September 30, 2008

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:25 PM


Most Asian markets recover on hopes of U.S. bailout (LA Times, October 1, 2008)

Most Asian markets bounced back Wednesday on hopes that a $700 billion bailout for the U.S. financial system will soon win legislative approval, although doubts persisted about the long-term outlook for the global economy.

Japan's Nikkei 225 index, the benchmark for Asia's biggest bourse, gained 108.40 points, or 0.96 percent, to close at 11,368.26. On Tuesday, it plunged 4.1 percent to its lowest in more than three years on disappointment that the U.S. House of Representatives had rejected the bank rescue package.

IMF adds to pressure on Congress to approve bail-out (Graeme Wearden and Andrew Clark, 10/01/08, guardian.co.uk)
The International Monetary Fund has added to the growing pressure on the US Congress to approve the Wall Street bail-out, as stockmarkets rose on optimism that a deal will be hammered out this week.

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, managing director of the IMF, warned last night that the US must take urgent steps to protect its economy from the ongoing financial crisis.

"We're right at the moment where action is needed," warned Strauss-Kahn. "A non-perfect plan is better than no plan at all," he added, in an interview with Reuters in Washington.

The prospect of a deal this week sent shares up in London this morning, where the FTSE 100 continued yesterday's bounce-back.

House GOP dazed after bailout failure (JOHN BRESNAHAN | 10/1/08, Politico)
An air of confusion and disbelief still reigned among House Republicans on Tuesday, as GOP leaders kept a low public profile, quietly calling their colleagues to try to figure out what led to Monday’s bailout vote meltdown and what steps to take next.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:02 PM


Best Steam Trains: Walt Disney's Carolwood Barn (MOLLY LAMBERT October 02, 2008, LA Weekly)

Steam trains were an obsession for Walt Disney since his childhood. From his earliest sketches, he planned to have a railroad circling around the park at Disneyland. Ward Kimball and Ollie Johnson, two of Disney Studios’ “Nine Old Men” of animation, shared the same obsession. They introduced Walt to their hobby of narrow-gauge live-steam backyard railroading, inspiring Disney to re-create the barn from his family home in Missouri and make his own miniature track. He used the barn as a workshop for his Carolwood Railroad, a fully operating steam train built an eighth of the size of the real thing on a half-mile of track. Although his train, the Lilly Belle, resides at Disneyland, Walt’s Carolwood Barn has been relocated to Griffith Park’s former Travel Town, now known as the Los Angeles Live Steamers Museum. The Barn is open free to the public on the third Sunday of each month, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., with guided tours provided by members of the Carolwood Pacific Historical Society

Los Angeles Live Steamers Museum, 5202 Zoo Dr., L.A., (323) 662-8030; www.lals.org or www.carolwood.org.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:36 PM


Bailout not dead yet (RYAN GRIM & MARTIN KADY II, 9/30/08, Politico)

The bailout is back.

Senate leaders have decided to take up the failed House version of the $700 billion economic rescue bill, and plan to add a widely supported change in the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. caps.

Dollar Takes Bite Out of Euro On Ravenous Overseas Cravings: Yen Also Takes Fall Against Currency on Bailout Hopes (DAN MOLINSKI, 9/30/08, Wall Street Journal)
The dollar soared against the euro as signs of trouble in the European banking sector created overseas demand for greenbacks.

The yen also fell victim to the U.S. currency Tuesday, as a partial recovery in U.S. stock markets from Monday's free fall boosted risk appetite, leading investors away from the low-yielding Japanese currency.

Currency investors put aside their worries about the U.S. banking system Tuesday as optimism rose that Congress soon may reach agreement on the government's proposed $700 billion financial-rescue package.

...as big a mess as the Congress is they're more effective than anyone else's government. Here's one time we could use some help saving the world economy and there's no one but us.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:21 PM


Your flesh will crawl right across your desk:

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:34 PM


Where Credit Is Due (David Freddoso, 9/30/08, National Review)

House Republican leaders] blamed the failure of the bailout bill on a speech given by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

“We could have gotten there today had it not been for the partisan speech that the speaker gave on the floor of the House,” House Minority Leader John Boehner (R., Ohio) said yesterday. Pelosi’s speech, he said, “poisoned our conference, caused a number of members that we thought we could get, to go south.” [...]

[D]o House Republican leaders really want us to believe that Republicans killed the bailout just because their feelings were hurt? Are they trying to tell us that Republicans are touchy whiners who will let their country down on a supposedly essential matter because they were offended by typical, turgid partisan rhetoric?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:21 PM


Ron Paul, Dennis Kucinich: 'Lipstick' off (Mark Silva, 9/30/08, The Swamp)

Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich are on top.

Let history record that, for one fleeting moment perhaps this week, the most anti-establishment candidates for either major parties' presidential nominations this year - two who stirred a lot of emotion but attracted few votes -- were riding the wave of the victorious majority of the House of Representatives.

They balked at the bailout.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:35 PM


House Members Receive Angry Calls on Vote, Aides Say (James Rowley and Nicholas Johnston, 9/30/08, Bloomberg)

Lawmakers received a flurry of calls demanding that they revive the U.S. economy after the House's rejection of a $700 billion financial-rescue plan triggered a record drop in stocks, House aides said.

The calls countered an earlier outpouring of opposition to the legislation.

``A lot of people called to complain about losing their shirt,'' said Sean Brown, press secretary for Republican Representative Joe Barton of Texas, who opposed the measure. Calls have gone from overwhelmingly against the bill to about 60- 40 or 70-30 in favor of it, Brown said.

Guess whose principles about markets are about to respond to the pressure of the market.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:34 PM


Pakistani Taliban leader dead, sources say (CNN, 9/30/08)

The leader of Pakistan's Taliban, Baitullah Mehsud, is dead from kidney failure, sources told CNN.

The Pakistan government blamed Mehsud for the December 27, 2007, assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.

If we had a CIA the rumor would be that he died from alcoholism, venereal disease or AIDs.

Suspected US drone strike kills four in Pakistan: officials (AFP, 9/30/08)

A missile strike by a suspected US spy drone hit a house in a Pakistani tribal area bordering Afghanistan, killing at least four people and wounding nine, security officials said Wednesday.

The attack is the latest in a string of incidents on the rugged frontier that have raised tensions between Islamabad and Washington, including a clash between Pakistani troops and US-led forces in Afghanistan.

It happened shortly after Pashtun tribesmen shot at three drones circling the village of Khusali Toorikhel in North Waziristan, a known haunt of Taliban and Al-Qaeda militants.

Might be a good idea to hide instead of shoot.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:46 PM

Beef-Sauced Hot Lettuce Salad (Contra Costa Times, 9/30/08)

4 packed cups coarsely torn romaine lettuce

1 tablespoon peanut oil or vegetable oil

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 tablespoon minced ginger

½-pound (1 packed cup) ground beef

1 tablespoon soy sauce, or to taste

1 tablespoon Jinjiang (black rice) vinegar, or to taste

½ cup warm water

2 teaspoons cornstarch

1 tablespoon cold water

½ teaspoon roasted sesame oil

1. Place lettuce in a wide salad bowl or serving dish and set aside. Place a wok or heavy skillet over medium-high heat.

2. When wok is hot, add the oil and swirl to coat the bottom of the pan. Toss in the garlic and stir-fry 10 seconds, then add the ginger. Stir-fry over medium-high to medium heat until slightly softened and starting to turn color.

3. Add the meat and use the spatula to break it up so there are no lumps, then add the salt and stir-fry until most of the meat has changed color.

4. Add the soy sauce and vinegar and stir to blend. Add the warm water and stir. (The dressing can be prepared ahead to this point and set aside for 20 minutes. When you are ready to proceed, bring to a boil.)

While the dressing mixture is coming to a boil, place cornstarch in a small cup or bowl and stir in the cold water to make a smooth paste. Once liquid is bubbling in the pan, add the cornstarch mixture and stir for about 1 minute; the liquid will thicken and become smoother. Taste for salt.

6. Add the sesame oil, stir, then pour the dressing onto the lettuce. Immediately toss the salad to expose all the greens to the hot dressing. Serve immediately for crunchy lettuce, or for a softer texture, let the salad stand 5 minutes before serving.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:44 PM


Remembering a great racing fan and man, Paul Newman (Frank Deford, 9/30/08, Sports Illustrated)

One time, years ago, when he was still indisputably the handsomest man in the world, my wife ran across him in a bookstore. All the other women were pretending not to notice, bumping into the aisles. Newman was with one of his daughters. At the checkout counter, he called over to her: "OK, honey, let's go." And, my wife swears, every woman in that store -- including my wife herself, I'm sure -- gave an involuntarily head feint toward the door. It was better than watching a vaudeville sketch.

The last time I saw him was a few months ago. There were already rumors that he was dying. He was never so large as he appeared on the screen, but now, even as he was still in good humor, he looked positively frail. We were at a small concert, and, just by chance, he and Joanne sat right next to me and my wife. When the lights dimmed I happened to glance over, and I saw that, right away, he'd taken his wife's hand. They'd only been married 50 years. He kept holding it all the way through, just like they were teenagers. Lord, but it was so dear.

I reached over and took my wife's hand. There are not many things any of us could do so well as Paul Newman, but, I thought, if you could follow his lead in any way, then you'd be a fool not to.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:19 PM


Stunning day for Dow: Closes up more than 450 (AP, 9/30/08)

Wall Street has ended sharply higher as investors bet that lawmakers will salvage a $700 billion rescue plan for the financial sector. The Dow Jones industrials surged nearly 500 points to the 10,860 level.

The rally offset Monday’s 778-point rout, one of the biggest selloffs in years. The recovery wasn’t unexpected as carnage on Wall Street often attracts bargain hunters.

However, the seized-up credit markets where businesses turn to raise money showed no sign of relief. A key rate that banks charge to lend to one another shot higher, a tightening of the availability of credit that could cascade through the economy.

Senate Republican 'Adults' to Guide House Kids on $700 Billion Bailout? (Paul Bedard, 9/30/08, US News)
We're hearing lots of talk this afternoon that with the House unable to quickly come up with an alternative to the $700 billion bank bailout it rejected Monday, the Senate is ready to take the lead. It's being described this way, says a source: "It's time for the adult body to take over." And that's from a Republican.

Dem Leaders Pledge Cooperation with White House, GOP (The Page, September 30th, 2008)
Pelosi, Reid express their willingness to work together on pushing an economic rescue package through Congress in a letter to the President.

“We welcome your statement this morning and are committed to working with you and our Republican colleagues to enact a bipartisan bill without further delay.”

Obama presses Dems to back the bailout (CARRIE BUDOFF BROWN, 9/30/08, Politico)
Barack Obama on Tuesday stepped up his advocacy for the Bush Administration’s endangered $700 billion bailout plan by making a round of calls to rank-and-file Democrats in the House and casting congressional inaction in dire, real-world terms. He also massaged his pitch, no longer using the word “bailout” to describe the bill.

In a speech laden with warnings about the impact on average voters, Obama made his strongest push yet for the financial package rejected Monday by the House, saying the upheaval was “no longer just a Wall Street crisis – it’s an American crisis, and it’s the American economy that needs this rescue plan.”

FDIC wants to temporarily boost deposit insurance limits (LA Times: Money & Co., September 30, 2008)
The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. will seek authority from Congress to temporarily raise deposit insurance limits, the agency’s chairwoman, Sheila Bair, said today. [...]

Raising the limit "would provide the dual benefits of providing additional liquidity to banks for lending as well as provide some additional reassurance to depositors above the current limits," Bair said.

Higher limits could be particularly helpful for smaller banks as they struggle to hold on to deposits amid public fears of rising bank failures because of loan losses.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:11 PM


World leaders look to US for salvation as economies near abyss (AFP, Sep 30, 2008)

World leaders called on the US government to take action to stave off global financial collapse Tuesday after Congress rejected a 700 billion dollar bailout in a move which stunned global markets.

Japan sweats as U.S. rescue stalls (HIROKO NAKATA, 10/01/08, Japan Times)
The uncertainty swirling around the financial crisis in the United States has sparked concerns in Japan that more bad news is on the way for exporters, consumption and the economy, analysts said Tuesday.

The U.S. House of Representative's shocking rejection of a $700 billion rescue plan Monday sent Wall Street into its worst single-day plunge — on a points basis — and triggered a 483-point selloff in Tokyo stocks Tuesday.

"The situation is getting quite serious," said Hideo Kumano, chief economist at Dai-ichi Life Research Institute. "All we can do is to wait for an amendment to the U.S. bailout plan."

The Low-Down on Libor: Why its Surge Signals Desperation in the Credit Markets (Katy Marquardt, 9/30/08, US News)
After the rejection of the bailout bill by the House of Representatives, banks hoarded cash, driving Libor up to 6.88 percent. A week ago, Libor was at 2.95 percent. (Normally, it's slightly more than the Federal Reserve's target fed funds rate.) Points out MarketBeat: "It's more than a little ironic that while investors are buying banks' stocks—shares were up sharply across the sector—banks themselves were unwilling to buy each others' shortest term debt. Banks are so desperate for funds that they paid 11% for $30 billion in overnight funds from the European Central Bank, up from 3% just Monday."

The Associated Press answers the million-dollar question: So how does this affect my life?

A. More than half of U.S. adjustable rate home loans are tied to Libor, so a recent increase in this benchmark rate mean monthly mortgage payments will rise for affected homeowners if the rise is sustained. A typical adjustable rate home loan will adjust based on the six-month Libor, plus 2 to 3 percentage points. Plus, many home equity lines of credit, small business loans and student loans also use Libor as an index. Student loans, for example, can be set based on the three-month Libor rate plus, say, 4 percentage points or the one month Libor rate, plus 9 percentage points.

Meanwhile, The "TED spread"—which represents the difference between what banks charge each other to borrow for three months and what three-month U.S. treasuries yield—surged to its highest level in more than 25 years Monday.

Much as they'd like to crawl into a hole and avoid the fact, with great power comes great responsibility.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:21 AM


Is the Republican Alliance Finally Breaking?: The rebellion of House Republicans yesterday was more than a tactic to help John McCain. It may have been the beginning of the end of the political deal that has defined the last three decades. (Mark Schmitt, September 26, 2008, American Prospect)

Everything in America seemed to converge in a few meeting rooms in Washington yesterday: The rapid meltdown of the speculative economy. George Bush's desperate desire to remain relevant. The evolution of the opposition Democratic Party, in the person of Rep. Barney Frank, into a profoundly serious governing party ready to help George Bush's Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson write the bailout he should have written in the first place. And then John McCain trying to do two things at once: Shake up his campaign and win a few more news cycles, and get a hit of the only kind of legislative success he ever had, when he would sweep into the room where there was some sort of bipartisan deal to be cut, and insert himself into the middle of it. (Although that tactic almost always produced more press coverage than legislation.)

By the end of the day, it was clear that the most significant issue was the defection of the House Republicans, which could have an impact on the Republican political coalition of more lasting consequence than its derailing of the bailout. Where McCain swept in to heal a partisan breach, the real differences turned out to be between, on one side, Democrats in the House and Senate, Senate Republicans, George W. Bush, and Bush's Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, who asked for the deal; and on the other side, the Republicans in the House of Representatives.

The anti-immigration/anti-mortgage Right has its natural allies in the secular and protectionist Left, not in the Christian/social conservative/Third Way center. The politics of Pat Buchanan/Tom Tancredo and Dennis Kucinich/Bernie Sanders are equally estranged from those of George W. Bush and Bill Clinton.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:52 AM


Candidates, Bush urge reviving financial bailout (JIM KUHNHENN, 9/30/08, Associated Press)

President Bush warned Tuesday that failing to pass a financial rescue plan would bring severe consequences to the U.S. economy. "Congress must act," he declared in an appeal that John McCain and Barack Obama echoed.

McCain and Obama separately urged Congress to redouble efforts to get a deal through and both proposed increasing federal deposit insurance to $250,000, as a key part of it. Both McCain and Obama called and spoke to the president on Tuesday, a White House official said. [...]

Bush noted that the maximum $700 billion in the proposed bailout was huge, but was dwarfed by the $1 trillion in lost wealth that resulted from Monday's stock-market plunge.

"Because the government would be purchasing troubled assets and selling them once the market recovers," he said, "it is likely that many of the assets would go up in value over time. Ultimately, we expect that much - if not all - of the tax dollars we invest will be paid back."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:17 AM


For Many Americans, Fear and Distrust Run High (Joel Achenbach and Ashley Surdin, 9/30/08, Washington Post)

Many people yesterday afternoon were still absorbing the news that the stock market had gone into a dive -- hitting a couple of ledges on the way down the cliff -- and it is possible that sentiment for some kind of bailout could increase as investors look at their portfolios.

"I thought: This doesn't seem to be affecting me or my family," said Chuck Taggart, 46, a New Orleans native who lives in Los Angeles. "Then I looked at my 401(k) today."

It was down 19 percent.

"I'm nervous about the whole thing."

To a degree that few Americans could have appreciated just a few weeks ago, the economy runs on credit. But politics runs on a form of credit, too, generically known as trust, and trust has been a scarce commodity recently in Washington.

President Bush, burdened with historically low approval ratings, was slow to try to sell to the American people what he called a "rescue." Academic economists frowned upon the legislation, and radio talk show hosts railed against it.

The bailout lacked a sympathetic character at the heart of the narrative. And many Americans simply did not believe that the government had the basic competence to do the right thing.

"You've got massive public distrust and dissatisfaction, with the bailout specifically, with government in general, and George Bush and the entire political establishment," said Doug Muzzio, professor of public affairs at Baruch College in New York.

In a USA Today-Gallup poll conducted Friday and Saturday, 39 percent of respondents said they approved of the way Democratic leaders in Congress responded to the financial crisis, 31 percent approved of the Republican congressional leadership's response, and 28 percent approved of Bush's handling of the situation.

"This vote is a reflection of a lack of political capital, not of financial capital," said Mitchell Moss, a professor of urban planning at New York University. "The bankruptcy exists in our political leadership, not on Wall Street. We need to bail out Nancy Pelosi and George Bush."

The one bright side of the House GOP trying to be populist is that just as they opposed the plan because of the shouting on the Right they'll support it when their constituents realize that they're the ones losing money.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:58 AM


Ideal of the Scoop (NY Sun, September 30, 2008)

Following are excerpts of remarks by the Editor of the Sun, Seth Lipsky, to the newspaper's staff:

It is my duty to report today that Ira Stoll and I and our partners have concluded that the Sun will cease publication. Our last number will be the issue dated September 30, the first day of Rosh Hashanah. I want you to know that Ira and I, and our partners, explored every possible way to avoid having to cease publication.

We have spoken with every individual who seemed to be a prospective partner, and everywhere we were received with courtesy and respect. I tend to be an optimist and held out hope for a favorable outcome as late as mid-afternoon today. But among other problems that we faced was the fact that this month, not to mention this week, has been one of the worst in a century in which to be trying to raise capital, and in the end we were out not only of money but time.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:37 AM


European Governments Rescue Another Failing Bank (Edward Cody and Mary Jordan, 9/30/08, Washington Post)

European confidence was eroded over the weekend by a raft of emergency bank rescues. By Monday morning, after Asian stock markets had nose-dived, credit markets were seizing up, meaning that the normal flow of trading among banks wasn't taking place. The European Central Bank then announced it was pumping an extra $173 billion into European markets. In Washington, the Federal Reserve said it would make an additional $620 billion available for future lending to nine foreign central banks.

The head of one of those nine, Bank of Japan Governor Masaaki Shirakawa, said Monday that global financial liquidity "has almost dried up."

European banks are strained by the recent collapse of property booms close to home, notably in Britain, Spain, Portugal and Ireland, by exposure to bad U.S. mortgage securities, and by the general drying up of short-term credit. Japan's economy is already suffering from a highly unusual trade deficit, and domestic demand for goods appears to be waning, too, the Tokyo government reported Tuesday. Last month household spending fell 4 percent and factory output dropped 3.5 percent.

The House rejection of the White House's $700 billion rescue plan seemed likely to increase international concern over what might be next.

In Europe, the banking crisis "can hardly spread further -- it is everywhere," said Willem Buiter, a professor at the London School of Economics and former member of the Bank of England's monetary policy committee.

European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet sat down Sunday with several European finance ministers in Brussels to discuss loosening European Union rules on government guarantees for banks in need of quick infusions of capital. Their meeting suggested that European governments feared they would need to intervene again.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who said Thursday that French banks appeared able to overcome the threat, summoned the country's top bank executives, his senior financial aides and the governor of the Bank of France for an urgent meeting Tuesday. His finance minister, Christine Lagarde, renewed her promise that "the government will assume its responsibilities" to prevent losses to French savings and investment account holders.

Sarkozy's office said he had conferred Friday with President Bush, pushing his idea for a meeting of heads of state from the major industrial powers by year's end to envision a top-to-bottom overhaul of the world financial system. The summit could be held at Bretton Woods, N.H., where officials met in 1944 to set the basics of today's world financial system, the Paris media reported.

Those evil geniuses at ACORN have co-opted central bankers and heads of state all over the world to help them get their funding from those House GOP dupes.

Wild Times in the Credit Markets (Ben Levisohn, 9/30/08, Der Spiegel)

With the financial system bailout plan derailed by the House of Representatives on Sept. 29, the resulting plunge in equities made headlines around the world. But while the stocks gyrate, it's important to keep one thing in mind: The big problem for financial markets is still the credit crunch. So as bad as equities have looked -- and during the big Sept. 29 sell-off, they looked pretty bad -- the true indicators investors should be watching are obscure measures such as credit default swaps, TED spreads, and commercial paper volume (all explained below).

These names may sound wonky and insider-y, but they are nonetheless vital to understanding just how difficult, costly, and fearful the credit markets have become. They're the reason the stock market, in general an indicator of investor sentiment, plunged on Sept. 29 after the bailout failed. Without the plan, the markets recognized that the credit markets, the lifeblood of American business, will get worse before they get better. "The market understands the lack of liquidity that exists and the repercussions it will have on companies big and small," says American Capital CEO Malon Wilkis.

Bush attempts to reassure markets (BBC, 9/30/08)
US shares are expected to rise on opening after President George W Bush renewed calls for Congress to back the $700bn (£380bn) banking rescue plan.

Although Wall Street saw sharp falls on Monday after Congress blocked the deal, investors appear hopeful a fresh plan can be agreed later this week.

Mr Bush warned that if agreement is not reached, the US economy faces "painful and lasting damage".

Global shares have seen volatile trading since Monday's deal failure.

Papers dismayed at US finance vote (BBC, 9/30/08)
"Meltdown" is how many of the papers describe the extraordinary falls in the financial markets after the shock vote.

According to the Times, money markets lurched close to a "catastrophic breakdown" on hearing the news.

For the Daily Telegraph, what could have averted the "potential collapse of the global financial system" has left it "staring into the abyss"

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:28 AM


McCain at dead end as House rejects bailout plan (STEVEN R. HURST, 9/30/08, AP)

Republican John McCain has maneuvered himself into a political dead end and has five weeks to find his way out.

Last Wednesday, McCain suspended his presidential campaign to insert himself into a $700 billion effort to rescue America's crumbling financial structure. In so doing, he tied himself far more tightly to the bill than did his Democratic opponent, Barack Obama.

Then, as the bailout plan appeared ready for passage Monday in the House, McCain bragged that he was an action-oriented Teddy Roosevelt Republican who did not sit on the sidelines at a moment of crisis.

The implication: that he played a critical role in building bipartisan support for the unprecedented bailout.

...the only question is does the House GOP save it or kill it.

They've plunked down everything on the hope that the crisis is fake and that Americans don't want anything done about it. That's a losing bet, but the public rightly identifies them with it, Wall St. Problems Viewed as 'Crisis' in Latest Poll (Jon Cohen and Jennifer Agiesta, 9/30/08, Washington Post)

Most Americans see the current financial situation as a "crisis," and there is overwhelming concern that the failure of the House of Representatives to pass the economic recovery package will deepen the problem, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

But the poll also revealed significant public concern with the bill Congress rejected yesterday, as few voters said the package did enough to protect "ordinary Americans," and nearly half said it did not go far enough to shore up the nation's economy.

Nevertheless, nearly nine in 10 expressed concern that the failure of the bill could lead to a more severe economic decline, including a slim majority calling themselves "very worried." High levels of concern cross party lines, but Democrats and Republicans have contrasting views of the urgency of the situation. In the poll, 60 percent of Democrats call the economic woes a crisis, compared with 44 percent of Republicans. [...]

Asked to assess responsibility for the legislation's failure, 44 percent said Republicans were the reason, 21 percent said the Democrats and 17 percent said both sides were responsible.

Vote casts shadow on McCain, Obama (BEN SMITH & GLENN THRUSH, 9/30/08, Politico)

Reluctant Republicans ignored Sen. John McCain, undermining the Republican presidential nominee’s efforts to cast himself as a problem-solving legislative leader. [...] It was the House Republicans, whose support McCain had returned to Washington to seek, who drove a stake through the bill’s heart: Two-thirds of the Republicans voted against the bill; nearly two-thirds of the Democrats voted for it.

The failure to pass the measure, and the commensurate historic drop in stock prices around the world, overshadowed the presidential campaign, as it has for a week, and swamped McCain’s attempts to turn the conversation toward a more general argument about taxes and spending. The election remains squarely situated on the economy, turf on which polls suggest McCain is far less trusted than Obama.

Happy Days For Obama (William Murchison, 9/30/08, Real Clear Politics)
I think the election of Barack Obama has not been cinched, but that the Democratic ticket's chances are vastly enhanced. It is a melancholy thought. I share it with reluctance.

If I correctly read human nature, I see my fellow Americans as ready for a brand-new version of the same-old same-old. I see them ready, that is, for "change." For anything but news accounts about the crash of companies and the shredding of retirement accounts and stock portfolios.

The most sensible editorial page on the planet, the Wall Street Journal's, saw the bailout bill as generally, under the anguished circumstances, OK. That gave some hope. Yet the House went ahead and shot the thing down. I have the sense that Americans, whatever their view of the proposed bailout, are sick of the whole sideshow.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:18 AM


In Conversation: Woody Allen: New York’s hometown auteur on whether a lifetime of psychoanalysis has paid off, and why kids from Yale no longer like good movies. (Adam Moss, Sep 28, 2008, New York)

NY: Do you have a theory about why the culture keeps getting coarser?

WA: The country has, over the years, moved to the right. And it’s possible that accompanying that move to the right, you also get a lessening of taste. But I don’t know if what I’m saying is true, because I have shown some very good films—Bergman, Fellini—to kids from good schools like Yale. Bright kids. And they were not impressed. You know, it wasn’t as though I picked out some kid from the Midwest who’s a churchgoing barbarian.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:15 AM


The interesting thing to consider as you watch Friend Ed Driscoll is whether Bonnie and Clyde hasn't become the Right's ur-text this week, as they act out against bankers and newly bourgeois homeowners.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:28 AM


Why the US is losing in Afghanistan (Anthony H Cordesman, 10/01/08, Asia Times)

The problem is not simply US troop levels. It is dealing with a failure to create anything like an effective overall strategy to fight the war, if strategy is defined as a requiring a practical plan to implement and the resources to act.

Afghanistan is larger than Iraq, has a larger population, has far more difficult terrain to fight in, and has a virtual enemy sanctuary in Pakistan on its eastern and southern borders. It is also a nation which has never had a cohesive government and whose governmental structure was in war or near chaos over two decades before the US invasion. It also never had a military or police force that was more than a fraction the size of Iraq, and had no modern national military forces after 1993.

While there are no reliable statistics on either country, the CIA data provide as good a rough estimate as any. Moreover, many of these numbers show just how much more serious the nation building challenge is in a country that has never moved towards major economic development in the past, and that Afghanistan faces ethnic, sectarian, and linguistic divisions at least as serious as those in Iraq.

While there are no reliable estimates of the size of Taliban-HI-Haqqani forces in Afghanistan relative to the size of al-Qaeda in Iraq and its affiliates, the background briefings given by various intelligence organizations indicate that the insurgent threat to Afghanistan - core cadres (the guesstimate of 10,000 is often used for both wars), part time fighters, and associated supporters - is probably at least as large as the insurgent threat in Iraq.

Recent background briefs also indicate that there are now significantly more foreign fighters involved in the insurgency in Afghanistan than the insurgency in Iraq, although numbers vary so much from estimate to estimate that it is impossible to provide even a reasonable range of numbers.

A comparison of the cost to date of the Afghan and Iraq Wars, however, reflects the same comparative lack of resources that is reflected in troop levels and in aid personnel. In spite of significant allied contributions, the Afghan War has so far received less outside funding than the Iraq War, and has had fewer combat troops than were committed to the Coalition forces in Iraq at their peak.

Afghanistan is also a far poorer country, had no savings and capital resources to draw upon once the initial fighting war over, and not oil exports or other economic activity capable of funding the basic needs of its population, much less funding development and strong national security forces.

By Mr. Cordesman's own definition of "strategy," this essay doesn't answer the question it purports to. There's a lot about the adequate resources end of things but, not surprisingly, precious little about the practical plan for creating a cohesive state where one has never existed before, for overcoming the ethnic divisions in the region, nor even for crushing the insurgency over the "border" in Pakistan.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:52 AM


The tank isn't empty: a review off The Myth of the Oil Crisis: Overcoming the Challenges of Depletion, Geopolitics, and Global Warming By Robin D. Mills (Steven Martinovich, September 29, 2008, Enter Stage Right)

The peak oil argument largely stems the prediction made by Hubbert in 1956 that American peak oil production would take place in 1970. The problem with Hubbert's methodology is that it has only ever been proven correct that one time. His succeeding predictions, including that the world would hit peak oil production in 1995, have been uniformly wrong. That hasn't stopped his acolytes from continuing to promote the notion that we are in imminent danger of running out of oil.

Mills, a petroleum economics manager for the Emirates National Oil Company in Dubai, argues that peak oil advocates have long underestimated the amount of estimated and proven reserves and that exploration has largely keeping pace with production when necessary. The recent rise in oil prices doesn't reflect scarcer resources but underinvestment on the supply side and global economic growth on the demand side.

To support his argument Mills carefully surveys the world's oil producers and analyzes their past, present and predicted future output. Unlike peak oil advocates, Mills generally takes a guardedly optimistic view and argues that many nations have untapped resources that haven't been exploited for various reasons which include economics, technical and environmental, or that they simply aren't needed at the moment.

From there Mills examines what he refers to as "unconventional oil", oil that is derived from deep sea drilling, the arctic and shale, among other sources. He estimates reserves as high as a trillion barrels of oil, more than enough to keep the global economy moving for decades. Mills also looks at the role that alternative fuels will likely play in lessening oil use and acting as a cushion for the inevitable day when we transition from an oil-based economy.

-EXCERPT: from Myth of the Oil Crisis

The current high prices certainly seem to give some credibility to the idea that we are approaching some fundamental limit of oil resources. But we should remember how we arrived at this situation, since the culprit is not constraints on oil in the ground: it is the long 1986-98 period of low prices and under-investment. Low prices decimated the oil industry, while the rise of energy-hungry new powers in Asia, combined with robust demand in the developed world and geopolitical upsets in major producers, stealthily ate up spare production capacity. The inevitable result, perhaps amplified by ‘speculation’ and market nervousness, has been a so-far inexorable rise in the oil price.

This price rise is not driven, then, primarily by geology. But many commentators outside the energy business, and some within it, believe high oil prices vindicate their often-repeated claims that ‘peak oil’ is imminent. Supporters of this view point to the work of the American geologist M. King Hubbert, whose seminal 1956 paper prophesied a peak in US output by 1965-1970 (the actual year was 1970), a success often taken to prove that oil depletion must follow ‘Hubbert’s Curve’. Yet when applied to other countries, ‘Hubbert’s Curve’ and its variants are at best approximately right, but frequently wildly wrong.

Predictions of the date of ‘peak oil’ require some estimate of the amount of oil reserves known today, and the quantity to be found in the future. Believers in imminent depletion state that global reserves, particularly in the OPEC countries, are heavily over-stated, that exploration success is falling well short of replacing production, and that technology does not unlock significant new oil. These assumptions imply that we are on the cusp of producing half of our ultimate total of oil. Hubbert’s method therefore predicts imminent decline.

Although a few countries may be over-estimating their reserves, comprehensive industry databases suggest that, if anything, the aggregate official figures are somewhat low. OPEC’s upgrades in the mid-1980s are mostly reasonable given prior conservatism, exploration success and advances in technology. Lack of recent exploration success is due to limited effort during the low-price era, and to restrictions on access to promising areas like major OPEC countries, Russia and the US offshore. In any case, huge recent discoveries in areas like deepwater Brazil confound the pessimists. ‘Reserves growth’ is a real and major phenomenon in many major oil regions, not an artefact of conservative reporting – the best place to look for new oil is in oil fields, with fresh ideas and methods.

‘Unconventional’ oil is becoming conventional, and making up a growing proportion of supply. Output from the famous ‘oil sands’ of Canada is growing rapidly; heavy oil all around the world is attracting new attention, from the UK to Russia to Saudi Arabia to Congo. Liquid fuels can be made from abundant coal and gas. ‘Second generation’ biofuels, from non-food crops, promise to overcome the problems of rising food prices, while the trillions of barrels in oil shales may be on the verge of being unlocked. And a wide swathe of oil demand can be substituted by abundant natural gas, which, even more than oil, is nowhere near ‘peak’, and which emits much less carbon dioxide.

Nor is geopolitics the insuperable threat it is made out to be. The abundance and geographic dispersal of unconventional oil and other energy sources renders a long-term oil embargo self-destructive. Nor is the Middle East rabidly hostile to the West and keen to wield the ‘oil weapon’, despite xenophobic claims. Modern ‘resource wars’ cannot pay for themselves, as the Iran-Iraq war and the recent Iraq conflict amply demonstrate. Terrorism is not capable of disrupting the long-term energy picture – as long as it does not provoke its victims into ill-conceived retaliation. The military, practical and political difficulties of blocking the ‘choke-points’ of international oil trade are widely under-estimated. ‘Energy independence’ cannot be attained at acceptable cost by any large consuming or producing nation. Retreats into paranoid self-sufficiency threaten a re-run of the grim 1930s; energy security can only be achieved, or at least improved, by a balance between the needs of exporters and importers, and a web of mutual inter-dependency.

Even the serious environmental problems associated with fossil fuel extraction and use, particularly some unconventional sources, can be tackled by new technologies, incentivised by policies to make the ‘polluter pay’. The environmental impact of modern oil extraction, even in sensitive areas such as offshore or in the Arctic, is much less than generally imagined. The very real threat of climate change requires a portfolio of solutions. A key one is ‘carbon sequestration’, the locking away of carbon dioxide in underground reservoirs, a method that can also liberate additional oil and gas. Despite claims to the contrary, all the components of carbon sequestration are proven; they need only to be put together on a large, repeatable scale.

Energy efficiency and renewable energy are key components of the fight against both climate change and the phantom of oil depletion. A growing economy and living standards would be possible even in the face of declining oil use. ‘Neo-Luddite’ calls for the end of industrial civilization are, if taken seriously, both naïve and apocalyptic. In this sense, oil will never ‘run out’; it will be replaced by something better. That is

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:42 AM


The Darwinian Basis for Eugenics: a review of Darwin Day in America. By John G. West (Anne Barbeau Gardiner. September 2008, New Oxford Review)

Darwinists are always trying to set a distance between the theory of evolution and the eugenics movement, but West cites Darwin, in The Descent, as approving of how "the weak in body or mind are soon eliminated" among "savages," and disapproving of how civilized men "build asylums for the imbecile, the maimed, and the sick," with the result that "the weak members of civilized societies propagate their kind." Then, comparing man to livestock, Darwin added, "no one who has attended to the breeding of domestic animals will doubt that this must be highly injurious to the race of man." After this statement, he gave lip service to compassion for the weak, but the implication remained that such compassion undercut the survival of the human race. Darwin again complained about how "the reckless, degraded, and often vicious members of society, tend to increase at a quicker rate than the provident and generally virtuous members." He would return to this point in his last conversations with Alfred Russel Wallace, speaking "very gloomily on the future of humanity" because "in our modern civilization natural selection had no play, and the fittest did not survive." (Although Herbert Spencer coined the phrase "survival of the fittest," Darwin readily appropriated it as an "accurate" description of natural selection.) The Darwinian basis for eugenics is often down­played, West observes, yet it is a fact that eugenicists drew their "inspiration" directly from Darwinian biology. A number of the chief eugenicists of the early 20th century declared that natural selection was the "law" they followed to improve the race. Moreover, the American leaders in eugenics, who were "largely university-trained biologists and doctors" affiliated with places like Harvard, Princeton, Columbia, Stan­ford, and the Museum of Natural History, presented eugenics as biologically "justified." Between 1920 and 1939, West shows, Darwin's theory was constantly used in high-school biology textbooks to support eugenics, something that shows how much mainstream science accepted this form of population control. The book that Darwinist schoolteacher John Scopes was using in his Tennessee high-school classroom before his infamous "Monkey Trial" was G.W. Hunter's Civil Biology (1914), which followed the trend of advocating eugenics on Darwinian grounds. There Hunter spoke of "parasites" in society who, if they "were lower animals, we would probably kill them off to prevent them from spreading."

Scholars today place the blame for the eugenics debacle on politicians, but West finds it more accurate to describe the movement as "an effort by scientists to dictate government social policy based on their presumed scientific expertise." This was the first time they used science "to expand the power of the state over social matters."

Scholars also turn a blind eye to the argument for racism that eugenicists drew from The Descent. Darwin there claimed that the break between apes and man in evolution fell "between the negro or Australian and the gorilla." West argues that Darwin's allegation about blacks belonging to "a more primitive stage of human evolution" soon became a powerful scientific rationale for racist public policies, including laws against miscegenation.

The effect of Darwinian materialism on criminal law was deadly too. In 1876, Italian criminologist Cesare Lombroso argued that criminals were a "throwback to earlier stages of Darwinian evolution," and in 1924 Clar­ence Darrow argued (in defense of Leopold and Loeb) that criminals were "programmed for crime by material forces over which they had no control." Since eugenicists believed that criminal tendencies were inherited, they strove to curtail the breeding of groups that produced criminals. By the early 1930s, thirty states in the U.S. had sterilization laws, and by 1958, around 60,000 Americans had been sterilized, many by coercion. When Oliver Wendell Holmes, a Supreme Court Justice, approved of Virginia's forced-sterilization law, he said it was the way to "build a race." Later, when Nazis forcibly sterilized the "unfit" in the 1930s, they claimed to be acting, like us, on "biological principles." Hitler even declared that he had studied the laws of several American states for the sterilization of people whose breeding was "injurious to the racial stock."

After eugenics was discredited by Nazi use, leading American eugenicists turned to contraception and abortion for population control. In 1953 they issued a document entitled "Freedom of Choice for Parenthood: A Program of Positive Eugenics," in which they linked so-called "voluntary parenthood" to natural selection. The tactics were new, the principles the same: West cites Alexander Sanger, grandson of Margaret, as making a Darwinian defense of abortion in 2004, asserting that "abortion is good," and "we must become proud that we have taken control of our reproduction. This has been a major factor in advancing human evolution and survival."

How many people do you have to kill before Progressives acknowledge it isn't an advance?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:36 AM


David Cameron vows to avoid US-style deadlock in dealing with economic crisis: Tory leader vows to put party politics aside as he unveils three-point plan to protect UK from fallout (Deborah Summers, 9/30/08, guardian.co.uk)

"We can't allow what happened in America to happen here," the Conservative leader said, as he pledged to work with the government to bring stability to the financial crisis.

In an emergency statement to the Conservative party conference in Birmingham, Cameron vowed put party politics aside as he unveiled a three-point plan to protect Britain from the worst of the economic fallout.

"This is a moment when democracies are being tested," Cameron said. "We need to show that we can deal with crisis."

Republicans deserve that one.

September 29, 2008

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:02 PM


They Just Don't Get It (Steven Pearlstein, September 30, 2008, Washington Post)

The basic problem here is that too many people don't understand the seriousness of the situation.

Americans fail to understand that they are facing the real prospect of a decade of little or no economic growth because of the bursting of a credit bubble that they helped create and that now threatens to bring down the global financial system.

Politicians worry less about preventing a financial meltdown than about ideology, partisan posturing and teaching people a lesson. Financiers have yet to own up publicly to their own greed, arrogance and incompetence. And leaders of foreign governments still think that this is an American problem and that they have no need to mount similar rescue efforts in their own countries.

In the coming weeks and months, all of these people will come to understand how deep the hole really is and how we're all in it together.

They'll come to understand that the giant sucking sound they hear is of a massive deleveraging of the global economy and the global financial system as households and governments, businesses and investment funds adjust to living in a world with less debt and more inflation.

And they will come around, reluctantly, to the understanding that the only way to get out of these situations is to have governments all around the world borrow gobs of money and effectively nationalize large swaths of the financial system so it can be restructured, recapitalized, reformed and returned to private ownership once the crisis has passed and the economy has gotten back on its feet.

Dysfunction in Washington Exacts a Heavy Price (Gerald F. Seib , 9/29/08, Wall Street Journal)
[E]ven if senators manage to revive the bailout plan, a great deal of damage already has been done:

American voters, who didn't like the plan in the first place, will like even less the discovery that Washington's response to their concerns was to collapse into genuine dysfunction. [...]

The U.S. -- meaning both parties and the public and private sectors -- has to worry about what global investors make of the picture of disarray they now see in the U.S. That's a crucial consideration because the U.S. now depends on foreign capital to finance both a trade deficit of more than $700 billion and a $400 billion federal budget deficit. Today, foreign lenders hold about half of America's public debt, and the nation relies on them to finance more than 70% of its new debt, the nonpartisan Peter G. Peterson Foundation estimates.

The reason foreign investors have been willing to pony up this cash has been their basic, longstanding belief that the U.S. system -- financial and political -- makes America the ultimate safe haven.

At what point does that basic belief start to erode? And what are the consequences of that possibly happening? The question is even more acute because of the likelihood that even more foreign capital will be needed, at least in the short term, to help the American government finance the very bailout now being debated.

The more immediate question, of course, is what happens now.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:48 PM


What Petraeus Understands (Linda Robinson, September 2008, Foreign Policy)

The Mesopotamian lessons that will be most useful in the South Asian conflict derive from Petraeus‘s famous counterinsurgency manual, which emphasizes a “population-centric” approach. In Iraq, his command placed top priority on securing the population, meeting its needs, and shoring up the legitimacy of the government versus the insurgency. Engineers built walls and soldiers erected checkpoints to protect the population and keep out car bombers.

Much has been made of the coalition’s recent successes against al Qaeda in Iraq. But only in a very focused way did Petraeus take an “enemy-centric” approach to the terrorist organization. Killing the bad guys worked because the killing was more discriminate and the hardcore elements were separated from the rest of the insurgency and the population support base. Thanks to new human intelligence gained from the population and former insurgents, these operations were more precisely aimed at small numbers of “irreconcilables.” Biometric devices helped create a computerized, shareable registry of possible insurgents, which led to more accurate targeting. Other technical means then allowed rapid targeting of entire cells, but it was human intelligence that ensured the targets were the right ones. Then, U.S. and Iraqi troops held the areas after counterterrorist operations, unlike in the past.

Toward the mass of the Sunni insurgency, Petraeus adopted a new strategy. “We can’t kill our way to victory,” he was fond of saying. He sought instead to convert those who were fighting—bringing the “reconcilable” insurgents in from the cold.

The obvious parallel in his new role is to the Pashtun nation that straddles the border of Pakistan and Afghanistan. Pashtuns form the support base for the Taliban insurgency, which in turn gives sanctuary and support to the much smaller al Qaeda network. The United States and NATO need an approach that wins over the Pashtuns, looks for Taliban converts, and uses the resulting intelligence in a very focused counterterrorist campaign against al Qaeda. Unfortunately, this is contrary to the dominant thinking in the policy debate. Many in Washington are pressuring the administration and Pakistan to “get tough” in the tribal areas when in fact they need to “get smart.”

The problem with this theory is that Iraq's Sunni didn't start co-operating with the U.S. and the elected government until Sadrists and other Shi'ite militias had engaged in enough reprisals to convince them that not only were they the minority that elections had revealed them to be but that the Shi'a weren't the sheep Saddam had led them to believe they were. This, combined with many of the al Qaedists not being Iraqis, created an incentive for the Sunni to put down the violence within their own territory that was directed at the Shi'a and the government and to try for as much peaceable self-government as they could get. Who is going to scare the Pashtun enough that they too decide to reckon with the problem in their midst?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:34 PM


Poverty, race influence society's generosity (Rick Wilson, 9/28/08, Charleston Gazette)

The issue of race has cast a long and often ugly shadow over American life. That's hardly news, especially in a state that was born out of a Civil War sparked by racially based slavery. But some serious economic research has found that the effects of race and racism extend farther that we might suspect.

Many observers have noticed that the capitalist economies of Western Europe tend to spend more public resources than the United States on social programs such as old age, disability and survivor's pensions; family and child benefits; and unemployment and labor market programs. These nations also have some form of universal health care, although they spend less of their gross domestic product (GDP) on this than we do.

Harvard economists Alberto Alesina and Edward Glaeser, and Bruce Sacerdote of Dartmouth College investigated this issue. In 2001, they published a paper titled "Why Doesn't the United States Have a European-Style Welfare State?" (Note: the term "welfare state" as used here doesn't refer simply to programs that attempt to assist the poorest families but rather a range of programs and benefits across the population.)

They found that many things influenced these differences, such as different attitudes about inequality, different histories, economic and constitutional factors. But one of the biggest factors is the issue of race.

As they put it, "Racial discord plays a critical role in determining beliefs about the poor." Since members of racial minority groups are often seen as more likely to be poor, public policies that would reduce poverty are seen as primarily benefitting those groups - even though it doesn't really work out that way in practice.

This is one of the unacknowledged factors driving the Right's eagerness to punish sub-prime lending, which is why the same folks who were most vehemently opposed to the immigration bill are in full throat again.

Kill the bailout: Illegal immigration and the mortgage mess (Michelle Malkin, September 24, 2008)

[F]ault lies at the feet of the crime-enabling banking industry and the ethnic lobbyists and the illegal alien-enabling Bush administration.

They screwed us. Now, they want us to fork over a trillion dollars.

Screw them.

Kill this bailout.

Is Karl Rove to Blame for the Mortgage Meltdown? (Steve Sailer, September 28, 2008, V-Dare)
[T]he foremost long-term goal of President George W. Bush's political strategist was to bring Hispanics into the Republican Party.

As you'll recall, Rove's best-known tactic for trying to appeal to Latino voters was repeatedly pushing "comprehensive immigration reform" (i.e., an amnesty for illegal immigrants).

Rove, though had other arrows in his quiver. One of his plans was to turn Hispanics into Republicans by providing them with loose credit so they could become homeowners.

(Rove's belief that there's a connection between being able to afford a home and voting Republican is not irrational. As I've documented since 2004, states with higher degrees of "affordable family formation" vote Republican more than states where people can less afford to buy houses. That's why the Republican "Red States" tend to be inland, where land for housing is abundant and cheap, while Democratic "Blue States" tend to have expensive housing because oceans or Great Lakes restrict suburban expansion.)

Thus, George W. Bush made several speeches rallying enthusiasm for his October 15, 2002 White House Conference on Increasing Minority Homeownership. For instance, there was his classic Bushian effort on June 18, 2002:

The goal is, everybody who wants to own a home has got a shot at doing so. The problem is we have what we call a homeownership gap in America. Three-quarters of Anglos own their homes, and yet less than 50 percent of African Americans and Hispanics own homes. … So I've set this goal for the country. We want 5.5 million more homeowners by 2010 -- million more minority homeowners by 2010. (Applause.) …

The five and a half million marginal minority homeowners that Bush bunglingly called for is a big number. At a mortgage of, say, modest $127,000 each, that would add up to, let me check my calculator, oh, $700 billion. Well, whaddaya know …

Bush rattled on:

I'm going to do my part by setting the goal, by reminding people of the goal, by heralding the goal, and by calling people into action, both the federal level, state level, local level, and in the private sector. (Applause.) …

And so what are the barriers that we can deal with here in Washington?

Now that you've asked, Mr. President, allow me to point out that the number one barrier to minority homeownership is that many American minorities don't earn enough money to be able to afford their own home.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:24 PM


When Judges Make Foreign Policy (NOAH FELDMAN, 9/28/08, NY Times Magazine)

During the boom years of the 1990s, globalization emerged as the most significant development in our national life. With Nafta and the Internet and big-box stores selling cheap goods from China, the line between national and international began to blur. In the seven years since 9/11, the question of how we relate to the world beyond our borders — and how we should — has become inescapable. The Supreme Court, as ever, is beginning to offer its own answers. As the United States tries to balance the benefits of multilateral alliances with the demands of unilateral self-protection, the court has started to address the legal counterparts of such existential matters. It is becoming increasingly clear that the defining constitutional problem for the present generation will be the nature of the relationship of the United States to what is somewhat optimistically called the international order.

This problem has many dimensions. It includes mundane practical questions, like what force the United States should give to the law of the sea. It includes more symbolic questions, like whether high-ranking American officials can be held accountable for crimes against international law. And it includes questions of momentous consequence, like whether international law should be treated as law in the United States; what rights, if any, noncitizens have to come before American courts or tribunals; whether the protections of the Geneva Conventions apply to people that the U.S. government accuses of being terrorists; and whether the U.S. Supreme Court should consider the decisions of foreign or international tribunals when it interprets the Constitution.

In recent years, two prominent schools of thought have emerged to answer these questions. One view, closely associated with the Bush administration, begins with the observation that law, in the age of modern liberal democracy, derives its legitimacy from being enacted by elected representatives of the people. From this standpoint, the Constitution is seen as facing inward, toward the Americans who made it, toward their rights and their security. For the most part, that is, the rights the Constitution provides are for citizens and provided only within the borders of the country. By these lights, any interpretation of the Constitution that restricts the nation’s security or sovereignty — for example, by extending constitutional rights to noncitizens encountered on battlefields overseas — is misguided and even dangerous. In the words of the conservative legal scholars Eric Posner and Jack Goldsmith (who is himself a former member of the Bush administration), the Constitution “was designed to create a more perfect domestic order, and its foreign relations mechanisms were crafted to enhance U.S. welfare.”

A competing view, championed mostly by liberals, defines the rule of law differently: law is conceived not as a quintessentially national phenomenon but rather as a global ideal. The liberal position readily concedes that the Constitution specifies the law for the United States but stresses that a fuller, more complete conception of law demands that American law be pictured alongside international law and other (legitimate) national constitutions. The U.S. Constitution, on this cosmopolitan view, faces outward. It is a paradigm of the rule of law: rights similar to those it confers on Americans should protect all people everywhere, so that no one falls outside the reach of some legitimate legal order. What is most important about our Constitution, liberals stress, is not that it provides rights for us but that its vision of freedom ought to apply universally.

The Supreme Court, whose new term begins Oct. 6, has become a battleground for these two worldviews. In the last term, which ended in June, the justices gave expression to both visions. In two cases in particular — one high-profile, the other largely overlooked — the justices divided into roughly two blocs, representing the “inward” and “outward” looking conceptions of the Constitution, with Justice Anthony Kennedy voting with liberals in one case and conservatives in the other. The Supreme Court is on the verge of several retirements; how the justices will address critical issues of American foreign policy in the future hangs very much in the balance.

The Right wants to purify the party and the markets but seems to have given no thought to the other consequences that follow, like importing transnationalism into our law.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:21 PM


American Giver (Ashley J. Tellis 09.29.08, Forbes)

The House of Representatives has voted to approve the U.S.-India civilian nuclear cooperation agreement. This action brings the controversial Bush initiative to the edge of completion, and when concluded in the Senate--an outcome expected any day now--the president will secure a rare and dramatic foreign policy victory with far-reaching consequences.

Although the U.S. and India have been democracies since their inception, disagreement over India's nuclear weapons program during the Cold War became the single most important impediment to closer bilateral ties. President Bush's decision to change course--after over 30 years of failing U.S. opposition to India's nuclear program--was intended to decisively remove this impediment.

With the impending conclusion of legislative action in Congress, the president's vision of an empowered India entrenched in the ranks of America's friends and allies will have been realized. No one in New Delhi, Washington or elsewhere can have any doubt that the successful consummation of this improbable initiative is owed fundamentally to Bush's personal investment--and his willingness to expend his scarce and diminishing capital selling it to a skeptical Nuclear Suppliers Group and an initially furious Congress.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:15 PM


Asia stocks fall after US failure (BBC, 9/30/08)

Japan's benchmark Nikkei stock index has fallen almost 5% in early trading, hours after a US financial rescue plan failed to gain Congressional backing. [...]

Now Asia is reacting to the shock, and in early trading on Tuesday, the Tokyo Stock Exchange's Nikkei-225 index fell almost 580 points to 11,163.74, a lost of 4.94% of its value in a matter of minutes.

Australia and New Zealand saw similar precipitous losses, with the S&P/ASX-200 index shedding 5.3% in Sydney and a 4.7% fall in Wellington.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:54 PM


Obama has advantage on economy (MARK J. PENN, 9/29/08, Politico)

The financial crisis has redefined the presidential race, bringing into stark relief the candidate who can deal with the complexities of the global markets and return the country to prosperity over the next four years.

The race is no longer about change, experience, Iraq, tax cuts or universal health care. The job posting has been fundamentally altered.

Just as the Russia-Georgia conflict tilted the race toward Republican nominee John McCain a few weeks ago, this economic crisis shifts everything once again — this time to Democratic standard-bearer Barack Obama. Voters will now increasingly cast ballots on the economy, as opposed to national security or social values.

While the Democrats benefit from an economic downturn it isn't because anyone thinks they can run the economy better but because they're the security party and people who are scared want their mommies. If the economy truly is screwed then give us the Welfare Party, not the Marketeers.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:32 PM


McCain's Moment (William Kristol, 9/29/08, Weekly Standard)

No one wants to take ownership of the task of rescuing the economy right now. The Bush-Paulson plan has failed. The administration, House Democrats, and House Republicans (above all) have all proved unable to deliver. But there is someone who might be able to save the economy--and incidentally the Republican party: John McCain.

He should come back to D.C. But this time he needs to take charge--either by laying out the outlines of his own plan, or presiding over meetings at which a real plan that can pass is cobbled together. He might also insist on the immediate passage of a couple of provisions (raising or removing FDIC insurance limits, for example) that could mitigate the damage that could be done over the next few days.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:28 PM


Washington to Wall Street: Drop Dead: The Republicans killed the bailout bill—and McCain's chances. (Daniel Gross, 9/29/08, Newsweek)

Well, maybe we don't need much of a private-sector financial system after all. That's the conclusion that most House Republicans, and a minority of House Democrats, seem to have reached in voting down the $700 billion bailout bill on Monday. Maybe it's best that, in a few weeks, there will be essentially two large banks left in the country, JPMorgan Chase and Citigroup. After all it has done, perhaps that's what the financial sector deserves.

Was the bailout bill killed by malice or by incompetence? It's hard to argue against incompetence, since it has been so rampant, especially on the Republican side of things in Washington. The congressional leadership and the White House clearly lacked the heft—or the energy—to whip recalcitrant members into line. "I don't understand why President Bush didn't go to members of his party and say vote on this," Maria Bartiromo wondered on CNBC Monday afternoon. (Maria, if you have to ask, you don't want to know.) Sen. John McCain, who interrupted his campaign to deal with the crisis, claimed—via his surrogates—that he wielded great influence in improving the deal and making it palatable. Then he left town as it collapsed.

The one thing you can say in favor of the House Republicans is that it was guys in contested seats who voted against the bill and they'll lose in the Fall. They did place their ideology above their careers. Of course, they also placed ideology above party, country, constituents...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:05 PM


House to Wall Street: Drop dead (MarketWatch, Sept. 29, 2008)

In a stunning vote on Monday, the House rejected the financial rescue package on a vote of 205 to 228. Republicans voted against the bill by a two-to-one ratio, and in the process rejected their own leadership, who had worked for nearly a week to craft a bill that could gain a majority. [...]

Many Republicans in the House were never persuaded that the credit crunch in the financial system is an impending disaster deserving of taxpayer aid. Politicians who had cut their teeth on free-market principles couldn't accept the idea that the federal government should back up the banks who had foolishly bet everything on the housing bubble.

...we'll teach everyone that free markets work!

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:13 PM


Oil plunges $10 as US bailout plan voted down (Stevenson Jacobs, 9/29/08, AP)

Oil prices plunged over $10 a barrel Monday as a U.S. financial bailout plan failed to win legislative approval, increasing fears tat a prolonged economic downturn that could sharply curtail energy demand.

Light, sweet crude for November delivery sank $10.52 to settle at $96.36 on the New York Mercantile Exchange, after earlier dropping as low as $95.04. It was crude's lowest trading level since prices edged back below $100 earlier this month; crude previously hadn't traded that low since February.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:51 PM


The End of the U.S. Financial System as We Know It? (Larry Kudlow, 9/29/08, NRO: The Corner)

A number of Republican House members and staff, along with others who are plugged in, are telling me that Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats will come back with a new bill that includes all the left-wing stuff that was scrubbed from the bill that was defeated today in the House.

