November 30, 2008

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:40 AM


Sarah Palin: A digital superstar (CHARLES MAHTESIAN, 11/29/08, Politico)

Three weeks after the Republican ticket suffered a sweeping defeat at the polls, Sarah Palin continues to dominate search engine queries, cable news and online video sites.

The only American politician who generates comparable interest is President-elect Barack Obama. No one else is close.

Palin was the most popular Lycos search from the week she joined the ticket continuously through last Sunday, some two weeks after the election, when she was dethroned by Paris Hilton, the celebutante whom John McCain famously compared to Barack Obama.

The Alaska governor now ranks fourth, just one spot below Obama, on the weekly Lycos 50 list.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:35 AM


Saluting a shout-out for justice (Danny Westneat, 11/30/08, Seattle Times)

[Richard] Sanders is the state Supreme Court justice who couldn't take it any more. About a week ago, he was back in Washington, D.C., listening to a speech by President Bush's attorney general, Michael Mukasey, when he snapped.

"Tyrant! You are a tyrant!" Sanders yelled at Mukasey, then walked out.

The outburst made national news. Supreme Court justices don't typically trash-talk at the top of their lungs. Mukasey also collapsed later (in an apparently unrelated fainting spell).

So now there's talk around Olympia about whether Sanders is losing it or should be censured in some way. The chief justice of the high court, Gerry L. Alexander, weighed in, saying Sanders damaged his reputation.

Hardly. I bet we look back at this moment as a harbinger of a great debate. One where the rude guy was in the right.

What was Mukasey saying when Sanders corked off? He was defending America's biggest disgrace of the past eight years: our use of torture.

That word wasn't in the speech, of course. It never is. But Mukasey was saying legally it was OK to jail foreigners indefinitely without charging them. And to set aside the Geneva Conventions when questioning them.

...he'd go to Damascus or Cairo to do his shouting, not somewhere that's safe to yell such things precisely because they're nonsense.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:34 AM


Obama to see light on trade (Geoffrey Garrett, December 01, 2008, The Australian)

KEVIN Rudd and his Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation and G20 colleagues have twice pledged loyalty to free trade. But the leader whose support matters most, US president-elect Barack Obama, was not there. What is worse, his protectionist rhetoric on the campaign trail has free traders worried.

As the credit crisis becomes a sharp US recession, Obama will have powerful political incentive to appease a middle America that believes free trade has done more harm than good.

But history in the form of the previous Democratic president, Bill Clinton, gives reason for hope that Obama will undergo a quick conversion from trade sceptic to free-trade champion.

The 1990s are looked back on as the halcyon days of free trade in America. What is often forgotten is that Clinton was quite protectionist on the electoral stump in 1992. But, once in office, he signed the North American Free Trade Agreement, ratified the Uruguay round of global trade liberalisation, helped create the World Trade Organisation and then pushed for China's entry into it.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:30 AM


GOP Looks to Louisiana's Governor: Jindal May Prove To be Republicans' Version of Obama (Michael Leahy, 11/30/08, Washington Post)

Like the president-elect, Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana is young (37), accomplished (a Rhodes scholar) and, as the son of Indian immigrants, someone familiar with breaking racial and cultural barriers. He came to Iowa to deliver a pair of speeches, and his mere presence ignited talk that the 2012 presidential campaign has begun here, if coyly. Already, a fierce fight is looming between him and other Republicans -- former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, who arrived in Iowa a couple of days before him, and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who is said to be coming at some point -- for the hearts of social conservatives.

"The Republicans really have no choice except to look at some people more youthful if they want to have a better chance of winning," said Betty E. Johnson, an independent and the wife of a Cedar Rapids pastor, who voted for George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004 but who went for Obama over 72-year-old John McCain. "I liked Obama's energy and hope. I don't know, but maybe a younger person would give Republicans a feeling of more energy, openness."

Jindal insists he is ignoring all the speculation. In Cedar Rapids, at a breakfast event devoted to addressing this beleaguered city's efforts to rebound from its disastrous flood last summer, he avoided any reference to 2012, staying focused on explaining Louisiana's methods for coping with hurricane floods in emergencies on his watch.

Meanwhile, others around the country were talking him up. No less an aspiring kingmaker than Steve Schmidt, the chief strategist of McCain's failed presidential bid, sees Jindal as the Republican Party's destiny. "The question is not whether he'll be president, but when he'll be president, because he will be elected someday." The anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist believes, too, that Jindal is a certainty to occupy the White House, and conservative talk-radio host Rush Limbaugh has described him as "the next Ronald Reagan."

Jindal is, above all else, a political meteor, sharing Obama's precocious skills for reaching the firmament in a hurry. It was just four years ago, after losing a gubernatorial election, that he won election to Congress, and only this year that he became Louisiana's governor, the first nonwhite to hold the office sin

...but with brains, ideas, and experience.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:15 AM


Obama's small-donor 'myth': The campaign's base was dominated by those who gave less than $200, the political standard for small donors. But a new study asks, are you still a small donor if you do that five times? (Andrew Malcolm, November 30, 2008, LA Times)

"The myth is that money from small donors dominated Barack Obama's finances," said Michael Malbin, executive director of the nonpartisan Campaign Finance Institute.

In a recent detailed study that added up the total contributions from the individual donors, the institute discovered that rather than the 50-plus% commonly reported throughout the campaign, only 26% of Obama's contributions through August and only 24% through Oct. 15 came from people whose total donations added up to less than $200.

It comes down to which definition of "small donor" you accept: The political standard has been $200 period. But what about someone who donated $199 to the Obama campaign several times, perhaps totaling close to the $4,600 legal limit for the primary and general elections?

If we get rid of all of them there'll be no Obama left.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:12 AM


Cheaper GPS navigation system gets you around town for less: In a comparison test, the no-frills Goodyear GY135 worked just as well as -- and in some ways better than -- the more expensive Magellan Maestro 4250. Its main drawback is its smaller screen size. (David Colker, November 30, 2008, LA Times)

Just how good is a cheapie GPS unit? To find out, I took several trips around town guided by the Goodyear GY135 GPS, which can be found for about $135.

This is the same Goodyear famed for tires and blimps, but the company hasn't suddenly gone into the consumer electronics business. The name was licensed by NCC NY, a Brooklyn-based firm that develops and merchandises a variety of electronic products.

One of the Goodyear GPS units that NCC brought out has a case design influenced by tires, complete with tread. It's the kind of thing that would look good adjacent to fuzzy dice and a tree-shaped air freshener.

The GY135 is, thankfully, more modest in design and not bad looking.

And it does just fine navigating from point A to point B -- in fact, better in a few ways than some more expensive units.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:07 AM


Obama vs. Pope Benedict (Jeffery T. Kuhner, November 30, 2008, Washington Times)

Mr. Obama signing the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) "would be the equivalent of a war," a senior Vatican official told Time magazine last week. "It would be like saying, 'We've heard the Catholic Church and we have no interest in their concerns.' " At a recent Baltimore meeting, the U.S. Catholic bishops pledged to challenge Mr. Obama on his defense of abortion rights.

FOCA seeks to codify Roe v. Wade into federal law. It would remove all restrictions on abortion in state statutes - including restraints on late-term abortions and parental notification laws. It would also entrench taxpayer funding of abortion. Moreover, it would compel Catholic health-care facilities to provide the heinous procedure. In short, it constitutes a fundamental assault on basic Catholic doctrine.

Mr. Obama is a radical on abortion. He is vehemently pro-choice, even opposing the ban on partial-birth abortion. While in the Illinois state legislature, Mr. Obama voted against legislation protecting babies born in botched abortions.

Many liberal Catholics insist abortion is a single issue, a strange obsession of traditionalist diehards. Besides, they argue there is so much more to Catholic social thought. There is poverty, social justice, the environment and Iraq. Abortion is only one among many concerns shared by Catholics. They believe the church would be better served by focusing on creating a society based on communitarian values, the redistribution of power and wealth along more equitable lines, and an antiwar foreign policy.

Yet, abortion is the seminal moral issue of our time.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:50 AM


Daschle lobby ties bump against Obama vow (CHRIS FRATES, 11/30/08, Politico)

Barack Obama’s expected pick of former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle to be secretary of health and human services bumps up against the president-elect’s pledge to rid the White House of special interests.

The former Democratic senator from South Dakota is a special policy adviser for the lobbying law firm Alston & Bird. And in his three years there, the firm has earned more than $16 million representing some of the health care industry’s most powerful interests before the department he’s in line to lead.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:47 AM


Home Schooling Goes Mainstream: Everybody knows somebody who is teaching a child at home (Milton Gaither, Winter 2009, Education Next)

Survey research has revealed a heterogeneous population of home schoolers and higher rates of minority home schooling than expected. Economist Guillermo Montes’s analysis of data from the massive 2001 National Household Education Survey found that 70 percent of respondents cited a nonreligious reason as the top motivator in their decision to home school. Home schoolers whose motivations are primarily religious have certainly not gone away, but they are now joined by those whose reasons range from concerns about special education to bad experiences with teachers or school bullies to time-consuming outside activities to worries over peanut allergies (see Figure 1).

Increasing participation in home schooling among African Americans has drawn media attention in recent years. The U.S. Department of Education estimated that by 2003 there were 103,000 black home schoolers (see Figure 2). Nonprofits, including the Children’s Scholarship Fund, founded in 1998, have provided vouchers to help low-income families afford private schools, and some are using the money to home school. Several nationwide support groups have been formed by African Americans to build momentum; the newest and largest is the National African-American Homeschoolers Alliance, cofounded in 2003 by Jennifer James. By 2006 the organization had 3,000 members. James learned of home schooling by watching the success of home schoolers at the Scripps National Spelling Bee and embraced it for her family. “Families are running out of options,” James told the St. Petersburg Times in 2005. “There’s this persistent achievement gap, and a lot of black children are doing so poorly in traditional schools that parents are looking for alternatives.” Home schooling is becoming the method of choice for many, and as such “the Black homeschool movement is growing at a faster rate than the general homeschool population,” according to J. Michael Smith, president and cofounder of the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), the nation’s most powerful home-school advocacy organization.

Figure 2: From 1999 to 2003, the number of home-schooled children grew by 29 percent; among minorities, home-schooled children increased by 20 percent despite a modest decrease in home schooling among Hispanics. Growth in home schooling can be spotted among other ethnic and religious groups as well. Native Americans in Virginia and North Carolina have founded home-school organizations in an effort to escape assimilationist public schools and preserve their traditional values. Hawaiian natives have found home schooling to be the solution to the gulf between tribal ways and public education. Jews, especially those who follow the Orthodox tradition, have been home schooling in much greater numbers in recent years. While Roman Catholic families have long had a presence in the home-schooling world with such institutions as the Virginia-based Seton Home Study School (founded in 1980), recent years have seen an explosion in Catholic home schooling and resources. Islamic home schooling has also grown rapidly, especially since 9/11, largely because “the public school system is not accommodating to Muslims,” in the words of Fatima Saleem, founder of the Palmetto Muslim Homeschool Resource Network.

Large numbers of parents whose children have diagnosed learning disabilities have pulled them from local schools, believing they can do a better job teaching them at home. Increasing numbers of wealthy Americans are hiring private tutors for their children. The U.S. Department of Education estimated that in 2003, 21 percent of home schoolers were being taught this way. Business Week editor Michelle Conlin explained the appeal of home education to “creative-class parents” as an outgrowth of the “spread of the post-geographic workstyle” and “flex-time economy.”

A final group of home schoolers that should be mentioned is children involved in sports requiring rigorous training, acting and modeling, demanding arts or music programs, and other time-intensive activities. In motocross, where an elite-level 13-year-old can earn over $100,000 a year, 90 percent of minors are either home schooled or dropouts. Circe Wallace, a retired snowboarder turned action-sport agent, remarked in 2006, “I’ve been in this business 15 years, and it’s always been those with parents that understand the freedom and flexibility of home schooling that go the furthest.” Orange County gymnast Katy Nogaki was 11 years old when she told a reporter, “my coaches…said if I home schooled, I could come to the gym early and I could get really far in gymnastics …. When I was in regular school, I wasn’t as good, but when I was home schooled, I got state champion.”

Many of the new breed of home-schooling parents, even if they do not become dues-paying members of home-schooling political organizations, still need help with pedagogical or curricular decisions, playmates for their children and companionship for themselves, and opportunities to get out of the house for a while. Home-school support groups can serve as remarkably diverse social networks. In a National Home Education Network online forum, Pam Sorooshian described her Southern California group:

My homeschooling group includes Moslem, Jewish, Quaker, Baptist, Messianic Jews, Pagan, Baha’i, atheist, agnostic, Catholic, unity, evangelicals, other Protestant denominations, and probably more. We have African Americans, Latinos, Asians, Middle Easterners, and other minorities. We have stay-at-home dads and single mothers. We are FAR more diverse than the neighborhood school I pulled my oldest child out of 10 years ago.

In short, home education is now being done by so many different kinds of people for so many different reasons that it no longer makes much sense to speak of it as a political movement or even a set of movements. Make no mistake: the veteran political movement is still going strong, as legislatures that attempt to increase regulations quickly discover. For a growing number of Americans, however, home schooling is just one option among many to consider, for a few months or for the entirety of a child’s schooling.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:36 AM


Republicans Must Fight for Freedom to Regain America's Trust (Sen. Jim DeMint, 11/8/08, DC Examiner)

In the name of bipartisanship, our leaders supported amnesty, big new entitlements, more federal control of education, and compromises on energy. And too often Republicans shied away from defending values of life, family and faith. [...]

[A] strong majority of Americans are conservative and support the principles of freedom our nation was founded on.

...and the anti-immigration party.

What Would Keynes Have Done? (N. GREGORY MANKIW, 11/30/08, NY Times)

IF you were going to turn to only one economist to understand the problems facing the economy, there is little doubt that the economist would be John Maynard Keynes. Although Keynes died more than a half-century ago, his diagnosis of recessions and depressions remains the foundation of modern macroeconomics. His insights go a long way toward explaining the challenges we now confront.

According to Keynes, the root cause of economic downturns is insufficient aggregate demand. When the total demand for goods and services declines, businesses throughout the economy see their sales fall off. Lower sales induce firms to cut back production and to lay off workers. Rising unemployment and declining profits further depress demand, leading to a feedback loop with a very unhappy ending.

The situation reverses, Keynesian theory says, only when some event or policy increases aggregate demand. The problem right now is that it is hard to see where that demand might come from.

No, it isn't.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:34 AM


$7M FOR PALIN BOOK? MAYBE (Liz Smith, 11/30/08, NY POst)

OH, I really don't want to write the fol lowing item, but it's happening, so who am I to quibble? The hottest thing going in the fairly supine and dormant book publishing world is the ongoing question of the memoir, autobiography, or what have you yet to come from Alaska's governor, Sarah Palin.

The governor is said to now be seeking a hot, hot, hot agent to handle the onslaught of proposals asking her to write her own story in her own way. Rumor has it she could get $7 million for such a book if she could produce same! (I didn't know anybody could get $7 million for anything anymore, unless they ask Uncle Sam.)

What could Sarah Palin, age 44, write of a life still so young? Anything she damn well wants to write. The public, it seems, is just waiting to lap it all up like that finger-lickin' moose stew.

November 29, 2008

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:43 PM


Middle East: Know the Limits of U.S. Power (John J. Mearsheimer, 11/29/08, NEWSWEEK)

The United States is in deep trouble in the Middle East. Despite Barack Obama's promises to withdraw from Iraq, the debacle there shows no sign of ending soon. Hamas rules in Gaza; Iran is quickly moving to acquire a nuclear deterrent. We need a radically different strategy for the region.

Fortunately, there is a strategy that has proved effective in the past and could serve again today: "offshore balancing." It's less ambitious than President Bush's grand plan to spread democracy throughout the Middle East, but it would be much better at protecting actual U.S. interests. The United States would station its military forces outside the region. And "balancing" would mean we'd rely on regional powers like Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia to check each other. Washington would remain diplomatically engaged, and when necessary would assist the weaker side in a conflict. It would also use its air and naval power to respond quickly to unexpected threats. But—and this is the key point—America would put boots on the ground only if the local balance of power seriously broke down and one country threatened to dominate the others.

This approach might strike some as cynical. It would do little to foster democracy or promote human rights.

Cynical? No. It's evil. Not to mention counterproductive. The notion that we're better off with the brown peoples being subjugated is what created the mess.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:14 PM


The audacious attack which took a year to plan (Rahul Bedi in Bombay and Sean Rayment, 29 Nov 2008, Daily Telegraph)

Ten terrorists dedicated to fighting for an independent Kashmir were selected for an operation from which they were likely never to return.

The tactics were relatively simple: to strike at multiple targets while simultaneously slaughtering as many civilians as possible before going "static" in three of the locations within the city.

But such a plan would require a year of planning, reconnaissance, the covert acquisition of ships and speed boats as well as the forward basing of weapons and ammunition secretly hidden inside at least one hotel.

Nothing would be left to chance. Even the times of the tides were checked and rechecked to ensure that the terrorists would be able to arrive when their first target, the Café Leopold, was full of unsuspecting tourists enjoying the balmy Bombay (Mumbai) evening.

The preparations for the atrocity began a year earlier in a remote mountain camp in Muzaffarabad, in Pakistan- administered Kashmir, according to the interrogation of 19-year-old Ajmal Amin Kamal, who is believed to be the only member of the terrorist unit to be captured alive.

The Sunday Telegraph has been shown details of the interrogation which provide the first clues to the identity of the terrorists and the amount of detail which went into the planning of the operation.

...their terrorists win in the end.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:13 PM


Town may force child with cerebral palsy to give up his pony (CBC, November 26, 2008)

A dispute has erupted in Caledon, Ont., over whether a family with a child with cerebral palsy should be allowed to keep a pony.

We all get ponies!

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:10 PM


Early data shows strong Black Friday shopping (ASHLEY M. HEHER, 11/29/08, AP)

The nation's retailers got a much-needed sales boost during Black Friday's traditional shopathon as consumers, lured by deep discounts, spent nearly 3 percent more than they did last year.

Sales on the day after Thanksgiving rose to $10.6 billion, according to preliminary figures released Saturday by ShopperTrak RCT Corp., a Chicago-based research firm that tracks sales at more than 50,000 retail outlets.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:21 PM


Keeper Friedel breaks EPL record with 167th straight appearance (AP)

Aston Villa goalkeeper Brad Friedel made a record 167th consecutive Premier League appearance on Saturday, keeping a third straight clean sheet as his team drew 0-0 with Fulham.

The 37-year-old American, who started the streak in August 2004 with Blackburn, overtook the previous record set by Portsmouth goalkeeper David James in April.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:43 AM


Obama Picks May Leave Big Holes: As Elected Officials Migrate, Democratic Seats Are Vulnerable (Chris Cillizza, 11/29/08, Washington Post)

Roughly a dozen current Democratic officeholders are rumored to be vacating their current posts for jobs in the Obama administration, potentially leaving openings that carry varying levels of concern for Democratic strategists. [...]

"Obama has clearly decided that creating a series of political crises for Democrats is worth it if it means having the right people in government to help him deal with the series of crisis facing the nation," said Joe Trippi, a Democratic consultant who managed former Vermont governor Howard Dean's 2004 presidential nomination bid.

A look at recent presidential transitions reveals that Obama is relying more on a stable of elected officials than did either President Bush or former president Bill Clinton.

In 2000, two of Bush's Cabinet picks were elected officials: Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson, who, in the middle of his fourth term, was looking for a new job; and Mel Martinez, who was serving as chairman of the Orange County, Fla., government. (Martinez went on to win one of Florida's U.S. Senate seats in 2004.)

Eight years earlier, Clinton disrupted Democratic politics a bit more by plucking two senators -- Al Gore of Tennessee as vice president and Lloyd Bentsen of Texas as Treasury secretary -- and two congressmen -- Mike Espy of Mississippi as agriculture secretary and Les Aspin of Wisconsin as defense secretary. Democrats lost Bentsen's seat in a 1993 special election and Gore's and Aspin's seats in the 1994 election. Only Espy's seat remained in Democratic hands.

...he's decided he cares more about Barack Obama than the Democratic Part. Stunning, eh?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:39 AM


OPEC To Defer New Oil Cut As Divisions Emerge: Leading producer Saudi Arabia wants to be sure that others in the 12-member cartel are sharing the burden of reductions. (Javno, 11/28/08)

OPEC on Saturday deferred a decision on a new supply cut amid signs that Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies are demanding tighter adherence to restraints agreed in the past two months.

Gulf ministers said they wanted to see strict compliance with two recent output curbs before considering further cuts when the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries meets next in Algeria on Dec. 17.

"Compliance I think is OK," said Kuwaiti Oil Minister Mohammad al-Olaim. "But the market conditions require us to be 100 percent compliant."

While OPEC's first priority is to put a floor under a near-$100 collapse in oil prices to $55, Saudi Arabia for the first time in years identified a "fair" price -- $75 a barrel.

"There is a good logic for $75 a barrel," said Saudi Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi.

"You know why?"

Because they can withstand it more easily than Iran?

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:31 AM


National Security Pick: From a Marine to a Mediator (HELENE COOPER, 11/29/08, NY Times)

At the time of that presidential debate in October, General Jones had spoken only twice to Senator Obama, most recently to brief him on Afghanistan before the candidate made his first trip there. By contrast, he had worked since 1979 with Senator John McCain, the Republican nominee, and regarded him as a friend. On the night of the debate he had just given a speech to a mostly Republican group in Pebble Beach, Calif.

But General Jones has long been respected and admired by both Republicans and Democrats. He is fluent in French, which he once spoke better than he spoke English after living in Paris from age 2 to 17. He played basketball at Georgetown University, served in Vietnam and has received all manner of decorations as a marine, including the Defense Distinguished Service Medal with two oak leaf clusters and the Bronze Star Medal with Combat “V.”

At 64, General Jones bicycles from home to work twice each week, riding the nine miles from McLean, Va., to the offices of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, two blocks from the White House, where he runs a task force on energy. Friends say he is a fan of Toby Keith, the country-music singer and songwriter.

In selecting General Jones, Mr. Obama has also picked a former supreme allied commander in Europe, a man who, at NATO, had to cajole, prod and bully recalcitrant nations. At NATO, he led the American operation in Kosovo. He served as the Bush administration’s envoy to set up an Israeli-Palestinian security model in the West Bank city of Jenin and has traveled to Afghanistan and Iraq on fact-finding missions for the Pentagon.

He has said the war in Iraq has caused the nation to “take its eye off the ball” in Afghanistan and warned that the consequences of a failure there were just as serious as in Iraq.

“Jones brings the same balance that Scowcroft did to the job,” said David Rothkopf, author of “Running the World: The Inside Story of the National Security Council and the Architects of American Power” (PublicAffairs). “Not only does he know how to work the Washington system,” Mr. Rothkopf said, but “he’s deeply steeped in Afghanistan, which is going to be a central front for us.”

But what is unclear, Mr. Rothkopf said, is how quickly General Jones can develop a close relationship with Mr. Obama and how successfully he, Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Gates can define their roles on issues like Iraq, Afghanistan, Russia and terrorism.

Because of his physical proximity — the national security adviser works in the West Wing of the White House and consults with the president several times a day — General Jones will automatically serve as a counter to the State Department. But a State Department that is at war with the White House is the last thing that General Jones wants, his friends and associates say.

...being Scowcroftian--which means sacrificing American ideals for dictatorial "stability"--or being an Atlanticist--which means being twenty years behind the times?

November 28, 2008

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:41 PM


Abortion Now Number One Cause of Death in Spain: New report reveals immense toll taken by abortion in formerly Catholic country (Matthew Cullinan Hoffman, November 28, 2008,

Abortion is now the number one cause of death in Spain, and represents the most common type of violence against women in the formerly Catholic country, according to a new report by the international Institute for Family Policy (IPF).

The report, which was issued on the International Day of Violence Against Women, notes that Spain has one of the most liberal abortion laws in Europe, allowing women to kill their unborn child for "psychological" reasons at any time during their pregnancy.

Under Spain's practically nonexistent restrictions, abortions have more than doubled since the mid 1990s, climbing from 51,006 in 1996 to over 120,000 in 2007. The abortion rate is now approaching one in five pregnancies (18.3%), according to the report.

Spain's Zapatero looking forward to Obama's tenure (JIM HOAGLAND, 11/22/08, Houston Chronicle)
Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero was an hour away from visiting the White House, a goal he had chased since taking office four years ago. The welcome from President Bush, no matter how grudging or low-key, would cement the Spanish prime minister's legitimacy as a world leader.

So Zapatero's spirits were high as we talked about the imploding world economy, U.S. problems with Venezuela and war in Afghanistan. Nothing could dim his hopes that he would now visit 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. fairly often to see Bush's successor and his new best friend forever, Barack Obama.

The two have much in common....

Like disdain for life?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:17 PM


Henning Mankell: Hot and cold: He is revered as a crime writer in Sweden – and as a theatre director in Mozambique. Now his greatest creation is about to hit our TV screens (Gerard Gilbert, 29 November 2008, Independent)

There's a grumpy new divorced, middle-aged and opera-loving detective on the box this weekend. So far, so predictably Morse-like, but what's distinctive about Inspector Kurt Wallander, the eponymous policeman in BBC1's new Sunday-night crime drama Wallander, is not that he's being played by Kenneth Branagh (although that's eye-catching enough), but that the character and setting are Swedish. Agatha Christie's superannuated Belgian moustache-waxer Hercule Poirot aside, we haven't had a non-Anglo-Saxon sleuth on our TV screens since Barry Foster trod the mean canal-sides of 1970s Amsterdam as Piet Van Der Valk.

But Wallander is in a different league to Van Der Valk – or at least its source novels are. Indeed, Inspector Wallander is Sweden's most successful literary export – outgrossing Harry Potter in Germany (greatly to that nation's credit) and selling more than 25 million copies worldwide – and they have made a star of the detective's creator.

...this is another reason to be thankful for The Box.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:08 PM


Freeman Dyson Debunks Dire Forecasts on Global Warming and Other Tenets (Ellen Gilbert, 11/19/08, Town Topics)

In the absence of audience interruptions, Mr. Dyson had an argument anyway with the scores of people (like Al Gore) who weren’t present to defend their belief in the dire consequences of global warming. (“There’s no accounting for human folly,” Mr. Dyson said when asked about Mr. Gore’s Nobel Prize.) Saying that on a recent trip he and his wife found Greenlanders to be delighted with their warmer climate and increased tourism, Mr. Dyson suggested that representing “local warming by a global average is misleading.” In his comments at both the Nassau Club and Labyrinth, he decried the use of computer modeling to make “tremendously dogmatic” predictions about worldwide trends, without acknowledging the “messy, muddy real world” and the non-climatic effects of increased carbon dioxide. “There is no substitute for widely-conducted field operations over a long time,” he told the Nassau Club audience, citing the “enormous gaps in knowledge and sparseness of observation” that characterize the work of global warming experts.

Mr. Dyson’s fearless commentary continued later at Labyrinth, where, standing for over an hour and without a microphone, he delighted a full house by declaring the existence of 10,000 string theorists to be “sociologically dangerous” (“one thousand would be enough”), and balked at an audience member’s query about what he would do with a $700 billion grant. “When science gets rich it becomes political,” he observed.

It becomes rich by being politically correct.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:52 PM


Bush wants to be seen as liberator of millions (AFP, 11/28/08)

"I'd like to be a president (known) as somebody who liberated 50 million people and helped achieve peace," Bush said in excerpts of a recent interview released by the White House on Friday.

"I would like to be a person remembered as a person who, first and foremost, did not sell his soul in order to accommodate the political process. I came to Washington with a set of values, and I'm leaving with the same set of values."

He also said he wanted to be seen as a president who helped individuals, "that rallied people to serve their neighbour; that led an effort to help relieve HIV/AIDS and malaria on places like the continent of Africa; that helped elderly people get prescription drugs and Medicare as a part of the basic package."

Bush added that every day during his eight-year presidency he had consulted the Bible and drawn comfort from his faith.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:25 PM


US, UK, Israel ramp up intelligence aid to India (Chidanand Rajghatta, 11/28/08, Times of India)

Unprecedented intelligence cooperation involving investigating agencies and spy outfits of India, United States, United Kingdom and Israel has got underway to crack the method and motive behind the Mumbai terrorist massacre, now widely blamed on Islamist radicals who appeared to have all four countries on their hit list when they arrived on the shores of India.

Investigators, forensic analysts, counter-terrorism experts and spymasters from agencies the four countries are converging in New Delhi and Mumbai to put their heads, resources, and skills together to understand the evolving nature of the beast. The spy chief of the Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence(ISI) is also being summoned to India to help with the investigations because of the widely-held view that the terrorists' footprints go back to Pakistan.

The Bush administration has taken the lead to forge cooperation....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:27 PM


Satellite phone vital clue to solve mystery (Yogesh Naik, 28 Nov 2008, Times of India)

The satellite phone and global positioning system (GPS) map recovered from a trawler abandoned in the high seas is now among the most crucial pieces of evidence connected to the terror attacks on Mumbai.

The vessel, Kuber, was found drifting 5-6 nautical miles off the Mumbai shore; the entire crew is missing except for the group leader, Amar Narayan, 38, whose body was found on board with limbs tied, blindfolded and neck slit open.

Kuber is believed to be the mother boat used to launch the inflatable dinghies which carried the terrorists to the seafront at Colaba. Intelligence agencies are scanning the satellite phone's records to track the places from where calls were made to the vessel. The boat has been now handed over to the Mumbai police.

Massacre in Mumbai: Up to SEVEN gunmen were British and 'came from same area as 7/7 bombers' (Justin Davenport , Rashid Razaq and Nicola Boden, 28th November 2008, Daily Mail)
As many as seven of the terrorists may have British connections and some could be from Leeds and Bradford where London's July 7 bombers lived, one source said.

Two Britons were among eight gunmen being held, according to Mumbai's chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh. At least nine others are reportedly dead.

The eight arrested were captured by commandos after they stormed two hotels and a Jewish centre to free hostages today.

One security official said: 'There is growing concern about British involvement in the attacks.'

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:06 PM


Ideas And Politics: Frenemies For Life (Dick Meyer, 11/20/08, NPR)

There is a great tradition of disliking ideas in the history of American civic life, as famously noted in Richard Hofstadter's Anti-Intellectualism in American Life, which won a Pulitzer Prize for nonfiction in 1964. Americans have a well-founded sense in the story of our politics. Our very best and enduring ideas involve the process and structure of our system, not policies, programs and ideologies: the Constitution system, the balance of power, checks and balances, and federalism. Such a wise system, based on such durable and clear grand ideas, needs to be fed and stocked with pragmatism and practical knowledge, not more ideas, philosophy, dogma and erudition: Eisenhower, not Stevenson.

This thinking spread the intellectuals of the democratic (little d) and Liberal (capital L) West after the totalitarian atrocities of the 20th century, Nazism and Stalinism. The leading British political thinkers of the second half of the century, Michael Oakeshott and Isaiah Berlin, both tied the totalitarian impulse to the grandiosity of too-big ideas, perverted rationalism and philosophic self-certainty.

The most influential American political philosophers in that period — John Rawls, Robert Nozick and Ronald Dworkin — were more entranced by ambitious, hyperlogical philosophic systems, but scrubbed their work of the soaring flourishes and metaphysical audacity that make the Continental greats like Rousseau, Nietzsche and Marx so fetching for ill-fed students and their professors. They stuck with the pinched language of analytic philosophy, sending few students into the streets.

Since Edmund Burke's objections to the bloodier aspects of the French Revolution, it has been conservatives who are most suspicious of ideas in politics. They are particularly wary of the idea that rationalism and logic can discover scientifically the correct ideas for organizing society, that "they" know better what is good for "you" than you do. [...]

Candidate Barack Obama was something of a puzzle on these scales.

Many voters and commentators responded to him as if he were a candidate of great, big ideas — a transformational thinker, a visionary. But from what I can tell, Obama's policies are very standard-issue, early 21st century Democratic; they add up to a platform, perhaps, but not a philosophy. Is "change" a big idea? Is a "new politics" that is less partisan?

Though obviously not anti-intellectual, by Obama's own account he is a pragmatist, not strongly bound to any "isms."

Why "obviously"? Mr. Obama's determined refusal to offer a single concrete example of anything he'd change and his avoidance of ideas suggest a politician who is anti-intellectual.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:21 AM


Obama's War Cabinet: Gates and Jones are welcome signs of continuity. (WSJ, 11/28/08)

The names floated for Barack Obama's national security team "are drawn exclusively from conservative, centrist and pro-military circles without even a single -- yes, not one! -- chosen to represent the antiwar wing of the Democratic party." In his plaintive post this week on the Nation magazine's Web site, Robert Dreyfuss indulges in the political left's wonderful talent for overstatement. But who are we to interfere with his despair?

If reports are correct, on Monday the President-elect will ask Robert Gates to stay on as Secretary of Defense and name retired Marine General James Jones as National Security Adviser. These are the Administration posts most critical to the successful conduct of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and to possible entanglements with Iran, North Korea and who knows who else. With these personnel picks, Mr. Obama reveals a bias for competence, experience and continuity. Hence the caterwauls from his left flank.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:15 AM


Background: Islamic terrorism helped bring Israel, India together (HERB KEINON, 11/27/08, Jerusalem Post)

The Islamic extremist terrorism behind the carnage in Mumbai has, ironically, been one of the engines behind Indian-Israeli ties, which have increased at a dizzying pace since the countries established diplomatic ties in 1992.

Efraim Inbar, the director of Bar-Ilan University's BESA Center for Strategic Studies, said Thursday that India, like Israel, "sees the same source of terrorism: radical Islam."

Combating that terrorism has been one of the anchors of the relationship, as manifest in intense defense, intelligence and counter-terrorist cooperation at the highest levels, as well as an annual counter-terror dialogue.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:09 AM


Battles rage for Mumbai hostages: Investigators in the Indian city of Mumbai are beginning to piece together how gunmen carried out Wednesday's series of deadly attacks. (BBC, 11/27/08)

All the signs, officials say, point to a well-planned action carried out by a highly trained, determined group.

The men appeared to have surveyed their targets in advance and were well-versed in the use of weapons and explosives, a Indian commando said.

Their intention, he said, was "to create and spread terror".

Investigators believe that a large group of men arrived in Mumbai from the sea around 2100 local time.

They believe that a larger ship - possibly a hijacked vessel, possibly an accomplice
ship - brought them close to the shore before they switched to smaller dinghies.
Once ashore, they split into two-, three- and four-man groups to attack pre-selected targets.

Several of the attackers were caught on CCTV. Footage showed mainly young men, carrying automatic weapons and large rucksacks.

Officials said the rucksacks contained grenades, extra ammunition, plastic explosives and food supplies.

Reports suggest the attacks happened within minutes of each other.

One of the first targets was the Chhatrapati Shivaji railway station, where at least two men fired automatic weapons and threw grenades at crowds of people waiting in the main hall.

A second group opened fire at Café Leopold, a popular restaurant, while a third seized Nariman House, a business complex housing a Jewish outreach centre, taking several people hostage.

A fourth group - or, some reports say, the same one that attacked the station nearby - struck the Cama and Albless hospital for women and children. A number of drive-by shootings were also reported across the city.

By around 2200 local time gun fire was being reported at two of the city's luxury hotels - the Oberoi-Trident and the Taj Mahal Palace.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:44 AM


Mumbai: the nihilism that dare not speak its name: The terrible assaults on the Indian city of growth and ambition suggest that contemporary terrorism is not as alien as we think. (Brendan O’Neill, 11/28/08, Spiked)

As the awful assaults on Mumbai seem to be coming to an end, with at least 130 people dead, the two questions everyone is asking is ‘who did this?’ and ‘why?’ We seem unable to work out who the culprits are (whether they are linked to al-Qaeda, Pakistan, or nobody in particular) and what they hoped to achieve with their coordinated attacks on Indian, American, British and Israeli citizens.

One Indian observer, expressing a broader sense of intellectual frustration, says it is probably pointless to investigate the ‘etiology’ of the attacks – that is, their root cause and the conditions in which they incubated – and simply accept that the attackers were ‘faceless, spawned by that global industry called international terrorism’. ‘India’s 9/11’ is discussed as something akin to a natural disaster, which came from nowhere and could hit any modern city at any time: ‘The mayhem in Mumbai is… the price we pay for living in open, democratic, liberal societies. What happened in Mumbai yesterday could happen tomorrow in Moscow, London or Tokyo.’

On one level, these existential debates about ‘who’, ‘why’ and ‘where next’ reflect the increasingly amorphous nature of terrorism itself, where groups tend not to give prior warnings of their attacks or claim political responsibility for them afterwards. Yet they also reveal something about us, about Western and mainstream societies more broadly. Our inability to name or even properly to describe the terrorist threat, our seeming abandonment of ‘etiology’, reflects a lack of intellectual clarity in the ruling capitals – a profound confusion not only about who ‘they’ are, but also about who ‘we’ are, and what it is about our societies that is worth defending from this hurricane-style ‘mayhem’ that ‘does not respect national boundaries’.
Just because their attacks can't achieve anything doesn't mean we can't understand what it is they're afraid of and lashing out at. The liberal capitalist protestant democracies are their enemy because globalization/The End of History is going to make their societies like ours. The isms have all fought against this prospect. And they've all lost at enormous expense to themselves and their host communities.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:24 AM


Japan workers told to go home and procreate: The aim is to allow working mothers and fathers to spend more time with their children and find the time and energy to have more sex (Justin McCurry, 11/27/08,

Japan's workers are being urged to switch off their laptops, go home early and use what little energy they have left on procreation, in the country's latest attempt to avert demographic disaster.

The drive to persuade employers that their staff would be better off at home with their wives than staying late at the office comes amid warnings from health experts that many couples are simply too tired to have sex.

A recent survey of married couples under 50 found that more than a third had not had sex in the previous month.

Many couples said they didn't have the energy for sex, while others said they found it boring.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:10 AM


Terrorists Paralyze India's Business Capital: Death Toll Mounts in Mumbai as Westerners Are Targeted; New Phase in Radical Islam's Clash With Hindu-Majority Nation (YAROSLAV TROFIMOV and PETER WONACOTT, 11/28/08, Wall Street Journal)

The scale and sophistication of the Mumbai attacks, as well as the choice of targets, however, appeared to point to a more insidious threat that the Indian government has been reluctant to acknowledge so far -- the potential involvement of extremists within the country's own Muslim community, which, at 150 million, is the world's third-largest after Indonesia and Pakistan. It is also one of India's most economically and politically disadvantaged minorities.

In a statement that couldn't be independently authenticated, a previously unknown group, the Deccan Mujahideen, claimed responsibility for the Mumbai operation, describing itself as hailing from the south Indian city of Hyderabad. Hyderabad was the world's largest Muslim-ruled monarchy until it was invaded and annexed by India in 1948.

Indian security officials cast doubt on this statement, saying that the attacks bore the hallmarks of Al Qaeda and Pakistani militant groups. They also claimed to have found a boat on which ammunition for the attacks was allegedly smuggled from Pakistan. That couldn't be confirmed.

While independent security experts said it's likely that the attackers received some support from like-minded radicals in Pakistan, they also stressed that such a massive operation would have been nearly impossible without a deep-rooted local network inside India itself.

"It would be extremely difficult for foreigners to come in and operate in this manner," said Rohan Gunaratna, head of the International Center for Political Violence and Terrorism Research in Singapore. "They certainly had intimate knowledge of the city. The pre-eminent threat to India is home-grown."

Christine Fair, a South Asia specialist at the Rand Corp. think tank, added that the modus operandi of the Mumbai militants -- coordinated small-arms assaults and hostage-takings, rather that suicide bombings -- didn't match the signature of the best known Pakistani militant groups or Al Qaeda.

"I think it's very much a home-grown attack," she said. "There are very deep and unresolved social justice issues for Indian Muslims. They have a lot of motivation."

India's Muslims, some of them still nostalgic for a medieval golden age when most of the subcontinent was under Muslim dominion, are among the country's poorest communities, partly because much of the Muslim professional class emigrated to Pakistan at partition in 1947.

In addition to being disproportionately targeted in outbreaks of religious violence, they are severely underrepresented in the country's government bureaucracy, universities and security services. On literacy scores, young Indian Muslims now lag behind even the country's historically most disadvantaged group, the Dalits, or Hinduism's "untouchables."

While only a small minority of Indian Muslims supports violence, the community is often represented by hardline clerics in India's interest-group brand of politics, where caste and religion-based "vote banks" frequently trump political platforms and ideologies. The global campaign against Salman Rushdie's "Satanic Verses" was launched by an Indian Muslim politician in 1988. Last year, Bangladeshi feminist writer Taslima Nasrin was expelled from Calcutta and eventually had to leave India because of violent protests organized against her by Indian Muslim community leaders who described her writings as disrespectful of Islam.

The biggest previous terror attack in Mumbai, a series of bombings in 1993, was organized by mostly Muslim organized-crime syndicates to avenge deadly anti-Muslim pogroms in the city. Hundreds of Muslims were killed in another wave of communal rioting in the Indian state of Gujarat in 2002.

In following years, bombings and shootings attributed to Islamic militants became increasingly frequent in India, hitting the capital of New Delhi, information-technology hubs Bangalore and Hyderabad, and Mumbai itself.

None, however, was as shocking as this week's assault on Mumbai, in which the attackers seemed to target the symbols of a new, rising India -- luxury hotels such as the Taj and the Oberoi Trident that were packed with tourists and foreign executives, a multiplex cinema, and a restaurant popular with travelers. [...]

Some in Mumbai's large Muslim community fear the attacks may stir the upcoming political campaigns, aware that such controversies can easily end up in religious clashes. "Elections are coming around the corner -- and the politicians want the vote banks," said garment merchant Mohammed Salim, as he watched riot police surround a building known as Nariman House in his Colaba neighborhood.

Located near a mosque, the five-story Nariman House has been occupied for the past two years by the Mumbai office of Chabad, a Brooklyn-based Jewish outreach movement. While serving as a guesthouse and prayer hall for Israeli backpackers, it was low-key and little known outside the immediate area, suggesting that the militants who seized it Wednesday night were extremely familiar with Mumbai's geography.

As of Friday morning, gunmen inside Nariman House were still holding hostage a rabbi identified by Chabad as Gavriel Holtzberg and his family.

Eyewitnesses said one person was killed Wednesday night when the assailants threw a hand grenade at a corner donut shop nearby, and two more were shot dead when the militants opened fire from Nariman House. These two victims were local Indian Muslims, said Khalid Mammoo, a local social worker who helped remove the bodies.

"Terrorism doesn't have any religion," he said.

Disputing the theory that the militants had infiltrated from Pakistan, many in the neighborhood insisted that the attackers were a familiar presence in the area for some time. According to Mr. Mammoo, the attackers had been renting an apartment in or near the guesthouse for the past six months. That couldn't be independently confirmed.

In Mumbai, culprits and survivors sought: Hostages remain trapped as militants hide in two hotels and a Jewish center in the Indian city. The death toll rises to at least 125 (Sebastian Rotella reporting from Madrid and Mark Magnier reporting from Mumbai, India, November 28, 2008, LA Times)
Whatever their origin, it was clear the squads of attackers were well prepared. The militants struck after months of reconnaissance during which they set up "control rooms" in the targeted hotels, according to Indian officials and an owner of one of the hotels.

"It's the opening of a new front, a strike in a place that causes surprise," said Louis Caprioli, a former French counter-terrorism chief. "And it is unique because it's a military operation that leaves the security forces confused and disorganized.

"For the first time in a long time, you see the use of combatants who take hostages, like the Palestinians in the 1970s," he said. "They were ready to die, but they were not suicide attackers."

Past attacks on Indian targets here and abroad have been the work of an evolving, interconnected array of murky Pakistani extremist groups tied to Al Qaeda and, sometimes, current or former Pakistani security officials. They include Lashkar-e-Taiba, which took part in a bloody siege of the Indian Parliament in 2001 and seems a prime suspect in this case, according to officials and experts.

"This is a group affiliated with Al Qaeda," said Sajjan Gohel of the London-based Asia-Pacific Foundation. "There are eerie similarities to the Parliament attacks."

But Lashkar-e-Taiba has reportedly denied involvement. And anti-terrorism officials warned against speculation because the evidence is limited. India has a history of violence by Hindus and criminal mafias as well as Muslim extremists.

Most of Mumbai remained in shock Thursday. Once known as Bombay, the city is home to India's commodities and stock exchanges, which remained closed Thursday amid fears about the effect of the attacks on foreign investment.

In many neighborhoods, 80% of the businesses remained closed as police warned residents to stay home, where many followed the unfolding drama on television.

Simone Ahuja, an Asia Society associate fellow and founder of a video production house in Mumbai, said the choice of targets favored by foreigners was clearly a blow aimed at dislodging closer U.S.-India ties. And she said the damage done to the Taj Mahal hotel, a waterfront landmark that suffered bomb damage and whose giant towers were licked by flames, may leave emotional scars on the city.

"People are in tears watching their city fall," said Ahuja, who shares her time between Mumbai and Minneapolis. "This is like what happened to the World Trade Center. This will fundamentally change the mental and visual landscape."

November 27, 2008

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:48 PM


Guns, grenades, then a battle to the death in 105-year-old hotel
: Special forces units called in to regain control after police realised extent of attacks (Randeep Ramesh in Mumbai and Maseeh Rahman in Delhi, 11/28/08,

A government official said the siege had ended at the Taj Mahal hotel and the last three gunmen there had been killed.

There were conflicting reports about the fate of hostages held at the Mumbai headquarters of the ultra-orthodox Jewish outreach group Chabad Lubavitch, with diplomats denying a government claim that eight hostages had been freed.

As the attacks began, the authorities had been content to rely on conventional police methods to deal with the threat. However, as flames erupted from the Taj Mahal hotel it became clear that India was confronting an enemy unlike anything it had met in the past.

To begin with, police had battled on the streets with militants wearing backpacks on their shoulders and with guns and grenades in their hands. This was a street war they were losing: in the early hours, a gunfight erupted under the glittering lights of Marine Drive, near the lobby of the Trident hotel. A top Mumbai police chief was killed.

The tide of battle only turned with the arrival of the elite national security guard, who landed in Mumbai six hours after the terrorist attack began. They were joined by heavily armed army para commandos and the navy's marine commando force.

These commandos, who train with US navy and British special forces, retook the lower floors of both the Trident and the Taj in the early hours.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:39 PM


REVIEW: of Australia (Brett McCracken | posted 11/26/08, Christianity Today)

Early in Baz Luhrmann's Australia, one of the main characters says of his country: "this land has a strange power." And indeed, if one surveys the landscape of films about Australia, many of them (The Last Wave, Picnic at Hanging Rock, The Proposition) seem to express this sentiment: Australia is a nation of strange, captivating, haunting power. In his epic film about his native country, Luhrmann (Moulin Rouge!) affirms and exaggerates this Australian mythos, to spectacular effect. Indeed, his impressively rendered film has a "strange power" of its own.

This is a film of great ambition and artistic audacity. That the title is simply Australia tips us off to the intentions of Luhrmann: not necessarily to make the definitive film about the complicated country/continent, but to provide an over-the-top, grandiose, slightly-irreverent-but-ultimately-sincere explosion of cinema that hearkens back to the golden age of Hollywood epics.
[Nicole Kidman as Sarah Ashley]
Nicole Kidman as Sarah Ashley

Fittingly set in the late 1930s/early '40s (the Hollywood era it most recalls), as WWII encroaches on its northern coast, Australia has a relatively simple story for a film of such scope (and formidable length). It follows the prim, parasol-toting aristocrat, Lady Sarah Ashley (Nicole Kidman), as she comes to Australia from England to check in on her husband, who owns and runs the Faraway Downs cattle ranch in Northern Australia. Ashley finds her husband dead under suspicious circumstances, his ranch under threat of seizure by a rival cattle company. She enlists the help of a dashing, rugged cattle driver named Drover (Hugh Jackman), as well as the aboriginal helpers on the ranch, to keep Faraway Downs afloat and competitive in the wartime beef market. She forges a special connection with a young "half-caste" (half aborigine, half white) orphan boy, Nullah (Brandon Walters), who is also the film's cheeky narrator.

Before too long, melodramatic intrigue, sweeping romance, and bravura action ensues.

Since Strictly Ballroom was so winning, we've been willing to cut Mr. Luhrmann some slack if his reach exceeded his grasp. But it's nice to know he's hit another homerun.

MORE:-My Brilliant Career: Baz Luhrmann (Bob Thompson, 11/27/08, National Post)

Baz Luhrmann doesn't know what his creative limitations are, but he sure likes to test them. He pushes the boundaries with his two-hour-and-40-minute epic Australia, which opened on Wednesday. Not only is the US$130-million comedy-drama the most expensive film ever made in his Down Under homeland, the movie features two of Oz's biggest stars, Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:25 PM


In a first, India refuses to negotiate with terrorists (Times of India, 28 Nov 2008)

Probably marking a first in its reaction to hostage situations, India has refused to negotiate with terrorists, even though almost 40 foreigners were held captive by jihadis in Mumbai.

India seems to have joined countries like US, Israel, Russia and some from Europe in refusing to negotiate with terrorists on hostages.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:09 PM


Little buzz for VP-elect Biden (CAROL E. LEE | 11/27/08, Politico)

More than three weeks into the transition, and Vice-president elect Joe Biden generates less buzz than the non-existent first puppy.

The vice president-elect has not spoken publicly since the election, and was at Barack Obama's side just once this week as the president-elect delivered a series of grim news conferences on the economy.

...he's Rosemary Kennedy.

None of the cabinet picks have been anything like as bad as Joe Biden, but that doesn't help us if, God forbid, he were to become president.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:44 PM


Butterball experts give answers (Bonnie S. Benwick, 11/26/08, Washington Post)

You'd think that with all the expert advice floating around on food blogs, Web chats and turkey text messaging, the operators at the Butterball Turkey Talk-Line (800-Butterball (800-288-8372) might not be fielding the number of calls they once did.

You'd be wrong.

A staff of six opened the Illinois-based Turkey Talk-Line in November 1981, taking 11,000 calls that season. This year, a 55-member staff plus three online bloggers will answer 12,000 calls per day in either English or Spanish during Thanksgiving week.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:12 PM


We at Brothers Judd are thankful, as always, for you, the readers, commentors, contributors, critics, cranks, and accidental visitors who are responsible for so much of the success of the site and make it an always amusing place to spend time.

For all the peculiarities of the hosts and the strong opinions expressed here, this still manages to be a site that's fairly free of profanity, bigotry, personal attacks, and all the other unpleasantness that afflicts too much of the Internet. Our manners are far from perfect, but the generally courteous tone in which folks conduct arguments and discussions is one of the most gratifying things about Brothers Judd as far as the Brothers are concerned.

We hope that this Thanksgiving finds you and yours hale, heart, happy, and healthful. May God bless you all and may He continue to bless the United State of America.

I hear a pecan pie calling my name.....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:07 PM


Elite troops storm blazing hotels (Charlotte Cooper, 27 November 2008, Reuters)

Elite Indian commandos fought room-to-room battles with gunmen inside two luxury hotels to save scores of people trapped or taken hostage.

Meanwhile India's prime minister, Manmohan Singh, blamed the Mumbai attacks on militant groups based in the country's neighbours - usually meaning Pakistan, raising fears of renewed tension between the nuclear-armed rivals. [...]

An army general estimated that 10 to 12 gunmen were still inside the two hotels and the Jewish centre.

Police say that 107 people were killed in the attacks and 315 wounded.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:56 AM


...the best player in the world can't score on a dog.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:38 AM


Black Friday Comes Early to the App Store: Lots of great games and apps on sale in the app store — apparently black Friday sales come to the iTunes App Store. (REVIEW MONKEY #1, 11/25/08, 148 Apps)

It looks like app developers have decided to participate in Black Friday sales and have started early. There are a bunch of really great games and apps on sale in the iTunes App Store right now with more being added every time we check out our price drops.

Classics is a nicely done reader with especially good choices of classic texts.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:10 AM


Barack Obama, Supply-Sider? (Kevin A. Hassett 11.26.08, Forbes)

If you paid attention to the political rhetoric that President-elect Barack Obama engaged in during the Democratic primary, then you probably expected his economic team to be made up of left-wing ideologues. When Obama took a rare holiday from blaming all of America's problems on NAFTA and deregulation, he bashed Hillary Clinton for her cozy relationship with that corporate symbol of evil incarnate: Wal-Mart.

But that rhetoric was, we now know, just that. How "sensible" is Obama's economic team? So sensible, that one can construct a pretty stirring defense of supply-side economics relying solely on their work.

Volcker's Tough Approach As Fed Chief Upset Many: Today Economist Is Credited With Defeating Inflation (Glenn Kessler, 11/27/08, Washington Post)
As Federal Reserve chairman, he took an uncompromising stance against inflation, jacking up interest rates as high as 20.5 percent. Unemployment soared to 11 percent in the most painful recession since the Great Depression. Volcker had been appointed by President Jimmy Carter in 1979, but his tough medicine likely contributed to the Democrat's failure to win reelection in 1980.

According to Joseph Treaster's 2004 biography, "Paul Volcker: The Making of a Financial Legend," angry workers who had lost their jobs flooded Volcker's office with mementos of their plight -- two-by-fours from carpenters unable to build houses; bags filled with ignition keys from car dealers stuck with unsold cars. One leading Democrat, Rep. Henry Gonzalez of Texas, called for Volcker's impeachment. Another, Rep. Frank Annunzio of Illinois, sputtered at the cigar-smoking Volcker during a hearing: "Your course of action is wrong. It must be wrong. There isn't anyone who says you are right."

Republicans were no happier during Volcker's eight-year chairmanship. While President Ronald Reagan remained silent as Volcker's policies sent his approval ratings tumbling, White House aides were eager to remove the Fed chairman.

It wasn't just a matter of President Reagan letting Mr. Volcker wring out inflation but that breaking PATCO contributed to the phenomenon.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:49 AM


Mumbai attacks have al-Qaida echoes, but tactics differ: While the terrorists seem to be Islamist militants they are not simply the usual suicide attackers (Richard Norton-Taylor, November 27 2008, The Guardian)

Certainly, the terrorists appeared to be Muslim extremists. Although they must have assumed they were going to be killed even though they took hostages, the attackers were not suicide bombers, overt martyrs of the kind we have witnessed elsewhere - in London, Iraq, and now in Afghanistan - since the 9/11 attacks on the US.

A group calling itself the Deccan Mujahideen, which some analysts describe as an al-Qaida affiliate, claimed responsibility for these latest attacks. The group appears to have named itself after a plateau in central south India.

Unlike al-Qaida-inspired extremists, they have made more traditional and more straightforward demands, namely the release of "Muhajideens" held in Indian jails. However, one similarity with al-Qaida tactics is that there was a number of simultaneous attacks. that the attack is so counterproductive, Attacks a message aimed at Obama (Greg Sheridan, November 28, 2008, The Australian)
[H]igh-placed Indian sources told me last night they were certain of cross-border Pakistani involvement. They do not accuse the Pakistani military, but the failed-state-like dysfunctional tribal areas of northern Pakistan have become the new training grounds and operational headquarters of global terror.

The deeper the Pakistani fingerprints on this, the greater will be the Indian demand for retaliation. These attacks will have dangerous consequences for intercommunal relations within India, especially Muslim-Hindu relations. Part of the purpose of the attack may also have been to try to drive the country away from Washington.

Ultimately this will be unsuccessful, but the Indian Left will argue that this trouble comes to the nation in part because of its friendship with the US, evident in the recent US-India nuclear deal.

The most important ally the US has acquired over the whole of the war on terror has been India.

Barack Obama and the other Realists didn't know that until yesterday.

The world can't ignore India's Islamist terrorists any longer (Peter Foster, 27/11/2008, Daily Telegraph)

What will really terrify India's political leaders, however, is the certain knowledge that there is virtually nothing they can do to stop this type of low-tech attack from recurring again and again.

Since 2003, India's homegrown Islamist terrorist have struck with growing frequency - before yesterday's attacks they have bombed Jaipur, Bangalore, Ahmedabad and New Delhi this year alone - and without a single serious break-thorough by Indian police.

What began as a localized threat from Pakistan-backed mujahideen in Kashmir conflict has now spread across India, putting down indigenous roots in socially disenfranchised Muslim communities who have benefited less than most from the years of economic boom.

From a security perspective India is all but ungovernable: a vast landmass that shares porous borders with unstable Islamic states containing a shifting population of 1.1bn people, many of whom go through their entire lives without their names appearing in an official register of any kind.

With cash being the norm for living transactions and with many living in vast slums (45 per cent of all Mumbai's residents live in a slum, for example) it is perfectly possible for people to 'disappear', as the Indian police's failure to solve a single terror major attack in the last five years attests.

Add to this chaotic background the fact that sections of India's disgruntled 130m-strong Muslim minority have proved highly receptive to the extremists message and you are left with near perfect-storm conditions for an outbreak of terrorist activity.

India's political and security leaders have long privately acknowledged and feared this fact; unfortunately for India, yesterday was the day that the terrorists succeeded in bringing it to the attention of the entire world.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:38 AM


'Made in America' must make a comeback: There is value in working with your hands. (Paul Sedan, November 28, 2008, CS Monitor)

It used to be that we made a lot of stuff: televisions, clothes, washing machines, radios, typewriters, shoes, telephones, and furniture. And we also used to make the stuff out of which stuff was made: steel, aluminum, plastic, rubber, glass, and electrical components. Today that's largely made overseas. They send us their stuff and we send them our money.

It also used to be that Americans liked to make stuff. Think of all the things Thomas Edison invented. Or consider Henry Ford, who made the car affordable, perfected the assembly line, and paid workers a decent wage. Countless others, such as my grandfather, worked as toolmakers and machinists because they liked to work with their hands. Today we rely on people around the world to do that innovation for us.

...are that Henry Ford didn't work on his own assembly line and the guys who do don't innovate. What would be useful is to honor skilled trades as entirely worthy alternatives, often superior, to college.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:27 AM


Good Time For a Brainy President (David S. Broder, November 27, 2008, Washington Post)

When I started covering the White House more than 50 years ago, I believed that the smarter a president was, the better he would be. That was wrong. [...]

But I am struck by how lucky this country is, at the moment, that the president-elect is a super-smart person like Barack Obama. that there's little evidence that he is smart--though he's unfortunately Bright--and great evidence that he just conforms because of that.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:11 AM

IN FAIRNESS TO THE PC CROWD... (via Glenn Dryfoos):

Claremont parents clash over kindergarten Thanksgiving costumes: Some say having students dress up as pilgrims and Native Americans is 'demeaning.' Their opponents say they are elitists injecting politics into a simple children's celebration. (Seema Mehta, November 25, 2008, LA Times)

For decades, Claremont kindergartners have celebrated Thanksgiving by dressing up as pilgrims and Native Americans and sharing a feast. But on Tuesday, when the youngsters meet for their turkey and songs, they won't be wearing their hand-made bonnets, headdresses and fringed vests.

Parents in this quiet university town are sharply divided over what these construction-paper symbols represent: A simple child's depiction of the traditional (if not wholly accurate) tale of two factions setting aside their differences to give thanks over a shared meal? Or a cartoonish stereotype that would never be allowed of other racial, ethnic or religious groups?

"It's demeaning," Michelle Raheja, the mother of a kindergartner at Condit Elementary School, wrote to her daughter's teacher. "I'm sure you can appreciate the inappropriateness of asking children to dress up like slaves (and kind slave masters), or Jews (and friendly Nazis), or members of any other racial minority group who has struggled in our nation's history."'d have a more accurate reflection of History if the Indians dressed up like Puritans too.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:42 AM


The fanatics who founded America (Simon Worrall, August 20, 2005 , Sunday Times)

RELIGIOUS FUNDAMENTALISM of the sort that lay behind the July 7 outrages in London is nothing new to Britain. We’ve seen it before, or something very like it, in the early 17th century, when a fanatical group of extremists sought to transform England into a theocracy governed by a strict interpretation of scripture. These were the Protestant Christians remembered as the Pilgrim Fathers. [...]

They were known as Separatists because they planned to found a church outside the official Church of England. Sounds harmless? It wasn’t. In their fundamentalist theocracy pubs would be closed, maypole dancing and gambling would be banned, men and women would be forced to dress in a sober and godly way and, above all, the Bible would become the foundation of civil society.

Among the draconian measures later introduced by Brewster and his associates at Plymouth Rock was a law making it illegal to live alone. Solitude was seen as a breeding ground for sin and antisocial behaviour. Children and women — always a favourite target of male religious fanatics — were treated with shocking severity. A statute on the books in the Plymouth Colony allowed for execution of minors who did not obey parents.

By demanding religious freedom, and a spiritual life outside the control of the Church of England, the Separatists had lit a match that threatened to ignite English society. If caught, they had their nostrils slit, their right ears cut off, and the letters SS (“stirrer of sedition”) branded on their foreheads. At Clink prison in London (an Abu Ghraib of Puritan England) they were chained up, tortured and beaten, as they stood knee-deep in foetid water. Little wonder that Brewster christened his second child Fear.

In 1608 Brewster plus 14 adults and children, including William Bradford and his family, fled to Amsterdam on the first stage of a journey that would end at Plymouth Rock 12 years later. All except four of the 41 “Saints” who sailed on the Mayflower had previously been in Holland. [...]

Their attitudes to sex, God and the Bible would become the cultural DNA of the United States. Now, at a time when fanatics are seeking to turn back the wheel of history, when twice as many Americans are said to believe in the Devil as Darwin’s theory of evolution, and the most powerful nation on earth has a President described by The New York Times as a “messianic American Calvinist”, it is worth looking over our shoulders at the fanatics who fled these shores to America in 1620.

Yet folk are just now coming to appreciate how central that Puritanism is to even the Founding, nevermind the nation it created.

[originally posted: 08/24/05]

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:09 AM


Pilgrims' Progress (Michael Rosen, 18 Sep 2006, Tech Central Station)

Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community and War, Philbrick's masterful narrative of 17th century colonial life in Plymouth, depicts the trials and tribulations of the Pilgrims and their turbulent interactions with the Native American population of what is now New England. [...]

[A]mity with the Pokanokets slowly unraveled as a new generation began to take over. As the Pilgrims grew accustomed to the land, and as their material fortunes waxed, their need for assistance from the local Indians waned. As the burgeoning colonial population gradually acquired more and more land from the Pokanokets, Massasoit's son and successor, Philip, came to prominence in the 1670's and led a pan-Indian "resistance" movement against the Pilgrims.

The crazy quilt of sometimes allied, sometimes warring tribes included the Narragansetts, the Pequots, the Nipmucks, the Niantics, the Quabaugs, and the Sakonnets. But as the Indians closed ranks, so did the colonists. The conflict eventually enveloped all of New England and drew a thousand-man-strong militia from Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Plymouth into the fray, which became known as King Philip's War.

Benjamin Church, a Rhode Islander who grew up in close proximity to the Sakonnets, distinguished himself on the battlefield and came to assume authority in the militia. Philbrick depicts Church as something of an ideal gentleman-warrior who resisted the hate-drenched slaughter of innocents pressed by his comrades-in-arms.

In the author's telling, only when the colonists started to co-opt some of these tribes and neutralize others did they find "the secret to winning the war." Adopting the tactics of the natives -- hiding in swamps, fanning out in dispersed fashion, traveling by night -- the militia began to take control. Church's band of friendly Indians eventually located and captured Philip himself, thereby effectively ending the conflict.

Philbrick doesn't mince words in his description of the combatants. At times he goes overboard in a vaguely politically correct indictment of the colonists. In his words, by July 1675, "most English inhabitants had begun to view all Indians with racist contempt and fear." He writes of "the horrors of European-style genocide" inflicted on the Narragansetts, horrors that included widespread deportation into Carribean slavery.

But he also depicts the Indians' guerrilla tactics and their desire to "kill men, women and children." They kidnapped women and held them hostage. And while they never raped their female captives, the tribes acquired a reputation for "savage, barbarous cruelt[ies]" such as ritual torture.

There are indeed many illuminating parallels between King Philip's War and our current struggle against Islamism.

It doesn't get any funnier than listening to irate American Christians shrieking about how Islam is the opposite of our peaceful religion, as if we took over the Hemisphere by reasoning with the savages.

MORE (via Qiao Yang):
Apologize for what? (David Warren, 9/16/06, Ottawa Citizen)

Here is the point Pope Benedict was making, also in the words of that learned Byzantine emperor, speaking on the eve of one of the many sieges of Constantinople:

"God is not pleased by blood, and not acting reasonably is contrary to God's nature. Faith is born of the soul, not the body. Whoever would lead someone to faith needs the ability to speak well and to reason properly, without violence and threats. ... To convince a reasonable soul, one does not need a strong arm, or weapons of any kind, or any other means of threatening a person with death."

It is a point the Greek-educated and Christian emperor takes as self-evident, but which is not self-evident to a theology that holds God entirely beyond human reason, and says He may command whatever He commands, including conversion by force should He so will. As the Pope said, it is a conflict that stabs us once again today: Does God act with "logos"? (This is the Greek word for "reason" as well as "word") How do we defend this very Catholic (and Orthodox) idea outside the Church, where our own theological assumptions are not shared?

[originally posted: 09/18/06]

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:13 AM


Those Rugged Individuals (Joannie Fischer, 6/19/04, US News)

When the United States first came into being, most people had never even heard the word individualism . "Our fathers only knew about egoism," said Tocqueville, who helped coin the term to capture the new way of life in the fledgling nation. Europe, where caste systems determined so much of one's fate, had never had much practical use for individualism. Born of the Protestant Reformation, the ethos was carried across the Atlantic by the Puritans, who believed that each person received marching orders directly from God. In their new society, the reformers decided, people would interact as equals, and God would reward the just. Their reasoning appealed to other groups landing in the New World, and over time, says Harvard political scientist Samuel Huntington, "The Puritan legacy became the American essence."

The first American individualists were thoroughly steeped in a one-for-all mentality on the assumption that all moral persons would devote themselves to the good of the group. Just before landing in Salem Harbor, John Winthrop, the soon-to-be governor of Massachusetts, reminded parishioners: "We must . . . make others' conditions our own . . . always having before our eyes our community as members of the same body." And even as Thomas Jefferson wrote of the right to liberty and the pursuit of happiness, he pictured a nation of independent yeomen who, after tending their land all day, would gladly participate in community meetings.

Singing solo. Not until the mid-1800s did the pursuit of individual fulfillment come to connote a retreat from the group. Ralph Waldo Emerson first preached the concept in his 1841 essay "Self-Reliance." "Society everywhere is in conspiracy against the manhood of every one of its members," he declared. "Whoso would be a man must be a nonconformist." For him, the self was more important, more interesting, than the group. "I have only one doctrine," he wrote: "the infinitude of the private man." Emerson's friend Henry David Thoreau went further, deeming it necessary for him to physically part with society to develop his own integrity. And Walt Whitman, in poems such as "Song of Myself," introduced to the country what Berkeley sociologist Robert Bellah calls "expressive individualism," the valuing of personal pleasures such as sensuality and leisure above all else--something that would have been anathema in the religion-dominated Colonies.

