and decreased in just 12. Inglehart, who has been involved in this research for 20 years, says the results defied conventional wisdom on the subject of happiness, which has held that levels remain more or less static.

Why would we risk changing all these positive trends by even 10%?

Especially peculiar here is the invocation of JFK--who started the Vietnam War, countenanced a coup and the assassination of our Vietnamese ally, and lost the Cuban Missile Crisis--as the sort of foreign policy president you'll be. If you're serious about not intervening anywhere except defensively why not invoke Jimmy Carter? He even fits with the energy riff.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:00 PM


Scout's honor: Burn Notice ’s honest con job (CHARLES TAYLOR, August 26, 2008, Boston Phoenix)

One of the great jokes on Burn Notice, which is now in its second season on USA (Thursdays at 10 pm), is that it gives us an American spy who is neither a Continental wanna-be nor a shamus by another name. Instead, Michael Westen (Jeffrey Donovan) is another established American icon: the Boy Scout. [...]

The creators have also given Michael a crew of gifted second bananas. Gabrielle Anwar as Michael’s ex Fi (short for Fiona, rhymes with tea), a former IRA terrorist, and Bruce Campbell as Michael’s buddy Sam, a retired Navy SEAL, are spectacularly funny. The hatred Fi and Sam express toward each other has nothing to do with buried attraction and, as critic Laura Miller has pointed out, everything to do with the jealousy of warring siblings vying for a parent’s attention. Whenever violence threatens to break out, Anwar shows both an excited gleam and contentment, anticipation and afterglow, all in one.

Campbell, whose lantern jaw is now padded with flesh (it matches his gut) and lined with bearish stubble, has the utter lack of vanity that can make a performer seem more appealing, even sexier, than the most chiseled he-men. In a succession of Tommy Bahama shirts swaddling his girth, he acts as if he were the hottest thing going and nearly convinces you. Anwar and Campbell — each afforded a chance to savor the sight of the other one getting tossed around — put on something like a deadpan Punch and Judy show, where withering looks replace the battering. When he’s around their squabbling, Michael does a slow burn that never erupts. This spy isn’t just a Boy Scout, he’s a den mother.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:54 PM


Before Bergman and "The Crucible": Carl Dreyer's erotic witch-hunt drama "Day of Wrath," made in Nazi-occupied Denmark, resurfaces with shattering clarity after a digital restoration. (Andrew O'Hehir, Aug. 26, 2008, Salon)

I watched "Day of Wrath" all by myself, early on Saturday morning, at an impromptu screening arranged by the IFC Center, and it was an electric, unforgettable experience, something like the first time I saw a Bergman or Kurosawa or Tarkovsky movie and felt the full expressive, aesthetic and emotional power that film can achieve. I mention Bergman by design; if you're a fan of the late Swedish master, you absolutely need to see "Day of Wrath," which strikes me as a pivotal influence on and presence within Bergman's greatest films, including "The Seventh Seal," "Smiles of a Summer Night" and "Fanny and Alexander." Let's put it this way: This picture features a clergyman anxious to please his God, but tormented by doubt; an elderly husband cuckolded by his own son; a woman unjustly accused of witchcraft and burned at the stake; and a plot that involves the murky borderlands between erotic passion, magic and pure accident. ("Day of Wrath" was also reportedly an influence on Arthur Miller's play "The Crucible.")

Unlike Bergman, Dreyer was not raised in a devoutly religious family, and he views the spiritual and personal struggle of Absalon Pederssøn (Thorkild Roose), an aging clergyman married to the young and beautiful Anne (Lisbeth Movin), with something like dispassionate sympathy. Absalon is not a cruel or indecent man at heart, but he lacks moral clarity or courage. He has taken Anne's girlhood from her and participates in the horrific persecution of Herlofs Marte (Anna Svierkier, in a wrenching performance), a local widow condemned as a witch. Dreyer shows us the village notables, dressed like the guys on the Dutch Masters cigar box, standing around calmly while the witchfinder tortures this half-naked old woman into a confession. It's nothing personal; in fact, they're trying to save her soul. It's the most disturbing scene I've seen in a motion picture in years. (Although Dreyer remained in occupied Denmark until 1944 and made this film under the Nazi regime, the Danish public, and underground resistance, understood where his sympathies lay.)

Before her burning -- another shocking scene -- Herlofs Marte calls down a curse upon Absalon and the rest of her persecutors.

So she was a witch, just like Arthur Miller was a Stalinist.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:35 PM


Iranian cleric blasts Ahmadinejad (THE JERUSALEM POST, 8/27/08)

An Iranian cleric accused President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of betraying the people and called on reformers to unite to defeat him in next year's elections, according to an interview in a German newspaper quoted by Reuters, Wednesday.

"Ahmadinejad is not complying with the will of the people," The Financial Times Deutschland quoted Grand Ayatollah Bajat Sanjani as saying. "This is a major threat, a big danger," the cleric added in an unusually direct personal attack.

The newspaper also said Sanjani accused Ahmadinejad's government of breaking the law, seriously violating personal freedom and illegally empowering the Revolutionary Guard.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:26 PM


Drunken-driving deaths fall in 32 states (KEN THOMAS, 8/28/08, Associated Press)

Drunken-driving deaths fell in 32 states in 2007, the government reported Thursday, but alcohol-related fatalities increased among motorcycle riders in half the states. [...]

Overall, alcohol deaths were down nearly 4 percent compared with 2006, when nearly 13,500 people died on the highway. can achieve incrementally what you couldn't via Prohibition.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:21 PM


The New Party (Thomas B. Edsall, 8/28/08, Huffington Post)

The nomination of Barack Obama will test whether the new Democratic coalition has grown strong enough to fend off Republican assaults to produce the first presidential victory for a non-Southern candidate in 44 years - and the first victory for a black in the history of the nation.

The Obama campaign has accelerated a transformation already underway in the Democratic electorate. 2008 appears likely to mark the death knell for what remained of the New Deal coalition - the coalition that was crucial to the early elections of such politicians as Joe Biden and Ted Kennedy.

In its place is a Democratic alliance that initially emerged during George McGovern's 1972 campaign, became competitive in the 1990s under Bill Clinton, and that now appears to be solidifying as the core of the party: a combination of "haves" -- socially liberal, well-educated whites, especially the young, and "have-nots" -- black and Hispanic minority voters. can you turn the clock back 44 years to the sort of liberalism LBJ foisted on an unsuspecting nation, because of which he couldn't even run for re-election. Bill Clinton showed Democrats the way they could win -- by running as Republicans (New Democrats) -- but the true believers naturally want to give the Second Way (the Old Democrats) one last try, just like the Labourites who want to cleanse themselves of Blairism.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:13 PM


Farewell to world peace?: The Georgian conflict ended 1,716 days of no war between nations. But trends favor peace (Charles Kurzman and Neil A. Englehart, August 29, 2008, CS Monitor)

[Y]ou may not have noticed that the world was at peace. But ever since India and Pakistan signed a cease-fire in November 2003, there have been no wars between governments. That's 1,716 straight days of world peace. Russia's invasion ended the streak on Aug. 8.

The previous record had been just over 600 days, from the end of the second Taiwan Straits crisis in 1958 to border skirmishes between Ethiopia and Somalia in 1960.

We've got as few dictatorships left to topple, a few guerilla movements left to root out, and some of the devolution into constituent parts could be violent (Chechnya, Kurdistan, Hezbollahstan, Pashtunistan, etc.) but the big questions are settled and there is no viable alternative to liberal democratic protestant capitalism.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:31 PM


Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:31 PM


MSNBC prez defends convention team (MICHAEL CALDERONE | 8/27/08, Politico)

In addition to Olbermann, MSNBC personalities Chris Matthews, Joe Scarborough and David Shuster were involved in Denver controversies.

On Monday evening, Olbermann interrupted Scarborough while he was talking about McCain being competitive in the polls. “Jesus, Joe, why don’t you get a shovel?” Olbermann remarked.

On “Morning Joe” the following day, a clearly agitated Scarborough went off on Shuster during a discussion of Iraq, which quickly devolved over several cringe-worthy minutes into personal attacks, such as Scarborough telling the world how his colleague missed the show three times by oversleeping. "Are you Rip Van Shuster?” Scarborough asked. “Have you been sleeping for the past couple of months?”

But Scarborough, a former Republican congressman from Florida, became enraged when Shuster made a reference to “your party.” Asked by Scarborough what his party was, Shuster said he was an “independent.”

"I feel so comforted by the fact that you're an independent,” Scarborough said, in a mocking tone. “I bet everybody at MSNBC has independent on their voting cards. Oh, we're down the middle now.” (Shuster left the set, but returned later to hug it out, "Entourage"-style.)

That night, Scarborough told NPR that he “get[s] frustrated by people who have an obvious partisan bias that don't proclaim that bias.”

Why not just declare that MSNBC has an agenda and let the partisan guns rip? It's not like the networks fool anybody.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:33 PM


No surrender: The gnarled maverick outpolls his party and might even beat Barack Obama. But what sort of president would he be? (The Economist, 8/28/08)

But part of the credit for the way Mr McCain outperforms his party must go to Mr McCain himself.

For one thing, the senator from Arizona is a redoubtable campaigner. It is hard to name another politician who is such a mediocre public speaker, and yet so effective. His speechwriter, Mark Salter, prepares him elegant texts that he stumbles through like a man of homely tastes choking on nouvelle cuisine. His voice has no range; he stresses the wrong words. Yet people listen, because they think he means what he says.

He projects the blokeish persona of a man who used to drink too much, crash planes and chase women. On the campaign trail, he wolfs culturally significant junk food—“Pronto Pup” deep-fried hot dogs in Grand Haven, Michigan, or “concrete” frozen custard in St Louis, Missouri—with apparent relish. He has a stock of awful jokes, which he repeats so often that his staff have the punchlines printed on T-shirts. Unlike his more nuanced opponent, he couches straightforward convictions in simple terms. And he salts his message with earthy anecdotes and self-deprecating asides.

Mr McCain is at his best taking questions from unscreened voters, something most politicians seldom dare to do. He seems empathetic, albeit in a gruff, grandfatherly way; and crucially, unlike most politicians, he lets dissatisfied questioners ask follow-up questions until they run out of puff.

Even as bad a campaign as Senator Obama is running, he'd be smoking Mitt or Rudy--the Beltway choices--right now. Funny how the liberalization of the selection process has saddled Democrats with loser after loser but taken power away from the GOP insiders and the Eastern Establishment so that we nominate conservative winners from the Southwest

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:29 PM


Vladimir Putin accuses Bush of provoking Georgia conflict to help John McCain (Tony Halpin, 8/28/08, Times of London)

Vladimir Putin accused President Bush tonight of orchestrating the war in Georgia in a plot to get John McCain elected to the White House.

Geez, even Russian autocrats realize Senator Obama's weaknesses.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:23 PM


Joebama: Joe Biden brings both strengths and weaknesses to the Democratic ticket (Lexington, 8/28/08, The Economist)

[M]r Biden, like the man whose identity he tried to purloin, is a notorious wind-bag. He loves nothing more than the sound of his own voice. And when he talks the sentences and paragraphs tumble over each other with no obvious end in sight. Members of the audience just have to cross their fingers and hope.

But Barack Obama’s choice of Mr Biden as his running mate has nevertheless been greeted with widespread applause...

...and that was "a notorious wind-bag."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:17 PM


Obama Needs to Take a Stand on Race and Other Issues (JUAN WILLIAMS, August 28, 2008, Wall Street Journal)

More than 90% of black Americans are now on board with that story line, and according to polls, more than a third of black voters say his race is either the most important factor or one key factor in explaining their support for Mr. Obama. His race is at least a key issue for about a quarter of white voters as well, and that percentage is going up. Many white voters -- especially young people -- appreciate Mr. Obama as the biracial candidate capable of moving America to a new day, and past its legacy of endless racial tensions. objective observer would have to conclude that Senator Obama is the beneficiary, not the victim, of that racism.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:12 PM


Flags, cheers, discipline and doubt: Barack Obama struggled this week to unite his party (The Economist, 8/28/08)

THERE were two conventions in Denver this week. One was a joyful event. Cheered on by throngs of jubilant activists, the Democratic Party’s brightest and most boisterous speakers praised Barack Obama extravagantly and rejoiced that in a mere four months the Bush-Cheney tyranny will be over.

The other convention, which took place mostly behind the scenes, was more bitter. Some of Hillary Clinton’s supporters still cannot believe that Democratic primary voters spurned their brilliant and battle-tested candidate for a smooth-talking novice. And despite the party’s heroic efforts to present a united face to the cameras, the cracks kept showing. [...]

Since the policy differences between Mrs Clinton and Mr Obama are slight, the Clintonites who care most about policy are typically content to switch their allegiance. Greg Rodriguez, for example, a gay stay-at-home dad from California, says he could not vote Republican because “anyone who says I shouldn’t be allowed to adopt children is anti-gay.” He has brought up two children with disabilities, having “rescued them from the foster system [when] good white straight parents didn’t want [them].” So he says he will back Mr Obama “all the way”.

But not all voters focus on policy.

And precious few are gay.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:07 PM


Unnecessarily Evil (Linda Hirshman, Aug. 12, 2008, Slate)

The Democratic Party platform of 2008 finally dropped its old abortion language ("safe, legal and rare"), which had asked that women not have abortions unless they absolutely must. The 2008 platform, just announced, says instead, "The Democratic Party strongly and unequivocally supports Roe v. Wade and a woman's right to choose a safe and legal abortion, regardless of ability to pay, and we oppose any and all efforts to weaken or undermine that right."

Bill Clinton wasn't exactly a moralist, but at least he felt queasy enough about abortion or understood the puritanism of the country well enough to pretend to some moderation. Senator Obama seems never to have met the baby he wouldn't kill...on principle, of course.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:28 AM


Mount Olympus... (Mike Murphy, 8/27/08, TIME)

I think the normally shrewd Obama campaign has a blind spot about tomorrows big speech at Invesco field. The Pepsi center is the visual “home” of this convention. Having Obama do his big finish in another venue screws up the visual vernacular of the convention. Turn off the sound, and watch the tape. In the end it will look like two different conventions; one visually dominated by Clintons, another by Obama. That is a message of separation, not unity.

...would it really be suitable for a god to speak from the same stage that mere mortals have sullied? Ideally he'd address us from atop a cloud.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:21 AM


Many, Many People To Blame, Before We Blame A-Rod (STEVEN GOLDMAN | August 28, 2008, NY Sun)

[T]he $200 million Yankees, playing for their lives, are calling not on Red Ruffing, Whitey Ford, or Ron Guidry, but on Ponson, or that their stretch-run starting rotation also includes Darrell "Five-Run" Rasner and Carl "You Break It, You Bought It" Pavano. Rodriguez didn't design the pitching staff. He did not fail to do what other teams do every season, and have done for years while the Yankees have spent their millions on Roger Clemens, David Wells, Mike Mussina, and other veteran imports — that is, take talented pitching prospects such as Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy and teach them how to succeed in the majors.

Rodriguez didn't force Melky Cabrera to stop hitting, then demand that the Yankees ignore the problem for months. He didn't trigger the decline phase of Derek Jeter's career. It seems unlikely that he encouraged Robinson Cano to phone in major parts of his season. Nor did he make the call to open the season with Joba Chamberlain in the bullpen — or Ross Ohlendorf, or Billy Traber. or LaTroy Hawkins. He didn't require Joe Girardi to pursue his answer to the famous Gene Woodling and Hank Bauer platoon, "Jason Giambi and Nonentity du Jour." [...]

Unless he's moonlighting as some kind of bizarro batting coach, he didn't prevent Shelly Duncan from carrying his fluke 2007 hot streak into 2008, or prevent Morgan Ensberg from contributing off the bench. He didn't run the last half-dozen Yankees drafts, the ones that left the farm system without ready upper-level position players of any stripe, and it's improbable that Brian Cashman asked for his input on a Johan Santana deal.

In short, due to a very typical combination of errors, oversights, injuries, bad luck, and those random developments that can unmake any team's season, the Yankees failed to field a championship team, something that's been apparent going back to May, which they finished with a season record of 28-27. Still, it's all Alex Rodriguez's fault because he had a lousy game against the Red Sox in a game that had a million-to-one chance of meaning anything anyway.

If it took you until May to realize how bad their defense was, that they'd wildly overestimated their young guys (other than Hughes), and that the combination of Joe Girardi and Joba the Hutt was a visit to Dr. Andrews waiting to happen then you can't follow baseball very closely.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:02 AM


Avoiding A Long, Disappointing Fall: A thorough diagnosis of what's been ailing the Obama campaign. And suggestions for a cure. (John B. Judis, 8/28/08, The New Republic)

[T]his summer the Obama campaign has made the crucial error of conducting itself as it were on the verge of a landslide victory, comparable to Lyndon Johnson's win over Barry Goldwater in 1964. And it is still displaying the same overconfidence.

After securing the nomination in June, Obama's first priority had to be healing the rift between himself and Hillary Clinton. Candidates who can't put nomination battles behind them well before the convention usually lose. Think of Goldwater in 1964, Gerald Ford in 1976, Jimmy Carter in 1980, and Walter Mondale in 1984. There are only two candidates I can remember who succeeded in overcoming intraparty rifts during the convention--John Kennedy in 1960 and Ronald Reagan in 1980--and they did it by nominating their primary opponents to be vice president.

Obama, who evidently did not see a nail-biting election looming, chose not to do that, and is reaping the consequences. I didn't think so last spring, but I realize now that Obama would have been better off had he chosen Hillary Clinton. Of course, he might have faced a nightmare in January 2009 with Bill and Hillary in the White House, but at least he would have been more assured of making it there. As it is, he may not be able to count on Clinton's fundraisers in the fall, he may not be able to count on all of her voters, and states that might have been in play with the two Clintons in tow--Florida, Arkansas, and Missouri--probably won't be.

Obama's pursuit of a 50-state strategy (now mercifully reduced to eighteen) is another sign of overconfidence. This summer, for instance, he spent money advertising and opening up field offices in Georgia. He has even appointed a coordinator for gay Georgians. That's fine, but Obama doesn't have a prayer of carrying Georgia in the presidential election. That's the kind of calculation you make if you think you're Johnson in 1964 and not Kennedy in 1960. Or if you think that field operations have the same effect in a general election that they do in a party caucus. From my experience, Obama's field operations were actually superior to those of Hillary Clinton in West Virginia, a state where he won 26 percent of the vote. They were superior in California, too, which Obama also lost. Field operations can be important, but as Karl Rove showed in 2004, they have to be carefully targeted.

Finally, Obama's rejection of McCain's proposal to hold weekly town meeting debates probably stemmed from overconfidence.

You bet--he ducked unscripted performances because he thinks he's great at them... Actually, there's one big reason Democrats should be scared about tonight's scripted appearance: supposedly Senator Obama is writing the speech himself. The last big set piece speech he gave that was purportedly self-authored was that catastrophic defense of the Reverend Wright. One assumes that this "I'm my own speech writer" shtick is an attempt to appear smart, but, in fact, it's just another decision that makes you question his judgment.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:33 AM


Second-Quarter GDP Surprises (Tony Crescenzi, 8/28/08, The Small Business Standard)

The U.S. economy expanded more quickly than expected in the second quarter, growing at a 3.3% pace instead of the 1.9% pace projected in the advance estimate for the quarter released a month ago. Forecasters expected a reading of 2.7%.

The bulk of the surprise was in the inventory data, which subtracted 1.4 percentage points from the headline figure (GDP would otherwise have grown at a 4.7% pace, if not for a drop in inventory investment), instead of the 1.9 percentage points reported in the advance estimate. Obviously, with inventories down and not up during the quarter, the upward revision to inventory investment poses no problems for the economy.

A second factor in the upward revision was a sharp upward revision to net exports, which added 3.1 percentage points to GDP instead of the 2.4% reported in the advance estimate. The increase was roughly as expected. The enormous gain was the most since 1980 and the fourth largest of the past 50 years.

Nice for the short term, but in the longer term how does the currency of the only viable developed country not become so strong that imports swamp exports. Of course, our most significant import is going to be the investments of people whose countries are dying.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:31 AM


...why the Democrats hate capitalism?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:28 AM


Leader faces opposition to change (Kevin Donnelly | August 28, 2008, The Australian)

IT'S hard to disagree with Kevin Rudd's education revolution speech delivered at yesterday's address to the National Press Club.

Like the Prime Minister, The Australian is on record as arguing for a back-to-basics approach to curriculum, increased school accountability and for giving principals freedom to hire and fire staff.

Like the Prime Minister, in columns on these pages and in Dumbing Down, I have signalled teacher quality and a rigorous curriculum as crucial to raising standards and argued that under-performing schools need to be given additional support and made to suffer the consequences if they fail to improve. [...]

Many of the initiatives spoken about yesterday mirror overseas developments that have been shown to help overcome disadvantage.

There are a number of caveats. As discovered by the then Howard government when it sought to introduce A to E reporting, defend choice in education and get rid of post-modern gobbledegook in the curriculum, there are many opposed to reform.

The Australian Education Union, recalcitrant state governments and pressure groups such as the NSW Public Education Alliance are committed to the status quo. Rudd's comment, "I know some will resist these changes", is an understatement, and it will take political will to achieve change.

The Democrats belief that this is a moment when people want to follow them back to 70s is put paid not just by our politics but those of nearly all our democratic allies.

The end of new Labour (Neal Lawson, 28 August 2008, New Statesman)

Whatever Gordon Brown decides to do as he considers relaunches and reshuffles, something is glaringly apparent: the new Labour project, initiated, perhaps unwittingly, a quarter of a century ago by Neil Kinnock and accelerated to dramatic effect by Tony Blair after 1994, is finished. The centre left needs a new paradigm in thinking and action, one as different from new Labour as this was from the creed it superseded. But a new left project that mixes commitment to principle with a lust for power in equal measure has to be built on an understanding of the rise and fall of new Labour.

For the century before new Labour, the centre left put all its hopes in the basket of the bureaucratic state. The combination of economic Fordism and the elitist politics of Fabianism and parliamentary Leninism created a bureaucratic model of top-down state reform. For the 30 years between 1948 and 1978, the bureaucratic state ruled supreme. It died as society became more complex, decentralisation became popular and we witnessed a welcome end to the age of deference.

The failure of the state was the most important cause of the right-wing response, a market state which ruled for an equivalent 30-year period from 1978 until now.

It's the notion that they need to go backwards that has them trailing even a flock of doofuses like the Tories.

The Iron Lady at Twilight: On Thatcher's Legacy (NICHOLAS WAPSHOTT | August 27, 2008, NY Sun)

You would not know it from talking to most Brits, but the reforms Lady Thatcher urged upon Britain's sluggish economy and on its political, social, and business culture, and her resolution of the national quandary so aptly observed by Dean Acheson — "Great Britain has lost an empire and has not yet found a role" — have left them prosperous as never before. London is now the undisputed, if unofficial, capital of Europe, a magnet for every young European who wants to get ahead.

Her legacy is not just in unearthing the entrepreneurial zeal that had been heaped beneath years of benign neglect by well meaning souls who set out to shield the British from the vicissitudes of the free market, but in the sense of national purpose she restored to Britain and the free world by the simple act of standing up to bullies.

It was after her triumph over the strutting Argentine general, Leopoldo Galtieri, in the Falklands — a victory that transformed her fortunes from a likely one-term failure into a worthy successor of Boadicea and Elizabeth I — that she emerged as a powerful presence on the world stage. From her new vantage point she went on to battle a succession of tinpot tyrants, including the communist gerontocracy clinging to power in the Kremlin.

Since her party ousted her in 1990 in a typically passionless British coup, she has remained a prophet largely ignored in her own country. While Americans worship her, the British have found it hard to forgive the hectoring and sometimes brutal fashion in which she harried them into changing their ways.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:22 AM


Teachers upset over Prime Minister's Pink Floyd tribute (The Local, 28 Aug 08)

Sweden's largest teachers union has expressed its dismay at Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt's decision to burst into song at the Polar Music Prize ceremony in Stockholm on Wednesday.

Members of Pink Floyd, who received the annual prize along with American soprano Renee Fleming, sat in the crowd as Reinfeldt sang 'We don't need no education', capping his one-line performance with an emphatic 'Yeah'

"If the Prime Minister decides to sing for the people of Sweden I wish he would least choose to sing lyrics that did not proclaim our lack of a need for education," union chairwoman Metta Fjelkner said in a statement.

Ms Fjelkner is going to be really upset when the prize goes to Bob Geldof next year....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:15 AM


You know how you'll sometimes come upon a really bad highway accident and traffic slows down to rubberneck at the wreckage? It would come to a halt to gape at this, Sox on Mariotti's split: 'It's about time': The self-proclaimed tough-guy columnist never faced his targets, and that's the main reason he was considered a coward in clubhouses (CHRIS DE LUCA, 8/28/08,

And now Mariotti says the printed page is a dinosaur. He has embraced the Internet as his new forum.

We're talking about a columnist who detested bloggers -- mainly because he was easy fodder for their biting humor. He acted as if he stood on a level above bloggers. Most of the better bloggers have the kind of wit he couldn't touch.

Are bloggers bad? Absolutely not.

But those of us who work at newspapers have one edge over the blogging world. We have access to the players, coaches, managers and front-office executives. We can talk to key figures on and off the record to get insight unavailable to others. It's a privilege most of us don't take lightly. To not use it to our advantage is a waste -- of our energy and the readers' time.

''I think people stopped believing what he was writing because we let the fans know what the real situation was and how he was dealing with the athletes,'' Guillen said. ''Not just the White Sox or Cubs, all athletes. He never showed up. He just said what he wanted to say without ever showing up.''

Not once in the last eight years can I recall seeing Mariotti in the Cubs' or Sox' clubhouse. With a press credential that allowed him access to every major sporting event and every major figure, he hasn't broken a single story in that time. He says Chicago is a weak market, the competitive edge gone. He has only himself to blame.

When Lou Piniella was hired by the Cubs, the Sun-Times reported it first. Mariotti had no role in that major story. He says the market has gone soft. If that's true, he played as big a role in the softening as anyone else.

He called his colleagues soft, forgetting we're the ones who had to face his targets on a daily basis. We were the ones who had to deal with the anger that he was too cowardly to face himself. We got the quotes that made up the bulk of his columns.

In spinning his story to the Chicago Tribune, Mariotti depicted the Sun-Times as the Titanic, and it was clear the self-proclaimed tough guy was knocking over the old women and children to be the first to jump ship.

''I'm a competitor, and I get the sense this marketplace doesn't compete,'' said Mariotti, who will remain a regular contestant on an ESPN game show.

''Probably the days of high-stakes competition in Chicago are over. To see what has happened in this business ... I don't want to go down with it.''

Stand-up guy to the end.

Sun-Times editor Michael Cooke said it best.

''We wish Jay well and will miss him -- not personally, of course -- but in the sense of noticing he is no longer here, at least for a few days,'' Cooke said. ''A paper, like a sports franchise, is something that moves into the future. Stars come and stars go, but the Sun-Times sports section was, is and will continue to be the best in the city.''

Today, it's a little better.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:33 AM


Japanese Women Shy From Dual Mommy Role (Blaine Harden, 8/28/08, Washington Post)

In numbers that alarm their governments, Asian women are delaying marriage and postponing childbirth.

In Japan, the percentage of women who remain single into their 30s has more than doubled since 1980. The trend is similar in Taiwan, Singapore, South Korea, and the booming Chinese cities of Shanghai and Beijing.

Feminine foot-dragging on the way to the altar has been identified by demographers as perhaps the primary reason for the region's plunging birthrates. Of the 10 countries or territories at the bottom of a 2008 CIA ranking of global fertility rates, six, including Japan, Taiwan, Singapore and Hong Kong, are in the Asia-Pacific region. South Korea also ranks near the bottom.

"Women on Strike," a recent report on Japan's falling birthrate by the securities firm CLSA, noted that the number of children per married Japanese woman has held steady for three decades. "This suggests that the decrease in fertility is due almost entirely to an increase in women of reproductive age not getting married and not having children," the report said.

The triumph of the self.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:29 AM


In Denver, the end of capitalism (David Harsanyi, 08/27/2008, Denver Post)

Well, it's no wonder Democrats didn't want former President Bill Clinton to speak on the economy. Some delegates might have had the temerity to wonder: Hey, why did we experience all that prosperity in the '90s?

It certainly wasn't due to populism, or isolationism, or more government dependency, or any of the hard-left economic policies being preached nightly by speakers at the Democratic National Convention.

No, it was capitalism — more of it, not less of it.

Naturally, every political convention features its share of demagoguery. But buried beneath all the idealistic talk in Denver are some ugly details. [...]

Bill Clinton once told us that the era of big government was over. This Democratic Party seems to feel the era deserves a comeback.

Hard to be a Second Way party when every Anglospheric nation--plus France, Germany, Italy, etc.--has rejected them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:23 AM


Mission Accomplishment: Democrats try to pad Obama’s resumé. (Ramesh Ponnuru, 8/28/08, National Review)

Former president Clinton got more creative. Saying that “Obama is the man for this job,” Clinton justified this conclusion by pointing to such traits as his “ability to inspire people,” his “intelligence and curiosity,” and “his policies.” He asserted, without attempting to back up the claim, that Obama had shown “a clear grasp of foreign policy and national security challenges.” His other qualifications included “his family heritage and his life experiences,” which “have given him a unique capacity to lead our increasingly diverse nation in an ever more interdependent world.”

Clinton listed only two actual Obama accomplishments, both from this year: He got through a “long, hard primary” and showed great judgment in picking Sen. Biden as his running mate.

Though he does surpass the Unicorn Rider, the only 20th Century president Joe Biden would have been more qualified than is John F. Kennedy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:53 AM


A Consistent Yet Elusive Nominee (JODI KANTOR, August 28, 2008, IHT)

DENVER — From the earliest days of his presidential campaign, Senator Barack Obama’s aides have heard the same mantra. He repeated it after debates and appearances, after victories and defeats. “I need to get better,” he would say.

In the way Mr. Obama has trained himself for competition, he can sometimes seem as much athlete as politician. Even before he entered public life, he began honing not only his political skills, but also his mental and emotional ones. He developed a self-discipline so complete, friends and aides say, that he has established dominion over not only what he does but also how he feels. He does not easily exult, despair or anger: to do so would be an indulgence, a distraction from his goals. Instead, they say, he separates himself from the moment and assesses.

“He doesn’t inhale,” said David Axelrod, his chief strategist.

But with Barack Hussein Obama officially becoming the Democratic presidential nominee on Wednesday night, some of the same qualities that have him just one election away from the White House — his virtuosity, his seriousness, his ability to inspire, his seeming immunity from the strains that afflict others — may be among his biggest obstacles to getting there.

There is little about him that feels spontaneous or unpolished, and even after two books, thousands of campaign events and countless hours on television, many Americans say they do not feel they know him.

When Bill Clinton said he didn't inhale you knew he was lying, but it was like when your little brother got busted doing something and alibied up. The Unicorn Rider is so contrived that you'd believe him, but there's a price to be paid in politics for that level of artificiality.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:49 AM


Georgia War Shows 'Weak' Russia, U.S. Official Says (Glenn Kessler, 8/28/08, Washington Post)

Russia's conflict with Georgia is the sign of a "weak" Russian nation, not a newly assertive one, and Moscow now has put its place in the world order at risk, the top U.S. diplomat for relations with the country said in an interview yesterday.

"There is a Russia narrative that 'we were weak in the '90s, but now we are back and we are not going to take it anymore.' But being angry and seeking revanchist victory is not the sign of a strong nation. It is the sign of a weak one," said Daniel Fried, assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs.

"Russia is going to have to come to terms with the reality it can either integrate with the world or it can be a self-isolated bully. But it can't be both. And that's a choice Russia has to have," Fried said.

...but that they're making the case for an independent Chechnya, etc. They've accepted the Anglo-American redefinition of sovereignty as a function of self-determination by a people, rather than exercise of control by a central power.

The politics of recognition: Attacks on Russia for recognising breakaway regions in Georgia are riddled with hypocrisy: Moscow is playing a game invented by the West. (Philip Hammond, 8/28/08, Spiked)

‘Unjustified and unacceptable.’

That is how British foreign secretary David Miliband described Russian recognition of the breakaway Georgian regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Russia, he insists, must ‘abide by international law as the basis for resolving this crisis’. Similarly, President George W Bush has denounced recognition as ‘irresponsible’, urging Russia to comply with UN Security Council resolutions and to respect Georgia’s ‘internationally recognised borders’.

Yet Russia is closely following rules made in the West.

Just a few months ago, there was a situation that was almost an exact mirror image of the present. In February, the US and Britain were among the first to recognise the formal independence of the Serbian province of Kosovo, having brought about its de facto independence from Belgrade by military force in 1999.

Acceptance of your standards by your enemy is a victory.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:42 AM


Bill Clinton and 'Addicted to Love,' Really? (Morgan E. Felchner, 8/27/08, US News)

Plenty will be written on the substance of the speech later, but someone who apparently doesn't have a keen sense of irony chose to play him off the stage with "Addicted to Love" by Robert Palmer.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:35 AM


U.S. to hand back Anbar, once Iraqi flashpoint (Reuters, 8/28/08)

U.S. troops will on Sept. 1 hand over control of Iraq's Anbar province, once the heart of a bloody Sunni Arab insurgency, reflecting a dramatic drop in violence across the country, an Iraqi official said on Thursday.

Iraqi forces will officially assume control of the vast region west of Baghdad, said Major-General Tareq al-Dulaimi, the provincial police commander.

Anbar, whose insurgency once posed the greatest challenge to U.S. forces and Iraq's Shi'ite-led government, became a relatively peaceful place after Sunni tribal leaders turned against al Qaeda militants and formed neighbourhood police units that became a model for security efforts across Iraq.

Iraq now has security control of 10 of its 18 provinces.

General David Petraeus, U.S. commander in Iraq, said last month he hoped to add at least two more provinces to Iraqi control by the end of the year, in addition to Anbar.

At least the Unicorn Rider is such a neophyte he's only gotten the Iraq War wrong, his running mate also opposed the Contras and SDI. Apparently, on the Left, when they say you are a foreign policy expert it means you were on the losing side in the Cold War and the WoT.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:32 AM


Pelosi gets unwanted lesson in Catholic theology (RACHEL ZOLL, 8/28/08, AP)

Roman Catholic bishops consider her arguments on St. Augustine and free will so far out of line with church teaching that they have issued a steady stream of statements to correct her.

The latest came Wednesday from Pittsburgh Bishop David Zubik, who said Pelosi, D-Calif., "stepped out of her political role and completely misrepresented the teaching of the Catholic Church in regard to abortion."

It has been a harsh week of rebuke for the Democratic congresswoman, a Catholic school graduate who repeatedly has expressed pride in and love for her religious heritage.

Cardinals and archbishops in Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, New York and Denver are among those who have criticized her remarks. Archbishop George Niederauer, in Pelosi's hometown of San Francisco, will take up the issue in the Sept. 5 edition of the archdiocesan newspaper, his spokesman said.

August 27, 2008

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:18 PM


McCain selects his VP (MIKE ALLEN & JONATHAN MARTIN, 8/27/08, Politico)

Sen. McCain has chosen his running mate and the person will be notified on Thursday, a senior campaign official said.

A friend said McCain had pretty much settled on his selection early this week, and it crystallized in the past few days. Campaign manager Rick Davis flew to McCain's cabin in Sedona, Ariz., a few days ago to confer, and another meeting about the choice was held with top aides Wednesday.

The news leaked on the third night of the Democratic National Convention, detracting attention from speeches by former President Bill Clinton and the Democratic ticket mate, Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware.

Obviously in an era when Democrats take their losses to the Court and play the sorts of games they did with the NJ ballot after Bob Torricelli self-imolated, the GOP feels free to play hardball, but let's hope Maverick lets the Unicorn Rider have his big day tomorrow rather than announcing his VP to try and distract the press. It's hardly an urgent announcement and there has to still be room for courtesy in our politics.

NB: The good news is that it's definitely not Mitt or Joe Lieberman.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:14 PM


Dems fear Invesco effect (CHARLES MAHTESIAN, 8/27/08, Politico)

Senior Democratic officials are expressing serious concerns about the political risks posed by Barack Obama’s acceptance speech at Invesco Field at Mile High Stadium Thursday evening.

From the elaborate stagecraft to the teeming crowd of 80,000 cheering partisans, the vagaries of the weather to the unpredictable audience reaction, the optics surrounding the stadium event have heightened worries that the Obama campaign is engaging in a high-risk endeavor in an uncontrollable environment.

A common concern: that the stadium appearance plays against Obama’s convention goal of lowering his star wattage and connecting with average Americans and that it gives Republicans a chance to drive home their message that the Democratic nominee is a narcissistic celebrity candidate.

Even by the appalling standards of recent Democratic nominees--remember John Kerry acting out Miss Saigon on stage four years ago?--these guys make a staggering number of unforced errors.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:35 PM


Poll shows voters support military action in Iran (Bruce Finley, 8/27/08, The Denver Post)

A poll released Wednesday found 63 percent of voters support U.S. or Israeli military action against Iran if diplomacy fails.

Joseph Biden has shown a softness toward Iran (Yossi Melman, 8/28/08, Ha'aretz)
[F]or more than a decade now Biden's attitude toward the Islamic Republic has been soft and conciliatory. It is no wonder that the senator and soon to be Democratic candidate for the vice presidency is the favorite senior American politician of the regime in Tehran. This was manifested in the praise that was heaped on him by one of the most important clerics on an official television channel. This happened in the context of Biden's opposition to President Bush's policy in Iraq, the criticism he expressed of Israel's moves in Lebanon in the last war and most particularly his statements against any American or Israeli attempt to attack Iran to halt its nuclear program and prevent it from achieving nuclear weapons.

Ayatollah Mohammed Kashani, who is close to the spiritual leader Ali Khamenei, praised Biden for his opposition to the military option and said, in a sermon in Tehran in December 2007, "The senator said rightly that Israel was not able to suppress Hezbollah in Lebanon, so how can the United States deal face to face with a nation of 70 million?" As is the custom, the cleric's words were greeted by his audience with cries of "Death to America."

Three months earlier Biden had been one of the few senators who opposed the declaring of the Revolutionary Guard, the military arm, by means of which the ayatollahs have succeed in holding the reins of government for 30 years, a terror organization. The proposal to designate the Revolutionary Guard a terror organization was the climax of a process that had coalesced gradually in the administration. At the start of 2007, the various intelligence branches in the United States assessed that the Revolutionary Guard is behind the wave of terror attacks on American soldiers in Iraq that exacted huge price in terms of hundreds of casualties. The National Intelligence Estimate of August, 2007 states explicitly that "Iran has been intensifying aspects of its lethal support for select groups of Iraqi Shia militants" and notes the number of attacks carried out by means of laying explosive charges (similar to those Hezbollah used against Israel Defense Forces soldiers in southern Lebanon) "has risen dramatically."

Despite their clear opposition to Bush's policy, most of the senators from the Democratic Party realized that the intelligence estimate is so assertive and the data so well-founded and reliable that they could not ignore it and could not allow their loathing for the administration and the president to bias their judgment. Therefore, they joined their Republican colleagues and supported the proposal to declare the Revolutionary Guard a terror organization and thus try to harm its financial capability. This must be made clear: The Revolutionary Guard is not just a military force but, just as importantly, also an economic empire that makes it the largest and wealthiest concern in the country.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:24 PM


The Anti-Cheney?: How Biden would compare to Bush's No. 2. (Michael Hirsh, 8/27/08, Newsweek)

This week, Obama's choice of Joltin' Joe Biden as his vice- presidential running mate, particularly coming after the tenure of perhaps the most powerful veep in U.S. history, Dick Cheney, raises a few serious questions.

...the one comparison we can make at this point is their drastically different experience at the pint where they were chosen as running mates. Dick Cheney was the most qualified vice president upon taking office in the country's history. Not only had he been Secretary of Defense in wartime but was a former presidential chief of staff, the man who actually runs an administration on a day to day basis. Joe Biden has been a Senator....for a really long time.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:17 PM


Business dealings of Biden family could be problematic for him: His brother and sons have close ties to a law firm that has benefited from the senator's congressional votes. (Chuck Neubauer and Tom Hamburger, 8/27/08, Los Angeles Times)

When Joe Biden's brother and son wanted to buy a hedge fund company two years ago, they turned for financing to a law firm that had lobbied the Delaware senator's office on an important piece of business in Congress -- and in fact had recently benefited from his vote. The firm promised James and Hunter Biden that it would invest $2 million, and quickly delivered half of it.

That deal eventually fell through and the money was returned. But it highlighted the close ties that Joe Biden and his family have developed with SimmonsCooper, an Illinois law firm that specializes in asbestos litigation -- a multimillion-dollar line of business that was under threat in Congress.

In addition to providing financing for the hedge fund deal, SimmonsCooper picked the law firm of another of Biden's sons, Beau, to work with it on dozens of asbestos cases in Delaware. "It was only natural that we worked with my friend Beau Biden and his firm," said Jeffrey Cooper, former managing partner of SimmonsCooper.

And SimmonsCooper employees have donated about $200,000 to Biden's campaign efforts since 2001, making the firm his No. 1 donor. All told, SimmonsCooper employees provided much more money to Biden than to any other senator during that period.

His family's financial dealings could be troublesome for Biden, who tonight becomes part of a Democratic presidential ticket that has vowed to reform Washington's traditional money culture.

...but had he never read Richard Ben Cramer? Are we supposed to trust the judgment of the only guy inside the Beltway who doesn't realize Senator Biden is a man on the make?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:44 PM


Headway with the homeless: Through a concept called 'housing first,' America is finally reducing homelessness. (CS Monitor's Editorial Board, August 28, 2008)

From 2005 to 2007, the number of chronically homeless fell 30 percent, to 123,833, according to a Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) report last month. The overall number of homeless fell to about 672,000 people. (Merely counting the homeless is quite a feat.)

Congress began to push "housing first" in 1999 by ordering HUD to funnel a third of its homeless funds into permanent housing. Then, under President Bush, HUD began to provide incentive money to communities that focus on the chronically homeless. Now there are 345 such communities – local governments, charities, and businesses – working with 10-year plans to reduce or end homelessness.

Thanks, W

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:53 PM


High Anxiety in the Mile High City (MAUREEN DOWD, 8/27/08, NY Times)

[T]his Democratic convention has a vibe so weird and jittery, so at odds with the early thrilling, fairy dust feel of the Obama revolution, that I had to consult Mike Murphy, the peppery Republican strategist and former McCain guru.

“What is that feeling in the air?” I asked him.

“Submerged hate,” he promptly replied.

Except that you can inevitably see the hate poking through like Scylla. The Obama supporters (are delegates from caucus states called caucasians?) hate the 80s, 90s & 00s; Bill for forcing the Third Way on them; George W. Bush; and Hillary, for not bowing down to the Obamessiah. But if they turn loose the hate they're looking at a Dukakisesque blow-out, so they're stuck pretending and the pretense is too thin to convince.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:33 PM


You know how we're always being told that Senator Obama's opponents are trying to scare the white women by portraying him as the hypersexualized black man of myth? Well, check this out:
The Look Obama's Going For (Campaign Standard, 8/27/08)

Is framing him within broken phalluses therefore an intentional bid to make him unthreatening?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:25 PM


A Syrian-Israeli Breakthrough? (David Ignatius, August 27, 2008, Washington Post)

Of all the wild cards in the Middle East deck, this one may be the most intriguing: Syrian President Bashar al-Assad appears ready for direct peace talks with Israel, if the United States will join France as a co-sponsor.

That's the word from senior advisers to Assad, who spoke with me here this week. The same assessment comes from top French officials in Paris. A direct meeting would raise the Syrian-Israeli dialogue to a new level; so far, it has been conducted indirectly, through Turkey.

The Syrians would like to see a clear signal from the Bush administration that it supports the peace process and that the United States is prepared to join the French as "godfather" of the talks. But Syrian officials are pessimistic and say they doubt that the administration, which has sought to isolate and punish Syria, will change its policy in the few months it has left. That would disappoint some of Assad's advisers, who prefer to move quickly, rather than wait for a new U.S. administration to organize its foreign policy priorities. thought there was any danger that the Realists would learn anything from Iraq. Fortunately, Maverick is unlikely to prop up a Ba'athist dictator and the Unicorn Rider is already seen as so weak that he can ill afford to begin an administration by doing so.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:45 AM


Aging Population Spooks EU (Der Spiegel, 8/27/08)

It is clear who will be paying the pensions off British retirees in the not-too-distant future: the children of the country's immigrant population. The rest of Europe may not be so lucky. The EU has known for years it is sitting on a demographic time bomb but new statistics released Tuesday predict just how close the problem looms.

Deaths will overtake births in Europe just seven years from now, according to an official EU study conducted by Eurostat. The shrinking population is due to "persistently low fertility" according to the report.

Once deaths outnumber births, migration will become the only source of population growth. But from 2035 on, even positive net migration will no longer offset the negative impact of fewer births, predicts Eurostat.

Shrinkage aside, the EU's population will grow older in the next 50 years, with only two people of working age for every person aged 65 or more by 2060, the report says.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:19 AM


Durable goods post strong increases in July, June (Associated Press, August 27, 2008)

Orders for big-ticket manufactured goods turned in a second consecutive strong monthly performance in July, a far bigger-than-expected gain led by a huge jump in demand for commercial aircraft.

The Commerce Department said today that orders for durable goods rose 1.3 percent last month, far above the slight 0.1 percent increase economists had been expecting.

The July increase matched a 1.3 percent rise in June, which was revised up from an earlier reading of 0.8 percent. Both months turned in the strongest gains since a 4.1 percent surge last December.

Economists had been expecting a far weaker showing in July reflecting their views that the manufacturing sector is being battered by the slowdown facing the overall economy. Instead, the report showed surprising strength in a number of areas.

Scores Stable as More Minorities Take SAT (Maria Glod and Michael Alison Chandler, 8/27/08, Washington Post)
SAT performance held steady for 2008 high school graduates even as participation rose among minority students and those who are part of the first generation in their families to go to college, the College Board reported yesterday. [...]

Nationwide, the number of students taking the SAT surpassed 1.5 million for the first time, up 8 percent from five years ago and almost 30 percent over the past decade. Forty percent of test-takers were minority students, up from 39 percent last year, and 36 percent were among a group described as first-generation collegegoers, up from 35 percent.

College Board officials considered the boost in participation evidence that the high school students who aspire to a college degree are growing more ethnically and economically diverse.

Number of Americans without health insurance falls (Lisa Girion, 8/27/08, Los Angeles Times)
In all, the number of people without health insurance dropped last year to 45.7 million, from 47 million in 2006, according to the bureau's annual report on income, poverty and health insurance. That's a drop to 15.3% of Americans from 15.8%.

Census: Income rose, middle class grew in 2007: But child poverty also rose, according to the new report. (Ron Scherer, 8/27/08, The Christian Science Monitor)
The standard of living rose and the middle class grew while the number of wealthy actually shrank somewhat compared to 2006. At the same time, the official poverty rate was basically unchanged. And the number of Americans without health coverage fell for the first time during the Bush administration.

Those are some of the conclusions from the US Census Bureau's annual survey, a report that gives scholars a longer view of the nation's economic health.

"It's a good solid report," says Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's

Glimmers of good news in US housing reports (The Associated Press, August 26, 2008)
While no one is ready to call the bottom of the worst housing collapse in decades, there were glimmers this week that the severity is waning.

The decline in home prices is starting to ease and in some cities values are starting to rise again. Existing home sales rose slightly from June to July, and the glut of newly built homes on the market fell to a five month low last month.

"The bottom of the housing downturn is coming into view," said Moody's Chief Economist Mark Zandi.

Aug. consumer outlook up more than expected (Associated Press, 8/27/08)
Americans felt better about the economy in August, as a barometer of sentiment posted the biggest boost in two years amid falling gas prices. [...]

The Conference Board, a private research group, said Tuesday that its consumer confidence index rose to 56.9, up from a revised 51.9 in July. That's the largest gain since August 2006 and is ahead of the 53 expected by economists surveyed by Thomson/IFR.

Funny, America looks far different from the back of a unicorn....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:11 AM


Obama Speech Stage Resembles Ancient Greek Temple (Reuters, August 26, 2008)

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama's big speech on Thursday night will be delivered from an elaborate columned stage resembling a miniature Greek temple.

Shouldn't they really be having a human sacrifice to kick the night off?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:06 AM


Obama, Biden's Son Linked by Earmarks (James V. Grimaldi and Kimberly Kindy, 8/27/08, Washington Post)

Sen. Barack Obama sought more than $3.4 million in congressional earmarks for clients of the lobbyist son of his Democratic running mate, Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware, records show. Obama succeeded in getting $192,000 for one of the clients, St. Xavier University in suburban Chicago.

So we face a tough call as to which part of the story is more revealing: that the Unicorn Rider is just another Cook County hack or that he's such an insignificant legislator that he could only secure a paltry $192k?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:55 AM


Obama's Pick for Vice President Is Catholic. But the Bishops Deny Him Communion ( Sandro Magister, August 27, 2008, Chiesa)

In an interview with the "Christian Science Monitor," Biden said that he believes his positions are "totally consistent with Catholic social doctrine."

But this is not the view of Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Denver, the city in which the Democratic party is officially presenting Obama and Biden as its candidates for the presidential election.

In interview with the Associated Press, Chaput said that Biden's support for the so-called "right" to abortion is a serious public error. And he added: "I presume that his integrity will lead him to refrain from presenting himself for Communion."

During these same days, from Rome, another American archbishop, Raymond L. Burke, has spoken out on the same question and along the same lines: he, too, says communion should not be given to pro-abortion Catholic politicians.

Neither Burke nor Chaput is new to taking stances like these. In 2004, on the eve of the previous presidential election, Burke advocated withholding communion from the Democratic candidate for the White House at the time, John Kerry, also a "pro-choice" Catholic.

In June of that year, from Rome, then-cardinal Joseph Ratzinger had sent to the United States bishops' conference a memorandum stating the "general principles" on this question.

Ratzinger's memorandum was private, but www.chiesa published it in its entirety. It sided with the unyielding bishops like Burke and Chaput.

...that religion is a function of genetics rather than faith?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:30 AM


Blaming A-Rod seems perfectly acceptable (Ken Davidoff, August 26, 2008, Newsday)

We often talk about the game finding a particular player. But Tuesday night, it felt like this whole 2008 Yankees season hoisted itself from its hammock and staggered around, tossing aside empty whiskey bottles and half-eaten bags of Cheetos, until it tracked down Alex Rodriguez.

Good Lord. Talk about a beautiful wedding of perception and reality.

A-Rod doesn't deserve the most blame for this playoff-free Yankees season, not with the overall numbers he has tallied. But Tuesday night, in the season's most important game, the $275-million man earned the scorn of Yankee Stadium like he rarely has before.

An 0-for-5 with seven stranded teammates on base and a fielding error, in a brutal, possibly fatal, 7-3 loss to the Red Sox, will work people into a pretty good lather.

A-Rod is at .308/398/582 28 78 16 (412) and only plays 3b because of the ego of the guy to his left.

Meanwhile, Brian Cashman not only put together one of the worst defensive teams imaginable (Giambi should have had the ball on which Rodriguez got an error) but failed to address the team's manifest pitching problems and left the young pitchers in the dubious care of notorious arm-wrecker Joe Girardi, so that none of the three are in the majors now. It's a team built for failure. Blaming one of the few guys who isn't one is crazy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:19 AM


Barack Obama's agenda so far is a no-show: The Clinton situation is blocking discussion of the economy. (Doyle McManus and Robin Abcarian, 8/27/08, Los Angeles Times)

This week's Democratic convention sought to relaunch Barack Obama's presidential campaign by doing three things: Healing the party's internal rift, showing voters who Obama is, and spelling out more clearly what he would do as president, especially on the economy. But at the halfway point, the convention still seemed, at best, to have accomplished Step 1. [...]

[A]s for how Obama would tackle the voters' top concern, the nation's slumping economy, the convention has barely made a mark. And that has even some Obama backers fretting.

"We'd rather be talking about his economic program, sure," said an Obama advisor who spoke on condition of anonymity because the campaign has sought to portray an air of serene confidence. "We'll get there," he added grimly.

...tell us exactly who he is and what he'd do?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:11 AM


BBC denies interference in al-Qaida coverage (Oliver Luft, 8/27/08,

The BBC has denied that its editorial independence was compromised after it emerged that a Radio 4 documentary about Islamic extremism bore similarities to a programme described in a leaked Whitehall document as one at which anti-al-Qaida propaganda was put forward. [...]

Yesterday's Guardian splash, by home affairs editor Alan Travis, quoted a leaked document from a Whitehall counter terrorism unit established under former home secretary John Reid, called the research, information and communication unit.

This document claimed the unit was targeting the BBC and other media organisations through which it could "channel messages" as part of a propaganda push designed to "taint the al-Qaida brand".

...before you're Bright enough to think it inappropriate for the public media to oppose your nation's enemies? Imagine if the head of the BBC had tried explaining to Churchill that they needed to remain neutral as between Britain and Hitler?

August 26, 2008

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:29 PM


Anti-abortion activists unfurl sign on mesa (COLLEEN SLEVIN, 8/26/08, The Associated Press)

Anti-abortion activists unfurled a huge sign Tuesday on a mesa west of Denver equating the Democratic National Convention with abortion, but later removed it at the request of authorities.

The three-line sign on Table Mountain in Golden said "Destroys uNborn Children," with the capital letters DNC lined up vertically. would be "born" also.

Poll: Majority of Americans Disagree With Barack Obama on When Life Begins (Steven Ertelt, August 26, 2008,

Barack Obama confessed over a week ago that he wasn't sure when life begins and worried the question may be a little "above my pay grade." However, a majority of Americans know when human life begins and they agree with John McCain, who said the starting point is conception.

Zogby International conducted the poll for WorldNetDaily and it questioned 1,099 likely voters from August 22 to 24.

The survey found 59 percent believe human life begins at conception, another 16.8 percent say it happens when an unborn child can survive outside her mother's womb with medical assistance, and just 17.2 percent say human life doesn't begin until birth.

Of course, Senator Obama thinks it's just fine to kill the little mistakes at all three stages.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:54 PM


Barack Obama: White Sox 'serious' ball (Mark Silva, 8/25/08, The Swamp)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:20 AM


Gasolina! Daddy Yankee Endorses McCain (Michael D. Shear, 8/26/08, Washington Post)

The high school girls standing on the risers behind Sen. John McCain looked like any high school girls would during a talk by someone Paris Hilton might describe as "a white-haired dude." They clapped politely.

And then, when McCain introduced his special guest, they freaked out. They gasped. They put their hands over their mouths. They screamed.

Daddy Yankee, one of the country's top Latino music stars, strode out, wearing mirrored sunglasses. A Puerto Rican reggaeton recording artist, he appeared next to McCain to endorse the Republican nominee and perhaps give him a boost with Hispanic voters.