As this scenario goes, the House Democrats need 218 votes, and they have to pick up a number of black and Hispanic House members who jumped ship because the Wall Street provisions, in their view, were too benign. So things like the bankruptcy judges setting mortgage terms and rates, the ACORN slush-fund spending, the union proxy for corporate boards, stricter limits on executive compensation, and much larger equity ownership of selling banks through warrants will all find itself back in the new bill.

Watching the Rightwing kooks try to come try terms with their having forced Democrats to give 20% of the federal budget to ACORN (or whatever delusion they're laboring under) would be worth the price of admission.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:47 PM


House Republican leader says no revote on bailout Monday (CNN, 9/29/08)

Rep. John Boehner, the Republican leader in the House of Representatives, says the chamber will not vote again Monday on a $700 billion plan to bailout the financial services sector, after it was dramatically defeated on the floor.

So the US and world economies are at stake, John McCain thought the bill important enough to suspend his campaign and his entire reputation is built on bipartisan coalition building and he's off campaigning somewhere today? What ever happened to "a cause greater than self"?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:14 PM


House Rejects Bailout Package, 228-205; Stocks Plunge (CARL HULSE and DAVID M. HERSZENHORN, 9/29/08, NY Times)

In a moment of historic drama in the Capitol and on Wall Street, the House of Representatives voted on Monday to reject a $700 billion rescue of the financial industry.

The vote against the measure was 228 to 205. Supporters vowed to try to bring the rescue package up for consideration again as soon as possible.

Stock markets plunged sharply at midday as it appeared that the measure would go down to defeat.

Stocks plunge as House votes 'No' (Alexandra Twin, September 29, 2008, CNNMoney.com)
Stocks skidded Monday afternoon, with the Dow tumbling as much as 711 points, after the House rejected the government's $700 billion bank bailout plan.

Stocks had tumbled ahead of the vote and the selling accelerated on fears that Congress would not be able come up with a fix for nearly frozen credit markets. The frozen markets mean banks are hoarding cash, making it difficult for businesses and individuals to get much-needed loans.

...that was the House GOP taking money out of your pocket, but, don't fret, they won't get many more opportunities.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:57 AM


The Bay of Pigs Invasion, John F. Kennedy: an excerpt from Failures Of The Presidents; From The Whiskey Rebellion And War Of 1812 To The Bay Of Pigs And War In Iraq
by Thomas J. Craughwell with M. William Phelps (courtesy FSB Associates)

A TOTAL FAILURE. Many of the men of Brigade 2506 believed fervently that they were the first wave of Cuban freedom fighters who would liberate their homeland from Castro. They were convinced as they storrned ashore that they would be supported overhead by some of the finest fighter pilots of the U.S. Air Force, and they thought that as they advanced into Cuba, the U.S. Marines would be right behind them. Whether the insurgents had talked themselves into this conviction or the trainers from the United States had made such a promise is still a subject of debate.

The air support promised by the CIA consisted of sixteen B-26 twin-engine light attack bombers. From an airstrip in Nicaragua to the Bay of Pigs was a journey of 1,000 miles, round-trip, which left a B-26 with enough fuel to provide less than forty minutes of air cover for the Brigade. Anything longer than forty minutes and the pilots risked running out of gas somewhere over the Caribbean.

On April 14, 1961, just three days from the invasion, Kennedy called CIA Operations Chief Bissell to ask how many planes he planned to use in the operation. Bissell told the president the CIA planned to use all sixteen of their B-26s. "Well I don't want it on that scale," Kennedy replied. "I want it minimal." So Bissell cut the number of planes for the invasion to eight. The next day, those eight planes attacked the three airfields of the Cuban air force, knocking out some of the aircraft, but not enough to cripple the fleet.

On the morning of April 17, as the Cuban militia pinned down the men of Brigade 2506, the Cuban planes that had survived the air strikes attacked the exiles from the air. Meanwhile, the B-26s, their fuel low and their forty minutes up, veered away from the beach for the flight home. The Brigade's commander, San Román, radioed his CIA handlers for help. "We are under attack by two Sea Fury aircraft and heavy artillery," he reported. "Do not see any friendly air cover as you promised. Need jet support immediately." When San Roman's request was denied, he replied, "You, sir, are a son of a bitch."

With the sea at their backs, no means of retreat, and no chance of advancing into the interior of Cuba, the Brigade was in a desperate position. Back in Washington, the CIA and the Kennedy administration concluded that the invasion would fail. In a conversation with his brother, Robert Kennedy, the president said he wished he had permitted the use of U.S. ships to back up the Cuban exiles. "I'd rather be an aggressor," he said, "than a bum."

On April 18, Kennedy authorized six fighter jets from the aircraft carrier Essex to provide one hour of air cover for the CIAs attacking B-26s over the beach at the Bay of Pigs. But the jets from the Essex and the B-26s missed their rendezvous because the Pentagon forgot to factor in the one-hour difference in time zones between the B-26s' base in Nicaragua and the beach in Cuba.

That same day, Kennedy's national security advisor, McGeorge Bundy, gave the president a status report on the invasion. "The Cuban armed forces are stronger, the popular response [is] weaker, and our tactical position is feebler than we had hoped," Bundy said. That was perhaps the kindest possible description of the Bay of Pigs operation.

As a humanitarian concession, the president permitted U.S. destroyers to approach the Cuban coast to pick up survivors. The ships were authorized to get within two miles of shore after dark, but no closer than five miles during daylight hours. The directive meant the rescue mission was beyond the reach of almost every man in Brigade 2506. A handful who had managed to swim to one or another of the bay's outlying cays were picked up, but the rest lay dead on the beach or were captured by Castro's forces.

At 2 p.m. on April 19, after two days of being pounded by militia, tanks, and the Cuban air force, Commander San Román and Brigade 2506 surrendered. "Everything is lost," Allen Dulles told former vice president Richard Nixon. "The Cuban invasion is a total failure."

Sixty-eight Cuban exiles were killed in the Bay of Pigs debacle; 1,209 were captured, and nine of them died of asphyxiation in a windowless sealed truck that took them from the beach to prison in Havana. After twenty days of interrogation, the prisoners were given show trials and sentenced to life in prison.

Soon after the conviction of the men of Brigade 2506, Castro made a public offer to exchange the prisoners for farm machinery. Kennedy leapt at the proposal. Immediately he formed the Tractors for Freedom Committee, chaired by former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt, with the purpose of collecting donations to purchase farm equipment for Cuba. But the group was not able to meet Castro's exorbitant demand of $30 million worth of capital relief, and it disbanded. The tractor deal fell through.

Negotiations between the two governments went on sporadically over the next twenty months. Finally, on December 24,1962, Castro announced that he was releasing the Brigade 2506 prisoners in exchange for $53 million in medicine and food from the United States. He also promised, "as a Christmas bonus," to permit 1,000 of the prisoners' relatives to emigrate to the United States.

The animosity between Cuba and the United States intensified after the Bay of Pigs debacle. Cuba allied itself with the Soviet Union, while America continued its policy of isolating Cuba economically and diplomatically. Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev viewed America's failure at the Bay of Pigs as a sign of Kennedy's weakness and inexperience, an assessment he felt was confmned after meeting Kennedy at the Vienna Summit of April 1962, where it appeared to some that Kennedy was sandbagged by Khrushchev's threat to cut off West Berlin from the Western powers. Within six months, Khrushchev was placing nuclear missiles in Cuba, an action that brought the world as close as it has ever come to all-out nuclear war.

In the face of the missile crisis, Kennedy held firm. The Soviets backed down, removing the nuclear weapons from Cuba, but the tension between Cuba and the United States has dragged on for more than forty years. During that time, political observers and historians have argued that the failed invasion actually strengthened Castro's grip on Cuba. Certainly Che Guevara thought so. In August 1961, at a meeting of the Organization of American States in Uruguay, he sent a note to Kennedy saying, "Thanks for Playa Giron [another name for the site of the invasion]. Before the invasion, the revolution was weak. Now it is stronger than ever."

We'll be giving away a copy in our Election 2008 Contest.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:52 AM


Against Intuition: Experimental philosophers emerge from the shadows, but skeptics still ask: Is this philosophy? (CHRISTOPER SHEA, 10/03/08, The Chronicle Review)

At the heart of experimental philosophy lies a suspicion of so-called "intuitions." An intuition in philosophy is something far more potent than it is in ordinary discourse. Intuitions rear their heads when philosophers write such things as, "In this case, we would surely say …," or, "It would be natural to say …" (for example, that killing a man to harvest his organs is wrong). It is a deeply rooted sense, tested from multiple angles and honed through thought experiments and dialogue. The trustworthiness of intuitions (whose roots can be traced back to Plato and Socrates, who thought they represented glimpses of the true, ideal world usually hidden from us) hardly goes undebated by traditional philosophers — quite the opposite — but the experimental philosophers apply a new kind of pressure. They think that by studying human minds, using empirical techniques, and drawing on the insights of modern psychological science, they can get a better sense of where intuitions come from, and whether or when they should be granted credence.

Experimental philosophy has suggested, for example, that people from East Asian cultures may have different intuitions on very basic philosophical questions — reference (what nouns refer to in certain situations), morality, epistemology (what it means "to know" something) — than members of Western societies do. Experimental philosophers also draw on work by contemporary psychologists demonstrating just how malleable human cognition is, how easily redirected and reshaped it is by external cues, even as the conscious mind remains blissfully unaware. Opinions on crime and punishment, for instance, can be altered by placing people in a dirty room designed to trigger feelings of disgust: Subjects in such experiments respond more punitively when asked what should be done to certain hypothetical criminals.

"If we keep getting the same kind of results with the right kinds of controls and right kind of experiments," says Stich, "then there is a problem with the central method that philosophers have used throughout the 20th century, and for a long time before that": the reliance on armchair intuitions.

Understandably, such claims have met with resistance. "A philosophical problem is not an empirical problem," writes Judith Jarvis Thomson, the noted MIT moral philosopher, in an e-mail message to The Chronicle, "so I don't see how their empirical investigations can be thought to have any bearing on any philosophical problem — much less help anyone to solve a philosophical problem."

When several philosophers, including Stich and Joshua Knobe, an assistant professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, along with a few psychologists, including the University of Virginia's Jonathan Haidt, proposed to Oxford University Press a new journal focusing on empirical studies of moral philosophy, they got back one particularly scathing anonymous review: "This group," it said, "is overly impressed by dubious functional MRI studies purporting to demonstrate the neurophysiological underpinnings of moral thinking, and by small sample, 'rinky-dink experiments' conducted by philosophers who are not trained experimentalists."

While much of the proposal authors' work was "perfectly philosophically respectable," the reviewer said, "a great deal of their interest lies in what I can only describe as the desire to eliminate morality (or at least the study of morality) from the discipline of philosophy itself."

...whether you punch an experimental philosopher in the nose when you're in a dirty room or a clean room makes no difference to whether he thinks what you did was right, though he may want you punished more severely in the dirty one.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:29 AM


SPIEGEL INTERVIEW WITH US GENERAL DAVID PETRAEUS: 'The Longest Campaign of the Long War': In an interview with SPIEGEL, General David Petraeus, until recently commander of the American forces in Iraq and future head of the US Central Command, discusses his new job, progress in Baghdad and how lessons from Iraq may apply to the escalating situation in Afghanistan. (Der Spiegel, 9/29/08)

SPIEGEL: How long will it take to win this fight, according to your cold realism?

Petraeus: I did a week-long assessment in 2005 at (then Defense Secretary Donald) Rumsfeld's request. Following our return, I told him that Afghanistan was going to be the longest campaign of what we then termed "the long war." Having just been to Afghanistan a month or so ago, I think that that remains a valid assessment.

Heck, if you're talking about The Long War, the campaign against USSR took seventy years, against France took over two hundred, and it's not even proper to consider the sort of tribalism that plagues Afghanistan/Pakistan to be part of the war.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:19 AM


The Bailout Bill That Nobody Likes (Jay Newton-Small, 9/29/08, TIME)

Wanted: someone who will claim credit for saving the U.S. economy. With little fanfare and all the enthusiasm of a hangover, congressional leaders from both parties on Sunday unveiled a detailed agreement on legislation to bail out Wall Street. But no presidential candidates were in sight, and few in Congress were doing much bragging about their handiwork.

Last week, jockeying for the title "savior of the economy" seemed intense, with both the Democratic and Republican candidates flying into Washington and overeager negotiators emerging with a premature victory announcement. But after dramatically suspending his campaign and asking to postpone last Friday's debate in order to deal with the financial crisis, John McCain kept a decidedly low profile in the final days of negotiations. His staff said McCain kept track of events by phone, keeping in touch with Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and House minority leader John Boehner, and calling members on both sides of the aisle, urging them to support the deal. "I'm proud that we were able to get this done, and I'll give the credit to everybody else," McCain insisted on ABC's This Week on Sunday morning.

Yet on Sunday it was hard to find anyone willing to take credit for the agreement.

...helping to pass this bill is the first significant legislative accomplishment of Barack Obama's career. That said, it is a big one.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:07 AM


McCain Aide: "He will be there for the vote." (The Page, 9/29/08)

...just to make it look like he was caving to political pressure instead of being a leader?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:26 AM


There is a new free website PublishALetter.com that allows one to submit letters to the editors of all the key newspapers in the US and the world. Since the letters are often not printed,one can also publish those letters on the site itself. While the site does not welcome mass mailings, it can be an important neutral avenue for your audience to have their independent voices heard and shared.

Would you please consider letting your audience know about the site?

Tapan Chakrabarty
Managing Partner
Publishaletter.com LLC


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:07 AM


The Stockholm Curve (Wall Street Journal, 9/29/08)

"The corporate tax is one of the taxes which large companies really study when they plan to set up business somewhere," says Jan Björklund, leader of the country's Liberal Party, in promoting the tax cut plan. The corporate tax reduction will bring the Swedish rate down to 26.3% from 28%, continuing its fall from a high of 57% in 1987. This means that Swedes will soon have a corporate tax rate one-third lower than the U.S. average of 39.5% (the 35% federal rate plus the state average).

Sweden remains a high-tax country overall, with individual rates well above 50% plus pension and payroll obligations. Maria Rannka, president of the Swedish think tank Timbro, has reported that entrepreneurship had become such an alien concept that more than half of Sweden's 50 largest companies were founded before World War I and only two after 1970 -- the period when taxes and social welfare programs proliferated.

Now, however, Sweden is discovering that it must cut taxes to compete with Ireland, Eastern Europe and fast-growing Asia.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:59 AM


Why faith in God really can relieve pain (Jonathan Petre, 28th September 2008, Daily Mail)

In a bizarre experiment, academics at The Oxford Centre For Science Of The Mind ‘tortured’ 12 Roman Catholics and 12 atheists with electric shocks as they studied a painting of the Virgin Mary.

They found that the Catholics seemed to be able to block out much of the pain.

And, using the latest brain-scanning techniques, they also discovered that the Catholics were able to activate part of the brain associated with conditioning the experience of pain.

The findings were welcomed by the Anglican Bishop of Durham, the Rt Rev Tom Wright, who said: ‘The practice of faith should, and in many cases does, alter the person you are.

‘It can affect the patterns of your brain and your emotions. So it comes as no surprise to me that this experiment has reached such conclusions.’

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:57 AM


Clinton hesitant to call Obama a 'great man' (Emily Sherman and Kristi Keck, 9/29/08, CNN)

Former President Bill Clinton was hesitant to characterize Barack Obama as a "great man" Sunday, a phrase he had no qualms using last week to describe Obama's rival John McCain. [...]

Clinton then explained what he meant in characterizing McCain as a "great man."

"I think his greatness is that he keeps trying to come back to service without ever asking people to cut him any slack or feel sorry for him or any of that stuff because he was a POW," Clinton said of the Republican presidential nominee.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:52 AM


Union Leaders Confronted by Resistance to Obama (STEVEN GREENHOUSE, 9/29/08, NY Times)

[M]any union members have a history of basing their votes on noneconomic issues, giving Mr. McCain and his running mate, Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska, a shot at winning their support. Mr. Pyne, who knocks on doors wearing a Steelworkers for Obama T-shirt, witnessed that firsthand while visiting Scott Siegel, a union plumber, and his wife, Amy.

“We basically vote pro-life,” said Ms. Siegel, a mother of five. “As a ‘little person,’ I don’t feel that any of these candidates have our best interests in mind. So if there’s a specific thing that sways our vote, it would be abortion.”

...and she should just be hammering Obama/Biden on social issues.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:44 AM


Democrats on Hill Worried About Biden at Debate (Jake Tapper, September 29, 2008, Political Punch)

[A]s the two vice presidential nominees prepare for their one debate this Thursday, there are a number of Democrats who, off the record, say they're worried that despite his far greater breadth of knowledge, Biden could whiff it.

He can be verbose and has a propensity for gaffes, they say. The son-of-Scranton candor they usually find charming can sometimes seem reckless or insensitive.

That Biden will be debating the first Republican woman vice presidential nominee makes his challenge all the greater.

In recent weeks, in fact, Biden has taken advice from Democratic Sens. Hillary Clinton, Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, presumably offering tips on how to debate women without seeming sexist or bullying.

On Sunday, Obama’s chief strategist David Axelrod sought to lower expectations. Much of this is spin, but some of it is quite legitimately rooted in Biden's occasional charge to open-mouth-insert-foot.

...but how they used their sex to their advantage in debates. And that isn't even the biggest problem he faces. Ms Palin's task could hardly be easier here: every time she's called on she raises a position that Joe Biden and Barrack Obama have taken in the Senate and forces him to defend it. Not only does this allow her to fill in their blanks with a portrait of how liberal their records are but there is pretty nearly zero chance that Senator Biden can control himself and avoid condescending, blustering and outright fibbing when he's on the defensive.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:42 AM


How McCain Wins (WILLIAM KRISTOL, 9/29/08, NY Times)

With respect to his campaign, McCain needs to liberate his running mate from the former Bush aides brought in to handle her — aides who seem to have succeeded in importing to the Palin campaign the trademark defensive crouch of the Bush White House. McCain picked Sarah Palin in part because she’s a talented politician and communicator. He needs to free her to use her political talents and to communicate in her own voice.

I’m told McCain recently expressed unhappiness with his staff’s handling of Palin. On Sunday he dispatched his top aides Steve Schmidt and Rick Davis to join Palin in Philadelphia. They’re supposed to liberate Palin to go on the offensive as a combative conservative in the vice-presidential debate on Thursday.

That debate is important. McCain took a risk in choosing Palin. If she does poorly, it will reflect badly on his judgment. If she does well, it will be a shot in the arm for his campaign.

In the debate, Palin has to dispatch quickly any queries about herself, and confidently assert that of course she’s qualified to be vice president. She should spend her time making the case for McCain and, more important, the case against Obama. As one shrewd McCain supporter told me, “Every minute she spends not telling the American people something that makes them less well disposed to Obama is a minute wasted.”

The core case against Obama is pretty simple: he’s too liberal. A few months ago I asked one of McCain’s aides what aspect of Obama’s liberalism they thought they could most effectively exploit. He looked at me as if I were a simpleton, and patiently explained that talking about “conservatism” and “liberalism” was so old-fashioned.

Maybe. But the fact is the only Democrats to win the presidency in the past 40 years — Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton — distanced themselves from liberal orthodoxy. Obama is, by contrast, a garden-variety liberal.

Old-fashioned is a pejorative?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:35 AM


Dr. Paulson's Tough Medicine, In a Pill the Public Can Swallow (Steven Pearlstein, 9/29/08, Washington Post)

The normally sure-footed Paulson stumbled badly last weekend when he rushed to the Capitol with a vague and poorly explained proposal that all but invited politicians and the news media to label it as a "$700 billion bailout for Wall Street" -- a moniker from which it nearly never recovered.

In fact, even in its original form, the Paulson plan would not have cost taxpayers anywhere near $700 billion, nor was Wall Street ever to be the primary beneficiary. The aim all along was to restore the flow of credit to Main Street's homeowners and businesses through banking and credit channels that have become dangerously constricted in recent months, threatening to choke off capital to the entire economy.

By acting as a buyer of last resort and allowing financial institutions to compete to sell some of their depressed mortgage-backed securities, Paulson hoped to jump-start credit markets to the point that prices for the securities would rise to close to their real economic value, private investors would feel confident enough to re-enter the market and banks would have the capital to begin lending again.

Paulson also intended to use some of the money to inject fresh capital into banks and financial institutions whose failure would jeopardize the stability of the financial system, in exchange for government ownership and control, much as the Treasury and Fed had done with Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and insurance giant AIG.

And all along he had made informal promises to congressional leaders that, as the government gained effective control of millions of troubled mortgages, it would use its newfound position to prevent unnecessary foreclosures by renegotiating the loans on more favorable terms.

All three elements -- the auctions, the negotiated recapitalizations and the foreclosure mitigation -- survived the week's negotiations and remain the core of the 106-page bill, along with the mandate to implement the program quickly, to structure it as he sees fit and to alter it as market conditions require.

What was added over the past week was a panoply of procedural safeguards, taxpayer protection and structural reforms to provide an acceptable political context for the use of so much public money and the grant of such extraordinary discretion and power.

...was turn a golden opportunity for the Republican nominee into a party-inflicted bumble. Had the House GOP come out of the Wednesday meeting saying that John McCain had convinced them they needed to be on board it would have enhanced his deserved reputation as a legislative dealmaker and appealed to independents, who love that kind of stuff. Instead they ginned up the base against a bill they were going to have to swallow sooner or later. Not very deftly played.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:29 AM


An astonishing mea culpa from the CBC (Jonathan Kay, 9/28/08, National Post)

Earlier this month, I wrote a column blasting CBC.ca coumnist Heather Mallick for writing a vulgar, juvenile hit-job on Sarah Palin. I also blasted the CBC for publishing it. I ended with these words: "The folks at the CBC might want to take care of their credibility problem before it’s too late. Otherwise, I suspect, the next government will take care of it for them.

Today, the CBC announced thet were doing just that:

We erred in our judgment -- By John Cruickshank, CBC News -- Sept. 28, 2008

More than 300 people have taken the trouble this month to complain to the CBC ombudsman about a column we ran on CBCNews.ca about Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin on Sept. 5. The column, by award-winning freelance writer Heather Mallick, was also pilloried by the National Post in Canada and by Fox News in the U.S.

… Vince Carlin, the CBC Ombudsman, has now issued his assessment of the Mallick column. He doesn't fault her for riling readers by either the caustic nature of her tone or the polarizing nature of her opinion. But he objects that many of her most savage assertions lack a basis in fact. And he is certainly correct.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:20 AM


Far Right storms election as Austrians back anti-EU rhetoric (Bojan Pancevski, 9/29/08, Times of London)

The far Right has made a grand return in Austria, emerging from yesterday’s elections as the second biggest parliamentary block, according to preliminary results.

The two parties that campaigned on an anti-immigrant and anti-European Union ticket have captured about 29 per cent of the vote, pushing the country’s traditional conservative party into third place.

Heinz-Christian Strache and his Freedom Party, who were accused of xenophobia and waging an antiMuslim campaign, won 18 per cent — a rise of 7 per cent compared with the last elections. Mr Strache’s former mentor, Jörg Haider, won 11 per cent of the vote with his new party, the Alliance for the Future of Austria.

You'd think the American Right might note that even in Austria such politics doesn't get much over a quarter of the vote. But, then, you'd think the parties of the European Right would realize they cost themselves votes by not opposing the EU.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:16 AM


Omert: Israel will have to withdraw (JTA, 09/29/2008)

Israel will have to leave the West Bank and east Jerusalem, and compensate Palestinians for settlement blocs in a peace deal, Ehud Olmert said.

"In the end of the day, we will have to withdraw from the most decisive areas of the territories. In exchange for the same territories left in our hands, we will have to give compensation in the form of territories within the State of Israel," Israel's prime minister said in an interview published Monday in Yediot Achronot.

It is the first time Olmert has been so specific about what he believes a peace with the Palestinians will look like. Yediot pointed out in the article that Olmert did not go so far in his statements when he was firmly in office and not the caretaker head of a government in transition.

First, lose power....

September 28, 2008

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:44 PM


A successful bailout? Watch lending between banks (JEANNINE AVERSA, 9/28/08, AP)

The New Deal it is not. The government's biggest economic bailout since the Great Depression is aimed not at relieving unemployment or reforming questionable business practices, but at resuscitating financial markets debilitated by lousy bets on the housing market.

Put simply, the hastily crafted plan lawmakers agreed to in principle on Sunday is intended to revive jittery and fragile banks on Wall Street with enough money — by using taxpayer funds to purchase billions upon billions of their worst mortgage-related assets — so that lending, the lifeblood of the American economy, flows freely again.

If it is working, signs will emerge almost immediately in the interest rates on U.S. bonds and in an array of obscure — but crucial — financial benchmarks.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:37 PM


At Debate, Biden Told: Ignore Palin (RUSSELL BERMAN, September 29, 2008, NY Sun)

As Senator Biden prepares to face off against Governor Palin on Thursday night in the campaign's lone vice presidential debate, Democratic strategists have a few words of advice for the lawmaker of Delaware: Ignore the Alaskan.

Mr. Biden's 35 years in the Senate dwarf Ms. Palin's single month of experience on the national stage, but Democrats are worried that his penchant for verbal missteps and his occasionally aggressive style could be a liability as he faces only the second woman to serve as a major party nominee for the vice presidency.

"His goal is to ignore Palin and focus on connecting with voters sitting in their living rooms by making clear he is indeed one of them — an uncommon, common man," a Democratic strategist who served as an aide to Vice President Gore during the 2000 campaign, Christopher Lehane, said.

...like there's no one there.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:33 PM


Rescue Tests Bush's Conservative Legacy (JOHN D. MCKINNON, 9/29/08, Wall Street Journal)

President George W. Bush's $700 billion rescue plan for financial markets is prompting widespread soul-searching within the conservative movement.

While many Republican lawmakers seek to distance themselves from the plan, or disown it altogether, White House officials hope the heated opposition gradually will cool if the plan works.

Many frustrated conservatives see Mr. Bush's rescue plan, on top of his decision to invade Iraq, as cementing his legacy as a big-government conservative.

To others, it marks his apostasy from conservative orthodoxy.

...it's that you should blow up the US economy for ideological reasons, right?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:01 PM


Signs of trouble seen before Syria bombing: Syria has strained ties to some Sunni Arab countries because of its support for Shiite groups. Troops along Lebanese border may be intended to stop an attack from militants, analysts say. (Borzou Daragahi, 9/29/08, Los Angeles Times)

When Syria deployed thousands of soldiers along its frontier with northern Lebanon this month, some here feared that the Syrians were preparing to retake a country their military had dominated until it was pushed out in 2005.

But now, after a bombing Saturday that was the deadliest in Syria since 1986, analysts are wondering whether the troops were defensive, meant to stop an imminent attack from Lebanon-based Sunni Muslim militants inspired by Al Qaeda and sometimes trained in Iraq. [...]

Northern Lebanon has long been a bastion for Sunni radicals, some of them veterans of the Iraq insurgency. Fatah al Islam, a group with Al Qaeda ties, fought the Lebanese army last year in a months-long battle that left hundreds dead.

On Aug. 12, just hours before newly selected Lebanese President Michel Suleiman paid a landmark visit to Damascus, a roadside bomb struck a bus in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli, killing at least 12 people, 10 of them soldiers of the Lebanese army, which is widely perceived as sympathetic to Syria. Dozens have died in clashes between Sunnis and Lebanon's Alawite sect, which also has strong ties to Syria.

Lebanese scholar Ahmad Moussalli said he told several Syrian officials over lunch in Damascus three weeks ago to expect an attack on their soil. Saturday's bombing, he said, was unsurprising.

"This constitutes payback against Syria because it is anti-Islamist and is against the spread of such Islamism in the north of Lebanon," said Moussalli, a professor of political science and Islamic studies at the American University of Beirut.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:55 PM


Key House GOP Opponent of Bailout Bill Changes Tune (Jake Tapper, September 28, 2008, Political Punch)

I'm told by someone in the room that Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., ranking Republican on the House Budget Committee and an admired conservative within his caucus, just made what I'm told was a credible argument FOR the bill.

Said Ryan of the bill: "It sucks."

But, he said, it has to pass to preserve the free market system and stave off a financial collapse.

Why did you seek office if not to be helpful when something like the free market system is in crisis? This will likely be recalled as your proudest moment in Congress.

MORE (via Jim Yates):
Who's Afraid of a Big, Bad Bailout? (John Mauldin, 9/26/08, Frontline Thoughts)

Flying last Tuesday, overnight from Cape Town in South Africa to London, I read in the Financial Times that Republican Congressman Joe Barton of Texas was quoted as saying (this is from memory, so it is not exact) that he had difficulty voting for a bailout plan when none of his constituents could understand the need to bail out Wall Street, didn't understand the problem, and were against spending $700 billion of taxpayer money to solve a crisis for a bunch of (rich) people who took a lot of risk and created the crisis. That is a sentiment that many of the Republican members of the House share.

As it happens, I know Joe. My office is in his congressional district. I sat on the Executive Committee for the Texas Republican Party representing much of the same district for eight years. This week, Thoughts from the Frontline will be an open letter to Joe, and through him to Congress, telling him what the real financial problem is and how it affects his district, helping explain the problem to his constituents , and explaining why he has to hold his nose with one hand and vote for a bailout with the other.

Just for the record, Joe has been in Congress for 24 years. He is the ranking Republican on the Energy and Commerce Committee, which is one of the three most important committees and is usually considered in the top five of Republican House leadership. He is quite conservative and has been a very good and effective congressman. I have known Joe for a long time and consider him a friend. He has been my Congressman at times, depending on where they draw the line. I called his senior aide and asked him how the phone calls were going. It is at least ten to one against supporting this bill, and that is probably typical of the phones all across this country. People are angry, and with real justification. And watching the debates, it reminds us that one should never look at how sausages and laws are made. It is a very messy process.

I think what follows is as good a way as any to explain the crisis we are facing this weekend. This letter will print out a little longer, because there are a lot of charts, but the word length is about the same. Let's jump right in.

It's the End of the World As We Know It

Dear Joe,

I understand your reluctance to vote for a bill that 90% of the people who voted for you are against. That is generally not good politics. They don't understand why taxpayers should spend $700 billion to bail out rich guys on Wall Street who are now in trouble. And if I only got my information from local papers and news sources, I would probably agree. But the media (apart from CNBC) has simply not gotten this story right. It is not just a crisis on Wall Street. Left unchecked, this will morph within a few weeks to a crisis on Main Street. What I want to do is describe the nature of the crisis, how this problem will come home to your district, and what has to be done to avert a true, full-blown depression, where the ultimate cost will be far higher to the taxpayers than $700 billion. And let me say that my mail is not running at 10 to 1 against, but it is really high. I am probably going to make a lot of my regular readers mad, but they need to hear what is really happening on the front lines of the financial world.

First, let's stop calling this a bailout plan. It is not. It is an economic stabilization plan. Run properly, it might even make the taxpayers some money. If it is not enacted very soon (Monday would be fine), the losses to businesses and investors and homeowners all over the US (and the world) will be enormous. [...]

Why do we need this Stabilization Plan? Why can't the regular capital markets handle it? The reason is that the problem is simply too big for the market to deal with. It requires massive amounts of patient, long-term money to solve the problem. And the only source for that would be the US government.

There is no reason for the taxpayer to lose money. Warren Buffett, Bill Gross of PIMCO, and my friend Andy Kessler have all said this could be done without the taxpayer losing money, and perhaps could even make a profit. As noted above, these bonds could be bought at market prices that would actually make a long-term buyer a profit. Put someone like Bill Gross in charge and let him make sure the taxpayers are buying value. This would re-liquefy the banks and help get their capital ratios back in line.

Why are banks not lending to each other? Because they don't know what kind of assets are on each other's books. There is simply no trust. The Fed has had to step in and loan out hundreds of billions of dollars in order to keep the financial markets from collapsing. If you allow the banks to sell their impaired assets at a market-clearing fair price (not at the original price), then once the landscape is cleared, banks will decide they can start trusting each other. The commercial paper market will come back. Credit spreads will come down. Banks will be able to stabilize their loan portfolios and start lending again.

Again, the US government is the only entity with enough size and patience to act. We do not have to bail out Wall Street. They will still take large losses on their securities, just not as large a loss as they are now facing in a credit market that is frozen. As noted above, there are many securities that are being marked down and sold far below a rational price.

If we act now, we will start to see securitization of mortgages, credit cards, auto loans, and business loans so that the economy can begin to function properly.

What happens if we walk away? Within a few weeks at most, financial markets will freeze even more. We will see electronic runs on major banks, and the FDIC will have more problems than you can possibly imagine. The TED spread and LIBOR will get much worse. Businesses which use the short-term commercial paper markets will start having problems rolling over their paper, forcing them to make difficult cuts in spending and employment. Larger businesses will find it more difficult to get loans and credit. That will have effects on down the economic food chain. Jim Cramer estimated today that without a plan of some type, we could see the Dow drop to 8300. That is as good a guess as any. It could be worse. Home valuations and sales will drop even further.

The average voter? They will see stock market investments off another 25% at the least. Home prices will go down even more. Consumer spending will drop. What should be a run-of-the-mill recession becomes a deep recession or soft depression. Yes, that may be worst-case scenario. But that is the risk I think we take with inaction.

A properly constructed Stabilization Plan hopefully avoids the worst-case scenario. It should ultimately not cost the taxpayer much, and maybe even return a profit. The AIG rescue that Paulson arranged is an example of how to do it right. My bet is that the taxpayer is going to make a real profit on this deal. We got 80% of AIG, with what is now a loan paying the taxpayer over 12%, plus almost $2 billion in upfront fees for doing the loan. That is not a bailout. That is a business deal that sounds like it was done by Mack the Knife.

This deal needs to be done by Monday. Every day we wait will see more and more money fly out the doors of the banks, putting the FDIC at ever greater risk. Panic will start to set in, moving to ever smaller banks. Frankly, we are at the point where we need to consider raising the FDIC limits for all deposits for a period of time, until the Stabilization Plan quells the panic.

I understand that this is a really, really bad idea according classical free-market economic theory. You know me; I am as free market as it comes. But I also know that without immediate action a lot of people are really going to be hurt. Unemployment is not a good thing. Losses on your home and investments hurt. It is all nice and well to talk about theories and contend the market should be allowed to sort itself out; and if we have a deep recession, then that is what is needed. But the risk we take is not a deep recession but a soft depression. The consequences of inaction are simply unthinkable.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:39 PM


McCain, Obama may skip bailout vote (CARRIE BUDOFF BROWN & AMIE PARNES, 9/28/08, Politico)

Though McCain took the unusual step last week of threatening to skip the first presidential debate to focus on the crisis, he may not make it back to Capitol Hill to weigh in on the legislation.

“It’s impossible to know until the vote has been announced,” McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds said Sunday.

Is Mr. Bounds smoking crack? The only even mildly acceptable answer is: "John McCain felt this bill was so important to America's economy that he suspended his campaign in order to work for its passage. Of course he'll be there. On the other hand, there's no reason for Senator Obama to show up just to support Mr. McCain's work."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:05 PM


Old is new as team rides rails (Kent Somers - Sept. 27, 2008, The Arizona Republic)

The Cardinals have traveled to games by plane and bus, but it has been more than 50 years since they arrived by train. But that's how they rolled Saturday.

The team boarded an Amtrak train in Washington around noon and arrived in Newark, N.J., around 3 p.m. to begin final preparations for their game Sunday against the New York Jets at Giants Stadium.

Linebacker Karlos Dansby munched on a boxed snack of chicken in the dining car as he mused about this new mode of travel.

"The only train I've been on is the little bitty train that goes around the zoo," he said. "I'm glad we're taking this trip. I think it will bring us closer together." [...]

As soon as the players boarded, several of them, led by running back Edgerrin James, renamed a dining car the "party car."

The music and laughter flowed. [...]

The train was still in the station when it was announced that lunch choices were filet and chicken and pasta. And, oh, the man on the intercom said, don't forget the crab cakes, a local specialty.

We've got a new favorite team.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:41 PM


McCain retracts Palin's Pakistan comments (Emily Sherman, 9/28/08, CNN)

Sen. John McCain retracted Sarah Palin's stance on Pakistan Sunday morning, after the Alaska governor appeared to back Sen. Barack Obama's support for unilateral strikes inside Pakistan against terrorists [...]

Saturday night, while on a stop for cheesesteaks in South Philadelphia, Palin was questioned by a Temple graduate student about whether the U.S. should cross the border from Afghanistan into Pakistan.

"If that's what we have to do stop the terrorists from coming any further in, absolutely, we should," Palin said

Senator McCain should reverse his own stance, not retract hers. She and Barack Obama are right.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:29 PM


Lending freezes as anxiety grips capital markets: Credit is so tight, routine transactions have been hobbled. With interbank lending stifled, regulators are worried. (Tom Petruno and Walter Hamilton, 9/26/08, Los Angeles Times)

To many Americans, the scope of the now year-old U.S. financial crisis may be evident only when it shows up in a bad reaction in the stock market. Over the last two days, the market has rallied, yet the credit situation has remained dire.

"If the Dow goes down 1,000 points, you know exactly what that means," said Michael Darda, chief economist at the investment firm MKM Partners in Greenwich, Conn.

"You'll see it on the news and in your 401(k). It's palpable and understandable. If the credit markets freeze, that hits the economy with a lag, but it's just as powerful, maybe more so."

The economy and banking system run on credit, much of it short-term in nature. Untold billions of dollars change hands each day to fund U.S. banks' operations and the workings of companies and local governments.

If that money stops flowing, the economy loses the lubricant that keeps the gears turning.

In normal times, for example, one bank may have a large need for cash just for a day or two. Other banks may have excess cash and are happy to lend it to peers at relatively low interest rates.

In recent weeks, that back-and-forth flow of credit has been badly hampered as banks increasingly have been unwilling to lend to one another, fearful they won't be repaid if financial conditions worsen.

"What credit really is is trust and faith," said Pimco's Gross. At the moment, he said, "there is no trust, there is no faith."

Why now?

Soaring mortgage defaults and plummeting real estate prices have been rocking the financial system for the last year, resulting in massive loan losses for many banks and other institutions that fed the housing mania earlier this decade.

But the fallout from the mortgage debacle reached epic proportions this month, beginning with the government's takeover of ailing mortgage-finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac on Sept. 7.

That was followed by the failure of brokerage Lehman Bros. Holdings Inc. on Sept. 14, and the Federal Reserve's rescue of insurance titan American International Group on Sept. 16.

On Thursday, federal regulators seized Washington Mutual Inc. in the biggest bank failure in U.S. history.

And Friday, shares of Wachovia Corp., one of the nation's biggest banks and mortgage lenders, dived 27% as many investors fled, fearing that it could be the next institution to fail.

"This is scary," said 75-year-old Dan Fuss, who manages $110 billion in bonds for investment firm Loomis, Sayles & Co. in Boston. "Right now, when you think this through, any bank . . . is at risk" of the market's instant judgment of which institutions are solvent and which are not, he said.

The Federal Reserve and other major central banks have flooded the global financial system with hundreds of billions of dollars in short-term credit this month, trying to calm nerves and get banks to begin lending to one another again.

But the Fed can't force banks to extend credit, least of all when the most primal of instincts -- self-preservation -- rules the day.

In the last two weeks, fear also has gripped other parts of the credit markets.

Money market mutual funds, for example, normally buy short-term IOUs of companies, financial institutions and municipalities. But the $3.3-trillion money fund business has been upended since Sept. 16, when one of the oldest money funds revealed that it had lost 3% of its principal value because of losses on Lehman Bros. IOUs it held.

That marked only the second time in 38 years that a money fund had suffered a loss. The news triggered record outflows from the sector as nervous investors pulled their cash, which in turn drove many fund managers in recent days to stop buying corporate debt and instead load up on super-safe short-term U.S. Treasury bills.

Other big investors, spooked by what they see happening in the banking system, are shunning long-term bonds in favor of hoarding cash. That has stymied states and cities that need to borrow in the bond market to fund public works projects.

$700-billion Wall Street bailout plan is unveiled: It would require the government to gain an equity stake in companies that benefit from the rescue. In an unusual Sunday session of the House, angry lawmakers denounce the plan. (Maura Reynolds and Nicole Gaouette, 9/28/08, Los Angeles Times)
[T]he plan faces fierce opposition from Republicans and Democrats angry at what they say is a taxpayer bailout of Wall Street "fat cats." As the House opened for an unusual Sunday session, lawmakers from both parties rose, one after another, for one-minute speeches denouncing the agreement -- and signaling a continuing struggle as policymakers and their staff work out the final details.

"This morning we should be very much alarmed," said Rep. Scott Garrett (R-N.J.), addressing taxpayers directly. "Obviously, Washington is not listening to your wishes. Those who used to work for Goldman Sachs will support this deal. . . . Those who have blocked reform in the past will support this deal. I will not support this deal."

Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) railed against the agreement and the Wall Street financiers who would be helped. "These criminals have so much political power they can shut down the normal legislative process," she said.

Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas) rose to compare the administration's urgings to rush a bailout plan to the pressure exerted on Congress to act after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

"This is the same politics of fear we're hearing from the financial fat cats on Wall Street," Poe said. "Backroom deals trouble me because they usually turn out to be bad deals for America."

The conservative Texan was followed and echoed by the staunchly liberal Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich (D-Ohio), who said, "The $700-billion bailout is driven by fear, not fact."

The far Right is the far Left.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:14 AM


Tit-for-Tat Kurds Reverse Saddam's 'Ethnic Cleansing' (AFP, 9/28/08)

Aziz was just four years old in 1975 when his family was evicted from Bawaplawi village, near the northern city of Khanaqin, and Arab settlers grabbed their home.

Now schoolteacher Aziz is back and has done to the Arabs what they did to him.

"Our homes were taken over by the Arabs without paying us any compensation," Aziz, 37, said at the modest single-storey brick house which he has occupied since the fall of Saddam's regime in 2003.

"We moved in and took any house that was empty. The Arabs who were here had fled."

Saddam's "Arabisation" campaign sought to change the demography of Khanaqin, which originally had a vast majority of Kurds and a smaller minority of Shiite Arabs, Turkmen and Jews.

With the fall of Saddam's regime, the Kurds are back and the Arabs are nowhere to be seen, at least in Khanaqin.

Is it news that Kurdistan isn't an Arab nation?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:35 AM


McCain Ready for A Change Of Subject: Credit Crisis Has Given Obama a Distinct Edge (Dan Balz and Shailagh Murray, 9/28/08, Washington Post)

In the two weeks that the Wall Street financial crisis has dominated the political debate, the presidential race has shifted from what had been essentially a dead heat to one in which Sen. Barack Obama has opened up a narrow but perceptible advantage nationally, as well as in a number of battleground states.

The burden now falls on Sen. John McCain to reverse the effects of the focus on the economy, and to keep the contest close enough so that a dominant debate performance, a gaffe by Obama or some outside event can shift the momentum back to him.

Although Friday's debate in Oxford, Miss., produced no outright winner, strategists in both parties said the coming weeks, which will include three more debates -- two between McCain and Obama and the third between vice presidential candidates Gov. Sarah Palin and Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. -- could be decisive in determining whether the election remains on a trajectory favorable to Obama or shifts back toward too-close-to-call status.

McCain advisers are well aware that the past two weeks have brought a shift in the race, but they say that between now and Election Day, there is plenty of time for the fortunes of the two candidates to change again.

While they ought not get overmuch credit for doing the right thing by their country, the Democrats in Congress are to be commended for passing a financial bailout that can only hurt them politically.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:33 AM


Nuclear Pact With India Gets Approval of House (Glenn Kessler, 9/28/08, Washington Post)

The House overwhelmingly gave final approval yesterday to a landmark civil nuclear agreement with India, putting the Bush administration in reach of a substantial foreign policy achievement.

The legislation, which passed 298 to 117, still faces obstacles in the Senate, where it has been approved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee but several senators have blocked it from coming to the floor for debate. The administration has pressed for final action before Congress adjourns, even though the 2006 bill that gave preliminary approval to the deal called for a much longer period of discussion and debate.

"I urge the Senate to quickly take up and pass this important piece of legislation before their October adjournment," President Bush said yesterday. "Signing this bipartisan bill will help strengthen our partnership with India."

...that India is our partner?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:26 AM


Friend Bruno Behrend will be on "Beyond the Beltway" with Bruce Dumont tonight, Sunday, 7-9 pm EST.

http://www.beyondthebeltway.com/ is the link for a list of stations and it's on XM\/Sirius Radio.

Bruno Behrend
Host - Extreme Wisdom Radio Show
Weekdays 10 AM-Noon on 1220 WKRS
Listen Live - http://1220wkrs.com/pages/93518.php

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:16 AM


Biden the bumbler (Jeffery T. Kuhner, September 28, 2008, Washington Times)

Mr. Biden has become a national joke. And although late-night comedians are lapping it up at his expense, the Democrat's penchant for silliness raises a very serious issue: How could Mr. Obama have chosen such an irresponsible, vacuous person to be his running mate? Compared to Mr. Biden, Gov. Sarah Palin is the embodiment of mature, seasoned leadership.

Democrats have a ready excuse: That's just Joe being Joe. He may be gaffe-prone and loquacious, they argue, but he's substantive on the big issues-especially, foreign affairs. This is false. Mr. Biden is a classic Washington insider: He is full of credentials, sits on numerous panels (including being chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee), and boasts of vast experience. He is impressive on paper; in reality, he is intellectually and morally weak.

He has been wrong on almost every major issue during his last 35 years in the Senate. Mr. Biden is a trendy transnational progressive, who votes the liberal line when it is politically convenient - regardless of the costs to the national interest or in human lives.

Along with congressional Democrats, he voted to cut off support to South Vietnam. This ensured America's defeat, and enabled communist forces to conquer Vietnam. The result was a regional holocaust, in which hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese were slaughtered, the country's Chinese minority was ethnically cleansed, and more than a million citizens were jailed or tortured in Hanoi's gulags. The decline of American influence in Southeast Asia also led to the brutal Khmer Rouge seizing power in Cambodia, and systematically murdering more than 2 million people.

Moreover, Mr. Biden opposed America's anti-communist efforts in Nicaragua, El Salvador and Angola. He voted against Ronald Reagan's military build-up and his Strategic Defense Initiative - pivotal factors in the Soviet empire's defeat.

Mr. Biden's Iraq policy has been erratic and inconsistent.

...Mr. Biden has disappeared from view so completely that the next time you're likely to see him is on a milk carton.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:11 AM


Egyptian sheik's outburst against Shiites roils Mideast: Sunni cleric Yusuf Qaradawi calls Shiites heretics trying to invade Sunni nations, tapping into anti-Iran anxieties. Shiites express dismay at the remarks amid Iraq war and efforts to forge unity. (Jeffrey Fleishman, 9/27/08, Los Angeles Times)

A popular Sunni Muslim cleric with a television show and a website that churns out religious edicts and dieting tips agitated centuries-old animosities in the Islamic world recently by referring to Shiite Muslims as heretics seeking to invade Sunni societies.

The bitter, often bloody, divide between the two main branches of Islam has been an undercurrent since the 7th century, but Sheik Yusuf Qaradawi's vitriol comes at a fragile time, when Sunni countries such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt are wary that the predominantly Shiite nations of Iraq and Iran could destabilize the region. [...]

"Shiites are Muslims but they are heretics and their danger comes from their attempts to invade Sunni society," said Qaradawi, who was quoted in the Egyptian independent daily Al Masry al Youm. "They are able to do that because their billions of dollars trained cadres of Shiites proselytizing in Sunni countries. . . . We should protect Sunni society from the Shiite invasion." [...]

Qaradawi is a prominent moderate cleric, but he has grown skeptical of Shiite intentions. Two years, ago he suggested that Shiites were using the mystical Sufi order of Islam as a cover to penetrate Sunni society. His most recent volleys undercut efforts by Islamic leaders to ease religious tensions, and raise questions about his motivations. Much of the funding for Qaradawi's Qatar-based media enterprises comes from Sunni nations uneasy over Iran's widening influence in the Persian Gulf.

Abul-Fazel Amoee, an Iranian political scientist, said Qaradawi had become an instrument of anti-Shiite propaganda orchestrated by Sunni royals. He said this parallels the "deep rivalry between Saudi Arabia and the Islamic Republic of Iran, and the stage of this competition or ideological battle today is the field of Iraq."

Sectarian differences should "not be handled by exchanging outlandish and fanatical statements. I'm talking about both sides -- Qaradawi and the Shiites," said Abdel Moati Bayoumi, a religious scholar and member of Egypt's Islamic Research Academy. He said divisions between Sunnis and Shiites, which began as a fight over succession after the death of the prophet Muhammad in the 7th century, would weaken Muslim states and serve foreign interests.

...as the success of the invasion would.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:58 AM


Battle of Bajaur a crucial test for Pakistan (AFP, 9/28/08)

A massive battle with Islamist militants in a remote Pakistani tribal region is proving to be pivotal to the country's fight against Al-Qaeda and the Taliban, officials say.

The six-week army operation in the remote region of Bajaur on the Afghan border is suspected to have sparked furious extremists into bombing the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad just over a week ago, they say.

While Waziristan has captured most of the headlines about Pakistan's tribal belt in recent years, the military says Bajaur is where it faces the stiffest resistance since joining the US-led "war on terror" in 2001. [...]

"This is at the centre," said Major General Tariq Khan, head of the paramilitary Frontier Corps force, which is leading the fighting.

The operation should be completed in another month and a half, Khan told reporters, but added: "If we do not take any action it will become an independent agency spreading out terror in all directions."

...how incompetent the foe is. Everyone--but them--realizes that they're rather easy to kill; the hard part is getting reluctant local governments to wage the war. But when the Qaedists bomb those governments it forces them to fight. Were one a conspiracy theorist and silly enough to believe the CIA effective the notion that extremist bombings were a Western plot would make sense.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:49 AM


McCain as the Alpha Male (David S. Broder, September 28, 2008, Washington Post)

It was a small thing, but I counted six times that Obama said that McCain was "absolutely right" about a point he had made. No McCain sentences began with a similar acknowledgment of his opponent's wisdom, even though the two agreed on Iran, Russia and the U.S. financial crisis far more than they disagreed.

That suggests an imbalance in the deference quotient between the younger man and the veteran senator -- an impression reinforced by Obama's frequent glances in McCain's direction and McCain's studied indifference to his rival.

Whether viewers caught the verbal and body-language signs that Obama seemed to accept McCain as the alpha male on the stage in Mississippi, I do not know.

Just consider the gender of the parties the two respectively lead.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:40 AM


Bailout plan makes strange bedfellows: The financial crisis and the proposal to address it with billions of taxpayers' dollars have exposed deep fracture lines in both political parties and have fostered some unusual alliances. (Tom Hamburger and Peter Wallsten, 9/28/08, Los Angeles Times)

[T]he crisis exposed sharply different outlooks among Republicans who consider financial markets and big corporations the main engines of the U.S. economy, for example, and those whose sympathies are closer to small business, as well as conservative purists who see government intervention in the marketplace as an intolerable violation of basic principles.

For the Democrats, those who consider strong financial markets vital to the United States and its place in the global economy found themselves at odds with others who identify more with working Americans and nurture a long-standing distrust of Wall Street.

In both parties, that meant that some of the hottest reactions against the $700-billion plan came from core constituencies. [...]

Obama has gone further on the specifics than McCain, rankling some Democrats and labor advocates by suggesting that a proposal to ease bankruptcy provisions as a way to help homeowners -- an approach that is anathema to many Republicans -- does not belong in the final bailout plan.

"It's not a secret that Obama's closest advisors come from Wall Street," snapped Dean Baker, an economist who advises labor and community activist groups in Washington. "He has decided to run a low-risk campaign from the center, and that's what we are seeing here."

Because of their shared indignation at the idea of taxpayers bailing out the financial industry, some Democrats find themselves sharing common ground with conservative Republican activists, who fear their party too is bowing to pressure from Wall Street.

One result is that dissident liberals and conservatives have been reaching out to each other. "There's a lot of people in their conference who are not thrilled with the plan . . . and they are looking for options," said Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), chairman of the Republican Study Committee.

"The different factions of the Republican Party have always been held together around the basic understanding that we were going to keep the government out of people's business," said Matt Kibbe, president of FreedomWorks, a conservative advocacy group.

"I'm afraid that McCain is making the same mistake."

Such comments about McCain and the criticism of Obama over the bankruptcy issue reflect the risks of getting involved in the crisis, but their efforts have also drawn praise from some participants.

"Both McCain and Obama are playing a significant role" moving a deal forward, said Rick Hohlt, a prominent Republican lobbyist representing banking and other interests. "Both candidates are perceived as change candidates who are anti-Washington."

Those credentials are important to win over skeptical Republicans and Democrats, he said.

GOP lawmakers credit McCain with working quietly Friday and Saturday to coax some of those skeptics into supporting a deal of some kind. On Saturday, McCain worked from a call list of at least 20 lawmakers, aides said -- and some lists even included skeptical Democrats.

"He understands what the House Republican concerns have been and has been helpful in moving the bill in that direction," said Rep. Adam H. Putnam (R-Fla.), a member of the House GOP leadership. "But he has done so in a low-key, under-the-radar way that doesn't defeat the larger purpose."

Putnam, who received a phone call from McCain on Saturday morning, said both McCain and Obama have, in the end, helped push lawmakers closer to a deal.

"I thought the most helpful thing they can do is come together and detox this town to essentially give their blessing to a bipartisan deal," Putnam said.

"It appears that that's what they have done."

While Barack Obama is outside the mainstream on social issues, his economic triumvirate--Paul Volcker, Robert Rubin, & Warren Buffet--would do a Republican administration proud.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:17 AM

DEAL! (via Ari Mendelson):

Lawmakers Reach Accord on Huge Financial Rescue: Vote is Imminent on $700 Billion Bailout Plan (Lori Montgomery and Paul Kane, 9/28/08, Washington Post)

A senior administration official, who requested anonymity to speak freely about the plan, said both sides had made significant concessions to achieve compromise. The Bush administration has agreed to accept a number of Democratic demands, including:

· The money would be dispersed in segments, with Paulson receiving $250 billion immediately, $100 billion upon White House certification of its necessity and the final $350 billion only after Congress has been given 15 days to object.

· Firms participating in the bailout would be required to grant the government warrants to obtain nonvoting shares of stock, so taxpayers can benefit if the companies return to profitability.

· Firms taking advantage of the bailout would be required to limit compensation for senior executives, with especially severe limits on "golden parachutes" at failing firms. The compensation limits will be enacted primarily, but not solely, through the tax code by reducing tax deductions for firms that pay executives more than $400,000 a year.

The administration also agreed to Democratic demands that the financial services industry should help pay for the program. Under the agreement, the president would be required to propose a fee on the industry if the government has not recovered its money through sales of the assets within five years.

Democrats also made a number of concessions, abandoning demands that bankruptcy judges be empowered to modify home mortgages on primary residences for people in foreclosure. They also agreed not to dedicate a portion of any profits from the bailout program to an affordable housing fund that Republicans claimed would primarily assist social service organizations that support the Democratic Party, the official said.

Meanwhile, House Republicans won a major victory, persuading negotiators to include a provision that would require the Treasury Department to create a federal insurance program that would guarantee banks and other firms against loss from any troubled asset, the official said.

One nice thing about a measure where the details don't matter is that you can throw bones to the wingnuts.

Could the bailout turn a profit for taxpayers?: Some economists say the mortgage-backed securities the Treasury wants to buy from crippled banks could rise in worth when market unfreezes. 'The devil is in the details,' says one expert. (Michael A. Hiltzik, 9/28/08, Los Angeles Times)

[S]ome economists say that the mortgage-backed securities the Treasury proposes to buy from crippled banks have been so beaten down in price that taxpayers could actually profit once the market for these securities -- now virtually nonexistent -- unfreezes.

"It's entirely within the realm of possibility that we'll make money on this deal," says J. Bradford DeLong, professor of economics at UC Berkeley.

DeLong observes that several government bailouts of the past have ended up in the black, including the 1994 rescue of the Mexican peso. The U.S. government eventually recorded a $500-million profit on its share of Mexico's $50-billion international loan package.

Of more immediate relevance, the government's takeover of stricken insurance company American International Group may have already produced a paper profit, and could produce more gains as AIG's asset portfolio is sold off or recovers its value.

"Very senior people in charge of asset portfolios on Wall Street have said they are envious of the terms the government imposed on AIG," DeLong says. "They think the Fed's going to make a fortune." He conjectures that the $700-billion bank bailout could yield somewhere between a $100-billion loss and a $100-billion gain.

Paulson has also endorsed requiring banks that sell troubled assets to the government to give some sort of equity warrant, so that taxpayers can share in profits once those institutions recover financially.

September 27, 2008

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:15 PM


China's new slave empire (PETER HITCHENS, 27th September 2008, Daily Mail)

These poor, hopeless, angry people exist by grubbing for scraps of cobalt and copper ore in the filth and dust of abandoned copper mines in Congo, sinking perilous 80ft shafts by hand, washing their finds in cholera-infected streams full of human filth, then pushing enormous two-hundredweight loads uphill on ancient bicycles to the nearby town of Likasi where middlemen buy them to sell on, mainly to Chinese businessmen hungry for these vital metals.