Robert Louis Stevenson had the "individualists" number, Henry David Thoreau: His Character and Opinions (Robert Louis Stevenson, June 1880, Cornhill Magazine):
Thoreau's thin, penetrating, big-nosed face, even in a bad woodcut, conveys some hint of the limitations of his mind and character. With his almost acid sharpness of insight, with his almost animal dexterity in act, there went none of that large, unconscious geniality of the world's heroes. He was not easy, not ample, not urbane, not even kind; his enjoyment was hardly smiling, or the smile was not broad enough to be convincing; he had no waste lands nor kitchen-midden in his nature, but was all improved and sharpened to a point. "He was bred to no profession," says Emerson; "he never married; he lived alone; he never went to church; he never voted; he refused to pay a tax to the State; he ate no flesh, he drank no wine, he never knew the use of tobacco and, though a naturalist, he used neither trap nor gun. When asked at dinner what dish he preferred, he answered, 'the nearest.'" So many negative superiorities begin to smack a little of the prig. From his later works he was in the habit of cutting out the humorous passages, under the impression that they were beneath the dignity of his moral muse; and there we see the prig stand public and confessed. It was "much easier," says Emerson acutely, much easier for Thoreau to say no than yes; and that is a characteristic which depicts the man. It is a useful accomplishment to be able to say no, but surely it is the essence of amiability to prefer to say yes where it is possible. There is something wanting in the man who does not hate himself whenever he is constrained to say no. And there was a great deal wanting in this born dissenter. He was almost shockingly devoid of weaknesses; he had not enough of them to be truly polar with humanity; whether you call him demi-god or demi-man, he was at least not altogether one of us, for he was not touched with a feeling of our infirmities. The world's heroes have room for all positive qualities, even those which are disreputable, in the capacious theatre of their dispositions. Such can live many lives; while a Thoreau can live but one, and that only with perpetual foresight.

He was no ascetic, rather an Epicurean of the nobler sort; and he had this one great merit, that he succeeded so far as to be happy. "I love my fate to the core and rind," he wrote once; and even while he lay dying, here is what he dictated (for it seems he was already too feeble to control the pen): "You ask particularly after my health. I suppose that I have not many months to live, but of course know nothing about it. I may say that I am enjoying existence as much as ever, and regret nothing." It is not given to all to bear so clear a testimony to the sweetness of their fate, nor to any without courage and wisdom; for this world in itself is but a painful and uneasy place of residence, and lasting happiness, at least to the self-conscious, comes only from within. Now Thoreau's content and ecstasy in living was, we may say, like a plant that he had watered and tended with womanish solicitude; for there is apt to be something unmanly, something almost dastardly, in a life that does not move with dash and freedom, and that fears the bracing contact of the world. In one word, Thoreau was a skulker. He did not wish virtue to go out of him among his fellow-men, but slunk into a corner to hoard it for himself. He left all for the sake of certain virtuous self-indulgences. It is true that his tastes were noble; that his ruling passion was to keep himself unspotted from the world; and that his luxuries were all of the same healthy order as cold tubs and early rising. But a man may be both coldly cruel in the pursuit of goodness, and morbid even in the pursuit of health. I cannot lay my hands on the passage in which he explains his abstinence from tea and coffee, but I am sure I have the meaning correctly. It is this; He thought it bad economy and worthy of no true virtuoso to spoil the natural rapture of the morning with such muddy stimulants; let him but see the sun rise, and he was already sufficiently inspirited for the labours of the day. That may be reason good enough to abstain from tea; but when we go on to find the same man, on the same or similar grounds, abstain from nearly everything that his neighbours innocently and pleasurably use, and from the rubs and trials of human society itself into the bargain, we recognise that valetudinarian healthfulness which is more delicate than sickness itself. We need have no respect for a state of artificial training. True health is to be able to do without it. Shakespeare, we can imagine, might begin the day upon a quart of ale, and yet enjoy the sunrise to the full as much as Thoreau, and commemorate his enjoyment in vastly better verses. A man who must separate himself from his neighbours' habits in order to be happy, is in much the same case with one who requires to take opium for the same purpose. What we want to see is one who can breast into the world, do a man's work, and still preserve his first and pure enjoyment of existence.

[originally posted: 06/22/04]

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:32 AM


Post-9/11 America Is a Religion (George Monbiot, July 30, 2003, AlterNet)
As Clifford Longley shows in his fascinating book "Chosen People," published last year, the founding fathers of the U.S.A, though they sometimes professed otherwise, sensed that they were guided by a divine purpose. Thomas Jefferson argued that the Great Seal of the United States should depict the Israelites, "led by a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night". George Washington claimed, in his inaugural address, that every step towards independence was "distinguished by some token of providential agency". Longley argues that the formation of the American identity was part of a process of "supersession". The Roman Catholic church claimed that it had supplanted the Jews as the elect, as the Jews had been repudiated by God. The English Protestants accused the Catholics of breaking faith, and claimed that they had become the beloved of God. The American revolutionaries believed that the English, in turn, had broken their covenant: the Americans had now become the chosen people, with a divine duty to deliver the world to God's dominion. Six weeks ago, as if to show that this belief persists, George Bush recalled a remark of Woodrow Wilson's. "America," he quoted, "has a spiritual energy in her which no other nation can contribute to the liberation of mankind."

Gradually this notion of election has been conflated with another, still more dangerous idea. It is not just that the Americans are God's chosen people; America itself is now perceived as a divine project. In his farewell presidential address, Ronald Reagan spoke of his country as a "shining city on a hill", a reference to the Sermon on the Mount. But what Jesus was describing was not a temporal Jerusalem, but the kingdom of heaven. Not only, in Reagan's account, was God's kingdom to be found in the United States of America, but the kingdom of hell could also now be located on earth: the "evil empire" of the Soviet Union, against which His holy warriors were pitched.

Since the attacks on New York, this notion of America the divine has been extended and refined. In December 2001, Rudy Giuliani, the mayor of that city, delivered his last mayoral speech in St Paul's Chapel, close to the site of the shattered twin towers. "All that matters," he claimed, "is that you embrace America and understand its ideals and what it's all about. Abraham Lincoln used to say that the test of your Americanism was ... how much you believed in America. Because we're like a religion really. A secular religion." The chapel in which he spoke had been consecrated not just by God, but by the fact that George Washington had once prayed there. It was, he said, now "sacred ground to people who feel what America is all about". The United States of America no longer needs to call upon God; it is God, and those who go abroad to spread the light do so in the name of a celestial domain. The flag has become as sacred as the Bible; the name of the nation as holy as the name of God. The presidency is turning into a priesthood.

So those who question George Bush's foreign policy are no longer merely critics; they are blasphemers, or "anti-Americans". Those foreign states which seek to change this policy are wasting their time: you can negotiate with politicians; you cannot negotiate with priests. The U.S. has a divine mission, as Bush suggested in January: "to defend ... the hopes of all mankind", and woe betide those who hope for something other than the American way of life.

If Mr. Monbiot has just figured this out now, and doesn't realize that President Reagan's direct point of reference for the City on a Hill was to John Winthrop, and to the ideals that undergirded the American experiment even before it was a nation, one wonders if he's qualified to report on America. He is, of course, quite right that America proceeds from a set of ideas--as did Revolutionary France, Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union and its communist successors--but the difference is that our ideas are right. And those ideas are fairly simple: Man is created by God and therefore every one of us starts out with equal moral and political standing. We honor the dignity in one another by affording the maximum possible freedom consistent with a decent society. That's it. That's all Americanism really boils down to. Yes, Americanism is religious and it is indeed universalist. And, as four hundred years of history has shown, it is the most powerful political ideology (a secular expression of the Judeo-Christian religion) Man has ever pledged himself to--crushing enemies who oppose it, leading other nations to try to replicate it, and attracting and assimilating millions of immigrants who believe in it. Obviously no one has to believe in Americanism, but it's self-evident that if you oppose it you are anti-American. [originally posted: 08/01/03]
Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:11 AM


What is American culture? (SPENGLER, 11/18/03, Asia Times)

Man thinks with his entire being, not with mere abstract powers of ratiocination. Tactile, gustatory, olfactory and sentimental habits bear on our view of the world more than the philosophers we might have read in school. Culture is the glue that holds generations together; paradoxically, American culture makes a virtue of the ephemeral. Americans in consequence cannot imagine the frame of mind of those for whom a cultural connection to the past has become a matter of life and death. This sometimes charming, usually harmless trait of American culture turns into a tragic flaw in the context of America's encounter with Islam.

We're normally big fans of Spengler, but his last two columns--this one and the last, on America losing the intelligence side of the war on terror--have been pretty silly. He's certainly correct here, that people in the Middle East may eat and smell more like their ancestors did than Americans do--the Pilgrims certainly didn't run for the border to grab a sack of tacos too often. And he was right last week, that we have no intelligence assets within extremist Islam and rather little comprehension of its inner workings. But he's quite wrong that clandestine operations are the key to the intelligence war or that a static diet is the key to culture.

If you want to see a culture that is being radically transformed or check out who is winning the all-important propaganda phase of the intelligence war, you need look no further than the recent Pew survey:

Despite soaring anti-Americanism and substantial support for Osama bin Laden, there is considerable appetite in the Muslim world for democratic freedoms. The broader, 44-nation survey shows that people in Muslim countries place a high value on freedom of expression, freedom of the press, multi-party systems and equal treatment under the law. This includes people living in kingdoms such as Jordan and Kuwait, as well as those in authoritarian states like Uzbekistan and Pakistan. In fact, many of the Muslim publics polled expressed a stronger desire for democratic freedoms than the publics in some nations of Eastern Europe, notably Russia and Bulgaria.

The postwar update finds that in most Muslim populations, large majorities continue to believe that Western-style democracy can work in their countries. This is the case in predominantly Muslim countries like Kuwait (83%) and Bangladesh (57%), but also in religiously diverse
countries like Nigeria (75%). There are no substantive differences between Muslims and non-Muslims in Nigeria on this point. Only in Indonesia and Turkey do substantial percentages say democracy is a Western way of doing things that would not work in their countries (53%, 37%).

Americans are not only among the most religious people in the world--adhering to faiths (Judaism and Christianity) that are even older than Islam--but are relentlessly democratic and abide in the longest-lived democratic republic in the world, perhaps the longest lived regime of any kind extant. In effect, we've stood still, while the rest of mankind has gravitated towards us, politically and/or religiously. There's something absurd about the notion that because a Muslim has couscous the way his great-great-great-grandfather did or a Frenchman has crepes, their culture is more conservative than yours and mine which still has the same Constitution and Congress that our great-great-great-grandfather's did. Invite John Winthrop for dinner tonight and you probably will have to spend some considerable time explaining the point of the tiaramasu, but he'll recognize the political system in a heartbeat, and be rather proud you've made so few alterations.

[originally posted: 11/17/03]

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:05 AM


Solzhenitsyn, Again: The great Russian thinker foresaw the situation which now faces George W. Bush. (Hugh Hewitt, 03/12/2003, Weekly Standard)
THE HARVARD COLLEGE CLASS OF 1978 meets in Cambridge in three months to celebrate its 25th reunion. Among the events, lunches, panels, and dances, I hope time has been allocated to remember the most significant event of the 1978 ceremonies: a commencement address by Nobel Laureate Alexander I. Solzhenitsyn.

Solzhenitsyn delivered his remarks in Russian. There was an intermittent drizzle, and the odd dual delivery of speaker and translator made an overcast day even more gloomy. The speech the Russian gave did little to lift spirits. A day earlier Rodney Dangerfield had keynoted the Class Day festivities. We knew immediately that this speech would be different when, in his third sentence, Solzhenitsyn explained that "Harvard's motto is 'veritas.' Many of you have already found out and others will find out in the course of their lives that truth eludes us as soon as our concentration begins to flag, all the while leaving the illusion that we are continuing to pursue it. This is the source of much discord. Also, truth seldom is sweet; it is almost invariably bitter. A measure of truth is included in my speech today, but I offer it as a friend, not as an adversary."

He titled his address "A World Split Apart," and put out as his premise that the then-dominant split between the West and the USSR masked even deeper divides: "The truth is that the split is both more profound and more alienating, that the rifts are more numerous than one can see at first glance. These deep manifold splits bear the danger of equally manifold disaster for all of us, in accordance with the ancient truth that a kingdom--in this case, our Earth--divided against itself cannot stand."

Mr. Solzhenitsyn's speech that day remains the most glorious/notorious statement of the crisis at the heart of the West and, therefore, the most important speech of the Twentieth Century:
A Decline in Courage [. . .]

may be the most striking feature which an outside observer notices in the West in our days. The Western world has lost its civil courage, both as a whole and separately, in each country, each government, each political party and of course in the United Nations. Such a decline in courage is particularly noticeable among the ruling groups and the intellectual elite, causing an impression of loss of courage by the entire society. Of course there are many courageous individuals but they have no determining influence on public life. Political and intellectual bureaucrats show depression, passivity and perplexity in their actions and in their statements and even more so in theoretical reflections to explain how realistic, reasonable as well as intellectually and even morally warranted it is to base state policies on weakness and cowardice. And decline in courage is ironically emphasized by
occasional explosions of anger and inflexibility on the part of the same bureaucrats when dealing with weak governments and weak countries, not supported by anyone, or with currents which cannot offer any resistance. But they get tongue-tied and paralyzed when they deal with powerful governments and threatening forces, with aggressors and international terrorists.

Should one point out that from ancient times decline in courage has been considered the beginning of the end?


When the modern Western States were created, the following principle was proclaimed: governments are meant to serve man, and man lives to be free to pursue happiness. (See, for example, the American Declaration). Now at last during past decades technical and social progress has permitted the realization of such aspirations: the welfare state. Every citizen has been granted the desired freedom and material goods in such quantity and of such quality as to guarantee in theory the achievement of happiness, in the morally inferior sense which has come into being during those same decades. In the process, however, one psychological detail has been overlooked: the constant desire to have still more things and a still better life and the struggle to obtain them imprints many Western faces with worry and even depression, though it is customary to conceal such feelings. Active and tense
competition permeates all human thoughts without opening a way to free spiritual development. The individual's independence from many types of state pressure has been guaranteed; the majority of people have been granted well-being to an extent their fathers and grandfathers could not even dream about; it has become possible to raise young people according to these ideals, leading them to physical splendor, happiness, possession of material goods, money and leisure, to an almost unlimited freedom of enjoyment. So who should now renounce all this, why and for what should one risk one's precious life in defense of common values, and particularly in such nebulous cases when the security of one's nation must be defended in a distant country?

This is the question that plagues us, one that a prescient Albert Jay Nock raised some thirty years earlier:
Burke touches [the] matter of patriotism with a searching phrase. 'For us to love our country,' he said, 'our country ought to be lovely. I have sometimes thought that here may be the rock on which Western civilization will finally shatter itself. Economism can build a society which is rich, prosperous, powerful, even one which has a reasonably wide diffusion of material well-being. It can not build one which is lovely, one which has savour and depth, and which exercises the irresistible attraction that loveliness wields. Perhaps by the time economism has run its course the society it has built may be tired of itself, bored by its own hideousness, and may despairingly consent to annihilation, aware that it is too ugly to be let live any longer.

This would certainly appear to be the stage that Old Europe has reached, a complacent moral exhaustion that has left it with despicable, oleaginous leaders, made heroes by their willingness to sacrifice national and global security in order to avoid tough decisions, guard against the ill will of potential enemies, and not threaten further already teetering welfare systems by spending limited resources on military matters. To that extent, the craven refusal to help finish a war that they were only to happy to help wage when it was popular and paid for by others is easily explained away by mere selfishness.

But there's another factor at work here, one that, sad to say, we Americans are only too familiar with: loss of confidence. It's tempting but dangerous to forget that just twenty-five years ago--in the wake of Vietnam, Watergate, oil embargoes, and a string of truly awful presidencies--we too had lost our way. Things reached such a nadir that Jimmy Carter came before the American people to explore the national sense of decline, Malaise Speech (Jimmy Carter, 7/15/79):

I know, of course, being President, that government actions and legislation can be very important. That's why I've worked hard to put my campaign promises into law -- and I have to admit, with just mixed success. But after listening to the American people I have been reminded again that all the legislation in the world can't fix what's wrong with America. So, I want to speak to you first tonight about a subject even more serious than energy or inflation. I want to talk to you right now about a fundamental threat to American democracy.

I do not mean our political and civil liberties. They will endure. And I do not refer to the outward strength of America, a nation that is at peace tonight everywhere in the world, with unmatched economic power and military might.

The threat is nearly invisible in ordinary ways. It is a crisis of confidence. It is a crisis that strikes at the very heart and soul and spirit of our national will. We can see this crisis in the growing doubt about the meaning of our own lives and in the loss of a unity of purpose for our Nation.

The erosion of our confidence in the future is threatening to destroy the social and the political fabric of America.

The confidence that we have always had as a people is not simply some romantic dream or a proverb in a dusty book that we read just on the Fourth of July. It is the idea which founded our Nation and has guided our development as a people. Confidence in the future has supported everything else -- public institutions and private enterprise, our own families, and the very Constitution of the United States. Confidence has defined our course and has served as a link between generations. We've always believed in something called progress. We've always had a faith that the days of our children would be better than our own.

Our people are losing that faith, not only in government itself but in the ability as citizens to serve as the ultimate rulers and shapers of our democracy. As a people we know our past and we are proud of it. Our progress has been part of the living history of America, even the world. We always believed that we were part of a great movement of humanity itself called democracy, involved in the search for freedom, and that belief has always strengthened us in our purpose. But just as we are losing our confidence in the future, we are also beginning to close the door on our past.

In a nation that was proud of hard work, strong families, close-knit communities, and our faith in God, too many of us now tend to worship self-indulgence and consumption. Human identity is no longer defined by what one does, but by what one owns. But we've discovered that owning things and consuming things does not satisfy our longing for meaning. We've learned that piling up material goods cannot fill the emptiness of lives which have no confidence or purpose.

The symptoms of this crisis of the American spirit are all around us. For the first time in the history of our country a majority of our people believe that the next 5 years will be worse than the past 5 years. Two-thirds of our people do not even vote. The productivity of American workers is actually dropping, and the willingness of Americans to save for the future has fallen below that of all other people in the Western world.

As you know, there is a growing disrespect for government and for churches and for schools, the news media, and other institutions. This is not a message of happiness or reassurance, but it is the truth and it is a warning.

These changes did not happen overnight. They've come upon us gradually over the last generation, years that were filled with shocks and tragedy.

We were sure that ours was a nation of the ballot, not the bullet, until the murders of John Kennedy and Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. We were taught that our armies were always invincible and our causes were always just, only to suffer the agony of Vietnam. We respected the Presidency as a place of honor until the shock of Water gate.

We remember when the phrase "sound as a dollar" was an expression of absolute dependability, until 10 years of inflation began to shrink our dollar and our savings. We believed that our Nation's re sources were limitless until 1973, when we had to face a growing dependence on foreign oil.

These wounds are still very deep. They have never been healed.

Looking for a way out of this crisis, our people have turned to the Federal Government and found it isolated from the mainstream of our Nation's life. Washington, D.C., has become an island. The gap between our citizens and our Government has never been so wide. The people are looking for honest answers, not easy answers; clear leadership, not false claims and evasiveness and politics as usual.

What you see too often in Washington and elsewhere around the country is a system of government that seems incapable of action. You see a Congress twisted and pulled in every direction by hundreds of well financed and powerful special interests. You see every extreme position defended to the last vote, almost to the last breath by one unyielding group or another. You often see a balanced and a fair approach that demands sacrifice, a little sacrifice from everyone, abandoned like an orphan without support and without friends.

Often you see paralysis and stagnation and drift. You don't like, and neither do I. What can we do?

He was, of course, excoriated for this talk, but not because he was wrong, rather because a worthwhile leader doesn't ask why a situation like this exists; he shows the way out.

And that's where Ronald Reagan came in. Compare the seeming helplessness and genuine uncertainty of Mr. Carter to the bold, confident, sense of mission and of righteousness that Mr. Reagan exuded in his best-remembered speech, Evil Empire Speech (Ronald Reagan, June 8, 1982, Speech to the House of Commons):

We're approaching the end of a bloody century plagued by a terrible political invention -- totalitarianism. Optimism comes less easily today, not because democracy is less vigorous, but because democracy's enemies have refined their instruments of repression. Yet optimism is in order because day by day democracy is proving itself to be a not at all fragile flower. From Stettin on the Baltic to Varna on the Black Sea, the regimes planted by totalitarianism have had more than thirty years to establish their legitimacy. But none -- not one regime -- has yet been able to risk free elections. Regimes planted by bayonets do not take root.

The strength of the Solidarity movement in Poland demonstrates the truth told in an underground joke in the Soviet Union. It is that the Soviet Union would remain a one-party nation even if an opposition party were permitted because everyone would join the opposition party....

Historians looking back at our time will note the consistent restraint and peaceful intentions of the West. They will note that it was the democracies who refused to use the threat of their nuclear monopoly in the forties and early fifties for territorial or imperial gain. Had that nuclear monopoly been in the hands of the Communist world, the map of Europe--indeed, the world--would look very different today. And certainly they will note it was not the democracies that invaded Afghanistan or suppressed Polish Solidarity or used chemical and toxin warfare in Afghanistan and Southeast Asia.

If history teaches anything, it teaches self-delusion in the face of unpleasant facts is folly. We see around us today the marks of our terrible dilemma--predictions of doomsday, antinuclear demonstrations, an arms race in which the West must, for its own protection, be an unwilling participant. At the same time we see totalitarian forces in the world who seek subversion and conflict around the globe to further their barbarous assault on the human spirit. What, then, is our course? Must civilization perish in a hail of fiery atoms? Must freedom wither in a quiet, deadening accommodation with totalitarian evil?

Sir Winston Churchill refused to accept the inevitability of war or even that it was imminent. He said, "I do not believe that Soviet Russia desires war. What they desire is the fruits of war and the indefinite expansion of their power and doctrines. But what we have to consider here today while time remains is the permanent prevention of war and the establishment of conditions of freedom and democracy as rapidly as possible in all countries."

Well, this is precisely our mission today: to preserve freedom as well as peace. It may not be easy to see; but I believe we live now at a turning point. [...]

It is time that we committed ourselves as a nation -- in both the public and private sectors -- to assisting democratic development....

What I am describing now is a plan and a hope for the long term -- the march of freedom and democracy which will leave Marxism-Leninism on the ash heap of history as it has left other tyrannies which stifle the freedom and muzzle the self-expression of the people. And that's why we must continue our efforts to strengthen NATO even as we move forward with our zero-option initiative in the negotiations on intermediate-range forces and our proposal for a one-third reduction in strategic ballistic missile warheads.

Our military strength is a prerequisite to peace, but let it be clear we maintain this strength in the hope it will never be used, for the ultimate determinant in the struggle that's now going on in the world will not be bombs and rockets but a test of wills and ideas, a trial of spiritual resolve, the values we hold, the beliefs we cherish, the ideals to which we are dedicated.

The restoration he performed on the national soul sufficed to carry us through to the end of the Cold War and even on through a few minor adventures--Iraq I, Panama, etc.--but where the job looked too big--China--or too complex--al Qaeda--or too dangerous--Somalia--we were more than willing to take a pass. And with the economy booming by the end of the '90s, as we cashed in our peace dividend, no one had the time or the inclination to tend to problems like the wave of terrorist acts that struck American targets. The best we could muster was a desultory cruise missile attack, and, while it would be convenient to blame Bill Clinton entirely, who among us was seriously concerned and willing to pay the price to do more? Sure, a nagging doubt might have tugged at us on occassion, but so long as the markets kept going up, we couldn't even rally enough determination and fortitude to see through something as basic as a Somalia, a failure for which Republicans were just as responsible as Bill Clinton.

9-11 changed all that though, at least for Republicans--who tend to believe more fiercely in the near-theological rhetoric of Americanism than does the Left and therefore tend to be easier to rally to the cause, despite their enduring reservations about involvement in the world. And so, President Bush was able to frame the current war on terror in terms that tapped in to the long fight against Nazism/Communism and that really make it seem just the latest battle in our long war against evil, but that also make it seem a war that America is uniquely responsible for and suited to fight, The President's State of the Union Address (George W. Bush, 1/29/02):

Our cause is just, and it continues.  Our discoveries in Afghanistan confirmed our worst fears, and showed us the true scope of the task ahead.  We have seen the depth of our enemies' hatred in videos, where they laugh about the loss of innocent life.  And the depth of their hatred is equaled by the madness of the destruction they design.  We have found diagrams of American nuclear power plants and public water facilities, detailed instructions for making chemical weapons, surveillance maps of American cities, and thorough descriptions of landmarks in America and throughout the world.

What we have found in Afghanistan confirms that, far from ending there, our war against terror is only beginning.  Most of the 19 men who hijacked planes on September the 11th were trained in Afghanistan's camps, and so were tens of thousands of others.   Thousands of dangerous killers, schooled in the methods of murder, often supported by outlaw regimes, are now spread throughout the world like ticking time bombs, set to go off without warning.

Thanks to the work of our law enforcement officials and coalition partners, hundreds of terrorists have been arrested.  Yet, tens of thousands of trained terrorists are still at large.  These enemies view the entire world as a battlefield, and we must pursue them wherever they are. So long as training camps operate, so long as nations harbor terrorists, freedom is at risk.  And America and our allies must not, and will not, allow it.

Our nation will continue to be steadfast and patient and persistent in the pursuit of two great objectives.  First, we will shut down terrorist camps, disrupt terrorist plans, and bring terrorists to justice.  And, second, we must prevent the terrorists and regimes who seek chemical, biological or nuclear weapons from threatening the United States and the world.

Our military has put the terror training camps of Afghanistan out of business, yet camps still exist in at least a dozen countries.  A terrorist underworld -- including groups like Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, Jaish-i-Mohammed -- operates in remote jungles and deserts, and hides in the centers of large cities.

While the most visible military action is in Afghanistan, America is acting elsewhere.  We now have troops in the Philippines, helping to train that country's armed forces to go after terrorist cells that have executed an American, and still hold hostages.  Our soldiers, working with the Bosnian government, seized terrorists who were plotting to bomb our embassy.  Our Navy is patrolling the coast of Africa to block the shipment of weapons and the establishment of terrorist camps in Somalia.

My hope is that all nations will heed our call, and eliminate the terrorist parasites who threaten their countries and our own.  Many nations are acting forcefully.  Pakistan is now cracking down on terror, and I admire the strong leadership of President Musharraf.

But some governments will be timid in the face of terror.  And make no mistake about it:  If they do not act, America will.

Our second goal is to prevent regimes that sponsor terror from threatening America or our friends and allies with weapons of mass destruction.  Some of these regimes have been pretty quiet since September the 11th.  But we know their true nature.  North Korea is a regime arming with missiles and weapons of mass destruction, while starving its citizens.

Iran aggressively pursues these weapons and exports terror, while an unelected few repress the Iranian people's hope for freedom.

Iraq continues to flaunt its hostility toward America and to support terror.  The Iraqi regime has plotted to develop anthrax, and nerve gas, and nuclear weapons for over a decade.  This is a regime that has already used poison gas to murder thousands of its own citizens -- leaving the bodies of mothers huddled over their dead children.  This is a regime that agreed to international inspections -- then kicked out the inspectors. This is a regime that has something to hide from the civilized world.

States like these, and their terrorist allies, constitute an axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world.  By seeking weapons of mass destruction, these regimes pose a grave and growing danger.  They could provide these arms to terrorists, giving them the means to match their hatred. They could attack our allies or attempt to blackmail the United States.  In any of these cases, the price of indifference would be catastrophic.

We will work closely with our coalition to deny terrorists and their state sponsors the materials, technology, and expertise to make and deliver weapons of mass destruction.  We will develop and deploy effective missile defenses to protect America and our allies from sudden attack. And all nations should know:  America will do what is necessary to ensure our nation's security.

We'll be deliberate, yet time is not on our side.  I will not wait on events, while dangers gather.  I will not stand by, as peril draws closer and closer.  The United States of America will not permit the world's most dangerous regimes to threaten us with the world's most destructive weapons.

Our war on terror is well begun, but it is only begun.  This campaign may not be finished on our watch -- yet it must be and it will be waged on our watch.

What other nation's leaders speak, as both Ronald Reagan and George Bush have, of serving watches? This military metaphor expresses the sense that America is in some way responsible for the endurance and extension of freedom on Earth. Here again Ronald Reagan, from his Farewell:
The past few days when I've been at that window upstairs, I've thought a bit of the 'shining city upon a hill.' The phrase comes from John Winthrop, who wrote it to describe the America he imagined. What he imagined was important because he was an early Pilgrim, an early freedom man. He journeyed here on what today we'd call a little wooden boat; and like the other Pilgrims, he was looking for a home that would be free. I've spoken of the shining city all my political life, but I don't know if I ever quite communicated what I saw when I said it. But in my mind it was a tall, proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, windswept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace; a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity. And if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here. That's how I saw it, and see it still.

And how stands the city on this winter night? More prosperous, more secure, and happier than it was 8 years ago. But more than that: After 200 years, two centuries, she still stands strong and true on the granite ridge, and her glow has held steady no matter what storm. And she's still a beacon, still a magnet for all who must have freedom, for all the pilgrims from all the lost places who are hurtling through the darkness, toward home.

The world remains divided, just as divided as it was in 1978, though along different fault lines. But surely many Americans still see that shining city, are still willing to defend it and still think it is the home towards which the rest of the world's pilgrims are hurtling. But look at a "peace rally" or at Jacques Chirac or Ted Kennedy or whoever and you can see that there are many more in the West and even in America, maybe even a majority, who no longer share that vision and who really haven't since some time in the 60s or 70s. And so Mr. Solzhenitsyn's speech is as germane today as it was in the seemingly bleaker time when he gave it.

The House remains divided: will it stand?

[originally posted: 03/14/03]
Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:03 AM


The US and the UN: Legitimacy vs sovereignty (Criton M Zoakos, 10/20/03, Asia Times)

The Thirty Years War was a war of Protestant princes against the legitimizing principle of the "universal Christian empire" and its representative, the Habsburg Holy Roman Emperor. These Protestant princes were joined by numerous Catholic princes (most notably the King of France), who saw profit in challenging the legitimizing principle of the time. Some of the profit was political - freedom from Papal political interference in their administration. Some was economic - freedom to expropriate and secularize vast church lands.

Since both Papacy and Emperor were too weak at the beginning of the Reformation, a temporary compromise was struck in the 1555 Treaty of Augsburg which for the first time abandoned the legitimizing principle of "universal Christian monarchy" and settled on "cujus regio, ejus religio", roughly translated as "whoever reigns imposes his religion in his realm". In plain English: "Might makes right." The compromise failed when the Catholic Church gathered forces and launched its Counter-Reformation for the purpose of restoring the original legitimizing principle of "universal Christian monarchy".

This led to the Thirty Years War, which devastated all sides. Drained of resources by the war, near collapse but still roughly equally balanced and without hope of decisive victory for either side, the exhausted adversaries settled on the 1648 Peace of Westphalia. In it, the parties agreed that if they were to survive, the sovereignty of each was far more important than any legitimizing principle on which that sovereignty rested. "Cujus regio, ejus religio" the old principle of 1555, was finally enforced.

Seen against this background, the history of the formation of the United States - from the Mayflower Compact of 1620, the revolution of 1776, the ratification of the US Constitution of 1787, George Washington's admonition against "foreign entanglements", American neutrality during the Napoleonic Wars, the Monroe Doctrine of 1821, the expansion to the Pacific and the Gulf of Mexico Coasts - is best viewed as a contrast to the Westphalian system, sometimes as opposition, sometimes as mere counterpoint. The original English and Dutch settlers of North America were men and women who rejected the Westphalian agreement that gave the local prince - the State - sole right to establish and dis-establish religion. When these settlers eventually wrote their constitution, its First Amendment and anti-establishment clause was a clear, explicit rebuff of cujus regio, ejus religio: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."

In fact, and contrary to the Westphalian system, the formation of the United States affirmed a new principle from which government derives legitimacy: the inalienable rights of the individual human being, including the inalienable right to be governed by their consent. The assertion of this new legitimizing principle is evident from the Declaration of Independence through the entire process of ratifying the Constitution, in the course of the Federalist debates and in the evolution of the Supreme Court under Justice John Marshall.

While the Westphalian system is strictly and absolutely agnostic on the matter of legitimizing principle - in order to give primacy to the principle of sovereignty of the State - the founding of the American republic asserts the supremacy of its legitimizing principle (inalienable rights of the people) over the sovereignty of the State. In the Westphalian system, sovereignty trumps legitimacy. In the American system, legitimacy trumps sovereignty, with legitimacy embodied in the US Constitution. The only sovereign recognized in the American system is the Constitution, ie, the legitimizing principle itself.

If the end of the American Revolution is liberty (Freedom) and the end of the French Revolution is the State (Security) and the latter is ultimately the enemy of the former, then the believers in our Revolution can never fit comfortably with the believers in theirs and will at times, as now, find themselves opposed to one another. The assertion of Democrats and many in the foreign policy establishment that this divide is unhealthy would seem to rest on their antipathy to America's universalist faith.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Mayflower Compact 1620

Agreement Between the Settlers at New Plymouth : 1620

IN THE NAME OF GOD, AMEN. We, whose names are underwritten, the Loyal Subjects of our dread Sovereign Lord King James, by the Grace of God, of Great Britain, France, and Ireland, King, Defender of the Faith, &c. Having undertaken for the Glory of God, and Advancement of the Christian Faith, and the Honour of our King and Country, a Voyage to plant the first Colony in the northern Parts of Virginia; Do by these Presents, solemnly and mutually, in the Presence of God and one another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil Body Politick, for our better Ordering and Preservation, and Furtherance of the Ends aforesaid: And by Virtue hereof do enact, constitute, and frame, such just and equal Laws, Ordinances, Acts, Constitutions, and Officers, from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general Good of the Colony; unto which we promise all due Submission and Obedience. IN WITNESS whereof we have hereunto subscribed our names at Cape-Cod the eleventh of November, in the Reign of our Sovereign Lord King James, of England, France, and Ireland, the eighteenth, and of Scotland the fifty-fourth, Anno Domini; 1620.

Mr. John Carver,
Mr. William Bradford,
Mr Edward Winslow,
Mr. William Brewster.
Isaac Allerton,
Myles Standish,
John Alden,
John Turner,
Francis Eaton,
James Chilton,
John Craxton,
John Billington,
Joses Fletcher,
John Goodman,
Mr. Samuel Fuller,
Mr. Christopher Martin,
Mr. William Mullins,
Mr. William White,
Mr. Richard Warren,
John Howland,
Mr. Steven Hopkins,
Digery Priest,
Thomas Williams,
Gilbert Winslow,
Edmund Margesson,
Peter Brown,
Richard Britteridge
George Soule,
Edward Tilly,
John Tilly,
Francis Cooke,
Thomas Rogers,
Thomas Tinker,
John Ridgdale
Edward Fuller,
Richard Clark,
Richard Gardiner,
Mr. John Allerton,
Thomas English,
Edward Doten,
Edward Liester.

They first landed at Plymouth on December 21, 1620. With the tragic exception of excising the King from the equation, our system is little changed to this day.

[originally posted: 12/21/04]

November 26, 2008

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:59 PM


As we did with the previous profile -- The Brothers Judd—The Adventure of Great Literature (Edward B. Driscoll, Jr.,1/16/02, Catholic Exchange) -- we thought it might be interesting to publish the raw interview that Ed Driscoll managed to turn into a far more coherent and readable essay, Sovereignty Redefined (Edward B. Driscoll, Jr., 11/03/2005, Tech Central Station):

An e-mail interview about Redefining Sovereignty with Orrin C. Judd (Ed Driscoll, 10/29/05)

Ed: What is transnationalism?

OJ: Like, I suspect, many of the people reading this, I first came across the notion of transnationalism in John Fonte's terrific essay, Liberal Democracy vs. Transnational Progressivism, which we include in this volume. Though there are a number of ways to define it, in the book I chose to frame it as "the movement on the intellectual Left which views the nation itself as a hindrance to the realization of certain social goals." Transnationalists wish to see nations sacrifice their sovereignty and electorates sacrifice self-government to expansive central institutions and the bureaucrats who run them, who will then establish and enforce liberal, or progressive, policies irrespective of the objections of discrete majorities.

Ed: How did it coalesce as a major component of the left?

OJ: It's perhaps easiest to understand the attractiveness of transnationalism to the Left by using one issue as an example: the death penalty. Recall that the death penalty was banned in the United States by the one branch of government that isn't accountable to the electorate, the courts. What elites had been unable to win in the democratic sphere they did win, at least temporarily, when they had a liberal majority on the Court.

Now that a conservative Court has reinstated the death penalty, what is the argument that opponents make? In a recent case concerning capital punishment for juveniles, even the reasonably conservative Justice Kennedy wrote that "the overwhelming weight of international opinion [is] against the juvenile death penalty" and went on to say that "the opinion of the world community, while "not controlling our outcome, does provide respected and significant confirmation for our own conclusions." Once again, having failed to convince a majority of Americans via normal democratic processes, they resort to external standards.

What's especially revealing in this regard is that the opinion Justice Kennedy is referring to isn't popular opinion in the rest of the world--opinion polls consistently show that large majorities of the British people favor reinstating their own death penalty. Rather, abolition of the death penalty is a requirement of membership in the European Union, irrespective of the opinion of a nation's people and the EU is, of course, a model transnationalist institution.

The Left embraces transnationalism because it enables it to impose unpopular laws and policies on unwilling majorities.

Ed: Is this a relatively new development in international politics?

OJ: Not only is the desire of unelectable intellectual elites to control the masses of people who disagree with them not a new thing, it's nearly an eternal thing. The important thing to consider though is that it's not a bad thing, per se, is indeed part of the entirely understandable human desire for security, and is part and parcel of the original reason for adopting the sovereignty standards that had prevailed in the West from the Peace of Westphalia in 1648 until just recently.

On the most basic level it's helpful to think of mankind as being torn between two competing and rather evenly matched desires. On the one hand, each of us wants freedom for himself. On the other, each wants security from his fellow men. In broad terms we might say that to be of the Right is to have a preference for tilting the scales in favor of the former, while to be of the Left is to prefer more of the latter. Viewed through this lens, human history comes into focus as a long and unending struggle among men over where to draw the line between these two impulses. Tilting too far to either side always yields disastrous results and often produces just as unsatisfactory reactions.

Classical sovereignty, or Westphalian sovereignty, came about as a way to end a long period of religious wars between the states of Europe. After a period when princes attacked each other under the color of universalist religious claims, it promised to ends those wars, to provide some level of national security, by enshrining the principle that whoever effectively controlled a political territory would have the corresponding right to determine all matters of governance, religion, etc. within that territory. Each regime would be a left a free hand within its own borders, provided it didn't violate those borders. While this obviously did not end war in Europe, it did provide an accepted legal framework for leaders to refer to in their disputes.

What we think of as transnationalism today got jump-started by the two World Wars, which obviously represented a complete breakdown of peace in Europe, dragging pretty nearly every state into the respective conflagrations. Institutions like the League of Nations and then the United Nations and the notion of One World Government and the like were not unreasonable attempts to deal with the realization that classical sovereignty had finally failed to provide the desired security. Europeans in particular, after tens of millions of deaths in the wars, were willing to trade some considerable measure of their freedoms in order to obtain the peace and security that transnational government seemed to offer. [It's worth noting here that America, which escaped much of the devastation of the wars and has always been more strongly oriented towards freedom than other nations, did not much succumb to the transnationalist sales pitch, even refusing to join the League of Nations.] It's hardly surprising that the transnationalists having ceased the upper hand generally should have sought to extend the types of policies and laws that they favor on specific issues, nor that the more nationalist Right, which holds the transnational project in such low regard, should have failed to have its preferences reflected much in the transnational institutions, laws and treaties that were subsequently erected.

Ed: Who are some of the major figures in the movement?

OJ: There are some folks, like University of Chicago Law Professor Martha Nussbaum, who are associated with the idea of transnationalism more closely than others (see her essay Patriotism and Cosmopolitanism). But it's important to recognize that we are almost all transnationalists when it suits our own ends. Even many on the libertarian Right would like to see us adopt global free trade schemes that provide a transnational legal framework and turn over enforcement of the rules to unelected bureaucracies. And the hawkish Right wants to be able to enforce the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty against enemies like Iran and North Korea, even though that means we acknowledge that we're subject to it. However, the strongest transnationalist sentiment is found on the Left, where even democratic presidential candidates and other party leaders insist that we should yield American sovereignty and democracy by joining things like the Kyoto Accords and the International Criminal Court and arguing that the Iraq war could only be legal if the United Nations passed yet another resolution approving of it.

Ed: Why did you choose to edit a book and write introductions to speeches and papers, rather than write your own book?

OJ: There were really two main reasons for that, one lies in the format itself and the other in the content. First, the book is intended to resemble a blog to some extent. These are almost all essays and speeches that we'd posted at our own blog ( and several of them were posted on darn near every blog that existed when they were written (Mr. Fonte's essay for example was ubiquitous in the blogosphere, likewise Lee Harris's Our World-Historical Gamble.) Here was an opportunity to gather some of the most interesting pieces on a contained theme, present them in their entirety instead of just in excerpt, and tie them together with introductory essays. Others will have to determine whether I've succeeded, but I'd like to think that this is a blog in book form.

Second, and more important, one purpose of the book is to convince Americans in general, but reluctant conservatives in particular, that George W. Bush's expansive mission of democratizing the Middle East is not just vital to the future of the region and our own national security, but entirely consistent with American history, is indeed quintessentially American.

The section of the book on transnationalism will appeal to everyone on the Right and hopefully awaken even those who aren't, because it shows how our own sovereignty and capacity to govern ourselves democratically is threatened. The second section though shows that we Americans and our allies represent an even greater threat to the sovereignty of others and to the very idea of classical sovereignty, because of our willingness to impose liberal democracy abroad, to effectively hasten what contributor Francis Fukuyama has dubbed the "end of history." The essays here add up to the argument that we have ourselves redefined sovereignty so that the right to govern a nation now depends on a regime's conformity to liberal democratic norms.

The isolationist, or non-interventionist, Right has been quite hostile to this development, which does of course involve us in the internal affairs of states from Syria to Burma to Somalia to Haiti. However, in the third section the essays show that this is not in the least a departure from our American past. Americans after all settled the continent all the way to the Pacific, fought a Civil War at home, and abroad fought Imperialism, Nazism, and Communism successively, all the while requiring other peoples to adopt our own foundational principles.

Whereas some argue that we have no right to tell others how to govern themselves, we always have and our Declaration of Independence makes universalist claims that there is a duty to organize regimes as we've organized our own:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. --That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

So, in these essays, and in an appendix that features a series of historical documents starting with the Mayflower Compact, I offer the evidence that holding other nations to a standard of democratic legitimacy is the very essence of Americanism and should be a cause that unites patriots of every stripe.

In keeping with both the form and the content, we’ve set up a Sovereignty blog to go with the book, with further posts on the issues it addresses and links to other essays by and info about the contributors. People are warmly invited to continue the conversation there.

Ed: How long did it take to collate and edit?

OJ: I went into the project with a pretty clear vision of what I wanted to say: classical sovereignty is dead; our own sovereignty is threatened by transationalism; we're a greater threat to others, having redefined sovereignty so that it requires democratic legitimacy; and that requirement is the end to which American history and ideology has always been leading us. So I had a good idea of what kinds of essays I was looking for, plus I'd written about most of them at the blog previously. Putting the pieces together and writing intros and a conclusion took about three months.

Ed: Was it tough getting permission to use any of these essays and speeches?

The hardest part of the permissions was actually just figuring out who held some of them. Every single author who I was able to contact personally was very co-operative and most of the permissions were granted free of charge. I passed the most difficult--like navigating the UN bureaucracy for a Kofi Annan permission--on to the publisher, Smith & Kraus Global, and they did the heavy-lifting.

It's an amazing world we live in though, I was to find contact information for most everyone on-line and got prompt, courteous responses from everyone I contacted.

The only disappointment was that there was an ideal essay from Britain’s Spectator by Mark Steyn with which to end the book, one that contrasted how we deal with local problems here in small town New Hampshire on a personal level as opposed to the EU red tape you have to go through now to deal with a local problem in Britain. He was very nice about it but asked that we not use it because townfolk hadn’t been thrilled to have Europeans reading about them, which reticence too is typical of Hampshiremen.

Ed: Which one is your favorite?

OJ: I'd not like to say I have a favorite, but there is one I'm proudest to have in the book: Ronald Reagan's speech at Bitburg Air Base on May 5, 1985. Lost in all the controversy over his visit was one of his very best speeches, one that stands in especially strong contrast to JFK and the prior American policy of mere containment, as President Reagan declared:

"Twenty-two years ago President John F. Kennedy went to the Berlin Wall and proclaimed that he, too, was a Berliner. Well, today freedom-loving people around the world must say: I am a Berliner. I am a Jew in a world still threatened by anti-Semitism. I am an Afghan, and I am a prisoner of the Gulag. I am a refugee in a crowded boat foundering off the coast of Vietnam. I am a Laotian, a Cambodian, a Cuban, and a Miskito Indian in Nicaragua. I, too, am a potential victim of totalitarianism."

Recall that as he said this we were arming the Afghans and the Miskito and helping them defeat totalitarianism.

Ed: Will people be surprised by the breadth of the worldviews in the book?

The essay that seems to surprise folks the most is the one from Kofi Annan, but, despite his failure to rally the UN at the time of the Iraq war, he's been an important voice for the idea that we have to concern ourselves with the injustices that occur within given countries, even if it means we have to violate the sovereignty claims of their regimes in order to vindicate the democratic/humanitarian rights of their people.

As to the general worldviews, I’d hope that readers would be surprised at the consistency they’ll find in the American worldview, from the Pilgrims landing until the latest speech by George Bush. We are and have been, though we don’t all always like to admit it, the Empire of Liberty that Thomas Jefferson suspected we might be.

Ed: Where do you see transnationalism going?

OJ: I think transnationalism is a more serious threat to our friends and allies than it is to Americans and I think it’s doomed even there. When I finished the manuscript, in March 2004, people assumed the EU was an inevitability, but we've seen several countries that were supposedly its biggest backers reject the constitution and when Tony Blair announced that Britain would vote on it he was understood to be killing it. Similarly, folks thought that the United States would be isolated by our refusal to join Kyoto, but instead nations like Australia and Japan have joined us in an alternative Asia Pacific Partnership on Development that focuses on developing technologies to control emissions and Tony Blair recently announced that Kyoto was pretty much a dead letter in light of this new agreement. And one of the most important reactions to the stabbing death of Theo Van Gough in the Netherlands and the British bombings of this past July has been a wholesale reconsideration of multiculturalism, which is an important element of transnationalism. If multiculturalism, rather than affording security, is going to provide a breeding ground in which people with no common culture lash out violently against their neighbors then this aspect of the transnationalist project is toast. Just as World War I shocked Marxists because it revealed that nationalism ran deeper in the working class than the economic security promised by socialism, so too are transnationalists likely to find that the need for a distinctive national culture runs deeper than the desire for the social peace promised by multiculturalism. And the preservation and defense of one’s own culture and national identity is antithetical to transnationalism.

Ed: Can America stop it? Is it in her best interest to do so?

OJ: That’s the interesting thing—it’s not necessarily in our narrow national security interest to stop the transnational project so long as we hold ourselves outside of it. After all, Europe may be dying --economically, demographically, and geopolitically -- but it’s also rather quiet these days and pretty insignificant. After a 20th Century in which we fought three world wars in Europe, there’s something to be said for a Europe that we can safely ignore.

But American policy has never primarily been driven by such Realpolitik calculations. We are much more what Walter McDougall has called a Crusader State, engaging in a kind of “global melliorism,” whereby we intervene in the affairs of other nations to make them conform to our own standards of what makes a decent society. This tendency is so deeply imbued in the religiosity of America that I doubt we can stop ourselves from taking on both transnationalism and Islamicism, even if we wanted to. And history suggests that if we do choose to stop them we will. This is likely to be, as George Bush has vowed it will be, Liberty’s Century.

[originally posted: 11/06/05]

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:26 PM


Massacre in Mumbai: 'Put your hands up if you are British,' gunmen tell terrified travellers (Andrew Buncombe, 27 November 2008, Independent)

India's financial capital, Mumbai, was rocked by a series of gun attacks and blasts last night that targeted luxury hotels and restaurants – and especially British and American visitors. At least 80 people were reported to have been killed and up to 250 injured.

At least 80 people were reported to have been killed and up to 250 injured.

Late last night, armed police were said to be storming rooms held by gunmen on the upper floors of the Taj Mahal and Oberoi, two of the best-known hotels in India. Officials said the terrorists had struck at least seven locations, including hotels, hospitals, a railway station and the Cafe Leopold, the city's most famous restaurant and meeting place for Western tourists.

At one location, the gunmen had apparently been searching for British and American travellers to take hostage. Reports suggested that several hostages were still being held.

The democracies MUST ensure they win (Richard M Bennett, November 27, 2008, Rediff)
Pakistan and any other country that supports or finances terrorism, whether it be Syria, Iran or even Saudi Arabia, must finally be called to account, and if necessary punished for their behaviour.

All those who support terrorism in any way must be held ultimately responsible for their actions.

If Britain, the US or indeed India fails to carry the war to those who make terrorism possible, wherever they may be hiding, then they too most be equally held responsible for their appalling failure to protect their own citizens.

The terrorists and their supporters have declared open war on the democracies and their citizens.

It is now time for the West to stop making excuses for inaction, for a deadly war is undoubtedly underway.

The democracies must ensure that they win in the end and if necessary by whatever means present themselves.

Now is NOT the time for squeamish liberalism, and the terrorists and their supporters should be confronted and defeated in the same uncompromising way as the Allies dealt with Nazi Germany and its allies.

My heart bleeds for India today.

While your first instinct is sympathy for our friends in India, you can't help marvel at how dense the terrorists are. They no sooner get a US president who wants to draw the country back into a shell and who barely knows that India exists and they practically force him into accepting Bushism.

Posted by David Cohen at 11:14 PM


I received the following e-mail from Peter B, in response to a comment I had made to the effect that the US' responsibility in foreign affairs was more or less limited to being an example for other nations to follow, except as our own self-interest might require:

Permit me two brief points as follow-up to yesterday's discussion on foreign opinion.

A) I admire your "City of Light" metaphor and I believe I understand. But tell me this: Do you see the city as surrounded by nothing but a dark and dangerous mass far below, or do you see it surrounded by other cities, perhaps not so bright, on other mountains, perhaps not so high, with which you wish to treat, trade and make friendships, however guardedly?

B) At the risk of sounding a little like Rodney Dangerfield, one of the problems with being an admirer of the US (I'm speaking of individuals, not countries) and backing them 90% of the way is you tend to get caught between Democrats who would rather suck up to their adversaries and Republicans who either don't care or who rake you over the coals for being less than 100% in agreement. However, I appreciate these are tough and emotional times.
Here is my response:

Peter --

Thanks for commenting.

The "city on a hill" metaphor comes ultimately from Matthew 5:13-16, in which Jesus says:
You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men. You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.
The metaphor was first applied to America by John Wintrop in 1630 aboard the Arbella as the Puritans made their stormy crossing.
Now the onely way to avoyde this shipwracke and to provide for our posterity is to followe the Counsell of Micah, to doe Justly, to love mercy, to walke humbly with our God, for this end, wee must be knitt together in this worke as one man, wee must entertaine each other in brotherly Affeccion, wee must be willing to abridge our selves of our superfluities, for the supply of others necessities, wee must uphold a familiar Commerce together in all meekenes, gentlenes, patience and liberallity, wee must delight in eache other, make others Condicions our owne rejoyce together, mourne together, labour, and suffer together, allwayes haveing before our eyes our Commission and Community in the worke, our Community as members of the same body, soe shall wee keepe the unitie of the spirit in the bond of peace, the Lord will be our God and delight to dwell among us, as his owne people and will commaund a blessing upon us in all our wayes, soe that wee shall see much more of his wisdome power goodnes and truthe then formerly wee have beene acquainted with, wee shall finde that the God of Israell is among us, when tenn of us shall be able to resist a thousand of our enemies, when hee shall make us a prayse and glory, that men shall say of succeeding plantacions: the lord make it like that of New England: for wee must Consider that wee shall be as a Citty upon a Hill, the eies of all people are uppon us; soe that if wee shall deale falsely with our god in this worke wee have undertaken and soe cause him to withdrawe his present help from us, wee shall be made a story and a byword through the world, wee shall open the mouthes of enemies to speake evill of the wayes of god and all professours for Gods sake; wee shall shame the faces of many of gods worthy servants, and cause theire prayers to be turned into Cursses upon us till wee be consumed out of the good land whether wee are going: And to shutt upp this discourse with that exhortacion of Moses that faithfull servant of the Lord in his last farewell to Israell Deut. 30. Beloved there is now sett before us life, and good, deathe and evill in that wee are Commaunded this day to love the Lord our God, and to love one another to walke in his wayes and to keepe his Commaundements and his Ordinance, and his lawes, and the Articles of our Covenant with him that wee may live and be multiplyed, and that the Lord our God may blesse us in the land whether wee goe to possesse it: But if our heartes shall turne away soe that wee will not obey, but shall be seduced and worshipp other Gods our pleasures, and proffitts, and serve them, it is propounded unto us this day, wee shall surely perishe out of the good Land whether wee passe over this vast Sea to possesse it;

Therefore lett us choose life,
that wee, and our Seede,
may live; by obeyeing his
voyce, and cleaveing to him,
for hee is our life, and
our prosperity.
So, the metaphor is double edged (to mix metaphors). We are a light unto the nations, so that by our example we can lead the rest of the world. But, equally, we cannot hide. Whenever we fail to live up to our own ideals, the rest of the world will notice. Our failure will also be chalked up as the failure of our various ideologies: see, faith in God doesn't work; see, markets don't work; free trade doesn't work; democracy doesn't work, etc.

Winthrop's vision probably was of one lit city, surrounded by darkness. After all, the Puritans were leaving England and Europe because they had not been able to live according to God's law as they understood it. Their intent was to establish the first virtuous City. My vision is more as you describe it: a series of cities, more or less lit, on hills and valleys as their individual circumstances would allow. But I think its also fair to say that the US bears a greater burden of the world's focus of hope and envy than the other cities. So, yes, we do want to "treat, trade and make friendships" with the other cities, and not even all that guardedly. Nonetheless, our responsibility for the health of these other cities is bounded by our own self-interest. "With Malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the world we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds."

Your second point is very interesting and not something I've not thought a great deal about. My sense has always been that we're pretty insecure about our standing in other countries -- a clear implication of the "Citty upon a Hill" metaphor, by the way -- and jump on even the weakest support. This is, in part, why our reaction to the French and, sad to say, Canadian positions on Iraq may look like an overreaction. We're very sensitive to what we see as betrayal and, frankly, scared that "wee shall open the mouthes of enemies to speake evill of the wayes of god and all professours for Gods sake; wee shall shame the faces of many of gods worthy servants, and cause theire prayers to be turned into Cursses upon us till wee be consumed out of the good land whether wee are going." In a sense, we're always worried that any failure will, in the eyes of the nations, call the whole enterprise into question. (This probably applies only to Republicans and conservatives.) [origginally posted: 06/03/03]
Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:02 PM


Planned Parenthood Issues Christmas Gift Certificates: Give the Gift of Abortion (Steven Ertelt, 11/25/08,

While PPIN president and CEO Betty Cockrum says they can be redeemed for contraception, birth control and legitimate medical services like breast exams and Pap tests, they can also be used to pay for abortions.

"Why not buy a loved one a gift this holiday season that they really need," Cockrum says in a press release obtained. "The gift certificates are also a wonderful idea for that person in your life who puts everyone else first."

"Please join Planned Parenthood of Indiana and give the gift of health this holiday season," she adds.

According to Chrystal Struben-Hall, PPIN's vice president, buyers of gift certificates can give the gift of death, too.

She confirmed to WISH-TV that they can be used for abortions, even though that's not the intended purpose.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:38 PM


Top Earners’ Taxes Likely Won’t Change During 111th Congress (Congressional Quarterly, 11/26/08)

Congressional Democrats have spent the past eight years itching for a chance to undo their least favorite Bush-era policies.

But it increasingly looks like one of the administration’s most unpopular initiatives among Democrats — tax cuts for top earners — won’t get touched by the 111th Congress.

As President-elect Barack Obama worries about doing anything that could dampen his economic recovery efforts, he has been vague... just changing his middle name from Hussein to Vague.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:28 PM


Send Bill Clinton to the Senate (Karl E. Meyer and Shareen Blair Brysac, November 26, 2008, Washington Post)

Amid the blizzard of résumés blanketing Washington as the Obama era dawns, there is a superbly qualified candidate for full employment whose name has been overlooked. We refer, of course, to William Jefferson Clinton, America's 42nd chief executive and commander in chief. Yet now, by a wonderful combination of circumstances, comes an opportunity to harness his unquestioned political talents to benefit his country, the Democratic Party, New York state and his spouse. If, as is expected, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton becomes secretary of state, New York Gov. David Paterson could send her husband to the U.S. Senate. would put the final nail in the coffin of the Unicorn Rider's relevance.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:44 PM


Obama: Change comes from me (Athena Jones, 11/26/08, NBC First Read)

"Understand where the vision for change comes from, first and foremost," he told reporters at his third press conference in as many days. "It comes from me."

"I am the one I've been waiting for."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:57 AM


From: Schwartze, Bradley J Sent: Wednesday, November 26, 2008 6:35 AM To: '' Subject: A Couple of Questions for Conservatives As the Trip to the Wilderness Begins

Dear Mr. Harsanyi,

As the dust settles on this election year of 2008, it is time to be intellectually honest: For a party and an ideology that “values” God. Family. Country, WE (conservatives and Republicans alike) dishonored God, abused our families, AND CRAPPED ON OUR COUNTRY. That’s something that’s going to stick for a little bit, especially at a time when we are about to be led by a President who got elected by folks who value PEOPLE and STICKING TOGETHER more than adherence to principles.

And let me state this to you very carefully: This Republican is extremely sick and tired of intellectual and media conservatives who will throw me in the garbage at the first sign of bad press from their liberal peers. So, I have a couple of questions for those folks who are “more conservative than Republican:”

* What is it about Conservative Principles that are so Non-Negotiable and so demanding of adherence that people find it necessary to trash fellow Republicans for not fully adhering to them, even if the times demand some modification and adjustment of those Conservative Principles?

* If certain “more conservative than Republican” folks are wedded to the principles as opposed to the Party, what is it that makes them so committed to those principles?

* I keep hearing talk about how the GOP “brand” is damaged. Yet I saw very little effort by conservatives to want to GROW THE BRAND. Leaving aside the asinine idea that a party is a “brand,” don’t conservatives want more people to adopt their ideas and expand upon them? And if so, why is it necessary to show the world that you want to play “keep away” when it comes to blacks and Latinos who naturally want to get into the game?

These questions needed to be asked because for the last four years, WE showed the world that conservatives and the Republicans that got roped into parroting their positions were not willing to take ownership and responsibility for the candidates we elected and the policies we implemented. And conservatives claim to be the “grownups” in political debate!

If you could ask these questions in future columns, Mr. Harsanyi, I’d greatly appreciate it. While we can’t spend too much time over these questions, these are questions that need to be asked and contemplated, regardless of who gets their feelings hurt.

May you have a blessed Thanksgiving with you and yours.

Bradley J Schwartze

Denver, CO

Here's the thing that conservatives have the most trouble accepting, just because their analysis of the ills of modernity is accurate does not make them immune from its effects.

Thus, as Friend Schwartze points out, a significant portion of the movement denies any obligation to God when it comes to an issue like immigration and makes war on its institutions--like the Republican Party and the Presidency--when its personal ideology isn't being indulged. Then, having driven away Latinos and those in the middle who don't hate immigrants and having cast the GOP as utterly corrupt and President Bush and John McCain as race-traitors they wonder why election results don't go the way they'd like. Or, as you can read in the various fever swamps of the Right, they celebrate the "purge" of the Republican Party and welcome the trade off of minority status in exchange for greater ideological purity.

As the oft-cited passage from Eric Hoffer says:

Free men are aware of the imperfection inherent in human affairs, and they are willing to fight and die for that which is not perfect. They know that basic human problems can have no final solutions, that our freedom, justice, equality, etc. are far from absolute, and that the good life is compounded of half measures, compromises, lesser evils, and gropings toward the perfect. The rejection of approximations and the insistence on absolutes are the manifestation of a nihilism that loathes freedom, tolerance, and equity.

That nihilism is just as troubling when it comes from the Right as from the Left. No, it is more troubling, because the Left needs to destroy the culture in order to replace it with their statism. The Right not only knows better, but betrays its core principles when it engages in such mindless destruction.

So we return to the broad definition of conservatism that Russell Kirk offered:

Any informed conservative is reluctant to condense profound and intricate intellectual systems to a few portentous phrases; he prefers to leave that technique to the enthusiasm of radicals. Conservatism is not a fixed and immutable body of dogma, and conservatives inherit from Burke a talent for re-expressing their convictions to fit the time. As a working premise, nevertheless, one can observe here that the essence of social conservatism is preservation of the ancient moral traditions.

Conservatives respect the wisdom of their ancestors...; they are dubious of wholesale alteration. They think society is a spiritual reality, possessing an eternal life but a delicate constitution: it cannot be scrapped and recast as if it were a machine. [...]

I think there are six canons of conservative thought--

(1) Belief that a divine intent rules society as well as conscience, forging an eternal chain of right and duty which links great and obscure, living and dead. Political problems, at bottom, are religious and moral problems. [...]

(2) Affection for the proliferating variety and mystery of traditional life, as distinguished from the narrowing uniformity, egalitarianism, and utilitarian aims of most radical systems. [...]

(3) Conviction that civilized society requires orders and classes. The only true equality is moral equality; all other attempts at levelling lead to despair, if enforced by positive legislation. [...]

(4) Persuasion that property and freedom are inseparably connected, and that economic levelling is not economic progress. Separate property from private possession and liberty is erased.

(5) Faith in prescription and distrust of 'sophisters and calculators.' Man must put a control upon his will and his appetite, for conservatives know man to be governed more by emotion than by reason. Tradition and sound prejudice provide checks upon man's anarchic impulse.

(6) Recognition that change and reform are not identical, and that innovation is a devouring conflagration more often than it is a torch of progress. Society must alter, for slow change is the means of its conservation, like the human body's perpetual renewal; but Providence is the proper instrument for change, and the test of a statesman is his cognizance of the real tendency of Providential social forces.

And what do we note here? That conservatism's canon is universalist. Unlike the identity politics of the Left, which divides men up into tribes and interest groups, our politics is accessible to everyone and is the same for everyone who accepts and adheres to the morality, rights, and obligations of our society's traditions. In a very real sense then, conservatism is, uniquely, the politics of Anglo-Americanism and Judeo-Christianity. That is what it is we seek to conserve. That is the "brand." That is why the "Next" GOP will be very much like the last GOP, why the next nominee will be like Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush.

The reality is that people of color are going to be conservative, in this sense, irrespective of how the movement and the party treat them. And, eventually, demographics will give them the numbers to be a majority in America's conservative party. The only question before us at this point in time is whether the currently white-male dominated GOP and conservative movement believe in their own canons enough to welcome and assist this ascension by moral equals or whether there will be a period of futile and self-destructive resistance. Is this the party of Lincoln or of Wallace?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:34 AM


About That Message to Garcia...: A signature American homily offers lessons on initiative, loyalty, hard work, and enterprise. (Robert McHenry, November 26, 2008, The American)

Someone said to the president, “There is a fellow by the name of Rowan will find Garcia for you, if anybody can.”

Does anyone read “A Message to Garcia” anymore? It was in my ninth-grade literature book, if I recall aright. At the time, at the age of 13, I had no idea who Garcia was and little more of where Cuba was, and I could not see why the delivery of some message—whose contents, by the way, are never disclosed in the essay—to this unknown person in an unimaginable place should be of concern to me. Yet, by some magic evidently known to educators once but now forgotten or dismissed by their successors, the story and its lesson have stuck with me.

Garcia was General Calixto García e Iñiguez (1839–1898), who was from an early age involved in uprisings against the Spanish authorities in Cuba. By 1896 he was second in command of the insurrectionary army. It was in that capacity that he was drawn into an uneasy alliance with U.S. forces that began landing on the island in June 1898.

So much for background. Now, what about that message, and why do we (some of us, anyway) remember it?

To begin with, there was no message to Garcia.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:01 AM


"Transporter 3": This action movie is packed with car chases and stylish fight scenes, but the real thrill is star Jason Statham. (Stephanie Zacharek, Nov. 26, 2008, Salon)

The "Transporter" movies -- all masterminded (though not directed) by kooky French filmmaker Luc Besson -- are considered by many to be a guilty pleasure, and maybe I'd feel that way, too, if I ever felt any guilt at the movies. (I don't.) I just love the "Transporter" movies period, for lots of reasons: For the shameless way in which they generally make no sense at all, for their smart, stylish physical-action sequences (always choreographed by Corey Yuen, who also directed the first movie in the franchise), for the car chases that, in addition to the usual visceral thrills, always have an aura of elegance about them.

But mostly I love the "Transporters" for the Transporter himself, Jason Statham. Statham, a former diving champ, isn't the first action star to prove himself a fine actor, period (Bruce Willis and Jet Li are just two who have gone before him). But with each successive "Transporter" movie -- including this latest one, "Transporter 3" -- Statham has moved closer to being the kind of actor who can carry any kind of vehicle, instead of just looking good behind the wheel of one.

Of all the "Transporter" pictures, "Transporter 3" may be the closest to a real movie, instead of just a fun, shiny toy.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:50 AM


Noriega meets with Obama; job offer could be coming (ALAN BERNSTEIN, 11/26/08, Houston Chronicle)

State Rep. Rick Noriega, of Houston, the unsuccessful U.S. Senate candidate who served in Afghanistan and on the Mexican border as a Texas Army National Guard officer, met with President-elect Barack Obama on Tuesday as Obama worked on filling leadership positions in his administration, confidential sources said. [...]

Houston political consultant Marc Campos, a Hispanic Democratic activist, noted on his daily Internet diary on Tuesday that "there is some grumbling going on in Latino political circles nationwide; there haven't been any Latinos announced for key positions in the new Obama administration — nothing, nada, zilch."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:47 AM


GM Says it is Profitable in China (Agence France-Presse, Nov. 12, 2008)

General Motors said on Nov. 12 that it was making money in China and was continuing its investments in the large Asian market. "We are continuing our investment in China and actually we are very profitable in China," said Henry Wong, a Shanghai-based spokesman.