But for the girls, all that -- and McCain -- was beside the point. What they thought was going to be a boring, political event was suddenly way cool. Yankee turned and hugged a few of the girls, who put their shaking arms around him. [...]

"I just want to say thank you Daddy Yankee," said McCain, who also referred to him as Ramon, since his given name is Ramon Ayala. McCain said Yankee has been married 15 years, had grown up poor in Puerto Rico and made "the right choice" in life.

John McCain shares the stage with Jay Leno and Daddy Yankee (Maeve Reston, 8/26/08, Los Angeles Times )
The audience of more than 100 students seemed sleepy for McCain's opening remarks about the importance of voting and the national leaders who have come from Arizona.

But they perked up when he promised a "special guest" and "a great American success story."

McCain built up the suspense by withholding the guest's name at first, but then gave it away, saying, "One of his most famous songs, I know you're very familiar with: 'Gasolina' " -- drawing gasps of surprise from the crowd -- and then finally said, "Well, here he is, Daddy Yankee."

Though McCain has sometimes shown surprising familiarity with rap stars and pop culture references because of the musical tastes of his daughters, it is unlikely that the conservative Republican would have made a point of mentioning the song had he known that the "Gasolina" lyrics are loaded with sexual references. Although there's some debate about what the word "gasolina" means in this context, one thing is certain: It's not a petroleum product.

Sexual allusions? How about the environmental incorrectness?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:09 AM


Vets take Obama to task (IKE ALLEN | 8/26/08, Politico)

The 30-second spot, called “I Am the Surge,” features three Iraq war veterans who served in the surge of U.S. military forces into Iraq: Gabriel Herrera, David Thul and Travis Quinlan. [...]

Vets for Freedom Chairman Pete Hegseth, a decorated former Army infantry platoon leader in Baghdad, said in a statement: “Vets for Freedom will not stand by and let the incredible progress of our troops go unnoticed by the American public and lawmakers from either side of the aisle.

Hegseth is at the convention to tell lawmakers, delegates and the press about his observation during a recent return to Iraq.

“It is essential that our top legislators — regardless of party — understand the importance of victory in Iraq, the consequences of defeat and the success of the surge,” Hegseth said. “Sen. Obama has said that he would still oppose the surge if given another opportunity and has pointed to every outside factor but the surge to explain improvements in Iraq. We hope he will listen to the veterans who have served there and support this important resolution for the sake of the troops.”

Here's a prior ad:

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:04 AM


Some FARC rebels ready to quit: But splitting from the guerrilla group can carry big risks (JOHN OTIS, Aug. 23, 2008, Miami Herald)

Once a guerrilla, always a guerrilla.

At least that's the credo of Colombia's largest rebel group, which insists that its foot soldiers remain loyal to the cause even from behind bars.

But in a startling development, more than 700 imprisoned rebels have renounced the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, and are calling on the guerrilla army to make peace.

"We are telling the FARC that they no longer have a claim on us," Raul Agudelo, a high-ranking rebel commander, said in a prison courtyard surrounded by gray concrete walls — his home for most of the last five years.

"We don't want to ever again pick up a rifle and point it at a fellow Colombian."

Colombia is one of the surges W doesn't get credit for.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:00 AM


Catholic bishops correct Pelosi on abortion (The Associated Press, 8/25/08)

In an appearance Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press," Pelosi said "doctors of the church" have not been able to define when life begins and that "over the history of the church, this is an issue of controversy."

Washington Archbishop Donald Wuerl, citing the teaching responsibility entrusted to bishops, issued a statement late Monday that read, in part: "Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion. This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable."

Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput and his auxiliary bishop, James Conley, said in a statement posted on the archdiocesan Web site: "Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is a gifted public servant of strong convictions and many professional skills. Regrettably, knowledge of Catholic history and teaching does not seem to be one of them."

Abortion "is always gravely evil, and so are the evasions employed to justify it," the statement continued.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:56 AM


Shhh! Americans Getting Richer (James Pethokoukis, 8/26/08, US News)

A few factoids:

1) Adjusted gross income reported on tax returns in 2006, adjusted for inflation, averaged $58,029, up 1.2 percent from 2000.

2) Some 60 percent of the increase in total income went to those making more than $75,000, but less than $1 million a year.

It's Phil Gramm's America, we just live in it...

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:49 AM


Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:41 AM

IT'S NOT EASY BEING GREEN (via Ed Driscoll) [profanity alert]:

The 7 Most Retarded Ways Celebrities Have Tried to Go Green (David Knight, Cracked)

#6. Jennifer Aniston Brushes Her Teeth in the Shower

Believe it or not, six years ago people still used to disagree with us when we pointed out that all comedy is conservative.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:06 AM


The funniest show you've never seen (Raja Sen, August 26, 2008, Rediff)

Created by James Bobin in collaboration with Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement -- who play completely loser-ified alter egos of themselves on the show -- the premise is that of Bret and Jemaine living in New York and peddling their band, the FOTC, searching earnestly for gigs and girls. They are accompanied quite crucially by the Deputy Cultural Attache at the New Zealand consulate, Murray Hewitt (played by Rhys Darby) -- who also happens to be their manager.

On a very basic level, it is the kind of plotline that can wear quite thin indeed -- the humour predictably built around moments of extreme social awkwardness, 'we-aren't-Australian' jokes, and Americans whose only reference point to New Zealand is Peter Jackson's The Lord Of The Rings trilogy.

Yet the humour here is exceptionally quirky, constantly surprising and very, very hard to resist. Just like the New Zealand Tourism posters popping up in the background: 'New Zealand: Don't Expect Too Much, You Will Love It,' reads one, while another, with big white letters over much mountainous terrain, exclaims, simply, 'New Zealand... rocks!!!'


And the songs, the songs. The musical format is used both as organic, when they start jamming out a song around their dining table, or unapologetically surreal, when the entire show suddenly transforms into an 80s ballad video or a madly futuristic Bowie take-off.

The lyrics are maddeningly brilliant -- 'I'm not crying / It's just been raining... on my face,' sing the boys with hilarious sincerity after first-episode heartbreak -- and their approach is earnest, which is what makes it work. Clearly Bret and Jemaine are deluded enough to believe in their music, and, more importantly, the words they're stringing along together.

The fact that they're very talented musicians who can capably sculpt send-ups of varied songstyles -- everything from Duran Duran to gangster rap -- ensures that while the songs are ridiculously funny, they also make for pretty darned good listening.

The Conchords songs came before the series -- winning the Grammy Award for Best Comedy Album -- and the show was written around them, which is what makes for 12 staggeringly brilliant episodes perfectly mixing zany, largely understated humour, and loony songs that have led to the band gaining massive YouTube-aided popularity worldwide.

...The Wife listens to the BBC Radio version of the show (torrent here) when she's driving around and ends up laughing so hard she's going to cause an accident sooner or later. The following will most likely be to blame:

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:54 AM


Much Higher I.Q. (James Bowman, 8/26/2008, American Spectator)

[E]litism to Americans is not a matter of wealth or birth or education. Even in Europe, where that once was true, the elites are not so defined anymore. Nowadays, in the best spirit of American democracy, anyone can be an elitist. All you have to do is believe that you are smarter than other people and that, therefore, the all the other, less-smart people, if they know what's good for them, should be happy to put you in charge of them. They know better than you do how much money you should be making and how you should be making it and what you should be doing with it once you've made it, for example.

Doubtless the elitists' position on all these things is much more intelligent than yours, but -- wouldn't you just know it? -- a majority of Americans have never quite cottoned to having these things decided for them. They'd rather be governed by some pork-rind eating, country-music listening Skull and Bonesman who at least has the basic courtesy to flatter their tastes than by a self-styled intellectual who peers down at them and their regrettable amusements from a lofty height. Mr. Obama may be the grandson of an African goatherd, but he has all the arrogance of a duke -- considerably more than most dukes nowadays, actually -- when it comes to telling you how to live your life.

We can readily see why, then, Senator Obama should have chosen as his running mate a man who on more than one occasion has said of the President of the United States (who belongs to a different party), "This guy is brain-dead." Joe Biden, another Senator who, apart from a couple of years of practicing law, has spent his whole working life in the Senate and who has a senator's idea of "experience" in foreign policy, having run his mouth about it for 36 years, has an "impeccable" working-class background, but he once told a voter that "I think I have a much higher I.Q. than you do." Believe me, it doesn't take nearly so much either of brains or of courage as Mr. Kinsley appears to think in order to attack that kind of political imbecility.

Although it has been clear at least since they made their once-hero William Jennings Bryan an object of derision because he was on the Stupid rather than the Bright side of the Scopes Trial, Democrats seem unable to process the fact that in the Puritan Nation elitism isn't a function of rich vs. poor but of Reason vs. Faith.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:38 AM


Carville: This Convention Has No Message (Jake Tapper, August 26, 2008, ABCNews: Political Punch)

On CNN this evening, Clintonista James Carville voiced his displeasure with tonight's proceedings as having no theme, no message.

"James Carville seems the least satisfied Democrat in here right now," noted CNN's Anderson Cooper. "What's going on James?"

"Well if this party has a message it has done a hell of a job of hiding it tonight I promise you that," Carville said.

...Mr. Carville had a far easier task in '92. With the GOP base angered by the incumbent's reversal on taxes and with a second rightwing candidate in the race, all they had to do was present Bill Clinton as a Democrat who had moved on from the '70s and accepted the Thatcher/Reagan '80s, especially the economics thereof. Once you'd established that Mr. Clinton wasn't a liberal he became a viable alternative, though he still only managed to garner 43% of the popular vote.

But Senator Obama just won his party's nominations by dominating the caucuses, where those who turn out are stuck in the 70s. Because his main opponent was President Clinton's wife, Mr. Obama effectively ran against the Democratic Party of the 1990s, Bill Clinton's New Democrats. Now he has to completely reverse his field and scramble to the Right, which can't help but appear craven or hypocritical. Moreover, he doesn't have the advantage of a well-funded third party challenger from the Right nor of running against the incumbent. Indeed, for the past eight years his own party and the media have crafted an image--though they suddenly realize its absurdity--of John McCain as a Maverick who is nothing like his own party. So Mr. Obama not only has to invert the established narrative about himself but the one about his foe, and that's an awful lot to ask anyone to get done in just four months, nevermind in four days.

Michelle Obama’s Two Americas: At the convention, a new and radically different message from the candidate’s wife. (Byron York, 8/26/08, National Review)

In Denver, Mrs. Obama said, “My piece of the American Dream is a blessing hard won by those who came before me.” Those forebears, she explained, were “driven by the same conviction that drove my dad to get up an hour early each day to painstakingly dress himself for work — the same conviction that drives the men and women I’ve met all across this country…That’s why I love this country.”

In Charlotte, Mrs. Obama said, “We’re still living in a time and in a nation where the bar is set, right?…You start working hard and sacrificing and you think you’re getting close to that bar, you’re working and you’re struggling, and then what happens? They raise the bar…keep it just out of reach.”

Had something changed in the last few months? In the early primaries, Mrs. Obama often gave complaining speeches. It was in late February that she said the now-famous words, “For the first time in my adult life, I am proud of my country, because it feels like hope is finally making a comeback.” In other speeches, she grumbled — sometimes at length — about having to pay back her college loans. And she, as much as her husband, was associated with the anti-American rants of Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

The images began to accumulate. By the later months of the Democratic primary race, when her husband was stumbling to victory after a powerful stretch of wins in February, Mrs. Obama’s approval ratings began to slip. She was still not widely known at the time, but it seemed the more voters got to know her, the more they began to have reservations about her.

In May, the Pew Research Center found that 22 percent of people polled had an unfavorable opinion of Mrs. Obama. In July, an Associated Press poll showed that she had a 35 percent unfavorable rating — versus a 30 percent favorable figure. A couple of weeks ago, a the Rasmussen polling organization found that 43 percent of voters had an unfavorable impression of Mrs. Obama.

The lady doth protest too little (Spengler, 8/26/08, Asia Times)
Michelle Obama's negatives in opinion polls are the worst ever registered for a candidate's wife, deep enough, perhaps, to turn the election against Barack. Presumably that is why the Democratic Party wheeled out a chipper, perky, sunny and smiling African-American female who claimed to be Michelle Obama in the keynote slot of its national convention Monday night. This alleged Michelle Obama bore a striking physical resemblance to the candidate's wife observed during the campaign, but the differences in attitude and rhetoric were extreme enough to warrant verification.

Mrs Obama's appearance was the star event on an otherwise lackluster first evening. She was introduced by her brother, basketball coach Craig Robinson, who mentioned that as a child she had memorized every episode of the popular television comedy, The Brady Bunch. [...]

Never before has a candidate's wife delivered a major address to a national convention of either party. The break in precedent stems evidently from the urgent need to remake the image built up by sections of the media of Michelle Obama as a rancorous and resentful woman. But it also may reflect the extraordinary degree of her influence in her husband's campaign. She is reported to have ruled out Senator Hillary Clinton as a vice presidential candidate, although polls showed that Clinton would strengthen the ticket more than any other choice.

Pretty hard to present a unified and coherent message when a part of the convention has to be devoted to making the candidate's wife seem less anti-American.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:35 AM


Wash. primary results show tight race for governor (RACHEL LA CORTE, 8/26/08, Associated Press)

Democrat Chris Gregoire beat Republican Dino Rossi in Washington state's governor's race by a mere 133 votes four years ago. The sequel looks like it might be just as tight. [...]

With more than 90 percent of the vote counted Monday, Gregoire had 48.4 percent, or 657,181 votes, compared to Rossi's 46.3 percent, or 629,516 votes.

There are more than 64,000 mail-in votes left to count, but the fact that it's already so close could indicate what's in store for what is expected to be the nation's most competitive governor's race.

...that only remains winnable because Maverick is the nominee.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

August 25, 2008

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:21 PM


Audiophiles' Delight: Vinyl LPs Still Sell: Those old-fashioned analog platters (with the warm sound) aren't back from the dead; they were never quite buried in the first place ((Carl Winfield, 8/23/08, Business Week)

Rising LP sales are proving that every fashion comes back if you stick around long enough. The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) reports that shipments of vinyl records, measured by dollar value, increased 36.6% from 2006 to 2007. But, while demand for albums has increased, record sales remain significantly lower than those of compact discs and digital media. More than half a billion CDs were purchased in 2007, compared with about 1.3 million vinyl LPs.

"Demand for records has grown, but it's kind of like the dandelion in the weed patch," says Geoff Mayfield, chart director at Billboard magazine. "Growth is high because the base is so small." The RIAA declined to comment.

Despite the minuscule retail figures, the format's popularity has never wavered over the decades among audiophiles, LP enthusiasts, and serious music collectors. Vinyl is often praised as the medium of warmth and richness, delivering playback that most closely represents a live musical experience. Purists sniff that digital routinely registers as cold and antiseptic.

...stop in your local thrift store--Salvation Army or whoever--and check out the piles of old lp's you can buy for around twenty-five cents a pop. And the stuff you find is just amazing.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:10 PM


Why this campaign matters (LIZ SIDOTI, 8/25/08, Associated Press)

This is an election at a pivotal time, a tenuous period in the United States and across the world.

Here, people struggle to fill their cars with gas, their tables with food, their children with knowledge. They worry about job layoffs, home foreclosures and shrinking pensions - and they have reason to, given cheaper overseas labor, a credit crisis and havoc on Wall Street. Wildfires scorch the West, floods pound the Heartland and tropical storms slam the Gulf Coast. The scars of Hurricane Katrina linger. So do those of Sept. 11.

Elsewhere, the United States leads wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. There's chaos in Pakistan. Russian troops occupy tiny Georgia. Iran test-fires missiles, while North Korea grudgingly begins nuclear disarmament. Al-Qaida and the Taliban plot in the shadows. Genocide consumes Darfur. Poverty and disease blanket Africa. Israelis and Palestinians struggle still. China's influence grows, as does that of the rest of Asia. The U.S. dollar trades near record lows.

Everywhere, a changing climate threatens irreparable harm to the environment, to animal species, frankly, to the world as we know it. Cures for cancer and other deadly diseases remain elusive.

And Americans search for a leader to fix the ills, fretting: It's got to get better.

The success of apocalyptic cults is, likewise, based on a need to believe that your own life matters and that, therefore, you must be living through a pivotal time in history, preferably the very end of things. The reality is that it's rather unlikely that our moment matters much in the life of the species to begin with and given that we have a growing economy, low unemployment, no existential threats and a war contained to a few primitive sections of a few dysfunctional states it seems particularly self-obsessive to try and freight this election with meaning.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:07 PM


Why McCain is Floating Lieberman and Ridge (Barry Casselman, 8/25/08, Real Clear Politics)

It appears to me that Senator McCain, after his impressive performance at Reverend Warren's event, and his unambiguous declarations of his pro-life position on the issue of abortion, is not going to choose a pro-choice running mate, even if he wanted to do so.

As measured by the polls at least, Mr. McCain has drawn even or possibly slightly ahead of Mr. Obama, and is clearly enjoying a upsurge that could be capsized if he were to make a choice that would upset too much a part of his political base.

So why is Mr. McCain and his campaign allowing and even encouraging the speculation about a pro-choice running mate? I think the answer is that he is sending a signal to independent voters, moderate Republicans and disaffected Democrats that he is the kind of Republican who they will likely feel comfortable with should he win in November and replace President George W. Bush., even if they disagree with him on some issues.

I think the McCain campaign has diagnosed the political environment for this year's presidential election to be one in which they must capture the bulk of the independent vote, and make inroads in some traditional Democratic constituencies. They would like to have included black voters in that, but with Mr. Obama's candidacy, there is simply no hope for that. There is some opportunity for notable gains among blue collar workers, Jewish voters and Hispanic voters, as well as those women still angry about the defeat of Senator Hillary Clinton for the Democratic
nomination by Senator Obama.

Many Catholic, Hispanic, orthodox Jewish and evangelical women are pro-life, but the largest number of women, especially older women, remains pro-choice. If they perceive Mr. McCain as an inflexible social conservative, they will vote for Mr. Obama, even if they are not enthusiastic about doing so. Of course, if Mr. McCain picked a pro-choice running mate, he would get many of their votes easily, but the cost to the McCain campaign would simply be too great to make this a wise decision.

So the McCain campaign is taking the next best course, that is, openly praising moderate and pro-choice Republicans and Democrats who support their candidate, and including them as "possible" running mates.

The one redeeming feature of Independents is that they take even such trivial gestures seriously.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:00 PM


MBNA paid Biden son at critical time for bill (PETE YOST, 8/25/08, Associated Press)

A son of Democratic vice presidential candidate Joe Biden was paid an undisclosed amount of money as a consultant by MBNA, the largest employer in Delaware, during the years the senator supported legislation that was promoted by the credit card industry and opposed by consumer groups. [...]

Obama opposed the bankruptcy law, enacted in 2005, while Biden supported it.

Biden Tied to Rezko Fraud Figure: Vice-Presidential Candidate's Former Campaign Advisor and Fundraiser Aided Kickback Scheme (JUSTIN ROOD, August 25, 2008, ABC News)
Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., brings to Obama's presidential campaign assets like foreign policy experience and a knowledge of Washington. But he also brings another tie to the Antoin "Tony" Rezko scandal, a mess that has already caused sizeable headaches for the Obama campaign.

Chicago lawyer and onetime mega-fundraiser Joseph Cari has advised Biden and his campaigns on and off since 1984, serving in posts as varied as a Senate adviser on crime to the Midwest Political Director for Biden's aborted 1987 presidential bid. [...]

Federal prosecutors indicted Cari in August 2005 and in September Cari cut a deal, agreeing to cooperate with the government's investigation and pleading guilty to a count of attempted extortion .

Cari admitt ed that in 2004 he helped a Rezko associate by making calls in what turned out to be a kickback scheme. long as you aren't pretending you'll change things.

Obama to amend report on $800,000 in spending (David M. Brown, 8/22/08, Pittsburgh TRIBUNE-REVIEW)

U.S. Sen. Barack Obama's presidential campaign paid more than $800,000 to an offshoot of the liberal Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now for services the Democrat's campaign says it mistakenly misrepresented in federal reports.

An Obama spokesman said Federal Election Commission reports would be amended to show Citizens Services Inc. -- a subsidiary of ACORN -- worked in "get-out-the-vote" projects, instead of activities such as polling, advance work and staging major events as stated in FEC finance reports filed during the primary. [...]

[S]aid Blair Latoff, spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee: "Barack Obama's failure to accurately report his campaign's financial records is an incredibly suspicious situation that appears to be an attempt to hide his campaign's interaction with a left-wing organization previously convicted of voter fraud. For a candidate who claims to be practicing 'new' politics, his FEC reports look an awful lot like the 'old-style' Chicago politics of yesterday."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:08 PM


Jackson Jr.: Obama "can't hit back" (Mike Allen and Jonathan Martin, 8/25/08, The Politico)

Rep. Jesse L. Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) told convention-goers Monday that Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) is like baseball pioneer Jackie Robinson — enduring jeers without the ability to hit back.

"Barack Obama has the capacity to hit," Jackson said a breakfast panel just before the opening of the Democratic National Convention. "But he is in the situation where he can't hit back, which Jackie Robinson could not do."

Whether or not Jackie could have hit back, there was never any question that he could hit. He was a great ballplayer irrespective of his race. There is a legitimate question as to whether Senator Obama, an otherwise standard issue Northern liberal, has anything to offer other than his ethnicity. He's more Pumpsie Green than Jackie Robinson.

The Race Isn’t About Race (MATT BAI, 8/25/08, NY Times)

The theory that race is holding back Mr. Obama’s candidacy rests on a pretty simple premise. Adherents argue that the Democratic candidate ought to be effortlessly leading by double digits in the polls at this point — and that his failure to do so can only be explained by latent racism among older voters.

After all, this thinking goes, the Republican president suffers from abysmal approval ratings, and even half-witted voters should be able to see that Mr. Obama is a superior candidate to Mr. McCain, were their views not clouded by race.

These are flawed assumptions, however. While it’s entirely possible that Mr. Obama’s race is costing him some support, it’s also true that the electorate that voted in the last two presidential elections was almost symmetrically divided between the two parties. It would defy the laws of politics if, at this early stage of the campaign, moderate Republicans and conservative independents were to reject Mr. McCain (a candidate many of them preferred back in 2000) simply because they don’t like George W. Bush.

Second, Mr. Obama faces genuine obstacles that are more salient than skin color. By any historical measure, he has remarkably little governing experience and almost none in foreign policy. And he represents not only a racial milestone in American life, but also a stark generational shift. It’s hard to extricate these things from Obama’s blackness. (If older white voters recoiled at Mr. Obama when he exchanged a fist-bump with his wife, were they reacting to his youth or to his race?) There are legitimate reasons that some older white voters might reserve judgment on Mr. Obama without being closet racists.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:04 PM


A Liberal’s Lament: To win, Obama must convince the country that he is a man of substance, not just style. History suggests this won't be easy. (Sean Wilentz, 8/23/08, NEWSWEEK)

Obama's most ardent admirers, who include much of the political press and practically all of the liberal intelligentsia, will almost certainly report and analyze the event as a mammoth historical occasion, and quite possibly praise the speech as one of the greatest political orations ever. But will Obama, amid the pulsating theatrics, also attempt the less glamorous and more difficult task of explaining specifically where he wants to move the country, and how he proposes to move it, above and beyond reciting his policy positions? History, as well as recent public-opinion polls, suggests that he badly needs to do so. As a lifelong Democrat who supported Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton during the primaries, I would like to see him succeed in fulfilling his promise.

Since the end of World War II, every Democrat who has sought the presidency has attempted to update the legacy of Franklin Delano Roosevelt's New Deal. From Harry Truman to Bill Clinton, those elected president have refreshed the liberal tradition by promising to put their own stamp upon it, and then doing so. After 40 years of mostly Republican control of the White House, it should be clear that mistakes and overreaching have hampered liberalism's evolution. But by renewing the idea that government has an important role to play in expanding the opportunities and well-being of ordinary Americans, the basic Democratic tradition has survived through thick and thin.

Senator Obama's efforts to reinterpret the Democratic legacy have thus far amounted chiefly to promising a dramatic break with the status quo. His rhetoric of "hope" and "change" has thrilled millions of Democrats and helped secure the party's nomination. Yet millions of other Democrats still find his appeals wispy and unconvincing, and the persistent coolness within the ranks worries some party veterans. Democratic governors have already urged him to be more explicit about how he intends to adjust the party's principles to meet today's challenges. [...]

Clinton suffered through major domestic blunders as well, above all the political debacle concerning his ambitious health-care proposals. Some of Clinton's initiatives—signing the North American Free Trade Agreement, a welfare-reform bill and balancing the budget—infuriated the left of his own party. Meanwhile, right-wing Republican efforts to demolish him bore bitter fruit with his impeachment. Yet amid the peace and prosperity of his final year, with his public popularity soaring, Clinton appeared to have created successfully a new, post-New Deal liberalism that was moving the country beyond Reaganite conservatism—reversing regressive fiscal policies that had virtually bankrupted the federal government; spreading economic growth more broadly; finding a new balance of American force and diplomacy in foreign affairs, and countering racial polarization and right-wing antigovernment fervor with appointments, policies and speeches that promoted what Clinton called the ideal of "One America."

But the election of 2000 stopped the Clintonian experiment short, for reasons ranging from the destructive left-wing campaign of Ralph Nader, to Al Gore's strategic error of distancing himself from a successful record, to the dubious, one-vote majority decision in Bush v. Gore.

The "Clintonian Experiment"--which is just American Thatcherism--continued apace, or even accelerated under W, just as the Thatcher Experiment continued under Tony Blair. The challenge for Senator Obama is rather easily stated, though more difficult to meet: he has to reclaim compassionate conservatism for the Democrats or else he'll end up like John Major, Gordon Brown and Al Gore.

Now, the easiest way to portray himself as a Clintonite would have been to name Mrs. Clinton as his vp. That he failed to do so would tend to suggest that he doesn't even understand the challenge. However, a convention speech that explains in positive terms why the white middle class would benefit from its own version of the Welfare Reform it supported so strongly for the underclass (perceived as blacks) isn't particularly difficult to deliver. Just talk about empowering individuals and breaking dependency on big government -- while fostering a savings and investment driven economic boom -- and you'll have even conservatives eating out of your hand.

But the Third Way does a funny thing to people, forcing political partisans to repudiate their party's own ideas and achievements, because too closely identified with the opposing party. Thus, while Bill Clinton ran on "ending Welfare as we know it," his own vice president and wife never made that accomplishment a centerpiece of their campaigns. Instead it was George W. Bush who ran on extending that model. Likewise, much of W's own party hates him for NCLB, which institutionalized public school vouchers for the first time, and for the prescription drug program, which launched an HSA revolution.

The future here practically writes itself: a Democrat is going to "save" SS by privatizing it but be reviled by his party while a Republican will give us universal health care, though via HSAs, and thereby summon the hatred of the Right. But whereas Maverick can easily be envisioned doing the latter, it's awfully hard to see the Unicorn Rider having the vision or the political courage to do the former. That also makes it pretty hard to imagine Mr. Obama giving a substantive speech this week.

Placating the Clintons (Chris Cillizza, 8/25/08, Washington Post)

Obama's decision to run against the Clinton legacy of hyper-partisanship and politicization worked in the primaries. His call for a new brand of politics touched a cord with voters not just wary of the eight year of George W. Bush but even many sick of the relentless back and forth between the two parties (and occasionally even within the Democratic party) that characterized the Clinton Administration. To then use his speech this week to wrap his arms around Bill Clinton would be seen by some within Obama's base as a repudiation of everything he ran on in the primary.

A revealing counterfactual: Senator Obama did great in caucuses by running against the Clinton legacy but got his keister handed to him in primaries. If the general were one big gathering of Leftwing activists you could win by running on the Second Way. Last we checked, it isn't.

How Obama Reconciles Dueling Views on Economy (DAVID LEONHARDT, 8/25/08, NY Times)

To understand where Obama stands, you first have to know that, for 15 years, Democratic Party economics have been defined by a struggle that took place during the start of the Clinton administration. It was the battle of the Bobs. On one side was Clinton’s labor secretary and longtime friend, Bob Reich, who argued that the government should invest in roads, bridges, worker training and the like to stimulate the economy and help the middle class. On the other side was Bob Rubin, a former Goldman Sachs executive turned White House aide, who favored reducing the deficit to soothe the bond market, bring down interest rates and get the economy moving again. Clinton cast his lot with Rubin, and to this day the first question about any Democrat’s economic outlook is often where his heart lies, with Reich or Rubin, the left or the center, the government or the market. [...]

[T]he new consensus means that the policies of an Obama administration would differ from those of the Clinton administration, but not primarily because of differences between the two men. “The economy has changed in the last 15 years, and our understanding of economic policy has changed as well,” Furman says. “And that means that what was appropriate in 1993 is no longer appropriate.” Obama’s agenda starts not with raising taxes to reduce the deficit, as Clinton’s ended up doing, but with changing the tax code so that families making more than $250,000 a year pay more taxes and nearly everyone else pays less. That would begin to address inequality. Then there would be Reich-like investments in alternative energy, physical infrastructure and such, meant both to create middle-class jobs and to address long-term problems like global warming.

All of this raises the question of what will happen to the deficit. Obama’s aides optimistically insist he will reduce it, thanks to his tax increases on the affluent and his plan to wind down the Iraq war. Relative to McCain, whose promised spending cuts are extremely vague, Obama does indeed look like a fiscal conservative. But the larger point is that the immediate deficit isn’t as big as it was in 1992. Then, it was equal to 4.7 percent of gross domestic product. Right now it’s about 2.5 percent.

During our conversation, Obama made it clear that he considered the deficit to be only one of the long-term problems requiring immediate attention, and he sounded more worried about the others, like global warming, health care and the economic hangover that could follow the housing bust. Tellingly, he said that while he admired what Clinton did, he might have been more open to Reich’s argument — even in 1993. “I still would have probably made a slightly different choice than Clinton did,” Obama said. “I probably wouldn’t have been as obsessed with deficit reduction.”

The new Democratic consensus isn’t complete, obviously. Labor unions, in particular, would prefer more trade barriers than many other Democrats. During the primaries Obama nodded, and at times pandered, in this direction. Since then, he has disavowed that rhetoric, to almost no one’s surprise. Yet his zig-zagging on the issue did highlight the biggest weak spot in his, and his party’s, economic agenda. He still hasn’t quite figured out how to sell it. For all his skills as a storyteller and a speaker, he has not settled on a compelling message about how to put the economy on the right path.

He had to run against Clintonism to beat Mrs. Clinton but needs to run as a Clintonite to win the general. It's a tough spot. Making it even more difficult is that balancing the budget was done by halving Defense spending as a percent of GDP. He's too weak in national security terms to propose such a thing without torpedoing his own candidacy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:54 AM


Blow for Robert Mugabe as Zimbabwe parliament elects MDC speaker (Times of London, 8/25/08)

The Zimbabwean parliament elected a speaker from the Movement for Democratic Change amid dramatic scenes today, relegating President Mugabe’s Zanu (PF) to an opposition party for the first time since independence in 1980.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:47 AM


Veep sheet: McCain nearing a VP pick? (ALEXANDER BURNS, 8/25/08, Politico)

[T]here’s also been suspicious activity in Phoenix that suggests intrigue is afoot.

Politico’s Martin Kady II writes in from Arizona: “McCain met for one hour, from about 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. in a private meeting — attendees undisclosed — at the Ritz-Carlton near his condo. He emerged and drove right back to his condo and the pool departed for day. No VIPs were sighted with him.”

Jonathan Martin confirms former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney was not at the meeting, but no word yet on who was.

The Unicorn Rider's choice was so defensive that Maverick can take nearly anyone he's been considering. The sole exception might be Mitt, whose criticisms during the primaries would tend to blunt Mr. Biden's of Senator Obama. You'd think that the numbers on Hillary's supporters and the eagerness with which the campaign is touting the line that she was passed over because she's a woman would bode well for Sarah Palin. Not to mention that putting a woman on-stage with Joe Biden would tend to make his drooling attack-puppy bit look even worse.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:30 AM


US housing sales increase in July (BBC, 8/25/08)

Sales of previously owned homes in the US rose 3.1% in July, as buyers took advantage of falling prices in the wake of the housing slowdown.

Sales climbed to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5 million units, said the National Association of Realtors.

Given the likelihood of immigration amnesty by early next, the housing market is poised for a boom and the next president for an easy couple of years economically.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:44 AM


Senator Joe Biden will rub shine off Barack Obama's call for change (Gerard Baker, 8/25/08, Times of London)

Now there's an unfortunate turn of phrase.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:26 AM


Iran's economic self-mutilation (Hossein Askari, 8/26/08, Asia Times)

[I]n Iran, economic justice has taken on even more significance because Islam unambiguously asserts that poverty is the result of waste, extravagance and denying what rightfully belongs to the less fortunate members of society.

This position is illustrated by the famous Prophetic saying, "Nothing makes a poor man starve except that with which a rich person avails in luxury." The eradication of poverty and the pursuit of economic and social justice is, without a doubt, the second-most important duty for an Islamic state, second only to the preservation and propagation of the faith, whose own existence is considered to be threatened by poverty. Yet, despite the best of intentions, Iran has totally failed in its pursuit of this noble goal. [...]

Iran's economic failures have been largely of its own making. Overcome by revolutionary fervor after 1979, the government nationalized much of the private sector, handcuffed what was left of the private sector with populist regulations intended to help the disadvantaged, adopted wasteful subsidies in the name of economic justice, did not nurture efficient institutions, including the rule of law, did not strengthen the national tax system, limited foreign competition and adopted inconsistent macroeconomic policies.

The results have been predictable: slow economic growth, high unemployment, high inflation, a stagnant non-energy export sector, waste, pervasive corruption, and growing income and wealth disparity resulting in economic injustice.

While the government has adopted well-intentioned initiatives, they have been too little, too late and ill-conceived, with the end result that the disadvantaged suffer and the government's credibility in its pursuit of economic prosperity is rapidly evaporating.

In order for Ayatollah Khamenei to save the Republic he has to punt Mahmoud and get reformers into place.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:23 AM


In the end these ads make no difference and most of Hillary's supporters will grudgingly switch to the Unicorn Rider, but, in the meantime, they're just fun:

And the fact that Maverick is having a good time and the Democrats aren't actually does make a difference.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:14 AM


Biden is no threat to Obama - but no asset:
In rejecting Hillary Clinton for a politician with a murky record, the presidential candidate may have lost the White House (William Rees-Mogg, 8/25/08, Times of London)

Joe Biden has one crucial qualification to be the next vice-president of the United States, at least in the eyes of Barack Obama. He is not Hillary Clinton. Mr Obama has made the opposite decision to the one made by another young and relatively inexperienced Senator in 1960. John F.Kennedy distrusted and detested Lyndon Johnson, but he asked him to become his running- mate in the election because he thought that Johnson would help to deliver the Texas vote. He did, and Texas was one of the key states that took Kennedy into the White House.

Senator Biden is no Hillary Clinton; he presents no threat though little promise to Mr Obama. In the primary elections, Mrs Clinton gained 18 million votes. Among women she had a devoted following - and who still believe she should have been the candidate. If she had been on the ticket, she would have brought a lot of votes with her, as did Johnson. In rejecting her as his running-mate, Mr Obama has taken the risk that his margin of victory might be wiped out.

Mr Biden has himself twice run unsuccessfully for the presidency; in 1987 he had to withdraw before the primaries; in 2008 he failed to generate any interest in the Iowa caucuses or in New Hampshire. He has a strong record for winning votes as a senator in Delaware. There is no evidence he can win votes in a national election.

You used to hear people say that Richard Nixon chose first Spiro Agnew and then Gerald Ford precisely because no one would want them as president, thus securing his own power. The Unicorn Rider's choice of Joe Biden seems similarly driven by personal insecurity.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:06 AM


Tensions boil between Obama-Clinton camps (John F. Harris and Mike Allen, August 25, 2008, Politico)

One flashpoint is the assigned speech topic for former president Bill Clinton, who is scheduled to speak Wednesday night, when the convention theme is “Securing America’s Future.” The night’s speakers will argue that Obama would be a more effective commander in chief than his Republican rival, Sen. John McCain (Ariz.).

The former president is disappointed, associates said, because he is eager to speak about the economy and more broadly about Democratic ideas — emphasizing the contrast between the Bush years and his own record in the 1990s.

This is an especially sore point for Bill Clinton, people close to him say, because among many grievances he has about the campaign Obama waged against his wife is a belief that the candidate poor-mouthed the political and policy successes of his two terms.

Some senior Democrats close to Obama, meanwhile, made clear in not-for-attribution comments that they were equally irked at the Clinton operation. Nearly three months after Hillary Clinton conceded defeat in the nomination contest, these Obama partisans complained, her team continues to act like she and Bill Clinton hold leverage.

...why doesn't Maverick ask him to be Secretary of State in a McCain Administration? Mr. Clinton's ego is big enough for him to accept, he's obviously got the experience to do it, and his views on social issues wouldn't matter.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:45 AM


Gas prices fall further from record (, 8/25/08)

Gasoline prices fell Sunday, bringing down the nationwide average in a motorist group survey by more than 42 cents overall from a mid-July high.

The price of regular unleaded gasoline at the pump fell four-tenths of a cent to $3.688 a gallon, according to the Daily Fuel Gauge Report from motorist advocacy group AAA and the Oil Price Information Service. do you get the mob to march on the palace when prices are falling so quickly?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:35 AM


Once-confident Dems nervous (Adam Nagourney, 8/24/08, The New York Times)

Obama's aides said they had learned from what they described as the mistake of the 2004 Democratic convention - when aides to Sen. John Kerry's campaign sought to forbid convention speakers from going after President Bush - and would use these four days to draw sharp contrasts with Sen. John McCain, particularly on the economy and McCain's opposition to abortion rights.

"The stakes of this election will be made very clear," said David Axelrod, Obama's chief strategist. "We are going to define the choice."

Even though we haven't elected an openly pro-abortion president since Richard Nixon, it probably isn't determinative. The problem for Senator Obama is that for someone who is such a cipher to heavily emphasize abortion runs the risk that he will become just the candidate of Death. That's just too creepy to reassure an uncertain electorate.

You can tell the McCain campaign welcomes this development from Maverick's radio address this week, John McCain Criticizes Barack Obama on Abortion, Opposing Infanticide Bill (Steven Ertelt, August 24, 2008,

Barack Obama may have captured the headlines over the weekend with his pick of pro-abortion running mate Joe Biden. But, presidential hopeful John McCain made news of his own with a weekly radio address containing his most extensive criticism yet of Obama on abortion issues.

McCain also waded into the heated debate over a bill that Obama opposed in the Illinois legislature that would offer medical care for newborns who survive botched abortions. [...]

"Senator Obama's carefully hedged answers obscure more than they explain, and this was the case in his conversation with Rick Warren," he said. "Listening to my opponent at Saddleback, you would never know that this is a politician who long since left behind any middle ground on the abortion issue."

"He is against parental notification laws, and against restrictions on taxpayer funding for abortions," McCain pointed out. "In the Illinois Senate, a bipartisan majority passed legislation to prevent the horrific practice of partial-birth abortion. Senator Obama opposed that bill, voting against it in committee and voting 'present' on the Senate floor."

Then, he brought up the Illinois bills and Obama's position putting him out of step with virtually all Americans.

"In 2002, Congress unanimously passed a federal law to require medical care for babies who survive abortions -- living, breathing babies whom Senator Obama described as, quote 'previable,'" McCain said. "This merciful law was called the Born Alive Infants Protection Act. Illinois had a version of the same law, and Barack Obama voted against it."

"At Saddleback, he assured a reporter that he'd have voted 'yes' on that bill if it had contained language similar to the federal version of the Born Alive Infants Protection Act," he explained. "Even though the language of both the state and federal bills was identical, Senator Obama said people were, quote, 'lying' about his record."

"When that record was later produced, he dropped the subject but didn't withdraw the slander. And now even Senator Obama's campaign has conceded that his claims and accusations were false," McCain said.

Senator Obama already chose a running mate who confirms the abortion extremist theme, can he really afford to run a convention that entrenches it in peoples' minds?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:26 AM


CNN poll: Post-Biden poll shows dead heat (Paul Steinhauser, 8/24/08, CNN)

In a new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll out Sunday night, 47 percent of those questioned are backing Obama with an equal amount supporting the Arizona senator.

“This looks like a step backward for Obama, who had a 51 to 44 percent advantage last month,” says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.

“Even last week, just before his choice of Joe Biden as his running mate became known, most polls tended to show Obama with a single-digit advantage over McCain,” adds Holland.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:19 AM


Thomas comments reflect Obama's bias (Armstrong Williams, August 25, 2008, Townhall)

As I sit here in Denver, reporting from a Democratic convention that is turning out to be anything but conventional, I am reminded of the struggle that black conservatives have had to endure by going against the grain. In many ways, Sen. Barack Obama's ordeal within his own party mirrors that of black conservatives; the fact that he has to go to the convention under a cloud of uncertainty; the fact that he has struggled for respect and legitimacy from the old guard, whether it be the Clintons or Jesse Jackson. All this harkens back to a time over two centuries ago when a convention of sorts was held to judge the legitimacy of one of America's first black conservatives; the poet Phyllis Wheatley.

Wheatley's first book of poetry, published in 1771, contained a curious note "The Publick" in the forward. It seems that a panel of 18 of the "most respected characters in Boston," including the then-governor of Massachusetts and John Hancock, one of the signatories to the Declaration of Independence, had convened to consider the authenticity of her work. Given the prevailing attitudes about blacks in that day, it was beyond belief that a slave girl could have composed poetry of such impeccable quality; everyone questioned their authenticity, and it took a panel of recognized experts to quell the doubt of a disbelieving public.

Not everyone was convinced, though. In response to a French colleague's praise of Wheatley's work, President Thomas Jefferson retorted, "[T]he compositions published under her name are below the dignity of criticism." Jefferson's response not only revealed his contempt, but by using the term "published under her name" expressed a serious doubt as to whether Wheatley had even written the works ascribed to her. Mr. Obama's comments about Justice Clarence Thomas' qualifications, made in response to a question put to him last week by political forum moderator Rev. Rick Warren, are resoundingly similar to those of Jefferson's rejection of Wheatley. When asked by Rev. Warren which of the Justices he would not have confirmed, Mr. Obama blurted out, seemingly without consideration, "I don't think [Mr. Thomas] was a strong enough legal jurist or legal thinker at the time for that elevation; setting aside the fact that I profoundly disagree with his interpretation of a lot of the Constitution." To paraphrase his jargon for the non-jurists among us; before we even reach the issue of what Justice Thomas thinks, we must first dismiss him as a non-thinker.

That's still better than what his new running mate said about Justice Thomas:
"I think that the only reason Clarence Thomas is on the Court is because he is black. I don't believe he could have won had he been white. And the reason is, I think it was a cynical ploy by President Bush."

Hard to see any difference between that and what Geraldine Ferraro said of the Unicorn Rider himself.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:16 AM


High gas prices drive down traffic fatalities (JOAN LOWY, 8/25/08, Associated Press)

This year, gasoline climbed over $4 a gallon, and the traffic death toll - according to one study - appears headed to the lowest levels since Kennedy moved into the White House.

The number is being pulled down by a change in Americans' driving habits, which is fueled largely by record high gasoline prices, according to the Transportation Research Institute at the University of Michigan.

The institute's study - which covers 12 months ending in April - found that as gas prices rose, driving and fatalities declined. The surprise, said Professor Michael Sivak, author of the study, was the huge decline in fatalities in March and April as gasoline prices surged above $3.20 a gallon.

Over the previous 10 months, monthly fatalities declined an average of 4.2 percent compared to the previous year. Then, Sivak's data shows, fatalities dropped 22.1 percent in March and 17.9 percent in April of this year - numbers that did not show up in a recent federal report that tracked a drop in traffic deaths through the end of 2007.

The declines found by Sivak suggest that motorists reached what he calls a "tipping point" and have begun significantly changing their behavior - altering not only how much they drive, but where, when and how they drive. Sivak said early data for May and June show similar trends.

Dear 44: New ideas (REECE RUSHING, 8/25/08, Politico)

[T]he U.S. population is growing and there are far more drivers on the road. Traffic congestion in American cities costs an estimated $78 billion annually in lost productivity and wasted fuel. Moreover, the number of commercial trucks is increasing at an even faster rate than passenger vehicles. These trucks place great strain on the nation’s roads and bridges, requiring additional dollars for repairs and maintenance.

Finally, there is the urgent need to reduce the burning of fossil fuels and the resulting release of carbon dioxide emissions, which are causing potentially disastrous global climate change. The transportation sector is the second largest source of CO2 emissions in the United States, with two-thirds of these emissions coming from automobiles and light trucks.

All of this suggests a need for more rail transportation — including long-distance train service (for both passengers and freight), subway systems and light rail. More extensive rail transportation can take cars and trucks off the road, particularly in urban areas, where most road travel occurs and where congestion is most severe. This would reduce spending on road maintenance and expansion and reduce demand for gas, thereby driving down the price at the pump, and significantly cutting carbon dioxide emissions.

August 24, 2008

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:15 PM


Pelosi on Natural Gas: Fossil Fuel or Not? (John D. McKinnon, 8/24/08, Wall Street Journal)

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s message on energy, already evolving in recent weeks, might have to evolve a little more.

On NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday, the speaker twice seemed to suggest that natural gas – an energy source she favors – is not a fossil fuel.

“I believe in natural gas as a clean, cheap alternative to fossil fuels,” she said at one point. Natural gas “is cheap, abundant and clean compared to fossil fuels,” she said at another.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:51 PM


Ted Kennedy to make surprise appearance? (BEN SMITH, 8/24/08, Politico)

Barack Obama's campaign is hoping for a surprise convention appearance from Massachusetts Senator Edward Kennedy, the ailing party elder whose January endorsement electrified Obama's campaign, and who has sought to pass his family's torch to the young senator from Illinois.

Does anyone in Obamaville remember that he was supposed to be the candidate of change? All this circling the base stuff is a great way to avoid losing control of Congress, but it means punting on the presidency.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:39 PM


Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:33 PM


Joe Biden’s just a barrel of gaffes (Jonathan Chait,
February 04, 2007, LA Times)

DELAWARE Sen. Joe Biden has been telling people for months that he’s going to run for president, as if nobody could actually believe it. Even when he formally announced last week, I still didn’t believe it. In fact, I’m not quite sure what it would take to make me believe it. If I turned on the television and watched Biden formally accepting the nomination at the Democratic National Convention, I might believe it then. (On the other hand, I’d probably figure I was suffering some hallucinatory episode and check myself into a hospital.) [...]

Biden’s charming cluelessness was on display in a recent ABC news interview. The famously verbose senator was asked to state in 25 words or less why Democrats should nominate him. His response was 45 words. I suppose that, by Biden’s standards, coming in at just under twice his allotted length counts as a victory of sorts. Biden then explained why he could win: “If people learn my story, learn my record, I think I can compete. The question is, can I raise the money?” This is sort of like me saying that I think I can compete for a starting NFL quarterback job, but the question is, can I avoid injuries? It’s a question, but it’s certainly not the question. [...]

Biden looks as if he’s the product of a laboratory experiment designed to create the world’s worst presidential candidate. [...]

[T]o win the presidency, you actually have to be good at mass politics. Why is Biden not smart enough to recognize that?

...the real question is: why wasn't the Unicorn Rider smart enough to recognize what Joe Biden is?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:02 PM


Biden Does No Harm, but May Not Help Much (Lydia Saad, 8/24/08, Gallup)

This results in Biden potentially having a net positive impact on voter support for the Democratic ticket of +7 percentage points -- small by comparison with other recent vice presidential selections.

A net 17% of nationwide registered voters said they were more likely to vote for John Kerry in 2004 on the basis of his selection of John Edwards as his running mate (24% more likely and 7% less likely).
A net 12% of voters reported being more likely to vote for Al Gore in 2000 on account of his choosing Joe Lieberman (16% more likely and 4% less likely).
A net 18% of voters indicated they were more likely to vote for Bob Dole in 1996 on the basis of his choice of Jack Kemp to complete the ticket (26% more likely and 8% less likely).
A net 25% of voters were more likely to vote for Bill Clinton in 1992 on account of Al Gore (33% more likely and 8% less likely).

The only recent vice presidential choices to spark less voter reaction than Biden were Dick Cheney in 2000 (net 4%, with 14% more likely and 10% less likely) and Dan Quayle in 1988 (net score of 0, with 10% more likely and 10% less likely).

...they wouldn't have announced the pick at 3am on a Summer Saturday.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:58 PM


The Thin Man: Obama's slender record. (William Kristol, 09/01/2008, Weekly Standard)

Here is Obama's résumé: an Ivy League law degree, a few years of community organizing, seven years in the Illinois senate, three and a half years as a U.S. senator. Kind of modest. What has he accomplished in any of those jobs? Not much, not much at all.

Has he shown great courage in his political career? Has he shunned the easy path or broken with the conventional liberal pieties of those around him? Has he taken on his own party on a major issue? Nope.

Has he shown exemplary character? He has undoubted skills and abilities. He has always had great potential. But has he followed through on it? Is there a moment in his public life that one looks to and says: Agree or disagree, that was impressive?

His defining moment so far was his keynote speech at the 2004 Democratic convention. If one rereads that speech today, one sees more clearly the emptiness beneath the eloquence, the lack of substance behind the sizzle. But one paragraph does stand out:

Our party has chosen a man to lead us who embodies the best this country has to offer. That man is John Kerry. John Kerry understands the ideals of community, faith, and sacrifice, because they've defined his life. From his heroic service in Vietnam to his years as prosecutor and lieutenant governor, through two decades in the United States Senate, he has devoted himself to this country. Again and again, we've seen him make tough choices when easier ones were available. His values and his record affirm what is best in us.

Leave aside whether John Kerry deserved Obama's encomia. Doesn't Obama's praise of Kerry highlight how thin Obama's own claim to leadership is? After all, Obama has done none of the things for which he praises Kerry. Is he ready to be president of the United States? I think a majority of American voters will conclude not. virtue of winning the nomination his resume is more impressive than Joe Biden's.

(*) Let us leave aside, for now, that the title of this essay is both racist and Red-baiting.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:39 PM


Senator Joseph Biden's biography (AP, August 24, 2008)

EXPERIENCE: US senator, 1972-present; New Castle County Council, 1970-72; sought presidential nomination, 1988, 2008.

...when your bio seems like an attack ad.

Of course, it's not helpful when your supporters' videos look like your opponent's parodies either:

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:30 PM


A Few Speculators Dominate Vast Market for Oil Trading (David Cho, 8/21/08, Washington Post)

Regulators had long classified a private Swiss energy conglomerate called Vitol as a trader that primarily helped industrial firms that needed oil to run their businesses.

But when the Commodity Futures Trading Commission examined Vitol's books last month, it found that the firm was in fact more of a speculator, holding oil contracts as a profit-making investment rather than a means of lining up the actual delivery of fuel. Even more surprising to the commodities markets was the massive size of Vitol's portfolio -- at one point in July, the firm held 11 percent of all the oil contracts on the regulated New York Mercantile Exchange.

The discovery revealed how an individual financial player had gained enormous sway over the oil market without the knowledge of regulators. Other CFTC data showed that a significant amount of trading activity was concentrated in the hands of just a few speculators.

The CFTC, which learned about the nature of Vitol's activities only after making an unusual request for data from the firm, now reports that financial firms speculating for their clients or for themselves account for about 81 percent of the oil contracts on NYMEX, a far bigger share than had previously been stated by the agency. That figure may rise in coming weeks as the CFTC checks the status of other big traders.

No regulation=no free market

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:15 PM

Perfect Pecan Pie (Rose Levy Birnbaum, Miami Herald)

• Half of the recipe for Flaky Cream Cheese Pie Crust, for a 9-inch, 2-crust pie (11 ounces total; see related recipe)

• 4 large (2 ounces total) egg yolks

• 1/3 cup (4 ounces) Lyle's Golden Syrup (may substitute dark corn syrup)

• ½ cup (3.75 ounces) packed light brown sugar, preferably Muscovado (do not use darkbrown sugar)

• 4 tablespoons (2 ounces; ½ stick) unsalted butter

• ¼ cup (2 ounces) heavy whipping cream

• Pinch salt

• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

• 1 ½ cups (5.25 ounces) pecan halves

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees at least 20 minutes before baking the crust. Set an oven rack on the lowest level. Remove the pie plate with the (unbaked) bottom crust from the refrigerator; discard the plastic wrap. Carefully transfer the dough to a 9 ½-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. (If working with a disk of dough for the bottom crust, roll it to 12 ½ inches in diameter so there is enough to create a double layer for the sides). Line the tart pan, folding the excess dough inward and pressing it well into the fluted sides of the tart pan so that it rises a little above the top of the edge (to allow for shrinkage during baking).

Create a protective shield for the edge of the pie crust (to prevent overbrowning) by inverting the fluted outside ring of a separate, removable-bottom tart pan over it or by lightly crimping a ring of aluminum foil over it. Lay a circle of parchment paper or an urn-size coffee filter on the inside of the crust and fill with uncooked rice. Place the weighted crust on a baking sheet and bake on the lowest oven rack for 20 minutes, until golden. Remove the weighted liner and use a fork to lightly prick the crust. Return it to the oven to bake for 2 to 3 minutes, just until pale golden; reduce the temperature to 350. Let cool for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine the egg yolks, syrup, brown sugar, butter, cream and salt in a medium, nonreactive saucepan over medium heat; cook, stirring, for 7 to 10 minutes, until it is uniform in color and starts to thicken. Strain the filling into a small bowl and add the vanilla extract; mix well.

Fill the baked crust with the pecans, then slowly pour the filling over the nuts. Replace the protective covering over the edge of the pie crust. Bake the pie (on the baking sheet, at 350 degrees) for about 20 minutes, or until the filling is slightly puffed and beginning to bubble around the edges; it will shimmy slightly when moved. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely, which will take at least 45 minutes.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:09 AM


They Can Only Go So Far: The world's bullies are throwing their weight around. But history isn't on their side. (Francis Fukuyama, August 24, 2008, Washington Post)

Today's autocrats can also prove surprisingly weak when it comes to ideas and ideologies. Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union and Mao's China were particularly dangerous because they were built on powerful ideas with potentially universal appeal, which is why we found Soviet arms and advisers showing up in places such as Nicaragua and Angola. But this sort of ideological tyrant no longer bestrides the world stage. Despite recent authoritarian advances, liberal democracy remains the strongest, most broadly appealing idea out there. Most autocrats, including Putin and Chávez, still feel that they have to conform to the outward rituals of democracy even as they gut its substance. Even China's Hu Jintao felt compelled to talk about democracy in the run-up to Beijing's Olympic Games. And Musharraf proved enough of a democrat to let himself be driven from office by the threat of impeachment.