To see them, as they plod miserably past, is to be reminded of pictures of unemployed miners in Thirties Britain, stumbling home in the drizzle with sacks of coal scraps gleaned from spoil heaps.

Except that here the unsparing heat makes the labour five times as hard, and the conditions of work and life are worse by far than any known in England since the 18th Century.

Many perish as their primitive mines collapse on them, or are horribly injured without hope of medical treatment. Many are little more than children. On a good day they may earn $3, which just supports a meagre existence in diseased, malarial slums.

We had been earlier to this awful pit, which looked like a penal colony in an ancient slave empire.

Defeated, bowed figures toiled endlessly in dozens of hand-dug pits. Their faces, when visible, were blank and without hope.

We had been turned away by a fat, corrupt policeman who pretended our papers weren't in order, but who was really taking instructions from a dead-eyed, one-eared gangmaster who sat next to him.

By the time we returned with more official permits, the gangmasters had readied the ambush.

The diggers feared - and their evil, sinister bosses had worked hard on that fear - that if people like me publicised their filthy way of life, then the mine might be closed and the $3 a day might be taken away.

I can give you no better explanation in miniature of the wicked thing that I believe is now happening in Africa.

Out of desperation, much of the continent is selling itself into a new era of corruption and virtual slavery as China seeks to buy up all the metals, minerals and oil she can lay her hands on: copper for electric and telephone cables, cobalt for mobile phones and jet engines - the basic raw materials of modern life.

It is crude rapacity, but to Africans and many of their leaders it is better than the alternative, which is slow starvation.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:45 PM


Syria: 17 killed, 14 wounded in car bomb explosion in Damascus (ALBERT AJI and BASSEM MROUE, 9/27/08, Associated Press)

The explosion knocked down part of a 13-foot high wall surrounding a security complex that houses several buildings in the Sidi Kadad area. Hours after the morning explosion, traffic returned to normal on the highway, but dozens of plainclothes Syrian police lined the road. [...]

Saturday's bombing is the deadliest in more than decade. On New Year's Eve 1997, a bomb went off aboard a public bus in Damascus, killing 12 people and wounding dozens. Syria blamed Israel for the bombing, though Israel denied the charge.

The last major explosion to strike Damascus was in February when a car bomb killed the commander of Lebanon's Shiite militant Hezbollah group, Imad Mughniyeh. Hezbollah and its top ally, Iran, blamed Israel for the assassination, but Israel denied any involvement.

Last month, Brig. Gen. Mohammed Suleiman, a senior military officer close to President Bashar Assad, was assassinated by a sniper on a yacht at a beach resort in the northern port city of Tartous.

Syria has long been on Washington's list of states supporting terrorism, and the Bush administration has sought to isolate the Assad regime for its support of Hezbollah guerrillas and radical Palestinian groups. Its attempts intensified after the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese prime minister, Rafik Hariri, which many in Lebanon blame on Syria. Damascus has denied involvement.

Syria also has long been accused of allowing Muslim militants to use its territory to cross into Iraq, where they take part in attacks against U.S. and Iraqi forces.

Syria's nuclear liaison killed (JTA, 09/26/2008)
"The reason that Syria has been late in providing additional information (is) that our interlocutor has been assassinated in Syria," Mohammed ElBaradei, the director of the International Atomic Energy Agency told the IAEA board in a meeting Thursday, according to a recording obtained by the French news agency.

ElBaradei did not name the liaison, but AFP speculated that he might be Mohammed Sleiman, the chief of security for Syrian President Bashar Assad and the country's liaison with the Hezbollah terrorist group in Lebanon. He was assassinated last month.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:39 PM



The basic problem is that the financial sector faces systemic risk in a way that no other industry does: By its nature, it is a house of cards that can collapse at a moment's notice.

Let me explain.

First, the vast bulk of the nation's money supply is in the form of bank deposits, not currency and coin. No bank on earth could pay even a fraction of its depositors if they all demanded all their funds in cash immediately. This is called a run on the bank (and is very familiar to anyone who has ever watched "It's a Wonderful Life").

During the Great Depression, such runs forced hundreds of banks to close. At the time, there was no system for protecting bank deposits - so a vast amount of money literally disappeared in the process. The nation's money supply contracted by about a third between 1929 and 1933.

As a general proposition, a one-third decline in the money supply would, in the aggregate, lead to about a one-third decline in the prices of all goods and services. If that could happen quickly and easily, changes in the money supply would have no effect on the real economy.

But that's not the case, of course. Businesses resist selling goods for less then they paid for them, workers resist cuts in their pay, and so on - leading to an economic depression.

Bush, lawmakers say deal on bailout is near (David R. Sands and Sean Lengell, September 27, 2008, Washington Times)
Both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue sounded a note of rising optimism Saturday as President Bush and leading congressional negotiators said talks for the $700 billion Wall Street rescue plan were back on track and a deal could be cut before the international markets open late Sunday.

Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. traveled to Capitol Hill to huddle with top Democratic and Republican lawmakers, just hours after President Bush in his weekly radio address said he was "confident that we will pass a bill to protect the financial security of every American very soon."

In a possible signal that a deal was close, the House Rules Committee began drafting guidelines for a debate and vote that could take place as early as Sunday, which would send the bill to the Senate for final passage Monday.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:02 PM


Marathon becomes brawl (John P. Avlon, September 27, 2008, Politico)

In boxing, like politics, the candidate who controls the center of the ring — and forces his opponent to fight with his back against the ropes — is best positioned to win.

John McCain started fighting for the center in the first moments of the debate — using his opening statement to offer best wishes to the newly hospitalized Ted Kennedy (usually the subject of Republican attacks, not accolades), and then repeatedly stressing his decades-long bipartisan record to distance himself from the Bush administration.

The only effective canned line of the debate also reflected this centrist theme ("It's hard to reach across the aisle from that far on the left") — while also taking a clean shot at Obama's liberal Senate voting record.

Barack Obama, on the other hand, might be the first candidate in modern political history to run from the center in the party primary and then move to the left in the general election.

Obama's rise as the inspirational post-partisan candidate ("there are no red states, there are no blue states, there is only the United States") was what kept him from being labeled the left's anti-Iraq protest candidate. He won in places like Iowa because he was the non-polarizing alternative to Hillary Clinton's establishment candidacy.

But since winning the nomination, Obama has spent more time trying to grow the Democratic Party rolls from the ground up, rather than trying to win independent and centrist voters over to a larger common cause. This was evident again in last night's debate.

Elections are won by the candidate who connects with moderates and the middle class.

You tend not to get exposed in the Democratic primaries as a Leftist out of the mainstream--though by the end of this year's even Hillary and Bill were revealing the Unicorn Rider--which leaves the same dynamic in the Fall almost every time. Other than when the Democrats nominate Southern religious governors, the GOP just has to explain to the electorate that the other party's nominee is a stock Northern liberal and the rest follows.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:06 PM


The Debate: The Prime Minister and the President (David Ignatius, 9/26/08, Post Partisan)

Barack Obama was running for prime minister and head of government in Friday night’s debate. He spoke with the precision of a parliamentary debater during question time. He had a three-point program for everything, but he didn’t deliver many memorable lines or offer the grace notes of leadership. When asked point-blank for his stand on the bailout plan, Obama gave a judicious non-answer: “We haven’t seen the language yet.”

John McCain was running for president and head of state. He was channeling Ronald Reagan, with all his talk about the evils of federal spending and government meddling with the health care system. He seemed almost to be emphasizing his age and gravitas.

The main difference being that prime ministers are chosen by elites while presidents are elected by the people.

Advantage: experience (Chicago Tribune, September 27, 2008)

As the debate shifted to national security issues, McCain demonstrated why many voters see this as a strong area for him. He's been involved for decades in deciding whether the U.S. engages militarily in hot spots such as Somalia, Lebanon and Bosnia—and it shows. His cautious words about the careful use of power indirectly addressed the fear of some Americans that he'd be a trigger-happy president. Similarly, Obama's pledge to add troops in Afghanistan and his forceful language on terrorist breeding grounds in Pakistan addressed the fear of other Americans that he'd be a weak commander in chief.

On Iraq, Obama spoke repeatedly about his opposition to initiating that war. But he didn't directly respond to McCain's key points—that a surge-enabled victory in Iraq will leave this country with a stable ally in a bad neighborhood, and that the next president has to decide not whether to enter Iraq but how to leave in a way that best serves America. Obama gamely noted that he had chosen Sen. Joe Biden, a specialist in foreign affairs, as his vice presidential candidate.

The bulk of Friday night's debate took place on the turf McCain knows best: foreign affairs and military endeavors. That showed. Obama spoke capably on one topic after another; McCain, who has traveled to numerous crisis locales and joined in more foreign policy debates, spoke with more fluency and experience.

As one TV talking head said afterward, McCain spent the night on offense; Obama found himself playing more defense.

Sen. Obama, You're No Muhammad Ali (Howard Fineman, 9/27/08, Newsweek)
I know Ali and senator: you are no Ali.

For whatever reason (I think there are several, personal and strategic), you either don’t know how to or can’t be a closer. You can’t finish with the kind of flurry that drops your foe to the canvas. You didn’t do it to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and, at least Friday night here at Ole Miss, you didn’t do it to Sen. John McCain.

But here’s the question: Is a devastating puncher who we want in a president? Is that who we want in our next president?

Well, maybe not. Maybe we’ve had enough pugnacity for a while. Maybe George W. Bush and Dick Cheney have given pugnacity a bad name. Maybe voters want a more peaceable style. Maybe right now they want an open hand, not another closed fist.

That’s the only reason I can think of why most of my colleagues (and, apparently, judging from the instant polls of viewers) decided that Obama had “won’” the debate here in Oxford.

On debating points--and if campaigns are boxing--McCain won. He was the sneering aggressor. He had Obama backpedaling for much of the night on foreign policy. Obama, for his part, missed several chances to counterattack, especially on the economy. Obama’s answers were strewn with annoying “ums” and “ahs” as he played for time to calibrate the least-damaging response.

Can Obama Counterpunch His Way to the White House?: In last night's debate, Barack Obama refrained from going after John McCain, and left viewers looking for a soundbite disappointed. Will this strategy work? (HAROLD MEYERSON, September 27, 2008, American Prospect)
If it had been a VFW convention, John McCain would have won last night's debate in a walk. He'd been there. Knew the pain of a defeated American army. Knew Kissinger almost before Kissinger knew English. Knew Eisenhower had composed a resignation letter in case the Normandy invasion had failed. Knew about Ike's resignation letter even though it never existed: Eisenhower wrote a letter accepting all the blame in case the invasion failed, but made no reference whatsoever to resigning.

But who cares? When it helped him and when it didn't, McCain provided the better theater in last night's debate.

More importantly, McCain punched and Barack Obama counter-punched through much of their first debate.

Verdict on Obama: Mealymouthed, Pathetic (ROBERT DREYFUSS on 09/27/2008, The Nation)
If, God forbid, foreign policy had to be the deciding factor in choosing between Barack Obama and John McCain, then last night's terrible showing by Obama would make me a Ralph Nader voter in a heartbeat. Obama's performance was nothing short of pathetic, and only a Democratic-leaning analysts and voters with blinders on could suggest that Obama won the debate. More important, he utterly blew a chance to draw a stark contrast with John McCain on America's approach to the world.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:45 PM


Last ditch bid to stave off fresh bank panic: World waits for US bail-out decision (Ruth Sunderland and James Robinson, 9/27/08,
The Observer)

...to explain how irresponsible the Right is being. They're as afraid of acting like the superpower we are in the financial field as Democrats are in fields of fire. W summed the situation up with typical concision in the White House meeting the other day: “If money isn’t loosened up, this sucker could go down.”

Lending deep-freeze: Tight lending in focus as a key measure reaches highest level ever (David Goldman and Catherine Clifford, 9/26/08, CNNMoney.com)

"Things have frozen over again," said Steve Van Order, chief fixed income strategist with Calvert Funds. "Banks are nervous about lending to each other, and the commercial paper market has come to a standstill."

Market gauges of lending showed higher prices for loans between banks. When lending tightens in this way, businesses and consumers have to pay more for loans, such as mortgages, or can't get them at all.

For instance, one gauge that banks use to determine lending rates rose to an all-time high. The difference between the London interbank offered rate, or Libor, and the Overnight Index Swaps rose to an unprecedented 2.08%. The Libor-OIS "spread," or difference between the two rates, measures how much cash is available for lending between banks. The higher the spread, the lower availability of cash for lending.

Another lending measure was just below a 26-year high. The "TED spread" - the difference between three-month Libor, what banks pay to borrow money for three months, and the three-month Treasury borrowing rates - was at 2.94% after hitting 3.37% Thursday, the widest margin for that measure since 1982. Just a three weeks ago, the TED spread was at 1.04%.

With loads of troubled assets on their balance sheets, banks are hesitant to take on more loans if the risk of default is high. Furthermore, when banks need to write down those assets, they have less cash on hand to issue loans. That stops the financial system's gears from turning, in turn hurting customers who need a loan to finance a home, a car or tuition.

"The interbank lending markets are clogged up, because there is a freeze-up in the pipes that normally carry funding from central banks to banks to customers," Van Order explained.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:11 AM


Legendary Actor Paul Newman Dies at Age 83: Paul Newman, superstar who personified cool onscreen, dies at 83 after battling cancer ( (The Associated Press, 9/26/08)

He got his start in theater and on television during the 1950s, and went on to become one of the world's most enduring and popular film stars, a legend held in awe by his peers. He was nominated for Oscars 10 times, winning one regular award and two honorary ones, and had major roles in more than 50 motion pictures, including "Exodus," "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid," "The Verdict," "The Sting" and "Absence of Malice."

Newman worked with some of the greatest directors of the past half century, from Alfred Hitchcock and John Huston to Robert Altman, Martin Scorsese and the Coen brothers. His co-stars included Elizabeth Taylor, Lauren Bacall, Tom Cruise, Tom Hanks and, most famously, Robert Redford, his sidekick in "Butch Cassidy" and "The Sting."

Like many an artist (see under Jack Nicholson), his greatest role is his most religious turn, with him in the role of Christ. But this has always been a personal favorite:

LikeTelevision Embed Movies and TV Shows

Were you the great editor in the sky you'd only change two scenes in his career: he'd answer the phone when Charlotte Rampling calls and you'd cut Raindrops Keep Falling.

-WIKIPEDIA: Paul Newman

Paul Newman Dies at 83 (ALJEAN HARMETZ, September 27, 2008, NY Times)
Paul Newman, one of the last of the great 20th-century movie stars, died Friday at his home near Westport, Conn. He was 83.

The cause was cancer, said Jeff Sanderson of Chasen & Company, Mr. Newman’s publicist.

If Marlon Brando and James Dean defined the defiant American male as a sullen rebel, Paul Newman recreated him as a likable renegade, a strikingly handsome figure of animal high spirits and blue-eyed candor whose magnetism was almost impossible to resist, whether the character was Hud, Cool Hand Luke or Butch Cassidy.

He acted in more than 65 movies over more than 50 years, drawing on a physical grace, unassuming intelligence and good humor that made it all seem effortless. Yet he was also an ambitious, intellectual actor and a passionate student of his craft, and he achieved what most of his peers find impossible: remaining a major star into craggy, charismatic old age.

Confidence Man (CHARLES TAYLOR, Salon)
It's flip to say that the first half of Paul Newman's career shows how little acting can count for in the movies, while the second half shows how it can count for everything. The Newman of "The Long Hot Summer," "The Hustler," "Hud" and "Cool Hand Luke" was certainly an actor, and the Newman of "Slap Shot," "Fort Apache the Bronx," "Absence of Malice," "Blaze" and "Twilight" is by God a movie star. But pare down the exaggeration and you arrive at a kernel of truth. Had Paul Newman not made the change in his acting that began with 1977's "Slap Shot," made the conscious decision to delve deeper into himself and see what surprises might be waiting there, he might have spent his later screen career as a charming memento of the gorgeous and cocky smartass he started out as. Newman must have recognized that, and in the roles of the late '70s and early '80s, he found a way out. It's easy to look at those performances as the finest vintage of a dependable old pro. I'd argue that they are as exploratory and revelatory and, in their most daring moments, as naked as the work of Sean Penn, Robert Downey Jr. and Nicolas Cage, the finest actors of their generation.

Paul Newman dies at age 83 after battling cancer (Jay Stone, 9/27/08, Canwest News Service)
He used to joke that his epitaph would read, "Here lies Paul Newman, who died a failure because his eyes turned brown."

It was self-deprecation with a hint of truth: an impossibly handsome, blue-eyed film god, Paul Newman carried his good looks like both a gift and a curse, and it was when he went beyond them -- into roles as a callous womanizer or a self-involved failure or, later in his career, as an aging and rueful rebel -- that he showed he was also a fine actor.

The irony was that those roles were the farthest from what he was in real life. When he was dying, film critic Shawn Levy, who was working on a biography of Newman, wrote of him, "Funny, upright, smart, brave, moral, talented, faithful, honest, manly, wise, humble."

Actor Paul Newman dies at 83 (Lynn Smith, 9/27/08, Los Angeles Times)
Annoyed by the public's fascination with his resemblance to a Roman statue, particularly his Windex-blue eyes, Newman often chose offbeat character roles. In the 1950s and '60s, he helped define the American anti-hero and became identified with the charming misfits, cads and con men in film classics such as "The Hustler," "Hud," "Cool Hand Luke" and "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid."

Newman's poker-game look in "The Sting" -- cunning, watchful, removed, amused, confident, alert -- summed up his power as a person and actor, said Stewart Stern, a screenwriter and longtime friend.

"You never see the whole deck, there's always some card somewhere he may or may not play," Stern said. "Maybe he doesn't even have it."

Newman claimed his success came less from natural talent than from hard work, luck and the tenacity of a terrier.

"Acting," he once said, "is really nothing but exploring certain facets of your own personality trying to become someone else." In early films, he said he tried to make himself fit the character but later aimed "to make the character come to me."

Academy Award-Winning Actor Paul Newman Dies at 83 (Adam Bernstein, 9/27/08, Washington Post)
Brooding and sinewy, with luminous blue eyes and a husky voice, Newman resembled a preppy Greek God in his earliest screen roles. He quickly rebelled against conventional casting that tried to turn him into a pretty-boy alternative to Marlon Brando and James Dean. He became known as an introspective and nonconformist performer -- a perfect anti-hero idol for the socially rebellious 1960s and 1970s.

In many of Newman's best films -- "The Hustler," "Hud," "Harper," "Cool Hand Luke," "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid," "The Sting," "Slap Shot," "The Verdict," "Nobody's Fool" and "The Color of Money" (for which he won the Oscar) -- he played amoral rats, genial louts, self-destructive idealists, drunkards and has-beens. Some of his characters redeem themselves by being defeated or killed, and others just continue bumming along.

Newman hated to see his characters triumph on charm alone. No one, he said, would pay money to see such a beautiful man win the woman and save the day. Off-screen, he mocked his sex-symbol status and said that his personality was closest to the vulgar, second-rate hockey coach he played in "Slap Shot" (1977). His approach likely saved his career as he matured into a disciplined performer, one of the most enduring and polished of screen stars.

PAUL NEWMAN, 1925–2008: The Verdict: A Legend: Paul Newman played a lot of antiheroes, but his cool charm made viewers love him all the same. (David Ansen, 9/27/08, Newsweek)
When Paul Newman turned 70, I asked him about the pros and cons of aging. "What's difficult about getting old," he said, with that gravelly voice that set in in his 60s, "is remembering the way things used to be. There were such things as loyalty. The community hadn't disintegrated. The individual had not been deified at the expense of everything around him. I don't think that's just an old codger, you know, wishing for the old days. Goddam, they were better. There was a lot of ugliness, but there was a lot more grace." Newman, a modest man, would have been embarrassed to be told that he exemplified that grace, both on screen, where in his prime he played heels whom everyone fell in love with, and off, where his generosity, professionalism and decency were legendary.

Paul Newman dies at 83 (Jenny Percival, 9/27/08, guardian.co.uk)
He initially tried to play down concerns about his health after reports that he was having cancer treatment in New York. This year he pulled out of directing a Connecticut stage production of John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men because of unspecified health problems. He later issued a statement that said he was "doing nicely".

But AE Hotchner, who helped create the successful Newman's Own food company in 1982, confirmed in June that the actor had been ill for 18 months. "It's a form of cancer, and he's dealing with it. Paul is a fighter," Hotchner told the Associated Press.

In August, the US press reported that Newman had finished chemotherapy and told his family he wanted to die at home. The former chain smoker is said to have developed lung cancer.

Paul Newman: 'A pretty boy actor, but a hell of a good one' (Barry Norman, 9/27/08, Daily Mail)
With Paul Newman gone maybe only Clint Eastwood, five years his junior, is left of a generation of movie stars who defied the years to become and remain icons of the cinema screen.

You don't have to be much of an actor to become a film star - looks and personality often do it for you --but you have to be a very good one to remain a star and Newman was an extremely fine actor.

HE USED HIS FAME TO GIVE AWAY HIS FORTUNE. (Dahlia Lithwick, Sept. 27, 2008, Slate)
The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp opened in Connecticut in 1988 to provide a summer camping experience—fishing, tie-dye, ghost stories, s'mores—for seriously ill children. By 1989, when I started working there as a counselor, virtually everyone on staff would tell some version of the same story: Paul Newman, who had founded the camp when it became clear his little salad-dressing lark was accidentally going to earn him millions, stops by for one of his not-infrequent visits. He plops down at a table in the dining hall next to some kid with leukemia, or HIV, or sickle cell anemia, and starts to eat lunch. One version of the story has the kid look from the picture of Newman on the Newman's Own lemonade carton to Newman himself, then back to the carton and back to Newman again before asking, "Are you lost?" Another version: The kid looks steadily at him and demands, "Are you really Paul Human?"

Newman loved those stories. He loved to talk about the little kids who had no clue who he was, this friendly old guy who kept showing up at camp to take them fishing. While their counselors stammered, star-struck, the campers indulged Newman the way they'd have indulged a particularly friendly hospital blood technician. It took me years to understand why Newman loved being at the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp. It was for precisely the same reason these kids did. When the campers showed up, they became regular kids, despite the catheters and wheelchairs and prosthetic legs. And when Newman showed up, he was a regular guy with blue eyes, despite the Oscar and the racecars and the burgeoning marinara empire. The most striking thing about Paul Newman was that a man who could have blasted through his life demanding "Have you any idea who I am?" invariably wanted to hang out with folks—often little ones—who neither knew nor cared.

For his part, Newman put it all down to luck.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:06 AM


Believe It or Not, Bailout Won’t Substantially Expand the Deficit (Phil Izzo, 9/26/08, WSJ: Real Time Economics)

In congressional testimony earlier this week, Peter Orszag, director of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, told lawmakers that the program should be treated on net-expected-cost basis. The cost wouldn’t be recorded as gross outlays, but as “the purchase cost minus the expected value of any estimated future earnings from holding those assets and the proceeds from the eventual sale of them.” Since the value of the assets will be set by what the government pays, the program should at least be budget neutral in the near term. That approach would be similar to the current budgetary treatment of other programs such as student loans or lending to farmers.

The program does still have to be funded, and that likely means debt issuance from the Treasury. The government will have to borrow to buy the assets, but it’s no different than borrowing to buy anything else. Once the purchase is done, the buyer owns something that has value and can liquidated. Of course, right now those assets don’t have a market, but Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke expect that to change.

The program could even mean less issuance of government debt over the long term. “The TARP is being used to purchase assets which are intended to be sold or held to maturity,” said Michael Feroli of J.P. Morgan Chase. “As these assets are sold or mature in 2010 and following years, they will reduce the need for Treasury issuance, as funding inflows from running down the TARP portfolio defray other funding needs.”

If only it didn't transfer $140 billion to ACORN....oops, the tin foil slipped...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:02 AM


Daredevil Crosses English Channel On Rocket-Propelled Wing (Associated Press, 9/26/08)

A Swiss daredevil crossed the English Channel strapped to a homemade jet-propelled wing Friday, parachuting into a field near the white cliffs of Dover after a 10-minute solo flight.

Yves Rossy leapt from a plane at more than 8,800 feet (2,500 meters), fired up his jets and made the 22-mile (35-kilometer) trip from Calais in France. Mr. Rossy passed over a thin strip of land in front of South Foreland lighthouse, looped over onlookers and opened his parachute, his wings still strapped to his back.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:51 AM


Nevermind the me-tooism problem Mr. Obama had, having to check the name on the bracelet makes it look a bit gimmicky, no?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:40 AM


The Bradley Effect (WILLIAM SAFIRE, 9/28/08, NY Times Magazine)

The root of the phrase is in the campaign for the governorship of California in 1982. Surveys up to and including exit polls reported that Tom Bradley, the first black mayor of Los Angeles, was well ahead of George Deukmejian, the Republican. But the popular mayor lost by 1.2 points. How could that happen? Speculation ranged from inaccurate sampling, to last-minute mind-changes, to latent racism, to freely lying voters, to the reluctance of those being polled to admitting a preference that may be socially unacceptable — anti-black — in talking to interviewers.

Those impressed with the Bradley effect (put “so-called” in front if you dispute it) point to a series of polling surprises in races between candidates of different races. In 1989, David Dinkins won the New York mayoralty with a two-point margin after polls gave him a double-digit lead; on the same day, Douglas Wilder, who had been ahead by 15 points in the pre-election weeks, squeaked through to win the governorship of Virginia by less than 7,000 votes.

“My lesson was learned in 1978,” says Tully Plesser, the veteran Republican pollster telling me about that year’s Massachusetts race for senator. “Late polling for the Republican incumbent Senator Edward Brooke had him nearly 8 points ahead of Democrat Paul Tsongas, and Tsongas was elected by a 10-point margin.”

Is there such a thing as “the so-called Bradley effect”? Some on the right think so: Wesley Pruden in his column in The Washington Times defines it as “the phenomenon of black candidates to register significantly better in public-opinion polls than on Election Day.” Others differ. Daniel Hopkins, a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard, issued a lengthy scholarly study last month of what he calls the “Wilder effect” and concludes that it was significant “only through the early 1990s” and “disappeared swiftly at about the time that welfare reform silenced one critical, racialized issue.”

Wait — there’s another linguistic wrinkle. Martin Peretz argues in The New Republic that all the talk about the Bradley effect has an impact on the race, which he has named “the Bradley-Effect Effect,” which “actually benefits Obama. Is it so crazy to think working-class voters will react to the racism charge by going out of their way to prove it false?”

Yes, it actually is crazy to think that a Kansan will act like a Beltway liberal, even assuming that Mr. Peretz won't pull the R lever in the privacy of the booth.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:36 AM


Washington’s Invisible Hand (DAVID LEONHARDT, 9/28/08, NY Times Magazine)

[A]nyone trying to understand the causal chain — how the end of Glass-Steagall led to the end of Lehman Brothers — will have a hard time doing so. To many banking experts, the reason is simple enough: namely, that the law didn’t really do much to create the current crisis. It is a handy scapegoat, since it’s easily the biggest piece of financial deregulation in recent decades. But one act of deregulation, even a big one, and the absence of other, good regulations aren’t the same thing. The nursemaid of the current crisis isn’t so much what Washington did, in other words, as what it didn’t do.

The point of Gramm-Leach-Bliley was to tear down the wall, built by Glass-Steagall, separating banks that did risky investing from those that did basic lending. (The mingling of those two helped create a cascade of bank failures during the Depression.) Thus were born Citigroup, Bank of America and J. P. Morgan Chase, behemoths that owned bank branches, bought and sold stocks and shepherded corporate mergers.

But what else do those firms have in common today? They weren’t the ones that imploded, at least not first. While hardly unscathed, some of them are emerging as survivors amidst the wreckage. The first fatalities were firms that didn’t change all that much in the wake of Gramm-Leach-Bliley. Until their dying day, Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers were both classic investment banks.

They got in trouble by making a series of risky new bets while Washington did nothing new to stand in the way.

...is not the case for regulations appropriate to the 1930s.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:24 AM


McCain's fantasy league of democracies (Derrick Z. Jackson, September 27, 2008, Boston Globe)

[T]here was a curious moment in this first debate that was a boomerang on that tactic, for anyone with the least bit of memory about the last 7 1/2 years. McCain said he would put pressure on Iran by forming a league of democracies, a group of nations with whom we share interests, ideals, and values.

A league of democracies? McCain was fortunate that Obama did not walk all over that one.

McCain's Republican Party, under President Bush, did everything it could in these last two terms to tell the world that we were in our own league.

Except that under W we've added Iraq, Afghanistan, Liberia, etc. to the list of democracies, added India, Indonesia, Brazil, etc. to the League, and our opponents in that effort--Schroeder, Chretien, Annan, and that French guy--have all been swept into the dustbin of History, replaced by pro-American leaders. Were Mr. Jackson less of a Realist he might notice reality.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:06 AM


Beyond Ideology, a Generational Clash (ALESSANDRA STANLEY, 9/27/08, NY Times)

Mr. Obama was not particularly warm or amusing; at times he was stiff and almost pedantic. But all he had to do was look presidential, and that was not such a stretch. Mr. McCain had the harder task of persuading leery voters that he can lead the future because he is so much part of the past.

Except that, outside the editorial offices of the Times, polls show that people are comfortable with the idea of John McCain leading the country and thought that Senator Obama would win the debate. Just showing up isn't enough when you're supposed to deliver the Sermon on the Mount every time you speak.

‘Senator McCain Is Absolutely Right…’: Barack Obama plays Mr. Nice Guy — and loses — in the first debate. (Byron York, 9/27/08, National Review)

A candidate determined to appear congenial might do that once, or even twice, but Obama did it eight times:

“I think Senator McCain’s absolutely right that we need more responsibility…”

“Senator McCain is absolutely right that the earmarks process has been abused…”

“He’s also right that oftentimes lobbyists and special interests are the ones that are introducing these…requests…”

“John mentioned the fact that business taxes on paper are high in this country, and he’s absolutely right…”

“John is right we have to make cuts…”

“Senator McCain is absolutely right that the violence has been reduced as a consequence of the extraordinary sacrifice of our troops and our military families…”

“John — you’re absolutely right that presidents have to be prudent in what they say…”

“Senator McCain is absolutely right, we cannot tolerate a nuclear Iran…” [...]

But Obama’s problem wasn’t just saying “John is right” too many times. He also let McCain control the discussion even when — especially when — the conversation turned to issues that play to Obama’s strength. The debate was scheduled to focus entirely on foreign policy and national security, but for obvious reasons moderator Jim Lehrer devoted the first half-hour to the current financial crisis. Polls show Obama with a pretty big lead on economic issues, and yet McCain was able to turn the discussion — ostensibly about the $700 billion bailout proposal — into an extended examination of federal spending and earmarks, two issues about which McCain has strong feelings and a good record. When McCain pointed out that Obama had asked for $932 million in earmarks — “nearly a million dollars a day for every day that he’s been in the United States Senate” — Obama answered weakly that yes, the process has been abused, “which is why I suspended any requests for my home state, whether it was for senior centers or what have you, until we cleaned it up.” Not his best moment.

When the debate came around to the topic of the evening, McCain outshone Obama on topics like Russia and Pakistan while hitting him over and over for his comments, made in earlier Democratic debates, that he would meet Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad “without precondition.” On Iraq, the two men fought to a draw, with McCain arguing that Obama was wrong on the surge and Obama arguing that McCain was wrong on the war. It seems unlikely they will change anyone’s mind about that.

The bottom line was that Obama did well enough, but McCain did better.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:48 AM


Harper edges closer to majority: Liberal support bleeding to Conservatives, NDP; Bloc surging in Quebec (TONDA MACCHARLES, 9/27/08, Toronto Star)

The Conservatives have a tenuous grasp on a majority government, while the Liberals and New Democrats are in a dead heat for second place, a new poll shows.

The survey, conducted for the Toronto Star by Angus Reid Strategies, found that 40 per cent of Canadians would vote Conservative if an election were held tomorrow.

The Liberals under Stéphane Dion continue to drop, losing core supporters to the Tories as well as to the other parties. For the first time in the campaign, the Liberals and New Democrats, under Jack Layton, are tied at 21 per cent support. The Greens register 7 per cent support nationally.

There are several stories in the poll, which plumbed the views of 1,508 Canadians at the end of the third week of the campaign for the Oct. 14 election. In fact, the horse race is becoming an issue itself: The poll suggests Canadians are now seriously weighing what a majority Conservative government under Harper would mean.

W isn't just going to have outlasted Cretin but his party at this rate.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:35 AM


Iraq: Sadr Movement Growing Daily - Spokesman (Qassim al-Kaabi, 9/27/08, Asharq Alawsat)

Spokesman for the Sadri Trend, Salah al-Ubaydi, told the Asharq Al-Awsat that the Sadri Trend is not a "political party consisting of figures that could change their political line or leave one political party to join another." He said that the Sadri Trend is a popular movement which is growing daily. Al-Ubaydi added that the "call by the al-Kufah Mosque Imam to refer to the voters' registration centers has boosted the registration from200,000 to well over two million persons. This explains that the Sadri Trend still exists and that its approach to the activities it performs is the approach of the opposition and armed resistance.

However, the approach has now shifted to another style - the style of waiting for the results of the negotiations on the Iraqi-US agreement. Al-Ubaydi said that if the "Iraqi political parties do not reach an agreement with the Americans, we will have to review our position. We will discuss the kind of agreement reached and the results of the negotiations. We will surely give our views, and we will voice our support of the Iraqi government if it insisted on the departure the occupiers from our country. This is our condition. We will also look into the agreement in terms of whether it will be useful to the Iraqi society or not. We are not saying that we are accepting the agreement. We could give a period of grace of one to two years for the implementation of the agreement, if this is the useful thing to do."

Asked about the inaction which characterizes the Sadri bloc in the Iraqi parliament, the spokesman for the Sadri Trend said that the "reason for the inaction of the Sadri bloc is that it has no interests like the other blocs which have a specific number of cabinet portfolios or senior posts in the government. However, we made a condition which was difficult for the other parties of the parliamentary blocs to accept, namely, the departure of the occupiers. Asked about participation in the upcoming elections, al-Ubaydi said that the "Sadri Trend will support all the independent lists in which professional candidates and technocrats will run." He added that the "persons in the Sadri Trend who wish to run for the elections should participate in the independent lists and should be figures of high stature in their own community. However, persons in the Sadri Trend will not participate in the election lists that take into account courtesies and consist of public figures that have a bleak history in their own country."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:23 AM


Bailout progress _ Frank sees accord by Sunday (JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS, 9/27/08, AP)

Lawmakers say they're making progress and hope to reach an agreement over the weekend on a $700 billion government bailout to rescue Wall Street bankers from the bad loans that threaten to derail the economy and send it into a deep and long depression.

In a sign of movement, House Republicans dispatched their second-ranking leader, Rep. Roy Blunt of Missouri, to join the talks after their objections to an emerging compromise had brought negotiations to a standstill.

Negotiators were pushing for a deal before Asian markets open Monday.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:11 AM


Why Americans are more tolerant: Canadians often consider themselves to be more tolerant than their "backwards" neighbours to the south. But is this simply a myth? (Pete Vere, September 23, 2008, Western Standard)

Which brings me to the second reason the American concept of freedom of speech won me over. With free speech comes responsibility. This is not a leftist cliche, although it’s often misapplied by leftists. What this really means is that freedom of speech is every citizen’s responsibility. That’s you and me. If your neighbor says something hateful or abhorrent, speak up about it!

Americans feel more secure speaking up. This is what makes them more tolerant than Canadians. Ingrained in their psychology is the belief that every individual is equal under the law, and rights and freedoms are every individual’s responsibility. Thus they might gripe about minorities, but in the end Americans accept them.

Look no further than our parallel elections. With the exception of Elizabeth May, leader of Canada’s fifth party, every major party leader north of the border is a middle-aged, middle-class, mild-mannered white male. And when gender is excluded, Ms. May fits the stereotype perfectly. Yet even then she is not projected to win any seats.

In contrast, the U.S. election has produced two strong female candidates - one of whom is married to a snowmobile-racing champion from a First Nations community. One of the presidential candidates is an African-American born of a Muslim father. The other a tough-talking former Navy pilot and senior citizen who often bucks his own part

We talk about tolerance in Canada. More often than not, as our electoral choices show, Canadian tolerance is just an excuse to avoid discussing our differences. Thus Canadians stick to what’s comfortable, what’s least likely to offend the most people. We don’t want our differences to cause division and disrupt the social peace.

Americans, on the other hand, relish their differences. Tolerance is created by confronting their differences, then discovering that they share many of the same values and concerns. Americans understand, rightly, that tolerance is a product of free speech. The First Amendment allows them to get past their differences, correct misconceptions, and move on to more pressing issues.

September 26, 2008

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:52 PM


The Mac is back (ROGER SIMON | 9/26/08, Politico)

[M]cCain not only found a central theme but hit on it repeatedly. Obama is inexperienced, naive, and just doesn’t understand things, McCain said.

Sure, McCain is a pretty old guy for a presidential candidate, but he showed the old guy did not mind mixing it up. He stood behind a lectern for 90 minutes without a break — you try that when you are 72 — and he not only gave as good as he got, he seemed to relish it more.

At least twice after sharp attacks by McCain, Obama seemed to look to moderator Jim Lehrer for help, saying to Lehrer, “Let’s move on.”

McCain Was Good. But Good Enough? (Michael Crowley, 9/26/08, New Republic: The Stump)

For one thing, McCain certainly benefited tonight from low expectations--expectations fueled in part by liberal critics who have caricatured him as a doddering old fool. He outperformed them easily.

McCain also had a clarity of message that Obama lacked. His core message is easy to sum up: Let's cut waste and spending. I'm a tough leader. Obama is naive and unprepared. Obama, by contrast, had no single message that he repeatedly drove home. He came across as sensible, studious, and thoughtful--but at times abstract and passionless. Obama did land some good shots at McCain's judgment over Iraq. But some of his other attacks--including his quips about McCain's "bomb Iran" song, and seemingly not wanting to meet with the president of Spain--seemed halfhearted, almost as though Obama was embarrassed to make them. (To his credit, perhaps.) I was almost reminded of Hillary's dead-on-arrival "change you can Xerox" crack from some primary debate 100 months ago.

And stylistically, McCain was more in control. He was the one setting the tone and introducing nettlesome topics, forcing Obama to respond and defend himself.

Obama's Emotional Deficit (Noam Scheiber, 9/26/08, New Republic: The Stump)
I'd guess the CW will be that McCain won on points, with nothing close to a knockout, and I'd echo that judgment. McCain had Obama on the defensive over earmark requests and his $800 billion in new spending, then later on the surge and those rogue-leader meetings. [...]

My biggest problem with Obama is that he cedes almost all the emotional ground to McCain. For my money, the exchange that defined the debate was McCain sarcastically suggesting Obama would just tell Ahmadinejad "no" when he threatens to annihilate Israel. Obama tried to interrupt McCain several times during this mini-rant, then just kind of let the matter drop when he had a chance to respond. What he needed to do was look straight into the camera and inject a little emotion of his own. Something like, "Israel is one of our most loyal allies in the world. Their security is absolutely sacred to me. And if Mahmoud Ahmadinejad or any other tin-pot dictator thinks he can threaten Israel in my presence or anywhere else, he's in for a rude awakening. I would leave absolutely no doubt in his mind how we treat countries looking for fights with our allies."

Any analysis has to begin from the fact that the media and the Left have built Senator Obama up so much that a guy who's a mediocre debater at best was widely expected by the electorate to dominate. Thus, he's a loser if their performance was roughly equal and a big loser if you think he had a rough night.

Obama Remains Firm on Meeting Rogue Leaders Without Preconditions (Susan Davis, 9/26/08, The Page)

“I reserve the right as president of the United States to meet with anyone of my choosing if I feel it would protect the United States,” Obama said, adding that Kissinger, a McCain friend and adviser, recently said the U.S. should negotiate directly with Iran without preconditions, although he said he preferred it be at the State Department level.

McCain said it was “fiction” and that Obama was parsing words

Kissinger: Obama Misstates My View (The Page, 9/26/08)
“Senator McCain is right. I would not recommend the next President of the United States engage in talks with Iran at the Presidential level.”
Obama said during the debate that Kissinger, a McCain adviser, supports presidential talks with the Iranian president.

Senator McCain is right seems to be the big theme of the night.

Score one for John McCain (S.E. CUPP, September 26th 2008, NY Daily News)

Throughout the debate, which focused on both the economy and foreign policy, McCain had facts, figures and names at his fingertips, speaking from decades of experience in the trenches - literally and figuratively - and repeated the phrase, "Senator Obama doesn't seem to understand . . ." He called Obama naive, dangerous and inexperienced, and his attacks, which seemed to frustrate Obama, put him on the defensive for the majority of the night.

Obama's expectations here were low. Foreign policy is McCain's strength and Obama merely had to hold his own to come away from this unscathed. He did - in the first third of the night, devoted to the economy, Obama performed well, invoking the clauses that Democratic voters want to hear. But he seemed at times too cool, even verging on arrogant.

In an early stumble, he couldn't give any concrete examples of how the current economic crisis would affect his budget were he to become President, even when pressed repeatedly by the moderator, Jim Lehrer. McCain proposed spending freezes and defense cuts.

When the debate turned to foreign policy, McCain pressed him on his failure over a long period to visit Afghanistan, though Obama repeatedly stressed that this was where he would focus his foreign policy efforts in the war on terror. And here, Obama awkwardly brought up his running mate Joe Biden, seeming to suggest that what Obama lacked, Biden would make up for.

But McCain's biggest score was when Obama relayed the lesson he's learned from Iraq: that we never should have gone there in the first place. McCain rightly pointed out that the job of the next U.S. president will not be to ruminate over why we went or whether it was a good idea, but to determine how and when to leave. Obama had a difficult time dancing around the success of the surge, which he has long been reluctant to admit.

And on Iran, Obama's past embrace of conditionless diplomatic meetings with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and other leaders of rogue regimes came back to haunt him. McCain effectively cornered him, asking, "We're going to sit down with Ahmadinejad, and he says he wants to wipe Israel off the map, and we say, No you're not?"

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:10 PM


Frank predicts bailout deal by Sunday (Julie Hirschfeld Davis and David Espo, 9/26/08, ASSOCIATED PRESS)

The Bush administration and Congress anxiously revived negotiations Friday on a $700 billion financial bailout, one day after the largest bank collapse in U.S. history provided a brutal reminder of the risks of failure.

"I'm convinced that by Sunday we will have an agreement that people can understand on this bill," predicted Massachusetts Rep. Barney Frank, a key Democrat in eight days of up-and-down talks designed to stave off an economic crisis.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:59 PM


Battle with the Taliban: Pakistan could defeat militants in months: Pakistani troops are fighting a mountain battle that their generals claim will break the back of the Taliban insurgency within a matter of months. (Isambard Wilkinson in Tang Khatta , 9/26/08, Daily Telegraph)

The army claims it has killed over 1,000 militants in Bajaur, a place described by commanders as the "centre of gravity of the insurgency".

"The threat from Bajaur radiates in all directions," said Maj Gen Tariq Khan, the commanding officer of the Frontier Corps, a paramilitary force engaged in the bulk of counter-insurgency operations in the tribal areas.

"If we dismantle this here and destroy its leadership then 65 percent of militancy will be controlled. If they lose this, they lose everything."

Khar and its surroundings are deserted. Soldiers have taken over the area's numerous schools and nearly a third of Bajaur's one million people have fled the fighting.

At Tang Khatta militants took cover in fields of half-harvested maize, caves and dried-up ravines a mile away. [...]

Washington has expressed its approval for the Bajaur operation but analysts have asked why Islamabad allowed parts of the area to be governed by a Taliban parallel government.

Before the operation militants had launched over 60 attacks on paramilitary troops, cut off all main roads, set up training camps and assassinated a dozen tribal leaders.

The battle for Bajaur began only after 2,000-3,000 militants overran a paramilitary post at Loi Sam, which the military has not yet retaken.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:47 PM


Economists not keen on GOP bailout (VICTORIA MCGRANE, 9/26/08, Politico)

The plan centers on insuring mortgage-backed assets at prices and premiums set by the government, creating a virtual backstop for the debt. This would not require an initial outlay of taxpayers’ funds in the neighborhood of Paulson's $700 billion. Democratic leaders say Paulson doesn’t believe a mortgage insurance proposal will work, though he hasn’t said so publicly.

“I frankly don’t understand how this is supposed to work,” said Douglas Elmendorf, an economist at the nonpartisan Brookings Institution and an outspoken critic of the Paulson rescue plan.

People generally buy insurance for events that are unlikely to happen; a homeowner pays out a couple hundred dollars for fire insurance, and if their house burns down they get hundreds of thousands of dollars from their insurance company, provided by premiums collected from other policyholders, he explained.

“But with mortgage-backed securities, the bad thing has already happened,” Elmendorf said. “They’ve lost their value.”

The emerging GOP alternative does not resolve the problem of how the government prices the toxic assets at the heart of the crisis, experts said. In the Paulson plan, the government has to figure out how much to pay for the assets. But in the GOP alternative, the government would have to determine the premium prices to insure against the risk that the mortgages behind the assets don’t get paid off.

Many observers were buoyed by the modifications unveiled Thursday by Democrats and Senate Republicans that would allow the federal government to take out warrants — the option to buy shares — on some of the companies’ participating in the rescue. That way, if Treasury paid way too much for a firm’s assets, taxpayers would share in the windfall to the company.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:41 PM


John McCain falters as bailout swamps US election (Tom Baldwin and Suzy Jagger, 9/26/08, Times of London)

John McCain today hastily departed from Washington leaving behind the planned $700 billion Wall Street bailout teetering on a knife-edge.

With both sides playing for the highest stakes, the Republican nominee appeared to blink first as he raced down to Mississippi to face Barack Obama in a presidential TV debate.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:26 PM


McCain's way out? (Domenico Montanaro, 9/26/08, NBC: First Read)

So what if McCain shows up and tonight and says, "I'm sorry I couldn't sign on to this Washington-Wall Street plan that I worried was putting an even bigger burden on taxpayers than this mess already has. Now, Sen. Obama, I understand that you are confident in these folks in Washington and New York who have everyone convinced this is the only plan. And I respect that, but I am hearing from people all over the country who don't get this plan and don't understand how it will work. And why should they trust a group of folks in Washington and New York who broke this system to fix it?"

McCain is not winning this political battle right now as the media elite do believe the White House, Wall Street and Congressional Democrats on this. It's a pretty strong united front for us not to believe this. That said, McCain and House Republicans are channeling their inner populist, something the Republican Party hasn't done in quite some time. Don't write off this McCain strategy just yet if Obama appears too cozy with Washington and New York elites, and it's McCain who is the one looking like the outsider.

And there might be an immigration analogy here. Has McCain learned a lesson from that first battle that almost sunk his campaign and decided to listen to the base on this? This whole fight looks a bit like immigration with media, political elites on one side and “conservative populists” on the other.

On the other hand, Republicans were hurt in 2006 after running solely against immigration reform -- not helping them with Hispanics and female voters -- and it cemented the idea that Republicans were callous toward immigrants.

The funny thing is the Right is saying the GOP should stop the plan, just like they did immigration reform! Apparently because it isn't enough to lose a midterm, you need to make yourselves the minority party. On the bright side, Republicans could lose so many seats that amnesty will sail through. 100 million new Americans are worth a couple years out of power and letting the 12 million immigrants who the GOP refused citizenship become legal will goose the housing market.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:17 PM


The Mark-to-Market Melee: Is an obscure accounting rule to blame for the credit market meltdown? (Daniel Gross, April 1, 2008, Slate)

In recent weeks, some have been arguing that just as Abraham Lincoln suspended habeas corpus in a time of war, perhaps regulators should suspend mark-to-market in this time of crisis. Paul Craig Roberts, a veteran supply-sider and former Reagan administration official, wrote on March 11 that the mark-to-market rule "is imploding the U.S. financial system by requiring financial institutions to value subprime mortgages at their current market values." His solution: Suspend the rule, let financial institutions "keep the troubled instruments at book value, or 85-90 percent of book value, until a market forms that can sort out values, and allow financial institutions to write down the subprime mortgages and other troubled instruments over time." In other words, let's assign an imaginary happy value to these assets until the seas grow calmer. Steve Forbes echoed the sentiment in his column in Forbes, calling for a 12-month suspension of mark-to-market in "exotic financial instruments (primarily packages of subprime mortgages)." The reason: "It's preposterous to try to guess what these new instruments are worth in a time of panic." This line of thinking quickly wormed its way into McCain's big economic speech. He put it more anodyne terms: "First, it is time to convene a meeting of the nation's accounting professionals to discuss the current mark-to-market accounting systems. We are witnessing an unprecedented situation as banks and investors try to determine the appropriate value of the assets they are holding, and there is widespread concern that this approach is exacerbating the credit crunch." For its part, the Securities and Exchange Commission issued an opinion letter, in which it told firms, "[I]t is appropriate for you to consider actual market prices, or observable inputs, even when the market is less liquid than historical market volumes, unless those prices are the result of a forced liquidation or distress sale."

The language is technical, but the arguments here are simple and really quite silly—especially coming from folks who value market indicators over all else. These folks are saying that when markets are volatile and irrationally pessimistic, it's just not fair to force people to act as if the market prices are real.

But you'll notice that they never made that argument back when markets were irrationally optimistic, as they were from 2003-2006. No hedge fund manager ever told a bank that it should lend him less money because the value of the collateral he was putting up was clearly a product of unwarranted optimism or that he shouldn't collect management fees based on the assets under management because their value was clearly inflated. Nobody ever complains about the market's ruthlessness and inefficiency when it's making them money.

A Conservative Case for the Paulson Plan (Robert T. Miller, September 26, 2008, First Things)

All intelligent conservatives, therefore, recognize that there are known classes of cases where markets do not work. Free-rider problems such as that with national defense present one example, and collective action problems are another. A third—the one relevant in this case—is a market panic. From time to time, market participants become so irrational that markets cease to function because no one is willing to buy or sell. That is exactly what has happened in the mortgage-backed securities market right now. Financial institutions all over the world are holding various kinds of mortgage-backed securities, and everyone knows that these securities are worth less than people paid for them. How much less, however, no one knows for sure. That will ultimately depend on what percent of homeowners default on their mortgages and how much the lenders recover when they foreclose on the loans.

Now, no one believes that the default rate will be all that high (the rate is around 6% now, and even in the Great Depression it never got much above 40%), and everyone knows that when a lender forecloses on a home, it will receive at least most of its money back. Under normal circumstances, market participants would gather the available data, make some informed estimates about these matters, and calculate a price for the relevant securities. Pricing securities is always a very uncertain business, and under normal circumstances this doesn’t bother anyone. Right now, however, people are so panicked about mortgage-backed securities that they will either not buy such securities at all or will pay only absurdly low prices for them. Merrill Lynch, for example, sold some securities like these last July for as little as 22 cents on the dollar. We thus have the most extreme form of market failure imaginable: the total collapse of a market, not because the items traded in the market are valueless (in fact, everyone agrees that they are very valuable), but because people are too panicked to value them.

Such behavior is highly irrational, and savvy people everywhere know it’s highly irrational. Hence we saw that coolest of rational minds, Warren Buffett, buying into Goldman Sachs earlier this week. Once a market-collapsing panic starts, however, it is very difficult to stop. It’s like trying to convince the crowd in the theater that there really is no fire after all. Sometimes, a particularly respected market participant can stop the panic. J.P. Morgan did that in the financial crisis of 1907. Nowadays, however, no private party has the clout to do it.

Fortunately, the government does. What the Paulson plan amounts to is this: The government will buy up all the securities that the market is currently too irrational to value, and it will hold them for a while—long enough for the market to calm down and return to sanity. Then the government will resell the securities into the market. Since the government will have bought the securities at panic prices and sold them at more rational prices, the government may well turn a tidy profit on the deal. Exactly this has happened before. Back in 1998, the Federal Reserve organized the major investment banks to bail-out distressed hedge fund Long Term Capital Management, and when all its positions were finally unwound, the banks had made a profit. There is thus good reason to believe that the treasury will make money, not lose money, on the Paulson plan.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:46 AM


Boehner: I Won’t Allow White House to “Gang Up” on Me (The Page, September 26th, 2008)

The House Republican leader suggests in an afternoon presser that he’s unfairly taking the fall for stalling progress of the bailout bill.

“I don’t know what games were being played at the White House yesterday. Gang up on Boehner. If they thought they were rolling me they were kidding themselves.”

...isn't John Boehner more important than the economy, the President and the presidential election? Why is it you can never find a bus when you need to throw someone under one?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:40 AM


McCain to attend the debate (Mark Murray, 9/26/08, NBC First Read)

The McCain campaign just announced that the Arizona senator will attend tonight's presidential debate. "The McCain campaign is resuming all activities and the Senator will travel to the debate this afternoon," the statement reads. "Following the debate, he will return to Washington to ensure that all voices and interests are represented in the final agreement, especially those of taxpayers and homeowners."

Maverick has one huge advantage heading into tonight,
In the CNN/Opinion Research Corp. survey, 59 percent of likely voters said they expect Obama to do a better job in the debates, while 34 percent picked McCain.

Tie goes to the expected loser.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:34 AM


Bill Clinton’s Return Poses a Test of Party Loyalty (PAUL VITELLO, 9/26/08, NY Times)

As comfortable as Mr. Clinton is in saying, “I like John McCain,” and “I like Sarah Palin,” no one seems to have heard him say the same for Mr. Obama. Instead, when speaking of Mr. Obama, the Democratic nominee, Mr. Clinton has assumed a professorial stance that sometimes drifts toward emotional aloofness and disregard.

“Is it me, or he didn’t want to say the name ‘Barack Obama’?” the comedian Chris Rock asked with barely contained anger when he appeared Monday night on “Late Show With David Letterman” immediately after Mr. Letterman’s 15-minute interview with Mr. Clinton.

Answering Mr. Letterman’s questions, Mr. Clinton gave a dispassionate discourse on the cultural and political dynamics of the race, which, he said, would ultimately play in Mr. Obama’s favor. Mr. Clinton mentioned his wife, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, who had lost the Democratic primary to Mr. Obama, far more often than he mentioned the party’s standard-bearer. And in predicting victory for Mr. Obama, Mr. Clinton suggested that it would happen because people were hurting economically. He did not say that Mr. Obama’s victory would be because voters especially wanted Mr. Obama to be president.

“People will wind up liking both of them,” Mr. Clinton said. “People will go in that polling booth and say: ‘You know, I really admire Senator McCain. He gave about all you could give to this country without getting killed for it. But I’ve got to have a change, and I’m going the other way.’ ”

By “the other way,” he apparently meant Mr. Obama.

Man, he's good.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:06 AM


Against all the odds this is an extremely winnable election for the GOP, Uncertain Times (Andrew Kohut, 9/25/08, Pew Research Center)

In every recent election the public has accurately picked the winner by this time in the cycle. But not this year. Two weeks ago when we asked voters to put aside their own preferences and make a prediction, 39% said McCain would win and exactly the same number chose Barack Obama. Four years ago in September, the race was close, but by a 60%-to-22% margin voters thought President Bush would be re-elected.

In 2000 at this time, voters believed Al Gore would win. But they changed their minds by late October and picked George W. Bush. In 1992 and 1996, boxcar majorities (61% and 75%, respectively) thought Clinton would win.

So do House Republicans pass the plan and prove the validity of the McCain narrative or kill it and spend the next few years in the wilderness?

Gut Check (Steven Pearlstein, September 26, 2008, Washington Post)

Now let me tell you something very simple and very important: You can try to prevent a financial meltdown or you can teach Wall Street a lesson, but you can't do both at the same time. [...]

[[W]e need to act quickly. The financial situation is now downright scary. Don't look at the stock market -- that's not where the problem is. The problem is in the credit markets, which are quickly freezing. I won't bore you with technical indicators like Libor and Treasury swap spreads, but if you talk to people who work these markets every day, as I have, they report that the money markets are in worse shape than they were last August, or even during the currency crises of 1998.

Banks and big corporations and even money-market funds are hoarding cash, refusing to lend it out for a day or a week or a month. Even the best companies are having trouble floating bonds at reasonable rates. And the shadow banking system -- the market in asset-backed securities that ultimately supplies the capital for most home loans, car loans, college loans -- is almost completely shut down.

People are so nervous, and there is so much distrust, that all it would take is one more hit to trigger the modern-day equivalent of a nationwide bank run. Financial institutions would fail, part of your savings would be wiped out, jobs would be lost and a lot of economic activity would grind to a halt. Such a debacle would cost us a lot more than $700 billion.