He said that various investment projects GM had committed itself to in the past were "all on target and on track." These included expansion projects for existing plants in the cities of Qingdao and Yantai, both in east China's Shandong province, he said. "We are not withdrawing or holding back any investment in China."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:41 AM


Thankful for the NEA?: We should be grateful for Dana Gioia’s tenure, at least. (Thomas S. Hibbs, 11/26/08, National Review)

‘The Right viewed us as purveyors of smut and filth, while the Left saw us as the inept, but loveable, purveyors of smut and filth.” That is the humorous way in which Dana Gioia — who recently announced his intention to step down at year’s end from his position as chair of the National Endowment for the Arts — describes the attitudes toward the NEA when he began his tenure just after 9/11. Embroiled in controversy during the Clinton administration over its support of works of dubious artistic quality — whose merit was chiefly to offend the views of taxpayers — the agency was under increasing fire from conservatives.

Gioia — an award-winning poet and author of the influential article “Can Poetry Matter?” — has been a trenchant critic of the increasing professionalization and isolation of the arts, and of poetry’s smug and self-congratulatory retreat to the confines of academia in particular. After many years as a successful poet, Gioia still thinks of himself primarily as a reader. One of his early shifts at the NEA was away from a focus on the producers of art to a greater emphasis on the consumers of art. “Controversy,” he reflects, “is not an intrinsic artistic concept; it’s a byproduct. I can’t defend things that are wild and crazy for the sake of being wild and crazy.”

Whatever one thinks about the NEA — whose history up to and including the Gioia era has been marvelously told in David Smith’s new book Money for Art: The Tangled Wed of Art and Politics in American Democracy — Gioia’s own work offers something for which conservatives should be justifiably proud and grateful. They might even look to his life, thought, and art for ways to overcome the current divide in their own ranks between elitism and populism, between high and popular culture.

...appointing Mr. Gioia was a particularly good call.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:35 AM


Volcker Tapped for Advisory Role: Ex-Fed Chief to Lead New Economic Panel of Outside Experts Who Will Brief Obama ( JONATHAN WEISMAN, 11/26/08, WSJ)

President-elect Barack Obama will appoint former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker on Wednesday to be the chairman of a new White House advisory board tasked with helping to lift the nation from recession and stabilize financial markets, Democratic officials say.

University of Chicago economist Austan Goolsbee, one of Mr. Obama's longest-serving policy advisers, will serve as the board's staff director, along with his duties as a member of the White House Council of Economic Advisers. Members of the panel will be drawn from a cross-section of citizens outside the government, chosen for their independence and nonpartisanship.

The board's mission won't be to supplant the policy-making role of the Treasury Department and other agencies, but to give Mr. Obama an official forum for getting expert advice outside the normal bureaucratic channels. It will give briefings to the president.

The panel, called the President's Economic Recovery Advisory Board, is modeled on the Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board established by then-President Dwight Eisenhower in 1956, at the height of the Cold War, when officials worried that that the existing bureaucratic structure was inadequate to help the U.S. keep pace with the Soviet threat.

In the immortal words of Bill Clinton, "We're Eisenhower Republicans here."

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:32 AM


The Return of Larry Summers (DAVID LEONHARDT, 11/26/08, NY Times)

Over the last two years, Mr. Summers has carved out a role unlike anyone else’s in the Democratic Party. He has been something of a shadow economic minister, laying out in real time how a Democratic administration would have responded to the financial crisis. When other economists and policy makers have questions, they often call Mr. Summers.

He is also the centrist who has made it safe for other centrist Democrats to move to the left. Both times I’ve interviewed Mr. Obama this year, he has brought up Mr. Summers, unbidden, and pointed out that Mr. Summers was now writing a lot more about the plight of the middle class than about budget deficits. At Monday’s news conference, Mr. Obama called him “a thought leader.”

Below is an issue-by-issue guide to Mr. Summers. Before we get to it, though, there is a broader point.

Years ago, Henry Kissinger suggested that Mr. Summers be given a White House post in which he was charged with shooting down or fixing bad ideas. Mr. Summers’s loyal protégés — Timothy Geithner, who beat him out to become the next Treasury secretary; Peter Orszag, the next budget director; Sheryl Sandberg, the chief operating officer of Facebook; and others — say that Mr. Summers can make them smarter in ways that almost no else can. [...]

On to the issues:

THE FINANCIAL CRISIS Back in December 2007, when officials at the Federal Reserve and in the Bush administration were saying a recession was unlikely, Mr. Summers gave a speech with a different forecast. He said that it was “distinctly possible we’re headed into a period of the worst economic performance since the stagflation of the late 1970s and recessions of the early 1980s.” More recently, he predicted that the financial markets wouldn’t return to normal for a long time.

Expect him to urge Mr. Obama to be aggressive and creative in trying to jump-start lending — and to avoid the rosy predictions that have made the Bush administration appear to be out of touch. Mr. Summers likes to say that there is no silver bullet. He is instead likely to argue for trying many different things and erring on the side of overreaction.

(One example: Unlike many Democrats, he is a longtime critic of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Yet he still says they need to get even bigger during the crisis, to keep mortgage lending flowing.)

The lesson of the Depression and of Japan’s “lost decade,” Mr. Summers says, is that governments facing a credit squeeze are usually too meek. If you wait to take radical action, like the new $800 billion program to promote lending, until it seems unavoidable, you have usually waited too long.

More, faster. Sadly, the guy has never grasped political realities.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:28 AM


Pew Study Finds Less Than One Percent of Election Coverage Included Abortion (Steven Ertelt, November 21, 2008,

If some Americans voted for Barack Obama for president without knowing his strong pro-abortion views, a new Pew study finds the media is partly to blame. The new Pew Forum study found less than 1 percent of campaign news coverage related to abortion issues.

The Pew study examined 7,592 campaign stories from 48 news outlets during the general election.

They covered from June 1, the week that the primaries ended and Hillary Clinton suspended her campaign, to October 15, the day of the last presidential debate.

Pew found only 283 stories in which religion or religious issues played a significant role and only 9 percent of these stories covered the issues of abortion or stem cell research, with abortion getting the most attention of the two.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:33 AM


Obama's Perfect Foil (Reihan Salam 11.24.08, Forbes)

[Mitch] Daniels has done much more than make the case against bailing out the rich and famous. He has also managed to keep Indiana's state budget in the black despite the downturn, thanks in large part to aggressive budget cutting in his first term. In fact, Daniels is known for his personal stinginess as well. Even as a successful business executive, rumor has it that he kept his own family on a tight allowance. He took a number of controversial steps to secure Indiana's fiscal future, among them a decision to lease the Indiana Toll Road to raise revenue for infrastructure improvements throughout the state. Though he was attacked for this measure early on, he's won the grudging respect of voters in the state, Republican and Democrat. It's worth noting Daniels won reelection with the help of thousands of voters who also voted for Obama.

Indiana has benefited from a long line of sober Republican pragmatists. Richard Lugar, the state's senior senator, is known for his broad-minded internationalism. But he also rescued Indianapolis from the spiral of decline that hit dozens of other Rustbelt cities by embracing business-friendly policies as mayor in the 1970s. Years later, Stephen Goldsmith, possibly the best mayor the country has ever seen, built on the Lugar legacy by introducing competition in public services. Daniels, a Lugar protégé, has taken the Indianapolis model statewide. Every state agency has been pushed to offer a higher quality of service to the public at lower cost. Faced with the real possibility of outsourcing, once-slothful bureaucracies like the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles have become as customer-friendly as the best top-performing companies.

Having spent most of his career poring over budgets, first in Indiana and later in Washington as President Bush's first OMB director, Daniels has a deep understanding of what it takes to get value for money. In fact, it's easy to see Daniels' tenure as governor of Indiana as a kind of penance for the Bush White House's reckless approach to taxes and spending. Shortly after coming into office in 2005, Daniels dared to propose a small tax hike on Indiana's highest earners, a stark contrast to the ingenious Bush policy of shifting the tax burden from today's rich to tomorrow's not-so-rich.

More broadly, Daniels has applied market solutions to some of the most pressing challenges facing families of modest means, including access to high-quality health care, sky-high property taxes, and the need for more and better childcare.

Though it is far too early to know what the world will look like in 2012, I can't help but think that a common-sense conservative like Daniels would be the perfect match for Obama.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:04 AM


Marine Makes Insurgents Pay the Price (James M. Mercure, 11/18/08, Marine Corps News)

FARAH PROVINCE, Afghanistan — In the city of Shewan, approximately 250 insurgents ambushed 30 Marines and paid a heavy price for it. [...]

“The biggest thing to take from that day is what Marines can accomplish when they’re given the opportunity to fight,” the sniper said. “A small group of Marines met a numerically superior force and embarrassed them in their own backyard. The insurgents told the townspeople that they were stronger than the Americans, and that day we showed them they were wrong.”

During the battle, the designated marksman single handedly thwarted a company-sized enemy RPG and machinegun ambush by reportedly killing 20 enemy fighters with his devastatingly accurate precision fire. He selflessly exposed himself time and again to intense enemy fire during a critical point in the eight-hour battle for Shewan in order to kill any enemy combatants who attempted to engage or maneuver on the Marines in the kill zone. What made his actions even more impressive was the fact that he didn’t miss any shots, despite the enemies’ rounds impacting within a foot of his fighting position.

“I was in my own little world,” the young corporal said. “I wasn’t even aware of a lot of the rounds impacting near my position, because I was concentrating so hard on making sure my rounds were on target.”

After calling for close-air support, the small group of Marines pushed forward and broke the enemies’ spirit as many of them dropped their weapons and fled the battlefield. At the end of the battle, the Marines had reduced an enemy stronghold, killed more than 50 insurgents and wounded several more.

“I didn’t realize how many bad guys there were until we had broken through the enemies’ lines and forced them to retreat. It was roughly 250 insurgents against 30 of us,” the corporal said. “It was a good day for the Marine Corps. We killed a lot of bad guys, and none of our guys were seriously injured.”

...who make the whole globe into Rorke's Drift.

November 25, 2008

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:00 PM


The Express Track to Delight (NED CRABB, 11/25/08, Wall Street Journal)

The gleaming black engine, its powerful headlight spearing the darkness, steams through the night trailing a long line of maroon passenger cars and Pullman coaches, their lighted windows winking past the observer. Smoke billows from the engine, a whistle blows and then suddenly . . . the rails ahead have separated! The engine plunges off the track, the passenger cars uncouple and crash to the dining room floor, and the engine plows into a chair leg.

That boyhood memory of my beautiful Lionel train set, given to me on a long-ago Christmas, intruded into my thoughts as I drove toward the annual exhibition of the New York Society of Model Engineers in this hilly New Jersey town, where on a clear night one can look across the Hudson River into the bright lights of mid-Manhattan. Wherever did I lose track of my wonderful train? I thought as I pulled up to the sort of drab building I wouldn't have even noticed had it not had the street number I was seeking. Ah, but inside the building . . . inside was a thrilling miniature world where I found, symbolically, not only my train but that of every boy who has ever grown old wondering what happened to his toys.

For three weekends in November and December the Model Engineers -- the oldest model railroad group in the U.S., formed during World War I and incorporated in 1926 in New York -- open the doors to their two "railroad empires" of hundreds of O gauge and HO gauge trains. Greeting me was Andy Brusgard, vice president of the Model Engineers and the man most responsible for this exhibition.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:58 PM


Guantanamo and Obama's human rights conundrum (Anne Penketh, 26 November 2008, Independent)

[H]is case highlights the fundamental difficulty for Barack Obama in carrying out a pledge to shut down the jail located in a legal no man's land outside America. Human rights campaigners point out that one of Mr Obama's principal difficulties will be what to do with the prisoners. Clive Stafford Smith, the director of the British legal-action charity Reprieve, has pointed out that among the hurdles in closing a facility that holds 250 alleged terrorists is the fact that "80 to 100 are refugees and would risk being tortured if returned home".

US policy is to insist on guarantees from the prisoners' countries of origin. But there are real fears for 17 Uighurs – Muslims from the oppressed ethnic minority in western China – who have been held for seven years. They were cleared for release a year ago, but the US has kept them inside amid fears they would be at risk of torture in China, which wants them back. The State Department has so far approached 100 countries to no avail.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:19 PM


GOP senators hail Obama's economic team (Alexander Bolton, 11/25/08, The Hill)

Senior Senate Republicans who battled former President Clinton on budget and tax issues are applauding the return of his economic team to President-elect Barack Obama’s White House.

Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), a leading congressional Republican on economic issues, lauded Obama’s appointment of Timothy Geithner as Treasury Secretary and Lawrence Summers as head of the National Economic Council. [...].

“I think the choices he’s made so far are extraordinarily strong,” Gregg told The Hill in an interview. He said the picks would soothe anxious financial markets.

“Summers and Geithner, I’ve described them as putting Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz in the lineup,” said Gregg, drawing an analogy to two sluggers who played together on his favorite baseball team, the Boston Red Sox.

Gates agrees to stay on under Obama (MIKE ALLEN | 11/25/08, Politico)
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has agreed to stay on under President-elect Obama, according to officials in both parties. Obama plans to announce a national-security team early next week that includes Gates at the Pentagon and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) as secretary of State, officials said.

Retired Marine Gen. James L. Jones, former Marine commandant and commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Europe, will be named national security adviser, the officials said.

Actually, even with being pro-death he's a Republican, just a Nixon/Rockefeller one.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:00 PM


Obama's Iraq Challenge (Robert Dreyfuss, December 1, 2008, The Nation)

In 2006, when the Democrats recaptured the House and Senate, there wasn't any doubt about the antiwar mandate. That election was widely seen as a referendum on the Iraq War, and the new Democratic majority felt empowered by it. In 2008, though, it isn't so clear. According to voter surveys and exit polls, the economy is now first and foremost on voters' minds; and judging by Barack Obama's first steps as president-elect, it's the number-one thing on his mind, too.

There's no question that for the vast majority of voters, Obama was seen as the antiwar candidate. Throughout the campaign, he said repeatedly, "I will end this war," and he outlined an unconditional, sixteen-month timetable to withdraw US combat forces. According to exit polling, nearly two-thirds of those who voted disapproved of the war in Iraq, and those who strongly disapproved voted for Obama by a margin of eight to one.

Still, when the financial crisis exploded in September, Iraq receded as a front-burner issue. According to those same exit polls, only one voter in ten identified Iraq as their top concern. That could make it harder for Obama to claim that he has a mandate to end the war. But claim it he must, because as president-elect and then as president, he is going to face enormous pressure to abandon his pledge to withdraw.

It was this Summer that the UR scrubbed his website of opposition to the surge. Once he'd won the nomination he shifted Right on use of force, predictably.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:28 PM


Evolution's new wrinkle: Proteins with cruise control provide new perspective (Kitta MacPherson, November 10, 2008, News at Princeton)

A team of Princeton University scientists has discovered that chains of proteins found in most living organisms act like adaptive machines, possessing the ability to control their own evolution. [...]

"The discovery answers an age-old question that has puzzled biologists since the time of Darwin: How can organisms be so exquisitely complex, if evolution is completely random, operating like a 'blind watchmaker'?" said Chakrabarti, an associate research scholar in the Department of Chemistry at Princeton. "Our new theory extends Darwin's model, demonstrating how organisms can subtly direct aspects of their own evolution to create order out of randomness."

The work also confirms an idea first floated in an 1858 essay by Alfred Wallace, who along with Charles Darwin co-discovered the theory of evolution. Wallace had suspected that certain systems undergoing natural selection can adjust their evolutionary course in a manner "exactly like that of the centrifugal governor of the steam engine, which checks and corrects any irregularities almost before they become evident." In Wallace's time, the steam engine operating with a centrifugal governor was one of the only examples of what is now referred to as feedback control. Examples abound, however, in modern technology, including cruise control in autos and thermostats in homes and offices.

The research, published in a recent edition of Physical Review Letters, provides corroborating data, Rabitz said, for Wallace's idea. "What we have found is that certain kinds of biological structures exist that are able to steer the process of evolution toward improved fitness," said Rabitz, the Charles Phelps Smyth '16 Professor of Chemistry. "The data just jumps off the page and implies we all have this wonderful piece of machinery inside that's responding optimally to evolutionary pressure."

As with Richard Dawkins and his "selfish genes," they've abandoned the argument that there is no design in favor of a quarrel over who or what does the designing. In the meantime, they concede design and, being unable to determine the answer to the quarrel, offer support to Intelligent Design and Creation.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:12 PM


The Pats' system seems more important than Tom Brady (Gregg Easterbrook, November 25, 2008, ESPN: TMQ)

Cassel's recent deeds have been impressive. Two straight 400-yard passing games -- and since New England's running back corps is injury-depleted, his big outputs have come despite the fact opponents know the Patriots will throw on most downs. Much of the time Sunday, the Patriots were in a five-wide spread -- not much mystery there. Cassel is seeing the field and throwing to the correct man. Almost all NFL quarterbacks can fire the ball, but many never learn to see the field. Cassel has won the confidence of the huddle, which many highly drafted quarterbacks never do. And he doesn't panic if no one is open. Cassel's touchdown run against Miami may have looked like a called quarterback draw, but that was a scramble. Cassel saw his targets were covered but the middle of the field was open, and he made the high-percentage move. He's performing extremely well for someone who never started a game in college.

But unless Matt Cassel is one of the most gifted athletic prodigies of all time (and probabilities say he is not), the system he's in is causing him to succeed, rather than it being the other way around. How quickly we forget that just nine months ago, the New England Patriots were 35 seconds away from perfection! Then Brady got hurt and the New England system hiccupped. Now that's over, and the Patriots have adjusted, allowing their previously stellar performance level to return. From the start of the 2003 season until the first game of this season, when Brady was injured, the Patriots were 78-17 with two Super Bowl rings and a third title oh so close. This doesn't happen without excellent team players, top coaches and a well-run system.

Then Cassel was installed as the starter, and New England sputtered, going on a 6-4 stretch. Sports commentators wrote off the Flying Elvii. Lose a Pro Bowl quarterback, bring in a guy who hasn't started since high school, and "only" produce a 6-4 stretch? That's a testament to a good system. Now the sputtering appears over. Two and a half years ago, when Cassel was a total nobody, TMQ wrote, "This being New England, something tells you that if Cassel has to play, he'll look like a polished veteran." It's taken fewer than 10 starts for this prediction to come true -- incredible success for the Pats' system. Against the Dolphins on Sunday, the Patriots looked almost indistinguishable from last season, putting up points, completing curl pattern after curl pattern, protecting the quarterback, all with flawless timing and sound tactics.

Brady is a superb athlete, but right now he may be at some supermodel's Mediterranean seaside villa wincing, because Cassel is demonstrating that Brady was not essential for the Patriots to win. If New England had melted down without Brady, that would have cemented Tom's reputation as an all-time talent. If the Patriots end up having a great season without Brady, nobody will hold that against No. 12, but the focus will shift away from Brady and toward the New England team and system overall. Say what you like about Bill Belichick -- and there are many things not to like -- he runs the best ship in the NFL. And choose your nautical cliché: the ship has steered off the rocks, is back to flank speed, is headed to the blue water, etc.

...we have to recall that not only did Bill Belichick play an obviously already impaired Tom Brady in that Super Bowl but his slow and aged defense blew a 21-3 lead to the Colts the year before which would have given them anther Super Bowl ring. The system requires getting rid of older (higher-salaried) players precisely because they are all just as replaceable as Tom Brady. He's conspicuously failed to do that on the defensive side of the ball and it's caused nearly every one of their losses since the start of 2007.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:07 PM


Maybe If the Big Three CEOs Had Driven to Washington In Their Companies' Cars (Greg Easterbrook, 11/25/08, ESPN: TMQ)

The fuel efficiency of Detroit products simply must go up, to reduce national dependence on Persian Gulf dictatorships and to cut greenhouse gases. Your columnist is a strong supporter of lower-horsepower, higher-mileage vehicles. But in Detroit's defense, the Corporate Average Fuel Economy standard used by the federal government to enforce mileage rules is dizzyingly complex and riddled with perverse incentives -- among other sins, the system in effect discourages General Motors and Ford from importing into the United States the high-quality, high-mileage models each builds in Europe. For years, Americans traveling in Europe have come back saying, "I rented a [Ford or GM] car in France and I loved it! Why can't I buy that car here?" Consider the Mondeo, a fabulous car Ford builds in Europe -- high-quality, fun to drive, 40 mpg with a smooth-running, clean diesel engine. Why isn't the Mondeo in U.S. showrooms? Unintended consequences of the CAFE rules are part of the reason. Here, my Brookings Institution colleague Robert Crandall summarizes his longtime opposition to CAFE, with links to details of his argument. Brookings is as liberal as the day is long; if even Brookings Institution economists don't like CAFE, there must be a problem.

So is there a grand compromise that gets rid of CAFE but preserves incentives to reduce petroleum waste? The other day on NPR, Fortune columnist Allan Sloan proposed a deceptively simple idea. Gasoline prices have fallen from $4 a gallon to nearly $2 in less than a year. Why not, he supposed, tax gasoline in such a way that it will always cost the equivalent of $4 (the amount rising in sync with inflation), and at the same time abolish CAFE standards. This is the sort of transformational insight Washington needs more of. A higher gasoline tax could be used to retire national debt or to lower Social Security taxes, which matter more to average people than income taxes. If the public knew that gasoline would always cost at least $4 per gallon, super-complicated MPG regulations would no longer be needed, because free-market forces would take care of the rest -- most buyers would choose lower-horsepower higher-mileage cars of their own free will. Those who were willing to pay the piper could purchase whatever kind of vehicle they pleased. Detroit wouldn't have to spend any time or money twisting arms in Washington, and could focus its energies on car-making rather than on regulatory lobbying.

Sloan's idea is fantastic! Of course, it would require a gifted politician to sell the idea to the public; as luck would have it, the most gifted natural politician since Ronald Reagan is about to unpack his bags in the White House. And didn't Barack Obama say something about wanting change? Tax gasoline so the price is always at least $4 a gallon, then eliminate federal mileage regulations. Detroit would be more likely to recover. The Persian Gulf oil sheiks would howl. Either the national debt or Social Security taxes would decline. Federal bureaucracy would shrink. What's not to like?

One failure that can be laid at W's door is that he didn't ask the country to go along with a big idea like this right after 9-11, when the very fact that it is so unpopular would have made everyone feel better about agreeing to do it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:19 PM


Microsoft Examines Causes of ‘Cyberchondria’ (JOHN MARKOFF, 11/25/08, NY Times)

If that headache plaguing you this morning led you first to a Web search and then to the conclusion that you must have a brain tumor, you may instead be suffering from cyberchondria.

On Monday, Microsoft researchers published the results of a study of health-related Web searches on popular search engines as well as a survey of the company’s employees.

The study suggests that self-diagnosis by search engine frequently leads Web searchers to conclude the worst about what ails them.

Ignorance is health.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:16 PM


German Auto Industry Facing the Abyss: More than 1.5 million workers in Germany depend on the automobile industry for their jobs. But that industry is now facing one of its worst crises ever. Respected giants BMW and Mercedes are particularly exposed as sales plummet. (Dietmar Hawranek, 11/25/08, Der Spiegel)

According to Dieter Zetsche, the CEO of Daimler, there are those in the industry who believe that "up to 100,000 jobs will be lost in the German auto industry in the next 10 years." Some, says Zetsche, are even suggesting that this is "the worst crisis since World War II."

The Daimler CEO has already concluded that Mercedes-Benz will produce more than 150,000 fewer cars than planned in 2009. Management is negotiating with labor representatives over the possibility of Mercedes reducing the workweek to 30 hours, with a corresponding wage cut for workers, or introducing part-time work at the company. Daimler may have to cut several thousand jobs. How many?

All. That's what the Third World is for.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:54 PM


China Adopts Russian Anti-BMD Rhetoric Wendell Minnick, 17 November 2008, Defense News)

China has followed Russia's lead in recent broad statements about missile defense efforts by "relevant countries."

On Nov. 5, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov spoke in Tokyo on Russia's Asia-Pacific foreign policy. He said Moscow was "closely watching the intensive deployment of a theater missile defense system in the region."

At a regular press conference the following day, China's Foreign Ministry spokesperson Qin Gang said China "always believes that setting up a global missile defense system, including deploying such a system in some regions of the world or conducting cooperation in this field, is detrimental to global strategic balance and stability, undermines mutual trust among countries and affects regional stability."

Psssst...the destabilization of regimes like yours is the point.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:18 PM

PLAYING THE DOZEN (via The Other Brother)

Sarah Palin to stump with Sen. Saxby Chambliss (AP, 11/25/08)

The senator's campaign says Palin will join Chambliss for four public rallies across the state Monday.

The Alaska governor is popular with Georgia's conservative base.

On to '12.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:47 AM


This spread is delicious: Cassel, Patriots feast on offense (Christopher L. Gasper, November 25, 2008, Boston Globe)

Start spreading the news: The Patriots offense is not limited in any way from a game planning standpoint by having Matt Cassel at quarterback instead of Tom Brady.

That point has been made over the last two weeks, as the Patriots increasingly have turned to the spread set, putting Cassel in the shotgun and either emptying the backfield to go with five players lined up as wide receivers or leaving just one alongside him in the backfield while having four receivers.

The result has been back-to-the-future football for the Patriots, who have put together two straight games with more than 500 yards of offense and gotten back-to-back 400-yard passing performances by Cassel.

It looked as if offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels dusted off the Patriots' 2007 game plan for Sunday's 48-28 victory over the Miami Dolphins. Cassel cut up the Dolphins defense while operating primarily out of the spread, completing 30 of 43 passes for a career-high 415 yards and three touchdowns (with one interception) and ran for another score out of the shotgun.

....why not use Randy Moss as a defensive back? Their defense has been an obvious achilles since it cost them a Super Bowl in that disgraceful loss to the Colts two years ago.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:43 AM


The New Deal Didn’t Always Work, Either (TYLER COWEN, 11/25/08, NY Times)

As Milton Friedman and Anna Jacobson Schwartz argued in a classic book, “A Monetary History of the United States,” the single biggest cause of the Great Depression was that the Federal Reserve let the money supply fall by one-third, causing deflation. Furthermore, banks were allowed to fail, causing a credit crisis. Roosevelt’s best policies were those designed to increase the money supply, get the banking system back on its feet and restore trust in financial institutions.

A study of the 1930s by Christina D. Romer, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley (“What Ended the Great Depression?,” Journal of Economic History, 1992), confirmed that expansionary monetary policy was the key to the partial recovery of the 1930s. The worst years of the New Deal were 1937 and 1938, right after the Fed increased reserve requirements for banks, thereby curbing lending and moving the economy back to dangerous deflationary pressures. [...]

DON’T RAISE TAXES IN A SLUMP The New Deal’s legacy of public works programs has given many people the impression that it was a time of expansionary fiscal policy, but that isn’t quite right. Government spending went up considerably, but taxes rose, too. Under President Herbert Hoover and continuing with Roosevelt, the federal government increased income taxes, excise taxes, inheritance taxes, corporate income taxes, holding company taxes and “excess profits” taxes.

When all of these tax increases are taken into account, New Deal fiscal policy didn’t do much to promote recovery. Today, a tax cut for the middle class is a good idea — and the case for repealing the Bush tax cuts for higher-income earners is weaker than it may have seemed a year or two ago.

Add in protectionism and nativism and you had a perfect storm.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:12 AM


Greenland Votes To Step Closer To Independence: GDP per capita in Greenland is about two-thirds of the Danish average but the suicide rate is more than seven times higher. (Javno, 11/25/08)

Greenland can take a big step towards independence on Tuesday when it votes on self-governance from Denmark but an underdeveloped economy and social problems are hurdles to full sovereignty.

Prime Minister Hans Enoksen told Reuters that a "Yes" would mean that Greenlanders would be recognised as equal to other people under international law and that he hoped the country would achieve independence in his lifetime.

"When that happens, I will raise the flag at our house in Itilleq with happiness and deep-felt gratitude with my grown grandchildren by my side," he told Reuters on Monday through a translator.

If a people thinks they're a nation they are one.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:09 AM


Tax rise is a repudiation of New Labour (Andrew Grice, 25 November 2008, Independent)

Peter Mandelson, one of New Labour's architects, memorably said that it was "intensely relaxed about people getting filthy rich". Yesterday, after the Cabinet was briefed on Alistair Darling's plan to raise the top rate of income tax for people earning £150,000 a year, Lord Mandelson told the meeting: "In the sweep of history, this will not be seen as the tectonic plates shifting."

Nevertheless, the surprise move is a pivotal moment. For years, tax was such a toxic issue for New Labour that anyone daring to raise it in public was sent to the party's equivalent of Siberia.

Yesterday's surprise announcement that Labour will raise the top rate from 40p to 45p in the pound if it wins the next election marks a sea change for New Labour.

Because raising taxes worked so well for Hoover and FDR?

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:04 AM


The Christian Sexual Awakening (Tucker Carlson, 11/25/08, The Daily Beast)

Let’s concede right up front that you hate evangelicals. Most affluent, educated people do. Where I live, they're the most unpopular group there is. How do I know this? Because of the reaction to a story that ran in yesterday’s New York Times.

Earlier this month, the Rev. Ed Young, a 47-year-old megachurch pastor in Texas, urged his married congregants to have sex as much as possible with their spouses, if possible, every day for a week. Sex improves marriage, Young argued. God wants you to have more of it. “If you've said, ‘I do,’ do it,” he told the Times.

The piece quickly became the newspaper’s most emailed story of the day, sent mostly, I suspect, by readers in New York, Washington and L.A. to their friends along with notes mocking Ed Young and his parishioners. [...]

[T]here’s almost nothing better for you than regular sex. Judging from the many studies on the subject, a daily romp is healthier than yoga, a five-mile run and a handful of multivitamins combined. Sex has been shown to ameliorate memory, posture, depression, anxiety, insomnia, menstrual cramps, digestion, bladder control, dental health and the sense of smell.

It’s a natural analgesic that also reduces the risk of prostate cancer and heart disease. It lessens the incidence of colds and flu. It burns calories. Overall, according to a 1997 study in the British Medical Journal, men with the most active sex lives have a death rate half that of those with the least active. Sex prolongs life.

You'd think that someone other than Ed Young would have noticed this.

When He told us to be fruitful and multiply, He wasn't referring to diet and arithmetic...

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:57 AM


Plus Ça Change We Can Believe In (Richard Cohen, November 25, 2008, Washington Post)

All during the primary campaign, the main difference between Obama and Hillary Clinton was supposedly Iraq. This was the issue that propelled him to victory in Iowa, and this was the issue that stoked his supporters to paroxysms of enthusiasm. One candidate was for peace and the other was for the war -- and that was all there was to it.

Not quite. There was always a synaptic gap between Obama's ethereal image and his more grounded reality, and the sneaking suspicion that he and Clinton were not all that far apart on anything -- Iraq included. He conceded as much before the presidential race began. "I think very highly of Hillary," he told New Yorker editor David Remnick in 2006. "The more I get to know her, the more I admire her." In that same interview, Obama even narrowed the gap on Iraq: "I was running for the U.S. Senate, she had to take a vote, and casting votes is always a difficult test." In other words, who knows?

This is not to suggest that Obama thought the war in Iraq was really a good thing. It does suggest, though, that he recognized that the issue was never an easy one, and had he not represented a dovish Chicago district in the Illinois Senate, he might well have expressed a more nuanced opposition. After all, not a single one of Obama's U.S. Senate rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination voted against authorizing the war.

If the single defining feature of George W. Bush's personality is a stubborn belief in doing what he thinks is right, the defining feature of the Unicorn Rider is a determination to go along to get along. So, while W pushed through tax cuts, NCLB, FBI, etc. even after a narrow victory in 2000 and prosecuted the Iraq War aftermath to victory even after everyone else declared defeat, the UR is unlikely to try anything bold and is certain to see power shift from the Oval to the Hill and overseas.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:27 AM


Pumpkin Seed Brittle (Nigella Lawson, Daily Beast)

1 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 cup green pumpkin seeds

Directions: Cover a baking sheet with a piece of Silpat or other re-usable parchment, or tear off some aluminum foil and lightly oil it. Dissolve the sugar, water and cream of tartar in a saucepan over a low heat. Turn the heat up and bring the mixture to a boil but do not stir.

Let the syrup bubble over a fairly high heat for about 10 minutes until it turns a deep golden amber color. Don’t be tempted to wander away, make a phone call or leave the pan unattended, as the syrup could caramelize sooner. There are various factors at play here, and I know nothing of the dimensions of your pans or what materials they’re made of—and that’s not the whole story either.

Quickly tip the pumpkin seeds into the amber-colored syrup, swirl the pan so that they become evenly coated and then take off the heat. Pour the syrup immediately on to the Bake-O-Glide or oiled-foil-lined tray, trying to spread the molten liquid in a thin layer. It is possible to spread the brittle with a palette knife if it has mounded too much, but move fast: you will have only a short time to do this before it begins to set.

Leave the brittle to cool and harden completely before breaking it into pieces. I rather like to leave it as it is, a wibbly-wobbly outlined disc of green-studded amber, and quite, quite beautiful, bashing it into sharp pieces at the table.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:52 AM


Ryman Auditorium, the

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Bob Dylan/Johnny Cash :: 1969 Sessions (Aquarium Drunkard, November 18th, 2008)
CBS studios, Nashville, TN February 17-18, 1969. Ryman Auditorium, Nashville, TN May 1, 1969. Nashville Skyline: The quadraphonic mixes

+Dylan/Cash Sessions+
MP3: Dylan/Cash :: Good Ol’ Mountain Dew
MP3: Dylan/Cash :: I Still Miss Someone
MP3: Dylan/Cash :: Careless Love
MP3: Dylan/Cash :: Matchbox
MP3: Dylan/Cash :: That’s Alright Mama
MP3: Dylan/Cash :: Big River
MP3: Dylan/Cash :: Girl From The North Country
MP3: Dylan/Cash :: I Walk The Line
MP3: Dylan/Cash :: You Are My Sunshine
MP3: Dylan/Cash :: Ring Of Fire
MP3: Dylan/Cash :: Guess Things Happen That Way
MP3: Dylan/Cash :: Just A Closer Walk With Thee
MP3: Dylan/Cash :: Blue Yodel #1 (T for Texas)
MP3: Dylan/Cash :: Blue Yodel #2

+Ryman Auditorium+
MP3: Dylan/Cash :: I Threw It All Away
MP3: Dylan/Cash :: Living The Blues
MP3: Dylan/Cash :: Girl From The North Country

+Nashville Skyline Quadraphonic Mixes….AFTER THE JUMP….

MP3: Dylan/Cash :: Nashville Skyline Rag
MP3: Dylan/Cash :: I Threw It All Away
MP3: Dylan/Cash :: Peggy Day
MP3: Dylan/Cash :: Country Pie
MP3: Dylan/Cash :: Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You

-Fellow Folks: JOHNNY CASH (Bob Dylan Roots)

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November 24, 2008

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:54 PM


Report says Obama's small-donor base claim is off (Ken Dilanian, 11/24/08, USA TODAY)

Despite attracting millions of new contributors to his campaign, President-elect Barack Obama received about the same percentage of his total political funds from small donors as President Bush did in 2004, according to a study released today by the non-partisan Campaign Finance Institute.

The analysis undercuts Obama's claim that his supporters "changed the way campaigns are funded" by reducing the influence of special-interest givers.

"The myth is that money from small donors dominated Barack Obama's finances," said Michael Malbin, the institute's executive director.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:44 PM


Lose-Lose on Abortion: Obama's threat to Catholic hospitals and their very serious counterthreat. (Melinda Henneberger, Nov. 24, 2008, Slate)

What in the world were these bishops talking about, claiming that religious freedom in America was under attack? Keep up the hysterics, boys, I thought as I scanned the latest story, and this will be birth control all over again: Your lips are moving but no one can hear you. And the most ludicrous line out of them, surely, was about how, under Obama, Catholic hospitals that provide obstetric and gynecological services might soon be forced to perform abortions or close their doors. Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Chicago warned of "devastating consequences" to the health care system, insisting Obama could force the closure of all Catholic hospitals in the country. That's a third of all hospitals, providing care in many neighborhoods that are not exactly otherwise overprovided for. It couldn't happen, could it?

You wouldn't think so. Only, I am increasingly convinced that it could. If the Freedom of Choice Act passes Congress, and that's a big if, Obama has promised to sign it the second it hits his desk. (Here he is at a Planned Parenthood Action Fund event in 2007, vowing, "The first thing I'd do as president is, is sign the Freedom of Choice Act. That's the first thing I'd do.") Though it's often referred to as a mere codification of Roe, FOCA, as currently drafted, actually goes well beyond that: According to the Senate sponsor of the bill, Barbara Boxer, in a statement on her Web site, FOCA would nullify all existing laws and regulations that limit abortion in any way, up to the time of fetal viability. Laws requiring parental notification and informed consent would be tossed out. While there is strenuous debate among legal experts on the matter, many believe the act would invalidate the freedom-of-conscience laws on the books in 46 states. These are the laws that allow Catholic hospitals and health providers that receive public funds through Medicaid and Medicare to opt out of performing abortions. Without public funds, these health centers couldn't stay open; if forced to do abortions, they would sooner close their doors. Even the prospect of selling the institutions to other providers wouldn't be an option, the bishops have said, because that would constitute "material cooperation with an intrinsic evil."

The bishops are not bluffing when they say they'd turn out the lights rather than comply. Nor is Auxiliary Bishop Robert Hermann of St. Louis exaggerating, I don't think, in vowing that "any one of us would consider it a privilege to die tomorrow—to die tomorrow—to bring about the end of abortion.''

Whatever your view on the legality and morality of abortion, there is another important question to be considered here: Could we even begin to reform our already overburdened health care system without these Catholic institutions? I don't see how.

...and, instead of hospitals, just require every congressional Democratic office to provide abortions?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:48 PM


Missing The Story On 2.5 Million Jobs (INVESTOR'S BUSINESS DAILY, November 24, 2008)

Since Eisenhower's first term, the economy has created an average of 1.5 million new jobs each year. Since Reagan's first term, the average has been about 2.5 million a year. And Reagan, who inherited an economy as bad if not worse than the current one, saw 6.3 million new jobs created four years after he entered the White House.

If Obama just manages to hit the post-World War II average, there would be 3 million more jobs by 2011.

What's more, Obama's promise doesn't keep pace with projected growth in the labor force. The BLS projects that roughly 2.6 million new workers will enter the labor pool over the next two years.

If that's the case, Obama's plan would leave the unemployment rate slightly higher in 2011 than it is now.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:43 PM


French Socialists Face Division and Derision After Vote for Leader (STEVEN ERLANGER and KATRIN BENNHOLD, 11/24/08, NY Times)

France’s Socialist Party found itself deeply divided on Sunday and, even worse, harshly mocked. A summer of embarrassing rivalries has culminated in an excruciatingly narrow and disputed vote for a new party leader that is likely to please chiefly the country’s center-right president, Nicolas Sarkozy.

The Socialists are known for their intellectual disputes; part of the leadership race involved a vote on political platforms written or supported by the various candidates. But much worse for the party, it is now being ridiculed for its personal enmities and rivalries, making it seem less a serious political alternative than an afternoon soap opera.

They'd be funnier if they hadn't done so much damage.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:15 PM


Bush's Legacy in India (William R. Hawkins, 11/24/08,

The Bush administration was already warming to India for other strategic reasons prior to 9/11. In May 2001, the Indian government had issued a carefully worded endorsement of U.S. plans for a national missile defense (NMD) system after Washington’s termination of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty with Russia.

Though the NMD is called a limited system against rogue threats like that presented by North Korea, China has feared it could counter its small nuclear force as well and has loudly denounced the U.S. program. If America can blunt Beijing’s nuclear ambitions, India would also benefit, as China poses the greatest security threat to New Delhi. The threat India worries about from Pakistan is derived mainly from the aid Beijing has given Islamabad’s nuclear and missile programs. The Chinese alignment with Pakistan presents India with a risk of a two front war, countering India’s greater inherent strength against Pakistan. The Taliban conquest of most of Afghanistan was supported by Beijing as well as by Islamabad. The Taliban sent parts of two U.S. cruise missiles fired in 1998 at al-Qaeda camps to China for study. Chinese firms set up the Taliban’s telecommunications system prior to the U.S. invasion. Beijing continues to ship weapons through Pakistan that end up in the hands of Taliban and al-Qaeda insurgents.

From Beijing’s perspective, aiding Pakistan keeps India focused to the west, allowing the Chinese more freedom of action in Southeast Asia, where it is the main source of support for the military dictatorship in Myanmar (Burma). Beijing has built naval bases along Burma's coastline in the Bay of Bengal, better designed to service Chinese warships than the non-existent Myanmarese fleet.

In Tibet, Beijing has built all-weather military roads linking army bases, major airfields and ballistic missile sites. China is increasing its ability to launch strikes deep into India, by both aircraft and missiles, in the wake of growing unrest by the Tibetan people against Chinese oppression.

While the United States and India have a common enemy in radical Islam, whose terrorists were waging a campaign in the Indian province of Kashmir long before 9/11, the larger common threat is from China.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:12 PM


Bush Does the Right Thing for Darfur: A critic praises the president's stand on war criminals and international law. (KENNETH ROTH, 11/24/08, Wall Street Journal)

Human Rights Watch rarely lauds the Bush administration. But when it comes to supporting international efforts to prosecute Sudanese leaders for their slaughter in Darfur, the administration so far has it right.

The International Criminal Court's prosecutor is seeking an arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity for the atrocities he allegedly directed in Darfur. Sudan's government is trying to convince the United Nations Security Council to suspend the prosecution.

On the one hand, Khartoum has launched a charm offensive, announcing on Nov. 12 yet another cease-fire and peace initiative. On the other hand, it is subtly threatening violence against civilians, peacekeepers and humanitarian workers should prosecution proceed. Backing Sudan are Libya and China, as well as South Africa -- whose concept of African solidarity tends to favor African persecutors over their African victims.

Surprisingly, the toughest governmental defender of the proposed indictment is the Bush administration -- which entered office vowing to undermine the ICC because of the theoretical possibility that it might someday prosecute an American.

Africa, in particular, is in for a rude awakening as a Realist replaces the bes friend they ever had in Washington.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:09 PM

WE UNDERSTAND HIS SHAME... (via Kevin Whited):

'Ashamed' adviser quits A&M Young Conservatives (Associated Press, Nov. 23, 2008)

A faculty adviser for the Texas A&M chapter of the Young Conservatives of Texas has resigned, saying he was "ashamed beyond words" when the group posted fliers identifying four professors who signed a petition opposing "demonization" of 1960s radical William Ayers.

...but shouldn't he have quit the faculty?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:44 PM


Study Suggests Cancers May Go Away on Their Own (GINA KOLATA, 11/24/08, NY Times)

The study, by Dr. H. Gilbert Welch, a researcher at the VA Outcomes Group in White River Junction, Vt., and Dartmouth Medical School; Dr. Per-Henrik Zahl of the Norwegian Institute of Public Health; and Dr. Jan Maehlen of Ulleval University Hospital in Oslo compared two groups of women, all aged 50 to 64, in two consecutive six-year periods.

One group of 109,784 women was followed from 1992 until 1997. Mammography screening in Norway was initiated in 1996. In 1996 and 1997, all were offered mammograms and nearly every woman accepted.

The second group, of 119,472 women, was followed from 1996 until 2001. All were offered regular mammograms and nearly all accepted.

It might be expected that the two groups would have roughly the same number of breast cancers, either detected at the end or found along the way. Instead, the researchers report, the women who had regular routine screens had 22 percent more cancers. For every 100,000 women who were screened regularly, 1,909 were diagnosed with invasive breast cancer over six years as compared with 1,564 women who did not have regular routine screening.

There are other explanations, but researchers say that they are less likely than the conclusion that the tumors disappeared.

The most likely explanation, Dr. Welch said, is that “there are some women who had cancer at one point and who later don’t have that cancer.”

..."If you ignore it, it will go away."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:34 PM


33% Indians live in less space than US prisoners (Atul Thakur, 11/25/08, TNN)

One in every three urban Indians lives in homes too cramped to exceed even the minimum requirements of a prison cell in the US.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:42 PM


Notable & Quotable (WSJ, 11/24/08)

Eric Holder (Barack Obama's choice for Attorney General), on the question of whether unlawful combatants captured in the war on terror are entitled to prisoner-of-war status under the Geneva Convention. From an interview on CNN, January 2002:

One of the things we clearly want to do with these prisoners is to have an ability to interrogate them and find out what their future plans might be, where other cells are located; under the Geneva Convention that you are really limited in the amount of information that you can elicit from people.

It seems to me that given the way in which they have conducted themselves, however, that they are not, in fact, people entitled to the protection of the Geneva Convention. They are not prisoners of war. If, for instance, Mohamed Atta had survived the attack on the World Trade Center, would we now be calling him a prisoner of war? I think not. Should Zacarias Moussaoui be called a prisoner of war? Again, I think not.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:19 AM


Bacon flavoured chocolate bar is a sell out: A bacon flavoured chocolate bar is proving a suprise hit with customers, according to retailers. (Urmee Khan, 24 Nov 2008, Daily Telegraph)

The unusual chocolate bar, called Mo's Bacon Bar, contains chunks of applewood smoked bacon combined with smoked salt and milk chocolate.

Despite a price tag of £5.99 per 3oz, Selfridges – the only UK stockist – has sold its entire stock of several hundred bars within 48 hours.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:57 AM


Barack Obama, honeymoon killer?: The Clintonites in his Cabinet, forgiveness for Lieberman, the creeping signs of centrism -- progressives aren't ready to panic, yet. (Mike Madden, Nov. 24, 2008, Salon)

[I]n his appointments, and in what can be divined of his foreign policy, there are loud echoes of the last Democratic administration, and also of that lady he beat in the primaries, the one the netroots didn't like very much. Certainly, some of Obama's supporters are getting a little nervous about what this all presages about an Obama White House. "The list [of disappointments] is getting awfully long," wrote the blogger bmaz at Firedoglake. "Almost as long as Barack Obama's arm that he used to take our money and efforts to get himself elected. All we have seen is the short arm he has used to punch us in the face and collect street cred with villagers for having done so." Open Left's Chris Bowers wrote on Friday that he felt "incredibly frustrated ... [W]hy isn't there a single member of Obama's cabinet who will be advising him from the left?" Even Pat Buchanan -- not exactly the world's most liberal guy -- apparently thinks Obama needs to throw a bone to progressives after the start the transition is off to.

But so far, the Obama administration is shaping up to be more or less exactly what Obama always said he was, in between the "hope" and "change" rhetoric: pragmatic, consensus-oriented and interested in getting things done. That's not necessarily what a lot of Democrats want him to be, though. Obama was bound to disappoint his supporters; think of the transition as the road map for how it's going to happen. And know that it won't come as a surprise to the president-elect himself; in 2006, in "The Audacity of Hope," he wrote that people tend to "project their own views" on him, and recognized what could happen as a result: "As such I am bound to disappoint some, if not all of them."

"This has been the pattern for him historically -- the left falls in love with him because of his eloquent oratory and his, I think, genuine sense of mission to help people who are less fortunate," said biographer David Mendell. "But he has legislated from somewhere in the middle, and then once he gets into a general election campaign, he tends to squirt that direction even farther. He'll irritate people on both sides -- except the right expects him to be a Democrat, and the far left expects him to be one of them. And he's consistently disappointed the far left."

...."Watch what I do, not what I say," except that Nixon was assuring liberals he was with them.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:38 AM


Time to re-examine, re-invent the ag department (Alan Guebert, Nov. 14, 2008, The Land)

One of the more astute observations on the role of government in farm policy ever uttered was offered by then-congressman, later (from 1991-93) secretary of agriculture, Ed Madigan.

“The majority of farmers,” Madigan, a moderate Republican, told me in a September 1984 interview between campaigning around his central Illinois district, “just want to be left alone.” So, added the Ranking Member of the House ag committee, “I leave ’em alone.”

Twenty-five years and hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars later, Madigan’s leave-’em-alone admonition remains as true as it is unheeded. A generation of expensive, expansive policy has delivered a corporate food machine whose chief features are fewer farmers and bigger beltlines.

If for no other reason than pure curiosity, you gotta wonder if American farmers and ranchers would be better off had Madigan’s view held sway. It didn’t and the U.S. Department of Agriculture is, arguably, one of the most complex machines in Washington.

...nothing would demonstrate his bona fides better than getting ride of our ag subsidies.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:30 AM


Sino-Indian ties: Troubled times ahead (Harsh V Pant, November 24, 2008, Rediff)

It is a possibility that recent turmoil among the Tibetans in China may be hardening Chinese perceptions vis-�-vis India. During the last visit of the Indian foreign minister to China, the Chinese government reportedly raised objections to the media prominence being given to the Dalai Lama and his supporters in India. Though Indian government can do little about how India media treats the Tibetan cause, it will inevitably impact upon Sino-Indian ties. This despite the fact that the Indian government has not been able to summon enough self-confidence to even allow peaceful protests by the Tibetans and forcefully condemn Chinese physical assaults on its Tibetan minority and verbal assaults on the Dalai Lama.

China also seems to be concerned about Indian foreign policy becoming proactive in recent years and being able to play the same balance of power game which the Chinese are masters of. India's growing closeness to the US and the idea that democratic states in the Asia-Pacific such as India, Japan, Australia and the US should work together to counter common threats is generating a strong negative reaction in Beijing.

Whatever the cause, the recent hardening of positions on both sides does not augur well for regional stability in Asia. Sino-Indian ties will, in all likelihood, determine the course of global politics in the coming years. The consequences of this development, however, remain far from clear. Pranab Mukherjee was right when he suggested in Beijing sometime back that India-China relations will be one of the more significant factors that will determine the course of human history in the 21st century. If the present indications are anything to go by, human history is in for some tough times ahead.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:23 AM


Many Arizona Implications if Napolitano Joins Obama Cabinet (Greg Giroux, 11/24/08, Congressional Quarterly)

Arizona does not have a lieutenant governor, so Napolitano’s resignation would elevate Arizona Secretary of State Jan Brewer, a Republican, to the governor’s office.

It’s very rare for a governor to resign and be replaced by a member of the opposite party. It last occurred 12 years ago in Arkansas, where Republican Lt. Gov. Mike Huckabee advanced to the state’s top executive position after Democratic Gov. Jim Guy Tucker resigned following his conviction on fraud charges.

Huckabee, though, presided over a legislature that was firmly Democratic.

Brewer would have a legislature of her own party to work with.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:20 AM


$280,000 per job (Greg Mankiw, 11/24/08)

The Washington Post reports:

Facing an increasingly ominous economic outlook, President-elect Barack Obama and other Democrats are rapidly ratcheting up plans for a massive fiscal stimulus program that could total as much as $700 billion over the next two years....Obama has set a goal of creating or preserving 2.5 million jobs by 2011.

Dividing one number by the other, that works out to $280,000 per job.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:17 AM


Minority Vote on Prop. 8 Key to GOP Future? (Steven Harmon, 11/22/08, Oakland Tribune)

Some California Republicans are saying they have found a key to expanding their fast-shrinking base, and it lies in the most glaring aspect of the Proposition 8 election results: the minority vote that went overwhelmingly for it.

With seven in 10 blacks and 53 percent of Latinos voting in favor of the ballot measure to ban same-sex marriage, Republicans say they are confident that their common interests with minorities on traditional family and social issues can help forge new political alliances.

"It shows there are issues the Republican party and minorities can agree on," said Mike Spence, president of the California Republican Assembly, a conservative GOP organization. "We'd be the stupid party if we didn't try to outreach on issues we already agree on. Why not start with issues we know we can articulate with African- Americans and Latinos?"

It would be stupid not to be the Stupid Party.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:16 AM


Eat the Loan Sharks!: Let's solve the subprime mess by going after lawbreaking lenders. (Ray Brescia, Nov. 24, 2008, Slate)

In early October, Bank of America quietly entered into the largest settlement in history to make amends for predatory lending, putting up more than $8 billion to rescue borrowers with faulty loans from Countrywide Financial, a notorious subprime lender recently purchased by the bank. As politicians and regulators haggle over the best approach to modify perilous mortgages and as millions of Americans fall deeper into delinquency, the Bank of America settlement offers a clear path out of the broader problem: Chuck the illegal loans and start over again, making the lawless lenders foot the bill.

Part of the backdrop here is dismayingly familiar. Explosive growth of subprime lending created perverse incentives that led to fraudulently inflated loan terms. What's less known is that some of these loans were priced higher based on the race of the borrower, with African-Americans and Latinos paying more, in secret, behind-the-scenes deals. Some of this activity will even turn out to have been criminal. There are more than 1,500 open FBI investigations into mortgage fraud, much of it concentrated in the subprime market.

At the same time, many delinquent borrowers don't know that the terms of their home mortgages may have been the byproduct of fraudulent, discriminatory, or criminal behavior by mortgage brokers and lenders. Before we end up spending billions to rescue subprime borrowers, we should figure out which loans were the products of illegal behavior, rescind them, and rewrite them on terms that are fair and legal. If there is a cost associated with this process, let lenders pick up the tab, which is precisely what Bank of America is doing. This would save taxpayer money by reducing the number of loans that the government would pay to modify. It would also help to stabilize the housing market and lay the blame for much of the subprime crisis at the feet of those most responsible: the lenders who acted like predators.

While the Right rants about the undeserving getting loans...

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:10 AM


Turkey Tetrazzini (Christine Merlo, November 24, 2008, Boston Globe)

Butter (for the dish)
Salt and black pepper, to taste
1 pound farfalle (bow-tie) pasta
10 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large Spanish onion, chopped
8 ounces button mushrooms, sliced
1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and chopped
1/2 cup flour
4 cups chicken stock
1 cup shredded Asiago cheese
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1 cup frozen peas
3 cups cooked diced turkey
1. Set the oven at 400 degrees. Butter a 9-by-13-inch baking dish.

2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, for 8 minutes or until the pasta is almost tender. Drain into a colander.

3. Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter and add the onion, mushrooms, bell pepper, salt, and black pepper. Cook, stirring often, for 8 minutes. Remove them from the pan.

4. Wipe out the skillet. and return it to the stove. Add the remaining 8 tablespoons of butter. When it melts, whisk in the flour. Cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Slowly pour the stock into the pan and continue whisking until the sauce comes to a boil and thickens. Remove from the heat. Whisk in 3/4 cup of cheese, parsley, and plenty of salt and black pepper. Stir in the peas, mushroom mixture, turkey, and pasta. Mix gently.

5. Transfer the mixture to the dish, sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 cup cheese. Cover with foil and bake for 10 minutes. Remove the foil and continue baking for 15 minutes or until the top is lightly browned.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:02 AM


The beginnings of a disintegrating China - Part I (David DuByne, 24 November 2008, Online Opinion)

I sat in disbelief reading a recent Shenzhen local paper stating that “Some 9,000 of the 45,000 factories in the cities of Guangzhou, Dongguan and Shenzhen are expected to close down in the next three months according to the Dongguan City Association of Enterprises with Foreign Investment estimates. Those closures would see up to 2.7 million jobs cut as overseas demand for consumer goods and clothes fades.” That’s more than 50,000 a day if you believe official figures, which I do not, and I believe the number is actually higher.

The association says that, by end of January, demand will shrink by 30 per cent, and these are just mainland factories. The Federation of Hong Kong Industries said that about 25 per cent of the 70,000 Hong Kong-owned companies in southern China "could go to the wall by the end of January". Yet on the very next page I read an article quoting the Ministry of Commerce as stating, “Although it is likely to cause a decline in China's external demand, our stock market and financial system will not be fundamentally affected”.

I can understand the flip-flopping stories as a means to keep a population from panicking; after all the Shanghai A-shares have declined more than 60 per cent from their bubbly peak at the beginning of the year. The Hang Sang in Hong Kong and the Shenzhen indices are not doing much better. Real estate prices have slipped 20 per cent in the last six months, all of the recent factory closings with many more to come and this is just the beginning of a prolonged feedback loop.

The central government's plan to reverse a foreign trade decline is to increase domestic consumption, restructure industry and boost innovation to change its economic development mode; that’s fine but first you need to have an expanding domestic economy to do that.

Number one on the priority list is domestic unrest caused by factory closures and owners declaring bankruptcy, thereby avoiding the troublesome task of paying their employees. In the last three weeks Dongguan Weixu Shoe Company collapsed and laid off 2,000, Chong Yik Toy Company shut leaving 1,000 without pay. The largest, Smart Union, locked its gates on 7,600 workers. Protesters descended on government buildings in Dongguan where hundreds of police were called out to quell violence.

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November 23, 2008

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:42 PM


Can the can: The idea that graffiti-spraying and other forms of low-level delinquency promote further bad behaviour has now been tested experimentally (The Economist, Nov 20th 2008)

A PLACE that is covered in graffiti and festooned with rubbish makes people feel uneasy. And with good reason, according to a group of researchers in the Netherlands. Kees Keizer and his colleagues at the University of Groningen deliberately created such settings as a part of a series of experiments designed to discover if signs of vandalism, litter and low-level lawbreaking could change the way people behave. They found that they could, by a lot: doubling the number who are prepared to litter and steal.

The idea that observing disorder can have a psychological effect on people has been around for a while. In the late 1980s George Kelling, a former probation officer who now works at Rutgers University, initiated what became a vigorous campaign to remove graffiti from New York City’s subway system, which was followed by a reduction in petty crime. This idea also underpinned the “zero tolerance” which Rudy Giuliani subsequently brought to the city’s streets when he became mayor.

Many cities and communities around the world now try to get on top of anti-social behaviour as a way of deterring crime. But the idea remains a controversial one, not least because it is often difficult to account for other factors that could influence crime reduction, such as changes in poverty levels, housing conditions and sentencing policy—even, some people have argued, the removal of lead from petrol. An experimental test of the “broken windows theory”, as Dr Kelling and his colleague James Wilson later called the idea, is therefore long overdue. And that is what Dr Keizer and his colleagues have provided.

That's a big one the neocons got right.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:40 PM


Change Is Landing in Old Hands (JOHN HARWOOD, 11/24/08, NY Times)

AS he sought the presidency for the last two years, Barack Obama liked to say that “change doesn’t come from Washington — change comes to Washington.”

Nearly three weeks after his election, he is testing voters’ understanding of that assertion as he assembles a government whose early selections lean heavily on veterans of the political era he ran to supplant. He showed that in breathtaking fashion by turning to Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, his bitter primary rival and the wife of the last Democratic president, for the post of secretary of state.

...who can you expect him to have staff his administration. He doesn't know anybody. He's never run anything. He's barely been in government. He's stuck with other peoples' staffers.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:03 PM


Obama skips church, heads to gym (JONATHAN MARTIN & CAROL E. LEE, 11/23/08, Politico)

President-elect Barack Obama has yet to attend church services since winning the White House earlier this month, a departure from the example of his two immediate predecessors.

On the three Sundays since his election, Obama has instead used his free time to get in workouts at a Chicago gym.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:59 PM


Somali Shebab fighters warn pirates to free tanker, or face battle (AFP, 11/24/08)

Somali Islamist fighters on Sunday urged pirates holding a Saudi super-tanker to free the ship or face armed action.

"If the pirates want peace, they had better release the tanker," Sheikh Ahmed, a spokesman for the Shebab group in the coastal region of Harardhere, told AFP by phone. [...]

The Shebab (youth) armed group controls much of southern and central Somalia, and has positioned fighters in and around Harardhere in recent days.

Islamist leaders have stressed that piracy is a capital offence in Islam and officially condemned the surge in acts of piracy in Somalia's waters.

Toppling the Islamist government of Somalia was one of the few missteps in the WoT

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:36 PM


Patriots Beat Miami to Stay in the Hunt (JUDY BATTISTA, 11/23/08, NY Times)

Riding Matt Cassel’s second consecutive 400-yard game — Brady didn’t have one of them in last year’s record-setting season — the Patriots beat the Dolphins, 48-28, to take sole possession of second place in the A.F.C. East — and stay firmly in contention for a wild-card berth — at 7-4 and remain one game behind the Jets with five left to play.

The Patriots’ schedule, which includes next Sunday’s game against the A.F.C. North-leading Pittsburgh Steelers plus games against Arizona and Buffalo (both of which have winning records), is more difficult than the Jets’ schedule, but whatever lingering hand-wringing about Cassel’s readiness to lead the Patriots into the playoffs can cease. He finished the game completing 30 of 43 passes for 415 yards, three touchdowns and an interception.

For two teams that used to be steeped in defense, this game was an aberration: they couldn’t stop each other at all. The lead changed hands six times — the Dolphins stayed in it early because of two Patriots turnovers that led to 14 points — but Cassel seized control of the game in the second half to prevent the Dolphins from becoming the first team to sweep a season series with the Patriots since 2000.

For all his heartlessness in other areas, Bill Belichick's misplaced loyalty to Vrabel, Harrison, and Bruschi left them with a defense so old and slow that they were never going to do better than 10-6 or 11-5 this year, even with the QB upgrade.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:34 PM


Obama may delay tax-cut rollback for wealthy (Randall Mikkelsen, 11/23/08, Reuters)

President-elect Barack Obama may consider delaying a campaign promise - to roll back tax cuts on high-income Americans - as part of his economic recovery strategy, two aides said on Sunday.

David Axelrod, the Obama campaign strategist who was chosen to be a senior White House adviser, was asked if the tax cuts could be allowed to expire on schedule after tax year 2010 rather than being rolled back by legislation earlier. "Those considerations will be made," he said on "Fox News Sunday."

Bill Daley, an adviser to Obama and commerce secretary under former President Bill Clinton, said on NBC's "Meet the Press" that the 2010 scenario "looks more likely than not."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 PM


Palin remains a red-hot number (AP, November 23, 2008)

Oprah Winfrey wants her. So do David Letterman and Jay Leno.

The Republican vice-presidential candidate crunched state budget numbers last week in her 17th-floor office as tumbling oil prices hit Alaska's revenues. Her staff, meanwhile, fielded television requests seeking the 44-year-old Mrs. Palin for late-night banter and Sunday morning Washington policy.

Agents from the William Morris Agency and elsewhere have come knocking. There even has been an offer to host a TV show.

"Tomorrow, Governor Palin could do an interview with any news media on the planet," said her spokesman, Bill McAllister. "Tomorrow, she could probably sign any one of a dozen book deals. She could start talking to people about a documentary or a movie on her life. That's the level we are at here."

The combination of her celebrity and support from the base, Mitt's money, and fear of running against Barack Obama in 2012 may well leave her an easy field to defeat.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:58 AM


Bush 'very pleased' with Iraq war outcome: Report (Times of India, 23 Nov 2008)

"I think the decision to remove Saddam Hussein was right," Bush told the Sunday Project programme of the private Asahi network. [...]

"People have been able to take their troops out of Iraq because Iraq is becoming successful. I'm very pleased with what is taking place there now," he said, adding there still is "a lot of work" to be done.

"We are bringing troops home because of the success in Iraq. But Iraq is not yet completely safe.

"So there will be a US presence for a while there at the request of the Iraqi government," he said.

"The United States is willing to continue to help. Most countries there within a very broad coalition have come home but we want to help this government," he said without further elaborating.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:55 AM


Bush wrapping up final global summit (MARTIN CRUTSINGER, 11/23/08, AP)

Bush was able to achieve victories on his two top priorities, winning endorsements for an action plan to deal with the economic crisis and agreement by his partners for a new round of discussions next month aimed at halting North Korea's nuclear program.

He was expected to tout the benefits of free trade during a meeting Sunday with his host, Peru's President Alan Garcia, before attending the final sessions of the 21-nation Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum as he wrapped up three days of discussions.

The United States and Peru have a free trade deal about to go into effect between the two nations — one of a string of deals negotiated during Bush's presidency.

Imagine how out of place President Pelosi would have been in that roomful of Bush imitators?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:35 AM


Axelrod: No 'potted plants' in Cabinet (MIKE ALLEN, 11/23/08, Politico)

David Axelrod, the incoming White House senior adviser, said Sunday that President-elect Obama is deliberately appointing a strong Cabinet, but said final decision will still rest with the Oval Office.

“He is someone who invites strong opinions,” Axelrod told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s “This Week” when asked about how Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) would work as secretary of State.

“He enjoys that — he thinks it's an important element of leadership. And I think that he'll have a great working relationship with ... his entire Cabinet. They are not going to be potted plants. ... They are going to be partners with him in governance, and he is going to encourage that. And I'm sure that that's the message that he's given to everyone he's spoken to about potential positions in the administration."

...and it may be unfair to compare his cabinet to the best since George Washington's, it's nonetheless embarrassing to see what lightweights they are alongside W's:

VP: former Chief of Staff and Defense Secretary vs. Senator

Secretary of State: former General, Chairman of Joint Chiefs, and National Security Advisor vs. Senator

Secretary of Defense: former Chief of Staff and Secretary of Defense vs. well, he got the double Bush holdover right

Secretary of Treasury: former CEO of Alcoa and chairman of Rand vs. well, another Bush holdover but promoted.

Attorney General: former governor, senator and US attorney vs. US attorney

Secretary of HHS: former governor vs. former senator

And the list goes on.

One of the most heartening aspects of the Obama Administration for those who hope it fails is the unlikelihood that the team he's putting together can administer effectively. Too many have never done it before. The deputy secretaries and chiefs of staff they choose are likely to be determinative.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:28 AM


Some in Arab World Wary of Clinton: One Issue: Whether Probable Secretary of State Would Be More Hawk Than Dove (Michael Abramowitz, 11/23/08, Washington Post)

Arabs, particularly Palestinians, are nervous that Obama seems prepared to give the job of top diplomat to a senator from New York who has spent eight years cultivating her pro-Israel constituency and would continue, they think, a lack of U.S. evenhandedness in refereeing the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. Because of what they regard as her bellicose rhetoric toward Iran and her initial support for the Iraq war, some see her selection as a sign that Obama intends to conduct a more hawkish foreign policy than he suggested during the campaign.

Other diplomats and foreign policy experts say Clinton would bring to Foggy Bottom one of the leading voices in the Senate for a new U.S. commitment to more aggressive diplomacy. They say she would push hard for a Middle East peace deal, in keeping with the activist approach taken by President Bill Clinton in the final years of his administration.

Some who have worked closely with Hillary Clinton during her years as first lady and as a senator say that these predictions miss the point that she would be looking to fashion practical solutions to the issues of Middle East peace, Iran's nuclear program, Iraq's political future and other problems that would confront her and Obama next year.

"The first thing you need to know about Hillary Clinton is she is a pragmatist -- she wants to know what works," said Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.), who has traveled with Clinton on fact-finding trips for the Armed Services Committee. "She believes in diplomacy and multilateral solutions but is not averse to using force when that is the only opportunity to protect our national security interests."

...she's coming out of this gig with the Nobel Prize that eluded Bill.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:24 AM


Richardson at Commerce, Summers as economic adviser (MIKE ALLEN, 11/22/08, Politico)

Democratic sources report two major decisions by President-elect Obama: New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson (D) will be named secretary of Commerce, subject to final vetting. And Lawrence Summers, Treasury secretary in the Clinton administration, will be White House economic adviser.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:42 AM


The great game of hunting pirates (M K Bhadrakumar, 11/23/08, Asia Times)

"Sir, you have done India proud." That was how the anchorman of a television channel in Delhi addressed the Indian navy chief, Admiral Sureesh Mehta, on the victorious sea battle by warship INS Tabar with would-be hijackers as dusk was falling on Tuesday evening in the Gulf of Aden.