If today's autocrats are willing to bow to democracy, they are eager to grovel to capitalism. It's hard to see how we can be entering a new cold war when China and Russia have both happily accepted the capitalist half of the partnership between capitalism and democracy. (Mao and Stalin, by contrast, pursued self-defeating, autarkic economic policies.) The Chinese Communist Party's leadership recognizes that its legitimacy depends on continued breakneck growth. In Russia, the economic motivation for embracing capitalism is much more personal: Putin and much of the Russian elite have benefited enormously from their control of natural resources and other assets.

Democracy's only real competitor in the realm of ideas today is radical Islamism. Indeed, one of the world's most dangerous nation-states today is Iran, run by extremist Shiite mullahs. But as Peter Bergen pointed out in these pages last week, Sunni radicalism has been remarkably ineffective in actually taking control of a nation-state, due to its propensity to devour its own potential supporters. Some disenfranchised Muslims thrill to the rantings of Osama bin Laden or Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, but the appeal of this kind of medieval Islamism is strictly limited.

In lieu of big ideas, Russia and China are driven by nationalism, which takes quite different forms in each country.

The Applied Darwinism of the Nazis and these current iterations of nationalism/racism obviously spell trouble for internal populations but mean they can't threaten us because they're so isolated and unpopular.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:57 AM


Complexity Without Commitment (DAVE ITZKOFF, 8/24/08, NY Times)

Mr. Abrams is especially mindful of the television-series-as-relationship metaphor as he prepares “Fringe,” which will have its premiere on Fox on Sept. 9. Created with Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci, the screenwriters of “Transformers” and Mr. Abrams’s forthcoming “Star Trek” film, “Fringe” is an hourlong drama about an investigative team whose explorations lead to a shadowy world of science fiction and the seemingly supernatural.

It is also Mr. Abrams’s attempt to rectify the narrative (and viewer attention span) problems he faced on previous shows and to synthesize the many lessons he has learned from them into a series that is both complex and accessible, and that is capable of arriving at a determined conclusion over an undecided number of episodes.

“The evolution from your ideas and expectations and intent to what actually occurs in the series is a massive gulf,” Mr. Abrams said. “It’s a best-effort scenario. But I think that’s what a series is anyway.”

His newest show was born from pragmatism. In 2007 he was preparing to direct “Star Trek” for Paramount, but he also owed a television series to Warner Brothers, the studio that produces “Fringe,” and he turned to Mr. Kurtzman and Mr. Orci for help. They traded ideas about beloved fantasy films and television series — “The X-Files,” “Altered States,” the early movies of David Cronenberg — but also looked carefully at procedural crime dramas dominating the networks. “When 6 of the Top 10 shows are ‘Law & Order’ and ‘C.S.I.,’ ” Mr. Orci said, “you have to be a fool not to go study what it is that they’re doing.”

Cross-pollinating these genres, they came up with three characters — a neophyte F.B.I. agent (played by Anna Torv), a brilliant but mad scientist (John Noble) and his wayward son (Joshua Jackson) — who solve a single mystery each week. (For starters: Who unleashed a flesh-melting virus on an airplane, killing all its passengers?) The initial goal, Mr. Abrams said, was to create a show that suggested complexity but was comprehensible in any given episode — a goal he felt eluded him on “Alias.”

It would be fine for these guys to engage in elliptical story-telling if the networks would just give them a set time-frame for how long the series was going to run and make that short--two or three seasons. But viewers can tell when the folks making the show have no idea where it's headed either.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:45 AM


Unforgettable win by '83 O's remembered: Twenty-five years later, the team's wild, substitution-filled victory over the Blue Jays stands out as a night to remember (Childs Walker, August 24, 2008, Baltimore Sun)

The box score remains confounding 25years later.

Some parts - the game-tying homer by Cal RipkenJr., Tippy Martinez entering at a tense juncture - fit.

Others - utility infielder Lenn Sakata playing catcher, left fielder John Lowenstein at second base, the other left fielder, Gary Roenicke, at third - look like puzzle pieces jammed into the wrong slots by a hasty child.

Yet somehow, this mishmash produced the signature game of the Orioles' 1983 regular season. That team wasn't a super-talented juggernaut. But it had useful role players up and down the roster. Every one of them helped the Orioles win a game at some point in the year.

The magic just felt especially potent that Aug.24.

"I would call it the oddest game I ever played in," said Martinez, who now serves as pitching coach for the independent York Revolution.

For about 8 1/2 innings, it seemed a normal enough contest between the second-place Orioles and the up-and-coming Toronto Blue Jays.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:30 AM


Talking Sports the Way Men Really Talk Sports (BRYAN CURTIS, 8/24/08, NY Times)

[T]he “Mike and the Mad Dog” show was not just a New York institution (it was the highest rated radio show in the 25- to 54-year-old demographic in the afternoon) and a clearinghouse for instantaneous sports opinions. The true genius of Mike and Mad Dog was how they, perhaps better than anyone else, captured the fraught way in which men talk to each other about sports. In the age of highly theatrical, ESPN-style shouting, we will perhaps never again have such a theater for real angst and aggression, for small moments of joy followed by gratuitous insult.

For most of us, the act of arguing about sports is akin to trench warfare — what football coaches would call “three yards and a cloud of dust.” The small things eat at you, like competing loyalties (Francesa was a Yankees fan; Russo, oddly, preferred the San Francisco Giants), asymmetrical information levels, or the nagging feeling that your conversation partner isn’t taking you all that seriously. Francesa and Russo coped with this problem for five and one-half hours a day, five days a week. Both natives of Long Island, they were thrown together by station management in 1989. Both thought their opinions were valuable enough that they should be broadcast without interference by the other guy.

It was the other guy, however, who gave the show its emotional crackle. Francesa, round and toad-like, was the more oracular of the pair, able to instantly summon obscure sports facts. (He had trained as a researcher at CBS.) Russo, who was skinny and vibrated like an old radiator, was no slouch: he was the product of a boarding school education and an eager student of the sports pages. But Francesa’s self-assurance — some would say arrogance — seemed to unnerve Russo, and he tended toward the outrageous provocation. In 1991, during the second year of the “Mike and the Mad Dog” show, Russo picked the Buffalo Bills to crush the Giants in the Super Bowl. It is hardly a coincidence that the Giants were coached by Bill Parcells, a close friend of Francesa’s.

Sports fans will recognize the basic teacher-yahoo dynamic, but Mike and the Mad Dog had a far more complex relationship. “Each guy would play both sides of the coin,” says Mike Tirico, the host of a show on ESPN Radio and the play-by-play announcer of “Monday Night Football.” Disaster lurked around the corner. In 1991, Russo lambasted CBS’s coverage of the N.C.A.A. basketball tournament, which not coincidentally happened to feature Francesa. They had it out on the air. The following year, Russo puckishly deleted Francesa’s name from the show’s opening titles; in a meeting with station management, the two came close to trading punches.

“Mike and the Mad Dog” resisted the peppy production values that have crept into popular radio shows like ESPN’s “Mike and Mike in the Morning” (no relation) and the “Jim Rome Show.” Most sports radio shows attempt to disguise the banality of the enterprise; Mike and the Mad Dog exulted in it. retain a considerable level of amateurishness. If you listen to Steve Sommers or Joe Benigno you'd almost think you'd tuned in some ham radio operator, because obviously no professional operation would hire them...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:56 AM


On foreign policy, Biden is respected but not always popular: The senator's long tenure has won him bipartisan praise as a liberal internationalist. But he has sometimes found himself at odds with his own party. (Paul Richter and Noam N. Levey, 8/24/08, Los Angeles Times)

Some liberal Democrats remain distressed by his 2002 vote for the Iraq war, which Barack Obama opposed. Other critics say Biden was misguided or even naive in his most recent proposal to resolve sectarian conflict by giving broad autonomy to Iraq's three major population groups, the Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds. And he opposed last year's troop "surge," which by most accounts has contributed significantly to the reduction in violence in Iraq.

Biden, Obama at odds over lobbyist donations (Jennifer Haberkorn and Jerry Seper, 8/24/08, Washington Times)
Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama has made a pledge not to accept money from lobbyists, but his running mate - Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. - has collected over $200,000 from registered lobbyists in this year alone, according to a search of Senate lobbying records.

Mr. Biden's unsuccessful 2008 presidential campaign and his still-pending race to be re-elected to the U.S. Senate in Delaware, according to the records, collected another $86,000 from lobbyists this year. The senator's political action committee, Unite Our States, also received $120,500 from lobbyists this year, the records show.

"Obama has been outspoken about contributions from lobbyists, vowing not to accept any contributions from them. Biden doesn't seem to have quite the same view," the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP), a Washington-based political watchdog group, said Saturday.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:47 AM


Biden Stumbles in Interview (Washington Post, October 25, 2007)

In an interview with The Washington Post's editorial board, Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.) asserted that he is more prepared to be president than any other candidate, disputed the notion that governors are better suited for the White House than senators and warned that Pakistan is a potentially bigger threat than Iran.

Biden also stumbled through a discourse on race and education, leaving the impression that he believes one reason that so many District of Columbia schools fail is the city's high minority population. His campaign quickly issued a statement saying he meant to indicate that the disadvantages were based on economic status, not race.

After a lengthy critique of Bush administration education policies, Biden attempted to explain why some schools perform better than others -- in Iowa, for instance, compared with the District. "There's less than 1 percent of the population of Iowa that is African American. There is probably less than 4 or 5 percent that are minorities. What is in Washington? So look, it goes back to what you start off with, what you're dealing with," Biden said.

..."His campaign quickly issued a statement saying he meant..."

Biden revises claim he was ‘shot at’ in Iraq (Susan Crabtree, 08/08/07, The Hill)

Sen. Joseph Biden (D-Del.) — whose garrulous ways have led to a number of verbal gaffes over the years — has revised a dramatic comment that he was “shot at” in the Green Zone during a trip to Iraq. [...]

When asked for a detailed account of the experience, Biden described three incidents on two separate Iraq trips in which he felt that he was shot at or might have been shot at. Only one of them took place inside the Green Zone, he said, and involved a “shot” landing outside the building where he and other senators were staying. He added that the vehicle he was traveling in the day before might also have been hit.

Biden said the incident happened in the morning while he and at least one other senator were shaving. Although he said it shook the building, he wasn’t rattled enough to duck and cover.

“No one got up and ran from the room—it wasn’t that kind of thing,” he said. “…It’s not like I had someone holding a gun to my head.”

Thinking about it now, he said, a more accurate comment would have been: “I was near where a shot landed.”

The problem is that because of Mr. Biden's established reputation for lying even the innocent mistakes and normal exaggerations are going to be a big deal.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:40 AM


Joe Biden got Duked in ’88 election (Howie Carr, August 24, 2008, Boston Herald)

Let the Los Angeles Times call him a “barrel of gaffes.” This man is a role model to millions of American men. He beat a disease - male pattern baldness. He persevered through the decades, plugging away, as it were, with his hair plugs. And now this is said of Biden on his behalf:

“He’s been there for three decades.”

That’s what you call damning with faint praise. Since when is being “there,” wherever “there” is, grounds for a promotion? Sal DiMasi has been “there” for 30 years. So has Charles Manson, come to think of it, even though it’s a different “there.”

The Associated Press is a house organ of the Democratic Party and even the AP feels compelled to describe Biden as “long-winded.” He slurs his fellow candidates, and the occasional ethnic minority. Lucky for Biden he’s a Democrat, because it’s only a matter of time until his next macaca moment.

What I kept searching for in vain yesterday was any description of the end of Biden’s first presidential run, back in 1987.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:37 AM


Senate Liberal Scores (National Journal)

Obama, Barack, D-Ill. 94 94 92 95.5
Whitehouse, Sheldon, D-R.I. 94 88 94 94.3
Biden, Joseph, D-Del. 94 86 98 94.2
Sanders, Bernie, I-Vt. 90 88 98 93.7

August 23, 2008

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:00 PM


A Huge Mistake (Ron Rosenbaum, 8/23/08, Pajamas Media)

[I] stand by my assessment of Biden:

Biden’s sagacity and earnestness act would only go over in the class of dummies that is the U.S. Senate..

But a huge mistake by Obama in choosing a self-important clown for vice president, a choice that is the gift that will keep on giving to his opponent throughout the rest of the election. Biden has proven himself incapable of opening his mouth without making you cringe at his self-congratulatory pretentiousness.

But why? One thing I always felt about Obama was that he wouldn’t be rolled, played, by traditonal pols. And yet there is evidence that’s what happened. It turns out he surrounded himself with top staffers from loser hacks like Dick Gephardt, the kind of people who are revered in the Senate “class of dummies” I referred to. Beltway brilliant. Smart only in sucking up to reporters. The only kind of people who could take Joe Biden seriously and don’t realize how they’ve betrayed the trust of Obama supporters who believed that he was something different.

His supporters? He's supposed to be running for president if the United States. Such a cavalier choice betrays all of us, Rhetorical Question (Michael Crowley, 10/22/01, The New Republic)
Biden is tough and he's an internationalist. Unfortunately he's also legendary for speaking impulsively and leaving others to clean up the mess. "He lacks the filter," says one Democratic strategist. Or as a senior Senate foreign policy aide put it: "Biden is an unguided missile." Not exactly the persona you want out front when the country is at war. [...]

He gives Castro-length speeches," says one exasperated Senate staffer. In Democratic caucus meetings, he is famous for declaring, "I'll be brief," and then talking the room into a stupor. (Biden's colleagues have been known to burst into laughter when he makes that promise.) People who know Biden also warn that his loose talk often reflects muddled thinking. In his classic study of the 1988 presidential candidates, What It Takes, Richard Ben Cramer wrote, "Joe often didn't know what he thought until he had to say it." In one recent committee debate, recalls an observer, Biden delivered a rambling explanation of his opposition to a foreign aid amendment, by the end of which he had seemed to talk himself out of his original position.

By straying off-message, Biden doesn't only cause headaches for himself, but occasionally for others as well. When Congress and the Clinton administration were trying to force reforms at the United Nations last year, the United States held up nearly $1 billion in back dues payments as leverage. In a visit to the General Assembly soon afterwards, Biden suggested that America's demands might be negotiable--a position he had not cleared with his Senate colleagues nor with a startled UN Ambassador Richard Holbrooke.

There's also the simple matter of tone. Biden's affable vernacular works well for partisan politics, but not for war and peace. During nato's bombing campaign of Serbia two years ago, Biden cheerfully declared on CBS that "Slobodan Milosevic is getting the living hell kicked out of him." After implying on Fox News in 1999 that Boris Yeltsin was not "in charge" of Russia, Biden was pressed by host Tony Snow on why the United States continued to deal with him. "Well, you've got to talk to somebody," Biden replied. "My staff talks to me and sometimes I'm not in charge. But all kidding aside..."

Biden himself seems to worry that people aren't taking him seriously. In an odd verbal tic, he routinely interrupts himself to offer the assurance that he's "not being facetious." He opened his May 17 tax cut speech by saying: "I find this the single most fascinating debate I have been involved in in 28 years. I sincerely do. It is not a joke. I am not being facetious." Or when the anti-terrorism bill came up on CNN's "Crossfire" last month: "In full disclosure, I wrote that bill. I'm not being facetious." When "Crossfire" host Bill Press offered Biden the avuncular assurance that "it's really a great bill," Biden pressed on: "No. No. I'm not being facetious. I'm not being facetious when I say that."

That exchange points to another problem with Biden as a party spokesman. Rather than build up the credentials of a party deeply mistrusted by the public on foreign affairs, Biden often seems more interested in advertising his own accomplishments. [...]

At the Tuesday-morning meeting with committee staffers, Biden launches into a stream-of-consciousness monologue about what his committee should be doing, before he finally admits the obvious: "I'm groping here." Then he hits on an idea: America needs to show the Arab world that we're not bent on its destruction. "Seems to me this would be a good time to send, no strings attached, a check for $200 million to Iran," Biden declares. He surveys the table with raised eyebrows, a How do ya like that? look on his face.

The staffers sit in silence. Finally somebody ventures a response: "I think they'd send it back." Then another aide speaks up delicately: "The thing I would worry about is that it would almost look like a publicity stunt." Still another reminds Biden that an Iranian delegation is in Moscow that very day to discuss a $300 million arms deal with Vladimir Putin that the United States has strongly condemned. But Joe Biden is barely listening anymore. He's already moved on to something else.

Mr. Cool And the Brawlers (David Ignatius, August 24, 2008, Washinton Post)
[T]he supporting cast is a collection of red-hot politicians I've come to think of as the Get-Even Gang -- led by the party's congressional leaders, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. They made their names clawing and battling against Karl Rove's Republicans, and they are partisan politicians to the bone.

The partisanship of the congressional leadership has been a virtue for Democrats, up to a point. By being as tough and unyielding as their GOP rivals, they won back control of Congress. But they haven't done much with their majorities these past two years, beyond bashing President Bush.

Which raises a question to ponder as you watch the convention this week: Will Mr. Cool be a strong enough leader to transform the Democratic-controlled Congress from a reflexive role into a force for change? Can the Get-Even Gang become the Get-Ahead Gang? Or will Obama remain the aloof, judicious ex-professor who gives a great speech but leaves the dirty work of governing to Pelosi and Reid?

Isn't picking a hothead like Joe Biden just an attempt to hold the deranged base?
The Democrats' Glass Ceiling (William Kristol, 8/23/08, Weekly Standard)
So Hillary Clinton gets about 18 million votes in 2008, and isn’t even considered for--she apparently isn’t even given the courtesy of being consulted--the vice presidential pick. Joe Biden manages to persuade a few thousand (if that) Iowans to support him. And Barack Obama selects Biden? Normally, if the VP pick came from that year’s presidential field, it's the runner-up (Kerry-Edwards in 2004, Reagan-Bush in 1980, Stevenson-Kefauver in 1956). (Lyndon Johnson in 1960 hadn’t entered the primaries.) And Biden wasn’t even the third most successful candidate this year (hi, John Edwards!), or fourth (Bill Richardson, I suppose), or fifth (Dennis Kucinich!).

What’s more, Biden and Hillary have basically comparable foreign policy “experience” (such as it is in either case). Nor is Biden clearly more knowledgeable in foreign affairs than Hillary. And they have pretty similar foreign policy views. So no advantage to Biden there. And, unlike Jack Reed, for example, Biden didn’t serve in the military. So no advantage over Hillary there. Nor does he outshine her in executive experience (unlike Evan Bayh or Tim Kaine or Kathleen Sebelius)--neither Biden nor Hillary has any.

A Philosophy of Diplomacy First, Force Last (MICHAEL R. GORDON, 8/24/08, NY Times)
In three decades in Washington, Mr. Biden has been one of the Democratic Party’s most energetic leaders on foreign policy. He has held countless hearings, opined volubly on security issues and, by his own account, advised Mr. Bush on matters like calling for the further expansion of NATO.

But should he be elected vice president on the Democratic ticket with Senator Barack Obama, Mr. Biden would have a role that has eluded him: a seat in the inner sanctum of White House decision-making.

Kind of a nice way of saying he has no experience.
Obama Adds Foreign Expertise to Ticket (ADAM NAGOURNEY and JEFF ZELENY, 8/24/08, NY Times)
The choice of the Delaware senator was perhaps the most critical decision Mr. Obama has made as his party’s presumptive nominee. It suggested a concern by Mr. Obama’s advisers that his recent overseas trip might not have done enough to address persistent voter concerns about his level of experience, especially on national security. He announced his selection when the conflict between Russia and Georgia has provided Republicans an opportunity to reinject foreign policy into an election that has increasingly focused on the economy and as Mr. McCain has been proving himself a scrappier opponent than many Democrats had assumed he would be.

And Mr. Obama woke up to a reminder of his opponent’s aggressiveness. Mr. McCain’s campaign released a television advertisement on Saturday morning — even before the rally began — using Mr. Biden’s own words discrediting Mr. Obama during their primary battles, showing Mr. Biden saying that Mr. Obama is “not ready” to be president.

In ‘Very Personal Decision,’ Aides Say Obama Picked a Partner in Leadership (JEFF ZELENY and JIM RUTENBERG, 8/24/08, NY Times)
Mr. Obama reached the decision about 10 days ago while on a weeklong vacation to Hawaii. That week, Mr. Biden’s strengths in foreign policy were highlighted by the conflict between Russia and Georgia, giving his prospects a further boost. Associates of the other main possibility on Mr. Obama’s list, Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana, said Mr. Obama cited the situation in Georgia in breaking the news to Mr. Bayh on Friday that he had chosen Mr. Biden.

So if there'd been an outbreak of Mad Cow Disease would he have picked Pat Leahy because he's from a dairy state? How reactionary can you get?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:15 PM


5 things the Biden pick says about Obama (JIM VANDEHEI & MIKE ALLEN | 8/23/08, Politico)

2. He's a lot more conventional than advertised. Obama has promised a different and more consensus-oriented brand of politics but more often than not has done what most politicians do: switched positions to soothe voters, dodged the unpredictability of town hall meetings, and gone for the jugular when he sees it. The Biden pick — the most important choice Obama has made to date in his public career — was safe and traditional. Two male career politicians from the Senate is hardly transformational.

3. He’s insecure about security.

Forget security, doesn't the choice of such an insubstantial partner tell us he's insecure about himself? When George W. Bush chose a former Chief of Staff it told everyone -- for good or ill -- that he was supremely self-confident. In choosing colleague who's never risen in the leadership, never had executive experience, and failed spectacularly in two desultory bids at the presidency, Mr. Obama indicates a certain reluctance to share the ticket with someone who would be qualified to be president.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:21 PM


Obama has picked a Cheney when he needed a Gore (James Forsyth, 23rd August 2008, The Spectator)

Obama has picked a running mate to try and address one of his perceived weakness rather than doubling-down on his message of change. This is a mistake and suggests that after an awful August the Obama campaign is not as confident as it once was. [...]

Perhaps, the most interesting thing about the Biden pick is the question of whether the Obama campaign is now acting out of nerves or fear—most of the political class don’t think Obama would have picked Biden if the polls weren’t so close or if national security hadn’t so dominated the debate in the past few weeks. When a campaign starts chasing its tails as the Kerry and Gore ones ended up doing, it is in big trouble.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:59 PM


Obama Introduces Running Mate Biden (BETH FOUHY and CHRISTOPHER WILLS, 8/23/08, Associated Press)

Senator Obama introduced Senator Biden of Delaware as his running mate, hailing him as a "leader who is ready to step in and be president."

Before a crowd of thousands gathered in front of the Old State Capitol, Mr. Obama said Mr. Biden was "what many others pretend to be — a statesman with sound judgment who doesn't have to hide behind bluster to keep America strong."

If you asked ten supporters of Senator Biden to name his biggest weakness, at least 8 of them would say he has a tendency to bluster, Biden for dummies ALEXANDER BURNS & JOHN F. HARRIS | 8/23/08, Politico)
“One of the most serious problems for Mr. Biden is that the disclosures about him have seemed to confirm his critics' complaints,” [R.W. "Johnny"Apple wrote. “Just as Mr. Hart's relationship with Miss Rice appeared to lend weight to reports that he was a longtime womanizer, so the news that Mr. Biden appropriated whole sections of a law review article and of other politicians' speeches, without giving credit, seemed to many to substantiate assessments that he was shallow and insubstantial.”

Go to Amazon right now and place a rush order for Richard Ben Cramer’s “What It Takes” for a vivid depiction of Biden’s 1988 campaign, which is when Biden first sprang to national attention.

The author described the undisciplined public persona that Biden wrestled with on the campaign and in the Senate.

“‘Biden is speech-driven, his guys would explain. But that was just guru-talk for the fact that Joe often didn’t know what he thought until he had to say it,” wrote Cramer. “Then, too, there was the sorry corollary: Sometimes Biden spoke before he thought.”

Mind you, Mr. Cramer's portrait is quite affectionate, but it's still dominated by Mr. Biden's bluster and blarney.

For a truly devastating portrayal of what a blowhard the Senator is you can't do better than Robert Bork's, Tempting of America. He's got to be working on an essay even as we speak.

Or, there's this from the invaluable Andrew Ferguson:

What does a discerning reader learn from Biden's book that we didn't already know? Perhaps not much, if you're a regular watcher of C-SPAN or a longtime resident of Delaware. But there is something unforgettable about watching the man emerge on the page. His legendary self-regard becomes more impressive when the reader sees it in typescript, undistracted by the smile and the hair plugs. Biden quotes at great length from letters of recommendation he received as a young man, when far-sighted professors wrote movingly of his "sharp and incisive intellect" and his "highly developed sense of responsibility." These qualities have proved to be more of a burden than you might think, Biden admits. "I've made life difficult for myself," he writes, "by putting intellectual consistency and personal principle above expediency."

Yes, many Biden fans might tag these as the greatest of his gifts. Biden himself isn't so sure. After a little hemming and hawing--is it his intelligence that he most admires, or his commitment to principle, or his insistence on calling 'em as he sees 'em, or what?--he decides that his greatest personal and political virtue is probably his integrity. Tough call. But his wife seems to agree. He recounts one difficult episode in which she said as much. "Of all the things to attack you on," she said, almost in tears. "Your integrity?"

This lachrymose moment came during Biden's aborted presidential campaign in 1988, when reporters discovered several instances of plagiarism in his campaign speeches and in his law school record. Biden rehearses the episode in tormenting, if selective, detail, and true to campaign-book form, his account serves as the emotional center of the book. The memoir of every presidential candidate must describe a Political Time of Testing, some point at which, if the narrative arc is to prove satisfying, the hero encounters criticism, most of it unjust, but then rallies, overcomes hardship and misfortune and the petty, self-serving attacks of enemies, and emerges chastened but wiser--and, come to think of it, more qualified to lead the greatest nation on earth.

In Biden's case, the ritual also allows him to dismiss these old charges by placing them in the least clarifying light possible. It's true that he was disciplined for plagiarizing a paper in law school, he says offhandedly; but those long paragraphs taken verbatim from other people's work were simply an oversight--a matter of not knowing how to cite sources properly. (A fun-loving student, he had skipped the class in which the rules of citation were taught.) As for the lines he'd lifted from others and dropped into his own speeches--these were misunderstandings. In at least one instance, a speechwriter had inserted a quote from Bobby Kennedy into Biden's speech without attribution, meaning that while Biden was delivering remarks he knew he hadn't written, he was also delivering remarks that he didn't know his speechwriter hadn't written.

It's confusing, yes, but Biden's explanations serve a dual purpose: He appears forthright even as he tries to bury once and for all the accusations that forced him from presidential contention 20 years ago. Now, officially, they are "old news," the settled stuff of history and memoir. To any detailed questions about them that might arise from young reporters covering his current campaign, he can say: Just read my book.

That's a lot to ask, however. Like most conventional campaign books, Promises to Keep is so light in tone, so breezily written, that it becomes, paradoxically, extremely difficult to read. Its superficiality and general insincerity may explain why the traditional campaign book has become a dying genre.

Obama Decries Lobbyist Cash; Biden Has Reaped It In (Jake Tapper, August 23, 2008, ABC News: Political Punch)

The Center for Responsive Politics has a thorough analysis of Sen. Joe Biden's campaign cash intake now that Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., has selected him as his running mate.

The industry that has given Biden the most cash has been lawyers/law firms ($6,567,404) followed by real estate ($1,297,690). Pro-Israel groups are the 8th biggest contributing industry.

Obama may decry lobbyist cash (or at least federal lobbyist cash), but Biden has taken $344,400 from lobbyists since 1997 -- making lobbyists the 10th biggest contributing industry.

That seems a direct contradiction of the Obama message.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:24 AM


The Unbraiding: Can the Democrats make themselves look tough? (Jeffrey Goldberg, March 21, 2005, The New Yorker)

Joseph Biden, the senior senator from Delaware, is the Democratic Party’s main spokesman on international affairs; he is also a man who, on occasion, seems not to know, when sentences leave his mouth, where they are going or what they are meant to convey. Sometimes, when he thinks that he may shock or amuse his listener, he begins by stating, “I’m going to get in trouble if I say this,” or, “This is a really outrageous thing to say, but . . . ” And so when I asked Biden, as the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and one of John Kerry’s chief advisers on foreign policy during last year’s Presidential campaign, what advice he gave Kerry on how to convince voters that he was tough, Biden laughed and said, “I wish I could tell you. I wish I could tell you.” Then he told me.

At sixty-two, Biden has a cheerful vanity and an exuberant restlessness that make him seem far younger. Since the election, he has become a leader of a modest-sized faction—“the national-security Democrats,” in the words of Richard Holbrooke, an ambassador to the United Nations under President Clinton—that includes the most hawkish members in the Democratic Party. Among them are Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, the former Vice-Presidential candidate John Edwards, Senator Evan Bayh, of Indiana, and Governor Bill Richardson, of New Mexico, along with a number of Clinton Administration foreign-policy officials, now in exile at think tanks scattered about Washington.

Biden can be eloquent in defense of his party, and in his criticism of President Bush, but his friends worry that his verbal indiscipline will sabotage any chance he might have to win the Democratic Presidential nomination in 2008. indifferent their nominee would be to indiscipline.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:20 AM


Barack Obama Picks Long-Time Abortion Advocate Joe Biden as Running Mate (Steven Ertelt, 8/23/08,

Biden is a fierce abortion proponent and someone who has made a reputation out of badgering Supreme Court nominees about abortion during confirmation hearings.

In fact, before he dropped out of the Democratic primary race Obama eventually won, Biden confirmed he would have a pro-abortion litmus test for his own possible judicial picks.

"I would not appoint anyone who did not understand that Section 5 of the 14th Amendment and the Liberty Clause of the 14th Amendment provided a right to privacy ... which means they would support Roe v. Wade," he said in a November debate.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:57 AM


Timeline of Biden's life and career (AP, 8/23/08)

Jan. 5, 1973 _ Sworn in to the U.S. Senate at the bedside of the still-convalescing Beau and Hunter in Wilmington.

January 1975 _ Becomes a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which he later chairs.

June 17, 1977 _ Marries Jill Tracy Jacobs, a schoolteacher.

January 1977 _ Becomes a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which he later chairs from 1987 to 1994.

November 1978 _ Wins re-election to U.S. Senate.

June 8, 1981 _ Birth of daughter, Ashley.

November 1984 _ Re-elected to U.S. Senate.

June 9, 1987 _ Announces candidacy for the 1988 Democratic presidential nomination.

Feb. 11, 1988 _ Undergoes successful surgery after two brain aneurysms are diagnosed.

November 1990 _ Wins re-election to U.S. Senate.

November 1996 _ Re-elected to U.S. Senate.

November 2002 _ Wins re-election to U.S. Senate.

Jan. 31, 2007 _ Announces his bid for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination.

Aug. 1, 2007 _ Releases his memoir, "Promises to Keep: On Life and Politics."

Jan. 3, 2008 _ Drops out of presidential race after poor showing in the Iowa caucuses.

Aug. 23, 2008 _ Named Barack Obama's running mate.

Hard not to notice that he's never actually done anything in the Senate, eh? Consider just a comparison with his longtime fellow Senator from Delaware, the rather nondescript William Roth. Nevermind that Mr. Roth had served in the military and had both a JD and an MBA from Harvard, he is also associated with two of the most important pieces of legislation of the past thirty years, the Kemp-Roth tax cuts that became the centerpiece of the Reagan recovery and the Roth IRA. If we give you from now until doomsday you won't come up with a comparable Biden bill.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:49 AM


And Then There Were Six (GEORGE J. CHURCH, 10/05/87, TIME)

Biden's troubles began with stories in the New York Times and Des Moines Register three weeks ago pointing out that the Senator's emotional closing statement during an Iowa Democratic debate duplicated a televised speech by Labor Party Leader Neil Kinnock during last spring's British election campaign. The Register implied its source was an "attack video" that contained snippets of both speeches spliced together by the campaign camp of one of Biden's Democratic rivals. The Times did not mention it, but two sources say it had a duplicate video in its possession. The tapes of the two speakers, which were eventually aired on U.S. television, show Biden not only echoing Kinnock's words but aping his gestures. [...]

Students of Robert Kennedy's rhetoric began pointing out that some of Kennedy's words -- and Hubert Humphrey's too -- had been coming out of Biden's mouth, without attribution. [...]

Two legal publications began chasing reports that Biden, while a law student at Syracuse University in 1965, had plagiarized large portions of a law-review article for a course assignment. The story somehow got to CBS, which aired it, and it was true. [...]

To a number of people in the press and party, Biden came across as a glib wise guy, a candidate of style rather than substance. Says a Democratic strategist of his fellow pros: "This is a fairly liberal bunch, and we saw Biden trying to appropriate the liberal mantle with rhetorical tricks." Accusations of plagiarism thus hurt as almost nothing else could. They turned Biden's strong point, the passionate oratory that could bring a crowd to its feet, into a subject for ridicule and fed deep suspicions about his ability to be President.

Nonetheless, as late as last Sunday afternoon the Biden camp still thought it might be able to rescue the campaign. Then a Biden aide got a phone call from a friend at Newsweek, who read him a story from the coming week's issue that contained more damaging details. The story described how C-SPAN, a cable- TV network, had filmed Biden lying about his academic credentials at a campaign stop in Claremont, N.H., earlier this year. What was truly devastating was the tape itself, aired on TV last week. There was Biden, finger jabbing the air, haranguing a man who had asked about his law-school record. After boasting that he had a "much higher I.Q. than you do," Biden passionately recited a highly exaggerated list of his academic accomplishments. He said, for example, he had graduated in the "top half" of his law-school class; in fact, he was 76th in a class of 85.

...but this is a guy of whom, when he later needed brain surgery, folks said:" "Well, that explains a lot."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:06 AM


‘Just Words’ That Joe Biden Would Like To Forget: The curse of a loose mouth and Nexis. (Jim Geraghty, 8/20/08, National Review)

The fun thing about an Obama-Biden ticket is that the McCain campaign can point to a new awkward comment by Joe Biden — either on the importance of experience, in praise of McCain, or in support of invading Iraq — that contradicts the stands and qualities of the Democratic nominee for every day from now until Election Day. [...]

Biden on Meet the Press in 2002, discussing Saddam Hussein: “He’s a long term threat and a short term threat to our national security… “We have no choice but to eliminate the threat. This is a guy who is an extreme danger to the world.”

Biden on Meet the Press in 2002: “Saddam must be dislodged from his weapons or dislodged from power.”

Biden on Meet the Press in 2007, on Hussein’s WMDs: “Well, the point is, it turned out they didn’t, but everyone in the world thought he had them. The weapons inspectors said he had them. He catalogued — they catalogued them. This was not some, some Cheney, you know, pipe dream. This was, in fact, catalogued.”

Biden, on Obama’s Iraq plan in August 2007: “I don’t want [my son] going [to Iraq],” Delaware Sen. Joe Biden said from the campaign trail Wednesday, according to a report on Radio Iowa. “But I tell you what, I don’t want my grandson or my granddaughters going back in 15 years and so how we leave makes a big difference.” Biden criticized Democratic rivals such as Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama who have voted against Iraq funding bills to try to pressure President Bush to end the war. “There’s no political point worth my son’s life,” Biden said, according to Radio Iowa. “There’s no political point worth anybody’s life out there. None.”

Biden on Meet the Press, April 29, 2007: “The threat [Saddam Hussein] presented was that, if Saddam was left unfettered, which I said during that period, for the next five years with sanctions lifted and billions of dollars into his coffers, then I believed he had the ability to acquire a tactical nuclear weapon — not by building it, by purchasing it. I also believed he was a threat in that he was — every single solitary U.N. resolution which he agreed to abide by, which was the equivalent of a peace agreement at the United Nations, after he got out of — after we kicked him out of Kuwait, he was violating. Now, the rules of the road either mean something or they don’t. The international community says “We’re going to enforce the sanctions we placed” or not. And what was the international community doing? The international community was weakening. They were pulling away.”

Biden to the Brookings Institution in 2005: “We can call it quits and withdraw from Iraq. I think that would be a gigantic mistake. Or we can set a deadline for pulling out, which I fear will only encourage our enemies to wait us out — equally a mistake.”

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:32 AM


His name on ballot, her's on properties: McCains keep a bit of privacy (David M. Halbfinger, 8/23/08, New York Times)

When Senator John McCain is in Washington, he lives in a luxury high-rise condominium in Arlington, Va., owned by his wife, Cindy Hensley McCain. Cindy McCain also owns their condos in Phoenix, San Diego, and Coronado, Calif., and their vacation compound near Sedona, Ariz. And it is the beer business, Hensley & Co., she inherited from her father that is the source of the McCain family fortune.

That fortune makes John McCain one of the richest members of the Senate. But barely a sliver of it is in his name.

Democrats have increasingly highlighted McCain's wealth: Senator Barack Obama ridiculed him Thursday for being unable to say how many homes he owns, saying it showed that McCain was out of touch with ordinary Americans.

But with the McCains' money in Cindy McCain's name, as dictated by a prenuptial agreement, the senator's finances are more difficult to assess and scrutinize than those of many other political candidates.

Doesn't it rather show he's uninterested in his wife's wealth?

Meanwhile, Joe Biden looks to have his own Rezko problem, The Senator from MBNA: From the past, a look at Joe Biden's connections. (Byron York, 1998, American Spectator)

[A]s much as he bungled the issue, it turns out Clatworthy was on to something: Biden and MBNA have indeed developed a pretty cozy relationship. John Cochran, the company's vice-chairman and chief marketing officer, did pay top dollar for Biden's house, and MBNA gave Cochran a lot of money—$330,000—to help with "expenses" related to the move. A few months after the sale, as Biden's re-election effort got under way, MBNA's top executives contributed generously to his campaign in a series of coordinated donations that sidestepped the limits on contributions by the company's political action committee. And then, a short time after the election, MBNA hired Biden's son for a lucrative job in which, according to bank officials, he is being groomed for a senior management position.

Of course, lots of members of Congress have intimate ties to corporations in their states or districts. And lots of companies encourage their employees to make big campaign contributions (MBNA has given more to some Republicans than it gave to Biden). And certainly lots of children of influential parents end up in very good jobs. But the Biden case is troubling because all those ingredients come together in one man—along with a touch of hypocrisy. After all, this is a senator who for years has sermonized against what he says is the corrupting influence of money in politics.

Joe's Money Crunch It has become a minor ritual each year in Washington: political observers scan the latest financial disclosure reports from Capitol Hill and marvel at how many members of the Senate are millionaires. The list is headed by names like Kennedy and Rockefeller, but it also includes lawmakers like McCain, Helms, and Murkowski. In all, at least 39 of the 100 members of the Senate qualify for membership in the millionaires' club.

Joe Biden isn't one of them. Even though he has an income that is impressive by outside-the-Beltway standards—a senator's salary is $133, 600 a year—Biden has struggled financially over the years. In his 1995 disclosure report, for example, Biden's liabilities appeared to outweigh his assets. On the positive side, he had between $1,000 and $15,000 in an account at the U.S. Senate credit union and another $1,000-$15,000 in the Delaware state pension plan (disclosure forms do not require senators to reveal exact figures). Biden's largest asset, valued at between $15,000 and $50,000, was six life insurance policies with the Connecticut Mutual Life Insurance company.

On the liabilities side, Biden had a loan of between $15,000 and $50,000 from the Senate credit union, plus another loan of between $15, 000 and $50,000 against the cash value of those Connecticut Mutual policies. He also owed between $15,000 and $50,000 on a line of credit from the Beneficial National Bank in Wilmington (he had just that year paid off a loan of between $1,000 and $15,000 with the Delaware Trust Company). And he co- signed two loans totaling between $100,000 and $250,000 for his sons' college educations. Biden would have had a negative net worth were it not for the value of his home. Although disclosure rules do not force senators to list the value of their personal residences, Biden chose to include a letter noting his "good faith estimate" that he had between $500,001 and $1,000,000 in equity in his home. Of course, to get that money he would have to sell the house, a lovely old mansion on three and a half acres of what used to be a du Pont family estate outside Wilmington. Biden bought the house in 1975 but had been thinking on-and-off about selling it for years; he almost sold it before his disastrous run for the presidency in 1988. But the deal didn't happen until MBNA came along.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:11 AM


Biden pick shows lack of confidence (RON FOURNIER, 8/23/08, AP)

The candidate of change went with the status quo.

In picking Sen. Joe Biden to be his running mate, Barack Obama sought to shore up his weakness — inexperience in office and on foreign policy — rather than underscore his strength as a new-generation candidate defying political conventions.

He picked a 35-year veteran of the Senate — the ultimate insider — rather than a candidate from outside Washington, such as Govs. Tim Kaine of Virginia or Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas; or from outside his party, such as Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska; or from outside the mostly white male club of vice presidential candidates. Hillary Rodham Clinton didn't even make his short list.

The picks say something profound about Obama: For all his self-confidence, the 47-year-old Illinois senator worried that he couldn't beat Republican John McCain without help from a seasoned politician willing to attack.

Geez, if you filmed this column you could call it Clockwork Orange II.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:59 AM


The William Ayers Connection (Thomas Lifson, 8/23/08, Real Clear Politics)

William Ayers, unrepentant terrorist and education professor, is once again being tied to Barack Obama in the public mind. Controversy builds over the withholding of the archives of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, an expensive failed school reform effort headed by Obama and effectively run by Ayers, held by the library of the University of Illinois Chicago. Researchers who have gained access to a few documents recording the history of the project have found strong evidence of a very important working relationship between the two men on the project, Obama's sole claim to executive experience.

Oddly enough, even though the project produced no measurable improvement in student performance according to its own final report, educators and administrators -- participants and grantees of the CAC -- were reported by outside monitors to be often "ebullient" about the activities. For insiders, it was an excellent adventure. For the pupils stuck in the failing public schools of Chicago, an ongoing, unrelieved disaster.

Obama and his campaign long have gone out of their way to downplay, in fact distort, the long and evidently deep relationship between Ayers and Obama.

Had he faced Bill rather than Hillary in the primaries this would all have been aired already.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:30 AM


U.S. debates going after militants in Pakistan: Frustration with Pakistan's new leadership and belief that extremists are flourishing has reignited a debate on whether the U.S. should act on its own in tribal regions. (Peter Spiegel and Josh Meyer, 8/23/08, Los Angeles Times)

The ongoing disarray among Pakistan's new civilian leadership, including its refusal to accept a U.S. military training mission for the Pakistani army, has led to intense frustration within the Pentagon and reignited a debate over whether the U.S. should act on its own against extremists operating in Pakistan's northwestern tribal regions.

Any Pentagon support for more direct action in Pakistan would be a significant shift for military brass, who for months have resisted a push from other parts of the U.S. government, primarily counter-terrorism officials within the CIA, who have favored large-scale covert operations to go after the Al Qaeda leadership.

The internal debates have taken on new urgency amid U.S. intelligence warnings that Al Qaeda and other militant groups are flourishing in northwestern Pakistan. At the same time, there is a growing belief within the U.S. government that the new leadership in Islamabad has proved to be ineffectual and is preoccupied with internal squabbling in the wake of former President Pervez Musharraf's resignation.

...we call it a free hand...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:46 AM


Obama Picks Biden for Veep (LIZ SIDOTI and NEDRA PICKLER, 8/23/08, Associated Press)

Mr. Biden, who has twice sought the White House, is a Catholic with blue-collar roots, a generally liberal voting record and a reputation as a long-winded orator.

Obama names 'gaffe-prone' Joe Biden as his running mate in presidential elections (Daily Mail, 23rd August 2008)
Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama has named Joe Biden as his running mate, despite the veteran politician once admitting that Obama was 'not yet ready for the presidency'.

Mr Biden, 65, is known for being talkative and is prone to making statements which get him in to trouble.

To get a sense of how little Mr. Biden brings to the ticket in terms of experience you have to check out this unintentionally hilarious bit, Joe Biden: Six Key Moments (MASSIMO CALABRES, 8/23/08, TIME)

It's hard to believe you could spend 36 years in Washington and achieve so little.

Meanwhile, though Joe Biden is obviously a disastrous pick, he's only the running mate and plenty of candidates have survived bad choices. What's important here is what the choice says about the Unicorn Rider: that he thinks such a lightweight is a heavyweight can't help but be troubling for an electorate that's already showing bountiful doubts about Mr. Obama.

A statesman known for slips of his tongue (EAMON JAVERS & JONATHAN MARTIN | 8/23/08, Politico)

[T]he likeliest attacks in Biden are all matters of public record, and often problems of his own making.

Biden, who dropped out of the 1988 Democratic primary after he was accused of lifting sections of his stump speech about his humble origins from British Labour party leader Neil Kinnock, more recently took heat in 2006, when he said, “You cannot go to a 7-Eleven or a Dunkin’ Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent.”

This year, he managed to blow up his official announcement he was entering the race when he deemed Obama “the first mainstream African American [candidate] who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy.”

Reporters and opposition researchers are already salivating at the verbal grenades yet to be launched.

More substantively, Biden supported the 2002 resolution that authorized the war in Iraq—a resolution that Obama opposed and, in the primaries at least, painted as “the most important foreign-policy decision in a generation.”

Biden was on the wrong side of that thinking, by Obama’s lights. In 2002, he said that America had “no choice but to eliminate” Saddam Hussein.

While preparing for his own run at the party’s nomination last year, he took several shots at Obama’s inexperience, warning that “If the Democrats think we’re going to be able to nominate someone who can win without that person being able to table unimpeachable credentials on national security and foreign policy, I think we’re making a tragic mistake.”

Obama Chooses Biden as Running Mate (ADAM NAGOURNEY and JEFF ZELENY, 8/24/08, NY Times)
The brief text message from the Obama campaign came about 3 a.m., less than three hours after word of the decision had begun leaking out. “Barack has chosen Senator Joe Biden to be our VP nominee. Watch the first Obama-Biden rally live at 3pm ET on Spread the word!”

His e-mail announcement began: “Friend — I have some important news that I want to make official. I’ve chosen Joe Biden to be my running mate.” [...]

Mr. Biden is Roman Catholic, giving him appeal to that important voting bloc, though he favors abortion rights. He was born in a working-class family in Scranton, Pa., a swing state where he remains well-known. Mr. Biden is up for re-election to the Senate this year and he would presumably run simultaneously for both seats.

Mr. Biden is known for being both talkative and prone to making the kind of statements that get him in trouble. In 2007, when he was competing for Mr. Obama for the presidential nomination, he declared that Mr. Obama was “not yet ready” for the presidency.

Biden Is Obama's Pick for VP: Six-Term Senator From Delaware Will Be Introduced Today in Illinois (Anne E. Kornblut, Michael D. Shear and Anita Kumar, 8/23/08, Washington Post)
Biden, 65, has served 36 years in the Senate and chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, on which Obama also sits, and has been a longtime chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. He also has shown on numerous occasions a difficulty in maintaining the kind of message discipline at which Obama has excelled.

Perhaps the most notable example of that came in January 2007, when Biden announced his second candidacy for president. Rather than spending the day boasting of his qualifications, Biden spent much of it extricating himself from remarks he made about Obama, having called him "the first mainstream African American [presidential candidate] who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy."

Halperin on Biden: The Pros and the Cons (Mark Halperin, 8/23/08, TIME)
Biden has been on the national stage so long that he was able to mount two credible runs for the presidency himself an amazing 20 years apart, in 1988 and 2008. He has served as chairman of both the Judiciary Committee and the Foreign Relations Committee, traveling the globe to meet world leaders and to be directly involved in almost every major international and domestic debate of the last two generations. He has excelled as both a speaker and a debater. His Irish-Catholic heritage makes him a demographic dream in appealing to swing voters. He is both a Washington insider and a hero to working-class Americans and labor union leaders, in part because of his rhetoric, but also because of his own middle class upbringing. He has mastered the art of the network Sunday show television appearance as well as the classic vice-presidential skill of savagely attacking his political opponents with both a smile and the use of casual, kitchen-table idioms.

Balanced against all of those unmatched qualifications is one quality that has afflicted Biden for as long as anyone can remember: a persistent tendency to say silly, offensive, and off-putting things.

Joe Biden is Obama's running mate: His abundant foreign policy experience is considered a boost to the Democratic ticket. (Stuart Silverstein and Johanna Neuman, 8/23/08, Los Angeles Times)
"I'm not a superstar," he said while stumping in Iowa. "People say they like me, people tell me they think I'd be a good president but that they just don't think I can win."

Rasky said the experience demonstrated Biden's tenaciousness as a campaigner. "We were dead and buried from day one," Rasky said. "He fought back beyond respectability, and the fact that he's here today in this position is testament to his mettle." [...]

At the same time, as a 36-year Senate veteran, Biden is a Washington insider, an image that is at odds with the theme of change Obama has promoted. Still, he is popular with many Democratic Party activists and may help Obama with less affluent voters who have been cool to him.

One issue that could prove problematic is that Biden supported the 2002 resolution in favor of military action in Iraq. Obama has made his opposition to the war a centerpiece of his campaign. [...]

While Biden is a skilled orator, he is often mocked for being verbose. His words have also come back to haunt him.

He created a stir early in the past year's Democratic presidential race when he told a reporter for the New York Observer that Obama was "the first mainstream African American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy." He apologized, saying, "I deeply regret any offense my remark . . . might have caused anyone."

Last year, referring to Indian immigrants, Biden said, "You cannot go to a 7-Eleven or a Dunkin' Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent. It's a point. I'm not joking!"

And when he ran for president in 1988, Biden was accused of plagiarism when he did not credit Neil Kinnock, then leader of the British Labor Party, for much of his stump speech.

"The fact that he goes on for too long to explain his position or ask a question is, to me, irrelevant," Rasky said. "There's no evidence that his verbosity has ever done anything to affect his judgment when it comes to his public responsibilities."

Behind Obama's Bet on Biden (MASSIMO CALABRESI, 8/23/08, TIME)
Biden's gaffe made him an unlikely running mate, and much will be made of the bridge-building that Obama's choice represents. But in the end, Obama picked him for the simplest of reasons: The six-term Senator from Delaware is strongest in areas where the freshman from Illinois is weakest. Biden's tenure in the Senate, his foreign policy expertise, his religion, and his suburban middle-class background, all fill gaps in Obama's own presidential profile.

Biden Joins Campaign for the Presidency (E. J. DIONNE JR., 6/10/87, THE NEW YORK TIMES )
Mr. Biden, whose stature as a candidate rests in large part on his oratorical ability to move crowds, contrasted his own approach with the current style of national debate, which he labeled ''the great pantomime.''

''The standard of judgment is no longer results but the flickering image of seriousness, skillfully crafted to squeeze into 30 seconds on the nightly news,'' he said to cheers from a crowd of several hundred people at the city's train station. ''In this world, emotion has become suspect - the accepted style is smooth, antiseptic and passionless.''

Mr. Biden, only 44 years old, was elected to the Senate when he was 29. He reached the legally required age of 30 before being sworn in. Commutes Daily to Capital

His wife, Neilia, and their infant daughter were killed in an automobile accident 41 days after he was elected. After taking office, he refused to move to Washington and commuted daily from Wilmington to help bring up his sons, Joseph R. 3d and Robert Hunter, who survived the accident, In 1977, he married Jill Tracy Jacobs, who teaches emotionally disturbed teen-agers; they have a 6-year-old daughter, Ashley.

The Washington-to-Wilmington train run has since become a leitmotif of Mr. Biden's devotion to family, and those assembled on stage behind Mr. Biden today - 22 members of his extended family, including his parents and his campaign manager, his sister Valerie Biden Owens - further underscored his central theme of community.

Throughout the day, officials of the Biden campaign sought to explain why a candidate whose potential was well regarded by many professionals had yet to rise much above a 1 to 3 percent favorability level among Democrats in the polls, either nationally or in Iowa and New Hampshire, the scenes of the early Democratic tests. Early Campaign Approach

Biden, Once the Field's Hot Democrat, Is Being Overtaken by Cooler Rivals (Robin Toner, 8/31/87, NY Times)
''I know that you pick up the paper and it's 'Fading Meteor,' '' Mr. Biden said, referring to one recent description of his Presidential campaign. Then he ticked off a list of reasons why he thought the metaphor false, including the crowds he had drawn over the last few days. At the very least, he said, the turnouts proved his campaign's ability to organize. ''And just maybe,'' Mr. Biden said, ''they might like me.'' Overtaken by Cooler Rivals

These are frustrating days for Mr. Biden. With his oratorical passion and his high-powered staff, the 44-year-old senator from Delaware was initially considered the hot property of the Democratic field, the meteor in a sky of slow-moving planets. But since he began his campaign last spring, he has seen the race increasingly dominated by his cooler rivals: Gov. Michael S. Dukakis and Representative Richard A. Gephardt.

Some political professionals say the Biden campaign, for all its formidable financial resources and well-known staff, has been sputtering. He was significantly outpaced in some of the early polls in Iowa, although campaign aides say he has moved considerably in recent weeks. The candidate himself acknowledges a slow start to his organizing efforts. And some critics say his campaign seems unable to settle on a message, shifting from one transcendent theme to another.

''The track record of these pundits is 100 percent wrong,'' said Thomas E. Donilon, an advisor to Mr. Biden. Still, operatives in rival campaigns, publicly and privately, are dismissive. ''You'd have to give them a solid B-plus for fundraising, but in almost every other category I'd give them a C or less,'' said William Carrick, campaign manager for Mr. Gephardt. ''I don't spend any time thinking about him.''

Biden Brings Foreign Policy Heft, Risks to Obama Ticket
: Delaware Senator Offers Experience but Counters Obama's Change Message (RICK KLEIN, Aug. 23, 2008 , ABC News)
[T]he danger for Obama is that he now has a running mate that highlights perhaps his biggest weakness: Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., enjoys a wide polling advantage on questions of foreign policy and national security, and Biden's selection serves to accentuate those very issues.

And Biden could undercut Obama's core messages.

While Obama issues calls for new leadership and a change in direction, Biden has been in the Senate since Obama was in grade school.

While Obama represents a new face on the national stage, Biden -- after two failed presidential runs of his own -- is a well-known Washington hand.

Republicans will be able to point to statements from Biden himself that call into question Obama's ability to lead.

Biden has said repeatedly that the presidency requires experienced leadership. Referencing Obama, he said at one point that the presidency is "not something that lends itself to on-the-job training."

He sharply questioned Obama's opposition to Iraq war funding during the primaries.

Biden has also earned a well-known reputation for gaffes.

If the first rule of choosing a running mate is to do no harm, Biden is a risky choice: Democratic and Republican insiders are almost unanimous in expecting a handful of clankers from Biden this fall.

August 22, 2008

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:24 PM


U.S. Secret Service on Way to Biden's House; Kaine and Bayh Told Nope on Veep (Jake Tapper, August 22, 2008, ABC News: Political Punch)

The United States Secret Service has dispatched a protective detail to assume the immediate protection of Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., a source tells ABC News, indicating in all likelihood that Biden has been officially notified that Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, has selected him to be his running mate.

...the Unicorn Rider gives us this generous gift and we didn't get him anything....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:34 PM


NBC: Bayh, Kaine out of Obama’s veep race: Officials said text message on choice will go out Saturday morning (MSNBC, 8/22/08)

Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh and Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine have been told by Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama's campaign they will not be his vice presidential choice, NBC News reported on Friday, quoting sources.