Third, the latest proposal hammered out between the Treasury and Democratic leaders won't cost anywhere near $700 billion unless we get a 1930s-like Depression, in which case we'll have much bigger problems to worry about. Depending on how the program is managed, and how things turn out with the economy and the housing market, the best guess is that the government could wind up either losing or making a couple of hundred billion dollars.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:54 AM


Wall Street to GOP: Drop Dead (James Pethokoukis, 9/26/08, US News)

Economic conservatives may be horrified at the thought of a trillion-dollar bailout of Wall Street, but the GOPers on Wall Street seem horrified that they are being left to wither on the vine by Washington. Take a look at this email I just got last night from a money manager:

I am a lifelong ( 51 years old) "rock-ribbed" conservative.... What an eye opener this week has been! I now realize what a blowhard Newt truly is by advocating the GOP bail on the Paulson Plan. As a professional money manager I can tell you I am shocked, dismayed and depressed that the Speaker would excoriate the GOP to abandon this plan which is URGENT and necessary to avoid a financial catastrophe that once commenced may be irreversible. The level of ignorance of financial and economic reality displayed by the Speaker , Rep. Boehner, Sen. Shelby , et al, has been frightening and sad. I thought the GOP had a better grasp of such matters than the Dems. Apparently not.

House GOP rebranding and bailout clash (Frank James, 9/26/08, The Swamp)
Ever since their defeat in 2006, House Republicans have talked about how they lost their brand and needed to regain it if they had any hope to retake the House majority. And they've taken numerous steps since 2006 to try and rebuild the trust of fiscal conservatives, calling constantly for reduced spending and extending President Bush's tax cuts.

Now they have the Bush Administration, as it's heading out the door, trying to thrust a $700 billion bailout package on them and they're not going to have it. It doesn't fit the narrative they believe will lead them back to the House majority.

The administration's problem is that House Republicans have little incentive to give in to the president who not only is soon to be the ex-president but is unpopular to boot.

House Majority Leader John Boehner and the rest of the Republican conference plan on being around for a while and they don't want to support a bailout package if it's going to severely damage their ability to re-establish their small-government, lower taxes and less-spending brand.

If the GOP is willing to tank the economy to establish their new "brand," isn't it fair to ask whether that brand isn't Hooverism? An ideology that places country second is an obvious political loser.

Bush: “We are going to get a package” (MIKE ALLEN, 9/26/08, Politico)

President Bush declared Friday morning that both parties will “rise to the occasion” and pass “a substantial rescue plan,” despite a collapse of negotiations that resulted in some of the ugliest Capitol Hill finger-pointing in years.

“The legislative process is sometimes not very pretty, but we are going to get a package passed,” Bush stepping out of the Oval Office into the Rose Garden for a brief statement that had been scheduled for five minutes after the New York Stock Exchange opened.

McCain's Choice (William Kristol, 9/26/08, Weekly Standard)
If it fails, McCain will have, I think, three alternative paths:

1. Support Bush/Paulson/the Democrats. The rationale would be that the emergency is grave, the markets require action, and this is the only legislation that can pass. This is where most observers expect McCain to end up, it may well be where he has to end up, and it may be the right place to end up--IF the emergency is so grave and IF this is the only alternative that can pass. McCain could still stipulate he’ll improve the plan when he becomes president, that Bush and the Democrats messed this up, etc., etc. This outcome becomes likely if the markets start to meltdown today. It’s not particularly attractive substantively or politically, but....

2. Support House Republicans. Very dicey, obviously.

McCain Huddles in Boehner’s Office (The Page, September 26th, 2008
MSNBC reports the Arizona Senator meets with the House Republican leader along with Rep. Cantor and other GOP congressmen on the bailout legislation ahead of morning congressional talks.

It would be too late to save his candidacy at that point--the House GOP having refuted its premise--but Maverick would have to come out and blast them and portray his own vote for the plan as rising above the moronic partisanship of his own party.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:36 AM


Most elementary schools in California will fail to meet proficiency requirements by 2014 (PhysOrg, 9/25/08)

In California, student mastery in ELA and mathematics is measured with the California Standards Tests (CST). To determine how the challenge of mastery is being met, a research team led by UC Riverside's Richard Cardullo examined several years of CST data.

The researchers report in the Sept. 26 issue of Science that mathematical models they used in their analysis predict that nearly all elementary schools in California will fail to meet the Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) requirements for proficiency by 2014, the year when all students in the nation need to be proficient in ELA and mathematics, per the "No Child Left Behind Act of 2001" (NCLB).

At which point, under the terms of the law, every child will qualify for a public school voucher.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:31 AM


Pakistan says top militants among 1,000 dead
(AFP, 9/26/08)

Pakistan has said that troops have killed 1,000 Islamist militants in a huge offensive, a day after President Asif Ali Zardari lashed out at the US over a clash on the Afghan border.

Five top Al-Qaeda and Taliban commanders were among the dead in a month-long operation in Bajaur district, currently the most troubled of Pakistan's unstable tribal areas close to the porous frontier, a top official said on Friday.

The clashes force Zardari to fight them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:08 AM


Selfless or Reckless? McCain Gambles On Voters' Verdict (Dan Balz, 9/25/08, Washington Post)

John McCain is a gambler by nature, and the bet he placed Wednesday may be among the biggest of his political life.

The Republican presidential nominee is hoping that his abrupt decision to suspend campaigning, seek a delay of Friday's debate with Democrat Barack Obama, and return to Washington to help prod negotiations over a financial rescue package will be seen as the kind of country-first, bipartisan leadership he believes Americans want.

What he risks, if things don't go as he hopes, is a judgment by voters that his move was a reckless act by an impetuous and struggling politician that hardened partisan lines in Washington at just the wrong moment and complicated efforts to deal with the biggest financial crisis in more than half a century.

Markets in turmoil as US financial bail-out stalls (Julia Kollewe, 9/26/08, guardian.co.uk)
Stockmarkets were plunged into turmoil today after talks on a $700bn (£380bn) rescue for the US financial sector descended into chaos and the country's largest savings and loans company Washington Mutual collapsed in America's biggest banking failure.

The FTSE 100 index in London dropped 90.2 points in early trading, a fall of 1.74%, and traded down 60.2 points at 5136.8 points mid-morning, a decline of 1.16%. All Asian stockmarkets slid, with Japan's Nikkei closing down nearly 1%. Oil prices were also hit by the uncertainty over the bail-out package, with US crude falling $3 to $105 a barrel. The yen jumped by more than 1% against the dollar as investors rushed to buy the safe haven currency. The dollar fell to ¥105.26.

Spread-betting firm GFT Global Markets predicted the Dow Jones industrial average would fall 147 points and the Nasdaq 29.5 points when the US markets open.

On debate day, uncertainty looms (ALEXANDER BURNS, 9/26/08, Politico)
Since Wednesday, when McCain unexpectedly announced he would suspend his campaign to focus on the economic crisis, it has been unclear whether McCain would join Obama at the debate. And it remained that way after negotiations over a $700 billion Wall Street bailout plan broke down Thursday and late-night talks ended inconclusively.

McCain senior adviser Steve Schmidt said Thursday night that the Arizona senator was focused on passing a compromise bailout bill and would be on the phone, cajoling colleagues and trying to get closer to a deal.

“He’s working very, very hard to try to get majority votes,” Schmidt said.

Wall Street bailout plan proves elusive: After White House talks collapse, further negotiations falter amid partisan wrangling. Sunday is seen as a crucial deadline. (Richard Simon, Maura Reynolds and Nicole Gaouette, 9/26/08, Los Angeles Times)
There were signs that, behind the scenes, skeptical Democrats and Republicans were beginning to move toward a compromise version of Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson's original plan, but it remained to be seen whether there would be enough votes to pass legislation.

"I'm seeing both Republicans and Democrats start to move toward voting for it," Rep. John Campbell (R-Irvine) said. "I can't tell you that there's a majority at this point, but there's movement."

The working proposal contained most of the features that critics of the administration's original plan had been demanding: limits on compensation for executives of companies that take part in the bailout, a provision for taxpayers to share in any profits from the sale of distressed assets, and payout of the $700 billion in three stages instead of one. The final $350-billion tranche would require a congressional vote.

Bailout Negotiations in Disarray (GREG HITT, DAMIAN PALETTA and DEBORAH SOLOMON, 9/26/08, WSJ)
Negotiators broke off talks Thursday night with no agreement and with plans to reconvene in the morning, without House Republicans. It was the Republicans' surprise championing of a competing plan late Thursday that derailed a carefully crafted compromise previously taking shape.

Folks have already started comparing the House GOP's performance to the government shutdown. It may not be precise but it is instructive. In that case the shutdown itself mattered less than holding out until Bill Clinton folded before they re-opened it. Instead, Republicans blinked and so failed to get what they wanted in a deal and got all the blame for the impasse. They had all the leverage but used it poorly.

Here, all that matters (because of the narrative of the McCain and Obama candidacies) is that Maverick be seen to have helped broker a deal. The shape of the deal isn't significant. House Republicans have no leverage because passage of a deal that they voted against would be so harmful to their own presidential candidate as to inflict grave losses in November.

The main similarity would thus end up being that the GOP leadership was inept in both showdowns.

Ironically though, the GOP's best hope of being saved comes from the Democrats and the possibility that they are so reactionary and anti-business that they'll squander the gift they've been handed. After all, consider how easyt it would be for them to salt away the election this weekend:

Friday Morning: Barack Obama press conference in which he says: "Look, I don't agree with George Bush on a lot of things but I agree with him--and Henry Paulson, Ben Bernanke, Warren Buffet, Paul Volcker, and Robert Rubin--on the importance of this deal to the economy. I, therefore, urge all my colleagues t set aside partisan differences and pass the Paulson Plan.

Friday evening: House passes plan--ideally without many GOP votes--every Democrat announcing that despite his own reservations he's following the example of his party leader.

Saturday: Senate passes plan -- with enough Republicans to avoid a filibuster -- forcing John McCain to either follow the Unicorn Rider or side with House Republicans who are so partisan they wouldn't even vote with W.

That's ballgame, folks. The narrative of both candidacies is that: "I'm the post-partisan agent of change who can get things done in Washington." John Boehner is trying his best to prove that it is Barack Obama's narrative that is true.

Talks Implode During a Day of Chaos; Fate of Bailout Plan Remains Unresolved (DAVID M. HERSZENHORN, CARL HULSE and SHERYL GAY STOLBERG, 9/26/08, NY Times)

When Congressional leaders and Senators John McCain and Barack Obama, the two major party presidential candidates, trooped to the White House on Thursday afternoon, most signs pointed toward a bipartisan agreement on a grand compromise that could be accepted by all sides and signed into law by the weekend. It was intended to pump billions of dollars into the financial system, restoring liquidity and keeping credit flowing to businesses and consumers.

“We’re in a serious economic crisis,” Mr. Bush told reporters as the meeting began shortly before 4 p.m. in the Cabinet Room, adding, “My hope is we can reach an agreement very shortly.”

But once the doors closed, the smooth-talking House Republican leader, John A. Boehner of Ohio, surprised many in the room by declaring that his caucus could not support the plan to allow the government to buy distressed mortgage assets from ailing financial companies.

Mr. Boehner pressed an alternative that involved a smaller role for the government, and Mr. McCain, whose support of the deal is critical if fellow Republicans are to sign on, declined to take a stand.

Which is why congressmen don't become president--he's acting like a legislator instead of a leader.
Political Wisdom: A Wild Day Spawns Questions About McCain: Here’s a summary of the smartest new political analysis on the Web: (Gerald F. Seib and Sara Murray, 9/26/08, WSJ: Washington Wire)
Is McCain's Gamble Paying Off? (Toby Harnden, 9/26/08, Real Clear Politics)
Having been firmly in control of the campaign narrative for more than a week and surging in the polls, Senator Obama has been knocked off his stride. Senator McCain stumbled in addressing the Wall Street crisis from the outset with his "fundamentals are strong" statement and then lurched first one way and then the other. Then, suddenly, he seized the initiative.

Obama was put on the defensive immediately after McCain's shock announcement when President George W. Bush - in a move that appeared to bee coordinated with the Arizona senator - called to invite him to Thursday's White House summit. The Democratic nominee could hardly refuse and it looked like he was following McCain's lead.

Polls show that Obama's biggest vulnerability is on whether he can be commander-in-chief and whether he's ready to lead. McCain's Achilles heel is his links to Bush. The acrimonious White House summit boosted McCain on both fronts.

Bush's lack of political capital - he's as bankrupt as Lehman Brothers - meant that he lost control of the meeting and of his own rescue package. Inside the room, McCain largely kept his own counsel but he ended up in the driving seat.

Strangely, rather than McCain being the one supporting Bush, it was Obama. Having based his campaign on running against Washington, it was the Illinois senator who found himself defending the package fashioned and championed by the Washington insiders at either end of Pennsylvania Avenue.

McCain, Obama square off on whether to square off (Scott Helman, September 26, 2008, Boston Globe)
With no done deal on the $700 billion Wall Street bailout, John McCain and Barack Obama last night intensified their extraordinary staredown over whether to hold their first presidential debate tonight.

McCain, who is insisting that a bailout agreement be in place first, said only that he was "very hopeful" the debate would go ahead. Obama said that voters deserved to hear the candidates, that he planned to be there, and that "I hope he will be there as well."

Both candidates returned to Washington yesterday for a private meeting with President Bush and congressional leaders on the bailout, but Obama's camp disputed whether McCain had truly suspended his campaign as he had promised.

Shelby Plays Role of Contrarian: Alabama Senator Calls Plan 'Flawed From the Beginning' (Christopher Lee, 9/26/08, Washington Post)
Everything seemed to be headed toward a deal -- and then Sen. Richard C. Shelby emerged from the White House with a bit of bad news.

"We hadn't got an agreement," said Shelby (Ala.), the ranking Republican on the Senate banking committee. "There's still a lot of different opinions. Mine is: It's flawed from the beginning."

Shelby has made no secret of his distaste for the plan all week. His strong opposition was a primary reason that Sen. Robert F. Bennett (Utah), a close friend and political ally of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.), was leading talks on the package for Senate Republicans.

But it is also what made Shelby's inclusion in White House talks, which were designed to reach agreement on a $700 billion recovery plan, something of a surprise. Inviting a lawmaker completely opposed to a plan to a negotiation usually is not a recipe for reaching a deal.

-Talks Falter on Bailout Deal : White House Summit Fails to Yield Accord as House GOP Floats New Plan (Paul Kane and Lori Montgomery, 9/26/08, Washington Post)
A renegade bloc of Republicans moved to reshape a massive bailout of the U.S. financial system yesterday, surprising and angering Bush administration and congressional leaders who hours earlier announced agreement on the "fundamentals" of a deal.

At a meeting at the White House that included President Bush, top lawmakers and both presidential candidates, House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) floated a new plan for addressing the crisis that has hobbled global markets.

Democrats accused Boehner of acting on behalf of GOP presidential candidate Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) in trying to disrupt a developing consensus. The new proposal also displeased White House officials, including Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr., who chased after Democrats leaving the meeting and -- half-jokingly -- dropped to one knee and pleaded with them not to "blow up" the $700 billion deal, according to people present at the meeting.

The Photo McCain Wanted (E. J. Dionne Jr., September 26, 2008, Washington Post)
The simple truth is that Washington is petrified about this crisis and will pass something. There are dark fears floating through the city that foreign investors, particularly the Chinese, might begin to pull their billions out of our system.

Scarier than the bad mortgages are those unregulated credit default swaps that financier George Soros has been warning about. There are $45 trillion of those esoteric instruments sloshing around the global financial system. They were invented as a hedge against debt defaults, but even the financial smart guys don't fully understand their impact or how to price their real value.

Fear is a terrible motivator for careful legislating, but it's a heck of a way to bring about a lot of bipartisanship. McCain jumped into this game in the fourth quarter. Many of the players on the field, caked in mud and exhausted but determined as they approach the goal line, wonder why this new would-be quarterback has suddenly appeared in their midst.

McCain could yet play a constructive role by rounding up votes from restive Republicans. Oddly, the biggest obstacle to a bill may not be Democrats but Republicans who refuse to go along with their own president. And -- yes, there is an election coming -- Democrats will be wary of going forward unless a substantial number of Republicans join them.

Bailout deal wobbles amid partisan divide (James Oliphant, 9/26/08, The Swamp)
Deal or no deal?

A day that began on an optimistic note devolved into an evening of partisan bickering and finger-pointing, as Democratic supporters of a $700 billion Bush administration plan to bail out the financial sector accused Republicans of trying to scuttle the deal at the last moment.

And they also suggested that the man who had come into town to save the deal, John McCain, had, in fact, wrecked it by encouraging the fracas, after a White House summit billed as a chance for both parties to work together ended with no agreement and perhaps more division on the issue than ever.

Lawmakers Weigh Political Risks of Stance on Bailout Plan
With leaders in Congress working on a controversial financial-rescue plan, rank-and-file lawmakers face a crucial election-year question: If they back the proposal, will they pay at the polls?

Populist outrage has been spilling out across the country from people of all political stripes. Lawmakers say they have received hundreds of calls and emails in recent days, almost uniformly against the idea of giving the government the power to buy billions of dollars in distressed assets to keep the financial system afloat.

Things Fall Apart (Daniel Politi, Sept. 26, 2008, Slate)
A dizzying day of high-stakes Washington drama has left everyone confused and unsure about whether the $700 billion bailout to save the nation's financial system has any chance of making it through Congress. Whereas yesterday's papers were filled with optimism that a compromise would be reached, today no one knows whether the breakdown in negotiations means the plan is doomed or if it just represents a brief stumbling block.

McCain Ploy Ultimately Changes Little (Carl Leubsdorf, 9/26/08, Real Clear Politics)
Critics immediately accused the Arizona senator of political grandstanding in the face of faltering poll numbers, noting that congressional leaders and Bush administration officials already were resolving differences over the massive package.

Supporters argued that Mr. McCain's move meant he would be able to claim a large share of responsibility if a package ultimately passed because his support was needed to get enough House Republican votes to create the bipartisan support Democratic leaders demanded.

In fact, both critics and supporters may be right.

Mr. McCain's move was clearly political, since he was not directly involved in hammering out the complex legislation. But his role as the party's de facto leader may give him leverage over GOP congressmen who would otherwise not fall in line.

Indeed, the Republican standard-bearer seems to have acted less to rescue the talks than to ease the potential damage to himself and his party for opposing, or even killing, a bipartisan bailout proposal.

Circumstances leading to his announcement Wednesday strongly suggest that.

Paulson and Obama (American Spectator, September 26, 2008)
When Sen. Barack Obama was given the floor to speak during White House negotiations, according to White House aides, he did so raising concerns about a House Republican alternative to the Paulson/Bernanke $700 billion bailout. But those concerns weren't necessarily his, as he was not aware of the GOP plan before reviewing notes provided him by Paulson loyalists in Treasury prior to entering the meeting. [...]

"Paulson and his team have not acted in good faith for this President or the administration for which they serve," says a House Republican leader who was not present at the White House meeting, but who instead is part of the team hammering out the House GOP alternative. "We keep hearing about how Secretary Paulson is working with Democrats on this or that, yet he never seems to consider working with the party that essentially hired him.

He works for the American people, not the House GOP caucus.

September 25, 2008

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:51 PM


Wild White House meeting sets back deal (DAVID ROGERS, 9/25/08, Politico)

A high-profile White House meeting on Treasury’s $700 billion Wall Street rescue plan ended on a sour, contentious note Thursday after animated exchanges among lawmakers laced with presidential politics just weeks before the November elections.

“I can’t invent votes,” House Republican Leader John Boehner warned the administration about the lack of support in his conference for the massive government intervention. [...]

When Bush yielded early to Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D- Nev.) to speak, they yielded to Obama to speak for the assembled Democrats. And it was Obama who raised the subject of the conservative alternative and pressed Paulson on what he thought of the idea.

House Republicans felt trapped—squeezed by Treasury, House Democrats and a bipartisan coalition in the Senate. And while McCain spoke surprisingly little after asking for the meeting, he conceded that it appeared there not the votes for the core Paulson plan without major changes. [...]

Having called for the meeting, he will have to show if can deliver the votes of House Republicans, many of whom have been leery of him in the past. Mindful of this, the senator’s campaign issued a brief statement an hour after the breakup of the meeting.

“We're optimistic that Sen. McCain will bring House Republicans on board without driving other parties away, resulting in a successful deal for the American taxpayer.”

The reality is that if House Republicans would rather blow up the plan than win the Fall they may be able to, though it would officially be Nancy Pelosi administering the coup de grace. And if they won't pass a plan that the Republican president and nominee are asking them to then why should people vote for the Party? Mr. Boehner needs to fold gracefully or accept the blame for electing a President Obama with huge margins in Congress.

Here's the opportunity House Republicans seem hellbent on botching:
Zogby Poll: McCain Recovers as Contest Takes Dramatic Turns; McCain 46% - Obama 44% (Zogby, 9/25/08)

Republican John McCain's poll numbers improved slightly as he suspended his campaign Wednesday to head back to Washington to focus on the looming national financial crisis, moving from more than three points behind Barack Obama last weekend to two points ahead in a Zogby Interactive survey just out of the field this morning.

All because the think they have leverage:
House GOP: We have leverage on bailout (Jackie Kucinich, 09/25/08, The Hill)

House Republicans say they have significant leverage on the revamped bailout package, claiming that Democrats will scramble for votes unless they make changes to it.

Republicans in the lower chamber are balking at the bailout package, saying that Democrats will be solely responsible for the ramifications of what they see as a flawed compromise.

Which they do, in the same way Cleavon Little had it in Blazing Saddles.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:35 PM


Senate Democrats Block Rollback of D.C. Gun Laws (Congressional Quarterly, 9/25/08)

Senate Democrats objected Thursday to an attempt by Kay Bailey Hutchinson, R-Texas, to take up House-passed legislation that would roll back District of Columbia gun laws.

Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin , D-Ill., objected, calling the bill an attempt “take away the authority” of the city to write its own gun laws.

Hutchinson said it is “the prerogative of Congress” to make laws affecting the District.

Gun-rights advocates say the District government is not abiding by a Supreme Court decision in District of Columbia v. Heller that voided the city’s handgun ban in June

...for Senator Obama to show he isn't anti-gun. He can lead his party on the issue.

Obama seeks to take down NRA ad Ben Smith, 9/25/08, Politico)

The Obama campaign has written radio stations in Pennsylvania and Ohio, pressing them to refuse to air an ad from the National Rifle Association.

"This advertisement knowingly misleads your viewing audience about Senator Obama's position on the Second Amendment," says the letter from Obama general counsel Bob Bauer. "For the sake of both FCC licensing requirements and the public interest, your station should refuse to continue to air this advertisement."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:46 PM


China Cuts Corporate Tax To Shore Up the Economy (ANDREW BATSON, 9/25/08, WSJ: Washington Wire)

China's government is moving closer to extending nationwide a tax change that would lower businesses' bills, as policy makers look to the country's flush finances for ways to offset an economic slowdown and the global financial turmoil.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:43 PM


Bailout Deal Could End Debate Standoff (AMY CHOZICK and ELIZABETH HOLMES. 9/25/08, WSJ: Washington Wire)

The debate over the first presidential debate appeared to be coming to an end Thursday as lawmakers neared an agreement on a federal financial bailout package.

Sen. John McCain, addressing attendees Thursday at the Clinton Global Initiative in New York, said he couldn't stay on the campaign trail while the U.S. was suffering an economic crisis.

Sen. John McCain said he won't wait for a final vote on the $700 billion plan to bail out U.S. financial markets. Rather, if the White House and members of Congress reach an agreement or make a deal to help the ailing financial sector, the Republican candidate will travel to Oxford, Miss., for the debate scheduled for Friday night. On Thursday afternoon, top House and Senate Democratic and Republican lawmakers reached a tentative agreement, with some predicting the measure would pass both chambers of Congress. Precise language was still being worked out.

"American families expect that bold leadership will prevail and that a bipartisan financial rescue package will be secured -- then the campaigns will resume," McCain campaign spokesman Tucker Bounds said.

"My work here is done"

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:47 PM


Brazilian player brutally murdered (Anthony Sormani, 9/25/08, SI.com, Goal.com)

Brazil is in mourning after former Vasco de Gama player Thiago da Silva was brutally tortured and murdered, allegedly by hired assassins on the orders of his ex-girlfriend.

Da Silva, 25, who had been playing for second-division team Estacio de Sa Soccer Club, died in a Rio de Janeiro hospital Wednesday night, six days after being mortally shot in an attack by three men on a soccer field.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:44 PM


Pollster Zogby says presidential election could end in landslide (Jill Terreri, September 25, 2008, Democrat and Chronicle)

The presidential election might be a tight race now, but one of the country’s top pollsters thinks the race will end in an electoral landslide.

John Zogby, president of Zogby International, told a group of businesspeople today that it’s up to Democratic Sen. Barack Obama to convince voters to go with him. If he’s not successful, the country will likely vote for “a comfortable old shoe”, that being Republican Sen. John McCain.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:41 PM


WBBM-TV: Feds may indict Blagojevich (UPI, 9/25/08)

U.S. federal agents say they have enough evidence to indict Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich for fraud and conspiracy, WBBM-TV, Chicago, reported Thursday. [...]

Prosecutors also mentioned Blagojevich in an indictment as the intended beneficiary of at least one extortion attempt by Blagojevich fundraiser and businessmen Antoin "Tony" Rezko.

Rezko was convicted June 4 on 16 of the 24 counts against him. He awaits sentencing in October on mail and wire fraud, aiding and abetting bribery and money laundering convictions. He still faces two more trials.

The Chicago Sun-Times has reported Rezko could cut his prison time significantly by cooperating in investigations of other public figures, including Blagojevich.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:39 PM


US markets bounce on news of bailout deal (Susan Thompson , 9/25/08, Times of London)

Stock market investors were immediately buoyed by the news that Republicans and Democrats had reached an agreement to rescue Wall Street, sending the US markets soaring.

Rising markets sink all Hope.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:25 PM


GOP, Democratic Negotiators Reach Agreement in Principle (William Branigin, Dan Eggen and Paul Kane, 9/25/08, Washington Post)

House and Senate negotiators emerged from a closed-door meeting today and said they have reached basic agreement on a massive financial rescue plan that they hope to pass soon.

...if the global economy needs to be saved you call Maverick.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:08 PM


Hmong Heroes May Have Seen CIA Nod for Coup: Allegedly Planned Overthrow of Government of Laos (JOSH GERSTEIN, September 25, 2008, NY Sun)

Evidence is mounting that at least some of the 11 men indicted in California last year for allegedly planning the overthrow of the government of Laos may have believed their plan had the tacit approval or even the outright support of the CIA.

Documents filed in federal court in Sacramento last week show that in 2004 a retired CIA employee held detailed discussions about a military intervention in Laos with one of the key defendants in the case, General Vang Pao, an aging Hmong leader who fought an American-backed secret war against the Laotian government in the 1960s and 1970s.

According to an FBI report, the former CIA operative, Michael Spak, told prosecutors and defense attorneys in the case last summer that he talked with the general for three to four hours about military tactics and provided him with written cost estimates and "talking points" for a military campaign.

Mr. Spak, who faces no charges, said the general wanted to work with the Lao government to ease the suffering of the Hmong people.

...you'd swear the Hmong used to beat us up on the playground because we seem to go out of our way to screw them over.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:45 PM


The One-State Solution: A two-state solution was a compromise. But talks have gone nowhere, so many Palestinians are giving up. (Sari Nusseibeh, 9/20/08, NEWSWEEK)

Israelis have long described their West Bank settlements—long fingers of territory that stretch along the north-south and east-west axes, serviced by highways, electrical networks, etc.—as organic extensions of the Israeli community. But Israeli construction has (again according to Peace Now) increased by 550 percent in the past year. This building, combined with that of the nearly complete separation wall or barrier, and reports that Israel wishes to maintain security control along the eastern edge of the Jordan Valley, sends another message: that Israel plans to hold onto the land for good. Combine this with the still unaddressed refugee problem, and it's no wonder many former two-staters are giving up hope.

It is important to remember that the Palestinian national movement only began to endorse the idea of a two-state solution 20 or 30 years ago, as a practical compromise. Realizing that Israel wasn't going anywhere, moderates decided that their best hope for a state was one alongside Israel, not one that sought to replace it. Yet the 15 years of negotiations that have followed have produced little, and thus it's no surprise that faith in this supposedly pragmatic option is waning. The lack of progress, as well as the unmistakably expansionist reality on the ground and the growth in popularity of Hamas, have left little room for anyone seeking a positive future for Palestine. Except, that is, to rejuvenate the old idea of one binational, secular and democratic state where Jewish and Arab citizens live side by side in equality.

Lord, pity a people who don't understand demographics.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:39 PM


Sarah Palin Surprises World's Women Leaders (Tammy Haddad, 9/25/08, Newsweek)

The political press may continue to grumble about their lack of access to GOP vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin. But the 100 powerful women gathered Wednesday to support the White Ribbon Alliance, an international group of organizations to prevent the death of women in childbirth, got a rare audience with the rising political star.

Wendi Deng Murdoch, wife of press baron Rupert Murdoch; Sarah Brown, wife of British Prime Minister Gordon Brown; and Queen Rania Al Abdullah of Jordan hosted the gathering to lead a discussion on how to reach the goal of the United Nations Millennium Project: to reduce the worldwide maternal mortality rate 75 percent by the year 2015. [...]

When CNN’s Christiane Amanpour asked Palin for an interview, she declined-but suggested that the vice-presidential candidates should step in for Friday’s scheduled presidential debate.

Careful, Joe Biden has already blown one aneurysm--don't scare him like that.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:34 PM


Iraq Reschedules Elections. Again. (Larry Kaplow, 9/24/08, Newsweek: Checkpoint Baghdad)

As he was installed in his new job as top commander in Iraq last week, Gen. Ray Odierno called the provincial elections "critical" for bringing stability and emphasized the expectation they would take place this year. The holding of provincial elections is one of the benchmarks Congress required the White House to use in measuring progress in Iraq.

But to the major Iraqi parties in power, the prospect of elections probably looks more like a threat. They're loath to admit it but members of mainstream Shiite parties worry they will lose governorships to loyalists of radical cleric Muqtada Sadr. The Sunni minority leaders in the government fear they will lose seats in Sunni areas to upstart tribal factions who take credit for fighting off al Qaeda and barely participated in the vote the last time around.

In July, NEWSWEEK talked to Baha al-Araji, one of those disaffected Sadr followers in the parliament, and he accused the leading parties of seeking to keep pushing the date into next year. Then, he said, they will argue that it just makes sense to postpone the local vote and hold it along with national elections for parliament at the end of 2009. It seemed a little conspiratorial at the time but only elections by the new deadline will prove him wrong to suspicious Iraqis.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:18 PM


What Happens When We Die? M.J. Stephey, 9/19/08, TIME)

A fellow at New York City's Weill Cornell Medical Center, Dr. Sam Parnia is one of the world's leading experts on the scientific study of death. Last week Parnia and his colleagues at the Human Consciousness Project announced their first major undertaking: a 3-year exploration of the biology behind "out-of-body" experiences. The study, known as AWARE (AWAreness during REsuscitation), involves the collaboration of 25 major medical centers through Europe, Canada and the U.S. and will examine some 1,500 survivors of cardiac arrest. TIME spoke with Parnia about the project's origins, its skeptics and the difference between the mind and the brain.

What sort of methods will this project use to try and verify people's claims of "near-death" experience?

When your heart stops beating, there is no blood getting to your brain. And so what happens is that within about 10 sec., brain activity ceases —as you would imagine. Yet paradoxically, 10% or 20% of people who are then brought back to life from that period, which may be a few minutes or over an hour, will report having consciousness. So the key thing here is, Are these real, or is it some sort of illusion? So the only way to tell is to have pictures only visible from the ceiling and nowhere else, because they claim they can see everything from the ceiling. So if we then get a series of 200 or 300 people who all were clinically dead, and yet they're able to come back and tell us what we were doing and were able see those pictures, that confirms consciousness really was continuing even though the brain wasn't functioning.

What was your first interview like with someone who had reported an out-of-body experience?

Eye-opening and very humbling. Because what you see is that, first of all, they are completely genuine people who are not looking for any kind of fame or attention. In many cases they haven't even told anybody else about it because they're afraid of what people will think of them. I have about 500 or so cases of people that I've interviewed since I first started out more than 10 years ago. It's the consistency of the experiences, the reality of what they were describing. I managed to speak to doctors and nurses who had been present who said these patients had told them exactly what had happened, and they couldn't explain it. I actually documented a few of those in my book What Happens When We Die because I wanted people to get both angles —not just the patients' side but also the doctors' side — and see how it feels for the doctors to have a patient come back and tell them what was going on. There was a cardiologist that I spoke with who said he hasn't told anyone else about it because he has no explanation for how this patient could have been able to describe in detail what he had said and done. He was so freaked out by it that he just decided not to think about it anymore.

There's a whole mess of stuff materialists are better off just not thinking about.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:40 AM


The Spies Who Love Obama: Why some of Bush's intel professionals are now working for a Democrat—and how they'd reform the CIA. Part Two in a series on the candidates' national security policies. (Laura Rozen, September 25, 2008, Mother Jones)

As has become painfully clear since 9/11, intelligence is only as good as the worldview of the person receiving it. The team of former intelligence professionals who have come together to advise Barack Obama describe a candidate who they believe is open-minded and intellectually inclined to absorb information... [...]

"Old man Bush was a great guy," says one veteran intelligence officer now supporting Obama, who requested anonymity. "He was truly interested and sensitive to intelligence. But this Bush administration has done terrible damage to the intelligence business. They have operated a perpetual campaign, treated intelligence as a political tool, and never fully appreciated why it must be non-partisan and objective and can't be tampered with."

...it's a selling point for the Left that the Unicorn Rider will do whatever the CIA tells him to. Of course, its propensity for always overestimating threats means that he'd do nothing, which is what the Realists prefer.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:30 AM


Poll: Backing for Obama lags earlier Dems (Jewish Telegraph, 09/25/2008)

Obama leads 57 percent to 30 percent among those polled in the American Jewish Committee's 2008 Annual Survey of American Jewish Opinion, with 13 percent undecided, but he significantly trails the Jewish vote for recent Democratic presidential candidates.

By contrast, John Kerry received 76 percent of the Jewish vote four years ago against George W. Bush, and in the three prior presidential elections, Democrats won 78 to 80 percent of Jewish votes.

And many of the 57% are just being PC. You thought the exit polling in FL diverged from the vote in '00? Wait'll you see '08.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:23 AM


Poll: Gregoire 50-48 (Seattle PI, 9/25/08)

A new SurveyUSA poll shows Gov. Chris Gregoire leading GOP opponent Dino Rossi 50 percent to 48 percent.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:17 AM


Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:04 AM


Deal said to be near on big financial bailout plan (Julie Hirschfeld Davis, 9/25/08, Associated Press)

President Bush is bringing presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain into negotiations on a $700 billion rescue of Wall Street as Democrats and Republicans near agreement on a bailout plan with more protections for taxpayers and new help for distressed homeowners.

Senior lawmakers and Bush administration officials have cleared away key obstacles to a deal on the unprecedented rescue, agreeing to include widely supported limits on pay packages for executives whose companies benefit.

By asking for Maverick's help W makes him look presidential and the prospect of him skipping the debate to work out the deal while the Unicorn Rider wanders about is enough to force Democrats to pass the package quickly. It's a mutual backscratch extravaganza.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:58 AM


WOLVERINE STATE POLL: TIED (TIME: The Page, September 25th, 2008)

NBC News Michigan numbers:

Obama 46, McCain 46

Poll has Schaffer closing on Udall (The Denver Post, 09/25/2008)
The Rasmussen Reports poll gives Udall a slim two-point lead over Schaffer, 46 percent to 44 percent. Rasmussen gave Udall a six-point lead in its survey a month ago, and the survey's authors said the latest numbers suggest the race is tightening. The telephone survey of 700 likely voters was conducted Tuesday and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:53 AM


Barney Frank: White House "Photo Op" Designed to Help McCain (Jake Tapper, September 25, 2008, Political Punch)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:28 AM

HE'S CIRCUMSUPERSIZED! (profanity alert):

WARNING: Do not be sipping your coffee while watching this, because we aren't buying you a new keyboard.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:21 AM


Buffett backs Treasury plan: Billionaire says market meltdown is 'an economic Pearl Harbor' (ERIK HOLM, 9/24/08, Bloomberg News)

Billionaire Warren Buffett, calling turmoil in the markets an "economic Pearl Harbor," said his $5 billion investment in Goldman Sachs Group is an endorsement of the Treasury's $700 billion bank rescue plan.

"I am betting on the Congress doing the right thing for the American public and passing this bill," Buffett said on cable channel CNBC Wednesday. "I certainly have a vote of confidence in Goldman and vote of confidence in Congress."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:07 AM


The Exception That Proves The Rule: How a state oil company succeeds—by not acting like one. (Robert Bryce, September 25, 2008, The American)

[A]t a time when most national oil companies—and most OPEC members—are seeing their output stagnate or decline, Petrobras, Brazil’s national oil company, is dramatically increasing its output.

And without that new Brazilian production, today’s oil prices would likely be higher. Between 1997 and 2007, Petrobras’s oil production doubled to about 2 million barrels per day. By 2015, the company expects its production to double again. At that level, Petrobras would be the undisputed energy superpower in the Western Hemisphere, with output almost twice that of national oil companies PDVSA of Venezuela or Mexico’s Pemex. And given its surging output, Brazil is reportedly interested in joining OPEC.

So how did Petrobras evolve into such a successful company while its fellow national oil companies have stalled? There are a number of reasons for its remarkable success, and most of them have to do with Petrobras’s embrace of capitalism and transparency. Now the world’s tenth-largest producer of liquid hydrocarbons, Petrobras has become an elite global energy player by doing what most other national oil companies refuse to do, including selling shares of the company to the public. And while many other big oil exporters, particularly within OPEC, either refuse to disclose their production data or publish fictitious numbers, Petrobras issues frequent press releases that discuss the latest developments within the company, including production trends, financial conditions, and new discoveries. And there have been plenty of new discoveries.

Last November, the company announced the discovery of the offshore Tupi field, a deposit that may hold 8 billion barrels of oil equivalent—one of the largest oil finds in decades. Since then, it has announced numerous smaller, but still significant, fields containing huge quantities of oil and gas. The Tupi discovery alone could make Brazil the 12th largest holder of oil reserves. (It currently ranks 17th.)

Those discoveries are remarkable when compared with the dismal results being reported by PDVSA and Pemex. Art Smith, a Houston-based energy investor and founder of Triple Double Advisors, an energy-focused investment fund, says that “Pemex and PDVSA don’t lack for available resources; they lack the intelligent allocation of capital and technical skill.”

...you'll be able to tell how out of touch the Beltway is with America's future by how little time they spend on Brazil, India, Indonesia, etc.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:05 AM


Aso has dragons to slay (Catherine Makino, 9/26/08, Asia Times)

An outspoken conservative, Aso does not hide his distaste for communism and supports a firm United States-Japan alliance. But what distinguishes him from other hawks in the LDP is his pragmatic approach and his disarming smile. [...]

Just where Aso stands on foreign policy can be gauged from a suggestion he made two years ago that it was time Japan began a debate on whether or not to acquire nuclear weapons.

But the new prime minister's most daunting challenge will be to revive the flagging economy and address the effects of the global financial turmoil. Some attribute the worsening situation in the agro-centric rural areas to reforms under Koizumi, especially the draconian cutting of large-scale public works projects which had created job opportunities.

"The crux of the problem lies in the fact that you now have a declining input into the economy, as you have a declining population, and the growth in productivity has not caught up,'' Taniguchi said.

...if there's no populace to utilize the structure?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:51 AM


'Change' election turns out conventional (JOHN F. HARRIS & JIM VANDEHEI, 9/25/08, Politico)

Recall the early promise of 2008: There would be two candidates who spent the past several years expressing disdain for the stale partisanship of Washington and the stupid pet tricks that characterize presidential campaigns. There was an electorate supposedly hungering not for a change of leaders but a change in the fundamental ways in which politicians compete and debate ideas and solve problems.

For the first time in over 30 years there would be a campaign with no one named Bush or Clinton on the ticket. New personalities would drive new coalitions, as some liberals embraced John McCain’s independent-mindedness and spontaneity and some conservatives responded to Obama's earnest appeals to transcend old ideological and cultural divides.

New personalities and new coalitions, in turn, would create a new map—as the whole nation would be in play rather than a targeted set of battleground states.

Well, forget it: Six weeks before Election Day, a day before the first scheduled debate, the forces of innovation and authenticity are being routed by the forces of conventionality and cliché.

...you'd do well to recall that the last two times we had match-ups with so little difference between two candidates with such modest ideas were Ford v. Carter and Bush v. Dukakis, which rendered one-termers in both cases. In the absence of distinct governing philosophies and/or political agendas both presidents found themselves prey to congresses that felt unfettered by the Executive. Considering that Maverick and the Unicorn Rider are both creatures of the legislature either is likely to be an even more trivial figure than those unillustrious predecessors. Add in the age and health of a President McCain and the big political question may be: Jeb or Sarah in '12?

Nominees in Need of Ideas (Michael Gerson, September 24, 2008, Washington Post)

A sitting president normally must accept the boring constraints of real-world choices. Campaigns can inhabit the utopia of their own ambitions.

But it is President Bush and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, by proposing the massive government purchase of bad debt, who have assumed the mantle of Franklin D. Roosevelt. It is John McCain and Barack Obama who are playing the role of Roosevelt's more timid, forgotten foils, "Martin, Barton and Fish." Having last week criticized the role of the Federal Reserve in bailouts -- demonstrating a tin ear of elephantine proportions -- McCain now calls for a bipartisan oversight board to review the government's rescue attempt.

Mankind perishes. The world grows dark. McCain calls for a review board.

Obama has been no better, responding with his usual mix of caution and blame. Having delayed the announcement of his own proposal to better gauge the political reception of Paulson's approach, Obama now helpfully adds that it "can't just be a plan for Wall Street, it has to be a plan for Main Street" -- stepping up to the crisis with his own emergency cliche plan.

The weakness of these reactions is disturbing in itself. It also symbolizes a larger reality. The 2008 presidential campaign has become notable for its vacuity and exceptional for lacking the exceptional.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:47 AM


What's the True Cost? (Robert J. Samuelson, September 25, 2008, Washington Post)

Love it or hate it, the true cost of Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson's proposed rescue of the financial system is not the sticker price of $700 billion. Conceivably, the government could make money; with glum assumptions, the losses would probably be less than $250 billion. No one knows the correct answer -- not Paulson, not Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke nor anyone else -- but here's how to think about the problem.

Under Paulson's proposal, the Treasury could buy distressed mortgage-backed securities. Consider a batch of hypothetical securities originally worth $100 million and paying an interest rate of 6 percent. They're no longer worth $100 million because half of the homeowners have stopped making their monthly payments. Suppose, then, that the government buys the mortgages for $50 million. It earns 6 percent on its $50 million, and if it borrowed money at 4 percent to buy the securities, it would make a tidy profit. If the government holds the securities until maturity and all the remaining homeowners repay their mortgages, the government would come out ahead.

...but it's just as bad an idea for the government to own such instruments in the longer term as it would have been for Bill Clinton to buy stocks with the SS Trust Fund. As a simple business proposition, snapping up this discounted debt is a no-brainer for the American tax-payers, but government oughtn't be in business. It would be acquiring too much power.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:30 AM


The modern Tory hero should be Jefferson: Daniel Hannan and Douglas Carswell unveil their plan for radical reform to decentralise power, make voting count and challenge apparats from Brussels to town halls (Daniel Hannan and Douglas Carswell, 24th September 2008, The Spectator)

In theory, Europeans find American elections vulgar and plutocratic. In practice, they find them utterly gripping. This is partly because the US is wealthy and powerful, but mainly because American campaigns, being more participatory than European ones, are more interesting.

All organisations grow according to the DNA encoded at the time of their conception. The US was founded in a revolt against a distant and autocratic regime. In consequence, its polity developed according to what we might call Jeffersonian principles: the idea that power should be diffused and that government officials, wherever possible, should be elected.

Most European constitutions, by contrast, were drawn up after the second world war. Their authors believed that democracy had led to fascism, and that the ballot box needed to be tempered by a class of sober functionaries who were invulnerable to public opinion.

The difference between the American and European approaches can be inferred from their foundational charters. The US Constitution, including all 27 amendments, is 7,600 words long, and is mainly preoccupied with the rights of the individual. The Lisbon Treaty contains 76,000 words and is chiefly concerned with the powers of the state. The American Constitution begins, ‘We, the people...’; the Treaty of Rome begins, ‘His Majesty the King of the Belgians...’

Americans pride themselves on having got away from titles and deference. Their rugged egalitarianism, they believe, is what makes New World politics more optimistic and less cynical than Old World politics. And they have a point. American political culture produced The West Wing, predicated on the idea that even the politicians you disagree with are patriots. Britain’s produced Yes, Minister and The Thick of It, predicated on the idea that all MPs are petty, jobbing crooks.

But a political culture is not some numinous entity that exists outside a nation’s institutions; rather, it emanates from those institutions. Congressmen would be every bit as stuck up as MEPs if they were protected by party lists. It’s just that party lists are unthinkable in a system where everyone from the sanitation officer to the DA is elected, where power is localised, and where politicians are selected through open primaries.

Imagine how open primaries would change the culture of Westminster.

Want to know what American Imperialism really consists of? It's the global obsession with our elections--made possible by the communications revolution--and the way it makes folks abroad frustrated that they don't have as much say in how they're governed.

Wall Street's Blow to US Prestige?: The surprising answer is no. Most business people still view the US as a beacon of free enterprise and praise its swift response to the crisis. (Jack Ewing, 9/25/08, Der Spiegel)

The boulevards of Paris are a pretty reliable place to troll for anti-American sentiment. And sure enough, self-described anarchist Bernard Barbry is happy to weigh in with his opinion of the U.S. financial system. "The banks have brought this on themselves, and they deserve what they get," says Barbry, out for a stroll on a busy street in southwestern Paris. Surprisingly, though, the retired journalist isn't predicting America's downfall. The U.S., he believes, will remain powerful, and the crisis on Wall Street won't affect Washington's influence on world affairs. "I like Americans," he says. [...]

As the world grapples with the fallout from Wall Street's shenanigans, there's no shortage of consternation, and even anger. But so far the international image of the U.S. economic model has shown amazing resilience. Lehman Brothers may be in the morgue and AIG on government-funded life support, but most businesspeople think the U.S. is more about Silicon Valley and Hollywood than the erstwhile dynamos of Wall Street. Even in China -- where broadcaster CCTV-2 has been running two hours of special programming every night about the financial crisis -- the U.S. is still a land to be emulated. "I see two Americas: One is wealth-creating, innovative, with people like Bill Gates, and the other is made up of speculators," says Wang Jianmao, an economics professor at China Europe International Business School in Shanghai. "China should learn more from wealth-creating America."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:33 AM


Barack Obama, David Cameron and CERN adverts baffle commuters: Mystery adverts featuring images of Barack Obama, David Cameron and the CERN particle collider have sparked debate among baffled commuters and bloggers. (Matthew Moore, 25 Sep 2008, Daily Telegraph)

The adverts, which all have bold black backgrounds, started appearing at London Underground stations and on trains earlier this week, and were published in several national newspapers this morning.

They contain no text, and there are few clues to what they are promoting.

...and Barrack Obama thinks he's Christ?

September 24, 2008

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:06 PM


Bush Boosts the Financial Plan — and McCain, Too (John D. McKinnon, 9/24/08, WSJ: Washington Wire)

Giving a political boost to Republican presidential nominee John McCain as well as his own financial rescue plan, President George W. Bush on Wednesday evening called for a summit meeting on the financial crisis on Thursday to include congressional leaders as well as the two major-party presidential candidates.

McCain called for exactly such a meeting on Wednesday afternoon, at the same time he announced he would be suspending his presidential campaign to focus on resolving the financial markets problems. McCain’s moves –- backed up by the White House announcement –- could give him a bit of momentum in voters’ eyes on the question of which candidate is better addressing the financial crisis. That in turn could help him close the advantage that his Democratic rival, Sen. Barack Obama, enjoys with voters on fixing the economy.

...but they're starting to figure it out. It'll be fun to watch over the next 24 hours as the Left and far Right go from claiming that Maverick bailed out of the debate because he was afraid to raging that it was a cynical ploy for political advantage. It's not that the latter is far from the truth, but they'll be furious that they were duped.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:45 PM


The Chosen One (Gary Smith, 12/23/96, Sports Illustrated)

It was ordinary. It was oh so ordinary. It was a salad, a dinner roll, a steak, a half potato, a slice of cake, a clinking fork, a podium joke, a ballroom full of white-linen-tablecloth conversation. Then a thick man with tufts of white hair rose from the head table. His voice trembled and his eyes teared and his throat gulped down sobs between words, and everything ordinary was cast out of the room.

He said, "Please forgive me...but sometimes I get very emotional...when I talk about my son.... My heart...fills with so...much...joy...when I realize...that this young man...is going to be able...to help so many people.... He will transcend this game...and bring to the world...a humanitarianism...which has never been known before. The world will be a better place to live in...by virtue of his existence...and his presence.... I acknowledge only a small part in that...in that I know that I was personally selected by God himself...to nurture this young man...and bring him to the point where he can make his contribution to humanity.... This is my treasure.... Please accept it...and use it wisely.... Thank you."

Blinking tears, the man found himself inside the arms of his son and the applause of the people, all up on their feet.

In the history of American celebrity, no father has ever spoken this way. Too many dads have deserted or died before their offspring reached this realm, but mostly they have fallen mute, the father's vision exceeded by the child's, leaving the child to wander, lost, through the sad and silly wilderness of modern fame.

So let us stand amidst this audience at last month's Fred Haskins Award dinner to honor America's outstanding college golfer of 1996, and take note as Tiger and Earl Woods embrace, for a new manner of celebrity is taking form before our eyes. Regard the 64-year-old African-American father, arm upon the superstar's shoulder, right where the chip is so often found, declaring that this boy will do more good for the world than any man who ever walked it. Gaze at the 20-year-old son, with the blood of four races in his veins, not flinching an inch from the yoke of his father's prophecy but already beginning to scent the complications. The son who stormed from behind to win a record third straight U.S. Amateur last August, turned pro and rang up scores in the 60s in 21 of his first 27 rounds, winning two PGA Tour events as he doubled and tripled the usual crowds and dramatically changed their look and age.

Now turn. Turn and look at us, the audience, standing in anticipation of something different, something pure. Quiet. Just below the applause, or within it, can you hear the grinding? That's the relentless chewing mechanism of fame, girding to grind the purity and the promise to dust. Not the promise of talent, but the bigger promise, the father's promise, the one that stakes everything on the boy's not becoming separated from his own humanity and from all the humanity crowding around him.

It's a fitting moment, while he's up there at the head table with the audience on its feet, to anoint Eldrick (Tiger) Woods—the rare athlete to establish himself immediately as the dominant figure in his sport—as SPORTS ILLUSTRATED'S 1996 Sportsman of the Year. And to pose a question: Who will win? The machine...or the youth who has just entered its maw?

Tiger Woods will win. He'll fulfill his father's vision because of his mind, one that grows more still, more willful, more efficient, the greater the pressure upon him grows.

The machine will win because it has no mind. It flattens even as it lifts, trivializes even as it exalts, spreads a man so wide and thin that he becomes margarine soon enough.

Tiger will win because of God's mind. Can't you see the pattern? Earl Woods asks. Can't you see the signs? "Tiger will do more than any other man in history to change the course of humanity," Earl says.

Sports history, Mr. Woods? Do you mean more than Joe Louis and Jackie Robinson, more than Muhammad Ali and Arthur Ashe? "More than any of them because he's more charismatic, more educated, more prepared for this than anyone."

Anyone, Mr. Woods? Your son will have more impact than Nelson Mandela, more than Gandhi, more than Buddha?

"Yes, because he has a larger forum than any of them. Because he's playing a sport that's international. Because he's qualified through his ethnicity to accomplish miracles. He's the bridge between the East and the West. There is no limit because he has the guidance. I don't know yet exactly what form this will take. But he is the Chosen One. He'll have the power to impact nations. Not people. Nations. The world is just getting a taste of his power."

Ah, the odd notion that ethnicity is signifigance.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:36 PM


Sarah Palin to Make SNL Cameo? (OK, 9/24/08)

Two weekends ago, Tina Fey ignited an internet sensation with her hilarious, spot-on spoof of Republican Vice-Presidential candidate Sarah Palin on the season premiere of Saturday Night Live. And now, according to sources close to the show, it looks like there's a possibility the Alaska Governor could get a chance to get her on-air revenge with a cameo appearance of her own!

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:30 PM


America rises to the occasion as storm heads for Europe: An almighty crash has been averted, very narrowly. There is no guarantee that the revolutionary actions of the US government will prevent a full-fledged global slump, but at least we now have a fighting chance. (Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, 21 Sep 2008, Daily Telegraph)

By taking the colossal wreckage of the credit bubble onto its own books in a $700bn (£382bn) taxpayer sink, Washington has forestalled a run on the world banking system, and may hopefully have saved the viable core of modern capitalism.

Hank Paulson's "Super Sink" is the "game changer" we have all been waiting for in this interminable crisis. It puts a floor under the toxic debt that is bleeding the banking system to death, and ends the downward spiral of CDOs, CLOs, HELOCs, and such instruments of leveraged excess that lie at root of the credit terror.

No doubt the Fed, the Treasury, and Congress have made a string of mistakes but they are now rising to the occasion – the reflexes of a wounded but still formidable superpower. The US has shown time and again that it has the institutions and flair to pull itself out of disaster.

We will find out soon enough whether the rest of the world can respond with such dispatch as the hurricane smashes into them. As of today, the core risk is no longer in the US. It has rotated to the weaker and more brittle polities of Europe, Latin America, and Asia – especially China.

You often hear chatter about how other economies are starting to matter and about other regions, if not regimes, approaching superpower status. The reality dawns....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:03 PM


Bush Invites McCain, Obama to White House To Discuss Bailout (JENNIFER LOVEN, 9/24/08, Associated Press)

The White House press secretary, Dana Perino, said Mr. Bush called Mr. Obama on tonight to extend the invitation.

She said the president and Mr. Obama spoke for several minutes and had a good conversation about the country's financial crisis.

Obama Agrees to Meet Bush Thursday in Washington (Mark Halperin, 9/24/08, TIME: The Page)
The meeting in Washington, DC will include Sen. McCain and other congressional leaders.

He couldn't not, could he?

It's not even his fault that he just got played by Maverick and W. It's just the dynamics of the situation.

Joint Statement of Sens. Obama and McCain on the Financial Crisis (WSJ: Washington Wire, 9/24/08)

Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. John McCain issued the following joint statement on the financial crisis, about six hours after agreeing to do so:

Joint Statement of Senator Barack Obama and Senator John McCain

“The American people are facing a moment of economic crisis. No matter how this began, we all have a responsibility to work through it and restore confidence in our economy. The jobs, savings, and prosperity of the American people are at stake.

“Now is a time to come together – Democrats and Republicans – in a spirit of cooperation for the sake of the American people. The plan that has been submitted to Congress by the Bush Administration is flawed, but the effort to protect the American economy must not fail.

This is a time to rise above politics for the good of the country. We cannot risk an economic catastrophe. Now is our chance to come together to prove that Washington is once again capable of leading this country.”

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:48 PM


Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:26 PM


McCain Calls for Debate Delay to Focus on Financial Crisis (Michael D. Shear and Robert Barnes, 9/24/08, Washington Post: The Trail)

Democratic rival Barack Obama declined to follow suit, saying he would return only if congressional leaders requested his presence and said there was no reason to suspend the campaign or delay Friday night's presidential debate.

A president, Obama said, "is going to have to deal with more than one thing at a time."

The dramatic events on the campaign trail began after Obama called McCain early this morning to seek a joint statement on on their goals for the bailout measure now being negotiated between Congress and the Bush administration. But before that statement was issued, McCain went before television cameras to say he was putting the campaign on hold and wanted to delay Friday night's presidential debate on foreign policy. Among other things, McCain senior adviser Steve Schmidt said McCain would begin unilaterally pulling down his campaign ads and cease fundraising.

"It has become clear that no consensus has developed to support the Administration's proposal,'' McCain said in a brief statement to reporters. "I do not believe that the plan on the table will pass as it currently stands, and we are running out of time.''

McCain said he is calling on President Bush "to convene a meeting with the leadership from both houses of Congress, including Senator Obama and myself. It is time for both parties to come together to solve this problem."

President Bush said he welcomed the gesture. "We are making progress in negotiations on the financial markets rescue legislation, but we have not finished it yet,'' said press secretary Dana Perino. "Bipartisan support from Sens. McCain and Obama would be helpful in driving to a conclusion.''

Reid Seeks McCain Pledge (Roll Call, September 24, 2008)
Fearing a political backlash against Democrats, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has told the White House that it must serve up support from Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) if it hopes to ensure bipartisan backing for a massive economic bailout package by week's end.

If W convenes the meeting how do Harry and Barry get out of going?

Boehner favors McCain proposal (Politico, 9/24/08, Patrick O'Connor)

“Our economy is facing unprecedented challenges, and we must work together to find a solution," Boehner said. "I strongly support Sen. McCain’s proposal for a bipartisan leadership meeting of both Houses of Congress, including Sen. McCain and Sen. Obama. Given that it is only a few months before a new President takes the oath of office, it is vital that the next president play an active role in crafting this critical plan.”