Those words would have made Sir Francis Drake, the 16th-century British navigator and slaver-politician of the Elizabethan era, truly envious. Sir Francis had bigger claims to fame in a life cut short by dysentery while attacking San Juan, Puerto Rico, in 1595.

Unsurprisingly, the patriotic Indian media dutifully expressed its gratitude and confidence once again in the armed forces. The armed forces, too, gained an opportunity to look away from a raging controversy over alleged involvement of servicemen in terrorist activities by Hindu fundamentalists. The Indian navy has seen "action" after a long interlude of 37 years since the Bangladesh war.

Obama will take forward the Indo-US nuclear deal: Aide (Times of India, 23 Nov 2008)
Terming the Indo-US nuclear deal as the "tipping point" in the new relationship between the two countries, a key aide of President-elect Barack Obama has expressed confidence that the new administration will take forward that agreement and build on it despite initial reservations the Democrat had on the issue.

Former Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia Karl Inderfurth said US would "encourage" India to follow suit if Washington ratified the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).

Inderfurth hoped that the "significant agreement" concluded by the Bush administration will be pursued by Obama, who is also supporter of the landmark pact between the two countries.

Now they just have to explain the American/Indian alliance to the Unicorn Rider.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:37 AM


Is Obama Embarking On Bill Clinton's Third Term? (Austin Hill, 11/23/08, Townhall)

The polling data on these voters released last week by John Zogby may have confirmed what many of us had suspected for months - - that millions of Americans who supported the Obama candidacy knew essentially nothing about him - - but that doesn’t dismiss the fact that Obama sold people on the idea of “change.” And based on the left-wing reaction to the Clinton re-emergence, “change” was taken to mean not merely a reversal of the past eight years, but an un-doing of the past couple of decades.

This has left-wingers outraged. Obama spent much of the past two years vowing to end the “senseless war in Iraq.” As he stood on stage with Hillary Clinton and John Edwards for those seemingly never-ending Democratic debates, he took every opportunity imaginable to remind us that he was the only candidate who had always opposed the war in Iraq. Yet, now he may be about to appoint a “war supporter” to head up the Department of State. That’s not “change,” and it’s not hopeful - - at least not to those who have been caught-up in the Obama trance.

Similarly, Obama spent a lot of time and energy earlier this year brutalizing Mrs. Clinton in front of fearful blue collar workers, assuring them that “free trade,” and Mrs. Clinton’s previous support of the “N.A.F.T.A.” agreement, were the reasons that jobs were moving overseas and their futures were uncertain. He also assured voters that “N.A.F.T.A.” would be reigned-in when he became President. Yet now, Obama has appointed as his Chief Of Staff Rahm Emanuel, a man who, along with Bill Clinton, bucked the Democratic party’s wishes, and helped bring about the N.A.F.T.A. agreement in the 1990’s.

And then there is Obama’s selection of Timothy Geithner for Treasury. When the news broke last Friday afternoon that the New York Federal Reserve Chairman had been tapped for the new administration, Wall Street surged upward and ended in plus territory. Seemingly, Obama’s choice provided some calm and assurance to a financial world gripped with the fear that Obama would actually attempt to radically realign America’s economic structures, as he promised from the campaign trail.

Yet once again, Obama’s selection of a man who arguably has ties to both the Bush Administration, and the centrist policies of the Clinton Administration, is a slap in the face to those who were hypnotized by his campaign rhetoric about impugning “the rich.”

And after months of running against the “failed policies of George W. Bush,” Geithner’s selection painfully suggests to the Obamanicas that maybe, just maybe, Bush 43 wasn’t such a failure after all.

At this early stage, the apparent Clintonizing of the Obama White House could be a hint that the incoming President may be far more pragmatic, far more “centrist,” and far less radicalized than what he portrayed himself to be on the campaign trail (judicial appointments not withstanding). that this is shaping up as the 5th Clinton term.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:31 AM


Obama lures Hillary with a golden straitjacket: Persuading Clinton to be secretary of state will allow Obama to play good cop to her bad (Andrew Sullivan, 11/23/08, Times of London)

The more remarkable fact about the transition is its deliberate haste. Despite the onerous vetting process, Obama’s methodical focus has meant one of the swiftest jump-starts in recent American political history. Only the Reagan transition went so quickly. Yet there’s also still an abort button on every candidate. No one has yet been formally named so there will be no need to undo an appointment after the fact if some burp in the vetting were to emerge. The Obamaites remember the chaotic amateurism of the Bill Clinton transition in 1993. From the look of it so far, the transition is as smooth and professional as the running of the campaign.

Bush v. Gore wasn't handed down until 12/20/2000, yet the transition to governance, just a month later, was seamless.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:45 AM


The Roman 'orgy' that kicked off La Dolce Vita: It's 50 years since the Fellini film that defined an era. Peter Popham reports (Independent, 23 November 2008)

[Olghina di Robilant] threw her party in Rugantino, a trattoria in Trastevere, and one of the guests was the commissar of the local police station.

"The party was going very nicely when Peter Howard said to me, 'Come and see who's sitting at the bar.' It was this woman caked with make-up like a clown and wearing very little clothing – an Armenian dancer called Aïché Nana. I said, 'I don't remember inviting you' – and she ran to the dance floor and started dancing by herself, a thing nobody did. Then Anita Ekberg, the Swedish film star, arrived, without Fellini, though I had invited him, and Anita on the dance floor started pulling down her suspenders. And then the Armenian woman started stripping, and suddenly the flash bulbs were popping and the police commissar said, 'Stop her!' and I said 'You're the policeman, you stop her!' So he did, and they threw her out. The commissar made the photographers hand over their film. And then the party resumed and went on until six in the morning."

But one of the photographers hung on to his shots of the striptease, and next morning Olghina woke up to find the papers screaming about the "Roman orgy at Rugantino's". "It was quite untrue," she said, "but it took on a life of its own and went on like a tsunami."

The photographer was called Tazio Secchiaroli. Thanks to Cinecittà, the film production studios on the east side of the city, Rome had become a popular location for Hollywood films, and the foreign stars and writers began hanging out in the bars of Via Veneto. "My father was a news photographer," says Davide Secchiaroli, "but he and a few friends decided to go to Via Veneto and photograph the stars there." His work documented the city's unique mix of aristocratic tradition, religious superstition and celebrity glitz – and then he ran into Fellini and it was a meeting that changed everything. Fellini put him into his film as the jobbing snapper Paparazzo – the coinage that named an entire tribe – and his random daily patchwork of jobs became the film's narrative frame.

"The reality was first photographed by my father," says Mr Secchiaroli, whose father died in 1998, "then transformed by Fellini's great imagination."

Aïché Nana's striptease is immortalised in the film, but perhaps the most famous scene is that in which Marcello Mastroianni and Anita Ekberg wade at night into the waters of the Trevi Fountain. This, too, was borrowed from life. "I was the first to dive into the fountain," boasts Olghina di Robilant. "It was November and freezing. I didn't have two pennies to rub together, and one of my friends said, 'I'll give you 10,000 lire if you jump in.' So I just dived in, grazing my nose on the bottom, and it inspired the scene in the film."

It's too bad we tend to avoid Fellini and Bergman because of their later work when the earlier is so good. The justifiably lauded film, La Dolce Vita depicts to devastating effect the emptiness of the era of carnality that was only just beginning. Significantly, the Rome of the movie is not one from which the sacred has been banished, but one in which it is omnipresent but unembraced. Bergman's Winter Light is its Northern cousin.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:27 AM


Spanish crisp cauliflower (Jane Baxter and Guy Watson, 23 November 2008, Independent)

1 cauliflower, broken into small florets
2tbsp gram flour
1tsp paprika
Sunflower oil for deep frying
1tbsp capers, soaked in cold water for 20 minutes, then squeezed dry and chopped
1 dessertspoon good-quality red-wine vinegar
1tbsp chopped parsley
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Cook the cauliflower florets in boiling salted water for a few minutes, until just tender. Drain well and, while still hot, mix in a bowl with the flour, paprika and some salt and pepper until well-coated.

Heat the sunflower oil to [375F] gas mark 5 in a deep-fat fryer or a deep, heavy-based saucepan. Fry the cauliflower florets in batches until crisp and golden, then remove from the oil and drain on kitchen paper.

Sprinkle with vinegar, chopped capers and parsley and serve.

November 22, 2008

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:48 PM


Hillary plays hardball: The first sign of friction in the Obama camp as Mrs Clinton demands - and gets - a purge of her critics before accepting Secretary of State role (Leonard Doyle, 23 November 2008, Independent)

Before Hillary Clinton has been formally offered the job as Secretary of State, a purge of Barack Obama's top foreign policy team has begun.

The advisers who helped trash the former First Lady's foreign policy credentials on the campaign trail are being brutally shunted aside, as the price of her accepting the job of being the public face of America to the world. In negotiations with Mr Obama this week before agreeing to take the job, she demanded and received assurances that she alone should appoint staff to the State Department. She also got assurances that she will have direct access to the President and will not have to go through his foreign policy advisers on the National Security Council, which is where many of her critics in the Obama team are expected to end up.

The first victims of Mrs Clinton's anticipated appointment will be those who defended Mr Obama's flanks on the campaign trail. By mocking Mrs Clinton's claims to have landed under sniper fire in Bosnia or pouring scorn on her much-ballyhooed claim to have visited 80 countries as First Lady they successfully deflected the damaging charge that he is a lightweight on international issues.

Foremost among the victims of the purges is her old Yale Law School buddy Greg Craig...

Thank goodness she'll be conducting any negotiations, not the boss she just rolled.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:40 PM


5 on the outs in Cabinet shuffle (GLENN THRUSH, 11/22/08, POLITICO)

John Kerry, State — The Massachusetts senator and former Democratic presidential nominee was a passionate, articulate and early supporter of Obama, a fixture on both conference calls and the Sunday talk show circuit. Kerry’s people say he never had any expectations of being named secretary of State but other Democrats say he made no secret of his Foggy Bottom aspirations. “He’s crushed,” said one Senate aide. [...]

Howard Dean, HHS — He’s stepping down as DNC chairman with a revitalized reputation, thanks to Obama’s validation of his 50-state strategy. But Dean, a physician by training and rebel by inclination, has a keen interest in health care reform and was considered a top candidate for the top job at Health and Human Services. That is, until the gig went to former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, a less volatile player who is expected to be the administration’s health-care point man on the Hill. What did Dean in? It could have been his frosty relationship with Obama Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, who was frustrated with Dean's efforts on behalf of House Dems, according to the Wall Street Journal. [...]

Bill Richardson, State — New Mexico’s governor and former Clinton U.N. ambassador-cum-Energy secretary dearly wanted State. And Obama owed him big-time, both for his primary endorsement and for Richardson’s now-forgotten decision to swing his delegates to Obama during the Iowa caucuses. If he’s upset, though, his tears will apparently fall on the Cabinet table. He’s reportedly the new Commerce secretary, and was apparently offered Interior too.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:01 PM


Barack Obama accused of selling out on Iraq by picking hawks to run his foreign policy: Barack Obama has been accused of selling out his promises of change in US foreign policy by putting national security policy in the hands of establishment figures who supported the Iraq war. (Tim Shipman, 23 Nov 2008, Daily Telegraph)

[H]is preference for General James Jones, a former Nato commander who backed John McCain, as his National Security Adviser and Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano, a supporter of the war, to run the Homeland Security department has dismayed many of his earliest supporters.

The likelihood that Mr Obama will retain George W Bush's Defence Secretary, Robert Gates, has reinforced the notion that he will not aggressively pursue the radical withdrawal of all combat troops from Iraq over the next 16 months and engagement with rogue states that he has pledged.

All that change nonsense is obligatory during a presidential campaign, but the reason he wasn't specific about changes is because there are so few that need to be made.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:50 PM


The life and death of an 'al-Qaeda terrorist': Like many of his generation who flirted with militant Islam, Rashid Rauf's path to terrorism began shortly after the 9/11 suicide attacks. (Sean Rayment and Andrew Alderson, 22 Nov 2008, Daily Telegraph)

While much of the world recoiled in horror as the World Trade Centre towers imploded, Rauf was is believed to be one of those who regarded the atrocity as a victory for Islam and from that moment dedicated himself to al-Qaeda's cause.

The terror group's simple philosophy is to cause death and mayhem on an unprecedented scale – airlines have always been al-Qaeda target of choice – and Rauf, the quiet, self-effacing Muslim began plotting.

Rauf was the classic self-radicalised terrorist. He led a mundane existence in Birmingham, where he worked as a driver for his father, Abdul Rauf, a law-abiding member of the local community, who ran a bakery business.

Before dawn most mornings, he could usually be found at the wheel of a van loaded with pallets of food – from nan bread to muffins – which used to leave the bakery with deliveries to supermarkets and grocers in Birmingham. Rauf's work was interspersed with early-morning visits to a nearby mosque and sessions at a gym.

At night he would read extremist literature and listen to tapes of mullahs, who regarded America as the Great Satan and all non-Muslims as "infidels". But this was a private life of which his family new nothing. Like many young radicals he was now part of a covert conspiracy.

Hunt for Rashid Rauf that ended with hellfire: A British terror suspect was killed by US forces in Pakistan yesterday. MPs want to know: did they tell Britain first? (The Sunday Times of London, 11/23/08)
The bungalow belonged to Khaliq Noor, who locals say is not a Taliban figure but who rented it out to the militants. They would have regarded the house as the safest of havens. The village is a Taliban stronghold; it was here that the Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud and Pakistan government officials signed a 2005 “peace deal” that the Americans regarded as a surrender to terrorism.

But their location had been betrayed, either by their own use of a mobile telephone, or by the spies and special forces tracking them. Senior Pakistani government sources say the attack was lined up by the country’s intelligence services who tipped off their American counterparts about Rauf’s whereabouts. They added that he, rather than the two Arabs, was the main target of the attack. [...]

RAUF’S apparent killing is just one part of a wider assault by America on the tribal areas, with at least 20 such attacks having taken place since the summer. Like the previous strikes, this one was planned by a special unit from the CIA’s counter-terrorism centre, with the logistics carried out by military commanders based in Bahrain and Kuwait.

The attacks were stepped up earlier this year following the visit of CIA director Michael Hayden and other high-ranking US security officials to Pakistan. Under a deal agreed with the country’s then president, Pervez Musharraf, the US would have virtually unrestricted authority to attack border areas in the country. Pakistan would then officially deny any knowledge of the attacks and publicly condemn them for domestic political purposes.

The new strategy is based on an assessment that the next major Al-Qaeda attack on the West will originate from the country’s tribal areas. It was this assessment that is thought to be behind a warning issued three months ago by Lord West, the security minister, that: “There is another great plot building up again and we are monitoring this.”

The new intensity of American attacks followed the approval this summer by President George W Bush of more relaxed rules of engagement for American forces in the area. Previously the Pentagon required “90%” confidence that a “high-value target” was at a location before approving a Predator strike. Now that threshold was dropped to 50%-60%.

However, even British commanders are wary of their effectiveness, given the resentment they produce among locals. One has described them as “utter madness”.

They seem likely to continue. Barack Obama, the US president-elect, has vowed to step up the hunt for Osama Bin Laden, the Al-Qaeda leader, regardless of borders.

Bruce Riedel, a counter- terrorism expert and adviser to Obama, spoke approvingly of this weekend’s mission. “Rauf epitomises the Pakistan-UK connection that Al-Qaeda is trying to exploit to attack Britain and the United States,” he said. “He also has ties to Kashmiri terror groups closely aligned with Al-Qaeda.”

Last night British officials were saying they were still seeking formal confirmation of the identities of those killed in the missile strike, but questions will be raised about what, if anything, London knew about an attack by coalition forces that resulted in the death of a British citizen.

Officially, Britain is not told of impending American missile attacks on terrorist figures and both MI5 and MI6 state that they do not get involved in assassinations.

The arrangements under which the CIA consults with Britain about such strikes remain a closely guarded secret, but it seems hard to believe that, given the intensity of interest in Rauf, the agencies here would not have known that the Americans had tracked him down.

...when they assume, quite rightly, that their own intelligence services are in the thick of things.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:04 PM


Barack Obama's aides believe he has made a mistake in hiring Hillary Clinton (Tim Shipman, 22 Nov 2008, Daily Telegraph)

[A] little after lunch on Wednesday two Obama aides went to a local coffee shop to talk. Both were veterans of the campaign, hailed as the best organised and most disciplined in US history, which has made their boss the first black president.

Both had come to believe, in the crucible of the campaign, that Mr Obama's judgment was superior to their own. But when they met on Wednesday they agreed on one thing: "He's making a mistake." As one of the participants told a friend later that night: "She'll do a good job but she'll do it for herself, not for Barack. I can't bear the drama again." awful lot of people in the administration (prospective administration) seem disloyal to the president (elect).

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:01 PM


Time for Him to Go (GAIL COLLINS, 11/22/08, NY Times)

Thanksgiving is next week, and President Bush could make it a really special holiday by resigning.


...does she really think George W. Bush would risk our country's national security by putting a nitwit like Nancy Pelosi in the commander-in-chief role?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:58 PM


Halperin at Politico/USC conf.: 'extreme pro-Obama' press bias (ALEXANDER BURNS, 11/22/08, Politico)

"It was extreme bias, extreme pro-Obama coverage."

Halperin, who maintains Time's political site "The Page," cited two New York Times articles as examples of the divergent coverage of the two candidates.

"The example that I use, at the end of the campaign, was the two profiles that The New York Times ran of the potential first ladies," Halperin said. "The story about Cindy McCain was vicious. It looked for every negative thing they could find about her and it case her in an extraordinarily negative light. It didn't talk about her work, for instance, as a mother for her children, and they cherry-picked every negative thing that's ever been written about her."

The story about Michelle Obama, by contrast, was "like a front-page endorsement of what a great person Michelle Obama is," according to Halperin.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:53 PM


New Age Muslims keep the faith but embrace modernity — study (Keach Hagey, November 22. 2008, The National)

A significant and growing percentage of the world’s 1.4 billion Muslims are striving for lifestyles that are both religious and modern, representing a largely untapped market, a new study of Islamic consumers says.

This profile particularly describes consumers in the UAE, where 45 per cent of the national population – the highest percentage of all the countries studied – fit this category of the so-called “New Age Muslim”, according to the study by the advertising agency JWT and the market research firm AMRB.

“We often try to describe an lslamic or a Muslim consumer as westernised or not westernised, which is totally stupid,” said Roy Haddad, the chairman of JWT MENA. “No Arab, or no Muslim that I know, wants to be more westernised. Yes, we want to be modern. But we are not western.”

“Effectively, there is no contradiction between modernity and Islam, and that is what people don’t understand a lot. Dubai is the best example of that.”

...that there is no difference between Modernity and Westernization.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:50 PM


Bush Pledges Final Hard Push For Doha Round: Bush used his final appearance at a international summit to preach a message of `free markets, free trade and free people` (Javno, November 22, 2008)

The United States will work hard in coming weeks to forge a breakthrough that sets the stage for a successful conclusion of the 7-year-old Doha round of world trade talks, U.S. President George W. Bush said on Saturday.

"I recognize that I'm leaving office in two months but nevertheless this administration will push hard to put the modalities in place so that Doha can be completed and so we send a message we refuse to accept protectionism in the 21st century," Bush said in a speech at a summit with other leaders of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum. [...]

Bush used his final appearance at a international summit to preach a message of "free markets, free trade and free people" to help restore world economic health in the midst of the worst financial crisis since the 1930s.

He welcomed Peru and Australia's decision to join the United States, Singapore, Chile and Brunei in negotiating a regional free trade trade pact, and lashed out at Congress for failing to approve three free trade agreements with Colombia, South Korea and Panama before adjourning this week.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:21 AM


Florida Boy Arrested For Gas Attack (The Smoking Gun)

A 12-year-old Florida student was arrested earlier this month after he "deliberately passed gas to disrupt the class," according to police.

...we had a couple teachers in Junior High who liked to go to White Castle for lunch on occasion and you had to try to avoid their afternoon classes as a result. Those sliders are serious ammo.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:12 AM


New Zealand stun Australia to secure World Cup glory (Andy Wilson, November 22 2008, Guardian)

New Zealand produced the most significant upset in the history of international rugby league to secure their first World Cup in the 54-year-old competition's most dramatic final, although it seems destined to be remembered for just as long in Australia for the contribution of Steve Ganson, a video referee from St Helens.

Ganson stunned a 50,000 crowd at Brisbane's Suncorp Stadium by awarding a penalty try to the Kiwis' full-back Lance Hohaia in the 70th minute which effectively sealed the result, as it extended New Zealand's lead from a precarious 22-20 to a far more comfortable eight points.

It was a decision that might euphemistically be described as brave, the sort that Ganson has become renowned for in the Super League over the last decade. Hohaia was bearing down on a high kick from New Zealand's scrum half Nathan Fien when he was tackled off the ball by Australia's wing Joel Monaghan, and although Australia's full-back Billy Slater was coming across in cover, Ganson ruled that Hohaia would have scored the try.

He then had the formality of awarding a scrappy try to the Kiwis' prop Adam Blair to complete a result that nobody had been expecting, denying Australia the seventh consecutive World Cup that had been considered a formality and ending their domination of the tournament that went back to 1975.

The Rugby League Challenge Cup featured nearly as big an upset

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:44 AM


How to get Hispanics into the GOP (LINDA CHAVEZ, November 22, 2008, San Diego Union-Tribune)

The first thing Republicans have to overcome is a growing belief among Hispanics that they aren't welcome in the party – or in America, for that matter. According to a recent survey by America's Voice – a liberal, pro-immigrant group – two-thirds of Hispanics think that discrimination against them has increased in the last two years because of the tone of the immigration debate. Republicans have to deal with the consequences.

Here's a radical suggestion – but one that wouldn't compromise Republican or conservative principles. Why doesn't the Republican Party launch an aggressive Welcome to America Campaign? The idea would be to set up a network of volunteers to reach out to Hispanic immigrants, and especially their American-born children, to teach English, American history and civics. Estimates are that four in 10 Hispanic voters in this year's election were naturalized citizens – and 75 percent of them cast their votes for President-elect Barack Obama.

But what if those new Americans had been helped to become U.S. citizens by local volunteers from the Federation of Republican Women, the Republican Men's Club or the local Republican central committee? What if Republican volunteers approached employers in their area and offered to set up English classes during lunch breaks or after work for immigrant workers, or distributed DVDs and videos with language and civics instruction? This type of volunteerism has been ceded to Democrat-leaning groups over the years. Is it any wonder that when these new citizens register to vote, their instinct is to support the party that they've come to know firsthand?

I can already hear objections from both immigrant advocates and critics. The immigration hard-liners will complain that any such efforts might end up helping people who are illegally in the United States, while immigrant advocates will warn that Republican volunteers could become a Trojan horse to turn in those same illegal immigrants.

To the hard-liners I would say that unless you're part of the tiny minority that is willing to round up and deport every single illegal immigrant, along with their U.S. citizen offspring, wouldn't it be better for everyone if these people at least spoke English? What's more, we're not talking about government dollars going to this effort, but individual volunteerism.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:41 AM


Obama Tilts to Center, Inviting a Clash of Ideas (DAVID E. SANGER, 11/22/08, NY Times)

President-elect Barack Obama won the Democratic nomination with the enthusiastic support of the left wing of his party, fueled by his vehement opposition to the decision to invade Iraq and by one of the most liberal voting records in the Senate.

Now, his reported selections for two of the major positions in his cabinet — Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton as secretary of state and Timothy F. Geithner as secretary of the Treasury — suggest that Mr. Obama is planning to govern from the center-right of his party, surrounding himself with pragmatists rather than ideologues.

The choices are as revealing of the new president as they are of his appointees — and suggest that, from its first days, an Obama White House will brim with big personalities and far more spirited debate than occurred among the largely like-minded advisers who populated President Bush’s first term.

Rather, his choices reflect the extreme continuity in modern Anglospheric politics.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:37 AM


Longtime Crisis Manager Pleases Wall Street, Mystifies Some Democrats (JON HILSENRATH and DEBORAH SOLOMON, 11/22/08, Wall Street Journal)

At a time of crisis unmatched since the Great Depression, President-elect Barack Obama has put his faith in one of the world's most experienced financial crisis managers -- a man popular with the Wall Street leaders he's consulted with closely over the years, but a mystery to many traditional Democratic constituencies.

"He is a great choice," said Merrill Lynch & Co. Chief Executive Officer John Thain, who was considered a candidate for Treasury secretary if Republican Sen. John McCain had been elected. "This will be one of the most important jobs in the new administration as we get through this crisis, and Tim understands markets and policies better than almost anyone."

But Andy Stern, president of the Service Employees International Union, said recently: "I always worry about somebody who has spent his whole life at the Federal Reserve....I just don't know him." the Unicorn Rider is serving the money men, not the "grassroots."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:26 AM


Don't Get Depressed, It's Not 1929: Why all those Great Depression analogies are wrong. (Daniel Gross, Nov. 22, 2008, Slate)

So what's with all the speakeasy-era speak? Financial executives invoke distant history in part to make up for their own recent shortcomings. If a force as powerful as the Great Depression has been unleashed on the global economy, how can a mere mortal like Merrill's John Thain be held responsible? The specter of the 1930s has also been deployed by political leaders to create a sense of urgency. "We saw a lot of overblown analogies in the run-up to the passage of the bailout bill," notes Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C. President Bush's Sept. 24 address to the nation warned that "the entire economy is in danger," and that "without immediate action by Congress, America could slip into a financial panic, and a distressing scenario would unfold."

It's understandable that we make comparisons to the Great Depression. Analogies help us place things in context. But very few of us actually lived through the Depression. Studs Terkel, the great chronicler of the voices of the Depression, died in October at 96. The historical distance from today to 1929 is as vast as the chasm separating 1929 from 1850. Dan Ariely, a behavioral economist at Duke University and author of Predictably Irrational, says, "The closer we are to something—an event, a person, an object—the more nuances we see." By contrast, the further away we are, the greater (and less accurate) the generalizations we make. And so when comparisons to the Great Depression are flashed on cable-news crawls, "it's all about the desire to fit everything into a snapshot," Ariely says.

Ironically, the differences between the two eras can be summed up in a few sound bites. The world of 1929-33 was one that lacked shock absorbers such as Social Security and deposit insurance to insulate people from economic disaster. In the 1930s, some of the world's largest economies—Germany, the Soviet Union, Japan, and Italy—were run by leaders hostile to the very notion of market capitalism. Today, U.S.-style market capitalism is under assault from self-inflicted wounds, and Germany, Italy, and Japan (Russia, not so much) are working with the United States to cope with a common problem. Back then, we were cursed with a feckless Federal Reserve, and a wealthy Treasury secretary, Paul Mellon, saw the downturn as a force for good. "Liquidate labor, liquidate stocks, liquidate the farmers, liquidate real estate," he said. "People will work harder, live more moral lives."

Oddly enough, that's now what the Left claims, that the crunch is payback for the immorality of capitalism and why they hope it is a Great Depression. They'll be distraught when it turns out to be just a correction that teaches us nothing.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:20 AM


'It's OK to be an American now' (Derrick Z. Jackson, November 22, 2008, Boston Globe)

Spontaneous street bursts of the pledge and the national anthem came from notoriously liberal Madison, Wis., and the People's Republic of Cambridge. The day after the election, children claimed they said the pledge in school like they never said it before, in places like majority-black Washington, which still does not have a vote in Congress, and Memphis, where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated.

Eleven days after the election, University of Washington political scientist Christopher Parker stood for the national anthem and the unfurling of the American flag before the Washington-UCLA football game in Seattle. Parker, an African-American, served in the Navy for 10 years.

"In the Navy we were conditioned to revere the flag, but knowing what it often stood for, it was a tortured feeling," Parker said over the telephone. "I've often had a hard time saying the words. But as I watched the flag being unfurled, time kind of slowed down. I thought of the race speech (by Obama), the Democratic National Convention, and the crowd in Denver. I thought about him at Grant Park. I felt free to be proud, free not to be angry. I can actually say the words. I'm thinking, 'Oh, I guess it's OK to be an American now.' "

...if your feelings about your country depend on the color of the leader, it's racism, not patriotism.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:16 AM


US strike in Pakistan kills wanted British militant (Simon Cameron-Moore, 22 November 2008, Independent)

Rashid Rauf, a British militant with al Qaeda links, was killed along with an Egyptian by a suspected US missile strike in a Pakistani tribal region today, Pakistan television and intelligence officers said.

Rauf, the suspected ringleader of a 2006 plot to blow up trans-atlantic airliners using liquid explosives, was among five victims of an attack believed to have been launched by a U.S. pilotless drone aircraft in the North Waziristan tribal region.


November 21, 2008

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:28 PM


GOP Faithful Like Palin, Romney, Huckabee in 2012: Palin leading contender among conservative Republicans (Jeffrey M. Jones, 11/21/08, Gallup)

Republicans and Republican-leaning independents are most interested in seeing Sarah Palin, Mitt Romney, and Mike Huckabee run for the party's presidential nomination in 2012. that there are only two congressmen on the list.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:22 PM


The Un-Paulson: Why Timothy Geithner is a strong choice for treasury secretary (Daniel Gross, Nov. 21, 2008, Slate)

Geithner has a great deal in common with Obama. They're almost exactly the same age. (Both were born in August 1961.) They're both products of elite East Coast universities: Geithner was a Dartmouth undergrad and has a master's degree from Johns Hopkins. Like Obama, Geithner is a citizen of the world. He spent a chunk of his childhood in Asia. (He has "lived in East Africa, India, Thailand, China, and Japan," his résumé notes.) Both are skinny, fit, high-energy guys with two children. And like Obama, Geithner sometimes appears mismatched to the majesty of his surroundings. Geithner has a quick laugh, a sense of irony, and bounces in and out of rooms at the sedate New York Federal Reserve, a grand fortress in Lower Manhattan.

One key difference: While Obama abandoned community organizing for politics early on, Geither has stuck with it. Of course, the community Geithner has been trying to organize—with limited success—is the international and domestic financial community.

Geithner worked his way up the ladder in the Treasury Department. As a junior member of the Committee To Save the World in the 1990s, he worked long nights alongside Treasury Secretaries Robert Rubin and Summers to douse the economic forest fires that arose in Mexico, Asia, and Russia. After a brief sojourn at the International Monetary Fund, in 2003 he was an unexpected choice for president of the New York Federal Reserve. (Unlike most of his predecessors in that post, he lacks a Ph.D. in economics.) For the last several years, he's functioned as a sort of den mother for Wall Street. The New York Fed, acting as the agent of the central bank, provides liquidity and succor to financial systems and helps organize aid when a community member fails. Geithner has played a crucial behind-the-scenes role in the bailouts (and, in the case of Lehman Bros., the nonbailouts). As the eyes, ears, and operating arm of the nation's central bank in New York, he knows all the key players. Geithner has a great appreciation for the sensitivities and workings of capital markets.

Geithner, whom I've met briefly, is a creature of the establishment.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:50 PM


Boris Johnson calls for illegal immigrants amnesty (Tom Whitehead, 21 Nov 2008, Daily Telegraph)

Mr Johnson estimated there are around 700,000 illegal immigrants in the country, with 400,000 of them in the capital.

He said there is no prospect of them being removed and wants those who have been here for more than five years and can demonstrate a commitment to the country to be "regularised".

The comments will infuriate David Cameron, as the Conservatives are opposed to an amnesty.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:46 PM


Obamas chose private Sidwell Friends School (AP, 11/21/08)

Sidwell is a private Quaker school with a campus in northwest Washington for grades 5-12 and another in suburban Bethesda, Md., for kindergarten through fourth grade. Malia is in fifth grade and Sasha is in second grade, suggesting that the girls would attend schools at different locations.

Michelle Obama and her daughters visited Sidwell and another elite private school, Georgetown Day, earlier this week. The soon-to-be first lady visited both schools last week, without her daughters.

Lelyveld said that while public schools were considered, the Obamas felt that a private school was in the best interest of their children. The two girls currently attend a private school in Chicago.

And comics claim the guy offers no material?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:12 PM

ORDER IMPOSED (via The Mother Judd):

Stone's flow: The past, and reshaped present, of New England's iconic stone walls (Dan Snow, November 16, 2008, Boston Globe)

Stone fences were an important tool of order for early American farmers. They were the warp and weft of the cultural fabric. Rules for height, location, and maintenance of fences were strict. The laws of the day were truly written in stone. A town's "fence viewer" held a powerful position in the community. Even now the office sometimes survives as an unpaid, symbolic appointment.

Today, the stone fences of rural New England have lost their purpose but not their impact. They still draw our attention as we pass them by. We think of them as endless and immutable. In fact, they have changed. Over time, many have disappeared. And some are being reshaped into other things entirely.

By 1900, 5-foot-high, livestock-proof, dry stone fences had shrunk and become 3-foot-high stone walls. Over many seasons of exposure to the elements their bases had spread apart and sunk into the ground, sod had built up around them, and the stones that had once defined their crisp top line had toppled and tumbled. The animals they were intended to confine also played a part in reducing their stature, with agile sheep attempting to scale the walls and laconic cattle using them to scratch their behinds.

Where farmland reverted back to forestland, the walls were further disturbed. Dead trees and harvested timber crashed down on them from above. Thick root growth heaved them from below. The stone walls were disassembled into stone piles. The collection of stones that were once 2-foot-wide, 5-foot-high fences became 2-foot-high, 5-foot-wide mounds. As the walls became piles, evidence of their original handmade structure all but disappeared.

A derelict old wall can be restored to its original profile, but even when the same stones are used, it can never be the same wall twice. Every builder will handle the stones differently, resulting in a unique creation every time.

Throw stones for awhile and you understand why Cain whacked Abel.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:47 PM


Activists give environmental movement a nuclear shock (The National, November 21. 2008)

The environmental movement in Europe is in shock after one of its brightest young activists announced his support for nuclear power.

The move by Mark Lynas, 35, is the second blow in a few months to the resolutely anti-nuclear movement. George Monbiot, another high-profile environmentalist from Britain, announced in August that, after much agonising, he had decided that nuclear power was the only credible way to tackle global warming.

...if Global Warming turned out to be a hoax perpetrated by the nuclear industry and Al Gore a paid shill?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:45 PM


Solar power could shine in two years (Chris Stanton, November 21. 2008, The National)

Rapid advances in solar panel technology could make it competitive with more conventional forms of producing energy in the UAE in as little as two years, a Swiss alternative energy financier has said.

Long hours of intense sunshine make the Gulf an ideal place for such technology, while a forecast 48 per cent annual growth in the global market for photovoltaic systems over the next few years is expected lower the cost of solar cells.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:40 PM


Geithner Pick Lifts Stocks (PETER A. MCKAY and MARY PILON, 11/21/08, Wall Street Journal)

Stocks rallied Friday afternoon on reports that President-elect Barack Obama selected New York Federal Reserve chief Timothy Geithner to be Treasury Secretary.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average already traded in a broad range Friday, including both triple-digit gains and losses. But it rallied strongly in the final hour of trading on word of Mr. Obama's plan to name Mr. Geithner to the top post at Treasury.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:42 PM

WHY IS IT ONLY THE STUPID... (via Kevin Whited):

The Insider’s Crusade (DAVID BROOKS, 11/21/08, NY Times)

Jan. 20, 2009, will be a historic day. Barack Obama (Columbia, Harvard Law) will take the oath of office as his wife, Michelle (Princeton, Harvard Law), looks on proudly. Nearby, his foreign policy advisers will stand beaming, including perhaps Hillary Clinton (Wellesley, Yale Law), Jim Steinberg (Harvard, Yale Law) and Susan Rice (Stanford, Oxford D. Phil.).

The domestic policy team will be there, too, including Jason Furman (Harvard, Harvard Ph.D.), Austan Goolsbee (Yale, M.I.T. Ph.D.), Blair Levin (Yale, Yale Law), Peter Orszag (Princeton, London School of Economics Ph.D.) and, of course, the White House Counsel Greg Craig (Harvard, Yale Law).

This truly will be an administration that looks like America, or at least that slice of America that got double 800s on their SATs. Even more than past administrations, this will be a valedictocracy — rule by those who graduate first in their high school classes. If a foreign enemy attacks the United States during the Harvard-Yale game any time over the next four years, we’re screwed.

...who recall what happened the last time the Best and the Brightest descended upon us?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:38 PM

(via Kevin Whited):

In Ethnic Enclaves, The U.S. Economy Thrives: Asian and Latino communities benefit from doing business in cash. (Joel Kotkin, 11.21.08, Forbes)

Throughout the country, ethnic-based businesses continue to expand, even as mainstream centers suffer or go out of business. The key difference, notes Houston real estate investor Andrew Segal, lies in the immigrants' greater reliance on cash. "When cash is king," observers Segal, president of Boxer Properties, "immigrants rule."

This is true not just of well-heeled Asians or Middle Easterners, but also for Hispanics, who generally have lower incomes, notes Segal's partner, Latino retail specialist Jose de Jesus Legaspi. For example, the recession has barely taken hold at La Gran Plaza, the recently opened 1.1 million square foot retail center in Ft. Worth, Texas, where Legaspi serves as part owner and operating partner.

The center, reconstructed from a failing old mainstream mall purchased in 2005, is now roughly 90% occupied. "We are doing so well that we are expanding the mercado," Legaspi says, referring to the thriving centers dominated by very small businesses run from attached stalls that are a popular feature of many Latino-themed centers. "It's all cash economy. They pay their bills with cash. The banks and credit card companies are not involved. It's true capitalism, and it works."

Latino shoppers, he suggests, also have been less impacted by the stock market collapse than other consumers. After all, relatively few, particularly immigrants, have large investments on Wall Street. In addition, even if they have lost their jobs, particularly in construction, Legaspi adds, they tend to pick up other employment, even at lower wages, often in the underground economy. "They get paid in cash, and they pay in cash."

Ah, the benefits of the Anglo shutting you out of the system....

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:32 PM


Think big on transportation (Boston Globe, November 21, 2008)

NOTHING concentrates the mind of local drivers - and the elected officials who keep close tabs on public sentiment - like the possibility of paying $4 to drive into Boston on the Mass. Pike and $7 to use the Harbor tunnels. Last week, the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority board voted for stiff toll hikes in an effort to keep up debt payments for the Big Dig. That move only underscored what's wrong with the way the state pays for transportation: It isn't logical. It isn't fair. And it isn't adequate.

An expansion of the gasoline tax, which has been frozen since 1991, is the fairest, most broad-based way to generate money to fix the state's many transportation problems. The Turnpike Authority's financial crisis has created an opportunity. Governor Patrick and the Legislature should work out a comprehensive plan that uses a gas tax hike not just to pay for the Big Dig, but also to put the debt-ridden MBTA on firmer financial footing, repair crumbling roads and bridges, and cut or eliminate existing tolls.

Too limited.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:11 PM


Mongolian special forces undergo training in India (Times of India, 22 Nov 2008)

Indian and Mongolian special forces have come together for a counter-terrorism training exercise at the Army's unique Counter-Insurgency and Jungle Warfare School (CIJWS) at Vairengte in Mizoram.

The exercise, which began on Monday, will see soldiers from the two countries exercising together to enhance "interoperability'' in conducting counter-terrorism operations in urban and semi-urban terrain.

Does the UR even know they're our allies?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:07 PM


Obama stays out of car wars on the Hill (David R. Sands, November 20, 2008, Washington Times)

President-elect Barack Obama is staying out of the congressional fight over bailing out the U.S. auto industry, despite his previous statements urging help for Detroit's struggling Big Three, a leading Senate Democrat said Wednesday.

"I can tell you flat out there will be no endorsement [by Mr. Obama] prior to January 20," said Senate Banking Committee Chariman Christopher J. Dodd of Connecticut a day after his committee heard a combined appeal for billions of dollars in taxpayer help from the heads of General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co, and Chrysler LLC.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:47 PM


Just What This Downturn Demands: A Consumption Tax (ROBERT FRANK, 11/09/08, NY Times)

Most federal revenue now comes from the income tax. Because a family’s annual income equals the amount it spends each year plus the amount it saves, we are effectively taxing savings. And savings rates have fallen precipitously, often dipping into negative territory as families have used home equity loans and credit card debt to spend more than they earned. Because the country needs to save more, taxing savings makes no sense.

The first reform that Barack Obama should consider is replacing the progressive income tax with a progressive tax on consumption. A family would report its income to the Internal Revenue Service as it does now, and also its savings, as it now reports contributions to retirement accounts. Annual consumption would then be calculated as the family’s income minus its savings. Its taxable consumption would be that amount minus a large standard deduction — say, $30,000 for a family of four.

A family that earned $60,000 and saved $10,000, for example, would have taxable consumption of $20,000. Initial tax rates on consumption would be low, and would then rise steadily with consumption, topping out at higher levels than the current top rates on income.

Such a tax could raise more revenue than the current system, yet would be far less burdensome for families at nearly all income levels. Because of the large standard deduction, middle-income families would pay less than they did before, and high-income consumers could limit their tax increases by saving more.

How painful would that be? Some wealthy families now spend millions of dollars on coming-of-age parties for their children. A steeply progressive consumption tax would encourage them to spend less, which would not be much of a sacrifice, since the main effect would be to lower the bar that defines an acceptable coming-of-age party for people in their tax bracket.

Other changes in what we tax could further reduce the revenue shortfall while producing positive side effects. Energy and climate specialists, for example, have long advocated taxes on carbon. The burden of these levies would be lessened by the resulting reductions in pollution and congestion.

...just because it's bogus doesn't mean you shouldn't use it to get people to do the right thing. Just as Tony Blair and Colin Powell used their canard to get backing for regime change in Iraq, so should we use the depression canard to shift taxation from income to consumption.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:34 PM


The Great Right Hope: Hillary Clinton? (Noemie Emery. 11/19/2008, Weekly Standard)

As he rose, all her old mainstays began to desert her. The trendies and glitzies peeled off, as did the students. The civil rights lobbies peeled off, as was expected. The feminists split. NARAL deserted, aborting her hopes at a critical moment. Hollywood and the fashion world broke for her rival, who looked like a film star, or a model for the Gap. The media swooned, and began to assail her, deriding her style, and clothes. As her previous base was collapsed by Obama, she responded by taking the only route open: She morphed by default into the champion of middle-aged, middle-class, small-town and middle America; of the more conservative, post-Reagan Democrats; and, by her party's standards, the hawks. In no time at all, Hillary Rodham of Wellesley and Yale became the new voice of the Democrats' social conservatives, defending rural voters and small town inhabitants against charges of "bitterness," saying elites had degraded the culture, knocking back shots of Crown Royal in bars. If Obama was Gary Hart, she was Henry (Scoop) Jackson; if he was the Priest, then she was the Warrior; if he was the Academician, pacific, detached and non-confrontational, she was the Jacksonian, ready to fight for her country and rights.

In this incarnation, she began to attack Obama for his lack of war-on-terror credentials, noting that she and John McCain had years of experience dealing with war-and-peace issues, while Obama had speeches. She ran ads implying Obama was not the right person to answer the phone when it rang in the White House at three in the morning with news of a terrorist outrage. She didn't just change, she seemed authentic in changing, as if a woman who had gone through multiple makeovers during decades in politics had finally found a persona that fit her. Martha's Vineyard flaked off, revealing the soul of a Midwestern scrapper. Conservatives watched, with surprise, with some awe, and with some bemusement. Perhaps this was her all along.

In the spring, conservatives found themselves pulling for Clinton, in the interests of keeping the Democratic feud going. But as time passed and she refused to dissolve in the face of adversity, a strategic alliance based on convenience became infused with a Strange New Respect. How tough she was. How relentlessly viable. How she resisted the pressure of Obama obsessives, who were trying to show her the door. And how right she was, at least from their viewpoint, and at least upon foreign affairs. "Hillary became the sane one in the race, at least from Republicans' perspectives," as Jennifer Rubin observed as the race ended, noting that she was the one who had ridiculed Obama's plans to meet unconditionally with the leaders of terrorist governments, who had defied her party to vote to classify the Iranian National Guard as a terrorist outfit, who had "looked at George Stephanopoulos with a look of incredulity" when he asked why, if Iran attacked Israel, she would bomb Iran into rubble, or at least smithereens.

Hillary had begun the campaign as the former First Feminist and the Empress-In-Waiting, ready to glide back into the White House on the strength of her husband's connections and donor base. She ended it as the Warrior Queen, more Margaret Thatcher than Gloria Steinem, alone in the last ditch as her false friends deserted, (and her husband proved useless), in her own private Alamo, fighting on to the end. The Alamo tends to loom large in conservative fantasies, which tend to feature John Waynes rather than Jane Fondas. Hillary, in the minds of some righties, had crossed over a crucial divide.

This shift in the Hillary Clinton persona did not go unobserved on the left, which commenced to tear her apart in the same terms of endearment it would later unleash upon Sarah Palin, and had used before on George W. Bush and Joe Lieberman., founded ten years ago by liberal Democrats to defend the Clintons against impeachment proceedings, now assailed her with the savage ferocity they had once reserved for Ken Starr. As a result, perhaps, Hillary later refused to attack Sarah Palin, and treated her, and McCain, with personal courtesy throughout the campaign.

As for the conservatives, many of those who began 2008 willing to do anything to defeat her tended to end it feeling sorry she lost. that she didn't run as Bill's wife -- and the natural heir to the New Democrat/compassionate conservative mantle -- from the get-go.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:29 PM


Douglas Kmiec: Barack Obama More Catholic Than Previous Pro-Life Presidents (Steven Ertelt, 11/21/08,

Kmiec told the paper that [Cardinal J. Francis Stafford, head of the Apostolic Penitentiary of the Holy See,] was giving a false portrayal of Obama and accused him of talking about Obama's abortion views not as they are but as they are made out to be by opponents.

“Sometimes all of us — even the wisest among us – are given to speak not from personal knowledge, but from that which has been portrayed as true, but is really a caricature,” said Kmiec in an interview with The Tower.

“When Stafford gets to know Obama better, said Kmiec, he will readily see that Obama “has far more in common with our great faith tradition than any political administration in recent memory.”

With pro-life champions in office like President Ronald Reagan and President Bush, who signed numerous pro-life laws, even a pro-life Obama would be hard-pressed to match the accomplishments of their administration -- [l]et alone a president who could become the most pro-abortion in history.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:26 PM


Richardson to Commerce? (Chris Cillizza, 11/21/08, WP: The Fix)

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson has emerged as a "serious contender" to head the Commerce Department under President-elect Barack Obama, according to a Democratic official close to the proceedings.

Okay, we get that the UR is desperate to fill a couple slots with Hispanics, but why put one of the few executives in charge of such a trivial department and why would a governor want the gig?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:01 PM


Oil Could Hit $35/Bbl Without Major OPEC Cuts (Brian Baskin, November 21, 2008, Dow Jones Newswires)

Oil prices are likely to sink as low as $35 a barrel without a massive production cut from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, Lawrence Eagles, head of commodities research at JPMorgan Chase & Co., said Friday.

Perhaps the media and politicians should be barred from commenting on economics, given that they've whipped up a frenzy over a burst housing "bubble" that's really just a brief correction and ignored the bursting of the actual oil bubble.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:14 AM


Obama Team Springs Leaks: Rumors Disrupt Plan For Announcing Cabinet Nominees (Shailagh Murray and Chris Cillizza, 11/21/08, Washington Post)

Barack Obama was famously able to impose discipline and control over his presidential campaign, but it didn't take long for him to discover that running a transition is something quite different.

Top aides to the president-elect had hoped to take a methodical approach to selecting and unveiling their new team, starting with the announcements of top national security and economic players shortly after Thanksgiving. But leaks and rumors have disrupted that plan, suggesting that the "no-drama Obama" mantra famously repeated by his staff may not be as operational in Washington as it was at campaign headquarters in Chicago.

Given that his campaign was all about adding a line to his CV, why shouldn't others follow his lead?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:06 AM


Al-Qaeda terrorist taught stand-up comedy at top-security prison (Graham Tibbetts, 21 Nov 2008, Daily Telegraph)

Zia Ul Haq, who was involved in the 'Gas Limos Project' to bomb London, was reportedly enrolled on an eight-day comedy workshop at HMP Whitemoor.

He was among 18 prisoners, including murderers, who were given lessons in stand-up, comic drama, improvisation and scriptwriting.

...with Carrot Top, Roseanne Barr, and Ramzi Yusuf. You have a gun but only two bullets. Who do you shoot?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:34 AM


Would Red Sox dare to shop Big Papi? (Fan Nation, 11/21/08)

Theo Epstein is nothing if not logical, so we wouldn't be shocked to learn that the Red Sox' bloodless general manager is quietly shopping David Ortiz this off-season. We have no hard evidence to support this suspicion, mind you. It's just that, if certain things fall into place during the hot stove season, it makes more sense than some of us wish to admit. Consider: Should the Red Sox win the Mark Teixeira lottery -- and we're absolutely convinced that a lucrative-bordering-on-obscene offer will be forthcoming from Yawkey Way -- manager Terry Francona will be obligated to try to cram four high-quality everyday players (Ortiz, Teixeira, Kevin Youkilis, Mike Lowell) into three positions (third base, first base, designated hitter).

Guys with his body type just aren't productive very far into their 30s, which is why the Phillies are smart to shop Ryan Howard too.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:21 AM


Criticising Bush, And Copying Him (Julio Godoy, 11/21/08, IPS)

Outgoing U.S. President George W. Bush has been unpopular in Europe, but his policies in fighting the 'war on terror' have found many takers.

Daniel Finke and Thomas Koenig, professors of politics at the University of Mannheim, 500 km south of Berlin, have found numerous similarities between U.S. "homeland security" and European laws since 2001.

"We do not want to attack all EU homeland security policies, but we have found there is a law-making trend across Europe that reduces civil liberties in exchange for more collective security," Koenig told IPS.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:19 AM


Michael Jackson has converted to Islam: Report (Times of India, 21 Nov 2008)

Pop singer Michael Jackson has converted to Islam and changed his name to Mikaeel.

The 50-year-old star, pledged his allegiance to the Koran in a ceremony at a friend's mansion in Los Angeles, the Sun reported.

Had Mohammed Atta gone to school on Fat Man and Little Boy, he'd have known: we always escalate.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:15 AM


GOP recovery: Fire Rush Limbaugh (MORTON KONDRACKE, November 21, 2008, ROLL CALL)

In recent years, Republicans have let right-wing talk-show hosts whip the GOP base into frenzies – over immigration, brain-damage victim Terri Schiavo and same-sex marriage – that have branded the party as troglodyte.

The result is that the demographic groups representing the future of American politics shifted decisively to the Democratic Party in 2008 – Latinos, young people, the well-educated, moderates, working women, first-time voters, suburbanites and “seculars.”

Immigration scarcely was an issue during the fall campaign. But the damage was done over the past two years as the radio screamers roused the rabble, who then beat on GOP members of Congress, presidential candidates and even the Bush administration not just to control the border but treat undocumented residents as felons.

At a briefing last week jointly sponsored by the “New Democrat” Progressive Policy Institute and Web site Democratic Strategist, author Ruy Teixeira said that the gist of his 2002 book, “The Emerging Democratic Majority,” is now becoming reality.

“Democrats are going where they're growing,” he said, while Republicans are isolating themselves in a fading portion of the population – old, white, less-educated, highly religious Southerners.

Others at the briefing, notably Bill Galston, a former Clinton White House aide now at the Brookings Institution, cautioned that the country has not taken a sharp left turn, a re-alignment has not yet occurred and that Democrats should beware of overreaching.

As the passage of gay marriage bans demonstrated, the problem is not that the GOP is to closely associated with Judeo-Christian morality, but that its Know-Nothing wing betrays that morality. The Party needs to ditch the unChristian in favor of the religious of color.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:39 AM

CLINTON '95, NOT '93:

Obama to delay repeal of 'don't ask, don't tell': Advisers see consensus building before lifting ban on gays (Rowan Scarborough, November 21, 2008, Washington Times)

President-elect Barack Obama will not move for months, and perhaps not until 2010, to ask Congress to end the military's decades-old ban on open homosexuals in the ranks, two people who have advised the Obama transition team on this issue say.

Repealing the ban was an Obama campaign promise.

If Bill Clinton's bungle hadn't convinced him, Prop 8 did.

November 20, 2008

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:50 PM


China fears job riots (CNN, 11/20/08)

China is most concerned about the growing labor unrest, the human resources minister, Yin Weimin, said at a news conference. The increase in unrest has paralleled the increase of business and factory closings and job losses. [...]

Several hundred taxi drivers went on strike Wednesday in Chongqing, in southwestern China, after the government said it planned to put more cabs on the district's roads, thereby increasing competition, the Gansu Daily newspaper said

And about 2,000 people rioted Monday in the impoverished northwestern province of Gansu over plans to move Longnan's city government offices, which were damaged in the May 12 Sichuan earthquake, to a nearby county.

Residents, fearing the change would reduce their property values and threaten their livelihoods, clashed with police and looted government offices, the Gansu Daily reported.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:47 PM


Will fish out pirates: India to Somalia (Times of India, 21 Nov 2008)

India, which is planning to send four more warships to the Gulf of Aden, has already conveyed to Somalia that it will use all
necessary means to fight pirates who have targeted merchant ships passing through one of the world’s strategic shipping lanes off the coast of Somalia.

``We have conveyed through the Permanent Representative of Somalia (in the UN) of our desire to use all necessary mean to repress acts of piracy,’’ secretary (east) in the ministry of external affairs N Ravi said. The Indian Navy had sunk a pirate ship in the Gulf of Aden in the first successful offensive against the pirates who have become a big menace for merchant ships.

After the Indian offensive against the pirates, the Indian government is now considering the option of augmenting forces in the pirate-infested waters. At present India has deployed INS Tabar, a stealth guided missile frigate, that has successfully defended two merchant ships against a pirate attack and ensured safe passage of many more.
The proposal is to send four more warships to the region. Naval officials also met defence minister A K Antony to discuss matters related to the continuing naval operation.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:44 PM


Jan Brewer's move to governor could shift climate, budget priorities (Mike Sunnucks, 11/20/08, Phoenix Business Journal)

Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano’s expected exit to serve as U.S. Homeland Security Secretary under Barack Obama will leave Arizona Secretary of State Jan Brewer as governor and put Republicans in control of the Legislature and governor’s office.

That could result in the state pulling back from Napolitano-backed efforts on climate change, emissions caps, increased health insurance and education spending. It also could push the state forward on immigration controls and penalties for businesses hiring illegal immigrants and abortion rights restrictions, according to officials familiar with Brewer and Napolitano. [...]

Napolitano vetoed anti-abortion bills coming out of the Legislature, including a partial-birth prohibition that would have piggybacked on a federal ban. Napolitano signed off on some get-tough immigration bills forwarded by the right-wing Republicans but vetoed others.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:36 PM


The evangelical shift that wasn’t (DAN GILGOFF, 11/20/08, Politico)

Recently, however, Warren’s Southern California church has come to play a much different role, as a staging ground for heated demonstrations in support of the state’s same-sex-marriage ban, which Warren vigorously supported and which voters passed on Election Day.

These days, Saddleback embodies the culture wars Warren had pledged to help end.

The protests — and Warren’s support for the same-sex-marriage ban, Proposition 8 — are an important wake-up call that, for all the talk of an evangelical “branching out,” evangelical politics hasn’t changed so much after all.

Evangelicals are still much more concerned with so-called wedge issues than any other demographic group. A Barna Group poll found that 40 percent of evangelicals chose their presidential candidate based on his position on “moral issues,” compared with 9 percent of other voters.

And the movement’s leaders are still leading the conservative charge in the culture wars. Most of the 29 state constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage that have passed were organized by Focus on the Family, its state affiliates and other evangelical activists.

Perhaps most strikingly, the anticipated evangelical shift away from McCain never happened. Despite widespread predictions that many evangelicals would stay home or pull the lever for Obama, McCain managed to collect more white evangelical voters than George W. Bush four years ago.

Demographics shifting, but GOP isn’t (ROBERT E. LANG, 11/20/08, Politico)
The United States is the only developed country that is projected to add lots of new residents by mid-century. In 2006, the nation’s population reached 300 million. The Census Bureau estimates that the U.S. will get to 400 million by 2039. To put this growth in perspective, consider that even China (yes, China) will not add 100 million people by that date. The U.S. will gain more new residents in the next three decades than the current population of Germany — the largest European Union nation.

With each decade, more than 22 million potential new voters will enter the electorate. Parties that fix on a strategy may find that it is unworkable in just a few cycles. The Republican Party’s idea of stoking its base to gain office assumes a somewhat static voting public, which, given the dynamic nature of American demographics, is a faulty notion.

So who are most of these new people? The quick answer is both recent immigrants and their American-born offspring. By 2043, the U.S. may be a majority minority nation. Another scenario is that a high rate of intermarriage among whites and minorities may open to question the whole notion of who is “majority.” The bottom line for Republicans is that no matter how this population is defined, an increasing number of current minorities are voting for Democrats.

Republicans can, of course, switch their strategy and make more direct appeals to minority voters. As recently as 2004, President George W. Bush almost won the Latino vote. But at the moment, the Republicans seem branded as the party of white people.

The House GOP, talk radio hosts, and the like seem to want it to be the party of white people. Which strategy worked?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:16 PM


Ongoing Evolution: Hybrid Bear Discovered (Javno, October 01, 2008)

A white bear with brown claws, which was killed in North Canada, is the first cross-breed between a grizzly bear and a polar bear to be found in the wilderness, which was confirmed by a DNA analysis.

Canadian authorities said that the killed bear was the offspring of a male grizzly bear and a female polar bear.

Evolution relentlessly disproves Darwinism.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:10 PM


Science's Alternative to an Intelligent Creator: the Multiverse Theory: Our universe is perfectly tailored for life. That may be the work of God or the result of our universe being one of many. (Tim Folger, November 10, 2008, Discver)

Physicists don’t like coincidences. They like even less the notion that life is somehow central to the universe, and yet recent discoveries are forcing them to confront that very idea. Life, it seems, is not an incidental component of the universe, burped up out of a random chemical brew on a lonely planet to endure for a few fleeting ticks of the cosmic clock. In some strange sense, it appears that we are not adapted to the universe; the universe is adapted to us.

Call it a fluke, a mystery, a miracle. Or call it the biggest problem in physics. Short of invoking a benevolent creator, many physicists see only one possible explanation: Our universe may be but one of perhaps infinitely many universes in an inconceivably vast multi­verse. Most of those universes are barren, but some, like ours, have conditions suitable for life.

The idea is controversial. Critics say it doesn’t even qualify as a scientific theory because the existence of other universes cannot be proved or disproved. Advocates argue that, like it or not, the multiverse may well be the only viable non­religious explanation for what is often called the “fine-tuning problem”—the baffling observation that the laws of the universe seem custom-tailored to favor the emergence of life.

...and I've a notoriously bad memory, but I'm almost certain that when they taught us the Scientific Method it didn't go like this: when every observation and experiment points towards one conclusion, but you don't like it, just make up an obviously bogus alternative and chant it to yourself until you come to believe it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:50 PM


Would-be appointees quizzed on guns (JONATHAN MARTIN, 11/20/08, Politico)

[E]ven some Democrats and transition experts are baffled by the inclusion of the question.

Tucked in at the end of the questionnaire and listed under “Miscellaneous,” it reads: “Do you or any members of your immediate family own a gun? If so, provide complete ownership and registration information. Has the registration ever lapsed? Please also describe how and by whom it is used and whether it has been the cause of any personal injuries or property damage.”

Paul Light, professor of public service at New York University, said there was no such question for potential appointees when President George W. Bush took office in 2000.

“It kind of sticks out there like a sore thumb,” Light said.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:44 PM


Charters lead state's traditional schools in achievement for poor children, survey finds: Four Southern California charters and one L.A. Unified campus are among the top 15 serving students living in poverty. (Mitchell Landsberg, 11/11/08, Los Angeles Times)

The burgeoning charter school movement in California has largely made its mark as an alternative to low-performing inner-city schools. An analysis being issued today suggests that, at their best, charters are doing that job well, outperforming most traditional public schools that serve children in poverty.

Using the Academic Performance Index as a measuring tool, the California Charter Schools Assn. found that 12 of the top 15 public schools in California that cater primarily to poor children are charters.

"These results show that charter schools are opening doors of opportunity for California's most underserved students, and effectively advancing them on the path to academic success," said Peter Thorp, interim head of the association. He urged traditional public schools to study the charters to replicate their success.

This is one area where the next President announced ahead of time that he'd disappoint Democrats, bacj=king good educations for kids instead of protecting the unions.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:34 PM


Two for the Price of Two (MAUREEN DOWD, 11/19/08, NY Times)

Some critics say Hillary doesn’t have the foreign-policy chops for the job. But she would stop the pompous John Kerry from getting it, and that is a formidable recommendation. (You know he just wants to swan around in those striped pants.)

It's almost possible to feel sorry for John Kerry here. After all, first he tried puffing himself up by leaking that he was being considered for State. But then the Clinton leak kicked him to the curb. And now comes word that the slot he's being considered for is actually Interior, where his chief qualification seems to be looking vaguely like an ent and wind-surfing passably.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:00 PM


Why is Mitch McConnell Being Nice to Obama?: Addressing the Federalist Society, the top Senate Republican went light on the red meat—except when it came to judges. (Stephanie Mencimer, November 20, 2008, Mother Jones)

McConnell spoke approvingly of Obama's plan to cut taxes for 95 percent of Americans and his promise to tackle entitlement reform and energy security.

Echoing a new GOP talking point, McConnell said he hoped that Obama would govern as he had campaigned—from the middle, which is not, he observed, what new presidents usually do, a veiled reference to Bill Clinton's gays-in-the-military debacle. "My challenge to him is to do big things while he has the maximum amount of political capital, on a bipartisan basis," he said. McConnell noted that back in 2004, Obama had observed that one of the biggest mistakes President Bush had made in his first year in office was to push an aggressive agenda that was not what he campaigned on. At the time, Obama had said he would advise John Kerry, if elected, to stick to his campaign pledges.

McConnell recommended that Obama take his own advice and "put the partisan laundry list aside." He warned that if Obama took on the other issues, such as the unions' desire to provide workers with an option other than secret ballot voting on union membership, Obama would be in for a big fight that would cost him an enormous amount of good will in Congress. (The Federalists practically leapt from their seats when McConnell mentioned the union issue.) He acknowledged that the Democrats controlled Congress, but reminded Obama that if he failed to win bipartisan support for his initiatives, the blowback would be substantial and the Democratic majority could easily evaporate in two years. "My preference is that we address big things," McConnell said, mentioning the looming effects of the baby boomers' retirement on Social Security (an issue that during the campaign, Obama ranked well below the current economic crisis, health care, education, energy independence, and ending the war in Iraq).

Lest any of the true believers in the room start to suspect that McConnell had switched parties, he did throw the crowd some red meat on one of their favorite subjects: judicial nominations.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:33 PM


Q & A | 'Free trade pact will boost India, Turkey trade': After a drift in relations for some years, Turky and India are finding common ground in the new century. Quietly, India and Turkey have been building up some key partnerships, particularly in energy and combating terrorism. Visiting India after nine years, Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan tells Indrani Bagchi in an exclusive interview that the Turkey-India relationship is seeing a resurgence, based on mutual interests. (Indrani Bagchi, 21 Nov 2008, Times of India)

Q: Where and how do Indian and Turkish interests coincide in the present-day world?

A: Both Turkey and India are democracies with fast-growing, stable, liberal and globalized economies. Our common values present a solid foundation for our cooperation.

In addition to my Government's intensified efforts during the last couple of months, I believe my visit to India will serve to further deepen and broaden our already friendly relations, particularly in the areas of trade and economic cooperation, as well as to coordinate our efforts in the fight against terrorism.

We happily observe a significant increase in our trade volume and private sector ties during the last five years. Our trade volume has almost tripled between 2003 and 2007, from $795 million to $2.6 billion. We aim to increase this figure to 6 billion USD by 2010.

In terms of our private sectors, we see great prospects for further cooperation in terms of trade and investment. To this end, we encourage the Turkish and the Indian private sectors to develop joint projects and work together more effectively, particularly in the fields of energy, construction, tourism, automotive and information technologies.

Despite the desire and prospects of giving greater content to our economic and trade relations, in order to maintain a sustainable development of our trade relations, we also believe that the current trade deficit that continues to increase in favor of India needs to be balanced out.

As two countries at the consumer end of the energy supply line, we also see a vast potential for Turkish-Indian cooperation in the energy sector. We will continue to pursue possible public and private joint projects in this field.

One final area of potential cooperation is the combating terrorism that both our countries as well as respective regions suffer from. Regardless of its source and pretext, Turkey condemns all acts of terror and considers it as a crime against humanity. Turkey attaches utmost importance to international cooperation and solidarity in the fight against terrorism. In this respect, we believe there is ample room for increased bilateral cooperation with India against terrorism.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:20 PM


Discussions With Clintons as Obama Creates Team (PETER BAKER and HELENE COOPER, 11/20/08, NY Times)

In their public signals, the Clintons are trying to take the former president’s activities off the table as an issue, in their view eliminating any excuses for Mr. Obama not to give Mrs. Clinton the job. Some in the Obama camp are bristling at what they see as strategic leaks by the Clintons aimed at boxing in the president-elect and forcing him to offer the post.

The tension could foreshadow a complex relationship burdened by suspicion and enmity should Mrs. Clinton become secretary of state. By putting her in the cabinet, Mr. Obama could remove a potential thorn in the Senate on issues like health care and a potential rival for the nomination in 2012 if his term proves rocky. But he could also face a rival power center within his own administration with her on his team.

...and Rahm Emanuel leaks to help Rahm Emanuel, who leaks for the President?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:24 PM


Republicans feeling a new freedom: For many, Iraq becomes history lesson (Sasha Issenberg, November 20, 2008, Boston Globe)

"All the things that didn't go right with government, Republicans got blamed," said Saul Anuzis, a Michigan party official running to lead the Republican National Committee, mentioning Iraq along with Hurricane Katrina and the so-called Bridge to Nowhere earmark. "Republicans, generally, we run better when we run against Washington from the outside."

Which would be great if the point were to run an ideologically pure campaign that prevents you from ever governing, which plenty on the far Right seem to be happiest with.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:08 PM


The party's over (The Economist, 11/20/08)

MAHMOUD AHMADINEJAD, Iran’s president, predicted in March that Barack Obama would never reach America’s highest office. “They will find a way of keeping him out of the White House, even if the entire American nation votes for him,” he said. In July Mr Ahmadinejad ventured another prediction. The price of oil, he declared, would never fall below $100 a barrel. [...]

[T]he failure of both of Mr Ahmadinejad’s predictions now presents a double dilemma. Even before the plunge in oil prices, from a midsummer high of $147 a barrel to the current $50 or so, Iranian economists had raised alarms about spendthrift policies that helped push inflation close to 30%. With only perhaps $25 billion still in hand, out of some $200 billion in oil earnings over three years, the government faces stark choices. Its current budget is based on a price of $80 a barrel.