The Associated Press also reported that a Democratic official close to Kaine said the Virginia governor told associates of Obama's decision on Friday. The source spoke on condition of anonymity because he's not authorized to discuss the development, the AP report said.

Speculation about Obama's choice has centered on Bayh, Kaine and Delaware Sen. Joseph Biden.

He wasn't going to carry IN or VA even with them, but he and Biden can carry IL and DE.

Obama Stops Advertising in Red Battleground States (, August 22, 2008)

Barack Obama’s presidential campaign has put the brakes on ads that were running in seven states carried by the GOP in the 2004 presidential election, FOX News has learned.

Of the seven states — including Alaska, Georgia, Montana, North Carolina, North Dakota — Florida and Virginia are considered key battlegrounds this year. Obama’s decision to stop advertising in those states is raising eyebrows.

All defense all the time.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:13 PM


Measles Cases Grow in Number, and Officials Blame Parents’ Fear of Autism (GARDINER HARRIS, 8/22/08, NY Times)

More people had measles infections in the first seven months of this year than during any comparable period since 1996, and public health officials blamed growing numbers of parents who refuse to vaccinate their children.

Many of these parents say they believe vaccines cause autism, even though multiple studies have found no reputable evidence to support such a claim. In Britain, Switzerland, Israel and Italy, measles outbreaks have soared, sickening thousands and causing at least two deaths.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:10 PM


Oil falls 5.4 percent in biggest drop since 2004 (Richard Valdmanis, 8/22/08, Reuters)

Crude oil prices fell more than 5.4 percent on Friday in the biggest one-day slide since 2004 as dealers turned their focus to rising supply levels and weakening global demand.

A rebound in the U.S. dollar encouraged the sell-off, applying downward pressure across the commodities markets by weakening the purchasing power of buyers using other currencies, dealers said.

Stocks jump on falling oil, inflation forecast (Tim Paradis, 8/22/08, AP)
Wall Street capped a volatile week with sharp gains Friday as oil prices tumbled and after Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said inflation pressures are likely to moderate. The Dow Jones industrial average rose nearly 200 points.

Speculation that Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. could be sold helped buoy the financial sector and the overall market.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:07 PM


Seeking More Viewers, MSNBC Turns Left (BRIAN STELTER, 8/22/08, NY Times)

WITH the promotion of Rachel Maddow, the Air America radio host, to a prime-time television spot this week, the longtime third-place cable news network MSNBC cemented its identity as a channel for a liberal audience.

But is that what advertisers want it to be?

Doesn't that depend on who she Jell-o wrestles with?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:23 PM


As Gymnastics Cheating Evidence Grows, IOC Shrinks (Sally Jenkins, August 22, 2008, Washington Post)

Everyone is playing sleuth over whether China cheated in women's gymnastics. The hope is that the officials who govern Olympic competition will conduct a straightforward investigation, but regrettably, such a thing seems to be beyond their scope and spine at this point. Who are you going to believe, the Chinese government, or the Chinese government? The authorities at the Beijing Games have considered the question, and for the moment have decided to believe the Chinese government.

A stack of available documentation shows that China apparently altered the ages of some of its female gymnasts, who won six medals here, including the team event. According to government forms dug up by a variety of media outlets as well as a resourceful Web expert, double gold medalist He Kexin is only 14, and therefore ineligible. On the other hand, according to her most recent Chinese passport and a copy of a birth certificate, she is 16. This is an admittedly difficult situation to arbitrate, but isn't that what sports federations and the International Olympic Committee are supposed to be here for? As opposed to visiting the hospitality buffets?

Even in the best possible interpretation of events -- set aside your suspicions of whitewashing and collusion, and give everyone, including the blameless gymnasts, the benefit of the doubt -- Olympic officials engaged in a head-swiveling process on Friday that left everyone confused and no one satisfied. First, the IOC requested that the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) conduct an "inquiry" into the ages of the Chinese girls because "of a number of questions and apparent discrepancies," according to spokeswoman Giselle Davies. Just a short time later, after expressions of indignation by Chinese coaches and officials, and before FIG had so much as issued a statement, the IOC announced itself satisfied that there was no wrongdoing. Huh?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:13 PM


Though Obama Had to Leave to Find Himself, It Is Hawaii That Made His Rise Possible (David Maraniss, 8/22/08, Washington Post)

Apart from other unprecedented aspects of his rise, it is a geographical truth that no politician in American history has traveled farther than Barack Obama to be within reach of the White House. He was born and spent most of his formative years on Oahu, in distance the most removed population center on the planet, some 2,390 miles from California, farther from a major landmass than anywhere but Easter Island. In the westward impulse of American settlement, his birthplace was the last frontier, an outpost with its own time zone, the 50th of the United States, admitted to the union only two years before Obama came along.

Those who come from islands are inevitably shaped by the experience. For Obama, the experience was all contradiction and contrast.

As the son of a white woman and a black man, he grew up as a multiracial kid, a "hapa," "half-and-half" in the local lexicon, in one of the most multiracial places in the world, with no majority group. There were native Hawaiians, Japanese, Filipinos, Samoans, Okinawans, Chinese and Portuguese, along with Anglos, commonly known as haole (pronounced howl-lee), and a smaller population of blacks, traditionally centered at the U.S. military installations. But diversity does not automatically translate into social comfort: Hawaii has its own difficult history of racial and cultural stratification, and young Obama struggled to find his place even in that many-hued milieu.

He had to leave the island to find himself as a black man, eventually rooting in Chicago, the antipode of remote Honolulu, deep in the fold of the mainland, and there setting out on the path that led toward politics. Yet life circles back in strange ways, and in essence it is the promise of the place he left behind -- the notion if not the reality of Hawaii, what some call the spirit of aloha, the transracial if not post-racial message -- that has made his rise possible. Hawaii and Chicago are the two main threads weaving through the cloth of Barack Obama's life. Each involves more than geography.

Hawaii is about the forces that shaped him, and Chicago is about how he reshaped himself. Chicago is about the critical choices he made as an adult: how he learned to survive in the rough-and-tumble of law and politics, how he figured out the secrets of power in a world defined by it, and how he resolved his inner conflicts and refined the subtle, coolly ambitious persona now on view in the presidential election. Hawaii comes first. It is what lies beneath, what makes Chicago possible and understandable.

...all the odder since he wasn't subjected to racism growing up?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:04 PM


Rice and Poles drink to shield with Georgian wine (Reuters, 8/22/08)

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski celebrated the signing of a missile shield deal this week with Georgian wine, a choice sure to leave a bitter taste for Russia.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:53 PM


The Best Laid Traps Of Conservatives and Con Men: How Obama found himself in trouble this time: charting the ignominious history of "born alive" abortion legislation. (Damon Linker, August 21, 2008, The New Republic)

As recently as six weeks ago, Barack Obama hoped to use his moderation and facility with religiously informed rhetoric to inspire a portion of the evangelical vote to defect to the Democratic Party in 2008--a move that might usher in a broader electoral realignment. But events during the past week may very well have derailed this plan for good. On right-wing websites, cable news programs, and near-mainstream newspapers, conservatives are doing their indignant best to spread the word that, as an Illinois state legislator, Obama refused to vote for a bill that protects a child "born alive" in a botched abortion. That makes the senator's record on abortion, in the words of Commentary's Peter Wehner, "as extreme as one can possibly be." As evidence that Obama's position is (in Wehner's words again) "extreme, inhumane, and outright brutal," conservatives are pointing out that only 15 members of the U.S. House voted against the federal version of the bill--the Born Alive Infant Protection Act of 2002--and that it passed the Senate by voice vote with no dissent.

The campaign's response to the controversy shows that it recognizes the damage it could do to Obama's ambitions: Instead of defending the vote, Obama and his surrogates have sought to excuse it. [...]

Democrats have every reason to lament this turn of events, but they should not consider it a matter of simple bad luck. On the contrary, Obama, in failing to "support" children "born alive," has fallen into a trap meticulously constructed and laid by the theoconservative intellectuals who have exercised so much influence over the religious right these past several decades.

The Born Alive Infant Protection Act is the brain-child of theocon Hadley Arkes, the Edward N. Ney Professor of American Institutions at Amherst College and a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington. The roots of the bill go back 20 years, to President George H. W. Bush's general election contest with Michael Dukakis. In a debating kit he was asked to prepare for the Republican candidate, Arkes made an extraordinary series of assertions. Abortion, he argued, could be considered a constitutional right only by denying the personhood of the baby prior to birth. But once this premise was implanted in the law, there was no principled way to outlaw any abortion at any time during pregnancy, right up to--and perhaps even beyond--birth. After all, biological science and sonogram technology both showed that the fetus in utero is substantially similar to a baby outside the womb. The "right to choose" therefore implied a right to infanticide--or as Arkes shockingly put it, a "right to a dead baby." As a rationalist, Arkes was convinced that such an implication at the level of principle would inevitably become a reality, as the culture slid down the slippery slope on which it had been precariously placed by the Supreme Court's decision in Roe v. Wade.

Faced with the prospect of legalized infanticide in the United States, Arkes urged the first President Bush to make what sounded like an extremely modest proposal. Congress should pass a law declaring that a child born alive after a botched late-term abortion--a child no longer present within his or her mother and thus no longer dependent upon her "choice"--is subject to the full protection of the laws, as is any other person. Not only would such a law prevent explicit acts of infanticide, but, far more importantly, it would also "plant a premise" in the law that would eventually lead in the opposite direction of Roe, emphatically affirming the personhood of the newborn child and thus raising the morally troubling question of whether that personhood could really be denied to the same entity just seconds earlier, when it resided in the mother's womb. Arkes was convinced that just as the logic of Roe led inexorably toward a right to infanticide, so a declaration of the personhood of the infant "born alive" would have the effect of persuading large numbers of Americans--and perhaps also a decisive number of Supreme Court Justices--to reject abortion-on-demand and, ultimately, to favor outlawing it altogether.

Conceding that his vote is indefensible is a healthy first step.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:50 PM


Waiting for Obama: Veep Announcement Builds to Frenzied Standstill (, August 22, 2008)

As the suspense built, a new name — Texas Democratic Rep. Chet Edwards — entered into the buzz of short-listers who could become Obama’s running mate. [...]

Edwards, a nine-term congressman from Corpus Christi who serves on the House Appropriations and Budget committees, is a favorite of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who went on ABC’s “This Week” and said, “I hope he will be the nominee.” [...]

One Democratic official with knowledge of the conversation said Obama told Pelosi recently that she would be pleased with the choice. Other Democratic officials said he was on the short list. All spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss Obama’s selection process. [...]

An Edwards pick is by no means assured. House candidates are notoriously ignored for the running-mate slot. Gerald Ford was the last sitting House member to graduate to the vice presidency. And the last congressman to be directly elected to that job was House Speaker John Nance Garner, D-Texas, under President Franklin Roosevelt.

But Edwards is a survivor. Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, D-Texas, tried to marginalize Edwards’ electability when he redrew the state’s congressional boundaries several years ago. DeLay infused more GOP voters into Edwards’ territory. But the congressman held on.

Bush carried Edwards’ district in 2004 with 69 percent of the vote, but Edwards still garnered 58 percent.

On Capitol Hill, Edwards is known as a “Cardinal,” one of the most powerful people in Congress. They command that designation when they chair a powerful appropriations subcommittee, because they hold such eminence over the federal purse strings.

Edwards presides over the House Military Construction and Veterans Affairs panel. And from that post, he decides how much money to fork out to any given program. Right down to the nickel.

As a moderate from the South, he is seen by some Democrats as someone who could counterweight the liberal Obama.

Use of the term "weight" in connection with such a cipher is ludicrous. It would be hilarious though to see him choose the closest thing to W he can find in his party.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:40 AM

Fresh Air from WHYY (Friday, Aug. 22, 2008)

Rick Perlstein's book, Nixonland, combines an evocative trip through the 1960s and early 1970s with an assessment of the impact of Richard Nixon's political career. Perlstein argues that many of the deep political divisions in modern American politics were defined by that period, and exploited effectively by Nixon.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:22 AM


A Liberal Shock Doctrine: History teaches us that presidents have to move quickly to enact progressive reforms before the window of opportunity closes forever. It's a lesson Barack Obama should take to heart. (Rick Perlstein, August 18, 2008, American Prospect)

[I]f Barack Obama is elected president with a significant popular mandate, a number of Democrats riding his coattails to the House, and enough senators to scuttle the filibuster of his legislative agenda -- all of which seem entirely possible -- he will inherit a historical opportunity to civilize the United States in ways not seen in a generation. To achieve the change he seeks -- the monumental trio of universal health care, a sustainable energy policy, and a sane and secure internationalism -- he has to completely reverse the way Democrats have habituated themselves to doing business. If they want true progress, they have to be juggernauts. American precedent gives them no other way. [...]

Barack Obama has not run as a policy maximalist. By and large, his big proposals have all been in that safe spot where liberals can't quite get mad and the Beltway wise men can't quite get scared. He has advocated for not-quite-universal health care rather than single-payer, and promised tax cuts, not massive new social outlays. But this shouldn't worry progressives. There may be no better way to achieve an operational liberalism than to appeal to America's rhetorical conservatism. That, after all, was how the balanced-budget-promising Franklin Roosevelt ran in 1932 and how the let-us-continue Lyndon Johnson was elected in 1964.

But when it comes time to govern, an ingrained habit of incrementalism may be a very profound problem indeed. Stopped in our tracks time and time again in attempts to assure Americans the basic social rights taken for granted by citizens of every other industrialized nation, progressives have made virtue of necessity -- we have learned to think of strategic incrementalism as a positive good, even an end in itself. If, on the morning of January 20, 2009, Barack Obama should wake up to find himself president, with 60 senators and 250 representatives, plus 60 percent of the public firmly in favor of passing universal health care, would his instincts direct him to ram the legislation through as quickly as possible?

Apparently history teaches them nothing, because Friend Perlstein proposes a rerun of '93, when a newly-elected president who had run as a rhetorical conservative turned around and tried governing as a liberal to the great benefit of the GOP.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:08 AM


Fighting against the future: a review of The Same Man: George Orwell and Evelyn Waugh in Love and War By David Lebedoff (The Economist, 8/21/08)

As this insightful, waspish book shows, the hidden similarities were greater than the visible differences. Having the fortune to be born in 1903, both men were too young to be killed in the first world war, but were a bit too old (and in Orwell’s case also too ill) to fight properly in the one that came next. Both sought moral clarity, but failed to find it.

Orwell had fought in the Spanish civil war; his disillusion with that cause is chronicled in “Homage to Catalonia”. Waugh was part of an ill-fated military mission to the cynical, wily Communist partisans in Yugoslavia. His disillusion is told in his masterpiece, the “Sword of Honour” trilogy, where his fictional hero, Guy Crouchback, starts by thinking “the enemy at last was plain in view…It was the Modern Age in arms”. But by the end Crouchback realises he has become the modern age’s henchman.

That is Mr Lebedoff’s main point. “Their seemingly opposite lives were dedicated to the same cause: fighting against the future.” They saw the evil of their own time “not as throwback but preface”. Moral relativism, cloaked in jargon, was on the march, promoted by the tedious, despicable know-alls of the supposedly educated classes. Both thought that decency (a favourite word of Orwell’s) was to be found elsewhere.

...but no one claims Waugh wasn't and the similarities give up the game.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:48 AM


Mystery Emerges on Where Obama Stands in the Education Wars (ELIZABETH GREEN, 8/22/08, NY Sun)

Although everyone says the goal is to improve schools, one group of activists favors keeping No Child Left Behind mostly intact and pressing even more aggressive measures, such as firing teachers whose students do not score well on tests. Another group argues for overhauling the law, is less supportive of testing, and says failing schools need support, not punishments.

Both groups include prominent education leaders, as well as New York City names. Chancellor Joel Klein is a part of the first group, while the teachers union president, Randi Weingarten, has signed on to the second.

The mystery to some is where Mr. Obama stands in the fight.

...when the choice is between kids, who don't vote, and the unions? All you to do is recall Ted Kennedy's horror when he realized W had hoodwinked him into passing a bill that gives kids in failing schools the choice of moving to another.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:32 AM


Pervis Jackson, Bass Voice of the Spinners, Dies at 70 (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, 8/22/08)

A native of the New Orleans area, Mr. Jackson was one of the original five members of the group, which started out in the late 1950s singing doo-wop in Detroit. They worked under the Motown label in the 1960s but shot to stardom after moving to Atlantic Records in the 1970s. [...]

The Spinners compiled 12 gold records, according to, the group’s Web site.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:27 AM


Beyond the bright lights, Japan's biggest slum is nation's dark secret: Life in a district with few women, children or jobs but plenty of drink and poverty ( Justin McCurry, 8/22/08, The Guardian)

All it takes is a short train ride to be transported from the affluent, neon-lit streets of central Osaka to the grinding poverty of Japan's biggest slum.

However, you won't find Kamagasaki on any official maps. Osaka's bureaucrats would rather the world knew as little as possible about the maze of dingy streets, tarpaulin-covered parks and high-rise dosshouses that symbolise growing social inequality in the world's second-biggest economy.

When jobs are plentiful, life in Kamagasaki continues largely unnoticed by the rest of Japan. But these are hard times for the thousands of casual labourers who descend on the local employment-welfare centre every morning at dawn, not knowing if they will spend the day earning hard cash on construction sites, or queuing for handouts at the local soup kitchen. [...]

At the height of the bubble economy Kamagasaki's labourers were guaranteed regular work, says Sen Arimura, an official at the Nishinari Labour Welfare Centre, a 1970s structure whose breezy forecourt is dotted with men napping.

"These days, there are fewer jobs due to stricter building regulations and the rising cost of materials," he says. "There have always been peaks and troughs in the construction industry, but the peaks are much lower than they used to be ... and the troughs much deeper."

Today, Kamagasaki is home to about 25,000 mainly elderly day labourers, an estimated 1,300 of whom are homeless. The rest are spread among two state-run shelters and dozens of cheap hostels that charge as little as 1,000 yen (£5) a night.

Arimura, who also runs the non-profit Kamagasaki Community Regenerative Forum, says besides the obvious deprivation, most of those in greatest need are caught in the safety net that includes free healthcare and advice on accommodation and insurance claims for work-related injuries. "We are trying to create a sense of community here. It's not all bad news."

Yet evidence of Kamagasaki's incongruous role in Japan's postwar economic success are everywhere: sprinklers dot the pavements to deter anyone sleeping rough; barbed-wire protects the police station; the illegal, but tolerated, gambling dens; and just two crumbling primary schools.

"You hardly ever see women or children around here," says Masaharu Takezawa, a former homeless man who is acting as the Guardian's guide and unofficial minder as we pass groups of thin, weather-beaten men drinking cheap sake and occasionally hurling abuse at passing police cars.

"It's a man's world. All they have to look forward to is an evening meal of cheap grilled meat and plenty to drink ... and the freedom to sleep it off where they drop," he says.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:17 AM


GOP: Here's to Hillary's big party!: Nothing would delight Republicans more than for the Clintons to upstage Barack Obama at the Democratic National Convention. (Walter Shapiro, Aug. 22, 2008, Salon)

Bob Bennett, who has been chairman of the Ohio Republican Party for two decades, has a vision of what he wants to see on television at next week's Democratic National Convention: "When Hillary Clinton's name is placed in nomination, it will take over the emotional onus of the convention." The veteran party leader added with partisan anticipation in his voice, "I think the Clintons have already hijacked the convention -- and I can't wait to watch."

When leading Republicans who are not working on the fall presidential campaign were asked to sketch out the best possible scenario in Denver to boost John McCain, they kept uttering those fateful two words: "the Clintons." As GOP pollster John McLaughlin put it, "I'm rooting for the media's tendency to focus on how the Clintons have taken over Obama's convention." Republicans saw other potential pitfalls for Obama -- from delivering a vaporous acceptance speech to abandoning the safe center on policy issues -- but the conversations kept coming back to the woman who nearly won the nomination and the way she will play her hand in Denver. [...]

The political message in this situation would be the inherent weakness of Barack Obama. "The result would be that the Clintons ran the convention," Galen explained. "And it would look like Obama was only the nominee at the sufferance of the Clintons."

With Hillary Clinton being the featured Tuesday night attraction in Denver and Bill Clinton (plus the Hillary nomination speeches and roll call) on the docket for Wednesday night, the dethroned first couple of the Democratic Party will -- even if on good behavior -- cast an oversize shadow on Obama's ascension. Add a restive press corps eager for a hint of controversy to disrupt the no-news-here flow of a choreographed convention, and more than enough disgruntled Clinton delegates gleefully ready to log some TV air time, and you have all the necessary ingredients for combustion. [...]

The fault lines in the Democratic Party, which will be on display in Denver, are far more than a media concoction. A new NBC News/Wall Street Journal national poll found that Obama has won the support of only 52 percent of former Clinton backers, with 27 percent still undecided (or opting for minor-party candidates) and 22 percent saying that they prefer McCain. Facing this persuasion gap, Obama has to cater publicly to the Clintons, even at the risk of losing control of the convention story line between Michelle Obama's Monday night meet-my-husband address and the nominee's fireworks-over-a-football-field acceptance speech on Thursday night.

At Rally, Finding Clinton’s Aid to Obama Too Tepid (DAMIEN CAVE, 8/22/08, NY Times)
Minutes after pushing through the rope line to thank Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton for “all that you do,” Robin Shaffer said she was worried. She feared that the senator she respected and admired for being tough and experienced had not done all that she could to unify Florida’s fractured Democratic Party while campaigning here on Thursday for her former opponent.

“It was good that she said my supporters need to now support Barack Obama,” said Ms. Shaffer, 46, reflecting on Mrs. Clinton’s speech before about 700 people. But, she added, “I wanted her to repeat that one more time.”

Many who had supported Mrs. Clinton’s run for president shared Ms. Shaffer’s opinion. Democrats who said they had recently accepted that Mr. Obama, of Illinois, would be the Democratic presidential nominee greeted Mrs. Clinton’s 30-minute speech — her first rally in Florida on his behalf — with warmth but also demands for more.

If the Unicorn Rider were coasting to victory there would be pressure on Ms Clinton to kowtow to him just because he'll be her party leader. But no one gets politics better than her husband and if he's already determined that the nomination is not unlikely to be up for grabs four years from now and that she can help make that so, what incentive is there for her to come to Senator Obama's aid?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:10 AM


McCain Advisers Say Stance on Abortion Is Crucial for No. 2 (ELISABETH BUMILLER, 8/22/08, NY Times)

Senator John McCain has narrowed his list of potential running mates to a handful of candidates and appears unlikely to select anyone who supports abortion rights, several advisers close to his campaign said on Thursday.

Former Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts and Gov. Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota are the top candidates as Mr. McCain and his advisers gather over the next several days at Mr. McCain’s cabin near Sedona, they said.

Abortion rules out Mitt.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:06 AM


FATA is Pakistan's Fallujah (B Raman, August 22, 2008, rediff)

It is only a question of time before the anti-Musharraf and anti-Army anger for their co-operation with the US broadens to include anti-Asif Zardari anger for the continuing co-operation with the US. The terrorists view Zardari as no different from Musharraf and as much an apostate as Musharraf. They are convinced that the air strikes and ground operations in the Bajaur Agency have been agreed to by Zardari and Gilani as a quid pro quo for the role of the US and the UK in persuading Musharraf to quit as president.

FATA is emerging as Pakistan's Fallujah. After the US occupation of Iraq, Fallujah became the launching pad of terrorist strikes in the rest of Iraq -- whether by Al Qaeda or by ex-Baathist resistance fighters. Only after the US ruthlessly pacified Fallujah and destroyed the terrorist launching pads there, did it start making progress in its counter-insurgency operations in the rest of the Sunni areas of Iraq.

The NATO forces will continue to bleed in Afghanistan and the jihadi virus will continue to spread in Pakistan unless and until FATA is similarly pacified through ruthless application of force. The Pakistan Army has not demonstrated either the will or the capability to do so. A more active role by the NATO forces under US leadership is necessary -- either covertly or openly. A strategy for a Fallujah-style pacification of FATA is called for -- with the co-operation of the Pakistan Army if possible and without it, if necessary.

The USSR was defeated by the Afghan Mujahideen in the 1980s because of the reluctance of the Soviet troops to attack their sanctuaries in FATA and NWFP. India has been unable to prevail over cross-border jihadi terrorism because of the reluctance of its leadership to attack their sanctuaries in Pakistani territory. The US is unlikely to prevail over the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan unless it is prepared to destroy their infrastructure in FATA.

Deniable Predator air strikes by the US intelligence agencies on suspected terrorist hide-outs in the FATA have been increasing and some of them have been effective in neutralising well-known Al Qaeda operatives. But air strikes alone will not be able to turn the tide against the jihadis. Effective hit and withdraw raids into FATA in the form of hot pursuit should be the next step. The longer it is delayed the more will be the bleeding.

The dirty little secret of the WoT is that the more hostile the regime in Pakistan is to the West the more latitude we have to strike the Tribal Areas.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:58 AM


Houses Add Up to A Snag for McCain: Campaign Has Cast Obama as Elitist (Jonathan Weisman and Robert Barnes, 8/22/08, Washington Post)

Sen. John McCain's inability to recall the number of homes he owns during an interview yesterday jeopardized his campaign's carefully constructed strategy to frame Democratic rival Barack Obama as an out-of-touch elitist and inspired a round of attacks that once again ratcheted up the negative tone of the race for the White House.

The poor Democrats still think elitism is a function of wealth and that Americans are consumed with class envy. But people don't hate intellectuals--academics and the like--because they're wealthy, they aren't. The Brights and Kansas are at war over values.

Can Obama win over those voters who find him pompous? (David Lightman and Margaret Talev, 8/21/08, McClatchy Newspapers)

Something about Barack Obama's manner bothers Margaret Cowan.

"There's something egotistical about him," the Sheridan, Colo., retiree said. "It's the way he struts around."

Many swing voters here and throughout the country consider the presumptive Democratic nominee distant, pompous, arrogant, even elitist.

"It's a big issue that he needs to address," said Eric Davis, a professor emeritus of political science at Middlebury College in Vermont.

Obama has Ivy League degrees from Columbia and Harvard universities. He's extraordinarily articulate and exudes self-confidence. Those credentials and qualities combine to strike some people as arrogant.

As Americans, we all think we -- or our kids, at any rate -- could have a lot of money one day. None of us wish we had the manners of the Ivory Tower crowd.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:31 AM


Exclusive: Obama's lost law review article (BEN SMITH & JEFFREY RESSNER, 8/22/08, Politico)

As president of the Harvard Law Review and a law professor in Chicago, Senator Barack Obama refined his legal thinking, but left a scant paper trail. His name doesn't appear on any legal scholarship.

But an unsigned — and previously unattributed — 1990 article unearthed by Politico offers a glimpse at Obama's views on abortion policy and the law during his student days, and provides a rare addition to his body of work.

The six-page summary, tucked into the third volume of the year's Harvard Law Review, considers the charged, if peripheral, question of whether fetuses should be able to file lawsuits against their mothers. Obama's answer, like most courts': No. [...]

Obama's tenure at the Review has been chronicled at length in the Politico, the New York Times, and elsewhere.

But Obama has never mentioned his law review piece, a demurral that's part of his campaign's broader pattern of rarely volunteering information or documents about the candidate, even when relatively innocuous. When Politico reporters working on a story about Obama's law review presidency earlier this year asked if he had written for the review, a spokesman responded accurately - but narrowly - that "as the president of the Law Review, Obama didn't write articles, he edited and reviewed them."

The case comment was published a month before he became president.

The notion that Obama hadn't written at all for the Review prompted skepticism.

"They probably don't want [to] have you [reporters] going back" to examine the Review, University of Southern California law professor (and Michael Dukakis campaign manager) Susan Estrich said at the time.

The Obama campaign swiftly confirmed Obama's authorship of the fetal rights article Thursday after a source told Politico he'd written it. The campaign also provided a statement on Harvard Law Review letterhead confirming that the unsigned piece was Obama's - the only record of the anonymous authors is kept in the office of the Review president - and that records showed it was the only piece he'd written for the Review.

Even as a student he was pimping for the Death Lobby?

Why Obama Really Voted For Infanticide: More important to protect abortion doctors than “that fetus, or child — however way you want to describe it.” (Andrew C. McCarthy, 8/22/08, National Review)

There wasn’t any question about what was happening. The abortions were going wrong. The babies weren’t cooperating. They wouldn’t die as planned. Or, as Illinois state senator Barack Obama so touchingly put it, there was “movement or some indication that, in fact, they’re not just coming out limp and dead.”

No, Senator. They wouldn’t go along with the program. They wouldn’t just come out limp and dead.

They were coming out alive. Born alive. Babies. Vulnerable human beings Obama, in his detached pomposity, might otherwise include among “the least of my brothers.” But of course, an abortion extremist can’t very well be invoking Saint Matthew, can he? So, for Obama, the shunning of these least of our brothers and sisters — millions of them — is somehow not among America’s greatest moral failings.

No. In Obama’s hardball, hard-Left world, these least become “that fetus, or child — however you want to describe it.”

Most of us, of course, opt for “child,” particularly when the “it” is born and living and breathing and in need of our help. Particularly when the “it” is clinging not to guns or religion but to life.

But not Barack Obama. As an Illinois state senator, he voted to permit infanticide.

Obama: 110% Pro-Choice (George Neumayr, 8/22/2008, American Spectator)
Planned Parenthood and NARAL hail Barack Obama as "100 percent" pro-choice. But perhaps they should create a special new category for pols who go above and beyond the call of duty to vote for abortion rights even when they are not in legislative play.

Barack Obama would deserve a place of honor amongst these 110 percent pro-choicers, as he sees abortion rights threatened almost everywhere, including in anti-infanticide bills.

It has now been established that his opposition to the Born Alive Infants Protection Act rested on an excess of pro-choice zeal, as evident in the fact that 100 percent pro-choicers such as Hillary Clinton voted for the Senate bill. That's the sort of enthusiasm which should earn Obama the Margaret Sanger Award.

August 21, 2008

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:10 PM


Not all of China is cheering (Joshua Kurlantzick, 8/18/08, National Post)

[F]ocusing solely on pride ignores another China, one far different from the middle class people with the money to travel to Beijing. As China has liberalized its economy, vast agricultural regions of the country have fallen far behind the cities — so much so that this “communist” nation now has one of the worst income inequalities in Asia. Indeed, according to the World Bank, over 200 million Chinese earn less than US$1.25 per day, a near-African wage, and today China’s Gini coefficient, the standard measure of inequality, is far higher than that of India. For these rural Chinese, the Olympics are just one more event to watch from afar, before they turn back to their daily struggle.

Trips over numerous years to rural parts of Yunnan, a poor province in China’s southwest, showed me this China. In small villages, families I met lived in one-room stone dwellings, where they slept on mats and cooked on a simple stove. Outside, they raised a few pigs, or sowed small terraces of rice and vegetables.

Yunnan is hardly unique. Interior China’s GDP lags far behind eastern China’s, and as China opens to foreign imports small-plot Chinese farmers will find it even harder to make a living, since they’ll be competing with the massive Brazilian, American and Australian agribusinesses. Worse, the pollution caused by Chinese industry is destroying farmland and water sources — vast parts of the agricultural heartland will virtually run dry within 30 years. Meanwhile, rural people actually face higher tax levies, according to their income, than many richer city citizens, partly because local officials just want to make more money.

Not surprisingly, for many of these rural dwellers the Games might be an interesting distraction on TV, rather than a source of major pride. “It is something that only the people in cities around Beijing care about,” one young Chinese in a rural town told Rian Dundon, a photographer who studies youth culture in China’s interior. “People from Hunan [an interior province] and other far away places don’t really feel very excited about it, and I don’t feel a personal connection to it.” Indeed, Dundon found that young people in the interior were angry that whatever positive impact the Games had would be limited to the cities. “The Olympics can only affect a very small part China. The rest will be left behind,” another young rural Chinese told him.

It is telling that when recent polls have been done of Chinese satisfaction with their current life, the samples almost never include rural people.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:52 PM


Undecided? It's more partisan than you think: Researchers find that voters who haven't made up their minds actually have unconsciously made a decision based on deep-seated attitudes. (Denise Gellene, 8/22/08, Los Angeles Times)

The research, to be published Friday in the journal Science, used a computerized test in which participants were asked to react as quickly as possible to images arbitrarily deemed "good" or "bad." The test measured how long it took to respond.

Scientists selected 33 residents of Vicenza, Italy, who stated they were undecided about a controversial proposal to expand a nearby U.S. military base.

They were instructed to press the letter "D" when they saw a picture of a military base or one of five positive words, such as joy, pleasure or happiness, and the letter "K" when they saw one of the negative words, which included pain, ugly or danger.

The researchers then reversed the test so that the image of the military based was linked to the negative words.

The theory behind the test is that people will hesitate when required to perform actions incompatible with their unconscious attitudes. So subjects who unconsciously favored the base expansion took more time to react when it was associated with negative words, and subjects against the expansion delayed when it was associated with positive words.

The lag in reaction time averaged between 100 and 200 milliseconds, said Gawronski, who collaborated on the project with scientists from University of Padova in Italy.

One week after administering the test, nine previously undecided subjects said they now favored the base, 10 said they had decided against it, and 14 remained undecided. Participants' responses on the week-earlier computerized test and an accompanying opinion survey were about 70% accurate in predicting their actual decisions, researchers said.

The test hasn't yet been adopted by political consultants, although one, Virginia-based TargetPoint Consulting Inc., experimented with it during the recent Republican presidential primary race.

A research team from the University of Virginia, the University of Washington and Harvard University currently is offering the of the test, tracking reactions to the presidential candidates.

I got:
Your data suggest a moderate automatic preference for John McCain compared to Barack Obama.

Depending on the magnitude of your result, your automatic associations may be described as 'slight', 'moderate', 'strong', or 'little to no preference'. It is interesting to ask how much IAT-measured candidate preferences agree with self-reported preferences. The agreement tends to be relatively strong for political attitudes. One topic of particular interest for the 2008 Presidential campaign is whether self-reported candidate preferences agree or disagree with implicit associations. Were yours consistent? If not, why might that be, and what consequence does it have? These are some of the questions we are addressing with on-going research.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:42 PM


China's impending catastrophe: Its shrinking, aging population (Jonathan V. Last, 8/15/08, Philadelphia Inquirer)

Over the next 40 years, China is headed for intense and rapid demographic change: Between now and 2050, China's population will shrink and become very, very old. There are no easy ways to manage this catastrophic problem.

In 1950, China had 550 million people; today, it is home to 1.3 billion souls. But the rate of population growth has slowed considerably.

According to projections from the United Nations' Population Division, China's population will peak at 1.458 billion in 2030. Then it will begin contracting. By 2050, they'll be down to 1.408 billion and will lose 20 million people every five years.

At the same time, the average age in China will be shooting up. In 2005, China's median age was 32. By 2050, it will be 45 - which means that an increasing percentage of Chinese will be elderly. By 2025, one in five Chinese will be older than 65. By 2050, that ratio will be 1 in 4.

The takeaway from these grim numbers is that China is going to have 330 million senior citizens with no one to care for them and no way to pay for their care. As demographer Nick Eberstadt sorrowfully observes, it is "a slow-motion humanitarian tragedy already underway." [...]

Declining population is a problem for societies and economies. Historically, they do not remain stable when populations contract. But the bigger problem for China is what to do with its elderly.

The government's pension system is almost nonexistent, and One Child has eliminated the extended family as a support system - which will leave the Chinese with a few very bad options.

There will only be 2.3 workers to support each retiree, so the government will be forced to either: (1) Substantially cut spending in areas such as defense and public works in order to shift resources to care for the elderly; or (2) impose radically higher tax burdens on younger workers to pay for the elderly.

The first option risks China's international and military ambitions; the second risks revolution.'s hard to see fretting about a China threat as anything but lingering racial obsession.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:33 PM


Doctors Can Refuse to Provide Abortions (RICARDO ALONSO-ZALDIVAR, August 21, 2008, Associated Press)

Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt said today that doctors should not face retaliation from employers or medical societies because they object to abortion. Mr. Leavitt says "freedom of conscience is not to be surrendered upon issuance of a medical degree."

The rule, which applies to institutions receiving government money, is likely to be challenged by abortion rights supporters.

A simple statement that he doesn't think anyone should be forced to perform an abortion would help Senator Obama seem like less of a pro-death extremist. Presumably the press will ask him.

Good and Evil and Obama: A meaningless wrestle. (Jonah Goldberg, 8/20/08, National Review)

[W]hen the question turns to abortion, political Obama insists on a policy of moral agnosticism and political laissez-faire. Asked directly when life begins as a legal matter, he punted, saying the answer was “above my pay grade.”

Obama, commendably, told Warren that he wants to reduce the number of abortions. After all, he observed gravely, “we’ve had a president who is opposed to abortions over the last eight years, and abortions have not gone down.” Unfortunately, Obama wasn’t telling the truth. The abortion rate is the lowest it’s been since 1974, partly because of pro-life policies under Bush, but also thanks to those implemented at the state level since the 1990s.

At Saddleback, Obama offered the ritualistic support for Roe v. Wade expected of all Democratic politicians, “not because I’m pro-abortion,” but because women “wrestle with these things in profound ways.

This is surely true in many instances. But political Obama won’t explain why “wrestling” with a serious moral question is an adequate substitute for deciding it correctly. People wrestle with all sorts of moral quandaries in “profound ways.” Many slave owners wrestled with whether they should free their slaves, but that did not obviate the need for the Emancipation Proclamation.

Alas, when it comes to abortion, it’s probably silly to expect anything but rote fealty to ideological pieties from a Democrat, just as it’s naive to expect anything but the appropriate pro-life talking points from a Republican. But for a self-styled champion of nuance, political Obama’s rigidity is spectacular to behold.

In 2003, as chairman of the Illinois Senate Health and Human Services Committee, Obama received a statement from Jill Stanek, a registered nurse at Christ Hospital in Oak Lawn, Ill. She testified that at her Chicago-area hospital, she’d seen a baby accidentally delivered alive during an abortion and then “taken to the soiled-utility room and left alone to die.”

I’m no expert on the Christian Gospel, but something tells me that Matthew might consider these wailing creatures the least of our brothers.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:26 PM


Free trade breakdown (Bjorn Lomborg, 8/21/08, National Post)

Establishing significantly freer trade would help the world combat its biggest problems. For a low cost, we could improve education, make the poorest people richer and help everybody become better able to tackle the future.

We have known for centuries that free trade almost always benefits both parties. The economist David Ricardo pointed out in 1817 that both Great Britain and Portugal would benefit if they exploited their comparative advantages. Portugal could produce wine cheaply, whereas Great Britain could produce cloth more cheaply than wine. By selling cloth and buying wine, Great Britain obtains more of both, as does Portugal. The same holds true today, when countries produce more and exchange it for more of all other goods.

Yet today, we are moving toward building bigger trade barriers. These barriers are supported by self-serving corporations, and defended by politicians who are scared that the redistribution of jobs and wealth resulting from freer trade will reduce their chances of remaining in power.

When the Doha trade round was launched shortly after September 11, 2001, there was plenty of international goodwill. But a recent Financial Times/Harris poll in the U.S., Germany, France, the U.K., Italy and Spain found people nearly three times more likely to say that globalization is negative than positive.

Recently, the Copenhagen Consensus project gathered some of the world’s leading economists to decide how to do the most good for the planet in a world of finite resources. The panel found that one of the best actions the planet could take would be completing the Doha negotiations. They based their conclusions on new research by Australian economist Kym Anderson.

Anderson showed that if developing countries cut their tariffs by the same proportion as high-income countries, and services and investment were liberalized, the annual global gains could climb to US$120-billion, with US$17-billion going to the world’s poorest countries by 2015.

The story only starts here. As economies open up, competition drives up rates of growth.

It seems like an awfully long time ago that Bill Clinton made his party stand for free trade instead of protectionism.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:13 PM


As tough is this ad is, consider how much information they have to provide you before they tie the whole message together. It takes twenty seconds longer than the voter's attention span:

That said, it's like crack for us wonks.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:07 PM


All the Oil We Need (EUGENE GHOLZ and DARYL G. PRESS. 8/21/08, NY Times)

[S]uch fears rest on a misunderstanding. The world actually has enormous spare oil capacity. It has simply moved. In the past, major oil producers like Saudi Arabia controlled it. But for years the world’s major consumers have bought extra oil to fill their emergency petroleum reserves.

Moreover, whereas the world’s reserve supply once sat in relatively inaccessible pools, much of it now sits in easily accessible salt caverns and storage tanks. And consumers control the spigots. During a supply disruption, Americans would no longer have to rely on the good will of foreign governments.

The United States alone has just more than 700 million barrels of crude oil in its Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Government stockpiles in Europe add nearly another 200 million barrels of crude and more than 200 million barrels of refined products. In Asia, American allies hold another 400 million barrels. And China is creating a reserve that should reach more than 100 million barrels by 2010.

Those figures only count the government-controlled stocks. Private inventories fluctuate with market conditions, but American commercial inventories alone include well over a billion barrels. Adding up commercial and government stockpiles, the major consuming countries around the world control more than four billion barrels.

Some policy makers and analysts worry that these emergency stocks are too small. For example, they sometimes compare the American strategic reserve to total American consumption, so the reserves appear dangerously inadequate. The United States consumes about 20 million barrels of oil every day, so the Strategic Petroleum Reserve could only supply the country for 35 days. (Furthermore, the United States could not draw oil out of the reserve at anything approaching a rate of 20 million barrels per day.) This is why President Bush in his 2007 State of the Union address called for doubling the strategic reserve.

But this vulnerability is a mirage. The size of plausible disruptions, not total consumption, determines the adequacy of global reserves. The worst oil disruptions in history deprived global markets of five million to six million barrels per day. Specifically, the collapse of the Iranian oil industry during the revolution in 1978 cut production by nearly five million barrels a day, and the sanctions on Iraq after its conquest of Kuwait in 1990 eliminated 5.3 million barrels of supply. If a future disruption were as bad as history’s worst, American and allied governments’ crude oil stocks alone could replace every lost barrel for eight months.

Current fears about energy security focus on Iran. For example, Tehran could sharply cut its oil exports to drive up global prices. Of course, this would be the economic equivalent of suicide terrorism: oil exports provide more than 80 percent of Iranian government revenues, and a major cutback would wreck Iran’s economy.

It would also be futile because the industrialized world could easily replace Iranian oil. Iran only exports 2.5 million barrels each day. A coordinated release of reserve crude by the United States and its European and Asian allies could replace missing Iranian barrels for a year and a half. Iran is vulnerable; the West is not. that Saddam needed to pump as much oil as he could just to fund his regime. If all America cared about was cheap gasoline he'd be sitting in Kuwait smoking a stogie and feeding Shi'ites into paper shredders today.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:54 PM


Maverick apparently isn't much bothered by the Anti-Christ complaints

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:38 PM


McCain's Warped Worldview (Robert Scheer, 8/21/08, Real Clear Politics)

The world according to John McCain is one in which America is triumphant at home and abroad thanks to the Bush legacy, rolling to victory internationally and mastering its domestic economic problems.

...with the Left stuck hoping that the surge fails, another terrorist attack occurs or the oil price slide reverses.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:31 PM


A more buttoned-up Biden (Mike Memoli and Carrie Dann, 8/21/08, NBC: First Reads)

The Joe Biden of stakeouts past -- the one who handed out bagels and willingly stopped for quick chats -- is gone. A man who seemed to relish the attention of the press during the first two days of the veep vigil is now all business and acting, dare we say, more vice presidential.

News crews have had only brief sightings of the Delaware senator today. Instead of driving his pickup truck, Biden rode shotgun as he left his house in the car of a staffer this morning. Seen in more formal attire, Biden headed downtown to seemingly run errands, talking often on the phone as he went.

If you think we on the Right are looking forward to this, just consider another angle: all those PC comics who are afraid to dis the Unicorn Rider because they might seem racist will just unload their pent up frustration on the bald white guy with the wicked case of verbal ebola.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:02 PM


Explaining the riddle: The man who has called himself “a blank screen” is about to take centre-stage (The Economist, 8/21/08)

Who is Barack Obama? The best clues to that riddle can be gleaned from his two volumes of autobiography. He spent the first half of his life in search of a stable identity. He looked “black”. But he was the son of a white mother from Kansas and an African, rather than an African-American, father from Kenya. He spent four years in Indonesia, where he attended local schools (including a Muslim one) and ate local delicacies such as dog, grasshopper and snake, on which his stepfather fed him. He eventually ended up living with his white grandparents in Hawaii.

The young Obama flirted with the “blackness” of the inner-city, growing an Afro, skimping on school work and experimenting with marijuana and a little cocaine. But he eventually pulled himself together and joined the American meritocracy, attending Occidental College, Columbia University and, later, Harvard Law School.

Mr Obama found the answer to his search for identity in black Chicago. He started his career as a “community organiser” on Chicago’s South Side, the largest black community in the country. He joined one of the city’s most prominent black churches, Trinity United, and abandoned his youthful agnosticism in favour of Christianity (Trinity’s Afrocentric bent, with its African visitors and women dressed in African robes, may have particularly appealed to the son of an African). He married a black woman with deep roots on the South Side, and had his two daughters baptised at Trinity.

The rootless cosmopolitan now had roots for the first time in his life. [...]

Mr Obama promises to dethrone the lobbyists and reach out to people of goodwill, of whatever persuasion, who want to take back control of their country.

The problem with this argument is that Mr Obama has never pursued a serious reform agenda in any job he has held. He eased his way into his first job in politics, as a state senator in Illinois, by using a “petitions guru” to challenge the signatures his rival, Alice Palmer, had obtained to qualify for the ballot, an extraordinary move for a man who had made his name trying to get poor people to vote. He had a see-no-evil attitude to the Chicago political machine, one of the most corrupt in the country. (John Kass, a columnist on the Chicago Tribune, described his record as that of a man who “won’t make no waves and won’t back no losers”.) He had a disturbingly close relationship with Tony Rezko, a Chicago property magnate who made his career doing favours for politicians who could open doors to real-estate contracts, and who is now in prison. Mr Rezko contributed $250,000 to Mr Obama over his career, and bought a lot next to his house.

This go-along-to-get-along attitude continued once Mr Obama had made it to the Senate in Washington. He supported the farm bill and the override of the president’s veto, despite the fact that the bill sprayed money at agri-business and raised barriers against farmers in the developing world. A raft of pork projects, including Alaska’s “bridge to nowhere”, received his support. He used his star power to raise money for his political action committee, Hope Fund, and then disbursed nearly $300,000 to Democrats who might be useful in his election bid. The man who promises to reform America’s political system is the first presidential candidate ever to reject public funds for the general election.

If a political campaign can be thought of as a narrative, whose bright idea was it for the Democrats to run Blankman?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:59 PM


A century after introduction, Hydrox cookies back (The Associated Press, 8/21/08)

If a kid'll eat the middle of an Oreo first, does the same go for a Hydrox? A new generation of children are getting a chance to find out.

Kellogg Co. announced today that it had reintroduced the Hydrox brand for a limited time to mark the 100th anniversary of the cream-filled chocolate sandwich cookie. [...]

Kellogg says the new Hydrox cookies will contain zero grams of trans fat per serving. a diamond to a cubic zirconium.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:48 PM


Reid shares Senate ideas (MOLLY BALL, 8/21/08, Las Vegas REVIEW-JOURNAL)

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., defended Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman on Wednesday after the former Democratic vice presidential nominee accepted a speaking slot at next month's Republican convention in Minnesota.

"He has a close personal relationship with John McCain. I don't fully understand why he does," said Reid, who said Lieberman called Tuesday from the Republic of Georgia to alert him to the move.

"I told him last night, 'You know, Joe, I can't stand John McCain.'"

Hey, you'd resent John McCain too if you'd achieved less as Majority Leader than Maverick does from the peanut gallery. Hating him requires some sort of mental imbalance, but that seems common enough among Democrats since 2000.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:36 PM


Chicago Annenberg Challenge Shutdown?: A cover-up in the making? (Stanley Kurtz, 8/21/08, National Review)

The problem of Barack Obama’s relationship with Bill Ayers will not go away. Ayers and his wife, Bernardine Dohrn were terrorists for the notorious Weather Underground during the turbulent 1960s, turning fugitive when a bomb — designed to kill army officers in New Jersey — accidentally exploded in a New York townhouse. Prior to that, Ayers and his cohorts succeeded in bombing the Pentagon. Ayers and Dohrn remain unrepentant for their terrorist past. Ayers was pictured in a 2001 article for Chicago magazine, stomping on an American flag, and told the New York Times just before 9/11 that the notion of the United States as a just and fair and decent place “makes me want to puke.” Although Obama actually launched his political career at an event at Ayers’s and Dohrn’s home, Obama has dismissed Ayers as just “a guy who lives in my neighborhood,” and “not somebody who I exchange ideas from on a regular basis.” For his part, Ayers refuses to discuss his relationship with Obama.

Although the press has been notably lax about pursuing the matter, the full story of the Obama-Ayers relationship calls the truth of Obama’s account seriously into question. When Obama made his first run for political office, articles in both the Chicago Defender and the Hyde Park Herald featured among his qualifications his position as chairman of the board of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, a foundation where Ayers was a founder and guiding force. Obama assumed the Annenberg board chairmanship only months before his first run for office, and almost certainly received the job at the behest of Bill Ayers. During Obama’s time as Annenberg board chairman, Ayers’s own education projects received substantial funding. Indeed, during its first year, the Chicago Annenberg Challenge struggled with significant concerns about possible conflicts of interest. With a writ to aid Chicago’s public schools, the Annenberg challenge played a deeply political role in Chicago’s education wars, and as Annenberg board chairman, Obama clearly aligned himself with Ayers’s radical views on education issues. With Obama heading up the board and Ayers heading up the other key operating body of the Annenberg Challenge, the two would necessarily have had a close working relationship for years (therefore “exchanging ideas on a regular basis”). So when Ayers and Dorhn hosted that kickoff for the first Obama campaign, it was not a random happenstance, but merely further evidence of a close and ongoing political partnership. Of course, all of this clearly contradicts Obama’s dismissal of the significance of his relationship with Ayers.

This much we know from the public record, but a large cache of documents housed in the Richard J. Daley Library at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), is likely to flesh out the story. That document cache contains the internal files of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge. The records in question are extensive, consisting of 132 boxes, containing 947 file folders, a total of about 70 linear feet of material. Not only would these files illuminate the working relationship between Obama and Bill Ayers, they would also provide significant insight into a web of ties linking Obama to various radical organizations, including Obama-approved foundation gifts to political allies. Obama’s leadership style and abilities are also sure to be illuminated by the documents in question.

Unfortunately, I don’t yet have access to the documents. The Special Collections section of the Richard J. Daley Library agreed to let me read them, but just before I boarded my flight to Chicago, the top library officials mysteriously intervened to bar access. Circumstances strongly suggest the likelihood that Bill Ayers himself may have played a pivotal role in this denial.

Republicans are no more going to make people care about Bill Ayers than Democrats are going to make them care about Jack Abramoff, but the subtexts are revealing. The Ayers storyline and the reluctance to be straightforward about it feeds the theme that we don't know who Barrack Obama really is, which is obviously hurting his campaign. On the other hand, the Democrats are trying to reverse Maverick's reputation as a reformer, a reputation they helped foster. The GOP is going with the flow, the Obama camp fighting the tide.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:56 AM


The Silver Bullet: Steve Schmidt Makes Sure His Candidate Knows Exactly What He Is Shooting For (Lois Romano, 8/21/08, Washington Post)

Steve Schmidt has made a career out of not being a creature of Washington. If the 2008 campaign were an action film, he would play the tough-talking Steven Seagal character, an idiosyncratic hero who is duty-bound to rescue the desperate from burning buildings (which Schmidt literally did last Christmas), but who longs to retreat into his easygoing world of family and suburbia.

At 37, Schmidt is one of the most forceful, successful and unconventional political operatives of his generation, running one of the most uphill GOP presidential efforts in decades -- yet he is hardly known outside political circles.

With a 6-foot frame carrying 225 pounds, plus a shaved head and an intense, clipped New Jersey style of speech, it's a little hard for him to stay under the radar. But try he has. He rarely appears on TV and avoids talking about strategy publicly. He would not be photographed for this story.

In fact, this was not at all how he planned to spend his fall.

A veteran of George W. Bush's 2004 campaign as a communications strategist, and well regarded for his instincts in shepherding Bush's nominations to the Supreme Court through the process, he was heavily courted by the top GOP presidential contenders last year. Mitt Romney sent him an antique chair to symbolize a seat at the table.

Schmidt was drawn to McCain, but planned on a limited role so he could have a life and remain in California, where he had settled after running Arnold Schwarzenegger's 2006 gubernatorial reelection campaign.

It never quite turned out that way. Schmidt was in the thick of things almost immediately, evolving into one of the Arizona senator's closest advisers. Then he joined McCain on the campaign trail right before the New Hampshire primary -- and never left. "I knew if we won New Hampshire I was not going home anytime soon," he says in a rare interview.

Last month, McCain asked Schmidt to take over the daily operations of an unfocused campaign that was languishing in Barack Obama's shadow. Frustrated Republicans saw an organization incapable of making the case for its candidate, switching themes and messages almost daily -- and failing to resonate with voters. Add to that a bad economy, a problematic war and an opponent who had turned into a phenomenon, and Republicans were privately writing McCain's obituary.

Schmidt wasted no time shaking up the campaign like a California earthquake. He centralized power at headquarters between himself and campaign manager Rick Davis, who has been overseeing the convention, fundraising and the vice-presidential selection. He made sure everyone understood their jobs and was communicating with each other. He insisted that aides stick to a closely controlled message, and he pushed for a more aggressive stance against Barack Obama.

Within weeks, McCain was ridiculing Obama's rock-star image in a provocative ad comparing him to Britney Spears, and seizing every opportunity to hammer him -- for canceling a visit to the troops, accusing him of suggesting McCain was a racist, painting him as an elitist -- all designed to make voters question whether he is ready to be president. At the same time, McCain himself has stuck to Schmidt's playbook with uncharacteristic discipline, even abandoning his daily freewheeling exchange with reporters.

Some loyalists complain that this new, more negative strategy is demeaning to McCain, and killing his trademark spontaneity and candor. But there is no question that it is working.

One of the reasons senators get elected so seldom seems to be that they're generally incapable of making the switch from the collegiality, complexity, and compromise that characterizes the institution they serve in to the centralization, focus, and simplification that an effective campaign requires. If Mr. Schmidt can force Maverick to stay on message--"I'm a Southwestern conservative, he's a Northern liberal"--more power to him.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:33 AM


Purpose-Driven Politics: What were John McCain and Barack Obama doing at Saddleback? (Kathleen Parker, 8/20/08, National Review)

At the risk of heresy, let it be said that setting up the two presidential candidates for religious interrogation by an evangelical minister — no matter how beloved — is supremely wrong.

It is also un-American.