The reality is that people consider the growth of the economy to be almost exclusively a Republican concern (Democrats exist to redistribute wealth once it's been created), so any plan is going to be associated with Senator McCain. Make him the party spokesman on the deal, put him in the pictures with W and Congressional Democrats and let the Unicorn Rider traipse around the country demonstrating how superfluous he is to governance.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:35 PM


McCain taking ads down (Jonathan Martin, 9/24/08, Politico)

Aiming to prove how serious he is about addressing the financial crisis, John McCain has instructed his staff to take all his campaign commercials off the air, a spokesman tells Politico.

"As John McCain said, now is the time to put partisanship aside and come together to do the work that the American people expect," said Tucker Bounds.

...but it's vital to be seen to be doing something.

Similarly, with the Paulson Plan none of the details matter as much as passing something.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:29 PM


Our Generals Almost Cost Us Iraq (MACKUBIN THOMAS OWENS, 9/24/08, Wall Street Journal)

In late 2006, President Bush, like President Lincoln in 1862, adopted a new approach to the war. He replaced the uniformed and civilian leaders who were adherents of the failed operational approach with others who shared his commitment to victory rather than "playing for a tie." In Gen. David Petraeus, Mr. Bush found his Ulysses Grant, to execute an operational approach based on sound counterinsurgency doctrine. This new approach has brought the U.S. to the brink of victory.

Although the conventional narrative about the Iraq war is wrong, its persistence has contributed to the most serious crisis in civil-military relations since the Civil War. According to Mr. Woodward's account, the uniformed military not only opposed the surge, insisting that their advice be followed; it then subsequently worked to undermine the president once he decided on another strategy.

In one respect, the actions taken by military opponents of the surge, e.g. "foot-dragging," "slow-rolling" and selective leaking are, unfortunately, all-too-characteristic of U.S. civil-military relations during the last decade and a half. But the picture Mr. Woodward draws is far more troubling. Even after the policy had been laid down, the bulk of the senior U.S. military leadership -- the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, the rest of the Joint Chiefs, and Gen. Abizaid's successor, Adm. William Fallon, actively worked against the implementation of the president's policy.

If Mr. Woodward's account is true, it means that not since Gen. McClellan attempted to sabotage Lincoln's war policy in 1862 has the leadership of the U.S. military so blatantly attempted to undermine a president in the pursuit of his constitutional authority. It should be obvious that such active opposition to a president's policy poses a threat to the health of the civil-military balance in a republic.

...at the end of the day they're just bureaucrats.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:25 PM


The Fall of the Phillies (Joe Posnanski, 9/24/08)

[T]oday’s topic is possibly the most famous collapse in baseball history, the fall of 1964 Phillies, and also my good friend Bob Dutton. Bob is now the excellent Royals beat writer for the Kansas City Star and the president of the Baseball Writers Association of America … more to today’s point, though, he was a 9-year-old Philadelphia Phillies fan in 1964. He lived that collapse. It shaped him. As I watch the Mets try to fall apart in the final weeks for the second straight year (and also the Brewers) I think of those 9-year-old Mets fans (and also Brewers fans), who will take this with them forever.

We can start our sad tale on Sept. 20, 1964, when the Phillies beat the Dodgers 3-2. JIm Bunning threw a five-hitter that day — both the runs he gave up were unearned and due to a Vic Power error — and the victory gave the Phillies a 6 1/2 game lead with 12 games to play. Bob remembers that the Wilmington Morning News ran a magic number on the front page — not the front of sports but the front page of the entire paper, which impressed him — and he remembers so clearly seeing that the Magic Number was 7. He remembers seeing that, of course, because it would stay at 7 for a very, very long time.

Funny thing is, even at age 9 Bob knew what most clear-thinking Philadelphia fans knew — the Phillies were winning with smoke, mirrors, trap doors, wires, sleight of hand, David Copperfield arrogance, planted audience members and all sorts of other magician tricks.

Bob says: “Yes, Richie Allen was a wonderful rookie talent. Johnny Callison was having a deal-with-the-devil year. Jim Bunning and Chris Short, especially Bunning, were terrific and capable of beating anyone. Gene Mauch was then, as he always would be, at his best in milking the maximum from an underdog club. … Even so, as the summer unfolded, the Phillies hung in there. You kept waiting for the collapse. We all did, really. I mean, we knew the Phillies weren’t as good as the Dodgers or the Giants or the Reds or the Cardinals. But they kept defying the odds.”

I remember this feeling in Kansas City in 2003. You KNEW the Royals weren’t good enough, and yet the summer went along and they stayed in first place, and after a while you just shrugged and decided that maybe they had the blessings of the gods. They didn’t, of course. But the Royals had the good sense to fall out of things early enough to make the year still seem cheerful. By September 20th, even the most cynical of Phillies fans had to move all his chips in with this team. Nobody blows a 6 1/2 game lead with 12 games to go.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:15 PM


McCain Seeks to Delay Debate (AP, 9/24/08)

Republican John McCain says he's directing his staff to work with Barack Obama's campaign and the debate commission to delay Friday's debate because of the economic crisis.

How'd his campaign ever let the Unicorn Rider get a Friday night debate in the first place? There's a reason you release bad news then.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:12 PM


Bushism of the Day (Jacob Weisberg, Sept. 24, 2008, Slate)

"We're fixing to go down to Galveston and obviously are going to see a devastated part of this fantastic state."—Houston, Sept. 16, 2008

I don't get it. Are Galveston and Houston not in the same state or something?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:33 PM


NPR Poll: Obama, McCain Even In Swing States (Mara Liasson, September 24, 2008, Morning Edition)

Even though the two candidates are viewed favorably by about the same number of people, there are some big cultural splits. Of people who get their coffee at Starbucks, 42 percent favor Obama while 39 percent prefer McCain. Of people who frequent Wal-Mart, 58 percent favor McCain while 33 percent prefer Obama.

There's an excellent popular expression of the sort of anti-elitism that Democrats fail to understand in the new McDonald's coffee ads, where normal people are miserable because they have to pretend they like Starbucks.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:30 PM


A Stunning Pro-Drilling Victory : On October 1, 2008, the congressional bans on domestic offshore drilling will at last expire. (Phil Kerpen, 9/24/08, National Review)

The normal process of funding the U.S. government through appropriations bills broke down this year, forcing Congress to prepare a continuing resolution to keep the government funded at last year’s levels. Proponents of American oil and gas production have long suspected that the Democrats would use the resolution to hide an extension of the wildly unpopular bans on offshore drilling and oil-shale development. The theory was that by simply extending last year’s Interior Appropriations act, which included the bans, they could hide an extension without even mentioning it in the text of the bill.

To pre-empt this strategy, Jim DeMint in the Senate and Jeb Hensarling and John Shadegg in the House collected signatures from enough members of Congress to make it clear that an expected presidential veto of any such extension of the drilling ban would be sustained. Meanwhile, free-market and conservative groups presented a united front to Congress and the White House, urging lawmakers to let the ban expire. Facing organized opposition in Congress and overwhelming public opinion in favor of drilling, Democrats signaled late last week that a continuing resolution would not include an extension of the drilling bans.

But that’s when the financial crisis struck and everything on Capitol Hill was thrown into the air.

With the Treasury’s proposed financial-market intervention drawing attention away from the energy debate, anti-drilling House Democrats were temporarily emboldened. On Monday they inserted language into their continuing-resolution draft that would permanently ban oil drilling within 50 miles of the U.S. coast, where the vast majority of offshore oil and gas is believed to be.

Their political calculation was that the White House would be willing to sign this into law and go along with the charade that it represented a real increase in offshore drilling. That calculation was wrong. News broke last night that President Bush threatened to veto the continuing resolution unless it allowed the bans to cleanly expire. As a result, Democrats backed down — no doubt aware of the strength of public opinion on the underlying policy issue.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:55 AM


Look Who's Irrational Now (MOLLIE ZIEGLER HEMINGWAY, 9/19/08, Wall Street Journal)

The reality is that the New Atheist campaign, by discouraging religion, won't create a new group of intelligent, skeptical, enlightened beings. Far from it: It might actually encourage new levels of mass superstition. And that's not a conclusion to take on faith -- it's what the empirical data tell us.

"What Americans Really Believe," a comprehensive new study released by Baylor University yesterday, shows that traditional Christian religion greatly decreases belief in everything from the efficacy of palm readers to the usefulness of astrology. It also shows that the irreligious and the members of more liberal Protestant denominations, far from being resistant to superstition, tend to be much more likely to believe in the paranormal and in pseudoscience than evangelical Christians.

The Gallup Organization, under contract to Baylor's Institute for Studies of Religion, asked American adults a series of questions to gauge credulity. Do dreams foretell the future? Did ancient advanced civilizations such as Atlantis exist? Can places be haunted? Is it possible to communicate with the dead? Will creatures like Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster someday be discovered by science?

The answers were added up to create an index of belief in occult and the paranormal. While 31% of people who never worship expressed strong belief in these things, only 8% of people who attend a house of worship more than once a week did.

Even among Christians, there were disparities. While 36% of those belonging to the United Church of Christ, Sen. Barack Obama's former denomination, expressed strong beliefs in the paranormal, only 14% of those belonging to the Assemblies of God, Sarah Palin's former denomination, did. In fact, the more traditional and evangelical the respondent, the less likely he was to believe in, for instance, the possibility of communicating with people who are dead.

...but 13% of them do believe in the Darwinian Fairy Tale.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:13 AM


Fears grow in Lebanon as 10,000 Syrian troops arrive on the border (Nicholas Blanford, 9/24/08, Times of London)

Syria has massed thousands of troops along its border with northern Lebanon in what officials in Beirut fear is a prelude to the first incursion since Syrian forces pulled out three years ago.

Although Damascus insists that its forces are conducting an antismuggling operation, the Lebanese Government is eyeing the moves with unease, believing that the unusual scale of the deployment has more to do with tensions between the two countries over recent sectarian clashes in northern Lebanon.

...that Baby Assad would hand W the pretext he needs to finish the WoT during his Administration, isn't it?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:06 AM


Japan's new PM vows to revive ailing economy (JOSEPH COLEMAN, 9/24/08, AP)

Outspoken conservative Taro Aso took power as Japan's prime minister Wednesday, promising "emergency measures" to revive the ailing economy and vowing to keep Tokyo in the fight against global terrorism. [...]

Aso announced no details, but he has backed using fiscal spending to stave off a deep recession, and said he would not consider raising the 5 percent consumption tax for at least three years.

The right-leaning political blueblood - his grandfather was a prominent postwar prime minister - also said he would push to extend Japan's maritime anti-terror mission in the Indian Ocean, despite the opposition's attempts to block it.

"The mission is not for Afghanistan, the U.S. or for Pakistan, but it's a responsibility as a member of the international community to fight against terrorism," Aso said. "We must continue the mission by all means."

Aso, Japan's first Catholic leader, will lead a country wracked by political divisions and spiking concerns over the economy, which has stalled amid the ballooning financial crisis in the United States.

...just so that our president isn't the liberal sore thumb when the conservative leaders of the West gather.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:34 AM


Red Dusk: The Rosenberg bombshell (Martin Peretz, 10/08/08, The New Republic)

In all, communism has slaughtered well over 100 million, and still counting. How many souls its rule also ruined is harder to know. A new book, The Forsaken by Tim Tzouliadis, the existence of which I first noticed in a review by the myth-breaking American historian Ronald Radosh in National Review, unveils a wholly new topic: the deadly fate of the thousands of American communists and sympathizers who went to the Soviet Union to build socialism. For many, this was another form of aliyah, except not to the Jewish homeland that turned out to be a success, but to the fatherland of labor that ended in political, ideological, economic, demographic, and ethical ruin, not to mention the gulag.

In America and in other Western societies, however, there still remain coteries of intellectuals and other high-minded people who have trouble absorbing the simplest historic truths, truths which ordinary workers in highly ideological Labour England, say, have had absolutely no difficulties absorbing. Even more so among unionized workers in the United States. The blindness of these meta-minds does not quite absolve Stalin of his crimes--but it willfully looks away from those of Castro or Che, who still hold a special place in the hearts of people calling themselves progressives. [...]

[T]hey no longer deny Stalin's crimes. They compare them to the crimes of others ... favorably. The exemplary master of this distorted moral relativism is George Steiner, thought of otherwise, if anyone still thinks of him at all, as a prophet of moral absolutism. You know the type: a person who cannot tolerate an Israeli lifting a gun. But, for his own sentimental purposes, Steiner does make comparisons: "[T]o infer," he writes in criticism of Solzhenitsyn's The Gulag Archipelago, "that the Soviet terror is as hideous as Hitlerism is not only a brutal simplification but a moral indecency."

Last week, a bunker-buster hit the carefully preserved world of the postfellow-traveling fellow-traveler. No longer advertising the kindnesses of Stalin, as Lillian Hellman used to do, this strange but numerous social type had clung to the innocence and idealism of Stalin's sympathizers. They still think Alger Hiss innocent, Dalton Trumbo honest, Hellman a heroine, Elia Kazan a rat. In this world, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were sent to their deaths pure as the driven snow, their only sin being belief in ... well, in what did they actually believe? In Marx, in Lenin, in Stalin, in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, devout, deluded, and disloyal to the country in which they lived.

There is a whole culture in America that has believed the innocence of the Rosenbergs as doctrine and dogma. The texts of this culture are not scrupulous histories because such histories would undermine its beliefs. They are, instead, one novel and one play, fiction being more amenable to false history, both these cases being tales of the Rosenbergs' innocence. The narrative is E.L. Doctorow's The Book of Daniel, a best-selling book of the 1970s. The drama is Tony Kushner's phantasmagoric Angels in America, which won the Pulitzer Prize and features Ethel haunting the last days of Roy Cohn, who had been on the legal team prosecuting the Rosenbergs and boasted in his autobiography of convincing the judge to sentence them to death, an ugly boast about an ugly deed by an ugly man. The position of these literary works tells you something about the culture in which they still shine. [...]

I wonder what the folks around The Nation were feeling when their underlying sense of postwar America essentially collapsed last week. And what Victor Navasky, its pater familias, is feeling, too. He has been the cheerleader of the "everybody was innocent" school in American sentimental thought about communism and its fellow-travelers. Hiss was innocent. The Rosenbergs were innocent. It was all a search for witches, as Arthur Miller tried to tell us in The Crucible. Except that there were no witches in seventeenth-century New England, not even in Salem. But there were communists who were disloyal to their country and communist spies who acted against their country.

...until he slips into the canard that has benefited the Progressives too--the inefficacy of witchcraft is not the absence of witches.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:22 AM


Militants shake off Pakistan's grip (Syed Saleem Shahzad, 9/24/08, Asia Times)

Journalist Rahimullah Yousufzai, a renowned expert on Pashtun culture, tribalism and the Taliban, argues that just as Islamabad's elite, foreign diplomats and undercover international intelligence agents are devastated by the Marriott bombing, the tribals are equally incensed by the daily aerial bombardment of Bajaur Agency and Dara Adam Khel in Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas.

The Pakistani security forces don't make any concessions for the holy Muslim month of Ramadan and its main rituals, such as the pre-dawn feast (sahur) and the evening breaking of the fast (Iftar).

The tribals believe that non-Pashtun Pakistanis don't care about the massacre of Pashtun tribes by the security forces or the large-scale displacement of people - over 400,000 have been displaced from Bajaur during recent operations there.

The upshot is that the writ of the state of Pakistan has been reduced to the offices of the chief minister and the governor's house in the capital of North-West Frontier Province (NWFP), Peshawar.

Information gathered by Asia Times Online through contacts in the Taliban suggests that over the past few months of military activities in the tribal areas, the Taliban have identified the main weakness of the Pakistani security forces in Bajaur - they cannot take control of land. Instead, they have resorted to aerial bombing, which allows the militants to easily take shelter in the maze of mountains that runs across the border into the Afghan province of Kunar.

If the Pakistani forces do try to establish land control, militants can quickly return to Bajaur and force them to retreat.

That's it in a nutshell: no one cares what happens in this historically ungoverned and ungovernable region. It's a free-fire zone.

The failure to conform to civilizational norms has consequences.

Afghan Leader Sees 'First' Hope in Winning Anti-Terror War (AFP, 9/24/08)

Karzai also endorsed a plan voiced by his defense minister for a joint US-Afghan-Pakistani military task force that would be empowered to operate on both sides of the border.

"A force to act together on two sides of the border? A new idea but a welcome idea, I'll back it," he said to a question.

He also said that any surge in international troops for the war in Afghanistan should be involved in flushing out militants in border "sanctuaries" in Pakistan instead of penetrating deeper into Afghan villages.

Underlining the need to have a regional approach to fighting terrorism, Karzai said any assault should be "concentrated on the sanctuaries -- on those that train extremists, equip extremists, motivate extremists and then send them across" to Afghanistan.

"The surge, in other words, will work only if you concentrate the deployment of troops at the right places where we need them," he said.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:18 AM


Markets boosted as Warren Buffett invests $5bn in Goldman Sachs (David Teather and Graeme Wearden, 9/23/08, guardian.co.uk)

Warren Buffett today agreed to invest $5bn (£2.7bn) in Goldman Sachs, giving the bank a strong vote of confidence following the tumultuous Wall Street events of the past few weeks.

Analysts hailed the move by Buffett - known as the Sage of Omaha - as a sign that some stability could be returning to the markets. UBS called it "the ultimate stamp of approval".

So why is his fair-haired boy, Senator Obama, running around saying the sky is falling?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:13 AM


After Milwaukee: The most heralded experiment in education teaches us valuable lessons. (Frederick M. Hess, September 24, 2008, The American)

Despite political victories, early promises about school choice have lost much of their luster. While research suggests that some participating students benefit from private school vouchers, these results may largely reflect the ability of students in places like New York City or Washington, D.C. to find empty seats in established parochial schools. There is little evidence that voucher or choice programs have succeeded in fostering the emergence or expansion of high-quality options.

Similar concerns plague the charter movement nationally, even as the number of charter schools has surged above 4,000 and charter enrollment has passed the one million mark. The U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics has compared the performance of students in district and charter schools, reporting, “After adjusting for student characteristics, charter school mean scores in reading and mathematics were lower, on average, than those for public noncharter schools.” While there is reason to be quite cautious about inferring policy implications from such research—because it cannot determine how much students are actually learning during the school year and because charters spend less than do district schools—the results are hardly compelling. Stig Leschly, executive director of the Newark Charter School Fund, has observed that only about 200 of the thousands of existing charter schools “really close the achievement gap.” Nelson Smith, president of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, has argued for stepping up efforts to “cull the bottom-feeders.”

Milwaukee illustrates the uneven quality of new providers and reminds us that high performing schools are (like so many nonprofits) ill-equipped to expand in response to demand. Indeed, it has taken the celebrated KIPP schools—operated by an organization lauded for its aggressive expansion—14 years to grow to 65 schools enrolling 16,000 students in a nation where 95,000 K–12 district schools enroll 50 million students. Even today, the national KIPP network serves just one-sixth as many students as the Milwaukee public school system. The struggle to find capital and talent, overcome regulatory obstacles, and maintain quality has forced even growth-minded KIPP to move at a pace that would be considered maddeningly slow in almost any other sector (14 years, after all, was more than enough time for ventures like Google, Microsoft, and Amazon to grow from boutique firms to omnipresent brands serving millions of customers).

Milwaukee isn’t the only city where choice advocates have been disappointed by developments. Among the eight cities where charter schools enroll 20 percent or more of students are Detroit, Michigan; Youngstown, Ohio; and Washington, D.C. In 2007, Education Week reported that, despite a substantial charter presence, Detroit had the highest dropout rate among the nation’s large school systems. A 2008 analysis found that just 57 percent of Youngstown’s charter schools, and just 38 percent of its district schools, met Ohio’s growth targets for student improvement in reading and math.

In a 2007 study of Washington, D.C., which has one of the nation’s highest rates of charter school enrollment, researchers Margaret Sullivan, Dean Campbell, and Brian Kisida found no evidence of improvement in D.C. public schools even as they lost nearly a third of their students to charter school competition. They traced inaction to a district “hampered by political dynamics and burdensome regulations.” They explained, “District leaders, preoccupied with leadership problems and administrative headaches, have concentrated their efforts on politics, budgeting, and school choice, leaving individual schools to respond to charter school competition on their own,” and principals have not responded “to competition from charter schools in the ways that elites expected because they do not have the appropriate autonomy and resources to do so.”

This is something less than was advertised. In fact, a decade ago, when charter and voucher enrollment was only a fraction of today’s, some proponents claimed the fruits of competition were already obvious. In 1999, David Osborne, coauthor of Reinventing Government, wrote in The New Republic, “Those who invented charter schools . . . wanted to improve all 88,000 public schools in the country [and] . . . empirical studies have demonstrated that, indeed, competition works just as the reformers predicted.” That same year, the Heritage Foundation’s Nina Rees reported, “Though still in their infancy, school choice programs have improved overall student academic achievement in public schools.”

In romanticizing school choice, enthusiasts have typically made two key mistakes. First, they have not fully considered what it takes for market-based reform to deliver results at scale. Second, they have mistaken the presence of choice for the reality of competition. Unless these challenges are addressed, political victories will prove pyrrhic—yielding modest results, sowing disillusionment, and fostering the perception that choice was just one more educational fad.

There's an exquisite irony in the fact that the Catholic Church, hardly identified with capitalism and libertarianism, affords the only consistently good alternative for those with a choice.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:27 AM


China's leaders brace for battle with regions (Willy Lam, 9/25/08, Asia Times)

The Hu-Wen team's worst headache could come from CCPCC members from the regions, who will be lobbying aggressively for Beijing to loosen its tight monetary policy as well as to boost transfer payments and preferential policies for provinces and cities hard hit by economic doldrums, such as the closure of medium-sized factories and falling property prices.

Moreover, the "warlords" - a reference to resourceful regional party secretaries, governors and mayors - have continued to resist the central authorities' (zhongyang) decade-long objective of streamlining the grassroots bureaucracy.

The agenda of the third plenum of the party's 17th Central Committee is ostensibly to discuss agricultural issues. Yet given the post-Olympics economic downturn, political analysts in Beijing say a major leitmotif of the conclave will be how to ensure that the hard times will not exacerbate already severe "contradictions within the people". There are signs that the nightmare the CCP leadership fears most may come to pass sooner than anticipated: members of the middle class joining "disadvantaged sectors" such as peasants and migrant workers in staging protests and even riots to vent their grievances. [...]

At least on the surface, two major post-Olympics disasters might create more incentives for the Hu-Wen leadership to crack the whip on regional bureaucracies. The first is the mass poisoning of babies and small children who have taken milk powder contaminated with the lethal chemical melamine. More than 53,000 infants have become ill - and at least four have died - after imbibing the tainted milk product, which is manufactured by Sanlu, a dairy company based in Hebei province. Given that Hebei police knew about irregularities in the company as early as May, suspicions of a cover-up have focused on senior Hebei leaders. The latter are said to be on good terms with the bosses of Sanlu, which contributed 330 million yuan of taxes to provincial coffers last year.

The other incident was the death of 254 residents in Xiangfen county, Shanxi province, in a mudslide earlier this month. The accident was triggered by the collapse of the retaining wall of an illegal mining dump containing tons of liquid iron ore waste. These two disasters have apparently given Beijing the pretext to take action against dereliction of duty and other mistakes on the part of regional officials.

September 23, 2008

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:17 PM


Southern Fried Chicken (Jeanne Logan, 09/23/2008, Contra Costa Times)

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon sea salt

Ground black pepper, to taste

1 tablespoon garlic powder

1 tablespoon garlic salt

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1 tablespoon Lawry's seasoned salt

1 teaspoon paprika

1 cup panko (see note)

1 cup buttermilk

2 eggs

About 1 quart vegetable oil for frying

1 3-pound whole chicken, cut into pieces

1. On a large plate, mix flour with salt, pepper, garlic powder, garlic salt, thyme, Lawry's seasoned salt and paprika. Set aside.

2. Spread panko on a separate plate. Set aside. Mix buttermilk and eggs in a large bowl. Set aside.

3. Add ½-inch to ¾-inch vegetable oil to a large, seasoned, cast-iron skillet or an electric skillet. Heat to 365 degrees. Measure the temperature with a candy or deep-frying thermometer.

4. As the oil heats, line a baking sheet with waxed paper or parchment paper. Set aside. Dip chicken pieces in buttermilk-and-egg mixture. Coat in seasoned flour mixture, then coat in panko. Place the chicken pieces on the prepared baking sheet.

5. Once the oil reaches 365 degrees, transfer coated chicken pieces to hot oil. Cover and fry until golden brown, turning twice. Total cooking time: about 15 to 20 minutes. Remove cooked chicken from hot oil and drain on paper towels.

6. Use a skimmer to remove burned bits of chicken and breading from the hot oil.

Add the next batch of chicken and cook as described above. Alternatively, if the oil looks too dirty, discard it, wipe the skillet clean, add fresh oil and continue with the rest of the cooking directions. Serve hot.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:17 PM


President Bush Addresses United Nations General Assembly (George W. Bush, 9/23/08, United Nations Headquarters, New York, New York)

Mr. Secretary General, distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen: I'm pleased to be here to address the General Assembly.

Sixty-three years ago, representatives from around the world gathered in San Francisco to complete the founding of the Charter of the United Nations. They met in the shadow of a devastating war, with grave new dangers on the horizon. They agreed on a historic pledge: "to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, and unite their strength to maintain international peace and security."

This noble pledge has endured trying hours in the United Nations' history, and it still guides our work today. Yet the ideals of the Charter are now facing a challenge as serious as any since the U.N.'s founding -- a global movement of violent extremists. By deliberately murdering the innocent to advance their aims, these extremists defy the fundamental principles of international order. They show contempt for all who respect life and value human dignity. They reject the words of the Bible, the Koran, the Torah, or any standard of conscience or morality. They imperil the values of justice and human rights that gave birth to the United Nations -- values that have fueled an unprecedented expansion of freedom across the world.

To uphold the words of the Charter in the face of this challenge, every nation in this chamber has responsibilities. As sovereign states, we have an obligation to govern responsibly, and solve problems before they spill across borders. We have an obligation to prevent our territory from being used as a sanctuary for terrorism and proliferation and human trafficking and organized crime. We have an obligation to respect the rights and respond to the needs of our people.

Multilateral organizations have responsibilities. For eight years, the nations in this assembly have worked together to confront the extremist threat. We witnessed successes and setbacks, and through it all a clear lesson has emerged: The United Nations and other multilateral organizations are needed more urgently than ever. To be successful, we must be focused and resolute and effective. Instead of only passing resolutions decrying terrorist attacks after they occur, we must cooperate more closely to keep terrorist attacks from happening in the first place. Instead of treating all forms of government as equally tolerable, we must actively challenge the conditions of tyranny and despair that allow terror and extremism to thrive. By acting together to meet the fundamental challenge of our time, we can lead toward a world that is more secure, and more prosperous, and more hopeful.

In the decades ahead, the United Nations and other multilateral organizations must continually confront terror. This mission requires clarity of vision. We must see the terrorists for what they are: ruthless extremists who exploit the desperate, subvert the tenets of a great religion, and seek to impose their will on as many people as possible. Some suggest that these men would pose less of a threat if we'd only leave them alone. Yet their leaders make clear that no concession could ever satisfy their ambitions. Bringing the terrorists to justice does not create terrorism -- it's the best way to protect our people.

Multilateral organizations must respond by taking an unequivocal moral stand against terrorism. No cause can justify the deliberate taking of innocent human life -- and the international community is nearing universal agreement on this truth. The vast majority of nations in this assembly now agree that tactics like suicide bombing, hostage-taking and hijacking are never legitimate. The Security Council has passed resolutions declaring terror unlawful and requiring all nations to crack down on terrorist financing. And earlier this month, the Secretary General held a conference to highlight victims of terror, where he stated that terrorism can never be justified.

Other multilateral organizations have spoken clearly, as well. The G8 has declared that all terrorist acts are criminal and must be universally condemned. And the Secretary General of the Organization of the Islamic Conference recently spoke out against a suicide bombing, which he said runs counter to the teachings of Islam. The message behind these statements is resolutely clear: Like slavery and piracy, terrorism has no place in the modern world.

Around the globe, nations are turning these words into action. Members of the United Nations are sharing intelligence with one another, conducting joint operations, and freezing terrorist finances. While terrorists continue to carry out attacks like the terrible bombing in Islamabad last week, our joint actions have spared our citizens from many devastating blows.

With the brutal nature of the extremists increasingly clear, the coalition of nations confronting terror is growing stronger. Over the past seven years, Afghanistan and Iraq have been transformed from regimes that actively sponsor terror to democracies that fight terror. Libya has renounced its support for terror and its pursuit of nuclear weapons. Nations like Saudi Arabia and Pakistan are actively pursuing the terrorists. A few nations -- regimes like Syria and Iran -- continue to sponsor terror. Yet their numbers are growing fewer, and they're growing more isolated from the world.

As the 21st century unfolds, some may be tempted to assume that the threat has receded. This would be comforting; it would be wrong. The terrorists believe time is on their side, so they made waiting out civilized nations part of their strategy. We must not allow them to succeed. The nations of this body must stand united in the fight against terror. We must continue working to deny the terrorists refuge anywhere in the world, including ungoverned spaces. We must remain vigilant against proliferation -- by fully implementing the terms of Security Council Resolution 1540, and enforcing sanctions against North Korea and Iran. We must not relent until our people are safe from this threat to civilization.

To uphold the Charter's promise of peace and security in the 21st century, we must also confront the ideology of the terrorists. At its core, the struggle against extremists is a battle of ideas. The terrorists envision a world in which religious freedom is denied, women are oppressed, and all dissent is crushed. The nations of this chamber must present a more hopeful alternative -- a vision where people can speak freely, and worship as they choose, and pursue their dreams in liberty.

Advancing the vision of freedom serves our highest ideals, as expressed in the U.N.'s Charter's commitment to "the dignity and worth of the human person." Advancing this vision also serves our security interests. History shows that when citizens have a voice in choosing their own leaders, they are less likely to search for meaning in radical ideologies. And when governments respect the rights of their people, they're more likely to respect the rights of their neighbors.

For all these reasons, the nations of this body must challenge tyranny as vigorously as we challenge terror. Some question whether people in certain parts of the world actually desire freedom. This self-serving condescension has been disproved before our eyes. From the voting booths of Afghanistan, Iraq, and Liberia, to the Orange Revolution in Ukraine and the Rose Revolution in Georgia, to the Cedar Revolution in Lebanon and the Tulip Revolution in Kyrgyzstan, we have seen people consistently make the courageous decision to demand their liberty. For all the suggestions to the contrary, the truth is that whenever or wherever people are given the choice, they choose freedom.

Nations in these chambers have supported the efforts of dissidents and reformers and civil society advocates in newly free societies throughout the new United Nations Democracy Fund. And we appreciate those efforts. And as young democracies around the world continue to make brave stands for liberty, multilateral organizations like the United Nations must continue to stand with them.

In Afghanistan, a determined people are working to overcome decades of tyranny, and protect their newly-free society. They have strong support from all 26 nations of the NATO Alliance. I appreciate the United Nations' decision this week to renew the mandate for the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan. The United Nations is also an active civilian presence in Afghanistan, where experts are doing important work helping to improve education, facilitate humanitarian aid, and protect human rights. We must continue to help the Afghan people defend their young democracy -- so the Taliban does not return to power, and Afghanistan is never again a safe haven for terror.

In Iraq, the fight has been difficult, yet daily life has improved dramatically over the past 20 months -- thanks to the courage of the Iraqi people, a determined coalition of nations, and a surge of American troops. The United Nations has provided the mandate for multinational forces in Iraq through this December. And the United Nations is carrying out an ambitious strategy to strengthen Iraq's democracy, including helping Iraqis prepare for their next round of free elections. Whatever disagreements our nations have had on Iraq, we should all welcome this progress toward stability and peace -- and we should stand united in helping Iraq's democracy succeed.

We must stand united in our support of other young democracies, from the people of Lebanon struggling to maintain their hard-won independence, to the people of the Palestinian Territories, who deserve a free and peaceful state of their own. We must stand united in our support of the people of Georgia. The United Nations Charter sets forth the "equal rights of nations large and small." Russia's invasion of Georgia was a violation of those words. Young democracies around the world are watching to see how we respond to this test. The United States has worked with allies in multilateral institutions like the European Union and NATO to uphold Georgia's territorial integrity and provide humanitarian relief. And our nations will continue to support Georgia's democracy.

In this chamber are representatives of Georgia and Ukraine and Lebanon and Afghanistan and Liberia and Iraq, and other brave young democracies. We admire your courage. We honor your sacrifices. We thank you for your inspiring example. We will continue to stand with all who stand for freedom. This noble goal is worthy of the United Nations, and it should have the support of every member in this assembly.

Extending the reach of political freedom is essential to prevailing in the great struggle of our time -- but it is not enough. Many in this chamber have answered the call to help their brothers and sisters in need by working to alleviate hopelessness. These efforts to improve the human condition honor the highest ideals of this institution. They also advance our security interests. The extremists find their most fertile recruiting grounds in societies trapped in chaos and despair -- places where people see no prospect of a better life. In the shadows of hopelessness, radicalism thrives. And eventually, that radicalism can boil over into violence and cross borders and take innocent lives across the world.

Overcoming hopelessness requires addressing its causes -- poverty, disease, and ignorance. Challenging these conditions is in the interest of every nation in this chamber. And democracies are particularly well-positioned to carry out this work. Because we have experience responding to the needs of our own people, we're natural partners in helping other nations respond to the needs of theirs. Together, we must commit our resources and efforts to advancing education and health and prosperity.

Over the years, many nations have made well-intentioned efforts to promote these goals. Yet the success of these efforts must be measured by more than intentions -- they must be measured by results. My nation has placed an insistence on results at the heart of our foreign assistance programs. We launched a new initiative called the Millennium Challenge Account, which directs our help to countries that demonstrate their ability to produce results by governing justly, and fighting corruption, and pursuing market-based economic policies, as well as investing in their people. Every country and institution that provides foreign assistance, including the United Nations, will be more effective by showing faith in the people of the developing world -- and insisting on performance in return for aid.

Experience also shows that to be effective, we must adopt a model of partnership, not paternalism. This approach is based on our conviction that people in the developing world have the capacity to improve their own lives -- and will rise to meet high expectations if we set them. America has sought to apply this model in our Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. Every nation that receives American support through this initiative develops its own plan for fighting HIV/AIDS -- and measures the results. And so far, these results are inspiring: Five years ago, 50,000 people in sub-Sahara Africa were receiving treatment for HIV/AIDS. Today that number is nearly 1.7 million. We're taking a similar approach to fighting malaria, and so far, we've supported local efforts to protect more than 25 million Africans.

Multilateral organizations have made bold commitments of their own to fight disease. The G8 has pledged to match America's efforts on malaria and HIV/AIDS. Through the Global Fund, many countries are working to fight HIV/AIDS, malaria, and TB. Lives in the developing world depend on these programs, and all who have made pledges to fight disease have an obligation to follow through on their commitments.

One of the most powerful engines of development and prosperity is trade and investment, which create new opportunities for entrepreneurs, and help people rise out of poverty, and reinforce fundamental values like transparency and rule of law. For all these reasons, many in these chambers have conducted free trade agreements at bilateral and regional levels. The most effective step of all would be an agreement that tears down trade barriers at the global level. The recent impasse in the Doha Round is disappointing, but that does not have to be the final word. I urge every nation to seize this opportunity to lift up economies around the world -- and reach a successful Doha agreement as soon as possible.

Beyond Doha, our nations must renew our commitment to open economies, and stand firm against economic isolationism. These objectives are being tested by turbulence in the global financial markets. Our economies are more closely connected than ever before, and I know that many of you here are watching how the United States government will address the problems in our financial system.

In recent weeks, we have taken bold steps to prevent a severe disruption of the American economy, which would have a devastating effect on other economies around the world. We've promoted stability in the markets by preventing the disorderly failure of major companies. The Federal Reserve has injected urgently-needed liquidity into the system. And last week, I announced a decisive action by the federal government to address the root cause of much of the instability in our financial markets -- by purchasing illiquid assets that are weighing down balance sheets and restricting the flow of credit. I can assure you that my administration and our Congress are working together to quickly pass legislation approving this strategy. And I'm confident we will act in the urgent time frame required.

The objectives I've laid out for multilateral institutions -- confronting terror, opposing tyranny, and promoting effective development -- are difficult, but they are necessary tasks. To have maximum impact, multilateral institutions must take on challenging missions. And like all of us in this chamber, they must work toward measurable goals, be accountable for their actions, and hold true to their word.

In the 21st century, the world needs a confident and effective United Nations. This unique institution should build on its successes and improve its performance. Where there is inefficiency and corruption, it must be corrected. Where there are bloated bureaucracies, they must be streamlined. Where members fail to uphold their obligations, there must be strong action. For example, there should be an immediate review of the Human Rights Council, which has routinely protected violators of human rights. There should be a stronger effort to help the people of Burma live free of the repression they have suffered for too long. And all nations, especially members of the Security Council, must act decisively to ensure that the government of Sudan upholds its commitment to address the violence in Darfur.

The United Nations is an organization of extraordinary potential. As the United Nations rebuilds its headquarters, it must also open the door to a new age of transparency, accountability, and seriousness of purpose.

With determination and clear purpose, the United Nations can be a powerful force for good as we head into the 21st century. It can affirm the great promise of its founding.

In the final days of the San Francisco Conference, the delegates negotiating the U.N. Charter received a visit from President Harry Truman. He acknowledged the enormous challenges they faced, and said success was only possible because of what he called an "unshakable unity of determination." Today the world is engaged in another period of great challenge. And by continuing to work together, that unshakable unity of determination will be ours. Together, we confront and defeat the evil of terrorism. Together, we can secure the Almighty's gift of liberty and justice to millions who have not known it. And together, we can build a world that is freer, safer, and better for the generations who follow.

Thank you.

When you first start reading you'd almost think he was giving his seminal 2002 speech over again, with its insistence that to be relevant the UN and member nations had a responsibility to help enforce their own resolutions. They chose to be irrelevant then. But he challenges them again.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:14 PM


We yield to no one in our disregard for cars, but does it really make sense to complain to Americans, who love them, and Detroiters in particular, that your opponent has too many of them?

Maverick ought to borrow Phil Gramm's line about guns: I have more than I need but less than I want.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:45 PM


Biden garbles Depression history (Ben Smith, 9/23/08, Politico)

"When the stock market crashed, Franklin Roosevelt got on the television and didn't just talk about the princes of greed," Biden told Couric. "He said, 'Look, here's what happened.'"

...Joe Biden has pretty much been in the Senate since 1929 ad if he says FDR was president and the fireside chats were televised, who are we to argue.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:36 PM


INTERVIEW WITH HARUN YAHYA: 'All Terrorists Are Darwinists': Adnan Oktar (aka Harun Yahya) is one of Turkey's major proponents of creationism and he believes Darwin's theory of evolution is the Devil's work. In a SPIEGEL ONLINE interview, he explains how he plans to defeat Darwinism. (Der Spiegel, 9/23/08)

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Last year, the Council of Europe even asked its member states not to teach creationism along with the theory of evolution in schools. Do you consider this a defeat?

Oktar: Darwinism is under official protection throughout the world. No other ideology in history, no other idea, has ever been kept under such strict official protection. To make any kind of statement criticizing Darwinism causes an official reaction. However, the invalidity of Darwinism and the actuality of creation are scientific facts. Anyone reading or looking over my "Atlas of Creation" arrives at this opinion. Darwinism lies about many issues and deceives humanity. They have deceived the whole of humanity for 150 years.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: How much were you influenced by Christian movements, the so-called intelligent design movements in Europe and the United States?

Oktar: I find the concept of intelligent design rather dishonest. One should openly stand up for the existence of Allah, should sincerely stand up for religion, for Islam. Or, if one is a Christian, one should honestly stand up for Christianity. This is a theory which claims that things have somehow been created, but it is unknown who created them. I find this rather dishonest, actually. The followers of intelligent design should openly and clearly declare the existence of Allah as the Creator.

Amen, Brother.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:33 PM


Palin press may boycott UN conference (KENNETH P. VOGEL, 9/23/08, Politico)

Journalists, displeased with Sarah Palin’s efforts to restrict their access to her, are threatening not to cover her events surrounding the United Nations conference here unless they're allowed more access.

It's only news if we see fit to print it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:11 AM


Obama's debate skills rated uneven going into 1st round (John M. Broder, 9/23/08, The New York Times)

Sen. Barack Obama has shown himself at times to be a great orator. His debating skills, however, have been uneven.

Some of his chief strengths — his facility with words, his wry detachment, his reasoning skills, his youthful cool — have not always served him well and might pose significant vulnerabilities in the presidential debates that begin Friday, according to political analysts.

Obama has a tendency to over-intellectualize and to lecture, befitting his training as a lawyer and law professor. He exudes disdain for the quips and sound bites that some deride as trivializing political debates but that have become a central part of scoring them. He tends to the earnest and humorless when audiences seem to crave passion and personality. He frequently rises above the mire of political combat when the battle calls for engagement.

You bet, it's his massive strengths that made him dodge the townhalls, not the fact that he's notoriously awful without a teleprompter. Of course, even with a teleprompter he bombed his Convention Speech and had to spend a week explaining away various portions of the Reverend Wright that the press swooned over but the American people found offensive.

With his advantage in height and age if he were even a mildly competent debater his campaign would have had him on stage with their wizened, dwarvish, physically-hampered opponent at every opportunity.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:52 AM


World Phenom: President Obama rocks the U.N. (Robert Ferrigno, 9/23/08, National Review)

Silence in the great hall. A few nervous titters from the aides that David Axelrod, his campaign strategist, had sprinkled throughout the room, but their attempt to jumpstart another round of applause fell flat. Note to self: Diplomats are harder to roll than journalists. He glanced over at the U.S. ambassador, Barbra Streisand, who gave him a thumbs up.

“But seriously,” said President Obama, his grin faltering. He cleared his throat. Wet his lips. The crowd shifted in their seats. “Well . . . um . . . as you know . . . people will try to scare you, warn you about me, because . . . I’ve got a Harvard law degree and a funny name, and uh, as you can see, I . . . I don’t look like any other president on the money.” He looked at the African diplomats in the front row. “The U.S. money — not your money, of course.”

The ambassador from the Congo looked quizzically at the ambassador from Zaire.

“So . . . so I guess what I’m saying is . . . don’t be afraid of me,” said President Obama.

The Russian ambassador threw his head back, roaring with laughter.

President Obama blinked, then realized what had happened. There must be a time-delay on the translation the Russian ambassador was hearing. He had just gotten the president’s introductory joke. The president beamed at the ambassador, who laughed even harder.

The Georgian ambassador, clearly overcome with the president’s message of hope, was weeping into his hands.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:33 AM


The End of a Lie (Ronald Radosh, 9/22/08, FrontPageMagazine.com)

[I]t seemed that Michael and Robert Meeropol had finally accepted the truth that their father was a Soviet agent. By Friday September 19th, however, they paused and returned again to the old bromides. In a statement released to their supporters - and soon to be on their website www.rfc.org - Robert Meeropol presented his and Michael Meeropol’s latest thinking.

First, Robert Meeropol writes that since the 1980’s he has “maintained that it is possible that my father engaged in non-atomic espionage,” but not in any activity that resulted in his obtaining or passing any A-bomb secret to the Soviets. On the face of it, this first assertion is demonstrably false. Harry Gold, the courier who took data from Julius’s brother-in-law David Greenglass at Los Alamos, went to visit him precisely to get whatever information pertaining to atomic data he could get. As it turns out and has been widely known already for decades, the crude sketch he offered confirmed to the Soviets the accuracy of the more sophisticated data they got from their other high level atomic spies, particularly Ted Hall and Klaus Fuchs. Moreover, as the late scientist Phillip Morrison told me decades ago (Morrison held the actual patent for the A-bomb in his name), Greenglass’s data was valuable because it showed the KGB that Fuchs was giving them accurate material and that it was “good corroboration.” Greenglass’ material was not on the level of that passed by others. No one has claimed it was. Clearly, had it been (and Julius Rosenberg had no way of knowing its value) Rosenberg would have passed it on, hoping that he had given the Soviets the most valuable data. As to whether Rosenberg passed on more material of an atomic nature, we will have to wait until later this winter when a new book by Harvey Klehr, John Haynes and Alexander Vasseliev is published by Yale University Press.

Second, Robert Meeropol minimizes the extent of the damage done by the “military information” he acknowledges that his father passed to the Soviets. Had he discussed the details in his press release, his readers would immediately find that it was a laundry list of top secret and dangerous military information, that in fact did much damage to the United States. The Meeropols have never dealt with the information revealed by Steven Usdin in his very important book, Engineering Communism (2005). Usdin shows that the Rosenberg network, especially his agents Joel Barr and Alfred Sarant, passed on the 12,000 page blueprints for the Lockheed P-80 Shooting Star, airborne radars for nighttime navigation and bombing, and other new radar technology. “Rosenberg’s band of amateur spies,” Usdin writes, “turned over detailed information on a wide range of technologies and weapon systems that hastened the Red Army’s march to Berlin, jump-started its postwar development of nuclear weapons and delivery systems, and later helped Communist troops in North Korea fight the American military to a standoff.” The Meeropols’ acknowledgment that Julius Rosenberg had passed on military information is conceded by them only to make it appear that what he gave was insignificant and nowhere harmful to the United States; much as Sobell tries to do the same thing by calling the material “junk.”

Third, Robert Meeropol emphasizes the Government’s now proven overreaching in their prosecution of his mother, Ethel Rosenberg. As I reported in my analysis of the Grand Jury testimony, Ruth Greenglass clearly lied under oath when she testified that reports handed over by David Greenglass had been typed by Ethel Rosenberg and then passed on to the Soviets. In her GJ testimony, Ruth said that she had received the material and wrote it up in longhand herself. At the trial, she testified that Ethel typed it. A secret Venona decrypt dated January 8, 1945, however, notes receipt of this material and the KGB says that it was “hand-written.”

This does not mean, however, that Ethel Rosenberg was innocent and framed. Indeed, in a conspiracy indictment, the unchallenged testimony that Ethel had suggested that Ruth be recruited and urged Ruth to enlist her husband, was far and enough to include her as a defendant. But the prosecution was undoubtedly worried that a jury might not find that substantive enough as a direct act to merit a finding of guilt, not to speak of a death sentence. So the government used the fake typing incident as its trump card to get a conviction by the jury. The prosecution desperately needed Ethel indicted in order to use her as a lever to hold over Julius’ head in order to break him and get him to talk about his network. Had he done so, Ethel would have not received a death sentence; she may never have been put on trial. As militant Stalinists, however, the cause came first, and they would not bend

So here, Robert Meeropol is partially correct. The Government had Ruth Greenglass manufacture a typing incident that never happened in order to gain a conviction. They did so because they knew she was guilty (Venona could not be introduced as evidence since the Soviets would be given notice the US had broken its code) and were willing to use unethical conduct to get a conviction. But Meeropol is wrong that these sordid tactics (which I suspect came from Roy Cohn) are proof of his mother’s innocence.

Finally, in his final section, Meeropol seeks to use these new findings for his old political agenda. As he writes in bold, “the U.S. Government abused its power in truly dangerous ways that are still very relevant today.” These include, the charge that the U.S. Government “created and fueled anti-communist hysteria.”

Let us look at the implications of this first charge which is the old canard that the Rosenbergs were political dissenters, put on trial and executed because of an anti-Communist witch-hunt, “making them the focus of the public’s Cold War-era fear and anger.” These claims make little sense, since the Rosenbergs were arrested and put on trial because they were real Soviet spies, not because they were Communists. And as students of the trial know all too well, they denied - and so did their supporters - that they were Communists at all. Indeed, to call them that was immediately met by the charge of Red-baiting. As the introduction to the second edition of their death house letters, The Testament of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg (1953 and 1954) puts it, “A confession of guilt was meant to give validity to the big lie: that all who struggled for a better life were Communists, and all Communists spies and enemies of the country which gave them birth.”

So they did not confess, since in fact had they done so, it would have established that there was an actual Communist threat, and that some Communists were motivated by ideology alone to become willing and active spies, and indeed were enemies of their own country. Ironically, the book was published by the firm of Cameron and Kahn, which we know thanks to the memoir of the former KGB General, Oleg Kalugin, was itself financed by the KGB.

Perhaps we could just consider the sons to have a form of Stockholm Syndrome, having been held captive by the Left for so long that they accept its lies.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:24 AM


Corruption Perceptions Index 2008

Another reminder that if you were designing the optimal country you'd make it an island that's a Protestant former British Colony.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:17 AM


McCain’s viability owes a lot to Reagan (MATTHEW DALLEK, 9/23/08, Politico)

McCain is capitalizing on the strength of a conservative coalition that Reagan stitched together during the tumultuous aftermath of Watergate and Vietnam. McCain is competitive despite Bush’s weak public standing because Reagan’s conservative supporters in the 1970s won a debate about government growth, taxes and spending that continues to resonate with a large segment of the electorate. [...]

Then there’s McCain’s selection of the socially conservative Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate. Palin has energized “values” voters and has shown that social issues once championed by Reagan can still mobilize segments of the conservative electorate, much to McCain’s benefit.

During the 1970s, the anti-Equal Rights Amendment leader Phyllis Schlafly joined evangelical Christian, right-to-life, and Christian school organizations in campaigning to protect and promote “traditional family values.” “The ERA issue introduced large numbers of Christian women to politics and tapped into their fears” that their values were under attack by secular liberalism, Schlafly biographer Donald T. Critchlow has argued.

Palin’s appeal to Schlafly’s heirs is due to her self-styled “hockey mom” identity and her hard-edged socially conservative beliefs and policies. [...]

The McCain-Palin ticket is also successfully updating Reagan’s hard-line anti-communist stance and unswerving brand of fervent patriotism — positions that Reagan refined during the late 1970s. While the threats facing America have changed since Reagan’s day, McCain’s national security ideas and rhetoric resemble Reagan’s: McCain has pledged to seek “victory” in Iraq, dismantle the Iranian nuclear threat and follow Osama bin Laden “to the gates of hell.”

Like Reagan, McCain speaks in terms of good and evil. In showcasing his own brand of celebratory nationalism at the Republican convention and in trumpeting his “Country First” campaign slogan, McCain has appealed with some success to working-class Reagan Democrats, who admired Reagan’s unstinting love of country, pugilistic sound bites and promise to increase defense spending.

...the GOP always had the smaller government position in hand, but Democrats handed them the morality and patriotism high ground in the late 60s/early 70s. That's why the only national elections Democrats have managed to win have come when they ran religious Southern governors.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:12 AM


Abortion rate is down, but report cites racial disparity : The decline has been far more dramatic for whites than for blacks and Latinas. (Mary Engel, 9/23/08, Los Angeles Times)

African American women had high rates of unintended pregnancy, 70% compared with 49% across all racial and ethnic groups. About half of unintended pregnancies in the U.S. end in abortion, the report said.

Latinas had higher pregnancy rates and higher birthrates than whites.

Abortion rates are falling for blacks and Latinas but far less than for whites. [...]

[D]ay Gardner, founder and president of the National Black Pro-Life Union in Washington, disagreed. She blamed the high rates on the number of inner-city clinics that performed abortions.

"It doesn't have as much to do with poverty as that the abortion facilities are there, ingrained in the neighborhoods," she said. "We as a community don't talk about this. . . . This is a silent killer among us."

The report also found that abortion rates for teenagers dropped from 33% in 1974 to 17% in 2004.

...it would be Planned Parenthood's perfect world.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:39 AM


U.S. census survey finds more of California's immigrants are joining the mainstream.: The number of Spanish-speaking immigrants who are fluent in English is also increasing, survey says (Teresa Watanabe and Francisco Vara-Orta, 9/23/08, Los Angeles Times)

California's immigrants are more assimilated, with greater proportions reporting last year that they became U.S. citizens and the majority of Spanish speakers now saying they speak English very well, a sharp rise from 2000, according to U.S. census data released today.

Data from the bureau's 2007 American Community Survey showed that California continued to diversify, with whites declining to 42.5% and Latinos, Asians and blacks increasing to 54.4% of the state's population. The foreign-born population inched upward and now make up more than one-fourth of residents in the state and one-third in Los Angeles County.

But bucking perceptions that high levels of immigration are jeopardizing national cohesion, the data showed that today's immigrants, like those before them, are embracing an American identity.

...their kids are at National Review trying to stop the next wave of unassimilable immigrants.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:25 AM


Alliance into the 21st century (John McCain, September 23, 2008, The Australian)

A century ago, Roosevelt understood the sources and purpose of American power. He championed reform and protection of the environment; he spoke out against tyranny; and he demanded that America stay true to the principles it espoused, at home and abroad. Roosevelt helped the American people to understand that we are a Pacific nation.

I believe that we must return to these same qualities if we are to continue earning the trust and friendship from Australia that have been so critical to America's role in the world since 1908.

In Asia this means engagement must begin with our allies. Our alliance with Australia sets the standard. Our ally Japan has proved a strong and reliable partner to the US and Australia. South Korea is taking on new global responsibilities. We can reinvigorate our traditional alliances with Thailand and The Philippines and build on newly strengthened partnerships with Singapore and India. And we should recognise our shared values and common purpose with New Zealand.

Firm commitments to our allies will set the stage for an American engagement of China that builds on the many areas of common interest we share with Beijing and encourages candour and progress in those areas where China has not fulfilled its responsibilities as a global power.

We have seen both aspects of China's rise vividly demonstrated during the Olympics. Americans and Australians have been impressed with Beijing's glittering landscape and warmed by the hospitality and graciousness of the Chinese people. But in Beijing our journalists have also seen up close how human dignity suffers when basic rights such as freedom of speech and religious worship are denied. Our shared challenge is to convince the Chinese leadership that their nation's remarkable success rests ultimately on whether they can translate economic development into a more open and tolerant political process at home, and a more responsible foreign policy abroad.

American leadership is also necessary on trade. For six decades, Democratic and Republican presidents have consistently stood for free trade, but in this presidential election the Democratic candidate has broken with that tradition. I believe that free trade agreements, such as those we have entered into with Australia and Singapore and have negotiated with South Korea, are critical building blocks for an open and inclusive economic order in the Asia-Pacific region. They create billions of dollars' worth of new exports and set a higher standard for trade liberalisation that ultimately helps all the nations in the region.

America has never won respect or created jobs by hiding behind protectionist walls and I will continue making the case for free trade, regardless of political expediency. [...]

Australians have looked to the US for leadership on climate change and it is time for us to answer that call. I support a market-based cap-and-trade system aimed at reducing carbon emissions, and I will work with Australia and other nations to establish a global framework that encourages China and India to join us in becoming part of the solution to man-made climate change.

September 22, 2008

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:08 PM


Biden Deplores Own Campaign's Ad (NY Sun, 9/22/08)

The Democratic nominee for vice president, Senator Biden of Delaware, is denouncing a television advertisement released by the campaign he is running along with Senator Obama of Illinois.

During an interview with CBS yesterday, Mr. Biden disowned an Obama-Biden ad that suggested the Republican nominee, Senator McCain, was out of touch because he does not use a computer.

"I thought that was terrible," Mr. Biden told news anchor Katie Couric after she made reference to the ad while asking about the tone of the campaign. After the ad was released, several of Mr. McCain's allies pointed to press reports saying he cannot type because of injuries he incurred while a prisoner during the Vietnam War.

"I didn't know we did it and if I had anything to do with it, we would have never done it," the vice presidential nominee said.

Biden's Dispatch from the Woodshed (Michael Crowley, 9/22/08, New Republic: The Stump)
This statement just emailed, perhaps notably, not by a Biden-specific aide but by Obama spokesman Bill Burton:

“I was asked about an ad I’d never seen, reacting merely to press reports..."

...was choosing this notorious clown...and in order to give the ticket gravitas?

The Story Behind Biden's Emergency Helicopter Landing in Afghanistan (Jake Tapper, September 22, 2008, Political Punch)

"Ladies and gentlemen, where are we now? Where are we now?" Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., said to the National Guard Association today, talking about the war in Afghanistan.

"If you want to know where Al Qaeda lives, you want to know where Bin Laden is, come back to Afghanistan with me," Biden said. "Come back to the area where my helicopter was forced down, with a three-star general and three senators at 10,500 feet in the middle of those mountains. I can tell you where they are." [...]

In February 2008, Biden -- along with Sens. John Kerry, D-Mass., and Chuck Hagel, R-Neb. -- was on a chopper that made an emergency landing in the mountains of Afghanistan.

A snowstorm had forced them down.

It was Al Qaeda's dreaded Weather Weapon!

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:01 PM


Anti-Iran Rally Turns Into Anti-Obama Rally (Marcia Kramer, 9/22/08, CBS)

It was a simple sign that read "We Want Sarah. Shame On The Rally Organizer."

Howard Webber from Brooklyn held it.

"As important an event as this is, you needed a unity of Democrats and Republicans to show Ahmadinejad that we're not going to accept a nuclear Iran."

Buddy Macy of Little Fells, N.J., felt much the same way.

"I'm so disappointed, upset," Macy said. "She would have brought 10,000-20,000 more supporters of Israel. People who were curious were stopped because of partisan action."