Not that American leaders have understood Iran any better.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:03 PM


Breathe in deeply, please: Stem-cell medicine takes a step forward (The Economist, Nov 20th 2008)

A paper in the Lancet, published by a team led by Paolo Macchiarini of the Hospital Clinic in Barcelona, described such an operation, carried out in June on a patient called Claudia Castillo, whose left bronchus had been damaged by tuberculosis. The reason for the publicity, though, was not that this was the first bronchial transplant, but rather that it involved some serious bioengineering using stem cells.

Stem cells exist to replenish the supply of other cells. When a stem cell divides, it sometimes produces daughters that are different from one another. One is another stem cell. The other is the first step on the path to a particular sort of tissue such as the lining of a windpipe. The idea behind stem-cell bioengineering is to use the recipient’s own stem cells to create an artificial organ that will be recognised as part of the body by the recipient’s immune system, and thus not rejected. And this, in the case of Ms Castillo’s new bronchus, is what Dr Macchiarini and his team have done.

Funny thing about the War on Science, W comes out of it looking like the conquistadors to the Death Lobby's Incans.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:38 AM


Pass the Colombian Trade Pact (New York Times, 11/18/08)

We don’t say it all that often, but President Bush is right: Congress should pass the Colombian free-trade agreement now. [...]

We believe that the trade pact would be good for America’s economy and workers. Rejecting it would send a dismal message to allies the world over that the United States is an unreliable partner and, despite all that it preaches, does not really believe in opening markets to trade. There is no more time to waste. If the lame-duck Congress does not approve the trade pact this year, prospects would dim considerably since it would lose the cover of the rule (formerly known as fast track) that provides for an up-or-down, no-amendment vote.

EU reaches deal on farm reforms (BBC, 11/20/08)
EU farm ministers have agreed to reform agricultural policy by shifting more subsidies away from production and liberalising the dairy market.

The deal on reforming the Common Agricultural Policy came on Thursday after marathon all-night talks.

More subsidies will be transferred to conservation, reducing the traditional EU incentives for farmers to produce.

Milk quotas will be raised initially, but later scrapped, in the biggest overhaul of farm policy since 2003.

The UR really can't afford to be to the Left of the EU and the Gray Lady. Having won the election it's time to chiv the unions and the anti-globalization whackos.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:30 AM


Civil liberties groups have a wish list for Obama: Rolling back Bush's counter-terrorism policies is a priority, as are closing the Guantanamo prison, stopping military tribunals and curtailing domestic surveillance. (James Oliphant, November 20, 2008, LA Times)

It's called the president's daily brief, or, more informally, the "threat matrix." And it could change the way President-elect Barack Obama views the world and the dangers that exist.

Obama began receiving daily intelligence reports -- the ones given to President Bush -- after the election. They provide a far more detailed look at terrorist threats than he received as a senator or presidential candidate.

"If ever there were proof of the existence of evil in the world, it is in the pages of these reports," former Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft once said about the briefings.

Obama and his national security advisors will probably keep those reports in mind as they consider changes to the Bush administration's counter-terrorism policies.

The one thing that everyone who knew him at Harvard agrees about is that he was happy to toss ideology overboard in order to guarantee that his tenure at the Law Review was a success. What is the one thing that would not only blight his presidency but redeem George W. Bush's overnight? Rolling back the WoT measures and then suffering an attack. Now it is certainly a possibility that Mr. Obama is so wedded to the cant of the human rights/civil liberties crowd that he'll risk an attack in order to vindicate extraordinary privacy "rights." but there isn't much in his background to suggest that he's that incautious where his own reputation is concerned.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:18 AM


Netanyahu`s Likud Pulls Ahead In Israeli Poll (Javno, 11/20/08)

"Bibi is taking off," read a headline in the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper, using Netanyahu's nickname.

Its Yedioth/Dahaf survey gave Likud 32 seats in the 120-member parliament to 26 for Kadima, led by Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni. [...]

Commentary accompanying the polls attributed Likud's lead to its recent recruitment of several widely respected figures in Israel, including the son of the late prime minister, Menachem Begin, and a retired chief of staff of the armed forces.

Netanyahu also has been increasingly vocal about his future approach to peace talks with the Palestinians, saying he would focus on ways to build up their economy rather than on territorial issues.

The latest opinion polls indicated a continuing decline in the fortunes of the centre-left Labour Party led by Defence Minister Ehud Barak.

...where else can he find heads of state to his Left?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:15 AM


What Happy People Don’t Do (RONI CARYN RABIN, 11/20/08, NY Times)

Although people who describe themselves as happy enjoy watching television, it turns out to be the single activity they engage in less often than unhappy people, said John Robinson, a professor of sociology at the University of Maryland and the author of the study, which appeared in the journal Social Indicators Research.

While most large studies on happiness have focused on the demographic characteristics of happy people — factors like age and martial status — Dr. Robinson and his colleagues tried to identify what activities happy people engage in. The study relied primarily on the responses of 45,000 Americans collected over 35 years by the University of Chicago’s General Social Survey, and on published “time diary” studies recording the daily activities of participants.

“We looked at 8 to 10 activities that happy people engage in, and for each one, the people who did the activities more — visiting others, going to church, all those things — were more happy,” Dr. Robinson said. “TV was the one activity that showed a negative relationship. Unhappy people did it more, and happy people did it less.”

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:07 AM


The man who has spent his life "becoming" must now "be." Obama has been the sojourner, as David Brooks of the New York Times has written, passing through places and institutions, alighting but never putting down deep roots. He has always been on his way elsewhere, in a journey of discovery and self-actualization that may be unmatched in American political history. And now he is at the doorstep of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

Obama plays on a different stage now, and it's less forgiving. After a zero-defect campaign, the transition team has already begun to make some mistakes. The choice of Rahm Emanuel as White House chief of staff was a good one, but awkwardly handled; the news media were told he had been offered the job before he had agreed to accept it, setting both of them up for embarrassment if he refused.

And this week, there was the public rumination about Hillary Clinton as secretary of state. This may be another self-inflicted wound. Clinton is immensely talented, but it could be the wrong job for her since it has the potential to undermine Obama's own transformational role in foreign policy -- perhaps the greatest opportunity he has. Why subcontract this to Clinton and her entourage?

And yet, after the public speculation, Obama will seem to be dissing Clinton and her supporters if she doesn't get the job. Here again, one sees a once-seamless team making little mistakes.

And then there's the incredible shrinking vice president-elect, Joe Biden. Where is he these days? Do they have him in a box? He can't be happy at the idea of considering Clinton as foreign policy tsarina -- wasn't Biden's foreign policy savvy the reason he was picked?

Mr. Ignatius may specialize in foreign affairs but he can't really be this naive about domestic, can he? Joe Biden is such a disastrous choice for vp he can't be allowed to speak in public and Mr. Emanuel and Ms Clinton are the sources of the leaks about their appointments, because they serve themselves, not the UR. All this talk of a Team of Rivals ignores one flamingly obvious difference between 20-08 and 1860: the media.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:02 AM


Antiwar groups fear Barack Obama may create hawkish Cabinet: Activists note that most of the candidates for top security posts voted for the 2002 resolution authorizing President Bush to invade Iraq or otherwise supported launching the war. (Paul Richter, November 20, 2008, LA Times)

Antiwar groups and other liberal activists are increasingly concerned at signs that Barack Obama's national security team will be dominated by appointees who favored the Iraq invasion and hold hawkish views on other important foreign policy issues.

The activists are uneasy not only about signs that both Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates could be in the Obama Cabinet, but at reports suggesting that several other short-list candidates for top security posts backed the decision to go to war.

"Obama ran his campaign around the idea the war was not legitimate, but it sends a very different message when you bring in people who supported the war from the beginning," said Kelly Dougherty, executive director of the 54-chapter Iraq Veterans Against the War. [...]

"It's astonishing that not one of the 23 senators or 133 House members who voted against the war is in the mix," said Sam Husseini of the liberal group Institute for Public Accuracy.

They should worry less about who these people are and more about what they are. It's an administration that pretty much needs a war in order to be taken seriously. The only real question is where they fight it. The Tribal Area is an easy call, but a bad ground war. Iran is a tough call, but an easy air war.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:56 AM


Deflation: What Investors Need to Know: A rapid drop in inflation may help shoppers' dollars go further, but it's a disturbing trend for investors (Ben Steverman, 11/20/08, Business Week)

[I]nstead of inflation, the problem is deflation, a downward drift in prices that could squeeze corporate profits and investor returns to uncomfortable levels.

On Nov. 18, a government report showed an unexpectedly large 1% drop in the October consumer price index, including an 8.6% plunge in energy prices last month. Excluding energy and food, the CPI fell 0.1%, the first drop in the so-called "core" index since 1982.

On Nov. 17, the producer price index, a measure of wholesale prices, fell 2.8% in October, including a 12.8% fall in energy prices. That was the largest decline in the PPI in the report's 61-year history.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:41 AM


The US strikes deeper in Pakistan (Syed Saleem Shahzad , 11/21/08, Asia Times)

"The al-Qaeda leadership (shura) has apparently now installed itself in Jani Khel village in the Bannu district of North-West Frontier Province (NWFP)."
Taliban a step ahead of US assault (Asia Times Online, August 11, 2007)

KARACHI - Wednesday's missile attack by an unmanned United States Predator drone on the Pakistani village of Jani Khel marks a significant development in the battle against militants.

On the one hand, it is the first such attack to take place outside of the semi-autonomous tribal areas, that is, in territory directly ruled by Islamabad. Previous US strikes have focused on North

Waziristan and South Waziristan, where at least 20 missile attacks and a cross-border commando raid have killed scores of people since September.

But on the other hand, the strike also signifies that there is now a genuine alliance between the Pakistani military and US forces against the common foe of al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Previously, under former president General Pervez Musharraf, this relationship was blurred by pockets of latent sympathy on the side of the Pakistanis for the militants.

The big change that the UR wants to bring to the WoT is more of the same, no?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:34 AM


IAEA: Syrian Site Could Have Been Nuclear Reactor (AP, 11/20/08)

The U.N. nuclear watchdog agency said Wednesday that a Syrian site bombed by Israel in 2007 had the characteristics of a nuclear reactor. It also admitted that its investigation into Iran's alleged nuclear weapons program is deadlocked.

The conclusions were contained in two confidential reports from the International Atomic Energy Agency that were obtained by The Associated Press. The documents were being shared with the 35 nations on the IAEA's board. [...]

On Syria, the agency also said that soil samples taken from the bombed site had a "significant number" of chemically processed natural uranium particles. A senior U.N official, who demanded anonymity because the information was restricted, said the findings were unusual for a facility that Syria alleges had no nuclear purpose.

Indian frigate destroys 'mothership' as raids off Somalia continue (Xan Rice, 11/20/08,
Somali bandits terrorising the busy shipping routes around the Horn of Africa suffered a rare setback when an Indian warship destroyed a pirate "mothership" after coming under fire in the Gulf of Aden.

The Indian Navy said that its frigate, one of the numerous international warships dispatched to patrol the waters around the Horn of Africa, had approached a suspicious vessel on Tuesday evening. It turned out to be a previously captured ship being used by pirates as a base to launch their speedboats far out to sea.

"The INS Tabar closed in on the mother vessel and asked her to stop for investigation," an Indian navy spokesman said. "But on repeated calls, the vessel's threatening response was that she would blow up the naval warship if it approached."

After a heavy exchange of fire, the pirate ship was destroyed.

And the UR apparently had to be told that India matters before he bothered calling them?

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:22 AM


Violence at Uruguay football match (BBC, 11/18/08)

Trouble erupted after Danubio beat Nacional 1-0 to overtake their opponents and go top of the table on Sunday.

Shortly after the final whistle, Nacional fans broke down the fencing at the tiny Jardines del Hipodromo stadium and invaded the pitch.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:16 AM


Pashtun Tribes Seen As Key To Afghan Peace: Some analysts say resentment of the government and foreign forces is too strong for the militia proposal to work. (Javno, 11/21/08)

Everyone agrees that ethnic Pashtun tribes along the Pakistani border are key to bringing an end to Afghanistan's war but no one seems to be able to agree on how the Pashtuns might unlock the door to peace.

Most members of the Taliban are Pashtun, Afghanistan's biggest ethnic group, and most Pashtuns live in the south and east where the Taliban insurgency is at its worst.

Pashtuns also live over the border in violence-plagued regions of northwest Pakistan, where they too are fiercely independent-minded, well-armed, conservative Muslims.

Which would also be known as Ground Zero.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:03 AM


Iran's judiciary chief lauds U.S.-Iraqi pact (AP, 11/17/08)

[T]he positive comments by judiciary chief Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi and in the state media signaled Tehran may be taking a realistic view — that no matter what it dislikes in the deal, it will eventually mean the departure of the Americans. [...]

Shahroudi is very close to Iran's top leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and his comments reflect thinking of conservatives within the ruling system, but not all hard-liners or President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

State media in Iran also toned down its opposition to the agreement.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Arizonan will head Homeland Security (MIKE ALLEN, 11/19/08, Politico)

Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano (D) has been chosen to serve as secretary of the vast and troubled Department of Homeland Security for President-elect Obama, Democratic officials said. Napolitano is a border governor who will now be responsible for immigration policy and border security, which are part of Homeland Security’s myriad functions.

Napolitano brings law-and-order experience from her stint as the Grand Canyon State’s first female attorney general. One of the nation’s most prominent female elected officials, she made frequent appearances on behalf of Barack Obama during the campaign. She was re-elected to a second four-year term in 2006.

Transition insiders have long expected that she would be offered a Cabinet slot, although she had also been mentioned for other posts, including attorney general.

Hopefully he has more governors and no more senators lined up.

November 19, 2008

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:35 PM


Anyone else find it odd that we finally elect a black man and Disney World closes its Hall of Presidents?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:24 PM


Experience Reigns, Not 'Change': Obama Draws Heavily on Clinton Era and Congress for Appointees; Daschle Gets HHS (LAURA MECKLER and JONATHAN WEISMAN, 11/20/08, Wall Street Journal)

President-elect Barack Obama campaigned on the slogan of "change." But his early appointees, including two top choices that emerged Wednesday, show that experience is one of his main criteria.

His choice for secretary of Health and Human Services, officials said, is former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, who has a long Washington résumé. Jacob Lew, one of President Bill Clinton's budget directors, is favored to direct the National Economic Council.

The latest transition news highlighted the three personnel pools supplying Mr. Obama with his picks. Most prominent are Clinton administration veterans -- including, possibly, former first lady Hillary Clinton for secretary of state. Some high-profile appointments are also long-serving members and staff from Capitol Hill. Then there are the influential Chicagoans -- a group that seems smaller than the hometown crowd that usually accompanies a new president to Washington.

Linking them all is Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, who has played prominent roles in each group.

If a chief of staff is never lacking in power potential, Mr. Emanuel's personal ambitions and lack of any debt or reason for loyalty to Mr. Obama could make him the most powerful chief ever. The developing notion that these people all owe their jobs to him and not the President will only enhance his status. It's easy to see the eventual dust-up between Mr. Obama and Mr. Emanuel coming.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:18 PM


The Identity Blame Game: If the Democratic coalition falls apart, it won't be because women and people of color spoke up for their interests. (Ann Friedman, November 18, 2008, American Prospect)

In the context of this debate about Cabinet appointments, "identity politics" is more or less derisive shorthand for "women, people of color, immigrants, gay people speaking up for themselves." But if not now, when are we supposed to raise these issues? After the decisions have been made? People who have traditionally been cut off from the highest avenues of power are well within their rights -- and, I'd argue, responsibilities -- to demand a seat at the table, before appointments have been made. I'm not going to retread the arguments for why diversity is important. I will say, however, that there is rarely the right person for any given position -- most jobs could be done competently by any number of people, and some of those people are no doubt women and people of color. Pointing out this fact must not be seen as threatening or petty but as productive and necessary.

Another frequently expressed concern is that Obama just can't win when he appoints a nonwhite dude -- some minority group will always be upset. J.P. Green at the Democratic Strategist warned recently that whether Obama chooses Hillary Clinton or Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico for secretary of state, "either way there will be much grumbling in the short run" -- from women, presumably, if he picks Richardson and from Latinos if he chooses Clinton. But in all the calls I've seen for a "Cabinet that looks like America," I have yet to see a person of color say they would take it as an affront if a white woman were appointed. And like most women who have called on Obama to consider and appoint women, I am equally interested in seeing Obama consider and appoint people of color. As far as I can tell, we're all united against a Cabinet packed with the same old white guys.

When outside observers predict that all of the vocal women, gay people, and people of color in the Democratic Party will turn against each other if Obama makes the wrong appointment, they are reinforcing the idea that these are distinct categories -- which they're clearly not (last time I checked, there were queers of color, women of color, queer women, I could go on and on ...) -- and that these categories of people are in direct competition. This is simply not true.

Then why did one Democrat interest group defeat another in the Proposition 8 vote? As that election result showed, the Demcr5atic coalition is too unnatural a thing to hold together in the absence of GOP animus -- real and perceived -- towards people of color.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:57 PM


The Summers Bubble (Kevin Connor and Matthew Skomarovsky, November 17, 2008, American Prospect)

The choice of a new treasury secretary presents an early test of President-elect Obama's commitment to change in the realm of economic policy, where the need for a new direction is most painfully evident. Will the new administration find a bold answer to decades of trickle-down economics? Or will Wall Street-affiliated party insiders summon the political muscle to remain relevant and deliver for their friends in finance? A battle for the soul of Obama's White House is underway.

Considering what is at stake, the emergence of Lawrence Summers as a leading candidate for treasury secretary is an alarming indicator that Wall Street Democrats with abysmal records are gaining an upper hand over the broad progressive coalition that lifted Obama to victory.

Okay, you expect the Right to misunderstand Barack Obama, we're notoriously moronic. But did the Brights really not get that he's just another Eisenhower Democrat? It's almost as if his race blinded them to what a milquetoasty character he is politically--on all but life issues--but that would make them kind of racist, so we know that can't be the answer, right?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:41 PM


Obama's first gamble: Clinton at State (BEN SMITH, 11/19/08, Politico)

The Clinton move, like those, marries an arguably practical choice with lofty symbolism: He’s enlarging his own administration by bringing in one of the leading figures in American politics, and delivering on a promise of a new politics that doesn’t play favorites or hold grudges.

“It says that he has the personal confidence to engage someone of the notoriety and substance of Sen. Clinton,” said Democratic Rep. Robert Wexler of Florida, an early Obama supporter and prominent campaign surrogate. “Implementing change is an exciting exercise.”

Indeed, Obama’s transition appears suffused with a sense that the actors are living a historic moment, for which extraordinary gestures are appropriate.

“This would really give her a very unique platform to really be a part of this historic time we’re living in right now, even greater than her role as a powerful senator,” said Democratic Rep. Russ Carnahan of Missouri, another early Obama backer.

What if, instead, this is, as most are, a thoroughly ordinary moment? What if grand gestures premised on people rising above themselves at an extraordinary time are doomed to failure precisely because the ordinariness of the time allows for the ordinariness of the people involved?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:37 PM


Daschle Tapped for HHS Secretary: From Access to Health Care to Questions of Bioethics, Slew of Challenges Await (LISA STARK, BRIAN HARTMAN and KATE BARRETT, Nov. 19, 2008, ABC News)

President-elect Barack Obama Wednesday named former Sen. Tom Daschle to lead the nation's Department of Health and Human Services.

Daschle, D-S.D., is one of Obama's first Cabinet picks. If confirmed by the Senate, he will replace HHS Secretary Michael Leavitt in guiding critical, high-profile federal agencies, including the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The massive job includes oversight of a department budget that exceeded $707 billion for fiscal year 2008.

And it's yet another guy with no executive experience to run a department that actually does stuff that matters?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:39 AM


-Audio Archive > Live Music Archive > My Morning Jacket (Internet Archives)
My Morning Jacket: Evil Urges (Will Brinson, May 21, 2008, Glide)

It's rare enough to find a well constructed album, but when a group of rapidly rising rockers rip off something this tightly diverse, well, the general public is sure to get put on notice come June 10th, the album's public release date.

Urges spreads itself out across various genres, which is a serious (and well-timed) diversion from the typical spacey southern rock My Morning Jacket usually cranks out. Structurally, it reminds a lot of Beck's Midnite Vultures, it combines sets of juxtaposed styles that somehow fit neatly in place throughout.

In short, it could serve as a national coming-out party for My Morning Jacket, an already popular but still tragically hip group of musicians.

My Morning Jacket makes a daring move (Dan DeLuca, 6/08/08, Philadelphia Inquirer)
The slithering falsetto that James employs on the title cut is freaky enough, even before he and guitarist Carl Broemel take off on their interlocking-guitar Nantucket sleigh ride. But the real spit-take comes two songs later, with "Highly Suspicious," a 1980s throwback that recalls Prince's "Kiss." It employs robotic synth-funk and stentorian backup vocals, and James takes great joy in enunciating the words, "Peanut butter pudding surprise!"

"Highly Suspicious" is a blissfully silly lark that unabashedly expresses the let's-try-anything spirit of Evil Urges. The band - the rest of the lineup is drummer Patrick Hallahan, keyboard player Bo Koster and bassist "Two Tone" Tommy Blankenship - embarks on its adventure while leaving a musical bread-crumb trail behind. So it can connect back to home truths like the swaggering "Aluminum Park," a melodic riff-rocker which will undoubtedly incite inspired hair-wagging on stage.

Evil Urges is well-grounded in old-fashioned songwriting. James' vibratoless vocal style bears traces of Coyne and Neil Young, but has its own angelic, almost ghostly sound. It's immediately distinct, even if it has become one of the most imitated instruments in indie rock. (That guy in Band of Horses should be sending James royalty checks.)

My Morning Jacket's recognizable sonic imprint gives its members the freedom to get outside of themselves while remaining true to who they are. Among the most rewarding excursions are soul passages such as "Thank You Too," a cushioned, string-sweetened R&B expression of gratitude that, along with the Philly soul-sprinkled title track, bridges the gap between (white) neo-classic rock and (black) old-school rhythm and soul.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:32 AM


Worst Baseball Team Ever: The description may seem harsh, but as the tragicomic face above shows, the New York Mets are a sore burden to a man and a city accustomed to winning. For some unaccountable reason, they are still loved—and not just by those who beat them (Jimmy Breslin, 8/13/62, Sports Illustrated)

Figures, of course, are notorious liars, which is why accountants have more fun than people think. Therefore, you just do not use a record book to say the Mets are the worst team of all time. You have to investigate the matter thoroughly. Then you can say the Mets are the worst team of all time.

"I never thought I would have an argument," Bill Veeck says. "I was always secure in the knowledge that when I owned the St. Louis Browns , I had the worst. Now it's different. You can say anything you want, but don't you dare say my Brownies were this bad. I'll prove it to you. There are still a few Browns in the major leagues and this is nine years later. How many Mets do you think are going to be around even two years from now? I'm being soft here. I haven't even mentioned my midget, Eddie Gaedel ."

Reporting from Philadelphia is Pat Hastings, proprietor of the Brown Jug bar and a man who has sat through more bad baseball than anybody in America . For consistency, Philadelphia baseball always has been the worst. On nine occasions during Pat's tenure at old Baker Bowl and Shibe Park, both the Phillies and A's finished in last place.

But Pat, who has viewed the Mets on several occasions this season, refuses to put any team in a class with them. "The 1916 Athletics had Stuffy McInnins, you got to remember that," he says. "And some of them Phillies teams could hurt you with the bat pretty good. There was players like Chuck Klein, Virgil Davis, Don Hurst. I seen 'em all. Why, we used to make jokes about Buzz Arlett. He played right field for the Phillies in 1931. People used to go out and get drunk if they seen him catch a fly ball. I feel like writing the fellow a letter of apology now. Why he done more fielding standing still than some of these Mets I seen do at full speed."

In Brooklyn there is Joseph (Babe) Hamberger, who once associated with the old Dodgers and vehemently denies he ever saw a Brooklyn club as bad as the Mets .

"When Uncle Robbie [ Wilbert Robinson ] was managing, he didn't even know the names of the players," Babe says. "But he won two pennants and was in the first division a couple of times. Casey was over here, too. Ask him. He'll tell you. It got rough, but never like now."

Now all this is not being pointed out as an act of gratuitous cruelty. Quite the opposite. The Mets are so bad, you've got to love them. Name one true American who could do anything but root for a team that has had over 135 home runs hit against it. In New York a lot of people root for the Mets . They are mainly old Brooklyn Dodger fans and their offspring, who are called the "New Breed" in the newspapers. They are the kind of people who, as San Francisco Giant Publicist Garry Schumacher once observed, never would have tolerated Joe DiMaggio on their team at Ebbets Field . "Too perfect," Garry said.

The Mets are bad for many reasons, one of which is that they do not have good players. The team was formed last year when the National League expanded to 10 teams. ("We are damn lucky they didn't expand to 12 teams," Manager Stengel says.) The other new team, the Houston Colt .45s , has done a bit better than the Mets . It's in eighth place, 11� games ahead of New York . For players, the Mets were given a list of men made available to them by the other eight National League teams. The list was carefully prepared and checked and rechecked by the club owners. This was to make certain that no bona-fide ballplayers were on it.

"It was so thoughtful of them," Stengel says. "I want to thank all of them owners who loved us to have those men and picked them for us. It was very generous of them."

Actually, the Mets did wind up with a ballplayer or two. First Baseman Gil Hodges was fielding as well as ever before a kidney ailment put him in the hospital. Center Fielder Richie Ashburn , at 35, is a fine lead-off hitter, although he seems to be on his way to setting some sort of a record for being thrown out while trying to take an extra base. If Jim Hickman , an outfielder, ever learns to swing at good pitches he might make it big. Here and there Al Jackson and Roger Craig produce a well-pitched game. And Frank Thomas can hit. But all this does is force the Mets to go out of their way to lose.

And once past these people, the Mets present an array of talent that is startling. Most of those shocks Casey talks about come when his pitchers throw to batters. There was a recent day in St. Louis when Ray Daviault threw a low fast ball to Charley James of the Cards. James likes low fast balls. He hit this one eight rows deep into left field for the ball game.

"It was bad luck," Daviault told the manager after the game. "I threw him a perfect pitch."

"It couldn't have been a perfect pitch," Casey said. "Perfect pitches don't travel that far."

One of Casey's coaches is the fabled Rogers Hornsby . Rajah was a batting coach during spring training and for the early part of the season. But all of his work now is done with prospects out on the farms. Which is good, because Hornsby hates to lose. Oh how he hates to lose! One day he was sitting in the dugout at the Polo Grounds before a game and you could see him seething. The Mets had been losing. So was Hornsby . He couldn't get a thing home and he was in action at three or four different major tracks around the country.

"You can't trust them old Kentucky bastard trainers," he confided.

The general manager of the Mets is George Weiss, who was let go by the Yankees after the 1960 season because of his age. He is 68 now. George spent all of last year at his home in Greenwich, Conn. As Red Smith reported, this caused his wife, Hazel, to announce, "I married George for better or for worse, but not for lunch." She was pleased when George took over the Mets this year and resumed his 12-hour working day away from home.

The Mets also have many big-name sports reporters who write about them. This may be the hardest job of all. As Barney Kremenko of the New York Journal-American observes, "I've covered losing teams before. But for me to be with a non-winner!"

There are some people, of course, who will not stand still for any raps at the team. They say the Mets have a poor record because they lose so many one-run games. They point out that the Mets have lost 28 games by one run so far. However, this figure also means the Mets lost 51 other games by more than one run.

One who advances the one run theory is Donald Grant, the Wall Street stockbroker who handles ownership details for Mrs. Joan Payson, the class lady who put up the money for the Mets . It is Mr. Grant's job to write letters to Mrs. Payson, explaining to her just what is happening with the Mets .

"It is annoying to lose by one run, but Mrs. Payson and I are pleased with the team's progress," Grant says. "She is perfectly understanding about it. After all, you do not breed a Thoroughbred horse overnight." Grant obviously doesn't know much about horse racing.

Whether the Mets lose by a run or by 14 runs (and they have done this, too), it doesn't matter. They still lose. They lose at night and in the daytime and they lose so much that the only charge you can't make against them is that their pitchers throw spitters.

"Spitters?" Stengel says. "I can't get them to throw regular pitches good."

Basically, the trouble with the Mets is the way they play baseball. It is an unchanging style of walks, passed balls, balks, missed signs, errors, overrun bases and bad throws. You see it every time. It doesn't matter what day you watch the Mets play or if they win or lose. With this team, nothing changes. Only the days.

On July 22, for example, the Mets were in Cincinnati for a doubleheader. They not only lost both games, but they also had four runners thrown out at home plate in the course of the day. Nobody could remember when this had happened before—probably because it hadn't. What made it frightening was the ease with which the Mets brought the feat off. You got the idea that they could get four runners thrown out at the plate any day they wanted to.

In the first game Choo Choo Coleman was out trying to score from second on a single to left. In the second game Stengel jauntily ordered a double steal in the second inning. He had Cannizzaro on first and Hot Rod Kanehl at third. Cannizzaro took off and drew a throw. Kanehl broke for the plate. The Cincinnati shortstop, Cardenas, cut it off, threw home, and that took care of Kanehl. In the fourth inning Elio Chacon tried to score from first when the Reds messed up a fly in the outfield. But Vada Pinson finally got to the ball, and his throw home beat Chacon by a couple of steps. In the fifth inning Jim Hickman was on third. He broke for the plate as Rod Kanehl hit the ball. Kanehl hit the ball square at third. The throw had Hickman by a yard.

The day before that, Roger Craig , the team's version of a big pitcher, had gone over to Stengel and volunteered for relief pitching in the doubleheader, if he were needed. Stengel nodded. It was nice of Craig to say he would work between starts. And the next day the Mets certainly did need Craig . Going into the ninth inning with a 3-3 tie against the Reds, Stengel called on Roger to save the day. Roger took his eight warmup pitches. Then he threw two regular pitches to Marty Keough of the Reds. Keough hit the second one eight miles, and the Reds won 4-3.

Two days later in the first inning of a game in Milwaukee , the Braves had runners on first and second. Henry Aaron hit the ball hard, but Chacon at shortstop made a fine backhanded stop. As Chacon regained balance, he saw Roy McMillan of the Braves running for third. Chacon yelled to Felix Mantilla , the Mets ' third baseman. He was going to get McMillan at third on a sensational play. Mantilla backed up for the throw. Then he backed up some more. By the time Chacon threw, Mantilla had backed up three yards past the base and when he caught the throw all he could do was listen to the crowd laugh. McMillan had his foot on third.

The Mets fought back, however, and had the game tied 4-4 in the 12th. Casey called on a new pitcher to face the Braves in this inning. He was R. G. Miller, making his first appearance as a Met. At the start of the season, R. G. was managing a car agency and had no intention of playing baseball. Then Wid Matthews, the Mets ' talent scout, came around to talk to him. Miller, Matthews had found, needed only 18 days in the major leagues to qualify as a five-year man under the baseball players' pension. R. G. had spent a couple of years with Detroit before deciding to quit.

$125 a month

"Go to Syracuse for us," Matthews said, "and if you show anything at all we'll bring you up. Then you can put in your 18 days. When you reach 50, you'll get about $125 every month until they put you in a box."

Miller went out front and spoke to the boss. The job would be waiting for him after the season, Miller was told. So Miller went to Syracuse . He pitched well enough to be brought up. Now he came out of the Mets ' bullpen to take on the Milwaukee Braves .

Miller loosened up easily, scuffed the dirt, looked down and got the sign and glared at Del Crandall , the Milwaukee batter. Then Miller threw a slider, and Crandall hit a home run. Miller, with his first pitch of the year, had lost a game.

"He makes the club," everybody on the Mets was saying.

Marvin Throneberry , the fast-running first baseman, has had his share of travail this year, too. In fact, anytime you meet some oldtimer who tries to bore you with colorful stories, you can shut him up quickly with two Marv Throneberry stories for every one he has about players like Babe Herman or Dizzy Dean .

Throneberry is a balding, 28-year-old who comes out of Memphis . He was up with the Yankees and once even opened the season as a first baseman for them. After that, he was with the Kansas City A's and the Orioles . Throneberry is a serious baseball player. He tries, and he has some ability. It's just that things happen when he plays.

Take the doubleheader against the Cubs at the Polo Grounds early in the season. In the first inning of the first game Don Landrum of Chicago was caught in a rundown between first and second. Rundowns are not Throneberry's strong point. In the middle of the posse of Mets chasing the Cub, Throneberry found himself face to face with Landrum. The only trouble was Marvin did not have the ball. During a rundown the cardinal rule is to get out of the way if you do not have the ball. If you stand around, the runner will deliberately bang into you, claim interference and the umpire will give it to him.

Which is exactly what happened to Marv. Landrum jumped into his arms and the umpire waved him safely to first. Instead of an out, the Mets now had to contend with a runner on base—and that opened the gates for a four-run Chicago rally.

Marv had a big chance to make good when the Mets came to bat. With two runners on, Marv drove a long shot to the bullpen in right center field. It looked to be a sure triple. Marv flew past first. Well past it. He didn't come within two steps of touching the bag. Then he raced toward second and careened toward third. While all this violent motion was taking place, Ernie Banks , the Cubs' first baseman, casually strolled over to Umpire Dusty Boggess.

"Didn't touch the bag, you know, Dusty," Banks said. Boggess nodded. Banks then called for the ball. The relay came and he stepped on first base. Across the infield Throneberry was standing on third. He was taking a deep breath and was proudly hitching up his belt when he saw the umpire calling him out at first.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:05 AM


Game 6 (Peter Gammons, 4/06/87, Sports Illustrated)

"Answering questions about that game is something I'll always have to deal with," says McNamara . More incredibly, Johnson will always have to answer questions about screwing up a World Series he won. A month after the game, Larry Bowa , a friend who played with and for Johnson , called him and asked, "What in the world were you thinking?"

Regardless of the managing, there was still very little art to this game. Aside from a sinking Marty Barrett liner that Lenny Dykstra stabbed in the first, a long fly by the star-crossed Buckner that Darryl Strawberry ran down on the warning track in the second and Wade Boggs 's dive into the stands in the fourth to catch a Keith Hernandez pop-up, there was small cause, defensively, for Vin Scully to raise his voice. The Red Sox ' go-ahead run in the seventh inning and the Mets ' tying run in the eighth came after wild throws, and the Mets ' tying and winning runs in the 10th came on a wild pitch and the croquet shot through Buckner 's wicket. The winning pitcher, Rick Aguilera , had a 12.00 ERA for the Series. And when you look at the box score, your eye immediately falls on the line that reads, " Stanley pitched to one batter in the 10th."

"We lost that game," said Barrett , the Sox' second baseman. "They won the seventh game, but we lost on Saturday night." That's why the game's legitimate heroes, players like Wilson and Orosco, seem to have played only supporting roles. And that's why you wonder if Buckner , McNamara , Bob Stanley and Calvin Schiraldi will forever be scarred, like Fred Merkle , Mickey Owen and Ralph Branca before them.

"Shots," Buckner calls media reminders of what happened. Ten days before spring training he told The Boston Globe , "I'm not going to talk about what happened anymore." But Buckner did point out that Stanley wasn't covering first when Wilson 's grounder went through his legs. For his part, Stanley took some off-season shots at McNamara 's decision-making process, and the pitcher's wife, Joan, was quoted as saying that Rich Gedman "blew it" because he had failed to stop Stanley 's inside pitch to Wilson . Roger Clemens , the Boston starter, publicly wondered why McNamara took him out of the game with a 3-2 lead after seven innings, and Baylor privately seethed at not being used. "All season long we won as a team, and as soon as we lost, some of the guys started pointing fingers," says Baylor .

And the Mets ? "We had accomplished so much and had come from behind in such dramatic fashion in the playoffs that the sixth game just seemed like a good bounce that gave us the chance to win what we believed we should win," says Wilson . But even Hernandez , who went to the manager's office and popped open a beer after he made the second out in the 10th inning, admitted, "I couldn't believe what I was watching on TV." Says Bobby Ojeda , who was traded from the Red Sox to the Mets the winter before, "Even though we knew we deserved it, we know we won because of Stanley 's wild pitch and Buckner 's error."

Unlike Game 6 of the '75 World Series, which was about as lively as a Lennon Sisters Special until Bernardo Carbo's eighth-inning, three-run home run tied the game for the Red Sox , this game was filled with might-have-beens from the outset.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:57 AM


Throwing a party with dollar-store food deals (KIM PIERCE, 11/13/08, The Dallas Morning News)

We asked culinary instructor Anne Legg, who teaches area cooking classes on entertaining, to take us along to the Dollar Tree and show us how to shop cheaply without being cheapskates.

She had great ideas, from using the store's spicy Mexican seasoning on jicama slices to starting your own dip with some Land O Lakes sour cream. ''It's always better to make them yourself,'' Legg says.

Dollar Tree is one of the stores where most things really are $1. We met at a location that has refrigerator and freezer cases. (Not all do.)

Besides our finds, the Dollar Tree was also a good source for items such as chips (Cape Cod potato chips), Funyuns (original and ersatz), surprisingly good fresh corn and flour tortillas, disposable salt and pepper grinders, staples such as canned tomatoes and stock, soft drinks, bottled water, nuts and trail mixes, Duncan Hines baking mixes (cupcakes, small-batch brownies and cookies), spices and seasonings.

You have to watch expiration dates: While nothing was expired when we bought it, some dates were within a month.

Most dollar stores also stock disposable foil bakeware, pretty good wine glasses (at $1 apiece, you won't cry if you break one, Legg says), disposable paper goods (including tablecloths), plastic cutlery and, best of all, plastic serving dishes designed to look like cut glass.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:46 AM


Mom's Pecan Pie (The Denver Post, 11/10/2008)

1 (1 5-ounce) package refrigerated pie crusts
3 large eggs, beaten
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup light corn syrup
2 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups pecan halves


Unfold and stack 2 pie crusts; gently roll or press together. Fit into a 9-inch pie plate according to package directions; fold edges under and crimp.

Stir together eggs and next 5 ingredients; stir in pecans.

Pour filling into pie crust. Bake at 350 degrees for 55 minutes or until set.

Southern Living

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:14 AM


Tips for a Turkey Day with minimal trauma (JOHN KESSLER, 11/13/08, Cox News Service)

1. Make your menu: Think about every single item -- from celery sticks to tea -- that you want to serve and write them down on one page.

2. Turn your menu into a shopping list: Try to buy all the nonperishable items as soon as you can.

3. Turn your menu into three to-do lists: Some of the cooking you can do a week or more in advance, some a couple of days before Thanksgiving and some on the day itself.

In advance: Make pie crust dough, make and freeze stock.

A day or two before: Peel and cut potatoes and hold them in a bowl of water in the fridge, put out your bread or corn bread to get stale for stuffing, make bread dough, trim beans, make cranberry sauce, make pie filling, dice celery and onions for stuffing.

Thanksgiving Day: Boil and mash the potatoes, bake the pies, bake the bread, assemble the stuffing and cook that bird.

4. Do your turkey math: It goes like this ... 20 minutes per pound for a stuffed bird, 15 minutes per pound for an unstuffed one. So if you have dual ovens and guests coming at 6 p.m., no problem. You'll put your 16-pound bird in to roast just past noon. If you only have a single oven for baking pies and casseroles, then you'll need to adjust your timing. But figure this piece out early, and you won't panic.

5. Elect a logistics czar: The, ahem, less culinarily minded household member should figure out table arrangements, chairs and place settings.

Al Gore is available, but you'll need more pies...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:08 AM


Give thanks for the right roaster (Lisa Zwirn, November 12, 2008, Boston Globe)

Our search yielded three moderately priced roasters; some manufacturers have thrown in useful utensils. The Chef'sDesign French Roaster is heavy-gauge aluminum with nonstick interior and a stainless steel rack (an 18-inch-long pan is $99.99; the 16 1/2-inch pan $79.99). Calphalon's Contemporary Nonstick Roaster (16 inches) comes with a rack, baster, and two turkey lifters ($99.95; for $30 more you can get Calphalon's Contemporary Stainless Steel Roaster). Cuisinart's 16-inch stainless steel pan is paired with a rack, lifters, and an instant-read thermometer ($79.95). They'll all brown your bird beautifully. Alas, they won't make the gravy or wash themselves.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:05 AM


Hair from Charles Darwin's beard goes on show: Wisps of hair from Charles Darwin's beard are to go on public display 200 years after he was born in a Natural History Museum exhibition. (Stephen Adams, 13 Nov 2008, Daily Telegraph)

If you didn't have the relics people might not believe the Prophet had existed.

November 18, 2008

Posted by Stephen Judd at 2:53 PM


Pedroia named AL MVP (Ian Browne, 11/18/2008,

With 213 hits, Pedroia tied Ichiro Suzuki for the Major League lead. His 54 doubles led the Majors. He led the AL in runs (118) and multihit games (61).

Backed by a .326 average, Pedroia lost the batting title by just four points to Minnesota catcher Joe Mauer. Pedroia finished fourth in total bases (322) and seventh in extra-base hits (73).

An elite tablesetter, Pedroia also chipped in with power (17 homers, 83 RBIs) and speed (20 stolen bases).

Posted by Stephen Judd at 7:47 AM


The History of the American and National League, Part I (Peter Bendix, 11/18/08, Beyond the Box Score)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:57 AM


Benching Of A Legend: The prideful struggle of an aging Stan Musial to keep on playing ball has been a painful experience for everyone (Roger Kahn, 9/12/60, Sports Illustrated)

Disturbing paradoxes surround an aging baseball player. He is old but not gray; tired but not short of breath; slow but not fat as he drives himself down the first base line. Long after the games, when the old ballplayer thinks seriously, he realizes that he has become obsolete at an age when most men are still moving toward their prime in business and, in politics, are being criticized for their extreme youth. It is a melancholy thing, geriatrics for a 40-year-old.

To Joe DiMaggio , age meant more injuries and deeper silences. To Bob Feller it meant months of forced jokes, with nothing to pitch but batting practice. To more fine ballplayers than anyone has counted age has meant Scotch, bourbon and rye. The athletes seldom bow out gracefully.

Amid the miscellaneous excitements of the current National League pennant race, the most popular ballplayer of his time is trying desperately to overcome this tradition. Stanley Frank Musial of the St. Louis Cardinals , now 39 and slowed, intends to end his career with dignity and with base hits. Neither comes easily to a ballplayer several years past his peak, and so to Musial, a man accustomed to ease and to humility, this has been a summer of agony and pride.

Consider one quiet June evening in Milwaukee when Musial walked toward the batting cage to hit with the scrubs, dragging his average (.235) behind him. He had been riding the bench for two weeks.

Out of place

"Hey, what a funny-looking ballplayer," called Red Schoendienst of the Braves , who was Musial 's roommate on the Cardinals for five years. Musial grinned wide. It was an old joke between old friends. Then he stood silently among anonymous second-liners, attempting to act as though he were used to the company.

"Stash," someone said, while George Crowe , a St. Louis pinch hitter was swinging, "did you know that Preacher Roe was using a spit ball when he pitched against you?"

The question snapped Musial to life. "Sure," he said, enthusiastically. "We had a regular signal for it. One day Preacher goes into his motion and Terry Moore , who's coaching at third, picks off the spitter and gives me the signal. Preacher knows I've got it, so he doesn't want to throw the spitter. But he's halfway through his wind-up and all he can change to is a lollipop [nothing ball]. I hit it into the left-field seats, and I laughed all the way around the bases."

Musial laughed again at the memory, then stepped in to hit. He swung three times but never got the ball past the batting practice pitcher. A knot of Milwaukee fans jeered as Musial stepped out of the cage, and the sound, half boos, half yahs, was harsh. Musial blushed and began talking very quickly about other games against Roe and the old Brooklyn Dodgers . "Yeah, I could really hit those guys," he said. It was strange and a little sad to see so great a figure tapping bouncers to the pitcher and answering boos with remembrances of past home runs.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:47 AM


Roast salted turkey (LA Times, 11/15/08)

1 (12- to 16-pound) turkey

Kosher salt

1. Wash the turkey inside and out, pat it dry and weigh it. Measure 1 tablespoon of salt into a bowl for every 5 pounds the turkey weighs (for a 15-pound turkey, you'd have 3 tablespoons).

2. Sprinkle the inside of the turkey lightly with salt. Place the turkey on its back and salt the breasts, concentrating the salt in the center, where the meat is thickest. You'll probably use a little more than a tablespoon. It should look liberally seasoned, but not over-salted.

3. Turn the turkey on one side and sprinkle the entire side with salt, concentrating on the thigh. You should use a little less than a tablespoon. Flip the turkey over and do the same with the opposite side.

4. Place the turkey in a 2 1/2 -gallon sealable plastic bag, press out the air and seal tightly. Place the turkey breast-side up in the refrigerator. Chill for 3 days, turning it onto its breast for the last day.

5. Remove the turkey from the bag. There should be no salt visible on the surface and the skin should be moist but not wet. Place the turkey breast-side up on a plate and refrigerate uncovered for at least 8 hours.

6. On the day it is to be cooked, remove the turkey from the refrigerator and leave it at room temperature at least 1 hour. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

7. Place the turkey breast-side down on a roasting rack in a roasting pan; put it in the oven. After 30 minutes, remove the pan from the oven and carefully turn the turkey over so the breast is facing up (it's easiest to do this by hand, using kitchen towels or oven mitts).

8. Reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees, return the turkey to the oven and roast until a thermometer inserted in the deepest part of the thigh, but not touching the bone, reads 165 degrees, about 2 3/4 hours total roasting.

9. Remove the turkey from the oven, transfer it to a warm platter or carving board; tent loosely with foil. Let stand at least 30 minutes to let the juices redistribute through the meat. Carve and serve.

THANKSGIVING | A NEW WAY TO ROAST: How we discovered the be-all, end-all turkey recipe (Los Angeles Times)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:44 AM


Missing Links: The Hypocrisy Audit: Double standards have always been a part of U.S. foreign policy. It’s time to figure out how many should no longer be tolerated. (Moisés Naím, September/October 2008, Foreign Policy)

The official position of the United States is that Europe should allow Turkey to join the European Union. Turkey’s entry would give its citizens the right to travel freely to any other EU member state. This prodding to Europeans to embrace Turkey comes from the same country that is building a 700-mile-long wall along its border with Mexico.

When the South Korean government bailed out Hyundai Electronics Industries in 2001, the U.S. Senate passed a resolution urging the Bush administration “to assure that the unlawful bailout by the Republic of Korea is stopped.” This July, the U.S. Congress approved a far larger bailout of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the two mortgage giants. The U.S. government has often pressured poor African countries ravaged by HIV/AIDS into not buying the cheaper generic drugs offered by manufacturers in Brazil or India. Yet, when the United States faced a potential health crisis during the anthrax attacks in 2001, Tommy Thompson, then the secretary of Health and Human Services, announced that the United States was ready to buy generic versions of Cipro, an anti-anthrax drug owned by Bayer, from manufacturers in India if the German drug company refused to drop its price.

These are just a few examples from a long list of contradictions, inconsistencies, and double standards that are all too common in the way the United States interacts with the world.

The question isn't whether there should be double standards; there have to be until everyone is Amer-Anglicized. The question is: how do we get everyone to apply our standards without resenting us so much that they refuse to their own and our detriment?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:42 AM


Black-bottom Peanut Butter Mousse Pie (The Denver Post, 11/10/2008)

Nonstick vegetable oil spray
7 whole graham crackers, coarsely broken
1/4 cup ( 1/2stick) unsalted butter, melted
4 tablespoons sugar, divided
1 1/3 cups bittersweet or semisweet chocolate chips (about 8 ounces)
2/3 cup plus 1 3/4cups chilled whipping cream, divided
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
2 teaspoons vanilla extract, divided
6 ounces (1 cup) peanut butter chips
2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter (do not use old-fashioned style or freshly ground)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 9-inch-diameter glass pie dish with nonstick spray. Blend graham crackers, melted butter and 2 tablespoons sugar in food processor until moist clumps form. Press crumb mixture over bottom and up sides of prepared pie dish. Bake crust until lightly browned, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine chocolate chips, 2/3 cup cream, corn syrup and 1 teaspoon vanilla in microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on medium heat until chocolate softens, about 3 minutes. Whisk until melted and smooth. Spread chocolate mixture over bottom of crust. Freeze 10 minutes.

Microwave peanut butter chips and 3/4 cup cream in large microwave-safe bowl on medium heat at 15-second intervals just until chips soften, stirring often. Whisk in peanut butter and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Cool to barely lukewarm. Beat remaining 1 cup cream and 2 tablespoons sugar in medium bowl until very thick but not yet holding peaks; fold into peanut butter mixture in 3 additions. Spoon mousse over chocolate layer. Chill at least 1 hour and up to 1 day.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:33 AM


The Rise Of The West: Lessons for today's lost conservatives (Michael Auslin, 11.14.08, Forbes)

As conservatives ponder a long exile in the political wilderness, many voices are calling for a period of contemplation, a returning to roots, so to speak.

They could do worse than return to William H. McNeill's 1963 magnum opus, The Rise of the West, which celebrates its 45th anniversary this year. The lessons of that 900-page survey of human history have as much urgency today as they did at the height of the Cold War, and they make a sweeping case for economic and political freedom.

McNeill's name is no longer widely known, least of all in universities, though he is one of the last of our truly great professors. Over his three-plus decades teaching at the University of Chicago, he became famed for tackling giant subjects, such as the history of technology or the whole of human existence, as in The Rise of the West.

He was, in his day, part of the vibrant republic of letters that marked post-war American intellectual life, a time when ideas and words mattered, when the Great Books were mass-produced for the middle class and when educated adults read Trilling and Barzun and Buckley. Professors were celebrated for their learning and sage writings, not for their sound bites, celebrity and anti-Americanism. The Rise of the West fit squarely into this richly humanistic and, yes, positive moment.

McNeill rarely used the word "progress" in The Rise of the West, at least not in a Hegelian fashion; but his book unapologetically portrayed human history as a long, slow climb out of the cave (literally and figuratively). He anticipated today's globalization debate by claiming that the sinews of human contact throughout civilized history were vast inter-societal and inter-regional communications and trade networks. McNeill believed that these networks were mostly established by merchants and that they created a "great society" that pushed innovation throughout the world.

He saw this great society emerging as early as the third millennium B.C. in the Sumerian and Akkadian empire-states, and then repeatedly reemerging after the fall of empires, serving as the holding receptacle for knowledge when states collapsed. The strength of these sinews allowed certain societies (the bones and muscle) to flourish, based on their openness to the cosmopolitan flow of ideas and goods and their talent at employing them for state-building purposes.

McNeill saw this steady spread of ideas and the broadening of economic participation as a "democratizing" element to human history. The great motor of man's development was fueled by economic exchange and learning, both of which were facilitated through dissemination of the written word. He used the term "democratizing" in a largely rhetorical sense to describe these trends, but that undoubtedly did not endear him to critics who were starting to hold strong antipathy toward democracy in its struggle against 20th century totalitarianism.

As radical professors spread throughout universities in the late 1960s, McNeill's The Rise of the West became for them the symbol of an outdated, patriarchal era of scholarship.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:27 AM


There's always room for bacon (J&D Foods)

Baconnaise™, available in Regular and Lite, is the newest addition to the J&D’s family.

We started with a customer request to make “spreadable bacon, namely mayonnaise.” At first, we were skeptical. Mostly because neither one of us really liked mayo much.

Then we started talking to people about whether a bacon-flavored mayonnaise would fly. We heard from a lot of people that just couldn’t wait for us to make it so they could use it on everything. They told us that sometimes they didn’t want salt, they just wanted bacon – so just mixing Bacon Salt and mayonnaise wouldn’t cut it. They wanted less mayo taste and more bacon taste – it should be Baconnaise, not “Mayocon” we heard. And many people requested a Lite and a Regular version, because some people loved Lite mayos and some people hated it (with a passion).

So we set out on another bacon-flavored adventure. Could we make a mayonnaise product that met our own high bacony standards? Could we get people as excited as they were for Bacon Salt (for which shrines have been built and songs have been written)?

I don't care if I get a stinkin' pony, the Unicorn Rider has justified his election by giving us a world with baconaisse in it...

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:26 AM


A Critic in Full: A Conversation with Tom Wolfe (Carol Iannone, 8/11/08, , Academic Questions

Iannone: About neuroscience, though, I thought I was getting from I Am Charlotte Simmons the idea that we’re resisting that, resisting that we are just impulses and synapses and so on?

Wolfe: There’s neuroscience the science and there’s genetic theory. They are two entirely different things. José Delgado, the Spanish neuroscientist, son of the Copernicus, the Galileo of neuroscience, José M.R. Delgado, puts it very clearly: “The human brain is enormously complicated. We have made only a few small steps in finding out how it works. All the rest is literature.” Delgado mentions no names, but if he has noticed them at all, “all the rest” probably includes some of the best known genetic theorists, such as Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett, a zoologist and a philosopher. They are not neurologists. They know precious little about the human brain. They seem to have captivated a big following, especially Dawkins, but not with anything that could be called neuroscience. They’re writing speculative literature. Their theory is that the human brain is nothing but a machine, after all, a form of computer, and therefore it has no free will. In any situation we find ourselves we can only do what our evolutionary software—they love computer talk like “software,” meaning genetic makeup—has programmed us to do.
So at a recent conference on the implications of genetic theory for the legal system—five distinguished genetic theorists are up on stage—I stood up in the audience and asked, “If there is no free will, why should we believe anything you’ve said so far? You only say it because you’re programmed to say it.” You’ve never heard such stuttering and blathering in response to anything in your life. But I have to confess that I made the mistake of conflating science and genetic theory in the first piece I wrote about neuroscience, “Sorry, but Your Soul Just Died”…

Iannone: I think I remember that. And then when I first heard about I Am Charlotte Simmons I thought it was going to be about that, but instead I took it as more of a humanistic declaration on the part of an individual who is going to live and demand to be treated with respect and learn about life and make decisions and so on.

Wolfe: Well, I brought the subject into the novel because genetic theory is another immensely important novelty incubating in the universities. It tends to make you feel that the fix is in. You are born already programmed, and that’s that. It makes you think of Nietzsche’s prediction—in the 1880s—that the twenty-first century would see the total eclipse of all values. I wanted to show Charlotte Simmons wrestling with that subject rather than just spelling it all out.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:16 AM


Deprogramming Jihadists (KATHERINE ZOEPF, 11/09/08, NY Times Magazine)

The sunset prayer had just ended, and Sheik Ahmad al-Jilani was already calling his class to order. When the latecomers slipped into the front row, Jilani nodded at them briskly. “Young men,” he began, “who can tell me why we do jihad?”

The members of the class were still new and a bit shy. Jilani clasped his hands and smiled encouragingly. Before him, sitting in school desks, were a dozen young Saudi men who had served time in prison for belonging to militant Islamic groups. Now they were inmates in a new rehabilitation center, part of a Saudi government initiative that seeks to deprogram Islamic extremists.

Jilani has been teaching his class, which is called Understandings of Jihad, since the center was established early last year. A stout man who makes constant, self-deprecating references to his weight, the sheik is an avuncular figure, popular with his students. On this chilly evening he had on a woolly, brocade-trimmed bisht, the cloak that Saudi men wear on formal occasions or in cool weather, which gave him a slightly imposing air. But behind his thick glasses, his eyes shone warmly as he surveyed the classroom.

Finally, someone answered: “We do jihad to fight our enemies.”

“To defeat God’s enemies?” another suggested.

“To help weak Muslims,” a third offered.

“Good, good,” Jilani said. “All good answers. Is there someone else? What about you, Ali?” Ali, in the second row, looked away, then faltered: “To . . . answer . . . calls for jihad?”

Jilani frowned slightly and wrote Ali’s answer up on the white board behind him. He read it out to the class before turning back to Ali. “All right, Ali,” the sheik said. “Why do we answer calls for jihad? Is it because all Muslim leaders want to make God’s word highest? Do we kill if these leaders tell us to kill?”

Ali looked confused, but whispered, “Yes.”

“No — wrong!” Jilani cried as Ali blushed. “Of course we want to make God’s word highest, but not every Muslim leader has this as his goal. There are right jihads and wrong jihads, and we must examine the situation for ourselves. For example, if a person wants to go to hajj now, is it right?”

The class chuckled obligingly at Jilani’s little joke. The month for performing hajj, the holy pilgrimage to Mecca that observant Muslims hope to complete at least once in their lives, had ended five weeks earlier, and the suggestion was as preposterous as throwing a Fourth of July barbecue in November.

“Well, just as there is a proper time for hajj, there is also a proper time for jihad,” Jilani explained.

Jilani’s students, who range in age from 18 to 36, are part of a generation brought up on heroic tales of Saudi fighters who left home to fight alongside the mujahedeen in Afghanistan during the 1980s and who helped to force the Soviets to withdraw from the country. The Saudi state was essentially built on the concept of jihad, which King Abdul Aziz al-Saud used to knit disparate tribal groups into a single nation. The word means “struggle” and in Islamic law usually refers to armed conflict with non-Muslims in defense of the global Islamic community. Saudi schools teach a version of world history that emphasizes repeated battles between Muslims and nonbelieving enemies. Whether to Afghanistan in the 1980s or present-day Iraq, Saudi Arabia has exported more jihadist volunteers than any other country; 15 of the 19 hijackers on Sept. 11 were Saudis.

But jihad can go too far. The Saudi government has condemned the Sept. 11 attacks and arrests jihadists who attempt to enter Iraq. Some Saudi veterans of overseas jihads have adopted one form of the doctrine of takfir, in which a Muslim is judged by another Muslim to be an unbeliever. Because traditional Islamic law calls for the execution of apostates, some have used takfir to justify attacks on the Saudi state. In recent years, these attacks have raised fears that the chaos in some of the world’s conflict zones is being brought home to Saudi Arabia by radicalized jihadists. The Saudi government thus finds itself in the awkward position of needing to defend the principle of jihad to its citizens while discouraging them from actually taking up arms. One step it has taken is simply to talk to those who have proved to be most vulnerable to the temptations of jihad, the captured militants themselves. As Jilani put it to me, “The kingdom of Saudi Arabia has the confidence to fight thoughts with thoughts.”

Jilani and his colleagues are not just fighting a war of ideas. Though the Saudi government tends to explain its rehabilitation program in purely Islamic terms, as an effort to correct theological misunderstandings, the new program also addresses the psychological needs and emotional weaknesses that have led many young men to jihad in the first place. It tries to give frustrated and disaffected young men the trappings of stability — a job, a car, possibly a wife. Though international human rights groups continue to sound the alarm about Saudi Arabia’s habit of detaining suspects without charging them and of punishing certain crimes with floggings and amputations, these young men seem to have become the subjects of a continuing experiment in counterterrorism as a kind of social work.

If the Saudi rehabilitation program succeeds, it could reduce the ranks of dangerous extremists and have a far-reaching impact: domestic and regional stability and, though it’s not a stated goal, increased safety for potential targets in the West. Program administrators claim that the Saudi initiative could also provide a model for other Muslim countries struggling with Islamic militancy. They say that Saudi Arabia — home to Islam’s two holiest cities, Mecca and Medina — has an unmatched moral authority among the world’s Muslims and is uniquely placed to find the intellectual and spiritual vulnerabilities of organizations like Al Qaeda and to fight Islamic extremism on its own terms.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:10 AM


Ahmadinejad and the shifting political environment in Iran (Benedetta Berti, 13 November 2008, Online Opinion)

As dismal economic conditions eroded public support for the president, Ahmadinejad came under mounting criticism from some of his fellow conservatives. Even the president's spiritual advisor, Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi, said that the government had failed to deal with rising poverty.

There has also been a growing consensus that Ahmadinejad's anti-Western rhetoric and confrontational diplomatic approach to the nuclear crisis plays into the hands of Iran's enemies. Iran's head nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, resigned over irreconcilable differences with the president.

Two strong indications of Ahmadinejad's diminished political clout can be found in the December 2006 defeat of his "Scent of Service" (Boo-ye Khosh-e Khedmat) coalition in elections for municipal councils and the Assembly of Experts (the latter paving the way for the ascension of Rafsanjani as head of the body in September 2007).

In the lead-up to Iran's March-April 2008 parliamentary elections, Ahmadinejad's United Front of Principlists was opposed by the Broad Principlists Coalition, an ad hoc alliance of his conservative opponents, including popular mayor of Tehran Mohammad Baqer Qaliba, former head of the Revolutionary Guards Mohsen Rezaie, and Larijani. Ahmadinejad wisely decided at the last minute to participate in a broad alliance with his conservative opponents, which netted his coalition 117 of 290 seats, while giving his conservative rivals 53. The reformist bloc obtained 46 seats.

After the new parliament convened in May, the pragmatists obtained an important victory with the election of Larijani as parliament speaker, replacing Qolamali Haddad Adel.

Larijani, a very close political ally of Ayatollah Khamenei and a former member of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps, has used his position to create strategic alliances with the different legislative blocs, with the ultimate objective of boosting the parliament's efficiency and independence from the executive.

While strengthening their role within the Majlis, Ahmadinejad's conservative rivals also appear to have their eyes on winning the 2009 presidential election. The Broad Principlists Coalition's potential candidates include Larijani, whose conservative ideology and background have ensured him the trust of a large part of the conservative bloc. Another potential presidential challenger is Qaliba, who beat the electoral machine of Ahmadinejad (his predecessor as mayor of Tehran) in the capital's municipal elections.

The political strength of this rival conservative bloc may not be sufficient at present to defeat Ahmadinejad, who still commands significant support from the rural poor. However, their influence could grow exponentially if they ally with other anti-Ahmadinejad forces within the Parliament, such as the reformist bloc. Larijani's commitment to the independence of the Majlis could provide a bridge for them to reach out to the reformists, although it is at this point still unclear whether this ad hoc co-operation within the Majlis could ever translate into a broader electoral agreement or into the joint support of a presidential candidate.

In sum, growing popular disaffection toward the president and shifting political alignments indicate that the re-election of Ahmadinejad is not to be taken for granted and that an important part of next electoral race will be disputed internally within the conservative forces. that he wasn't Ayatollah Khamenei's candidate and won't undertake the reforms the Ayatollah needs to save the Republic.

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November 17, 2008

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:59 AM


Space cowboy: For more than 50 years, UConn physics professor Ronald Mallett had a secret. Now that it's out, we may be one step closer to traveling back in time. (MIKE MILIARD, November 10, 2008, Boston Phoenix)

PERSONAL QUEST Since losing his father 53 years ago, Mallett has devoted his life to building a time machine in order to revisit him. Today, in a Connecticut laboratory, he’s developed basic equations and a prototypical experiment that may prove it’s possible.

The road not yet traveled: The science of time travel. By Mike Miliard.
Dr. Ronald L. Mallett was only the 79th African-American to earn a doctorate in physics. But being black wasn’t the only potentially complicating factor he faced on the road to becoming a tenured theoretical physicist at the University of Connecticut.

Another was his reason for choosing his vocation, one he kept hidden for years, fearful that its discovery would (at best) incite howls of derision from his colleagues, or (at worst) amount to professional suicide.

Ronald Mallett wanted to build a time machine.

Traveling into the future is easy. Anyone familiar with Albert Einstein’s special theory of relativity knows a moving clock ticks slower than a stationary one. So it’s simple, really: all you have to do is build a spaceship that moves nearly as fast as the speed of light, pump it with enough fuel for a long — long, long — round-trip voyage, and head for the stars. By the time you return to Earth in, say, five years (as marked by you onboard your light-year-traveling spaceship, of course), you’ll have aged half a decade while everyone and everything else on Earth has aged considerably more. [...]

For more than 50 years, he’s been obsessed with finding a way to return to the past. Specifically, to the Bronx, in 1955. That’s the year his father, Boyd Mallet, died. Mallett’s lifelong mission? To traverse spatiotemporal continuum and warn his dad to take better care of himself. To tell him to kick the two-pack-a-day habit that helped lead to the fatal heart attack he suffered at the age of 33.

The “overwhelming shock” of his father’s death caused Mallett, now 63, to “just disconnect from reality,” he says. So when, at age 10, he started building a jury-rigged jalopy, based on the gyroscopic contraption on the cover of the Classics Illustrated version of H.G. Wells’s The Time Machine, it might have seemed as if he had gone over the edge.

But the next decades only saw Mallett’s focus on his mission intensify with laser-like precision. He devoured every book on Einstein he could find. He boned up on differential equations and tensor calculus. And by 1973, at Penn State, he’d earned his Ph.D. Moved by the intensely personal nature of his quest, Spike Lee announced this past summer that he’s currently writing a screenplay for a movie — which he’ll direct — based on Mallett’s book, Time Traveler (Thunder’s Mouth, 2006).

On Mallett’s cluttered desk sits a small placard: “If the facts do not conform to the theory, they must be disposed of.” A bit of geek humor. But Mallett knew that there was nothing in the laws of physics that said time travel was impossible. And now his groundbreaking theories about the nature of space-time are about to be borne out in a Connecticut laboratory.

Many scientists have wondered about the possibility of time travel, says Dr. Philip D. Mannheim, a UConn professor specializing in particle and field theory who occupies the office next to Mallett’s, but it’s always “only ever been at the theoretical stage. Ron is one of the people who is actually setting out to do it. The proof of the pudding will be in the eating. The theoretical ideas that we have seem to permit it. But nonetheless, you still want to see it happen. And that’s what Ron is doing. He’s worked through [Einstein’s theory of] general relativity to find a way to apply these ideas in a tractable situation.”

Mallett is convinced that time travel will become a reality sooner rather than later. “What I’m doing, I like to think of as analogous to the Wright brothers,” he says. “They sent this rickety craft across a few hundred yards of beach. But with the technological acceleration that happened after that, by the middle of the century we had intercontinental air travel. This is only the beginning. Once it can be shown to be done, even in the simplest case, then what we learn from that will be incredible.”

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:58 AM


Going Fishing With The Kid: No longer a splinter, Ted Williams (right) is just as splendid—and brash—as ever when he turns his skill against another worthy opponent, the leaping tarpon of the Florida Keys
John Underwood, 8/21/67, Sports Illustrated)

The Kid said it was about time we showed up. It was 5:15 in the morning. The sun had not yet begun its assault on the Florida Keys . By 10 o'clock it would be 85�, and Charley Trainor, the photographer, would have his freckles double-coated with a petroleum compound made for World War II aviators marooned at sea. The Kid had bacon—a good two pounds of bacon—bubbling and spitting in twin skillets on the stove, and the coffee was hot. "All right," he said, "get the hell out of the road."

We were standing there like children who have awakened to strange events. "Just sit your behinds down and stay out of the road. We're making history here. How do you like your eggs?"

There was some ponderous shuffling as the three of us who were now his subjects found seats at the large dinette table. There were Charley the photographer and Edwin Pope, the writer from Miami , and myself, and however improbable our status as fishermen, we were there to go for tarpon with The Kid, who is an expert at it, who may be, in fact, the best at it, the way he used to be the best at putting a bat on a ball. He had invited us to an early breakfast, because he said he did not trust us to find our own at that hour and he wanted to be at the fishing spot no later than 7. He had it scouted.