It's especially funny seeing the NRO staff, which was pretty uniformly either pro-Rudy or pro-Mitt, try to tell Maverick who he's allowed to pick for vp.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:23 AM


Dixie is gone with the wind: No economic-populism-inspired revivals are going to turn the region blue. Virginia's Jim Webb is a lonely exception. (Thomas Schaller, Aug. 19, 2008, Salon)

[8]5 percent of all new-seat gains in Senate, House, gubernatorial and state legislative races in 2006 came outside the 11 states of the former Confederacy. Exit polls showed Democrats carrying every region but the South. In the long history of the Democratic Party, national fortunes were almost always pegged to the party's Southern fortunes, with good Southern years also being good national years (recently: 1986 congressional, 1992 presidential) and bad years regionally also being bad nationally (1980 presidential, 1994 congressional). But in 2006, the link between the Democrats' Southern fortunes and national fortunes was severed.

That said, if the South were in fact primed for and desperately in need of an infusion of economic populism, why weren't electoral gains at the very least uniform across the country? Indeed, given the greater poverty of the South and the already-higher share of Democrats outside the South, shouldn't the party's new economic populism have produced in 2006 better-than-average gains in the South relative to other regions?

All of which brings us to the success story of one Southern politician Moser adduces as Exhibit A in the case for a newly emergent blue Dixie: Jim Webb. Virginia's rookie senator has become a one-man wellspring for Southern Democratic revivalists trying to extrapolate from Webb's victory regionwide conclusions about how to win back the South.

Yes, Webb won against George Allen. But consider how favorable the conditions were. He is a native-stock Scots-Irishman. He is a former Republican. He is an ex-Marine who not only fought in Vietnam but has a son who served in Iraq. And Webb's wife is Asian, which matters more than you might think, given that the key Northern Virginia suburban counties that ring Washington, D.C., are about 15 percent Asian now.

Those are just Webb's biographical assets. The state's demography and the national political environment in 2006 were also extremely favorable. Those Northern Virginia suburbs have made Virginia one of the fastest-changing states in the South, and one with the highest median income of any former Confederate state. The 2006 midterm cycle was the best for Democrats since at least 1974, and maybe going back to 1954. Rarely is a party blessed at once with a candidate biography so favorable and a demographic-electoral tailwind so strong. As if all of this were somehow not enough, Webb was the beneficiary of one of the greatest media-electoral windfalls of modern American history: the infamous "macaca" moment. (Though I can't prove the counterfactual, I firmly believe that despite all the other advantages, sans macaca, Webb still loses. Remember: This race was too close to call on election night.)

The point is that Webb-Allen contests are rare in the South, and are sometimes lost even when they do fall into Democrats' laps. It is sobering to remember that even while Webb was winning in Northern Virginia he was losing badly among native white Southerners downstate.

...and predict that there just aren't enough Confederate sympathizers, like Mr. Webb, who'll run as Democrats for them to make much headway in the South.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:19 AM


Playing Ball Vs. Apple Picking (JAMES ALLEN, August 20, 2008, NY Sun)

David and Juan both are driven to work hard and provide for their families. Their friends call them Papi. Both are from the Dominican Republic. David has never heard of Juan, yet each day Juan takes the time to check how many hits Big Papi had for the Red Sox because, like David, he too loves baseball.

Other than the many traditional and ethnic characteristics, for the most part the similarities stop there. The differences between them are huge.

David "Big Papi" Ortiz, a star batter for the Boston Red Sox, became an American citizen on June 11, 2008, while Juan "Papi" Sanchez, a migrant farm laborer, did not. Both David and Juan came to America to make their fortune based on their skills, one hitting a ball better than most Americans, the other doing a job that most Americans would not do.

Both took different paths to get to America. More than 15 years ago, Mr. Ortiz was recruited by many wealthy baseball owners that saw his value and spared no expense to get him into the U.S. David always dreamed of playing ball in America and all he had to do was be good enough to be discovered; as he was. He was welcomed into the professional baseball leagues, paid handsomely, and treated as a national treasure.

Mr. Sanchez's entry into the U.S. was much different. Immigrating to America was also Juan's dream, not to play ball, but to have the opportunity to work hard and earn a respectful living. His efforts to obtain legal entry papers were constantly denied for no apparent reason; except perhaps because his talents were his work ethics and not his ability to entertain.

David was blessed to be a talented athlete, while Juan's talent was working hard. Juan's dream was to not be denied and he finally did find his way to America. No one welcomed Juan, but once here his talents were in demand.

Being a hard worker is a simple talent that so many Americans lack, or chose not to use, especially harvesting produce.

...the destination does.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:15 AM


Deadly serious: a review of The Private Patient by P D James (Simon Akam, 21 August 2008, New Statesman)

The novel is also the 14th outing for James's poetry-penning investigator hero, Adam Dalgliesh. And while a detective is inevitably a detective story staple, the focus on his personal life is another factor that fleshes out the heart and the art of this novel. When Dalgliesh's fiancée drives down to break the news of the rape of a friend of hers to him, and to appeal for his help, two strands entwine neatly. It is his job as well as their relationship that has drawn him to her at that moment, yet his job will not permit him to intrude on another case and help her directly.

Of course, Dalgliesh's life has an element of artificiality. He first appeared in James's 1962 novel Cover Her Face, and therefore, to choose a suitable genre fiction parallel, his career in crime-fighting is now of a similar length to that of Biggles in aviation. Yet, pointedly, Biggles was never allowed to get married.

Baroness James is 88 this year, and another striking aspect of what one hopes is not her last novel is the sensitive descriptions of old age. The retired lawyer whose revelations are the final piece of the plot jigsaw resides in an institution where "care had been taken not to distress visitors by displaying any notice bearing the words retirement, elderly, nursing or home". It is fitting that James, who has previously drawn on her own experience in the NHS and the Home Office in her fiction, should now paint old age with such an acute eye.

So, if The Private Patient sounds a trumpet call for the literary validity of detective fiction, it does so at a propitious time. The writers of the much-lauded Baltimore crime drama The Wire have recently spoken seriously about their use of Greek tragic motifs, and have been listened to. If it is acceptable even on television, surely the time has come for the odd written murder to be acceptable as genuinely highbrow. Even if the punter still wants, and needs, to know whodunnit.

Her last, The Lighthouse, made it seem she was about ready to put Adam out to pasture. And Roy Marsden turns up as a bad guy on Foyle's War and Rebus these days, having turned the role of Dalgliesh over to Martin Shaw (sadly, just before doing Death in Holy Orders, the best of her works, except perhaps for Children of Men). But with RD Wingfield, Rebus, Charlie Resnick and Morse all gone the past few years, we'll can use a last couple from the Dame.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:07 AM


Teleprompting Obama (The Prowler, 8/21/2008, American Spectator)

According to several Democrat political consultants presumptive Democrat presidential nominee Barack Obama spent part of his Hawaiian vacation working on weaning himself from a heavy dependence on teleprompters. Even in what are staged as "town hall" events for Obama, remarks are scripted or formatted into bullet points that scroll on teleprompter screens. Obama has had several embarrassing events where the teleprompter either malfunctioned or the screens were not fully visible.

"He just locks down and can't get the words out," says one political consultant. "For such a fine speaker, it's really quite remarkable that he's had issues."

Obama's troubles with unscripted moments contributed to his campaign's refusal to participate in town hall format debates or discussions with Sen. John McCain, who feels much more comfortable in the unscripted moments.

If speaking required thinking 95% of the Screen Actors' Guild would be out of work.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:59 AM


Survey Says: People Are Happier: The 2008 World Values Survey found that freedom of choice and tolerance—and not simply wealth—have lots to do with a rise in happiness (Matt Mabe, 8/21/08, Business Week)

Happiness hunters have done it again. They've used an army of pollsters and a mountain of data to uncover the world's happiest countries. But this year, there are some unexpected winners—for unexpected reasons.

The World Values Survey, which has compiled data from 350,000 people in 97 countries since 1981, found Denmark to be home to the planet's most contented citizens (again) with Zimbabwe as the most miserable (again). Classic Scandinavian front-runners like Sweden and Finland were nudged out of the top 10 by Puerto Rico and Colombia. El Salvador placed a surprising 11th, beating out Malta and Luxembourg. Further down the list came the U.S., ranked in 16th place.

Directed by University of Michigan political scientist Ronald Inglehart and administered from Stockholm, the survey found that freedom of choice, gender equality, and increased tolerance are responsible for a considerable rise in overall world happiness. The results shatter the more simplistic and traditionally accepted notion that wealth is the determining factor, says Inglehart. [...]

This year, the analysts were shocked by their findings. Reported happiness had actually risen in 40 countries and decreased in just 12. Inglehart, who has been involved in this research for 20 years, says the results defied conventional wisdom on the subject of happiness, which has held that levels remain more or less static.

...and everywhere becomes more like us (Puerto Rico, El Salvador, Colombia--what do they have in common?), how could people not become happier?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:38 AM


Where's Obama's Passion? (Joe Klein, 8/21/08, TIME)

One of the great strengths of the Obama candidacy has been the sense that this is a guy whose blood doesn't boil, who carefully considers the options before he reacts—and that his reaction is always measured and rational. [...]

Heading into a crucial moment in this race—his acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention—Obama was failing as a candidate in two crucial areas. He had failed to define his opponent, and he was failing, in all but the most amorphous ways, to define himself. He desperately needed to do unto McCain what McCain had done unto him: hammer his opponent in a sustained, thematic way—not just a few tossed-away lines in a stump speech. That shouldn't be too difficult. An argument can be made that McCain is trigger-happy overseas and out of touch at home. [...]

But Obama seems not to have fully assimilated what should be the message of his campaign: It's the economy, egghead.

No, it's the eggheadism, Bright.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:35 AM


Police detain more foreign activists in Beijing (Associated Press, August 21, 2008)

Swarms of plainclothes police took away four foreign activists who tried to unfurl a Tibetan flag outside the main Olympics venue today, squelching the latest attempt to demonstrate during the Beijing Games.

Police seized the activists protesting Chinese rule in Tibet as they unfurled the flag and shouted "Free Tibet" south of the National Stadium, the New York-based Students for a Free Tibet said.

The group put the number of police at 50. A spokeswoman for the Beijing Public Security Bureau declined comment.

Two Associated Press photographers were roughed up by plainclothes security officers, forced into cars and taken to a nearby building where they were questioned before being released. Memory cards from their cameras were confiscated. [...]

The detentions came a day after authorities warned two elderly Chinese women who applied to protest the loss of their homes during the games that they would be sent to a labor camp for a year.

China blocks iTunes over all-star Tibet album free download (Hannah Fletcher, 8/21/08, Times of London)
Apple's online music store, iTunes, has been blocked in China after more than 40 Olympic athletes downloaded a pro-Tibet album from the site.

The disappearance of iTunes behind the Great Firewall of China comes at a time when the Chinese Government had promised free and unfettered internet access for foreign journalists covering the Beijing Olympics. Blocks have been lifted on some sites, but many more remain inaccessible.

Hacker uncovers 'proof' that Chinese gymnast is underage (Jane Macartney, 8/21/08, Times of London)

The latest unofficial investigation was carried out by computer security expert for the Intrepidus Group, whose site Stryde Hax revealed a detailed forensic search for Ms He’s age.

First he simply tried Google, only to find that an official listing by the Chinese sports administration that had given her age could no longer be accessed. Next he tried the Google cache, only to find that Ms He’s name had been removed.

So then he tried the cache of Chinese search engine Baidu. There, he found that Baidu lists two spreadsheets in Ms He's name, both giving her date of birth as January 1, 1994 – making her 14 years and 220 days old and too young to compete at these Olympics.

The lists were compiled by the General Administration of Sport of China.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:33 AM


The Perfect Housewarming Gift for Men (Frank Contey, 8/21/08, Esquire)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:15 AM


Poll: McCain holds edge on patriotism (ALEXANDER BURNS | 8/20/08, Politico)

The public views Sen. John McCain as more patriotic than his opponent, Sen. Barack Obama, even though it prefers the way Obama talks about patriotism, according to a new poll.

The survey, conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, found that 74 percent of respondents saw McCain as patriotic, compared to just 56 percent who said the same of Obama.

...that boasting how you're a product of the multiculture, not ours, and complaining that there's something wrong with America would impact folks' views of your patriotism?

August 20, 2008

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:59 PM


Local Clinton backers, McCain adviser meet (BORYS KRAWCZENIUK, 8/20/08, The Scranton Times-Tribune)

A brother of New York Sen. Hillary Clinton and local Democrats who backed her unsuccessful presidential campaign socialized privately Monday with a top surrogate of the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, Arizona Sen. John McCain.

The private gathering featured Carly Fiorina, Mr. McCain’s top economic adviser, and took place at the Dunmore home of political consultant Jamie Brazil, a longtime friend of Mrs. Clinton’s family who has signed on as paid national director of Mr. McCain’s Citizens for McCain Coalition.

The attendees included Tony Rodham, Mrs. Clinton’s youngest sibling, his wife, Megan, and their two children; attorney Kathleen Granahan Kane, who coordinated Mrs. Clinton’s presidential campaign in Northeast Pennsylvania during the primary election; and Virginia McGregor, sister of Scranton Mayor Chris Doherty.

With the Democratic National Convention less than a week away, the gathering raises questions about the support Illinois Sen. Barack Obama can expect from former local supporters of Mrs. Clinton, who dominated at the polls in the Northeast in the April primary election. Mrs. Clinton won 74 percent of Lackawanna County Democrats to Mr. Obama’s 26 percent.

Ms. Fiorina’s daylong local visit, part of a two-day bus tour of the state, was aimed at talking disenchanted former supporters of Mrs. Clinton into supporting Mr. McCain.

How about McCain/Hillary, just for the fun of watching peoples' heads explode?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:49 PM


Walk the Talk: A conservative talk radio host runs for Congress in New Hampshire. (Fred Barnes, 08/20/2008, Weekly Standard)

PRIMARY ELECTIONS AMONG challengers for a House seat held by the other party aren't normally of great political interest. But the race for the Republican nomination in a New Hampshire district is an exception. The reason: Jennifer Horn, a conservative talk radio host, is running. She's the first member of the talk radio tribe, so far as I know, to give up her radio perch to run for Congress. [...]

Horn's breakthrough in the race came last week when she won the endorsement of the state's most influential newspaper, the Manchester Union-Leader, after being grilled by publisher Joe McQuaid and editorial page editor Drew Cline. "She is smart, likable, energetic, and solid on the issues," the paper wrote. "She stands the best chance of beating [Democrat] Paul Hodes this November, and if elected, she would vote the way a New Hampshire representative ought to--for smaller, more responsible government, a strong national defense and low taxes."

Hodes defeated Charles Bass, a 12-year Republican incumbent, in the Democratic landslide in 2006 in New Hampshire, once considered a reliably Republican state. Now Republicans regard the other freshman House member in New Hampshire, Carol Shea-Porter, as particularly vulnerable, Hodes less so.

Nonetheless, Republican officials in Washington and state party chairman Fergus Cullen went to trouble of meeting with Horn last fall and urging her to run against Hodes.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:26 PM


Did the Banana Splits inspire Bob Marley? (BBC, 8/20/08)

One is a children's TV classic, the other a famous reggae musician - but does the similarity between the Banana Splits' theme song and Bob Marley's Buffalo Soldier suggest the reggae icon had a rather unusual muse?

Listen to Buffalo Soldier - key lyric "Woy yo yo" - and The Tra La La Song, and it might seem like there is an echo in the room.

...but an homage to The Little Rascals?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:06 PM


The Real Story of the Democrats’ Abortion Plank (Steven Waldman, 8/19/08, Wall Street Journal)

The Obama campaign made a crucial decision – not to have the abortion rights and antiabortion forces meet. “It was a cordial harmonious process in which neither side talked directly to each other,” said Michael Yaki, the platform director who worked on crafting the abortion plank. During July he held about a dozen face-to-face meetings with groups in a conference room at the Democratic National Committee headquarters in Washington but always made sure that pro-life and pro-choice sides were not scheduled back-to-back lest they bump into each other.

On the evangelical side, the key players were the Rev. Joel Hunter of Northland Church, the Rev. Tony Campolo, a progressive evangelical who was on the Democrats’ platform committee, and the Rev. Jim Wallis, leader of Sojourners. Each was politically progressive in other ways but firmly anti-abortion. Catholics United and Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good were the leading Catholic advocacy groups for the pro-life position.

On the pro-choice side, the key players represented the National Abortion Rights Action League, Planned Parenthood, Emily’s List and the National Organization for Women.

At no point did the pro-lifers push hard for legal restrictions on abortions, including partial birth abortions. But they did push for clear language casting the Democratic Party as supporting a reduction in the number of abortions and not merely a reduction in the “need” for abortion. [...]

The pro-choice forces had two concerns. First, they feared that calling for reducing the number of abortions could lead to more legal restrictions on abortion. The pro-life progressives, Ms. Laser and the Obama campaign had to convince the pro-choice leaders that they could embrace abortion reduction without it eroding legal rights. “There’s been this fear factor that somehow looking for common ground will mean the demise of abortion rights. There was an intense fear of the slippery slope,” Ms. Laser says.

Their second fear was that the language would somehow stigmatize women who had abortions – “that it’s a morally wrong decision,” Ms. Laser says.

Mr. Yaki viewed this as the landmine that could blow up the discussions. He decided to avoid moralistic language, including any direct statement that the party wanted to reduce the number of abortions. “We deliberately steered the language from having any morality put into it because it would have been difficult to agree on the definition of morality – Biblical, societal, individual. Once you go down that path, the ability to reach a compromise would have been limited.”

Instead, he tried to craft the plank so “either side could put their own moral gloss on the language.”

Sort of like saying you don't want to place any restrictions on the Holocaust, just take actions so that the Germans don't "need" to kill Jews and gypsies...and, by the way, none of this should be taken as a moral judgment on genocide..

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:49 PM


I set up a free league at Facebook, if we can get enough people who'd pay attention for the whole season and we can do a live draft or autopick. Contact me on Facebook if you want an invite.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:46 PM


McCain sez it's judgment not patriotism he's questioning (Jonathan Martin, 8/20/08, Politico)

“Yesterday, Senator Obama got a little testy on this issue,” McCain is set to say at a town hall in New Mexico. “He said that I am questioning his patriotism. Let me be clear: I am not questioning his patriotism; I am questioning his judgment. can't complain when your opponent hits you 350 yards down the middle of the fairway....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:49 AM


Tortellini with Bacon and Spinach (Arlene Burnett, 8/20/08, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

* 1 pound tortellini
* 4 slices bacon
* 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
* 1 bag of spinach or arugula
* Grated parmesan cheese

Cook tortellini according to package directions. Cook the bacon and set aside. Discard drippings. Brown butter in pan. Add bacon and spinach to pan. Place hot tortellini on top. Put the lid on the pan and let the spinach steam for a few minutes. Salt and pepper to taste. Place on serving platter and serve with grated parmesan cheese.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:41 AM


McCain winning in new poll, follows trend (DAVID PAUL KUHN, 8/20/08, Politico)

John McCain has overtaken Barack Obama in the presidential race, according to a Reuters/Zogby poll released Wednesday morning.

McCain leads Obama 46 to 41 percent among likely voters, which the poll found is outside the margin of error. Reuters/Zogby had Obama ahead by 7-points as recently as mid July.

Senator Obama needs a big convention bounce just to make this race competitive and he can't afford to spend it defending his vp pick.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:26 AM


"The Dark Knight" (James Bowman, 8/19/2008, American Spectator)

[T]he elevation of the outlandish and unimaginable to a starring role ultimately ended in the death of motivation itself. Today's evil icon is not Norman Bates but Hannibal Lecter: the psycho who is not a psycho for any reason, except for the reason that he just loves being a psycho. As a result, evil becomes a sort of fashion statement. It doesn't really count as evil if there is a motive or an explanation for it. It must be evil for evil's sake. There is no better example of this than the new Batman movie, The Dark Knight, currently setting box office records, partly because -- I believe -- of just this transformation of human evil into something glamorous, something with the power to seduce even the best of us. Partly, too, it's because Heath Ledger, the actor whose performance now bids fair to supersede even Anthony Hopkins's Hannibal as the iconic example of that glamorous figure, the serial killer, died shortly after filming of the movie was completed and, as more than one critic has suggested, the insomnia and depression for which he took an accidental overdose may have been caused by the disturbing nature of the role of the Joker.

He is described in the movie as one of those who "just want to watch the world burn." Are there such men? Conceivably. But history affords no example of them, outside of comic books and the movies, attaining the sort of power it would take actually to burn the world, or even any very significant part of it. Reality seems to provide a natural check upon such people in the form of a shortage of those who both (a) share their psychosis and (b) are willing to play the part of humble assistant -- rather than starring as the evil genius themselves -- in accomplishing their purposes. This problem for the would-be evil geniuses -- a reassurance to the rest of us -- is what creates the distinctive unreality of Mr. Nolan's movie. Again and again we see Mr. Ledger's Joker pulling off the most fantastically conceived acts of evil which, in real life, would require a virtual army of assistants, many of whom would have to be almost as clever as he is. Yet the movie shows us not even one. We do see the Joker lording it over some fellow criminals on a couple of occasions -- not the best way to gain their cooperation, one might have thought. And, in the bank robbery with which the film opens, he casually murders all his assistants, which is even less likely to help him with any hypothetical recruitment effort. So how does he do it?

Ah! That is of course the question that must not be asked if the movie is not to drown -- as I believe it does drown -- in its own preposterousness. This, we are to understand, is strictly a comic book movie, a movie whose action isn't supposed to look like reality but only like the childish fantasy of a comic book world in which anything can happen. All the Joker's tricks occur as if by magic -- they are, like the evil deeds of the villainous hero of No Country for Old Men, inverted miracles -- because, in the comic book world of the serial killer, not only have we dispensed with motivation, we have also dispensed with other sorts of explanation. It would be very vulgar and uncool of the comic book audience to ask -- as the audience of those old-fashioned policiers and detective stories used to ask -- to see how the trick was done: how the crime was committed or how the criminal was caught. That went out with Dragnet. This must be why, so far as I know, no critic among the many who have so lavishly praised The Dark Knight has so far had the bad taste to cite its wild implausibilities even as flaws in Mr. Nolan's masterpiece, let alone fatal ones.

But I think that the movie pays a terrible price for its exploitation of comic book conventions in order to give itself this peculiar, unworldly appearance. For when the movie attempts to turn serious and make the transition from fantasy-land back to reality in order to proclaim a moral, I find it impossible to take it seriously. Of course it doesn't help that the moral is such a feeble and familiar one -- in fact, a comic-book moral to go along with the rest of the comic-book trappings -- namely, yet another iteration of that favorite Hollywood trope about how the hero and the villain are really just two sides of the same coin. Only the fact that intelligent people still, unaccountably in my view, regard this as a profundity can account for either the critical reception or the box office success of the movie. Those wishing to read more about my critique of this notion as a moral or political judgment are welcome to consult my review of David Cronenberg's A History of Violence, but here I'd only like to point out that anyone who finds it unbelievable when exemplified in a relatively real-looking scenario can hardly be expected to find it any more persuasive when the hero and villain are two such comic-book grotesques as Batman and the Joker.

Of course, the movie's admirers won't mind the comic book trappings, and that is their right, but even they must see that its attempts at seriousness are that much less serious for them. If everything else in the movie is unreal and belongs to the comic book world, how can we believe that the moral alone belongs to the real world? And such a moral! I have heard the convergence of Batman and the Joker compared to that between John Wayne and Lee Marvin in John Ford's The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. But Ford was telling us that people want to believe heroism grows out of reason and law and civilization but that it really doesn't. Instead, it is a throwback to the most primitive honor cultures before there were any law or civilization, which are things that cannot be contracted for. The Dark Knight tells us the opposite: that both heroism and villainy grow out of reason and law and civilization and that, therefore, these things are mere shams and subterfuges masking a Hobbesian reality devoid even of honor, in which man is a wolf to man and there is nothing to believe in but the individual Nietzschean will, either to good or evil. It's the sort of thing that you have to be an emotional adolescent, steeped in his own anti-social fantasies, in order to believe.

Senator Obama has made a similar argument, that America has done evil things for good reasons and thus become an evil-doer, but no one ever asks him to explain himself either.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:56 AM


REVIEW: of Trumbo (Lloyd Billingsley, 8/20/2008,

Here movie stars such Brian Dennehy, Donald Sutherland, David Strathairn, Nathan Lane, Josh Lucas, Michael Douglas and others read excerpts from Trumbo’s own works. The intent seems clear enough, to replicate the effect of the famous scene Trumbo wrote in Spartacus, based on the Howard Fast novel, where slaves rise in turn and say “I am Spartacus.” The movie stars try very hard and the in-your-face closeups grab viewers by the lapels, but it doesn't work for a simple reason.

Trumbo’s purpose, like that of this film, is not to reveal but conceal. He’s an elephantine writer, full of wind and freighted with pompous filler. I saw this film in Berkeley, and outside of a chuckle during Trumbo’s meditation on masturbation, nobody clapped or even cheered.

One reading the actors skipped is from Trumbo’s novel, The Remarkable Andrew, in which the ghost of President Andrew Jackson appears from the dead and argues against an alliance with England. “There’s no point in cooking up an alliance with a country that’s already licked,” Jackson says. This came out during the Nazi-Soviet Pact, which is when Trumbo joined the Communist Party USA, at the very time when many others were bailing out. At the time the Nazis and Communists were working together against the Allies, so Dalton Trumbo had to be a special kind of person to prostitute his talent.

That is not explained here, and the Communist Party gets only a few lines, including Trumbo's quip that its members were no more dangerous than the Elks, which received one laugh from a member of the Berkeley audience. Just for the record, it was members of the Communist Party USA, not the Elks, who handed American nuclear secrets to Stalin, the worst mass murderer in history, who is not mentioned a single time in Trumbo.

It is because of the Communists and their fellow travelers and the vile ethos of betraying your country for your friends that Serpico is one of the most important movies of the '70s.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:29 AM


History says Obama needs experienced VP: Running mate can tip scales in a close race (Martin Sieff, UNITED PRESS INTERNATIONAL)

Vice President Dick Cheney has been widely reviled by the left for his purported exercise of exceptional power during President Bush's two terms in office. Mr. Bush might not even have squeaked into the White House at all if it hadn't been for Mr. Cheney. [...]

Mr. Cheney could boast an exceptional amount of experience, especially as President George H.W. Bush's secretary of defense from 1989 to 1993. His resume reassured a lot of centrist voters that George W. Bush would be an acceptable choice even though he had no national experience at the time.

While it's obviously absurd to compare a two term governor of a state with one of the largest economies in the world to a junior senator without a single piece of legislation to his credit, just for the sake of argument let us assume that the Unicorn Rider finds himself in a rather similar position to that of George W. Bush in Summer 2000. Mr. Bush chose as his running mate a guy who'd been Chief of Staff to a previous president and Secretary of Defense of the United States in time of war. For all the talk of his "experience," what has Joe Biden ever done that a serious person might consider experience that prepares one for the presidency?

Here's a hilarious example of what we're getting at, from a column making "The Case for Joe Biden":

There's no one in the Democratic Party who knows more about foreign policy and is as comfortable speaking about it as Biden.

Go to any college campus in America and you'll find a Government department full of Democrats who know just as much about foreign policy as Mr. Biden and are just as comfortable talking about it. But what experience do they have applying it? Oh yeah, pretty much the same as the Senator.

‘Just Words’ That Joe Biden Would Like To Forget: The curse of a loose mouth and Nexis. (Jim Geraghty, 8/20/08, National Review)

August 19, 2008

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:14 PM


Sen. 'Big Mouth' Biden for Obama's Veep? (Paul Bedard, 8/19/08, US News)

[W]hen he junked his last presidential campaign and Sen. Barack Obama emerged, some floated Biden's name as a potential secretary of state, in part because he chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and is a very comfortable on the world stage. But it was dismissed by other Democrats who thought the popular Delaware senator's wordy style and knack for sometimes saying the wrong thing was less than ideal for the world's top diplomat. So why would Obama consider Biden as a vice presidential choice? Well, in a word, say Democratic sources, because of his mouth. The thinking is that Biden could take on Sen. John McCain's Straight Talk Express with his own blunt style while allowing Obama to continue his more thoughtful and cerebral style.

...but it's interesting to consider what a Biden choice says about Mr. Obama. Our best recent presidents have gone for men of some heft as their running mates: Ronald Reagan was willing to run with a former president, until Gerald Ford got overly ambitious; Bill Clinton ran with a more responsible version of himself; and W ran with a former chief of staff. On the other hand, Richard Nixon and George H. W. Bush signaled their own insecurity by picking featherweights and Jimmy Carter just went with a Beltway hack. Mr. Obama seems ready to follow the latter group rather than the former, with Mr. Biden, who has no executive experience, has run two profoundly inept presidential campaigns, and is so poorly thought of by his other peers that he wasn't even considered for a cabinet spot by Bill Clinton.

While Mr. Obama's unwillingness to share the ticket with a person of substance is revealing, his particular choice is deeply troubling. Readers of Richard Ben Cramer's generally favorable portrait of the Senator in What it Takes will recall that Mr. Biden comes across as more or less of a con man, a lovable one, but nontheless a complete b.s. artist. His modus operandi is to try and bury listeners under a barrage of verbiage and hope he can charm them enough that they won't pay too close attention to what he just said. It's been his bad fortune that any time he's been exposed to the public spotlight--his campaigns, the judiciary hearings he chaired, etc.--he's imploded under the glare of attention. The question for Mr. Obama is: can we trust the judgment of a prospective president who doesn't see through even so obvious a carny barker as Joe Biden?

After all, if he was just looking for a cipher who the Beltway thinks has foreign policy cred he could have taken someone harmless like Sam Nunn. Mr. Nunn's resume may be just as skimpy, but he's considerably less oleaginous. Or, were he not afraid of suffering by comparison to the undercard, Mr. Obama could have picked Bill Richardson, a womanizer by all accounts and a slob, but a governor and someone with genuine foreign policy experience.

The Democrats are hurt here by having such a short bench, but it's hard to believe there was a worse choice available.

Obama and Running Mate To Hold Joint Event Saturday (Jake Tapper, August 19, 2008, ABC News: Political Punch)

Senator Barack Obama, D-Illinois, and his yet-to-be chosen Vice Presidential running mate will hold an event at the symbolic old State Capitol in Springfield, Illinois – the site where Obama kicked off his own presidential run eighteen months ago.

“This will be the kickoff to our trip to the convention,” Obama spokeswoman Jen Psaki says of the midday event.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:31 PM


Canada’s Human Rights Gestapo (Deborah Weiss, 8/19/08,

During Ezra’s hearing with the commission, [the publisher of the now defunct Canadian magazine Western Standard] was asked what his intent was when he published the cartoons. Visibly upset, he insisted that his magazine should be able to exercise unbridled free speech without regard to intent. With provocative statements, he practically begged the commission to convict him, so that he could bring the case to a “real court” and destroy the credibility of the Human Rights Commissions altogether. Ezra’s legal written response to the complaint explained that the article and the cartoons merely constituted objective news published in a news magazine.

On July 29, 2008, the Human Rights Commission (“HRC”) issued a report on its investigation, and ECMC’s complaint was dismissed. The commission ruled that in balancing free speech rights against the laws that prohibit discrimination, the Western Standard’s publication of the cartoons, “in its full context” did not warrant a trial. Yasmeen Nizam, a civil litigation attorney and an ECMC director, disagreed. She believed that Western Standard should have been brought to trial “regardless of the context.” As she stated, the goal in filing the complaint was “to educate people” on the increased “risk” of discrimination against Muslims in a post-9/11 world.

In the meantime, the HRC’s investigation of the Western Standard article was completed to the tune of 500,000 dollars in taxpayers’ money, and 100,000 dollars to Ezra and his magazine. Had the complaint been filed in a Canadian civil court, the loser would have been required to pay Ezra’s attorney’s fees. But in HRC cases, the complainant doesn’t even have to pay for his own attorney’s fees. The investigation is conducted at taxpayer expense. Had the complaint been filed in a Canadian criminal court, charging the magazine with criminal incitement of hatred, then Ezra would have been entitled to due process and a speedy trial. Instead, he was dragged through the mud at the Alberta’s Human Rights Commission for 900 days, at the mercy of a bunch of bureaucrats.

Currently, there are fourteen Canadian Human Rights Commissions, employing 1000 people, with a budget of 200 million dollars annually. Together, they function as a parallel court system, often at direct odds with laws administered through the Canadian civil and criminal courts. While the establishment of the Human Rights Commissions and Tribunals may have started out with good intentions, over time they have become so extreme that they regularly side with radical Islamists. In a crusade to stamp out offensive language, they stifle free speech. Additionally, the legal fees for respondents can be astronomical. When they win, their speech constitutes exorbitantly expensive speech, not free speech. Soft jihadists purposely use these nuisance suits as lawfare to shut people up and prevent them from voicing their opinions. The process is the punishment. As Ezra protested: “[t]he process I was put through is a warning to journalists who would defy radical Islam.” In effect, the commissions judge both speech and thought. Worse, they preclude open political debate about the nature of radical Islam and the west’s enemy in the war on terror.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:43 PM


Re-Assessing Obama’s “Under-Performance” in the Polls (Jeff Jones, 8/19/08, Gallup)

There have been only five non-incumbent presidential elections in the modern polling era. I'm largely evaluating the political environment for each using the outgoing president's approval rating, since Gallup has data for that going all the way back to the 1940s, and we know approval is correlated with other political environment ratings such as satisfaction and ratings of the economy.

In 1952, Democratic incumbent Harry Truman had historically low approval ratings and Republican Dwight Eisenhower easily defeated Democrat Adlai Stevenson for president. The political environment explanation would predict a solid Republican win, and that is what happened.
In 1960, Eisenhower was very popular when he left office after eight years (58% approval in the last measurement before the election), but John F. Kennedy and the Democrats won a closely contested election (winning the popular vote by less than a percentage point) to replace Eisenhower instead of choosing his vice president, Richard Nixon. The political climate model does not seem to apply to this election.
In 1968, the Democrats were trying to win an election with an unpopular president (Lyndon Johnson) waging an unpopular war (in addition to other problems going on in the country), but Republicans only narrowly won. A political conditions interpretation would suggest a big Republican win in 1968, not a 1-point win. It's possible that George Wallace's strong third-party showing made things closer than they otherwise would have been.
In 1988, Ronald Reagan was a popular incumbent (51% approval), though he was not as popular as Eisenhower in 1960 or Bill Clinton in 2000. The elder George Bush won what many perceived as a third Reagan term, and by a healthy margin.
In 2000, Clinton had high approval ratings (57% at the time of the election) and national satisfaction was near record levels, yet Al Gore won the popular vote by only the narrowest of margins.

Whereas a political climate explanation seems to work so well in incumbent presidential elections and midterm elections, on the surface it doesn't seem to explain the outcomes of non-incumbent elections that well, in terms of either the margin or the winner.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:38 PM


We still won't believe this until we see it. Such a huge unforced error seems too much to hope.

Loose Lips Sink . . .: Biden's Leadership Is Lost in All His Talk (Richard Cohen, January 12, 2006, Washington Post)

The only thing standing between Joe Biden and the presidency is his mouth. That, though, is no small matter. It is a Himalayan barrier, a Sahara of a handicap, a summer's day in Death Valley, a winter's night at the pole (either one) -- an endless list of metaphors intended to show you both the immensity of the problem and to illustrate it with the op-ed version of excess. This, alas, is Joe Biden.

The reviews for Biden's first crack at Samuel Alito, the humorless Supreme Court nominee, were murderous. The New York Times had Biden out on Page One -- normally a position to kill for -- only this time it was not a paean to his considerable merits, but an account of how it took him nearly three minutes of throat-clearing to ask his first question and then took the rest of his allocated 30 minutes just to get in four more. He concluded with about half a minute still left to him -- something of a personal best that even he had to acknowledge.

"I want to note that for maybe the first time in history, Biden is 40 seconds under his time," he told Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter, no clipped speaker himself.

The Post had a similar account of Biden running off at the mouth. In that piece, Dana Milbank wrote that during Biden's round of questioning, he "spoke about his own Irish American roots, his 'Grandfather Finnegan,' his son's application to Princeton (he attended the University of Pennsylvania instead, Biden said), a speech the senator gave on the Princeton campus, the fact that Biden is 'not a Princeton fan,' and his views on the eyeglasses of Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.)."

The tragedy is that Biden, who is running for president, is a much better man and senator than these accounts would suggest. But his tendency, his compulsion, his manic-obsessive running of the mouth has become the functional equivalent of womanizing or some other character weakness that disqualifies a man for the presidency. It is his version of corruption, of alcoholism, of a fierce temper or vile views -- all the sorts of things that have crippled candidates in the past. It is, though, an innocent thing, as good-humored as the man and of no real policy consequence. It will merely stunt him politically.

What Democrats Should Be Saying (David Ignatius, August 19, 2005, Washington Post)
The Democrats' problem is partly a lack of strong leadership. Its main spokesman on foreign policy has become Sen. Joseph Biden, a man who -- how to put this politely? -- seems more impressed with the force of his own intellect than an objective evaluation would warrant. Listening to Biden, you sense how hungry he is to be president, but you have little idea what he would do, other than talk . . . and talk.

Biden His Time: Is there room for one more Democratic senator? (Jim Geraghty, 1/22/03, National Review)
"Much like Gary Hart, he's identified more with the party's presidential past than its present or future," said political scientist Larry Sabato, a professor at the University of Virginia. "He was, after all, forced out by a mini-scandal which would come up again."

In 1987, Biden quit the Democratic primary race early after the revelation that he had delivered, without attribution, passages from a speech by British Labor party leader Neil Kinnock. A barrage of subsidiary revelations by the press also hammered Biden's image: a serious plagiarism incident from his law-school years, boastful exaggerations of his academic record at a New Hampshire campaign event, and the discovery of other quotations in Biden's speeches pilfered from past Democratic politicians.

In the post-Clinton era, plagiarism may seem like small potatoes. But, Sabato explains, the key to a scandal is how it counters — or in the case of Biden, reinforces — his public image.

"The reason it became such an issue was that it reinforced the Biden image that already existed among the press, that he's a blowhard, a guy who talked before he thought," Sabato says. "Now, he's a little older and more experienced, but do people really change that all much after they reach adulthood? I've rarely seen anybody change that much, and I've taught thousands of college students over the years."

Then came that August day at the Iowa State Fairgrounds when Biden simply became British Labor Party leader Neil Kinnock—acting out, without any attribution, Kinnock’s entire working-class shtick: “Why is it that my wife…is the first in her family ever to go to college? Is it because they didn’t work hard? My ancestors, who worked in the coal mines of northeast Pennsylvania and would come up after twelve hours and play football for four hours?” Campaign aides spun it as an homage, even though Jill Biden was not the first in her family to attend college and Joe Biden, unlike Kinnock, did not have coal-mining ancestors. And when it later came to light that Biden had failed to cite Bobby Kennedy in a speech, that he’d also claimed (falsely) to have attended Syracuse University law school on a full academic scholarship and to have graduated in the top half of his class, and that he’d received an F in a law-school class for an apparent act of plagiarism…well, “homage” didn’t quite cover it. At best, Biden was a careless, immature overstriver. At worst, he was a liar. Either way, as Republican consultant Eddie Mahe told The New York Times that year, “What all of this means in a nutshell is that Joe Biden will never be elected president of this country.”

On plagiarism (James Fallows, 2/19/08, Atlantic Monthly)
respect and admire Joe Biden, but his "similar" case in 1988 was completely different, and actually bad. On the stump he was telling someone else's personal story -- as it happened, Neil Kinnock's -- as if it were his own. That is not the kind of detail you just swap into and out of a stump speech to make it more powerful. Indeed, the mystery is how anyone could actually utter words -- "My daddy was a coal miner," "there I was, at Valley Forge" -- knowing them not to be true. And -- mentioning again that I respect and admire Biden -- the incident wounded him because in fact he had been a weak student in college and law school. Not, say, the president of the Harvard Law Review.

Biden Stumbles at the Starting Gate: Comments About Obama Overtake Bid for President (Dan Balz, 2/01/07, Washington Post)
Biden sought to highlight his experience on the day he declared his candidacy, but an interview he gave to the New York Observer, a weekly newspaper, overshadowed his announcement.

In the interview, Biden described Obama as "the first mainstream African American [presidential candidate] who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy. I mean, that's a storybook, man."

Asked during an afternoon conference call with reporters to explain his choice of words, Biden said he meant no offense in describing Obama the way he did, then lavished praise on the Illinois senator as a "very special guy" who has caught "lightning in a jar" like no politician he has seen before. "This guy is a superstar," he added.

Biden also said that he had called Obama after the remarks became public and that Obama had taken no offense from them.

Obama later issued a statement that absolved Biden only in part. "I didn't take Senator Biden's comments personally," he said, "but obviously they were historically inaccurate. African-American presidential candidates like Jesse Jackson, Shirley Chisholm, Carol Moseley Braun and Al Sharpton gave a voice to many important issues through their campaigns, and no one would call them inarticulate."

Military experience rare among '08 candidates (Andy Sullivan, 6/25/07, Reuters)
Democrats Bill Richardson, Joe Biden and Dennis Kucinich failed their physical examinations, as did Republican Tom Tancredo.

N.B. If anyone sees a clip of the C-Span bit can you send me a link...thanks.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:27 PM


Four decades later, Bob Beamon still soaring (John Meyer, August 18, 2008, The Denver Post)

Forty years after his gargantuan long jump in Mexico City obliterated the existing world record by nearly 2 feet, Bob Beamon's "Perfect Flight" remains one of the greatest achievements in Olympic history.

But few realize what a leap it was for him to get there from the New York City borough of Queens, where he was an aimless, troublemaking teen before discovering track and field.

That's how he begins telling his story: Being unable to read or write when he was 14. Being a delinquent and going to an "alternative" school, where he was frisked and locked inside from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Yet even then he had a strange feeling he would do something special some day.

On Oct. 18, 1968, Beamon flew 29 feet, 2½ inches, inspiring the creation of the word "Beamonesque" to describe seemingly superhuman feats. But before he could shock the world, he had to find himself. It is a message he promotes today through the Bob Beamon Organization for Youth, with a goal of getting troubled kids pointed in the right direction.

"I always look back at when I didn't have a dream, when I didn't have a spirit," Beamon said. "I didn't know what the Olympics was all about. I was just hanging out on the street. I was not humble. I was not a nice person, doing things that were socially unacceptable.

"When you can't read or write, at 14 or 15, in most cases you're headed for trouble, and trouble was finding me."

He found his calling when he was 15. Using borrowed shoes in a Junior Olympics meet, he jumped 24 feet, 1 inch, and fell in love with flying.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:37 PM


The Education of McCain (David Brooks, 8/19/08, Der Spiegel)

McCain started out with the same sort of kibitzing campaign style that he used to woo the press back in 2000. It didn’t work. This time there were too many cameras around and too many 25-year-old reporters and producers seizing on every odd comment to set off little blog scandals.

McCain started out with the same sort of improvised campaign events he’d used his entire career, in which he’d begin by riffing off of whatever stories were in the paper that day. It didn’t work. The campaign lacked focus. No message was consistent enough to penetrate through the national clutter.

McCain started his general-election campaign in poverty-stricken areas of the South and Midwest. He went through towns where most Republicans fear to tread and said things most wouldn’t say. It didn’t work. The poverty tour got very little coverage on the network news. McCain and his advisers realized the only way they could get TV attention was by talking about the subject that interested reporters most: Barack Obama.

McCain started with grand ideas about breaking the mold of modern politics. He and Obama would tour the country together doing joint town meetings. He would pick a postpartisan running mate, like Joe Lieberman. He would make a dramatic promise, like vowing to serve for only one totally nonpolitical term. So far it hasn’t worked. Obama vetoed the town meeting idea. The issue is not closed, but G.O.P. leaders are resisting a cross-party pick like Lieberman.

McCain and his advisers have been compelled to adjust to the hostile environment around them. They have been compelled, at least in their telling, to abandon the campaign they had hoped to run. Now they are running a much more conventional race, the kind McCain himself used to ridicule.

The man who lampooned the Message of the Week is now relentlessly on message (as observers of his fine performance at Saddleback Church can attest). The man who hopes to inspire a new generation of Americans now attacks Obama daily. It is the only way he can get the networks to pay attention. [...]

And the inescapable fact is: It is working.

The 2008 presidential campaign features a Northern liberal vs a Southwestern conservative. All else is noise.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:02 PM


Could the Redeem Team beat the Dream Team? (JOE POSNANSKI, 8/19/08, The Kansas City Star)

[T]hat leads to the second argument for Redeem Team: They are young. They are hungry. The players are ascending. By the time Dream Team played in 1992, Larry Bird was 35 and retired from the NBA. Magic Johnson was almost 33 and had not played an NBA game for more than a year. There was only one guy on Dream Team who was younger than 25, and that was Christian Laettner, who was a college guy brought along to sit on the bench and enjoy the experience.

This year’s team has six players younger than 25, including the two big men (Dwight Howard and Chris Bosh) who have been overpowering. Paul is 23 and already one of the best players in the world. And, of course, James is only 23, too.

So you could certainly argue — and people here are arguing — that because the players are younger, because the players still have a lot to prove, Redeem Team plays with a higher energy level than the Dream Team, Redeem Team plays much fiercer defense, Redeem Team has a sense of purpose that Dream Team didn’t need.

It’s a fascinating argument. Personally, I think Dream Team would beat Redeem Team for a couple of reasons. First, I think they had more ways to beat you. Redeem Team is a terrific team, I’ve really been blown away by how hard they play, but they don’t have much shooting and they’re not at their best when slowed down. They beat teams with intensity and pressure and defense and, again, that sense of purpose.

Dream Team, with 10 of the best players of all time, brought more variety. Take Magic’s leadership, Bird’s presence, Barkley’s power, David Robinson’s dominance around the basket, Chris Mullen’s shooting, John Stockton’s passing to Karl Malone ... that team could beat you just about every way possible.

The second reason I think Dream Team would win, the big reason, is, of course, Michael Jordan. He was in his prime in 1992 — the best basketball player who ever lived, I think. He was more than great, too; he willed his teams to championships. Whatever it took ... he would score, he would rebound, he would shut people down, he would trash talk, he would take over.

...put all the same players on the two teams but play 7 games with MJ on the Dream Team and 7 with him on the Redeem Team (and Kobe on the Dream Team) and the Jordan led team wins both series.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:34 PM


North Korean collapse? (Richard Halloran, August 19, 2008, Washington Times)

Will the collapse be a "soft landing" in which Mr. Kim's regime gradually falls apart with the pieces picked up by the South Koreans, or will it be a "hard landing" in which Mr. Kim's regime implodes and chaos sweeps the land?

The consequences of a regime change in Pyongyang could be staggering. Immediately, U.S., South Korean and Chinese troops could charge into North Korea to secure its nuclear facilities - and confront each other. Midterm, reviving North Korea could cost South Korea, Japan, China and the United States enormous sums. Long term, a reunited Korea would change the power balance of East Asia - but unpredictably.

Analysts everywhere point to a decade of hunger that has left 7-year-old North Korean children 8 inches shorter and 20 pounds lighter than their South Korean cousins. North Korean soldiers in a regime that gives priority to the military forces have been reduced to two skimpy meals a day. Factory workers nap on the floor for lack of food and energy. taking out the nuclear facilities pre-emptively.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:21 PM

60-40 NATION FILES (via Bryan Francoeur):

Many think God's intervention can revive the dying (Lindsey Tanner, 8/19/08, ASSOCIATED PRESS)

When it comes to saving lives, God trumps doctors for many Americans.

An eye-opening survey reveals widespread belief that divine intervention can revive dying patients. And, researchers said, doctors "need to be prepared to deal with families who are waiting for a miracle."

More than half of randomly surveyed adults — 57 percent — said God's intervention could save a family member even if physicians declared treatment would be futile. And nearly three-quarters said patients have a right to demand such treatment.

When asked to imagine their own relatives being gravely ill or injured, nearly 20 percent of doctors and other medical workers said God could reverse a hopeless outcome.

Yet the Unicorn Rider cites as one of his biggest mistakes helping, too briefly, to save Teri Schiavo from her husband. Of course, that wasn't the mistake he mentioned to Rick Warren.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:10 PM


Obama tells McCain to lay off character (AP, 8/19/08)

Addressing the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention, Obama reaffirmed his early opposition to the U.S. invasion of Iraq and said the so-called "surge" strategy of sending 30,000 additional troops to Iraq last year had not produced the political reconciliation necessary to achieve lasting peace in the country. McCain supported the Iraq invasion and was an early champion of the surge.

"These are the judgments I've made and the policies that we have to debate, because we do have differences in this election," Obama said. "One of the things that we have to change in this country is the idea that people can't disagree without challenging each other's character and patriotism. I have never suggested that Sen. McCain picks his positions on national security based on politics or personal ambition. I have not suggested it because I believe that he genuinely wants to serve America's national interest. Now, it's time for him to acknowledge that I want to do the same.

Hot on the heels of wasting two news cycles accusing Maverick of cheating in the Rick Warren event, because he thrashed the Unicorn Rider so badly, and having plagiarizes POW experiences, which merely called attention to details of Mr. McCain's heroism that he tends not to talk about enough, Senator Obama now calls attention to the way his mistaken opposition to US policy seems like a lack of patriotism and gives his opponent an opportunity to mouth a few reassuring but back-handed platitudes. Whose idea was it for the Democrats to nominate such a neophyte?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:51 AM


Where Are They?: Why I hope the search for extraterrestrial life finds nothing. (Nick Bostrom, May/June 2008, Technology Review)

I begin by reflecting on a well-known fact. UFO spotters, Raëlian cultists, and self-­certified alien abductees notwithstanding, humans have, to date, seen no sign of any extraterrestrial civilization. We have not received any visitors from space, nor have our radio telescopes detected any signals transmitted by any extraterrestrial civilization. The Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI) has been going for nearly half a century, employing increasingly powerful telescopes and data-­mining techniques; so far, it has consistently corroborated the null hypothesis. As best we have been able to determine, the night sky is empty and silent. The question "Where are they?" is thus at least as pertinent today as it was when the physicist Enrico Fermi first posed it during a lunch discussion with some of his colleagues at the Los Alamos National Laboratory back in 1950.

Here is another fact: the observable universe contains on the order of 100 billion galaxies, and there are on the order of 100 billion stars in our galaxy alone. In the last couple of decades, we have learned that many of these stars have planets circling them; several hundred such "exoplanets" have been discovered to date. Most of these are gigantic, since it is very difficult to detect smaller exoplanets using current methods. (In most cases, the planets cannot be directly observed. Their existence is inferred from their gravitational influence on their parent suns, which wobble slightly when pulled toward large orbiting planets, or from slight fluctuations in luminosity when the planets partially eclipse their suns.) We have every reason to believe that the observable universe contains vast numbers of solar systems, including many with planets that are Earth-like, at least in the sense of having masses and temperatures similar to those of our own orb. We also know that many of these solar systems are older than ours.

From these two facts it follows that the evolutionary path to life-forms capable of space colonization leads through a "Great Filter," which can be thought of as a probability barrier. (I borrow this term from Robin Hanson, an economist at George Mason University.) The filter consists of one or more evolutionary transitions or steps that must be traversed at great odds in order for an Earth-like planet to produce a civilization capable of exploring distant solar systems. You start with billions and billions of potential germination points for life, and you end up with a sum total of zero extraterrestrial civilizations that we can observe. The Great Filter must therefore be sufficiently powerful--which is to say, passing the critical points must be sufficiently improbable--that even with many billions of rolls of the dice, one ends up with nothing: no aliens, no spacecraft, no signals. At least, none that we can detect in our neck of the woods.

Now, just where might this Great Filter be located? There are two possibilities: It might be behind us, somewhere in our distant past. Or it might be ahead of us, somewhere in the decades, centuries, or millennia to come. Let us ponder these possibilities in turn.

If the filter is in our past, there must be some extremely improbable step in the sequence of events whereby an Earth-like planet gives rise to an intelligent species comparable in its technological sophistication to our contemporary human civilization. Some people seem to take the evolution of intelligent life on Earth for granted: a lengthy process, yes; ­complicated, sure; yet ultimately inevitable, or nearly so. But this view might well be completely mistaken. There is, at any rate, hardly any evidence to support it. Evolutionary biology, at the moment, does not enable us to calculate from first principles how probable or improbable the emergence of intelligent life on Earth was. Moreover, if we look back at our evolutionary history, we can identify a number of transitions any one of which could plausibly be the Great Filter.

For example, perhaps it is very improbable that even ­simple self-replicators should emerge on any Earth-like planet. Attempts to create life in the laboratory by mixing water with gases believed to have been present in the Earth's early atmosphere have failed to get much beyond the synthesis of a few simple amino acids. No instance of abiogenesis (the spontaneous emergence of life from nonlife) has ever been observed.

The oldest confirmed microfossils date from approximately 3.5 billion years ago, and there is tentative evidence that life might have existed a few hundred million years before that; but there is no evidence of life before 3.8 billion years ago. Life might have arisen considerably earlier than that without leaving any traces: there are very few preserved rock formations that old, and such as have survived have undergone major remolding over the eons. Nevertheless, several hundred million years elapsed between the formation of Earth and the appearance of the first known life-forms. The evidence is thus consistent with the hypothesis that the emergence of life required an extremely improbable set of coincidences, and that it took hundreds of millions of years of trial and error, of molecules and surface structures randomly interacting, before something capable of self-replication happened to appear by a stroke of astronomical luck. For aught we know, this first critical step could be a Great Filter.

Conclusively determining the probability of any given evolutionary development is difficult, since we cannot rerun the history of life multiple times. What we can do, however, is attempt to identify evolutionary transitions that are at least good candidates for being a Great Filter--transitions that are both extremely improbable and practically necessary for the emergence of intelligent technological civilization. One criterion for any likely candidate is that it should have occurred only once. Flight, sight, photosynthesis, and limbs have all evolved several times here on Earth and are thus ruled out. Another indication that an evolutionary step was very improbable is that it took a very long time to occur even after its prerequisites were in place. A long delay suggests that vastly many random recombinations occurred before one worked. Perhaps several improbable mutations had to occur all at once in order for an organism to leap from one local fitness peak to another: individually deleterious mutations might be fitness enhancing only when they occur together. (The evolution of Homo sapiens from our recent hominid ancestors, such as Homo erectus, happened rather quickly on the geological timescale, so these steps would be relatively weak candidates for a Great Filter.)

The original emergence of life appears to meet these two criteria. As far as we know, it might have occurred only once, and it might have taken hundreds of millions of years for it to happen even after the planet had cooled down enough for a wide range of organic molecules to be stable. Later evolutionary history offers additional possible Great Filters. For example, it took some 1.8 billion years for prokaryotes (the most basic type of single-celled organism) to evolve into eukaryotes (a more complex kind of cell with a membrane-enclosed nucleus). That is a long time, making this transition an excellent candidate. Others include the emergence of multicellular organisms and of sexual reproduction.