...didn't the Democrats' actions verge on objectively pro-Iranian?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:52 PM


Why McCain Loves Misha: Georgia's president is a man after the Republican nominee's heart. (Owen Matthews, 9/20/08, NEWSWEEK)

It's not surprising that Saakashvili, 41, known to Georgians by the nickname Misha, would turn to McCain at a moment of crisis: their decade-long friendship is among the closest McCain has with any foreign leader. Sen. Richard Burr, a Republican from North Carolina, traveled to Georgia in 2006 with a delegation led by McCain. He says Saakashvili saw the Republican nominee "as a man of greatness … on a different level" from the other legislators. And it's clear why McCain would admire the Georgian president. In many ways he's McCain's McCain—a passionate and unorthodox reformer, and a stalwart freedom fighter ranged against the Russian bear. Saakashvili's stint as Georgia's justice minister ended abruptly at a cabinet meeting in 2001 when he brandished a dossier of photos showing top ministers' lavish country homes, slapped it on the table and demanded that his colleagues be prosecuted immediately. "We are similar in many ways," Saakashvili says. "We agree that you can't compromise your beliefs."

That's exactly what worries some of McCain's many foreign-policy consultants. As the two presidential candidates prepare to debate foreign affairs and national security this Friday night, the Republican nominee is widely assumed to have an edge: polls consistently show that voters think he's better prepared than Sen. Barack Obama to be commander in chief. His relationships with leaders like Saakashvili contribute to that reputation. Yet McCain's affection for Misha runs counter to the instincts of many Republican foreign-policy "realists."

Here's a handy definition of a Realist: someone who doesn't think American State Department flunkies, think tank wonks, and academics should have to lose any sleep just because people in your two-bit country want to live free.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:47 PM


Extinct tortoise 'can live again' (Richard Black. 9/22/08, , BBC News)

An extinct Galapagos tortoise species could walk again, scientists believe.

Writing in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers report finding relatives of Geochelone elephantopus alive and well.

Cross-breeding these living tortoises might re-create the extinct species - though it could take a century.

...the violence done here to the concept of species or the fact they're Designists.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:21 PM


McCain and Palin Have an Opportunity in the Frozen North (Michael Barone, 9/22/08, US News)

[T]he reshuffling of the political deck seems to have opened up more states for McCain and have closed off some states for Obama, specifically, in the northern tier of the country: call it the Frozen North. Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Washington seem to be in play now. Preconvention polls showed Obama well ahead in each; postconvention polls show him leading by only a few points. That's 31 electoral votes on the table. And North Dakota, Montana, and Alaska seem to be out of play. Obama was competitive there in pre-convention polls, though there weren't many of them; he's well behind in postconvention polls. That's nine electoral votes off the table. Net advantage to McCain: 40 electoral votes. The Obama campaign has evidently reached the same conclusion: It is closing its North Dakota offices and the sending staffers to Minnesota and Wisconsin.

The obvious explanation, and not just for Alaska, is Sarah Palin.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:51 PM


Upwardly Mobile America? (Stephen Moore, September 22, 2008 , The American)

Q. Is there really a ‘war against the middle class’ in America as claimed by people such as CNN’s Lou Dobbs?

A. Well, if the middle class is fighting a war, they’ve been winning. Graph 2 shows the income range needed to be considered in the middle class in the United States (between the 40th and 60th percentiles in income for families). In 1967 the average middle-class pre-tax income was about $40,000; in 2005 it was about $60,000. And this does not include the increased generosity of non-wage and non-salary benefits such as healthcare, pensions, flexible workweeks, and more family leave, vacation, and holidays.

Most economists agree that when these income numbers are adjusted by a more accurate inflation measure—one that takes full account of the improved quality of the products we now have access to, such as cell phones, laptop computers, and new medical technologies, for example—the purchasing power of the American middle-class family is about one-third higher today than in the 1970s.

The Census Bureau family income data indicate that in 1967 one in 20 families had an income of $100,000 or more (in today’s dollars). In 2005 one in six families did. There are three times as many families earning more than $75,000 a year today than there were in 1967.

Got filthy stinkin' rich, son.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:42 PM


Aging Gracefully (Dave Cameron - September 22, 2008, Fan Graphs)

Jamie Moyer is 45 years old. Jamie Moyer has thrown 190 innings, has won 15 games, and has a 3.78 ERA. Jamie Moyer is 45 years old.

This is, in two words, historically remarkable. Very few pitchers last long enough to throw until they’re 45, and even fewer do it at a level that adds value to their team. Finding pitchers who are significantly better than the league average starting pitcher at age 45 is almost impossible.

In the history of baseball, the list of guys who have been this good while being this old essentially reads like this:

Satchel Paige, 1952 and 1953
Phil Niekro, 1984
Jamie Moyer, 2008

...Mr. Moyer has been awfully good for all but two of the last 13 seasons.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:33 PM


McCain Holds Slight Lead In Latest NH Poll (WMUR, September 22, 2008)

Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain has built a slight lead over Democratic candidate Sen. Barack Obama in the latest New Hampshire poll.

The WMUR/Granite State Poll conducted by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center shows that 47 percent of likely voters plan to vote for McCain, with 45 percent saying they plan to vote for Obama.

Combine the Granite State's affection for guys it helps pull political upsets--see under Bill Clinton--and the Unicorn Rider's failure here in the primary and you'd have to think this is a Red State again in the general.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:35 PM


Barack Obama, John McCain and the Language of Race (BRENT STAPLES, 9/22/08, NY Times)

It was not that long ago that black people in the Deep South could be beaten or killed for seeking the right to vote, talking back to the wrong white man or failing to give way on the sidewalk. [...]

In what is probably a harbinger of things to come, the McCain campaign has already run a commercial that carries a similar intimation, accusing Mr. Obama of being “disrespectful” to Sarah Palin. The argument is muted, but its racial antecedents are very clear.

The throwback references that have surfaced in the campaign suggest that Republicans are fighting on racial grounds, even when express references to race are not evident. In a replay of elections past, the G.O.P. will try to leverage racial ghosts and fears without getting its hands visibly dirty. The Democrats try to parry in customary ways.

Mr. Obama seems to understand that he is always an utterance away from a statement — or a phrase — that could transform him in a campaign ad from the affable, rational and racially ambiguous candidate into the archetypical angry black man who scares off the white vote. His caution is evident from the way he sifts and searches the language as he speaks, stepping around words that might push him into the danger zone.

These maneuvers are often painful to watch. The troubling part is that they are necessary.

This is an archetypal instance of what Tom Wolfe termed Mau-mauing. Mr. Staples is trying to prey on white guilt in order to slence any criticism of Mr. Obama. After all, if "desrespectful" is such a racially charged term that it can be used without running the risk that the Senator will be killed, then what can critics safely say about him?

Of course, the problem is that it's been thirty years since most Americans were willing to lie back and catch that sort of flak. Nowadays we properly note the fear and loathing of his own country that must animate the author if he truly believes this nonsense. Kind of sad when giving him the benefit of the doubt means assuming he's just trying to exploit race for partisan political purposes.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:16 PM


Franken helps craft McCain 'SNL' skit (Jonathan Martin, Josh Kraushaar Sat Sep 20, 2008, Politico)

Al Franken, the former "Saturday Night Live" star now running in a high-profile Senate race in Minnesota, helped craft the opening sketch mocking John McCain that kicked off the NBC comedy show Saturday, according to two well-placed sources inside the network. [...]

Franken’s input to the show blindsided his campaign staff, who have been forced to explain away some of the more crass and profane parts of his past writing and acting that have been used as fodder against him in a state known for its polite manners.

...but how can you accuse McCain/Palin of running an unusually aggressive campaign while you're having a Democratic senate candidate accuse her husband of incest?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:09 PM


Palin on Ahmadinejad: 'He Must Be Stopped' (SARAH PALIN, September 22, 2008, NY Sun)

Governor Palin, the Republican nominee for vice president, was scheduled to speak today at a rally in Dag Hammarskjold Plaza to protest the appearance here of President Ahmadinejad of Iran. Her appearance was canceled by rally organizers who sought a nonpolitical event. Following are the remarks Mrs. Palin would have given:

I am honored to be with you and with leaders from across this great country — leaders from different faiths and political parties united in a single voice of outrage.

Tomorrow, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will come to New York — to the heart of what he calls the Great Satan — and speak freely in this, a country whose demise he has called for.

Ahmadinejad may choose his words carefully, but underneath all of the rhetoric is an agenda that threatens all who seek a safer and freer world. We gather here today to highlight the Iranian dictator's intentions and to call for action to thwart him.

He must be stopped.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:05 PM


GOP gaining in govs races, too (Louis Jacobson, 9/18/08, Stateline.org)

Washington state: In the rematch of an exceedingly close 2004 contest, challenger Dino Rossi (R) out-raised and out-spent Democratic Gov. Christine Gregoire in August. The impact is clear. An automated SurveyUSA poll in early September found Rossi, once consistently trailing in the race, ahead, 48 percent – 47 percent. The shift was most noticeable among women – a potentially alarming trend for a female governor.

The SurveyUSA poll underscored Gregoire’s underwhelming two-point primary win over Rossi on Aug. 19. (Under the state’s unusual primary system, the top two finishers, regardless of party, face off in the general election.) And while Obama is doing well in Washington state, Republicans contend that Rossi – running as a candidate of change against someone he dismisses as a lifelong politician – might be able to pick off a few change-minded Obama supporters.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:00 PM


Stocks Fall on Objections to Rescue Plan (MICHAEL M. GRYNBAUM, 9/22/08, NY Times)

Stocks fell sharply and oil prices suddenly spiked on Monday as investors anxiously waited for Washington lawmakers to hash out the details of the biggest government bailout in history — a politically fraught process that will create a new slate of winners and losers on Wall Street.

That uncertainty, about a shaken financial system still in flux, appeared to spook investors away from assets tied directly to the health of the American government. The dollar dropped sharply against the euro, and oil prices jumped, closing up more than $16 a barrel.

...but playing politics here in the real; world has consequences that Mr. Obama seems not to realize.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:37 PM


The Battleground Poll and the vanishing moderate (Bruce Walker, September 22, 2008, Enter Stage Right)

The percentage of Americans who describe themselves as conservative has remained over the last thirteen Battleground Polls around sixty percent. That is the biggest missing story in politics. A study of the archives of the Battleground Poll shows that this powerful conservative majority has been around since the question was first asked, in September 1996, twelve years ago. Fifty-seven percent of Americans, on the eve of re-electing Bill Clinton, considered themselves conservatives. In the twenty-two Battleground Polls since then, the clear conservative majority has never been lower than fifty-three percent and has gotten as high as sixty-two percent. The mean average over these dozen years has been 58.5% but over the last six and a half years, that percentage has averaged 59.9% - the sixty percent I mentioned in my previous article.

There is no way to tweak this number into something other than what it is. The respondents polled were different in each of these many polls. The options of "very conservative," "somewhat conservative," "very liberal," "somewhat liberal," "moderate," and "don't know / refused" has been available in every Battleground Poll since December 1997. Respondents have embraced the conservative label deliberately. More interestingly, the percentage of Americans who describe themselves as "very conservative" has risen steadily. Over the last several Battleground Polls, that percentage has been about twenty-one percent. At the beginning of the decade, only about sixteen percent of Americans in these polls identified themselves as very conservative.

While the overwhelming conservative majority in America is the biggest story in politics, the second biggest story is what happened to that middle of the spectrum which the Left is always telling us we should try to reach – the "moderate" voter. When Battleground first began asking respondents about their ideology (and why, we can only wonder, do other polling organizations not also routinely answer this crucial question? - maybe these other polling groups do, but choose not to publicize their findings), the only options were "conservative," "moderate," and "liberal." With those choices, the conservative majority was still huge at fifty-seven percent, but those Americans who waved the white flag of "moderate" was a significant thirteen percent. That is a voting bloc worth pursuing. [...]

Then, in the January 2002 Battleground Poll, the number of Americans who chose to call themselves "moderate" dropped to three percent. In the Battleground Polls since then, the self-described moderates has never been higher than four percent; it has been as low as one percent; and it has averaged just about two percent of the population, or just exactly what it was in the August 2008 Battleground Poll. What happened?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:28 PM


...how the Unicorn Rider alienated Jake Tapper so badly, but it sure has amusing results.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:22 PM


US trade move big news for NZ: Clark (Paula Oliver, 9/23/08, New Zealand Herald)

Word seeped out yesterday that the US had decided to join the so-called P4 trade agreement, which encompasses New Zealand, Singapore, Chile and Brunei.

The US decided in March to hold talks with the P4 focusing on investment and financial services only, but it's now decided to join the whole deal.

Prime Minister Helen Clark last night put the potential deal in the same ballpark as getting a bilateral free trade agreement with the US, something the Government has sought unsuccessfully for several years.

"I think the value to New Zealand of the United States coming into a transpacific agreement as a partner would be of the same value as we would hope to get from a bilateral FTA," Helen Clark said. "It's very, very big news."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:20 PM


Ululations for Obama across the globe (Kent Ewing, 9/23/08, Asia Times)

If Democratic Senator Barack Obama becomes the first African-American president of the United States, anyone living within a block of my family in this city is in for a shock: unbridled ululations.

My neighbors have learned to ignore Hong Kong's daily noise barrage - the sirens, the jackhammers the car horns and the collective volubility of a population of nearly 7 million people who love life and the pursuit of money - but ululations of joy, as in long and loud emotional utterances, may stop them in their tracks.

This rapturous wailing will come from my Kenyan wife, who happens to be from the same tribe (the Luo) as the African side of Obama's family. In fact, she hails from the same village as the Illinois senator's father. So don't even bother to ask whom she favors in November 4 election. Blood and tribe are thicker than water and nation.

So a vote for Mr. Obama is a vote for tribalism, eh?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:15 PM


Do Soccer Celebrations Go Too Far For American TV Viewers? (The Gaffer, 9/22/08, EPL Talk)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:49 PM


What's conspicuous here is the other Chicago mentors they left out. But that attack comes in October...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:42 PM


G7 backs 'extraordinary' US plan to end crisis (Martin Waller, Suzy Jagger, Tom Baldwin, 9/22/08, Times of London)

The Group of Seven (G7) leading economies today said they “strongly welcome” the US Government's $700 billion (£379 billion)plan to bail out the American banking system amid political wrangling over whether UK and mainland European companies should be included in the deal.

In a statement, the G7 said: “We pledge to enhance international cooperation to address the ongoing challenges in the global economy and world markets and maintain heightened close cooperation between finance ministries, central banks and regulators.

“We are ready to take whatever actions may be necessary, individually and collectively, to ensure the stability of the international financial system."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:40 PM


Uncommitted Voters More Engaged By RNC Telecasts (Nielsen Wire, September 22nd, 2008)

Voters not yet committed to either candidate were 12% more engaged by TV coverage of the GOP convention than the Democratic convention, according to an analysis released Monday by Nielsen IAG.

“Engagement” refers to the amount of attention paid to a television program by the average viewer. Nielsen measures TV engagement by questioning a representative panel of viewers about their recall of specific telecasts’ content.

John McCain’s acceptance speech on September 4 drew the most attentive audience of uncommitted viewers, Nielsen reported. Telecasts of Barack Obama’s and Sarah Palin’s acceptance speeches on August 28 and September 3, respectively, tied in second place as the second most engaging telecasts among uncommitted viewers.

...ought to be committed.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:36 PM


Is Obama Another Dukakis?: Why is Obama so vapid, hesitant, and gutless? (Christopher Hitchens, Sept. 22, 2008, Slate)

There are three possible reasons for such a huge failure on Barack Obama's part. The first, and the most widely canvassed, is that he is too nice, too innocent, too honest, and too decent to get down in the arena and trade bloody thrusts with the right-wing enemy. (This is rapidly becoming the story line that will achieve mythic status, along with allegations of racial and religious rumor-mongering, if he actually loses in November.) The second is that crisis and difficulty, at home and abroad, sometimes make electors slightly more likely to trust the existing establishment, or some version of it, than any challenger or newcomer, however slight. The third is that Obama does not, and perhaps even cannot, represent "change" for the very simple reason that the Democrats are a status quo party.

To analyze this is to be obliged to balance some of the qualities of Obama's own personality with some of the characteristics of his party. Here's a swift test. Be honest. What sentence can you quote from his convention speech in Denver? I thought so. All right, what about his big rally speech in Berlin? Just as I guessed. OK, help me out: Surely you can manage to cite a line or two from his imperishable address on race (compared by some liberal academics to Gettysburg itself) in Philadelphia? No, not the line about his white grandmother. Some other line. Oh, dear. Now do you see what I mean?

Why is Obama so vapid and hesitant and gutless? Why, to put it another way, does he risk going into political history as a dusky Dukakis? Well, after the self-imposed Jeremiah Wright nightmare, he can't afford any more militancy, or militant-sounding stuff, even if it might be justified. His other problems are self-inflicted or party-inflicted as well. He couldn't have picked a gifted Democratic woman as his running mate, because he couldn't have chosen a female who wasn't the ever-present Sen. Clinton, and so he handed the free gift of doing so to his Republican opponent (whose own choice has set up a screech from the liberals like nothing I have heard since the nomination of Clarence Thomas). So the unquantifiable yet important "atmospherics" of politics, with all their little X factors, belong at present to the other team.

Mr. Hitchens is wrong in one important particular here--the post-Clinton Democrats aren't even status quo but reactionary. They--like the post-Blair Labourites--stand athwart History hollering for Third Way reforms to be stopped and rolled back.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:29 PM


John McCain: Immigration reform redux: The Republican puts immigration front and center for Irish Americans. (Mark Silva, 9/22/08, The Swamp)

John McCain opened today with an old Irish joke about a couple of guys buying each other drinks at a bar and bit by bit discovering how much they have in common, even went to the same high school.

"The O'Reilly twins are getting drunk again,'' the bartender explains.

The green-garbed audience at the Irish-American Presidential Forum in Scranton, Pa., seemed to know the joke. "I'm proud to be the first Republican to appear before the forum,'' McCain, the Republican nominee for president, said to more cheers.

And before long, McCain was talking about a subject that hasn't been aired much lately: His vision for comprehensive immigration reform, helping some of the nation's 12 million undocumented immigrants find a "path to citizenship'' - including some 50,000 illegal Irish immigrants, as he noted in Scranton today.

...when it was those Irish we were trying to keep out?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:25 PM


Westwood points finger at Azinger (BBC, 9/22/08)

Europe's Lee Westwood has blamed United States captain Paul Azinger for the "shameful" behaviour of some of the crowd at the Ryder Cup in Valhalla.

Westwood pinpointed Azinger's rallying call, in which he urged fans to cheer missed Europeans putts, as the reason for some of the unsavoury scenes.

"Some people don't know the difference between supporting their team and abusing the opposition," he said.

For all the grief A-rod takes, when he has an at-bat or a grounder and the game is on the line there are 50,000 people screaming at him. But in the country club sports--golf and tennis--one peep and the player has a nervous breakdown.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:46 AM


The Royal Society is sadly unenlightened on creationism (George Pitcher, 18/09/2008, Daily Telegraph)

The Rev Professor Michael Reiss didn't say he was a creationist. He merely said in a speech last week that children with a creationist upbringing should be engaged with in science lessons, rather than simply dismissed as wrong.

"Just because something lacks scientific support doesn't seem to me to be a sufficient reason to omit it from the science lesson," he said. "There is much to be said for allowing students to raise any doubts that they have - hardly a revolutionary idea in science teaching - and doing one's best to have a genuine discussion."

Hardly revolutionary, perhaps, but sufficiently heretical for the zealots of science successfully to demand his head. He had let a chink of creationism in, you see, and the new secular scientific establishment decided he was an enemy of the state. A pusillanimous Royal Society duly condemned him.

Because even to acknowledge the existence of creationism is to encourage decadence. In a neo-Stalinist way, creationism must be air-brushed from the picture of the world that our children see, so toxic is it to scientific truth.

The assumption is that Prof Weiss believes that the universe was created by God several thousand years ago in six days, as recorded by witnesses in the book of Genesis.

Just as I believe in an invisible sky fairy, apparently, I must also believe in the literal interpretation of the Genesis story. Actually, I believe in neither.

But I do believe in a purpose to the human story, a meta-narrative to history, if you like, or a journey to understand the mind of God, in Prof Stephen Hawking's phrase. I believe there is evidence for all that. And that, I guess, makes me a creationist.

...to seek to ban the beautiful narrative else how would the ugly one prevail even amongst schoolchildren?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:39 AM


Iraq's Mehdi Army at Crossroads as U.S. Scales Down (REUTERS, 22/09/2008)

Greater religious authority could be one way Sadr intends to retain relevance. Widely believed to be studying in Iran, Ubaidi said it would not be long before Sadr would enter the ranks of the Marjaiya, or senior Shi'ite Islamic clergy.

"The next key step for the Sadrist movement may relate to Sadr's religious status, and in particular whether he is going to make an attempt to act as a scholar with the ability to issue his own fatwas (religious edicts)," Visser said.

In Shi'ite-majority Iraq the Marjaiya have huge influence, although frosty ties with Iraq's top Shi'ite clergy mean it is unclear how much weight would be given to Sadr's fatwas.

Often ambiguous and sometimes contradictory, many of Sadr's frequent statements give few clues to his thinking.

Making few public appearances, Sadr may next appear when the U.S.-Iraqi security deal is signed, Ubaidi said. Until then, the support of at least some of Iraq's Shi'ite poor remains strong.

He can't follow the Hezbollah model when we've already liberated the Shi'a and the Sunni have decided to concede.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:49 AM


Independent Jolts Minnesota Senate Race (BRAD HAYNES, 9/23/08, Wall Street Journal)

The late entry of a third-party candidate has upended the U.S. Senate race in Minnesota, suggesting voter dissatisfaction with the state's two top candidates, as well as shaking Democrats' hopes of adding the seat to their Senate majority. [...]

Coleman spokesman Mark Drake said he had expected Mr. Barkley's strong polling after Mr. Franken received only two-thirds of Democratic votes in the primary. "Dean Barkley is benefiting from Democrats fleeing Al Franken in droves," he said. [...]

Mr. Barkley draws voters from both parties, but many observers see his candidacy as more threatening to Mr. Franken, who has struggled to consolidate Democratic support. "He is competing with Franken for the angry voter who disapproves of Bush and sees the country as off on the wrong track," pollster Larry Jacobs, a professor at the University of Minnesota, said after early polling. [...]

Mr. Barkley's emphasis on reducing the national debt may appeal to fiscal conservatives, but his opposition to the Iraq war and support of gay rights appeal to liberal voters.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:46 AM


Bright Spot for the Republican Party: Lots of Cash (Greg Giroux, 9/23/08, CQ)

[T]here are other players — namely the Republican National Committee (RNC) and the Democratic National Committee (DNC), the two major national party committees. And the RNC is a crucial lifeline for McCain as he competes with the better-financed Obama.

The RNC began September with $76.5 million left in the bank which was more than four times as much cash-on-hand as the DNC, which had $17.7 million. Both party committees revealed these figures in updated campaign finance reports that they filed with the Federal Election Commission on Friday.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:37 AM


Investors in Stock Funds Show Calm (DAISY MAXEY, 9/22/08, Wall Street Journal)

Investors have been pulling money from stock-based mutual funds since mid-June but have been relatively calm in the face of the extreme volatility of recent weeks.

"There has not been during this period a huge exodus from equity mutual funds," said Robert Adler, president of AMG Data Services Inc., an Arcata, Calif., company that tracks mutual-fund flows. "On balance, mutual-fund investors have been relatively stable."

Investors sold a net $3.9 billion of stock-focused mutual funds in the week through Wednesday, the largest one-week outflow since July 23, according to AMG. The funds have experienced steady outflows since the week of June 11, but those outflows are relatively small, considering that the equity mutual funds reporting to AMG weekly hold some $2 trillion in assets, he said.

The experts were likewise surprised when consumers didn't bail after the '87 "crash," but the calm of the average investor is why the GOP shouldn't back pedal on SS Reform. People get it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:33 AM


Creation Simulation (ROBERT COSTA, 9/19/08, Wall Street Journal)

The HMS Beagle, with a 26-year-old Charles Darwin onboard, anchored near the Galapagos Islands 173 years ago this week. If that young man were alive today, he just might be hibernating in his parents' basement instead, eating cheese puffs and playing Spore on his laptop. It's true that Darwin once said that "a man who dares waste one hour of time has not discovered the value of life." But he might have found Spore, an elaborate videogame that simulates the creation of our universe, to be an enlightening diversion.

The player chooses the adaptations of his own micro-organism to transform it from underwater prey to solar-system demigod. The creatures are guided through five stages of evolution -- starting with a single cell, then moving to land creatures, then entire tribes, civilizations and, finally, space invaders.

In typical Darwinian fashion, Spore has caused a ruckus on blogs for its premise and narrative. One site, AntiSpore.com, appeared to be set up to counter what one poster, a self-described concerned Christian parent, called the game's "propaganda aimed directly at our children to teach them evolution instead of creationism." But after thousands of postings on AntiSpore, mostly by angst-filled atheist gamers bewildered and angry that someone could actually question evolution, the anonymous creator of the site announced last week that AntiSpore was in fact a hoax.

AntiSpore.com was meant to parody religious fundamentalism, but the atheists who fell for the hoax ended up parodying themselves with their over-the-top vituperation.

Ended up? They begin as parody.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:17 AM


Patriots had no answers for Miami's scheme (Mike Reiss, September 21, 2008, Boston Globe)

The Wildcat got 'em.

That's what Ricky Williams called the unconventional offensive package the Dolphins sprung on the Patriots during today's 38-13 beatdown at Gillette Stadium. The unique strategy had running back Ronnie Brown taking a direct snap while lined up in the shotgun as the quarterback, Williams coming left to right in motion as a receiver, and quarterback Chad Pennington at receiver.

Some might call it a gimmick, but gimmicks are usually one-time deals, trick plays used sparingly. In this case, the Dolphins went to the Wildcat six times, and clawed the Patriots' defense into submission with touchdown runs of 2, 5, and 62 yards, as well as Brown's 19-yard touchdown pass.

That's no gimmick. It's just domination.

The Colts exposed the Pats defense as old and slow two years ago in the AFC Championship game--especially at LB, but past the front 3 generally--but they've done nothing to address the problem. Indeed, Vrabel, Bruschi, and Harrison are all still starting. They were just appalling in the pre-season and it was evident that they'd make this a 10-6 or 11-5 team at best, and that only because of the easiest schedule ever for a Super Bowl team.

Strange that a dynasty built on the complete replaceability of NFL players isn't replacing the oldest and least effective ones.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:03 AM


Consumers Cut Health Spending, As Economic Downturn Takes Toll (VANESSA FUHRMANS, 9/22/08, Wall Street Journal)

As the credit crunch threatens to throw the economy into a deep slump, Americans are already cutting back on health care, a sector once thought to be invulnerable to recession. Spending on everything from doctors' appointments to preventive tests to prescription drugs is under pressure.

The number of prescriptions filled in the U.S. fell 0.5% in the first quarter and a steeper 1.97% in the second, compared with the same periods in 2007 -- the first negative quarters in at least a decade, according to data from market researcher IMS Health. Despite an aging and growing U.S. population, the number of physician office visits also has been declining since the end of 2006. Between July 2007 and 2008, the most recent month for which data are available, visits fell 1.2%, according to IMS.

In a survey by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners last month, 22% of 686 consumers said that economy-related woes were causing them to go to the doctor less often. About 11% said they've scaled back on prescription drugs to save money. Some of the areas being hit include hip and knee replacements, mammograms, and visits to the emergency room, according to a survey conducted by D2Hawkeye Inc., a Waltham, Mass., medical data analytics firm, on behalf of The Wall Street Journal.

"Health Care" is just another consumer good, one we waste a lot of money on because we have a lot. Why would it be immune to normal economic laws until it's socialized?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:49 AM


McCain closes huge gap on key question for women (DAVID PAUL KUHN, 9/22/08, Politico)

Since picking Sarah Palin as his running mate, John McCain has obliterated what had been a 34-percentage-point deficit in a poll of likely women voters on the question of which candidate has a “better understanding of women and what is important” to them.

The two are now effectively tied, with McCain's 44 to 42 percentage lead within the margin of error of the most recent poll conducted by pollsters Kellyanne Conway and Celinda Lake for Lifetime Television. In Lifetime's July poll, women preferred Barack Obama on the same question by nearly three-to-one— 52 to 18 percent.

In this latest poll, conducted Sept. 11-15, age remained a key determinant in response to the question about women’s concerns. Young women, ages 18-34, chose the Obama/Biden ticket as more empathetic to their needs, while women aged 35-64 went for McCain/Palin. Unlike black and Hispanic women, White women saw McCain and Palin as most understanding of their concerns.

About one in four women who supported Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton in the primaries now said McCain and Palin have a better grasp of women’s needs than Obama and his running mate, Sen. Joe Biden.

If the GOP is competitive for women's votes with the female party they can't lose.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:46 AM


Pakistani leaders 'should have been at bombed hotel' (Philippe Naughton, and Zahid Hussain, 9/22/08, Times of London)

Pakistan's top leaders were to have attended a state dinner at the luxury Islamabad hotel devastated in a suicide bomb attack on Saturday but changed venue at the last minute, it emerged today.

Rehman Malik, who heads the Interior Ministry, said that both President Zardari and Yousuf Raza Gilani, the Prime Minister, were expected at the Marriott hotel to mark Mr Zardari's inaugural presidential address to Parliament.

“The National Assembly speaker had arranged a dinner for the entire leadership, for the President, Prime Minister and armed services chiefs at the Marriott that day,” Mr Malik told reporters.

“The President and the Prime Minister changed the venue to the Prime Minister’s house. The function was not held at the Marriott, thus the whole leadership was saved."

...that their own security services were in it up to their necks.

The gloves are off in Pakistan (Syed Saleem Shahzad , 9/23/08, Asia Times)

Pakistan is now the declared battleground in this struggle by Islamic militants to strike first against American interests before the United States' war machine completes its preparations to storm the sanctuaries of al-Qaeda in Pakistan. [...]

Approximately 20 kilometers from Islamabad lies Tarbella, the brigade headquarters of Pakistan's Special Operation Task Force (SOTF). Recently, 300 American officials landed at this facility, with the official designation as a "training advisory group", according to documents seen by Asia Times Online.

However, high-level contacts claim this is not as simple as a training program.

In the mid-1990s, during the government of Nawaz Sharif, a special US Central Intelligence Agency unit was based at the same facility, tasked with catching Osama bin Laden. They left after Pervez Musharraf came to power in a coup in 1999.

Now, the US has bought a huge plot of land at Tarbella, several square kilometers, according to sources directly handling the project. Recently, 20 large containers arrived at the facility. They were handled by the Americans, who did not allow any Pakistani officials to inspect them.

Given the size of the containers, it is believed they contain special arms and ammunition and even tanks and armored vehicles - and certainly have nothing to do with any training program.

There is little doubt in the minds of those familiar with the American activities at Tarbella that preparations are being made for an all-out offensive in North-West Frontier Province against sanctuaries belonging to the Taliban and al-Qaeda led by bin Laden. Pakistani security sources maintain more American troops will arrive in the coming days.

Pakistan recently offered ceasefire agreements to militants in the North Waziristan and South Waziristan tribal areas on the border with Afghanistan. These were not only summarily rejected, but followed with attacks in the two Waziristans on security forces, and then the Marriott operation.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:42 AM


Obama campaign staff pulling out of ND (DALE WETZEL, 9/22/08, The Associated Press)

Barack Obama, who has deployed more than 50 staffers in North Dakota in an attempt to become the first Democratic presidential candidate to carry the state since 1964, is pulling out.

An Obama spokeswoman, Amy Brundage, confirmed Sunday that the campaign's 11 North Dakota offices are being shut and its staffers dispatched to Minnesota and Wisconsin, where recent polls have shown a tight race between Obama and Republican John McCain.

What were they ever doing there when he can't even defend the base?, NBC POll: Pennsylvania Tigh (The Page, 9/22/08)
From NBC News/Mason Dixon poll:
Obama 46, McCain 44

Kwame Kilpatrick exits, with Barack Obama holding the door (Edward McClelland, Sep. 04, 2008, Salon)

In 2008, with the economy in recession -- in free fall in Michigan -- this bluish-purple state, which hasn't gone for a Republican presidential candidate since 1988, should be Obama's for the taking. With Kilpatrick's misbehavior dominating the local news on every TV station in a metro area that holds nearly half Michigan's population, he's barely leading: A recent Detroit News poll has him beating McCain 43-41.

Ever since the 1967 riot sent hundreds of thousands of whites in a great migration across 8 Mile Road -- the city limit, and the symbolic border between black and white Detroit -- the city and its suburbs have coexisted as uncomfortably as Soweto and Johannesburg.

It was pollster Stanley Greenberg who discovered Detroit's white exiles resettled, but still seething, in Macomb County, and gave them the Linnaean name "Reagan Democrats." The original Reagan Democrat, circa 1980, was a blue-collar voter who abandoned his native party over antiwar protests, busing, affirmative action and welfare queens. Some Reagan Democrats were from an Appalachian background, their forebears having moved north for auto factory jobs. Many were ethnics, white Catholics whose ancestors had come to America long after slavery was abolished. Neither strain had much patience with white guilt, many were stung by Michigan's industrial implosion, as those factory jobs disappeared, and all were outraged by a court decision ordering cross-district busing to integrate their children's schools. (It was overturned by the Supreme Court.) They were also horrified at Detroit's transformation into the original New Jack City. Thanks to drug outfits like the Chambers Brothers and Young Boys Inc., the city had the highest murder rate in the nation.

During Greenberg's first trip to Macomb County, at the height of the Reagan years, he found that whites "expressed a profound distaste for black America, a sentiment that pervaded almost everything they thought about government and politics. Blacks constituted the explanation for their vulnerability and for almost everything that had gone wrong in their lives."

And now, for the last eight months, the local news emanating every day from this black city to its white suburbs has featured the legal, sexual and administrative misadventures of a black mayor who doesn't just play the race card, he is the race card. [...]

Kilpatrick escaped from the 2005 primary with 27 percent of the vote. But his opponent in the general election, an all-Democratic runoff, had a fatal handicap. Former Deputy Mayor Freman Hendrix had come in first in the primary with 44 percent of the vote, almost enough to prevent the runoff. But Freman wasn't his first name. It was Helmut, a moniker given him by his mother, an Austrian Army bride named Rudolfine Ernegger. Kilpatrick knew how to play the Oreo card. His supporters took out an ad in the Michigan Chronicle, Detroit's black newspaper, asking voters to "Just say 'no' to the suburban raiders and their puppet Helmut Hendrix (a.k.a. Freman)." Kwame's father, Bernard "Killer" Kilpatrick, compared his son's critics to Nazis. On Election Day, the mayor skunked the pollsters with a 6-point win.

It was a racist campaign, but it also played on the pride of black Detroiters. They relish their control over City Hall and the regional water supply (the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department serves all of southeastern Michigan), and are adamant that suburbanites have no right to reclaim what they abandoned.

"There's still a fear that the whites will come back and they'll take over the city, they'll take over the water department," a man from the West Side told me as I covered the campaign in 2005. "People say, 'We stayed. We suffered through the city for 40 years. The whites fled. Why should they come in and reap the benefits?'"

The whites are unlikely to return. If anything, they'd like to jackhammer 8 Mile and replace it with razor wire. Earlier this year, Greenberg went back to Macomb, where he found Obama "underperforming" among its tradition-minded Democrats. John Kerry lost the county by 1 point, but Obama was trailing McCain 46-39. Only 71 percent of Democrats were ready to vote for him, versus 85 percent of Democrats nationwide.

This time around, Greenberg found that voters still resented government aid to blacks. Presented with Robert F. Kennedy's statement that America has a "special burden" to help blacks, they responded, "Get over it" and "Didn't they get forty acres and a mule? That's more than I got." But they also distinguished Obama from black leaders like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, who were disdained as demanding troublemakers. This time, Macomb County voters were far more concerned about the economy than about blacks, although there was a hint that Kilpatrick could revive the racial rivalry.

"Welfare, crime, reverse discrimination, blacks and Detroit were never mentioned in the discussion of why the country and state are off track, except for some asides about Detroit's pathetic mayor," Greenberg wrote. Obama's soft support in Macomb was more a matter of hesitation than resistance. Voters wanted assurance that Obama won't put black interests above white interests, that he'll work to keep blue-collar jobs in America, and that his exotic name and background won't prevent him from fighting terrorism. Race played a role in some of those concerns. But the poll also demonstrated that white, blue-collar voters are the toughest sell in any election: Resolutely middle class, they're skeptical of both elites and the poor, and they don't worship at the altar of either party.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:40 AM


Train crushes railway sex couple (BBC, 9/22/08)

A couple in South Africa who were having sex on a railway track in Mpumalanga Province have been killed by a goods train, police say.

Which is what you get for defiling the rails...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:33 AM


So Far, It Just Isn't Looking Like Asia's Century (Joshua Kurlantzick, September 7, 2008, Washington Post)

The problem: Calls to nationalism and an obsession with sovereignty are drowning out calls for cooperation. The passage of time since World War II, when nationalism led to catastrophe, has allowed politicians to wield it more freely for short-term gain. "The Chinese are ignorant, so they are overjoyed," Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara quipped after China launched a manned spaceship in 2003. "That [spacecraft] was an outdated one. If Japan wanted to do it, we could do it in one year."

This sort of nationalism isn't the stuff of a few firebrands. Across the continent, populist politicians have scrubbed school textbooks, whether to minimize Japan's atrocities in South Korea and China during World War II or to erase the memory of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia -- perhaps because Prime Minister Hun Sen was an officer in the genocidal regime before he turned against it. Traveling to Cambodia, I meet teenagers who know practically nothing about what happened in their country in the 1970s. China, too, has whitewashed the memory of the Tiananmen Square crackdown of June 4, 1989. When a "Frontline" documentary crew went to Beijing University a few years ago and showed students the iconic 1989 photograph of the man who stopped a tank in its tracks, no one recognized it.

Politicians aren't the only ones embracing nationalism. In 2002, when Thailand was still recovering from its financial meltdown, government-backed filmmakers produced "The Legend of Suriyothai" to restore their country's wounded pride. One of the most expensive pictures in Thai history, it told the story of an ancient Thai queen who died fighting Burmese invaders -- and compounded Thais' hostility toward Burma, their neighbor to the west.

The Internet has further empowered Asian nationalists, allowing them to air their vitriol unchecked. On Chinese online bulletin boards such as the "Strong Nation Forum," which is run by the People's Daily, respondents compete for the most aggressive stance and ridicule Chinese leaders for compromising on issues such as relations with neighboring countries or Tibet or Taiwan. In Japan, the blogosphere helped spark sales of the manga comic book "Hating the Korean Wave." And in Indonesia, online writers helped fuel anger at neighboring Malaysia for the use of a supposedly Indonesian jingle in a tourism campaign and for the mistreatment of an Indonesian karate referee. These are petty grievances, but the Internet amplifies even the smallest outbursts, and reactions can be fierce. Just last week, Vietnam's foreign ministry called in China's ambassador to protest the appearance on Chinese Web sites of "invasion plans" that purported to detail the occupation of Vietnam by the People's Liberation Army.

Whenever I visit Asia, I meet young people who detest neighbors they barely know. "The Thais, all they care about is money. Nothing else," one Burmese acquaintance told me in Rangoon, despite the fact that he'd never actually been to Thailand. In one study taken last year by a leading Japanese nongovernmental organization, two-thirds of the Chinese polled said they had either a "very bad" or "relatively bad" impression of Japan.

There's some folks badly in need of an Abrahamism.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:31 AM


DANIEL ABRAMS, who has been hailed throughout Europe and the Americas (Alan Rich wrote of his Town Hall debut in 1957: he must henceforth be taken into account when lists of pianists most likely to succeed are being compiled) will be presenting a concert of music from his “Opera For Piano” series in New York City on Wednesday, Oct. 15th. Included will be the American premier of his Musical Portraits from Wagner’s ’Ring’ (a 45-minute work). He feels that in his lifetime of music making, this is his most important contribution to music, and that “Opera For Piano” (please see Abrams’ statement below) will be a great addition to the performing pianist’s repertoire. Marta Argerich recently heard some of Abrams’ music performed in Europe and requested its inclusion in her Lugano Piano Festival. To give you some idea of Abrams‘ rare abilities as a musician and pianist, the following is from a review he received from “The NY Herald Tribune” when he presented the complete cycle of Mozart piano sonatas at the Kaufman Y:

Mr. Abrams, as has been noted before, is born to the piano; he cannot help but make beautiful sounds and he brings to whatever he tackles not only musicianship, technique and interpretative prowess, but a very special kind of intellectual radiance that quite sets him apart. In short, the five sonatas heard contained a veritable galaxy of refinements -- indeed, the sort of refinements that seem slowly to be creeping out of contemporary piano playing.

The concert, at the Mannes College of Music, 150 West 85th St (between Columbus & Amsterdam Avenues) is on Wednesday, October 15th at 8 pm. There is no charge and seating begins at 7:30 pm.

It promises to be a glorious evening of music making and the re-discovery of a truly great pianist!

More about Abrams: www.Daniel-Abrams.com

-REVIEW: of Daniel Abrams - Fantasie Variations on Tales of Love. Fantasie Variations on Richard Wagner's "Tristan und Isolde”; Chaconne on Dido's Lament from Henry Purcell's "Dido and Aeneas”; Fantasia on Carl Maria von Weber's "Der Freischutz”. (Tony Gualtieri, Classical Music Review)

In creating these operatic "fantasies," Abrams is reaching back to a tradition at least as old as Franz Liszt. Yet while Liszt attempted to reproduce the grandeur of opera, with clanging chords and breathtaking passages of high virtuosity, Abrams is aiming at something more intimate and, perhaps, more pianistic. In form, the Tristan Fantasie is a Theme and Variations; however, the music attempts to paraphrase the opera, moving from the Prelude to the Liebestod and taking in additional material from intervening sections of the opera. Thus Abrams, like Wagner, blends motifs to create new melodies as the piece moves through its variations. Abrams does not try to turn the piano into an orchestra, but rather resets the music as a work for piano. Hence textures are light and never reverberate into sonic mud. This also allows him to maintain a single dynamic flow throughout. When the "Tristan Chord" finally resolves, Abrams for the first time plays fortissimo, giving the moment a strong and appropriate dramatic impact. [...]

Daniel Abrams made his New York debut at Town Hall in 1957. He subsequently performed in venues throughout the world but gave up flying after he survived a crash landing whilst on tour in South America. He taught at Goucher College and at Johns Hopkins, and he now lives in Woodstock, New York. He has a marvelous feel for the piano, a delicate but assured touch, and a freedom from virtuosic affectation. He has recently completed a 45-minute paraphrase of Wagner's Ring cycle, which it is to be hoped will appear in a subsequent release. The present disk is a splendid collection of affectionate responses to music of an earlier era and is highly recommended.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:41 AM

TOP OF THE WORLD (via Greg Hlatky):

Ralph Plaisted, 80, Adventurer and Polar Pioneer, Dies (BRUCE WEBER, 9/13/08)

In September 1909, Dr. Frederick A. Cook reappeared in Europe after a two-year absence from society and claimed to have crossed the polar ice cap by dogsled and stood at the North Pole on April 21, 1908.

Just a few days after Cook’s announcement, Rear Adm. Robert E. Peary sent a wire to The New York Times from the far north of Canada proclaiming that he had planted an American flag at the North Pole on April 6, 1909. When he learned that Cook had beaten him there, Peary declared Cook’s claim fraudulent, and for many years the two men and their defenders argued over who was the real pioneer.

Actually, it was probably neither. Scientists and historians who have examined the diaries and navigation records of the two men have concluded that though both made formidable journeys, they more than likely never got close to the pole.

That leaves the title of the first man to cross the ice and indisputably reach the top of the world to Ralph Plaisted, who did it in a snowmobile in 1968, and who died of a heart attack on Monday at home in Wyoming, Minn., just north of the Twin Cities, his stepdaughter Lesle Tobkin said. He was 80.

Mr. Plaisted, an insurance man by profession, was an adventurer by nature who once uprooted his family to live for 15 months in the Saskatchewan wilderness. The Plaisteds slept in tents until they finished building cabins, and they dined on what they caught, picked and grew.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:37 AM


Durbin raps anti-Iran rally organizers (Jewish Telegraph, 09/21/2008)

A top Senate Democrat criticized the organizers of an anti-Iran rally.

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), speaking to Jewish and Israeli media on an Obama campaign conference call Friday afternoon, said there were "basic mistakes made by organizers of the rally" in the "way invitations were issued."

Monday's rally is protesting the appearance of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at the United Nations and his country's nuclear program.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:33 AM

Banana Cream Pie Bonanza (Seattle P-I, 9/22/08)

1/3 cup light vanilla soymilk

2 ounces fat-free vanilla yogurt

1/2 medium banana, sliced and frozen

3 no-calorie sweetener packets

1 teaspoon Coffee-mate Fat Free French Vanilla powdered creamer, dissolved in 1 ounce warm water

5-8 ice cubes or 1 cup crushed ice

1/2 sheet (2 crackers) low-fat honey graham crackers, crushed

2 tablespoons fat-free Reddi-wip

Place soymilk, yogurt, banana slices, sweetener, creamer mixture and ice in a blender. Add 2 ounces water. Blend on the highest speed for 30 to 45 seconds (until completely blended). Then stir in half of the crushed graham crackers.

Pour into a tall glass. Top with whipped topping and sprinkle remaining graham cracker pieces on top.

from Hungry Girl

September 21, 2008

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:20 PM


How are going to convince kids who grow up playing God games that their paradigm is wrong?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:04 PM


Indonesia's miraculous 'free' democracy (KISHORE MAHBUBANI, 9/23/08, Japan Times)

Modern miracles do happen. Ten years ago, as the Asian financial crisis savaged Indonesia's economy, many experts predicted that the country would become unstable, if not splinter. Instead, Indonesia, the world's most populous Islamic country, has emerged as a beacon of freedom and democracy for the Muslim world. [...]

Curiously, while many Americans and Europeans want moderate Muslim voices to succeed in Indonesia (and Southeast Asia), they often undermine moderates with policies that are perceived as anti-Islamic.

America's stance on military aid to Indonesia is but one example. For several years, some members of the U.S. Senate have maintained a punitive policy toward Indonesia by cutting off military assistance and curtailing Indonesian military training in the U.S. These punitive policies are self-defeating.

In recent years, the Indonesian military has provided a model for other Third World military forces on how to accept a transition to a full democracy. There are no threats of a coup d'etat, and senior generals, such as Yudhoyono, who studied in American military colleges, returned to Indonesia as convinced democrats.

It is a tragedy that ignorance of how much Indonesia has changed is being allowed to endanger its democratic development — and its role as a beacon of freedom and hope in the Islamic world. It is to be hoped that Barack Obama, should he win America's presidency, will recall the tolerant Indonesia where he grew up, and shape policies toward it accordingly.

Hasn't he heard the WoT is a losing cause and Islam irredeemable?

Indonesia's anti-corruption heroes (Megawati Wijaya , 9/23/08, Asia Times)

Endemic corruption has long dragged on Indonesia's economic development and taken a heavy toll on foreign investor confidence. Indonesia ranked 143 out of 179 countries surveyed in Transparency International's 2007 Corruption Perception Index, while the Hong Kong-based Political and Economic Risk Consultancy ranked Indonesia third, trailing only the Philippines and Thailand in a survey of Asia's most corrupt economies. Indonesia slipped two spots down to 129 in the World Bank's most recent "ease of doing business" survey.

The quasi-independent KPK was established in late 2003 and tasked with restoring investor confidence in the rule of law by cleaning up the country's notoriously rampant graft levels. The 550-member body, which boasts 30 police, 25 prosecutors, 50 investigators and a special court, has unusually wide-ranging powers, ranging from naming corruption suspects, making arrests and summoning political office holders and high-ranking officials to testify in cases.

The KPK also has the authority to take over cases that have stalled with the police or state prosecutor's office and can ask the president to suspend officials under investigation to facilitate prosecution and access their personal bank accounts. Under Azhar's nine-month tenure, the KPK has captured the national imagination through its pursuit of some of the country's most powerful political figures.

Since December, the body has recovered over Rp 400 billion of pilfered state funds. Last month it even launched a preliminary investigation into the judiciary's alleged misuse of court fees.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:41 PM


Former Clinton staffers jump to McCain (Cherelle Kantey, 9/21/08, First Read)

"Obama really doesn't have the experience,” said Miguel Lausell, senior national political advisor to Hillary Clinton. “We don't know what he's going to be doing. We don't really know where he's coming from, and that's the big difference."

Luchy Secaira, former Sen. Hillary Clinton Delegate-at-Large, said that
stance on women’s issues is all talk and no action. Secaira said that Obama’s rhetoric on the Equal Pay Act is not backed up with hiring practices in his Senate office. [...]

“The Hispanic community has nothing to fear, because they know John McCain,” Secaira added. “He has fought against his own party on behalf of the Hispanic community and was an integral part in trying to bring forth comprehensive immigration reform.”

Lausell also expressed disappointment that Obama overlooked Clinton as a choice for a vice-presidential running mate, saying this decision was a deal breaker for Hispanic voters who wanted to see her on the ticket.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:39 PM


Nick Faldo's big gamble misfires as US regain Ryder Cup at a canter (Lawrence Donegan, 9/22/08, The Guardian)

"It was a matter of fractions, " the losing captain said afterwards. "But congratulations to Paul. The Americans were just that bit better than us this week."

They were indeed, especially the likes of Anthony Kim, who was handed the dual task of facing Sergio García in the opening singles match and whipping the crowd into even greater paroxysms of patriotic fervour . He performed both tasks admirably, handing the Spaniard a 5&4 defeat and making the ebullient Boo Weekley - whose antics have been a signature of the week - look like a wallflower with self-esteem issues.

Hometown favourite Kenny Perry, who defeated Henrik Stenson 3&2 despite having an injured shoulder, was another who contributed hugely to the red, white and blue cause, while the Ryder Cup rookie Hunter Mahan was the team's highest points contributor, with three and a half.

But while captain Azinger was handing out the campaign medals, captain Faldo was no doubt preparing himself for the firing squad. Europe's main man has never been one for self doubt but surely even he will have cause to question some of his own decisions, in private at least. As for the public inquisition, it can safely be said the prosecution file will land on his desk with a hefty thud.

In fairness to Faldo, his most controversial move since being appointed to lead the European team this week turned out to be his best. Ian Poulter's 3&2 victory over Steve Stricker yesterday earned the Englishman his fourth point of the match (out of five) and confirmed him as the highest points winner on either side. It was one last, wonderful effort from a player who has silenced his doubters once and for all, but it was also one that served to highlight the folly of his mentor's thinking.

"This week is all about the team, not the individual, so I am very, very disappointed," said Poulter, who might have made a world of difference if he had been allowed to strut his stuff - six birdies in 16 holes - earlier in the day.

Instead Faldo, whose team faced a overnight deficit of two points, staked everything on the belief that his best players would retain the trophy by winning down the stretch. Azinger gambled, too, hoping best players would secure an early victory, and for long spells during a compelling afternoon found himself straddling that painful divide between ecstasy and agony.

What's the point of winning the matches after the concession?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:31 PM


Pelosi Gives Thumbs Down to Bailout Proposal (The Page, 9/21/08)
Obama: No 'blank check' for Wall Street (Athena Jones, 9/21/08, First Read)

While saying that circumstances required decisive action and a bipartisan solution, because "your jobs, your savings, your economic security, your house" are at risk, the senator did not offer his explicit support for a plan that his campaign says he is still reviewing closely.

Financial markets across the globe rocketed upwards on news of the Bush/Paulson plan, so Democrats think there's political hay to be made in opposing this surge too? They're handing Republicans the blank check to beat them over the head with.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:26 PM


Palin draws largest crowd yet for GOP ()Jonathan Martin, 9/21/08, Politico)

Mike Tucker, a local fire marshal, estimated 60,000. But reporters on the ground, including AP's Brendan Farrington and my colleague Ken Vogel, would only say "tens of thousands," suggesting the marshal's estimate was on the high side. The St. Pete Times's Adam Smith had another fire official in the crowd say it was about 25,000.

Regardless, the size of the crowd underscores just how enthused conservatives are for Palin and the sort of buzz she's still able to drive nearing a month after her introduction as John McCain's running mate.

The thing is, when Ms Palin debates Joe Biden it will be just the second time most people have ever seen her and the Left is conveniently lowering expectations again.


In California,'Palin factor' sparks fear among Dems, joy among GOP
(Joe Garofoli, September 21, 2008, SF Chronicle)

Post-convention swing state polls are tipping toward Sen. John McCain, the TV pundits are waxing about "The Palin Factor," and Sen. Barack Obama's California supporters are freaking out about a race Democrats were uncommonly confident about only a month ago.

Conversely, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's addition to the GOP ticket jolted Northern California Republicans out of what one described as their "Underground Railroad" existence in one of the nation's most liberal regions. Ever since her speech to the Republican National Convention on Sept. 3, party officials say volunteers have been contacting California GOP offices in numbers unseen since Ronald Reagan was on the ballot for the White House.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:20 PM


Historic train's passage through San Clemente is a real toot (FRED SWEGLES, 9/21/08, OC Register)

A passenger train steeped in history chugged through San Clemente shortly after 9 a.m. today, pulled by former Santa Fe Locomotive 3751, the last steam locomotive to haul a scheduled commercial passenger train along the Los Angeles/San Diego route, in 1953.

"It was very special," said Ron Geisel, a San Clemente resident who watched from the pier. "It reminded me of the old days. It was very special to see something of the past come out of the past. I think they should run it more often."

The 3751, dating back to 1927, retired in 1953 and now is owned by the San Bernardino Railroad Historical Society. It passed through San Clemente on June 1 on a private excursion sponsored by the Central Coast Railway Club and the Pacific Locomotive Association.

Today was different. In June, the steam engine was hauling mostly Amtrak passenger cars. Today it hauled two dozen vintage passenger cars dating from the 1920s through the 1950s.

Thank goodness cars are just a fad.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:33 PM


A Spy Confesses, and Still Some Weep for the Rosenbergs (SAM ROBERTS, 9/21/08, NY Times)

You could choose to ignore, or somehow explain away, the Hitler-Stalin pact, or be wedded to the original Port Huron Statement instead of the “compromised second draft,” but if you seriously considered yourself fiercely loyal to the far left, you believed that the Rosenbergs were not guilty of espionage. At least you said you did.

For more than 50 years, defending Julius and Ethel Rosenberg was an article of faith for most committed American leftists. That the couple was framed — by officials intent on stoking anti-Soviet fervor and embarrassed by counterespionage lapses that allowed Russian moles to infiltrate the government — was at the core of a worldview of Communism, the Korean War and the ensuing cold war, and an enduring cultural divide stoked by McCarthyism.

Communism was no more effective than witchcraft but the witches of both needed hunting.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:36 AM


Back in Iraq, Jarred by the Calm (DEXTER FILKINS, 9/21/08, NY Times)

By the time I had left the country in August 2006, the two-mile stretch of riverside park was a grim, spooky, deserted place, a symbol for the dying city that Baghdad had become.

These days, the same park is filled with people: families with children, women in jeans, women walking alone. Even the nighttime, when Iraqis used to cower inside their homes, no longer scares them. I can hear their laughter wafting from the park. At sundown the other day, I had to weave my way through perhaps 2,000 people. It was an astonishing, beautiful scene — impossible, incomprehensible, only months ago.

When I left Baghdad two years ago, the nation’s social fabric seemed too shredded to ever come together again. The very worst had lost its power to shock. To return now is to be jarred in the oddest way possible: by the normal, by the pleasant, even by hope. The questions are jarring, too. Is it really different now? Is this something like peace or victory? And, if so, for whom: the Americans or the Iraqis?

There are plenty of reasons why this peace may only amount to a cease-fire, fragile and reversible. The “surge” of American troops is over. The Iraqis are moving to take their country back, yet they wonder what might happen when the Americans’ restraining presence is gone. The Awakening, a poetic name for paying former Sunni insurgents not to kill Americans or Iraqis, could fall apart, just as the Shiite Mahdi Army could reanimate itself as quickly as it disappeared. Politics in Iraq remains frozen in sectarian stalemate; the country’s leaders cannot even agree to set a date for provincial elections, which might hand power to groups that never had it before. The mountain of oil money, piled ever higher by record oil prices, may become another reason to spill blood.

But if this is not peace, it is not war, either — at least not the war I knew. When I left Iraq in the summer of 2006, after living three and a half years here following the collapse of Saddam Hussein’s regime, I believed that evil had triumphed, and that it would be many years before it might be stopped. Iraq, filled with so many people living so close together, nurturing dark and unknowable grievances, seemed destined for a ghastly unraveling.

And now, in the late summer of 2008, comes the calm.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:31 AM


Gorbachev reflects on what went wrong: He says the West kicked Russia when it was down. (Trudy Rubin, 9/21/08, Philadelphia Inquirer)

He recalled the amazing days when he, as Soviet leader, gave the green light for Eastern Europe to choose its own future and Germany to reunite. Then, he said, there seemed a chance of getting rid of NATO as well as the communist Warsaw Pact. He repeated his plea, made since the 1990s, for a common security organization for all Europe.