The Kid said his cooking would not win prizes, but as a man alone after two aborted marriages he knew some of the mysteries of steaks, chops, broiled chicken and roast beef. "I do a pretty fair job with them," he said. "I do not make pies," he said, raising his eyebrows and the side of his mouth.

He had on the red Bermuda shorts I have come to think of as his home uniform in Islamorada, and a faded red shirt that had a few character holes in it. He wore Sears, Roebuck tennis shoes without socks, and his copper-brown calves stuck out prominently from the tails of the Bermudas. In 1938, when he was 19 years old and a pitcher-outfielder in San Diego , just starting as a professional ballplayer, he was 6'3" and weighed 168 pounds. Eventually, when he had been exposed to major league regimens, he got up to 200 pounds, but it was still appropriate to call him The Splinter. The Splendid Splinter , to be sure, because there was more to him than attenuation. His own particular preference for a nickname was always The Kid. Occasionally in conversation he still refers to himself as The Kid. It is a pleasing way of taking the edge off the first person singular.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:54 AM


Recipes to pump up your pecan pie: Add flavor boosters from coconut to chocolate (LAURA H. EHRET, 11/11/08, The Dallas Morning News

Pecan pie is a staple of the autumn table, particularly at Thanksgiving and in Texas.

But even the standards can use a new edge...


Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:52 AM


Turkey Fried Rice (AP, 11/10/08)

1/3 cup low-sodium soy sauce

2 tablespoons turkey stock or chicken broth

1 tablespoon rice vinegar

2 teaspoons dark sesame oil

1 teaspoon chili garlic sauce

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

5 teaspoons canola oil

2 cups shredded green cabbage

1 cup sliced scallions

1 1/2 teaspoons minced peeled fresh ginger

5 cups cooked long-grain white rice, chilled

4 cups chopped cooked turkey (light and dark meat)

2 cups leftover green peas or frozen peas, thawed

1 cup leftover carrots or frozen carrots, thawed

1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro

In a small bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, turkey stock, rice vinegar, sesame oil, garlic sauce, salt and pepper. Set aside.

In a large nonstick skillet over medium-high, heat the canola oil. Add the cabbage, scallions and ginger, then saute for 3 minutes, or until tender.

Add the rice, turkey, peas and carrots, then saute for another 3 minutes, or until thoroughly heated. Stir in soy sauce mixture and cook for another 2 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in the cilantro.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:51 AM


Yogi: As a reincarnated Yankee skipper, Yogi Berra is working for George Steinbrenner. Is Yogi worried about longevity? No. He knows a managing job, like a ball game, ain't over 'til it's over (Roy Blount Jr., 4/02/84, Sports Illustrated)

Whereas yoga springs from Hinduism, Berra is a Roman Catholic who tries to attend Mass every Sunday and who once visited the Pope. Yogi told of his meeting with Pope John XXIII in a now-famous interview:

Reporter: "I understand you had an audience with the Pope."

Yogi: "No, but I saw him."

Reporter: "Did you get to talk to him?"

Yogi: "I sure did. We had a nice little chat."

Reporter: "What did he say?"

Yogi: "You know, he must read the papers a lot, because he said, 'Hello, Yogi.' "

Reporter: "And what did you say?"

Yogi: "I said, 'Hello, Pope.' "

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:44 AM


The Republicans are where the Tories were in 1997 (James Forsyth, 12th November 2008, The Spectator)

The Republicans are down the same hole the Tories were in 1997: out of office, out of ideas, their reputation for competence gone and fighting against the best politician of the generation. This bad news for the Republicans is bad news for the Tories too. The British Right has not developed a proper ideas infrastructure in recent years. It has made up for this by borrowing heavily from America. For instance, the Tory social justice agenda was largely inspired by George W. Bush’s Texas governorship. In the 2005 leadership race, David Davis and David Cameron were, in policy terms, running to be the heir to Bush — albeit the inclusive governor not the divisive president — rather than the heir to Blair. Indeed, there are few areas of Tory policy where you cannot see an American influence. Their welfare reform agenda owes much to Wisconsin, their policing reform agenda to Giuliani’s experience in New York, and the success of Mike Bloomberg’s schools policy is an underappreciated element of Tory thinking on education. [...]

Polls always put down immigration as important, but the Republican experience of 2006 and the Tory defeats of 2001 and 2005 show that it doesn’t actually win votes. If the Republicans decide that sending illegals back across the Rio Grande will propel them back to the White House, they could destroy themselves as a viable political force. As Steve Schmidt — who effectively ran the McCain campaign — has warned, the Republicans will not win again nationally until they increase their share of the Hispanic vote.

Third, the Republicans must not be seduced by the turnout myth. Norman Tebbit persuaded many in the Tory party that they lost so badly in 1997 because millions of their voters stayed home; disappointed that the party wasn’t more Eurosceptic or robustly right-wing. Already, some Republicans are beginning to push a similar message. They point to the fact that in the crucial battleground state of Ohio Bush received more votes in 2004 than Obama did in 2008, that Republican turnout was down this year while Democratic turnout was up, and speculate that if McCain had revved the base up more then he could have kept the race competitive. The appeal of this argument is that it suggests the party doesn’t really need to change but just needs to shout louder and be more assertive. The Tory campaign in 2001 showed that what this leads to is not victory but a shrill populism that isn’t even popular.

...the Tory resurgence is a direst function of following the W template (the Blair one too, though the British Right can no more admit that than we can admit W aped Bill Clinton). The GOP will win again when it returns to Bushism.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:25 AM


Relevance without Meaning (Robert Penn Warren, Spring 1971, First Principles)

This is the moment of crisis, we are constantly being told—the crack-up of the Western World, of the Judeo-Christian tradition, of the American success story. In such a moment, what are we doing here on this—or any other—literary occasion? Are we—to use the sacred word—relevant?

When I first entered the Library of Congress in 1944, I didn’t come in feeling relevant. A couple of years earlier, in that time of crisis, I had offered my services to the United States Navy, and they had politely declined the offer. Defective vision, they said. So as time passed I got irrelevanter and irrelevanter until I reached the nadir of relevance—which was being the Consultant in Poetry at the Library of Congress.

But one morning my phone rang and a Captain X introduced himself and asked if I was the Consultant in Poetry. Yes, I said. Well, he said, General Y was writing the lyric for a song to inspirit our boys—that was the word he used, “inspirit”—and the General wanted to consult the Consultant in Poetry on a matter of meter. So at one end of the line the General read his lyric and tapped out the meter, and at my end, while he read, I tapped it out with my finger. We did this several times, and I told him it was fine meter. Meanwhile I had memorized most of his lyric, but now all I can remember is two lines:

We are the boys who don’t like to brag,
But we sure are proud of our grand old flag.

The episode was a great comfort to me. If, in the middle of World War II, a general could be writing a poem, then maybe I was not so irrelevant after all. Maybe the general was doing more for victory by writing a poem than he would be by commanding an army. At least, he might be doing less harm. By applying the same logic to my own condition, I decided that I might be relevant in what I called a negative way. I have clung to this concept ever since—negative relevance. In moments of vainglory I even entertain the possibility that if my concept were more widely accepted, the world might be a better place to live in. There are a lot of people who would make better citizens if they were content to be just negatively relevant.

But, in general, this brand of comfort isn’t quite comforting enough. The awareness of crisis has penetrated to the furthest reaches of society. The most illiterate and pot-ridden of drop-outs mumble about their identity crises, along with the poets. Stickup men on heroin plead alienation. Time was when the bad news of Spengler’s Decline of the West was restricted to the more romantic alumni of the University of Heidelberg, the heavy-thinkers of Greenwich Village, and disillusioned graduate students, but now an erstwhile humor magazine spreads the glad tidings of great gloom according to Charles Reich and Lewis Mumford among suburban housewives on the cocktail circuit and investment bankers grieving because their children are apathetic toward hard money and the Republican (or Democratic) Party.

I am not implying that Reich and Mumford are overestimating the gravity of our crisis—pollution, war, race, the cities, bad schools, irresponsible leadership, and all the rest. In fact, I am inclined to think they are underestimating the gravity, in that their diagnosis is not radical enough and their proposed solutions overlook some important aspects of our relation to technology, and at times are not far from old-time revivalism and snake-oil remedies. In brief, they seem to neglect the nature of the human animal— what we used to refer to as Original Sin. In other words, the need for “relevance” is greater than even the prophets of doom, the Black Panthers, Billy Graham, Martha Mitchell, and the Students for a Democratic Society, imagine. But what is relevance?

The most obvious question concerning literature is: What subject matter is appropriate for our time? Almost a hundred and fifty years ago, the young Nathaniel Hawthorne sat in an upper room, totally withdrawn from the real world, and wrote stories. No doubt writing stories was bad enough, but his stories were about the distant past. Later on, still brooding over the past, Hawthorne moved to Concord. But there he had a neighbor who was really relevant. The neighbor certainly didn’t write stories, he told people how to live, and he took a very dim view of the past. He was a prophet with a crystal ball and his crystal ball did, as a matter of fact, show some important things about the future. It seems only natural that Hawthorne did not think very highly of his prophet neighbor, any more than the neighbor did of him. Hawthorne and Emerson met on the wood paths of Concord, and passed on, Emerson with his head full of bright futurities and relevances, Hawthorne with his head full of the irrelevant past. As Henry James was to say of them: “Emerson, as a sort of spiritual sun-worshipper, could have attached but a moderate value to Hawthorne’s catlike faculty of seeing in the dark.”

We revere Emerson, the prophet whose prophecies came true. But having once come true, those prophecies began to come untrue. More and more Emerson recedes grandly into history, as the future he predicted becomes a past. And what the cat’s eye of Hawthorne saw gave him the future—and relevance. He died more than a century ago, but we find in his work a complex, tangled, and revolutionary vision of the soul, which we recognize as our own. Emerson spoke nobly about relevance but Hawthorne was relevant.

The moral is that it is hard to tell at any given moment what is relevant.

Really? Isn't the moral that Hawthorne is relevant precisely because he never deviated from that attention to Original Sin while Emerson is irrelevant because those trends that require looking away always descend into irrelevance?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:20 AM


Obama: the view from the Middle East (Bashdar Ismaeel, 13 November 2008, Opinion Online)

If George Bush Senior can be viewed by the Kurds with eternal gratitude for the establishment of the no-fly zone and onset of Kurdish liberalisation from tyranny in 1991, it is perhaps the actions of his son George. W. Bush that is forever etched in Kurdish folklore.

Conceivably, in later generations, Kurds may view the decision by Bush Junior to oust Saddam Hussein from power as being as significant as the tale from Newroz folklore where Kawa the blacksmith defeated Zehak the evil ruler to free the nation held in captivity thousands of years ago. The significance of the new dawn for Kurdish existence cannot be overestimated.

The Kurds have been betrayed far too many times, particularly by successive US governments, to take future American support for granted, but the change of fortune during the last 17 years, and particularly in the last five since the liberalisation of Iraq, has been truly remarkable for an ancient, battle weary, and emotionally scarred people.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:17 AM


The Zing Starts Here (DAVID LEITE, 11/12/08, NY Times)

[C]ranberries are the neglected stepchild of the season.

But if guests at the holiday table knew what went into growing the perfect scarlet berry, and if cooks understood the challenges of working with a fruit so sour it makes your jaw sing, the humble cranberry might just be looked upon as the noble autumnal fruit it is, right up there with quince, pomegranate and persimmon.

Considered one of three commercially important fruits native to North America and unknown to European settlers (the others are blueberries and Concord grapes), cranberries were used by Native Americans as food, dye and medicine long before they were co-opted by Thanksgiving advocates.

“No one knows for sure what the Pilgrims ate at that first meal,” said Roseann DeGrenier, who owns the Willows Cranberries farms here and in Plymouth, Mass., as she walked along one of her bogs. “But cranberries were definitely all around them.”

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:12 AM


The Transistor Kid: When Announcer Vin Scully (left) came to Los Angeles with the transplanted Brooklyn Dodgers, he was a stranger in alien corn. But in the six years since, he has become as much apart of southern California as the freeways (right), whose radio-listening drivers form a huge part of his audience (Robert Creamer, 5/04/64, Sports Illustrated)

Vin Scully 's voice is better known to most Los Angelenos than their next-door neighbor's is. He has become a celebrity. He is stared at in the street. Kids hound him for autographs. Out-of-town visitors at ball games in Dodger Stadium have Scully pointed out to them—as though he were the Empire State Building—as he sits in his broadcasting booth describing a game, his left hand lightly touching his temple in a characteristic pose that his followers dote on and which, for them, has come to be his trademark.

Baseball broadcasts are popular in all major league cities, but in Los Angeles they are as vital as orange juice. For one thing, the Dodgers have been an eminently successful and colorful club in their six seasons in Los Angeles (two pennants and a tie for a third, two world championships, a Maury Wills stealing 104 bases, a Sandy Koufax winning 25 games). For a second, the Los Angeles metropolitan area is huge (6 million people in the 1960 census, the biggest in the country after New York ). For a third, because of a minimum of efficient public transportation, practically everybody drives to and from work and, for that matter, to and from everywhere, and in almost every car there is a radio and every radio is always on. When a home-rushing driver bogs down in a classic freeway traffic jam, he finds that nothing else is as soothing as Vin Scully 's voice describing the opening innings of a Dodger night game just getting under way a few thousand miles and three time zones to the east. This time difference has been a key factor in the growth of Scully 's audience. A man who drives home from work listening to an exciting game is not about to abandon it when he reaches his house. As a result, millions of southern Californians have Vin Scully with their supper.

But it is not just the happy timing of road games that endears Scully to his audience. He appeals to them when the Dodgers are home, too. In fact, he holds his listeners when they come to the ball park to see games with their own eyes. When the Dodgers are playing at home and Dodger Stadium is packed to the top row of the fifth tier with spectators, it seems sometimes as though every member of the crowd is carrying a transistor radio and is listening to Scully tell him about the game he is watching. Taking radios to ball parks to listen to the game as you watch it is a fairly common practice, but nowhere is it so pronounced a characteristic as it is in Los Angeles , and has been since 1958, the year the Dodgers left Ebbets Field and moved west. Los Angeles was hungry for major league ball, and though the Dodgers had a dreadful season that first year (they finished seventh), the crowds jammed into Memorial Coliseum, where the team played until Dodger Stadium in Chavez Ravine opened in 1962. Perhaps their unfamiliarity with major leaguers prompted so many fans to bring transistors along at first in order to establish instant identification of the players. But a large percentage brought radios not just to identify players but to learn what they were doing. Scully was talking to an audience that had not been watching baseball. The old minor league teams that Los Angeles and Hollywood had in the Pacific Coast League seldom drew more than a few hundred thousand spectators in their best years. Now a million and a half, two million, two million and a half were pouring into the ball parks. Through Vin Scully they learned the fine points, the subtleties, the In language of the game.

Scully was an instant success, and his hold on his near and remote audiences became extraordinary. The thousands of transistor radios in the stadium add up to substantial volume, and Scully , sitting in the broadcasting booth, can hear his voice coming back at him from the crowd around him. The engineers have to keep close watch on field microphones (the ones designed to pick up the background noise of the crowd) to screen out the feedback. Scully says, "I tell you one thing, it keeps you on your toes. When you know that just about everybody in that ball park is listening to you describe a play that they're watching, you'd better call it right. You can't get lazy and catch up with a pitch that you've missed. You can't fake a play that you've called wrong. I guess the thing I'm proudest of is the fact that in six seasons I have never gotten a letter from a fan who had seen a game at the ball park and listened to it at the same time on a transistor telling me that I'd been wrong on a play. I've gotten a few letters telling me to go soak my head, but none that said I described a play inaccurately."

One day in 1960 Scully did something on the spur of the moment that provided extraordinary evidence of his impact on his audience. It was a fairly drab game, and Scully , as is his habit, was filling in the duller moments with stories and anecdotes and revealing flashes of information. He began talking about the umpiring team, one of whom was Frank Secory. Vin leafed through the record books and cited a few bits and things about Secory. He mentioned his age and then did a double take when he noticed the date of Secory's birth. Over the microphone he said, "Well, what do you know about that? Today is Frank Secory's birthday." And because it was a dull game and because he was acutely aware, as always, that most of the people at the game were listening to him on transistors, he said, "Let's have some fun. As soon as the inning is over I'll count to three, and on three everybody yell, 'Happy birthday, Frank!' "

The inning ended. Scully said, "Ready? One, two, three!" And the crowd roared, "HAPPY BIRTHDAY, FRANK!" Secory looked up, astounded, and the crowd sat back, bubbling with self-satisfaction.

Early last season a similar incident revealed that Scully had not lost his grip on his listeners.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:08 AM


Using Causality to Solve the Puzzle of Quantum Spacetime: A new approach to the decades-old problem of quantum gravity goes back to basics and shows how the building blocks of space and time pull themselves together (Jerzy Jurkiewicz, Renate Loll and Jan Ambjorn, June 25, 2008, Scientific American Magazine)

How did space and time come about? How did they form the smooth four-dimensional emptiness that serves as a backdrop for our physical world? What do they look like at the very tiniest distances? Questions such as these lie at the outer boundary of modern science and are driving the search for a theory of quantum gravity—the long-sought unification of Einstein's general theory of relativity with quantum theory. Relativity theory describes how spacetime on large scales can take on countless different shapes, producing what we perceive as the force of gravity. In contrast, quantum theory describes the laws of physics at atomic and subatomic scales, ignoring gravitational effects altogether. A theory of quantum gravity aims to describe the nature of spacetime on the very smallest scales—the voids in between the smallest known elementary particles—by quantum laws and possibly explain it in terms of some fundamental constituents.

Superstring theory is often described as the leading candidate to fill this role, but it has not yet provided an answer to any of these pressing questions. Instead, following its own inner logic, it has uncovered ever more complex layers of new, exotic ingredients and relations among them, leading to a bewildering variety of possible outcomes.

Over the past few years our collaboration has developed a promising alternative to this much traveled superhighway of theoretical physics. It follows a recipe that is almost embarrassingly simple: take a few very basic ingredients, assemble them according to well-known quantum principles (nothing exotic), stir well, let settle—and you have created quantum spacetime. The process is straightforward enough to simulate on a laptop.

To put it differently, if we think of empty spacetime as some immaterial substance, consisting of a very large number of minute, structureless pieces, and if we then let these microscopic building blocks interact with one another according to simple rules dictated by gravity and quantum theory, they will spontaneously arrange themselves into a whole that in many ways looks like the observed universe. It is similar to the way that molecules assemble themselves into crystalline or amorphous solids.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:01 AM


Intelligent humans evolved because of big-hipped ancestors (Nick Allen, 13 Nov 2008, Daily Telegraph)

The hips of females from the species Homo erectus, a primitive relative of modern humans, have been found to be wider than was previously thought.

That means they were well equipped for delivering babies with a larger cranial capacity which ultimately allowed intelligent human beings to evolve. [...]

The need to give birth to large brained infants was probably the primary driver behind the shape of the pelvis.

We evolved bigger brains because our mothers had evolved wide hips so they could give birth to babies with bigger brains. It gets harder and harder to believe that these guys aren't in on the joke.

November 16, 2008

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:54 AM


Aliens and Citizens: In the body of Christ, we learn how to be both (Jordan Hylden, 11/06/2008, Christianity Today)

The prophet Jeremiah knew a thing or two about what politics looks like in Babylon. His people were conquered by Babylon's armies and sent there into long exile. But even in Babylon itself, Jeremiah counseled his flock to "seek the welfare of the city" of their conquerors and to "pray to the Lord on its behalf." Daniel and his companions took a page out of Jeremiah's book during their stay in Babylon, working dutifully as civil servants in the king's own court. And no less than the apostle Paul told the church in Rome to "be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except from God." The Roman rulers, Paul thought—the very same rulers that John of Patmos compared to scarlet bloodthirsty beasts—were actually, despite all, "God's servants to do you good."

If that sounds like a paradox, it's because it is. Christians have always been caught in the tension between the city of God and the city of man, and negotiating the claims of the two in this already-but-not-yet world of ours has never been easy. But difficult as it may be, no less an authority than Jesus told us that we have to try: "Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's, and unto God what is God's." Some Christians argue that the gospel is too large if it gets involved in politics, while others (such as liberation theologians) argue that the gospel is too small if it is not first and foremost political. But thinking rightly about gospel politics means not letting either side of the biblical paradox go.

In trying to come to terms with our paradoxical responsibility, theologian Stanley Hauerwas's dictum can be helpful: "The first responsibility of the church is to be the church." That sounds right, but what does it mean? He explains: "The church doesn't have a social ethic; the church is a social ethic." Hauerwas reminds us that before we go off trying to come up with whom Jesus would vote for, we first have to understand what the church is. And when we think about that, we start to realize that the church has a politics (from the Greek polis, or body of citizens) of its own—that is, a way of living together as the body of Christ that shows the world a "more excellent way."

In the already-but-not-yet paradox between Christ's resurrection and his second coming, the church is the "already"—the peculiar place in the world that has started to look like the New Jerusalem. Of course, the church is far from perfect, but when the church really does begin to live in the light of Christ's forgiveness, it's not too much to say that the church is a reflection of the peace and love of the triune God—even a bit of heaven on earth.

What exactly does that look like? For one thing, the church lives by forgiveness, not retribution. And because of God's forgiving grace, the church is a place of reconciliation and peace—not peace as the world gives, but the true and lasting peace among people who have confessed their sins to God and each other, know that they are forgiven by God, and forgive each other as Christ has forgiven them.

Behind it all, of course, is God's love—we love each other because God first loved us.

...seeing how happy so many friends and neighbors are at the Obama victory. I was at the Library the other day and none of the ladies even wanted to talk Red Sox, they were just buzzing on Obamy goodness. And...honestly, I was happy for them. After all, they've felt like aliens for 14 years now, when it's more natural to us.

I just hope he doesn't disappoint.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:49 AM


The Beauty of "Bella" | An Interview with Tim Drake, author of Behind Bella (Ignatius Insight, November 10, 2008)

Tim Drake: The first story I ever wrote on Bella was shortly after it won the Toronto International Film Festival's "People's Choice Award" back in 2006. The National Catholic Register had asked me to take a look at this little film and what it was about and what it was doing because it was certainly a surprise win, and a life-affirming film. So that was my first connection with the film.

I talked to one of the producers and financiers of the film, Sean Wolfington, about a lot of the background of what went into the film and how it had come together, which was an amazing story. That story then led to about four or five more stories that I wrote for the Register as the film was trying to find a distributor, as it found a distributor, and then opened in theaters in the fall of 2007.

In January (of 2008), Ignatius Press contacted me, knowing that the DVD of the film was coming out, and they had talked to the director, the producer, and the lead actor, Eduardo, and they had come up with a behind-the-scenes book, a coffee-table book for the movie, but also a book that would look at some of the results of the impact of the film, of how it had changed people's lives. They contacted me because they were familiar with the articles I had written and asked if I had an interest in the book, and I said, "Yes, I would."

I set to work on the project and discovered that while I knew some of the stories, I didn't know all of them. And the more I heard these stories, the more I was amazed at how the film came together and how these principal people involved got connected with one another. But also the impact the film had on them, and the impact the film had on the primary actors, and the impact the film had on those who saw it. So the book tells a beautiful story, with beautiful pictures. And that's how it came to be.

Ignatius Insight: Looking through the book, it seems that it is a story, in part, of how art changes lives, not just the finished film, but the actual making of the work of art. You mentioned various things that happened and came together in the making of the film that had a providential quality to them. What were some of those?

Tim Drake: One was how the producer, Leo Severino, came to meet the actor, Eduardo Ver‡stegui. Eduardo, of course, had been known as a popular soap opera actor who was living the playboy lifestyle. Through a language coach, who was helping him to learn English, he had a reversion back to the Catholic faith, and he started attending daily Mass. It was at daily Mass that Leo first spied Eduardo, who was standing by a statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, with his hand on the Heart and his head bent over in prayer. And Leo made the mental note that here was a young and handsome man who was a daily Mass-goer and who he should talk to. But he didn't talk to Eduardo at that time because Eduardo was in prayer.

Some weeks went by and Leo saw him again at Mass and he planned on talking to him after Mass. But after Mass a woman began talking to Leo before he could get to Eduardo—she was asking for some restaurant recommendations—and so he was delayed in leaving the church. But as he left the church, there was Eduardo again praying by the statue; he was praying for direction in his life, praying for direction in filmmaking and his career. Again, Leo didn't want to interrupt him, so he went outside. As it happened, the woman who had talked to him had parked behind Leo's car so closely that he couldn't get out, so he was delayed in leaving. He had to get back to work, so he went out a different way, and as he was leaving the parking lot, Eduardo walked in front of him. So he rolled down his widow and started up a conversation. They actually spoke in Spanish with one another, and that was really the initial connection for those two.

Another incident that most people don't know about involved the lead actress, Tammy Blanchard, who played Nina. She wasn't the first choice for Alejandro Monteverde, the director, but she really felt that the part was written for her because she had grown up in a family that had struggles similar to those portrayed in the film, and so she felt the role was meant for her. So she really advocated to Alejandro for the role, and I think she filled that role well. But what's amazing is that after the film she became pregnant and she said that before the film she wouldn't have known what to do—she couldn't see herself as a mother, thinking it was pointless to have children. After making the film and interacting with the young girl who was Bella in the film, she realized what a life was, and so she ended up giving birth to Ava Jean, her daughter. So that is, I think, another very providential story from the film.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:47 AM


Five Myths About the Great Depression: Herbert Hoover was no proponent of laissez-faire. (ANDREW B. WILSON, 11/04/08, Wall Street Journal)

Here are five interrelated and durable myths about the 1929-39 Depression:

- Herbert Hoover, elected president in 1928, was a doctrinaire, laissez-faire, look-the-other way Republican who clung to the idea that markets were basically self-correcting. The truth is more illuminating. Far from a free-market idealist, Hoover was an ardent believer in government intervention to support incomes and employment. This is critical to understanding the origins of the Great Depression. Franklin Roosevelt didn't reverse course upon moving into the White House in 1933; he went further down the path that Hoover had blazed over the previous four years. That was the path to disaster.

Hoover, a one-time business whiz and a would-be all-purpose social problem-solver in the Lee Iacocca mold, was a bowling ball looking for pins to scatter. He was a government activist fixated on the idea of running the country as an energetic CEO might run a giant corporation. It was Hoover, not Roosevelt, who initiated the practice of piling up big deficits to support huge public-works projects. After declining or holding steady through most of the 1920s, federal spending soared between 1929 and 1932 -- increasing by more than 50%, the biggest increase in federal spending ever recorded during peacetime.

Public projects undertaken by Hoover included the San Francisco Bay Bridge, the Los Angeles Aqueduct, and Hoover Dam. The Republican president won plaudits from the American Federation of Labor for his industrial policy, which included jawboning business leaders to refrain from cutting wages as the economy fell. Referring to counteracting the business cycle and propping up wages, Hoover said: "No president before has ever believed that there was a government responsibility in such cases . . . we had to pioneer a new field." Though he did not coin the phrase, Hoover championed many of the basic ideas -- such as central planning and control of the economy -- that came to be known as the New Deal.

...but without the reputation-saving luck of getting to whip Hitler and Tojo.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:33 AM


Freedom Fighters: What Samuel Adams learned from the Jewish story (Ira Stoll, 11/12/08, Nextbook)

The Congregationalist Protestant Christianity Samuel Adams practiced was less distant in its trappings from Judaism than are many forms of modern-day Christianity. One of the places Adams worshipped, Old South Church in Boston, still stands today. A visitor there can't help but be struck by the absence of Christian imagery. There are no crosses, no crucifixes, no Madonnas. The Massachusetts Congregationalists shared with the Jews an aversion to graven images. And that was not all they shared. Samuel Adams, one of the most significant moving spirits behind the American Revolution, was related to and influenced by Cotton Mather, a Puritan minister in Boston and one-time head of Harvard College. Mather, in his 1726 book Faithful Account of the Discipline Professed and Practiced in the Churches of New England, cited Jewish practice as a guide, though not law, on everything from how many congregants were required for a new church (“The Jews of old held, that less than Ten Men of Leisure, could not make a Congregation”), to the reading of scripture aloud on the Lord’s day (“The Pentateuch was divided into fifty four Parashoth, or Sections, which they read over in the Synagogue every year”).

Part of the required curriculum for Harvard students from 1735 to 1755, which includes the time Samuel Adams was there, was the study of Hebrew grammar from a textbook written by Judah Monis, who had converted to Christianity from Judaism one month before joining the Harvard faculty. One of Adams’s nicknames, "the psalm-singer," refers to the joy he took in singing texts that are part of the Jewish Bible. Even the names Samuel Adams gave to his children—Hannah and Samuel—could have easily belonged to Jews.

But the link between Samuel Adams, the strand of New England Congregationalism he personified, and Judaism goes well beyond the formal or stylistic, extending into the ideology and rhetoric that motivated Adams and his fellow New Englanders against the British. Again and again, both subtly and directly, Adams placed the American colonists in the role of the Israelites fleeing slavery in Egypt, and likened the British to the oppressive Egyptians.

Writing in the Boston Gazette on August 8, 1768, Adams referred to the British as “taskmasters,” a term the Bible uses to describe the Egyptians. Earlier, he had referred to the Stamp Act as “a very grievous & we apprehend unconstitutional tax,” echoing the language Exodus uses to describe the “very grievous” hail, cattle disease, and locust plagues. From Philadelphia, Adams wrote home to Massachusetts that the heart of the British King, George III, “is more obdurate, and his Disposition towards the People of America is more unrelenting and malignant than was that of Pharaoh towards the Israelites in Egypt.” In a speech to his fellow members of the Continental Congress, Adams is said to have credited God with providing the Americans a “cloud by day and pillar of fire by night,” which had, according to the Bible, also guided the Israelites in the wilderness after Egypt.

In a private letter on December 26, 1775, Adams wrote of the people of Massachusetts, “Certainly the People do not already hanker after the Onions & the Garlick!” It was a reference to Numbers 11:5, which recounts the restless Israelites in the desert, complaining to Moses about the manna, and recalling wistfully the food back in Egypt: fish, cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic.

When, after the Revolution, Adams became governor of Massachusetts, one of the annual election day sermons went so far as to Adams to Moses. “Moses affords such an example to human governors. He was wont to apply to God for direction, in guiding his refractory people,” Samuel Deane preached to Adams, one of the more religious of a set of founders that included some famous skeptics.

Adams was not alone in linking the Israelites to the Americans.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:15 AM


The Left Arm Of God: He was a consummate artist on the mound, the most dominant player of his time, yet he shunned fame and always put team above self. On the field or off, Sandy Koufax was pitcher perfect (Tom Verducci, 7/12/99, Sports Illustrated)

He sat in the same booth every time. It was always the one in back, farthest from the door. The trim, darkly handsome man would come alone, without his wife, nearly every morning at six o'clock for breakfast at Dick's Diner in Ellsworth, Maine , about 14 miles from their home. He often wore one of those red-and-black-checkered shirts you expect to see in Maine , though he wasn't a hunter. He might not have shaved that morning. He would walk past the long counter up front, the one with the swivel stools that, good Lord, gave complete strangers license to strike up a conversation.

He preferred the clearly delineated no-trespassing zone of a booth. He would rest those famously large hands on the Formica table-top, one of those mini-jukeboxes to his left and give his order to Annette, the waitress, in a voice as soft and smooth as honey.

He came so often that the family who ran the diner quickly stopped thinking of him as Sandy Koufax , one of the greatest pitchers who ever lived. They thought of him the way Koufax strived all his life to be thought of, as something better even than a famous athlete: He was a regular.

Dick Anderson and his son Richard, better known as Bub, might glance up from their chores when Koufax walked in, but that was usually all. One time Bub got him to autograph a napkin but never talked baseball with him. Annette, Bub's sister, always worked the section with that back booth. For three years Koufax came to the diner and not once did he volunteer information to her about his life or his career. It was always polite small talk. Neighborly. Regular.

Koufax was 35, five years since his last pitch, in 1966, when he came eagerly, even dreamily, to Maine , the back booth of America . He had seen a photo spread in Look magazine about the Down East country homestead of a man named Blakely Babcock, a 350-pound Burpee Seed salesman, gentleman farmer and gadfly whom everybody called Tiny. Tiny would invite neighbors and friends over for cookouts and dinner parties, during which he liked to consume great quantities of food, then rub his huge belly and bellow laughingly to his wife, "So, what's for dinner, Alberta ?" Tiny's North Ellsworth farmhouse caught Koufax's fancy at just about the same time one of his wife's friends was renovating her farmhouse in Maine . Wouldn't it be perfect, Koufax thought, to live quietly, almost anonymously, in an old farmhouse just like Tiny's?

Alberta Babcock was pulling a hot tin of sweet-smelling blueberry muffins from the oven when Koufax first saw the place in person, and the old Cape-style house was filled with so many flowers that it looked like a watercolor come to life. Koufax was sold, and on Oct. 4,1971, Sanford and Anne Koufax of Los Angeles , as they signed the deed, took out a 15-year, $15,000 mortgage from Penobscot Savings Bank and bought what was known as Winkumpaugh Farm from Blakely and Alberta Babcock for about $30,000. A cord was cut. The rest of Sandy Koufax 's life had begun.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:00 AM


...what the Ruckus is all about.

November 15, 2008

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:52 AM


Daniels may be considered for national run (Kevin Rader, WTHR: Eyewitness News)

Governor Mitch Daniels may be picking up more than he bargained for when he accepts an award in Washington D.C. Wednesday.

The governor will be presented with the 2008 Public Official of the Year Award from Governing Magazine, as the Republican Party works to rebuild itself.

If there was one thing Daniels has been adamant about, other than his campaign theme of change, it was in his determination to make his re-election campaign his last campaign.

The biggest surprise one week after his re-election victory is that some Republicans now want Daniels to consider a national run.

Governors Know Best (David S. Broder, November 9, 2008, Washington Post)
After the celebrations of the success of Barack Obama, Joe Biden and the congressional Democrats, it is time to tip the hat to some other people -- with names such as John Hoeven, Jon Huntsman, Jim Douglas and Mitch Daniels. They are Republicans reelected Tuesday as governors of North Dakota, Utah, Vermont and Indiana. [...]

Indiana's Daniels, just reelected to a second term, may offer the best example of the distinctive approach of these politicians. After telling me that he was not sure he had any lessons to offer his party, he began to rattle off important ones:

"One thing we have learned is that fiscal restraint works. We dug out of a deficit and now we have a triple-A bond rating for the first time. Market principles work. We have begun to insure our uninsured, with health savings accounts, paid for with a higher tobacco tax. And I had no trouble supporting that, because I remember what Ronald Reagan said: When you tax something, you get less of it." [...]

Daniels was reelected with almost 60 percent of the vote, and exit polls indicate that a third of the people who voted for Barack Obama on Tuesday also voted for Daniels. His share of the black vote topped 20 percent.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:43 AM


Why Prop. 8 Won: A Look at the Numbers for the Vote Against Gay Marriage (Jerry Roberts, November 11, 2008, Santa Barbara Independent)

The strange bedfellow alliance of Catholics, Mormons and evangelical Protestants that slapped a ban on gay marriage in California last week represents the most “ecumenical union since the fall of Rome.”

That’s the view of Richard Hecht, an acclaimed scholar in UCSB’s much-acclaimed religious studies department, whose clear-eyed take on the stunning passage of Proposition 8 cuts through the Babel of political scapegoating and speculation swirling around the election’s biggest surprise. “The issue of traditional marriage brought together this wild, very unlikely coalition,” Hecht told me. “You have the Catholics, who can’t stand the evangelical Protestants, who can’t stand the Catholics, and then the Mormons, who are outcasts, and hated by everyone. What was going on here?” [...]

The exit polls, done for TV networks by Edison Media Research, shows that:

* 84 percent of those who said they attend church weekly, who represented one-third of the electorate, voted for Prop. 8. Those who go to church occasionally — 44 percent of the electorate opposed it, 54-to-46 percent, while the one-fifth of voters who said they never go to church voted no, 83-to-17 percent.

* 81 percent of white evangelical voters, who represented almost one-fifth of the electorate, supported Prop. 8, while 64 percent of Catholics, almost one-third of the voters, backed it. No exit poll result was available for Mormons, who bankrolled about $15 million of the Yes-on-8 campaign, because the survey’s sample size of the group was not statistically significant.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:31 AM


Esquire Endorses: The Wilson A2000 Baseball Glove: It's not just a baseball glove. It's the single greatest piece of sporting equipment ever built. (Scott Raab , 11/14/08, Esquire)

I never fell in love until I had enough kale to buy a good glove and found my first Wilson A2000. My God--it was Michael Corleone and Apollonia, the thunderbolt, in leather yet. It wouldn't transform me into a graceful fielder--no wedding of form and function could've accomplished that--but wearing it made me feel like a better ballplayer. Plus, it smelled great.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:08 AM


Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:00 AM


Mr. Rickey And The Game (Gerald Holland, 3/07/55, Sports Illustrated)

The luncheon order given, Rickey excused himself and made a brief telephone call at the headwaiter's desk. Returning to the table, he sat down and began to speak of pitchers.

"The greatest pitchers I have ever seen," he said, "were Christy Mathewson and Jerome Dean."

( Rickey likes to address a man by his proper given name. He is especially fond of referring to Dizzy Dean as "Jerome.")

" Mathewson ," Rickey continued, "could throw every pitch in the book. But he was economical. If he saw that he could win a game with three kinds of pitches, he would use only three. Jerome, on the other hand, had a tendency to run in the direction of experimentation. Murry Dickson (formerly of the Pirates , now of the Phillies) has a fine assortment of pitches, but he feels an obligation to run through his entire repertory in every game."

The food had arrived and Rickey picked up knife and fork and, eying Mrs. Rickey closely, began to speak more rapidly.

"Yes," he said loudly, "Murry is the sort of pitcher who will go along splendidly until the eighth inning and then apparently say to himself: 'Oh, dear me, I have forgotten to throw my half-speed ball!' And then and there he will throw it."

Abruptly, Rickey made a lightning thrust with his fork in the direction of a pan-browned potato on the platter. Mrs. Rickey , alert for just such a stratagem, met the thrust with her own fork and they fenced for a few seconds in mid-air.

"Jane!" pleaded Rickey , abandoning the duel.

Mrs. Rickey deposited the potato on her own plate and passed over a small dish of broccoli.

"This will be better for you," she said quietly. "You know you're not to have potatoes."

Rickey grumbled: "I am weary of this diet. It is a cruel and inhuman thing."

"Eat the broccoli," Mrs. Rickey said.

"Jane," said Rickey , "there are times in a man's life when he wants above everything else in the world to have a potato."

"You get plenty to eat," said Mrs. Rickey . "Didn't you enjoy the meat patty at breakfast?"

Rickey shrugged his shoulders, conceding the point, and attacked his roast beef and broccoli with gusto.

"The subject of my retirement comes up from time to time," he said. "And to the direct question, 'When will you retire from baseball?' my answer is, 'Never!' But I qualify that. Now, I do foresee the day, likely next year, when I shall spend less time at my desk, at my office. I shall spend more time in the field, scouting, looking at prospects, and leave the arduous responsibilities of the general manager's position to other hands."

He looked admiringly at the baked apple before him. He put his hand on the pitcher of rich cream beside it and glanced inquiringly across the table. This time the veto was not invoked and, happily, Rickey drained the pitcher over his dessert.

After he had dropped a saccharin tablet in his coffee, he leaned back and smiled at Mrs. Rickey. Then he leaned forward again and rubbed his chin, seeming to debate something with himself. He grasped the sides of the table and spoke with the air of a conspirator.

"Here is something I intend to do," he said. "My next thing. A completely new idea in spring training."

He arranged the silverware to illustrate the story.

"A permanent training camp, designed and built for that purpose. Twin motels—not hotels, motels—with four playing fields in between as a sort of quadrangle. A public address system. Especially designed press accommodations. Now. One motel would be occupied by the Pittsburgh club, the other by an American League club. They would play a series of exhibition games and would draw better than two teams from the same league. Everything that went into the camp would be the result of our experience with training camps all through the years. It would be foolproof. And it would pay for itself because it would be operated for tourists after spring training. I have the land. At Fort Myers , Florida , the finest training site in the country for my money. I have an American League Club ready to go along with me. I have two thirds of the financial backing necessary."


Rickey leaned back in triumph, then came forward quickly again.

"Everybody concerned is ready to put up the cash now," he whispered, "except me!"

He paused for effect, then suddenly realized he had not said exactly what he intended. He burst into laughter.

"Sh-h-h," said Mrs. Rickey .

"What I mean," he said, sobering, "is that I can't go along with the plan until we have a contending ball club. But we'll get there. We'll put over this thing. It will revolutionize spring training."

It was time to get back to the office. Rickey was for sprinting down the stairs to the first floor, but Mrs. Rickey reminded him of his trick knee.

"Ah, yes, Mother," he said. "We will take the elevator."

On the street outside, Rickey remembered he had sent his car home.

"We'll get a cab down at the corner," he said. "I've got a meeting at the office. Where can I drop you, Mother?"

"Well," said Mrs. Rickey , "I thought I'd go look at some lamps."

"Oh, yes," Rickey exclaimed. "Go to that store I showed you. Mother, I understand they have the largest selection of lamps in town."

Mrs. Rickey looked at him and shook her head and smiled.

Rickey , already thinking of something else, studied the sidewalk. He raised his head and spoke firmly over the traffic.

"The game of baseball," he said, "has given me a life of joy. I would not have exchanged it for any other."

He took Mrs. Rickey by the arm. They turned and walked down the street together and vanished into the crowd.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Canada’s Health Care System heading for: “Demographic Blowout” with Aging Population: Study (Hilary White, November 14, 2008,

A new study has revealed that the Canadian government will spend $171.9-billion this year on health care, or $5,170 per person. At this rate “health care spending is expected to grow faster than Canada’s economy, outpacing inflation and population growth,” according to Glenda Yeates, President and CEO of the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI), which released the study yesterday.

Demographers have warned that the aging and slow growth of the Canadian population is a direct threat to the long-term prognosis of its raft of expensive, publicly funded social services, including its health care system.

Brian Day, past president of the Canadian Medical Association, told the Globe and Mail that with the Baby Boom generation growing older, the system is headed for a “demographic blowout.”

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November 14, 2008

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:44 PM


Saving car giants will cause havoc, Gordon Brown warns US: Tensions at the start of the G20 summit run high as Prime Minister deems return to 1930s policies ‘unacceptable’ (Francis Elliott in Washington, Suzy Jagger in New York and Gary Duncan, 11/15/08, Times of London)

In a veiled warning to the next American President, Gordon Brown described protectionism as the “road to ruin” yesterday as international tensions surfaced at the start of the G20 summit in Washington. [...]

Mr Brown was already risking confrontation with the President-elect in barely coded criticism of a planned measure to bail out America’s ailing carmakers, a plan Mr Obama supports. “I do think it is really important that we send out a signal today that protectionism would be the road to ruin,” the Prime Minister said, in a speech to the Council of Foreign Relations in New York.

“If we get into a situation where countries made decisions irrespective of what happened anywhere else, then we will see the same problems of other times. The dividing line here is between an open society capable of trading round the world, against a protectionist response that happened in the 1930s and is totally unacceptable.”

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:58 PM


Questions for Karl Rove: Party Loyalist (Interview by DEBORAH SOLOMON, 11/15/08, NY Times Magazine)

Do you like Joe Biden?

I think he has an odd combination of longevity and long-windedness that passes for wisdom in Washington. [...]

You’ve been booed off stages recently.

No, I haven’t. I’ve been booed on stages. I’m a little bit tougher than to walk off a stage because someone says something ugly. [...]

What about Iraq and the economy?

The world is a better place with Saddam Hussein gone.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:45 PM


Chances Dwindle on Bailout Plan for Automakers (DAVID M. HERSZENHORN, 11/14/08, NY Times)

The prospects of a government rescue for the foundering American automakers dwindled Thursday as Democratic Congressional leaders conceded that they would face potentially insurmountable Republican opposition during a lame-duck session next week.

At the same time, hope among many Democrats on Capitol Hill for an aggressive economic stimulus measure all but evaporated. Democratic leaders have been calling for a package that would include help for the auto companies as well as new spending on public works projects, an extension of jobless benefits, increased food stamps and aid to states for rising Medicaid expenses.

But while Democrats said the stimulus measure would wait until President-elect Barack Obama takes office in January, some industry experts fear that one of the Big Three automakers will collapse before then, with potentially devastating consequences.

...they don't assemble parts.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:19 PM


Jihadist Messages to Obama Reflect Their Uncertainty (Matt Korade, 11/14/08, Congressional Quarterly)

From the Taliban to al-Baghdadi’s Islamic State of Iraq, the messages welcome and wag fingers at the president-elect, carrying conflicting statements that show these groups have now found it difficult to figure out the next play.

While official messages are often directed at U.S. and allied leaders, many of the posts on the sites where such statements appear resemble a community forum, “to discuss with each other, this social community that they’ve developed,” said Adam Raisman, a senior analyst at the Site Intelligence Group, which monitors and translates Islamist statements.

“Where it will lead is a question mark because they themselves do knot know what Obama will do once he assumes the presidency.”

No one does.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:14 PM


Ex-radical calls Obama a 'family friend': But Ayers says conservatives wove a 'dishonest narrative' during campaign (Rex W. Huppke, November 14, 2008, LA Times)

In a new afterword to his memoir, "Fugitive Days," 1960s radical William Ayers describes himself as a "family friend" of President-elect Barack Obama and writes that the controversy over their relationship was an effort to "deepen a dishonest narrative" about the candidate.

...heck, we have family we pretend not to know too well, but we have no trouble admitting that we're the ones being dishonest. Why do these guys have to both lie and claim that those being lied to are the liars?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:40 AM


Obama gets the Clinton band back together (BEN SMITH & CARRIE BUDOFF BROWN, 11/14/08, Politico)

Here's how you can tell the campaign is over and the transition has begun: Barack Obama's aides now wear suits and ties, their desks are in the Federal Building on 6th Street in Washington, D.C.—and Clintonites are everywhere.

Obama's victory in the general election produced what his primary campaign couldn't: A swift merger of the Clinton Wing of the Democratic Party with the Illinois Senator's self-styled insurgency. The merger began, during the campaign, in the policy apparatus—which is now rapidly becoming the governing apparatus.

What if Barack Obama really is just about "making it," not remaking anything?

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:26 AM


Facing Palin Factor, Romney Mulls Political Future (GLEN JOHNSON, Nov. 14, 2008, AP)

The surprising ascendancy of McCain's eventual pick, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, and her popularity among some GOP conservatives have left Romney wondering whether he could wage a viable second campaign for the White House, according to friends and advisers.

The former businessman and one-time Massachusetts governor invested $47 million of his family fortune in this year's failed race, undercut by those wary of his Mormon religion and skeptics who questioned whether Romney's conversion to conservatism was genuine. Both points were highlighted by Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor and Southern Baptist preacher who beat Romney in the Iowa caucuses and occupied the same political terrain since overtaken by Palin.

"While (Palin) may not be popular with the winning majority that Barack Obama put together, she's enormously popular with the losing minority that John McCain put together — and that pretty closely mirrors Republican primary voters," said Rich Bond, former chairman of the Republican National Committee.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:20 AM


History Favors Republicans in 2010: The 2008 election numbers are not as stark as the results. (KARL ROVE, 11/13/08, Wall Street Journal)

In a sign Mr. Obama's victory may have been more personal than partisan or philosophical, Democrats picked up just 10 state senate seats (out of 1,971) and 94 state house seats (out of 5,411). By comparison, when Ronald Reagan beat Jimmy Carter in 1980, Republicans picked up 112 state senate seats (out of 1,981) and 190 state house seats (out of 5,501).

In the states this year, five chambers shifted from Republican to Democrats, while four shifted from either tied or Democratic control to Republican control. In the South, Mr. Obama had "reverse coattails." Republicans gained legislative seats across the region. In Tennessee both the house and senate now have GOP majorities for the first time since the Civil War.

This matters because the 2010 Census could allocate as many as four additional congressional districts to Texas, two each to Arizona and Florida, and one district to each of a number of (mostly) red-leaning states, while subtracting seats from (mostly) blue-leaning states like Michigan, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania and, for the first time, California. Redistricting and reapportionment could help tilt the playing field back to the GOP in Congress and the race for the White House by moving seven House seats (and electoral votes) from mostly blue to mostly red states.

History will favor Republicans in 2010. Since World War II, the out-party has gained an average of 23 seats in the U.S. House and two in the U.S. Senate in a new president's first midterm election. Other than FDR and George W. Bush, no president has gained seats in his first midterm election in both chambers.

Since 1966, the incumbent party has lost an average of 63 state senate and 262 state house seats, and six governorships, in a president's first midterm election. That 2010 is likely to see Republicans begin rebounding just before redistricting is one silver lining in an otherwise dismal year for the GOP.

...that they only added seats in '02 because of W and, miraculously, lost some in '98 when they were "real" Republicans.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:11 AM


Mexican Court Rules Moderate To Head Leftist Party (Javno, November 13, 2008)

A moderate ex-senator was named head of Mexico's embattled left-wing opposition party on Wednesday, in a blow to firebrand former presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.

The country's top electoral court ruled that former Sen. Jesus Ortega won a highly contested vote to lead the Party of the Democratic Revolution, or PRD, after bickering over the result left it leaderless for most of this year.

Ortega comes from the faction of the PRD most likely to negotiate with President Felipe Calderon's conservative National Action Party, or PAN, in the divided Congress.

November 13, 2008

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:48 PM


Rahm's father's words (Ben Smith, 11/13/08, Politico)

Rahm Emanuel's father, asked about whether his hire signaled closer ties to Israel, said: "Obviously he’ll influence the President to be pro-Israel. Why wouldn’t he? What is he, an Arab? He’s not going to be mopping floors at the White House."

The kinder, gentler White House, huh?

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:49 PM


Herb Score (1933-2008) (Joe Posnanski, 11/13/08)

Math is not my thing, of course, but I once spent an afternoon trying to figure out how many hours I have spent through the years listening to Cleveland Indians announcer Herb Score. It added up to something like 173 full days. Of course that does include commercials. And I wasn’t always listening that close.

Herb Score died Tuesday. He was 75 years old. It had been more than 10 years since he had called an Indians ballgame, but his death still hit me hard. He was very much on my mind Tuesday night when, for reasons that I cannot begin to explain, I found myself as the featured speaker at a singles club at a church. Someone asked what it was like growing up in Cleveland in the 1970s when, let’s face it, things weren’t all that great. Cleveland was a punchline. The sports teams were all lousy. The Cavaliers off-court entertainment was called “Fat guy eating beer cans,” which pretty succinctly described the act. The Indians were such a farce that sometimes the team bus had to drive around on the road to find a hotel that management had not stiffed on the bill. The city went bankrupt. It was said that you could walk across Lake Erie. The Cuyahoga River had only just stopped burning. The sky was smog. The snow was slush. The Winter of ‘77 was like Siberia with potholes. That was home.

And, I said, here’s what I believe: When you are growing up, you are raised by your parents, but also by your friends, your teachers, your faith, your neighbors, your city. At the end of the day, you are really raised by your hometown baseball announcer.

Herb Score was the Cleveland Indians radio announcer from 1968, the year after I was born, to 1997, which was the year the Indians lost to Florida in the World Series. His last game was Game 7, which was fitting because the Indians lost in heartbreaking style, a scene Herb relived many times, for most of his life.

He called games on the radio for a nice even 30 years, and, speaking personally, those are the 30 years that defined me. Those 30 years more or less take me from infancy to my wedding day. Herb was always there, in the years before I was was fully aware and in the years when I would thumb-tack baseball cards to my bedroom wall. He was there in the years when I felt sure I would play second base for the Indians and the years after I realized that, no, I would not. He was in my ear at Cleveland Municipal Stadium, when my feet stuck to the ground and a metal beam blocked third base and I discovered that childhood thrill of watching a game AND listening to baseball on a transistor radio at exactly the game time. He was there in the times when I felt lonely after moving away to North Carolina, those warm evenings when I would sneak into my parents car and pick up Indians baseball games to feel a bit of home.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:45 PM


The Obama of Brazil: He came from the left and poverty, but da Silva rules from the center, as Obama must. (CS Monitor's Editorial Board, November 12, 2008)

Like Barack Obama, Brazil's president rose to power from poverty and the political left. But during six years in office, he has ruled from the center, tapping Brazil's market strengths, earning him world respect. When the two men finally meet, it may be President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva – or "Lula" – who teaches Mr. Obama a thing or two.

A series on Brazil running this week in The Christian Science Monitor shows this "sleeping giant" nation has become a bright-eyed go-getter, due in large part to Mr. da Silva's embrace of practical solutions that please global investors and also most Brazilians (his popularity ratings are very high). Mr. Obama is more the Lula of America.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:32 PM


Sununu not ruling anything out (John DiStaso, 11/13/08, Union Leader)

JUST MAYBE. Maybe this "draft Sununu for Republican National Chairman" thing isn't a waste of time.

It's not something we'd expect Sen. John Sununu to want to get into. Sure, he lost his reelection bid, but he's young, he has a growing family and, politically speaking, he still has a bright future and, with his independent streak, he isn't someone we'd think would want to become the face of the establishment Republican Party, not to mention take part in the very inside baseball game of running for the post.

But, surprisingly, Sununu didn't close the door to it yesterday.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:28 PM


Congress isn't waiting for Obama: Lawmakers are unveiling plans to expand health coverage and curb global warming. And Democratic leaders have called a lame-duck session next week to discuss an auto industry bailout. (Janet Hook, Noam N. Levey and Peter Nicholas, November 13, 2008, LA Times)

More than two months before he is sworn in, Barack Obama already is facing a Congress busily asserting itself on the timing and details of the president-elect's agenda, including major issues like healthcare and economic policy.

Committee chairmen are unveiling legislation to expand health insurance coverage and curb global warming. Democratic leaders have called a lame-duck session next week to consider an auto industry bailout. And other economic stimulus measures may be enacted even before Obama is inaugurated.

The activity is in part a measure of the pent-up demand among Democrats who have had little legislative power for more than a decade. Obama, by contrast, has been constrained in an awkward limbo by his assertion that the country has "only one president at a time."

But the congressional clamor raises a question that will loom larger after inauguration day: Will Congress be leading or following the Obama administration as it gets its sea legs?

Catamite or Captain of the ship? He'd better snap the lash fast or they'll make him the former.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:25 PM


In India, a World of Hurt Over a Perceived Obama Slight (Emily Wax, 11/13/08, Washington Post)

In the days after Barack Obama's historic victory, Indians began to sound just like a long-suffering South Asian mother nagging her son abroad: Why haven't you called?

The U.S. president-elect had spoken to 15 world leaders, Indian newspapers reported, including Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, the leader of India's on-again, off-again adversary, with whom Obama was said to have chatted for 20 minutes.

So when Obama and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh still hadn't connected over the weekend, newspapers and TV talk shows were filled with bruised feelings over what has been dubbed "the no-call incident." "Obama snubs India," read a headline on the OneIndia news portal.

"You found time to call Pakistan," chided Azhar Usman, a visiting Indian American stand-up comic performing at a New Delhi college campus Sunday. "Why not call India?" he said, wagging his finger. "We are waiting." come they're the ones stuck in the 20th century alliances while he moved on to the 21st?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:03 AM


Alaska found to contain another kind of exploitable energy (ERIKA BOLSTAD, 11/13/08, Miami Herald)

Frozen crystals packed with concentrated natural gas and buried 2,000 feet below the permafrost on Alaska's North Slope could become the next major domestic energy source, according to an assessment released Wednesday by the U.S. Geological Survey.

The study finds that in the North Slope, frozen methane-and-water crystals known as hydrates contain as much as 85.4 trillion cubic feet of recoverable natural gas. That's enough to heat 100 million homes for as long as 10 years, Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne said.

New research into how to extract those resources has moved the possibility of recovering the usable energy from the realm of "science and speculation" to that of the "actual and useful," Kempthorne said Wednesday.

Globally, "hydrates have more potential for energy than all other fossil fuels combined," he said. "This can be a paradigm shift."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:00 AM


G.M.’s Troubles Stir Question of Bankruptcy vs. a Bailout (MICHELINE MAYNARD, 11/13/08, NY Times)

[N]ot everyone agrees that a Chapter 11 filing by G.M. would be the disaster that many fear. Some experts note that while bankruptcy would be painful, it may be preferable to a government bailout that may only delay, at considerable cost, the wrenching but necessary steps G.M. needs to take to become a stronger, leaner company.

Although G.M.’s labor contracts would be at risk of termination in a bankruptcy, setting up a potential confrontation with its unions, the company says its pension obligations are largely financed for its 479,000 retirees and their spouses.

Shareholders have already lost much of the equity that would disappear in a bankruptcy case. Shares of G.M. rose 16 cents Wednesday, to $3.08, but they have fallen 90.5 percent over the last 12 months, amid sharply lower auto sales and fears about G.M.’s future.

And as companies in industries like airlines, steel and retailing have shown, bankruptcy can offer a fresh start with a more competitive cost structure to preserve a future for the workers who remain.

You just can't pay the citizens of an advanced economy as little as part assembly is worth.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:53 AM


Don't believe the hype (John Pilger, 13 November 2008, New Statesman)

Returning to Texas, I am struck again by those so unlike the redneck stereotype, in spite of the burden of a form of brainwashing placed on most Americans from a tender age: that theirs is the most superior society in the world, and all means are justified, including the spilling of copious blood, in maintaining that superiority.

That is the subtext of Barack Obama's "oratory". He says he wants to build up US military power; and he threatens to ignite a new war in Pakistan, killing yet more brown-skinned people. That will bring tears, too. Unlike those on election night, these other tears will be unseen in Chicago and London. This is not to doubt the sincerity of much of the response to Obama's election, which happened not because of the unction that has passed for news reporting since 4 November (eg, "liberal Americans smiled and the world smiled with them"), but for the same reasons that millions of angry emails were sent to the White House and Congress when the "bailout" of Wall Street was revealed, and because most Americans are fed up with war.

Two years ago, this anti-war vote installed a Democratic majority in Congress, only to watch the Democrats hand over more money to George W Bush to continue his blood-fest. For his part, the "anti-war" Obama voted to give Bush what he wanted. Yes, Obama's election is historic, a symbol of great change to many. But it is equally true that the American elite has grown adept at using the black middle and management class. The courageous Martin Luther King recognised this when he linked the human rights of black Americans with the human rights of the Vietnamese, then being slaughtered by a "liberal" Democratic administration. And he was shot. In striking contrast, a young black major serving in Vietnam, Colin Powell, was used to "investigate" and whitewash the infamous My Lai massacre. As Bush's secretary of state, Powell was often described as a "liberal" and was considered ideal to lie to the United Nations about Iraq's non-existent weapons of mass destruction. Condaleezza Rice, lauded as a successful black woman, has worked assiduously to deny the Palestinians justice.

Obama's first two crucial appointments represent a denial of the wishes of his supporters on the principal issues on which they voted. The vice-president-elect, Joe Biden, is a proud warmaker and Zionist. Rahm Emanuel, who is to be the all-important White House chief of staff, is a fervent "neoliberal" devoted to the doctrine that led to the present economic collapse and impoverishment of millions. He is also an "Israel-first" Zionist who served in the Israeli army and opposes meaningful justice for the Palestinians - an injustice that is at the root of Muslim people's loathing of the US and the spawning of jihadism.

Welcome to the American Presidency, Mr. Obama. This is not unlikely to be what the Netroots sound like within a couple years of the Unicorn Rider actually having to govern instead of just being a mirror in which they see themselves.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:26 AM


Will Republicans Learn?: House leadership elections are one test. (David Freddoso, 11/12/08, National Review)

Conservative representative Mike Pence (R., Ind.) threw his hat in the ring for the position of Republican conference chairman after receiving the blessing of Republican study committee chairman Jeb Hensarling (R., Tex.) and minority leader John Boehner (R., Ohio). That such a conservative critic of President Bush as Pence should become the chief crafter of the Republican message in the House would certainly represent “change.”

“When I was elected, the first bill George Bush sent to the Hill was No Child Left Behind,” Pence says. “And then when I’m reelected, the first thing he sends to the Hill was the prescription-drug entitlement. The point is that we began to practice big-government Republicanism. It’s an idea that’s offensive to millions of people who hold Republican ideas.”

The House GOP couldn't pour water outn a boot an' the directions on the heel, but here's a question so basic and simple even they ought to be able to figure out what the answer means: Did they add or lose seats, after passing NCLB, in the 2002 midterm; did they add or lose seats, after passing the prescription drug plan, in 2004; did they add or lose seats, after opposing W's immigration amnesty, in the 2006 midterm; did they win or lose the presidency, after opposing the Bush/Paulson plan, in 2008?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:00 AM


Free trade with Colombia is high on Bush's agenda: The president wants to help a key U.S. ally, and getting a proposed deal through Congress is important to his legacy, analysts say. (Chris Kraul, November 13, 2008, LA Times)

Reporting from Bogota, Colombia — That President Bush and President-elect Barack Obama discussed a Colombian free-trade agreement in their first postelection meeting indicates its importance to Bush's legacy and his concern for a nation that believes it gets little respect for its role as a key U.S. ally.

Representatives for Bush and Obama acknowledged that the two men discussed the proposed free-trade deal during their two-hour White House transition session Monday and whether the pact should come up for a vote during the lame-duck congressional session opening early next week.

White House spokeswoman Dana Perino denied reports that Bush conditioned his support for a Democratic fiscal stimulus package, including help for the U.S. auto industry, on approval of the trade bill with Colombia.

But the fact that the topic came up at all, amid a welter of other pressing economic and geopolitical issues facing the incoming president, reflects the priority Bush attaches to the agreement in the waning weeks of his administration.

"The Bush administration has virtually no legacy in Latin America," said Sebastian Edwards, a UCLA professor and a former top Latin America economist with the World Bank. "Also, he had made a commitment to Colombia and wants to live up to his word."

Bush has contended that a deal with Colombia would shore up a key pro-U.S. regime in a region where leftist, anti-U.S. politicians are on the rise. The pact would also keep an administration promise and provide an economic boost to Colombia as a multibillion-dollar, U.S.-funded anti-drug aid package may start to wind down.

The free-trade pact has languished in Congress for two years, its path blocked largely by objections from Democratic lawmakers and labor unions over Colombia's poor human rights record. Last month, Colombian President Alvaro Uribe fired 20 army officers in connection with the military's slaying of innocent civilians who were falsely identified as guerrillas killed in combat to inflate body counts.

The bill being pushed by Bush would make permanent the temporary trade breaks Colombia has enjoyed since 1991 under the Andean Trade Promotion and Drug Eradication Act in exchange for cooperation in drug-fighting efforts. That relationship has intensified in recent years under Plan Colombia, the U.S. anti-drug and anti-terrorism program that has channeled $5.5 billion in mostly military aid since 2000.

Colombia's trade breaks have helped boost its U.S. exports to $9 billion annually, including oil, coal, coffee and bananas, most of which enter duty-free. U.S. exports to Colombia total about $6 billion. Ecuador and Peru also receive the breaks, but Bolivia was excluded last month after leftist President Evo Morales kicked out the U.S. ambassador.

Plan Colombia has enabled Uribe to beef up his military, seizing the initiative from leftist rebel groups and improving security.

Besides the refurbished alliance with Colombia and new ones with Mexico and Brazil, W also has CAFTA to his credit and a free trade agreement with Chile, has been the most vocal advocate of immigration in our history, and regime-changed Haiti. The Colombia agreement would make a nice gilding.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:54 AM


Yankees intend to blow Sabathia away (SI: Fan Nation, 11/13/08)

CC Sabathia does not need the Yankees to flirt with him. He knows their intentions already. All things being equal, Sabathia wants to go home to California and play in the NL, where he can hit. But as a friend of Sabathia's said yesterday, "he is mature enough and realistic enough to know that the Yankees might not make it close. And if it is not close - no matter how much he likes the West Coast and likes hitting - he is not going to walk away from $25 million. This is not rocket science. It is about how much more the Yanks will spend than anybody else."

For Red Sox fans, the prospect of the Yankees tying up $50 million a year in CC and Manny is almost too good to be true.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:33 AM


Outrage as China's leading lady defects to Singapore (Clifford Coonan, 12 November 2008, Independent)

China's leading lady Gong Li, best known in Britain for her role in Memoirs of a Geisha, is being accused of treason by her irate countrymen for becoming a Singaporean citizen.

The 43-year-old actress embodies Chinese womanhood in the way Helen Mirren sets British hearts racing, or the way Catherine Deneuve is an icon in France, so her decision to take Singaporean citizenship was always bound to cause trouble.

State media ran images of the actress with her hand on her heart being sworn in at a ceremony alongside 149 others at the Teck Ghee Community Club in the island state, which has a large Chinese community. Her husband is the Singapore businessman Ooi Hoe Seong, whom she married in 1996.

Angry webizens said Ms Gong was betraying her Chinese roots.

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November 12, 2008

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:17 PM


Scientists crack the perfect Yorkshire pudding formula: Scientists have discovered the secret to the perfect Yorkshire Pudding is that is should rise to four inches in height. (Richard Alleyne, 12 Nov 2008, Daily Telegraph)

The chemist and Yorkshireman Dr John Emsley was tasked with drawing up the definitive recipe and dimensions after the society was contacted by a bewildered cook whose pudding refused to rise. [...]

He said that cooks wanting to rustle one up need to arm themselves with carbohydrate + H2O + protein + NaCl + lipids (flour, water, egg, milk and fat), said the scientists.

He also warned about the dangers of putting the prepared batter in the fridge and stresses the importance of getting the fat really hot.

Dr Emsley claims that cooks born outside of Yorkshire have a natural disadvantage and will never manage to create a truly perfect pudding. But the Society admits there is little scientific evidence to back up this particular conclusion.

"It's in the blood and instinct of people born and raised there," he said.

"You can always tell from the look and taste if the cook has the right touch and it is almost pitiful to observe the stuff that comes from some southern ovens - flat, pale and soggy much of the time."

He added: "I have seen many grim results from people who have tried to get their Yorkshires to rise. They frequently made gross errors.

After all, cooking is chemistry in the kitchen and one has to have the correct formula, equipment and procedures.

"Some amateurs even place the batter in the fridge first. What kind of foolish act is that?".

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:53 PM


Baucus Outlines Health Care Plan (Drew Armstrong, 11/12/08, Congressional Quarterly)

Max Baucus , the head of the powerful Senate Finance Committee, laid down a marker on a health care overhaul Wednesday, declaring his independence from other power brokers and signaling that Congress would not wait for the new president to move forward on the issue.

The 89-page document Baucus unveiled stakes out his own territory on the issue independent from Edward M. Kennedy , D-Mass., chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee and also suggests that Baucus intends for Congress to take the lead.