If the Great Filter is indeed behind us, meaning that the rise of intelligent life on any one planet is extremely improbable, then it follows that we are most likely the only technologically advanced civilization in our galaxy, or even in the entire observable universe.

We all believe in the homocentric universe now.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:26 AM


Open the Gate: a review of Let Them In: The Case for Open Borders by Jason Riley (James Kirchick, Policy Review)

On one side of the immigration debate are what might fairly be called “pro-business” conservatives and libertarians, who argue that an ever-larger pool of skilled and unskilled workers enables employers to hire at lower salaries and in turn give consumers cheaper products, benefiting the overall American economy. This is a rather straightforward argument, and it has been made, vociferously, for decades on Capitol Hill by various business lobbies. Bill Gates, for instance, recently proposed that the government eliminate entirely the cap on hb-1 visas, the coveted spaces allotted to high-skilled workers in technology fields. Many Christian evangelicals, a critical gop constituency, also take a liberal stand on immigration, forming their opinion based upon biblical dictates about caring for the poor and dispossessed.

On the other side are immigration restrictionists, centered at a small set of issue-specific Washington think tanks and advocacy groups, who have widespread support in talk radio land. Many restrictionists oppose not only illegal immigration but also any “natural increase” in legal immigration. Some, like the paleoconservative eminence Pat Buchanan and Mark Krikorian of the Center for Immigration Studies, favor closing our borders to immigrants altogether. From these two irreconcilable schools is the war over immigration being waged.

Into this contentious debate enters Jason Riley, a member of the Wall Street Journal editorial board and the author, presumably, of that newspaper’s fiercely pro-immigration masthead editorials. Here, in Let Them In: The Case for Open Borders, he puts forth the most persuasive, sustained case for a liberal immigration policy yet published.

Riley begins by showing that however hyperbolic their reaction to resurgent anti-immigration sentiment may be, it is not for nothing that present and former Bush administration officials have characterized opposition to the immigration bill as an expression of “racist” or “nativist” sentiment. This is because the immigration restrictionist movement is demonstrably tied to white supremacists and eugenicists. For instance, the Federation for American Immigration Reform (fair), the leading anti-immigration group in Washington, has received $1.5 million from the Pioneer Fund, a eugenicist philanthropic organization. John Tanton, the preeminent funder of anti-immigration efforts, has openly speculated, “As Whites see their power and control over the their daily lives declining, will they simply go quietly into the night?” Riley documents how much of modern day anti-immigration sentiment is predicated on centuries-old Malthusian fears of overpopulation proffered by long-since discredited population theorists like Paul Ehrlich. Careful students of American history will notice that the language of restrictionists — characterizing immigrants as shiftless, lazy, and crime-prone — borrows motifs from the openly racist arguments leveled against southern and eastern European immigrants in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Immigration critics frequently protest that people like John McCain and his colleague Lindsay Graham unfairly characterize them as racists and nativists. The problem is that so many of them are. [...]

Riley admires the work ethic of Hispanic immigrants. Hispanic males have the highest labor-participation rate in the country, he reports, a figure that must astound the likes of Patrick Buchanan and Lou Dobbs. Riley, who is black, contrasts this positive feature with the high unemployment and welfare roll rates for native-born African Americans. All this matters because an unlikely ally of the anti-immigration crowd has been poor blacks, attracted by the argument that newly arrived Mexicans willing to work for very little are taking their jobs. Riley argues, however, that 1960s Great Society programs have ingrained a welfare culture among many black males, and while the economy grew dramatically in the 1980s and 1990s, work force participation among less-educated black men actually fell. African-Americans have to look deeper, Riley argues, to find the causes of persistent black unemployment rather than blame hardworking fellow ethnic minorities, as some African-American political leaders have done. [...]

Ultimately, illegal immigration appears to be a concern more for media elites than it does average voters. A Pew poll conducted last year found that only 6 percent of voters place illegal immigration as their top issue of concern, far behind the Iraq War, terrorism, and the economy. And beneath the din of talk radio demagoguery and sparring matches between intellectual conservative publications, there actually appears to be something of a right-of-center consensus on the issue. A New York Times poll taken during last year’s immigration debate found that 66 percent of Republicans supported the McCain-Kennedy bill’s legalization provisions. Another poll, commissioned by the Wall Street Journal and nbc News, reported that 75 percent of Republicans believed it was “not realistic” to make undocumented immigrants go back to their home countries in order to seek legal status here in the United States (a key concession sought by conservative opponents of the bill), and 81 percent found it impractical to demand their outright deportation. A Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll last year found that 60 percent of Americans supported “allowing illegal immigrants who have not committed crimes to become citizens if they pay fines, learn English and meet other requirements ” — essentially the provisions of the McCain/Kennedy “amnesty bill.” The American people, and even supposedly nativist conservatives, it seems, are naturally pro-immigration, which is hardly surprising given the unique history of our country.

At the point where white Catholic immigrants want to bar brown we don't need much debate over what their objection is.

Henry Cejudo captures gold and a piece of the American dream: The son of undocumented Mexican immigrants wins Olympic freestyle wrestling title at 121 pounds. (Kevin Baxter, 8/19/08, Los Angeles Times)

Henry Cejudo called it the American dream.

The son of undocumented Mexican immigrants who had to work two jobs to keep food on the table, Cejudo gave the U.S. its first Olympic gold medal in freestyle wrestling in Beijing with a stunning win Tuesday over Japan's Tomohiro Matsunaga in the 55-kilogram (121 pounds) final.

"I'm living the American dream right now, man," Cejudo, wrapped in an American flag, said moments after his win. "The United States is the land of opportunity. It's the best country in the world and I'm just glad to represent it."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:20 AM


For Obama, Taxes Are About Fairness (William McGurn, August 19, 2008, Wall Street Journal)

[W]hile Mr. McCain was at first shy about giving a specific number, in the end he did allow that someone who had an income of, say, $5 million could pretty definitely be said to be rich.

Yesterday's Politico hooted that with this response Mr. McCain handed his opponent the perfect fodder for a TV commercial. That, of course, overlooks those who might actually find attractive Mr. McCain's fuller explanation. "I don't want to take any money from the rich," he said, "I want everybody to get rich."

Mr. Obama, by contrast, started out much more directly, suggesting that if you make $150,000 or less you may be poor or middle class. A family with an income above $250,000, he went on to say, is "doing well." And if you find yourself in that category, he's going to target you for a tax hike -- all in the name of creating "a sense of balance, and fairness in our tax code."

In fact, the idea of fairness is at the heart of his whole economic argument. And he goes back to it in almost every public appearance.

He talks about it as a general theme: "It is time for folks like me who make more than $250,000 to pay our fair share."

He invokes it as a solution for Social Security: "[W]e will save Social Security for future generations by asking the wealthiest Americans to pay their fair share."

He points to how it guides his energy policy: "The first part of my plan is to tax the windfall profits of oil companies and use some of that money to help you pay the rising price of gas."

And he stuck to it on capital gains, even after ABC's Charlie Gibson noted that the record shows increased taxes on capital gains -- which would affect 100 million Americans -- would likely lead to a decrease in government revenues: "Well, Charlie, what I've said is that I would look at raising the capital gains tax for purposes of fairness."

Translated into ordinary English, what that means is that it doesn't really matter whether a tax increase actually brings in more revenue. It's not about robbing from the rich to give to the poor. Robbing from the rich will do, especially if it's done in the name of fairness.

...taxes are pretty bad at producing what we want but effective at punishing what we don't. Raise taxes on liquor, tobacco, and gas, for instance, and people will use less.

It's revealing then that what Mr. Obama wants to punish is profits and income.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:32 AM


McCain's moment: Arizona senator outshines Obama at forum (San Diego Union-Tribune, August 19, 2008)

Barack Obama got a thumpin' at the forum at Saddleback Church in Orange County.

The hint was when liberal bloggers insisted that, despite Pastor Rick Warren's claim that John McCain was in a “cone of silence” while Obama was being interviewed, the Arizona senator must have heard the questions beforehand and thus was more at ease in answering them. How sad. What these bloggers forget is that McCain has been in Congress since 1983 and has probably learned a thing or two about communicating. And what they won't accept is what the rest of the country saw so clearly: McCain shined with answers that were crisp and precise, while Obama meandered with answers that seemed thoughtful but unoriginal.

Even inside the Obamabubble they seem well aware that they have to keep their candidate away from situations where he's not giving set-piece speeches from a script. That's why they ran from Maverick's townhall challenge like the Scarecrow from fire.

But it does seem possible that they're headed for a Beltway induced disaster in the form of Joe Biden for vp. Even setting aside how ill-suited Mr. Biden is for a presidential campaign--see Richard Ben Cramer's What it Takes, nevermind the chain of succession--the campaign apparently believes that because they all know about what a train wreck he made of his '88 presidential bid and that no one they know holds it against him any longer that the rest of America remembers it and has likewise moved on. But even amongst a politically aware group like we have here, how many really remember just how ugly it was? Sure, most of us remember that he not just plagiarized Neil Kinnock's stump speech but appropriated the Labour leader's life as his own--inventing coal-mining ancestors and disinventing college-attending ancestors for his wife--but do even wonks recall the rest, Biden Admits Errors and Criticizes Latest Report (E. J. DIONNE JR., 9/22/87, THE NEW YORK TIMES)

Most of Mr. Biden's statement was in response to a report in this week's issue of Newsweek magazine on a tape recording made by the C-SPAN network of an appearance by Mr. Biden at a home in Claremont, N.H., on April 3. It was a typical coffee-klatch style appearance before a small group. The network regularly records and broadcasts such events as part of its coverage of the Presidential campaign.

The tape, which was made available by C-SPAN in response to a reporter's request, showed a testy exchange in response to a question about his law school record from a man identified only as ''Frank.'' Mr. Biden looked at his questioner and said: ''I think I have a much higher I.Q. than you do.''

He then went on to say that he ''went to law school on a full academic scholarship - the only one in my class to have a full academic scholarship,'' Mr. Biden said. He also said that he ''ended up in the top half'' of his class and won a prize in an international moot court competition. In college, Mr. Biden said in the appearance, he was ''the outstanding student in the political science department'' and ''graduated with three degrees from college.'' Comments on Assertions

In his statement today, Mr. Biden, who attended the Syracuse College of Law and graduated 76th in a class of 85, acknowledged: ''I did not graduate in the top half of my class at law school and my recollection of this was inacurate.''

As for receiving three degrees, Mr. Biden said: ''I graduated from the University of Delaware with a double major in history and political science. My reference to degrees at the Claremont event was intended to refer to these majors - I said 'three' and should have said 'two.' '' Mr. Biden received a single B.A. in history and political science.

''With regard to my being the outstanding student in the political science department,'' the statement went on. ''My name was put up for that award by David Ingersoll, who is still at the University of Delaware.''

In the Sunday interview, Mr. Biden said of his claim that he went to school on full academic scholarship: ''My recollection is - and I'd have to confirm this - but I don't recall paying any money to go to law school.'' Newsweek said Mr. Biden had gone to Syracuse ''on half scholarship based on financial need.''

And can an Obama campaign that's already sliding amidst questions of who the nominee really is afford to come out of its convention week with the entire focus on a vp pick who serially lied about who he is?

Obviously a candidate who's in as far over his head on foreign policy/national security as the Unicorn Rider needs some help in that regard, but what has Joe Biden ever done besides hold hearings on these questions? How can a guy who practically never had a job outside of Congress carry a message of changing the culture inside the Beltway? How does he help a nominee who has a frightening lack of executive experience when he has none himself?

No matter how many times the Great Mentioner tosses up his name, it's hard to believe that even as closed a campaign as Mr. Obama's can seriously be considering a blunder of such epic proportions.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:15 AM


Barack Obama, Abortion Extremist: His reasonable-sounding rhetoric on abortion is at odds with his record. (Rich Lowry, 8/19/08, National Review)

Asked by Pastor Rick Warren when a baby gets rights, Obama said, “I’m absolutely convinced that there is a moral and ethical element to this issue.” This is a crashing banality couched as thoughtfulness. If Obama is so sensitive to the moral element of the issue, why does he want to eliminate any existing restrictions on the procedure?

In 2007, Obama told the Planned Parenthood Action Fund that the Freedom of Choice Act would be the first piece of legislation that he would sign as president. The act would not only codify Roe v. Wade, but wipe out all current federal, state and local restrictions on abortion that pass muster under Roe, including the Hyde Amendment prohibiting federal funding of abortion. This is not the legislative priority of a man keenly attuned to the moral implications of abortion.

To paraphrase John Kerry: "How do you ask a baby to die for a mistake?"

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:01 AM


An Election Just Like Any Other (David Harsanyi, 8/19/08, Real Clear Politics)

At some point, though, we need to hear where candidates stand on policy. This is where Obama struggles. Politics is about divisions.

The first sign of trouble was energy. As soon as gas prices approached $4 a gallon, Republicans, sensing real anger, demanded more domestic energy production. Democrats found themselves in a dangerous spot; as sentinels of Earth's well-being, they were unwilling to cede that more drilling should even be part of a solution, calling it a "gimmick" and "hoax."

Well, now nearly every Democrat, including Obama, supports this "hoax." It's the sort of convenient policy shift that reminds us of . . . well, of every politician who has ever walked the planet.

Such political calculations have been the trademark of Obama. On public finance for his campaign, immigration policy, international trade and retroactive immunity for phone companies, it's been about political expediency.

Obama recently told evangelical preacher Rick Warren that the most difficult decision he's ever made was his opposition to the Iraq (while in the Illinois legislature). Yet, even with his defining issue, Obama has modified his position as polls dictate.

So when we throw the bums out for the sake of change, what will we be changing to? What kind of policies would take the place of the ones wrought by those bums?

Politics as usual.

There's an exquisite irony in the fact that the Democrats' problems are a function of racialism. The only case that was ever made for Senator Obama being an agent of change was that he "doesn't look like the other guys on our currency." But pigment isn't policy and so Republicans have had little trouble pointing out that he's just the next in long line of Northern liberals--Adlai, McGovern, Mondale, Dukakis, Kerry--who've been ritually rejected by the American people. Democrats are obsessed with an insignificant difference--ethnicity--while ignoring the overwhelming sameness.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:56 AM


Is the tide turning? (David Gergen, August 18, 2008,

Heading into the candidates’ appearances on Saturday night at Saddleback Church, the conventional wisdom in politics was Barack Obama should have a clear upper hand in any joint appearance with John McCain — one the young, eloquent, cool, charismatic dude who can charm birds from the trees, the other the meandering, sometimes bumbling, old fellow who can barely distinguish Sunnis from Shiias.

Well, kiss that myth goodbye.

McCain came roaring out of the gate from the first question and was a commanding figure throughout the night as he spoke directly and often movingly about his past and the country’s future. By contrast, Obama was often searching for words and while far more thoughtful, was also less emotionally connective with his audience.

Hardly seems like it can have only been two weeks since Mr. Gergen was claiming that such talk about the Unicorn Rider was coded racism.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:51 AM


Poll Shows Obama's Lead Is Slipping in New York (ROSS GOLDBERG, August 19, 2008, NY Sun)

Mr. Obama is currently eight points ahead of Mr. McCain in New York, down from a 13-point lead in July and an 18-point lead in June. The chairman of Mr. McCain's New York campaign, Ed Cox, said that the Republican senator is making gains in the state largely because of his credibility on national security issues.

"For the presidency, this is going to be a national security election, and national security is a nonpartisan issue," Mr. Cox said. "New York becomes a purple state and not a blue state."

In the 2004 election, the Democrat, Senator Kerry, defeated President Bush in New York by a 19-point margin.

Like his hometown Chicago Bears, Mr. Obama's campaign is all defense. At this point the only question is whether he can contain the margin of loss enough not to do damage to the congressional candidates.

Battle of Pennsylvania (SETH GITELL, August 19, 2008, NY Sun)

While political observers and Web sites, such as, which designated Pennsylvania as a "safe Dem," are putting the state firmly in the Democratic column for November, it is still up for grabs. The Real Clear Politics poll average for the state has dwindled to a 6.8% advantage down from an average of 9%.

Less noticed was the Franklin & Marshall College Poll from August 12, which put Senator Obama ahead of Senator McCain by just 5% among likely voters. Despite the apparent structural advantages Mr. Obama would have here — the poor economy, an unpopular president — voters have not warmed up to him yet.

None of this poll data is to suggest that Mr. McCain is likely to win Pennsylvania, a state that went for Ronald Reagan but has been won by Democrats in the last four elections. But Republicans do believe they have a chance here. Mr. McCain has visited Pennsylvania 10 times since the contentious Democratic primary.

"I think McCain still has a chance," the chairman of the Allegheny County Republican Committee, James Roddey, said. "We're hearing from more and more Democrats that they're just not going to vote for Obama."

Part of the quandary for Mr. Obama is that Hillary Clinton defeated him by 9.2% in the April primary.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:48 AM


Exclusive: McCain to name VP on Aug. 29 (MIKE ALLEN, 8/18/08, Politico)

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) plans to celebrate his 72nd birthday on Aug. 29 by naming his running mate at a huge rally in the battleground state of Ohio, Republican sources said.

That’s a week from Friday, and the day after his rival, Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois, accepts the Democratic nomination at a 70,000-person spectacular in a Denver stadium.

The campaign has begun building a crowd of 10,000 for Dayton, Ohio, according to an organizer. McCain is scheduled to appear with his running mate at a large-scale event in Pennsylvania shortly thereafter.

August 18, 2008

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:45 PM


Getting to Know John McCain (KARL ROVE, April 30, 2008, Wall Street Journal)

When it comes to choosing a president, the American people want to know more about a candidate than policy positions. They want to know about character, the values ingrained in his heart. For Mr. McCain, that means they will want to know more about him personally than he has been willing to reveal.

Mr. Day relayed to me one of the stories Americans should hear. It involves what happened to him after escaping from a North Vietnamese prison during the war. When he was recaptured, a Vietnamese captor broke his arm and said, "I told you I would make you a cripple."

The break was designed to shatter Mr. Day's will. He had survived in prison on the hope that one day he would return to the United States and be able to fly again. To kill that hope, the Vietnamese left part of a bone sticking out of his arm, and put him in a misshapen cast. This was done so that the arm would heal at "a goofy angle," as Mr. Day explained. Had it done so, he never would have flown again.

But it didn't heal that way because of John McCain. Risking severe punishment, Messrs. McCain and Day collected pieces of bamboo in the prison courtyard to use as a splint. Mr. McCain put Mr. Day on the floor of their cell and, using his foot, jerked the broken bone into place. Then, using strips from the bandage on his own wounded leg and the bamboo, he put Mr. Day's splint in place.

Years later, Air Force surgeons examined Mr. Day and complimented the treatment he'd gotten from his captors. Mr. Day corrected them. It was Dr. McCain who deserved the credit. Mr. Day went on to fly again.

Another story I heard over dinner with the Days involved Mr. McCain serving as one of the three chaplains for his fellow prisoners. At one point, after being shuttled among different prisons, Mr. Day had found himself as the most senior officer at the Hanoi Hilton. So he tapped Mr. McCain to help administer religious services to the other prisoners.

Today, Mr. Day, a very active 83, still vividly recalls Mr. McCain's sermons. "He remembered the Episcopal liturgy," Mr. Day says, "and sounded like a bona fide preacher." One of Mr. McCain's first sermons took as its text Luke 20:25 and Matthew 22:21, "render unto Caesar what is Caesar's and unto God what is God's." Mr. McCain said he and his fellow prisoners shouldn't ask God to free them, but to help them become the best people they could be while serving as POWs. It was Caesar who put them in prison and Caesar who would get them out. Their task was to act with honor.

While his opponent becomes more ethereal with exposure, Maverick becomes more substantial. And there are three months of exposure left.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:25 PM


The Unicorn Rider obviously ought to appeal to fellow mythological creatures.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:28 AM


Premature baby 'comes back to life' (THE JERUSALEM POST, 8/18/08)

A premature baby who was pronounced dead "came back to life" Sunday after five hours in Nahariya Hospital. [...]

The woman underwent an abortion and the baby, weighing 610 grams, was extracted from her womb without a pulse, hospital officials said.

A senior doctor pronounced the baby dead and she was transferred to the cooler.

Five hours later, the woman's husband came to the hospital to take what he thought was his dead baby girl for burial.

When the baby was taken out of the cooler, she began to breathe.

...of someone above Barrack Obama's pay grade.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:20 AM


Worlds Apart: McCain's Clarity vs. Obama's Nuance (Sally Quinn, August 18, 2008, Washington Post)

McCain did a great job of making me feel confident. He was clearly in his element at Saddleback, among supportive evangelical Christians, and he went a long way toward alleviating their fears about his inability to communicate with them in their own language.

Obama came first, and he handled himself well in front of an audience that clearly disagrees with him on many issues. He also managed to put to rest the notion that he is a Muslim, which 12 percent of Americans still believe he is. He talked directly to Rick Warren as though they were having a real conversation, whereas McCain played to the audience, rarely looking at Warren. He was low-key, thoughtful and nuanced.

That kind of nuance is hard to understand sometimes -- it's unclear, complicated. Obama's world can be scarier. It's multicultural. It's realistic (yes, there is evil on the streets of this country as well as in other places, and a lot of evil has been perpetrated in the name of good). It's honest. When does life begin? Only the antiabortionists are clear on that. For the majority of Americans (who are pro-choice), it is "above my pay grade," in Obama's words, where there is no hard and fast line to draw on what's worth dying for, and where people of all faiths have to be respected.

I would rather live in McCain's world than Obama's. But I believe that we live in Obama's world.

Afterward, the commentators talked abut how Obama needs to have better stories, to be more accessible and less aloof, and to have sharper, shorter, simpler answers rather than be so cerebral. But Obama is authentic. He is who he is.

...when the reality is that we recognize it for what it is, the absence of a moral compass.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:52 AM


What's so great about Dinesh D'Souza? An interview (Bernard Chapin, August 18, 2008, Enter Stage Right)

BC: It has been suggested by Richard Dawkins that atheists now term themselves "brights" in keeping with their supernatural-free worldviews. That is a loaded term to say the least. In your estimation, how closely is atheism tied to elitism? Could it be that a certain segment of humanity is offended by the notion that anyone or any entity stands above them?

Dinesh D'Souza: Well, this whole business about the brights goes back a couple of years. Atheists sat around and said to themselves "we sound too negative" because to be an atheist means being against something. How could they rephrase their identity in a positive manner? Well, "brights" is what they came up with. They must have thought, "We all agree that we're extremely smart," so that's where the term comes from. Dennett and Dawkins wrote articles about this. The term conveys a comical pomposity but when you look at their work it is understandable. Atheists stand on a metaphysical platform grounded in faith but they are the only ones who don't recognize this fact. They assume that our five senses give us complete knowledge of reality.'d, likewise, call them something like The Brights.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:43 AM


Obama Facing Attacks From All Sides Over Abortion Record (RUSSELL BERMAN, August 18, 2008, NY Sun)

The presumptive Democratic nominee responded sharply in an interview Saturday night with the Christian Broadcast Network, saying anti-abortion groups were "lying" about his record.

"They have not been telling the truth," Mr. Obama said. "And I hate to say that people are lying, but here's a situation where folks are lying." [...]

At issue is the Born Alive Infant Protection Act, a bill in the Illinois state Senate that sought to protect against bungled abortions by requiring that a fetus that survived an abortion be defined as a person. Fearing that the legislation could be interpreted more broadly to protect fetuses that were not yet viable — thus threatening Roe v. Wade, abortion rights advocates pushed for an amendment that explicitly limited the scope of the bill to infants "born alive."

"Nothing in this section," the added sentence reads, "shall be construed to affirm, deny, expand, or contract any legal status or legal right applicable to any member of the species homo sapiens at any point prior to being born alive as defined in this section." A federal version with that added clause passed Congress unanimously in 2002, with the support of Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Kennedy, among others. Mr. Obama said in 2004 and again on Saturday that he would have supported the federal version. [...]

Indeed, Mr. Obama appeared to misstate his position in the CBN interview on Saturday when he said the federal version he supported "was not the bill that was presented at the state level."

His campaign yesterday acknowledged that he had voted against an identical bill in the state Senate, and a spokesman, Hari Sevugan, said the senator and other lawmakers had concerns that even as worded, the legislation could have undermined existing Illinois abortion law.

If you want to win the Democratic nomination you have to be pro-death. If you want to be president you can't be seen to be. Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton were able to fudge the matter successfully. The Unicorn Rider is having a harder time doing so.

Barack Obama Repeats False Claim Abortions Haven't Declined Under Bush (Steven Ertelt, 8/17/08,

"The fact is that -- although we have a president who is opposed to abortion over the last eight years -- abortions have not gone down," Obama said.

Yet that claim doesn't square with the latest national abortion numbers put forward by the Alan Guttmacher Institute, a research firm associated with Planned Parenthood, the abortion business that has endorsed Obama.

In January, AGI reported that the number of abortions nationwide have fallen to their lowest point in 30 years and have declined 25 percent since 1990 -- with half of that time period coming under pro-life presidents.

The number of abortions are now at their lowest point since 1.179 million in 1976, AGI said.

Meanwhile, research from a nonpartisan political watchdog group finds the claim false when compared with national and state abortion statistics.

The Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania says that claims that abortions have not decreased under President Bush are "not true."

"Politicians from Hillary Clinton and John Kerry to Howard Dean have recently contended that abortions have increased since George W. Bush took office in 2001," the researchers have written.

"This claim is false. It's based on an opinion piece that used data from only 16 states."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:25 AM


Theory needs a paramedic, not more cheerleaders (Denyse O’Leary, 8/16/08, Calgary Herald)

Textbook examples of evolution often evaporate when researchers actually study them (instead of just assuming they are true).

For example, the peacock’s tail did not evolve to please hen birds; hens don’t notice them much. The allegedly yummy Viceroy butterfly did not evolve to look like the bad-tasting Monarch (both insects taste bad). The eye spots on butterflies’ wings did not evolve to scare birds by resembling the eyes of their predators. Birds avoid brightly patterned insects, period. They don’t care whether the patterns resemble eyes. Similarly, the famous “peppered moth” of textbook fame has devolved into a peppered myth, featuring book-length charges and countercharges.

And remember that row of vertebrate embryos in your textbook years ago? It was dubbed in the journal Science one of the “most famous fakes” in biology—because the embryos don’t really look very similar. And Darwin’s majestic Tree of Life? It’s now a tangleweed, or maybe several of them.

We seldom see evolution happening. Michael Behe’s Edge of Evolution (2007) notes that for decades scientists have observed many thousands of generations of bacteria in the lab. And how did they evolve?

Well, they didn’t. Worse, when evolution is occasionally observed (and widely trumpeted), it often heads the wrong way. For example, bacteria evolve antibiotic resistance by junking intricate machinery, not by creating it. Cave fish lose their eyes. But we don’t need a theory for how intricate machinery gets wrecked. We need a theory for how it originates and how it develops quite suddenly. Evolution, as we understand it today, apparently isn’t that theory.

We aren’t going to improve science education by teaching Darwinian fairy tales.

Breakenridge informs us that in a recent Angus Reid poll, “A shockingly low 37 per cent of Albertans supported the position that humans beings evolved from less advanced life forms over millions of years.” Well, good, let’s drive the numbers lower still. That position is an article of atheist dogma. Evidence for it is hailed as a truth we must all embrace; evidence against it is shrugged off as a temporary setback. Try doubting the dogma, and you could end up starring in Ben Stein’s Expelled, Part II.

...we're notoriously anti-Enlightenment, but Canada?

August 17, 2008

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:34 PM


Terror's campaign: Election Day approaches; is al-Qaida coming as well? (Bruce Riedel, 8/17/08, The Washington Post)

As someone who worked on terrorism issues for decades at the CIA and elsewhere, I found the most striking thing about the Madrid bombings to be the sophistication of the jihadists' grasp of electoral timing. The bombers seemed to have been encouraged by al-Qaida's terrorist infrastructure in Iraq, which scoped out Spanish vulnerability weeks before the election, analyzed the fault line in the NATO alliance and concluded that a bloody blow could drive hawkish Spain out of the Iraq war coalition. That al-Qaida in Iraq analysis was distributed on jihadist Web sites in December 2003, and their cohort in Madrid took careful note.

If it happened in Spain, it can happen here.

Spain required Generalissimo Franco and a Civil War to save it from Communist takeover. Here the commies couldn't withstand two misfits like Richard Nixon and Joe McCarthy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:08 PM


Bacon and chocolate -- an unlikely, tasty combo (MICHELLE LOCKE, 8/12/08, Associated Press)

Here are three little words that might give the staunchest snacker pause: Chocolate-covered bacon.

It sounds so wrong. But it tastes just right, says Joseph Marini III, a fourth-generation candy maker who is selling the bacon bonbons at the Santa Cruz Boardwalk seaside amusement park.

"It's not just for breakfast any more," he says with a grin.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:25 PM


Neo-McCain: The making of an uberhawk (John B. Judis, 10/16/06, The New Republic)

McCain is also another rarity in Washington: a centrist by conviction rather than by design. His political philosophy places him closer to Theodore Roosevelt than to his other idols, Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan: more noblesse oblige than libertarian populism or business conservatism. He says he favors "a minimum of government regulation in our lives," but what really matters is whether a policy or business practice is in the national interest. If it isn't, he'll use the power of the government to change it. Goldwater would not have voted for a bill tightening controls over the tobacco industry, and Reagan would have balked at curbing pollution. McCain has backed both. Liberals have recently chided him for wooing his party's evangelical base, but these have been nominal efforts. McCain pronounced himself in favor of teaching creationism as a theory; but he also devotes a chapter of his latest book to the genius of Charles Darwin. He gave a commencement speech at Jerry Falwell's Liberty University; but, in a subtle rebuke to Christian conservatives, he spoke entirely about foreign policy. Earlier this year, he voted to block a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.

McCain's idiosyncratic approach to party politics also makes him an outlier. His commitment to bipartisanship is real--he worked with Russ Feingold on campaign finance reform, Ted Kennedy on immigration reform, and Joe Lieberman on global warming--as is his relish for battling his own party's leaders. Last month, when Bush and his congressional allies were using a bill flouting the Geneva Conventions to paint Democrats as soft on terrorism, McCain, along with John Warner and Lindsey Graham, blocked the measure and insisted on a compromise. True, the compromise was flawed. Still, it undermined the administration's efforts to exploit the war on terrorism for political purposes.

McCain has one other attribute that separates him from many of his peers in Washington: He is willing to change his mind. This may be his most admirable quality; yet it is also frequently overlooked, probably because it seems to contradict McCain's reputation for stubbornness, even nastiness--a reputation his right-wing opponents are all too happy to speculate about. "Everyone knows McCain has a temperament problem, but no one is going to say anything about it," one prominent Washington conservative complains. Yet the most distinctive aspect of McCain's temperament is not his anger; rather, it is his penchant for reconsidering both old enmities and old convictions. Witness his work with John Kerry on normalizing relations with Vietnam, as well as his collaboration on campaign finance reform with activist Fred Wertheimer, who had sharply criticized McCain during the Keating Five scandal.

Nowhere has McCain's willingness to question his own previous assumptions been more dramatic than on foreign policy. When he first arrived in Washington, he was essentially a realist, arguing that U.S. military power should only be used to protect vital national interests. Since the late '90s, however, he has joined forces with neoconservatives to support a crusade aimed at overthrowing hostile and undemocratic regimes--by force, if necessary--and installing in their place democratic, pro-American governments. Unlike many Republicans, he enthusiastically backed Bill Clinton's intervention in Kosovo. Moreover, he was pushing for Saddam Hussein's forcible overthrow years before September 11--at a time when George W. Bush was still warning against the arrogant use of American might.

And therein lies my McCain dilemma--and, perhaps, yours. If, like me, you believe that the war in Iraq has been an unmitigated disaster, then you are likely disturbed by McCain's early and continuing support for it--indeed, he advocates sending more troops to that strife-torn land--and by his advocacy of an approach to Iran that could lead to another fruitless war.

...he was right and I was wrong."

For all the talk about Obamicans, we all know Democrats who just aren't sold on the Unicorn Rider--for whatever reason-- and don't mind McCain. Does anyone know someone who voted for W who's going to vote for Obama? Hardly.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:22 PM


How McCain Won Saddleback: In an unusual setting, his experience overwhelmed Obama. (Byron York, 8/17/08, National Review)

In a debate, candidates are often asked the same question, but the second guy has always heard what the first guy said and tailors his answer accordingly. At Saddleback, there was something much different — and more revealing — going on.

The contrast was striking throughout each man’s one-hour time on stage. When Warren asked Obama, “What’s the most gut-wrenching decision you’ve ever had to make?” Obama answered that opposing the war in Iraq was “as tough a decision that I’ve had to make, not only because there were political consequences but also because Saddam Hussein was a bad person and there was no doubt he meant America ill.” But Obama was a state senator in Illinois when Congress authorized the president to use force in Iraq. He didn’t have to make a decision on the war. That fact was a recurring issue in the Democratic primaries, when candidates Hillary Clinton, Joseph Biden, Christopher Dodd, and John Edwards argued that they, as senators, had to make a choice Obama didn’t have to make. And now he says it’s his toughest call.

When McCain got the question, he was able to tell an old story with a sense of gravity and poignancy that he seldom shows in public. He described his time as a prisoner of war, when he was offered a chance for early release because his father was a top naval officer. “I was in rather bad physical shape,” McCain told Warren, but “we had a code of conduct that said you only leave by order of capture.” So McCain refused to go. He made the telling even more forceful when he added that, “in the spirit of full disclosure, I’m very happy I didn’t know the war was going to last for another three years or so.” In one moment, he showed a sense of pride and a hint of regret, too; he came across as a man who did the right thing but not without the temptation to take an easy out. In any event, the message was very clear: John McCain has had to make bigger, more momentous decisions in his life than has Barack Obama.

McCain bested Obama again when Warren asked for an example of a time in which he “went against party loyalty and maybe even against your own best interest for the good of America.”

“Well, I’ll give you an example that in fact I worked with John McCain on,” Obama said, “and that was the issue of campaign ethics reform and finance reform.” But it turned out that was an issue on which Obama had briefly allied with McCain and then jumped back to the Democratic mother ship, causing McCain to write Obama an angry note about the abandonment of what had been a principled position. As far as bucking your party goes, it wasn’t very big stuff.

When McCain got the question, everyone in the room thought he would bring up campaign-finance reform, the issue on which he has alienated the Republican base for years. But he didn’t. “Climate change, out-of-control spending, torture,” he said. “The list goes on.” McCain’s prime example, though, was his story of opposing Ronald Reagan’s decision to send a contingent of Marines to Lebanon as a peacekeeping force. “My knowledge and my background told me that a few hundred Marines in a situation like that could not successfully carry out any kind of peacekeeping mission, and I thought they were going into harm’s way,” McCain said. But he deeply admired Reagan, and wanted to be loyal to the party; it was a difficult decision.

McCain answered the whole question without touching on campaign finance; he had so much more life experience to draw on that he could swamp Obama without using everything he had.

And on it went.

Do they have to keep Mr. Obama tethered to keep him from floating away?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:09 AM


China's brightest day may have just passed (David Frum, August 09, 2008, National Post)

China is a low-value-added economy. One famous study found that of the $299 cost of an “assembled in China” iPod, only $4 was retained in China. This is not a country with a lot of margin for error.

China now seeks to climb the value-added ladder, as Japan, Taiwan and South Korea did beforehand. It has little choice: Annual wages in China’s cities are rising past the $2,000 mark, enough to send the most basic manufacturing industries (toys, apparel) to seek cheaper workers in Vietnam, Cambodia and Sri Lanka.

But it’s hard to see how a society that lacks the rule of law — where no factory owner can be sure who owns the ground under his plant — can execute that climb.'re easily replaced.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:56 AM


Response to 9/11 Offers Outline of a McCain Doctrine (DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK, 8/17/08, NY times)

[A]s Mr. McCain prepares to accept the Republican presidential nomination, his response to the attacks of Sept. 11 opens a window onto how he might approach the gravest responsibilities of a potential commander in chief. Like many, he immediately recalibrated his assessment of the unseen risks to America’s security. But he also began to suggest that he saw a new “opportunity” to deter other potential foes by punishing not only Al Qaeda but also Iraq.

“Just as Sept. 11 revolutionized our resolve to defeat our enemies, so has it brought into focus the opportunities we now have to secure and expand our freedom,” Mr. McCain told a NATO conference in Munich in early 2002, urging the Europeans to join what he portrayed as an all but certain assault on Saddam Hussein. “A better world is already emerging from the rubble.”

To his admirers, Mr. McCain’s tough response to Sept. 11 is at the heart of his appeal. They argue that he displayed the same decisiveness again last week in his swift calls to penalize Russia for its incursion into Georgia, in part by sending peacekeepers to police its border.

His critics charge that the emotion of Sept. 11 overwhelmed his former cool-eyed caution about deploying American troops without a clear national interest and a well-defined exit, turning him into a tool of the Bush administration in its push for a war to transform the region. [...]

At a European security conference in February 2002, when the Bush administration still publicly maintained that it had made no decision about moving against Iraq, Mr. McCain described an invasion as all but certain. “A terrorist resides in Baghdad,” he said, adding, “A day of reckoning is approaching.”

Regime change in Iraq in addition to Afghanistan, he argued, would compel other sponsors of terrorism to mend their ways, “accomplishing by example what we would otherwise have to pursue through force of arms.”

Finally, as American troops massed in the Persian Gulf in early 2003, Mr. McCain grew impatient, his aides say, concerned that the White House was failing to act as the hot desert summer neared. Waiting, he warned in a speech in Washington, risked squandering the public and international support aroused by Sept. 11. “Does anyone really believe that the world’s will to contain Saddam won’t eventually collapse as utterly as it did in the 1990s?” Mr. McCain asked.

In retrospect, some of Mr. McCain’s critics now accuse him of looking for a pretext to justify the war. “McCain was hell-bent for leather: ‘Saddam Hussein is a bad guy, we have got to teach him, let’s send a message to the other people in the Middle East,’ ” said Senator John Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts.

Which raises the obvious question, which parts of this does Mr. Kerry think are wrong: that Saddam was evil; that he should have been removed; and/or that other evil regimes ought to get the message that we can and will remove them too?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:44 AM


Seeing Tougher Race, Allies Ask Obama to Make ‘Hope’ Specific (PATRICK HEALY, 8/17/08, NY Times)

As Senator Barack Obama prepares to accept the Democratic presidential nomination next week, party leaders in battleground states say the fight ahead against Senator John McCain looks tougher than they imagined, with Mr. Obama vulnerable on multiple fronts despite weeks of cross-country and overseas campaigning.

These Democrats — 15 governors, members of Congress and state party leaders — say Mr. Obama has yet to convert his popularity among many Americans into solutions to crucial electoral challenges: showing ownership of an issue, like economic stewardship or national security; winning over supporters of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton; and minimizing his race and experience level as concerns for voters.

Mr. Obama has run for the last 18 months as the candidate of hope.

That last sentence reads like a punchline.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:34 AM


Is Obama Dying His Hair Gray? (New York, 8/05/08)

Barack Obama has begun talking about how he's "going gray" lately, and it's true — the man's hair is going silver faster than you can say "Anderson Cooper with a tan." So fast, in fact, that we have to wonder at the legitimacy of it. Just last month, Obama's longtime barber said he'd never dyed Obama's hair darker — implying that the candidate's youthful color is stress-resistant. But within the last week, the candidate has mysteriously gone nearly fully gray. Look at the above pictures.

We hate to call the effects of age into question, but doesn't it look like he's dying his hair to look more distinguished?

We just know this a racist meme for some reason....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:27 AM


Babe Ruth Called His Shot, From the Mound (KEN SCHLAGER, 8/17/08, NY Times)

Nobody ever bothered to tell Babe Ruth about pitch counts, five-man rotations or Joba rules. He would not have listened.

Ruth had no such concerns on an early fall day in 1930 when he approached the Yankees’ rookie manager, Bob Shawkey, with the idea of pitching the season’s final game. Ruth figured the stunt would help draw a crowd.

It was a no-brainer for Shawkey. After all, the Babe would be pitching on nine years’ rest.

The game itself was inconsequential. The Yankees were stuck in third place when they traveled to Boston for the season’s final weekend to play the cellar-dwelling Red Sox.

So Shawkey gave Ruth the ball on Sept. 28, 1930, and he pitched a complete game. [...]

The Babe had pitched in exhibition games over the years, but those contests were hardly preparation for his nine innings of masterly work against the Red Sox. Ruth scattered 11 hits and struck out 3, shutting out the Red Sox for the first five innings. Ruth even started two double plays, each time snatching “a smash hot off the bat,” according to The Times’s account. The Yankees won, 9-3.

Ruth batted third that day and contributed two singles, but Gehrig stole the show offensively. Although never as flamboyant as Ruth, Gehrig was capable of a grand gesture. When he learned that the Babe planned to pitch, he offered to take Ruth’s place in left field. Gehrig, a first baseman who was in the sixth year of his Iron Man streak that reached 2,130 games, had not played the outfield since 1925.

Gehrig made two putouts in left and went 3 for 5, pushing his final season average to .379 and nearly snatching the batting crown from Philadelphia outfielder Al Simmons, who sat out the final game at .381. Ruth’s and Gehrig’s efforts were not entirely wasted on Boston fans. Only 12,000 showed up, but they were “visibly and audibly impressed,” according to The Times.

When told of Ruth’s feat, Rick Peterson, the former Mets pitching coach, said, “It’s incredible.”

An expert on pitcher conditioning and mechanics, Peterson said it took six weeks to get a starting pitcher ready. “That’s why spring training is six weeks long,” he said.

Peterson dismissed the possibility of a present-day position player taking the ball for a start.

“It’s not even close,” he said. “You see what happens on occasion when it’s late in a game and you put in a player to finish. They’re always beat up the next day.”

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:14 AM


Latino voting bloc rises at a bad time for black pols (Earl Ofari Hutchinson, 8/17/08, Philadelphia Inquirer)

In the next couple of months, presumptive presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain will dump millions into Spanish-language ads, pitches, and pleas for votes on Spanish-language stations. When, not if, Democrats and Republicans cut an immigration-reform deal, one of its features almost certainly will include some legalization plan that within a few years will turn thousands more Latino immigrants into vote-casting U.S. citizens. Democrats and Republicans will pour even more time, money and personnel into courting Latino voters. The potential political gain from a massive outreach effort to Latinos is far greater than putting the same resources into courting black voters.

It's sound political reasoning. That effort worked for Republicans in 2004, when Bush got nearly 40 percent of the Latino vote. The Democrats, meanwhile, maintain a solid lock on the black vote. In every election since 1964, blacks have given more than 80 percent to 90 percent of their votes to the Democrats. They will give even more of their vote to Obama this election.

With the tantalizing prospect of a small, nonetheless important, segment of newly enfranchised Latino voters going Republican, there's no political incentive for Republicans to do more to get the black vote. That even includes their relentless pursuit of black evangelicals. Hispanic evangelical churches have an estimated 20 million members, and those numbers are growing yearly. According to a survey by the Hispanic Churches in American Public Life project, the majority of Latino evangelicals are conservative, pro-family, antiabortion and antigay marriage. Latino evangelicals are GOP-friendly, and they have political clout. They got several mainstream evangelical groups to back the Senate compromise immigration-reform bill. And while the National Association of Evangelicals stopped short of backing the Senate bill, it still urged "humane" immigration law.

The leap in Latino voting strength comes at a bad time for black politicians. Although the number of black elected officials has held steady in state offices and in Congress, the spectacular growth of prior years has flattened out. The Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies reported only a marginal increase after the 2004 elections in the number of black elected officials, mostly in a handful of Deep South states and Illinois.

Politicians already are de-emphasizing traditional black issues. Obama and McCain have been virtually mute on miserably failing inner-city schools, soaring black unemployment, prison incarceration, and the HIV/AIDS crisis that has torn black communities.

The new reality is that immigration, both legal and illegal, has drastically changed the ethnic and political landscape. As whites fade into a minority, the great fear is that blacks could fade just as fast in numbers and political power.

...of the Democratic Party work out for you?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:05 AM


"Star Wars: The Clone Wars" (Stephanie Zacharek, Aug. 15, 2008, Salon)

[T]he one thing "The Clone Wars" does have going for it is its animation style, which is hardly revolutionary -- and that's exactly what's interesting about it. Lucas and Filoni were reportedly inspired by the '60s British television show "Thunderbirds," whose characters were creepy, awkward-looking marionettes.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:55 AM


For Obama at Saddleback, a Tough Crowd on Some Issues (Jake Tapper, August 16, 2008, ABC News: Political Punch)

[W]here Obama had more trouble with the crowd – which sat politely throughout the forum – was when Warren delved into the social issues that put Obama and his liberal views at odds with the majority of white evangelicals.

“Forty million abortions since Roe v. Wade,” noted Warren. “At what point does a baby get human rights in your view?”

Obama said that “whether you are looking at it from a theological perspective or a scientific perspective, answering that question with specificity, you know, is above my pay grade. “

“I am pro-choice,” the Democratic senator acknowledged. I believe in Roe v. Wade and have come to that conclusion not because I'm pro-abortion, but because ultimately I don't think women make these decisions casually. They wrestle with these things in profound ways. In consultation with their pastors or spouses or their doctors and their family members.”

He mentioned that everyone could find common ground on the goal of reducing the number of abortions, which he’d put into the Democratic party platform. No one seemed to care much.

Likewise, Obama’s support for research involving embryonic stem cell research was met with the distant sound of crickets.

Given that Senators get to vote on Supreme Court justices, it is his pay grade. He just votes against life.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:38 AM


McCain's Back in the Saddleback (Chuck Todd, 8/16/08, NBC: First Read)

Quick first impressions: Obama spent more time trying to impress Warren (or to put another away) not offend Warren while McCain seemingly ignored Warren and decided he was talking to folks watching on TV. The McCain way of handling this forum is usually the winning way. Obama may have had more authentic moments but McCain was impressively on message.

This was a mistake Obama made a few times during the primary season. On one hand, it can make a moderator feel good when their subject actually tries to answer every question and take into account their opinions on a particular topic. And Obama's supporters will email me tonight and say this is what they love about him.

And yet, this reminded me of the many comparisons we made between Obama and Hillary Clinton. She was much more effective at answering questions in 90 seconds and always staying on message while Obama too easily allowed himself to get knocked off his talking points. Remember, Obama doesn't need to win over his supporters, he needs folks who are just now tuning in.

The poor Unicorn Rider is in way over his newly gray head.

August 16, 2008

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:19 PM


More than 90 insurgents killed in Afghanistan (Reuters, 8/16/08)

Afghan and U.S.-led coalition forces have killed more than 90 militants during several days of fighting in the south of the country this week, the U.S. military and the Afghan Interior Ministry said on Saturday. [...]

No soldiers from the Afghan and U.S. forces or any civilians were killed in the fighting, which was continuing on Saturday, a spokesman for the U.S. military said.

...where you get to post the same casualty ratios as Robert Neville.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:19 PM


More than 90 insurgents killed in Afghanistan (Reuters, 8/16/08)

Afghan and U.S.-led coalition forces have killed more than 90 militants during several days of fighting in the south of the country this week, the U.S. military and the Afghan Interior Ministry said on Saturday. [...]

No soldiers from the Afghan and U.S. forces or any civilians were killed in the fighting, which was continuing on Saturday, a spokesman for the U.S. military said.

...where you get to post the same casualty ratios as Robert Neville.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:20 AM


Democrats to offer bill with offshore oil drilling (Tom Doggett, 8/16/08, Reuters)

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Saturday when the U.S. Congress returns next month from its summer recess, Democrats will offer legislation that could give oil companies drilling access to more offshore areas.

Remind us again why people thought everything would be different after the midterm?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:09 AM


Population Bomb Author's Fix For Next Extinction: Educate Women: Human activity is responsible for a sixth extinction of thousands of species, so Paul Ehrlich and a colleague call for educating women to slow population growth (David Biello, 8/12/08, Scientific American)

It’s an uncomfortable thought: Human activity causing the extinction of thousands of species, and the only way to slow or prevent that phenomenon is to have smaller families and forego some of the conveniences of modern life, from eating beef to driving cars, according to Stanford University scientists Paul Ehrlich and Robert Pringle.

This extinction—the sixth in the 4-billion-year history of the Earth—"could be much more catastrophic than previous ones," says Ehrlich, author of the controversial Population Bomb, which predicted that hundreds of millions of people would starve to death in the 1970s.

...some of us don't mind killing off a few varieties of frog and some don't mind killing off humans.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:03 AM


A Teachable Moment (PAUL TOUGH, 8/17/08, NY Times Magazine)

Katrina struck at a critical moment in the evolution of the contemporary education-reform movement. President Bush’s education initiative, No Child Left Behind, had shined a light on the underperformance of poor minority students across the country by requiring, for the first time, that a school successfully educate not just its best students but its poor and minority students too in order to be counted as successful. Scattered across the country were a growing number of schools, often intensive charter schools, that seemed to be succeeding with disadvantaged students in a consistent and measurable way. But these schools were isolated examples. No one had figured out how to “scale up” those successes to transform an entire urban school district. There were ambitious new superintendents in Philadelphia, New York City, Denver and Chicago, all determined to reform their school systems to better serve poor children, but even those who seemed to be succeeding were doing so in incremental ways, lifting the percentage of students passing statewide or citywide tests to, say, 40 from 30 or to 50 from 40.

In New Orleans, before the storm, the schools weren’t succeeding even in an incremental way. [...]

Earlier this month, the state released test results for every public school in New Orleans. There were signs of improvement: 43 percent of fourth-grade students in Recovery School District charters and district-run schools scored at or above grade level on the state English test, compared with 34 percent in the previous year. But the numbers revealed the great distance New Orleans still has to go; in the percentage of students scoring at or above grade level in 8th-grade math, 12th-grade math and 12th-grade English, not a single R.S.D. charter or district-run school beat the average for Louisiana as a whole — and Louisiana is still among the lowest-performing states in the country. The gap between the system’s different structures remained, too; 89 percent of the Orleans Parish schools matched or surpassed the state average in fourth-grade English, while just 13 percent of Recovery schools did the same.

New Orleans’s newly arrived reformers have set their sights high. New Leaders for New Schools says it hopes that in five years, half of the public schools in the city will be led by principals trained in their system, and they want their principals to attain 90 percent proficiency rates and 90 percent graduation rates within five years of taking the job. Given that proficiency rates in most schools in the Recovery district are currently below 40 percent, those results would represent an educational earthquake. Pastorek’s goals are similarly ambitious; he sees a day in the not-too-distant future when the city’s white children will return to integrate the public-school system, along with the children of the black middle class, all drawn by safer and higher-achieving schools and the introduction of programs like specialized academies and the International Baccalaureate program.

When I spoke to Frederick Hess, an education-policy analyst at the American Enterprise Institute, he cautioned against putting too much emphasis on a complete transformation of the city’s school system. In the early 1990s, Hess worked as a teacher in Baton Rouge, and even then, he said, New Orleans was notorious for running an “abysmal” school district. “So if we’re now in a position where 20 or 40 or 50 percent of kids in New Orleans are attending good or even competent schools,” he said, “that to my mind is a significant win.

“Of course, the folks down there are the last people to plant their flag on improving things for 30 percent of the kids,” he went on. “They’re all world-changers. They’re all straight from the Great Society. That’s great, and I’m glad they’ve got huge ambitions, but the problem is that if they fall somewhat short of their goals, it will be very easy for critics of charter schooling or critics of Vallas or critics of New Leaders for New Schools or Teach for America to seize on the fact that we haven’t seen 100 percent of students served in the way we’d like and to then try to impugn the entire set of reforms.”

It would obviously have been better to take advantage of the storm to depopulate the city.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:49 AM


Clinging to Dreams of a Better Life: Despite Fragile Finances, Immigrants Report Greater Satisfaction With Their Jobs (Chris L. Jenkins, 8/16/08, Washington Post)

The handtruck is stacked several feet high with the goodies of 21st-century global innovation and commerce: LG cellphones and Canon digital cameras, GameBoys and GameCubes. Abderrafie el-Alami can't afford most of these items, but he handles the packages with care. Calculator, $20.99, top row. MP3 player headset, $24.99, third rung from the bottom.

Later, he'll leave the job at Circuit City for his four-story walkup in Alexandria, a two-bedroom flat he shares with two other men from Morocco, his homeland. It is a neat, spare existence, as well as crowded: His bed sits on the floor next to a plastic nightstand.

Alami, who is not married, has a masters' degree in public administration and will be 40 this year. Back home, his father is a respected former imam. But a job is a job, and Alami is not too good for the services industry, he thinks. There is no question that even after seven years of low-wage work and cramped living in Northern Virginia, and worrying about making ends meet, this $11.25 an hour job will lead him to what he has come to understand is achieving the "American dream."

"You work hard, you get ahead and you don't stop," he said. "There is a job to be done, and it is a good job because it pays. It doesn't really matter what my education was at home. The opportunity is here. And you take it, and you do it and it will work out."

Alami's complex but unwavering view that this better life is not far from his reach reflects results from a new survey conducted by The Washington Post, the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation and Harvard University that examined the experiences of low-wage workers in the United States. Foreign-born, low-wage workers in the poll said that the economic security they left homes and families to seek in the United States is becoming harder to attain. But their faith in that dream is still strong, as they tend to be more optimistic about the future and more satisfied with their jobs and wages than native-born workers.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:46 AM


Barack Obama campaign soliciting 'soft money' for convention: The presumptive Democratic presidential nominee has decried the practice and vowed to reform convention funding, but the Denver Host Committee was facing a budget shortfall. (Tom Hamburger and Peter Wallsten, 8/16/08, Los Angeles Times)

Facing a large deficit in the Democratic National Convention budget, officials from Barack Obama's campaign have begun personally soliciting labor unions and others for contributions of up to $1 million. In exchange, donors could get stadium skyboxes for Obama's acceptance speech and other perks.

Obama has regularly criticized politicians seeking large donations outside the framework of campaign finance regulations -- so-called soft money -- while touting the virtues of relying on small donations.

And here we all thought he could turn water into cash....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:24 AM


Crowd lifts bus and saves woman's fetus (Associated Press, August 16, 2008)

Dozens of strangers converged from all directions to lift a 5-ton bus off a pregnant woman, a superhuman effort that managed to save the life of her child but was too late for her.

August 15, 2008

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:26 PM


Warming warnings get overheated: Alarmist predictions of climate change like Oliver Tickell's are not just bad science – they stop us thinking rationally about solutions (Björn Lomborg, 8/15/08,

Much of the global warming debate is perhaps best described as a constant outbidding by frantic campaigners, producing a barrage of ever-more scary scenarios in an attempt to get the public to accept their civilisation-changing proposals. Unfortunately, the general public – while concerned about the environment – is distinctly unwilling to support questionable solutions with costs running into tens of trillions of pounds. Predictably, this makes the campaigners reach for even more outlandish scares.