Instead, he said, we see a "new struggle for spheres of influence" between NATO and Russia. He recalled the words of the first secretary general of NATO in the late 1940s, about the purpose of the transatlantic organization: "To Keep America in, keep Germany down and keep Russia out."

Of course, neither "Old Europe" nor, more so, the "New Europe" of ex-communist nations trusts Russian intentions sufficiently to want to dissolve NATO or to break security links with Washington. That mistrust has intensified because of the extensive Russian invasion of Georgia, even among Europeans who believe Georgia brought its troubles on itself.

But Gorbachev reflects an understandable Russian anger that the West betrayed promises it made to him in the early 1990s. "America took advantage of the breakup of the Soviet Union," he said with emotion, "and [it] rejected decisions taken and signed by the United States.

"Secretary [of State James] Baker said that NATO would not move to the East. Where is NATO today?" He referred to NATO's decision to invite former East European countries into its ranks and the pending decision about whether to admit Georgia and Ukraine.

...than to have believed he could preserve the USSR, he tells you he trusted James Baker and thought he reflected the American will?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:23 AM


U.S.-India nuclear bond? (William Hawkins, September 21, 2008, Washington Times)

Passage of the agreement with India would be a positive contrast to the U.S. cancellation of a nuclear deal with Russia on Sept. 8. The Russian deal would have allowed Moscow to establish a lucrative business in the import and storage of spent nuclear fuel from U.S.-supplied reactors around the world.

Given Russia's ties to rogue regimes like Iran, and questions about security at its existing nuclear sites, making it a global center for nuclear fuel storage seemed like a bad idea from its inception. The deal got a deservedly cool reception when sent to Congress for approval in May. Russia's invasion of Georgia led President George W. Bush to pull the agreement.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:02 AM


Joe Biden: The Forgotten Man (Ruben Navarrette, 9/21/08, Real Clear Politics)

Have you noticed the little orange cones surrounding a certain ill-fated vice presidential candidate?

When a presidential nominee chooses a running mate as a gimmick, not to accentuate his strengths but to mask his weaknesses, he is asking for trouble. And when that running mate becomes a laughingstock and a liability, it doesn't just hurt the ticket but also reflects poorly on the person who did the choosing because it shows he bungled a major decision. And since the candidate is not likely to choose again, the best he can do is to keep his running mate under wraps and hope there are no more gaffes.

Of course, the running mate I'm speaking of is Joe Biden.

...Mr. Biden would be Lloyd Bentsen, another uninspiring Washington insider chosen for his "experience." When that's the ceiling for your pick you've biffed it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:56 AM


Bush: 'Warrior for... democratic values' (Mark Silva, 9/21/08, The Swamp)

President Bush and Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, a couple of leaders with Harvard credentials on their resumes, met for dinner at the White House last night, a multi-course affair featuring rib-eye and punctuated with vintage wines.

Uribe, in an exchange of toasts before dinner, praised Bush as 'this warrior for the well-being of the democratic values'' and "one great leader in the fight for the well-being of democracies.''

It's telling, however, that one of the best allies whom Bush has courted in South America represents a nation with which the U.S. Congress will not ratify a free-trade agreement.

...is that the Democrats are not similarly warriors for democracy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:45 AM


Race helps, hinders Obama, polls show (DAVID PAUL KUHN, 9/21/08, Politico)

Excluding Obama’s fleeting downturn following the Republican convention, though, the Gallup Poll’s authoritative weekly survey summaries have generally measured the Democrat with about 34 to 38 percent of the backing of white men, about the standard level of support for a Democratic candidate since 1980. Among white women his support has ranged from a split with McCain to slightly behind—also fairly normative for a Democratic candidate.

“If Obama’s support among whites is essentially the same as Al Gore’s support among whites, and better than Walter Mondale’s and Michael Dukakis’s success among whites, then its hard to ascribe his deficit among whites to his race,” Langer said.

...of the Bradley Effect that white Democrats tell pollsters they're supporting their party's black nominee at the same rate as they would a white one but he then underperforms when they actually go into the voting booth?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:39 AM


Campaigns Beef Up Economic Teams in Face of Crisis (Jonathan Weisman, 9/21/08, Washington Post)

Former Treasury secretary Robert E. Rubin found an urgent conference call request waiting for him as his plane arrived in New York from Europe at 9:45 that night. Former Federal Reserve chairman Paul A. Volcker was on a Manhattan street, talking on his cellphone and hustling to find a land line. Former Treasury secretary Lawrence H. Summers joined in, as did former Clinton White House economist Laura Tyson. Barbra Streisand would go on as scheduled at the Obama event in Los Angeles, but in Manhattan, other events had seized the attention of the Democrat's campaign.

The Unicorn Rider as Eisenhower Republican.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:33 AM


In Rainbows album coverImage via WikipediaRadiohead: Live In Concert (Bob Boilen, 9/05/08, NPR: All Songs Considered)

When I think of the best concerts I've seen, I always flash back to Pink Floyd in early 1972. Almost two years before the band released what would become Dark Side of the Moon, Pink Floyd performed the entire suite of songs to the amazement of us all. We'd never heard any of the songs (then titled Eclipse: A Piece for Assorted Lunatics), and with its quadrophonic sound, it remains the most massive musical surprise I've experienced.

Radiohead's show at the Santa Barbara Bowl came as close for musicianship and creativity as any show I've seen in 37 years. I've seen a lot of shows.

These guys write great songs, and sometimes you can even sing along to them, but what they do better than any band is create a sonic adventure — a soundscape which, at its best, stretches time and allows the mind to wander and rejuvenate. I think of it as resetting the synapses. Creativity breeds creativity. When the music was over, I felt unboxed and changed and pretty darn happy. Drugs are overrated; music is underrated.

Set List



There There

15 Step

All I Need


Talk Show Host

Weird Fishes/Arpeggi

The Gloaming

Morning Bell

National Anthem

Faust Arp

No Surprises

Jigsaw Falling Into Place

The Bends

Karma Police


First Encore

Cymbal Rush

House of Cards

Paranoid Android

Go Slowly

Everything in Its Right Place

Second Encore




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Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:27 AM


Inspired Poulter takes fight to energised US (Bill Elliott, 9/21/08, The Observer)

After a close, combative and always compelling afternoon of fourball matches so close that three of the four went to the final hole, the match is now delicately poised. Europe went into yesterday three points adrift of the US. Now they are closer. Two points. Is it close enough? It may be but, realistically, it will take a monumental effort to overcome this US team and this crowd.

Whatever else is true of this 37th Ryder Cup it can now safely be said that the years of total European domination are over for a while. The Americans, ritually humiliated whenever they played the match this century, may no longer be studded with legendary names but the new generation have proved already this week that, mostly, they are made of the right stuff. Pumped up by the crowd, many thousands of Louisville lips yelling their encouragement, and focused on the victory that has been sought since the dust finally settled on the embarrassment that had been Brookline in 1999, Paul Azinger's players are on their way to showing that the sum of the parts is more relevant than the individual components.

September 20, 2008

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:23 PM


Abortion foes begin to make their case in Russia: Doctors and politicians are quietly struggling to change the nation's casual attitude toward the procedure. (Megan K. Stack, 9/20/08, Los Angeles Times)

Abortionist Marina Chechneva remembers the old-style Russian gynecologists who worked in state hospitals and churned out back-to-back abortions like Soviet factory workers. She remembers the women who "used to use abortion as a kind of vacation, because in the U.S.S.R., they got three days off from work."

These days, Chechneva is writing magazine articles about fetus development in hope of raising public opposition to abortion. After years of handling fetuses, she explains, she has come to feel a responsibility toward the unborn children.

"They should realize that what they're doing is already a murder," she said.

A fledgling antiabortion movement is beginning to stir in Russia. Driven by a growing discussion of abortion as a moral issue and, most of all, by a government worried about demographics, doctors and politicians are quietly struggling to lower what is believed to be one of the world's highest abortion rates.

"The attitude has changed," abortion practitioner Alexander Medvedev said. "Even in community clinics, doctors are trying to dissuade patients from abortion. Now teenagers come to see us with already two or three abortions, and it's horrible."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:19 PM


Mass poll shows Labour wipeout across country (Gaby Hinsliff and Toby Helm, 9/21/08, The Observer)

Gordon Brown is set to lead Labour into an election bloodbath so crushing it could take his party a decade to recover, according to the largest ever poll of marginal seats which predicts a landslide victory for David Cameron.

Eight cabinet ministers, including the Home Secretary and the Justice Secretary, would be swept away in the rout as the Tories marched into Downing Street with a majority of 146, says the poll, conducted for PoliticsHome.com and exclusively revealed to The Observer. Seats that have been Labour since the First World War would fall.

The sheer scale of the humiliation is almost as bad as that endured by the Tories in 1997, suggesting it could take Labour a similar time to claw its way back to power. The party would be virtually extinguished in southern England and left with only its hardcore redoubts in northern England, the Welsh valleys and deprived inner-city areas.

Given the identicality of politics across the Anglosphere you'd think they'd realize that reversion to the 2nd Way doesn't work.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:40 PM


Obama hammers McCain over Social Security (Sasha Johnson, 9/20/08, CNN)

Barack Obama told voters here that if John McCain became president he would “privatize” their Social Security – a debate over the program that could resurface as a major issue in the closing weeks of the campaign given the wild swings in financial markets.

Winning the "change" argument requires proposing actual changes. Let Senator Obama defend a 70 year old program that no one thinks (though erroneously) will still be paying out in a couple decades and run instead on the sorts of personalized accounts that most voters have through work nowadays and that W won on twice. He opposes reform. You'll lead it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:30 PM


Massive Bomb Attack Kills Dozens in Pakistan's Capital: Explosion Rips Through Marriott Hotel in Islamabad; at Least 40 Dead (Pamela Constable, 9/20/08, Washington Post)

Television footage of the Islamabad Marriott Hotel, located just blocks from many major government buildings, showed flames leaping from almost every window in the five-story hotel and bloodied survivors staggering from the lobby.

There were unconfirmed reports that more than 1,000 people had been inside the hotel at the time of the attack, and police said the death toll was expected to rise. Ambulances and other vehicles ferried dozens of injured survivors away from the scene.

Islamabad has been the site of several other bombings in recent months, including a suicide attack at the Danish Embassy and a planted explosion at a garden Italian restaurant frequented by foreign visitors.

Sorry to be callous, but who in their right mind visits Pakistan?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:25 PM


More from the AP-Yahoo News Poll on Race (Mark Halperin, 9/20/08, The Page)

–More than a third of all white Democrats and independents agreed with at least one negative adjective about blacks and they are significantly less likely to vote for Obama than those who don’t have such views. [...]

–Nearly four in 10 white independents agreed that blacks would be better off if they “try harder.”

–Just 59 percent of her white Democratic supporters said they wanted Obama to be president. Nearly 17 percent of Clinton’s white backers plan to vote for McCain.

It might help if the Unicorn Rider stopped talking about how different he is when there's really no difference between him and John Kerry.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:59 AM


Nothing funny about Obama losing, funnyman Woody Allen says (AFP, Sep 19, 2008)

"It would be a disgrace and a humiliation if Barack Obama does not win," he told Spanish journalists at the ongoing 56th San Sebastian film festival, where his latest film "Vicky Cristina Barcelona" is being screened.

...one oughtn't vote for John McCain just to humiliate Mr. Allen.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:44 AM


New Abortion Study Fuels Criticism of Obama and Praise of Palin (Liz Halloran, September 19, 2008, US News)

The study for the Family Research Council was conducted by Michael New, a University of Alabama political science professor and senior FRC fellow. [...]

New analyzed national data from 1985 to 1999, compared the types of state parental involvement laws, and attempted to assess their effect on abortion rates. In the period studied, the overall abortion rate fell 50 percent, New says, suggesting that "parental involvement laws are an important causal factor" in the decline. He says his most dramatic finding was the drop in the rate of abortions among minor girls. Between 1985 and 1999, the abortion rate for girls between the ages of 13 and 17 dropped from 13.5 for every 1,000 girls, to 6.5 per 1,000.

Thirty-six states currently have parental involvement laws, ranging from requiring minor girls contemplating an abortion to notify a parent, to compelling them to obtain consent from both parents - currently the law in three states. The states with the most stringent consent requirements, New says, have been the "most effective in reducing abortion rates among minors."

New says his findings, which the FRC has characterized as the first comprehensive nationwide analysis of abortion rates among minors, has "clear policy implications" and provides a "unique opportunity" to influence debate on the proposed federal legislation that would make it a crime to take a minor to another state to avoid parental intervention, and to highlight the importance of future U.S. Supreme Court appointments.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:00 AM


Europe face uphill struggle after Faldo's picks backfire (Lawrence Donegan, 9/20/08, The Guardian)

Only a fool would draw definitive conclusions from the opening exchanges of any Ryder Cup but after a day at Valhalla golf club characterised by brilliant golf and boisterous behaviour this much can be said of the 37th edition of the sport's most compelling event: It won't be a European walkover.

Paul Azinger and his fist-pumping, high-fiving, crowd-inciting men will return to the golf course this morning with a three-point advantage over the visiting team, having won five and a half points from an available eight.

Meanwhile, Faldo and his players will arrive knowing they are the first European side to "lose" the opening day since 1995.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:26 AM


US learns lessons from Swedish banking crisis (Bo Lundgren, 20 Sep 08)

[Bo Lundgren at the Swedish National Debt Office] was finance minister in the 1991 right-wing government and, together with current and former Riksbank heads Stefan Ingves and Urban Bäckström, was the architect behind the bank support committee (Bankstödsnämnden or Bankakuten) which did much to alleviate the crisis that raged in the Swedish banking system from 1990-94.

Several years of hysterical property and commodity speculation in the 1980s plunged Sweden into its worst financial crisis since the 1930s.

"There are significant similarities between the current American financial crisis and our own financial crisis at the beginning of the 1990s. It concerns a finance and property bubble that has lead to large losses in the the banking sector."

Lundgren argues, like the US president George Bush, that governments have a major part to play in such exceptional situations, adding that there is a good chance of reclaiming the money.

"The sums that we had to cover amounted to 60 billion kronor ($9.83 billion). But together with the resurrection of Nordbanken meant that by 1997 the outlay had been more than halved by reclamations," said Lundgren.

"And since then the state has probably been reimbursed all of the money. "

Shock Forced Paulson's Hand: A Black Wednesday on Credit Markets; 'Heaven Help Us All' (DEBORAH SOLOMON, LIZ RAPPAPORT, DAMIAN PALETTA and JON HILSENRATH, 9/20/08, Wall Street Journal)
Huddled in his office Wednesday with top advisers, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson watched his financial-data terminal with alarm as one market after another began go haywire. Investors were fleeing money-market mutual funds, long considered ultra-safe. The market froze for the short-term loans that banks rely on to fund their day-to-day business. Without such mechanisms, the economy would grind to a halt. Companies would be unable to fund their daily operations. Soon, consumers would panic.

For at least a month, Mr. Paulson and Treasury officials had discussed the option of jump-starting markets by having the government absorb the rotten assets -- mainly financial instruments tied to subprime mortgages -- at the heart of the crisis. The concept, dubbed Balance Sheet Relief, was seen at Treasury as a blunt instrument, something to be used in only the direst of circumstances.
If markets were rational a sharp instrument might work, though it's doubtful even rational bureaucrats could figure out how to use it effectively.

WWRD... What Would Roosevelt Do? (Richard Reeves, 9/20/08, Real Clear Politics)

When the capitalists go too far, the government, at least in the most capitalist of countries, the United States, bails them out and tells them not to do it that way again.

Then whoever is in charge of the government looks for a bracelet with the letters "WWRD." "What Would Roosevelt Do?"

Hopefully not, since FDR exacerbated and prolonged the Depression, which is only known as "Great" here.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:21 AM


Real Men of Genius: a review of SOLDIERS OF REASON: The RAND Corporation and the Rise of the American Empire By Alex Abella (JACOB HEILBRUNN, NY Times Book Review)

Abella correctly focuses on the role of Wohlstetter, who made his name in the early 1950s with a study diagnosing the vulnerability of the Strategic Air Command’s nuclear bombers to a Soviet pre-emptive strike. As the decades went by, Wohlstetter never stopped emphasizing the importance of being prepared for a surprise attack (his wife, Roberta, had brilliantly chronicled one in a study of Pearl Harbor). His contribution was to argue for a version of deterrence that relied on what became known as a ­second-strike capability — the ability to absorb a first blow and retaliate. According to Abella, Wohlstetter believed that “it behooved someone with his knowledge to anticipate the worst eventuality, so that once ready for it, it might not happen at all.”

As Abella reminds us, Wohlstetter was at the forefront of the intellectual battle, in the 1970s, to knock the struts out from Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger’s (and later Gerald Ford’s) support for détente with the Soviet Union. Wohlstetter warned that both Democrats and liberal Republicans were underestimating the size of the Soviet arsenal.

One result was the government’s creation of “Team B,” made up of hawks who challenged the C.I.A.’s estimates of the Kremlin’s nuclear force. How influential Team B ­really was is questionable. But it did serve as a precursor of the Bush administration’s efforts to prod the C.I.A. into offering worst-case assessments of Sad­dam Hussein’s regime. (Indeed, earlier this year The New York Times reported that the Army had buried a 2005 RAND study that was highly critical of the planning for postwar Iraq.) Abella traces it all back to RAND analysts and neoconservatives, whose gloomy view of the cold war, he argues, triumphed during the Reagan years. But the truth is that the Reagan administration wasn’t simply the handmaiden of the RAND Corporation and the neocons. It was responding to a real threat.

Abella, co-author of “Shadow Enemies: Hitler’s Secret Terrorist Plot Against the United States,” is too quick to dismiss American apprehensions as “paranoia.” Also, some of his assertions lack context. He writes that the Reagan administration’s “cavalier attitude toward nuclear war and its insistence on placing new midrange missiles in Europe provoked a crisis in the Soviet Union.”

Just because the Soviets had produced a whole lot of really crappy weapons didn't make them a threat and the point was to provoke a crisis, which destroyed the USSR just as surely as a first strike would have, though waiting 50 years wasted millions of lives, trillions of dollars, and untold human suffering.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:14 AM


Who Do They Like, Who Do They Hate (Barry Rubin, September 19, 2008, GLORIA)

These two polls are very interesting especially when compared to each other, and are not so bad.

Contrary to what we think there are basically two models:

1. Strong support for Israel as against the PA: US
2. Relative evenhandedness: France, Germany, and UK. [...]

Some points:

* Australia, the US, and the UK are by far the most tolerant. Despite European "sweetness and light" and "multiculturalism", they are far more bigoted. Note that Americans are ridiculed as narrow-minded and intolerant by Europeans. The shoe is on the other foot.

* Jews are always less unpopular than Muslims.

* Spain, Poland, and Russia can be fairly described as anti-Semitic nations in terms of popular opinion. History is pretty consistent.

* The level of anti-Semitism in France and Germany is quite high although not characteristic.

* Who would have dared dream 20 years ago that one in five Germans would be anti-Semitic? I wonder what the figure would have been if a poll had been taken there-or in France for that matter--say, in 1900?

* Muslims have legitimate concerns about high levels of hatred.

...they hate their own Muslims.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:01 AM


Burn Her!: Why it's dangerous to be a witch in a recession. (Tim Harford, Sept. 20, 2008, Slate)

Why did people murder suspected witches in Renaissance Europe?

Because witchcraft is an abomination?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:55 AM


Our love affair with the train: Commuting by train brings us together in a very down to earth way - something flying and all its associated queues and security cannot do (Lisa Jardine, 9/20/08, BBC Magazine)

Ever since my childhood I have particularly enjoyed travelling on trains. Trains give me a comforting feeling of independence and self-sufficiency, of being in control.

From the station where you start your journey to your destination you know precisely in what direction you are going and how long it will take. You can make an excursion of it, choosing your route so that you admire the countryside and glimpse cathedral spires from your speeding train window.

On long journeys, you watch the landscape gradually unfolding, modulating from familiar to unfamiliar as you travel, and adjust your expectations while you are in transit.

By contrast, a plane journey from a chilly, rain-soaked London to the south of France tumbles you out onto the hot tarmac at Nice airport still wearing your waterproof shoes and heavy overcoat, and dazed by the easy Mediterranean pace of life after the hurly-burly of the city. [...]

My daily journey also reminded me how taking the train keeps you connected to your fellow human-beings. Everyone in Holland takes the train.

You mingle with people from all kinds of background, and everyone seems to look out for one another - helping with heavy bags, offering information, or simply chatting about the weather. The well-to-do and the hard-up travel side by side. It takes no time at all to feel at home with the Dutch as a people when you travel amongst them by train.

But the state prefers atomization and individuals isolated in their own cars.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:48 AM


Questions for Charles Murray: Head of the Class (Interview by DEBORAH SOLOMON, 9/21/08, NY TImes Magazine)

Although attending college has long been a staple of the American dream, you argue in your new book, “Real Education,” that too many kids are now heading to four-year colleges and wasting their time in pursuit of a bachelor’s degree.

Yes. Let’s stop this business of the B.A., this meaningless credential. And let’s talk about having something kids can take to an employer that says what they know, not where they learned it. [...]

I’m sure you’re aware that unemployment is very high right now. There are very few unemployed first-rate electricians.

I can get a good doctor in a minute and a half. Getting a really good electrician — that’s hard. If you want jobs that are in high demand, go to any kind of skilled labor. And by labor, I mean things that pay $30 or $40 an hour.

One is reminded of the story NPR did a few years ago on the desperate need for watch repairmen.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:43 AM


Lebensraum: a review of HITLER’S EMPIRE: How the Nazis Ruled Europe By Mark Mazower (JAMES J. SHEEHAN, NY Times Book Review)

As Mazower explains in “Hitler’s Empire,” there was often something improvised and disorganized about the Nazis’ rule: they wildly underestimated, for example, the demographic and logistical challenges involved in Germanizing the conquered lands of Eastern Europe. [...]

The Third Reich was a national enterprise, run by and for a racially defined German Volk. But the empire, Mazower makes clear, could not have functioned without swarms of international collaborators, who supported the Germans because of conviction or self-interest or some complex combination of the two. When they were winning the war, the Nazis could set the terms for this collaboration, encouraging or discouraging it to suit their ideological inclinations and immediate advantage. As the tide of battle turned, people’s willingness to collaborate with the Germans ebbed, until at the end there was no one left but the deluded and desperate, like those members of the French SS unit who died fighting the Red Army in the streets of Berlin.

One of the most striking themes in “Hitler’s Empire” is the contrast between the Nazis’ military prowess and their political incompetence. Hitler was simply not interested in developing a program that might appeal to potential allies, for whose national interests and aspirations he had little sympathy. He left the political direction of his Eastern European regime to Alfred Rosenberg, who — as Hitler expected — wasted his time on elaborate but irrelevant programs and pronouncements.

...the notion that the Nazis were a threat was about as realistic as saying Saddam posed one. We fight these guys for others, not for ourselves.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:40 AM


Trends in Candidate Preferences Among Religious Groups (Pew Research, Sept. 19, 2008)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:36 AM


Linking Obama to Ex-Fannie Mae Chief Is a Stretch (Washington Post, September 20, 2008)

"Obama has no background in economics. Who advises him? The Post says it's Franklin Raines, for 'advice on mortgage and housing policy.' Shocking. Under Raines, Fannie Mae committed 'extensive financial fraud.' Raines made millions. Fannie Mae collapsed. Taxpayers? Stuck with the bill."

McCain campaign video release [...]

So what evidence does the McCain campaign have for the supposed Obama-Raines connection? It is pretty flimsy, but it is not made up completely out of whole cloth. McCain spokesman Brian Rogers points to three items in the Washington Post in July and August. It turns out that the three items (including an editorial) all rely on the same single conversation, between Raines and a Washington Post business reporter, Anita Huslin, who wrote a profile of the discredited Fannie Mae boss that appeared July 16. The profile reported that Raines, who retired from Fannie Mae four years ago, had "taken calls from Barack Obama's presidential campaign seeking his advice on mortgage and housing policy matters."

Which suggests a new motto for the Post: "Not your paper of record!"

September 19, 2008

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:47 PM


Latest poll has National able to govern alone (New Zealand Herald, Sep 20, 2008)

The latest poll of voter sentiment has National able to govern alone after the coming election, but party strategists are downplaying the findings.

Today's Fairfax Media-Nielsen poll claims the National Party has 52 per cent support, 18 points ahead of the Labour Party.

Maverick and the Unicorn Rider don't matter--they're just symbols.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:15 PM


‘Attack by Association’ Viewed as Fair Game by McCain Camp (Laura Meckler, 9/19/08, WSJ: Washington Wire)

Don’t be shocked if you see the McCain campaign pull the controversial Rev. Jeremiah Wright out of mothballs in new attacks against one-time parishioner, Barack Obama.

McCain advisers say that they see “attack by association” as fair game now, arguing that Obama’s campaign has been using that technique to go after McCain. In particular, the Obama campaign has hammered McCain on the stump and in TV ads on the number of one-time lobbyists working for his campaign. (The McCain campaign is also angry about a Spanish-language TV ad that ties McCain to Rush Limbaugh on immigration, without ever saying that McCain took on Limbaugh and others to fight for comprehensive immigration reform.)

“They played it one way, we played it another way,” said one of McCain’s top advisers, Mark Salter. “Now we’re both going to play it the same way.”

We could do without the whole they did it first bit. Mr. Obama's relationship to the Reverend Wright is a perfectly legitimate issue, just hammer him with it and don't make apologies.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:25 PM


Here's looking at you, kid: a review of The Case Against Barack Obama: The Unlikely Rise and Unexamined Agenda of the Media's Favorite Candidate By David Freddoso (The Economist, Sep 18th 2008)

The Obama that emerges from its pages is not, Mr Freddoso says, “a bad person. It’s just that he’s like all the rest of them. Not a reformer. Not a Messiah. Just like all the rest of them in Washington.” And the author makes a fairly compelling case that this is so. The best part of the book concentrates on Mr Obama’s record in Chicago, his home town and the place from which he was elected to the Illinois state Senate in 1996, before moving to the United States Senate in 2004. The book lays out in detail how this period began in a way that should shock some of Mr Obama’s supporters: he won the Democratic nomination for his Illinois seat by getting a team of lawyers to throw all the other candidates off the ballot on various technicalities. One of those he threw off was a veteran black politician, a woman who helped him get started in politics in the first place.

If Mr Obama really were the miracle-working, aisle-jumping, consensus-seeking new breed of politician his spin-doctors make him out to be, you would expect to see the evidence in these eight years. But there isn’t very much. Instead, as Mr Freddoso rather depressingly finds, Mr Obama spent the whole period without any visible sign of rocking the Democratic boat.

He was a staunch backer of Richard Daley, who as mayor failed to stem the corruption that has made Chicago one of America’s most notorious cities. Nor did he lift a finger against John Stroger and his son Todd, who succeeded his father as president of Cook County’s Board of Commissioners shortly before Stroger senior died last January. Cook County, where Chicago is located, has been extensively criticised for corrupt practices by a federally appointed judge, Julia Nowicki.

The full extent of Mr Obama’s close links with two toxic Chicago associates, a radical black preacher, Jeremiah Wright, and a crooked property developer, Antoin Rezko, is also laid out in detail. The Chicago section is probably the best part of the book, though the story continues: once he got to Washington, DC, Mr Obama’s record of voting with his party became one of the most solid in the capital. Mr Freddoso notes that he did little or nothing to help with some of the great bipartisan efforts of recent years, notably on immigration reform or in a complex battle over judicial nominations.

So Mr. Freddoso isn't Jerome Corsi?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:44 AM


Paulson plan could cost $1 trillion (MIKE ALLEN, 9/19/08, Politico)

Stock markets soared around the world in anticipation of the rescue, with British and Chinese indexes recording their biggest gains ever.

Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) said on ABC’s “Good Morning America” said lawmakers were told last night “that we’re literally maybe days away from a complete meltdown of our financial system, with all the implications, here at home and globally.”

“What you heard last evening is one of those rare moments — certainly rare in my experience here — was that Democrats and Republicans decided we needed to work together, quickly,” Dodd said.

The solution being proposed by the Bush administration is the most expensive bailout in the nation’s history, sharply curtailing the ability of the next president to push for tax cuts or new spending.

Congressional leaders tell Politico that to expedite the rescue, Treasury plans to seek additional authority rather than creating a new entity. The plan involves buying up hundreds of billions of dollars in bad mortgages to take them off the books of financial institutions that otherwise might fail.

Washington's Trillion Dollar Wall Street Bailout (James Pethokoukis, 9/18/09, US News)
It now looks like Uncle Sam will create a new entity to take hundreds of billions of bad debt off the books of America's major financial companies. (Look for this to get done before Election Day, if not early next month.) "This is a gigantic step forward, the only way to fix the crisis," writes Ian Shepherdson, economist at High Frequency Economics. "Economy still a mess, but systematic risk way down." [...]

Is a bailout necessary?

Look, the financial system probably couldn't take another week like the one we just went through. Stocks plunging, credit markets freezing. As economist Robert Brusca puts it, "The proposed US government rescue plan comes at the end of a week of almost unprecedented turmoil on world financial markets amid a crisis of confidence in banks."

The government had to get ahead of the curve and quit reacting on a case-by-case basis. If you look at banking crises in Japan and Sweden, for instance, all roads eventually led to a government bailout with taxpayer money at risk. The rule in these cases seems to be the sooner, the better. If you want more evidence, markets around the world and here in the United States are soaring on this news. Strategist Richard Bernstein of Merrill Lynch, in a research note, says the bailout plan is "an opportunity for the government to solve the on-going problems through one system-wide solution."

...you need a big showy step to restore confidence. To bad we can't do something similar about Islamicism.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:31 AM


Palin Attuned More to Public Will, Less to Job's Details (Amy Goldstein, Kimberly Kindy and Steven Mufson, 9/19/08, Washington Post)

According to lawmakers, senior gubernatorial aides and others who have watched her closely, the woman chosen by Republican Sen. John McCain as his vice presidential running mate has little interest in political give-and-take, or in sustained working relationships with legislators or other important figures around the state. Nor has she proven particularly attentive to the details of public policy. "She's not known for burning the midnight oil on in-depth policy issues," said Larry Persily, a former journalist who was associate director of the governor's Washington office until the spring.

But those who know her say Palin, 44, is uncommonly deft at something else: sensing the mood of her constituents, shaping her public messages and harnessing a remarkable personal popularity to accomplish what she wants. "She has an incredible pulse on the public will," said Bruce Botelho, a Democrat who is mayor of Juneau, the state capital.

"She tends to . . . create a situation where legislators are cornered -- going against her would be political suicide," said John Bitney, who grew up with Palin, was her campaign policy director and became her first legislative liaison.

You leave the details to staff and legislators, the people without any broad vision.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:24 AM


McCain is criticized for position on Spain (Bryan Bender, September 19, 2008, Boston Globe)

"This is insane," Max Bergmann, deputy director of the liberal National Security Network, said in a statement. "McCain won't meet with a NATO ally, that has nearly 1,000 troops in Afghanistan, that has lost more than 20 soldiers there, has been brutally attacked by Al Qaeda, is incredibly influential in Latin America, has the seventh largest economy in the world, is a DEMOCRACY, and is a large and influential country in the EU. Won't meet with them?"

Zapatero isn't with us, he's against us. Wha sort of American leader would reward that?
Zapatero's Spain: : Spain's problem with terrorism is Europe's: It does not want to defend itself. (Christopher Caldwell, 05/10/2004, Weekly Standard)
LESS THAN THREE DECADES after the end of Francisco Franco's dictatorship, Spaniards are cautious about saying anything against the democratic process--or even against the results of a particular election. Most in the intellectual and political classes are reluctant to say that al Qaeda terrorism wrested a near-certain electoral victory from the party that al Qaeda hoped would lose, and handed power to the antiwar party that al Qaeda (at least according to its "strategy" document, which was intercepted on the Internet by Norwegian authorities) hoped would win. But this Spanish circumspection, admirable in many ways, has produced a chain reaction of self-interested self-deception: And from there it is only a short step to saying that Spain has no continuing problem with terrorism at all.

The Popular party would have won. It did better in absentee ballots this year--those sent by mail before the March 11 explosions--than in the 2000 landslide that gave it an absolute majority. In the days before this year's election, two prominent Socialists, the charismatic Castilian governor José Bono (whom Zapatero would name defense minister) and European Union foreign-policy chief Javier Solana, were jockeying for support as candidates for the PSOE leadership after Zapatero's inevitable loss. A balanced view was given by the longtime president of Catalonia, Jordi Pujol, whose Convergencia i Unió party backs neither the governing coalition nor the Popular party opposition. "Let us be clear about this," Pujol said in his office in Barcelona in mid-April. "The victory is legitimate. That cannot be discussed. But without the bombing, the other party probably would have won. March 14 was a legitimate victory but it was also a victory for terrorists."

The best indication of the PSOE's slim prospects going into the election was Zapatero himself. He was the kind of candidate a party runs when it has slim hopes of victory. (Similarly the Popular party's candidate, Mariano Rajoy, was a complaisant, bipartisan fellow, meant to bring the country together after eight years of polarizing rule by Aznar.) Zapatero's investiture speech on April 17 proposed a range of boilerplate center-left reforms that Spain somehow got through the 1990s without (handicapped access, gay marriage) and then proposed giving Spain a few things that it already had (secular education and a law on violence against women). Zapatero nominated a record eight female ministers, called for the advancement of women through an equal rights commission, and promised a "new politics of water." This was a bric-a-brac agenda, the kind of governing proposal a European president would call for if he hadn't expected to have to propose one at all.

With one exception. Zapatero had wooed the nearly 90 percent of Spaniards who opposed their country's participation in the Iraq war. He had promised to bring Spain's troops back from their bases near Najaf unless the U.N. took over operations in Iraq. Now he decided not to run the risk that the U.N. might actually do so. In his first act after taking office, he ordered the troops home. When the opposition asked for a parliamentary debate, he scheduled one for after the troops' return. While the act enraged the United States and the Popular party opposition, Zapatero had already paid that price and would have been crazy (in domestic political terms) to do anything else. When, during the investiture debate, a Progressive party deputy asked him, "Can you explain, once and for all, what you want?" he replied simply: "To take Spain out of the Azores photo, take Spain out of the illegal and unjust war that took place."

THE PHOTO IN QUESTION shows Aznar with George Bush and Tony Blair at the meeting Aznar hosted in the Azores on the eve of the Iraq war. The Spanish often talk of it as Americans do of the photo taken of Michael Dukakis in a tank during the 1988 presidential campaign: as a moment when a man with big pretensions steps into a situation in which his surroundings reveal him as too small for the job. But that was wrong. One didn't have to like the Spanish role in Iraq. But there was nothing preposterous about it.

Aznar is said to distinguish privately between politicians who are serious and those who are simpático, simpático being a synonym for unserious. In eight years in office, he had turned Spain from an unserious country into a serious one, in a way that was most obvious in his handling of the economy. Aznar broke the power of unions, froze the salaries of functionaries, privatized dozens of state enterprises, and won the intellectual argument that lowering taxes was sometimes more responsible than raising them. He entered office in 1996 with unemployment at 22 percent and cut it in half. Half the jobs created in Europe since 1996 have been created in Spain. After the dot-com bust, Spain never dipped into negative growth as other European countries did--and Spain is still growing at twice the European rate. Aznar's hopes of joining the G-8 group of major economies sounded absurd when he took office; now it seems absurd that Canada should have that honor and Spain not. It is true that Aznar received the free gift of monetary stability from the establishment of the Euro; but fiscal stability came from his living up to the E.U. stability-and-growth pact (unlike France and Germany) and balancing his country's budget every year. Zapatero has promised not to change economic course, and chose as his economics minister the highly respected Pedro Solbes, for five years the E.U. economics minister in Brussels, who is unlikely to favor such a change.

In this economic climate, Spaniards began to tell pollsters they were more comfortable with a larger role for Spain on the world stage. In Aznar's view, this meant shifting Spain's allegiances from France and Germany to the United States. Aznar drew benefits for Spain from this partnership. U.S. assistance helped the government deal a serious blow to the Basque terrorist group ETA (presumably through communications intercepts). And it was the United States that mediated an end to the Moroccan army's seizure of the Spanish island of Perejil in July 2002, when Spain's E.U. partners, particularly France and Greece, then just starting its six-month term in the E.U. presidency, proved reluctant to alienate the new Moroccan king.

The idea that Aznar's foreign policy was an aberrant personal enthusiasm that could somehow be excised from the rest of his achievements was never true. But that foreign policy cut against other countries' obsession with building the E.U.--and against the grain of what Spain's intellectual elite considers the country's national identity.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:14 AM


“Brisingr” is here! (Marjorie Kehe, September 19, 2008, CS Monitor)

Booksellers throughout the US and UK are gearing up today. At 12:01 tomorrow morning, “Brisingr,” the third book of Christopher Paolini’s fantasy series about a boy and his brilliant blue dragon, Saphira, who live in the kingdom of Alagaesia and must save the world from an evil king, will be released. It’s not quite “Harry Potter” (400 million copies sold worldwide) but at 15 million and climbing, it’s not bad, either.

Stores in both the US and the UK where the book will be released (the rest of the world has to wait) are planning late-night parties. Borders alone is planning more than 700 in-store parties scheduled to begin at 10 p.m. tonight and lasting until the books appear at 12:01 a.m..

Author's success rooted in family, landscape (Matthew Brown, 9/18/08, Associated Press)

Leading up to this weekend's debut of his series' latest installment, "Brisingr," the author recently hiked into the Absarokas (ab-SORE-kas) to soak up a last bit of Montana sunshine. A monthlong, 10-city book tour awaited that would separate him from the valley where he's spent most of his life.

"I need to get sunlight while I can," Paolini says, adding his book tours leave him longing for the solitude of the Paradise Valley.

The "Inheritance" series chronicles the adventures of Eragon, a young boy whose discovery of a blue dragon egg launches him onto a quest as a Dragon Rider, destined to battle the evil Empire.

Paolini was just 15 when he started writing the first book -- the same age as its namesake hero. His parents helped him edit and polish the story and then self-published the work before it was picked up by Random House.

Despite mixed reviews, "Eragon" and the second book, "Eldest," have sold 15.5 million copies. "Brisingr" will have a first press run of 2.5 million books -- the largest ever for Random House's children's books division, according to the publisher. It will be printed in 50 languages.

In 2006, 20th Century Fox released an "Eragon" movie, a widely panned production that nevertheless grossed an estimated $170 million worldwide.

Big Night on the Horizon for ‘Brisingr’ (John A. Sellers, 9/18/08, Publishers Weekly)
Paolini arrived in New York City earlier this week and will deliver his first public reading of Brisingr at a midnight launch party at the Barnes & Noble in NYC’s Union Square. Though the author acknowledges that he is “a little bit nervous,” he says he’s excited to meet fans, and he came armed with a few boxes of pens for signing books. “Our phones have not stopped ringing since we announced that Christopher would be joining us,” said a spokesperson for the store.

For 24-year-old Paolini, who was 15 when he started writing Eragon (the first book in what has come to be called the Inheritance Cycle), it has been an “incredible” journey. “When I was about halfway through [Brisingr], it was only then that I felt I could call myself a professional writer. I’ve been able to do interesting things, travel around the world. I’m very grateful to be given this opportunity to do what I love doing as a career.”

Sci-fi fans eager for release of Paolini's latest, Brisingr (Sheena McFarland, 9/18/08, The Salt Lake Tribune)
"Books such as this have brought reading science fiction and fantasy from the fringe into the mainstream," said Snow, who lives in Sandy. "That's a good thing because it provides creativity and the opportunity to sit back and enjoy a good story as a way of escaping the mundane and difficult things each of us faces every day."

Bringing author Christopher Paolini's world of elves, dragons and magicians to life is the aim of local booksellers, who are throwing midnight release parties tonight for Brisingr, the third book in the series.

"This is one of those books that gathers a cult following," said Jenn Northington, events and marketing manager for The King's English Bookshop. "There are a lot of fun tie-ins for this series."

The store invited members of such groups as the Renaissance Fair and the Society for Creative Anachronism to create a medieval atmosphere among the bookshelves, with swordplay demonstrations, a costume contest, trivia bowl and other book-related games.

"Readers live in that world when they read the books," Northington said. "How do you bring that world into the real world? This is how we do it."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:36 AM


Why They Hate Her: Sarah Palin is a smart missile aimed at the heart of the left. (Jeffrey Bell, September 14, 2008, Weekly Standard)

The most important thing to know about the left today is that it is centered on social issues. At root, it always has been, ever since the movement took form and received its name in the revolutionary Paris of the 1790s. In order to drive toward a vision of true human liberation, all the institutions and moral codes we associate with civilization had to be torn down. The institutions targeted in revolutionary France included the monarchy and the nobility, but even higher on the enemies list of the Jacobins and their allies were organized religion and the family, institutions in which the moral values of traditional society could be preserved and passed on outside the control of the leftist vanguard.

Full human liberation always remained the ultimate vision of the left--Marx, for one, was explicit on this point--but the left in its more than 200-year history has been flexible and adaptable in the forms it was willing to assume and the projects it was willing to undertake in pursuit of its anti-institutional goals. For more than a hundred years, the central project of the global left was socialism.

It's hard to credit today, but as recently as the 1940s most Western political elites believed government ownership of business and national planning were the keys to economic modernization. Even when socialism's economic prestige was eroded by the West's capitalist boom after World War II, socialism retained credibility as a means of income redistribution.

It was the turbulent 1960s that proved a strategic turning point for the left. The worldwide social and cultural upheavals that culminated in 1968 were felt as a crisis of confidence by institutions in the West. Some institutions (universities, for example) defected to the rebels, while others saw their centuries-long influence on the population greatly weaken or drain away virtually overnight.

In the short run, most political elites weathered the storm. A big reason, the left gradually realized, was that socialist economics had become an albatross. Increasingly, the democratic parties of the left in Western countries downplayed socialism or even decoupled from it, leaving them free to pursue the anti-institutional, relativistic moral crusade that has been in the DNA of the left all along.

This newly revitalized social and cultural agenda made it possible for the left to shrug off the collapse of European communism and the Soviet Union nearly two decades ago. Even in countries like China where the Communist party retained dictatorial power, socialist economics became a thing of the past. Attempts to suppress religion and limit the autonomy of the family did not.

For the post-1960s, post-socialist left, the single most important breakthrough has been the alliance between modern feminism and the sexual revolution. This was far from inevitable. Up until around 1960, attempts at sexual liberation were resisted by most educated women. In the wake of the success of Playboy and other mass-circulation pornographic magazines in the 1950s, men were depicted as the initiators and main beneficiaries of sexual liberation, women as intolerant of promiscuity as well as potential victims of predatory "liberated" men.

With the introduction of the Pill around 1960, things abruptly began to change. Fears of overpopulation legitimated a contraceptive ethic throughout middle-class society in North America, Europe, Japan, and the Soviet bloc. China, which discouraged contraception and welcomed population gains under Mao Zedong, flipped to the extreme of the One Child policy in 1979, shortly after pro-capitalist reformers took charge and fixed on strict population control as an integral and unquestioned part of the package of Western-style development.

The fact that the Pill was taken only by women gave them a greater feeling of control over their sexual activity and eroded their social and psychological resistance to premarital sex. "No fault" divorce, a term borrowed from the field of auto insurance, in reality amounted to unilateral divorce and began to undermine the idea of marriage as a binding mutual contract oriented toward the procreation and nurturing of children. Contrary to nearly every prediction, the ubiquity of far more reliable methods of contraception and the growing ideological separation of sex from reproduction, coincided with a huge increase in unwed pregnancies.

Though earlier versions of feminism tended to embrace children and elevate motherhood, the more adversarial feminism that gained a mass base in virtually every affluent democracy beginning in the 1970s preached that children and childbearing were the central instrumentality of men's subjugation of women. This more than anything else in the menu of the post-socialist left raised toward cultural consensus a vision in which the monogamous family was what prevented humanity from achieving a Rousseau-like "natural" state of freedom from all laws and all bonds of mutual obligation.

If this analysis is correct, the single most important narrative holding the left together in today's politics and culture is the one offered--often with little or no dissent--by adversarial feminism. The premise of this narrative is that for women to achieve dignity and self-fulfillment in modern society, they must distance themselves, not necessarily from men or marriage or childbearing, but from the kind of marriage in which a mother's temptation to be with and enjoy several children becomes a synonym for holding women back and cheating them out of professional success.

...they could at least stay in the home and pretend to be overwhelmed, rather than having successful careers and fulfilling family life, thereby rebutting two hundred years of Leftism.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:19 AM


Give 'em Hell, Sarah (Steven F. Hayward, 09/22/2008, Weekly Standard)

American political thought since its earliest days has been ambiguous or conflicted about the existence and character of a "natural aristocracy" of governing talent. If the ghosts of Thomas Jefferson and John Adams are watching the storm over Palin, they must surely be revisiting their famous dialogue about America's governing class. Adams's widely misunderstood argument that there should perhaps be an explicit recognition and provision for an aristocratic class finds its reprise in the snobbery that greeted Palin's arrival on the scene. It's not just that she didn't go to Harvard; she's never been on Meet the Press; she hasn't participated in Aspen Institute seminars or attended the World Economic Forum. She hasn't been brought into the slipstream of the establishment by which we unofficially certify our highest leaders.

The issue is not whether the establishment would let such a person as Palin cross the bar into the certified political class, but whether regular citizens of this republic have the skill and ability to control the levers of government without having first joined the certified political class. But this begs an even more troublesome question: If we implicitly think uncertified citizens are unfit for the highest offices, why do we trust those same citizens to select our highest officers through free elections?

In his reply to Adams, Jefferson expressed more confidence that political virtue and capacity for government were not the special province of a recognized aristocratic class, but that aristoi (natural aristocrats) could be found among citizens of all kinds: "It would have been inconsistent in creation to have formed man for the social state, and not to have provided virtue and wisdom enough to manage the concerns of the society." Jefferson, moreover, trusted ordinary citizens to recognize political virtue in their fellow citizens: "Leave to the citizens the free election and separation of the aristoi from the pseudo-aristoi, of the wheat from the chaff. In general they will elect the really good and wise."

Today's establishment doubts this. The establishment is affronted by the idea that an ordinary hockey mom--a mere citizen--might be just as capable of running the country as a long-time member of the Council on Foreign Relations. This closed-shop attitude is exactly what both Jefferson and Adams set themselves against; they wanted a republic where talent and public spirit would find easy access to the establishment.

...where even a drawling aristocrat like William F. Buckley Jr was "obliged to confess that I should sooner live in a society governed by the first two thousand names in the Boston telephone directory than in a society governed by the two thousand faculty members of Harvard University."

Set against such upper class Stupidity are the Brights and the tribunals of their own intellects.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:51 AM


Baroness Warnock: Dementia sufferers may have a 'duty to die': Elderly people suffering from dementia should consider ending their lives because they are a burden on the NHS and their families, according to the influential medical ethics expert Baroness Warnock. (Martin Beckford, 19 Sep 2008, Daily Telegraph)

The veteran Government adviser said pensioners in mental decline are "wasting people's lives" because of the care they require and should be allowed to opt for euthanasia even if they are not in pain.

She insisted there was "nothing wrong" with people being helped to die for the sake of their loved ones or society.

The 84-year-old added that she hoped people will soon be "licensed to put others down" if they are unable to look after themselves.

Oops, she accidentally gives away the game there at the end with that "put others down." She echoes what we do with dogs because you have t dehumanize the people you want to kill.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:37 AM


The Fence to Nowhere: The Minutemen promised their supporters a high-tech border barrier. Instead, they got a five-strand barbed-wire fence and a bunch of radical splinter groups. (David Neiwert, September 19, 2008, American Prospect)

Jim Campbell was a contractor before he became an Arizona retiree, so he happens to know a little about getting construction projects completed. He also happens to be avidly involved in efforts to stem what he and thousands of others see as an unholy tide of illegal immigrants streaming over the U.S.?Mexico border. So when the Minutemen--those "citizen watchdogs" who have been setting up vigilante border patrols throughout the Southwest--announced plans to build a fence along a section of the Arizona-Mexico border, it seemed to Campbell like a good time to step up and make a difference.

A couple of years later and $100,000 lighter, Campbell's not so sure it was a good idea. In fact, he calls the people running the Minutemen's border-fence project "a bunch of felons."

What was your first hint?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:23 AM


Don Giovanni, Free on the Web (JULIE BLOOM, 9/18/08, NY Times)

The Royal Opera House in London will present a full-length opera online for the first time beginning Oct. 5, when audiences will be able to log on to the company’s Web site and watch a performance of Mozart’s “Don Giovanni.” As part of the introduction of the site, www.roh.org.uk, the company will make it possible to view other complete operas and ballets online.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:20 AM


Half of Americans believe in angels (Julia Duin, September 19, 2008, Washington Times)

Half of all Americans believe they are protected by guardian angels, one-fifth say they've heard God speak to them, one-quarter say they have witnessed miraculous healings, 16 percent say they've received one and 8 percent say they pray in tongues, according to a survey released Thursday by Baylor University. [...]

The survey, which has a margin of error of four percentage points, also revealed that theological liberals are more apt to believe in the paranormal and the occult - haunted houses, UFOs, communicating with the dead and astrology - than do conservatives. Women (35 percent), blacks (41 percent), those younger than 30 (40 percent), Democrats (40 percent) and singles who are cohabitating (49 percent) were more likely to believe, the survey said.

Baylor researchers also criticized a much-ballyhooed “new atheism” as a barely discernable trend, saying the number of Americans who are atheists has stayed at 4 percent since 1944.

Why? Atheism is a “godless revolution that never happened,” the survey said, adding that irreligion often is not effectively transmitted to children who, when they reach adulthood, often join conservative religious denominations.

Moreover, atheism is hardly taking over the world. Europe does have more atheists than the U.S., the survey said, but no country has more than 7 percent except France, which is at 14 percent of the populace.

Turns out, it's the watch haters who are blind.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:06 AM


Walk-to-school movement afoot across Mass. (James Vaznis, September 19, 2008, Boston Globe)

Instead, at 8:10 a.m., one of their parents looked both ways, and then led the children and a few other parents on the 10-minute walk to school. This so-called walking school bus is part of a new citywide campaign this fall that mirrors a growing effort across the state to encourage children to walk to school instead of hitching a ride with their parents.

Just persuading students to put one foot in front of the other, advocates say, could dramatically reduce school traffic jams, slim children's waistlines, and help relieve school budgets of some gas-guzzling buses. And high prices at the gas pump might just jolt parents into giving it a try.

It used to be - as any grandparent can tell you - that many students walked to school. Three miles. Uphill. Both ways. In the snow.

But then the world began changing. Neighborhood schools were abandoned in favor of buildings on the outskirts of town. Schedules got busier. Fears grew about accidents, predators, and other unforeseen threats. And children began catching a ride on a school bus or with their parents.

Just 15 percent of students today make the trip by foot, compared with 42 percent four decades ago, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Brothers and Sister Judd went to the elementary school in East Orange, NJ where The Mother taught, even as it became over 90% black--accelerated after the Newark riots and repeal of the city ordinance that required municipal employees to live in town. But when they were opening a new Middle School it just seemed too dangerous to send such a complete ofay as me to certain doom, so we moved to West range. But we couldn't get into our new house until December so for the first half of the school year The Mother dropped me at school in West Orange in the morning and I was supposed to take public transportation home in the afternoon. But not only did I have an unfortunate tendency to go to sleep on the bus and end up at the terminal in Newark, I also figured out that if I walked home I could use the fare to buy books and comic books.

A couple of years ago, just out of curiosity, I used Google Maps to figure out how far I'd been walking for that 65 cents. Turns out the shortest route is 5 miles:

View Larger Map

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:04 AM


GOP Sees Rebound in Battle for Congress: Party Hopes Momentum Will Help Limit Losses (Shailagh Murray and Paul Kane, 9/18/08, Washington Post)

Like many of her Republican colleagues concerned about their reelection prospects, Sen. Elizabeth Dole of North Carolina skipped the party's national convention to focus on campaigning back home. But even in her absence, the gathering may have given her bid for a return to office its biggest boost yet.

Volunteers began showing up at GOP campaign offices at quadruple the pre-convention pace, many of them conservatives who were lukewarm to presidential nominee John McCain but ecstatic about his running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. Their enthusiasm could be Dole's saving grace on Nov. 4.

"We have to move out of here and take on this fight big-time," Dole said at a GOP dinner in North Carolina earlier this month, acknowledging, "We're in a very tough cycle."

After months of fundraising doldrums, recruitment misfires and daunting polls, Republicans believe they are finally on the rebound in the battle for Congress. Both sides concede that the GOP stands almost no chance of taking back the House or Senate in November, but party leaders think the Palin factor and an increasingly competitive fight for the White House have generated enthusiasm and momentum that could limit GOP losses to only a few Senate seats and perhaps fewer than a dozen House seats.

...the GOP won't lose seats if Maverick wins.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:21 AM


The pope of the West : The Surprising Geopolitics of Joseph Ratzinger, Pope (Sandro Magister, 2008, Aspenia)

[A]t other times and in other places, John Paul II opted for the rejection of armed action, for the sake of realism. He opposed the 1990-1991 war against Iraq, in spite of the fact that it was approved by the UN and intended to restore the legitimate sovereignty of an invaded country, Kuwait. Among the "interests" that motivated the pope's opposition to the war, the first was the defense of the Christian minority in Iraq. Another was the rejection of the new world order with unlimited American hegemony. [...]

If John Paul II was the pope of dazzling intuitions, Benedict XVI is the pope of methodical reasoning and action. The former was above all image, the latter is mainly "logos." John Paul II made an impact with these words from his first homily as pope: "Be not afraid, open the doors to Christ." The words already contained a glimpse of the peaceful revolution that he would inspire in Eastern Europe, and not only there. But the first action of Benedict XVI that made a worldwide impact was the long and substantial lecture that he gave at the University of Regensburg on September 12, 2006. He literally shook the world, for both the right reasons on the wrong ones. That lecture explained the new pope's view of the Church and of the West and his plans for them, including relations with Islam.

According to the canons of geopolitical realism, Benedict XVI should never have delivered that lecture in its entirety. He should have had it reviewed and purged beforehand by the diplomatic experts, something that he intentionally declined to do. And a number of people in the Vatican curia criticized him for this.

And yet, two years later, the facts tell a different story. Despite the alarm of the Cassandras, a dialogue emerged between the Catholic Church and Islam that had never existed before Regensburg, and had even seemed impossible. This dialogue is not only intellectual – represented, for example, by the initiatives following the "letter of the 138 Muslim scholars" – but also political. The political dimension advanced considerably after the audience at the Vatican on November 6, 2007 – the first of its kind in history – between the pope and the king of Saudi Arabia.

Even after Regensburg, one aspect that distinguishes the relationship with the Muslim world inaugurated by Benedict XVI is its apparent imprudence. Pope Ratzinger is not afraid of alternating gestures of openness – one thinks of his silent prayer in front of the Blue Mosque in Istanbul – with actions at odds with diplomatic caution. He had no qualms about granting an audience to Oriana Fallaci, one of the most committed critics of Islam, which she believes to be violent by nature. At the Easter vigil at St. Peter's in 2008, he baptized Magdi Allam, a convert from Islam and a radical critic of his religion of origin. But what is most astonishing is the heart of Benedict XVI's reasoning. The pope is asking Islam to undertake the same kind of demanding self-renewal that the Catholic Church carried out over the span of two centuries, beginning at the time of the Enlightenment.

There is a passage in one speech by Benedict XVI – which he delivered to the Roman curia on December 22, 2006 – that presents this idea in the clearest way possible:

"In the dialogue with Islam that should be intensified, we must keep in mind the fact that the Muslim world today finds itself facing an extremely urgent task that is very similar to the one that was imposed upon Christians beginning in the age of the Enlightenment, and that Vatican Council II, through long and painstaking effort, resolved concretely for the Catholic Church. [...]

"On the one hand, we must oppose a dictatorship of positivist reasoning that excludes God from the life of the community and from the public order, thus depriving man of his specific criteria of judgment.

"On the other hand, it is necessary to welcome the real achievements of Enlightenment thinking – human rights, and especially the freedom of faith and its exercise, recognizing these as elements that are also essential for the authenticity of religion. Just as in the Christian community there has been lengthy inquiry into the right attitude of faith toward these convictions – an inquiry that certainly will never be concluded definitively – so also the Islamic world, with its own tradition, stands before the great task of finding the appropriate solutions in this regard.

"The content of the dialogue between Christians and Muslims at the moment is above all that of encountering each other in this effort to find the right solutions. We Christians feel ourselves to be united with all those who, precisely on the basis of their religious convictions as Muslims, struggle against violence and in favor of synergy between faith and reason, between religion and freedom."

As it is easy to gather from this and other speeches of his, the "synergy between faith and reason" is the linchpin of Joseph Ratzinger's thought as theologian and pope. At the origin of the Christian faith, for him, there is not only Jerusalem, there is also the Athens of the philosophers. Two thirds of the lecture in Regensburg is dedicated to criticizing the periods in which Christianity dangerously separated itself from its rational foundations. And the pope is proposing that Islam do the same thing: that it interweave faith and reason, the only way to shelter it from violence. The difficulty of this enterprise – recognized as arduous but necessary even by leading Muslim thinkers like Mohammed Arkoun – lies in the fact that in the history of Islamic thought, any fruitful relationship between faith and reason practically ceased with the death of the philosopher Averroes in 1198. After this, Islam has been characterized by the separation between faith and "reasonableness" about which the pope cautioned all, Muslims and Christians, in the most memorable passages of his lecture in Regensburg.