It took Bill Clinton nearly three years to figure out triangulation. We'll see how quick a study the new guy is.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:51 PM


Major Source of Online Scams and Spams Knocked Offline (Brian Krebs, 11/12/08, Washingto Post: Security Fix)

A U.S. based Web hosting firm that security experts say was responsible for facilitating more than 75 percent of the junk e-mail blasted out each day globally has been knocked offline following reports from Security Fix on evidence gathered about suspicious activity emanating from the network.

For the past four months, Security Fix has been gathering data from the security industry about McColo Corp., a San Jose, Calif., based Web hosting service whose client list experts say includes some of the most disreputable cyber-criminal gangs in business today.

On Monday, Security Fix contacted the Internet providers that manage more than 90 percent of the company's connection to the larger Internet, sending them information about badness at McColo as documented by the security industry.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:30 PM


Obama's pick for White House chief unsettles Arabs (Alistair Lyon, 11/12/08, Reuters)

[O]bama's choice of Rahm Emanuel, a combative, pro-Israeli political operator, as his White House chief of staff splashed cold water on some who hoped the next U.S. leader would be more even-handed and sensitive in grappling with the Middle East.

"For millions of Arabs who expressed jubilance at the monumental victory of Obama, (Emanuel's) appointment has put a damper on a short-lived fiesta," wrote Jordan-based commentator Osama al-Sharif in Saudi Arabia's Arab News on Wednesday.

In another common view, Morocco's leading Arabic-language newspaper al Massa said Emanuel's powerful new job indicated the "lengthy arm of Israeli clout inside the Obama administration".

Iran's hardline English-language Kayhan International also homed in on Emanuel, describing the Illinois Congressman as a "Zionist with deep-seated family ties to Israel".

They're only the first to be disappointed. Actually, the second. India is furious that the U.R. didn't include their prime minister in his first round of calls to world leaders.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:30 PM


Path to perfect popovers (Carol Mighton Haddix, November 12, 2008, Chicago Tribune)

Here are a few tips for perfect popovers:

•Heat the empty pan in the oven first, then butter the cups.

•Fill the cups only three-quarters full.

•Initial high heat will make the batter rise nicely, but then give them enough baking time to firm up before you remove them, otherwise they will deflate.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:55 AM


GOP Looking Glass: The Right future. (Jonah Goldberg, 11/12/08, National Review)

[T]he debate about the Bush years will largely determine the future of the Republican party and the conservative movement.

Bush’s brand of conservatism was always a controversial innovation on the Right. Recall that in 2000 he promised to be a “different kind of Republican,” and he kept his word. His partner in passing the No Child Left Behind Act was liberal Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy. Bush’s prescription drug benefit — the largest expansion of entitlements since the Great Society — was hugely controversial on the right. He signed the McCain-Feingold bill to the dismay of many Republicans who’d spent years denouncing campaign-finance “reform” as an assault on freedom of speech. The fight over his immigration plan nearly tore the conservative movement apart.

This is not to suggest that Bush was in fact a liberal president. Politics is not binary like that. There were conservative triumphs — and failures — to the Bush presidency. He appointed two solid conservatives to the Supreme Court. He tried to privatize Social Security, though that failed for sundry reasons.

His much-touted “compassionate conservatism” was rejected by many on the right as a slap to traditional conservatives and an intellectual betrayal of Reaganite principles. It was a rhetorical capitulation to Bill Clinton’s feel-your-pain political posturing and an embrace of the assumptions that have been the undergirding of liberalism since the New Deal. That is, the measure of one’s compassion is directly proportionate to one’s support for large and costly government programs.

True confessions time: when National Review first hired Mr. Goldberg, having never read anything he'd written, I sort of assumed it had been a favor to his mother. But, over time, he's not only been a pleasant surprise for how perceptive he is, but he's often quite funny. At a time when the magazine has slipped quite a bit, he's one of the few guys there who's worth reading anymore for whom National Review is his primary outlet--adding Victor Davis Hanson and Mark Steyn was a good move, but the magazine needs them more than they need the magazine.

This essay though is a disappointment. It misapprehends Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and modern conservatism generally. And it does so in an important and revealing way, for the conservatism that prevails across the entire Anglosphere today is the Third Way brand of Margaret Thatcher and because it is pursued at various times by parties of both Left and Right few on either side are willing to honestly acknowledge this fact, lest they be forced to admit how like their putative foes they are become.

To begin with, we can dispense with the bizarre notion that Ronald Reagan was a small government conservative. Whatever the content of his rhetoric, the reality of his governance was that President Reagan was a conventional New Dealer. One of his signal achievements, though the Right prefers not to think of it that way, nor to think about it at all, was to "rescue" Social Security virtually unchanged in form, with only some tinkering around the edges of retirement age and tax rules. If the First Way was the politics of rugged individualism and the minimalist state and the Second Way the politics of a social welfare net maintained and administered by the state, then President Reagan was a quintessential Second Way man.

However, at around the time of his presidency there was a Third Way being pioneered in Chile and Margaret Thatcher's Britain (as well as in New Zealand and Australia). There are a variety of definitions of the Third Way, but the easiest way to think of it for our purposes is that it retains the mandate and the guaranteed benefit of the Second Way but in between your paying into the system and taking out from it uses market mechanisms and private forms to help pay for those benefits. Once, you had to pay for your own retirement out of your own pocket. Then you had to pay into a system where your money was set aside in government accounts until it was paid back out to you on retirement. Under the Third Way, you are still required to pay into the system but then would have enough control over what you've paid in that you can increase its value beyond what those government accounts would eventually render. General Pinochet, Mrs. Thatcher and others applied this basic theory to other programs--like unemployment accounts in Chile--and reformers picked up the idea and proposed new programs, like HSAs, school vouchers, Welfare Reform, etc. What all of these things have in common is that they keep in place the taxes, insurances, entitlements, guarantees, government oversight, etc. that the Right once dreamed it would be able to dispose of, but they are all now blended with the sorts of free market mechanisms and inherent risk that that the Left thought it had triumphed over. Thus, a Third Way.

One too little appreciated aspect of the Third Way is its reliance on religion. In the first instance, it does require that we feel each other's pain, or, as in George W. Bush's gospel, that you love your neighbor. That is why the advocates on the Right have so often been evangelical. At the same time, it is premised on religious institutions and social organizations and the like stepping up to fill some of the gaps that will be left as the state becomes less enmeshed in day to day life.

Viewed from this perspective, we can see the continuity and commonality that runs from Margaret Thatcher through John Major and Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich and Tony Blair and John Howard and Benjamin Netanyahu and George W. Bush and Jeb Bush and Mayor Daley and Stephen Harper and Kevin Rudd and Barack Obama to David Cameron and Mitch Daniels and Bobby Jindal and Sarah Palin and so on and so forth. It is useful enough to be able to see what politics has succeeded in the English-speaking world over the past several decades, but, to the topic at hand, really illuminating to note that many of the Third Way leaders were eventually defeated or abandoned by their own parties. So you have the odd phenomenon of Democrats refusing to take credit for Bill Clinton's two great accomplishments: Welfare Reform and Free Trade. And you have Tony Blair and George W.. Bush coming to be hated by their own parties because they were too much identified with the other party.

Applying this framework to Mr. Goldberg's piece, we find him giving George W. Bush conservative credit for Social Security accounts--which he failed to pass--but opprobrium for HSAs, which he passed in the prescription drug package. Meanwhile, both of these reforms mark "intellectual betrayal of Reaganite principles" precisely because that are less statist and more free market than the Gipper ever was in practice. And his suggestion that W's politics make it so that "the measure of one’s compassion is directly proportionate to one’s support for large and costly government programs" relies on an assumption that no one who is not suffering from a politically disordered mind any longer believes: that there is a constituency for small and inexpensive government. It would better be said that: under W's politics the measure of one’s conservatism is directly proportionate to one’s support for reforming large and costly government programs along free market lines. And, now that we have a clearer view of the matter and have placed W directly in the mainstream of modern conservatism--as it is practiced from London to Canberra--we must ask a more pertinent question that the one with which Mr. Goldberg opens: are those who continue to insist on a reversion to the First Way conservatives? Or are they extremists, out of touch with not just their own country but the politics of the West?

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:48 AM


GOP must tone down rhetoric to woo Latinos (GEBE MARTINEZ, 11/12/08, Politico)

As one who had worked for the 2000 and 2004 campaigns of George W. Bush, and the 2002 reelection of Bush’s brother, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, [Hispanic media consultant Frank] Guerra feared Republicans’ harsh rhetoric on immigration would cost them the Hispanic support that was critical to the Bush victories. Bush adviser Karl Rove and 2008 Republican nominee John McCain were at the forefront of that argument but were a minority inside the GOP.

Of course, Guerra — McCain’s Hispanic media adviser this year — was proved right on Election Day.

While the economy was the top concern of Latino voters, the immigration hardliners’ rhetoric motivated them to get involved in the election.

The nativist, anti-immigrant attitudes chilled even Latino citizens who support border enforcement, Guerra observed, and Hispanics voted against McCain, a longtime friend of Latinos.

Unless Republicans change their tone and help fix the immigration system before the next presidential election, their downhill slide with Latinos will “not even be for the foreseeable future but for good,” Guerra said.

The reality, he added, is that the Hispanic electorate is growing and changing the political battleground. “And I’ll tell you, there are a lot in the Republican Party who don’t want to hear that, and there are a lot in the Republican Party who don’t want to accept that,” he said.

...the "Traditionalists" don't want to accept it for ethnic reasons and the "Reformists" don't want to accept it for religious reasons.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:44 AM


How to Close Guantánamo: A Legal Minefield (Mark Kukis, Nov. 11, 2008, TIME)

Few attorneys better understand the legal dilemmas surrounding the U.S. military prison in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, than Neal Katyal. In 2006, Katyal led a successful Supreme Court case challenging the legality of the Bush Administration's military tribunals in Guantánamo, a ruling that sounded one of the first death knells for Camp X-Ray. But two years later, difficult questions about how to close Guantánamo continue to vex legal minds ranging from Katyal to the advisers now gathering around President-elect Barack Obama. "This is a huge and difficult problem," says Katyal, who teaches national-security law at Georgetown University. "I don't actually see obvious answers."

Instead of Guantanamo Bay, call it the Harold Washington Rehabilitation Center for Wayward Boys and you know the Left will forget about the place by Thanksgiving.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:38 AM


Can Republican Governors Rebuild Their Party? (Tim Padgett, Nov. 11, 2008, TIME)

Despite his sunny disposition, you'd think Charlie Crist would be feeling a bit down right now. Florida's Republican governor just watched a northern Democrat, Barack Obama, win the Sunshine State in a presidential election for the first time since Franklin Roosevelt did in 1944. Obama also took Pinellas County, which includes Crist's hometown of St. Petersburg. And Obama only lost nearby Sarasota County — which since 1944 hasn't fallen to any kind of Democrat, Yankee or otherwise — by a mere 237 votes.

Certainly Crist isn't happy about John McCain's loss in Florida, especially since he endorsed McCain in the state's primary. But when he convenes the Republican Governors Association conference on Wednesday, which is being held in Miami this year, Crist won't be quite the damaged political goods that many McCain supporters are trying to paint him as. In fact, Crist and other bipartisan Republican governors may well be the model for how the GOP should rebuild itself after the crippling losses of both 2006 and 2008.

Moderates like Crist have long urged Republicans to adopt a more upbeat offensive in the 21st century, especially during the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. He and many of his statehouse peers contend that McCain flamed out in Florida and the nation in large part because his campaign followed such a negative attack plan. "Right now people want commonsense answers to problems that are not always ideologically based," Crist told TIME last week. "When it comes to pocketbook issues, I think they want the Florida way, a more bipartisan approach that aims for the sweet spot between hard right and hard left."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:34 AM


GOP looking for new 'face': Governors plot party comeback (Ralph Z. Hallow, November 12, 2008, Washington Times)

Joining Mrs. Palin at the three-day Republican Governors Association annual conference are Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour and Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, all on Sen. John McCain's running-mate list and potential national-level leaders for a party reeling from years of losses.

Mr. Jindal, the nation's first Indian-American governor, draws crowds of admirers at appearances outside his state. His supporters extend to rank-and-file Republicans and party officials who admire his sunny personality, business acumen and political sense.

Mr. Barbour is equally popular in his state, having come through Hurricane Katrina as a shining example of a can-do governor in what turned out to be self-help state. As Republican national chairman during the Clinton presidency, he was a bridge builder between the Senate and House GOP leadership when both chambers were controlled by Republicans.

Most GOP officials agree no one in recent memory performed better as the public face of the GOP during his leadership of the Republican National Committee.

Good guy. Good governor. Too cracker.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:04 AM


Al Gore, Colin Powell, Caroline Kennedy in Obama's Administration? (Paul Bedard, November 11, 2008, US News)

Now the above transition flowchart [PDF]. It is making the rounds in Washington tonight, though our source would not reveal the actual source of the document. It lists suggestions for top cabinet posts, many of which have been rumored for days inside and outside the new administration. Of note: Al Gore might be under consideration for a "climate czar" position; Colin Powell could be education secretary; Howard Dean might get health and human services; Robert F. Kennedy Jr. might be the head of the Environmental Protection Agency; and Caroline Kennedy could be the ambassador to the United Nations. It's just an unofficial guide but a fun one to follow.

Man, their operation leaks like a New Orleans levee.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:43 AM


Real Clear Politics has the numbers at:

National Results 52.6 46.1 Obama +6.5

Electoral College 365 162 -

Congress Dems GOP Pickups

U.S. Senate 57* 40 Dems +6

U.S. House 256 175 Dems +20

...with some seats left to be decided. But we'll start giving out prizes now.

Peter, curt, Jeff Lindemyer, JAB (& anyone I missed) email me your addresses and I'll get a book out to you.

Thanks everyone for playing.

Just got a new book in to give away, so get your election picks in:

We've got a bunch of books to give away: pick the % for Obama/McCain, Senate split and House split.

November 11, 2008

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:01 PM


Row over claims of Syrian nuclear find (Ian Black, November 12 2008, The Guardian)

Claims that traces of uranium were found at the site of an alleged Syrian nuclear reactor which was bombed by Israel last year prompted a row about politically-motivated leaks yesterday.

Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said the UN body was taking very seriously allegations that Syria has a hidden atomic programme. But he declined to confirm that uranium had been detected.

Unnamed diplomats said on Monday that samples taken by UN inspectors from Kibar in northern Syria contained traces of uranium combined with other elements. The uranium was processed, suggesting some kind of nuclear link.

A leak by those who want to regime change Syria but are concerned that the next President wants to prop up the Ba'athists.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:02 PM


In the Face of Hatred (Paul Bishop, 11/1/08, Meridian)

I am a Los Angeles Police Department detective supervisor running a sex crimes unit covering the western quarter of the city, which also includes the area where the Los Angeles temple is located. I have a fantastic crew of 20 detectives who are an amazing mixture of races and sexes. I have several detectives who are openly gay or lesbian. This orientation has nothing to do with their efficiency as investigators. I deeply respect and like these individuals. I enjoy working with them. My life is often in their hands when we serve high risk search or arrest warrants. I trust them implicitly.

Obviously, the types of crimes we investigate bring us into regular contact with victims who are of an alternative lifestyle orientation. It is incumbent upon us that our compassion for these victims be no less than for victims who are heterosexual.

Working in such an environment, I found taking a position on Proposition 8 to be difficult. Even though I chose to follow the direction of our Church leaders in my voting decision, it was extremely hard for me to place myself on the line when it came to actively working to ensure the passage of Proposition 8.

Still, I watched in amazement as my fellow ward and stake members worked tirelessly, committing themselves full-heartedly to the cause – not out of homophobic hatred, but out of a love of Christ and a belief in the sanctity of traditional marriage. Their faith strengthened mine, and I committed to participate in a sign waving public rally sponsored by our stake to be held at a local intersection.

By following through on this commitment, I found I had a greater stake in the battle than I had ever thought. I learned a number of hard and harsh lessons. And in the events following the election and passage of Proposition 8, I felt great anguish forcing me to drop to my knees in prayer – eventually coming to a more personal understanding of the Love of Christ and what he expects from me.

During the Proposition 8 rally, as I stood with my wife and friends waving Yes On 8 signs and waving to the passing rush hour traffic, I learned several things. I learned supporters of both Yes On 8 and No On 8 liked to honk their horns. I learned the way to tell the difference is the No On 8 supporters usually accompanied their horn honking with an obscene gesture or a string of obscenities. They also liked to swerve their cars toward the children on the curb.

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Posted by Matt Murphy at 7:14 PM


Barone: Media wanted Palin to abort (Mike Allen and Andy Barr, Politico, 11/11/2008)

A roomful of academics erupted in angry boos Tuesday morning after political analyst Michael Barone said journalists trashed Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the Republicans' vice presidential nominee, because "she did not abort her Down syndrome baby."

Barone said in an e-mail that he "was attempting to be humorous and ... went over the line."

Barone was speaking at the Palmer House Hilton in Chicago, to the 121st annual meeting of the National Association of State Universities and Land Grant Colleges, which calls itself the nation’s oldest higher-education association.

“The liberal media attacked Sarah Palin because she did not abort her Down syndrome baby," Barone said, according to accounts by attendees. "They wanted her to kill that child. ... I'm talking about my media colleagues with whom I've worked for 35 years.” [...]

About 500 people were in the room, and some walked out.

Hmmm, let's break this down into a series of Sure Truths:

* As this was a crowd of academics, about, oh, 500 members of the audience would have aborted the kid in Sarah Palin's shoes.

* Most of them would not consider the unborn child to be a human life, to be worthy of legal protection, or to be likely to lead a fulfilling life if born.

* This kind of unanimity in any social circle naturally leads to suspicion of people who act otherwise.

* Particularly when the others can be grouped into a Two-Minutes Hate subgroup like White Trash, Right-Wing Submoronic Religious Imbeciles.

So what exactly is so upsetting here? There is nothing in that statement that is remotely incorrect. Perhaps the academics object to the word "kill." What would they prefer? "Terminate"? "Expunge"? And do they know what that sounds like?

Here's a practical example of this attitude from the syndicated columnist Froma Harrop, writing back in September:

[W]ho does McCain pick for VP? A 44-year-old who parades her dysfunctional family as a poster-child for conservative values.

Now obviously no self-respecting liberal, or a person with any humility for that matter, would ever use the word "dysfunctional" to describe a family solely because of one unwed daughter who was enduring a first-time pregnancy. Everyone knows good families in that predicament. What Ms. Harrop means is this: "Ewww, this is a religious and openly patriotic family with five kids. Also, they chose to keep a baby with Down Syndrome. What a bunch of weirdoes."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:02 PM


Obama likely to escape campaign audit (KENNETH P. VOGEL, 11/11/08, Politico)

The Federal Election Commission is unlikely to conduct a potentially embarrassing audit of how Barack Obama raised and spent his presidential campaign’s record-shattering windfall, despite allegations of questionable donations and accounting that had the McCain campaign crying foul.

Adding insult to injury for Republicans: The FEC is obligated to complete a rigorous audit of McCain’s campaign coffers, which will take months, if not years, and cost McCain millions of dollars to defend.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:13 PM


'Terrorist court' plan shows a new Obama emerging (Steven Edwards, November 11, 2008, National Post)

Let me get this straight. On the campaign trail, Barack Obama felt traditional military and civilian courts in the United States provided a perfectly adequate “framework” for prosecuting terrorism suspects – and that the Bush administration’s military tribunals in Guantanamo Bay were a judicial abomination.

Now we hear that he and his team are looking at creating a special “terrorist” court to deal with the worst of the worst, whose cases are entangled in sensitive highly classified material.

So isn’t that confirmation that there is, after all, a need for a “third way” to deal with enemy combatants in an age of terrorist warfare? Funny how the policy proposals change once the election mandate is secure.

...that if letting your opponents take credit for your ideas brings them to fruition, then take the achievement instead of the credit. President Obama will rebrand plenty of stuff so that he can ape W without admitting it. If the gets the Left to do what's right, more power to him.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:58 PM


Obama victory took root in Kennedy-inspired Immigration Act (Peter S. Canellos, November 11, 2008, Boston Globe)

There is no question that Obama owes a debt to the Kennedys - but it may be far greater than he or they realize. Yes, Senator Edward M. Kennedy offered a crucial early endorsement, comparing the Obama of 2008 to the Jack Kennedy of 1960. And certainly Caroline and others in the Kennedy family worked hard on the campaign trail. But the greatest Kennedy legacy to Obama isn't Ted or Caroline or Bobby Jr., but rather the Immigration Act of 1965, which created the diverse country that is already being called Obama's America.

That act is rarely mentioned when recounting the high points of 1960s liberalism, but its impact arguably rivals the Voting Rights Act, the creation of Medicare, or other legislative landmarks of the era. It transformed a nation 85 percent white in 1965 into one that's one-third minority today, and on track for a nonwhite majority by 2042.

Before the act, immigration visas were apportioned based on the demographic breakdown that existed at the time of the 1920 Census - meaning that there were few if any limits on immigrants from Western and Northern Europe, but strict quotas on those from elsewhere.

The belief that the United States should remain a nation of European lineage was openly discussed when immigration laws were revisited in 1952. The resulting bill, the McCarran-Walter Act, was notorious for giving the State Department the right to exclude visitors for ideological reasons, meaning that a raft of left-wing artists and writers - including Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, British novelist Graham Greene - and scores of others were denied visas. But it also had the effect of maintaining the 1920s-era notion of the United States as a white nation. (Congress imposed the bill over President Truman's veto.)

A decade later, attitudes were changing, and President Kennedy proposed a new immigration structure that would no longer be based on national origins. After Kennedy's assassination, his brother Ted took up the fight, pushing the Johnson administration to go even further than it wanted in evening the playing field. Though Lyndon Johnson, in signing the bill, tried to reassure opponents that it wouldn't do much to change the balance of immigration, its impact was dramatic.

As the Proposition 8 vote demonstrated, that wasn't the Kennedy immigration bill that won it for Obama, rather it was the conservatives' hysterical opposition to the Bush-inspired Kennedy bill that cost them the opportunity to carry a natural constituency.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:52 PM


The 4 percent defense spending chimera (Michael O'Hanlon, November 11, 2008, Washington Times)

A number of analysts, and now chairman of the Joint Chiefs Adm. Michael Mullen, have proposed that the Defense Department be legislatively guaranteed 4 percent of the nation's gross domestic product to ensure ample resources for the military into the future. Should this be an early priority of an Obama administration?

The answer is no. Any worries by an incoming Democratic administration that it needs to prove its national security mettle by conceding to this new idea from America's top military officer would be a mistake. While today's U.S. defense budgets are above 4 percent of GDP and likely stay that way for the foreseeable future - as they should - the Defense Department budget does not need to be treated effectively as another federal entitlement. In fact, the goal of those of us focused on national defense policy should be to reduce enough security problems around the world that we will be in a position to cut the defense budget down the road. Just because this option is not responsibly available today does not mean we should forswear it for the future.

To be sure, this country has downsized its military excessively in the past. After World War II, we demobilized to an extreme, and when the Korean War broke out 5 years later the underequipped Task Force Smith was all we could muster as North Korean forces raced through our weak defenses and nearly seized the whole peninsula in the war's opening months.

After Vietnam, our mistakes were less egregious, but a dispirited U.S. military was plagued by indiscipline and other problems among its personnel, aging weaponry, insufficient funds for training, and a general sense of going hollow, as Gen. Shy Meyer memorably declared. What assurances do we have now, Adm. Mullen might wonder, that the same thing will not happen again?

It's vital that it does happen again. One of the things that has made us so formidable in past wars is that we've attrited so thoroughly during peacetime that we built fresh once war came and thus had huge advantages over outdated enemies. Unfortunately, Bill Clinton was in no position to cut as deeply as he should have after the Cold War and the Unicorn Rider isn't strong enough to cut deeply not that the war against the jihadi is winding down.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:30 PM


Vatican fires off warning to Barack Obama over stem cell research (Richard Owen, 11/11/08, Times of London)

The Vatican has fired a warning shot over the bows of Barack Obama in response to the President-elect's intention to lift the US ban on embryonic stem cell research.

Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan of Mexico, who acts as the Vatican health minister, said that stem cells taken from human embryos and involving the destruction of the embryos "serve no purpose".

Asked whether the Vatican was concerned about reports that Mr Obama might reverse the Bush Administration's ban, the cardinal said that embryonic stem cell research had not resulted in any significant health cure so far and was "good for nothing".

Research on adult stem cells and umbliical cords had been shown to have "positive value", by contrast, although even that was not "a panacea for everything."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:37 AM


Darkness at Dusk (DAVID BROOKS, 11/11/08, NY Times)

In one camp, there are the Traditionalists, the people who believe that conservatives have lost elections because they have strayed from the true creed. George W. Bush was a big-government type who betrayed conservatism. John McCain was a Republican moderate, and his defeat discredits the moderate wing.

To regain power, the Traditionalists argue, the G.O.P. should return to its core ideas: Cut government, cut taxes, restrict immigration. Rally behind Sarah Palin*. [...]

The other camp, the Reformers, argue that the old G.O.P. priorities were fine for the 1970s but need to be modernized for new conditions. The reformers tend to believe that American voters will not support a party whose main idea is slashing government. The Reformers propose new policies to address inequality and middle-class economic anxiety. They tend to take global warming seriously. They tend to be intrigued by the way David Cameron has modernized the British Conservative Party.

Moreover, the Reformers say, conservatives need to pay attention to the way the country has changed. Conservatives have to appeal more to Hispanics, independents and younger voters. They cannot continue to insult the sensibilities of the educated class and the entire East and West Coasts.

That sort of scrap between the Paleocon Right and the Bright Right probably does fascinate the participants, but it has almost nothing to do with the future of the GOP. With Maverick cleared out of the way the 2012 nomination--and, therefore, the definition of conservatism--is a contest among clones of W: Jeb Bush, Sarah Palin, Bobby Jindal, Mitch Daniels, etc., with Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney hanging around. It is the W template that matters: deeply religious, Third Way, Southern governor, with a business background, appeal to not just the Anglo religious but Hispanic/black/Asian too.

The future of the GOP is neither nativist nor secularist.

* Ms Palin is far too pro-immigration and interventionist to be tolerable to the far Right. Check out the primary reason she gives for the loss:

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:25 AM


Obama Asks Bush to Provide Help for Automakers (JACKIE CALMES, 11/11/08, NY Times)

The struggling auto industry was thrust into the middle of a political standoff between the White House and Democrats on Monday as President-elect Barack Obama urged President Bush in a meeting at the White House to support immediate emergency aid.

Mr. Bush indicated at the meeting that he might support some aid and a broader economic stimulus package if Mr. Obama and Congressional Democrats dropped their opposition to a free-trade agreement with Colombia, a measure for which Mr. Bush has long fought, people familiar with the discussion said.

A nice first lesson in the power of the presidency.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:46 AM


Why Obama Should Copy Bush (Really!) (Jonathan Cohn, November 09, 2008, TNR: The Plank)

But was Bush really a “failure”? That depends on how you define it.

Consider what Bush has accomplished. He has overhauled the tax code, tilting it towards the wealthy and significantly reducing federal revenues. He signed a landmark education reform that changed the curriculum in virtually ever public school. He gutted the regulatory state and hollowed out the bureaucracy. He added a drug benefit to Medicare, thereby enacting the largest single entitlement expansion since the 1960s. He tipped the Supreme Court’s ideological balance with two strongly conservative appointees.

And that’s just what he did on domestic policy. Bush also sponsored a massive program to help treat AIDS in under-developed countries. He rewrote long-standing doctrine on foreign policy and human rights. And, oh yeah, he engineered--and then prosecuted--a war that overthrew a dictator, destabilized a region, and committed the U.S. to an occupation whose end is still unknown.

That’s quite a tally--arguably, one that no president since Lyndon Johnson can match. (Before that, you'd have to go back to FDR.) And with the exception of the Medicare drug program, every single one of those accomplishments represent a realization of goals that he, his fellow travelers in the conservative movement, or both had sought for years or even decades.

America today looks radically different than it did in January, 2001. And it looks that way because Bush made it so.

Mr. Cohn gets some of it, but hardly all. Note, for example, that the prescription drug program brought with it the HSAs that the GOP had failed to pass for a decade. And, to take just one other obvious one he missed, W made India a more significant ally than any continental European country.

Not only has Barack Obama modeled himself on W but so have the new leaders--or imminent new leaders--of Canada, Australia, England, Germany, France, the Vatican, etc..

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:41 AM


YouTube to post full-length MGM films (Reuters, 11/10/08)

MGM Studios will kick off the partnership by posting episodes of its decade-old "American Gladiators" program to YouTube on one channel.

On another channel, MGM will post full-length action films like "Bulletproof Monk" and "The Magnificent Seven" and clips from popular movies like "Legally Blonde." These will be free to watch, with ads running alongside the video.

YouTube in October forged a similar partnership with CBS Corp to run full-length archived shows, including "Star Trek," "Young and the Restless" and "Beverly Hills 90210."

The Web is tv.

November 10, 2008

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:11 PM


GM's Shares Tumble on Rising Cash Concerns (JOHN D. STOLL and SHARON TERLEP, 11/10/08, Wall Street Journal)

General Motors Corp. stock fell to its lowest level since 1946 as concern intensified that the auto maker could run out of cash and be forced to file for bankruptcy protection.

The stock's decline came as several analysts issued dire reports about GM and the company acknowledged in a government filing it could be at risk of violating the terms of some of its debt if it doesn't steady its deteriorating finances by year's end.

A violation of the debt covenants, GM said in the filing late Friday, would give lenders the right to demand repayment of $6 billion, a sum that potentially could cripple the car maker's ability to stay in business.

GM and sympathetic lawmakers boosted their calls Monday for the federal government to bail out the company. In return for aid, lawmakers in Congress have suggested the government could seek to take a stake in the company, limit executive compensation and require GM to speed the introduction of fuel-efficient vehicles

Why would we want an ownership stake? Developed nations don't manufacture.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:04 PM


Obama Is Expected to Put Education Overhaul on Back Burner (ROBERT TOMSHO and JOHN HECHINGER, 11/11/08, Wall Street Journal)

Critics of the Bush administration's education policies had hoped that putting a Democrat in the White House would mean dramatic changes, including the potential scrapping of the No Child Left Behind law and its reliance on standardized testing, as well as more federal dollars for schools.

But with the financial crisis and other priorities bearing down, President-elect Barack Obama's education initiatives -- at least early in his term -- are expected to be more about tinkering than bold change.

Intelligence Policy to Stay Largely Intact (SIOBHAN GORMAN, 11/11/08, Wall Street Journal)
President-elect Barack Obama is unlikely to radically overhaul controversial Bush administration intelligence policies, advisers say, an approach that is almost certain to create tension within the Democratic Party.

Obama Leans Toward Asking Gates to Remain at Pentagon for a Year (YOCHI J. DREAZEN, 11/10/08, Wall Street Journal)
President-elect Barack Obama is leaning toward asking Defense Secretary Robert Gates to remain in his position for at least a year, according to two Obama advisers. A senior Pentagon official said Mr. Gates would likely accept the offer if it is made.

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Barack Obama is to George W. Bush as Chris Matthews is to Barack Obama.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:40 PM


Obama to fulfil promise and shut Guantanamo (Leonard Doyle, 11 November 2008, Independent)

Mr Obama's plans for Guantanamo inmates should see most detainees, against whom there is little or no evidence, being released to their home countries after years in legal limbo. Others will face prosecution in US criminal courts. One problem for those courts will face is deciding whether evidence from anonymous intelligence sources or obtained without any legal process can be taken into account. Some Guantanamo inmates suffered torture or other abusive treatment at the hands of CIA interrogators either at the prison or after they were picked up in security sweeps in Afghanistan or Pakistan. A few have been through the controversial military commissions process, from which even prosecutors have resigned. The US Supreme Court has several times rebuked the Bush administration for its handling of the detainees.

Close Guantanamo – But Don't Send Detainees Back to Countries that Torture (Eric Goldstein, 9/10/07, The Huffington Post)
In late July, I visited that country to see what happened to the first two Guantanamo detainees returned there. The picture is bleak. Tunisian authorities held both Abdallah Hajji and Lotfi Lagha for several weeks in tiny isolation cells after the United States flew them from Guantanamo on June 18. Each is facing serious charges of terrorism before Tunisian courts whose proceedings are anything but fair. Hajji told his lawyer that upon arrival police deprived him of sleep for 48 hours, threatened to rape his wife, and slapped him until he signed a statement he was not able to read. Tunisian authorities deny he was mistreated but won't let him be seen by any independent monitor in a position to comment publicly. [...]

Hajji says he would have preferred to remain in Guantanamo had he known that Tunisia would jail and retry him, according to his lawyer. For five weeks he was in a cell he described as a "tomb" so dark that he could not tell day from night, and was forbidden all contact with other inmates. In August, authorities moved him to a cell with two other inmates.

Considering his positions on abortion, infanticide, euthanasia, dealing with dictators, and shipping these guys back to their native regimes, on what are people basing the idea that he cares about human rights?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:35 PM


Iran economists denounce Ahmadinejad's policies: In an open letter they say Iran faces deep economic problems, including stunted growth, double-digit inflation and widespread unemployment, contradicting recent statements by officials. (Borzou Daragahi, November 10, 2008, LA Times)

A group of 60 Iranian economists Sunday condemned the economic policies of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and contradicted recent boasts by Tehran officials who said the Islamic Republic has been successfully weathering the global financial crisis.

In a 30-page letter quoted by several newspapers and state-run television and published on the website of the independent Iranian Labor News Agency, the economists say Iran is in dire economic straits and must drastically change course. The letter also says Ahmadinejad's "tension-creating" foreign policy has "scared off foreign investment and inflicted heavy damage" on the economy.

"Meager economic growth, widespread jobless rate, chronic and double-digit inflation, crisis in capital markets, government's expansionary budget, disturbed interaction with the world, inequity and poverty have combined with the global economic downturn to leave undeniably big impacts on exports and imports," the letter says.

Ayatollah Khamenei is rightly worried that the guys who want to bring back the Revolution risk destroying the Republic, which is why he'll engineer the departure of Ahmedinejad and try again to elect an economic reformer.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:32 PM


Democrats Have G.O.P. to Thank, at Least in Part (JOHN HARWOOD, 11/10/08, NY Times)

In the battleground state of Ohio, where Mr. Kerry lost the presidency to George W. Bush, the 2.74 million votes he received almost precisely matched Mr. Obama’s 2008 total. Mr. Obama won because John McCain received 300,000 fewer votes than Mr. Bush did.

As good a race as he ran, Mr. McCain couldn't fill the Jeb-shaped hole.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:29 PM


A Change in the Changes on Obama’s Web Site (Adam Graham-Silverman, 11/10/08, CQ)

On Nov. 7, global health advocates noticed that some of the details of Obama’s “fight global poverty” statement had been removed. Specifically, the site no longer promised to fully fund debt cancellation for the world’s poorest countries or provide the full U.S. contribution to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. [...]

By this morning, all of the issue-specific pages on the transition site had been removed from the agenda section. In its place, a statement that mentioned details but provided none at all: “The Obama Administration has a comprehensive and detailed agenda to carry out its policies.”

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:23 PM


Worse Than Bush? (Ted Galen Carpenter, 11.07.2008, The National Interest)

It is on the issue of humanitarian intervention, though, that Obama’s attitude—and that of some of his likely foreign policy appointees—is most worrisome. His article, “Renewing American Leadership,” in the July/August 2007 issue of Foreign Affairs included a dubious and troubling assumption. He insisted that “the security and well-being of each and every American depend on the security and well-being of those who live beyond our borders. The mission of the United States is to provide global leadership grounded in the understanding that the world shares a common security and a common humanity.” That assumption about the alleged indivisibility of destinies is not materially different from the sentiments that President Bush expressed in his second inaugural address: “The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands.”

But that assumption is both erroneous and dangerous. Taken to its logical conclusion, it means that America can never be safe or prosperous unless the dozens of chronically misgoverned countries are (somehow) transformed into free, democratic states. That is a blueprint for endless nation-building missions and perpetual war. Given the strains created by the recent debacle in America’s financial system, it is also an ambitious mission that American taxpayers can ill-afford.

Although it is hard to imagine, Obama’s foreign policy could prove even worse than that of the Bush administration. He flirts with the notion that the guiding principal of U.S. foreign policy should be to promote, defend and enforce respect for “human dignity” in the world. As an operational concept, such a standard would have to improve several notches just to reach vacuous. At best, it would entail Washington becoming the nag of the planet, constantly hectoring other governments to improve their behavior. At worst, it could become an excuse for lavish foreign-aid expenditures and military interventions to protect the downtrodden in failed states or even in functioning countries with repressive regimes. Yet most of the probable arenas for such interventions entail little or no connection to America’s tangible interests. Instead, this country would embark on expensive and potentially dangerous humanitarian crusades that would bleed America’s armed forces and drain the treasury. that they're fine with dictators but tend to want to intervene where there is no sovereign. What's odd is that in the former we can pretty easily force a change of government towards democracy while in the latter there's almost no chance we can establish an enduring central government.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:47 PM


Ex-Dodgers star Roe passes away: 'Preacher' named Pitcher of the Year by Sporting News in 1951 (Ken Gurnick, 11/09/08,

Left-hander Preacher Roe, a five-time All-Star who pitched for the Dodgers in three World Series, died Sunday night from colon cancer. He was 92.

Roe played for the Cardinals and Pirates before being acquired by Brooklyn's Branch Rickey in 1948. He went 22-3 in 1951, when The Sporting News named him pitcher of the year. He went 93-37 as a Dodger, threw a 1-0 shutout over the Yankees in the 1949 World Series, a complete-game victory in the 1952 World Series and had a 2.54 ERA in five World Series appearances.

He retired to run a supermarket in Missouri after the 1954 season with a career mark of 127-84, 3.34 ERA and 101 complete games.

Roe transitioned from a hard-thrower in his early years to a crafty finesse pitcher during his most successful seasons, although in a 1955 Sports Illustrated interview he admitted to throwing a spitball.

He lived on the Father Judd's block in Brooklyn, back when the players really would come out and play in the street.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:08 PM


Obama and the War on Brains (NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF, 11/09/08, NY Times)

Barack Obama’s election is a milestone in more than his pigmentation. The second most remarkable thing about his election is that American voters have just picked a president who is an open, out-of-the-closet, practicing intellectual. [...]

Granted, Mr. Obama may have been protected from accusations of excessive intelligence by his race. [...]

As Mr. Obama prepares to take office, I wish I could say that smart people have a great record in power. They don’t. Just think of Emperor Nero, who was one of the most intellectual of ancient rulers — and who also killed his brother, his mother and his pregnant wife; then castrated and married a slave boy who resembled his wife; probably set fire to Rome; and turned Christians into human torches to light his gardens.

James Garfield could simultaneously write Greek with one hand and Latin with the other, Thomas Jefferson was a dazzling scholar and inventor, and John Adams typically carried a book of poetry. Yet all were outclassed by George Washington, who was among the least intellectual of our early presidents.

Yet as Mr. Obama goes to Washington, I’m hopeful that his fertile mind will set a new tone for our country. Maybe someday soon our leaders no longer will have to shuffle in shame when they’re caught with brains in their heads.

Indeed, none of our best presidents--Washington, Polk, Lincoln, FDR, Reagan, Bush--have been intellectuals, while almost all of the worst have been: TR, Wilson, Hoover... Likewise, Marxism, Nazism, and the rest are just forms of intellectualism. And yet, Mr. Kristof, even after conceding the shoddy record of intellectuals, thinks they should lead us?

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:29 PM


Obamaism: It’s a kind of religion. But one rooted in a deep faith in rationality. Last week, New York rejoiced in its promise. And sang the National Anthem in the streets. (Kurt Andersen, Nov 9, 2008, New York)

However, from now until Inauguration Day is the last moment when so many of us in New York will feel so happily synchronized and united. Enjoy it while you can. Just as the trauma after 9/11 had a half-life, and then accelerated as no further attacks occurred, so will the euphoria over President Obama begin to fade on January 21, and accelerate when no unicorns and rainbow bridges and candy-cane trees appear during 2009 or, experts expect, 2010. In his victory speech last Tuesday night, his rhetoric was as well modulated as ever, balancing the goose-bumpy yes-we-cans with a prudent, rational, buzz-killing reminder that he and we must now deal with several gargantuan messes that won’t vanish when the Republicans leave Washington. And even though he may turn out to be, thanks to armed Islamic extremism and economic disarray, the 21st century’s FDR, if we can please avoid another Great Depression and the equivalent of World War II, I’ll be happy if he’s nothing more than a Democratic Ronald Reagan.

We need to manage our reactions and moods as the Obama miracle turns into just … a presidency. On the one hand, we need to look at the way the Hannitys and Limbaughs and Coulters behaved during the six years that Republicans ran Washington, and avoid becoming their irritating mirror images. And on the other hand, when Obama winds up governing more from the center than the left—as he’s promised to do all along—we have to ignore the ideologues and chronic complainers among us who will scream betrayal! when he hasn’t withdrawn from Iraq quickly enough, doesn’t simply free all the terrorists from Guantánamo, supports offshore drilling and nuclear power and non-union-approved experiments in public education. We need to abandon the default impulse to oppositionism, and not let our habit of the last several years congeal and continue as a kind of neurotic imperative to whine. Of course, from the point of view of political cynicism (of which the president-elect has a healthy amount), some left-wing opposition would be useful to the Obama administration, because it will help persuade the center and the sane right that he is not such a wild-eyed lefty after all.

And is he not, in fact? I don’t think so, but all the Obama voters I know, from a Park Slope Noam Chomskyite to a red-state Republican friend of Laura Bush’s, think that Obama is their president-elect. What precisely will Obamaism turn out to be? A lot of New York types have always professed horror that people voted for Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush because they “liked” them, had positive gut feelings about them. Yet in the end we, too, voted for what we take to be Obama’s elegant, clear-eyed, unruffled temperament and personality.

Ah, yes, the presidential election as personality contest....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:37 AM


Wash Post concedes bias for Obama: Examines past stories, photos (Jennifer Harper, November 10, 2008, Washington Times)

On Sunday, The Washington Post's ombudsman, Deborah Howell, offered evidence of an "Obama tilt" in her own newspaper.

"Readers have been consistently critical of the lack of probing issues coverage and what they saw as a tilt toward Democrat Barack Obama. My surveys, which ended on Election Day, show that they are right on both counts," Ms. Howell wrote in her column.

"Now Howell gives the mea culpa in her first column after Election Day, when it's far too late to do anything about it. Where was Howell during the last three months? Why wait until the election is over to speak up? That's an answer in itself," countered Ed Morrissey of Hot Air.

There's nothing wrong with the Post and other media outlets being partisan political operations, so long as they're subject to the same political contribution rules that govern you and me.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:31 AM


A New Specter: Deflation (Robert J. Samuelson, November 10, 2008, Washington Post)

Until recently, the idea that deflation -- the decline of most prices -- was possible, let alone a potential economic danger, seemed outlandish. If anything, inflation was the threat. Led by rising oil and food prices, it was increasing in most countries. But in the past two months, deflation has suddenly become conceivable, and, though still a long shot, it's much more menacing than most people realize. The most urgent economic task for Barack Obama and other world leaders is to prevent the long shot from happening.

A mild deflation -- like a mild inflation -- would be barely noticeable, and even pleasurable. Who doesn't like lower prices? But beyond a few percentage points, deflation can create economic havoc by forcing debtors to repay loans in more expensive money and causing consumers to postpone purchases.

Our generally high regard for Mr. Samuelson doesn't prevent our being amused that he believed temporarily high oil prices signaled inflation.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:25 AM


Train travel on track for a large push: Going by rail is gaining favor amid high fuel costs. Plans in the state and elsewhere may encourage more use. (Joan Lowy, November 10, 2008, LA Times)

After half a century as more of a curiosity than a convenience, passenger trains are getting back on track in some parts of the country.

The high cost of fuel, coupled with congestion on highways and at airports, is drawing travelers back to trains not only for commuting but also for travel between cities as much as 500 miles apart.

Last week, Californians approved Proposition 1A to sell nearly $10 billion in bonds to get going on an 800-mile system of bullet trains that could zip along at 200 mph, linking the Bay Area and Southern California and the cities in between.

In the Midwest, transportation officials are pushing a plan to connect cities in nine states in a hub-and-spoke system centered in Chicago.

The public is far ahead of policymakers in recognizing trains as an attractive alternative to cars and planes, said Rep. James L. Oberstar (D-Minn.), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

The corresponding move needs to be taxing the bejeebies out of aviation fuel.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:25 AM


Fraser Nelson reviews the week in politics (The Spectator, 11/09/08)

There was something almost comic about Gordon Brown and David Cameron’s rush to associate themselves with Barack Obama’s victory, each offering their own quite different interpretation. The Prime Minister declared that people are looking to government to help them during the economic downturn. The Conservative leader, with no less confidence, asserted that people are obviously hungry for change. But neither British party leader will have felt comfortable with the slogan which the Democrats were pushing in every swing state until the last possible minute: ‘Obama-Biden for tax cuts’.

The Conservative leadership persuaded itself some time ago that elections are not won with such a message. The view, held in some Cameroon quarters with almost religious fervour, is that the British thrice rejected tax cuts and should not be offered them again. When George Osborne’s political capital was greater, he would speak about ‘educating the party’ on the issue of tax cuts. Yet at the last Tory conference, I met some delegates only half-joking about an ‘educating the Osborne’ session, in which they would teach the shadow chancellor how to fight a spendthrift government with a tax-cutting message.

Mr Obama has just given a rather spectacular lesson in how to do it. While John McCain seemed a little squeamish about his offer of tax cuts (which would, after all, increase the deficit) Mr Obama was utterly unapologetic. It became one of his core pledges to America, placed at the heart of every major speech and rally address — and it had a galvanising effect. When asked which of the candidates was the ‘real’ tax-cutter, polls showed that Mr Obama beat Mr McCain three to one — even though the Republican plan was, in fact, the better-formulated and further-reaching of the two. Obama thus stole a key issue from his rivals, as George W. Bush once did with education, and Bill Clinton with welfare reform.

...if you let the Democrat get to your Right it's over.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:55 AM


Red, white and true blue: City hoists Old Glory: Stores see star-spangled sales (ANDREA JAMES AND KERY MURAKAMI, 11/06/08, Seattle P-I)

Barack Obama's presidential win held a poignant significance for liberal Seattleites: This is their America, too.

The feeling was evident in jubilant partying in the streets, in quiet moments of reflection and in blossoms of red, white and blue.

With newfound patriotism, Seattleites want to wave the flag, hang it from their homes and stick it on their cars.

"The thing that's kind of astounding to me is I never ever would have cared to own a flag," said Rosemary Garner, 42. "This is the first day in my life I actually feel this funny sense of pride about my country. It's a very foreign feeling, but it's a good one."

Garner, a self-described "flag virgin" who lives on Capitol Hill, bought eight flags Wednesday -- some to wave and others to stick on her car to "mix and match with some nice Obama and peace signs. Then I bought a couple of flags for some friends who wanted to hang them from their truck along with their biodiesel stickers." [...]

At All the King's Flags in Ballard, people have been snatching up American flags.

"Just today I've had a noticeable rush on U.S. flags," said James Sawyer, assistant manager. "I had a lady come in and she said she's happy to be an American again, that's why she was buying a flag."

Of a dozen customers, one had supported McCain and worried about rising taxes, but everyone else was upbeat, manager Alex White said.

While flag waving is normal in some parts of the country, the Stars and Stripes haven't been so ubiquitous in Seattle.

"People around here don't fly flags like they do on the East Coast," said Seattle flag maker Carol Anderson, who hails from Rhode Island but has lived in Seattle for seven years.

...and, no, it isn't fair that it is only Republicans who are expected to be--and will be--magnanimous in defeat. But, the fact of the matter is that the American political system and to some degree the society generally has been infected since Florida 2000 and if the election of a Democrat can just drain some of the pus out it's all to the good.

We're with Karl Rove:

O'REILLY: All right. Are you worried about Obama? Are you worried about this man?

ROVE: Look, I think…

O'REILLY: Come on, tell me the truth as an American, not as a pundit, not as a…

ROVE: Let me tell you what I feel as an American. First, as an American, I love my country and I want my president to succeed.

O'REILLY: So you want him to succeed…

ROVE: I want him to succeed.

O'REILLY: ...even though he's in the other party.

ROVE: That's right. Look, I was there when a president came in whom a lot of people in this country said, we don't think he's president, we will never accept him as legitimate. And I saw how bad it was for the country.

O'REILLY: The Bush haters.

ROVE: The Bush haters. And so I don't want to be one of those. I want to be a person who says I want our new president-elect to succeed. When he takes that oath of office after January 20, it's the obligation of every American to give him a chance. And we agree with him when we think he's right. We hope he's open to persuasion if his mind is open and not made up. And when he's wrong, we do have an obligation to say with all due respect we disagree. [...]

ROVE: And look, but here's the point. Now he's got the job. And we got to — every American hope that he is and pray for and support him in being up for the job.

November 9, 2008

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:10 PM


Report: Obama Sends Advisor Malley to Cozy Up to Egypt and Syria (Gil Ronen, 11/09/08,

According to a report on Middle East Newsline, President-elect Barack Obama has dispatched his "senior foreign policy adviser", Robert Malley to Egypt and Syria to outline Obama's policy on the Middle East.

Malley reportedly relayed a promise from Obama that the United States would seek to enhance relations with Cairo and reconcile differences with Damascus.

"The tenor of the messages was that the Obama administration would take into greater account Egyptian and Syrian interests," an aide to Malley was quoted as saying.

Helping dictators oppress their people may seem like a good way to keep them quiet, but it never works in the long run and makes you complicit in evil.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:59 PM


As Patriots' wins pile up, so does trust in Cassel (Albert Breer, 11/09/08, Sporting News)

Five things we learned from the New England Patriots' 20-10 win over the Buffalo Bills in the AFC East showdown:

1. Pats can count on Cassel

It's hard to believe how far Matt Cassel -- the backup-to-the-stars turned Patriots starter -- has come. The Patriots' offense clearly isn't what it was last year. No one expected it to be, not with Tom Brady chained to a rehab program.

But Cassel is triggering an offense good enough to reach 6-3. On Sunday, he won without three of the four running backs who started the season on the active roster. And a lot of it is because of Cassel -- not despite him.

Here is how the Patriots trust Cassel: They came out in '11' personnel (1 RB, 1 TE, 3 WR) on 18-of-33 first-half snaps, and in '10' personnel (1 RB, 0 TE, 4 WR) on six first-half occasions. And the play-calling disparity was 21 passes to 12 runs in the first half, during which the game plan is most clear.

Cassel completed 23-of-34 passes for 234 yards against Buffalo with no touchdowns or interceptions.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:36 PM


Best plan for the Mets and Yankees: Follow Red Sox (Ken Davidoff, November 9, 2008, NY Newsday)

The model to which both teams should adhere, clearly, is the Red Sox. In Boston, general manager Theo Epstein has completed what the Yankees (a lot) and the Mets (less than a lot) have been trying to accomplish.

"I think the goal is always to build a healthy organization. We try to keep that in the front of our mind," Epstein said this past week at the general managers' meetings in Dana Point, Calif. "If we ever get too focused on having to fill this hole, or having to get better in this area, we take a step back and say, 'Does this make sense for what we're trying to do over five to 10 years?'

"That said, our priority is to have good, young players in as many positions as we can have, but there's also a time and a place when the right player is available to go big, in the form of a trade or a free-agent signing. If it's the right player, the right age, the right impact offensively, defensively or as a pitcher.

"I think ultimately it'll be a mix. We want to be known for winning teams built primarily through our own farm system. You have to complement that with [players outside the team]."

Brian Cashman, Epstein's Yankees counterpart, has gotten crushed for passing on the Johan Santana trade a year ago. Epstein, following the same mantra - you don't give up both talent and big money for a player - also passed. He has received no flak because the Red Sox qualified for the playoffs thanks to the very players who were discussed with Minnesota - Jacoby Ellsbury, Jon Lester, Jed Lowrie and Justin Masterson.

The Yankees, on the other hand, missed the playoffs and have only Melky & Ian Kennedy to show for not getting Santana.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:12 AM

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:24 AM


New Zealand enters new era of conservative rule (ROHAN SULLIVAN, 11/08/08, AP)

New Zealand entered a new era of conservative rule Sunday, with incoming Prime Minister John Key promising to be a moderate amid fears some of the country's policies on global warming and indigenous people could be rolled back. [...]

Key campaigned as a moderate, but his policies include plans to eventually abolish special parliamentary seats for Maori and making the country's greenhouse gas emission trading scheme more favorable to business.

On Sunday, he promised to follow through on tax cuts and pro-business, tough-on-crime policies that include registering the DNA of any suspect arrested for an imprisonable crime.

"I don't believe we need to be radical," Key told the TV One network in one of a round of media appearances Sunday. "I've made it quite clear I want to run a center-right government, a moderate government."

Obama, Polish president at odds on call (Christina Bellantoni, November 9, 2008, Washington Times)
President-elect Barack Obama's private conversation with Poland's president created an international disagreement Saturday, with President Lech Kaczynski saying Mr. Obama promised to continue a missile-defense system and the transition office saying the Democrat made no such commitment. won't be President Obama's pigment that makes him stand out.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:49 AM


As a road to a better economy, an old idea gains ground: Often dismissed in favor of the quick-jolt stimulus, spending on bridges, streets and sewers is on the table again. Obama backs the public works idea, an echo of the FDR era. (Richard Simon and Jim Puzzanghera, November 9, 2008, LA Times)

Infrastructure spending, which is supported by President-elect Barack Obama, is expected to be a centerpiece of a $60-billion to $100-billion stimulus package Democrats may bring before Congress in a postelection session later this month.

Lawmakers are looking at a wide range of projects, such as building new roads and repairing old ones, improving airports, and constructing schools and sewage treatment plants. They also are considering making funding available to help transit agencies buy buses and rail cars.

The focus will be on job-producing projects that can get underway quickly.

In a new twist, Obama and congressional leaders have talked about ensuring that a good chunk of the infrastructure spending goes to "green jobs," providing funds for energy-efficiency projects, for example, promoting growth while reducing oil imports and greenhouse gas emissions.

Rep. James L. Oberstar (D-Minn.), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, traces the history of infrastructure spending as economic stimulus to the massive public works programs launched by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in response to the Depression.

"From the Works Progress Administration of the Great Depression to the Accelerated Public Works Act of 1962 and the Local Public Works Capital Development and Investment Act of 1976, investment in public infrastructure has created and sustained jobs in difficult economic times," Oberstar said recently, "and it can do so again today."

Nevermind that $60 billion would not pay for just three Big Digs, there's a tragic irony in the fact that those past infrastructure boondoggles created the dependence on foreign oil and the pollution that Republicans, on the one hand, and Democrats, on the other, decry.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:44 AM


Preparing for the Obama Era: Bush Officials and President-Elect Working Together On Pressing Issues (Robert Barnes, Dan Eggen and Anne E. Kornblut, 11/09/08, Washington Post)

[T]he days since Tuesday's election have shown a striking level of comity following the rancor of the campaign, enhanced by President Bush's months-long efforts to pave the way for a smooth transition and President-elect Barack Obama's preelection determination to move quickly.

"Ensuring that this transition is seamless is a top priority for the rest of my time in office," Bush said in his weekly radio address yesterday. "My administration will work hard to ensure that the next president and his team can hit the ground running."

Bush has created a transition coordinating council, populated by experts from inside and outside the administration, and has streamlined the process for obtaining security clearances for key transition officials. National Intelligence Director Mike McConnell flew to Chicago on Thursday to deliver Obama his first daily intelligence briefing.

The Obama team has begun submitting names to the FBI for expedited security clearances, which is allowed under an intelligence reform law passed in 2004. Officials said that more than 100 positions, down to the level of undersecretary, are eligible under the statute.

Bush's chief of staff, Joshua B. Bolten, said the White House is even preparing a "tabletop" exercise to simulate how Obama's national security officials should respond in the event of a terrorist attack.

"If a crisis hits on Jan. 21, they're the ones that are going to have to deal with it," Bolten said in an interview taped for broadcast today on C-SPAN. "We need to make sure they're as well-prepared as possible."

Likewise, the administration is laying the groundwork for an unusual level of access to the Treasury Department and other agencies involved in attempts to stabilize the foundering economy. White House spokesman Tony Fratto said Friday that Treasury is preparing office space that will allow Obama aides to sit alongside current administration officials.

Fratto said such efforts are intended to send a signal that Treasury's approach will not change too abruptly when Obama takes office. "They don't want to surprise markets; they want to try to make sure that they have predictable information for markets," he said.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:38 AM


Obama Team Weighs What to Take On in First Months (PETER BAKER, 11/08/08, NY Times)

Mr. Obama repeated on Saturday that his first priority would be an economic recovery program to get the nation’s business system back on track and people back to work. But advisers said the question was whether they could tackle health care, climate change and energy independence at once or needed to stagger these initiatives over time.

The debate between a big-bang strategy of pressing aggressively on multiple fronts versus a more pragmatic, step-by-step approach has flavored the discussion among Mr. Obama’s transition advisers for months, even before his election. The tension between these strategies has been a recurring theme in the memorandums prepared for him on various issues, advisers said. [...]

Congressional leaders want to move swiftly in January to pass a major expansion of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program — a plan vetoed by President Bush — as a step toward the broader coverage Mr. Obama promised. Likewise, Democrats plan to incorporate his proposed middle-class tax cuts in the economic legislation or pass them in tandem. And Mr. Obama could increase investment in alternative energy as a down payment on a far-reaching climate plan.

“I believe it would be important to show fairly early on that change is here,” said Representative Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, a member of the House Democratic leadership. “One of the very visible ways to show that would be to pass some of the bills George Bush vetoed.”

In that same vein, the Obama transition team has identified executive orders he can sign in the first hours and days of his presidency to demonstrate action, even as the more ambitious promises take more time. Among other things, he can reverse a variety of Bush policies, like restrictions on abortion counseling and stem-cell research.

Thus the Change: tinkering at the edges and paying people to tell black girls to kill their babies.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:27 AM


Who would serve as attorney general? (CHRIS FRATES, 11/9/08, Politico)

The big money on who becomes the next attorney general is split between two distinct camps: consummate Washington insiders with serious policy credentials and prominent political backers of President-elect Barack Obama, according to leading insiders from both parties.

The most-bandied about name among elected-officials is Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano. A former U.S. attorney and the state’s first female attorney general, the Democrat has the requisite law enforcement experience and would help Obama bring gender balance to his Cabinet.

Other politicians who make the Washington speculation lists are Democratic Govs. Tim Kaine of Virginia and Deval Patrick of Massachusetts.

Great to see we're not going to go back to having an AG who's just a political ally of the prez...

November 8, 2008

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:49 PM


That huge voter turnout? Didn't happen (DAVID PAUL KUHN, 11/8/08 , Politico)

Despite widespread predictions of record turnout in this year’s presidential election, roughly the same portion of eligible voters cast ballots in 2008 as in 2004.

Between 60.7 percent and 61.7 percent of the 208.3 million eligible voters cast ballots this year, compared with 60.6 percent of those eligible in 2004, according to a voting analysis by American University political scientist Curtis Gans, an authority on voter turnout.

Keep the W voters and Maverick wins.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:44 PM

YUP, THAT'S JUST WHAT WE NEED... (via Neil Goldsmith):

Gingrich 2012? (Robert Novak, 11/07/08, Real Clear Politics)

In serious conversations among Republicans since their election debacle Tuesday, what name is mentioned most often as the Moses, or Reagan, who could lead them out of the wilderness before 40 years?

To the consternation of many Republicans, it is none other than Newt Gingrich, the former speaker of the House.

Gingrich is far from a unanimous or even a consensus choice to run for president in 2012, but there is a strong feeling in Republican ranks that he is the only leader of their party who has shown the skill and energy to attempt a comeback quickly.

...the quintessence of the House GOP.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:31 PM

THE OMEN? ( via Rick Turley):

While it doesn't necessarily make our new president the Anti-Christ, Friend Turley notes that the evening lottery number in IL on November 5th was: 666

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:58 PM


Hamas leader says ready to talk to Obama - Sky News (Reuters, 11/08/08)

Hamas is ready to talk to U.S. President-elect Barack Obama but he must respect the Palestinian Islamist group's "rights and options", its leader Khaled Meshaal said in an interview on Saturday.

In a visit to Israel in July, Obama played down the chances of negotiating with Hamas unless the group renounced violence and recognised Israel's right to exist.

Under the outgoing U.S. President George Bush, the United States refused to talk to Hamas. "It's a big change -- political and psychological -- and it is noteworthy and I congratulate President Obama," Meshaal said in the interview with Sky News website from the Syrian capital Damascus. "But as a result of the election and the change, he should know he has duties to the United States and in the whole world and in hotspots, especially in the Middle East." "...we are ready for dialogue with President Obama and with the new American administration with an open mind, on the basis that the American administration respects our rights and our options," Meshaal told Sky.

He said the new U.S. administration would have no choice but to deal with Hamas if it was going to help resolve problems in the region. "The American administration, if they want to deal with the region, Palestine and the Arab-Israeli conflict, they have no other option than deal with Hamas because we are a real force on the ground, effective," he said. "And we are a movement that won a majority of votes in the election. Second of all, it's not right that Hamas poses any danger to anyone."

Just the threat that he'd quit gives the new chief of staff an effective veto over decisions like this.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:55 AM


New Zealand PM concedes defeat (The National, November 08. 2008)

The New Zealand prime minister Helen Clark conceded defeat in the country’s election today after the National Party leader John Key won enough seats to lead a conservative coalition.

“As is obvious to all, tonight has not been our night,” Ms Clark told supporters in Auckland.

“I congratulate John Key and the National Party on the result they have achieved.”

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:05 AM


Goldendoodle talked up as first dog: Breed reportedly in running for Obama family (Linda Matchan, November 8, 2008, Boston Globe)

There's been talk that 10-year-old Malia Obama has put in a bid for a goldendoodle, a cute, fluffy crossbreed between a golden retriever and poodle. At his news conference yesterday, Obama dropped a couple of other hints. An Obama dog has to be hypoallergenic, he said, since Malia has allergies. Ever the populist, he said the family was leaning toward a shelter dog, and "a lot of shelter dogs are mutts like me."

Goldendoodles became popular in New England about four or five years ago, and in some circles - the purebred ones - they're still considered underdogs.

"The goldendoodle is not a recognized breed," said Patty Bullock vice president of the American Dog Breeders Association, which registers dog breeds with a "verifiable three generation pedigree," according to its website. "A lot of people think they are taking the best traits of each breed. This is an absolute fallacy. . . . They take dogs of two different breeds and breed them together, and it's just a mutt."

The Wife's labradoodle cost so much she won't even tell me what it was--after I said anything over $300 would be outrageous.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:04 AM


Stick, skateboard, Baby Doll enter Toy Hall of Fame (AP, 11/07/08)

The lowly stick, a universal plaything powered by a child's imagination, landed in the National Toy Hall of Fame on Thursday along with the Baby Doll and the skateboard.

The three were chosen to join the Strong National Museum of Play's lineup of 38 classics ranging from the bicycle, the kite and Mr. Potato Head to Crayola crayons, marbles and the Atari 2600 video game system.

Curators said the stick was a special addition in the spirit of a 2005 inductee, the cardboard box. They praised its all-purpose, no-cost, recreational qualities, noting its ability to serve either as raw material or an appendage transformed in myriad ways by a child's creativity.

"It's very open-ended, all-natural, the perfect price -- there aren't any rules or instructions for its use," said Christopher Bensch, the museum's curator of collections. "It can be a Wild West horse, a medieval knight's sword, a boat on a stream or a slingshot with a rubber band. ... No snowman is complete without a couple of stick arms, and every campfire needs a stick for toasting marshmallows.

...when tv's were mostly black and white--though we had a color one (with a radio and turntable built-in)--and got less than 10 channels of broadcast tv (if you lived near enough a city and turned the rabbit ears just right) and there were no computers or video games and there wasn't a youth league for every sport known to man, kids used to have to use their own imagination to come up with games to fill the long empty hours.

Sure, you had to have a basketball to shoot hoops; a bat, a ball and a couple gloves for Hit the Bat; and a football for Smear the Queer, but for a lot of games you just used what was to hand. Thus, games like tag, hide and seek, and Get Whitey require no equipment at all (though the last does necessitate a token honky), while the part needed for Kick the Can is obviously easily acquired. And then there was the stick.

We had a catalpa tree in our backyard and not only were its "beans" ideal for cracking over each other's heads, but it served as the "game board" for quite possibly the most boring pastime ever created (okay, second to soccer). We'd scour the neighborhood looking for the most gnarled and misshapen sticks we could find and then each toss our barked beauty into the upper branches of the tree. Whoever's stayed aloft the longest won. This was a contest that could take not hours but days, weeks, even months. If you got your hooked just right it would stay up there until an especially vicious storm or even the occasional Nor'Easter. Heck, for all we know, the Other Brother's twisted marvel from that one week in June 1968 may still be up there.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:57 AM


Republicans, This Is the First Day of the Rest of Your Lives (Stuart Rothenberg, 11/06/08, Real Clear Politics)

[E]ach time a party has suffered big losses, frustration boils over. It happened after the 1980, 1984, 1988, 1992 and 1994 elections.

Moderates and ideologues in the losing party always seem to disagree about who was at fault and what steps the bloodied and bruised party needs to take to get back on the winning track. After the 1964 and 1974 elections, some predicted the disappearance of the Republican Party. And reports of the death of the Democratic Party were greatly exaggerated after the 1972, 1994 and 2004 elections.

While the near term is not rosy for Republicans, party members will now be able to turn the page, on what was tantamount to a four-year election cycle.

Maybe President Bush wasn't responsible entirely for high gasoline prices, a mortgage foreclosure and financial crisis, Republican ethics lapses on Capitol Hill, the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and a seemingly endless litany of depressing news stories. But the GOP was never going to recover its standing until the Bush years ended. Tuesday night marked the beginning of the end.

Note that nothing in that litany is a Bush policy, whereas the congressional Republican opposition to immigration reform, the Paulson plan, etc. did real damage. Indeed, John McCain and Barack Obama just competed to see who'd be the more competent administrator of Clintonism/Bushism. It's helpful to the Party to move on from W the man, but the winning candidate in '12 will run on W's politics.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:53 AM


Rise and Fall of Chinese Dynasties Tied to Changes in Rainfall: The record in a stalagmite tells a tale of how previous changes in climate affected human civilization (David Biello, Scientific American)

In the late ninth century a disastrous harvest precipitated by drought brought famine to China under the rule of the Tang dynasty. By A.D. 907—after nearly three centuries of rule—the dynasty fell when its emperor, Ai, was deposed, and the empire was divided. According to the atmospheric record contained in a stalagmite, one of the causes of that downfall may have been climate change.

"We think that climate played an important role in Chinese history," says paleoclimatologist Hai Cheng of the University of Minnesota, a member of the scientific team that harvested and analyzed the stalagmite from Wanxiang Cave in Gansu Province in northwest China. The stalagmite reveals, for example, that the vital rains of the Asian monsoon weakened at the time of the downfalls of the Tang, Yuan and Ming dynasties over the past 1,810 years.