These alarmist predictions are becoming quite bizarre, and could be dismissed as sociological oddities, if it weren't for the fact that they get such big play in the media. Oliver Tickell, for instance, writes that a global warming causing a 4C temperature increase by the end of the century would be a "catastrophe" and the beginning of the "extinction" of the human race. This is simply silly.

His evidence? That 4C would mean that all the ice on the planet would melt, bringing the long-term sea level rise to 70-80m, flooding everything we hold dear, seeing billions of people die. Clearly, Tickell has maxed out the campaigners' scare potential (because there is no more ice to melt, this is the scariest he could ever conjure). But he is wrong. Let us just remember that the UN climate panel, the IPCC, expects a temperature rise by the end of the century between 1.8 and 6.0C. Within this range, the IPCC predicts that, by the end of the century, sea levels will rise 18-59 centimetres – Tickell is simply exaggerating by a factor of up to 400.

It's a comfortable 67 degrees here today, perfect weather for the parent/kid soccer match, which we lost on a penalty kick. Stupid game....

Posted by Stephen Judd at 1:33 PM


Folks, it looks like the MovableType comment system in combination with our host, just can't handle it. I'm adding an integrated, yet separately hosted, commenting system: Disqus. It adds several nice features: threaded comments, ability to reply to comments via email, and the ability for you to see all your comments in one place. Please give it a'll probably want to register with Disqus (can do as you comment) or you can post without registering.

I'm going to be off-line most of the weekend, so I'll check on things when I'm back. At that time, I'll also add a widget to the front page to show recent comments and try to make the blogging system work more smoothly for OJ. Feel free to comment below with reactions, suggestions, et al.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:50 PM


Left Behind Authors Speak Out on McCain Ad 'The One' (Beverly Rykerd, 8/08/08, Christian Newswire)

John McCain's campaign ad "The One" has generated a lot of buzz regarding the "Left Behind Series." Political commentators are comparing McCain's portrayal of competitor Barack Obama with the blockbuster apocalyptic series' depiction of the antichrist. But even the series authors Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins don't think Obama is the antichrist. What may have been created as a farce has generated a firestorm of controversy on the internet.

LaHaye and Jenkins take a literal interpretation of prophecies found in the Book of Revelation. They believe the antichrist will surface on the world stage at some point, but neither see Obama in that role. "I've gotten a lot of questions the last few weeks asking if Obama is the antichrist," says novelist Jenkins. "I tell everyone that I don't think the antichrist will come out of politics, especially American politics."

"I can see by the language he uses why people think he could be the antichrist," adds LaHaye, "but from my reading of scripture, he doesn't meet the criteria."


Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:30 PM


Jerry Wexler, famed record producer, dies at 91 (Associated Press, August 15, 2008)

Wexler helped boost the careers of both the "King of Soul," Charles, and the "Queen of Soul," Franklin. Wilson Pickett, Solomon Burke and Percy Sledge were among the other R&B greats who benefited from Wexler's deft recording touch. He also produced Dusty Springfield's classic "Dusty in Memphis," considered a masterpiece of "blue-eyed" soul.

Among the standards produced by Wexler: Franklin's "Respect," a dazzling, feminist reworking of an Otis Redding song; Sledge's deep ballad "When A Man Loves A Woman" and Pickett's "In the Midnight Hour," with a horn vamp inspired by Wexler's admittedly rhythmless dancing.

Wexler was named to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987.

"No one really knew how to make a record when I started," he said in a profile on the rock hall's Web site. "You simply went into the studio, turned on the mike and said, 'Play."

In the studio, Wexler was a hands-on producer. Once, during a session with Charles, the tambourine player was off the beat. Wexler, in his award-winning autobiography, recalled grabbing the instrument and playing it himself.

"Who's that?" asked Charles.

"Me," Wexler told the blind singer.

"You got it, baby!" Charles said.

The son of Polish immigrants and a music buff since his teens, Wexler landed a job writing for Billboard magazine in the late 1940s after serving in World War II and studying journalism in college. There he coined the term "rhythm and blues" for the magazine's black music charts; previously, they were listed under "race records."

While working at Billboard, Wexler befriended Ertegun -- a life-altering friendship for both. Ertegun and a partner had started Atlantic, then a small R&B label in New York. In 1953, when Ertegun's partner left for a two-year military hitch, Wexler stepped in as the label's co-director.

He never left.

-PROFILE: The Immortals - The Greatest Artists of All Time: 63) Phil Spector (Jerry Wexler, Apr 22, 2005, Rolling Stone)
-OBIT: Jerry Wexler, R&B Impresario, Is Dead at 91 (BRUCE WEBER, 8/16/08, NY Times)

“He played a major role in bringing black music to the masses, and in the evolution of rhythm and blues to soul music,” Jim Henke, vice president and chief curator for the Hall of Fame, said in an interview. “Beyond that, he really developed the role of the record producer. Jerry did a lot more than just turn on a tape recorder. He left his stamp on a lot of great music. He had a commercial ear as well as a critical ear.”

Mr. Wexler was something of a paradox. A businessman with tireless energy, a ruthless streak and a volatile temper, he was also a hopeless music fan. A New York Jew and a vehement atheist, he found his musical home in the Deep South, in studios in Memphis and Muscle Shoals, Ala., among Baptists and Methodists, blacks and good old boys.

“He was a bundle of contradictions,” said Tom Thurman, who produced and directed a documentary about Mr. Wexler in 2000. “He was incredibly abrasive and incredibly generous, very abrupt and very, very patient, seemingly a pure, sharklike businessman and also a cerebral and creative genius.”

The title of Mr. Thurman’s documentary, “Immaculate Funk,” was Mr. Wexler’s phrase for the Atlantic sound, characterized by a heavy backbeat and a gospel influence. “It’s funky, it’s deep, it’s very emotional, but it’s clean,” Mr. Wexler once said.

Though not a musician himself, Mr. Wexler had a natural rapport with musicians, who seemed to recognize his instinct for how best to employ their gifts. In 1950, while he was still at Billboard, he encountered the young singer Patti Page and hummed for her a 1947 song he liked, “The Tennessee Waltz.” Her subsequent recording of it sold three million copies in eight months.

A few years later he was a partner at Atlantic, presiding over the 1954 recording session of Ray Charles’s breakout hit, “I’ve Got a Woman.” He said later that the best thing he had done for Charles was to let him do as he pleased.

“He had an extraordinary insight into talent,” Charles, who died in 2004, said in “Immaculate Funk.”

-PROFILE: Jerry Wexler: The great Atlantic Records producer gave us rhythm and blues -- as well as just about every R&B legend -- and retooled the very foundations of music producing. (Alex Halberstadt, Sep. 5, 2000, Salon)
-REVIEW: of RHYTHM AND THE BLUES A Life in American Music. By Jerry Wexler and David Ritz (Leo Sacks, NY Times Book Review

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:22 PM


US coalition: 36 militants killed in Afghanistan (AP, 8/15/08)

The U.S.-led coalition says more than 36 militants have been killed in a series of clashes in southern Afghanistan. [...]

It says that its reconnaissance patrol was attacked by groups of militants over several days. The troops clashed with militants and called in airstrikes, killing more than three dozen militants.

There were no reports of casualties among coalition and Afghan forces.

...our guys ought to win stuffed bears.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:24 AM


D.C. Party Is Resistant To Audacity Of Change (David Nakamura, 8/15/08, Washington Post)

Palmer and a dozen friends from the volunteer group D.C. For Obama are part of a slate bidding for seats on the D.C. Democratic State Committee. They are touting ideas and experience from the national campaign that they say can energize and grow the local party apparatus, whether it's using the Internet to organize or broadcasting meetings to boost visibility.

And they're getting their heads knocked hard against the wall of political reality.

Their idealism and enthusiasm have crashed into a formidable opposing force: the local Democratic Party, with its internecine rivalries and territorial squabbles. The District, after all, is that proverbial "small-town big city," where everyone knows everyone and insiders aggressively control tiny fiefdoms.

These insiders have called the newcomers Johnny-come-latelies who don't know the city and haven't paid their dues. The old guard is intent on keeping them at bay.

Four of the newcomers, including Palmer, have had their nominating petitions challenged at the Board of Elections and Ethics by rivals hoping to keep them off the ballot. Two others from Palmer's slate were denied seats on the city's delegation to the Democratic National Convention, after losing votes against longtime D.C. politicos. And several more newbies said they were told by longtime party leaders that they should wait their turn and drop out of the race. [...]

[77-year-old incumbent Horace] Kreitzman says he respects Palmer and the others for their work on Obama's campaign but wonders how much they understand about the District.

"They're very active and very sincere folks, but some of the people I talked with didn't even know what precinct they vote in," Kreitzman said. "All of a sudden they're active? Good, I'm glad. But some might say they should not start at the top."
...besides the belief that you should start at the top no matter how ignorant and inexperienced?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:22 AM


Crude's Slide Greases A New Bull (Martin T. Sosnoff 08.15.08, Forbes)

Barring major geopolitical upsets, we've seen the lows for this market cycle.

I stand beside what I've said before: The next bull market needs to sniff out the bottom for home prices and mortgage delinquencies. I'm out a year. Your guess is as good as mine. Mortgage rates now stand too punitive. The pinball machine lights up when they go below 6%. At 5.75%, Bob De Niro, step aside, I'm your new raging bull.

These past several years the world was one gigantic hedge fund. The smart money shorted the dollar and owned oil, industrial commodities and whatever grows in the ground--even farmland and timber reserves. The best working hypothesis always is under 25 words, but all encompassing.

Tons of financial money-playing commodities actually shortened the bull cycle by forging spikes in oil, gold and corn prematurely. Now for the unraveling, which is bullish for stocks.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:10 AM


Howard Sounes's top 10 music biographies (Howard Sounes, 5/10/01,

4. Last Train to Memphis: The Rise of Elvis Presley by Peter Guralnick

Truly definitive. Even the taciturn Bob Dylan was moved to praise: "[Elvis] steps from these pages, you can feel him breathe?" [...]

10. Why Me? The Autobiography of Sammy Davis Jr. by Sammy Davis Jr. with Jane and Burt Boyar

An entertainer of great talent, but little discernible taste, recalls fortunes earned and wasted during a life in show business. Most amusing.

The Boyars' book is a favorite of ours, but here are some other good ones:

August 14, 2008

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:20 PM


Poland, US Reach Preliminary Deal on Missile Shield (VOA News, 14 August 2008)

U.S. and Polish negotiators have reached a preliminary agreement on deploying a proposed U.S. missile defense system in eastern Europe.

Poland's Under-Secretary of State Andrzej Kremer and U.S. chief negotiator, John Rood, initialed the deal in Warsaw Thursday. [...]

[Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk] said the United States had agreed to Polish demands for greater military cooperation.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:46 PM


The Obama Tax Plan (JASON FURMAN and AUSTAN GOOLSBEE, August 14, 2008, Wall Street Journal)

They said President Clinton's 1993 deficit-reduction plan would wreck the economy. Eight years and 23 million new jobs later, the economy proved them wrong. Now they are making the same claims about Sen. Obama's tax plan, which has even lower taxes than prevailed in the 1990s -- including lower taxes on middle-class families, lower taxes for capital gains, and lower taxes for dividends.

Overall, Sen. Obama's middle-class tax cuts are larger than his partial rollbacks for families earning over $250,000, making the proposal as a whole a net tax cut and reducing revenues to less than 18.2% of GDP -- the level of taxes that prevailed under President Reagan.

The claim to be Bill Clinton/Ronald Reagan, though risible, is necessary.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:42 PM


Barack Obama's Lost Years: The senator's tenure as a state legislator reveals him to be an old-fashioned, big government, race-conscious liberal. (Stanley Kurtz, 08/11/2008, Weekly Standard)

Barack Obama's neighborhood newspaper, the Hyde Park Herald, has a longstanding tradition of opening its pages to elected officials-from Chicago aldermen to state legislators to U.S. senators. Obama himself, as a state senator, wrote more than 40 columns for the Herald, under the title "Springfield Report," between 1996 and 2004. Read in isolation, Obama's columns from the state capital tell us little. Placed in the context of political and policy battles then raging in Illinois, however, the young legislator's dispatches powerfully illuminate his political beliefs. Even more revealing are hundreds of articles chronicling Obama's early political and legislative activities in the pages not only of the Hyde Park Herald, but also of another South Side fixture, the Chicago Defender.

Obama moved to Chicago in order to place himself in what he understood to be the de facto "capital" of black America. For well over 100 years, the Chicago Defender has been the voice of that capital, and therefore a paper of national significance for African Americans. Early on in his political career, Obama complained of being slighted by major media, like the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Sun-Times. Yet extensive and continuous coverage in both the Chicago Defender and the Hyde Park Herald presents a remarkable resource for understanding who Obama is. Reportage in these two papers is particularly significant because Obama's early political career-the time between his first campaign for the Illinois State Senate in 1995 and his race for U.S. Senate in 2004-can fairly be called the "lost years," the period Obama seems least eager to talk about, in contrast to his formative years in Hawaii, California, and New York or his days as a community organizer, both of which are recounted in his memoir, Dreams from My Father. The pages of the Hyde Park Herald and the Chicago Defender thus offer entrée into Obama's heretofore hidden world.

What they portray is a Barack Obama sharply at variance with the image of the post-racial, post-ideological, bipartisan, culture-war-shunning politician familiar from current media coverage and purveyed by the Obama campaign. As details of Obama's early political career emerge into the light, his associations with such radical figures as Reverend Jeremiah Wright, Father Michael Pfleger, Reverend James Meeks, Bill Ayers, and Bernardine Dohrn look less like peculiar instances of personal misjudgment and more like intentional political partnerships. At his core, in other words, the politician chronicled here is profoundly race-conscious, exceedingly liberal, free-spending even in the face of looming state budget deficits, and partisan. Elected president, this man would presumably shift the country sharply to the left on all the key issues of the day-culture-war issues included. It's no wonder Obama has passed over his Springfield years in relative silence.

...than to explain your views and be recognized a Northern liberal.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:29 PM


Paul Byrd move a cash-only transaction (Tony Massarotti, 8/14/08, Boston Herald)

When you get right down to it, there will be no “player to be named” in the trade that brought Paul Byrd to Boston.

Unless, of course, you consider Benjamin Franklin to be a prospect.

According to a source familiar with the trade talks between the Red Sox [team stats] and Cleveland Indians, the Red Sox have agreed to pick up all of Byrd’s remaining salary this season, an amount equal to about $2 million. The inclusion of any “player to be named” is nothing more than a procedural matter, and there was indication yesterday that there will, in fact, be no player at all.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:01 PM


Obama's Abortion Distortion: The senator's excuses for opposing the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act don't withstand scrutiny. (Kevin Vance, 08/13/2008, Weekly Standard)

IN MARCH 2003, registered nurse Jill Stanek submitted a statement to the Illinois Senate Health and Human Services committee in which she reported that infants who survived abortions at her Oak Lawn hospital were sometimes "taken to the Soiled Utility Room and left alone to die." Stanek was lobbying the committee to approve the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act of 2002, which would have recognized any infant born alive after an abortion as a human being deserving legal protection. Barack Obama, then the committee chairman, defeated the bill with his fellow Democrats in a 6-4 party-line vote.

Obama's campaign website offers two reasons why the senator opposed the bill in 2003. First, the website claims that Obama did not support the state legislation because it lacked language "clarifying that the act would not be used to undermine Roe vs. Wade." The website cites Obama's assertion that he would have supported the similar federal born-alive bill, which included language clarifying that it would not undermine Roe v. Wade when it unanimously passed the Senate in 2001.

In fact, the federal legislation and the final version of the Illinois senate bill were essentially the same. On Monday, the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) released documents that showed that the Illinois senate committee unanimously approved an amendment that made the state legislation almost identical to the federal legislation. The amendment provided that the act should not be "construed to affirm, deny, expand, or contract any legal status or legal right applicable to any member of the species homo sapiens at any point prior to being 'born alive'". This was the precise language of the federal bill Obama thought to be a sufficient protection of Roe v. Wade.

...Senator Obama recognizes that the law does undermine Roe.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:51 PM


Balances Down, but Savings Up in 401(k) Plans (Katy Marquardt, August 14, 2008, US News)

Despite the ailing economy, 401(k) investors are saving more, according to a new study from Fidelity, which analyzed the 11.5 million participants it administers. In the first half of the year, investors who participated in the same plan both this year and last set $3,512 aside, on average, from their pretax earnings, up 7 percent from $3,283 in the first half of 2007.

Fidelity says the average retirement plan account balance dropped 7.5 percent in the first half of 2008, to $64,000, down from $69,200 in the first half of 2007. By comparison, Standard & Poor's 500 stock index dropped nearly 15 percent in the first half of this year. Surprisingly, the average balance for employees who stayed in their plans for both years fell less than 1 percent in the first half of 2008. Translation: 401(k) investors are diversifying!

Our experiences refute the Left's Second Way rhetoric.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:20 PM


The Wrong Force for the ‘Right War’ (BARTLE BREESE BULL, 8/14/08, NY Times)

Denying sanctuary to terrorists — in Afghanistan and everywhere else — is undoubtedly an American interest of the first order. Accomplishing it, however, requires neither the conquest of large swathes of Afghan territory nor a troop surge there — nor even maintaining the number of troops NATO has in Afghanistan today. Counterterrorism is not about occupation. It centers on combining intelligence with specialized military capabilities.

While the Taliban is certainly regaining strength, it could provide Al Qaeda with a true safe harbor only if its troops retake Kabul. But they have little hope of returning to power as long as we train the Afghan Army, support an Afghan state generously in other ways and maintain our intelligence and surgical strike capacities.

Besides, even if the Taliban were to return to power and give Al Qaeda the sorts of safe havens it enjoyed in Afghanistan in 2001, this would probably make little difference in America’s security. Rory Stewart, a former British foreign ministry official in Afghanistan and Iraq who now manages a nongovernmental group in Kabul, argues that the existence there of “Quantico-style” terrorist facilities teaching primitive insurgency infantry tactics had little to do with 9/11. “You don’t need to go to Afghanistan to learn how to use a box cutter,” Stewart has told me. “And Afghanistan is not a good place for flight school.”

One could argue that the key Al Qaeda training for 9/11 occurred not in the Taliban’s Afghanistan but in Jeb Bush’s Florida. And in terms of terrorist planning, 9/11 would have been better avoided with an occupation of Hamburg, where most of the essential plotting for the attack occurred.

In any case, American counterterrorism interests in Afghanistan appear to argue for something far more restrained than our current commitment there, maybe 20,000 Western troops maximum. In the long run, it needs to be seen as the remote, poor and ungovernable country it is, albeit one with a history of ties to Al Qaeda and located next door to Osama bin Laden’s current base of operations, Pakistan. Still, a very light American presence operating through embassies and aid organizations should be able to collect the intelligence needed to allow special forces to eliminate terrorist threats as they appear.

...when we get to determine where al Qaeda can find sanctuary they don't have one.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:13 PM


Kellen Winslow Sr. new athletic director at Central (Associated Press, August 14, 2008)

Central State University has hired pro football hall-of-famer Kellen Winslow Sr. is the school's new athletic director.

Winslow, father of the Cleveland Browns' Pro Bowl tight end, was introduced today during a news conference at the southwest Ohio school. Fundraising will be among Winslow's duties as the university moves into full NCAA Division II membership this fall.

He and LT were the two players who could have started at every position on the field.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:27 AM


Cluedo stars killed in makeover (BBC, 8/14/08)

Classic murder-solving board game Cluedo has been given a facelift which has killed off its famous characters.

Old characters like Colonel Mustard and Professor Plum have been replaced by football pundit Jack Mustard and video game billionaire Victor Plum.

The house has been renovated from a stately home into a modern mansion complete with a theatre and spa rather than library and ballroom.

There are also new murder weapons, including a dumbbell and baseball bat.

Miss Scarlet is now movie star Kasandra Scarlet, cook Mrs White is now child star Diane White and Reverend Green is now Jacob Green, "the man on the scene with all the ins".

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:17 AM


'Hope' Lacks Heft (JOHN McWHORTER, August 14, 2008, NY Sun)

Then there are those who don't have a sense of what Mr. Obama is about. These are people who are not especially intrigued by his multicultural biography. They just want to know what he has to offer.

On this topic, we hear this week that the Obama folks are about to put out a book summarizing his policy proposals and reprinting some of his speeches. "A" for effort, but this won't do it.

For one thing, a book is not the best way to get your message out when the people who need to hear it tend to have a less intimate relationship with the printed page than Obama fans who subscribe to the Atlantic. My wife and I spent part of our vacation in a working-class seaside town, and the used bookstores there were bursting with paperback fiction and children's books. Nonfiction stuff was on the margins, mostly biographies and books about the movies.

These days even erstwhile pageaholics such as Nicholas Carr, in the Atlantic, are admitting that they barely make it through nonfiction books anymore and are more inclined to scoot around online. Beyond self-help books and other utilitarian tomes, most people do not read nonfiction books and never have.

If the Unicorn Rider's policies would help him with the electorate he'd mention them in speeches. They don't, so you point at the book, say your substance is right there, and then continue spooning out pabulum in Baptist cadences.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:09 AM


Bele, Gorshin's other famous television role, ...

Image via Wikipedia

USA Today: The network’s newest misfits. (Nancy Franklin, August 11, 2008, The New Yorker)
In “Burn Notice,” Jeffrey Donovan stars as Michael Westen, a suddenly former spy—“burn notice” is the term used in spy circles when an agent is terminated. Westen has been burned for reasons he doesn’t know; one moment he’s in a market in Nigeria, and the next he’s being packed onto a plane and sent off to a place not of his choosing, which happens to be Miami, where his mother, Madeline (Sharon Gless), lives. But he’s not out of danger—his own people, whoever they are (we’re never told which government agency Westen was connected with, or even if he was formally connected with one at all), may be after him, and so may the people he was after. Miami, with its heat, intrigue, flow of shady capital, and fabled glamour, is a good spot for “Burn Notice”; it’s both Hollywood and Casablanca. (The show’s creator, Matt Nix, originally set it in Newark but was, shall we say, gently persuaded by USA to move it to Miami.)

While Westen is trying to figure out who burned him, and how he can regain his job, he lends a helping hand to his mother’s friends, and to other locals who have found themselves on the wrong side of thugs, assassins, and blackmailers. At the same time, he has to protect his mother, who, by virtue of being related to him, is always a potential target for no-goodniks. Michael has a complicated relationship with his mother, who is a less blowsy and flamboyant version of the mother Gless played in “Queer as Folk,” combined with some of Mama Rose’s will. She’s pushy, she chain-smokes, and she wears the kind of big, colorful earrings that say “Florida retiree with pizzazz.” Michael resents her for not having been the best mother and for having turned a blind eye to his father’s failings—his father was an irresponsible, absent type, and it’s clear that that neglect has something to do with Michael’s escape into another life. Upon his return to Miami, his mother says, “You missed your father’s funeral. By eight years.” Michael’s ambivalence toward his mother is already getting old, partly because his character is not deepening as the series goes on. Donovan has a hard, closed face, and he deploys a broad, deliberately insincere grin that conveys Westen’s bitterness and cynicism, but not much else. It is not a terrible thing that Donovan strongly resembles the actor James Franco, but it is unfortunate that his steely glint, his wiry frame, and his often inappropriate smile call up Frank Gorshin’s Riddler in the old “Batman” series.

What little emotional life Michael has is with a weapons expert, Fiona Glenanne (Gabrielle Anwar), who works with him and is a sometime flame; but if there’s lingering feeling between them in the script, it’s not on the screen. Fiona’s value is comic; she’s a pretty Irish lass, who happens to be turned on by violence, and who gets pouty when she has to hold her fire. The best character in “Burn Notice” is an old colleague of Westen’s, Sam Axe (Bruce Campbell), who left the world of espionage for the girls, the bars, and the ease of Miami; he’s a happy bachelor, if slightly harried by his (offscreen, and funnier for it) girlfriend, and despite the fact that he has been secretly reporting to government agents on his old pal Michael and is a little torn about that. Campbell, a square-jawed, solidly built, handsome actor with a resonant, announcer’s voice, became famous in the eighties for his appearances in the “Evil Dead” movies (he wrote a book called “If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B Movie Actor”). His suburban-dad looks have given way to a warm, scruffy bearishness, and he ambles through “Burn Notice” as if he were having the time of his life. note that the main players pull it off without seeming like they're trying very hard.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:26 AM


Conflict of Interests: Does the wrangling of interest groups corrupt politics—or constitute it? (Nicholas Lemann August 11, 2008, The New Yorker)

[Arthur Bentley's] “The Process of Government” is a hedgehog of a book. Its point—relentlessly hammered home—can be stated quite simply: All politics and all government are the result of the activities of groups. Any other attempt to explain politics and government is doomed to failure. It was, in his day as in ours, a wildly contrarian position. Bentley was writing “The Process of Government” at the height of the Progressive Era, when educated, prosperous, high-minded people believed overwhelmingly in “reform” and “good government,” and took interest groups to be the enemy of these goals. The more populist Progressives liked having the people as a whole decide things by direct vote; the more élitist Progressives wanted to give authority to experts. But Bentley, who seems to have shared the Progressives’ goal of using government to curb the power of big business, rejected such procedural tenets. In Chicago terms, Bentley was the rare Progressive intellectual who believed, in effect, that the machine had a more accurate understanding of how politics worked—how it always and necessarily worked—than the lakefront liberals did.

Bentley’s reputation soared in the years after the Second World War, and there’s a reason. His presentation of politics as a never-ending, small-bore struggle for advantage among constantly shifting coalitions of interest groups, which appalled the Progressives, was appealing in the wake of Hitler and Stalin. Big ideas about the collective good had come to seem scary—the prelude to mass murder. Bentley spent the last years of his life being honored. Students of American politics read “The Process of Government” alongside Tocqueville and the Federalist Papers.

But pluralism—the name for Bentley’s theory of politics—has always been good for starting an argument. The standard objections are that pluralism gives too little weight to the power of ideas and of social and economic forces, and that it leaves no room for morality. (Pluralism’s equivalent in foreign relations is realism, which strikes people who don’t like it as having the same flaws.) What if there actually is such a thing as a policy that’s right on the merits? Shouldn’t we find a way to make sure that it’s enacted, instead of having to trust in the messy workings of the political marketplace? If politics worked the way Bentley thought it did, wouldn’t the richer interest groups buy themselves disproportionate political power? To a lot of people, pluralism sounded like pessimism. It was during the nineteen-sixties, when reform was again in the air and impatience with traditional forms of politics was on the rise, that “The Process of Government” began to fall out of favor.

...was remind the faithful that we too are an interest group, indeed, the biggest one. What Bentley got wrong is that what holds a group together can be shared ideas.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:10 AM


The plot against liberal America: In its pursuit of a free-market utopia, the US right tried to crush unions, the legal profession and all the pillars of the left. It will not stop there (Thomas Frank, 14 August 2008, New Statesman)

The most cherished dream of conservative Washington is that liberalism can somehow be defeated, finally and irreversibly, in the way that armies are beaten and pests are exterminated. Electoral victories by Republicans are just part of the story. The larger vision is of a future in which liberalism is physically barred from the control room - of an "end of history" in which taxes and onerous regulation will never be allowed to threaten the fortunes private individuals make for themselves. This is the longing behind the former White House aide Karl Rove's talk of "permanent majority" and, 20 years previously, disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff's declaration to the Republican convention that it's "the job of all revolutions to make permanent their gains".

When I first moved to contemplate this peculiar utopian vision, I was struck by its apparent futility. What I did not understand was that beating liberal ideas was not the goal. The Washington conservatives aim to make liberalism irrelevant not by debating, but by erasing it. Building a majority coalition has always been a part of the programme, and conservatives have enjoyed remarkable success at it for more than 30 years. But winning elections was not a bid for permanence by itself. It was only a means.

The end was capturing the state, and using it to destroy liberalism as a practical alternative. The pattern was set by Margaret Thatcher, who used state power of the heaviest-handed sort to implant permanently the anti-state ideology.

"Economics are the method; the object is to change the soul," she said, echoing Stalin. In the 34 years before she became prime minister, Britain rode a see-saw of nationalisation, privatisation and renationalisation; Thatcher set out to end the game for good. Her plan for privatising council housing was designed not only to enthrone the market, but to encourage an ownership mentality and "change the soul" of an entire class of voters. When she sold off nationally owned industries, she took steps to ensure that workers received shares at below-market rates, leading hopefully to the same soul transformation. Her brutal suppression of the miners' strike in 1984 showed what now awaited those who resisted the new order. As a Business Week reporter summarised it in 1987: "She sees her mission as nothing less than eradicating Labour Party socialism as a political alternative." that she succeeded. Even a cipher like David Cameron has a cakewalk to power because Gordon Brown has deviated from Thatcherism/Blairism. Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton lost because she began her campaign eschewing Clintonism/Thatcherism and Barack Obama has had to pretend not to believe in anything (besides his own ambition) because he can't risk being seen as outside the Thatcherite/New Democrat/Compassionate Conservative mainstream.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:26 AM


Friends speak of Elizabeth Edwards (Jenny Booth, 8/14/08, Times of London)

Privately he confessed the affair to his wife in 2006, he says, and ended the entanglement, but the admission came at a critical juncture in Elizabeth Edwards' life. Some weeks later she learned that her breast cancer had returned, had spread to her bones and was now incurable.

In the circumstances, she was left with a stark choice about the future of her marriage as she did not know how long she had left to live, said Mrs Edwards' friend Hargrave McElroy, in an interview with People magazine.

This is supposed to make us feel sympathy, but isn't the take away pretty basic: She was lying to his supporters and party too.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:48 AM


Politics Is Local: Warlordism in Georgia again. (Dodge Billingsley, 8/14/08, National Review)

[W]hen the Georgian armed forces embarked on a military campaign to regain control of separatist-minded Abkhazia, the conflict lasted from mid-1992 to September 2003, and was an unmitigated disaster. Both sides committed atrocities, and Georgian discipline was terrible — fighters coming and going as they pleased, in many cases after they had filled their cars with Abkhazian loot. Command and control was virtually non-existent. It was a rout at the hands of Abkhazian militiamen and Chechen volunteers, with minimal assistance from Russian federal forces.

Eventually Georgia dissolved the Military Council, and Kitovani immigrated to Moscow. Ioseliani served prison time before going into retirement. Shevardnadze’s standing in the West, as one of the architects of the end of the Cold War, brought substantial assistance to Georgia, and eventually military support from the U.S. The bottom line: The military that President Saakashvili inherited was a lot better, at least on paper.

Which makes last week’s assault on South Ossetia more curious. Georgia’s own military past should have served as a how-not-to guide for conducting military operations. It is astonishing that Georgia seemed intent to encircle and bombard the South Ossetian capital, full of civilians. It is as if the Georgian armed forces learned nothing from the military adventurism of a decade and a half ago.

Half a strategist would have told the Georgian planners that rather than strike at civilian centers, thus hardening Ossetian resolve, it would have been better to bypass Tskinvali and secure the only road from the border with Russia to South Ossetia — the logical ingress route for the Russian 58th Army out of North Ossetia — in case Russia responded with force. The road to the border is also ideally fit for guerilla warfare, the type the Chechens employed to stymie the Russian military in Chechnya for years. RPG and sniper teams well-placed along the route could have crippled the Russian assault before it even got started.

Apparently, U.S. military training and assistance to Georgia did not take into account the stigma the Georgian military had earned vis-à-vis Abkhazia and South Ossetia, instead concentrating on hardware and unit tactics. We may have forgotten Georgia’s past, and we may associate Georgia with the Rose Revolution, but local memory is deeper.

...then we recognize the nations of Chechnya, Abkhazia and S. Ossetia.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:34 AM


What's the Matter With Thomas Frank? (CHRISTOPHER WILLCOX | August 12, 2008, NY Sun)

The author, who created a minor sensation with his best-selling "What's the Matter With Kansas?" is a trained historian with a pronounced affinity for the Frankfurt School and its neo-Marxist "critical theory" approach to culture and politics. But he writes like a muckraking journalist, and the average reader would have no idea whatsoever that down-to-earth Tom Frank from Mission Hills, Kan., has such a distinguished, if slightly exotic, intellectual pedigree.

Mr. Frank's point about contemporary conservative politics is straightforward and dogmatic: It lives and breathes to support American plutocracy. The so-called Reagan coalition — including traditional Republicans, Cold Warrior liberals, social conservatives, libertarians, and Carterphobes — was and is merely a carefully calculated narrative designed to win elections:

In America, conservatism has always been an expression of business. Absorbing this fact is a condition to understanding the movement; it is anterior to everything else conservatism has been over the years. To try to understand conservatism without taking into account its grounding in business thought — to depict it as, say, the political style of an unusually pious nation or an extreme dedication to the principle of freedom — is like setting off to war with maps of the wrong country.

That Mr. Frank is setting off to war is an understatement. It would be hard to imagine a more scorched-earth approach to political science. Conservatives are not only wrongheaded, he tells us, but evil manipulators of those poor proles in Kansas who refuse to vote their own economic interests because they insist on honoring their personal values.

The problem for Mr. Frank is that even if we were to suppose that the sole interest of the GOP was to improve business/economic conditions, we'd have to note that it has succeeded and, thereby, benefitted Kansans massively, How Are We Doing? (W. Michael Cox and Richard Alm, July/August 2008, The American)
Income and wages are often used as gauges of progress, but consumption is the best measure of rising living standards. Products that began as luxuries only the rich could afford in time came within the means of just about all U.S. households (Fig. 1). In previous generations, telephones, cars, electricity, household appliances, and televisions made life better for the average American. In our times it has been computers, cell phones, Internet access, VCR/ DVD players, digital cameras, and more.

All segments of society have shared in the material progress. Over the past two decades, ownership of cars, color televisions, and household appliances has risen among poor households (Fig. 2). A quarter of poor households have computers. Two in five own their homes. For many goods, ownership rates are higher for today’s poor households than for the general population of the early 1970s.

As Americans know, today’s rising food and energy prices are crimping household budgets. But there are other ways to understand the relative size of the rise of food and energy costs. For example, in terms of time worked at the average pay rate, the real cost of a 12-item basket of basic foods has hardly budged. And while the work-time price of gasoline doubled in recent years, a gallon of gasoline still goes for less than 11 minutes of work (Fig. 3). At 20 miles per gallon, an hour of work will get you 110 miles down the road; at 30 mpg, you can go 165 miles.

When it comes to how hard we have to work for food and fuel, we still face far lower burdens than our grandparents did. Living standards rise on the ability to use productive resources to churn out more goods and services—that is, to advance productivity. As the economy has become more productive decade by decade, Americans have reaped the gains, first and foremost by consuming more.

There’s more to the good life than goods and services, however, and we’ve taken some of our added productivity in other ways. We’ve gained more leisure time, improved our working conditions, enhanced safety and security, and added variety to our choice set. All of these benefits become increasingly important as we climb up the income ladder.

The lament-filled anecdotes about long hours and low pay just don’t stand up to the test of hard data. Real total compensation—wages plus fringe benefits, both adjusted for inflation—has been rising steadily for several generations (Fig. 4). Over time, the fringes have become a larger share of the rewards for work, dampening the statistics on wage increases. At the same time, we’re spending less time at work. An average workweek has fallen from 39.8 hours in 1950 to 36.9 hours in 1973 to 33.8 hours today.

Fig 8- Safer at Work and Home-final.jpgNot all those hours are spent on actual work. Human resources experts estimate that 1.6 hours a day go to non-work activities; employees themselves say it’s more than two hours. What are workers doing? Most of them are using the Internet for personal business or socializing with coworkers (Fig. 5). It’s no coincidence that the busiest times for online auctions come during the hours when most Americans are supposed to be hard at work (Fig. 6).

We’re not only working less on the job. We’re also taking less time for household chores. Since 1950, the annual hours devoted to work at home has fallen from 1,544 to 1,278. Working less means we have more time for ourselves. The hustle and bustle of everyday life conceals the fact that a typical American has more free time than ever.

As it turns out, those Kansans haven't been hoodwinked at all. If we look at the effect of their vote only through the lens of economic self-interest we find that they've utilized their franchise quite sensibly.

August 13, 2008

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:20 PM


Presidential Race Draws Even (Pew Research, 8/13/08)

With less than two weeks to go before the start of the presidential nominating conventions, Barack Obama's lead over John McCain has disappeared. Pew's latest survey finds 46% of registered voters saying they favor or lean to the putative Democratic candidate, while 43% back his likely Republican rival. In late June, Obama held a comfortable 48%-to-40% margin over McCain, which narrowed in mid-July to 47% to 42%.

Two factors appear to be at play in shifting voter sentiment. First, McCain is garnering more support from his base - including Republicans and white evangelical Protestants - than he was in June, and he also has steadily gained backing from white working class voters over this period. Secondly and more generally, the Arizona senator has made gains on his leadership image. An even greater percentage of voters than in June now see McCain as the candidate who would use the best judgment in a crisis, and an increasing percentage see him as the candidate who can get things done.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:59 PM


Book on Obama Hopes to Repeat Anti-Kerry Feat (JIM RUTENBERG and JULIE BOSMAN, 8/13/08, NY Times)

In the summer of 2004 the conservative gadfly Jerome R. Corsi shot to the top of the best-seller lists as co-author of “Unfit for Command,” the book attacking Senator John Kerry’s record on a Vietnam War Swift boat that began the larger damaging campaign against Mr. Kerry’s war credentials as he sought the presidency.

Almost exactly four years after that campaign began, Mr. Corsi has released a new attack book painting Senator Barack Obama, the Democrats’ presumed presidential nominee, as a stealth radical liberal who has tried to cover up “extensive connections to Islam” — Mr. Obama is Christian — and questioning whether his admitted experimentation with drugs in high school and college ever ceased. [...]

Mr. Corsi, who has over the years also written critically about Senator John McCain, Mr. Obama’s probable Republican opponent, said he supported the Constitution Party presidential nominee, Chuck Baldwin, and had not been in touch with McCain aides.

It'll come as no surprise that Mr. Corsi is one of those nativist loons who fears a North American Union and the NAFTA Superhighway.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:45 PM


Past and Present: 'Malaise' and the Energy Crisis: Jimmy Carter's speech is remembered for something he never said—we should recall what he did say (Kevin Mattson, August 13, 2008, US News)

What Carter really did in the speech was profound. He warned Americans that the 1979 energy crisis—both a shortage of gas and higher prices—stemmed from the country's way of life. "Too many of us now tend to worship self-indulgence and consumption. Human identity is no longer defined by what one does but by what one owns," the president said. Consumerism provided people with false happiness, he suggested, but it also prevented Americans from re-examining their lives in order to confront the profound challenge the energy crisis elicited.

"We've always believed in something called progress," Carter explained. The simple version of this big idea was the faith that "piling up of material" goods would ensure a better life. Carter condemned the idea's naiveté and warned his fellow Americans that they could not live in a world without limits. Selfish individualism (what he once called "me-ism") wouldn't pull us through the crisis.

As Americans, Carter explained, we had to stop daydreaming and realize that our reliance on foreign oil made us vulnerable. Here he used a war analogy for his solution—though sometimes a faltering metaphor, it made sense. Our country had been founded by a revolution against foreign dependence, and now the country needed to throw off reliance on the Middle East's "black gold." So Carter proposed an Energy Mobilization Board modeled after the sort of government agency that got the country through World War II.

Some of the other policies Carter offered in the speech still get recycled today. He wanted a "windfall profits tax" to hit the oil corporations. The money garnered would help fund the search for alternative sources of energy. Short-term pain would be inevitable, Carter warned ("This is not a message of happiness or reassurance," he said, "but it is the truth and it is a warning"). Still, the tax seemed the best compromise between two polarized positions, the open-ended deregulation called for by the right (including Reagan) and a call to nationalize the oil companies from the left. Before Bill Clinton, then a young governor of Arkansas, articulated a "Third Way" philosophy, Carter had discovered the virtues of the middle road and compromise.

We would do well to remember Carter's speech in today's context not for a word it never offered—malaise—but for the warnings it provided. Carter was right to suggest that the energy crisis of 1979 had to do with our moral shortcomings—our culture's penchant for selfish individualism and its desire to live without limits or a sense of a public good. Those are not bad lessons to heed today, as we think about our current energy crisis. After all, we should have readied ourselves during the go-go 1990s for the problems we face at the gas pumps now instead of rushing out to purchase SUVs and Hummers in record numbers.

We would also do well to remember the sort of complexity and humility that Carter tried to inject into political rhetoric.

Wow, what a spectacular failure to understand why the speech, for all its merits, failed. It isn't humble to act helpless and confused in the face of problems you identify.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:22 PM


Harmony and the Dream (DAVID BROOKS, 8/12/08, NY Times)

If Asia’s success reopens the debate between individualism and collectivism (which seemed closed after the cold war), then it’s unlikely that the forces of individualism will sweep the field or even gain an edge.

For one thing, there are relatively few individualistic societies on earth. For another, the essence of a lot of the latest scientific research is that the Western idea of individual choice is an illusion and the Chinese are right to put first emphasis on social contexts.

Scientists have delighted to show that so-called rational choice is shaped by a whole range of subconscious influences, like emotional contagions and priming effects (people who think of a professor before taking a test do better than people who think of a criminal). Meanwhile, human brains turn out to be extremely permeable (they naturally mimic the neural firings of people around them). Relationships are the key to happiness. People who live in the densest social networks tend to flourish, while people who live with few social bonds are much more prone to depression and suicide.

The rise of China isn’t only an economic event. It’s a cultural one. The ideal of a harmonious collective may turn out to be as attractive as the ideal of the American Dream.

Folks like Mr. Brooks used to make the same nonsensical claims about Japan in the '80s, ignoring things like the way the lack of individualism led to their societies being profoundly uncreative, so that their economic model is based almost exclusively on cheaply assembling products that we invent, and the looming demographic crises that ensure imminent decline. But, whereas Japan enjoyed a long run as factory floor for the developed world, China's moment comes at a period of maximal globalization and, not only has competition kept a lid on wages but as it becomes more expensive to hire its workers the jobs will just move elsewhere. As a result, the Chinese have a per capita GDP of a mere $5,300, about 1/9th of ours. Even Japan has made it to $33k before it heads down hill.

Even the most Darwinist among the Brights can't really believe that the Asiatic mind is so different that a dime is as attractive as a dollar to the Chinese.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:55 AM


Yes, She Can (MAUREEN DOWD, 8/13/08, NY Times)

While Obama was spending three hours watching “The Dark Knight” five time zones away, and going to a fund-raiser featuring “Aloha attire” and Hawaiian pupus, Hillary was busy planning her convention.

You can almost hear her mind whirring: She’s amazed at how easy it was to snatch Denver away from the Obama saps. Like taking candy from a baby, except Beanpole Guy doesn’t eat candy.

Bad enough to make an obviously racist reference to how slender he is, but both beans and poles are clear invocations of genitalia. Does no one edit the Times? Does no one follow the Noahide Laws?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:26 AM


The Democrats’ Lost Tribe: An author argues that without support from Catholics, the Democrats won't win the presidency. But how to lure them back? (Roger Lowenstein September 2008, Folio)

Michael Sean Winters has a name for Democrats who have abandoned their party in recent years: Catholics.

In Left at the Altar: How the Democrats Lost the Catholics and How the Catholics Can Save the Democrats, Winters, a columnist for the Catholic World, argues that the Democrats discovered how to win presidential elections only when, in the 1930s, they formed a left-center alli­ance with working-class Catholics. This lasted half a century, until Catholic voters deserted Jimmy Carter in 1980. The party would lose five of the next seven elections, and in 2004, Senator John Kerry would fail to carry the Catholic vote. If that does not sound astonishing, imagine Senator Barack Obama losing the black vote. “How did the Demo­crats lose the Catholics?” a bishop asked Winters. He attempts to answer this very question. forcibly resettle Catholics back in major cities and they'd get that support back. Once Catholics stopped being dependent on urban political patronage it was all over. That is, likewise, why Democrats have a vested interest in keeping blacks in ghettoes with bad schools.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:23 AM


Edwards Took Mistress on 2006 Presidential Announcement Tour (Garance Franke-Ruta, 8/12/08, Washington Post: The Trail)

Well, you gotta give him one thing: the man has chutzpah.

Photographs distributed by wire services and posted online by technology blogger Robert Scoble show that former North Carolina senator John Edwards took his mistress Rielle Hunter with him on the plane during his late 2006 presidential campaign announcement tour. As can be seen in this Dec. 28, 2006 photo (that's Hunter in the jeans and jester hat, as can be seen more clearly in this side-profile photo), Hunter stood off to the side of the national press corps filming Edwards as the former Democratic vice presidential nominee announced his second bid for the presidency in New Orleans.

Here she is drinking from a cup as Edwards is interviewed by the press. More photos of her at Edwards's presidential campaign kickoff can be found here and here, where she's shown laughing with Edwards's young staffers.

It's hard not to have a bit more respect for the Breck Girl given the massive contempt he demonstrated for the press and his party.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:20 AM


In a Changing Corner of Pa., a Glimpse of Obama's Age Problem (Alec MacGillis, 8/12/08, Washington Post)

Even as younger voters are showing signs of breaking with years of lackluster turnout to support him, Obama is facing singular resistance from voters over 65. That age group turns out at the highest rate on Election Day and is disproportionately represented in the swing states of Florida and Pennsylvania; Bill Clinton and Al Gore both relied on it in winning the Democrats' only popular-vote majorities of the past two decades.

With polls showing Obama dominating among those under 40 and running even among middle-aged voters, Republican John McCain's lead among those 65 and older is the main reason he remains close overall. His margin is largest among older white voters without a college education, accounting for much of Obama's problem with the white working class.

Obama has tried to compensate by proposing a tax cut for seniors, which was criticized by economists. But as Rutherford's comments suggest and surveys show, Obama's challenge goes deeper than a new proposal or two -- an approach that worked for Clinton against George H.W. Bush and Robert J. Dole.

Surveys and interviews suggest that older voters think McCain, who will turn 72 this month, comes far closer than Obama, 47, to sharing their values and outlook on the world and on the changes in the nation over the past half-century.

"The older people just don't see Obama in these glowing terms," said Andrew Kohut, director of the Pew Research Center. "For older voters, a lot of the reservations really have to do with this experience factor, while younger voters see in Obama something much closer to themselves."

...while Maverick does well among voters.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:17 AM


Oil at $75 a barrel? (Jamal Mecklai, August 13, 2008, Rediff)

I had been looking at a chart of oil prices and, while I'm no technical whiz (although I do have a passing sense of simple patterns like head-and-shoulders and the like), I noticed that if oil were to fall below $121.92 (the neck line of a S-H-S pattern) - as it has - it could (should?) fall all the way to $98. Of course, this, in itself, is no big shakes - an analysis we had done in April had forecast $100 (or a bit below) by year-end and a lot of forecasts today are calling for that level.

But, looking more closely at the chart, I saw another possibility. As this pattern played out, the price could well bounce off $110, rise a bit and then resume its decline. This would set up - and trigger - another head and shoulders that would have a target at $75 to the barrel.

Now, that would be something, wouldn't it?

There is no historical reason to believe that the producing nations can maintain a profit margin that high.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:11 AM


Clinton Declined, but McCain Won't (Mark Davis, 8/13/08, Real Clear Politics)

"His roots to basic American culture and values are at best limited," Mr. Penn wrote in March 2007. "I cannot imagine America electing a president at a time of war who is not at his center fundamentally American in his thinking and values."

(And they say Democrats and Republicans can't agree on anything.)

He continues: "Let's explicitly own 'American' in our programs, the speeches and the values ... he doesn't."

Predictably, those now tasked with paving the way for an Obama ascendancy are awash in contrived indignation. "It's an appeal to prejudice. I think it's ugly," frowns Democratic consultant Bob Shrum. "If Hillary Clinton had done that, she would permanently besmirch her reputation, her legacy and her place in American politics."

Or she might have been delivering a Thursday night convention speech.

In state after state, primary voters who like their presidents to cleave to their country's roots and culture gave Mrs. Clinton victories that almost allowed her to rally.

Had she been more aggressive in this regard, I believe she would have won. Now, her torment will be complete, as John McCain uses exactly that strategy to reveal Mr. Obama as insufficiently woven into the tapestry of the nation he seeks to lead.

Can McCain Use Advice Clinton Got on Obama? (Dan Balz, 8/12/08, Washington Post)
Penn was always the biggest hawk in Clinton's campaign, always the one who advocated going negative against Obama. The day after the senator from New York won primaries in Ohio and Texas, Penn called for drawing a sharp contrast with Obama along the following lines:

"He is just words and she is a lifetime of action. . . . She is the one who is ready to fill the big shoes of this job and he is an inspiring speaker who isn't, and whose background you are beginning to wonder about. She has brought real results and even his words today are in doubt, invented for a campaign. Ultimately he cannot win against John McCain."

Clinton's campaign, he argued, "must now in earnest show that their image of Obama Camelot is simply nothing but campaign pitter-patter."

At the end of the day on March 30, he wrote an even more pointed memo. He argued that Obama needed to be "vetted" on the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., his former pastor; on his ties to the corrupt Tony Rezko; and on his record in the Illinois legislature and the U.S. Senate.

"Does anyone believe it is possible to win the nomination without, over these two months, raising all these issues against him?" Penn wrote. "A 'nice' campaign that wins the states alone that can be won -- will that be enough or do serious issues have to raised about him?"

...that Democrats should take what they believe seriously and that it is important for them to govern the country--in what sense then can Ms Clinton be said to have served her party and country well in declining to make the argument that her opponent is unelectable?

August 12, 2008

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:03 PM


Obama Salute Creator Hits Back at Critics (Paul Bedard, 8/12/08, US News)

Rick Husong] E-mailed me last night to say that the hits on the artwork have inspired him to push even harder to build a movement around the hand signal. Here's what he wrote: "Our symbol 'O' is about much more than Barack Obama. It's a symbol of unity, hope, solidarity, and an end to the divisiveness that has plagued this country for too long. It is the peace sign of our generation; a sign for those who are tired of the fear, the hatred, the greed, and the ignorance. There will be resistance, democracy requires it, but we believe that the good in the American people will persevere.

"Barack Obama is a very exciting catalyst. At first we were bothered by the negative and vulgar comments made. When someone attacks something you hold dear, it hurts, but as we continued to read all the comments, we realized just how silly and frankly unimaginative most of them were. Many didn't even take the time to read the article. People came out against the peace emblem in the sixties, making accusations that it was an anti-Christian symbol, an inverted crucifix, a satanic symbol, and a Communist sign."

So why do we need two signs for the same thing?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:27 PM


Russia's Power Play (George F. Will, August 12, 2008, Washington Post)

[B]ig events reveal smallness, such as that of New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson.

On ABC's "This Week," Richardson, auditioning to be Barack Obama's running mate, disqualified himself. Clinging to the Obama campaign's talking points like a drunk to a lamppost, Richardson said that this crisis proves the wisdom of Obama's zest for diplomacy and that America should get the U.N. Security Council "to pass a strong resolution getting the Russians to show some restraint." Apparently Richardson was ambassador to the United Nations for 19 months without noticing that Russia has a Security Council veto.'s his womanizing that disqualifies him.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:49 AM


If you've nothing to hide... (Mirko Bagaric, August 13, 2008, The Australian)

The recommendation earlier this week by the Australian Law Reform Commission to introduce an Australia-wide legally protected privacy right ismorally misguided and socially destructive. History confirms that humans don't need a strong right to privacy to flourish.

Moreover, the suspicion that results from us not sharing information about ourselves may be destructive of the common good.

Although not without qualification, the principle that "if you have done nothing wrong, you have nothing to fear" has considerable merit. Privacy is often no more than code for the "right to secrecy", which is destructive of an open and free society.

If there were less privacy, criminals would find it harder to plot harmful acts (hundreds of crimes have been thwarted by closed-circuit television). We would be better placed to make informed investment decisions (no more tiresome "commercial in confidence" conversation-stoppers) and know more about the real agendas of our politicians.

...that the least effective department of our government is the intelligence services, the most secretive.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:47 AM


Stocks Rise as Oil Falls: Major indexes reversed earlier losses after the price of crude oil fell, at one point breaking below $114 per barrel (Ben Steverman, 8/12/08, Business Week)

Stocks rose Monday as the falling price of oil helped major indexes continue a rally that began on Friday.

War between Russia and Georgia failed to rattle energy markets Monday. Oil dropped below $114 per barrel at one point on Monday before recovering a bit. On the NYMEX, crude oil for September delivery fell 60 cents to $114.60 per barrel.

To sell more of it faster, which means cheaper.
Reblog this post

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:35 AM


Who's winning the message war, Obama or McCain?: Kathleen Hall Jamieson, a leading analyst of political advertising, dissects three commercials from Barack Obama and three from John McCain. (Alex Koppelman, Aug. 12, 2008, Salon)

Why don't we talk about specific ads now? What about the McCain Web ad "The One," in which the McCain campaign mocks Obama by comparing him to Moses?

The first advantage that this ad has is that it's using Senator Obama's [own] statements in actual video clips. It heightens credibility. The second advantage to that ad is that its use of humor is effective. Charlton Heston as Moses is unexpected the first time you see the ad, and the juxtaposition with the theme of the Obama quotes on each side is effective. And so unlike the "Celeb" ad [featuring Britney Spears and Paris Hilton], in which the test of plausibility is immediate, in that you can begin to ask, what are these two women doing in this ad; you're far less likely to ask that in "The One."

Across those ads you're seeing the same basic theme: Is Obama ready to lead? The Republicans have found their theme and the question becomes, is it a theme that is ultimately disadvantageous, [if] in the debates Senator Obama establishes that he is able to hold his own with Senator McCain. Debates provide a test of that. We've seen it historically across campaigns. John Kennedy was advantaged in 1960; that was the question being asked by Richard Nixon at the time. In the first debate, Kennedy established that he was as competent, not more competent, but as competent as Richard Nixon, and he was advantaged. John Kerry was advantaged in the same way in the 2004 election because after the scare tactics that were employed by the Republicans against him had potentially gained traction, the debate gave him a chance to step beyond the caricatures. So the danger in the Republican strategy is that it sets up an argument that can be rebutted by performance of the opposing candidate in a debate. Nonetheless, the ad called "The One" is an effective ad because its use of humor works, because its use of quotations by Senator Obama works. As a result it passes the plausibility test. [...]

What about the "Celeb" ad, which features Britney Spears and Paris Hilton? [...]

The other thing that interests me about this ad is that it is visually and verbally recasting the speech in Germany. And that is important because there is a view that is offered by the Obama campaign, largely reinforced in news and in the talking-heads commentary on cable, in which that speech is a symbol of Europeans expressing support for America's role in the world and the form of leadership that Senator Obama would bring. If that is your view of the speech in Germany, then it's a very positive signal.

If, however, that visual of the 200,000 people is transformed into not an affirmation of an important U.S. role in the world and a European willingness to embrace that role, and a willingness to embrace Senator Obama, but rather a crowd chanting his name and an audience transformed into a crowd [that] just looks like a large mass, [the image has] been stripped of some of its power and now there's a vaguely menacing sense about the chant and about this undifferentiated mass audience.