A political theorist might object that the pope's ideas stray from the field of politics properly understood. But that's not how Benedict XVI sees it. He is convinced that societies, states, and the international community must rest on solid foundations. One of his intentions as pope is to preach a universal "grammar" founded on natural law, on the inviolable rights engraved on the conscience of every man, whatever his creed.

In his address to the United Nations on April 18, 2008, Benedict XVI emphasized part of this "grammar," "the principle of the responsibility to protect," meaning that "every state has the primary duty to protect its own population from grave and sustained violations of human rights." And he added that "If states are unable to guarantee such protection, the international community must intervene." But Pope Ratzinger did not stop there. He went to the foundation of this principle, without which the responsibility to protect would be at the mercy of conflicting interests. And he identified this ultimate foundation as the "the idea of the person as image of the Creator," with his innate "desire for the absolute and the essence of freedom."

Benedict XVI knows well that not everyone accepts this anchoring to transcendence. And it is rejected precisely by a culture that has its origin in the West. But he maintains that it is necessary to proclaim ceaselessly to world powers that "when God is eclipsed, our ability to recognize the natural order, purpose, and the 'good' begins to wane." Pope Ratzinger maintains that the "secular" formula proposed by Grotius on the basis of the coexistence of peoples is outdated: to live "etsi Deus non daretur," as if God did not exist. He proposes to all, including those who do not accept transcendence, the opposite wager: that of acting "etsi Deus daretur," as if God does exist. Because it is only in this way that the dignity of the person finds an unshakable foundation.

Everyone was surprised by the extraordinarily friendly welcome that Benedict XVI gave to American President George W. Bush, on the occasion of his last visit to the Vatican. It certainly marked a break with respect to the traditional anti-Americanism of the Catholic hierarchy: an attitude that sees the United States as synonymous with unbridled capitalism, consumerism, social Darwinism. But the real motivation for Pope Ratzinger's fondness for the United States is that it is a country born and founded "on the self-evident truth that the Creator has endowed each human being with certain inalienable rights," foremost among which is liberty. To United States ambassador Mary Ann Glendon, who came to present her credentials to him, Benedict XVI said that he admires "the American people's historical appreciation of the role of religion in shaping public discourse," a role that elsewhere – read, Europe – "is contested in the name of a straitened understanding of political life." With the consequences that derive from this on the issues closest to the Church's heart, like "legal protection for God's gift of life from conception to natural death," marriage, the family.

The severity with which Benedict XVI chastises the governments of Europe on these issues, and, on the other hand, his clear admiration for the United States, is another element that distinguishes him. The material and spiritual destinies of the West are certainly at the center of this pope's geopolitical interests. But that's not all. It's enough to think of the attention that he devotes to China. The letter that the pope wrote to Chinese Catholics is also strongly Ratzingerian. There, too, there is little diplomatic prudence and reticence.

Where John Paul remained a figure from the Counter-Reformation, and thus resented a world dominated by the Anglo-American model, Benedict is quite openly a Tocquevillian and accepts the End of History. He's the first protestant Pope.

September 18, 2008

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:19 PM


Return of the Resolution Trust Corp.?: Some powerful advocates are calling for a new agency to oversee debt restructuring (Jane Sasseen, 9/18/08, Business Week)

In the late 1980s, Washington created the Resolution Trust Corp. to restructure the mortgages held by 750 insolvent savings and loans. By selling off assets over time rather than in a fire sale, the RTC lessened the cost of the crisis to taxpayers. [...]

A new RTC would be a buyer of last resort. It might buy the mortgages and related debt from banks at a heavy discount or in exchange for equity. Or it could let troubled institutions go bust, then liquidate those assets in an orderly fashion. "Rather than seeing forced sales for 10 cents on the dollar, the government could take its time and get, say, 40 cents on the dollar," says Lawrence J. White, an economics professor at New York University.

Citing Grave Financial Threats, Officials Ready Massive Rescue: Lawmakers Work With Fed, Treasury To Try to Restore The Flow of Money (Binyamin Appelbaum and Lori Montgomery, 9/19/08, Washington Post)

The Bush administration is urgently preparing a massive intervention to revive the U.S. financial system, including a plan to sweep away the unpaid loans that are choking banks and blocking the flow of money to borrowers.

Congressional leaders gave bipartisan support to the administration's efforts after a meeting last night with Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke.

Paulson and Bernanke presented a "chilling" picture of the state of the financial system, according to a participant in the meeting who spoke on condition of anonymity. Lawmakers were told that the consequences would be grave if they failed to pass legislation by the end of next week. Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) committed to meeting that deadline.

The plan involves using hundreds of billions of dollars in government funding to buy bad loans, leaving banks with more money and fewer problems, according to two sources familiar with what was said at the meeting.

After the meeting, Paulson told reporters the proposal was "an expeditious solution that is aimed right at the heart of this problem."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:07 PM


Free Market To The Rescue (Donald J. Boudreaux 09.18.08, Forbes)

Compared to the Great Depression, America today is far more integrated into the global economy. Consequently, our economic eggs--our customers, suppliers and investments--are in a greater number of baskets. We're not as dependent now as we were 75 years ago on a recovery starting in America.

And despite the heated protectionist rhetoric of late by some prominent politicians, the post-World War II trend of increasing free trade is unlikely to be reversed. This fact is vital. One of Uncle Sam's first moves following the market crash of 1929 was to enact the Smoot-Hawley tariff. This unprecedented hike in tariff rates told the world "America is closed for business!" Less able to sell products to Americans, foreigners earned fewer dollars with which to buy products from Americans.

The resulting contraction of cross-border trade, combined with the waste of keeping inefficient domestic producers in business, only deepened and prolonged the Depression.

Perhaps the greatest difference between now and then, though, is something simultaneously nebulous and quite real: the prevailing ideology. From the late 19th century until the 1970s, a dangerous idea took hold of the minds of intellectuals and opinion-makers throughout the world: socialism. And the grip of this disastrous, economic-growth-killing idea was strongest during the 1930s.

It's easy to blame the Depression for fueling socialist sympathies. But in his important book Depression, War and Cold War, economic historian Robert Higgs argues that socialist sympathies were responsible for the depth and length of the Depression. Higgs' case is persuasive.

...the only way the current economic kerfuffle could get serious is if Barrack Obama were serious about the protectionism, class warfare, and other "economic populism" he runs on. But no one thinks he is serious except the far Right and the Left.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:25 PM


Bill Clinton: McCain 'A Great Man'; Praises Wife's, Not Obama's Economic Plan (Jennifer Parker, 9/18/08, Political Radar: ABC News)

[I]n a rare television interview tonight the former president called Republican presidential candidate John McCain "a great man" and praised GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin as an "instinctively effective candidate."

On a day when Obama sought to convince voters that he's best able to handle the economic crisis, the former president said it was his wife, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-NY, who gave today "the most detailed position."

...him the Secretary of State job.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:22 PM


Biden Defends Comment That, for the Wealthy, 'It's Time to Be patriotic' (Matthew Jaffe, September 18, 2008, Political Radar)

At a Thursday rally in an Akron union hall, Democratic vice-presidential candidate Joe Biden defended his contention that it is time for wealthy Americans to be patriotic and pay more taxes.

Biden was asked by ABC News' Kate Snow in an interview aired Thursday morning on "Good Morning America" if people earning more than $250,000 a year would have to pay more taxes under an Obama-Biden administration.

"You got it," Biden replied. "It's time to be patriotic, Kate. Time to jump in, time to be part of the deal, time to help America out of the rut, and the way to do that is they're still gonna pay less taxes than they did under Reagan."

The obvious question is why Democrats think people who aren't rich don't have any patriotic duty.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:01 PM


Who cares about Europe?: Voters don’t know much about the European Union. What’s more, they don’t want to learn (Charlemagne, Sep 18th 2008, The Economist)

As Ireland is pressed to hold a new referendum on Lisbon (and to get the answer right this time), the government there has talked about the need to explain the treaty and the EU better. Yet that is undermined by the most significant finding of all in the Irish research: most voters have a limited appetite for information about the EU. A “vast majority” of focus group members—whether they backed Lisbon or not—had no idea how decisions are taken in the union. “Few” thought that, realistically, they would bother to learn more.

This is the key message of the Irish vote. The public does not want to understand the fiendish complexity of the EU. Many in the EU establishment draw a simple conclusion from that: never ask voters directly about something as complicated as a treaty.

They know that many other governments would have lost referendums if they had dared to hold them (instead, the 26 other countries all chose the safer path of ratifying the treaty through national parliaments). The EU establishment takes comfort in the fact that—like Irish “yes” voters—a broad majority of EU citizens have a fuzzy sense that the project is a good thing, even if they have little idea how it works. To many Eurocrats, voter indifference is something to be managed, rather than feared. National health policies are as complex as EU treaties, argues a diplomat, and voters do not expect to understand every detail of how health systems work. This is a tempting argument. But in the longer term, EU leaders are dodging a fundamental question: do you need to seek voters’ informed consent for the European project?

The answer must surely be yes.

...then the true believers will find a way not to ask. They believe in transnationalism, not consensual government.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:13 PM


Opportunity knocks: As long as the protectionists don’t spoil it (The Economist, 9/18/08)

The rise of protectionist sentiment in developed countries is a serious cause for concern. As Messrs Baumol, Litan and Schramm observe, capitalism is a dynamic force and can change over time—including from good forms to bad. Just because America, in particular, has long been a force for good capitalism does not mean that it will continue that way.

Arguments for protectionism are based on fears that are wholly at odds with the evidence. The experience of recent years does not support the idea that millions of jobs will be outsourced to cheap foreign locations. Nor, as so-called techno-nationalists claim, is it likely that innovation will shift from America and the rest of the developed world simply because Microsoft and IBM have set up R&D centres in India and China, as they and the new champions start to make better use of all the clever engineers produced by those countries’ education systems. As Amar Bhidé of Columbia Business School argues in his new book, “The Venturesome Economy”, it is in the application of innovations to meet the needs of consumers that most economic value is created, so what matters is not so much where the innovation happens but where the “venturesome consumers” are to be found. America’s consumers show no signs of becoming less venturesome, and its government remains committed to the idea that the customer is king.

Except, that is, when it comes to protectionism, which will hurt American consumers as well as slow the rise of the emerging markets and hence the escape of millions of their citizens from poverty. Far better to engage the emerging markets in the global economy and help them understand why it is to everyone’s benefit to promote the good models of capitalism, not the bad.

Mr Mittal, for one, remains optimistic. “There is currently an anxiety in the developed economies that is the opposite of the enthusiasm in the emerging markets—but in ten years a lot of the anxiety will go away and we will see a lot closer partnership and collaboration,” he says. “I don’t think we can really block globalisation.”

The final word should go to an American, albeit one who works for a Chinese firm. Lenovo’s Mr Amelio sees strong parallels between the challenge raised by the new age of globality and the cultural challenges his own firm initially faced, especially its American workers’ suspicions of their new Chinese colleagues. The root of the problem is a “scarcity mentality in which people see things as a zero-sum game”, he says. “Instead, we need an abundance mentality that believes everyone can become better off.”

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:38 PM


James Crumley Checks Out (Robert Ferrigno, 9/18/08)

The only time I met Jim Crumley was when I was touring for one of my crime thrillers, The Wake Up or Scavenger Hunt. I had a Halloween reading at Murder by the Book, a great independent bookstore in Houston, and the manager, David Thompson, had called a week earlier and asked if I minded if they made it a joint appearance, me and Crumley. I told him I felt like Tiny Tim being asked to do a concert appearance with Pavoroti.

When I arrive at the store that night, the place is packed. Overflow packed. Tall Texans standing in the doorway of the restroom packed. They were all there, of course, to see Jim. I looked around, ready to bolt, when this burly guy walks over to me, puts an arm around my shoulder, tells me his name is Jim Crumley and he's a huge fan of my work. My voice cracked when I thanked him. The readings go well. Crumley announces he won't sign any of his books unless the patron also has bought one of mine. I sign books until my hand gets tired.

Afterwards, we go out to a bar, drink beer and solve the mysteries of the universe. It was the best Halloween I ever had.

James Crumley dies at 68; author of gritty but poetic crime novels (Dennis McLellan, 9/20/08, Los Angeles Times)

A self-described "bastard child of Raymond Chandler," Crumley wrote seven crime novels featuring two detectives who were set not in the mean streets of L.A. but in what he called "my twisted highways in the mountain West."

Crumley's private eyes, C.W. Sughrue and Milo Milodragovitch, were, as Dallas Morning News writer Jerome Weeks wrote in 2001, "sullen, violent men whose drug use and carnal antics would stagger a rhino."

To tell his two detectives apart, Crumley suggested remembering that "Milo's first impulse is to help you; Sughrue's is to shoot you in the foot."

U.S. crime novelist James Crumley dies in Montana at age of 68 (Canadian Press, 9/18/08)
-ESSAY: The Last Gentleman: A friend and student remembers Richard Yates. (James Crumley, Boston Review)
-INTERVIEW: JAMES CRUMLEY: THE RIGHT MADNESS (Interview by Craig McDonald, Hard Luck Stories)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:33 PM


A wild frontier: It will take more than American missiles to bring order to Pakistan’s north-western border region (The Economist, 9/18/07)

The border remains a militant thoroughfare. And in Pakistan, Taliban-style militancy has spread deep into the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) and beyond. In the past year some 1,500 Pakistanis have been killed by terrorism and insurgency, mostly in or emanating from the north-west. On September 6th, as an electoral college chose Asif Zardari as Pakistan’s president, a suicide-bomber drove into a police check-post in Peshawar, NWFP’s capital, killing 37. A few days earlier bearded gunmen ambushed an American diplomat in the city, spraying her car with bullets.

No wonder Mr Zardari, Pakistan’s first civilian leader in nine years, says the Taliban have the “upper hand” in Pakistan. Mr Bush seems to agree. By ordering unilateral American action, he presumably hoped to goad the Pakistani army to do better, and also to kill a few al-Qaeda types, including Osama bin Laden, the most famous of all supposed frontier tourists, before his presidency ends in January.

Mr Bush’s new aggression was first unveiled on September 3rd with an American airborne assault on the village of Jala Khel, in South Waziristan, which, American officials claimed, killed a score of al-Qaeda militants. The army and journalists in Pakistan said the victims were civilians. The army chief, General Ashfaq Kayani—hand-picked and American-approved successor in that job of America’s former ally, Pervez Musharraf—denounced the attack and vowed to defend Pakistan’s territory “at all cost”, and an army spokesman said American invaders would be shot. Mr Zardari’s government also vowed to defend Pakistan’s borders. It had little choice: one recent poll showed that four-fifths of Pakistanis oppose America’s striking al-Qaeda within their territory.

But neither Mr Zardari’s government nor Mr Bush’s can afford an out-and-out rift.

Mr. Zardari can't, but why can't we?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:22 PM


Viva Zapatero! (Mark Murray and Lauren Appelbaum, 9/18/08, MSNBC: First Read)

This has generated a lot of blogosphere chatter... In an interview with Radio Caracol Miami, McCain appeared to either not know who the leader of Spain is, confused him with a Latin American dictator, or just didn't hear the question (although the interviewer did say: "I'm talking about the president of Spain"). Note: Zapatero is prime minister of Spain, not president.

McCain adviser Randy Scheunemann told the Washington Post that McCain knew who the interviewer was talking about. "The questioner asked several times about Senator McCain's willingness to meet Zapatero (and id'd him in the question so there is no doubt Senator McCain knew exactly to whom the question referred). Sen. McCain refused to commit to a White House meeting with President Zapatero in this interview."

Below is McCain's conversation with the interviewer....

Presumably the reason the interviewer is asking the question and the reason Maverick answers as he does is because W has treated the anti-American Socialist Zapatero virtually as an enemy since he defeated our ally, Jose Maria Aznar, and scampered out of Iraq, Spain plays down lack of meeting between Zapatero and Bush at the NATO summit (Typically Spanish, Apr 4, 2008)
Spanish Prime Minister, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, has met with the leaders of Poland and Australia, but not with President Bush at the NATO summit in Bucharest.

Indeed, the President rubbed Zapatero's nose in it when he invited King Juan Carlos to the ranch.

Only when Spain elects a leader who sees it as part of the West should a president meet with him.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:44 PM


“The End of Feminism” (Genevieve S. Kineke, 9/18/08, Catholic Exchange)

For forty years, we have witnessed incalculable energy being spent on the questions surrounding human reproduction, and most of the capital has been used to promote the separation of stable conjugal relations from nurturing subsequent generations. The terrain in these battles encompasses the right to contraception and no-fault divorce, the glorification of sodomy and same-sex marriage, an unprecedented assault on the purity of children, the degradation of traditional family values in the entertainment industry, and the insidious establishment of the mass media as primary communicant with the young which undermines parental authority. The result is moral anarchy and sexual chaos, which have confused so many impressionable souls about the very meaning of family life and sexual intimacy.

Most pro-family advocates over the decades have pointed to the attack on motherhood as an integral weapon in this war. When a mother turns on the child of her womb as a competitor or even enemy, many rightly presume that civilization is in great peril. It is true that Satan approached Eve in order to bring about our fall from grace — and that diabolical strategy has had its successes ever since — but we cannot lose sight of the subsequent means of restoration. Motherhood was key to salvation and always will be, not only because of the life it fosters but because of the bridge it creates.

The motherhood of Mary is instructive for all mothers, in that she received the seed of God and that she restored our relationship with the Creator, thus placing motherhood within a constellation of family of relationships. The enemies of motherhood strategically attack it — not primarily because of its capacity for life but because of the truth it contains: motherhood is the bridge to fatherhood, and fatherhood is the icon of God Himself. The war on motherhood is of a transitive nature: fatherhood is the true enemy. [...]

Feminists don’t hate motherhood — as long as it’s on their own terms and disengaged from fatherhood. Sperm banks, in vitro fertilization and lesbian adoptions are touted as hip and brave choices, and cloning is the Promised Land on the horizon. Their true hatred is reserved for fatherhood — for the Todd Palin’s of the world — who love and support the women in their lives and collaborate for the good of their shared offspring.

When feminism was young, it is not surprising that women sought to demonstrate their new power by its ultimate exercise: abortion. So too does a 16-year old drive his Dad's car irresponsibly to demonstrate that adults are treating him responsibly.

It is no longer possible to consider feminism to be engaged in the destructive exuberance of youth. It must be seen as calculated and malicious.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:36 PM


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:53 AM


From the Creator of Bejeweled, Another Digital Diversion From the Day’s Work (SETH SCHIESEL, 9/17/08, NY Times)

Do you sit in a cubicle all day? Is your time filled with inane, interminable conference calls? Do you while away the hours idly clicking on Minesweeper or solitaire? Do you incessantly mess around on Facebook comparing scores on Oregon Trail or trying to find the next Scrabble rip-off? You’re a gamer. You just haven’t admitted it yet. [...]

I am both pleased and somewhat chagrined (given how susceptible I am to these sorts of diversions) to report that PopCap’s latest creation, Peggle Nights, seems poised to suck up millions of hours that would otherwise be devoted to regurgitating the latest monthly quota figures, watching soap operas or perhaps even making the world a better place. And it will feel like a lot of fun.

Like the original Peggle, released last year, Peggle Nights is a digital amalgam of Pachinko and pinball. You aim and fire a small ball from the top of the screen and it bounces off pegs arranged in various patterns until it falls off the screen at the bottom. The goal is to hit all of the orange pegs (the rest are blue) before running out of balls. Like most casual games, it sounds prosaic until you try it. Then you’re hooked. Peggle Nights, which became available for download at PopCap.com this week (the trial is free; the full version costs $19.95), builds on the original with dozens of new levels and some new scoring options.

Perhaps the most beautiful thing about a well-made casual game like Peggle Nights is seeing the raw psychology of game design at work in a pure form. Building a game is about creating a structure of rewards and obstacles that players will find both challenging and gratifying without becoming too frustrated. And that does not have to require a development team of hundreds and a $50 million budget, as with some top-shelf games.

In the Peggle series you can just feel the psychology at work: there’s the escalating musical scale of beeps as the ball hits additional pegs; the way the view zooms in as you try to ricochet into your final target; and the rendition of “Ode to Joy,” reinforcing a sense of accomplishment as each level is completed. Aimed at the broadest possible audience, Peggle Nights even includes a welcome feature to make its graphics understandable to the colorblind.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:06 AM


A thousand flowers: In his seventh decade, John Adams's musical fertility still springs anew (Ian Irvine, 18 September 2008, New Statesman)

John Adams is 61. How did that happen? For all my adult life he has been one of the most important figures in the contemporary classical musical world. From his earliest major works, such as Shaker Loops (1978) and Harmonium (1980-81), he has possessed a fresh, young voice, ripe with possibilities. He forged his own rich and expressive musical language that could speak to a mainstream audience out of the exciting but austere minimalism of composers such as Steve Reich combined with other influences of his time, from the rock and pop of, say, the Beach Boys and the Supremes, through the jazz of John Coltrane and Sonny Rollins, to the great American mid-century musicals and some eccentrics such as John Cage and the British composer Cornelius Cardew, with his Scratch Orchestra.

Adams was a leading player in the long march away from the post-Schoenbergian serialism that dominated postwar music and diminished concert audiences until the 1970s. In his autobiography, Hallelujah Junction (Faber & Faber), due to be published on 2 October, he quotes from the composer Milton Babbitt's notorious 1958 essay "Who Cares If You Listen?":

The time has passed when the normally well-educated man without special preparation could understand the most advanced work in . . . mathematics, philosophy and physics. Advanced music . . . scarcely can be expected to appear more intelligible than these arts and sciences to the person whose musical education usually has been even less extensive than his background in other fields.

To escape such arrogance and elitism, Adams moved from Harvard to the west coast.

One is reminded of the story of America's salutaryeffect on Stravinsky.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:59 AM

Corky's Famous Rice Pudding (Linda Cicero's Cook's Corner, 9/18/08, Miami Herald)

• 2 ½ pints (5 cups) milk

• 1 cup long-grain rice

• 1 tablespoon butter

• ¾ cup granulated sugar

• 2 eggs

• ½ cup light cream

• 1 teaspoon vanilla

• Dash yellow food coloring

Heat milk, rice and butter in heavy saucepan. When it comes to a boil, add sugar and mix well to dissolve. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook until rice is tender, about 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.

In separate mixing bowl, mix eggs, cream, vanilla and food coloring. Beat well. When rice is tender, stir in egg mixture. Cook until rice floats to the top, about 10 minutes.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:37 AM


Motown songwriter Norman Whitfield known for his genius (BRIAN McCOLLUM, 9/18/08, Detroit FREE PRESS)

The Grammy-winning Whitfield was the most prominent of Motown's second-wave songwriter-producers, sculpting deeply textured, sophisticated music for artists such as the Temptations, Marvin Gaye and Rare Earth. In the late 1960s, he helped propel the Detroit label into ambitious new territory, pushing Motown beyond the sweet melodies and puppy-love tales of its early days into edgier, more expansive music.

It was the difference between "My Girl" and "Papa Was a Rolling Stone": Whitfield's work was darker, funkier, often laced with exotic instrumentation. Drawing inspiration from San Francisco psychedelia and British hard rock, he crafted music with social themes: the Temptations' "Ball of Confusion," Edwin Starr's "War,"Gladys Knight & the Pipse Pips' "Friendship Train."

His post-Motown career was most famously marked by his soundtrack for the film "Car Wash," which included a chart-topping hit of the same name in 1977.

The talent was instinctive, but it didn't always translate easily. Friends and colleagues remembered Whitfield as a maverick with a bite, a musical visionary who fiercely battled for his ideas.

"Norman was a taskmaster in the studio," said Otis Williams of the Temptations. "He wanted what he wanted. Everybody who worked with him knew he could be very adamant and vocal about what he believed in."

But Whitfield was usually right. He racked up hit after hit, many written in collaboration with close friend Barrett Strong, including the song that would become Motown's most successful: "I Heard it Through the Grapevine," a smash for Knight and Gaye.

A Northwestern High School graduate, Whitfield started his music career in the late 1950s as a tambourine player with the band Popcorn and the Mohawks, his entrée into the local music circles that would soon lead him to Motown.

Songwriting on the side led to Whitfield's big break in 1966, when his song "Ain't Too Proud to Beg" became a smash for the Temptations. He became the group's go-to collaborator, and his knack for the rigors of studio work -- including intricate hand-editing of tape -- soon flourished.

"Nobody in the business could lay down funkier grooves than Norman," said Williams. "He was a master in the studio."

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:32 AM


Basil Sun-Dried Tomato Bread (Linda Bladholm's Fork on the Road, 9/18/08, Miami Herald)

• 1 ( ¼-ounce) package active dry yeast

• ¼ teaspoon sugar

• ¾ cup milk

• 1 cup grated jack cheese

• 1 tablespoon salt

• 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

• ½ cup drained, oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, chopped fine

• 1 tablespoon diced canned green chiles

• 2 teaspoons minced garlic

• 4 cups packed fresh basil leaves, chopped

• 2 large eggs, beaten lightly

• 3 ½ to 4 cups all-purpose flour

In a large bowl, proof the yeast in ¼ cup lukewarm water with the sugar for 15 minutes, or until foamy. Stir in the milk, cheese, salt, oil, sun-dried tomatoes, chile, garlic, basil, eggs and enough flour to make soft but not sticky dough.

Knead the dough on a floured surface for 8 to 10 minutes, or until it is smooth and elastic and forms into a ball. Transfer the ball to a lightly buttered bowl, turning to coat in the butter, and let rise, covered in plastic wrap, in a warm place for 2 ½ to 3 hours, or until it is doubles in bulk.

Butter a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan. Punch down the dough and form into a loaf, tucking the seam under. Transfer the pan, turning dough to coat it in butter, and let rise, seam side down, covered loosely with a clean kitchen towel, in a warm place for one hour, or until doubled in bulk. Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Bake the loaf in the middle of the oven for 50 minutes to 1 hour, or until it sounds hollow when tapped. Remove the bread from the pan and let it cool on a rack.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:20 AM


Oil market collapse waiting to happen (Chris Cook, 9/18/08, Speaking Freely: Asia Times Online)

[T]o blame national regulators, such as the FSA in Britain and CFTC in the US, for problems of a global marketplace does not help, other than in providing a useful scapegoat. This is because the problem lies both in the global scope of the market and in its conflicted structure, where the interests of trading intermediaries or middlemen are diametrically opposed to those of end-user producers and consumers of oil and oil products.

In the absence of a new approach to market structure we will inevitably see repeats of the recent spike in oil prices as waves of hot money swill in and out of the market. In my opinion, that will inevitably lead, sooner rather than later, to a market meltdown - similar to the literally overnight collapse of the tin market in 1985 from $800 to $400 per tonne.

The conventional wisdom is that the "central counterparty" clearing houses of futures exchanges, which guarantee the performance of transactions, backed by a pool of capital and margin, are a strength of these markets.

In my view, they also constitute a single point of failure, where oil price risk is concentrated in exactly the same way that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were massively exposed to house price risk.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:13 AM


Football fantasy?: Already Patriots Nation is wondering whether Matt Cassel has Tom Brady's potential off the field (Meredith Goldstein, September 18, 2008, Boston Globe)

Crystal James has learned two things about Matt Cassel over the past couple of weeks. One, the guy can carry his weight on the field. Two, the recently promoted quarterback is - to put it bluntly - adorable.

"He is cute," the 23-year-old Patriots fan from South Boston admitted the other night. "You never noticed him before."

When Gene Upshaw died recently there was surprisingly little mention of how disastrous his strike had been, demonstrating that the NFL owners could put just about anyone in their helmets and jerseys and fans would consume the product.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:54 AM


GOP might regret mocking elitism (ROBERT M. EISINGER, 9/18/08, Politico)

The Republican Party is evolving, and, I would argue, not for the better. Once the party of Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft and Richard Nixon, Republicans today have decided to mock elitism and equate it with liberalism.

This strategy is likely to fail. The GOP is not, cannot and should not be the party of faux populism. Sure, many Main Street, mom-and-pop store and Wal-Mart shoppers are attracted to the Republican Party’s call for smaller government and a strong defense, and yes, many of those voters lack Ivy League educations and fancy pedigrees. With Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as their vice presidential nominee, however, the new GOP is now trashing its past, abandoning its roots and trying to transform into something it is not.

Palin is many things: a college-educated mother, a chief executive of a geographically large state and an able communicator. She is not an intellectual. That in and of itself is neither good nor bad. But the recent trashing of intellectualism by the Republicans is unhealthy, dangerous and, quite frankly, unseemly. [...]

The historian Richard Hofstadter reminds us that anti-intellectualism has deep roots in American culture, and no one should be surprised that an evolving GOP that seeks to attract social conservatives will recognize that there is a real correlation between higher education and political liberalism.

Robert M. Eisinger is a political science professor ....

He'd have to be an academic, wouldn't he? Though obviously not familiar with American political history or he'd have noticed that since TR thwarted Taft, every Republican who's won a second term--Coolidge, Ike, Reagan, Nixon, W--has been an anti-Intellectual and reviled and/or considered an idiot by academics.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:51 AM


In Fútbol-Mad Argentina, Ms. Rubeo Teaches Soccer Fans to Play Nice: Hooligan Etiquette Bans Rock Throwing, Provoking Police; 'Big Baby' Learns a Lesson (MATT MOFFETT, 9/18/08, Wall Street Journal)

For years, the roughneck fans of the Huracán soccer club often put on more of a show than the players did. Boasting in a fight song that they "root with wine and drugs," they battled police with rocks, fought rival fans with chains and vandalized everything from cars to bleachers.

But at a recent Huracán game, the tough guys were kept in check by a woman sporting a Chanel handbag.

You have to at least take her weapon away if the soccer fans are to have any chance in a fight.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:48 AM


Muqtada reinvents himself (Babak Rahimi, 9/18/08, Asia Times)

Although there have been previous plans to reorganize the militia, Muqtada's latest repackaging of the Mahdi Army into a "cultural organization" is an indication of a major internal transformation. First, the change of the militia's name from Jaysh al-Mahdi to Mumahidun reveals how the Sadrist movement is changing on the ideological level.

Unlike its earlier form, the new militants are no longer the immediate, charismatic soldiers of the Hidden Imam, but a regular unit of organized fighters who merely anticipate the return of their savior. For the most part, al-Sadr seems no longer to consider his movement as the immediate embodiment of the Mahdi manifested in a perceived and present sacred time, but rather a mere prelude to what can be realized in a distant messianic future. The symbolic distinction between immediacy and anticipation is crucial here, since it brings to light how Muqtada is slowly detaching himself and his movement from the earlier apocalyptic traits seen in the post-war period and moving toward a more standardized, institutionalized Shi'ite-based millenarian position.

In an organizational sense, the new Mumahidun militia signals a transition from a paramilitary unit, with a political and social presence on the street level, to a private "special force", with specific military operational tasks. While the former Mahdi Army represented a united citizen militia of grassroots background, the new elite force is divided into two operational factions: one elite unit of combatants and another unit to provide public service to the community.

The latter force, designed for cultural activities, is yet to be formed. As a former Mahdi Army militant explains, "The new army will be only loyal to Muqtada. You will not see any dissent in this new group." Such renewed confidence underlines a self-promotional strategy designed to create a restored military unit operating on par with the Hezbollah of Lebanon. But it also shows how in recent months Muqtada has seriously sought to extricate himself from unruly elements within his movement.

The causes behind this organizational strategy are several, but one major factor is the likely influence of the Iranian regime, particularly the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), in taming Muqtadar's militia. The early spring detention of Muqtada at his residential house in Qom by the IRGC highlights a major rift between the Sadrists and the hardline establishment in Tehran.

Although the purpose of the arrest remains unclear, there seems to be a steady attempt by the Iranian regime to diminish the influence of Muqtada in Iraqi politics in a way that will strengthen the Maliki government. This was probably done to ensure that Baghdad would thwart any American attempt to use Iraq as launch pad for military attacks against Iran.

Likewise, just two weeks prior to Muqtada's arrest, Iranian officials accepted a request from Iraqi parliamentarian delegates, led by Abdul Aziz Hakim, to exclude Muqtada from participation in a joint Iran-Iraq meeting in Tehran to discuss the militia problem in Iraq. The move signaled a shift in the Iranian strategy to give full support to the Maliki government, partly in order to show the Americans that Tehran can play a major role in the stability of Iraq - a central issue in the ongoing nuclear talks.

If it weren't tragic it would be funnier.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:44 AM

Bruno Behrend, co-founder of the Illinois Citizens Coalition, will be debating Ed Murnane, of the Illinois Civil Justice League, in front of the Mt. Prospect Chamber of Commerce on Sept. 18th, 2008. This debate will take place at the Mt. Prospect Village Hall at 50 S Emerson St., Mt Prospect, IL 60056 from 7:30 - 8:30 PM.

If you live in Mt. Prospect, (or know some one who does), this event will be broadcast on Channel 17 MPTV local access.

We hope many businessmen and women attend to ask Mr. Murnane why the Illinois business community is wasting this golden opportunity to re-empower businesses and individuals by improving the state's awful Constitution.

You may also want to attend just to ask him why the Illinois Civil Justice League is walking hand-in-hand with the Illinois Trail Lawyer's Association in working to keep Illinois bankrupt, over-lawyered, and opaque from citizen oversight.

If you can't attend, remember to tell 10 friends to vote "Yes" in November. And don't forget to visit Yes for Illinois for updates over the next 5 weeks. As always, we remind you that "Yes for Illinois" is a struggling PAC fighting the powerful and well-funded special interests. These interests are intent upon preventing citizens from re-gaining control over their state. With out your help, they WILL win. With your help, together we can fix Illinois.


Bruno Behrend
Co-Founder - Illinois Citizens Coalition / Yes for Illinois

* Tell 10 Friends to vote "Yes"
* Walk your precinct with 'Yes' literature
* Volunteer to call remind people to vote "Yes" on election day
* Read our book to become informed on all the details
* Consider running for delegate or finding (and funding) a good candidate in your district

This message was sent from: Illinois Citizens Coalition, 823 Forest Ave., River Forest, IL 60305.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:15 AM


From the Fact Check Desk: Obama's New Spanish Language TV Ad Es Erróneo (Jake Tapper, September 17, 2008, Political Punch)

The second quote is totally unfair. In 2006, Limbaugh was mocking Mexican law, and he wrote:

“Everybody's making immigration proposals these days. Let me add mine to the mix. Call it The Limbaugh Laws:

“First: If you immigrate to our country, you have to speak the native language. You have to be a professional or an investor; no unskilled workers allowed. Also, there will be no special bilingual programs in the schools with the Limbaugh Laws. No special ballots for elections. No government business will be conducted in your language. Foreigners will not have the right to vote or hold political office.

“If you're in our country, you cannot be a burden to taxpayers. You are not entitled to welfare, food stamps, or other government goodies. You can come if you invest here: an amount equal to 40,000 times the daily minimum wage. If not, stay home. But if you want to buy land, it'll be restricted. No waterfront, for instance. As a foreigner, you must relinquish individual rights to the property.

“And another thing: You don't have the right to protest. You're allowed no demonstrations, no foreign flag waving, no political organizing, no bad-mouthing our President or his policies. You're a foreigner: shut your mouth or get out! And if you come here illegally, you're going to jail.

“You think the Limbaugh Laws are harsh? Well, every one of the laws I just mentioned are actual laws of Mexico today! That' how the Mexican government handles immigrants to their country. Yet Mexicans come here illegally and protest in our streets!

“How do you say ‘double standard’ in Spanish? How about: ‘No mas!’”

But even if one is uninclined to see Limbaugh's quotes as having been taken unfairly out of context, linking them to McCain makes as much sense as running a quote from Bill Maher and linking it to Obama.

...of stories from the MSM, fretting about the new lying Obama who'll do anything to win.

Recent Obama Ads More Negative Than Rival's, Study Says: Democrat Said to Be Facing Pressure to 'Show Some Spine' (Howard Kurtz, 9/18/08, Washington Post)

Despite perceptions that Sen. John McCain has spent more time on the attack, Sen. Barack Obama aired more negative advertising last week than did the Arizona Republican, says a study released yesterday.

Seventy-seven percent of the Illinois Democrat's commercials were negative during the week after the Republican National Convention, compared with 56 percent of the spots run by McCain.

September 17, 2008

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:12 PM


After vows to respect sovereignty, U.S. strikes again in Pakistan (Saeed Shah, 9/17/08, McClatchy Newspapers)

A U.S. missile strike today in Pakistan further inflamed relations between the two anti-terrorism allies, hours after the U.S. military chief vowed to “respect Pakistan’s sovereignty.”

The strike against suspected militants in Pakistan’s tribal area, which runs along the Afghan border, is thought to be the sixth such attack this month. It came as Washington is demanding that Islamabad do more to prevent Taliban and Al Qaeda extremists from using its territory.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:29 PM


Sex pamphlet for 6-year-olds horrifies family lobby (Rosemary Bennett, 9/17/08, Times of London)

The country’s biggest sexual health charity has published a sex education pamphlet for six-year-olds to encourage earlier discussion of the facts of life.

The 12-page comic-style booklet, which will be distributed to schools, asks children to identify the physical differences between boys and girls and name their body parts properly.

One puzzle asks children to draw a line from the words “vagina” and “testicles” to the correct areas of a picture of a naked girl and boy.

The pamphlet from the FPA — formerly the Family Planning Association — entitled Let’s Grow with Nisha and Joe, which will be shown to pupils by schools unless parents opt out, was immediately condemned by family campaigners as “a very worrying development”.

Planned Parenthood isn't worried about inappropriate touching.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:12 PM

DOES ANYONE ELSE GET A FLASH... (via Jay Ostrander):

...of Wolf knitting underneath the scaffolding?

N.B.: We had a guy in our fraternity who was some kind of Euro royalty. He was relatively down to earth...except for one night at a cocktail party when someone bumped into him and spilled his drink. At which point he wheeled on the klutz and spat: "Filthy commoner!"

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:36 PM


Losing It: Democrats despair as Obama's campaign falters. (Michael Weiss, 09/17/2008, Weekly Standard)

As bellwethers of liberal demoralization about this election go, I've not yet come across anything so clanging as the following comment from Hannah Rosin, responding to the phenomenon of Sarah Palin: "One of my many depressed Obama-supporting friends suggests a tidy solution: Repeal the 19th Amendment." That would be the one that extends the franchise to women, and the point was driven home by the forum Rosin chose for relaying this morose alternative: the XX Factor feminist blog at Slate.

Just make it so only married women can vote and Democrats will never win a national election.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:37 PM


Don’t Know Much About History: A national shame. (Thomas F. Madden, 9/12/08, National Review)

[I]f history is such a good teacher, why do we teach so little of it to our young?

Take, for example, history’s place in America’s higher education. Many institutions that are training tomorrow’s leaders don’t seem to think that history is just what they need. At Princeton, for example, those who receive A.B. degrees need take only one course in history — any history. Bachelor of Science students at Princeton can skip history altogether. So can those at Yale. At least Harvard requires its undergraduates to take a pre-modern history course. But that is rare. It’s increasingly difficult today to find a college or university that requires students to study Antiquity, or the Middle Ages, or the Renaissance, or anything at all that occurred before the students’ own short lives.

If only we did teach and learn from history, Harold James's outstanding, though oddly unfinished, book would be at the center of our current political campaign, because we are faced with the Roman Predicament of which he writes. Drawing mainly upon the musings of Edward Gibbon and Adam Smith upon the Roman and British Empires, he considers what they can tell us about the current American moment (which many refer to as imperial). In particular, he draws our attention to that "predicament" that may undermine this instance of unprecedented peace and prosperity:

This book is about what I term the "Roman dilemma": the way in which peaceful commerce is frequently seen as a way of building a stable, prosperous, and integrated international society. At the same time, the peaceful liberal economic order leads to domestic clashes and also to international rivalry and even wars. The conflicts disturb and eventually destroy the commercial system and the bases of prosperity and integration. These interactions seem to be a vicious spiral, or a trap from which it seems almost impossible to escape. The liberal commercial world order subverts and destroys itself.

The central problem is that we need rules for the functioning of complex societies, whether on a national (state) level or in international relations. We do not, however, always comply voluntarily with rules, and rules require some enforcement. In addition, rules need to be formulated. The enforcement and the promulgation of rules are both consequences of power, and power is concentrated and unequally distributed. Even when we think of voluntarily negotiated rules, there is the memory of some act of power, the long shadow of a hegemonic strength--the shadow of Rome--falling on the negotiators. The propensity for subversion and destruction of a rule-based order comes about whenever there is a perception that rules are arbitrary and unjust, and that they reflect the imposition of particular interests in a high-handed imperial display of power.

Power protects commerce and peace, but power is clearly not necessarily a good in itself. It offers a basis on which there occurs a constant accumulation of greater power, as power is used to affect the outcome of social processes. One way of putting this is the frequently made observation that the exercise of power has an addictive quality. The adage that power tends to corrupt itself affects the way in which the holders of power behave. Even if the wielder of power resists the addiction, other people suspect the addiction.

If we boil it down to its essence, the problem is this: the globalized economy that has done so much to alleviate world poverty and to end interstate warfare over the past thirty years has been a function of Anglo-Americanizing the planet. The process has been mostly peaceful, though not always, owing much to the communications and information revolution. But maintenance and extension of this integrated world economy requires that everyone follow certain rules and the fact that one country is so closely identified with the creation of the new order -- and one political faction within even that one country (the Republican Party) -- means that, both here and abroad, some will inevitably distrust the fairness of the system. Historically, it has been impossible to maintain a liberal economic order in the face of such distrust. Resentment of the order basically breeds the disorder that brings it down.

Mr. James makes this case compellingly and hardly a reader will be left doubting that the dilemma he outlines is real. Even if you don't think ancient Roman history and the collapse of the Pax Romana has any bearing today, you need only consider the way te recent round of trade talks collapsed when Third World nations, quite correctly, pointed to the agriculture subsidies of the developed world as inherently unfair or think back to just 80 years ago, when even America responded to an early period of globalization by passing Smoot-Hawley and immigration restrictions. It is easy for us to see how Nazism and Communism prevented WWI from being the War to End all Wars, but harder to accept that the colonialism we sanctioned at Versailles and our own protectionism and nativism contributed to Depression and the ensuing World War. When we further realize that we were an economically and culturally advanced society rebelling against our own ideals, the possibility or even likelihood of more backwards nations doing likewise now must be more real to us.

The author, however, is far more tentative in explaining the ways we can deal with the predicament, even though he does hint at the answer. Some of the solutions are obvious just from the way that he frames his "principal argument":

[T]here is a continual contest between two ways of seeing the world--as a system of rules, or as a series of exercises or applications of power. Globalization fundamentally depends on the acceptance of the legitimacy of rules...

There are, of course, many in the West who either believe in the latter view or at least use it as a means to obtain power for themselves. And it is here that the book has application for our own political situation. When Barack Obama sent his advisor, Austan Goolsbee, to Canada to assure the government there that his anti-NAFTA rhetoric was just for domestic political purposes there was little reason to disbelieve him but much cause to resent his duplicity. After all, the case for free trade is too obvious at this point for any reasonably well-informed person to oppose it, as witness the fact that the last Democratic President, Bill Clinton, signed GATT and NAFTA into law. But that makes it all the more contemptible for Mr. Obama, specifically, and Democrats and the far Right, more generally, to exploit the issue for cheap partisan gain. Similarly, when they portray the United States as acting lawlessly in the War on Terror they tap into the worldview that tends to undermine the "stable, prosperous, and integrated international society" that we enjoy today and hand ammunition to those who would happily destroy this order. They are playing with fire.

Meanwhile, if those are cases where only rhetorical aid is offered to the enemy, both parties contribute to genuine unfairness when they do things like continue agriculture subsidies and other entrenched forms of protectionism. We would make much better evangalists for open markets and freer trade if we took unilateral steps to make ourselves more open and free. If Caesar's wife must be above suspicion, all the more crucial that we, as Caesar, be seen to live up to our own ideals.

But there is one bigger step hinted at here that is more sweeping and controversial than just toning down partisan opportunism and liberating our own economic system. Mr. James notes that "the most successful examples of benign hegemony involved the elaboration of vales that drew other and different societies into a peaceful order." And just as we ought be honest with ourselves in recognizing the globalization consists of a benign Anglo-American hegemony, so too ought we be honest about what the values in question are:

[I]n the process of civilization, law (or, in other words, a system of rules) is needed to restrain violence. Ancient Rome actually found it almost impossible to engage in a systematic elaboration of the fundaments of rule and law. The basic model is given in the Abrahamic faiths by the Ten Commandments. But the Commandments are derived from God, not from an argument about pragmatic necessity, or a case derived from the functional logic of increased interaction and communication.

The connections between our religious backgrounds and our political and economic freedom are too well-documented to deny. But we seldom pause to consider that those freedoms are made possible because we are so bound by the shared values that precede the political/law-making realm. It is only when values breakdown and cease to be universal that rules must govern and freedom recede. The awkward reality then is that, contrary to multiculturalist cant, a liberal economic order will at least benefit from, if it does not require, a monolithic value system. Which is to say, "Our debate must avoid the non-value based escapism of simply technocratic solutions, and it needs to concern itself with fundamental values." And since it is our culture that provides those values (Abrahamic or possibly just Judeo-Christian), we need more hegemonic convergence. We look forward to the sequel, in which Mr. James will have to explain how we effect that sort of cultural imperialism without stirring up those who already resent our power and, more precisely, hate the faith that power depends on.

    -AUTHOR PAGE: Harold James (Professor of History, Princeton University)

    -WIKIPEDIA: Harold James

    -GOOGLE BOOKS: The Roman Predicament

    -BOOK SITE: The Roman Predicament (Princeton University Press)

    -ESSAY: Our Roman Predicament (Harold James, 5/08/06, History News Network)

oday there are no grounds for thinking that the United States – or the global economic system – has reached any kind of inherent limit to growth. The pace of technical innovation even seems to be increasing, and the U.S. is one of the world's most dynamic and innovative societies.

The possibility of an unraveling of the U.S. position comes rather from political developments that respond to the uncertainties of the new economy as well as the new security situation. Some of the backlash stems from fears of immigration, even though it is precisely the openness to immigration that has made the U.S. so dynamic. Our political and social psychology responds to globalization by imagining an idealized safe and closed off world. The more we think of the military and security challenge, the more likely we are to try to close ourselves off.

Yet another part of the psychology that develops in response to globalization stems from resentments brought by changes in relative income and wealth. Periods of globalization and high levels of economic growth also tend to be periods when inequalities increase. This was true of ancient Rome, as it was true of eighteenth century Britain where the big corporations of the day, such as the East India Company, generated enormous personal wealth for a handful of directors. Gibbon concluded that: "Such is the constitution of civil society, that, whilst a few persons are distinguished by riches, by honours, and by knowledge, the body of the people is condemned to obscurity, ignorance, and poverty." Inequality was the social problem that provoked the rise of what he saw as the egalitarian ideology (namely Christianity) that would undermine the Roman empire.

The domestic discontents have a powerful international dimension, and that is likely to produce an erosion of preeminence even faster than any domestic disintegration. In particular, there is widespread mistrust of the power of the world's only superpower, and increased doubt about the sort of politics that the United States tries to impose on the rest of the world.

The central problem is that we need rules for the functioning of complex societies, whether on a national (state) level, or in international relations. But we do not always comply voluntarily with rules, and rules require some enforcement. In addition rules need to be formulated. The enforcement and the promulgation of rules are both consequences of power, and power is concentrated and unequally distributed. Even when we think of voluntarily negotiated rules, there is the memory of some act of power, the long shadow of a hegemomic strength – the shadow of Rome - falling on the negotiators. The propensity for subversion and destruction of a rule-based order comes about because and whenever there is a perception that rules are arbitrary, unjust, and reflect the imposition of particular interests in a high-handed imperial display of power.

    -EXCERPT: Introduction to The Roman Predicament: How the Rules of International Order Create the Politics of Empire

    -ESSAY: Modern America's Roman predicament (Harold James, Feb 20 2006, Financial Times)
The central problem identified by Gibbon and Smith is that complex societies need rules to function, whether on a national (state) level or in international relations. But we do not always comply voluntarily with rules and rules require some enforcement. In addition, they need to be formulated. The enforcement and the promulgation of rules are both consequences of power, and power is always concentrated and unequally distributed.

Even when we think of voluntarily negotiated rules, there is the memory of some act of power, the long shadow of a hegemonic strength – the shadow of Rome – falling on the negotiators.

The propensity for subversion and destruction of a rule-based order comes about because – and whenever – there is a perception that rules are arbitrary, unjust and reflect the imposition of particular interests in a high-handed imperial display of power.

Power protects commerce and peace but power is clearly not necessarily a good in itself. It offers a basis on which greater power constantly accumulates, as power is used to affect the outcome of social processes. One way of putting this is the frequently made observation that the exercise of power has an addictive quality. The adage that power tends to corrupt itself affects the way in which the holders of power behave. Even if the wielder of power resists the addiction, other people suspect the addiction is there.

People who believe in universal rules and people who see power behind the rules can scarcely talk to each other. They each have an overall interpretation of such power that the other perspective simply disappears.

    -ESSAY: The Future of Globalization: A Transatlantic Perspective (Harold James, June 2008, Orbis)

    -ESSAY: Capitalism Now and Then (Harold James, Project Syndicate)

    -ESSAY: The Scoundrels of Economic Patriotism (Harold James, March 2006, Project Syndicate)

    -ESSAY: Google's new technology spurs new 'Browser Wars' (Harold James, 9/10/08, Gulf Times)

    -ESSAY: Religion: prop or antidote to capitalism? (HAROLD JAMES, 6/03/07, Japan Times)
But there are two crucial aspects of the debate on religious values that should not be overlooked:

First, the core of Weber's argument was that religious values that emphasize restraint and a sense of duty may support dependability and reliability in business relations, which is especially vital in societies that are just opening up market relations. Where there is a legacy of violence and suspicion, it is hard for people to feel secure enough to enter into long-term contracts. They tend to look for short-term gains at the expense of others, reinforcing a generalized skepticism about the market.

Second, religious values that emphasize social solidarity are an important corrective to the tendency of markets to polarize society by rewarding success. Periods of globalization have been eras of considerable economic advance; but they have also increased inequality within particular countries, as markets rewarded scarce factors of production, thus fueling powerful political backlashes that endangered the continuation of trade and financial integration.

The debate about the contribution of religious values parallels the debate over the relationship of freedom to economic development — a central issue in the work of Nobel laureate economists Friedrich Hayek and Amartya Sen. It is clearly tempting for critics of authoritarian regimes to argue that freedom is good because it promotes economic growth. But a deeper view of freedom regards it as having intrinsic value.

So, too, with religious values. Backed by evidence from large empirical studies, some claim that belief in religion is good because it boosts economic performance.

    -ESSAY: A new IMF role: global stabilizer: The IMF could act as a force for global economic stability if it secures the trust and participation of skeptical members (Harold James, Jan 04, 2008, Taipei Times)

    -INTERVIEW: with Harold James (Princeton University)

    -INTERVIEW: What went wrong with globalisation? (William Wright, 11 Dec 2006, Financial News)

    -REVIEW: of Joseph Stiglitz, MAKING GLOBALIZATION WORK and Frederic S. Mishkin, THE NEXT GREAT GLOBALIZATION (Harold James, Times Literary Supplement)

    -ARCHIVES: Harold James (Project Syndicate)

    -ARCHIVES: "harold james" princeton (Find Articles)

    -REVIEW: of The Roman Predicament: How the Rules of International Order Create the Politics of Empire by Harold James (William Anthony Hay, The National Interest)

    -REVIEW: of The Roman Predicament (Jakub J. Grygiel, Claremont Review of Books)

    -REVIEW: of The Roman Predicament (G. John Ikenberry, Foreign Affairs)

    -REVIEW: of The Roman Predicament (American History Co-operative)

    -REVIEW: of The Roman Predicament (George Modelski, International History Review)

    -REVIEW: of The Roman Predicament (Michael C. Desch, Independent Institute)

    -REVIEW: of The Roman Predicament (Jakub J. Grygiel, Declaration Foundation)


    -ESSAY: The Democrats' Dangerous Rhetoric (Fareed Zakaria, 3/03/08, Newsweek)

    -ESSAY: The Emperor's New Poem: The latest translation of Virgil's 'Aeneid,' the epic poem of Rome's founding commissioned by Augustus Caesar, has a timely resonance at this moment of American imperial angst (David Barber, November 12, 2006, Boston Globe)

    -ESSAY: Empire Falls: They called it "the American Century," but the past hundred years actually saw a shift away from Western dominance. Through the long lens of Edward Gibbon's history, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Rome 331 and America and Europe 2006 appear to have more than a few problems in common. (Niall Ferguson, October 2006, Vanity Fair)

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:44 AM


The Triumph of Culture Over Politics (LEE SIEGEL, 9/13/08, Wall Street Journal)

[O]ne stark distinction stands out among the differences between contemporary liberals and conservatives (the real differences, not the manufactured ones). Liberals always think that there is something broken in politics. Conservatives always think that there is something wrong with the culture.

These conflicting urgencies have given the conservatives mostly the upper hand for over a quarter of a century. Since culture is more immediate to us than the abstract policies and principles of politics -- and seemingly more dependable than politics' often fluid expediencies -- a politics of culture is going to be more successful than mere politics. For many people, the idea that Republican politics are wholly responsible for the country's ills is hard to accept. You can't feel politics. Rather, such people blame a culture of selfishness and irresponsibility for the deepening malaise (the word that sank President Carter among liberals who thought they smelled a Christian conservative in progressive clothing). You experience selfishness and irresponsibility in the flesh every day.

Let me clarify what the word "culture" means in this context, a la the Christian right and Mr. Bloom's descendants. If hearing the word "culture" makes you think of Rossini, the latest translation of "Anna Karenina," the Guggenheim Museum or "The Wire," then you're probably a liberal -- or, at least, an unreconstructed "cosmopolitan" conservative. But if the word culture means for you forms of courtship, or sexual preference, or the relationship between parents and children, or the set of rituals that revolve around the ownership and use of a gun, or, most passionately of all, ways of living, and believing, and rejoicing, and suffering, and dying that are hallowed by the religion you practice and embodied in the church you belong to -- if for you, culture does not primarily signify opera or HBO, then you are probably celebrating Sarah Palin's ragged, real-seeming life. In that case, you are what might be called either a heartland or a Bloomian conservative.

Broadly speaking, liberals segregate culture from ordinary existence. They will "do" culture and then "do" the rest of life -- gaze at a Vermeer, say, and then work on finding the perfect daycare center. But for conservatives, raising children, using the discipline of faith to endure illness or setback, cherishing life at its conception are cultural tasks and values inseparable from the challenges of everyday living. The liberal idea of culture as edification or diversion implies abundant leisure time. The conservative idea of culture as the practice of getting through life (like the anthropologist's idea of culture) implies time under siege by work and adversity; this is culture defined as the meaningful beliefs and activities that are the response to necessity and adversity. Culture in this sense is as familiar as the eight-hour day, and as intimate as biological function. It is a matter of life and death. Call it organic, as opposed to fabricated, culture.

This is why Thomas Frank's greatly influential 2004 critique of the Republicans' cultural strategy, "What's the Matter with Kansas?", has had such a negative effect on the Democrats' fortunes, for the simple reason that Mr. Frank assured Democrats that they didn't have to respond to the way the Republicans were manipulating organic culture. Mr. Frank cogently argued that the Republicans used cultural issues to distract their constituents from Republican economic policies which, ironically, were harming the very people who were voting for them. Mr. Frank believed that what Democrats had to do to win back the White House was to keep hammering away at Republican-induced economic disparities. Barack Obama's campaign is doing precisely that. For many people, however, faith in organic culture is intimate and empowering, while faith in politics is like trying to have a conversation with the TV.

Mr. Siegel is right on the edge of the final insight but then fumbles. The Left is at war with the organic culture of the American people -- Judeo-Christianity, republicanism, families, ownership -- because that is what has to be destroyed in order for them to impose their political policies. The culture affords people independence from politics and is, therefore, intolerable to liberals.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:30 AM


Oil's Dramatic Price Retreat Ripples Around the World (Steven Mufson, 9/17/08, Washington Post)

Just two months ago, spiking petroleum prices were emboldening confrontational oil exporters such as Venezuela, Russia and Iran, fueling inflation anxiety at the Federal Reserve, raising expectations at American biofuel producers, and crimping the budgets of airlines and ordinary households alike.

Suddenly, the oil market's dynamic has changed. Prices have beaten a two-month retreat, confounding forecasts that many experts had just revised upward, fanning tensions within OPEC, dimming the financing prospects for alternative-fuel firms, and erasing tens of billions of dollars of value of energy stocks and oil and gas investments.

Prices remain extremely high by historical standards, and the House of Representatives, sensitive to voters' unhappiness, passed an energy bill that would a