"The climate acted," Cheng says, "as the last straw that broke the camel's back."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:50 AM


Global survey: youths see spiritual dimension to life: In the most ambitious such review to date, young people in 17 countries most often defined spirituality as belief that life has a purpose, belief in God, and being true to one's inner self. (Jane Lampman, 11/07/08, The Christian Science Monitor)

A study released last spring by the German research firm Berthlesmann Stiftung found that 85 percent of young people in 21 nations called themselves religious, and 44 percent said they were deeply religious.

In the US, a UCLA study of undergraduates from 2003 to 2007 broke some ground on spirituality. It found that while attendance at religious services decreased dramatically for most, their overall level of spirituality – defined as seeking meaning in life and developing values and self-understanding – increased.

When asked what it means to be spiritual, young people in the Search survey most commonly responded: believing there is a purpose to life, believing in God, or being true to one's inner self.

November 7, 2008

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:23 PM


'Chicago School' Dons Give Obama High Marks (JUSTIN LAHART, 11/07/08, Wall Street Journal)

One reason for the alliance among economists at Chicago and elsewhere with Mr. Obama is that they feel he is a fellow traveler, sharing their empirical, data-driven bent. [...]

Many economists were cheered in April when, amid higher gasoline prices, Mr. Obama opposed a gas-tax holiday -- an idea supported by Sens. John McCain and Hillary Clinton, who was competing with Sen. Obama for the Democratic nomination. Textbook economics said in response to the tax cut, demand would simply raise gas prices to their previous level, and so the benefit of the cut would flow to energy producers rather than consumers.

"The gas-tax episode was a very good sign," said Princeton University economist Jose Scheinkman, who spent most of his career at Chicago and was chairman of its economics department from 1995 to 1998.

Mr. Scheinkman, an Obama supporter, says that insofar as economics has changed, so has politics. "There are many things that used to be very common to the left that the left is no longer interested in," he said. "They moved closer to the way economists tend to think."

Still, a number of Mr. Obama's pronouncements have made many economists wince. His sometimes strident views on trade protection during the campaign weren't only troubling to Chicago's free-trade backers. A 2005 survey of Ph.D.s randomly selected from the American Economics Association found that 87.5% of economists agreed that the U.S. should eliminate tariffs and barriers to trade.

In March, when a Canadian government memo surfaced citing Mr. Goolsbee saying that Obama campaign statements on the North American Free Trade Agreement amounted to "political positioning," Mr. Obama took some lumps, but many economists were relieved.

The gas tax holiday was certainly Maverick's low point, but where is Mr. Obama's call for increasing gas taxes?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:06 PM


'No More Mr Nice Gay' as Mormons face vote backlash: Protesters vent fury after church funds successful effort to ban gay marriages (Guy Adams, 8 November 2008, Independent)

Daniel Ginnes carried a banner declaring: "No More Mr Nice Gay." Brian Lindsey held up a sign billing Joseph Smith, founder of the Church of the Latter Day Saints, as a "prophet, polygamist, paedophile." Hundreds of others simply chanted: "Mormon scum."

70% of African Americans backed Prop. 8, exit poll finds (Shelby Grad, 11/05/08, Los Angeles Times)
Details here from AP:

California's black and Latino voters, who turned out in droves for Barack Obama, also provided key support in favor of the state's same-sex marriage ban. Seven in 10 black voters backed a successful ballot measure to overturn the California Supreme Court's May decision allowing same-sex marriage, according to exit polls for The Associated Press.

but the A.M.E.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:44 PM


McCain Campaign Autopsy (Ana Marie Cox, 11/07/08, The Daily Beast)

When did you know it was over?

The moment that I will look back at as the moment deep in my gut that I knew, was September 29th when I was flying on a plane with Gov. Palin to Sedona for debate prep, watching the split screen on the TVs, because she had a Jet Blue charter, and it showed the stock market down seven, eight hundred points; it showed the Congress voting down the bailout package on the other side, and then, House Republicans went out and, told the world that the reason that they voted against this legislation, allowed the stock market to crash, allowed the economy to be so injured, was because Nancy Pelosi had given a mean and partisan speech on the floor. And this was their response.

September 25, 2008, a Day that will live in Republican Infamy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:15 PM


The butler sees a new White House: Now retired, he started when blacks were in the kitchen. (Wil Haygood, November 7, 2008, LA Times)

President Truman called him Gene. President Ford liked to talk golf with him. He saw eight presidential administrations come and go, often working six days a week.

"I never missed a day of work," Allen said. [...]

First Lady Nancy Reagan came looking for him in the kitchen one day. She wanted to remind him about the upcoming state dinner for German Chancellor Helmut Kohl. She told him he would not be working that night.

"She said, 'You and Helene are coming to the state dinner as guests of President Reagan and myself.' I'm telling you! I believe I'm the only butler to get invited to a state dinner."

Husbands and wives don't sit together at these events, and Helene was nervous about trying to make small talk with world leaders. "And my son said, 'Momma, just talk about your high school. They won't know the difference.'

"The senators were all talking about the colleges and universities that they went to," she said. "I was doing as much talking as they were.

"Had champagne that night," she said, looking over at her husband.

He just grinned: He was the man who stacked the champagne at the White House.

Colin L. Powell would become the highest ranking black of any White House to that point when he was named Reagan's national security advisor in 1987. Condoleezza Rice would have that position under President George W. Bush.

Gene Allen was promoted to maitre d' in 1980. He left the White House in 1986, after 34 years. President Reagan wrote him a sweet note. Nancy Reagan hugged him tight.

Interviewed at their home last week, Gene and Helene speculated about what it would mean if a black man were elected president.

"Just imagine," she said.

"It'd be really something," he said.

"We're pretty much past the going-out stage," she said. "But you never know. If he gets in there, it'd sure be nice to go over there again."

They talked about praying to help Barack Obama get to the White House. They'd go vote together. She'd lean on her cane with one hand, and him with the other, while walking down to the precinct. And she'd get supper going afterward. They went over their election day plans more than once.

"Imagine," she said.

"That's right," he said.

On Monday, Helene had a doctor's appointment. Gene woke and nudged her once, then again. He shuffled around to her side of the bed. He nudged Helene again.

He was all alone.

"I woke up and my wife didn't," he said later.

Some friends and family members rushed over. He wanted to make coffee. They had to shoo the butler out of the kitchen.

The lady he married 65 years ago will be buried today.

The butler cast his vote for Obama on Tuesday. He so missed telling his Helene about the black man bound for the Oval Office.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:43 PM


The Gitmo Dilemma: Four reasons Obama won't close the controversial prison soon (Dan Ephron, 11/07/08, NEWSWEEK)

The NIMBY Problem: The U.S. will continue holding a few dozen suspects it intends to put on trial or deems too dangerous to release. But where? A secret study conducted by the Pentagon in 2006 outlined alternative sites within the U.S., including the military facility at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, and at Charleston, South Carolina, according to a former Pentagon official familiar with the details. But congressmen representing those and other districts with military brigs have already vowed to fight the move. [....]

Miranda This: Once moved, the high value detainees already indicted for their role in the attacks of 9/11 or other crimes would presumably be tried in either federal criminal courts or in military courts—a suggestion put forth by Obama in a statement earlier this year. But it's not at all clear that convictions could be won against even top Al Qaeda suspects like the alleged 9/11 mastermind Khaled Sheikh Mohammed. Federal and military courts are much more protective of a defendant's rights than the military commissions operating at Guantanamo. In a federal court, an Al Qaeda defendant held for years at a secret CIA site could complain that his right to a speedy trial was violated, that he was never read his Miranda rights, that the evidence against him did not go through a proper chain of custody and that confessions were gleaned through coercive interrogations, according to retired Col. Morris Davis, the former chief prosecutor in the Guantanamo trials. "Any one of these issues could jeopardize the prospect of a conviction," he said.

Imagine how gracious he'd come off if he proposed moving them to Hyde Park?

But, of course, he had his first security briefing yesterday, so the notion of releasing jihadists, like JFK's that there was a missile gap, will disappear down the memory hole.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:29 PM


Palin's Mole at The Times: Did Bill Kristol use the Gray Lady to fight the McCain campaign's civil war? (Scott Horton, 11/07/08, The Daily Beast)

Was John McCain’s senior foreign policy advisor Randy Scheunemann fired for leaking sensitive information to his friend, the long-time McCain backer and New York Times columnist William Kristol? Were Kristol, Scheunemann, and deputy communications director Michael Goldfarb at the heart of a feud inside of the McCain camp over the Palin candidacy—with Kristol fighting the battle in his Times column? McCainiacs associated with the campaign tell The Daily Beast that whatever happened between Scheunemann and McCain on a formal level, it’s clear that there was a serious rift in the week before the election, and that the cause of the split boils down to one word: “Kristol.”

Kristol’s New York Times column—written inside what the McCain campaign considered enemy territory—was read with great interest. As Kristol used column after column to boost Sarah Palin, suspicions built inside the campaign that Kristol and McCain staffers close to him had written off McCain and were now determined to salvage Palin as a vehicle for Republican politics in the future, possibly the Republican nomination in 2012. Michael Goldfarb—who left Kristol’s Weekly Standard to work on communications for the McCain campaign—also repeatedly came under suspicion among McCain insiders for his close ties to Kristol and his “manic zeal” in fending off questions over the Palin candidacy. is Bill the one who gets the neocon dependence on theocons in the second generation.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:29 PM


McConnell reaches out to Lieberman (RYAN GRIM, 11/7/08, Politico)

Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has reached out to Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.) about the prospect of joining the Republican Conference, but Lieberman is still bargaining with Democratic leaders to keep his chairmanship, according to Senate aides in both parties.

“Sen. Lieberman’s preference is to stay in the caucus, but he’s going to keep all his options open,” a Lieberman aide said. “McConnell has reached out to him, and at this stage, his position is he wants to remain in the caucus but losing the chairmanship is unacceptable.”

A Republican Senate aide said Friday morning that there was little McConnell could offer in terms of high-ranking committee slots, which is why Lieberman is resisting overtures from the Republican side.

Why doesn't his friend, John McCain, give up a slot to him?

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:25 PM


Senate Finance Chairman Gets Jump on 2009 Health Care ‘Goals’ and ‘Options’ (Congressional Quarterly, 11/07/08)

Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus , who has a history of going his own way on major policy matters, Friday announced plans to unveil his own “specific goals and policy options for comprehensive health care reform in 2009” next week — without waiting for the detailed proposals of President-elect Barack Obama .

Baucus, D-Mont., a centrist who works closely with Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, Finance’s ranking Republican, will have jurisdiction over a huge chunk of any health- care overhaul Congress tackles next year. Finance controls policy for Medicare, Medicaid, the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, taxes and Social Security, among other issues.

Baucus has an independent streak that often irks Democratic leaders in both the House and Senate. He supported President Bush’s 2001 tax cuts, unlike most of his fellow Democrats, and helped write the 2003 Medicare prescription drug law, which most of his party opposed as inadequate and too generous to private health insurers.

In a letter to Obama on Thursday, Baucus said: “Next week I will present to you and to the country my plan to move forward on health care reform in the early days of the 111th Congress and of your administration.”

Gerald Ford's record for vetoes may be in jeopardy, unless the U.R. is content to be an autopen.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:22 PM


Here's a soccer player attempting a kid's ride at an amusement park:

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:18 PM


The Surprising Absence of an October Surprise: How did we get through the election without an al-Qaida attack? (Daniel Byman, Nov. 5, 2008, Slate)

Terrorism watchers repeatedly warned that al-Qaida might strike in the days leading up to the election, but—thankfully—Nov. 4 has come and gone without incident. Al-Qaida's logic for striking at election time seems straightforward: An attack would dominate media coverage at a time when the entire world is focused on the United States. In a tight race, a terrorist attack might even tip the balance, enabling Osama Bin Laden to claim that American politics dances to his tune.

Democratic strategists in particular feared that an al-Qaida attack might play to Sen. John McCain's perceived national-security advantage and that Bin Laden would want to bolster McCain in the belief that he was more likely to entangle the United States militarily in the Muslim world. Spain's March 2004 general election was the precedent Democrats feared. The bloody attacks on commuter trains (and the Spanish government's bungled response) led to a surprise opposition victory, which in turn led to a Socialist government that withdrew troops from Iraq, as al-Qaida had sought.

But with the clarity of hindsight, we know that al-Qaida did not strike the U.S. homeland, nor did we hear of a serious attempt to do so during the months before the vote.

If they didn't hate W with such derangement they'd notice that we won.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:12 PM


Darwin's specimens go on display (BBC, 11/07/08)

Two mockingbirds, which are said to have helped Charles Darwin develop his theory on evolution, are to go on public display for the first time. {...]

One of the birds was captured on the island of Floreana, while the other was gathered from another Galapagos island, which is now called San Cristobal.

As a result of an earlier visit, Darwin knew that there was only one species of mockingbird in South America, yet he found a different species on each of the islands in the Pacific Ocean archipelago he visited. that if he'd just caught a few live ones and crossbred them Darwinism would be the theory that mere physical differences are insignificant to the stubborn persistence of species.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:02 PM


Likud's Netanyahu, Begin present united front: Benny Begin rejoins Likud nearly decade after quitting politics, says 'politics is about compromise'. Bibi: I want to make use of his experience, integrity and leadership to effect change in Israel (Attila Somfalvi, 11.04.08, Israel News)

On Sunday Begin, a former Likud cabinet minister who dropped out of politics and public life in 1999, announced his plans to compete for a place on the party's list for the 18th Knesset in the upcoming general elections.

Speaking at the Likud headquarters in Tel Aviv with Netanyahu at his side, Begin, son of deceased prime minister Menachem Begin said, "The public has undergone a process of disillusionment twice – once in 2000 (second intifada) and again after the illusion of peace that followed the (Gaza) disengagement. We must prevent a third disillusionment.

Not that we should let them have them, but you can see why Iran and Syria would want nukes when the second most powerful men in America and Israel will be Irgunistas.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:56 PM


First Religious Lefty Lambasts Obama (Lerner on Rahm Emanuel) (Steve Waldman, November 7, 2008, BeliefNet)

Well that didn't take long.

Rabbi Michael Lerner, editor of Tikkun and founder of the Network of Spiritual Progressives, has the honor of being the first member of the "religious left" to lambast the new President. [...]

Rahm Emanuel has a long history of militarist ideology behind him. His father was a member of the ultra-right-wing terrorist organization Etzel that killed British civilians as part of their anti-British struggle in Palestine in the 1940s. Emanuel, himself a citizen of Israel as well as the United States, has been one of several Congressional leaders enforcing the "Israel Lobby" concensus on the Democrats, in the process shutting out the peace voices that believe Israel's security would be better served by the U.S. putting pressure on Israel to end the Occupation, move the Wall to inside the pre-67 boundaries, and remove the settlers from the West Bank or tell them to live there as Palestinian citizens.

It's not just the pro-peace and reconciliation forces that are unlikely to be given a serious hearing in a White House in which Rahm Emanuel controls who gets to talk to the President. Emanuel will almost certainly be protecting Obama from all of us spiritual progressives and those of us who describe ourselves as the Religious Left-so that our commitment to single-payer universal health care, carbon taxes for environmental protection, a Homeland Security strategy based on generosity and implemented through a Global Marshall Plan, will be unlikely to get a serious hearing in the White House.

When these issues were avoided by Obama during the campaign, most of us spiritual progressives told ourselves, "He's just being political, but once elected he'll reveal himself committed to the values that he whispered into our ears privately over the course of the past many years." The Rahm Emanuel selection is an early warning that the peace and justice agenda dropped by Obama after he won the Democratic nomination may be permanently on hold, and the progressives themselves may have to settle for "access" and flowery words at an inauguration address rather than the substance of change.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:20 PM


69% of GOP Voters Say Palin Helped McCain (Rasmussen Reports, November 07, 2008)

Ninety-one percent (91%) of Republicans have a favorable view of Palin, including 65% who say their view is Very Favorable. Only eight percent (8%) have an unfavorable view of her, including three percent (3%) Very Unfavorable.

When asked to choose among some of the GOP’s top names for their choice for the party’s 2012 presidential nominee, 64% say Palin. The next closest contenders are two former governors and unsuccessful challengers for the presidential nomination this year -- Mike Huckabee of Arkansas with 12% support and Mitt Romney of Massachusetts with 11%.

Three other sitting governors – Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, Charlie Crist of Florida and Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota – all pull low single-digit support.

These findings echo a survey earlier this week which found that Republicans were happier with their vice presidential candidate than with their presidential nominee. Seventy-one percent (71%) said McCain made the right choice by picking Palin as his running mate, while only 65% said the party picked the right nominee for president.

The key for the 44-year-old Palin will be whether she can broaden her base of support. An Election Day survey found that 81% of Democrats and, more importantly, 57% of unaffiliated voters had an unfavorable view of her.

Attacks on Palin are Sexist (Jacques Berlinerblau, November 7, 2008 , Washington Post: On Faith)
Am I the only one who sees the recent spate of rumors about that Palin woman being a ditz and a diva as sort of, you know, sexist?

Thank God, the bad-mouthing isn't emanating from a bunch of Right-Wing, middle-aged, white guys who ran the McCain campaign. And it's a good thing that Left-leaning feminists--especially my colleagues in Academe--have rushed to the defense of a woman whose politics they may abhor but whose character is being assassinated along blatantly misogynistic lines.

It isn't misogyny that's driving attacks, but Christophobia. The same people were just as hysterical about Mike Huckabee and will be about Bobby Jindal. These are the folks who liked Mitt and Rudy.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:12 PM


The Decency of George W. Bush (Michael Gerson, November 7, 2008, Washington Post)

Initial failures in Iraq acted like a solar eclipse, blocking the light on every other achievement. But those achievements, with the eclipse finally passing, are considerable by the measure of any presidency. Because of the passage of Medicare Part D, nearly 10 million low-income seniors are receiving prescription drugs at little or no cost. No Child Left Behind education reform has helped raise the average reading scores of fourth-graders to their highest level in 15 years and narrowed the achievement gap between white and African American children. The President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief has helped provide treatment for more than 1.7 million people and compassionate care for at least 2.7 million orphans and vulnerable children. And the decision to pursue the surge in Iraq will be studied as a model of presidential leadership.

These achievements, it is true, have limited constituencies to praise them. Many conservatives view Medicare, education reform and foreign assistance as heresies. Many liberals refuse to concede Bush's humanity, much less his achievements.

But that humanity is precisely what I will remember. I have seen President Bush show more loyalty than he has been given, more generosity than he has received. I have seen his buoyancy under the weight of malice and his forgiveness of faithless friends. Again and again, I have seen the natural tug of his pride swiftly overcome by a deeper decency -- a decency that is privately engaging and publicly consequential.

Before the Group of Eight summit in 2005, the White House senior staff overwhelmingly opposed a new initiative to fight malaria in Africa for reasons of cost and ideology -- a measure designed to save hundreds of thousands of lives, mainly of children under 5. In the crucial policy meeting, one person supported it: the president of the United States, shutting off debate with a moral certitude that others have criticized. I saw how this moral framework led him to an immediate identification with the dying African child, the Chinese dissident, the Sudanese former slave, the Burmese women's advocate. It is one reason I will never be cynical about government -- or about President Bush.

The final mark of his greatness will be the ease of the transition.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:06 PM


The Right's Wrong Bet (Dan Gerstein, 11.06.08, Forbes)

Yes, Obama is a progressive who believes in government as an agent of change. But look closely at his policies. They are almost no different than those of Hillary Clinton, whom you lionized as a moderate until the day she lost. He's against gay marriage, pro charter schools and voted for tort reform. He tells parents to turn off the TV set and calls for the biggest Democratic tax cut since John F. Kennedy. This is hardly the second coming of Trotsky.

And if you still have doubts, consider his first statement-making act as president-elect. He offered the job of chief of staff to Illinois Congressman Rahm Emanuel, the pragmatic poster child of the next-generation Democratic Party. In his prior life, Emanuel was one of the architects of Bill Clinton's third-way repositioning of the Democratic brand. In his current one, he engineered the Democratic takeover of the House in the 2006 by pursuing a big-tent candidate-recruiting strategy and is widely heralded for his reformist instincts and influence as chair of the party caucus. This is not the guy you bring in to run your administration if you are planning on being redistributionist-in-chief.

Now overlay that track record on the current political context. You have a new president who is a) acutely aware of how unfamiliar he still is to most Americans and of the damaging missteps Bill Clinton made in the early days of his presidency; b) inheriting the worst financial crisis in more than 70 years and two complicated ground wars; and c) intent on winning the confidence of an electorate that is exhausted with the partisan excesses of the past 20 years in Washington, not to mention the campaign hysterics of the past 22 months.

There's no doubt that Obama, as he himself acknowledged in his victory speech, will make his share of false starts. He's got his blind spots, and in fairness, no amount of campaigning or work in the Senate can prepare even the most natural political talent for the meat grinder in a fishbowl that is the modern presidency. Plus, he certainly will be tested in his relations with the Hill and the interest groups that too often drive its agenda (a subject I will explore in more depth in a coming column).

But I would ask my conservative friends the following questions. Is it realistic to believe that all that skill, instinct and discipline is going to magically evaporate on Inauguration Day? And that after Obama puts his hand on the Bible he will unmask himself as the tone-deaf liberal lovechild of Michael Dukakis and Jimmy Carter? Or that, the next day, he is going to replace Robert Rubin, Paul Volcker and Warren Buffett as his top financial advisers with Bernie Sanders, Dennis Kucinich and Maxine Waters? Or that he will let himself get rolled by Congress and casually violate his pledge to not raise taxes on families making less than $250,000?

...but we do know what turning Left after running Right in the campaign would do to him.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:01 PM


Up to 14 dead in suspected US missile strike in Pakistan: officials (AFP, 11/07/08)

Up to 14 militants were killed on Friday when a suspected US missile strike destroyed an Al-Qaeda training camp in a tribal area of northwest Pakistan near the Afghan border, officials said.

Four missiles are thought to have been fired at the camp, in Kumsham village, some 35 kilometres (22 miles) south of Miranshah in North Waziristan province.

Security sources said the village is dominated by Wazir tribes and is near the border with South Waziristan, another hub of Taliban and Al-Qaeda operatives.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:46 AM


THE NEW SILK ROAD: Trade Is Booming between Asia and Middle East: Historic bonds between the Middle East and Asia are being revitalized in a torrent of trade and investment in energy, infrastucture and manufacturing. (Stanley Reed, Dexter Roberts and Nandini Lakshman, 11/07/08, Der Spiegel)

The Arab world and Asia have a legacy of trade ties dating back to caravans that transported textiles and spices across the desert on the so-called Silk Road and to Gulf traders that sailed the blue waters of the Indian Ocean in chunky ships known as dhows. Today a new Silk Road leads from the busy ports of Shanghai, Hong Kong, and Singapore to the Persian Gulf—and from sparkling airport lounges in Dubai and Riyadh back to Asia's bustling cities. The merchants on this new route are Arab investors looking for smart places to park their petrodollars and Asians seeking to lock up energy supplies and find markets for the goods churned out by their factories.

Trade between the two regions has been expanding at a 30 percent annual clip. Since 2006, Asia has been the largest trading partner of the Gulf Cooperation Council, a group of six wealthy Arab countries, according to data compiled by Standard Chartered Bank. As of last year, Asia accounted for 55 percent of the GCC's total trade of $758 billion, the bank says. The mainstay of Gulf exports to Asia is oil, but some energy-intensive manufactured goods such as aluminum are also joining the mix. In return, China and Japan send to the Gulf products ranging from cars to computers while India and other Asian countries supply much of the food consumed in the Middle East. And while the scale of investment lags the trading ties, investors from the Gulf are buying stakes in everything from Asian banks and department stores to hotels and office buildings. Standard Chartered estimates that the Gulf countries invested $60 billion in Asia from 2002 to 2006.

It's easy to find evidence of the growing links. Delhi newspapers advertise homes built by Emaar Properties, a Dubai developer. Smaller companies from Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, and elsewhere have factories in China to make shoes, toys, and the like. And so many Middle Eastern traders visit the wholesale markets in the southern Chinese town of Yiwu that road signs are posted in Arabic as well as Chinese and English. "Power is moving from West to East," Al-Muhairy says. "It is a huge opportunity."

The Asians are getting a foothold in the Middle East, too. China has plowed billions of dollars into North Africa's oil sector, especially in Sudan and Algeria. Along with the energy investment comes work for Chinese companies building roads, pipelines, and other infrastructure. Goods from Chinese appliance manufacturer Haier and electronics maker TCL are available across the Middle East. Indian engineering outfits Larsen & Toubro, Voltas, and others help out on real estate and industrial projects in the Arab world. And Malaysian developer MMC is working on a vast new city in Saudi Arabia. "We are seeing serious investment flows from Asia to the Middle East," says Rachid Mohamed Rachid, Egypt's trade & industry minister.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:42 AM


Obama Victory Alters the Tenor of Iraqi Politics ALISSA J. RUBIN, 11/07/08, NY Times)

Barack Obama may have been elected only three days ago, but his victory is already beginning to shift the political ground in Iraq and the region.

Iraqi Shiite politicians are indicating that they will move faster toward a new security agreement about American troops, and a Bush administration official said he believed that Iraqis could ratify the agreement as early as the middle of this month. that his not-W-ness enables everyone from his fellow Democrats to Islamicists to do the things that George W. Bush has counseled them to do--as being in their own interest--but which they've been unable to do precisely because it was him asking. A President Obama enables people to stop slitting their own throats and surrender gracefully. Meanwhile, anyone who resists the Obamessiah can't help but seem too dysfunctional to be tolerated.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:35 AM

...AND LOWER...:

Crude touches 20-month low (Tamsin Carlisle, November 07. 2008, The National)

Crude touched a 20-month low below $60 a barrel after the International Monetary Fund (IMF) cut its 2009 oil price forecast by nearly one third, citing softening global energy demand.

Hydrogen-powered race car 'unveiled' (Times of India, 7 Nov 2008)
A team at RMIT University here in collaboration with the Fachhochschule Ingolstadt in Germany has designed the car which will be bidding for the title of the world's fastest hydrogen-powered racer in 2009 when it attempts to break the Guinness World Records for speed by a vehicle of its class.

Powered by an internal combustion motorcycle engine that has been modified to run on hydrogen, the racing car is expected to reach speeds of up to 170 kmh in its world record bid, to be held in Germany.

According to lead researcher Prof Aleksandar Subic, the hydrogen car project could radically change the world's approach to automotive technologies.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:24 AM

"...MY SON OF A...":

Does Rahm Emanuel's Pick Mean the Chicago Machine Is Coming to Washington: A look at Rahm Emanuel and Barack Obama's relationships to the Daley machine. (Ben Joravsky, November 7, 2008, American Prospect)

The key to understanding the differences between Emanuel and Obama is to analyze the circumstances under which they joined Daley's team.

For his part, Emanuel hooked up with Daley just about as soon as he could -- back in the late 1980s, when he was barely 30 years old. In 1987, Mayor Harold Washington -- the city's first and only elected black mayor -- had died in office. The city council named former Alderman Eugene Sawyer to fill Washington's vacancy, but from the get go Daley geared up to run in the 1989 special election.

Emanuel was no dummy. He knew Daley would defeat Sawyer and, once in office, would probably rule for life -- just like his father, the late Richard J. Daley. So Emanuel did what any bright and ambitious politico young would do -- he signed on with Daley. By all accounts, he made himself indispensable to the boss as a fundraiser, badgering, bullying, or guilt tripping the locals into giving money to Daley's campaign. It was then that Emanuel established his reputation as Rahmbo -- the brash, arrogant, and tempestuous assistant that political bosses use to get things done.

After helping Daley win, Emanuel made himself just as indispensable to Bill Clinton, first as a fundraiser and later as a key White House aide. Emanuel managed to piss off nearly everyone in Washington, but when Clinton's term was up, Daley, apparently still grateful for the money raised, welcomed him back to Chicago with open arms. In 2002, Daley endorsed Emanuel to fill the congressional seat left vacant when Rod Blagojevich ran for governor.

It was sort of funny to watch Emanuel in that first campaign. He was on his very best behavior. No brashness, arrogance, tempestuousness or impatience -- he was actually charming, almost nice. You'd see him hanging out under the el stops in the morning, politely shaking the hands of commuters rushing to catch the train for work. I once watched make the rounds of a senior citizens center in a white ethnic neighborhood on the city's far northwest side. He feigned interest in their bingo games and laughed at their jokes. He only looked at his watch once or twice before bolting for his next stop.

Frankly, I don't know why he even bothered to be so sweet. With Daley's backing, Attila the Hun could have won that election. The mayor brought out the pay rollers to make sure that Emanuel steamrolled his opposition. I happen to live in the district and I remember the fellows on the sidewalks outside the polling places on Election Day. Beefy boys with thick necks and fat bellies, they passed out palm cards that pretty much said vote for Emanuel -- or else!

So thanks to Mayor Daley, Emanuel got to go to Congress, where he railed against Republican corruption and scandals, conveniently overlooking all the corruption and scandals in his hometown.

In contrast, Obama's what passes for a reformer in Chicago -- at least he took a longer, more circuitous path to winning Daley's good graces.

The Brothers Emanuel (ELISABETH BUMILLER , 6/15/97, NY Times)
Of the three brothers, Rahm is the most famous, Ari is the richest and Zeke, over time, will probably be the most important. Zeke is also, according to his brothers, the smartest. Rahm, naturally, gets the most press attention. Last term he managed the President's campaigns to pass the crime bill and the North American Free Trade Agreement, but this term he has taken over the job and close-to-the-Oval-Office cub-byhole of his friend Stephanopoulos. Now chief promoter of Clinton's small-bore issues like stopping teen-age smoking and requiring trigger locks on guns, Rahm has been singled out in recent profiles as the centrist, hyperactive counterreaction to the Stephanopoulos liberal cool. The articles are more colorful than is typical of the genre (the dead fish helps), but Rahm is more interesting, and reflective of his time, in the context of his brothers. [...]

Growing up, Zeke and Ari were at each other's throats, with Rahm acting as mediator. ''Rahmie was the calmest,'' says his mother, aware of how strange this sounds given his reputation as a barracuda.

''I was the classic middle child,'' Rahm says, talking in his White House office one morning. It is a peaceful Tuesday, with not a crisis in sight, although you would never know it from Rahm's boby language. He is lean, handsome, wired. Earlier, the President had wandered through the door connecting the Oval Office to Rahm's little digs. ''Where is he?'' the President asked. Rahm was in an adjoining office talking to his secretary, but at Clinton's words he sprang up and disappeared into the President's dining room like a rabbit. He returned to sit on the ege of his seat, his face inches from the television, mouthing the words along with Clinton as the President announced, before live cameras in the Oval Office, a ban on the use of Federal money for cloning humans.

''This is discovery that carried burden as well as benefits,'' Clinton and Rahm said in unison.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:20 AM


Could Obama be the saviour of sport? (Evan Fanning, November 7 2008 , Guardian SportsBlog)

Now that the Unicorn Rider is president, NFL players will be able to tackle, pitchers will throw strikes, and NBA players will hit jumpers once in awhile....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:06 AM


Dems split over Treasury choice (LISA LERER & VICTORIA MCGRANE, 11/7/08, Politico)

As Barack Obama faces mounting pressure to announce his economic team, Democrats are split over two of the leading candidates for Treasury secretary: New York Federal Reserve Chairman Timothy Geithner and former Clinton Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers. [...]

Summers, who is widely acknowledged to be seeking the top Treasury post, has a strong connection to the Obama team and a long history of government service. Obama economic aides said that Summers was one of ten advisers on a weekly conference call with the campaign over the past few months.

His experience, however, has a downside for a campaign that sold Americans on a message of change. In the Clinton administration, Summers was a major proponent of free trade, deregulation and free market-oriented policies, which have come under fire in recent months as the economy has spiraled downward.

But even former critics note that in the seven years since he’s left government, Summers has taken a more progressive stance on economic issues. In a regular Financial Times column, he’s pushed for greater financial regulation, restrictions on trade and closing the income gap.

“He didn’t understand that stuff five years ago, but he does now,” said a liberal economist and distant Obama adviser. “A lot of times you have the Greenspan problem, where you get to a point in your economic life and you can’t evolve even if the data tells you too.”

While Summers is widely acknowledged to be a brilliant economist, he carries a history of public relations dust-ups that stem from a prickly interpersonal style, according to friends and colleagues.

He was forced out as president of Harvard University after a series of statements that angered affirmative action proponents, environmentalists and feminist activists. The final straw was when he said that innate differences between men and women might be one reason fewer women succeed in science and math careers

While not a disqualifying factor, the incidents would certainly lead to some tough confirmation hearing questioning and could undermine the new administration’s judgment on critical personal.

Geithner touted for top post at Treasury: N.Y. Fed chief savvy to crisis (David R. Sands, November 7, 2008, Washington Times)
Mr. Geithner, 47, is two weeks younger than the president-elect but has served in top Treasury and Federal Reserve positions since the late 1980s. He joined Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke to oversee the Bush administration's effort to contain the crises in the world's credit and financial markets. [...]

The New York Fed is considered the most influential of the regional Federal Reserve Banks. By virtue of his position, Mr. Geithner serves as vice chairman of the central bank's Federal Open Market Committee, the key body guiding monetary policy.

Like Mr. Obama, Mr. Geithner is described by colleagues as even-tempered and wonkish at times, comfortable debating abstract financial concepts and not likely to break the bureaucratic crockery as an administrator.

Mr. Summers would be a finger in the eye of feminists/academics and especially amusing.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:31 AM


Obama's JFK Playbook: Barack Obama & JFK The remarkable parallels between Obama's rhetoric and Kennedy's. (Thurston Clarke, 11/07/08, The Daily Beast)

Caroline Kennedy titled the January 2008 New York Times op-ed in which she announced her support for Barack Obama, “A President Like My Father.” It will be years before we will know if, and how, the Obama presidency resembles that of John F. Kennedy’s. But the first clue will come on January 20, 2009, when President Obama delivers his inaugural address.

The comparisons between Kennedy and Obama have fallen into four categories: their style, their “cool,” unflappable, and somewhat dispassionate demeanor; their families, their attractive wives and young children; a charisma that excites young voters; and their symbolic, “transformational” nature—the first Irish Catholic president and the first black one. One important similarity has gone unnoticed: the fact that both have understood the organic connection between a campaign and the presidency that follows it, recognizing that it is difficult, if not impossible, to follow an immoral, deceitful, and divisive campaign with a high-minded, transformational, and inspirational presidency.

...that JFK's catting around, prescription drug abuse, bugging of Martin Luther King, betrayal of the Cubans, and assassination of Diem were a product of things like lying about a missile gap and the vote-fixing in IL and TX?

Actually, that's the compelling argument that Thomas Reeves has made in the best bio of JFK, He Was No Jack Kennedy: a review of A QUESTION OF CHARACTER A Life of John F. Kennedy. By Thomas C. Reeves (Robert Dallek, NY Times Book Review)

In "A Question of Character," Thomas C. Reeves, a professor of history at the University of Wisconsin, Parkside, and the author of biographies of President Chester A. Arthur and Senator Joseph McCarthy, comes down emphatically on the side of the iconoclasts. Mr. Reeves's Kennedy is a compulsive womanizer, a liar, a bully, an amphetamine addict -- a ruthless, lazy, corrupt, self-indulgent hypocrite. He was America's first successful television politician. Television magnified his surface attributes -- his good looks, warmth and humor -- and helped turn him into a national hero leading the country on to a new frontier.

The Kennedy in "A Question of Character" was, like his father, Joseph Kennedy, a man of bad character. He was the product of an emotionally impoverished childhood. He suffered from an "inability to love or express feelings." He grew up "hostile . . . toward marriage and the family. Women were at best sex objects." Chasing women became "a career." His Navy heroics on PT 109 during World War II were the invention of publicists. He was not a particularly good commander and, Mr. Reeves says, his poor judgment contributed to the sinking of his boat and the death of two crewmen.

Though Kennedy emphatically denied it throughout his life, his father played the decisive part in pushing him into politics. He was a lazy Congressman, Mr. Reeves says, who spent much of his time seducing secretaries and airline hostesses. His father had to manage his finances; he surrounded himself with obsequious friends, whom he bullied, and he showed no interest in any political issue. When he ran for the Senate in 1952, his only concern was winning: "Jack, like his father and his brother [ Robert ] , was without any guiding intellectual, philosophical, or moral vision in his pursuit of office. Politics, like life, was about winning, and little else."

Spurred by his father's ambition to run for President, he pulled out all the stops to win. His successful campaign in 1960, Mr. Reeves writes, "involved the cynical manipulation of issues, unrestrained spending, vote fraud, the Mafia, ceaseless adultery, and dishonesty about Kennedy's intellectual achievements and physical condition."

Mr. Reeves's portrait of Kennedy as President is no less scathing. In the White House, his bad character played a major part in making him a poor President. He had little interest in domestic affairs, made a number of bad judicial appointments, demonstrated cautious opportunism in dealing with pressing civil rights questions and fouled up royally in dealing with the Bay of Pigs invasion and escalating American involvement in Vietnam. Whatever his superficial attributes, as President, Kennedy "was pragmatic to the point of amorality; his sole standard seemed to be political expediency. . . . Jack's character . . . lacked a moral center, a reference point that went beyond self-aggrandizement."

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:14 AM


Obama Rahms His Agenda (Jay D. Homnick, 11.7.08, American Spectator)

Barack Obama sent a reassuring signal to Jews who doubted his commitment to Israel by choosing Rahm Emanuel as his chief of staff. Rahm's father is an Israeli who fought for the Irgun under the late Menachem Begin. Rahm himself went to Israel to volunteer on an army base during the Gulf War of 1991, making sure the weaponry was in a functional state.

To the Palestinians, hearing that a Jew was the first pick can't be encouraging. To hear he's an Israeli must be galling. But to hear he comes from an Irgun family will enrage them to a fever pitch.

The Arabs, even the most simpatico among them, are not fans of the Zionists who liberated Israel from British rule. The fact that Ben-Gurion, Weitzmann and their Haganah force were political leftists endears them but little. Still, through gritted teeth they learn to tolerate. But try and mention Begin's Irgun or Yitzhak Shamir's Lehi to any non-Jewish Middle Easterner and watch smoke coming out of their ears. The Irgun and Lehi were the right-wing, and a much tougher crew.

November 6, 2008

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:48 PM


Listen To The Decemberists Live (XPN All About the Music)

WXPN and NPR Music are broadcasting/webcasting The Decemberists live in concert from the Electric Factory in Philly Friday night (um, that's tomorrow) at 9PM Eastern.

The Decemberists Soar with 'Crane Wife' Live (, October 31, 2006)

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:25 PM


New Falklands constitution agreed (BBC, 11/07/08)

A new constitution for the Falklands has been agreed which the UK government says will "enhance local democracy" for the south Atlantic islands' residents.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:23 PM


Fatah and Hamas in unity government talks (Rory McCarthy, November 7 2008, The Guardian)

The rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah will meet in Cairo on Sunday for the first time in more than a year in an Egyptian-led effort to agree a unified government and end their divisions.

Egyptian officials have prepared an outline deal that would include a "national reconciliation government", but it is short on details and could take weeks of negotiation. [...]

The talks will centre on establishing a government with the goal of ending the economic siege of Gaza, reforming the security forces under a national leadership and preparing for fresh presidential and parliamentary elections.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:20 PM


Creationism should be taught as science, say 29% of teachers (James Randerson, November 7 2008, The Guardian)

Twenty-nine per cent of teachers believe that creationism and intelligent design should be taught as science, according to an online survey of attitudes to teaching evolution in the UK. Nearly 50% of the respondents said they believed that excluding alternatives to evolution was counter-productive and would alienate pupils from science.

The survey, by the website and TV station Teachers TV, also found strong support for the views of Prof Michael Reiss, the former director of education at the Royal Society, who resigned in September over comments about including creationism in science lessons.

Nearly nine in 10 respondents agreed with Reiss that teachers should engage with pupils who raise creationism or intelligent design in science lessons.

They're wrong, of course, creationism is no more a science than are Darwinism and Intelligent Design.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:12 PM


Rahm Emanuel, Press Tamer: What to expect as Clinton's enforcer becomes Obama's chief of staff. (Jack Shafer, Nov. 6, 2008, Slate)

Writing in Slate in 1996, Jacob Weisberg described Emanuel as perhaps "the [Clinton] administration's most diabolically effective tactician" and credited him as being "largely responsible for moving the Clinton campaign beyond mere 'rapid response' to pre-emptive strikes—engineering, for instance, Clinton's endorsement by the Fraternal Order of Police on the day Bob Dole was set to launch a major attack on the president's crime record."

Bumiller writes that after Clinton won in 1992, his advisers, including Emanuel, met at Doe's Eat Place to discuss taking revenge on journalists (and others) who had wronged the during the campaign. Even so, Emanuel appears to be a proud member of the "F*** you—let's go to lunch" school of press management. William Safire, who called Hillary Clinton "a congenital liar" in 1996, may have earned White House enemy status, but to Emanuel, the columnist was "Uncle Bill," Kurtz writes, and Emanuel "even had Safire over for dinner." Michael Kelly of the New Republic won a lunch date with Emanuel for calling Clinton "a shocking liar," "occasional demagogue," and worse. (Note to White House reporters: For a face-to-face with Emanuel, write the most scathing thing you can about Obama.)

Emanuel games everybody and everything, so the press shouldn't take it personally—and it won't. In fact, as I write, the White House press corps is doing whippits in celebration of his appointment. The Obama campaign famously kept the press at arm's length. Emanuel, on the other hand, can't shut up. (Whose fault do you think it is that the whole world knew for days that Emanuel had been offered the chief of staff job but couldn't make up his mind?)

The Obama campaign provided the press with no internal drama, forcing reporters to intuit the real agenda. Emanuel, on the other hand, is a drama queen; seething, foaming Mamet production; a big mouth; and a calculating mensch who loves nothing more than to stoke the feed bag for press-corps noshers.

Okay, so it's a good appointment for the Right--because Mr. Emmanuel is a New Democrat--it's a good appointment for Israel--where Mr. Emmanuel volunteered during Gulf I--and it's a good appointment for the press--because he'll leak like Dick Darman. But is it a good appointment for Barack Obama and the country generally? It doesn't seem to be.

How To Run A White House: A Bush chief of staff offers advice for Obama (Katie Paul, 11/06/08, NEWSWEEK)

NEWSWEEK caught up with President Bush's first White House chief of staff, Andy Card—who might be characterized as Emanuel's temperamental opposite—to get his insights into the trials and tribulations of the job. Card took his share of lumps, but he lasted longer than all but one other White House chief of staff.

NEWSWEEK: Does the chief of staff need to have the thickest skin in Washington?

Andy Card: Yes. You have to have a steely resolve, thick skin, a velvet glove, a listening ear—and you have to be decisive. There will be scores of people clamoring for your attention on any given day; probably about 20 to 30 in the White House, another 20 to 30 members of Congress. And in terms of the media—well, they're insatiable, so I would take my direction from the press secretary. Probably about 10 percent of the cabinet on any given day is scratching at your door. Develop some priorities and delegate, because it's a grueling job, a 24/7 job. I think [current chief of staff] Josh Bolten does a better job at it than I did.

What's the single most important aspect of the job to get right?

Earn and keep the trust of the president. Those are two different statements. Don't talk about things you shouldn't be talking about, beyond what the president tells you. Remember that you're serving the president and the First Lady, not a constituency. You're not only there to help the president do his job, but you are also responsible for protecting the institution of the presidency—and sometimes, those will appear to be in conflict.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:47 PM

MURROW WEPT (via Rick Turley):

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:27 PM


Obama Win Causes Obsessive Supporters To Realize How Empty Their Lives Are

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:49 PM


Obama's Real Opposition: Presidents come and go; Congressional barons are forever. (Wall Street Journal, 11/06/08)

Now that Barack Obama has vanquished John McCain, he faces a much greater foe: Democrats on Capitol Hill. They've humbled the last two Democratic Presidents -- and with their enhanced majorities next year, they'll be out to do it again.
[Review & Outlook] AP

Mr. Obama may appreciate the threat, because yesterday he offered Clinton White House veteran Rahm Emanuel a job as his chief of staff. But even that savvy, relatively sane liberal will have difficulties grappling with the fearsome committee chairmen and liberal interest groups that did so much to sabotage Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter. Meet the President-elect's real opposition...

...when Barack Obama vetoes more bills this term than W did with his two years of a Democrat Congress.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:36 PM


Democrats Win 18 More House Seats (Perry Bacon Jr., 11/06/08, Washington Post)

While some analysts had suggested that Democrats could gain more than 30 seats, the party appeared to have fallen short of that, but it will approach the total of 259 seats it held in 1994 before Republicans seized control of Congress that fall.

A lot has been written n the past two days about how this election proves there's no longer a Bradley/Wilder Effect, but Mr. Obama and Democrats underperformed expectations enough to make you wonder.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:31 PM


Obama Aides Tamp Down Expectations (ADAM NAGOURNEY and JIM RUTENBERG, 11/06/08, NY Times)

President-elect Barack Obama has begun an effort to tamp down what his aides fear are unusually high expectations among his supporters, and will remind Americans regularly throughout the transition that the nation’s challenges are substantial and will take time to address. [...]

“I don’t think they view him as a miracle worker who in two months is going to solve an economic crisis,” Mr. Benenson said.

He told them his election would make the oceans recede.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:08 AM


Barack's Enforcer (Martin Sieff, 11/06/08, Daily Beast)

The president-elect's first choice for chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel—a pro business quasi neocon whose middle name is Israel—gives the lie to the wildest myths Obama's opponents spread about him in the campaign.

President-elect Barack Obama’s offer to Rahm Emanuel of the job of chief of staff tells more about how he intends to run the White House than his uplifting campaign rhetoric about post-partisan niceness. The selection of Emanuel signals that he apparently wants to operate with ideological moderation, speed and skull-cracking political toughness. [...]

Making Emanuel chief of staff—and putting the word out the day after his historic election victory—tells Washington that Obama is going to push through his political and policy agenda Chicago-style—not the San Francisco way. For Emanuel is going to be Obama’s Karl Rove and John Sununu, Sr. combined.

...that we can put partisanship aside and hope that an Obama presidency is a success and a good thing for America. Mr. Emmanuel's politics and the signal in that regard are reassuring, but the entirely legitimate comparison to John Sununu is worrisome. He was not a good chief of staff and apponting a guy who not only isn't likely to be good at his own job but who you expect to run Congress from the White House seems a recipe for disaster.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:03 AM


U.S. Productivity Increases 1.1%, Proving Resilient (BRIAN BLACKSTONE, 11/06/08, Wall Street Journal)

U.S. productivity was surprisingly resilient last quarter despite a steep drop in output, as companies responded quickly to the economic downturn by shedding labor.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:48 AM


Obama's deft and misleading tax-cut plan (Donald Lambro, November 6, 2008, Washington Times)

Those who think conservatism is dead need to look at how Barack Obama skillfully played the tax cut issue like a Stradivarius. [...]

Mr. Obama knew, as Bill Clinton knew, that he had to find a way to trump the tax cut issue that Republicans had used effectively in election after election and that continued to galvanize voters across the board.

So he devised a plan, like Mr. Clinton, that called for raising taxes on the top 5 percent of American income earners, but offered a $500 to $1,000 refundable tax credit for low- to middle-income taxpayers. [...]

When the race was nearly over, polls showed more Americans believed he was going to lower their taxes than those who said Mr. McCain would lower them more.

"He's been very careful about how he framed his tax position and has bent over backwards not to allow himself to be tagged as a liberal on the tax issue," said Michael Franc, a vice president and policy strategist at the conservative Heritage Foundation.

America still a centre-right country (Gerard Baker, November 06, 2008, Times of London)

[W]hen you think of the macro-political conditions in America in 2008, you are left wondering why the Democrats did not do significantly better.

The US is in its deepest recession in a generation. For the first time in its history a catastrophic financial crisis erupted right in the middle of a general election campaign, one that fatally undermined the incumbent party. An unpopular war in Iraq has destroyed the Republican Party's reputation for national security reliability. The exit poll found that 76 per cent of respondents thought that the country was on the wrong track. Democrats outspent Republicans by two-to-one. It is hard to imagine how circumstances could ever be much better for the Democrats.

Even as Senator Obama's party was winning votes across the country, people were expressing strong support for conservative policies. In the most-watched ballot initiatives (plebiscites) on social issues in many states, there was little sign of a radical new beginning.

Voters in California, Florida and Arizona supported constitutional amendments to outlaw gay marriage. Voters in Arkansas banned adoption by unmarried couples. In Nebraska a measure to end affirmative action in state hiring practices passed easily.

Most remarkable of all, for all the transformation in US politics wrought by the last four years, Americans themselves do not seem to have undergone any great ideological conversion.

In 2004 exit pollsters asked voters how they would identify their politics. The answers were 21 per cent liberal (Left) 45 per cent moderate and 34 per cent conservative. On this election day, the same question elicited these responses: 22 per cent liberal; 44 per cent moderate and 34 per cent conservative.

President Obama and his jubilant supporters in Congress will surely not need reminding that this is still a centre-right country.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:37 AM


Blue Hampshire: A passing phase? (KATHY McCORMACK, 11/06/08, Associated Press)

[A]llan Racklin, who teaches sociology at Franklin Pierce University, isn't ready to call New Hampshire blue. He said he would wait another election cycle or two and see if the anti-Bush phenomenon wears off before he even considers the question.

"Even in terms of the intensity of the blue, it's a mix of candidates in terms of what kinds of Democratic principles, or shade of Democrat we have," he said. For example, he said, Senate winner Jeanne Shaheen "is at best a moderate, very moderate, very tentative Democrat. A generation or two ago she would have fit very nicely into the moderate wing of the Republican Party."

Wayne Lesperance, who teaches political science at New England College, also says it's too early to tell.

"What's going to be really important is to see what happens in two years," he said. "If we accept the argument that so much of the success for people like (U.S. Rep.) Carol Shea-Porter and Jeanne Shaheen is attributable to Barack Obama's candidacy, what happens in two years in the case of Carol Shea-Porter if she has to run again, (and U.S. Rep.) Paul Hodes if he has to run again? Is that same level of support going to be there? ... This Democratic groundswell, is it sustainable?"

Jennifer Donahue of Saint Anselm College's Institute of Politics expects the state to move back and forth politically depending on what voters are experiencing in a given election cycle.

The implosion of ex-Governor Craig Benson (R) and the conservatism of Governor John Lynch (D) has given the Democrats a very strong top of the ticket in a state where the governor is up for election every two years. The GOP would benefit from John Sununu taking a run at governor in '10.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:34 AM


Latest polls point to a National-led government (NZ Herald, Nov 06, 2008)

Two opinion polls out tonight signal a National-led government is on the cards after election day.

A One News Colmar Brunton Poll and TV3's TNS Poll both have National with a respective 13 point lead and 12 point lead over Labour - two days from the election.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:18 AM


Rahm Emanuel enjoys being the bad guy: The Illinois congressman, Obama's pick to be White House chief of staff, is best known as something of a Democratic political assassin. (Naftali Bendavid, November 6, 2008, LA Times)

Perhaps precisely because Obama seems likely to adopt a unifying posture as president, he may need someone practiced in the art of political hardball.

Republican strategist John Feehery -- who worked for former House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert and former House Minority Leader Robert H. Michel as well as former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay -- said Emanuel could help prevent House Democrats from overreaching.

"He understands that if Obama goes too far to the left, it's not going to be good for the Democrats," Feehery said. "I think he's the kind of guy who can knock some heads and help Obama guide the Congress toward the middle. . . . You will need a bad cop to Obama's good cop, and Rahm will fill that role quite nicely."

Emanuel's policies, unlike his politics, have always been centrist, in the Bill Clinton mold. In addition, a different Emanuel has emerged in recent years, one who has forged friendships with Republicans and shown an ability to work with them on occasion.

That's an argument to make Mr. Emmanuel your House whip, not your chief.

Mr. Obama's initial governing choices--Joe Biden and Rahm Emmanuel--don't inspire confidence that he'll be a good executive.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:39 AM


Campaign Gives Some Clues to How Obama Will Govern (Dan Balz, 11/06/08, Washington Post)

President-elect Barack Obama proved one of the most formidable political candidates of the modern era, but his résumé is one of the shortest of any recent incoming president, and so knowing for sure the kind of chief executive he will make is something that will have to wait until he takes office in January.

Obama has not had to demonstrate his skills as a negotiator with balky members of Congress. He has met with foreign leaders, but little is known about how he would handle himself in such gatherings. He has faced no crisis akin to what a president can expect. He has steadfastly resisted outlining how the dramatically altered economic and fiscal environment will affect his governing agenda. He has skirted some of the tough questions he'll face in the early weeks of his presidency, particularly on spending.

We had to wait until November 6th for Mr. Balz to realize that the senate trio have no executive experience? Proud performance for the media this cycle, eh?

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November 5, 2008

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:37 PM


Sources: McCain aide fired for 'trashing' staff (Dana Bash, 11/05/08, CNN)

Randy Scheunemann, a senior foreign policy adviser to John McCain, was fired from the Arizona senator's campaign last week for what one aide called "trashing" the campaign staff, three senior McCain advisers tell CNN.

One of the aides tells CNN that campaign manager Rick Davis fired Scheunemann after determining that he had been in direct contact with journalists spreading "disinformation" about campaign aides, including Nicolle Wallace and other officials.

"He was positioning himself with Palin at the expense of John McCain's campaign message," said one of the aides.

That's when she hit her stride and the ticket got back on track.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:33 PM


Nine races still too close to call (ANDY BARR | 11/5/08, Politico)

Senate races in Minnesota, Alaska and Oregon may be headed toward recounts. Georgia’s Senate race, meanwhile, is likely headed toward a runoff.

While Democrats picked up five seats Tuesday night — falling four short of the 60 seats needed for a filibuster-resistant majority — Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee spokesman Matthew Miller said the committee is still focused on the potential pickup opportunities remaining on the board. [...]

National Republican Senatorial Committee spokeswoman Rebecca Fisher seemed upbeat about Tuesday’s results, pointing out “we consider it a win if they didn’t get to 60.”

“I don’t think anybody expected us to hold where we held,” Fisher added.

Gordon Smith is apparently toast, but they hold the others, amazingly. John McCain was the only Republican candidate this year who could have held it this close and but for a few bad breaks would have won.

For the Republicans, It Could Have Been Worse (Michael Grunwald, Nov. 05, 2008, TIME)

Looking back at our races to watch, just about all the conservative Republicans in traditionally red territory held seats needed by the GOP to avoid a blowout: Senators Roger Wicker in Mississippi, Mitch McConnell in Kentucky and, probably, Saxby Chambliss in Georgia, along with House members John Shadegg in Arizona, Cynthia Lummis in Wyoming and the Diaz-Balart brothers in Florida. It looks like graft-convicted Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska will somehow retain his seat long enough to get expelled, and his ethically and temperamentally challenged porkmate, Don Young, was reelected as well; Michelle Bachmann of Minnesota survived her McCarthyite rant on Hardball, and Ohio's similarly obnoxious Jean Schmidt once again avoided a well-deserved early retirement. Republicans even ousted four first-term Democrats before they could get entrenched in deep-red districts — not only the clearly doomed Casanova Tim Mahoney of Florida, but Nancy Boyda of Kansas, Dan Cazayoux of Louisiana and Nick Lampson of Texas. (See the Top 10 video campaign moments.)

Democrats did knock off a few fire-breathing right-wing targets: wacky Bill Sali of Idaho, who protested a minimum-wage hike by introducing a bill to repeal the law of gravity; Marilyn Musgrave of Colorado, who once declared gay marriage the greatest threat to America; Tom Feeney of Florida, an escapee from the Abramoff scandal; and Elizabeth Dole of North Carolina, who ran ads calling her Christian opponent "godless." They also defeated some impressive Republicans who could have helped lead the party out of the wilderness, like moderate Congressman Christopher Shays of Connecticut, conservative Senator John Sununu of New Hampshire, and pragmatic Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory, who had hoped to swim upstream into the governor's office. (See pictures of 60 years of election night drama.)

Still, it could have been worse.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:29 PM


Deep religious feelings drove O.C. approval of Prop. 8: Even areas of the county that chose Obama voted for the gay marriage amendment. (TONY SAAVEDRA and JENNIFER MUIR, 11/05/08, The Orange County Register)

Deeply religious ethnic minorities, political conservatives and family-conscious voters found common ground in the constitutional amendment to ban gay marriages.

In fact, Proposition 8 was more popular in Orange County (57 percent) than GOP presidential hopeful John McCain (50.8 percent).

Gays and abortion--two defining issues for the Left--are President Obbama's biggest early danger zones.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:08 PM


Democrats say McCain can help mediate standoffs (BETH FOUHY, 11/05/08, Associated Press)

Democrats, who padded their majorities in the House and Senate, have a suggestion: McCain can mediate solutions to partisan standoffs on key legislation as he did to help avert a constitutional meltdown over judicial confirmations in 2005.

...the bipartisan dealmaker on Wednesday. It's magic!

In the absence of any agenda for Mr. Obama, John McCain, working with guys like Ted Kennedy and Hillary, can drive the next two years to a greater extent than the new president.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:29 PM


Obama picks Clinton alum Emanuel chief of WH staff (DAVID ESPO and NEDRA PICKLER, 11/05/08, Associated Press)

President-elect Barack Obama pivoted quickly to begin filling out his new administration on Wednesday, selecting hard-charging Illinois Rep. Rahm Emanuel as White House chief of staff while aides stepped up the pace of transition work that had been cloaked in pre-election secrecy.

...doesn't Mr. Obama seem to resemble Richard Nixon and George H. W. Bush?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:14 PM

6' 9"?:

'Jurassic Park' Author Michael Crichton Dies at 66 (HILLEL ITALIE, 11/05/08, The Associated Press)

He was an experimenter and popularizer known for his stories of disaster and systematic breakdown, such as the rampant microbe of "The Andromeda Strain" or the dinosaurs running madly in "Jurassic Park." Many of his books became major Hollywood movies, including "Jurassic Park," "Rising Sun" and "Disclosure." Crichton himself directed and wrote "The Great Train Robbery" and he co-wrote the script for the blockbuster "Twister."

In 1994, he created the award-winning TV hospital series "ER." He's even had a dinosaur named for him, Crichton's ankylosaur. [...]

In recent years, Crichton was the rare novelist granted a White House meeting with President Bush, perhaps because of his skepticism about global warming, which Crichton addressed in the 2004 novel, "State of Fear." Crichton's views were strongly condemned by environmentalists, who alleged that the author was hurting efforts to pass legislation to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide.

If not a literary giant, he was a physical one, standing 6 feet and 9 inches, and ready for battle with the press. In a 2004 interview with The Associated Press, Crichton came with a tape recorder, text books and a pile of graphs and charts as he defended "State of Fear" and his take on global warming.

"I have a lot of trouble with things that don't seem true to me," Crichton said at the time, his large, manicured hands gesturing to his graphs. "I'm very uncomfortable just accepting. There's something in me that wants to pound the table and say, 'That's not true.'

Ed Driscoll has some thoughts.

We have a few reviews here

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:08 PM


McCain Ran the Sleaziest Campaign in History?: Not even close. (David Greenberg, Nov. 5, 2008, Slate)

The claims about McCain's supposedly unprecedented negativity, then, don't signify any deep truth about his character. Rather, they reveal important aspects of American politics today. The efforts to purify politics at the turn of the last century may not have succeeded in eliminating negativity, but they did erect new norms that stigmatized ungentlemanly campaign tactics—norms that remain powerful. When candidates go negative, they almost always draw scorn from the news media and often hurt their own campaigns more than they help. When McCain went after his opponent, this powerful disdain for negative campaigning kicked in, bringing out all our censoriousness.

The scorn for going negative, moreover, has been especially acute among reformist high-minded liberals in the tradition that runs from Adlai Stevenson to Eugene McCarthy to Obama—men whose successes rested on their supporters' wish for a politics free of the compromises and rough-and-tumble inherent in democracy. By introducing his campaign in a Stevensonian vein, Obama fashioned an image as one who would never initiate attacks. Remarkably, and much to his credit, Obama sustained that image throughout the campaign, even during those moments in August when, flagging in the polls, he acceded to his supporters' calls to hit harder against McCain or, the previous fall, against Hillary Clinton.

What was strange about the McCain campaign's negativity was that they went negative on things that were too obscure to be explained--Ayers & Khalidi--or too absurd to be credited--Socialist! But they never used the Revere4nd Wright, who went directly to the heart of Mr. Obama's persona-based candidacy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:03 PM


Behind Obama's Victory: Women Open Up a Record Marriage Gap: Unmarried women voted for Obama by a massive 70 to 29 percent (Kent Garber, November 5, 2008, US News)

Unmarried women—a group that includes single, separated, divorced, or widowed women—voted for Obama over Republican opponent John McCain by a whopping 70 to 29 percent in yesterday's election, according to numbers released today by Women's Voices Women Vote, a nonpartisan organization.

Married women, by contrast, preferred McCain by a slim 3 percentage-point margin, 50 to 47 percent.

Unmarried women have historically voted for Democrats—in 2004, for example, 62 percent chose Sen. John Kerry over President Bush—but Obama's performance easily surpasses that of his predecessors.

Thus the Statists' vested interest in destroying the traditional family.

Posted by Matt Murphy at 5:40 PM


President Dmitri Medvedev orders missiles deployed in Europe as world hails Obama (Tony Halpin, Times Online, 11/5/08)

President Dmitri Medvedev took advantage of the euphoria in America today to order the deployment of missiles inside Europe as a response to US plans for a missile defence shield.

Speaking within hours of Barack Obama's election as the new US President, Mr Medvedev announced that Russia would base Iskander missiles in its Baltic exclave of Kaliningrad next to the border with Poland.

He did not say whether the short-range missiles would carry nuclear warheads. Mr Medvedev also cancelled earlier plans to withdraw three intercontinental ballistic missile regiments from western Russia.

"An Iskander missile system will be deployed in the Kaliningrad region to neutralise if necessary the anti-ballistic missile system in Europe," Mr Medvedev said in his first state-of-the-nation address. [...]

[I]n a criticism directed at the US, Mr Medvedev declared: "Mechanisms must be created to block mistaken, egoistical and sometimes simply dangerous decisions of certain members of the international community."

He accused the West of seeking to encircle Russia and blamed the US for encouraging Georgia's "barbaric aggression" in the war over South Ossetia in August. He issued a warning that Russia would "not back down in the Caucasus".

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:48 PM


Same-sex marriage ban wins; opponents sue to block measure (John Wildermuth, Bob Egelko, November 5, 2008, SF Chronicle)

After a heated, divisive campaign fueled by a record $73 million of spending, California voters have approved Proposition 8, which would change the state Constitution to ban same-sex marriage. Opponents promptly filed suit to try to block the measure from taking effect.

With 96 percent of the vote counted, Prop. 8 was winning by a decisive 400,000-vote margin, 52.2 percent to 47.8 percent.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:40 PM


Obama Can Persuade, But Can He Decide?< (Eric Felten, 11.05.08, Forbes)

Richard Neustadt--the late professor of political science and adviser to Democratic presidents--famously observed that a president's prime asset is his power to persuade. He recognized that to get anything done, a president has to rely on aides, officials and bureaucrats, mechanisms as tangled and troublesome as the wiring in an old Jaguar.

The first order of business, Neustadt argued, is for a president to convince his subordinates "that what he wants of them is what their own appraisal of their own responsibilities requires them to do in their interest, not his." To do that effectively requires a much larger sales job--convincing the public (or at least convincing the part of the public that a given official cares about pleasing and impressing). At every level of government, from cabinet heads to worker bees, officials are gauging how the public views the president and "how their publics may view them if they do what he wants."

Neustadt not only emphasized the importance of making the sale in making policy, he suggested that focusing on bold decision-making is a strategy for a hobbled president, as every decision made and promulgated gobbles up the executive's limited stock of influence. Or, as Neustadt put it, "choices are the means by which he dissipates his power."

If Obama follows the Neustadt model of presidential power, it would no doubt be a comfortable fit with a personal style that has served him well for years. While head of the Harvard Law Review, Obama managed to navigate the treacherous politics of the organization by avoiding those power-dissipating choices.

"People had a way of hearing what they wanted in Obama's words," Jodi Kantor wrote in The New York Times of those Law Review days. His trick, in the midst of contentious disputes, was to get "students on each side of the debate [to think] he was endorsing their side." As one of Obama's professors, Charles J. Ogletree, Jr. put it, "Everyone was nodding, 'Oh, he agrees with me.' "

Come his days in the Illinois Senate, Obama maintained the veil by voting "present" when need be.

But the appeal of choice-avoidance may be just as debilitating as the lure of being the Decider-in-Chief. that by not running on an agenda there are no issues he even proposes deciding on. He runs the risk of a profoundly directionless administration that will be led by the Hill, by other nations, by events, etc.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:20 PM


Inequality and Growth: Challenges to the Old Orthodoxy (Erwan Quintin and Jason L. Saving, January 2008, Economic Letter—Insights from the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas)

Until recently, a broad set of ideas led much of the economic profession to opine that inequality was, if anything, favorable to—or at least a necessary by-product of—economic growth.

In classical models, economic growth depends chiefly on the rate at which nations accumulate productive resources, a factor that traces to aggregate savings rates. In this context, distributional considerations matter for growth only if households’ propensity to save varies systematically with wealth. If the rich save at a high rate, a view closely associated with prominent economist Nicholas Kaldor, unequal societies can actually build up their productive infrastructure faster than equal ones, achieving higher growth rates.

Inequality could also foster growth because new industries typically require large initial investments. If credit markets function poorly, a society’s savings may not be efficiently transferred to investments. In this environment, a high concentration of wealth may allow some investors to overcome these impediments and stimulate growth by bringing capital-intensive industries into being.

In the early work, income or wealth redistribution policies are overwhelmingly viewed as detrimental to growth based on at least two arguments. First, redistribution via such instruments as progressive taxation distorts incentives to save, which reduces resource accumulation. Second, some variation in economic rewards helps provide incentives to invest and work.

The classical view long dominated economic thought and emphasized that policies designed to reduce inequality would entail adverse consequences for economic growth.

Recent Challenges

Over the past two decades, these conventional notions have been challenged both on empirical and theoretical grounds. In cross-country comparisons, for example, researchers have generally found a negative relationship between income inequality and subsequent economic growth. These empirical findings, taken at face value, suggest that more equality could, in fact, foster growth.[3]

We illustrate the empirical argument by plotting income inequality in 1960 against average growth rates over the next four decades for all countries with available data. The results suggest, albeit weakly, that nations with more initial income inequality have tended to fare worse in the long run than countries with greater equality (Chart 1). In this example, inequality alone accounts for a fairly small fraction of the variance in growth across countries.

Even so, a growing body of empirical work finds that inequality remains significantly correlated with future growth even after controlling for other important factors, such as nations’ initial level of development.