That's the argument this ad is making. That is a very different visual and verbal image than the one that was conveyed by the speech itself or the interpretation of it offered in news. And that part of this ad is very effective and largely unremarked on.

When your message is our message, you're toast.

Negative ads: They really do work (MARK J. PENN | 8/11/08, Politico)

Some negative ads crystallize voters’ opinions without presenting any new information. That’s what was behind John McCain’s recent ad equating Barack Obama’s celebrity status with that of Paris Hilton — that viewers would associate the Democrat’s leadership with mere celebrity, not substance. Fair or not, as advertising it did its job: It used humor, stuck viewers with memorable images and created a debate, just as Lyndon Johnson’s 1964 “Daisy” ad, Walter Mondale’s “Red Phone” spot 20 years later and Hillary Rodham Clinton’s “3 a.m.” commercial in 2008 did.

The Paris Hilton ad also bore a Republican political trademark — attacking a candidate’s strengths rather than the candidate’s weaknesses. The spot attempted to portray Obama’s leadership for change as something fluffy and useless. Obama did not immediately hit back on the air.

Other types of negative ads use candidates’ own words against them. During Bill Clinton’s 1996 campaign, we used to devastating effect the speeches that Republican nominee Bob Dole and House Speaker Newt Gingrich gave — especially a speech in which Gingrich admitted that his balanced budget plan aimed to cut off Medicare funds so the social insurance program would “wither on the vine.”

So far in the 2008 contest, neither candidate has connected with any ads that explosive. But fresh information about their past views in their own words could shake up the race.

Another nice hint that the tapes exist, but the brader point is the GOP needn't present new information when the Unicorn Rider's (or Dukakis/Gore/Kerry's) own information actually works to his disfavor.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:25 AM


I'm Sigmund Freud and I Approve This Message: Sometimes, a tire gauge is just a tire gauge. But not this time. (Paul Waldman, August 12, 2008, American Prospect)

Though there was no particular evidence that the tire gauge attack was having an effect, the McCain campaign's glee was evident. Just days before, they had alleged that Obama's criticisms of their tactics constituted "fussiness and hysteria," and now here they were brandishing small, phallic objects bearing their opponent's name.

Meanwhile, McCain himself was sent out to pose in front of working oil rigs, to testify to his thirst for pulling more black gold from the earth. The message couldn't be plainer: See that itty bitty little tire gauge? If you vote for Obama, that's how big your penis is. If you vote for McCain, on the other hand, your penis is as big as this rig, thrusting its gigantic shaft in and out of the ground! Real men think keeping your tires inflated is for weenies.

So, on the one hand, any time we criticize the Unicorn Rider we're subliminally portraying him as Mandingo and a threat to white women everywhere--note the horn of the unicorn?--but, on the other, when we criticize him we're calling him a sissy? Aren't the two contradictory?

[Mind you, we'd aver that it is certainly the case that the leader of the female party invites sissyfication. That's why even Al Gore and John Kerry--who served in Vietnam--ended up coming across as wusses. We're just not sure how you square that with the charge that Senator Obama is being hyper-sexualized for racist reasons.]

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:11 AM


The city at the empire's edge: The Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous region of China has seen a series of clashes between the majority Uighurs and Han Chinese settlers since the 1980s. But it was in the city of Yining that the largest protest took place on 5 February 1997. Initially written off by the Chinese authorities as an outbreak of random violence, since 9/11 it has been cast as the work of Islamists intent on establishing an independent Islamic kingdom. (Nick Holdstock, Eurozine)

The main ethnic group in Xinjiang are the Uighurs (pronounced weegers), a Turkic people, which means that they belong to the same group of peoples who began in Central Asia and then eventually spread as far as Turkey. Their language is similar to Kazakh and Uzbek. Although many speak Mandarin Chinese, few are able to read and write Chinese with any great proficiency. The majority of Uighurs are Sunni Muslims, though there are considerable differences between religious practices in the north and south of the province, with the latter tending to be more orthodox.

Before 1949 (when the People's Republic of China was founded), there were only 20,000 Han in the region, less than 5 per cent of the population. In Yining there were so few Han that a street was named Han Ren Jie ("the street of Han people").

The succeeding years witnessed a demographic explosion, as the government encouraged Han from the more populated provinces to resettle in the region. Many of these are part of the Xinjiang Production & Construction Corps (XPCC). The XPCC was created in the early 1950s as a way to utilise soldiers from the surrendered Nationalist army. Since then successive waves of migration have swelled the ranks of the XPCC, which today stands at around 2.5 million.

The XPCC has its own police force, courts, agricultural and industrial enterprises, as well as its own large network of labour camps and prisons. Its main unit of production is the state farm or bingtuan. The bingtuans have had the dual function of developing the region's economy and quelling unrest; in one of its marching songs it describes itself as "an army with no uniforms". Many towns with a Uighur majority are now encircled by bingtuans.

The most noticeable aspect of life in Yining is how Han and Uighurs live separately. They eat in different restaurants (Uighurs only eat in halal establishments, whereas pork is an essential ingredient in Han cuisine); their children go to separate schools; they rarely socialise; they virtually never marry. The only time I ever saw Han and Uighurs happily together was at a cockfight.

They are even divided temporally: the Han run on Beijing time, whereas most Uighurs use Xinjiang time, which is two hours ahead (and more accurately reflects the position of the sun). For anyone who hopes to have Han and Uighur friends, this makes arranging any kind of meeting incredibly tiresome. You will frequently be two hours early, or late, even when you think you have specified whether the time of meeting is Xinjiang or Beijing shi dian. For many Uighurs, this imposition of the wrong time zone is more than simply absurd. It sums up the arrogance and indifference of the Chinese government to the fact that Xinjiang is so markedly different to the rest of China. You could almost be forgiven for thinking it was a separate country.

The Chinese government's position on the history of Xinjiang is admirably clear. In essence, it amounts to:

One thing cannot be denied. Xinjiang has always been a part of China. Since the time of its origins, our great motherland has always been a multi-ethnic nation.

The position of some Uighurs is similarly clear:

One thing cannot be denied. Xinjiang has never been a part of China. Only in recent years have we become a Chinese colony.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:54 AM


Solzhenitsyn and the Battle for the Human Soul (Robert P. Kraynak, August 12, 2008, First Things)

[I]f Solzhenitsyn is going to be truly valued by future generations, his life and art will have to be studied for the enduring lessons they teach about the moral and spiritual dimension of politics, which Solzhenitsyn always saw as a battleground for the dignity and perfection of the human soul.

This perspective is alien and frightening to contemporary people in the West, because they think about politics primarily in terms of human rights—about whether a government protects the rights and liberties of its citizens or represses them. But Solzhenitsyn never thought that the categories of Western liberalism about human rights were a sufficient guide to politics, and he upset his Western friends and admirers by stating that human rights were not the full measure of a just or healthy society. In his famous Harvard Address of 1978, he attacked communist regimes for destroying freedom, but then he criticized Western democracies for their emphasis on legalistic rights without moral self-restraint and religious foundations. He joined forces with his fellow Soviet dissident, Andrei Sakharov, in resisting Soviet leaders, but then he harshly criticized Sakharov’s “human rights activism” for its naïve liberalism. Solzhenitsyn also said jarring things like, “Human rights are a fine thing, but how can we be sure that our rights do not expand at the expense of the rights of others. . . . Human freedom includes voluntary self-limitation for the sake of others.”

Statements like these led many in the West to view Solzhenitsyn as an enemy of political freedom and democracy who sympathized with reactionary causes, like Tsarism, theocracy, and authoritarian nationalism. These portraits are unfair, however, because Solzhenitsyn had a deep appreciation for political freedom and democracy, even though he insisted that political institutions must serve the highest good of developing the human soul in all of its moral, artistic, and spiritual dimensions. To remember Solzhenitsyn properly, we have to appreciate his insistence on restoring the human soul to the center of politics while viewing political freedom as the necessary and indispensable means—but only a means—to the development of the soul.

Vital here is the corollary, that where the end that freedom renders is the stunting of souls it is an illegitimate means. As Professor Kraynak says, in his own exceptional book, "[W]e must face the disturbing dilemma that modern liberal democracy needs God, but God is not as liberal or as democratic as we would like Him to be."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:43 AM


A big surprise on gas: You may not believe it, but fuel is more affordable than it was during the early '60s. (Indur M. Goklany and Jerry Taylor, August 11, 2008, LA Times)

[G]asoline is more affordable for American families now than it was in the days of the gas-guzzling muscle cars of the early 1960s. Prices are beginning to come down somewhat, but this was true even when the national average was at its summer peak.

Two-thirds of American voters say they think that the price of gas is "an extremely important political issue," and many believe that it will cause them "serious" financial hardship, according to a recent survey by the Associated Press and Yahoo.

Although it's true that the real (inflation-adjusted) and nominal (posted) prices of gasoline are higher than at any time since World War II, even at the recent peak national average of $4.11 a gallon (California's average Friday was $4.17), gasoline is still more affordable today than it was during the Kennedy administration. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke worries that increasing fuel prices might eat up so much disposable income that it flat-lines consumer spending and tanks the economy. But it's difficult to square that worry with what we call the "affordability index" -- the ratio of the average person's disposable income to the price of gasoline.

After studying the average yearly price of gasoline from 1949 to 2007, and assigning the number "1" to the ratio in 1960, we found today's prices comparable to what they were in 1960 (1.35 today to 1.00 in 1960, with a high of 3.32 in 1998). The higher the gasoline affordability index figure, the lower the price of gasoline relative to disposable income.

No one has it harder than their old man did, though on gas prices we should.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:38 AM


Michael Phelps' victory dance is innate, scientists say: A study finds that blind athletes strike the same exuberant poses as their sighted counterparts -- as do other primates. (Denise Gellene, 8/12/08, Los Angeles Times)

Jessica L. Tracy, a psychologist at the University of British Columbia and lead author of the study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, said that the hangdog look of losers also turns out to be instinctive.

Blind athletes across all cultures slumped their shoulders and narrowed their chests, a posture that signals shame in humans and submission in other primates. Sighted athletes from most parts of the world did the same.

But the researchers unexpectedly found that sighted athletes from individualistic societies, such as in the U.S. and Western Europe, tended to put on a brave front, outwardly appearing to stand tall in the face of defeat and shame, the report said.

Tracy speculated that the athletes were intentionally hiding their feelings -- consciously overriding their innate urge to signal defeat -- because losing is so stigmatized in their cultures.

"We have been taught that even if we screw up in life, to hide it," she said.

This is, of course, exactly backwards. Our culture teaches that there is no shame in losing, though there is agony. The shame lies in acting defeated and petulant just because you lost. It's why Richard Nixon had less class, was less manly, than Al Gore.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:29 AM


Sigmund Freud's Grand Delusion (Dinesh D'Souza, 8/12/08, AOL News)

In a way, Freud is following the downward path of that other great totem of the last couple of centuries, Karl Marx. It's hard to believe so many intelligent people spent their lives studying these two thinkers. Intellectuals, we have to conclude, are often fatally attracted to far-out theories that tease the mind but that bear little relation to what's actually going on in the world.

The third "bearded godkiller" is faring no better.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:24 AM


Indiana Senator Offers Obama Risks and Rewards (CARL HULSE, 8/12/08, NY Times)

As the Senate debate on the use of force against Iraq neared its climax in October 2002, Senator John McCain turned on the floor to Senator Evan Bayh to ask what had led him to take such “a visible, as well as important” role in seeking Congressional consent for military action.

Mr. Bayh, a cautious Indiana Democrat, acknowledged it had not been an easy decision.

“There is reluctance in my heart, as I know there is in the other senators, to contemplate the use of force,” Mr. Bayh said, adding that he concluded “we were simply left with no other credible alternative to protect the safety and well-being of the American people.”

Six years later, Mr. Bayh is one of the leading candidates to be the running mate of the presumed Democratic presidential nominee, Senator Barack Obama, associates of Mr. Obama say. But Mr. Bayh’s advocacy for the war could complicate his prospects for getting on the ticket.

....doesn't it make sense to at least take a running mate who was right?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:18 AM


Purpose-driven Hype (Lauren Collins, August 11, 2008, The New Yorker)

Billed as a “Civil Forum on Leadership and Compassion,” the McCain/Obama event will occupy a prime slot: five to seven on a Saturday night. Dominating the church’s Web site is a pop-up ad in the style of an old-timey woodcut poster, the type you might see announcing a Willie Nelson stand at the Ryman. McCain and Obama face off in three-quarter profile, as if tuning up for a battle of the bands. Warren plans to introduce the presumptive nominees together and then to interview each for an hour. He determined who will go first—Obama—with a coin toss.

The idea for the summit goes back to April, when Messiah College, in Grantham, Pennsylvania, invited the Presidential candidates to campus for a discussion of moral issues. Obama and Hillary Clinton showed up. McCain bagged it. “Along about June, they asked, ‘Would you be interested in helping to host a second forum?’ ” Warren recalled. “Over the next month, it became clear that there was a stalemate between the campaigns. It was pretty much dead in the water.” Warren, who doesn’t make endorsements, called McCain and Obama—“good friends,” both—on their cell phones. “I just went straight to the principals,” he said.

Two presidential candidates, a pastor and Messiah College--who will tell the Brights?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:46 AM


Brown should have learned from Hillary Clinton's defeat (James Forsyth, 8/12/08, The Spectator)

With hindsight it is clear that Hillary Clinton should have either hugged Barack Obama so close from the outset that he couldn’t wiggle free or set out to destroy him as soon as he announced his candidacy. Hillary, though, tried an odd mix of the two, giving Obama just the opening he needed.

Gordon Brown had the same two options after David Miliband’s infamous Guardian op-ed. Team Brown, though, like the Clinton campaign couldn’t decide which option to choose. in Hillary's need to be far Left if she was to win caucuses but Bill to win primaries. Being a parliamentary party leader is all caucus, so Mr. Brown is stuck between being anti-Blair enough to keep his post but Blairite enough to win an election, a balancing act that proved impossible once David Cameron made the Tories Blair's heirs.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:43 AM


'Itchy feet' gnome returns home (BBC, 8/12/08)

A snatched garden gnome has been returned to his owner with a photo album picturing him in 12 countries he had visited with his kidnapper.

Eve Stuart-Kelso said she was stunned to see her leprechaun Murphy standing outside her Gloucester home seven months after he disappeared.

He was also carrying a note putting his world tour down to "itchy feet". [...]

Also with Murphy were immigration stamps for all the shores he had been taken to visit - South Africa, Swaziland, Mozambique, New Zealand, Australia, Singapore, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, China, Hong Kong and Laos.

Zemanta Pixie

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:39 AM


The Global Ambition of Rick Warren (David Van Biema, 8/07/08, TIME)

If [Rick] Warren were content to be merely the most influential religious figure on the American political scene, that would be significant enough. He isn't. Five years ago, he concocted what he calls the PEACE plan, a bid to turn every single Christian church on earth into a provider of local health care, literacy and economic development, leadership training and spiritual growth. The enterprise has collected testimonials from Bono, the First Couple, Hillary Clinton, Obama, McCain and Graham, who called it "the greatest, most comprehensive and most biblical vision for world missions I've ever heard or read about." The only thing bigger than the plan's sheer nerve is the odds against its completion; there are signs that in the small country Warren has made a laboratory for the plan, PEACE is encountering as many problems as it has solved.

Having staked so much on his global initiative, Warren can't allow it to die. But the scale of his ambition does raise questions that confront the American Evangelical movement as a whole as it tries to graduate from a domestic political force into a global benefactor. In fact, it is easier to save souls than to save the world.

Warren grew up in Northern California. He is a fourth-generation Southern Baptist pastor, intimately familiar not just with churches but also with the spreading of them: his father was a "church planter," or serial church founder. The son, who has said that from sixth grade on he was always president of something (and told TIME he led a courthouse march for the 1960s radical group Students for a Democratic Society, or SDS), received his own call to ministry at age 19. He got a conventional theology doctorate and an unconventional education from a friend, management guru Peter Drucker, who refined Warren's organizational gift and offered a secular vocabulary with which to express it.

Two archetypes dominated 20th century Evangelicalism: the Grahamesque evangelist, and the paladin of the religious right. Warren is neither. He has always been about churches. Networks of churches. And of pastors, the CEOs of churches. He founded Saddleback in 1980 when he was just out of Baptist seminary, with neither a building nor a congregation, and grew it relentlessly to its current size. In 1995 he shared his secrets in a book called The Purpose Driven Church: Growth Without Compromising Your Message & Mission. (The "purpose" was God's.) His knack for schematization allowed almost any minister to reconfigure his church along the lines of Saddleback. Warren says that he and his staff have given "purpose-driven training" to 500,000 eager pastors worldwide and that 1 out of 20 U.S. churches has done his "40 Days of Purpose" exercises. In all, says fellow megapastor Joel Hunter, Warren's is "easily the broadest and most influential church network in the world."

But it was not until 2002 that Warren became a mainstream megastar, following the publication of The Purpose Driven Life. Beyond its striking opening assertion — "It's not about you" (it's about God and you) — the book, like its predecessor, was a crystal-clear blueprint, in this case for extending Sunday spirituality to the rest of one's life. It employed the tropes of the self-help genre (A 40-day program! Exercises!) to chart a user's guide to living midstream Evangelical doctrine. (On God's wanting believers to be a "living sacrifice": "The problem with a living sacrifice is that it can crawl off the altar. We sing Onward, Christian Soldiers on Sunday, then go AWOL on Monday.") The Purpose Driven Life shipped 40 million copies worldwide, and Warren was suddenly famous and (despite turning over 90% of his profits to his church) rich. He could try his hand at just about anything.

During the 2004 presidential election, he seemed to toy with using his new influence to become the next Jerry Falwell or James Dobson. Although he did not officially endorse George W. Bush, the mega-author made no secret of his preference. Two weeks before the election, he sent an e-mail to the several hundred thousand pastors on his mailing list, enumerating "non-negotiable" issues for Christians to consider when casting their votes: abortion, stem-cell research, gay marriage, euthanasia and human cloning. Shortly after the election, two attendees of a Washington meeting of conservative religious and political heavyweights remember Warren's actively soliciting advice on how he might increase his clout with GOP politicians.

But upon exploring the role, Warren grew uncomfortable with it. "I have never been considered a part of the religious right, because I don't believe politics is the most effective way to change the world," he says now. "Although public service can be a noble profession, and I believe it is our responsibility to vote, I don't have much faith in government solutions, given the track record. It's why I am a pastor, not a politician. None of my values have changed from four years ago, but my agenda has definitely expanded."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:28 AM

THE REALITY OF THOSE THREE A.M. MOMENTS...: that the president isn't even likely to be conversant with the situation that erupts, nor should he necessarily be. That's why he has staff. (Think Reagan could find Grenada on a map at 2:59 on the day he decided to liberate it?)

A junior congressman has even less reason to be familiar with such matters, so Senator Obama certainly shouldn't have been expected to have any instantly coherent views about Georgia v. Russia. However, a president's or a candidate's aides shouldn't let him go out at 3pm and still look like he has no idea what the situation entails. Whoever was responsible for Senator Obama making this statement served him poorly. Better for him to have stayed at the beach.

Obama without his script: Judging by his reaction to the Georgia-Russia crisis, Obama's make-believe presidency isn't ready for prime time. (Jonah Goldberg, August 12, 2008, LA Times)

Obama's response?

First, late Thursday evening, he gave a conventional written statement calling for calm, U.N. action and "restraint" from both sides -- followed an hour later by a slightly stronger condemnation of Russian aggression and a call for a cease-fire.

The invasion of Georgia elicited a wan written communique instead of the sort of exciting rhetoric we've come to expect from his make-believe presidency. But he did make it in front of the cameras the next day for a rally celebrating his vacation in Hawaii. He promised "to go body surfing at some undisclosed location."

During Obama's make-believe presidency, we've heard about bold action, about the courage to talk to dictators. When faced with a real "3 a.m. moment," Obama -- who boasts about 200 foreign policy advisors, broken into 10 subgroups -- proclaims, "I'm going to get some shave ice."

Now, of course, this is a bit unfair in that Obama had planned his no doubt well-deserved vacation for a very long time. But presidential vacations are always well planned -- and often interrupted.

Indeed, President Bush's jaunt to the Olympics as a "sports fan" should also have been cut short the moment tanks started rolling over a country he'd proclaimed a "beacon of liberty" during his visit there in 2005. By Monday, both Bush and Obama were playing catch-up to Sen. John McCain, who seemed to have grasped the gravity from the get-go and whose support for Georgia is long-standing. He took the lead from the outset, demanding on Friday morning an emergency meeting of NATO and Western aid to the fledgling democracy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:25 AM


The Galbraith Effect? (Thomas Sowell, 8/12/08, Real Clear Politics)

Many years ago, when I was a college student, I took a course from John Kenneth Galbraith. On the first day of class, Professor Galbraith gave a brilliant opening lecture, after which the students gave him a standing ovation.

Galbraith kept on giving brilliant opening lectures the whole semester. But, instead of standing ovations, there were now dwindling numbers of students and some of them got up and walked out in the middle of his lectures.

Galbraith never got beyond the glittering generalities that marked his first lecture. After a while, the students got tired of not getting any real substance.

Senator Barack Obama's campaign this year reminds me very much of that course from Professor Galbraith. Many people were ecstatic during the early primaries, as each state's voters heard his glittering generalities for the first time.

Which is why Maverick's ads accusing the Unicorn Rider of being no more than a facade of glittery celebrity is cutting so deep.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:23 AM


More on the Clinton Convention Saga (Martin Peretz, 8/10/08, TNR: The Spine)

The poor yet-to-be-named vice presidential nominee has already gotten short shrift from what is already settled. Bill will speak on the night of, but before the veep is designated. The running-mate will be lucky If he gets into prime time. My advice to the Obama operation is not to let anyone from the Harry Thompson operation anywhere near Denver.

Think back to the 2000 L.A. convention when that operation virtually stole the show from Al Gore. Clinton's majestic entrance could have been designed by Albert Speer and Leni Riefenstal.

A good indicator that Bill is too far Right for the Democrats.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:19 AM


Leading al-Qaida militant killed in north-west Pakistan clashes (Saeed Shah, 8/12/08,

According to a Pakistani security official, fighting in the Bajaur region has resulted in the death of militant Abu Saeed al-Masri, identified in local media reports as Mustafa Abu al-Yazid, al-Qaida's commander in Afghanistan. Yazid claimed responsibility for the bombing of the Danish embassy in Islamabad earlier this year, and he has also been linked to the assassination of the former prime minister Benazir Bhutto in December.

A second key al-Qaida figure, Abu Khabab al-Masri - an alleged chemical and biological weapons expert - was killed last month in a US air strike in South Waziristan, another part of Pakistan's tribal area. The presence of Yazid and Masri in Pakistan will fuel claims that the Taliban insurrection in Afghanistan is being directed from Pakistani territory and that the country is being used by al-Qaida as its global operations centre.


August 11, 2008

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:58 PM


Where Europe Vanishes: Civilizations have collided in the Caucasus Mountains since the dawn of history, and the region's dozens of ethnic groups have been noted for "obstinacy and ferocity" since ancient times. Stalin was born in these mountains, and it was also here that the Soviet empire began to crumble. The story of the Republic of Georgia illustrates that the peoples of the Caucasus may prove as incapable of self-rule as they were resistant to rule by outsiders (Robert D. Kaplan, November 2000, Alantic Monthly)

EUROPE and Asia fuse along the shores of the Black Sea, but the Caspian Sea is all Asiatic. Between these two bodies of water is a land bridge where Europe gradually vanishes amid a 750-mile chain of rugged mountains as high as 18,000 feet. This is the Caucasus—Russia's Wild West. Here Russian colonialists since the seventeenth century have tried unsuccessfully to subdue multitudes of unruly peoples. To the west and southwest of the Caucasus lie the Black Sea and the most undeveloped part of Turkey; southeast lie the mountains and tablelands of Iran; east, across the Caspian Sea, are the desert wastes of Central Asia; and north lies Russia, shattered like much of the Caucasus by poverty and chaos following seven decades of communism. The northern slopes of these mountains, properly called the North Caucasus, contain various ethnic chieftaincies that are now part of the Russian Federation; the region to the south of the highest ridges is called the Transcaucasus—the land of Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan. The Balkans border Central Europe. The Caucasus has no such luck.

Even before it did in Mesopotamia, civilization may have taken hold in the Caucasus, where there is an abundance of both water and vegetation, allowing for domesticable animals and agriculture. The mountainous terrain shelters miniature tribal worlds lost in time. The Greek geographer Strabo (64 B.C.-A.D. 23) noted that in the Greek Black Sea port of Dioscurias, now in the northwestern-Georgia region of Abkhazia, seventy tribes gathered to trade. "All speak different languages," he wrote, "because ... by reason of their obstinacy and ferocity, they live in scattered groups and without intercourse with one another." It was on Mount Caucasus, in Georgia, that Prometheus, punished by Zeus, was chained to a rock so that an eagle could continually peck at his liver. Prometheus, who created man out of clay, represents the pre-Olympian authority that Zeus toppled; the very antiquity of the Prometheus story, which is part of the creation myth of the Greek world, could be further evidence that the Caucasus was a cradle of civilization. One theory holds that the word "Georgia" comes from the Greek word geo ("earth"), because the ancient Greeks who first came to Georgia were struck by the many people working the land.

Today the Caucasus is shared by four countries and about a dozen autonomous regions with as many as fifty ethnic groups among them, each with its own language or dialect. Some are well known and numerous, such as the Georgians, the Armenians, the Azeri Turks of Azerbaijan, and the Chechens. Others are smaller and obscure, such as the Ingush, the Ossetes, the Avars, the Abkhaz, the Balkars, the Kalmyks, the Mingrelians, and the Meskhetian Turks.

In 1991 the collapse of the Soviet Union, to which all of the Caucasus had belonged, set off a gruesome pageant of warfare, anarchy, and ethnic cleansing that engulfed the region for years and simmers still, with 100,000 dead and one and a quarter million refugees. No other region of the Soviet Union equaled the Caucasus in demonstrating how bloody and messy the death of an empire can be.

In the 1990s the American media and intellectual community embraced the causes of the Bosnian Muslims and the Kosovar Albanians, but they virtually ignored similar instances of ethnic cleansing in the Caucasian regions of Abkhazia, Ossetia, and Nagorno-Karabakh. [...]

Georgia is a small country by American standards, with 5.5 million people, comparable in area to West Virginia. But it is the most sprawling and ethnically various state in the Caucasus, with a long, complex, and bloody history. Situated in the geographic and historical crucible where Russia meets the Turkic and Persian Near East, the mountain ranges of the Caucasus have allowed the Georgians to remain linguistically intact over the millennia. Though they make up only one one-thousandth of humanity, the Georgians created one of the world's fourteen alphabets. Its crescent-shaped symbols emerged around the fifth century B.C., possibly from Aramaic, the Semitic dialect spoken by Jesus. Saint Nino, a slave woman from Cappadocia, in central Anatolia, brought Christianity to Georgia in A.D. 330, when she converted the Georgian Queen Nana after curing her of an illness. The Greek colonies around Batumi may have been converted as early as the first century, making the Christianity here among the world's oldest forms, combined as it was with the Greek pantheon, Iranian Zoroastrianism, and various Anatolian cults.

The Georgians were caught in that archetypal East-West conflict between the Persian and Greek empires that forms the subject of Herodotus' Histories. Later, in the early Christian centuries, Georgia became another East-West battleground, this time for the conflict between Persia and Rome. A pattern emerged that continues to this day: although Georgia was superficially influenced by the West (Greece and Rome), its political culture became profoundly Eastern. The difference between Rome and Persia (and later between Byzantium and Persia) was the difference between semi-Western imperial officialdoms that were nonhereditary, and thus early prototypes of modern states, and a Persian society underpinned by tribal and clan relations. In Georgia it was the Persian clan system that proved more influential, and that system's remnants are visible today in the power of regional mafias and warlords. Despite the influence of European Russia in the nineteenth century, Georgia can be considered part of the Near East.

Another pattern that emerged in classical times and continues is Georgia's internal disunity. After a millennium of conflict, in 1555 Georgia was divided between an Ottoman Turkish sphere of influence in the west and a Safavid Iranian one in the east, while the mountains to the north cut it off from its fellow Orthodox Christian Russia. Iranian oppression was so extreme that in the early seventeenth century the population of Kakheti, in eastern Georgia, dropped by two thirds because of killings and deportations. In 1801 Czar Alexander I forcibly incorporated Georgia into the Russian Empire. What happened next was more dramatic than much of the preceding history taken together.

The czars quickly put Georgia on the road to modernity. Its population rose from 500,000 to 2.5 million in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. There were costs, however. The Georgian Church and nobility became subservient to Russian institutions, and Russian absolutism sparked peasant revolts.

The Armenians played the role in Georgia that the Jews did elsewhere: that of urban middleman shopkeepers and entrepreneurs. Under Russia's modernizing rule the division of labor between rural Georgians and urban Armenians was accentuated. At the beginning of the twentieth century Marxism became attractive to Georgians because it provided both an analysis of and a solution to their condition that were non-nationalist on the one hand and opposed to czarist officialdom and the Armenian bourgeoisie on the other. Georgia, not Europe or Russia, was the real historical birthplace of mass-movement socialism, with support not just from intellectuals and workers but from peasants, too.

Utopian rhetoric by local Marxists notwithstanding, the weakening of czarist rule at the start of the twentieth century led to ethnic conflict among Georgians, Armenians, and Azeri Turks—exactly what would recur in the late twentieth century, when despite universalist calls by dissident intellectuals for democracy and human rights, the collapse of the Soviet Union led to chaos and ethnic cleansing. And there is another frightening similarity. In 1918 a weakened and defeated Russia spawned three new states built on old ethnic identities in the Transcaucasus: Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan. All were destroyed in the 1920s, as Russia reasserted itself under the Soviets. Were Russia to reassert itself again under a new autocracy, the West would have to prove as muscular here as in Bosnia and Kosovo to keep these states alive.

Georgia embraced Russia in 1801 because Russia offered an opening to Europe along with protection against Turkey and Iran. Had the czars and the Menshevik socialists, with all their flaws, been allowed to continue and evolve in power, the Caucasus today might be a model of civility. What nineteenth-century Georgian would have thought that the Turks and the Iranians, however fundamentalist, would prove less destructive than the Europeanized Russians?

Another lesson of this tragic story is that although history, culture, and geography are the only guides to the future, they are still not determinative—because of extraordinary individuals. Turkish influence would have been better for Georgia than Russian, because Ataturk took a backward Turkey and made it modern, while Lenin and Stalin took a directionless Russia and made it backward. [...]

GEORGIANS are a very old ethnic entity, but we have no experience of modern statehood," said Alexander Rondeli, the head of a research institute connected to the Georgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. "We are a quasi-state." Rondeli, the doyen of Georgian intellectuals, is fifty-seven but looks older. With a grave and sardonic voice, a large physique, striking white hair, and thick black eyebrows, he was like the voice of history itself. Rondeli's viewpoint was both wise and ironic, but also overburdened by the sheer accumulation of knowledge and events.

"Nations often get what they deserve," Rondeli told me with a slight smile when we met at his office, "so to see what kind of government Georgia will have in the future, it is merely a matter of dissecting our national character. We are nominally Christian, but we have never been fanatics. We know how to survive, but not how to improve. Our church is pagan, politicized, and thus unable to move forward."

"Remember," Rondeli went on, "we had seventy-four years of political-cultural-economic emasculation under the Soviet Union. Three generations of Georgians were spoiled. The West concentrates on the crimes of Hitler, but the Nazis ruled for only twelve years."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:48 PM

50-0 FILES:

Penn in December 2007 on Plan for Two-Way Race Against Obama: "Release the Tapes" (Jake Tapper, August 11, 2008, ABC: Political Punch)

[P]laying out a number of scenarios, Penn writes that if they come out of Iowa and it's a two-way race with Obama, "on Friday we do a media interviews (sic) and basically say that he is unvetted, discuss his ever-changing positions. Release the tapes. Create immediate pressure that deprives him of oxygen.'

If there are tapes --of either Obama saying anything even mildly similar to the Reverend Wright -- it's important that they not come out until after the convention roll call.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:41 PM


Extinction 'by man not climate' (BBC, 8/11/08)

The extinction of many ancient species may be due to humans rather than climate change, experts say.

Nature doesn't select.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:10 PM


Found in Space: How C. S. Lewis has shaped my faith and writing. (Philip Yancey, 7/22/2008, Christianity Today)

"My idea of God is not a divine idea," Lewis wrote in A Grief Observed. "It has to be shattered time after time. He shatters it Himself. He is the great iconoclast. … The Incarnation is the supreme example; it leaves all previous ideas of the Messiah in ruins." That book, conceived as his wife lay dying a most cruel death from bone cancer, unsettles some readers. Lewis had dealt with theodicy philosophically in The Problem of Pain, but tidy arguments melted away as he watched the process of bodily devastation in the woman he loved. I believe the two books should be read together, for the combination of ultimate answers and existential agony reflects the biblical pattern. The Cross saved the world, but, oh, at what cost.

Lewis saw the world as a place worth saving. Unlike the monastics of the Middle Ages and the legalists of modern times, he saw no need to withdraw and deny all pleasures. He loved a stiff drink, a puff on the pipe, a gathering of friends, a Wagnerian opera, a hike in the fields of Oxford. The pleasures in life are indeed good, just not good enough; they are "only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited."

I found in Lewis that rare and precarious balance of embracing the world while not idolizing it. For all its defects, this planet bears marks of the original design, traces of Beauty and Joy that both recall and anticipate the Creator's intent.

Alone of modern authors, Lewis taught me to anticipate heaven: "We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea."

The Wife was making noises recently about getting an exchange student some year, so when I signed the youngest up for PlaySoccer camp I offered to host one of the coaches. They're mainly British kids who come over for 7 weeks in the summer and go from one town to the next, a week in each, staying with families and running soccer camps during the day. Went and picked ours up yesterday, a nice Polish fella who's attending the University of Southampton. He said how much he likes America because everyone is friendly and "life is good" here. Amen, brother.
Zemanta Pixie

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:55 PM


Evolution vs. Naturalism: Why they are like oil and water (Alvin Plantinga, July/August 2008, Books & Culture)

[W]hat evolution tells us (supposing it tells us the truth) is that our behavior, (perhaps more exactly the behavior of our ancestors) is adaptive; since the members of our species have survived and reproduced, the behavior of our ancestors was conducive, in their environment, to survival and reproduction. Therefore the neurophysiology that caused that behavior was also adaptive; we can sensibly suppose that it is still adaptive. What evolution tells us, therefore, is that our kind of neurophysiology promotes or causes adaptive behavior, the kind of behavior that issues in survival and reproduction.

Now this same neurophysiology, according to the materialist, also causes belief. But while evolution, natural selection, rewards adaptive behavior (rewards it with survival and reproduction) and penalizes maladaptive behavior, it doesn't, as such, care a fig about true belief. As Francis Crick, the co-discoverer of the genetic code, writes in The Astonishing Hypothesis, "Our highly developed brains, after all, were not evolved under the pressure of discovering scientific truth, but only to enable us to be clever enough to survive and leave descendents." Taking up this theme, naturalist philosopher Patricia Churchland declares that the most important thing about the human brain is that it has evolved; hence, she says, its principal function is to enable the organism to move appropriately:

Boiled down to essentials, a nervous system enables the organism to succeed in the four F's: feeding, fleeing, fighting and reproducing. The principal chore of nervous systems is to get the body parts where they should be in order that the organism may survive … . Improvements in sensorimotor control confer an evolutionary advantage: a fancier style of representing is advantageous so long as it is geared to the organism's way of life and enhances the organism's chances of survival. Truth, whatever that is, definitely takes the hindmost.

What she means is that natural selection doesn't care about the truth or falsehood of your beliefs; it cares only about adaptive behavior. Your beliefs may all be false, ridiculously false; if your behavior is adaptive, you will survive and reproduce. Consider a frog sitting on a lily pad. A fly passes by; the frog flicks out its tongue to capture it. Perhaps the neurophysiology that causes it to do so, also causes beliefs. As far as survival and reproduction is concerned, it won't matter at all what these beliefs are: if that adaptive neurophysiology causes true belief (e.g., those little black things are good to eat), fine. But if it causes false belief (e.g., if I catch the right one, I'll turn into a prince), that's fine too. Indeed, the neurophysiology in question might cause beliefs that have nothing to do with the creature's current circumstances (as in the case of our dreams); that's also fine, as long as the neurophysiology causes adaptive behavior. All that really matters, as far as survival and reproduction is concerned, is that the neurophysiology cause the right kind of behavior; whether it also causes true belief (rather than false belief) is irrelevant.

Next, to avoid interspecies chauvinism, let's not think about ourselves, but instead about a hypothetical population of creatures a lot like us, perhaps living on a distant planet. Like us, these creatures enjoy perception, memory, and reason; they form beliefs on many topics, they reason and change belief, and so on. Let's suppose, furthermore, that naturalistic evolution holds for them; that is, suppose they live in a naturalistic universe and have come to be by way of the processes postulated by contemporary evolutionary theory. What we know about these creatures, then, is that they have survived; their neurophysiology has produced adaptive behavior. But what about the truth of their beliefs? What about the reliability of their belief-producing or cognitive faculties?

What we learn from Crick and Churchland (and what is in any event obvious) is this: the fact that our hypothetical creatures have survived doesn't tell us anything at all about the truth of their beliefs or the reliability of their cognitive faculties. What it tells us is that the neurophysiology that produces those beliefs is adaptive, as is the behavior caused by that neurophysiology. But it simply doesn't matter whether the beliefs also caused by that neurophysiology are true. If they are true, excellent; but if they are false, that's fine too, provided the neurophysiology produces adaptive behavior.

So consider any particular belief on the part of one of those creatures: what is the probability that it is true? Well, what we know is that the belief in question was produced by adaptive neurophysiology, neurophysiology that produces adaptive behavior. But as we've seen, that gives us no reason to think the belief true (and none to think it false). We must suppose, therefore, that the belief in question is about as likely to be false as to be true; the probability of any particular belief's being true is in the neighborhood of 1/2. But then it is massively unlikely that the cognitive faculties of these creatures produce the preponderance of true beliefs over false required by reliability. If I have 1,000 independent beliefs, for example, and the probability of any particular belief's being true is 1/2, then the probability that 3/4 or more of these beliefs are true (certainly a modest enough requirement for reliability) will be less than 10-58. And even if I am running a modest epistemic establishment of only 100 beliefs, the probability that 3/4 of them are true, given that the probability of any one's being true is 1/2, is very low, something like .000001.7 So the chances that these creatures' true beliefs substantially outnumber their false beliefs (even in a particular area) are small. The conclusion to be drawn is that it is exceedingly unlikely that their cognitive faculties are reliable.

But of course this same argument will also hold for us. If evolutionary naturalism is true, then the probability that our cognitive faculties are reliable is also very low. And that means that one who accepts evolutionary naturalism has a defeater for the belief that her cognitive faculties are reliable: a reason for giving up that belief, for rejecting it, for no longer holding it. If there isn't a defeater for that defeater—a defeater-defeater, we could say—she can't rationally believe that her cognitive faculties are reliable. No doubt she can't help believing that they are; no doubt she will in fact continue to believe it; but that belief will be irrational. And if she has a defeater for the reliability of her cognitive faculties, she also has a defeater for any belief she takes to be produced by those faculties—which, of course, is all of her beliefs. If she can't trust her cognitive faculties, she has a reason, with respect to each of her beliefs, to give it up. She is therefore enmeshed in a deep and bottomless skepticism. One of her beliefs, however, is her belief in evolutionary naturalism itself; so then she also has a defeater for that belief. Evolutionary naturalism, therefore—the belief in the combination of naturalism and evolution—is self-refuting, self-destructive, shoots itself in the foot. Therefore you can't rationally accept it. For all this argument shows, it may be true; but it is irrational to hold it. So the argument isn't an argument for the falsehood of evolutionary naturalism; it is instead for the conclusion that one cannot rationally believe that proposition. Evolution, therefore, far from supporting naturalism, is incompatible with it, in the sense that you can't rationally believe them both.

To be fair, you can't rationally believe either.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:06 PM


Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:41 PM


Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:29 PM


India as a US hedge against China (Jeff M Smith, 8/07/08, Speaking Freely: Asia Times Online)

And yet, history and national identity are notorious for trumping raw economic interests in Asia. Consider the most fundamental of inter-state relations: a shared border. China and India's has been under dispute for nearly a century, and China has been testing New Delhi this year with a wave of abrupt but underreported incursions into Indian territory. Beijing still claims tens of thousands of square miles of Indian territory in the Indian states of Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh, the subject of a 1962 border war.

China's incursions, in some ways routine by now, have become more numerous (anywhere between 60 and several hundred) and brazen (one crossing having driven a kilometer into Indian territory) in the past six months - an unusual provocation, given China's sensitivity to world opinion ahead of the August Summer Olympic Games in Beijing.

Were the border incursions an isolated incident, they would likely be swallowed by the mounting ties that bind China and India. But isolated they are not, and in 2006 a warning by China's ambassador to India put in question the warmth generated by a dozen of rehearsed summits: "[T]he whole of the state of Arunachal Pradesh is Chinese territory ... we are claiming all of that. That is our position." The point was not lost on the 1.1 million Indians living in a state the size of Maine. Indian diplomats from the state have even been denied visas by Beijing, which reminds them documentation is not required to travel their own country.

Ominous gestures like this add to the sense of anxiety generated by a host of Chinese policies in recent years. Years of Chinese military (and probably nuclear) assistance to India's arch-enemy, Pakistan, has earned it no friends in Delhi. Nor has China's assertive expansion into the Indian Ocean. Indeed, Beijing's plan to litter the South Asian coastline with a series of naval bases - its so-called "string of pearls" - has put India on the defensive in its own backyard. And abroad, a fierce competition for natural resources in Africa and beyond has swung decisively in China's favor, curtailing India's access to raw materials, and wounding New Delhi's pride.

Even the blossoming Sino-Indian trade relationship generates friction: where their account was only recently in balance, India has suddenly discovered a $10 billion trade deficit, ushering them into the same frustrated and indebted club as the US and European Union. Finally, China's expanding ballistic missile and space capabilities have kept Indian defense analysts on edge, as has China's clandestine submarine base on Hainan island.

India's new challenges in Afghanistan (Harsh V Pant, August 11, 2008, Rediff)
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh returned from the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation summit after getting Pakistan's Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani to agree to an independent investigation into the bombing of the Indian embassy in Kabul.

It will be simplistic to assume that Pakistan just gave into Indian demands because of the rapidly deteriorating India-Pakistan and Pakistan-Afghanistan ties. More important is the pressure that the Pakistan government has come from the US in recent weeks. During Gilani's visit to Washington recently the Bush administration made it clear that its patience is running out with the shenanigans of Pakistan's security establishment and the role of the Inter Services Intelligence came under the scanner.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:56 PM


Solzhenitsyn opened my eyes
(Phillip Adams, August 12, 2008, The Ausralian)

I was a teenage communist. Australian commos were reluctant to hear the truth about Joseph Stalin. We preferred to see him as the heroic figure who defeated Adolf Hitler, far more important in the war against fascism than Winston Churchill or Franklin Roosevelt. We romanticised Uncle Joe, as Australian soldiers called him, and grieved for the sufferings of the Russian people. Hitler's war machine had destroyed 10,000 villages and all but crushed Stalingrad and Leningrad. The sufferings of the Soviet people were epic. Millions dead. And we didn't want to know about the sufferings they endured because of Stalin.

But when Nikita Khrushchev denounced his former patron, the truth, the horror, could no longer be denied. That truth would destroy the communist parties in the West, though some comrades kept the foolish faith until after Moscow crushed the Hungarian revolution or sent the tanks to roll over the Prague Spring.

There were, therefore, mixed feelings about the sainted Solzhenitsyn when he published his first accounts of the gulag under the patronage of Khrushchev during a brief Moscow spring. But as the terrible stories were revealed in book after book, with Solzhenitsyn winning the Nobel Prize and the second prize of exile in the US, no one had any excuse to romanticise Stalinism. Yes, many of the very old in Russia and younger ultra-nationalists remain devoted to Stalin's memory. But thanks to the courage of writers such as Solzhenitsyn the world knows that he was as great a brute as Hitler.

...but you can always tell the unreconstructed old communists by their continuing reverence and excuse-making for Stalin.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:14 AM


The Pope Theologian Says: The Proof of God Is Beauty: The beauty of art and of music. The wonders of sanctity. The splendor of creation. This is how Benedict XVI defends the truth of Christianity, in a question-and-answer session with the priests of Brixen (Sandro Magister, 8/11/08, Chiesa)

Just like every summer, this year Benedict XVI met with priests of the area where he is spending his vacation. For an open question-and-answer discussion.

The meeting took place on the morning of Wednesday, August 6, in the cathedral of Brixen, at the foot of the Alps, a few miles from the Austrian border. The pope replied to six questions, speaking partly in German and partly in Italian, the two official languages of the region. The meeting was held behind closed doors, without any journalists present. The complete transcript of the conversation was released two days later by the Vatican press office. [...]

Q: Holy Father, my name is Willibald Hopfgartner, and I am a Franciscan. In your address in Regensburg, you emphasized the substantial connection between the divine Spirit and human reason. On the other hand, you have also always emphasized the importance of art and beauty. So then, together with conceptual dialogue about God in theology, should there not always be a new presentation of the aesthetic experience of the faith within the Church, through proclamation and the liturgy?

A: Yes, I think that the two things go together: reason, precision, honesty in the reflection on truth, and beauty. A form of reason that in any way wanted to strip itself of beauty would be depleted, it would be blind. Only when the two are united do they form the whole, and this union is important precisely for the faith. Faith must constantly confront the challenges of the mindset of this age, so that it may not seem a sort of irrational mythology that we keep alive, but may truly be an answer to the great questions; so that it may not be merely a habit, but the truth, as Tertullian once said.

In his first letter, St. Peter wrote the phrase that the medieval theologians took as the legitimization, almost as the mandate for their theological work: "Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope" – an apologia for the "logos" of hope, meaning a transformation of the "logos," the reason for hope, into an apologia, an answer addressed to men. He was clearly convinced of the fact that faith is "logos," that it is a form of reason, a light issuing from the creating Light, and not a hodgepodge resulting from our own thought. This is why it is universal, and for this reason it can be communicated to all.

But this creating "Logos" is not a merely technical "logos." It is broader than this, it is a "logos" that is love, and therefore to be expressed in beauty and goodness. And in reality, for me art and the saints are the greatest apologia for our faith.

The arguments presented by reason are absolutely important and indispensable, but there always remains some disagreement somewhere. If, instead, we look at the saints, this great luminous arc that God has set across history, we see that here there is truly a power of goodness that lasts over the millennia, here there is truly light from light.

And in the same way, if we contemplate the created beauties of the faith, these simply are, I would say, the living proof of faith. Take this beautiful cathedral: it is a living proclamation! It speaks to us on its own, and beginning with the beauty of the cathedral we are able to proclaim in a visible way God, Christ and all of his mysteries: here these have taken shape, and are gazing back at us. All of the great works of art, the cathedrals – the Gothic cathedrals, and the splendid Baroque churches – all of them are a luminous sign of God, and therefore truly a manifestation, an epiphany of God.

Christianity involves precisely this epiphany: that God has become a veiled Epiphany, he appears and shines. We have just listened to the sound of the organ in all its splendor, and I think that the great music born within the Church is an audible and perceptible rendering of the truth of our faith: from Gregorian chant to the music of the cathedrals to Palestrina and his era, to Bach and then to Mozart and Bruckner, and so on... Listening to all of these great works – the Passions by Bach, his Mass in B minor, and the great spiritual compositions of 16th century polyphony, of the Viennese school, of all of this music, even by minor composers – suddenly we feel: it is true! Wherever things like these are created, there is Truth.

Without an intuition capable of discovering the true creative center of the world, this beauty cannot be created. For this reason, I think that we must always act in such a way that these two things go together, we must present them together. When, in our own time, we discuss the reasonableness of the faith, we are discussing precisely the fact that reason does not end where experimental discoveries end, it does not end in positivism; the theory of evolution sees the truth, but sees only half of it: it does not see that behind this is the Spirit of creation. We are fighting for the expansion of reason, and therefore for a form of reason that, exactly to the point, is open to beauty as well, and does not have to leave it aside as something completely different and irrational.

Christian art is a rational form of art – we think of Gothic art, great music, or the Baroque art right here – but this is the artistic expression of a much broader form of reason, in which the heart and reason come together. This is the point. This, I think, is in some way the proof of the truth of Christianity: the heart and reason come together, beauty and truth touch. And to the extent that we are able to live in the beauty of truth, so much more will faith again be able to be creative, in our own time as well, and to express itself in a convincing artistic form.

Reason is useful to exactly the extent that the answers it renders are beautiful. Where they're ugly, it is false.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:01 AM


Sometimes, There’s News in the Gutter (CLARK HOYT, 8/12/08, NY Times)

Before Edwards’s admission, The Times never made a serious effort to investigate the story, even as the Enquirer wrote one sensational report after another: a 2:40 a.m. ambush by the tabloid’s reporters at the Beverly Hilton hotel in Los Angeles after Edwards spent hours in a room with Hunter and her baby; an allegation of $15,000 a month in “hush money;” a grainy “spy photo” of him with a baby. [...]

I do not think liberal bias had anything to do with it. But I think The Times — like The Washington Post, USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, major networks and wire services — was far too squeamish about tackling the story. The Times did not want to regurgitate the Enquirer’s reporting without verifying it, which is responsible. But The Times did not try to verify it, beyond a few perfunctory efforts, which I think was wrong. Until the ABC report, only one mainstream news organization, McClatchy newspapers, seemed to be making headway with the story.

Not that it would have been easy. David Perel, the editor of the Enquirer, said, “This is a very hard story to prove, and I think that has frozen people in place.”

It is also the kind of story that The Times seems instinctively to recoil from, just as it ignored such stories in its own backyard as A-Rod and Madonna and Christie Brinkley’s ugly divorce, and played down the “love child” scandal involving New York City’s only Republican congressman, Vito Fossella, earlier this year. But Edwards was different. When the Enquirer first published its allegations, he was a major presidential candidate with a compelling personal story that included a wife of 30 years with incurable breast cancer.

As he told Katie Couric on “60 Minutes” early last year, “I think every single candidate for president, Republican and Democratic, have lives, personal lives, that indicate something about what kind of human being they are. And I think it is a fair evaluation ... to look at what kind of human beings each of us are.”

Still, Edwards-Hunter was “classically not a Times-like story,” said Craig Whitney, the standards editor.

Times editors said that when the first Enquirer story appeared and they could not verify it after fairly cursory inquiries, they left it alone.

The Times, "all the news that turns up even if we're cursory rather than serious"?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:45 AM


McCain Is Right to 'Go Negative' -- But Needs Positive (Mort Kondracke, 8/12/08, Real Clear Politics)

It has become standard among Democrats to accuse Republicans of "smearing" or "sliming" their candidates whenever the GOP goes negative.

"Willy Horton," "Swift Boat" and "Karl Rove" are shorthand for Democratic accusations, and the words alone are widely accepted as proof of GOP dirty tricks.

Republicans certainly did exploit 1988 Democratic candidate Michael Dukakis' furlough of convicted murderer Willie Horton, but it is a fact that Horton committed rape and assault after his release, reinforcing doubts about Dukakis' stance on crime.

In 2004, the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth did have a legitimate beef against Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), who, as an anti-war veteran, once charged that atrocities were routinely committed by U.S. troops in Vietnam. [...]

In fact, of all the negative ads run in recent elections, the worst actually was run against Bush in 2000, in which the NAACP charged that the then-Texas governor's veto of a hate crimes bill was tantamount to condoning a racist murder. [...]

The fact is that Obama's fitness to be chief executive and commander in chief is probably the major question in the minds of swing voters -- and McCain has every right to reinforce their doubts.

Obama's youth, inexperience, judgment, values and consistency are all legitimate targets for Republicans, and, obviously, so are his policies.

Democrats, as witness the reactive ad from the Unicorn Rider whining that Maverick is a bigger celebrity, still don't get that it's not the attack that matters but its truth that kills you. Had John Kerry not been anti-Vietnam the Swift Boaters message wouldn't have mattered. But once you alerted voters that he'd opposed our government during war time he had to explain himself, not attack them.

Likewise, when Maverick reveals Senator Obama as an empty suit, a celebrity rather than a man of substantive achievement, the onus is on The One to tell people what he's done. We're waiting....

Why Barack Obama is in Trouble (Steven Warshawsky, 8/11/08, Real Clear Politics)

What has Obama accomplished to date? In truth, not very much -- except to master the art of self-promotion.

Obama has written two best-selling autobiographies: Dreams From My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance (1995) and The Audacity of Hope (2006). Yet he has never served in an important leadership position in government, business, or the military. His ability to perform as a chief executive officer is completely untested.

Obama has prestigious degrees from Columbia University and Harvard Law School, but no significant professional achievements to his name. No businesses or organizations he has founded or managed. No law firm partnerships. No important cases he has tried. Not a single work of legal scholarship he has authored, despite having been Editor-in-Chief of the Harvard Law Review and a part-time law professor at the University of Chicago for twelve years. (This is unheard of in the elite ranks of the legal profession, and calls into question the bona fides of Obama's professorship.)

Obama's principal occupation before entering politics was as a "community organizer" in Chicago. By his own admission, these efforts achieved only "some success," and none worthy of highlighting on his campaign website. Obama then served eight unexceptional years in the Illinois Senate, and was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2004, where he is not even considered one of the Democratic Party's legislative leaders.

And this man believes he is "the one we have been waiting for"?

Obama may be considered a "rock star" by his supporters, but the kind of superficial glamour and excitement that this terminology suggests is not what most voters are looking for in a president. Heartland values, not Hollywood values, still define what most voters want in a president. Most voters want a president whom they perceive as loyal, courageous, hardworking, and fair. Someone who commands the respect of others through the strength of his character and the wisdom of his actions. Someone who is prepared to fight to protect his home and country from invaders. In other words, someone who appeals to voters, on a psychological or emotional level, as the kind of person they would want for a father, husband, boss, or comrade-in-arms.

Rock stars may be fun, but they do not fit this image. Neither does Obama. His life story, while unique and interesting, bespeaks little more than an ambitious and opportunistic young man, still wet behind the ears, with an unhealthy fascination with his own ego - and potentially unreliable when the chips are down.

The American people are not going to entrust the security and prosperity of the country to such an immature and unproven man.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:28 AM


The Obama/Wright/Kilpatrick Collision (Steve Mitchell, 8/12/08, Real Clear Politics)

Although [Detroit Mayor Kwame] Kilpatrick has distanced himself from Obama and Obama has distanced himself from Kilpatrick, they are both inextricably linked to Rev. Jeremiah Wright. And, that is Obama's problem.

The night before Wright imploded in front of the Washington press corps, he was the featured speaker at an NAACP dinner in Detro